Know what you like and trust that less is more.
I’m a perfume snob, and I cannot lie. Despite a less than pristine past spotted with commercial department store scents, I’ve since developed an expensive taste for artisanal perfumes, some of which cost a small fortune.
I may have been young and foolish once, spritzing anything that had a cool inspiration and back story, or a bottle that looked awesome on my dresser, but eventually my nose caught on and now it knows better.
I like to think that I have an enlightened and discriminate olfactory system, and that though I’ve lived through 30 years of perfume launches during the course of working for large publishing companies, and have sometimes seen the same fragrance launched three to four times as slightly different bouquets (super confusing), I still buy 99 per cent of my scents, because I’m particular like that.
The thing is that perfumes are launched all year round: just before Valentine’s Day rolls around, in tandem with Spring fashion collections in March, in June as refreshing summer specials, yet again during Fall fashion roll-outs in September, and of course, during the festive season.
That’s a lot of perfumes in a year, but I can at most count on one hand the ones that were gifted to me in the name of work that also made it to my perfume wardrobe. I’m specific about how I like to smell, and why wouldn’t anyone be?
Scent is personal and the choices we make – perhaps without most of us realising it – are based on individual biology and aromatic taste. I regard perfumes as an extension of an individual’s natural aroma. For that reason, the same scent does not smell the same on different people.
Scent is also volatile to changes in temperature – the same scent worn on different days could well smell different even on the same person. Like wine, scent is ‘alive’ and develops according to how its top, middle and base notes react to a person’s body chemistry (of sweat and sebum) and different climates. I say climates because though, when in Singapore, I’m not usually a big fan of heavy floral orientals, when I’m abroad in a cold country however, they do tend to smell strangely cosy and inviting to me.
The way our noses discern and pick out scents also differs. Stands to reason everyone has a signature bouquet or combination of bouquets that they tend to be drawn to. That’s why I also think it’s the ultimate compliment when someone hugs you and says, you smell nice, because scent preferences can be radically different. I say hugs, and will at a pinch accept standing by or sitting next to, because if your scent can be smelt from anywhere further, it’s over-powering.
The first rule of wearing a scent is to be subtle. By dabbing several pulse points (two wrists, behind both ear lobes and the knees), you will achieve the best result. If you’re using a spray bottle, as most perfumes are likely to come in these days, hold the nozzle really close to your skin and spritz just once on each spot in a controlled manner. If the spray is too ‘generous’, omit a pulse point or two or the effect won’t be quite as amazing.
You have to smell a lot and use a lot to come close to knowing what, deep down, smells downright heavenly to you and on you. And don’t give in to a scent just because everyone likes it. Only if you like it.
The best way to curate signature scents is to not be gender-specific. My personal stash is made up of mostly unisex fragrances, and a few for men. Basically, don’t restrict yourself to women’s perfumes. Be prepared to also cold ask strangers what they have on if it catches your heart. I’ve done that a total of five times in my life and I’m getting quite good at it. But be prepared also to find that what smells huggable and sexy, or clean and fresh on someone else, may not smell the same on you.
Smelling exquisite is like accessorising with fine jewellery, only more affordable. That’s why I won’t stop at wearing a scent even when in shorts and a tee, just like I wouldn’t hesitate to wear a diamond tennis necklace with said shorts and a tee, that is if I owned said diamond tennis necklace.
To find what your nose truly desires, you need to be diligent in the hunt and to stay on the trail of what to you at least is truly sublime.
I always keep an ear out for what perfume aficionados are saying are the new transcendent scents. And would bother to painstakingly check them out at the exclusive boutiques that carry them.
A couple of new fragrance releases have caught my nose lately, one of which is the rebel-heart fragrance, Gabrielle Chanel, named for the late great founder of the fashion house herself, with key ingredients from sparkling flowers like tuberose from Grasse, ylang ylang, orange blossom and sandalwood – a typically swoon-worthy combination for me.
When I put it on, I feel like I’m sheathed in a Chanel tweed jacket that’s at once cossetting, luxurious, and cool.
The other is Twilly d’Hermès that’s inspired by Hermès’ charming and beloved narrow silk scarves. Its creator Christine Nagel had in mind a happy, optimistic scent, with the defiant spirit of a nonconformist youth.
It is a blend of ginger, tuberose and sandalwood, with vivacious notes of lemon and orange. It’s light, interesting, yet distinctive, just like the exuberant designs on an Hermès Twilly scarf.
If master perfumers Olivier Polge and Ernest Beaux were to analyse my fragrance wardrobe, they would presume me something of a wood sprite, who likes burning incense and rolling in fields of balsam.
Every bottle I’ve chosen is special and each carries a combination of different notes from wood, spices, incense, and flowers, even, weirdly so, the hyper-clean smell of laundry drying in the wind, disinfecting spirit and metal – not unlike the complicated symphonies brought to life by an orchestra.
My greatest hits!