There are so many fabulous, fragrantly-themed books we’re adding to our scented bookshelf of Fragrant Reads, and now more than ever we are relishing the time to curl up with a comforting drink and a good book, how about you?
The latest we’ve had our noses firmly stuck in since we got it is The Rose in Fashion: Ravishing by Amy de la Haye which is described as ‘An exploration of how the rose-the most ravishingly beautiful and symbolic of flowers-has inspired fashion over hundreds of years.
Drawing upon fashion clothing, everyday dress, millinery, fine jewelry, perfume, and artificial and fresh roses, multiple expert contributors make reference to love, beauty, sex, sin, gendered identities, rites of passage, transgression, degradation, and death. This sumptuously illustrated book also includes a contribution and stunning images of roses by visionary photographer Nick Knight. Wild yet cultivated, savage yet delicate, this flower has remained an enduring symbol perhaps due to its versatility and the dichotomies it represents.’ The Rose in Fashion: Ravishing is perfect to read right now – I’ve already spent many happy hours with it – being a beautiful but deep dive into our centuries-long love affair with the rose.
In perfume, fashion, interior design and language, the Queen of flowers has imbued and enriched our lives, presumably ever since the first human saw the beauty of the bloom – and then caught a whiff of its magnificent fragrance. Amy de la Haye is professor of dress history and curatorship at London College of Fashion, so necessarily this coffee-table worthy tome is filled with the most extravagent examples of rose-bedecked clothing and textiles – from ’18th-century woven silks to the latest gender-neutral catwalk trends and Alexander McQueen rose dresses.’ But it’s far more than just another book about fashion. The symbolism of the rose is also explored – beyond being pretty, what has the rose meant to differing cultures and classes around the world? And why are we still so drawn to roses today?
I especially loved the section on fragrance – of course! – in which Mairi Mackenzie explores ‘Scent: The Inward Fragrance of Each Other’s Heart‘, a line from the Keats poem, Isabella: Or, The Pot of Basil (1818). ‘One does not need to be a perfume connoisseur to recognise the scent of a rose,’ she begins. ‘Its liberal use in modern perfumery, cosmetics, toiletries and the household goods of everyday life has familiarised us with its characteristics, and made the rose a part of olfactory language.’
But while we may be familiar with its smell, she asserts, we may be less aware of how its symbolism in fragrance has changed. ‘Throughout history, rose perfumes have been variously used to annoint royalty, cleanse heretics, symbolise Gods, express virginity, cure ailments and flavour celebratory food, but this correlation between scent, beauty and divinity is not fixed.’ Ineed, the rose has also been used to denote sinful antics in the scented boudoir, associated with death, degeneration and to ‘…demonstrate the tension that exists between the phenomenological and the culturally contstructed in our olfactpry preferences, as well as in our persistent, if volatile, relationship with rose and its perfume.’
Later on in the chapter, Mackenzie looks at the history of distillation and symbolism of fragrant roses in poetry, but there’s also a fascinating Focus Study on Une Rose by perfumer Edouard Fléchier for Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle; and another Focus Study on the Osmothéque in Versailles. In this, Mackenzie explains some of the work they do on conserving and re-creating significant fragrances, and includes a list of iconic rose fragrances through history, from1896 to 2000. How wonderful that so much time was spent on including a chapter about rose in perfumery – perhaps a signal that historians are starting to entwine scent in their discussions as an important aspect to consider when exploring society and sybolism? We can but hope…
Altogether, this book more than lives up to its ‘Ravishing’ title – glorious pictures galore – but within the beauty is a scholarly, imaculately researched and still lively discussion of the symbolism and continuing fascination we have with roses; to adorn our bodies with their imagery and their fragrance to this day.
We were absolutely thrilled to recently host the creative duo behind Goutal fragrances – Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen – in what was the most recent in our series of Instagram Lives. One of the only up-sides to all this *gestures broadly* has been the way people have reached out over the internet – disparate communities creating moments of togetherness online – and if you weren’t able to join us for the event live, we’re now so happy to share the video with you!
This truly was a wonderful conversation with two such talented women – we heard the pair talk about post-pandemic perfume, working as a team, and keeping alive the flame of creativity that first inspired Annick Goutal, Camille’s mother, when she founded the fragrance house. And of course, we invited YOUR questions, just some of the topics we explored being…
• What is the creative process for the pair, working together – and how did that work during lockdown?
• What is the spirit behind Goutal, and is it still easy to tap into that in the perfume house’s fourth decade?
• What exciting plans does Goutal have for 2021 – a new year, with (we’re hoping) lots of scented excitement?
