Perfume Pursuit: Is Fragrance Worth A Long Courtship?

Chanel No. 19Serge Lutens CherguiRobert Piguet BanditGuerlain MitsoukoOud. White florals! What these fragrances or perfume notes have in common is that they all are things I have spent time pursuing, trying to understand their appeal.

Perfume lovers know the quandary well.  It seems as if everyone but you “gets” a fragrance, but to your nose the scent in question smells like a wet dog, a stable that needs to be mucked out, or a rotten cantaloupe. You can’t join in the raves and you hate to be the lone naysayer.  What does everyone else smell that you do not?

You put your sample aside to revisit at an unspecified future date.  Perhaps its glory will be revealed at the next sniffing.  A month later—a year later—you try again.  No.  Oud still smells like band-aids to you.

Should you give up or should you continue trying?

In nearly any discussion of Guerlain Mitsouko, there will be someone who says she keeps trying, but it just doesn’t work.  The pursuit of the fable keeps them going, fueled by the lyricism writers have woven into the perfume’s story (sun-ripened peaches, glittering jewels, rivers of gold).  Whether you keep going with a scent depends on how badly you want it to succeed for you, and it seems to me that people are more apt to pursue a legend than they are a generic juice that has no buzz.

Consider Robert Piguet Bandit.  No doubt about it, Bandit is a tough scent to pull off.  It’s a sharp, green-tinged leather of a sort that to this day still smells more or less experimental. It’s not polite. It’s tough.  It’s an icon.  It’s great stuff for a signature scent, if only…

I pursued Bandit up until vintage parfum, and it still didn’t smell good to me. What’s the point of wearing something you don’t like? I put Bandit aside and moved to my next perfume nemesis, white florals.

I used to be someone who wore a lot of Anne Pliska and perfumes like it; orientals with rich, ambery bases.  White florals never appealed to me, but they were attention-getters on perfume boards.  I felt self-conscious wearing them, like a walking wedding dress. And then one spring day in St. Augustine, I smelled something incredible.  Sweet, honeyed nectar shimmered in the air and I followed my nose around the corner to a massive bank of jasmine at the height of its bloom. I was stunned–how had I not noticed its beauty in perfumes?

That experience led to Serge Lutens A la Nuit, which led to Nasomatto Nuda, which led to more complex white florals involving jasmine, and then to gardenia and to tuberose.  Perfumes with these notes are now some of my favorites.

I realized later that my discovery of the beauty of white florals was not the same as my negative reaction to Bandit.  In the first instance, I was so immersed in amber Orientals that I wasn’t receptive to anything else; Chanel No. 22 didn’t smell like Must de Cartier and therefore I rejected it.  In the second case, nothing was going to make a heavy leather scent like Bandit work for me, but in rejecting it I tried many other leather scents before finding a match in Chanel’s Cuir de Russie from Les Exclusifs.  This very lightweight treatment of leather worked wonderfully for me and I have gone through an enormous bottle.

Should you or shouldn’t you chase a fragrance? Over time, and with the multitude of perfumes out there, the pursuit for me became less important.  Chasing a fragrance and trying to make it into something it might not be is different than smelling something as a reference or as a historical antecedent.  That you should do.  Smell the great perfume classics, try them on your skin, and understand why they were considered revolutionary, shocking, innovative, and beautiful.  This is what perfume appreciation is all about, and my guess is that your horizons may broaden enough to lead you on new scented adventures.  That is the time to pull out that sample of Mitsouko again.

What fragrances took you a long time to appreciate and why? What perfume did you give up trying to court?

Image: Berthe Morisot, Chasing Butterflies, 1874, France

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94 Comments

  • Anna Minis: Noir Epices. I gave it time and the benefit of the doubt. Nevertheless it keeps smelling like Grand Marnier to me. August 7, 2012 at 7:30am Reply

    • FastFoodLocal151: Noir Epices was always and still is just a better quality Tabu to me. It makes me wonder what Tabu was like when it came out. I think I looked up the notes – it seemed they shared a lot, if I remember correctly. August 7, 2012 at 8:12am Reply

      • Suzanna: FastFoodLocal151, yes, they are cut from the same cloth. I find NE drier and that orange note really stands out on me.

        My mother talks about how Tabu was the rage when she was in college. Everyone wore that and a certain pink Revlon lipstick. These two items were the last word in chic for her college set and she still talks fondly of Tabu–decades after last wearing it. August 7, 2012 at 9:07am Reply

        • Victoria: Tabu applied with a very light hand (that’s crucial!) is gorgeous, but alas, the new version is very thin. The old Tabu was very animalic, and with all of those materials being either banned or restricted, it has lost some of its most interesting facets. For now, vintage Tabu remains inexpensive on Ebay or various discounters. August 7, 2012 at 9:31am Reply

      • nikki: So glad to hear I am not the only one who thinks Noir Epices is not worth the money! Thank you! August 7, 2012 at 11:36am Reply

    • Suzanna: Anna Minis, I gave Noir Epices benefit of the doubt, too, and bought a bottle. That liqueur-like orange note reminded me of the filling of dark chocolates and it turned sour. I swapped the bottle immediately!

      However, just recently I found a sample and tried it. It smelled…intriguing. I hastily shoved it back into the drawer, in case I decided to give it benefit of the doubt again. August 7, 2012 at 8:48am Reply

      • Austenfan: Noir Epices was SAFN ( Swoon At First Sniff) for me. I haven’t yet got a bottle but I think it will be my next full bottle from the Malle range. I do have a sample and a little goes a long way with that one.
        I have however never smelled Tabu. August 7, 2012 at 9:20am Reply

        • Suzanna: Austenfan, I plan to keep trying with Noir Epices. I tend to wear sweeter scents in winter and then grow tired of them and NE is the opposite of sweet.

