Choosing a Fragrance

We’ve sprayed and scented ourselves for centuries. Give a little bit of thought to what eau de toilette you wear and you’ll reap the benefits

Article by Nick Gilbert of Pall Mall Barbers

The history of fragrance started in Ancient times, as the Egyptians and other civilizations created blends of scents, burned as offerings to the Gods – this is where the word perfume comes from; ‘per fumum’ or “through smoke.”

The idea of burning scented woods and spices to scent oneself continues to this day – Middle Eastern peoples burn oud chips, a precious resin created by the Aquilaria tree, and using small burners scent themselves and their clothes with the smoke.

Of course, if you’ve ever been in charge of the barbecue you’ll know only too well how smoke sticks to the skin and clothes. Luckily for us, we no longer need to burn things in order to smell fantastic – we can simply choose a fragrance from the masses on offer.

But how do we go about choosing a fragrance? Where do you start, when faced with what seems like hundreds of options in a department store?

First things first, figure out what you like. Have you ever bought your own aftershave, or have you always received it as a gift? Which of the ones you’ve had do you like most?

Investigate on a website like Basenotes or Fragrantica which notes are in the fragrance. Read the reviews, and see which other fragrances people mention or find out which family they fall into and which other fragrances are in that family. Make a note. Head into a store and spray the ones that grabbed your attention onto scent strips. Then leave. Take a walk or grab a coffee. Allow the fragrance some time to develop. If it still smells great half an hour later, go back and try it on your skin. Then leave again.

The only rule in eau de toilette shopping is never to buy on first sniff. When choosing a fragrance, many are what we in the industry refer to as ‘front loaded’ – all the good stuff is in the first few seconds, and then afterwards they fall into a vague scent that doesn’t really do much for you.

It might be that you lean towards the fresh, citrus scents. When choosing a fragrance, look for words like ‘fraiche’ or ‘sport’ – these will tend to be focused on those zingy, sharp citrus materials, with hints of cool spice and woods to keep them on the skin. Great for a post-workout freshen up or wearing in the stifling heat of summer. Keep in mind that the scent of citrus evaporates very quickly – so a long lasting citrus only fragrance doesn’t exist. You’ll have to concede to something woody to make it last.

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Woody notes include cedar, sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli and gaiac. All of them offer something different, but mostly have a rich, earthy edge that gets others intrigued. They last fantastically well on the skin due to being composed of larger molecules, and create a gentlemanly, masculine image.

Pall Mall Barbers Cologne is a great example of the longevity of woody notes. Inspired by barbershop tradition of bay rum and the gentlemen’s clubs of the nearby Pall Mall, it’s a blend of sandalwood, tobacco, and clove – creating a rich and ambery warmth with flickers of hot spice and creamy woods. riddle_stop 2


Enquiries: Pall Mall Barbers, 27 Whitcomb Street WC2H &EP / 0207 9307787 / 123 Houndsditch, Bishopsgate EC3A 7BU / 0207 6260123 / 45 Fitzroy Street W1T 6EB / 0207 3878787/

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