Catherine over at Atypical 60 wrote a purse post recently that got me thinking about my own favorite handbags, and my favorites in general. Back when I ran a poetry blog I used to write about perfumes a lot, because I was deep in the throes of a perfume addiction back then – something I simply had to put a stop to, because collecting perfumes is a lot like collecting wines; one you get into collecting rare and unusual scents the price skyrockets, and unlike many other things I’ve obsessively purchased over the years, perfume simply cannot be consumed at rate that’s anywhere near the rate at which it can be purchased, and $300+ a bottle for something that’s going to sit on a shelf for years without ever making so much as a dent in the quantity just isn’t practical. There’s a LOT of selling and trading that has to be done to keep trying out new things, and unlike something like, say, wigs or purses, I just wasn’t getting enough use out of all the expensive stuff I was buying to justify staying on the wagon with it.
That said, I do still love perfume and keep a lot of it on hand. I just have to stay away from the expensive stuff and the blogs that review new and unusual scents (of which there are many, and one of the things to love about perfume is how musical and poetic the reviews of them are) and stand by the ones I currently love without venturing out into the beyond about it. Anyhoodle, here are some of my favorite perfumes, purses, and other stuff – here goes!
First up are two perfumes from the L’Artisan line – Safran Troublant and Piment Brulant. They were a part of the Les Epices de la Passion (spices of passion) limited edition coffret that came out in 2002. The third one in this set, Poivre Poulant, I still have lying around somewhere, I’m sure, but it didn’t make an impression on me; the Safran and Piment I’ve kept on-hand ever since. These were all three ‘foody’ scents, hence the title of the coffret, and I am a sucker for foody perfumes of either the sweet or spicy variety; you get both out of this set for sure.
The Safran and Piment are both discontinued and have been for some time, but keeping them in stock is still easy enough to do (for now), and when I find one it’s certainly cheaper than it used to be. With a little internet sleuthing, I can snag a bottle of Piment Brulant for around $40 compared to well over $100 back in the day. It’s a truly odd scent that I suspect most people would hate, but it doesn’t get complaints like some have that I’ve worn in the past (Tom Ford Black Orchid, I’m sniffing at you). The main note is, you guessed it, pimento, and the spiciness of this one is sharp and distinct. Yet the pimento/red pepper is not overwhelming, and it is balanced by notes of vanilla and chocolate. It is a truly unique scent, and I wear this one more out of the two.
The Safran can be had for around $75, which is still cheaper than its full value, but of the two it is the more wearable scent so it can still get a higher price. It’s described as a ‘spicy Oriental’ fragrance which if I recall was all the rage back in the 00s, it is light and sweet, and a little woody, but as an EDT it has zero staying power. I suppose the Piment Brulant, although it’s also an EDT, lasts longer because of the dominance of those red pepper notes; while I can still smell that one on my skin hours later, the Safran Troublant is all but gone by that time. Still, it’s very easy to spray on for a hot summer day without feeling overpowered, and the saffron note is so clean and sweet that it’s easy to dose on throughout the day without overpowering anyone. It’s very pretty, and smells unlike anything else I’ve ever tried.
One of the downsides of loving unusual perfumes is how difficult it is for me to pronounce them. Not to mention how freaking LONG some of the names are. Nothing is more awkward than having someone ask me what scent I’m wearing and having to respond with a paragraph in a bad French accent, but that’s what happens when I’m wearing this one. It’s truly lovely, though; cherry and almond are the dominating notes (in my opinion) and it wears beautifully throughout the day. It’s a sweet one, but I am fine with that, and the price is also getting up there where I rarely choose to go ($180) but every time I am out of it I find myself craving the scent again. It’s like flaming marzipan in a bottle, but the full name REALLY IS “Luctor et Emergo” by niche company “People of the Labyrinths,” so you’re going to have to spit out a mouthful every time someone asks you what it is that makes you smell so wonderful.
