How to find your fragrant armour

Have you found your fragrant armour? There are times we need to reach for something to give us extra backbone, make us stand a little taller and feel able to deflect the slings and arrows slung at us by the world, or the cope with the circumstances we find ourselves in. So don’t worry: we’ve made it our mission to help you find yours…

As I write this, those circumstances are more pertinent than ever, my step father having suffered another stroke. In the unbearable period of sitting and waiting for news, amidst chaos and fear; wearing the right fragrance doesn’t only gives me something to cling to. Judiciously selected, they can climb inside me like a perfumed posession. I’m not quite myself when I wear them. And I like it.

A perfume wont make everything perfect, of course, but it can offer a kind of shield of protection – a fragrant cloak in which you waft surefootedly and go from clapped-out to kick-ass in just a few spritzes. It’s been proven that some aromas can significantly help calm us, but scientists always seem to foucs research on that scented moment of zen, when fragrance can do so much more than merely steady our nerves.

When I need that fist of steel within a velvet glove, I have consistently been reaching for my trusty travel-size Editions de Parfum Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady £47 for 10ml eau de parfum refill at fredericmalle.co.uk. A lady? Yes, but this one’s not for swooning. I picture an aristocratic dame in full 18th Century attire, frustrated with watching the antics of knights’ jousting, and deciding to pitch in herself. Swagged with 400 Turkish roses, sharp blackberry spears the skin-warmth of sandalwood, ripe raspberry unappologetically cutting a swathe through an almost chocolate-like patchouli and the base a frankincense trip to the confessional – but only to boast of her sins.

Perhaps you already have an elixir that works like a charm? I don’t mean something that smells nice, or even something you often wear and adore. Fragrant armour needs to go above and beyond. We’re not talking comfy jeans and a clean t-shirt, here. This scent needs to lift you to a higher plain, spark your imagination and leave others trailing (preferably quailing) in your perfumed wake.

There’s a peculiar alchemy in finding which fragrance works for you. It needs to have an element of comfort, but without being so pillowy and soft that it lulls you into a state of hazy languor. It should be familiar enough to fit you like a second skin, yet not so customary that it feels commonplace. And it needs to be recognisably you, but turned up to eleven: that superhero (or, perhaps, villainous?) version of yourself, who can destroy foes with a KAPOW! while wearing a catsuit and a satisfied smirk.

So, how to find yours?

First, have a look through your perfume collection (or samples you’ve tried and loved, recently), and do the Sniff Test. Spray several blotters (use some tissues or strips of thin card, if you don’t have any) and write the names of the fragrances on. Smell after a few minutes, and then return to them all within half an hour.

Secondly, you’re going to narrow down those that make you feel a frisson. Put aside those that make you go ‘OooOOooh!’ when you smell them, and trying them on your skin. No just “Mmm, yes, lovely’ reactions. This has to be an unbidden, visceral noise of satisfaction or surprise. Come back to each and smell them again, an hour after first spraying. Do any still excite you? Good. These are your starting point for the next step.

Now, type the name into our Find a Fragrance page. If you’re not sure of your favourite family, or want wider suggestions, just choose ‘not sure’ from the drop-down list.

It works by decoding one of your favourite perfumes, and suggesting six alternatives to try. It isn’t some pot-luck shot in the dark based on the ingredients and notes alone – we use key emotion-driven words given in the perfumer’s briefing, or the original inspiration behind the launch. And it’s really quite spookily accurate at predicting what you might like, and love…

My suggestions were for some I already tried, really love and must dig out or re-purchase to try again, and something that really caught my eye: BDK French Bouquet £195 for 100m eau de parfum at harrods.com. Now I’ve been meaning to try this, happened to have a sample kicking around, and so immediately sprayed some on. Oh. Oh YES.

Suddenly I’m in Paris (cliché, I know, but let’s go with it) and I’m wearing the kind of elegant suit and clicky heels I could absolutely never dream of without spraining an ankle or spilling soup on in real life. But in my dream I’m imbued with insouciant chicness, glossy hair gleaming in the sunshine of (what I later learn) is aldehyde C12 – a chemical compound found naturally in citrus oils – seamlessly blending bergamot, rose and jasmine alongside classic Chypre notes (my favourite family, hello) with what they describe a a ‘powdery yet potent effect.’ It’s slightly soapy, but very sexy. Not in a ‘come up and see me sometime’ sense, but rather a ‘hot damn I look great, today’ way. And heaven knows, we all need that.

It made me feel instantly pulled together and like I knew what I was doing. Which is far from the truth, and therefore most welcome. I’ll be adding this to my olfactory arsenal to be deployed as required. I suggest aquiring travel-sizes or samples for your armour (or weapons) of choice, to be carried about your person, whenever the need arises.

Think of your fragrant armour as the scented equivalent of the red lipstick, then. But the magic of this olfactory signal is that it’s invisible – and all the more powerful for being so. It’s your secret, a message written to yourself (in that red lipstick, emblazoned on a bathroom mirror) saying: ‘You’ve got this.’

By Suzy Nightingale

So you think you hate… patchouli?

Ah, patchouli… Deep, dark, earthy and present in plenty of Oriental perfumes, patchouli’s still somewhat tainted with a hippie-dippy aura, even now. (It’s been called ‘the scent of the Swinging 60s’, because the essential oil was often worn neat on the skin of music-loving, party-loving – and sometimes drug-loving – youth.)

It’s always blown our minds that despite it’s earthiness, patchouli isn’t a wood, or a root:  it’s actually a frilly green-leafed, purple-flowered member of the mint family, called Pogostemon patchouli.

