Fragrance Notes to Follow for 2024 (& how to get ahead of the trend)

January is a time the fragrance industry looks forward to new trends ahead of the spring and summer scent launches, and we’re fascinated by how many are following on from last year’s huge hits (and offering new twists on previous perfumery themes). Which of these do you think you’ll be most interested to try this year, we wonder? Whichever you are drawn to, we’ve also some insider-tips on the scents to wear right now to get ahead of the game…

 

 

Cherry:

Ripe and luscious, evoking carefree youthfulness and innocence via cherry lollipops and desserts or the high-shine glam of cherry lipgloss vibes, the cherry crop keeps coming for 2024. Expect to see cherry combined with contrasting notes to cut through the sweetness – such as sharp citrus or even sizzling spices and dark woods or tobacco – and combined with fluffy, creamy and sweeter ingredients to lean into the gourmand aspect of this trend.

Get Ahead of the Trend With…

 

 

Creed Carmina

Modernity is infused with charismatic elegance in this succulent scent, with rich black cherry’s piquant ripeness rippling throughout. Rose de mai and cashmere wood are joined by the succulent seductiveness of black cherry, pops of pink pepper and a richly resinous base of precious myrrh, frankincense and ambroxan; and the saffron tingles from first spritz to the lasting trail, we found. A passionate fragrance to add extra lipgloss while wearing.

(Try a sample in the Fabulous Fragrances Discovery Box – 14 x samples £19 for VIPS / £23 RRP)

 

 

 

Peach:

As we reported in our Pantone Colour of the Year feature, 2024 is all about the tone of ‘Peach Fuzz’ colour trend, and we’re noting some similarly peachy fragrances in store. Succulent yet nurturing, peach can be velvety (like the soft caress of the peach’s fuzzy skin) or dripping with realistic juiciness for an instant drench of ripely refreshing notes. Peach makes us think of softness, comfort, a slightly retro scent that plays so well with florals, gentle spices, and fluffy musks.

Get Ahead of the Trend With…

 

 

Sarah Baker Bascule

Succulent peach juice sizzles on hot leather, tobacco gently smoulders amidst hay while a hint of saddle-soap, lily of the valley and cut grass are contrastingly clean. Certainly not your average peach, it retains immense nostalgia while proudly remaining rambunctious and rebellious in spirit. You could swear at time this was a vintage scent, and yet it’s so brilliantly modern. We know many who’ve long been under the spell of Bascule, and suggest you saddle up this peach pronto!

£95 for 50ml eau de parfum

 

 

 

Pear:

Though pear has been sniffed in several notable launches already, it’s not gained as much olfaction-traction as the mega-trending cherry thus far. For a still nostalgic yet perhaps slightly more grown-up take on the fruity vibe, we’re looking forward to pear paired with [sorry, we had to] honey, woods and even floral notes for a fun yet still sophisticated scent. Used in citrus-fresh summer scents or adding juice to warmer autumnal fragrances, it’s a year-round

Get Ahead of the Trend With…

 

 

EAU.MG Flor Funk

Dripping with the kind of cool nonchalance we all aspire to, there’s something super happy-making about this scent that feels radiant and filled with a scented sashay. The trend of pear is up first, bursting from the top notes and then drizzling down through heady orange blossom, to nestle within the mossy chic of the sandalwood-swathed dry down. Such a delight to wear as it travels from fresh to funky, we say get your glad rags on and show them how it’s done.

(Try the sample in our Fabulous Fragrances Discovery Box – 14 x samples £19 for VIPS / £23 RRP)

 

 

Vanilla:

This was THE major trend of last year, and it’s another predicted to continue apace all through 2024. Having seen brand new vanilla extractions become available for perfumers, which are far less sweet and sugary than previous evocations, we expect to see more interesting and innovative takes on vanilla. From the super soft yet sensual ‘skin scents’ trend (see below), to the contemporary twists and indulgent nostalgic takes, they’re sure to be deliciously addictive.

Get Ahead of the Trend With…

 

Parfums de Marly Althaïr

Vanilla naysayer? You’re going to need to try it to believe us, but oh wow this is a MUST have. Swoony Bourbon vanilla (deliciously dark, decadently delicious) will be to blame for your new addiction, generously swirled through tobacco smoke rings, which seduces orange blossoms to embrace praline, convinces sparkling citrus to kiss sizzling spices and swathes guaiac wood in butter-soft leather. Go on, we dare you to succumb….

(Try a sample of Althaïr in the Fabulous Fragrances Discovery Box – 14 x samples £19 for VIPS / £23 RRP)

 

 

 

Skin Scents:

In the past we’ve seen so many ‘your skin but better’ fragrances, which offer the feeling of being wrapped in the arm of someone you love, or smelling clean, neutral, fresh from he shower or like white cotton bedlinen. Now, we’re noting the trend is for more sensual come-hither skin scents, where the muskiness is ramped up and the suggestion is more of the skin-against-skin caress kind, which can also be layered. Still ultra-soothing, but radiating self-confidence? Sign us up!

