Perfume Notes: 90 posts

Articles on perfume ingredients and fragrance terminology

The Allure of Estonian Birch Tar

“The allure of Estonian birch tar” isn’t a combination of words one encounters often, but I rather like it. My recent article, The Evocative Allure of Birch Tar Perfumes, appears in the FT magazine and celebrates the delicious darkness and smokiness of birch tar, which can add an interesting undercurrent to fragrances and give them a new dimension. From Chanel Cuir de Russie to Juliette has a Gun’s Midnight Oud, this note plays a special role. Birch tar can mimic leather, smoke or even woods.

Yet, my first experience of birch tar came not from a perfume but from a soap I bought as a curio from Tallinn. I enjoyed its smoky aroma so much that I’ve since sourced a similar pine-tar version (€4.95 for 100g) by an Estonian brand called Nurme, and learnt that tar derived from different trees has been used for skincare in Baltic countries for centuries due to its antibacterial and soothing properties. To continue reading, please click here.

Do you like all things dark and smoky?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Mint and Other Cooling Perfumes

Have you ever wondered why some perfumes feel cooling, giving you a refreshing sensation, and others produce little effect, despite being dosed with classical fresh ingredients like green leaves or citrus? In my recent piece for the FT magazine, Mint Scents for High Summer, I explain this phenomenon and suggest several fragrances that are cooling.

Citrus, green leaves, tart fruit and lily of the valley are all described as cool scents, but only a few aromas are actually cooling. The difference may seem subtle, but while a cool perfume merely evokes pleasant associations, a cooling one has an instantly refreshing effect. One of the most crucial cooling ingredients is mint. Menthol, the main component of mint essence, triggers the cold-sensitive TRPM8 receptors found in the skin – a curious trick that is responsible for the icy burst one experiences when drinking a mint julep. To continue reading, please click here.

What about your favorite cool or cooling scents? And what perfumes have you been wearing lately?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

How to Capture the Aroma of Mango

Describing the scent of ripe mango I’d have to resort to the most unusual contrasts. It’s syrupy sweet and yet refreshing, floral and piney, honeyed and spicy. A hint of rot, that essential aroma components of many tropical fruits, gives it an intriguing twist. It’s the most luscious and seductive expression of nature’s diversity. Yet, capturing the scent of mango in a perfume is complicated, and this is the topic of my FT magazine article, Mango’s Aroma.

The Thai dessert of mango and sticky rice seems custom-made to inspire a perfume. It has the sweet top notes of ripe mango, the creamy heart of coconut milk, the savoury finish of steamed rice and the delicate floral accent of palm sugar. Yet it wasn’t until perfumer Calice Becker created Moonlight in Heaven for Kilian in 2016 that I could finally enjoy the delicious twists of my favourite pudding in a fragrance. To continue reading, please click here.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Scent of Cherries

Before working for a fragrance and flavor company for several years, I had often wondered why cherry-flavored candy tasted nothing like the real thing. It turns out that just as perfumers have their classical accords to create the scent of rose, amber or jasmine, so do the flavorists. The cherry accord, for instance, is based on a compound called benzaldehyde, which has an almond-like scent, and since the molecule is present in cherry pits, it inspired the cherry flavor most of us recognize from sweets, liqueurs and cough syrups. Even if it lacks the tartness and floral accents of real fruit, today’s flavorists are bound by public expectations to keep to the classical cherry accord. Anything else may not register as cherry to many people.

In my recent FT magazine column, Scents of Cherries, I write about the flavor and fragrance of cherries and explore fragrances that capture something of the natural cherry scent. Cherry accords can appear in the most unexpected contexts in fragrances, from delicate colognes to warm orientals, without losing their distinctiveness. So, I share some of my favorites.

Right now, I’m also enjoying the cherry season, and I look forward to the sour cherries. They may taste tart, but they smell sweet and heady.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

 

Leather Scents with a Soft Focus

Although classical leather notes in perfumery are dark and dramatic like Robert Piguet Bandit and Grès Cabochard, this theme offers many variations, including the soft and creamy ones. In my recent FT column, Leather Scents with a Soft Focus, I describe different ways in which leather can be interpreted. I also talk about my idiosyncratic behavior at the vintage shops.

Unconventional is the leather collection of Serge Lutens. The line has a number of fragrances with leather accents, whether Sarrasins, with its interplay of leather, jasmine and musk or Fumerie Turque, which weaves leather into tobacco leaves and rose petals. Cuir Mauresque, however, makes this tanned note the star player. It is buttery and rich, oscillating between the darkness of amber and the spicy bite of clove. What makes its leather tender and luminous is the clever addition of orange blossom and mandarin. Inspired by the old tradition of perfuming gloves with fragrant pomades, Cuir Mauresque conjures up vintage handbags and well-worn armchairs in old libraries. To continue reading, please click here.

Where do you fall on the leather spectrum, dark or light?

Image via FT

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  • Maya in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: I also gravitate towards dry, sugarless concoctions. Some of the perfumes I adore during the fall and winter, and I think you may too, are SL Santal Majuscule for its… October 15, 2019 at 5:06pm

  • Patty Brown in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: I think you would love Alien by Mugler or even Ruin Ford Lost Cherry… It’s really hard considering you want you don’t like remind or vanilla sense and you want… October 15, 2019 at 2:34pm

  • CristinaM in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: 1. Ambre des marveilles 2. Yes you May contact me!! Thanks for your kindness October 15, 2019 at 2:06pm

  • KatieAnn in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: Hello! Thank you for this generous giveaway. I like warm florals that aren’t too sweet. To that end, I would recommend Hermes 24 Faubourg and Annick Goutal’s Heure Exquise. Both… October 15, 2019 at 1:44pm

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