Perfume Notes: 73 posts

Articles on perfume ingredients and fragrance terminology

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?

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.

apples

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

Geranium Notes: The Other Rose of Perfume

What do Elizabeth Bennett and geranium share in common? Elisa explains.

I’ve never heard anyone call geranium their favorite flower. Compared to the more photogenic blooms found in bouquets and floral arrangements, geranium might seem like a workaday houseplant.

IMG_3055 (1)

Cheery sidewalk geraniums

If rose and geranium were sisters in a Jane Austen novel, rose would be known as the pretty one and geranium as the sensible one. But geranium, like Elizabeth Bennett, has her own beauty, and is indispensable in rose fragrances!

When we refer to geranium notes, we’re usually talking about the oil of the pelargonium graveolens, also known as the rose geranium. Rose geranium oil contains over 50 organic compounds, but primarily consists of geraniol, nerol, and citronellol. Nerol, so named because it was originally isolated from neroli oil, has a fresh rosy scent and can be found in lemongrass and hops. Citronellol is the familiar pungent citrus smell often found in insect repellants – but it’s also important for creating realistic rose accords. Geraniol, one of the primary components in rose oil, smells – you guessed it – rosy and is also commonly used in fruit flavorings. (I’ve noticed that adding clove to a fruity rose can conjure up a raspberry note.)

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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

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