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.

Alternative Methods of Application for Sensitive Skin

What if you weren't blessed with a thick skin like most of us? How can you keep scent in your life yet keep skin rash out of it? I was approached by a customer who happened to develop a nasty rash to her favourite perfume (Immortellle l'Amour, thanks for asking). No matter what, she still wants to enjoy it (which makes me equally sad and flattered). It suddenly dawned on me that she may not be the only one who could benefit from tips for how to enjoy scent without ruining your epidermis.

There are several alternatives for wearing scent that I highly recommend you try experimenting with. They can be divided into three major categories: Scenting the hair, scenting the clothing, and jewelry. The methods that can be used also can be further divided into application of liquid perfume (either oil or alcohol based, which you would spray, dab or splash on another object that is worn close to the body but not directly touching the sensitive skin); scenting through incense smoke; or taking advantage of your own body's warmth to coax the scent out of a piece of jewelry it's encased within; and lastly - saturation or immersion by proximity, as with placing scented sachets among the objects you'd like to scent.

Hair holds great potential for those who can't enjoy it on their skin. There are ancient tradition world-wide for scenting the hair. Its ability to retain scent makes it especially appealing. In Arabia, women use incense smoke to scent their hair after washing. And in India, women scent their hair with fragrant oils, such as sesame oil from seeds that have been saturated with the scent of jasmine petals, Monoi de Tahiti (coconut oil infused with the island's native gardenia flower) to scent and nourish the hair and protect it from the sun. And if you live in a tropical country - tucking a flower behind your ear is all you'll need - be it a champaca flower as they do in India, or plumeria or gardenia in the tropical islands (i.e. Hawaii and Haiti).

Liquid Perfume Application: Dab a little of perfume on your fingertips, and work it into strands of your hair. Avoid the scalp to prevent skin reaction. It's better to use oil-based perfume on your hair, especially if your hair tends to be dry and frizzy. Scented nourishing hair oils are another great way to enjoy fragrant without affecting your skin, and give your hair an extra boost of nutrients and lock in moisture. If you are using hair oil, it's best to apply them on damp, towel-dried hair before you style it.

Incense Method: Burn your favourite incense, and surround yourself with smoke for 10 - 15 minutes so that your hair will absorb the scent. Be extra cautious that the ember at the tip of the incense stick (or hot bowl and embers if you are burning loose incense on a charcoal) do not touch your hair - it will burn and smell awful!

First of all a word of caution: if your skin is very very sensitive, you might not want to use this method on a scarf you are worn directly on your neck. In this case, a shawl might be a better idea - or a handkerchief (see more below).
Another thing to keep in mind is that perfumes often can stain. So it's best to use this method with dark scarf. Also, natural fabrics from animal origin such as wool and silk retain the scent better than cotton or linen.
Spray: To scent your scarf, spray your favourite scent into the air directly above it. This will reduce staining, and distribute the scent evenly on a larger area of the scarf.

Handkerchief perfumes were very popular, especially among men, in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. They would carry one, neatly folded, peaking from the jacket's pocket. They were scented with specially formulated "handkerchief perfumes" - usually a bouquet of several floral notes, or soliflores. The advantage of a scented handkerchief is that if you go through a very stinky part of town (or are stuck on a stinky bus) - you can bring it to your nose and escape the stench... In addition, you needn't worry about your skin getting any rashes, but will still enjoy the perfume as it drifts up from your pocket.

Liquid Perfume Application: Dab some perfume or apply a few drops on the handkerchief and place in your pocket.

Saturation Method: Such handkerchiefs can also be placed inside drawers or between your sweaters and clothing or even stationary so that they can absorb their pleasant scent.

The result of adding scent to clothing is usually quite subtle, and I won't lie to you and say it's the same as applying it directly to your skin or hair. It's not as intimate. However, it is a wonderful and inoffensive way to add scent to your life, as well as joy. The Japanese, whose scent culture does not include much of skin-application of fragrance, would tuck sachets of fragrant woods and spices into their kimono sleeves (which are very wide, and were used also as pockets of sorts).  Another less known fact about scenting clothes is that while you move, it also moves the scent molecules around, leaving a pleasantly fragrant trail in your wake...

Liquid Perfume Application: Spraying fragrance in the air is usually  more effective (see above re scarf). But even a little dab on your jacket's collar or on the sleeves near the wrists can add some scent to your daily life.