Amazingly, from those fragile-looking leaves comes a sweet, spicy, smoky, cedar-y scent so powerful it has to be handled with care:  patchouli is the most powerful of any plant-derived essence. But perfumers wouldn’t be without patchouli, for the richness that it gives to fragrances – and not just those heady Orientals: patchouli makes its way into many chypre and powdery fragrances, swirling exotically alongside lavender, sandalwood, labdanum and bergamot, clove, clary sage, as well as vetiver. (It’s a little like vetiver, if you close your eyes.) Used alongside rose, it extends and ‘fixes’ rose’s sweetness.

The name, quite simply, comes from the old Tamil words patchai (‘green’) and ellai (‘leaf’). It originated in India, Malaysia and Indonesia and made its way to the Middle East via the exotic silk route: patchouli is a fantastic insect repellent, effective against flies and other bugs. (We’re going to try it out on our cashmere, and will report back.) Paisley shawls were traditionally layered with patchouli leaves in transit. Frenchwomen in the 19th Century swathed themselves in these patchouli-scented shawls against the cold – a fashion started by the Empress Eugenie – and patchouli became desirable, as a fragrance ingredient.

The quality of the oil can vary hugely. The very best stuff comes from the three or four top pairs of leaves, where the highest concentration of the fragrant oil is found. Once cut, they’re turned frequently to prevent them breaking down too quickly.  Then the leaves are stripped and placed into woven baskets, where a process of fermentation takes place that releases the incomparable fragrance. Then the leaves are either CO2-extracted, or steam-distilled. It’s highly skilled work, and only a few distilleries produce patchouli of a high enough quality to please a VIP ‘nose’, or creator. On a blotter, meanwhile, a single drop of patchouli can last for months.

For many today people, it’s still a love-it-or-hate-it ingredient, evoking plenty of prejudice. But we happen to adore it, and think even if you’re a naysayer: if you give some of these scents a try, you’ll likely develop a passion for patchouli…

In Bella Oudh there’s an exoticism of precious spices from Venice’s Trade Route, married with unashamedly plush flowers – all tempered by the mélange of sweet, earthy patchouli, slinky as a black velvet dress, and the freshly polished woods glowing warmly in the base. A fairytale of a fragrance, it’s impossible not to succumb to its colourful, overlapping dreaminess.

Tiziana Terenzi Bella Oudh £250 for 100ml eau de parfum
OR try a generous 15ml mini in our glorious collaboration of the Harvey Nichols & The Perfume Society Discovery Box (with TEN luxury size niche fragrances for only £45!)

Intriguingly smoky, velvety wine-dark petals unfurl in the heart of A Rose For… Revealing a sophisticated sprinkling of powdered iris root (orris) and a wisp of carnality with the rich seam of smouldering patchouli. The amber-y base swathes you in vanilla’s gossamer embrace that makes you feel is the way your skin should always smell.In hot weather it absolutely blooms, and in cold, you’ll want to cuddle closer.

Floris A Rose For£160 for 100ml
OR try a sample in our Launches We Love Discovery Box £19 (£15 for VIP Club members) with thirteen fragrances and three beauty extras, and make this patchouli-infused rose most definitely for… you.

In Fortitude, we find ‘The art of magnetism and sensuality, for those with a bit of swagger’ – a green Swarovski crystal-eyed horned ram atop the magnificent cap, and a clue to perfumer Ilias Ermenidis’s uninhibited, rambunctious composition. Overtly addictive tobacco absolute segues to rich, sticky patchouli swirled with creamy, almond-like tonka beans – a distinctive blend that’s seriously hard to resist.

Robert Graham Fortitude
£260 for 200ml eau de parfum,
OR try a sample size, with two other Robert Graham fragrances and seven other niche scents in our Harvey Nichols & The Perfume Society Discovery Box for only £45 (scroll up for a picture, above).

L’Homme Idéal Cool wraps the original almond olfactory signature in three utterly refreshing accords. At first whoosh, experience the effervescence of bergamot, orange and a handful of mint leaves. In the heart, neroli makes a reappearance, with aquatic notes lapping alongside. And in the base – ensuring this has staying power on the skin – encounter vetiver and the dappled shade of that so-welcome patchouli.
£56 for 50ml eau de toilette
johnlewis.com

Here’s proof that patchouli can throw off its deep, dark and sometimes dark past to be reinvented as something sheer, summery and fresh. Unexpected bedfellows of pear, Bourbon pepper, jasmine and white musk – as well as more expected notes of bergamot in the top, guaiac wood in the soft base, offer further proof of perfumer Nathalie Lorson’s talent for reinventing notes, the better to delight and surprise our noses.
£175 for 125ml eau de parfum
Harrods.com

Whichever of these fragrances you seek out, we urge you to try them on your skin and cast aside those ‘hippy’ preconceptions about patchouli. Truly, so many fragrances have patchouli in them that we bet many you already love contain the ingredient somewhere in the mix!

By Suzy Nightingale

So you think you hate… rose?

There will be those of you will be clutching your pearls at the mere mention that others entertain the notion of hating rose, I know. While ‘the Queen of flowers’ reigns supreme for some, other people refuse to even sniff a scent that’s proferred before them if they know it has rose in it…

Of course it’s completely okay to dislike something on your skin – and if your friend loves wearing rose but you would rather snuggle a skunk than wear it yourself; well we all have our own olfactory forms of Kryptonite, so don’t yuck their yum. But I bet you’re thinking of old fashioned roses (again, beloved by some) of the dusty, slightly musty kind, most often found in drawer-liners and grandma’s dressing table.