          You need to dig up a vintage sample of Tabu somewhere. It was a huge hit, as I said before. August 7, 2012 at 2:04pm Reply

          • maja: Oh, Noir Epices was love at first sniff for me! 🙂 August 8, 2012 at 8:55am Reply

    • Henrique Brito: I’m another one that don’t like Noir Epices. To me smells weirdly medicinal, it seems that the spice part doesn’t connect very well with a flowery one. And no way it’s a good substitute, as LesSenteurs points, to Caron Poivre. August 9, 2012 at 4:42pm Reply

  • rosarita: A great topic, one I have struggled with as we all have. I found that sample of Mitsouko just the other day while rummaging through my sample box. Maybe today is the day to try it again; it’s been a long time.

    Perfumes I have given up on include Chergui and all tuberose. Chergui, on paper, should smell fabulous on me and I’ve tried very hard to like it, but I …don’t. As for tuberose, which smells so wonderful on others, well- it hates me, there’s no other explanation. It smells terrible on me and I can sniff it out even in blended florals. No thanks, I’ll just stick to rose, and hunting for a jasmine I really like (A la Nuit was kind of like death by jasmine for me. ) August 7, 2012 at 7:31am Reply

    • Suzanna: rosarita, I am on board with Chergui! It smells awful on me. I have a small decant. One drop is enough. It sounds wonderful, and it smells provocative right out of the bottle, but then it’s too rich with tobacco barn and honey and my head starts to spin.

      A lot of people have trouble with tuberose. I can wear it, but I didn’t like it originally. It smelled fatty and flat. I empathize with you! August 7, 2012 at 8:55am Reply

    • L.: My experience with the Lutens is that more than other lines his individual fragrances can smell vastly different on different skin types, and if you like it on paper but it fails on skin, it might not be worth forcing! August 7, 2012 at 2:03pm Reply

      • Suzanna: L: This is probably true of all fragrances. I do agree about the Lutens line. August 7, 2012 at 2:05pm Reply

  • Patt: Coromandel. Though when I pulled out my well-hidden sample this morning, it didn’t smell half bad and I put some on. Go figure! August 7, 2012 at 7:52am Reply

    • Suzanna: Patt, I bought a bottle of Coromandel when it was first released. I wore it for two weeks straight and it was all about patchouli and it made me decide that it was too much patchouli for me (lots of comments: “Is that patchouli?” “Is someone wearing patchouli?”). I sold the bottle but kept a decant.

      Now, I adore it! And two weeks ago, in a resort hotel near Miami, I smelled a trail of it in the hallway. Someone else had “got” it, and it was the best smell in the world that day. August 7, 2012 at 8:58am Reply

  • FastFoodLocal151: Mitsouko took me about 5 years to work up to. The first time I smelled it was my first foray into smelling more interesting better quality scents, and that day was the first time I sniffed both Mitsouko and Pamplelune (was about 2000, I think). I left the shop with the latter (I never knew grapefruit could smell so…ripe and dirty!). Mitsouko was a big question mark from the get-go. It was like a big rotten peach dropped into motor oil (EDP). It was clearly ‘adult’ whatever else it was, and I think that was what kept me fascinated – that and by what was major love for it when I started poking around reviews. I came back to it a couple years running, still rotten peach and oil. Then I smelled the EDT, and I ‘got’ that, also it was different to the EDP – drier, spicier, woodier. The peach was underripe, not rotten. I wore that for a while, until a couple more years later, I sniffed the EDP again, and WHAM! I got it! ripe spiced peach (but drier when compared to say the ripe spiced boozy peach of Femme), still oily, but not in a bad way, and definitely was able to pick out the dark mossy finish (that was the start of ‘getting’ most chypres. August 7, 2012 at 8:10am Reply

    • Suzanna: FastFoodLocal151, the first time I tried Mitsouko EdP, my salivary glands reacted to the clove, as if I’d eaten it!

      I then tried the EdT, as you did, and loved it. Mitsouko has since become a signature of mine, in all forms. Here and there I can find the peach, but not consistently. I’m not even a huge fan of classic chypres, but this one works, I think because the moss is on the fair edge of darkness and not murky.

      Parfum is stupendously good. August 7, 2012 at 9:02am Reply

    • Lisa: I have heard that the EdP and EdT are different. I own the EdT, and my hapless nose can barely pick out the peach, and what peach it does pick out is the pits of the fruit. I dunno. I would love to appreciate Mitsouko, because I can appreciate it from a distance. However, something about it is psychologically unsettling … August 7, 2012 at 12:38pm Reply

      • Suzanna: Lisa, the peach comes and goes. Sometimes it’s very strong and other times months go by without my noticing it.

        That’s another topic–why some scents are psychologically upsetting. I’ve heard this before in reference to all manner of things. August 7, 2012 at 2:06pm Reply

        • Lisa: Hmm, perhaps the topic of a future blog post? I find several scents unsettling to the point where I become downright depressed. The smell of lilacs and violets are huge triggers for me. Lavender, purportedly calming, is another depressing scent. August 7, 2012 at 2:31pm Reply

          • Suzanna: This is fascinating. The same thing happens to me with music, and to others with art. I find certain American folk music depressing, or sad, and same for Irish folk music.

            I cannot wear a whole slew of scents I wore during a very happy period of my life. If I smell any one of them, I have recall, a mental picture, of wearing them–very clear pictures. Since my life is so different now in every way, it is difficult to smell these fragrances. I have had to find new ones. August 7, 2012 at 5:18pm Reply

            • Lisa: I know exactly what you mean — after Victoria blogged about CD Poison, I dabbed a bit from my original bottle of the stuff on my wrist, and it took me right back to New Year’s Eve on Sixth Street; Wang Chung was blasting out of the car speakers as we were trying to park. I could even recall what I was wearing (a black Vivienne Tam dress I’d bought over the holidays, in NYC), right down to the shoes.

