Scent Gourmand

sinless pleasure for the perfume glutton

Month: April 2016

5 points to ponder when buying perfume as a gift


Finding the one and only, perfect fragrance for yourself can be as hard as finding the right mate, and the latter is hard enough. Fortunately many people embrace the idea that there are many types of potential partners that can bring you joy, and so it goes for perfume. In fact, another way of looking at perfume is as a personal statement or fashion choice. You wear different clothes to match your mood, occasion, and personal style among other factors, and you can do the same with perfume. This knowledge makes the gift selection process somewhat less daunting, but only a little. This is because perfume can indeed be extremely personal and intimate. If you want huge success in selecting a perfume for a lover, friend, or family member, you do need to know a fair bit about them.

1) Which fragrance family do they like?

All fragrances fall into family groups, such as woody, floral, spicy, fresh etc.  People tend to stay with a certain smell family, either because it evokes positive memories, or simply because it stimulates their olfactory receptors (sense of smell). If you are looking for a fragrance gift, it is a good idea to look at what that person already likes and try to find something else within that particular family group. It’s likely that if they like one particular woody fragrance, they may also like others. Get the person you are buying for to share with you their favorite perfumes, then, using a perfume scent finder (see links in the sidebar) or consult with a capable sales staff member to get suggestions for other fragrances. People often feel there is a lack of logic to their scent preferences because one’s sense of smell is so emotional. However, it is highly likely that the fragrances people love most belong to just one or two of just over a dozen different fragrance families.

If you don’t know the names of the recipient’s favorite perfumes,  ask a consultant for advice. Describe the person for whom you’re buying. Her hair color or age is not relevant, but her fashion sense, personality, activities, and preferences are. Ask the consultant to suggest three fragrances, just three, never more. Test their scents on testing papers, not your own skin (see below for why). Take your time. Which fragrance ‘talks’ to you most about that person? Relax and try not to be logical but instead let your instinct take over. You’ll find that your nose won’t do such a bad job!

2) How do they see their own personality?

A fragrance tends to reflect a person’s personality. A floral fragrance is traditionally associated with someone who is feminine, while a strong musk tends to depict the personality of strong independent type (note that I did not refer to male of female people; some men appropriately wear florals and many females smell superb wearing spicy musks!). But do be careful what kind of message you want to give out to those you are shopping for by having a sense of how those people want to be perceived, more than (just) how you perceive them. As you might have guessed, the kind of music your gift recipient listens to, the kind of movies they watch, and the kind of food they like are some basic things that may help in making decisions, so you might what to share that information with a sales consultant.

3) When will It be worn?

I Personally don’t believe that you have to stick to general perfume marketing parameters, but there are some fragrances that have been specifically designed for different periods of the day. Does the recipient of your perfume gift enjoy wearing fragrance to the office, or only in nightclubs or on dates, or out to the ballgame?  People usually prefer lighter scents for daytime and those of a more intense allure for evenings… but not always! Along the same lines, light and fresh scents are often preferred in the spring and summer, whereas stronger, heavier perfumes are the choice in fall and winter. If your recipient lives in the tropics, then s/he may not be into the richer variety. Note that colognes and Eau de toilette (EDT) perfumes are lighter and therefore may be more appropriate for the daytime or in warmer weather than eau de parfums (EDP).

4) How much can you spend?

There are plenty of high-priced perfumes that are not as good in quality as cheaper fragrances, so don’t be deterred if you are on a budget. That said, the bottle, packaging and brand may be important to the person for whom you are buying. Be clear in your mind how much you want to spend before you begin contemplating different scents.

5) Will it smell great on their skin?

Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do to predict this. If you like the smell of a particular scent on yourself, note that it may not smell exactly the same on someone else, for better or worse. Fragrance reacts uniquely on different skin types or under different conditions, such as body temperature, weather, stress level, medication being ingested, individual genes, and yes – the individual’s diet. Many boil it down to individual body chemistry, but it’s often not that simple. This is why is it probably better to test fragrances on scent strips when buying for someone else. You cannot predict how the smell will alter, if at all, on their skin, but why introduce the extra variable of your own body?

On that note, if you’re in a perfume shop or fragrance section of a department store, sniffing a gift out, remember again not to try more than three at any one time. Not only will you get confused, but your nose may become de-sensitised if you try more than a handful. A traditional way to avoid smell fatigue is to inhale coffee beans between sniffs, but if that’s not doable, just take a deep breath through your nose and smell your sleeve or cuff. This will clear your nose of any lingering notes.

If you choose to purchase perfume as a gift, do realize that making a good choice can be a toughy. You need to know what they like, know about their own style and personality and how to relate that to a matching perfume, know when and where they usually wear fragrance, and understand that how a scent smells on yourself is not necessarily going to be what it smells like on the person for whom you’re buying.

Personally, I feel one of the best things to give is a scent collection – a package of smaller-sized perfumes all from one particular brand you know that person likes or may like, or a mix of scents from different brands.

Of course, if your perfume recipient is running low on her favorite bottle of Jimmy Choo, then your choice may already be made. As it will have if the individual tells your right out what s/he wants. A lot of the time, when buying a fragrance as an intimate gesture for a significant, romantic other, be careful that you’re not really buying it for yourself (perhaps a good thing?). If that’s the case, feel free to ditch much of what I’ve just written.

