The #smellfie sensation! Are YOU a winner?

On National Fragrance Day, March 21st, in a shower of #smellfie sharing, the world came together as perfume-lovers all over the planet expressed their joy for scents that gave the most comfort, strength and happiness in these troubling times.

This is the sixth year of our #smellfie campaign – sharing a selfie with a scent you love – and this time, we placed a special emphasis on those fragrances that make us smile, feel as though we’re wearing a suit of armour or as though we’re somehow standing taller. To be perfectly honest, we just weren’t sure – amidst a global pandemic – how many people would be able to, or actually feel like joining in on this occasion. But OH BOY, you didn’t disappoint!

We were moved to tears by some of the tender scent meories and photos you shared, and then whooping with laughter at some of the hilaious costumes you somehow got together! Overall, it was a fragrantly creative display of unity that helped us feel less isolated, reminded us all of how important fragrance can be to help lift our moods, and gosh, just gave us something nice to focus on for a little while.

Though in our hearts you are all winners, we promised to pick some of our all-time favourites, and we would love to share these with you below…

Our top choice, @harleyrider1883, will be receiving £300 worth of fragrance (though he might have to be a little patient as we figure out how to get it to him, while working remotely!) Five runners-up will either receive a VIP Subscription in the UK (with the joining box of their choice), or an International VIP Subscription – for a full year of fragrant reading!

OVERALL WINNER

 

@harleyrider1883 For embodying the power of perfume in his smile-making pic, captioned: ‘Wearing this makes me feel strong, confident and brave! (and happy because the wife likes it too)’

 

RUNNERS-UP

@mindmarrow Because we think everyone should go hiking with their fragrance. (We’re so doing that in future.) To quote: ‘Like a good scent soldier asked to do a smellfie, here it is. One of my favourites is Guerlain’s Plus Que Jamais. Besides having private and beautiful memories for me, it translates to “more than ever” and fittingly now more than ever we need connection, grace and kindness. More than ever we need courage, creativity and resilience. More than ever we need to breathe deeply. Sending love, support and solidarity to this community of passionate ’fumeheads.’

 

@bellempiretheheartoffeminity For the wonderfully dramatic photo with Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, and her caption: ‘Let us all honour the joy that spraying a beautiful scent can give us on National Fragrance Day in a time where small pleasures mean more than ever and a favourite perfume has the power to bring us back to happier and easier times… if only for a small moment.’

 

@lelatr85 As with many #smellfies for 2020, bare-faced but beautiful. (Lots of slap just doesn’t feel of-the-moment, right now, does it? And as we all know, you’re never naked with perfume.) ‘To celebrate #nationalfragranceday I choose to post a #smellfie with no make-up, just wearing #eaudemerveilles. A unique woody, salty, citrusy perfume – one of a kind.’

 

@thesniffwebsite For giving us the best laugh of the day. As the talented fragrance writer behind The Sniff, Nicola Thomis, says, ‘Sauvage by @dior done the #smellfie way for @theperfumesociety. Humour at times like this lifts us up, keeps us going and makes us feel like we’re wearing that suit of armour. I loved having an eyeliner beard and tattoos by the way. Things I have learned this weekend: felt tip eyeliner is a sod to get off arm skin!’

 

@perfumepuffery A scented sketch that we simply enjoyed. ‘I’m over here on #nationalfragranceday… wearing the very austere Iris Silver Mist. Is she uplifting? Probably not, but I’m always very moved by its abject greyness and enjoy being shrouded in icy glamour. Best iris and best Serge (in my opinion). Wishing you all the best in these very scary and uncertain times.’

Thank you SO much to every single one of you who took part. We spent the whole of Saturday (and much of Sunday) liking, commenting and loving as many of your posts as we possibly could. With so many great entries it was a really tough decision, but please know we adored seeing every single one!

