Wet Sheep

I joked with Marina that I was going to do a “review” of stuff like the canned air you clean your keyboard with, but I´d do it straight and see if anyone called me on the joke. Then I got bored with the whole concept, but at the core of my joke is a kernel of truth – in my visiting (and revisiting) of fragrances, inevitably I´ve run into a few things that, basically, (how do I put this delicately?) … I can´t smell at all.

I´m not talking about staying power issues – the summer colognes and florals (and teas) that are gone in 30 minutes, leaving you wondering whether reapplying is worth the effort. You can at least smell the stuff when you put it on. No, I´m talking about fragrances that for some/many/most people don´t smell like anything from the get-go. Confession: Narciso Rodriguez is like that for me – sometimes it´s strong (usually on other people); on a scent strip it´s often barely there. (An aside for you NR fans – the most stunning application I ever smelled was at a cocktail party, and the woman was wearing Narciso EDP over Nars Monoi oil. Yes, I asked. To do so I had to shove my way through the wall of men hovering around her; she smelled like something you´d definitely want a taste of.)

I find perfume anosmia fascinating. Christopher Brosius had Patty and I smell a vial when we were in New York, and we couldn´t smell a thing. It turned out to be labeled “wet sheep” (apparently it smells like wet wool) and is an example of gender-based anosmia – most men can smell it, most women can´t. There are all kinds of synthetic musks, and any number of people can´t smell particular ones among them. Anecdotal evidence on the fragrance boards suggests that a number of people can´t smell Narciso and SJP Lovely, while to some other people they´re fairly strong.

Anyway, all this was rolling around in my head at Art With Flowers when I smelled the new Miller et Bertaux, “Close Your Eyes and ….” Notes (courtesy of Luscious) are: Sicilian Lemon, Mandarin de Calabre, Fresh Jasmine Petals, Antique Roses from Turkey, Bois de Gaiac, Crisp Pear, Cinnamon Tree, Heliotrope, Almond. Yeah, whatever – here´s a hint of citrus, a breath of gaiac, but how could this smell so … tenuous? It´s a fragrance for someone who wants to wear fragrance but not smell it. Like Gertrude Stein´s fruitless search for her childhood home, there is no there there.

However, Close Your Eyes wears like Bandit next to my next nominee – Les Nez L’Antimatiere, which is the smell of having your leg pulled by Isabelle Doyen. It is the fragrance equivalent of The Emperor´s New Clothes; I don´t care how pedigreed it is, or that she’s been working on it for a decade – dude, you are naked. I kept my nose away from it for the first five minutes to avoid the alcohol somebody (Patty?) complained about. Then I thought, wow, it smells like a grape popsicle – weird! Only that turned out to be the popsicle stick sitting on the table next to me. I gave it two trials, two hours each, and a little aerobic activity to help it bloom. I get something – just the faintest whiff of wood shavings, and then something that smells like a cross between Escentric Molecule 01 and Chaos after 5 days – and that´s not a bad thing, is it? But I could soak my head in this (I practically did soak my head in this) hoping for one of those cool stealth perfume presences, but … nothing. I´ve read comments on other blogs describing the way this smelled, and some people are just wild for it, so I guess I´ll chalk it up to Wet Sheep.

Fragrance preferences also seem to be cultural to some degree. I´ve always heard (although I don´t know if it´s true) that Japanese women prefer much, much lighter scents and wouldn´t be caught dead in anything musky or animalic. Certainly Issey Miyake and the Kenzos support this argument, along with the mainstream Shiseidos (although some of their non-exports are weird and very strong.) Anyway, here in stuffy D.C., wafting big sillage is frowned upon unless you´re the wife of the French ambassador or some other exotic diplomatic bird. In my social circle, your fragrance should be chic and subtle, and should not convey the sentiment that you´d like to jump anyone’s husband. Which brings me to my favorite stealth fragrance – Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste. It´s pretty clear that I´m anosmic to some aspect of this – I sense it rather than smell it strongly, and I have to be careful not to overapply. I tend to wear it to cocktail parties. To the women in the room, it doesn´t seem to register as much of anything. But the men! Men looooove this stuff. The men are definitely getting the signal, so maybe this is another gender-anosmic scent. It´s just violet and leather, but it´s got some weird vibratory hum. I feel powerful when I wear it, as odd as that sounds. When I run out of my sample, I may have to suck it up and buy a bottle.

