Perfume Notes: 75 posts

Articles on perfume ingredients and fragrance terminology

Geranium Notes: The Other Rose of Perfume

What do Elizabeth Bennett and geranium share in common? Elisa explains.

I’ve never heard anyone call geranium their favorite flower. Compared to the more photogenic blooms found in bouquets and floral arrangements, geranium might seem like a workaday houseplant.

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Cheery sidewalk geraniums

If rose and geranium were sisters in a Jane Austen novel, rose would be known as the pretty one and geranium as the sensible one. But geranium, like Elizabeth Bennett, has her own beauty, and is indispensable in rose fragrances!

When we refer to geranium notes, we’re usually talking about the oil of the pelargonium graveolens, also known as the rose geranium. Rose geranium oil contains over 50 organic compounds, but primarily consists of geraniol, nerol, and citronellol. Nerol, so named because it was originally isolated from neroli oil, has a fresh rosy scent and can be found in lemongrass and hops. Citronellol is the familiar pungent citrus smell often found in insect repellants – but it’s also important for creating realistic rose accords. Geraniol, one of the primary components in rose oil, smells – you guessed it – rosy and is also commonly used in fruit flavorings. (I’ve noticed that adding clove to a fruity rose can conjure up a raspberry note.)

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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

Scented Ferns : On Fougeres

“If God gave ferns a scent, they would smell like Fougère Royale” is a sentence supposedly uttered by perfumer Paul Parquet who in 1882 created one of the earliest modern perfume legends, Fougère Royale for Houbigant. And so, you hear again and again the same story of ferns (fougères in French) being scentless and Parquet being the genius responsible for the first perfume that “didn’t imitate nature.” That Parquet was a creator of remarkable skill is beyond doubt, but are ferns really scentless?

estonia-forestfougere royale

For many years I thought so, but today I’ll gladly admit my mistake. There are numerous varieties of ferns, and even the ones with the most delicate of scents have a distinctive odor. In my new FT column, Fougères: fern-inspired perfumes, I explore my botanical discoveries and discuss some of my favorite fragrances in this ever popular family.

Extra readingPerfumers on Perfume : Paul Parquet and fougère perfume reviews.

On a related topic, do you have any perfumes that evoke the smell of a forest to you?

Left image: Estonian forest, photography by Bois de Jasmin. Right image: Fougère Royale for Houbigant ad.

 

Orange in a Perfumer’s Palette

The orange is a versatile ingredient not only in cuisine but also in perfumery. It’s used all over the fragrance wheel, from delicate colognes to robust leathers. My latest FT column is devoted to everything orange. The article is about the sweet orange, a different character from bitter (Seville) orange and its family.

oranges and blotters

“While we easily fall for oud, gardenia, frangipani or other more flamboyant notes, for the most part orange doesn’t inspire romantic fantasies. On the other hand, the most interesting ingredients in the perfumer’s palette are the most common ones, because not only do they allow a wide range of effects, they also challenge the creators to be innovative. To continue, please click here.”

Please let me know about your favorite orange perfumes.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Rosemary : Herb and Note

Herbs can add a bracing touch to fragrance and food. Elisa explores all facets of rosemary.

I never much liked the dried version of rosemary – neither the flat, somewhat dusty flavor nor the stabby texture, like dead pine needles, appealed. The first time I tried fresh rosemary, I was blown away. It felt like another species entirely – firm but pliant in texture (easily chopped with a sharp knife) and with a full, complex, room-filling scent when you cook with it.

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Just by looking at it you could guess that rosemary smells piney – woodsy and green. It contains camphor, that bracing, pungently minty note common to evergreen trees, mothballs, and Tiger balm, as well as caffeic acid, a phenolic substance also found in eucalyptus bark. But my favorite thing about fresh rosemary, which I rarely see mentioned, is a distinctly buttery note – a savory milky aspect that makes anything you add it to smell and taste extra rich.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Tania in Falling In, Falling Out : Autumn is for Rekindling Old Flames: Hello Elisa, I gave a lot of bottles away on a whim, the only one I regretted giving away is Oriental Express by Thierry Mugler. I agree with spe that… September 24, 2017 at 5:17am

  • Carla in 5 Ways to Transition Into Fall: Hello, yes I have been a fan since I timidly asked a pretty girl at the “Fac” during my year abroad what perfume she was wearing and she responded Hypnotic… September 23, 2017 at 10:31pm

  • Carla in 5 Ways to Transition Into Fall: Hi Aurora, I hope you enjoyed the introduction to the Prince in the Golden Bowl. I remember Toibin said you have to read James fast and not try to understand… September 23, 2017 at 10:28pm

  • Tara C in 5 Ways to Transition Into Fall: I just bought Close Up today! It has an apple note to my nose that goes well with the tobacco note, perfect for fall. September 23, 2017 at 8:33pm

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