Scenting Sargent – matching portraits to perfumes

The opening of Tate Britain’s Sargent and Fashion exhibition is more than an opportunity to view some of the most famous portraits in the world: it’s an invitation to spend time with people who began as acquaintances – faces you recognised, who played a perhaps minor moment in your life – and leave having made several roomfuls of dear friends.

There are so many connections between other art-forms and fragrance – music and literature being the most usually cited – but pairing portraiture and perfume was an emotional connection impossible to resist. It’s because (as those of us obsessed with fragrance readily understand, and which anyone can feel deep inside when a certain smell triggers an emotional response within them;) a scent can communicate with such aching, soul-baring intimacy; telling complete strangers things about ourselves that we’d never otherwise overtly express.

Partly, the intimacy one feels in Sargent and Fashion comes from seeing the paintings up close and in person. The way these people (mostly women, in this exhibition) meet your eye, often challengingly, or sometimes deliberately evading your gaze. Intimacy, too, in the way he painted them – mostly these people were very close friends within Sargent’s social circle, and this fact absolutely leaps off each canvas in the vivacious vibrancy and liveliness with which they’re depicted. There’s tenderness at times, and humour, too. A vulnerability or a twinkle in the eye that can only be achieved through decades of a deep bond between painter and sitter.

 

John Singer Sargent in his studio (Madame X in the background)

 

We, as visitors, get to feel truly included in this partnership while viewing the exhibition. And the shortcut to our deeper understanding of the people behind the paint is partly thanks to the clothing and accessories displayed alongside the portraits. Many of them are the very outfits the sitters were wearing while he painted them, and we learn from the exhibition notes and signs beside the displays, that not only did Sargent keep costumes and props in his studio, but that on numerous occasions Sargent designed many of the outfits himself – in collaboration with esteemed couture fashion houses such as Worth. It wasn’t a case of ‘come as you are’ when turning up to Sargent’s studio to be painted. It was far more ‘let’s show these people who you REALLY are.’ As the introduction to the exhibition guide states:

 

‘Sargent and his sitters thought carefully about the clothes that he would paint them in, the messages their choices would send, and how well particular outfits would translate to paint. The rapport between fashion and painting was well understood at this time: as one French critic noted, ‘there is now a class who dress after pictures, and when they buy a gown ask ‘will it paint?’’’

 

At this point I have to allow myself a rant. Not about the exhibition – which I adored, and which I shall think about for many years to come – but about some of the reviews by art critics I’ve read since attending the Press View. In their opinion, the extraordinary artefacts detracted from the portraits and were entirely unconnected to our understanding of Sargent or the sitters. They describe the clothes and accessories, variously, as ‘old rags’ and ‘glittery baubles’, or ‘belonging in Miss Havisham’s attic’. And the undercurrent of these reviews very strongly comes across as ‘these are women’s fripperies, therefore utterly bereft of meaning or importance.’

To arrive at this conclusion is – quite apart from being disgustingly misogynistic, and in the same patronising lineage as literary critics dismissing Jane Austen’s work as historic ‘chick lit’ because it dares to document the lives of women – to miss the point of the exhibition entirely. The clue was in the name, after all: Sargent and Fashion. The clothing was even capitalised in the title to help them.

Women have always been especially judged on what clothes they wear, and in this exhibition the point is made – again and again, if you care to comprehend – that the sitters and Sargent liked to subvert this power play in the colour and cut of the clothing, in the positioning of their bodies. They were judged for these choices contemporarily, too – several of the portraits causing shocking scandals and what we’d now understand as ‘being cancelled’. Most notably with the famous (and swoon-worthy) portrait of Madam X, for which, as this brilliant Varsity article on the infamous portrait explains:

‘Sargent initially depicted Gautreau in a tightly silhouetted black gown, with chained straps doing very little to conceal her pearlescent shoulders and décolletage. In fact, originally, Sargent chose to drape one strap down Gautreau’s arm; this inadvertently caused further outrage. To spectators past, it was a brazen attempt to barely veil Gautreau’s body, suggesting that if one strap can breezily slip, so can the rest.’

The clothing has nothing to do with the portraits? No importance? Tell that to Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, who was lacerated by public opinion to the point where, as the Varsity article recounts:

‘Even Gautreau – a woman fiercely aware of her beauty, and inclined to weaponise it for advancement by becoming the archetypal ‘Parisienne’ – felt that it was best to anonymise her painted figure: thus Madame X was born.’

 

 

 

 

These spectacularly cloistered critics failed to appreciate the importance Sargent himself placed on the clothing – let’s reiterate the fact he DESIGNED many of the outfits himself, or carefully positioned the clothing and angles we can view them from; choosing to deliberately drape and conceal, or otherwise starkly reveal his sitters. And little wonder they missed (or elected not to place value on) the many examples of how important these clothes were – they spent very little time actually looking at the portraits or the clothes, or the numerous signs next to them explaining the significance. Instead, they gathered in tiny, tutting cabals during the exhibition, loudly discussing which other exhibitions or parties they had, or had not, been invited to.

#notallmen, but sadly, the ones I saw doing this all were. Ironically, I overheard them discussing what outifits they were going to wear to various fashion event parties that evening. But these were their clothes – men’s clothes – so presumably were of significance to them.

I shan’t link to their excoriating yet ultimately vacuous reviews because it lends them more credence than they’re due. And I needn’t couch my words, because they’ll never bother reading something so frivolous as an article matching PERFUME to portraits. Fragrance, I feel pretty confident in assuming, is something they would similarly sneer at as being bereft of cultural and emotional value, so equally pointless in examining. Those of us who feel otherwise are lucky in having our lives enriched by art in more ways than they could ever comprehend.

Let’s allow them to tut away to their heart’s content, and instead go and see the exhibition, and then imagine if we knew what fragrances the people in these portraits had also chosen to wear! Or what scent they might select, were they around now. Such consideration adds further layers which might reveal depths even Sargent never got to know. Which perhaps they never even truly realised about themselves.

Fragrance can do that. The right scent, worn at the right time, can disclose intimate secrets or conceal us in a cloak of intrigue. A perfume can be a worn as a kind of emotional X-Ray, or played with like choosing a costume from a dressing-up box.

 

 

The women in these portraits, we learn (and FEEL by smiling along with them), were not passive, wilting muses – they were accomplished artists, poets, academics, and philosophers in their own right. And they were in partnership with Sargent, with the fashion designers, and with us as we look at them and feel something that goes beyond the gaze to a complicit understanding. Just as wearing a particular fragrance can announce to the world who we are inside, or dictate how we want others to feel about us – transcending words and going straight to the soul.

When we take time to select a scent based on our emotional response to it – or gather whole wardrobes and toolboxes of them – we go beyond passive consumers to being in a relationship with the perfumer, the packaging designers, the experts and consultants that recommended them, and the people who then smell that fragrance as we waft past.

