Perfume and Cigarette Smoke

Lauren Bacall

Once perfume leaves the bottle, it isn't experienced in a vacuum. When you apply perfume to skin, it mingles with your body chemistry, then radiates into the environment to compete — or harmonize — with the aromas around you. Coffee, car exhaust, thunderstorms, and the brisket you had for lunch all play against your perfume. For some people, cigarette smoke is the biggest competitor to their perfume. For some perfumes, it actually seems to work.

I'm not a smoker. I smoked one cigarette years ago and threw up, and that was the end of that. Still certain fragrances seem to beg for a sheath of cigarette smoke. Supposedly, Ernest Daltroff created Caron Tabac Blond to mask the cigarette smoke lingering on women brazen enough to be smoking just post-World War I. Molinard Habanita was even originally used to scent actual cigarettes. To me, though, perfumes that smell like tobacco don't necessarily blend with the ozone and nicotine of a burning cigarette.

Instead, dry chypres call to my mind ladies waving cigarettes in the air as they settle into their tables at Le Cirque. Guerlain Parure, for instance, to me screams Chanel suits and Benson & Hedges. Chanel Cristalle is women smoking by the pool at the country club. Estée Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss might be a good smoking scent, too. Civet seems to blend well with cigarette smoke, and I bet Guerlain Jicky or Mouchoir de Monsieur would be brilliant worn in a cloud of nicotine. I also associate Estée Lauder Youth Dew with cigarette smoke because my grandmother wore the bath oil while smoking her way through several thousand Winstons.

Likewise, some perfumes are patently bad on smokers. Fruity florals and cigarettes are a recipe for a migraine. Fruity orientals, like Christian Dior Poison, might fare a little better, but in my mind the devil's den smells like a smoky nightclub at the height of the Poison-wearing 1980s. I can't imagine a powdery perfume blending well with cigarette smoke, and smoking while wearing a delicate floral defeats the purpose of the perfume altogether (smoking and Christian Dior Diorissimo? Sacrilege.) Etat Libre d'Orange Jasmin et Cigarette already smells like cigarettes, so smoking one while wearing it is hardly worth the effort.

What do you think of the blend of perfume and cigarette smoke? Smokers, do you think about how smoke blends with your fragrance? Nonsmokers, do certain fragrances complement smoking better than others?

Shop for perfume

Parfums Raffy


Leave a comment, or read more about commenting at Now Smell This. Here's a handy emoticon chart.

  1. ggperfume says:

    I hate the smell of tobacco smoke myself, but have always liked the description of Estee Lauder Azuree as appropriate for deeply-tanned women smoking around the pool. Youth Dew and smoke sounds like a sickening combination, however; but then my YD-wearing mother hated tobacco smoke, so I’ve never associated the two smells.

    • Angela says:

      Azuree–another chypre! I swear something about oak moss seems to work with nicotine. I can definitely imagine an Azuree-wearing woman blotting out her cigarette.

  2. dee says:

    I smoked Newport 100’s–menthol cigarettes–for a little over 10 years, and wore YSL Opium (readers are thinking, GROSS! :).
    Really, I was just a little girl, and those things made me feel like a woman. I can’t really comment on how the two worked together, but I can tell you that today’s Opium doesn’t have the sparkle of the dusty old bottle of parfum I dabbed myself with religiously.
    Anyway, in my somewhat underdeveloped brain, cigarettes and Opium meant, “I’m a woman, and I mean business.”

    I’ve since smoked some very fine Turkish tobacco from a hookah, which was a delightfully aromatic experience; this, I think, is the sort of smoke that goes very well with perfume… though I wasn’t wearing any during this delightful experience.

    Next time… maybe Al Oudh?

    • Angela says:

      I don’t think I would know what hookah smoke smells like! That’s interesting.

      I forgot all about menthol cigarettes. They probably blend with a whole different creature of perfume.

      • NaturalSelektion says:

        Hookah smoke actually smells like whatever flavor of tobacco you’re smoking. I myself only smoked for 2 weeks when I was 12 because I thought it was cute. I stopped smoking once I realized that I had a craving. I’re thinking, “How does a 12 year old smoke cigarettes?” Well, you sneak around with your friends when you’re not at home. Anyway, I’ve had the pleasure of smoking peach, watermelon and I think strawberry out of a hookah. It smells delicious. Its completely different from pipe tobacco…which I also love the smell of. My mom is a smoker and she wore Dune, Narcisse, Ysatis when I was younger and those seemed to work well.

        • Angela says:

          Fruity tobacco! It doesn’t sound like it would smell very nice, but I’ll definitely take your word for it since I haven’t tried it.

          Your list of your mom’s perfumes reminded me of Narcisse Noir, which I bet goes well with cigarette smoke.

          • nozknoz says:

            I’ve never smoked, hate cigarette smoke, but I used to enjoy the scent of water pipes (shiisha) in Egyptian cafes. Apple shiisha was particularly nice, but think of it as a dried fruit and tobacco leaf scent, rather than fresh fruit.

          • Angela says:

            Dried fruit sounds a lot nicer with tobacco. Watermelon? Not so much.

  3. Zazie says:

    Cigarette smoke is a smell that I really loathe: I do not manage to wear some really beautiful perfumes, such as SL fumerie Turque or Borneo, because their vague reminder of a cold ash-tray…

    On the other hand, I like the smell of cigars.
    But all perfumes seems just wrong with a good cigar!
    If I smell cigar smoke, I turn my head and get ready to run into my father’s arms, no matter how far I am from home (and from my father).

    But the smokey scent I love most is the one coming from tobacco pipes. I loooove that smell. I’ll wear it if someone bottles it. I’d pair it with soft flolar and resinous notes; roses, jasmin, myrrh, musks, bezoin, vanilla…. I think of Lyric and Homage, of Jicky and Shalimar, of most classic Carons, of Jabu and Songes, of musk ravageur and Chergui. Or, if you are a man, smoke your pipe wearing Sienne l’hiver or Bois d’ombrie, Cuir de russie or Invasion Barbare…

    I would also like to talk about other types of smokes, but I’m pretty long already ;)

    • Angela says:

      I agree–pipe smoke smells really nice. You can really smell sweet tobacco in it. Cigar smoke, though, I’m not wild about up close, although my neighbor sometimes smokes a cigar on his porch, and the smoke, diluted by a hundred feet, is nice. It sounds like you have good personal connections with cigar smoke, though, through your dad.

