Oil’s well that ends well: layering with perfume oils

Fragrance oils fell out of favour for a while, but there’s no doubt they’re back – a trend we’ve watched build over the past year in to a full-on fragrant flurry.

Perfume oils are perfect for layering scents – you can prolong the strength and life of your perfume by adding an oil (on top or underneath – both ways are absolutely fine) in either a complimentary fragrance that enhances the notes of your chosen perfume, or a contrasting scent to boost an aspect you wish was there.

So, if you have a perfume that’s too sweet for your tastes now, try adding an oil that’s citrusy and fresh; if a fragrance smells too harsh, soften the edges with a vanilla or musk-based fragrance oil, and so on.

Think of it like cooking a recipe, and ‘tasting’ as you go – balancing the flavours until you reach the perfect blend. Or, if you’re a perfume purist, of course you can simply enjoy wearing these fragrance oils alone…

We can’t get enough of Ostens oils – impecable quality (they source them directly from IFF and, uniquely, make them available to the public for the first time), and they actively recommend you try layering them with any fragrances you already own. We love ramping up the rose in a perfume by adding this one – it’s like diving head-first into a mountain of freshly plucked petals. Exquisite examples of Jasmine and Cedarwood are also available, with Patchouli Heart and Cashmeran coming soon. We can’t wait to play!

Ostens Rose Oil Isparta £65 for 9ml perfume oil

If your Summer scents still seem a bit flighty to wear, add some depth with this deliciously fragrant oil – an unexpected mix of spice-infused bergamot and plum with an addictive leather/amber dry down that lingers for hours. Malin & Goetz like to surprise, and all their perfume oils are cleverly blended and rather sophisticated scents – so with this one, don’t worry, you wont smell like you’ve been hitting the bottle! The roller-ball application makes this especially useful for travelling or touching up your scent on the go.

Malin & Goetz Dark Rum £40 for 9ml perfume oil

Presenting the dinkiest trio of roll on perfume oils to allow you to create a signature scent by layering together, using in combination with other perfumes you have or wearing alone. Mocha Bloom has infused espresso with musky floral tones, Leather Haze fuses smooth woodiness with ripe berries and Vanilla Satori mixes spiced honey sweetness with the freshness of citrus and rich undertones of tobacco leaves.

& Other Stories Tailor Your Story Layering Scents £19 for 3 x 4ml perfume oil

As part of the gloriously packaged, apothecary-style The Alchemist’s Garden collection, Gucci spoil us with14 scents, comprising seven Eaux de Parfums, four Perfumed Oils and three Perfumed Waters, all composed by brilliant perfumer Alberto Morillas. Designed to be layered in the most luxurious way, the four oils are poetically named and elegantly scented – and we think they look fit to be displayed on Marie Antoinette’s dressing table. We loved the violet oil that walks a tightrope between powderiness and verdancy, a perfectly delicate touch to layer with green and forest-y scents.

Gucci Alchemist’s Garden A Kiss From Violet £295 for 20ml perfumed oil

Fragranced body oil are another great way of layering (and making your perfume last longer). Fans have flocked to this warm fragrance, and now you can smother yourself in the decadently rich oil as well – it’s powerful enough to wear alone, or really lovely layered with lighter scents. Warm ambergris and cedarwood are buoyed by luminescent jasmine, with distinct undertones of caramelised brown sugar to my nose. Argan, sweet almond and apricot kernel oils have been used as the base, making this gorgeously moisturising but never greasy.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 Scented Body Oil £75 for 70ml

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Oil’s well that ends well… 5 fragranced oils your body needs now

‘Our crimes would depair, if they were not cherished by our virtues’ says Shakespeare in All’s Well That Ends Well; and so too will our bodies despair, if not cherished by fragranced oils in cold weather.

You will have to forgive the laboured punning, because I simply couldn’t resist, and it also happens to be true.

Winter takes its toll on our skin, so if you’re not slathering yourelf in something luxuriously moisturising, your fragrance simply wont last as long. Scent evaporates according to how dry your skin is, so if you’re closseted away in layers of wool and central-heating, your normal fragrance may need topping up throughout the day, even if it usually lasts well. And if it’s alcohol based – as most spray perfumes are – that’s going to dry your skin out even further.