In pairing perfumes with Sargent’s portraits, then, I hope it helps you feel an even closer companionship to the people portrayed in them, and a have deeper understanding of the mood each scent can similarly evoke. And I urge you to try this for yourselves next time you’re in a museum or art gallery – or meeting friends in your own social circle. Wonder how you’d scent them, and then reflect on what this tells you about them, about the fragrance, and even what this reveals about our own levels of perception and interpretation.

Having gained a greater closeness to Sargent the man (not just the painter), and to the people (not only the portraits) during this exquisitely soul-enriching, emotional conversation of an exhibition, I feel he’d have approved. Indeed, he’d likely have had fragrances specially commissioned, worked on exacting briefs for the perfumers, and suggested precise tweaks to the perfumes’ formulae – the better to reflect the people behind the layers of paint, and further shaping our understanding of them.

Without such bespoke examples, what follows are the perfumes I felt ‘matched’ the personality of five portraits that particularly spoke to me. Indeed, there were so many other fragrance pairings inspired in my mind (and still bubbling away) by seeing this exhibition, that I’ll need to do a Part Two to stop them invading my every thought. But for now, what I really want to know is – which portraits would you decide to match, having got to know them at the exhibition; how would you scent them, and why would you pick that to evoke their character, the clothing, and the mood of the portrait itself…?

Sargent and Fashion is at Tate Britain until 7 July 2024. [Free for Tate members, and worth every penny if you’re not]

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Lady Agnew of Lochnaw 

Outwardly the very picture of femininity, in both the sitter and the scent there’s a strong backbone that runs through the centre. Gertrude is surrounded by a froth of delicate, transparent material, but she sits on a hard-backed chair and meets us with a direct and judging stare. In Apres L’Ondee a spring garden of rain-soaked blossoms feels encircled by a high fence. The violet in it is cool, almost frosted, but has survived the storm. You may admire the garden, but the casual passer-by will not be invited inside.

Guerlain Apres L’Ondee £108 for 75ml eau de parfum guerlain.com

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Ena Wertheimer 

Sargent and Ena were great friends, their rapport and her amusement vibrating through this unconventional portrait, and the stance apparently all Ena’s doing. She came to his studio, grabbed a broom and began fencing with it. Her heavy opera coat becomes a Cavalier’s uniform (or a witch’s cloak, given the subtext of the broomstick). In Moonlight Patchouli, inky black velvet is suddenly spotlit, bathed in a phosphorescent glow, dusted with iris – a focus on warm skin dominating the darkness.

Van Cleef & Arpels Moonlight Patchouli £145 for 75ml eau de parfum harrods.com

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Mrs Hugh Hammersley (Mary Frances Grant) 

A fashionable hostess of salons, Mary looks so happy to see you, but would like you to understand she has a lot to do. The extraordinary depth of colour and texture in her gown are discussed in this Metropolitan Museum of Art feature, but her vivacity and poised opulence are obvious. I tried not to use this scent in this piece, but it had to be hers. The striking depths of rose, raspberry and patchouli are hugely impactful, filled with beauty, power, and a presence that lasts long after you’ve left a room.

Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady from £60 for 10ml eau de parfum fredericmalle.co.uk

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Dr. Pozzi at Home

A blaze of passionate red, this man might appear a dandy, but he’s incredibly intelligent. He may look casually attired, but the drape of his dressing gown and the meticulous pleats of the white linen shirt dramatically contrast the swathe of scarlet. Habit Rouge is devilishly handsome and knows it. Dynamically woody, a hint of animalic magnetism balanced by almost soapy neroli and jasmine; rendered irresistible by the creamy warmth of spiced vanilla and moody patchouli in the base.

[P.S. I also attempted not to use Guerlain twice in my matches, but the body craves what it needs, and Pozzi’s needed this.]

Guerlain Habit Rouge £81 for 50ml eau de parfum guerlain.com

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) 

The largest space in the exhibition is given over to Sargent’s most famous portrait, room for captivated crowds to gather and gaze, elongating their bodies and arching upwards, echoing her position, desperate for her to turn and look back. Virginie adored this painting, as did Sargent, but her life was scandalised by it. In Santal Majuscule, we’re invited to worship the sandalwood, acres of creaminess suggesting an expanse of bare skin. A pared back elegance which nonetheless skewers with longing.

Serges Lutens Santal Majuscule £135 for 50ml eau de parfum sergeslutens.co.uk

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Legends of the Narcissus Flower

As we saw in our fragrant bouquet of narcissus-infused perfume recommendations, the sunny, soul-brightening flowers have been inspiring perfumers for centuries. But do you know the full story of the intriguing myth behind the naming of the narcissus?

This fascinating tale is told beautifully on the blog of chelseaflower.co.uk:

 

‘Like many stories in Greek mythology, Narcissus was burdened early on by prophesy. A wise, blind seer by the name of Tiresias warned him that he’d live a very long time, so long as he never admired his reflection. Avoiding mirrors was difficult in an appearance-centric culture, but Narcissus managed to for a great deal of his life. However, he peered down into a pool of water as an adult, became captivated by his own reflection, and – depending on the version of the myth – he either wasted away while staring or slid into the pool and drowned. Either way, not exactly a happy ending to the story.’

 

 

 

The Flower and the Fable

‘So what does this surprisingly bleak story have to do with such a sunny flower? Daffodils, particularly wild ones, are often found at the edges of ponds, rivers, and streams, looking down into the waters below. As they age, wither, and die, the bowed head of the flower droops closer to its stem, appearing to look even more intently at the ground or the water near its roots.’

 

 

 

‘This subtle nod to Narcissus’ end caused the ancient Greeks to believe the Narcissus flower was the incarnation of the man himself, a beautiful but stark reminder to avoid vanity and stay focused on the world and people around you instead. In some versions of the myth, this cautionary hero gets a little more benefit-of-the-doubt, too: alternate versions indicate that he actually pined away missing his lost twin sister, and looked at his own reflection to see her features. This slightly sunnier version casts the bright flower in a better light: that of the enduring love for family, and the beauty of cherished memories.’

 

 

 

 

‘No matter which version of Narcissus’ tale the flower of the same name brings to mind, there’s one undeniable truth: it’s a beautiful bloom. Planted in spring gardens or presented as a fresh floral arrangement, the gorgeous mix of creamy white and yellow-red centres make a joyful bouquet for any gift-giving occasion. Plant narcissus bulbs before spring, and you’ll be able to enjoy a colourful show emerging as the snow and ice melt away…’

However you decide to celebrate this gorgeously cheering flower – wearing a fragrance that wafts the scent of it all day, or filling your home with happy-making vases of the blooms – we hope you find some sunshine that will keep us going until spring properly appears!

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Mimosa Focus: A Festival of Fragrance

Mimosa. Acacia. Cassie.  All names for the same plant, with those fabulous yellow pom-pom flowers which look delicate, but fill a room with their dreamy sweetness in minutes. The bark, roots and resin are all still used to create incense for rituals, in Nepal, India and China (including Tibet – and acacia/mimosa’s used in mainstream perfumery, too:  the scent has a warm, honey, iris-like, powdery airiness, which enriches the complexity of fragrances. Mimosa has a long tradition in perfumery:  it was first used in making incense, and symbolised resurrection and immortality: Egyptian mythology linked the acacia tree with the tree of life, described in the Myth of Osiris and Isis.  

