What scents do sommeliers use when they're not on the job?

PHOTO: Pixabay

For any situation where wine is to be tasted, wearing a strong perfume – or even any perfume at all – is a cardinal sin.

The bouquet of a fine wine can be obscured by the presence of an external fragrance. Despite that, the two worlds – and the people who work in them – have much in common since perfumers and sommeliers both rely heavily on their sense of smell for work.

Whether for a perfume or a wine, both are required to identify hundreds of base ingredients by their scent. It’s even been found that master sommeliers have thicker entorhinal cortices – an area of the brain associated with sensory perception and memory capacity.

Wines can have the same olfactory complexity of a fragrance blended from multiple ingredients – layering fruits, woods, herbs and even musk, so it stands to reason then that sommeliers will have some opinions on fragrances. The Peak speaks to three about their favourites.

Vincent Tan

Head sommelier at Odette

PHOTO: Odette

His fragrance:

Dior Sauvage by Francois Demachy. It opens with bergamot and pepper with middle notes of florals, pink pepper, and vetiver. The base notes are predominantly Ambroxan, a synthetic form of ambergris. Drawn to its fresh, uplifting and natural profile, Tan has been using Dior Sauvage for close to six years now.

PHOTO: Dior

While he doesn’t typically wear scents at work, it helps that the citrus-based scent is subtle so it does not mess with Tan’s sense of smell. The fragrance most reminds him of an Albarino from Rias Baixas, Spain. This white wine is usually fresh and acidity-driven with strong citrus notes.

Joel Lim

Group head sommeliers at Park90

PHOTO: Park90

His fragrance:

Calvin Klein Eternity Aqua for Men, created as a modern, fresh interpretation of the house’s acclaimed Eternity line. It opens with cucumbers, citrus, lotus flowers and green leaves.

The middle notes are Sichuan peppercorn, plums and cedar and the base consists of woods, patchouli and musk. Lim uses only the eau de toilette version as it is “lightly perfumed, seamless and suits my profession.”

PHOTO: Calvin Klein

He avoids anything that’s too strong and musky or an eau de parfum as both are way too concentrated. The Eternity Aqua EDT’s light and sweet citrus, stone fruits, and oceanic freshness remind him of his favourite riesling, a wine that typically features notes of white peach and minerality.

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Lisa Jeon

Sommelier at Park90

PHOTO: Lisa Jeon

Her fragrance:

Penhaligon’s The Revenge of Lady Blanche, a floral, spicy scent that offers head notes of powder and orris, heart notes of narcissus flower, and a base of hyacinth. It’s created by renowned perfumer Daphne Bugey.

With its complex, earthy, smoky, and spicy notes, this particular fragrance reminds Jeon of the woody furniture scent of old bars. Its elegance also conjures images of mature, vintage Bordeaux.

PHOTO: Penhaligon's Portraits 

In particular, Chateau Lafite, thanks to the fragrance’s herbal, cedar, and violet notes. Jeon first encountered

The Revenge of Lady Blanche while shopping for a close friend’s birthday present, but hasn’t worn it yet. Instead, she’s hoping to start when she’s older – in her 30s and 40s – citing how it would “signify the next stage” in her life.

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This article was first published in The Peak.