Interview
A Life in Scent

Sali Hughes

The esteemed beauty journalist on the scents that make her

Shop perfume

Known for her straight-talking prose, beauty journalist Sali Hughes has put the industry's lastest and greatest products through their paces. It's perfume that holds her heart though, so we sat down to unravel her life in sweetly scented moments - including finding a husband over a whiff of Diptyque

On the Liberty perfume hall… I'm with perfume as people are with watches; if I leave the house without perfume on I would have to find a department store immediately and rectify the situation. If I come to London, I walk into Liberty and reach for Frédéric Malle. The choice of scent depends on the situation but I love L'Eau d'Hiver; beautiful but I wouldn't necessarily wear it for evening. I also love Le Parfum de Thérèse with coriander and leather - it's so refined. Of course, Portrait of a Lady is such a classic - people will always stop and ask you what you're wearing.

A Life in Scent: Sali Hughes
SHOP FREDERIC MALLE

"I can't be monogamous to a perfume. It depends what I'm wearing, where I'm going and who I feel like being that day."

On monogamy... I can't be monogamous to a perfume. It depends what I'm wearing, where I'm going and who I feel like being that day. I suppose the only fragrance that has survived throughout my life has been Chanel No. 5. I've never abandoned it and keep coming back to it. But again, I wouldn't wear it every day. I like to mix things up.

On life-shaping scents… My first perfume was Miss Dior when I was 11 and then I moved to No. 5 when I was 13. Guerlain Mitsouko was probably the first time I decided I wanted to write about perfume. Diptyque Philosykos was the perfume I was wearing when I met my husband - he was the only person who had ever identified it.

A Life in Scent: Sali Hughes
Shop perfume

"I met my husband in Liberty… he asked if I was wearing [Diptyque] Philosykos. I said, 'Yes. Are you wearing [Diptyque] L'Ombre dans l'Eau?'"

On sniffing out a husband… I met my husband in Liberty! He's a comedy writer and before we knew each other we were on our way to a Radio 4 comedy party - separately. We both came to Liberty because we were early and we were trying perfume. We just glanced at each other and later, at the party, he asked if I was wearing Philosykos. I said, 'Yes. Are you wearing L'Ombre dans l'Eau?'. It's a women's perfume but really suits him. We became friends, we got together - and now we're married! I never usually wear that perfume either, I just happened to be wearing it that day.

A Life in Scent: Sali Hughes
SHOP DIPTYQUE

On vivid scent memories… My mother had a bottle of Giorgio Beverley Hills in the '80s and it smashed in the back of the car. For the next five years I had to hang my head out the side of the car, as I just hate that smell. My grandmother wore Yardley's English Lavender; really cheap and synthetic smelling. I still love that smell though. Old Spice, too - my grandfather wore it.

"Try not to be too confined by things; if you like the smell of [a perfume] that's meant to be for men, that's okay. If you like something that's in a bottle you don't like, fine… You really have to rely on your own gut and your own reaction to it."

On writing perfume… Writing about perfume is hard and not many can do it. How do you write about air? It's a good, challenging exercise. I also just love perfume - and writing about something you love is always going to be enjoyable. You shouldn't describe the smell, just what it makes you think of. I don't think people care about base notes and top notes. They want to know how they will feel in a scent, what it will remind them of, what else it smells like. I always try and describe perfume in a way that relates to real life; things you can touch and feel. I don't think anybody cares if there's a tonka bean in there.

On choosing a scent… Ignore ad campaigns and go to a proper perfumery; Liberty or Les Senteurs - places where there's service and people who just really love perfume. I would also try not to be too confined by things; if you like the smell of something that's meant to be for men, that's okay. If you like something that's in a bottle you don't like, fine. I think people get too wrapped up in what they're meant to like. You really have to rely on your own gut and your own reaction to it. I also think it's fine to like a perfume but to accept that it's not for you. Sometimes I smell someone in the street and think how lovely it is but know it's not for me - I can just enjoy it and walk past.

A Life in Scent: Sali Hughes
Shop perfume
Liberty London

The browser you are using does not support HTTPS.

To continue browsing Liberty London, please install the latest version of any of the browsers listed below.

chrome logo firefox logo ie logo

Choose a browser