What to do…if you hate your perfume present? 7 tips to try before you cry!

Well firstly, ‘hate’ is a very strong word. If you’ve been landed with the favourite fragrance of your current partner’s ex, we’re not going to pretend to make you suddenly adore it, so maybe re-gift that one – see tip #7 – and treat yourself to one of our Discovery Boxes of fragrant delights, and perhaps a new partner, instead?

But there are things you can try before you completely ditch a scent – we can’t tell you how many fragrance experts (ourselves included!) and even perfumers have drastically changed their minds about a fragrance by trying some of these top tips…

#1 – Seasonal changes
Did you know that the weather, your mood and even what you ate up to *two weeks ago* can dramatically alter how scent smells on your skin? Skin and climate temperature are vital to a perfume’s performance, so even your favourite fragrance will smell different based on the time of year. When perfumers test the scents they’re creating they often use climate-controlled booths to check how they smell in hot and colder conditions (depending what countries they’ll be selling in). Don’t re-gift until you’ve tried the perfume again later in the year, or even on holiday (remember those?)

– Similarly, strongly spiced foods can change how a perfume smells on your skin, and when testing fragrances under lab conditions, the ‘skin model’ volunteers they use are often specifically asked to refrain from eating such foods up to two weeks prior to testing, so the perfumers can smell a ‘true’ representation of the scent. Though sometimes the reverse is true: if a fragrance is to be mainly sold in a country where people eat lots of spicy foods, the ‘skin models’ are asked to replicate that diet to ensure the scent works efficiently.

– We now know that mood plays an important part in how we select a fragrance – try a scent when you’re feeling a particular way, and it colours how you feel about the fragrance itself. If you’re feeling stressed or upset, a bit under the weather or just overwhelmed, these are not ideal conditions for testing out something new. Wait until you’re feeling calmer, or simply have more time to really explore what you’re smelling. That’s when you can try to…

 

#2 – Improve your sense of smell
Absolutely everyone can benefit from this – we’ve had people from normal perfume-lovers, complete novices to industry professionals telling us how trying these techniques have changed the way they smell for the better (for good). This doesn’t mean suddenly gaining the ability of being able to detect every single ingredient within a bottle of perfume, but rather learning to train your nose the way a perfumer does: by deeply exploring the emotions it makes you feel, colours, textures, places and people it reminds you of.

This is why we developed our so-popular How to Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops, which we have regularly held in London and, sometimes at independent perfumeries around the UK. We’ll be adding new dates as soon as we’re able to hold face-to-face workshops again, and plan to make a video available online.

Meanwhile, here are a few simple tips to try every day:

Spray a scent on a blotter, preferably; close your eyes and keep sniffing for several seconds, then take the blotter away, inhale deeply, and re-sniff the blotter again. Repeat this for a minute or so, and then begin writing a few words in a notebook. It doesn’t have to be a description, and it shouldn’t ‘list’ notes – try to use words that make you think of other things. For example…

If this scent were a fabric, what would it be? What colour? If you made someone an outfit from that fabric, who would they be, where would they be going?

If it were a piece of music, what instruments would be playing? Is it classical, rock music, pop, rap or jazz?

Really attempt to get past thinking ‘I don’t like this’ and focus instead on the mood it’s creating. Is it too deep or too fresh or floral for your personal taste? Give it time and then, if needed, move on to one of the tips, below…

 

#3 – Layer up!
Layering fragrances used to be seen as a scent sin, but we’ve all gotten over ourselves a bit (well most of us have). You don’t have to do this to a perfume you already love on its own – why would you need to? – but there are brilliant ways of beefing-up a sadly flimsy fragrance, or adding a zing to something that’s a bit too dark or cloying on your skin. Give it a go, because, as we always say: perfume isn’t a tattoo – if you don’t like it, you can wash it off!

Add power: ramp it up by adding more base notes like patchouli, labdanum, vetiver, woods or musk.

Add freshness: look for citrus notes like bergamot, neroli, lemon, lime or ‘green’ notes such as galbanum, tomato or violet leaf, green tea, marine/aquatic accords (synthetic recreations of sea-like, watery smells) and aldehydes (often desribed as being like Champagne bubbles).

Add beauty: find a scent too ‘harsh’ or clinical? Look to layer it with decadently velvety or lusciously fruity rose oils, the sunshine-bottled scent of orange flower, a heady glamour of tuberose or a luminescent jasmine; try an apricot-like osmanthus flower, the fluffiness of mimosa or the powdery elegance of iris/orris.

Add sweetness: vanilla and tonka bean can ’round’ a perfume, making it swoon on your skin (and addictive to smell), as can touches of synthetic notes described as ‘caramel’ or ‘dulce de leche’, ripe fruits, chocolate or even candy floss. Try to add less than you think you need, as adding more is always easier than taking away, and a little of these can go a long way!

For layering any of these, you can either try layering over other fragrances you have in which the above notes dominate, with a single-fragranced ‘soliflore’ (one main note) fragrance oil or spray, or try layering the scent you don’t currently like over a differently perfumed body lotion or oil (see below or the added benefits of doing this…)

 

#4 – Boost the lasting-power
If the reason you don’t like a perfume is because it just seems to ‘disappear’ on your skin, you’re not alone. We often find those with dry skin have this problem, and it’s even thought genetics and things like hair colour may play a part. Scientists are still finding this out, but while they do, there are ways you can make perfume last far longer:

– Try using a body oil, rich body balm or moisturising lotion before you put any fragrance on (and even afterwards, too), as scent takes longer to evaporate on nourished skin. This helps the fragrance ‘cling’ to your skin more easily, and so you get to actually smell if for more than a few minutes without frantically re-spraying.

