Christmas Fragrance Gift Guide (how to choose & who to buy for)

How to buy fragrance at Christmas? Where do you even begin? Well, right here with The Perfume Society‘s everything-one-click-away guide! From nervous noses to designer divas and scented gents or even fussy family or friends.

Christmas is always the most scented season, but present-buying panic can set in (we all know the feeling), so we’ve collated a guide to help you start (and finish!) your shopping right now…

When you’re not sure exactly what scent to get them for Christmas, or are sick of giving loved ones the same old thing, our overwhelming feedback from happy customers suggests a Discovery Box is definitely the way forward. Bursting with luxurious and often hard-to-find mini, try-me size scents and decadents beauty extras, each box is specially curated around a theme or with a particular kind of perfume-lover in mind.

At The Perfume Society, we’ve something to suit everyone, no matter how picky about perfume they are! From designer name divas to scented gents about town, millennials desperate to discover what suits them best and those keen to branch out with something different – see how many gifts you can tick off your shopping list in one fell swoop (and all from the comfort of your sofa/desk/bed…)

 

 

Men’s Must Have Discovery Box: £15 (or £12 for VIPs)

The perfect treat or gift filled with a curated edit of those fragrances we believe men simply must have, this collection of male and unisex fragrances features globally adored best sellers and just launched scents from THoOJeroboamDSquared2Paco RabanneBentleyJean Paul GaultierVersace & Initio! Those wishing to expand their collection will delve and get ready to be truly addicted to their new favourite fragrance(s)….

 

 

Niche VII Discovery Box: £23 (£19 for VIPs)

Featuring fragrances chosen to make your gift recipient feel truly special (particularly for someone who’s had a tough time and deserves to feel their best again) this box is bursting with newness from Floral StreetComme des Garçon & Caroline Herrera, plus the incredible artistic beauty of Sarah Baker Parfums. Let them dive into the best scents the fragrance world has to offer (and extra pampering treats for the colder weather from Skinsense and Stories Parfums).

 

 

 

Feel Good Discovery Box: £23 (£19 for VIPs)

Know someone who’s been seriously stressed? (Maybe even YOU deserve a treat?) Recent world events have left us a little off kilter, so here at Perfume Society HQ, we decided to put together the perfect gift box of fragrance to help everyone achieve a better sense of equilibrium. We’ve brought together fragrances that have been purposely designed to induce a sense of calm and help cope with all life has to throw at us, perfumes for grounding us in natural surroundings, and there are also scents for boosting inner strength. Click on the link to discover each item individually…

 

 

 

Platinum Discovery Box: £25 (£21 for VIPs)

For the most suave and chic of your perfume-loving pals, here’s a box that swaggers with charm and sophistication. Filled with fragrances from some of Britain’s finest brands – both classic and utterly contemporary names – to help them find their new fragrant passions. Indulging in these voluptuous, classic scents and new launches all from within the UK will keep them feeling confident (and let them know how much they are loved!) Smart…sexy…elegant – this is a box that has it all, and then some, in scent appeal.

 

The Good Oudh Guide

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

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

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

 

 

 

WTF is Oudh, anyway?

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

 

 

 

 

What does it smell like?

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

 

 

 

Why is it so expensive?

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

 

 

 

honey-oud-b

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

By Suzy Nightingale

 

Suits You: a made-to-measure fragrance guide for men at weddings

What fragragrance to wear at your / a wedding’ perfume guides are plentiful, but almost exclusively aimed at women (either as brides, bridesmaids or guests). This isn’t a phrase you’ll often hear me utter in life, but: ‘what about the men?‘ Sometimes they attend weddings, too. Sometimes (more frequently than ever, these days) they even like to smell nice. While the ripples of shock subside, I present for your delectation a guide that proposes [warning: other puns will follow] a selection of scent suggestions for men to wear at a summer wedding, and exactly how to go about finding the perfect one…

What are you wearing?

Yes, okay, extremely likely to be a suit if you’re in the Western hemisphere, but think about the colour and material. Our senses are complexly intertwined, so tones and texture of fabric can genuinely give you a head-start into fragrance families to look for. Silk blends suggest cool, smooth compositions perhaps with cardamom or sandalwood as notes, while light wool might suggest a drier, woody scent – something with cedar, vetiver or guiacwood in the base.

