Some years ago, after a slow recovery from a debilitating double lung whammy of pneumonia and pleurisy, I was shopping in Liberty for perfume. Not for myself; I wanted to find something just so for a friend of mine who loved, and loves, figgy smells.

Brief aside: my rediscovery of the sense of smell actually dates to that incidence of pneumonia. Lying in hospital, nebuliser attached 24 hours a day, I was cut off from the world. When I could breathe the air again, I noticed wonders. Even in the grotesque. I’d loved smell as a young man – encapsulated in my obsession for Christian Dior’s Fahrenheit, but now it seemed launched into new heights of sensory wonderment.I couldn’t get enough. But I think I’ve told this story before.

Back to Liberty. I’d only discovered niche through Basenotes and other online worlds a few months before this shopping trip and, like so many folk, had started in the world of l’Artisan Parfumeur. Premier Figuier was probably right for my friend, but I wanted to try other things first so I’d moved through Diptyque, Marc Jacob for men and something by Carthusia too.

The unassuming sales assistant, after holding off for some time (a very pleasing Liberty trait) asked me what I was looking for. And I told her of the figgy hunt. She suggested, in her lilting Caribbean accent, that perhaps I could try something different, and led me to the Serge Lutens display, my first real contact with those pared down, elegantly unstable export bottles. She picked up Arabie and told me it contained dried fig.

I’d never smelled anything like it. It may well have contained dried fig but like the fabled horn (I speak not of March’s Bois de Matin, people), a cornucopia of other things poured out with the first seductive spray. Sweet and dry, fruity and rich, leathery and sharp, it seemed to hold opulent worlds inside its gamboge liquid.  And these worlds were then, and now, ineffable to me. It was edible and toxic and somehow impossible. Suddenly, perfume had invented its own language inside my head and it would be some time before I would make all the cognitive shifts to fit in this new terrain (and would spend A LOT of money while I did).

And the seduction was so intense that I forgot all about my firend until I snaffled up some l’Artisan for her the following week. It just didn’t compare the opulent beast I’d bought for myself.

I’ve been away with work for the past four days and the only perfume that accompanied me was Arabie. It wasn’t suitable, but nonetheless it’s all I wanted. Like all real first loves, it doesn’t quit me.

Your first real love in perfume? And where now, in your affections, does it sit?

  • Emotenote says:

    What a great story! Oddly my own perfume downfall also came after a long illness when, after losing my sense of smell for years, it finally reappeared en-force. I could walk into a grocery and smell the individual fruits across the store. It made me such a joy to be with,

    “Sweetie, did you wear that shirt yesterday, and could you brush your teeth again?”

    “God Almighty what is that smell in the kitchen?” (one rotten pea)

    So the first fragrance I discovered was a very gentle one called Valentino Gold. A very pretty very unknown little fragrance with notes of lime and mandarin, ginger, water lily, and cranberry then blue iris and white musk as a base. It sounds odd but it’s actually very soft and buttery and slightly soothing.

    After that I smelled my way through department store fragrances available at the time (1990 or so) found maybe 2 I could stand (Christalle, and a Cartier)and gave up the search. Then a while down the road when a little thing called blogging came into being, (Angels singing) I discovered the world of niche fragrance and hallelujah! There were stores that sent samples! Samples of complex, amazing, intelligent, evocative smells out there; and there was Serge Lutens, and Cedre’and… I was a goner.

    • Lee says:

      Now, that’s a nose. Like an adapted version of the Princess and the Pea…

      Valentino Gold does sound quite lovely.

  • onelittlesleep says:

    My first reaction to reading your description of Arabie: “JERK! Now I have to fret about if I should even sample something I might fall in love with that is entirely out of my current price range. Noooooooooooo!”

    Ha. And then I felt ashamed of myself.

    You’re an excellent writer. You’ve sold me things before (you were RIGHT about Dior’s Bois d’Argent, btw), so a new lemming for Arabie won’t be that surprising.

    Another day, another perfumeposse review that sends me ebay searching.

