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How do you learn about perfume?

(41 Posts)
GoodbyeToAllOfThat Tue 09-Jun-15 10:15:00

I'm pretty obsessed with it, but I can't work out which notes I like. Google has its limitations. What can I do to become more perfume-savvy?

HellKitty Tue 09-Jun-15 10:37:32

Look at reviews for perfumes you do like and see how they're broken down into the different scents in them. They may have suggestions to similar perfumes.

And use the free cards in stores to squirt different perfumes on, you'll get nose blind after a few though! See how they smell on the card after a few hours and how much it's changed from the initial squirt or whether it's disappeared totally.

GoodbyeToAllOfThat Tue 09-Jun-15 15:04:33

The problem is I haven't really found my one "true" perfume, although I suspect it's probably gourmand. I have found my one "true" bath gel and it's creme brûlée!

I don't really see a lot of similarities between the perfumes I love.

How can I smell all these individual notes and decide which I like, short of a perfume class? Is there a kit somewhere?

CointreauVersial Tue 09-Jun-15 15:32:26

I went on a one-day perfume workshop (via Groupon) - it was great fun and hugely informative. When I get home I'll dig out a link for you.

pseudonymity Tue 09-Jun-15 16:18:47

Go on basenotes forum.

undoubtedly Tue 09-Jun-15 16:23:33

Go to and do a diagnosis.

You put in your three favourite perfumes and they break them down by head notes, base notes etc. They will then give you some recommendations and for £10 you get them in sample sizes.

Gave me a good grounding in what I like and what to try next.

FrugalFashionista Tue 09-Jun-15 17:08:44

Possibly more info than you'll ever need but...

Perfumers in training sniff through training sets of raw materials to memorize them and to learn to associate them with names. I have some raw material kits from Osmoz but go to a place that sells aromatherapy kits to get started, Muji for example.

Smell lots instore, order samples, read reviews and good blogs (Bois de Jasmin, Perfume Shrine) and Basenotes (generally better than Fragrantica).

Learn to recognize perfume families, it makes everything easier as every family has a basic structure or ingredient theme. Go out and smell three chypres, three orientals/ambers, three gourmands, three fougeres, three leathers, three aquatics, three hesperides... Use Michael Edwards' perfume wheel and explore all groups. Google all this, a wealth of info out there.

If you attend a perfumer's workshop, you can build some basic perfumes yourself and smell lots of raw materials, it's great fun. (I also arranged some blind raw material smelling sessions with a group of friends, a bit like a wine tasting.)

Great books:
Essence & Alchemy by Mandy Aftel
Turin&Sanchez, The Guide
Le Snob: Perfume (awful name, good intro book, written by Persolaise)
Chandler Burr's books on perfumers (another great intro)
JC Ellena's small book
Elisabet de Feydeau, Les Parfums (a wonderful reference, in French)
Calkin & Jellinek, Perfumery
Philip Kraft's Scent and Chemistry book and Facebook page
Steffen Arctander's pdf book

FrugalFashionista Tue 09-Jun-15 17:27:53

I don't think perfumes are like a horoscope - there is probably no single note that is 'you'. I find perfume families are more useful for understanding similarities vs differences than single notes, though you can explore both.

If gourmands are your current comfort zone, learn the key mother perfume (Angel) and sniff some variations (Candy, A*men, La Vie est belle, Hypnotic Poison, Coromandel, Narcisse&Vanille...). Gourmands are close to orientals, so next you can explore a few floral orientals, spicy orientals and woody orientals. Or some ambers and perhaps some vanilla perfumes, tonka perfumes and almond perfumes (caramel type notes in all of these). Vanilla + labdanum = amber and that is an underlying theme in orientals. You might love some and dislike others. These will give you a better idea what ingredients you like and what you don't like. Some sample sellers (Surrender to Chance, The Perfumed Court) sell single note or single family sample packs, these can be really fun as you may discover that you love one creme brule and find another a bit meh...

And no, you don't need to go all the way with this. You cand just pick a few gourmands and enjoy them, no need to delve any deeper... Be warned, though, perfumes can be really addictive! wink

ZeroFunDame Tue 09-Jun-15 17:35:09

The problem is I haven't really found my one "true" perfume,

- Absolutely no reason why you should! The joy of perfume (for me at least) is the infinite variety - combined with one's evolving taste.

I want to make a point about how "the one" perfume used to be yet another tradition designed to keep a woman in her box - but my thinking is still rather half-baked on this.grin

FrugalFashionista Tue 09-Jun-15 17:39:43

I think it's like red lipstick - probably a some pretty crude Don Draper style marketing campaign when there was just one shade available. Find your true signature! Be a loyal repeat customer! Get the same surprise for Mother's Day until you die! wink

ZeroFunDame Tue 09-Jun-15 17:47:30

I do feel disproportionately sorry sometimes for the occasional poster who complains that their DP /DMIL, whoever, buys them the same perfume, relentlessly, birthday and Christmas, year after year after year.

