Perfume 101: 311 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.

Salt and Flowers

A Japanese friend once served me a cup of sakurayu, a salted cherry blossom tea that she brought from Kyoto. The flowers unfurled slowly in the hot water, turning the liquid a shade of pale pink and infusing it with the aroma of almond and apricot. This springtime drink made me wonder what it is about the combination of salt and flowers that makes it so intriguing. The topic of salt and flowers is the subject of my FT column, Magic of Salt. I explore salty effects in perfumery and the way they can uplift floral notes.

Salt has its own mild scent and, depending on its processing and provenance, it ranges from bitter and iodinated to flinty and flowery. However, the magic of salt is its ability to volatilize the aromas of other ingredients. You can experiment by cutting a tomato in half and smelling it raw. Then sprinkle it liberally with salt, wait for a few minutes and have another inhale. Even if your tomato is an uninspiring greenhouse variety, once salted, it will have a more pronounced perfume. To continue reading further, please click here.

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Hyacinth Perfumes That Spell Spring

Spring is not spring for me unless it has hyacinths. I buy the forced bulbs and leave them around the apartment to wait for the moment when the flowers open up and fill the air with their perfume. The scent of hyacinth is not as delicate as that of many other spring blossoms; it’s rather heady and sweet, with an earthy note. It can sometimes be overwhelming, but the contrast is the reason why the fragrance appeals to me – and to other perfumers. Its complexity is an endless source of inspiration. In my latest FT column, Seven perfumes that tap the headiness of the hyacinth, I talk about this note and how it can be used in fragrances.

The green accent of hyacinth is often used in both masculine and feminine fragrances, even if the hyacinth itself plays a secondary role. Its verdant, crisp note brightens up the unripe mango in Hermès Un Jardin sur le Nil, adds depth to the fig accord in Marc Jacobs for Men and softens the sharpness of leather and galbanum in Chanel No 19. In each case, hyacinth blends smoothly into the composition, buttressing the elements with an aroma that recalls crushed fresh leaves. To continue reading about my other hyacinth gold standards, please click here.

What are your favorite fragrances with hyacinth or other spring flower notes?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Why Perfume Doesn’t Last and what to do about it

You have found a perfume that seems perfect – the first few moments post-application are enjoyable but then, over the course of the day, you find the scent has disappeared. You might as well not have worn anything. Fragrance that doesn’t last is one of the most frustrating occurrences for a perfume lover, and I’m often asked to explain why it happens. And that’s what I do in my FT column, The Long and The Short of It: making perfume last.

I explain why some fragrances have a fleeting presence, how to test for it, how to correct for it and give examples of perfumes with different types of presence. You can also read my article, One Perfume, Four Ways to Wear It, with other tips on making perfumes last.

One of the reasons a perfume doesn’t last is because of our physiology. To put it another way, your perfume is still present, but you stop smelling it and hence it seems as if it has disappeared. This phenomenon is called olfactory fatigue, or olfactory adaptation, and it happens when odour receptors are saturated with an aroma to the point that they stop sending a signal to the brain about it. If you wear the same perfume every day, such an olfactory adaptation is likely to happen. Also, some materials are more likely to cause an olfactory fatigue, such as ambers, sandalwood and other heavy, enveloping woods. To continue reading, please click here.

As I was writing the article, I became curious to find out from you if longevity is the most important characteristic in a perfume? If you find a perfume you love but that doesn’t last, will you still buy it?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

What to Look for When Selecting a Perfume

Selecting a perfume remains an ever popular topic among the questions you send me, and in my recent FT Magazine column, The Subtle Art of Selecting a Perfume, I offer a few recommendations for finding the right fragrance. As always, the right fragrance is not the one recommended by sales staff or the one that smells good on someone else. It’s not even the one that has a pleasant scent. Rather, the perfume that you’ll enjoy wearing for a long time is the one that triggers an emotion, unlocks something in your memories and makes you feel uplifted.

As such, the quest for a perfume is an intimate one, and my number one piece of advice is not to rush it. Also, don’t be swayed by the opinion of others as you test.

Whenever I’m asked by friends and readers for recommendations, instead of simply listing fragrances I begin by trying to determine which scents make them feel good. Or, to use Kondo’s phrase, which perfumes spark joy for them. One such composition for me is Serge Lutens’ Iris Silver Mist. It’s a cool, polished fragrance based around the scent of iris root, and when I wear it, I feel as if I’ve stepped into a secret garden filled with pearly light and the soft rustle of leaves. To continue reading The Subtle Art of Selecting a Perfume, please click here.

What fragrances spark joy for you these days? For me, it’s Guerlain’s Chamade. Of course, if you have your own tips on selecting a perfume, please share. 

What Does Orange Blossom Smell Like?

Orange blossom is one of the most popular floral notes in perfumery. It can star in any family and add its special twist to almost any accord. If you like delicate and fresh, you might enjoy orange blossom in Annick Goutal Néroli and Jo Malone Orange Blossom. If dark and somber is more of your mood, then Caron Narcisse Noir and Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger will fit the theme.

Orange blossom in perfumery comes from the bitter orange tree, and it’s called neroli if it’s steam-distilled and absolute if it’s extracted with solvents. (You can read my article for more detailed comparisons and examples of fragrances with these two materials). Both of these materials are expensive, although not as much as rose or jasmine essences. Neroli has a green accent that makes it perfect for colognes, mossy blends and fresh marine compositions, while the smoky twists of orange blossom absolute lend it complexity and drama that unfolds well in the similarly spiced, incense-embellished perfumes.

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