7 min read

The World of Scents: Why Do We Like Certain Perfumes

An illuminated perfume bottle with golden decorations in a cloud of light, pink textile.

Perfumes are a bit of magic in our everyday lives. They are transparent liquids capable of evoking memories, lifting up spirits, attracting or repulsing, boosting confidence, and leaving an impression—all with one spray to the skin.  Does the smell of the perfume you wore on a trip to the coast take you back to the seaside? The scent of a lip gloss you used as a teenager to your high school days? The smell of your mother's perfume to your childhood? The answer is probably yes, as our sense of smell is closely intertwined with our emotions and memories. 


Some people identify themselves with their signature scent, some like to change their perfume according to the seasons, and some like to layer their favorite perfumes. Today, we're talking about the psychology of perfume: what draws us to certain perfumes, how do we choose, what do odor molecules have to do with our brain, and what can a perfume say about you? As a treat at the end, we'll share stories behind some of our favorite perfume houses. But first, let's quickly explain the basics: the notes.  

The Perfume Notes

Whether it's the melody of your favorite song, the aroma of a delicious meal, or the scent of your morning cup of coffee, notes have this amazing ability to make ordinary moments feel extraordinary. Fragrance notes are layers of the ingredients that make a perfume, each note playing a role in the development and longevity of a perfume. They can typically be classified into three categories: top notes, middle notes (also known as heart notes), and base notes. 


Top notes are the first impression when you spray the perfume. This is the scent you feel right away, and it's usually light and fresh, like citrus, flowers, or fruit. They are the first ones that grab your attention, but also, due to their volatility, the first ones that evaporate - typically lasting 10 to 15 minutes.  


Then, the middle notes come right after the top notes start to fade away. They are the heart of the scent, giving the perfume its unique personality. You'll often find full-bodied flower oils here, such as jasmin, ylang-ylang or spices such as cinnamon or cardamom adding more complexity to the fragrance. Middle notes typically last up to an hour. 


Lastly, there are the base notes. These are the foundation of the perfume, and they stick around the longest. They're deep and rich, think woody or musky smells such as cedarwood, amber, musk, or patchouli - which sink to your skin, give structure and depth to the perfume, and last for six hours or more. 


Understanding fragrance notes is important in choosing a perfume. For instance, floral fragrances, such as rose and jasmine, give off elegance and femininity, while woody notes like cedar and sandalwood evoke warmth and sensuality. On the other hand, if you're all about that fresh, lively vibe, citrus notes like bergamot or lemon can give your perfume that zesty feel, perfect for wearing during the day.  

What Draws Us to Certain Perfumes

Have you ever wondered why you are instantly drawn to some perfumes and repulsed by others? The answer goes deeper than just personal preferences. Aside from them, our attraction to certain perfumes is a fascinating blend of biology and psychology. 


At a biological level, our sense of smell is incredibly powerful and is closely connected to our emotions and memories. When we inhale a scent, odor molecules travel through the nose and stimulate specialized nerve cells called olfactory receptors. These receptors send signals to the brain's olfactory bulb, which is part of the limbic system—the area of the brain responsible for emotions, memories, and motivation. 


This means that certain scents can trigger strong emotional responses and memories because they activate specific regions of the limbic system associated with these experiences. For example, the smell of freshly baked cookies or the aroma of a summer rain shower might evoke comfort and nostalgia by reminding us of those experiences. 


Psychologically, our preferences for particular scents can be influenced by various factors, including past experiences, cultural background, and individual personality traits. For instance, someone who grew up near the ocean might have a fondness for marine-inspired fragrances, associating them with happy childhood memories. 


Our sense of smell is highly subjective, and what appeals to one person may not necessarily appeal to another. This individual variation in scent preferences can also be influenced by genetic factors. Studies have shown that genetics play a role in determining our sensitivity to certain smells and our likelihood of enjoying them. This means our attraction to specific perfumes is a complex mix of biological and psychological factors.  

Scent and Attraction Psychology

Studies have shown that scent is a powerful element in attraction psychology. Attractiveness to someone appears to be influenced to a greater extent than other judgments about people by the presence of a pleasant smell. This is because our olfactory system, responsible for processing smells, is closely connected to the limbic system in the brain. This part of the brain controls emotions and memories, meaning that certain scents can trigger strong emotional responses and influence social interactions.  


When you wear a perfume that resonates with you, it will have a positive impact on your confidence levels. Additionally, it will also leave a lasting impression on others: it can shape their perception of you and increase your attractiveness in their eyes. So, choosing a perfume that you love and that suits your personality can be a powerful tool for making a positive impact on those around you.  

