Perfect Scents: A Fragrance Guide

Fragrance and its evocative properties have been revered for centuries. Perfumery originated in ancient Egypt, where the Egyptians would anoint themselves with oil based salves infused with lily, myrrh and cinnamon.

Modern perfumes deliver a myriad of combinations of thousands of individual scents. Perfumers train for many years to become a “Nose”, or “le nez” as they are known in France. Grasse, in the South of France boasts vast fields of flowers, and is known as the fragrance capital of the world.

Visitors to the South of France can create their own signature scent in special fragrance store workshops.

Molinard, created in 1849, is one of the oldest perfume companies in the world. The charming perfume experts guide guests through the perfume making process in a one hour workshop, which culminates in the creation of your masterpiece. Choose from hundreds of extracts such as Rose, Praline, Cotton, Smoke, Wood, Grass and Chocolate.

Essential oils and compounds from flowers, fruit, seeds and plants are used to compose fragrance (as well as synthetic oils and compounds). The concentration of these differ in certain types of perfume, which determines the longevity of a scent. This is something to be aware of when purchasing perfume.

  • Eau de Cologne: 3 – 8% concentration
  • Eau de Toilette: 5 – 15% concentration
  • Eau de Parfum: 10 – 20% concentration

Perfume is composed of top, base and middle notes.

Top notes are fresh and sharp, and are immediately noticeable. These create the first impression of the fragrance. (Examples include citrus, light fruits and herbs)

Middle notes form the heart of a fragrance, and can appear from between five minutes and an hour after the initial application. (Examples include florals, fruit and light spices).

Base notes give a fragrance depth, and take time to reveal themselves; usually thirty minutes to an hour after initial application. (Examples include woods, musk, vanilla).

Choosing your fragrance

Many of us are faithful to a signature scent, and rarely stray from our favourite. A more modern approach to perfume is to assemble a fragrance wardrobe; a selection of scents to choose from according to mood, season or occasion. Fragrances come in many categories, as shown in the fragrance wheel below:

Finding out the category of a current favourite can assist you in selecting similar scents. However, the best way to discover a new scent is to simply get sniffing at a perfume counter.

  • Initially, spritz fragrance on the tester card provided. Wave in the air to encourage the alcohol to evaporate, then take a little sniff of the card. 
  • If you enjoy the first impression of a scent, spray a little on your inner wrist or arm. Wait for thirty minutes to an hour, and keep smelling the scent to see how the layers develop on your skin. Fragrance smells different on everyone.
  • When sampling multiple scents, try and limit the number per session. This will avoid what is known as “olfactory fatigue”. Perfume counters always have a jar of coffee beans handy; these re-set the sense of smell and allow you to try a new scent with a fresh nose. Getting a few breaths of fresh air in between sniffs will also help.

How to get the most out of your fragrance

  • Store your treasured scents in a cool, dark place. A wardrobe shelf is perfect, or a bedside table or dresser that isn’t in direct sunlight. Light and heat can damage a fragrance over time.
  • Spray your perfume on pulse points; wrists, inner arms, neck and behind the knees. Warmth will allow perfume to emanate, so spraying perfume on your torso will encourage this. As odd as it sounds, the belly button is a perfect spot to spray fragrance.
  • Don’t rub your wrists together after you apply your scent. This can “bruise” the delicate composition of your fragrance. Dabbing lightly is a good alternative.
  • Perfume will always last longer on well moisturised skin. Applying a matching body lotion first is a great way to layer your scent. Alternatively, use a fragrance free moisturiser or oil prior to applying your perfume. Matching body washes may smell lovely, but as they are washed away down the drain very quickly, they aren’t very helpful when it comes to making your fragrance last longer.
  • If you have sensitive skin or will be exposed to the sun, be wary of spraying fragrance on the neck and chest. The concentrated oils in perfume can be highly irritating, and can cause rashes and skin congestion in some people. Opt for the sides and back of the neck to be safe. Wearing perfume in the sun can make skin very sun sensitive, so consider skipping the perfume if you’re going to the beach.

Perfume continues to fascinate, seduce and enchant us all. With careful selection, the right fragrance can compliment individual style and personality beautifully.

Beauty Guru Perfume Favourites

  • For perfume loving bookworms: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a must-read.
  • For something unique, World stores stock specialty fragrances not found at your average perfume counter.
  • For the modern, technology savvy perfume lover: Escentric Molecules are fragrances like no other. Stocked in Karen Walker Stores. 
  • For something timeless and classic: Chanel’s elegantly composed fragrances are a dream to wear.