Our sense of smell, scientifically called olfaction, is perhaps the most powerful human sense for processing memory and emotion. We use this sense in fragrance to evoke imagination and style. It is the finishing touch to a perfect outfit, the romance of an unforgettable moment and a hint of mystery to leave as your calling card.
The tradition of the perfumery dates back over 3,000 years to ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians. Even the ancient Greeks valued fragrant ingredients as precious luxuries.
Today we use fragrance for different purposes. Whether intended to seduce or reflect, the scents we use to enhance our image are varied and complex. What’s the difference between all these fragrances? How do you begin selecting a fragrance that suits you? At times, it can seem difficult to navigate the wide selection available. The art of perfumery is deep and there are certain rules that every skilled fragrance customer of must know. Hopefully, this guide will help you select the best scent for you.
Understanding Fragrance Notes
Everyone’s body chemistry interacts uniquely with different fragrances and it’s important to consider a perfume with a scent profile that matches you.
All fragrances are composed of layers, these are the “notes” that make up the scent. There are three; the top notes, are the first rush of scent you experience after a perfume is sprayed.
The middle notes, also known as heart notes, appear soon after and make up the main body of the perfume. They are generally slightly softer and longer lasting and are supported by the base notes, which add depth and solidity to the scent.
It takes time for the base notes to come through, usually up to an hour, which is why it is always important to wear a perfume for a while before deciding if you like it. Together, the middle and base notes form the essence of the scent profile.
The Eight Perfume Families
Every fragrance falls into one of eight fragrance families. Defining which family you like will make it easier to choose a scent. This information applies to both women’s and men’s fragrances. You’ll find that, even without knowledge of these groups, you may instinctively prefer a particular fragrance family as our chosen base for perfumes.
To illustrate the fragrance family, a wheel chart is used to outline the different categories (and even sub-categories within them) much like sommeliers detecting different notes in a wine.
Fresh fragrances tend to be zesty and citrusy, light and splashed on in summer. An example would be ALFRED SUNG PARADISE, which opens with notes of dewy tropical greens and tagets absolute woven with juicy white peach for a spark of playful whimsy.
Floral perfumes are very feminine and a popular fragrance family. They have notes of jasmine and rose (the two most popular ingredients in floral scents) lily of the valley and magnolia. SUNG ALFRED SUNG is a floral perfume that commences with green floral nuances. The heart notes are a full-bodied blend of beautiful feminine florals, highlighting jamine, iris and muguet white flowers. The bass notes end with subtle musk notes and precious woods to add dept and richness.
Floriental scents are just as described, they blend floral notes with a touch of spice, resins and warm woods. This scent is, of course, followed by the slightly heavier
Oriental fragrance, featuring ingredients such as sandalwood and vanilla. They are seductive perfumes, best worn at night.
Fougère category is often directed at men and features ingredients such as bergamot, geranium and oak moss. It is often described as a fern-like scent.
Another popular category is the Woody scent, made up of ingredients such as sandalwood, cedar and patchouli. Perfect for male scents, there are also female perfumes in this category.
Chypre is the penultimate member of the family and is a blend of woody and mossy fragrances with a touch of bergamot and sometimes a floral hint. It is less of a category and more of a concept, developed by French perfumier François Coty in 1917.
The final category is Gourmand, an entirely new concept, featuring “tasty” notes in perfume, such as chocolate, caramel, coffee and almonds.
Sometimes these fragrance families are cut down to just four – floral, oriental, woody and fresh – with subcategories within them, such as soft floral or woody oriental. No matter which fragrance wheel you use, by defining the notes you like in a perfume, you will have a great knowledge base when choosing your next fragrance.
How To Test Perfume
It’s a great idea to test out a scent before buying it. If you’re in-store, here’s how to properly shop for fragrances.
Firstly, you need to make use of the blotters that are helpfully put out for you, it means you won’t be trying out endless perfumes on your skin and confusing scents. Spray a couple of times in a downward motion and then waft the card through the cloud, it will absorb just enough of the perfume for you to smell and decide if you like the initial scent.
If you’re trying a few perfumes out, you’ll want to cleanse your olfactory palette by smelling fresh coffee beans between, or better yet just take a big whiff of your own skin, it will do the same thing.
Once you’ve decided on a scent, spray it on your wrist or the back of your hand and leave it to dry naturally before inhaling. Then, leave it on your skin and smell it again 30 minutes later.