I always tried, REALLY tried, not to get into scents that were overly expensive and/or hard to find – but damned if Frederic Malle (nephew of the late French director Louis Malle) didn’t make it hard on me. Malle’s line of perfumes is top notch – such unique scents that are distinctive but wearable, and that last forever on the skin. I almost NEVER go through an entire bottle of perfume, but Le Parfum de Therese (yes, there it is again, another one I have to stumble over myself to pronounce to people) has that distinction. I wore this exclusively for a year before I began to cheat on it, and it’s still a hands-down fave for me. It has a strong scent of jasmine and also something fruity going on, but there is this underlying earthiness to it that gets stronger over time, and quite honestly, there’s something in this scent that reminds me of my mother and my childhood. My mom loved gardening and being outside, and there was always this “dirt” quality to her scent when she came inside after being out in the garden during the day – that sounds awful, but if you love the smell of a garden you can understand its unique pleasantness – and this perfume captures that beautifully. It is difficult to find – Barney’s sometimes carries it, but often does not, and although a lot of Malle’s perfumes can be bought from either Barney’s online or Neiman Marcus, this one cannot be had to so easily. It’s always available if you order it direct from the Malle store in France, but obviously you’re going to wait a good long while to get it. It’s also a whopper at $290 a bottle; I’m currently out of this one except for a little sampler I got off eBay, and it’s calling me to purchase it again as a full bottle, but I’m trying to resist. Still , there is something about this scent that fascinates me; that earthy note should be off-putting, but instead it is addicting, and even though it’s always there beneath the surface, this is not a perfume that gets a negative response – and yeah, I’ve worn those before (remind to tell you sometime about the perfume I just HAD to try because it was created to smell like a woman’s, um, garden).
Plus, it has a lovely story. The perfumer created it for his wife (Therese, obvs), and it was kept secret until after she died; she was the only one who smelled like this while she alive. Isn’t that romantic? LOVE.
Oooooooh, Lipstick Rose is so much easier to find, pay for, and pronounce, and it is more straightforward than the Therese. This was designed to smell like the lipstick the perfumer’s mother used to wear, and indeed, it smells like exactly that – not that I knew Schwieger’s mother, mind you, but this isn’t your latest MAC lipstick scent. It’s your grandmother’s old-school waxy red, rosy and sweet, with a strong whiff of talcum blended in. It hints a lot at baby powder, but it is so smooth and well-done and downright nostalgic that people will stop me in the street to ask what in the world I’m wearing. It’s also VERY strong with long-lasting power; I made the mistake of spritzing some on during a break when I was a classroom teacher and my students all freaked out when they came into the room later – it was too much for their not-yet dulled sense of smell! (I often tormented my students with odd scents until finally accepting that they just couldn’t handle the stranger stuff – their sniffers really are still too sensitive.) It is rare to find a scent that smells EXACTLY like what it is supposed to evoke; it is what I imagine Marilyn Monroe’s signature red lips must have smelled like after she applied. It’s a little more reasonable at $185, and it’s worth every dollar.
Ha! Now this one is a challenge; technically it is a cologne for men, but it’s usually described as unisex, and who cares anyway – this scent is amazing, if for no other reason than it works when it really shouldn’t. It’s supposed to be the smell of the city, and like the shape of the bottle suggests, one of the most dominant notes here is rubber, which is why it resembles a tire. I know how awful that sounds, but again, the scent pulls it off quite nicely. While you will agree at first sniff that, yep, that’s a rubber tire all right, the smell stays with you in a rather pleasing manner. Like Thierry Mugler’s Alien (which I also like), my first whiff of this was unpleasant, but after walking around awhile I noticed I was sniffing my wrist repeatedly, and also like Alien this is a scent that will stay with you forever – two days later, I was still smelling this on the sleeve of the sweater I wore the day I tried it. It has a rough opening, but the drydown is really pleasing and long-lasting; if you can handle how unusual it is you will love this one. Plus, it’s inexpensive (you can snag it online for under $30), no one else will smell like you, and it’s easy to find. Many unusual scents I’ve tried are so evocative that although you like to smell them you don’t want to smell like them, but this is one that I think pulls off both. If the rubber smell overwhelms you, though, try out that Mugler Alien, as it is in the same scent range but distilled by some other notes that water down the rubber a little. Alien, however, has even longer lasting power than Black – if you don’t believe me, go to any department store counter where Mugler is sold (which is pretty much everywhere) and give it a spritz. I swear two days later you’ll still be smelling the stuff on your clothes.
This one is easy to find; I snatched it up at Ulta when the saleswoman helping me was wearing it and I was mesmerized by the scent. My bottle was right around $100, so not super-reasonable, but not bad, price-wise. I later realized what it was that drew me to such a clean, mainstream scent (in case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I love scents with something odd or earthy lurking beneath the surface) – this is the exact smell of my grandmother’s vanity where she used to get ready every morning. I swear I think it matches the smell of Irish Spring soap, which is what she always used; that or something else she used to clean either her face or the countertops. It’s a smell that is long gone for me, anyway, and every time I sniff this I am taken right back to her bathroom counter with her light-up mirror and Pond’s cold cream. It is incredibly crisp and clean, and there are probably a ton of other crisp and clean scents out there to match this one (I think Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana is one that is well-done, or if you want to spend a fortune on one, try Bond No. 9’s The Scent of Peace, which is amazing, but it’s the Price of Wealthy) but something about the specific construction of this one is my grandmother’s vanity table, all the way. So it’s a total home run for me, plus as I said it can be found easily.
