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How To Shop For Fragrance – An Insider’s Guide To Getting It Right Every Time

Shopping for fragrance can be a confusing business. There is a dizzying variety of choices – after a few spritzes, you can’t remember what’s what. And if you’re buying for anyone but yourself, how can you be sure if they’ll love it or loathe it? With an abundance of bespoke and niche fragrances now available, there’s even more to consider. We spoke to some of the top niche perfumers and put together a comprehensive roadmap to help you find a fragrance that hits all the right notes.

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Go it alone… Never take a friend fragrance shopping. “You have your perfume agenda; she has one that’s completely different,” says Roja Dove, British master perfumer. “Something you love on yourself, she may think doesn’t suit you at all. Contrary to what you may currently believe, it has little to do with how perfume develops on the skin. The idea that fragrances smell different on each individual is becoming a thing of the past; the more synthetics are used in the creation process, the less individual the fragrance will smell. A fragrance has to suit a wearer’s personality.”

Smell on paper… On the “dry down” (when the perfume has settled and the alcohol has evaporated) means you can smell fragrances all day without fatigue. “Testing on paper is the only sane way to try a fragrance,” says Dove. “It’s free from glues or binders and is as near to skin as is possible to recreate; the only thing missing is the warmth of the skin, so breathe out very hard on them to warm them up before you inhale.”

Spend the night together… When you’ve found one you really like, Dove suggests you spray one and only one on your skin: “Spray it all over, then go away and sleep on it. A quick sniff is like flirting – just like a lover, it’s only when you spend the night together that you know if the relationship is going to work out or not. If you’re still in love in the morning, then buy it.”

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Do your research… If you’re buying for a loved one, do some background digging before you go shopping. “For men, in particular, I advise them to research the woman first,” says Maggie Mangan, co-founder of Cloon Keen Atelier. “Knowing what your partner or wife already wears is hugely helpful information to the sales assistant, as she/he can identify the correct perfume genre. Also, they should try to ascertain if their partner would like it for day or night-time use. Other helpful information is what type of fashion brands they like – are they energetic, laid-back, dreamy or practical. Gather as much information as possible.”

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Never rush a purchase… “We always advise our clients when choosing a fragrance, regardless of whether it is a man or woman, to take their time when making a decision on a fragrance,” says Marija Aslimoska, perfumer and owner of Parfumarija and Officina Profumo. “Even if you think you love a fragrance, we will still send you away to think about it. We don’t rely on bestsellers, as we take every client individually and try hard to find out what it is they personally like, rather than selling them something that simply sells well.”

To find out more about the rise of bespoke scents, check out the February issue of IMAGE Magazine, on sale now. 

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