Monthly Archives: March 2012

Never forget, a perfume created with a precise balance between passion and skill, is a work of art in the same way that a painting, a sculpture a piece of music or a film is. It is a composition with a pace and a rhytm. It has textures, and characters in the form of notes that share the limelight sometimes as divas sometimes as ensembles. A perfume changes and evolves according to a dramaturgy invented in someone’s mind and orchestrated with tender care. It is constant dialogue with you, with your skin and your self.

Never forget, perfume is not “cosmetics”. Perfume is Art.

A few days ago I ordered some samples from First in Fragrance. I have not been in contact with them before so I was curious to both get my hands on some fragrances that I am curious about – and to see how their service works. I also know that some of you are interested in starting to buy samples but a bit unsure on how exactly it works. So let’s use this process of mine as an example.

When you enter the website you search for a fragrance or brand. In my case I was looking for Keiko Mecheri. When you find fragrances that you are interested in you just click the sample box. I recommend using Fragrantica and Basenotes as additional sources for information if you are looking at fragrances that you have not tried in a store. After you have your shopping completed you fill in all the info, pay and wait.

After a few days you get a nice envelope that contains this.

Everything is really carefully and neatly packed and the samples isolated so they don’t affect the paper strips. I think it is really nice that you get a generous amount of these!! My sample kit consists of two Keiko Mecheri fragrances and two Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561. The Keiko Mecheri I have tried in a store (love Musc) and the Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561 I have only read about.

So this is basically how it can work. My impression of First of Fragrance is that everything went very fast and smoothly so I feel that I can recommend them to you. If you are interested in sample from only one specific brand I suggest however that you contact them or look at their website as there are often very nice sample kits. 

Musk is used in basenotes and as a fixative, it extends the fragrance’s life and can reinforce other ingredients. It is originally derived from glands of a male musk deer (the very word musk comes from the word for testicle in sanskrit). If you are interested in the details of musk extraction some googling will provide you with rather explicit descriptions. Today, however the musk used in fragrances is usually synthetic. The main reasons are said to be ethical and economical since the natural production has caused extensive killing of animals. It appears to me after some research though that in fact animals can rub the glands off by themselves so that they drop on the ground which means that musk should be able to be collected like this. But finding these glands would be very time-consuming of course.

Musk affects us hormonally and emotionally. It is associated with male sweat (more on this in a pheromone focused post coming up) and is said to affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and her ability to become pregnant. Women perceive musk more during ovulation. It is however common that men and women cannot detect musk at all. In fact rather few people both sense and can define musk. Those who can, describe it as animalistic, earthy, primitive, clean etc.

Musk deer are originally from Tibet where musk is viewed as a remedy for a bit of everything. In China it has been used for medical treatments for at least 1500 years. It is a bit unclear when musk came to Europe but it is known that musk was part of a gift from the sultan Saladin to the Emperor of Eastern Rome in Constantinople. In the late 1200s musk appeared as a commodity in Venice. Musk was appreciated because of its healing effects but also a bit of a problem in terms of logistics because the smell affected other goods on the same ships, such as the valuable tea leaves. Even small amounts have strong effects on a fragrance formula.

Musk is a mythical and interesting ingredient in perfume. But not only in perfume… rather in scents in general. The powers will lead you into the area of pheromones if you start googling and then before you know you are in the most intricate olfactory-hormonal labyrinths.

Tonight I am playing some seriously advanced mind games on myself trying out ten perfumes pour hommes on my skin as a part of the process of creating a perfume wardrobe for a male friend. I would say that 2/3 of my suggestions will be unisex fragrances. But that last third will be light contemporary masculinevaganza olfactory zones where I would never go on my own skin.

The fragrances will of course smell entirely differently on him than on me, but to get some sort of feeling for how they live and breathe with human skin and warmth I am doing a first round on my arms. The effects of this experiment are unknown. The atmosphere in my apartment slightly surreal with all these olfactory testosterone ghosts lingering.

This is fun. So much fun. I have found a few matches, a few risky adventures and a few surprises. Some question marks regarding whether EdP or EdT will be more suitable. But what great questions these are to dwell upon…

Seems there are many questions around this topics so I have updated two old posts and merged them to this one guideline to concentration types an things related. First; don’t feel stupid if you feel unsure about the abbreviations and what their purpose is. Just grab a coffee, sit down and let’s go through the basics, and soon you will see that those little letters on the bottle are not there to confuse you but rather to help you find what is right for you. If you are at home you might find it helpful to do a little exercise – go get your fragrance bottles.