    • Lee says:

      Thanks for the compliment. and apologies for the financial damage to your accounting processes…:”> :)>-

  • Iggy says:

    My first love was Balafre (Lancôme) and my second love was Drakkar (Guy Laroche) because I bought them almost at the same time. I liked Drakkar much more than Drakkar Noir. I still remember those big splash bottles and I still can “smell” them (in my memory). Both discontinued many years ago and I never got a chance to buy/get them again…

  • Aparatchick says:

    I’ve liked many perfumes, but my head-over-heels, I’ll-follow-you-anywhere, my-own-true love was Andy Tauer’s L’air du desert marocain. I’d never smelled anything quite like it and for me it was a remarkable combination of infatuation and mature love. Still is. :d

  • Kim says:

    Well, my first perfume love was Magie Noire but since it is now a pale imitation of it’s original glory, I don’t go near it now. My next and true perfume love was Chanel No 5 – still wear it almost everyday. Originally I wore the EdP but now it’s the parfum I love best.

    My introduction to the Possee a few years ago brought me to the wonders of Guerlain and I fell instantly in love with Mitsoko and Shalimar followed by L’Heure Bleue. Commes Des Garcons was another revelation – somehow they manage to combine classic perfume with an edge. Lutens? Sorry but no – I wax and wan with them but can’t say that any are true perfume love.

    For me, true perfume love remains Chanel – I’ve expanded my repertoire (Cuir de Russie, No 22, Bois des Iles, No 19, 31 Rue Cambon) but remain a true No 5 fangirl. Somehow, it is my perfume home.

  • Winifreida says:

    What a great topic, tempting me to de-lurk!I have been mad for perfume (and horses) for as long as I can remember. Mum (Mom) was not a great liker of it, but Dad was and I think I got the genes from him. My best friend of 15 was given a bottle of Replique by her city boyfriend and wouldn’t touch it, but when I went to her place I would be attracted to it like a magic potion. Someone gave me Jolie Madame and Miss Balmain because they didn’t like them (I was 14 and they were much too severe!).I had this thing called ‘Desert Flower’ by Shulton and drenched myself in it for school. Then it was Tabu, the Spiritual Sky oils during Art School, (I still love anything headshoppy) Caleche, Fidji, and then BAM at about 25 I met Mitsouko. It nailed me totally except for L’Heure Bleue which for some reason I loved in the winter (I laugh now when I hear people call these ‘fumes ‘old’!)for the best part of three decades. Suddenly I have re-emerged into fumista-hood seriously facilitated by these wonderful blogs and I am now making up for lost time! Challenging as I live in rural Australia!

  • Flora says:

    Lee, what a nice story, and I love Arabie too – finding the Serge perfumes was like coming home for me, they all seem to “fit” me just right for some reason.

    I don’t know about my very first perfume true love, since I have adored a lot of them – I fell madly in love with a whole store full of them when I first discovered what real perfume was all many years ago, from Shocking to Femme to Joy to things that are obscure and long gone, I could not get enough, and only the constraints of a public employee’s salary kept me from buying them by the dozen.

    Then I found THE ONE – Jean Patou’s Vacances, the finest green floral that has ever been made. When the MA Collection reissues came out, I tried and loved all of them, but that one struck me speechless and brought tears to my eyes with its vivid beauty. I kept repurchasing until it was discontinued, about which I am still in denial. My all-time HG is to find a pristine bottle of the original 1936 formula – in Parfum of course. (I currently own the last bottle of EDT that my local shop had, and I don’t know what I will do when it’s gone, since I have seen it selling for up to $500 a pop online.) It transports me to a perfect place that no other perfume can, or nothing else can do for that matter. It is my idea of incontrovertible proof that perfume can be Art with a capital A.

  • tammy says:

    At the grand ol’ age of 3, I sniffed Joy on the wrist of an aunt, and squealed so loudly, half the house heard me! She took me to her dressing table, dabbed some on me, and I promptly took possession of the bottle for the rest of my visit. She graciously sent the bottle home with me, much to my mama’s horror, and continues to send me bottles to this day. (I must say, these days it smells mostly of jasmine to me; I get very little rose any more….skin chemistry changing?)

