Friday, 3 November 2017

Searching For The Silver Lining: The Best Modern Perfumes For Young Women

A little while ago, I published a post bemoaning the fact that many new perfume releases aimed at young women don’t treat their target audience with the intelligence they deserve. They tend to be dull, safe and patronising. But I didn’t want to leave the subject on a negative note. Surely, I told myself, even though there is a great deal of dross being heaped onto the market, there must be a few modern compositions that manage to capture some facets of 21st century femininity without resorting to cliches.

As you can imagine, that immediately prompted me to set myself a challenge: if those perfumes are out there, THEN FIND THEM! So, here is my attempt to meet that challenge.

Like every tough mission, this one had to have a few rules. Apart from being suited to younger women, the perfumes to be included in my final selection had to be:

relatively easy to find - no obscure creations from little-known brands whose wares can be purchased only from a single website
fairly new - nothing released before 2013
reasonably affordable - they would have to be available in some form or size for no more than £60 per bottle

Of these rules, it was the final one that turned out to be the most difficult, as it automatically excluded gems like Ulrich Lang’s Apsu, Byredo’s 1996 and Penhaligon’s Vaara. But one of the main reasons young women reportedly aren’t buying much perfume at the moment is that they don’t even have enough cash for basics like transport and accommodation, so affordability was a crucial factor in order to make this exercise worthwhile. And £60 isn’t peanuts either, at least not to most people.

Thankfully, after a considerable amount of hair-pulling, I managed to come up with a list of 10 fragrances, which I then matched to 10 interesting, independent, intrepid (and entirely fictional!) modern women. So here comes the final cut, complete with prices (which may change, of course) and links to online shops (from which, I must point out, I do not profit). Oh, and now that I’ve done this for women, I will of course have to do it for men as well, but I think we’ll wait until the new year before I attempt to unravel that particular conundrum.

Anyway, without further ado, ladies and gents, I am delighted to introduce you to...

a painter who loves making her own pasta
and is looking forward to spending the next summer in Iceland

It’s the colours of Twilly that have captured Maneesha’s imagination: the fizzing yellows of the ginger, the blood-soaked vermillions of the tuberose, the almost translucent beiges of the sandalwood. They bring a sparkle to her day and a smile to her face.


a pharmacist who endlessly re-watches Tarantino movies
and spends her Sundays foraging through charity bookshops

Modern Muse Le Rouge Gloss from Estèe Lauder (£48.50 for 30 ml edp)

Although it’s undeniably fruity - lots of cherries and redcurrants - there’s also a compelling, shiny, plastic-like note in Le Rouge Gloss which Nicola just can't stop sniffing. It’s like mixing danger with cuddliness - a combo she’s always found irresistible.


an accountant who would like to go freelance within the next 5 years
and is also thinking about starting a podcast on hats

Verity finds numbers fascinating: she never grows tired of trying to work them out. And she views the clever paradoxes at the core of Angel Muse like a sort of mathematical puzzle. The pink pepper clashing with the sweetness. The hazelnut aspect floating over the whipped cream. The cocoa veering towards the patchouli, and then shifting away from it. They keep her thoughts occupied for hours.


a secondary school teacher who is setting up her own amateur drama group
and is also learning Mandarin

Vanilla, rose and musks make this perfume as gourmand as a huge bowl of chocolate mousse - a fact about which Kemi has no complaints whatsoever - but the inclusion of a dry, tannin-like, blueberry facet gives it a touch of sophistication which raises it above the scents of her teenage years.


a literary agent who dyes her hair a different colour each week
and is saving up for her fourth skydive

Celine’s idea of heaven is feeling the sun on her body. The heat, the smell, the colour: she can never resist their very intimate, life-giving power. With its tropical tuberose, its orange-inflected bitterness and its lick of vanilla in the base, Orchid Soleil is her note-perfect dose of sunshine in a bottle. Sensuous, languid and skin-caressing.


a driving instructor who’s working on a book of photographs of cornershops
and is an unashamed fan of the Spice Girls

Gosia loves cologne-style scents, so she appreciates the glass-like cleanliness of Indelebile: that neon-bright explosion of lemon at the top. But she finds the touches of naughtiness intriguing too. The narcissus, the orange blossom, the musks. They add a weight that she doesn’t normally find in other colognes.


a family law solicitor who’d like to become an MP
and also wants to set up a girls’ school in Calcutta

If she can wrong-foot people with some aspect of her appearance - her shoes, her make-up, her clothes - Shannon feels she’s scored a personal victory. That’s why her scent of choice is Blackpepper: the freshly-ground tornado of spice at the start never fails to get a reaction from everyone around her. And the fact that the effect lasts for hours is an added bonus.


an architect who collects antique pipes
and can’t resist walking backwards on escalators

Ambareen’s idea of home is an entirely urban landscape: steel, glass and concrete. She is thrilled by its unpredictability, its shifting scale, its mix of natural and artificial colours. For her, Kerbside Violet is a flawless distillation of the urban soul: a gritty pavement on the one hand, a clutch of grinning violets on the other.


a helicopter pilot who books opera tickets a year in advance
and is addicted to Nutella

Charlotte is happiest when she’s above the ground, either soaring over rooftops or looking down at a theatre stage. There’s something about Eau De Lumiere’s effervescent presentation of rose with jasmine and musks which seems to echo the thrill of seeing the world spread out beneath her feet, ready for her gentle footsteps.


a personal trainer who is studying ikebana
and re-reads Breakfast At Tiffany’s every year

L’Eau Bleue from Miu Miu (£48 for 30 ml edp)

As someone who gains pleasure from gentle, precise, respectful repetition, Alessandra finds much to admire in L’Eau Bleue. Its lily of the valley heart - placed upon restrained, subtle woods - pays homage to the past whilst conveying a modern, limpid transparency. That’s the sort of balance Alessandra tries to achieve in all aspects of her life.



  1. Do young women like roses? La Fille de Berlin is sublime.

    Kerbside Violet is a terrific choice, plan to get it soon.

    1. Well, they certainly *should* like roses. Thanks for the comment.


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