Olfactory Apothecary

by Ann


Being sick is never fun for anyone, but having a cold
or sinus congestion as a perfume lover is especially difficult.

A stopped-up nose means we might have to go days and days
(or heaven forbid, even a week!) suffering the loss of our precious
sense of smell, a real tragedy for those who love scents as we do.

I got walloped last week with a late-winter/early-spring cold that came
on like gangbusters. I didn’t know what hit me — one minute I was
fine and the next I had a raging sore throat and it all went rapidly
downhill from there.  I know of at least one of you out
there who has had this nasty business as well.

And of course, it would have to make its appearance just as the
highly anticipated Serge Lutens’ Jeux de Peau was debuting.
My sample arrived in the mail and I could only look at it
longingly, awaiting the day that my nose was back up to snuff.

Now granted, we can’t comfort ourselves with scent
much while we’re olfactorily-impaired, but there are plenty of other times
when the right fragrance can do a world of good.

I know when I’m feeling chilly, achy or in need of some cozy
warmth, I turn to Costes 2 with its cuddly mix of benzoin, cinnamon,
orange blossom, rose and gaiac wood, or its cousin,
Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Cologne Pour le Soir.
The lovely, soothing (but alas, discontinued) Fendi Theorema
works nicely as well.

Feeling sluggish? Not for long. A shot of L’Artisan’s Nuits de Tubereuse
or Serge’s Tubereuse Criminelle gets my attention as surely as
a dousing of cold water, and they keep me on my toes.

If financial worries rear their ugly heads, my vintage
Cartier Must scents assure me that I’ll soon be on the sunny
side of the financial street. And nothing makes me feel like
a million bucks quite like Amouage Memoir Woman.

When the blues come calling, I reach out
to the gorgeous Carnal Flower to help raise my spirits.
My citrus-grove childhood memories beckon me
to “c’mon, get happy” with Serge’s elegant Fleurs de Citronnier
or the bright, sunny tang of Bond No. 9’s Little Italy.
Apologies for “The Partridge Family” earwig there, but
David Cassidy was on “Celebrity Apprentice” last week and the
song has been in and out of my head since then.  🙂


Although it doesn’t get a lot of ink in the online
fragrance community,Kai’s simple, uncomplicated beauty
proves a most welcome comfort for me in uncertain times.

So if you will, please share with me what you reach for in
your perfume medicine cabinet when you’re feeling less
than your best.

And for those of you suffering from colds, the flu
or other ills, I send you a big hug, a comforting cup of tea and
the reminder that this, too, shall pass.


photo:  sore throat/yourmedicament – some rights reserved


  • Ann says:

    Thanks, Nozknoz. Kai really is such a gorgeous, uncomplicated scent that sometimes it tends to get overlooked, so I’m glad to find another fellow fan. It definitely saw me through a very difficult summer last year.
    And your de-stress scents are lovely as well.

  • nozknoz says:

    Hope you get well soon, Ann!

    Thanks for reminding me of Kai, which I immediately rushed to put on. I know it’s supposed to smell like a wedding bouquet in Hawaii, but to me it smell exactly like big red clover flowers used to smell when I was a child, complete with cool evening dew and that touch of nectar you could find in the flowers if you were really patient.

    Haven’t suffered colds over the last two years (touch wood) since I’ve been working out regularly, but whenever I need cosseting from stress I’m likely to turn to something warm or luxuriant like SSS Tabac Aurea, La Via del Profumo Mecca Balsam or BK Rose Oud.

  • FragrantWitch says:

    Hi Ann,

    So sorry to hear that you have been poorly but pleased to know that you are well on your way to recovery. Hopefully you will be ready to sniff again when the Mary Greenwell Plum arrives- it went out on Saturday morning!
    My comfort scents are:
    Days when you need a hug and lots of tea- Chaos
    Days when you need to kick a**- Black and original Fendi
    Days when you need to open your eyes- Calyx, Diptyue Equ de Neroli
    Days when I need to feel sexy- Shalimar, Bandit,
    Days been I need to feel thin- Chamade, Hove Verveine and (blushing) Sand and Sable
    Contemplative Days- Avignon, Fire if Isis

    That’ll do fir now!

    • FragrantWitch says:

      Holy typos! Time for bed…

    • Ann says:

      Hi Meredith, I second many of your great choices in there. Am eagerly awaiting the Plum; maybe it will go in to my comfort scent rotation. Thanks …

  • March says:

    Hey, get feeling better soon! So sorry you’re sick… when I am, I tend to reach for all sorts of things, but none of them is perfume. Particularly if I’m headache-y.


    • Ann says:

      Hi March, thanks. Sometimes no scent is the best scent, especially when you don’t want to bring on the M-word.

  • karin says:

    Hope you’re feeling better, Ann! My favorite comfort scent is also my favorite scent overall – Attrape Coeur!

