Portia’s Favourite Notes

Hi there crew, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what notes draw me to fragrance. The ones that seem to give me a particularly swoony head rush as well as nostrilgasms. Though there is very little in the perfumed world that I actively dislike there are some favourites. Especially when they are done well or treated in a new way that piques may interest. Some of them I keep buying even though there are already three, four or ten in the collection almost exactly the same. Yes, I know, TRAGIC! I can’t help it though. If I get a super swoony rush the chances are my credit card is out and burned before I can even get my thoughts together enough to say, “Sorry, I already have five almost exactly the same.” Please tell me some of you are just as impulsive and ridiculous..

Portia’s Favourite Notes (Today!)


I think amber is the best represented not in my collection. On it’s own I already find it sensational, don’t need to add a thing. The accord is so varied and almost every iteration of it has caught me in its snare. Give it a few extra bells & whistles and take my money. So much so that I’m having to get really tough with myself. Nowadays when I smell a new amber it has to be something extremely unusual or perfectly produced for me to go bananas. NO, that was a lie. I still go for it but then I have to rein myself in.
Favourites include L’Eau d’Ambre by L’Artisan, Ambre Ceruleen by Huitieme Art, Ambre Russe by Parfum d’Empire, Ambre 114 by Histories de Parfum, Mitzah by DIOR, Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens, Tiger’s Nest Memo Paris, Oriental Lounge by The Different Company, 24-09-11 by Hilde Soliani, Rima XI by Carner Barcelona, and Ambre Narguile by Hermès. I know I’m going to be pissed at how many I left off this list but seriously, it’s ridiculous how many bottles are here that are amber rich.


Narcissus crept up on me. While always loving it in the garden I didn’t really think about narcissus, or its place in perfumery, till I got hold of a decant of CB I Hate Perfume’s Narcissus Absolute. Suddenly I could tell when fragrances has a bit, or a lot. most of them keep it fairly well hidden as a back up singer, hiding among the bouquet. That’s a shame because the few that go all out are freaking stunning.
A couple I love are Jardins de Bagatelle by Guerlain (wearing it to write this!), Ostara by Penhaligon’s, Le Temps d’une Fête by Parfums de Nicolai, Infini by Caron, Narcisse by Chloé, and Volupté by Oscar de la Renta. There are so many others but these are the only bottles in my collection that I can think of.


Salt is a new love but one that I’m embracing. Actually, I think that’s not exactly true. I’ve long loved salt in fragrance but didn’t really know it until lately. It adds so much, like it does in food. Salt can be seaside, sweat, food, blood, driftwood, tears, skin, and so much more.
Gucci Bloom Acqua di Fiori, Couleur Vanille (large decant) and Batucada by L’Artisan, Eden-Roc by DIOR (large decant), Greg Lauren Barneys New York (still desperately searching for a bottle of this), Vanille Marine by M. Micallef, and though they never call themselves salted I always associate the L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme fragrances with sea water.


Sandalwood seems to be ubiquitous. Indian Mysore, Australian, the replicants and something else grown I can’t remember. Having been introduced to it in Samsara while squirt bitching for Guerlain in the late 1980s, that hugely dramatic diva stole my heart and I bought it for Mum who wore it so well. Then in the early 2000s in India I was taken to a famous perfume wallah in Janpath Market in New Delhi. The sandalwood in the oils blew my mind. 
My most used. Samsara, Santal Royal and Mahora by Guerlain, Santal+++ by Miller et Bertaux, Santal Majuscule and Santal Blanc by Serge Lutens, Ashoka by Neela Vermeire Creation (Yes, I know sandalwood is secondary but it’s definitely part of why it’s so beautiful), Santal Noir by Dior, Adam Levine for Women, Dama Koupa by Baruti, Babylon by Penhaligon’s (sample, WANT a bottle so badly!) and Santal Massoïa by Hermès.