By Suzy Nightingale (with thanks to Hettie Jones for curating all the #smellfies)

Miller Harris shout-out for brand’s soap donations

Miller Harris have announced they’re donating hand wash, hand lotion and soaps to those most vulnerable in the UK – and are calling for other brands to join in if they can

In these unprecedented and troubling times, amidst much worry, people ARE doing good things. We’ve already highlighted how some beauty and fragrance brands are helping, and will be showcasing some more next week. But right now we want to join Miller Harris and their shout-out for brands to donate soap, where possible, to help the most vulnerable in our community.

We’ve just spoken to Sarah Rotheram, CEO of Miller Harris, and she explained this felt like a positive thing they could give back to the community – to ensure those most vulnerable – the elderly and the poor – can wash their hands. We know that soap and water and good hand hygeine can destroy the virus. We’ve been contacting brands ourselves, but we’d also like to post this shout-out so that if there are ANY brands out there who’d like to get involved…

In a letter sent to fellow brands, Sarah says:

‘Dear Friends and Colleagues.

LETS GET SOAP MOVING!

As the apprehension around the COVID-19 virus spreads globally, I felt compelled to write and try to help in anyway that we possibly can. Our thoughts go out to everyone affected, our friends in China, Asia and Italy who have been affected for some time, and everyone globally now feeling the shock of the virus.

We do believe that the pause on the world is here for a reason and to remind us we are ‘all one world’ and together is how we will overcome this pandemic. As you all know, I am a huge optimist and there will be a silver lining as the world emerges from this a different place.

We are seeing huge acts of kindness amongst the gloom of the news, and it is these acts of kindness that bring us hope. As a small business we are aware that the next few weeks and months will be a huge challenge for us and all of our staff and partners and we will look to work together through this crisis.

We are partnering with Age UK to address the demand in the most at-risk sector and whilst we await more detailed stats, what we do want to do is urge other businesses who can help, to act now.

As a brand we will be donating our entire stock of hand wash, hand lotion and soaps to those most vulnerable in the UK. Our soaps will leave the warehouse tomorrow to reach the elderly and we are asking other brands to join us. It will be a sin if soap is sat in warehouses rather than reaching people where it can be of some help. The most venerable in our society will be the most affected and the best advice is to wash your hands regularly, so we need to donate what we can and get soap to those in need.

If others join us we can make a much bigger difference.

Our larger beauty colleagues are generously giving to hospitals and assisting governments and often as a small brand we can feel that it is hard to make a difference. Collectively we can have a huge impact.

We are a small brand so have 11,000 units, but I am writing to other small businesses to request if you can join us in making a positive difference to lives. Its time to give back and I think as a community we can make a difference.

This week we have already donated soaps and shower gels to food banks, as they are also facing shortages of supplies as people stock pile. They need support. Again, I am writing to see if you can possibly spare some soap to these organizations that are caring for those in need in these uncertain times.

Please join me in donating generously, and lets get the soap moving. If you are able to help please get in contact with Emma, Laurel and SJ via marketing@millerharris.com who will share logistical information and link you with Age UK.

Best wishes,

Sarah Rotheram
CEO, Miller Harris

If you are a small brand with stock to spare, or know of brands that might be able to get involved, please do share this information with them. Let’s all pull together in this troubling time and make sure the most vulnerable are helped.

By Suzy Nightingale

Fragrant gins we love – the list gets longer!

Our discovery of Theodore Pictish Gin made the list of ‘fragrant gins we love’ get longer, and we would like you to consider for a moment the many hours The Perfume Society team have devoted to this research for you and you alone, dear reader.

A little while ago we shared with you some of our favourite gins infused with ingredients more often sniffed in scents – inviting you to stop and sip the roses – but having been introduced to Theodore Gin at a ‘Gin & Pefume’ evening in London recently, we wanted to share our latest fragrant finding with you too.

Inspired by the lost civilisation of the Picts, this aromatic Scottish gin is actually an experiemental batch, and includes six scented botanicals of pine, damask rose, pomelo and bourbon vetiver – ‘distilled in a multi-stage process using an old charentais still alongside a rotovap to extract the best flavours and aromas from each distinct botanical.’

