How to Find the Right Perfume and Seduce Yourself

“What perfumes do men like?” is one of the most common questions I am asked, followed closely by “What perfumes will make women fall for me?” For both I have the same reply: each to his or her own, and instead of bothering to entice others with our perfume – a task of rather dubious merits – why not seduce ourselves instead?

Selecting perfume, however, can be tremendously complicated. The market is full of new launches, each making lofty promises, but with many smelling almost identical. There are also considerations of brand, packaging and marketing that influence us more than we are willing to admit, even to the point of obscuring our real preferences. And then there is the problem of the sheer volume of choices.

So how should one proceed, especially if perfume is a new hobby? First, before setting out on a fragrance exploration, write down your favorite scents, bottled or natural, to chart your tastes. My list would include iris, jasmine, wet soil after the rain, old libraries, my cat’s paws, autumnal bonfires and Ukrainian church incense with its unique blend of sweet balsams and myrrh. Reflecting on this, I realize it’s not at all surprising that florals, woods and chypres (blends of mosses and woods with floral nuances) are my favorite perfume families. Among the fragrances I’d take on a desert island are Serge Lutens Bois de Violette, Chanel No 19, Guerlain Après L’Ondée, 10 Corso Como, Armani Privé Bois d’Encens, Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower.

Next, take your list to a specialist boutique where the staff are knowledgeable about perfumery, classical and modern. Aedes de Venustas in New York, Nose in Paris, or Les Senteurs or Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie at Harrods in London are well-known among perfume lovers. These places are oases of serenity and beautiful aromas. The Les Senteurs, Aedes and Luckyscent websites also offer sampling services and plenty of advice.

The only important criterion for choosing a perfume is whether it makes you happy. For this reason, don’t rely on the opinion of others, however well-intentioned. What do you feel when you wear a perfume? Does it leave a trace in your memory? The right scents will provoke a wave of delight that will not lessen on subsequent encounters. It’s true that certain aromas, like dry wines and sharp cheeses, are an acquired taste and might not reveal their allure all at once, but bottled fragrances should provoke an emotional response.

How a perfume will tell its story largely depends on one’s skin. So, even if using paper blotters to compare several contenders, make the final decision by wearing a single fragrance for a whole day. Some blends might have bright top notes and mellow dry downs (Jo Malone Orange Blossom), while others save all the drama till the end (Caron Nuit de Noël.)

These days my choice for seducing myself has become Maison Martin Margiela Lazy Sunday Morning. With a flourish of iris and lily of the valley decorating its transparent accord of musk and patchouli, it makes me feel as if I’m wrapped in cashmere.

How do you select perfume? What fragrance would like to receive for the holidays?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, Serge Lutens De Profundis, another favorite fragrance these days

Extra reading: more tips and suggestions in The Art of Seducing Yourself : How to Select Perfume

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38 Comments

  • Tourmaline: Hi Victoria,

    I’m ashamed to say that the only fragrance I know out of those you have mentioned is Après L’Ondée. I cherish my bottle of that.
    However, I now have enough perfume to last me two lifetimes, and I have about thirty years left if I’m lucky, so I no longer search for new scents. My daily task is to encourage myself to wear my good perfumes even when I’m staying at home, before they deteriorate. I remind myself that the great thing about wearing a fragrance at home is that I’m free to pause and smell my wrist or the crook of my arm at any time, whereas when I’m out I’m usually focused on other things.

    I would like to try Bois de Violette, No 19 and Carnal Flower one day, though. Of course, the danger of trying new perfumes is that I’ll find one I’m convinced I can’t live without! I’ll deal with that if the situation arises… I guess I can always sell or give away bottles I already have, to make way for the new. November 29, 2021 at 8:22am Reply

    • Nikos: Dear Tourmaline your comment reminded me of a friend who says he will end up being buried with all the unopened fragrance bottles of his. I guess it’s inevitable to want and buy more than we need sometimes. Especially with perfumes being discontinued without notice you just have to have this extra bottle of your favorite scent.
      I will urge you to try no19. It’s really beautiful. A bit unforgiving but beautiful nevertheless! November 29, 2021 at 11:30am Reply

      • Tourmaline: Dear Nikos,

        That sounds like me, except that my coffin will also have to fit my beloved antique jewellery and silk velvet scarves! No, I’ll leave all that, and the perfume, to my niece. I have one or two spare bottles of a number of my favourites, so I can certainly identify there.

