Our very own James Craven answers some of the most frequently asked questions about fragrance.
How do I choose a new scent? There seem so many on your website.
To choose a new perfume, the ideal procedure is to pay us a visit. Come and have a chat with one of our in-house expert staff who can help navigate through the ranges to identify your signature fragrance.
Before you come along have a think about which particular scents you have enjoyed in the past; what mood you are aiming to achieve; whether you are looking for a variation on an old favourite or equally hoping for new inspiration? Together we can discover that special fragrance for you, even over the telephone.
What is the difference between a Note and an 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 produce a "new" smell - the scent of gardenia.
How long will a perfume last in the bottle?
A perfume can last several months and even years if cared for correctly. Keep the scent in its original box and stored away from fluctuating temperatures, heat and light. Never leave your perfume exposed on a shelf or dressing table.
Light volatile citrus or floral scents will deteriorate far quicker than fougeres or orientals. Perfumes with animalic, tobacco and woody notes may also improve with time.
Perfume in a splash bottle will tend to fade more quickly as both air and a certain amount of contamination will get into the bottle with each application.
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 – less is always more unless you’re a more is more kinda person.
Don't hoard perfume waiting for that special day. Choose wisely and just 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 someone 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 many scents should I try at any one time?
The most honest answer is one. But most people can handle up to three on their skin if sprayed carefully.
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.
Perfume is such a lovely present. But how do I choose for someone else?
Perfume is a magical gift but it does need careful thought to ensure a perfect match. If you know the recipient well and can describe their preferences, personality etc. then we can usually find something delicious and suitably pleasing to match. Alternatively we offer a private consultation service in-store – please call to make an appointment. In addition we always offer a sample of the perfume to accompany a gift so that this may be opened before the present itself. Fragrance can also be gifted in various ways. We offer a wide selection of bath & body and home fragrances. And if you’re still struggling to make a choice we suggest the humble gift voucher.
Do you supply a bespoke perfume service? Do you make up perfumes to order?
No we do not supply a bespoke perfume service. But we do have such a wide selection of unusual and niche perfumes in stock that we can usually find a fragrance that you can make your own signature with little fear of meeting it on someone else. We can also help you create your individual fragrance combination by using the Art of Layering.
I understand all your fragrances are 100% natural?
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. The 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.
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 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.
Equally the technique can be used with a combination of different fragrances, one layered over the other, to create a unique fragrance experience.
I am getting married: how do I go about choosing a wedding scent?
Choosing your wedding scent is a very personal and special decision. We would usually recommend a private consultation but if time is of the essence we are also happy to provide help and advice over the phone or by email. Remember that the perfume is 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 - white fresh florals, orange blossom, rose and gardenia – so we are confident we can inspire your decision.
Scenting the home
Advice from our fragrance archivist, James Craven, on the art of scenting the home.
There's an art to scenting a room and a great deal of enjoyment to be had thereby. Les Senteurs has a wide range of products to scent your living space to maximum effect and advantage.
I like to set about the business by airing the place: fling wide the windows and doors, even on a cold winter's day, just for a few preparatory minutes. Take advantage of every bit of sunlight to sweeten your home. Fresh air gives your chosen scent a little extra boost especially if you have chosen something delicate like lily of the valley or verbena.
Candles are the perennial favourite, of course. They add instant romance and atmosphere to a room with their glow, the feel of warmth and the refraction of flame and glass. There is something symbolic and healing just in the action of just lighting a candle; a sense of luxury, well-being and ease. A good quality candle (try our Mizensir or Frederic Malle) will continue to exude a faint perfume long after it is extinguished: you should not burn them for too long - an hour or so is quite sufficient to perfume a room of average size. You can create your own special effects, too, by mixing and matching different scents from different houses, or burning two or three different candles simultaneously - say three tropical flowers such as gardenia, jasmine and tuberose for a voluptuous evening of seduction; or a blend of citrus, green leaves and woods for the refreshing mood of a dewy garden. Experiment at will!
To get the most from candles remember to trim the wick after each burning: wait until cold and then cut to a quarter inch above the wax with sharp scissors. Failing to do this will cause the candle to burn unevenly and give off smoke. Remember, too, to keep the candles away from draughts which cause the same malfunctioning. It is advisable to place any scented candle on a heat-proof mat or coaster of some kind and never directly upon a delicate or polished surface. Never leave candles unattended, and take especial care to extinguish them before leaving the house.
