Unforgettable: The Basics Of Understanding Perfume And Fragrance

Everything you need to know: for both men and women.

No other sense is so bound to memory as scent.


The olfactory system is closely tied to the amygdala — the emotional center of the brain — and the hippocampus, which processes associative learning. 

We link each smell to a certain person, a moment, a place. 

The trace of a lover's perfume on a pillow or a shirt can make us ache or soar. The memory of a scent might fade, but the memories and emotions attached to it can rekindle instantly upon its return. 

The smell of honeysuckle might suddenly evoke the crisp spring winds of our childhoods, while the light smell of rosewater might remind us of a grandmother or aunt. 

Perfumes are liquid emotions.

Marilyn Monroe was once asked what she wore to bed.

She answered "Chanel No. 5:" the famous perfume epitomizing the same glamour and frisky sophistication shared by the actress and revealed so playfully in her unforgettable reply.

So what is perfume?

A perfume blends the essential oils of aromatic plants and substances in a solvent, usually alcohol. 

It's easy to get confused about the differences between perfume (or parfum) types but it's simple: each refers to a different concentration of oil, ranging from the strongest (perfume and Eau de Parfum) to the lightest (Eau de Toilette and the citrusy Eau de Cologne). For the purposes of this article, we will refer to "perfume" and "fragrance" as representing the spectrum of concentrations.

Knowing a little about how perfume is bodied – how it changes over the course of a day and reacts with your own body chemistry – and the basic types of scent will help you be unforgettable.

Guys, take note: this will help you not be taken advantage of the next time you're at the fragrance counter: everything here applies to men, too.

Top, heart, and base notes: the sensual music of fragrance.

The top notes of a perfume are sharp and fresh. 

It's because they are so volatile that you must try a dab of perfume on the wrist when choosing a scent. 

These top notes evaporate after a few minutes: they tease and then move on. Citruses, like bergamot and lime can be very bright top notes, as can eucalyptus and sage.

The heart notes emerge after a few minutes. 

These are considered the middle notes of the perfume and can last from four to six hours. Pine, lavender, and geranium can be found here, as can pepper.

The base notes are the foundation of a perfume's sensual architecture.

These are the sensual, spicy, woody oils like sandalwood, patchouli, and clove. Vanilla and rose are found here. The base notes emerge after an hour or so and evaporate slowly.

Together, these notes combine with the natural oils of your body to create an intoxicating symphony of fragrance.

There are 8 perfume categories... but it's rare that a fragrance falls into just one.

The 8 categories are:







Fruity and 


Oriental, spicy, and woody fragrances suggest mystery.

These perfumes are often thought of as night or fall-winter perfumes: They tend to have a mysterious, heavy character to them: the equivalent of a little black dress and six inch heels. They're warm. Heavier. Seductive.

Floral, aquatic, green, fruity and citrus fragrances are lighter.

These are often considered daytime or spring-summer categories: fresh, energetic, sweet, and casual. 

Having said that, a bright floral perfume can be unexpectedly wonderful on a late fall evening and a rich, deep, vanilla or clove can wake up a lazy spring morning. 

There's no hard and fast rule for when you should wear a fragrance or what fragrance is best suited to you. It's something that you need to decide for yourself.

Beauty is rarely predictable and never forgettable... why should your fragrance be?

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