Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Beyond L’Instant or Internet perfume search tools

In theory take any perfume and by adding and taking away its ingredients find your perfect one. L’Instant from Guerlain caught my attention and pleasant enough though it was I was not 100% sure. Jasmine was a bit too loud and the dry-down a bit too sweet. So I set out to find what I exactly want with the help of various sites and blogs on perfume.

The starting point the Guerlain’s L’Instant has the following composition:
top notes
mandarin orange, bergamot
heart note
magnolia, sambac jasmine, ylang-ylang, iris
base note
vanilla, benzoin, musk, amber

My wish was to keep jasmine subdued and take away the heavy vanilla note. So I decided to try the Internet and only then with a clear understanding of what to try head to a shop. Here’s my experience with the sites devoted to perfumes, blogs and web stores included.

There are few databases with detailed description of perfumes that were, are and even will be:
Fragrantica, Osmoz and the one by Michael Edwards, then there’re web stores like, luckyscent, etc, blogs like Now Smell This.

Fragrantica’s search by notes seemed like a perfect solution. Simply select the notes and some other options and get all the perfumes matching that set of criteria. To my great disappointment the search results contained all perfumes that have at least ONE from the desired set of ingredients. The results contained hundreds of titles (just imagine how many perfumes have musk in them). So this search tool won’t work if you have a set of ingredients in mind. However, if you simply put several ingredients into the Fragrantica’s search field – that works – the results are limited to the examples containing ALL the ingredients you want. I put “bergamot iris jasmine musk” and got a lot of floral perfumes (exactly what I wanted to get away from).

So I decided to move to another close olfactory subgroup. L’instant is in Oriental Florals. The strategy was to pick some perfumes from other floral groups (green, aquatic, woody etc.) . So that my wish list of ingredients is expanded with the right ones. To do that I had to go through groups manually – selecting whatever took my fancy. Here are the results of my selections (and I had to go to a shop several times to try):

Such mapping gave me the idea I couldn’t formulate well at the start - I want to move from an oriental floral to a floral woody musk fragrance.

Finally I had a feeling that the perfume I am looking for is to be found in niche perfume brands – and I manually went through brands like Diptyque Frederic Malle, Parfums de Nicolai, Bond No 9 etc – with inevitable visits to stores (and these have to be special stores, not everyone stocks these brands). And it worked – Frederic Malle had what I wanted - Dans Tes Bras. To my surprise DTB had been created by the same perfumer as L’Instant. So in the end the best strategy was probably to search for variations of a scent by its author.

In my search I also used a sleek and handy database. Entering “bergamot iris jasmine musk” yielded 59 pages but the perfumes are ranged by their relevance. The 100% relevance was not for L’Instant itself but for Bvlagri’s Voile de Jasmin. There’s some kind of advanced search - but it was’t helpfull at all for my purposes. I have to admit that when I was manually sifting through niche brands perfumes I used OsMos as the design of pages is very convenient. However, for some reason Fragrantica’s note pyramids have more ingredients on them.

And the last of the databases I came the one by Michael Edwards – suggests perfumes you might like (no idea on what criteria) – well what the site suggested was impossible to find to try.

While searching it turned out that OsMoz is more convenient for fast going through a brand range and Fragrantica has more details and opinions of users.

What I also didn’t find is an ability to state where the desired ingredients should occur (top, middle, base) an option of looking only in niche (or mass, Italian, French, etc.) brands and look within creations of one author. Also it would have been good if there was information whether the fragrance have been discontinued and whether it’s available in my country.

So how to find a perfect fragrance? Take one you almost like as a starting point and try examples of other close subgroups. Try other creations by that author. High chance he (she) used the successful formula with alternations more than once or at least the perfumer has a style and if you like one perfume you might like something else too. This is really evident with Maurice Roucell’s and L’Instant (Guerlain) - luxury, Dans Tes Bras - provocative niche, Iris Silver Mist - niche luxury.

There’s no thorough and perfect search tool if you are looking for a fragrance with a set of ingredients. But there are sites you can combine and it’ll work. And finally there’s no better thing than going to a store prepared – with a list of what you want to try.

What about the perfume web stores and blogs? Not impressive as regards search tools. Most of stores keep detailed descriptions of perfume composition though. As to blogs – good for further reading.

Please share you experience of searching for a perfume in case I missed some great search tools.

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