It’s World Book Day so we’re celebrating by perusing our Perfume Society bookshelf, which is filled with Fragrant Reads – from novels and books of poetry inspired by scent to technical tomes and books that explore the history of fragrance in so many fascinating ways.
Here are just a few of our ‘must reads’ to get your nose stuck in to…
Atomizer poems, by Elizabeth A.I. Powell
A professor of writing and literature at Northern Vermont University, Elizabeth Powell writes poems that immerse us in what fellow author Dianne Seuss describes as ‘the perfumery of seduction.’ Harnessing her sense of smell and recalling often painful memories through scented snapshots, we are plunged into her world, seeing the world not only through her eyes, but through Powell’s nose.
The Book of Scented Things – 100 Contemporary Poems About Perfume, Edited by Jehanne Dubrow
The culmination of a unique aromatic and poetical experiment – an anthology based on this original concept of deliberately provoking with perfume and collecting the results. Hence we discover poems of deeply personal childhood memories, that relate directly to a sense of place and more deep-seated philosophical longings.
The power of smell
The Smell of Fresh Rain, by Barney Shaw
From describing petrichor (the actual smell of fresh rain) to researching the scent of fresh paint, frying bacon and pondering the question of what three o’clock in the morning smells like, it’s a fascinating journey to be part of. Merely reading this book expands your mind to the possibilities and scents you take forgranted every single day.
A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman
The title doesn’t do this justice: Diane Ackerman’s writing is exquisite, exploring and explaining not just the sense of smell, but all the senses. In the first chapter – Smell – she looks at scent and memory, at roses, at sneezing, at the way our health (and what we eat) impacts on our body odour. Something to read that shakes the very foundations of how you’ll look at smell and fragrance.
The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Traversing decadently through the decades in New York, Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, Grace discovers she’s the beneficiary of a famed fragrant muse who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers to immortalise her in three groundbreaking fragrances. As she finds out more, Grace is forced to choose between the image of what society experts of her, and who she really is…
The Scent of You, by Maggie Alderson
‘I experience the world through smell – I always have.’ We couldn’t agree more, and Maggie was inspired to write this novel by spending time in our own Perfume Society office! The central character, Polly, is a perfume blogger who loses herself in the world of fragrance while her own world falls to pieces around her – something many of us can connect to.
Why not have a good browse of our Fragrant Reads for more suggestions and reviews of scent-themed books we think you’ll fall in love. We’re always adding more, so having treated yourself to a tome for World Book Day, do check back often!
In this time of unprecedented stress, seeking calm or a way to boost our energy levels has become more than a moment of ‘me time’ – it’s absolutely vital to our wellbeing. Focusing on your sense of smell helps control your breathing and forces your mind to concentrate on something lovely for a change.
Our sense of smell is directly linked to our limbic system, which stores memories and emotions, so using scent to uplift, unwind or soothe is a brilliant way of dealing with anxiety. Taking time to care for yourself should not be a luxury – it helps you face the day feeling revived and ready to go.
Experiencing ‘newness’ is something everyone has been severely lacking of late, but using a fragrance or scented product and fragrancing your home can transport you somewhere lovely, and change your mood in an instant.
Here’s how to ward off an anxiety attack or lift your spirits with scent:
Take a few minutes to spray a fragrance on a blotter or thick piece of paper.
Close your eyes while smelling it and see where it takes you. Don’t try to guess all the notes (it’s almost impossible unless you’re a trained perfumer!) instead, let your imagination run wild…
If this fragrance was a place, where would it be?
Think about texture as you smell. Can you say what type of fabric it would be? Heavy velvet, soft suede, crisp cotton… or something else?
What occasion does the scent bring to mind, and who else would be there? Allow yourself to picture the people you’re missing and imagine yourself laughing with them, hugging them again!
Music and fragrance are closely linked, so what type of melody would be playing, and which instruments does the scent remind you of?
It can be difficult, at first, to think of the answers, but whatever you imagine or feel is the right answer, for you. Scent is incredibly personal, so the more you practice this technique of ‘deep smelling’, the more in-tune with your sense of smell and how it connects to your memories and emotions you will be.
