Return of the Nose

I´ve been fighting allergies since February, trying various cures. Then a nasty head cold that morphed into one of those sinus infections that make my molars feel like they´re being squeezed by the roots, which I guess they are, followed by a 10-day course of antibiotics, and through much of that I was so congested I couldn´t smell a thing.

To a normal person, I guess that would be annoying, or inconvenient, but not that terrible. For me, the longer it went on, the more I found myself suspended between the stages of Denial and Rage on some sort of journey to acceptance. I tried smelling my strongest scents, and all I could get was the faintest impression à¢â‚¬” one angle of a fragrance, or a ghostly silhouette. Frequently what I got was nothing.

My level of upset really ramped up once my nose cleared… and I still couldn´t smell anything. I called my doctor. She counseled patience. Eventually I just put all the samples away in a box and gave up, because it was too depressing. I started to worry, what if I´m one of those people who never get their sense of smell back? I couldn´t even say it out loud, it was so horrifying.

So on Friday morning last week I got up, washed my face, staggered sleepily into my closet and… Oh. My. God. There it was!!! The miasma that rises up from my perfume shelf (and bowl, and candy box, and basket, the sample bag, and the bottles in boxes on the floor…)

I had my nose back!

Here are the first things I smelled:

Bvlgari Eau Parfumee Au The Blanc — Legerdenez had written this gorgeous post about how it reminded her of thunderstorms and wet paper, and I was eager to partake. So I sprayed it into a small glass bowl and huffed it like one of those goofs on a wine tour in Sonoma. Yes! Thunderstorm! There it is! (I´m sorry, but I never quite did get the wet paper.) It also smells like artemisia, which reminded me to head outside, but first I reached into the candy box and grabbed the first thing my fingers touched, which happened to be…

Vice Versa – I was stunned to discover another gaping hole in my knowledge, because this is from YSL, maybe a limited edition? I might have guessed, it reminds me faintly of Opium. I like it because it´s almost summer cologne-ish, but with enough spicy oomph to satisfy.

Then I went outside in the yard and sniffed:

1) Artemisia (Powys Castle) because it´s velvety green heaven and oddly cheering (absinthe, anyone?).

2) My newly blooming rosa rugosa Blanc Double de Coubert from Heirloom Roses.

3) Cameo Perfume from Heirloom, which they don’t seem to be offering this year, and that’s criminal because its perfume is astonishing. (That’s the pink one pictured below.) It’s also different (and prettier) than the picture — whiter in the middle, with dark pink streaks on the outermost petals. How strong is the perfume? Two cut blooms are scenting my entire first floor.

4) My climbers from Heirloom, also blooming for the first time, Summer Wine (pictured at bottom). Okay, I´m a tiny bit disappointed in the fragrance, but it´s early yet, and they sure are easy on the eyes.

5) My Miss Kim lilacs, which I came dangerously close to not smelling this year.

6) The bearded iris that are growing along a neighbor´s front walkway on the way to the market. When I am queen I will commission someone to make me a fragrance that captures this smell. If you are reading this and thinking, iris has a fragrance?, the answer is yes, and you need to get busy and smell some, because your life is impoverished in a way you don´t realize. They smell vaguely like a cross between a spicy carnation and a violet, but the smell is unique.

Then I got in my car and (what else) went to Sephora to smell 90-odd things in a nose-orgy, including:

Masaki Matsushima Mat; Orange – the girls and I like to sniff the Mat; Chocolate for a giggle because it´s so repulsive. The Orange was new. First ten minutes: a nice, unremarkable fruit. Therafter: orange for travelers from another galaxy who are trying to recreate the smell of the fruit using an ancient book of illustrations and a scratch-and-sniff ad for Glade Orange room spray.

Mat; Yellow – juniper berry, bamboo, watermelon, cat vomit. Okay, no cat vomit, but there might as well be. Laugh-out-loud awful. You could tie me to a chair and torture me by spraying me with this and the chocolate. I´d tell you anything to make you stop.

Laurence Dumont Cràƒ¨me Brulee
– I sniffed this after the Mat; Yellow because it seemed a perfect way to complete the gross-out process. You know what? It smells exactly like cràƒ¨me brulee, my single favorite dessert. I am not sure I´d want to wear it, but it was weirdly lovely to smell.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Tutti Kiwi (Mandarin, Rhubarb, Frosty Lemon, Kiwi Fruit, Geranium, Seringa, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Woody Notes) – Now Smell This wrote a wonderful, in-depth review. My review is: I adore Guerlain, and I am still looking for a single one of the AA’s I´d wear if you gave it to me. Don´t even get me started on the Pamplelune, which is French for pee.

YSL Paris Roses des Vergers
(Cherry Blossom, Cyclamen, Blackcurrant Leaves, Pear Tree Blossom, Tender Rose, Wild Rose, Sandalwood, Rhodes Wood, Musks). Chandler Burr says this about the original Paris: – “Paris is a gigantically wonderful rose. In fact, what I like about it is that it is not anything else. It pretty much dispenses with top notes and bottom notes, just explodes onto the scene and envelopes you and starts radiating unabashed luxury.” It was always a bit much for me, however, so I was startled to discover how much I like Roses des Vergers, which has an element of greenness from the blossoms and cyclamen that render it much lighter and (sorry, Chandler) actually wearable.

PS If you haven´t read any of Chandler Burr´s fragrance reviews, here´s a link. He only updates them periodically, and I find them very enjoyable.


