Perfume 101: 171 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.

10 Pastel Perfumes for Spring

Elisa feels the lure of spring.

Part of the pleasure of browsing a makeup counter – and why I’ll always buy more makeup than I need – is the impression that I’m handling color in its pure form. Not just lipsticks but pigment: art and possibility. It’s the same flavor of childlike glee I feel when looking at a wall of paint swatches or the bulk bins in a candy store. As a kid I even organized my books in “rainbow order” on the shelves.

kateryna bilokur

Around March the mannequins in window displays all seem to be wearing pastels. I never buy these clothes; like bows and Peter Pan collars, pastels just don’t suit me. But I can participate in the traditional color scheme of the season with perfumes that smell like springtime shades instead.

Here are ten soft, pastel-hued perfumes (in spectral order, no less) I recommend.

Diptyque Eau Rose

I love weird roses, dark roses, spicy roses, mossy roses…I’ll take them all. But sometimes, especially in spring, a perfectly pretty, pastel-pink rose with little adornment fits the bill. Enter Eau Rose, which is dewy and fresh with a citrus lift.

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Rosewater Essence

One of my recent FT columns is all about rosewater, a by-product of rose oil production. After the steam distillation runs its course, there remains a fragrant liquid, or rosewater. It’s used in cosmetics, food, medical preparations and home scents. Rosewater is not stable enough to be used in perfumery, but many rose oil producers have started re-distilling the rosewater and making so-called rosewater essence, or extract. It’s less expensive than rose oil and is packaged with words like sustainable and environmentally friendly, which it may or may not be. Nevertheless, it’s a curious product, and perfumers have been using more of it to create a fresh petal effect, or to soften the outlines of synthetic floral accords.

rosewater

The 11th-century Persian philosopher and scientist Avicenna is credited with many contributions to astronomy, geography, psychology, logic, mathematics and physics. He also found time to delve into perfumery and devised methods to extract essential oils, experimenting on roses. If Avicenna were to step into a fragrance lab today, he would orient himself quickly enough – modern perfumery is a curious amalgam of traditional techniques with state-of-the-art technology. Indeed, rose oil is prepared in much the same way as in Avicenna’s time – through the process of steam distillation. Continue here.

Previously, I also wrote about my favorite ways with this rose-scented liquid. Do you use rosewater? 

Image via HTSI

Ten Fragrances in Ten Minutes

What are the ultimate desert island perfumes? Patricia tests herself.

I’ve lived in my present dwelling for over thirty years, time enough to accumulate an unnecessary quantity of items. With the current trend towards minimalism, my various collections have started to weigh heavy on my conscience and I’ve enjoyed fantasizing about moving into much smaller quarters and having to downsize significantly. I thought about Victoria and her move to Brussels some years back when she was able to bring only a small portion of her perfume collection with her and how difficult that must have been. Doing a similar exercise is of course only that, an exercise, but I decided to set my kitchen timer for ten minutes and grab ten fragrances that would come with me—my desert island perfumes. A no-vintages rule made for easier decisions (although one of my choices has been discontinued).

perfume selection

It took me four minutes to go through my collection and make initial choices, then six additional minutes to pare down the edited collection to ten (actually eleven if you count the bottles in the picture). The buzzer went off with eleven bottles on my bureau, so I left it at that.

First I snatched No. 19 EDT from my Chanel tray because it is an iris, my favorite fragrance of all time, and my bottle of No. 19 EDP is vintage and therefore out of the running. No. 19 is also one I can wear for all occasions, in all seasons, and in other words a no-brainer. Chanel 31 Rue Cambon is also coming along to fill the chypre category and serve as an elegant ladies-who-lunch fragrance for those times that I need to appear more put together than I actually am. The Hermès tray provided L’Ambre des Merveilles for a spicy gourmand amber vanilla that is delightful to wear in fall and winter. Cuir de Lancôme, rich leather with floral undertones, also joins the group for its beauty and versatility in all seasons save the dog days of summer.

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Catherine Deneuve’s Beauty and Perfume Routine

Celebrity perfumes come and go, but Deneuve, created by the French screen goddess, remains a legend. More than any other discontinued perfume, this green leather-chypre, an heir to Miss Dior and No 19, comes up in readers’ queries time and again. Catherine Deneuve is the ultimate perfume lover; Bois de Jasmin even has a Catherine Deneuve tag as a testament to her scent obsession and my admiration. I’m pleased to add another item to my list: the Into the Gloss article, in which Deneuve describes her beauty routine, her love for Cle de Peau powder, Carnal Flower and Francis Kurkdjian’s nose.

“When I start a film, I like to have a special fragrance to wear for it. So, I’m starting a film tomorrow and I’m going to wear Frederic Malle’s Eau de Magnolia—I like it because with every perfume, he works with a different person to do something special. After the film, I keep the perfume, and when I wear it I remember the experience. It’s not something I’ve always done, but I’ve been doing it for a few years. And also I like very much the perfume of Francis Kurkdjian, becaue he’s very special. He’s the one who did the first perfume of Jean Paul Gaultier but now he’s doing perfume for himself. I like his nose.

In the summer, I love to wear jasmine. It’s a very natural, floral scent, but at the same time, has something a little deeper. There’s a musk from Frederic Malle—Carnal Flower—that he also makes as a Hair Mist which I love. Also orange blossom—that’s lovely. Read more.”

Another interesting read is Catherine Deneuve on Her Favorite Perfume and Other Fragrance Topics. The woman is a perfumista, I tell you.

Photograph of Catherine Deneuve via Cineteve, from Anne Andreu’s biography released in 2010. Also highly recommended.

Generosity of Spring

My barometer of spring is a large magnolia tree near my apartment building. It stands bare and craggy, with few leaves even in the summer, but the moment the weather warms up, it lets out a mass of pink blossoms. First, the buds appear, enclosed in furry brown wrappers. Then they lighten, swell and unfold into thick, waxy petals covered with sticky dew. When I walk past the tree, I notice these small changes, and even if a day has brought nothing particularly pleasant, the magnolia is a highlight. I pick up a fallen blossom and it smells of lemon detergent and vanilla. My coat pockets are filled with bits of petals that I stash away like the talismans of new spring. I open a notebook during a work meeting and dried flowers fall out of it. After several years of living in the same neighborhood, I think of the magnolia tree as an old friend.

mimosa-yellow cup

When people tell me that perfume is an expensive hobby, I always think of my magnolia tree and the immense pleasure it gives me, entirely free of charge. It’s crass to use the language of economics with regards to nature, but I would like to reinforce a point–a perfume hobby is as expensive as you make it. If you’re into collecting, yes, the costs will quickly add up, but as I described in my post How to Make Perfume Hobby Affordable, there are ways to appreciate scents and enrich our lives with them without running into great expense. Springtime gives many opportunities to do so–it’s a generous season.

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