Tropical Floral

OK, so I know this is a style. Yes, it’s not a note. There is something so alluring about this genre though and if it’s done even half way good I’m a sucker for it. As kids our family spent a lot of summer time on beach or island vacations, plus we had a pool.  So those creamy floral, vanilla, coconut, ozonics make my heart skip a beat and quite often my eyes roll back in my head.
Songes and Un Matin d’Orage by Annick Goutal, Un Jour d’Ete by Keiko Mecheri, Lys Soleia by Guerlain, Rahel by Neela Vermeire Creations, Dune and Grand Bal by Dior, l’esprit libre by Divine, Saskia and Queen of the Night by Grandiflora, Elle L’aime by Lolita Lempicka, Sun by Jin Sander and even on the borderline, Ysatis by Givenchy.


So there you have it. I have surprised myself. These were not the 5 notes I was expecting to write about when I first sat down. This article has been banging around me head for a long while. If I’d gone Top Ten then I think lavender, incense, vanilla, rose and aquatic would have been the next 5. GAH! Then I’ve left out things like cedar, patchouli, oud, jasmine, cardamom, basil, galbanum, oakmoss, aldehydes, geranium, leather, osmanthus, violet, pepper or tea.

So how about you tell me your 5 faves. Don’t worry, it’s only for today.
The ones that make you swoon and reach for the credit card every time.

Portia xx


66 thoughts on “Portia’s Favourite Notes

  1. I’ve always loved the scent of narcissus but had no idea it was in some of my favourites like Infini, Volupte and Jardins de Bagatelle. The sandalwood in Samsara (original) bewitched me and I haven’t found any other sandalwood fragrance as attractive.

    Rose, jasmine and iris notes usually captivate me, and am constantly amazed at how perfumes containing these notes can smell so very different from each other, duh! – the older I get, the more I realise there is to learn, and I now know that it is not always the solo player but the whole symphony that appeals.

    I think that these days I am not so note-driven and just want something that smells good, although for some reason I am suddenly yearning for peach and am enjoying vintage Yvresse and Parfum de Therese.

    You know what? We are truly Perfume Junkies – Australian and others!


    • HA! Jillie, you’ve hit the nail on the head. We are Perfume Junkies.
      One of the best addictions of my life. It also comes with a plethora of beautiful, interesting, creative and slightly bent people from all over the world.
      Yes! I too find myself amazed at the range a single note can be made to play depending on its companion notes and the perfumer. That may be why we are so drawn to perfume. Our loves are shown in a new way each time.
      PEACH! There are some super peaches. PdT is so gorgeous. YUM!
      Portia xx


  2. As you’ve just demonstrated, it’s too hard to choose!
    For me it’s fig, rose (with blackcurrant or raspberry), osmanthus, tea, and leather (yes, I know those last 3 are usually related). I’ve also met perfumes with those notes that I didn’t like and perfumes with notes I don’t like that won me over. So it really is the whole that decides.


  3. I was nodding along at your choices until I got to Saskia, Grandiflora. What is that? I have never heard of it and I thought I was familiar with all the Grandifloras. My favorite five are very seasonal and I’m in that transition period now, changing from summer florals to autumn spices. Like you, I love amber and it is one of those notes that always smells good on my skin. Or maybe it smells good on everyone, and I flatter myself! And I like your Tropical Floral category: definitely one of my favorites.
    During summer my favorite categories were: jasmines (have many and love them all, except Alien), stealing your Tropical Floral category, salty figs, old style roses like Paris, and perfumes with green notes. Soon that list will totally turn upside down.


    • Hey Cynthia,
      Saskia is the latest release in the Grandiflora range. Wait to you smell it. An all encompassing dewy, sensual, tropical white floral with a wonderful open, heart and base. We are swooning for it in droves here in OZ.
      YAY for an amber snap. It’s popular but definitely doesn’t work for or on everyone. Are you a fan of Pierre Guillaume? I think he has an incredibly deft hand with amber and resins.
      Salty figs! Sign me up.
      Portia x


  4. For me it’s unquestionably Amber as my #1 favorite. But I also love sandalwood, spices (especially cardamom), fig, and Neroli. 10 years ago I would have said vanilla as well – still love it for comfort scents.