Get Ahead of the Trend With… 

 

4160 Tuesdays The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO)

Beginning life as a bespoke fragrance for a VIP event, with a journalist declaring it to be ‘the sexiest scent ever!’ Thus, a star fragrance was born. Hints of citrus, smooth vanilla, soft woodiness and gorgeously musky ambergris form an unassuming but utterly addictive blend that will have you sniffing your wrist (or nuzzling closer to someone special) all day.

£65 for 50ml eau de parfum

 

 

 

Tea:

Although tea has been a popular ingredient for many years, we’ll see many major and niche fragrance launches this year really showcasing tea as the main inspiration. Why might that be? Apart from the fact this note is wonderfully versatile – it can be green and refreshing, smoky, herbaceously soothing and floral in character; the tea trend is part of the bigger trend for comforting fragrances combined with uplifting and soul-reviving properties (which we all need, more than ever…)

Get Ahead of the Trend with…

 

BDK Parfums Gris Charnel Extrait

An intensified version of the original, patchouli has been invited to the party, a seamless ripple of noir that nuzzles at the silkiness of sandalwood and nutty tonka in the base. Cool cardamom slinks throughout, combined with smoky black tea, Bourbon vetiver, a lick of fig milk and dusting of orris. Wearing this, we know those who’ve been followed around supermarkets, begged to reveal their addictive scent.

 £220 for 100ml extrait de parfum

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Pep Up Your Perfumes! Black & Pink Pepper Scents

It’s definitely the time of year we need a pep to our perfumes, and thankfully many scents showcase pepper – of the black and pink varieties (though chilli and other types are increasingly being used). Pepper pairs so well and enhances many ingredients, just as the spice does in cooking, so are often used as a type of ‘scented seasoning’ within a fragrance formula. However, as you will see, pepper can radiate wonderfully when allowed to shine as a more dominant ingredient, too.

You can read our Ingredient pages for the more about the fascinating history and uses of both black pepper, and pink pepper; but meanwhile, we urge you to seek out these spice-sprinkled scents and add an olfactory tingle to get you through colder days…

 

Molton Brown Black Pepper Recharge

This iconic sizzle of a scent was WAY ahead of its time, with the magnificent pepper enhanced by lemon and ginger and dark green herbs – a true wake-up call to get you going any time you need a fragrant boost!

£120 for 100ml eau de parfum moltonbrown.co.uk

 

 

ARgENTUM Magician

Inviting you to ‘take the dare’, clove bud and chilli-flecked incense curls skyward while pepper-flecked ribbons on unctuous myrrh, sticky labdanum and the grounding steadiness of cedar evoke ancient, healing balms.

£228 for 70ml eau de parfum in our shop (or try a sample in the Fire Collection Discovery Kit for £28)

 

 

Kingdom Scotland Metamorphic

A wee splash of Islay malt amidst black pepper, tobacco, incense, minerals and rose absolute. Metamorphosing on the skin as it’s warmed to reveal a base of amber resin and leather, it’s an absolutely stunning winter warmer.

£120 for 50ml eau de parfuin our shop

 

 

 

Molton Brown Fiery Pink Pepper

This perkily spiced pink pepper is delicately balanced, with the alluring layers enhanced by the complex aromas, it’s the top notes of those peppercorns mixed with tangerine and elemi oil that really reel you in for more…

£85 for 100ml eau de toilette moltonbrown.co.uk

 

 

Ostens Rose Oil Isparta

Using the highest concentration of exquisite quality rose oil, Dominique Ropion, no less, conjures blackcurrant jammy-ness shot through with pink pepper’s tingle. Voluptuous, addictive, the closest thing to Heaven on earth.

£135 for 50ml eau de parfum in our shop

 

4160 Tuesdays Shazam!

Evoking the olfactory adventures of wandering a spice market in the Marrakesh Medina, a sassy pink pepper sizzle atop a classy, classic amber base of resinous labdanum balsam with cardamom, cocoa and vanilla.

£65 for 50ml eau de parfum in our shop

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Desperately Seeking Sunshine? Try These Orange Blossom Scents!

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. And these fragrances are more welcome than ever when the season’s change means the darkness hits early, the days seem unnaturally shortened, yet somehow endlessly grey. As such, I urge you to seek out these orange blossom scents – SO right for right now!

 

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 possessses 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 his Mizensir Solar Blossom fragrance. ‘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, bejewelled 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. I promise.

 

 

Packed full of the brightest orange blossom, swathed in a cloak of earthy moss, soft musk and smooth sandalwood – the creaminess is an addictive layer of warmth. One to swish through leaves while wearing, grinning joyously.