 

 

The makers explain that, ‘Pomelo is distilled in old Charentais still at ‘feu nu’ to extract the elegant citric notes of the fruit. Ginger is double distilled again in Charentais in order to extract woody warmth and powdery spiciness. Honey and fresh pine needles are distilled under vacuum using a rotavapor to preserve the freshness of the botanicals. Coriander, juniper, pink pepper, chamomile, kaffir limes, orris, cardamom and lavender are distilled in classical London Dry style

After distillation and blending, we further infuse Theodore Gin with Oolong tea, which gives it a green-grassy astringency that adds layers of complexity as well as balancing the natural sweetness of the gin, as well as giving the liquid a pale straw colour.

This intricate and delicate elixir is the product of a perfumer and two master distillers, one British and one French, combining old and new techniques.’

Having sampled this aromatic gin in three differing cocktails (for research purposes) we can tell you that the lavender and smoky coolness of the vetiver are certainly very noticable to our noses, as were the warm tingle of ginger balanced against the soft powder of orris and gentle tea undertones in the taste.

For true fragrant gin connoisseurs, best sipped with a non-obtrusive tonic alone, we feel, and perhaps with a creatively foraged garnish to compliment the floral notes most? We shall be looking forward to conducting further scented research throughout the warmer days to come, either way…

Theodore Pictish Gin £45
theodoregin.com

By Suzy Nightingale

Richard Branson’s new fragrance ‘smells like ship’…

We’ve already had weird and wonderful novelty perfumes that smell of pizza, burgers and Stilton cheese, candles inspired by fried chicken and more recently, a fragrance evoking the twinkle in Captain Birdseye‘s eye – but now the captain has a new seafairing scent to contend with: Richard Branson’s signature scent, Ship No.1. And apparently, ‘…it smells like ship!’

That’s not me being salty – I am sadly bereft of a sample to lavishly spray about my person, so I cannot tell you how it actually smells – but it’s how Branson himself proudly describes the fragrance in the extremely amusing Virgin Voyages advert, for which he places his tongue firmly in his cheek. Watch the video below and get a true sense of this ship fragrance for yourself…

 

 

Ship No.1 is more than merely a novelty item, though, as this ‘signature scent of Scarlet Lady,’ has been released to mark the launch of Virgin Voyages first ship. Nicknamed ‘Ladyships’ (as they will all have female names), the fragrance apparently ‘evokes the feeling of being at sea with its hint of sea lavender and salt air contrasted against the warmth of sun-kissed wood from a fig tree.’ What’s more, Ship No.1 will be infused throughout the ‘adult by design’ (nobody under the age of 18 will be allowed aboard the vessel) Scarlet Lady once it sets sail.

Elaborating about the fragrance for their on-brand website, itsmellslikeship.com, Virgin Voyages explain their inspiration. ‘…when somebody walks into the room and says, “It smells like something in here, but I just can’t put my finger on it.” Let them know. It smells like ship.

 

 

Other videos by Virgin Voyages, available on YouTube, show plans for the ship’s layout, including a restaurant with ‘nice’ food – vegetarian – that can be made ‘naughty’ by the addition of visiting the meat buffet; a ‘mermaid spa’ that turns into a party at night, complete with DJ and disco lights; a ‘singles deck’ for solo travellers, and the intriguingly themed ‘drag lunch’, details of which are not yet forthcoming. I do very much hope it’s a bunch of drag queens still hungover from the night before and making use of the meat buffet while holding court with salty anecdotes, though. If so, I’ll be booking a ticket today, and possibly considering permanent residency.

If these delights are not enough to tempt you aboard, or if you can’t quite afford such ‘Ladyship’ luxuries – at least you can drown your sorrows by smelling ‘like Ship’, I suppose, as it’s avalable for pre-order today.

 

Ship No.1 $50 for 100ml Parfum de Bateau*
itsmellslikeship.com

*(A bateau is ‘a light flat-bottomed riverboat used in Canada’, according to my Googling skills)

By Suzy Nightingale

 

AbScent – Lost your sense of smell? They can help…

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.