The fact is, roses are said to feature in at least 75% of modern feminine fragrances, and at least 10% of all men’s perfumes – and they might not even be listed in the notes described. Chances are, even if you think you hate rose, many of your favourite fragrances could have it tucked away inside.

For perfumers, they’re an absolute cornerstone of perfumery – sometimes powdery, yes, but also fresh, raspberry-like, woody, musky, myrrh-y, almost glassily modern or just blowsily feminine.  In classical myths, the rose was linked both with the Greek goddess Aphrodite and her Roman counterpart, Venus.  When Cleopatra welcomed Mark Antony to her boudoir, her bed was said to be strewn with these aphrodisiac blooms and the floor hidden under a foot and a half of fresh-picked petals. Who could resist rolling around in that?

The roses most commonly used in perfumery are the Turkish rose, the Damask (or Damascene rose) and Rosa Centifolia (the ‘hundred-leafed rose’), which is grown around Grasse in the south of France, and generally considered to produce the highest quality rose absolute. This rose is also known as Rose de Mai, because it generally blooms in the month of May, and  – romantically – ‘the painter’s rose’, because it features in many works of the old masters.

Around 70% of the rose oil in the world comes from Bulgaria;  other significant producers are Turkey, Iran and Morocco, and precious, limited quantities from Grasse. The task of the rose-picker is to pick the dew-drenched blooms before 10 a.m. at the latest, when the sun evaporates their exquisite magic. So fast does the rose fade, in fact, that some farmers in Turkey and Bulgaria transport their own copper stills to the fields, heating them on the spot over wood fires to distill the precious Damask Rose oil, which separates from the water when heated in only the tiniest of quantities: 170 rose flowers are said to relinquish a single drop of absolute.

Given that rose is very likely already found in some of your favourite scents, and with modern noses and advanced techniques meaning rose can smell incredibly unique – completely unrecognisable in some respects – depending on the quality, provenence, how much and where it’s used within the perfumer’s formula… Don’t you think it’s time you revisted the rose?

Molton Brown Rosa Absoluta
Sultry red rose gets up close and personal with warmly spiced patchouli and ripe fruits. Wrapped in violet leaf, the seductiveness is barely tamed, but the overlasting impression is an overtly modern attitude with a nod to vintage va-va-voom. Think vintage velvet smoking jacket worn with jeans, or couture gown with biker boots and a devil-may-care attitude.
£45 for 50ml eau de toilette
moltonbrown.co.uk

Ella K Mémoire de Daisen In
Oh this is a veritable cocktail of fabulousness – a fizz of zesty citrus freshness shot through with the tartness of kumquat. Then velvety soft rose, powdery peony, and hypnotic hedione shimmering through nutmeg-spiced black tea. Plum’s succulent fleshiness becomes suffused in a lullaby of comfort: a whisper of white musk, Iso E Super, and delicate violet cradling a deliciously warm woodiness.

Try an 8ml mini (along with nine other fragrances!) in our Harvey Nichols & The Perfume Society Discovery Box for only £45

The Modernist Nihilism
A rabble-rouser by name, it’s actually icily sophisticated – like Tilda Swinton in scented form. Citrus-infused aldehydes feel like a Champagne bottle smashed against a wall, then soothed by the cashmere soft benzoin caress of the base. A contemporary and surprising take on rose that may end up seducing you, too…
£150 for 50ml eau de parfum
modernistfragrance.com

Prosody Rose Rondeaux
Delightfully decadent, seductively fruity and woody, the top notes of luxurious iris, bergamot and raspberry gradually reveal a delicate rosy heart ruffled with patchouli warmth, and a shapely base of blackcurrant and musky sandalwood. Romantic and radiant, it’s incredible to discover how sophisticated this all-natural and organic fragrance really is on the skin.

Try a sample, along with ALL their fragrances, in the Prosody Discovery Set for £28

Parfums de Marly Delina
Despite being in one of the most swoon-worthy bottles we’ve seen, we know it’s all about the scent inside, and luckily this one more than lives up. Quentin Bisch uses armfulls of Turkish roses, peonies and lily of the valley, but it’s the heart of succulently fruity lychee, rhubarb and bergamot that sets this apart (and juices flowing). Offset with nutmeg and vanilla, swathed in white musk and cashmeran, it has converted many a naysayer to the ways of the rose.
£190 for 75ml eau de parfum
selfridges.com


Fragrance du Bois Oud Rose Intense
A heady scent capturing the excitement and intrigue of a romantic rendezvous – from chaste kisses to rumpled sheets. Fresh bergamot forms a complex, aromatic and suitably fruity beginning, succumbing to essence of rose and woody geranium, sighing into smooth sandalwood and amber, with the all the purring nuances of 100% organic and sustainable oudh (aka ‘liquid gold’) in the gasp-worthy base.