    • Julia says:

      Great suggestions, Zazie. My grandfather never smoked a pipe or wore Old Spice, but I can just imaging the smell of them mingling with the body chemistry of someone you love and it seems just about perfect.

      Other than cigarettes, pipes, and hookahs, the only other smoke I can think of is strongly associated with patchouli but I’m not sure if that is a compliment to the fragrance or a cover-up! ;)

      • Angela says:

        Patchouli and incense. Blecch.

  4. olenska says:

    When I was a smoker, I only used to light up out-of-doors at my husband’s request. The smell of the smoke from my Nat Shermans Touch of Clove cigarettes combined with the scent of the pine, holly, yew, and juniper trees growing just outside our apartment to create a unique aroma easily dispersed by the slightest breeze. Though I quit 3 years ago, Annick Goutal’s Encens Flamboyant reminds me of that aroma so clearly it is as if I have been transported back in time.

    • Angela says:

      That sounds really nice! Anything that smells like Encens Flamboyant would be nice, though.

      • olenska says:

        I used to wear a pure frankincense oil that my sister claimed made me smell of “old cigarette ashes”. I was never able to “read” that particular note– but I also wasn’t a smoker back then. Now, I can absolutely detect the allusion to cigarettes in Encens Flamboyant, and I wonder if my frankincense of yore had any relation to the “vieille église” (old church) frankincense that is in EF. Did it take becoming a smoker to be able to pick up on it?

        • Angela says:

          I know I never would have thought of it if not for your comment, and I’m not a smoker. Maybe it does take a smoker to pick it up.

  5. Robin R. says:

    What a creative and original idea for a column! Trust you, Angela.

    The smell of cigarette smoke is the most hideous smell in the world to me (well, except for maybe corpses rotting in the sun, but I’m only guessing).

    I actually try very hard to consciously remove that instinctive association between cigarette smoke and certain vintage chypres, leathers and orientals. It threatens to spoil many an otherwise gorgeous fragrance for me.

    The first time I smelled Dior Addict, I was transported directly to a smoky bar at closing time, my clothes reeking of stale smoke and fresh smoke hanging heavily in the air. (Those were the days.) Throw in a little second-hand sweat and a blend of loud seventies/eighties perfume — Poison, Giorgio, Chloe, Opium, Obsession — and the olfactory picture is complete. It’s amazing that I can stomach Addict at all, and still more amazing that in some certain crazy nostalgic moods I actually quite like it. ;-)

    • Angela says:

      Ack! That description of Addict plus everything else! Add a Foreigner soundtrack, and I’ll be off to find some Pepto Bismol.

    • Rappleyea says:

      I think I’ve been in that same bar! ;-)

      • Angela says:

        And had to wash your hair immediately afterward, I bet!

  6. k-scott says:

    What an intersting post Angela! I think that a lot of older perfumes (Caron, Guerlain, Chanel, etc) may be associated with the smell of smoke because they are from a time when it was more socially acceptable to smoke socially and in public places (airports & airplanes, offices, etc.). I mean, a perfume that is made specifically with its interaction with cigarette smoke in mind, like Tabac Blond? Just inconceivable to imagine a modern perfume like that. Overall, I pretty much agree with your conclusions- chypres + cigarette smoke = an intriguing combination; fruity florals + cigarette smoke = a disgusting combination.

    • Angela says:

      I wonder how much perfumers actually thought about how cigarette smoke would mix with their work? Maybe lots of perfumers smoked, too, so they unconsciously created fragrances that blended with their background smell.

      • mjr17 says:

        YES exactly!

        • Angela says:

          I’d love to ask a perfumer who has been around for a good, long while whether that’s true.

      • Rappleyea says:

        Wouldn’t smoking have ruined their olfactory abilities?

        • Angela says:

          You’d think. But I still bet there were–and probably are–smoking noses.

          • March says:

            I haven’t read to the bottom yet, but I think quite a few of our favorite perfumers smoke, to the extent that they are European and, at least as far as I can see, smoking’s more accepted. I think the idea that it would interfere with their work makes their eyes roll.

            Also, my suggestions have already been listed, but Azuree and Cristalle seem made for smokers.

          • Angela says:

            I think you’re right on the money there, even without having read to the bottom.

        • miss kitty v. says:

          I wish I could answer this scientifically, because I don’t remember the how and why of this, but I know Luca Turin said that smoking actually increases your sense of smell. I think it was in the Emperor of Scent (Chandler Burr) that he said this. I marked the page because I thought it was interesting–smart, right? Yeah, it was a library book.

          • Angela says:

            Fascinating! I have that book at home. I’ll dig around in it tonight.

          • Queen_Cupcake says:

            For those of us who don’t own the book: do a Google search on The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr. Then go to the result from Google showing this link: You will see the cover of Burr’s book. Now find the search window (“search this book”) and type smoking. One of the results will show page 263 and you will see the quote.

          • Joe says:

            I don’t believe it for a minute, but I’m just a born skeptic. :D

          • miss kitty v. says:

            Joe, I think I just want to believe it, because my anti-perfume co-worker claims to have super-human powers of smell, and is a smoker. I was hoping that maybe when she quits (for the 10,000th time) she will be able to tolerate perfume. :) I can dream.

  7. I smoked clove cigarettes for all about a year and then only when I was drinking — the clove & vanilla mixed well with White Russians & chocolate martinis. Like you, I eventually got sick off of one and haven’t touched one since.

    I wore Chanel No. 5 at the time and its sometimes vaguely smokey base mixed well enough with the clove. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m wearing Shalimar today, but I think that there’s something about it that would compliment the smell of cigarette smoke, though admittedly clove cigarettes often have an incense-y quality about them when burning — truthfully the only reason I could tolerate them was because they didn’t smell like most cigarettes.

    Maybe it’s just that Shalimar brings to mind some lady in a smokey corner booth in a Shanghai bar. In my mind it just works.

    • Angela says:

      Shalimar has a dose of civet, too. I can definitely imagine it blending with cigarette smoke, and your image of the woman in a bar in Shanghai fits Shalimar well!