This was latest in a series of Instagram Live interviews we’ve had over the last year, with some of the world’s leading fragrance names – check out previous interviews on our YouTube channel, here…
There’s an ancient city that’s become known as the perfume capital of India. Roses, roses everywhere! If ever you needed an excuse to feast your eyes on beauty, these seemingly endless dull, grey days are immediately brightened by reading this fascinating report by Rachna Sachasinh for National Geographic.
‘For centuries Kannauj (pronounced kunh-nowj), in northeast India’s Ganges belt, has been crafting oil-based botanical perfumes called attar using the world’s oldest known distillation methods,’ the piece begins, and as you gaze in wonder at the carpet of pink blossoms – and imagine with great longing the glorious scent in the air – it’s not hard to understand how the fragrances produced from the Rosa damascena shrubs planted there were soon ‘Sought after by both Mughal royals and everyday folk in ancient India’s fragrance-obsessed culture’, so that the ‘Kannauj attar scented everything from wrists to food, fountains to homes.’
We are thrilled to see the region showcased in the national media, now, for their utterly wonderful roses and fragrances produced from them, because Amanda Carr had already travelled to the city of roses, and last year wrote an exclusive report on The Scents of India for our magazine, The Scented Letter, for which she was nominated for a Jasmine Award, and which you can read in full, here!
It’s worth reminding ourselves that rose fragrances have been worn by both genders for centuries, too – it’s only Western and European cultures who more recently classed rose as ‘female’, and something the fragrance industry has begun to overturn (thank goodness!) by introducing many more rose-centric scents marketed at men or classed as ‘unisex’. We’ve said it many times before but we’ll go on saying it: smells do not have a gender – they’re for everyone who wants to wear them!
Indeed, the more recent National Geographic feature goes on to describe how the rose fragrances produced in Kannauj have proved ‘Equally alluring to men and women,’ because the ‘attars have an androgynous quality. They strike intense floral, woodsy, musky, smoky, green, or grassy notes. Trotted out by season, attars can be both warm (cloves, cardamom, saffron, oud) and cooling (jasmine, pandan, vetiver, marigold).’
I am lucky enough to have a little bottle of the Gulab (Indian Rose) attar from the Saini Blends distillery she visited, and which Amanda very kindly gave me when she returned from her travels. I cannot tell you the utter bliss it has been to wear it – a soft but fully enveloping cloud of powdery, fruity petals that almost smells like Turkish Delight sprinkled with icing sugar. Sheer joy, and a constant comfort to sniff and be reminded not only of our friendship, but of the wider world, of places I want to travel to, of beauty itself.
If you are interested in learning more about attars, I cannot urge you enough to read Amanda’s feature in full – there’s even a section on how to tell the attars apart, and how to order directly from Saini Blends themselves. It’s vital we not only celebrate this ancient art (and the fact that rose fragrances did not bloom unbidden from Grasse, originally) but support those who still work there. Because, as Amanda reported for us, ‘the attar industry in Kannauj has fallen to around 100 artisan makers today, from over 700 at its peak…’
Now those advent calendars are in the recycling already, why not treat yourself AND a superhero you know to the Super Man Discovery Box – a different scent to look forward to trying each day. Compare notes via texts or even a Zoom sniff-along!
Allow us a bit of ‘silly season’ scented musing time, here, folks, as we ponder the important question of what we might scent some of the superheroes with. The matches are predominantly male, only because we curated this selection with men and more ‘masculine’ scents in mind, but of course they can be worn by anyone.
Oh it’s okay, we know you might not be feeling particularly heroic right now – the only superhero I currently resemble could be ‘Cheesewoman’ or ‘Gin Girl’ and I don’t think they exist (they should!) But hey, having got through last year and ploughing onwards (and upwards) in the continuing face of uncertainty is heroism to be celebrated nonetheless, non?
Get your geek on…
[All original comic book images copyright of respective artists & publishers, credited individually.]
Gamora: ånd fragrance Frånk
The green-skinned alien is the last of her species (mirroring ånd fragrance’s fund-raising effort to protect frankincense) and no stranger to balancing awesome blade-wielding skills with a sharp wit. So we’ve matched her with a fragrance that celebrates the fruitier side of frankincense, where the foresty freshness zings with restless energy, a mischevious melding of citrus and banana-esque ylang ylang shot through with luscious mango, resinous myrrh and silky seams of vanilla folded in for good measure.
Wolverine: Anima Vinci Wood of Life
There’s something to be said for learning to harness one’s rage, but we really think James could do with a nice sit down and some deep breaths, bless him. This fragrance is immediately grounding and provides a soothing space for mindfulness – palo santo has been used for centuries in spiritual ceremonies, to ‘cleanse’ negative energies and promote clarity of vision. In combination with sandalwood, spices and vanilla it’s an olfactory moment of ‘OM…..’ Now put those knives away, dear, and chill.