I´d nominate Hermes Eau des Merveilles as another example of something that is both subtle and powerful. It took me forever to come around to Merveilles. I fell for the rest of the line, one by one (Hiris! Sur le Nil!! Rocabar!!! etc.) but Merveilles was always that light, boring one. So there I was at Saks one day recently, and the SA wanted me to revisit Merveilles. I was about to say, meh, whatever, but she already had the bottle in her hand, so I stuck my arm out. And for once, I didn´t run off and bury it under some Dior in a fit of boredom five minutes later. Instead, I waited. After an hour, I was hooked. It´s here, it´s there, it´s everywhere – I can spray it all over myself, I can smell it the next day, it pleases me insanely. If an alchemist cooked up Seville orange marmalade, cumin and the ocean, with the musky smell of a sleeping child, you´d have Merveilles. There are people who dislike Merveilles; there is nothing sweet in its watery strangeness, and there´s an undercurrent of something a little like sweat. But I love to catch glimpses of it over the course of a day (it has surprising lasting powers) and it seems perfect to me right now. When I re-read Robin´s lovely review after falling for Merveilles, I found myself nodding in agreement.

Okay, now it´s your turn. What are your nominations for fragrances that smell like nothing? Which ones do you find to be stealth fragrances – deceptively light but a vital part of your wardrobe? Can you smell L’Antimatiere?

  • BBliss says:

    I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I can generally smell EVERYTHING. Pregnancy only amplifies this extraordinary gift – it nearly became intolerable for awhile. Now, I don’t think I can smell everything the way it is intended, like the Lutens, or the Lorenzo Villoresis or Laura Tonattos…some I just don’t get, but I do smell them. Cuir Amethyste I can’t smell only because our silly Neiman’s isn’t carrying it, yet – they said “maybe next year” – now, what’s the point of the Prive collection if they can’t keep up?

    My sneaky fragrances are definitely Eau de Merveilles – perfect in all weather – always changing and rather ethereal. And Musc Ravageur is just weird to me because – there is NO musk, none to my nose. Not at all like LV’s Musk which nearly suffocated me. I need to seek out other “non-smelling” perfumes mentioned here, to keep testing my nose! This is a fascinating post!

  • MnM says:

    What a fabulous and entertaining blog!
    I recently opened a scent strip for Versace “Bright Crystal” and…nothing!! I sniffed and sniffed, to no avail. I even rubbed the darn thing on my arm. A brief whiff of something soft, and then…gone.
    To dinZad, I WISH I couldn’t smell Mure et musc – I mean I think it’s fine if a bit candy-like on other people, but smells just putrid on my skin.
    SJP stays very close to the skin, I think, but for me is smellable.

  • Judith says:

    Oh, no–I very much like the violet suede. And I am quite sure that if you like EdM, you will like (maybe love) the parfum (it’s the Elixir that is really different; the parfum is richer, and in my opinion, better, than the Eau, but it’s not a completely different scent).

    on the last–that seems to be true, but the Nez scent is SUPPOSED to be weird–I must be the only person in the world (other than DH) who can’t smell d’Argent–or else it’s my very weird skin!

  • March says:

    Judith — okay, based solely on your recommendation, I will try the Parfum now that I’ve fallen for the regular.

    Do you mean violet suede in a good way?:-? I mean, it SOUNDS good. But wondering whether you feel like it’s not…

    Clearly the D’Argent is for you what the Nez is for me — nothing.

  • March says:

    St. V — I really need to spend some more time with the Molinards. There’s a whole line there I’ve barely dipped my toe into, and I have a hunch I’m missing out on some greatness.

  • March says:

    Emote — I have just GOT to try the Montale. Yes. I was the kid who, if the other kid said, hey, do you think this milk is spoiled?, would take a swig.