– Spray pulse-points you might not usually think of. Behind your knees is a good example – it’s a warm spot that, once spritzed, will mean you leave a fragrant trail…

– Spritz the perfume at the nape of your neck, even into your hair and on clothes – BUT do check by spraying a tissue first that it isn’t going to mark your hair or fabric a strange colour, or leave an oily residue! We adore this way of wearing perfume, as hair and fabric are porous without heating up as much as your skin, allowing the perfume to stay all day.

Spraying a fragrance on to a scarf is a particularly good idea if you want…

#5 – A part-time perfume
There are days we feel the need to try something completely different, but perhaps don’t want to be stuck with that scent all day, so what to do?

– Consider spraying a scarf (preferably not silk or a light colour, unless you’ve patch-tested it as above, first!) with this perfume you’re unsure of, that way if it gets a bit ‘too much’ or you want to wear something different, you can simply take the scarf off and you’re not stuck with it on your skin all day.

Nope? Tried all that and still struggling? All is not lost, don’t give up yet…

 

#6 – Scent up your life
We all have certain scents or fragrant ingredients that, for one reason or another, we might not wish to wear but do like to smell if it’s scenting something else.

– Why not try spraying off-cuts of pretty wrapping paper or tissue paper, and using this to line your lingerie or sweater drawers?

– Or, how about being utterly fabulous by spraying your note paper and insides of envelopes (the fancy ones lined with tissue paper are particularly good for this), and writing a few actual letters or thank you cards to loved-ones you’ve not seen for a while. Everyone loves getting proper post!

– The truly decadent could try scenting table linen – again, PLEASE patch test, as above – for lavish dinner parties to rival Marie Antoinette – spraying on cotton wool and putting inside a deocrative ceramic or pottery vase, on wooden ornaments or ceramic discs you hang over radiators to scent the whole room as they heat.

We so hope you can find a way to try this poor perfume again and give it some love, but if all else fails and you still can’t bring yourself to use it, well at least you tried! Why not…

#7 – Have a perfume-swapping party / re-gift
Um, remembering not to invite the one who gave you that particular perfume… otherwise, major awks. Or, if you’re looking to re-gift, have a look at our brilliant Fragrance Finder.

Simply put the name of the fragrance into the search box, and it’ll suggest six scents that are similar in character and style, or share a number of significant notes – this way you can see if anyone you know already has one of these, and it means they’ll very likely love to receive this one from you.

Genius!

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Spraying Home for Christmas… scents we’re using to evoke loved ones

Christmas is always the most scented season, but this year the perfumes we spray have taken on an extra poignancy – many of us deeply missing mloved ones we cannot be this year because of the continuing pandemic, or who have passed away.

Fragrance can be a great comfort – and a way of connecting us, if only we chose the scent to spray that immediately evokes someone we’re so wishing we could be with right now.

For the Christmas edition of The Scented Letter magazine, we asked a number of our favourite perfumers, journalists and fragrance experts which scents they would be spraying this year, and who they’re missing most. We were so overwhelmed by the lovely – and often very emotional – reponses, that we didn’t have room for them all in the printed pages!

 

 

That’s why we want to share these beautiful scent memories with you, now; and wonder: whom would YOU most love to conjure with a single spritz right now, and what fragrance would you need to spray…?

 

Alice du Parcq – writer for Glamour U.K. / Space NK:
‘This Christmas I’ll be in a fume-cloud of Maison Margiela Replica By The Fireplace. It is the scent of roasting chestnuts on a roaring fire in a Chamonix ski lodge in 1971, so think toasted embers, plumes of silky sooty smoky, wood polish and the creamy, vanilla-spiked, nutty flesh of charred chestnuts. We did this as kids every winter at my parents’ house (which incidentally still looks like a 70s ski chalet) and watched my dad roll those glossy globes around a skillet until they crackled and split. My sister and I had scalded fingertips all season from the impatient peeling of the blackened chestnuts that were still too hot to touch. The fire was wild, ferocious and mesmerising, and the whole house smelt like fireworks and bonfires. I remember it vividly, and since we can’t all be together this year I’ll honour that memory with a daily spray of this magnificent and curious perfume.’

 

Sarah McCartney – perfumer & founder 4160 Tuesdays:
‘Usually we head north to York to see a collection of family and friends, play music and swap presents. I’m always delighted when my nephews put in a request for one of my fragrances at Christmas and their favourite is Invisible Ben. This is a blend of sandalwood, oranges, cognac absolute, musks and Ambrox, so it mingles with the atmosphere, a definite presence but not shouting for attention. It’s just like the lads themselves.’

 

Nicola Bonn – Outspoken Beauty podcast:
‘One of my best friends wears Chanel Chance. Smelling it and her never fails to make me happy. I always meet her at this time of year for drinks and celebrations and not being with her is so very sad. I’ll spritz this and have a virtual cocktail with her.’

 

Marcus Jaye, beauty & fragrance blogger / author a.k.a The Chic Geek:
‘This will date my childhood, but mine is Giorgio Beverly Hills. This is pure Pretty Woman, back-combed mum of the 1980s. Chuck in a soupçon of Elnett and I’m there.’

