Thursday, 20 November 2014

On Perfume Promiscuity - The Great Solo Scent Adventure, Part 4 - The Final Results

Last week I announced the launch of ‘The Great Solo Scent Adventure’, an experiment designed to discover how we promiscuous perfume lovers fared when restricted to wearing just one scent over a period of three days and nights. I intended to write a single post featuring our results but the responses from the participants were so intriguing that I posted two of them as stand alone articles. You can read Tresor’s story of Clinique Aromatics Elixir here and Nancy’s tale of Armani Privee Ambre Soie (and some extraordinary memories of Hurricane Katrina) here.

Read them? Best get the kettle on as it’s going to be a long one!

By far the most interesting outcome of the experiment was the fraught process of selecting ‘the chosen one’. My own priority was to choose a fragrance that would feel comfortable throughout the period. This was tricky as I am very much governed by an AM/PM feeling. During the evenings I douse myself in something rich and decadent, an opulent oozy oriental such the original Gucci EDP or Olfactive Studio's  Chambre Noire. If I applied these whilst dressing for work in the morning I’d most probably vomit up my cereal. Mornings find me reaching for the brightest sparks of my collection, Clinique Wrappings often assists in my awakening with it’s crisp woody aldehydes and citrus Prozac. At nighttime, it feels just too darn perky.

The chosen one needed to fit both criteria, a sparkle in the morning and some evening sumptuousness. It must not shout at my senses at either end of day. Which is why I selected Guerlain’s lush floral - Idylle. You can read about my adoration for Idylle by clicking here.

It struck me that we all need an ‘Idylle’ i.e that which can safely offer us enjoyment without being over demanding, a source of comfort and a reliable ally. One that will elicit a gentle sigh rather than a fearsome growl upon application. Whilst perusing my collection, I realized that I have only a couple of bottles of this type of best friend scent. The diversity of genre is vast, meaning that I pick scents for really specific moods and times.  Most of them are inappropriate for at least 75% of my sensitive brain’s day.

I surmise that the next bottle I buy will be another best friend scent. The trouble with keeping all of these ‘special mooders’ is that although it is fabulous to have an atmospheric drawer of wonders, they are ultimately going to go off. With cool dark storage there’ll be no problem whilst they are reasonably full, but as the bottles empty over the years the oxygen is most likely going to give the dregs a severe kicking. With this in mind, I sniffed at my beloved bottle of special mooder - Serge Lutens’ Fille En Aiguilles. The sorry looking final 10 mls still thankfully smelt as it should. Did this count as breaking the rules? I didn’t spray any but I felt a little concerned that something that wasn’t Idylle had sneaked up my nose. Perhaps we perfume lovers could benefit from anti-depressants to stabilize our moods to the point where we only feel a pleasant blandness. Then all we’ll need will be just one bottle of best friend?

Andrew said of his chosen scent:

“I’m choosing Dior Privée Patchouli Imperiale because of the private collection that I’ve tried so far, this may be one of my least favorites so I want a chance to get to know it better, especially since I think it would be appropriate for Fall.”

And of his general perfume choice habits:

“Mood, outside temperature, activity, proximity to others, clothing choice, and general curiosity about new scents all factor into why I choose a scent.  There’s a level of appropriateness which I generally try to follow, but as I primarily wear fragrance for myself, I find myself breaking the rules ever so slightly just because I can.  For instance, I’ll wear Etat Libre d’Orange Rien or Comme des Garçons Black in the Summer but maybe not applied as heavily.  So even though seasonality does have something to do with the decision, I mostly wear whatever I want whenever I want.”

Similarly, Charlotte was not restricted by seasonality:

“I think my mood is the predominant factor in selecting my fragrance.  I don't wear any of my scents as being for cold weather, or those that are for warm weather.  I have found that some scents that are deemed cold weather scents such as orientals and some that are deemed warm weather such as florals are even more beautiful when worn in the opposite season.  Florals take on a new character in the winter and orientals or heavier scents literally bloom in hot weather.  I never allow season to dictate my choice of fragrance.”

One factor that linked all of the participants was a passion for a wide range of fragrance genres which could be worn at any time we feel like it. Perhaps this scattergun style appreciation is a contributing factor to the sizable mass of scents that we own?

On her selection process, Charlotte said:

“I chose Prada "Infusion d' Iris" because I think it can be worn by both women and men and during any season.  It is one of my favorites, but will I tire of it after 3 days?  Only time will tell.”

