Perfume 101: 182 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 Scent of Rhubarb

It’s hard to imagine a note trendier than rhubarb. Pick up any pink tinted bottle and a sales associate will recite a litany of notes which is bound to include rhubarb (along with red berries and pink pepper). But rhubarb’s popularity is justified because it can be made tart or sweet, coquettish or edgy. For me, familiarity with this material doesn’t breed contempt. On the contrary, the more I explore it, the more I become infatuated. To reveal different facets of rhubarb, I take it as a topic of my FT column, Perfumes with a Rhubarb Shimmer. I explain that materials with rhubarb inflections also have a classical pedigree and I recommend savory fruity perfumes for both men and women.

rhubarb slices

Every spring I make a Persian rhubarb sherbet by cooking sliced stems and sugar in water. Once the flavour and pink colour infuse into the syrup, I filter the liquid and add rose essence. Enjoyed in tall crystal glasses, the sherbet has a voluptuous taste that calls to mind the warm light streaming through the stained-glass windows of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, a pink-tinted jewel of Shiraz. Since perfumery has much in common with cuisine, rendering my sherbet into a fragrance accord with a similar ornate impression is not difficult. Please continue here.

Any other rhubarb recommendations are more than welcome.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Portable Perfumes for Summer Adventures

Whatever your destination this summer, Patricia shares her selection of travel sprays and rollerballs.

Summer is a time I like to take things down a notch, kick my shoes off, and wiggle my toes in the sand. Food becomes simple salads, boiled shucked corn, and barbecued meat and veggies; clothes are less restrictive and in lighter fabrics and colors; and summer hours are the norm at many workplaces.

sea

Serious perfume also takes a backseat in the warmer months, as my nose and my brain crave a respite from anything too complicated or fussy. What suits in February becomes too much in July. Because of recent problems of evaporation and separation in many of my homemade decants, I’ve increasingly turned to travel sizes and rollerballs offered by the manufacturers. Small and generally well priced, the following are what I’ll be popping into my beach bag this summer.

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The Truth About Perfume Concentrations

What is the difference between the various perfume concentrations? In my new FT column Eau de cologne vs eau de toilette vs eau de parfum I explain that it’s mostly about marketing. Forget about the proportion of oils, the lasting power or the diffusion. Such categorization is of recent vintage, and its main objective is to sell more perfume from the same pillar brand. By way of example, today I’m wearing Chanel Cristalle EDT on one arm and its EDP version on another. They have fewer overlaps than Cristalle and Estée Lauder Jasmine White Moss. In other words, don’t rely on the concentrations to buy perfume. Use your nose.

concentrations

Eau de cologne, eau de toilette, eau de parfum, extrait de parfum. What do the terms mean? Open any perfume book and I guarantee that you will read an explanation that these French words denote different concentrations of fragrant oils in the finished product and a corresponding strength. Some authors might even give you a chart showing that cologne is two per cent oil and lasts for only two hours, while extrait de parfum is 25 per cent oil and requires a skin graft for complete removal. It sounds convincing until one confronts the truth. Perfume concentrations are a marketing tool and often do not mean anything exact. The proportion of oil doesn’t play as great a role as the ingredients in the composition. As such, different concentrations denote neither how long a perfume will last nor how many “rare and precious” materials it contains. To continue, please click here.

Image via FT

Can You Bottle Bollywood?

Today it’s fashionable to proclaim one’s mastery of minimalism and a clutter-free lifestyle. Open any fashion magazine, and you’ll be treated to endless spreads of high key photographs flooded with white light and suggestions on how to make your life perfectly streamlined. I like Marie Kondo as much as the next person, but there is only so much minimalism I can take. So I seek refuge in Bollywood and its world where the idea of “less is more” means only that thing invented by the 6th century Indian mathematicians–zero.

aishwarya

The topic of Bollywood and perfume is the subject of my weekly FT column, Can You Bottle Bollywood?

“Many people outside the Bollywood sphere of influence find the genre puzzling. Everything is over the top — the acting, the plots, the songs, the outfits. But for me, it’s “cinema that exists slightly outside the everyday world”, in the words of writer Rana Dasgupta. This fantasy space is shared by perfumes, intangible messages in a bottle. So, those wishing to take a break from KonMaring their sock drawers and making their apartment look like an Ikea showroom are welcome to follow along with me. Please continue here.”

Are you a fan of Bollywood? Any recommendations for favorite films–and correspondingly opulent perfumes.

Image: Aishwarya Rai’s screenshot from Devdas (2002), via Pinterest.

The Glamour of Hotels

Do you like staying at hotels? Elisa shares her thoughts.

I have an ex-boyfriend who claimed to enjoy the occasional adversity – a cancelled flight, a blown-out tire. It seemed perverse to me initially, but later I came to understand his way of thinking. He didn’t look at these mishaps as lost time, but rather an opportunity to slip out of time. If you’re stuck somewhere and can’t get to work, no one is to blame; so why not enjoy the escape from obligation, the change of scenery?

I travel semi-frequently for work, and because travel is tiring and stressful, I’ve adopted a version of my ex’s philosophy to make the most of it. I try to embrace the changes in routine for their novelty value, rather than feeling inconvenienced. And the part I look forward to most – even though I’m not on vacation and have minimal time to spend there – is the hotel.

hotel_view

My room on a recent stay at the Ames Hotel in Boston

In the tradition of The Pillow Book, let’s make a list:

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