Perfume Courses

We have been making perfume for over 40 years and are passionate about passing on our knowledge through our popular perfumery courses.

Chief perfumer, Chartered Chemist and owner of Cotswold Perfumery, John Stephen has acquired an enviable reputation for creating high-end, bespoke fragrances. This reputation has led to an impressive customer portfolio, including a number of high profile individuals including Her Majesty the Queen! John’s success led to his desire to share his gift and knowledge with others through regular perfume courses.

All courses are delivered by John at the Cotswold Perfumery in the beautiful village of Bourton-on-the-Water, The Cotswolds. We are privileged to be one of only six independent perfumers in the UK.

Our courses offer a unique insight into the life and work of an independent perfumer and the delicate balance of Art and Chemistry in the perfume making process.

What to expect from our perfume courses

Our perfume courses bring together a whole range of people; from aspiring perfumers who have commercial aspirations, to hobbyists interested in finding out more about the art of perfumery and wanting to create unique gifts for friends and family. Our courses incorporate both the theoretical and practical aspects of perfume creation.

Level 1 Course - £195

Suitable for absolute beginners

Introduces the basic concepts and perfume classifications and ends with the creation of a perfume. 

Your journey into the fascinating world of perfume creation begins with the theory of perfume making. During the morning session our Chief perfumer John Stephen will talk you through the basic concepts for perfume creation including fragrance composition, characteristics of each raw material and the stages of the perfume-making process. There will also be a guided tour of the fragrant perfume garden.

In the afternoon, with the help of your newly acquired perfumery knowledge and John’s support, you will have the opportunity to create your own bespoke perfume.

Perfect for...

Our Level 1 course is the perfect gift for someone who has an interest in perfumery, or for those considering perfumery as a career. It also provides an excellent insight into the perfume industry and a real world experience of a fully operational perfume laboratory. 

By the end of the Level One course you will…

  • Understand how perfumes can be grouped into classifications so that you have a framework within which to understand fragrances and be able to choose your perfume more knowledgeably. 
  • Know how to structure a perfume and build it from raw materials
  • Understand blending techniques and typical pitfalls
  • Appreciate the importance of balance and harmony in a perfume and how to achieve these qualities
  • Know how to use the equipment accurately and safely


Courses can also be run for schools and colleges, with the level of chemistry adapted to specific requirements:


Level Two Course - £695

Advanced techniques

A two-day (weekend) course for Level 1 "graduates" to create their own fragrance and produce the required documentation.

Level 2 courses are open to Level 1 “Graduates” who want to expand upon their knowledge and create custom perfumes as a hobby or commercially. The course takes participants through the creation of more complex fragrances, whilst the theory focuses on teaching the professional requirements for perfume creation; including the legislation side.

A much wider range of materials is used - 60 as opposed to 25 in the Level 1 course. The group size is purposely smaller to allow more one-to-one support and guidance.

Individual laptops are provided too so that participants can complete their own documentation for their own perfume.

By the end of the Level Two course you will…

  • Have a much broader understanding of the demands on a creative perfumer.
  • Know how to produce the necessary documentation to conform to the regulations.
  • Appreciate the effect of the addition of even very small quantities of some raw materials
  • Understand the issues surrounding transport of dangerous goods.
  • Have a set of template documents which will make future perfume documentation easier .
  • Be equipped to start creating commercially viable fragrances - and be able to check they are safe.

Things you need to know…

  • For overseas participants, please note that we only currently offer courses in English.
  • The legislation covered in the course is European Law, and whilst it is true to say that there is considerable convergence worldwide – there are still variations outside Europe that are not covered on the course.
  • Your trainer will be John Stephen BSc MRSC CChem who has over 45 years’ experience in the industry as an independent creative perfumer.
  • Minimum entry requirements – completion of the Cotswold Perfumery Level 1 course. A knowledge of spreadsheets would also be very useful. Spreadsheet training is recommended for those who are new to spreadsheets or have only a basic knowledge. Training takes place on the Friday before a Level Two Course and costs  £135 - please see details below.  

Discounts for Accommodation...