Saturation Method: Place sachets or scented soap between your garments. You can purchase high-end Japanese sachets, that come in either paper bags or fancy silk pouches - or sew your own simple linen sachets of single notes such as lavender buds, patchouli leaves, liatrix leaves, etc. Even whole spices such as star anise, vanilla beans or cinnamon sticks can be placed in drawers or shelves to scent clothes. Some herbs and fragrant woods, such as patchouli leaves and cedar blocks (or balls) also will protect your wool and silk from greedy moth.

Women in biblical times (and till this day in Ethiopia) would wear a chunk of myrrh on their neck that would warm up against their body to release its delicate scent. This is what the Song of Songs is referring to "A bundle of myrrh is my beloved unto me; she shall lie all night betwixt my breasts" (Song of Songs 1:13 based on the King James Bible translation). While wearing it directly on the skin might be too risqué for a person with sensitive skin - if it is enclosed in a pouch or a container, the damage may be minimized. Same for solid perfumes: they will warm on your body and release the scent so that you can smell it rising from your chest - even if you can't wear it directly on the skin.

If you have any other tips for enjoying scent without coming into dermal contact with it - please do post a comment! And this is also an opportunity to remind you that we do have a monthly contest here on SmellyBlog. All of your comments during the month will be entered into a draw come February 1st, and the winner will receive a set of vintage minis from the 80s.

Why Are Natural Perfumes Short Lived?

After over 10 years in the business, you get used to waking up to emails like this one. This time, I though I'd post it here for the benefits of anyone else doubtful of natural perfumes' supposedly short-lived appearance on the skin etc. Also, I will be updating my FAQ page to cover that as well with this info.

On 23-Feb-12, at 6:11 AM, Ms. C. Wrote:

Hi! First of all, I just want to say that I absolutely LOVE your perfumes and am more than
pleased with almost every single one of the samples I received as a birthday gift. I am unable to wear synthetic fragrances, and would rather go organic / natural anyway, so have recently been avidly searching for “my new scent”.

I would love to be a loyal customer and only buy Ayala Moriel Parfumes from this point on, but my one concern is that none of the perfumes have staying power on me whatsoever.
After 2 hours of applying them, they fade away into nothing. I don’t know if you have any
answers or solutions for me, but I’m very disappointed that after spending so much money on my attempt to find a great organic perfume, that they’re already almost all gone because I have to reapply constantly in order to smell them at all. Please let me know if you have any solutions, because there are several of the sample scents that I’d love to order, but simply can’t spend that kind of money to be inconvenienced by having to reapply all day long.

Thank you,

Miss C.

Dear Miss C:

Thank you for your email and your feedback.
I'm glad you liked the perfumes, and am sorry that they didn't last long enough on your skin.

Since my perfumes are 100% pure natural, they do not contain synthetic fixatives. Therefore, their lasting power varies greatly among individuals - depending on your skin type (dry or oily) and colour (fair or dark, or if it can easily tan) as well as your diet - the perfume will last longer or for lesser amount of time. If your skin is fair and dry, it will last for the shortest amount of time, in which case I recommend you use my oil based perfumes, which are in jojoba oil and also more concentrated (keep in mind that the samples you tried are my EDP - which are between 10-15% essence; while the perfume oils are as high as 30-40%). You can read more on why jojoba oil is so great in making a perfume longer lasting in this article on my SmellyBlog.

Likewise, the type of composition also makes a huge difference. For example: Tamya and Fetish are very light scents, and last even on my skin last only 4-6 hours. Immortelle l'Amour, however, lasts as long as 18hrs (or even more, but that's as long as I've gone without a shower when testing my fragrances).

The last factor I'd like to bring to your attention is the different in quality and personality between mainstream synthetic-packed perfumes and pure natural ones. If you are used to wearing or smelling synthetic perfumes, you probably learned to expect them to pack a punch and leave a strong trail of scent wherever you go. This is now how naturals work, and this is, in my opinion, part of their beauty - they have a softer and gentler sillage (diffusive power) and don't take over elevators, board rooms or any space for that matter. People who are used to a strong perfume will need some time to "wean" themselves from that and get used to the subtlety of natural fragrance. The process can be likened to getting used to eat food with less salt and appreciate the natural flavour of the food on its own; or switching between strong black coffee to ethereal green and white teas; or getting used to eat food with no MSG... You will have to wait a few weeks to get used to the new experience and regain the sensitivity of your sense of smell.

As for the "inconvenience" or re-applying: it's all in the nose of the beholder, so to speak. Some ladies absolutely love the ritual of applying a scent and wouldn't leave the house without a little flask of perfume for touch-ups throughout the day. This is precisely why I offer my perfumes in small packaging - that is easy to transport, and is no larger than a lipstick.

