The Sort of Thing I Like…

Rita Hayworth

Being poorly can be a good time to take stock…of all sorts of things. People are frequently kind enough to ask me, “Now come on, LW, what IS your favourite perfume? Climb down off that rose-trellis fence and tell us!” I usually truthfully reply that the answer is not so simple. I certainly do not have one single non-pareil. Favourites shift and change with the years – even with the days. One has phases (and fazes, too) & crazes. One moves on; and goes back, to rediscover treasures where before all was dross or mystery or simply non-connection. Like the castaway on that famous Desert Island one might choose a scent for the memories it evokes rather than for its intrinsic qualities. Or, again, am I allowed to choose a fragrance as it was in a certain era, in a certain formulation – at a specific stage of its history? For example, I’d have several Guerlains on the list if I could have them as they were 35 years ago but not necessarily now. (It’s all relative for were I twenty years older, I’d probably stipulate them being as they were in 1940).

I certainly tend to grow to love scents that at first whiff I dislike. The stone which the builders rejected etc etc. I guess I like a challenge and our animal nature enjoys an olfactory mystery. That’s how I got to adore Shalimar: initially I thought it smelled like a bonfire of old tyres and that weirdness drew me back time and again until I’d parsed it. Then came the ultimate accolade: a chorus of approval on a winter fenland train: “what IS that wonderful smell?”

Jicky, the same. I’d read about it in a memoir of very strange people, and first encounters with the scent found it equally and satisfyingly dotty. Meeting a new perfume is like making a new friend: aren’t we always intrigued by some mystery? Some oddity? We don’t want everything as clear as crystal from the off. Coming to love a scent can be a coup de foudre or a slow piecing together of a puzzle, a gradual coming to terms with the component facets.

I like a scent to have me laugh or at any rate smile: I enjoy being entertained. Elizabeth Arden’s stunningly exaggerated and comically ostentatious Red Door had a special place in my heart for a couple of hysterical and exuberantly floral Christmas periods back in the ’90’s: and as for that matching silky icing-sugar matching dusting powder! One of the greatest perfumed accessories ever. Long gone, of course. I fell madly in love with Annick Goutal when the brand first appeared over here – at Les Senteurs, naturally. Heure Exquise eau de parfum hung like golden nectar in those fluted gracious bottles – the headiest powdery blend of iris, sandalwood and rose. I remember uncorking a sample at a modest lunch in the Mountains of Mourne: the room went crazy. You can just imagine.

These I Have Loved:

Fahrenheit – in the days when it was blastingly powerful, blazingly aggressive. I used to fish old testers out of bins for one last precious drop. La Perla – in the good old times when they gave out free bottles of the parfum strength to all comers. The Samsara launch when the Buddhist tourists protested. The Demi-Jour launch when the sales girls’ Gainsborough Lady hats were said to repel the customers. With Demi-Jour I turned turtle over night: from hating it I became insanely, if briefly, intoxicated by its brassy fruity florality. Fracas – in the days when Fracas ruled the Earth I was given a bottle and took it to Egypt with me: that extreme climate suited it; the mad heat calmed and tamed it and brought out a fresh playful froth that billowed forth like ice-cooled flowery champagne.

But you’ll be wanting to know what my Les Senteurs’ favourites might be. Like a nasty little kiddie – “not going to tell you!” I don’t want to influence you in any way. One man’s meat is another’s Poison. O very well! It being Christmas, I’ll give you three current darlings:

Morn to Dusk – that gorgeous flash of creamy vanilla embedded in bergamot, streaming like a flamingo sunset across a Calabrian dusk. Soothing, tranquillising, addictive and ever so faintly disturbing.

Rose Anonyme – a rose perfume always makes me sit up and take notice. But then what happens? This one keeps my interest fully engaged with its poised sophistication and dark notes of patchouli and a trace of oud.

Myrrhiad – I first worked with oil of myrrh as a palliative for mouth ulcers. Here I love the exotic concept, the softening of the bitterness with black tea, amber and tonka.

Wishing You and Yours a very Merry Christmas, a Happy and Healthy New Year, and a Wonderful Peaceful Holiday!
Best thanks and warmest wishes to One and All.

LW.

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