Another temptation during grey, cold days is to soak for as long as possible in a steaming hot bath, but Jessica Weiser, from the New York Dermatology Group, explains, ‘Hot water depletes natural oils from the skin’s surface, leaving it dry and more susceptible to conditions like eczema,’ Best practice is to only use lukewarm water but really, where’s the fun in that? Personally I like to semi-boil myself like a lobster – all the more appealing in a scented bath – so keep the water piping hot if you like, but try and limit your soaking time to ten minutes, Weiser advises.

Yes, that seems sensible. But I can tell you now, that ain’t gonna happen, Jessica. If I’m putting in all the admin of running a bath, I’m going to be in there until I emerge like a perfumed prune. So we need a back-up plan to rehydrate. This is the time to reach for fabulously fragranced oils to layer-up your scent game, making it last longer and with the added benefit of de-pruning you, too.

Don’t worry about ‘matching’ your fragrance to these – use them instead to add facets to a favourite scent – or simply enjoy them on their own…

This is a perennial favourite, and sort of smells like paradise. Monoï is a Tahitian word simply meaning ‘scented oil’, and is made using a kind of enfleurage technique by soaking gardenia petals in coconut oil. Infused with further coconut and tropical wafts of frangipani flowers, Elemis have basically bottled the smell of a holiday in this multi-use product. Use in the bath, all over the body and even as a weekly hair treatment. The oil solidifies in cooler temperatures, so pop the bottle in a bowl of warm water to return it to a silky liquid – I just put my bottle right in the bath with me until it melts, and then baste myself as though I were a perfumed poussin.

Elemis Frangipani Monoi Body Oil £38.50 for 100ml

For a truly indulgent scented experience, I cannot recommend Mandy Aftel’s body and hair elixir enough. Originally created as a bespoke fragrance for none other than Leonard Cohen, Ancient Resins resonates with frankincense, Balm of Gilead – not the republic in The Handmaid’s Tale, thank goodness, but the name of a balsam made from poplar buds, which smell like honeyed musk – along with benzoin, elemi, and labdanum: oils cherished for centuries for their healing properties. Boswellia Frankincense resins have been scientifically tested to prove their pain-relieving anti-inflammatory qualities, so couldn’t be more ideal for this time of year. A few drops used to scent a bath (will actually scent your entire house), slathered on to soothe and nourish skin, or stroked through ends of hair and rubbed in to burnish a beard – it would seem especially pertinent listening to Cohen’s album New Skin For The Old Ceremony while you annoint yourself with this divine oil.

Mandy Aftel Ancient Resins Body & Hair Elixir $45 for 50ml or $6 for 2ml sample (great for travelling)

A heftier price, yes, but the extravagent dose of Turkish rose will truly stay with you all day, infused as it is with a deeply fabulous patchouli heart and resting on a bed of sandalwood and frankincense. Clove, blackcurrant and raspberry ‘binds the perfume together for a final movement of symphonic femininity’ say Malle, but we know many men who delight in wearing the fragrance too, and this isn’t merely a pretty rose that blushes and swoons. All those resins add a purring depth that radiates naughtiness, albeit in a very refined way. I think the lady in question would be Lady Chatterley – admiring her roses and indulging in a bit of rumpy pumpy among the petals whenever possible. Sprinkle into a bath, massage into hair and cover with a warm towel for 15 minutes before rinsing, and be sure to lavish your limbs all over.

Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady Hair & Body Oil £138 for 200ml

I really haven’t stopped wanging on about how wonderful SJP Stash is since the genderless ‘fragrance for humans’ was first launched in 2016, but now I can frolic in accompanying body and hair products like this oil – and a beautifully scented hair mist for lighter application – as well. There’s something about the composition of incense and vetiver infused with unexpected notes like sage, pistachio, grapefruit and warming black pepper, that makes it smell at least three times more expensive than it is, and about a million miles away from what you’d expect a ‘celebrity scent’ to smell like. It’s hard to find fault with either the original perfume or this nourishing treat, to wear together or used to add an ambery glow to fragrances you find a little bit “meh” on cold, grey days like these.