 

 

 

 

Mimosas are pod-bearing shrubs and trees now native mostly to Australia and the Pacific, though they put on a pretty spectacular show around the heartland of perfumery in Grasse, too, in the south of France. For centuries, aside from perfumery, the mimosa tree has been used for many different purposes from medicinal to ornamental. The seeds and fruit are edible and used in many cuisines and soft drinks, the bark produces a gum that is used as a stabiliser (gum Arabic) and in the production for printing and ink; and the timber is used in furniture making.

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, in France, at this time every year in February the fluffy yellow pom-pom blooms are celebrated for their beauty and vibrancy – adding a much-needed splash of yellow brightness to these often dreary days. As the blog thegoodlifefrance.com describes:

“…the velvety yellow blooms of the locally grown mimosa flowers will fill the streets of Mandelieu-La Napoule for a large and very popular festival. The festivities last for 10 days with the main attraction being the famed gloriously yellow floral floats during both weekends.”

“The evening starts at the “Notre Dame des Mimosas”, the Mimosa Queen is elected; the streets of the town centre ring to the sound of marching bands, street orchestras and the floats which parade, covered in locally grown mimosa.  Each Sunday, the battle of the flowers takes place and when the floral floats are finished the winners go home laden with mimosa. This is a festival for everyone and children love it, the bright colours, the joyful atmosphere – its impossible not to be happy at this event and to feel that spring is just around the corner.”

To celebrate in fragrant form, why not seek out some mimosa-fluffed scents such as these…

 

 

 

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GOLDFIELD & BANKS VELVET SPLENDOUR

Sumptuousness personified with a flirtatiously fluffy Australian mimosa snuggled up to decadently waxy orange blossom and luminous jasmine against a leathery, resinous backdrop of intriguing complexity. Drowsily splendid, this unfurls for hours on the skin as it warms, telling the story of a day spent in bed with your lover – a decadent plushness to sink into and sigh at the heliotropine-drenched dry-down, as you sip tea and eat buttered toast, while warming your feet on theirs…

£135 for 100ml eau de parfum harrods.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIPTYQUE L’EAU PAPIER

What is the scent of paper? That’s how every Diptyque creation begins: a blank sheet, a pen, ink, ideas. Fabrice Pellegrin was tasked here with conjuring up diluted ink and artistic brushstrokes. The perfect textural softness of mimosa and white musks are mistily ethereal, with a rice steam accord adding to the sense of paperiness and roasted sesame for the inkiness. Alex Waline’s pointillist label completes a modern masterpiece that couldn’t be more Diptyque if it tried.

From £90 for 50ml eau de parfum diptyqueparis.com

 

 

 

 

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MAISON CRIVELLI IRIS MALIKHÂN

If what you need now is a massive hug, there are two ingredient that enfold you in their arms, and both are included here. Iris wraps its arms around cypress, leather, amber, musks, vanilla and a surprisingly animalic but still soothing purr of mimosa, confected to create ‘the mind-blowing discovery of iris fields on the edge of a desert.’ (Imaginary, but we’re right there, thanks to this shimmering mirage of a scent, from this exciting, new-to-the-UK perfume name.)

£90 for 30ml eau de parfum johnlewis.com

 

 

LOUIS VUITTON HEURES D’ABSENCE

If ever there were further proof needed that florals have been modernised, it is here, in this pale mauve juice: a profusion of fresh flowers harvested in Grasse, still a hub of perfume creativity, where Vuitton’s Jacques Cavallier Belletrud was born and works today. Add the gloriously green, powdery mimosa from the Tanneron forest, touches of sandalwood and soft musks, and you have the prettiest of sheer summer scents – contemporary, luminous and understatedly elegant.

£255 for 100ml eau de parfum louisvuitton.com

 

 

 

 

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PENHALIGON’S THE FAVOURITE

This floral-musky triumph is named after Queen Anne’s best friend – Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, as immortalised by Rachel Weisz in the film that also starred Oscar-winner Olivia Colman. As prettily-packaged as any scent we’ve seen in a while, it’s a juice to match, swirling with that gloriously powdery mimosa, freesia, violet and mandarin, becoming positively boudoir-esque as the musk and Indian sandalwood drift in. Spritz lavishly and waft in a negligé to do it justice.

£85 for 30ml eau de parfum penhaligons.com

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

The Scent of Snowdrops & the Promise of Spring

In the depths of winter, when life seems dormant and waiting, there is one little glimpse of brighter times to come – a whiff of hope on the frosty breeze – in that cheering moment we first spot a snowdrop. Yes, that might sound clichéd, but I defy you to smother a smile when you see one.

SO delicately scented with a lightly honeyed, creamy almond kind of smell, the latin name ‘Galanthus‘ means ‘milky flower’, and this tiny bloom has gathered centuries of fragrant folklore around its origins, continuing to inspire perfumers with its transcendent prettiness.

Native to Alpine regions, where they thrive amidst the cold, mountainous climes; snowdrops are believed to have first appeared in the British Isles when they were brought there by monks. It’s rather nice to imagine them tenderly tucked in religious robes while they travelled, but however they first arrived, they took root in the frozen winter soil of this country, and in our souls, somehow. Perhaps we were seduced by the mythology – stories passed down through generations, such as the legend recounted on the snowdrop-centric website snowdrops.me: ‘when you listen closely,’ they explain, ‘you can hear their bells ringing, trying to wake up nature from its winter sleep.’ Even more beautiful is the ancient German tale re-told on The Creative Countryside blog:

 

 

 

‘At the beginning of all things when life was new, the Snow sought to borrow a colour. The flowers were much admired by all the elements but they guarded their colour’s jealousy and when the Snow pleaded with them, they turned their backs in contempt for they believed the Snow cold and unpleasant. The tiny humble snowdrops took pity on the Snow for none of the other flowers had shown it any kindness and so they came forth and offered up to the Snow their colour. The Snow gratefully accepted and became white forevermore, just like the Snowdrops. In its gratitude, the Snow permitted the little pearly flowers the protection to appear in winter, to be impervious to the ice and bitter chill. From then on, the Snow and the Snowdrops coexisted side by side as friends.’

 

I’ll be the first to admit the smell of snowdrops isn’t effusive, it doesn’t billow through the woods as a scented cloud harkening Spring; but though tenderly scented, it’s the symbolism of this flower that so inspires perfumers, I think. And to which we feel drawn – perhaps likening ourselves to the ‘brave’ flower having clung on through icy conditions, and having managed to immerge, even through the frozen ground. A triumph of beauty over adversity, if you will.

