Scented Snippets – fascinating facts from the history of fragrance

Following a fragrant trail, we present for your delectation a selection of the choicest scented snippets from history. You don’t have to be a history buff (or anorak – though we proudly claim that title at Perfume Society Towers!) to be bewitched by the history of fragrance. We know it’s been used to communicate with the Gods, to seduce, as a display of wealth – or for pure pleasure – for thousands of years. (And perhaps much longer, even if archaeologists can’t yet find the tangible proof through their excavations.)

Perfume’s fascinating trail leads us from Ancient Egypt to Ancient Greece, to Rome – where rosewater played in fountains – and up to France, where Louis XIV’s court was known as ‘la cour parfumée‘, with the king demanding a different fragrance for every single day…

 Egyptian priests, and their Pharoahs, were entombed with fragrances – and when those tombs were opened by archaeologists, in 1897, the perfumes were discovered to have retained their original, sweet smells.  Important figures in Egyptian history were buried with scented oils, to ensure their ‘olfactory needs’ were fulfilled.

Many of those ingredients are still prized in perfumery today.  Jasmine, hand-picked in the morning.  Frankincense resin, still gathered from the Boswellia shrub, with entire forests cloaking areas of Oman, Yemen, Ethiopia.  (Egyptian Queen Hatsheput was apparently crazy for frankincense:  wall paintings on her temple, showing a large-scale expedition to collect frankincense from the ancient land of Punt.)  They used Nile lotus, myrrh, madonna lilies, honey…

 

 

 

If the art of ancient perfumery was to have a ‘face’, a figurehead, it would surely be Cleopatra.  As legend tells it, she had the the sails of her boat coated with fragrant oils before setting to sea:  ‘The perfumes diffused themselves to the vessel to the shore, which was covered with multitudes.’  Her idea was that Mark Antony would get a waft of her arrival even before he caught sight of her.  As Shakespeare put it:

‘The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burn’d on the water;  the poop was beaten gold,
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them…
… From the barge, a strange invisible perfume hits the sense…’

(Which neatly explains the name of a niche Californian fragrance brand, Strange Invisible Perfumes, NB.)

 

 

Public baths were The Big Thing in Ancient Rome, with the affluent classes devoted to body care. Think:  balms, oils, perfumes for skin, hair – and living spaces.  (Food had to appeal to the nose as well as the palate, too, through spicy aromas.)  Even public spaces might be scented:  Emperor Nero was so crazy about roses, he had silver pipes installed so that his dinner guests could be spritzed with rosewater.  (According to legend, he once shelled out £100,000 for a ‘waterfall’ of rosepetals which actually smothered one guest, killing him.  Quite a way to go.)

 

 

Marco Polo brought exotic aromatics and scented goods back to his home city of Venice.  The great explorer returned laden with fragrant treasures from the new civilisations he’d discovered, on his voyage. This major trading hub flourished for a while as the centre of the perfume world. Almost everything was perfumed:  shoes, stockings, gloves, shirts, even coins.  Glamorous women carried or wore a silver version of the pomander, wafting trails of scent through the little perforations, as they moved, helping to block out the fetid smells of the streets and canals.  Meanwhile, doctors wore long robes and bird-like masks stuffed with aromatic herbs to shield themselves against epidemics (including deadly plague).

 

 

 

Queen Elizabeth I beckoned Venetian traders to Southampton to offer their scented wares:  it became fashionable to wear musk- and rose-scented pomanders and sachets, in particular. But soon, the epicentre of perfumery moved from Italy to France – thanks to the influence of Queen Catherine de Medici (above), who married King Henri II in 1533.  Until then, French enjoyment of the scent world was mostly in the form of little scented sachets (called ‘coussines’) or moulded clay bottles (known as ‘oilselets de chypre’).  But Catherine brought with her from her native Tuscany scented gloves, the perfume used to mask the unpleasant aroma of poorly-tanned leather.  At the same time, her personal perfumer set up shop in Paris, where he was besieged by orders.

Want to follow the fragrant trail onwards? Find out much more from every era – and what happened next – on our pages dedicated to the history of fragrance

 

Cologne to Parfum: your quick-read, easy guide to scent strengths

From Colognes to extraits, splashes to after shaves – there are so many differing types of fragrance categories now that it can be hard to tell one from another and where to begin. Read our handy guide, below, and get your nose in the know!

Descriptions like Eau de Toilette or Eau de Parfum are used to identify the strength or concentration of oil in the carrier (or base – usually alcohol) in a fragrance composition. These concentrations can vary from fragrance to fragrance, depending on how that particular brand like to blend their scents, but use this is a rule of thumb (or nose!)

