What Materials Are Valued by Perfumers And Why

If you’ve ever been confused by a term “matières nobles” or “noble materials” in a perfume marketing description, I have a video for you. These materials are so called, because in classical French perfumery, they are renowned for their expense and know-how required to produce them. These materials typically include floral essences such as rose oil, rose absolute, jasmine absolute, tuberose absolute, etc. The term should be taken with a grain of salt, because just because a press release mentions “matières nobles,” there is no guarantee that they’re present in a discernible amount or that they are “noble” indeed. Natural essences also have quality categories.

In the video, I describe the history of the term and then mention the materials that are valued by perfumers. To explain how they are used in a fragrance formula, I will use the following perfumes as my examples:

Serge Lutens A La Nuit
Chanel No 5/Jean Patou Joy
Etat Libre d’Orange Rossy de Palma
Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile
Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie
Comme des Garçons Wonderwood

Any materials that you particularly like in fragrances? What note mentioned in descriptions tempts you to try a fragrance?

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13 Comments

  • Fazal: Serge Lutens A la Nuit is, indeed, the most realistic jasmine perfume I have ever smelled though I enjoy more how jasmine was deployed in original version of Jasmin et Cigarette. The contrast with tobacco quite surprised me when I smelled it first. However, my most favorite jasmine fragrance remains Lutens Sarrasins, also my most favorite Lutens. Sarrasins gothic treatment of jasmine is quite genius.

    I also agree with you that Tom Ford is one of the better niche brands. However, I am less enthusiastic about their latest offerings though that is due to the simple fact that Tom Ford is not involved with his fragrance brand anymore as he was in the early years as a creative director.

    Comme des Garcons Wonderwood is also something I enjoy. Wonderoud almost smells similar but Wonderwood is still the better composition.

    There are not materials I particularly seek but when I find a fragrance in which a particular note has been skillfully deployed, I take note. The best sandalwood fragrance ever is vintage Guerlain Samsara. Sandalwood has also been deployed quite well in older bottles of Lutens Santal de Mysore though I am sure if there have been changes to recent version. As far as iris is concerned, I still think my most fav. with iris as a prominent note is vintage Dior Homme and second may be Masque Milano L’Attesa. Overall, I am not impressed with Masque Milano as a line but L’Attesa is one fragrance I will always be grateful for. June 7, 2021 at 10:59am Reply

  • Marsha Smith: I certainly agree with Fazal that vintage Guerlain Samsara is the best sandalwood fragrance ever. I sneaked up on some years ago and I use it drop by precious drop! June 7, 2021 at 4:14pm Reply

  • Marsha Smith: Victoria: what was the name of the scent molecule that smells like sandalwood times 10? I could not quite understand what you said. Thanks! June 7, 2021 at 4:39pm Reply

  • Agne: This has really tempted me to try Rossy de Palma. I have this love/hate relationship with rose: sometimes it is wonderful, sometimes it’s soapy, synthetic and just…basic. I have no idea what makes it one or the other. But I intend to find out. June 8, 2021 at 5:49am Reply

    • AndreaR: I hope you’ll give Rossy a try. It always makes me smile when I spritz it on….and I’ve been spritzing it for many years now. June 8, 2021 at 1:30pm Reply

  • Figuier: I agree with how fascinating Une Fleur de Cassie is! It does smell floral and powdery to start with on me, but then it’s nuances of wet paper all the way – & I love it.

    Not sure I’d ever be able to identify ‘matieres nobles’ in a perfume as such, but I agree Eau de Protection smells like it has real rose essence in it, and Jasmin et Cigarettes, of which I have a small decant, is a reference jasmine for me. June 8, 2021 at 9:48am Reply

  • Tara C: I love jasmine, iris, violet and rose in particular, so those draw my attention. Certain uses of narcissus I enjoy as well. Thanks for the videos! June 8, 2021 at 11:07pm Reply

  • Anca: I like jasmin and rose but I do not enjoy iris or violet în perfumery. However I managed to buy a Frederic Malle Iris Poudre sample and I really love it. Eventually it seems that the mix of the ingredients and that know how that you are talking about make the diference.

    I really like Rance Jasmin du Malabar. There are quite few reviews on it. I don t know why is that. I would love tk know your opinion about it.

    Thank you!
    Your videos and articles are great!
    Anca June 10, 2021 at 1:48am Reply

  • Silvermoon: Enjoyed listening to this and the previous video. Thanks, Victoria. Un Fleur de Cassis was my first Frédéric Malle perfume, and also the first niche perfume I bought. It started me on my perfume journey some 14 years or so ago. My first ever perfume purchase was Diorissimo, back when I was in university in the 1980s. I also loved and used Lou Lou and White Linen back then. In fact, I still have them. June 15, 2021 at 2:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re lucky to still have the original bottles. Those are real treasures. June 16, 2021 at 4:05am Reply

      • Silvermoon: Oh, sorry I wasn’t clear, so I still have bottles of these perfumes, but sadly no longer the 1980s and 1990s versions. Those were thoroughly used and enjoyed. The one I truly wished I had is Diorissimo (the current formulation is simply not as wonderful, especially if one knew the previous versions well. And it’s probably true of the even older/original version). Hermes Muguet Porcelaine comes closest. June 16, 2021 at 11:55am Reply

        • Victoria: Diorissimo is definitely not as good in the current formulation, not because it doesn’t smell good (it does!), but because it no longer smells like muguet. June 20, 2021 at 6:44am Reply

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