Fragrant Oddities

I promise, there’s a fragrance angle to this, so please read on….

In addition to fragrance and makeup I love nail polish, and I know some of you do, too.  There’s nothing like a pale, shimmery pink in the dead of winter, or a deep, gorgeous plum in fall, or a sophisticated nude shade any old time.

You know what else is great, though?  Offbeat, “ugly” nail colors.  Let’s face it, anyone can make polish shades that range from pretty to drop-dead gorgeous, but it takes talent to create truly niche shades, especially those found wandering outside of their normal brown-greige habitat.

This past fall Essie came out with a whole line of quick-dry polish called Expressie (insert eyeroll), a release which I ignored entirely, because I don’t love Essie’s formula or their fussy little brushes, frankly.  Well, you could have knocked me over with an emery board when I finally looked at a display in my CVS and beheld, mixed in among more typical options, the glorious array of murky shades – a truly dubious sampling of mustards and burnt oranges and unfortunate greens and whatnot.  Seriously, I was shook.

l to r: Don’t Hate, Curate; Saffr-on the Move; Taxi Hopping; Precious Cargo-Go. credit: gingerly polished

Today’s post takes a closer look at four of these new and some old oddities from Essie (photo above, with thanks to a great review on Gingerly Polished) and other brands, and pairs them up like a fine — yet slightly off — wine with an offbeat fragrance.

First we have Don’t Hate, Curate – not your usual neon orange and more than a little odd, it made me think immediately of L’Artisan Fleur de Carotte, launched in 2000 with Olivia Giacobetti and her dark arts – does anyone else even remember that?  Notes of carrot, cucumber, ginger, apricot and tarragon (!)  Before it was discontinued they probably sold 75 in total, to people who either loved the bottle or for some inexplicable reason wanted to smell exactly like, you guessed it, carrots.  (And yes, I was one of those people, although I never wore it, and I eventually swapped it to someone who kept begging me for it.).  I am bummed I can’t find a decent photo of the original bottle, but googling led me to this amazing French florist if you’d like to peruse their gorgeous arrangements.

Next up is Saffr-on the Move – A color this deep and orange-brown like an heirloom gourd of iffy provenance deserves something special, perhaps Etat Libre d’Orange Like This.  Tilda Swinton’s collaboration with the brand was based on some of her favorite homey scents, like pumpkin and ginger and tangerines, along with vetiver and immortelle.  But we’re talking about Tilda Swinton here, not Ina Garten, and Like This is a manifestly weird scent, at least to me (your mileage may vary).  It’s as though aliens were given a list of ingredients and told to concoct an orange-spicy comfort scent based on photos, rather than any idea of what “homey” actually smells like.  If your home smells like this, though, I’d like to visit.

In my opinion the chartreuse Taxi Hopping is the most challenging shade in the lineup, in the best possible way; it’s the one I love most and the one I’m wearing as I type this.  I think it would pair beautifully with Serge Lutens’ Miel de Bois, a honey scent that is beloved by a very few (including me) and almost universally loathed by everyone else.  If all you get is a urinous boxwood when you smell MdB, as if every dog in the neighborhood had marked their territory on your wrist, you have my condolences.

credit: the daily varnish

It took me awhile but I finally managed to get my hands on a bottle of China Glaze Budding Romance, shown at left, from a collection eons ago, and a bit of a Holy Grail among grunge polish aficionados.  Look at that; isn’t it something?!  I think I’d pair it (or the green Expressie polish up top) with green beans – specifically, Les Nez’ sublime, peculiar Unicorn Spell, by Isabelle Doyen, with its opening that smells exactly like green beans to me, on a base of frost hanging in the air over damp earth, spring grass and violets.

credit: adventures in acetone

Finally, there’s your good ol’ greige grunge, exemplified by Sephora/OPI Metro Chic, along with OPI You Don’t Know Jacques from the France collection, the two ancient pillars of grunge-chic neutrals. Today I’d like to pay homage to an even darker favorite, OPI’s How Great is Your Dane, at right, from the Nordic collection.  With its indefinable murky brown-purple-gray color and cool undertone, I think it pairs well with CB I Hate Perfume Black March, my beloved OG virtual-reality scent of cold, damp earth.  Another fine choice would be everyone’s crypt-keeper favorite, Etro Messe di Minuit, with notes of spices, dank church and mildew (that may not be their official list of notes, but it’s close enough!)

By the way, if you’re curious about L’Artisan, this discovery set has some of my favorites and is a good deal.

What do you think of these shades?  Would you wear them with pleasure, or not even if someone paid you?  Do they make you think of any particular scents?