 

 

Extract/extrait/solid perfume – 20-30%

Perfume – 15-25 %

Eau de Parfum  (EDP) – 8-15%

Eau de Toilette (EDT) – 4-8%

Cologne (EDC) –  2-4%

Body cream/lotion –  3-4%

After Shave/Splash  – 2-4%

Soap – 2-4%

 

In general, the higher the percentage, the longer it will last on your skin, and therefore, the higher the price – but do be aware that different concentrations (Perfume, or Eau de Toilette, etc.) may sometimes have differing notes in them, and not simply be weaker or stronger. So when you like a fragrance, we suggest you explore it in all its different concentrations before you find your favourite… Perhaps in the heat, seek some shade and read our recent guide to which classic and contemporary Colognes we recommend for cooling down – we’ve included the fascinating history of the Cologne to tickle your senses, too.

 

 

Some people like to layer their scent types throughout the day. Here’s how:

Begin with a refreshing splash of Cologne to get thoses senses revving, and then wear an Eau de Toilette for day time.

In hot temperatures, consider layering a Cologne or Eau de Toilette with a matching (or unscented) body lotion, as dry skin makes fragrance fade faster.

Try one of the many new hair perfumes – a delightful way to wear your scent, often imbued with moisturising, protective properties as a bouns when temperatures soar (and alcohol-based scents can sizzle dry hair).

As evening falls and you head out on the town, switch things up by adding a spritz of Eau de Parfum to leave a sultrier trail that will last as long your night does.

And for the boudoir – a dab of pure Parfum or Extrait will tempt until the next day (or night) but wont project as far as an Eau de Parfum. Think of them as stronger concentrations, but in a hushed form – only for you and whomever you allow to get that close to nuzzle your neck and admire…

Is your nose twitching to find out more? See our brilliant FAQ section – there to answer your questions and put the sense into scents.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

The Good Oudh Guide

Oudh (often also spelled oud) is omnipotent – way beyond the ‘trend’ it was first thought of when it began wafting in the fragrance aisles of the Western hemisphere, it’s practically become its own perfume family. Though beloved in the Middle East and in many cultures around the world for centuries, there are some who still clutch their pearls a little at the mere mention of the word, let alone a whiff of that ultra-woody, multi-faceted fragrance.

But all oudhs are not the same beast (though they can indeed be redolent of the farmyard), and just as with any fragrance ingredient, depending on the type, quality and quantity the perfumer has used, the over-arching olfactory effect can be massively different. Think of it like giving a cheese naysayer to a slab of blue-veined Stilton as their very first taste, or an oozingly ripe Camembert – perhaps a more gentle intro might have been a nibble at a mild Cheddar, or the cool, crumbly creaminess of a Wensleydale? It’s the same with any potentially heady ingredient in a fragrance, you might want to dip your toes in a softer evocation before drenching yourself with the olfactory equivalent of an offensive weapon.

Before we dive in to the fragrances themselves, let’s start with a 101 refresher on what oudh actually is…

 

 

 

WTF is Oudh, anyway?

The resinous heart-wood from fast-growing evergreen trees – usually the Aquilaria tree – oudh is actually agarwood: a result of a reaction to a fungal attack (stick with us, here), which turns this usually pale and light wood into a deliciously dark, resinous wood with a distinct fragrance. From that ‘rotten’ wood, an oil is made, then blended into perfume, and the highly scented wood of the tree can also be burned – often at prestigious or religious occasions and celebrations, such as marriage ceremonies – because it’s believed the fragrant smoke creates harmony, removing negative energies from sacred spaces.

 

 

 

 

What does it smell like?

The aroma of natural oud is distinctively irresistible and attractive often with bitter sweet and woody nuances: seriously earthy (and in small quantities, seriously sexy). It can equally be fresher, softer, reminiscent of a romp in a hay barn, or the dry grasses of a meadow on sweltering summer day. Because of how long it takes to produce, and the protection of Aquilaria trees (in a similar way that sandalwood is now highly protected and restricted), as an alternative, perfumers have often now turned to synthetic oudh. Highly trained noses will tell you that the synthetic version can smell plainer (thinner), more woody and leathery, but without the rounded, warm, ultra-animalic and balsamic qualities of the original. Of course, in many compositions this may be desirable and, therefore, more suitable than natural oudh.

 

 

 

Why is it so expensive?

Collection of agarwood from natural forests is now illegal under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endanged Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), but some is now beginning to be plantation grown in Vietnam. This process can take hundreds of years, hence the high cost – it’s also known as ‘liquid gold’ – the scarcity of the real stuff, and why sythetic oudhs may be blended with a natural ingredient, or used instead of.