Step 1:Find out where your sense of smell is today. Use the AbScent self-assessment form, here. You won’t know if you are improving if you don’t know where you’ve started.’

Step 2: Smell Train. There are full instructions for making your own Smell Training Kit, here. Or, if you prefer, you can purchase a pre-assembled Smell Training Kit.

Step 3: Take note of your experiences. AbScent provide a guide for keeping notes and a downloadable diary.

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…

By Suzy Nightingale

The fabric of fragrance: perfumes inspired by silk, velvet, suede & linen

The catwalks have been strutted, the #FROW have gasped in delight (or tutted beneath their sunglasses) and fashion weeks in London, Paris and Milan are now in the bag – but perfumers are inspired by fabric all year ’round for their fragrant creations.

Last week we explored fragrances inspired by satin, leather, cashmere and cotton, this week we urge you to reach out and get touchy-feely with fragrances evoking the sensual textures and moods of silk, velvet, suede and linen…

 

 

Oudh-avoiders – do not recoil! This is a delightfully boozy gourmand that’s all silky smooth rum-soaked fruits slathered with cream and sprinkled with spices, so although oudh may be at the heart of each fragrance in the collection, think of it more as an ingredient added for depth and longevity. Interestingly, Amouroud is the latest evolution of the widely respected Perfumer’s Workshop, launched 45 years ago. Deliciously comforting, we’ll gladly be following the Silk Route trail (and wrapping ourselves in this along the way…)

Amouroud Silk Route £166 for 100ml eau de parfum
selfridges.com

 

Like a sweet, balmy breeze rising from the walls of ancient Palermo, the Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Oriental Musk eau de parfum swathes you in the warm caress of the sun wherever you may be. With a perfectly blended mix of woods and spices, this unique fragrance melds to your skin with sandalwood, tonka bean and aromatic cardamom – a nuzzle of delight to bury your nose in (and equally divine on any sex who dares to wear it).

Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Oriental Musk £200 for 50ml eau de parfum
harrods.com

 

Wearing this is like reaching out and stroking the softest, most supple suede your fingers ever dreamed of. The warm intensity of oudh, olibanum, patchouli, suede and amber at the fragrance’s core is balanced with resinous balsam, sweet praline and honeysuckle, plus dreamy white flowers, while a little pinch of spiciness from cypress, birch and pepper awakens the senses. Sueded Oud is a study in carefully crafted opposites, and we love the creamy-fresh result.

CLEAN Reserve Sueded Oud – Try a generous 10ml bottle as part of THIRTEEN fragrances in the Luxury Layering Discovery Box £19 (£15 for VIPs)

 

One of the greatest pleasures on earth is surely the joy of crisp, white, line-dried cotton sheets. This absolute classic deserves to be enjoyed afresh – it’s all billowing clean fabric evoked via the slightly soapy coolness of white flowers and a zing of verdant greenery. Bulgarian rose, violet and powdery orris atop an earthier base of vetiver and soft, dry mossiness make for true elegance, a scent to wear whenever you want to remember sunshine and happiness.

Estée Lauder White Linen £56 for 60ml eau de parfum
boots.com

By Suzy Nightingale

The Fragrance Room – Harvey Nichols new perfume place to be!

Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge have just opened a fabulous NEW fragrant hang-out: Exclusives and boutiques and workshops, oh my! We got the low-down on this exciting new scent space within the department store, now with a whole host of new houses to explore in DOUBLE the room…

Harvey Nichols have long had a passion for perfume – often showcasing niche brands that never dreamed of being stocked in such a world-famous store, finding the most unique names that are hard to find anywhere else along with their curated selection of the finest fragrance houses this planet has to offer perfumistas. With innovative art installations and all manner of fragrant events already under their belt, and an array of gorgeous shop-in-shop boutiques queing up to join in the fragrant fun – it was time to expand the space and really commit to a larger integral fragrant experience. Behold: The Fragrance Room

 

 

Bigger, better, bolder than ever before, this new department has now been unveiled and includes over 100 fragrance houses, including in-store boutiques from Creed, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Serge Lutens and Kilian. With a roll-out of inclusive, immersive experiences for customers, the new concept will include a sensory fragrance discovery wall – to help customers navigate the often tricky fragrance families – boutique activations, including fragrance workshops with the Fragrance Foundation to celebrate National Fragrance Week and opportunities to meet brand founders and perfumers through interactive events and partnerships.

