Fragrance Notes in Perfumes : What Attracts You

While the fragrance is much more than the sum of its parts, there are certain notes that attract me, whether used as accents or as a part of the dominant accord.  Iris, rose, jasmine, cardamom, violet leaf, sandalwood, and ambery notes are among my favorites. I also love the accents of fruity notes like black currant and rhubarb (as in Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again and Hermes Eau de Pamplemousse Rose) and some apple scented aroma-materials can provide an interesting crunchy, juicy effect (Donna Karan Be Delicious).

cardamon

 

While there aren’t any materials or notes that I dislike on their own, overly strong lily of the valley and lilac accords bring up associations with air freshners and laundry detergents. I also find strong vanilla notes difficult, because when it comes to fragrance, my sweet tooth is rather tame.

What notes do you like in fragrances? Do you have notes that you avoid in fragrance?

Photograph of cardamom © Bois de Jasmin.

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85 Comments

  • axum: I am attracted to the scent of fresh lemons (eg Escale a Portofino). Also, frangipani and iris…Iris nobile drew me into the world of perfume blogs. I fantasize about a fragrance that combines notes of steamed white rice, jasmine or genmaicha tea, straw or vetyver – in other words, a tea room – and tend to be attracted to these notes individually too. February 26, 2011 at 4:23am Reply

  • lulllull: I like the tea room that Axum describes. I bet it would smell beautiful.
    I like sandalwood and patchouli the best. Somehow those scents seem to work on my skin. I also enjoy iris, white pepper and herbal notes, bay leaves are wonderful. February 26, 2011 at 6:00am Reply

  • Ines: I can’t resist resins. 🙂 They all smell great to me. And cardamom, cinnamon and clove are huge favorites as well (well, it seems spices in general).
    One thing I can’t stand though are synthetic (usually white) musks. They take over the whole fragrance and get stuck in my nose for hours so I can’t smell anything else. Just awful. February 26, 2011 at 6:46am Reply

  • Ann C: I like a wide variety of notes: most florals (except overly heady white florals), hay, spices, vanilla, amber, musk, and woody notes. I dislike strong leather, anything that produces a urine note (sometimes honey or boxwood?) and, so far, I have shied away from the ouds. February 26, 2011 at 7:36am Reply

  • Olfacta: Hmmm…well, I’m not too crazy about synthetic oudh that smells like a box of Band-Aids, overdoses of Isobutyl quinoline, or, most of all, the allyl glycolate “green pineapple” note which always seems to always be overused, as in Giorgio, and dirty hippie-oil patchouli. Other than that, I love everything! February 26, 2011 at 8:13am Reply

  • Zazie: Must be a geographical thing, but most perfume openings featuring strong citrus accords always smell good and pleasing to me.
    I also like big white flowers: jasmine, tuberose, frangipani, orange blossoms… The whiter, the creamier, the better….
    I also love oriental accords, rich with ambery sweetness, redolent of resins and rounded by dark vanilla and tonka bean…
    Leather and a pinch of powder..shake it all together and I’m in heaven.
    And a few of those smiling chypres, very rare among that family… I don’t know which notes achieve the effect of a vintage Mitsouko, but whatever was in there, it was meant for me.
    Rather than disliking single notes, I dislike certain kinds of compositions: those that are too linear, or those “solinotes” that, as brilliant or quirky as they might be, resemble more an “exercice de style” rather than a whole story (I’m a bit more forgiving with white flower soliflores, but still…).
    I am especially annoyed by vanilla-focused, or rose-focused,or iris-centered sketches.
    A vanilla loaded, or white-musk-sterilized base is enough to make me feel sick.
    But I do love all the notes, even in major roles, when they are playing in real classic composition.
    When it comes to perfumes, style is more important than the plot, at least for me.. But I don’t want a style devoid of substance: I prefer my Queneau with blue flowers! February 26, 2011 at 9:31am Reply

  • Elizabeth: I am attracted to neroli, rose, lilac, mimosa, violet, hyacinth, iris, and to a lesser extent jasmine. I enjoy touches of vanilla, but not too much. Too much tuberose makes me slightly ill. My least favorite notes are those that smell “tropical” (ie heavy white floral and/or fruit notes). This is why I was really disappointed with the new Annick Goutal Mimosa. Too…much…fruit! February 26, 2011 at 9:41am Reply

