Test fragrances like a pro

Friday, 25 May 2012

Test fragrances like a proI have a good nose. Not a perfect ski-jump nose (it’s actually more Roman), but a nose that is very sensitive to fragrance, which is a blessing in my line of work. And less of a blessing wandering around New York City, where I pick up on rotting fish, stale alcohol, delicious pretzels, roasted nuts, and Lord knows what else on a daily basis.

But then I get to work, where there’s an endless array of perfumes to smell, up to a few dozen in a single sitting, all of which I need to be able to remember, to write about now, or to save for later. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way for getting the most out of a quick whiff of perfume.

Coffee beans will help reset your nose – but not always. It’s conventional wisdom in the business that the strong smell of coffee is good for clearing your palate, like sherbet between courses at dinner. But as Jake Nagle, creative marketing manager at Firmenich for L’Oréal Group, recently told me, “Coffee beans work best when smelling floral fragrance, but they’re not useful when smelling gourmands.” That’s because coffee or coffee-like notes are sometimes present in those scents, like Bond No 9’s New Haarlem, Thierry Mugler’s Angel flankers, and in many men’s colognes.

Take stock of your own aroma. Nagle says his professional colleagues often ask to test fragrances on his skin because it’s neutral and has no discernable smell. The oilier the skin, the more likely it is to have a scent. So if you have oily skin, or skin with its own distinct odor, try spraying fragrance samples on your sleeve or on a friend.

Business cards make the best blotters. The other day I was chatting with Francis Kurkdjian, one of my favorite perfumers, who has the chicest fragrance blotters I’ve ever seen: off-white heavy card stock with gold lettering. He told me he got the idea from using business cards. They have enough texture to really absorb a scent. So check your desk drawer; there are sure to be some old ones lingering inside.

Originally written by Anne-Marie Guarnieri, this article appeared in Allure.

IMAGE: Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock.com

Written by

Megan Kakora has helped launch the websites of, and been the online editor for, some of South Africa’s biggest glossy magazines. She believes in less-is-more, except when it comes to her collection of nail polish colours.
Megan on Google+

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  1. khumalo

    I spray on the paper and wait for few seconds, if I like the smell I go for it.

    5 years ago •

  1. Pseudo_kate

    I spray on my one wrist, then on the other arm’s clothing and go around the mall running errands. I only make the decision to purchase the next day after I see what my skin and clothing smell like after a few hours.

    6 years ago •

  1. SpiceY

    Coffee beans are definitely the most important thing to smell between different scents, or else they all just end u smelling the same..

    6 years ago •

  1. BeautyBloggess

    Interesting about coffee beans and gourmand fragrances. Didn’t know that.

    7 years ago •

  1. Guccigirl

    I really like the business card idea.
    It could be a really useful tool for personal branding too. My perfume sits next to my business cards in my handbag and my cards often have a faint smell of perfume.

    7 years ago •

  1. Rochelle Kay

    I can only test 3 perfumes at a time, and the coffee beans definitely helps!

    7 years ago •

  1. Humphreys

    What a revelation about the coffee beans!! I always thought they were there for decor purposes!

    7 years ago •

  1. Sam

    Very interesting article, new knew that! Thank you for always being informative.

    7 years ago •

  1. Lorraine

    I often go into a shop and smell the perfumes.But after a few smells it is as if my nose cant smell the rest.Will have to take some coffee beans with.

    7 years ago •

  1. Botes

    Coffee beans really do work, I dnt really like using the strips as I find the smell changes from the development on my skin and the development on the card.

    7 years ago •

  1. landman

    Never to old to learn, very impressive article thank u.

    7 years ago •

  1. ricebunny

    ussually they have tester sticks provided esp edgars or if u ask them they ussual have but yes i do cringe at the thought of many testing perfumes as it makes me feel sick afterwards so i tend to spray them on tester sticks and take them home and smell 1 a day lol. and oh thats why i have found a lot of places with coffee beans in a jar i was also wondering why they were there lol!! thanks learnt something new lol

    7 years ago •

  1. The Ferosh 1

    Perfume and coffee beans.well what do you know. unfortunately I wear a gourmand(5th avenue) so I can’t really say

    7 years ago •

  1. Mpbutterfly

    Being in the wine industry, my nose is very sensitive but I didn’t know that coffee beans reset the palate. Very interesting!

    7 years ago •

  1. Bella

    Very interesting. This explains a lot

    7 years ago •

  1. Rochelle Stewart

    And I thought coffee and chocolate goes well together!

    7 years ago •

  1. Debsie

    Who would have guest coffee and perfume go tohether

    7 years ago •

  1. honey_child

    OMW…this explains why there are coffee bean at the perfume counters…I thought it was just for decoration. Thank you for this article….

    7 years ago •

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