Perfume and Colour, Perfume Lovers London – November 26th, 2015


Tara, previously of Olfactoria’s Travels, while being on the move to her own new virtual home, decided to visit a couple of friends’ blogs. I have the honor of hosting her first. Here’s one of her great reports on the PLL’s event.



I was particularly looking forward to this evening at Perfume Lovers London because firstly, it was being led by my mate Sabine of Iridescents and secondly, we were going to have fun drawing our scent impressions.

Instead of the usual rows of chairs, we were seated at tables laid out with paper and various art materials. Sabine had also provided some inspiration with print outs of various images and colour palettes.

As you can imagine, there was less talking and more colouring going on than at a normal PLL event, but here’s an idea of what was said and some of the wonderful images from Sabine’s blog.

Sabine at PLL's event    

Sabine: I went ten years without wearing perfume, then when I went back to it – wow – there had been an explosion in niche perfumery. I needed a way to organise and make sense of it.

I am a graphic designer so I tried to translate perfume into colour. There are quite a lot of similarities between the two. Both are very subjective; my rose is not your rose and my red is not your red. We can describe both as being opaque, bright, transparent and so on.

Sometimes there are not enough words. Colour is a way of creating a multi-sensory dimension which enhances your experience. You can train your perception of colour in the same as you can train your perception of smell.

This is why I started my blog, Iridescents, where I reproduce the images digitally. We can’t do that tonight but we do have paints, pencils and pastels so we can play around with how scents relate to colour.

Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum, Aedes de Venustas

Notes: Rhubarb, vetiver, red berries, tomato leaf, incense, green apple, hazelnut, honeysuckle

Lila: This is the first of the Aedes de Venustas fragrances and the perfumer is Bertrand Duchaufour.

Sabine: Try to think of a palette of 2 or 3 colours. What colours does it make you think of?

Audience members: “Pink”, “Green”, “The colours of a stick of rhubarb”.

Sabine: The pinks and greens come and go in my composition and the notes in the perfume do the same. I think of it as very jazzy. There is not a structured top, middle and base.

Lila: It’s very crisp and tart.

Sabine: If a perfume makes you think of yellow say, try and think which yellow.

The next one is not a perfume but a perfume ingredient. It’s vetiver oil. What colour does it make you think of?

Audience members: “Dirty brown”, “Khaki”, “The colour of mould.”

Molecule 01, Escentric Molecules

Sabine: This is a completely synthetic perfume, mostly made up of Iso E Super. So what colours do you use when you have a material not found in nature? Try and think of how much of one colour and how much of another. Think about the proportions.

Liquid Night, A Lab on Fire

Notes: Bergamot, lime, saffron, sage, lavender, Hinoki wood, incense, vanilla, musk

Sabine: Liquid Night is neither hot nor cold. It has hard shapes but it also has a softness to it. It’s very urban. It makes me think of driving in the rain and the reflection of the raindrops on the windscreen.

Liquid Night

Liquid Night ((c) Sabine)

Felanilla, Parfumerie Generale

Notes: Vanilla absolute, saffron, orris, banana wood, hay absolute, amber

Sabine: Felanilla is cosy and a little powdery from the iris. It’s also animalic but not too much.

Audience member: Do people in different countries relate to colours differently?

Sabine: Yes, for example people in warmer countries tend to wear warmer colours because their surroundings are brighter. People have different associations with colours, as they do with scents. People in cities tend to wear more muted and subdued colours.


Felanilla ((c) Sabine)

Sel Marin, Heeley

Notes: Lemon, Italian bergamot, beech leaf, sea salt, moss, algae, cedar, musk, leather

Sabine: If you think of Sel Marin as a scent representing the sea, which would it be in terms of colour – the Atlantic or the Med?

[Most people said the Atlantic.]

Audience member: Would you wear it?

Sabine: My husband is wearing it, and therefore it is a perfume I associate with him.

The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet, Atkinsons

Notes: Heliotrope, tobacco, ginger, pepper, benzoin, labdanum.

Lila: The Oddfellows is a club that anyone can join. It’s pretty great. They have premises all over the country. It’s not a gentlemen’s club but it might have been at some point in the past.

Sabine: The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet is one of those fragrances that doesn’t change much.

Lila: It’s a bit masculine for me.

Audience member: It’s very tobacco-y.

Odd Fellow's Bouquet

Odd Fellow’s Bouquet ((c) Sabine)

Jicky Parfum, Guerlain

Notes: Lavender, bergamot, lemon, mandarin, rose, vetiver, patchouli, vanilla, amber, musk.

We know perfumes can change as they develop and I try to put that into my images. Jicky definitely develops over time so you might want to leave room in your picture for how it smells in 10-20 minutes time.

