Monday Question – Which Perfume Goes Best With…?

The last Monday Question about your passions revealed lots of book lovers, but also a good deal of foodies.

Perfume and food have lots in common and especially wine connoisseurs share lots of vocabulary with us Perfumistas. It is from them I take today’s cue:

Which perfumes go best with your favorite foods?

What scent complements a perfect dinner?

Which fragrance should be avoided with fine cuisine because it might interfere?

Do you ever consciously match perfume and food?


My Answer:

I love food, I love eating, but (cue collective outcry here) I hate cooking. It is just so much work. The shopping, the preparing, the fuss… I know, I am a bad mother and possibly a bad person. But what can you do?

I tell you what: Marry a man who loves to cook, that’s what you do.

During the week my kids have to make do with the simple things their mother is able to throw together, but on the weekends we usually get treated to a feast. My husband enjoys cooking, it relaxes him (how that works is beyond me!) and he loves to experiment. As long as meat in some form or other is present in the dish, he is willing to try it and the longer it takes to make it, the happier he is.

So on the weekends I do tend to match my perfume to the food. I’ve realized that florals don’t go all to well with most kinds of meals, so I wear soft orientals, woody perfumes and gourmands that are not too sweet.

One perfume that works really well for me with steak and red wine for example, is Hermès Hermessence Santal Massoia. It is light, delicate, but has a woody depth and a creamy milky softness that doesn’t distract from other flavors, but seems to enhance them.

Similarly discreet and subtly enhancing are Dior Bois d’Argent and Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle L’Eau d’HiverAngeliques sous la Pluie and Voyage d’Hermès.

What can I say? Ellena is what’s for dinner. 🙂

How about you?


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58 Responses to Monday Question – Which Perfume Goes Best With…?

  1. Undina says:

    I really enjoy cooking… once in a while. On the day-to-day basis (including many weekends) our food at home is rather simple so whatever I was wearing that day (or decide to test that night) goes with it. The only time I think seriously about perfume “pairing” is when we go wine testing: I cannot spend a vacation day not wearing a perfume (it’ll make it less enjoyable for me) but at the same time I do not want to overpower wine… So every time I have a matching game: which perfume in the current weather won’t interfare with wine aroma and won’t be mistaken for it? On different occasions the answer was L’Artisan’s Tea for Two, Jo Malon’s Assam & Grapefruit or Dior’s Miss Dior parfum.

    • Olfactoria says:

      I can see the appeal of doing it once in a while, and I enjoy it – once in a while. But when it becomes a daily necessity, that is when I lose interest…

      It is very interesting to hear about your perfume choices when wine testing. It must be a challenge indeed. Living so close to California’s wine country is a treat, I loved Napa and Sonoma and I wish I could have stayed longer. (Also I loved watching Falcon Crest as a child, do you know the TV series? 🙂 )

    • I started wearing Molecule 01 when I was working in a wine bar and giving tasting classes. I couldn’t really smell it on myself, so it never interfered with smelling my wine. Other people loved it. Win win!

  2. I think this is one of your best Monday Questions EVER but unfortunately I have never even given the matter thought. I only know that I tend to wear less demanding fragrances for food dates. As I do 80-90% of the cooking at home though I am usually bathed in at least one test fragrance while cooking and it rarely bothers me.
    Portia xx

  3. brie says:

    This is a great question! (and may I add that I am insanely jealous that your hubby cooks? wish mine did! I do enjoy cooking when I have the time-long weekends in the kitchen, dicing, measuring etc. There is something quite mediative about these acts. Yet during the week I am exhausted when I come home. My saving grace is that I am slowly teaching my girls to cook so sometimes they make the weekday meals. Oh but I digress!)
    Actually, if you consider tea a “food” I have numerous pairings ( this is what I love to do-pair tea with perfume). But since the question pertains to solid/not liquid what comes to mind is non- reformulated Calyx which I pair with Thai food.
    I am curious to see other commenters responses!