  • Olfactoria: I love citrus notes, iris, anise, licorice, tea, hay and most spices. I don’t care for oud, “medicinal” amber, honey and very dirty musks. But in general I try to keep an open mind, since the notes can be treated so differently in a composition that it is never a good idea to condemn a perfume from just reading the notes. February 26, 2011 at 10:25am Reply

  • Violaine: Since in was almost a toddler strong notes mystifie me; my first contact with lily of valley, the aldehydes from Chanel no.5, Musk & then the bohemian period with my pure patchouli oil, sandalwood oil, ylang-ylang essential oil ((yes!)). Then Coriandre got me for its elegant green mossy notes, vanilla note in Shalimar. The more I write, the more I discover my nose probably knows (no pun intended) more than I think. February 26, 2011 at 10:38am Reply

  • Alice C: I’m not a huge fan of ‘wet earth’, or ‘metallic’ smells. I’m attracted to ambers, vanillas and many spices. February 26, 2011 at 11:30am Reply

  • Victoria: Have you smelled Ormonde Jayne Champaca? It might just be something you are looking for. February 26, 2011 at 11:52am Reply

  • Victoria: I am with you, I also want the smell of that tea room! February 26, 2011 at 11:53am Reply

  • Victoria: The trouble with some musks is that they tend to cover the structure of the composition like a cloud. A little adds a pleasant, soft quality, but too much makes the fragrance lose its character. I am also very sensitive to some musks. February 26, 2011 at 11:55am Reply

  • Victoria: The moment I hear of honey, I think Miel de Bois, the most detestable fragrance for me. 🙂
    Real oud is amazing, but most synthetic ouds are brash and jarring. February 26, 2011 at 11:58am Reply

  • Victoria: I know exactly what you mean about synthetic oud that smells like Band-Aids. Not a fan of that either. February 26, 2011 at 12:00pm Reply

  • Victoria: Here is a woman who knows what she wants! 🙂
    I am also not a big fan of the latest trend in niche to focus on a single raw material. February 26, 2011 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: Le Mimosa was also not my favorite Annick Goutal, mostly because the mimosa note is so subtle. It is a very pretty fragrance, but I already have Petite Cherie, and they are very close. February 26, 2011 at 12:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: Hay notes are so beautiful, whether hay absolute, bran absolute, coumarin, or tonka bean. That warm almond and sweet grass character is something I find alluring as well. February 26, 2011 at 12:03pm Reply

  • Victoria: You are right, sometimes it is best just to smell blindly. I try to do that at times with some materials or even perfume samples. The first time I smelled Tommy Girl blindly, my impression of it was so different from what I thought it smelled like, I completely changed my opinion about it (into a positive direction.) February 26, 2011 at 12:05pm Reply

  • Victoria: Many spices are so interesting and quite versatile. A hint of pepper with floral notes or the lemony sparkle of cardamom with the fruity accords really can create something memorable. February 26, 2011 at 12:06pm Reply

  • Marina: “Aldehydes”, roses, iris, tuberose, gardenia, jasmine, leather, immortelle, cumin, prune, frankincense, myrrhe…- likes
    Pear, apple, licorice, often carnation and LOTV – dislikes February 26, 2011 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: I love the smell of coconut& suntan lotion, and salt air combined. Maybe even a little seaweed and beachflowers (frangipani?) Lemon, sweat, too?

    As a kid I loved the smell of horses and hung my ‘horsey’ smelling things in the closet to make it all smell that way.

    Fresh green peppers, fresh garden herbs are invigorating. Coffee, toast and strawberry jam wafting up the stairs make me emotional.

    Favorite scent as teen after Love’s lemon and baby powder scents, ‘Je revien’ by Worth, (what ever happened to that?) Lauren, and First into my 20’s, a Rocha that smells tobacco-ey, and Joy 🙂

    Now I love trying new scents all the time! February 26, 2011 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: dislike candy sweet anything… February 26, 2011 at 12:31pm Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: lavender is torture…! February 26, 2011 at 12:38pm Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: ….lavender is torture! February 26, 2011 at 12:38pm Reply

  • Ann C: I suppose I should sample one of the ouds so that I’ll understand what everyone is talking about. 🙂

    I don’t know why I don’t like leather in fragrance since I love the smell of a new leather handbag or leather jacket. Weird!

