The Esquire Guide to Choosing a Signature Scent


There is something timeless about choosing a signature scent. It is similar to an accessory, only instead of merely completing an outfit, you are adding final touches to your entire presence. Having a particular scent people associate with you the most can also clue people into who you are, what your personal tastes are, and how you express yourself.

What is a signature scent?

Fragrance can do a lot of things. It can convey a particular mood or a vibe, or even channel particular trends. It can also help attract people further to you using a scent they find alluring.

A signature scent is much more personal. It withstands seasonality and trends—it should be the kind of fragrance you would not have any problem wearing, regardless of the time of the year. The notes should wholly reflect your personality and identity.

Aesop Eidesis Eau de Parfum



Why should I choose a signature scent?

Choosing a signature scent for yourself carries the most obvious benefit: It helps you smell great. Yet there is more to picking out the right fragrance for you other than simply being pleasant on the nose. It’s one thing to wear cologne or perfume—it’s another to own the scent altogether.

Having your own signature scent lets you have your own unique imprint. It’s a subtle yet striking way to constantly remind people of yourself even when you are not around.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian 724 Eau de Parfum

P13,250 AT ADORA

Choosing a signature scent takes a certain level of commitment—to a certain extent. Sticking to one or, at best, a limited rotation of fragrances, helps people call you to mind subconsciously. But while that is what wearers typically hope to achieve in selecting a signature scent, this can go both ways: you may leave a lasting impression on them, for better or for worse.

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Fortunately, there are ways to make an informed decision about your scent, while ensuring you stay true to your personality.

Creed Aventus Cologne


Top, middle, and base notes in fragrances: What do those mean?

While it’s easy to point out whether a fragrance smells good the moment it hits your nose, learning about top, middle, and base notes in perfumes or colognes allows you to choose a scent that has more nuance and complexity. But just what exactly are top, middle, and base notes?

Top Notes

In a nutshell, top, middle, and base notes refer to the different aroma notes your olfactory senses pick up depending on the time the fragrance dissipates. A good scent whose notes were thoughtfully chosen has more going beneath the surface rather than a plain, one-dimensional aroma. 

Based on the name alone, the top notes are the aromas you pick up on the surface. Top notes are also known as headnotes and are key to providing your first impression of a scent. Will it draw you in or repel you? Top notes also tend to be fresh and sharp.


Etat Libre d'Orange Tom of Finland


It’s the first scent that registers when you sniff a fragrance but lasts between only 5 to 15 minutes. Citrus scents are often used as top notes. Some examples include lemon, grapefruit, yuzu, peppermint, eucalyptus, spruce, pine, basil, fir balsam, and blood orange.

Middle Notes

As top notes have a lighter molecular structure, this means that their aroma will not last as long on the skin. Eventually, they will fade and give way to the middle notes. Middle notes are generally the aromas that register once the top notes fade. They are also known as heart notes and last between 20 to 60 minutes.

Dominant and full-bodied, these are called heart notes because they make up the heart of a perfume. The oils that fall under middle notes usually have an herbal or floral aroma. They are well-rounded and pleasant and may include lavender, rose, fennel, cardamom, clary sage, sweet marjoram, neroli, fragonia, and geranium.

Nasomatto Black Afgano


Base Notes

After the middle notes fade, these give way to base notes—which have the heaviest molecular structure. This means they are not as volatile as other oils. Base notes can last at least 6 hours and onwards. Base notes are what last the longest on the skin, and form the underlying aroma of perfume throughout its wear. 

With the most stable compounds of them all, the oils classified as base notes tend to be deep and rich, prominently appearing after top notes have dissipated. Musk aromas and woody notes often form base notes and may include the following aromas: vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, patchouli, buddha wood, amyris, opoponax, oud, and tonka bean.

After understanding top, middle, and base notes, it’s time to choose a fragrance—and do so selectively with these tips.


Frédéric Malle Synthetic Jungle


Identify what you want to get out of a fragrance

While you may be itching to pay a visit to the fragrance boutique or even the nearest department store, it’s important to know what you want to get out of the perfume. Before you visit the department store or scent shop, first, think about what you want in a fragrance. What is the end goal?

Are you trying to match your personality with your scent, or are you trying to project more confidence or a particular aura whenever you wear this scent? Perhaps you want to command a more authoritative presence at work, or you want to lighten up your more serious personality? These will help you narrow down which scents or notes to scout for. For instance, a deeper scent that plays with spicy or woody notes tends to lend a more serious vibe.

Acqua Di Parma Colonia Intensa


Understand fragrance families

Are you a fan of woody scents? Perhaps you could also be more into fresher or aqueous scents, or you may gravitate towards fruity or floral aromas. Each fragrance family exudes its own personality and mood—woody scents such as cedar, sandalwood, and patchouli are seen as masculine due to their earthy nature. Meanwhile, floral scents have a mature and delicate quality. Citrusy scents tend to have a lighter and more fun mood.

Knowing what notes you like and are drawn towards can help you further narrow your search. Just note that some fragrances dip into more than one fragrance family—such as a scent that’s woody and fruity at the same time—creating an entirely unique scent and identity altogether.


D.S. & Durga Bistro Waters


Keep it to three perfumes at a time

When you head to a perfume store, you may be tempted to sniff everything, especially when you’re grasping at straws for what scents you really like. Yet as excited as you may be about acquiring your signature scent, it’s best to set expectations and limit your prospects to only three scents per visit. And don’t worry—feel free to return as many times as you want, going at it with three scents at a time until you find the right one.

When you start exploring, begin with aqueous or musky scents first, as these tend to be lighter. After that, move to citrusy and fruity florals, until heading into woody scents.

Buly 1803 Eau Triple Mexican Tuberose


How often should you replace your fragrance before it spoils?

It depends on the type of fragrance you have. Generally, lighter fragrances such as citrus may be more prone to spoilage. Meanwhile, richer and heavier fragrances would have a longer shelf life.

That said, there are ways to prolong your scent, especially after having settled on one that you like. Generally, all fragrances should be kept in a cool and dark place. This helps it stay as long as possible. Also, opaque bottles such as amber bottles will keep longer than those kept in transparent bottles.

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Sam Beltran
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