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· Perfume Notes: Another 2008 Retrospective

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Perfume Notes: Another 2008 Retrospective
by Dorothy

Unlike Dain, I was an ignorant fragrance noob before this year, and in many ways still am. Blogging about perfume has been not so much an effort at educating other people (who am I to do that, after all?) as a record of my own enthusiastic yet clumsy explorations. For other, more seasoned entries, read Dain's entry here, or check out the other Retrospectives:

Ars Aromatica
A Rose Beyond the Thames
Bittergrace Notes
Grain de Musc
I Smell Therefore I Am
The Non Blonde
Notes From the Ledge
The Perfume Shrine
Savvy Thinker

For years I wore single-note fragrances, if anything: most of these are now of little interest to me, although I retain a soft spot for Demeter's Gin and Tonic; it smells like Christmas at my grandparents' house, when my martini-drinking grandfather was still alive. My first "proper" perfume, a couple of years ago, was Tocca Stella, an uncomplicated thing despite the list of notes -- aquatic topnotes, musky drydown, orange, orange, orange. It claims to be blood orange, but for the real bitterness of blood orange one has to go to something like Fendi's much-mourned Theorema -- of which I just tracked down a full bottle (yes!).

Much of what I've learned has come directly from Dain, although I've also done plenty of lurking on the sites linked above.

What amazes me at the end of this year is how quickly the nose develops when you start smelling a lot of scents. After six months of exploration, I can now detect the orange in Organza Indécence; Bulgari BLV Notte, which I adored on first sniff, so much that I considered buying a full bottle before my mini was empty, is now oppressively sweet and heavy; I use words like "animalic" and "vetiver" with something approaching confidence, which I would not have done a year or even eight months ago.

Anyway, enough babbling; here is my Top Ten of 2008, the perfumes that I either fell hard for, learned from, or both.

1. Mitsouko. Funny that even in this 1938 ad, Mitsouko is presented as something rather harsh, haughty and forbidding (if I read the image right), because it has never struck me as a difficult perfume. Mitsouko was what gave me an inkling that fumeheads might be on to something, since before that, almost everything smelled unpleasantly "like perfume" (read: alcohol and fake flowers) to me, and I imagined nothing complex would ever work on my skin. I put on a sample of the EDP, thinking "this is interesting, but not for me", and then, a couple of hours later, spontaneously noticed that I loved the way I smelled. Mitsouko is an odd thing on me, chameleon-like, sometimes hinting at white flowers, sometimes at spice cake; usually it's recognizable as Mitsouko, though, a spiced-peach glow, the light that shines through autumn leaves in the late afternoon, in perfume form.

2. Bandit. On my skin, Bandit EDT is indeed (as Luca Turin calls it) a "dark and fresh" fragrance, reminiscent of under-lit streets and deep green leaves after an evening rain, no flowers, no fruits, no sugar. Bandit says "do not fuck with me." Bandit is really the ideal thing to wear out to small-town bars where unattractive and overly persistent frat boys follow you around; Bandit makes me feel like I can kick ass. Bandit might also be the first perfume I encountered that truly was not sweet.

3. Tabac Blond. I have only a decant of the extrait, but I think this is the sexiest perfume I own; I'm sharp-nosed and flat-chested, cleavage-in-a-bottle scents like Fracas make me feel silly, but Tabac Blond is dark, warm, a bouquet in a leather-bound study, half-hidden in a cloud of cigar smoke. Alas, it has apparently been messed with so much that even the recent version I like may be gone any minute.

4. Theorema. I still have an affection for gourmands; they work well on my skin, unlike most fruity florals, which tend to become loud and aggressive, projecting syrup for miles. Theorema is that marvellous thing, a grown-up gourmand, bitter orange, nutmeg and cream; why, why was this ever discontinued?

5. Iris Poudre. I thought I disliked aldehydes. I was wrong. Hell, I thought I disliked perfumes that smelled "like perfume", and I was wrong about that too. Probably the most "traditional", "ladylike" fragrance I've fallen for, so far.

6. Songes. I loved this on first sniff, but was sure I would tire of it. I haven't. It's sweet, yes, but it has complexity and balance; vanilla, banana, dark chocolate, and that full, blooming jasmine over all. My favourite comfort scent, by far.

7. Bois des Îles. I haven't had the greatest luck with Chanel scents; so far, they've all had a forbidding smoothness, too perfect, too luxurious, nothing to reach out and grab me. Bois des Îles is the exception; it is so strongly, recognizably sandalwood that the aldehydic touches are decorative rather than definitive; Tania Sanchez described it as being like No. 5's brunette sister, and I think she hit the nail on the head. It hints at gingerbread in the drydown. I could wear this all winter.

8. Vétiver Extraordinaire. Swoon. The most dusky, fresh, woodsy vetiver, without the fresh citrus-y touches of Guerlain's; I'd happily wear this myself, yes, but on a man it would be absurdly sexy.

9. Une Fleur de Cassie. I have a huge crush on the Frédéric Malle line; I've yet to smell one of these I disliked, and several of them (as you see) I adore already. To me, this one smells like a young cousin to L'Heure Bleue; that same almost-edible floral sweetness, lightened, freshened, and utterly radiant. It's nearly impossible for me to describe Une Fleur de Cassie; it's more of a chord than a succession of notes.

10. Lolita Lempicka. A certain lack of taste on my part? Maybe. But my skin seems to absorb most of the Angel-like super-sweetness in this fragrance, leaving only licorice, 7-Up fizz, baked apple, and a touch of salt. I couldn't decide on first wearing whether I loved this or hated it. Now I'm confident: it's love.

What next? I have entered a masculine/unisex phase; I love Le 3ème Homme and wear it frequently, Caron's Pour Un Homme has persuaded me that I actually do like lavender, and Dain has promised to send me a decant of my other Guerlain love-at-first-sniff, Jicky. Also, I think I shall have to buy a bottle of Mitsouko at some point; I've found a Canadian distributor I like (Enchante Perfumes) and I'm very tempted by the tiny bottles of parfum.

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12/29/2008 [2]

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