Perfume Notes: 86 posts

Articles on perfume ingredients and fragrance terminology

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

Smoke and Fire : Spellbinding Dark Perfumes

The smoky aromas of bonfires, roasted chestnuts, frankincense and lapsang souchong tea are among the most complex, and I know quite a few individuals who fantasize about a fragrance that smells like a smoky charcoal-grilled steak. There is a difference, however, between enjoying a scent in its proper context – charred ribeye at a barbecue or burning leaves in an autumnal park – and wearing a fragrance that reprises such odors. For this reason, perfumery interpretations of smoke tend to blend it into a more familiar setting of woods, spices and resins. In my FT Magazine column, Smoky Perfumes, I explore how smoky notes are used in fragrance and what effects they produce.

One of the best introductions to a smoky perfume is L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Passage d’Enfer (£105 for 100ml EDT). Perfumer Olivia Giacobetti is known for her ability to create olfactory watercolours – airy, transparent compositions. Passage d’Enfer combines lilies and incense, filling the spaces between the white, cool petals with smoke. Giacobetti’s touch is light, and the perfume remains soft and radiant, from the smoky opening to the vanilla- and cedarwood-accented drydown. To continue reading, please click here.

What about you? Do you find smoky fragrances appealing?

Image via FT HTSI

Golden Mandarins of Winter

If I had to pick only one perfume to wear throughout winter, it would be neither a smoky incense nor a warm amber. I could even survive the cold days without sumptuous white florals or dark spices. I couldn’t, however, go through winter without a citrus cologne. More precisely, my ideal winter fragrance is based around the zesty, bright note of mandarin. In my recent FT column, Mandarin Scents, I describe why I enjoy this ingredient, what makes it different from other citruses and which perfumes one should try.

Take, for example, Prada Infusion Mandarine. Its philosophy is to keep mandarin simple, and that refined minimalism is rewarding. The top notes combine all of the best elements of a citrus cologne – the green vibrancy of mandarin leaves, the sweetness of mandarin zest and the warmth of orange flowers. You notice the delicious bitterness of the peel and then the sweetness of pulp, and the contrast remains vivid into the drydown. To continue reading, please click here.

If you have favorite citrus perfumes for winter, please let me know.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

In Search of Dark, Opulent Musk

“Bring, bring that musk-scented wine! That wine is the key to joy, and it must be mine…” The medieval Persian reader scanning these lines by the 12th-century poet Nezami* would have understood instantly the subtle nuances of the word “musk.” Since natural musk was black, the reader would have envisioned a dark potion. Also, musk was considered the most sumptuous and alluring of scents, and musk-scented wine would surely be a libation to intoxicate one to the point of ecstasy. Most importantly, however, musk evoked seduction and passion, and in Nezami’s masterpiece about star-crossed lovers, Layla and Majnun, musk is the scented leitmotif.

The topic of my new FT column, In Search of Dark Musk, is the dark, intoxicating musk, and I search for a perfume with such a character. No white musks, clean musks or baby-skin musks will do. I want a musk that smolders and that would have been as close as possible to the kind of fragrance the Persian poet described.

You can read about the results of my search here, and of course, I look forward to reading your ideas on a perfume that smells dark and musky.

*Nezami or Nizami, Hafez or Hafiz? The Persian reading of these poets names’ is Nezami and Hafez, with a short “e”.  Nizami and Hafiz is an old-fashioned spelling, which still tends to be preferred by Western academics.

Image via FT; Persian miniature

 

Solar Perfume Notes : What Does It Mean?

Perfume-speak is a language of its own, with words like “chypre”, “gourmand” and “petally” having specialised meanings. Speaking Perfume: the A-to-Z glossary of perfume terms demystifies some of the commonly used terms, but I often receive requests to elaborate further and give more examples. My latest FT column, Sun and Scents, covers the term “solar.” Some perfumes are presented as having “solar notes” or “solar flowers”, with little explanation as to what that might mean. Although the image of a solar blossom is exotic, the term simply defines a warm and radiant effect, and in my article, I explain how it’s achieved and give examples of several fragrances. Although they’re usually marketed as summer fragrances, I find them even better on a grey, overcast day.

My latest find is Tom Ford Eau de Soleil Blanc, which is a sibling of Ford’s earlier launch Private Blend Soleil Blanc. Both perfumes are suitable for men and women, since they’re based around fresh notes of orange, peppery bergamot and petitgrain (a distillation of buds and leaves of bitter orange with a bright-green, zesty aroma). The glow of ylang-ylang – a popular ingredient in solar scents – enhances the radiance of the new composition, while the musk prolongs its presence. To continue reading, please click here.

One of my favorite solar perfumes that I didn’t mention in the article is Guerlain Lys Soleia from the house’s Aqua Allegoria collection. It’s been discontinued, and I had mixed success finding a reliable source for it. However, if you come across it, I recommend seeking it out.

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