  • Katie says:

    March, if I could, I would send you some Iris Gris (by Fath.) It’s simply, well, it’s quite nearly divine. If you EVER see it for sale and within your budget, I hereby compel you to buy it. Seriously. So, no, it’s not quite an exact replica of actual irises, but it’s certainly one of the grandest iris perfumes ever.

    I am so glad your nose belongs to you again. Those dratted allegies are terrible to put up with.

    I don’t for the life of me remember YSL Paris Roses des Vergers – when did that one come out? Is it new? I feel so utterly behind the curve right now.

  • Patty says:

    Found no gardening hunks, and I have manged to lazy myself into a corner. Everything must be planted tomorrow, but I have made a dent in them and just have a few things left.


  • March says:

    Cait — I have never smelled a root beer iris, but I would surely like to.

    Absinthe — anise-y like sambuca?

    I am a major fan of your rambles. Please don’t stop.@};-

  • cait says:

    Dear March,
    I love your nose and am so glad it’s back! Wow. I especially enjoyed your account of the things you smelled outside. I am envious, as the tulips and allium are just poking green stems skyward here this May 18th. I love the scent of iris, the iris that I find smells like root beer. Yum! I don’t know its name. On artemisia, in response to your question to me about what Absinthe was like .. it was very anisey and may have sparked some wild dreams. I think I have some notion of the madness of absinthe. I didn’t get the anise of the liquour from The Blanc, which was all tension and thunder and paper. Oh, after I wrote that post on it I realised the paper effect must be from the woody base.

    What a rambler I am today.:-w

  • March says:

    Cheez! The illicit sniffage of the apartment dweller is one of life’s great pleasures. When I was Urban Chick in an earlier incarnation I loved to stop and smell the whatevers, and bring a bouquet of them home to my 400-sq-ft abode.

    I have been busted sooo many times in other people’s yards. I would NEVER pick anything, but once I smell something I’m like a freaking hound on the job. It’s shameful. I was broomed by a nice old lady in a housecoat while smelling her witchhazel last spring.

    Ahhh, yes, the peonies are gorgeous this year. And yes, stick your nose in a bearded iris and revel. Look out for bees, though.

  • March says:

    Sybil — well, ya never know. I mean, if Caron were relying on my positive reviews for sales they’d be bankrupt. I think the AAs are doing okay in sales. They just smell … not Guerlain to me. They didn’t let the civet crawl in the bottle, so what’s the point?:d Although your list is plenty long, I fear, without these.

  • Cheezwiz says:

    Welcome back March!

    Glad your sniffer hasn’t let you down. It is a lovely spring for flowers. Being an apartment dweller, I have to get my flowers where I can: indulging in little bouquets, or sneaking into neighbors yards to take a deep snort of their lilacs.

    I had absolutely no idea Iris blooms had an aroma. Must find some to sniff. Peonies are also out right now – yay!

  • sybil says:

    March…glad you’re smelling well again. Sinuses are so great when they work well, so unpleasant when they don’t! Guess I won’t be putting the Mats and Aqua A’s on my list, though.

  • March says:

    Robin, PS — yes, this is the best year for lilacs I can remember. Two of my Miss Kims were blooming so heavily they looked like nothing but bloom, you could barely see the leaves! Must have been the warm winter and the cool, not-too-wet spring — no mildew this year.

  • March says:

    Robin — actually, for the first, like, 45 seconds I thought it was gorgeous. Then for the next 10 minutes it was okay — I mean, if someone gave it to me I’d wear it. After that it took a weird turn toward another solar system — it just smelled … odd. Not bad, but odd, and not like oranges. Boy, orange is such a tough note to hang onto. I think my all-time winner is still L’Artisan.

  • March says:

    Pam — Patty went wild and ordered a ton of stuff to redo her back yard. Then she was thinking about what’s involved in planting all of it… around here I have to dig with a pickaxe, not sure it’s any better where she is.

  • March says:

    Marina — peemplelune!=))

    Do you think they wanted it to smell like that?

  • March says:

    P — ah, yes, something else to admire in your garden in between digging giant holes for the 927 roses you ordered….:-”

    Did you find any gardening hunks, I wonder?

  • Robin says:

    Drat, had just read somewhere or another how wonderful mat; Orange is. So much for that. I know I didn’t like any of the others in the line so I guess I should have known.

    So glad you didn’t miss the lilacs this year! Ours are spectacular, and despite my son’s allergies I can’t resist keeping a little vase of them in my office. Bad Mommy, bad.

  • Pam says:

    March, been thinking about you and your family this week; hope you all are hanging in there.

    Glad you have your nose back; I know exactly what you mean about molar shaking sinus pain. Ugh. Losing smell and taste is always a drag.

    Your back yard must a marvel. Patty has also mentioned the Heirloom rose place; think I’ll give it an online visit. I’ve ordered (years ago) from the Rose Emporium, or whatever it’s called, over in TX.

    Peempelelune—hee hee :d

  • Marina says:

    Dear march,
    I am glad you are feeling better. welcome back, The Nose!
    I wholeheartedly second everything you said about Tutti Kiwi, the PEEmplelune and all AAs.

  • Patty says:

    You are hilarious, but I ken your panic. Just listening to my sister lament about her upside down nose (things that smelled good smelled awful, and the things that literally smelled like shit were quite pleasant) made me panic.

    Glad it is back. Agree about the iris, just one of the world’s gentlest, most beautiful creations. so common and ignored, and don’t get me started on the stunted varieties. The larger, the better, and every year I got and count how many I have because I know the next year I will have double that.