 

 

Olivia Jezler – fragrance innovation & technical design specialist, Future of Smell:
‘Both my parents always change their perfumes so its less about their signature scent… but the scent in their home over Christmas is always the NEST Holiday candle. I love it and for me that’s the smell of Christmas…combined with the pine of the Christmas tree!’

 

Professor Charles Spence – experimental psychologist / head of Crossmodal Research Group, Oxford University:
‘It would have to be smell of nardo – the flower that my (now) wife would always bring to airport when I arrived in Colombia… Which the web says is “Polianthes means “many flowers” in Greek. In Mexican Spanish, the flower is called nardo or vara de San José, which means “St. Joseph’s staff”. This plant is called as rajanigandha in India, which means ‘fragrant at night’. I didn’t realise it was a night-blooming one, but have since become very interested in night-flowering scented plants, so night flowering jasmine, which would have to be my second choice.’

Whomever you are missing, and whatever their favourite fragrance was, we hope you’ll be able to find great comfort and bring them home with your own personal scent memories, whenever you need them most…

By Suzy Nightingale

Take your seat for the IFRA Fragrance Forum… MIND BLOWING lectures & a new book

The IFRA Fragrance Forum has been a source of awe-inspring intellectual discussion of, and future predictions for, our sense of smell – utterly fascinating lectures given by the world’s top scientists, perfumers and researchers in in the field of scent. Normally, you need to buy a ticket to attend, but this year (as with many events) it was held (albeit in a slightly truncated form) online.

You can watch the lectures here, for FREE – and get ready to have your mind BLOWN, as such scent luminaries as perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, Professors Barry Smith and Charles Spence and Claire Guest, CEO of Medical Detection Dogs talked about the new work they are doing with dogs sniffing out Covid-19.

IFRA – the International Fragrance Association – was set up in 1973, dedicated to showcasing perfumery and (crucially) agreeing on a set of international guidelines so that we are safe to wear scent all over over the world.

But IFRA does much more than advise on safety requirements. For several years, now, they have been hosting an annual Fragrance Forum, gathering a diverse range of speakers to focus ‘…on developments in olfaction in the widest possible way.’ Events we have widely reported on, and been so inspired by.

This year, the Forum incorportated IFRA’s book launch, which collates ‘The results of these fascinating talks from around fifty speakers’, and which have been have ‘now been brought together for the first time in a new book Olfaction: A Journey’’
IFRA told us that, ‘The book offers a reflective celebration of the Fragrance Forum and allows readers to dip into the ideas presented by past speakers, organised by theme and offering a fascinating journey through ten years of olfactory research.
The themes covered include psychology, health & well-being, design & creativity, arts & culture, technology & innovation and business insight. From the ability of someone to detect the smell of Parkinson’s disease to the possibilities of creating an artificial ‘nose’ through machine learning, IFRA UK has brought together thought leaders and key researchers spanning a breadth of different fields to share their ideas and findings.’
Lisa Hipgrave, Director of IFRA UK said: ‘This isn’t an inward look at the fragrance industry, in fact it is the very opposite. Over the last decade we have brought together such a powerful range of speakers on such wide-ranging topics we realised we were sitting on a really wonderful collection of stories. We were really keen to share these to shine a light on the work of the amazing speakers we have had over the years, from all walks of life.
‘Where else could you find out about historical perspectives, from the ancient Egyptians to new advances by Google Brain using machine learning? And personal stories about someone who could smell Parkinson’s disease to what the impact of living without the sense of smell really means? We hope that people will be as fascinated as we have been over the years by the impact that our sense of smell has in so many different facets of our lives.’
Editor of the book, Lizzie Ostrom, elucidated her involment in the project, explaining that: ‘It is evident from the collected stories in this book that our sense of smell impacts every area of our lives, from our health to our relationships. It’s a testament to the fragrance forum that concepts seeming esoteric ten years ago – like detecting disease through our noses – are now much more in the public consciousness. We’re excited to bring this leading research to readers in an accessible and compelling format.’

Included in the book are explanations of some of the most jaw-dropping moments we’ve experienced hearing the lectures first-hand….

Sniffing out Parkinson’s
Do people with Parkinson’s smell different? A pioneering team showcased their respective expertise to show how our sense of smell could enable early detection and treatment.
Living without smell
As many as 3-5% of the population have anosmia (no sense of smell), and up to one in five of us will experience some form of smell loss. What are the future prospects for treatment?
How to make a mosquito invisibility cloak
Mosquito-borne diseases affect more than half the world’s population. More than 2.5 billion people are at risk of contracting dengue fever, and there are at least 400,000 deaths each year from malaria. Understanding body odour might help tackle this threat.
The role of smell in consciousness
Is olfaction largely conscious and we just do not notice, or does it occur largely in the unconscious, modifying mood, helping us to recognise kin or choose a mate without us being aware it is happening?
Spices, balsams and the incense of temples
What was the prominence of fragrance in the elite culture of ancient Egypt? How could this most ephemeral of histories be captured to give modern audiences a glimpse of the ancient experience of scent?
Our evolutionary pharmacy
As a sensory function, olfaction probably predates all others, primarily helping us to identify food, danger, predators and prospective mates. 
‘Olfaction: A journey’ is available to purchase at for £29.95 plus postage by visiting: ifrauk.bigcartel.co
By Suzy Nightingale

Comfort & Strength: scenting your mood with whispers and shouts

Comfort & Strength are feelings we’re all needing more of these days, and oh goodness, wearing the right fragrance really does help. But should you reach for something loud and proud or softly soothing…?

