Perfume 101: 437 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.

My Name is Red : Perfumes That Evoke Scarlet

“I’m so fortunate to be red! I’m fiery. I’m strong. I know men take notice of me and that I cannot be resisted… Wherever I’m spread, I see eyes shine, passions increase, eyebrows rise and heartbeats quicken. Behold how wonderful it is to live! Behold how wonderful to see. I am everywhere. Life begins with and returns to me.”

This description of the color of blood and roses from Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, has stayed with me ever since I first read the novel while studying perfumery. At the time, one of the exercises we were doing involved matching scents to colors, and so I started looking for a fragrance that evoked the same intensity as Pamuk’s description.

The obvious suspects like roses and raspberries were cast aside. I was after drama, rather than mere associations. Once while leafing through an album of Indian miniature paintings, I had an epiphany—sandalwood smells red. The 16th century vignettes painted during the Mughal era depicted women making sandalwood paste, and their activity reminded of the time I had spent in India, especially of the bright colors and smells.

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20 Best Narcissus & Daffodil Perfumes

I’ve always been drawn to narcissus, a spring blossom with an autumnal soul. The narcissus poeticus typically used in perfumery is a delicate blossom of gauzy white petals surrounding a small orange crown in the center. At first sniff, it evokes whiteness, purity, and a touch of pale honey, but if you press it to your face, not caring about it leaving a blush of pollen on your cheeks, you will notice darker, deeper, heavier notes. Some people smell suede in it, others–antique books. I notice a hint of mulch and barnyard.

This complexity becomes even more evident when narcissus is distilled into an absolute. The flurry of white petals gives way to a humid warmth reminiscent of tuberose or gardenia and then transforms into the darkness of leather and tobacco leaves. Narcissus absolute is an expensive material, and using it requires skill to bring out all of its different facets in a composition, but when it works, the results are spellbinding.

And so I decided to put together a list of my favorite narcissus fragrances, from classics to modern blends. I didn’t realize that it would run into 20 perfumes! I’m sure you have your own choices, so I would love to hear what you enjoy.

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Summer Cologne for Winter

I’ve noticed over the past few years that my most worn winter perfumes have been the most summery ones in my collection. Or at least, the ones that feel crisp, bright, and effervescent. Enveloping ambers, dark musks, or plush leathers edge in, but they are not as prominent. While Belgian winters have been getting warmer, the main reason is that radiant, uplifting fragrance fit my mood better during cold days than anything rich and heavy. For instance, Hermès Eau de Citron Noir gives me an instant boost with its combination of citrus, spice, and woods.

Another favorite category is white florals, from dewy Frédéric Malle Lys Méditerranée to opulent Guerlain Cruel Gardénia. This genre of fragrance behaves so differently during cold weather that it’s fascinating to wear and compare one’s impressions. The blossoms open up slower, the dew lingers, the freshness persists. Sometimes I don’t even get to the final drydown before the day is over and the winter dusk falls.

What about you? What are you wearing today?

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Spices, Citrus, Woods, Rose, Orange Blossom, Iris : New Classes

Update: The interest in the new classes has been overwhelming, and all six seminars are now fully booked. I appreciate your enthusiasm and support. If you are interested in the Bois de Jasmin classes, please subscribe to our newsletter to be notified of new dates and topics. Of course, if you are interested in a particular class or topic, please send me a note.

New Bois de Jasmin online classes are now available for enrollment in 2022. I am continuing the popular Spices, Citrus, and Dark Woods series. I will also add three new classes focusing on florals: Rose, Orange Blossom, and Iris.

About Bois de Jasmin classes: These classes are for students of all levels of interest in perfumery. The classes teach you how to smell like a professional perfumer, take apart complex scents, and sharpen your sense of smell. Together we will study the fundamental classes of perfume materials and discover how they are used in perfumes. The lectures are designed to improve your enjoyment and appreciation of scents.

Class structure: 1h 15min. Small-group, interactive classes.

Having completed several classes, I listened to your suggestions and made a few changes. Originally, the classes were 1 hour and I set aside 15 minutes for questions. Many felt that 1 hour was not enough and wanted more guided exercises, so the lecture + exercise portion will be 1 hour and 15 minutes. We have time in between exercises for questions, and I’m always available to answer your questions afterwards.

Another change is that I suggest to bring perfumes to each class. I will give you a couple of suggested fragrances, but you can always use any suitable perfume from your own collection. We will still continue using readily available spices and fragrant materials for our smelling exercises, such as spices, coffee, or citrus fruit. You do not need to buy essential oil kits for these classes. You’ll receive the full instructions before the start of the class and after finishing the class you will also receive a list of fragrances to try based on the lecture theme.

Location: Online, Zoom

Date & Time: 1h 15min

Spices January 22nd, Saturday 1:00pm-2:15pm EST/7:00pm-8:15pm CET (time zone converter)  SOLD OUT

Citrus January 26th, Wednesday 1:00pm-2:15pm EST/7:00pm-8:15pm CET (time zone converter)  SOLD OUT

Dark Woods January 29th, Saturday 1:00pm-2:15pm EST/7:00pm-8:15pm CET (time zone converter)  SOLD OUT

3 class series: Spices, Citrus, Woods  SOLD OUT

Rose February 5th, Saturday 1:00pm-2:15pm EST/7:00pm-8:15pm CET (time zone converter) SOLD OUT

Orange Blossom February 9th, Wednesday 1:00pm-2:15pm EST/7:00pm-8:15pm CET (time zone converter)   SOLD OUT

Iris February 12th, Saturday 1:00pm-2:15pm EST/7:00pm-8:15pm CET (time zone converter) SOLD OUT

3 class series: Rose, Orange Blossom, Iris  SOLD OUT

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Spices and Perfumes

Nothing about my masala dabba, an Indian-style spice box, looks exotic. It’s a round tin, with a double lid and several compartments, that after being moved across continents has enough dents and scratches to form a geography of its own. But it’s what’s inside that counts, and the moment the slightly battered lid is pushed ajar it becomes obvious why the roots of the words “spice” and “special” are intertwined–the perfume of coriander, nutmeg, cardamom, fennel and pepper that rushes forth is so rich and heady that it alone is enough to dispel gloom on a cold winter day.

Among the aromatics inside my spice box, cardamom has a place of honor. It’s a curious spice, because unlike darker, heavier favorites like black pepper, cumin or allspice, cardamom combines the freshness of lemon peel with a peppery and metallic bite. I often crush a few green pods to flavor a cup of coffee, a batch of gingerbread or a Persian style lamb stew. Another way I enjoy cardamom is via Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom, a fragrance blending soft mimosa with the citrusy spice.

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