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Karin, I am. You know when I first tried AC, I liked it OK, but it’s definitely grown on me and now I find it a beautiful, classic scent.

  • london says:

    I guess it depends whether I feel like wallowing or whether I feel like getting better. The former is something cosy and snuggly and not too complicated like Sonoma Scent Studio Opal or Susanne Lang Cashmere, the latter would be something relentlessly cheerful like Parfums Delrae Eau Illuminee. But mostly it’s the only time I don’t wear anything. I had a cold last week and couldn’t smell anything so I had Karvol sprinkled everywhere to help me breathe and i had no need of perfume. Hope you feel better – and thank you so much for the samples. It was really lovely of you to send them.

    • Ann says:

      Hi London, hope you’re feeling better too. Yep, sometimes going scentless is what’s needed. Of the ones you’ve mentioned, I’ve only tried the Cashmere once, but it was lovely. So glad you’re enjoying the samples.

  • Suzanne says:

    Hi Ann,

    Here’s wishing you, Olfacta and anyone else suffering from a cold right now a speedy recovery.

    I’m on board with many of your same choices: Nuit de Tubereuse, Kai, Carnal Flower…white florals really give me a lift when I’m feeling in need of an energy boost. But when I feel really depressed and need something to cut through it, the white florals don’t do it; that’s when I turn to stronger things like Montale Black Aoud. or L’Arte di Gucci. Not sure why, but rose-heavy scents are powerful medicine for me.

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, sweet Suzanne. DH just got back from the doc and he’s got bronchitis — yuck! Am glad you love the white flowers as perker-uppers, too. Those dark roses are just the ticket for you, you lucky girl. Although I do like that L’Arte di Gucci sometimes as well.

  • maidenbliss says:

    Hope you’re feeling better soon, Ann! Once I got over my bout of it last week I sprayed Vol de Nuit over my entire being, just to smell it in whiffs all day long. Elegantly comforting.
    I can still remember the feel of my mom’s gentle hands, rubbing Vicks all over my chest
    when I was a young girl, sick in bed. It doesn’t make Vicks appealing to me now, but the memory is so sweet to me.
    Musette—I Love eucalyptus! In the 70’s there was a gym that had healing eucalyptus rooms–divine!
    The geranium/orange sounds lovely. Where did you get your steamer?

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Maidenbliss, and thanks for sharing your sweet Vicks memory. A mom’s TLC is good medicine. So glad you’ve kicked the crud and can enjoy your Vol de Nuit in all its glory.

  • Olivia says:

    Aww I hope you feel better really soon!!!

    As for me…. I don’t always wear perfume while sick, but when I do, it seems lately I’ve taken to wearing Laura Mercier Minuit Enchanté… It’s just so comforting and warm and cozy, and it has enough presence that I can smell it if my nose is stuffy! Other than that…hmm… sometimes it helps me just to smell eucalyptus essential oil from its little bottle.

    • Musette says:


      I have a steam humidified with one of those little cups for essential oils. I put a few drops of geranium, eucalyptus and orange (3-1-3) and it works wonders.

      xo >-)

    • Ann says:

      Olivia, thanks so much. That LM Minuit is quite nice, isn’t it? Glad you can still smell it even with a stopped-up nose; I’ll have to remember that one for next time.

  • maggiecat says:

    Please feel better soon! As i write this I am sequestered in my office with the awful feeling that the bug I was exposed to this past weekend is settling in for the duration, and hoping I’m wrong…. When in need of comfort, I go to vanilla or milky scents as a rule, though Philosophy’s amazing and Inner Grace scents also soothe me. For energy – tea scents or colognes. When I’m down, I enjoy neroli (Le Labo’s or dior’s Escale a Portofino) or Jasmine scents. Musk scents are stabilizing – today’s chilly, windy, cloudy day brought out NR’s Musc Intense For Her. And if I have a headache and don’t want anything else – Lovely body lotion works, for some reason (the lavender maybe?). Take care, everyone and stay (or get) well!

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Maggiecat. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the bug passes you by. If I feel something coming on, I start drinking green, white and red tea by the gallon, and I think it helps, but who knows?
      I love neroli as well. Have not tried Le Labo’s but the Escale Portofino is a fave of mine, especially in hot weather. Put the bottle in the fridge for a while and spray instant refreshment … ahhh.

  • Olfacta says:

    Something STRONG. That I can smell. I had the exact same illness last week, one minute fine, twenty minutes later, not fine, next day could hardly swallow. My remedy is sleep, as much of it as possible, along with knock ’em dead sleep scents like Tocade, or a comforting leather like Cuir de Lancome.

    • Ann says:

      Hey lady, I was thinking of you when I wrote the column. I’m with you on the sleep bandwagon — one day last week I think I logged about 14 hours. I haven’t tried Tocade in ages but Cuir de Lancome is definitely a winner.
      Hope you’re feeling somewhat normal again!

