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.


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?



  • Cornelia Blimber: Interesting article…yes,many perfumes are a pleasure to wear, and some of them give you a shimmering halo of perfume. J’Adore is one of my al time favourites. Some perfumes having that quality on my skin are gone forever: Sous le Vent, Parure.
    Still there: Eau de Rochas. Eau de Mûre MPG.
    Poison. Champs Elysées.
    Jasmin MPG reminds me more or less of toothpaste, but also give me a pleasant sensation of elegance and luxury surrounding me. i heard it has been discontinued.

    The only radiant Hermès was for me Beige Porcelaine. Others were simply too modest to my taste. I like drama in my perfumes! That Grand Soir is on my list. January 2, 2017 at 7:45am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: I nearly forgot a radiant favourite. Sorry, Nuit de Longchamp! I will wear you today.

      And of course ; Happy New Year to all of you! January 2, 2017 at 7:54am Reply

    • Solanace: Agree, Grand Soir sounds delightful. Have a great New Year, Cornelia! January 2, 2017 at 4:40pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Wonderful New Year to you, Solanace! January 2, 2017 at 4:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: So many on your list are beautiful examples of radiance. Also, as some of them show, it can come in many different forms, light and dark. January 8, 2017 at 3:33am Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Dear Victoria and perfume lovers,

    Happy new year to all!

    My most luminous scents are

    Jour d’Hermes (liquid sunshine in a bottle)
    Allure by Chanel
    Lovely from Sarah Jessica Parker
    Sicily by Dolce & Gabbana January 2, 2017 at 7:51am Reply

    • nilki: Definitely Jour. And Diorissimo! January 3, 2017 at 1:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Happy New Year to everyone again!

      I love SJP too. Perfectly luminous. January 8, 2017 at 3:35am Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Kurkdjian’s A la rose inspired by a painting depicting Marie Antoinette is a bright rose at dawn, it glows on skin. It seems uncomplicated but the execution is flawless and the result adorable. January 2, 2017 at 7:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Such a great description! January 10, 2017 at 7:08am Reply

  • Klaas: Hello everybody! A radiant 2017 is a beautiful wish at the start of this new year….

    Comme par hasard, I am sampling Kurkdjians Oud this morning, and I must say that I find it very radiant! A little sweet for my taste, but a chic, light and luminous scent it is.

    One of my favorite radiant scents is Cedrat Intense by Nicolai. It’s like sunlight in a bottle, it sparkles and smiles on my skin. It reminds me of good old Chanel pour Monsieur…..
    It’s better for warmer days though.

    Biblioteca de Babel would be my radiant pick for winter…it is all about woods and spices, and it glows with a soft fire on the inside. It smells like warmth. Bliss in a spritz….. January 2, 2017 at 8:02am Reply

    • Klaas: Does any one of you remember Dans la Nuit from Worth? Now that was a incandescent perfume, if ever there was one……and powdery, and gourmand…..perfection! January 2, 2017 at 12:50pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Hi Klaas, I remember Dans la Nuit very well. I liked it, my mother called it a ”koekjesfabriek”
        (factory of cookies) smell. Lots of sweet vanilla. January 2, 2017 at 4:10pm Reply

        • Klaas: Koekjesfabriek, that’s funny! But then biscuits with fluorescent frosting on top…….it was a very sweet scent indeed, and then the bottle……gorgeous! January 3, 2017 at 6:03am Reply

      • Victoria: Yes! It’s a good example of how a warm, powdery perfume can also be radiant. January 10, 2017 at 7:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Nicolai perfumes are also radiant, and I agree with you on Cedrat Intense. It just glows. January 10, 2017 at 7:09am Reply

  • mj: Happy New Year to all of you!

    If I can think of a radiant scent, 24 Faubourg fits the bill for me. I find this perfume to be “sunny” and bright, love the orange blossom in it. January 2, 2017 at 9:35am Reply

    • Victoria: One of Maurice Roucel’s best! January 10, 2017 at 7:10am Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely post! Plus it mentions some of my favourites, which is always a bonus. I haven’t yet tried the two Kurkdjians you mention here, but I love the work he has done with MDCI.

