Carlos Benaïm – one of the most charming ‘noses’ we’ve ever met – talks scents…

When Carlos Benaïm landed from New York on a flying visit, we settled down into a pair of leather chairs and asked him to share his scent memories.

One of the perfumers we’ve been most charmed by in all our years of hanging out with ‘noses’, Carlos is a veteran of the industry, with so many fragrances to his name: the blockbuster Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb (with Olivier Polge and Domitille Bertier), Boucheron Jaipur Bracelet, Bulgari Jasmin Noir, Calvin Klein Eupohoria and Ralph Lauren Polo – among many others we’ve worn, loved or admired. More recently, he’s created for Frederic Malle, including the airily fresh and so-wearable Eau de Magnolia, as well as the sublime modern classic Icon for Dunhill.

His appreciation of scents and smells started early. ‘As a young boy I would often accompany my grandfather to the marketplace in Tangier and I remember the smells of the spices and fruits, oranges, peaches, melons and apricots – they are engraved in my memory…’

When summing up his career, we also love these words from Carlos: ‘There’s an old Arab saying: whatever is not given, is lost. That’s how I’ve tried to live my life and my career.’

What is your first ‘scent memory’?
The scent of my grandmother’s kitchen, cinnamon, mixed with sugar and other sweet smells. She’s someone I was very close to growing up in Tangiers, in Morocco; I was raised there, although my background is Spanish. I left Morocco at 17 to study chemical engineering and then at 23 went to Paris and New York, studying to be a nose alongside head perfumers Bernard Chant and Ernest Shiftan at International Flavors & Fragrances – I never went to a ‘classical’ perfumery school and for me, it was more like an apprenticeship.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

  • Orris (iris) – an elegant smell; there’s something so cool (temperature-wise) about it that I really like.
  • Sweets and baking smells and chocolate – because I have a sweet tooth, and I’m often caught with something sweet!
  • Smells that remind me of my mother: Femme and Mitsouko – I always recognise both of those smells right away, which brings back wonderful memories.
  • Fruits. I love the smell of fruits, particularly raspberries and peaches, pineapple, cassis, blackberry, blackcurrant. There is nothing like the smell of a fresh-picked French raspberry; they taste and smell completely different to the ones you can buy in New York – so much more perfumed…
  • Tobacco. This is the smell of my grandfather; he used to have snuff tobacco, and my father who was a pharmacist used to perfume it, either with a violet perfume or a geranium aroma. It was a very rough tobacco from Morocco and that combination was very haunting, blended with those sweet notes. I use it a lot in fragrance as a note; I used to smoke when I was young and fortunately I stopped, but I do like a little ‘hit’ from using tobacco.

And your least favourite?
I hate the smell of garbage – but that’s an obvious one. Actually, I don’t like the smell of cats and dogs. We don’t have animals because my wife is very allergic to them – but I don’t like their scent, either.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
The great Guerlains: the Mitsoukos, the Shalimars… My grandmother used to wear Shalimar. Those are magnificent, absolutely wonderful, with their mossiness – not just oakmoss, but the other mosses, which we’re restricted from using so much these days.

Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain? Is a mood-board helpful?
Everything is helpful for me. A fragrance is a mood, it’s colour, it’s form – and so it’s definitely visual as well; I build up a picture in my mind, and start trying to bring it to life. It’s a process that takes several months.

Do you have a favourite bottle, from those which have been used for your creations?
I’m very fond of the Ralph Lauren Polo bottle, which is also very significant for me because it was my first success. I also love the bottle for Flowerbomb.

Does your nose ever switch off!
As a perfumer, you can switch off being in ‘work mode’, to a ‘not actively searching’ mode. When my nose is ‘on’, I’m sensing the environment, I’m interested in the smells around me, I’m trying to put my effort into understanding what’s going on in, say, that particular flower. But I like to relax, too, and my nose relaxes at the same time.

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?
Be interested; that’s really the key. Pay attention and try to ‘fix’ smells in your mind by putting words to them. That’s how a perfumer starts; you smell everything, and you can’t remember abstract smells so you have to label them – I would smell something and think, ‘ah, that’s the wood in my grandmother’s house’ – and that’s how I’d be able to remember it…

 

Scent survival guide: what to do if a fragrance doesn’t suit you?

Did you take the plunge and blind-buy yourself a full size scent in the January sales, only to discover that it really isn’t ‘you’? Or perhaps you were gifted something over Christmas from a loved one who really should have put more thought into the scent they chose?