  4. Alexandra says:

    Oh what an interesting thought! I have never matched food and perfume, the only time it is a consideration is when I go out for an especially nice meal and I purposefully wear a very quiet skin scent. I think a strong perfume would interfere with all the careful work that has gone into the balance of the food, especially if the wine is matched as well – and if you are matching your perfume to the main course, what about starter and dessert (and if you are lucky any little bits in between)?

    Having said that I do enjoy cooking and I occasionally bake bread to unwind on a lazy Sunday, at which point I can never resist a quick application of LAP Bois Farine.

    • Olfactoria says:

      I’ve heard it said that Shalimar is an ideal dinner scent, since the vanilla drydown really comes into its own only when its desert time.

      Baking bread and Bois Farine – I’m hungry!

  5. Ines says:

    Oh, I love eating! I was discussing this fact with a friend the other day. I really, really enjoy eating. 😀
    As for cooking, I actually enjoy that as well but don’t get to do it much (I’m surrounded by people who cook) – I prefer trying out new things and sticking to recipes which is in direct opposition with everyone around me.
    The things I do most often is cakes – I love doing that even though I usually don’t eat them, I’m not really much into sweet things.
    And I never consider pairing perfume and food – it never even occured to me. 🙂 I would just consider not wearing a strong perfume to a restaurant.

    • Olfactoria says:

      That seems to be the first and most important thing, wearing something discrete and low on the sillage.
      It’s nice to be surrounded by cooks, isn’t it? 🙂

  6. Jackie b says:

    More people should be asking themselves this question! We went out for breakfast recently and it was ruined by a table of elderly ladies sporting sharp florals, all in conflict. YUUUUK!!!
    Possibly something you may find in food, like herbs, spices may work better…and Tea for Two at any meal would be fine.
    I can also wear Bottega Veneta when cooking. Or eating.

  7. Alice says:

    Such a good question – but like others, I’ve never thought about it. Although I love food it’s not a passion, and I don’t cook often so maybe that’s why BUT more likely its because I’m quite a timid perfume wearer, and am always drawn to ‘discreet and subtly enhancing’ – so instinctively I wouldn’t normally choose things that might clash. I agree on florals, apart from a few I tend to find them more distracting. For ‘discreet ‘ I love your 2 Malle choices (have both, so must try your other suggestions!) and would add En Passant, and le labo neroli 36.

  8. Alice says:

    …and forgot to say, Tea for Two is a top favourite for me, I and rushed out and bought one of the last few bottles in London when I realised it was discontinued – such a shame!

  9. shellyw says:

    My friend’s husband works at a starred restaurant. He goes nuts when women wear perfume. He wants them to smell every aspect of the experience, the food, wine, etc.. I think going out to such a “dressed-up”sort of place would be the perfect time to wear perfume, but he has changed my mind some what. I make a point of wearing very mild, close fitting perfume when I am at their house for a meal. The Different Co. bergamont usually.

  10. Natalie says:

    I very much dislike cooking, and like you I married a man who loves to cook. It is convenient! Generally with meals, I don’t want to smell my perfume much at all. I tend to pick things that I think are not going to be intrusive, and/or I apply lightly. I have had good luck with small amounts of earthier scents, like Champagne du Bois or Borneo. And for some weird reason, Miss Dior (the original) seems to go well with sushi. 🙂

  11. Dear Leader
    An interesting thought…
    The Dandy likes both to eat and occasion to cook.
    He does however like fish quite a lot and sushi ans sashimi a great deal. This is a great challenge the almost odourless repast can easily become overpowered by even the merest of scents.
    The answer? Muguet, say Diorella after a few hours or even Muguet du Bonheur – the fresh from ablution feel goes ever so well with the fresh from the ocean one hopes for from the fish.
    Casseroles, curries and roasts are robust enough for woods and orientals (YSL Nu – in the old version and Caron’s Parfum Sacre both go ell with the food of the sub-continent).
    Meanwhile a barbecue is the perfect time to wear florals or better still green – come in Sisley’s Eau de Campagne and you will be practically part of the salad!
    Finally, not being a gentleman of a sweet toothed persuasion, a word of caution on paring gourmands and desert – for those of us with a more savoury inclination the effect can be a little overwhelming – even my beloved Shalimar would be a little much paired with rum baba served warm with Chantilly cream.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Olfactoria says:

      Dear Leader?! Am I right to appropriate this appellation to autocorrect? 😉

      I love how you say Eau de Campagne makes you practically part of the salad – ha, so true!

