Up Close and Personal

My May column in the Financial Times Magazine is about scents with an intimate aura. In Up Close and Personal, I reveal some of my favorite skin-like perfumes. Some of them are sensual and lush, others are casual and low-key, but they have in common a cozy, cuddly sensation. Most of them are understated enough to be worn to the office or classroom, and I love catching delicate whiffs of my perfume throughout the day. They are my intimate scented talismans.

woman-with-a-cat

Some fragrances, particularly those rich in white flowers, woods and spices, have so much character that they enter the room with you and linger behind long after you’re gone. Others, such as citrus colognes, give an instant lift when splashed on in the morning and then vanish before you even reach the office. Since we wear perfume for different reasons — to please ourselves, to delight others, to create a fantasy or just to smell wonderful – each fragrance genre has its role and purpose. On days when I want to keep perfume as my intimate scented talisman, I reach for the skin-like scents. Please read the rest by clicking here.

What perfumes have a tender, cozy feel to you?

Painting: Woman with a Cat, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, c.1875, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washingon, DC, USA, via wiki-images.

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79 Comments

  • The Blue Squid: Lovely article!  I like Louve.  After the bright and cold cherry part at the beginning, it is soft, musky and delicious, like scoffing away at a giant marshmallow.
    Mind you, I would have rather have eaten a giant marshmallow than the last thing I tried to eat, which was an underripe persimmon.  I spat it out and the rest went straight in the bin, but my tongue is still aching now.  Silly me.. June 5, 2013 at 7:26am Reply

    • Jillie: Hi, Blue Squid. Unripe persimmons are truly inedible. And yet that’s how they are usually sold at the supermarket – there must be a lot of people who think it’s a horrid fruit. I thank my Italian friend who told me that you have to eat the persimmon when it is practically rotting – all soft, dark, fragrant and oozing. Then it is absolutely delicious and sweet. And I can’t get enough of them! June 5, 2013 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, no! You can try eating some honey or even just rinsing your mouth with sweet water. If you bought persimmons with a pointy bottom, those, as Jillie, says, have to be melting to be edible. I sometimes let a whole bunch ripen and then I put them in the freezer, and voila, a readymade sorbet! June 5, 2013 at 11:33am Reply

      • Victoria: P.S. I love Louve. At first, I dismissed it as a boring almond perfume, but it’s one of those simple fragrances that wear well. The drydown is especially beautiful. June 5, 2013 at 11:34am Reply

        • The Blue Squid: Yes, I think it is sweet and easy to wear, but elegant as well.  It really changes gracefully and smoothly over the course of its development.  I have some MOR Marshmallow perfume oil, which smells really good and lives in a similar world to Louve.  And, of course, it was much cheaper!  But it’s just not the same.  The Marshmallow soap is one of the best soaps ever, though.     June 5, 2013 at 5:01pm Reply

          • Victoria: I’ve never tried that soap, but I know that some people love it and say that it’s strongly scented. Since I love scented soap, I’ll have to check it out. June 6, 2013 at 4:04pm Reply

      • The Blue Squid: Thank you for the persimmon tips, Jillie and Victoria!  I’ll have to have a chomp on a soft one sometime.  In this case, the offending fruit was one of the ones that resembles a green tomato.  I read somewhere that you could eat this type when they were not soft, but apparently not.  Never mind, my tongue has bounced back now, just in time for breakfast. June 5, 2013 at 4:59pm Reply

  • Karina: Soft and cozy perfumes that come to mind are Narciso Rodriguez For Her (the advertisements for the range definitely have a strong skin scent element), Burberry Brit, Stella McCartney L.I.L.Y… June 5, 2013 at 8:07am Reply

    • Victoria: I like your choices too, and all of those fragrance have delicious drydowns. I like Brit after 30 minutes or so, when the fizzy notes soften, and you have this comforting, delicious veil of vanilla, woods and musk June 5, 2013 at 12:18pm Reply

  • rosarita: Great article, Victoria! My first thought was Cashmere Mist. Les Nereides Musc Samarkind is a favorite soft and delicate scent and sometimes the only thing that smells right when I’m not feeling well; Clair de Musc is nice for filling that spot, too. June 5, 2013 at 8:16am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! Cashmere Mist is excellent for creating this kind of tender, soft aura, and the name fits the fragrance idea perfectly. It really does smell white and cuddly.