Iron Man: Atelier Des Ors Cuir Sacré
Always an admirer of exquisite design, billionaire Tony Stark would surely fall for the gilded charms of this leather-rich fragrance. Imbued with perfectly blended hints of berries and spices, perhaps he’d forget to be grumpy and mellow into reveries of sauntering at sunset on a balmy evening while wearing a velvet smoking jacket. And if he gets stressed, he can shake the bottle to see the flakes of real gold swirl (a grown-up snow-globe, if you will) as the cedar, incense and saffron swoon to the intriguingly cool base.
The Human Torch: Caron Aimez-Moi Comme Je Suis
Smouldering ginger recalls heat and positively sizzles when the zing of grapefruit meets the unexpected pairing of hazelnut and vetiver. The wearer must be used to the fiery sensations, so who better than Johnny Storm? A founding member of The Fantastic Four, he’s used to overcoming adversity while literally aflame – talk about leaving a trail! Spritzing this to soften his edges a little (not while actually alight: health and safety first, Mr. Storm), its warm and woody aroma create an irresistibly addictive character.
Batman: Floris London Vert Fougère
Vert Fougère is moody – perfect for the sometimes sulky Batman – and embraces its mossy heritage by adding sparkling modernity. And he could do with a bit of sparkle. A bittersweet blend of grapefruit, bergamot and neroli entwine ginger and lavender for added freshness while patchouli, cedarwood and smooth cashmere in the base ensure a lasting legacy. Traditional enough to tempt the wary, exciting enough to add a sashay; we see the latest Batman portrayer, Robert Pattinson, wearing this with aplomb.
Professor X: Initio Side Effect
With his exceptional powers of telepathy and mind-control, we feel Charles Francis Xavier would appreciate the hypnotic inspiration behind this scent. An irresistible combination of rum, leather and tobacco is sprinkled with a sweet frisson of vanilla and a tingle of warming cinnamon – the effect quite spellbinding. The woodiness and smooth hints of booze are perfectly appropriate for a study-dwelling genius, while the rich spiciness instills confidence and daring. The overall impression? Those who follow your fragrant trail will be left enchanted…
Spider-Man: Jimmy Choo Man
Peter Parker always appealed to the younger comic fans first, and there’s something effortlessly youthful and effervescent about this fragrance. Aromatic and woody up top, an accord of lavender and mandarin is softened by deliciously succulent notes of honeydew melon. In the heart, pink pepper and geranium are mixed with pineapple leaf, as a sign of originality. Finally the fragrance unveils a web of patchouli, suede and ambery woods – joyfully uplifting and one for cheekily charming urban chaps on-the-go.
Captain Britain:Jovoy 21 Conduit Street
Brian Braddock very rarely gets a look-in when superheroes are discussed, (the name doesn’t help, huh?) so we wanted to give him a moment with this fragrance. Revisiting an often overlooked classic of English perfumery while giving it a decidedly modern twist; the real secret of 21 Conduit St is the richness of its dual lavender – the radiantly aromatic essential oil further enhanced with an absolute. Rippled through rhubarb, almond and fir balsam to a woody base, it feels aristocratic yet complex, much like Brian himself…
Catwoman: Kierin NYC Santal Sky
Fabulously milky, this comfort blanket of cardamom-flecked sandalwood will have all villainous feline types putting their claws away awhile, as the soothing, creamy notes of fig swirl into decadent orchid and saffron-speckled vetiver as a final twitch of the tail. There’s a sophistication to this scent but it truly feels effortless for any occasion. Rendering any gender instantly languorous, your only real problem will be getting anything done, as you’ll want to curl up and revel in how purr-fect you smell.
Wonder Woman: Laboratorio Olfattivo Tonkade
Sumptuous waves of dried fruits and a perfectly choreographed dance between resonant sweetness and powerful clouds of amber-rich mystery, this is a regal fragrance fit for a superhero whose backstory now highlights her Amazonian heritage, and explains she’s the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta. But ‘Wonder Men’ can equally get on board with this – a stunner for anyone who should never to be underestimated: a powerhouse of potent accords that should immediately be lassoed into your own collection.
Spaceboy: Parfums de Marly Sedley
Hailing from the Umbrella Academy, Luther Hargreeves was the youngest person to become an astronaut, and struggles with his extreme physical strength (accident involving a ‘Martian space chimp’. Don’t ask) which masks his extremely sensitive nature. This feels uplifting – a sparkle of citrus awakening the power of mint, while Hivernal® Neo is a hyper-realistic reinvention of how water smells. Liquid silver, cool Sedley encapsulates a balance of opposites, where noble materials and futurist molecules collide.