  12. Trish says:

    I live in rural France and cook all our meals from scratch, every day: we eat a lot of stir-fries, Thai, Indian and Moroccan food, as my husband has no sense of smell (and therefore not much sense of taste). I wear whatever perfume I’m in the mood for, irrespective of food. But for going out for dinner etc, I definitely favour Shalimar, Tea for Two, Five O’Clock au Gingembre etc – frags based on vanilla, cinnamon, tea etc – or Ambre Sultan. Never florals, which are favourites at home – they seem totally incompatible with food. Five O’Clock au Gingembre is one of the best, I think – it can positively GIVE you an appetite.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Oh, Trish, I’d love to invite myself for dinner at your house, it sound delicious.
      I took a page out of your book and made a Thai chicken curry from scratch just now. It works perfectly with the milky, cardamom-rich spicy woods of Olfactive Studio Lumiére Blanche I’m wearing today.
      So many say florals don’t work with food – maybe they are great for dieting? 😉

  13. My mother is a wonderful cook, so some of my earliest scented memories are of the aromas in the house while she prepared a meal. This is largely responsible for my knowledge of what certain spicy or gourmand notes naturally smell like. But I confess to very little knowledge or experimentation of scents with food. I’m learning a lot from the comments, though.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Nothing better than coming home to the smells of something Mom has cooked, I love that too. (Unfortunately for my kids that means something Grandma has cooked, as I’m such a failure in that respect).

  14. Tara says:

    I’m like you B, I enjoy cooking for special occasions but on a day to day basis it’s just a grind. I don’t understand how it can be relaxing either – I’d rather be reading 🙂

    A little Aomassai is nice to wear for dinner, probably because it’s so mouth-watering!

  15. Lila says:

    I try not to wear *much* perfume when I go out to eat but if I’m at home and making a middle eastern or mediterranean meal then I like to dab some orange flower water or rose water. I always have them on hand since they’re staple ingredients in both cuisines and I don’t feel like they interfere. I haven’t tried this, but I think wearing a bit of L’artisans Seville A L’Aube would work if indulging in a decadent chocolate dessert or a chocolate tasting. There’s a hint of chocolate in it (to my nose, anyway) and lavender/chocolate make a great taste pairing.

  16. At home, I usually wait to put on perfume until after cooking dinner; if not I’ll try to put on something food-friendly with citrus or spicy notes, etc. Diptyque Oyedo would smell great with either Thai food or tacos. 🙂 When going out to dinner, I just wear whatever I feel like. I’ve never had regrets in this area (meaning, I’ve never felt like my perfume ruined my food experience — I guess I can compartmentalize!)

  17. Bee says:

    I like to cook, and gosh, I’ve never once thought about pairing the cooking with a scent, it’s already tricky enough to find the perfect wine. So: thanks for giving me something (more) to think about. Instinctively I would say woody-dry orientals could work quite well, but should also stay in the background. I guess desserts would be more fun for pairing experiments.

  18. Lady Jane Grey says:

    Well, mostly, I’m the cook and in thoses cases I neglect parfum – due to the spices, herbs, etc. I’ll have enough of lovely scents anyway. And I’m also one of those they relax when cooking – the more complicated (the food) the better.
    I still remember the evening with my friend in a wine bar (years ago…): we were drinking heavy reds and she tried one from my glass, looked up at me and said “I can only taste your parfum, it supresses the whole Rioja” – it was Allure…

  19. hajusuuri says:

    I don’t cook. I am so bad that I once burnt water – really, I could be the poster child for the Worst Cooks in America show. My idea of cooking is microwave water, throw in couscous, cover, then wait for it to puff up. Add your own sauce, spices, etc. DONE

    Anyway, I think L’AP Safran Troublant would be a good perfume to wear while cooking and dining – it’s very light gourmand and barely lasts so it will not overpower anything. I also think Diptyque Philosykos EDT (I have not tried the EDP yet) and Slumberhouse Pear & Olive would work particularly well when preparing Italian meals and/or eating in an Italian restaurant.

