Our favourite scents often come into our lives by happy accident. We’ll smell something on a friend and buy the same. Or catch an alluring whiff on a passer-by and tail them, puffing as we enquire “what is that you’re wearing?”. Most often, we’ll simply chance upon it in-store or receive it as a gift. Fragrance just sort of ‘happens’ to us.
Whilst all of those encounters with scent are great, it does beg the question how do we buy scents in this new world, especially if we simply want to find something new online? If you struggle with the traditional fragrance categories, perfumer Sue Phillips breaks it down simply: “Fresh scents consist of simple, elegant, clean notes - meaning anything citrus and green. Florals are romantic, including roses, lilies and jasmine, and you’ll also find floral blends, such as fruity florals which are combined with fruit and also floral Orientals, which will have notes of spices like vanilla and cinnamon. Woody scents have notes like sandalwood, birchwood and cedar, whilst Oriental scents have big vanilla, musk, nutmeg and coriander aromas.”
“When selecting a scent, I would first think about all of the things you love most – and see if it matches.”
Another way to do things – in combination with the above advice of course – is to pick from a place of self-expression and personality. Azzi Glasser, master perfumer behind some of the world’s best fragrances agrees: “Scent can play on your energy and confidence levels to help explore your parameters of self-expression. It’s like wearing an accessory you love.” Jo Malone, founder and creative director of Jo Loves, suggests thinking about scent as an extension of your personality: “Your scent should remind you of memories and will always tell a personal story. When selecting a scent, I would first think about all of the things you love most – and see if it matches,” she says.
That’s sage advice, especially as our brain stores emotions and scents as one memory. It’s why the mere waft of something nostalgic transports us back to that time immediately. With that in mind, and at a moment when opportunities to travel are scarce, here’s how to choose your new fragrance hero online, based entirely on how you want to feel…
Is this you? You’re constantly Pinterest-ing far-flung destinations and the slightest hint of sun sends your serotonin levels into the stratosphere. Inspired by your love of escapism, fragrances that bring back the feeling of sand between your toes and the late-afternoon sun warming your back in one single spritz are what you crave. They also double up as seriously good mood-boosters.
The notes: In perfumery terms, the fragrances you love often fall into the citrus and fruity scent categories; you might also enjoy light, white florals as they are the ones that remind us of holidays. “These perfumes are light, breezy and keep you feeling fresh,” says Sue Phillips. “Citrus notes, found in grapefruit, mandarin, orange, lemon and lime, definitely evoke summertime."
Your new scent: Try Jo Loves Jo by Jo Loves A Fragrance, £115, with spearmint, bitter orange and grapefruit notes that take you back to Mediterranean adventures, whilst Jo Loves Mango Thai Lime A Fragrance, £115, was based on Malone’s own travels in Thailand, with mango and a hint of spicy black pepper. Another scent inspired by Southeast Asia is Acqua Di Parma Osmanthus Eau de Parfum, N/A, which is where the elusive sweet, rare osmanthus flower blooms. With warming ambrette and citrus, this fragrance smells like summer evenings, a cocktail in hand. Finally, sweet plum, fresh gardenia and Indian tuberose collide in Byredo Night Veils Casablanca Lily Eau de Parfum, N/A, which is escapism epitomised and bottled. It’s mesmerising.
Is this you? You love antiques, past times, nostalgia, looking through old photos and anything from another era – even just old Hollywood films or a classic red lipstick.
The notes: Nostalgic, vintage-inspired scents tend to be powdery florals and Orientals. They have just the right balance of granny chic and modernity to keep them fresh. Vintage-inspired scents are also a huge trend right now, with notes such as violet, rose and vanilla taking centre stage. “Fashion decrees certain things to be passé, then new generations come along with a taste for challenging convention and the passé is suddenly hip,” explains perfumer Keshen Teo of the Prosody London fragrance house.
Your best buys: Fusing violet, peony and Italian rose, Acqua Di Parma Peonia Nobile Eau de Parfum, £141, smells like a mature flower garden in full bloom – and the scent itself, is the sweetest blush pink. With a bottle that looks like an art deco masterpiece, the decadent orchid, plum and truffle notes in Tom Ford Black Orchid Gold Eau De Parfum, £120, conjure a gin-soaked, Twenties cabaret vibe. Want something a tad lighter? With its blend of ylang-ylang, patchouli and rose, Diptyque Eau Capitale Eau De Parfum, £140, brings to mind Audrey Hepburn’s whimsical Parisian escapades in Funny Face, whilst Byredo Lil Fleur Eau De Parfum, £122, combines rose, leather and vanilla for a scent inspired by bittersweet teenage emotion.
Is this you? You yearn for simpler times, surrounded by love, laughs, clean laundry on the line and freshly cut green grass. That’s no bad thing – scent is a huge comfort to us all. “Consumers today are obsessed with hygiene, and they want to always be fresh and clean, and so the smell of newly cut grass, the smell of lemons and the smells of nature gives them that. It all reinforces the feelings of clean simplicity,” says Sue.
The notes: There’s nothing powdery or too sweet here. These are modern smelling scents that are refreshing, gentle and soothing. Look for notes such as vetiver and sandalwood, as well as anything in the spice and citrus families. They tend to be described as ‘gender-neutral’, although all scents are genderless.
Your best buys: Clean Reserve Rain Eau de Parfum intertwines uplifting patchouli with vetiver to create that fresh, airy feeling that comes after an unexpected summer downpour, while Diptyque Fleur de Peau Eau de Parfum, £140, adds woods and fresh, forest green notes to your hair, body and even laundry – and looks effortlessly chic. Using light musk, ginger and bergamot tea, Caudalie The des Vignes Fresh Fragrance, N/A, masters the balance between fresh and peppery. For a hit of freshness with just a hint of aromatic herbs, look to Tom Ford Neroli Portofino Acqua Eau de Toilette, £100. The iconic scent evokes that comforting feeling of being close to calm waters. Dreamy.
WEIRD AND WONDERFUL
Is this you? Memorable and creative, you live for decadence. You’re the kind of person who plays by their own rules or at least you’d like to play up that side of yourself. If you’re visualising that kind of life, let your new scent get you there.
The notes: Unusual florals, curious blends and anything a little quirky, including spicy notes of saffron, rare fruits and idiosyncratic musks. “Scent can work as a fabulous extension of who you are and be represented as a parallel to your individual style and character, similar to the way you choose the clothes and makeup to express and impress,” says Azzi.
Your best buys: Memories of Champagne-filled nights and scandalous fun are reincarnated in Malin + Goetz Dark Rum Eau de Parfum, £78, with its bergamot, plum and leather notes; it smells like the secret room in a member’s club. For something a little brighter, look to Aesop Rōzu Eau de Parfum, £125; its vibrant notes of spice, smoke and rose conjure the best night out you’ve ever had. Byredo Night Veils Reine De Nuit Eau de Parfum, £240, blends sweet rose and musk with saffron for more of an after-party feel; think rebellious, wild and intoxicating(ed). If you want something truly captivating, then , will be your go-to, with its alluring blend of tuberose, violet and magnolia. Kiehl's Original Musk Eau de Toilette, £44.5, has a heady staying power, giving its muskiness a floral kick with lily and orange blossom. Whatever you pick, go forth and express yourself through your scent choices, we guarantee, you won’t look back.