Black Panther: Ruth Mastenbroek Oxford
T’Challa is one of few superoes who boast a degree, having earned his PhD in Physics from Oxford, so this fragrant memory is entirely perfect for him. Those ‘dreaming spires’ are conjured through magestic composition, from smoky, shadowy layers juxtaposed by this scent’s more luminescent jasmine and comfortingly cashmere notes. At its heart, Oxford’s bold oudh and amber offsets the softer vanilla and vetiver for a daring fragrance that’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. A perfume for the panther that stalks your soul…
Klaus Hargreeves: St Giles The Stylist
Another member of the Umbrella Academy, Klaus swaggers with the confidence and dress-sense of a rockstar, has the ability to talk to the dead while utterly beguiling the living – to the point where he accidentally becomes a cult leader and prophet (easily done). His sensual nature and natural style will thrill to the flashbulb of aldehydes and bitter orange up top, while the smooth rum, mango and triple-dose of silky vanilla cream help smother his inner demons all the way down to the base of tobacco absolute and oakmoss. Irresistible.
Superman: Versace Dylan Blue Homme
A fragrance for both ‘the man of steel’ and his everyday alter-ego of Clark Kent; the masculinity wafts forth with bold Ambroxan, refreshed with zesty hits of bergamot and grapefruit. The earthiness is zipped up with a punch of black pepper and papyrus wood before being enveloped by an intense cloak of incense, mineral musk, tonka beans and warming, spicy notes of saffron. Equal parts athletic and intelligent, it’s bound to become your go-to when you’ve no idea what to wear. No need to quick-change in a phone booth, either – always a bonus.
Samples of ALL of these fragrances are available to try at home in our Super Man Discovery Box for only £18 if you’re a VIP Club Member, (£22 to everyone else) and it also features these grooming extras…Weleda Skin Food (Thing from The Fantastic Four needs to incorporate this into his daily routine ASAP) and FISH Memory Fish Flexible Gel (which Aquaman could definitely do with).
No matter if it’s a thank you gift for a superhero you know, or a gift to yourself for just getting through all this *gestures broadly* – here’s to feeling infinitely more ‘super’ with every spritz: up, up and a spray! (Sorry).
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.
We’ve scoured the internet for this Fragrant Film Club – a curation of some of our favourite perfume-themed movies, documentaries and TV series to watch right now.
So, if you’re about done with Christmas and need a way to fill the weird hinterland between festive or new year celebrations and the return to (whatever will be) ‘normality’ – here’s a scented selection box of fragrant treasures…
‘With his incredible talent for discerning scents, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) is one of 18th-century France’s finest perfumers. He becomes obsessed with capturing an elusive aroma: the scent of young womanhood. His search takes a deadly turn, and when the bodies of 12 young females are found, panic breaks out, with families rushing to lock up their daughters.’
Based on the best-selling, and now infamous, novel by Patrick Süskind, this is one every fragrance-lover should watch. It’s remarkable not only for being filmed at all (many said the book could never be made in to a screen drama), but for changing the way fragrance was talked about in the media. Stunningly shot, utterly gripping, we of course urge you to read the book first, but do then see this and marvel.
If you’ve already seen the film, have a gander at the made for TV drama loosely based on the premis of the novel, but in a modern-day setting: Perfume (series) Netflix
Telling the story of a preparatory school student who woefully takes a job as an assistant to an irritable, blind, medically retired Army officer, Frank, (magnificently played by Al Paccino) this is one of those films that helped highlight the importance of our sense of smell. In one memorable scene, Frank approaches the table where a woman sits alone, waiting for date. ‘You know, I detect a fragrance in the air,’ he says, ‘Don’t tell me what it is… Ogleby Sisters Soap?’ So, although not a movie about perfume per se, it’s a fantastic performance, and fun to look out for some well-known fragrance names he also detects along his adventures…
Perfumes (Les Parfums) Amazon Prime: rent for £4.49
We reviewed this charming film in full, here, but basically it’s the story of a reclusive, once-feared French perfumer and her new chauffeur. Though a gentle comedy, Les Parfums takes a serious (and very well presented) look at the life of a perfumer, and now this subtitled film has a wider release with Amazon, we hope many more of you will be able to see it. Certainly it’s a treat for the senses, and sadly such a rarity to see perfumery explored on screen in this manner. We particularly loved the scene in which Guillaume, the chauffeur, is discovering his newly-acquired appreciation for smell – in the supermarket, sniffing various shower gels, under the watchful gaze of a bemused security guard. ‘Something quite mellow…’ he says, as the guard shuffles closer, clearly unused to such behaviour in Aisle 5. Delightful from start to finish.
