March 24, 2012

Hello world

By the way. Just have to say how wow!-ed I am by the fact that people from about 30 countries seem to read this blog. It feels amazing.

Perfume matters & Where to get samples

This has been an interesting week. Las weekend Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter had an article in the Sunday paper about perfume. I am really honored that I was chosen as one of the persons that they interviewed. The appearance has led to e-mails from people in different countries with various great and interesting questions. Some of the topics that I have had the pleasure of discussing via e-mail in these last days are vintage perfumes, samples, where to buy perfume online, should you wear perfume everyday, is it ok to wear perfume in a restaurant, how to support a child’s interest in scents… Well, you get the picture. Amazing topics and I feel privileged to be the person asked for advice. I have kept all these thoughts in an Inspiration File for future articles, posts etc. But I thought I would adress one of the topics here as it might help you accelerate your perfume curiosity.

As followers of this blog know I am a strong opponent to hasty stressful perfume shopping and to shops that sell perfume in such a way. A new perfume is an intimate acquaintance and deserves a more sublime process. It takes a few hours to discover the character of a perfume – even if it indeed IS a perfect match. So, I am pro samples and pro perfume shops that understand when a client comes the third time in a week and wants to try the same perfume. And so on. I think samples are great. Yes, it is not always optimal for every perfume (more about this in a later post!) but generally they are a great tool. A sample allows you to try a perfume for a few days, and it is less of a decision and expense than a full bottle so it becomes easy and fun to try more new fragrances. Perhaps you have identified a note that you love – say vanilla or vetiver. These two come in so many different varieties and are used in completely different ways. Samples allow you to discover the spectra of your favorite note which will teach you more about it – and help you find The Right One For You.

A lot of samples also circulate around me as I sometimes help people find a new perfume. This is one of my favorite things to do, it is so much fun and leads to SUCH great conversations. When I have an idea of what would work and what this specific person is looking for in terms of notes or character and the needs (for example if it is a signature scent or a perfume wardrobe) I will usually give them a couple of samples to try out for a while before making a decision. (Remember - perfumes need skin. Just the perfume is only half the story).

The obvious question then is: where to get samples? One way is to ask at the perfume shop. Sometimes they will have the sample you want and sometimes not. Not all perfume houses provide samples. Some shops are reluctant to hand them out it seems and this is a bit of a sad attitude problem – if that is the case find another shop. However, and this is important: the perfume in a sample that is given for free has been produced with as much care and investment as the perfume in the bottle. So treat your perfume samples with respect. The other way to get samples of fragrances that is becoming increasingly common, is to buy them from the perfume houses through their web shops. Sometimes they offer miniatures of separate scents and sometimes a kit with a selection of scents. This is a great and affordable way to try a new fragrance, or to get to know a perfume house better. The third alternative is to go through one of the companies/websites that are specialized in samples. Examples of these are The Perfumed Court, First in Fragrance and The Posh Peasant. These three are the ones that I have heard most about but if you know of other similar websites please share! It seems to be that there are more options in the US than in Europe so it would be fun to see this develop globally as shipping makes even limited shopping slightly more expensive. I love these websites and I think it is great that small amounts of perfume are becoming accessible as a commodity. The range of brands and products is very impressive which allows you to choose your own little collections of samples around a theme, for example a nose, a note, a brand. It is also a super-smart risk-free way to introduce someone else to a fragrance that you think they might like. Last night I browsed First in Fragrance to find a musc scent that I think a friend of mine would like, and created a little kit of Keiko Mecheri fragrances for myself as I am curious about this brand but have not yet identified my match in their range. This is a great way to end a Friday night for a perfume nerd like me!

Long post this one... But hoping its helpful! :) Happy hunting! 

March 18, 2012

What is it that makes a perfume extra-ordinary?

The world of perfumes is one of the most hierarchical systems I can think of. Not only is the hierarchy there, it is unquestionable and obvious.

As, in this case, it should be.

There are individuals in this world who breathe and dream scents and spend their entire lives searching for new ways to bring out the best in different notes, to create new dances between them, to tell new stories. Individuals who fight against compromise. Who look for the perfect resinoid, rose, vetiver, vanilla, ambergris, nutmeg… These individuals are artists, musicians and magicians.

What you get in a bottle made of someone with passion is special. It’s a Perfume with capital P.

This is my recommendation, when shopping for perfume, go for the best you can find. But it costs a fortune, you say. Well, yes, sometimes excellence is expensive. Not always though, and actually mediocrity can be pretty pricey too if you think about it. Plus you don’t need the biggest bottle, and you don't need 15 almost-perfect perfumes. Take the time to discover what you love and then go for that in the quantity that you can afford.

But what is it that makes a perfume extra-ordinary? What is really the difference?

This is what I look for in my experience, and what I invest in:
- An interesting combination of notes: to create exquisite combinations you need talent, experience and time
- Precision and perfection of proportion: perfume creation is art and science combined, at a very high level. Slight differences in proportions create an entirely different experience.
- High-quality ingredients: expensive ingredients create an expensive perfume. Enough said.
- An interesting experience: perfume is like music. It tells a story and includes different stages. The ability to be able to create and control this is one of the perfumer’s tasks. Some perfumes are a flat sensation. Like a song without chorus and verse. These are the ones to avoid. Some take you through an entire odyssey of sensations during a day.
- Longevity: this is perhaps an individual preference but I do prefer a perfume that lasts from morning to afternoon as this gives me a sense of a fuller story.
- Pleasure: a perfume that is right for you isn’t “difficult to wear”. It doesn’t itch, irritate, distract unpleasantly, make you sneeze or feel thorny. If your perfume does you are using the wrong one. A perfume should feel like an embrace that is like a caress. A little bit tickling perhaps, but in a caressy way.

Isn’t it all in the imagination? No. It’s not. This is real. This is pleasure, creativity, sensation, inspiration and passion at its best. This is Perfume.

Jean-Claude Ellena