How To Guides: 48 posts

How to Satisfy Wanderlust with Perfumes

Perfume can inspire wanderlust as well as satisfy it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve planned my vacations around the harvest period for rose, lavender or jasmine, and fragrances have taken me on many journeys to meet those who grow aromatic materials or those who distill them into essences. At the same time, perfumes can be effective at satisfying wanderlust, as I have confirmed over the past few months.


It’s not surprising that scents and memories have a strong link. Olfactory impressions are processed in the same part of the brain that’s responsible for emotions and memories, the limbic system, and for this reason, memories generated by smells are particularly bright and distinctive. While it takes a very specific combination of aromas and other sensory impressions to plunge you back into a certain time of your life, perfume nevertheless can be a good way to armchair travel.

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Scent 101 : Skin Chemistry (New Video)

Is there such a thing as “skin chemistry”? I have to note that the phrase itself is misleading, because it implies that a chemical reaction takes place on skin once a fragrance is applied, while it’s not clear that such reactions take place. In general, the effects of perfumes on the molecular and chemical diversity of the skin are poorly understood, although some studies attempt to fill the gap in our understanding. When “skin chemistry” is used in the context of perfumery, people usually mean that fragrances smell different on different people.

From my first day working in a perfume lab, I’ve been taught to smell every single fragrance mod on skin. Usually, perfumers test the same sample on several different people, because indeed compositions may smell differently depending on one’s diet, hormonal imbalances, medication regimen, or the level of moisture. People smell differently–that’s a fact.

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Learning Scents (or Words) : A Few Tips

Recently I was making a new series of videos on learning languages, and as I was jotting down notes on learning words, I realized that for my studies I use the same memorizing techniques that I had used to learn ingredients in perfumery school. I wonder if my language learning didn’t accelerate during my training. After all, memorizing something intangible like a scent is even harder than memorizing a new word. Either way, I would like to share my tips on retaining smells in your memory, and you can see how you can apply these techniques to memorizing anything else.

If you wish to have a set of oils or spices ready, I recommend starting with no more 3. It might seem like very little, but if you learn to memorize those three scents and learn to pick them out in a blend, you can expand your exercises to a much greater number. Polish your technique with a few scents at a time.

For instance, my recommended smells for learning would be the following three: lemon (you can use the real fruit by scratching the peel), clove (you can use spices that you have at that time), and vanilla (you can use extract). You’re likely to have them already, and they’re used a lot in perfumery. Just because they’re familiar, however, don’t assume that you know all of their facets.

I emphasize the parallels with language studies to help you find your own connections. I’m sure all of you have pursuits that require memorization, so you can rely on the same techniques for learning aromas. Your techniques might differ from mine, but it doesn’t matter as long as they are effective.

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How To Give Perfume as Gift–Or Not

What kind of perfume do you give as a gift? In my experience, selecting the right perfume for a gift is tricky, because guessing someone’s taste is difficult. Even if your gift recipient likes roses, there are no guarantees that the rose fragrance you’ll select will appeal to them. For this reason, I generally advise against giving perfume as a gift, unless you have the other person’s wishlist.

Scented gifts, on the other hand, are my favorite kind of presents to prepare. For instance, scented soaps, candles, incense or interesting home fragrances are always welcome. Likewise, I enjoy giving and receiving food gifts, and here the limit is your imagination–tea sets, jams, honeys, spices. My favorite recent gift was a package from my Iranian friend filled with saffron, cumin, cardamom and sweet-sour dried plums. Every time I use cardamom in my coffee or sizzle cumin in oil to top a vegetable dish, I think of her.

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How to Smell Peaches in Guerlain Mitsouko

When I wrote my article about lactones, I explained that Guerlain Mitsouko was one of the first perfumes to use these compounds redolent of peach skin and cream. Many of you then commented that you found it difficult to detect lactones in Mitsouko. This difficulty is not surprising, since the peach skin note in Mitsouko is not intended to be a dominant one. Instead, it offsets the darkness of moss and woods and harmonizes the warm drydown and the floral heart of the perfume.

In general, none of the Guerlain classics are easy to take apart note by note; this is not like modern niche perfumery where you can tell the percentage of Iso E Super at first sniff. The idea of the grand parfums like Mitsouko wasn’t to recreate a smell of peach or moss, but to evoke a mood, to tell a story and to tease the senses. I like the streamlined modern perfumes for other reasons, but if I want baroque complexity, Guerlain classics are my first port of call.

Like other perfumers, I spent months of my training recreating important classics without recourse to gas chromatography–with only my nose to guide me. So here I propose a technique that will help you identify the peach note in Mitsouko.

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