Comfort & Strength are feelings we’re all needing more of these days, and oh goodness, wearing the right fragrance really does help. But should you reach for something loud and proud or softly soothing…?
‘…Smell is a language of airborne shouts and whispers that travels across rooms. Smell is suggestive.’ – Sarah Knott, Mother: An Unconventional History (Penguin, 2019)
In the just-published Beyond Fashion & Fragrance edition of The Scented Letter magazine, I focus on the post-pandemic perfume landscape – reporting how fragrance sales actually grew during the first #lockdown, as people swathed themselves in familiar scents to comfort themselves; or tried a whole host of new fragrances to feel more alert and avoid associating their usual favourite with negative emotions. Similarly, the worldwide taste in perfumes seems to now vacillate between the big-hitter room-fillers and the altogether softer, more contemplative scents that remain closer to one’s own skin.
So which do you prefer? I know some days I crave the quietude of something gentle – an olfactory caress akin to wrapping myself in a cashmere blanket. At other times, I’ve desperately sought out scents to wear as a kind of fragrant armour against *gestures at everything* – some scented ‘backbone in a bottle’.
Whether its whispers or shouts you’re seeking, here’s a very small selection of fragrances I have been reaching for to scent my mood…
KAYALI VANILLA | 28
Creamy jasmine swirled through a cloud of vanilla is sheer bliss on the skin, a sensation of intimacy elegantly rendered in addictive tonka, musk and amber-rich patchouli sprinkled with brown sugar. £67 for 50ml eau de parfum
Olfactive O Skin
A soothing hush of ambrette seed, orris and magnolia unfurl from the sensation of cool, cotton sheets to a sweeter nuzzle of sun-warmed skin via beeswax absolute and sandalwood. An incredibly long-lasting hug – something we could all do with right now. £100 for 30ml extrait de parfum
L’Orchestre Parfums Pianao Santal
A lullaby of languorous warm skin wraped in silky sheets, the sandalwood, cedar and ethereal white musks feel milky, mystical and dream-like; finally caressed by caraway, carried like motes of dust. £129 for 100ml eau de parfum
A powerhouse contemporary Chypre/floral that positively swings its hips, with ripe pink berries swirled through rich patchouli and dusted with powdery orris for a hypnotic, individualistic hurrah. £65 for 50ml eau de parfum
Punchy grapefruit and lemon are paired with juicy red fruits before the heart fizzes pink pepper and ginger: exhilaration guaranteed. Hinoki wood and musk in the dry down help ground you, confidently. £190 for 75ml eau de parfum
Proof that cashmere can be worn as armour, the original scent’s intensified to over three and half times the strength. Piquant juniper’s enfolded in layers of powery iris: silkiness draping the steely scaffolding. £245 for 50ml extrait de parfum
Quite apart from using scent to smell nice, trying a variety of fragrances also helps to deleniate the days, don’t you think? At a time when travelling is almost non-existant, we’re pining for new experiences. Trying an unfamilar scent can genuinely jolt you out of feeling quite so… trapped – opening the world as your olfactory oyster, if you like, to explore.
With that in mind, we have a wonderful selection of Discovery Boxes of samples and ‘try me’ sizes we’ve specially curated for you to try at home, as well as fabulous Brand Discovery Sets where you can sample the entire offerings of niche houses.
Normally, right about now, I’d be planning my annual trip to Florence, and the fragrance fair Pitti Fragranze. A meeting place for perfumers, founders, makers, buyers, brands, olfactory artists and anyone obsessed by scent; it’s always a highlight of my year.
It’s also a wonderful opportunity to sniff the not-yet-launched fragrances, see interesting new niche houses and spot possible perfume trends for the next few years ahead. You might like to have a look at my report from last year’s Pitti Fragranze, to get a sense of the scale of the event. It’s huge! And quite overwhelming. But always wonderful.
Of course, this is not a normal year, and any such in-person events have sadly been cancelled or postponed. But while I am mourning meeting up with fragrance journalists and fragrant friends from around the world; I am heartened that Pitti Fragranze have taken to decision to still run their fair, but as a virtual, online fesitval.
