Fresh laundry – crisp cotton sheets on a washing line – is often cited as one of our all-time favourite smells. But what exactly makes line-dried fabric smell so good, and which fragrances can equally evoke the immediate comfort we long for…?
‘We basically create the smell of people’s babies,’ one of the technical perfumers told me, ‘and if we even change the scent of their washing powder a little bit, we get so many complaints.’ They produced many thousands of possible options to fragrance people’s washing – from caramel (popular in Brazil, apparently) to chic multi-layered, musky perfumes. But the most popular of all (and one of the most technically challenging to re-create)? That freshly line-dried smell.
So what is it, beyond your choice of washing powder, that makes fabric smell particularly pleasing if it’s been dried on a line (preferably in a flower meadow, and hung while wearing an Edwardian broderie anglaise gown just prior to picking apples in the orchard, in my dreams, but we work with what we have.)
In a scientific paper examining the ‘Chemical analysis and origin of the smell of line-dried laundry‘, atmospheric chemists have published their analysis of ‘line-dried towels at the molecular level’, now they’ve discovered the exact source of this so-specific smell. Using cotton towels from IKEA, they washed them three times, then dried them in three differing ways: inside the office, on the balcony under a plastic shade and on the balcony in the sun.
Extraordinarily, they found that ‘Line-drying uniquely produced a number of aldehydes and ketones,’ Sylvia Pugliese – the leading researcher – told the New York Times – which are ‘…organic molecules our noses might recognise from plants and perfumes. For example, after sunbathing, the towels emitted pentanal, found in cardamom, octanal, which produces citrusy aromas, and nonanal, which smells rose-like.’
Fascinating stuff, and it got me wondering which fragrances we could reach for that could also recreate that feeling of sunlit cleanliness and comfort, bottled…
A whoosh of silvery, sun-dappled airiness shot through with ginger, mint, and leafy green notes, softening to powdery florals, cushioned by warm skin-like musk and vetiver. One to spray when you need to be reminded of lazy sundays and lie-ins and snuggling up in bliss.
CLEAN Reserve Warm Cotton [Reserve Blend]£82 for 100ml eau de parfum spacenk.com
Yearning for an eco-luxury house with a Swedish mountain lake view? (Uh yes, always.) Bright cotton and bracing air’s evoked with ambrette seeds, freesia, spring magnolia, and soft musk. You’ll be yodelling from first spritz.
Who doesn’t want to be wrapped in a whisper of white fluffy towels and powdery peonies? Effortless and uncomplicated, sooth cares away with delicate freesia nuzzling fuzzy peach, gauzy ylang ylang, sheer rose, wisps of incense and a cloud of creamy froth.
Mandarin swathed in powdered sandalwood shavings, violet suffused in a cool fig milk and tonka bean draped with the feeling of washing blowing in the breeze. Think muslin curtains framing a perfect view, the deliciously cool side of a pillow against a flushed cheek.
Van Cleef & Arpels Bois Blanc £130 for 75ml eau de parfum selfridges.com
Think: deliciously smooth, Egyptian cotton (high thread count, obvs) boutique hotel sheets, just-showered skin and roasted coffee beans sitting atop a warm snuggle of back-lit amber and the sexy hay-like muskiness of the base. For dirty weekends (but in clean sheets.)
So, next time you bury your nose in a freshly dried, fluffy towel, slip into deliciously clean sheets that were dried in the sunshine or spray yourself with a fabulously ‘clean’ smelling fragrance – consider if you can pick up these ultra-nuanced notes with your nose. The more deeply we analyse smells – especially those ‘everyday scents’ we think we know so well – the greater our understanding and the better our sense of smell ultimately becomes. It’s a washing-day win-win…
The whole world has felt ambushed by COVID-19, but it’s only recently that experts have realised that the sense of smell is one of the first things to be attacked – well before any other symptoms present themselves. Now, IFF (International Flavors & Fragrance) have helped develop a smell-test to take at home, donating scents from their living technology collection to aid the testing process…
Scientists now agree that the loss of smell represents an early warning sign of Coronavirus. Anosmia (smell loss) and dysgeusia (taste loss) are extremely common symptoms that may appear before any other symptoms to suspect a patient might be infected. Researchers developing the pioneering (and self-administered) test say that ‘early awareness of exposure may trigger testing sooner and improve the overall accuracy of testing for COVID-19.’ And as we now know – the earlier a possible infection can be detected and the patient made aware, the fewer other members of the public could be infected.
