The scent you wear says so much about you, without having to utter a word.
I have talked numerous times about my love affair with fragrance. For me, the scent you wear says so much about you, without having to utter a word. Smell is incredibly evocative and emotional and can have so much meaning. Personally, I feel like I’m missing something if I don’t have any on.
Perfumery has its own language and terms, so I wanted to decipher the language of scent and delve into some of its meaning. Often, we hear terms such as floriental, fresh, rich and spicy perfumes thrown around but what do these actually mean and are they even the correct technical terms to describe scents? Hopefully, this post will break down any jargon surrounding fragrance and help you to identify the types of scents which suit you.
A “fragrance note” is the individual elements which make up perfume. These can be natural or synthetic, although most fragrances are a blend of both. An “accord” is a balanced blend of fragrance notes which come together to create a completely new fragrance impression.
Many fragrances are structured as a pyramid consisting of: Top notes, Heart notes and Base notes. Top are the most volatile, heart notes give the fragrance its body, while base notes are those that stay with us the longest.
The term Fragrance Family is used to denote a particular but distinct group of notes. Every perfume can be classified into one of these families. The number of families isn’t set in stone but I’ve selected 8 of the most the popular.
Oriental: Warm richness lingering on the skin. A return to the earliest days of perfumery, with warm spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Plus, musks and resins such as amber and benzoin.
Floreintal: Sensual and addictive, warm and spicy! A sophisticated blend of florals and orientals such as jasmine, gardenia, freesia with warm musks and resins.
Fresh: Zesty & Citrusy, light and refreshing. This is great for splashing on in the summer. Often contains notes of lemon, bergamot, orange and grapefruit.
Chypre: Dry and woody and refreshingly green! The French word for Cyprus, where these key ingredients flourish. Accords of bergamot, oakmoss, labdanum and patchouli.
Floral: A celebration of blossoms and bouquets. This is the most popular family in fragrance creation! Think notes of peony, rose, gardenia, jasmine and mimosa.
Woody: A celebration of sandalwood, cedar and agarwood. This fragrance family is mostly masculine, with patchouli and vetiver for intensity.
Fougere: Green and mossy. The French word for fern with compositions featuring lavender, vetiver, oakmoss, geranium and coumarin.
Example scent: Eight & Bob Megeve
Gourmand: Temptingly delicious! Think caramel, toffee, chocolate, rich vanilla, addictive coffee and creamy desserts.
Example scent: Nina Ricci Luna
I personally tend to lean towards either woody, chypre or floral fragrances but whatever your preference here are a few final tips for finding the right scent.
1) Pay attention to the concentration, this is the percentage of oil in any given fragrance:
- Perfume: Between 20-40% (although most commonly about 30%) which offers long lasting intensity.
- Eau de Parfum: Between 10-20% and believed to be the best value for money as will usually last up to 4-5 hours.
- Eau de Toilette: Between 5-15% which should last up to 2-3 hours, perfect for daytime or at work.
- Eau de Cologne: Cologne is a specific construction with a lively effervescence and lacking base notes. Clive Christian’s 1872 mens version is worth having a whiff of if you’re looking for men’s fragrances.
2) Avoid buying in a rush. Fragrances need time to develop, so wait for the heart and base notes to emerge. The character of the fragrance will gradually evolve the longer it’s on your skin.
3) Fragrances can smell very different on someone else so don’t be swayed by what smells great on a friend. Even what you eat can have an effect, so avoid highly flavoured and pungent ingredients such as spices and garlic before fragrance shopping.
4) Three is key. Avoid sampling more than three fragrances at a time. There’s only so much your brain and nose can compute. Give your senses time to adjust.
5) Your sense of smell is much fresher in the morning. Also, stores tend to calmer first thing, so you’ll be able to explore in a quieter environment too.