Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fragrance Layering: Tips for Scent Combining part 2, Suggestions by Francis Kurkdjian & Serge Lutens

If you're new to scent combining or "layering" (or don't know what this is) please refer to our Layman's Guide to Fragrance Layering on this link. Today I'm updating with part 2 with perfume combining suggestions by famous "noses".

To start you off, here are some recommendations by acclaimed perfumer Francis Kurdjian as they first appeared in French Marie-Claire, Dec 2005. Kukdjian recommends a starter perfume of proven popularity/classic status (below, in capitals) and then offers suggestions on what to layer it with, according to occasion/time of day. It's interesting to note that he regularly offers suggestions involving his own compositions...which would negate the often quipped argument that layering is only meant for "mending" a fragrance lacking in some way.

Day : Cologne de Mugler or Eau d’Hadrien or Eau de Cologne Bien-Etre verte
Night : Musc Ravageur (Malle) or B*Men de Mugler

Day : Eau parfumée au thé vert Bulgari
Night : Eternity (C.Klein)
Day : Un jardin en méditerranée d’Hermès
Night : Voile d’Ambre (Y.Rocher) or Nu d’YSL

Day : Colonia d’Acqua di Parma
Night : Musc Ravageur (Malle) or Féminité du bois (Lutens)

Day : Blush de Marc Jacobs or Rose barbare de Guerlain
Night : Original Musk de Kiehl’s

Day : Mure et Musc or Hiris (Hermès ) or Déclaration pour homme de Cartier or Eau de Cartier
Night : Lolita Lempicka or L’Eau Ivre No.03 de Iunx

YSL OPIUM original
Day : Un Jardin sur le Nil d'Hermès
Night : Poivre Samarcande Hermessence d’Hermès or Féminité du bois

Day : Rose Ikabena Hermessence d’Hermès or Sa Majesté la Rose (Lutens)
Night : Cuir Améthyste d’Armani Privé

Day : Rem de Reminiscence
Night : L’Instant de Guerlain


Day : Cologne de Thierry Mugler
Night : Mandarena de Sicilia d’Aqua di Parma or Le Parfum de Castelbajac

Day : Eau d’Orange Verte d’Hermès
Night : Angel or Rush de Gucci

Day : Anais Anais
Night : Rem de Reminiscence

Day : Fleur d’Oranger de L’Artisan Parfumeur
Night : Aromatics Elixir

Day : Eau d’Hadrien
Night : Gaultier2

Day : Dior Diorella or Pleasures (Lauder)
Night : Rahat Loukoum (Lutens)

Day: Violette de Maison Berdoues
Night: Angel

Day : Promesse de Cacharel or Lovely de SJP
Night : Vanille Passion de Comptoir Sud Pacifique

The info comes from French Marie-Claire, Dec 2005 print edition (I believe I was notified of this snippet ages ago by Bela/MUA, if I recall correctly)

Other perfumers also recommend layering.
Here are some of the recommendations of Serge Lutens of Palais Royal de Shiseido. Serge even goes as far as suggesting you combine three scents of his famous powerhouses (!) or just combine two mantioned in the same line:

Ambre Sultan, Daim Blond, Arabie
Ambre Sultan, Un Bois Vanille, Douce Amère
Ambre Sultan, Fleurs d'Oranger, Datura Noir
Ambre Sultan, Daim Blond, Clair de Musc
Fleurs de Citronnier, A la Nuit, Sa Majesté la Rose
Fleurs de Citronnier, Clair de Musc, Santal Blanc
Fleurs de Citronnier, Fleurs d'Oranger, Datura Noir

In "The Emperor of Smell" by Chandler Burr there is this info on "primaries" of smell, as used by perfumer Jean Claude Ellena :
Banana +Lemon = Jasmine
Mint + Rum = Black currant
Also there is this professional shortcut used by Jean Claude Ellena in his fragrances (more difficult to replicate at home):
isobutyl phenylacetate + vanillin = chocolate

You can also experiment freely with the Jo Malone collection, which was initially specifically designed to be layered. This is most agreeable with the older scents in the line, but they all offer their possibilities.  The same can be said about the single note Diptyque candles or room sprays, for some fragrance layering for the home (or on yourself, most room sprays by Diptyque are safe for use on skin, though you need to do a patch test first just to be sure).

As with everything, have fun and if your experiment ends up not satisfactory, take refuge in the idea that it's only perfume; you can always wash it off and start anew the following day!


  1. I can confirm that Narciso layered with an orange blossom soliflore is tres lovely.

    A lot of these combos sounds INSANE but I love layering and experimentation. It's hard to predict what will smell good together and oddly, sometimes the "powerhouse" ends up getting dominated by what you think of as the softer scent!