This is how perfumers train – often having to commit several thousand smells to memory, so they know how to recall them and can evoke particular moods in their compositions. If you’d like to try this so-soothing technique and experience some spa-like serenity, we’ve chosen some scents that help you turn your home into a Scented Retreat.
Filled with specially curated scent samples, the entire collection of La Montaña home fragrances (which perfectly echo their matching candles, if you’ve ever wanted to try those), and sensory beauty treats, including 100ml bottle of Molton Brown Bath & Shower gel – TheScented Retreat Discovery Boxallows you to relax in style at home. Here’s how…
Scents of Calm:
Anima Vinci Sesame Chan
Embracing the skin with ethereal light, the warmth of ginger slowly simmers to a haze of dry nuttiness – a cocooning, Cologne-esque experience, yet one that feels immediately comforting, at the same time.
Based on sweet yet smoky notes of patchouli and vanilla, this one wraps itself around you, swathing you in softness on a soothing heart of lavender and tobacco for a truly sophisticated finish that lasts all day and into the night.
Botanics Pure Essential Lavender Oil
Lavender has been shown to improve mood – add a few drops to a bath, humidifier, or for use for massage This essential oil from Botanics is bursting with all the wellness benefits of this herbaceous plant.
ånd fragrance Måd
Sustainably sourced naked vanilla in all its raw beauty is blended with violet, blackcurrant, ylang ylang, jasmine and grounding vetiver for a scent that’s like a warm hug in a bottle.
Ecooking Day Cream
This hydrating cream is formulated with 100% organic oils that are combined with the highest quality natural peptides and vitamins, specifically hyadisine, which mimics hyaluronic acid, and trylagen, to support collagen production.
La Montaña Siesta
This home scent evokes the sweet scent of neroli, rose and herbs on the warm breeze mingled with woods and resins to send you off into the most sublime sun-dappled slumber. Heaven.
La Montaña Alfredo’s Cafe
The scent of sleepy village awakening, all sun-soaked light, fresh citruses, black coffee and the incense-y smell of the church drifting through the air. Spritz your room to recall the gentle excitement of a day exploring on holiday.
La Montaña Fig Grove
Think of a green fig’s freshness, soothing musky wood enhancing earthy, bark-like qualities, with the warmth of white flowers and a little powdery piquancy from hyacinth. This is lazy, hazy, hotter-than-hot days to scent your home.
La Montaña Galán de Noche
Few smells are more seductive than that of night-blooming jasmine, the hypnotic radiance synonymous with late nights in balmy climes and the mystery of flowers that shine their brightest once the sun goes down.
La Montaña Three Kings
Spiritual contemplation for your home – a spritz of pine, woods, frankincense and myrrh with a little Balearic twist. Sweet almond nougat and a dash of brandy give a flash of brightness and warmth that, somehow, is so very Spanish.
La Montaña Sacred Roses
Combined with sweet neroli, crisply green narcissus and geranium, and dreamy lavender, spritz your bedroom (or boudoir) to float away on a bed of velvety rose petals, warm cedar and ripened, fruity davana oil. Sumptuous!
Scents to Uplift:
Histoire de Parfum 1899
Peppy, cocktail-like notes open with unbridled optimism, fizzing with a Champagne-esque effervescence as they dance off the skin. The sweetened, powdery heart then sparkles with unbridled joy.
Shay and Blue Mermaid Kisses
The light, watery honeydew melon note that first greets you is pure aquatic-juicy joy; it is holiday cocktails on the shoreline at sunset, looking out to an endless horizon and all its possibilities.
Molton Brown Orange & Bergamot Bath & Shower Gel
Zesty orange kicks off an uplifting sensory experience, heightened by mouth-watering mandarin and and gloriously sunny neroli notes that transport us to citrus groves in Seville.
Exfo-Lite Stimulating Salts For Legs
Packed with diuretic, detoxifying Himalayan pink crystals and sea salt, formulated not only to smooth the skin but to encourage better blood flow to our often-neglected lower-limbs (getting ready to bare again!)
Benamôr Alantoìne Hand Cream
The classic outdoors-y citrus scent turns a much-needed (several times) daily hand-soothing ritual into a moment of uplifting contemplation. Breathe deeply and inhale as the Portuguese beauty hero sm oothes and protects your skin barrier.