EAU.MG Flor Funk £95 for 50ml eau de parfum

 

 

 

 

A shimmering haze of Moroccan magic, the orange blossom diffused by dusk, a languid sigh of inner contentment that resonates for hours – soothing, weaving its way around your soul and making for a blissful beam of happiness with every spritz..

Sana Jardin Berber Blonde £95 for 100ml

 

 

 

 

 

Waves of orange blossom-infused warmth giving way to fig tea sipped beneath the shade of whispering trees, the memory of laughter, and of bare feet on sun-warmed flagstones, fingers entwined, forever dancing, giddy on sunshine.

Stories No.1 £75 for 30ml eau de parfum

 

 

 

Perfumer Chris Maurice swirls delectable butterscotch and a ripple of dark chocolate through this orange blossom soaked scent. Vibrating with an amber-oudh glow in the base, it’s a scent that will surprise and delight you throughout the dullest of days.

Sarah Baker Gold Spot £145 for 50ml extrait de parfum

 

 

 

Suffused with a stillness that tingles expectantly, there’s a silvered gleam of a wooden boat gliding over a lake – the orange blossom darker here, sweetened a touch with candied peel, mellow greengage segueing to a seaweed-tinged purr of myrrh.

Prosody London Whistle Moon £57 for 30ml eau de Cologne

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Thameen Insignia – a Masterclass with perfumer Alexandra Carlin

It’s a rare opportunity to sit in on a masterclass with a perfumer, so when we were invited to hear Alexandra Carlin explain her creation of Thameen Insignia, along with the brilliant Christopher Chong – now resident as Thameen’s Creative Director – we veritably leapt at the chance!

Part of Thameen’s Sovereign Collection (all of which are inspired by the Crown Jewels) Insignia evokes the magnificent Garter Star (the late Queen Elizabeth II’s beloved insignia jewel, which she often wore in memory of her grandfather, and is now owned by King Charles). The Garter Star represents honour, loyalty, charitable work – sentiments that meant so much to the late Queen, and continue to resonate through the work of King Charles. 

Christopher Chong explained as we began the session that the project was the first he’d worked on in his new role with Thameen, and so it was already special – a project that took on even greater significance with the Queen’s passing, and respectful silence they kept during the period of mourning. ‘That’s the reason we’re only really starting to talk about Insignia now,’ says Chong. Describing how they collaborated on the fragrance, he continues: ‘I proposed that to Alex, to look into heritage from her perspective. She loves doing extensive research. We create today thinking of tomorrow.’

 

 

 

 

Alexandra Carlin: ‘What I like with Christopher is he always gives me a lot of freedom of expression and interpretation. I wanted it to be for sure a very elegant fragrance. Talking about heritage & transmission I knew I wanted to use a base from De Laire – a fragrance house started in the 19th century now owned by Symrise. They specialised in bases, a mix of synthetic and natural. Now we also make new bases – this is one of them, an incredible cognac oil.’

Arrayed before Alexandra were tantalising rows of raw ingredients, little bottles that hold the scented secrets to Insignia’s composition, and which we were now going to smell. Oh, that cognac oil! How to describe it? A dusky, aged oak barrel discovered in an ancient cellar, the wood and contents made one with time; a smoky, supremely smooth kind of booziness that swirls warmly, but so mellow – never overwhelming.

Alexandra: ‘The clove is obtained by SymTrap technology from clove leaf. You do a distillation and then a second distillation and capture the scent. Its note ethereal and horse like, leathery. This one is from Brazil.’

Again – a revelation. Coming from the leaf, this is no ‘Christmas spice’ of a scent, instead the sun-warmed hay notes shine, revealing an unexpected softness and intriguing levels of complexity.

 

 

 

 

Alexandra next passed us blotters of the new (and extra special) geranium they used for Insignia, telling us: 

‘This geranium from Madagascar is the most refined quality, one you just can’t usually get these days. When I first went there to smell it at the place they distill it, with perfumers like Maurice Roucel, I I knew how great it was even before I smelled it myself, as I saw him well up, almost cry with how it reminded him of this supreme quality you cannot get anymore, which we thought had been lost forever, but we can use again.’

A note called Sandalwood Dreches was next, which Christopher explained was actually upcycled, and has been ‘…distilled from sandalwood chips that are leftover to create an edible note but not milky. It’s toffee, almost salted caramel but not overly sweet. Insignia was the first perfume on the market using it.’