‘After a perfumer’s death, his daughter works to meet the production deadline for his company’s latest scent, which is complicated by the lack of an elusive ingredient.‘ Now we should really start by saying this a Hallmark movie, and as such has a certain look and feel to it that previous viewers of their oeuvre will recognise. That being said, this is the kind of whimsical film that one can happily curl up on the sofa with while eating your way through an entire tub of ice cream. Just don’t expect Süskind levels of olfactory detail, accept that everyone wears pastel and has perfect hair, and all will be fine.
We must admit to not having watched this one yet, but it certainly sounds like an antidote to excessive Christmas schmaltz, if that’s what you’re looking for. ‘After her mother dies, a chemist begins to have strange visions of a mysterious woman in black applying perfume in a mirror, and of strangers who follow her everywhere.’ That’s the synopsis in brief, but further reviews reveal that it’s a surrealistic film, also described as an ‘incoherent and inconsistent slice of psychological horror.’ Nonetheless, it’s a plot that sounds intriguing enough to capture our interest, and we very much we get to find out what the mysterious woman in black’s perfume actually is!
‘Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) can’t believe her husband’s having an affair with salesgirl Crystal (Joan Crawford). But when Sylvia (Rosalind Russell) and Edith (Phyllis Povah) deliver the gossip firsthand, Mary heads to Reno for a divorce. En route she meets Countess de Lave (Mary Boland) and Miriam (Paulette Goddard), who coincidentally is having an affair with Sylvia’s husband. Once in Reno, the Countess finds another beau, Sylvia shows up for a divorce and Mary plots to win back her man.’
Even though this really only has one perfume-related scene, we’re recommending this one mainly because it’s one of our favourite films EVER. And what a scent scene that is – set in the fragrance department of a classy department store, and featuring magnificently catty lines with Crawford as the predatory perfume counter gal. A stellar cast – made up entirely of women (practically unheard of even today, let alone in the 1930s!) – magnificent costumes and a gasp-inducing sudden switch to full-colour film during the fashion show sequence, make this more than worth your watching (on repeat).
Some years ago, the BBC made a fascinating doccumentary series about the perfume business, taking a deep dive into the creation of a fragrance, the revival of a perfume house (Grossmith) and interviewing perfume personalities such as Roja Dove and perfumers including Guerlain’s Thierry Wasser. Sadly the episiodes are no longer available on the BBC iPlayer website, though they are now available to watch on YouTube: Perfume (BBC Documentary series).
Following a rather gauche… sorry. A ‘driven twenty-something American woman from Chicago, who moves to Paris for an unexpected job opportunity.’ Emily in Paris has seen equal parts love and hate in the many reviews that followed its release earlier this year. Whichever camp you fall in, it’s a lovesong to Paris and HOW we yearn to get that back there as soon as we’re able. And you know what? It’s actually not a bad look at the creation and marketing of a perfume, as we follow Emily’s hapless adventures as she’s ‘tasked with bringing an American point of view to a venerable French marketing firm.’
YouTube is a treasure trove for archival fragrance adverts and wonderful little gems like this Pathé documentary on how fragrance is made. We might chuckle at the Stiff Upper Lip ‘Received Pronunciation’ of the voiceover, but it makes for a still very interesting look at Grasse, French perfumery and the technical side of perfumery still not often shown in such detail to this day. Click above to watch it now!
Another still on our ‘to watch’ list, this series certainly sounds like it ticks many (perfume) boxes for us… ‘During the Republican era, a family empire famous for making the best fragrances and incense must guard against those who are out to steal their secret recipes. Ning Zhi Yuan is the sweet young master of his family’s fragrance empire. An Le Yan is a determined young woman who is out for revenge against the Ning family. Zhi Yuan falls in love with Le Yan, but she only wants to infiltrate Zhi Yuan’s family to steal a valuable perfume formula. Le Yan’s true heart is drawn toward An Yi Chen, an inspector. But Xiao Hui, the daughter of a Japanese imperialist, is determined to capture Yi Chen’s heart at all costs. Can Zhi Yuan protect his family’s livelihood and his own heart?‘
Something for the little ones – perhaps inspiring a new ‘nose’ in your family? – this cheeky little cartoon follows the story of Mo, who is ‘…upset when Tee accidentally breaks her favourite perfume.’ And indeed she might might be upset! ‘Tee is now determined to cheer her up by making her some new perfume from ingredients found around the house. Lucky Mo!’ Hmm. Well we’re sure that’s all whimsically delightful, but if Tee tried whipping up a batch of vintage Mitsouko from stuff he found around our house, we’re very much afraid he’d be out on his ear (having replaced the bottle and cleaned the carpet, thank you very much!)