    That’s funny about the seaweed. Things that are described as “oceanic” don’t smell like the ocean, anyway. They smell like hell and should be illegal, whatever the chemical construct is. I am particularly fascinated by your affection for sushi, because I find the smell of the … whatsit (nori? maki?) very similar. It’s actually a smell I like, as long as it doesn’t include too much of a rotting fish note. Now THERE’S a smell.:-&

  • March says:

    Patch — huh.:-? Catnip? Mouse juice? Essence of hairball? Yep, pitched at a level only cats (and Doyen) can smell…

  • March says:

    Tom — I did test it first! (sulking) because I knew it was the light one … I got nuthin’. I could sort of talk myself into imagining something, but it would be a lie.

  • March says:

    minette — oooh, your taste is so refined! Not everyone appreciates the burrito of weirdness that is Amethyste…;)

    Be Delicious smells sort of like Jolly Ranchers to me.

  • Judith says:

    And the more I wear Antimatiere, the more I like it! So I will go stand over there with Elle. . . except that Cuir Amethyste smells like violet suede to me.:)

  • Judith says:

    Just an addition on my Bois d’Argent problem. I have NO difficulty smelling the other two CD colognes. Blanche is a “lighter” scent on me (in feel), but I can still smell it quite strongly (I really like it). But Bois d’Argent = nothing! And re Merveilles: I don’t like the Elixir either (all that sweet stuff), but the Parfum is divine.

  • St Veronica says:

    Gone in 60 Seconds: Vetiver by Carven.

    Stealth Fighter: Molinard I.

  • Emotenote says:

    Wow March, how did you know? I think the worst was Sandflower, which I think is Montale. That pretty much ruined any other oceanic for me. And boy does that juice have staying power. Some of the molecules took up residence in my nose for a couple of days after application.

    My aversion to the rotten seaweed odor developed early in life and Mr. Emote never misses a chance to tease me about my beach going habits, mainly staying away from any sign of seaweed in the area. My sand must be clean before I will run through it or even set a towel down. I have been known to don rubber garden shoes in extreme seaweed conditions so that none of the smell sticks. God help me if I get in the water and some viscious water weed wraps around my arm. Sushi, however, I’m very good with. Must be a question of quantity.

    I agree with the Passage d’Enfar. I love the fact that It sneaks up on me all day. It really reminds me of traveling in mid-east deserts that have an ancient smell you don’t really get from say…the younger Colorado sand dunes. (Sorry Patty)

  • patchamour says:

    Here’s a weird thing. Having coated both arms with La Leg-Pull, aka Nothing, I went into the room where my cat was dozing. (This cat doesn’t usually pay much attention to perfumes.) He sat up, eyes got very wide, nose went up in the air and wrinkled, madly sniffing. So there is something in there besides alcohol and water, and I would bet it’s “animalic,” whatever it is. Kitty-kat skank that the two-leggeds can’t smell.

  • tmp00 says:

    I think Marina is publishing my ramblings about it this week- but I will say I think it contains some of Chris’ magic potion that you didn’t smell. 😕

    It took a while to get it, I think It helped that I tested that one first. I really like it, but I do wish it was about 5 times more concentrated.

  • minette says:

    Ha, I can’t smell NR or Lovely, either – total wastes of money, in my book. And DKNY Be Delicious smells like someone swished a few apples around in some water, then bottled the water. The men’s version is better, though. Cuir Amethyste didn’t capture me until I wore it a whole day – at first I thought it had little personality or staying power – but it’s gorgeous and of course, now I want it! Will be curious to see if I can smell Antimatiere when I actually get around to sniffing it.

  • March says:

    Patch — hooboy, smelling Leg-Pull after the other two, I’m surprised you even got the alcohol. But (see TMP00) clearly we are ignorant fools.

  • March says:

    Tigs — sorry, exposing my own cultural ignorance.:”> Unless you reference, say, Patrick the Starfish, or Bob the Builder, I’ll probably have trouble following along.

    But I have always wanted to order a Suffering Bastard. Someday I will.