      Musc Samarkind is new to me, but I haven’t smelled many Les Nereides perfumes. June 5, 2013 at 12:20pm Reply

  • Elizabeth: Lovely article, as always! I like Love, Chloe too. By the way, have you had a chance to try the current Apres l’Ondee yet? I am curious to know what you think of it. June 5, 2013 at 8:26am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t had time to go to the store yet, since by the time I’ve been done with work this week, the stores were already closed. But it’s on my to do list. June 5, 2013 at 12:21pm Reply

  • monkeytoe: Wonderful article.

    Chanel Cuir de Russie and Bois des Iles extrait are two of my favorites along with vintage Vol de Nuit extrait. June 5, 2013 at 9:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked it! Parfums are so good for creating this kind of close-to-the-skin and intimate effect, especially when you apply them lightly. The iris accented leather of Cuir de Russie is sexy too! June 5, 2013 at 12:23pm Reply

  • Irene: I´m currently completely taken by Carner Barcelona´s Rima XI as my cozy, tender skin scent. It wears close to the skin but I can´t stop catching spicy whifs! It´s not summery at all, but in the office it´s quite cold all year round! June 5, 2013 at 9:42am Reply

    • Victoria: This sounds so delicious, Irene! I’m so behind these launches, and I haven’t tried Carner Barcelona. I need to check if Luckyscent carries samples, since this line comes up time and again in the comments. June 5, 2013 at 12:24pm Reply

      • Irene: I know it´s impossible to keep up with all new offerings and “niche brands” out there, but I think you may enjoy Carner…They only have four perfumes and the samples are also available in First in Fragrance and in their own website…I researched this brand because I´m Spanish, and there are very few perfume houses here, trying to do something special and well curated!
        By the way I´m very new to the perfume world, and your blog really helped me a lot, I love reading it every day! Best regards from Berlin!! June 6, 2013 at 9:45am Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you, Irene! I love getting new recommendations, so I’m going to check it out. The descriptions of several fragrances were very interesting.
          And also thank you for your nice words. Glad to help, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. 🙂 June 6, 2013 at 2:12pm Reply

  • Natalia: Thank you for the article, wonderful read!

    My most “intimate” perfume would be Frederic Malle L’Eau d’Hiver (by Jean-Claude Ellena). It used to be Hiris, actually, but at some point I felt that I needed to take a little break from it. I also like Love, Chloe (emptied a bottle a year ago) but, for me, it doesn’t hold as an “intimate” fragrance somehow. It’s subtle, yes, but perhaps a little too flowery to be called “intimate” for my taste.
    Not really my cup of tea, but I think Balenciaga Paris, Bottega Veneta and Bottega Veneta Eau Legere can also be considered as good examples of the genre. June 5, 2013 at 9:45am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Your articles are always a pleasure to read, and I enjoy also your talent to find a beautiful, fitting picture! This one is a treat for catlovers like me. The cat on the painting is clearly a she-cat. I have always a tabby tomcat, the best friends in the world. Renoir captivated the character of the cat masterly. Thank you for posting this! June 5, 2013 at 10:26am Reply

      • Victoria: Gosh, thank you! My husband called it “a gratuitous use of cat images,” but I just loved the mood it evoked–soft, tender, cozy. June 5, 2013 at 12:29pm Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: You are absolutely right!
          btw my home sweet home perfume: L’Instant de Guerlain. June 5, 2013 at 1:08pm Reply

          • Victoria: L’Instant is comforting, especially in the winter for me. For some reason, I associate it with Christmas. June 5, 2013 at 3:18pm Reply

