A few of my favourite things - Fragrance
Before 2019, I was a hoarder regarding beauty products. This is going to be a long post so grab some tea and brace yourself =)
“A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.” Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel once said.
While I personally am not sure if this famous quote has aged well, I definitely believe fragrance is an integral part of a beauty routine. Whether your routine involves only concealer and mascara, or a full on 30-step, 2-hour NASA-level detailed execution, there is an appropriate scent to go with it.
I would like to share with you, my personal favourite fragrances lately. My taste has changed over the years, from my high school days (hello Ralph by Ralph Lauren, seems discontinued though since I only see the newer variations on the official website, and J’adore Dior) to now being in my mid-30s.
What are your favourites?
Currently, warm, woody, fresh scents seem to be my thing.
My current go-to, no-brainer, pyjamas to ball gown fragrance is Atelier Cologne’s Oud Saphir. I spray this liberally since lasting power is not strong.
One might think, ooh oud. Heavy, spicy, evening, mysterious, sensual. Too strong, too proper, too excessive. While some ouds might be, like my other favourite Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Oud which feels SO DIFFERENT despite both featuring oud as the star component. (I’ll talk about this later in the post.)
What does Atelier Cologne say about their Oud Saphir?
“Made of an oud accord, bergamot from Italy and pink pepper from the Indian Ocean*, the woody and fresh scent of this unisex perfume is a delight for all senses.”
I agree. Light woody freshness, not too girly, not too manly. Mmmm.
My next favourite warm woody fresh scent is Jo Malone’s Wood Sage and Sea Salt.
It goes on a bit warm on my skin, and dries down a bit sweeter than when I first spray it. This to me is the image of a well worn cozy loose-fitting cashmere sweater, on a cloudy day with a cup of tea in hand if you are into the kind of flowery descriptions lol.
What does Jo Malone say about it?
“Escape the everyday along the windswept shore. Waves breaking white, the air fresh with sea salt and spray. Alive with the mineral scent of the rugged cliffs. Mingling with the woody earthiness of sage. Lively, spirited and totally joyful.”
I love that it has a carefree tone to it like a lot of unisex fragrances, a kind of polished but didn’t try too hard, cool girl vibe.
Another favourite woody one. This has almost a bit of that aquatic note to it on my skin. You might like this if you like L’eau D’Issey. It’s a bit earthier, and a green-leaves kind of fresher.
This is how they describe it:
“a green woody fragrance. Fresh and alluring, the fragrance opens with green notes of lily of the valley bell and violet green leaves accord. As B.BALENCIAGA evolves, the iris note reveals a powdery essence before drying down with darker woody notes of cashmeran woods.”
I also love the irregular 6-sided shape bottle that is so unique, I love everything slightly unexpected.
“The bottle’s frosted glass has a unique crackle texture, inspired by the marble tiling of Balenciaga’s original 10 Avenue George V Paris salon.”
and a few honourable mentions in this category include - Amber Saffron by CLEAN Reserve, and the sadly discontinued Fresh Cedarwood by Innisfree that I got on a trip to Seoul.
Moving on to green, herbal-y fresh scents…
This one is drier than the previous category, less warm more grassy. It is still quite unisex, but doesn’t have that musky undertone like a lot of mens’ fragrances, making it easier for me to wear. The Armani Prive line I find to be generally very simple and elegant, since they don’t have too many notes to muddy things up. It’s a delicate balance when there are lots of notes. When done well it can be a complex scent and when not, just smells confusing and overpowering.
The official description here:
”Alternating dry notes and sensual accords, this lush and exuberant vetiver fragrance reflects the glory of nature tamed by man. Finding beauty in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon recreated in the greenhouses of St. Petersburg’s former Winter Palace, Giorgio Armani created Vétiver d’Hiver, an intoxicating unisex fragrance that teases the senses.
“I imagined Babylon and was seduced by the image of a plentiful oasis hanging above an arid landscape”, recalls Mr. Armani. “I wanted a fresh fragrance to capture the scent of this miracle.””
Aesop is a brand I have liked for years so when it came to Vancouver I was so happy. First thing I have ever bought from them was Parsley Seed Mask from Lane Crawford in Hong Kong because my skin was crap from flying too much. At the time it only mattered about the products, and it was way later that I found out about their commitment to the environment and I love them even more now.