 

When we finally smelled the base note of Cuir Velour – an accord masterfully blending notes of raspberry, violet, velvet, leather – it left our group gasping. A caress of a scent, it’s something we’d be happy to wear as a fragrance in itself. Of course we were then champing at the bit to smell the final fragrance, and goodness it was worth waiting for…

 

Top Notes: Whiskey, fig, bitter orange

Middle Notes: Bay Leaf, geranium, Damask rose

Base Notes: Sandalwood, vetiver, suede

 

Thameen Insignia is the perfect example of how a perfume is always so much more than the list of its notes; though these are intriguing enough on paper, it truly comes alive on the skin. There’s a sparkle to this scent, a radiance that seems to hover above the skin like a fragrant aura. Having smelled the notes in turn, you could definitely recognise them in the composition, but because they’ve been so seamlessly blended, they feel suffused with a dignified subtlety. There’s nothing gaudy or showy about Insignia – a silky, dry powdery-ness adds hushed glamour, the equivalent of candlelight refracted in a foxed mirror.

What an honour to have attended such a masterclass, and have the privilege of talking to the very perfumer and Creative Director who worked on the fragrance itself – and to smell such quality of raw materials, which normally would only get to be sniffed by other perfumers. We so hope Thameen repeat this experience, and that our recounting of it adds to your enjoyment of trying Insignia on your own skin…

 

 

Thameen Insignia, £235 for 50ml Extrait de Parfum harrods.com

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Gentle Fluidity – a fragrant dance of two halves

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Gentle Fluidity – a duo of fragrances encompassing the same ingredients, but with utterly differing characters and, therefore, emotional responses in the wearer. We caught up with Francis Kurkdjian himself, to discover the intricacies of two fragrances with ‘same notes, two identities‘…

Within both the Gentle Fluidity Gold and Gentle Fluidity Silver, you will find juniper berries, nutmeg, coriander, musks, amber wood and vanilla. But surely no scents have ever more firmly proved that mere lists of the materials a perfumer’s used are no better way of judging a final fragrance than being given the names of the paint colours a particular artist favours. What’s missing in the bare bones of a list is the emotional flesh of the fragrance. And MFK’s Gold and Silver get their messages across – clearly, but with infinite subtleties. Such is the skill of Kurkdjian.

So, what do they smell like? Gentle Fluidity Gold is warm, nuzzly – it glimmers the way a gilded bronzer does on the skin before wrapping you in a hug of deliciously creamy woodiness. Gentle Fluidity Silver, meanwhile, is cooler, frosted almost, the ultra refined juniper to the fore as it gently caresses the skin. Two sides of the same coin, or of your own personality, perhaps? Who better to explain them than Francis Kurkjian himself?

Beyond the technical skill of the nose, there is an alchemy that takes place – an invisible message from perfumer to perfume-wearer, and from the person who wears the scent to every passer by that smells it. Our personal reactions may not be the same, but those responses are instantaneous and unbidden. At an event hosted by fragrance writer Alice du Parcq, perfumer and founder, Francis Kurkdjian, told us the story of how the scents were inspired – alongside a glimpse of the stunning new advertising campaign, which expresses the scents in a medium close to Kurkdjian’s heart (and his past, as a ballet dancer).

 

The new Gentle Fluidity campaign draws the artistic and emotional analogy between perfume and dance, an art that deeply shaped Francis Kurkdjian’s personality. The complicity between the two dancers and the fluidity of their movements are a symbol of the synergy among the ingredients of the two Gentle Fluidity eaux de parfum.

 

Within the private area of a restaurant in London, the face of Francis Kurkdjian is virtually beamed across the channel via a large television screen. A small group of invited press are here for a Masterclass in his Gentle Fluidity fragrances.

‘I like the idea of telling a story through ballet, that’s very important to me,’ he says, as the sinuous forms of two dancers weave around eachother on screen – a visual evocation of how the fragrances are united yet apart.

‘At the very beginning I only had one scent. I thought the idea was close to unisex, or a gender free scent.’ Francis looks into the middle distance and considers awhile, as he recalls his creative influences. ‘During the process I changed my mind. I wanted to form a new shape from the same DNA, like fake twins in a way.’

‘The original name was Gender Fluidity,’ Kurkdjian elucidates, ‘but I had a friend who kept mispronouncing it, and I thought he was right actually. I like the idea of kindness in the name.’ Talking about the term ‘unisex’ and concepts of gender – in fragrance, in life itself – Kurkjian continued: ‘I think the idea of being “gender fluid” will in time even become dated, it won’t be seen as being “different” because we will have lived with [the concept], we will completely accept that. Whereas fluidity and gentleness are timeless.’

‘It’s all about how you put two things together and they can resonate very differently. The magic of using an ingredient with something else is amazing. Lemon on its own is just lemon. If you start to play and add two other notes next to each other, they vibrate differently.

For the gold version there’s an overdose of vanilla and musk. The musk gives an airiness. Like a ballon within the vanilla. In ballet, my teacher used to tell me when I jumped, you need the feeling of balloon, the feeling of floating all the while gravity is trying to pull you down.’

‘Once I’d defined the gold version, I could define the silver version. I looked at how I could reshape and rebalance. The creative process for me is always chaos, but in my head I’m organised’ he chuckled.