Try a sample (with four other stunning fragrances) in the Fragrance du Bois Discovery Set for £20

Angela Flanders Taffeta
Capturing that time when dusk falls, Taffeta embodies mysterious light, chilled air – one’s senses alive with possibility. Dewy hyacinth is speckled with the hushed rasp of peppery lavender, adding a dry rustle to the beautifully powdered iris and lipstick rose in the heart. Smoky tendrils of vetiver flicker between the shadows and surprising freshness of the base.
£69 for 30ml eau de parfum
angelaflanders-perfumer.com

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.
£175 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.
£50 for 15ml eau de parfum elizagrace.com

Shalimar Soffle d’Oranger A flurry of white petals in the Taj Mahal’s gardens, the creamy warmth of sandalwood swathed skin an embrace you’ll want to prolong throughout the seasons.
£79 for 100ml eau de parfum selfridges.com

Maison Francis Kurkdjian APOM Femme A golden halo of comfort, sunshine diffused through honeycombs, your lover’s neck nuzzled, licked, bitten.
£150 for 70ml eau de parfum johnlewis.com

Serges Lutens Fleur d’Oranger Softly soapy at first, then sultry, writhing with unabashed decadence: a pure heart gone wonderfully awry.
£110 for 100ml eau de parfum libertylondon.com

L’Artisan Parfumeur Séville à l’Aube The molten wax of church candles delicately dripped on to eager skin as virtue meets vixen.
£115 for 100ml eau de parfum artisanparfumeur.com

By Suzy Nightingale

So you think you hate… Oudh

There’s no doubt about it: oudh divides opinion. It’s one of those ‘Marmite’ perfumery ingredients, which people either swoon over or clutch their pearls and scream while avoiding at all costs.

But if you think you hate oudh – or any one of the other fragrant materials we’ll be discussing over the coming weeks – get ready to have your perfume preconceptions challenged, and allow yourself to experience some of the newer scents using it as more of a background note. Think of it in the same way you’d use a seasoning, like salt, in cooking. You wouldn’t want the whole dish to be dominated by it, but a judicious sprinkle can utterly alter the way the other ingredients behave and react with one another.

So, let’s go back to basics before we plunge in to the perfumes you should sniff out.

What is oudh?

When we blithely say ‘oudh’, we are actually referring to agarwood – the resinous heart-wood from fast-growing evergreen trees – usually the Aquilaria tree. The agarwood is a result of a reaction to a fungal attack, which turns this usually pale and light wood into a dark, resinous wood with a distinct fragrance – a process that can take hundreds of years.

From that ‘rotten’ wood, an oil is produced, tapped from the tree like maple syrup, and then blended into perfume. The aroma of ‘natural’ oudh is distinctively irresistible and attractive with bitter sweet and woody nuances: seriously earthy and, in small quantities, supremely sexy. Depending on the type of oudh, how long it’s been aged and the quantity used, it can be smooth as velvet, smell like fresh hay drying in sunshine or like a particularly busy barnyard on a rather ripe summer’s day. Just like anything else used in a fragrance, it depends entirely on the expertise of the perfumer, how much they are using, and in conjunction with which other ingredients.

A key ingredient in old and new Arabic perfumery, renowned for centuries as an element within high-quality incense in Arabic, Japanese and Indian cultures, oudh has gone from a ‘trend’ ingredient we saw emerging a few years ago on our scented shores, to now having definitively crossed over to the west as something you can find everywhere – even in fabric conditioners and deodorants. And yet, true oudh is rare, seriously expensive and even endangered: as it’s become more popular, high-quality oud is becoming difficult to source.

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. As an alternative, many perfumers have turned to synthetic oudh, although highly trained noses will tell you it can smell less nuanced, still woody and leathery, but without the warm, balsamic qualities.

So now, we want you to challenge your own nose and seek out some of our favourite fragrances, below. We’ve chosen scents that use oudh as that ‘seasoning’ we spoke of – a way of subtly adding depth, smoothness and velvety plushness within a perfume. Go on, even you oudh naysayers, we double dare you: and bet at least one of these will become a firm fragrant favourite in your collection…


Here we travel to the land of Assam via the richly resonant aromas of the East. Cinnamon leaf oil and nutmeg make for a lively opening with the heart notes giving way to the wonderfully exotic citrus-fresh elemi oil so prized by perfumers. Black tea accord marks our fragrant journey with its smoky tendrils slowly opening to the deeper base and that sweet, wet earthiness and smooth wood played out with notes of oudh and vetiver. Honey is drizzled to sweeten the mix but never becomes sickly, the stunningly smooth tobacco accord putting us in mind of freshly-rolled cigars and dense canopies of greenery outlined against mountains beyond.

Molton Brown Mesmerising Oudh & Gold Accord £45 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at Molton Brown

This feels like an homage to the very origins of perfume – ‘per-fumum’ meaning ‘through smoke’ – this exploration of incense, made exclusively for Harrods, melding the gentle fruity notes of fresh Turkish rose petals plucked from a misty, dew-specked garden, with a fragrant drift of exotic spices. There’s a myticism, somehow, to wearing this. A pure parfum, it lingers beguilingly on the skin for many hours, waves of wamth unfurling, tendrills of smoky woodiness curling around you as you move – your own invisible velvet cloak to swirl, joyously, all day. Just as perfect as night falls, the scent swoons duskily onto the skin like a sunset kissing the earth. Sumptuous.

Atelier Cologne Rose Smoke £325 for 100ml pure parfum
Buy it at Harrods

We automatically began smacking our lips at this, even before we’d sprayed. And oh, once you do, it’s every bit as delicious as you’d hope – if it did come in a jar we’d want to spread buttered crumpets with it, and most definitely smother ourselves from neck to ankles. Probably best it’s bottled, then. With a truly honeyed note that deepens as the sustainably-sourced oudh kicks in, this is intensely nuzzle-able, and there’s nothing whatever to frighten the horses. A gourmand-esque take on oudh, think soft rose and creamy sandalwood rippled with dark seams of oudh, amber and vanilla-specked deliciousness.

