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Monday 4 February 2013

Scents & Sensibility: How To Smell Awesome

Perfume is one thing I'm willing to spend a lot of money on. I'm not terribly keen on smelling like everyone else, and if I'm going to whiff of something all day, every day, I don't mind splashing the cash and choosing a super-special scent.

It might seem completely stupid to buy perfume online, but many of my go-to brands are either indie perfumiers who are hard to find in UK stores, or they're pretty niche and only stocked in good ol' London Town (And I realise my pretension levels have reached new highs with the words 'go-to', 'indie' and 'niche' - but wait until you read some of the perfume blurb I quote below. Then you'll know what pretension is. Oh yes).

Review sites like Basenotes and Fragrantica are useful for finding out more about a fragrance that's intriguing you, and many shops sell samples so you can try before you buy - Les Senteurs is really good for this. So actually, buying perfume online isn't as bonkers as it first seems.

My all-time favourite scent is Diptyque's Vetyverio, but I like to mix things up with something less mainstream. Here are four of my best-loved modern, independent perfume brands. Wear one of their fragrances, and I guarantee you'll garner compliments from strangers in the street (this can be creepy, admittedly), and you'll never smell like all the other ladies in your office (unless they're all Domestic Sluttery readers*).


I have so many of Etat Libre d'Orange's weird and wonderful fragrances, and there's no way I can choose a favourite. Some are a little too odd for my taste - I can live without smelling like a fat electrician, thanks - and others are downright GROSS. Sécrétions Magnifiques smells like, um, magnificent secretions. Yeah, those secretions. NO NO NO. WRONG.

However, they do have some gorgeous scents. Encens et Bubblegum is an unlikely mix of incense and bubblegum, and although it's sweeter than I would usually go for, the incense tempers the notes of peach, lily of the valley, and vanilla.

I'm not usually one for celebrity perfumes, but when the celebrity in question is Tilda Swinton, I can make an exception. Like This reflects Tilda's 'very private memories and lifestyle experiences'. Um, what could these be? Ginger and whisky, apparently. Unsurprisingly, it smells amazing.

Explore all of Etat Libre d'Orange's scents at Les Senteurs, where a bottle will set you back anything from £52.50 for the main range, to £99 for fancy-schmancy limited edition blends. Samples of every fragrance are £3.50 each, or head to NkdMan for a discovery set of 25 miniatures for £25 (yes, even the magnificent secretions).


Do I want to smell like a second-hand bookshop? YES I DO. In The Library smells like old books. More specifically, it is 'a warm blend of English novel, Russian and Moroccan leather bindings, worn cloth and a hint of wood polish'. I die.

CB I Hate Perfume was created by perfumier Christopher Brosius, who clearly doesn't hate perfume (those are all his potions at the top of this post). He explores the connection between scent and memory with fragrances like Russian Caravan Tea - inspired by the marvellous cup of cha his mate Barrie brews up - and I Am A Dandelion, presumably a flashback to his former career as a dandelion. Oh, no, wait - it reminds him of happier times. That makes me quite sad.

Buy Christopher's memories from Escentual. They're made to order, so will be listed as out of stock - you can still click and buy, though. Prices range from an expensive £75 to a ridiculous £200.


I am all over anything that combines sunshine and pancakes. Described as 'the ideal 1970s British holiday at the seaside, captured in a scent', it smells of jasmine, honey, vanilla, and lemons - sunshine and pancakes, basically. It's happiness, bottled.

The Lion Cupboard is 'the scent of a warm hug', and has a beautiful back story that'll make you want to buy the perfume without even smelling it! I want it for the name alone, and I can't wait to try it.

I don't know about you, but I like to chop and change my perfumes depending on the season. I fear we've missed the optimum time to wear A Kiss By The Fireside, but it's such a stonkingly-delicious winter scent, I'll be snapping it up before Christmas (a prize, please, for planning this in FEBRUARY). It combines rose, lavender, wood fires, and cinnamon. I want to DRINK it (don't drink it).

All 4160Tuesdays' perfumes are available in 100ml or 30ml bottles (£80/£40), or buy a taster box of eight of their current scents for £20.


This perfume house is the brainchild of Nina Ricci's great-grandson, so before we've even tried its wares, we know it has excellent smelly credentials. My favourite of their fragrances is Miss Charming, all rose, lychee and mandarin scrumptiousness.

I'm dying to try Calamity J, which is apparently 'a rich, woody, oriental fougère of stunning ambisexuality', a sentence I neither understand nor trust. The combination of amber, iris, and patchouli sounds pretty darn nice, though, and it's worn by Lou Doillon in her official capacity as Coolest Woman on the Planet™.

More curious is Not A Perfume, which consists of just one note, Ambroxan (a synthetic substitute for ambergris). More than any other perfume, this one changes wildly depending on who's wearing it. Definitely one to try a sample of first, then, particularly as one review I read compared it to the smell of bleach.

Buy the Juliette Has A Gun range from Les Senteurs - prices start at £59 for a 50ml eau de parfum, and samples are £3.50 each.

What's your signature scent? Do you like something a bit unusual like these, or are you a classically elegant sort?

*They bloody well should be.


  1. For me you can never go wrong with the Lush Gorilla perfume range. They're so expertly blended and use only high quality essential oils rather than synthetics so your mature really lastingly on the skin. At the moment I'm wearing Superworld Unknown (it was 50% off), lots have been discontinued recently but are still available online.

    1. Ooh, thanks for the tip. Think we've had a few sent into my office in the past, so might root around and see if I can give them a try!

  2. I have a Library candle (by True Grace) which basically makes my flat smell of brandy and cigars and sex with clever men in lovely tweed.


    Incidentally, if that's the kind of smell that does it for you, Gucci Pour Homme smells identical and all men should smell of it.

    1. I've had my eye on that Library candle for a while now. Might just buy it thanks to your glowing review! Sounds exactly like my kind of thing.

  3. Parfum de therese which is part of the frederic malle range at liberty-love it. I think it really varies on different people but on me it's a mix of plums, melon and leathery-ness..
    It was created by the man who created diorella but smells much more luxy and like when you wear it you should be swishing along the left bank and being all french and fabulous..

    1. Melon and leather - sounds amazing! Get thee to the left bank immediately!

    2. annie & laura- i'd love to try me some Malle, carnal flower in particular, but so far i've failed in finding it cheap enough to give a go! however if you like leather & fruit, i highly recommend daim blond by serge lutens- apricot & suede, it's bloody lovely.

    3. Thanks Hayley-will definitely check that out.

  4. Laura b, you and i are perfume soulmates, yes we are. got a big sample pack of juliette has a gun in the post just this morning, love it all (although i think they've got a bit of a cheek charging that much for "not a perfume", basically a single-ingredient!) i never buy full bottles though, only samples/decants, less commitment/painful on the bank account! going to look out for diptyques vetyverio based on your excellent taste. couple of q's: 1)what are your favourite notes? 2)what perfume gets you most compliments from others, whether in the street or from your nearest & dearest?

  5. If you want the Kiss by the Fireside perfume, you'll have to hurry up - Sarah can't make any more because of the IFRA regulations about using certain ingredients, so rush quick quick to her website and snap up this gem.

  6. Hello,
    I'm Sarah from 4160 Tuesdays. What a lovely surprise to read your recommendations. I am reformulating A Kiss by the Fireside but I hope to keep it smelling very similar to the original, so fret not.
    I've just finished developing 10 new scents. Fancy a sniff?


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