5 perfumes: Euphoria


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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5 Perfumes: A Skank Sampler

skank sampler

Ready to wade into skanky waters but want a little hand holding? You’ve come to the right place. “Skank”1 usually refers to a hint — and sometimes more — of body odor in a fragrance, occasionally with overtones of halitosis and rotting flesh. (I hope you aren’t eating lunch right now.) Artfully administered, skank can throw a perfume’s beauty into relief. It can feel intimate and sexy. But when you’re not in the mood for it, skank could be just plain disgusting. Skank tolerance is personal. Some perfumistas wear their skank as a badge of honor, like chile lovers brag about downing Scotch Bonnets, but others won’t tolerate a noticeable drop of civet or funky musk.

Here is a skank sampler. Please comment if other skanky perfumes come to mind. I’ve rated them on a Skank Scale of one to ten. One approximates “post-tennis glow,” and ten is “zombie apocalypse…”

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5 perfumes: appreciating the Big Five

Like much art, some fragrances — especially the complex classics — take time to appreciate fully. At first, you might even find them off-putting. But as you spend time with each fragrance, you begin to appreciate its peculiar nature, its singular beauty. That describes how I’ve felt about the perfumes I’m calling the Big Five.

I’ll tell you a little about my relationship with each fragrance, then I’d love to hear how you’ve come to know each of them.

Chanel No. 5

Chanel No. 5

For the longest time, I was convinced I knew all about No. 5. No. 5 was fine, full of straw-tinted jasmine, awash with aldehydes, and charming, if fusty. But it wasn’t for me — or so I thought…

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5 perfumes: iris fragrances for fall

orange iris on green

No, it isn’t fall yet, but in case you’re planning ahead (or just sick of summer), here are five iris fragrances to consider as the air takes on a bit of a chill and darkness falls a bit earlier every day. If you missed it, do see my list of iris picks for summer.

Prada Infusion d’Iris Absolue: I included “regular” Infusion d’Iris on my summer list, but the Absolue version is the one I reach for more often, year round. As you’d expect from the name, it’s more…

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5 perfumes: (great) new wave summer colognes


Earlier this week I talked about old school summer colognes. Today’s focus: the modern equivalent. These fragrances aren’t classic Eau de Colognes, but they function in much the same way: they’re light, they’re citrus-y, they’re refreshing in the worst dog days of summer. Bonus: some of the newer models last a bit longer on skin than the classics.

I’ve listed my picks in order of release date. Do add your own picks in the comments!

Guerlain Mandarine Basilic ~ From 2007, this lovely sparkling orange with plenty of herbal bite is the oldest fragrance on today’s list…

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