Even consider ‘matching’ the colour of your suit to the packaging or bottle a brand has put their fragrance in – they spend considerable amounts of time and money ensuring the way a fragrance looks evokes something of the way a composition smells. If your suit is black or grey, look instead at the accessories (tie / cravat / handkerchief) – dark red or plum colours could lead you to an opulent rose (yes, it works amazingly on men’s skin and features in many masculine launches of late!) or something with berries, pink pepper fruity notes.

This isn’t a strict guide, because everyone has differing opinions on what certain colours ‘smell’ like; but it’s a starting point. And when you’re suddenyl struck wide-eyed with terror at the overwhelming choice in the perfume shop aisle (before heading up the aisle to the altar), you need somewhere to start.

 

If you already love a fragrance but want to try something different

It’s a good idea to have a differing scent for a wedding – particularly if you’re the one getting married – because smell is the sense that’s most closely plugged into the section of our brain that stores memory and emotions; therefore, you can tap into those happy times again whenver you wish, simply by spraying that particular scent again. Also, we hope you’re treating yourself to a new outfit, not just whatever happens to be the cleanest and least-creased thing knocking about on the bedroom chair; so why wouldn’t you wear a new scent, too?

Have a look at our genius Fragrance Finder – simply input the name of a scent you already wear, and it’ll give you SIX suggestions of new fragrances to try with similar notes, themes or ‘feel’ about them, all in differing price ranges. It REALLY works – just try it for yourself to see!

Know your skin type.

Fragrance can waft fabulously on some people for hours, while that same scent might only have a mere whiff left after an hour of you wearing it. It depends, basically, on how oily your skin is naturally, and the climate you’re in. Fragrances are generally composed of oils in an alcohol base, and these evaporate at differing rates (hence Top / Heart / Base notes); so the drier your skin, the hotter the weather, the more quickly your scent will disappear.

If this is your experience, you might want to avoid a scent that’s mainly citrus-based or a very light formulation (such as Cologne) as those notes can evaporate within half an hour; though having said that, modern advances using aroma chemicals can help vastly prolong some citrus scents. See if the fragrance has an Eau de Parfum or ‘Intense’ version – these have a highter fragrance to alcohol base ratio so last much longer – or layer with matching products such as shower gel and body lotion. The more moisturised your skin, the longer the fragrance will cling to it.

Also consider carrying a pocket-sized version for on-the-go top-ups – many houses offer travel sizes, or you can buy brilliant (and very stylish) mini atomisers, such as Travalo, in which you can safely decant from your full-size bottle.

 

Travalo atomisers £28 ab-presents.co.uk

 

 

BRIONI
Brioni
Characterful, suave and assured as the perfectly tailored menswear it’s the fragrant emblem of, founded in Rome in 1945, the pared-back style is perfectly reflected in Master Perfumer Michel Almairac’s hands. Green apple studded with pink pepper feels like a cool sip of gin, while violet and Ambroxan are perfectly blended with tonka bean and musk, like a second skin. Instant classic, aisle be bound! [You were warned about the puns], and there’s two other versions – one fresher, the other an Intense – also available.
£95 for 100ml eau de parfum (60ml exclusive to retail)
brioni.com

 

PS: You can try a sample of Brioni in the Niche VI Discovery Box (along with nine other niche scents for £23 / VIPs £19)

 

 

DUNHILL
Icon Racing Red
There’s some extra pep in this engine – perhaps the sizzle of spicier notes with the warm glow of that rich amber base does it, but nonetheless we can say the red is rather racier than its somewhat sleeker (but still fabulous) Racing Blue garage-mate. Sun-filled solar notes remind us of driving, top down, ‘round winding lanes on holiday (perhaps pressaging the honeymoon?) with a carefree abandon, the zing of the citrus speeding the verdant freshness of leafy fern and geranium – a welcome reception before the nuzzle-me-closer frankincense-y infused church pews base kicks in.
£94 for 100ml eau de parfum
fenwick.co.uk

 

 

 

PENHALIGON’S
Constantinople
One for gents that desire being veiled in something more opulent and exotic, this highly refined, almost leathery iris feels like an intricately carved wooden shutter suddenly flung open to welcome evening air and blazing skies, a tang of salty shores nearby carrying waves of delicate, powdered spices on the breeze. Beneath an earthy, mossy layer nestles seams of liquid vanilla, milky ripples later reflect moonlight, harbouring the expectation and tingling anticipation of tonight’s nuptial adventures…
£178 for 100ml eau de parfum
penhaligons.com