        I promise that I will try No 19, the very next time I go into the city! November 30, 2021 at 7:48am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Hi Tourmaline…that’s reasonable. Very reasonable, you are right. Enough is enough…until you sniff at No 19. Wait and see!
          I envy you…I always have a wishlist, although I have many, many perfumes!
          Do you know the she wolfe in the Inferno of the Divina Commedia? That’s me, when it comes to perfume. December 1, 2021 at 7:53am Reply

          • Tourmaline: Hi Cornelia,

            Do you mean you envy my ability to stay away from the perfume shops? I have to confess that the need to budget very carefully at the moment plays a big role there.

            I’m looking forward to smelling No 19 and the others, and we’ll see what happens!

            Ah, you’ve identified a gap in my reading, but I googled and read that “the she-wolf snares and kills all things”. Are you implying that you must have a fragrance that you love? I might be that way with Bois de Violette, given how much I love violet perfumes, but perhaps it will happen with No 19 as well!

            With kind regards,
            Tourmaline December 2, 2021 at 4:52am Reply

            • Cornelia Blimber: Hi Tourmaline,
              Yes, I envy that ability!
              Ah, that she wolf. She is the symbol of greed. Snares and kills and eats, but still thin. Never satisfied.
              I am not so bad as that, but greed is my weak point when it comes to perfume!
              Have a nice december! December 2, 2021 at 5:04am Reply

              • Tourmaline: Ah, I get it!

                I hope you have a nice December too, and I hope you receive a perfume you love for Christmas! December 2, 2021 at 5:18am Reply

    • Khalid: Perfumes are feelings,dreams,imaginations.and source of hope. December 5, 2021 at 7:22pm Reply

      • Tourmaline: You put it so well, Khalid. December 6, 2021 at 3:20am Reply

  • Nikos: Thank you for this article! I have to say that “seducing” ourselves might be even more difficult than seducing others. I think the question raised here is if we are wearing a perfume for ourselves or for others. I suppose it’s a story as old as perfumery itself.
    After many years of sampling and sniffing around I too have seemed to settle to a few notes I like so I try to sample the releases I feel will be relevant to me.
    The fragrance I would like to receive for holidays will be Korrigan which I run out of ages ago with it’s amazing totemic bottle and it’s creamy smoky scent. Hope everyone here enjoys the holidays ahead and think of the less privileged. November 29, 2021 at 8:36am Reply

    • irem: Hello Nikos! What you say is so true, I too find that seducing “ourselves” is more difficult than seducing others.
      Your comment has reminded me that I have a sample of Korrigan sitting somewhere that I completely forgot about. Thank you! I know what fragrance I will be wearing today 🙂 November 29, 2021 at 11:08am Reply

      • Nikos: Happy to know that Kerrigan sample is no more forgotten 🙂 November 29, 2021 at 11:25am Reply

  • Constancesuze: Lovely article! I wanted to drop in a mention for Perfumology in Philadelphia- I went for the first time over Thanksgiving break and had such a lovely time. Family owned, super knowledgeable, and a great selection of niche and independent fragrances. November 29, 2021 at 10:03am Reply

  • Sandra: Seduce myself? Shalimar would tick all the boxes November 29, 2021 at 10:16am Reply

    • irem: Yes! Especially Shalimar Extrait — the seduction starts with opening the bottle and blotting the tip of the cap on one’s skin.
      Today I am trying Korrigan thanks to Nikos’ comment, but tomorrow I am wearing Shalimar. Thanks for the reminder Sandra! November 29, 2021 at 11:11am Reply

  • José Saraiva: Hello Victoria
    Good afternoon,
    The best thing is to know some raw materials to understand their fragrances and better guide the fragrance for each one us.
    For example, I am discovering woods, resins and resinoid and some are lovely.
    Of course, that’s an extreme solution, but it gives us an approximate awareness of perfume notes.
    Thanks for this article.
    Best regards. November 29, 2021 at 10:16am Reply

  • Amalia: Thank you for this article, but I would say: Start by reading Victoria on Bois De Jasmin! Have a wonderful holiday season! November 29, 2021 at 11:57am Reply

  • pklagrange: I am luckily to say that I am usually delighted when I first spray on perfume in the morning. Iris perfume often give me extra joy but I feel so lucky that I love so many of the scents I own. I’ve also learned to rely on what pleases me – it may not be the most on trend or the newest fragrance – my tastes trend towards harmonious fragrance combinations. Today I am wearing Bombay Bling by Neela Vermiere – so love all her scents. This is my second bottle! November 29, 2021 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Karen: Lately I have been seducing myself with an array of decanted samples. I have been on a quest for an incense/rose and am currently loving RosaTurca by Nishane. I would love to receive a full bottle for Christmas. November 29, 2021 at 12:46pm Reply