Floris Honey Oud £160 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Floris

Unashamedly salacious, the Turkish and Bulgarian roses entwine the heart, bereft of thorns they mingle with the gently powdered violet – a sheer dusting bestowed from a swan’s-down puff – and the most opulently creamy vanilla base you’re likely to encounter. The evocation of luxuriously stretching out on a satin bedspread and enjoying the feel of the silky material beneath your limbs is hard to resist – add to this image a silver bowl of decadent white chocolates decorated with sugared violets, and you’ll be in seventh Heaven! An animalic (thank you, oudh) smokiness underpins the sensuously draped covers, making this the perfect after-dark fragrance for illicit encounters…

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood £200 for 70ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Selfridges

Named after a small Turkish village on the banks of the river Euphrates and famed for its intensely dusky roses that bloom so deeply crimson they appear to be black, Halfeti is certainly not your ‘blushing English rose’. A balmy breeze of bergamot wafts forth saffron’s warmth, followed by a sizzle of spices perfectly blended with a bouquet of jasmine, rose, lavender and lily of the valley. In the base there’s a flex of supple leather, sensuous oudh swirled through glowing amber, chocolate-y patchouli and finally, a smooth dry down of deliciously almond-like tonka bean, sandalwood and a gently powdered musk. Take us away, immediately…

Penhaligon’s Halfeti £175 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Penhaligon’s

By Suzy Nightingale

Fragrance Family Friday: Woody

As part of our continuing series exploring the differing Fragrance Families – the ways that scents are classified – today we’re getting up close and personal with Woody…

Many fragrances contain wood in some aspect, but what exactly designates a fragrance as ‘Woody’?

The clue, quite simply, is in the name – although some of these fragrances do smell like they’re closely related to the chypre family. It’s true: they share some characteristics, but generally without the floral flourishes of the chypres.

Perfumers have so a fabulous palette of woody elements to weave into their creations:  sandalwood, cedar, agarwood (a.k.a. oud), guiaiacwood, as well as patchouli and vetiver.  (These last two aren’t woods:  they’re roots and leaves, respectively – but you’d never guess, from their intensely earthy, woody character.)

Woody fragrances can be given a spin by adding spices/fruity notes, or herbs – so if you like woods (or you’re simply interested in learning what they smell like), do explore the other members of this family, too.

In the meantime, why not try some samples of this Fragrance Family at home? We can’t think of a better introduction than to plunge into the exotic delights of Fragrance Du Bois

Fragrance Du Bois Oud Noir Intense

FAMILY: WOODY
TOP NOTES: bergamot, cardamom
HEART NOTES: rose, jasmine
BASE NOTES: sandalwood, saffron, patchouli, vanilla, musk, amber, 100% organic oudh oil

A perfect marriage of bergamot and cardamom blends smoothly into floral, woody notes of rose, jasmine, amber, sandalwood, vanilla and musk, stimulating the senses with its complexity, while the oudh base adds to its strength and depth.

Fragrance Du Bois Sahraa Oud

FAMILY: WOODY
TOP NOTES: grapefruit
HEART NOTES: rose absolute, geranium, jasmine, patchouli
BASE NOTES: black pepper, sandalwood, saffron, vanilla, amber, 100% organic oudh oil

Sahraa Our immediately invokes the mystery and majesty of the desert, and has been crafted for the sophisticated palates of both Middle Eastern connoisseurs and aficionados of fine perfumes. Beautiful floral top and heart notes of grapefruit, rose absolute, geranium and jasmine, create a symphony that blends softly into base notes of patchouli, sandalwood, saffron, vanilla, amber and oudh.

Fragrance Du Bois are, quite unashamedly, so oudh-obsessed. And are we surprised? Derived from the dark resinous wood of the Aquilaria tree, oudh (often spelled ‘oud’) is an utterly fascinating material – a resin that occurs in less than 7% of trees, in the wild. Which explains why the material is so precious – and, sought-after. And not all oudh, it transpires, is harvested with the focus on sustainability that Fragrance Du Bois are renowned for.

In fact, so Fragrance Du Bois tell us: ‘Due to illegal logging, wild resources have been severely depleted. So, since 2004, all species of the Aquilaria tree have been protected under CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species].’

Created by some of the best noses in the world, each fragrance expresses true mastery of this unique ‘liquid gold’ (as oudh oil is known). You’ll fall in love, we guarantee it – even you oudh naysayers!

Be transported to exotic fragrant lands, happy in the knowledge that Fragrance Du Bois is also looking after caring for the environment, planting a tree for every full size fragrance purchased.

If your appetiete for Woody fragrances has been whetted, you can try a Fragrance Du Bois Discovery Set including these two we’ve reviewed above, along with three other of their fabulous creations, exploring the other fragrance families through oudh, for only £20!

Bloggers’ choice: scents of the summer

We asked some of our favourite fragrance bloggers which scents they’ll be reaching for throughout the summer. Do you automatically switch up your scent game when the season changes, or are there some fragrances you reserve only for the most sultry of days (or to use on holiday?) Let’s have a rifle through their checked luggage…

Thomas Dunkley The Candy Perfume Boy

‘This summer I’ve been obsessed with the zesty, tart and refreshing note of ginger because it’s an unconventional way to cool down on a hot day. My two go to picks are Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Ginger Piccante, which is soapy and spicy, with a hint of rose, and Mizernsir’s Eau de Gingembre – an ice cold eau de cologne with an invigorating blast of freshly sliced ginger.

On the hottest of days, when I can’t take the heat and I need some olfactory refreshment, I’ll usually reach for Atelier Cologne’s Orange Sanguine because it’s like diving into a swimming pool filled with juicy oranges. Who wouldn’t want to do that?’

