Much like finding the perfect pair of jeans, discovering just the right perfume can be a bit of a trawl. Our perfumes are perhaps the most intimate beauty item we own. Intensely personal, they can help to create or trigger lasting memories. So it’s worth spending a bit of time on finding one you completely love. But where on earth to start?
I asked perfume experts Azzi Glasser and Mark Crames their top five tips for tackling the choppy waters of perfume-hunting and coming out victorious.
1. Uncover the notes you like best
“Make a list of all the fragrances you love, then use the free online database of fragrances, Fragrantica.com, to research each one," says Mark. "Jot down the fragrance notes that are listed as appearing in each of your favourite scents, then circle any notes that keep appearing. You might discover that you are a big fan of fragrances that feature patchouli, and once you identify that, it will be much easier to shortlist a selection that list this as a prominent note. If you educate yourself first about the notes you like, it will make trying and buying fragrances in store much easier.”
2. Choose the right concentration for your perfume
It gets confusing because we think of perfume as the fragrances we buy in store. But perfume is actually the highly concentrated substance or juice, which is then mixed with alcohol to form the fragrances we then buy. “Cologne has the lowest concentration of perfume, then it’s eau de toilette (EDT) and the highest concentration is eau de parfum (EDP)," explains Azzi. "If the fragrance has very strong notes, get a milder concentration, like an eau de toilette or cologne, but if the scent is more fine, it’s better to get it in an eau de parfum. You can’t call a fragrance an eau de parfum unless it has at least 10 to 15 per cent pure perfume. Eau de toilette will go from five to 10 per cent.”
3. Try it out a few times before you buy it
"Spritz the fragrance testing strips in store with a different fragrance and whittle them down to the two that you love the most. These are the two that you should try on your skin (one on each wrist)" advises Mark. Once you’ve narrowed it down, give it a good test run. “Perfume is like a relationship,” says Azzi. “You have to live with it for a bit before you can work out if it’s the right one and commit.” So leave it on for a good few hours before buying it, or try it several times first if you can.
4. Give layering a go
If you want to make an existing perfume a bit more unique and personal, you could always try layering a new perfume on top. The trick is to keep it simple. “Single noted fragrances (like Jo Malone’s Red Roses or The Library of Fragrance’s single scents) could work well with layering, but not full-bodied fragrances (like Chanel No.5 or YSL's Opium),” says Azzi. “Adding a single-note woody scent, like patchouli or oud, can transform fragrances that you already own, but reserve for daytime or summer wear, into something richer and more intense for the autumn or evening,” agrees Mark. So it may be worth giving layering a go if you would like to revamp a fragrance you already own.
5. Rubbing your wrists together won’t ruin your fragrance
“I think you absolutely should rub your wrists together – you want your skin to touch the perfume,” says Azzi. “Rubbing your wrists together is actually a good idea because it gets rid of the alcohol smell in the fragrance right away and then you can just smell the perfume.” Obviously, this is helpful when trying to identify which scents you might like.
6 new-season PERFUmES TO TRY
best for TURNING SUMMER INTO WINTER: THE LIBRARY OF FRAGRANCE OUD
I can confirm that Oud layered over the top of my favourite summer fragrances (Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt and Chanel Coco Madamoiselle) transforms them into something infinitely more wintry. A little bit spicy and woody, it does that cosy thing – think wood-burning stoves and hot toddies – to my perfume and makes me enjoy them all over again. Smells nice on its own, too. Highly recommend.
BEST CITRUS SMELL: Jo Malone Orange Bitters COlogne
Immediately, the smell is very zesty, sharp and almost summery in the same way that Jo Malone's Grapefruit cologne is. But it dries down (with added warmth) to more of a Christmas orange scent – aromatic and tangy. If you like citruses, consider this your winter rendition.
Best QUIRKY SCENT: The Perfumer's Story by azzi Twisted Iris Eau De Parfum
Our beauty contributor Anita Bhagwandas desribed this to me as "the perfect combination of modern with a hint of yesteryear. It's super quirky and quite unlike anything I've sniffed before – a violet-based scent with earl grey tea and fig notes. After a few hours the dry down left on your skin is lovely and warming." Couldn't have put it better myself.
BEST RICH & SULTRY SMELL: RITUALS VOYAGE EN INDE EAU DE PARFUM
Warming, spirited and undoubtedly more expensive-smelling than its price conceeds, this sultry perfume reminds me of Guerlain's Shalimar. Notes of amber, jasmine and patchouli blend into a rich, velvety concotion that's perfect for autumn and onwards.
BEST UPDATE ON A CLASSIC: Chanel No.5 L'Eau Eau De Toilette
How to describe Chanel No.5 L'Eau? An update of the iconic Chanel No.5, like its predecessor it's quite an elusive combination to pin down. Certainly it gives the old No.5 a modern update. The familiar classic is still detectable – spicy, woody, aromatic, floral – but it feels lighter, more delicate and a little less overwhelming. If you've always wanted to like Chanel No.5, you should try giving this a sniff.
BEST FLORAL: Byredo Unnamed EAU DE PARFUM
Those clever people at Byredo realise that the name given to a perfume can inform the way we relate to it. So their latest launch – a powdery floral with a lush woody undertone – is unnamed and comes complete with sticky transfer letters that allow you to name it yourself, leaving you free to create your own associations. Genius.