Perfume 101: 449 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.

Fragrant Gift Ideas for the Holidays

For my gift guide this year I decided to focus on fragrant selections to satisfy all the senses, such as spices, Japanese fruit, bath oils, Persian cookies and perfumery kits. I narrowed down my choices to my favorite online shops, including options for those who live in Europe and the USA. My readers often ask me for my scented recommendations, and this guide includes many things I enjoy.

Mala Market Starter Sichuan Collection

Mala Market is a US-based online shop selling Sichuan ingredients. Outside of China, it’s hard to find another better source for fragrant Sichuan pepper or dried chilies. The Starter Sichuan Collection makes a great gift for those who like cooking, and it includes: premium da hong pao Sichuan pepper, facing heaven zi dan tou dried chilies, fragrant hot ground chilies (chili flakes), handcrafted Pixian chili bean paste, Yibin yacai (a mustard-stem pickle used in many Sichuan dishes,) and recipe cards for chili oil, dan dan noodles, gong bao (kung pao) chicken, mapo tofu and dry-fried green beans. $60

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5 Festive Scents For Winter

Winter arrived sooner than I expected. I didn’t want it to come. I resisted its pleasures. Yet, the other day I woke up to a ballet of snowflakes in the air and I decided that I might as well derive small joys from this cold season. Wearing a warm perfume is one such delight, and I always recall how my mother would dab a tiny bit of Lancôme’s Magie Noire on my wool scarf “to help me stay warmer.” I still associate the spicy-mossy scent of this perfume with snowy days and New Year’s Eve preparations.

For my selection of festive fragrances today, I decided to pick perfumes that evoke the scent of fir trees and gingerbread. Some of them are abstract, others are more realistic. You can decide how far you want to take the fantasy and make your pick accordingly. As always, I would love to know what festive fragrance you like.

One more note: all of the fragrances on my list are suitable for both men and women.

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On Scents, Memories, and Borsch

Last night I dreamt of making borsch with my late grandmother Valentina. It’s been three years since I last made it, but in my dream everything was as precise as it was in real life, down to the smells of vegetables and the rough texture of Valentina’s cutting board. My dreams of Ukraine recur frequently, but this particular one was especially vivid.

I have been writing about scents and memories for many years, and yet it always strikes me as remarkable how strong the recollections can be. I also noticed that the more I studied aromas, as part of my perfumery training and later during my practice, the more I could evoke scented memories. For this reason, I encourage everyone to practice simple exercises, such as selecting a couple of simple scents (black pepper, lemon, orange, or black tea,) and smelling them every morning for a few days in a row. As you smell, try to describe the associations that the smells conjure up for you. If you write them down, even better. Once you put something into words, it becomes easier to remember, even if it’s as intangible as a smell.

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7 Best Perfumes for Moon Viewing

Mid-Autumn Festival is on Saturday, September 10th, and I already envision brewing a pot of tea and admiring the full moon in the evening. Some years the weather doesn’t cooperate, and the temptress moon hides behind the clouds, but when it reveals its full splendor, the effect is magnificent. The pearly moonlight makes the sleeping city shimmer and the skies turn a deep blue color, with soft whispers of grey.

My moon-viewing is incomplete without mooncakes, pastries filled with lotus seed paste or red beans, and an appropriate perfume. The latter is particularly important to set the ambiance and add more magic to my evening. Below are my seven choices, for both men and women.

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On The Beauty of Fresh Incense

Incense is one of those materials that changes its character depending on what else is present in the formula. It can be bright and peppery or dark and smoky. It can even evoke the verdancy of spring buds. Incense is one of the most incredible ingredients used in perfumery. Before I describe a few fragrances to illustrate how incense is used as a fresh note, first a few words on what we mean by incense. Typically, perfumery incense is frankincense or olibanum. It’s sourced from the Boswellia species, most commonly found in countries like Sudan or Ethiopia. In its raw form incense comes as opaque lumps of resin that are called frankincense tears, and the tears need to be further processed into essence.

The scent of raw frankincense is peppery and vivid, and one of the easiest ways to enjoy it is to put one tear into a glass of water and leave it to infuse. The taste of such incense water is refreshing and bright, with a spicy edge.  The closest equivalent in fragrance is Serge Lutens’s appropriately named L’Eau Froide, which explores the bright nuances of frankincense.

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