      • behemot: Yes, this cat in Renoir’s painting can be a female, but my younger cat ( a male) has exactly the same facial expression.. These gender issues 🙂 June 5, 2013 at 12:48pm Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Hi Behemot! The expression could be male also, but the form of the jaw, the pointed, tapering nose….you see that mostly with female cats…in my experience! June 5, 2013 at 1:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: I used to wear L’Eau d’Hiver a lot whenever I wanted this effect, but my bottle spoiled last year and started smelling rancid. I haven’t replaced it, but I now have so many other “intimate” and soft choices that I don’t miss it much. Hiris is a must for me though. June 5, 2013 at 12:26pm Reply

  • cynpathy: Beautiful article. My favorite close scent is Tokyo Bloom. It feels like a lovely secret on my skin. June 5, 2013 at 10:30am Reply

    • Victoria: A lovely secret is such a nice way of putting it! 🙂 June 5, 2013 at 12:29pm Reply

  • HB: Sometimes subtle is best – especially for meeting-filled days when I’ll be stuck in a conference room. Just yesterday I tried Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle for the first time and loved it – it’s a cozy and inviting intimate fragrance. I have also been dabbing Histoires de Parfums 1969 with a cotton ball for a subtle scent, and of course Jeux de Peau which dries down to a quiet aura very quickly on my skin. June 5, 2013 at 10:46am Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t agree more on Jeux de Peau, which seems odd at first when you spray it. Applied generous, it can almost be suffocating, but when dabbed, it changes its character. I even notice other things like the unexpected appearance of a rum-soaked vanilla bean. June 5, 2013 at 12:32pm Reply

  • Marsi: Oh man, I want to try that Guerlain. It sounds incredible.

    I love Love by Chloe for exactly the reasons you state. Interesting to know that rice powder is a note. I have some sachets from France that are fragranced with it, and it’s just a snuggly, warm, cozy scent. I’d love to know of other perfumes with that note. June 5, 2013 at 11:25am Reply

    • Marsi: I just thought of another nuzzly fragrance: Burberry Brit Gold. I remember you did such a beautiful review of that, describing the way the sandalwood and bergamot notes came together. June 5, 2013 at 12:33pm Reply

      • Victoria: Whenever I smelled it, it made me think of antique sandalwood boxes. Why did they have to discontinue it? June 5, 2013 at 3:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: I didn’t have high expectations, but it turned out to be very good. It even conjures up a texture of silk to me.

      I just checked my notes, and I have Etat Libre d’Orange Putain des Palaises listed as having a rice powder note. Also, Armani Onda was inspired by the combination of rice powder and sesame. If you loved Chloe, like I did, then you might like Putain des Palaises. But I still prefer Chloe to those, since it’s softer. June 5, 2013 at 3:24pm Reply

      • Marsi: Thank you for checking your notes about … notes! I had a bottle of Putain but swapped it away. For some reason, it just didn’t resonate well with me once I spent the money on it. Funny how that works ….

        But I agree, Love, Chloe is the best of them, and yes, why DID they discontinue Brit Gold? Because it didn’t smell like fruitouli, I’m guessing. June 5, 2013 at 3:31pm Reply

        • Victoria: Fruitouli! Now, that’s a great term. 🙂

          Histoires de Parfums Blanc Violette is another one with rice powder. But I didn’t care for it. I don’t remember why, and my notes cryptically say, “not really.” 🙂 June 5, 2013 at 3:36pm Reply

          • Austenfan: It just isn’t very good. I didn’t like it either, but can’t remember why I didn’t. I think I thought it smelled very synthetic, in a bad way. June 5, 2013 at 4:05pm Reply

            • Victoria: HdP is a mixed bag for me. Some perfumes are really special, and others are not at all. June 6, 2013 at 4:05pm Reply

  • Jillie: I love that painting – you always choose so well.

