Opulent: 165 posts

Fragrance with rich, complex characters that feel like cashmere wraps

Sandalwood : Woods Series (New Video)

I’m continuing my woods series and today I’m discussing sandalwood, the most distinctive sweet wood in the perfumer’s palette.
The beauty of sandalwood lies in its sweet and creamy scent that differs from the aromas of other woods, which tend to be dry and sharp.

While I mention a variety of perfumes in this video, such as Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore, Santal Majuscule, Ambre Sultan, Jeux de Peau, Chanel Égoïste, Guerlain Samsara, Diptyque Tam Dao and 10 Corso Como, this is far from a complete list. Therefore, I wanted to supplement it with several other examples of excellent sandalwood perfumes.

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5 Moods, 5 Roses

Rose is a classical note in a perfumer’s palette. It can be a natural type-rose, with rich honeyed facets, a citrusy blossom, or a musky bouquet. While some iconic fragrances like Guerlain Nahéma and Jean-Charles Brosseau Ombre Rose are rose-dominated, it often finds itself in a supporting role, which it performs beautifully. As I hope to demonstrate to you with my list below, rose is versatile and can suit a variety of moods and fragrance styles.

Although rose is most closely associated with feminine perfumery, I encourage men to disregards such labels. The truth is that citrus, metallic rose notes are already present in many masculine compositions, such as Amouage Lyric Man, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire Pour Homme and Cartier Déclaration d’Un Soir. The darker the rose becomes, the more you can experiment with it. For instance, Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady smells devastatingly sexy on a man.

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Vanilla Orchids

Stepping inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory during Kew Gardens’ annual orchid festival is an opulent fragrant experience. While the most popular orchids sold by florists are unscented, there are also many perfumed varieties, with their aromas spanning the full olfactory spectrum from effervescent lemon to dark chocolate.

In my recent FT article, Vanilla Orchids, I describe one of the most famous perfumed orchids, Vanilla planifolia. Perhaps it’s not surprising, since this plant produces one of the world’s most fragrant spices. The flowers have a delicious aroma reminiscent of creamy jasmine and green grape. Although more subtle than the scent of vanilla pods, it has inspired perfumers to create fragrances around vanilla flowers, relying on recent studies of orchids and their aromas.

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My Name is Red : Chanel Rouge Allure Ink and Guerlain Nahema

“I’m so fortunate to be red! I’m fiery. I’m strong. I know men take notice of me and that I cannot be resisted… Wherever I’m spread, I see eyes shine, passions increase, eyebrows rise and heartbeats quicken. Behold how wonderful it is to live! Behold how wonderful to see. I am everywhere. Life begins with and returns to me.” Orhan Pamuk’s description of my favorite color in My Name is Red has stayed with me ever since I first read the book, and I often think of it whenever I see another red that draws my attention–fabric, autumnal leaves, lipstick, the lacquer of Japanese bowls or perfume. Yes, perfume can also be red.

The impression of red in fragrance is subjective the way synesthesia tends to be, but Guerlain Nahema is a perfume that makes me feel as if I’m enveloped in layers of crimson silk. The effect comes from the combination of rose essence and the damascones, aroma-materials with the aroma of rose jam and stewed apples. This accord alone has a lipstick red hue, but paradoxically it comes across as even more saturated against the background of green citrus and hyacinth. Reds often stand out best against contrasting colors, and this is the case with Nahema.

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The Allure of Extrait de Parfum

If you were a medieval caliph and desired a fragrance to delight your senses, your royal perfumers would have mixed Tibetan musk with an equal amount of Yemeni ambergris and steeped the mixture in ben tree oil over a weak fire. They would have stirred it with a gold spoon and used a silver vessel to refine it further until the liquid itself turned golden and smelled like paradise itself. If you were the wife of the caliph Harun al-Rashid, the one of One Thousand and One Nights fame, then you would have asked for a touch of jasmine oil to remind you of Persian gardens in bloom. According to the 14th century Egyptian scholar Al-Nuwayri, such were indeed the refined tastes of his time.

The luxurious, oil-based perfumes Al-Nuwayri describes in his book are the distant ancestors of the modern extrait de parfum. Today, the extrait de parfum is usually diluted in alcohol, but the proportion of fragrant oils in its formula is still sumptuously high. In my recent FT magazine column, The Allure of Extrait de Parfum, I describe what makes extrait de parfum different and why it still has a place in our perfume wardrobe.

As I’ve noted in my article about perfume concentrations, the proportion of oil alone doesn’t matter as much as the ingredients themselves. However, the parfum, along with the Eau de Cologne, is the oldest way of enjoying fragrance. It was meant to be applied directly on skin, allowing it to envelop the wearer in a soft cloud of scent. For instance, the great classics like Chanel No 5, Guerlain Jicky or Caron Tabac Blond were created as such concentrated blends. Their lighter variations appeared later in the second half of the 20th century when atomizers became popular. To continue reading, please click here.

What are some of your favorite extrait de parfums?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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Latest Comments

  • Fazal in Mir Taqi Mir’s Jasmine Pilaf: You are right about Mir’s Urdu poetry. I had forgotten his name but as soon as I saw your post, I recalled about Mir Taqi Mir as one of the… September 28, 2020 at 6:12pm

  • Maya in Recommend Me a Perfume : September 2020: Wow- I love that idea. I have some Dead Sea salt and will bury a couple of the Lust soap cards in the bag. I’m sure it will be a… September 28, 2020 at 2:55pm

  • Silvermoon in Mir Taqi Mir’s Jasmine Pilaf: Yes, indeed, I love Sicilian perfumed almond cookies. And all the other ways flowers can enhance food. I hope your jasmine plant cooperates 😊 September 28, 2020 at 2:53pm

  • Victoria in Mir Taqi Mir’s Jasmine Pilaf: In Sicily they still use a similar technique to perfume almonds before using them for marzipan. And in Thailand, jasmine is steeped in water and then this water is used… September 28, 2020 at 2:50pm

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