Perfume 101: 188 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.

10 Fall Perfumes With a Retro Accent

Retro, vintage, old-fashioned. These terms, with various nuances, suggest fragrances that smell of another time. Elisa explores some of her favorite perfume examples.  What’s dated to one person is a retro classic to another.

What smells old-fashioned or,  more positively, “classic” or “retro” to any given nose is bound to change over time. In the near future, I suspect, the berry-and-peony fruity-florals and fruitchoulis that were ubiquitous in the late ‘90s and aughts will smell nostalgically old-fashioned to some, dated to others. Hillary Clinton reportedly wears Angel, and I recently heard a young YouTube star describe Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle as her most “mature” smelling perfume!


The perfumes I’ve been reaching for most this fall aren’t the all-time classics – the Shalimars, the Mitsoukos, the Chanel No. 5’s. But these scents, mostly born in the ‘70s and ‘80s, remind me of the grande dames of my youth, who weren’t in the least intimidated by unforgivingly sharp green chypres, loud and complicated florals, or deeply powdery orientals, all with massive sillage. To me, these are the new retro classics.

Chanel Coco 

When I first encountered Coco on a perfume counter many years ago, I found it confusing. What exactly was this mess, which couldn’t decide whether to be sweet or not? But now it smells complex and incredibly luxurious, especially in the parfum – all spicy, rosy florals and amber with a dry, animalic leather note cutting through. I’ve come to think of Coco as the quintessential, night-at-the-opera floriental.

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Apple Perfumes for Autumn (and Anytime)

Elisa offers you an apple. Or several.

Late in H Is for Hawk, a memoir about grief and falconry, author Helen Macdonald recounts bringing her goshawk, Mabel, to “Apple Day” at a local farm:

I walk into a white marquee, and inside, in dim green shade, find trestle-tables displaying hundreds of apple varieties. Some are the size of a hen’s egg; some are giant, sprawling cookers you’d need two hands to hold. Each variety sits in a labelled wooden compartment. I walk slowly along the apples, glorying in their little differences. Soft orange, streaked with tiger-spots of pink. Charles Ross. Berkshire 1890. Dual use. A little one with bark-like blush markings over a pale green ground. Coronation. Sussex 1902. Dessert. Miniature green boulders, the side in shadow deep rose. Chivers Delight. Cambridgeshire 1920. Dessert. Huge apple, deep yellow with hyperspace-spotting of rich red. Pasgood’s Nonsuch. Lincolnshire 1853. Dual use.


I love the painstaking attention to detail in this passage – the appreciation for the subtle color variations, not only between varieties but over the skin of a single apple, and for the poetry in the names themselves. It’s almost like a dog show for apples!

Earlier this year, I noticed how many perfumes I love contain an apple note, and how apple notes can range from crisp and tart all the way to lush and compote-y, which means there are apple scents appropriate to any time of year. But what better time to talk about them than in fall? Here are some of my favorites (plus some misses, and a few more to try).

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What are Pink Berries?

Fragrance marketing lingo is in a world of its own, and I have given up trying to find the logic behind the use of terms that nobody, not even professionals, can untangle. Perfumers, of course, have their own vocabulary, and the bulk of my perfumery training was learning how to use it correctly. So, the best I can do is to explain some of this vocabulary, both professional jargon and marketing inventions, in a series of installments. In my latest FT column, Pink Pepper Perfumes, I look at the mysterious “pink berries.”

For an introduction, you can also take a look at my Speaking Perfume: A-Z Glossary. It was written four years ago, but is still one of the most quoted articles from Bois de Jasmin. Also, the individual essays on raw materials and accords might be helpful.

pink pepper

“A list of notes describes a perfume’s smell as well as an enumeration of pigments captures Mona Lisa’s smile. While notes can suggest whether a fragrance is predominantly floral, leathery or spicy, they can also be misleading. One example is pink berries. To continue, please click here.”

I wrote the article before I tried the most recent Aedes perfume, Grenadille d’Afrique, but it would be a perfect contender for an innovative take on pink pepper. It was created by Alberto Morillas.

Photography of pink pepper by Bois de Jasmin

The Secret of Scent : Luberon 2016

When: October 2o-24, 2016. Where: Luberon, France. What: The Secret of Scent, a three day perfume course that I will be co-authoring with Luca Turin. The organizers tell me that we can still accommodate a couple of spots, so this is just a reminder. More details can be found via Science and Vacation and my previous post.

coty chypre

Those who have already emailed me about attending, I look forward to meeting you later this fall.

Whether you’re attending or not, I’d love to hear what fragrances you would most like to try in their original formulations?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, my vintage Coty Chypre is part of the plan!

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.


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

From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Anne in Recommend Me a Perfume : September 2016: Hi Angel P. I’m a perfume newbie too, and it’s interesting to see we’ve made some of the same choices. I enjoy Acqua di Gioia as well as Aqua di… October 24, 2016 at 3:48am

  • brenda in Reading: Yes, a heart-warming photograph. Have I missed the reason the scissors are there? If I have, please enlighten me….what never changes is the impact of a beautiful suit. October 23, 2016 at 8:49pm

  • ChristineM in Annick Goutal Petite Cherie : Perfume Review: I just wanted to add my name to those who like Petite Cherie- I bought a bottle last week in Sydney at the only store that sells it here (DJ’s)… October 23, 2016 at 6:36pm

  • Adeline in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2016: Hello!! I’m also in need of your advice – I’m looking for some warm perfume (but not overwhelming) for fall. For cold seasons I wore dolce and gabbana – pour… October 23, 2016 at 2:56pm

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