              But other scents — usually specific notes, in my case — evoke undifferentiated memories of happiness, melancholy and sometimes even anxiety. Some fragrances I cannot wear because they have a close association with a very sad time in my life. August 7, 2012 at 8:09pm Reply

          • mals86: Lavender distresses me too, probably because even in real-flower form it can give me huge stonking headaches.

            In small doses I do okay with it – a couple of my favorite scents have shy, delicate lavender touches. August 9, 2012 at 10:03am Reply

  • Lucas: A very good article, thoughts provoking. Honestly I think I’m too young or I’m too short in the perfume world to say there are many like that.
    There are much more I didn’t try and would like to give them at least one whiff to have my own thoughts for as many perfume as possible.
    I tried to love A*Men and Thiery Mugler wholeheartedly but I didn’t managed to do so, put his perfume aside and wentu further continuing my journey August 7, 2012 at 8:26am Reply

    • Suzanna: Lucas, no doubt you will find quite a few that pose this question as you continue your perfume adventure! August 7, 2012 at 9:03am Reply

    • L.: Lucas I want you to try some of the A*Men flankers before you give up, they are guilty-pleasure gourmands tailored for men. August 7, 2012 at 2:04pm Reply

  • kjanicki: Guerlains. All of them. I don’t get them and don’t like “Guerlainade”. I have pretty much settled myself to being the only perfumista that doesn’t like Guerlain. Maybe someday I will turn around and become the world’s biggest Guerlain convert, but it hasn’t happened yet. August 7, 2012 at 8:45am Reply

    • Suzanna: kjanicki, I find Guerlainade doesn’t really suit me. I do love some Guerlain perfumes (Mitsouko primarily), but many others turn too powdery on me and that is not an aspect I enjoy. August 7, 2012 at 9:05am Reply

      • Victoria: I find the same. All the classic ones turn to pure powder and not a lot else on me. They smell very ‘little old lady’. Such a shame. I like some of the Aqua Allegorias and I quite like Shalimar Initial L’eau – perhaps this will pave the way for appreciating Shalimar one day. I desperately want to love Apres L’Ondee, but it smells medicinal to me and I’m not keen on that. Need to try Petite Robe Noire. August 7, 2012 at 12:32pm Reply

        • Suzanna: Victoria, Petite Robe Noire I had and sold–it is a deliciously chewy macaroon of a fragrance with a licorice note. I loved it but found I never selected it. I am that way about sweet frags.

          Agree about Shalimar Initial. I liked that one, too. August 7, 2012 at 2:08pm Reply

        • nikki: Victoria, how interesting your comments about Shalimar. When I was 15 my mother gave me my first Shalimar and I loved the bergamot opening and then it was just plain vanilla for me. I have never bought another Shalimar at the store but somehow always ended up with some. Last I bought 3 bottles of 30 ml extrait to get a better price and I have used two already and the extrait is absolute heaven, very animalic and sexy drydown. When people smell it on me and ask what it is, they always say but it smells different on me! The extrait is a treasure, truly a dream. Try it once, V! August 7, 2012 at 6:10pm Reply

    • maja: Me, too. I just can’t get L’Heure Blue, so annoyingly powdery. August 8, 2012 at 8:57am Reply

      • nikki: I like the powder in LHB but not the almody cherry artificial note. August 8, 2012 at 10:12am Reply

  • Austenfan: I was originally mostly a rose and floral lover. Anais Anais was my first proper perfume and Paris YSL the second ( and I think the last!). I have owned 4 to 5 bottles at a time for over 15 years, and since this hobby started I have stopped counting as I think I would faint. They were mostly florals, some citrus, some light orientals ( Roma, Dune, Venezia). The first time I smelled Bandit I was repulsed. Aldehydes were not my friend either. All this has changed.
    When I now sniff a perfume and am only intrigued but not in love, I just let it rest for a couple of weeks, sniff again. It took me a few months to fall for Songes, Thérèse, Manoumalia, Fracas and a bunch of others. But Teint de Neige got sniffed only twice before I decided it wasn’t worth it to feel sick for a day; I will never like it. It didn’t interest me whereas others do.
    The classic Guerlains were easy, I was almost instantly smitten, except with maybe Jicky.
    Lutens; I like/ love some but definitely not all of them.
    With Goutal and De Nicolaï, I love/like all, or nearly all. If I don’t like some of those at first sniff I will keep on trying as I know that mostly I will end up liking them.
    I am very sorry for such a long, and not very coherent comment! August 7, 2012 at 9:35am Reply

    • Suzanna: Austenfan, your comment is more coherent than you think. I’m smiling at the mention of Teint de Neige–the short answer is: Seconded! I can have huge troubles with fluffy powdery scents and this is as you know the big one.

      Others you mention are very polarizing, Fracas especially. People can be vehement about it. However, when it works it is like no other tuberose frag.

      I love Manoumalia’s weird, twisted floral powder. August 7, 2012 at 10:28am Reply

  • Carla: Keep trying! Sniffing is a joy. One day I will get Gucci Rush. August 7, 2012 at 9:48am Reply

    • Suzanna: Carla: Me too. August 7, 2012 at 10:28am Reply

      • Daisy: Gucci Rush scares me! I have this fear that the day I work myself up to a full spritz of it, the bottle will malfunction and I’ll smell like a drag queen for a week 🙁 August 7, 2012 at 12:37pm Reply

  • yomi: Eternity for men by calvin klein was for too simple smelling at first for me. It was THE RAGE when I was in college . I REALLY couldn’t understand what the noise was about! I now like it but there are lots of other male scents that I love much more!

    Interestingly enough as a perfume maker myself in Nigeria there are some of my creations that clients fall over head in love with yet even though I created the juice I still think, ‘ o maybe the patchouli is too much!’ Yet clients just love them without reservations – keep wondering if other perfumers sometimes feel this way… August 7, 2012 at 10:13am Reply

    • Suzanna: Oh, yomi, that is a fascinating observation from a perfumer’s standpoint. Perhaps another perfume will come along to add to this discussion.

