The combined wearing of more than one perfume at any one time is a phenomena that has really taken hold of the perfume fraternity in the last few years. I’d like to chip in on this topic. I remember doing this years ago with some very bold or obscure scents in my purchased perfume collection – for example, Aromatics Elixir layered with Montale’s Dark Purple, then Christian Lacroix’s C’est La Fete worn with several of Jacomo’s Art Collections. I dibbled and dabbled, sometimes playing with some soliflore sorta fragrances such as Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose and adding pure essential oil of patchouli etc etc. I mixed J Del Pozo’s In Black with J’Adore L’absolue, Belle d’Opium with Jean Patou’s Joy, and the cocktail shaker got wackier and weirder by the day. The thing, for me, was that I could always still identify each of the individual players in the scrambled eggs. They were wafting alongside each other but never really morphing into a whole new statement.. which is what I wanted. I couldn’t force my nose to read a whole new story, the lead actors dictated the plot and I was being type cast. This is what led me to abandon that game altogether. I’d wanted the creative reward of unlocking my own signature, a brilliant new take on patchouli derived from my patchouli pals – Montale and Aromatics etc. But they brought all of their floral baggage with them and the house became far too cluttered. Another layering device I explored was to find all the perfume I could that held very little scent, and whose fragrance lifted off in minutes. It was that cheap and lightweight stuff that places like the Perfume Connection used to sell for $10 on great big displays in shopping malls – obscure cologne, sort of innocuous ‘soda pop’ for women who don’t like to offend others and spritz a tiny little ‘fssst’ on one wrist and then furiously rub it together with the other wrist – after which… nothing happens. Those sorts of perfumes were fabulous as a kind of thinning medium for adding lots of other really strong potions as well as pure essential oils. The weakness of the flimsy stuff was sufficient that it became a source of perfumer’s alcohol with some of the aldehydes and boosters (not many obviously) that could carry my Frankenstein creations. Still in all, I became quickly bored with the same outcomes. Niche perfume was not so prevalent back then and its prices went way beyond my student budget, so I didn’t have access to anything swish or very original. I did, however, manage to write an academic paper that was invited for presentation at a conference in Salzburg, and on the way back I went to India for a week. I shot a couple of short docos about some NGOs operating in New Delhi, and… I went shopping for some attars and oud and essential oils. I’d already been an aromatherapist for many years, but buying oils and attars in India spurred me on. I started blending my own fragrances from pure essential oils and discovered that the oud I’d purchased in those cute little hexagonal glass temples weren’t actually the real deal. I couldn’t find any exotic bottles in Australia, aside from gorgeous Egyptian hand-blown glass treasures, but they aren’t very practical for storing large amounts of perfume. So I bought some ugly amber glass bottles and I tried hand painting them. This was sort of fun, but not easy to do either. It was interesting to begin to learn what oud even is, and how so much mainstream perfume claims to contain it, when in fact it’s actually synthetic aromachemicals designed to stand in as the exotic component in high-end designer perfumes. Learning about real oud, I gradually saved enough money to try some Vietnamese (cultivated) oud. Delighted, I’d found a beautiful source of ‘leather’ for my heavier compositions. As I became more and more engrossed in blending my own fragrances, I very quickly sold my purchased perfume collection to feed the hunger of my essential oil addiction. It was very expensive and at first I made a lot of mess (olfactory mess). What changed, was that I went back to basics and learned to construct accords such as chypres and ambers. I learned a lot from a wonderful website called White Lotus Aromatics who very generously publish many recipes freely on their website. Then I began to finally learn how to unlock some of the most wonderful discoveries for my own enjoyment. If you aren’t getting the pleasure you yearn for when layering mainstream synthetic perfumes, I encourage you to seek to blend your own compositions, and perfumery materials are readily available online from many sources. A great way to layer is to purchase some pure essential oils and blend them in carrier oil (jojoba or fractionated coconut are best) and use this as a base note over which you can apply your store-bought fragrances. Keep the layers relatively simple, so that you add to the story, not bull-doze over one with another and mangle the arc of the tale. Buy some good jasmine, rose, sandalwood, patchouli and use these to highlight those elements in the perfumes you own. The light will shine and the fragrance will last longer and you will smell divine. I suggest, when layering, to constrain your palette of mixtures by adding single notes or at least try combining ambers with ambers, chypres with other chypres etc. Ambers and chypres when mixed together can really go wrong. A bit like serving up a plate of reheated spaghetti Napolitana with a side of cold Lamb Rogan Josh… fantastic if you’re hungover from Roxanne’s 21st birthday party the night before, but not an epicure’s idea of a good time. BUT, hey… art has no limits… right? Adios amigos.