Can Perfumes Have Textures?
Fragrance

Can Perfumes Have Textures?

When speaking about perfume, we often use words borrowed from other senses. To me, an important sense to invoke in our understanding of perfume is touch. Obviously, smells don’t have physical textures or temperatures. But thinking about the tactile qualities of a perfume can be a gateway to their emotional heart.

When speaking about perfume, we often use words borrowed from other senses. Ingredients become “notes”, like ones you might play on a piano (which is why a perfumer’s desk is referred to as an “organ”). A fragrance can be too “light” for us, and while it’s sometimes unclear whether we’re describing physical weight or colour, our noses can’t truly perceive either. Scent is steeped in sensory metaphor.

To me, an important sense to invoke in our understanding of perfume is touch. Obviously, smells don’t have physical textures or temperatures. But thinking about the tactile qualities of a perfume can be a gateway to their emotional heart. 

Perfumers thinking texturally has led to breakthroughs in the world of fragrance. It often requires a metaphoric leap in the mind of each nose; if one forgets about what an ingredient actually is, what might it make you think of? Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena uses a signature green tea effect to create a luminous quality, like transparent flowing water, which made hits of fragrances like Bvlgari’s Thé Vert and Hermes’ Un Jardin en Méditerranée (you can sample his work at Etiket in Dia Woman and L’Eau D’Ambre Extrême). Similarly, Olivia Giacobetti pioneered the use of fig and other fresh effects to make fragrances that seem airy and subtly cool to the touch, as she does in Premier Figuier and Passage D’Enfer

On the other side of the spectrum, perfumer Sophia Grojsman’s work often feels fuzzy and thick because of her trademark “hug me accord”: an abstract blend of synthetic jasmine, violet, musk and cedar molecules which makes her fragrances seem cozy and warm (like in Lancome’s classic Tresor). And Andy Tauer has created a rabid cult following with his unapologetic waves of hot spice, which add a dry crackling heat to scents like L’Air du Désert Marocain and Cologne du Maghreb. Composed with care, a perfume can imply closeness or distance; glass, cloth, paper, powder or liquid; warm or cool; movement or stillness. 

The fragrances of Maison Crivelli make brilliant use of texture, and they do so in a modern way. Many of them have what I call a “holographic” texture: lifelike, shimmery, and light-reflecting. Creating fragrances with this effect allows the rich amber notes of Lys Sølaberg to feel approachable and relaxed. It allows bold ingredients like woods and spices to seem almost weightless in Santal Volcanique and Bois Datchaï. And it gives rose, which can smell surprisingly thick, even jammy in isolation, a new, breezy lifein Rose Saltifolia, as if the scent were dancing across your perception on a seaside summer wind.

Maison Crivelli fragrances also use textural elements to evoke extremes of temperature, which form surprising contrasts with classic ingredients. A sparkling, icy freshness makes the lavender, juniper and musk in Absinthe Boréale seem enrobed in a delicate frost. The juicy heat of chili and the earthy depth of vetiver makes the orange and bergamot inside Citrus Batikanga sizzle in the bustling heat of a tropical market. 

If all this sounds a bit far-fetched, like those sommeliers who tell you you must be able to taste butter in your chardonnay, don’t worry. The ultimate truism of fragrance is that all scent is subjective. But asking yourself which textures, colours or temperatures you sense when you smell a perfume, regardless of what you come up with, can help make sense of a fragrance’s energy, which will, in turn, hint at what it might feel like to wear it. For example, while everybody’s skin is different, a cool, airy or watery fragrance might leave a more casual impression on your skin than something dark, syrupy, sandy or hot. 

Finally, looking for textures is a way to rediscover ingredients or scent families you thought you knew. If you love earthy and smoky notes, but you can’t imagine wearing them to the office, you could step away from the hottest, driest Tauer scents, for example, and towards a more liquid and transparent scent like Smoke Show. If light floral perfumes often feel aggressive and headache-inducing, but you love the scent of real flowers, you could try finding scents that are less cool, bright and sharp and more velvety and warm. And if you thought you hated powdery fragrances because they always feel too “classic”, meet Crivelli’s Papyrus Moléculaire or Iris Malikhan, which both take the concept of powder in richer, darker, edgier, and more contemporary directions. 