      What are the male scents you love more? August 7, 2012 at 10:30am Reply

      • yomi: Hi Suzanna, lovely article as always!

        First on my list would be santos de cartier – elegant ,mysterious and masculine. Then xeryus by givenchy, ricci club by nina ricci, azzaro for men, tsar by van cleef & arpels and of course herrera for men… Quite a bunch ! I really love fougere accords when paired with woods. August 7, 2012 at 11:57am Reply

        • Suzanna: yomi, I love fougeres. Lavender is a favorite note of mine and I like it with a traditionally masculine treatment.

          Your list is sexy! I love all of those scents on a man. August 7, 2012 at 1:53pm Reply

  • fleurdelys: During my perfumista journey, I learned that my nose for scent was developing, and it took a long time to become refined enough to discern multiple notes and understand a perfume’s complexity. Shalimar was a case in point: On first sniff I thought “Huh. Vanilla.” and put it aside. Time went on, and I tried it again. THEN I could pick out citrus, smoke, animalics. All the Guerlains have taken a while for me to “get”, but now it’s my favorite house. I love Shalimar, Mitsouko, and L’Heure Bleue, and am still working on Chamade and Vol de Nuit. And I’m now liking tuberose, a note that used to repulse me. So I don’t discount any fragrance note or category, realizing it may just take time for me to “catch up”. If something about it is challenging enough to pique my interest, I’ll keep returning to it. For me, a perfume’s worst sin is to be boring! And I’m afraid that’s the reason I’ve given up on Chanel No. 5. August 7, 2012 at 11:26am Reply

    • Suzanna: fleurdelys, you make a good point about challenges. Sometimes, the challenge doesn’t work for me and has merely intrigued me, but it’s made me sit up and take note, and perhaps the next in line will be as noteworthy. August 7, 2012 at 1:55pm Reply

  • Anna Minis: Amazing how different our tastes are! My SAFN experience was Fracas, although I did not know it. Versace Blonde was that love at first sniff; I did not know Fracas. But then I met Fracas, and that was the real SAFN. Versace was Fracas in a chaeper disguise. August 7, 2012 at 11:43am Reply

    • Suzanna: Anna Minis, I cannot wear that Versace at all. Fracas I’ve worn for years, or shall I say I keep parfum around for years, and when I wear it I wonder why I do not wear it more often. The Versace was too “bright” for me-and I bet naysayers of Fracas will say Fracas is blindingly bright. August 7, 2012 at 1:57pm Reply

  • nikki: Such an interesting topic, first Must de Cartier and Anne Pliska, now Tuberose….I bought Bandit and gave it away. I am still looking for a good Tuberose or Gardenia fragrance. I don’t really give perfume much time, I follow my gut instincts. There are fragrances I don’t wear anymore (see above) and some that evoke bad memories so I would never wear those again. However, in general, it is either love or hate at first sight, I don’t doubt myself too much and when I do, I end up paying for it, i.e. Elephant by Kenzo, I bought it twice now only to give it away twice. I am not crazy about jasmine out of the bottle, so gave A la Nuit away, too. I have made the experience that I get carried away by other’s description and then try it again but in the end I really have to cultivate being authentic, and true to myself. If I don’t like it in the beginning, it is not for me, no second guessing. That is why there are so many perfumes out there. I also tried to follow a perfumer and try all his perfumes because I love one, i. e. Ellena or Ropion, but that ddn’t work either. While I love une Fleur de Cassie, Carnal Flower was not my type at all. I have not given up on florals though and am trying Tuberose Gardenia by Estee Lauder. I find florals very difficult, except for Paris by YSL, I think they all smell not as good as the real flower so orientals are easier for me. While Ambre Sultan really is a good fragrance, I also sold that one because it does smell like something I can get mch less expensive in an amber oil made here. I bought Samsara because V wrote an article about it and while it is nice, I will not wear it. I think perfumes need to be part of one’s personality. I am teaching a class on authenticity and beauty and that is one of the main points. If one is very extroverted, wearing bright colors, I suggest not to wear loud fragrances as it is overkill. Something subtle like Jicky may be more appropriate. Anyway, great topic, so much to write about this… August 7, 2012 at 11:51am Reply

    • Suzanna: nikki, your class sounds fascinating!

      I realized my tastes swing wildly, so I tend to return to things. Otherwise, I would not have Chasse aux Papillons dry oil sitting on my vanity. I really dislike that one at first sniff.

      Things I’ve swooned over I have, like you, ended up selling or swapping. Passing fancies, I suppose. And then they come back to visit and you do it again. August 7, 2012 at 1:59pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: I think what gets to me is when a sales associate wants to do a fragrance psychoanalysis, of sorts on me, which ultimately makes me reconsider why I approached their counter in the first place. Inside, my little voice says can’t you sense a scent addict approaching?! Since I will never stop my fragrance education and what appeals to me — I agree with your review about not getting what everyone else is “getting” and why should I? The chemistry, our nose, what we eat that day all plays a role in whether or not I sniff and sniff until it sits well on me and with me. When you mentioned Bandit, I still like it but of late I will gravitate towards Baghari. Both unique, both memorable for me. Years prior, I used to blend Mitsouko oil(before they discontinued this little treasure) with Caleche – imagine and it worked real well for me. Oddly, a woman approached me on the street ( she was British) and knew my blend!! She, too shared this mixture. A scent addict in the making. Another oddity was Quelques Fleurs (original blend). I thought right away — not for me, but when offered a generous sample at Saks convincing me to re-try it, I enjoyed it. Good, thought provoking review today!! August 7, 2012 at 11:55am Reply

    • nikki: How interesting blending those two fragrances! I have not done that yet…regarding what people wear: years ago I met a group of international travellers and somebody smelled so good I had to ask: she was French and wore Ciara! Such an amazing fragrance on her, I was sure it was a French masterpiece. Another one was Norell, a great perfume on the right person. Even Jean Nate is nice on the right person…I was truly amazed at some of these great fragrances which were cheap in comparison but smelled so great. I was a bit of a perfume snob when I arrived in the USA, but some, mainly older American perfumes are truly special. If I had listened to my snob voice, I never would have tried these! August 7, 2012 at 12:20pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Nancy A: Mitsouko oil! (Sigh.) You’ve intrigued me with your combinations. I mix it up sometimes myself.