    I’m going to put on some Thé Vert this evening, I’m on my second bottle of it, which considering the ridiculous amount of perfume I own is a miracle. A great way to start the new year. January 2, 2017 at 12:28pm Reply

    • Solanace: Happy New Year, Austenfan! January 2, 2017 at 3:51pm Reply

      • Austenfan: And you too! May Brazil overcome its problems. January 3, 2017 at 3:09am Reply

    • Victoria: Same here! I went through at least two bottles of it myself. January 10, 2017 at 7:11am Reply

  • Nikki: Happy New Year 2017! All my favorite fragrances are radiant and luminous:

    Eau du The vert Extreme
    Fate Amouage
    Lumiere by Rochas
    Intense Tiare Montale January 2, 2017 at 12:32pm Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Lumiere by Rochas! I agree. I still have
      a splash bottle from 1985, I wore it when my beloved Poison was too strong. Lumiere was a softer variation to my nose.
      Right you are, Nikki! January 2, 2017 at 12:39pm Reply

      • Nikki: well. thank you, Cornelia! The Lumiere flacon/bottle is so gorgeous as well! January 2, 2017 at 12:43pm Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Yes, beautiful. January 2, 2017 at 1:15pm Reply

    • Phyllis Iervello: APOM definitely and of course Eau du The Vert always. January 2, 2017 at 12:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: A great list! January 10, 2017 at 7:11am Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: Somehow I have never cared for Dior’s J’Adore.
    Although they are soft fragrances, I think that Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s perfumes all have some luminosity in them…Amaryis, Grand Soir,
    Petit Matin, Aqua Vitae Forte, Aqua Universalis, Ceil de Gum, A la Rose. January 2, 2017 at 1:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: It can be almost too bright for some. I also was once sitting on the airplane next to a woman wearing it, and it was not a good experience. January 10, 2017 at 7:12am Reply

  • Solanace: Champagne/Yvresse and Shalimar Cologne both feel luminous. Have a great 2017, Victoria! January 2, 2017 at 3:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: The original Shalimar also feels radiant to me, but the Cologne even more so. January 10, 2017 at 7:13am Reply

  • Morelle: Chanel No. 18 feels very radiant to me, like diamonds sparkling in the morning sun (aaah, that ambrette note). It always puts a smile on my face when I apply it. I had considered buying an FB for years, and then one of 2016’s “Recommend me a perfume” threads alerted me to the impending reformulation, so I dashed out and finally acquired a bottle of this wonderful stuff. No regrets! Though I must try the new EdP formula. Maybe it’s just like the old EdT, but with better longevity? Because that is the one shortcoming of the version I own. But one can always reapply … January 2, 2017 at 7:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m curious how it will be different. The EDT in no 18 is long lasting enough on me, though. January 10, 2017 at 7:15am Reply

  • Brock: Timbuktu, hands down. I can practically feel it move and hum when I sniff it. January 3, 2017 at 12:37am Reply

    • Victoria: Another great example of radiance. January 10, 2017 at 7:15am Reply

  • looloolooweez: Happy New Year! I’m wondering — is radiance another word for sillage? Or are they really different things? January 3, 2017 at 10:04am Reply

    • SilverMoon: I’m not sure about the technical aspects or definitions, but radience and sillage are quite different in my view. Radience refers to a perfume that seems luminous, glowing and sparkling- radiating beauty around the wearer. Sillage is simply the ability for others to perceive the scent, referring to the trail a perfume leaves in the wearers wake. So, a heavy spicy perfume may have sillage, but would not be radiant (at least in my way of using these words). Not sure if this makes sense. 😊 January 7, 2017 at 5:47pm Reply

      • looloolooweez: Ooh, I think I understand! Thanks for the clarification. January 9, 2017 at 9:37am Reply

    • Victoria: SilverMoon’s definition is correct. A radiant perfume may have a great sillage too, of course. January 10, 2017 at 7:16am Reply

  • AndreaR: I’d like to add Neela Vermeire’s Mohur and Hermes Osmanthe Yunnan as well as a year filled with magic and joy to Victoria and the BdJ community. January 3, 2017 at 12:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Lovely choices! Happy New Year to you too. January 10, 2017 at 7:17am Reply