How to deal with the devastation can be difficult – social ettiquette suggests it’s best not to scream ‘what were you THINKING?!’ at the loved one, and if you’ve only yourself to blame, it’s even worse.

But do not deapair! We present our Scent Survival guide to try before the tears…

1: Are you sure you don’t like it?

This might sound like a silly question, but please don’t make any hasty decisons. Is it simply not your ‘usual’? The idea of a Signature Scent is a wee bit dated these days, plus did you know that after a while, your nose can get ‘used to’ a scent, and you won’t get that fragrant hit you once adored if you wear it every day.

A fragrance takes several hours to fully ‘develop’ on your skin: so many of us immediately discard them after the very first sniff! How about giving it a go on a few differing occasions, tracking its progress throughout the day? It’s only fair…

2: Layer up

It used to be considered a cardinal sin of the scent world, but in the past few years it’s a huge trend we’ve seen fully blossom. Try layering the scent with a differing fragranced body lotion (Top Tip: this also makes any fragrance last longer, as perfume disappears far faster on dry skin), or with one (or more!) other scents you already like.

You might create your own ‘bespoke’ blend and be pleasantly surprised…

3: Wear it well

The heat of your skin can drastically change the way a perfume smells, which is partly why not all scents smell the same on everyone, but how about wearing it a different way?

Spraying perfume on a scarf, or even in your hair, is a wonderful way of trying something new. Also, this tends to prolong the top and heart notes of a perfume, so if it’s the base or ‘dry down’ that’s putting you off, you’re on to a win-win…

4: Changes, changes

Are you aware the weather (along with our mood and even what we’ve eaten several days previous to trying a scent) can hugely alter the way we perceive a perfume?

Cold weather will prolong the top and heart notes on your skin, with warmer days meaning the fragrance will ‘bloom’ (journey through all the notes) on your skin much more quickly. We’re always thrilled to discover something we thought we didn’t like in winter becomes the hit of the summer. There’s still hope…

5: Do some research… and treat yourself!

Look up your favourite fragrance on our genius Find a Fragrance tool, known as FR.eD for short, and you’ll be given several suggestions of other perfumes you’re bound to like. We’re sorry your gift-giver didn’t get it right, but life is too short for perfumes to be gathering dust.

Or why not just re-gift the mistake and treat yourself to something new? Check out our fantastic sale to explore a whole wardrobe of perfumes from the comfort of your own home, and in try-me sizes that mean you can luxuriate in the scents for a few days, to really make sure you love them…

By Suzy Nightingale

Gourmande Jayne: Ormonde Jayne get figgy with it

Linda Pilkington, founder and CEO of London-based niche perfumery Ormonde Jayne, is never one for sitting still. Whenever we meet her, she’s dashing back and forth at 100 miles an hour, always brimming with creativity and new ideas, the latest being Gourmande Jayne

‘Gourmande Jayne’ is a natural extension of Linda’s scented world –  a blog ‘defining scent and good eating’ that features lifestyle tips, fashion and beauty, advice for gardeners, travel diaries as Linda hunts for new fragrance ingredients, how-to videos and deliciously scented recipes she’s constantly inspired by – showing the world how to bring fragrance into every area of life, to enhance to joy of every day. Quite frankly, we’re not sure how she find the time, but we’re awfully glad she does!

We’re especially loving the recipe for Baked Figs with Goat’s Cheese (and the serving suggestion – ‘serve warm with a glass of wine!’) which we first got to taste at the wonderful Ormonde Jayne Christmas Showcase (watch out for our Christmas issue of The Scented Letter Magazine for more new on the fragrant goodies in store!)

See the recipe, below, and watch Linda prepare hers by visiting the Gourmet section of the blog. We promise you it taste (and smells!) amazing, and it’s just the thing for warming your cockles when the wether’s a bit cooler, but you don’t feel quite ready for rib-sticking stews just yet. We’re holding off the donning of tights for a while, and holding on to thoughts of summer holidays by eating these, and quaffing wine while we’re at it. Only because it’s suggested, of course…

Gourmande Jayne Baked Figs with Goat’s Cheese

Ingredients:
Medium size figs
Soft goats cheese
Chopped walnuts
Chopped fresh sage
Clear honey
Salt and pepper

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 200 C – Cut off fig stems and cut an X at the top of fig half way down.
Using a teaspoon, stuff soft goats cheese into the fig. Sprinkle with the fresh fine chopped sage and chopped walnuts.
Drizzle with a little honey and small amount of add salt and pepper to taste.
Place in a baking dish.
Place in oven for about 5 minutes.
Serve warm with a glass of wine!