David, Director of Fragrance at Etiket

Is Fragrance Giftable?
Fragrance

Is Fragrance Really Giftable?

As the holiday season rolls around, we’re often asked about the best way to select a fragrance as a gift. Here are some steps to help you achieve a fragrance gifting triumph.

As the holiday season rolls around, we’re often asked about the best way to select a fragrance as a gift. Many people like the idea of gifting fragrance, especially for a loved one who’s often within smelling distance. But the wide variety of fragrances available and the personal nature of scent make it a particular challenge, especially if you’re not a diehard fragrance lover yourself. However, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to get them a fragrance they’ll love! In a perfect world, you could just buy them another bottle of their favourite, in which case, you’ll be done before you know it. Assuming that’s not an option, here are some steps to help you achieve a fragrance gifting triumph.

1. Don’t think so much about ”notes” or ingredients; think about personality

Perfumes are often described by what fragrance “families” they belong to. Are they sweet? Floral? Woody? Animalic? And while knowing your recipient’s taste in ingredients can help, often fragrances can vary just as much within families as between them. Instead, we suggest thinking first about the personality or style of the person you’re buying for. Are they bold? Reserved? Dramatic? Fun? Distinctions like fancy or casual, and for work or for play, can often help narrow the field better than deciding between cedar and vanilla.

To this end, we’ve compiled a Fragrance Gift Guide with nine categories of fragrance lovers (or the fragrance curious). Look for ones that feel like they describe your recipient’s disposition, taste in clothes, or the way they greet the world.

2. Stick to the safe bets (and beware some tricky ingredients)

There are two reasons that ingredients do matter a little for gift giving: skin chemistry and scent associations. Scent is closely tied to memory, which can make the exact same smell feel different to different people. Additionally, perfume changes subtly once it hits skin, making it harder to estimate how certain perfumes will smell on any particular person. To maximize your chances of success, we recommend sticking to more versatile scents with crowd-pleasing ingredients and styles.

Try: Escentric Molecules

This brand is a hit for a reason. Without getting too technical, many of their most-loved perfumes aren’t really “perfumes” in the sense that vanilla isn’t really a cake. Instead, their line of “Molecule” scents (numbered 01-05) are suspensions of a single versatile base note in alcohol. Translation? They’re the frame, not the painting. This means that they adapt to anyone’s skin and amplify the best qualities of their natural scent. The result is a wear-it-anywhere automatic jaw dropper that can also layer beautifully with any other scents in their collection.

Try: Malin + Goetz

These fun, modern fragrances are a nice bridge between “nice smell” and “proper perfume” (and we mean that in the best way possible). They’re inspired by easily-identifiable smells, and evoke them in an accessible way. They’re already well loved for their addictive body products, and their packaging is effortlessly chic. And worst comes to worst, buying someone a fragrance named “Cannabis” is sure to at least make them smile (but it would also smell great on almost anyone anyway).

Be careful with: buying something ”fresh”

“Fresh” is a concept in perfume that’s become such a cliché it hardly means anything. If they’ve told you they like “fresh” fragrances, or you have a memory of them smelling “clean”, this could be helpful, or could be a trap. Because of the way scent is tied to memory, “fresh” could mean anything from citrus to mint, light flowers to aquatic, and even white musk. Try to narrow your search by thinking of their personality, or if “fresh” is all you have to go on, consider any Heeley fragrance with a white label.

