In light of the nurturing energy surrounding Mother’s Day I’d like to offer some insight into how to simplify and enhance your own daily fragrance experience. After two decades of practicing perfumery professionally, I’ve come to realize that my knowledge and experience hasn’t strengthened my enjoyment of fragrance, but in fact has diminished it in some ways. What I’ve learned is that focusing on the details can sometimes interfere with simple and pure enjoyment. As a teen I recall being immersed in the experience of wearing a new scent and the feelings it evoked. I didn’t try to “figure it out,” but instead focused on the message I imagined Calvin Klein and Estee Lauder were trying to conveywith their new fragrances. If you’re interested in scents then you probably already have all of the knowledge you need to curate your perfume collection
Here are my five tips to curate your perfume collection
1.) Step away from the “fragrance descriptions.” Don’t depend on marketing descriptions to determine what type of scents you like. Fragrance formulations are complex and it’s highly unlikely that these few notes comprise the totality of a scent. Who knows—you might be attracted to the invisible musk that’s not listed in the description.
Bougainviella via Instagram @sherri_sebastian
2.) Simplify scent categories. Despite sophisticated categories like gourmand, floriental, or chypre, most fragrances have a dominant character: floral, sweet, woody, or fresh. Try to first identify your preferred general type, then move on to more specific notes within those categories.
3.) Analyze less, feel more. Think back to your earliest scent memories as a child or teen. Back then you probably didn’t try to identify each scent you experienced, but rather allowed yourself to be immersed in the experience. Try this when experiencing a new scent—before asking “what’s in there?” instead ask yourself, “what does my heart say about this and how does it make me feel?”
4.) Create scent-free zones in your home. That’s right—eliminate scent in at least one room in your home. This might sound counterintuitive, especially coming from someone who makes fragrances for a living, but I think it’s an important point to consider. Today more than ever, we’re surrounded by scents in just about every product imaginable. How then, can one truly experience scent when there’s not a “clean slate” from which to compare it? When you limit your exposure to scent, you’ll have a renewed appreciation for the true splendor of a new product.
My weekend scent curation: Caress daily silk body wash, Kevin Murphy plumping rinse, and Kevin Aucoin lipstick. I especially love the scent of the lipstick-fresh and floral.
5.) Curate your selections. Now the fun begins! Once you’ve identified a scent preference try to create experiences across all categories to support this. For instance, if you like Chanel No. 5 then maybe you’ll choose a deodorant with a baby powder scent, jasmin toothpaste, and Woollite detergent. Imagine the fun you’ll have when approaching scent from this perspective instead of trying to make “sense” of the magic and mystery of scent.
How do you curate your perfume collection? Do you have scent preferences?
—Sherri Sebastian, Monthly Contributor and perfumer for Provision Scents
Sherri Sebastian is a professional perfumer working in Los Angeles. She holds a seat on the board of directors for the American Society of Perfumers