Perfume 101: 295 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 Winter Pleasures

Winter has a certain beauty in its austere color palette and the way it slows down life to a bare simmer. Yet, weeks of overcast skies and cold weather can leave one listless and longing for warmth and sunshine. The Belgian winter is almost uniformly grey and damp, with hardly any snow days to remind me of the season’s more exquisite aspects. And yet I wouldn’t trade these three months for any other. Winter’s pleasures more than make up for the late sunrises and heavy layers of clothes.

Big Books

I’m not intimidated by big books. They hold many hours of reading enjoyment. They tempt me with their promise of new facts to learn and new experiences to discover. Such books aren’t satisfying to read on Kindle. I love the heft of a thick volume as I ensconce myself in my favorite bean bag chair. I seem to have more time for reading during the winter, which is why one of my seasonal pleasures is to go through all of the thick volumes that I’ve set my sights on. For instance, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Iryna Vilde’s Sisters Richynski, Charles Dickens’s The Bleak House, Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia, and the letters exchanged by Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. Finishing Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, In Search of Lost Time, is my plan for this winter.

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Golden Mandarins of Winter

If I had to pick only one perfume to wear throughout winter, it would be neither a smoky incense nor a warm amber. I could even survive the cold days without sumptuous white florals or dark spices. I couldn’t, however, go through winter without a citrus cologne. More precisely, my ideal winter fragrance is based around the zesty, bright note of mandarin. In my recent FT column, Mandarin Scents, I describe why I enjoy this ingredient, what makes it different from other citruses and which perfumes one should try.

Take, for example, Prada Infusion Mandarine. Its philosophy is to keep mandarin simple, and that refined minimalism is rewarding. The top notes combine all of the best elements of a citrus cologne – the green vibrancy of mandarin leaves, the sweetness of mandarin zest and the warmth of orange flowers. You notice the delicious bitterness of the peel and then the sweetness of pulp, and the contrast remains vivid into the drydown. To continue reading, please click here.

If you have favorite citrus perfumes for winter, please let me know.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Givenchy L’Interdit 2018 : Fragrance Review

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Givenchy the couturier was catapulted into stardom by his work with Audrey Hepburn. Their partnership resulted in one of the most distinctive wardrobes in fashion history, from the embroidered gown of Sabrina to the little black dress of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Equally important was Hepburn’s role in making Givenchy the perfumer. L’Interdit was the first Givenchy perfume, and whether Hepburn wore it or not, she claimed it as her signature fragrance. 

The original 1957  L’Interdit was a floral aldehydic with enough elegance to make one feel dressed up, even if you wore only pyjamas. Think Chanel No 5, but soft, warm and with a delicious strawberry note.

I say was, because in 2005 Givenchy reformulated it. The change was done by perfumer Aurelien Guichard, and it made the fragrance less aldehydic and starchy, but also simpler. Still, as far as updates go, it was decent in that it retained the character of the original. You can read my more detailed review, in which I compare the original and the 2005 version.

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Best of 2018 : 12 Perfumes To Bring into The New Year

Every year when I sit down to summarize the best of the launches, I look at perfumes I’ve reviewed and check my notes for whether I’ve changed my mind about the ratings. Although one could complain about too many launches, too much sameness in the market, too little creativity, the truth is that some fragrances always stand out and demonstrate that it’s possible to be original and interesting even when it seems that all of the possibilities have been exhausted.

I never intend my best of 2018 lists to be definitive, as they’re highly personal. This year I reflected back on what I wore and selected 12 perfumes I’m planning to keep in 2019. They’re not simply well-crafted and memorable; they also spoke to me and helped me create my own fantasies. This year has been a difficult one, but certain pleasures like books, art, music and perfume could make a big difference on even the worst day.

As always, please share your lists. I look forward to them every time. I wish you lots of happiness and good fortune in the new year. 2018 hasn’t been easy for many of us, but it’s my fervent hope that 2019 will be better in all respects. I thank all of you for visiting these pages, sharing your thoughts with me and being the best readers a writer could possibly wish for.

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Perfumes The Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

Every year brings us a few thousand new perfumes. When I stand in front of a perfume counter, I’m reminded of something I learned in my university psychology course – too much choice leads to anxiety. Thankfully, there are people who work tirelessly to make sense of the fragrance market and save us from experiencing choice overload. One such individual is Michael Edwards, whose Fragrances of the World, aka The Fragrance Bible, has been cataloguing and classifying perfumes since 1983. Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez are the other brave souls. Their Perfumes: The Guide 2018 includes more than 1,200 reviews of fragrances, along with tips on navigating that overwhelming perfume counter.

I’ve reviewed Perfumes: The Guide 2018 for my FT Magazine column (please click here to read it), but after I finished the piece, I had more to share from my interview with Tania Sanchez. Such as what were the authors’ favorite fragrances as they were working on the Guide, what perfumers do some of the best work today, what would Tania & Luca recommend to someone new to fragrance as well as some of their own favorite reviews.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • rosarita in 5 Winter Pleasures: You made my day 😍 January 20, 2019 at 3:00pm

  • Mel in 5 Winter Pleasures: Winters in Southern California don’t conform to the dominant idiom of snow and cold temps and fireplaces. But we do get a rainy season, chillier nights, shorter days, and when… January 20, 2019 at 12:57pm

  • Mel in 5 Winter Pleasures: Sheer bliss! January 20, 2019 at 12:38pm

  • Aurora in Niko Pirosmani : A Movable Feast: I didn’t know about this painter, his palette is mostly dark and that makes his use of bright color, here and there, all the more striking. Georgia remains very mysterious… January 20, 2019 at 6:37am

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