Along with events, talks, special guests, and focuses on new trends (all in English), do check out the complete calendar to see which you might wish to take part in. The various events begin on Monday September 7th – Monday September 21st 2020.
It can often be tricky navigating your way through a range of new fragrances, so Yardley London has launched a Fragrance Diagnostic Tool online, to provide personalised fragrance recommendations (AND a discount code!) via your favourite ingredients, and a signpost to your perfect scent…
Celebrating their 250th anniversary (an incredible heritage you can read all about on our page dedicated to their history), Yardley London’sFragrance Diagnostic Tool is a quick and simple way to guide you to your new favourite fragrance. All you need to do is pick some of your favourite notes from a list, and the fragrances that most closely match your taste will be presented to you.
I got matched to April Violets, which shows it works, as that’s one of my all-time favourites – all powdery/pretty with verdant violet leaf adding shade) – and Blossom & Peach, which I must admit to not knowing so well, but it sounds utterly perfect for me. Blackcurrant, rose, peach, lilac and geranium with woody notes, patchouli and musk? Yes please! So that’s on my must-try list.
Even better: Once the diagnostic has been completed, customers receive a 10% off discount code valid on the Yardley range of eau de toilettes. So maybe my ‘must try‘ list is suddenly ‘must buy right NOW’…
Are your scented candles burning too fast, or creating that dreaded ‘tunnel’ (or ‘core’ to give it the correct name) of doom, where the wax only melts in the middlle and traps the wick? We’ve all exclaimed profanities and desperately dug around with nail-files to try and save them, but we just watched a BRILLIANT Instagram video that solves these woes with ease…
Lesley Sparks (hello, nominative determinism anyone?!) is also known as ‘The Alchemistress‘ – an independent maker and purveyor of the most beautiful perfumed candles. And she has got tips and tricks up her scented sleeve to make sure your candles perform to their best and (most importantly) ultimately to save your hard-earned money.
You can watch the instructive ‘How To’ on her IGTV channel, and afterwards, if you find yourself casting your eye critically over your previous burning performance (and general lazy lack of candle maintenance) then you’re in great company, as that’s exactly what we did, too. For shame!
Looking around The Perfume Society home-office, we suddenly realised that we already owned one The Alchemistress candles, in fact (look, we have quite a few scented candles, okay? It’s not a problem, we can stop any time we like… we just don’t ever want to). It’s called Persian Nights – a smouldering mix of sultry spices, featuring cardamon, black pepper, orange, ginger, coriander, patchouli, cinnamon and cedarwood – and has us dreaming of more exotic climes, and when we can next travel there, every time we light it.
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…
What with the continuing global pandemic and all, we’re spending so much extra time at home, now, trying to find little nooks to transform into sudden workplaces, and perhaps even somewhere to relax and wind-down awhile (wouldn’t that be nice?) We’re here to help, with ideas of how to use fragrance to make your home a fragrant haven…
You may not be aware of it, but scent plays an important, subliminal part in how we define a space. On a large scale, you’ll have noticed that supermarkets pump out fresh baking smells to entice you to the back of the shop, and spas smell gloriously relaxing the moment you step inside; but you can use the same principles to shape your own home into individually fragranced areas.
Have a look at some of these ideas to keep you alert, refreshed, comforted and soothed….
Tip: Use uplifting scents in your designated work-space – be that the spare room, a corner of the siting room with a fold-out table or even with your laptop balanced on your knees (which is less than ideal, we know!) Keep them fresh, invigorating and aromatically stimulating to keep you alert.
Try: Diffusing rosemary oil in an aromatherapy oil burner, or soaking a ceramic disc (or cotton wool, inside a pomander) and tying with a ribbon to your radiator, or near where you’re working. Far from being ‘an old wive’s tale’, rosemary has now been scientifically proven to aid memory retention and clarity of mind. Something we could all do with right now, eh?