Many people have a mix of perfumes, Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette standing in their home. (That’s another important topic: keep your fragrances in a place where they are not exposed to heat and sunlight!). It is not unlikely that this mix has been created quite subconsciously. Perhaps you preferred the EdT of one fragrance but the EdP version of another. Perhaps you just didn’t notice. Perhaps…you are confused why your fragrance does not smell like it does on your friend or like when you “tried it another time in that store…”. This post can provide you with some answers.

What do the abbreviations mean?
Perfume oil is always diluted with a solvent (ethanol or water/ethanol), so that it does not cause an allergic reaction. The abbreviations tell you the strength of a fragrance, based on the concentration of the perfume oil/aromatics used in it.

Guideline (taken from Wikipedia):
▪ Perfume: 15-40% aromatic compounds
▪ Eau de Parfum & Parfum de Toilette: 10-20% aromatic compounds
▪ Eau de Toilette: 5-15% aromatic compounds
▪ Eau de Cologne: 3-8% aromatic compounds
▪ Aftershave: 1-3% aromatic compounds

Why does it matter?
The concentration affects application, longevity and your experience of a fragrance. You don’t have to be either a perfume, EdP- or an EdT-person. Stay open to experimenting and finding your personal comfort level from fragrance to fragrance. Think about situations. Ask yourself how impactful you want your scent to be, to others and to yourself. However, it is also not unusual that someone does in fact prefer one of the categories. For example, I am a perfume person, probably to a large extent because I am drawn to base notes. 

Quick summary
Perfume: gives you the fullest, purest, most long-lasting experience of the fragrance. Perfume is gently caressed onto skin, not sprayed.
Eau de Parfum:
 has lower concentration than perfume and is often focused on heart notes. Still provides you with a rich sensation.
Eau de Toilette: 
the concentration of perfume oils is not so high and if you want the scent to last the entire day you will probably need to reapply it. It is the lightest version of a fragrance.

Application: pulse points or mist
Traditionally, experts recommend putting your fragrance on your pulse points, that is on the wrists, behind your ears, on neck, behind the elbow and backs of your knees. If you do all of them or just one is highly individual. I have a couple of perfumes that I avoid having near the face but love on the wrists for example. Also the sillage affects what application amount/method works best. A perfume that diffuses a lot should be applied with caution. Perfume is gently applied to pulse points and don’t rub it when it is on the skin.

A more modern method is that of spraying your fragrance in the air and then stepping through the mist. This works great for an EdP or EdT. Nota bene, spraying here means once or twice, not more. You might also have read about perfume in your hair – applied by spraying your fragrance on your brush before brushing your hair. 
Key message: be moderate. Too much perfume is never a good way to go. Never.
Photo Frank Carter 
It should be added here that fragrances do last longer or shorter, not only depending on perfume oil percentage, depending on the person. For example if you have dry skin you are likely to feel like your fragrance evaporates faster.

You know already that fragrances smell differently on different people. But a fragrance can also seem different on you from one occasion to another. Stress, medication or hormonal changes can make a fragrance smell in a new way, (probably worse, if you noticed it). That also explains why sometimes people use their old favorite fragrance and suddenly do not like it at all. Try another one, or just give it some time and then re-unite.

This has been an interesting week. Las weekend Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter had an article in the Sunday paper about perfume. I am really honored that I was chosen as one of the persons that they interviewed. The appearance has led to e-mails from people in different countries with various great and interesting questions. Some of the topics that I have had the pleasure of discussing via e-mail in these last days are vintage perfumes, samples, where to buy perfume online, should you wear perfume everyday, is it ok to wear perfume in a restaurant, how to support a child’s interest in scents… Well, you get the picture. Amazing topics and I feel privileged to be the person asked for advice. I have kept all these thoughts in an Inspiration File for future articles, posts etc. But I thought I would adress one of the topics here as it might help you accelerate your perfume curiosity.

As followers of this blog know I am a strong opponent to hasty stressful perfume shopping and to shops that sell perfume in such a way. A new perfume is an intimate acquaintance and deserves a more sublime process. It takes a few hours to discover the character of a perfume – even if it indeed IS a perfect match. So, I am pro samples and pro perfume shops that understand when a client comes the third time in a week and wants to try the same perfume. And so on. I think samples are great. Yes, it is not always optimal for every perfume (more about this in a later post!) but generally they are a great tool. A sample allows you to try a perfume for a few days, and it is less of a decision and expense than a full bottle so it becomes easy and fun to try more new fragrances. Perhaps you have identified a note that you love – say vanilla or vetiver. These two come in so many different varieties and are used in completely different ways. Samples allow you to discover the spectra of your favorite note which will teach you more about it – and help you find The Right One For You.