    Opium was my first purchase….then Lauren….then I sort of lost interest in anything else, because everything all started smelling the same to me.

    In depseration for something new one day, I Googled perfume, and voila….I found you all.

    This past year has been an amazing journey….and while I can’t quite yet embrace some of the stranger things, it’s been fun trying!! And I suspect I’d have never found the Carons on my own, so for that alone I could kiss all y’alls feet!

  • mariekel says:

    I will confess that my first forays into perfumes were whatever teeniebopper cheapies they stocked at our local gift shop, namely, Coty Sweet Earth solids and Earth, Rain, Wind, Fire roll-ons. but my first grown-up, heartfluttering love was Rive Gauche when I was roughly 16 or 17. I remember wanting a perfume that would make me feel and seem urbane and sophisticated (I was such a social outcast that I decided I had no choice but to reinvent myself as something vaguely unapproachable. I spent months trying to be the Diane von Furstenberg of suburban New York– even wore her original wrap dresses).

    I remember being at the Perfume counter in Bloomingdales, wearing my Borghese silver plum lipstick and de rigeur 1970s dark blue cloche hat and inhaling Rive Gauche for the first time. It was not like anything I associated with perfume — not floral, powdery, not sweet or heavy like my grandmother’s Shalimar and Joy, slightly androgynous and wholly beau monde. It piqued me and made me feel transformed from skinny pale angst girl to von Furstenberg lite. I snapped it up right then and it became my signature scent for the next few years.

    I had tried it again in Frankfurt airport a couple of years ago and was horrified by how dreadful it smelled on me: sharp, metallic. Then a sweet perfumista on MUA scent my a small bottle of the vintage EDT and I recalled immediately what it was I fell for years ago.

    While I do not often reach for it — my tastes have widened in many sometimes eccentric directions, and I do not often want to repeat the past — I am comforted by its presence and its confirmation of my phenomenal good taste at such a tender age.

  • Erin T says:

    Great post on one of my personal faves, Lee, really enjoyed it. I’m afraid the start of my obsession was probably less profound/interesting, and more embarrassing. I’m one of those girls who discovered Angel and initially wore too much. Did purchase the brand new (at that time) Bvglari Omnia and an OJ sample set at around the same time as the Angel discovery, though, and perhaps those purchases were really the start of my obsession.

  • Kelly says:

    I started with perfumes way back when I was little, with Tinkerbell. 😉 I grew up with many “ooh, I love it”s, White Shoulders, Tabu, Emeraude, Poison, Lauren etc. But, tragically, my first weak-in-the-knees, eyes-filled-with-tears-of-joy moment was just a couple of years ago when I spritzed a sample sent to me by a dear Posse friend. Immediately I felt like I had found MY perfume. I had just stepped into my own skin… it was ME. It was beautiful and perfect and spoke to my soul like none other had before or since. It was Eau d’epices by Andy Tauer. The tragic part was that it was a trial of something he was playing with, which never came to life. It was a momentarily glimpse of heaven and I remember it vividly and often. I have nagged Andy to make another batch… just for me, if he doesn’t want to market it… I’d pay in advance if that would help. Alas, he is successful and busy and I am left to pine.

    Is it better to have loved and lost? I’m not so sure.

    • Lee says:

      Oh my, what a story. Andy must be so busy; a shame that you don’t have access to the one you love.

  • Nava says:

    L’Artisan Vanilia. I’ve written about it copiously. I love it to this day, but never wear it anymore. Others have usurped its place in my heart, and I no longer have so much as a drop of it. We’ve had a long and complicated relationship and I guess the best way to describe it is a hiatus. 8-|

  • Tara C says:

    Poison was my first “big girl” perfume that I bought for myself back in the early 80’s (whenever it first came out). Loved that stuff, and got compliments on it, so it must have smelled okay on me. My gateway niche perfume was Passage d’Enfer, which was a revelation to me. I had always loved incense but had not conceived that it could be experienced as a perfume. It was all downhill from there to perfumista-hood! Arabie – wish I could wear that one, but it smells like a dustbin outside an Indian curry restaurant.