Written by Suzy Nightingale

[Recipe and photos by Linda Pilkington]

These 5 tricks help your fragrance last longer…

Ever had a favourite perfume that just wont last on your skin? Find out why and follow our five tops tips, below, to make your scent stick around…
Why does my perfume ‘disappear’ so quickly?
From the moment you apply: the top notes, or ‘head’ notes last around 5-15  minutes before they disappear. Yet another reason why you should never judge a perfume as soon as you’ve sprayed! The middle (heart) notes last from two to four hours, and convey the main character of the fragrance. The base notes or “dry down” usually lasts from four to six hours.
Perfume likes to ‘cling’ to skin, so they tend to last far longer on oilier-complexioned people. The strength of the fragrance is also a factor, and so are the notes:  deep, smouldering base notes – the woods, resins, leather and tobacco etc. – are ‘heavier’ in structure, so evaporate more slowly. A citrus-fresh cologne will never last as long as an Oriental eau de parfum.
Perfume can last four to six hours (or even longer), depending on the strength of the juice you’re spritzing, how dry your skin is or even what the weather’s like – perfumes dissipate much faster on dry skins, or when the air is particularly dry. But what can you do if, even in winter, your scent is scarpering more quickly than you’d like?

How can I make my perfume last?
1 Use matching body products, if available, or unscented if not – it’s a beautiful way to ‘layer’ on your fragrance; body creams and body lotions, in particular, add emollients which hold perfume.  If these range extensions aren’t available, go for an unscented body cream, butter or lotion which won’t clash with your chosen scent. Think of it as a primer for perfume.
2 Switch to a stronger formulation. Eau de parfum, pure parfum and extrait are highly concentrated formulas that will smell stronger and last longer. They may be more expensive, but you can end up using far less. Win-win!

3 Try spraying your hair as well as your skin – though be careful if the perfume is dark in colour as you may unintentionally dye your hair! (Test on a tissue, first.) Hair is porous and will waft the scent even longer than on your skin in many cases.
4 Spritz a scarf with with scent and the heat of your body will make the fragrance bloom. Also a handy way to try a new fragrance you’re not sure of. Bored of it? Simply take the scarf off and try something else…
5 Remember that the nose becomes desensitised and quickly gets used to the notes of your perfume. Although you may not be able to smell it at all after 30-40 minutes, your friends and colleagues may still be able to, so maybe ask a friend if they can still smell it before dousing yourself again (tempting as we find it!)
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Which are the most fragrant roses on earth? Read our guide to a heavenly scented garden…

Is anything more disappointing than spotting a voluptuously gorgeous rose, cupping it gently in your hands and going in for the sniff… only to discover it’s completely without scent? Obviously we adore fragrance here at The Perfume Society, and roses just have to be in our Top Three Flowers Ever – so as part of our on-going celebrations we’d love to share with you a particularly fragrant feature on the very best scented roses you can grow, to make your garden smell like heaven on earth…
Written for us by Country Living Gardens editor, Stephanie Donaldson, The Most Fragrant Roses on Earth was previously an exclusive feature in our award-winning magazine, The Scented Letter… From interviews with the world’s top perfumers, a round-up of the latest launches you absolutely must sniff right now and a plethora of perfumed features – we have our finger firmly on the pulse to bring you all the news your nose should know.
Available in flickable-format online to subscribers, so many of you told us you were laboriously printing it out at home, page by page, that we listened and also made it available in a gorgeously glossy print version to satiate your scent-reading lusts (and save your printer cartridges!) In fact, we’re honoured to have readers worldwide, with the launch of our International Subscription, and now you can join the ever-growing throng to see the sort of thing you’ve been missing out on so far.
So, settle back with a cuppa and breathe in the heady scent of possibility for the rose garden of your dreams…