 

Katie Cooke Scentosaurs

‘I am no sun-seeker, preferring climates that need a summer coat rather than shorts and sandals, so as it gets hotter I reach for perfumes that evoke cool shadows rather than tropical beaches. I’ll retreat to the old stones, incense, and clear air of Oriza L. Legrand Reve d’Ossian, or hide in the chilly crypt of Serges Lutens Iris Silver Mist and the dark, smoky underworlds of Papillon’s Anubis. Or Chris Rusak’s 33, where the balance of vetiver, orris, and angelica feels like sitting by an open window in the shady corner of an old library.

I do love the way some lusher scents bloom with warm skin and humid air, though. I am smitten by the heady florals of the night gardens conjured up by St Clair Scents’ Casblanca, and while I’d not inflict it on the sweaty confines of the London Underground, the spiced rose and ambergris of Encens Mythique is amazing, if a little antisocial, on a hot day.

If all else fails, Guerlain Vetiver, or vintage Dior Eau Fraiche give the illusion of ironed linen even when I’m a crumpled sweaty mess.’

Nicola Thomis the-sniff.com

‘I go one of two ways with summer scents: either light, breezy and carefree, or dark and dangerous. When the temperatures rise, it’s easy to pick a stereotypically summery scent – like Pierre Guillaume’s Sunsuality. This to me epitomises the joyful vibe of sunny holidays, and it’s a great pick-me-up for when the British summer isn’t quite going as planned.

At the other end of the spectrum, I also like darker and more smoky scents when it’s hot. I enjoy the way that increased temperatures reveal new facets and dimensions to the fragrances and they often have the extra oomph and staying power needed. This comes in handy during the summer months when I live under a constant sheen of SPF. I’ve been reaching for Embers, by Rouge Bunny Rouge to satisfy that craving a lot recently, and Nanban by Arquiste.’

Sam Scriven I Scent You a Day

‘As a freckly redhead, the only thing I like about heatwaves is that my beloved green mossy chypres really come into their own. You’ll find me in Chanel Cristalle and 4160 Tuesdays Paris 1948 most days. I also like to keep a few fragrances in the fridge in this weather and in my opinion, 4711 or Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass are hard to beat when sprayed on a hot cleavage. Speaking of all things blue, I’ve just discovered Merchant of Venice Blue Tea and it’s utterly divine for summer. It makes me feel freshly showered with a hint of butterflies.’

It doesn’t always strictly feel like ‘summer’ in the UK at times, and of course there are places where it definitely isn’t summer at this time of year. So let’s jet to Australia and see what they’re wearing in winter…

Pep The Scentinel

‘June in the southern hemisphere equates to single digit overnight temperatures, and the shortest day of the year. What have I been favouring? Two masculine classics, both firmly entrenched into my all-time favourites: Dior’s (2012) Eau Sauvage Parfum and Guerlain’s Heritage eau de toilette.

The beauty of these two is that with some thoughtful application, and timing, they work wonderfully well in the summer too. Well on my skin anyway. Each have significant depth to chisel through the icy air, and enough fizz, sparkle, and spice for hazy summer evenings.’

By Suzy Nightingale

Cologne Rangers

They’re pure liquid refreshment, but for many of us Colognes are also‘ happiness in a bottle.’ As we try to make sense of troubled times, it might behove you to reach for the (Cologne) bottle, yourself! Here, we look at some of the houses reworking the traditional Cologne for modern-day seekers of scented refreshment –more than 300 years from its invention…

Firstly: what denotes a true Cologne? Well traditionally, Colognes tend to be poured at a strength of 2-4% – meaning that’s the amount of pure fragrance within a carrier (usually alcohol in spray or splash form). They were traditionally this strength because half the pleasure was in the re-applying of these cooling scents.

And when were Colognes first used? In a feature for our magazine, The Scented Letter, fragrance expert Persolaise ruminated on the history of Colognes, remarking that ‘Back at the start of the 18th Century, the Italian barber and entrepreneur Gian Paolo Feminis moved to Cologne, Germany, and began selling a blend of bergamot, neroli, lavender and rosemary oils diluted in grape spirit. Dubbed Aqua Admirabilis, the product was such a success that Feminis summoned other members of his family to northern Germany to help develop the business.

His nephew, Giovanni Maria Farina – a.k.a. Jean Marie Farina – tweaked the formula, committed it to writing and, crucially, began advertising the product as a miracle potion not just for scenting one’s person but also for drinking and combating all sorts of ailments, including skin, stomach and gum problems. ‘This perfume refreshes me,’ Farina wrote to his brother, ‘and stimulates both my senses and imagination.’When travellers and soldiers began taking what they called ‘eau de Cologne’ back home with them, its reputation spread, causing high-profile figures to take note.’

And so, for centuries since, we have wanted these immediate hits of happiness. Perhaps now more than ever – and how we welcome the longer-lasting formulations. So what should you splash or spritz on, if you’re looking to join the ever-growing ranks of new genrations eager to become Cologne rangers of today…?

An enticingly fresh and floral composition that’s perfect for spring, summer (or any time of year you need an extra hit of sunshine), you’ll be smiling as soon as you spritz this blend of Calabrian bergamot, Egyptian jasmine and ambrette seed from Ecuador. A perfectly harmonious union of fresh and floral is totally wearable by either sex (if you allow them to share!) and the lasting power really is remarkable for something that smells so effervescently fresh and bubbling over with good cheer.