I think that Charlotte’s choice represents a ‘best friend’ scent in that (alike my Idylle) it is beautiful but not challenging. Was Charlotte adopting a similar approach to me for the adventure?

Linda’s choice was:

“David Yurman’s Exotic Essence (I will be calling it EE here)
It had to be safe for all times of day/night, not too heavy or too light (skin levels bore me fast). Something I really liked that wouldn’t kill me if I could no longer stand to wear it. I looked for one where I had a full bottle and a purse size or samples to take with me, and hopefully a lotion also.  It would be a versatile, semi generic, sweet, vanilla, floral or fruity”

Prior to the adventure we experienced mixed feelings. Personally, I felt some excitement in the idea that I would be returning to the days of not obsessing about perfume (I know I write about the stuff prolifically, but it can often be overwhelming in it’s intrusion of my life). Here’s how the others felt:

Frightened, I know I will be bored within the first day and what if I ruin that scent for me. What the heck have gotten myself into?!?!?!” Linda

“I think it will present a real challenge because I like to change my scent at least twice a day if not more.” Charlotte

I could do it but it would be a bit challenging.  We’re not exactly the same people for three days at a time.  Life isn’t static and neither are our perfume choices.” Andrew

The Diaries:



9:00AM - I nearly forgot this was the week I was wearing the same fragrance for three days straight!  Nearly…well, after three spritz and hitting the road, I’ve unfortunately come to the conclusion that that was two spritzes too many.  Yikes!  The projection on this thing!  Tonight, I’ll have to tone it down and stick with just one tiny spritz.

I chose Christian Dior Collection Privée Patchouli Imperiale because of the other Dior Privées that I have or have had, vintage Bois d’Argent, Cologne Blanche, Ambre Nuit, Eau Noire, Leather Oud, and Oud Ispahan, this one gets the least amount of use and I’m not sure why because I love patchouli.  There’s also something Dior has going on with all those I’ve mentioned; I’ll call it the Diorade, à la Guerlainade.  It’s something that’s common about all of these, a similar base that tells me without a doubt, this is Dior Collection Privée, and I recognize and welcome that in Patchouli Imperiale.  Still, there’s something in PI that I’m not naturally gravitating toward as often as the others, outside of the Dior house as well.  Maybe I just need to apply it more sparingly and get to know it more slowly.

6:30PM - One conservative spritz in the evening and my suspicions were proven correct.  I’m enjoying this far more, able to explore more distinct notes without the intensity of the beastly projection I afflicted myself with earlier this morning.  It’s a creamy patchouli, coupled with that recognizable Diorade I mentioned earlier. 

Qu’est-ce que c’est, ce Diorade?  Hmm…let me try to describe it.  It’s a clean heart or middle note, a little marine, slightly ozonic in a neutral kind of way, sweet, nutty, a little powdery but not too powdery.  Depending on what gets added to it, for example, turn it into a Cologne Blanche and you get more powder, but go the any of the other directions and, though it remains a common element, it’s not as pronounced.


8:30AM – Just one spritz.  Okay, probably just half a regular spritz.  Interesting…I find that the less I use, the more I like this Dior Privée.  Rather than overwhelm, it plays out sort of a salted caramel note and I can explore the slightly powdery patchouli without being distracted by the sweetness.  In fact, it actually takes on a nuttier vibe.  I even think I’m getting something slightly animalic.  And no, I did not check out any of the accords or note classifications prior to or during this experiment as I want to be certain what I’m perceiving is actual and not merely by suggestion. 

7:30PM – Caramel corn…with peanuts.  Maybe, I don’t know anymore.  With an additional mini-reapplication, I’m getting really different notes, maybe as it’s mixing with my chemistry more and more.  This isn’t that far off from that O’Driu Peety perfume that encourages you to add a little of “yourself” to personalize it.  We do that with our own sweat, don’t we?  And yes, we all sweat, so there’s no use getting grossed out there. 

10:30PM – Slightly spicy, earthy, caramel corn – on account of the sweetness accompanied with a butteryness.  Today has convinced me that where Patchouli Imperiale is concerned, less is certainly more.  And to be perfectly honest, though it’s been tough not trying on or wearing other fragrances, I’m determined to stick to this three day challenge.  It’s actually rather nice not spending the excess time pondering what fragrance to wear, not that this took up an enormous amount of time usually, but just that that part of my life was instantly simplified at least for three days. 


7:30AM – Okay, I feel like I may need to do this with all fragrances I’m unsure about and even with those that I am because I really feel that by the third day of this mini-adventure, I’ve really gotten to know Dior Patchouli Imperiale. 