Buy: La Montaña First Light Candle, £36
An immediately mood-altering scent gently welcomes you to a new day, while herbaceous mountain breezes get to work on un-beffudling (is that a word? It is now) your brain. Much needed at Nightingale Towers, I can tell you! Plus £5 from every sale will be donated to the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal.
La Montaña founder, Cassandra Hall, explains why she chose rosemary as inspiration for their first candle: ‘On our mountain, at first light, there’s a heavenly fragrance in the air. Before anyone starts an engine, or lights a fire, the air is clear, and still, and silent. The first breath of the day carries the perfume of wild mountain herbs: fennel, rosemary, mountain pepper and intoxicating rock rose. The alchemy of the fragrances, blended naturally on the breeze, weaves a magical spell.’
Tip: Transform your kitchen into a more intimate setting – if you’re lucky enough to have room for a table, or are finding yourself in there far more these days (cooking up a storm with leftovers, maybe whipping up a cocktail or three…), banish the clincal cleaning-product smells or foodie wafts, and pretend you’re in a romantic restaurant. (Do take the bins out, though.)
Try: Growing fragrant herbs in pretty pots on the windowsill, or bringing in some fresh flowers to enjoy their scent while you toil over the stove. Do make sure they’re strongly scented enough to smell over the competing scent of cooking, though. Or simply cook a cake with vanilla and spices to ensure hours of ‘Mmmm!’ (Added bonus: cake.)
Buy: Miller Harris Rendezvous Tabac Candle, £45
You might not think of a ‘tobacco’ scented candle as an obvious choice for the kitchen, but bear with me. This one’s inspired by the romantic brasseries of Saint-Germain, and makes your kitchen (or anywhere!) feel cosy, welcoming, somewhere to willingly linger, not *have* to be.
The Cuban cascarilla oil and pimento berries tingle their way to a heart of velvety sage and cool drifts of pine against the cosiest background of creamy tonka bean and Malay patchouli. Even if it’s once a week, treat yourself to a proper tablecloth, linen napkins, ‘the best’ china or glasses and polished silverware. It feels extra fancy, so maybe even consider wearing your best pyjamas while planning your next meal out-out.
Tip: Turn your living room into a place of scented sanctuary with opulent florals – somewhere to chill out in style while binge-watching your favourite shows, to browse your favourite magazines (including The Scented Letter, obvs) or catch-up with friends on a phone call.
Try: Find local flower deliveries at flowersfromthefarm.co.uk and fill a vase with deeply-scented flowers to cheer you (and anyone who walks past your house) up every time you see and smell them, or using a vintage jug for a fragrant display, surrounded by candles, in the fireplace.
Buy: Sana Jardin Jaipur Chant candle, £48
Opulent with real Indian tuberose essential oil, Moroccan jasmine and French narcisse with a twist of Italian lemon, this exquisite scent is redolent of exotic climes and will absolutely fill your space with floral beauty (even if you can’t get any flowers delivered, or want something longer-lasting).
Sana Jardin founder, founder Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed, was inspired to create this scent after taking part in a Hindu devotional ceremony, where tuberose flower garlands are exchanged and play a symbolic role, connoting love, deep emotion and sensitivity. In this fragrance, the flower is given added vibrancy with Morroccan jasmine, narcisse and musk, resulting in a stunning sunshine-filled scent that will enhance your home at any time of year (and whatever the weather is doing outside).
Tip: Taking a candlelit bath with a fragrant oil while listening to soothing music is self-care you deserve. It’s difficult enough to unwind at the end of the day, when your muscles are knotted with tension from, you know, worrying about the global pandemic on top of everything else…
Try: Using a muscle-relaxing bath essence that also scents your entire house with gorgeously aromatic wafts. Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil is a best-seller for a reason: it works. Soothing sandalwood, camomile and grounding vetivert will sort you out.
