5 perfumes: Great Moments in Top Notes

blood orange

As a Now Smell This reader, you likely view top notes differently from the average perfume consumer. A perfumista like you has learned to appreciate design in fragrance and to heap scorn on the scent that snares with a few fleeting bits of flash. You are shocked and dismayed when, mere moments after the sales assistant hands over a blotter, a time-crunched husband or brand-loyal shopaholic announces: “Wrap it up!” You would like to warn this impulsive stranger. You know this purchase can only end in heartache, a heartache wreathed in a pale floral laundry musk. You are a specialist, though, and you understand your message is complicated. Perhaps you should draw a fragrance pyramid on the back of this napkin you found in your pocket, or scribble down a quick glossary? Suddenly, you are assailed by the memory of that time a friend mentioned wearing Marc Jacob Daisy — “Is that a good perfume?” — and you forgot yourself somehow and ended up giving a short lecture on strawberry doll-head accords and the volatility of certain esters.1 (“I like the bottle,” your baffled friend replied.) Okay, so you’re probably not going to make much headway here.

The flip side of our suspicion of a great top note is… well, everyone likes a great top note. Many of us fragrance fans carry about atomizers or sample vials, so we can reapply and get that glorious hit of green/citrus/spice/fruit/skank again…

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The Great Perfume Reduction Plan

Ungaro Diva advert

It’s getting obscene — that is, the amount of perfume I have. Not only will I never be able to wear it all in my lifetime, the fragrances I truly enjoy are getting lost in the crowd. The other day I stumbled over a bottle of Ormonde Woman and stared at it as if I’d never seen it before. I love Ormonde Woman! But I’d forgotten it was even an option for me.

This is craziness. After all, I’m ruthless about pruning unflattering dresses from my closet. I won’t stand for a coffee mug that is just okay to drink from each morning. If a pillowcase’s texture against my cheek isn’t pure soft cotton, off it goes to Goodwill. So, why do I have so much perfume I consider “nice” or “kind of interesting” or “fine”…

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Top 10 Fall Fragrances 2014

Cold Colours

We pick the dates for the seasonal top 10 posts far in advance, and sometimes that works out fine. This year, it feels odd to be writing about fall so early — we’ve had strange weather the past few months, so while it stopped feeling like a proper summer here sometime in late July, it still doesn’t feel anything like fall. Here are ten fragrances I might wear if it did feel like fall, or that you could wear if there’s already a chill in the air where you are. Do add your own fall favorites in the comments!

CB I Hate Perfume Burning Leaves: The perfect way to get into the mood for fall even if the weather won’t cooperate, and extra-nice if you live in a place (as I do) where all the leaves get composted (as they should be) instead of burned (I do miss the smell). The last time I wrote the Top 10 of Fall was back in 2008, and I included Burning Leaves on that post too. Some things never change…

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Acqua di Parma Rosa Nobile and Les Parfums de Rosine Ballerina No. 1 ~ perfume reviews

Pink rose

My last review of a rose-centered fragrance was posted way back in June, if you can believe it or not. (It was a review of Maria Candida Gentile’s Cinabre, which would actually make an excellent fall fragrance.) What’s become of me? To remedy this situation, here’s a double review of two newish rose fragrances from brands that have been around for a while.

The Italian house Acqua di Parma has just released Rosa Nobile, “a tribute to the ‘Queen of flowers'” that includes top notes of Sicilian mandarin, Calabrian bergamot and pepper; peony, violet, lily of the valley and Centifolia rose in the heart; and base notes of cedarwood, ambergris and musk. The Acqua di Parma website features an entire page focusing on Rosa Nobile’s story. It mentions Rosa Nobile’s “brand new and modern personality,” because — of course — the consumer must be assured that there’s nothing dowdy about roses…

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Naomi Goodsir Or du Serail ~ fragrance review

The Turkish Page by William Merritt Chase, detail

It seems the more you throw into a perfume formula the less you smell (as in individual fragrance notes). Looking over the Naomi Goodsir Or du Sérail ingredients list (apple, orange, mango, coconut, honey, rum, tobacco, clary sage, maté, amber, davana, beeswax, cocoa, geranium, ylang ylang, oak, cedar, vanilla, labdanum, musk)…then sniffing Or du Sérail…bears this theory out. Most of those notes just blend in.

I’d love to have a magical machine; I’d place a perfume in the Per/Fume-Separator and order it: “Remove cocoa!” “Delete maté!” “Obliterate beeswax!” It would be interesting to see what notes do make a discernible difference in a scent…

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