Coffee and perfume

Coffee and perfume

Dark and velvety or bold and earthy-sweet: the latest coffee-noted fragrances are double-double delicious for many a perfume fan.

There are few things more satisfying than my first sip of coffee in the morning. Its warmth heats my body and its bold scent and taste invigorate my senses. Some nights I fall asleep, dreaming of my morning cup. I’ve always loved caffeine, less so for the rush, more for the trip down memory lane.

As a little girl, I’d routinely sleep over at my grandparent’s house on the weekends. With their European background, brewing coffee was more than a daily ritual: It was a lifestyle. In the mornings, my grandma would take three mugs out of the cupboard: one for her, another for my grandpa and a small one for me. Seated at the kitchen table in her housecoat, my grandma would ceremoniously pour the glowing dark liquid into my cup to the quarter mark then fill it to the brim with a large helping of thick cream. She let me add as many teaspoons of sugar as I liked. I felt so grown up, like I was part of an exclusive club—this was our routine and we shared it alone. My parents thought my sisters and I were too young to partake in the hot beverage.

Now, like my grandma once did, I take my coffee black. And when I inhale its smoky, dark and aromatic scent, I often think of her. Perhaps it explains why I enjoy the voluptuous and intense layer the coffee note adds to perfumery.

Bean there, done that

The actual coffee bean has maintained a strong presence beside perfume bottles on department store countertops for years. Typically captured in a small glass jar, the beans are used as a nasal palette that when inhaled, cleanse shoppers’ olfactory systems when they’re feeling overloaded with smells and unable to distinguish the scent of one perfume from the next. Their effectiveness is questionable however, as suggested by Chandler Burr, the former perfume critic for the New York Times, published author, and founder of the Olfactory Art at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. He reportedly once said, “I don’t use those ubiquitous coffee beans to clear my scent palate—they’re just another smell that will fatigue the nose.”

The bean’s relevance in perfumery however, remains undisputed.

Coffee and perfume: a rich history

Considered a spicy note, coffee was first added into perfume over a century ago, most notably with Serge Lutens Borneo in 1834 and then, with Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanille Mokha in 1976. Described as being an intense, dark roast facet that can be linked to the cocoa bean as well as to patchouli, coffee has since been poured into a variety of elixirs, including: Dolce & Gabbana By for Women in 1999, Lancôme Miracle Homme in 2001, Bond No. 9 New Haarlem and So New York in 2003 and Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Coffee in 2008.

Favoured for its stimulating properties, traditional coffee production has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 40-plus years with the rise of independent coffee houses alongside big brand names like Starbucks, Second Cup, Timothy’s and Tim Hortons. Not to be left out, the coffee flavour has also been infused into alcohol faster than you can say macchiato half-caf, full-foam, no-whip with everything from Patron XO Café tequila to Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur Coffee flavour to Smirnoff’s Espresso vodka indulging their caffeine cravings.

Fragrant Cafe incarnations

Clearly an equal opportunist, coffee’s rich, warm and soothing scent is still a favoured note in perfume and has been added recently to multiple men’s and women’s fragrances.

It’s the dominant ingredient in Yves Saint Laurent’s spicy and sweet Black Opium perfume. It plays the alter ego in Valentino’s sultry, nutty and leather-based eau Uomo Valentino for Men. In L’Artisan Parfumeur, its aroma is the undercurrent to the warm, sugary and orange/wood-tinged Noir Exquis parfum. And it maintains a distinct presence in Thierry Mugler’s bold and masculine A*Men Pure Wood scent.

With coffee’s multitude of permutations, ingested or inhaled, you can now enjoy your cup of Joe in more ways than one. So go ahead, sip and spritz!


Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Wood $99 (100 ml),
L’Artisan Parfumeur Noir Exquis $130 (100 ml) www.artisanparfumeur
Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium $95 (50 ml),
Valentino Uomo Valentino For Men $75 (50 ml),

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This article was written by

Adriana Ermter is an award-winning writer and editor. The former beauty director for FASHION magazine and editor-in-chief of Salon and of Childview magazines is a monthly columnist for Among Men Mag and has hosted beauty videos for and contributed to Men’s FASHION, Chatelaine and, Flare and, Huffington Post Canada, National Post, and She lives in Toronto with her very spoiled feline, Trixie-Belle, and a fantastically large perfume collection.