Layering Fragrances

Hey, everybody! Theoretically I am in Bangkok today, and if I can figure out what time it is, and what day it is, I’ll be responding to comments.

We got a question recently about layering fragrances — what are some of our favorite scent combinations? Any recommendations on approach? Etc.

I think Lee and I both responded that we tend to layer scents by accident (this is what happens when you sample six or more fragrances a day). I don’t layer much on purpose. But I know a lot of you do, and over the course of the last year you’ve left many, many individual comments about layering on different posts.

Today I’m inviting you to list your favorite layering combinations of fragrances, so they’ll all be in one place, as well as any advice you have on the topic. And any questions — you all are great at carrying on conversational threads!

My two cents (scents? har):

Fendi Theorema layered with Donna Karan Chaos. Off the top of my head, this is the only layering combo I can think of that I do fairly regularly (albeit in winter.) Regular readers know that Theorema and Chaos are two of my favorite fragrances. Theorema’s base has a Chaos-like note, and the two of them together is every bit as stunning as they are individually.

CB Musk Reinvention with your favorite jasmine. The skank of CB Musk + the indoles of jasmine = nirvana. Would probably work great with any big white floral fragrance.

All-purpose fragrance improver — if I’m bored, if it’s insipid, if it’s fading, if it needs more base — a spritz of L’Artisan’s Passage d’Enfer fixes many, many fragrances.

Okay — your turn!

About the photos: remember awhile back I wrote about my marathon wrestling match to get the Summer Wine climbing roses I’d planted trellised to the back of the house before they ate the children and the dog? Here’s what they look like this summer; it’s hard to tell from the photo but the top of the roses are about 12 feet off the ground. That’s my lavender just getting ready to bloom under the roses, and my oenothera (evening primrose) blooming pink all across the bottom. Not bad for a three year-old flower bed, eh?

  • Bianca says:

    Bangkok is amazing!! There is an incredible restaurant that is basically a bunch of wooden platforms and sheltered Gazebos on a pond/lake/some kind of water body. I wonder if it still exists. They had the most exquisite seafood.

    Passage is genius. This summer I’ve been inadvertently layering everything w/ the EL Azuree body oil. My fav night out combination is 2-3 dots of Khiels’ Musk oil + Le Labo’s Rose perfume. People (men mostly) always rave about it.

  • Emotenote says:

    1. I am harboring deep resentment over your travels…
    2. Wow! Your garden is dreamy; amazing; must smell wonderful. I want to grow up to be you.
    3. I would put passage d’enfar on my food if I thought it would work.
    4. I really like layering some of the oudish Rosines with some incenses. The make a nice rich combo but I can’t think of any off the top of my head, I just sort of try them out.

  • Rob says:

    I’m not one who prefers to layer, though at times I know that some scents need a little “more”, but what I like to do if I have a whole day at home I like to “top off”, start up another scent where another leaves off…common notes, but respectably different scents.

    For example, I’ll start off with Vol de Nuit, and when it finally dries down to a sigh, I top off with something like Jicky, then Shalimar or Caron Pour Un Homme.

    The only layerings of scents which I’ve found to be good from the scents I own is layering an Arabic perfume attar which contains rose, saffron, geranium, amber and a faint whisper of oudh, basically a spicy-earthy-green rose scent, and punching up the amber with L’Occitane’s Ambre–I’m walking all day with my wrist to my nose!

  • Devon says:

    March that porch is truly beautiful. I love porches. As far as layering: I like Eau de Hadrian w/Eau de Charlotte. Jalaine Vetiver and Amber, Jalaine Patch and Vanilla.

    I have eaten durian. Not in a long time. Smells really bad but tastes great. What else is like that?


    • Rob says:

      Durian would be an interesting skank note wouldn’t it? Kinda sulfurous with a sweet melon like undertone. LOL!

  • March says:

    It is completely insane and I am having such a wonderful time\:d/
    Got together with Noy today, smelled the Givaudans, will try to get a blog post together about it for Monday, we go to Phuket tomorrow, I should have time to put it together on Sunday!

    Still having random computer problems and difficulty loading the site at the internet cafe, so the comment replies are a little spotty.

  • pyramus says:

    I will never stop singing the praises of MPG’s Ambre Precieux, which is not only a spectacular scent but which also gives base notes to any scent deficient in them. A tiny smudge of AP under Patou’s Joy turns it into an entirely different scent–warm, resonant, sensuous. (The amber seems to open up the rose.) It also sits amazingly well under light summery scents such as Eau D’Hadrien and Guerlain’s Herba Fresca. Really. And, obviously, it boosts the longevity of oriental scents to a ridiculous degree.

