Our very own James Craven answers some of the most frequently asked questions about fragrance.
What is a Note/Accord?
A note in a perfume denotes a reproduction of a single odour or smell: so one learns to recognise a note of rose, patchouli, jasmine, apple, lilac or cedarwood etc.
Classically a perfumer will arrange his composition in a "pyramid" of top, middle (heart) and base notes; the more volatile at the top, and the most tenacious at the base.
An accord is the scent created when a succession of notes are harmoniously arranged together: thus oakmoss, orange blossom and tuberose notes may produced a "new" smell - the scent of gardenia.
How long will a perfume last in the bottle?
With care, several months even years. Keep the scent in its original box, away from fluctuating temperatures, heat and light. Never leave exposed on shelf or dressing table.
Light volatile citrus or floral scents will deteriorate far quicker than fougeres or orientals. Perfumes with animalic, tobacco, woody notes may also improve with time. Parfum - in a stoppered bottle - will tend to fade more quickly as as air will get into the flacon with each application besides a certain amount of contamination. Bottles with atomisers (almost universal these days) obviate this problem.
How long will this perfume last me?
Many people ask this really unanswerable question, by which they mean "how many applications may I expect to get from this bottle?"
The best we can do is to offer a few tips:
You will generally find that you use far less perfume than you expect to, so that a smaller size bottle will stretch further than you think.
On the other hand, perfume is meant to be smelled and appreciated so be generous with application.
Don't hoard perfume, waiting for that special day which never comes. Choose wisely and well: then enjoy.
How long will this perfume last on my skin?
Another difficult one to answer: the truth is, it all depends on the match between the scent and your skin. This is the magic of scent: one person may find a volatile eau de toilette lasts all day whereas some one else may burn off a parfum extrait in minutes. You simply have to experiment. Be warned however, the nose soon becomes accustomed to a new smell and "cuts out": the scent is still there but maddeningly you no longer perceive it yourself.
How do I choose a new scent? There seem so many on your website.
LES SENTEURS is all about advice and helping.
To choose a new perfume, the ideal procedure is to pay us a visit at Elizabeth St or Seymour Place. In the first instance, come and get your eye in and have a chat with one of our friendly and expert staff. No one will force you to buy anything: this is not our style. See what we have on the shelves, do a little smelling and perhaps take away a few carefully selected samples to try at home.
Choose a day when you feel relaxed, patient and have plenty of time. Do not shop for scent when you have a bad head cold: it is surprising how many people do. Results are not good.
Finally, before you come to us set your mind in order: think about which particular scents, which KIND of scents you have enjoyed in the past; what mood you are aiming for in your choice of scent; are you looking for a variation on an old favourite or do you wish to break new ground? If you can give us this information, we can lead you in the right direction, even over the telephone.
Trust to instinct, keep an open mind and above all: Take Your Time. Perfume is a pleasure, not a race.
How many scents should I try at any one time?
The most honest answer is one. But most people can handle up to three if absolutely necessary. After all, your time is limited.
Remember, all sorts of conditions will alter your sense of smell on any one day: the weather, your health, your mood, the temperature, season etc. Also perfumes always smell subtly different in your own space to their effect in the shop. So either spray a perfume on and then take a short stroll down the street to think about it; or ask for a sample to take with you.
I can never make up my mind! Would it help to shop with a friend?
We are always delighted to advise couples or even whole families. But we would say, do not rely exclusively on another's opinion. There is only one person who is going to wear the scent and that is you. Every quality perfume will smell different on individual skins. If you have done the mental preparation as outlined above, you should be able to choose wisely and well.
Perfume is such a lovely present. But how do I choose for someone else?
Perfume is a magical gift but it does need handling carefully. We sell Vouchers for our stores and we can arrange for private consultations to choose a scent. If you know the recipient well and can describe their preferences, personality etc. then we can usually find something delicious : and we ALWAYS offer a sample of the perfume to accompany the gift so that this may be opened before the present itself. If it fails to please, then we can exchange the perfume for another. Remember we also sell a wide selection of scented products not to wear but for use in the bath and around the home.
Do you supply a bespoke perfume service? Do you make up perfumes to order?
Afraid not. But we have such a wide selection of unusual and niche perfumes in stock that we can find a fragrance that you can make your own signature with little fear of meeting it on someone else.
I am allergic to perfumes. Should I come to your shop?
If truly allergic then probably best not. However, this word is very loosely used and you may well find that it is one particular ingredient that irritates your breathing or skin. We may be able to help identify this for you. Again, the market is awash with so many poor quality fragrances, and smelling these en masse in duty-free or department store may well bring on coughing, headaches, sore throats etc. You may well find that LES SENTEURS can offer you a gentler and more salubrious atmosphere in which to browse.
I understand all your fragrances are 100% natural?
Very very few successful fragrances are 100% natural. High-class modern perfumery (for the past century and more) has been defined by a judicious blend of natural raw ingredients, synthetics and chemicals. Many of the most popular scents in perfumery cannot be obtained naturally and so must be synthesised. The use of chemical ingredients by no means implies an inferior product, rather the reverse: expensive and sophisticated, a limited use of chemicals gives perfume a gloss, sheen,sparkle and tenacity which natural oils alone cannot supply. The best policy is a preponderance of top-quality natural oils balanced by the superior synthetic.
But surely these chemicals are potentially harmful?
Not at all. These days, manufacturing tests are so stringent that there is technically more risk from natural ingredients. Paradoxically, so many of the vanished perfumes so fondly remembered from 50 years ago and wistfully described as natural were full of risky chemicals: that's one of the reasons why they lasted so long on the skin.
Can I wear perfume in the office?
You can and should wear perfume everywhere: but you need to adjust the style of fragrance just as carefully as you adjust your dress. We can advise on this; broadly speaking, consider the sensibilities of your colleagues and avoid anything too heavy, insistent, bizarre or overtly erotic. But by the same token, show your colleagues that you care enough about them to wear something delicious.
What is layering? What is the point of it?
Layering is highly effective and rather luxurious. It is the sequential use of scented products all perfumed with the same smell: beginning with soap or gel; then body lotion or cream; dusting powder; possibly deodorant; finally the perfume itself. This produces a a rich and very tenacious scent on the skin, which permeates one's hair,clothes and indeed everything that one touches. Additionally, a master perfumer will slightly vary his perfume formula in each item so that the end result is a wonderfully varied fantasy on a theme.
What is your best selling fragrance?
Please see our bestsellers page. However, naturally our many exclusives and rareities, past and present, are constantly popular: Frederic Malle, Knize Ten, Isabey, Creed and Parfumerie Generale are all much sought after. Luckily we are different and no one wants to smell quite like everyone else, so do not be swayed by popularity.
I am getting married: how do I go about choosing a wedding scent?
First of all bear in mind all the tips given above and be extra vigilant and thorough. Then consider the style of wedding you are planning: the venue, the entertainment, your dress and hair and look for a fragrance which complements all these points. Above all, remember that the bride must be the star of the show and NOT her perfume which should be just one of many factors that contribute to a radiant whole. Go for a scent with which you feel completely comfortable wearing: if necessary, "break it in" in advance, like your shoes. LES SENTEURS has a very wide selection of beautiful wedding scents of the more classic type - white fresh florals, orange blossom, rose and gardenia.