Perfume Notes: 81 posts

Articles on perfume ingredients and fragrance terminology

The Color of Life, The Scent of Spring : Green

My wedding outfit wasn’t white. It was green, because in the western part of India where my husband’s family originally comes from, and where we were married, it means the color of life, spring and rejuvenation. Since then I have been paying more attention to this shade, and the scents associated with it. In perfumery, for instance, green can be suggested by a variety of materials, from naturals like violet leaf and galbanum to synthetics such as leaf alcohols that smell of freshly cut grass.

The rich palette of green notes finds its expression in a diversity of green nuances in perfumery. This is the topic of my FT column, Seven Green Perfumes. I select these seven fragrances to paint a full spectrum of green, from the dark emerald to pale pistachio.

Green notes, however, can be difficult to wear, which is why, though this perfume family has many loyal fans, it remains small. We prefer our scents of freshly cut grass and new leaves in the air, rather than in the bottle. Nevertheless, certain green fragrances have become classics. One is L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier. It creates its signature fig accord with the clever combination of ivy, leaves and galbanum. The latter is a fennel-like plant that produces a pungent-smelling essential oil. When carefully dosed, however, galbanum conjures up the vivid colours of spring — young buds, new leaves, damp earth. To continue reading, please click here.

As always, I would love to know your favorite green scents?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

A Perfumer’s Guide to Benzoin

Luang Prabang in northern Laos is a city of magnificent temples and old royal palaces. Although far from undiscovered by tourists, it still has a quaint ambience and mellow pace of life. It stretches languidly along the Mekong, glittering with the numerous golden spires that grace its pagodas. Visitors are attracted here by Luang Prabang’s beautiful architecture and even more by its splendid cuisine, but I made the journey for the aromatic material called benzoin.

Benzoin is one of the most essential ingredients in a perfumer’s palette, and whether I’m creating accords for my perfumery courses or as part of my research, I often turn to this rich, balsamic note for warmth and sweetness. In my new FT column, A Perfumer’s Guide to Benzoin, I describe my track to the benzoin plantations in Laos and then discuss how this ingredient is used in fragrances. If you’re curious to try it, I give a few interesting options, from both niche and department store brands alike.

Benzoin is also used in Papier d’Arménie, a type of incense. I once wrote about making your own: Papier d’Arménie At Home.

To read all of my FT Magazine columns, please click here. They appear on a bi-weekly basis.

Do you know that benzoin is also a popular flavor used in candy and even toothpaste?

Image via FT

Vintage Violets

Swan-down puffs, lace camisoles, ivory fans, tulle skirts, satin shoes… If these words evoke an appealing vision for you, then you’re the right candidate for a Victorian violet perfume. While the 19th century under the reign of Queen Victoria is often described as conventional and stuffy, the favorite aromas are anything but. Despite its reputation for being dainty and demure, violet has a complex scent with a fascinating history. This perfume note is the subject of my latest FT column, Vintage Violets.

I explain how this flower became one of the favorite scents during the Victorian era and what made it even more popular–and ubiquitous–in the 20th century. Then I describe some of my favorite violets, both the sweet and powdery ones associated with the Romantic era and the modern green ones. To read the article, please click here.

As always, I’d love to hear about your favorite violets.

Image via FT

Top 10 Winter Iris Perfumes

I often hear iris described as a scent incompatible with winter because it echoes its chill too much. But since scents depend more on one’s mood and fantasy, rather than meteorological conditions, I don’t see why iris should be forgotten during these months. While I love iris all year around, its cool, violet toned color palette enhances the cold days for me. Against the whirlwind of the holidays and the new anxieties of the new year, it’s a kind of contemplative, soft scent that helps me carve time for myself and put the world on pause, temporarily.

Iris as a perfume note is half way between florals and woods (the natural essence is extracted from the roots of Iris Pallida). It can assume different characters, depending on how it’s used and what other materials it’s paired with, but the character of iris is strong enough to lend its cool touch to many different accords.

Honoré des Prés I Love Les Carottes

Iris roots and carrots share a number of aromatics in common , which is why I Love Les Carottes is such a clever blend. The carrot lends its apricot-like sweetness and musky warmth to iris, while vanilla and orange play up the teasing gourmand association.

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The Scent of Osmanthus

Once the weather turns cool in Tokyo, a sweet perfume fills its streets. It escapes from the parks and enclosed gardens and for a few weeks it becomes a familiar presence in a city better known for its skyscrapers, electronics and cuisine than for flowers. The tiny blossoms that give Tokyo its aroma are easy to miss, but the perfume is so vivid that osmanthus is sometimes called “a 10-mile fragrance” tree. In Japanese, it’s known as kinmokusei, and in English it may be referred to as a “fragrant” or “Chinese” olive, hinting at the plant’s origins, but by any name, the aroma of ripe apricots, jasmine petals and leather is irresistible.

In my latest FT column, Perfumes Linked by Osmanthus, I discuss one of the most fascinating perfume ingredients, osmanthus, and explain how it’s used in perfumery. Of course, I mention three of my favorite osmanthus perfumes and share stories about them. You can read the article by clicking here.

Please let me know other osmanthus perfumes that should be included on a list for someone who loves these apricot scented blossoms.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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