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A place for all this to go

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My dear partner dislikes fragrance and is allergic to many things, and most of the people in my life aren't terribly fussed about fragrance. This means my recent enthusiasm has no outlet. It's going to have to all go here.

The first perfume I ever owned was Angel. In 1996, a family friend gave me two 5mL bottles of the parfum just after it had launched. I didn't wear Angel much -- it was too strong for me -- but as a little girl the chocolatey-foody scent was delicious. A few years later I happened upon a mini of Jean-Paul Gaultier Classique in a secondhand store for about $12. I was taken with the bottle, bought it, and wore the perfume on and off for years. It must have been quite odd to see a sticky-handed child smelling like Classique. Classique would be too sweet for me now, but it does remind me of some perfumes I still like -- most notably Narciso Rodriguez For Her EDP.

I was a teenager when For Her EDT and EDP were released, and I remember going back again and again to my local department store to smell them. They smelled fascinating to me -- luscious and warm with personality but no hard edges, although of course the EDT and EDP are rather different perfumes. I never bought a bottle then, but am now happy to own backups of both fragrances. They were a bit of an impulse buy, but I don't regret it.

For Her EDP is on the sweeter end of perfumes I can tolerate. That's because my skin turns everything sweet, vanillic, and powdery. Is there a hint of vanilla or amber in the fragrance? Boom, it dominates everything else. Most amber-heavy fragrances just become sweet vaguely caramelly powder on me, which is fine as far as it goes, but not very interesting. Almost everything becomes sugary or cloying on my skin. I guess it's just my body chemistry. But that is perhaps why I fell hard for Mitsouko.

I was primed to like Mitsouko: a blogger I like had raved about the fragrance, and I'd gotten an idea of its legendary status somewhere. But Mitsouko was the first feminine fragrance I tried that was both beautiful and not at all sweet on my skin. It didn't turn bitter or "fresh" (yuck) or strange -- it smelled deep and rich and made me want to keep smelling it to understand it better -- but it wasn't in the least bit sweet. Not a hint of pandering or smiling niceness anywhere. Mitsouko is beautiful and serious, and so it would never occur to her to want to be considered attractive. I liked the feeling it gave me, of being self-contained. Mitsouko isn't a compliment-getter, and that's a positive for me. When I wear it, I know I'm doing something purely for my own sense of enjoyment, and not something designed to impact how others perceive me.

For about ten years, starting from when I was 19/20, I wore the same perfume most days: Snake Oil by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. On me, Snake Oil is a compliment-getter, and it's also a very easy and comforting scent. Incense - musk - spices - vanilla, delivered by the kilogram. Heavy, heady, warm, and straightforward. Guerlain's Shalimar is in the same vein of scents, right in my comfort zone. That's perhaps why I've shied away from Shalimar: it's too easy to like. Yes, it's glorious and cozy and complex, with bergamot and vanilla and something smoky slinking through it, but it also feels sort of obvious for me. A little too on brand. I don't feel like I'm experiencing something different or learning something new.

Notes that I don't like: fresh, "clean", or "green" notes. I remember loathing the previous formulation of Chanel No. 19 as a child. It smelled like brittle, expensive feminine rage to me, like Vivienne Leigh throwing a cocktail glass and screaming at her husband. I took a whiff of the latest incarnation, and it's a much tamer creature than the icy terrifying woman I remember as a child. Light or delicate fragrances don't suit me, either -- For Her EDT is about as "quiet" or light as I'm able to comfortably entertain. I'm just not very delicate myself, so luminous, ethereal, or crisp fragrances make me feel like I'm wearing someone else's clothes. (My mother, on the other hand, has always favoured fresh or green scents -- though she wore Chanel No 5 for a while, her usual fragrance is Bulgari's Eau Parfumee au The Verte. Citrus, green, and freshness suit her quite well.)


  1. junkinirishman's Avatar
    Nice article Tilleuil. After reading your post I am surprised about perfumes.


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