 

 

 

honey-oud-b

A really good introduction to how oudh can be used in a nuanced way – almost as a seasoning instead of the main flavour – this one is actually delicious (as in, if it came in a jar, I’d want to slather it on buttered toast and guzzle it, or perhaps slather myself in it and roll on a meadow). The dark, spiced honeyed note deepens as the oud kicks in. Intensely nuzzle-able, there’s nothing whatever to frighten the horses, here.

Floris Honey Oud from £22 for 10ml eau de parfum
florislondon.com 

 

 

 

Using pure oudh oil from their own plantations, Fragrance du Bois weave woodiness through a salt-tinged sea breeze wafting mandarin’s freshness, and the cool, cardamom-infused whoosh of mountain air. Warming the heart with a resinous, gilded gleam of frankincense and warm amber, the oudh wraps sacred onycha (an ancient spice added to incense) and sweet myrrh in the kind of heavenly mistiness that invokes rapture.

Fragrance du Bois Oud Bleu Intense £295 for 50ml eau de parfum
jovoyparis.uk

 

 

 

 

Unashamedly salacious, the Turkish and Bulgarian roses entwine with gently powdered violet for an evocation of bare limbs caressed by silky sheets; add to this mental image a silver bowl of decadent white chocolates decorated with violets, slowly melting into your sensorially satiated smile. An animalic smokiness underpins the sensuously draped covers, making this the perfect after-dark fragrance for illicit encounters…

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood £215 for 70ml eau de parfum
selfridges.com

 

 

Described as ‘the olfactory projection of silence’, you can guess this one is hushed, evoking a gentle yet meaningful glance which fosters an immediate understanding, a merging of souls. But you don’t need to relate to the esoteric explanation. Simply delight in the pairing of blossom-y florals rippled with raspberry and a drift of tobacco, the smoothest Iranian oud billowing to benzoin, white spruce and airily transparent musk.

The House of Oud Empathy £220 for 75ml eau de parfum
harveynichols.com

 

By Suzy Nightingale

 

Hello ’22! A fragrant new year (and new you) with a VERY special offer

New year, new you? Fragrance is the easiest way to revive your spirits or change the vibe (with no counting calories or impossible exercise routines or self-imposed ‘rules’ to follow!) A new scent can give you more confidence and energy or soothe the senses after a difficult time. It can also be your ‘shoulder pads in a bottle’ best friend – or a hug in a bottle, helping you feeling better about yourself every single day.

If you’re new here (hello!) and don’t know all the things we do, or just want to start the new year as you mean to go on; why not consider some of the fragrance-filled options below, and join us in the scented celebrations…

 

Treat yourself to something new (with 22% off*)

Now all the Christmas gifts have been exchanged, we think YOU deserve an extra present for getting through all of last year. We’re welcoming in the new year in the most fragrant way possible, by giving you 22% of ALL our Perfume Society Discovery Boxes (when you spend £40 or more)!

Simply select your favourite Perfume Society Discovery Boxes (*minimum spend £40, valid on Perfume Society Discovery Boxes only, offer ends 7th January 2022) and enter the code Hello22 at checkout.

 

Take the stress out of scent shopping

Fragrance can be bewildering, and finding a new one often overwhelming – that’s exactly why we started The Perfume Society, to take the stress out of shopping for a new scent. How can you find your perfect perfume? What’s the best way to take care of it? How can you make it last longer? Where should fragrance be applied, to get the most out of every spritz? Nobody’s born knowing these things, so we’ve collated answers to dozens of the questions we’re regularly asked in our FAQ section. Simply head there and click on the question, and your answer will appear!

 

Find your next favourite fragrance

How can you find the perfect scent to suit you? It’s a question we’re asked more than any other, and can be somewhat overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin. And that’s at the best of times – let alone trying to navigate buying a new scent from your sofa, without sniffing beforehand!

We have the perfect perfume solution: our genius Fragrance Finder

You’re simply asked to type in the name of a fragrance you like already, and the so-clever algorithm does all the work for you. This is a computer system that was first set up decades ago, when our clever Co-Founder Lorna McKay had an idea how to help customers of Liberty’s perfumery seek out their next scents.

That computer program has been fully updated with key words comparing and describing hundreds of thousands of fragrances – not only the fragrance notes, but how the fragrance will make you feel, the atmosphere the perfumer has created, the character of the scent itself. All you need do is type in the name of a fragrance you already love and you’ll be given an immediate list of six scents to seek out, all at various price points and with characteristics you’re extremely likely to swoon for. Honestly, try it – they’re quite spookily accurate!