    I just remembered another note I don’t like. Once I tested JHAG Not a Perfume, I also realized that I don’t like ambroxan. I know many find this soft and warm, but it’s unpleasant to me. February 26, 2011 at 1:10pm Reply

  • MaryAnn Hardy: Wherever I have lived, I have always kept an herb garden for the pure ecstasy smelling their lovely, pungent, green-ness. But beyond all the culinary herbs, fragrant lavenders and hyssops, and the gorgeous creamy mints, I find the odor of chrysanthemum leaves delightful and the powerful “crack” of odor from bay/myrtle trees, and the mysterious eucalyptus, which have many, many kinds of eucalypt odor. The only leaf I’ve ever been repulsed by is from the “Chinese Tree of Heaven,” ailanthus, which defies description other than “coffee and decay.”

    Shall we start on the flowers ??? Or curing hay? Puppy breath? New baby? And best of all…your lover’s scent…in the dark. 🙂 Mine smells like sweet cumin. Ummm. February 26, 2011 at 1:30pm Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: I find that my scent selection depends on what I am planning to do. If sleeping, then something dreamy. If eating, something that will not affect my sense of taste for the food, and especially the wine. I have discovered that a fragrance can ruin a glass of wine as much as can a salad dressing.
    On the other hand, a warm flowery scent can add essence to a glass of champagne, if it is sweet, or make it taste sour if the scent is too sweet!
    Certain things should not be worn and eaten together! February 26, 2011 at 1:40pm Reply

  • axum: Victoria, thanks for suggesting Champaca. I will order it now! I’m also curious about Blue Oolang (reviewed on Bonkers about Perfume). I guess I am going on a ‘tea’ journey now… February 26, 2011 at 1:55pm Reply

  • Victoria: My favorite oud is by Kilian Pure Oud and Rose Oud (not Incense Oud though, which is nice, but a bit bland.) Those two do not have any oud in them, but are a very skillful, beautiful oud renditions. They smell more like the real thing (especially Pure Oud) than anything else I have tried.

    I love Ambroxan, but I agree with you, it is definitely not soft and warm to me at all! It is super dry and crisp. February 26, 2011 at 1:58pm Reply

  • Victoria: So, I gather that you must like Serge Lutens La Myrrhe! 🙂 February 26, 2011 at 1:59pm Reply

  • Victoria: Beautiful! Thank you for sharing! I love the scent of green peppers and mint. I often make a fresh salad with just two ingredients (and oil+vinegar.) It is so refreshing.

    Je Reviens is something I see online from various discounters, but I have yet to see it in a store. The original was beautiful, I am not sure how well it has survived the reformulation though. February 26, 2011 at 2:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: Cloying is not something I can handle either. February 26, 2011 at 2:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: I love the scent of chrysanthemum leaves too. There is something so beautiful and melancholic about their bittersweet fragrance. Perhaps, it is the association with the fall and the end of the summer… February 26, 2011 at 2:03pm Reply

  • Victoria: Very true! I find that strong fragrances can really interfere sometimes. I remember Luca Turin mentioning in one of his articles that chypre fragrances complement most foods best. I hope that I am not twisting what he said. I am trying to find a link to that piece, as it was quite interesting. February 26, 2011 at 2:04pm Reply

  • Victoria: I have not smelled Blue Oolang, but Champaca with its rice and tea notes is wonderful. Very unusual fragrance.
    For tea fragrances, Bulgari Eau The Vert is another excellent contender, L’Artisan Tea for Two (smoky, richer tea,) Comme des Garcons Te (really dark and smoky!) February 26, 2011 at 2:06pm Reply

  • axum: Bvlgari Eau The Vert was one of the first perfumes I ever wore! I have Tea for Two on order…will try Te too. Thank you!