  • The garden looks exactly like I would imagine you would create–airy, green, and rich with roses and lavender.
    In the heat and humidity, I like Ananas Fizz body creme, topped with either Virgin Island Water or (kinda like this better) Maharani. The creme feels cold, and either scent is wonderful with it. Maharani does something really weird in the heat and humidity–it smells different a foot away than closer to the skin. Maybe the creme?
    Also, L’Occitane has a Verbena/Citrus cream that’s new. It’s a bitter lemon and doesn’t last long, but with Maharani, it adds to both. Have a wonderful time with the Durian. It only smells bad, really. I imagined you would love the skank. It tastes wonderful. Bring it over here, you bad girl in leather boots, and let me split it open for you. . .

    • March says:

      Ooooh, I love the idea of the VIW and the Maharani! That sounds delicious.

      PS The Cheese refers to my gardening style as “that’s really messy.” I keep telling him it’s a legit English garden![-(

  • Mike P says:

    I mean, ‘we are in the minority’.

  • katia says:

    Hello there !

    Well, I use to layer tabac or leather-like scents over a cheap, not strong (and fav) vanilla body lotion. Smells great !

    • katia says:

      Sorry, I meant not thick (not “not strong”- I can’t figure why I did write “strong”).

  • Patty says:

    I always wind up with random layering combos only because I start dotting or spritzing something here and there until I smell like a perfume shop until I take a shower.

    I want to move into your back porch… heaven

    how’s Thailand?

  • pitbull friend says:

    Uh oh. I posted some durian info, with websites, to March’s note above, and my comment is now “awaiting moderation.” Can someone moderate me? –Ellen

  • CH says:

    Eau de Galliano, with it’s smoky beauty, layers well over vanilla. Normally I am not a vanilla lover, but these two go together well for some reason.

    Another layering favorite of mine is Caron’s Tabac Blonde with something rose-like (Rose Poivree, for example.)

  • CH says:

    What a lovely yard! Love the back porch, too. I just bought a home, a new one. What it lacks is something to add character. My goal is to add an enclosed patio (when I see the financial light of day). In the meantime, I will be adding lots of flowers. I have many potted plants (veggies and flowers) on my apartment patio and I hope they make a safe transition to the new place.@};-@};-@};-@};-@};-@};-@};-@};-@};-@};-@};-@};-

  • Melissa says:

    Ooooh, I envy that porch! It would be like a vacation every day to sit out there and see/smell the beeeutiful flowers.

    I’m pretty new to all of this, but I will say that I had a very sucessful layering experience with SL Fumerie Turque and Fleurs d’oranger. The FT gave that cumin in the Fd’O somewhere to go and the result was very nice. During the evening I was wearing that combo my husband and my teenaged daughter felt the need to lean over and give my neck a big sniff with a “mmmmmmm”.

    On a totally different subject–After reading all the great reviews on Worth Courtesan I broke down and ordered some (from some place in Scotland, no less–but it was cheaper than Harrods.) I like it very much–there is something in the sweet/saltyness of it that makes me keep humming that Marcy Playground song “I smell sex and candy”. . .

  • James Dotson says:

    You should do a whole week devoted to layering. Count me in. My philosophy is that you should have fun and be bold until you find something that really clicks into place. Though my general rules are to layer by similar types, like leather with leather, or woods with woods. And, yes, animalic musky civet things can really punch up a familiar scent.
    Recent layering: Caron Tabac Blond with Fumerie Turque… this was super darkness that kept getting better by the hour.

    • Maria says:

      James, I thought the Tabac Blond and Fumerie Turque combination sounded wonderful. When I went to apply the TB, I grabbed a mislabled bottle of En Avion. I’m happy to report the FT makes En Avion more my kind of thing. I *will* try out that African Stone Tincture someday–I’m sure. 🙂

  • delizt says:

    First thing I did was scroll to the bottom to see where that pic came form!!! Echoing all the raves, you certainly DO have a stunning garden and I could live on that porch…

    I am new to layering, so I am reading all the combos with interest!!!

  • arhianrad says:

    March! I can’t believe you’re blogging from Bangkok! How does it smell over there? Lots of street smells, I would imagine…tell us, tell us!!!!

