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How much do you think nationality might impact your taste in fragrance?


Physician, heal thyself
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
I was thinking about this earlier, over a mouthful of brussels sprouts (link relevant). Aside from cultural familiarity, how much does one's ethnicity play a part in shaping what you like and dislike in a perfume?

The reference to food is an obvious one to make. The trade of herbs and spices away from where they are cultivated has been taking place for thousands of years. Yet different regions - with different people, of course - use these ingredients in different proportions and for different purposes. Of course, it is easy to fall back on a social, historical, and even economic argument - people cooked with what was available, affordable, and already common. Yet it's undeniable that difference has occurred, to the point we have recognisable cuisines that can be categorised by continent, country, and region. Even without an understanding of the role in genetics, and how that can be used to explain differences in taste, we can see that groups of people share similar tastes within that group relative to other groups. There is a meme about British food being dull despite the Empire, which is mostly fallacious and ignores both religious temperance and genuine austerity for most people in the C19th and early C20th. Yet Britain is in fact a great example for this, as having conquered large parts of the world for several centuries, they had access to near enough every ingredient imaginable at the time. With that access, the local cuisine - and local ingredients - were often used to create dishes that were more appealing to the British palate. The Brit abroad did not naturalise his tastebuds to the local cuisine as much as he fused what was available to his existing sensibilies. A great example of this is curry; the creamy and rich gravies that are used in dishes that are notorious to large parts of the western world are a creation of the British Raj (before being transplanted back to Britain itself; tikka masala being the very definition of 'fusion' food, where curry was mixed with tomato soup). Even ignoring matters of imperialism, all spice is a common ingredient in British cooking, used in both sweet and savoury dishes: it is known as the 'English herb' in Polish. I'm sure there are many more examples for different places and peoples, and I would be interested in reading them - so please don't shy away from sharing them.

The point is, despite the cultural mixing and homogenising that has taken place in recent decades, we still maintain our preferences, diversity, and distinctions - for all sorts of reasons, including individuality. My question is: what role does nationality/ethnicity, if any, play in this when it comes to fragrance? Of course I am not demanding expert responses - thoughts, questions, and estimations are all welcome.

I suppose there is also a way to break the question down further, in to both wearer/buyer of the perfume, and the perfumer/house creating the perfume.
- How much does nationality impact the taste of the perfumer?
- How much does nationality impact the taste of the wearer?

For reference, consider the example of herbs and spices by nationality:



More Cool Than Tough
Basenotes Plus
Jun 12, 2008
I like your post. Good discussion but overall I never think of any of this when buying. But I also am in my own world and don’t buy from say Middle Eastern brands or others where they might have a style. Not saying I’m purposefully excluding ME…just an example. Honestly I always assumed many houses try to add different “flavors” and that the hobby is world wide where no matter where you are you see different styles. Maybe I’m naive
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Well-known member
Jan 21, 2006
Thank you for sharing this post.

And while recognizing or at least not fully excluding some notes and/or spice profile at least consistent with my region/country of birth and origin incidentally overlapping with some of my fragrance choices, strangely or not the personal fragrance hobby and the scents did own have helped even before joining BN, to further explore, wear, enjoy fragrances from a variety of countries, regions, cultures etc.

All or at least most quite different from the "default settings/preferences" of mine -being from a nation with not many cologne ladies/guys in the first place. And if scents are routinely worn as well as becoming designer/niche bestsellers, they differ a lot from the personal current selection.
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Missing Oakmoss
Basenotes Plus
Jul 25, 2015
Scent is a realm of its own to me, transcending considerations of this kind. Apart from having a general familiarity with the regions and botanical/biological groups where perfume ingredients are found, this question has never entered my mind.


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Oct 14, 2015
My question is: what role does nationality/ethnicity, if any, play in this when it comes to fragrance?
Directly? None whatsoever. In fact, I would need to have a serious talk with myself should I ever conclude that the color of one’s skin gives me definitive insight on what fragrance that individual would like or dislike.

Indirectly? Likely. Our likes, dislikes, beliefs etc are all shaped by each of our life experiences. That can certainly be influenced by where we grew up and with whom we associated.