 

 

 

GIORGIO ARMANI
Acqua di Giò EDP
Requring the comfort of familiarity with a fresh feel? ‘An eternally iconic fragrance reinvented for the future’, this new interpretation reflects Armani’s sustainability commitment. Aromatic and luminous, the consciously-sourced ingredients fizz with the freshness of green mandarin, lightly musky, tobacco-like notes in the clary sage heart, and a sheer yet enduring patchouli essence. An instant hit when it was launched in 1996, this so-stylish contemporary and eco-conscious (refillable) update is to be celebrated again – Alberto Morillas working his magic with the planet in mind.
£98 for 125ml eau de parfum
boots.com

 

 

 

PARFUMS DE MARLY
Greenley
A distinctly greener vibe for this much-loved niche house, bringing the feeling of a contemporary Cologne but (importantly) with the benefit of far greater staying power in a concentrated eau de parfum. Bursting with citrus up top, the petitgrain grants an immediate freshness, a fruity interpretation of cashmere wood fused with crisp apple and the shady cool of violet. Amberwood ripples throughout, making this feel like a much-needed stroll through the woodlands if you’re feeling the need to escape the wedding-planning madness.
£175 for 75ml eau de parfum
harrods.com

 

 

Juicy mandarin is married here to the powerhouse icon that is Molecule 01 – the first fragrance that propelled this house’s perfumed fame. The sophisticated freshness just keeps on going (and helps you hang on) thanks to perfumer Geza Schoen. ‘I’ve touched it up with a little extra shading to extend it, adding a mandarin ingredient used in flavourings to give it super-juiciness’ he explains. Then the warm-skin purr of ISO E Super sashays in: ‘That’s unusual – for a top note ingredient like Mandarin and a base note like Iso E Super to dance together naked like this, without other notes coming between them.’

Escentric Molecules M+ Mandarin £95 for 100ml or try a sample in their M+ Discovery Set £20

 

 

 

Here’s a thought – if you’re nervous about that first dance, or ‘dad dancing’ as a guest, simply spray the M+ Mandarin and imagine everyone naked. Well. Maybe not everyone, depending of course on how you feel about your in-laws. But seriously, the right fragrance truly can give you an extra boost of confidence, helping you feel stronger and energised throughout the day as well as making scent memories to last a lifetime. I so hope this little guide has given you some help to finding yours…

Written by Suzy Nightingale

 

 

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

What IS a fougère? Pteridomania & the frenzy for fern fragrances

When describing types of fragrance, the term fougère can seem bewildering – both the meaning and how on earth to pronounce it.

French for ‘fern-like’, you say it ‘foo-jair’ (with the ‘j’ a little soft – almost ‘foo-shair’), when you think of a fern’s smell, what comes to mind? Whatever you think of, that smell memory is quite likely to have been influenced by Houbigant’s Fougère Royale – created in 1882 by Paul Parquet, and much copied by those who clamoured to achieve a measure of its success.

While we might imagine a shady-forest smell emanating from a fern, the majority aren’t fragrant to any great extent. And although the ingredients so key to Parquet’s original accord – oak moss, geranium, bergamot and (most notably) coumarin – are now collectively referred to as ‘fougère’ (often with lavender or other aromatic herbs thrown in for good effect), it’s the alchemy of the perfumer recreating that ‘natural’ smell memory: the whole woodland seemingly wafting from the bottle.

“Gathering Ferns” (Helen Allingham) from The Illustrated London News, July 1871.

Some time before Parquet’s fragrant foragings, ‘fern mania’ was sweeping the nation, and it caused an amount of worry when women began wandering, sometimes alone or – worse! – gambolling with groups of young man in the woodlands, in search of their charms… What business had women convening with nature outside of their perfectly manicured cottage gardens? Well, ‘Pteridomania’, meaning Fern Madness or Fern Craze was the term for this frenzy, coined in 1855 by Charles Kingsley in his book Glaucus, or the ‘Wonders of the Shore’. In it he sought to reassure anxious parents:

Your daughters, perhaps, have been seized with the prevailing ‘Pteridomania‘ … and wrangling over unpronounceable names of species (which seem different in each new Fern-book that they buy) … and yet you cannot deny that they find enjoyment in it, and are more active, more cheerful, more self-forgetful over it, than they would have been over novels and gossip, crochet and Berlin-wool.

