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June 2000


by Gabby

Fragrance Basics
Part 2: Aaaaaah, the sweet smell of...?

Last month I covered some basic perfume tips. This month I'll explain why some perfumes might seem familiar and how to recognize different perfumes with similar base scents.

The sense of smell is said to be the sense of imagination. Because of this perfumes have strong emotional qualities and the gift of recreating sweet memories or vivid images from the past. A perfume is a highly personal adornment, it should be adapted to your skin, your personality, your mood. Build a fragrance wardrobe that defines you for different occasions or at different times of the day.

Our perception of our environment is entirely dependent on our senses and subconsciously affects our feelings. Our sense of smell is more dynamic than our other senses. Every day, we're in contact with at least thirty different scents, shampoo, deodorant, detergent and air fresheners are just a few examples.

Improve your sense of smell by learning to recognize the different elements of each formulation; close your eyes and visualize the blossoms and spices. Learn to appreciate the depth and beauty of the fruity, flowery and woody scents.

Essentials oils are natural, organic substances generally derived from flowers, fruit trees or roots. One scent alone doesn't make a perfume. Perfumers develop a blend of essences through the simultaneous use of several different oils.

To describe these blends, perfumers refer to the way in which their odor fades. The varying rate of evaporation of essential oils are referred to as notes. Notes such as eucalyptus and orange are light and evaporate rapidly, where as patchouli and sandalwood are slow and for this reason are often used to obtain a lasting fragrance. The personality of the perfume is created by the interplay between these different essences.

These evaporation qualities are divided into three categories: top notes are the scents that stand out the most when you first smell a perfume. Middle notes constitute the heart of the perfume which come to life after the top notes fade away. Essences like rose and jasmine are often used as a link between the fast and the slow elements. Base notes make the scent endure as long as possible, it contains lasting woody and resin ingredients. After trying on a perfume, wait a moment . This will allow the top note to diffuse and other facets of the fragrance to develop.

There are a number of classical perfume groups. There are many crossovers and no absolute rules. The categories are constantly in a state of flux as new scents are developed daily. The definitions and examples below will help you understand the structure of perfume.

This is the largest category, making up almost three-fourths of all feminine perfumes. There are six subdivisions in this group.

Floral: single or bouquets: rose, jasmine, ylang, neroli. Ex: Poison, Chloe, Beautiful, Joy, Paris, White Shoulders

Floral Aldehyde: synthetic fragrances not found in nature; sparkling, sharp, elegant and powerful. Ex: Chanel No. 5, Calandre, First, Red, White Linen

Floral Fresh: freshness with pineapple, mandarin, peach, plum, raspberry, apricot and apple. Ex: Tribu, Calyx, Lauren, Liz Claiborne, Escape, Amarige

Floral Fruity: delicate spring-like freshness with subtle citrus notes. Ex: Anais Anais, Moods, Destiny, Calyx

Floral Ambrey: heavy, warm and sweet. Ex: Bijan's DNA, Tiffany, Oscar de la Renta, L'Heure Blue

Floral Oriental: exotic florals with spices, balsams and resins. Ex: Coco, Bijan, Moschino, Escada, Vanderbilt, Chloe, Narcisse, Diamonds

French, for the island of Cypress, birthplace of Venus. This category is woodsy and mossy with sweet, warm, soft notes. There are six subdivisions in this category.

Chypre: marriage of citrus and oakmoss. Ex: Enigma, Feminite, Du Bois

Chypre Fruity: mellow warmth accented with peace. Ex: Mitsouko, Femme, Gem, Cocktail, Colony

Chypre Floral Animalic: floral and animal essence of civet, ambergis and musk. Ex: Ysatis, Miss Dior, Givenchy III, Moments, Jolie Madame

Chypre Floral: rich florals supported by citrus, oakmoss, patchouli. Ex: Paloma Picasso, Diva, Chant d' Aromes, Coriandre, Aromatic Elixir, Cassini

Chypre Fresh: Highlights of light citrus. Ex: Cristalle, 4711 Eau de Cologne, Eau d'Hadrien, Eau de Rochas

Chypre Green: lightest of the chypres with grassy and coniferous tones. Ex: Wrappings, Private Collections, Aliage

Oriental perfumes are best worn for evening and cool weather. They are heavier fragrances with a dominant animal, spicy or vanilla note, including resins, woods, balsams and herbs. This category has three subdivisions.

Oriental: heavy and spicy. Ex: Angel, Realm, Nuit de Noel, Shalimar

Oriental Ambrey: blend of citrus, amber and vanilla. Ex: Roma, Obsession, Must de Cartier, Ciara, Dionne, Habanita, Normandie

Oriental Spicy: very spicy with nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, clove, ginger and other spices accented by spicy florals such as lavender and carnation. Ex: Guerlain's Val de Nuit, Bal a Versaille, Youth Dew, Opium

One of the oldest fragrance concepts, becoming very popular with women. Citrus is denoted by its refreshing and exhilarating scent. Includes all the fruit peels, plus petitgrain, neroli and eucalyptus citriodora. Ex: Eau de Patou, Eau de Guerlain, Eau de Cologne Imperiale, Eau de Cologne Du Cog, Eau de Cologne Hermes

Fresh fern with lavender, citrus, herbs and oakmoss. Mainly a category for masculine scents. Ex: Guerlain's Jicky

This category has dominating notes of sage and rosemary with grass, leaves and green floral such as hyacinth. Ex: Pheromone, Reverie, Sung Spa

Last Words

A perfume should never be allowed to dominate its surroundings. Less is always more appropriate than more. The more businesslike the occasion, the lighter, the more unobtrusive a perfume should be. During the day, the lighter fragrances such as the eau de toilette or eau de cologne are appropriate. For the evenings, the more concentrated perfumes are best. In the warm seasons, fresh, sparkling flowery notes are recommended. During the winter, the opposite is generally suggested. Fortunately, no strict set of rules exists. The way you put together a fragrance wardrobe to match your different moods, clothes, occasions and needs is wholly a matter of your own, personal taste.

The only difference between a cologne and a perfume is the amount of concentration. Higher concentration equals a stronger (and more expensive) fragrance.

Eau de Parfum......8-15%
Eau de Toilette......4 - 8%
Eau de Cologne.....3 - 5%
Splash Cologne.....1 - 3%

Fragrance is magical; it has the unique ability to lift our spirits and enhance our mood. Be aware of the fragrances you select, and why you choose one over another. Learn to use fragrance for its maximum benefit. Think of the positive effects fragrance can have in your daily life, and in turn, the lives of those around you.

congratulates the winners of our May drawing


They each won one of the perfumes below for correctly answering
Elizabeth Taylor to last month's contest question.

WTG to you both!