Perfumes may make popular Valentine's Day gifts, but choosing the right fragrance can be tricky. What smells good to you may not get another excited and how a perfume diffuses on the skin can vary widely from person to person.
Fortunately, most good perfume brands and retailers know the importance of a fragrance profiling session. At least five retailers here offer such free services, where you and your loved one can be guided by a trained fragrance specialist to find The One.
What could be more romantic than the intimate act of sniffing seductive scents off each other's skin?
These services were initially created for individuals who wanted to find their own perfect scent. Multi-brand beauty boutique Escentials was one of the first to offer the service here in 2001. It currently stocks more than 200 fragrances from 18 brands.
Ms Cheryl Tan, brand manager of Escentials, says awareness of fragrance profiling has grown.
She declines to give specific figures but says the number of requests has increased by ten-fold compared with two years ago.
Chanel's Espace Parfums scent bar, at its boutique in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, offers hour-long sessions to help consumers find their perfect scent from the 53 juices available. The service was launched in 2010.
British perfume label Penhaligon's has also conducted fragrance profiling since the launch of its store in Ion Orchard in 2011.
In the last three months, the Guerlain and Parfums Christian Dior boutiques in the refurbished Tangs Beauty have also begun offering perfume consultations.
Urban road-tests the sessions at Penhaligon's, Guerlain and Parfums Christian Dior.
Get acquainted with the British brand and its range of 34 perfumes in a session which lasts about 45 minutes.
The consultations are usually done one-on-one but couples can have their fragrance profiling done at the same time.
During a session, you will be able to find out what kind of perfume suits you best and what your partner prefers you to smell like.
The review: My husband Alvin and I have busy schedules, so it was nice to sit down together to sniff our way through the Penhaligon's range to find our perfect scents.
I was looking for a beautiful and interesting floral perfume that was not too cloying. Alvin, who works in a bank, wanted a fragrance which would help him make a powerful impression in a corporate setting without being ostentatious.
We were assisted by Mr Michael-Brandan Ng, the marketing manager of Penhaligon's Singapore.
He started off by asking us about our first memories of smells and perfumes, the kind of scents we preferred and how we wear fragrances.
After I told him that musks give me a headache and that I prefer clean scents which are intriguing at the same time, Mr Ng singled out five perfumes without showing me the labels. I found my favourite, Lily Of The Valley, on the third blotter I sniffed.
"It is a fresh, clean and intellectual fragrance with some texture," Mr Ng said.
Once I sprayed it on my skin, I knew it was perfect, especially when Alvin said: "I can smell you in it."
When it came to his turn, he told Mr Ng his favourite Penhaligon's perfume is Opus 1870, an eau de toilette with top notes of black pepper and yuzu, a heart of cinnamon and incense, and a base of sandalwood and musk.
"Ah, the one that smells like freshly minted money," said Mr Ng.
After finding out that Alvin intends to wear the new perfume with a suit for a company function, Mr Ng whipped out Endymion, which is a fusion of citrus, spices and leather. It smelled fantastic on Alvin, who liked it too.
Mr Ng also shared useful insights on our natural odours that could help us zero in on perfumes that suit us.
He told Alvin: "You have deep, smoky notes in your natural scent and you wear vetiver and leather like a second skin."
My skin, on the other hand, apparently brings out the spicy notes in perfumes, which can overwhelm the other accords.
This was evident with the Orange Blossom Eau de Toilette, a fresh and citrusy scent laced with spices. On my skin, all I could smell was the cardamom accord. I made a mental note to stay away from such perfumes in future.
Mr Ng also said I wear white flower notes, such as geranium, well on my skin.
In all, it was a fun and informative experience. I imagine it would be a great way for a dating couple to find out more about each other.
(Right) Lily Of The Valley; Endymion ($153 for 50ml each)
Famous for its rich perfume-making history, the French brand recently brought in five exclusive fragrance lines, which were previously sold only in some of its boutiques overseas, such as its flagship store in Champs-Elysees in Paris.
The lines are Les Parisiennes and Les Parisiens (five women's and four men's fragrances from Guerlain's archives dating from 1929); L'Art Et La Matiere (eight scents based on ingredients such as gardenia and tonka); Les Elixirs Charnels (a range of five floral and feminine scents); and One City One Fragrance (five scents in honour of cities such as Moscow and Shanghai).
This brings the total to more than 50 perfumes available at the brand's Tangs Beauty boutique.
Its complimentary consultation session, where you can learn more about the fragrances and find the perfect one for you, lasts at least 30minutes.