  • Musette says:

    Great post, Ann!

    I’m fighting some sort of weird ‘ick’ right now – nothing really definite, it may be nothing more than Spring Fever! I usually wear Mitsouko for illin’ days (and killin’ days, too ;)…but for this, Mitsouko was an epic FAIL!

    You know what is working? Vintage Diorissimo! It’s got that lovely, structured, spring beauty that is simultaneously uplifting and very grounding.

    Iris 39 is another cheerer-up. I find myself reaching for that a lot in these transitional, rawboned days, as does Bas des Soie.

    xo >-)

  • Sherri M. says:

    How sweet you are to post a review when you are not feeling well yourself! I hope you are feeling better soon; colds are torture to perfumistas for sure!

    My favorites for illness are definitely Lady Primrose bath products in Tryst and Royal Extract. They help center me and feel better able to take the next step, whatever life brings. Also, surprisingly, they are more gentle than even baby products. I also find when I’m sick, alot of the time I crave either lavender or licorice–go figure.

    For an extra layer of insulation (emotional, that is) without sensuality and a touch of intimidation for the workplace: Mitsouko (she is her own person), Colognes like Eau de Sisley 2 and Eau de Guerlain, Lady Primrose Celadon (which is a green fragrance), for confidence and help getting started on a Monday morning.

    Le Temps d’une Fete, Muguet du Bonheur: depression relief

    When I must deal with teens/middle schoolers: Parfums Delrae Emotionelle helps maintain one’s sense of humour. Tell me what else can make all those teen/tween Victoria’s Secret Pink fruity florals, sprayed in joyous youthful extravagance, seem wimpy? Honestly, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! :-)

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Sherri, I am feeling MUCH better, almost back to normal.
      You mentioned the Lady Primrose; it’s a great line but I don’t see it available much anymore. Is it discontinued? I first tried it at an elegant hotel in Dallas a few years ago and I remember Neiman Marcus carrying it, but it’s no longer at my store or online.
      BTW, ROFL on your choice of Emotionelle for the teens — you definitely can hold your own with that!!

  • Ann says:

    Hi Pam, thanks. I envy you being able to wear the Guerlain classics. Those just don’t “work” on me. Oh well.
    But you’re right about the men’s scents; I’ve stolen a spritz of DH’s Marc Jacobs’ Bang (love that pepper blast) and also recently enjoyed a sample of Caron’s Third Man. A former teacher of mine wore Habit Rouge so I don’t think I could do it, but I do want to sample the Caron Pour Homme you mentioned. Have a great day!

  • pam says:

    Great post! and hope that you are feeling much, much better. When I am down, I go to my Jicky and it will lift the spirits. When I’m contemplative, it’s Mitsouko. And if I need a big hug, Loulou by Cacherel will do it. But preferably in winter! It’s a powerhouse!
    Recently I have been exploring the “male” fragrances (I agree, it’s just a label). They have some of the brightest, happiest scents, possibly because a lot of them start with a citrus scent. Habit Rouge and Caron’s Pour un Homme can really make me smile.

  • Ann says:

    Hi Melissa, great picks, especially that Dulcis in Fundo. I need to try that one. Love the idea of rolling around in your dessert — definitely sounds like fun!

  • Melissa says:

    For the ultimate wrap-me-in-a-blanket-of-comfort, Guerlain Cuir Beluga is a top choice. As is Profumum Dulcis in Fundo. It’s my guilty pleasure, with it’s citrus, vanilla creamsicle accord. “What is that perfume that you’re wearing?” “Perfume? No sir, I rolled around in my dessert.”

    So, lest anyone think that I can’t be serious about my fragrances, I wear many vintage classics for their mood-enhancing qualities. Chanel No 5 and Givenchy L’Interdit are perfect for days when I’m not prepared to face the rigors of the work world and I need a to put on a game face. For a bit of chutzpah, nothing can beat a dab of one of the vintage Dior chypres. Now if only I could afford some vintage Bandit, I’d be able to face the toughest of meetings with boldness and determination. Yes! Let’s see just how many people I can offend with my perfume-inspired audacity!

  • Meg says:

    Jeux de peau!! Please get better… so you feel better, and so that you can review it. I am dying to read more reviews of it almost as much as I am dying to sample it. Hmmm.. perfume cures. I know that I like to wear bas de soie when I feel slightly imtimidating and want to mimic an unapproachable, distant air. When I need coziness and comfort I borrow my boyfriend’s colognes… Vavarots Artisan makes a fine choice.

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Meg. I know many of us can’t wait to try the new Serge.
      You’re right, Bas de Soie is a great choice with its beautiful chilliness. And I will have to steal your tip about “borrowing” from the boys. Thanks.