Rain, rain… come to stay? Why we love that smell

Most of the U.K. seems to have spent the last few days with a deluge of rain, and while we cannot help but mourn the last days of summer, for many of us, that smell of rain is actually a reason to rejoice…

‘Petrichor’ is the technical name for that unmistakable (though so-difficult to describe) scent of imminent rain in the air, or the damp earth following a fresh downpour. The chemical reaction of plants, bacteria and soil all combine to create that experience that follows a thunderstorm, a phenomena first discovered by two Austrialian researchers in the 1960s, and published in a scientific paper called Nature of Argillaceous Odour.

For the less technically challenging explanation, we recently enjoyed watching Today I Read‘s lovely short film on their Facebook page, all about the smell of rain, but we’re so obsessed we couldn’t leave it there.

One of the books on our scented shelf is The Smell of Fresh Rain, by Barney Shaw. Going in search of the meanings of smells (and how they help shape our lives), author Barney Shaw went on a journey of exploration for this book celebrating ‘The unexpected pleasures of our most elusive sense.’ 

From describing petrichor to researching the scent of fresh paint, frying bacon and pondering the question of what three o’clock in the morning smells like, it’s a fascinating ride to be part of. And part of it you most definitely are, as merely reading this book expands your mind to the possibilities and scents you take forgranted every single day. We especially loved the observation that ‘Unlike sight, smell does not travel in straight lines, so it is valuable in environments when sight does not serve well…’

Indeed, as Helen Keller once said, smell truly is ‘the fallen angel of the senses.’ We may not use it to seek out a sabre-toothed tiger or find food anymore, but the ability is there, or emotional reactions are built-in, unbidden.

An excellent book for anyone interested in exploring their senses further (for flavour is so interconnected to smell, as we know, and addressed within the book); those who write about perfume or smell in any respect will be especially pleased by the chapter On the Tip of My Nose, which looks at the language of smell, and what we can do to improve our communication skills. Completely fascinating from start to fragrant finish!

Publisher: Icon Books

At Amazon

By Suzy Nightingale

Fragrance Family Friday: what is ‘Fresh’?

The perfume universe is divided into ‘families’. but what does this terminolgy actually mean to someone searching for a new fragrance to wear? We know it can be baffling to work out, so are here to help guide you with a new feature decoding and exploring the main fragrance families, and choosing an example we think your nose should get to know…

What are fragrance families?
Technically, ‘fragrance families’ are a classification system the perfume industry has used for years, to place individual perfumes into olfactory ‘groups’, based on their dominant characteristics. It’s part of the language of scent.

A true family, of course, has lots of members – and so it is with fragrance. Most of the eight main fragrance families will have some variations on their theme, particularly these days, as increasing numbers of fragrance houses describe their scents as ‘fresh woody floriental’ and suchlike, which is rather confusing for everyone! Here. we’ll try to break down the characters of the main families so you can discover which you’re most drawn to.

Will I only suit fragrances from one family?
Not necessarily – but it all depends on personal taste, the time of year, your mood and even what you’ve eaten recently (spicy food can mask the more subtle notes and alter how others smell on your skin for up to two weeks, for example).

In reality, very few of us have a completely jumbled wardrobe of scents from lots of different families: often without even realising, we tend to fall for one main family time and again. Just as you might open your wardrobe and find that a certain colour dominates. Instinctively, we prefer scents from some fragrance families and dislike others – although we may tend towards one particular family for colder weather, another for sunny times (or moods).

What is ‘fresh’?
Uplifting, zesty, cooling: most eau de Colognes fall into this family. They feature a whoosh of notes like lemon, bergamot, orange, grapefruit, mandarin. (These notes are also slightly randomly referred to as being ‘hesperidic’ – after the Hesperides, the nymphs from Greek mythology!)

Fresh fragrances usually smell clean, and often come in the eau de toilette and Cologne versions, though now we’re finding longer-lasting eau de parfum fragrances evoking that zingy Cologne style. These are the best of both worlds, because many citrus-based scents disappear more quickly on the skin – the oils are the lightest in perfumery so evaporate more rapidly, particularly if you have dry skin. Stronger concentrations (like Aventus Cologne – see below) allow the freshness to give you jolt of energising enjoyment for several hours – hurrah!

Ideal for splashing, and generally more suited to summer, some conjure up a sea breeze, while others smell like bottled sunshine. Many people find fresh fragrances give them a ‘lift’ – a bit of a perfumed kick up the proverbial when you’re feeling drained or in need of a quick hit of happiness.

