Perfume 101: 184 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 Italians

Some of the most interesting artisanal brands I’ve recently discovered come from Italy. I won’t venture to generalize about this trend, if it can be called so, although what strikes me about the new Italian creations is the freshness of their approach. They pay tribute to classics, but not self-consciously so, and they stay au courant while avoiding the pitfalls of style versus substance. In my new FT column, Italian Perfumes, I focus on two fairly new niche houses, Antonio Alessandria Parfums and Rubini Profumi, and explain what makes them stand out.

sicily1sicily2

Wearing their perfumes reminded me why I love the Italian take on elegance. It has a sense of humor.

“Classic Italian perfumery has a reputation for flamboyance – embodied by the Cinecittà glamour of Sophia Loren, as well as the gold tan and bleached-blonde aesthetic of Donatella Versace. It may be a cliché, but one need not be a marketing specialist to notice that Italians wear scents differently from the French or Germans. Women enjoy lush white florals with a touch of powder for an enveloping, lingering effect. Men aren’t shy about donning sweet perfumes and using them to make a statement. Encounter such a fragranced denizen cutting la bella figura at an outdoor café some place in Rome or Palermo, and you’ll understand better Italy’s penchant for the baroque. To continue, please click here.”

Do you have any favorite Italian fragrances? Apart from the bottled sort, mine would be the wet vetiver and iris smell of Milan, freshly baked pizza bianca with rosemary, lemon groves off the Amalfi coast, and the shamelessly lush Sicilian jasmine.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, all rights reserved

Sandalwood Scented Dreams

India and sandalwood. Long before I became interested in perfume as vocation, I knew of this connection. More than a stereotype, it reflects the significance of this wood in India’s traditions, from birth to death, from a wedding to a funeral. Sandalwood makes one’s skin more beautiful and gods more pleased. It smells divine. In my new FT column The Scent of Sandalwood, I explore how Indian and modern European perfumery were inspired by this precious material. Also, I touch upon an issue that rarely clouds the romantic accounts of Mysore sandalwood groves–their overharvesting and near complete devastation.

puja

“My mother-in-law rubbed a piece of pink-coloured wood on a rough stone until it turned to paste. My husband and I were about to travel back to Europe and in the Hindu custom my mother-in-law performed a puja, an act of worship, to ensure our safe journey. She lit joss sticks around the deities and dabbed some of the paste on the figurines of gods arranged on her small altar and then on our foreheads – the fragrance of sandalwood rose in the warm air. Many hours later as I sat in the plane, the creamy, floral perfume lingered around me, carrying with it the memory of a caring touch.” To continue, please click here.

One of my favorite sandalwood perfumes today–it uses a mixture of Australian and synthetic sandalwood–is 10 Corso Como. A niche classic. Do you enjoy sandalwood?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, all rights reserved

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

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