5 perfumes: Indie Greens

ferns

Once, when I was shopping at a perfume discounter, the owner brought me a fragrance and said: “You’ll like this. You’re a throwback.” I was taken aback. Was I? And was it so obvious? The suggested scent was a crisp green one, with the bite of galbanum, and I did like it, very much. I moved down the counter and snuffed the dusty tester, a bit embarrassed, while the owner helped a new customer pick out a bottle of Armani Code for women.

Pickings for the bitter green fiend are rather slim at department stores at present. Counter sales assistants will tell you that such scents are now old-fashioned and do not sell well. I imagine those last crisp green floral buyers, stately and melancholy as they have always been, at home with their Lauren Hutton cheekbones and maybe the accouterments of WASP style mentioned in Angela’s Estée Lauder Private Collection review: boat sneakers, gin martinis in iced silver carafes and small, strangely dignified dogs. (Of course, I still buy these perfumes and I am short, roundish and never to be found in tennis whites, alas. I would like a schnauzer, though.) Shopping at the mall these days, one worries that such green fragrances will go extinct, like the serious hats men used to wear in Cheever short stories. As with many holes in the market bemoaned by the fragrance obsessed, however, indie perfumers have leaped in to fill the galbanum gap…

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Parfums Raffy

Top 10 Spring Fragrances 2016

tulip in snow

I am vocal about disliking spring. Where I live, there are always a few days in late February that feel like an elaborate set-up from Punk’d. Like newborn babes, they come: the office mates, friendly neighbors, the recently retired. They peer up into the warming blue and wonder aloud, trying to remember which way a hapless groundhog waddled weeks ago. Please don’t take spring’s bait. This year it snowed in April in the colder areas of Europe and North America and fans and news writers seemed to blame poor departed Prince. Let’s face it, in Minneapolis anyway, it usually snows in April. And snow can be the least of our worries. I am a fan of heterogeneity — I like mixed drinks and mixed company, for example — but few phrases freeze the heart faster than that euphemism “mixed precipitation”. Spring also brings wind, rain, seasonal allergies and skies the color of dead fish. Yes, the vernal months provoke a rare ire in me.

And yet, looking over my April 2011 Top 10 and Robin’s post from last year on pretty spring florals, I’ve realized I have little cause to be so sour while wearing some of my favorite fragrances. Clutching roots and branches may grow from stony rubbish, as Eliot wrote, but I have hyacinth, lily-of-the-valley, magnolia, violets and iris to console me until mid-May…

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5 perfumes: Euphoria

yellow

It has been said of great poetry — as well as of pornography, of course — that you know it when you see it. A few perfumes have struck me with an analogous revelatory force.1 Many of my favorites have crept up on me, gaining in beauty and mystery over the course of several exposures. In a small number of cases, though, a first encounter with a fragrance has been more like being within 50 feet of a lightning strike: no immediate definition or description does the matter justice. Since my perfume hobby started, I’ve watched the epiphanies of several of my fellow fume-heads. Upon processing the first sniff, two enthusiasts have wept. One friend laughed in surprise, and another pirouetted. My reaction to such new love is to blush beet-red, regardless of whether there is anyone around to witness my surrender. Apparently, if I am greatly moved, my sympathetic nervous system must become involved.

Does it say something about me that I have spent a great deal of time ruminating on these singular events, trying to identify a unifying thread? (Short answer: yes.) In fact, I have noticed there are similarities between my own heart-struck moments…

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Top 10 Winter Fragrances 2015

winter is going away

While I am almost impervious to cold, I hate the inconvenience of winter. Imagine the shock-and-awe factor of a blizzard before the urban industrial era. People must have looked out into the eerie silence of a storm, a thick, blank curtain of white dampening even the wind’s whistle, and prayed to their higher being for safety and survival.1 Now, I get a snow alert on my phone and think: “Blast! If this causes me fifteen minutes of delay on the commute, I’m going to lose it!” I know, #ModernWorldProblems. In fact, after an ice storm that darkened Toronto into the new year for 2014, we’ve been lucky enough to avoid most of the chaos this winter. My condolences to Buffalo, Chicago, Boston and those on the East coast in Canada and the US.

The upside to darkness and inclement weather is the time I have inside to prepare an assault on two high peaks: the book pile and Mount Sample. Generally, I wear whatever fragrance I feel like at any time of year, but almost all perfumes conjure a particular season for me and the ones that evoke winter probably get less of my air time than most, merely for practical reasons. (Who will wear Guerlain Attrape-Coeur on a warm day in May? Not I.) My personal strategy for combating winter, then, is to dig out those under-loved warming, rich and sweet scents. But I do empathize with those who use the opposite approach, the denial method…

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5 perfumes: Great Moments in Top Notes

blood orange

As a Now Smell This reader, you likely view top notes differently from the average perfume consumer. A perfumista like you has learned to appreciate design in fragrance and to heap scorn on the scent that snares with a few fleeting bits of flash. You are shocked and dismayed when, mere moments after the sales assistant hands over a blotter, a time-crunched husband or brand-loyal shopaholic announces: “Wrap it up!” You would like to warn this impulsive stranger. You know this purchase can only end in heartache, a heartache wreathed in a pale floral laundry musk. You are a specialist, though, and you understand your message is complicated. Perhaps you should draw a fragrance pyramid on the back of this napkin you found in your pocket, or scribble down a quick glossary? Suddenly, you are assailed by the memory of that time a friend mentioned wearing Marc Jacob Daisy — “Is that a good perfume?” — and you forgot yourself somehow and ended up giving a short lecture on strawberry doll-head accords and the volatility of certain esters.1 (“I like the bottle,” your baffled friend replied.) Okay, so you’re probably not going to make much headway here.

The flip side of our suspicion of a great top note is… well, everyone likes a great top note. Many of us fragrance fans carry about atomizers or sample vials, so we can reapply and get that glorious hit of green/citrus/spice/fruit/skank again…

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