Fragrance concentrations: sorting it all out ~ perfumista tip

After last week’s battering of celebrity perfume reviews, I decided I needed a bottle of something nice. Cartier Baiser Volé, to be precise. But buying it wasn’t as simple as choosing a size and proffering a credit card. Baiser Volé comes in Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum and Extrait de Parfum. How do you choose between different formulations of the same fragrance?

As the FAQs page at Now Smell This lays out in more detail, different formulations of the same fragrance have different concentrations of the perfume base, with an Eau Fraïche containing the least amount and Extrait the most. Knowing this, you might think choosing a formulation would depend on how strong you want the fragrance or how long you want it to last. In fact, it’s not that simple.

First, lasting power (also called “persistence”) has more to do with the materials used in a fragrance than with its concentration…

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Parfums Raffy

Perfumista tip ~ how to make fragrance last through the day

Perfume’s persistence can be a blessing or a curse. It’s Murphy’s Law among perfume enthusiasts that the fragrance we loathe the most will be the one that wears through a night’s sleep and a shower, and clings to our coats through two thunderstorms and a dry cleaning. Conversely, the fragrances we love never seem to last long enough. Sure, I like to wear more than one perfume a day, but it would be nice if a perfume could soldier through a full workday without my having to rummage for a decant for a midday boost.

So, I loaded an atomizer with Guerlain Vol de Nuit Eau de Toilette and experimented:

The baseline

One spray of Vol de Nuit Eau de Toilette alone lasts about four hours before I really have to press my nose to flesh to smell it. It’s lovely enough to be worth it, but no one except me, with effort, can detect it after lunch…

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Perfumista tip: how to find perfume at thrift stores

Goodwill sign

When last week’s review of Norell elicited almost more comments about the bottle of Amouage Gold I found at Goodwill than it did about Norell, I decided to share what I know about finding perfume in thrift shops. Some of you probably live or work within blocks of vintage Guerlains and Chanels going for less than a ten spot and don’t even know it. It’s time to get those bottles off the shelves and onto the bodies of people who love them.

You might protest that your thrift shops don’t have anything but Avon figurines with peeling labels. But think about it: every town, no matter how small, has at least one glamour puss. She will almost certainly offload a bottle or two of something nice at some point. Plus, people who don’t love perfume often receive bottles as gifts. After a few years they figure that bottle of Chamade Eau de Cologne they received for Mother’s Day a few years ago has surely gone bad so they give it to the Salvation Army. And then there’s the occasional love affair turned sour that lands a nearly full bottle of Yves Saint Laurent Paris down at the Teen Challenge thrift shop…

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Perfumista tip: on fragrance families

Fragrance families cause a good deal of confusion, even among seasoned perfumistas. Two experiences, both involving the fruity floral category, illustrate the problem.

I once got a rather unpleasant email from a reader who was angry that I called a fragrance a “fruity floral” in a new fragrance announcement: she assumed that I was making an arbitrary assignment based on the notes listed in the press release, and that I was trying to make a critical statement about this particular fragrance.1 This nicely introduces the first point I’d like to make about fragrance families: you cannot determine the fragrance family by reading a list of notes. If you see a fragrance family listed in a new fragrance announcement, it came from the press materials or some other primary source.

Some time later I held a poll asking readers to name their favorite fruity floral perfumes. While most of the suggestions were, in fact, fruity, a rather large percentage of them were not, in fact, fruity florals. And that introduces the second point I’d like to make: you cannot determine the fragrance family just by the noticeable presence of certain notes, either…

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Perfumista tip: on reformulations, or why your favorite perfume doesn’t smell like it used to


One of the many hazards of writing about perfumes is that they’re not static objects. If you pick up a new bottle of Jean Couture Coriandre, what you’ll smell won’t be at all what I smelled when I first bought it in the late 1970s. It might not even be the same as what I smelled when I reviewed Coriandre a couple years ago, and found it to be an entirely different animal than the scent I remembered. The Coriandre you smell tomorrow, or next month, or next year, might have changed yet again.

This has obvious implications for anyone blogging about perfume or reading perfume blogs. When you read a perfume review, unless it’s about a perfume that launched recently, you can’t be sure that what you’ll smell in the stores is the exact same fragrance.

This article is meant as a very basic primer on reformulation, and most of what I’ll cover is well-known to seasoned perfumistas.

Perfumes get reformulated all the time, and they always have. Why? Well, there are any number of reasons. Sometimes companies substitute cheaper ingredients as a cost-saving measure…

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