    And in passing, chrysanthemum leaf tempura is delicious in the fall. One of my favourites. February 26, 2011 at 2:20pm Reply

  • rosarita: Incense notes are among my favorites, esp frankincense & opoponax. Also woods and spices, esp rosewood, cedar, cardamom & clove. I wrote once that my perfume collection could most accurately be called *brooding*. 🙂 Dealbreakers for me are pomengranate, caramel, tuberose and violet; the last two inevitably smell like Eau d’Glade on me. I am, however, open to sampling anything. On paper, for example, I should hate Monyette Paris as I dislike tropical scents & gardenia, but it is one of my favorites. Never say never in the perfume world! That’s part of what makes it so much fun. February 26, 2011 at 2:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: I have never tried chrysanthemum leaf tempura, but I love it in hot pots and as a salad dressed with soy sauce and sesame oil. The flavor is so vivid! February 26, 2011 at 2:29pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, I also never dismiss a fragrance based on the list of notes. It is more like a shorthand. Sometimes one finds plenty of surprises. I could never have guessed that BBW Cotton Blossom could be so lovely, but it is, a fresher version of Rochas Tocade. February 26, 2011 at 2:57pm Reply

  • Elisa: I especially love resins and woody notes, patchouli, green notes, tobacco, tuberose, rose, geranium, and lily. I’m sensitive to certain types of woody ambers and aldehydes. I also get nervous around iris compositions that verge too closely to raw carrot. 🙂 February 26, 2011 at 4:23pm Reply

  • Hannah: Leather is my absolute favorite.
    Other favorites are black tea, birch tar, pepper, cumin, coffee, sage and spearmint. February 26, 2011 at 4:28pm Reply

  • Violaine: …then should we not be suspicious of the biases of memory ? what of the influences of others perception ? I doubt very much still of my olfactory memory. I found your article’s subject more difficult than it seems to answer. Or at least, i have to “exercice” the notes I like & why. February 26, 2011 at 4:37pm Reply

  • LostArgonaut: Maybe I’m too naive to count particular notes as my favorite yet, but anything with musk, sandalwood, amber and patchouli in the drydown keeps my nose on my wrists 😛 February 26, 2011 at 4:49pm Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: awesome. As you seem to say, freshness and simplicity are two of my favorite ingredients also!

    regarding fragrances, my experience has been that scents change – on me. All along I’ve thought my chemistry was changing. Perhaps it was the fragrance itself that had changed! February 26, 2011 at 5:14pm Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: I would love to see that article if you can find it… thanks! February 26, 2011 at 5:15pm Reply

  • maggiecat: I’m strongly attracted to citrus and tea scents 9but don’t always want to wear them – and to jasmine if it’s done “right” (not cheap synthetic). And to vanilla, and musk, and sandalwood and guiacwood and…Sigh. Hopeless. February 26, 2011 at 8:07pm Reply

  • Gitcheegumee: What attracts me is dictated by the season.

    Spring brings a desire for roses and lilies…hence Joy and Escada.

    Summer, I crave honeysuckle and citrus.Hence, Le Chevrefeuille by Goutal and Vent Vert(when I can find it!)

    Fall, I crave chypre and smoke. That’s when I burrow into my stockpile of Alexandra by Alexandra de Markoff. (That is one of my signature scents.)

    Winter, it’s spice and warmth I crave. Tocade by Rochas,Youth Dew by Lauder and Casmir by Chopard are some choices.

    Now that I have found this site, I hope to expand my repertoire of fragrances. February 26, 2011 at 8:42pm Reply

  • k-amber: I haven’t come across oud fragrances smelling like a real incense oud. By Kilian Pure Oud sounds a must try! I love resin notes generally, frankincense, tolu, benzoin myrrh..
    Angelica attracted me strangely.

    Kaori February 26, 2011 at 11:46pm Reply

  • Melanie: I love tobacco (but not a smoky, burning note), ambergris, almond, honey, tea, earthy and resin notes. I also like most greens.

    For florals, I dislike carnation and lily. With other floral notes, it depends on the composition, although I like most roses.

