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Fragrance talk

The Beauty of Sillage and Projection

You’re reading this blog for a reason. Maybe you’re a rookie whose fragrance knowledge spans across the one cologne your dad wore when you were a kid. Or, you’re a seasoned veteran who is looking to sell off chunks of your collection as your partner thinks that 200+ scents are too many. 

Nonetheless, you’re on the lookout for what makes a fragrance great. From the outside, fragrances may appear to be one-dimensional. The smell of cologne or perfume is the only important trait. But, that is simply not the case. Fragrances can be broken or turned into cult classics based on their performance, longevity, projection and sillage.

Today we focus on the ladder. Projection is the easier concept of the two to grasp. Simply put it is how far someone can smell a fragrance. Some might be soft and sit close to the skin, whilst others will project across the table and slap someone in the face.

These traits are what make scents date, club and office-oriented. If you are going to the office, your scent of choice should not be a loud projector in the hopes of not offending the people around you. 

For a date, this scent should be sexy and project just enough to reach your date across the table, seducing them closer to smell your scent. And for clubbing, well, you want something that the bartender will smell when you enter the establishment.

Projection is not only a decider of events, but it is also a massive reason as to why a fragrance is considered an all-time great. Most scents have a peak period in which they are beasts. They project within the first 5 minutes to an hour of wearing it. From there, scents either slowly taper off whilst changing in profile. Or, they simply die down in a linear way.

Most scents that are considered lacklustre will slowly stop projection in a linear way. But, great scents will evolve with hours on the skin, ageing like a fine cigar or whiskey. Take Montale Chypre Vanille for example. When I first put my nose on this scent, I realized that it was very powdery and had a very unique licorice note.

A burning cigar is sitting on top of a glass of whiskey. Behind it is shrubbery
Photographed by Matthias Jordan

As the fragrance dried down, I slowly was opened up to a Vanilla accord, then it concludes with a heavy dose of Amber. As of now, I use it as a layered scent with Burberry London for Men. But, without the help of London for Man, this scent slowly shifts and sways from its original profile.

Fragrances also carry many other traits that will help determine if they are a winner or not. Sillage, beautifully put, is the scent trail or bubble that your fragrance will project. Have you ever passed by someone who you didn’t necessarily pay attention to, just to break your neck once you smell the trail of perfection in the air? That in fact is sillage.

The term comes from the French as they compare the aroma trail that a fragrance leaves to the wake that a boat will produce once driving past. Now the key to having a scent with great sillage is a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. Column A is what we spoke about above.

Projection matters when looking for sillage as it allows the scent to project and stay in the air as you walk. If a scent sits close to your skin, then it will most likely not expand and fill the void behind you. Rather, fragrances that project loudly will ensure a spread out sillage. 

Column B is skill. This is when you use the longevity tips and tricks that fragrance influencers mention constantly and put them all together. I recommend the use of good quality, non-scented moisturizer to soak the fragrance into your skin in order to improve longevity. 

Now, you have to focus on where to spray your scent in order to create sillage without frustrating yourself in the process. Spraying the front of your neck or anywhere directly in front of your nose for that matter will not conclude in a pleasant experience. The first two sprays should be directly on your pulse points under your ear and a bit closer to the rear of your neck.

This will ensure the scent is out of your nose but projects in a horizontal manner to the people walking by you. Plus, this ensures someone who is hugging or kissing you on the cheek will smell it. From there, most people would say to spray on the wrist or pits of either elbow or knee. These are all great options, especially for the summer, but are not your next step.

The next spray should be placed directly on the back of your neck. This will allow the fragrance to complete an aromatic bubble around you. By following the steps above, you will ensure that you have full coverage in all of the areas that will entice others, whilst not annoying you. 

A bubble used in order to show the sillage bubble made with fragrance
Photographed by Marc Martorell

To ensure a full sillage, wrists are a good next option for your clothing. Beware as fragrances that contain a higher concentration of oil have the potential to stain clothing. As well, that piece will most likely smell like that fragrance for the next few days, if not a week. 

Projection and sillage are crucial traits of great fragrances. The greats are not brash and unpleasantly stuck in your nose. Rather they are crafted and sprayed in a manner that is gratifying and enticing for people around you. 

Utilize the advice above to produce sillage and longevity in all aspects of your fragrance-wearing life. Be sure to experiment as you may just find yourself with a hidden gem.

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