This is another fresh and clean one, with a little more weight to it than the Chloe. Plus, it’s got a fun story, in my opinion – Oribe is a hair product line that, while pricey as hell, is still pretty fabulous. Yes, a can of their mousse costs almost $40, but it is rich and luxurious and will last me at least five months, which is crazy. Their Rough Luxury hair wax is another winner for me; less than half an inch on my fingers and run through my hair in the morning gives my baby fine locks the weight I need and the hold is fantastic. The story with their perfume is that so many people were raving about the great scent of their hair products that they decided, what the hell, and made it into a perfume, titled it Cote de’Azur, and now it sells like gangbusters. How awesome is that? It’s really nothing unusual, and is another fresh, fruity, and clean scent that you can find dozens of in any department store, but it does have a nice zing added it to by way of tuberose, which, if you’ve ever smelled tuberose you know can go overboard easily (Fracas, I’m looking your way – thanks for the massive headache) but is well-utilized here. By the way, they also make a little hair refresher spray that is great for sweaty or non-hairwashing days.
Carven is another late entry into the fruity/floral/clean category; it’s nothing fancy but it is very well-done and affordable – I think I got mine for a bit under $100 around Christmastime. It is a white floral that is quite clean without that detergenty-smell component that can often happen with such a scent (as much as I adore Bond No. 9s Scent of Peace, as soon as someone sniffed me and noted how much it smelled like a laundry dryer sheet the love was tainted). It also has a touch of the earthiness I love so much that makes it a bit warm in the drydown stages, and it is quite long-lasting. Plus, I just love the milky glass bottle.
And now, to wrap this bitch up:
This perfume closes the post (yeah I know, I never did get around to purses) for several reasons. First of all, Black Orchid was the first perfume from fashion designer Tom Ford to hit the market back in 2006, and if you love perfume at all you probably know what happened after. Ford’s fragrance line is now quite a big deal, and quite expensive. Black Orchid was pricey but not overly so back in the day, and while as far as connoisseurs of perfume go this one isn’t even all that revolutionary, it is one of the most unusual scents in my little arsenal. It’s also the perfume I purchased that sent me into my first obsession with fragrance, along with Viktor & Rolph’s Flowerbomb (another one I love but that I’ve declined to write about to save time; plus who still doesn’t know about Flowerbomb by now? But it’s fabulous and worthy of all the attention it has received). Black Orchid is one of the most difficult scents for me to wear, not that it does anything odd on my skin, but if anything I own is going to offend people, it’s going to be this one. This is the one I tried to wear in the classroom that finally sent the students into revolt. The overpowering baby powder smell of Lipstick Rose did distract them quite a bit (side note: I purchased the Lipstick Rose lotion to go with my perfume back in the day, and it was actually the lotion that bowled them over. I am not kidding when I say those Malle scents are potent stuff), but it was nothing compared to the offense Black Orchid unleashed upon their olfactory systems. A kid in the back of the class one day finally broke down and exclaimed, “Mrs. Cox, I am sorry, but what IS that smell? What are you trying to do to us! I just can’t take it anymore!” Needless to say I never wore it to school again. I also stopped refreshing my scent in the classroom – started sneaking into the faculty restroom to do it, which now that I think of it, probably pissed other people off, too. Oops.
I felt the same way when I tested Black Orchid out in Nordstrom; my initial response to this was just, ugh. It was so weird, and SO very strong, and I couldn’t get away from it soon enough. But an hour or so later I was back buying a bottle, because the drydown of this stuff is divine. You have to endure the initial blast, for sure, but it transforms into something sweeter and more warm, with that initial black truffle (there’s the earthy again) that never goes away, and doesn’t even fade very much. I think the sweetness intensifies over time, rather than the dark musky scent fading, so what you end up with is a unique balance of the two. Overall, I’d say this is a very mature scent, in the best use of that word; so many perfumes are geared towards 20-somethings with more sensitive noses and a leaning towards innocence in their fragrances; but Black Orchid is all woman. It is haughty and a little standoffish, and utterly confident. Wear it with pride, ladies.
So, I did not in any way get to writing about handbags, but I’ll do that later. I haven’t written about perfume in forever, so this was fun. Thanks to Catherine for inspiring me with all of her favorites she posts on her blog! And if you’ve not checked her out yet, please do. She writes every blog post with such passion and detail and a great big dollop of fun. She’s lovely.