‘IFF has a long history of developing innovative solutions for a multitude of global challenges,’ commented Dr. Gregory Yep, IFF’s Chief Scientific and Sustainability Officer. ‘Our ongoing collaboration with Dr. Albers underscores our commitment to do more good for people and planet, and I hope our donation can help contribute to a solution for this pandemic.’
The Blavatnik Sensory Disorders Fund at Harvard Medical School is enabling the building of apps that allow long-distance symptom tracking and smell testing from home, and up to 400 patients at MGH, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Spaulding Rehabiliation Hospital will be participating in their first round of testing.
After receiving a small and simple to use scratch card, the test will then be conducted on a patient’s own phone app (or via a tablet, or computer.) During the test, participants will answer a series of questions about possible COVID-19 symptoms and loss of smell and/or taste. By distributing this free smell test, the hopes are that presymptomatic detection of anosmia will trigger full testing and prompt patients to self-isolate – even if no other symptoms are present.
With the recent lowering of social distancing measures, many experts fear a second (and possibly even larger) spike in the numbers of new COVID-19 infections, it behoves us to be extra cautious and to be forewarned, as they say, is forearmed.
Dr. Mark Albers, an MGH neurologist specialising in memory and olfactory disorders, was one of the leading experts who wanted to set up the test, explaining that, ‘There is so much we don’t know about COVID-19, but the research shows that loss of smell and taste play a prominent role in identifying possible patients with the virus,’
‘If we can provide reliable self-administered tests to people and health care workers,’ Dr. Albers continued, ‘we may be able to slow the spread of the disease in the future and chart recovery of smell function, which may be helpful to determine when it is safe to reengage after having the COVID infection.’
Fascinating, isn’t it, how we are only now discovering how many medical conditions have early warning signs reflected in a loss of smell? Perhaps now, those scientists who were toiling away studying the sense of smell – which for so many years was disregarded as insignificant – will be taken more seriously; and (we hope – perhaps naively) will be given the funding they so desperately need.
A six-week long celebration of scent and the senses, the Digital Scent Festivalis bringing the world of fragrance online in very exciting ways…
A co-production between Yosh Han of Eau de Yosh, and Aroma Village – an international collective of independent perfumers and artists – they are offering a ‘…rockstar list of olfactive talent’ with a number of ‘illuminating conversations with VIP access from the comfort of your own personal device.
Digital Scent Festival was born out of a need to connect during the pandemic and create a space where our noses remain curious and active. We will broadcast a limited series of events and encourage soulful connections through olfactive unity.’ The events are split into two main arenas, with new guests and events being added all the time (so keep an eye on their Facebook Page for the latest news!)
Tuesdays on Instagram (follow the Instagram accounts to be alerted when they go live)
Yosh describes the virtual coming-together as a way ‘…to bring insight and awareness to complementary subjects relating to scent from their unique perspectives,’ adding that ‘In addition to being professional Noses, our mult-faceted perfumers are musicians, designers, architects, writers, healers, herbalists, aromatherapists, yoga teachers, TV producers, manufacturers and teachers.’
What intially caught our interest was seeing their Scent + Music event advertised on Instagram. Something is clearly in the air (and we’re on the same wavelength) as we were just putting the finishing touches to our (now just-published) Music & Perfume edition of The Scented Letter Magazine!
As we so wanted to share their event with you, Yosh very kindly recorded the Scent + Music session especially for The Perfume Society – which you can watch in full below; and has since gone on to create a YouTube Channel where future events will also be uploaded to watch whenever you wish: a case of see you now and smell you later…
What a wonderfully creative coming-together this is, and bringing a real sense of community in these strange times, when perhaps we have felt most alone. Do check out our regular Instagram Live sessions, too – a weekly event we’ve been enjoying doing since the week after #Lockdown first began.
The feedback, and continuing enthusiasm for all these kinds of virtual get-togethers, really shows how deeply fragrance and smell can touch us, no matter where we are in the world… Long may the innovation continue!
What with the continuing global pandemic and all, we’re spending so much extra time at home, now, trying to find little nooks to transform into sudden workplaces, and perhaps even somewhere to relax and wind-down awhile (wouldn’t that be nice?) We’re here to help, with ideas of how to use fragrance to make your home a fragrant haven…
You may not be aware of it, but scent plays an important, subliminal part in how we define a space. On a large scale, you’ll have noticed that supermarkets pump out fresh baking smells to entice you to the back of the shop, and spas smell gloriously relaxing the moment you step inside; but you can use the same principles to shape your own home into individually fragranced areas.