‘…Smell is a language of airborne shouts and whispers that travels across rooms. Smell is suggestive.’ – Sarah Knott, Mother: An Unconventional History (Penguin, 2019)

 

In the just-published Beyond Fashion & Fragrance edition of The Scented Letter magazine, I focus on the post-pandemic perfume landscape – reporting how fragrance sales actually grew during the first #lockdown, as people swathed themselves in familiar scents to comfort themselves; or tried a whole host of new fragrances to feel more alert and avoid associating their usual favourite with negative emotions. Similarly, the worldwide taste in perfumes seems to now vacillate between the big-hitter room-fillers and the altogether softer, more contemplative scents that remain closer to one’s own skin.

So which do you prefer? I know some days I crave the quietude of something gentle – an olfactory caress akin to wrapping myself in a cashmere blanket. At other times, I’ve desperately sought out scents to wear as a kind of fragrant armour against *gestures at everything* – some scented ‘backbone in a bottle’.

Whether its whispers or shouts you’re seeking, here’s a very small selection of fragrances I have been reaching for to scent my mood…

 

 

KAYALI VANILLA | 28
Creamy jasmine swirled through a cloud of vanilla is sheer bliss on the skin, a sensation of intimacy elegantly rendered in addictive tonka, musk and amber-rich patchouli sprinkled with brown sugar.
£67 for 50ml eau de parfum

Try it at: cultbeauty.co.uk

 

 

Olfactive O Skin
A soothing hush of ambrette seed, orris and magnolia unfurl from the sensation of cool, cotton sheets to a sweeter nuzzle of sun-warmed skin via beeswax absolute and sandalwood. An incredibly long-lasting hug – something we could all do with right now.
£100 for 30ml extrait de parfum

Try it at: olfactiveo.com

(You can also try Skin, along with all their other fragrances, in the Olfactive O Discovery Set: £30)

 

 

L’Orchestre Parfums Pianao Santal
A lullaby of languorous warm skin wraped in silky sheets, the sandalwood, cedar and ethereal white musks feel milky, mystical and dream-like; finally caressed by caraway, carried like motes of dust.
£129 for 100ml eau de parfum

Try it at: harveynichols.com

 

 

 

Kierin NYC Nitro Noir

A powerhouse contemporary Chypre/floral that positively swings its hips, with ripe pink berries swirled through rich patchouli and dusted with powdery orris for a hypnotic, individualistic hurrah.
£65 for 50ml eau de parfum

Try it at: theperfumeshop.com

Available in the Kierin NYC Discovery Set (all four fragrances to sample at home) for £15

 

 

 

THOO Live in Colours

Punchy grapefruit and lemon are paired with juicy red fruits before the heart fizzes pink pepper and ginger: exhilaration guaranteed. Hinoki wood and musk in the dry down help ground you, confidently.
£190 for 75ml eau de parfum

Try it at: jovoyparis.co.uk

 

Tom Daxon Iridium 71%

Proof that cashmere can be worn as armour, the original scent’s intensified to over three and half times the strength. Piquant juniper’s enfolded in layers of powery iris: silkiness draping the steely scaffolding.
£245 for 50ml extrait de parfum

Try it at: tomdaxon.com

Quite apart from using scent to smell nice, trying a variety of fragrances also helps to deleniate the days, don’t you think? At a time when travelling is almost non-existant, we’re pining for new experiences. Trying an unfamilar scent can genuinely jolt you out of feeling quite so… trapped – opening the world as your olfactory oyster, if you like, to explore.

With that in mind, we have a wonderful selection of Discovery Boxes of samples and ‘try me’ sizes we’ve specially curated for you to try at home, as well as fabulous Brand Discovery Sets where you can sample the entire offerings of niche houses.

Comfort and Strength: why not have both?

By Suzy Nightingale

Scent Futures: smell-centric explorations for possible future worlds (online event)

Scent Futures by Future of Smell is …’an exploration of futuristic smell-centric concepts based on human needs and emerging technologies.’

Olivia Jezler is a someone who’s fascinated by our sense of smell, and explores it, fascinatingly, through research, events and on her website, Future of Smell. Her olfactory career has spanned fragrance innovation through new technology products and fine fragrance, at  IFFSymriseRobertet, and she’s also been collaborating on various projects, for over a decade, with the brilliant perfumer, Christophe Laudamiel.

Our attention was first grabbed on Instagram, where Olivia posts all sorts of mind-blowing news about scent technology and design; and we then interviewed Olivia for our Future of Fragrance edition of The Scented Letter Magazine.

 

 

Olivia looks beyond mere trends in the fragrance world, thinking outside the perfume box and peering in to what role smell could hold in all our futures. And with this in mind, you are invited to join in what promises to be a brilliantly smell-centric online event – Scent Futures

Says Olivia:

‘Tremendous shifts are occurring on global and local levels. Smell is a direct gateway to our emotions, memory and our sense of safety. Fast Forward. Now imagine a future world. How could this primal sense inspire innovations that support us and how could this also go eerily wrong?

This event is an exploration of futuristic smell-centric concepts for our immediate and distant future worlds. We will outline current projects, emerging technologies, speculations and potentials for scent and smell based technologies.

