Perfume 101: How to Identify a Scent

There is nothing like falling in love with a favorite fragrance. Men can come and go, but a fragrance (at least one that isn't discontinued) is a truly long-lasting love affair.

People all wear perfume differently. Some people are loyal to one scent while others have several scents they adore. I've had dozens (possibly hundreds) and have been somewhat of a perfume junkie ever since my father started bringing me bottles of perfume every time he went abroad.

I had Chanel No. 5 (the actual perfume, not the toilette spray) and No. 19, too. I had Gucci, Ysatis, Laura Ashley, and dozens of others I cannot recall. At 15, my entire bathroom was stocked with more than 35 bottles of perfume, some I loved more than others.

Once I got pregnant, I realized the reason: I've always had a pregnancy nose.

I can sniff out your perfume a mile away. But not all perfumes are made the same and identifying them can be trick. Here is a little perfume primer:


Perfume is sensual and the right scent can change everything about an outfit or an evening. I would sooner go naked than skip perfume most nights.

Of course, people have allergies and some workplaces ban perfumes altogether (the horror!), but some scents are more appropriate for work, while others really should only be for a date night.

A perfume is defined as having three "notes."

  • Top Note: The top note is the first impression of a perfume as the molecules reach the nose.
  • Middle Note: The middle note is the heart of the perfume and masks the base notes, which become more pleasant with time, but can be overwhelming at first sniff.
  • Base Note: The final note takes a while after application to express itself, but forms the most lasting impression of the scent along with the middle note.

Here are some of my current favorites (with note information from

  1. Trish Mcevoy No. 9: I love vanilla perfumes, but they can be sweet and youthful. This is a much more adult scent that has a fruity top layer. It's lighter than some of the other perfumes and probably OK for work. Top Notes: Blackberries. Middle Notes: White Rose. Base Notes: Vanilla, Musk.
  2. Pink Sugar: This is my favorite right now and is really a juvenile scent. It's a date night perfume. Not good for work. I feel like I rolled in a big vat of toffee when I wear it. But men love it and it makes me very happy to wear. Top Note: Sicilian Oranges, Raspberries, Fig Leaf. Middle Note: Lily of the Valley, Licorice Blossom, Red Berries. Base Note: Vanilla, Caramel.
  3. Lolita Lempicka: An apple-shaped purple bottle and a fragrance that feels both adult and playful at the same time. A truly fantastic perfume appropriate for both work and home. Top Note: Pineapple, Lemon, Anise, Rosewood. Middle Note: Lily of the Valley, Rose, Jasmine, Licorice. Base Note: Almond, Tonka, Vanilla, Heliotrope.

What are your favorite perfumes?


Image via electrictuesday/Flickr


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