How to Navigate Finding Your Perfect Scent
BY ROXY ALLNUTT
Find the scent that earns a permanent position on your vanity.
6 SEP - 2022
Fragrance is notoriously personal, and each one smells unique to the wearer. Finding your signature scent can take years.
Choosing a new fragrance is challenging, but scoping in on 'the one' - it might seem impossible. Perhaps you are one of the lucky few who knew exactly which perfume was for them after a few sniffs. But chances are, you are more like me and the countless others who have spent years wandering the fragrance aisles of every department store, growing increasingly unsure of what you actually like.
Approaching perfumery is different for everyone. Maybe you’re trying to find the scent that belongs so much to you that your friends notice when you're without it. Maybe you like to have a choice of fragrances to choose from each morning that influence your day ahead, e.g., sweet in the summer, spicy and floral for a date. Or maybe you are sick and tired of the randomness of your perfumes, the odd cheap bottle you pick up on your way through duty-free or the gift from a relative that you need to get through. Maybe you long for a scent that you can rely on for any occasion.
Well, this write-up is for all these niggly desires! Fortunately, I have worked in the fragrance industry and have seen the very common dilemma of smelling a few things, then smelling a few more, and then getting totally overwhelmed and giving up.
Hopefully, some of this advice will help a sis out.
So, what is a Signature Scent?
A signature scent is a fragrance that encapsulates you. Seeking this perfume takes dedication, trial, and error. Years may pass and your taste may evolve, but your signature fragrance is always something you'll come back to time and time again - we want to find something that you will never lose love for. No matter what stage you’re at in your perfume journey. I have compiled some pointers for seeking a trademark scent.
Always Sample in Person
It may sound obvious, but always try before you buy when it comes to perfume. Kimmy K's range may sound freaking amazing online but unless you can scope out a department store that has it on a sample, don't do it! Too often, we are influenced by our faves and grab insta-worthy bottles that just become dust-collecting ornaments.
Hitting The Stores
I would suggest spending a good few hours at the department store dedicated to the cause. Begin with the mantra *today, I will find my scent*. Clear your mind and start with the scents you've heard of or are familiar with. Be sure to take a pen with you and grab a hunk of blotter papers. Things are about to get fun.
Scents that I would start with.
- A.N. OTHER: earthy and woody, floral; bergamot, neroli, amber, patchouli
- Tom Ford Black Orchid: Deep, dark, elegant; ylang ylang, citrus, black plum
- Byredo Flowerhead: Citrusy, calming, sweet; mandarin, lavender, jasmine vanilla.
- Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540: Flossy, candy sweet, cedar; saffron, marigold, cedarwood, fir balsam.
- Chanel Chance: Floral, spiced, not too sweet; iris, vanilla, white musk, pink pepper.
I would start with these five. They are all super different, but each are on top of the game currently. If one isn't for you, scrap it. Jot down the describing words/notes that I have listed above, as you can use these keywords as we start to refine in the next phase.
Putting the Olfactory System to Work
Here are a few things to note before you start sniffing every bottle at the department store. Far too frequently, we try a perfume by spraying it onto the paper and deciding on the spot whether or not we like it. Even worse, when you just smell the nozzle, all you’re getting is a direct hit of alcohol!
Finding your signature scent requires you to spray it onto the skin and spend a bit of time with it to determine whether you appreciate its aroma. I'd never have more than two scents on one arm when shopping. You're thinking, "What the fuck, what am I supposed to do after coating my arms in the first 5 minutes” Bring a pack of fragrance-free baby wipes to wipe away other lingering scents as you move down the aisle. This way you can shop for longer and know that you’ve got a super clear palette upon each new spritz.
Another fun tip, sometimes perfume stores have coffee beans in a jar that act as a palate cleanser. These don't work!! Taking in the smell of coffee beans will only hinder the next fragrance you smell and leave it smelling like coffee. To cleanse your palate, it is better to sniff into your shoulder or the top you’re wearing. You need to neutralise your system with your own natural scent.
After smelling a good 10-15 perfumes, you should have a bit of an idea as to what scents you like; sweet, floral, smokey, spiced, or maybe edible. From here, we can create more of a picture of what you like.
Simply going to store staff and saying I like a ‘sparkly, citrusy, sweetish’ scent will do wonders. They will be able to very easily point you in the direction of a few to try. Again, this is all about trial and error!
If you are in between 3 or 4 scents, I would douse up a blotter card heavily with each scent (labelled), take them away with you and leave them in the car or in your handbag and do a sniff test the following day off guard. Let's be honest, you have probably overloaded the olfactory system today. Taking away your top picks and spending a bit of time with them will make you fall in love with the winner even more.
Basenotes is a brilliant tool that helped me a lot with my perfumery. This search engine has been made to help determine fragrance notes and blends that have similarities to other fragrances on the market.
By using base notes, you can pop in the name’s fragrance that you like and it will tell you what exact notes are inside the perfume. This is useful as you may find that bergamot or cinnamon (for example) are the common notes in your favourite perfumes. This is a good indication that you should continue in this direction. At this point, I would start searching online for “bergamot perfumes” and then give them a go!
Base notes also give useful info on each perfume, like how well it lasts on the skin, and even recommend substitutes to try.
The best advice I can give while you browse is to determine what you want the scent to say. Keep in mind that you are wearing the fragrance, don't let the fragrance wear you.
If you're looking for something really subtle and discreet, I wouldn’t go for a bold hit of spices and musk. It’s very easy to be taken by surprise by a woody or a citrusy scent. You may love it! But think about that scent being alongside you for the rest of your life.
You should always be comfortable wearing it and love yourself with it on.