Tacit is well described on their website:
“A vibrant, uplifting and distinctly contemporary fragrance distinguished by liberal use of Basil Grand Vert and fresh citrus notes.”
I find it to be quite consistent with the dry down on my skin, smelling basically the same from start to finish. Sometimes some fragrance is tricky with my chemistry, and turns very tart after 2 hours or so, but not this one.
Phlur Greylocke is almost identical, except it hits the nose harder when first spraying on and on the wear after. I have both and prefer Tacit. Bought Greylocke upon reading the notes and thought maybe it would be a varied version of Tacit but have the same feel, wasn’t expecting a direct copy (since I believe Tacit came first).
With my employment history, it is no surprise that Guerlain fragrances made it to the list, being such an iconic historical fragrance house to the royals. I do love historical brands since they almost always have some original inventions.
“Created in 1853 by Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain, Eau de Cologne Impériale was the very first Eau de Cologne by Guerlain. Specially composed for the Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, it earned its creator the title of "Perfumer to His Majesty". The Empress enjoyed the exclusive use of this fragrance before giving her authorisation for it to be sold. On its label, it bears the symbol of the Empire with the coat of arms chosen by Napoleon: the eagle, the imperial crown and the sceptre.”
It first hits with a sharp citrus, then dries down very fast. It’s like what I would describe as lime in ice water first thing in the morning.
“The famous Eau de Cologne Impériale strikes a harmony around refined floral accords. Its fresh citrus notes of lemon and bergamot flirt with petitgrain, while the floral magic of neroli softens this citrusy bouquet.”
“Escentric Molecules owes its existence to an aroma-molecule that does not exist in nature. Iso E Super was created in a laboratory at IFF in 1973. Molecule 01 consists of the molecule Iso E Super pure and singular.”
It’s such a different perfume, unlike anything else. (well now we have Juliette Has a Gun’s Not A Perfume - released 2010 and Molecule 02 - released 2008, both basically just AMBROXAN™, which I also have.)
I bought this bottle at Barney’s New York on a trip to Seattle right after I tried it on. Went to another store right after and an associate asked me what it was when I walked past him. He said it smelled a bit like sandalwood and I just told him it was this perfume and it was only a single ingredient.
Innovation and originality are some things that get me to love a brand, on top of quality products. I’m looking forward to new releases from Eccentric molecules, since I wasn’t a fan of both 03 and 04. Molecule 01 and 02 remain ones I wear when I want to smell nice to myself, but very discreet.
A few honourable mentions in this category includes - Guerlain (again lol, but if I didn’t like products from the brand I wouldn’t have wanted to work for them) Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca
moving on to florals…
“This perfume brings a feeling of well-being, balance and
harmony, thanks to its exclusive blend of organic Bach Flower essences : The essences contained within this fresh and flowery perfume will help you experience well-being, balance and harmony.”
While I’m not sure if a magical flower blend perfume necessarily makes me happy, I sure love the slightly “soapy” fresh smell of this floral and woody blend that makes me smell myself when I wear it. This was my go-to when I worked as a flight attendant because everything in the plane smelled awful. I sprayed this under the uniform and I deep sniffed myself when my olfactory sense was attacked by something, and this DID lift my spirits, I guess.
Main notes are - Oak, honeysuckle, wild rose, pine, crab apple, and vervain.
The brand is from the UK, but I didn’t have too much trouble shipping here to Canada.
I must say I was first intrigued by the name and that’s why I tried it. Who names a feminine lily-heavy perfume Iron Maiden, a medieval torture device?
Then I tried it on (you MUST try it on skin to know the true scent, scent strips are there to help you determine if you even want to try it on skin, not to determine if it’s a good one to buy right away). It is THE most morphing scent I have ever smelled. The opening lily is almost metallic, then it holds and holds, then few hours later when I smell it again, it turns into something completely warm and sweet, almost osmanthus-y.
I bought this because I love the dry down, but also weirdly love the idea that it’s two different perfumes in one. That sharp turn fascinates me.
Because of this osmanthus-y dry down, I bought the Nuit de Cellophane, also by Serge Lutens.