Marty McFly

New member
Jan 18, 2020
I suspect minimally, but certainly >0. Clearly there are some regional differences in tastes which impact fragrances. The most obvious, in my mind, would be the prominence of oud in Middle Eastern fragrances. While oud has certainly grown in popularity in the Western world, it is undeniably more present (and has its origins in) the Eastern world. Perhaps the same is true for cumin. And maybe 'churchy' accords like fir/vanilla/tobacco combinations which many tend to associate with Christmas season, are more predominate in Europe and North America.

Brand marketing looks to exploit regional differences, and probably influences product placement. For some reason, Dior Homme Original and YSL Babycat are not available on the primary market in North America, but they are in Europe (though the rationale for this leaves me scratching my head.)

But it seems that many, if not most very popular fragrances are sold and appreciated everywhere in the world, so I would guess that a large proportion of what is "likeable" in fragrances is more universal and caters to the human animal in general, not just specific tribes of us.


Well-known member
Oct 21, 2002
Cuisines arose from what people grew in their regions, plus what spices they could get from the Spice Islands. Different soil types led to different plants and animals dominating certain regions. Over the centuries, the well known cuisines came about.

While most of the world has hooked onto European style perfumes, and they are now ubiquitous, there are still regional type perfumes which aren't ubiquitous around the world. When I'd visit Deira City Centre shopping mall in Dubai, one end of it has a very large number of shops selling solely Middle Eastern perfumes. They had very interesting rich smells - but I didn't buy any of them, as they were too wildly different from what I'm accustomed to.

Similarly, India has a big local perfume industry which I doubt has big sellers in the West.

So, I wouldn't say nationality and ethnicity per se has much to do with it, rather the bigger regions where the nationalities and ethnicities come from.

Varanis Ridari

The Scented Devil
Basenotes Plus
Oct 17, 2012
People raised in isolation from their native cultures often instead grow to assimilate the cultures of those around them, as is something most often seen with orphans adopted into families of differing ethnicity. People who move around a lot (like Army brats) also tend to develop a composite taste and cultural identity too.

This goes from manner of speaking, to tastes in art and cuisine, and even religious beliefs. In fact, there is something to be said for people coming to the Americas (whether by choice or force), and developing their own unique culture and tastes separate from their ethnic origins as a result.
You needn't look further than places like Quebec, Louisiana, Texas, Baja Mexico, and others to find this.

Of course, there are beliefs antithetical to this idea (like odalism), that would have you think your entire existence can and should only be of the culture associated with your ethnicity and its origin place (where such beliefs would have you remain), but that kind of race and region based prescription sniffs of an altogether different and more sinister kind of bias unrelated to perfume.


Well-known member
Aug 5, 2016
Have me feet in two worlds!

Not sure how much an effect it has had on me. Maybe some negative though. I noticed a period in younger life, when for whatever numerous reasons, I was averse to smells that would distinctively identify me as of a different heritage to the local. Big florals, nag champas, musky and that thing I still don't know what it is but comes across camphorous and a bit moth Bally!

I remember some relatives, wearing something strong like VCAPH, Trussardi Uomo and Leonard PH, along with fags lol and I didn't like it as a child. But kinda love em now!?

There likely are influences, perhaps more than any of us would like to admit, and all this nationality, heritage and culture talk is often a bit uncomfortable nowadays maybe?! I still hold that we're simple creatures who like to think ourselves complex and special 😮😬😊🤯


Basenotes Plus
Jan 3, 2019
Nice graphs, but whoever did the Northern/Eastern Europe one messed up badly. Caraway and sourcream are right, but the third one should be either garlic, onion, horseradish or some kind of animal fat, definitely not chili. No spicy food in the region historically/culturally, black pepper is the hottest spice in the cuisine and even that does not grow there naturally. It's very similar and closely knitted with European Jewish tbh. I wonder what else they did get wrong.

As for the question, I think people in the same region might tend to choose similar scents as a whole, but as individuals everyone's taste will differ. When you pick just one person from the group you don't know if their taste is more typical to the group or an outlier.


Well-known member
Aug 5, 2016
. I wonder what else they did get wrong.
Oh yes can be quite dangerous and irksome generalisation. I just read something that made me cringe on another thread, along the lines of "some persons of a certain faith could wear this to xyz and ABC occasion". So many things wrong in that sort of statement and the only comfort is that it is an "innocent ignorance". Yikes.
Could we just all get to know each other actually and in real life. Corr! ranty ranty!