The aim of this event is to provide frameworks, visualise, question and inspire. When ideas are brought to life conversations around them can take place and more desirable products and experiences can be created. If there are infinite possibilities which one would you choose to create and how could it change our world?’⁠

TOPICS

+ Intro to Speculative Design

+ Spaces (Personal, Public, Extraplanetary)

+ New Realities (Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality)

+ Hyperpersonalization (Products, Experiences, Body)

+ Role of Brands

DATE/ TIME / LOCATION

October 1st, 2020 at 2pm NY/ 3pm SP/ 7pm UK/ 8pm Paris on ZOOM (Future of Scent will send you a link before event).

Tickets are $30 – $60 and can be purchased here.

So what do you imagine the future holds, not only for fragrance, but for the limitless possibilities of our sense of smell itself…?

By Suzy Nightingale

Vellichor: capturing the scent memories of old books

There are times when discovering a new word can ensnare you, and ‘vellichor’ is one of those, for me. So when the Odorbet online dictionary asked me to submit a piece to their collaborative gathering of fascinating, lesser-known words to describe smells, I knew immediately which one I wanted to explore.

In my feature, A Shiver of Vellichor: On the Satisfaction of Finding New Words, I look at the very recent coining of this word; but basically what you need to know is, it describes one of the very best smells in the entire world: old books.

The word’s author, John Koenig, added it to his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows – a catalogue of terms forensically detailing emotions from ennui to existential despair, which previously we may have struggled to adequately express.

Specifically, the word ‘vellichor’ sketches the overwhelming wistfulness that can engulf us when we enter an antiquarian bookshop or library, and are plunged into an olfactory sensation far beyond smelling the paper, leather and dust. Just as the olfactory word it was inspired by – petrichor – is larger than the sum of its parts; so vellichor conjures a fragrant universe far beyond the smell of a room lined with leather-bound tomes, ‘which are somehow infused with the passage of time.’ We feel nostalgia for our own past, for the memories instantaneously triggered when we pick up a particular book, for that comfort the very act of reading and escaping to another world can bring.

Along with all the unbidden time-travelling and spiritual yearning through scent, the smell of vellichor happens to be extremely pleasant – a mixture, it turns out, of book materials begining to break down and releasing their volatile odours. A pleasing irony, perhaps, that the smell of the slow death of books can give life to such bitter-sweet pleasures as revelling in scent memories.

In the 2009 scientific study, Material Degradomics: On the Smell of Old Books, the lead reseracher, Matija Strlic, closely studied the smell and discovered it was made up of…

‘A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness, this unmistakable smell is as much a part of the book as its contents.’

The vanilla-like smell comes from lignin, (closely related to vanillin – the primary component of the extract of the vanilla bean, which can often be synthesised in perfumery) and which is present in all wood-based paper. I wonder if this is another aspect that aides vellichor in soothing troubled souls? After all, scientific tests have proven the calming powers of vanillin.

 

 

It used to be assumed this was because the scent infantilised us somehow – reminded people of mother’s milk or the childhood bliss of licking cake-batter straight from the bowl; but those tests proved it significantly reduced the ‘startle reflex’ even in animals that don’t suckle or, presumably, share our nostalgia for forbidden treats. Vanillin has since gone on to be trialled in fragrancing particularly high-stress areas of hospitals, such as MRI and CT Scanning rooms, and for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Whatever you might like to ecape from – or to – fellow book-sniffers seeking solace from daily woes should immerse themselves in the following, and enjoy a hit of vellichorian goodness whenever they wish…

 

The Yorkshire Soap Co, Library Glycerine Soap
Even Lady Macbeth would surely have enjoyed her handwashing had this been available: the half-remembered hush of soft tobacco, the supple leather of a friendly chair to sigh into.
£3.50 for 100g
yorkshiresoap.co.uk

 

 

The Perfumer’s Story by Azzi, Old Books
Whispers of incense curl through motes of dust dancing on hazy, sepia-toned memories, as patchouli, amber vetivert and cedar slowly evanesce.
£95 for 30ml eau de parfum
libertylondon.com

 

 

Immortal Perfumes, Dead Writers
Black tea sipped as fingers trace words known by heart, a shady nook of vetiver, clove and musk snuggled into voluptuous heliotrope and a hug of vanilla tobacco.
$50 for 15ml parfum
immortalperfumes.com

 

Maison Margiela REPLICA, Whispers in the Library
Waxed wood gleaming in the afternoon sun, drowsy days in the ancestral library (we wish), a twist of pepper adding spice to the pencil shavings of cedar and a sweetly dry rustle of vellum.
From £22.50 for 10ml
maisonmargiela-fragrances.co.uk

 

 

Byredo, Bibliotèque
The romance of nostalgia made liquid, a fuzzy nuzzle of ripe peach and succulent plums atop a tangled posy of blowsy peonies, powdered violets and ripped, resinous leather.
£115 for 50ml eau de parfum
byredo.com

By Suzy Nightingale

The ‘e-tongue’ – a ‘powerful tool’ that can tell what perfume you’re wearing…?

Scientists have developed an ‘e-tongue‘ – an electronic tool for analysing perfumes and helping decide how they should be classified. Could it revolutionise the fragrance world? Could a robot replace a ‘nose’…?