    For some reason I always think that a soft apricot or peach fragrance is my skin scent, and I am still enjoying L’Eau a la Folie for this purpose. My mind isn’t working as suddenly I can’t remember all the others, so I would love some suggestions! June 5, 2013 at 11:41am Reply

    • Victoria: Today was such an unusual sunny day that I now feel a bit lightheaded. Everyone was out having their beers as early as 3pm.

      Peach notes, especially when they really have the effect of soft, fuzzy peach skin, feel cuddly to me. Years ago, The Body Shop used to have a terrific fruity perfume called Fuzzy Peach, which really smelled of fresh peaches. But it then got reformulated and I haven’t checked up on it since. June 5, 2013 at 3:29pm Reply

  • Nina Z: I like to imagine that my skin smells naturally delicious and slightly spicy so my skin scents include Bois des Iles, small amounts of Frederic Malle Noir Epices, The Different Company Oriental Lounge (very soft oriental with a herbal twist), Annick Goutal Musc Nomade (the angelica keeps me intrigued), and single spritz of modern Chanel No 22 . But I also use body oils for this purpose, especially Nuxe (whoa, I went through that bottle so fast!) and Atelier Rose.

    I traveled quite a lot last year, and it’s nice to be scented when you’re stuck on an airplane, but I try to be considerate and that is a good time for body oils or body cream. June 5, 2013 at 12:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: I generally don’t like strong perfumes when I’m on an airplane (on myself or others), but recently I was traveling next to a woman wearing some crisp floral. It was so nice to smell that! For a change, it covered up the scent of overheated food and whatnot. June 5, 2013 at 3:32pm Reply

  • Kathy: Mona di Orio’s Musc is my soft and cozy scent as well as my go to comfort scent for days I’m not feeling great. June 5, 2013 at 12:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: I keep hearing great things about her Musc, so it’s on my list to try! June 5, 2013 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Donna: For real comfort, I love Chanel #5 but only if it is autumn or winter. Lately, I need tender reassurance and I am finding it with Cartier Baiser Vole – it’s like a tissue weight cashmere shawl about my shoulders. Great article! Thank you. June 5, 2013 at 12:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Such a nice way of putting. I have a friend here in Brussels who wears Baiser Vole, and it smells amazing on her. June 5, 2013 at 3:40pm Reply

  • behemot: Another great article!
    Hiris is one of my favorites, but I also like Keiko Mecheri” Peau de Peche” (received a lot of compliments when wearing them). Histoires de Parfum “Blanc Violette” is very comfortong and, when worn in small amounts, very well received. I also like Parfums de Nicolai “Musc Intense” and Mona di Orio “Musc”. Same as Kathy, I find it soft and cozy. June 5, 2013 at 12:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! Your extra recommendations will come in handy, since I love these kinds of perfumes. I obviously need to revisit Blanc Violette, because as I was mentioning to Marsi, I didn’t seem to like it back when I smelled a whole bunch of HdP at once. Sounds like Peau de Peche should return to my “to try” list too. June 5, 2013 at 3:42pm Reply

  • E.Lime: I know not everyone finds Dzing to be soft and comforting, but I love its cuddly, flossy, animal smell. The drydown of La Fille de Berlin also feels tender to me, once the hyper-realism of the roses fades out and you’re left with that delicious salty musk. June 5, 2013 at 1:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can see why! It often reminds of a dance studio because of its rosin and wood shavings notes, and that’s a nice association.

      I’ll wear La Fille de Berlin tonight–that one always feels just right. 🙂 June 5, 2013 at 3:44pm Reply

  • noele: I’m not sure that it fits in with any mentioned, but an intimate skin scent for me is Heeley’s Sel Marin. It’s zesty at the start but dries down to a sun-faded, aged aquatic musk that feels very sensual and grounding. This is actually one of the first musks I’ve had any success wearing – I was wondering if you could recommend any with a slight saltiness or pepperiness that aren’t so bright? Sel Marin isn’t intense, but its aquatic, eroded feeling might be too much for the office. June 5, 2013 at 2:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ll need to think about it a bit and get back to you. But off the top of my head–how about Michael Kors Island (although now that I’ve written it down, I wonder if it’s still around). Anyway, it has a salty driftwood and musk note and is one of my favorites in this style.

