In my daily life as Beauty Personal Shopping Queen, I often meet people who want me to help them find a fragrance
“I need a fragrance for my wedding” or “I want to smell like a chocolate coated musk stick” or “I want a coffee scent with a heart note of cigarettes” is often what I hear. OK, the last two are a slight embellishment, but I do hear some quirky requests and let me tell you, I am happy to oblige and show off my fragrance knowledge in these instances.
Buying fragrance is an emotional purchase and very personal. It can often remind us of something or someone significant. So to determine which scents you love, ask yourself these questions: Do you love roses? Do you love that bourbon vanilla note when you’re baking a cake? Or the smell of your leather pants (wannabe rock star)? Perhaps the smell of books? Or the scent of a moss-infused rock? Or all of the above? Hey, you’re quirky and I like it.
There are many choices when it comes to fragrance, which can get very confusing and complex when you’re trying to find your signature scent. To make it simple, if you’re a fragrance lover or just a beginner, your nose knows best (I had to) and will never lie to you. I once read a quote by a famous “Nose” (whose name escapes me at this moment) that read “If you can smell it, it’s probably in there”. Yes, I knew I could smell a snickers accord in that perfume that one time.
There are four major fragrance families and here they are along with some of the notes you can expect to find in each of them:
Floral: these will have notes like rose, jasmine, and orange blossom.
Jo Malone has some gorgeous scents and choosing is easy because their fragrances are split into categories for you. Floral, Light Floral, Fruity, Woody, Citrus, and Spicy. They also have their Cologne Intense range.
Velvet Rose and Oud is a standout, with its sophisticated Damascan rose accord and warm praline caramel oud base. Floral and woody notes. The best of both worlds.
Oriental: cinnamon, clove, vanilla, and nutmeg.
Giorgio Armani’s Prive (or private if you’re not fancy) collection, are sophisticated bottles that look like they belong in a museum, with their wood-like glass and coloured semi-precious stone-like lids. What’s more delightful, is the juice that lives inside them.
Ambre Eccentrico is one of a kind and very sensual. This warm, spicy fragrance contains notes of amber, tonka bean, and flavours of dried fruit with an intense cinnamon and patchouli hit. I sprayed this once for a gentleman, whose exact words after four seconds of experiencing the scent were “OH MY GOD I need this immediately.” So will you.
Fresh: marine, aquatic, green notes such as grass, and citrus notes.
Wood Sage and Sea Salt is so quirky and different, you will be addicted. Woody, citrus, and salty. You can actually pick the salt accord and it’s captured beautifully here in a marine, oceanic kind of way. Put your boat shoes on and go nuts.
Woody: expect notes like patchouli, vetiver, and oud.
Oud Wood by Tom Ford. This sweet, smokey fragrance is a true woody scent. Agarwood, tonka bean, vetiver, and pepper will delight your senses. Don your velvet robe and light a cigar, please.
Fougere: a family added more recently, contains elements from all four of the above.
Sauvage By Christian Dior, you’ll love. A delightful composition of lavender, pink pepper, Calabrian bergamot, and vetiver. A sweet aromatic opening with a dry woody base. Sublime.
There are many subfamilies in addition to the main four above, however, two of the most popular today are:
Chypre: a harmony of oakmoss, patchouli, and bergamot.
Tuxedo by Yves Saint Laurent. This smokey number has notes of dry patchouli and silky black pepper. Put on your black satin tuxedo and red lipstick before you spray this. Pure sophistication.
Fruity: sweet and tart fruit notes such as berries, pear, apple, mango, and passionfruit.
English Pear and Freesia by Jo Malone is unique and wearable, with its combination of pear, melon, musk, rhubarb, and rose. The freesia heart note balances the fruity notes beautifully. Sexy fruit salad.
Even if you want to smell like a cupcake made by Nigella Lawson, I can guarantee we will find a fragrance for you. OK, I am showing off now, but may I suggest Fantasy, by Britney Spears? It actually has cupcake accord in the heart note. You smell scrumptious.
Now, you have some scent savvy, so let’s nose around for the right one and narrow it down the right way.
Spray three on separate fragrance cards. Any more and your olfactory senses will go loopy. To reset your sense of smell, your bare inner elbow will do the trick. Coffee beans are a myth, honestly, and most fragrance counters no longer use them. Fragrance cards don’t develop the notes the way your skin will so spray the ones you love on your skin unless you prefer to wear a piece of cardboard. If you do, we like your style, you trend-setting specimen.
Now, spray your wrist, top of your hand, or forearm from a distance of 20cm. Rubbing your skin together will cause the notes to alter due to heat and friction, and really, you’re only doing it because you’re a copycat. Just spray and let it settle a few seconds or you’ll only get a nose full of alcohol and it’s way more fun when you’re drinking it.
It takes 3 hours for a fragrance to develop in its entirety. For some, it’s immediate love at first sniff, but if you’re not sure, ask for a sample and wear it for a few days. After this time, you’ll know which gorgeous bejewelled bottle deserves a place on your vintage dresser.
When you spray it at home, always wear it immediately after you shower, on your torso. This allows the fragrance to rise with the heat of your skin so that you can experience it all day. Alternatively, you can go traditional and spray it on your pulse points. Remember not to rub. You’re not a scratchie or a genie bottle.
Wow. I smell something reminiscent of a floral vanilla-ey, musky concoction of peppered wood-like deliciousness with a smokey chocolate undertone. Who is that? Well you, of course.
Illustration: Surbi Chetty