 
Written by Suzy Nightingale

The top 3 perfume tips to ensure you're a nose in the know…

‘Can you help save my marriage?’ is probably the most – um, unexpected request we’ve had (terribly nice chap who phoned to ask for advice on the things he should tell his wife in order to justify buying himself a rather costly bottle of niche perfume. Long story short: no lawyers needed, in this instance). But generally we get asked the same kind of questions time and again.
So what does this tell us? Something we already knew from experience: the world of perfume can be a rather overwhelming and bewildering place. Full of confusing language and conflicting advice that could dizzy the best of us in to an olfactory coma, it’s often a confusing and even off-putting arena in which to set foot (or nose).
Here at The Perfume Society we are proud to be celebrating our third birthday – founded by Jo Fairley and Lorna McKay, we exist exactly because of this befuddlement. Our ethos is to bring perfume alive through our informative website, award-winning magazine, exclusive events and Discovery Boxes to try at home, and we always aim to make fragrance accessible to perfume-lovers of all abilities!
However experienced your nose is, it’s good to get a refresher now and again – and our FAQs section is jam-packed with tips for how to choose a fragrance, what the ‘fragrance families’ mean, how ingredients are harvested (and the best perfumes to smell them in) and so much more. But before you get flitting around all things fragrant, let’s start with our all-time top three tips your nose should know…

1 – How can I choose a perfume that’s right for me?
Short answer:
It’s a minefield, right? Where to even begin? Well, our first tip is to give a perfume time. So many of us spray, sniff immediately (bascially it’s just the alcohol you’re smelling, with perhaps a mere whiff of top notes) and walk away. STOP this immediately. Sorry to nag, but it’s never going to get you the fragrance you really want.
Further advice:
Initially, try the fragrance on a blotter (also known as a perfume ‘spill’); these should be available on perfume counters – and when you buy a Discovery Box from this site, you’ll find a pack of blotters inside. Allow a few minutes for the alcohol and the top notes to subside, and then smell the blotters. At this stage you may be able to eliminate one or more, if they don’t appeal – but it is really the heart notes and the lingering base notes which you will live with, and which are crucial.
Remember:  blotters are a useful way of eliminating no-hopers and lining up possibilities, but they’re not really enough to base a perfume purchase on.  You really need to smell a scent on your skin.
Do make the most of FR.eD: The Perfume Society’s ‘virtual fragrance consultant’ who you’ll find on this site here (the name’s actually short for Fragrance Editor). You can tell FR.eD which perfumes you’re keen on, and ‘he’ will make a personalised selection, suggesting up to six fragrances at a time for you to try, at various price-points. Genius!

2 – How can I make fragrance last longer?
Short answer:
If you moisturise your skin, this gives the oils something to ‘cling’ to, and will boost its staying power.  So, if the ‘matching’ body products are available, it’s a beautiful way to layer on your fragrance. If these range extensions aren’t available, go for an unscented body cream, butter or lotion which won’t clash with your chosen scent. Think of it as a primer for perfume.
Further advice:
Try spraying your hair as well as your skin – though be careful if the perfume is dark in colour as you may unintentionally dye your hair… Hair is porous and will waft the scent even longer than on your skin in many cases.
Spritz a scarf with with scent and the heat of your body will make the fragrance bloom. Also a handy way to try a new fragrance you’re not sure of. Bored of it? Simply take the scarf off and try something else…
Remember that the nose becomes desensitised and quickly gets used to the notes of your perfume. Although you may not be able to smell it at all after 30-40 minutes, your friends and colleagues may still be able to, so ask a friend if they can still smell it before dousing yourself afresh (tempting as we find it!)

3 – My perfume seems different to how I remember it.  Is my nose playing tricks…?
Short answer:
Possibly – our memories of scent can sometimes differ wildly to the reality. However, it’s also entirely possible your old favourite’s formula has been changed. This is because, when an ingredient is classified as a potential allergen – by IFRA, the International Fragrance Association – two things may happen:  it can be banned altogether, or its use limited by percentage, to minimise the risk of a susceptible perfume-wearer reacting.
Further advice:
When an ingredient’s re-classified, perfumes may be ‘tweaked’ by the manufacturer.  In some cases, a process called ‘fractionation’ – which allows ingredient manufacturers to remove the allergenic molecule of an fragrance note, while leaving the rest intact – can allow the continued use of that ingredient.
Case in point:  oak moss – invaluable in the creation of the chypre family of perfumes – has become restricted.  Thierry Wasser, Guerlain’s in-house ‘nose’, explained to us that he now uses a ‘fractionated’ oak moss.  ‘However, when you fractionate an ingredient, it leaves a “hole”:  there is something missing,’ added Thierry.  His solution to filling the sensory ‘hole’ in oak moss was to add a touch of – believe it or not – celery.  It’s impossible to discern, to the rest of us – but it gave the rounded quality to that so-essential note that Thierry needed to return the classic Guerlain creation Mitsouko to its former, long-lasting glory.
Occasionally, however, a perfume may change because the company which makes it is bought by another, and the formulation changed.
Written by Suzy Nightingale