Perfume 101: 222 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.

Top 10 Summer Picnic Scents

Elisa takes us on a picnic with her selection of favorite summer perfumes.

When thinking about my seasonal favorites, I always create a kind of moodboard in my mind. This summer, the moodboard says PICNIC. I’m picturing a gingham tablecloth or a worn-in patchwork blanket thrown out on the grass, sunlight dappling through leaves, bare feet and painted toes. You can smell sunscreen and blooming linden trees, and, of course, the spread: rosé and sparkling wine, cheese and crackers, something fresh (might I suggest caprese skewers?), a giant bowl of fruit salad (my friend Sommer makes an amazing one with blueberries, watermelon, and halved cherries).

Here are some summer favorites to match my picnic mood.

Demeter Tomato

What is there to say about Demeter Tomato, except that it smells exactly like tomato vines? Just smelling it seems to conjure up actual heat, like you’re standing in a sunny garden. In truth I almost never wear it, but I often spray it into the air, especially in my kitchen, to build summery picnic ambiance.

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On Italo Calvino’s Classics and Serge Lutens Feminite du Bois

What makes a classic? “In his marvellous essay Why Read the Classics? Italo Calvino offers 14 definitions of what makes a classic piece of literature. Reflecting on his list, I thought how easily its ideas could also be applied to perfumery. The same notions of the inexhaustible sense of discovery, timelessness and “imprints on our imagination” also define a classic scent, be it Guerlain Shalimar or Chanel No 5. It was Calvino’s 13th point, however, that struck a chord. “A classic is a work that relegates the noise of the present to a background hum,” he says, noting that nevertheless the classics cannot exist without this hum. They’re rooted in the present even as they transcend it.”

This topic is the subject of my latest FT column on modern classics. The article, How Serge Lutens reinvented the idea of feminine perfume, is the first of a series that will cover fragrances I consider outstanding and important. Modern classics, in other words. My first essay is on Serge Lutens’s Féminité du Bois, a composition that challenged conventions and remade wood accords as we know them in perfumery. To read the article, please click here.

Italo Calvino’s essay is worth reading, whether your interest is perfumery or literature, because it’s witty and through-provoking. “Classic” is the most overused word, but unpacking its layers of meaning makes one appreciate the richness of allusions and references that each great work contains. The essay is part of the compilation “Why Read the Classics?” (public library) that includes Calvino’s observations on his favorite writers and novels. I can’t recommend it enough for your summer reading lists.

Of course, I would love to hear what a classical perfume means to you and which fragrances you count among the modern classics.

To read all articles in my column, please click on my name in the byline.

Green, Green, Green : A Selection of New Perfumes

Green accords in perfumery are infamous for being difficult. Difficult to create and difficult to enjoy. Balmain’s Vent Vert, the iconic green fragrance, is praised by perfumers as one of the most innovative and daring, but it was eventually reformulated to become tamer and milder. What is it about green fragrances that makes them so polarizing? In my new FT column, On Green Scents, I explore the new spring launches and point out my favorite verdant composition.

Perfumers rely on different classes of ingredients to produce these green accords, some natural and some synthetic, and finding the right harmony can be complicated. Freshly cut grass, its aroma so appealing on a warm day, can turn metallic on skin, while certain herbs can overwhelm delicate notes. Tom Ford Vert de Fleur is notable in that it not only conjures up a vivid verdant effect, but also preserves the nuance. It smells of dew-covered iris petals, damp earth and vetiver roots. To continue reading, please click here.

Where do you place yourself on the green spectrum? Do you like a touch of green? Or is it, “We want a shrubbery”?

Photography by HTSI

The Art of Perfume Course : Workshop

Here is a recap of the three days of our Art of Perfume course: on Day 1 we visited the Edmond Roudnitska garden and explored the International Perfume Museum in Grasse, on Day 2 we learned about perfumes that influenced fragrance history and more, and on Day 3 we applied our newly learned skills to practical exercises.

As I mentioned before, my course was designed with all of the rigor of a professional training program, keeping in mind our time limitations. It takes years to learn how to make a perfume, but one can acquire basic knowledge of raw materials and try simple exercises to see how they interact together. All of this not only helps deepen one’s knowledge of perfumery, but also makes one’s perceptions sharper.

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Warmed by the Sun in Iza

Last month I visited Iza, a village in western Ukraine renowned for its grapevine weaving tradition. Tiny shops lining the roads offered a selection of baskets, boxes, furniture and toys. I walked from one store to another, admiring as much the intricate patterns of braids, stars and coiled loops as the scent of weaving warming in the spring sun.

The fragrance was sweet like vanilla biscuits, with a mellow accent reminiscent of an antique shop–wood shavings, dust and varnish. Have I smelled it before? It seemed familiar to the point of disturbing, like a half-remembered face in the crowd or a word sitting on the tip of the tongue.

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