  • Level Two is a two day course held over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). We understand that many participants may require accommodation.
  • The Perfumery in Bourton on the Water and the Promenade Apartment in Cheltenham can both be booked by course participants for the Friday and Saturday night (or Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights if spreadsheet training is required). All apartments are rated with Five Stars and a Gold Award.
  • Availability is limited - three single bedroom apartments altogether sleeping a maximum of 2 persons per apartment - so booking early is strongly recommended.
  • Discounts on accommodation are offered for course participants of £50 per person, for each night preceding a course or spreadsheet training. If your travelling partner is also doing a course, they also receive the same discount and this could cover the majority of the accommodation costs. Please note however that our website cannot calculate this discount (it has to be done manually) - so please email or telephone with your requirements.
  • For those staying in the Promenade, Cheltenham, transport to and from the Perfumery on the Friday, Saturday or Sunday is offered - free of charge.

Spreadsheet Training - £135

The Level Two course uses Excel Spreadsheets in several ways and participants will find them invaluable in the future too. The course is fairly intensive and so a prior knowledge of spreadsheets would be helpful and take some of the pressure off. Spreadsheets are not used on Level One Courses.

For those who may be new to spreadsheets or just feel they need some brushing up on the subject, spreadsheet training is offered on the Friday preceding a Level Two Course. Laptops can be provided, but you if you have your own - with a reasonably recent copy of Excel - that is recommended, as you will be more familiar with its use.

The course assumes no previous knowledge and runs from 10am until 3pm and lunch is provided,

To book for Spreadsheet Training please email  or call us on 01451-820698.

Lab Days - £135

Practice makes perfect 

Our Lab Days are an opportunity for quality practice time.  They are a chance to spend a day experimenting and creating formulations in our perfume laboratory during a normal working day. (Lab Days are available to Level 1 “Graduates”).

There are no set days for Lab Days. To book, simply email call the Perfumery on 01451-820698 to arrange a mutually convenient date. Lab Days are not available at the weekend.

Private Courses

Choose your own date for a private Level One or Level Two course - to be held at the Perfumery or at a place of your choice. Include others with you if you like.

For more information, simply email with your preferred place, dates and number of attendees for a quote.

Company Training

If your company is involved in manufacturing or selling fragrant products, staff training will improve their knowledge, ability to sell and general self-confidence. Courses are designed specifically around company needs and can involve basic training in perfume or more technical aspects.

All courses are given by John Stephen who is a Chartered Chemist, and has over 45 years experience in the industry working as a creative perfumer.

Course content is tailored to suit particular company requirements. Examples of possible content include:

 -  Finished fragrances and how to understand their groups
 -  Selling to the public - answering their questions knowledgeably
 -  Pheromones in perfume
 -  Allergic reactions to perfume
 -  How to choose a perfume
 -  Ingredients of perfume - natural verses synthetic and their implications
 -  The chemistry of perfume, understanding solvents, evaporation rates, nomenclature
 -  Regulations covering the industry, health and safety
 -  Perfume creation - techniques, restrictions, how to give a perfume brief.
 -  Launching a new product 
 -  Analytical techniques - Relative density, gas chromatography, mass spectrometry
Venue can be at your place of work or at the Cotswold Perfumery.

For more information simply email with your preferred place, dates and number of attendees for a quote.

The Fine Print

Location: All courses are held at the perfumery: The Cotswold Perfumery, Victoria Street, Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire GL54 2BU.

Availability: Courses are held at various times throughout the year. Check dates, times and availability.

Duration: Level 1 is a one day course. Level 2 is two days. Arriving at 9am and departing at approx. 4.45pm

Restrictions:  Minimum age 14. No wheelchair access. May not be suitable for certain allergy sufferers. If in doubt, please consult your GP before booking. 

Qualifications:   None required, but Level 2 participants must have completed the Level 1 course.

Group size:  Traditionally, 9 participants for Level 1 and 6 for Level 2. Private courses are also available - please drop us line with the details of your group size and preferred date.

Validity:   A voucher for a one-day course must be used within 12 months of purchase if purchased by credit/debit card (due to rules imposed upon us by our service providers). Up to that date, the voucher is fully transferable and fully refundable to the purchaser. For expiry dates of up to two years ahead, please contact us for alternative ways to pay.

Booking: The purchase of a course online or via mail order will generate a Voucher Number that can then be used to book a date either online or by telephoning us.

Included in the Level One and Two courses: 

  • Course
  • Coffee breaks
  • Lunch
  • 25ml bottle of your own fragrance
  • 100ml bottle of any Cologne from the ladies standard range (excluding Pallas) or 100ml After Shave.
  • A Certificate of completion of the course.