Looking 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?