Last week I was wearing a little dab of Sonoma Scent Studio's Fireside Intense, and I offered my hand to a friend to smell. "It smells like that little piece of meat that's fallen through the grill and is burning to a crisp on the coals" was the apologetic response, and I suppose that should join Kevin's master list of perfume insults, but you know, I wasn't insulted at all. That little piece of sizzling meat smells awfully good, after all, doesn't it? When pressed, my friend agreed it smelled good, just not like perfume.
Fireside Intense is, as you can guess from the above (assuming you didn't already pick it up from the name), intense. It is especially so in the opening (and my friend smelled it a few minutes in), where a smoky leather accord, along with deep woods, does smell both animalic and, well, on fire, and there are light undertones of sizzling pine needles and smoldering rubber (the notes: guaiacwood, nagarmotha (Cyperus), Texas cedar, Himalayan cedar, Indian sandalwood, agarwood, birch tar, cade, leather, oakmoss absolute, castoreum, ambergris). Once it dries down, it's softer, not quite so meaty or unforgiving, and the smoke calms enough that you won't be looking around to see what is burning — it just smells like smooth woods with a whisper of leather, all slightly charred. It is beautifully dry throughout. I wouldn't call it a comfort scent (for a comfort scent from Sonoma Scent Studio, see Bois Epices) but it's perfect for a winter warm-me-up.
If Fireside Intense sounds like more than you'd like to take on, Fireside is a milder, smoother and sweeter take on the subject (notes: Indian sandalwood, Himalayan cedar, Texas cedar, guaiacwood, nagarmotha (Cyperus), birch tar, and myrrh). There is very little smoke, and no leather at all, and the woods aren't quite so dark. When I insisted that my friend smell that one too, she agreed that it smelled like more like perfume, albeit probably one for men. I like both versions, but I like Fireside Intense much more. Best of all is the two fragrances layered: the result has a touch of sweetness but no more; the woodsmoke is toned down a notch and the leather is a bit quieter.
The conversation with my friend reminded me of something that seems obvious but that I too frequently forget: that many people wear perfume as something of a fashion accessory. They might prefer to wear something that they think smells good, but even more importantly, they want it to smell good to others, hence the many polls you see on fragrance forums about "what fragrances you get complimented on". It is a perfectly valid reason to wear perfume, it just isn't why I wear perfume.
I wear perfume because I like smells. It would never occur to me to ask why I'd want to smell like burning leaves, or dirt, or bark, or anything else — why shouldn't I smell like burning leaves? And while I don't parade around town in Yves Saint Laurent M7, I don't much care if a fragrance is meant to be worn by men, women, or unicorns. I don't get compliments on my fragrance often, and when I do, I'm disconcerted — if someone else can smell my perfume, it means I applied more than I meant to.
Why do you wear perfume? Here is the poll (and feel free to elaborate in the comments):