Thursday, July 30, 2009

Guilty pleasures

I found a place that sells perfume decants. One can order a teeny-tiny vial of basically anything in the world one has ever dreamed of inhaling, no matter how expensive a full bottle of it would be, and no matter how esoteric the scent. They even have some vintage bottles left of perfumes that are no longer made, or that have had a change in formula (but I wonder how gone-off they may be?). It's a great idea, and also a great way to wear something for a couple of days to decide if you like it before you spring for a bottle.

If you, like me, are into perfume like some people are into wine, check it out:

When I got my Hermès twilly they had the good sense to include some Hermès perfume sample vials, two of which I'd spritzed in passing while running through the duty-free of some airport in Europe this summer: Un jardin sur Nil and Un jardin meditérranée. There was another one in the suite I thought might have been the one I loved best, Un jardin apres la mousson. This decant outfit sent me the missing third one, so now I'll puzzle it out. Love all three, but I think it must have been jardin meditérranée that smelled so good as the hours passed and it changed on my skin.

I'd like to write about perfume like other people write about wine. The first whif brings forward all kinds of associations, since, as I've written, for me memory resides in the nose.

I was wanting to try out some perfumes for fall with leather and tobacco notes, so Caron's Tabac Blond has arrived, and Knize Ten. Knize has been intriguing me since Vienna, because Mayerling murder-suicide Prince Rudolf had a scent created for him they still sell to this day. I can't remember now which one it is. Will have to do some research. Knize Ten right out of the vial had a really lovely black flower note -- like narcissus? -- but finished like new tires. Ew. No, not for me. Tabac Blond is much better. Dietrich wore it, but it has that synthetic note in it, like Chanel No. 5, that does not please my nose, but is a hallmark of perfumes of the thirties. What's it called? Aldeyhydes? It's what I can always still smell in what's left in a dried-up vintage perfume bottle and I don't like it.

My nose is overwhelmed tonight so I have to wait until tomorrow to try something I've never had the opportunity to try before: Guerlain Jicky. It's the turn-of-the-century grandmother of my own signature scent, Shalimar. I can't wait to smell what part of it is Shalimar and how it's different. I'm betting much more purple, if it's from the fin de siècle.

I got a tiny Guerlain Vol de Nuit, my old high school favorite, for old time's sake. It's more gardenia than I remembered, but lovely. And a tiny Bal à Versailles, a formerly very popular but now extremely hard to find perfume that smells like baby powder and exquisitely frosted white cakes -- in fact, I wore that one to my second wedding.

I discovered this decant outfit on my mission to find a sample of the perfume Deneuve authored in the seventies. Got it. Not suprisingly, it's related to YSL's Opium, my disco diva period favorite. Very strong, very exotic, an oriental in genealogy. I would never wear it except around midnight to go out. And, surprisingly, it seems like a scent for a brunette, not a blond.

If you like to read about perfume history and search by notes, this decanter has a very well-organized site, and also gives formulation dates, notes and so on for each scent. I could spend a small fortune, tiny vial by tiny vial, on research.

But, hands-down, for me House of Guerlain is it. Every one of my favorite scents is one of theirs. And then, Caron, very, very hard to find in the States.

I must admit, though, I have worn bourbon as a perfume. I love the way a really good bottle smells when you just open it. Or even Jack Daniels, when you first break the seal and inhale.

I smell h e a v e n l y right now :)

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