"Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent” at Somerset House

"Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent” at Somerset House

Perfume has changed a whole lot since the end of the 20th Century. Back then it was “celebrity scents” (ugh!) that was the perfume trend of the late nineties/ early noughties. Mass-market scents have taken a backseat as niche perfumery has come to the fore – together with the people responsible for concocting it. With customers wanting to know more information, where their perfume has come from, who has made it and what’s in it etc. the world of fragrance has become a whole lot more exciting and in-depth, offering the consumer a lot more than just a pretty smell and a celebrity marketing campaign. 

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Fenwick, Bond Street + Immunocologie

Fenwick, Bond Street + Immunocologie

You can have a bit of a love-hate relationship with London’s department stores. The better known ones can feel a bit like an amusement park: lengthy queues, jostling crowds, bright lights – you get the idea. If you have the energy for all of this it’s great, but these aren’t places you want to frequent for some relaxing retail therapy.

Luckily there are some stores that are the antithesis of all of that – Fenwick’s being one of them. Tucked away on New Bond Street, as opposed to the busting Oxford Street or Knightsbridge, it’s less of a tourist trap and are all the better for it. 

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Atelier Cologne, Covent Garden

Atelier Cologne, Covent Garden

The cologne has got a sophisticated update over the years – no longer just the scent equivalent of a cold flannel, they’ve become exquisite concoctions in their own right, with many perfumers giving them more of a punch and greater lasting power than ever before. Few brands do this better than Atelier Cologne, whose scents pack more of a punch than traditional colognes but still retain the same citrus components. Founded by husband and wife Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, everything about this perfumery is bright and summery – from the bottles to the store decoration to the beautiful leather perfume holders, which customers can have engraved with their initials.

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Lalique, Mayfair

Lalique, Mayfair

When it comes to romantic perfumery, things really don't get much better than Lalique. The founder René Lalique is arguably responsible for the jewel-like perfume bottles that surround us today – our dressing tables have a lot to thank him for. He pretty much invented the concept of the “beautiful perfume bottle”, as opposed to the plain, medicinal style vessels fragrance used to be kept in. René was already a world-famed designer (considered the best Art Nouveau jewellery and glassware artisan in the world) before his neighbour Francois Coty approached him to create a bottle to go with one of his fragrances - and the rest is history. Perfume bottles became exquisite keepsakes, that people coveted as much as the contents.

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Fragrance Profiling at Penhaligon's

Fragrance Profiling at Penhaligon's

If you're not familiar with Penhaligon's, they're a stunning boutique brand whose heritage stretches back to the 1800s. The scents themselves are equally intriguing - each as unusual and eccentric as the next, with many classic numbers among them (I'd recommend Blenheim Bouquet and Juniper Sling as two must-try-before-you-die concoctions). 

Their boutiques are dotted all over the world, not least in London. I was lucky enough to be invited down to their Burlington Arcade branch to try their fragrance profiling service. This is basically match-making the person with their signature scent - and it's a great deal of fun and far better than aimlessly sniffing out the perfect perfume by yourself. 

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Smells Like 90s Spirit

Smells Like 90s Spirit

The similarities between fragrance and music have been well documented. (When you think about the compositions of different “notes” and chords - or accords - that work well together, even though there isn’t any precise logic as to why this is.) So it’s understandable why indie fragrance range Jusbox, is inspired by different musical eras. Founded by brother and sister Andrea and Chiara Valdo, previous scents have paid homage to the likes of Bob Dylan and Freddie Mercury. Their latest creation Black Powder is an olfactory tribute to the infamous poster-boy of 90s grunge - Kurt Cobain.

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Frederic Malle - Outrageous

Frederic Malle - Outrageous

As much as I love Frederic Malle –  I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about this latest one. Not that I didn’t like it, but it was so different from Malle's previous outings – where there's normally an intoxicating rose or a spiky citrus that knocks you off your feet (Eau de Magnolia and Lipstick Rose I’m talking about you…) Outrageous created by perfumer Sophie Grojsman (the nose behind YSL Paris, Calvin Klein Eternity  and Lalique Lalique plus others) was a bit more … “hmm.” Which is not necessarily a bad thing. It just forces you to think a bit more about them.

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Perfume Archives – L’Aimant by Coty

Perfume Archives – L’Aimant by Coty

When you think of a classic scent from the 1920s, from one of the most famous historic fragrance houses in the world – you’d expect to find it in a select boutique or collectors’ website. You wouldn’t think you’d be able to buy it on the Boots website for just over a tenner … But that is the case with Coty’s L’Aimant. Dismissed as a cheaper version of Chanel No.5 (however many people have been lead to believe it the more expensive of the two in a blind smell tests), this 1927 creation deserves a place in the history books in its own right...

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A Guide To Men's Scents - With Les Senteurs' James Craven

A Guide To Men's Scents - With Les Senteurs' James Craven

From fresh citrus numbers to rich leathery concoctions to scents that smell like, erm ... roadkill. Les Senteurs boutiques in Marylebone and Belgravia have every possible perfume for every type of gent, presided over by perfume archivist and expert James Craven (one of the nicest chaps in the industry). It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re looking to update yours or your partner’s whiff of choice. We paid James a visit, first speaking about the history of men’s scents (which you can read here) before having a good old sniff around the shop itself with James as our effervescent guide.

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Roullier White, East Dulwich

Roullier White, East Dulwich

We were very sorry to hear of the recent passing of Lawrence James White, owner and founder of Dulwich fragrance boutique Roullier White. We had the pleasure of meeting Lawrence last year as his was the very first shop to be profiled on Scents and the City, and he was kind enough to show us around. In tribute we have reposted the original article.

Less of a perfumery, it's more like a shrine to some of the most exquisite scents from around the world...

If you're looking for something a world away from department store perfume halls, this is the place to visit. A treasure trove of niche, cult brands as well as historic perfumeries, it's a world away from the bland, homogenous 'designer scents' that are all mouth and no trousers. 

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Celestine Eleven, Shoreditch

Celestine Eleven, Shoreditch

A new age style junkie heaven ...

Imagine Edie Sedgwick were to open up a shop - Celestine Eleven probably wouldn't be too far off the mark. A gorgeous mix of high-end fashion, arty tomes, green beauty brands and new age literature, crystals and remedies. Located in Shoreditch (of course) it's the perfect spot for the more sophisticated hipster who is more likely to wear Isabel Marant than traditional vintage garb found in a Dalston car boot sale (although there a few gems to be found there admittedly).

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LUSH Gorilla Perfumes, Islington

LUSH Gorilla Perfumes, Islington

Offbeat and eccentric... plus there's a listening booth.

Some scents are what you would call 'English scents' - to me, an 'English scent' tends to have a woody, earthy 'lived in' quality about them like a well-worn jersey. LUSH Gorilla Perfumes seem to encapsulate this most acutely - no springy bright florals or fizzing citruses. These are perfumes with an old soul.

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Talking Sex and Scent with Azzi Glasser

Talking Sex and Scent with Azzi Glasser

"I think that all perfumes should be sexy - as that’s what perfume kind of means. We’re animals at the end of the day, so you 'sniff' your partner out. That’s the core understanding of scent. If you really had to break it down “what does smell mean?” - it basically means that."

(Photo credit: @ Rankin)

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