River Scent – the beginning of an odyssey

I need to learn more about perfume. This much is clear!

I would love to go on a course such as Denyse Beaulieu’s ‘Perfume: understanding fragrance‘ run out of the London College of Fashion (and held in the Hotel Pullman Dubai Mall of the Emirates!?!), however living in Edinburgh and being poor means this won’t be possible just yet.

In lieu, for the time being, I have decided to haunt all the perfume halls, counters and shops that I can find and to sniff as many scents as possible while reading about them in as many places as possible, in order to try to make better links between my word knowledge and my smell knowledge.

My iPhone A-Z Guide to Perfumes by Turin & Sanchez is coming in very handy, as are the many wonderful blogs to be found on the internet, as is the treasure hunt list sent to me by The Silver Fox of important perfumes to smell – I should ask him if he wouldn’t mind me sharing that actually, might be fun for others to hunt from!

Anyway, on my way to and from work recently I have been stopping at House of Frasers, Debenhams and Boots, saving some of the ‘fancier’ destinations for later in the week. My goal was to hit a few of the much referenced perfumes in the A-Z that seem to be basics or well-known/popular perfumes that I’ve heard of and potentially smelled on people but have not known how to put the smell to the name, so to speak.

I tried:

Cool Water from Davidoff

Man Home from Gym

Tommy Girl from Tommy Hilfiger

The sort of girl I wasn’t in high school.

Joy from Jean Patou

Old lady death by flower – this really made me think of rich old ladies in Manhattan with too much money and too few wrinkles; something preserved beyond its natural age. I feel a bit of a neanderthal when it comes to some of these bouquet florals as I can’t see the appeal and other, much more expert and worldly types than myself seem to love them. Perhaps I will someday, or maybe this is like the smell of petrol – some people love, some people hate? A dividing line to part the mighty sea of humanity?

Samsara from Guerlain

I sort of love AND hate this – I like the jasmine aspect as I’m jasmine-obsessed, and the sweetness of it as I love sugar/vanilla/benzoin/amber deliciousness, but something in it smells like plastic that’s gone off – is that the crappy synthetic sandalwood Luca Turin mentions in his review? It reminds me of a beloved, loud-mouthed, powdery-lipsticked aunt – glad she exists, but glad to get home after a Christmas dinner sat next to her. My expert friend said as I progress in my exploration of perfumes I first need to find out what I like and don’t like, and it seems to me I like indolic florals (see jasmine and lily) and gourmand scents (see chocolate and benzoin) and dislike… squeaky clean, floral bouquet, hmm, I wonder if that makes any sense?

Chanel No. 5 from Chanel

I think, may this perfume confession go straight to the foot of the altar of the gods of perfume and be burned like a little offering with a whispy puff of Chanel No. 5 smoke rising from it and a tiny figure of Marilyn Monroe gyrating for a moment in the puff before it is gone, that as a child I might have poured a small bottle of Chanel No. 5 down the sink… it seems to me my grandmother gave me a little one once, and I somehow thought it smelled like, well, grandmothers, and it sat around in the bathroom for a long time and eventually went the way of spat toothpaste… however this may all be a bad dream (she says, biting her lip).

I still, to be honest, don’t really get it. Is it something to do with these aldehydes? I keep hearing everyone talking about them and don’t really know what they smell like, but I was reminded of Chanel no. 5 when I smelled Caleche, and Turin says that is aldehydic too so maybe that’s one issue, also there is an association for me when it comes to a certain mix of florals that conjures a particular sort of old lady in my mind. I think old ladies are lovely, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want to smell of one – not that sort of one, anyway. I get the impression that as one learns more about scent one can become more objective i.e. freeed from some of these youthful prejudices… a bit like learning to like peas? May the day come quickly! One part of my job at the theatre where I work is reading scripts, and we have to learn to read in a few different ways – it’s a bit like learning to have multiple personalities – one reader in your head is you and reflects your personal tastes and prejudices, one reads objectively for quality of form, structure, character and so on and one reads with giant £ signs in one’s eyes – will this sell tickets? Will this sell? I would imagine that as one floats further down the multi-scented River Scent one becomes able to smell with multiple personalities as well, or grows multiple noses?

Anyway, I did feel like I could appreciate it slightly more than I ever have before. I didn’t flush the strip down the toilet.

Rush from Gucci

The sort of girl I wasn’t in college/uni, but kind of wanted to be, in a naughty, making out with boys at clubs sort of way.

Mitsouko from Guerlain

A second meeting after smelling it on Stewart in the Salon (see my Mitsouko Live post) – this is such a fairytale fragrance for me, full of dark moss, overhanging branches, enchanted fruits glowing on silver platters, and everything waltzing – I love it! Also this was the favourite of my boyfriend who had all the strips stuck in front of his nose when I got home. He said it was the one that smelled the most ‘different’.

L’Eau D’Issey from Issey Miyake

Ugg! The kind of woman I was most definitely not in the 90s.

Caleche from Hermes

Grandparents again, but grandparents folded into a big Hermes steamer trunk. Reminded me a touch of Chanel no. 5 – aldehydes?

And in preparation for my much anticipated smelling of the new Thierry Mugler The Taste of Fragrance limited editions had a go at –

Angel – So weird! Smelled too sweet to me at first, then like some totally unacceptable mix of rubber sex toys and rubber baby toys, and then like a hunched up bird with its massive wings wrapped around a giant nugget of benzoin – yum!

Alien – Odd, bitter cake flowers? On Mars?

A*Men eau de toilette rubber – I could make neither head nor tail of all the different versions and bottles and starry names on the Mugler tower. I grabbed this because it was in a rubber bottle and I liked the smell of it even better than Angel. It seemed richer to me than the sickening opening sweetness of Angel. This made me super excited about the limited editions as it felt sexy/foodie to me – chocolate baths in zero gravity. I like this. I want this.

And then, because I had a few strips still in my hand, some randoms –

Coco Mademoiselle from Chanel

Pretty in pink, makes me think of Audrey Hepburn in a pink Chanel suit with white gloves on. Would be nice on a big hairy man.

Eau Mega from Viktor and Rolf

This just smelled bad to me, like one of the things you regret spraying on yourself in Duty Free before you have to run to the boarding gate without time to wash it off in the loo.

L’Amoureux from Dolce and Gabbana

Smelled boring to me for a long time, like a general man cologne smell I’d smelled a million times before, then I got a whiff of stable – sweaty saddles and horse shit, more interesting but not particularly nice – I read somewhere there was s dab of sweaty musk in there so maybe that was it. Reading some reviews on MakeupAlley, folks seem to recommend trying it on skin (I didn’t), so maybe worth another go?

So, overall, an interesting first step, or paddle… more to come!

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