Ask Uncle James – our new ‘agony uncle’ James Craven solves your perfume problems

We’ve a brand new team member for you to welcome – our agony uncle, James Craven (a.k.a. ‘Uncle James’). We asked you to pour out your perfume problems, Cologne conundrums and scented setbacks to him in The Scented Letter magazine, and with his years of experience and expert eloquence, he has answered!

‘Helping a client to find the perfect scent requires the combined skills of a psychologist, palmist and priest’ James always (half) jokes, and his career has been defined not only by the vast knowledge he’s gleaned over the years he’s worked in retail as a fragrance expert, but his ability to ‘match’ people to their perfect perfume and answer any number of queries.



The Perfumed Agony Uncle column debuts in the latest ‘Perfume’s Bright Future’ edition of our award-winning magazine, The Scented Letter, (free to VIP Subscribers, also available to purchase in glossy print form and via International Online Subscriptions) but we wanted to share some of his words of wisdom with you here, too.

Truly, what James doesn’t know about perfume could probably be written on the back of a stamp. His advice is gold dust, and so we’re sprinkling some of that here for you (along with many scented spritzes, of course!)

Where should I apply perfume so that it lasts? I know Marilyn Monroe apparently said she sprayed it wherever she wanted to be kissed, but I’m more interested in smelling fabulous all day! 

Uncle James says: ‘Crucially, apply to the pulse points of the body: these radiate heat, thus intensifying the expansion of perfume. But also spray on clean hair: being porous, hair is an excellent retainer and diffuser of scent. (If you’re worried about the alcohol in a perfume drying out hair, try one of the many, many hair fragrances which have been launched in the past few years.

Spray on washable natural fibre clothing and dab perfume on the eyebrows and ankles – yes, really! (They certainly do that in France, where they surely know a thing or two about the delights of parfum.) But please also understand that perfume is a poignantly fleeting pleasure : like a lovely piece of music it enchants and then it fades. Reapplication is a gracious and seductive ritual, not a chore. Enjoy it!’

Is it true that fragrances are seasonal and, if so, which styles of fragrance are best for spring?

Uncle James says: It’s certainly understandable that anyone might want to celebrate the emergence from an especially grim winter with a new scent for a ‘new you’. If you want to personify spring in your own aura, then try leafy greens (see the question below), light woody colognes and fresh florals that echo the stirring natural scents outside. You should always wear what excites and pleases you, and the start of a new season is a great time to kickstart exploring new scents, ingredients and fragrance families.’

Do you have a scent query you need solving? Don’t forget to add your questions for James in the form, below, for the next issue…

Ask James Craven (The 'Perfume Agony Uncle')

Your questions for James Craven, The Perfume Society's 'Perfume Agony Uncle'

  • Could it be 'how do I know when a fragrance suits me?' or 'How can I make scent last longer on my skin?' or even 'Which fragrance should I wear to make me feel invincible?!'
  • (You can remain 'anonymous' if you wish, but please make up a nom de plume so we can separate questioners!)


By Suzy Nightingale

Smell all about it! Scented inks & inky scents

Givaudan recently created the first newspaper printed with perfumed ink, and we suddenly wish all papers were similarly scented. It would certainly make some of the news a nicer experience to read, don’t you think…?!

Partnering with the Argentinian publication ‘Diario Perfil’, Givaudan perfumer Walter Soares worked together with the newspaper’s team to compose this one-of-a-kind scent. Sadly we didn’t get to smell this scented paper first-hand (first nose?), but it reportedly featured ‘spicy, amber-y, citrus and floral notes.’ It got us wondering about using scented inks for ourselves, to write literal ‘scented letters.’

And because simply everything leads back to perfume for us, that got us thinking about the wonderfully ink-inspired fragrances out there, and so we’ve included a round-up of those to consider trying…

The Scented Inks from the Jacques Herbin Collection offer ‘a new expressive dimension to writing, correspondence or calligraphy.’ They combine deep colors and an evocative scent of memory and travel. Scented Inks develop subtle hints of honey or lime, with musky or floral inflections.’ With scents from Rose, Violet and Lavender to Chocolate, Orange and Apple to choose from,there’s luckily also a selection pack to enjoy them all.

Jacques Herbin Scented Inks £7.80 for 30ml
Try them at

Although inky notes can come from natural materials like oakmoss, it isn’t generally ink itself that you’ll smell in a scent. More commonly, ‘ink’ is a synthetic ingredient, used in fragrances to give a mysterious hint of solvent or damp moss, or (more romantically) to conjure up the vision of someone writing love letters, perhaps, with a good old-fashioned quill.

Here, Bertrand Duchaufour imagines Tender is the Night as a black tulip, ink swirled through leather, saffron and geranium on a flickering, amber-ish base. Held aloft by the fizz of a pink pepper CO2 extraction with aldehydes, the most incredible green hyacinth opens to shimmering cyclamen, incense and that dry, metallic base.

Miller Harris Tender £120 for 50ml eau de parfum

Mark Buxton used headspace technology to capture and reproduce the scent of Japanese ink for this lovely play of light and shadow in a fragrance. There’s a sense of cold air from aldehydes and juniper, and drifts of incense with that liquid inkiness, emphasised by labdanum, cedar and shadowy pools of vetiver.

Comme des Garçons 2 £90 for 100ml eau de parfum
Try it at

We sense ringlets romantically tangled by the wind, a softness of candlelight on ink-stained love letters, a scatter of singed rose petals and the peaty depth of patchouli swirled throughout. A glorious Galway-based house to be celebrated, Cloon Keen combine contemporary elegance with emotional lyricism.

Cloon Keen Atelier Roísín Dubh £136 for 100ml eau de parfum

Inverting the traditional perfume ‘pyramid’ of notes, we plunge straight into darkness with bittersweet black cherry and plum lapped by salty purple roses and liquorice. Deep violet begins to soar, a brightness softened by the soft almond-like powderiness of tonka beans then swathed again in the darkest of inks. It really tells a tale on the skin…

Map of the Heart Purple Heart V 5 £150 for 90ml eau de parfum
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The cool spiciness of black pepper and cardamom, juxtaposed with smoky birch and an accord of magnetic ink is ‘A scent of subtle contrasts.’ Birch & Black Pepper is tarry, leathery and seasonally perfect, with its whispers of bonfire smoke, and so great worn with a chunky knit and wellies on a brisk autumnal walk.

Jo Malone London Birch & Black Pepper £120 for 100ml Cologne
Try it at

Writing actual letters again is something we plan to do more of – or sending lovely postcards to friends and loved ones around the world. What a wonderful surprise it always is to receive a letter in the post, rather than junk-mail and yet more bills! And how even more special it would be to have the ink beautifully scented.

Meanwhile, if you’re still also stuck on the hundreds of daily emails, as we are – why not try some of the delightfully inky scents, above, to at least feel writerly and filled with fragrant inspiration.

Now then, we wonder: who will you choose to send that first scented letter to…?

By Suzy Nightingale