 

 

Discussing how it can still be difficult to get some men to try anything other than scents specifically marketed ‘for men’, Kurkdjian smiled wryly as he gave an example he’s often seen:

‘When a woman wears a man’s fragrance she doesn’t question her femininity at all. Maybe because women have worn trousers for so long? Whereas with men, if you give them a scent to smell on a white card they will like it, but then if you tell them that fragrance was made for women, the majority of them completely disregard it. Perfume is a real mirror of society…’

For more on Kurkdjian’s opinions of ‘gender’ in fragrance, do read his fascinating post Raw Materials Have No Gender, on the Maison’s website. Meanwhile, do seek out the Gentle Fluidity duo and allow them to dance on your skin – we wonder which you will be most instantly drawn to, or what occasions you might wish to wear them to express the multiple sides of your own character…

 

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Gentle Fluidity Gold / Maison Francis Kurkdjian Gentle Fluidity Silver £165 for 70ml eau de parfum at harveynichols.com

By Suzy Nightingale

Ways to wear… vetiver

‘A sack of potatoes’ – that’s what legendary ‘nose’ Jean Kerléo told us to close our eyes and think of, when smelling vetiver. While hardly romantic-sounding, it’s SO true: fabulously earthy, damp, woodsy and smoky all at the same time. Just like a hessian sack of potatoes that’s been left at the back of your grandfather’s shed, when you peel back the drawstring and b-r-e-a-t-h-e it in.

It’s almost impossible to believe, actually, that this grounding, dry smell comes from the roots of a perennial grass – also known as Khus-khus grass – rather than a wood. Vetiveria zizanoides grows like crazy in marshy places and riverbanks in places that are drenched by high annual rainfall:  countries like India, Brazil, Malaysia and the West Indies (Haitian vetiver is probably the most famous of its type). In some hot places, vetiver is woven into blinds and matting, which are not only wonderfully fragrant as the breeze wafts through them or they’re trodden underfoot:  vetiver has cooling properties.

Used in perfumes since ancient times, vetiver’s more popular than ever and features very, very widely in the base of fragrances because it works brilliantly as a ‘fixative’ – and so far, nobody seems to have come up with a satisfactory synthetic alternative.

Creed‘s relationship with vetiver goes back a long way – it’s a fragrant note they have built several of their most iconic scents around, in fact…

Creed say: ‘Vetiver is derived from the Tamil word vettiveru – vetti meaning ‘to tear up’, ver meaning ‘root’. From its tropical grass roots in India over 400 years ago, it is now a highly sought-after ingredient by perfumers across the globe as they attempt to capture the essence of a sultry evening with smoky notes of oud, or the mysterious petrichor – the earthy scent arising when rain falls on dry soil.’

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‘Now found anywhere from India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, to Haiti, Indonesia and Kenya, the vetiver in Creed fragrances is sourced from Haiti, which provides a resinous, slightly sweet variation of the oil. It is grown for up to a year and harvested in the dry season, when quantities of essential oil in the roots are highest, before bundles of its roots are taken to be distilled.’

 

 

‘As an oil, vetiver has a dry muskiness, with hints of leather and nutty notes.Suitably smoky, yet strangely fresh, it’s complexity and versatility, coupled with its fixative powers – no synthetic molecule can mimic it – has enticed perfumers since the 19th Century.’

 

‘Traditionally, it is only this fixative essential oil from the roots that goes into the making of a vetiver fragrance, to give it longevity. However, it is the combination of the fresh, green notes taken from the vetiver leaves and the rich heart, as well as the woody and earthy notes extracted from the roots that you will find in many fragrances from The House of Creed today.’

 

ORIGINAL VETIVER

Dramatically reinventing the traditional vetiver scent, The House of Creed is the only perfume house to infuse all three parts of the vetiver plant in one fragrance with Original Vetiver: the earthy root, the verdant leaves and the rich heart, for an alluring air of invigorating freshness. Grassy, citric notes dance over pepper before diving into the depths of the damp soil for a fresh, green scent that also retains the earthy and leathery characteristics of the complete vetiver plant.

RRP: £175 (50ml), £245 (100ml)

 

VÉTIVER GÉRANIUM

Capturing the majestic landscape of Indonesia’s vetiver adorned mountains, Vétiver Géranium is balanced with the soothing essence of geranium, to create a woody scent with an ethereal freshness that exudes from the vetiver plant and the earthy characteristics of the roots. Citric notes make a luminous debut, whilst rose, cedarwood, patchouli and Creed’s signature ambergris complement the vetiver found in the base, strengthening the fresh, aromatic offering of this fragrance from the Acqua Originale collection.

