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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Dior Sauvage ~ fragrance review

Dior Sauvage

A friend recommends a movie: “Kevin, it’s perfect for you…about death, suicide, the past…the things you love!” I go, and want to leave the theater after 15 minutes. I’ve often bought a chocolate bar or bottle of wine after reading an article proclaiming their merits: “…you’ll experience rich notes of raisin, orange peel, dates, rose, saffron.” I eat and drink and want to spit. “Read this book, it will change your life!” Mostly unread, the book is now in Africa…either delighting or puzzling a child who happened to grab it from a bookshelf. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably bought a perfume without smelling it because it was praised by a “trusted” reviewer. I have! I buy…and cry: “What a waste of money!”

In my early years, I would get mad at being ‘tricked’ out of my time and cash. I’d rant: “Liars!” “Fools!” “Tasteless ignoramuses!” Now, I’m gentle. I think: maybe that book or chocolate bar or movie or perfume DID bring joy, a sense of revelation to someone — else…

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It’s magic

Johnny Depp, in the desert, with a shovel, and a buffalo, and a wolf, for Dior Sauvage. This is the director's cut, the director being Jean Baptiste Mondino. The music is from Ry Cooder.