Perfume 101: 404 posts

Here you can find how to guides to selecting, testing and enjoying scents. Also includes are the lists of our top favorite perfumes for different occasions and articles covering all range of topics related to fragrance. If you’re curious to step inside a perfume lab (or even become an industry professional), this group of essays will be of interest.

Fougere Perfumes and Fragrant Ferns

The first abstract fragrance in modern perfumery is considered to be Houbigant’s Fougère Royale created in 1882. Since I didn’t find myself around ferns (fougère in French) often enough, I assumed that they are scentless, and that’s the reason Fougère Royale must be pure fantasy. Its creator Paul Parquet had to use his imagination to create an intensely aromatic accord by blending the synthetic material coumarin into citrus, lavender, rose geranium, amber, musk and oakmoss.

Then I had a revelation. My Estonian friend, who has long tempted me with her eloquent descriptions of Baltic woodlands, whisked me off to her family cottage set on the edge of a fairy-tale forest. The light diffused by the evergreen canopy cast a soft glow onto the golden tree trunks and the quilt of emerald mosses. I noticed the scent of pine balsam and damp foliage. I lowered my face to a cluster of ferns and they too had a scent—loamy earth, spice and hay.

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Why Is Rose Centifolia Such An Expensive Ingredient

I had a chance to harvest roses in Grasse on a couple of occasions and to observe the process of rose absolute and rose essential oil distillation. The experience of jumping into a pile of rose petals was certainly heady and memorable, but what struck me the most was the work involved to produce rose absolute. Since the famous rose of Grasse, rose centifolia, or rose de mai, contains less essence than rose damascena, it’s rarely steam-distilled. Instead, it has to be processed in a multi-step manner, which requires skill, experience and the right equipment.

My most recent video is about rose centifolia. As I explain, the processing of rose blossoms into rose absolute is a complicated and time-consuming process.  First, the flowers are treated with an organic solvent such as hexane, and the resulting extract is then vacuum distilled. The solvent is removed, and the resulting product is called concrète.

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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?

Classical Perfumes For Those Who Don’t Like Classics

The more I delve into perfumery, the more the subject of fragrance classics fascinates me. Although when it comes to my day-to-day choices I still wear many fragrances from niche brands, I reach for classics when I want to experience the scent of another time, a glimpse of another era or simply to take myself out of my routine. For this reason, classics remain among my staples. What’s more, all of the recent top-selling fragrances lists from the US, France, Germany and Italy feature classical fragrances like Guerlain Shalimar, Chanel No 5, and Christian Dior Eau Sauvage.

Not everyone, however, is enamored with classics. Some people find them old-fashioned. Some think that they are too demanding or that they don’t fit their lifestyle. Can you wear Chanel No 19 while cleaning your flat? Or don Mitsouko for a supermarket run? While as I’ve said many times before, you need not like the classics, giving them a chance will benefit your understanding of perfumery. Another important consideration is that classical ideas are often reused in niche fragrances, so instead of paying the niche prices, you can find the same thing–and often of much better quality–from the original source.

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The Beauty of Simple Things : Orange

The orange is ubiquitous in perfumery. We easily get taken with oud, gardenia, frangipani, or other more flamboyant notes, but for the most part, orange doesn’t inspire romantic fantasies. On the other hand, the most interesting ingredients in the perfumer’s palette are the most common ones, because not only do they allow a wide range of effects, they challenge the creators to be innovative.

The spongy skin of orange contains cells filled with essential oil, and you only need to squeeze the colored part to see beads of essence. If you apply the liquid on a paper blotter, you can even study the way it progresses, from intense sweetness to acidic tang and to waxy heft. The latter is due to the aldehydes, naturally occurring aromatics that are used in fragrances like Chanel No 5 and Guerlain Chamade to give their flowers a halo of shimmer. In orange oil, however, all facets are in balance, and it smells of a juicy, sweet fruit.

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