 

 

 

 

Quietly scented (to us) they may be, but that smell acts as a clarion call for potential pollinators. The composition of the snowdrop’s fragrant waft depends on the type of insect it wants to attract. The honeyed kind attract bees (and us), but because the snowdrop is a fairly recent inhabitant on British shores, the scent they exude can also be a wordless cry to a species not available here. So, not all snowdrops have a smell that pleases the masses. Explains the National Plant Collection of Galanthus at Bruckhills Croft in Aberdeenshire on their snowdrops.me blog (where you can purchase several varieties of the flower): ‘The species Koenenianus is often described as having a smell of animal urine or bitter almonds, so perhaps has evolved to attract pollenating beetles in its native North-Eastern Turkey?’

 

 

 

 

Fragrances evoking snowdrops are (given our love for the flowers and their symbolism) still surprisingly rather scarce, but when we find them they may lean on the tenderly honeyed side of their scent (I’m very glad to say), with clever ‘noses’ tending to use a blend of notes to evoke these seasonal flagposts of hope in their fragrances – boosting their brightness, smoothing the edges, radiating anticipation. Such is the alchemy of a fragrant composition, we might be smelling lily-of-the-valley or bluebell accords (also imagined evocations) or the dewy green of violet leaf. Creamy white musks are often used to create that elegant shiver of the flower, or a whisper of cool woodiness wafting an imagined breeze to shake their bells. Conversely, the sense of snowdrops may be borrowed to add pale shafts of sunlight within the darkness of a scent, the contrast emboldening the harmony of the whole blend.

So, while you may not pick up a bottle and confidently declare ‘Aha! I detect snowdrops!’ we can quite willingly succumb to the romance of the story, and cling on to the feeling of hopefulness each of these four snowdrop fragrances grant the wearer…

 

 

 

 

Shay & Blue Black Tulip From £7.95 for 10ml eau de parfum
Contrasts abound as white chocolate swathes spiced plum, but before gourmand-avoiders back away, it’s not overtly sweet – think of it more like the silky ‘mouth-feel’ amidst swathes of bright snowdrops and creamy cyclamen. The dark heart hushes to wood shavings, curls of chocolate still falling like snowflakes.

 

 

Zoologist Snowy Owl £175 for 60ml extrait de parfum
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s calone-based ‘snow accord’ imagines the backdrop for the owl’s scented swooping: ‘A thick carpet of silver envelops the landscape, untouched but for the dazzling reflection of the sun.’ Icy mint, lily of the valley and coconut drift to snowdrops and sap-filled galbanum, softly feathered by the moss-snuggled base.

 

 

 

A portrait of a frozen stream in perfumed form, snowdrops and freesia are lapped by lychee water, peony petals and jasmine hinting at warmer days, clementine blossom a burat of happiness amidst misty, crystalline musks. Then, the smooth teakwood base is whipped through with fluffs of creamy vanilla for an ambient blanket of calm.

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Flanders Lawn £85 for 30ml eau de parfum
Kate learned perfumery at her mother’s knee, taking over the house after Angela died, with this dew-speckled, dawn-struck scent her first offering. ‘Lawn marked a new start for me as a perfumer’, she explains, ‘and is therefore a most appropriate scent for the time of year when we feel ready to embrace the promise of a new season.’

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Dreaming of Spring with Narcissus Scents

Narcissus has been exciting perfumers for millennia. The Arabs used it in perfumery, then the Romans, who created a perfume called Narcissinum with the oil from what’s become one of our favourite modern flowers. In India, meanwhile, narcissus one of the oils applied to the body before prayer, along with jasmine, sandalwood and rose. (Nobody’s quite sure where the first flowers were grown;  some believe it originated in Persia, and made its way to China via the Silk Route.)

There are hundreds of different species of Narcissi today – white, yellow, some with a touch of pink or orange (including our ‘everyday’ daffodil) – but not all are fragrant. The Pheasant’s Eye Narcissus (a.k.a. Poet’s Narcissus, or Narcissus poeticus) is native to Europe, and growers cultivate it in the Netherlands and the Grasse area of France, extracting an oil which smells like a blend of jasmine and hyacinth.

The scent can also be extracted from the so-pretty ‘bunched’ variety – Narcissus tazetta – is native to southern Europe and now also grown widely across Asia, the Middle East, north Africa, northern India, China and Japan.  A third variety, Narcissus jonquil, can also be used, and in one form or another this beautiful ingredient is said to make its way into as much as 10% of modern fragrances – despite the fact that a staggering 500 kilos of flowers are needed to produce a kilo of ‘concrete’, or just 300 g of absolue, making it very pricy – and, therefore, many perfumers will create an ‘accord’ to recreate this stunning scent note.

 

 

 

 

It’s so powerful, though, that only a touch is needed – and perfumers must proceed with caution: the scent in a closed room can be overwhelming. (Narcissus actually gets its name from the Greek word ‘narke’, which made its way into Roman language as ‘narce’: that meant ‘to be numb’, and alludes to the effect the oil can have.)

The supposed Greek legend linked with the flower is well-known: Narcissus was a handsome youth who fell in love with his own reflection, on seeing it in a pool. Unable to leave behind the beauty of his image, Narcissus died – to be replaced by this flower…

 

 

 

 

Penhaligon’s The Revenge of Lady Blanche

Here, hyacinth and daffodil lure those around with wafts of what seems like whimsicality, before the true headiness kicks in with billowing verdancy and the bite of ginger flower beckons. Reflecting the character of Lady Blanche, who Penhaligon’s describe as ‘the darling of London Society’ who will ‘do anything to continue climbing the social ladder’ and revealing ‘her charmingly dangerous persona,’ – this is a narcissus-strewn scent that beautifully balances the beauty and intriguing green notes.

£235 for 75ml eau de parfum penhaligons.com

 

 

 

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Sana Jardin Jaipur Chant

Sana Jardin have helped to put scent sustainability firmly on the agenda, a brand created primarily as a vehicle for social change, offering fragrances (by the esteemed Carlos Benaïm) which are exquisite enough to convert any eco-refusenik. They don’t launch newness every five minutes – au contraire – but introductions like this are worth waiting for, heady with tuberose, jasmine and French narcissus, freshened by lemon and ultimately smoothed by soft musks. Hypnotic, we’re finding.

Try a sample in the Sana Jardin Discovery Set £30 for 10 x 2ml samples In our shop

 

 

 

 

Frederic Malle Cologne Indélébile

Love the freshness – but weep over the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nature of Colognes…? This is the most surprising Cologne incarnations you can wrap your nose around, bursting out of the bottle on a surge of orange blossom and Calabrian bergamot, neroli and lemon. But wait. Literally, wait a couple of hours: the top notes still make their presence felt – joined by arm-fulls of headier narcissus, too, by now – but Cologne Indelebile develops an irresistible musky undertone that will still be seducing you (and who knows who else?), 24 hours in. Golly.

£240 for 100ml Cologne libertylondon.com

 

 

Shay & Blue Atropa Belladonna

Atropa Belladonna is inspired by deadly nightshade (yes, really!): the rare plant used by seventeenth century Venetians for hallucinogenic beauty, as the natural toxins is contains dilate the pupils. This rich and incredibly opulent scent was created by ‘nose’ Julie Massé. It is an utterly contemporary blend of ripe blackcurrant alongside narcotic white flowers by way of narcissus and jasmine. The mesmerising composition decadently dries down to a base of patchouli, sandalwood and Bourbon vanilla.