    • Zazie says:

      I love your woman-in-a-bar-in-Shangai-smoking-wearing-Shalimar picture. Shalimar seems to be meant for doing all sort of things…Preferably in exotic settings!

  8. elizabethnorena says:

    I see your point, but I really hate the smell of smoke. I love the smell of tobacco, on the other hand! Maybe today’s a Tabac Aurea day…

    • Angela says:

      Tobacco leaf and tobacco flowers both smell so nice! Not ashtray-like at all.

      • mjr17 says:

        I agree! Tobacco leaf is so lovely. I live in a converted (to loft apartments) old tobacco warehouse, and the whole building smells like tobacco leaf 24/7. You get used to it, of course. But whenever I come home from a trip, I always take several deep inhales because it smells so delicious. I love that my place has its own pleasant aroma…steeped in history, too!

        • Angela says:

          That’s amazing that it has permeated the wood and lasted so long! Much better than living in a former tire warehouse, I guess.

        • Julia says:

          Wow! What a great place to live!

  9. DannyAngel says:

    Orientals like Shalimar, Tabu and Angel mix so well with cigarette smoke! I always imagine the scent of perfume and smoke to permeate those old Hollywood actresses; to me, glamour is loud perfume and a cigarette.

    • Angela says:

      And high heels! I think the image Robin chose for this post is brilliant. Bacall might very well be wearing a dab of Shalimar.

      • Julia says:

        Yes. And I imagine Hepburn in Vol de Nuit.

        • Angela says:

          I can see that, too. It’s just forceful but just feminine enough for her.

    • JeninDC says:

      I agree. My mother wears Shalimar and I think it smells so much better on her than on others because it’s always mixed with the smell of her cigarettes and her leather cigarette case.

      • Angela says:

        Maybe like I associate Youth Dew with cigarettes you think of Shalimar and cigarettes together, too. I love the detail of the leather case!

  10. mjr17 says:

    What an thought-provoking post, Angela! You ask a lot of interesting questions about the relationship between wearing and/or creating perfume to smoking. But I have to admit I chuckled a bit while reading your post. I was a light smoker (5 cigarettes per day) for several years during college, after which I came to my senses and quit. And, as any former smoker will tell you, smoking totally kills your sense of smell. You can’t smell anything! Subtly in perfume composition? NO WAY! Even food just doesn’t taste very good. The thing is, you don’t realize any of this until you QUIT! Within months of quitting, I began to smell things again, which was both good and bad. The good came from being able to enjoy all the pleasant scents from nature, perfume, etc. that had been out of my olfactory reach – as well as being able to enjoy food again. The bad part was that I became extremely sensitive to unpleasant smells (including cigarette smoke!).
    ~As an aside, during my smoking years I wore TBS White Musk perfume oil, which actually held up well against smoke and the mixture smelled good. or so I think ;) ~
    My point is that, you may be onto to something, Angela, about the construction of perfumes in a bygone era when smoking was the norm – or was ate least permitted everywhere! Perfumes had to be able to stand up against: 1) the severely compromised noses of smokers and 2) the extremely polluted air smoke-filled spaces. :)

    • Angela says:

      I’ve heard that ex-smokers are among the people most sensitive to cigarette smoke. Is that true for you, too?

      I think you make a lot of good points. I wonder if JCE’s more recent clear, beautiful, and airy fragrances would have been made in the days when there was more smoke in the air? Of course, they would have been a real stylistic departure, too.

      • mjr17 says:

        Oh most definitely! I react almost immediately to any exposure to smoke and it is unbearable. I all but completely stopped socializing because all my friends were frequenting very smoky bars (even while few of them were smokers themselves). Our city has since gone smoke-free – so now I can actually go have drinks with friends now!

        You know, I highly doubt JCEs creations would or could have been made in the smoking-era – and for my own part, I know that those fragrances would have made no sense to me back when I was smoking because I *literally* would only be able to get the faintest whiff of the strongest opening note. Now, of course, I’m a huge JCE fan!

        • Angela says:

          The city I live in has gone smoke-free, too, and it’s really nice. A lot of people were skeptical at first that some businesses would go under, but it hasn’t happened at all. JCE-wearers rejoice!

          • I love the smoke-free stance that most cities are now adopting. I almost died while in Tokyo because there really aren’t non-smoking sections and -everyone- smokes.

          • mjr17 says:

            What’s even more amazing – i forgot to mention – is that my city is in the hotbed of “tobacca country.” Talk about renouncing the past!

          • Joe says:

            A, I’m *amazed* how long it took for PDX to go smokeless. When I visited in Fall 2008 I couldn’t believe my nose!

          • Angela says:

            Portland may have more than its share of graphic designers, bicycle builders, and musicians, but we’re pretty darned blue collar, too.

    • bergere says:

      Excellent point! I tried a few cigs, but thankfully I never picked up the habit. Many of my friends smoked, though, and it was always a little weird how their experience of food was so different from mine, and how those who wore scent all seemed to wear very strong fragrances, heavily applied. I used to think this was to mask the odor in their clothes, but it may just have been because they couldn’t smell the scent on themselves.

      • Angela says:

        That makes a lot of sense to me.

  11. Abyss says:

    Great topic! I’m not a smoker and, thankfully, my man quit a while ago but it’s good to know what fragrances work if you ever have to socialize in a smoky environment, right?

    It’s got to be something with a bit of heft to cut through the smoke but without nauseating everyone around you so it makes sense that all those dry chypres work so well.

    It’s funny because I was thinking along the same lines but for eating out/dinner parties. Do you think it could be an idea for another post, perhaps? I always think that Amouage Lyric is perfect for this – it doesn’t radiate enough to put other diners off their food but it has that weird/wonderful combination of sweet and meaty which makes me think of dining rooms where the scents of rich red wines, truffles, pate and steak mix with ladies’ fragrances and create that very special atmosphere that dinner parties have.

    • Angela says:

      Now I’m craving steaks and truffles!

      Perfume and food is a great idea for a post. I’ll definitely follow up on that one. I remember a story about MFK Fisher and Angelo Pellegrini judging wine at a multi-day contest. Pellegrini was adamant that the judges not wear perfume and kept casting dirty looks at Fisher, until he found out it was the hand soap from her hotel room that she used that he kept smelling.

      • ggperfume says:

        Abyss has a great idea, Angela. I look forward to your posting it.