 

 

Jo Osborne, Director of Beauty and Concessions at Harvey Nichols, said that because fragrance has been such a significant part of their business, since the 2016, they’ve taken the decision to massively expand their fragrance offering.

‘…we have outgrown the current area but are fortunate enough to move to a space double the size. The new department allows us to offer some of our bestselling brands an opportunity to create their own boutique space and the rest of the department to curate unique and fine fragrances from across the world, which we know our customers will love. We are excited to work with new and existing brands to offer exclusive activities, such as expert consultations and welcome various brand founders such as Francis Kurkdjian and Geza Schoen.’

The first phase is already open, and when fully complete at the end of this month (March 2020), the space will be a whopping 1,600 sq ft – showing exactly how important fragrance is to Harvey Nichols. And that’s great news for all of us who love perfume, don’t you think?

Harvey Nichols say: ‘With a portfolio of UK exclusive brands including Maison Crivelli, 28 87 Barcelona, V Canta by Terenzi, Ormaie Paris and Ella K, the deapartment will be home to a library of fragrance brands from across the world.’

Additional fragrance houses joining Harvey Nichols for the first time include Hermessance, Nassomatto, Parfums de Marly, D.S. & Durga and Initio, among others.

We don’t know about you, but our shopping (and must-sniff) list just got a LOT longer…

By Suzy Nightingale

Fragrance (but make it fashion!) – Scents inspired by fabrics

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.

Tom Daxon Iridium £105for 50ml eau de parfum
tomdaxon.com

 

 

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…

By Suzy Nightingale

Carlos Benaïm – one of the most charming ‘noses’ we’ve ever met – talks scents…

When Carlos Benaïm landed from New York on a flying visit, we settled down into a pair of leather chairs and asked him to share his scent memories.

One of the perfumers we’ve been most charmed by in all our years of hanging out with ‘noses’, Carlos is a veteran of the industry, with so many fragrances to his name: the blockbuster Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb (with Olivier Polge and Domitille Bertier), Boucheron Jaipur Bracelet, Bulgari Jasmin Noir, Calvin Klein Eupohoria and Ralph Lauren Polo – among many others we’ve worn, loved or admired. More recently, he’s created for Frederic Malle, including the airily fresh and so-wearable Eau de Magnolia, as well as the sublime modern classic Icon for Dunhill.

His appreciation of scents and smells started early. ‘As a young boy I would often accompany my grandfather to the marketplace in Tangier and I remember the smells of the spices and fruits, oranges, peaches, melons and apricots – they are engraved in my memory…’

When summing up his career, we also love these words from Carlos: ‘There’s an old Arab saying: whatever is not given, is lost. That’s how I’ve tried to live my life and my career.’

What is your first ‘scent memory’?
The scent of my grandmother’s kitchen, cinnamon, mixed with sugar and other sweet smells. She’s someone I was very close to growing up in Tangiers, in Morocco; I was raised there, although my background is Spanish. I left Morocco at 17 to study chemical engineering and then at 23 went to Paris and New York, studying to be a nose alongside head perfumers Bernard Chant and Ernest Shiftan at International Flavors & Fragrances – I never went to a ‘classical’ perfumery school and for me, it was more like an apprenticeship.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