Become a V.I.P

For just just £12 per year, you can join our special VIP club and receive the following exclusive benefits for 12 months of fragrant fun…

Special Discounts:  £4 off our professionally-curated Perfume Society Discovery Boxes, you’ll hear about all the launches before anyone else. This year we will be offering even greater discounts and some fabulous 24-hour price drop opportunities exclusive to our VIPs.

Digital Subscription to The Scented Letter: You can read more about this below, but all VIPs get immediate access to our award-winning online magazine, delivered to their in-box– featuring perfumes, perfumers, ingredients and so much more devoted to all things fragrant. Psst ..we’ll send you the latest Scented Letter as soon as you sign up..!

Event Tickets: Early access to events – virtually and in real life…meeting with leading ‘noses’ and key figures from the perfume world.

Exclusive Prizes: just for VIPs.

(Please note: due to shipping restrictions we cannot send our boxes to the Republic of Ireland or internationally.)

 

 

Read The Scented Letter, our multi-award-winning perfume magazine, now FREE for everyone!

Described as a ‘must-read’ by industry insiders and perfume-lovers, we are delighted that our gorgeous and fact-packed digital magazine, The Scented Letter, is now free for everyone to read in digital format online. You can read the most recent Time to Shine issue, here. But don’t worry, if you prefer print, the magazine (and back issues) is also available to order in gorgeously printed form via our Online Shop.

Appearing FOUR times a year this utterly beautiful magazine, featuring at least 60 pages on perfume news, features and much more will take them ever-deeper into the scented world, via our Latest Launches round-up of the new men’s and women’s scents, exclusive interviews with the world’s best perfumers, stunning spreads devoted to the fascinating history and future-forward trends shaping the perfume world.

However you choose to celebrate in scent, we wish you a wonderful (and fabulously fragrant) year ahead for 2022!

The scent of wellness – when perfumes are more than just pretty

Perfumes can be far more than merely ‘pretty’ – certain scents can truly impart a feeling of wellness, uplift our moods and remind us of happy memories.

Increasingly, people are turning to aromatherapy and using smell to soothe stress, add a sense of comfort or revive their spirits. But fragrances you wear have the benefit of being emotionally restorative all day.

In fact, we’re pre-conditioned to have smell preferences, and our response is based partly on our individual genetic make-up (our DNA), and partly on our life experiences. So: that crushed tomato leaf note that reminds you of a beloved grandmother and her greenhouse – or the jasmine that was growing round a door when you were poorly on holiday, and which you can now hardly stomach.

Many people use fragrance as a boost for their spirits, perhaps without realising they’re doing so, and there is even a name for the science behind this: ‘aromachology’.

 

 

It’s been scientifically proven that different aromas can impact on mood and emotions – not just personally, but affecting those around you: Bergamot is a feel-good ingredient, peppermint makes you perkier and more alert, and grapefruit – believe it or not – apparently makes others believe you’re younger than you are!

Understanding the way differing notes in a fragrance can make us feel is one reason so many of us have a ‘wardrobe’ of fragrances, rather than just one signature scent: a perfume to make us feel ready to wind down, after a hard day staring at a computer screen; a scent to give us a weekend vibe – or simply something that we spritz on for work, in the morning, which makes us feel more focused and professional, in the same way as a smart suit or a crisp white shirt.

If you love the smell of a fragrance, allow yourself the luxury of a few minutes each day: inhaling the changing aromas as they warm on your skin and focusing on the smell alone.

 

 

Spray a scent on a blotter, preferably; close your eyes and keep sniffing for several seconds, then take the blotter away, inhale deeply, and re-sniff the blotter again. Repeat this for a minute or so, and then begin writing a few words in a notebook. It doesn’t have to be a description, and it shouldn’t ‘list’ notes – try to use words that make you think of other things. For example…

If this scent were a fabric, what would it be? What colour? If you made someone an outfit from that fabric, who would they be, where would they be going?

If it were a piece of music, what instruments would be playing? Is it classical, rock music, pop, rap or jazz?

When you’re smelling a fragrance this way, attempt to get past thinking ‘I do / don’t like this’ and focus instead on the mood it’s creating, the place or person it reminds you of. Lock a happy image in your mind, and whenever you wear that fragrance – or even think of it again – the joy of that memory or daydream will be yours to relish in, forever.

It’s genuinely life-changing!

To aid your fragrant wellness explorations, we recommend trying samples of several differing scents – even ones you wouldn’t perhaps be normally drawn to. Diversifying the range of fragrances you try will actively improve your sense of smell over time – just as eating a wider range of foods expands your palate.

