Those lists…

MitsoukoLooking at people on Facebook posting their 10 fave albums/books, I thought I’d try the 10 perfumes that I’ve loved/have influenced me. But, I stopped after two, as 1) not many people on my feed are perfumistas (and I felt like I was speaking into the void) and 2) 10 started to feel like too many. So, I’m doing a post here in this vein, but only focusing on five perfumes which may or may not still be in my (somewhat small) collection but which have been important/had an impact over the years.

First is l’Artisan Mure et Musc. This was my first indy love. I’d tried a number of other things, but this was the first niche perfume to steal my heart. It was also my first signature scent. Not a pongy musk – a fairly gentle skin scent that felt ‘perfect’ (ie, like it melded absolutely with my chemistry) and ‘fit’ with how I felt and was living at the time I wore it (mid- to late 20s – during the 1980s). Notes: lemon, orange, mandarin, basil, blackberry, red berries, musk, oakmoss. Alas, for some reason it started to turn sour on me (the joys of hormones? body chemistry?) and that was the end of that.

Second is Santa Maria Novella Patchouli, which I discovered at the wonderful and long-gone New York outpost of the Takashimaya department store on Fifth Avenue (I worked nearby) which had an awesome perfume offering. Another signature scent, this saw me through from my early to late 30s. The wearing of it is associated with the end of my marriage and a whirlwind love affair. It could be said I bathed in it, given the amount I put on every day. In retrospect, I feel for my workmates, but I absolutely loved wearing it. Less a skin scent than Mure et Musc – more like putting on resinous lingerie. It had the supreme oddness of strong patchouli but was also slightly raunchy and incredibly sexy (but that may have been in my mind given the circumstances when I wore it). Notes lists are poor for this: patchouli, of course, and maybe woods, vanilla, rose, among other things. Like M et M, it changed (no longer smelled good once I got pregnant). In fact, I can no longer wear patchouli-strong fragrances at all – they simply stopped working.

Perfumes three, four and five aren’t signature scents, as post SMN Patch I wasn’t able to settle on one fragrance; instead, developing a small ‘wardrobe’.

So, number three is Tauer Perfumes’ limited edition Orris. I’m down to a small puddle in my bottle. I love a number of Tauers (and actually had the huge pleasure of introducing the line in the UK during the period when I ran an online perfume shop) including L’Air and the ultra-pink Une Rose Vermeille, but Orris just knocked my socks off. Floral, rooty, woody, the overall juice just made me ridiculously happy even though it wasn’t a light, cheerful perfume and some would wrinkle their noses when they smelled it one me, perplexed by it. Notes: cinnamon, black pepper, grapefruit, rose, orris root, sandalwood. The huge bearded irises are now out in the village. While my bottle will be empty soon, Orris will always stick in my head and heart.

Four and five work together, as they are from the same house. People sometimes talk about a house’s base working for them or not – eg, that they can wear Chanel but not Caron. I’m a guerlinade girl in that respect. I like some Chanels, I liked some pre-reformulation Carons (the masculines mostly, though I had a lot of time for Bellodgia), but Guerlains are just in a different camp. I love Mitsouko and have worn various formulations over the years (notes: bergamot, peach, jasmine, rose, cinnamon, oakmoss, vetiver, woods). However, for years, I was resistant to trying Shalimar. I can’t recall why, but we all do things that in hindsight never made sense. I don’t know what caused me finally to cave and give it a go, but the experience was transformative. It taught me not to pre-guess something based on the notes list, the commentary. Trying Shalimar caused me to kick myself and become much more open-minded about sampling things that were outside my usual ‘zone’ of perfumes. On me, it just smells like the most beautiful rendering of lemon floor wax – I mean that in the best possible way: it is fascinating and beautifully composed, but also profoundly unusual, strange and decadent. And, ironically, I discovered I actually enjoy wearing it more than my beloved Mitsouko. Notes: bergamot, iris, jasmine, rose, patchouli, vetiver, opopanax, tonka, sandalwood, frankincense, musk, civet, ambergris, leather and vanilla.

So, what about you? Could you come up with five faves? Do you still wear all of them?

  • Patty says:

    This the rocket ship question. Earth is getting hit with a meteor, you are on the last ship out and have room in your suitcase for ten perfumes. Which do you take with you? I can’t. I’ll have to stay behind with my perfumes! I have like 10 favorites for each season, except summer, and then I run across one I forgot for a bit and remember it is a favorite. It is embarrassing honestly.

