In anticipation of a very fragrant week, next week – The Fragrance Foundation’s National Fragrance Week (more of which on Monday) – we are sharing with you a wonderful post which first appeared on the website of Les Senteurs, London’s much-loved showcase for independent and niche perfume, where experts have been steering perfume-lovers to new scent loves for over 30 years.
The store itself recently had a wonderful makeover. (Read about that here.) Its experts are known for their wisdom and knowledge – and among them is James Craven, winner of a 2017 Jasmine Award (from the aforementioned Fragrance Foundation), and a fount of knowledge on all things scented. We are excited that we’ll be sharing more of James’s writing on The Perfume Society website – and delighted to kick off with this post…
Why not tell us what you think of this list – and maybe tweet your own favourites, tagging us @Perfume_Society, as well as @lessenteurs?
As James writes…
‘Everyone loves a list.
Here is my own riposte to all those endless ‘must do’s’ – 100 things to see/read/eat before you die – always so popular in the Bank Holiday Newspapers. Yet so many of those recommended experiences are curiously passive, depressingly automatic: they involve buying a ticket, taking out a subscription, visiting some sort of restaurant, theatre or other place of entertainment.
Smells are different. They are trickier to seek out; they take you by surprise at unexpected moments; they rocket you across time and space; they resist control or manipulation. With smell you must take your pleasures where you find them. Most of the following scents are delicious; some are startling. A few are revolting but arresting. Only one I have not yet smelled…
At the time I originally wrote this, reports were coming in from Australia that the Duchess of Cornwall ‘recoiled’ at the smell of a koala: the eucalyptus oil comes out through the koala’s pores, you see, intensified by its own natural odour. Smells never fail to amaze: if you let them.
Here we go…
• Box… and phlox: pink and white phlox was introduced into Europe by the Empress Josephine – a hot white peppery scent; the smell of childhood.
• A new bar of soap
• A traditional eau de Cologne
• Orange peel & marmalade
• Clean sheets – laid up in lavender or simply air-dried
• Fresh-cut spring grass
• The silk lining of a vintage fur coat
• Apple blossom
• New books: hardback & limp edition smell quite different.
• Chanel No 5 – it changes and grows continuously, like so many classics: the living legend
• Jasmine – in a pot, in the garden or on the streets of Damascus
ª The hills of home – that indefinable smell of your native air. I can smell Leicester coming a mile off…
• Fried onions
• Russian airports – once redolent of over-ripe apples, cigarettes & petrol. Have they changed ?
• A glasshouse of ripening tomatoes
• Sweet peas – which is lovelier? The colour or the perfume?
• White sugar – a nasty smell. Used to make me feel quite sick as a child…
• Tom cats
• Hyacinths (though to some they smell of tom cats)
• Scarlet geraniums – more properly called pelargoniums but you know the plant I mean…
• Christmas and Easter – something indefinable in the air. Unmistakable, impossible to pin-point.
• Privet hedges
• Shalimar by Guerlain – celebrating its glory days
• Suede gloves
• The sea
• Icy iron – an iron railing with a hard January frost on it
• Horseradish – the hotter the better
• Lily of the valley
• A convent chapel – inner cleanliness
• Prison – I have yet to smell this and trust I never shall; but the awful miasma is something that everyone who has been banged up infallibly mentions.
• New shoes
• Ripe pineapples – warm, fragrant golden sweetness.
• Bluebells and wild garlic
• Backstage – of any theatre
• Syringa on a June evening.
• Olive oil
• Snuffed candles – in the second they are extinguished; hot wax and burned wick
• Rosemary, lavender, thyme – the glory of the herb patch.
• Cocoa butter
• Fear – a sour, foxy reek
• Jonquils in a sunny beeswax-polished hallway
• Chamomile – though not camomile tea
• Bacon, coffee, cigarettes at the moment of lighting – all notoriously smelling better than they taste
• A gardenia and a magnolia flower – often talked-about, seldom experienced for real
• An iris bed in bloom: the flowers DO have a scent – an unforgettable smell
• Stargazer lilies
• Hot tar
• Indian basil
• Narcisse Noir de Caron
• Guelder rose – that gorgeous vibernum shrub reminiscent of expensive vanilla & peach ice cream.
• Broad bean flowers
• Methylated spirits
• Vanilla pods
• Gorse – coconut frosted with sea salt in May sunshine.
• Lemons – like the sweet peas, the colour and scent are mutually enhancing.
• Clove pinks
• Fresh oysters on ice
• Nail polish remover
• Hot custard
• Marlene’s hands, 1972 – covered in Youth Dew
• Linseed oil
• Bonfires – in small doses
• A well-soaked sherry trifle
• New potatoes boiling with mint
• ‘Iles Flottantes’ – that exquisite dessert delicacy first tasted at a French service station
• Steaming hen mash
• Kaolin & morphine medicine
• A rose
• Sealing wax
• Newly-washed hair
• Hot mince pies
• The bitterness of poppies
• Scalding hot tea
• Linden blossom
• The inside of handbags
• Myrtle – always a cutting in a royal bride’s bouquet
Anything from LES SENTEURS….’
Which you can find at: 71 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 9PJ/020-7730 2322