 

 

Grab the opportunity to try this hand-picked selection of fragrances before they sell out – some of our very favourites for their mood-boosting effects – in the Launches We Love Discovery Box. £23 (£19 for VIPs). There’s 12 fabuoulous fragrances to try, including…

Contradictions in Ilk, Virtuous: Inspired by purity, specifically monks living in cloisters in the Tuscan hills – close your eyes and you can feel yourself walking through a fresh and cleansing herb garden, the aromatic plants offering up their therapeutic benefits as you pass them by. You then reach the cool stone walls of the monastery, catching the trailing vapours of old leather and incense coming from within, as a serene stillness settles over you.

Shay & Blue, Tallulah’s Camellia: The second you spritz this fragrance, you get an immediate sense of its personality, of who Tallulah might be – a rebellious, dancing and twirling through a woodland carpeted with bluebells, with bewitching heart notes of white florals, bringing to mind sheer, floaty dresses worn with hair untamed; a girl beholden to no-one as these soft, gauzy, dreamy notes take hold. The only thing that grounds her? A warm yet strong base of woods and white tea, entirely at one with nature and somehow, through that, very grounding.

Ahhh… now isn’t that better?

Orange blossom: how to bottle sunshine

Did you ever sleep in a field of orange-trees in bloom? The air which one inhales deliciously is a quintessence of perfumes. This powerful and sweet smell, as savoury as a sweetmeat, seems to penetrate one, to impregnate, to intoxicate, to induce languor, to bring about a dreamy and somnolent torpor. It is like opium prepared by fairy hands and not by chemists.’ ― Guy de Maupassant, 88 Short Stories

Orange blossom is beloved by perfumers in light-filled ‘solar’ scents – a newly emerging category, and a word I’ve found increasingly used for fragrances which aren’t merely fresh, but attempt the alchemy of bottling sunshine.

It’s the bitter orange tree we have to thank for these heady white blossoms – one of the most benificent trees in the world, for it also gives us neroli, orange flower water and petitgrain – all utterly unique in smell, from verdant to va-va-voom depending how they are distilled and the quantity used in a fragrance.

Originating from Asia, the bitter orange was introduced to North Africa by crusaders of the VIIth century, and now it’s just six villages in the Nabeul region of Tunisia that provide the majority of the world’s crop. Women do most of the harvesting, the pickers swathed in headscarves climbing treacherously high-looking ladders to reach the very tops of the trees, typically working eight hours a day and gathering around 20,000 (approximately 10kg) of flowers.

 

 

When the blossoms are hydro-distilled – soaked in water before being heated, with volatile materials carried away in the steam to condense and separate – the extracted oil is neroli, the by-product being orange flower water, while petitgrain is the essential oil steam distilled from the leaves and green twigs.

Long steeped in bridal mythology, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she chose orange blossom to decorate her dress, carried sprigs in her bouquet and even wore a circlet of the blossoms fashioned from gold leaves, white porcelain flowers and green enamelled oranges in her hair. It firmly planted the fashion for ‘blushing brides’ being associated with orange blossom – but this pretty flower can hide a naughty secret beneath its pristine petals…

 

 

While the primly perfect buds might visually convey a sign of innocence, their heady scent can, conversely, bring a lover to their knees with longing. In his novel The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa chronicles crossing an orange grove in full flower, describing ‘…the nuptial scent of the blossoms absorbed the rest as a full moon does a landscape… that Islamic perfume evoking houris [beautiful young women] and fleshly joys beyond the grave.’

It’s the kind of floral that might signify sunshine and gauzy gowns or veritably snarl with sensuality. Similar to the narcotic addictiveness of jasmine, with something of tuberose’s potency; orange blossom posesses none of that cold, grandiose standoffishness of some white florals: it pulsates, warmly, all the way.

 

Perfumer Alberto Morillas associates the scent of orange blossom with his birthplace: ‘I’m from Seville, when I’m creating a fragrance, all my emotion goes back to my home,’ Alberto told me, talking about his inspiration for Solar Blossom (below). ‘You have the sun, the light and water – always a fountain in the middle of the square – and “solar” means your soul is being lifted upwards.’

Oh, how we need that bottled sunshine when summer fades; an almost imperceptible shifting of the light that harkens misty mornings, bejwelled spiderwebs and sudden shivers…

Why not swathe yourself in these light-filled fragrances to huddle against the Stygian gloom? I love wearing them year-round, to remind me sunny days will return, that things will be brighter, presently.