All about smelling strips


Smelling strips, known in French as mouillettes (“bread sticks”) or touche à sentir, and also referred to as fragrance or scent blotters, are hardly the most absorbing (pun intended) matter for the average Joe, but I am a Jane (not that gender is relevant), and I love perfume.

Smelling strips come in an array of shapes, sizes, and qualities, and whether you are studying raw materials, learning perfumery, or evaluating fragrances for your own use, the type of mouillette you need will likely be different from those branded blotters commonly found at department store perfume counters. The latter are great marketing tools, but the longer, thinner strips used by perfumers have advantages for those with a real passion for perfume testing. Three types on the market are distinguishable.

Tapered or pointed-end strips are great for dipping into bottles with narrow necks, and perfumers do work directly with the liquids after all; they don’t spray the juice when combining absolutes and oils. If all you plan to do is get a whiff of scents that have already been created, this may not be a priority for you, however.

Square-end strips, although not great for dipping, can be easily branded and are often sold in tear-out booklets.

Paddle-end strips have a wide surface area, better for spraying from an atomizer, and also a narrow end for dipping. Having a wider end on any strip is perfect for writing notes on, such as the name and dipping time or time to smell (more on that later).

General tips for using smelling strips

  • Write the scent name and/or other details on the strip before dipping so that you can go back and evaluate later.
  • With raw materials, a little dip’ll do ya! You only need the smallest amount of liquid on the tip to infuse the paper with its scent, and you don’t want to make the strip wet. Also consider the cost of those lovely raw materials that you may have bought.
  • Don’t place the perfumed part of the strip directly on your table or other surface, lest it transfer the scent or even stain it. The advantage of long strips is that you can fold the dipped or sprayed end up at a right angle so that the material does not touch the surface. Of course, if you have a smelling strip holder of some sort, then problem solved!
  • Don’t put the strip right on your nose when smelling. While I assume this is extremely rare, a rash is not desirable, and it may interfere with your sniffing experience. Fanning the strips in front of your nostrils is recommended, too.
  • Take small, short sniffs of a raw material on the strip; don’t smell for too long or your nose will suffer from scent burnout in no time.

Using strips to evaluate the development of a scent over time. Scents should be smelled over a period of minutes and hours to notice their change, if any, over time. If you’re interested in understanding all the notes of a scent’s structural pyramid (the top notes, heart or middle notes, and base notes), then working with three strips can be highly effective. Of course, strips cannot replace your skin, which comes along with its own particular chemistry and the added element of body heat, but that also means that using paper may lead to a more objective and accurate representation of the smell and how it wafts. True, you should consider that paper, too, carries it’s own scent, but then, what doesn’t? A paper of neutral PH is recommended, and professional strip-eurs do know this.

Here’s how you can use the strips:

  1. Mark the first strip with “base,” the current time, and name of the scent. Spray it, then let it sit and come back to sniff it in a couple of hours. At that time, you should get an appreciation of the base notes belonging to a particular scent. If you are working with a finished product and are unsure of the scent’s longevity, you can be more liberal with this spray.
  2. Mark the second strip with “mid,” and again the current time and fragrance name. Come back to that strip in 30 minutes, and you will be able to perceive the heart notes of the scent.
  3. The last strip you needn’t mark, really, as you are just going to spray and sniff immediately, and allow yourself to enjoy the scent’s top notes. These notes will dissipate in minutes.

Scent strip holders

If you really want to get into all this sniffing, you may consider a purchasing a scent strip holder. No need to get fancy, as Daniel Krasofski, a student of Anya’s Perfumery Course, shared with readers recently on Anya’s blog. He recommends buying a 35 mm film stainless steel developing reel, and simply blocking off one face of the reel so that strips will not fall through – a brilliant example of re-purposing and recycling products!

If I’m not a perfumer, why bother with scent strips at all?

Well, in all honesty, I do not, but that is not because I don’t want to have a lot of clutter in my home. However, do enjoy department store sniffing, and if you do as well, this is one way to make use of them if you leave your home with a list of scents you are keen to sniff: Carry strips with names pre-written on them. This could save time in the stores, as blotters in the stores often don’t have written more than the brand. There are only so many places to spray on one’s body parts, after all, and you probably don’t want to write all over your arms to recall which scent was what.

What I think would really be useful is something I have not yet seen on the market – scent strip holders. I don’t mean the ones mentioned above, but rather portable casings into which you could insert scented strips so that they would fade less quickly and not rub off onto surrounding objects, particularly the other scented strips you are also toiling back home in your bag. Vanessa from Bonkers about Perfume has an entertaining post about this concept on one of her posts.

In any case, I don’t recommend investing in any bottle of perfume without getting to know its personality, and perfume strips are a great way to do this (but admittedly not as good as your skin). If you’re the type of person who can go up to a perfume counter and only spray one fragrance on yourself to explore for the afternoon, then perhaps this idea is mute.

Sets containing hundreds of fragrance strips are commonly sold, and you can find them in many places – just google the phrase. A pack of one hundred or more may seem like a lot, but particularly if you are a student of perfumery, they are a most useful thing to have on hand. The Perfumer’s Apprentice is a great specialty shop to get all sorts of perfumery supplies, and offering good prices on strips is the AffWeb Store. Such specialty shops and perfume schools will naturally be good sources.

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