      Eau de Soir is one that hit me after not liking its type. The body cream is glorious. Rich and tart grapefruit with moss base, very sharp. Now I want more of this. August 7, 2012 at 2:10pm Reply

  • Brooke: Voluptuous florals and aldehdehydic florals have always been my nemesis. I think mainly because I come from a family who wear and over-applies the genre. Out of rebellion, I loved incense, amber, spice, woods, etc…
    Over the last year, I finally got the beauty of Fracas and Chanel’s gardenia. They just clicked with repeated sampling. I have also added jasmine and osmanthus to my newly found comfort zone.
    I am still having a tough time with the aldehydes in Chanel no 5, White Linen, Tauer’s Miriam, SSS Nostalgie. Maybe time will change things. August 7, 2012 at 12:13pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Brooke, I have tough time with certain aldehydes, but not all. You might find yourself able to appreciate at a later date.

      I was the same way about white florals! I spent my younger years in a haze of patchouli and musk. August 7, 2012 at 2:11pm Reply

  • Lisa: I have never warmed to Chanel No. 5 — or most of the Chanels, honestly. No. 5 smells lovely on a lot of women, and in fact, my mother used to wear it when I was a child, and I thought it the pinnacle of sophistication. I’m not sure if it’s the overwhelming pop of the aldehydes that’s off-putting or what, but it has a densely-layered, generic “perfume” smell to my nose that keeps me from appreciating it. And alas, I too cannot wear Mitsouko. Cyphres + my skin = vile, poisonous-smelling vapors. This doesn’t stop me from owning a bottle of the stuff, of course! 🙂 August 7, 2012 at 12:18pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Lisa, No. 5 is another hugely polarizing fragrance and I think lots of us recall family members wearing it, probably as an entire suite of products as recommended by Chanel.

      Chypres aren’t great on me a lot of the time. Rose chypres are terrible on my skin, sour creatures that make my mouth turn down. August 7, 2012 at 2:13pm Reply

  • Daisy: What a great topic of conversation! I get really nervous when SA’s come up to me and start asking me what do I like. Because in all honesty, I like a whole lot of very different things from vetiver to heady white florals and almost everything in-between. I appreciate well-constructed fragrances and ones that challenge me, but that are also beautiful.

    This is not easy to convey to a sales person who just wants me to buy a bottle of Jimmy Choo and be happy with that 🙁

    I think I also dislike that question because I don’t want to rule anything out. I might not like it now, but I might love it later. And I might not like this leather, for example, but that doesn’t mean that I am closed off to ALL leathers.

    However, in terms of fragrances that I keep trying and keep scrubbing off? Poor Amaranthine. I keep wanting to love you and for you to love me back, but you just make me smell like kind of gross and unwashed 🙁 August 7, 2012 at 12:32pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Daisy, your comment makes my day! I have the same struggle with the SA’s. I usually give a vague and what seems a ridiculous answer: “Oh, I have 52 bottles of perfume at home….”(understanding this number might be small for a big-time perfumista), “and they are all over the board. Right now I’m wearing Nasomatto Nuda.”

      SA: “I’ve never heard of that. Where did you buy that? We don’t carry that line. Now, here’s Jimmy Choo…”

      Amaranthine smelled great to me the first and second time around. The third, I got powdered cowhide. August 7, 2012 at 1:51pm Reply

      • Perfumista8: In true perfumista style, powdered cowhide sounds pretty nice to me 🙂 August 7, 2012 at 4:52pm Reply

      • Daisy: I get that a lot. Sometimes I don’t want to say what I own because I can’t bear the blank looks. It makes me a little self-conscious too.

        I hear great things about Amaranthine. It just turned sour on me 🙁 It was like a big wet banana leaf that turned into sour, sweaty sheets. So sad! August 7, 2012 at 6:04pm Reply

  • solanace: I have trouble with the “tauerade”. There is something in there that reminds me vaguely of Chanel 18, which I consider the worst smell in the world (after the river close to my work, that is). Some time ago, I got a sampler pack from Tauer Perfumes, and was very excited at first – really in love with Le Maroc pour Elle. Then it started suffocating me, and I realized all the perfumes I had chosen produced the same effect on me, even lighthearted Zeta. But I keep them, because I know they are well made, with beautiful and rare ingredients, so I hope I will grow to enjoy them. August 7, 2012 at 2:07pm Reply

    • Suzanna: solanace, “the river next to my work” has me picturing a dreadful sludge. And off topic entirely, but I went to a sulfur springs the other day, and, well…perhaps this visit made your comment more real to me.

      I love Tauer Zeta (and reviewed it), Le Maroc, and L’Air du Desert. Others have not worked and it was prob. a case of density or quirkiness or note I didn’t like (birch tar!), or my own ordinariness and lack of olfactory imagination, or combination of both. At least Zeta is worth retrying. August 7, 2012 at 2:16pm Reply

  • Anna Minis: I agree with you: Fracas is not overly bright and absolutely more refined. Versace Blonde is a cheap and loud imitation of Fracas. I could wear it until I found what I sought: the real thing, Fracas. I wear Fracas most of all my perfumes. August 7, 2012 at 2:28pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Anna Minis, I have all the Fracas body products, too. I never smell Fracas on anyone, so it’s like having a bespoke scent. Glad I’ve found another Fracas fan here on BdJ! August 7, 2012 at 5:06pm Reply

  • Kathy: For all those non tuberose lovers who still seek one, do please give Mona di Orio’s Tubereuse a try. I never thought I’d find one I liked but tried this one when I heard Mona describe it as a twilight not fully opened tuberose and it was love at first sniff.

