As we emerge into more social situations, finding a signature scent may seem like a relevant search. We spoke to a set of perfumers and fragrance experts on how to go about it
Whether you’re a fragrance fanatic or new to scents, finding a perfume you love can be a daunting task. When you approach a fragrance counter, the only information you can gather about the scents in front of you is how the bottle looks, which, of course, tells you nothing. You’re often left to inhale a few varieties from various bottles, sometimes with the help of the salesperson, which is an exercise that leaves you more confused.
A scent you love can truly become an extension of yourself. But how do you find one? Some of us may be inclined to think that the best perfumes are those that are associated with high end fashion houses. While you are not necessarily wrong, the reasoning behind your choice may be slightly misguided. If you are basing your selection on branding alone, it may be time to talk about what actually makes a good fragrance.
Many factors are responsible for making a good perfume. These include originality of the fragrance, quality of the scent, which depends upon the quality and the source of ingredients, innovation that goes into its creation and the longevity of its scent.
– Saleem Kalsekar, Managing Director, Rasasi Perfumes
“Many factors are responsible for making a good perfume,” says Saleem Kalsekar, Managing Director, Rasasi Perfumes. “These include originality of the fragrance, quality of the scent, which depends upon the quality and the source of ingredients, innovation that goes into its creation and the longevity of its scent. A person’s body chemistry also plays a major role as the same perfume can smell differently on different individuals.”
Creating a fragrance is both an art and science. It requires a nuanced understanding of alchemy and fragrance notes. Striking a fine balance between notes and the natural and synthetic ingredients is akin to creating a musical symphony. “For example, Oudh has a very animalistic note and it would require a perfume expert to mellow it down to a facet where it adds seduction, allure and mystique to the perfume,” says Kalsekar. “A good, branded perfume symbolises quality, confidence and peace of mind. When one buys a product from a brand,one buys into a lot of intangible benefits that define the brand.”
It is essential that you determine the best scent for yourself. The method to find this out is to test if the perfume complements your natural body odour in person over the period of a day, advises Abdul Rahim Shaikh Shahid, Head of Research and Development at Lattafa Perfumes. “To put it simply, every good perfume comprises three notes,” explains Shahid. “The top note is the initial, light smell of the fragrance that hits the note immediately after application. The medium note consists of the main element of the fragrance and the base note has the bolder notes of the perfume that become noticeable later. The benefits of using a good scent are that it ensures good body odour, boosts confidence and enhances mood.”
To put it simply, every good perfume comprises three notes. The top note is the initial, light smell of the fragrance that hits the note immediately after application. The medium note consists of the main element of the fragrance and the base note has the bolder notes of the perfume that become noticeable later.
– Abdul Rahim Shaikh Shahid, Head of Research and Development at Lattafa Perfumes
All the intricacies that go into the making of a perfume makes it no less than a work of art, as Ali Asgar Fakhruddin, Chairman and CEO, Sterling Perfumes Industries, Premier Cosmetics and Premier Plastics, puts it. “The way an artist would put together colours to create, in a similar way, a perfumer creates using different ingredients,” he says. “Every scent is designed with passion and feeling. A perfumery is the perfect amalgamation of artistry and science. The layers are created with this in mind — the tops notes, heart notes and base notes have to complement each other but have their own standing as well, they have to react with each other to produce perfect results.”
Every scent is attached to a mood; it affects thoughts and creates memories. Certain scents can trigger emotions or bring back memories of an event, time or person. “A scent has the power to energise your senses or put you in a state of tranquility. The scent you use has an emotional effect on not just you but those around you as well,” says Fakhruddin. “A good branded scent is usually created with intense research and development thus bringing together an end product that has an emotional connect and yet is able to provide excellent silage and longevity.”
Abdulla Ajmal, Deputy COO, Ajmal Perfumes says it’s quality and trust that defines the essence of a brand. However, perception matters too. “At the end of the day, it is a matter of taste,” says Ajmal. “It’s very subjective. Some people buy perfumes in a supermarket and even if it costs Dh35, the product relates to them, because that’s what they can afford. Whereas others will splurge large sums as they believe that is what is required. It’s a matter of reading those different emotions for different people. If you are passionate about fragrances, then it’s the charm, but if you use it as a daily routine, then it’s just functional. On the one hand there is the quality and the trust that you have in the brand and secondly the relativity, just because a brand has a few good perfumes doesn’t mean it resonates with you.”
