The art of perfume is benevolent and majestic as explored in Sue Phillips’ staggeringly researched and lively anecdotal new book “The Power of Perfume.”
Phillips, a renowned and award-winning “Scentrepreneur” has a “scentarium” located on the Upper East Side where she creates bespoke perfumes for high-class clientele as well as celebrities such as Katie Holmes and Jamie Foxx. She also created the first ever fragrance for Tiffany & Co. as VP of the Tiffany Perfume in 1987.
Phillips begins her enormously instructive book discussing the five senses and highlights that, after sight, scent is our most powerful sense as it connects memory and emotion. And there’s a science behind this: our olfactory nerve in the nasal cavity connects to the olfactory cortex within the brain’s temporal lobe, and particularly with Amygdala — which is connected to emotion — and the Entorhinal cortex, which is involved in the formation of memory. And thus, through this complex system, scent can trigger powerful feelings and transport us back to memories of different places, times and moments in our lives.
Phillips broke down the basics of perfumery to amNewYork Metro using her olfactory pyramid, explaining how this was a structure of “top notes,” “heart notes” and “base notes.” The top notes hit first, they tend to be lighter and initiate the overall scent; the heart notes leave the biggest impact of the overall scent and are named to convey their importance as “the main theme or the heart because [they] are the most memorable part of a fragrance”; and the “base notes,” which are darker, deeper and more long-lasting as they “dry down” and can have a “scent life” of as long as 8 hours.
The pyramid also introduced amNewYork Metro to the “fragrance families”of which there are eight: citrus, herbs, flowers, green, fruits, spices, woods and balsam, each of which possess their own unique characteristics that can be combined with infinite delicacy to suit your body chemistry. For ease Phillips narrowed these down to fresh, florals, woodsy and Oriental / spicy.
Should you visit Phillips’ Upper East side boutique the first thing she will ask you to do is complete a “scent personality quiz” before she begins delicately mixing elements and producing blotter strips until you find the perfect “you” in scent form. Phillips reports customers bursting into tears when they find their perfect fragrance, speaking to its visceral power. Some of the scent quiz questions are utterly unexpected—but you’ll have to read the book to find out!
One amNewYork Metro staffer was lucky enough to have an olfactory profile analyzed by Sue’s expertise. The summary of the detailed analysis was: “You prefer mostly Fresh, Sparkling, Outdoors, Woodsy scents with Spicy, Oriental, Amber base notes. Your preference is not for florals.”
When it comes to a “heart note” of a different kind, Phillips is a firm believer in the connection between scent, attraction and compatibility. She states, “You can see somebody from across the room and find them very attractive. But if they come close and if for some reason you don’t like the way they smell, which is connected to their body chemistry, that is such a deal breaker! It would be absolutely terrible! Your attraction would go away like that.”
So, some dating advice according to Phillips: “Your sense of smell can either take you to wonderful places and romantic places and you’ll have an incredible connection and attraction to someone and hopefully live happily ever after. Or you can meet a guy that you think you’re attracted to and it can be a nightmare, and a life of hell!” This is perhaps a touch hyperbolic for non-industry folks or enthusiasts, but Phillips is making it clear that, when it comes to love, the smell-stakes are definitely high.
Phillips’ book is a treasure trove of information honoring the art of perfume, a subject that perhaps not many have thought to explore, but that actually has its roots in Ancient Egypt. It is a fascinating read and highly recommended, but if amNewYork Metro took one thing away from our time with Phillips—perfume can make a meaningfully impact your life on a day to day basis, and should not just be reserved for “special occasions.” For Phillips, applying perfume is part of her daily routine, like brushing her teeth, and it “makes her feel completely dressed.”
Coco Chanel once famously said, “A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future,” which is ludicrous, dated and hopefully sardonically stated, but perfume can make you happy, and that is a valuable thing.
Phillips’ Book “The Power of Perfume” is available for purchase now on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble for $19.95. It can also be ordered through Sue’s websites www.suephillips.com and www.scenterprises.com
Sue Phillips boutique “Sue Phillips Fragrance” is located at 220 East 65th Street, and she can be contacted for bookings and pricing inquiries on 646-350-6562, 917-449-1134 or email her at [email protected]
A percentage of all sales will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association because Fragrance and Memory are inextricably connected and the author’s mother sadly suffered from this terrible disease.
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