How To Pick the Perfect Perfume

Recently, I decided I needed to find “my fragrance.” I’ve never been much of a perfume hound, passing by fragrance walls and beauty counters with the olfactory equivalent of holidng your hands over your ears and singing “la la la la la!” It’s not that I didn’t want to wear…

Recently, I decided I needed to find “my fragrance.” I’ve never been much of a perfume hound, passing by fragrance walls and beauty counters with the olfactory equivalent of holidng your hands over your ears and singing “la la la la la!” It’s not that I didn’t want to wear perfume, I just had no idea where to begin to find one that smelled good on me.

As it turned out, my spirit guide to the world of scent was right here in the Avenue Magazine offices all along. Style and beauty editor Ricky Zayshley is something of a guru at finding the perfect perfume and he offered to lend me his expertise.

The Questionnaire

To start things off, Ricky had me fill out a brief questionnaire to help him assess my fragrance profile. Here are my answers:

1. What is your goal when it comes to finding a fragrance?
I want to enhance my physical presence in the same way that I use cosmetics to enhance my features, or wear clothes to express my personal sense of style.

2. Where and when will you wear this fragrance?
I’d like something to wear consistently, for both casual and fancy dress occasions.

3. What are some fragrances you’ve worn in the past? Why don’t you wear them any more?
I’ve honestly never really worn fragrance and have shied away from purchasing it. I find buying fragrance very intimidating. The good ones are really expensive and I don’t want to drop a bunch of money on something I end up hating. I’ve always ripped out scent inserts from magazines and discarded them so I could just get on with reading the articles. I’m not one to loiter in the fragrance aisles of airport duty free stores, even when I have a long layover to kill. I guess you could say perfume has never been my thing.

4. Do you associate good memories with fragrances? If so, explain.
I like how certain fragrances remind you of certain people. My dad is a longtime user of “Aqua Velva.” It’s probably the worst-smelling aftershave ever, but I like it because it reminds me of my dad.

5. What are some of your favourite scents? (This can be anything from vanilla and apples, to gasoline and lead pencils).
I like citrusy scents like lemon, grapefruit, lemon verbena, also vanilla, cream soda, lilacs, jasmine, fresh herbs, the ocean, the way your skin smells when you’ve been out in the sun all day and you go to bed without washing off the sunscreen, fresh laundry, babies heads after they have a bath, salted caramel and wet pavement after it rains.

6. What are some scents that you find revolting?
New plastic shower curtains, bottle depots, newly-installed industrial office carpet, paint, kerosene, horse manure, burnt hair, barf.

7. Are you open to wearing a classic scents? Or, do you see yourself wearing something new, or recently formulated?
I love the idea of wearing a classic scent like Chanel No. 5 , but only if it’s right for me. I’m currently reading Anais Nin’s “Henry and June” and I love the whole smouldering Parisian femme fatale thing she has going on, but I know deep inside I’m more of a boho rock ‘n’ roll beach baby at heart.

Finding My Fragrance

For our fragrance-finding mission, Ricky and I headed to Chinook Centre, where we could peruse the perfume wall at Sephora and hit up the beauty counters at Hudson’s Bay. Before we did anything, however, we paid a visit to Phil and Sebastian. Yes, we were both in the mood for lattes, but there was another motivation behind our pit-stop – coffee is a proven palate-cleanser when it comes to scents, so we acquired from the barista a small cup of coffee beans to sniff in between the various fragrance samplings.

The Top Picks

Honing in on my prediection for a fresh, beachy scent, Ricky steered me in the direction of the violet top-notes in Balenciaga Paris and Marc Jacobs Daisy.

We also played around with Bobbi Brown Beach, a more literal interpretation of my stated preferences for beachy scents (it smells exactly like Coppertone suntan oil). While I do absolutely love that smell, I was more inclined toward the Balenciaga or Marc Jacobs options. Both are scent equivalents of the “little black dress” while the Bobbi Brown is a bit of a costume outfit – fun to wear out every now and then, but not really an “every-occasion” choice.

At the Bay, we visited the Estee Lauder counter in the hope that we might be able to find the elusive Bronze Goddess, a warm, seasonal scent that’s so in demand you have to special order it in the spring. While we didn’t find the goddess, Estee Lauder’s Sensuous Nude turned out to smell as sexy as its moniker suggests.

Ricky also had me dabbling with a couple of classic scents, specifically Guerlain’s sensual Shalimar and Lancome’s Tresor, both of which appealed to my vintage sensibilities.

In the end, however, I went with the little black dress – Balenciaga Paris. It’s fresh, fun, boho-beachy and urban-chic all at the same time. I’d like to think it smells like me.

Want Ricky’s suggestions on which fragrances might be right for you? Complete the questionnaire above with your own answers and e-mail him at

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