Buy: diptyque Paris En Fleur small candle, £30
Petite enough to be placed bath-side while you soak, this is an evocative scent to carry you away with dreams of being impossibly Parisian chic. The first Chypre for the house, a flurry of fruity rose petals merge with deeply resinous patchouli – relaxing and quite a lot sexy, all at once…
For this celebration of Paris, diptyque drew its creative inspiration from the rose and its thousand scents, such as the roses of the Bagatelle gardens or the Marché aux fleurs. To adorn the scent, they worked with the artist and friend of diptyque, Pierre Marie. Together, they created a decoration inspired by Art Nouveau, like a lattice bedecked with flowers on which roses intertwine with metallised foliage.
Tip: If you’re likely to nod off, a lit candle’s not ideal for the bedroom, but there’s a fabulous range of fragranced reed-diffusers available now. Why not change up your sleeping space with a luxurious scent and pretend you’re in a hotel (maybe change the sheets, too…)
Try: Not everyone loves lavender (yes it’s beautifully soothing, but only if you like the smell!) so surround yourself in bed with scents you adore – something that makes you stop a moment to breathe in and appreciate it better. You’ll actually feel your shoulders drop as you close your eyes.
Buy: Ruth Mastenbroek Firedance Diffuser, £30
We absolutely love this for the bedroom (or boudoir) because it feels like a 5-star scent even if your space doesn’t quite live up. It’s incredibly long-lasting (so excellent value – we’re talking months of scented contentment, here) and smells utterly unique. Divinely smoky rose smoulders beguilingly on the rich, woody base, and if your bedtime routine’s not exactly petal-scattered sheets and romance, you can dare to dream!
Rejoicing in a moment of true contentment was perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek’s muse for this so-sultry modern interpretation of the classic rose perfume, as exotic leather dances in surprise harmony with the main character – smouldering Damask rose. Set against a warming backdrop of oudh and patchouli, a shining amber note radiates in this scent which is perfect for anywhere in the home (especially anywhere you’d like to smoulder, yourself…)
However you’re coping (or otherwise) with re-arranging your house/routine/life in this current climate of uncertainty, while filling your home with designated scented spaces might not magically make everything better – I absolutely guarantee that it WILL help.
If you don’t happen to live in a mansion with a wing for every member of the household, or spare rooms that can be converted into handy separate office spaces – it’s essential to divide up what space you do have into areas that feel like passing from one phase of the day into another, that split up the many roles you may be juggling – for your own sanity, not merely a pleasant perfume to smell. And home fragrance is the easiest way of doing that, subliminally. It genuinely can change an atmosphere instantly, and, therefore, your mood/how your day rolls out.
We’re living through times we’d never imagined, that nobody knows how ‘best’ to deal with. So treating yourself to a little scented luxury is important – perhaps more now than ever before. You’re worth looking after, too, you know…
One of the most frequently asked questions we get, is: ‘how can I learn to become a perfumer?’ And now, Experimental Perfume Club is launching a learn-at-home perfumery course, with all the equipment, materials and step by step instructions in online video tutorials! And there’s a FREE mini-course of three lessons – scroll down to find out more…
Emmanuelle Moeglin is a classically-trained (ISIPCA) French perfumer who moved to London and opened a workshop in order help people have access to materials and tuition that would either be incredibly expensive, or impossible to gather on your own. These workshops were so popular, it allowed Emmanuelle to create and launch her own signature fragrances – innovatively presented as perfume ‘Layers‘ that could be worn alone or mixed at home to achieve unique results.
But the Covid-19 pandemic has hit independent fragrance houses hard, so they’re having to innovate and try new things to survive. Explains Emmanuelle: ‘Like so many other brands, we’ve been impacted pretty badly by the crisis as 90% of our business was client facing and almost nothing online.’
Now, those workshops have been put online, so you can have the kit sent to you and learn at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home! With all the mateirals and tuition you need, this is a unique opportunity to take your love of fragrance and interest in perfumery further – perhaps even something that might make you consider a change of career when all this over…?
