Before bottled fragrances became available, humans perfumed their bodies by rolling in meadows of honeysuckle or lining their sweaters with scratch-and-sniff stickers. Explore a contemporary aroma ritual with today's Groupon: for $15, you get a 90-minute Perfume 101 or Fragrance Flight class and in-store credit at Knows Perfume in the West Seattle junction.
Knows Perfume delicately shrouds patrons in boutique fragrances by small, independent, and niche perfume houses from all corners of the globe. Christen Cottam, a former science teacher with a profound scent memory and natural knack for combining smells, divulges the secrets of achieving olfactory opulence during one of two informative classes. An informal appreciation session, Perfume 101 crams students’ craniums with lessons on the history of fragrance as an art medium, different perfume styles, how to smell good, and how to smell well. During the Fragrant Flight class, students learn the core smellological principles behind creating stunning fragrances. They dabble in perfume composition, terms, and ingredient volatility before leaving class with a sample-set that can help them stand out in a crowd and get their love letters to the editor opened.
Enrollment in Perfume 101 endows students with $15 of in-store credit, and students leave Fragrant Flight classes with a sample set and $5 of store credit valid for salt scrubs ($5), handmade, poured soy-candles ($15 for 5 oz.), or valid toward the purchase of opulent perfume brands. The exposed brick accents and beamed ceilings of Know Perfume greet students with easy-going aplomb, inviting guests to unwind as they peruse innumerable samples in the scent catalog library.
Christen Cottam can describe scents on an atomic level, although she prefers to discuss the emotional, memory-based side of fragrance with her clients at Knows Perfume. According to the West Seattle Herald, Cottam taught high-school science and worked as a biotech sales rep, explaining complex, ethereal concepts to laypeople. Now, she helps clients discover their favorite fragrances and find words to interpret their sensory experiences. Cottam backs up her methods with hard facts: She eschews paper test strips because scents evolve when they mingle with chemicals on the skin, and explains that citrus seems fresher and lighter than musk because of its lower molecular weight and the deodorant it wears.
Cottam opened the boutique in 2010 to showcase uncommon fragrance lines such as Smell Bent and Aroma M, which are not necessarily distributed at department stores. Under a high, wood ceiling that maximizes ventilation, Cottam cultivates an indie fragrance community through perfume classes, scent "tastings," and an art gallery she curates and opens for the monthly West Seattle Art Walk. Cakes from Baked Seattle grace every Knows event, as do patrons' keen-nosed, four-legged companions, who are also welcome to sojourn from the gossip at the fire hydrant into the shop's aromatic yet apolitical atmosphere.