So – society’s nerves soothed and the morals of females intact – the time was ripe for fern fragrances to unfurl; but it took a unique olfactory discovery to kickstart that particular perfume craze.

It was the extraction of coumarin ­– one of the first synthetics to appear in perfumery – which made the fougère such a landmark scent. But how many people outside the industry would be able to describe coumarin’s smell? Not many, I’m guessing.

A plate from The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland, a book from the era of Pteridomania.

Coumarin is found in tonka beans and cinnamon, but also occurs naturally in bison grass and green tea. It’s classed as a ‘lactone’ – (milky, skin-like) – a complex molecule that’s the scent of sweet hay drying in the sunshine with a slight waft of warm horse; a cold glass of fizz sipped on newly-mown grass, a fine cigar fresh from the humidor, a warm cookie dunked in cold milk. All of these things and not one in particular: the scientist’s hand working in harmony with the artful perfumer to create a magical realism. Because the true skill of a perfumer is to take ingredients and transform them into something we think we already recognise, sparking those scent memories and creating new ones to fill the gaps.

In fact, Parquet was called the ‘greatest perfumer of his time’ by no less than Ernest Beaux, the creator of Chanel No. 5, and was the first to truly understand and appreciate the use of synthetic aroma materials in fragrance composition. Previously used as mere substitutes for naturally derived raw materials, Parquet saw a chance to deploy them as unique smells in their own right – adding structure, poetry and space within perfumes that sought not to mimic the natural world but to add to it, to improve on perfection. And so the fougère fragrance family was born.

Traditionally seen as a scent for the chaps – possibly sporting tweed and a monocle – in fact Guerlain’s masterpiece of Jicky, launched in 1889, is a more ‘feminine’ fougère (the first unisex scent, too) which ramped up the crackle of dry lavender, adding sweetly mown hay and toasted almond-like flourishes of coumarin. More recently, we’ve seen an increasing number of gender-fluid fougères striding forth – perhaps chiming with our collective urge to ‘return to nature’ during the pandemic; or simply an urge that preceded Covid-19, a perfumed riposte to political unease?

Whatever the reason, the resurgence of the fougère is to be celebrated. Cooling on steamy days, comforing in more inclement weather, these are the type of scent to boost your spirits while patting your hand and telling you everything’s going to be okay. Wander into the woodland yourself, awhile, and try these fougères – from classical forest to contemporary fairytale…

Houbigant Fougère Royale A sprig of herbs carefully tucked into the lapel of a herringbone jacket, the olive from a dry Martini sucked in a slightly lascivious manner while they’re looking the other way. £130 for 100ml eau de parfum libertylondon.com

Guerlain Jicky Somewhere between breakfast and midnight, fog-shrouded moorland; pale wool blanket clutched close, bare feet on flagstones, forbidden hipflask swigged reading Wuthering Heights. £96 for 100ml eau de toilette houseoffraser.co.uk

Yves Saint Laurent Kouros Freshly-scrubbed and shining with smooth words and practiced simplicity, but clean sheets cannot hide the indiscretion and animal instincts of the night before. £50 for 50ml eau de toilette theperfumeshop.com

Creed Viking Cologne A bountiful burst of freshness leads to explorations of verdant landscapes re-awakening; geranium, herbs, lavender and nutmeg atop glacial lakes reflecting shinshine. £175for 50ml eau de parfum  creedfragrances.co.uk

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Milano Cento HIM A woodland wander with someone dashingly Italian (who knows not to wear sandals with socks), the citrus breeze segues to an herbaceously dappled grove and aromatic amour. £49 for 100ml eau de toilette roullierwhite.com

4160 Tuesdays The Lion Cupboard Ferns pressed between pages of a diary, love letters tied in faded ribbons, a lipstick kiss on a foxed mirror, silk scarves with the faint tang of a gentleman’s Cologne. £55 for 30ml eau de parfum 4160tuesdays.com

Partere Run of the River A bare-foot meander through clover-strewn lawns, budding freshness in the air, lemon-thyme and clary sage encricled by a languorous caress of incense and oakmoss. £95 for 50ml eau de parfum parterrefragrances.com

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

Comfort & Strength: scenting your mood with whispers and shouts

Comfort & Strength are feelings we’re all needing more of these days, and oh goodness, wearing the right fragrance really does help. But should you reach for something loud and proud or softly soothing…?