 

Mizensir Solar Blossom Luminescent, life-affirming, a shady Sevillian courtyard with eyes and hearts lifted to the glorious sun, ripples of laughter and birdsong.
£185 for 100ml eau de parfum harveynichols.com

Sana Jardin Berber Blonde A shimmering haze of Moroccan magic, orange blossom diffused by dusk, a languid sigh of inner contentment.
£95 for 100ml sanajardin.com

Stories By Eliza Grace No.1 Waves of warmth giving way to fig tea sipped beneath the shade of whispering trees, bare feet on sun-warmed flagstones, fingers entwined, forever dancing.
£75 for 30ml eau de parfum elizagrace.com

 

Elie Saab Girl of Now Youthful sophistication via juicy pear and pistachio sway to opulent orange blossom at this fragrances marzipan heart, melding to a carefree, dreamy base.
£42 for 30ml eau de parfum (but try a 2ml sample in the Eau So Fresh Discovery Box)

By Suzy Nightingale

You are my sunshine: why solar scents are soaring

What do we mean by calling a scent solar ? Although not an official fragrance family, it’s a word we’ve seen increasingly used to describe a whole range of recent launches.

Filled with sunshine, radiant and sparkling, we might once have called these fragrances ‘fresh-floral’ or, more prosaically, ‘citrus’. A new way of referencing scent taps into the zeitgeist, reflects how we’re feeling as a society and, therefore, how we want to project ourselves. In a world that for so long has seemed dark and scary, perhaps it’s only natural we’re being ever-more drawn to scents offering an olfactory ray of sunshine.

Actual solar flares are intense bursts of radiation emanating from the sun that can affect radio waves and send your Google Maps haywire. In a fragrance, yes ‘solar’ denotes a feeling of sunshine – but with it a physical feeling of being uplifted, of turning our faces toward the light source, a perfumed purr of warm cat contentedness.

Citrus notes are vital, but in this new genre they differ from Colognes because solar scents are more multi-layered: mellowed by breezy blossoms, dappled with cooler herbs or touched with a tingle of sheer spices and warm woods.

So, why is ‘solar’ trending? Quite simply, we need something that goes deeper than a quick, zesty pick-me-up; beyond merely feeling momentarily refreshed. As Louisa May Alcott puts it in Little Women, ‘Some people seemed to get all sunshine, and some all shadow.’ And quite frankly, with the state of the world at the moment, aren’t we all weary of shadows?

So, why not soak yourself in these solar scents, look towards the light, and let the sunshine in…?

 

Wear these solar scents for instant sunshine Escentric Molecules M+ Mandarin

Escentric Molecules M+ Mandarin £95 for 100ml eau de parfum
The KAPOW! of super-charged, fruity brightness  feels like clouds parting and ends with a hug of ‘your skin but better’ softness. Sophisticated freshness that keeps on going (and helps you hang on to hope).

 

 

Sunny solar scents for summer Floral Street Arizona Bloom 
Floral Street Arizona Bloom from £24 for 10ml eau de parfum
Capturing the heart-soaring feeling of freedom this wide-open vista evokes a desert oasis. Queen of the Night flower lush with Balinese coconut, grounded by woody oakmoss and salted musks.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Vitae Cologne Forte (2ml of all three new MFK eaux de parfum are in Eau So Fresh Discovery Box, £23
Sun-drenched mandarin mixes with a sunny floral accord and brings to mind the warmest, glowiest early afternoon light, underpinned by the sensuality of the fragrance.

  

ESTEE_LAUDER_BRONZE_GODDESS_AZUR.j
Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess Azur £44 for 50ml eau de toilette
Sicilian lemon, Italian bergamot and Calabrian mandarin are shot through with salty licks of luminescence – neroli and orange flower buoyed by shafts of sunlight, warming to blissfully body-warmed milkiness.

 


Shay & Blue Mermaid Kisses (2ml eau de toilette is part of The Scented Retreat Discovery Box, £23)
Think honeydew melon, holiday cocktails on the shoreline at sunset, looking out to an endless horizon. We’re dreaming of bare, bronzed shoulders kissed by the evening air, the excitement of tomorrow’s adventures.

By Suzy Nightingale

What is niche fragrance, and where do you begin…?!

So what is niche fragrance? That word is often flung around in the fragrance world, but sometimes we don’t stop to wonder about it. So what does that term actually mean, and where should you begin your fragrance journey…?

[Psst! Scroll down to find out how you can try well over £1,000 worth of niche fragrance – if you got the full sizes – for just £19!]

‘Niche’ perfumery began by referring to fragrances made independently, so not owned by a large brand. They can also be called ‘artisanal’, and because they were privately owned, often were able to take risks that larger, more corporately-inclined companies could not.

These smaller houses sometimes had a single person behind them – acting as founder, perfumer, Creative Director and PR person (and probably chief tea-maker, too!) The founder might also be self-taught in perfumery, rather than the traditional route of studying chemistry and then training at schools such as ISIPCA.

It might be useful to think of ‘niche’ fragrance as the catwalk of the perfume world. Unique ideas are celebrated, and might seem completely wacky or out-there, but actually tend to create trends that ripple down to the high street. Suddenly the ‘shoulder pads’ of the scent world are everywhere!