There are quick, cursory judgments in so many things we do in life, like what we instantly think of that person on the road cuts us off and who also happens to have an inspirational bumper sticker expressing their view on life, or when you take the time to open the door for someone who glides through, their nose stuck to their smart phone, not even acknowledging your existence or courtesy…I think perfume suffers the same kind of mishap.  It’s a two way street, how the perfume performs, expresses itself, and how it performs and expresses itself when combined with you; it’s really a chemistry experiment and sometimes there’s a connection, sometimes it takes time, like dating.  And everyone’s chemistry is so unique so there are more factors at play than what the sales associate at a fragrance counter can tell you or what a fragrance blogger’s opinion may be.  Those are all subjective assessment and you’ll never really know until you go down that road for yourself. 

I actually had one sales associate do a very unique fragrance consultation on me, asking me about my diet and nutrition.  He said that your body’s PH levels also greatly affect how a fragrance performs on you.  I forget the particulars of our discourse, but I recall that at that very time, I was exploring Veganism, which, even excluding carbs, would make me more alkaline than usual.  Apparently, that matters.  Great, you’re thinking; now I have to worry about how my diet is affecting my fragrance and not just my waistline.  But if you think about it, next time you wrinkle your nose at a fragrance you’re trying, don’t take it all out on the fragrance because you actually have a contributing factor as well.  And don’t take other people’s word for it either. 

And now, back to Patchouli Imperiale…I get an almondy note this morning with a smooth patchouli that evokes polish and clean lines, not crunchy and hippy-dippy vibes.  Worn lightly, this might even be appropriate for work.

2:04PM – Butterscotch/floral something?

4:57PM – Sweet, earthy floral.  A very clean patch.  If anything, these three days have taught me to slow down, take time, and really appreciate the fragrance I put on and not merely spritz and go, or to keep a wandering eye as to what’s new or next in the search.  Knowing what I now know, I’d wear this more.  But then again, I feel like giving more of my fragrances this kind of a field trip to really get to know them one on one.

7:38PM – Re-spritzed after the gym and shower and no, I didn’t overwhelm anybody at the gym previously.  I just had on what I put on from the morning, which had settled in and mellowed nicely into that non-descript Diorade.  Now, if I could smell my own neck, I could probably tell it was Dior Patchouli Imperiale, but otherwise just a cozy, slightly warm, close skin scent.

Right now though, post-gym, my body temperature is still a little elevated so even the tiniest spritz is projecting right up to my nostrils but by now, it’s a familiar scent, one that reminds me that this is what fragrance is all about, enjoying the composition bit by bit, having it play a part, like a soundtrack in the things you do day in – day out, but most importantly, how it makes you feel; inspired, nostalgic, adventurous, somber, mysterious, sexy, beguiling, safe, comfortable, or just natural. 

I feel like I’ve really gotten to know my Dior Collection Privée Patchouli Imperiale or better yet, it’s gotten to know me better, and together, we’ve reached a mutual understanding.

Almost tempted...


After my shower this morning, I liberally sprayed on my Infusion d' Iris.  I love the clean notes of this fragrance.  I am anxious to see how tomorrow will be as I apply the same fragrance.

The Infusion d' Iris is beckoning me to apply it for a second day.  My other bottles are gazing longingly at me though, saying "pick me".  This evening after a warm shower, a manicure of my nails and general pampering, I felt a strong urge to try something new, but I resisted the impulse.

I will stick with this 3 day project, I told myself as I applied Infusion d'Iris for the third day.  My new bottle of Amouage "Sunshine" was calling my name though because it is a cool dreary day here in the Tundra.  I wore my committed fragrance all day and it is evening.  I have taken my shower and will apply one last spray of the Prada, but my heart longs for just a spritz of the "Sunshine".

My conclusion, I am a confirmed and dedicated fragrance whore, who would find it impossible to be faithful to just one fragrance!

Exotic Essence


"Weekend before:  EXTREME panic, worry, stress!!!!

AM: Loving the scent as usual, a lot less panic.. Maybe this will work out okay, going to the San Francisco coast, a different weather there, windy salt air, should be okay.
Afternoon: Sprayed. Still nice, enjoying it. EE is going fine in the cool windy SF, in both the salty pier and in the spicy Chinatown areas.
Evening: sprayed, okay & still appreciating the scent but after 10 hrs I am starting to get a bit bored with the peach & wanting a heavier scent as I usually wear a strong floral or heavy  oriental at this time.
Bed 1am – definitely getting tired of but doing okay, it’s sweet enough to what I usually spray on bedding.