How to Choose a Signature Scent 

Choosing a signature perfume is influenced by personal taste, memories, and even skin chemistry. When searching for your signature perfume, start by exploring your fragrance preferences in other products, such as body lotions and candles, or scents from nature, such as certain flowers, trees, or fruit. Pay attention to the scents that resonate with you and consider them as a starting point. Then, visit perfume counters and sample different fragrances on your skin, giving them time to develop and interact with your body chemistry. 


You need to keep in mind that perfumes can smell different on everyone due to variations in skin pH, body temperature, and natural scent.  

Perfume Layering

Another way to create your signature scent is to try perfume layering and personalize your scent. Layering means combining different perfumes or scented products to create a unique fragrance that reflects your style and personality. Perfume layering doesn't exclusively mean you need to spray one perfume on top of the other. 


You can start with a base scent, such as a scented lotion or body oil, and then apply a complementary perfume. Or spray one perfume on your wrists and another one on your neck. Keep in mind that when you layer scents on the same spot of your skin, heavier scents need to be at the bottom so as not to overpower the lighter scents. 


Perfume layering allows you to express your creativity and tailor your scent to suit your mood, occasion, or season. It is also a way of making your fragrance longer-lasting.  

Fun Facts Behind the Iconic Perfume Houses


Born in the 1960s Paris, this iconic brand is a story of passion for art and adventure. Founded by the artists Desmond Knox-Leet, Christiane Gautrot, and Yves Coueslant, the brand was inspired by their shared love for travel, nature, and art. They opened their first store at 34 Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris, where they sold one-of-a-kind printed fabrics, Indian incense holders, German paper lanterns, and other unique items you couldn't find anywhere else. Their inventory was so unusual that a Parisian tour guide dubbed them 'merchants of nothing.' 


To mark their second anniversary, they began crafting scented candles. This marked the beginning of the Diptyque we know today - a brand inspired by graphic arts, literature, travel, nature, and love for scents. Each fragrance and candle ever made reflects the founders' travels and is created as a portal that offers a glimpse into distant lands and connected to memories, each scent being a love letter to the beauty found in every corner of the globe. One of Diptyque's most beloved scents, "Philosykos," captures the essence of a sun-drenched Mediterranean fig tree with notes of green fig leaves, milky sap, and woody bark.

Diptyque Philosykos perfume bottle


Byredo, a contemporary perfume brand, was founded in Stockholm in 2006 by Ben Gorham - a visionary with a passion for fragrance and a background in fine arts who wanted to craft fragrances beyond traditional perfumes. Impressed by how a scent can instantly take you places, Gorham started a creative project in which he wanted to translate memories into scents. Years later, his creations are still made from his diverse background and love of traveling. He aims to capture personal memories and feelings in all of his fragrances.  


Mixing Scandinavian simplicity with exotic ingredients from all over the world, he creates scents you can experience emotionally. From day one, Byredo's perfumes weren't just about smelling good—they were stories in a bottle, taking you on a journey. Take, for instance, Byredo's "Gypsy Water," a scent inspired by the nomadic lifestyle and the freedom of the open road. With notes of bergamot, juniper berries, and vanilla, it creates a sense of wanderlust and endless adventure.

Byredo Gypsy water perfume

Jo Malone

Jo Malone's journey into the world of fragrance began unexpectedly. Originally a facial therapist, Malone discovered her love for scents while running a discreet skincare clinic from her London home. Experimenting with creating fragrances by hand in her kitchen, Malone's unique potions quickly gained attention, and soon, she could not keep up with demand. This led her to launch her first brand, Jo Malone London, which soon achieved global cult status as a British lifestyle brand known for its unique fragrance portfolio and luxury products for the bath, body, and home. 


From the beginning, the brand was rewriting the rules of perfumery with unexpected combinations of ingredients and elegant yet playful concepts. One of Jo Malone's most famous perfumes, "English Pear & Freesia," captures the English garden in full bloom, with juicy pear notes mixing with the sweet scent of freesia flowers. It's fresh, lively, and super classy, making you think of sunny days surrounded by blooming flowers. It's beloved because of its wearability - you can wear it anytime, whether it's a regular day or a special event. With its timeless charm and delightful mix of fruity and floral smells, "English Pear & Freesia" has become a favorite among perfume lovers.   

Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia perfume bottle

In conclusion, the world of perfume is a fascinating one: it is created from stories, memories, emotions, and endless options. Perfumes have a special way of taking us through time and places, evoking emotions, and making a lasting impression on others. Whether we're drawn to floral elegance, woody warmth, or citrus zest, our perfume choices are shaped by biology, psychology, and personal experiences. A personally chosen scent can bring a bit of magic to your life.  

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