At the time of writing, the new BBC drama series of The Black Narcissus have not yet aired, but you can watch them here when they do (starting Sunday, 27th December in the U.K. at 9pm, with the following two episodes airing in the same slot over the next two nights – Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th December 2020). Based on the aponymous Powell and Pressburger classic 1947 film, Black Narcissus, named after the iconic Caron fragrance and following the intense sensual awakening of a nun who dabbles with such vices as perfume and lipstick; this 2020 version stars the late Diana Rigg (in her last role) among an incredible cast; and promises to be an absolute must-watch.
Fancy even more fragrant viewing? A little while ago, I took a look at some vintage perfume adverts, in which a surprising number of movie stars made their televisual debuts. Or, for those seeking some scented chuckles, why not gawk at these hilarious retro men’s fragrance ads – featuring chaps being spoon-fed in restaurants, a hang-gliding man in danger of being whipped by his own moustache and an impromptu musical set outside a greengrocer’s. Ah, they don’t make ’em like that anymore.
We hope this Fragrant Film Club list provides a fragrant escape for those of you desperately searching for something new to watch – and a chance to re-watch some old faves for those of you who’ve already seen them. Whichever you choose, we suggest snuggling up, staying safe and perhaps locking the door for some blessed moments of me-time…
By golly gosh it’s been a tough year, to put it mildl; so as a special present, Santa has a FREE gift for you all…
This year, because we’d like to say a massive ‘THANK YOU!’ for your continued support – and as testament to just how important the role of fragrance has been, calming our nerves and bolstering our spirits in troubling times – Santa has decided to gift the Christmas edition of The Scented Letter magazine,FREE for you all to read.
One of the most hotly-anticipated issues each year is our bumper Christmas edition of the magazine – this year entitled Secret Scent-er – which incorporates all the usual news, reviews and in-depth features with the addition of a fabulously fragrant gift guide. Seriously drool-worthy, it’s a showcase for the very best scented gorgeousness that money can buy, from niche and indie brands to designer luxe.
We know that Christmas will be very different for many of you this year, and hope that you can find time to sit awhile, put your feet up and have your spirits lifted by all manner of glorious things arrayed in the 64 pages – normally only available to VIP Members and those who purchase the printed editions (scroll down for more info on how to get these).
• In Extraits, Extraits, Read All About It!, Persolaise explores the revival of perfume’s most precious form
• Can’t be with those you love over the holidays? Conjure them up with a spritz or a dab of scent, we suggest in Spraying Home for Christmas
• Like our favourite Christmas tunes, explains Viola Levy in Jingle Smells, certain fragrances never fail to deliver Christmas cheer
• I hopped on a Zoom with Santa for this issue’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections– smile as he shares centuries of fragrant recollections
• And of course, we’ve sniffed out the best presents, from glamorous gift sets to beautiful (scented) baubles in Your Fragrant Gift Guide 2020
• Plus as usual, we bring you all the Latest Launches, news, events – and so much more
If the free edition has tickled your fragrant fancies for more award-winning journalism, we can now take orders for a limited run of printed copies of all editions of our magazine, priced £12.50 to our VIP Subscribers (£15 to non-VIPs). And remember: you can buy an annual print subscription to The Scented Letter and also an International Online Subscription for the magazine, too!
Finally, no matter where you are, please know you’re not alone, and that the days will be lighter from now on. With much love, we’d like to wish you all a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS, and look forward to a far more peaceful (and perfume-filled) New Year, for all…
Christmas is always the most scented season, but this year the perfumes we spray have taken on an extra poignancy – many of us deeply missing mloved ones we cannot be this year because of the continuing pandemic, or who have passed away.
Fragrance can be a great comfort – and a way of connecting us, if only we chose the scent to spray that immediately evokes someone we’re so wishing we could be with right now.
For the Christmas edition of The Scented Letter magazine, we asked a number of our favourite perfumers, journalists and fragrance experts which scents they would be spraying this year, and who they’re missing most. We were so overwhelmed by the lovely – and often very emotional – reponses, that we didn’t have room for them all in the printed pages!
That’s why we want to share these beautiful scent memories with you, now; and wonder: whom would YOU most love to conjure with a single spritz right now, and what fragrance would you need to spray…?
Alice du Parcq – writer for Glamour U.K. / Space NK:
‘This Christmas I’ll be in a fume-cloud of Maison Margiela Replica By The Fireplace. It is the scent of roasting chestnuts on a roaring fire in a Chamonix ski lodge in 1971, so think toasted embers, plumes of silky sooty smoky, wood polish and the creamy, vanilla-spiked, nutty flesh of charred chestnuts. We did this as kids every winter at my parents’ house (which incidentally still looks like a 70s ski chalet) and watched my dad roll those glossy globes around a skillet until they crackled and split. My sister and I had scalded fingertips all season from the impatient peeling of the blackened chestnuts that were still too hot to touch. The fire was wild, ferocious and mesmerising, and the whole house smelt like fireworks and bonfires. I remember it vividly, and since we can’t all be together this year I’ll honour that memory with a daily spray of this magnificent and curious perfume.’
