From Colognes to extraits, splashes to after shaves – there are so many differing types of fragrance categories now that it can be hard to tell one from another and where to begin. Read our handy guide, below, and get your nose in the know!
Descriptions like Eau de Toilette or Eau de Parfum are used to identify the strength or concentration of oil in the carrier (or base – usually alcohol) in a fragrance composition. These concentrations can vary from fragrance to fragrance, depending on how that particular brand like to blend their scents, but use this is a rule of thumb (or nose!)
Extract/extrait/solid perfume – 20-30%
Perfume – 15-25 %
Eau de Parfum (EDP) – 8-15%
Eau de Toilette (EDT) – 4-8%
Cologne (EDC) – 2-4%
Body cream/lotion – 3-4%
After Shave/Splash – 2-4%
Soap – 2-4%
In general, the higher the percentage, the longer it will last on your skin, and therefore, the higher the price – but do be aware that different concentrations (Perfume, or Eau de Toilette, etc.) may sometimes have differing notes in them, and not simply be weaker or stronger. So when you like a fragrance, we suggest you explore it in all its different concentrations before you find your favourite… Perhaps in the heat, seek some shade and read our recent guide to which classic and contemporary Colognes we recommend for cooling down – we’ve included the fascinating history of the Cologne to tickle your senses, too.
Some people like to layer their scent types throughout the day. Here’s how:
Begin with a refreshing splash of Cologne to get thoses senses revving, and then wear an Eau de Toilette for day time.
In hot temperatures, consider layering a Cologne or Eau de Toilette with a matching (or unscented) body lotion, as dry skin makes fragrance fade faster.
Try one of the many new hair perfumes – a delightful way to wear your scent, often imbued with moisturising, protective properties as a bouns when temperatures soar (and alcohol-based scents can sizzle dry hair).
As evening falls and you head out on the town, switch things up by adding a spritz of Eau de Parfum to leave a sultrier trail that will last as long your night does.
And for the boudoir – a dab of pure Parfum or Extrait will tempt until the next day (or night) but wont project as far as an Eau de Parfum. Think of them as stronger concentrations, but in a hushed form – only for you and whomever you allow to get that close to nuzzle your neck and admire…
Is your nose twitching to find out more? See our brilliant FAQsection – there to answer your questions and put the sense into scents.
How often have you heard the phrase when this is all over during the past year? Well, the “when” is soon – at least in the U.K. with the government’s ‘roadmap’ for easing restrictions seeing the return of shops and outdoor hospitality services reopening on Monday, April 12th.
However, while our hearts may be full to bursting at the prospect of seeing loved ones we’ve missed for so long – there’s some real anxiety in the mix, too.
Because we know the ‘new normal’ (ugh, another saying that needs to get in the sea) is still far from resembling what our lives looked like in those hazy ‘before’ days, when many of us (perhaps lazily) took our freedom foregranted. To travel, to meet a friend for coffee, to hug them when we arrived – blimey, just to walk into a shop! And things will remain strange for some time. So we’re going to need some extra help, still, to get through this together.
If you’re feeling anxious about mixing in public again, you’re certainly not alone. The medical website patient.info has a great article with tips to combat stress in a post-Covid world, quoting psychologist and well-being consultant Lee Chambers, who says of course we’re all still worried, because ‘Over the course of the past 12 months, there has been significant change to adapt and acclimatise to.’ and explains: ‘Without a clear future anchor and the ability to create a longer-term plan, we lack the ability to prepare, and the constantly changing rules lower our tolerance to uncertainty.’
We know that so many more of you have been finding comfort and great mental-health support from scent during lockdown. It stands to reason we’ll need a fragrant anchor to help us get through the next few months as well. So, here are some soothing scents to help calm your nerves and help you feel grounded, but also some party perfumes for when the celebratory spirit strikes and you need an instant spritz of glamour.
Whatever your mood, there’s a fragrance to match or counteract, if needs be. Think of them as bravery: bottled. For when this is all over? For right now, or whenever you need them…
Nancy Meiland Gaia£45 for 30ml perfume attar
A beautifully nurturing scent delievered via a handy rollerball. A nuzzle of jasmine wrapped in warming nutmeg, brightening bergamot and a soft breeze of blue lotus on a caressing base of cedar and sandalwood.
