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 – but how can you capture this scent of’ sunshine in a bottle’ and why are these perfumes proving so popular right now…?

Filled with sunshine, radiant and sparkling, we might once have called these fragrances ‘fresh-floral’ or, more prosaically, ‘citrus’. But lately, we’ve felt that this is no more (solar) flash-in-the-pan, but the birth of a whole new fragrance family. And that doesn’t happen every day.

As with any trend, a new style or way of referencing scent doesn’t simply spring, unbidden, from nowhere. They tap into the zeitgeist, a feeling in the fragrant waters that 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 to 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 super-juicy zing of fruity brightness becomes super-charged, an immediate mood-boster that 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
Jérôme Épinette captures the heart-soaring feeling of freedom – something we’ve sorely missed – in this wide-open vista of a desert-like oasis. Queen of the Night flower’s spiced by pepper, lush with Balinese coconut, grounded by woody oakmoss and salted musks.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Vitae Cologne Forte (2ml of all three new MFK eau de parfum are in Eau So Fresh Discovery Box, £23) Juicy, 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 fragrances musk and sandalwood base.

  

ESTEE_LAUDER_BRONZE_GODDESS_AZUR.j
Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess Azur £44 for 50ml eau de toilette
Invigorating Sicilian lemon, Italian bergamot and Calabrian mandarin are shot through with sunshine and saltiness, neroli and orange flower showcased in shafts of sunlight, warming to blissfully sun-ripened fig, Ambrox, musks, coconut milk and cedarwood. Mais Oui!

 


Shay & Blue Mermaid Kisses (2ml eau de toilette is part of The Scented Retreat Discovery Box, £23)
The light, watery honeydew melon note is a pure juicy joy; think holiday cocktails on the shoreline at sunset, looking out to an endless horizon and all its possibilities, sun-warmed skin kissed by the cooler evening air and 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

Nose – the ‘smell good movie’ revealing the scent secrets of Dior perfumer, François Demachy

Nose is a more than a documentary following Dior perfumer François Demachy, it’s a paean to the raw ingredients of perfumery, and the hardworking people who grow and harvest the ingredients around the world.

Having first premiered at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, the film has just been released – watch the trailer, below, read our review and find out where you can watch…

 

 

Dior describe it as ‘A true “smell good movie” Nose sheds light on one of the most secret jobs in the world.’ And while we mostly remainly quarantined, what a wonderful way to travel by your nose it is.

‘Perfumes are a language everyone understands, but few people can speak’ Demachy explains as he sits in his office, filled with endless bottles and piles of books, later commenting that ‘For me, a perfume is a land of sharing.’ Fascinatingly, when asked what his first ever perfume was, he reveals ‘The first thing I did was a perfume intended to whet the appetites of bovine, so they would eat the fodder.’ Quite a leap to his life, now, and yet in this film we get to see how he works with the growers of the materials he so loves, eventually whetting all our appetites with their distilled passion.

In Sulawesi, Indonesia, Demachy travels for three days to visit the patchouli plantations, and says for him, it was the most rewarding part of filming Nose.

‘We took a small plane, then a four-wheel drive, followed by a hike through a few isolated villages in the middle of nowhere. That in itself was already an enjoyable adventure, but then there was this magnificent reward at the end, and I finally got to see my favorite ingredient in its natural environment, on these steep slopes… It’s quite moving to see this… This is where it all begins for perfumery.’ François Demachy remarks as he watches the freshly picked patchouli being washed (and having covered his arms in the fragrantly oily residue).

Fragrance writer Eddie Bulliqi makes an apperance at several points during the film, discussing the links between music and fragrance, and the creative process; but again, it’s the growers who are most celebrated in Nose, even more than the often romanticised life of a great perfumer.

From the idyllic fields of jasmine and rose in Grasse, we meet the women who own the land and discover exactly how hard it is to work those so-pretty fields. And we hear from Patrick Lillis, a ‘Celtic ambergris broker’ from County Clare, Ireland. As the wind and rain lash the shore, Patrick and his dog walk beside the broiling sea, and this gruff-voiced, sou’wester-wearing man waxes lyrical on the magic of ambergris in perfumery.

‘It’s a personal taste thing, you know?’ he says, while sniffing a white (and therefore older, stronger) lump of the precious material. ‘It’s quite a profound, animatic smell… Some people say it adds another dimension to perfumery, that a normal perfume is 2D and this is 3D. It’s the best natural fixative for perfume, and it’s oleophilic – it grabs hold of the oils. But it also does another thing which is a little bit magical: it transforms other fragrances.’