      I’ll try to think of more ideas, but maybe others can offer their suggestions? June 5, 2013 at 3:48pm Reply

    • rainboweyes: I’m not familiar with Sel Marin but my favourite close-to-skin scent with salty notes is Bois d’Iris by VC&A. It is salty/powdery without being aquatic… June 5, 2013 at 4:19pm Reply

      • noele: Thank you! June 6, 2013 at 5:39pm Reply

        • rainboweyes: Today, while reorganizing my sample drawer, I found two scent samples I was wearing at the seaside last year – Artisan Parfumeur Cote d’Amour and Lorenzo Villoresi Aura Maris. Just one more suggestion….

          And I liked the review of Vanille Marine by Micallef, I think I will order a sample… June 7, 2013 at 5:58pm Reply

  • rainboweyes: Aaaah, Hiris…I’ve emptied countless bottles over the years… and never get bored…
    It always feels so perfect – understated and elegant.
    My other favourite choices are 28 La Pausa, Kelly Calèche and Paradis Paradis for spring, Lumière Blanche, IUNX Eau Blanche and Osmanthe Yunnan in the summer, Cuir de Nacré and Iris de Nuit for the autumn and finally 31 Rue Cambon during winter time. I am tempted to buy a bottle of Moulin Rouge by Histoires de Parfums but I’m not sure if it’s inoffensive enough for the office. What do you think? June 5, 2013 at 4:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m jotting down Paradis Paradis (which as I looked up at Fragrantica is Atelier Flou) and Heeley Iris de Nuit, because I love all other perfumes you mentioned. So, there is a good chance I might like these too.

      Moulin Rouge is gorgeous, and I love its suggestion of red lipstick and powdered skin. If you’re delicate with the application, it can be fine for the office. Plus, even with a light application, you should be able to smell it on yourself. June 6, 2013 at 4:08pm Reply

      • rainboweyes: Yes, I am sure you will like Paradis Paradis (it reminds me of Hiris – with a more prominent jasmine note) and hopefully also Iris de Nuit.

        It seems that summer has finally arrived in Germany – today we had 25°C and sunshine – so I applied Lumière Blanche for the first time this year. It almost gave me a vacation feeling… Plus I received my Osmanthe Yunnan bottle and a few samples – Rose Ikebana, Paprika Brasil and Eau de Narcisse Bleu. I loved them all but I was surprised how much l liked Paprika Brasil which doesn’t seem to get much parfumista love… June 6, 2013 at 4:46pm Reply

        • Victoria: Today and yesterday were two perfect summer days. On days like this you might think that you were in Italy rather than Belgium, because the city just moves outdoors and take on a Mediterranean feel. I wonder if it’s the same in Germany. June 6, 2013 at 5:23pm Reply

  • Austenfan: You know I am wearing my beloved Gold today and it has now reached the soft dry down where it almost feels like a skin scent.
    Infusion d’Iris wears like a skin scent as does Dior Homme, Musc Nomade, L’Antimatière and HdP 1876, Dzing!, Omnia, Omnia Crystalline and probably loads of others that I have now forgotten. June 5, 2013 at 4:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: So glad to see Omnia mentioned, because it’s a beautiful, interesting perfume. Bulgari has a very good collection overall. June 6, 2013 at 5:05pm Reply

  • Martha: I am currently sampling Indus by DSH, and am finding it to be a lovely, close-to-the-skin fragrance. It is reminiscent of Vol de Nuit, another favorite “quiet” scent that I cherish. June 5, 2013 at 4:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: It sounds so good, and any comparison to Vol de Nuit is a great one in my book. 🙂 June 6, 2013 at 5:10pm Reply