  • March says:

    Emote — Bois d’Encens is such a gorgeous, gorgeous thing. I don’t find it stealthy, but I know others do (I think Passage d’Enfer is the equivalent for me.)

    Wait — you’re the seaweed-o-phobe, right? Like Elle fears the c*l*ry. What is that wretched thing that smells rotten to you? It sounds so awful I keep meaning to try it … a Montale?

  • March says:

    Tom — :o:o:o

    Okay, so what does it smell like?

    And Vetiver disappears on you?! It’s one of the very few fragrances that the Big Cheese has asked me never to wear in his presence. On me, it smells like the hot yoga room at the end of class.

  • patchamour says:

    What a fun post! LesNez samples arrived in the mail as I was reading all the above, and I have to join in with all who find L’Antimatiere first alcohol and then absolutely nothing. This could have been because I had just sampled both Let Me Play the Lion and The Unicorn Spell, both of them ravishing in different ways. But what in the world is supposed to be in L’Anti? As March says, it must be a little leg-pull. But those other two are amazing. The Unicorn Spell is so grassy and fresh.

  • Tigs says:

    March, sad to report that my geekiness continues. “The Flaming Moe” is drink invented by Homer Simpson and stolen by bartender Moe on the television show. The secret ingredient is extra strength cough syrup…

  • March says:

    Patty — they’re just jealous of your relationship with Jean Claude. Pay them no mind.:x

  • March says:

    Tigs — hilarious about Bouncing Melon (shoot, we used to have a bouncing gravatar that would be perfect) as usual, agree 100% with you on
    Omnia. Wow, I’d like to sniff a Flaming Moe, actually. Is that one of those cheesy tiki bar drinks?

  • March says:

    Robin — wow, how did NR ever get so popular, with so many people who can’t smell it? Sorry about your allergies. I have a couple of things that make me sneeze, but none that threaten to kill me.

  • March says:

    Leopoldo — I’ve wondered that same thing about soap smell myself. My theory is that it’s something to do with the musks, and if you’re not smelling them quite properly that’s the aspect you register. The Brit Man sounds quite heavenly on you.

  • Emotenote says:

    Bois de Encens is my stealth scent. I can spray on all I want and can’t smell a thing on my skin. However, I can smell the incense wafting past my nose the rest of the day in perfect immitation of a certain church incense I love called Bascilica. (A resin) I find it very soothing. Oddly I can’t smell many of the store counter Armani’s like Mania at all and most ‘Ocean’ scents smell like rotten seaweed to me. Reeeaally rotten seaweed that I’ve slipped on and fell in and…you get the picture.

    My DH loves my Body cream, the Mixed Emotions Tea cream that has been discontinued (horrors!). I can’t smell it after 5 minutes but he can smell it all day. Otherwise all he smells in anything is sandalwood, even when there is no sandalwood.

  • tmp00 says:

    I got L’Antimatiere. I actually liked it best of the Les Nez’s. So much so that I might actually treat myself to a bottle.

    Le Labo Vetiver however disappears on me after about twenty minutes: it’s an olfactory black hole on me. 🙁

  • Patty says:

    L — watch the JCE blasphemy, he is going to be the father of my children. Well, if I were having more children, but I’m not.

  • Tigs says:

    Great post – what a hoot! You really had me laughing with the popsicle; all my testing notes lately have “honeydew?!” scribbled in and I only figured out two days ago that baby’s shampoo is “Bouncing Melon” or something.
    I cannot smell NR at all on the testing “strip” (ribbon). Lovely comes through loud and clear. Omnia is almost *strong* (and wonderful). I have trouble with woods: Bois Oriental, Divine L’Homme Sage and Merchant Loup all smell like sweetish burning rum on my skin, like someone set a Flaming Moe next to me. No hazelnuts, no cedar, no cardamom, no leather, no patch, no myrhh, just booze aflame. CB sounds like a fascinating guy – would love to meet him….

  • Robin says:

    I can only smell Egyptian Musk for about 5 minutes. NR makes my throat close up entirely…can’t smell it, then can’t breathe 🙂

    I can smell Antimatiere, but it is light.