        • Angela says:

          I definitely will!

          • Abyss says:


      • Abyss says:

        I made myself crave a spritz of Lyric which I’m going to go and indulge :)

  12. Daisy says:

    Strangely enough I like the smell of a cigarette BEFORE it’s lit…the pungent smell of dried tobacco leaf….and I sort of like a waft of good cigar smoke and definitely nice pipe tobacco….but light that cigarette and I run for the hills! Very few smells are as repugnant to me as the smell of someone who has been smoking…yesterday! bleccch! (although I have to concede Razz’s point —rotting corpses would be hard to beat in the disgusting stench catagory).
    Does Lauren Bacall look sexy and dangerous smoking a cigarette? Yeah, she does…..glad I don’t have to smell her though.

    • Angela says:

      That’s one thing about movies: you can’t smell them.

      I was talking to some friends yesterday who said they know a guy who when he was a kid would be sent to his grandma’s from time to time to be babysat. His grandma spent a fair amount of time watching game shows while drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. When she was babysitting, she gave her grandson (now an adult) an O’Douls and a pack of candy cigarettes, and they watched game shows together.

      • Daisy says:

        I remember seeing gum “cigarettes” when I was a kid —even then it struck me as odd —-my mom was almost militant as an anti-smoker no smoked in or around our home! —and then I’d see my friends with these gum cigarettes pretending they were smoking…it was bizarre…and I was all “don’t bring those over to my house cuz my mom will be all over your case!”

        • Angela says:

          Gum cigars, too. Remember those?

          • ggperfume says:

            Do I! “Pink Owl” and “Golden Dragon” were my two faves. Of course, we always wore the paper labels as rings after chewing the goods. Some specialty candy stores still carry them as well as candy cigarettes, Beeman’s gum, etc.

          • Angela says:

            Beeman’s gum! That was a good one.

  13. Goose says:

    A very original piece indeed, Angela, and it’s funny you mention Jicky… I remember being in a bar several years ago, back when smoking in bars wasn’t banned here yet, and the place was full of people smoking cigarettes. Now, I’m no fan of smoke but I can deal with it for a bit. After a while I wanted to get some fresh air so I went towards the exit, then walked by a guy who seemed to be wearing a GOOD dose of Jicky (I’m quite positive it was Jicky anyway) – it was a revelation. The citrus and lavender really peeked through the dense smoke like a burst of light, with the civet making it extra interesting and unusual… I realized then how neutralizing yet complementing a good perfume can be when mixed with smoke.

    • Angela says:

      I can imagine it! I haven’t actually smelled them together, but Jicky and cigarette smoke seem like they’d mix well.

  14. Janice says:

    Such an interesting post, Angela! I don’t smoke but I actually love the smell of cigarette smoke. I used to enjoy going out with a group of friends, many of the smokers, and just inhaling the second-hand smoke. I didn’t know as much about perfume then and hadn’t experimented with nearly as many different types, so I don’t really have a sense of what worked best in that atmosphere—and now of course we’re smoke-free here too. Oddly, though, I’m not a great fan of tobacco notes in perfume, though… or only rarely.

    • Angela says:

      To me, tobacco and smoked cigarette are distinctly different smells. I can see not liking tobacco, though, if you aren’t a fan of sweet notes like amber.

  15. Something that seems to be little-known is that most perfumers smoked — certainly the great Germaine Cellier — and that many of the ones I know now smoke too. So there you go. Perfume appreciation is not a matter of having a nose like a bloodhound, it’s a matter of discerning notes.
    The blend of galbanum, jasmine and oak moss is particularly suited to the smell of cigarettes because it does give off a faint ashtray aroma, hence the association between green chypres and cigarettes. As you say, most classic fragrances were composed for environments where there was quite a lot of smoking and harmonize well with it.

    • Angela says:

      No wonder I linked green chypres and cigarette smoke! They just seem so natural together.

      Of course Germaine Cellier smoked. I can’t even imagine that she wouldn’t. I can see her as one of those dames that occasionally let the cigarette dangle, too, like Coco Chanel in that famous photo where she’s pinning up a model’s hem.

    • mjr17 says:

      Of course, if you can’t smell well enough to discern notes, then the smoking is not working for you. Perhaps there was a time when cigarettes did not adversely affect one’s sense of smell? hmmm…maybe it’s all the chemical fillers in cigarettes these days.

      • I’m talking about perfumers today, and amongst the most well-considered. I see Tania posted a link of Luca’s, which I was just going to look up, where he confirms what I say. I seem to recall Luca mentioning somewhere that smoking actually made the perception of smells linger longer, but I can’t remember where he wrote that.

        • Joe says:

          See ref. above to p. 263 of “The Emperor of Scent.” Sounds like a plausible scientific explanation, but I still only half buy it. Interesting.

        • Angela says:

          Do read Turin’s post on cigarettes and smoking. It’s a great read.

          • mjr17 says:

            I just that Jasmin et Cigarette post. Very beautiful and interesting!

        • mjr17 says:

          Hmmm, I’m highly suspect of any such claims that smoking enhances one’s sense of smell. Perhaps in theory, a single cigarette here or there might heighten the senses; but I don’t in any way think it’s way think regular smoking improves smelling capabilities. I also think it probably takes actually *being* a former smoker to assess the positive or negative impact of smoking on one’s *own* sense of smell. If a person never smoked, they could not actually predict how their nose would be affected; and conversely, if a smoker (even a smoking perfumer) never *quits* smoking (and I mean serious quits smoking, being around it, etc.), they won’t know how much it impacted their sense of smell. I’m not trying to completely reject the alternative theory (well, I guess I sort of am :) ), but I do think it goes against what most people experience.
          I wonder if there are any other former smokers who can chime in?

          • Angela says:

            That’s a good point. If your frame of reference is always as a smoker, you may not know what you’re missing. On the other side, if you’ve never been a smoker, you might overestimate how smoking impairs sense of smell. I guess someone who has been both, like you, probably has the best sense of it.