Lastly - re the pricing: Our 8 sample packages go for $50. If you look at the website and the pricing you will see that it's very reasonable, considering that these are made from top quality pure botanical essences and are all hand crafted, labeled and packaged by hand - by myself. In fact, you will see that with the sample packages we nearly giving these at cost with making no profit at all...
A single drop of rose oil, for example, costs more than $1. And you need at least 4 of these drops in, say, a sample of size of 1ml of a perfume such as Rosebud. Considering that there are other scents in each sample you received, and some are even more expensive than rose - you will be able to understand how precious these materials are!

You can read more about why natural perfumes are more expensive than synthetic on my FAQ page (as well as get many other questions answered).

All the best,


Put Your Nose Into Use: Father's Day Fragrance Picking

Dior's Eau Sauvage ad
Dior's Eau Sauvage ad
René Gruau

The following is pretty much a summary of the presentation given at my Espionage Tea Party last week. My apologies for taking forever to put this together... I hope you find it useful and wish you all a happy and fragrant Father's Day!

Since it is Father’s Day today, and I’m sure all of you are just dying to finally get your dad to smell nice instead of getting him a tie, a toolbox or an iPad - the topic of masculine fragrances is inevitable. The thing is – we don’t really know what is it about scents that make them masculine. Somehow, we just seem to be able to tell once we smell them, yet without explanation. Is there truly a gender distinction in fragrance? Or is it just that we were programmed that way? Let’s find out.

The entire concept of gender-specific scents did not come into place until recently. India and Arabia, the two most ancient perfume civilizations that have maintined their olfactory culture to this day, pay little attention to such notions and wear whatever scents they find attractive and appealing, flowers included: Indian men love to wear jasmine, and Arab men have always adored roses.

The Western consumers, however, are obsessed with two conflicting concepts when choosing a fragrance: sexuality and cleanliness. The way this translates into the fragrance industry and the products we smell (or not) is quite fascinating. For example: Western perfumes have been for the most part gender-specific for the past 100 years or so, to the point that the world of men’s fragrance seems to have developed their own jargon, separate from the technicalities and specifications that perfumers normally would relate to. For example: you cannot, under any circumstances, expect to call a product “perfume” and expect men to buy into it. Perfume, as it turns out, is perceived as a completely girly and dainty affair. Men would only buy a scent if it’s called “aftershave”, “fragrance” or as it is most often referred to in North America - “Cologne”: a name that has very little to do with the true meaning of the term – which refers to a very light concentration of fragrance, and usually in a citrus-herbaceous category, intended for used mostly for hygienic purposes – and has direct lineage to the “Aqua Mirabillis” of medieval times.

Technicalities aside, the aesthetics of Western “masculine perfumery” pose an interesting challenge for the perfumer. The palette seems to be so much more limited than that which is “allowed” in feminine perfumes. Therefore, masculine fragrances seem to have reached a certain plateau in innovation that is only occasionally shuttered by original or slightly gender-bending scents.

So let’s break a few myths on the topic:

Myth: no. 1: “If a man wears a perfume designed for women, it will make him smell like a girl”.
Reality: Men (or women) who think that way are forgetting the last yet most important ingredient in a fragrance, which is no other than the wearer’s own skin odour!
Each skin has a completely different scent, affected by the diet and metabolism of the person, as well as their own gender’s pheromone makeup. Men and women have a different body chemistry. Therefore, what truly makes a fragrance “masculine” or “feminine” smelling is the person who is wearing it!

By nature, men have a body odour that is more musky and sharp, and women have a body odour that is more ambery and soft. If the perfumer will try to compare these into specific notes, I’d say that the closest notes to a man’s body odour might combine notes such as sandalwood, costus, cumin, hay, patchouli, vetiver, oakmoss and tonquin musk. A woman’s body odour can be best imitated with notes such as labdanum, vanilla, benzoin, civet and honey absolute.

So, don’t forget that your skin is the real “base” for your perfume, and that what matters is how it smells on it! Be adventurous, and if you like the smell of amber, rose, tuberose or violet - don’t be shy and try them on. They will smell completely different than on a woman. Take my word for that.

Myth no. 2: “floral notes are feminine and are best avoided when choosing a scent for a man”.
Reality: Attributing floral notes (or any notes, for that matter), to one gender or another is for the most part culturally based and once presented to an individual from a different culture, will likely lose its meaning (as in the example of rose and jasmine I brought earlier). If Arab men feel comfortable enough with their masculinity when wearing soft and voluptuous roses, I can’t see any reason why to avoid this note (or any other floral note, for that matter), in fragrances designed to be worn by men.

