Signature Scents and Fragrance Journeys: There’s More to Perfumes Than Longevity

We explore the exciting trial-and-error process of choosing a fragrance, and it’s actually more introspective and technical than you think.
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Scents, as we know, evoke memories and trigger the olfactory senses to send a message that connects to the brain and conjures up life’s many memories. This is the very anchor and idea that many perfume makers formulate their scents around, and the very science that brought us some of the world’s most beloved scents.

Byredo was able to encapsulate the nostalgic scent of old books in its Bibliotheque. Thierry Mugler’s Angel lends its wearer a sweet childhood memory reminiscent of chocolate and vanilla. Maison Margiela’s cult favorite collection Replica assembled an entire line of scents that tell stories of lethargic Sunday mornings in bed, recreate moments when the salty air hits your face on the beach, or when delicate scents linger in the air when you pass by a flower stand. 

This is what makes fragrances or perfumes so special: the personal connection they can tether with you and transport you to a place, a time, or unlock memories without actually having to be there. And fragrances, however fleeting, take you on a journey using what is arguably the least noticed of the five senses. This is the most valuable benefit that a great perfume can give its user. 

Perfume longevity is often mistaken as the primary factor that can justify a bang for your buck. It’s similar to the cost-per-wear theory applied to shopping for clothes and creating a capsule wardrobe. 

This is just one of the many factors to should consider, or trust in the moment when shopping for a new scent. You stumble upon a store, press a few spritzes onto your pulse points, and then maybe wait to see how it evolves on the skin. Many times, we leave the store and evaluate how long it sits on the skin. Perfume longevity is often mistaken as the primary factor that can justify a bang for your buck. It’s similar to the cost-per-wear theory applied to shopping for clothes and creating a capsule wardrobe. But this shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all in gauging scents.

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The ‘X’ Factors

With well over 200 perfume bottles on display in her bedroom and accumulated in just two years, events host and fragrance collector Princess Legaspi has made a business out of this hobby. Under the online store House of Whiffs, she and a partner would buy the scents they loved and would act as personal shoppers specifically for fragrances that are difficult to source. But shopping for an object as personal as a perfume for others is not an easy feat. She would never recommend anything from the get-go. Instead. she would ask her customers to profile themselves first, via these three questions: First, what’s your work environment like? Do you work mostly indoors or outdoors? What is the nature of your profession?; second, how would you describe yourself?; lastly, what is your budget? Be true to yourself and stick to your financial capability. 

The filtering process only begins from there, in what Legaspi describes as a trial-and-error situation. 

Once the initial assessment is concluded, other factors include sillage and projection. Projection is defined as the perimeter of scent measured on a stationery fragrance user, while sillage is the scent trail left by the wearer. Projection falls under three categories: skin scents, which are very personal, and once they have dried down, only those who come into your personal space may smell it; moderate projection means close proximity, so those next to you or those you pass by can appreciate the scent; and finally, beast projection and sillage would preempt one’s arrival and will continue to linger even when the wearer has left the room. Fragrances with beast projections are usually mass-appealing scents that many would relate to, and Legaspi likes to use them when she hosts events.

As mentioned earlier, the scent journey is another appealing factor that makes perfume fanatics fall in love with the stories a bottle would have to tell. There are many different terms used to describe the stages of this scent journey, and perfume makers painstakingly concoct a blend of different fragrances to join together in harmony. Once a user spritzes a scent, the first note is called the top note or head note. These would open with a strong first impression but quickly settle and evaporate after a few minutes. The second layer consists of the heart notes, which are usually 40 to 80 percent of the scent. These middle notes can last for quite a few hours. Finally comes the arrival of the base notes, which are considered the strongest of the three and the longest-lasting as they settle and linger on the skin. 

In terms of fragrance preference, what is perhaps the most personal decision is the scent profile on which the notes are based. 

Not all fragrances contain multiple notes, however. There are single-note or linear perfumes similar to those from Solinotes that some fragheads like to use when layering.

In terms of fragrance preference, what is perhaps the most personal decision is the scent profile on which the notes are based. The typical options include citrus, floral, sweet, and gourmand. Because of the humidity and the fickle weather, Filipinos tend to reach for citrus scents, says Legaspi, as she thinks they bring a refreshing feel. A close second is the blue or aquatic scents, which male fragrance users are drawn to. 

The Short and Sweet of It All

While external factors, such as the Philippines’ humid climate might play a role in the longevity of a fragrance, how long a scent lasts majorly boils down to oil concentration. The aroma oil is one-third of the usual perfume components, aside from water and alcohol. This is what gives the fragrance its unique scent, and the concentration of the aroma oil is what lends it its longevity. 