  20. Tatiana says:

    Let’s get one thing straight here, just because you don’t like to cook, does not make you a bad mother, spouse or person. Where is it written in stone that the female in the family needs to be the cook and food provider? I like to cook when I’m in the mood and I have the inspiration. But I must agree, I hate the planning and most of all I hate the shopping. I dislike some of the prep, but not all. I’d rather bake, but seeing that I struggle with my weight as it is, it would be a disaster if all I did was make cake and pastries. Luckily, I am married to a saint, and when I’m too tired, too annoyed, too anything to cook, he’s pretty good at making reservations. That’s about the extent of his culinary skills.
    Food and scent? Never really thought about it too much. I wear whatever I happen to be wearing that day when I cook dinner during the week. On weekends, if we have plans to go out to a dress up dinner I try not to wear big, expansive perfumes. Spiced perfumes seem to go well with fine dining. Not too much chance of me wearing big, white florals anyway, they’re just not my thing. Unless Jour d’Hermes is a white floral? It’s the only floral I’ve taken a liking to lately. (Except for my dark, dirty roses, like Lyric, Rose 31 and Portrait of a Lady.)

    • Olfactoria says:

      I’d say Jour d’Hermès is a green floral and I hereby decree that it goes with everything. 😉
      It is not written in stone of course that the female should provide the food, but the one not working 15-hour days should, and that is me. 🙂 Thank you for your kind words though!

  21. Vanessa says:

    I have never considered matching perfume to food or wine, so I can’t comment on that side of things, but since I struck out on my own last year I have found myself cooking a lot more from scratch than I used to as part of a couple where I did all the cooking / meal assembly for 17 years (if I was home, that is). Except the one day when I fell down stairs and sustained an acute lumbar injury – Mr Bonkers grilled some veggie sausages under my supine supervision and opened a bag of salad. My cooking ennui in the past could partly be because my ex was vegetarian and I got bored of my repertoire of veggie dishes. Now I am doing all sorts of things with chicken and fish, soups galore – the other night I made my first pasta sauce with mascarpone. Hey, I have the washing up to prove it!

  22. Oooh! Oooh! [waving hand up in the air and jumping up and down in her seat] I am all over this question like white on rice!

    Speaking of which Fils de Dieu is AWESOME with Thai/Filipino/Vietnamese/Burmese/ and Malaysian food. After a disastrous pairing of SL Gris Clair + multi-course Chinese banquet (lavender and chow fun do not play well together), I wear The Different Company’s Sel de vetiver, which gets along deliciously with my family and the food they order.

    But when I am cooking, especially when I am making more bacon nougat or working any kind of dough with my hands, I go scentless because both nougat and dough absorb scents so easily. Except for SJP Lovely. That seems to stay on me and not migrate to my food. If I’m grilling steak, I wear whatever loud scent I darn-tootin’ please.

    FUN question!!!!

  23. Sigrun says:

    I’m a bit late here, but I’ll butt in anyway! I do love to cook but I don’t think too much about what perfume I wear, I’m a light applier so my perfume seldom interferes with the food (at least that’s my side of the story that I’ll chose to believe until someone says something else 😉 ).

    However, I have been thinking about food and scent lately and especially one certain scent. In Sweden we have this traditional beverage called must that’s only sold around Christmas and Easter. It tastes like a cross between Cocoa-cola and porter and it’s very good with traditional salty/fatty Christmas and Easter food. Actually it’s the only beverage, except from 80% schnaps that taste good with those foods. I just realized that there is one perfume that holds a very realistic must-note and that’s Amouage Library Collection VI, especially during the first hours. Unfortunately I’ve used up my sample but I can’t wait to order another one to try out during Easter dinner 🙂

    • Olfactoria says:

      How interesting, thanks for chiming in, Sigrun.
      Must sounds intriguing – and mighty strange. 😉 But a drink that smells like an Amouage can’t be bad…

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