Noir Exquis, L’Artisan Parfumeur

Notes: Chestnut, orange, orange blossom, coffee, maple syrup, ebony, heliotrope, vanilla, tonka, sandalwood.

Lila: This is the latest release from L’Artisan.

Sabine: I looked on the Basenotes database and the number of perfumes with black in the name hugely outweighs white. I haven’t done an image for Noir Exquis but I would use just a little black. I’d mostly use toffee, caramel and beige.

Salome, Papillon Artisan Perfumes

Notes: Jasmine, carnation, bitter red orange, Turkish rose, orange blossom, tobacco, hyraceum, styrax, vanilla, hay, patchouli, bergamot, oakmoss, cumin, birch tar, castoreum.

Sabine: We’ve saved the best till last.

Lila: You won’t be able to smell anything else after this!

Sabine: I used a lot of red in my image. Not a rose red but a fleshy red. It was blurred on Facebook for a while because it was thought to look like female genitalia.

Lila: We’ll put all the Salome pictures together and share with Liz Moores of Papillon as she’s a friend and supporter of PLL.

Salome collage

It was a great evening and we were all engrossed in creating our own visual interpretations of the fragrances. It was interesting to see how different our impressions were. Most people saw vetiver as green or brown while I saw it as grey. Sabine’s husband and I saw Sel Marin as the Atlantic sea under a slate sky, while two other people on our table saw it as a blue sea and bright yellow sun.

When you’re trying to visualise the scent as colour it really makes you think and analyse the aroma in a different way. I found this fascinating and it has definitely added to the way I interact with fragrances.

Tara's Perfumes Visualization

Tara’s Perfumes Visualization

Many thanks to Lila and Sabine for such a novel, interactive evening and to Roulier White for supplying a couple of the bottles.


Please answer the question for Undina’s Entertaining Statistics post: What perfume do you most associate with a colour/colours, which one(s) and why?


Images by Tara and Sabina


36 thoughts on “Perfume and Colour, Perfume Lovers London – November 26th, 2015

  1. Wonderful post Tara, it sounded like you had loads of fun, and I love your images. I’m not sure I see perfumes in a few colours only the way Sabine does. I tried to put it the other way around and look at one of the pictures to see if a perfume would come to mind, but it didn’t really. I suppose I’m not an abstract visualiser :-)
    At the moment I’m testing a perfume called Sacre du Printemps by Yz Usac, and that one is a bright mossy green, but I think again I see the moss and oak barrels before narrowing it down to the colour, if you understand my point.
    Very, very interesting non the less, and always such fun to hear how other people perceive fragrances in new and interesting ways.
    Congrats Undina on landing the scoop that is Tara’s first guest post outside OT.


    • Ha! Thanks very much, Asali. It was a fun one so it’s nice that Undina was happy to post it.
      I hadn’t done any colouring/drawing since my youth and it’s amazing how absorbing it can be. I can see why you enjoy it so much, although having talent must help :)

      I know what you mean, it can be much easier to see a colour because you first visualise an ingredient a certain way or even because you’re influenced by the name/story. Smelling something “blind” would no doubt be a lot harder.


    • I couldn’t believe my luck! :) I know that Tara is welcome in many other “homes” so I was very pleased that she came by and with such a great story (and pictures).


  2. So nice to read your writing again Tara, and the whole area of colour and smell, or cross sensing as in synesthesia is very interesting. I often ‘see’ landscapes, inner or outer when smelling perfume. I fell in love all over again with OJ’s Woman, and I see different hues of dark and moss green, gold, and golden brown colours. And I see different colours depending on which wrist I smell, one is a fresher but still dark green, and the other is suede golden beige brown.
    Thank you for this post.


    • Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences, Hamamelis.
      How interesting that you see landscapes and that they differ from wrist to wrist! The whole subject is fascinating and I really enjoy hearing how people perceive fragrances visually.


  3. Oh wow, I am sorry I couldn’t go along to this – it sounds fascinating, and so stimulating for mind and senses alike. I once attended a Le Labo workshop where we had to pair scents with textures, but I would love to have a go with colour! Some of the work from the night would make nice tiles in fact.

    Interesting too that the Salome imagery was mostly a kind of mauve-y pink – it is very much brown in my mind, hehe. Agree that Sel Marin is an Atlantic kind of colouring.

    Good to read you again – I will keep an eye out to see where you land next!


  4. Happy to see you are writing again, Tara, as I enjoyed your articles on OT very much. Interesting to link colour and graphics to a fragrance and see how Everyone experiences a scent differently. This makes it even more clear how different we experience fragrance, by visualizing it. Thank you for sharing this! And Thank you Undina!


