My taste in perfumes is definitely linked to cravings. I´ve already admitted to being serially seasonal when it comes to choosing scents, but I also get a tad preferential when it comes to what form my scents take. I will spritz happily for months on end, and then I will suddenly crave perfume oils. There is no rhyme or reason to this; although I think a lot of it has to do with how hot the weather gets. Ironically, many perfume oils tend to be heady, heavy scents, but there are some that I find work best in the hot weather. There will be days when I find the temperature so suffocating that no scent is best, and on others, something reminiscent of a frozen daiquiri or pià±a colada is all I want to smell of. Or, I might feel like conjuring up memories of frying my pasty self on Neponsit Beach in Far Rockaway New York with my olive-skinned next-door neighbors. It was all about bikinis and baby oil in those days. Needless to say, I never could achieve that St. Tropez tan; the upside is that I have no residual sun damage from all those searing sunburns. Now, I wouldn´t be caught dead without my sunblock.
Perfume oils occupy a special place in my scent collection. My first experience with them goes back to the patchouli oil that I bought at the head shop in the back of a housewares and kitchen gadget store in the local shopping mall. That was in the late 70s and those scents were holdovers from the 60s hippie oils I used to smell on the girls my brother dated, and the scents my sun worshipping neighbors wore. Oils were not, and still are not, completely in the mainstream. Over the years they´ve become less clandestine and more out in the open. Alyssa Ashley Musk and Bonne Bell Skin Musk oils were favorites of mine in middle school, and when I discovered Dewberry perfume oil from The Body Shop, I was content to smell exclusively of overripe, almost rotting fruit. It was glorious.
As I aged, my tastes became more sophisticated. Out of my love for vanilla grew the tireless search for the perfect vanilla perfume oil. I still haven´t found it, but I remain a fan of Kiehls Vanilla, especially when layered with their Cucumber or Grapefruit oils. I once spent an entire summer marinating myself in those scents, and then progressed to their classic Musk oil. All are still staples in my collection, as is Skin Musk, even though it is no longer made by Bonne Bell. Contrary to the many reformulations out there, this one still smells exactly as it did the first time I sniffed it in my neighborhood drug store.
I have tried a few mainstream perfume oils, often finding them to be disappointing. The most disappointing is Narcisco Rodriguez´s Musc For Her. I must be severely anosmic when it comes to Egyptian musk oils; there are quite a number of them my nose can´t smell. I can smell them in the bottle and they are usually quite lovely, but on my skin, they instantly disappear. I have noticed that there are few oils out there in the department stores – everyone goes gaga for a perfume concentration of a scent, but oils are mostly non-existent. I´ve always wondered if the fragrance industry is anti-oil due to some negative connotations, such as the one I used earlier: “hippie oil”. Is it a bad thing to be perceived as an oil-wearing “hippie” in the 21st century, but a good thing to eat organic food and buy organic, insanely expensive “Rich Hippie” perfumes? Someone please attempt to answer that for me…
After years of sampling and sniffing, I have determined that the best perfume oils can be found in the vast universe that is cyberspace. There are a few in brick and mortar stores, but I am amazed by the talent that is out there just waiting to be discovered. My personal favorites include Serena Ava Franco of AvaLuxe.com, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH/Essence Oils, Vinci & Rakos and Sonoma Scent Studio. The women behind the scents they sell are singular talents, and I own many of their exquisite creations. If you happen to live near a Barneys, be sure to check out oils by perfumer Yosh Han. Not only is she one of the nicest people I´ve ever met, she is passionate about fragrance and it is evident in the scents she creates. If you can get to Fred Segal in Los Angeles or Henri Bendel in New York, I highly recommend the Memoire Liquide line. I could literally spend an entire day sniffing every single scent they offer. If something true to the roots of “hippie oils” tickles your fancy, there are none better than those in the small Northern California chain of Body Time locations. Their China Rain scent is spectacular, and I remain convinced that Jennifer Lopez blatantly ripped it off for her JLo Glow fragrance.
As many successful online perfumers as there are, it would be impossible to list them all, or sample all their wares. The beauty of the internet is that it allows us to discover new information all the time. My collection of perfume oils has grown from a small gathering in a makeup bag to a serious collection, just like my bottles of fragrance. Each one is a singularly beautiful scent that I enjoy wearing, when the time is right.