    • Lee says:

      I’m sjure you don’t wish to wear Arabie if that’s how it smells to you! 😉

      Passage d’Enfer is a gateway drug for quite a few people I think…


  • marko says:

    I would have to say that Comme des Garcons Odeur 53 was the first fragrance that intrigued me on a conceptual and intellectual level…..I couldn’t fathom why someone would formulate (let alone want to wear) a fragrance that smells of metal, nail polish, drying laundry and oxygen – yet I was smitten with it! Thinking back on that time in my life, the most frustrating part of my “discovery” was that I had no one to talk to about it….no one I knew or hung out with liked fragrance as much as I did. Subsequently, my obsession for scent began down a lonely path…….

    I still love and wear Odeur 53 – but only a few times a year. Although it has been knocked off the pedestal as my favorite fragrance many times now, it will always have a special place in my heart.

    • Lee says:

      Yes, I had an infatuation with CdG too, though never quite got Odeur 53 in the way you did.

      I think many of us are familiar with perfume isolation irl…>:d<

  • dleep says:

    In my 20’s and 30’s I wore nothing but Estee Lauder Private Collection. I had powder, perfume and EDP. I thought it was such a glamourous scent. I was also a big fan of Ciara. When the weather turned cold, I wore it on the weekends. I don’t wear either of them anymore but once in a while will go to my perfume closet for a sniff. Wish Arabie worked for me.

  • Norjunma1 says:

    What a lovely post Lee. It seems that the chill and brittle days of late autumn have everyone in a reverie of memory.

    For me it was Gap’s unassuming little “Om” that did me in. Up until then I’d leaned towards light and fruity like so many people at that age (I was 18). Om was the first scent that really smelled different and sinuous and undeniably sexy in an exotic way. And it was still light enough that it didn’t send me into a claustrophobic panic. Since that other resiny, incensey loves have entered my life (Feminite du Bois, Mitsouko, Shaal Nur) and Om has been discontinued. But I’m still so fond of it, for the world that it opened up for me, that I still hunt down bottles on eBay, and spritz from time to time, and smile at my youth.

    • Lee says:

      And that’s the wonder of scent: to bring back the past in spite of how we have changed since…:x

  • birdwingwhir says:

    Great post, Lee! I’m with Masha–Mitsouko was a revelation to me, and to this day a sniff of it thrills me. I have a bottle of vintage parfum that I use sparingly, for fear of using it up. If I ever had to pick just one perfume to take with me to that hypothetical desert island, it would be Mitsouko, no question. Where I run into trouble is with top ten lists–I have at least twenty perfumes in my top ten list. 🙂

    • Masha says:

      I was able to buy an ounce of 2001-vintage, pure Mitsouko parfum at a local perfumery here in Germany. It was a tester, and they no longer sold Mitsouko. The 20-something sales gals sniffed it, wrinkled their noses, and gave it to me in exchange for 20 euros for their coffee fund. Can you believe that??? That’s some good perfume karma.:d

    • Lee says:

      I think we all have that problem!

  • barbara says:

    I was an Emeraude teen, until one day, climbing the stairs outdoors to my apartment, my aunt came trailing Habanita.I was spellbound, watching her wild red hair in the sun over her bulky fur collar in the San Francisco damp.I was 19-I wrote odes to her fragrance-and searched for it, to make it my own.I would aspire to her elegance and femininity that I discovered in Habanita-it would inform my choices of scent forever-would it make me feel sultry or light-hearted?Would it cheer me or calm me-and know I always had choices?

    • Lee says:

      Oh, what a filmic moment. I can almost smell the eucalypts from the Persidio mingling with the fog…

  • Samantha says:

    The first perfume I ever loved and bought a full bottle of was Poison, when I was 16 in 1988.I wore clouds of it…I was probably choking everyone around me but I thought I smelled great. It was alsothe only thing strong enough to cover up the lingering floor varnish stench of the pink and white bottle Aqua Net that I sprayed all over my hair to keep it spiked up properly. I started on niche with Tea for Two..which I still love but don’t wear so often anymore. I’ve been wearing a lot of A La Nuit and Cuir Ottoman just lately.