    I don’t like peach or plum; in fragrances it makes me feel ill. Orange usually reminds me of a pomander. I sometimes like berry notes, depending on the fragrance, and I like lemon and pineapple. February 27, 2011 at 6:16am Reply

  • Melanie: Oh, and I almost forgot: I LOVE a salty note in a perfume. February 27, 2011 at 6:20am Reply

  • Angela Cox: Rose and Violet are big favourites but not as soliflores. I love all the elements of Une Rose which turns a rose fragrance just a bit dirty . I also love incense and real ambergris . I loathe oud , vanilla and most foodie type smells except spices. February 27, 2011 at 3:25am Reply

  • ScentScelf: Looking at notes is interesting to me, because nowhere do I feel more like I am trying to catch a fish with my bare hands than when I try to “capture” that which pleases me in perfume than by note. I have a long history of eating my words when I venture thoughts on this question. (And they don’t taste as good as fish, har.)

    For example, rose. We play free association, you randomly saying a note, me responding if I like it in perfume. You say “rose.” I say NO. I like them in the garden, not in perfume, I say. Especially not as soliflores. (Then I think of two exceptions to that rule.) Well, if I *do* like them, they tend to be green. (Turns and happily huffs Une Rose in immediate contradiction.) Okay, I might like them dark, but really, not too much. (Full bottles of Parfum Sacre laugh at her from her shelf, while L’Arte de Gucci and Magie Noire are among the chorus chuckling with.) Fine. Apparently, I can like rose. Just not WEIRD rose. (Starts righteously wagging a finger at an older bottle of Rose Poivree, but Black Rosette jumps in between and gives a knowing look, and she sits in defeat.)

    Nevermind.

    I’ll just play as instructed, and out myself about how wrong I am later. Notes I avoid: aldehydes. Actually, that’s pretty much it; most other notes I know I can find a way in to eventually, though if I had been answering this question a couple of years ago, I might have put vetiver on the list. Probably peach should be here, with the notation that fruits in general I steer clear of.

    Notes I gravitate toward: Iris. (Root. Iris root. Someday, somebody will get one of the flower options…) Sandalwood. Cedar. Narcissus. Hay. Salt. Galbanum. Lavender. Turns away and covers mouth so that she can deny saying castoreum. Tea. Opoponax.

    White flowers can inspire devotion or loathing, depending on the presentation. Go figure. February 27, 2011 at 8:41am Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: Hearing you say ‘tar’ reminds me a strange ‘pica’ I had during my second pregnancy. I would inhale involuntarily and deeply whenever I smelled gasoline, tar, some cleansers and soaps, and other chemicals! had to stop myself for fear of hurting the baby I was carrying! And I loved the smell of smoke….my midwife thought it was a vitamin deficiency.

    Couldn’t get enough of that funky stuff!!! February 27, 2011 at 10:46am Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: Love your list… February 27, 2011 at 10:47am Reply

  • Victoria: I find that note listings on their own are indecipherable, but if I know a fragrance family and a brand, they can be more helpful. At least, as a shorthand.
    Loved following you on your rose thought trail! 🙂 February 27, 2011 at 11:13am Reply

  • Victoria: I am with you on salty notes, they add such an interesting effect.
    Your list of favorites alone would make a fantastic perfume! 🙂 February 27, 2011 at 11:15am Reply

  • Victoria: Une Rose is one of my favorite dark roses, the earthy and ambery notes really frame the rose note beautifully. February 27, 2011 at 11:16am Reply

  • Victoria: If only there were a perfume smelling like the beautiful incense you've sent me! February 27, 2011 at 11:17am Reply

  • Victoria: Lovely thought! I agree with you, my mood, my perfume cravings and the season are all closely related. Right now, I'm ready for spring, so I keep reaching for green and white floral notes. February 27, 2011 at 11:19am Reply

  • Victoria: I relate to that. I love to smell citrus far more that I love to wear a citrus based perfume. Nothing is more rejuvenating than the scent of grapefruit peel. February 27, 2011 at 11:20am Reply

  • Victoria: I love fragrances with that kind of aura. Sandalwood is also among my favorites. I love sometimes just to dip a blotter into a dilution of pure sandalwood oil. It lasts forever and changes in the most marvelous manner. February 27, 2011 at 11:24am Reply

  • Victoria: Sometimes it is both–you and the fragrance. 🙂 Still, far more often it is the formula of a perfume… February 27, 2011 at 11:25am Reply