    Anywho, I like to layer Etro Ambra with Annick Goutal Neroli. BEAUTIFUL. And Burning Leaves with just about anything, really…

  • chayaruchama says:

    Hey, baby !
    I wanna smell that durian, WITH the flies.
    And I promise to be your willing slavey, if I get to sit on your verandah…
    I can smell it now.

    I layer lots.

    TF Amber Absolute w/ Velvet Gardenia, AA w/ MB,
    A-L Midnight Violet w/ Rykiel Woman
    AL Moss w/ La Haie Fleurie
    Al Silk w/ ANYTHING !
    AL Royal Parvati w/ Palisander
    SL Ambre Sultan w/ Chypre Rouge
    AL Kretek w/ Poivre

    etc .

    • arhianrad says:

      Ida, that durian is FOUL. No, seriously. LOL.

      occasionally, when I was younger, my dad would eat various durian-based desserts available frozen at the food mart.

      Umm. Yeah. I stayed away. lol.

  • Billy says:

    I love to layer my two favorite Hermessence scents, Poivre Sacarmand and Paprika Brasil. The sweet aspects of PB are tempered by the heady spiciness of PS, giving me a perfect, beautiful balanced scent. Although I also am quite in the minority by liking PB on its own, I would imagine that the pepper in PS gives PB that added oomph many thought was missing.

    Anyone have any suggestions of single scents that mix Iris and pepper well? Maybe it only works with these two scents layered together, but I’m always interested to hear other’s opinions.

    • Mike P says:

      Billy I think this sounds lovely – I’m gonna try this tomorrow.

      I also love Paprika Brasil solo (yes, we’re in the majority) but then I kinda admire all of those strange/minimal JC Ellena creations (Angeliques Sous la Pluie, L’Eau d’Hiver, Concentree Bigarade, etc..)

      Actually, I find another scent that layers universally well, is Dirt by Demeter.

  • Judith says:

    Adding to the ooohs and aaaahs about your garden.

    Layering–the Marina special (MdM and Yatagan) is great, and as Elle, says, these 2 go well with most others. I recently REALLY enjoyed MdM and Dark Rose. Like Justine, I really like MKK with many things, particularly roses. And like you and Tom, I love CB Musk layerings (I made one with Lonestar Mems and KJ which was to die for):) A la Nuit goes nicely with woods (Santal Blanc, for example). MH Vetiver Bourbon and Geranium Bourbon. And then there’s one that I created by accident in Barneys that everyone said smelled great on me: L’Artisan Vetiver and L’ete en Douce.

    Enjoy your trip!

  • gray says:

    CB Musk with Fleurs D’Narcisse or MKK. Those are my two favorite.

  • Anne says:

    March, I keep scrolling back up to those pics, brings a smile to my face every time.

    My layering happens by accident usually. You know, the too many samples, not enough skin issue. But recently after I sprayed some Coup, I was feelin’ I needed a little sumpin’ sumpin’ with it so I added Theorema. I’ve gone back to it several times. I have a bottle of Chaos so I can’t wait to try your Theo-Chaos idea.

    I usually layer the scents next to each other, though. I’ve always had this feeling that putting them on top of each other changes the development of each (could make it interesting though). My nose is nowhere near sophisticated enough to know if that’s true, its just an idea that has stuck in my head.

    (Scrolling back up again) Can I come sit on your porch steps? Just for a few minutes, won’t bother anyone, I promise!

  • Elle says:

    I couldn’t even read the post before scrolling down to find out where those photos were from. I’m in awe. Incredibly inviting, serene and just flat out stunning.
    Not sure I can even think about perfume layering since I’m pretty much just focused on plant layering right now, but a few of my faves are CB’s Tea/Rose w/ his Hay accord, Goldmund w/ Bois de Paradis, 10CC w/ George Sand, Santal Noble w/ Eau Pour le Jeune Homme or Secret Melange, Rose Barbare and CB’s Musk (another CB Musk slut here and I honestly layer it w/ almost everything), Opium and Poivre Samarcande, MKK and Cabochard (vintage parfum), Mechant Loup and Ambre Extreme, CB Pipe Tobacco and Caron Rose, Tam Dao and CB Violet Empire, Bois d’Encens and MPG Rose Opulente and, thanks to Marina, I layer Messe de Minuit and Yatagan w/ each other or w/ half of my perfumes now.
    Back to thinking about plant layering.

    • March says:

      Hey, Elle — not sure if the comments will work, fussy machine here, those are great layering suggestions! Thanks for the compliments.