          • mjr17 says:

            On the other hand, it could be a highly individual thing, too. I mean, as far as I can tell, the standard line is that smoking affects smell-sense (which I personally experienced), but that doesn’t mean that everyone will the same reaction. Perhaps part those smoking-perfumers were led to work in perfume was because their smell-sense was heightened, more precise, etc. as a result of smoking. Haha…It could be a pitch for a career in the biz – “Do you smoke? Did you notice when you started smoking that you could suddenly detect and differentiate odors like never before? If so, you may have a future in perfume creation…” LOL ;)

        • March says:

          D, I think Sophia Grojsman smokes. (I also think LT smokes, yes?) Surely many/most of the perfumers you know are smokers?

          • March, given the general cigarette-aversion, I’d be loath to name names…

  16. miss kitty v. says:

    I smoked from the time I was twelve until I was twenty five, and then took it back up again for a year when I was thirty. The smell makes me absolutely ill now, but I do have some strange smoking nostalgia. I think the reason that I don’t get cigarettes at all from Jasmin et Cigarette is because to me it just smells like the perfume I wore when I was in high school… which probably mingled with the cigarettes I was smoking. All of my friends at that time smoked, so a lot of my cigarette/perfume memories come from them, since I couldn’t really smell myself. Ysatis went well with cigarettes, as did Anais Anais and Lou Lou. Poison did not.

    • Angela says:

      Thanks for the firsthand observations! It’s interesting that the cigarette in Jasmin et Cigarettes doesn’t come out for you since it seems so integrally part of some perfume.

      • miss kitty v. says:

        I know, it’s weird. The best way I can describe it is that it smells like my friend Kim: so that would definitely include cigarettes, plus whatever it is she wears. She’s heaviest smoker I know, but she never smells like smoke to me–just a really nice, floral/musky perfume. Well, she smells like Jasmin et Cigarette, so I guess she *does* smell like cigarettes. Am I making any sense?? I think I need to call it a day here. :)

        • Angela says:

          I completely get it! (But don’t let that stop you from calling it a day, if calling it a day means going home for a nap and some time with a good novel.)

    • nozknoz says:

      In The Guide, LT considers that the tobacco part of Jasmin et Cigarette is cold pipe rather than cigarette. That might be another reason that you are OK with it, Miss Kitty, and, actually, I thought what you said made sense.

      I rather liked Jasmin et Cigarette when I tested it, but I’ve never smoked and cannot imagine wearing it and having people think I smell like a smoker – yikes! Nonetheless, I am certainly hanging onto the sample to sniff from time to time. :-)

      • Angela says:

        From time to time I play with the idea of buying a bottle of Jasmin et Cigarette, but I haven’t done it yet.

    • ggperfume says:

      I can imagine Lou Lou ameliorating the ciggie stench– but Anais Anais? Those sweet white flowers would amplify the nauseating effect of cigs for me!

      • Angela says:

        I agree. It’s hard to imagine Anais Anais and smoke together.

  17. :-) Coincidentally, Luca wrote about this very phenomenon a couple of years ago in NZZ Folio, and we regularly talk about it still:

    • BChant says:

      Did he also not write about cigarette smoking enhancing one’s ability to smell in The Emperor of Scent?

      • pigoletto says:

        Really? When my partner finally was able to quit smoking for good several years ago, after the month or so of being withdrawal sick etc, one of his first regular comments was how he could actually smell and taste things much differently (clearer).

        • Angela says:

          I’ve heard the same thing time after time. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say their sense of smell improved with smoking.

    • Angela says:

      I read the post just now, and damn it he writes about it so much better than I did. It was terrific–thanks for the link!

  18. BChant says:

    I think that a perfect cigarette and perfume pairing would be Aramis. As someone suggested earlier the oakmoss would work well with the cigarette and the citrus would lighten the effect all together.

    • Angela says:

      Great suggestion! That reminds me, too, that I need to smell some Aramis again soon–it’s been too long.

  19. fluffypuppy says:

    It’s funny you mentioned fruity florals not working with cigarette smoke because when I first smelled Parisienne–which I like, but think is too young for me–I imagined my twenty-something niece wearing it out with friends. At the end of the night, her hair and clothes would stink from sweat, beer, and cigarette smoke, but her perfume would cut throught it all! (Of course, I’m projecting my own twenties onto hers–I’m guessing every place she goes is smoke-free. Still, the parts about the sweat and the beer probably still hold…)

    I also think of Samsara as a cigarette smoke perfume. Basenotes says it came out in 1989, but it smells to me like a 70s perfume made for blue-eyeshadowed smoker ladies.

    • Angela says:

      Parure has a good dose of rose in it, too–I wonder if it’s something about the rose that works with cigarettes?

      I bet Samsara has seen many a cigarette in her day…

  20. Abyss says:

    Also forgot to mention that for me Guerlain’s Jardins de Bagatelle always seemed to have that slight ashtray thing going on.

    • Angela says:

      I haven’t smelled that one on skin for so long. Must remedy that.

  21. artemesia says:

    I have found that menthol cigarettes never compliment a fragrance, or anything really, they really do smell terrible. I’m sure people would say the same thing about non-menthol, however I am in love in camel’s turkish blends, because they smell sweet and closer to a cigar/pipe than regular cigarettes. I usually wear fragrances that won’t work well with cigarettes during the day, as I don’t really start smoking until the evening. Come evening though I break out the habanita, tabac blond, shalimar ect. Pretty much any heavy orientals, because LOVE them and I LOVE what they do with cigarette smoke. Interestingly I got in my friends car one day, wearing a nice dose of Rose 31 and lit up a cigarette. My friends honestly stopped talking and told me it was one of the most amazing things they had ever smelled. When I took a moment to smell myself, I must admit, it was beautiful. I had a ridiculous amount of compliments through out the rest of the evening, only when I had a cigarette in my hand. Love your article, I’ve always wanted to talk about this :)

    • Angela says:

      Rose 31 and cigarettes! That’s an interesting combo. I bet it does smell good.

  22. Joe says:

    I have hardly anything to say about the matter because I am a very intolerant nonsmoker, even though my mother smoked for years until recently. I really can’t handle being in an environment of heavy smoke and am thrilled at the spread of smoking bans in nightspots.

    I can see what you’re saying from a theoretical perspective, but it’s hard for me to put it to the test because smoke would really ruin any fragrance for me. VERY rarely will the tiniest whiff of tobacco on a smoker smell good to me… some men’s scents (fougere type?) seem to amplify this and blend well. An example might be Aramis Tuscany. I could see digging that on a light smoker. It would remind of my grandfather and being in his car.

