And funnily enough, the scent’s somewhere in between the two, too…, Britney Spears Fantasy Today, iris plants happily grow everywhere from Europe to the Middle East, Asia and north Africa. Both were among the most popular perfume ingredients of ancient times, referred to as far back as ancient Egyptian unguent recipes. Violets were Napoleon’s favourite flowers. Hints of tobacco, too, or the whiff of burning leaves in winter. And it’s still a key ingredient in many sensual and iconic Oriental perfumes today…, Agent Provocateur Eau Provocateur (And we just love the way that perfumers rise to challenges like this…), PS Oakmoss has a near-relation, known as ‘tree moss’ - Evernia Furfuracea - which grows on pine trees, has a turpentine-y scent before it’s blended, and is also very highly-prized among perfumers. Iso E Super’s said to help ‘personalise’ fragrances, creating an almost bespoke effect when they’re applied to the wearer’s skin. Quite aside from its uplifting qualities, yuzu is very useful to perfumers because it prolongs the life of other citrus notes, whose delicious freshness doesn’t tend to linger for long. It can also be created synthetically – and often is, why may explain why the brands which use ‘real’ jasmine are so keen to share its story…, No wonder it’s known simply as ‘La Fleur’, in the perfume world – or ‘The Flower’… Because there’s probably no note (other than the aforementioned rose) which is so important, to ‘noses’…, Acqua di Parma Gelsomino Nobile Perhaps because vanilla is the second priciest spice in the world, after saffron, the vanilla you smell in many perfumes today is synthetic vanillin: clever chemists have worked to mimic the real thing – although the most gifted noses will probably tell you that real vanilla is earthier, with touches of treacle and a touch of ‘booziness’. The natural oil is also used in the liqueur Chartreuse (with its signature bright yellow-green colour, evoking the flowers of the plant itself), while the stem can be candied. Thierry Mugler Angel, Pungent, lavender-like, aromatic: nothing smells quite like rosemary. Dior Diorissimo Christina Aguilera Inspire Mad et Len Eau de Fleur d’Oranger An accord is a combination of natural and/or synthetic materials that resemble a specific scent. Stella McCartney Stella So: it’s produced synthetically, adding a hint of green sweetness – and airiness – to fragrance creations. Once upon a time (in the Victorian/Edwardian era), carnation was hugely fashionable (and if you ever manage to get your hands on a bottle of Caron’s now-extinct Bellodgia, you can experience just why it was so beloved). Versace Yellow Diamond, Have you ever enjoyed fresh lemon verbena tea? Roses are said to feature in at least 75% of modern feminine fragrances, and at least 10% of all men’s perfumes. Cardamom’s been spicing up perfumery (and the incense trade) at least since Egyptian times, and was one of the key fragrance plants used in Greek perfumes. Givenchy Xeryus I’d use more of it except that citrus fruit essential oils are restricted these days, and I almost always want to get some grapefruit in there too. This – yes – spicy ingredient comes from the dried, unripe berries of the Pimenta dioica (pimento), an evergreen tree that flourishes in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. Beeswax also works brilliantly as a fixative, helping to anchor will-o’-the-wisp, volatile notes. THOO (The House of Oud) Wonderly Its spicy-floral character works perfectly in many different florals – though in small quantities; a known sensitiser for a very small percentage of wearers, it’s one of the ingredients which perfume houses must compulsorily list on a label. Today, we grow crocus in the garden – often the first herald of spring. Generally blooming from March to mid-April (earlier, if temperatures are warmer), the beautiful cherry blossom – also known as sakura – is a welcome harbringer of Spring, and has become an iconic feature of Japan's tourist industry, with visitors flocking to see the stunning canopies of pink blooms in all their splendour. One of the most common misconceptions I see about pricing artisan perfume is that the cost of a finished product can be approximated by the cost of the ingredients and packaging, when in fact the total cost to the creator is much more. But indole can also be created synthetically, producing a crystal-like substance that smells of nothing so much as your great aunt’s mothballs, till it’s massively diluted. Max Mara Le Parfum Goutal Paris Eau d’Hadrien Brandâs Portfolio: A Perfume Organic is one of the best all-natural and chemical-free perfume brands out there. Balmain Ivoire As they have for thousands of years, these deciduous trees grow (impressively fast) in the Mediterranean and the Middle East – although the fig note we smell in contemporary fragrances is actually quite likely to be synthetic, from ingredients which go by the name of ‘stemone’ (it smells very green, and is produced by the fragrance house Givaudan) and ‘octalactone gamma’ (more prune-like and sappy). When the Iranian revolution broke out in 1979, the oil supply dried up – and Chanel’s perfumer faced the challenge of reworking this iconic scent. Some ‘noses’ played around with ingredients like patchouli, or synthetic ‘imitations’ of oakmoss to try to achieve some of the same effects as this wonder of the natural scent world, but there’s no question that some favourite fragrances started not to smell like themselves. Robert Piguet Mademoiselle Piguet It can add sweet, sexy, smoky and mysterious nuances to a fragrance, and works gorgeously alongside rich florals and Oriental spices, giving hints of caramel or whiskey. (I miss any experience there, but I imagine what it might be like!) Perfumers, that’s who. All that, and a wonderful aromatic smell, too…, Goutal Mandragore A gum resin, tapped from the True Myrrh tree, or Commiphora Myrrha which originates from parts of Arabia, Somalia and Ethiopia; the resin’s produced by tapping the tree to make small incisions, from which small teardrop-shaped droplets emerge – and are left to harden into bead-like nuggets, which are then steam-distilled to produce an essential oil. They’re then steam-distilled to produce a gloopy, oily yellow compound, known in the business as ‘iris butter’. It smells sweet, but not as cloying as hyacinth. 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