    • Thanks very much, Esperessence . Nice to see you here.
      You’re absolutely right – it does bring home just how subjective our sense of smell is.
      Is there a perfume that you associate with a colour/s?


      • Interesting question, Tara. I associate perfumes more with texture of materials or whole images. Nicolai Maharadjah is a fragrance I associate with orange, some blue, Brown as I link it to a painting. It is a nice exercise to do, to associate a perfume to one colour or more.


  5. Fantastic post, Tara, I’m so happy to see you here! I tend to associate perfumes with colours and images, leaning more towards images I guess. It was fascinating to read all the different colours people perceive from a certain perfume. By the way, in my mind, Salome is burgundy, yellow and gold, mainly. :)


    • Nice to see you, thinkingmagpie!
      I’m lucky Undina has provided me with temporary accommodation :)

      Salome is an opulent perfume so your colour choices sound very in keeping with the scent to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So pleased to read Tara’s writing again – thanks Undina. This was a great read. I see Salome as brown for fur too. Usually I see colours and images for perfume and often music as well – much more than the actual notes of the fragrance. Very interesting.


    • I appreciate you dropping by, Megan!

      I’ve never associated a fragrance with music, I’m quite jealous :)

      If there’s a particular perfume you see in colour please let us know for Undina’s poll.


  7. Nice post, Tara! I love the abstract visuals. I wonder how much the packaging of a perfume influences the color choices. For my perfume / color association, I pick Guerlain Cuir Beluga and picture it as a warm gold color, a cozy, embracing color.


    • Hi hajusuuri!
      I’m sure the packaging can have an affect.
      It’s interesting that you see Cuir Beluga as a warm gold. That’s not far off how I see it – a pale gold. I think LT described it in The Guide as something like a white suede sofa.


  8. Wonderful read. Very thought provoking. I most certainly see music with some perfumes. And lots of colours. Cannot wait for my debut PLL. ❤️


    • Hey CQ, I’m quite jealous of you guys who see art and hear music when smelling perfume.

      You know, I think Vero’s scents trigger colour associations for me more than any other’s. Kiki is a deep purple, Onda inky black,, Rubj shocking pink, Rozy brownish red and Mito green, white and pink.


    • Hi Undina,

      I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! So nice be able to share this fun and interesting evening here. I felt right at home ;)

      Looking forward to the stats post.


  9. Sel Marin sounds so fresh, free and gorgeous, I think I would feel divine if I smelled it!
    Also love the sound of Noir Exquis, which I can imagine smelling like authentic cafe romance…


    • Hi Neyon,
      It leans a tad masculine for me but Sel Marin is one terrific fragrance. Really evocative of cloudy, windswept coastlines as opposed to tropical beaches.
      Noir Exquis is coffee beans covered in maple syrup. “Authentic cafe romance” is a great description!
      Let us know if you associate any perfumes with colour.


  10. Hi Tara,
    thanks for this fascinating post,it got me thinking,I see colours when it comes to iris perfumes,like 28 La Pausa and shem el nessim are a grey blue,and a golden liquid with Slumberhouse Kiste,but with Salome I would find it hard to colour it,it is more a feeling,like touching a tiger’s back,there is sweat and opulent clothing like the robe King Herod would wear.


    • Hi Ariane,
      Many thanks for sharing the colour associations you get with those perfumes. I think iris and grey-blue is a combination that a lot of us share.
      “Like touching a tiger’s back” is a fabulous impression for Salome. I’ll tell Liz Moores – I know she’ll love that! The inspiration was fur and skin.


  11. OMG! I totally missed this Tara.
    What a wonderful piece and I love the idea. Definitely going to ask Sabine if I can borrow the idea.
    As always you make me feel as if I was there and you are jogging my memory about the things that happened.
    Portia xxx


    • You’re just in time, Portia! Do drop us a note on a perfume you associate with a colour for Undina’s poll, if you have a second.

      It makes me so happy to hear that you feel you were at the events from my write-ups. That’s a great compliment and I hope I can do your event justice in January.


      • I don’t really have much colour correlation. I’ll have a go. Shalimar would probably be blood red, orange and hot pink. Ambre 114 would be softest fawn and Liberte primrose yellow. CHANEL No 5 English Racing Green, Coco Lime Green and Aromatics Elixer Royal Blue and Silver Sparkles.
        Hope that helps,
        Portia xx


        • Wow, Portia, for someone who didn’t think they saw much of a connection between colour and scent you’ve come up with some fantastic associations there. Love them, especially No.5 as English Racing Green.

          Thanks for playing along.


  12. Pingback: Twelve Years But Not Full Circle – Undina's Looking Glass

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