    • Joe says:

      I guess I do have more to contribute, actually. Ha! My mom wore Ciara in the late 70s, and I still have a bare memory of what that would be like paired with cigarette smoke (which it always was, in my experience). Did you ever end up getting to sample that, Angela?

      • Joe says:

        And one more thing: I’ve always enjoyed clove cigarettes from somewhat afar, and Ava Luxe Kretek to me is a wonderful homage to that clove-tobacco smell. I love it.

        • Angela says:

          Clove cigarettes are a whole different scent arena, true!

      • Angela says:

        I keep seeing Ciara at Goodwill–next time I’m snapping up a bottle, and I’ll let you know.

    • Angela says:

      It’s hard to want to imagine cigarette smoke and any fragrance if the smoke makes you gag, true. I don’t smoke, but I’m fine being around it, as long as I’m not stuck in a telephone booth for hours with someone smoking. But somehow it does seem to bring out something in certain perfumes to me.

    • annemarie says:

      I’m with you completely. My mother smoked for years and eventually died of smoking related illnesses. My siblings and I all grew up with a horror of anything to do with smoking. These days I can go most of the time in public and private places and not scent any cigarette smoke at all. Thank heavens. I read Luca Turin’s piece on fragrance and cigarette smoke (link above) and just could not understand his nostalgia for cigarette smoke.

      • Angela says:

        I’m sorry about your mother. I can certainly understand not ever wanting to smell a cigarette after that.

    • mals86 says:

      Re: light smoke – that old HS boyfriend of mine, the one that Tabac Aurea reminds me so much of? He didn’t smoke himself, but both his parents did, and his clothes had a very faint, faint tobacco smell that I enjoyed.

      In any other form, however, cigarette smoke is unpleasant to me. Pipe smoke, now – that’s lovely.

      • Angela says:

        Pipe smoke is a whole different smell, especially straight from the pouch. I wonder why? I don’t think I know anyone who smokes a pipe, but whenever I do get a whiff of it it’s really nice.

        • ggperfume says:

          You’ll probably like the scent of a peat fire, then. On my one (so far) trip to Ireland I finally got to smell peat fires after wondering what the scent would be. Not at all like aromatic woods or a cowboy’s campfire, it’s a light, sweet pipe tobacco scent.

          • Angela says:

            Sounds marvelous! I hope to smell it one day.

  23. SmuttyCubby says:

    I’ve always thought Aromatics Elixir and Cabochard were meant to be worn by women who smoke…

    • Angela says:

      I can especially imagine Cabochard and smoke.

  24. Jill says:

    When I think of cigarette smoke and perfume, I remember my grandpa, who was a heavy smoker, sitting in the kitchen listening to the radio, and my grandma puttering around him wearing her Avon cologne which came out of a Siamese cat bottle (the cologne was Moonwind, and I “inherited” the bottle after she died — it’s on my dresser now). You’d think the cigarette smoke would have drowned out the Avon cologne, but that cologne was some potent stuff!

    Thanks for the article, Angela — it sparked so many memories! I am very much a nonsmoker, but I do like remembering my grandpa’s cigarette smoke, even though, quite frankly, it smelled pretty gross.

    • Angela says:

      I like your smoking story a lot, but I have to admit it’s the cat bottle that has really captured my imagination! I’m so glad you have it now.

      • Jill says:

        I’m so glad I have it too — it’s one of my favorite things. :)

  25. AmyT says:

    I can still smell my grandmother in my mind’s nose: a combination of Players, Blue Grass, Revlon Love That Pink, and pink polyester pantsuit.

    • Angela says:

      I love that! Did she drink whiskey sours made with orange juice concentrate?

      • ggperfume says:

        Or a Tom Collins made with the mix?

  26. dissed says:

    I haven’t smoked in 35 years. So, consider La Haie Fleurie. I sniffed it, adored it, WANTED it. Sprayed it. Immediately smelled like a chain-smoker. Blew it off because I really wanted it, purchased it, wore it . . . had to get rid of it. Each time I wore it, I smelled like a heavy smoker in the flower shop. Odd.

    • Angela says:

      Interesting! It must have the secret “smoked cigarette” accord somewhere.

  27. Aparatchick says:

    While I love the smell of tobacco (leaf, flower, dried, pipe, whatever) I can’t tolerate the smell of cigarette smoke. Probably a throw back to my younger days when I’d get home at 3 in the morning and have to rinse the cigarette smoke smell out of my hair before I could get to sleep. Bars were thick with smoke back in the day.

    But I had an aunt who was very much in the sit by the country club pool smoking and drinking a vodka tonic. I can’t remember what specific perfume she wore (if indeed I ever knew) but I do realize that it smelled like what I now know to be leather.

    • Angela says:

      Cigarette smoke in hair can be nasty. My hair is a real smoke trap, so I sympathize with you.

      Leather and smoke go well together, I bet!

    • ggperfume says:

      She sounds like an Azuree woman– or maybe Cabochard was her scent.

  28. Joe says:

    Just FYI, I think I might be alone, but I get a lot of cig smoke vibe from Martin Margiela Untitled. So much so that after sampling I was frantically sniffing the material that my decant was packed in because I was SURE there was something in my apartment that was permeated with smoke and I needed to get it out. Finally narrowed it down to the perfume itself. I swapped away my decant.

    • March says:

      So sorry, Joe! It smells like weed to me… I mean, from what I remember in my DARE class back in high school. Medium-grade buds.

      • Angela says:

        Why, you naughty thing! I’m glad DARE was around to keep you on the straight side!

      • ggperfume says:

        As long as it doesn’t smell like skunk weed.

  29. nozknoz says:

    Fascinating topic! I’m dying to sniff the Coffee Society candle from Frederic Malle’s home fragrance collections. It is intended to recreate, “That ephemeral odor of the living room a few minutes after the end of a Parisian dinner when the guests have just left” from his childhood, when people wore mostly Guerlain perfumes, with, I imagine smoke, cognac, flowers, candles…

    • Angela says:

      Fabulous! Now you have me lusting after it, too.