    • allabouteve says:

      Ohhh,,,,Cuir Ottoman..that one just HAS to be mine! Cuir and me got to know each other only a few weeks ago..but,yup, it sure was love! It’s actually one of the few leathers that works well on me..

    • Lee says:

      Well, Poison reminds me of early love… So I have a soft spot for it.

      I’ll wear Cuir Ottoman tomorrow I think. I have so much juice of that one (blasted 100ml bottles!).

      • allabouteve says:

        And see, that’s part of getting into perfume-hood after your first big love:discovering that there are no boundarys…a masculine worn by women and viceversa!heheh! You just inspired me…my Cuir Ottoman sample for tomorrow!

  • Disteza says:

    Yup, that Lutens stuff certainly seems to have been the gateway drug of choice for a number of us–for me it was Rousse. Maybe I’m one of the four people in the world that this blooms on, but it opens in a dusty, incensy way, and the cinnamon never becomes quite edible. After a lifetime of crap Yankee cinnamon-y candles and Orange Spice tea (not to mention the treacly sweet or limp aqueous perfumes of the 90’s which I tried and by which I was summarily bored), Rousse was my own freaking revelation. I still have that first bottle, down to about 1/2 now, and I’ll break it out from time to time as mood dictates, but every time I whisper a little ‘thank you’ to the perfume gods for opening my eyes, erm, nose, to such beautiful possibilies.

    • Masha says:

      I’m person number 5 who loves Rousse! It works quite well on me, too, and settles quickly into a lovely, spicy, woody scent. Nice to see it getting some more love.

    • Lee says:

      I wrote a rave post for Rousse when it first came out and have nearly used up a bottle. I think I was in the minority then, but I still marvel in it today.

  • DinaC says:

    In high school and college, I wore Jontue and Lauren in the red cube bottle. Then, in my 20s, I wore Arpege for many years. Nowadays, Jontue is gone and Lauren is reformulated into something that doesn’t smell remotely the same. I still love Arpege, though. Green florals like the original Lauren, and classic chypres have always been my favorite categories. I keep adding more “loves,” but those are the families that I like the best.

    • Lee says:

      Aaah, well you identify something there. I wonder how many people stay true to the family of their first perfume love…?:-?

  • mals86 says:

    Emeraude, 1983. Sniffed it at the drugstore and nearly fell over in a swoon. The lime! The flowers! The vanilla! The more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts!(My mother, a No. 5 girl to her bones, was appalled.)

    I wore Cheap Drugstore Crap for so many years that I feel sorry for myself for missing years of decent perfumery. Over the summer, prompted by one of March’s posts, I started stalking vintage Emeraude on ebay. My first bottle of 1970’s pdt was even better than I had remembered, plush bosomy stuff… now I own six bottles of pdt and parfum.

    I love lots of upscale stuff these days – Lyric and Le Temps d’une Fete and Ta’if, among others – but Emeraude is still the most “me.”

    • Lee says:

      Well, we rebel against our parents in all sorts of intentional and unintentional ways. Glad the love lasted.

  • Shelley says:

    Aw, everybody is memory lane trippin’ and I can’t go. I am, however, enjoying hanging out at the fringes of the party, though, hearing what it would have been like had I been enamored of perfume earlier in my life path. I am having interesting “in retropect” recollections of certain people via entirely new memory paths: you say the perfume, I smell it in my head, then thing A-HA! that is the smell of -X-. Crazy, the things I learn about people I haven’t seen in forever, all these years later.

    I *have* always appreciated my sense of smell, though. I sorry you had to go through the PPN (pnemonia, pleurisy, nebulizer) to have such a dramatic recovery moment, but am certainly glad you did recover!

    • Lee says:

      I was glad of the recovery too, though I was so out of it for most of the time, thre shocked looks of visitors made me laugh…

      Good to have a smell you can link to folks from the past (every mention of Poison reminds me of a girl I briefly dated, weigh back when, whose mother owned a designer knitwear shop – it was the 80s after all).