Although the brand conducts only one-on-one profiling sessions, you can arrange to have yours done with your partner in back-to-back time slots. To book, call 6733-3270 three days in advance.
The review: My fragrance profiling session was done with one of the brand's top perfume experts. Ms Sylvaine Delacourte, the fragrance evaluation and development director of Guerlain, who was in town to attend the official opening of the boutique at Tangs Beauty last Friday.
Ms Delacourte has spent the last 30 years at Guerlain, first at its cosmetics division and, later, in the perfumes section where she coached perfumers to create hits such as Champs-Elysees, L'Instant de Guerlain and Insolence.
The fragrance veteran will not be available for regular profiling sessions, but she assured me the two Singapore fragrance specialists at the boutique, whom she trained in Paris, are more than up to the task.
She started the session by showing me a digital mood board where I pointed out visual representations of my favourite accords: fresh white flowers, cut grass and powdered cosmetics.
She then went on to ask me specific questions about my relationship with scents: my first memory of perfumes, how the favourite part of my house smells like and my favourite desserts, teas and alcoholic drinks. Next, she had me smell small bottles of raw notes to confirm that my preferences were consistent.
She concluded that I love chypre-floral and chypre-woody scents. Chypres are built on a blend of citrus, floral and musky (such as oak moss and patchouli) accords.
Then, with the flourish of a magician, she sprayed three different scents on large filters used by perfumers to get "the true smell of the perfume" and had me sniff them after they had settled.
Ms Delacourte was spot on. All three were scents which I would wear and they smelled wonderful on my skin.
Floral Romantique, a sensual and floral perfume for regular days; Chypre Fatal, a heady blend of white peach, rose and patchouli for occasions when I want to impress; and the light, green tea-based Tokyo for days "in between".
In just half an hour, Ms Delacourte had created a fragrance wardrobe for me.
She summed up the essence of Guerlain perfumes: "They are not accessories or above you. The right one touches your heart. It is your signature and it leaves a trace of you in the memory of others," she said.
In my opinion, a perfume profiling session and a bottle of perfume from Guerlain would make a great Valentine's Day gift.
(Right) Tokyo 03 EDP ($298 for 100ml); Chypre Fatal EDP ($358 for 75ml); Floral Romantique ($358 for 75ml)
PARFUMS CHRISTIAN DIOR
In November, the brand launched its premium LaCollection Privee line of perfumes at Tangs Beauty to expand its line of perfume offerings here.
The 12 scents were created by Mr Francois Demachy, the brand's perfumer-creator. He is also the director of olfactory development of fragrances at the perfumes and cosmetics division of the Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton group.
The line was launched in 2010, and each of the 12 juices gives insights into the history of Christian Dior. The 12 scents bring the total number of perfumes at the store to 41.
With the new offerings, the brand also introduced a free 45-minute consultation at Tangs Beauty which aims to help consumers find their favourite juice from the entire range. Couples can also get their fragrance profiling done together.
Call 6738-6618 to make an appointment three days in advance.
The review: I did this consultation without my husband and was assisted by MsKelly Leng, the fragrance specialist at Parfums Christian Dior. She sat me down next to a tray of small perfume vials which represented the entire line.
To find out more about my preferences, she asked me about the notes I love (fresh and heady florals), the kinds of perfumes I usually like (interesting and unique) and whether I prefer my perfumes bold or discreet (discreet). I also told her I wanted a perfume that would turn heads and make me smell mysterious.
Armed with this information, she presented me with blotters dipped in three of the small vials of perfumes on the tray. Ms Leng got two out of the three scents right. I loved the intense and sensual J'Adore L'Absolu; while the interesting and seductive scent of Ambre Nuit, which is made with fossilised secretions from the sperm whale, intrigued me.
But the third scent that she chose, Eau Noire, which is based on lavender, smelled medicinal to me.
Finally, we decided on Ambre Nuit because it smells best on my skin and has uncommon accords.
For an everyday scent, Ms Leng took me through the evolution of the Miss Dior range; from the original Miss Dior chypre created in 1947, to the latest sweet and fruity version of it, Miss Dior Le Parfum, which was launched last year.
I liked them all and was impressed with the history of the fragrance; but as I could not pick a favourite, I decided to revisit the range the next time.
I also liked the educational value of the session: I was given the chance to sniff through the vials of raw notes - vetiver from Haiti and jasmine from Grasse in France - which make up the iconic scents at Parfums Christian Dior.
The session is perfect for couples who want a deeper understanding of the brand's perfumes.
(Right) Ambre Nuit ($285 for 125ml); J'Adore L'Absolu ($186 for 50ml)
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