Have a look at some of these ideas to keep you alert, refreshed, comforted and soothed….
Tip: Use uplifting scents in your designated work-space – be that the spare room, a corner of the siting room with a fold-out table or even with your laptop balanced on your knees (which is less than ideal, we know!) Keep them fresh, invigorating and aromatically stimulating to keep you alert.
Try: Diffusing rosemary oil in an aromatherapy oil burner, or soaking a ceramic disc (or cotton wool, inside a pomander) and tying with a ribbon to your radiator, or near where you’re working. Far from being ‘an old wive’s tale’, rosemary has now been scientifically proven to aid memory retention and clarity of mind. Something we could all do with right now, eh?
Buy: La Montaña First Light Candle, £36
An immediately mood-altering scent gently welcomes you to a new day, while herbaceous mountain breezes get to work on un-beffudling (is that a word? It is now) your brain. Much needed at Nightingale Towers, I can tell you! Plus £5 from every sale will be donated to the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal.
La Montaña founder, Cassandra Hall, explains why she chose rosemary as inspiration for their first candle: ‘On our mountain, at first light, there’s a heavenly fragrance in the air. Before anyone starts an engine, or lights a fire, the air is clear, and still, and silent. The first breath of the day carries the perfume of wild mountain herbs: fennel, rosemary, mountain pepper and intoxicating rock rose. The alchemy of the fragrances, blended naturally on the breeze, weaves a magical spell.’
Tip: Transform your kitchen into a more intimate setting – if you’re lucky enough to have room for a table, or are finding yourself in there far more these days (cooking up a storm with leftovers, maybe whipping up a cocktail or three…), banish the clincal cleaning-product smells or foodie wafts, and pretend you’re in a romantic restaurant. (Do take the bins out, though.)
Try: Growing fragrant herbs in pretty pots on the windowsill, or bringing in some fresh flowers to enjoy their scent while you toil over the stove. Do make sure they’re strongly scented enough to smell over the competing scent of cooking, though. Or simply cook a cake with vanilla and spices to ensure hours of ‘Mmmm!’ (Added bonus: cake.)
Buy: Miller Harris Rendezvous Tabac Candle, £45
You might not think of a ‘tobacco’ scented candle as an obvious choice for the kitchen, but bear with me. This one’s inspired by the romantic brasseries of Saint-Germain, and makes your kitchen (or anywhere!) feel cosy, welcoming, somewhere to willingly linger, not *have* to be.
The Cuban cascarilla oil and pimento berries tingle their way to a heart of velvety sage and cool drifts of pine against the cosiest background of creamy tonka bean and Malay patchouli. Even if it’s once a week, treat yourself to a proper tablecloth, linen napkins, ‘the best’ china or glasses and polished silverware. It feels extra fancy, so maybe even consider wearing your best pyjamas while planning your next meal out-out.
Tip: Turn your living room into a place of scented sanctuary with opulent florals – somewhere to chill out in style while binge-watching your favourite shows, to browse your favourite magazines (including The Scented Letter, obvs) or catch-up with friends on a phone call.
Try: Find local flower deliveries at flowersfromthefarm.co.uk and fill a vase with deeply-scented flowers to cheer you (and anyone who walks past your house) up every time you see and smell them, or using a vintage jug for a fragrant display, surrounded by candles, in the fireplace.
Buy: Sana Jardin Jaipur Chant candle, £48
Opulent with real Indian tuberose essential oil, Moroccan jasmine and French narcisse with a twist of Italian lemon, this exquisite scent is redolent of exotic climes and will absolutely fill your space with floral beauty (even if you can’t get any flowers delivered, or want something longer-lasting).
Sana Jardin founder, founder Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed, was inspired to create this scent after taking part in a Hindu devotional ceremony, where tuberose flower garlands are exchanged and play a symbolic role, connoting love, deep emotion and sensitivity. In this fragrance, the flower is given added vibrancy with Morroccan jasmine, narcisse and musk, resulting in a stunning sunshine-filled scent that will enhance your home at any time of year (and whatever the weather is doing outside).
Tip: Taking a candlelit bath with a fragrant oil while listening to soothing music is self-care you deserve. It’s difficult enough to unwind at the end of the day, when your muscles are knotted with tension from, you know, worrying about the global pandemic on top of everything else…
Try: Using a muscle-relaxing bath essence that also scents your entire house with gorgeously aromatic wafts. Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil is a best-seller for a reason: it works. Soothing sandalwood, camomile and grounding vetivert will sort you out.
