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: 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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