  • Orris (iris) – an elegant smell; there’s something so cool (temperature-wise) about it that I really like.
  • Sweets and baking smells and chocolate – because I have a sweet tooth, and I’m often caught with something sweet!
  • Smells that remind me of my mother: Femme and Mitsouko – I always recognise both of those smells right away, which brings back wonderful memories.
  • Fruits. I love the smell of fruits, particularly raspberries and peaches, pineapple, cassis, blackberry, blackcurrant. There is nothing like the smell of a fresh-picked French raspberry; they taste and smell completely different to the ones you can buy in New York – so much more perfumed…
  • Tobacco. This is the smell of my grandfather; he used to have snuff tobacco, and my father who was a pharmacist used to perfume it, either with a violet perfume or a geranium aroma. It was a very rough tobacco from Morocco and that combination was very haunting, blended with those sweet notes. I use it a lot in fragrance as a note; I used to smoke when I was young and fortunately I stopped, but I do like a little ‘hit’ from using tobacco.

And your least favourite?
I hate the smell of garbage – but that’s an obvious one. Actually, I don’t like the smell of cats and dogs. We don’t have animals because my wife is very allergic to them – but I don’t like their scent, either.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
The great Guerlains: the Mitsoukos, the Shalimars… My grandmother used to wear Shalimar. Those are magnificent, absolutely wonderful, with their mossiness – not just oakmoss, but the other mosses, which we’re restricted from using so much these days.

Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain? Is a mood-board helpful?
Everything is helpful for me. A fragrance is a mood, it’s colour, it’s form – and so it’s definitely visual as well; I build up a picture in my mind, and start trying to bring it to life. It’s a process that takes several months.

Do you have a favourite bottle, from those which have been used for your creations?
I’m very fond of the Ralph Lauren Polo bottle, which is also very significant for me because it was my first success. I also love the bottle for Flowerbomb.

Does your nose ever switch off!
As a perfumer, you can switch off being in ‘work mode’, to a ‘not actively searching’ mode. When my nose is ‘on’, I’m sensing the environment, I’m interested in the smells around me, I’m trying to put my effort into understanding what’s going on in, say, that particular flower. But I like to relax, too, and my nose relaxes at the same time.

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?
Be interested; that’s really the key. Pay attention and try to ‘fix’ smells in your mind by putting words to them. That’s how a perfumer starts; you smell everything, and you can’t remember abstract smells so you have to label them – I would smell something and think, ‘ah, that’s the wood in my grandmother’s house’ – and that’s how I’d be able to remember it…

 

Perfumes on a pinch: 5 fragrances under £20

If you’ve been on a no-buy or slow-buy regime of late – or are impatiently awaiting payday – but want a fragrant fix RIGHT NOW: we totally understand, and have you covered. We think the best collections have a mixture; so yes, perhaps some of those high-end scents we save up for, but also a good selection of the more pocket-friendly purchases we can collect and enjoy along with them.

These budget friendly fragrances have been selected to showcase a range of our favourites available on the high street – perfumes that really pack a punch and smell incredible (of course); and with many of them having been made by some of the world’s best noses, they may surprise you.

So which of these will you treat yourself to…?

 

 

If you have shied away from ‘celebrity perfumes’ or thought them dull, prepare to have your mind blown. This is properly weird – and I mean that with the greatest of respect. Hold onto your hats because the first few seconds (and it’s only seconds, I promise you) smell like a hot photocopier: warm paper and wet ink. Now that surreal image has dated me, buckle up because you’re about to be propelled straight into the heart of a forest, a tunnel of trees with tender green leaves unfurling. An hour after spraying, I feel as though I have built a secret den from twigs and moss, lined the floor with slightly damp cardboard and garlanded the walls with sprigs of lilly of the valley and swags of honeysuckle. Snug in this scented hideaway, the drydown becomes a hazy reverie of joyfully sucked chocolate squares, a daydream to savour. Think ‘celebrity’ ‘fumes are humdrum affairs? Ditch your snobbery. This is like wearing a legal trip (half a tab, anyway). The perfumer was Frank Voelkl – chappie who also did Le Labo Santal 33 and Chantecaille Tiare. And look at that price (currently on offer – snap them up before they disappear).