SJP Stash Hair & Body Oil £35 for 30ml

To mark Baccarat’s 250th anniversary, the niche house of MFK united with the iconic crystal house to create the fragrance – and it’s proved a smash-hit success all over the world. Now fans can cover themselves in the decadently rich oil as well – warm ambergris and cedarwood buoyed by the sunshine jasmine affords to balance and brighten this otherwise woody fragrance, with distinct undertones of caramelised brown sugar to my nose. Argan, sweet almond and apricot kernel oils have been used as the base, making this a gorgeously moisturising but never greasy oil. Perfect to spray on in a hurry just before dressing and dashing outdoors, it’s proving equally successful (with some department strores reporting waiting lists), so if you see a bottle and know you love the perfume already, my advice would be not to procrastinate…

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 Scented Body Oil £75 for 70ml

By Suzy Nightingale

 

 

Ostens’ colourful creativity

Ostens have burst into the olfactory world by offering a unique concept in perfumery: granting perfume-lovers not only the right to at last smell exquisite ingredients in their own right (something only industry insiders had access to), but to buy them off the shelf (previously unheard of!) or try them in eaux de parfum, composed by some of the world’s top perfumers, to perfectly showcase that main ingredient’s charms…

‘I love that it’s you we’re speaking to about how all this started,’ smiles Christopher Yu – Managing Director of United Perfumes, one of the world’s most prestigious fragrance distribution and development companies, and now, co-founder of exciting niche fragrance house, Ostens. ‘You were there, at that LMR event we did with The Perfume Society…’ he continues, referring to an afternoon in which we’d invited VIP Club Members along with renowned journalists to experience the mind-blowing beauty of Laboratoire Monique Rémy – one of the world’s leading producers of natural ingredients for the high-end perfume industry, part of IFF, International Flavors and Fragrance.

Laurent Delafon is the other guiding force behind Ostens – CEO of United Perfumes, long-term colleague and like-minded friend of Chris, together they came to the realisation that something needed to change within the fragrance industry, because consumers deserved something more.

Offering a direct line from supplier and perfumers to people who crave exquisite quality perfume – a unique concept – was the propelling force for Ostens, making heroes of the ingredients and getting people excited about smelling them, in splendid isolation and then used within completely differing interpretations as part of an eau de parfum.

Tapping in to the current hunger for transparency in the beauty industry, Ostens explain, ‘In an age where we all want to understand better about craftmanship and provenance, Ostens gives you access to ingredients previously unavailable to consumers. Our aim: to celebrate and bring access to ingredients which lie at the heart of so many perfumes and to create sensory wonderment, open to all.’

And what wonders there are to explore! Smelling their Rose Oil Isparta / £65 for 9ml perfume oil – the highest concentration available – is like diving head-first into a mountain of freshly plucked petals, the vibrant, fruity scent declared by none other than Dominique Ropion as ‘the highest existing quality of rose oil.’ Used within the Impression Rose Oil Isparta eau de parfum / £145 for 50ml eau de parfum, Ropion has swathed those petals with labdanum, patchouli and Cashmeran, offering a velvety lick of alluring darkness. Fancy ramping up the rose to its fullest possible potential? Simply layer with that Rose Oil – or any of their other oils – to add your own unique signature or change up the character acording to how you feel that day.

What’s more, the oils aren’t meant to only be used with Ostens products. Chris and Laurent are realists, and they know people don’t live like that – how deadly dull it would be if we only ever wore one brand. They actively want to encourage people to experiment using them with perfumes they already own, and to tell them what combinations they’ve found really work. Thrillingly for us perfume lovers, Ostens want an ongoing conversation with the person who buys their wares, asking them what they’d like to see and smell next, what, exactly, is missing from their fragrance life, rather than dictating ‘trends’.

Ostens currently have a pop-up space in London at 62 Blandford Street, W1U 7JD, where they’ll be in residence until 28th February 2019, and we cannot urge you enough to visit while you’re able. There’s a reason fragrance experts and journalists have been buzzing since the launch, with several highly respected people we know, commenting to us that this was their ‘launch of the year’ and ‘the most exciting things we’ve smelled for ages…’

In their space, Ostens showcase one of the Préparation oils (currently Rose Isparta) on a plinth, with colourful synaesthetic backdrops of artwork created by their internal Creative Director, Mark Wilkie*. Stepping inside you are bathed in a coloured light that further represents the interpretation of the fragrance, and it feels like walking into the very heart of the scent itself. Walking through to the back room, you are then able to smell all of the ingredients and Impressions (eaux de parfum), trying them on your skin, layering as you please or simply smelling and delighting in them alone.