Vines House Parfum Signature Story£75 for 30ml eau de parfum
Founder Rebecca Harrison shares her signature scent ‘for a mood of composure and contentment’ – a veriutable hug in a bottle. Cool lychee snuggles with ginger lily in a whisper of warm amber-rippled vanilla.
Angela Flanders Bleu de Chine£79 for 50ml eau de parfum
Swathe yourself in the hush of dry lavender, grounding patchouli aged for extra depth and the woody heart of bois de rose. Inspired by vintage Chinese textiles, it’s immediately comforting yet effortlessly elegant.
Histoires de Parfums 1899£35 for 15ml eau de parfum
With a pop of Champagne corks flying, the bohemians emerge from the clubs of Paris into the dazzling lights of the city. The fizz of bergamot and juniper floats on orange blossom ablaze with amber in the vibrant base.
Hermes L’Ombre de Merveilles £75 for 50ml eau de toilette
Perfumer Christine Nagel encourages us to ‘see the world from new and marvellous angles’ via contrasting light and shade. Shimmering tops notes swirl to black tea and simmering tonka.
Kierin NYC Nitro Noir£65 for 50ml eau de parfum
Mathieu Nardin’s powerhouse gourmand/floral positively swings its hips, with ripe berries swirled through rich patchouli and dusted with orris for a hypnotic, individualistic ‘hurrah!’
Whether you need soothing or a chance to celebrate, there’s a whole world of fragrances out there to support and reflect how you’re feeling (or would like to feel). If you’re still wondering what would be the best scent to suit your mood, take a look at our genius Fragrance Finder. Simply type in the name of a fragrance you love and it will suggest six others, thanks to the so-clever personality-matching algorithm…
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.
Fragrance du Bois have generously commissioned the creation of a VERY special bottle of Oud Bleu Intense, to be raffled off to raise funds for the NHS Heroes at University Hospital Lewisham.
To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do need to make a minimum donation of £5 – which is more than worth your while, seeing as the bottle of perfume is worth a staggering £5000!
Watch the film, below, to see just how staggeringly beautiful this spoecial bottle is…
Explaining why they wanted to do something to help, Fragrance du Bois say: ‘We have been thinking long and hard how we can help support our healthcare heroes globally during the Pandemic . There is no single way to do this to support all, so we are choosing Hospitals and organisations that have been highlighted to us, to date we have supported Commune Di Milano and raised €1600 which isn’t enough and we plan to do more .
Having seen the daily insights provided by @dralexgeorge we had to select one Hospital to support and chose University Hospital Lewisham where he works as an A and E Doctor as we have seen with Dr Alex’s help on social media the reality all hospitals are facing daily with Covid 19 alongside all the other hospital emergencies.
If we can get maximum support for this campaign we will choose other Hospitals globally to support using Go Fund Me which doesn’t allow us to support the whole Healthcare system we have to choose one at a time.’
Oud Bleu Intense is one of their very best-selling fragrances, and we can certainly understand why. An intoxicating blend of salty marine air, forest-y earthiness and addictively complex truffled notes, many have swooned at first sniff, and we definitely get those special perfume palpitations when it’s on our skin. The standout is the pure, sustainable oudh oil – the signature ingredient of the house – softly wrapped in cool spices of cardamom and nutmeg, freshened with mandarin, enriched with a trio of myrrh and then sensually wafting forth a lightly smoked trail of frankincense… Heavenly!
Fragrance du Bois Oud Bleu Intense Parfum – from £39 for 3ml (in a serum ‘pen’), to £495 for 100ml parfum. (Or, of course, £5,000 for the limited edition bottle!) Buy it at:jovoyparis.uk
We wish everyone who enters the charity raffle the best of luck, and even if you’re not lucky enough to win it, you’ll be helping a fantastic cause…
You can practically feel your blood-pressure drop as you watch these short but so-exquisite flower-filled films on Instagram – but can looking at pretty pictures of nature ACTUALLY (scientifically, not merely anecdotally) lower your stress levels? Apparently so…
A dear friend of mine recently posted on Facebook to say she’d been suffering panic attacks, but that watching these films had really helped her relax, to focus on something lovely for a while and just help her to breathe out again.
