How to find your fragrant armour

Have you found your fragrant armour? There are times we need to reach for something to give us extra backbone, make us stand a little taller and feel able to deflect the slings and arrows slung at us by the world, or the cope with the circumstances we find ourselves in. So don’t worry: we’ve made it our mission to help you find yours…

As I write this, those circumstances are more pertinent than ever, my step father having suffered another stroke. In the unbearable period of sitting and waiting for news, amidst chaos and fear; wearing the right fragrance doesn’t only gives me something to cling to. Judiciously selected, they can climb inside me like a perfumed posession. I’m not quite myself when I wear them. And I like it.

A perfume wont make everything perfect, of course, but it can offer a kind of shield of protection – a fragrant cloak in which you waft surefootedly and go from clapped-out to kick-ass in just a few spritzes. It’s been proven that some aromas can significantly help calm us, but scientists always seem to foucs research on that scented moment of zen, when fragrance can do so much more than merely steady our nerves.

When I need that fist of steel within a velvet glove, I have consistently been reaching for my trusty travel-size Editions de Parfum Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady £47 for 10ml eau de parfum refill at fredericmalle.co.uk. A lady? Yes, but this one’s not for swooning. I picture an aristocratic dame in full 18th Century attire, frustrated with watching the antics of knights’ jousting, and deciding to pitch in herself. Swagged with 400 Turkish roses, sharp blackberry spears the skin-warmth of sandalwood, ripe raspberry unappologetically cutting a swathe through an almost chocolate-like patchouli and the base a frankincense trip to the confessional – but only to boast of her sins.

Perhaps you already have an elixir that works like a charm? I don’t mean something that smells nice, or even something you often wear and adore. Fragrant armour needs to go above and beyond. We’re not talking comfy jeans and a clean t-shirt, here. This scent needs to lift you to a higher plain, spark your imagination and leave others trailing (preferably quailing) in your perfumed wake.

There’s a peculiar alchemy in finding which fragrance works for you. It needs to have an element of comfort, but without being so pillowy and soft that it lulls you into a state of hazy languor. It should be familiar enough to fit you like a second skin, yet not so customary that it feels commonplace. And it needs to be recognisably you, but turned up to eleven: that superhero (or, perhaps, villainous?) version of yourself, who can destroy foes with a KAPOW! while wearing a catsuit and a satisfied smirk.

So, how to find yours?

First, have a look through your perfume collection (or samples you’ve tried and loved, recently), and do the Sniff Test. Spray several blotters (use some tissues or strips of thin card, if you don’t have any) and write the names of the fragrances on. Smell after a few minutes, and then return to them all within half an hour.

Secondly, you’re going to narrow down those that make you feel a frisson. Put aside those that make you go ‘OooOOooh!’ when you smell them, and trying them on your skin. No just “Mmm, yes, lovely’ reactions. This has to be an unbidden, visceral noise of satisfaction or surprise. Come back to each and smell them again, an hour after first spraying. Do any still excite you? Good. These are your starting point for the next step.

Now, type the name into our Find a Fragrance page. If you’re not sure of your favourite family, or want wider suggestions, just choose ‘not sure’ from the drop-down list.

It works by decoding one of your favourite perfumes, and suggesting six alternatives to try. It isn’t some pot-luck shot in the dark based on the ingredients and notes alone – we use key emotion-driven words given in the perfumer’s briefing, or the original inspiration behind the launch. And it’s really quite spookily accurate at predicting what you might like, and love…

My suggestions were for some I already tried, really love and must dig out or re-purchase to try again, and something that really caught my eye: BDK French Bouquet £195 for 100m eau de parfum at harrods.com. Now I’ve been meaning to try this, happened to have a sample kicking around, and so immediately sprayed some on. Oh. Oh YES.

Suddenly I’m in Paris (cliché, I know, but let’s go with it) and I’m wearing the kind of elegant suit and clicky heels I could absolutely never dream of without spraining an ankle or spilling soup on in real life. But in my dream I’m imbued with insouciant chicness, glossy hair gleaming in the sunshine of (what I later learn) is aldehyde C12 – a chemical compound found naturally in citrus oils – seamlessly blending bergamot, rose and jasmine alongside classic Chypre notes (my favourite family, hello) with what they describe a a ‘powdery yet potent effect.’ It’s slightly soapy, but very sexy. Not in a ‘come up and see me sometime’ sense, but rather a ‘hot damn I look great, today’ way. And heaven knows, we all need that.

It made me feel instantly pulled together and like I knew what I was doing. Which is far from the truth, and therefore most welcome. I’ll be adding this to my olfactory arsenal to be deployed as required. I suggest aquiring travel-sizes or samples for your armour (or weapons) of choice, to be carried about your person, whenever the need arises.

Think of your fragrant armour as the scented equivalent of the red lipstick, then. But the magic of this olfactory signal is that it’s invisible – and all the more powerful for being so. It’s your secret, a message written to yourself (in that red lipstick, emblazoned on a bathroom mirror) saying: ‘You’ve got this.’

By Suzy Nightingale

Cologne to Parfum: your easy guide to the strengths of scent

From Colognes to extraits, splashes to after shaves – there are so many differing types of fragrance categories now that it can be hard to tell one from another and where to begin. Read our handy guide, below, and get your nose in the know!
Descriptions like eau de toilette or eau de parfum are used to identify the strength or concentration of oil in a fragrance composition. These concentrations can vary from fragrance to fragrance (depending on how that particular brand like to blend their scents), but this is an average guide.