The whole experience is joyously like being a kid in a sweet shop once again, and if you’re looking to re-ignite your passion for perfume, or to explore and appreciate the world through your sense of smell, this is most certainly the place you need to be…

Having followed their fragrant journey from the very beginning, I was so delighted to interview Chris and Laurent at length for my Ostens feature in the just-published Stardust issue of The Scented Letter Magazine; so do go and indulge your senses fully by reading all about Ostens’ fragrant universe – most certainly sprinkled with something magical – and then smelling for yourself what all the fuss is about by visiting the boutique?

If you’re a VIP Club Member, you can download the entire issue for free by logging in to your account. Print copies can be purchased here, and we also offer International Subscriptions on electronic versions, for only £20 for a full year.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

*[In The Scented Letter, we mistakenly attributed the Ostens artworks to another artist, Philippa Stanton. In fact Philippa was the artist for a gin company also featured, elsewhere, in the magazine, and the two sections were accidentally mixed up. We do apologise for this editorial mistake – and we swear we hadn’t been at the gin!]

The scented secrets of the Queen’s coronation anointing oil…

The fascinating recent BBC documentary delving behind-the-scenes of the Queen’s Coronation on June 2, 1953, held a scented secret for sharp-eyed fragrance fans… did you spot it?

While discussing the ancient rituals of the act of anointing the monarch, our eyes were drawn to the oil itself – rather incongruously kept nestled in a battered old box and bottle of Guerlain‘s Mitsouko!

May we admit experiencing a momentary thrill that the BBC had uncovered our Queen as a secret perfumista, who’d insisted on being anointed with a fabulous Chypre? We’d definitely consider being baptised in Mitsouko, but it turned out it was just the bottle and box. Oh well. No matter, for the story of the oil’s recipe was rather deliciously revealed…

The oil was made from a secret mixture in sesame and olive oil, containing ambergris, civet, orange flowers, roses, jasmine, cinnamon, musk and benzoin– actually sounding rather Oriental in its composition – and must surely have smelled glorious.

The anointing ritual is always hidden from view – a private moment for the monarch to reflect on their duties and the significance of being touched by that oil – and so a canopy was held over the Queen by four Knights of the Garter, and the televison cameras turned respectfully away, as the Archbishop anointed her with the fragrant holy oil on her hands, breast and head.

Quite a scent memory.

In fact, the phial containing the original oil had been destroyed in a bombing raid on the Deanery in May 1941. The firm of chemists who’d mixed the last known anointing oil had gone bust, so a new company, Savory and Moore Ltd, was asked by the Surgeon-Apothecary to mix a new supply, based on the ancient recipe, for the Coronation. We’d quite like them to whip up a batch for us, too.

During the ritual, the highly scented oil was poured from Charles II’s Ampulla (the eagle-shaped vessel shown above) into a 12th-century spoon. One imagines the Archbishop’s hands must have shook just a little during this procedure – thank goodness for that canopy. Meanwhile, the choir sang one of the most thrillingly dramatic songs in history: “Zadok the Priest”. The words are taken from the first Book of Kings, and have been sung at every coronation since King Edgar’s in 973, but the anointment ritual is even older, going back to King Solomon supposedly being anointed by Zadok himself in the 10th century BC.

Of course the rest of the Coronation was an extraordinary display of magnificent jewels and robes and the peculiarities of historical traditions played out ‘like a ballet’, as the programme described, but our minds kept returning to the mysteries of the anointing oil, what the Queen must have thought as she smelled it (was it the first time she’d smelled the oil?) and how it’s still, charmingly, kept in that tatty old bottle and box of Mitsouko.

Now then, to whom did that bottle once belong? For whomever they were, we congratulate them on their taste…

Those of you who missed the documentary can watch it while it’s still on BBC iPlayer.

Written by Suzy Nightingale