As a boy, Paolo Terenzi spent hours in the garden of his home in Northern Italy, where his grandfather quizzed him continuously about the plants and their aromatic compositions.

It was a favorite game then, and Terenzi relies on that wisdom today, working as president and head perfumer of his family’s fragrance company in Villa San Giovanni, along Italy’s eastern coast.

He and his sister, Tiziana, are the third generation preserving creating sophisticated, timeless scents for Cereria Terenzi Evelino, including a line of luxury extrait de parfums, a long-lasting and highly concentrated fragrance made with precious ingredients such as absolutes and pure essential oils and lower amounts of alcohol and aldehydes.

On a recent visit to Barneys New York at the Grand Canal Shoppes in Las Vegas, Paolo Terenzi shared his olfactory expertise by creating custom fragrances for a handful of lucky customers.

He carefully arranging a couple dozen amber glass vials filled with rare absolutes and extracts on a small glass desk tucked in to a corner of the cosmetics floor. Next, with the precision of a scientist, he set out a glass beaker, magnetic stirring plate, pipettes and golden tubes for the final creation.

Sitting across from one of the customers, he asked what she hoped to capture in the bottle. Something with rose, she said, but unpredictable.

“I have it,” he exclaimed. “It might be a little bit crazy, but it will work.”

In the beaker went drops of rose, ylang-ylang, beech wood, cypress and essence made from the leaves of the vanilla orchid, not the more commonly used pods.

“It gives a more herbaceous effect, a secret my grandfather taught me,” he said. ‘I hope it will turn out, but who knows? I think it will, but I am just playing with notes.”

After a few minutes whirling on the magnetic stirring plate and a very slight, temporary increase in temperature (“This can be very dangerous because you can easily damage a molecule, he points out), Terenzi dipped a strip of paper into the mixture and hands it to the woman for her assessment. She swoons, and hands it around the table for the others to sniff as well. More swooning.

“This is magnificent, he is a maestro. I love it,” said Ogonna Brown, a Las Vegas lawyer who was now the owner of her own signature scent, which is decanted into a golden tube. It will take two weeks of refrigeration for the scent to properly mature, Terenzi tells her, with the seriousness of a surgeon. No early dabbing, he insists. She promises.

As the next group begins to take their seats around the table, Terenzi says he loves the experience of creating scent spontaneously — even, or especially — when asked for something like a scent with no floral notes or other extreme specifications.

For his own collection, he said he never knows when the spark of an idea for a new formula will come, and that’s what makes it so exciting.

“For me, the inspiration is the best part,” he said. “That first magical moment, that whatever happens in life, you can capture in some way.”

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