And they already have four bottles in the cupboard.

And they went off this thing in 1989 ...

undoubtedly Tue 09-Jun-15 18:11:19

I got the manky bottle of Tresor back one Christmas that I'd bought exMIL in desperation the Christmas before - yuk.

Last Christmas she threw me a curve ball by getting me L'air du temps soap from Nina Ricci. I suspect it was also a re gift... I got her nothing smile

BTW thanks to the pp who recommended Surrender To Chance. I'm now $50 the poorer angrysmile

GoodbyeToAllOfThat Tue 09-Jun-15 18:46:07

I think it's like red lipstick - probably a some pretty crude Don Draper style marketing campaign when there was just one shade available.

And with your Donald Draper reference you've just sent me into a tailspin, I must have The One! I have this notion that a woman should have a signature scent, one that makes my husband and children think I'm in the room even after I'm six feet under.

I wore Angel for a while but I think it's pretty amateur (sorry if there are fans about). I found a vanilla by M. Micallef and this did it for me for a while. I really wanted to love Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille - alas, I did not. I recently found LuckyScent and liked Killian's Good Girl Gone Bad for a while (this was probably closer to something like Tommy Girl or Eternity or something I wore in my early 20s, but more complex).

And, I love Jo Malone's Pomegranate Noir - this is gourmand, no?

And I'm off to research the links you lovely ladies have proposed. Thanks so much.

GoodbyeToAllOfThat Tue 09-Jun-15 19:06:51

I am Oriental-Woody according to

undoubtedly Tue 09-Jun-15 19:09:23

Did you order their suggested samples?

I would order them, wait until you've sniffed them, then with that bit more information about what you like I'd go onto the other websites to order some of their samples in that family. You can order a selection of Oriental samples or Woody samples and narrow your likes and dislikes down that way.

undoubtedly Tue 09-Jun-15 19:09:42

Sorry that was on the Surrender to Chance website.

GoodbyeToAllOfThat Tue 09-Jun-15 19:13:37

I have ordered their suggestions, yes! I am very excited.

Now in the interim, I have ordered a perfume from 4160 Tuesdays (silk, chocolate, lace) which is based in Ealing, just three or so miles away from my house. It turns out they have perfume workshops which I think I'll sign up for. Yay.

GoodbyeToAllOfThat Tue 09-Jun-15 19:14:34 made about 6 suggestions and are sending me my samples for 10 euros! thanks undoubtably. Luckyscent is great but there's customs.

undoubtedly Tue 09-Jun-15 19:15:16

Oh the perfume workshop sounds good! Report back!

undoubtedly Tue 09-Jun-15 19:17:24

Also, you can't beat having a mooch around a perfume shop and just trying everything.

Last time I did that the sales lady got a bit fed up as I was trying anything and everything and she was trying to steer me. I'd just spent so much time reading about the different perfumes online I needed to smell them all "in the flesh", whether they were my kind of thing or not.

I had a very happy hour smile

GoodbyeToAllOfThat Tue 09-Jun-15 19:19:00

I find that I am just not having any luck in duty free, etc. My nose gets totally overwhelmed.

I will indeed report back, but I need to find a friend who wants to join the workshop. Although I could probably make friends there, right?

undoubtedly Tue 09-Jun-15 19:23:37

I would have thought so - a shared interest and all that!

Kundry Tue 09-Jun-15 20:15:50


I buy sample selections from The Perfumed Court or Surrender to Chance. Both do sets according to notes, regions, time periods etc.

And then I have an account on Fragrantica where I log what I like. But prefer the reviews on Basenotes and Perfume Posse.

It would take a lot for me now to buy a full bottle of anything when there are still so many new samples to try smile

I'd really recommend the perfumes through the ages sets to get to grips with classics. Why should you have one true perfume when you can have 10? grin

itsnothingoriginal Tue 09-Jun-15 20:28:32

Just wanted to say this is an excellent thread! This is exactly the stage I'm at - I adore perfume (started with gourmands but increasingly straying from them) and need help to refine my nose!

Looked into a perfume course but was v expensive. You are really lucky to have one so close! I just spend a lot of time in M&S beauty dept as you can just mooch and spray unheeded by assistants and they have a good range.

The links suggested are fab smile

MissBattleaxe Tue 09-Jun-15 20:37:57

I have two pieces of advice:

Listen to Frugal ^^ because she is an oracle when it comes to perfume. What she doesn't know ain't worth knowing.

Definitely go to the 4160 Tuesdays perfume day. I have been to Sarah McCartney's studio and she is warm, eccentric, welcoming and very, very knowledgeable. She has a wall of scent i.e a perfume collection of rare and discontinued classic and niche scents that she uses for workshops as well as making and selling her own, which are great quality and IMO unique.

Also, I recommend the Perfume Society, because they have a great website, an online e-zine all about perfume and best of all, fantastic Discovery Boxes with around 8 or 9 samples in and very good sniffing notes to go with each. They cost £15 ish or a tenner to subscribers.

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