At Liberty London, fragrance is the beating heart of our beauty hall. With a rich history of pairing with perfume greats and maverick brands, we play host to some of the world’s most precious blends. At the heart of this is our in-house expert Stuart, who has been matching our customers with their perfect perfumes for 17 years (and counting). Understanding that finding a fragrance is an emotional experience, here he decodes the complexities of scent – and imparts some lesser-known nuggets of information.
“Our eclectic mix of customers are usually searching for something individual and unconventional, rather than adhering to the norm.”
We’ve got amazing fragrances here in the Liberty Fragrance Hall and such niche, unusual brands – both new and old. Escentric Molecules’ Molecule 01 is our number one best seller. Containing a single ingredient, Iso E Super, it’s scientifically developed to work in harmony with the individual, so there’s really nothing else quite like it.
Most fragrances have a pyramid structure to illustrate how the scent develops over time. Top notes are what you smell first with the strong, alcoholic hit of the initial spray – they’re usually light, fresh and uplifting, and they disappear quickly; often citrusy. The heart notes are the main body of the perfume, revealing themselves right after the top. They’re usually deeper – often florals, woods or spices. The staying-power is in the base notes – musks or leathers reveal themselves after an hour or so of wearing the fragrance, and they linger on the skin. Some fragrances, like Molecule, are just a single note, and some don’t have a pyramid – there’s no superior fragrance structure, it’s all about what works for you.
Training Your Nose
When a customer comes in looking for a new fragrance, I’ll start by asking them what they wear currently and what it is they’d like to change. It can sometimes be difficult to articulate exactly what it is you like about a fragrance – a customer might come in thinking they’re looking for one thing, and leave with something totally different. My job is about listening and getting a feel for the customer’s taste, then I’ll guide them through recommendations in order to determine exactly what they want. Finding a fragrance isn’t always a fast process – some customers will come back over a course of days to allow themselves time to reflect, as it can become quite overwhelming for the senses in here! I always advise starting with three fragrances, comparing them against one another, and taking it from there.
If you’re going it alone, take enjoyment in doing your research – people often fall in love with a brand or fragrance based on its backstory. Read about the brand’s founder or the perfumer, because they always have a beautiful tale to tell. Here at Liberty we’re lucky enough to meet them, and it’s getting to know these people that gives us such a close connection to their brands.
“I wear Molecule 01 because it’s so light and natural-smelling – since I’m surrounded by fragrance all day long, I’m not looking for anything too heavy. It’s guaranteed to fetch comments from others – people are always chasing after me to ask what scent I’m wearing!”
Spritzes with Sparkle
To go out, I wear Maison Francis Kurkdijian’s Amyris Homme or Nassomatto Duro – with a very heady, woody character, it’s more of an evening scent. When Nassomatto first launched in the UK at Liberty, Black Afgano flew off the shelves – people used to buy it in 10s and 20s! It’s striking because of its jet black colour, which is thanks to the nose behind Nassomatto, Alessandro Gualtieri’s amazingly eccentric character. He doesn’t believe in disclosing what ingredients are in his perfumes, so each fragrance has its own story but the notes will never be revealed. This is to challenge peoples pre-conceptions about what they do and don’t like – with these, it’s all about the instinct.
A personal highlight from the Liberty Fragrance Hall has been working with Richard E. Grant on his debut fragrance line, Jack. He created the collection himself from start to finish – he’s fanatical about scent – and he approached Liberty to assist him in the process. He’d bring rough drafts of fragrances, and we’d give feedback based on our knowledge of the customer. The finished signature scent is stunning, with masculine notes of citrus, spice, tobacco, white musk and resin.
“Many people look to buy a fragrance as a memoir – sometimes they keep it to spritz occasionally, and sometimes they’ll wear it.”
A bridal fragrance should be in-keeping with the wearer’s taste and a true reflection of their character, yet distinctive enough to evoke the specific memory of their special day. It’ll likely be worn again for anniversaries and other special occasions, so it should be an authentic representation of the individual.
Florals are the top choice for a wedding, Nassomatto’s Narcotic V. being one of the most popular. It’s a light, heady floral that lasts; a pure perfume extract that you won’t need to top up throughout the day. It’s said that Princess Diana wore Houbigant’s Quelques Fleurs l’Original on her wedding day, and people often buy it to keep a memory of her. It’s a very special, traditional floral that’s long-lasting, but mellows over time on the skin – it’s extremely precious, and we’re one of the only stores that stocks it.
One of my customers was gifted a bottle of Carthusia’s Fiori di Capri by her husband on their honeymoon on the Italian island, just after the war. Her husband passed away and she wears the scent as a memoir, returning here to buy a new bottle each time.
Fragrance need not be pretentious, because it’s very personal. It doesn’t matter how much a perfume costs or where you get it from – if it works for you, wear it and own it. My dad used to wear Maurer & Wirtz’s Tabac Original and Old Spice, and I wear them sometimes. I also still keep a bottle of Dior Fahrenheit, because it takes me to my happy place.