5 Rules for Layering Fragrances

Patcouli Layering Ideas

You're not supposed to do it, but I know many of you do. Layering is one way of customizing your scent, making it more personal and also a creative way to make use of your (growing) collection of perfumes.

But I know you're reading this you don't agree with me. But at the same time, I find the drive to do it original and creative, no matter how many times I've met people who do it and take pride in their "blends". And making people feel good when wearing my fragrances is more important to me than being right in this argument.
Knowing that (some of) my audience likes to tweak and make their own "improvements" to what I laboured on long and hard and believe to be the best I can offer - I know that this battle is hopeless from the start. So instead of convincing you why you shouldn't do it - here are the five things you need to know about fragrance layering to make it actually work for you and create that "wow" effect you are after, even though I know just as well that you're going to be more satisfied when you make your own errors and find ways to fix them, all on your own. I also know that rules are probably not exactly what someone who's mixing and matching unrelated fragrances is after - so consider these suggestions, tips, ideas...

1. Simplicity
Choose scents that are simple. i.e.: Soliflores (from The Language of Flowers collection) and single-minded fragrances that are focused around one or two ingredients (such as Vetiver Racinettes or Film Noir) are more likely to create an impact.
If you choose fragrances that are too complex, you are more likely to end up with a rather nondescript scent, or a cacophony of odours. I was tipped by someone on one of the forums (my apologies for not remembering who) to layer Apres l'Ondee with Philosykos. They were right, the violets and fig notes in these two do mix very well together. But I can't imagine two classic Guerlains working well together because these are all a helluva complex, sophisticated fragrances. Adding a little bit of something simple like a single note fig fragrance though creates a surprising results.

2. Weight and Volume
Choose one "light" and one "heavy" fragrances or scents of equal or similar "weight". This is not literally the same as top, heart and base note - but a very similar concept. i.e.: an Oriental or Chypre fragrance is heavier than a citrus. Florals tend to have more of a medium weight (although there are always exceptions to these rules).
Likewise, pairing fragrances that are both very "loud" could clash - both of them competing rather than complementing each other. It's better to have one loud and one more mellow - so they can both complement each other. I wouldn't mix together two very strong minded fragrances such as Angel, Yohji or Lolita Lempicka, for instance. But taking one of those and then adding something light and refreshing such as an eau de cologne or a mellow woodsy fragrance centred around sandalwood or vetiver, for example - might just work.

3. Order of Layering
Your layered fragrance is greatly influenced by the order in which you apply the scents to your skin. The one that goes on first would be less noticeable in the beginning of the wear; but would grow over time to reveal itself as the "base notes" of the fragrance. That is why I recommend you use  the heavier scent first and the lighter scent second. Otherwise, the more fleeting fragrance gets lost in the more dominant or "heavy" one. For example: I would apply Jo Malones Black Vetyver Cafe before Vintage Gardenia in that order - applying the other way around simply buries the gardenia in a grave of earthy vetiver.

4. Method of Application 
It is well known that how you apply the scent (spray, dab, roll-on, or creme/solid perfume) makes an impact on how the scent is perceived - closer to the skin or with greater aura (often called sillage). This of course has a lot to do with the concentration as well.
From my experience, spraying one layer of fragrance on top of another produces poor quality of layering and mingling of the scents. What you'll get instead is the two scents kind of sitting on top of each other without much interaction. The smell will kind of jump from one impression to the other, like a CD track stuck between two notes. After a while, you'll end up with just the first scent noticeable, which kind of defeats the whole purpose. There are several methods I suggest for mixing the fragrances together, depending on the method of application - please note that even though we are aiming for simultaneous application with most of these methods - you still should be applying the stronger or heavier scent first in all these methods.

Here you want to employ a simultaneous application, as much as humanly possible. Get both bottles ready with their caps removed. Using your strong hand apply the 1st scent to the opposite wrists, following immediately by the 2nd fragrance. Gently rub the two wrists together so that the scents literally blend on top of your skin while they are still wet (before they get fully absorbed).