  • Mira says:

    Oh patchouli… I don’t like it tbh. It’s bitter, medicine-y, giving me some bad memories. So I wonder who is wearing Chanel Coco Mademoiselle – one of the best sellers at Sephora…

  • Dina C. says:

    Two scents that I will never be without are No. 19 edp and Arpege. Each was a signature scent for many years before my perfume hobby started. Chanel’s Les Exclusif line is my favorite. Their use of several of my favorite notes like iris, galbanum, vetiver, jasmine, leather, sandalwood, etc. in a lot of their scents draws me in. But I’ve got an equal number of Guerlains in my collection. The old-school scents are more intriguing to me.

  • March says:

    Oh my gourd, did I write this post in some alternate universe?!? These are some of my most, most beloveds. I’d replace your SMN with an iPdF (Arancia Dolce, which is really nothing special EXCEPT I got it in Florence on a deliriously happy visit at the start of my perfume obsession) and then we’d have to overspray everything with Mandragore, of course…

    • Cinnamon says:

      Well, there’s that: the associations that are so important. Mandragore is the purple one? that stains everything? Or is that something else? A flanker for Mandragore? It is a Goutal though — another house that has some things I think smell incredible but just don’t work on me. I still can’t look at a bottle of SMN Patchouli without recalling ‘that man’ getting on his knees to smell the backs of my knees — because I told him all the places I sprayed it. TMI, I know, but a sort of sweet memory of a relationship that burned bright, but crashed quickly.

  • Bee says:

    I love lists! Five important perfumes: Charlie one of the first I bought myself and it was a real confidence booster when I first left home. Cinnabar my 80s signature saw me though the best & worst of times and still going strong. Mitsouko my first Guerlain and still a great love. Habanita my first niche long before anyone categorised perfumes and L’ Air du Desert Marocain – my gateway to independent perfumers that opened up a whole new world. Big thank you to Cinnamon for introducing me to that last one and so much more!

    • Cinnamon says:

      LDDM is just so surprising. Or at least I find it surprising. Sometimes I simply think it’s one of the best ‘smells’ within perfume land, that Andy Tauer did something genius by putting together the various bits in the specific amounts. How was he to know that a perfume he ran up for a friend who runs a shop in Switzerland would be this extraordinary thing?? I still have not smelled Cinnabar. My big oriental was Opium (another list: best big oriental perfumes). Is Cinnabar still out there — ie, on eBay, etc?

      • Bee says:

        LDDM is a modern classic and still blows me away. Cinnabar is alive and well. Quite a lot of vintage on ebay and the current formulation is not bad – but lacks the oomph of the original. The body lotion is very good.

  • Portia Turbo says:

    Heya Cinnamon,
    LOVE this idea.
    Shalimar: I grew up around women who wore it, including Mum. It has since become the closest to a defining fragrance I could possibly have.
    No 5: It was Mum’s going out perfume. So much mystique, history and mythology surrounding it that forced me to read everything written I could get my eyes on.
    Tauer Eau d’Epices: My first niche FB and defined the genre for me at the time.
    Mohur: Changed the way I thought about fragrance and seemed to fit me like a glove from the very first wear. It also propelled me to reach out to Neela who has since become a dear friend.
    Liberté: After running around for a few years with my head firmly up my own ass about niche this mainstream fruit-chouli rubbish stole my nose and reminded me that beauty can be found anywhere and everywhere.
    Portia xx

    • Cinnamon says:

      Portia, I will have to look back in Posse for your review of Mohur (I’m assuming there is one). I always feel that Shalimar knows something I don’t but am always reaching towards (if that makes sense). As I said, I love Mitsouko, but I guess I find Shalimar a challenge, which makes it interesting beyond it being beautiful.

  • Tamsin says:

    Champaca by Ormonde Jayne, Chanel Cuir, Ta’if by Ormonde Jayne, Orange Vetiver by Hermes and thinking long and hard about the last…but it would have to be Ormonde Woman.

