Do You Smell Like Runs on the Beach?

At Original Scent in Pasadena, an artisanal blend is customized to reflect every piece of your personality.

Wonder what it might feel like to be distilled down, quite literally, to an essence? Doubt that you and your myriad ways could be captured in a bottle? Well, clearly you haven’t met perfumer Sarah Horowitz. Customization is her forte and her track record of spot-on creations for countless fans (A-listers among them) and coveted brands is impressive. Horowitz created best-selling IF for Apothia, Warm for Winnie Beattie’s  Mott Street boutique of the same name, and that ubiquitous cult-hit gardenia fragrance (you know the one), to name just a few. 

The LA-based perfumer, who once worked as Apothia founder Ron Robinson’s scent expert (‘the best school I could have gone to”) and lived in a remote cottage on Fred Segal’s 240-acre Malibu estate (“a magical oasis”), has been custom blending for over 20 years. “It’s the perfect venue to ask strangers the most personal questions. I love to find out what makes people tick,” she says. 

Now she and her new partner, branding whiz Nicole Winnaman, hope to take the idea of bespoke fragrance mainstream. The 3,000-square-foot Original Scent in Pasadena has a sprawling blending bar and Horowitz-trained scent stylists that package the custom creations in a variety of products—from eau de parfum and body lotion to shampoo, conditioner, and candles. “It’s an homage to custom fragrance. It’s my vision on crack,” laughs Horowitz, who curates all the oils and blends by appointment there and at her home in Westlake.

Custom blending at OS involves teasing out a client’s likes and dislikes during a Scent Profile and ultimately capturing their personality in a bottle. Questions may include your favorite time of day, color, season, or food—even your preferred workout territory. A hike in the mountains might conjure fresh sage or woody Atlas cedar whereas a morning run on the beach might call for integrating clean-smelling sea salt or crisp, oceanic musk, says Horowitz. “The experience helps you know yourself better. You learn what resonates with you. It’s a really fun process.” 

Here, Horowitz shares her favorites for both revving up and kicking back.

Top Energizing Scents:

Blood Orange
"This is a top note—the type of note you smell first, which burns off the quickest. I source blood orange from Israel. In aromatherapy, it’s considered a natural euphoric. It’s juicy, uplifting, and revitalizing. A happy smell."

Lemon
"Another top note. Top notes are often energizing smells. It’s a fresh, sparkling, clean scent. But don’t let it conjure up cleaning—that’s what a lot of people think. It’s unisex, great for men and women. Lemon is zesty and bright like the sun."

Bergamot
"This is a sophisticated top note, a fragrant lime-like citrus fruit often found in Southern Italy. It’s good for mental clarity and it’s unisex, too. Bergamot is actually what gives Earl Grey tea its unique scent. Earl Grey is black tea with bergamot oil added, so if you love the tea, you’ll love the fragrance."

Top Calming Scents:

Sandalwood
"Sandalwood is a fragrant wood and a base note—the type that takes the longest to burn off. It’s very spiritual and grounding so it’s great for meditation and excellent to wear during yoga. It’s soothing and subtle, not overpowering, but a little goes a long way."

Lavender
"Smells good on men and women. It can be found in fine fragrances, but it’s primarily used in aromatherapy and spa-like settings. It’s known for soothing the senses in massage oils and bath and shower gels and can calm a burn on the skin. Lavender reminds me of living in Malibu. When I moved away, I took cuttings from the lavender plants that lined my drive and my husband planted them at our current house, so I have this huge, beautiful bush born from them."

Vanilla
"We’re not talking cupcake vanilla. I have 8 different vanillas on my fragrance organ—Madagascar Vanilla, Tahitian Vanilla, Spicy Vanilla, French Vanilla. It’s definitely a favorite, I love the taste and the smell. It’s been used as an aphrodisiac and calming agent for years. It’s rich, deep, warm and most often a base note, so it lingers long into the day."