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?