Perfume 101: 149 posts

Here you can find how to guides to selecting, testing and enjoying scents. Also includes are the lists of our top favorite perfumes for different occasions and articles covering all range of topics related to fragrance. If you’re curious to step inside a perfume lab (or even become an industry professional), this group of essays will be of interest.

The Quest for Essences : Rose, Jasmine and Bergamot

Where do the perfumery ingredients come from? How are they produced? What do they smell like? Out of all aspects of fragrance, the composition–or rather, what’s exactly in a bottle of perfume–remains the most mystifying and interesting. While the following films from Dior are heavy on marketing, they nevertheless give a glimpse into some of the most classical ingredients in a perfumer’s palette–rose, jasmine and bergamot.

If you don’t see English subtitles, click on the CC button under the video, next to the volume controls.

Unsurprisingly, my favorite film is the one dedicated to jasmine. You visit fields in India with Dior’s chief perfumer François Demachy who explains the difference between jasmine sambac and jasmine grandiflorum. “Sambac has something animal and powerful about it. A slightly orange-like and more sensual quality. Grandiflorum is more delicate, more radiant.” He then takes you to a flower market, a place every visitor to India finds exhilarating.

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Uplifting Power of Beauty

“In the small bag that seldom leaves his shoulder as he traverses the dusty thoroughfares of his surrogate hometown, Younis carries a bottle of aftershave, a photographic portfolio and a copy of his CV.” When a reader sent me The Guardian article about a budding photographer and journalist, this sentence caught my attention. Younis, the protagonist of the story, is 19 years old; after he and his family fled Syria, they ended up in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp.


Reading about refugee camps in the news rarely conveys the reality on the ground. One, of course, realizes that life is difficult in the camp conditions, because the opportunities are limited, especially since most countries hosting refugees don’t allow them to move freely, to work, or to attend school outside whatever is provided inside the camp. In addition, relief agencies are so severely underfunded that many have been forced to cut food rations and close clinics. It means millions of displaced people suffer from malnutrition and illness.

Even more difficult to convey is the sense of loss and psychological suffering that people fleeing from their homeland experience. Although my family left Ukraine voluntarily and adjusted to life in the US, I still feel the lingering pangs of separation that will probably never disappear. After more than 20 years, I can describe in precise detail my old room, the pattern of shadows on the windowsill made by the grapevines and the exact smell of the bookshelf (dark chocolate and smoky vanilla).  Sometimes I dream of walking through the apartment my parents and I shared with my grandmother and uncle–the cramped, Khrushchev-era flat was no paradise lost, believe me, but I still wake up in tears from such dreams. I can’t imagine the magnitude of this pain when one is forced to leave everything behind and when the road back may not be possible.

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Perfume Samples : Where to Get and How to Store

Perfume samples are essential for the pursuit of your fragrance hobby, and Elisa tells you everything you wanted to know about these all important tiny vials: where to find them, how to store them and when to use them. This article is part of our Perfume Storage series.

One of my favorite perfume smells is not a single perfume, but the ur-perfume that rises up when I open this box of samples and minis I keep in my closet. It reminds me of the sound of an orchestra tuning up – there is no plan or pattern, just noise and chaos, and yet it sounds like music to me, a beautiful mess heightened by anticipation of what’s to come. Likewise, no matter what samples go into or come out of the box, the composite perfume always smells delicious – like fuchsia-colored roses and hazy amber, with aldehydes casting their candlelight glow over it all.


Once you fall down the rabbit hole, perfume samples start to accrue and multiply; it’s just part of the culture. In this post I’ll share my own sample habits, and I’d love to hear about yours.

Where I Get Samples

When I first got seriously interested in perfume, I would frequently order samples from places like Luckyscent. But I quickly saw the shortcomings of this method – the costs add up fast, and the samples (1 ml vials with no atomizer) were too small to get a true sense of the fragrance.

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Leather Perfumes for Cool Days

Elisa gives an overview of her favorite leather perfumes, from floral suedes to dark, smoky hides.

I don’t rotate my perfume collection seasonally; all [undisclosed number] of them are at my disposal year round on a big étagère in my closet. But if I did, here’s how the rotation would break down: ambers and orientals up front for winter; chypres and green florals up front for spring; white florals and beachy coconut scents up front for summer; and leather fragrances up front for fall.


One recent Friday, I went over to a friend’s house for drinks; it was the first really chilly autumnal night, and we lit an outdoor fire and sat around it drinking red wine, wearing boots and scarves for the first time and making plans for Halloween. This is exactly when I start buying candles in bulk and craving all my smoky leather perfumes. Here are a few of my favorites for fall.

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Top 10 Amber Fragrances for Fall

Amber perfumes are some of the most popular choices for cool weather, and today Patricia explores various options, from light to dark, from simple to complex.

Ambers are crowd pleasers, the Golden Retrievers of the perfume world, ready to encompass you with a warm, furry greeting and a wag of the metaphorical tail. Granted, some are easier to love than others, and there is always someone who would rather not, but generally speaking the amber aims to please. Here are some of my favorites.


Amber for Beginners

My “starter” amber fragrance was the easy-to-wear L’Eau Ambrée by Prada.  With mandarin, rose, and jasmine to sweeten the way, I happily wore it until the patchouli drydown started to grate on me. I graduated to the warm and beautiful L’Ambre des Merveilles by Hermès, and its sweet caramel vanilla seems perfect for the cooler months. It reminds me of Prada Candy, but I much prefer its greater complexity. Every September I reach for the stunning starry bottle turned on its side.

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