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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Easy Perfume

Amouage Beloved

Sometimes I think it’s easier to find a spectacular perfume than an easy, but still interesting, perfume. The market overflows with blockbuster orientals, juicy fruity florals, and assertively clean steam-iron musks that shout their presence. But what about the friendly fragrances without attitude? The fragrances you can wear anywhere that don’t announce their presence and aren’t trying to prove something, yet still please the choosy perfumista?

Let me explain further by describing what an easy fragrance isn’t. It isn’t simply “pretty.” Robin’s terrific post “5 Perfumes: Pretty Spring Florals” lists loveable, pretty perfumes — basically, fragrances Cinderella would have on her dressing table (and perfumes I dearly love, too). But, with the possible exception of Hermès Jour d’Hermès, they’re perfumes that announce themselves. When you wear Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temp d’une Fête, for example, you smell like a fantasy of narcissus wrapped in fur, and it’s noticeable. Sure, your sillage will mesmerize the people around you, but they’ll tune in to its personality. It makes a statement, even if that statement isn’t edgy…

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