Monday, April 1, 2013

Interview with Dr. Joachim Mensing, Fragrance Psychologist: How we Choose Fragrance and Spring Perfume Moods

“Fragrance and perfumes are offers for personal transformation, indented to bring us from our ACTUAL SELF – how we feel, closer to our IDEAL SELF – how we would like to feel. Behind them is the secret wish to transform our selves unconsciously to give us for example, a more feminine, more sensual, more dynamic or self-confident appearance than what we really feel. They also create a certain atmosphere and emotional setting.” Thus explains to us the intricacies of the perfume dynamic Dr. Joachim Mensing, Fragrance Psychologist, analyzing the lure that perfume (and scent in general) exerts on us. In an interesting interview which touches on the feeling of renewal that spring naturally provokes into most of us at this time of the year, Dr.Mensing sheds light on some of the innermost reasons that direct our choices.

Redbud tree on the Lousios river Gorge in Gortynia, Greece. Source: via PerfumeShrine on Pinterest

Central to this explanation is the admission that choosing a personal fragrance is a complex situation that can only be explained to a certain degree. Smell is edged on the emotional centre in the brain and is associated with long-term memory, a phenomenon which is familiar to all of us in our everyday lives. "The decision seems to be somehow irrational and is taken spontaneously and connected with the remembrances and feelings that we had and would like to re-experience again", Dr.Mensing elaborates. "They seem to appear out of the blue. The fascination for a certain fragrance is hidden in our subconscious and linked with desires and moods that are difficult to articulate. Of course there is no doubt that there are more and very important factors for the decision to a certain fragrance like the image, the sympathy, the packaging, advertising but also recommendations and word of mouth.
Exciting is, that certain wishes and moods come up more intense in spring, e.g. the wish for change, for spontaneity and to enjoy oneself are overwhelming. We want to live a more playful and frivolous life, we want to live our fantasies, be creative and also be provocative. In the U.S. there is a definitive higher preference for fruity floral fragrance family during this time of the year.

Perfumes that seem to express this spring-feeling are e.g.
Life, Esprit
Orange Tonic, Azzaro
Daisy, Marc Jacobs
Just me, Paris Hilton
Chance, Chanel”

This type of fragrance as our readers know is all over the place so it would be helpful to categorize them in a more analytical way than simply "the fruity floral" and to assess the fragrance market share they have in the USA market with some more data.  “If you take all prestige perfumes of the U.S. market that are categorized into the six big international fragrance families: Citrus Green, Floral Aldehydic, Fruity-Floral, Floriental, Oriental and Chypre, the dominance of the Florals in the U.S. is clear to see. The US market is characterized (like the English) by the spectrum of beautiful floral notes, which come in all kinds of facets and crossovers, ranging from fresh-fruity to Aldehyde brilliant, to the cozy warm interpretations of the so called Florientals. Over 70% of all fragrances belong to one or the other Floral family. Year around the Floral –Aldehydic fragrances are dominating with a market share of close to 30%, but every spring, the fresh-fruity floral become the favorites of all Florals. The refreshing, flowery fragrance Happy by Clinique is a good example”, says Dr.Joachim Mensing.

at Corfu island, Greece. Source: via PerfumeShrine on Pinterest

The mood for spring fragrances and scents for warmer weather differentiates itself for the usual ambience of winter fragrances, at least to the mind of the average consumer (but often also to us, perfumistas, as we have often discussed the seasonal shift of the fragrance wardrobe and its subtler nuances). So what makes for a different experience between warmer weather and colder weather perfumes? And who are these covered in the international market as opposed to the US? 
Dr. Joachim Mensing explains that  “A typical spring fragrance smells mostly of fresh notes that belong to the type Citrus Green. Their market-share in the U.S. is about 15%. But in the Latin countries like Italy, Spain and Brazil, they have around a 18-25 % share. The citrus green fragrances reach out to a more extrovert personality who wants to feel more dynamic and energetic. They hate the idea of professional routine and don’t want to be bored. They set a signal with these refreshing and stimulating citrus-green-aqua notes like:

O de Lancôme, Lancôme
Escale à Portofino, Dior
Energizing Fragrance, Shiseido
Concentré d’Orange verte, Hermès

On the contrary, a typical autumn/winter-fragrance shows the longing for romantic sensuality. It is the wish for more emotion, tenderness and comfort. It is also the expectation to be spoiled and to be cosseted. This emotional setting is covered best by the Floriental fragrances that have a market share of about 10% in the U.S. for the whole year. Even more important for this time of the year are the Orientals in the US, with a market share of over 12% for the whole year. The Oriental perfumes express with their depth, spiciness’, warmth and mystery (many of these fragrances are loaded with intoxicating and intensive ingredients such as musk, vanilla, exotic resins and wood), which we especially cherish in the winter months.” [ed.note: and sometimes we opt for unusual, warm scents for summer!]