AM: sprayed, still like EE but not enjoyed it as much as usual, It didn’t make me do the “smile, & close my eyes while taking a deep inhale and savor”
Afternoon:  I think I cannot smell EE as strongly as usual.  A half hour after spraying I need to sniff right above my skin to smell it.  Mix of feelings, boredom and bit of frustration.  I still like it but not enjoying it.  If I had to rate the scent on parfumo now, which allows rate by increments of 10, I’d only give it a 70 instead of the 90 I usually feel towards it..
Evening:  Sprayed. Canned peaches in heavy syrup?  How did the sweetness get so heavy? Where did those lovely oriental notes go? My eyes keep going to my bottle of Fancy Nights, the heavy, sharp patchouli in it is so calling to me like an old-time siren.. LOL  Nope, I am staying strong..
Bed:  not spraying my linens, think going without is preferable at this time.  Hope changing my habit is not cheating… But I need a break, clear my nose and maybe I will enjoy EE more tomorrow.

AM - delayed until almost noon, hesitation, apprehensive, but once I did spray I liked the scent, and EE is back to her normal yummy self.  So although I’m bored and the excitement is missing, I can pretty much still enjoy her.  Can’t look at my other bottles thou, they are getting just too tempting. My mind is remembering  Gres’ Cabotine Rose and how perfect she’d be right now..
Afternoon – Frustration is really kicking in, I’m getting snippy over little things.  Right after spraying I got a headache.  I’d do anything for a change of scent right now, am going to cut a bunch of the last of my roses to bring indoors.
Evening – Want to bath in Ysatis instead of spraying EE again, but did.. Even LouLou or Chl#5 are looking good to me right now and I can rarely take wearing them..  After an hour I broke down and spray the room with a strong air freshener, Scentsy’s Green Tea and Cactus. I actually feel much better, almost like I’m clean again.  Yeah I probably cheated even if I didn’t put it on me, sorry but even people who have a signitature scent are occasionally surrounded by other smells.
Bed - Sprayed my pillow & sheets with EE, couldn’t take spraying myself again.  The cloying sweetness is starting to make me nauseous. EE is sweet but not nearly as heavy as she seems to be to me right now. I don’t dislike EE but I think it will be a long long before I can wear her again.   My mind is racing with trying to decide what wonderfully different scents I get to wear tomorrow,  think I’ll start with a fresh almost greenish floral in morning, Tigress in the afternoon,  then something really heavy..  O all the possibilities!!"

Back in the UK, two of my fragrance buddies Margaret and Avril decided to join in. Although I didn’t give them the questionnaire that I sent to the others (for fear of the article being too huge, aherm…), they did send me some thoughts on their experiences. In similarity to Linda, Margaret did not enjoy it:


“Experiment time was BORING!!  I have discovered that I’m not over impressed by Visa compared to Fracas and it did not last on me, but what’s new there?  I actually got through a full 5ml decant in an attempt to keep myself scented.  My hands were itching to spray something different with more oomph.  It felt wrong somehow and I felt I was being disloyal to all my other babies.  I thought it would be easy and yes I managed but I’m so happy I can wear something else tomorrow as I have discovered I need to change perfume to match mood and weather and I feel out of sorts if I do not.  I honestly did not think I would feel like that and its strange I think in the future I could manage to go without ANY perfume for 3 days rather than wear the same. How crazy is that?”

I can understand Margaret’s point. Although I loved each spritz of Idylle I did not feel the need to spray at my usual frequent intervals. Perhaps the multiple spraying habit tends to be driven by the necessity of ‘newness’?

Avril also had issues with being able to smell her choice of scent:


“This 3 day thing was amazing!

Day 1 I was delighted I chose Le Parfum de Therese. I hadn't worn it since I bought it a couple of months back and really enjoyed getting wafts of it. I could pick up on the individual components a lot more than before like the tangerine, melon and slight vetiver… It gets a bad rep for longevity and sillage but on me it lasted a good 4 hours which is a miracle for me. The drydown is beautiful too.

Normally I wear a daytime frag and always wear something else in the evening. I get bored easily and no matter how much I like a scent I need a change of scenery as the day progresses. So I just reapplied and still enjoyed it as much as I had during the day. I was quite taken aback at how lovely it still smelled, as if I had freshly applied. It's rare I get that on reapplication. So day 1 was fab!

