Do I Have a Signature Scent? (No really, I’m asking)

Despite the best laid plans of mice and men I wasn’t able to post for the past few days (and by wasn’t able I mean I spent too much of my time reading blogs/cutting my own hair/studying for my upcoming tests for which I need to identify over 200 raw materials and some equally outrageous number of fine fragrances by scent). But I’m in France and I can recognize aldehyde chains of 7, 8, 9, and 10 carbons (by smelling, not counting) so really who’s not to say that I’m living my best life?

Maybe the fact that it’s a rainy week and I have no adequately waterproof shoes. But pretty close to my best life.

Switching gears now away from flawed footwear and toward the actual meat of this post which, I apologize, is not in a list form.  More just something i’ve been thinking about.

I remember reading an article sometime between 1 and 7 years ago about the desire for a signature fragrance.  One that really signifies you, reminds you and reassures you of your stable identity in distressing situations and, perhaps most importantly, that other people (significant others, friends, children) will associate with you.

I’m trying to find the article online but am being deluged with all of these guides on how to find your signature scent (I feel like the answer is pretty obvious: smell stuff).
But the article was more than about just desiring a signature fragrance. It was also about the conflict between wanting that one personal element and wanting to appreciate and express yourself with different/multiple fragrances.
Which is why I have kind of thought of signature fragrances for a long time as a perfumista pipe dream/something for the uninitiated and not very into fragrance.  It’s like the person who has one pair of earrings.  Maybe they have reached accessory nirvana but it’s more likely they’re just not that into earrings.

The last time I had a signature scent was early high school and it was some variation of Chanel Chance. I think Eau Tendre, but I also believe I wore the original before after a long and obsessive internal debate over the pros and cons of the original and the Eau Fraiche. Some things (and by some things I mean me) never change.
And then I realized how wide and amazing the world of perfume is, how varied and multifaceted and worth exploring.  The idea of a fragrance kind of went out the window, which I felt a bit regretful about, but also very excited given the way my horizons were expanding. Discovering a new world and removing limitations I had placed on myself.  Deciding to discover more facets of my ‘fragrance personality’- all of the things I loved, appreciated, was fascinated by, and with which I resonated- made more sense than hunting for The One Fragrance that would encapsulate everything that I wanted in a perfume (which would obviously be futile, especially as I became more exposed to all of the things perfume could be and all of the feelings it could give me).

Jump cut to now, maybe seven years later.  I don’t have a signature scent and I don’t have a very well-defined numbers of perfumes that I own (given a low number of full bottles but a pretty impressive number of small decants and samples that I would like to stay in possession of and wear semi-regularly).  The closest I have to a signature scent is Miller Harris’ L’Air de Rien (which I’ve mentioned before, ad infinitum), one of my rare full bottles and the first scent I bought as a perfume enthusiast, following reading reviews and the usage of a sample (the perfumista way (or at least my perfumista way)).  It smells like dust and horses and sweat and leather and cuddle musk and hay and vanilla and patchouli and soft spice.

But I still figured a signature scent was lost to me.  It’s true that in my years of testing literally thousands of fragrances I had reached a hazy understanding of what generally appealed to me and what would not, what I was excited to try and what I could pass on without a second thought.  My buying practices, sampling practices, and ‘wishlist’ practices have reached a kind of contented plateau.  There are a few things I want to own (most of which have been chilling on a want list for years) and want to test, but I feel pretty well sated.  There’s not much new under the sun, as they say.

And I had the feeling until quite recently that my preferences were all over the map.  And I tried not to read that as a sign of mental breakdown/multiple personalities/a not fully integrated personhood.

That’s one of the (relatively minor) things that being in this program has made me reevaluate.  Wannabe-perfumer conversation is obviously a bit different than the conversation of any other group of people. You could say that about any group with a shared and strong passion.  We play games where we pick a raw material to encompass a classmate’s personality.  We talk about our favorite scents. Things that we would like to mix.  We analyze one another’s personal scents.  Victor smells like frankincense and weed (which would have made for a really different but potentially more interesting nativity scene, when you think about it).  We read into each other in some kind of eerie but often quite eye-opening ways.

And so basically when I was told that I’m a vanilla-amber-patchouli-animalic girl it was kind of self-revelatory.  I’ve joked before about the disproportionate real estate amber perfumes hold in my fragrance library.  And I’ve personally avowed before that all I really want is to smell like small furry animals.

When Luis smells Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle (amber, musk, patchouli, clovey-spice) and tells me it reminds him of me, I smile and say “Yeah, I love that and I wear Meharees by L’Erbolario, which is pretty similar”.

So I guess that takeaway here is that having a signature fragrance doesn’t necessarily have to mean one scent from one brand that you stick to for all the years of your life. Maybe it can be something a bit more fluid- shared patterns, shared notes, shared architecture in the fragrance construction. Maybe some brands do better for you than others.  Maybe some perfumers are your go to guys/girls.
Maybe your perfume collection can be more like a tapestry woven by the shared threads of your favorites.

That said.

The animal-musky-vanillic-amber family is really best suited to the colder months and climes.  I may need a reevaluation come summer.

 

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If I Could Have Only 10 Perfumes…

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My collection has never been very large (at least by the standards of most perfume lovers) but I still have a lot of trouble playing the ‘pick only ten perfumes’ game- a favorite masochistic mental exercise of the fragrance community.
The game is presented in different forms- 10 perfumes for a deserted island, 10 perfumes to save from your burning house, 10 perfumes to wear exclusively for the rest of your life.