  • Rachel says:

    Fleur de Carotte! I got a large decant of that one, and loved it so much it was my user name on a dating site where I eventually met my spouse. It’s a light carroty floral on me; I remember trying I Love Les Carottes and it was less interesting, more of a literal carrot and less herbal/floral. Speaking of funkier nail colors, I still have a bottle of Chanel Particuliere somewhere…I’ll have to dig it out.

  • Portia Turbo says:

    That green is freaking spectacular March! I love an olive or a khaki.
    There is an unopened export bottle of Miel de Bois and a bell jar here, there were two exports but I sold one recently. What a fabulous fragrance.
    Did you ever try Liquides Imaginaires Peau de Bete? Another naughty animal.
    Portia xx

  • Kathy says:

    I love all four colors: I am seeing Naugahyde office furniture circa 1971!!! I have not tried any of the fragrance pairings, though. Will work on that, but do have and love Atelier Silver Iris, which is a carrot fruit smoothy to me. The green one does make me think of an old Avon, maybe Imperial Garden or Persian Wood? I will be stopping at Target to see these in person. Thanks for a fun article!!

  • Dina C. says:

    I wear toe nail polish, but very rarely finger nail polish. Those murky shades don’t appeal to me I’m afraid, but I love your scent pairings and your stories that went along with them, March! I also got total canned green beans from Unicorn Spell. 🙂 I love and miss Messe de Minuit. Can’t find it anywhere for a reasonable price nowadays. It was my perfect Halloween scent.

    • March says:

      Ah, good ol’ Messy Minute, as Patty and I called it. That’s how I met her, ordering a decant of MdM! Good times…

  • Marsha says:

    I left a comment on here a little earlier this morning and was given the message that my comment was classified as spam. Could someone please tell me why? Thank you.

  • Musette says:

    Omg. Sweet Baby small-case jesus! This is one of the funniest, most brilliant posts you’ve ever written, you lima bean, you!!! And now I’ve gotta court Covid to go see if that lima bean color Budding Romance is there. DagNABBIT!

    Those OPI Nordies are a hoot – but I would end up on a slab before my time if I wore that – they would just assume I was in the beginning stages of decomposition.


    • March says:

      I love so many colors in the Nordic collection! If you find Budding Romance in the wild you’re a sleuth (although I’m sure it’s out there.). Bottles are now going for $35 on eBay, lol.

      • Musette says:

        omg. are you serious? wow. WOW! Well, if I find it, I’ll treasure it forEVAH! (or until it dries out) xoxoxo

        • March says:

          Eh, it never really dries out, lol, you just use nail polish thinner. I always keep a bottle because all polish thickens over time.

  • Cinnamon says:

    oh, March, this is great. Long ago, when still in NY and working in a midtown office, I didn’t wear a lot of makeup (I’ve never been great at makeup) but got my nails done once a week at J Sisters on 57th Street. Ran the gamut from almost black (ie, Chanel Rouge Noir-is) through pale blue and sometimes sightly odd nude shades. That green shade is gorgeous.

    • March says:

      Glad you liked it! Oh, I remember when those vampy shades were brand new, I thought they were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I still love them.

  • Tara C says:

    I like the dark goth one on the bottom, probably wouldn’t wear the others as I am into jewel tones, charcoal, blue, silver, etc. I never thought about pairing fragrance with polish as I wear a different scent every day and polish lasts many days.

    • March says:

      Yeah, I was sorta using it as a hypothetical what-if pairing, although to be honest I’m not above changing my nail polish shade once a day lol, often by slapping another coat on top of whatever I’ve got on….

  • ElizaC says:

    Essie nails has a gorgeous copper polish. I like to wear chunky Mexican silver bracelets and rings and the copper color sets off the silver in a really beautiful way.

    • March says:

      That sounds like an absolutely beautiful combo! I like to wear copper polish, next time I’ll load up on my Southwestern jewelry as well…

  • Kathleen says:

    I also love nail polish, and loved this fun post pairing polish with perfume. Clever!
    The shades you highlighted are not for me, I love pinks best from pale to shocking bright. There are colors for everyone’s tastes.
    I recently discovered Essie Gel polish (2 coats of color and one top coat with the best large polish brush, even I can apply neatly!) it really lasts for a week, and I use my hands a lot. I love Olive and June polish as well.

    • March says:

      Olive and June polish is great, and they also have a kinda weird brown-yellow I’ve had my eye on, lol. And I also have a LOT of pink….

  • Love this so much, and I may not know much about perfume, but I think you paired them amazingly! And the descriptions of these scents are hilarious! Like seriously, who decided carrots was a good thing? Love the post and thank you for linking to mine! 🙂

    • March says:

      Well, thank you so much for letting me borrow. I’ve been slowly winnowing down my collection from four enormous storage bins to one; it’s rough going.