Perfume 101: 355 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.

Vietnamese Green Oil, DIY Colognes and Other Cool Delights

The second part of my refreshing scents series focuses on non-alcoholic and DIY options. Some people prefer to skip alcohol during hot days, and I’m often asked for inexpensive solutions. Experimenting with scents during summer is fun, but when the temperature rises above 35C, the idea of putting on perfume becomes unappealing.

I instead reach for oils from Vietnam or Thailand, especially Dầu Gió Xanh Eagle Brand Medicated Oil. This popular Vietnamese oil is used for headaches, muscle pains, etc, but I also find it effective on hot days when my head feels heavy. The scent is spicy and incense-like, but it’s unexpectedly refreshing.

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What’s a Perfume Pyramid and Why It Can Be Ignored

I have a new video based on this oft-requested topic. What is a perfume pyramid and how much can it be trusted? I wont bury the lead and tell you that any perfume pyramid or a perfume marketing description needs to be taken with a grain of salt. A perfume is a blend of volatile fragrant components that is more than the sum of its parts. Moreover, there is a bit of confusion surrounded the concept of a perfume pyramid, because it conflates a listing of notes with a specific style of fragrance composition that became popular in the 1950s.

In my video, I also give examples of fragrances composed in both the pyramid and linear style. Needless to say, linear fragrances can be just as intricate and complex as perfumes created in the pyramid style.

Cooling Perfumes : Seeking Freshness

This summer has been strange in many ways, and the sudden onset of heat threw everything off-kilter. Normally I’d escape my sweltering apartment–this is Belgium, we don’t have air conditioning–and head to the local mall or library, but that’s not possible. Instead, I’ve dipped into my perfumer’s toolkit, made a few cooling colognes and lined up refreshing fragrances. A jug of fennel and rose sherbet is cooling in the fridge. Cold buckwheat noodles will require only a few minutes in the kitchen later, and for lunch there is watermelon and feta. Thus prepared, I can work in relative comfort.

I will share my DIY options on Monday, but for this week’s video, I’ve selected a few perfumes that are cooling. Cooling, not just cool. Is there a difference? To a perfumer, there is, and it’s an important one. A cool perfume evokes a particular refreshing association through the use of notes like green leafy notes, citrus, green fruit, green florals or aldehydes. A cooling perfume, on the other hand, usually contains menthol. Menthol activates the cold-sensitive receptors in the skin which is why menthol-containing perfumes feel cooling.

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My Favorite Summer Perfumes (at the moment)

I came back from the market the other day with a big bouquet of cornflowers and as I sat admiring their vivid color, I realized that these blue flowers are my quintessential summer blossom. Their scent is delicate, green, slightly musty, but the fascinating aspect of olfaction is how such subtle aromas can evoke strong memories. I smelled cornflowers and I could see the wildflower meadows of Poltava, the region in Central Ukraine where I spent the first 15 summers of my life. I could smell the watermelon, feel the sticky peach juice on my fingers and catch a whiff of my great-grandmother distilling rosewater. Being unable to travel there makes me more nostalgic–and renders the familiar scents more intense. Instead of being melancholy after smelling cornflowers, as one might imagine, I felt rejuvenated and uplifted.


This experience inspired me to focus my new video on my favorite summer perfumes. I reflected on what fragrances I gravitate to in the summer and why. While the exact perfumes might change year to year, the main idea stays the same–I wear fragrances that feel refreshing in warm weather and that evoke the pleasant idleness of a good vacation.

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Learning Scents (or Words) : A Few Tips

Recently I was making a new series of videos on learning languages, and as I was jotting down notes on learning words, I realized that for my studies I use the same memorizing techniques that I had used to learn ingredients in perfumery school. I wonder if my language learning didn’t accelerate during my training. After all, memorizing something intangible like a scent is even harder than memorizing a new word. Either way, I would like to share my tips on retaining smells in your memory, and you can see how you can apply these techniques to memorizing anything else.

If you wish to have a set of oils or spices ready, I recommend starting with no more 3. It might seem like very little, but if you learn to memorize those three scents and learn to pick them out in a blend, you can expand your exercises to a much greater number. Polish your technique with a few scents at a time.

For instance, my recommended smells for learning would be the following three: lemon (you can use the real fruit by scratching the peel), clove (you can use spices that you have at that time), and vanilla (you can use extract). You’re likely to have them already, and they’re used a lot in perfumery. Just because they’re familiar, however, don’t assume that you know all of their facets.

I emphasize the parallels with language studies to help you find your own connections. I’m sure all of you have pursuits that require memorization, so you can rely on the same techniques for learning aromas. Your techniques might differ from mine, but it doesn’t matter as long as they are effective.

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