  • Leopoldo says:

    You crazy ladies! I can smell all of the fragrances you list. Nyar naddee nyar nar! And I’m sorry for those of you especially who don’t get l’Eau d’Hiver cos it’s a beauty (and i’m too much of a cad not to say so).

    Doing the stealth thang on me this very day is Burberry London for men. Now, I’m a niche nobleman, so I rarely slum it in designer land (if only I spent money on clothes, I could even try looking the part) but London stole my heart a little when I sniffed it – the tobacco and booze, its autumn and winter tonalities – but every now and again, it’s invisible to me. And then I get a waft of it and sigh. But really, I’ve got this dinky little 30ml bottle and I think it’ll be gone in a month. I won’t replace it.

    Lots of JCE’s scents also convince me there’s sometimes not much there – and then I overapply and I smell like I’ve smeared wads of high end soap all over my nether regions. Why do they do that soapy thing when you put on too much?

  • March says:

    Dinazad — hahahahahaha!!! Nothing?!?! Mure et Musc is very popular, and also one of the few I don’t like — ack, it’s like sticking a Strawberry (sorry Blackberry) Shortcake doll up my nose. Yeeeech. The Gobin Daude I could smell but didn’t have enough of a sample to get to know it well — and it’s too late now…

  • March says:

    Lynne — wow, then, that Hiver is some veeery expensive water!:d I do find it very light, but I admit I can smell it.

  • March says:

    Gaia — I’m still flummoxed by the Omnia nomination. I had no idea. BTW I was at the counter at Bloomie’s recently, sniffing the various concentrations of Narciso, and I told the SA standing there, nope — can’t smell a thing. She clearly thought I was insane. I think when YOU can smell something strongly, it seems very odd when someone else can’t.

  • March says:

    Marina — skank soul sister! Hiver doesn’t do it for me, either (ducking tomato). Is there anything fairly light that you like? Actually, there is — the Dior colognes, and your Russian ones…

  • March says:

    Elle — I love your list of stealth scents! Excellent choices. Burning leaves is also a great stealth scent on me after the “burning” part fades and it’s just dry, fallen leaves … sigh. That man CB makes me very happy. I can definitely see how CA – C = Pez.:(

  • March says:

    Judith — Wow, that’s interesting. The D’Argent I can definitely smell — I mean, it’s cologne, but it’s halfway between Blanche and Noir to me. I might actually buy one if it didn’t come in one of those freaking 250 ml vats.

    I do need to try the parfum. The Elixir I didn’t like much, but that’s a different topic.

  • March says:

    P — “unmade bed” sounds like one of its main notes, judging from the comments. Too much work for me, anyway. The NR I think I’ll content myself with smelling on others.

  • March says:

    Flor — yeah, the NR musk oil might as well be canola oil on me… SJP isn’t a whole lot more potent. But many people love it; clearly they’re getting something. I really hate that smell of alcohol, BTW — that’ll kill off my affection for almost anything, no matter how fleeting. It makes me think of hospitals.

  • March says:

    Cait — I hope I haven’t put myself on Rene Schifferle’s naughty list permanently.

    I like your stealth scents. BTW, do you think wearing scents in extreme cold changes your impression of them?

  • March says:

    Nina — Omnia?!? Really!? That one I can definitely smell — in fact, I think it’s very pretty (although I think the bottles are ugly.) Wonder what it’s made of that you can’t smell… I’ll have to try sticking the NR nozzle up my nose and squirting, like one of those nasal sprays.

    PS I’m the Queen of Typos. My favorite is when I misspell the actual name of the fragrance I’m blogging on.:-“

  • March says:

    Masha — thanks for the report. I feel better about the whole thing now — and that is way more trouble than it’s worth! I’m going to blog about Unicorn on Weds.

  • dinazad says:

    L’Antimatière does smell of something, but I haven’t tried it long enough to comment in extenso. But nobody will ever convince me that L’Artisan’s Mure et Musc actually smells of anything at all (even water smells positively aromatic in comparison). Blackberries? Musc? They’ve got to be kidding, right? And Gobin Daudé’s Jardins Ottomans only smelled very, very faintly if I spent an intense 30 minutes of self-hypnosis trying to talk myself into the sensation…..

