Lists: 113 posts

5 Perfumes for a Snowy Day

Imagine that snow is falling outside your window. Everything is white and opalescent and soft shadows fill your room. It’s a moment of winter stillness at its most exquisite. But perhaps it’s just another rainy day outside your window. Or if you are in the Southern hemisphere, a lush summer day. Or perhaps you don’t particularly like snow and have no desire to conjure up snowflakes and ice. This doesn’t prevent us from dreaming of fragrances that capture the idea of warmth and softness and that suit any season.

Such was the idea behind my list of these five perfumes. I wanted to select fragrances that comforted me and yet felt elegant, warm and yet luminous. Heavy ambers, furs, and too much leather wouldn’t do for that impression.

Serge Lutens El Attarine

Spices, musk, and soft rose petals. El Attarine is the lightest of all Serge Lutens’s ambers, so while it envelops you, it remains soft and gentle. Think of delicate cashmere rather than heavy brocade.

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Why Do We Like Floral Perfumes?

One of my favorite childhood pursuits was to make perfume. At least, that’s what I called it—my great grandmother’s description was “pestilence.” I scoured the flower beds, collected rose, carnation and dahlia petals, soaked them in water and waited until they turned into a fragrant brew. Eventually, the whole lot would rot and smell more beastly than beautiful, but undaunted I persevered. Faced with a garden that her great granddaughter pillaged on a daily basis, Asya gave me a bottle of perfume called White Lilac and hoped that my interest would eventually fade.

Years later, and I’m still fascinated by floral scents. Their variety is immense, from jasmine to marigold, from rose to ylang ylang. More than any other family, florals are susceptible to change as technology evolves. The aroma-material called hedione has changed the way we perceive floral perfumes. Its lemony freshness decorates almost all floral accords–and fragrances in all other perfume families. For instance, you can notice hedione in classics like Christian Dior Diorella or in modern blends like Penhaligon’s The Favourite.

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10 Favorite Modern Patchouli Fragrances

I started my 2-part patchouli series by describing classical fragrances, or rather classical uses of patchouli. This material was once used as an accent note to enrich ambers, leathers, and mosses, add darkness to herbs and citrus, and to create shadows in floral bouquets. Then Thierry Mugler Angel happens in 1993 and perfumery hasn’t been the same since. Today, using a formula with 25% patchouli won’t make anyone raise their eyebrows, and this ingredient has become so ubiquitous in sweet, gourmand perfumes that it has engendered its own family.

Why has this happened? Angel certainly showed that pairing patchouli with sugary notes like caramel, vanilla, or cotton candy creates a striking contrast. The sweetness recedes, while the warm dryness of patchouli shimmers. Imagine that almost thirty years later Angel remains one of the most copied perfumes. It’s also still among the top-selling fragrances.

For this reason, compiling a list of modern patchouli fragrances was easy. I titled my post “Favorite” patchouli fragrances, although I should say that I also included perfumes that made a splash and influenced other creations, whether in fine fragrance, candles, shower gels, or home cleaning products.

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Favorite Perfume Books to learn about history, science, and techniques

Whenever I’m asked about my favorite books, two parallel thoughts flash through my mind–how much time do you have to listen to me and which are my favorite books. As someone who reads in all genres and on all topics, I have difficulty pairing down my favorites to to a small-talk appropriate list. However, when it comes to perfume books, I have no difficulty answering the question; my most read books are always within reach. Today, I will start with a list of books that I use for reference. I read them cover to cover and dip into chapters at random to learn about perfumery techniques, styles, or the fragrance industry.

Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells by Harold McGee

I first talked to Harold McGee about this book project more than ten years ago, but I believe that it took him even longer to research it. The wait has been worth it. McGee’s erudition sparkles on every page, and you can open the book on any chapter and find something new about aromas, molecules, emotions — and your own nose. It’s a study of olfaction as well as the world as we experience it through our senses. McGee weaves his personal experiences throughout his discussions, which gives Nose Dive its rich, layered quality. If you’re familiar with McGee’s writings on food and the science of cooking, you don’t need me to advertise this book further. Highly recommended.

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5 Light and Radiant Jasmine Perfumes

It always surprises me that jasmine, one of the most luminous floral notes, is considered to be heavy and smothering. Then I realize that while my attention is drawn to its apricot jam and green tea facets, many other people can’t get past the indolic, horse-sweat undercurrent. Some of us are sensitive to animalic notes. Others don’t care for the mothball-tanginess that indoles suggest. Yet even more people don’t have the chance to experience natural jasmine, but rather form their opinion based on synthetic jasmine fragrances that don’t even attempt to mimic the real thing. And when we don’t like something, we call it  “heavy.”

I love jasmine in all of its interpretations, and in my new film, I would like to defend this iconic floral ingredient and explain what makes it unique. I talk about the difference between jasmine grandiflorum and jasmine sambac and explain how this note is used in fragrances. Since I appreciate that not everyone enjoys rich white florals, I selected the gauziest, most effervescent jasmine fragrances I could find to illustrate my explanations.

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Latest Comments

  • CC in Summer Cologne for Winter: That’s a wonderful description of Pamplelune! I do the same with Hermes’ L’Eau d’Orange Verte, which is invigorating and never fails to deceive me into believing I am on holidays… January 19, 2022 at 2:29am

  • irem in 10 Books on The Art of Science: Hello Victoria, as always a great list. Why not add a good math book to the selection though? My choice would be “Journey Through Genius” by William Durham. I think… January 18, 2022 at 9:37pm

  • Fazal in 10 Books on The Art of Science: Amazing article. Science is the biggest reason I became a skeptic despite growing up in a religiously conservative environment. Particularly glad to see the mention of Carl Sagan as he… January 18, 2022 at 7:48pm

  • Tourmaline in Summer Cologne for Winter: Hi Hélène, Thank you for your kind words. That is true, the scent memories are indeed often the strongest. That is such a lovely memory, and I’m glad that you… January 18, 2022 at 8:03am

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