Never underestimate the importance of a scent – be it good or bad. The German equivalent of “I cannot stand this person” is literally “I cannot smell this person”. On the other hand, Jean Patou created “Joy” immediately after the Wall Street Crash in 1929, because he knew that all the investors who lost everything would need some comfort and luxury. Scents influence our mood and they are everywhere, though mostly unnoticed.
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is an anti-hero, who is ugly and frightening due to his notorious silence and total absence of emotions.
But he is a natural nose, as the modern perfume industry would call it. Not only is he able to recognize even the faintest odour and to create the most wonderful perfumes the world has ever seen, he is even prepared to kill for a scent.
Although Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is a fictional character invented by the German writer Patrick Suskind, the success of this story proves the importance of scents.
It is scientifically proven that scents leave a deep impression in our memory and that olfaction is the most emotional of our five senses. Perfume and its creation are as old as human history.
In ancient times, people burned incense and myrrh as a sacrifice to their gods. During Egypt’s Pharaonic period, priests were familiar with blending flowers and juices. The ancient Romans, who were fond of all luxury, were abundant users of perfumes. The Persian doctor and philosopher Ibn Sina (980 – 1037) discovered the secret of distillation and created rose-water and rose-scented oils, which were used as perfumes.
While perfume was always present in the Orient, the Western world almost forgot about it during the European Middle Ages. It only re-appeared in the beginning of the 17th century and only rich and famous people like Marie-Antoinette could afford it.
An Invisible Business
Nowadays, perfume is a multi-billion dollar industry. Don’t you think this is remarkable since the result of perfume – namely its scent – is invisible? The notion perfume stems from the Latin “per fumum” which means “though smoke”. It is a bit like selling dreams.
In order to make smoke and dreams tangible, they must be wrapped nicely. At the beginning of the 20th century, the French glassmaker René Lalique started to create perfume vials for one of the most influential perfumers named François Coty (1874 – 1934), who was born on the island of Corsica and was a distant relative to Napoleon Bonaparte.
If we enter a perfume shop today, we are overwhelmed by the display of precious bottles made to keep forever.
And not only the looks, but the “sound” of a perfume has to be attractive, too. Did you ever pay attention to the elaborated names perfumes typically have?
While Coty named his creations mostly according to the main ingredients or the type of scent like “La Rose Jacqueminot” or “Ambre Antique”, Coco Chanel was the first one using her own name for perfumes. Of course, Mademoiselle Chanel was somebody.
Let’s think for a moment of perfumes that really made it to the top and are long-sellers. The following ones shall serve as example:
- Chanel No. 5 (Chanel)
- Joy (Jean Patou)
- Youth Dew (Estée Lauder)
- L’Air du Temps (Nina Ricci)
These names are much more than descriptions. Each of them is a concept, a life script, a memory. Today, they are classics, but in their time, they were trend-setters.
"A woman's perfume tells more about her than her handwriting." - Christian Dior
Today, Christian Dior’s quote has more relevance than ever. Nobody writes letters by hand anymore, and everybody wants to be unique and special.
I see two types of perfume users: the flexible collector and the most loyal.
The flexible collector is a person who owns perfumes for each mood, season outfit and occasion. Typically, they have a huge collection of bottles that make an impressive and unique decoration for the bathroom.
The most loyal type possesses one or two different scents, which she uses regardless of her mood or the season. Changing perfume is comparable to a radical change of hair style.
Since I am the most loyal perfume type, I was kind of lost when my scent went out of sale and it took me a lot of time to find what I like now. But nothing is ever lost, and I gained quite some insight of perfume compositions and perfume concepts.
Perfume Groups for Women’s Scents
Perfume groups are something like families. The siblings of each family mainly consist of similar ingredients.
This is the largest family. Scents of roses, jasmine, ylang-ylang (cananga odorata), daffodil (narcissus), iris, tuberose and dianthus belong to it.
These are the sensual notes of the Arabic world. The most important ingredients are amber, musk, vanilla, exotic resins and spices.
The name originates form the French name for Cyprus. François Coty created a scent by the name of Chypre, and the ingredients he used for it are now standard for an entire perfume group: oak moss, labdanum, patchouli and bergamot are the main ingredients.
These are the main groups, but there are as well: Wood, Citrus and Leather.
Most perfumes are not just floral or oriental, but belong to a sub-group like, for example, floral-fruity or chypre-floral.
By the way: my choice for a new perfume led me from woody-dry to oriental-floral. No wonder it took weeks to figure it out.
[Image Credit: vetiveraromatics.com, imdb.com, Chanel, Dior, Marc Jacobs ]
Posted on November 15, 2016 in Perfume Stories by Brigitte Kobi