Fragrant families

Suzie Abel, beauty buyer at Jarrold's. Photo: Bill Smith

Suzie Abel, beauty buyer at Jarrold's. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2011

Finding a new fragrance for someone dear – or even spoiling yourself – can be a real challenge. The acres of bottles, boxes and testers can be scary I know, but let me give you a few hints and tips that will hopefully make this shopping trip trouble-free.

First of all, never lose sight of the fact that it is the scent itself that is paramount. The beautiful bottle, packaging and entire marketing dream all add appeal, but may result in the product living in a drawer rather than being worn and enjoyed.

All fragrances fall into one of three main families – floral, chypre and Oriental.

Florals are sweet and full of flowers like roses, jasmine and ylang-ylang, such as Chanel No 5; Nina Ricci, L’Air du Temps, and YSL Paris.

Chypre is French for Cyprus and describes a scent that is woodsy, warm and dry with ingredients like oakmoss, woods and spices, such as Miss Dior; Guerlain, Mitsouko, and Ralph Lauren, Romance.

Orientals are full, soft and sensual – often powdery with iris – and almost always with vanilla, such as YSL, Opium; Chanel, Coco, and Guerlain Shalimar.

Simply find out what’s the current favourite of the recipient, pop into the fine fragrance hall and talk to one of our experts who can point you in the direction of those that fall into the same family. This should avoid an expensive mistake.

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Most of the fragrances I have quoted are hugely popular classic favourites, but why not be a little more adventurous with these rather special alternatives?

Florals - try an exquisite fragrance from one of the oldest yet finest perfumiers, Houbigant, Orangers en Fleurs – full-bodied and decadent with just a touch of fresh greenery added to the plush white blossoms of orange and jasmine, 100ml at £105, or Penhaligon’s new Iris Prima – a work of olfactory choreography with iris absolute as the prima ballerina – effortlessly elegant, 50ml for £85.

Chypre - this family includes Narciso Rodriguez for her – lusty and sensual with patchouli and sandalwood – for someone really close, 30ml for £35, or Jean-Charles Brosseau, Ombre Orientale – a warm and spicy cocktail with oud and amber, delicious for night-time, 100ml at £85.

Orientals – these include the fabulous Serge Lutens, Ambre Sultan. Serge said about his deeply exotic fragrance: “This is not an Oriental, but an Arab and a Lutens”. It’s seriously sexy, 50ml at £69 or, with more fun in mind, how about the new Lolita Lempicka, Elle L’Aime. If bling is needed look no further than this gorgeous gold bottle with a juice that’s rich with vanilla and myrrh, 40ml for £45.

Try before you buy? Remember these key points for trying fragrances:

1 Never test more than two at a time, one on each arm or wrist – any more and you’ll simply confuse your nose.

2 Never rub both wrists together - you’ll bruise the fragrance and stop it developing properly.

3 Once you have sprayed, don’t smell it for at least 20 minutes – the top notes are always citrus and sharp, they need to dry down so that you can smell the true fragrance (so hard to wait for, but it’s worth it!)

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