  30. Absolute Scentualist says:

    Coming to this a bit late, but very good article, Angela. Funnily enough, I was wearing some vintage Shalimar today and I got lost in imagining the sorts of glamourous ladies who must have worn it when it was first released as I drifted about in my own little cloud of lemony, civety goodness. I do not smoke, but I have friends and a hubby who does outside the house. So when I joined him on the back porch for a cup of coffee when he returned home after work, it was really interesting to see how the Shalimar blended with the smoke, and even more interesting to check NST today to see it wasn’t just on *my* mind. :) lol

    When I worked outside the home, I had the habit to take my breaks outside just for a change of scenery and a bit of fresh air, and one of my co-workers, a positively wonderful older gentleman who always had a story or joke to share, smoked a pipe. I loved the smell as it reminded me of spending time at my then best friend’s house when we were in our teens. Her father smoked a pipe and if you sat down in his favorite chair, you got a waft of it from all the smoke it absorbed. I absolutely love the smell of tobacco in frags like SDV, Tobacco Caramel, SOD and so on.

    Another frag that truly does have a bit of an “ash tray” thing going on is a recent love of mine, Piguet’s Bandit. I don’t usually like the smell of smoke (one of my first “firm requests” upon moving in with The CEO was that he please smoke outside), but somehow it just works in Bandit and blends to an overall sexy and sultry scent reminding me of a crush I had in my teens who was much older than I, smoked, had a motorcycle and wore lots of leather despite being just as much of a bookworm/”nerd” as I. It just makes me smile to smell Bandit and I can’t wait to own some and recall wild motorcycle rides through the Michigan woods in summertime.

    • Angela says:

      What wonderful stories! You definitely need some Bandit, it sounds to me. Bandit has galbanum and oakmoss–I wonder if part of its ashtray smell to you is that?

      Tomorrow I’m wearing Shalimar for sure.

  31. _Sweet_Dreams says:

    one of my best friends is a smoker, when she would go out to the clubs, she’d smell like booze, cigarettes, and givenchy very irresistible. This was ridiculously sexy on her, although I think on me it would smell like debauch and liver rot.

    • Angela says:

      It would smell horrible on me, too! I can imagine it, though, from your vivid description.

  32. I’m glad my girlfriend doesn’t smoke very often, but I’ll admit that there’s something about the scent afterward that I enjoy. Kissing, her too. One of the best things about French Lover is the little hint of this morning’s smoke on her skin.

    • Angela says:

      Now I want to smell French Lover again.

  33. just an impression. I walked down the marble stairs where people have been smoking for years and no one had tried to cover the smell of the cigarretes with any cleaning products (like they do in hotels). Well, the place smells of honey, quite pleasant…

    • Angela says:

      That’s interesting: marble plus smoke equals honey. Who’d have guessed?

  34. Nile Goddess says:

    Actually, certain watery or screechy fruity florals go well with cigarette smoke.

    I had a colleague from Argentina, lovely deep tanned intense chain-smoking woman. She was wearing Marc Jacobs and I moved heaven and earth to get a bottle as it was not available in Prague at the time, When I finally got the fragrance, I was so not impressed! Then I realised there’s a missing ingredient – cigarette smoke. I dislike smoking and every attempt to smoke ended with 2 hours of teeth brushing. So Marc Jacobs and cigarette smoke worked.

    When she finished the bottle, I recommended Lacoste Touch of Pink!

    • Angela says:

      Did she ever follow up with the Lacoste?

      • Nile Goddess says:

        Oh yes, she bought it, she’s wearing it and she smells incredible.

        This reminds me of my spanish teacher saying that for the best sangria you never need to bother with nice ingredients. Just a bottle of el cheapo red wine and some no-name orange juice and bingo! beautiful sangria! LOL :-D

        • Angela says:

          Maybe I’ll give that recipe a try this summer!

  35. saran says:

    I have been a smoker for about ten years and I can definitelly say that smoking doesnt make your nose more sensitive. Its the other waya around. It also messes with your sense of taste, I can barely feel the sweet taste of plums. Someone wrote that smokers seems to carry a lot of scent and I can relate to that. Most perfumes I own are quite heavy.
    I have also noticed how it change your body chemistry. I have had periods of non smoking when all my perfumes smells totally different on me then when I smoke. Maybe thats because I’m able to pick up more notes, Im not sure. But I have also been able to carry a couple of notes when Im not smoking that turns sour or into crap when Im smoking.
    Rose and jasmin for instance smells like cat pee and arm pit when I’m smoking. Citruses tourns sour.
    I should really really quit smoking :)

    • Angela says:

      If you do decide to quit smoking, I wish you lots of success! I love eating so much that anything that took away from my ability to enjoy a fresh plum would be profoundly depressing.

  36. saran says:

    Oh and I have seen a picture of Mr Serge Lutens with a cigarette in his mouth!

  37. pigoletto says:

    I quit what little on off smoking I did a long time ago, but while normal cigarette smoke never smelled very good to me (a freshly opened pack smells sort of interesting though) , clove cigarettes both burning and unburned always smelled fabulous – I forget the name, but they came in a red and black packet. My favourite tobacco smell was the stuff my father smoked for years – a sticky, sweet jet black pipe tobacco he used to buy at a tobacconist. It had no name, just a number. The PC brigade might scream out their lungs on this one, but when I was little I always thought it was really special when he let me hold open his soft black leather tobacco pouch with the thistle shaped amethyst pin on it – I can still smell the buttery worn tan suede insides (whilst maybe a tad bitter, Daim Blonde is actually a wonderful representation of worn suede), and the sweet dark tobacco he filled it with. That, the smell of fresh ground coffee, the first burning leaves of autumn and hot sun drenched jasmine in the South of France are still the best smells in the world to me. Escada Collection was about the closest to that particular tobacco I’ve ever smelled, and the old CSP vanille cafe was a fabulous coffee scent.

    • Angela says:

      What an evocative comment! I can smell it all along with you.

    • LaMaroc says:

      Those would be Djarum Black (cloves). I remember those days. ;)

  38. Lanuitdemiel says:

    Great post, Angela, as always!
    I think there is a difference between the smell of tobacco/pipe/cigarettes in the air all by itself, and the smell of a smoker wearing perfume.While the former is a note in its own right just like any other,the latter is usually gross,like any other unhealthy or hygienically-challenged person’s smell. A very fine line here, IMHO.

    • Angela says:

      Great distinction! Thanks for pointing it out.