RRP: £220 (100ml)

 

 

 

BOIS DU PORTUGAL

Taking its name from the word ‘bois’ meaning ‘woods’ in French, this timeless and elegant Eau de Parfum captures a stroll through the forests of the Iberian Peninsula and the aromas that exude from the shaded forest floor in summer. Bottling the rich, woody and earthy air, Bois Du Portugal leans on a base of vetiver, combined with cedar and sandalwood to transport the senses. Citrus top notes spiral together with exotic dry spices for an uplifting opening to this otherwise rich, warm and refined fragrance.

RRP: £175 (50ml), £245 (100ml)

 

VIKING COLOGNE

The latest addition to Creed, Viking Cologne finds rich, woody notes of vetiver nestled into the base of this crisp and aromatic fougère Eau de Parfum. Recreating the energising freshness of a classic cologne, zesty citrus notes and pink pepper combine with warming herbals for an invigorating opening, but it’s the rich, woody base that provides a striking point of difference from traditional colognes. Sandalwood, frankincense, patchouli and cedarwood mingle with vetiver to create lasting depth and strength.

RRP: £175 (50ml), £240 (100ml)

Pssst! You can try a sample of Creed Viking Cologne in our Suave Scents Discovery Box… one of 13 incredible fragrances (plus two fab extras) for only £19 (VIP price) or £23 RRP!

 

From harlots & hippies: how patchouli got cool again

Patchouli might as well be called the ‘Marmite of the perfume world’ as those of us who fall firmly in the LOVE IT camp have our passionately held views matched only by those who devoutly HATE IT. But perhaps if you have always languished on the loathing side of the fragrant fence, you might have your mind changed by this book we’ve recently added to our Fragrant Reads bookshelves…?

Part of a series of extremely informative ‘naturals notebooks’ on some of perfumery’s key ingredients, written and published in conjunction with NEZ (the French olfactory magazine) and LMR (Laboratoire Monique Rémy – one of the world’s leading producers of naturals used in the fragrance industry); Patchouli is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to take a deeper dive into their favourite fragrance notes. As confirmed patchouli-heads, here at The Perfume Society, of course we had to begin with this one!

 

‘Once seen as a scent favoured by courtesans and hippies,’ NEZ explain (hello, yes, we feel seen) ‘patchouli has become a key ingredient in today’s perfumery. Its warm, woody and complex fragrance provides the perfect setting for fresher notes to run free, especially in chypre and ambrée perfumes.’ (Two of our favourite fragrance families there, so yes and yes again). An easy read, it manages to walk that fine line between interesting snippets of fragrant facts and a more in-depth and technical look at the processes behind how patchouli is produced. Indeed, NEZ say they wanted to ‘Explore every aspect of this exotic plant, from botany, history, art, gastronomy, literature, agriculture and chemistry, to the perfumers who use it and the perfumes they create.’

FYI: If you’re looking to learn more about patchouli, do have a look at our always-useful Ingredients section.

We really enjoyed the quotes from perfumers who adore patchouli – Bruno Jovanovic saying that ‘…if magic had a scent, it would smell of patchouli!’ and describing why he chose some of the other notes he added to his composition of Monsieur for Éditions de parfums Frédéric Malle, ‘To clothe, enhance, envelope the patchouli so it could become a flagship fragrance in Frédéric’s catalogue.’ With diagrams of historical timelines and distillation techniques, along with reviews of key fragrances to try patchouli in, it’s a short but fact-filled book that’s great to dip in and out of rather than read cover-to-cover, perhaps.

Patchouli NEZ + LMR the naturals notebook, £15.99
Buy it from shymimosa.co.uk

By Suzy Nightingale

Forgotten flowers: lily of the valley _ a fascinating history + why perfumers love it, now!

We’ve been focussing on those ‘forgotten flowers’ in perfumery, perhaps seen as a little old fashioned once, but which are re-blooming once again…

Last time we looked at freesia, and in the most recent edition of The Scented Letter Magazine, we invited you to Step Into the Garden with the main feature dedicated to re-exploring roses, magolias, violets, peonies and osmanthus. But today, we’d like to tempt you to try: lily of the valley.

Regarded as a lucky charm ever since its first introduction from Japan to Europe in the Middle Ages, lily of the valley has become synonymous with the month of May and ‘the return of happiness’. For the French, May 1st traditionally represents the start of gifting bouquets of “muguet” to loved ones to signify the regard in which they’re held and as a token of prosperity for the year ahead. A tradition supposedly begun when King Charles IX was presented with a bunch of the delicate blooms, and decided to gift the ladies of his court, too.

In Europe, ‘bals de muguet’ were historically held – lily of the valley themed dances that offered the tantalising prospect for young singletons to meet without their parents’ permission.

An iconic (and ultra-chic) lily of valley fragrance was the original Dior Diorissimo, designed in 1956 by Edmond Roudnitska. Composed in homage to Christian Dior’s favorite flowe, the lily of the valley was to be found on his personal stationary, jacklet lapels, printed on his fashion designs, and, on one occasion, inspired his entire 1954 spring collection.

