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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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Chanel Chance, Chance Eau Tendre & Chance Eau Vive ~ fragrance review

Chanel Chance Eau Vive

Have you noticed the trend of young women dying their hair gray? It can be startling to see a baby face capped with grandma’s hair. Sometimes it comes off as chic. But sometimes it’s an epic fail, almost as unsettling as politicians who dye their hair nut brown when Mother Nature clearly determined it should be gray — or gone. Mutton dressed as lamb, and vice versa.

To me, Chanel Chance plays this game. It doctors a big girl’s perfume for little girls by simplifying its heady oriental notes, freshening it up with citrus, and targeting its marketing to younger women. It’s like Guerlain Shalimar drawn as a kid’s cartoon and squirted with sweet musk, or like Thierry Mugler Angel with less verve and voluptuousness. To me, Chance feels off-kilter — or worse, banal. But, like dying your hair gray, it has its fans.

Chance, created by Jacques Polge, launched in 2002…

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5 perfumes: (great) old school summer colognes

orange slices

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, there’s a decent chance you’ve already entered that part of summer known as the dog days. The hot, humid weather was traditionally expected to last around 40 days, but where I live, we’ve surely already had 40 days of sticky, and we could easily have 40 more before it’s over.

I’m not complaining, or at least, I’m not complaining as much as I’d be complaining if it was cold out. I’ll always take hot over cold. But this is just the sort of weather that calls for a classic Eau de Cologne: a little concoction of citrus and flowers, perhaps a few spices, perhaps some oakmoss or amber. It won’t last long, but it will lift up your spirits while it does, and you can always reapply later or move onto something else. Here are five choices, although I’ve (of course) expanded the definition of a classic Eau de Cologne a wee tad…

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Top 10 Summer Fragrances 2015

Japanese Garden, Portland

Instead of returning to my weary perfume cabinet for a rundown of summer favorites (I already hear longtime readers thinking, Is she going to bring up that blasted bottle of Jean Naté in her refrigerator again? Yawn), this year I got smart. I asked André Gooren from Portland’s fabled The Perfume House to share ten of his summer favorites.

André was up to the challenge. During a Saturday morning, between helping a bearded Australian opera singer (Caron Nocturnes, two bottles), a charming older woman (4711), a Romanian couple (Robert Piguet Jeunesse), and a booming-voiced regular (Pino Sylvestre and Comme des Garçons Avignon), he laid out ten sophisticated and sometimes quirky choices…

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