  • kathleen says:

    Mmmmm..Arabie…lovely, lovely Christmas pudding.

    My first love would have been Joy. I haven’t worn it in a couple of years. Don likes it very much, so maybe I should break it out again. My next passion was Bois des Iles, I always have a bottle of this. Poor thing now has to vie for attention, amongst the dozens of decants, that posts like these, have brought into my life. Not that that’s a bad thing….

    • Lee says:

      They’re noisy little devils, those perfumes, aren’t they? I’ve stopped listening to some of mine…

  • March says:

    What a fun post! Seriously, though, isn’t this the perfect time of year for Uncle Serge? I’m on my own Lutens bender as you know.

    I had a similar experience as you with the Serge. I can still remember smelling those the first time and thinking: Oh. OH. I mean … what the hell. Of course you can only try one or two at a time, I spent weeks driving to Tysons so I could smell them all. 😡

    My first loves were Poison, Niki de St. Phalle and Paris (dating myself, aren’t I) and I have to say, in hindsight, I think I had rather good taste. I still love all three, although I understand why others don’t, particularly Poison.

  • tania says:

    Oh, Ciara! I’d forgotten about that one. Thanks for the reminder, Melissa.
    The first perfume I wore was probably Brut. Seriously. I hung out with the suedeheads as a girl – not the racist skinheads, I hasten to add, just kids who liked the look and the music – and we all wore it, girl or boy, along with the Doc Martens, braces (suspenders to the yanks), Ben Sherman shirts, and two-tone jackets. I don’t recall actually liking Brut that much, it was just what we wore!
    I graduated to Aqua Manda (anybody remember that one?) then Yardley Sea Jade and Coty Complice. Complice was my first real perfume love. But I’ve never tried to find it again, it was so much of that time to me, and I can’t go back.

    • Melissa says:

      Love Ben Sherman shirts!

    • Lee says:

      Sta-press trousers? Harrington jackets? I was a wannabe suedehead (too young and foolish to pull it off)…

      • tania says:

        Yep! The boys had the sta-press trousers, us girls had two-tone miniskirts and feathered hair. And we listened to a lot of reggae – mostly straight out of Jamaica, since I lived in Brixton and the record shops in the market got all the good imports. Those were the days…. 😉

  • Melissa says:

    Do I have to choose just one? But really, it is funny that you ask this question on the heels of Patty’s post about memories and Cinnabar. My flirtations with fragrance started very early with stolen spritzes of my mother’s classic floral aldehydes. My first purchases were the 70’s orientals, Opium, Cinnabar and the now downgraded-to-drugstore status Ciara.

    I wore Ciara for a few years, basking in its spicy, incensey, vanillic, patchouli-laden glory. Then I just stopped wearing it. I would recognize it in a heartbeat, despite the fact that I haven’t worn it in over 25 years.

    Would I like it? I don’t know. I no longer wear 70’s orientals. They generally don’t suit my tastes. But I think that I would like to find a vintage bottle of Ciara (surely it has been reformulated?), even if it is no longer the sort of fragrance that I wear.

    • Lee says:

      Now, Tuscany for men filled that role for me, and I haven’t smelled that for at least 15…

    • Denise S. says:

      Ciara was my first perfume love too. my grandfather’s mistress wore it and gave my oldest sister a bottle for her birthday.I thought it was so sophisticated I kept dropping hints until she brought me a bottle on my birthday.Back then I thought I was so chic wearing that such a bold fragrance.I think I would still like it now.

  • mi-cuit says:

    L’Heure Bleue, naturally. Three years and much exploration later, its pedestal is even higher up than when it all started.

  • Allabouteve says:

    Well,it was also a Lutens that opened (mental) doors for me..doors that,opened,showed me there was much more out there than your local stores to look through in terms of perfume..there was internet, there were blogs..It was also buying my first Lutens (Gris Clair, in case you wondered..)that started the first “journey to a perfume shop” know, trip to London?Well, have to visit Ormonde Jayne…trip to Berlin..well,let’s see what niche stores we have here…Those kind of things, pretty hard to understand by non-perfumistas! 🙂
    Well, actually, I’m lying…my first love in perfume was one that’s now discontinued (either they’re hard to find or discontinued..), by Joop, “all about eve”..a nice little gourmand, easy to wear and to like. But it was Serge who started my real Joop for me doesn’t count.

