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How To Choose A Scent For All Seasons

Four tips to help you pick a fragrance to see you through the year

As the seasons change, what we wear changes. It is a law of life. And one ignored at the peril of style opprobrium and frost bite. We ditch the shorts, pick up the coat and the woollen sweater and march on into the autumn and winter – and we do so in styles of coats and sweaters that differ, season by fashionable season. There is another thing that we wear that changes with the season, too: our fragrance.

It is sort of hammered into us. Light fragrances in summer, and heavy eaux de parfum comprised of leather, amber and oud in winter. It is like some sort of fragrance prescription. And while there is a degree to which physics plays a part in that equation – odour molecules do indeed travel with greater ease in summer – it isn’t the end of the matter. The rules of fragrance are there to be broken these days. To help you see scent sense, we have put together a guide to the new rules of fragrance in 2018.

Get personal

Many perfumers record their life experiences in scent in the same way musicians write autobiographical songs. “All of my fragrances have been inspired by places or experiences, so the original idea is forever locked in a temporal bracket,” says Mr Aaron Firth, founder of Laboratory Perfumes.

It might seem airy-fairy, but to get the most out of your perfume, think about it like you would think about the cut of a jacket. Dare we say it, look for meaning. Even if that involves superimposing your own story onto someone else’s creation. This will ensure you aren’t unduly prey to the changing tide of persuasive marketing. The world does not need more men wearing generic aromatic woody concoctions. 

Learn to layer

Layering or “fragrance combining” was an idea spearheaded by Jo Malone London, which encouraged wearers to blend their own scent from building blocks in their collection. Much like piecing together an outfit, Jo Malone’s super-citrusy Lime, Basil & Mandarin Cologne could be made warmer with a splash of Pomegranate Noir. Equally, the spicy facets of Amber & Lavender could be enhanced by the woody aroma of 154 Cologne.

The idea of layering opens up a world of possibilities for all seasons. That is, of course, provided you know your gourmand from your fougère and you don’t get too trigger-happy with the atomiser.

Forget about seasonality

Summer doesn’t necessarily have to mean light scents. Mr James Craven, who works as the fragrance archivist at Les Senteurs, is an outspoken advocate for bold scents at the height of summer. He first recognised the adaptability of heavier scents on his travels through Egypt, Asiatic Russia and Tunis 25 years ago.

In fact, “Strong and heavy scents can work extremely well in hot weather because the raw ingredients return, as it were, to their natural element,” he says. “Perfume originated in the boiling heat of Mesopotamia and Egypt millennia ago. Amber resins, incense, precious woods, patchouli and perfumed gums are all native to the hottest climates. So are ylang ylang, neroli, tuberose, jasmine and frangipani,” he observes. “When you wear these oils in heat they are reborn and bloom as they did when they were alive and growing. Every facet, every molecule is revealed for inspection. It’s magical.”

One rule of thumb, though, is to go for quality rather than quantity. To that end, consider a spray or two of the high-impact patchouli and vanilla that is Frederic Malle’s Musc Ravageur or Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s fabulous selection of ouds. You won’t regret it.

In the same way that bold scents come alive in hotter months, the citrus colognes that are so often associated with summer can hold their own in autumn and winter ­– so long as they are formulated correctly.  

Mr Tom Daxon’s Cologne Absolute, for example, has all the hallmarks of a traditional summer cologne in an eau de parfum concentration. A higher concentration of perfume oil means the scent will cut through chillier climates and last far longer than a normal cologne, which contains considerably less perfume oil (2-3 per cent vs 15-20 per cent). Moreover, the refreshing top notes of neroli, bergamot and lemon petitgrain are supported by a sturdy base of patchouli and cypriol, ensuring that the final blend has enough weight for autumn and winter. The same can be said for Mr Daxon’s VSOP, which exudes warmth by way of cognac but also has an invigoratingly green top note.

Scent requires more than smelling

Fragrances are not made of smelly things alone. Nor are they perceived exclusively by our sense of smell. Massage therapists can “see” with their fingers in the same way a composer can describe harmonies in terms of colour and light. All our senses are intertwined, and this is particularly true in the case of fragrance, when the subject is intangible, personal and transient.

Perfumers add synthetics to fragrances to create stability, projection and, above all, texture. It is the use of these synthetics juxtaposed with natural (or near-natural) ingredients that can make a scent “powdery”, “chalky”, “metallic” or even “smoky”. Some people even pick up textiles such as satin – as in Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Oud Satin Mood – or cashmere. And it is the prevalence of a particular texture that can make a fragrance suitable for the entire year.

Fans of cult classic Escentric 01 by Escentric Molecules are drawn to the velvety sensation it creates more than any perceptible smell. Its compound, Iso E Super, a synthetic ketone, is perhaps one of the most widely used aroma-chemicals in perfumery and it is the star of Escentric 01. Equally enduring is Comme Des Garcons’ 2 Man eau de toilette, which echoes the texture of… typewriter ink? Old comic books, perhaps? So, next time you choose a perfume, give it more than a random sniff – you won’t regret it.

You know it makes scents

  • Le Labo AnOther 13 Eau de Parfum, 15ml

  • Diptyque Sens Eau de Toilette - Bitter Orange & Juniper Berry, 50ml

  • Comme des Garcons Parfums Eau de Parfum Pocket Collection, 4 x 25ml

  • D.S. & Durga Radio Bombay Eau de Parfum - Radiant Wood, Copper & Cedar, 50ml

  • Frederic Malle Cologne Indélébile Eau de Parfum - Orange Blossom Absolute & White Musk, 10ml

  • Escentric Molecules Escentric 04 Eau De Toilette - Javanol, Orris & Polysantol, 30ml