Simply put, Nose is a feast for the senses, and a much-needed way for us to feed the wanderlust we’re all experiencing. Gorgeous, swooping shots of landscape and sumptuous close-ups of dew-speckled flowers accompany this portrait, that goes beyond the work of Demachy, and invites the viewer to fall as passionately in love with the world of perfumery as he and all the people behind the scenes so obviously are…

Nose is now available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and Google Play.

By Suzy Nightingale

What to do…if you hate your perfume present? 7 tips to try before you cry!

Well firstly, ‘hate’ is a very strong word. If you’ve been landed with the favourite fragrance of your current partner’s ex, we’re not going to pretend to make you suddenly adore it, so maybe re-gift that one – see tip #7 – and treat yourself to one of our Discovery Boxes of fragrant delights, and perhaps a new partner, instead?

But there are things you can try before you completely ditch a scent – we can’t tell you how many fragrance experts (ourselves included!) and even perfumers have drastically changed their minds about a fragrance by trying some of these top tips…

#1 – Seasonal changes
Did you know that the weather, your mood and even what you ate up to *two weeks ago* can dramatically alter how scent smells on your skin? Skin and climate temperature are vital to a perfume’s performance, so even your favourite fragrance will smell different based on the time of year. When perfumers test the scents they’re creating they often use climate-controlled booths to check how they smell in hot and colder conditions (depending what countries they’ll be selling in). Don’t re-gift until you’ve tried the perfume again later in the year, or even on holiday (remember those?)

– Similarly, strongly spiced foods can change how a perfume smells on your skin, and when testing fragrances under lab conditions, the ‘skin model’ volunteers they use are often specifically asked to refrain from eating such foods up to two weeks prior to testing, so the perfumers can smell a ‘true’ representation of the scent. Though sometimes the reverse is true: if a fragrance is to be mainly sold in a country where people eat lots of spicy foods, the ‘skin models’ are asked to replicate that diet to ensure the scent works efficiently.

– We now know that mood plays an important part in how we select a fragrance – try a scent when you’re feeling a particular way, and it colours how you feel about the fragrance itself. If you’re feeling stressed or upset, a bit under the weather or just overwhelmed, these are not ideal conditions for testing out something new. Wait until you’re feeling calmer, or simply have more time to really explore what you’re smelling. That’s when you can try to…

 

#2 – Improve your sense of smell
Absolutely everyone can benefit from this – we’ve had people from normal perfume-lovers, complete novices to industry professionals telling us how trying these techniques have changed the way they smell for the better (for good). This doesn’t mean suddenly gaining the ability of being able to detect every single ingredient within a bottle of perfume, but rather learning to train your nose the way a perfumer does: by deeply exploring the emotions it makes you feel, colours, textures, places and people it reminds you of.

This is why we developed our so-popular How to Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops, which we have regularly held in London and, sometimes at independent perfumeries around the UK. We’ll be adding new dates as soon as we’re able to hold face-to-face workshops again, and plan to make a video available online.

Meanwhile, here are a few simple tips to try every day:

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?

Really attempt to get past thinking ‘I don’t like this’ and focus instead on the mood it’s creating. Is it too deep or too fresh or floral for your personal taste? Give it time and then, if needed, move on to one of the tips, below…

 

#3 – Layer up!
Layering fragrances used to be seen as a scent sin, but we’ve all gotten over ourselves a bit (well most of us have). You don’t have to do this to a perfume you already love on its own – why would you need to? – but there are brilliant ways of beefing-up a sadly flimsy fragrance, or adding a zing to something that’s a bit too dark or cloying on your skin. Give it a go, because, as we always say: perfume isn’t a tattoo – if you don’t like it, you can wash it off!

Add power: ramp it up by adding more base notes like patchouli, labdanum, vetiver, woods or musk.

Add freshness: look for citrus notes like bergamot, neroli, lemon, lime or ‘green’ notes such as galbanum, tomato or violet leaf, green tea, marine/aquatic accords (synthetic recreations of sea-like, watery smells) and aldehydes (often desribed as being like Champagne bubbles).

