A good fragrance isn’t just about how it smells, but rather how it makes you feel, what emotions it evokes, and which memories it conjures up. And that’s not about the packaging or advertising—it’s down to science.
“Scents have the ability to alter our emotions and moods more than any other sensory experience,” says Dr Rachel Herz, neuroscientist and author of The Scent of Desire (HarperCollins, 2007). “This is because of the unique connection in the brain where scent, emotion, memories and associations are processed.”
A good fragrance, therefore, is composed of notes that are designed to direct and target these emotions. Some, like sandalwood, elicit feelings of calm, while others such as vanilla might leave you feeling warm and sensual. Understanding which smells conjure which feelings is a great way to know which fragrance to wear depending on the occasion: a spritz of bergamot might provide the momentum you need to start your day, while jasmine could charge you up before a meeting.
To find out more, we spoke to Maxime Garcia-Janin, founder of Sillages Paris, one of a new wave of fragrance companies that tailor your fragrance to you, establishing which note (or combination of notes) might work best for you, depending on what feelings you wish to evoke and letting you choose the ingredients.
Taken from the pod of an orchid-like plant, vanilla is traditionally seen as an aphrodisiac, an idea that stems from Totonac folklore about a daughter of a fertility goddess transforming herself into a plant to provide pleasure, having been unable to marry a man due to her divine nature.
Whether natural or synthetic, vanilla is a key ingredient for perfumers and is most commonly found in the sweeter gourmand fragrances. “It’s a really precious raw material,” says Garcia-Janin, “often described as ‘black gold’ by perfumers. The scent itself is round, warm and sweet—it helps you relax as it can give a feeling of a warm hug.”
When to wear it: Designed to make its wearer feel sensual, dab on your vanilla-based fragrance before a date to enhance your powers of seduction.
The bergamot orange grows on a small tree, the citrus bergamia, which blossoms in winter. While incredibly sour and bitter to taste, it is often used in fragrances for its sweeter smelling citrus aroma.