Perfume 101: 317 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.

5 Things That Inspire Me

When I work on any long-term project, my office looks as if a tornado went through it. Since I prefer to work at a low table sitting on a cushion, my legs folded in the lotus position, I use the floor around me as my canvas. Books, research materials, and reference volumes cover it in random looking piles and mixed among them are items I find inspiring. Of course, the chaos is not entirely random, and I can tell you where I have my Japanese-English dictionary, Philip Kraft’s guide to fragrance chemistry or a volume of Persian poetry, without having to get up from my table. (The table, by the way, was a $10 acquisition from a Turkish shop, intended for making phyllo pastry.)

Casting a quick glance at the items that surround me today, I realized that they are much more than the materials I use for my writing, but rather the things that inspire me, the things that give me pleasure simply by looking at or touching them. I’m sure everyone can make such an inspiration collage–and I’m sure that for every person it would be different, but I wanted to share mine with you.

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The Allure of Estonian Birch Tar

“The allure of Estonian birch tar” isn’t a combination of words one encounters often, but I rather like it. My recent article, The Evocative Allure of Birch Tar Perfumes, appears in the FT magazine and celebrates the delicious darkness and smokiness of birch tar, which can add an interesting undercurrent to fragrances and give them a new dimension. From Chanel Cuir de Russie to Juliette has a Gun’s Midnight Oud, this note plays a special role. Birch tar can mimic leather, smoke or even woods.

Yet, my first experience of birch tar came not from a perfume but from a soap I bought as a curio from Tallinn. I enjoyed its smoky aroma so much that I’ve since sourced a similar pine-tar version (€4.95 for 100g) by an Estonian brand called Nurme, and learnt that tar derived from different trees has been used for skincare in Baltic countries for centuries due to its antibacterial and soothing properties. To continue reading, please click here.

Do you like all things dark and smoky?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Guerlain Herba Fresca : Perfume Review

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Mint plays a curious trick on our senses.  Menthol, the main component of mint essence, triggers the cold-sensitive TRPM8 receptors found in the skin – a phenomenon that is responsible for the icy burst one experiences when eating mint candy or drinking a mint julep. Even a sip of hot Moroccan mint tea on a balmy day will produce the same cooling effect. In the realm of perfumes, you can try Guerlain Herba Fresca.

Herba Fresca has been around for a while, and I don’t even remember the first time I tried it. I only recall enjoying its uplifting freshness and green notes. It’s not a complicated perfume and it holds few secrets. From the burst of verdancy and citrus to the soft musky chords in the drydown, it’s a straightforward blend. But what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in its vibrant character. It’s refreshing in the summer and rejuvenating in the winter.

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Mint and Other Cooling Perfumes

Have you ever wondered why some perfumes feel cooling, giving you a refreshing sensation, and others produce little effect, despite being dosed with classical fresh ingredients like green leaves or citrus? In my recent piece for the FT magazine, Mint Scents for High Summer, I explain this phenomenon and suggest several fragrances that are cooling.

Citrus, green leaves, tart fruit and lily of the valley are all described as cool scents, but only a few aromas are actually cooling. The difference may seem subtle, but while a cool perfume merely evokes pleasant associations, a cooling one has an instantly refreshing effect. One of the most crucial cooling ingredients is mint. Menthol, the main component of mint essence, triggers the cold-sensitive TRPM8 receptors found in the skin – a curious trick that is responsible for the icy burst one experiences when drinking a mint julep. To continue reading, please click here.

What about your favorite cool or cooling scents? And what perfumes have you been wearing lately?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Perfumes for Reading The Pillow Book

“Things that make your heart beat fast: to wash your hair, apply your make-up and put on clothes that are well scented with incense. Even if you’re somewhere where no one special will see you, you still feel a heady sense of pleasure inside.” The woman who wrote these lines was a 10th-century Japanese lady-in-waiting in the Heian court. We only know her title, Sei Shōnagon, not her real name, but The Pillow Book ensured her fame. In my recent FT magazine article, Three Perfumes for Sei Shonagon, I select three fragrance to accompany the Japanese literary masterpiece.

“For a fragrance that evokes Sei Shōnagon’s description of the royal palace – the carved screens, incense smoke and rustle of silks – I turn to Arquiste’s Nanban. It’s dark and plush, with velvety layers of myrrh, sandalwood and leather, but the infusion of osmanthus, a blossom that smells of apricots and tea, gives a candlelit glow to the composition. To continue reading, please click here.”

Have you read The Pillow Book? Do you ever select scents that match the mood of your favorite books?

From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Gabriela in 5 Things That Inspire Me: Oh things that inspire me… my children playing, books on my shelves, pictures on my wall, little boxes and a sculpture that was from my grandmother. September 14, 2019 at 4:55pm

  • Gabriela in 5 Things That Inspire Me: What a great list of books, have just ordered the Marianne dreams on Amazon! Are you familiar with Tove Jansson? She has beautiful children’s books. September 14, 2019 at 4:51pm

  • Silvermoon in The Allure of Estonian Birch Tar: Hi Klass! My husband uses SMN Nostalgia. It certainly smells great on him. In the wonderful SMN shop in Florence (where I bought it as a gift for him), they… September 14, 2019 at 12:11pm

  • Tourmaline in 5 Things That Inspire Me: I shall definitely seek it out; I’ve read such wonderful things about it. I hope you have a great weekend, too! September 14, 2019 at 2:25am

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