I sat on the wooden steps of the back porch this morning, watching the squirrels chase each other through the fallen leaves as I contemplated the crop of black walnuts dangling perilously in the stand of trees across the back of our property. Black walnuts — delicious treats coveted by man and beast alike that will stain everything, including your childrens’ curious hands, a deep dark brown — hurtled randomly toward the turf from 60 feet up, each tangerine-sized nut hitting the damp earth with an audible thwump like an unexploded grenade. Perhaps I should get the children to wear helmets out there for the time being. My Darlow’s Enigma roses, eternal optimists from April to November, are still sending up tendrils that end in a snowburst of fragrant white flowers. One of these mornings we will have frost, but not yet. I watch the steam rise from my coffee mug and smile. Why does this time of year, when everything is fading, always feel so full of promise to me?
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14-year-old Diva broke my reverie by sticking a scented arm under my nose. She had found a perfume she really, really loved. It’s a new release from an old, established house that would shame no one, it’s not terribly expensive or difficult to find, her friend has it, it’s perfect. She wants me to get her some. I took one deep inhale, recognized the scent immediately and my mind uttered the three words that now title today’s post. One thing is for sure: that child will not be wearing that scent in this house.
There are certain smells — smells free of any recollectible association of torture or abuse — that I cannot abide. Diva’s fragrance is one of them. I have had, I guess, my share of perfume turnarounds over the last few years, but there are some notes, and some fragrances, that I cannot fathom ever changing my opinion on.
One notable, categorical reversal was on gourmand vanillic fragrances. I can blame one too many inhales of some particularly noxious Comptoir Sud Pacifique at Sephora for my initial loathing. But somewhere awhile back, the vanilla wall started to crumble. I found myself powerfully, strangely, heretically attracted to Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille, the fragrance to which I owe eternal love for introducing me to the concept of the Smoky Vanilla, which is one of the universe’s finest fragrance combinations. Of course, making your own is better. I recommend Diptyque’s Essense of John Galliano or CB I Hate Perfume’s Burning Leaves (on the fancy niche end) or Demeter Bonfire on the cheap end, layered with whatever vanilla most tickles your fancy. (My choice for vanillas to layer with smoke: Givenchy Organza Indecence or the dirt-cheap Demeter Egg Nog, and no, I am not funning you.) From there it was a short, slippery slope to my newfound devotion for vanillic Godzilla fragrances like Dior Addict and Hypnotic Poison.
On a completely different scent angle, my changing feelings about Robert Piguet Bandit charted my course away from beginning perfumista, still clinging to conventional ideas of fragrances as smelling “pretty.” Bandit horrified me. I think I must have smelled Bandit ten times over the next two years, and slowly it began to lie, cheat and steal its way into my heart. Who can resist its bravado, its galbanum-leather like a slap across the face with a wet glove? I think most of us, as our tastes evolve and our experiences widen, have a Bandit Fragrance — a perfume that disgusts before those very same notes are transformed over time and experience into something delightful, something to be treasured.
But there are still fragrances I cannot imagine loving. There are fragrances I find so repellent that, while I have learned never to say never when it comes to perfume, it will take a shift of opinion so profound and enormous I have difficulty picturing it. The moldering mouse corpse smell of Serge Lutens’ Borneo 1834 is one such fragrance. I’d blame it on the mildew, but I enjoy Etro’s crypt-ic Messe de Minuit, so who knows what the problem is, precisely? Mugler’s Angel is another must-avoid fragrance, although I admit to having retried it several times, thinking reasonably enough that anything that popular on the mass market can’t be devoid of charm. Angel makes me gag. It is like inviting RuPaul to shriek Donna Summer’s greatest hits at top volume directly into one ear for fifteen hours — too much, too long, and waaaaaay too loud. I think I must have some aversion to chocolate in fragrance, particularly a chocolate/patchouli combo. Even a hugely popular, gentle choco-patch comfort scent, Yves Rocher’s Cocoon, make my stomach lurch. The chocolate-rotting fruit horror of Missoni is the scent I’d imagine being used in one of the many unbearable scenes in A Clockwork Orange.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a giveaway. I’ll round up a box of various odds and ends, some of which I hate, and mail them to the first person who can guess correctly what scent Diva’s asking for. In the meantime, what perfumes or themes demonstrate your changing tastes, or increasing tolerances, in fragrance? What fragrance (or type of fragrance) can you not imagine making peace with?
image of black walnuts: about.com – black walnuts smell pretty terrific, a strange leathery astringent smell; bandit image, collectorsquest.com