FAQs, Tips and Advice and Handmaps

We've had many questions over the years and have learned a lot about fragrances. To help you get started, here are a few tips and some useful information.

No doubt about it, the fragrance journey is fraught with all kinds of confusing terminology.

There’s a lot of art and chemistry in making perfume, but art aside, perfume is a combination of aromatic compounds and fixatives diluted in a solvent, usually ethanol or ethanol, combined with water. There.

Essentially, there are four main types of perfume. Each type is defined by the concentration, by percent/volume, of the aromatic compounds they contain. Here are the breakdowns according to The International Fragrance Association (IFRA):
Perfume, parfum, or parfum extrait, has the highest concentration of aromatic compounds, typically about 20% and varying anywhere from 15% to 40%. Intense, long-lasting and usually the most expensive of the four types.

Eau de Parfum (EDP) has the next highest concentration of aromatic compounds, typically 15%, but varying between 10% and 20%. EDP is the most popular type of perfume.

Eau de Toilette (EDT) comes next with a typical concentration of 10% aromatic compounds, but varying between 5% and 15%. A light scent that doesn’t linger very long, EDT’s best application is as body splash.

Eau de Cologne (EDC) has a typical concentration of about 5%, but varying between 3% and 8%. Originally a citrus-based perfume, it was named for the city it was launched in – Cologne. Outside of Germany, EDC and Cologne have become generic terms for chypre citrus perfumes. Such perfumes are also called Eau Fraiche.

And, just to make things a little more interesting, different perfume houses allot different amounts of aromatic compounds to their perfumes so that an EDT from one perfume house might be more concentrated than another house’s EDP.
In addition, some perfumers have their own categories. For example, Christopher Brosius of CB I Hate Perfume makes what he calls “water perfume”. He does not use alcohol in his scents.

Ultimately though, fragrance concentrations are just a guideline and can vary from perfume house to perfume. It’s the ingredients in a perfume, not the concentration of oil, that determines how long a fragrance will last on skin.

No matter what else they are – mood enhancers, libido lifters, memory triggers –fragrances are combinations of chemicals in a delicate balance that deteriorate over time, especially once the bottles have been opened. While having all of your beauties on display can give you a frisson of excitement every time you see them, the fact is, they will last longer and bring you more pleasure if they are stored properly.

Light, air, heat, and time are your fragrances’ enemies. Improperly stored fragrances deteriorate faster. Here’s how to help your fragrances last longer:

  • Store perfumes away from light of any kind and in a cool, dark, dry place.
  • Keep caps firmly in place to lessen exposure to air, and avoid evaporation and leaks.
  • Avoid drastic temperature changes.

We keep our fragrances in their original packaging or in boxes or drawers in a temperature-controlled room. The upside: the thrill of rediscovery.

Fragrance blooms best on warm skin, not clothes or paper, so for maximum effect apply to pulse points like the inside of wrists, elbows and knees, behind the ears, the neck and the chest.

But no matter where you apply it, always remember to shake the bottle before you do. This evenly distributes the chemicals so that each spray or dab smells the same.

Avoid getting fragrance on jewellery as it can really do a number on some semi-precious stones and pearls.

Never rub your wrists together after spritzing them. This breaks down the delicate structure and ruins the scent.

There are so many factors that come in to play here, such as humidity, the season, age, skin type and mood, that the answer really is…if you like it, it’s right for you! The same fragrances can smell different on other people because each of us has a unique chemical make-up. For example, scent reacts differently on people with oily skin than it does on people with dry skin.

As well, scent can trigger some very strong feelings, memories and emotions. We love Incense D’Avignon because it reminds us of the fabulous old churches we have visited in Paris. Someone else might not have the same association with the scent.

The only way to learn what fragrance is right for you is to try it on your skin – your wrist, neck or behind your ears – over several days. Live with it a while, see how you feel and what you experience.

You may be surprised by what you learn. We’ve known more than one die-hard white floral lover who added woody ambers to their repertoire after sampling a few.

We get this question a lot at perfumeniche.com and the answer is: sample, sample, sample! And sample it on your skin.

But the question you should ask yourself is, “Why do I need a signature scent?” Sure, you have memories of your Aunt Yvette who wore only Rive Gauche, but now there are so many more fabulous niche scents than when Aunt Yvette was buying her fragrances, so it’s much easier to explore and develop your own unique style and express yourself with scents.

Also, with so many great scents out there, why choose to smell the same way all the time? After all, you don’t wear the same outfit every day, you aren’t in the same mood every day, so why wear the same perfume day in and day out? Build a wardrobe of fragrances – change them like you change your clothes. You’ll look forward to choosing your “Scent of The Day”.

This is one of the saddest scenarios in scentdom. But take heart because we’ve all been there! Once you get over the heartbreak, the disappointment and the credit card charges, there are a few things you can do:

1. Customize it: You can layer the scrubber with other fragrances to make new ones. After all, you originally liked it enough to blow through three samples, so try to find another scent that you own that will let those elements shine and wear them both together.

2. Gift it: You can always gift the partial bottle to someone who really does love it. Don’t fret that the recipient might think you “cheaped out” because the bottle has been opened and some of the juice is gone. I wouldn’t turn down being gifted The Mona Lisa just because other people have looked at it.

3. Sell it: Settle on a price that you think is fair and then let your friends know about it. Vintage bottles are rarely full when they are sold, so don’t think that your niche scent is of less interest just because it’s been test driven.

The sense of smell is located in the limbic system, the most primitive area of our brain, and matures before any other of our senses. Smelling is experiential, and therefore difficult to translate into words. Reading about a scent is fun, and you can learn a lot, but the only way to know about a scent is to SMELL IT ON YOURSELF.

We've tested hundreds of fragrance samples, so we know that keeping track of "which scent is which" can be confusing. (There is NOTHING more frustrating than smelling a scent you've tested and absolutely love, and you can't remember WHAT IT IS!)

Since a sample testing session usually involves trying several decants on wrists, hands and arms, we've developed tools to keep you organized.

We've created Handmaps for women and men. We use Handmaps to record the area we apply each fragrance sample – up to six per session with space to add more – so that we can assess them over time.

WARNING: You can OD on scent and not smell anything after a while. If this happens to you, sniff some coffee beans for a few seconds and take a short break; that should get everything back in working order.

You can download Handmaps below.


Get handmap