Monday, 17 March 2008 | Tags: , , , ,

Flowers, citrus, spice, or musk: whatever your fragrance choice, it's important to know what you're buying in a perfume. Here are some tips on choosing a scent that's right for you.

The Basics

  • Some perfume houses use handpicked flower petals to make their perfumes using a long and labour-intensive process, which adds to the price.

  • The higher the perfume oil concentration, the longer the fragrance will last, and the more expensive the bottle. Labels you’ll see are:

    • perfume (15% to 30% perfume oil)

    • eau de parfum (12% to 18%)

    • eau de toilette (5% to 7%)

    • eau du cologne (3% to 5%)

    • cologne (1% to 3%).

  • Similar to wines, perfumes can be broken into 3 “notes” that, blended together, make a harmonious aroma. Notes unfurl as you wear the perfume starting with the top note, then the middle note until finally the bass note is revealed.

  • Scents are typically described as follows:

    • Floral, the largest and most popular category, is made from flowers such as: roses, gardenias, orange blossoms and jasmine.

    • Fresh, includes two sub-notes:

      • Citrus, which is derived from fruits such as lime, lemon, tangerine and mandarin, and projects a sharp, tangy aroma. Naturally refreshing and uplifting, citrus blends work well for women who don’t want to wear an overpowering fragrance.

      • Green combines sharp, grassy notes blended with pine, juniper, leaves and herbs to create memorable, sporty and brisk scents, a perfect match for the outdoorsy woman.

    • Oriental is a heavier mix of spice, wood, musk and resin, and can suggest warmth and exotic sensuality. Oriental notes make the best statement in the winter.

  • Having a sniff of a bottle or a sample in a magazine won’t give you a true indication of how a fragrance will smell on you. You have to see how it reacts with your own body, so test it out for a few hours to make sure you still like it after the top notes have warn off.

  • Perfumes are generally good for about 4 years from bottling, so it’s best to buy from a store that has high turnover.

  • Knockoff or discount perfumes are made with synthetic scents. They’re cheaper, but the fragrance doesn’t last as long.

Other Considerations

  • After the Christmas season you can usually find great deals on boxed perfume gift sets.

  • Choosing a perfume is such a personal matter that unless you know the exact brand the person likes, we don’t recommend buying it as a gift.

Be Aware

  • Clearance centres sometimes carry bottles that are 2-3 years old, which means the perfume might be expired, or close to it.


Our testers put two different sets of perfumes through two rigorous tests. First we tried some pricier options.

Scent of Allure Test

Each of our testers wore one scent and we called in some men with sensitive noses to sniff out the most alluring one:

  • The men went unanimously for the oriental fragrance Angel. (However, we fear their judgment was somewhat clouded given that the placement of this scent happened to be in the cleavage area…) 

  • The women had different opinions and there was no clear winner. They liked:

    • Romance for being light and fresh

    • Issey Miyake for its light, fruity/citrus smell

    • Angel for its warm sweet smell.

Then we took our designer perfumes from the first test to the street and put them up against some more economical alternatives to see which ones made a bigger impact in a blind smell test.

Designer vs. Economy Brand Test

  • The men gravitated toward the oriental fragrance again, and were satisfied with the bargain version by Nokomis.

  • The women were more split on which fragrance they liked, but usually chose the more pricier scents.


Choosing a fragrance is 100% up to you. We like scents that last longer, so consider buying one with a higher concentration of perfume oil, but it will cost more. Make sure you like it before you spend your money so ask for a tester, or try it out for a few hours to make sure you like how the scent evolves over time.



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