Sarah Jessica Parker Covet, £7.99 for 100ml eau de parfum
theperfumeshop.com

 

 

Big name houses doing collaborations with clothing brands? I’m a huge hands up for such enterprises, and the new Jo Loves fragrant offshoot at Zara created by Jo Malone is going great guns, if the breathlessly excited reviews by our friends are anything to go by. It’s hard to choose, as they’re all very well done, but I’ve plumped for this one simply because it’s not something I’d normally try, and that’s half the fun. Think of early spring days when the fat buds are bursting and signs of life stirring, a drafty picnic in a bosky dell, wrapped in a cashmere jumper and smiling at clear blue skies. The lavender, musk and sandalwood noted become a swirl of slightly subdued laughter on a lightly frost-tinged breeze. Delightful. (PS: The 10ml bottles are just £5.99 and full-size £25.99).

Zara Bohemian Bluebells, £15.99 for 40ml eau de parfum
zara.com

Perhaps there are times you want to feel swathed in comfort and warmth but with some sunlight filtering through and room to breathe? This is just the ticket: the richness of patchouli and oak moss tempered with transparency and shot through with shards of pink pepper. The cedarwood offers a soothingly dry shadiness, the sense of a late-afternoon stroll with the sun gently dipping and long shadows stretching to infinity on the grass. Before a chill sets in, the dry-down emerges – a splendidly sheer cocoa that enhances the airy earthiness of the patchouli and feels more of a dusting atop a latte than a ribbon-wrapped box of chocolates. Rather lovely on the chaps, of course, but at this price I’d buy myself a bottle, too, instead of nicking his. (This comment is not legally binding).

Yardley Gentleman Legacy, £19.99 for 100ml eau de parfum
yardleylondon.co.uk

 

Now here’s a little gem you may have overlooked – and one created by Francis Kurkdjian no less. An incredible burst of freshness that encapsulates the drowsy luxury of basking in Provençale sunshine, from the first sniff I’m transported to sunnier climes and can practically feel the warmth on my skin. It’s just the perfect balance of sparkle with that lactic lap of milky figs a balm for the soul. A fizz of mandarin fruitiness and the aromatic air of lightly spiced caraway seeds is sliced by a zing of grapefruit to awaken the senses, stirred through with fig pulp and grouded with the greeness of fig leaves. But it’s the dry-down I find particularly swoonsome, with a delightfully dry cedar smoothed into perfection by a creamy base of that fig milk. It’s something I find myself reaching for throughout the warmer days and whenever I need a happy holiday memory to get me through more challenging times; so often.

Roger & Gallet Fleur de Figuier, £19.50 for 30ml eau de toilette
marksandspencer.com

 

 

If you don’t have days you want to be wrapped in a whisper of white, soft cotton and powdery peonies, are you even alive? I adored this the moment it came out (1998, fact fans) and simply haven’t stopped. It’s somehow both effortless and uncomplicated but soothingly nuanced, and full of the most tender poignancy. The darling little bottle resembles a pearl in perfume form, and wearing this does feel as though you have become subsumed in that pearlescent radiance. Delicate blooms of freesia nuzzle fuzzy peach skin and ylang ylang dances with a shower of sheer rose petals to an intriguing base of coffee, silvery wisps of incense, and an aerated ivory smoothness akin to a long, cool glass of cream soda. Created by Olivier Cresp – of Mugler’s Angel and Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling fame, among many others – it’s a masterpiece in understated loveliness that I like to wear on lazy sundays.

Cacharel Noa, £15 for 30ml eau de toilette
superdrug.com

When searching for a little something to treat yourself with, do also have a look for travel-sizes and special edition giftsets in stores and online, because there really are some bargains out there.

If you’re already well versed in the charms of the high street and want to venture into indie and artisanal fragrances, It can sometimes be more difficult to find a cost effective way in, but we’re thrilled to currently be offering FIVE luxe niche Discovery Sets, all £20 or under. And don’t forget – our own carefully curated Perfume Society Discovery Boxes are all £19 (£15 to VIP Club members).

By Suzy Nightingale