Senior Perfumer Breaks Down How to Choose a Fragrance that Best Suits You

Senior perfumer Serge Oldenbourg explains how to find a fragrance that best encapsulates you.
Senior perfumer Serge Oldenbourg explains how to find a fragrance that best encapsulates you.

One question I have been asked when talking to people in several continents and many cultures is—which perfume would you recommend for me? Of course, this drives to another question—how do I choose a fragrance?

Choosing a fragrance is always difficult when one wants to make it very personal.

As a matter of fact, if you are not bound to a specific brand, the choice is very difficult due to the number of fragrances launched on the market every year. The multitude does not simplify also when noticing that many of them are very similar; that is an effect of evolving trends.

A simple and usual recommendation is to try the fragrances on your wrist, only one each, and smell along the time! And it is right to do so. BUT (there is always a “but” when juxtaposing the words “simple” and “people”) most of time you are the only one to perceive the impact of the tried fragrance and you do not notice the perception of you by others due to the fact that you are wearing two fragrances at once.

So how could you find a (not the) fragrance which fits you and give the message of yourself you want to share?

1. The first, and most known, is the “hate-love” appreciation.

At a first sniff you either like it or dislike it. Maybe the top notes are too aggressive for your nose, maybe not sophisticate enough; then you reject this proposal. Or you like it and then its time evaluate the fragrance further.

But how do you evaluate? What is the criteria that will lead you to making a choice? If you are a professional, no problem! I may be one of them, but I cannot tell you which type of fragrance you should wear.

There could be a “Coup de Coeur;” you love it right away; you fall in love with it. If this is the case, you are the lucky one and do not need any other recommendation. This does not happen often, on the contrary, there is always something which does not make you as comfortable as you wish.

2. I will suggest a further, second way for your selection which I name “for me or someone else.”

In this evaluation process, you try to appreciate the fragrance when worn by someone you know particularly well; this could be your partner, relatives or your best friends. These are the people you know best so that the picture of them superposed to the feeling of the fragrance could fit more or less. Since the knowledge of their personality is also a question of feeling, the result of the “superposition” gives you an indication for yourself (the differences between you and this person).

If this drives you to think the fragrance you are smelling fits to a person with much affinity to you, then you may find a fit for yourself; this does not happen very often, but will further guide you in the selection process, or in the very least, you've now found a fragrance for a loved one's birthday. 

3. The final criteria, which is the least known is "past or future.” 

As you know, and is well addressed in the weekly/monthly magazines, fragrances are bringing memories back to conscience. This is a fantastic way to select a fragrance for yourself. Yet, fragrances have the potential to induce not only memories but also wishes and desires! And this is, in my eyes (I should say in my nose) the most important aspect for wearing a fragrance.

When a fragrance evokes a memory, a moment in your life, a person you knew before, this is a flashback from the past. When a fragrance suggests a desire or evokes an emotion for a version of yourself you want to be, this would be considered the future. Sounds more complicated than it is! You do the same for choosing clothes, furniture for your place and so on. And you make a conscious choice: past or future for the olfactory image of yourself.

By the way, this process is also valid for all fragranced products.

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