Extract/extrait/solid perfume – 20-30%

Perfume – 15-25 %

Eau de Parfum  (EDP) – 8-15%

Eau de Toilette (EDT) – 4-8%

Cologne (EDC) –  2-4%

Body cream/lotion –  3-4%

After Shave/Splash  – 2-4%

Soap – 2-4%

In general, the higher the percentage, the longer it will last on your skin, and therefore, the higher the price – but do be aware that different concentrations (Perfume, or Eau de Toilette, etc.) may sometimes have differing notes in them, and not simply be weaker or stronger. So when you like a fragrance, we suggest you explore it in all its different concentrations before you find your favourite…

Some people like to layer their scent types throughout the day – try starting with a refreshing splash of Cologne to get thoses senses revving, and then wear an eau de toilette for day time. As evening falls and you head out on the town, switch things up by adding a spritz of eau de parfum to leave a sultrier trail that will last as long your night does…
Is your nose twitching to find out more? See our brilliant FAQ section – there to answer your questions and set the scents out in plain English.
Written by Suzy Nightingale
 

Scents of solace: five fragrances to love and Hygge

There are times when a hug from someone you love is not possible, when well-meaning words of kindness simply will not suffice. It is then we reach for other sources of comfort – a cosy blanket, a much-loved book, a favourite fragrance…
2016 has witnessed various outpourings of sadness as much-loved celebrities have passed away and world events have bemused, bewildered and terrified in turn. You’ve probably noticed the Danish and Norwegian word, ‘Hygge’, is everywhere – not easily translated, it basically invokes a feeling of cosiness, hunkering down and surrounding yourself with comforting, nurturing things. Those of us who treasure the power of perfume know only too well its ability to amplify or even alter our mood, so is it any wonder we may turn to fragrance when seeking solace from one thing or another?

Photo by Urbanara.co.uk
Photo by Urbanara.co.uk

In controlled tests, the smell of vanilla has been shown time and again to elicit a soothing response, with some positing the suggestion the scent links us to childhood memories of warm milk, soft puddings, sticky bags of bonbons or even suckling at the breast. Others point to studies showing the reduced ‘startle-reflex’ effect in animals, when a vanilla smell is dispersed during stressful situations – including those who aren’t naturally suckled – and suggesting something far more complex is at work than a foodie’s blissful reverie.
Our sense of smell is so deeply rooted in emotion and memory, that scientists are only just beginning to piece together a hazy map of understanding which neurones fire-up when certain scents are wafted beneath our nostrils, and why they elicit such intense responses…
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For full-on vanilla bean gently buffed by the honeyed piquancy of quince and dark trickle of Peru balsam, we suggest you indulge your inner-magpie with this gloriously glittery bottle of what is, basically, an extremely sexy custard. Or crème anglaise, to put it more chicly. Either way, its decadently delicious and as it’s a limited edition, you should stock up now for future emergencies.
Michel Kors Midnight Shimmer £53.10 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Boots
Lavender, too, has long been used to soothe more than skin irritations, and Shakespeare’s Ophelia citing ‘rosemary for remembrance’ has been proved very possibly correct, extensive tests revealing concentration and memory can be greatly increased when sniffing the essential oil while studying and then accurately recalling lessons learned.
31tldkmpol-_sy300_One of the first flowers distilled by founder Olivier Baussan, L’Occitane uses lavender sourced from farmers’ cooperatives in Haute-Provence. This aromatic tribute to their homeland is the softest way there is to soothe frazzled nerves. We recommend dabbing directly on the temples and breathing deeply…
L’Occitane Lavender Relaxing Roll-On £12 for 10ml Cologne
Buy it at uk.loccitane.com
It isn’t just sprigs of fresh herbs and pure oils, of course: a perfume of any kind can be a powerful spell, if not to banish the black dog then at least to stop it growling for a while – a fragrance foothold on the slippery slope of adversity. And incense as a perfume ingredient is on the rise once again, with contemporary perfumers not merely evoking the frankincense-infused pews of a church, but using it in more intriguing ways.
205-73060631-dr100mrpf_mFabrice Pellegrin blends bergamot and a bracing splash of petit grain before spiralling into a hint of mint that awakens the senses (without smelling like mouthwash, we are happy to report). The dreamy haze of incense, iris and vanilla drift us to a mellow place where fevered brows are soothed by cool hands and everything is alright.
Dear Rose Mentha Religiossa £155 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Selfridges
Is there a particular perfume that raises a smile as you picture a loved one – a single spray and they appear: a genie from a scent bottle? Perhaps you have a fragrance to bolster your confidence – one to wear at that tough meeting, a scent equivalent to shoulder pads, a perfectly tailored suit or backbone in a bottle?
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Unapolagetically flirtatious, this is a snuggly cashmere stole nonchalantly draped around bare shoulders – white peony and Bulgarian rose melding beautifully into a bouquet that’s distinctly on the naughtier side of floral. And here the base is enhanced with a vivacious vetiver, which we always find becalming, don’t you?
Narcisso Rodriguez £35 for 30ml eau de toilette
Buy it at The Perfume Shop
Whether your choice of scent finds you full to the brim with girlish glee or finding succour in sadness as you revel in the emotion and let it find its natural level – in trying times, those pretty potions can be invisible shields, comfort blankets, a whole panoply of anchors or escape routes, if you only know where to find them.
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A blissful blanket with a steely underbelly sounds like something of a misnomer, but this just seems to exude waves of smooth confidence. ‘You’ll want to wrap it around you, lose yourself in the depth of the moment and suspend time’, they say. With rose, vanilla, a fizzy violet-powdered cloud and base of benzoin, we couldn’t agree more.
Maison Francis Kurkdjin Oud Satin Mood £195 for 70ml eau de parfum
Buy it at House of Fraser
What are your favourite fragrances to spritz when the going gets tough? Do get in touch by Tweeting, posting a picture and tagging us on Instagram or e-mail us – we’d love to know!
Now then, altogether: let us spray…
Written by Suzy Nightingale