Once upon a time I thought every perfume should smell like a rose. In 10th grade, I was thrilled to be given a complete Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose set. Every morning I slathered on the lotion, puffed on the powder, liberally spritzed that perfume, and went out to face the day. Considering that a brief tour of reviews on Basenotes reveals comments about Tea Rose like “an old, dry, almost fetid flower” whose “sillage is brutal” and “does pack a wallop,” you can imagine just how much people near me enjoyed my layering technique (and some very quite vocal about it). I didn’t care. I loved rose!
But times changed—and so did my taste in perfumes. One day I woke up and hated rose scents. Loathed them. It wasn’t just that I no longer wanted to smell like a rose; rose no longer wanted to smell like a rose on me. Whether I wore a rose soliflore or a rose-heavy blend, my skin radiated evil: cat pee, smarmy beeswax, vicious potpourri, you name it. Rose hated me, and I hated rose.*
About 15 years later, I became interested in rose perfumes again. Correction: I started to crave them. It began when someone gave me a sample of SSS Rose Musc. I tossed some on unhappily—and didn’t hate it. Even kinda liked it. It smelled like a rose, not road kill. Then I ordered a sample of Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady—and didn’t hate it. Actually, really liked it. And so on: a world opened up to me. Samples of Frederic Malle Une Rose, Serge Lutens Sa Majest La Rose,, Annick Goutal Ce Soir ou Jamais,, Sonoma Scent Studio Vintage Rose and Velvet Rose, various Rosines—rose perfumes in a range of guises landed on my doorstep. If I still wasn’t a rose-frag-freak, I was at least back in the game.
This kind of radical change in perfume taste wasn’t limited to rose. It also happened with an entire line: Jo Malone. From the mid-90s, when I first discovered the line, until the mid-2000s, I couldn’t get enough of the simple, happy Jo Malone world of “fragrance combining.” Until the day I sprayed on an old favorite and recoiled. It was thin. Screechy. Chemical-smelling. Foul. And it wasn’t just that bottle; I hated them all. Threw them in a box, eventually found a friend who loved JM, gave them all away. Now, 7 years later, I’m curious about them again.
This continues to happen, to lesser and greater degrees, with other notes; after years of blanket aversion to melon and vanilla, I can enjoy Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Therese and Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille. And in reverse: once an amber lover, I now shudder when it ratchets up its suffocating warmth.
What about you? How have your perfume tastes changed over the years? Did a progression from department store perfumes to niche scents inform your taste changes? Did you transition from a passion for vanilla to a craving for oak moss or an appreciation of civet? Or have you always loved a particular note? What perfumes did you once adore—and now run from, screaming? Do tell!
*One exception to my rose-loathing phase: Ormonde Jayne Ta’if. Always perfection.