I’d been feeling similarly wobbly, to tell the truth, so immediately clicked and scrolled, and actually found myself sighing out-loud with how beautiful they are.
Available to watch on Li Ziqi’s Instagram, the IGTV films follow her adventures as she strolles through flower-filled meadows, picking blossoms to cook with, to arrange into stunning, so-simple floral arrangements, and even make her own floral hydrolates with a copper still in her garden. A Chinese food and country-life vlogger from Pingwu in Mianyang, Sichuan, Li has become something of an Internet celebrity within China, and is fast gaining popularity around the world as stressed-out viewers tune in to drop out for a while.
And oh! That garden! Filled with rambling roses, herbs and vegetables of all description, kittens and puppies frolic and her grandmother chuckles in what are almost overwhelmingly charming and bucolic scenes, as Li Ziqi wanders further into the forest and welcomes spring by picking magnolia flowers, celebrates ‘peach blossom day’ and makes all manner of utterly delicious (and sometimes bewildering, if you don’t happen to be familiar with them) floral-themed dishes.
Satisfyingly, every single part of the plants seems to be used, in meals, for homemade fabric dyes or in glorious floral arrangements in huge vases. There’s something very ASMR about it all – Auto Sensory Meridian Response: a tingling, relaxing sensation some people feel while watching or listening to pleasing audio – with the wind rustling the rose bushes as she meticulously chops and prepares the food, windchimes tinkling in the background.
If you’re stuck indoors and feel trapped, as I do (self-isolating while looking after two elderly, at-risk parents) watching these short films feels almost as good as running through the forests in gauzy gowns yourself… And you know, the calm that washes over you isn’t just make-believe. Scientists have proved that even just looking at pictures of trees and greenery for a few minutes a day can actually help reduce stress and depression.
Dubious? Have a read of this fascinating article in Psychology Today, which asserts that ‘the sight of trees allows the parasympathetic nervous system to gain an edge, calming the entire body and making us more relaxed. That’s a good thing given how many of us live in concrete, urban environments. A recent NIH study  found that in urban surroundings, “contact with real or simulated green settings as opposed to [manmade] settings has positive effects on mood, self-esteem and self-reported feelings of stress and depression.” The Japanese have longed practiced Shirin-yoku, taking in the forest atmosphere or “forest bathing,” to alleviate stress, aggression, fatigue, and feelings of depression.’
So there you have it: if we can’t find freedom for now, or if you don’t have access to a garden of your own (let alone a flower-filled forest to frolic in), you can at least tune in and switch down your stress levels awhile.
Wishing you safe and well, until we meet again fragrant friends…
We know that there are many rumours swirling around the coronavirus, but we felt that this was worth circulating to a community which is highly tuned into its sense of smell.
Top ENT specialists have pinpointed loss of sense of smell – a.k.a. ‘anosmia’ – as a potential symptom of those carrying the Covid-19 virus, who are otherwise asymptomatic.
Previously, we were told to look out for symptoms such as a high fever and a new continuous, dry cough – and for people with those symptoms to self-isolate within their own homes. Scientists suspected, however, that the wide-spreading of the virus has, in part, been due to otherwise seemingly healthy people going out and about – unaware that they are carrying the virus and unwittingly infecting others.
The British Association of Otorhinolaryngology (ENT UK) published a statement that these anosmia symptoms had been found among ‘…a number of patients in the “absence of other symptoms”‘.
Professor Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, and Professor Nirmal Kumar, president of ENT UK, remarked in the joint statement, published online, that they’d noticed a significant and sudden rise ‘in cases of isolated anosmia’ — total or partial smell loss — in the UK, US, France and northern Italy.
The statement goes on to remark that they ‘…think these patients may be some of the hitherto hidden carriers that have facilitated the rapid spread of Covid-19,’ commenting that, ‘Unfortunately, these patients do not meet current criteria for testing or self isolation.’
As fragrance-lovers we are generally more in-tune with our noses and sense of smell than the majority of people, simply due to the fact we spend so much time focussing on scent, concentrating on how it smells. (And, of course, lavishly spraying ourselves in our favourites and describing them to others.) Therefore, we are perhaps in a better place to notice a loss of smell more immediately. And therefore – more importantly – to act on it.