A more recent icon is Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley, which was launched in 1976 – tapping into the fashion trend for romantic nostalgia – and which is wonderfully described as ‘Lacey leaves. Dappled light. Green, clean, wholesome. Lily of the Valley is as fresh and optimistic as the morning dew, grounded by notes of bergamot and sandalwood.’

With the young gals dressed in white gowns and the dapper chaps at those historic bals wearing lily of the valley as a buttonhole, we’re sure there was many a ‘return to happiness’ on such evenings… Now the custom is tied in with France’s Labour Day public holiday, and the tradition of giving lily of the valley to loved ones during May still holds strong.

But perfumers love using this elusive scent all-year ’round, and we’ve seen an increasing number of fragrances using lily of the valley once again.

lily of the valley Victorian card

Lily of the valley has also made its way into countless bridal bouquets (including that of Kate Middleton for her wedding to Prince Willliam);  in many countries, it’s linked to this day with tenderness, love, faith, happiness and purity.

No wonder we chose this delightful, flower-filled date in the calendar to launch The Perfume Society – running hither and thither all over London handing sprigs of lily of the valley to fragrant friends!

So what does lily of the valley smell like?

Almost spicy, so green and sweet, with crisp hints of lemon: that’s lily of the valley. The flowers themselves are really mean with their oil, though, and synthetics are more often used to recreate lily of the valley’s magic:  Lilial, Lyral and hydroxycitronellal are among them.

lily of the valley poem

Far from reserving this magical note for May, or thinking that it has to be ‘old-fashioned’ smelling in a scent, we love the way perfumers use lily of the valley to ‘open up’ and freshen the other floral notes in a blend. It can smell like a woodland walk just after a rainshower (so very apropos for our weather right now, in the U.K.) or add some gentle sparkles of sunlight amid more verdant or deeper, shady phases as a scent unfurls on your skin.

Try these five fragrances in which lily of the valley is resplendent, and discover why we love this note so much…

lily of the valley perfumes Imperial Emerald

Perfumer Jordi Fernandez’s exquisite layering of iris, lily of the valley and Egyptian jasmine over a hazy layer of musks, is designed to conjure up the scent of an Italian stately garden, the sun setting and the hedgerows scenting the alleyways.
Merchant of Venice Imperial Emerald £250 for 100ml eau de parfum
harrods.com

Oh, this is a crisp stroll, bottled. Pears, bergamots and black currants drip onto aqueous blooms, sunlit lily of the valley and dewy roses, with musks softening a woody trail. Close your eyes and dream of spring already.
Maison Margiela Springtime In a Park £98 for 100ml eaux de toilette
harveynichols.com

Lily of the valley adds a weightless airiness that manages to be discreet, mysterious and sexy all at the same time. Infused with the signature musk, it sighs to a heart of roses, the dry-down a vibrant hum of black cedar, white cedar and tonka bean.
Narciso Rodriguez Eau de Toilette Rouge From £41 for 30ml eau de toilette
debenhams.com

This gauzy tapestry of petals feels like wearing a tulle gown sprinkled with sequins. Jasmine and rose are laced through with bright violet leaf and a shivering flurry of lily of the valley; while ribbons of white musk and ambergris weave through succulent papaya.
Goldea Blossom Delight £74 for 100ml eau de parfum
harrods.com

Cast off any grey clouds with this delightful zing of a scent – the lily of the valley’s so crisp in here it practically makes your mouth water. Twisting with tendrils of honekysuckle and grounded on a base of akigalawood and transparent patchouli, it’s a winner no matter the weather.
Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue from £50 for 30ml eau de parfum
johnlewis.com

By Suzy Nightingale

So you think you hate… vanilla?

Love it or loathe it vanilla is everywhere. Touted as the aroma found most universally pleasing, there are many who reel back in disgust at the mere mention of the ingredient. But vanilla doesn’t just smell like an explosion in a cake shop:  it’s kind of magic, in flavour and perfume terms.

When we smell or taste anything, our ‘receptors’ constantly wipe those fleeting encounters to prepare for the next flavour or a smell.  But when vanilla is added to food or fragrance, naturally-present vanillin (and other vanilloids, which we’ll talk about in a moment) work to ‘hold open’ our vanilloid receptors, slowing down this wiping process – which in turn gives us more time to perceive, experience and enjoy both scents and flavours. (Vanilloids are also found in cocoa, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and hot peppers – which partly explains why they’re all such ‘taste sensations’.)

Vanilla comes from the seeds of a dried pod from a climbing orchid-like plant which flourishes especially well in Madagascar;  the very best quality of vanilla comes from the Île Bourbon, now known as Réunion. It gets its name from the Spanish word ‘vaina’ (meaning sheath or pod, and translates simply as ‘little pod’.  (Strangely, the flower itself is scent-less.)