  • Louise says:

    Love those flowers-the pic just sent me back to my summers of teen years during which my mom shipped me away to my favorite aunt outside Boston (for mom’s own protection, of course). Aunt Sally had the most amazing garden, carefully tended to look a bit wild, as was Sally. She and the garden hold memories of pure beauty for me. Thanks.

    I am mostly an accidental layerer, too, but recently acquired CB musk under your evil tutelage. I have layered it with all things sweet and/or flower, with great success. Also-I sometime through on Vanille Noir de Mexique, spray or lotion, under anything at all-it just adds a touch of incense.

    Happy Trails-and toss whatever is stinkin’ in your bag!

    • Louise says:

      Throw, not Through! Bad brain, bad!

    • Maria says:

      Beware! Never try layering Christiane Celle Calypso Chevrefeuille with CB Musk! I tried that last night after reading March’s recommendation of CB Musk with jasmine. (Yes, I’m aware “chevrefeuille” means “honeysuckle,” but they’re both white flowers.) Well, the result was :-& . I think I’m just not a CB Musk kind of gal.

  • March says:

    I’ll take your word on the Rien!!! It was wretched on me.

    Oh, I love things that have absorbed a lot of smells. I have a couple of sweaters like that, and a particular coat. They make me smile every time I wear them. Also my mother-in-law’s fur coat smells just like her, I like to bury my face in it. I will be sad when that smell is gone.

  • Silvia says:

    I don’t layer intentionally either: insecurity, purism, who knows. Best layering accident was at the Miller Harris counter: Eau de Rien (which is nasty on me on its own) with Noix de Tubereuse. So, so good.
    My regular watch broke a while ago, so have been wearing one with a leather strap, which has absorbed my daily spraying for weeks: it smells divine. Guess that’s uber-layering…
    Happy holiday !

    • March says:

      Whoops! Improper thread — see my response below:”>

      • Louise says:

        Silvia, thanks for noting that leather watch strap issue-I am now careful to wear a metal band when sniffing, though I love smelling the fragrances clinging to leather-especially those which my skin ate quickly.

  • Mimmimmim says:

    A La Nuit with Nuit Noir – lots of NN and a little bit of ALN. I did it by accident, but it worked so well I’d do it on purpose in future. I like the little fresh burst of jasmine through the heavy woodiness of the NN, like a little beam of bright sunlight coming through.

    • March says:

      That combo sounds delicious!

      Ruh roh. You know what? My durian bag is drawing FLIES. Also odd stares from other people here …:-“

      • pitbull friend says:

        Be careful, gal! You may be involved in illegal durian transport! This site says it is illegal on Thai buses:

        This site also refers to getting kicked off bus due to durian. It also has some funny-disgusting descriptions of its smell:

        Here one finds that one can also be kicked off planes in Thailand for carrying it:

        In looking these up, I also found an indie movie about Malaysia that was named “The Big Durian.” I guess it is a metaphor for many things in life — disgusting but good? –Ellen

        • Maria says:

          Ellen, you are a researcher extraordinaire!! We must now warn March: not only is it illegal to carry it on the bus. It’s also illegal to bring it into the hotel or any other air-conditioned place! What a powerful fruit!

      • Mimmimmim says:

        What would you layer with durian 😉

        Now there’s a fruit just waiting for a fruity-floral. Which celeb could be lured into one with durian accord, because ‘it’s never been used in perfumery before’?

  • carmencanada says:

    Like March, I’m more of an accidental layerer. Last Friday, wore Cuir de Russie Edt during the day, thought it had worn out by the evening and as I went out to dinner, spritzed on a generous amount of Tubéreuse Criminelle.
    When I came back around 2 AM, it seems that amazingly, after what must’ve been quite a catfight, the leather had eaten part of the tuberose. I’ll have to try it when I’m a bit more sober now.
    The (male, father of five) friend who drove me back said he had to air out his car before it could be restored to family use!

  • Justine says:

    You are seriously raising the blogging bar, impressive, to say the least…..

    I like to layer Cuir De Russie with a smokey vanilla, often Vanilla Lust. I layer this combination differently than most: I spray the vanilla on my wrist an the Russie on my neck and chest. I don’t know why, but I like layering it this way.

    I also layer MKK with many scents, florals, citrus, you name it. I usually dab on the MKK and then lightly spray the second scent over it. I also like to put the MKK on the inside of my wrist and the second scent on the outside.