Atelier Cologne Bergamote Soleil £95 for 100ml Cologne absolu parfum
harrods.com

Brilliant perfumer Alberto Morrillas continues a Mediterranean olfactory narrative with a deep dive into the intense heart of Spanish Cypress essence. Beguiling, resinous tones are shot through with a floral buoyancy of heliotropine and violet, as a dry down of earthy, grounding patchouli warmth of cedarwood are hushed by a welcome blanket of so-soft musks. A scent that uplifts and soothes in equal measures, and surely to become a summer staple in your collection.

Gucci Guilty Cologne £67 for 90ml eau de toilette
boots.com

A timeless classic that nobody can fail to fall in love with, as Colonia unfolds you find yourself entering into an elegant floral-herbaceous space, as if you’ve wandered into an Italian sunlit idyl, Sicilian citrus, bergamot, lemon, sweet and bitter oranges infusing your soul with sunshine. Finally the warmth of the woody base notes comes through, wrapping around you like a cashmere sweater as the sun goes down over the Tuscan riviera. Bliss in a bottle.

Acqua di Parma Colonia £74 for 50ml eau de Cologne
acquadiparma.com

PS: You can try a sample of Colonia in our new Explorer Men’s Box, along with SIXTEEN other fragrances to try at home!

The Explorer Men’s Box £19 (£15 for VIP Club members)

Just as you enter the spicy beginnings, the woody heart andwarming base resonate with unanticipated thrums of juicy freshness and mouth-watering appeal. Then, asurprise appearance of heady patchouli in the heartgets up close and personal with a balmy resin-rush of styrax as the Cologne dries down. We salute this fresh spin on bestselling Aventus, with fresh mandarin replacing pineapple of the classic, and along-lasting, fruity/musk dry-down that resonates beautifully.

Creed Aventus Cologne £215 for 100ml eau de parfum
creedfragrances.co.uk

A world away from the sometimes cloying citronella candles, it’s scented with a delicate lemon tea fragrance, that’s not at all overpowering, and certainly doesn’t make you feel you’ve doused yourself in insect killer! You can also use the spray freely on bedding, pillows and clothes, without the worry of stains since it’s non-oily – and as it’s a whopping bottle, we sprayed with abandon. So, thank you Mrs White: you truly are a hero!

Mrs White’s Unstung Hero £20 for 250ml
Roullier White 

By Suzy Nightingale

Fragrance Family Friday: Oriental

As part of our ongoing feature – Fragrance Family Friday – today we focus on: Oriental. What fragrances are found in this category, and which should you try? (Find a link below, too, for the perfect set to help you explore this category at home…)

With their spices, musks, incense and resins, the Orientals are rooted in perfume’s own history, using many of the same ingredients today that were first enjoyed in the orient – India and Arabia – at the dawn of fragrance creation.

Ingredients like heliotrope, sandalwood, coumarin, orris, vanilla and gum resins are classically used within an Oriental fragrance structure – though these can be tweaked, for men, women (and fragrances designed to be ‘shared’).

Seductive, voluptuous and with a va-va-voom, Orientals tend to feel ‘grown-up’ – and many have a warm, heavy, diffusive richness that’s more suited to after-dark wearing.  They linger sensually on the skin:  they’re heavy on the base notes, which tend to last longer. However, there is a new ‘mini-family’ of fresher Orientals, with a lighter touch, and a more ‘daytime’ feel.

Many of the original fragrance families have additions and cross-overs of sub-categoreies, so none of them are set in stone, and you’ll find much discussion in books and online, on eactly which fragrances should be in which families. Nobody seems to absolutely agree! So we’ll focus instead on some fragrances you might like to try under the umbrella heading of ‘Oriental’…

Memoize London are a niche house that excel at crafting exquisite scents – Orientals being a particular passion of theirs – celebrating ‘the importance of creating a harmonious balance between fragrance and emotion’. The discovery set has been curated to explore the Seven Deadly Sins, with orientals being the perfect family to explore the sultry, addictive theme, hence why five of the eight fragrances are Oriental in nature!

 

TRISTISIA

FAMILY: Oriental
TOP NOTES: red roses, jasmine
HEART NOTES: vanilla
BASE NOTES: oudh, patchouli, civet, amber

A wonderful Oriental blend with rich red rose and white jasmine top notes beautifully balanced with creamy vanilla heart wrapped in warm base notes of oudh, patchouli, civet and amber.

 

 

Avaritia:

FAMILY: Oriental
TOP NOTES: orange , bergamot, armoise, Geranium
HEART NOTES: jasmine, cedarwood
BASE NOTES: patchouli, musk, amberwood, sandalwood

Moreish woods with unsparing jasmine will leave you craving for more. An Oriental blend of amber and patchouli, with sweet musk, interlaced with vanilla and spices, and a top note of citrus and herbs.

 

 

ERA

FAMILY: Oriental
TOP NOTES: saffron
HEART NOTES: iris, ylang ylang, jasmine
BASE NOTES: myrrh, amber, oudh, leather

A sophisticated and rich Oriental fragrance that reveals a saffron top note that mingles with a beautiful iris, ylang ylang and jasmine heart. Exotic, warm base notes myrrh, amber, oud and leather create the depth in the blend.

 

 

SUPERBIA

FAMILY: Oriental
TOP NOTES: rose, ylang ylang, orchid
HEART NOTES: cedarwood, sandalwood, saffron
BASE NOTES: oudh, leather, amber, musk, patchouli

A luxurious fragrance opening with floral top notes of rose, ylang ylang and orchid infused by fine woods resting on a bed of rich oudh wood, leather, amber, musk and patchouli notes.