£65 for 100ml natural spray fragrance In our shop

 

 

PARLE MOI DE PARFUM Haute Provence / 89

Endless vistas of Provençal lavender fields and their ‘glorious explosion of purple, mauve, lilac and blue’ were the inspiration behind this wonderfully soothing, aromatic ‘memory of France in high summer.’ Until we can wander those fields first-hand, this cool, dry and immediately nostalgic scent spirits us there with every spritz. Refreshing watermelon and hypnotic narcissus only add to the bucolic charms, and once again we praise the nose of Michel Almairic. Mai oui!

£100 for 50ml eau de parfum lessenteurs.com

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Affordable Fragrant Treats – for a Fresh New Start in February

Let’s face it, we all know January can be hard on the pocket (and the soul!) but we don’t know about you – we are CRAVING occasional treats to self and some scented newness like never before.

A little luxury arriving through the post can go a long way to cheering yourself up on a grim day – or simply letting someone else know you’re thinking of them, giving them something to smile about. Here’s our current rota of go-to of perfume presents (to us, or others) that also happen to be extremely pocket-friendly, for when you need to add a bit of a pep to your step…

 

 

 

 

The best way to treat yourself (or others, must keep remembering to add that) is to buy a Discovery Set – these can range from collections from a single scent house, or curated selections of perfumes from all sorts of brands. Testing them on your own skin, at home and in your own time, is THE safest way to avoid making expensive mistakes by buying a full bottle after the first spritz, then realising it perhaps wasn’t quite for you (we’ve all done it!)

Air sign birthdays are still in the swing (Aquarius until February 18) and Earth sign birthdays on the horizon (Pisces February 19 – March 20), but anyone who appreciates soulful, beautifully balanced fragrances would love to try one of these character-driven ARgENTUM scent discovery sets.

 

 

‘As an element, air encapsulates a masculine energy of thought and communication. Born at sunrise in the crisp breath of Spring ~ air is imaginative and intelligent, but without flow can become stifled and cruel. Moist and warm, air symbolises a nurturing energy that celebrates your knowledge and ideas, the beginning of something intangible and without permanent form. This brisk and exhilarating element stimulates the mind and cuts to the heart of your quest for connection.’

  • Become: All encompassing, balancing, beginnings
  • Creator: Creative energy, trust, manifestation
  • Sage: Wisdom, knowledge, awareness
  • Ruler: Balance, adaptability, vulnerability

ARgENTUM Discovery Kit – Air Collection£28 for four fragrance samples

 

 

‘As an element, earth encapsulates a cleansing feminine energy of strength and solidity. Born at midnight in the depths of Winter ~ earth is grounded in fertility and security, but left to harden can lack vision and freedom from material things. Cold and dry, earth symbolises the physical, immersed in reality and centred in groundedness with intuitive abundance. This generous and nurturing element guides you to wisdom on your quest to find nourishment.’

  • Become: All encompassing, balancing, beginnings
  • Everyman: Human connection, trust, loyalty
  • Explorer: Personal journey, growth, learning
  • Caregiver: Soothing, nurturing, guiding

ARgENTUM Discovery Kit – Earth Collection£28 for four fragrance samples

 

 

 

 

 

Containing 9 fragrances from their Native Collection, this Goldfield & Banks Discovery Set allows you to explore Australia via the brands use of indigenous ingredients producing unique fragrances that take you from beach to forest to outback. Beautifully crafted, these perfumes blend French expertise with Australian botanicals for a stunning journey down under.

Wood Infusion – A luxe ambery scent surrounded by an elixir of rich woods, buttery roots and aromatic notes.

Bohemian Lime – Bohemian Lime mellows to reveal blissful grounding notes of vetiver, cedar wood and sandalwood.

Sunset Hour – A heavenly elixir of citrus and spicy delights await, giving way to a deliciously gourmand and sensuous floral heart.

Pacific Rock Moss – An aquatic and fresh perfume with a distinctive marine note. Cedar wood gives this perfume a sturdy base on which to reveal a fresh, sea spray scent that speaks of summer day.

Desert Rosewood – A rich, amber and woody fragrance that evokes thick, arid deep forests.

Southern Bloom – An immediately lavish, pure and sensational floral-woody fragrance, with a smooth, velvety sensation and glimpses of exquisite green notes combined with red coloured fruity notes.

White Sandalwood – White sandalwood and amber provide a comforting base, while saffron, pepper and thyme cast an exotic dry heat, tempered by a heart of sweet powdery Turkish rose.

Velvet Splendour – The first inhale is an immediate mix of green stems, yellow blooms, cool air and warm light. Bold, sensual and glamorous.

Blue Cypress – Blue Cypress provides a fragrant woody base, lifted by a fusion of invigorating lavender and exotic patchouli, clove and star anise.

Goldfield & Banks Discovery Set – £30 for nine fragrance samples

 

 

 

 

American-born Sarah Baker has resided in London for a long time. As well as being an artist and film-maker, she has also developed perfumes at the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles. These fragrances are bold, distinctive, and not for the faint of heart. Presented in a compact, elegant box finished in the collection’s signature Enlightenment Green, it also includes an integrated booklet with information on our eau de parfums.  It’s ideal for gifting or when you want more choice while on the go. The 5 eau de parfums included are:

  • Bascule: Horses, hay and leather. The sun-ripened notes of succulent fruit, woods and prominent green notes. Equestrian.
  • Far from the Madding Crowd: A picnic in the countryside. Botanics, deciduous fruits, wild flowers and woods. Meadows.
  • Flame & Fortune: White flowers, spice and citrus heated until it catches fire in the dryness of the fragrant desert. Dramatic.
  • G Clef: Jazz-inspired. Coastal, citrus and woody and notes of a fougére. Californian or Mediterranean? Savoire Faire.
  • Symmerty: The fragrance hub of the Ancient World. Combines oud, with the freshness of a cologne tradition. Classical.

Sarah Baker Eau de Parfum Discovery Set£30 for five fragrance samples

 

 

 

 

 

 

You don’t need to be going to some swanky party, or even out-out, to want to smell wonderful – and with this selection of scents you can feel fabulous very day (for weeks!) The scent you wear can be the starting point of how you want to approach each new day. Do you want to be fun and flirty? Maybe you feel a bit more daring and edgy? Are you in need of a confidence boost with something classic? Containing a brilliant range of olfactive offerings from beloved designer and exciting, emerging niche names too, it’s just the thing to set you up for the month ahead.