‘The identification of more than three perfumes is difficult,’ a report at sciencedirect.com begins. And as anyone who’s stood at a perfume counter, trying to weigh up the differences between an armful of scents can attest, they’re not overstating the matter.

Scientists have been trying to find a way to introduce electronic devices into the world of fragrance manufacturing for some time – the majority of large fragrance houses have used computer systems to correctly weigh and mix fragrant ingredients according to a perfumer’s formula, for years; but still a human nose is preferred to gauge the nunaces of the final fragrant result. Because, as the report continues, ‘…no analytical tool can completely replace the human olfactory system for fragrance classification.’

 

 

Last year, the annual IFRA Fragrance Forum had the theme of Artificial Intelligence in fragrance, and we reported on a talk by Valérie Drobac, Digital Innovation Manager from Givaudan (one of the world’s largest fragrance creation houses), who talked about their latest intuitive and interactive system, ‘Carto’ – a new system that reinvents the way perfumers create fragrance. Drobac explained that ‘Carto is an AI-powered tool that brings science and technology together, to the benefit of perfumers who create Givaudan’s fragrances. The new system is designed to intelligently use Givaudan’s unique ingredients ‘Odour Value Map’ to maximise the olfactive performance in the final fragrance.’ Using the recent Etat Libre d’Orange fragrance She Was An Anomaly as an example, she explained how perfumer Daniela Andrier had been suggested to initial formulas to use, which she then worked on, evaluated and perfected.

This ‘e-tongue’ is not about the creation of fragrances, however, but the efficient analysis of a perfume, because, ‘For the perfume sector, the possibility of applying fast, cost-effective and green analytical devices for perfume analysis would represent a huge economic revenue.’

Which is all well and good, but one thing we might raise an eyebrow at is the device’s being tested to ‘…successfully discriminate men from women perfumes.’ In an age when so many fragrances are seemingly being marketed as ‘gender free’ – a phenomenon that has long transcended the niche trend that began this move (and in fact represents a return to how fragrances always used to be, with no marked difference in the scents men and women wore for centuries) – we might wonder why this is a concern. However, this ‘e-tongue’ has also been used ‘to identify the perfume aroma family,’ and for ‘assessing the perfume storage time-period.’

The future uses of such a classification device are surely far wider than we can imagine at the moment. But one thing we know for sure: perfume lovers won’t be replacing our noses with computers any time soon…

By Suzy Nightingale

 

 

Perfumed Plume Awards 2020: the winners are…

The Perfumed Plume Awards are an annual celebration of international fragrance journalism, to showcase writing that gives ‘an inside view of the cultural, historic, scientific and personal approaches to fragrance design and what it takes to create an evocative scent.’

‘While we would normally gather at MANE Gallery to celebrate with a glass of bubbly, this year is obviously a different time,” said Co-Founders Mary Ellen Lapsansky and Lyn Leigh.

‘In these very unusual times, we’re grateful to have the technology to share this occasion with you.’ Lyn continued.

The ceremony was held virtually on Zoom, and so we were excited to tune in and celebrate the winners, who were…

 

Perfume Stories – Print – Magazines & Newspapers
The criteria for judging: quality of editorial content; originality & creativity; accuracy & depth of information.

A tie!

Holiday O.G. – Why frankincense – the original Christmas present – is suddenly so smoking hotTown & Country

Scents of Place – Venice The Scented Letter, Jo Fairley, The Perfume Society

Perfume Stories in Mainstream Media – Digital – Magazines, Newspapers, Blog Postings, Webzines
The criteria for judging: quality of editorial content; originality & creativity; accuracy & depth of information

Guerlain Mitsouko Centennial 1919-2019: The Scented Skein ÇaFleureBon

Short ‘n Sweet Perfume Stories – Print or Digital
The criteria for judging: quality of editorial content; originality & creativity; accuracy & depth of information

Vision Quest – NewBeauty

INSTApost — Perfume Stories on Instagram
The criteria for judging: originality/creativity of visual element(s); quality of the post content

Cooper Hewitt – Resurrecting the Sublime – Futureofsmell

Visualization of Perfume Stories — Print & Digital
The criteria for judging: design concept; how design relates to content

In Bauhaus we trust – the smell of minimalism — Scentury.com

Fragrance Book of the Year

“Perfume Legends II: French Feminine Fragrances” – Michael Edwards

This was the first year we’d submitted entries, so we were particularly delighted to discover we were finalists with FOUR nominations (and of course, even more delighted that we won one!)

The Perfumed Plume judges commented that:

‘…these marvelous writers deserve recognition and congratulations for their perfume stories. All are factual. All are creative. All are fascinating.” It’s true to say that all the submissions were just wonderful and the results a close call. These fabulous stories are a must-read so please take a few minutes to appreciate the talents of these writers.’

The full list of entires can be found on The Perfumed Plume website, with links to each of the finalists’ work, and we urge you to grab a cuppa, put your feet up and peruse every single one for some precious moments of perfumed escapism.

By Suzy Nightingale

Petrichor & Pluviophiles: why the smell of rain is so seductive

Petrichor is the term given to that unique scent following a rain shower – when the world seems to sigh with pleasure, and we, unconsciously perhaps, breathe in a little more deeply, savouring the smells in return.

petrichor /PET-ri-ker/. noun. The smell of rain on hot earth or pavement. From Greek petra (stone, rock) + ichor (or I-KORE) which, in Ancient Greek mythology, was the liquid that flowed in the veins of the gods.