Roll on:
Get the caps removed from both bottles. Draw a two parallel lines with the fragrances, and mix together by gently rubbing your wrists. From there you can transfer to your neck, etc. In order to prevent scent contamination between your roll-on bottles, make sure you're not using the roll-on on skin that has scent on it already.

Solid perfume:
With solid perfumes the evaporation is not as critical as with alcohol based fragrances. That gives you a little bit more time between applications (but not enough time to answer emails or go and shower in between!). You could just smear them one on top of each other - and if you are using an applicator that is even give you the freedom to scoop a little bit of each and mix them on your skin the same way you'd blend makeup. This also allows you to apply the scents on many other parts of your skin that don't necessarily rub against each other like your wrists do. I would also recommend applying the two scents on two different wrists and then rubbing them together.

Dabbing (for Extrait or splash bottles):
What's tricky about this method is the high chance of contamination. So dabbing carefully on two separate wrists, or on two close to each other but scent-free areas on your wrists, and making sure the dabber goes back into the right bottles are key. Once you applied a bit of each scent, blend by rubbing your wrists together.

Mixed Methods:
When using mixed methods of applications, use the one that uses skin contact method first (i.e.: roll on, dabbing, creme parfum) and the spray second. Remember to choose your scents carefully - it is still advisable that the first scent is the stronger, heavier, more dominant, and using the ligher, mellower scent on top as to give it a chance to shine at all.

5. Quality and Consistency
Call me a snob, but just like how I don't like creating perfumes by mixing poor quality fragrance oils with top notch floral absolutes from fear of ruining them - I am a bit weary of mixing together fragrances of extreme gap in quality.
Sarah Jessica Parker may have been lucky when she mixed up her high-fashion fragrance Avignon with drugstore and street vendors' musks. It worked for her but it won't usually work well to mix poor quality fragrances with high quality ones - it is more likely going to ruin the good quality scent and bring it down rather than elevate the inferior fragrance. Although when that happens it must feel like pure magic. Without a proper training for your nose, you may have difficulty pinpointing the quality of different fragrances and raw materials separately from the brand image, price, etc. So this is a bit difficult to give you real guidelines for. While I am not promoting using only scents that were made by the same brand - there is something to be said about layering scents that were meant to be worn that way, as in the case of the Jo Malone brand - and even then, I found only a handful of the combinations to be worth while. And of course, these were discontinued (Black Vetiver Cafe layered with Vintage Gardenia with Cardamom and Myrrh). What I would suggest is that you start with layering all natural fragrances, which are more likely to bring out harmonies. Even that would be tricky... The more I think (and write) about it, the more I realize that this rule I've just made up is just screaming to be broken... So I would be more than a tad curious to hear from you what outrageous layering you've been up to. They can be of any brand whatsoever - but whomever wins this luck of the draw contest will receive three mini perfumes that I absolutely love layering: Film Noir, Lovender and Rosebud. I will talk more about combos from my own line in later posts, a series that is dedicated to layering.

To summarize, while as a perfumer, I strongly feel that perfumers should formulate their fragrances in such way that they provide a stimulating fragrance all around, a complete work of olfactory art that does not require any boost from the outside. That is how I design my perfumes, always, and that is how I think it should be done. The idea of creating something incomplete in advance, in order to sell more bottles seems like cheating to me (and I've discussed it before in my article "Layering Fragrance - with Style"). Though it does pose its own compositional challenges and those, I admit, can be fun. Also I do like the fact that it promotes the customer's own creativity and gives them room for playing and expressing themselves through fragrance.