Although current government guidelines on self-isolating with signs of coronavirus do not yet specifically mention the loss of smell as a symptom, it is worth pointing out that the advice DOES state that we should self-isolate and take extra precautions if you are displaying any symptoms at all, ‘however mild’.
What to do if you have recently lost your sense of smell:
As of last night, the government have enforced a complete ‘lockdown’ within the U.K. – a precaution that the French authorities undertook a week ago. Now that the ENT specialists have made the link between a loss of smell as a clue you may be a carrier of Covid-19, even if you don’t have a high temperature or a cough, if you live with other people,the advice is that you should take extra precations and self-isolate as much as possible within your own house.
Currently it seems the majority of those who did lose their sense of smell due to carrying the Covid-19 virus are reporting that they have fully recovered their sense of smell after around a month (much quicker in the case of one sufferer we know personally), though these are early days and much has still to be learned. Fifth Sense, a U.K. charity for those with smell and taste disorders, also have a useful article on their website regarding Covid-19 and the loss of smell.
Another source of contact for those who have lost their sense of smell – through a virus, due to medication or from birth – is the recently established charity AbScent which has lots of great advice on their website.
These are scary things to read, indeed, and of course worrying times for us all. But there is good news coming out of China, for those who are recovering and for whom life is slowly going back to (an albeit new) kind of normality. This has only been achieved by everyone working together, following the guidelines and self-isolating.
As difficult as this is, we CAN get through this together, and we shall emerge with a new sense of just how important it is to talk to our neighbours, to check in on the most vulnerable within our communities, and to grasp every moment of freedom and health with joy. Even if that’s only meeting a friend for coffee or going to an art gallery or literally stopping to smell the roses. How we shall treasure those moments anew when we can do them, freely, again.
Miller Harris have announced they’re donating hand wash, hand lotion and soaps to those most vulnerable in the UK – and are calling for other brands to join in if they can…
In these unprecedented and troubling times, amidst much worry, people ARE doing good things. We’ve already highlighted how some beauty and fragrance brands are helping, and will be showcasing some more next week. But right now we want to join Miller Harris and their shout-out for brands to donate soap, where possible, to help the most vulnerable in our community.
We’ve just spoken to Sarah Rotheram, CEO of Miller Harris, and she explained this felt like a positive thing they could give back to the community – to ensure those most vulnerable – the elderly and the poor – can wash their hands. We know that soap and water and good hand hygeine can destroy the virus. We’ve been contacting brands ourselves, but we’d also like to post this shout-out so that if there are ANY brands out there who’d like to get involved…
In a letter sent to fellow brands, Sarah says:
‘Dear Friends and Colleagues.
LETS GET SOAP MOVING!
As the apprehension around the COVID-19 virus spreads globally, I felt compelled to write and try to help in anyway that we possibly can. Our thoughts go out to everyone affected, our friends in China, Asia and Italy who have been affected for some time, and everyone globally now feeling the shock of the virus.
We do believe that the pause on the world is here for a reason and to remind us we are ‘all one world’ and together is how we will overcome this pandemic. As you all know, I am a huge optimist and there will be a silver lining as the world emerges from this a different place.
We are seeing huge acts of kindness amongst the gloom of the news, and it is these acts of kindness that bring us hope. As a small business we are aware that the next few weeks and months will be a huge challenge for us and all of our staff and partners and we will look to work together through this crisis.
We are partnering with Age UK to address the demand in the most at-risk sector and whilst we await more detailed stats, what we do want to do is urge other businesses who can help, to act now.
As a brand we will be donating our entire stock of hand wash, hand lotion and soaps to those most vulnerable in the UK. Our soaps will leave the warehouse tomorrow to reach the elderly and we are asking other brands to join us. It will be a sin if soap is sat in warehouses rather than reaching people where it can be of some help. The most venerable in our society will be the most affected and the best advice is to wash your hands regularly, so we need to donate what we can and get soap to those in need.
If others join us we can make a much bigger difference.