    • Lee says:

      I think you sum up what I didn’t – the one that properlu kickstarted the obsession…

      Hope you enjoy your perfumed travels.

      • allabouteve says:

        ohhhhh…I always do!But now I don’t have to travel that, in my little city I discovered, about a year ago, a niche-perfume store with…L’Artisans, ByRedos, Juliette has a gun, Parfums d’ can imagine, the owner’s my BF right now..:)>-
        But I do admit..having to travel to get a certain perfume does give it a certain charm, doesn’t it? I’ve just found out that my cousin’s visting London in December..I think I’ll need an Amouage sampler set…should I get the complete one, male+female? I use several masculines, so..could work,right?

  • zeezee says:

    Ah, reminiscence… 😀
    Arabie is one I *wanted* to love, but which smells like a disturbingly accurate curry dish to me. I still regard it as my big failure since it has everything I ought to love. I’ll have to make do with alternating Chergui and Fumerie Turque instead.

    I always hated perfume. That is, I loved the idea of it, but I hated the fact that I never found an actual perfume that really clicked or -lowering my goals- that would simply not fry my nose hairs. Imagine my delight when I stumbled across a Serge Lutens display! All right, not instant love, but it was *different*. Unique. Enter lotsa Googling, Basenotes, discovery of niche shops, L’Artisan and general mania.

    My first full-blown love is and has been since Tam Dao. All the better for it because I hated it when I first tried it. Sure, it’s only been two years, but that’s a lifetime in me continuing to appreciate one single perfume.

    Sometimes I want to reset my nose to be able to take in all of those big new impressions again – I hate feeling jaded at times.

    • Robin R. says:

      I had the same frustrating experience with Arabie, zeezee. Starts off honeyed and spicy, and then goes lamb Vindaloo on me.

      I fell in love with perfume when I was ten or so and Santa brought me The Perfumes of France set of minis. This was the good stuff: Le De Givenchy, Balenciaga’s Le Dix, Shocking by Schiaparelli and the like, vintage 1967. Oh, the magic in those little 3/4-inch square bottles! The mystery! The oh-so-Frenchness about them! I wanted to grow up INSTANTLY and be exactly the kind of high-heeled and lipsticked woman who wore these things and had the romantic and exciting life to go with them.

      I’ve been able to find vintage formulations of some of those scents in the last little while, and they take me right back to being that skinny, flat-chested, freckled little tomboy me. How lovely it feels. >:d<

    • Lee says:

      Oh yes. The jaded feeling. I hope it just flirts with you a little rather than making itself at home. I now use it as an excuse to have interests in other things (as if I need one) or just be happy with the smells I’m faithful to.

  • Louise says:

    After several flirtations with various orientals (Opium, Cinnabar) and head-shop goodies, I was offered a spritz of Datura Noir by a sweet SA at Bergdorf. She warned me that I might not expect to like it (I had stated that I did not like florals), but to give it a chance.

    So I did, and as bopped around NYC, and it’s almondy flowers lingered wonderfully. I went back and bought a bottle, and wore it so steadily that my son called it “eau de maman”.

    And so it started…so it was SL that lured me down the niche path. I adore Arabie, will wear it in you honor today (pooey on the naysayers /:) Also in frequent SL rotation is my new pet-Filles en Aiguilles.

    Thanks, Lee, and Happy Weekend to all 😡

  • Masha says:

    My first real perfume love as a grownup (when I was a teen, it was Cristalle), was and is Mitsouko, pre-reformulation of course. The first time I tried the EdP, I literally fell over (fortunately, onto a soft futon!). I felt like a kitty at the catnip farm. That hasn’t changed, and though I don’t usually fall over anymore, I hoard my old Mitsy like Scrooge and his gold. My everyday love was and is HM’s Magical Moon, which I go back to any day I need to smile and generally feel more cheerful about life and the universe. Other perfumes have come and gone, but these two, I’m just stuck with ’em!