    (Cuir Mauresque and Chergui are lovely together, BTW)

  2. The idea of layering Angel and Feminité du Bois is an alarming one, but then really the idea of layering anything with Angel is kind of scary.

    Could you really layer Ambre Sultan, Un Bois Vanille, and Douce Amère and then go out in public? I own all three and they're all beautiful but very strong and heady: I can't even imagine stacking any two of them together, let alone all three.

  3. E,

    it's certainly very true that sometimes what is considered a powerhouse ends up engulfed! (for instance try Dioressence and Clair de Musc: which wins??)

    Thanks for the rec on the two SLs!

    And yeah, some of FK's suggestions sound so very strange, but there is some logic behind them. I can perfectly see how he arrived at them.

  4. C,

    Angel is so very potent on its own, it needs to be worn "the Q-tip way" (soak a Q tip, wave it in front of you, discard and you're set to go!). :-D

    I see the logic behind the AS, DA and BdV combo: they all have a dark vanilla to tie them together, so I suppose one drop of each on one spot (over navel) would radiate nicely, though I've never tried it (I love Douce Amere too much to tamper with it).

    It's funny though: I well recall an interview of Lutens for a Greek publication a long time ago (I think this was at the time he was using Greek models for his Shiseido ads) where Serge stated he is clearly not of the "one drop" school of thought re: perfume, but rather of the indulgent one. He said "I don't wear it every day, but when I do, I just might use up half a bottle". (not verbatim, after all those years, but I do recall distinctly the "half a bottle" exaggeration, it was stated exactly like that that phrase)

  5. Golly Gosh Shrine!

    Are we sure Mr K wasn't pulling someone's leg?

    His suggestions sound rather bananas to be frank, but I am a little intrigued, particularly with the Shalimar, No. 5 and l'heure bleue ones.

    In for a penny in for a pound I will give a few of these a go at the weekend.

    The Serge combos look at first sight uqually confusing, but the logic became more apparent when I had another look at the notes.

    This as certainly raised a simle - but what sort of reaction will it raise for others when The Dandy puts it into action?

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  6. I think most Lutens are better dabbed, but both my boyfriend and I spray Chergui like we just don't care. He often leaves the house in a cloud of it and I wonder what people think! Oh, and I spray away with Datura Noir too.

  7. TPD,


    Let's see!

    Shalimar: 30% bergamot. To make it lighter, one would reinforce the volatile citrus note. All the "day" suggestions do that.
    The "night" suggestions reinforce the civet (and not the musk, as one might surmise by given notes)

    Chanel no.5 Ditto for "night" (civetonne really, nowadays) and for day something light and citrusy to "match" with the ylang and give a very "fresh" scent which would further modify the aldehydes.

    L'heure Bleue. The top is aromatic/spicy with bittersweet nuances, so the Hermes is reinforcing that part (the green fig leaf is bracingly bittersweet). The "night" suggestions are powdery-soft and match L'HB's powdery general ambience.

    See, it does make sense, even though one would probably need to only apply a drop of each so as not to scare the horses!!


  8. Elisa,

    that's fine, some of his are so very couldn't argue against too much beauty.

    Then again, Datura Noir is one of his I find rather excessive apart from very little quantities (same with Daim Blond, though I love leathers in general). But that's a personal quirk, don't mind me! ;-)

  9. I can already tell I'll be re-visiting this post many times in the future.
    I really look forward to trying many of these out although some really sound scary (anything with Angel). ;)

  10. Ines,

    please do, that's what it's for! :-)

    Yeah, some perfumes are "larger than life". Angel is one of them. ;-)

  11. Merlin21:37

    I tried the Amber Sultan and Gaultier 2 together and the effect didn't work for me. They both lost their character in the mix:(
    Sometimes I prefer to wear different perfumes on different parts of my body, that way each scent retains its character but I get the experience of both - though not quite simultaneously - it works when i have a hunger for variety!

  12. M,

    hmmm, good to know!

    I think Gaultier 2 is so musk heavy it would engulf and swallow whole anything that got near it! ;-)

    I do like the experience of spraying on two different parts of the body; in fact that's what I do most of the time when this strange urge comes :-O ;-)

  13. I need a reccomendation for layering. I love the fresh soft woody drydown of Burberry The Beat EDT, but the top notes are a bit too citrusy/spicy for my taste and it smells a lot like Michael Kors Sporty Citrus, which is just too sporty. I was thinking of layering with something simpler, maybe with amber patchouli or vanilla, but only to calm down those top notes. Any suggestions would be much appreciated (: Thanks!


Type your comment in the box, choose the Profile option you prefer from the drop down menu, below text box (Anonymous is fine too!) and hit Publish.
And you're set!

This Month's Popular Posts on Perfume Shrine