Available as a two-week / 12 lessons Fundamentals of Perfumery begginer’s course, you’ll have access to a series of how to and tutorial videos and a workbook that will help you awaken your sense of smell and develop an in-depth understanding of the most commonly used ingredients in perfumery. You’ll start by learning proper smelling techniques and how to accurately describe and categorize perfumery ingredients by family, volatility and type. You’ll then learn to compare and contrast these ingredients to deepen your understanding of the scented world around you. You will receive the ingredients you need to follow this course including a selection of 30 of the most commonly used perfumery ingredients and laboratory materials including scent strips, pipettes and bottles.
Or, you can choose to study a more advanced six-weeks / 36 lessons Fundamentals of Perfume Creation course. ‘During this 6-week course, you’ll be getting a series of videos and a workbook that will help you to understand the fundamentals of perfume creation and gain the knowledge to start creating fragrances. From the ingredients to the formula, you’ll be taken on a step-by-step learning journey that will give you the necessary information to get started in perfume creation – whether it is for a hobby or professional purpose.
Each week, you’ll receive a set of how-to videos, practical demos and theory courses to help you gain a broad understanding of the fundamentals of perfumery. You will start by awakening your sense of smell by learning to recognise, describe and organise a large selection of the most commonly used perfumery ingredients. You’ll then explore the fundamentals of professional perfumery practice including the basic equipment of perfumery and setting up your own laboratory at home. You will end the course by learning the creative process behind a fragrance brief and developing an in-depth knowledge of fragrance creation across a variety of applications by composing both simple and complex fragrance formulas.
You will receive all of the materials you need to follow this course including a wide selection of perfumery ingredients and the necessary lab equipment, including scent strips, a scale, pipettes, empty bottles, and solvent.’
Whatever level you want to start at, you’ll come away with a new appreciation for the art of perfumery, for each fragrant ingredient you smell, and for the skill of the perfumers whose creations you spray every day. So why not take this as an opportunity to learn a new creative skill, and to distract yourself in the most pleasant was possible while adding another scented string to your bow…?
Anima Vinci, the niche house with perfumes that are ‘feel-good potions’ – are live-streaming perfume masterclasses online, for free! Read about how to join in and connect with your sense of smell…
What with staying home being the new going out, we’re loving the inventive and engaging ways fragrance houses are finding to bring the perfume community together – and these weekly sniff-along scent classes with Anima Vinci are just the ticket to learn something new while having fun.
Anima Vinci say: ‘Treat yourself with some time out of the daily confined routine and have fun with us discovering the world of perfume, the raw materials, the creative process and much more. The live event is open to all to follow but it’s much more fun with the @home kit!’
So, how does it work?
The live masterclass will last for approximately one hour, and while everyone is free to watch, of course it’s much more fun if you sniff-along for the session. They have made special Anima Vinci @home Masterclass Kits, £45 which you can purchase on their website, and which will contain ‘7 mystery raw materials to smell, an Anima vinci discovery set with 8 samples, perfume strips and a quiz card.’
If you want to jump straight into discovering their scents, however, without the raw materials and card – we are thrilled to stock the full Anima Vinci Discovery Set, £20 in our shop, for you to explore and fall in love with, whenever you wish.
If you already have a kit, or discovery set – or simply want to tune in to see what it’s all about, here’s the link you’ll need:
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…
The trend-fuelled worlds of fashion and fragrance have been hand-in-glove for centuries – quite literally by 1656, when the perfumery and leather industry had become intrinsically linked, the fashion for exquisitely crafted gloves, popularised at court by Catherine de Medici, somewhat at odds with the disgustingly pungent reality of curing leather in urine. So, the Corporation of Glove-makers and Perfumers – the ‘maître-gantiers’ – (master glove-makers/perfumers) was formed in France, importing ingredients from all over the world to scent the gloves; with acres later given to growing and distilling them, such was Queen Catherine’s passion for perfume, and an entire industry was born in Grasse.