  • Nancy A.: Happy 2017! The mere word: radiance captures beauty at its best. FIRST was my only fragrance where a day didn’t go by that it “radiated” compliments! And never realized that JC Ellena was the creator. I always gravitate towards his fragrances. And I wonder if I decided to return to a fragrance from yesteryear if it would still have the same affect on me ( & others) Victoria, doesn’t our sense of scent change as we age along with what we gravitate to? January 3, 2017 at 3:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: Our sense of smell changes and so do the perfumes. It may not have the same effect anymore, but what if it might? Worth trying it again. January 10, 2017 at 7:18am Reply

  • Tati: Happy New Year to all! I definitely second (or third in some cases) Kurkdjian’s perfumes. Lots of love for APOM, which always gets compliments. Amaryis is also wonderful, though more delicate, and I will add one of my favorites, a dark rose that is not heavy, Lumiere Noire. For me, Une Fleur de Cassie is the ultimate luminous scent, always just right. January 3, 2017 at 3:38pm Reply

    • Nora Szekely: Yes, both Lumiere noire and Une fleur de cassie are luminous. January 3, 2017 at 3:51pm Reply

    • Susan: I just love Lumiere Noire. I understand it was commissioned by Catherine Deneuve in memory of her sister’s signature perfume. Also Oud Satin Mood is elegant, a perfect winter scent. January 3, 2017 at 8:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: Amyris also gets lots of compliments for me. A subtle perfume but with a good presence. January 10, 2017 at 7:19am Reply

  • Janine Lage Marta: For me it’s Chanel no.5 l’eau. Those citruses glow and shine so bright. January 3, 2017 at 4:20pm Reply

    • Janine Lage Marta: Oh and “My fair Lily” by Atkinsons. January 3, 2017 at 4:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: They really do! January 10, 2017 at 7:19am Reply

  • spe: Luminosity for me requires either aldehydes, green notes, or bergamot / citrus. Fragrances without one of these elements can feel “flat” to me, almost incomplete. January 4, 2017 at 9:36am Reply

    • Victoria: What are some of your favorites? January 10, 2017 at 7:20am Reply

  • Aurora: Your lovely article made me want to reacquaint myself with J’Adore. I recall your writing that F Demachy had a special affinity for jasmine when you posted a video clip by Dior about harvesting this flower so maybe the quality is restored in this Becker creation, I am so glad if it turns out to be the case.

    My favorite big sillage is l’Heure Bleue and also Angel Liqueur de Parfum, it only takes one spritz to be enveloped in a gourmand cloud. Most of the time it’s just to much for me to deal with it in public but at home I indulge. January 4, 2017 at 11:58am Reply

    • Victoria: All of the Angel family has an impressive radiant presence. It’s really a feat to create that effect in such a rich, big perfume. January 10, 2017 at 7:21am Reply

  • mendokuse: When I think of glowing perfumes, my mind immediately goes to Bvlgari Pour Femme EDP, which my mother wears very quietly, yet it manages to cling to any shirts or scarves she borrows from me for days and days with a distinctly luminous quality.

    Another one that strikes me with its radiance is 31 Rue Cambon, which I love, but don’t like to wear, because I prefer smelling it in the air. I once went to a piano concert with a card sprayed liberally with Rue Cambon in my bag, and I spent the entire performance completely distracted from the music by the gorgeous, golden fragrance drifting out into a massive cloud around me. January 4, 2017 at 11:56pm Reply

    • Klaas: Dear Mendokuse, I sometimes put a perfumed kerchief in my vest pocket. The effect is similar to what you’re discribing, and a very nice way to enjoy fragrance, indeed. I sometimes prefer it to wearing perfume on skin! January 5, 2017 at 6:31am Reply

      • Victoria: I also like to wear some perfumes, especially incenses, on my scarf. January 10, 2017 at 7:22am Reply

    • Victoria: An idea of perfume handkerchief is great. It’s a tradition worth reviving. 🙂 January 10, 2017 at 7:22am Reply

  • Pusa: Dolce Vita by Dior and the original Boucheron are both happiness in a bottle January 14, 2017 at 2:15pm Reply

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