Our larger beauty colleagues are generously giving to hospitals and assisting governments and often as a small brand we can feel that it is hard to make a difference. Collectively we can have a huge impact.
We are a small brand so have 11,000 units, but I am writing to other small businesses to request if you can join us in making a positive difference to lives. Its time to give back and I think as a community we can make a difference.
This week we have already donated soaps and shower gels to food banks, as they are also facing shortages of supplies as people stock pile. They need support. Again, I am writing to see if you can possibly spare some soap to these organizations that are caring for those in need in these uncertain times.
Please join me in donating generously, and lets get the soap moving. If you are able to help please get in contact with Emma, Laurel and SJ via [email protected] who will share logistical information and link you with Age UK.
CEO, Miller Harris‘
If you are a small brand with stock to spare, or know of brands that might be able to get involved, please do share this information with them. Let’s all pull together in this troubling time and make sure the most vulnerable are helped.
Chrissi Kelly lost her sense of smell in 2012. She had no idea how seriously this would impact on her life – and how many people struggle with this on a daily basis. Since then, she’s launched AbScent and devoted her life to finding out more about the loss of smell, and developed Snif: a smell training app that’s a personal coach to re-building or enhancing the sense of smell…
Since the devastating loss of smell caused by a virus, Chrissi Kelly has been busy founding the charity AbScent, and supporting thousands of other people with smell loss through smell training. Having taken courses with Professor Thomas Hummel, the author of the first research paper on smell training at the University of Dresden, Germany; Chrissi used his tried and trusted techniques alongside specially devised ‘smell training kits’, which have significantly helped people to reconnect with their recovering sense of smell. Chrissi also speaks at conferences, runs workshops, online events and private sessions to support people with the condition. She’s a busy woman, indeed, and we were thrilled to join her at Jo Malone London‘s flagship Regent Street Store, recently, where they were kindly playing host to the official launch of AbScent.
Chrissi explained ‘the three pillars of smell training’ approach AbScent use to aid those with a loss of smell – be that from a head injury, illness, medication or even those who were born with what they perceive as no sense of smell at all. The message is, there is help out there, and there are active ways you can learn more, connect with others and improve your sense of smell with time.
You can also now use the online Snif App – to ‘guide and instruct users so that each smell training session is consistent and productive. Snif becomes a personal coach that takes the guesswork out of practicing, presenting a mindful and focussed way of tracking your development. Currently web-based, a native app is in the works.
‘Think of it as physiotherapy for your nose,’ AbScent explain. ‘The brain can rewire itself, but this is a slow process. Smell training is a commitment and it takes time. You will need to train for a minimum of four months, twice a day.’ That may seem like quite an undertaking, but when you realise how earth-shattering a loss of smell can be, it’s definitely worthwhile. ‘I’d say that pretty much everyone who has suffered loss of smell goes on to develop depression in varying forms,’ Chrissi told us.
Imagine not being able to smell your own child, your partner – yourself. Or wondering is a phantom burning smell is actually your house burning down – a loss of smell isn’t simply not being able to smell things as well/at all: it can come with a whole host of disturbing side-effects, such as all food and drink suddenly tasting foul (leading to eating disorders or malnutrition).
It can feel incredibly difficult to go to your doctor if you’re not sure how to describe your symptoms, or what they need to know. Be assured that the medical profession are now – thank goodness – taking smell loss seriously. And AbScent have made a guide to talking to your doctor, so you know exactly what to say. They even have a list of clinics to go for further help.
AbScent have also launched a Sense of Smell Project. ‘We are trying to learn more about what it is like to live with this condition and how people’s lives change as a result.’ By taking part in their survey and telling your story, you can help them get a clear overview of subjects that may have not been considered, in order to ‘develop healing strategies and better ways to support patients.’
We cannot applaud enough, the work that Chrissi and her AbScent team have done so far, and their aims of helping even more people who may well have been ignored – or not even taken their own loss of smell seriously – for so long. We also hope that other fragrance houses will join in the support. Smell loss can strike any one of us at any time, and if we all work together, what a world of sensorial discoveries we could uncover…
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 MallePortrait 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.’
Ah, patchouli… Deep, dark, earthy and present in plenty of Ambrée 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 Ambrées: 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.
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.
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.
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!