Coined by scientists Isabel Joy Bear and Richard Thomas in 1964, the term ‘petrichor’ was used in their scientific article, The Nature of Argillaceous Odour, observing that cattle seemed to react strongly to this particular smell of fresh rainfall, following the scent to seek drinking water.

Some people believe that ‘petrichor’ alludes to smell of rain itself, but they are mistaken. It’s in the moment raindrops kiss the arrid land the magic happens. Rainwater releases micro-organisms hidden in the earth, mixed with the smell of plant oils and ozone itself: that’s petrichor.

It smells like a secret.

 

 

Though we’re only recently aware exactly how the phenomenon occurs, poets and artists have long been seduced by the scent following a downpour, and in 1916 James Joyce had a good guess at the science when he wrote in A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, how:

‘…the trees in Stephen’s Green were fragrant of rain and the rain-sodden earth gave forth its mortal odour, a faint incense rising upward through the mould from many hearts.’

Perfumer H, Lyn Harris, bottled the smell in her utterly joyous fragrance, Rain Wood, coaxing a sense of new beginnings with the snapped-stalk freshness and lacey leaf smell of galbanum. Swirling tender shoots in a foggy haze, green angelica settles on camphoraceous cedar, punctuated by juniper berries and pine trees bejewelled with spider webs; and beneath it all a loamy rumble of rich patchouli amidst the nebulous drift of Joyce’s evocative incense. More than a perfume, it’s a thing to wear and wonder at for hours.

 

Perfumer H Rain Wood, from £100 for 50ml eau de parfum

Petrichor led former civil servant Barney Shaw on a journey of discovery in his book, The Smell of Fresh Rain. But though we can now trace the origin, it doesn’t dampen our seemingly primal urge to rush out and gasp great lung-fulls of the smell. For, as Shaw explains:

 

‘…we recognise smells not as a mix of separately-identified components, but as a ‘chord’ that makes an odour we can recognise, a smell with a meaning. Not petrichor and geosmin, but the smell of fresh rain.’

 

I wonder, too, if we’re experiencing a kind of mass synaesthesia – an overlapping of synaptic responses – after a rainshower? Perhaps the scent of petrichor plus the soothing sound of the raindrops (so often used on sleep apps and calming soundtracks to quieten troubled minds) adds to the feeling of a slate wiped clean?

 

 

Explain it how you like; petrichor is a lullaby for the senses, and wearing Rain Wood is a precipitation of joy for we pluviophiles.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Straight to the (pulse) point: the scent of pencil shavings & ‘back to school’ nostalgia

To get straight to the point (I’m not even sorry) the scent of pencil shavings is often cited as one of the most-loved nostalgic smells. One whiff can transport us to nostalgic reveries of childhood, and the giddy ‘back to school’ excitement of buying a new pencil case and assorted accessories.

‘In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.’
Vincent Van Gogh: letter 136, 24 September 1880.

So which pencil did Van Gogh for? He reportedly favoured a carpenter’s pencil for his intial sketches, at first, but later came to prefer a Faber pencil, writing to his brother that ‘They’re soft and better quality than the carpenter’s pencils, produce a marvellous black and are very agreeable to work with for large studies.’

Pencils matter very much to the writers, artists, creative thinkers, list-makers and stationery nerds among us. Because, no matter our actual experiences of school – gilded, halcyon days for some, unsettling and full of trepidation for others – that scent just takes us right back; and in a perfumer’s hands, can evoke a kind of olfactory optimism.

The pencil as we know it today was invented in 1795 by Nicholas-Jacques Conte, a scientist serving in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte. Previously, pure carbon (what we call graphite) was wrapped in material or used on its own for mark-making. When it was first discovered, carbon was mistakenly believed to be lead, and, as the always excellent brainpickings.com informs us, ‘…was called ‘plumbago’ or black lead (hence the ‘plumbers’ who mend our lead water-carrying pipes), a misnomer that still echoes in our talk of pencil “leads”.’

Most often, we hear people sniffing cedar-rich fragrances ahhh-ing blissfully and saying ‘pencil shavings!’ when asked what they’re smelling. And there’s a good reason for that. As wood-database.com tells us (there really is a website for everything, isn’t there?): cedarwood ‘is the primary material for wooden pencils, because it is soft and tends to sharpen easily without forming splinters.’

 

 

Perfumers love cedar for its smooth, dry resilience, and its ability to play well with so many ingredients. It smells woody, obvs, but that’s just too simple: it also has a freshness, with hints of resin. If you’ve ever walked in a lush, evergreen forest, cedar will whisk you back there, as well as the schoolroom. It’s mostly the foliage (from trees grown in the Atlas mountains of Morocco, or Virginia in the USA), then steam-distilled to produce the intense oil, which is also used in aromatherapy for calming and balancing.

 

 

The artistry of precise pencil sharpening is not to be ignored, either. David Rees enjoyed it so much that he wrote a book on How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening, and he was so good at it, he took to being paid to sharpen other people’s pencils. Though the demand has been so great, Rees has since stated he has ‘effectively retired’ – now charging up to $500 for his services, so that ‘…I don’t know if I’m technically retiring, or just raising my prices so high that I assume I will never have another customer.’

Many fragrances wishing to evoke the schoolroom must also find a way to incorporate the slightly metallic aroma of graphite – along with the cedar, wood polish and other, more abstract smells that somehow represent a sense of naivety, a yearning for a chance to start again, captured in a bottle.