    I read recently that when you sniff something that contains notes you haven’t smelled before your brain simply registers the aromas it already knows and that seems to explain much of what you’re talking about here, why it takes repeated sniffs to acquire the ability to really smell something August 7, 2012 at 2:29pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Thanks for the rec, Kathy! I haven’t tried that one (yet).

      What you say about assimilating smell is correct. This is why a fragrance new to you opens up a panoply of notes and the next time loses some of them. It’s the combination of notes rather than a note itself that becomes familiar (the “been there, done that”) of the fragrance world, and suddenly you are anosmic to a scent. This is why we swoon and make sudden impulse purchases, I am convinced. August 7, 2012 at 5:11pm Reply

  • Perfumista8: My experience has been similar to many others here. I’m still not comfortable wearing most of the Chanel’s but I think I’m starting to get them. I keep most samples because it can be years until I really fall for a fragrance. The one that I may never revisit is Manoumalia although I’m still curious enough to want to smell it on someone else. Someone who I’m not going to have to spend much time with, just in case. August 7, 2012 at 5:05pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Perfumista8, I’m a Manoumalia fan. I wear it out and about and I get people asking what it is and where to buy it. It’s a hot scent for a hot day–and I tend to do well with ripe fruit notes. August 7, 2012 at 5:08pm Reply

      • Perfumista8: I’m glad it works so well on you. I gave it three tries- and I only tried it the third time because my husband loved it on me the second try. So , it obviously has devotees for a reason. August 7, 2012 at 6:58pm Reply

        • Suzanna: Fruit notes in general work really well on me, Perfumista8. A lot of people won’t go near this scent! August 8, 2012 at 8:45am Reply

  • Ariadne: Ralph Lauren’s Polo for men cologne/aftershave. For 20 years my husband has purchased and worn this and I still CANNOT STAND IT even though I pull his bottle out of the medicine cabinet every once in a while. I do not have the nerve or heart to pitch the bottle though! August 7, 2012 at 6:00pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Ariadne, how terrible! And it’s his signature scent–as it is a lot of men of that geneeration. You have a lot of heart! August 8, 2012 at 8:44am Reply

  • Ferris@DKchocoman: It takes a while to truly get a handle on and appreciate some fragrances. I learned that through my experience with a number of Bond scents, namely Nuits De NoHo, NY Oud, and Chelsea Flowers. Jasmine to me is extremely potent and with NdN you are hit straight on, almost like a head on collision. Normally this is not a scent I’d wear, but over time it grew on me. Now I love it. I came to appreciate the spiciness of the pineapple leaves, mixed with the jasmine, vanilla and patchouli.
    The second fragrance that I loathed was NY Oud. Again, I’m not a floral fan and with this creation you are welcomed by rose and Oud which are the predominant notes in this one. Although there are other players, these are the ones you smell first. The Oud and rose are strong and do not quit, lasting about 16-24 hours on the skin. It was not until the dry down that you get the full wonder of this fragrance; a beautiful blend of sweet white honey and musk with rose and oud lingering in the background. Absolutely gorgeous.
    The third scent that I hated was Chelsea Flowers. I found it very bland, generic and not worth my time. It wasincluded in a sample pack so I gave it a try. Tried it once, then again, then put it aside for about a year. Then I tried it again and I was mesmerized. The delicate white florals transform into a delicate airy musk that smells delightful. The florals are done so well that anyone even guys can pull it off. The reason I like this scent is because it’s not overpowering and it mixes your body chemistry to truly make this scent your own. Pursuing all three of these scents was a long journey for me. I took about a year to truly appreciate them. It
    takes time for my nose to adjust to certain notes, but I am glad I stayed along this path; these are some of my favorites in the Bond Line. In my opinion fragrance is definitely worth the long courtship August 7, 2012 at 10:53pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Thanks, Ferris, for the discussion of Bond. I like certain in the line, including Chelsea Flowers. Of their florals, Park Avenue wears well on me, with an interesting sharp white floral note.

      I’m glad you are exploring fragrance and learning to appreciate things. August 8, 2012 at 8:42am Reply

  • Elena: This reminds me of a great article I read on NYTimes. It’s about food, but I think it makes a great deal of sense talking about smells and especially perfumes. Basically, if there’s cilantro in a food but you haven’t experienced cilantro very often before, your brain (in an attempt to weed out potentially dangerous food) will match it as closely as it can with what it has experienced. Unfortunately for some people, that close match is soap due to some common aldehydes between soap and cilantro. Fortunately, if you keep trying dishes with cilantro, you can retrain your brain and make it stop thinking “Soap! Ugh!” when you taste cilantro and instead think, “Mmm, delicious fresh and pungent herb which has its own flavor apart from soap.”

    So who knew? Cilantro is full of aldehydes. It’s a pretty short article, and really quite interesting and explains better than my ham-fisted synopsis.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/dining/14curious.html

    (I hope you don’t mind the link.)

    Like so many others, Mitsouko baffles me although I can tell it is certainly complex and well made. I am looking forward to the process, I smelled that and Shalimar for the first time just this year since I am such a perfume newbie. Kind of like Campari. Complex, high quality, but I never ever want to put it near my mouth again. August 7, 2012 at 11:09pm Reply

    • Jillie: Hi, Elena! I can’t resist adding that I read an another article (can’t remember the details) that said that cilantro/coriander has a smell very similar to that emitted by a bug in some countries, so it is not surprising that some people really hate the taste or odour as it will be hotwired to their brains as a danger signal. I have discovered, from experience, that ladybirds here in the UK have an odour, and I am beginning to think it is a bit like cilantro ….. but am trying not to dwell too much on that as I love eating this herb! August 8, 2012 at 2:06am Reply

      • Suzanna: Jillie, that’s another fasctinating bit of information! Thanks for contributing.