Buy: diptyque Paris En Fleur small candle, £30
Petite enough to be placed bath-side while you soak, this is an evocative scent to carry you away with dreams of being impossibly Parisian chic. The first Chypre for the house, a flurry of fruity rose petals merge with deeply resinous patchouli – relaxing and quite a lot sexy, all at once…
For this celebration of Paris, diptyque drew its creative inspiration from the rose and its thousand scents, such as the roses of the Bagatelle gardens or the Marché aux fleurs. To adorn the scent, they worked with the artist and friend of diptyque, Pierre Marie. Together, they created a decoration inspired by Art Nouveau, like a lattice bedecked with flowers on which roses intertwine with metallised foliage.
Tip: If you’re likely to nod off, a lit candle’s not ideal for the bedroom, but there’s a fabulous range of fragranced reed-diffusers available now. Why not change up your sleeping space with a luxurious scent and pretend you’re in a hotel (maybe change the sheets, too…)
Try: Not everyone loves lavender (yes it’s beautifully soothing, but only if you like the smell!) so surround yourself in bed with scents you adore – something that makes you stop a moment to breathe in and appreciate it better. You’ll actually feel your shoulders drop as you close your eyes.
Buy: Ruth Mastenbroek Firedance Diffuser, £30
We absolutely love this for the bedroom (or boudoir) because it feels like a 5-star scent even if your space doesn’t quite live up. It’s incredibly long-lasting (so excellent value – we’re talking months of scented contentment, here) and smells utterly unique. Divinely smoky rose smoulders beguilingly on the rich, woody base, and if your bedtime routine’s not exactly petal-scattered sheets and romance, you can dare to dream!
Rejoicing in a moment of true contentment was perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek’s muse for this so-sultry modern interpretation of the classic rose perfume, as exotic leather dances in surprise harmony with the main character – smouldering Damask rose. Set against a warming backdrop of oudh and patchouli, a shining amber note radiates in this scent which is perfect for anywhere in the home (especially anywhere you’d like to smoulder, yourself…)
However you’re coping (or otherwise) with re-arranging your house/routine/life in this current climate of uncertainty, while filling your home with designated scented spaces might not magically make everything better – I absolutely guarantee that it WILL help.
If you don’t happen to live in a mansion with a wing for every member of the household, or spare rooms that can be converted into handy separate office spaces – it’s essential to divide up what space you do have into areas that feel like passing from one phase of the day into another, that split up the many roles you may be juggling – for your own sanity, not merely a pleasant perfume to smell. And home fragrance is the easiest way of doing that, subliminally. It genuinely can change an atmosphere instantly, and, therefore, your mood/how your day rolls out.
We’re living through times we’d never imagined, that nobody knows how ‘best’ to deal with. So treating yourself to a little scented luxury is important – perhaps more now than ever before. You’re worth looking after, too, you know…
‘Marty the Mighty Nose is a free resource for everyone offering easy and inspiring ideas for using the sense of smell to bring learning to life. The project is fronted by Marty, the faraway leader of a tribe of smell-loving characters who love nothing better than to hunt out interesting whiffs.‘
If you click on the link, above, you’ll be taken to the website where you can download all the assets you’ll need for the smell-themed session.
The Fragrance Foundation say:
‘Whether it is inviting children to develop their use of simile and metaphor in English by writing smell-inspired poems or learning about history through the stinky aromas of the past (Ancient Egyptian Mummification anyone?), structured activities incorporating fragrance and smell can truly support and inspire pupils of all abilities.
At Key Stage 2 of the primary National Curriculum, your children are developing their reasoning and persuasive skills, as well as an openness and curiosity about the world. The Marty the Mighty Nose Workshops, organised by The Fragrance Foundation, will play to these unique and new found strengths whilst also helping to pen communications between students as well as teachers.
Use Marty the Mighty Nose, the smell-finder-in-chief of a faraway jungle tribe, to get your pupils to use their sense of smell as inspiration to develop pupils’ descriptive vocabulary and imaginative writing.
You can sit back and relax while Richard E. Grant guides the children through your very own workshop, click here for the videos.
You will need a couple of print outs and smelly materials to bring your workshop to life. Download the info here.
Each workshop lasts for one hour for a whole class, and is suitable for children aged 7-11. Content this year is specifically tailored to the English Primary National Curriculum.
Marty the Mighty Nose is supported by the Fragrance Foundation, a not-for-profit educational body. Members come from across the fragrance industry and are supporting the scheme as a philanthropic initiative.
After your workshop, encourage your children to enter The Mighty Nose Awards Competition.