A lot of samples also circulate around me as I sometimes help people find a new perfume. This is one of my favorite things to do, it is so much fun and leads to SUCH great conversations. When I have an idea of what would work and what this specific person is looking for in terms of notes or character and the needs (for example if it is a signature scent or a perfume wardrobe) I will usually give them a couple of samples to try out for a while before making a decision. (Remember – perfumes need skin. Just the perfume is only half the story).

The obvious question then is: where to get samples? One way is to ask at the perfume shop. Sometimes they will have the sample you want and sometimes not. Not all perfume houses provide samples. Some shops are reluctant to hand them out it seems and this is a bit of a sad attitude problem – if that is the case find another shop. However, and this is important: the perfume in a sample that is given for free has been produced with as much care and investment as the perfume in the bottle. So treat your perfume samples with respect. The other way to get samples of fragrances that is becoming increasingly common, is to buy them from the perfume houses through their web shops. Sometimes they offer miniatures of separate scents and sometimes a kit with a selection of scents. This is a great and affordable way to try a new fragrance, or to get to know a perfume house better. The third alternative is to go through one of the companies/websites that are specialized in samples. Examples of these are The Perfumed Court, First in Fragrance and The Posh Peasant. These three are the ones that I have heard most about but if you know of other similar websites please share! It seems to be that there are more options in the US than in Europe so it would be fun to see this develop globally as shipping makes even limited shopping slightly more expensive. I love these websites and I think it is great that small amounts of perfume are becoming accessible as a commodity. The range of brands and products is very impressive which allows you to choose your own little collections of samples around a theme, for example a nose, a note, a brand. It is also a super-smart risk-free way to introduce someone else to a fragrance that you think they might like. Last night I browsed First in Fragrance to find a musc scent that I think a friend of mine would like, and created a little kit of Keiko Mecheri fragrances for myself as I am curious about this brand but have not yet identified my match in their range. This is a great way to end a Friday night for a perfume nerd like me!

Long post this one… But hoping its helpful! 🙂 Happy hunting! 

The world of perfumes is one of the most hierarchical systems I can think of. Not only is the hierarchy there, it is unquestionable and obvious.

As, in this case, it should be.

There are individuals in this world who breathe and dream scents and spend their entire lives searching for new ways to bring out the best in different notes, to create new dances between them, to tell new stories. Individuals who fight against compromise. Who look for the perfect resinoid, rose, vetiver, vanilla, ambergris, nutmeg… These individuals are artists, musicians and magicians.

What you get in a bottle made of someone with passion is special. It’s a Perfume with capital P.

This is my recommendation, when shopping for perfume, go for the best you can find. But it costs a fortune, you say. Well, yes, sometimes excellence is expensive. Not always though, and actually mediocrity can be pretty pricey too if you think about it. Plus you don’t need the biggest bottle, and you don’t need 15 almost-perfect perfumes. Take the time to discover what you love and then go for that in the quantity that you can afford.

But what is it that makes a perfume extra-ordinary? What is really the difference?

This is what I look for in my experience, and what I invest in:
– An interesting combination of notes: to create exquisite combinations you need talent, experience and time
– Precision and perfection of proportion: perfume creation is art and science combined, at a very high level. Slight differences in proportions create an entirely different experience.
– High-quality ingredients: expensive ingredients create an expensive perfume. Enough said.
– An interesting experience: perfume is like music. It tells a story and includes different stages. The ability to be able to create and control this is one of the perfumer’s tasks. Some perfumes are a flat sensation. Like a song without chorus and verse. These are the ones to avoid. Some take you through an entire odyssey of sensations during a day.
– Longevity: this is perhaps an individual preference but I do prefer a perfume that lasts from morning to afternoon as this gives me a sense of a fuller story.
– Pleasure: a perfume that is right for you isn’t “difficult to wear”. It doesn’t itch, irritate, distract unpleasantly, make you sneeze or feel thorny. If your perfume does you are using the wrong one. A perfume should feel like an embrace that is like a caress. A little bit tickling perhaps, but in a caressy way.

Isn’t it all in the imagination? No. It’s not. This is real. This is pleasure, creativity, sensation, inspiration and passion at its best. This is Perfume.

Jean-Claude Ellena