        A former boyfriend of mine would become violently ill when he ate cilantro, but he was not allergic to it. August 8, 2012 at 8:40am Reply

    • Suzanna: Great article, Elena! I would never have made a connection between soap and cilantro–if I had, I wouldn’t be eating as much Mexican food as I do.

      Mitsouko baffles a lot of people! August 8, 2012 at 8:39am Reply

    • nikki: That is a great comparison, campari and scents! I have noticed that people who grew up with stinky cheese, campari, olives, very ripe peaches, all the things we love in Europe or in certain parts and social milieus, are something that people who are not used to these scents find “nonfresh” smelling, and so it is with perfumes. The cultural differences are a mirror in the perfumes we use. The notion that a perfume smells like “une femme qui se neglige” is a far cry from naming a company Fresh because that is what one expects from scents in the new world. Fascinating! August 8, 2012 at 10:17am Reply

      • Suzanna: nikki, thanks for adding those insights to this discussion. If one knows nothing about American perfumes in today’s market, one need only to visit a mall–any mall really–and walk by the Abercrombie & Fitch store. Issuing out of that retailer is a smell that perfectly encapsulates the modern trend: It is soapy, musky, breezy, aquatic all at once, and it is very tenacious. The only rewarding thing about it would be as a signpost for someone who had lost his way-metaphorically speaking-and needed to be reminded of the comforts of ubiquity.

        But, at mid-century we wore perfumes that indeed smelled of someone who was somewhat unwashed. What happened? August 8, 2012 at 10:28am Reply

  • mals86: Funny – oud still smells like band-aids to me, but I *like* that.

    I’ve always done well with aldehydes and florals of all kinds, and green florals were Instant Love for me too. What I’ve always struggled with are amber orientals – Opium, Youth Dew, and Tabu are Instant Nausea for me. It took the stunning floral Alahine to bring me around to even small amounts of balsams.

    Mitsouko HATES ME. I’ve tried, and tried, and tried again. In different weathers, different concentrations (I have not tried vintage Eau de Cologne, though) – nope. Just, just NO. In fact, I continue to have trouble with fruity chypres, though floral ones I tend to adore.

    Bitter leathers still terrify me. Cuir de Lancome is a staple for me, but it is, yes, very floral. Jolie Madame, in vintage parfum, is simply gorgeous – but again, quite floral. I liked Cuir Ottoman as well, though not Cuir de Russie, which smells to me exactly-but-exactly like our cattle working pens, complete with dust, dry manure, iodine and other medicinal smells, dry wood boards, animal hair/skin and the scent of fear.

    Chergui ought to have been my sort of scent, and it just isn’t. I’ve tried it nearly as often as I’ve tried Mitsouko, and every time it’s almost-but-not-quite-right, oh-in-fact-I-think-I-need-to-vomit-now.

    I agree – smell the classics for education. Smell everything you can for education, try to figure it out, and the love will come. Or it won’t. I wore a sample of Memoir Woman several times because I couldn’t understand it, and that turned into Twoo Wuv. August 9, 2012 at 10:16am Reply

    • Suzanna: mals86, thanks for the colorful post! Here’s something amusing: I can’t wear Cuir de Lancome’s polite floral-and-suede handbag, but that minor hit of cow in the Cuir de Russie from Les Exclusifs is fine.

      I wouldn’t go so far as to persist in trying or wearing something that goes horribly wrong (as in your Chergui experience). That kind of thing makes me avoid fragrance for a week or more. August 9, 2012 at 12:21pm Reply

  • Anna Minis: Mals86, you are right and you can tell us these things in such a funny way. I too smell everything I can smell for education, not only perfume. People stare sometimes at me when I am sniffing in the streets of Amsterdam. Never give samples away, whether I like them or not: always interesting, and your taste changes with time (as we all know and experience). What do you and Suzanna think of Cuir Mauresque? isn-t that a beautiful leather? One of my favorites, as is Gomma (I suppose I am a Flechierfan–love Poison and Une Rose too). August 9, 2012 at 2:05pm Reply

  • Suzanna: Anna Minis, I am not a huge fan of leather in general, but I do think Cuir Mauresque is wonderful and I should have a decant of it.

    I have given away loads of my samples over the years. Hundreds of them! I should have kept for reference. August 9, 2012 at 2:14pm Reply

  • Henrique Brito: Perfect article Suzanna, i agree with you. In our sampling through our love with fragrances there is always be that specific fragrance loved and well commented that no matter how much you try you’ll end not getting or liking. But it really changes with time and according to other things you wear. In the past i hated white florals, today orange blossom is one of my favorite notes and i have learned to appreciate even some indolic jasmines. A fragrance that i hated and today i find brilliant is Lutens Miel Du Bois. It went from cat pee to a very complex study of honey from the flower aspect to me. Today i’d even have a bottle of it.
    A fragrance that i cannot understand why is so well commented is Serge Lutens MKK. It smells, honestly, like poo and rotten wood to me. But then i never liked fecal aromas, and this hasn’t changed over the time. And it’s something that i learned is to always try, even if you think you may not like. Fragrances can be surprising on skin, but you shouldn’t feel forced to like something just because someone like, but it doesn’t hurt try to understand it. August 9, 2012 at 4:40pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Henrique, you and I have a very similar approach to trying fragrances! And I am a Miel de Bois fan, too–after swapping my original bottle I wish I had it back!