News from the Nose: ArbitRary Candle, Vetiver Racinettes and Father's Day

Dear Fragrant Friends,

In this newsletter:

  • Father's Day Celebrations
  • New Arrival: ArbitRary Candle
  • Candle Burning Tips
  • Enjoying Scents in Summer
  • Limited Edition: Vetiver Racinettes

Father's Day Celebrations

Two years ago I was fortunate to celebrate Father's Day with my dad going to the Van Dussen Gardens and enjoying a day outdoors among the beautiful plants. This is where I captured this scene of a child sitting on a tree branch, just like in Oscar Wilde's "The Selfish Giant", waiting to be helped down by someone bigger and stronger.

I was talking to my brother today about scents that reminds him of our father. These turned out to be primarily turpentine and paint thinner. He never wore a fragrance and kept a beard so didn't even use as much as an aftershave by way of fragrance products. This is maybe a bit extreme, but most dads, it seems, would go scentless unless they receive gifts of fragrance. And so this is suppose to be the point where I should have a little spiel in my newsletter convincing you to buy a fragrance for your father. Well, I'll be doomed if that's what I'm suppose to do every year on Father's Day for the rest of my career. I trust that you know what your dad likes, and be it an electronic gadget, hardware or a tie, what will really make him happy is your thoughts of him and spending time together with his children.

So instead of advocating for more fragrance shopping (by all means, go for it if you must...) I just wanted to acknowledge that special day coming up on Sunday June 15th and wish you all a Happy Father's Day. It is a secular holiday that celebrates something that is essential and universally meaningful - parenthood, and thanking our parents for all that they did for us. Aside from that, I highly recommend you read my myth-crashing article titled What Makes a Fragrance Masculine?

New arrival: ArbitRary Candle

Ayala Moriel is proud to present the first perfumed candle in our collection: ArbitRary.

ArbitRary candle is based in food-grade soy wax with pure cotton wick. It has a stunning cold throw that is as refreshing and bright as the perfume itself. It burns with its lovely, refreshing

aroma, filling the room gently with its mélange of basil, lime, lemon
verbena, oakmoss and hay.

Each 8oz candle burns for 50-60 hours and retails for $45. They are now available for ordering and will be in stock next week

In all of our products - perfumes, jewelry, teas and now candles - we put quality, integrity and craftsmanship as a top priotiry. When sourcing production from outside of our atelier, we collaborate with independent artisans who are passionate about their art and value quality and integrity in their business just as much as we do. In doing so, we are committed to creating positive change in our world: we give you the best, pure product we can possibly create and also support like-minded artisans and their businesses. This is our way of creating small change in the way business is conducted around the world.
Our perfumed candles are made with attention to purity, quality and detail: each candle is created and hand-poured especially for us by hand by Nikki Sherritt, the talented and passionate artisan candle maker and the founder of Seattle-based, independent candle company Gabriel’s Aunt. The candle was custom-made especially for Ayala Moriel Parfums, based on the perfume formula of ArbitRary. Nikki and I have been working on adding all-natural perfumed candles to

my line since the fall, and we hope that ArbitRary will be received in the enthusiasm it deserves so that we can create more beautiful candles for you (the next candles are going to be gorgeous!).

Candle Burning Tips

To get the most out of your candle, follow these simple steps:

Safety tips:

- Never leave a burning candle unattended

- Place burning candle away from any flammable materials

- Place the candle away from reach of children and pets; keep matches and lighters away from children as well.

- To avoid large flame, always trip the wick before lighting your candle to the recommended length of 1/8”

- Burn the candle away from open windows

How to care for your candle:

- When burning your candle for the first time, burn it for 4 hours straight, or until there a melted wax pool forms on the entire surface of the candle. This will help avoiding the formation of a hole or a “tunnel” in the middle of the candle.

- To ensure an even burn, always trip the wick before burning, and ensure it is centered.

