I’m not writing about robots in disguise, honest. Too old for all that. And probably too gay (though I have to admit that I did, as a small boy, have Star Wars figurines. Han and Luke had a lot of fun together when Chewbacca was looking the other way).

Instead, this brief post is inspired by what I was doing last night when I should have been writing it. I was scrabbling around in the house, and in our old outbuilding (the original Georgian kitchen) looking for material with which to cover my tender plantlings. A frost was forecast. A frost, in late May. Unheard of. So much for global warming. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the pattern of global warming is much more, at least here, a pattern of increasing extremes: increasingly mild winters, unpredictable dry patches, rain, rain, rain – and I know what you guys think about Britain, but I live in one of the driest spots in not only Britain but also Europe, apparently.

So, poor March got the raw end of this unpredictability when she arrived at the beginning of May. We’d had a glorious April – sunshine, warmth through to late evening, not even a glimpse of rain. On her arrival, all this changed and in May it seemed to rain a little or a lottle every single damn day. Ending up with a frost last night (which, if the soft growth on all my shrubs – too large to cover – is anything to go by, failed to materialise). I’m buying a ski outfit for July.

Now here’s my unconvincing and tenuous segueway. There are perfumes that are as unpredictable as the British weather – not because they depend on skin chemistry, perception, whatever – but because they transform so profoundly from top notes to drydown. Here’s my off-the-cuff top 5 of ultimately non-linear scents. What are yours?

At 5: I can’t pin it down, as it always seems so different every time I sniff it. It’s that shape-changing, shifting mélange of old school European élan with a new world name, Patricia de Nicolai’s New York.

At 4: Sticking with the old school, some people think of vomit or poop when this first kicks in, and it’s certainly a Dirty Gerty in its initial blasts. But wait: soon it’s nothing more than a flirty caress of vanilla and lavender, like the softest touch of the softest skin against skin: Guerlain’s Jicky eau de parfum.

At 3: It’s a man’s scent, but starts with a shrill screech of orange blossom that’s almost too much for me. I have to get the right headset on – this is conjuring up Mediterranean grooming in the heat, and the neroli is a refreshing stimulant, rather than a headache-inducing nightmare gas. Give it 30 minutes though, and the scent becomes Gucci pour Homme’s woody, incensy older brother. Rochas Lui.

At 2: It starts in the bright lights of lemon sherbet, almost too sweet, but so acid yellow you can forgive it, even if the roof of your mouth is made raw and your eyes dazzled. It dries down to a warm, velvety cuddle in the back pew of a rural church (wholly inappropriate I imagine, but all the better for it). Mona di Orio’s Lux.

At 1: It’s been there for a while, and it’s a predictable winner. A camphor rub in a car mechanic’s workshop. Bryan walks in with a bunch of his favourite blooms. Of course it’s Lutens’s Tubereuse Criminelle.

  • CH says:

    For me, L’Artisan’s Santal is quite a shocker – it starts out a pure shot of Vodka and citrus, then it quickly dries down to a beautiful floral sandalwood.

    Chanel No. 19 EDP – Starts off with a blast of intense cat urine, but quickly softens to a woody floral.

  • Lavanya says:

    What a coincidence- I was wearing SL TC yesterday when I happened to read your post, Lee…TC is one of my favourites-I love even the opening. I always feel that the cold mentholish opening needs to be there for the tuberose to really smelll like it should (I’m not sure if that makes sense).

  • Lee says:

    Bandit *might* get kinder to you. Last time I smelled it, it seemed like quite a quiet affair…

    London in the heatwave. I love the city like that. So… charged. Though also very wearing.

  • rosarita says:

    Thanks for such an interesting post! I’ve only been to Britain once, ten years ago or so, and I just recall that London was in the midst of a heat wave in early June, with 96 degree temps and nothing was air conditioned, including the theatres. Lovely drives in the country, though. 🙂
    I am gorging myself on Pd’N samples right now, trying to decide which one will next be mine, and so far New York is my favorite. It starts out on me as cheap aftershave, and in 20 min. is the richest, lushest thing, and my nose is glued to my wrist.
    Bal de V. took me by surprise when I first started becoming interested in perfume (this time, anyway.) I enjoy all the turns and twists and it treats me better than Bandit, which I tried to give my love to, but it’s unrequited love at best. B. starts out with exactly the gorgeous leathery green blast I crave, then immediately turns to car exhaust and burning tires, and not in a good way.:( I plan to give it another go in the fall.

  • BitterGrace says:

    There’s nothing worse than a one-trick-pony of a perfume–give me a transformer any day. Couldn’t agree more on Jicky, and I love every one of her phases. Anya’s Fairchild goes from lush uber-jasmine to briny seaweed, and takes many hours to do it. N’Aimez que Moi starts out all candied roses and violets, and winds up an almost masculine mossy chypre.

    I never had a Transformer, nor Star Wars figures, either. Born too soon, I’m afraid. But Barbie and Skipper used to have some good times…

  • Bryan says:

    What a stellar idea for comments. I was a transformer nut…and now as queer as a…well you get the idea. So, you never can tell I guess. (Go Decepticons). Tub. Criminelle is a transformer (a gorgeous one at that, but I think we all agree). Chanel 22 seems to play jedi mind games with me too. If not for Colombina’s insight I never would have guessed incense. Finally, I would nominate L’heure Bleue. (The Chanel and Guerlain in extrait here). Transformers (the cartoon and perfumes) hold a special place in my heart….thanks Lee for reminding me.;)

    • Maria says:

      Ah, the beautiful L’Heure Bleue! On me it doesn’t go through dramatic transformations, but I love it.