Since then, where fashion has led, so fragrance has followed – and just as hemlines go and up down, and silhouettes dramatically alter from era to era, so too do scented ‘shapes’ change with time. And perumers have long been inspired by fabric in their creations – a peculiar thing, you may think, as most fabrics don’t have their own distinct smell. Yet as we imagine a white sheet drying in sunshine, or the plush eroticism of velvet stroked beneath our fingers, we can also imagine the scent these textures might have. Such is the alchemical magic that fragrance can create – an overlapping of the senses, and in this first of two parts looking at fragrances inspired by fabrics, we pay homage to scents evoking satin, cashmere, leather and cotton…
Satin drapes. It clings to the body. It moves in the most sensuous way… And you definitely need to try draping yourself in this from prolific and gifted ‘nose’ Francis Kurkdjian. We’d call this an after-dark fragrance, one for oudh-lovers, for sure – but busting any prejudices against that ultra-woody material, for in Francis’s hands it never, ever overwhelms. We’re getting Turkish delight – a sugar-dusted rosiness that blends Bulgarian rose essence with Turkish rose absolute, while genuine Laotian oudh melts into benzoin from Siam, and the sweetness owes much to a soft, powdery accord of violet and vanilla in the heart. There’s almost a chocolate-y element swirling seductively around the patchouli, while the oudh underpins everything with its animalic smokiness. Mesmerising.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood £200 for 70ml eau de parfum harveynichols.com
Tom describes Iridium as ‘the fragrance equivalent of charcoal coloured cashmere.’ We always enjoy a description that makes you imagine a smell from a texture and colour, don’t you? And this really is a cool-toned cashmere, exuding effortless chic with all the powdery sophistication of precious iris concrète, but granted a strong silvery spine. The iris is dosed with carrot seed to amplify the dry, root-y yet so-refined character, and the synthetic note of Iso E Super wafts forth a deliciously grown-up gourmand ‘your skin but better’ dry-down – the kind that has people asking ‘what’s that delicious smell?’ and a secret smile is stifled when you know it’s you… Now also available as an extrait formula, poured at 71% strength, for even longer lasting enswathement.
Reminding us of our beloved leather jacket, a stack of books or the wood-panelled, boozily infused surroundings of a members’ only club, leather fragrances evoke a particularly voracious and luxurious sensuality, favouring deep base notes that linger the whole day long. Russian leather fragrances have a long heritage, the intense smokiness of birch the vital scent ingredient giving ‘Russian’ leather it’s characteristic smell. Here, Molton Brown curl swirls of smoke through a Siberian pine forest, infusing leather-bound books with a campfire’s glowing ember scent. Magnificently done, it’s an especial pleasure in colder weather, though I love layering it at times with a rose that needs some extra oomph.
Molton Brown Russian Leather £60 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at moltonbrown.co.uk
Like burying one’s nose in sunny-day line-dried linen, a gust of pure, clean ozonic notes greets us at this fragrance’s first spritz, only made more refreshing by a rush of watery notes and pinch of ginger. Mint and green accords carry this clean and fresh feeling into the fragrance’s heart accord, which then softens into florals, cushioned by skin-like musk and vetiver. Magically capturing the comforting sensation of crispness, and featuring elegant white lilies, floral cotton accords and a vanilla-speckled, benzoin-infused amber glow in the mix: this is one to spray when you need to be reminded of home, of lazy sundays and lie-ins and snuggling up in bliss. (See below to get a luxury try-me size!)
CLEAN Reserve Warm Cotton [Reserve Blend] £82 for 100ml eau de parfum spacenk.com
Warm Cotton was the perfect addition to the Luxury Layering Discovery Box – featuring THIRTEEN layerable scents and three fragrant body treats to try at home for £19 (£15 for VIPs) – use it to freshen up a perfume without resorting to the usual citrus, to soften a scent you feel is too harsh or simply to luxuriate in the sebsation of that clean, soft white fabric dried in the sunshine.
Whether vintage or modern – evoking an era or an archetypal fabric – the fingers of fashion are still firmly within those fragrant gloves, and together they work their alchemical magic to embolden us: seducing several senses while enhancing our own sense of who we are – or whomever we want to be that day…
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