  39. Rappleyea says:

    You wrote: “Still certain fragrances seem to beg for a sheath of cigarette smoke.”

    Angela, I couldn’t disagree with that statement more than if you had written, “Still certain women seem to beg to be beaten.”

    I appreciate that you don’t smoke, and that this discussion is meant to be hypothetical, but it *glamorizes* a dangerous, filthy habit. I have to drive through the University area on my way to work, and I’m appalled at how many young people smoke. And it the numbers seem to be growing. How many impressionable young women read this blog and might be influenced by an article such as this?

    I’m sorry to be so negative, and I had started and deleted two comments yesterday, but I had to speak out.

    • Angela says:

      Thanks for your comment, D. Attention impressionable young women: don’t start smoking. I’m not kidding (see statement about vomiting above, Surgeon General’s warnings, etc.) Still, I stand by my observation that cigarette smoke complements some perfumes.

      • LaMaroc says:

        There wasn’t a statement in your article that made me think you were promoting or glamourizng smoking, Angela. Certain scents do seem to be enhanced by a cigarette smoke “note”. Probably why I enjoy Jasmin et Cigarette so much now that I am a non-smoker.

        Because of Bogey, Bacall, James Dean, etc. I will always find smoking somewhat associated with glamour and “cool”. However, having seen a recent picture of a rock-guitarist hero of mine with blackened teeth does throw some water on that fire (pun intended). Besides the fact that multiple pictures of me smoking have shown that cigarettes never made me look cool. If anything, the complete opposite. :P

        • Angela says:

          Besides the obvious health issues, it really messes up a complexion, too. It’s usually fairly easy to tell the longtime smokers from the nonsmokers that way.

          The photo of Lauren Bacall would never convince me to smoke, but I do find it beautiful.

  40. lupo says:

    What a nice article Angela!
    I have a clear (or should I say smokey?) memory of a woman I dated, Chanel Allure pour femme and her cigarettes (otherwise, Allure is a very forgettable scent…). I’m not sure incense based scents would be enhanced by cigarette smell, I reckon the overall effect might be “the house is burning down”… But I bet a bold scent like Bel Ami would perfectly suit a smoker

    • Angela says:

      I didn’t think about how too much smokiness might make the whole combo smell like a house fire!

  41. 734elizabeths says:

    About twenty-five years ago, I bought a little bottle of tobacco (tütün) perfume oil on the street in Antalya, Turkey. It was a heady, delicious scent, and I used it all up in no time. Since then I’ve spent many hours sniffing various tobacco perfumes, trying in vain to recapture that particular one. No luck. Habanita comes closest in mood, and I love it, but there was an edge to that Turkish perfume that I haven’t found again.

    • Angela says:

      That tobacco oil sounds divine!

    • Lanuitdemiel says:

      You should try Bourjois’ Kobako, created by Ernest Beaux in 1936.
      It is the exact “tutun”smell, and a super classy oldie.

      • Angela says:

        Easy for you to recommend and hard for us to find! But if I ever do spot a bottle, I’ll snap it up.

      • 734elizabeths says:

        I’m on a quest now! Thanks, Lanuitdemiel!

  42. Bela says:

    Who said, ‘Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray’? That sums up my thoughts about the subject. I spent years cursing all those people who spoiled my meals in restaurant, who choked me in cafés, etc. And you couldn’t ask anyone to please refrain from smoking because you were thought a killjoy… I am so much happier now.

    I’m afraid I cannot see the glamour in something that gives you bad breath, bad teeth and cancer.

    • TwoPeasInAPod says:

      That would be Brooke Shields. She had an anti-smoking ad campaign for years, with that for the tagline. Does anyone else remember the posters of her with cigarettes stuck in her nose and ears?

      • Angela says:

        I don’t remember that one–it sounds good, though.

    • Angela says:

      It sounds like smoking laws are changing in your favor–lots more people for you to kiss!

    • ggperfume says:

      I agree completely and will add “bad body odor” and “tongue the color of baby poop” to the list of uglies and heart disease, emphysema and asthma to the list of illnesses.

  43. TwoPeasInAPod says:

    I’ve often wondered if one of the reasons that Chypres and Orientals have fallen out of favor in the mainstream market is due to the decrease in smoking.

    • LaMaroc says:

      I think you may be on to something there, TwoPeas.

      I started smoking at the age of 16, the year that my father quit smoking, ending a 25 year habit. Even though I hated the smell of lingering smoke on clothes & furniture, I missed it when it was gone. The fragrances I wore during my heavy smoking years were: Shalimar, Maroc, Red Door, LouLou and Kenzo Jungle l’elephant.. Red Door is the only one I can’t wear to this day – I was also smoking Marlboro Reds at the time. *gag* That was a rough time.

      Anyway, after high school I was primarily a social smoker. I always had a pack around but sometimes they would go stale before I finished it. It’s been about 3 years now since I cut smoking entirely out of my life and I have conflicting opinions about it. My sense of smell & taste have improved, however I’ve gained an extra 5-7 lbs. that just does not want to go away. I have fewer sinus infections but more allergies (coincidence?). But best of all I have more money to devote to fragrance purchasing! :D As much as I hate cigarette smoke now, I still love the smell of a freshly lit cigarette. I also miss the social crutch that it was for me. I notice I have a much more difficult time in social situations now without it.

      • Angela says:

        Congratulations on quitting! Despite a couple of extra pounds (and who doesn’t have those?) I bet you’re so much healthier now. And you’re so right–extra money for perfume!

    • Angela says:

      That totally makes sense to me.

    • ggperfume says:

      I definitely agree.

  44. pigoletto says:

    I completely forgot – Aramis Havana Pour Elle – d/c, I think. It has a wonderful dry tobacco leaf smell, along with a twist of lemon peel and what is a very mapley scent. Very unique.

    • Angela says:

      I’ve never tried that one, but it sounds wonderful.

  45. sue says:

    I don’t smoke cigarettes, but like once in a month i do smoke Narguilé when I go out en plein air, specially the apple tobacco molasse flavor. when I sprayed Armani Diamonds EDP immediately the smell of apple molasse came to mind, but I didn’t like it.. in opposite the first time I sprayed “L” de Lolita Lempicka, it was like the smell of smoking pipe, and i like it so much.

    • Angela says:

      It sounds like it must smell really nice!

Leave a reply