The following are just a few examples of floral notes in perfumes that could be very “masculine” in character.

Rose Geranium - the floral fruity rosy yet minty, green and herbaceous qualities make this note perfect for masculine perfumes, which is why it is used extensively in perfumes from the Fougère family.

Orange Flower Absolute - Great for colognes and citruses of all types, but it can also be used for a more surprising, even a cutting edge oriental masculine fragrance. Orange blossom is often a heart note in tobacco based scents, to add a bit of indolic sweetness, fruitiness and a sparkle to the dry tannin notes.

Jasmine Grandiflorum - sweet and well rounded, widely used in masculine perfumes to bridge between sharp top notes and musky or mossy base notes.

Jasmine Sambac – this variety is more fruity and a tad more green (but in a very delicate way) than the grandiflorum, Sambac is an interesting addition to a men's scent, thought rarely used in Western perfumery.

Champaca - this spicy and heady tea-like and somewhat fruity exotic floral blends seamlessly into masculine compositions, such as Orientals and leathery types. It’s very cost prohibitive which is why you’re unlikely to find it in mainstream fragrances though.

Rose – as I mentioned earlier, rose can be somewhat of a challenge for the Western nose, particularly if trying to use it as a main note. But it certainly has a role in many male fragrances, even if it’s not as noticeable. Up until the late 19th century, it was actually still quite popular in bouquets for handkerchief fragrances for men, including also other soft florals such as violet and iris.

Carnation - a soft spicy floral note that is commonly used in Fougères.

Myth no. 3: “some notes are masculine, and some notes are feminine”.
Reality: As you’ve seen in the previous myth-crushing segment, context is everything. More than individual notes having specific gender, I would say the manner in which they interact with one another and the mood and personality they create is what truly matters. One thing that is true though, is that if thinking of the philosophical terms of what “masculine” and “feminine” mean, we could, perhaps, make the distinction between notes that are “projective” as opposed to notes that are “receptive”. Notes that approach you as opposed to notes that draw you in. This might explain why notes such as citrus, herbs and spices are often considered more masculine and are used in abundance in masculine fragrances (they simply “come and get you”), while other notes – more round and “receptive” so to speak, such as the floral and ambery notes, can be more readily perceived as “feminine”. Still, don’t let yourself forget that what really matters is how all these notes interact with one another. The question you should ask yourself is if the perfume itself “projective” or “receptive”.

For various reasons which I’ll attempt to explain in a moment, the archetypal masculine fragrances of Western perfumery belong mostly to four major fragrance families:

Citrus, Fougère, Woody-Oriental, and the Leather/Tobacco (the latter being a sub-category of the Chypre family – which is mostly feminine otherwise). So, when you smell a scent and recognize an immediate “masculine” character, what you are in fact recognizing is a fragrance family!

There are some historical and cultural reasons for those families being so strongly associated with men’s grooming, as well as some that are founded in the nature of masculine pheromones and men’s natural body odour.

Historically speaking, the art of shaving has a great influence on modern masculine fragrances. The Romans brought men’s grooming to heights that no other civilization have dared to explore before, resulting in a more sophisticated men’s grooming culture, some of which has survived to this day.

Fragrant aftershaves serve the purpose of disinfecting scrapes, cuts and wounds that occur during shaving, as well as sooth, soften and moisturize the skin afterwards. The essential oils of citrus peels, and herbs and spices such as bay leaf, juniper, lavender and allspice have disinfecting properties, as well as softening and conditioning the skin. It is through those associations of men’s shaving and grooming rituals that we learned to associate certain scents with masculinity. For example: Bay-Rum aftershave, which is a spicy concoction of allspice, cinnamon, cloves, bayberry, bay leaves and orange peel steeped in rum has a strong connection to the composition of the classic men’s fragrance Old Spice.

Most aftershaves contain notes such as citrus and herbs, chosen originally for their astringent and antibacterial properties, and later on by association became an olfactory trademark of masculinity, which is most evident in the Fougère fragrance family – which is based on the contrast between herbaceous lavender, musky oakmoss and powdery-soft coumarin; and the citrus-fantasy fragrance family.

There is a reason why woody scents are associated with masculine scents: Sandalwood oil has a unique chemical make up that is quite similar to androstenol – a pheromone found in men’s sweat. But sandalwood is not the only woody notes found in abundance in masculine fragrances – cedarwood comes to mind, with its distinct lumber and pencil shaving aroma. Perhaps we have also learned to associate woodworking with masculinity because most of the manual labour was done by men through centuries? But who cares, as long as it smells good!

