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How to pick the perfect scent for you

by Rawya Catto, CPL Aromas Middle East GM

There is nothing better than a quote from the iconic Coco Chanel to start a succesful conversation. In this case, I have just the right one. As she once said, “No elegance is possible without perfume. It is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory”


…there is nothing more daunting than choosing a new perfume. As you walk through the malls, you are stimulated by a thousand different smells. From the Arabian kiosque and its sensual Bakhoor smoke to the department stores showing us shiny new billboards for each new fragrance launch, and the numerous flankers to your favorite scent, it feels almost impossible to get it right!

So how does one get it right?

I remember being at the Dubai duty-free, sometime in the naughties and was specifically looking for my favorite scent at the time, “Flower”, by Kenzo. But the helpful sales clerk would have it otherwise. You see, on that specific month, there was a special promotion on a Valentino scent. Gift pack and all. And it seemed to completely baffle her that I was actually searching for a fragrance, well…for its scent!

This brings me to the my first point : don’t get distracted.

Fragrance brands are all vying for your attention, and glamourous advertisements, gorgeous ornate flacons are all part of the plan. None of that actually matters when it comes down to what you will be wearing on your skin. How many times have we let ourselves be sprayed by the latest new craze, only to rush back home to wash it out with water and soap?

In essence (see what I did there), what really matters is the smell itself, and here a little olfactory knowledge goes a long way.

A helpful tip is to have a basic awareness of the fragrance families, or as we call it in professional jargon, “the olfactive wheel”.

Fragrances are classified by their common traits: a combination of how they are designed and how they make you feel.

“Citrus”, or “hesperidic” scents are perfumes designed around the zestiness of citrus fruits. They usually make us feel energized and refreshed, and tend to work well in summer months. Jo Malone is one brand who has mastered the art of citrus.

“Fruity” perfumes have been trending lately, with many melon, peach, blackcurrant notes making an appearance in most post-pandemic launches. Fruity notes convey a certain youthfulness and a carefree attitude to a scent, paving the way for a desire for happier day.

“Florals” are the most common olfactive family in perfumery. White floral perfumes tend to be opulent, bold, whereas water flower bouquets are lighter, ethereal. Rose has become the new black, with modernized touches across all our favorite scents. Whatever your personality, there is a floral scent out there that works for you. It is by and large the most represented olfactory family, with 50 shades of moods.

More mysterious and obscure families are the so called “Chypre” and “Amber” perfumes, created around darker, sensual ingredients. These tend to contain woody ingredients like Patchouli, or warm, sweet ambers. These perfumes scream statement! Only the brave of heart will venture in to this territory. Consider them like the the sexy red dress equivalent of fragrances.

Whether you are introverted or extroverted, the right olfactive family will offer multiple choices for you. If you tend to live your life in private, choose skin scents. With ingredients such as soft musks and suede like ambers, these notes provide ample sensuality..but only if you are close enough!

If you are channeling your inner boss lady, and you’re out there to impress, dare to Chypre! A powerful sillage that will remain in the room long after you are gone…

And for date night… well a floral amber note will take you right where you want to be.

We are lucky to live in an area of the world that has a marked perfume heritage. Most expatrates will initially shy away from the powerful Ouds, Musk and attar based fragrances that we see with local brands. By doing that, we potentially are missing out on a truly unique scented experience.

Embrace local.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with ingredients that initially may appear to be out of your comfort zone. Arabian perfumes tend to be more powerful than western brands, however their olfactive array is as wide and varied as any. Why not try the iconic combination of Rose and Vanilla? Or for the more adventurous, the famous “mukhallat” types, containing rose, saffron and oud… a touch of mukhallat, combined with your favourtie Dior will create the most unique custome scent for you.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment, get out of your comfort zone. You might be surprised about how the new right fragrance will make you feel.

Today, I no longer wear Flower by Kenzo. It is still a scent I think of fondly, but it is a reminder of a bygone era, and I am no longer the girl who was comfortable with the soft powdery violet note. I seek powerful femininity through big florals and woody roses.

When asked how she chooses the right fragrance for her, our marketing executive Sidney says “In my eyes, perfume and cologne can be used as an abstract form of self-expression. Be it confident, sensual, calm, or classy, there is a fragrance out there that can enhance any unique individuals’ identity”


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