Add beauty: find a scent too ‘harsh’ or clinical? Look to layer it with decadently velvety or lusciously fruity rose oils, the sunshine-bottled scent of orange flower, a heady glamour of tuberose or a luminescent jasmine; try an apricot-like osmanthus flower, the fluffiness of mimosa or the powdery elegance of iris/orris.

Add sweetness: vanilla and tonka bean can ’round’ a perfume, making it swoon on your skin (and addictive to smell), as can touches of synthetic notes described as ‘caramel’ or ‘dulce de leche’, ripe fruits, chocolate or even candy floss. Try to add less than you think you need, as adding more is always easier than taking away, and a little of these can go a long way!

For layering any of these, you can either try layering over other fragrances you have in which the above notes dominate, with a single-fragranced ‘soliflore’ (one main note) fragrance oil or spray, or try layering the scent you don’t currently like over a differently perfumed body lotion or oil (see below or the added benefits of doing this…)

 

#4 – Boost the lasting-power
If the reason you don’t like a perfume is because it just seems to ‘disappear’ on your skin, you’re not alone. We often find those with dry skin have this problem, and it’s even thought genetics and things like hair colour may play a part. Scientists are still finding this out, but while they do, there are ways you can make perfume last far longer:

– Try using a body oil, rich body balm or moisturising lotion before you put any fragrance on (and even afterwards, too), as scent takes longer to evaporate on nourished skin. This helps the fragrance ‘cling’ to your skin more easily, and so you get to actually smell if for more than a few minutes without frantically re-spraying.

– Spray pulse-points you might not usually think of. Behind your knees is a good example – it’s a warm spot that, once spritzed, will mean you leave a fragrant trail…

– Spritz the perfume at the nape of your neck, even into your hair and on clothes – BUT do check by spraying a tissue first that it isn’t going to mark your hair or fabric a strange colour, or leave an oily residue! We adore this way of wearing perfume, as hair and fabric are porous without heating up as much as your skin, allowing the perfume to stay all day.

Spraying a fragrance on to a scarf is a particularly good idea if you want…

#5 – A part-time perfume
There are days we feel the need to try something completely different, but perhaps don’t want to be stuck with that scent all day, so what to do?

– Consider spraying a scarf (preferably not silk or a light colour, unless you’ve patch-tested it as above, first!) with this perfume you’re unsure of, that way if it gets a bit ‘too much’ or you want to wear something different, you can simply take the scarf off and you’re not stuck with it on your skin all day.

Nope? Tried all that and still struggling? All is not lost, don’t give up yet…

 

#6 – Scent up your life
We all have certain scents or fragrant ingredients that, for one reason or another, we might not wish to wear but do like to smell if it’s scenting something else.

– Why not try spraying off-cuts of pretty wrapping paper or tissue paper, and using this to line your lingerie or sweater drawers?

– Or, how about being utterly fabulous by spraying your note paper and insides of envelopes (the fancy ones lined with tissue paper are particularly good for this), and writing a few actual letters or thank you cards to loved-ones you’ve not seen for a while. Everyone loves getting proper post!

– The truly decadent could try scenting table linen – again, PLEASE patch test, as above – for lavish dinner parties to rival Marie Antoinette – spraying on cotton wool and putting inside a deocrative ceramic or pottery vase, on wooden ornaments or ceramic discs you hang over radiators to scent the whole room as they heat.

We so hope you can find a way to try this poor perfume again and give it some love, but if all else fails and you still can’t bring yourself to use it, well at least you tried! Why not…

#7 – Have a perfume-swapping party / re-gift
Um, remembering not to invite the one who gave you that particular perfume… otherwise, major awks. Or, if you’re looking to re-gift, have a look at our brilliant Fragrance Finder.

Simply put the name of the fragrance into the search box, and it’ll suggest six scents that are similar in character and style, or share a number of significant notes – this way you can see if anyone you know already has one of these, and it means they’ll very likely love to receive this one from you.

Genius!

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Merchant of Venice: your NEW online personal shopper!

Have you ever wanted your own personal perfume shopper? Well now, The Merchant of Venice is offering you the experience from the comfort of your own home…

While we’d dearly love to be sauntering through the heart-stoppingly beautiful streets of Venice and sniffing the perfume wares in person – as we did on our magnicent trip to the birthplace of fine perfumery – The merchant of Venice has come up with a cunning way to bring us the luxury of a one-to-one expert scent consultation, but all without having to leave your own sofa.