Perhaps because vanilla is the second priciest spice in the world, after saffron, the vanilla you smell in many perfumes today is synthetic vanillin:  clever chemists have worked to mimic the real thing – although the most gifted noses will probably tell you that real vanilla is earthier, with touches of treacle and a touch of ‘booziness’.

We love this legend about vanilla which we found on the excellent Perfume Shrine blog. ‘According to the Australian Orchid Society, “Old Totonac lore has it that Xanat, the young daughter of the Mexican fertility goddess, loved a Totonac youth. Unable to marry him due to her divine nature, she transformed herself into a plant that would provide pleasure and happiness – that plant was the Vanilla vine. This reputation was much enhanced in 1762 when a German study found that a medication based on vanilla extract cured impotence — all 342 smiling subjects claimed they were cured.”’

Vanilla’s reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac endures, and it’s often present in ‘sexy’, come-hither fragrances, especially Ambrées and gourmand fragrances, as well as ‘girly’, ‘younger’ creations (and perhaps why vanilla naysayers have come to shun it).

Times have changed, and vanilla is used in all sorts of interesting, innovative ways within fragrances, now. I guarantee that none of these smell like cupcakes, so come on: it’s time to challenge your own perfumed preconceptions once again…

JULIETTE HAS A GUN
VANILLA VIBES
This vanilla’s sliced through with a healthy sprinkle of sea salt, plunging us immediately to childhood memories of the beach, sandy picnics and sticky fingers hastily licked as ice cream melts. Natural vanilla absolute is noticeable in the opening, but take a while to drip fully to the orchid-laden heart – and all the while a transparency completely prevents the sweetness from overtaking, it’s the salt on centre stage: a tremulous sunshine-filled daydream that shivers in the breeze.
£110 for 100ml eau de parfum
harveynichols.com

PERFUMER H
DUST
You need to move fast to catch this intimate and intriguing take on vanilla, for twice a year, like the scent couturier that she is, Lyn Harris unveils her seasonal offering of (mostly) new fragrances. Spring/Summer 2018 sees citrus Petit Grain, floral Suede, fougère Pink Pepper and woody-as-it-sounds Indian Wood in the collection. But the compulsive wrist-sniffer this time, for us, is this exquisite Ambrée – a gentle, powdery miasma of iris, raspberry leaf and orange flower, benzoin resin, opopanax, sweet musk and that deliciously dry vanilla.
£130/£350 for 100ml
At Perfumer H

ANNA SUI
FANTASIA MERMAID
Like the sparkling light reflections that shimmer on the sea, Fantasia Mermaid weaves radiant ingredients together. Blood orange, mandarin and cooling cardamom make for an effervescent start. Aqueous blooms float together in the heart of this scent, with peony, jasmine and watery lychee. An incredibly uplifting floriental, soft wisps of spices are woven throughout, and the vanilla is a cushion for the other ingredients, not a smothering blanket.
£40 for 50ml eau de toilette
qvcuk.com

[You can try BOTH the Juliette Has a Gun and Anna Sui scents in our Globetrotter Discovery Box, £19 / £15 for VIP members, part of ELEVEN fragrances to try at home with extra beauty treats – perfect to take on you travels…]

VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
COLLECTION EXTRAORDINAIRE RÊVE DE YLANG
Concocted around one of perfumery’s most noble ingredients, the ‘flower of flowers’, here we see how vanilla can whisper to a flower, and Rêve de Ylang captures the heady, exotic, intoxicating and spicy aroma of the ylang ylang flower being softly seduced. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin used an invigorating cardamom and a whisper of saffron to enhance the opulent spiciness and warmth of ylang ylang, while an aromatic vanilla and rich patchouli add depth. The result is a fabulous, ultra-luxe floral nectar, pierced with light.
£260 for 125ml eau de parfum
harrods.com

GIORGIO ARMANI
SÌ EAU DE PARFUM FIORI
The gifted Julie Massé reinterprets Sì’s so-classic Chypre theme in a fragrance that bursts into life with sparkling green mandarin and blackcurrant – the familiar twin signatures of this contemporary classic – before white floral neroli unfurls its lush petals. As the temperature rises, prepare for an encounter with the vanilla – all diaphonous gown barely concealing the va-va-voom, leaving with a trail of white musk.
From £54 for 30ml eau de parfum
Armanibeauty.co.uk

Perhaps you’re thinking that, apart from the name of the first fragrance suggested, here, there’s no overt focus on vanilla, but that was the whole point of this post – to show just a fraction of the ways vanilla can surprise, cosset, whisper or seduce. To put it another way: we didn’t want to ram vanilla down your throat. But, we have to say, if you try some of these, we feel you’ll be reaching vanilla again and again – there’s a reason it has a reputation for being addictive, you know…

By Suzy Nightingale

 

So you think you hate… patchouli?

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.

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