Choosing the right perfume for yourself is hard enough as it is, but purchasing a signature scent for another person, even when you know them well, is even harder. Perfume contains a lot of depth, nuance, and flavor that will smell different based on a person's natural scent. However, this process does not have to be intimidating. Read our guide to ensure you pick the perfect gift.
All perfume consists of different notes which contribute to the overall scent of the product. In these notes exist three distinct layers: base, middle (heart), and top (head). These notes have different volatility, which is the concentration of the perfume. First notes are ones you can smell the quickest, sit on the top (head) and quickly fade away due to their high volatility.
Top (Head): High volatility and lasts for 5-15 minutes.
Middle (Heart): Mid-volatility and lasts for 20-60 minutes
Base: Low volatility and lasts for several hours to days.
Let’s use the luxury fragrance line from Comme des Garcons as an example for discussing notes. The Rouge Eau de Parfum has fragrances of pink peppercorns, ginger, beetroot, and geranium leaves, which means it has both fresh and woody notes. Since the pink peppercorns come first in the description, they are smelt first. The geranium leaves will last the longest.
You’ll need to select a perfume that mixes well with their personality and everyday style. Someone who enjoys spicy food and wine will pair well with a mid-woody musk because it plays off of both scents. On the other hand, someone who eats a lot of fruit will love top citrusy notes.
Fresh and woody notes are further broken down into multiple scents and notes:
Fresh Notes (Masculine/Feminine): Lavender, Herbs, Bergamot, Citrus Oils, Marine, Aquatic Notes, Galbanum, Green Notes. Noted by Aromatic, Citrus, Water, and Green.
Floral Notes (Feminine): Berries, Fruit, Fresh Cut Flowers, Aldehydes, Powdery Notes, Orange Blossom, Sweet Spices. Noted by Fruity, Floral, Soft Floral, and Floral Oriental.
Oriental Notes (Feminine, Masculine): Amber, Incense, Oriental Resins, Patchouli, Sandalwood. Noted by Oriental, Soft Oriental, and Woody Oriental.
Woody Notes (Masculine): Aromatic Woods, Vetiver, Oakmoss, Amber, Dry woods, Leather. Noted by Woods, Mossy Woods, and Dry Woods.
Keep in mind that a man can absolutely wear a feminine scent, and a woman can wear a masculine scent; it’s just the designation of what person is typically attracted to each smell. Women commonly love lavender, sandalwood, cinnamon, and vanilla, which are all over the note spectrum. Since you’re choosing a note for your partner, pick something you’ll both like.
There are 5 different perfume types, each of which has its own concentration of essential oils. Let’s look at each concentration and what type of person will most likely enjoy it.
Parfum has a 15-40% concentration and a longevity of 6-8 hours. These command the highest price and are great for people who need long-lasting wear so they won’t need to reapply.
Eau de Parfum has a 15-20% concentration and a longevity of 5-6 hours. This type of perfume is best for people with sensitive skin. It’s a fragrance type that's suitable for everyday wear.
Eau de Toilette has a 5-15% concentration and a longevity of 4-5 hours. Considered a day wear fragrance, eau de toilette is great for casual outings and for doing chores across the city.
Eau de Cologne has a 3-4% concentration and a longevity of 2-3 hours. These fragrance types come in large bottles because more fragrance is needed—best for office environments or retail.
Eau Fraiche has a 1-3% concentration and a longevity of 1-2 hours. With a low fragrance concentration, eau fraiche is mostly water but great for an after-workout wash-off.
The best way to truly determine what perfume will work with a person's scent is by testing it on a person’s clothing. If you live with your partner, this should be easy, but if you don’t, ask them for a shirt or sweater they can sleep in. Not only is this cute, but it won’t raise suspicion. While at the store, try a few perfumes to see if they mix with your partner's chemistry. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, take your partner’s scarf or coat and wear it to the store instead.