La Montaña First Light
In the morning, fill your room with the luminosity of a sun-filled new dawn, captured with wild fennel and orange, supported by energising mountain pepper, warm amber-y notes of rockrose and aromatic rosemary.
La Montaña Cloudburst
That moment when the sun breaks through the clouds in perfect shafts of light; all the scents of a herb garden, a citrus grove zinging to life against the backdrop of a mountain steaming in the sun, releasing wild, mineral-like vapours.
La Montaña Winter Oranges
One of their best-selling home fragrances, the orange here is both uplifting – a memory of high summer, devoured while juciy or adorning glasses – and calming, grounded here in aromatic spices that smoulder as they warm the soul.
We’ve never listened to so many podcasts right now, how about you? So here’s SEVEN new scent themed podcasts for your daily walk, that will whisk you to summer meadows and brighten your mood, even if you’re trudging through the rain.
Filling the endless hours and soothing nerves with fascinating chatter, it’s extremely exciting how many fragrance and scent themed podcasts are filling the airwaves at the moment, don’t you think? If you’ve not caught up with our previous lists of ‘must-listen’ episiodes, simply type ‘podcasts’ in the search box and you’ll have several hours to delight in.
Meanwhile, here are the ones we’re chasing away the blues with currently…
BBC Radio 4 Extra: The Perfumed Mountaineer
This story begins by recounting the notorious 1980’s episode of The Russell Harty Show, when Grace Jones slaps the presenter for ignoring her. It’s an incident that’s gone down in televisual history; but have you ever noticed the fellow guest, an ‘elderly man, dressed in a double-breasted suit’ sitting beside her, ‘looking more than a little alarmed at developments’? This, it’s revealed, was Walter Poucher – equally famed, at the time, for his perfumery with Yardley, and his mountain photography skills. As his utterly gripping story is unravelled, we learn Walter had a penchant for wearing lipstick and eyeshadow while climbing mountains and talking about perfume, was befriended by Elizabeth Taylor, and used to like ‘coming down to dinner [at mountaineering lodges] in full slap and gold lamé gloves.’ He sounded completely fabulous in every way, and we’re left wanting to know much more…
We reported on this brilliant new podcast/smell-walk in full, but it’s worth pointing out again for those who may have missed it. Jan Uprichard is an artist based in Northern Ireland, whose work revolves around ‘smell, walking, archives, mapping, food, sound, film, bookmaking, botany, and interventions…’ She was asked by the Centre for Contemporary Art in Derry to devise a smell-themed walk, and recorded a podcast to go with it. But the point is – you can listen from anywhere, and her soothing voice (and gentle guidance on how to navigate by smell and be mindful of your breathing) is just the tonic we need.
Outspoken Beauty: On the Scent
A podcasting pro, host Nicola Bonn has already interviewed some of the world’s leading movers and shakers in the skincare and beauty spheres, but her true passion is really… fragrance. Hurrah! Recently, she invited our very own Senior Writer, Suzy Nightingale, to be the co-host and fragrance expert for a spin-off show entitled ‘On the Scent.’ In this first episode, they name the fragrances that have been getting them through lockdown, Nicola probably reveals too much about a fireman ex, and Suzy prescribes perfumes in answer to listener’s queries.
The Scent Geeks
Presented by @fragstoriches and @fragmental.uk, this is a weekly and often humorous look at the scent world that feels like dropping in to a conversation of two fragrance-obsessed friends. In this episode, the twosome talk romance, filming and their tribute to the passing of fellow YouTuber, Carlos Powell(a.k.a Brooklyn Fragrance Lover).
Escentric Molecules Molecast
In the third episode of this regular series, perfumer Geza Schoen (the founder and ‘nose’ behind so-successful cult house, Escentric Molecules) reveals ‘the story behind the story’, specifically discussing how he went ‘…from working at one of the big five fragrance manufacturers to being an indie perfumer at a time when they were as rare as hen’s teeth.’ Always well worth listening to, Geza is an extremely down-to-earth perfumer who explains everything really clearly, and can be said to have completely revolutionised the fragrance industry as a whole, having showcased ‘synthetic’ notes as brilliant artistry, not something to hide or shy away from talking about.