  • Brigitte says:

    I’ve had a perfume wardrobe since I was 5 or 6 years old so I was never monogamous. But there were certain standouts over the half century that I have been wearing.
    In the 70s I wore and adored Cristalle EDT. I was a preteen at the time. It was citrus with a kick from the oakmoss. Don’t have anymore and current doesn’t smell the same.
    When I turned 18 my best friend gifted me Nocturnes de Caron. So ladylike and floral. I’ve had and finished maybe 10 bottles and still have a mini and 50 ml vintage. Probably the closest to signature scent for me. But I rarely wear it now.
    In the 80s summer was all about the mouth puckering Prescriptives Calyx….. clubbing in NYC, dance classes at Steps on Broadway, Friday night dinners with my boyfriend at our local Thai restaurant and weekends at Jones Beach and Montauk.
    In 1994 I discovered Gap Heaven. It was the only perfume my now husband complimented me on during our first date. It was the only fragrance he really enjoyed on me. So during our entire first year together it was the only thing I wore. I had the EDT, body wash, Shampoo, hair conditioner,body lotion and even a candle. When it became d/c I bought 17 bottles after finding a Gap store that still had it in stock. Still have a travel spray and two bottles but rarely wear it.
    Mid 2000s I discovered 1000 Flowers Reglisse Noire. It’s my happy scent. I once wore it for 3 and a half weeks straight and thunked the bottle. Still have some original formulation from Portia and AnnieA and a bottle of current formulation and still love and wear it.
    I would be remiss not to mention one last one even though it’s no 6. Sarah Horowitz custom blend she made for me in 1998. Grapefruit, lilac, violet sandalwood, vanilla and musk. It’s a gorgeous creamy lilac. I wore it on and off for several years but then never replaced it. Portia posted an interview with Sarah I believe here on the Posse and when I mentioned it Sarah responded that she still had the original formulation from over 20 years ago. I now have another bottle and hopefully will never be without.

    • Cinnamon says:

      If I could return to having a signature scent I would. It’s a situation I loved in so many different ways. It made getting ready in the morning a certain kind of ritual — as during the two periods when I really had a SS I wore pretty much the same jewellery every day as well as the same perfume: get dressed, get bejewelled, anoint. It was like girding my loins for the day and whatever it threw at me.

  • Tara C says:

    The five most influential perfumes for me were Poison, Byzance, Cabotine, Feminité du Bois and Avignon. I still wear Byzance, FdB and Avignon. The first four represent certain periods in my life, Avignon represents the discovery of incense as a perfume note and took me down a deep rabbit hole.

  • Alison says:

    Hey I’m first for a change! I’ve had four perfumes that have had a huge influence on my life. Some are old and some are newer. My first was Paco Rabanne’s Calandre. I started wearing it in the early 1970’s, I guess it had just come out. I was about 15. I wore it non-stop until a broken marriage engagement in 1991 when I couldn’t bear to smell it anymore. I moved on.

    I had other favorites during that time, and my Calandre alternate was Chanel No. 22. I still wear it to this day, when I can buy an old formulation off eBay. Shalimar was another favorite during college and I have now replaced it with Lubin’s Kismet which came out just a few years ago. I have others in rotation and have re-stocked Calandre though the reformulation, or else my nose, is not the same. Others will come and go but I always have these four.

    • Brigitte says:

      Calandre was gorgeous. I wore it as well. So was Calandre’s sister, Metal, which I wore several years later.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Ah, here’s another perfume I love that could go on the doesn’t love me list: Calandre. Never heard of Kismet. Will have to go look it up now.

  • Undina says:

    How many lists of fives did you say we should come up with? 😉

    OK, let me try to think of those that fit the idea of your list. I wrote stories for each one of them on my blog (if you’re curious, you can find links under My Perfume Portrait), but here is a short version.

    The very first perfume love for me was Climat by Lancôme. My grandmother wore it and, probably tired of me borrowing it, gifted me with my first bottle of it. Still love it, collected several versions (from periodic re-releases) and wear as a special occasion perfume.

    Diorella, perfume I “borrowed” from my mom to scent a “love note” to a boy I had a crush on when I was in the fifth grade. I have it in my collection and like it but don’t wear often.

    Nature by Yves Rocher. I bought a tiny bottle of it when this brand just appeared in the country where I lived and was extremely expensive. Many years later, living in the U.S., I bought a large bottle of it. I return to it from time to time, but it feels much simpler than my current favorites, so it doesn’t get too much attention from me.

    Jo Malone French Lime Blossom, my favorite linden perfume that I liked and bought without realizing/knowing that French lime and linden was the same thing. Unfortunately, it has been discontinued, so I’m reluctantly reach for my bottle, which is wrong, I should wear it more often.

    Ta’if by Ormonde Jayne – perfume that led me to the rabbit hole of niche perfumes, blogs and decanting sites. It is my second love (after Climat), and I happily wear it for special occasions.

    • Brigitte says:

      The Jo Malone is sold online in the archives collection now. So buy a back up so that you can wear your current bottle.