‘…Smell is a language of airborne shouts and whispers that travels across rooms. Smell is suggestive.’ – Sarah Knott, Mother: An Unconventional History (Penguin, 2019)

 

In the just-published Beyond Fashion & Fragrance edition of The Scented Letter magazine, I focus on the post-pandemic perfume landscape – reporting how fragrance sales actually grew during the first #lockdown, as people swathed themselves in familiar scents to comfort themselves; or tried a whole host of new fragrances to feel more alert and avoid associating their usual favourite with negative emotions. Similarly, the worldwide taste in perfumes seems to now vacillate between the big-hitter room-fillers and the altogether softer, more contemplative scents that remain closer to one’s own skin.

So which do you prefer? I know some days I crave the quietude of something gentle – an olfactory caress akin to wrapping myself in a cashmere blanket. At other times, I’ve desperately sought out scents to wear as a kind of fragrant armour against *gestures at everything* – some scented ‘backbone in a bottle’.

Whether its whispers or shouts you’re seeking, here’s a very small selection of fragrances I have been reaching for to scent my mood…

 

 

KAYALI VANILLA | 28
Creamy jasmine swirled through a cloud of vanilla is sheer bliss on the skin, a sensation of intimacy elegantly rendered in addictive tonka, musk and amber-rich patchouli sprinkled with brown sugar.
£67 for 50ml eau de parfum

Try it at: cultbeauty.co.uk

 

 

Olfactive O Skin
A soothing hush of ambrette seed, orris and magnolia unfurl from the sensation of cool, cotton sheets to a sweeter nuzzle of sun-warmed skin via beeswax absolute and sandalwood. An incredibly long-lasting hug – something we could all do with right now.
£100 for 30ml extrait de parfum

Try it at: olfactiveo.com

(You can also try Skin, along with all their other fragrances, in the Olfactive O Discovery Set: £30)

 

 

L’Orchestre Parfums Pianao Santal
A lullaby of languorous warm skin wraped in silky sheets, the sandalwood, cedar and ethereal white musks feel milky, mystical and dream-like; finally caressed by caraway, carried like motes of dust.
£129 for 100ml eau de parfum

Try it at: harveynichols.com

 

 

 

Kierin NYC Nitro Noir

A powerhouse contemporary Chypre/floral that positively swings its hips, with ripe pink berries swirled through rich patchouli and dusted with powdery orris for a hypnotic, individualistic hurrah.
£65 for 50ml eau de parfum

Try it at: theperfumeshop.com

Available in the Kierin NYC Discovery Set (all four fragrances to sample at home) for £15

 

 

 

THOO Live in Colours

Punchy grapefruit and lemon are paired with juicy red fruits before the heart fizzes pink pepper and ginger: exhilaration guaranteed. Hinoki wood and musk in the dry down help ground you, confidently.
£190 for 75ml eau de parfum

Try it at: jovoyparis.co.uk

 

Tom Daxon Iridium 71%

Proof that cashmere can be worn as armour, the original scent’s intensified to over three and half times the strength. Piquant juniper’s enfolded in layers of powery iris: silkiness draping the steely scaffolding.
£245 for 50ml extrait de parfum

Try it at: tomdaxon.com

Quite apart from using scent to smell nice, trying a variety of fragrances also helps to deleniate the days, don’t you think? At a time when travelling is almost non-existant, we’re pining for new experiences. Trying an unfamilar scent can genuinely jolt you out of feeling quite so… trapped – opening the world as your olfactory oyster, if you like, to explore.

With that in mind, we have a wonderful selection of Discovery Boxes of samples and ‘try me’ sizes we’ve specially curated for you to try at home, as well as fabulous Brand Discovery Sets where you can sample the entire offerings of niche houses.

Comfort and Strength: why not have both?

By Suzy Nightingale

Yardley London launch ‘Fragrance Diagnostic Tool’ to find your new fave (plus a discount!)

It can often be tricky navigating your way through a range of new fragrances, so Yardley London has launched a Fragrance Diagnostic Tool online, to provide personalised fragrance recommendations (AND a discount code!) via your favourite ingredients, and a signpost to your perfect scent…

Celebrating their 250th anniversary (an incredible heritage you can read all about on our page dedicated to their history), Yardley London’s Fragrance Diagnostic Tool is a quick and simple way to guide you to your new favourite fragrance. All you need to do is pick some of your favourite notes from a list, and the fragrances that most closely match your taste will be presented to you.