See our entry categories, eligibility, the brief, and key date. See Info
Get cooking! One downloadable pack containing everything you need to enter, from ideas for children to cover sheets for your class.Get Entry Pack’
We know that there are many rumours swirling around the coronavirus, but we felt that this was worth circulating to a community which is highly tuned into its sense of smell.
Top ENT specialists have pinpointed loss of sense of smell – a.k.a. ‘anosmia’ – as a potential symptom of those carrying the Covid-19 virus, who are otherwise asymptomatic.
Previously, we were told to look out for symptoms such as a high fever and a new continuous, dry cough – and for people with those symptoms to self-isolate within their own homes. Scientists suspected, however, that the wide-spreading of the virus has, in part, been due to otherwise seemingly healthy people going out and about – unaware that they are carrying the virus and unwittingly infecting others.
The British Association of Otorhinolaryngology (ENT UK) published a statement that these anosmia symptoms had been found among ‘…a number of patients in the “absence of other symptoms”‘.
Professor Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, and Professor Nirmal Kumar, president of ENT UK, remarked in the joint statement, published online, that they’d noticed a significant and sudden rise ‘in cases of isolated anosmia’ — total or partial smell loss — in the UK, US, France and northern Italy.
The statement goes on to remark that they ‘…think these patients may be some of the hitherto hidden carriers that have facilitated the rapid spread of Covid-19,’ commenting that, ‘Unfortunately, these patients do not meet current criteria for testing or self isolation.’
As fragrance-lovers we are generally more in-tune with our noses and sense of smell than the majority of people, simply due to the fact we spend so much time focussing on scent, concentrating on how it smells. (And, of course, lavishly spraying ourselves in our favourites and describing them to others.) Therefore, we are perhaps in a better place to notice a loss of smell more immediately. And therefore – more importantly – to act on it.
Although current government guidelines on self-isolating with signs of coronavirus do not yet specifically mention the loss of smell as a symptom, it is worth pointing out that the advice DOES state that we should self-isolate and take extra precautions if you are displaying any symptoms at all, ‘however mild’.
What to do if you have recently lost your sense of smell:
As of last night, the government have enforced a complete ‘lockdown’ within the U.K. – a precaution that the French authorities undertook a week ago. Now that the ENT specialists have made the link between a loss of smell as a clue you may be a carrier of Covid-19, even if you don’t have a high temperature or a cough, if you live with other people,the advice is that you should take extra precations and self-isolate as much as possible within your own house.
Currently it seems the majority of those who did lose their sense of smell due to carrying the Covid-19 virus are reporting that they have fully recovered their sense of smell after around a month (much quicker in the case of one sufferer we know personally), though these are early days and much has still to be learned. Fifth Sense, a U.K. charity for those with smell and taste disorders, also have a useful article on their website regarding Covid-19 and the loss of smell.
Another source of contact for those who have lost their sense of smell – through a virus, due to medication or from birth – is the recently established charity AbScent which has lots of great advice on their website.
These are scary things to read, indeed, and of course worrying times for us all. But there is good news coming out of China, for those who are recovering and for whom life is slowly going back to (an albeit new) kind of normality. This has only been achieved by everyone working together, following the guidelines and self-isolating.
As difficult as this is, we CAN get through this together, and we shall emerge with a new sense of just how important it is to talk to our neighbours, to check in on the most vulnerable within our communities, and to grasp every moment of freedom and health with joy. Even if that’s only meeting a friend for coffee or going to an art gallery or literally stopping to smell the roses. How we shall treasure those moments anew when we can do them, freely, again.
The catwalks have been strutted, the #FROW have gasped in delight (or tutted beneath their sunglasses) and fashion weeks in London, Paris and Milan are now in the bag – but perfumers are inspired by fabric all year ’round for their fragrant creations.
Oudh-avoiders – do not recoil! This is a delightfully boozy gourmand that’s all silky smooth rum-soaked fruits slathered with cream and sprinkled with spices, so although oudh may be at the heart of each fragrance in the collection, think of it more as an ingredient added for depth and longevity. Interestingly, Amouroud is the latest evolution of the widely respected Perfumer’s Workshop, launched 45 years ago. Deliciously comforting, we’ll gladly be following the Silk Route trail (and wrapping ourselves in this along the way…)
Like a sweet, balmy breeze rising from the walls of ancient Palermo, the Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Oriental Musk eau de parfum swathes you in the warm caress of the sun wherever you may be. With a perfectly blended mix of woods and spices, this unique fragrance melds to your skin with sandalwood, tonka bean and aromatic cardamom – a nuzzle of delight to bury your nose in (and equally divine on any sex who dares to wear it).
Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Oriental Musk £200 for 50ml eau de parfum harrods.com
Wearing this is like reaching out and stroking the softest, most supple suede your fingers ever dreamed of. The warm intensity of oudh, olibanum, patchouli, suede and amber at the fragrance’s core is balanced with resinous balsam, sweet praline and honeysuckle, plus dreamy white flowers, while a little pinch of spiciness from cypress, birch and pepper awakens the senses. Sueded Oud is a study in carefully crafted opposites, and we love the creamy-fresh result.
One of the greatest pleasures on earth is surely the joy of crisp, white, line-dried cotton sheets. This absolute classic deserves to be enjoyed afresh – it’s all billowing clean fabric evoked via the slightly soapy coolness of white flowers and a zing of verdant greenery. Bulgarian rose, violet and powdery orris atop an earthier base of vetiver and soft, dry mossiness make for true elegance, a scent to wear whenever you want to remember sunshine and happiness.
Estée Lauder White Linen £56 for 60ml eau de parfum boots.com
The trend-fuelled worlds of fashion and fragrance have been hand-in-glove for centuries – quite literally by 1656, when the perfumery and leather industry had become intrinsically linked, the fashion for exquisitely crafted gloves, popularised at court by Catherine de Medici, somewhat at odds with the disgustingly pungent reality of curing leather in urine. So, the Corporation of Glove-makers and Perfumers – the ‘maître-gantiers’ – (master glove-makers/perfumers) was formed in France, importing ingredients from all over the world to scent the gloves; with acres later given to growing and distilling them, such was Queen Catherine’s passion for perfume, and an entire industry was born in Grasse.
Since then, where fashion has led, so fragrance has followed – and just as hemlines go and up down, and silhouettes dramatically alter from era to era, so too do scented ‘shapes’ change with time. And perumers have long been inspired by fabric in their creations – a peculiar thing, you may think, as most fabrics don’t have their own distinct smell. Yet as we imagine a white sheet drying in sunshine, or the plush eroticism of velvet stroked beneath our fingers, we can also imagine the scent these textures might have. Such is the alchemical magic that fragrance can create – an overlapping of the senses, and in this first of two parts looking at fragrances inspired by fabrics, we pay homage to scents evoking satin, cashmere, leather and cotton…
Satin drapes. It clings to the body. It moves in the most sensuous way… And you definitely need to try draping yourself in this from prolific and gifted ‘nose’ Francis Kurkdjian. We’d call this an after-dark fragrance, one for oudh-lovers, for sure – but busting any prejudices against that ultra-woody material, for in Francis’s hands it never, ever overwhelms. We’re getting Turkish delight – a sugar-dusted rosiness that blends Bulgarian rose essence with Turkish rose absolute, while genuine Laotian oudh melts into benzoin from Siam, and the sweetness owes much to a soft, powdery accord of violet and vanilla in the heart. There’s almost a chocolate-y element swirling seductively around the patchouli, while the oudh underpins everything with its animalic smokiness. Mesmerising.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood £200 for 70ml eau de parfum harveynichols.com
Tom describes Iridium as ‘the fragrance equivalent of charcoal coloured cashmere.’ We always enjoy a description that makes you imagine a smell from a texture and colour, don’t you? And this really is a cool-toned cashmere, exuding effortless chic with all the powdery sophistication of precious iris concrète, but granted a strong silvery spine. The iris is dosed with carrot seed to amplify the dry, root-y yet so-refined character, and the synthetic note of Iso E Super wafts forth a deliciously grown-up gourmand ‘your skin but better’ dry-down – the kind that has people asking ‘what’s that delicious smell?’ and a secret smile is stifled when you know it’s you… Now also available as an extrait formula, poured at 71% strength, for even longer lasting enswathement.
Reminding us of our beloved leather jacket, a stack of books or the wood-panelled, boozily infused surroundings of a members’ only club, leather fragrances evoke a particularly voracious and luxurious sensuality, favouring deep base notes that linger the whole day long. Russian leather fragrances have a long heritage, the intense smokiness of birch the vital scent ingredient giving ‘Russian’ leather it’s characteristic smell. Here, Molton Brown curl swirls of smoke through a Siberian pine forest, infusing leather-bound books with a campfire’s glowing ember scent. Magnificently done, it’s an especial pleasure in colder weather, though I love layering it at times with a rose that needs some extra oomph.