With all this in mind, let’s take a look at a brand new fresh fragrance we feel exudes the very best of this family’s characteristics…

Aventus Cologne
FAMILY: FREsh
TOP NOTES: ginger, mandarin, pink peppercorn
HEART NOTES: patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver
BASE NOTES: styrax, birch, musk, tonka bean

How does it smell?
Lusciously juicy mandarin fizzes with a rasp of freshly grated ginger, a gentle spicy heat enhanced by the addition of pounded pink peppercorns. Just as your nose is getting used to the sunshine warmed top notes, a supremely smooth patchouli swathes creamy sandalwood and cooling vetiver for an interplay of textures and temperatures that continues to intrigue. Finally, the resinous base pulses in a throb of almond-like tonka beans amidst soft drifts of smoky musk that demands to be nuzzled…

The original Aventus is a best-selling fragrance around the world, and most particularly known for the iconic pineapple top note. Wanting to create a more summery alternative, instead of just weakening the strength and turning it into an eau de toilette, perfumer Olivier Creed – sixth generation master perfumer for the house – crafted a luminous, utterly radiant fragrance that feels like a younger (more tanned) sibling of the original. It’s uplifting and vibrant, but still carries itself confidently for hours of perfumed pleasure!

Try a sample of Aventus Cologne
You can try a sample of the just-launched Aventus Cologne at home – it’s one of an incredible SEVENTEEN fragrances we put together in The Explorer Discovery Box of more masculine-styled scents for you to wear and explore your feelings for. Will you fall for this fresh example…?

The Explorer Discovery Box £19 (£15 for VIP Club members)

PS: Don’t forget to order for Father’s Day on June 16th – our last posting day is the 11th to make sure it arrives in time!

By Suzy Nightingale

Spotlight on: Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent was a ground-breaking designer who delighted in shaking up the mainstream, always in his  stylish and undeniably sexy way, with this ethos effortlessly transferring from fashion to fine fragrance.

Producing several of the best-selling perfumes of all time, with stunning bottles that have become collectors items in their own right; not many fragrance houses can claim to have a founder who dared pose naked for his own fragrance advertising campaign, because ‘perfume is worn on the skin, so why hide the body…?’

It all began at the tender age of seven years old, when Yves Saint Laurent began designing clothes for his sister’s dolls, expressing a natural talent and indulging a dream of a career in the glamorous world of fashion design. A deacde later, and he’d enrolled on a graduate fashion course at college, winning both 1st and 3rd prize in the prestigious International Wool Design competition at only 18 years old. His talent was showcased to the world and a young Saint Laurent was offered the role of haute couture designer for the House of Dior. A dazzling debut, interrupted by a brief period of national service in the army, led Saint Laurent to opening his very own couture house, still aged just 21, and enabling him to truly express his fashion expertise.

1962 saw the dawn of the Yves Saint Laurent brand and his masterful couture creations for the rich and famous. But clothing was never the only way Yves Saint Laurent wanted to dress women – in 1964 he created his first fragrance, Y, a collaboration with perfumer Jean Amic. It was an olfactory expression of the elegance and luxury of his couture fashion – a fragrance tailored for the beautiful women he dressed. In its original packaging, the green chypre juice was housed in a bottle cut to reflect the silhouette of a woman’s head and shoulders. The letter ‘Y’ cleverly placed to represent the neckline on her dress.

In 1971 Yves Saint Laurent continued to shock when he launched his first fragrance for men, Pour Homme – posing nude for the visual, in stark representation of the values of the Yves Saint Laurent House, comfort and sophistication coupled with modernity and audacity. In the same year, he created a fragrance for the independent, free-spirited woman who shopped at his new boutique: Rive Gauche. At a time when fragrances were presented in classically feminine bottles, best stored on the dressing table at home, it was the first fragrance to be launched packaged in a tin can!

 

In 1977 Yves Saint Laurent wanted to glorify another facet of YSL femininity; sensuality and seductiveness – and women the world over were seduced by YSL’s Opium . An opulent swathe of oriental ambers and vanilla by perfumers Jean Amic and Jean-Louis Sieuzac, this audaciously-named fragrance sparked immediate controversy. As the scandal and the hype grew so did demand. Global press took straight to the newsstands to criticise Yves Saint Laurent’s determination to shock, but scandal only served to fuel desire; testers were stolen, posters were ripped down and stores sold out of stock in a matter of hours on the launch date.

Fast-forward to  2014, when the latest reinvention of the YSL woman was launched in the form of Black Opium, composed by four master perfumers (Marie Salamagne, Nathalie Lorson, Olivier Cresp and Honorine Blanc), with an overdose of black coffee accord to instantly invigorate the senses, contrasting with voluptuous white floral heart notes and a gourmand vanilla base.

The following year, Black Opium scooped Best New Fragrance for Women in the UK’s prestigious Fragrance Foundation Awards – and since then, the fragrance has acquired countless ‘collectors’, thrilled by limited editions and new ‘spins’ on this smouldering scent.

There are few people who’ve not owned and loved an Yves Saint Laurent fragrance, or who don’t have one of these – classics and modern must-haves alike – in their collection. We’d be hard-pushed to pick a favourite… so, we wonder, what would yours be? And while you’re pondering which perfume to choose, you can read all about their history in more detail on our page dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent