Scent Diary : Strange Smells

When people smell civet, natural or synthetic, for the first time, the natural response is to cringe, because this animalic material smells raunchy, dirty and sweet. My husband recoiled from me in horror when I once returned from the lab having spent the day working mostly with animalic notes. These days, on the other hand, nothing fazes me now (except, perhaps, for the material called Pineapple Compound that turns air entering my lungs into fruity, sticky cotton candy.) Scents, like tastes, can be acquired.

These days I even like some odd scents that ordinarily wouldn’t be considered pleasant, like mildew, mild skunk odor, hot metal, musty basements or wet paper. And I love civet in all forms.

Scent Diary is a place where we can share fragrances we encounter, good and bad, perfumes we wear and the scents around us. It’s a way to sharpen our sense of smell, but also just to enjoy the fragrance hobby in a different way. Whether you write down 1 recollection or 10 matters less than simply reminding yourself to smell. You can add as many comments as you wish. You can comment today or over the course of the week; this thread will always be open. Of course, do share what perfume you’re wearing or what particularly good scented products you’ve discovered.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin; my grandmother is getting ready to prepare varenyky, dumplings stuffed with a variety of offal. It’s an acquired taste, but I absolutely adore this dish and its gamey, musky flavor, and I request it every time I visit.

Cult Perfumes

Elisa on what gives perfume a cult status.

What makes a fragrance a “cult fragrance”? It’s not enough for a perfume to simply be popular; bestsellers like Coco Mademoiselle and Light Blue don’t qualify. A cult fragrance needs obsessively devoted fans, while remaining a little mysterious and under the radar. Thus its fans can form a kind of counterculture – they understand something that the general population does not.


So what enables a perfume to develop a small but intensely devoted following? The following criteria certainly help:

  • The perfume is hard to find – it’s a limited edition, discontinued, only available online or in Europe, etc.
  • The perfume has a love-it-or-hate-it quality; there is something weird or off-putting about it on first sniff, which some people end up finding addictive.

Sometimes only one or the other is true, but when both are true, you have the making of a cult fragrance on your hands.

If you read perfume blogs, you’re bound to hear about these cult fragrances over and over. With some of the below perfumes, the descriptions I read gave me desperate lemmings; they haunted me until I found a sample. With others, just the opposite was true – I actively avoided them, fearing their notoriety would make them hard to love or worse, easy to hate. Here they are in the order I managed to try them.

Continue reading →

A Travel Tip

The Paris Review ran an interesting article called A Travel Tip, in which the columnist Sadie Stein recommends marking each vacation with a new scent. I thought that the idea was charming.


“So I recommended wearing a new perfume when one goes on a trip. I’m not advocating for the purchase of an expensive bottle every time you go to a cousin’s wedding. But for me, the act of dignifying a journey with its own scent can be enough to elevate a humble getaway to vacation status. It’s nice to find something that has a connection to wherever you are, but the actual perfume is secondary. The point is to create a sense memory for the experience that has, for you, no precedent. I’ve worn the same perfume since my twenty-third birthday, when I treated myself to my first bottle of [Frédéric Malle] En Passant, but from the moment I get in the cab to the airport, I like to wear something different, unfamiliar.” To read the rest, please click here.

What perfumes are you going to make for your summer vacation? And if you took a break already, what was your most worn perfume?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Enter to Win Vintage Guerlain Mitsouko Extrait de Parfum

It has been a violent year in different parts of the world, and for many months, I’ve been reading the news and feeling utterly helpless. What can one do to help in the face of such terrible suffering and strife? One of my most immediate responses was to donate money to a reputable charity organization. I thought that perhaps others may feel the same way.


I propose donating to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, any amount you wish, and in return, you will be entered into a contest for a 30ml (1 oz) of Guerlain Mitsouko Extrait de Parfum.

It’s vintage, from the 1970s-early 1980s, in my estimation. Unopened. Has all of its tassels. It is a complete presentation, including the outer box. An old price tag shows $85, but 1 oz of modern Mitsouko costs around $350, while the vintage in this condition has collectible value. The best part is that the perfume has all of its oakmoss and other, now forbidden, bits intact. Since it has not been opened, I can’t tell exactly how it will smell, but it smells wonderful around the stopper, and it has been stored in a cool, dark place. It was purchased from a gentleman whose family owned a perfume boutique in Mexico and imported fragrances from France. All other perfumes I bought from his old stocks, including Guerlains, turned out to be exceptionally well-preserved and were pronounced as authentic by my perfumer colleagues.

It is one of the most precious perfumes in my collection, and I have been waiting to open it for a special occasion. But if the money it raises will go towards a good cause, then I have no regrets in parting with it.

Continue reading →

Guerlain L’Homme Ideal : Fragrance Review


The first time I smelled Guerlain’s L’Homme Idéal, I chuckled, because clearly, their ideal man is wearing a little black dress. Yes, L’Homme Idéal is a masculine twist on La Petite Robe Noire. But this kind of borrowing, right down to the toasted almond and praline details, is clever rather than boring. This is not just another bland and safe sports cologne, that’s for sure.


The quest for an ideal man is nothing new, in life or in perfume, and Guerlain’s approach to L’Homme Idéal is rather humorous. Instead of using notes that for reasons of accident and culture came to be seen as the only ones appropriate to men, like lavender, herbs, cedarwood or mild spices, perfumer Thierry Wasser loads the composition with gourmand accents.  It tries to tempt men with the same delicious notes that made La Petite Robe Noire such a success. Continue reading →

From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Victor in Scent Diary : Strange Smells: I completely lost my sense of smell once after a sinus infection, what a strange and lifeless world that was. Then when it started to return it did so in… August 1, 2014 at 9:50am

  • Victoria in Enter to Win Vintage Guerlain Mitsouko Extrait de Parfum: Thank you so much! Please do forward the confirmation, so that it’s easier for me to keep track. Yes, I just read that MSF is sending more doctors to Sierra… August 1, 2014 at 9:46am

  • Elisa in Cult Perfumes: I don’t buy a lot of vintage perfumes, but I’m very protective of the ones I have! My vintage of Shalimar is just beautiful. August 1, 2014 at 9:46am

  • Elisa in Cult Perfumes: Yes, Carnal Flower! I think it’s interesting how people tend to pick one tuberose (this, or Tubereusue Criminelle, or Fracas …) and get really into it. August 1, 2014 at 9:45am

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