Guiacwood, with its smoky and honeyed aroma is also a prominent note in tobacco scents. Other woodsy notes commonly found in masculine fragrances are not necessarily derived from woods, for example: patchouli (the dried, cured leaves of an East Indian herb from the mint family) and vetiver, from the root of a tropical grass which comes in a range of varieties from smoky to clean and nearly citrusy.

Some notes have a pretty literal explanation as far as the origin of their sex appeal, to the point that could verge on the vulgar if it’s not played right. Fresh cut grass resembles the scent of a certain masculine secretion, while cumin resembles the scent of men’s sweat. Both can be very appealing – or repelling, depending on the particular scent they are in and how much you apply.

The fresh cut grass note can be fresh and clean-smelling with a subtext that hints at sexual vigor and fertility yet without sending everyone screaming to the opposite direction… Cumin, with its sweet and musky tenacity, rather than smelling dirty to the point of questioning the wearer’s hygienic habits – will create a comfortable and alluring sense of intimacy.

How To Pick a Fragrance for a Man?

Now to the fun part, and the most challenging of all: how to pick a scent for a man as a gift? This is particularly tricky if you are trying to surprise him, and even more so - if you don't know him very well.

Despite my dislike for making generalizations about large sections of the population, I think it would be safe to say that the majority of men (with the rare exception of male perfumista) won’t readily admit they are interested in scents. It’s unlikely they will wear any fragrance, unless:

1) Their girlfriend (or any other significant female figure in their life) bought them a cologne for Christmas or another special occasion
2) They are deeply convinced that wearing a scent will attract a partner

Therefore, it becomes the women’s responsibility to educate and manipulate the men’s olfactory lives, be it by gifting them with fragrance, or openly commenting on how they happen to smell like.

My male clients are dear to me not only because they are so rare, but also because they have sensibilities about the olfactory world that are different than women’s. In my upcoming tea party I aim to educate my men to take their olfactory life into their own hands, and dare to wear what they like. But for the rest of my clients (admittedly, mostly ladies) – why won't you try to pick a scent that has the potential of captivating your man’s imagination and appealing to his own sensibilities. Men, even if they don’t admit it as readily as women, enjoy and appreciate scent very much, if they are only allowed to believe that it’s important and not overtly self-indulgent!

But how could you tell what they would like?
Part of it is intuition, and part of it is logic. People tend to be drawn to similar types of scents, aromas and flavours in real life, many of which can be found in natural perfumery!

The following tips will give you ideas about how you can gather information about a man’s olfactory preferences, without asking them too many questions. If you know the person for a long time, this might be easier. But if you don’t know him, a quick look around his home and taking notice of his favourite foods and which drinks he orders at the bar might provide you with just enough sufficient information.

When ordering food in the restaurant – does he tend to order spicy or aromatic foods, or is he simply a “meat and potato” kind of guy? If he likes spices, mostly likely he will also enjoy fragrance that incorporate them, e.g.: Spicy Orientals such as Opium, Habit Rouge or Épice Sauvage. If his palate does not seem as sophisticated, you may just want to go with a “safe” classic fragrance from the citrus or Fougère family, i.e.: Azzaro.

If he likes to drink gin and tonic, see how he likes a scent with juniper berries or citrus, such as Arsenal; or if he likes scotch, he probably will also appreciate Espionage’s peaty and full-bodied malty qualities, or enjoy something smoky, e.x. Bvlgari Black. And for the coffee lover – there are quite a few gourmand type fragrances with a pronounced coffee notes, such as Yohji Homme, Thierry Mugler's AMen Pure Coffee - or how about an exotic dermitasse of Finjan, a dark-roasted Turkish coffee scent?

And if you have a chance to spy on his house, see what you find in different rooms about scents and products he uses without raising suspicion.

In the kitchen:

What’s in his spice rack (if he’s got one)? What Herbs does he like to cook with? What kind food or drinks does he keep in his fridge? For example: if he likes herbs such as basil or oregano, it’s likely that he would also appreciate an aromatic Fougère that incorporates these notes, or a citrus with a sprinkle of herbs. If he likes fruity soft drinks, he might also enjoy a fragrance that has a hint of fruit or berries.

In the bathroom:

This is probably where he keeps all his grooming products, fragrance included (although I wouldn’t count on these to determine his personal taste! Like I said, these were probably chosen for him by a girlfriend in high school that thought it was very sexy, and now he’s just stuck with it for life, as well as all his future girlfriends, wives, daughters and granddaughters…). But it’s very likely that the choices he makes about innocent and less indulgent scented products such as shower gel, hand-soap, shampoo, soap bar etc. may give you a better insight into his true scent preferences.

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