Adscenture Holographic 2ml extrait de parfum
Creed 
Carmina 1.7ml eau de parfum
EauMG 
FlorFunk 2ml extrait de parfum
Escentric Molecules 
Molecule 01 + Black tea 2ml eau de toilette
Goldfield & Banks
 Ingenious Ginger 2ml eau de parfum
Granado
 Expedição 1.8ml eau de parfum
Lancôme 
Idôle 1.2ml eau de parfum
Malin + Goetz 
Strawberry 0.75ml eau de parfum
Mizensir 
Palissandre Night 2ml eau de parfum 
Parfum de Marly 
Althair 1.5ml eau de parfum
Pictor Parfum
 Flash 2ml extrait de parfum
Robert Piguet 
Notes 1ml eau de parfum

Fabulous Fragrances Discovery Set£19 VIP price  or RRP £ £23 for twelve fragrance samples

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Bring on the Winter Zing: Getting Fresh With Neroli

Okay, yes. We tend to associate citrus fragrances more usually with warmer weather – where juicy lemon, lime, orange and even the more unusual yuzu are used for their refreshing, thirst-quenching appeal. However, holy moly, we need brightness more in these earlier months of the year than at any other.

So, what else can we look for when summer-y Colognes just feel wrong, but we CRAVE freshness nonetheless? Well, we would be well advised to lean into scents that put us in mind of the sunshine one gets on the very best of winter days. The kind of light that sparkles on frosty leaves, adds glitter to even the greyest pavement, and brings a feeling of almost childlike joy (despite the bitter weather!) An ingredient we would urge you to look for to recreate such sunshine-and-ice-kissed moments is neroli.

 

 

It’s truly one of THE most prized perfumery ingredients for gifting a uniquely floral freshness and zing to a fragrance’s formula. But where does this magical note come from, and how does it differ from other fresher notes?

The bitter orange tree – Citrus aurantium var. amara – is one of the wonders of the fragrant world. (You might better know it as the Seville orange tree and associate it with marmalade.) The leaves and twigs give us petitgrain, while the cold-pressed peel of the fruit gives us bigarade. But it’s the olfactory orgy of white neroli blossoms which get ‘noses’ (and fragrance lovers) really excited: airy, citrusy, green, but with whispers of honey and orange bubbling subtly underneath; it’s like taking scented  stealth vitamins that seep into your consciousness and make everything a bit better; or a short break to warmer climes in order to recharge your soul. In bottles, how much handier (and less ruinous) to access for instantaneous uplift, though.

 

Neroli is extracted by steam distillation of freshly-picked flowers, a process which much smell akin to perfume heaven, while the name ‘neroli’ comes from a small Italian town near Rome, and a princess who lived there. Anne Marie Orsini (aka Anna Maria de la Tremoille, and originally French, though basically adopted as Italian because that’s how it rolls when you’re noble and rich ), fell in love with the scent of neroli, which fragranced the air in spring. Can hardly blame her, really, because it’s surely one of the most universally pleasing smells in the world, and oh lord (or Princess) – how we are craving springtime right now!

Ah well. Until the opaque tights can be safely ditched, and until the actual change of season; might we suggest you make like Anne Marie, and similarly seek out these neroli-centric scents for some added joy and sparkle in fragrant form…?

 

 

 

 

Mizensir White Neroli £185 for 100ml eau de parfum

Radiating the gasp-making mood-shift of dawn’s first ray of light touching the ground, neroli gently shakes the senses awake, scattering pearlescent dew drops of hedione among the fluff of white musk and spiritual drifts of frankincense.

 

 

 

 

Granado Limāo & Néroli £52 for 100ml eau de Cologne

Encompassing the entire bitter orange tree’s gifts to perfumery, the neroli adds clarity and pale sunshine slicing through clouds, petitgrain brings leafiness, invigoratingly bracing lemon and the more herbaceous lime a tonic for the soul.

 

 

Edeniste Neroli Sensuel £68 for 30ml eau de parfum

Expressing the tender nature of neroli, the white petals are wrapped around the more biting wakeup call of petitgrain, harmonising perfectly with juicy pear and luminous peach (still sun-warmed it feels) for a fresh caress at any time.

 

 

 

 

 

Acqua di Parma Colonia Intensa £104 for 50ml eau de Cologne

The classic gets sultrified, the freshness of neroli and iconic Calabrian bergamot charismatically sizzled up with slices of ginger, atop a supple leather, cedar and patchouli-snuggled base. Marvellously smile-inducing, even on Very Trying Days.

 

 

 

Maison Crivelli Neroli Nasimba £85 for 30ml eau de parfum

The neroli smoulders unusually amidst oodles of orange blossom and luminous mandarin contrasted with the cool spice of cardamom and deep, animalic purr of Saffiano leather. Like discovering your pockets are lined with soft yellow velvet.

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

 

Pantone Colour of the Year 2024: Peach Fuzz (+ peachy-perfect perfumes to match!)

Since 2000, the colour-trend makers and shapers, Pantone, have announced their ‘colour of the year’ – thereby triggering an explosion of that tone across fashion, art and design initiatives in all categories. And, of course, that includes fragrance trends, too. For 2024 the colour has been announced as ‘Peach Fuzz‘ – so yes, indeed, this marries perfectly with some of the scent trends we’ve already seen emerging for the year ahead.

 

Here, we explore why peach is THE colour we’ll all be seeing – and matching it with the most perfectly peachy scents we know so far (with, we suspect, many more peachy perfumes to arrive in the coming months!)

 

 

Pantone Says: ‘Subtly sensual, PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz is a heartfelt peach hue bringing a feeling of kindness and tenderness, communicating a message of caring and sharing, community and collaboration. A warm and cozy shade highlighting our desire for togetherness with others or for enjoying a moment of stillness and the feeling of sanctuary this creates, PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz presents a fresh approach to a new softness…’

 

 

 

Why was Peach Fuzz chosen for 2024?

And what does this colour say about how we’re feeling – what we need, right now? Pantone explains: ‘At a time of turmoil in many aspects of our lives, our need for nurturing, empathy and compassion grows ever stronger as does our imaginings of a more peaceful future. We are reminded that a vital part of living a full life is having the good health, stamina, and strength to enjoy it. That in a world which often emphasises productivity and external achievements, it is critical we recognise the importance of fostering our inner selves and find moments of respite, creativity, and human connection amid the hustle and bustle of modern life. As we navigate the present and build toward a new world, we are reevaluating what is important. Reframing how we want to live, we are expressing ourselves with greater intentionality and consideration. Recalibrating our priorities to align with our internal values, we are focusing on health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, and cherishing what’s special — the warmth and comfort of spending time with friends and family, or simply taking a moment of time to ourselves.

With that in mind, we wanted to turn to a colour that could focus on the importance of community and coming together with others. The colour we selected to be our Pantone Colour of the Year 2024 needed to express our desire to want to be close to those we love and the joy we get when allowing ourselves to tune into who we are and just savour a moment of quiet time alone. It needed to be a colour whose warm and welcoming embrace conveyed a message of compassion and empathy. One that was nurturing and whose cosy sensibility brought people together and elicited a feeling of tactility. One that reflected our feeling for days that seemed simpler but at the same time has been rephrased to display a more contemporary ambiance. One whose gentle lightness and airy presence lifts us into the future.’

 

 

How is peach used within perfumery?

