Perfume 101: 139 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 of Summer: Light and Easy Edition

Elisa on some of her favorite summer perfumes.

Earlier this week, Victoria wondered if summer perfumes are necessary, or if the “summery” designation is just marketing spin. In past years, I’ve mostly ignored the supposed seasonality of my perfumes, often most enjoying smoky ambers or patchouli gourmands when amplified in the heat. (Perverse, I know.) But this year, I’ve been in more of a relaxed, hammock-lounging mood, and traditionally “summery” perfumes like citrus scents and light florals are just what I want. So here are some of the easy, almost humble perfumes I’ve been reaching for at home and packing with me when I travel.

roses in blue

Ormonde Jayne Osmanthus

Far from the most renowned perfume in the Ormonde Jayne line, for good reason; Osmanthus is not as opulent or distinctive as some. But it’s an incredibly pretty rendition of the apricot-tea scent of osmanthus, mixed half and half with pomelo juice like a spa version of an Arnold Palmer.

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Is Summer Perfume Necessary?

Sady Dole of The Guardian has written a very nice piece on summer fragrances, and one of the questions she poses is whether such a thing as a summer perfume even exists. My voice is a skeptical one in the story, while Angela Sanders of Now Smell This and Alyssa Harad of Coming To My Senses provide other perspectives.


While I think that seasonal divisions are mostly about marketing, why not have fun with it? Wearing Angel, rain or shine, is fine, but I think that it’s more interesting is to pick a fragrance to reflect my mood or the changes in nature around me. A summer perfume may be something lighter, brighter, with a cooling effect like Guerlain Vétiver. Or it may be a lush tropical floral–Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower–to remind those of us immured in the concrete office buildings that there is summer out there.

The only type of perfumes I avoid are the ubiquitous summer editions every brand brings out, the “Light” or “Summer” versions of their current top sellers. They are not always bad, but they’re rarely exciting.

So, what do you say on the subject of summer fragrances–do you always switch scents in the summer or not?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, one of the best summer perfumes.

Madame Carven and Ma Griffe

She dressed Edith Piaf and Leslie Caron. She created uniforms for more than a dozen airlines and dressed French traffic police. When she launched a fragrance, she provocatively named it Ma Griffe, which can mean either “my signature” or “my claw” in French. She was a force and a character. She was Carmen de Tommaso, or as she was better known in the world of haute couture, Madame Carven. Yesterday Madame Carven passed away at the age of 105, leaving behind an incredible legacy, both in the world of fashion and fragrance.

madame carven

De Tommaso was introduced to couture by her aunt Josy Boyriven–the last three letters of whose name, “ven”, got joined with “car” of Carmen to form “Carven”–and she started designing both out of fascination and frustration. She was dismayed by the limited choices for petite women and the lack of attention from the fashion masters.

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Coconut Notes: 21 Perfumes that Take You to the Beach

Elisa explains how coconut is used in perfumes and offers 21 examples with 5 different themes. Summer fun begins here. 

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a cultural coconut renaissance. First came coconut water, touted to be a low-sugar super-hydrator, like nature’s Gatorade. (I think it’s gross; with the high potassium content, it feels like I’m drinking soup.) Then, widespread reports of the virtual all-purposeness of coconut oil: Clean your house! Remove your eye makeup! Moisturize your body! (Again, I haven’t succumbed. But if you don’t mind glistening all over and smelling like a Mounds bar at all times, more power to you.)


If I’m skeptical of the head-to-tail approach to coconuts, I am a longtime lover of coconut scents and of coconut flesh and milk in food. It’s one of those magical ingredients, like lime or cilantro, that can completely make a dish. I love it in desserts – I still think about a bite of exceptionally moist coconut cake I had when I was 17, and Caramel Delites were always my favorite Girl Scout Cookie – but I think I love it even more in savory applications, for the unctuousness it adds to dishes like Thai curry.

In perfume, coconut is usually represented by one or more lactones – from the Latin root lact- meaning milk, lactones give a fruity, fatty creaminess to compositions. Coconut lactones can range from fresh and milky to peachy to waxy to toasted and nutty (with an almondy coumarin facet) to downright buttery, like coconut oil with butter flavoring.

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Does It Spark Joy?

Creative chaos, orderly arrangements, or everything in between, we embrace all forms of building our perfume wardrobes. Today, Lauren offers her thoughts on perfume collecting and the power of scent.

If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo by now, you haven’t been reading much on the internet.  Marie is a best-selling author from Japan, an organizational expert and consultant who helps clients tidy up their homes.  She advocates de-cluttering to an extreme, advising readers and clients alike to get rid of any object that does not “spark joy.”  No over-thinking, re-sorting, or feeling guilty.  Either an object sparks joy for you or it does not; and if it does not, it doesn’t deserve a place in your home.


As a neat freak, I devoured the book and relished applying her process to my entire collection of earthly belongings.

Except my perfume collection.

It sits on a rickety platform stand in my bedroom, 3 small shelves completely covered bottles, boxes, and vials with which I have never considered parting.  It’s unstable and easy to knock, several bottles often falling in subsequent domino-style if I don’t replace a piece perfectly, or if a puppy lollops by a table leg with a bit too much enthusiasm.  My modest collection houses antique finds from my grandmother’s house (modern-day regulatory nightmares); Chanel print marketing from the 80s; a bottle of Anais Anais from 1993; mass and niche bottles I’ve purchased for myself in the last 20 years.  As a fragrance evaluator and self-proclaimed perfume-o-phile, how could this collection not spark joy?

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Danica Radovanov in Recommend Me a Perfume : June: Dior’s new Feve Delicieuse is one of the best vanilla/ tonka scents I have tried. July 2, 2015 at 1:07am

  • Danica Radovanov in Recommend Me a Perfume : June: Florabellio smells kind of like an espresso vodka martini to me drunk outside in summer. July 2, 2015 at 12:58am

  • Elisa P in Recommend Me a Perfume : June: I’m a fan of Sonoma Scent Studio’s Ambre Noir. Fairly linear but fits your description and smells very natural, reasonably priced. It has a port wine feel with the oak… July 1, 2015 at 11:27pm

  • Elisa P in Recommend Me a Perfume : June: Nina’s list is great! There’re also a couple of nice pharmacies that carry perfume with testers with little doting or pressure. Clydes on Madison Ave uptown (near Malle) and CO… July 1, 2015 at 11:21pm

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