Perfume-speak is a language of its own, with words like “chypre”, “gourmand” and “petally” having specialised meanings. “Chypre” refers to a fragrance family built around the combination of moss, flowers, patchouli and citrus. When perfumers use the word “gourmand”, they mean a composition with the mouthwatering aromas of vanilla, cotton candy and caramel. A “petally” accord, meanwhile, is a combination of notes that gives the illusion of touching flower petals.
Another confounding word you might hear at the fragrance counter is “solar”. Some perfumes are presented as having “solar notes” or “solar flowers”, with little explanation as to what that might mean. Although the image of a solar blossom is exotic, the term simply defines a warm and radiant effect.
Such warm and luminous accords are sought after by perfumers to create fragrances reminiscent of a day on the beach – the scents of warm sand, Ambre Solaire suncream and a salty breeze. It’s such a delicious fantasy to capture that today the selection of beach-inspired perfumes is wide, from classics like Christian Dior Dune (£90 for 100ml EDT) to cult favourites like Bobbi Brown Beach (£52 for 50ml EDP).
Unlike a bathing suit, solar fragrances reminiscent of sand and sea can be worn in all seasons and for all occasions – I always keep a few on rotation in my scent wardrobe. My latest find is Tom Ford Eau de Soleil Blanc (£115 for 100ml EDT), which is a sibling of Ford’s earlier launch Private Blend Soleil Blanc (£162 for 50ml EDP). Both perfumes are suitable for men and women, since they’re based around fresh notes of orange, peppery bergamot and petitgrain (a distillation of buds and leaves of bitter orange with a bright-green, zesty aroma). The glow of ylang-ylang – a popular ingredient in solar scents – enhances the radiance of the new composition, while the musk prolongs its presence.
The fragrance that paved the road for the current crop of solar musks is without doubt Narciso Rodriguez For Her (£62 for 50ml EDP). The fragrance was created in2003 by perfumers Christine Nagel and Francis Kurkdjian for a fashion designer known for his elegant silhouettes. As improbable as it sounds, the composition manages to be at once crisp and soft, sensual and innocent, rich and airy. On skin, it has the voluptuous feel of raw silk, and its radiance makes you feel as if you are bathing in sunshine.
Victoria Frolova has been writing her perfume blog boisdejasmin.com since 2005. Her explorations of fragrance touch upon all elements that make this subject rich and complex: science, art, literature, history and culture. Frolova is a recipient of three prestigious Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards for Editorial Excellence and, since receiving her professional perfumery training, has also been working as a fragrance consultant and researcher.