    • Hey MMKinPA,
      The world of perfumery spices is so vast and glorious. We are so lucky to live now when perfumery has all the ingredients at its fingertips. I know IFRA has put a damper on some things but for those I go find small batch, fearless, Indie perfumers.
      Vanilla is so beautiful but i felt like it was incorporated into amber so got a three shot for one.
      Portia xx


  5. I loved this post, Portia-I love it when people share their loves :) I think citrus might be my favourite-wearing Eau de Hadrien EDT today. I love Chanel EDC, and all the Annick Goutal citruses. After that rose is well represented in my collection – Galop and Calypso 9why doesn’t that beautiful rose chypre get more love?) I love your amber choices, Portia, but amber tends to wear me, if you know what I mean.


  6. I share some of my favourite notes today with you. I’ll add tuberose, lily and soft glove or handbag leather. And patchouli, must have patchouli. A hard snap on Samsara, Mahora, Songes and Gucci Bloom, though my one isn’t the salty variety.


    • WOW! It’s old home week! Nice to see you here too PL67.
      Iris! Wow! Love that it’s your #1. Iris is beautiful, and I have a few here, but a couple of my friends find it totally unwearable. Scotty complains of it smelling like bread dough the whole time unless it’s been whipped into line by its attendant notes like in CHANEL No 19 or Silences.
      Lilac will always be the smell of walking through Paris gardens in spring with my buddy Francesca. We just walked up to the shrubs and put our heads in. It was heaven.
      Portia xx


  7. Iris, jasmine, resins/incense, violet, vanilla/gourmand notes. Hell, I love just about everything except for green scents. Aquatic/ozonic is a bit touchy. But pretty much anything goes if it’s well blended.

    As you know I am a fellow Mitzah fan. :-)


  8. Rose (although I’ve been burnt so many times before!), leather, plum, lavender and tobacco (no booze with it, please :D). If there were a perfume that smells like this, I’d shell out in a heartbeat


  9. Portia,

    I think I like all your choices (in notes, though not all the perfumes you listed). But let me come up with my list of 5 (I did a list of 7, I think, for my blog’s seventh anniversary, but I won’t check now before I write my today’s choices:
    Linden, iris, mimosa, amber, galbanum. But I wouldn’t want to limit myself with just those, of course :) So, if I absolutely have to, I’ll choose perfume where just one of these 5 is present – and other notes in those perfumes should cover my other favorites ;)


  10. Hey Portia! I love your qualification of your favorite notes TODAY. Mine are: iris, honey, vanilla, amber and tobacco. I can see liking rose but just as a few people mentioned vanilla turning on them, rose could smell like sweaty feet to me 🤷🏻‍♀️.


  11. Portia, i think you should continue this series with your next five favorite notes and associated fragrances! I’m all about gourmands so our Venn diagrams have not overlapped in this discussion but I’m interested to hear your fragrance loves if/when they do! :)


  12. Love your picks Portia. My favourite notes today would be incense (Messe de minuit, Sideris, Casbah, Timbuktu, Bois d’encens, Mortel, memior, Fate), tobacco (Fumerie Turque, Montecristo), leather (Cuir Mona di Orio, Hyde, Tabac blonde, Cuir fetiche, Cuir ottoman), iris (Iris de nuit, Iris silver mist, Dzongkha, Iris shot,Heure exquisr) and amber (Ambre fetiche, Mitzah, LADDM, Ambra aurea, Benjoin boheme, Bois d’armenie). And spices, I love spices in perfume.

    I did love jasmine and orange blossom as well, but lately I can’t bring myself to wearing these notes. Probably something to do with my crazy hormones being pregnant.


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