Our sense of smell is closely and intimately linked with memory, more than any of our other senses. So much so, that upon a single whiff, we can instantly be transported to a specific person, place, or moment in time (for better or for worse). This is actually due to the anatomy of our brain. Smells are processed by the brain’s olfactory bulb, the structure that sends information to the other areas of the body. And the olfactory bulb is directly connected to the amygdala and hippocampus, the parts of our brain that process memory and emotion.
So if you’re someone who wears a signature scent — that is, a fragrance you spritz on each day, without fail — you can be assured that when people who spend time around you get a whiff of that scent elsewhere, they’ll be reminded of you. (Really — their brains are wired for it.) Alternatively, if you prefer to rotate scents, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of scent associations — tied to vacations, relationships, new jobs, heartbreaks, and everything in between. No matter which way of wearing scent you subscribe to, it’s easy to see why fragrance is one of the most emotional and evocative ways that we use beauty products to connect with the world and the people around us.
Below, we spoke to six perfume pros — from world-renowned perfumers, to TikTok creators whose scent wardrobes are nothing short of impressive, to podcast hosts who explore the stories behind the fragrances we love — about how and why they wear scents the way that they do, whether that’s a signature scent or rotating fragrances.
Fabrice Pellegrin, Principal Perfumer and Director of Natural Product Innovation at Firmenich
“I don’t have a signature perfume, but I find it moving when you recognize a person by their perfume and they recognize themselves entirely in it,” says Fabrice Pellegrin. “That’s the greatest compliment for a perfumer.” A world-renowned perfumer, 2017 Perfumer of the Year recipient, and most recently, the nose behind Diptyque’s latest scent, L’Eau Papier (a subtle blend of white musk, mimosa, and blonde woods), Pellegrin usually wears the creations he’s working on at the moment, to see how they evolve on his skin. “When I have the opportunity to wear perfume outside of work, I take care to select my perfume according to my mood, the place I’m going and the people I’m going to meet.” Although Pellegrin rotates his fragrances, he sticks to signature notes to give his scent wardrobe an element of cohesion. “I particularly like patchouli, amber and woody accords.”
These days, his rotating selection of fragrances include: “Diptyque L’Eau Papier, which I’ve worn a lot in the last few months during its development and launch. I particularly like its soothing quality and I continue to wear it in intimate settings. I also regularly wear L’Eau Duelle; it embodies my vision of “French chic.” It’s a very good perfume for an elegant evening. For a business meeting, I prefer Eau Rihla; it gives you a feeling of power when you wear it.”
Tynan Sinks, co-host of Smell Ya Later podcast
“I used to have two signature scents that I switched throughout the year; one for spring and summer, and one for fall and winter,” says Tynan Sinks, a beauty columnist, copywriter and consultant, and co-host of one of our favourite scent-focused podcasts, Smell Ya Later. “As my love for fragrance grew, so did my hunger to experience as many types of scents as I could, so I challenged myself to widen the scope. These days, with my work in beauty and the podcast, it’s not so much of a fragrance wardrobe as it is a fragrance archive. I find that allowing myself the freedom to switch it up lets me experience the world differently each day.”
As for the scents in his regular rotation, Sinks reaches for: “1996, the (sadly discontinued) softly sweet, suede-y scent by Byredo, and Intoxicated by Kilian, a sensual coffee fragrance that I can’t get enough of. Last year I couldn’t stop wearing Milk Personal from Commodity, a gorgeous, lightweight, lactonic marshmallow wood. And finally, Cloud by Ariana Grande, the absolutely one-of-a-kind blend of coconut cream, pear, marshmallow, electricity-charged air, and heavy, humid clouds before rain.”
Sable Yong, co-host of Smell Ya Later podcast
“I love having a scent wardrobe. I think the idea of a signature scent is very romantic and I aspire to be that consistent of a person, but I’m simply not her,” says NYC-based Sable Yong, co-host of Smell Ya Later podcast. “I prefer wearing scents according to my moods, which change daily. I don’t believe in scents being categorized as for men or women, for day or night, or for work or play — I’m quite agnostic in that sense — but I love being able to complete my expression for any given day with an appropriate scent. I do, however, like to choose a particular scent for vacation or travel, so whenever I smell it again, it reminds me of that trip.
Some scents I’ve been reaching for lately are: D.S. & Durga Pistachio, Juliette Has A Gun Not A Perfume, Matiere Premiere Crystal Saffron, Abel Pink Iris, and Kilian Princess.”
Petra Mocanu, @fragrancedictionary on TikTok
“I love the idea of a signature scent and having something incredibly personal that truly represents you,” says Mocanu, a self-proclaimed perfume addict who reviews and suggests unexpected fragrance combinations to her 150,000 followers on TikTok. “However, I personally could never commit to one perfume because I would feel like I’m missing out on so many other amazing ones. That makes it difficult for me to pick a perfume, but I like to take into consideration three factors whenever I choose what to wear: weather, place, and my overall mood.” Even though she doesn’t have a signature scent, there are some perfumes that Mocanu gravitates towards, such as Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Amyris Femme (“all year round”), Versace Crystal Noir (“I like wearing this when I go out”) and Delina by Parfums de Marly (“beautiful during the spring”).
Francis Kurkdjian, Perfumer and Creative Director at Maison Francis Kurkdjian
“I strongly believe that the [idea] of wearing one single fragrance, or a signature scent, is passé and old fashioned,” says perfumer and creative director, Francis Kurkdjian. “Men and women are complex with multiple facets. You don’t wear the same outfit in the same colour every day, so why would you always wear the same scent?” Having a robust fragrance wardrobe allows the wearer to express different aspects of their personality, explains Kurkdjian. As for his personal collection of scents, he explains, “I no longer wear fragrance outside of what I am currently working on. I need to experience each of them and live with them until I decide they are [complete]. To me ingredients are like words for a writer, or colours for a painter. I consider them tools that you play with to create the fragrance you have in mind. So, I would say my favourite [scents] are raw materials that help me compose the fragrances I dream about. As a perfumer, when it comes to my personal preference, the fragrances I have in mind for the future are always the most intriguing and interesting to me.”
As for his suggestions for us non-perfumers? “Our Aqua collection is the essential piece in one’s wardrobe, similar to a classic white shirt that you can wear on any occasion. It’s fresh, versatile and genderless. Then there are our elegant yet easy-to-wear scents such as Amyris, Pluriel, À la rose or more androgynous pieces like Gentle Fluidity or l’Homme À la rose. We also have more enveloping scents like Grand Soir, our Oud collection or Baccarat Rouge 540 (editor’s note: if you know, you know). The latest scent that debuted last fall, 724, is inspired by the smell and feel of the energy of big cities, transporting you from New York to Paris, Shanghai to Berlin. Each fragrance has its own olfactive signature for every personality and occasion.”
Fragrance enthusiast and collector, @oliviaolfactory on TikTok
“While I understand the power behind having a signature scent to be remembered by, I personally am a fan of having a fragrance rotation to suit different moods, occasions, and seasons,” says fragrance collector and TikTok creator, @oliviaolfactory. “My all-time favourite scent is Thé Noir by Le Labo; it’s a dark, earthy tea and fig fragrance. I’m also fond of the new fragrance Valaya by Parfums de Marly, an elegant yet fresh citrus and peach scent. And for date night I adore Intense Café by Montale, a powerful yet sweet rose, coffee, and vanilla fragrance.”
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