Evolution of perfumes
For centuries, the scents of Arabian perfumes have been enthralling the world with their distinct aromas. Arabian perfumes are steeped in exotic and local traditions of the Middle East as a form of art, a symbol of reverence and a token of beauty. It has been an intrinsic part of the Arabian culture and a symbol of appreciation and hospitality.
“In the last 50 years, the industry has drastically changed,” says Kalsekar. “Perfumes were sold as part of an assorted portfolio with spices and leather in souqs before Rasasi introduced the mono-branded perfume store. It was the first brand in the Middle East to introduce standalone perfume stores thus paving the way for a modern streamlined perfume industry.”
Rasasi has come a long way since, says Kalsekar. “We are constantly adding new stores, the latest being our flagship store at The Dubai Mall where we have incorporated elements aimed at changing the way customers experience and buy perfumes. The concept store achieves a balanced interface between immersive technology, freedom to explore and knowledgeable store associates, while setting us apart in our quest to foster long-term relationships, with existing patrons and the new generation of customers.”
The behaviour of consumers towards fragrances and perfumes has significantly evolved over time, observes Shahid. “Previously, consumers preferred strong aromatic fragrances but lately, they prefer perfumes with toned down scents. Today, consumers want perfumes that are unique to their personality.”
Every scent is designed with passion and feeling. A perfumery is the perfect amalgamation of artistry and science. The layers are created with this in mind — the tops notes, heart notes and base notes have to complement each other but have their own standing as well, they have to react with each other to produce perfect results.
– Ali Asgar Fakhruddin, Chairman and CEO, Sterling Perfumes Industries, Premier Cosmetics and Premier Plastics
Perfumery is a field that cannot survive without constant innovation in everything from scents to packaging, and this is where R&D comes in. “Extensive research is done to create fresh concepts that are adaptable to the global market,” says Shahid. “Over the years, Lattafa Perfume’s R&D department has been developing perfumes to cater to these requirements of the market. The R&D department has been leveraging the oriental element of French perfumery along with Arabic perfumes to create the most unique perfumes for its customers.” And the experts will vouch for the fact that discovering that unique perfume can be a tough task.
“Today, there has been a rise in niche perfumery, the search for an individualistic signature scent,” says Fakhruddin. “People want to smell different, and this has given a rise to niche perfume brands that have become cult favourites. There has also been a rise in the use of the art of perfumery in other categories such as cosmetics, personal care and home fragrances and even home care.”
Technology has evolved to a great extent, and has also influenced the way perfumes are made today. “At the turn of the 19th century, perfumers had only a few raw ingredients. Today there are 1000s of raw materials,” says Ajmal. “About 100 years ago, if a perfumer wanted to put rose in their perfume, they would use a rose oil from different regions and it was as simple as that. Today when a perfumer wants to put the rose effect it’s not just rose — there is the dewy part of the rose, the green part, the petal part or the fruity part.”
About 100 years ago, if a perfumer wanted to put rose in their perfume, they would use a rose oil from different regions and it was as simple as that. Today when a perfumer wants to put the rose effect it’s not just rose — there is the dewy part of the rose, the green part, the petal part or the fruity part.
– Abdulla Ajmal, Deputy COO, Ajmal Perfumes
The perfumes are constantly evolving, as its customer base, with millennials being a driving force behind current trends.
“A significant trend that has formed the basis of our changing business focus is the increasing demand for premium perfumes,” says Kalsekar. “This doesn’t necessarily mean the price point, but rather the fact that consumers are constantly on the lookout for better quality products, and more importantly, a unique experience.
“Fueled by the extensive use of social media and a new breed of young beauty bloggers and influencers across social media, millennials are completely redefining expectations from brands and products,” says Kalsekar. “Inclusivity and gender-neutrality is another big trend that millennials have strongly endorsed.”
Experimentation and the need for fresh is yet another trend fueled by the millennials, considering they are open to new things and often look for fresher experiences. “Unlike the older customers, a brand has to win their confidence over and over again, which in turn means that brands have to work harder and innovate a lot more,” adds Kalsekar.
Segmentation came about because of millenials, as earlier perfumers used to create one fragrance and then come up with another after five years, says Ajmal. “Now, you need to launch at least one or two every year because of the millennial effect,” he says. “Loyalty depends on the brand, it’s not about reference anymore. But at the moment, the big global trend is all about what I call the oud mania.”