Sarah McCartney – perfumer & founder 4160 Tuesdays:
‘Usually we head north to York to see a collection of family and friends, play music and swap presents. I’m always delighted when my nephews put in a request for one of my fragrances at Christmas and their favourite is Invisible Ben. This is a blend of sandalwood, oranges, cognac absolute, musks and Ambrox, so it mingles with the atmosphere, a definite presence but not shouting for attention. It’s just like the lads themselves.’
Nicola Bonn – Outspoken Beauty podcast:
‘One of my best friends wears Chanel Chance. Smelling it and her never fails to make me happy. I always meet her at this time of year for drinks and celebrations and not being with her is so very sad. I’ll spritz this and have a virtual cocktail with her.’
Marcus Jaye, beauty & fragrance blogger / author a.k.a The Chic Geek:
‘This will date my childhood, but mine is Giorgio Beverly Hills. This is pure Pretty Woman, back-combed mum of the 1980s. Chuck in a soupçon of Elnett and I’m there.’
Olivia Jezler – fragrance innovation & technical design specialist, Future of Smell:
‘Both my parents always change their perfumes so its less about their signature scent… but the scent in their home over Christmas is always the NEST Holiday candle. I love it and for me that’s the smell of Christmas…combined with the pine of the Christmas tree!’
Professor Charles Spence – experimental psychologist / head of Crossmodal Research Group, Oxford University:
‘It would have to be smell of nardo – the flower that my (now) wife would always bring to airport when I arrived in Colombia… Which the web says is “Polianthes means “many flowers” in Greek. In Mexican Spanish, the flower is called nardo or vara de San José, which means “St. Joseph’s staff”. This plant is called as rajanigandha in India, which means ‘fragrant at night’. I didn’t realise it was a night-blooming one, but have since become very interested in night-flowering scented plants, so night flowering jasmine, which would have to be my second choice.’
Whomever you are missing, and whatever their favourite fragrance was, we hope you’ll be able to find great comfort and bring them home with your own personal scent memories, whenever you need them most…
Last-minute Christmas ideas are all very well, but what if you’ve left it so late (yes, we’re looking at you!) that you’ve already missed the last post?
Here are two thoughtful gift ideas for fragrance lovers that need no desperate scurrying for leftover crumpled scraps of wrapping paper – no wrapping or queuing at the Post Office required at all, in fact. What’s more, they last for an entire YEAR, and one of them can be sent to anyone, no matter where they are in the world. Hallelujah!
Seriously the best gift you can give anyone who loves fragrance – after purchasing, simply contact [email protected] with the recipient’s details and we’ll do the rest!
As a member of The Perfume Society VIP Club, they will receive the following exclusive benefits…
• Six issues a year of our online/downloadable digital magazineThe Scented Letter – (virtually) the only publication in the world devoted to all things fragrant. For more info on which, please scroll down…
• Exclusive competitions with fab fragrant prizes – including bottles signed by perfumers.
• Early access to tickets for all our events (when we can do these in-person again) – meeting with leading ‘noses’ and key figures from the perfume world, attending in-store events, workshops, etc. (Our VIPs are first to hear about these.)
• A special member’s discount on our Perfume Society Discovery Boxes (normally £19 – but £15 to our VIPs)
• Plus choose a FREE Discovery Box when you sign up (see options in the drop-down menu, here)
Described as a ‘must-read’ by industry insiders and perfume-lovers, and after so many asked for a printed edition, we also offer a print subscription to our multi award-winning magazine, The Scented Letter. Filled to bursting each issue with in-depth interviews with the world’s top perfumers, as well as news, hundreds of fragrance reviews and behind-the-scenes scented secrets, alongside features by leading fragrance writers – from Thomas Dunckley (The Perfume Candy Boy) to Persolaise, via Viola Levy and our Senior Writer Suzy Nightingale.
We’re overjoyed that we can now offer overseas subscribers an International Subscription to our digital downloadable magazine, The Scented Letter. (Alas, we still can’t ship our boxes overseas – and we’re as gutted as you are about that!)
Your subscription gives you six 60-page ONLINE editions a year of this beautiful, multi-Jasmine Award-winning magazine: the only one of its kind for perfume-lovers.
Because of the way our system works, when you click Add to Cart it will send us an e-mail – and we’ll follow up for payment. To buy this as a gift; please let us know in your e-mail to us if it’s for someone else.)
So now you can gift an entire year of reading to a fragrance-lover you know, no matter where they live. And from the feedback we receive from overseas fans, we know they’ll be utterly thrilled!