 Day 2 I woke up excited to wear it again as I'd enjoyed day 1 so much. I also enjoyed not spending an hour at bedtime deliberating on what fragrance to wear the next day. This is an annoying part of my bedtime routine as I chop and change my mind and get into a panic if I can't make my mind up! It's a bit like the comfort of a school uniform. So day 2 was rather like day 1. Longevity wasn't as good as day 1 though and even when I reapplied I couldn't really smell it.  I reapplied again in the evening and was disappointed I couldn't smell it like before.

 Day 3 I still got up and wore it. Although I couldn't smell it at all and it wore off really quickly. At this stage I had received some perfumes I'd bought with lots of decants and tried one on a jumper. The smell was incredible and I was so dying to try it on my skin!!! So I had a shower, and then I caved in. I couldn't resist.  I had to smell it. I needed some olfactory stimulation! !!
So all in all a very interesting experiment.  I will definitely do it again with another scent but for 2 days I think rather than 3.

As for me?

Well, I’m glad the others contributed so thoroughly to the adventure because my own experience was, from a literary point of view, rather boring! I began with adoring Idylle and ended with adoring Idylle. It was, indeed, ideal.

In the days preceding the adventure I over thought my choice of scent, spending too much time spraying my potentials and pondering which one would be consistently pleasing. This was the only genuine bit of drama in my experience.

On night two, Margaret spoke to me of Visa which initiated my only wobble. Because although she regretted her choice, Visa is one of my most beloved scents. After I left our Facebook conversation I sat by my dressing table and held my miniature bottle of Visa. I managed to resist temptation and left it out ready to apply at the end of the challenge. When the end came I dopily reached for Idylle post morning shower and went off to work smelling exactly the same as I had for the last three days. It was pleasant…

So what have we learnt from this experience?

Several of the participants concluded that it gave them the opportunity to thoroughly get to know their scent which perhaps does not happen when we wear them infrequently. In particular Andrew and Nancy seemed to develop a strong sense of the different facets and subtle changes during the wear of their chosen ones, ultimately deepening their appreciation of them. I personally found that I was more sensitive to the beauty of the dry down of Idylle, a factor I had previously missed due to plastering on a stronger scent as it wore off. 

I have thought for some time that owning a vast collection of scents was somewhat pointless due to the dreaded molecular disintegration that occurs when you can't get through those bottles fast enough. Perhaps it's time to get rid of the lesser loved and cherish only those that would survive a few days of continuous wear? I'm not saying that I'd care to part with my rarely worn wonder - Fille En Aiguilles, but I do believe now that there is only room for a small handful of these exotic occasional scents in my collection.*

* I reserve the right to change my mind about this in the near future and continue to amass a stash of daft scents.

Thank you so much to all of those who took part, your responses were fascinating and I'm enormously grateful. Thank you also to my readers who managed to find time to wade their way through the almighty word count of this adventure. The next one will be brief, I promise.

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Monday, 17 November 2014

On Perfume Promiscuity - The Great Solo Scent Adventure Part 3 - Nancy's Story

Tonight I tried yet again to edit the almighty findings of our intrepid scent adventurers as they embarked on a mission to stick to just one scent for three days and nights. 

Nancy's story was far too beguiling to copy and paste into teeny blog sized chunks, so here it is in full. Thank you Nancy for telling us such a personal tale so eloquently and I'm sorry I was your 'enabler' in the Armani purchase. It sounds like it was worth the investment though!

If you haven't read the introductory post about the adventure or Tresor's story, you can click here and here. That way you will understand what we were up to. Part 4 will appear soon with (finally) my edit of the other participants.

Nancy, pictured with essential hurricane survival equipment, canine best mate and perfume are obviously the crucial elements!

How many different scents would you apply in an average week?

Between 12 and 20

What factors influence your choice of scent, e.g. season, mood, time of day etc? And do specific genres appeal to you more than others within these factors?

Influences include:

Season and the temperature. I am a huge fan of oriental fragrances, which for the most part do better in cooler weather. In summer it is extremely hot and humid in New Orleans, where I live. I choose citrus, herbal, and light floral fragrances when it’s hot. Now that it is getting cool outside, I lean heavily to fragrances with amber, spices, patchouli, vanilla, incense, wood, licorice, labdanum, and lush florals. Rose goes any time of day and any temperature, by the way!

Time of day. A lot of times I need motivation to get myself up in the morning. I use a lively fragrance to give me a boost. Maybe something with orange blossom or ginger or citrus or pepper. I do rely heavily on bath products with a nice scent so that my shower is also a fragranced experience. It wakes up my senses.