As niche houses became increasingly popular, some more established, larger houses began introducing more daring fragrance collections we also term as ‘niche’ – referring to the more artistic, less traditionally commercial style of perfumery rather than the size of the house itself.

But where can you begin discovering niche fragrances? At The Perfume Society we know that not everyone happens to live near a perfumery stocking niche scents (or even a department store with a diverse selection) – and even if you do, it’s sometimes overwhelming to work out where to even begin. What’s more, because of various lockdowns meaning we couldn’t even get to the shops – and new Covid-19 health protocols meaning testers aren’t readily available to smell in-store – it can be even trickier to actually get your nose on niche fragrance!

Trying a fragrance sample at home is the best way to truly discover if you love a scent – you need to live with it on your skin for several hours. A Discovery Set means you can try the entire collection from a niche fragrance house, and our curated Discovery Boxes allow you to smell things you’d perhaps never have considered (or not heard of) before.

Because we understand you’re missing browsing, spraying and smelling, in the latest we curated a selection of some of the finest niche fragrances out there to try at home. Click here for a detailed description of each scent, and on the names of the houses to read all about their individual histories. There’s no better way to begin your discovery of niche than right here.

In the Niche Collection VI you’re getting to try well over £1,000 worth of fragrance (if you had to buy them all as separate full-sizes to try) for less than the price of your average Deliveroo! This is what’s included…

 

ånd fragrance Sånd 2ml EDP 2ml eau de parfum (full size £35 for 10ml)
Atkinsons 24 Old Bond Street 2ml eau de cologne (£99 for 100ml)
Brioni Brioni 1.8ml eau de parfum (£70 for 60ml)
Eight & Bob Annicke 1 2ml eau de parfum (£55 for 30ml)
Initio Addictive Vibration1.5ml eau de parfum (£190 for 90ml)
Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 7.5ml eau de parfum (£36 for 30ml)
J.U.S Parfums Sexycrush 1.2ml eau de parfum (£165 for 100ml)
Lalique Noir Premier Plume Blanche 1901 1.8ml eau de parfum (£210 for 100ml)
Paco Rabanne Pacollection Strong Me 1.5ml eau de parfum (£65 for 62ml)
St Giles The Writer 2ml eau de parfum (£130 for 100ml)
A’Kin Cleansing Micellar Water 30ml  (£12.50 for 150ml)

The Niche Collection VI Discovery Box is priced £19 + p&p* to VIP Club Members (£23 + p&p* to everyone else) – be sure to log into your account to take advantage of the special VIP Club price.

If this is your first time trying a niche fragrance, read our tips on how best to smell a new scent. Basically, you need to give it time to develop on your skin. Often the niche fragrances can be more complex (or just very different to more everyday mainstream scents you might be used to) so they can take you on more of journey as they unfurl throughout the day.

We do hope this helps explains things about ‘niche’ fragrance a bit more. One thing’s for sure: wherever you begin your niche fragrance journey, we’ve a hunch you’re going to fall madlly in love with many of them along the way…

By Suzy Nightingale

Ask Uncle James – Perfume problems? Our agony uncle has all the answers…

We’re so happy to have Uncle James (a.k.a professional fragrance consultant and expert, James Craven) on board with The Perfume Society. He’s the ‘agony uncle’ here to answer all your perfume problems and solve your scent woes…

In the first part of his answers to your queries, James explained where to spray fragrance to make it last longer and radiate on your skin, and how to go about choosing a ‘seasonal scent’. This time he’s been tapping away at his typewriter to help with questions about allergies and what fragrances might be best to start a budding 15 year old perfumista with.

Don’t forget you can ask your questions using the form below (scroll down) and they might get featured in the next edition of The Scented Letter Magazine. But for now, Uncle James, it’s over to you!

Uncle James Craven

I think I’m allergic to some fragrances as I get a rash on my skin and some make me sneeze. How do I find out what’s causing this, and any suggestions for how I can still enjoy fragrance? 

James says: Keep calm. Make a list of all the perfumes that you think have caused adverse reactions. Establish what notes they have in common by reading up on them online (I would of course point you in the direction of The Perfume Society), then by process of trial and error try to discover the ‘joker’ in the pack. The help of an experienced sales assistant in a sympathetic perfumery can be very useful here – and hopefully before very long at all, we will once again be able to venture into stores. Talking it over often clarifies matters no end and sudden enlightenment dawns.

Allergies come and go, often abruptly. Don’t automatically blame chemicals and synthetics: natural organic oils are now recognised as equally liable to be allergenic. Meanwhile you might still enjoy perfume as our ancestors did – anywhere but on the skin, so instead on scarves, the linings of coats, soft furnishings… And remember, sublime fragrances are all around us, not just confined to bottles.