Waving good riddance to the dumpster that was 2020, our genial hosts, Nick Gilbert and Thomas Dunkley, have nevertheless found some fascinating fragrances from last year to sniff their way through, rate and discuss. As usual, ‘Hijinks ensue.’ Well it really wouldn’t be Fume Chat if no hijinks were involved! Listening to this podcast is always like catching up with two best friends over a drink or three – something we’re sorely missing, so this is the next best thing.
Every Little Thing
We always love this podcast for host Flora Lichtman’s proudly terrible puns, and the endlessly fascinating list of topics prompted by listeners who ring in to the ELT Helpline. This episode was particularly of interest, as it focuses on our nostrils and the sense of smell. Get ready to hold on to your hats (or face masks) though, as it’s revealed *we only use one nostril at a time to breathe and smell through!* More than that, it seems we can actively switch which nostril we’re using by stuffing a fist into our armpit… Learn why/how and WTF with expert rhinologist, Simon Gane.
Part of a fantastic series by Oxford University Press, Smell: A Very Short Introduction by Matthew Cobb is an easy to read and very accessible intro to the incredibly nuanced, complicated and still most misunderstood sense…
Small in stature but big on fragrant facts, it’s one of those ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ type publications, being an overview of ‘the science and physiology of smell and its historical, cultural, and environmental significance,’ in which Cobb reveals exactly what happens in our brains when we smell something, and how our human olfactory processes differ from those of mammals, birds, and insects.
At The Perfume Society we are, of course, fully on-board with how important our sense of smell is; and we suppose seing as you’re here, you agree. But our sense of smell still lags behind – in scientific research and the wider public understanding – in being discussed and even thought about on a daily basis. We wonder, however, if the recent links between Covid-19 and smell loss (and that anosmia being an early indicator of Covid, among many other medical conditions that doctors are still investigating) if smell will be taken more seriously from now on?
After all: ‘The connection between smell and memory is more than a literary conceit’ Cobb shows, ‘with smells proving more effective than images at unlocking memories.’ Cobb does a good job of explaining how ‘The same odour can have different meanings to different people. Smells themselves are often blends, and our reactions to them are influenced by our memories and cultural conditioning,’ as well as asking bigger questions, such as: ‘Is there a link between smell and genetics?’
Although we’ve said it’s accessible, that doesn’t mean it skimps on taking scent seriously, and this book can be read by those interested in smell and fragrance at most levels of understanding – from complete novice to the already well-read. It’s also a great gift for friends and family members who perhaps don’t ‘get’ why we’re so obsessed with smells!
If you’d like some more recommendations to fill your scented bookshelves, do have a look at our ever-expanding list of Fragrant Reads. We’ve reviews of everything from scent-themed romance novels to seriously weighty science books, and stunning coffee-table tomes to a tale of Guerlain’s history told in graphic novel form…
Artist Jan Uprichard has created a unique ‘smell walk’ called OlfactoStroll, with an accompanying podcast to gently guide your senses and help shape your usual daily walk, into something hopefully not only interesting but a valuable moment of serenity…
Devised in collaboration with the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) in Derry – it doesn’t matter if you’re not in Northern Ireland: the walk can be taken wherever you live. There’s a specially-created podcast of that name, which you can download and listen to no matter where you are in the world. The prompts Jan gives during her so-soothing narration are not dictated by place, but rather suggest things to look out for during your walk, how to navigate your local landscape using the sense of smell.
OlfactoStroll was an idea Jan came up with as part of PhD research, for which she’s developing a method of Deep Smelling. Using smell, walking, archives, mapping, food, sound, film, bookmaking, botany, and interventions as practical, participatory tools for her art, the idea is to offer differing ways to experience familiar surroundings. Says Jan:
‘Deep Smelling is a meditative, experiential and process-based art practice, which brings our attention to our sense of smell. The smell walk has been configured with Derry city in mind, however you can apply the principles of the walk to anywhere in the world, including your own home.’