  • Victoria: I cannot find a link, but I recall it was one of his NZZ Folio columns. I will check when I get on my home computer. February 27, 2011 at 11:26am Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: I found it! a selection by Tania Sanchez called ‘choosing a perfume’ in the A-to-Z book he wrote with her! February 27, 2011 at 11:31am Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: …hmmm or maybe this is wrong… February 27, 2011 at 11:37am Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, that's another one I was thinking about! February 27, 2011 at 11:44am Reply

  • Ania: I love linden blossom, but it’s difficult to come by. I also adore fig and violet. What I usually can’t stand is chocolate (Musc Maori is an exception) and aniseed (always!) Lately I’ve also started to appreciate white flowers (thanks to Songes by Annick Goutal I think) February 27, 2011 at 3:59pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also love linden blossom! Have you tried MAC Naked Honey? It has a great linden flower note. February 27, 2011 at 5:09pm Reply

  • Victoria: Violaine, we definitely have biases of memory, which is why the fragrance preferences are so fascinating. I try to be aware of my preferences when reviewing certain fragrances whose genres I dislike. For instance, I am not a fan of vanilla gourmand fragrances, so I try to use other criteria to describe a fragrance–how well it is made, how long lasting, radiant, balanced, etc. it is. February 27, 2011 at 6:25pm Reply

  • Cait: This is fun reading, like the old MUA without censors and jerks. Let me see, what notes do I favor these days. These don’t go together, all of them and I have Catholic tastes: For perfume notes I like..tree sap, Jasmine, rose, aldehydes, petillance, all the many citrus notes (petit grain, neroli, bergamot, mandarin,grapefruit, and on and on I make mistakes because I haven’t learned my way around my favorite family of fragrance, the citrus), ambrette, vetiver, ginger, tuberose, patchouli, naked ladies, stone fruit, old comic books, labrador tea, fresh coffee, bitters (an inexhaustible and exotic category of scents),Chartreuse (the only liqueur that had a color named after it), geranium, mint, sencha, lychee, chiles, fleur de sel, ruffled narcissus for No Ruz, black pepper, a cloudy sense of a city made of rain and coffee, books and fresh flowers.
    Dislikes? Fads of the exotic, boring candy, turboleather, perfume that smells like candles or car deo, bitter green 70s chypre on smokers,dirty hair, gauche musk, “barber shop” accord, church incense, chai accord, and “clean.” February 28, 2011 at 2:37am Reply

  • Victoria: Cait, what a great list! I am with you on clean trends. Can there be anything more boring? I think that I mentioned once that "sexy and clean" is one of the most common American client requests… It apparently means anything tame, safe, fruity-floral. February 28, 2011 at 8:43am Reply

  • Karen: What makes me melt . . . vanilla with a touch of almond . . . so soothing and relaxing for me like no other note. Uncomplicated, a quick release from the day’s tensions! Ahh . . . feel it just talking about it . . . February 28, 2011 at 9:41am Reply

  • Victoria: The way you describe it, it sounds wonderful! I love an idea of a fragrance that relaxes and soothes. Plus, vanilla is such a comforting scent. February 28, 2011 at 10:27am Reply

  • dleep: I love mainly “dark/warm” scents, oud, tobacco, sandalwood, patchouli, tonka, vanilla, almond. Some florals go very metallic on my skin. February 28, 2011 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Victoria: Somehow, reading your favorites together already sounds like a beautiful perfume! 🙂 February 28, 2011 at 12:51pm Reply

  • Ania: Unfortunately I missed Naked Honey and now it’s not available in stores:(. I used to think Linden by Demeter was quite good, but last year I made a comparison and smelt real linden blossom and Demeter’s fragrance right after – and as a result I never used Linden again, it wasn’t even a shadow of the real flower. The best linden blossom I know I can smell in Chasse aux Papillons (of course mixed with other flowers). Oh, and I’ve heard Andy Tauer is going to release a new fragrance in MAy called Linden Blossom. Can’t wait to check it out:-) February 28, 2011 at 6:06pm Reply

  • Erin T: We share many loves, V. In thinking on this recently, I confirmed for myself that what attracts me in a note list and what I gravitate towards in testing and collecting can be different. Of course, some materials are used so frequently in perfumery that they don’t prick up my “mental ears” anymore in a notes list: i.e. bergamot, rose, sandalwood listed does not mean the fragrance will smell of bergamot, rose or sandalwood. Easily distinguishable and less common notes that I watch for include: anise/licorice/fennel, rhubarb and black currant bud (right there with you!), nutty notes, cardamom, ambrette, bay leaf, immortelle, camphor, lavender, mandarin, mastic, salty notes, ylang-ylang and any mention of root beer 🙂