I always have a soft spot for jasmine because we had a jasmine plant in my childhood home back in Hong Kong, and an osmanthus plant, so they are special flowers to me.
Jasmine Rouge - “VOLUPTUOUS. SENSUOUS. AUDACIOUS.”
This to me screams Tom Ford. It’s unapologetic and saturated and spicy. The sambac jasmine is front and centre. This scent is not beating around the bush and is demanding attention. It’s a sophisticated perfume. It’s quite a “real” jasmine scent, albeit spicy. It’s NOT an Alien by Mugler type jasmine scent.
I would need heels if I were to wear jeans with it, and a full face of makeup. One spray is good for the day on me, two sprays would be a 6:00am-11:00pm type day.
This is one of the perfumes that got me compliments. I put this on, went to a client’s home to do makeup, and her mother and cousins all complimented me on how pretty it smelled.
“Ikat Jasmine personifies a modern woman - effortless style and intriguing femininity. -Aerin
Notes - jasmine sambac and jasmine Egypt, tuberose fleur, honeysuckle, tuberose infusion and sandalwood.
I don’t know Estee Lauder perfumes well enough to say tuberose seems to be a favourite ingredient of them, but it does seem to appear in quite a few collections. Tuberose is one of my favourites though, smelling like “clean skin with warmth”, it “grounds” any scents and makes them wearable. I especially like this combination, with my favourite jasmine, but not only the jasmine. This is a white collar shirt and jeans with ballerina flats fragrance.
This is a very special one that deserves a bit more explaining. Where do I start?
White Jade Orchid is a VERY nostalgic scent for a lot of HongKongers, as there used to be random grannies selling these fragrant but ephemeral flowers on the streets all over the city, and sometimes taxi drivers would have some in the cabs to freshen up the space. This DEFINITELY evokes a lot of emotions and memories of the past. I came across Kimature on a Facebook ad, and IMMEDIATELY wanted it. I found out they are a small Hong Kong based company, made in HK, who hires local grassroot women to work, and actively seeks out the “flower grannies” wherever they can to buy the flowers (of course they still need to buy flowers from the market for the volume they need, but I still appreciate their effort to make days easier for the grannies). That earned lots of extra points for me.
The fragrance itself is crisp but soft, fresh like morning dew, and very feminine. It’s what In the Mood for Love(花樣年華) would smell like if it’s made into a perfume.
My dear friend Angela got me the set with the solid perfume on her trip and I LOVED it. It smells JUST as I remembered how these flowers smell. It’s a very very delicate scent, and is very intimate because it’s alcohol free, so the scent isn’t thrown very far. The essence of the flower is extracted through a distillation process, from only the selected fresh “perfect” flower petals (the bruised ones would have already lost their fragrance). In the skincare range, the flowers are soaked in olive oil for a month, then added to the essence.
“kimature is a famous Hong Kong-based natural skincare, personal care, body fragrance brand founded in 2015.
All products are 100% vegan and alcohol-free and, of course, not tested on animals and made in Hong Kong.
In addition, all products do not contain these hazards : PARABENS, PHTHALATES, SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCE, GMO, SILICONES, PROPYLENE GLYCOL, CARBOMER, MICROBEAD, EDTA, ALCOHOL, SLS
kimature use White Jade Orchid (Magnolia x Alba) and other oriental flowers for production as starting point to promote an earthy-friendly lifestyle, traditional Chinese herbal culture and HK local childhood story and common memories.”
And I got the Osmanthus set too (duh, obviously), which was also GLORIOUS. It’s A LOT lighter than the Serge Lutens Nuit de Cellophane (an osmanthus-heavy scent), and basically just smells like straight up sweet osmanthus.
My ultimate favourite scent in terms of “Chinese” flowers would be the Chinese daffodil, usually shows up around Lunar New Year time. I really REALLY hope they can make that into a perfume. If anyone could, it’s them.
Some nostalgic, zero pressure light and fruity scents
This is a crowd-pleaser. Grapefruit is such an uplifting and invigorating scent to me it’s my perfect “happy” scent. On days when I just want to smell nice, and not wanting to be taken seriously, I go to fruity scents. It’s not a childish “body spray” type smell, but definitely not making a statement about my fragrance taste either.