Molton Brown Russian Leather £60 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at moltonbrown.co.uk
Like burying one’s nose in sunny-day line-dried linen, a gust of pure, clean ozonic notes greets us at this fragrance’s first spritz, only made more refreshing by a rush of watery notes and pinch of ginger. Mint and green accords carry this clean and fresh feeling into the fragrance’s heart accord, which then softens into florals, cushioned by skin-like musk and vetiver. Magically capturing the comforting sensation of crispness, and featuring elegant white lilies, floral cotton accords and a vanilla-speckled, benzoin-infused amber glow in the mix: this is one to spray when you need to be reminded of home, of lazy sundays and lie-ins and snuggling up in bliss. (See below to get a luxury try-me size!)
CLEAN Reserve Warm Cotton [Reserve Blend] £82 for 100ml eau de parfum spacenk.com
Warm Cotton was the perfect addition to the Luxury Layering Discovery Box – featuring THIRTEEN layerable scents and three fragrant body treats to try at home for £19 (£15 for VIPs) – use it to freshen up a perfume without resorting to the usual citrus, to soften a scent you feel is too harsh or simply to luxuriate in the sebsation of that clean, soft white fabric dried in the sunshine.
Whether vintage or modern – evoking an era or an archetypal fabric – the fingers of fashion are still firmly within those fragrant gloves, and together they work their alchemical magic to embolden us: seducing several senses while enhancing our own sense of who we are – or whomever we want to be that day…
If you’ve been on a no-buy or slow-buy regime of late – or are impatiently awaiting payday – but want a fragrant fix RIGHT NOW: we totally understand, and have you covered. We think the best collections have a mixture; so yes, perhaps some of those high-end scents we save up for, but also a good selection of the more pocket-friendly purchases we can collect and enjoy along with them.
These budget friendly fragrances have been selected to showcase a range of our favourites available on the high street – perfumes that really pack a punch and smell incredible (of course); and with many of them having been made by some of the world’s best noses, they may surprise you.
So which of these will you treat yourself to…?
If you have shied away from ‘celebrity perfumes’ or thought them dull, prepare to have your mind blown. This is properly weird – and I mean that with the greatest of respect. Hold onto your hats because the first few seconds (and it’s only seconds, I promise you) smell like a hot photocopier: warm paper and wet ink. Now that surreal image has dated me, buckle up because you’re about to be propelled straight into the heart of a forest, a tunnel of trees with tender green leaves unfurling. An hour after spraying, I feel as though I have built a secret den from twigs and moss, lined the floor with slightly damp cardboard and garlanded the walls with sprigs of lilly of the valley and swags of honeysuckle. Snug in this scented hideaway, the drydown becomes a hazy reverie of joyfully sucked chocolate squares, a daydream to savour. Think ‘celebrity’ ‘fumes are humdrum affairs? Ditch your snobbery. This is like wearing a legal trip (half a tab, anyway). The perfumer was Frank Voelkl – chappie who also did Le Labo Santal 33 and Chantecaille Tiare. And look at that price (currently on offer – snap them up before they disappear).
Big name houses doing collaborations with clothing brands? I’m a huge hands up for such enterprises, and the new Jo Loves fragrant offshoot at Zara created by Jo Malone is going great guns, if the breathlessly excited reviews by our friends are anything to go by. It’s hard to choose, as they’re all very well done, but I’ve plumped for this one simply because it’s not something I’d normally try, and that’s half the fun. Think of early spring days when the fat buds are bursting and signs of life stirring, a drafty picnic in a bosky dell, wrapped in a cashmere jumper and smiling at clear blue skies. The lavender, musk and sandalwood noted become a swirl of slightly subdued laughter on a lightly frost-tinged breeze. Delightful. (PS: The 10ml bottles are just £5.99 and full-size £25.99).
Zara Bohemian Bluebells, £15.99 for 40ml eau de parfum zara.com
Perhaps there are times you want to feel swathed in comfort and warmth but with some sunlight filtering through and room to breathe? This is just the ticket: the richness of patchouli and oak moss tempered with transparency and shot through with shards of pink pepper. The cedarwood offers a soothingly dry shadiness, the sense of a late-afternoon stroll with the sun gently dipping and long shadows stretching to infinity on the grass. Before a chill sets in, the dry-down emerges – a splendidly sheer cocoa that enhances the airy earthiness of the patchouli and feels more of a dusting atop a latte than a ribbon-wrapped box of chocolates. Rather lovely on the chaps, of course, but at this price I’d buy myself a bottle, too, instead of nicking his. (This comment is not legally binding).
