perfume layering: 5 posts

The Universal Layer : Lalique Amethyst

Today Elisa talks about her most versatile layering perfumes and gives examples on how to create layering combinations. For more tips and information on layering, see How to Layer Perfumes (Part 1 and Part 2) here at Bois de Jasmin or “Adventures in Perfume Layering” at Open Letters Monthly.

Layering is a controversial practice among perfumistas. Some question why you’d disrupt the experience of a presumably complete work of art – isn’t that like hanging a Calder mobile in front of a Pollock painting? But I’ve found that the nose isn’t capable of appreciating every single material present in a perfume at once; we tend to experience it as a whole, a single smell, and that opens up possibilities. Much as you might need to layer two lipsticks to find your perfect red, layering two (or more) perfumes sometimes produces a better – or at least appealingly different – scent experience.

orchids

Lalique Amethyst is one of those perfumes that I like in theory but rarely wear in practice. Like Rosabotanica, it’s mostly a great set of top notes (blackcurrant and rose) without much of a base. Its simplicity is what makes it both a little unsatisfying on its own and one of my favorite layering perfumes. Naturally, it’s nice for bringing out more rose and blackcurrant in perfumes where those notes are already present (as in Moschino Funny!). But I was surprised to discover that it’s truly a shapeshifter in pairings; it layers pleasantly with almost anything and it’s nearly impossible to predict what the combination will smell like!

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Perfumers on Perfume : Ernest Beaux on Fragrance Masterpieces

Today we know Ernest Beaux first and foremost as the creator of Chanel No. 5, but he was also responsible for Bois des Îles, Cuir de Russie, No. 22, and many other early Chanel perfumes. His style is elegant and graceful, but with a strong character. Soir de Paris, a fragrance he created for Bourjois, doesn’t just skip from one note to another; it shimmers, revealing in one moment a peppery citrus and green leaves, and in another a velvety rose and wood shavings. As it turns out, Beaux was not only a great perfumer; he was also a good writer, and his candid observations remain relevant today. In partnership with the Osmothèque, I offer you an excerpt from Memories of a perfumer (Souvenirs d’un parfumeur), a 1946 magazine article by Ernest Beaux published in Industrie de la Parfumerie.   

Ernest-Beaux

The article gives a glimpse into what Beaux considered to be the greatest perfumes of his time and his thoughts on the art of perfumery in general. “If our thoughts are but fantasies, such fantasy finds, thanks to the talent of the perfumer, a possibility of fulfillment,” he writes, and I cannot agree more.

The article comes from the archives of the Osmothèque, a French non-profit institution whose mission is to preserve fragrances in their original formulations. The current regulations make it impossible for Chanel to offer No.5 as Beaux intended it to be, but the Osmothèque features it in its collection, which is open to the public. You can also discover there the fragrance masterpieces Beaux mentions in the article:  Houbigant Cœur de Jeannette, Houbigant Fougère Royale, Houbigant Le Parfum Idéal, Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, Piver Le Trèfle Incarnat, Roger & Gallet Vera Violetta, Guerlain Jicky, Guerlain Après l’Ondée, Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, Coty La Rose Jacqueminot, Coty L’Origan, Caron Le Narcisse Noir, Lanvin Scandal, and Lanvin Arpège.

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Mix and Match Summer Perfume

Last summer I arrived in Brussels with a severely limited perfume collection. You know how sometimes perfume lovers ask themselves what five fragrances they would take to a desert island and then agonize over their choice? Well, that was me at this time last year. In the end, I packed Chanel No 19Annick Goutal Néroli, decants of Serge Lutens Bois de Violette, Iris Silver Mist, Frédéric Malle L’Eau d’Hiver, and Carnal Flower. I had a small bag of samples I needed for work and reviewing, but I mostly kept myself happy with my little collection.

brussels-summer-rainhay

Wearing an edited set fragrances last summer was enjoyable. For one thing, good fragrances are beyond seasons, and it’s fun to play with seasonal associations. Don a crisp citrus cologne on a cold January morning or turn up the heat with spicy orientals on a languid summer evening. Many fragrances have specific connotations for me–oranges and cinnamon make me think of winter holidays, but there is nothing to stop me from creating my own Christmas in July.

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Layering Fragrances : French Elle Guide Part 2

Perfume woman

Part 1: Layering Fragrances : Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena’s and French Elle Suggestions

Last winter French Elle has published an installment on layering perfumes, giving helpful tips and providing eleven different suggestions. I indicate with an asterisk (*) the combinations I particularly liked. The translation from French is my own.

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Layering Fragrances : Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena and French Elle Part 1

Seraphine

Part 2: Layering Fragrances : French Elle Guide Part 2

There are two schools of thought on layering fragrances. The Purist school holds that the fragrance is a finished work and any tempering with it would destroy the perfect balance that the creator tried to achieve. The Experimentalists, on the other hand, see an interesting potential in layering fragrance in being able to come up with interesting combinations and to personalize one’s fragrance choices.

The Experimentalists have a great perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena on their side, who has even suggested interesting layering combinations. A longtime fellow perfume lover and an excellent researcher, Bela has kindly shared with me excerpts from Elle magazine on the topic of perfume layering, which were translated by her from French.

NB: I also highly recommend Bela’s website, which includes recordings to help pronounce French perfume names.

The Rules of Successful Layering according to French ELLE magazine:

The safest way to do it is with citrus notes. They blend easily with floral, woodsy and even ambery fragrances. Such combinations enable you to associate two different ‘scent worlds’ and prevent either of the two fragrances being redundant. How to go about it: spray the stronger perfume first so that the notes from the second perfume get added to the heart and base notes of the first one.

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