So, it’s really NOT too late to send them something to show you care, to cheer up a fragrant friend you’ve perhaps not been able to see for so long – and these are perfumed presents that last a full 365 days ahead. Now that’s truly a gift that keeps on giving…
Scented candles have helped us stay (mostly) sane this year. A bold statement, but when we’ve spent more time than ever at home – working, raising families, interacting with partners or house-mates on a 24 hour basis or simply trying to get through the day alone – it’s been an easy way to instantly change a space, a vibe, with fragrance.
And it seems we’re not alone in this perfumed passion. Sales of fragranced candles, along with ‘premium food’ have been one of the mood-markers of 2020.
As The Guardian newspaper recently commented, ‘cold weather and coronavirus restrictions encourage Britons to hunker down for winter,’ reporting that what we’re been turning to are ways of making ourselves feels better, hence: ‘Sales of scented candles, potpourri and essential oils for diffusers jumped 29% in October, according to the research group Kantar.’
It makes sense. Candles can help us feel calm – not only for the scent, but focusing on the flickering flame awhile. They bring a feeling of warmth and comfort, a cosiness that’s been sorely needed as the temperatures in the U.K. plummeted and the darkness drew in. We’ve gone from tropical exoticism in the bathroom to torrid sensuality in the bedroom (or the kitchen, why not?). We’re using zingy scents to get us going in the morning, soothing smells to help us wind down of an evening, and traversing the world through our noses all the many, many hours in-between.
Because good grief, how we’ve longed for ‘newness’ – and the act of lighting a scented candle can genuinely shake you out of the doldrums!
Quite apart from how fabulous some of the containers look, and how good quality candles can contiunue to scent a room even unlit; they also make thoughtful gifts. But personally, we’re doing the ‘one for you, one for me’ rule with the following selection of some of our favourites to stock up on. Which will you give, and which are you coveting for yourself, we wonder…?
Ruth Mastenbroek Ancient Frankincense £55 for
Cosy as toasting your toes by a roaring fire, this is one to light, snuggle up on the sofa and read something unashamedly soothing with. Or kick back with a frivolously festive film. The warmth of frankincense, precious resins of myrrh and labdanum are tickled by pink pepper up top and swaddled in rich patchouli in the base. Aromatic notes of cypress and pine, meanwhile, remind us of walks through the woods – wrapped up in your favourite coat, savouring the frosty freshness of the air. Sublime!
(PS: Get your hands on a mini size of either Ancient Frankincense or the Rebel County candle as part of our sumptuous Indulgence Discovery Box, for £36 / £32 for VIPs)
Boujee Bougies Queen Jam £55 for 220g
Outrageously jam-y, this sashays up with bucket loads of berries – raspberries and bilberries, to be precise – and oodles of rose petals; that unctious stickiness shot through with flashes of tart green to prevent it being sickly. Olfiction perfumer Pia Long has created a stunning evocation of a Finnish preserve that feels equal parts grown up glam and giggle-inducing frolics. Check out their entire range via the super cute mini candles for £25 (buy one of each and you’ll get one free as part of their launch offer, while stocks last!)
Floral Street Sunshine Bloom £28 for 200g
A welcome shaft of sunlight for the duller days, this scented candle keeping the memory of summer vibes alive with luminescent notes of jasmine, creamy fig leaf (which smells like being on holiday – close your eyes and you can almost feel the sunshine, hear the waves…). Meanwhile, wild orchid, black pepper, incense and salted musks manage to be both delicious and vibrant. This is a solar scent that truly sparkles and recalibrates: a fragrant re-set for the mind, if you will.
La Montaña Siesta: £39 for 220g
We don’t know about you, but getting absolutely anything done right now seems to sap twice the amount of energy as usual. We could all dearly do with a daily siesta, but not all of us can make that space in our day. This candle cossets with lavender, juniper and thyme – an herbaceous breeze from a garden as you ‘close your eyes and imagine yourself drowsing on a hot afternoon, gently swinging in a hammock in the shade of a tree, with the crickets chirruping, and the sun-baked fragrances of the countryside lulling you to sleep.’ Oh we’re SO there…
Tom Daxon White Narcissus: £25 for 185g
A winter’s walk captured in fragrant form, here, with a bouquet of white flowers – gloriously heady narcissus and hyacinth – and the snapped-stalked freshness of galbanum and green violet leaf, which manages to temper the otherwise fabulously blowsy floralcy. Tendrils of cardamom-infused smoke drift drowsily through the cold, still air as gaiac wood and cedar smoulder on the shady vetiver base. One to gift those who are about done with cinnamon and eggnog and are checking the weather forecast, hourly, for the first signs of spring. That’d be us, then.
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