Updated: Mar 3
With botanical perfumery becoming more and more popular, it means that we are now able to smell 'real' fragrances and find out just how beautiful the natural plant material is compared to its synthesised counterpart. But how do you choose a scent for you? Do the terms mean the same thing or will I end up with something that's completely 'different'?
The scents you may be very fond of may not smell like their authentic botanical counterparts. Think of things like ‘Fig’, ‘Lily of the Valley’, ‘Lilac’ and ‘Strawberry’ for example… most of these are synthetically manufactured fragrances.
Synthetics take the strongest signature of the chemical compound and lose the subtle nuances of a fragrance. For this reason you may find that botanical scents are more complex and you need to train your mind to accept this new and winding journey through thought, emotion and olfactory experience. After all, botanical perfumery in the traditional sense is authentic Aromatherapy in a concentrated form combining the volatile components, herbal tinctures, infusions and macerations as well as alchemical ritual. ALL of the material is vital botanical. No petro-chemical derivative can compare.
So the starting point for you is to reminisce about the scents you enjoy most. The ones that make you smile or remind you of something 'vital'. But how do you articulate what you are thinking of? How do you say it 'in perfumery language'? To understand perfumery it's helpful to know some of the technical terminology used to describe scent. Below is a 'Fragrance Star' which helps us to sort fragrances into 'Families'. It's usually a 'Fragrance Wheel' but I find this depiction more helpful...
Once you can identify your style of scent and which Families you enjoy the most, it's time to order samples (yay!) and try them out for yourself. Botanical perfumes will react differently depending upon the kind of skin you have. People with dry skin may find they need to apply a base balm of some kind (Au Naturel AP Balm would be great for those with sensitive skin) and even a solid perfume underneath a perfume oil or parfum. Solid perfumes are made with organic beeswax which acts as a preservative, but also a 'barrier' enabling the scent to stay on top of the skin for longer.
The next thing to consider is to go a little 'this way or that way' on the Perfume Wheel and try something just slightly different to what you think you will like. I've had clients tell me they 'hate florals' only to fall in love with a Jasmine top note perfume with hints of Spice and Wood (a 'Florential' like 'Three Wishes' Perfume Oil). Or someone who despises 'those overly Green, leafy blends' and ends up addicted to something with Basil ('Invoke' Perfume Oil) or Galbanum ('Rain' EDP) in it. Perfume is a very personal thing, and even though you haven't tried them all, there will always be a single note or blend that will come along and totally surprise you.
Here's a summary of Fragrance Note Examples, taken from the course notes for the upcoming Botanical Perfumery workshop, to assist you with defining your likes and dislikes...
So now I hope you're ready to dive into the wonderful world of pure, botanical, natural perfumery. Choose a selection of the Samples or ask me about having a Personal Perfume Consultation.
Keep an eye out for the one-day workshop 'An Introduction to the craft of Botanical Perfumery', which promises a chance for you to learn some natural perfumery methods and create your own signature perfume. More about that soon...
The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Julia Lawless
AromaticStudies.com/freeintroduction (an absolute find for anyone wishing to begin or rekindle their aromatic studies)
IlluminatedPerfume.com/pages/how-to-choose-a-scent (I know I won't be able to put it any better than this woman has already done...)