Scents are so evocative. I love how they can take you right back to a place instantly. School days equals Tribe, CK One and Body Shop Dewberry or White Musk for the girls and Lynx and anything with Blue in the name for the boys. I went through a vanilla phase which does absolutely nothing for me now and may have come to an end when a former boss insisted I must be hiding cake somewhere because it was so strong. Lesson learnt: just because you’ve become used to a scent after wearing it for so long, it doesn’t mean you need to douse yourself in it until you can smell again.
It’s also such a personal thing that I debated for ages whether it’s actually okay and socially acceptable to compliment somebody on their chosen fragrance. Telling somebody you like their frock or lippie is fine I decided because it’s right there whereas perfume… isn’t but it turns out it is completely fine and can also makes somebody’s day.
On my olfactory travels, I have been lucky enough to smell perfumes from as far back as the 1920s and I have been assured they smell as good now as they do then. Expensive perfumes which are made from the rarer essential oils tend to last for longer than more simple scents you can buy in a chemist. The trick is to keep them stored in a cool, dark place, preferably not in the bathroom and definitely not on your window sill in bright daylight. You may also fall out of love with a scent over time so don’t confuse that with it going off.
Odette Toilette runs the popular Scratch+Sniff themed events in London. They are great fun and help both to lead you down memory lane and to help you discover brand new scents and ranges. Unfortunately, I’ve only been to the ones in bars which have led to me coming home with a bag full of unidentified, unlabelled samples but they have a few events coming up in alternative venues so you may fare better. Odette’s book, A Century of Scents in 100 Perfumes, is published in October and is available for pre-order.
If you’re on the hunt for a new signature scent, Les Senteurs is the place to go. Particularly if you are after something a bit more off-piste and niche than the celeb perfumes offered elsewhere. They have two shops in London and a mail order service but the advice and opportunity to try before you buy makes it well worth the trip. They stock two of my favourite ranges: Frederic Malle and Etat Libre d’Orange. ELdO have some of the best names including Fat Electrician, Malaise of the 1970s and Secretions Magnifiques (if you happen to smell this last one, please let me know because I’m fighting a losing battle with my friends and fellow noses).
4160 Tuesdays is an indie brand and micro perfumery and is the baby of Sarah McCartney. I spent a lovely afternoon there recently with friends (sorry to the other people there. They seemed okay with our testicle talk though) where Sarah took us on a tour of her Wall of Scent. This involved smelling a whole host of scents aided by cake and fizz from throughout the ages including classics such as Opium (which gave me a lesson in revisiting scents. It didn’t smell anything like I remember it from years back) and the more recent including Lady Gaga (turns out blood and semen combined still smell like bubblegum and flowers). She even, rather impressively, helped my friend to suss out which ingredient gives her headaches. The most popular in Sarah’s own range is The Sexiest Scent on the Planet, Ever (IMHO). I won’t put any ideas into your head about what it smells like in case you get to try it but it is pretty sexy tbh. The one that intrigued me the most was What I Did on my Holidays which genuinely does smell like the seaside, suntan lotion, ice cream and all that good stuff. With maybe a hint of Skegness donkey saddle too.
Dublin: Perfumenotes.ie is a great resource if you want to learn more about perfume in general, decode the jargon on bottles and find out about events. They are teaming up with 4160 Tuesdays to offer a Perfume Making day course on May 9th at the International Makeup Academy in Dublin. This is an incredible opportunity for those wannabe perfumers out there and anybody who still hasn’t found the right scent for them.
Cork: Perfume Notes founder Fiona Cooke will also be speaking at the Irish Country Magazine Readers Evening alongside Elva Carri of GirlCrew on May 28th.
London: Scents of Occasion is taking place at Fenwick on Bond Street as part of London Craft Week. It’s basically perfume poker with a fragrance being built before your very eyes (or under your nose) giving you the opportunity to hold, raise or quit with each modification.