    In the last month, though, I went through my FB collection as well a short list of things I would like acquire and marked down the 5-6 or fewer primary or distinguishable notes from each fragrance. This was obviously difficult with complex, blended perfumes like the classic Guerlains or abstract scents such as, say, Gucci Rush. The process was not carefully controlled and in “interpreting” the results I filter for: a)frequency of use in perfumery; b)the broadness of the category I used. To explain that last point, I should say that I used the very general heading “Musk”, and that “note” came out on top – no surprise there, as I love musky fragrances and the idea was so broad. I was really very shocked to see jasmine come next, though: first, because it was a floral note, but also because it was not the floral note I would have guessed. Next came a tie between oakmoss and vanilla, then cedar (!), patchouli, sandalwood and lemon. Accounting for frequency, I do apparently like anise, immortelle, ylang-ylang, mandarin, salt, etc. and a few other surprises like cloves, honey, birch and orange blossom. Lilies did better than I thought, as well. To my complete non-surprise, aldehydes and lilacs made a very poor showing. From the look of the numbers, I’m also far less into leather, iris and violet (flower) scents than the average perfumista. March 1, 2011 at 12:06am Reply

  • Marlene: Notes I always go for:
    1. Fig
    2. Iris
    3. Lemon
    4. Cumin
    5. Cardamom
    6. Tuberose

    Notes I run from:
    1. Sandalwood
    2. Gardenia
    3. Patchouli
    4. Amber

    2. Tobacco
    3. Gardenia
    3. March 1, 2011 at 1:03am Reply

  • Victoria: I recently tried a fragrance from Mandy Aftel called Honey Blossom, and it might be what you looking for–a beautiful linden flower note. I definitely recommend exploring it.
    I keep forgetting that Naked Honey was a limited edition. Such a shame, as it was a very good perfume. March 1, 2011 at 8:30am Reply

  • Victoria: Elisa, oops, sorry for missing your comment earlier.
    I used to be very wary of vegetal iris notes too, but now, I am somehow finding them so appealing. 🙂 I am also sensitive to woody ambers, some of them are extremely sharp to me. March 1, 2011 at 8:42am Reply

  • Victoria: I love reading these lists! There is something so interesting about analyzing one’s likes and dislikes.
    It took me a while to love cumin, but now a note of it in perfume always catches my attention. March 1, 2011 at 10:46am Reply

  • Victoria: Erin, your process of marking your favorite notes sounds so organized and thoughtful. I also find that the most I learned about my tastes was when I began studying raw materials as part of the perfumery training. I really had to break down each material into elements and see how it changed over time. Of course, materials in isolation is not the same as what they appear like in a perfume blend, but still, it was an interesting exercise.

    We certainly share many favorites. Reading your comment makes it very clear to me. Lilacs are towards the bottom for me as well. They bear an unfortunate Glade association for me. March 1, 2011 at 10:51am Reply

  • Flora: I like most things now, but I am still averse to fake “marine” notes, which give me a headache. Particular favorites are oakmoss, gardenia, lily, tuberose, rose, narcissus, pineapple, mango,, labdanum, oud, bergamot, and “grown up” vanilla. March 1, 2011 at 4:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: I have a difficult time with marine notes too. Calone is a great material, but an overdose of it is not something I can bear these days. March 1, 2011 at 8:59pm Reply

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  • rosarita in White on White: This is a fascinating read, thank you, V. Love the photos, you remind me of a delicate porcelain doll and your blouse suits you beautifully 🙂 September 26, 2016 at 8:33am

  • Pearl in White on White: TO wear… September 26, 2016 at 8:05am

  • Pearl in White on White: Can anyone make a private commission? Your blouse is stunning. I would love wear such a beauty. September 26, 2016 at 8:04am

  • Victoria in Perfume in the Library : The Pillow Book: They have a big collection on their US website, but I know that many loved their Autumn Leaves incense. Seems perfect for the season. September 26, 2016 at 6:58am

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