Perfumes – mixtures of fragrant essential oils, aroma compounds, fixatives and solvents. Used all the way from the earliest human civilizations up till now. Modern perfumery industry offers a gazillion different smells for women, men and unisex. How can you choose your perfect perfume?
The word perfume itself derives from the Latin perfumare which literally means “to smoke through”. The perfume making began in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indus and maybe even in Ancient China. Later on it was further refined by the Romans and the Arabs.
The world’s first ever recorded chemist is considered to be a woman names Tapputi. She was a perfume makes in Mesopotamia and would distill flowers, oils and other aromatics, later filter them and distill them several more times.
In ancient times people mainly used herbs and spices, such as almond, coriander, myrtle, conifer resin, bergamot and also flowers to create perfumes. In the 9th century the Arab chemist Al-Kindi wrote the book about perfume making which contained over a hundred recipes and methods. The art of perfumery was a known practice of western european monks in the 12th century. Between the 16th and 17th century perfumes were primarily used by the wealthy to mask body odors resulting from infrequent bathing. By the 18th century the Grasse region of France, Sicily and Calabria were growing aromatic plants to provide the growing perfume industry with raw materials. France and Italy still remain the center of European perfume design and trade today.
There are a few different types of fragrances, specified by an approximate concentration of perfume oil in the volume of the final product. Parfum or extrait also known as simply perfume contains from 15 – 40 % or aromatic compounds. Esprit de parfum uses anywhere from 15 – 30 %. The most commonly used type, eau de parfum typically contains from 10 – 20 % aromatic compounds and is usually sold as “perfume”. Eau de toilette contains 5 – 15 % and eau de Cologne from 3 – 8 %. There is also eau fraiche, also known as a mist or veil which generally contain less than 3% aromatic compounds and is diluted with water rather than oil or alcohol.
The percentage of aromatic compounds is an important indicator of the longevity and the intensity of the scent. Higher the percentage the longer it lasts on your skin, but the scent will also be stronger than a lower percentage.
Perfume is described in a musical metaphor as having three sets of notes, making the harmonious scent accord. The notes unfold over time, with the immediate impression of the top note leading to the deeper middle notes, and the base notes gradually appearing as the final stage. These notes are created carefully with knowledge of the evaporation process of the perfume.
also called head notes are the scents that are perceived immediately on application or a perfume. They consist of small, light molecules that evaporate quickly.
also called heart notes are the main body of a perfume. They are meant to mask the often unpleasant initial impression of base notes, which become more pleasant with time.
bring depth and solidity to a perfume. The base and middle tones together are the main theme of a perfume. They are typically rich and deep, but usually perceived only 30 mins after application.
There are four main scent notes – floral, fresh, woody and oriental.
Florals are then further divided into floral, soft floral, floral oriental and fruity (which can contain half floral and half fresh notes). Fresh notes are divided into green, water, citrus and aromatic (which can also contain half fresh and half woody notes). Woody notes are further divided into dry wood, mossy wood, plain woody or oriental woody (which contains more oriental notes, but still some woody ones as well). Oriental notes can be strong and plain orientals, or more soft.
Now that we know all the basics we can focus on helping you find your perfect perfume.
I have been a lover of perfumes for as long as I can remember. I used to visit the drugstore everyday after school and smell all the different fragrances with my friends. My mum is also a big fan of perfumes – she never leaves the house without spraying on some perfume. For as long as I can remember her signature scent was the Dolce & Gabbana The One. This was also my first “real” perfume and what initially made me interested in them. I used to buy a bunch of low priced perfumes from Zara or other fashion stores and I liked them, but they weren’t very long lasting and were often discontinued.
I remember working as a makeup advisor in a well known drugstore so I would always chat with the girls at the perfume section and discover new scents. That’s how I found one of my all time favorites, the Dolce & Gabbana Dolce Garden. I already wrote about this perfume in a post, so feel free to read it if you want to know why I love it so much. That’s the perfume that really made me want to know more about the art of perfumery. Me and my mum visited a perfume factory in Eze, France and we saw the whole process of what goes into making a perfume. I was not that into it back then, but I would definitely love to visit more perfumeries and get to know the process a bit more.
Now I’m already dipping my toe into the water of niche perfumes. My first introduction to them was when I was briefly working for this boutique that sells brands like Amouage, Juliette has a gun, Tom Ford and some others as well. I was initially shocked over the price of these perfumes, but after some further research I realized the quality of these is much better than the “regular” perfumes. The ingredients are much better quality and the brands that sell niche perfumes are normally only focused on developing new fragrances rather than it being just another section of their brand. Niche perfumes are handcrafted, made by smaller and independent perfume houses on a smaller scale. They normally have a distinct story or inspiration that makes you want the perfume and makes it more personal.
Enough of my rambling, let’s get into picking out your perfect perfume.
The first thing that you want to do is to look around you. You’ve probably purchased some perfumes before, whether it’s from drugstores or clothing stores. You must have at least one or two favorites that you reach for more often than others. Analyze those by the type of scents – are they floral? Fresh? Oriental? Woody? I use the website fragrantica to define the top, middle and base notes because my nose is simply not trained well enough to pick that up on its own. The website is also really helpful to recommend similar perfumes based on your preferences. So before you purchase a perfume or even a sample make sure to check it out over there first.
As I mentioned I used to work at a drugstore so before buying a perfume I’d spray it on a few times and wear it to really see if I like it. Perfumes don’t smell the same on everyone, smells are very personal. That means that if you like how a perfume smells on someone you might not like it on yourself. That’s why it’s important to try it out first.
Also, as mentioned before the base notes don’t develop up until 30 minutes after application, so simply spraying it on your wrist at the drugstore doesn’t show you the full scent of a perfume. I love the fact that Notino, my favorite online drugstore, offers so many perfume samples. Drugstores usually aren’t very well stocked with the samples and there are some more special or niche perfumes that can’t be purchased there.
When trying out multiple samples make sure to give it some time. Don’t test them all in the span of a week, it will be harder to determine which one you like the most because your nose will be too overwhelmed with all the new smells.
One of the most important things is also the use of the perfume. Are you looking for a new signature scent that you wear when you feel your best? Or are you looking for a light, everyday perfume? Maybe something stronger, sexier for a date night out? These are also factors to consider when picking out your new perfume.
Also, different seasons mean different scents. Lighter, floral and fresh scents are perfect for summer, when deeper, heavier oud and oriental perfumes are meant more for winter.
Finding a scent you love can be challenging, but if you know what you’re looking for, and how to look for it, the experience can be enjoyable, especially when you’re armed with the knowledge of scents to change your daily life.
That concludes today’s blog post! I hope you learned something new and good luck finding your new perfect perfume x