Well-known member
Mar 6, 2011
Northern/Eastern Europe one messed up badly. Caraway and sourcream are right, but the third one should be either garlic, onion, horseradish or some kind of animal fat, definitely not chili. No spicy food in the region historically/culturally, black pepper is the hottest spice in the cuisine and even that does not grow there naturally.

They may have lumped Hungary into the Eastern European category, and I think they are partial to spicy paprika. But I do agree with your statement otherwise.

I have Polish / Silesian roots, and the cuisine in this region traditionally uses things like lard, onions, garlic, smoked meat (bacon and sausage), sour cream, caraway, marjoram, bay leaf and black pepper to add flavour to food.


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Jan 14, 2022
I was thinking about this earlier, over a mouthful of brussels sprouts

I've never been hungry enough that I've had to eat Brussel Sprouts.

Hopefully I never will be.


That being said, I think you made an excellent post regarding this subject and the questions you asked regarding the perfumer and wearer of fragrances.

I didn't think about it until I read your post, but I can't help but wonder if certain herbs & spices affect how a perfumer decides to use them in a fragrance. In particular, a perfumer in a country/region that uses a lot of those same herbs & spices in the preparation and seasoning of their food on a regular basis. I wonder if that has a direct relation to how much or any at all of a particular herb or spice is used in a fragrance versus someone in another country/region who doesn't smell/use that particular herb or spice on a regular basis.

As far as the wearer, I don't think it would be as much of an issue. Saffron is one example I keep thinking of due to its widespread use in the Middle East and that general area, but not so much in the US, particularly in the southern US where I'm from.
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Well-known member
May 15, 2015
It is interesting to think about, the problem is, with none of us really being researchers in this field, we would purely be speculating on topics that we don't really know about. First, we would have to prove there is a correlation between the food we eat and how we like to smell. While it sounds plausible, there are often cases where things sound correct but turn out not to be (the correlation equals causation trap).

I study music so I can say more about that with authority. I was trying to think of an analogy, do the sounds around us influence the music we like/create? Possibly, but probably not definitively. Some studies have been done to correlate the sound of languages with the music produced by that culture but I'm not sure they've been definitive. I tend to think that in the origins of a cultural practice there is likely a connection to the environment explaining why things are the way they are. But over time as cuisine, music, or fragrance practice becomes its own thing, it may no longer have that simplistic correlation to other elements of the culture/environment. In music, for example, the sound of the violin is often likened to the closest instrument to the human voice. So the origins of the violin may have been something to do with trying to mimic the original instrument, the voice. But as violin repertoire builds on itself it is referencing previous violin repertoire and branches out along its own stream of development uncoupled from that original association to the voice. Go ahead and try to sing this. 😂

I mention this because I think it's relevant to fragrance. Let's take H24 for example, I feel it is a reaction against (or in the lineage of) blue fragrances, followed by musky ambroxan fragrances that dominated mainstream releases. An attempt to find a new freshness that feels different from what came immediately before yet still capturing the mass appealing qualities of those fragrances, which I don't think has anything to do with the modern culinary palette of French people. But, it is also billed as a "modern fougere", it is possible the fougere scent profile is related to what grows in the region, the smell of lavender being familiar, the types of herbs used in French cuisine. But now the development of the genre is many times removed from that.

Maybe this is getting off topic, but I think my point is because of this removal I suspect most everyone will report the answer is "no" that their culture's taste in cuisine does not effect their taste in fragrance. It is also such a global world now it becomes increasingly pointless to try to make any generalization based on cultural exposure when we are exposed to elements from a variety of cultures at all times. I know I am especially lucky living in NYC to have access to every possible cuisine I could imagine, so I don't even know what I'd consider "my cuisine". The amount of "American food" (if such a thing exists) I eat is maybe 5% of my diet. I suppose we could bring it back to your point and say the variety I experience with food is reflected in the variety of fragrances I enjoy 😂 , but I think that would be a tenuous correlation.

I am curious how people from more culturally homogenous areas feel. I would think the more important cultural element would be what kind of fragrances people around you wear/what is socially acceptable to wear in your area and what kind of fragrances you grew up smelling on people. It is likely that none of us consciously think about this when choosing what fragrances we like and we would need several sessions with a psychoanalyst to unpack it all.

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