How To Guides: 34 posts

The Scent of Rhubarb

It’s hard to imagine a note trendier than rhubarb. Pick up any pink tinted bottle and a sales associate will recite a litany of notes which is bound to include rhubarb (along with red berries and pink pepper). But rhubarb’s popularity is justified because it can be made tart or sweet, coquettish or edgy. For me, familiarity with this material doesn’t breed contempt. On the contrary, the more I explore it, the more I become infatuated. To reveal different facets of rhubarb, I take it as a topic of my FT column, Perfumes with a Rhubarb Shimmer. I explain that materials with rhubarb inflections also have a classical pedigree and I recommend savory fruity perfumes for both men and women.

rhubarb slices

Every spring I make a Persian rhubarb sherbet by cooking sliced stems and sugar in water. Once the flavour and pink colour infuse into the syrup, I filter the liquid and add rose essence. Enjoyed in tall crystal glasses, the sherbet has a voluptuous taste that calls to mind the warm light streaming through the stained-glass windows of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, a pink-tinted jewel of Shiraz. Since perfumery has much in common with cuisine, rendering my sherbet into a fragrance accord with a similar ornate impression is not difficult. Please continue here.

Any other rhubarb recommendations are more than welcome.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Expanding Your Smell Vocabulary via Wine Tasting

How to improve both your sense of smell and your ability to speak about aromas via wine tasting? Elisa explains.

A few months ago I read a sentence in the Atlantic that gave me serious pause: “In English, there are only three dedicated smell words—stinky, fragrant, and musty—and the first two are more about the smeller’s subjective experience than about the smelly thing itself.” Excuse me, what? I can think of a lot more smell words than that. How about aromatic, acrid, pungent, yeasty, perfumey, resinous, skunky?

wine tasting

And those are just the “dedicated smell words” – but most descriptive terms can be used for multiple types of sensory experience. “Rosy” could refer to a perfume or a complexion, “silky” to a fabric or a voice, “sharp” to a taste or a smell or a sound or a feeling. Our senses aren’t as distinct as we think – most of “flavor” is actually smell (that’s why you can’t taste your food when you have a cold), and sound effects or different color packaging can make your chips taste fresher or your soda taste sweeter. (See also the “McGurk effect” – seeing a different mouth shape makes you “hear” a different sound.)

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Perfume Samples : Where to Get and How to Store

Perfume samples are essential for the pursuit of your fragrance hobby, and Elisa tells you everything you wanted to know about these all important tiny vials: where to find them, how to store them and when to use them. This article is part of our Perfume Storage series.

One of my favorite perfume smells is not a single perfume, but the ur-perfume that rises up when I open this box of samples and minis I keep in my closet. It reminds me of the sound of an orchestra tuning up – there is no plan or pattern, just noise and chaos, and yet it sounds like music to me, a beautiful mess heightened by anticipation of what’s to come. Likewise, no matter what samples go into or come out of the box, the composite perfume always smells delicious – like fuchsia-colored roses and hazy amber, with aldehydes casting their candlelight glow over it all.

perfume-samples-1_1

Once you fall down the rabbit hole, perfume samples start to accrue and multiply; it’s just part of the culture. In this post I’ll share my own sample habits, and I’d love to hear about yours.

Where I Get Samples

When I first got seriously interested in perfume, I would frequently order samples from places like Luckyscent. But I quickly saw the shortcomings of this method – the costs add up fast, and the samples (1 ml vials with no atomizer) were too small to get a true sense of the fragrance.

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Perfume Drawer : Simple Storage Idea

I’m the last person to give advice about organization, since until recently my perfume collection was arranged in a manner defined as chaos in most dictionaries. I took searching for samples and decants as par for the course. But even dinosaurs like myself can evolve. What inspired me to change was a discussion brought about by Lauren’s article about her perfume collection. In her article, Lauren describes following a decluttering system based on the best-selling book by Marie Kondo and selecting out items that bring her joy. Her fragrance wardrobe, having been exposed to heat, is unfortunately beyond cure, but the sight of it nonetheless touches her so deeply that she is determined to keep it. It’s not just the perfumes in the bottles, but memories and feelings that matter.

perfume-storage

As I read the article, I realized that the last time I felt any thrill out of my collection was when I was a college student and had a few bottles arranged on top of my bookshelf. The little arrangement–Prescriptives Calyx in its frosted green bottle, a small black cube of Robert Piguet Fracas, a precious bell jar of Serge Lutens Bois de Violette ordered via a friend in London and delivered to New Haven by another friend, and a ragtag assortment of decants from Makeupalley swapping–next to my textbooks on economics and political philosophy spoke to me of new discoveries, wanderlust and new friendships. Since then, my collection has grown by leaps and bounds, and while I pared down a lot during my move to Belgium, I still had enough to require a storage solution. I enjoyed the individual bottles, but whenever I surveyed the haphazard arrangement, I felt overwhelmed rather than overjoyed.

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In Nose We Trust

What makes one a perfume lover? Having a collection that puts the Saks Fifth Avenue fragrance counter to shame? Knowing the minute details of Serge Lutens’s biography? Speaking of fragrance ingredients with an obsession rivaling that of a Michelin starred chef? Wearing nothing but the most exclusive and expensive brands? No, no, and no. A perfume lover, or a perfumista, is someone who loves scents. Period.

picasso

Like all hobbies, fragrance can be treated in as esoteric and passionate a manner as you wish, but what I have always found special about this pursuit is its endless variety. Our olfactory palettes are shaped by numerous factors, including early childhood memories, idiosyncratic preferences and particularities of our noses. It’s a fact that we all experience scents slightly differently, based on a combination of individual sensitivities and anosmias. Even perfume industry professionals, whose noses are well-honed to distinguish different ingredients, can’t avoid olfactory quirks, whether it means not being able to smell some types of musk or woody ambers. The wealth of individual interpretations of common smells is what gives perfumery its richness and beauty.

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Latest Comments

  • Elisa in Perfumista Bait: It took me a long time to feel confident in, and “ready” for Coco too! Isn’t that strange, how we can completely fall in love with something but not buy… November 21, 2017 at 11:42am

  • Sandra in Perfumista Bait: I fell for fragrance when I smelled Obsession in the 90’s and Cristalle. Some fragrances that captured my attention, but at that time I was no confident enough to wear… November 21, 2017 at 11:37am

  • Elisa in Perfumista Bait: I’ve experience the same thing, Nora — I now love things that I originally thought I hated, whether it was materials or styles. There are now very few things that… November 21, 2017 at 9:47am

  • Elisa in Perfumista Bait: It’s like the Area 51 of perfumes! November 21, 2017 at 9:45am

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