  • Ninamar: I agree with most of the suggestions and tomorrow I will surely revisit Eau d’hiver, which I used to love. Just to cite some more spring like skin perfumes that feel more like silk then cashmere, I would add L’été en douce (L’Artisan), a delicate and light hearted floral musk, and one of my all time favourites: Carnation by Mona di Orio, more substantial, but soft like silk (or very smooth skin…), with a delicately sensual musk drydown that I find irresistible. Sadly it seems discontinued now. Thanks to Victoria for the lovely article and the ever precious suggestions! June 5, 2013 at 5:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your suggestions as well. L’été en douce is perfect for creating the kind of intimate aura we’re talking about, and I love its cozy, soft feeling. June 6, 2013 at 5:11pm Reply

  • Farouche: When I need a fragrance that’s “just for me,” I find that I turn to the delicious aromatic, vanilla oriental that is Eau Duelle by Diptyque. To me it is season-less, and truly a comfort skin scent.

    Lovely article, Victoria, as always. June 5, 2013 at 6:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! I agree on Eau Duelle. I’ve read some reviews that called it boring, but it doesn’t smell like that to me. I love the creamy layers of vanilla touched up with citrus. June 6, 2013 at 5:12pm Reply

  • Daisy: What a wonderful article, Victoria! I used to wear Kiehl’s Original Musk for a long time. I think a lot of my fragrances end up being a really nice skin scent. But the ones that come to mind quickly are Une fleur de cassie and L’Eau des merveilles. June 5, 2013 at 11:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: This reminds me, where did I put my bottle of Eau des Merveilles after I did a perfume cupboard reorganization? 🙂 June 6, 2013 at 5:13pm Reply

      • Daisy: A perfume cupboard! If only I was so organized bottle-wise! June 6, 2013 at 11:41pm Reply

        • Victoria: It’s nothing special really and it sounds way fancier than it is. 🙂 June 7, 2013 at 11:03am Reply

  • annemariec: NR for Her, Kenzo Flower and Dior’s Dune are some of my faves. All have an effortless quality that define this genre for me.

    I will say though that I’ve never really associated Dune with beaches and sand dunes. I wonder occasionally if the whole beach thing is more a marketing overlay than anything inherent to the perfume. Still, I appreciate Dune’s dryness and I really like the interplay of sweet and bitter in the top notes. If that equals ‘beach’ for some people, so be it I guess. June 5, 2013 at 11:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also don’t see it as anything beach related, although I loved the ads with a gorgeous Russian model, Kristina Semenovskaya. She had a classical beauty, but also seemed exotic, well, much like Dune. June 6, 2013 at 5:16pm Reply

  • vandana: I am a die hard fan of all the variants of Spinz deo and specially the Spinz exotic variant. The fragrance is just so perfect and lasts the entire day giving you all the freshness you need. Loved it even more after I getting compliments from people regarding the fragrance. June 6, 2013 at 7:45am Reply

    • Victoria: A perfume compliment is also such a boost! 🙂 June 6, 2013 at 5:17pm Reply

  • Kris: In winter when I’m looking for something cuddly and intimate, I like Chanel Coromandel lightly applied and also Champagne de Bois, a lovely sandalwood by Sonoma Scent Studio. In hot weather I like the woody dry down of Eau des Merveilles. I also really like Sonoma Scent Studio’s Nostalgie. The soft combination of roses and beeswax makes me think of slow dancing on a summer night. June 6, 2013 at 11:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Mmm, what a wonderful description of Nostalgie, Kris! June 6, 2013 at 5:17pm Reply

  • Oks: For me, probably SL Jeux de Peau, Van Cleef & Arpels’s Precious Oud and Burberry Brit are most close to skin, soft, cosy & cuddly perfumes…

    I imagine them round in shape and light golden yellow in colour for some reason – all perfumes evoke a certain vision, and these ones share it. January 28, 2016 at 7:24am Reply

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