It’s such a soft, fuzzy, sensual note. No wonder perfumers love it: peach almost gives the same velvety texture to a fragrance that you get from stroking the ripe fruit itself. Since the time of the early Arab perfumers, the flesh of peach and the kernels were used in scents and ointments.  Originally a native of China, peaches made their way to Europe after Alexander the Great conquered the Persians and brought back a botanical trophy, Prunus persica, then known as the ‘Persian apple’. The nectar-like aroma you smell in a ‘peach-y’ fragrance, though, may actually be a synthetic: aldehyde C14 (a.k.a. undecalactone) smells delectably peach-like and edible, and we defy most untrained noses to tell the difference.

 

Peachy Perfect Perfume Picks…

 

 

 

Lancôme TrésorCurrently from £52 for 30ml eau de parfum

A timeless classic, and a lusciously peachy scent that just seem to sing on the skin, Trésor is a love letter to seemingly effortless sophistication. The signature Lancôme rose shimmers with effervescent light, dancing across the fuzzy velvet of nuzzle-me-closer peach skins and apricot blossoms to a luminous heart of white flowers dusted with powder and a smooth, long-lasting trail of creamy musk. Simply divine, one you must seek out to try (for the first time, perhaps?) now!

 

 

 

SHAY_BLUE_WHITE_PEACHES_THE_PERFUME-SOCIETY

 

SHAY & BLUE White Peaches From £25 for 10ml eau de parfum

Forget the variety you might find in your fruit bowl – here, a floral delicacy exudes from the flesh of white peaches, swirled through with an elderflower granita for a freshness that feels like brightness and happy times, bottled. Shay & Blue excel at unique combinations, this one unusually grounded with a soft wintery wisp of silver birch for the woody base. It’s a refreshing sorbet of a scent to quench your thirst for something delightful to wear, no matter the weather.

 

 

 

Ulrich Lang Suncrest$185 for 100ml eau de parfum

The particular variety of peach here inspires the name, and is ultra-realistically evoked, literally like burying your nose in a bowl of perfectly ripe peaches fresh from the market, then tenderly stroking your face with the fuzzy, sun-warmed skin before sinking your teeth in and letting the juice trickle down your chin. Lucent jasmine and piquant blackcurrant slice the velvet and the creamy woodiness of the base feels like the giddy exhilaration just after laughing joyously. A triumph!

 

 

 

Memoize London Curatio£177 for 100ml eau de parfum

Fizzingly fresh orange and the exotic (almost banana-like) ylang ylang are cooly spiced with cardamom before the sweetness of the peach juice kicks in, like nectar for the soul. Love the scent as self-care message from Memoize, who say: ‘Sometimes, it is inherently clear what is needed: a comforting sweet embrace of oneself.’ The vanilla-rich dry down does, indeed, feel like a hug, being further buoyed aloft by rosy-tinged geranium and jasmine for added joie de vivre.

 

 

 

 

L’Artisan Parfumeur À Fleur de Pêche £170 for 100ml eau de parfum

Peach is beautifully embodied here by L’Artisan Parfumeur via a triptych of peach facets: the fuzziness of the skin, the lusciousness of peach flesh, and the almost almond-y stone within, which sits in the base alongside patchouli and tonka bean. Sweet, juicy, you’ll also encounter a twist of pepper, a dash of saltiness, from a note of Calone. A modern gourmand, if you like, it’s certainly very more-ish and you’ll be lusting for peaches whenever you wear it.

 

 

 

 

Tom Ford Bitter Peach From £180 for 30ml eau de partum

Don’t be put off by the name. (When did Mr. Ford ever let us down?) This is a welcome reminder of summer’s joys, luscious with Sicilian blood orange, the signature pêche de vigne (peaches on the vine) accord and a dash of cardamom in the opening, beckoning us towards a boozy afternoon with rum, cognac, davana oil and jasmine absolute, in time to enjoy a golden sunset moment with sandalwood, benzoin, vanilla, tonka and patchouli. *Happy sigh.*

 

 

 

Adscenture Secret Garden £60 for 30ml eau de parfum

Cascading sunlights tenderly caresses succulent peach swirled with coconut for an unashamedly happy-making scent that’s akin to diving nose-first through the pages of beautifully illustrated story book. Touches of sweetly delicious frangipani and vanilla-swirled sandalwood offer a warming path through amber-laden woods in the dry down. It’s as though the pastel colours of a peach’s portrait swish around you, inviting further exploration as they linger and lull.

 

 

 

Maison Margiela Replica Flower Market£57.91 for 30ml eau de toilette

Evoking the sensation of walking through a flower-market early in the morning, just after it’s rained; perhaps we purchase a dew-dappled peach from a stall as we pass through, marvelling at the silver pails of wondrous blooms surrounding us. A sense of snapped stalks and crumpled leaves amidst the floral notes, the ripe peach scent seeming to echo the warm blush spreading across the sky as daylight wins out and we suddenly remember warmer days ahead, and smile.

 

 

 

 

 

Guerlain Mitsouko £102 for 75ml eau de toilette

Of course I couldn’t go without mentioning THE reference peach-infused rapture that is Mitsouko. Inspired by the eponymous Japanese heroine of Claude Farrčre’s novel ‘La bataille’, and the passionate love triangle therein, this complex unfurling of cinnamon infused, milk-lapped plump peach skin nuzzles into a warm embrace of oakmoss that beguiles for hours. A classic that deserves to be in everyone’s collection, it’s a truly enduring romance with peach.

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Do Coffee Beans Help ‘Refresh’ Your Nose?

In various fragrance boutiques and department stores, you’ve perhaps come across little bowls and jars of coffee beans and wondered what these are for. Perhaps you’ve even been told by well-meaning staff (or fragrance-loving friends) that these are to ‘refresh’ your nose after smelling too-many scents? So: do coffee beans ACTUALLY help ‘re-set’ your sense of smell, Read on to find out…

 

 

 

The coffee bean conundrum: The answer is short and sweet: sniffing coffee beans does NOT help ‘cleanse’ or ‘re-set’ your sense of smell – and this was proven by Dr. Alexis Grosofsky of Beloit College in a scientific study. Smelling coffee beans is just adding another strong smell for your nose to be dealing with! Our sense of smell constantly re-sets itself, naturally, but if you’ve over-stimulated yours by spraying on all of the perfumes, or to give your nose a bit of a rest in-between scent sample spritzing; the best way to do this is simply by smelling your wool sweater, or an unscented bit of your own skin. This is how perfumers ‘re-set’ (if they need to) while they are smelling hundreds of differing ingredients, or preparing a new fragrance ‘mod’ (modification) of a perfume’s formula.

 

 

The blog air-aroma.com puts this whole coffee bean theory to bed really clearly, saying:

‘Stop in any perfume shop, and you’re bound to find small bowls of coffee beans set between various fragrances. A salesperson may advise you to sniff the beans in between smelling multiple scents. It is commonly believed that the smell of coffee beans creates some sort of palate cleanser for your nose, allowing you to continue to smell fragrance after fragrance.