An eau de cologne would have a low concentration of about 2 to 4 percent and its effects can last for less than two hours, but it is recommended for those with sensitive skin. The eau de toilette, simply abbreviated as EDT, would have an oil concentration of 5 to 15 percent and last for about four to five hours. It can lend a moderate projection and is suitable for the majority of skin types. The next in line is the eau de parfum, the ideal choice for those who don’t care for reapplying throughout the day, as they can last around five to six hours and have an oil concentration of 15 to 20 percent. Finally, the highest concentration is in the parfum or extrait the parfum, which contains a concentration percentage of 20 to 30 percent. These long-lasting fragrances are known to have great projection and sillage.

Longevity or Lure?

Pin down any art collector and ask how they choose their next gallery splurge and they will say without pause: “Buy what you like.” And the perfume-making process as we learned, is akin to the arts: its formulations are well-thought-out and inspired, it’s created from years of trial and error, and is able to evoke emotion from its wearer and those around her.

Earlier, we established the role our olfactory senses play in our memories, which goes to show how shopping for a new bottle to fill the space on your fragrance cabinet is a personal matter. Find a scent that calls out to you, more than for anyone else, and interacts well on your skin. “Don’t go for what’s trendy,” says fragrance lover Seng Lazatin, “go for something that is you.” Lazatin developed her love for perfume at an early age, saying that it made her more confident and smelling nice made her feel good. “It’s part of my personal identity.” 

The excitement of fragrances is that they can bring with them an element of surprise and change by the day. 

The Skin Inc. Dermatologist and self-proclaimed fraghead Dr. Windie Villarica shares the same sentiments: She looks beyond trends and fancy brands that claim they are niche and leaves her choice to chemistry and stimulation. “I love eau de toilette during the summer because it cools you down. A scent I have bought through the years was Diptyque’s OYEDO,” she shares. “Nowadays, I prefer eau de parfum not only because of how it stays, but how it evolves. That scent journey throughout the day intrigues me.”

Of course, while longevity undoubtedly plays a role in the selection process, a bevy of other factors contribute to the decision. It comes down to matching your fragrance with your intention, your personal chemistry, and your intention. The excitement of fragrances is that they can bring with them an element of surprise and change by the day. As fragrances evoke emotion and conjure up memories, there are times when the shorter, more exciting moments—or scents—are those that can bring the greatest joy and memories worth remembering. 

Scent Du Jour

We ask three fragrance fanatics about the current obsessions they keep on their rotation.

Dr. Windie Villarica

The list goes on in Windie’s fragrance rotation, which includes her old reliable Acqua Dell’Elba or Hermes Citron Noir. When she means business, she brings out her niche bottle of Katarina from Italy, and sprays on Francis Kurkdjian La Maison Rose, which she claims works like pheromones. She advises to “go easy on the EDP, so you can layer your scent from soap, lotion, to a spritz.” She likes to wear her fragrances on the nape, behind the ears, and then on the base of the neck. 

Acqua Dell’Elba

P4,111, Zalora

Hermes Eau de Citron Noir Eau de Cologne

P9,000, Rustan’s

Maison Francis Kurkdjian À la rose Eau de Parfum

P8,850, Rustan’s

Princess Legaspi 

As an events host and entrepreneur, Legaspi favors scents with a wide projection and sillage. On days when she takes the stage, she wears Creed’s Aventus For Her, which is not as long-lasting, but garners her many compliments. On her regular rotation is YSL Mon Paris and tied for third place are Musk Therapy by Initio, a skin scent which she wears on days off, and Delina by Parfums de Marly. She says to be careful when using parfum or extrait de parfum, as the oil concentration might stain clothes.

Creed Aventus For Her

₱17,400, Rustan’s

Yves Saint Laurent Mon Paris Eau De Parfum Spray

P8,959, Zalora

Musk Therapy by Initio

P17,495, Art of Scent

Delina by Parfums de Marly

Art of Scent

Seng Lazatin

This avid fragrance fan hoards Jo Malone’s English Pear and Freesia and admits she feels incomplete when she has only one bottle left. She keeps a travel-sized bottle with her at all times. At night, she goes to bed with a lighter scent: Acca Kappa’s signature Muschio Bianco. As someone who suffers from migraines, Lazatin sticks to subtle eau de toilette or colognes these days, as eau de parfums have become intense for her liking. Re-applying an eau de toilette throughout the day refreshes her.

A scent lover through and through, Lazatin’s furbaby Tory regularly has her own pet-safe powdery shower cologne from Pretty Bubble Dog.

English Pear & Freesia Cologne

P4,600, Rustan’s

White Moss Acqua di Colonia

P2,150, Rustan’s

Pretty Bubble Shower Cologne

P1,100, Pretty Bubble
Collage by Dannah Valdezco. La Corniche near Monaco, Claude Monet by © The Everette Collection. Woman with perfume by © The Everette Collection. Hatley Castle Cut Outby © Kester. Weathered Historical Statue of Liberty Cut-out by © Aira Borja via canva.com

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