In the afternoons and evenings I usually reach for more challenging, unusual scents. Depending on the next section, which is:

Mood and occasion.  When I want to project a certain image or feel a certain degree of confidence, such as a professional situation, I like to wear iris fragrances or even very fine, more abstract fragrances that don’t project too far. They make me feel strong. If I’m going to the symphony I prefer lush, exquisite fragrances, usually orientals. For funerals I tend to go with something soft, woody, and powdery. Date night—well that just depends! Sometimes I want to be snuggly, sometimes sexy, and usually all of these other factors play into it as well. When I’m sad I want a comfort scent with sweetness, when I’m happy I want something zingy or more adventurous.

New purchase.  When I buy a new bottle of perfume it is really hard to resist wearing it immediately! So sometimes I throw all of these previously mentioned factors to the wind and put on that incredible new scent. This goes for receiving samples of fragrances as well—I want to test them as soon as I can.

Health. My health plays an extremely important role in my choice of fragrance. I have some chronic health problems, and when they flare up I choose comfort scents above all else. I seem to be drawn over and over to powdery ambers, woods, and incense, and vanilla notes.

Roughly how large is your collection of full bottles, decants and samples?

I am not as good at organizing my collection as some folks are. I need to make a spreadsheet or something. I’m too lazy to do an exact count, but I own close to 200 bottles of perfume, another 40 to 60 decants, and at least 800 to 1,000 sample vials. I keep a notebook now of anything perfume related, especially listing fragrances I would like to sample.

How do you feel about sticking to just one scent for 3 days and nights?

I felt surprisingly anxious! Would I choose the right one? Would it satisfy my moods and cravings? Would I accidentally, out of habit, reach for another perfume and spray it on during the day?

What scent did you choose for this adventure and why?

I chose Ambre Soie by Armani/Prive. It wasn’t an easy decision but here is my reasoning: it has a number of notes that satisfy me a lot of the time, having an oriental, spicy, and sweet, balsamic composition. So it’s well-rounded enough to give me the oomph I crave in the morning with the ginger and pepper, but smooth and mellow and comforting through the cooler weather, with amber, patchouli, cloves, and all sorts of soft spices. And it has a wonderful licorice zing in it that I love so much. I can focus on different components of the fragrance and get different sensory responses. And finally, Ambre Soie is a new purchase for me. It was pretty expensive, and I was feeling sort of guilty for dropping that kind of money right now in my life. I figured if I could use it for this experiment I would have an excellent excuse for splurging on this!!! Thanks Sarah!

How would you describe your involvement with the perfume world?

I live in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I was born and have lived most of my adult life. I have always had an excellent sense of smell—my parents would ask me to sniff things out for them in the house. I have known since childhood that I respond to smells emotionally. I remember my mother bringing me to the grocery store with her when I was about two years old. The man stocking the aisles told my mother how “precious” I was. He had a very strong body odor, and to this day when I hear the word precious I think “stinky.”

Like so many fragrance fanatics nowadays, I had my collection of fragrances growing up. And I loved to smell my grandmother’s perfume. A world-class pianist who spent her childhood in Hungary and Paris as a prodigy studying with masters in Europe, my grandmother had exquisite taste. She wore two fragrances: Je Reviens by Worth and Bal a Versailles by Jean Desprez. It is the Bal a Versailles I remember on her the most, and it is and will always be the epitome of sophistication.

But it wasn’t until I turned 30 years old that I had a fragrance epiphany. I’ve read a lot of research and personal accounts to try to explain the phenomenon, but I won’t go into all that now. Suffice it to say, I got very sick with a pneumonia infection that would not clear from my body. The acute lung problems subsided, but I lived with fever and the ravages of this pathogen in my system for more than 15 years before getting effective treatment. In the meantime, my sense of smell, or perhaps my perception of smell, blossomed. If I were outside speaking to someone, for example, and the wind blew, I would be so distracted from my conversation because of the light smell of sweet olive drifting through the breeze. Or gardenia. Or whatever was growing out there. I would completely miss what the other person was saying to me and have to go seek out the flower immediately. My friends joked that I had become an “idiot savant” of sorts, distracted easily from movies and social activities because of a smell.

I started reading about fragrances, found myself joining my first chat room-bulletin board website and immersing myself into the world of perfume. I ordered niche fragrances from a few recommended sources, and, well, it all began.

I would like to tell one story that pertains to your dream, Sarah. You dreamed of the anxiety you had trying to choose scents and relocate in a hurry. What a great way to get this whole exercise started—to choose just one scent for days. 