      MKK has a lovely soft rose note on me, but this was in very cold weather! August 9, 2012 at 10:45pm Reply

  • Carrie: Shalimar. I tried and tried for years and it was on yet another trip to the Guerlain counter in Nordstroms in the early 1980s, dead set on ‘getting’ Shalimar and having it work for me, that I discovered Mitsouko. I liked the smell, and it smelled good on me, but that first bottle I bought for the name! I guess you could call Mitsouko my signature fragrance now, and I think I’ve finally given up on Shalimar.
    I almost gave up on Diorella after reading in Yesterday’s Perfume blog that Chandler Burr said it smells like fur rubbed with mint toothpaste. After that, mint toothpaste is all I could smell whenever I tried to wear it. I finally got myself over that psychological hurdle and now it’s one of my two summertime favorites. August 12, 2012 at 8:19am Reply

    • Suzanna: Carrie, I cannot wear Shalimar either, but I live in Eau de Shalimar in the summer (the lemon-sherbet version of the classic).

      Psychological hurdles are very common troublemakers, and I can relate to what you say about them. My example is Tocade. I’ve worn it for years, and the one day it reminded me of another scent that I didn’t like, and I haven’t worn Tocade since. August 12, 2012 at 8:38am Reply

  • CC: Anne Pliska Its nice to find others that really like this fragrance. When I were Anne Pliska I recieve compliments. I don’t own many fragrances so this one I wear daily. BTW the edp and cream are on special sale at “Thefragrancefactory.com” October 26, 2012 at 6:04pm Reply

  • Jo: Shalimar and all the classic Guerlain’s I have tried relentlessly to love and understand. I have come to a peaceful agreement with Shalimar EDT and Jicky has won me over (though by all accounts it’s now hardly recognisable). The one I have tried and tried and failed and failed to love is Chanel No 19, in all renditions. January 20, 2013 at 4:41pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Well, Jo, I will respond that in my library of perfume is a 99.9% full bottle of Chanel No. 19, the last bottle sold in a big dept. store before No. 19 went off the masss market shelves. It was my second such bottle.

      I can’t wear it.

      When I first smelled it, years ago, I thought it was so refreshing, sunny, and crisp. But it fizzes aldehydes off my skin and never settles, and the iris (a note that is not a favorite of mine) blooms too readily and the rose is sour. It doesn’t suit me one bit.

      Shalimar I cannot wear at all. Perhaps the old parfum, but no other version! January 20, 2013 at 6:58pm Reply

  • Gentiana: Great topic!
    I have a veeery strange relationship with big white floral perfumes generally… and especially with tuberose… It is a whole saga!
    Most of them made me feel out of place, high -pitched, superficial loud and vulgar.
    Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE all ALL white flowers’ smell out in the nature, I ADORE THEM. But, in perfume, things are (or at least were) different.
    Lily of the valley smells sharp and melalic on me, jasmine is urinous / dirty, lily is choking/ suffocating, and tuberose…
    Please, tuberose ennoyedme to death!
    I didn’t even get close to perfumes if warned being tuberose. Was convinced that they are everything I’m not. Or I don’t want or like to be.
    And… one day… Tried in a shop in Bucharest Narcotic Venus. No warnings before. But I detected THAT bad feeling that made me, till the moment, hate tuberose fragrances.
    I left the shop in disgust. Hided my wrist in the sweater AND the coat, got in the car and hurried to drive to my hometown.
    After about half an hour I detected a wonderful, bewitching smell in the car… identified it that it is sneaking out from my coat’s sleeve…
    Minute after minute, the smell was more and more hypnotizing, made me want to eat my wrist. After about an hour I was knocked out….
    I turned the car, drive back to Bucharest like a speed-maniac,arrived to the shop just in the minute they started to close it, park the car in the most illegal way possible, run to the shop, nearly break the door, shouting not to close the shop until they don’t give me MY perfume.
    Imagine the SA-s’ faces…. The cash-counter was already closed… They gave me the bottle, paid it cash, didn’t even count the rest and popped out the shop like a victorious warrior…
    Since then, I reconsidered my relationship with tuberose in particular and big white florals in general.
    The next purchases were Fleurissimo from Creed, Envy from Gucci, Songes from Annick Goutal and Monoi de Tahiti from Yves Rocher. Nice is Un Lys (F.M) and I learned to appreciate Joy EDT, that was a present and layed in my cupboard unused for 3 years.
    I built out a pretty nice white floral perfume wardrobe, and some of them really work for me.
    Others are still Nazguls :
    – for me, on my skin, but nice on others, on clothes or paper – such as Matin d’Orage, Diorissimo, Nuda, Carnal Flower, Tubereuse Criminelle, Anais Anais, Tuberose Couture, Gardenia Passion, Grand Amour, Bas de Soie, Elie Saab, Jour d’Hermes;
    – or I hate smell them even on others or on paper: Lady Caron, Fleur de Rocaille, Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley and Bluebell, A la Nuit, Datura Noir, Fleurs d’Oranger.
    Xcuse me for the looong comment, but it is a hot topic for me. Love or hate…

    Definitely I love your blog,
    Gentiana January 17, 2014 at 9:37am Reply

  • Jo: For me definitely Shalimar and Chanel No 5. Shalimar, like all the Guerlains attracted me for it’s vanilla heavy guerlinade. None of the classic Guerlains work well for me at all, and I’ve tried. Shalimar and I made peace when I met the EDT version, which I liked though still wasn’t for me. No 5 on the other hand has been a transformation for me, which began with a hatred for aldehydes and soapiness. First was No 5 Elixir Sensuel which I loved. Then I liked Agent Provocateur Maitress, then could appreciate Lanvin Arpege and somewhere along the way lost my total aversion to aldehydes. Then I tried No 5 EDT and it was love. And now I like soapy. Quite enjoy soapy in fact.
    My next conquest is to find a galbanum & oakmoss heavy green chypre – along the lines of Balmain Ivoire or Chanel No 19 – that I can tolerate. January 28, 2014 at 4:45pm Reply

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