  • Martha: The photo is of my desert island scent, Des Profundis. I loved it at first small and when I was in Paris in 2012 bought a bell jar to being home. Then Barney’s carried it, but no longer. I’ve saved my empty bell jars.
    Sadly, Des Profundis has now been put in a tall black spray bottle with an invisible opening. I alway have to hunt for the opening so I don’t waste it by spraying the air. I think the new bottle will reduce light damage, but I miss the bell jars. November 29, 2021 at 1:43pm Reply

    • Martha: “Smell,” not “small.” Or maybe “sniff” would be better? November 29, 2021 at 1:45pm Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: I loved this post! All my life I have worn perfume to please (or seduce) myself. At work I don’t wear perfume because it pleases my co-workers for me to not wear any. They used to choke and cough at my perfumes (they have no idea about smells unfortunately) so I finally stopped wearing scent to work (except instead of spraying I sometimes put a dab on my chest which I can smell but they can’t. November 29, 2021 at 4:48pm Reply

  • Caro: How do I select perfumes?

    When I began with this hobby, I started by reading your blog, a few other blogs and some books (like the guide written by L. Turin and T. Sanchez). I also like to look at the Fragantica and Basenotes websites. Now after 2-3 years, I think I have a better idea of what I like, what I don’t like and what doesn’t work on my skin.

    Currently, I’ve been seducing myself with No. 18. I’ve been wearing for almost a year and I love to smell it on myself. I don’t think I can classify it, but I assume that it is the ambrette that gets me. Other fragrances that I use to seduce myself are Angel, Mugler Cologne, Bel Respiro, Carnal Flower and Dune. Mostly, what seduce are me green scents, green florals, petitgrain, patchouli, moss and probably ambergris. November 29, 2021 at 7:16pm Reply

    • Fazal: Dune is really good. November 30, 2021 at 6:10am Reply

  • Tati: How do I select scents?

    These days of working at home, mostly for myself. Favorites then are put on rotation for going out. My latest “seduction” is Bois des Iles, I’m crazy for the sandalwood; Coromandel, patchouli, chocolate, iris; and I’m lusting after Myrrh & Tonka, by Jo Malone, because I love tonka in almost anything. November 29, 2021 at 8:28pm Reply

  • Julia: Thank you for this lovely article!
    Today I’m seducing myselfe with a little drop of Bois et Fruit. Not one of my desert-island-fragrances, but it goes so well with baking traditional “Kletzenbrot”. November 30, 2021 at 3:52am Reply

  • Fazal: I don’t tend to give in to hypes. The habits that have served me well are blind buying (usually my only option as I try many perfumes from yesteryears), experimentation (not hesitating to try perfumes that may be out of style and which is how I have discovered many personal gems), and lot of patience, i.e. willing to wait long periods of time for a good deal to come by. As a result, I rarely, if ever, overpay and I get to try lot of perfumes, sometimes paying for 5-6 perfumes what people pay for one overhyped niche.

    It also pays that I do not really get seduced by niche marketing (most are overpriced junk in my opinion) so unless I have an intuitive feeling that the hype may be justified, I don’t even bother trying them. The latter is how I got and fell in love with MFK BR 540. Kurkdjian is a good perfumer, the composition seemed novel from the descriptions, so these factors went into my risk calculation when deciding whether BR540 is worth blind-buy or not. November 30, 2021 at 6:04am Reply

  • Megan: I have been trying diligently to expand my repertoire of things I love and would wear away from just florals, and I was delighted to discover Shalini’s Fleur Japonais this year (yes, it’s cherry blossom, but it has a heavy dose of incense, which is a big step for me!). I would love to receive a bottle for Christmas.

    I tried jotting down smells I like, and I was surprised to see many foods, because I typically dislike the fruity-sweet gourmand perfumes. Coffee, cardamom, raw oatmeal, fresh toast… are there food related scents that don’t smell like dessert? November 30, 2021 at 7:30am Reply

    • Potimarron: 4160 Tuesdays have made some non-pudding ones I think. If someone could make a fragrance that smelled like basmati rice cooking I’d love it! November 30, 2021 at 10:34am Reply

  • Potimarron: Since disappearing down the perfume rabbit hole, I’ve been broadening my knowledge by reading blogs (this one, the Candy Perfume Boy and my current favourite, I Scent You a Day), books and articles, trying discovery sets by the Perfume Society, and deliberately going into department stores with no perfume on so that I can try new fragrances on my wrist. If a fragrance pleases (or displeases) me, I look it up on Fragrantica to find out more about the notes (and the nose). And this is where the time goes… My favourites tend to be floral chypres, particularly with rose and/or carnation. I’ve learned that tuberose tends not to do it for me, that I find most gourmands (and a lot of other things) too sweet, and that I need to run like hell from anything described as “dark” (which seems to translate a lot of the time as “syrupy and heavy-handed with the patchouli”). I’m still enjoying my journey too much to settle on one fragrance (I did stick to Boudoir for a long time before it got so hard to find). November 30, 2021 at 10:28am Reply

  • Frances: I like this whole idea of choosing the right perfume to seduce ourselves. Also, on a more pragmatic note, I guess it is a delusion to focus on finding an attractive scent since everyone has its own idea of what is attractive or not.