This was a reality for me in 2005 when, after Hurricane Katrina, the levees failed and the city flooded. I find that I am still having trouble writing about this experience almost 10 years later. Suffice it to say that the stress was unbelievable. My mother was recovering from brain surgery (she was okay but her sense of balance was not good), my father, a physician who never left his hospitalized patients during a hurricane, was himself in intensive care for heart trouble. I have my own illness problems. I saw the storm was coming and had to get my parents’ organized, including packing necessities like canned goods, water, and 3 dogs. We rode out the storm at the hospital and all went well. But when we heard rumors about the levees and flooding, it was another ordeal to try to get out of the city before we were stuck. There was no electricity, no television or phones working, and we didn’t know if we could find enough fuel for the car to get us to a safe destination. My birthday was mixed in there somewhere too.

From Friday until Tuesday it was survival mode nonstop. I didn’t know what day it was when we got to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and had to be told it was Tuesday. I broke down at that point—the first moment I had had to breathe, and to shower!!!! In the following week we were able to get to Mobile, Alabama, where my brother and his family live and where I would live for the next two months. After a week or so in Mobile, I started trying to buy some things—a few pieces of clothing, some shoes, face cream, etc. Our world was spinning, as we found out that more than 13 feet of water was sitting, stagnant in our family home in New Orleans. All gone. My grandmother’s beloved Steinway grand piano had been flipped over in the rush of water and had drifted into another room. I can imaging the creeping noise as the water raised up and hit the strings. Heartbreak.

The horrific eye of Hurricane Katrina

Worried about cars, insurance, trying to find friends and coworkers, all this craziness. And in the midst of it all, a large box was delivered to my brother’s house addressed to me. Inside it…perfume!!!! My friends online, at MakeUp Alley, had all pitched in and found me. Full, new bottles, large decants, sample vials, even flip-flops, which I really needed! I was floored. Loving notes. My family looked in the box, completely bewildered. What is that? Perfume? It was so odd to see, and so utterly beautiful. I cried. I came to the conclusion that food, water, and shrimp boots are necessary for hurricane survival, but perfume and the love of a perfume community—well that is true humanity and civilization.


Day one of the challenge. I sprayed Ambre Soie on and inhaled a beautiful, smooth sweet scent with a little cinnamon and ginger. Amber is not too prominent, and there is some ginger and thin patchouli lurking around. Very pretty. But is it too smooth and a little watered-down? I’m worried I’m going to get bored with this one sooner than I thought, now that I know I have to wear it for three straight days! I head out to a coffee shop with my computer. And then, wow, here comes the licorice! I had almost forgotten that wonderful licorice punch that convinced me to purchase this fragrance in the first place. I spend an hour or so with my wrist glued to my nose, inhaling sweet resins and licorice. Aaaaah! By nighttime it’s just a warm, extremely close-to-the-skin scent. I give myself some more sprays.
A much-anticipated sample came in the mail today, and I’m frustrated that I can’t try it out on my skin. I didn’t even try to smell it from the sample vial for fear of the temptation.

Again with the Ambre Soie. Today I pulled out a lot more warm, stewed fruits in the opening. Was surprised I didn’t notice them as much yesterday. Perhaps this idea of using the same fragrance often allows me to smell more nuances or focus on whatever my need du jour is. It’s much colder today too. I’m pulling as much warmth from this scent as I can. Labdanum, patchouli, clean amber, ginger, clove. It’s truly gorgeous. And the licorice blast. I’m still happy with this one!

Last day of the challenge and I’m glad for it. I completely love and appreciate Ambre Soie and feel enveloped in deep brown and purple satin. I’m getting a hint of a more masculine aspect of the fragrance today and can see how a man would love this too. It’s warm but not cloying, sweet but with spices peaking out all the time. My temptation for spraying a floral scent on is intense today, and I am eyeing my bottle of Penhaligon’s Amaranthine. Don’t worry; I was faithful to the challenge.

My other temptation comes when participating in my online fragrance groups and reading my favorite perfume blogs. Descriptions of scents are like menu items when I’m hungry; I’m gaining an appetite for them and the cravings are growing strong. I settle in to my last night of smooth, Ambre Soie softness and drift off to sleep.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

On Perfume Promiscuity - The Great Solo Scent Adventure Part 2

Last week I announced the launch of ‘The Great Solo Scent Adventure’, a (potentially masochistic) experiment designed to see how we promiscuous perfume lovers fared when restricted to wearing just one scent over a period of three days and nights. This results post will make a lot more sense if you read the last post which you can do by clicking here.