Uncle James Craven

What styles of fragrance might be suitable for a 15-year-old who’s just starting to get into perfume? And how can I tell her to wear it so that it doesn’t overwhelm those around her? 

James says: Your young friend is lucky to have you. Most 15-year-olds love analysing themselves so encourage this young woman to do just that. Ask her to define her personality in her own mind, and then introduce her to the most empathetic sales consultant at your favourite perfumery. This maven – if worth her salt – will assist the young person in interpreting and expressing herself via a fragrance that fits like a handmade glove.

Youth is best showcased by light, subtle – but not necessarily naive –scents. We are all allowed a few garish fragrance mistakes as we develop our tastes, and perfume picking should always be fun. But I have found that most teenagers naturally actually tend to shyness and restraint when it comes to choosing and spraying fragrance.

I hope I have not grown cynical with the years – but the surest way to ensure an ingenue will NOT do something is to beg her to do that very thing. So maybe pass her the Giorgio and the Poison!

What questions have you always wanted to ask an expert? Put your perfume problems to Uncle James and he’ll get thinking…

Ask James Craven (The 'Perfume Agony Uncle')

Your questions for James Craven, The Perfume Society's 'Perfume Agony Uncle'
  • Could it be 'how do I know when a fragrance suits me?' or 'How can I make scent last longer on my skin?' or even 'Which fragrance should I wear to make me feel invincible?!'
  • (You can remain 'anonymous' if you wish, but please make up a nom de plume so we can separate questioners!)

Ask Uncle James – our new ‘agony uncle’ James Craven solves your perfume problems

We’ve a brand new team member for you to welcome – our agony uncle, James Craven (a.k.a. ‘Uncle James’). We asked you to pour out your perfume problems, Cologne conundrums and scented setbacks to him in The Scented Letter magazine, and with his years of experience and expert eloquence, he has answered!

‘Helping a client to find the perfect scent requires the combined skills of a psychologist, palmist and priest’ James always (half) jokes, and his career has been defined not only by the vast knowledge he’s gleaned over the years he’s worked in retail as a fragrance expert, but his ability to ‘match’ people to their perfect perfume and answer any number of queries.

 

 

The Perfumed Agony Uncle column debuts in the latest ‘Perfume’s Bright Future’ edition of our award-winning magazine, The Scented Letter, (free to VIP Subscribers, also available to purchase in glossy print form and via International Online Subscriptions) but we wanted to share some of his words of wisdom with you here, too.

Truly, what James doesn’t know about perfume could probably be written on the back of a stamp. His advice is gold dust, and so we’re sprinkling some of that here for you (along with many scented spritzes, of course!)

Where should I apply perfume so that it lasts? I know Marilyn Monroe apparently said she sprayed it wherever she wanted to be kissed, but I’m more interested in smelling fabulous all day! 

Uncle James says: ‘Crucially, apply to the pulse points of the body: these radiate heat, thus intensifying the expansion of perfume. But also spray on clean hair: being porous, hair is an excellent retainer and diffuser of scent. (If you’re worried about the alcohol in a perfume drying out hair, try one of the many, many hair fragrances which have been launched in the past few years.

Spray on washable natural fibre clothing and dab perfume on the eyebrows and ankles – yes, really! (They certainly do that in France, where they surely know a thing or two about the delights of parfum.) But please also understand that perfume is a poignantly fleeting pleasure : like a lovely piece of music it enchants and then it fades. Reapplication is a gracious and seductive ritual, not a chore. Enjoy it!’

Is it true that fragrances are seasonal and, if so, which styles of fragrance are best for spring?

Uncle James says: It’s certainly understandable that anyone might want to celebrate the emergence from an especially grim winter with a new scent for a ‘new you’. If you want to personify spring in your own aura, then try leafy greens (see the question below), light woody colognes and fresh florals that echo the stirring natural scents outside. You should always wear what excites and pleases you, and the start of a new season is a great time to kickstart exploring new scents, ingredients and fragrance families.’

Do you have a scent query you need solving? Don’t forget to add your questions for James in the form, below, for the next issue…

Ask James Craven (The 'Perfume Agony Uncle')

Your questions for James Craven, The Perfume Society's 'Perfume Agony Uncle'
  • Could it be 'how do I know when a fragrance suits me?' or 'How can I make scent last longer on my skin?' or even 'Which fragrance should I wear to make me feel invincible?!'
  • (You can remain 'anonymous' if you wish, but please make up a nom de plume so we can separate questioners!)

 

By Suzy Nightingale