  • Lynne says:

    Thank you Marina “I also nominate L’Eau d’Hiver, which for me is an epitome of Nothing scent.”
    I get absolutely nothing from d`hiver not even water, just nothing. Everyone around me can smell it but try as I might,,,nothing.

  • I’m SO glad not to be the only one with a quirky nose. I can’t smell NR, SJP or half of the stuff by Bulgari. I had to laugh at a previous comment about Omnia- it could be Poland Spring as far as my nose goes.

  • Marina says:

    I am with you on Bois de so-called Gaiac and L’Animatiere…although I did finally begin to smell the latter, and it is nice…but it took ages. I also nominate L’Eau d’Hiver, which for me is an epitome of Nothing scent. And now I will run away really fast, because its many fans are surely going to thrown rotten eggs and tomatoes at me. :d

  • Elle says:

    OK, I appear to be one of about 3 people in the known universe who can smell L’Antimatiere and also actually like it (love it my case). 🙂 DH can’t smell it at all, but it truly is delicious on my skin (after an hour). I can smell NR, but am anosmic to whatever the musk is in LV Musk. I’m also anosmic to the cuir in Cuir Amethyste – it’s quite strong on my skin, but smells like violet Pez and not much else. 🙁
    Osmanthe Yunnan, CB Black March, CB Winter ’72 and the two Escentric Molecules are probably my fav stealth scents.

  • Judith says:

    I can’t seem to smell CD Bois d’argent on myself and–here’s the kicker–DH can’t smell it on me either! So, is it my (our) nose or my skin? Haven’t tried it on anyone else, even him, so I don’t know. I can smell Antimatiere, but it’s faint. NR is faint, too. If you like Merveilles now, you should try the parfum–it’s heavenly!

  • Patty says:

    Some of the ones you mentioned, and Le Labo Vetiver. That one smells just like a stronger doctor’s office than L’Antimatiere. I tried again and again with the L’Antimatiere, and zip. My husband put it on, and he says it is light, but he gets unmade bed and sweaters or something like that.

    NR I smell. I had it for a while and gave it away, just toooo much everything for me.

  • Flor says:

    This is a very amusing post. I can’t smell NR musk oil either. It smells like nothing to me. I put in on my skin and all I smelled was my skin, and a very faint scent like the remnant of something that was there hours ago, which took me by surprise since it comes in a black bottle. SJP Lovely to me is barely there and completely forgettable. From the first time I smelled it I thought it smelled of alcohol. I tried it on my skin – nothing.

  • Cait says:

    I loved this post. I can’t really smell the NR musk oil in the little vial. I could smell l’antimatiere though it’s no Fracas or Ysatis. Heheh. I liked your impression of it.

    My subtle powerful scents are either the ones that reel in my LOVE or the ones that please little ol’ me. I used PdN Cologne Sologne that way and Creed Fleurissimo in my previous life. These days, it’s a rotation between Sous le Vent, NR edt, and Divine. More always coming since I am such a scent slut. I have been accused of exuding jasmine as a bodily excretion.

  • Nina says:

    And I wish there were a preview button to spare me the embarrassment of seeing how many words I misstype/miss out!

  • Nina says:

    I still believe the Omnia bottles are filled with plain water – no idea who buys it. 😉 l’Antimatiere I can smell – just – and it’s pretty much what Masha describes; sweaty bed and unwashed hair. SJP Lovely is strong enough to stun to me, but NR I can smell only I sniff hard enough to suck the sprayer up one nostril. Weird, isn’t it?

  • Masha says:

    At first, I couldn’t smell L’Antimatiere at all. Nada, zip, zilch. On the third wearing, in an absolutely clean room with no odors of any kind within 5 meters (I worked very hard to achieve this!), I caught a whiff of ink, hairspray, salty ocean water, and then a drydown of clean female sweat. My husband could smell nothing. OK, well, I guess it’s different, unless you’re at the ladies’ gym near the beach, but give me Unicorn Spell any day!