Read This Before You Ask For A New Fragrance This Christmas

Daniela Morosini

They say that seeing is believing but as far as we’re concerned, the most potent of the senses has to be smell. Think about it; smelling freshly baked bread will get your mouth watering before you’ve even stolen a glimpse of the sourdough, the scent of your mum’s perfume will comfort you before she’s given you a hug, and smelling the flower that grew outside the Airbnb on your first girls’ holiday will instantly transport you back. Smell is the king of the senses – many of our most important memories are tied to scent, whether it’s the body spray you doused yourself in at school or the bedding in your childhood room.

Scent can uplift you (zesty notes), induce nostalgia (aforementioned adolescent body spray) or even send you to sleep (lavender), so choosing a perfume is every bit as important as finding your perfect pair of jeans or that your-lips-but-better lipstick. When you wear a scent every day, you want to send a message out to the world, and also to yourself. "I wanted to create a fragrance that was like a smile," explained Nicolas Beaulieu, the perfumer extraordinaire behind Ghost Dream. "I wanted it to be a feelgood fragrance, something you wear for yourself to make you happy, which would bubble over into carrying yourself with confidence and walking tall. It’s about a sense of optimism and wellbeing, with nothing overpowering or cloying."

Ghost Dream is exactly that – a "harmony" of notes in perfect accord, as Nicolas explained. "It’s a blend of light florals, slightly musky patchouli and uplifting orange flower. It took months to get the scent in perfect balance, and to get the notes together in the soft, almost surreal finish I wanted. My inspiration came less from the world of smells, but more from the world of touch. How could I create a fragrance that felt like it almost cocoons you, like a cloud? The result is Ghost Dream." Designed for free-spirited women, Malaika Firth (an effortless, delicate beauty if there ever was one) is the face of the scent. "She’s incredibly successful and is a very natural beauty," explained Beaulieu. "And she’s had a great success as a black woman in a field that can be very prejudiced. Her career is something of a revelation – the kind of spirit I wanted to capture." Given that a scent has the power to alter your mood in a way that’s pretty much unparalleled in the world of beauty, we can’t think of a better pampering and pragmatic gift for the friend/sister/colleague/cousin (or yourself!) who could use an indulgent pick-me-up.

Read on to learn about the key notes in Ghost Dream, and how a pro ‘nose’ balances base, middle and top notes…


"Top notes are the the notes you first smell when you spritz perfume," Beaulieu explained. "They’re slightly more volatile on a molecular level, and evaporate a little more quickly." The speed at which these notes evaporate can differ from person to person, which is why fragrances can smell a little different on different people. Ghost Dream uses rose as a top note – but not just any run-of-the-mill rose: "Usually, you have two options as a perfumer when you’re using rose. You can use the oil or something called the absolut, and these are okay, but for this, I wanted to use something special. We developed something called ‘Aquaflora’, which is an extract much closer to the natural smell of a rose. It smells almost like a rosebud and it’s exceptionally fresh – you can practically smell the drops of dew on it," said Beaulieu. Rose is a very classic ingredient in perfumery and is often associated with femininity, but it’s also very versatile. "You can use rose in 400 different ways and they’ll all smell different. It can be as sensual or as vulgar as you like, but rose is always comforting because it’s familiar. The rose I used, and the Aquaflora, make it reminiscent of the beginning of spring. Wherever you go in the world, everybody knows rose." In lay terms, the first thing you’ll feel on smelling Ghost Dream is a moment of calm and serenity – spiked with a feminine twist, of course.

Illustrated by Sara Andreasson.

Moroccan Orange

Remember what we said about zesty notes being uplifting? Hello, Moroccan orange. "The middle notes are orange and violet. Middle notes are sometimes called ‘heart’ notes, as they appear once the top notes melt away," said Beaulieu. They have to be in perfect harmony with the rest of the fragrance, as they hold the fragrance in tune. "Moroccan orange flower is symbolic of the fragrance as a whole – it’s light yet complex," explained Beaulieu. "It opens with a fresh, youthful citrus smell that evolves into a more sensual, feminine finish. Orange flower makes people feel energised, so I enhanced that freshness with violet, which historically symbolised good humour and optimism." One thing Beaulieu emphasised is that when he was designing the scent, he was thinking about evoking a mood, and creating texture and sensuality within the scent: "I added heliotrope, which has an almost powdery quality into the middle notes which reminds me of soft clouds, and jasmine to add warmth to the bouquet." The result? A layered, delicate finish, with a longevity that belies its lightness.

Illustrated by Sara Andreasson.


Think of the base notes of a fragrance like the foundations of a house. No matter how fancy things are above ground, your structure is only as good as its roots (need we remind you of the proverbial house built upon the sand?). "Base notes really lock into the skin on a molecular level," noted Beaulieu. "They’re what’s left after the top and middle notes have faded away – what’s sometimes referred to as the scent drying down." Patchouli might sound like an unusual choice given that the scent is full of lightness, and patchouli is sometimes thought of as overpowering, but Beaulieu did some olfactory wizardry to make it work. "I used something called patchouli ‘heart’, which is different to raw patchouli oil, and it’s not as heavy. You have to do a molecular distillation to create it, and the result is more woody, and has more of an amber tone to it," he explained. "Then, I harmonised that Ambroxan, to really accentuate the amber note, and added a little musk to stop it being dry. Really, making a scent like this is all down to very small tweaks – too much of something and you throw the whole accord off." Patchouli has been used in perfumery for centuries (it was particularly popular in India around the birth of Ayurveda), and it lends body and strength to a scent. "For me, it was the final texture of sophistication the scent needed," added Beaulieu. We couldn't agree more – the amber and patchouli create a warm, alluring base for the fragrance that makes it perfect for the colder months, and captivating in the warmer ones.

Illustrated by Sara Andreasson.

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