Diffusers are totally trouble-free: all you do is uncork the bottle, insert the reeds (usually supplied) and await results. Nothing to worry about, no drill necessary to keep them working efficiently. Once the reeds have become saturated in the scented oil (which may take a few hours) they will permeate the room with fragrance for usually last around 3 months, varying somewhat on the temperature of the room. In a cool atmosphere I have known one last as long as 6 months. Every so often remove the reeds, reverse them and re-insert for a renewed boost of fragrance. Diffusers (unless used in quantity) will not perfume a space as thoroughly as a candle, but on the other hand their effect is continuous and gradual so that every time you walk into a room you will be aware of a subtle but delicious odour.
Room Sprays are ideal for an instant effect, quick fix or to back up and re-inforce alternative methods. Have a Frederic Malle candle alight, say, and boost it as required if you desire a particularly intense effect. Sprays are very handy to have about the house for a burst of fragrance. ALWAYS try a patch test first but most modern sprays SHOULD be safe to spray on soft furnishing. However, for furnishing fabrics I would advise to spray only the backs of curtains and never on white or pale colours. Perfectly safe though to spray liberally into the air. Our Frederic Malle Perfume Guns are superbly concentrated, being originally designed with halls and hotel spaces in mind. Bear in mind that if you use one particular scent, this will build up in your space with repeated use, so probably smaller applications will suffice over time.
A delight from the past is Incense Paper in various scents from Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Paper Incense is a modern variant on the old favourite, Papiers d'Armenie. A box contains 25 tiny sheets of paper which you pleat, light and extinguish then leave to smoulder in dish or ash tray. A wonderful aroma fills the room in a waft of perfumed smoke and lingers for an hour or so, depending on size of room. As the papiers weigh nothing at all, they are perfect to carry around with you to perfume your ambience in any situation; though beware smoke detectors in hotel bedrooms! They also make an unusual, charming and quirky gift. Frederic Malle's Rubber Incense is fun and versatile too as well as being no trouble to use whatsoever. Small slabs of red rubber permeated with select fragrances can be placed in cars, drawers or cupboards to diffuse a delicious scent for months on end.
From the traditional to the ultra-modern: two indispensable devices from Frederic Malle, the Fleur Mecanique and the Diffuseur Solitaire.
The Fleur Mecanique is a high-tech cube into which you insert a fragranced capsule of your choice. The electric machine is silent (so that you can have it on in a bedroom without disturbing rest) and charges like a mobile phone, diffusing the perfume via a fan. Faultlessly efficient and, like Frederic's Room Sprays, this is ideal for a larger space. For smaller rooms and more intimate settings, choose the smaller and non-electrical Diffuseur Solitaire in brushed natural aluminium or anodised black. Just pop a capsule into this miniature pillar box and let the perfume diffuse into the air; make the Diffuseur an integral part of your home decor or pop behind a photograph or flower vase.
You may wish to try one or all of the above but don't get irrevocably stuck with one method. Shop around and see what suits your needs and your surroundings the best.
Like perfumes for the body, room fragrances and methods will vary according to the season and your mood. The warmth and light of a candle can be comforting in the dark winter months but also work well on a balmy summer night. A Fleur Mechanique is practical for a corporate meeting but its efficiency and elegance may also appeal to you in a small apartment. I love diffusers and the like as you can safely shut up the house leaving them in place for a month and then return to find your home smelling deliciously of the French countryside or a sweet orange grove. But whatever method you opt for, why deny yourself the pleasure of a beautifully smelling home?
A few words on Fragrance concentrations from fragrance archivist James Craven.
Aftershave and Eau Fraiche: Between 1-3% fragrance (to 99% - 97% alcohol, oil, distilled water).
Eau de Cologne: Between 3 - 5 % fragrance to corresponding ratio of dilution.
Eau de Toilette: Between 4-12% fragrance.
Eau de Parfum: Also sometimes known as millesime + parfum de toilette. Between 12 - 20% fragrance.
Parfum/ Extrait: Between 15% - 40%
It must be said that today these figures are very approximate, used somewhat randomly and they will fluctuate according to brand and perfumer. It is of course not only the concentration that ensures the tenacity of a perfume. The cologne version of some scents may even turn out stronger and longer lasting on the skin than the parfum concentration of other houses, due to richer stronger formulae and raw ingredients.
To avoid confusion, we only use the term "cologne" to describe the concentration only, and not (as in the USA) as a synonym for scent.
One may make a cologne version of ANY perfume: the traditional French method of application was always to "anchor" one's fragrance with a dab of parfum; to fix it with a spray of eau de parfum; and then refresh throughout the day with additional sprays of cologne or eau de toilette. An adroit perfumer will subtly vary his formula from concentration to concentration, so that the wearer is not endlessly exuding the identical smell. Instead, in each concentration a different note or ingredient will be emphasised or diminished. Thus the fragrance is presented in its full glory with every facet finally revealed.