Perfume Trends: 34 posts

Overview of fragrance trends and popular perfumes

The Allure of Extrait de Parfum

If you were a medieval caliph and desired a fragrance to delight your senses, your royal perfumers would have mixed Tibetan musk with an equal amount of Yemeni ambergris and steeped the mixture in ben tree oil over a weak fire. They would have stirred it with a gold spoon and used a silver vessel to refine it further until the liquid itself turned golden and smelled like paradise itself. If you were the wife of the caliph Harun al-Rashid, the one of One Thousand and One Nights fame, then you would have asked for a touch of jasmine oil to remind you of Persian gardens in bloom. According to the 14th century Egyptian scholar Al-Nuwayri, such were indeed the refined tastes of his time.

The luxurious, oil-based perfumes Al-Nuwayri describes in his book are the distant ancestors of the modern extrait de parfum. Today, the extrait de parfum is usually diluted in alcohol, but the proportion of fragrant oils in its formula is still sumptuously high. In my recent FT magazine column, The Allure of Extrait de Parfum, I describe what makes extrait de parfum different and why it still has a place in our perfume wardrobe.

As I’ve noted in my article about perfume concentrations, the proportion of oil alone doesn’t matter as much as the ingredients themselves. However, the parfum, along with the Eau de Cologne, is the oldest way of enjoying fragrance. It was meant to be applied directly on skin, allowing it to envelop the wearer in a soft cloud of scent. For instance, the great classics like Chanel No 5, Guerlain Jicky or Caron Tabac Blond were created as such concentrated blends. Their lighter variations appeared later in the second half of the 20th century when atomizers became popular. To continue reading, please click here.

What are some of your favorite extrait de parfums?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Sugar Free

If you’ve been asking yourself why so many fragrances are sweet these days, then you are not alone. Even non-gourmand blends are getting sweeter, be they floral or woods. In my latest column in the FT magazine, Six Sugar-Free Perfumes, I explore various options that veer away from sweetness.

“Why does every perfume turn so sweet on me?” complained a friend, sparking a mission to find her a fragrance that didn’t have caramel, chocolate or other patisserie notes. With the success of Thierry Mugler’s Angel and other popular gourmands, perfumes have been growing sweeter and more edible over the years. While only recently a cotton candy accord of Lancôme’s La Vie est Belle would have been considered more suitable for pudding than perfume, today it’s a new benchmark. Our appetite for sugar seems to have found a parallel in the olfactory realm, and every season there are more perfumes promising to replicate famous desserts from crème brûlée to apple pie. To continue reading, please click here.

What other non-sweet perfumes can you recommend, for men and women?

Photography via FT HTSI

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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The Best Oud-Based Perfumes

Oud, or agarwood, is the biggest perfumery trend of the past ten years, and while it might occasionally show signs of flagging, it won’t disappear anytime soon. While we have seen many excellent fragrances based on the note derived from the resin of the Aquilaria tree species, uninspiring, bland compositions have been just as common. In my latest FT magazine column, The Best Oud-Based Perfumes, I explain what makes oud as a perfume note and a traditional Middle Eastern ingredient so important. Then, I describe several oud-based fragrances that I consider gold standards. Since oud is a material that comes from an endangered plant species, I also talk about the ethical issues we have to keep in mind as we seek out oud perfumes.

“Oud is a paradox. The exquisite aroma that set the imagination of Japanese poets and Sufi mystics aflame develops as a result of a disease. When healthy, the wood of the Aquilaria tree species is odourless, but once a certain type of mould affects them, they release an aromatic essence to protect their tissues from decomposition. It’s a slow process, during which blond wood turns dark and hard as a stone and develops a fragrance of uncommon complexity. It has the notes of sweet tobacco, incense, leather and smoked spices, with a lingering undercurrent of bitter honey and crushed mint. While it’s known by many names, including aloeswood, agarwood, gaharu, or jinko, its other name, dark gold, will be instantly recognisable to oud lovers. To continue reading, please click here.”

What are your favorite oud fragrances?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, oud chips and essence.

Modern Classics : Tea Colognes and Bulgari Eau Parfumee au The Vert

Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert is an unexpected modern classic. It wasn’t even meant to be displayed outside the Bulgari  boutiques, where its role was to be an elegant extra next to the house’s jewelry collection. Yet such was its allure and originality that it became one of the perfume trendsetters. And it made Bulgari into a perfume house of note. I tell the story of Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert in my newest FT column, Tempting Tea-Inspired Perfumes. But first I take you on my honeymoon to Kerala.

Munnar, a hill station in India’s southwestern state of Kerala, is one of the country’s largest tea producers. Ensconced in the Western Ghats mountain range, the town is surrounded by plantations that cascade down the hills and hide in misty ravines. I was in Munnar for my honeymoon, and my recollections of long, languorous walks around the tea gardens, the tolling church bells and the opulence of garlands at the Sri Subramanya Temple are laced with the scent of tea leaves. Crushed in my fingers, they smelled green and tannic; when carried by the morning breeze, the aroma resembled violets and driftwood. To continue, please click here.

The other fragrances in the Modern Classic series were Serge Lutens’s Féminité du Bois and Lolita Lempicka.

Researching the article made me realize how many excellent and distinctive perfumes feature the tea accord. Next week I will share a selection of favorites to complement my choices in the article above.

Image via FT

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