 

 

BLACK AVARITIA

FAMILY: Oriental
TOP NOTES: grapefruit, honey
HEART NOTES: ambrette, cistus labdanum, incense, Kashmir fusion, oudh, violet
BASE NOTES: amber, cedarwood, musk, powder, sandalwood, vanilla, vetiver

A woody Oriental fragrance leading with top notes of grapefruit and honey. A luxurious heart of ambrette, cistus, incense fusion, kashmir fusion, oud and violet, rests on a base of sandalwood, cedarwood, amber, musk, vanilla and vetiver.

 

There’s much to explore in this sumptuous set and we know you’re going to adore it as much as we do. Apart from the five oriental fragrances we’ve highlighted as a must-try, here; there are a three fragrances to explore, included in the set: Luxuria, a beautiful floral fragrance, opening with waves of juicy cassis and raspberry; Gula, a complex floral weaving jasmine and galbanum with sandalwood, vetiver, vanilla and black musk; and Invidia, a floriental (sub-section of orientals) marrying white tuberose, orchid and ylang ylang with undertones of woodiness and tobacco.

So prepare to have your senses tantalised by these opulent orientals and their equally fabulous floral and floriental friends – and be one of the first to discover this new fragrance house…

 

Memoize London Discovery Set £57 – find it here

Fragrance Family Friday: Floriental

What exactly is a ‘floriental‘ fragrance, and how can we tell them apart from an oriental or floral? What’s more – where should your nose be seeking out perfume samples to explore this style of scent at home? We have all the answers…

Fragrance Families‘ – the classification of what they smell like, based on the main ingredients – can be a bit baffling to work out (and so many of them are fusing these days), so we have an entire section dedicated to explaining them, and suggesting fragrances to try, giving you a head (well, nose) start. You can read more here about how to identify all the differing fragrant family members, but each week we’ve decided to take you through a particular perfume genre, and suggest a couple of scents to explore at home.

If you scroll down, you will find a review of two floriental fragrances we think you’ll love, with links to buy samples. But for now, let’s sort out what a Floriental is…

Well, the name for this family does most of the work for us: florientals are a sophisticated fusion of floral and oriental notes, and so many fragrances now fall into this category that it’s a real family in its own right. Florientals blend flowers – including gardenia, jasmine, freesia, orange flower – with spices, warm woods and resins. The result? Fragrances that are sensual and often sweetly seductive, but generally airier and lighter in character than true orientals.

Many people who adore orientals like trying florientals in warmer weather, or when travelling, for a still characterful experience, but with a bit of added breeziness. Similarly, those who enjoy florals might like to venture forth into something a little more nuanced, or simply less heady to wear in summer temperatures.

Floris A Rose For…

FAMILY: FLORIENTAL
TOP NOTES: Darjeeling tea, incense, cassis
HEART NOTES: red rose, orris, oudh
BASE NOTES: sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla, amber

Intriguingly smoky, velvety wine-dark petals unfurl in the heart of this fragrance. Revealing a sophisticated sprinkling of powdered iris root (orris) and a wisp of carnality with the rich seam of smooth oudh. The amber-y base swathes you in vanilla’s gossamer embrace – that makes you feel is the way your skin should always smell.

After visiting the rose fields of Morocco, Edward Bodenham – director of Floris, and continuing the tradition of perfumery in their presigious family history – became obsessed with the idea of re-interpreting this Queen of flowers. Exploring what has tended to be seen as a ‘classic’ (and therefore trifle old-fashioned) note in perfumery, and looking at ways of marrying the intoxicatingly exotic warmth with the elegant beauty, the resulting floriental is a stunning version of rose – a contemporary twist on the dusty, fustiness we are sometimes still guilty of associating it with.

Mugler Alien Fusion For Her

FAMILY: FLORIENTAL
TOP NOTES: ginger, cinnamon
HEART NOTES: tuberose, orange blossom
BASE NOTES: tonka bean absolute, white musks

Flickering between the heat of ginger and cinnamon with the silvered coolness of tuberose and an aquatic orange blossom in the heart, the warmth returns again as the scent acclimatises to your skin’s temperature, white amber radiating like sunbeams on volcanic stone.

One minute it’s hot, the next it’s cool. (Well, strictly, Alien is always cool.) A new addition to the Alien universe, its futuristic, talismanic bottle reinvented in fiery, translucent ruby red, this sets out to bring us ‘the power of an eclipse, captured in a bottle’, via radiant sambac jasmine and orange blossom, ablaze with ginger and cinnamon, with carnal tuberose igniting the heart before white amber and Madagascan vanilla make their presence known.

These two floriental perfume samples are both included in the Launches We Love Discovery Box, where you’ll find THIRTEEN fragrances in all, with a variety of families to explore.

From that contemporary rose floriental celebration by Floris and ultra-modern Mugler floriental style to tantalise your senses, you’ll also get to try a ground-breaking Gentle Fluidity duo by Francis Kurkdjian. Or delight in the lipstick-and-leather-handbag sauciness of Miller Harris Violet Ida and explore their homage to urban foraging in Lost. Live you ultimate glamorous fantasies with Cartier’s best-seller for summer, and surrender to an evocation of succulent White Peaches by Shay & Blue. Then, why not immerse yourself in a trio of blooms by Yardley and revel in the oh-so-Parisian Mademoiselle Rochas Couture?

Oh yes, and in addition we’re giving you a stunning new nail polish by Nails Inc. (worth £15 alone!) and two travel-size body washes by I LOVE Cosmetics.

Compare and contrast the floriental fragrances with other families represented in the box, with our famous Smelling Notes to guide you along with each spritz.

Launches We Love Discovery Box £19 (£15 for VIP Club members)

By Suzy Nightingale