    Finally, lately I’ve been spaying on a bit of Virgin Island Water with some Fire Isalnd. These two work nicely together. One day I was told “you smell like a day at the beach.” I took it as a compliment, of course.

    • March says:

      I really like your MKK suggestions! That’s such a great scent. I also like the way you do the others, with wrist and neck. That’s sort of like my left/right arm thing. Then you keep getting the back-and-forth, which I like a lot.

      That does sound like a day at the beach!

  • Maria says:

    March, what a beatiful garden! I’m in awe. And what fabulous roses! I must look up Summer Wine. Your house is very, very nice too. I hope you’re all safe at your destination and having a wonderful time.

    I have more questions than suggestions for layering. When you guys layer, do you put lines of perfume side by side, do you put them one on top of the other, or do you put them on different parts of your body and just wait for them to waft together or apart? (I’m feeling a bit indiscreet asking about body part placement.) :”> Please, please, answer my question, dear friends. I’ve felt so out of it on the layering department.

    I like to smell one fragrance at a time. I’ve been known upon occasion to put on Fendi Theorema body lotion, parfum, and EDP together. But this is where my layering ends. Combining two fragrances confuses me.

    In a recent article on Mandy Aftel for Sniffapalooza Magazine, Dr. James Dotson recommends her “African Stone Tincture” for layering. It’s made from the poop of the rock hyrax. Sounds interesting. :d

    • Lee says:

      I’m with you Maria. I’m a puritanical purist in this regard.

      And March – we need to swap garden notes as much as perfume ones – I’m going to get some photos of mine up and running sometime…

    • Bryan says:

      There can’t be a wrong way Maria….go crazy!! Seriously though, I spray one right on the other. I doubt it matters, but I like them together. Cuir Maruesque and MKK play very nicely with others. CM and Mandarine Mandarin is gorgeous. I’m careful to layer my beloved Carnal Flower only becaue I adore it alone, but I have tried it with MKK….Kind of heavy, but I liked it.

    • March says:

      I don’t know that it matters that much … I actually do this side to side layering more than anything — fragrance A on left wrist, B on right wrist. I’ve come up with some great combos that way. It’s like having a bite of cake and then a bite of ice cream. I remember that happened with the Ellie D and CB Cradle of light…

      most of my layering though is just mistakes.

    • CH says:

      …the poop of the rock hyrax… :-&
      I think I’ll pass on this one!

    • Maria says:

      Thanks, everybody! It’s nice to see that there are many ways of layering. I think I’ll proceed with caution, especially since when I really, really like a fragrance, I like it by itself. But now and then maybe I’ll mix things up. The trick is not to end up with pickles on peanut butter. (If you like pickles with your PB, please don’t tell me!) 😡

  • tmp00 says:

    Oh March- that back porch looks so inviting! Were i in your neck of the woods I would love to meet you there at dusk for a Gin-and-French.

    God love you for posting from the far East- I hope you are having a fantastic time.

    I’m going to jump the line and reiterate that CB musk is fabulous layered under anything leather from Yatagan to Chergui. I haven’t tried it with Tabac Blond, but now that I write that- I may have to.

    Again, have a great time and we all cannot wait to read about the adventure!

    • March says:

      You are every bit the CB Musk slut that I am, aren’t you?

      I LIVE on that porch. The house is over-air-conditioned. I sit out there all summer and bask in the heat. Reading out there late at night (you can’t see but it’s furnished with a lamp, couch, etc.) is one of my great pleasures, with crickets and lightning bugs and a glass of wine for company. You’re invited.

  • Cheezwiz says:

    Oh my goodness March! Your flower garden is stunning! It’s a replica of how my fantasy garden appears in my mind!

    As for layering fragrances: I love mixing my Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien with Petite Cherie. They don’t sound like they would go together, but they smell great layered!

    Hope you’re having a wonderful time in Thailand :d

    • March says:

      That combo sounds delicious!
      Thanks for the compliments — I’m very pleased with those flowers every time I look at/smell them.

      I’m having a GREAT time, although I’m doing this at a funky internet cafe, something wrong with the laptop 🙁

      I have a durian in my bag. Smells like … the sewer? Have not quite screwed up my courage to taste it.

    • chayaruchama says:

      Dear Wiz-
      That’s a good one !
      I mixed up 1/2 Eau D’Hadrien and Sa Majeste La Rose… I think you’d like it.
      Very fresh, and longer lasting.
      More oomph.