An Afternoon at GRANHAND LAB

I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some awesome places of places: Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, Manila, Cebu. Like any tourist, I enjoy going to the major attractions and taking in the sights, but, my favourite part about the cities I visit are the cool spots that only the locals know about. These are the spots that are a draw simply because of the quality of what’s offered there. Usually, the local spots (whether it’s art, food, music, etc.) are beautifully created. Plus, the people who created/designed/built the places are thoughtful, incredibly smart, and usually have some amazing stories they’re willing to share.

So, when my friend asked me if I was interested in taking part in a GRANHAND LAB. perfume-making course a few weeks ago, I was in. She had seen it on a few local Korean blogs and had done some digging – it definitely sounded like a one-of-a-kind experience, especially to do it in Seoul!

 

A Bit of Background

GRANHAND. is a brand of handmade Korean perfumes and fragrances. The brand was launched in late 2014 and runs two retail locations, as well as GRANHAND LAB. which opened in 2016. At the beginning of 2017, the brand began offering one-day perfume classes, which includes a 90-minute session on educating people about perfumery, and at the end of the class, each participant will walk away with a 60mL perfume they would have made themselves.

The aim of GRANHAND. is to create quality products that people love, and that are able to bring out the warmth in them. As their website describes it, we live in a world where machines mass produce products for blind consumption, without anyone really thinking about what they use. GRANHAND wants to change this mindset. As they put it, “We may be slow, we may be imperfect, but we want everyone to know our heart.”

 

Getting There

GRANHAND. Lab is located in the heart of Bukchon Village (북촌한옥마을) in Samcheon-Dong (삼청동). The quickest way to get there from Hanyang:

  1. Take a Line 2 (Green Line) train to Euljiro 3 (sam)-ga Station (을지로3가역) and transfer on a Line 3 (Orange Line) train headed to Bulgwang (불광행)
  2. Ride the train two stops to Anguk Station (안국역) and head up Exit 1, following the trail up to the main GRANHAND Store

Source: Google Maps

GRANHAND LAB. and the attached retail location are built into a traditional Hanok-style building, in Bukchon Hanok Village.

 

Retail Spots

There are two GRANHAND. locations in Seoul (서울), both of which are in Jongno-gu (종로구), and one of which houses GRANDHAND LAB. and GRANHAND Academy.. Each spot is beautifully minimalistic and the spaces are well-curated with all of the hand-made candles, sprays, diffusers and fragrances. The location main location we visited also featured a collaboration with Stark Jee Hoon, a Korean artist who spent most of his childhood growing up in Iowa in the United States. Unique candles with custom-made scents to recall the prairies of his childhood home were featured in the location.

GRANHAND. + Stark Jee Hoon collaboration candles. Source: http://granhand.com/portfolio/collaboration-prarie-stark/

 

GRANHAND.’s walls are lined with handmade products, from diffusers, to sprays to perfumes.

 

GRANHAND. One-Day Class

When we arrived at GRANHAND, we were warmly greeted by the staff and brought into the classroom area, by Na Na, the sister of GRANHAND’s founder. Na Na spent six years in southern France in Grasse, what’s considered to be the perfume capital of the world, studying fragrances and and perfumery. She had us settle in at our table and walked us through the basics of perfumery.

As pictured above, there are four major sections to perfumes and fragrances:

  1. Top Notes, when sprayed, only last 15-30 minutes but are what’s typically smelled first by people. These scents are usually light and many are citrus-based.
  2. Middle Notes last the second-longest and make up the body of the perfume.
  3. Base Notes, are earthier, heavier, and used in smaller doses. But, they linger the
  4. Accords are scents that have been made from combining various top, middle and base notes. The

 

Na Na took us through over 30 scents from all four categories, letting us guess, share our thoughts about each scent, and teaching us a little bit about what we were smelling. We were able to take small water breaks and cleanse our noses of fatigue with some coffee as well.

Once we had gone through all of the scents, we were able to pick our favourite ones. I ended up combining 19 scents (everything from Woody and Mossy base notes, to black pepper and a rose extract). Na Na helped make recommendations about the amounts and what which fragrances would complement one another.

Some of the over-30 scents we got to smell and potentially include in making our fragrances.


After three tests and making some additional tweaks, Na Na poured my blend into a proper perfume glass and let me handstamp and the packaging. We were then told to, at a minimum, not try the fragrances for two weeks. As it ages, they have a chance to settle and build.

When asked what I wanted to name my fragrance, I remembered that Na Na had mentioned that because scents are such significant and powerful triggers for connecting to memories, I named mine Seoul. Everytime I use my cologne, I wanted to remember the sunny spring afternoon in Seoul’s Bukchon Hanok Village I spent having great conversations while making a bottle of cologne, along with the other incredible experience I’ve had in Korea.

The aftermath of the afternoon.

My hand-stamped and handmade fragrance, Seoul.

 

Overall Impression

I am so glad to have taken this course at GRANHAND. Although we paid for 90-minute session, we ended up almost staying three hours, enjoying Na Na’s company, learning not only about fragrances and perfumes, but about her and some of her own experiences. Overall, the session with Na Na, and to leave with your own custom-made perfume only cost ₩65,000.

I highly recommend anyone who’d like to get a unique experience in Seoul to take this class. After spending time with Na Na, you gain a special appreciation for the dedication and passion that’s been put into crafting each of the scents in GRANHAND.’s stores. It definitely makes the company’s mission come to life when you get to meet one of the creators behind it. A truly unique experience for anyone visiting Korea.

Article by Kevin from Canada

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