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Fragrances provide such a sensorial experience so it’s hard to fall for a perfume scent unsmelt. But given so many scents are available to buy online now and you may not always have the luxury of heading into a store to try them on your skin before you commit, it’s become essential to learn how to decipher if a fragrance is right for you based on its online description alone. 

To help you learn the ins and outs of buying a fragrance online, we enlisted the expertise of Goldfield & Banks founder, Dimitri Weber, and perfume specialist Samantha Taylor of The Powder Room.


A note about notes 

So, what are base notes, heart notes, and top notes? “How we experience fragrance is based on the molecular weight of the raw materials used,” explains Taylor. “Each ingredient in a perfume lasts for a different length of time on skin, with some very tenacious ones like musk and agarwood, and more ephemeral ones like citruses,” adds Weber. 

“The lighter materials, such as citrus, evaporate from the skin first; these are the top notes and they generally last about 10-15 minutes. Slightly heavier notes such as florals make up the heart of the fragrance, they last about 20-30 minutes; and the base notes are the more tenacious molecules - they linger on the skin and are typically woods, spices and resins,” says Taylor.

“Top notes fade away to reveal the heart notes, which are the signature of most perfumes. Once these have dissipated, the stronger base notes really start to sing.”

Dimitri Weber, Goldfield & Banks founder

Which one matters most? 

When we asked our fragrance experts which one is the most important to note when buying a fragrance, Weber shared, Most people buy perfume based on the top note, which is most of what you smell right after you spray it on,” says Weber. But he also adds that “the heart and base notes are just as important to the perfume’s character” so consider all of them as a whole. 

Taylor agrees, adding, “The first impression of the fragrance is important, but it is the base notes, or ‘dry down’ as it is known in the industry, that linger on the skin and are the scent you live with the longest.”

“If the notes inspire you, or are things you already love the smell of, you should order a sample and see what your nose thinks.”

Dimitri Weber, Goldfield & Banks founder

EDT, EDP, parfum or perfume oil?

It's important to know the difference between an EDT, EDP, parfum and perfume oil. “The difference is the percentage of what is called the ‘juice’ to alcohol. EDT is one of the lightest with 8-10%, EDP around 10-15%, and parfum can be up to 20% concentration and will linger for up to 8 hours,” explains Taylor. “The stronger the concentration of juice, the longer it will last on your skin,” she notes.

“Eau de toilette fragrances have low concentrations of essence and they tend to be quite fresh and transparent, often only lasting for a few hours on skin. Eau de parfums contain more essences and last longer. Parfums use the highest amount of essence for alcohol-based fragrances. Perfume oils contain even more, though they usually lack alcohol, which means they won’t preserve as well in the bottle.” 

“Perfume oils are the 'juice' in a carrier oil base such as sweet almond oil rather than alcohol. Perfume oils behave differently on the skin, there is less evaporation and the fragrance can smell a bit denser on the skin.”

Samantha Taylor, Australian Fragrance Expert

Top tips for decoding an online fragrance description

Taylor’s advice is to look at the fragrance family first and then focus on the fragrance descriptions. “Think about what kind of fragrance you are looking for - a floral, a spicy balsam fragrance or a woody perfume, a work or an evening perfume - and look for keywords, such as ‘fresh’, ‘clean’, ‘rich’, ‘seductive’ etc. Then look for some individual notes you like such as sandalwood or rose.”

Finding ‘The One’

“Fragrance sits differently on everyone’s skin due to our unique microbiome, so I would start with knowing what fragrance family works well on you. If you love a particular fragrance, note the fragrance family and some individual ingredients you like and look for something similar,” suggests Taylor. That said, she also challenges you to go outside your comfort zone. “Of course, there is something to be said about taking a gamble and buying something completely different to what you would usually wear.”

How to pick a fail-safe fragrance

“Unfortunately, no matter how exquisite or well-crafted a perfume is, there will always be someone who dislikes it,” notes Weber. “But some do appeal to almost everyone. Notes like rose, vanilla, sandalwood, citruses, and the ocean appeal to most people’s noses, so perfumes like Goldfield & Banks Silky WoodsPacific Rock Moss, and Bohemian Lime are perfect if you want something that’s beautiful and easy to wear.”

“You cannot go wrong with citrus. It is the safest option as it is gender neutral, suitable for all occasions, and tends to sit well on most skins. Who doesn’t love a fresh burst of uplifting citrus notes?!”

Samantha Taylor, Australian Fragrance Expert

For more tips on buying a fragrance for someone else, check out Lumira founder Almira Armstrong’s top tips.

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