I got matched to April Violets, which shows it works, as that’s one of my all-time favourites – all powdery/pretty with verdant violet leaf adding shade) –  and Blossom & Peach, which I must admit to not knowing so well, but it sounds utterly perfect for me. Blackcurrant, rose, peach, lilac and geranium with woody notes, patchouli and musk? Yes please! So that’s on my must-try list.

Even better: Once the diagnostic has been completed, customers receive a 10% off discount code valid on the Yardley range of eau de toilettes. So maybe my ‘must try‘ list is suddenly ‘must buy right NOW’…

Written 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

Make your home a fragrant haven

What with the continuing global pandemic and all, we’re spending so much extra time at home, now, trying to find little nooks to transform into sudden workplaces, and perhaps even somewhere to relax and wind-down awhile (wouldn’t that be nice?) We’re here to help, with ideas of how to use fragrance to make your home a fragrant haven…

You may not be aware of it, but scent plays an important, subliminal part in how we define a space. On a large scale, you’ll have noticed that supermarkets pump out fresh baking smells to entice you to the back of the shop, and spas smell gloriously relaxing the moment you step inside; but you can use the same principles to shape your own home into individually fragranced areas.

Have a look at some of these ideas to keep you alert, refreshed, comforted and soothed….

 

 

Tip: Use uplifting scents in your designated work-space – be that the spare room, a corner of the siting room with a fold-out table or even with your laptop balanced on your knees (which is less than ideal, we know!) Keep them fresh, invigorating and aromatically stimulating to keep you alert.

Try: Diffusing rosemary oil in an aromatherapy oil burner, or soaking a ceramic disc (or cotton wool, inside a pomander) and tying with a ribbon to your radiator, or near where you’re working. Far from being ‘an old wive’s tale’, rosemary has now been scientifically proven to aid memory retention and clarity of mind. Something we could all do with right now, eh?

Buy: La Montaña First Light Candle, £36
An immediately mood-altering scent gently welcomes you to a new day, while herbaceous mountain breezes get to work on un-beffudling (is that a word? It is now) your brain. Much needed at Nightingale Towers, I can tell you! Plus £5 from every sale will be donated to the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal.

La Montaña founder, Cassandra Hall, explains why she chose rosemary as inspiration for their first candle:  ‘On our mountain, at first light, there’s a heavenly fragrance in the air. Before anyone starts an engine, or lights a fire, the air is clear, and still, and silent. The first breath of the day carries the perfume of wild mountain herbs: fennel, rosemary, mountain pepper and intoxicating rock rose. The alchemy of the fragrances, blended naturally on the breeze, weaves a magical spell.’

 

 

Tip: Transform your kitchen into a more intimate setting – if you’re lucky enough to have room for a table, or are finding yourself in there far more these days (cooking up a storm with leftovers, maybe whipping up a cocktail or three…), banish the clincal cleaning-product smells or foodie wafts, and pretend you’re in a romantic restaurant. (Do take the bins out, though.)

Try: Growing fragrant herbs in pretty pots on the windowsill, or bringing in some fresh flowers to enjoy their scent while you toil over the stove. Do make sure they’re strongly scented enough to smell over the competing scent of cooking, though. Or simply cook a cake with vanilla and spices to ensure hours of ‘Mmmm!’ (Added bonus: cake.)

 

Buy: Miller Harris Rendezvous Tabac Candle, £45
You might not think of a ‘tobacco’ scented candle as an obvious choice for the kitchen, but bear with me. This one’s inspired by the romantic brasseries of Saint-Germain, and makes your kitchen (or anywhere!) feel cosy, welcoming, somewhere to willingly linger, not *have* to be.

The Cuban cascarilla oil and pimento berries tingle their way to a heart of velvety sage and cool drifts of pine against the cosiest background of creamy tonka bean and Malay patchouli. Even if it’s once a week, treat yourself to a proper tablecloth, linen napkins, ‘the best’ china or glasses and polished silverware. It feels extra fancy, so maybe even consider wearing your best pyjamas while planning your next meal out-out.

 

 

Tip: Turn your living room into a place of scented sanctuary with opulent florals – somewhere to chill out in style while binge-watching your favourite shows, to browse your favourite magazines (including The Scented Letter, obvs) or catch-up with friends on a phone call.