But why would someone need to do that? Olfactory fatigue, or olfactory habituation, is a real thing, and it deserves some attention. Essentially, the olfactory glands in your nose begin to recognise smells after a period of time (like the perfume you’ve been wearing all day), and will stop alerting you to them, making you think there’s no fragrance there. It is an example of sensory adaption; the body becomes desensitised to stimuli to prevent the overloading of the nervous system, thus allowing it to respond to new stimuli that are ‘out of the ordinary’. Do coffee beans have some magical little molecular component that resets our palate, allowing us to continue to smell things? Turns out, the answer is no! ‘

– If you’ve over-sniffed too many scent samples in a row (we empathise!) and smelling your clothing / a scarf / your own skin isn’t enough to ‘re-set’ your nose, just step outside for some fresh air for a couple of minutes.

Instead, if you’re looking for the best ways to smell lots of fragrances at one time, here are some top tips so as not to get in an over-olfactory-stimulated scent muddle…

 

 

 

Give fragrances TIME. So many of us spray, sniff immediately (that’s just the alcohol you’re smelling, with perhaps a mere whiff of top notes) and either make a snap purchase or walk away. Those opening notes can disappear in mere minutes, you really need to let it settle for twenty minutes or more to smell the middle or ‘heart’ notes. The ‘base’ notes are made from ingredients with the heaviest molecules, so these can take several hours to warm and then evaporate on the skin.

If possible, try the fragrance on a blotter first (also known as a perfume ‘spill’). Make sure to write the names of the perfumes on the blotters! Otherwise you end up with a whole stack of them in your pockets or bottoms of bags, and no idea which is which…

Allow a few minutes for the alcohol and the top notes to subside, and then smell the blotters. At this stage you may be able to eliminate one or more, if they don’t appeal – but it is really the heart notes and the lingering base notes which you will live with, and which are crucial. Remember: blotters are a useful way of eliminating no-hopers and lining up possibilities, but they’re not really enough to base a perfume purchase on. You really need to smell a scent on your skin to know for sure that it suits you.

Try not to smell more than about four or five at a time. It’s not really your nose that’s the problem, it’s our perception of smells that take time to be properly considered (and allowing a scent to develop both on the blotter and then on our skin as it warms).

Jot down a few words to describe how you feel about each fragrance. These should be emotional words or things it reminds you of (a fabric / musical instrument / colour / place / time of day). They might sound abstract, but are a true reflection of how a fragrance is melding to your personality (or otherwise). Come back to the blotters several hours later and smell again – see if those words have changed.

 

By Suzy Nightingale

 

 

 

 

Scent Storage Solutions: How to Organise Your Fragrance Samples & Bottles

Once we start clearing away festive decorations, and the house can suddenly seem rather dull, now is the perfect time to sort out your scent collection, so that you can see what you’ve got and (most importantly) re-discover neglected perfumes you put away and forgot about…

Perhaps you have a collection of hundreds of bottles, or would just like to organise the few you have in a more aesthetically pleasing (and practical) way? Maybe, instead, you have completely lost track of all the gorgeous fragrance samples you’ve been collection from our Discovery Boxes, and are wondering how on earth to sort out the sample vials?

 

 

Don’t panic! Have a look at some of the ingenious storage solutions and suggestions below, and perhaps have a January re-jig of your own…

 

The first thing to ensure is that your fragrance bottles and samples aren’t going to be stored in direct sunlight or too-near a heat source (such as a radiator). Yes, we know, those stunning bottles are begging to be put on display, but just make sure they’re not right opposite a window or on top of the central heating – otherwise, your precious perfumes will evaporate far more rapidly, and even ‘turn’ (go much darker in the bottle, with some of the top and middle notes literally burned off). That’s such a waste of money, and can be utterly heartbreaking if a favourite fragrance is suddenly no longer wearable.

 

 

  • Of course the absolute dream is to have one of those walk-in dedicated fragrance storage rooms one often sees on rich influencers’ TikTok accounts, but that simply isn’t within the reach of most of us. So perhaps consider looking online or on your local charity shop or hardware store’s sale section for some shelving units (or corner shelving, to really maximise space) that could be painted and utilised for your scent bottle collection? If you want to add further shelves or units in the future – if they’re all painted the same colour you don’t need to worry about them all being from the same place or not matching!

 

 

Photo by thehappysloths.com

  • Rather than riffling through an old shoe-box, acrylic shelves and boxes allow you to store smaller sizes and decants, while seeing at a glimpse what you want to wear next. Muji always have a great selection, but do also check out Hobbycraft, stationery and art supply shops, and online sellers, too. Just search for ‘acrylic storage’ and lots of brilliant storage options should present themselves.

 

 

  • Places like charity shops, Etsy and Not on the High Street are great places to search for vintage cake stands – why not choose all those fragrances that are ‘sparking the most joy’ for you right now and arrange them on the tiers, with lighter scents on top, going down to more sultry or heavier, evening-appropriate ones on the bottom layer?

 

 

  • In the days when travelling was infinitely more glamorous, one carried one’s essentials (perfume, obvs) in specially made trunks. Look on auction sites, in second-hand shops and boots fairs for similar vintage cases. Stack them up in a corner, with the top case open, holding your chosen fragrances for the month(s) ahead.

 

Photo by lipstickandlibraries.com

 

  • Sample bottles and tiny vials can be tricky to store en-masse, so consider using lab equipment items like test-tube holders and racks, or look for bullet boxes, makeup caddies, fishing tackle boxes, and tool boxes. You can often find these on Ebay and similar sites, so when trying to store these smaller items, search for these terms and… think outside the box!

 

 

  • Spice racks used to be a feature of everyone’s 1970s kitchen, but now we’re more likely to have whole cupboards-full of exotic ingredients than a faded jar of ‘Mixed Herbs’, so you can usually find the racks cheaply in charity shops. They’re perfect for holding miniature bottles! Also search for ‘nail varnish shelves’ online, and consider the homeware section of your local £1 shop or hardware store.

 

 

  • Consider challenging yourself to trying new fragrances each week (be they samples or bottles you have but rarely use). Lay them out on a pretty tray – easily found in a charity shop, Facebook Marketplace, or jumble sale – and it will focus your attention on them, rather than falling back into the same old habits of wearing the same old thing. And if they’re not sparking joy? Swap them with friends, or treat yourself to something you’ll really love from our Discovery Box selection.

PS: Our Discovery Boxes boxes are also the perfect size to store your samples neatly – sort them alphabetically, by name of house or type of fragrance and add a label to the edge so you see this clearly when stacked on a shelf. But however you choose to arrange and array your collection, the most important thing to remember is that it’s easy to find what you want (or those you didn’t even know you had, in many cases!) that they are ready to hand (and wrist) and so you can fuse and enjoy them afresh.

Shopping your own stash is a complete joy and, often, an olfactory revelation. That sample you once sniffed a year ago and wasn’t sure was ‘you’? Well, maybe it’s right for who you are right now…?!

Written by Suzy Nightingale