Now here’s a little gem you may have overlooked – and one created by Francis Kurkdjian no less. An incredible burst of freshness that encapsulates the drowsy luxury of basking in Provençale sunshine, from the first sniff I’m transported to sunnier climes and can practically feel the warmth on my skin. It’s just the perfect balance of sparkle with that lactic lap of milky figs a balm for the soul. A fizz of mandarin fruitiness and the aromatic air of lightly spiced caraway seeds is sliced by a zing of grapefruit to awaken the senses, stirred through with fig pulp and grouded with the greeness of fig leaves. But it’s the dry-down I find particularly swoonsome, with a delightfully dry cedar smoothed into perfection by a creamy base of that fig milk. It’s something I find myself reaching for throughout the warmer days and whenever I need a happy holiday memory to get me through more challenging times; so often.
If you don’t have days you want to be wrapped in a whisper of white, soft cotton and powdery peonies, are you even alive? I adored this the moment it came out (1998, fact fans) and simply haven’t stopped. It’s somehow both effortless and uncomplicated but soothingly nuanced, and full of the most tender poignancy. The darling little bottle resembles a pearl in perfume form, and wearing this does feel as though you have become subsumed in that pearlescent radiance. Delicate blooms of freesia nuzzle fuzzy peach skin and ylang ylang dances with a shower of sheer rose petals to an intriguing base of coffee, silvery wisps of incense, and an aerated ivory smoothness akin to a long, cool glass of cream soda. Created by Olivier Cresp – of Mugler’s Angel and Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling fame, among many others – it’s a masterpiece in understated loveliness that I like to wear on lazy sundays.
This week we’re diving in nose-first to Catherine Haley Epstein‘s Nose Dive – a brilliant book for adventurous noses. We have a whole scented bookshelf of Fragrant Reads we recommend, so do please feel free to browse at your leisure, from literary to scientific and everything in-between.
Meanwhile, let’s get up close and personal with our sense of smell, and re-connect our sense of wonder as we read…
On the back of the book, author, artist and scent-maker, Catherine Haley Epstein, introduces her book in a way that intrigued and delighted us immediately. Describing it as a handbook for taking ‘…Adventures for your nose in art, anthropology, and science, the book Nose Dive is a broad introduction to olfactory culture meant for artists or anyone curious about the power of scent.’ Well that’s pretty much a checklist of our intersts, so we were eager to learn more, and Epstein contnues: ‘Something is in the air with respect to our most powerful and least regarded sense. This book demystifies the world of scent, provides springboards for further study, and presents exercises for shifting gears with your nose. A must-read for anyone intrigued by the superpower right under our noses.’ Consider us sold!
Epstein was lovely enough to send us a first-edition copy of her book with a letter, saying further that she wrote it because she wanted ‘…to invite dialogue from the different aspects of the scent arena.’ And also explaining the cover of the book is ‘Tiffany blue… not for the reason you might think – it’s actually the colour of my favourite smell, a pool toy.’
You know what they say about finding kindred spirits? We think she’s definitely one of us…
Reading Nose Dive is an absolute must for anyone of us who’s wanted to dive deeper than merely smelling nice by spraying something beautiful, deeper still than having a particular memory connected to smell – Epstein manages to express both a childish glee at this super-power right under (and in) our noses, while explaining some complex theories and inviting the reader to explore. There are short, easily digestible chapters on Art, the science of smelling, things to consider when making a perfume and on extolling the utter joy that our sense of smell can bring. On that first thorny issue of art, and in answer to the on-going debate as to whether perfume ‘deserves’ to be classed as such, Epstein puts it perfectly by saying, simply, that ‘Art is translation. Art is a human-specific activity for translating our experiences, using whatever mediums we can.’
Along with theoretical discussions, pondering on her own years of research and development, Epstein also offers some practical exercises for those interested in making their own fragrances, or things to think about, study and and enjoy in your own time. Half the joy of Nose Dive, in fact, is that it doesn’t pretend to have all the answers or place itself on a pedestal to preach about perfume to the already converted. Neither does it simply re-hash historical references and methods of making fragrance or only focus on new, exciting niche houses. This is a well-considered work that manages to pack in some powerful topics and truly thoughtful themes into such a slim volume, you can practically feel the waves of excitement about perfume and smell pulsating from every page. Not only to read and enjoy for yourself, we suggest this is one to press into the hands of everyone who’s ever asked you why you’re so obsessed with scent… Spread the love!
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