The highly varied results of the adventure have returned and they are thoroughly intriguing. They are also enormous! So in this, part 2, I am featuring the entire questionnaire and results of Tresor, one of 8 perfume lovers who joined in and had a rather pleasing time during the adventure (apologies for the incorrect 'e' in Tresor's name, I'm having tech issues here). I will follow with part 3, a lengthy edit from the rest of us later this week. But for now, here's a positive outcome of the adventure:

The chosen one

How many different scents would you apply in an average week?

Oh my Goodness, that's really hard to say. I test something new on nearly a daily basis and tend to wear upwards of 3-5 fragrances in a day. Yikes! I'm a junkie, I know. Some weeks I do give my sniffer a break but that's not very often.

What factors influence your choice of scent, e.g. season, mood, time of day etc? And do specific genres appeal to you more than others within these factors?

I have a bit of a strange system to how I choose which fragrances I wear on any given day. I group fragrances based on narratives that fascinate me or pique my interest. Most recently I've curated a tray which I titled "Dionysus' Garden Party" with fragrances that contained aromas which mirrored those one might find in wine such as notes rich berries, sparkling citrus and oak and those of the garden like earthy rhizomes of the iris and soil accords. One thing I do enjoy on a daily basis is a tiny spray of a fleeting fragrance before I apply my makeup in the morning. It's a beautiful refreshment and quite a delightful way to start off the day. My choice is usually Guerlain's Apres L'Ondee, it's entirely vanished by the time I've finished my morning routine but how beautiful it is while it's around.

As for specific genres, I'm rather drawn to wicked brews which are brooding and powerfully animalic. I like a potion with some fangs. I also have a bit of a soft spot for fragrances based upon tuberose or honey.

Roughly how large is your collection of full bottles, decants and samples?

My collection of full bottles is fairly modest and heavily edited, only containing bottles of fragrances I absolutely adore and cannot live without. I do, however, have a significant quantity of decants and samples.

How do you feel about sticking to just one scent for 3 days and nights?

I'm really quite excited! I think that this experiment will not only act as a bit of a palette cleanser but also allow me to really appreciate all facets of the fragrance I choose to wear on this journey.

What scent did you choose for this adventure and why?

I chose "Aromatics Elixir" from Clinique, simply because of any fragrance it's my favourite. It's been with me through thick and thin, every season and every situation imaginable. It's the closest I've ever come to finding a "signature scent" which is really saying something considering my penchant for olfactory adultery.

How are you involved in the perfume world?

I am a regular contributor at Australian Perfume Junkies as well as Scent Trunk. I have an incredible passion for fragrance and beauty and I'm an absolute product junkie. Fragrance, to me, is an artform and transcends vanity. It allows us to manifest emotion and express ourselves in a way which is beyond words or aesthetic, it is an aura.


Monday: Today is a rather blustery day, it's exceedingly chilly and the snow that's fallen on the ground is now an unpleasant slush that forces me to wear my most unattractive shoes. Oh, the struggle! Aromatics Elixir has been like the warm embrace of an old friend. I honestly couldn't be happier to be within this extraordinary aura. I find it difficult to put my love for this fragrance into words, the thought of only wearing this for the coming days is an absolute comfort and I honestly couldn't be more pleased. The chill in the air seems to pull forward the murky patchouli in the base along with the blackened emerald of a moonlit forest blanketed in moss.

Tuesday: Today I've decided to go a bit rogue and apply the body cream (I hope that's not cheating!) And spray my sweater instead. The way Aromatics Elixir clings to cashmere is nothing short of orgasmic, I'm certain it will remain there for the next month. Here I am lost for words once more, the way this smells is simply beyond. Somehow the fabric illuminates a sweetness that is hidden deep within the labyrinth that is Aromatics Elixir. It's so lovely and I've already received a multitude of compliments from nearly everyone who I've drawn close. The lady working the till at the shop even commented and told me that I smelled beautiful. Always a winner, this one. This experiment is reigniting my love all over again.

Wednesday: Today is the final day and I'm actually a bit sad to see this experiment come to a close. Though I technically could still go on wearing this alone I am far too anxious to try some of the samples that arrived in the post this morning. I've gone heavy on the trigger and I am simply radioactive with the most bracing herbal symphony imaginable. I love the absolute density when you apply a fragrance with a heavy hand. It's opulent, excessive and I'd imagine it's positively noxious to everyone but me. This has been a wonderful experience for me, I've come to appreciate my most favourite perfume on an entirely new level and for that I am so grateful.

For more writing from Tresor, you can click here to read a most eloquent review of Guerlain's delicious rosy jam - Nahema.