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The secret underworld of scent

The Secret Underworld of Fragrance

When we find a scent we love, we choose it not just to make ourselves feel good but also to prompt a reaction from those around us.

Scent is emotive. We lace ourselves before the day hoping to prompt a reaction from those who pass us in the street or cross us on the stair. We want to walk around shrouded in a light mist; one which is both unforgettable and impossible to succinctly define.

A word often associated with perfume and scent selection is ‘creativity.’

Everyone wants to find something, make something and of course ensure they smell like something a little undeniably different. No one wants to be a clone. We want to shock, woo and wow with the notes that linger on the breeze behind us. We want to leave noses twitching as the owner desperately tries to pluck out the ingredients that make our smell so utterly irresistible.

Maybe that’s why when someone utters the word ‘fragrance’, our minds leap to ‘creativity’ and ‘uniqueness.’ We hope one will lead to the other, leaving us sporting a scent so delectably different we turn the whole world green with envy.

The trouble is, the scents we tend to find delicious are often those loved and adored the globe over.

The 'fragrance royalty', the show-stoppers make the headlines for a reason and if we think it’s awesome Jennifer Lawrence now models Dior, you can bet a few thousand other admirers think so too. Guillen and Chanel didn’t become household names because they were passé. Penhaligons and Atkinsons aren’t notoriously traditional because they made no impression on their audience. We are drawn to a name because of its reputation, and this is earned because the product has pleased not one but many.

So, what do we advise if you’re hoping to find something which truly will feel unique and specifically suited to you?

The big bad wolf

An obvious suggestion may be to steer clear of the prominent ‘fragrance houses.’ From the grand alley of The Burlington Arcade right down to your local Boots, those scents which regularly line the shelves are likely to have been tried and taken by many a passing hand, now proudly worn by many a lucky owner.

That isn’t to say the ‘big brands’ are a no go. They’re big because they’re brilliant. Their secret treasures shouldn’t be overlooked because a younger sister has stolen the limelight and now reliably chokes morning commuters on the underground during the journey to work. Browse the lesser known names, take time trying the bottles with smaller labels, those placed off back-centre in the displays. You’ll likely find a spectacular treat awaiting a patient perusal - and while the beautifully bottled middle rows empty to clutching hands, you’ll find yourself walking away with something a little less known and a whole lot more cherished.

Trust the fragrance hipsters

‘Indie’ fragrance boutiques are guaranteed to boast a plethora of hidden gems. Not only will their selection be smaller, resulting in a slimmer likelihood of crossing paths with your new scent sister on the bus, but they will have also been created by different hands and minds. Many smaller brands are lucky to trust the knowledge and expertise of their own master perfumer, and even luckier to know that these talents are almost solely brought to fruition in-store, with their own bespoke lines. So, try stepping off the street and into the quaint seaside store. Let your fingers run over fire-blown glass and silver tipped jewels before pausing to rest on a scent selection which is utterly magical and largely undiscovered. You’ll feel pleased as punch when your co-workers double back to take another whiff as they pass you on their way to the coffee machine, even more so when they coo over the name they had never heard of.

Get your nerd on

Whilst we encourage you to have faith in the smaller, lesser known brands, we equally encourage you to swot up on the advice of fragrance fanatics. The articles on sites such as Frangantica, Perfume Society and Lucky Scent are created by fragrance lovers who literally live and breathe for the quest of that ‘perfect’ scent. They’ll have sampled and spritzed every combination and vintage of perfume available under the sun. They will point you in the direction of hitherto unknown ingredients, long forgotten names and yet-to-drop trends. Let them fill you with the same enthusiasm and excitement for the bizarre combinations and creations that they have discovered as they take you on an exploration of the ‘ secret underworld’ of lesser-known-scents.

Finally, and as is always the case when offering advice on scent selection, try to understand what it is you’re after. If you know the moods and qualities you wish to enhance and exaggerate, you’ll be better suited to notice the scent that’s worth your attention when it crosses your path. It can seem a little overwhelming browsing shelves of bottles which are otherwise unsupported by billboard ads or glittering campaigns.

But, take courage in the knowledge that, when you finally find what it is you’re looking for, the glittering ranks of uniformity will fade in comparison to your own one, dazzling selection.

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