    To answer your question I select perfumes based to my memory but also on interesting reviews I read. Words, when well chosen, have the power to give live to scents, to embodie them, which is very difficult since perfumes are palpable and elusive at the same time.

    I have nothing against contemporary creations but mostly, I tend to gravitate toward classics because they allow me to time travel. For instance, I thought of getting First by Van Cleef and Arpels for Christmas, but I have a few fragrances in rotation and I decided to be reasonable. Of course, now I regret it, and I’m looking forward to buying it anytime soon in the future. I will then quote Wilde and its famous: “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it” just to feel better. November 30, 2021 at 7:24pm Reply

    • Frances: I wrote quickly and at the beginning of my answer, I forgot to write this, just after the first sentence: “After all, seducing ourselves is the key to seducing others”. That’s why I talked about the delusion of finding an attractive scent, I mean finding an attractive scent for someone else. November 30, 2021 at 7:32pm Reply

  • Debi Sen Gupta: I wont call myself a connoisseur of perfumes, but I enjoy wearing them. Coming from India, there wasnt much choice available and the prices were exorbitant. And samples were not available to experiment with perfumes.

    I learnt to read about notes and descriptions posted online and understand which perfumes I may end up liking. My brother would then bring them from USA.

    Maybe luck or maybe I am not too discrimationg, I have mostly got good perfumes this way.

    And I love using perfumes any time . Sometimes before going to bed, sometimes just like that. December 1, 2021 at 1:34am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Nice article again! My tastes change from time to time, so there are sometimes perfums in my collection which I don’t like anymore, in spite of careful sniffing. Most of the time I give them away, or waite until Nose likes it again.
    There are fragrances I love, but not in a perfume. The corn in the fields, for exemple, or beer. Or spices, they belong to the kitchen, not to my skin.
    Some perfumes I love because of associations, like the jasmine in A la Nuit (the jasmine growing in Rotterdam, when I was a child).
    In 1985 I was more than happy with Poison, and I still love and wear it .
    Chypre and florals are my favourites.
    And today I seduce myself with Dark Orchid, Tom Ford. December 1, 2021 at 8:07am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Black Orchid, of course! December 1, 2021 at 8:13am Reply

  • Klaas: I tend to wear fragrances that make me happy. These include citrus, aromatic herbs (such as sage or lavender), green scents and vetiver. I also appreciate woods and incense, but not as the main character of a fragrance.

    The traditional ‘seductive’ ingredients such as musks, rich amber accords, white florals or exotic spices are no longer for me, though I can appreciate them on others.

    I am extremely picky when it comes to buying fragrances….this is mostly out of necessity as I have a very small income. So lots of sniffing at stores and sample sets. I think I enjoy the process of sampling and discovering different fragrances more than actually owning a lot of bottles. I very much like the idea of a small, carefully curated perfume collection rather than owning half a store, but this is personal of course. I can very well relate to the desire of bringing home lots of beautiful perfumes!

    By the way, the Perfume Lounge is Amsterdam is another fantastic perfumery. A sélection to die for and very, very knowledgeable staff! I’m a great fan! December 1, 2021 at 4:48pm Reply

  • Debra: I would love a new fragrance but find many shops won’t even let me touch a bottle, let alone sample it. Darn the Covid restrictions!!! December 6, 2021 at 9:03pm Reply

  • Johaboha: Thank you, Victoria, for this article, since I often wondered about that topic! On a trip to Paris earlier this month, I actually went to nose boutique on your advise and found the staff very knowledgeable. The Serge Lutens boutique at Palais Royal was also a very good experience. The very professional seller, handling with ease several customers in the small sore, asked me what I like to smell in life. I found it to be actually quite an intimate question, but he then suggested chêne and la myrrhe and both really struck a chord. This whole process in the beautiful boutique really impressed me and I also gave these ‘hand picked’ fragrances much more attention as if I had just sniffed through all the exclusives. December 23, 2021 at 3:02pm Reply

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