Anyone who collects has an idea why this is so difficult- and it’s really tempting to turn to logical shortcuts to make the list-making easier.  Which of my perfumes are the most expensive? The most irreplaceable? Which ones do I own in rare vintages? Which are discontinued and gone?

I went through my collection a few days ago with the goal of culling the perfumes that no longer *sparked joy* when I held them (Thanks Marie Kondo). And I came out with only a 5 mL decant of Montale’s Patchouli Leaves ready to be let go of (it’s a cruder, more brutish version of Chanel’s Coromandel, which I prefer- but both are excellent chocolate patchoulis, with the Montale feeling more resinous).  Even if I didn’t make significant inroads into diminishing my perfume collection, I reconfirmed for myself my love of and attachment to what I do have. Continue reading “If I Could Have Only 10 Perfumes…”

Pre-Perfumista Fragrances

(Don’t Laught at Me)

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that one of my passions is for perfume.  To the extent that I hope to follow a career in flavor and fragrance chemistry.  This really got triggered sometime around 8th or 9th grade, when I bought what I think of as my first ‘perfumista’ fragrance- L’Air de Rien, by Miller Harris.  L’Air de Rien isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, as it combines musk, patchouli, vanilla, oaks, and orange blossom to get a scent that ultimately feels very sexy and ‘lived in’ (or like a cupcake in a stable, if you’re my mum).
Apparently in 2006, Jane Birkin commissioned Miller Harris to create a perfume smelling “a little of my brother’s hair, my father’s pipe, floor polish, empty chest of drawers, old forgotten houses.”
I’ve never smelled Jane Birkin’s brother’s hair, but I think MH was pretty much on target.
And then my interest in perfume really kicked into high gear in 10th grade, when I started swapping samples.

So that’s the not very necessary backstory, which was really more just an excuse to reminisce over the start of my long-enduring marriage to L’Air de Rien (sorry!).  But even if that’s really what I think of as the event that initiated me into perfumista-hood, that doesn’t mean I never wore perfume before hand. Because I did. And I’m not too proud to remember. Continue reading “Pre-Perfumista Fragrances”

NST’s Lazy Weekend Poll: Easter

I’m back at Yale, thanks to Megabus.  The air here is hot but we just had one of those fat-dropped summer rains.  This is definitely one of my favorite times of year- if not my favorite holiday (we’re not religious).

But I think the goddess Ostara sounds cool. It amuses me how Christian holidays are always placed over preexisting pagan ones.

I considered not doing a post today at all, because I’m tired and I’m mentally prepping myself for the school week and for lots of ballroom practice ahead of our Spring Show on Friday. And also because my easy option- answering the NST weekend poll– is perfume-based, and I feel guilty writing about perfume two days in a row. Because it’s very much a niche interest of mine. But I at last have decided that a post is better than no post, and if I want to write it I should, rather than worrying about imaginary anonymous displeased people. Continue reading “NST’s Lazy Weekend Poll: Easter”

It’s Lit

Candles. Let’s talk about them.  Right now Lily and I have some Bath and Body Works Pumpkin Waffle something or other in our common room because it helps counter the cat smell of tuna feast in gravy. There are many benefits to having a cat in the suite- the lowtide aroma is not one of them).

I had the candle in my closet going on four years and I’ve finally given in to seeming *basic* (the combination of Bath and Body Works and pumpkin waffle- just buy me a pair of UGGs now and put me out of my misery) in the interest of avoiding having to throw open the windows in the raw New England winter to clear the air so often.
And truth be told, it’s not a bad smell by any means. Gourmand aromas are popular for candles and it’s easy to understand why- they’re delicious, homey, and comforting.

I also have my Christmas gift Thymes Frasier Fir candle in my desk and every time I open the drawer I’m deluged by the scent of pine. Continue reading “It’s Lit”

Perfume: Five Favorites

Woooo, I’m behind!
With good reason- it’s midterm season at Yale and I had two this morning- the past few days have been 24/7 studying and existential crises.

My list for today is pretty simple, only an adapted answer to one of Now Smell This’s fun weekend polls.  Now Smell This is maybe the best perfume blog, I highly recommend it.
Here’s the prompt and my answers: Continue reading “Perfume: Five Favorites”

FBW

Or my full bottles, and why I cherish them like a dragon cherishes gold. A generous dragon.

For people in and outside the perfume community, the following is a list of the full perfume bottles I own and the feelings they inspire in me.  In perfume community parlance, FBW is an abbreviation for ‘full bottle-worthy’- a perfume that you love enough to invest in 50 mL of at least. No mean feat when you’ve established a healthy collection of beloved scents.  I don’t know that that much of anything is FBW to me anymore- few things are even worthy of 5 mL decants.  Usually I work through my samples and those that I grow attached to become wish list items for future sample or decant purchase. I just don’t see myself needing (or finishing) full bottles now that my collection is so well-rounded and satisfying.  As such, most of the perfumes I have in full bottles are ones that I bought earlier in my perfume career, when the urge to amass was still strong (now I prefer to just rest upon my laurels and an avalanching mountain of samples and decants).  But my bottles and I have long histories (and tender feelings), let me introduce them.

Continue reading “FBW”