“Top Notes: mandarin, Italian lemon, grapefruit
Middle Notes: bergamot, lotus flower, transparent jasmine
Bottom Notes: rhubarb, musk, peach”
I don’t really have a thing with keeping light fragrances only for summer, so I wear this all year round.
Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria, Pera Granita
The Aqua Allegoria is a unique olfactory genre: launched in 1999, it was the first collection of eau fraîche in perfumery. Taking nature as the sole muse, showcasing one or two raw materials.
“Its pure and refined bottle with a golden mesh celebrates the iconic Guerlain Bee Bottle.”
This collection also makes for a gorgeous gift, with a very modest price tag ($87 CAD for 75ml as of 2019) from a luxury house.
Bergamot and pear are the star ingredients,
“Juicy Fruity Citrus
Fizz, radiant, tangy”
Sounds about right. A bit sweeter than citrus-heavy scents.
Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria, Mandarine Basilic
This is one that I get compliments on when I wear it. Despite the citrus-y mandarine, which sometimes people think household cleaners, the basil and green tea really helped elevate it.
“is a delicious mix of the full-bodied, sparkling candor of mandarin orange with the aniseed-tinged aromatic freshness of basil. This explosion of freshness, blended with the energising gaiety of green tea notes tastily dissolves into the elegance of an amber veil.”
As I worked for the brand before, I was expected to promote the newer fragrances, Mon Guerlain being one of them. It was a bit heavy for my taste despite being an EDT, so I layered the Mandarine Basilic on top to lighten it. One day I was taking the train to work and I sat down on the bench at the platform, a girl probably in her late 20s came up, sat right next to me and asked me what I was wearing. It always makes me happy when people want to chat about beauty stuff.
moving on to “deeper, grown-up“ scents, which reminds me of proper perfumes…
As promised, the Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Oud
Elemi gum from Philippines
Natural oud from Laos
Cedar wood from Morocco
Patchouli from Singapore”
This was an unexpected find. I was in Taipei shopping and saw the store. I have been wanting to try their Aqua Universalis for quite some time and don’t think I have seen them in Vancouver, so I was excited. It did nothing for me. I was very happy to leave with this oud. It’s not overly complex, just the right amount of spice, and a great “proper” oud for my “grown-up days” since I already have the light Atelier Cologne one for casual use.
finally, a twist on a proper classic - the first oriental floral in the world - Guerlain’s Shalimar, now reincarnated into a sunny and vibrant bright new scent.
the solar fragrance family…
I have always been drawn to the history of makeup/beauty products, and I love books that talk about the historical significance of them. When it comes to perfumery one must look no further than the house of Guerlain, to my understanding the second oldest fragrance house still in production after Creed.
Shalimar is such an iconic fragrance, even if you are not into the story about the Shalimar Gardens of the Taj Mahal, it is still the world’s first oriental floral fragrance.
There was a picture I saw taken after the war, soldiers lined up in front of the Paris boutique to buy this perfume to bring back to America for their wives and girlfriends and I have always wanted to own a bottle. Even though I love an oriental warm floral, unfortunately the original scent wasn’t exactly my taste with the heavy vanilla. I was delighted to see this new iteration of a historic piece. This still has traces of the original Shalimar, but with a bright ray of sunlight. One could imagine the heavy embroidered curtains drawn and tied back, letting in the view of a robust garden and the warm sun into the grand hall.
On the topic of fragrances, how can we miss home fragrances?
This is such a signature scent I feel a bit redundant talking about it. Fashion designer houses like Rick Owens and Lanvin burn the Baies candles in their boutiques.
“Diptyque’s Baies unfolds as a fragrant bouquet of roses and blackcurrant leaves.”
I just LOVE this.
While “Baies” in English means berries, this is by no means a fruity scent. It smells sophisticated, fresh, and timeless. It doesn’t belong to any of the above categories, and is purely unique. The perfume version of this is L’Ombre dans L’Eau (Shadow in the Water), but sadly the dry down does not agree with my skin so I’m unable to wear it.
It’s quite a potent room spray, generally 4 sprays would be enough for the living area excluding rooms of a city apartment for an afternoon.