Lawrence Roullier White, owner of famed independent perfume boutique Roullier White, on how you can find your perfect scent
Words Catherine Hales
How many years does a perfume last?
Depending on their ingredients, perfumes can last any number of years. Some people still have bottles going back decades. I would imagine that it would be impossible for a scent not change though, over time. The more natural the scent the more likely it is to keep developing in the bottle. The best way to make a fragrance last longer is to keep it out of direct sunlight and at room temperature.
How can you find out what scent suits you?
I would suggest visiting an independent perfumery where they will show you several brands and really work to find you something that you will love – you should want to come back and try more. Many people are nervous about trying new scents but there’s no need to worry, there is no right or wrong – just what you prefer. Be prepared to be asked what smells you like – this could be a favourite fragrance or a walk along the seashore – once a dialogue is started the journey of discovery is begun. Try to be open too, often aromas you thought you didn’t may appeal in a different context.
What’s the best way to try on fragrances?
I wouldn’t try too many scents on your skin to begin with. Firstly sample on paper blotters and once you have narrowed down to two or three then spray them onto your pulse points; the back of your wrists and inside your elbow. Always ask the sales advisor to write down what you have tried on where, it seems an obvious point but we always have people coming back a day later having fallen in love with the scent they can’t remember the name of and we have to be 100% sure we get the right one.
Why does the same scent smell different on different people?
This is a much contested issue. My belief is that everybody has their own odour, so this will marginally effect how scents smell on everyone. More importantly, we are genetically conditioned to stop smelling the same smell after too long. The human sense of smell is an alert, an alarm to trigger fear and the opportunity to fight or flee; when we lived in the wild we had to be ready to smell the next threat. Because of this we don’t smell ourselves as others smell us, hence what we spray on our skin we may perceive as different on someone else’s.
How should you apply it? Is there a way you can make it last longer?
Basically most fragrances are broken down into a pyramid: the notes are arranged by top, middle and base, according to their scientific ability to last on the skin. Dense woody, resinous and animalic notes will using always be at the base as they last longer and more flighty florals and citrus notes are usually at the top. Complex and heady notes such as rose and jasmine are most frequently used at the core of a scent. A fragrance rich in deep base notes with a full middle will last longer on your skin, compared to a fresh cologne which is usually citrus and herbs.
The strength of a scent will impact on its longevity too, moving from eau de toilette, eau de parfum and extrait or parfum. These strengths are guides and are not officially standardised so strengths according to these categories vary from perfume house to perfume house. However, an extrait will always be stronger than an eau de toilette.
If you have dry skin you could also try a light fragrance free moisturiser on your skin before applying scent. Spraying on your hair will work too as it absorbs scent, as long as you do not mind applying drying alcohol to luscious locks.
Can you suggest five of your favourites for the season?
There are so, so many it is almost impossible to suggest individual fragrances; what I am very excited about at the moment is the rise of the British perfumer, very often overlooked. Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays is a trailblazer and at Roullier White we are the only store in the world that stocks her complete collection. I love Ealing Green. Nancy Meiland makes modern, very wearable scents. BeauFort London are extraordinary in every sense and scent. I am in love with new brand Paul Schütze Perfume which combines art and perfumery with truly artistic results. Finally if you want something truly extraordinary, and incredibly reasonable, Island Lavender is made on Caldey Island by monks and is said to be the best lavender water in the world.
There’s been a lot of buzz around perfumes contain pheromones, do they really make a difference?
A lot of why we wear fragrance is about confidence, we want to know we smell better than we might otherwise and we want to project a particular image of ourselves. If pheromone fragrances work for you that is fantastic. I think, however, what is key is finding a scent that works for you, one that you truly love. If you love it then that is the energy you will give out, that is what is sexy and that is what will have people stopping you in the street and asking; ‘what is that perfume you are wearing?’