Find Your Dream Fragrance

An unconventional yet simple idea for discovering the scent that speaks to you, from Editor-at-Large Jamie Rosen

Just as painters rely on a palette of materials to execute their work, so, too, do perfumers. It’s just that instead of paints and clay, there are steam-distilled essences and flower extracts, vials of liquid that come from both the natural world and the laboratory. It is a vast library with endless variations and quality, and highly subject to individual taste or, in this case, smell.

So while it’s certainly helpful to know if you tend to like citrusy colognes, fruity florals, rich roses or smoky woods, a fragrant dive to your dream scent can be boiled down to one piece of advice: open your nose. This may sound like an obvious guideline, but I prefer to think of it as an invitation to engage, to shift into an idea of how a scent can make you feel. It can alter your mood, expand your horizons, or ignite your senses, shifting your sense of self and place.

Connecting to a brand’s signature style—the quirky cool of D.S. & Durga or the smooth clarity of Sana Jardin—offers a way in. So, too, can the name of the scent, the idea behind it, and the notes the perfumer relied on to get there, but until you close your eyes and inhale, you won’t really know if it’s the one for you.

It’s the equivalent of looking at a Renaissance portrait versus a Picasso mural. Both use paint and canvas, even some of the same colors. But the vastly different results come down to execution and the calculations and combinations of the person who constructed it. 

Take two of the Conservatory’s best selling scents, Maison d’Etto Durban Jane and Ex Nihilo Honoré Delights. They share many of the same notes—orange blossom, iris, ambrette, cedarwood, sandalwood—but distinctly varying styles. The Maison d’Etto Durban Jane skews warm and playful, evoking wide open spaces; while the sweetness of Ex Nihilo Honroré Delights would be right at home in a luxe Parisian patisserie. 

Same notes, wildly different results, two different visions realized. 

One last note on your nose: our sense of smell is so instinctive, so innate. No one had to teach us how to use it; it responds to our preferences and signals our bodies in response. But we do love the idea of developing its preferences with perfumes so good they may just be your idea of a dream.