Perfume 101: 199 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.

Fairy Tale Perfumes: Scents of Fantasy

Perfumes that transport Andy into the world of fantasy and fairy tales. 

Reading the stories of Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm is a fond childhood memory, and even today, though I may have outgrown storybooks, I can experience the world of fairy tales through my choice of perfume. The best perfumes are more than the sum of their parts, creating miniature worlds within which the wearer can explore, pretend, and escape.

bilibin

I may enjoy Chanel No. 19 for its beautiful iris note, but it’s experiencing a fantasy, of spring flowers blooming amid thawing snow, which makes me want to wear it again and again. Culling though the perfume stories that exist in my mind, I thought of these four perfumes below, which I wear to evoke the opulent castles, evil witches, and mysterious forests of my favorite written fairy tales.

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Perfumes That Glow : Radiance

Happy 2017! I thought that it would be fitting to start the year by talking about radiance. Radiance in perfume is an elusive quality. The best way of understanding it is to envision a candle burning in a dark room, its glow lifting the dark shadows. A luminous fragrance is not necessarily a strong smell – it follows the wearer at a few paces, but it’s neither heavy nor overpowering. Capturing this duality seems impossible, but perfumers are adept at creating illusions. So in my FT column, Mesmerisingly radiant fragrances, I describe how the radiant effect is produced and give some of my favorite examples.

radiance

Calice Becker is one such creator [known for her radiant perfumes], and her fragrances illustrate the idea of radiance. Her Tommy Girl contains a green tea accord so luminous that it seems fluorescent. Another trendsetter is Becker’s Christian Dior J’Adore, a layer of flower notes as tightly woven as the millefiori ornaments of Murano glass. Perfumery students learn the craft much like artists, by copying the work of the masters, and when I was trying to achieve the variegated radiance of J’Adore, its complexity and nuances mesmerised – and confounded – me. Despite the conventional saying that too much knowledge kills the mystery, the experience made me appreciate both Becker’s craft and J’Adore’s lingering glow. To continue, please click here.

What are some of your favorite radiant perfumes?

Best of 2016 in Scents and Teas

If I could characterize 2016 in terms of scents to which I gravitated, the main themes would be of comfort and pleasure. Whatever reasons I have to wear perfume, this year I wanted fragrances that soothed, delighted and entertained. I wore plenty of old favorites like Annick Goutal Duel, Papillon Anubis, Serge Lutens Bois de Violette, Frédéric Malle Lipstick Rose, Kenzo Amour, Lolita Lempicka L, Perles de Lalique, and newer discoveries like Azzedine Alaïa.

elderflowers

The perfumes below aren’t “the best of 2016” in an absolute sense, mostly because I didn’t smell all of the new releases and compare them. They are my highlights, fragrances that stood out on the crowded store counters and that I wore enough to learn their nuances and quirks. I’m sure I missed some gems, but in that case I look forward to discovering them in your lists. Please share your favorites of 2016 with us.

Also, Andy and I couldn’t help sharing some of our favorite teas.

Victoria’s 2016 in Perfumes and Blue Teas

Galop d’Hermès

An elegant rose with a touch of saffron and dark woods. Galop was the first major launch from the new Hermès in-house perfumer Christine Nagel. If that’s the start of a new phase, then I anticipate more interesting things arriving in 2017.

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The Secret of Scent or Adventures in Provence

If you were to pick the ultimate scent destination, it would have to be Provence. This region in the south of France has been the cradle of the modern perfume industry since the end of the 18th century, but even before that it was known for its aromatics–lavender, mimosa, rosemary, genet, and other perfumed plants. Although today Provence’s days as the center of rose and jasmine cultivation are long gone, it’s still a place for a fragrance lover when the air is perfumed with the salty-green scent of lavender and garrigue, a distinctly Provencal medley of herbs.

provence-herbs

In October, when I arrived in Luberon, the first thing I smelled was the fallen leaves and briny breeze. The mistral, a cold northwesterly wind, denuded the tall plantain trees, but it cleared the sky of clouds and it looked so blue that even the air felt turquoise. I arrived at the hotel Moulin de Vernègues, the venue for The Secret of Scent.

The Secret of Scent is a three-day course by Science & Vacation, a company that specializes in events combining sensory explorations–vacation, in other words–with an educational angle. I was to lecture for three days about the history and art of perfumery, while Luca Turin had a similar task, but with a focus on the science. To be honest, I was a little bit nervous.  While I give perfumery courses on a regular basis, my audience is usually industry folk–marketing, sales people and perfumers. While they’re not necessarily experts on all of the subjects I cover, I at least know the rough outlines of their knowledge. The Secret of Scent was open to everyone, and I wasn’t sure what our participants would be interested to learn.

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Winter Lists : 5 Books and 2 Perfumes

There is nothing especially winter-like about my list of books (and perfumes). It’s mainly about enjoyment, with a dose of something high-spirited. Some may call it escapism, but I see it as a way to recharge and tune out the world long enough for me to find my balance and plunge back into the routine. Moreover, high-spirited, entertaining and fun, whether in literature, art or perfume, can assume many different forms. Here is my take.

winter-list

Jeffrey Steingarten The Man Who Ate Everything

“Whenever I have nothing better to do, I roast a chicken,” writes Jeffrey Steingarten. The food critic at Vogue magazine since 1989, Steingarten is also the author of two of my favorite books about cooking and eating, The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must’ve Been Something I Ate. Steingarten is witty, irreverent and passionate, an irresistible combination. His essays are full of interesting tidbits and recipes, but the main reason I enjoy them is because of Steingarten’s dry sense of humor. I don’t know how many times I’ve read “Kyoto Cuisine,” but the scene in which he tries to pry off the lid from a bowl of soup leaves me laughing out loud every single time. In the same essay, he also describes the exquisite flavors of Japanese cuisine, reminding his reader that as a bumbling tourist he may have missed many nuances. With Steingarten you can visit the Nishikidori market in Kyoto, run a scientific test of ketchups, grill sardines with Marcella Hazan in Venice, perfect fries, or try cooking from the back of the box.

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