Be careful with: Floral for the sake of floral

Flowers are foundational to the history of perfume. They also could be the most polarizing ingredient of them all. Not only can people have strong reactions to heavily floral scents, but the way that flowers show up in a composition ranges from “shrieking” to “invisible”. This doesn’t mean you should stay away from any fragrance which lists flowers among the notes; most will have some somewhere. However, if a fragrance is described as both rich/intense and predominantly floral, you might want to get them to try a sample first (unless you or they are experienced fragrance buyers).

One exception to this rule is if you know they have a favourite flower. If so, find a fragrance that doesn’t just include it, but is overwhelmingly and exclusively inspired by it. Lilac lovers will likely love A Lilac a Day, orange blossom enthusiasts will likely swoon over Histoire d’Orangers, and if they grow real roses in their garden, Lustre should remind them of home. 

3. Smell for yourself, and even get a second opinion

It will not surprise you to hear that smells cannot be fully experienced through the internet (at least not yet). While many of our clients have learned enough about their personal taste to shop our fragrance selection online, buying a fragrance gift can put many of us back at square one. An excellent way to complete your holiday shopping would be to visit our Montréal boutique and sniff a shortlist of options. If this is a possibility for you, the same advice from #1 applies; when smelling each fragrance, try to think of the person’s energy, personality and style more than decide whether they’d like the actual ingredients.

For those who aren’t lucky enough to live nearby, we also offer the option to purchase samples online of almost any fragrance we sell. If you plan ahead, investing a small amount in an assortment of samples can help you seal the deal, or even sneak an option onto the skin of the actual person you’re buying for. And if the element of surprise is too important to give up, bring the samples around to someone who knows your recipient just as well (or even better) than you do. When seeking a second opinion, the question we’d recommend asking isn’t “would they like this?” as much as “do you think this smells like them?” Lastly, if you’re their significant other, remember to consider what scents you’d enjoy smelling on them as well!

4. Don’t forget the home!

If you’re still not ready to make a judgement call on a fragrance for skin, try a fragrance for space! Any room is enlivened by the invisible colour of a home fraIf you’re still too scared to make a judgement call about a fragrance for skin, try a fragrance for space! Any room is enlivened by the invisible colour of a home fragrance, and we carry a beautiful array of scents in various formats. Home scents are the perfect gifting sweet spot: something almost everybody loves, but many people often don’t buy for themselves.  

The range of diffusers from Culti Milano have been extremely popular, as well as their car sachets – a unique gift for anybody who drives to work. Local Montréal brands Les Citadines and T. Lees create artisanal, elevated scents for every taste, and Arquiste’s candles are vibrant, transportive and unique. Finally, for the ultimate luxury experience, the world-renowned house of Fornasetti makes candles which rise to the level of art objects – taking home scent from invisible accent to dazzling decor.

Finally, gifting fragrance with Etiket has one distinct advantage – free samples! Like most retailers, we can’t accept returns of used fragrance, even if it’s only been sprayed once. However, Etiket offers complimentary fragrance samples with every purchase. Simply request a sample of the scents you’re buying and we’ll happily include them so your recipient can try the sample on before they open the full-sized bottle. If it turns out it’s not for them, they can easily return the unused fragrance and get something for themselves. This also means that every bottle of fragrance you buy for someone else lets you try some free samples for yourself, and if that isn’t a reason to be generous, I don’t know what is!

Image source: @penhaligons_london

Penhaligon’s Holiday Collection 2014

It’s that time of year again and British perfume house Penhaligon’s has unveiled their most decadent Holiday ...

Read More →

It’s that time of year again and British perfume house Penhaligon’s has unveiled their most decadent Holiday …

Read More →

Stay in the Know
Sign up for our newsletter and enjoy 10% off your first purchase from the Etiket Shop
Stay in the Know
Sign up for our newsletter and enjoy 10% off your first purchase from the Etiket Shop
Gardons le contact!
Inscrivez-vous à l'infolettre d'Etiket et obtenez 10% sur votre premier achat sur Etiket.ca.
Gardons le contact!
Inscrivez-vous à l'infolettre d'Etiket et obtenez 10% sur votre premier achat sur Etiket.ca.