Some smells associated with school are best left out of a fine fragrance – overcooked cabbage, damp mops and sawdust covering various effluvia sping to mind; but these fragranced products and personal scents are cleverly composed to provide a highly refined – and sometimes welcomingly whimsical – time-travel trip for your nose…

Noted pencil-makers Caran d’Ache have collaborated with perfumer Alberto Morillas‘ fragrance house, Mizensir, to create pencils infused with the scent, Alps Spirit. The set of four graphite pencils ‘carved from fine woods and manufactured entirely in Geneva will transport artists to the opulent Alpine region’ via foresty patchouli, musk and nutmeg and a background glow of subtle orange, to recreate ‘…the sensation of watching the awe-inspiring sunrise over the Alpine peaks.’


Caran d’Ache + Mizensir Pencils No.9 £35
carandache.com

 

A novel take on the traditional reed diffuser, here Hindmarch uses ceramic pencils to draw up the scent and diffuse it into the room. The Pencil Shavings’ scent is satisfyingly dry and woody, with the cedar punctuated by mandarin, pink pepper, rose, cypress and a surrealistically realistic accord of ‘novelty erasers and fresh notebooks.’ Adding quirkiness and humour to a WFH (Working From Home) desk, the expression definitely matches my own on many a day.

Anya Hindmarch Pencil Shavings Diffuser £99
anyahindmarch.com

 

Drawing a huge number of fans, this classic cedar-rich fragrance from 2008 is the daddy of pencil-shaving scents, if you like, for those seeking a hit of nostalgia. Apart from the reassuringly long-wearing drydown of cedar swirling with sweet tobacco and supple leather (the teacher’s study, maybe?) bright shards of bergamot and leafy violet atop loamy patchouli beckon lunchtime walks in the woods.

Gucci Pour Homme £56 for 50ml eau de toilette
theperfumeshop.com

 

A perfumed portrait that Byredo describe as ‘A modern scent reduced to the essential,’ those seeking simplicity will sigh at the shade of Virginian cedarwood and cool Haitian vetiver, with a scatter of rose petals and silky musk in the base. Deliberately reminiscent of pencil shavings, it will immediately evoke ‘…a sense of nostalgia for school days and simpler times.’

Byredo Super Cedar £115 for 50ml eau de parfum
byredo.com

 

A scent memory etched in time, there are wafts of old wooden school desks, pencil shavings and chalk dust – the gentle scratching sound of charcoal on paper as young artists draw their dreams. Memories are played out in hints of lemon and earthy angelica root, a joyful giggle of cocoa, geranium and the sheen of freshly waxed floors reflecting in the comfort of the cedar base. It feels like wearing the pages of Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers – she said, dating herself – or any school-set book series involving cosy intrigue, pillow fights and the alluring promise of midnight feasts.

MiN New York Old School Bench
harrods.com

 

Book nerds need to check out this fine art fragrance collaboration between Rory Sparks of the Working Library and artist and writer, Catherine Haley Epstein. ‘A collaboration combining a love for scents and pencils – a one of a kind homage to a favorite studio tool,’ this limited edition has that freshly shaved woody hit and the metallic hint of graphite illuminated by citrus. The Midi Set includes 7.5 ml of the handcrafted fragrance, a pencil with a custom message, and a letterpress insert.

Rory Sparks + Catherine Haley Epstein No.2 Midi Set $50
catherinehaleyepstein.com

 

I’ll leave the pun to perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, here, as she asks ‘Isn’t there something romantic about pencils? The old school kind (get it?)’ Fully fledged daydreams abound in the interplay of Atlas and Texas cedarwood amidst a hazy drift of choya ral (the smoky, leathery balsam made from the burnt resin of the Indian Shorea robusta tree) and dusty motes of oakmoss dancing in the distilled sunlight of petitgrain. Hurwitz excels at making natural fragrances slowly reveal their wonders in a way that’s astoundingly nuanced yet so delicately handled.

DSH Perfumes No.2 Pencil Shavings
dshperfumes.com

 

Although not a cedar fragrance, I simply couldn’t leave out the tender image so beautfully transcribed in scent by Memoize – a melange of memories that tumble through layers of rose, burnished leather and the smell of distant bonfire smoke in the air, conjured by the oudh wood in the dry down. Created to inspire feelings of self-confidence and self-worth (something we could all do with a dose of right now), they describe the fragrant vision ‘Recalling a first day of school, the pruned rose bushes, games in the woods, the leather strap of a satchel, a mother’s proudest moment…’


Memoize London Superbia £177 for 100ml eau de parfum
memoizeperfume.com

I’m fully aware that the notion of ‘back to school’ doesn’t represent an unsullied pleasure for many of us – either our own memories or the particular concerns surrounding students returning to classrooms this year, in the continuing fallout of a global pandemic. But much as learning the art of lucid dreaming can transform a nightmare into an adventure; the wonderful thing about fragrance is that we can use it to shape our own recollections, to create new scent memories. And there’s no doubt, that cedar-y smell of pencil shavings – whether deliverved via a perfume, home fragrance or an actual pencil imbued with the scent itself – speaks of simpler times, of hopes and dreams, the blank pages of life yet to be filled.

Or, as Catherine Haley Epstein so beautifully puts it: ‘the ideas of freedom, focus and unlimited possibilities in the head.’

Written by Suzy Nightingale