Try: Find local flower deliveries at flowersfromthefarm.co.uk and fill a vase with deeply-scented flowers to cheer you (and anyone who walks past your house) up every time you see and smell them, or using a vintage jug for a fragrant display, surrounded by candles, in the fireplace.

 

 

Buy: Sana Jardin Jaipur Chant candle, £48
Opulent with real Indian tuberose essential oil, Moroccan jasmine and French narcisse with a twist of Italian lemon, this exquisite scent is redolent of exotic climes and will absolutely fill your space with floral beauty (even if you can’t get any flowers delivered, or want something longer-lasting).

Sana Jardin founder, founder Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed, was inspired to create this scent after taking part in a Hindu devotional ceremony, where tuberose flower garlands are exchanged and play a symbolic role, connoting love, deep emotion and sensitivity. In this fragrance, the flower is given added vibrancy with Morroccan jasmine, narcisse and musk, resulting in a stunning sunshine-filled scent that will enhance your home at any time of year (and whatever the weather is doing outside).

 

 

Tip: Taking a candlelit bath with a fragrant oil while listening to soothing music is self-care you deserve. It’s difficult enough to unwind at the end of the day, when your muscles are knotted with tension from, you know, worrying about the global pandemic on top of everything else…

Try: Using a muscle-relaxing bath essence that also scents your entire house with gorgeously aromatic wafts. Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil is a best-seller for a reason: it works. Soothing sandalwood, camomile and grounding vetivert will sort you out.

Buy: diptyque Paris En Fleur small candle, £30
Petite enough to be placed bath-side while you soak, this is an evocative scent to carry you away with dreams of being impossibly Parisian chic. The first Chypre for the house, a flurry of fruity rose petals merge with deeply resinous patchouli – relaxing and quite a lot sexy, all at once…

For this celebration of Paris, diptyque drew its creative inspiration from the rose and its thousand scents, such as the roses of the Bagatelle gardens or the Marché aux fleurs. To adorn the scent, they worked with the artist and friend of diptyque, Pierre Marie. Together, they created a decoration inspired by Art Nouveau, like a lattice bedecked with flowers on which roses intertwine with metallised foliage.

 

 

Tip: If you’re likely to nod off, a lit candle’s not ideal for the bedroom, but there’s a fabulous range of fragranced reed-diffusers available now. Why not change up your sleeping space with a luxurious scent and pretend you’re in a hotel (maybe change the sheets, too…)

Try: Not everyone loves lavender (yes it’s beautifully soothing, but only if you like the smell!) so surround yourself in bed with scents you adore – something that makes you stop a moment to breathe in and appreciate it better. You’ll actually feel your shoulders drop as you close your eyes.

Buy: Ruth Mastenbroek Firedance Diffuser, £30
We absolutely love this for the bedroom (or boudoir) because it feels like a 5-star scent even if your space doesn’t quite live up. It’s incredibly long-lasting (so excellent value – we’re talking months of scented contentment, here) and smells utterly unique. Divinely smoky rose smoulders beguilingly on the rich, woody base, and if your bedtime routine’s not exactly petal-scattered sheets and romance, you can dare to dream!

Rejoicing in a moment of true contentment was perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek’s muse for this so-sultry modern interpretation of the classic rose perfume, as exotic leather dances in surprise harmony with the main character – smouldering Damask rose. Set against a warming backdrop of oudh and patchouli, a shining amber note radiates in this scent which is perfect for anywhere in the home (especially anywhere you’d like to smoulder, yourself…)

However you’re coping (or otherwise) with re-arranging your house/routine/life in this current climate of uncertainty, while filling your home with designated scented spaces might not magically make everything better – I absolutely guarantee that it WILL help.

If you don’t happen to live in a mansion with a wing for every member of the household, or spare rooms that can be converted into handy separate office spaces – it’s essential to divide up what space you do have into areas that feel like passing from one phase of the day into another, that split up the many roles you may be juggling – for your own sanity, not merely a pleasant perfume to smell. And home fragrance is the easiest way of doing that, subliminally. It genuinely can change an atmosphere instantly, and, therefore, your mood/how your day rolls out.

We’re living through times we’d never imagined, that nobody knows how ‘best’ to deal with. So treating yourself to a little scented luxury is important – perhaps more now than ever before. You’re worth looking after, too, you know…

By Suzy Nightingale