 

 

During these strange days, it can be difficult to know where to begin when searching for a new scent, and so The Merchant of Venice want to offer ‘…a new type of sensory experience’ with which to ‘re-establish a human contact’ with customers, thanks to its highly professional consultants being made available via a virtual online personal shopping experience.

For those of you who have yet to try the sumptuous, historically inspred (yet thoroughly contemporary) scents, you can have a gander at our page dedicated to the history of The Merchant of Venice perfumes; but what you really need to know is this:

When the princess Teodora Ducas – daughter of the Emperor of Byzantium – married the Doge Domenico Selvo in 1060, it can be said the grand Venetian tradition of perfumery (and the accompanying products with which the royal court liked to adorn themselves) truly began. So when you experience a fragrance from The Merchant of Venice – it’s a nod to the very history of perfumery itself…

During your navigation of The Merchant of Venice website, they tell us, you will be able to ‘interact with specialists in a sophisticated presentation of the collections’ that will guide you in your choice of the perfect perfumes for you to try. So, from your home, you can ‘take advantage of a private, tailor-made and highly professional service as in The Merchant of Venice boutiques.’

We have had the great privilege of visiting The Merchant of Venice boutiques, and they are beyond expectations – each unique in character and stunningly presented (as are the perfumes, themselves).

During your online personal shopper consultation, you will have each fragrance thoroughly described, using its olfactory notes. But much more than that, your personal shopper will listen to your exact requirements, and give personalised advice ‘…to find the essence that best suits the personality of each person. A dynamic that has been refined over the years also thanks to the experience at the Perfume Museum at Palazzo Mocenigo in Venice’

 

 

And oh, when we can travel again, we urge you to visit the Palazzo Mocenigo – it’s the most incredible collection of perfume history we’ve ever seen – from the thousands of historic perfume bottles, to the imaculate reconstruction of a 16th Century perfumer’s workshop.

Back to the present day, meanwhile, the traditions continue. ‘The ability to describe the history and origin of raw materials is the basis and the starting point for communicating the great passion and history that lies behind each creation,’ The Merchant of Venice explains, and the first personal shopper to assist you will be Christian Waas.

‘He comes from a family of perfumers and has collaborated with several international perfumery houses’ they continue, and apart from his fluency in English and German, Christian was chosen for ‘his ability to combine in-depth knowledge of perfume with sales expertise, together with his passion for history and culture,’ and his inate ability to present this to you in an exciting, engaging way.

The service will be active from mid-October through an online booking at themerchantofvenice.com

What on earth would princess Teodora Ducas have made of the fact that, 960 years since her marriage, future fragrance lovers around the world would be booking personal perfume consultations via a little magic screen they can keep in their pockets? It would surely have blown her mind. But the fact we still hanker after the magnificent scents made in Venice? We have a hunch she wouldn’t have been very surprised…

By Suzy Nightingale

The Alchemistress solves your scented candle woes…

Are your scented candles burning too fast, or creating that dreaded ‘tunnel’ (or ‘core’ to give it the correct name) of doom, where the wax only melts in the middlle and traps the wick? We’ve all exclaimed profanities and desperately dug around with nail-files to try and save them, but we just watched a BRILLIANT Instagram video that solves these woes with ease…

Lesley Sparks (hello, nominative determinism anyone?!) is also known as ‘The Alchemistress‘ – an independent maker and purveyor of the most beautiful perfumed candles. And she has got tips and tricks up her scented sleeve to make sure your candles perform to their best and (most importantly) ultimately to save your hard-earned money.

You can watch the instructive ‘How To’ on her IGTV channel, and afterwards, if you find yourself casting your eye critically over your previous burning performance (and general lazy lack of candle maintenance) then you’re in great company, as that’s exactly what we did, too. For shame!

Looking around The Perfume Society home-office, we suddenly realised that we already owned one The Alchemistress candles, in fact (look, we have quite a few scented candles, okay? It’s not a problem, we can stop any time we like… we just don’t ever want to). It’s called Persian Nights – a smouldering mix of sultry spices, featuring cardamon, black pepper, orange, ginger, coriander, patchouli, cinnamon and cedarwood – and has us dreaming of more exotic climes, and when we can next travel there, every time we light it.

 

 

The Alchemistress Persian Nights Apothecary Jar £8.95
thealchemistress.co.uk

…And now, of course, having watched Ms. Sparks’ instructional video, all our candles will be burning more brightly from now on. We hope you find it just as helpful as we have!

By Suzy Nightingale