    • Lee says:

      I knew there’d be at least on Transformers fan in the room. Go Bryan!

  • tmp00 says:

    Well, I have so second (eighth?) TC- and I am one of those who’d rather keep the opening..

    Oooh- Helg- good one! Cabochard! Yummmm!

    I wish we’d get some rain here. It’s dry enough here that static cling could start a brush fire. 🙁

    • Lee says:

      Careful in your nylon jogging suits Tom! We don’t want spontaneous human combustion!

  • helg says:

    Hi L and LOL about the weather. We have been having continuous rain for over a week here! It’s official: global warming is all right and says hello!

    In any case I couldn’t agree more on the infamous TC (“the agony and the ecstacy” per my older reviews), Lux and Jicky. Good choices!
    I would also venture to suggest Mitsouko of course, Bal a Versailles naturally, or the iconoclastic Cabochard in the older formulation with the orange rind juice/ whip slap/ powder hug progression.
    I also love the unusual development of Tiempe Passate (which I think would be lovely on a man) and Dzing! (from cardboard to leather to hay-vanilla). Yes, I’m weird, I know…:-“

    • patchamour says:

      Hi Helg,

      I always start jumping up and down when somebody loves Tiempe Passate the way I do. It’s the closest to a signature for me. However (isn’t this strange), it doesn’t seem to change on me at all. Another argument for the body chemistry factor.

      But Bal a Versailles and Jicky do change on me, as do some of the cheaper drugstore things: Anais Anais turns into a lovely leather after awhile and so does Safari.

    • Lee says:

      *Hangs head in shame*

      I’ve never smelled Tiempe Passat or vintage Cabochard.

  • Maria says:

    Hello, Lee. Your plants are fortunate in their caretaker. Good luck with the job interviews, whatever they may be for. I have yet to hear a peep about my job application.

    After going through the Bal a Versailles extrait’s protean changes–from cat butt in the face to horse manure to gorgeous, smooth lushness–other transformers seem tame. I do recall the big shock I got the first time I tried on Tabac Blond and I got burnt rubber as the top note. I couldn’t believe the fragrance would end up being so smooth and soft. But that was b.b.a.v. (before Bal a Versailles). Jicky is way up there too.

    • Lee says:

      Shame about the job interview stuff. A**holes. Don’t they realise what they’re missing out on?

      And BaV – well, she’s the queen of naughty-nice.

  • pitbull friend says:

    Oh, btw, my sister (professional on these issues) corrects people who say “global warming.” She uses the phrase “global climate change” because, as you point out, what is really happening is extremes and unpredictability. When we call it “global warming,” people tend to forget about it when it’s not super hot. –Ellen

  • pitbull friend says:

    Lee, you are so dead on about Jicky. I think that’s what
    makes it a subject of eternal fascination — i.e. how can
    something be so dirty & get so clean???

    Bulgari Black gets my nod for interesting scent journey
    of late. My notes: Slightly rubbery leather with an outer
    layer of chai. Then the chai fades and it just smells
    like new shoes. (1/07) Pleasantly saffron, then other
    spices. Like a quiet T42 with less tea, for daytime.
    After 15, warm vanilla pops out. Rubber gets a nutmeg
    tinge. At 1.5 hours, nice quiet spicy vanilla.

    It was disturbing at first, but I’ve gotten quite attached
    to it. — Ellen

    • Lee says:

      I liked Bulgari Black, but it was one of those scents that I ended up giving away, for some reason. turned to powder on me…

      But I’ll join you in Jicky love.

  • Marina says:

    I lived in England for 5 years (*sniff sniff*) and it didn’t rain nearly as much as we, foreigners, think it should. The summer of 2002 was I think the hottest in like a long time, they said. Very disappointing. 🙂 God, I miss England so much. :((

  • Patty says:

    Boy, in thinking about this, I have so many difficult perfumes! The worst (not in terms of bad, but challenging) have been mentioned, Diorling, Cradle of LIght, Tubey Criminelle. Mitsouko is always a challenge, and some days it is perfect, and other days all wrong, and I usually don’t know until it’s on.

  • Elle says:

    Diorling parfum, CB Cradle of Light, Sous le Vent, Vol de Nuit parfum and Creed Aubepine Acacia all spring to mind in my pre-caffeine state. Actually, a fair number of my vintage parfums go through quite fascinating transformations, which is why I love them. I like scents that hold my attention over time w/ ongoing shifts and turns.

    • Lee says:

      I must get to try more vintage stuff. That’s my half-way through the year resolution.

  • March says:

    Hey, the last two days there were really nice!

    Seconding the votes for Bal, Lui and Musc Rav. (Bal in the extrait is too rank even for me, and that’s saying something.) My additions would be two Serges (natch): MKK and Fleurs d’Oranger, with that practical-joke cumin at the opening. I also blogged about something recently that had a huge gulf between the opening and the finish, and it’s really chafing me that I can’t remember what it was…

    • Lee says:

      It was hyperbole for effect I guess. Actually, last week was lovely.

      I’m sharing your chafing. Ouch.

      Think of me – I have to prepare for two job interviews – one’s been sprung on me for tomorrow. I found out 20 minutes ago. Gulp.

  • Divina says:

    Le Parfum de Thérèse, Musc Ravageur and Bal à Versailles! I thought I had seen it all with Therese in the transformers department, until I experienced Bal à Versailles, which is almost exhausting in its everchanging game. I just love spending the day with it, experiencing every single change, travelling to every single moment it decides to take me.

    • Lee says:

      I almost included BaV, but I knew it would be busy making its way in here, anyways. Good trio!