The podcast/guided walk is an incredibly relaxing listen – Jan has a naturally soothing voice and instead of talking all the time, you’re offered suggestions several minutes apart, for how to control your breathing, things to look out for and special circumstances to take note of (such as air temperature) which make this an experience that would be interesting to repeat several times during the next few months, to see if you notice any changes.
If you do happen to live in Derry, the walk is apparently ‘accompanied by a series of Deep Smelling protocols, visible through the gallery windows and at various spots around the city.’ But as Jan says – this is a walk you can take absolutely anywhere, whether you’re in an urban environment, going for a hike through the woods or walking beside the seashore.
Besides being an anxiety-busting method of slowing down and taking notice of nature around you – and a way to improve your sense of smell simply by learning to focus on it and being mindful of what you sense – it’s also an important exercise in the current climate. As a spokesperson for the CCA commented on the joint project:
‘Both walking and smell have taken on added importance during the pandemic. Jan’s hope, as we try to figure out what a ‘new normal’ could be, is that we take the opportunity to maintain a slower pace. That we will reflect on our experiences with a quiet activism, that utilises taking time to do nothing but wander around, and in this case, notice what we can smell and sense around us.’
Indeed, Jan drives this point home on her blog, saying that ‘Smell has taken on special significance in the past year,’ and so ‘If you have experienced a loss of change in your sense of smell AbScent.org is a UK charity that offers support and advice to people with smell disorders.’
Sensehacking is the just-published book by professor Charles Spence, and the tantalising subtitle – ‘How to Use the Power of Your Senses for Happier, Healthier Living’ – suggests we can all make use of these hidden super-powers…
We’re adding SO many great books to our Fragrant Reads section, lately (and might have to add more bookshelves soon!) and this latest is particularly exciting. ‘How can the furniture in your home affect your well-being? What colour clothing will help you play sport better? And what simple trick will calm you after a tense day at work?’ These are the questions posed (and answered) by Oxford professor Charles Spence – an expert on the senses who we’ve seen speak at IFRA Fragrance Forums over the years, and whose research has often sparked or informed many fragrant features of our own. As head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Spence focuses on how our senses often overlap – sometimes very confusingly – and this book aims to demonstrate how ‘…our senses change how we think and feel, and how by ‘hacking’ them we can reduce stress, become more productive and be happier.’
Exploring how our senses are constantly stimulated – in nature, while in the workplace, at home or while we play – Spence splices his cutting-edge scientific research with practical examples of how we can use this knowledge to our benefit. For example, now we’ve all been constrained due to the global pandemic, Spence drives home the point of how beneficial going out for a walk can be, for our mental health perhaps even more than physically. In the Garden chapter, he cites how even ‘Two thousand years ago, Taoists in the Far East were already advocating in print the health benefits of gardening and greenhouses.’ And recent studies have revealed those who regularly spend time in quiet contemplation on a woodland walk – a practice known in Japan as shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’ – ‘…exhibit lower stress levels as well as an enhanced immune response.’
There’s some fascinating sections on how we’re ‘led by the nose’, too. Ask most people about how they think large corporations try to entice us with smell and many will say something about supermarkets and the ‘fake’ but tempting waft of freshly baked bread. Spence reveals that no research is available on this subject – ‘It’s not that the research hasn’t been done, you understand, for it most certainly has. It is just that the supermarkets have chosen not to share their findings.’ But at least that baked bread smell is ‘unlikely to be artificial’ he explains, because ‘the delectable smell of freshly baked bread is one of the aromas that, at least until very recently, chemists struggled to imitate synthetically.’
From the tricks of ‘Subliminal seduction’ and ‘Multisensory shopping online’, the way are senses are appealed to and why we find certain things/people/experiences more appealing than others, to what the future holds for ways we can hack our senses; it’s certainly a thrilling read. And will provide you many ready answers to the inevitable questions we fragrance-lovers always get: ‘Why are you so obsessed with perfume? Doesn’t it just smell nice, and that’s it?’ Well, we’ve always known there’s far more to it than that, and now you can recommend this book for any olfactory nay-sayers you might meet…
Sensehacking: How to Use the Power of Your Senses for Happier, Healthier Living by Charles Spence (Viking Books)
Buy it at WHSmith
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.
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…
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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