  • Fiordiligi says:

    Lovely piece thanks, Lee. Yes, I know that lovely Caribbean lady in Liberty’s too!

    Carter, I think I’m with you on the Jolie Madame. My aunt had a lot of gorgeous perfumes (they had money, you see) and my greatest treat would be to be allowed to sit at her dressing table and sniff the scents. She gave me her bottle of JM which I remember being in a black opaque atomizer; of course it was far too “old” for me (I was about 14 I think) but I just loved it – although, you know, soon after that I discovered Guerlain and all was lost. I’ve never had any JM since. I should rectify that, shouldn’t I? (Vintage, naturellement).

  • carter says:

    Jolie Madame, brought back from Paris by my brother-in-law and bestowed upon my mother, who apparently was not wowed. I was sixteen and I swiped it from her dressing table drawer, where it had been lying untouched in its rather severe (to my girlish eyes) grey ribbed box.

    I loved it at first sniff; leather and violets, how unimaginably brilliant and beautiful! And now, after what seems like no fewer than a hundred years having passed in the meantime, I love it so much more.

  • cinnamon says:

    I didn’t fall head over heels for a perfume (though I wore and loved things for many years) until Santa Maria Novella’s Patchouli in my late 30s. I had signature scents before then and had fragrances I adored, but the ‘relationship’ with the SMN was such that it still haunts me. During the period I wore it (around three years), I had no real interest in other perfumes — and I never strayed. Then I got pregnant, had a baby, and my chemistry changed dramatically. The SMN no longer smelled good, no matter how many times I sampled it. In the eight odd years since then I’ve yet to find a perfume that causes the same reaction in me, that engenders the same desire and yearning. Strangely, this doesn’t make me sad: rather, it makes me think if it happened once, it can happen again. So, while I wear things I love deeply, I know that somewhere out there is a fragrance with which I’ll have the same extraordinary relationship, I just haven’t ‘met’ it yet.

  • bryan says:

    I suppose my first real love was Chanel 5. It was just so odd and thrilling to be sneaking a dab on my own wrists….I was closeted and assumed any overt “feminine” thing would out me, but still I could not resist. I even loved it when my friend OD’d on the stuff and choked the air around us.
    After that, it was L’Artisan Parfumeur…the very old bottles, filled with the likes of Princesse Nerola, Bigarade, etc. I was hooked shortly after on Tubereuse by Annick Goutal (back when you could get that one in the States). Wow, thanks for the trip down, well you know. Love ya Lee.

  • Late 70s. All of us were art school punk rockers who’d met at the Cinémathèque during a retrospective of German film-makers — their Expressionist films in Germany, their film noirs in Hollywood. To a man, we *all* wore Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme, a huge leather chypre descended directly from Bandit. Sometimes my friend Mitchell would kid that he didn’t have to waste his, as he could just sit next to me.
    I segued to Habanita but rediscovered leather chypres with a vengeance when perfumista-dom led me to explore vintage perfume. I haven’t worn VC&A PH since, but Bandit is a staple.

    • Lee says:

      Sounds like you were cool anarchosyndicalists…


      • I never quite thought of it that way, but… yeah!

        • Lee says:

          Did you carry copies of Debord’s ‘La société du spectacle’ too? 😉

          Late 70s, I was running away from skinhead gangs with my stepbrother, as their need to beat up black folks and their friends (my brother is black) seemed to be the story that dominated this period of our lives.

          It would’ve been much nice for my 10 year old self to hang out with cool Expressionist loving punks!

          • Yup, Debord and Derrida. We liked Hank Williams too. Montreal punks were generally the arty, civilised types, and there were no skinheads around. In fact, the long-haired heavy metal types spat on *us*! I’d have certainly big-sistered you and your brother to death!

  • tmp00 says:

    I think my first real love was Eau Sauvage, back in the early 20’s. I am still drawn to it. It’s part of me.