Dr.Mensing also explains the mnemonic connection we're making vis a vis warmer weather fragrances: “A lot of the citrus green family have the smell of young leaves and plants. The combination with hesperidic notes (like grapefruit, lemon, orange, lime) and modern aqua notes creates a sensation of freshness, ozone and the south, which our long-term memory associates pre-dominantly with the Mediterranean climate sensation.” Additionally we seem to actually smell differently during spring "because we are more open to all environmental stimuli and more curious. Our awareness is more differentiated and our nose reacts in more sensitive way. We smell with our emotional centre in the brain, which is the circuit of hormone production.”

Finally a seasonal recommendation asked of Dr.Mensing: Which fragrances would you recommend for Easter, Passover and what would be the best Mother’s Day choice? “Easter was in earlier times a celebration of fertility and in the Christian believes, it is a time for transformation. The same is true for Passover. So fragrances that express a joy of life and new beginning fit perfectly. Most of the people are surprised about their feelings and discover a new joy of life. They want to live more intensely and cherish their way of life,  so I suggest Fruity Floral notes like:

Pretty Nina, Nina Ricci
Cherie, Miss Dior by Dior
Inspiration, Lactose

These are just the perfect fit for this kind of mood.
Mother’s Day scents on the contrary stand for thankfulness, honor and homage. To show this we instinctively search for the most precious gifts. Here, the Floral Aldehydic notes are defined of elegant, sophisticated and expressive top notes that show a brilliance and the pureness of petals. The loved ones will be honored by an aura of respect, confidence and utter appreciation. Examples of this classic, elegant fragrance family are:

No.5 Eau Premiere, Chanel
J’adore, Dior
Caleche, Hermès”

Conducted via

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Best Scents that Sing Spring!, Flora Attica: Galivanting Amidst the Greek Gardens

Bougainvillea petals at Nafplio town, Greece. Source: via PerfumeShrine on Pinterest


  1. Dear Shrine

    A fascinating piece.

    The dandy has always known he must be at least spiritually Latin and now it is proven by scent.

    For me the Spring is undoubtedly time for the greenest of green aromas.

    Pass me the Piguet Future or No 19 please!

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Miss Heliotrope01:02

    On easter Sunday here in Melbourne (autumnal though), I wore Chanel 19.

    I also wore it more over the summer, mostly bc I had it, when last summer I didnt, but also bc our summer was much more humid than usual, I found my usual chypres & leathers didnt feel as right.

    I always find articles on the US/EU dichotomy interesting, but they do ignore quite a lot of the world.

  3. when is Greek Easter this year Helg?

    I wish Fragrant Easter full of perfume and chocolate! What a combo!!!

  4. Anonymous22:18

    My Spring favourite is Ninfeo Mio by Goutal, it's a sort of green leafy/earthy/boiled lemon sweets tomboy sort of fragrance to my nose, Scout from 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' might have smelled like this!. A more romantic one is Heeley's Iris de Nuit, so gentle and watercolour-like

  5. TPD,

    thanks for commenting.

    Indeed there's something about the Latin spirit which lends itself easiest to scent as a pleasure with no added "connotations" (sexual or otherwise).
    It's good to hear you love No.19 in the warmer weather. I usually most enjoy it during a heatwave (cuts through the heat marvelously)

  6. C,

    indeed No.19 is great for humid weather and heat. Other heavier, less "bracing", less bitter and powdery scents get swamped, but not No.19! Enjoy!!

  7. M,

    I know you just had yours, hope it was fun!

    Greek Easter is usually sometime in April but this year it's very very late (the latest it can possibly be) on May 5th!
    (Usually Catholic and Orthodox Easter are about a week or two away, it's got to do with the different way of calculating the lunar weeks leading up to the Orthodox one. There is a most charming tradition in the Greek isles however where there are many Catholic churches -due to the Venetian occupation- in which the two faiths celebrate at the same time, so that the church parades and the Epitaph and all are "met" in the streets and people come together as one. It's lovely!)

    Greek Easter in particular is the orgy of spring in every possible way, harkening back to the Dionysian celebrations of spring rites (and even today everyone leaves for the countryside!!) so the warm weather that comes at that time of the year naturally induces that frame of mind. ;-) :-)

  8. Rosestrang,

    ah, beautiful, evocative suggestions, thank you!
    Ninfeo Mio is all about the green fig leaf on me (a scent I love) and it's so good for warmer weather. :-)
    I have yet to try the Heeley Iris de Nuit, but your description is very tempting!


Type your comment in the box, choose the Profile option you prefer from the drop down menu below the text box (Anonymous is fine if you don't want the other options!) and hit Publish!
And you're set!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin