MAKING scents

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 October, 2011, 12:00am


Every year, an estimated 400 new fragrances are launched, each competing to be your new best friend. And, with a constant slew of new celebrity and designer fragrances hitting the shelves, it's hard to resist their allure.

While it takes between one to three years to produce a fragrance, more pretty little bottles are now being created than 10 years ago, according to Rochelle Bloom, president of the New York-based Fragrance Foundation, which was established by six perfume leaders - Elizabeth Arden, Coty, Guerlain, Helena Rubenstein, Chanel and Parfums Weil - in 1949.

'The economy plays a role, for sure. For example, fragrance is a wonderful, affordable accessory, so if you cannot afford the whole outfit from your favourite designer, say [for example] Donna Karan or Marc Jacobs, you can still enjoy their fashion vibe with their fragrance,' she says. 'Fragrances are being created by movie stars and singers. A fragrance is a natural extension of their creativity.'

As each aroma is made from a unique combination of scented oils, fragrance expert Michael Edwards created the Fragrance Wheel in 1983 to classify perfumes into four main categories: floral, oriental, fresh and woody, with numerous subcategories. It was a much-needed tool then, as it is today, with more than 4,700 scents available in the United States alone.

Floral fragrances, Bloom says, are typically characterised by single flowers such as the rose, lavender or lily. However, these flower notes are often woven with more complex notes such as citrus, green or fruity for 'a more harmonious balance'.

Dior's J'Adore Eau de Toilette is a classic floral fragrance which derives its bouquet from a reworking of Damascus rose, ylang-ylang and jasmine sambac with top notes of yellow mandarin.

Stella McCartney's limited edition Print Collection Stella 01 is housed in three artfully printed flacons with botanical patterns. This floral fragrance, as the bottle itself suggests, is characterised by the femininity of the rose and the intense sensuality of amber; other notes include peony and mandarin.

For those with a penchant for oriental fragrances, this category is commonly characterised by sweet, heavy notes, Bloom says, with vetiver, patchouli and sandalwood essential oils commonly used. However, the oriental category is also tempered with wood notes, vanilla and amber, creating a sultry and sexy appeal.

At the heart of a modern oriental perfume is Portrait of a Lady from Frederic Malle, which was developed by one of the top noses of the world, Dominique Ropion. Named after the 1881 novel by Henry James, the fragrance includes notes of Turkish rose, raspberry, patchouli, sandalwood, incense and white musk.

Fresh or citrus fragrances are typically clean and tangy in nature, according to Bloom. And the usual suspects of lemon, lime, orange, mandarin and bergamot are the mainstay blends for this category.

In the subcategory group called aromatic fruity, a mix of fresh and woody scents, Hermes launches its fourth fragrance in the Un Jardin collection, inspired by the lush rooftop garden at the Herm?s headquarters in Paris. Created to capture the scents of a sweet, aromatic garden, Un Jardin sur le Toit is infused with apple, pear, rose, basil, green grass and magnolia notes.

Annick Goutal's most sought-after fragrance, Eau d'Hadrien, special limited edition 2011, is part of the citrus aromatic subgroup. This cheerful, zesty scent evokes memories of the Mediterranean sun with bold citrus notes and the shady coolness of swaying lemon trees.

Another citrus aromatic fragrance is Yves Saint Laurent's Saharienne, inspired by the designer's famous safari jacket in the 1968 collection. It's a fragrance that is wild, provocative and iconic, blending sensual aromas from the hot desert with bursting notes of Primo Fiore lemon, Italian bergamot and mandarin zests, then enlivened with sunny florals and salty accords.

Last, Bloom says chypre, meaning cyprus in French, or the woody-moss category, is 'actually quite refreshing and clean, though the name is misleading'. This sharp-scented category includes sandalwood, rosewood, cedar and other aromatic woods, which are combined with earthy oak moss and fern to create refreshing scents of the forest.

Launched last month, Burberry Body Eau de Parfum Intense is described as a chypre fruit composition, the top notes beginning with fresh green absinthe, peach and freesia, culminating at the base with sandalwood, vanilla, musk, amber and vanilla. 'Burberry Body is the most exciting launch that we have created and captures the iconic spirit of the brand today in a striking and sensual way,' says Christopher Bailey, Burberry's chief creative director.

Another wood musk fragrance is Estee Lauder's Sensuous Nude. An extension of the brand's 2008 Sensuous fragrance, the new bottle maintains the feminine spherical shape with soft tones of nude blush. The olfactory journey begins with fresh Sicilian bergamot and mandarin, layered with exotic Baie rose and invigorating black pepper. Then come accords of jasmine petals and a splash of coconut water. To finish is a translucent musk, velvety sandalwood and glowing amber.

While fragrances don't change as much as fashion, Bloom says: 'Certainly there are fragrance trends that do emerge, such as the trend towards gourmand notes including powdery vanilla notes and even chocolate. Very fruity, sweet florals are also popular right now.'

Consumers are also looking for sustainability. This aspect translates, Bloom says, into packaging that is recyclable, bottles that can be refilled and sustainable programmes to protect fragile ingredients, which are cultivated in remote areas of the world.

With a flood of new scents hitting the shelves every season, Bloom points out that fragrances are influenced by popular culture, including music and fashion. 'The discovery of new and interesting notes and the perfumer's art are translating into magical fragrance blends.'