- Burn the candle away from open windows or drafts to avoid uneven burn and enlarged flame

Enjoying Scents in the Summer

In the heat and humidity of summer choosing the right scent to wear isn't easy. There are many factors that don't work in our favour at this time of the year in relation to fragrance:

tends to make scents feel heavy and suffocating. Therefore, try to avoid scents that are already heavy by nature, such as concentrated floral perfumes (particularly the more narcotic notes can come off as overbearing in extreme heat and humidity). Humidity strangely carries the scents in the air and at times even amplifies them. They may not stay for long on your skin with all the sweating but while they do they could linger quite heavily in the air, carried by the moist molecules.
That is why I recommend only the lightest and preferably "dry" scents for those unbearable humid days. Notes such as woods and vetiver, as well as citrus and fragrances with only a light touch of spices and very little floral notes if at all. For example: Bon Zai with its dry vetiver and sandalwood; Lovender's captivating fresh and calming lavender, lemon, sandalwood and iris notes; and last but not least Sabotage - a clean, sophisticated and somewhat soapy concoction of vetiver, tobacco and lemon leaves with a hint of pepper.

Heat increases the evaporation rate of scents and so you may need re-apply scents more often during the summer. Traditionally, citrus and light cologne or eau fraiche type fragrances are worn in the summer. These are very light and not long lasting to begin with and the simple action of applying the scent is perceived as cooling, which adds to their appeal. Aside from using your favourite light summer fragrances you may also want to try using simple floral water to freshen up in the heat of the day. Neroli (orange flower water) and Rosewater are widely available in many Middle-Eastern, Greece and East Indian grocery stores and are fairly inexpensive. Decant some into a spray bottle or a mister and enjoy the cool water on your face, neck and arms. Some other floral waters or hydrosols can be found as well - including sandalwood and vetiver. Likewise, floral waters or pure spring water can be sprinkled on vetiver fans to produce a cooling waft of air.

When it's really hot, I particularly enjoy wearing ArbitRary, with its citrus-herbal notes of basil, lime and verbena; Fetish, bursting with grapefruit, mandarin and rhododendron; and Charisma, with its exotic green-tea, osmanthus and spearmint notes.

Limited Edition: Vetiver Racinettes

Last year, I have conducted an intensive Vetiver Series on SmellyBlog. Aside from articles about the odour profiles of vetiver from different regions, traditional and medicinal uses of vetiver, and reviews of vetiver-centered fragrances - I have shared my own experiences in creating a series of mods for my very own vetiver perfume. One thing lead to another, and after 4 different vetiver versions (Vetiver Blanc, Wilde Vetyver, Vetiver Noir and Vetiver Rouge) - I have finally arrived at a destination that I have never quite planned to find - my very own signature vetiver scent: Vetiver Racinettes.

Vetiver Racinettes was born out of two forces: my curiousity to study this intriguing and versatile note; and a deep need that I can only describe as therapeutic at that time, which lead me specifically to that essence. The result of this vetiver journey is a perfume that contains all of the elements that I've ever loved in the vetiver scents I've tried, as well as my own conclusions from my journey in the route of vetiver. It has the warmth of earth and firey spices and at the same time - the coolness of clay and vetiver curtains sprinkled with water; the medicinal dryness of herbs and grasses and the luxurious tenacity of woods; the sweetness of tarragon and earth with the bitterness of coffee and mud.

Top notes: Black Pepper, Fresh Ginger, Cardamom, Kaffir Lime Leaf
Heart notes: Haitian Vetiver , Nutmeg Asbolute, Coffee, Spikenard
Base notes: Ruh Khus, Indonesian Vetiver, Vetiver Bourbon, Attar Mitti, Tarragon Absolute, Cepes

I had difficult time deciding when to release Vetiver Racinettes; and after consulting with all of my "sniffing bunnies" I have arrived at the conclusion that the summer would be the best time of year to appreciate the calm coolness that it brings while also accentuating the extremist attitude this scent has. And so Vetiver Racinettes is now at your service, as a limited edition for summertime.

Happy Father's Day!

Warm regards,

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