How to make sense of scents

or a little dab’ll do ya!

Beautiful bottles that enhance the appeal of fragrances.

I think I’m more of a sensory person than a tactile one – but I do like to touch food, tree trunks, sand, gum leaves, woollen fabric . . . mmm, maybe I’m both.

But back to sensory. I love and adore perfume. I do not go a day without a quick spritz, pandemic lockdown or not. Nothing lifts the spirits more than a little dab of YSL (Yves Saint Laurent) Opium on the wrists while still wearing pyjamas and dressing gown at two o’clock in the afternoon.

My first memory of artificial scents (scented flowers, cake in the oven or freshly laundered and sun dried sheets don’t fit this profile) was the sting of Brylcream that my uncles wore (dad was out of that league as he went bald while young), it always smelled of family parties, kegs of beer in the laundry, Capstan cigarettes smokes in the kitchen and good looking young men with slicked back shiny hair.

Mum would dash a splash of 4711 Eau e Cologne behind her ears before she left the house and I was enthralled at the beauty of the bottle, the gold top and label in gold and teal blue and the ‘4711’ in bold italic. Its top notes were bergamot and lemon – classified as old-fashioned now and nanna scent, but it is still a refresher after a hot day at the beach and it could definitely give those girly-come-lately celebrity offerings a run for their money.

As a teenager I started my own splash and dash with Tabu. This eau de cologne was launched by the design house of Dana in 1932. I found the label so racy, a man holding a woman in his arms, tilting her back and her arm loose and her body in a swoon – or that’s what I imagined, but pretty sensual and shocking – which was how the perfume was touted. (Warm oriental base includes amber, resins, civet {mmmmm} and precious woods – sandal and patchouli). And while Tabu was in the air the young blokes had discovered Old Spice. The old blokes too – it hung in the air all over town.

Tabu was my staple for a few years and an Avon perfume came into the house – I can’t remember the name but I knew it didn’t suit me – too floral. And over the years I have learned that all perfumes don’t suit certain skins, moods, personalities and when I wore one that didn’t suit me it became very obvious – I started to sneeze.

Then came the parfum moment and scent that changed my life. I was only 18 and a boyfriend at the time gave me a little, precious bottle of glamour – Eau de Parfum Chanel No. 5. This tiny glass bottle of beauty and potential had a glass stopper, which I would dab behind my ears and on my wrist – sparingly but with enough heft to give me the scented haze. That fella didn’t realise the journey with perfume he had set me on.

There were years between dabbing frugality then and my habit now of splashing perfume on and dousing my flesh with enough of the goddess alchemy that my perfumed ambience enters a room before I do.

Chanel 5 was always to star – but I started to experiment – a cool black, silver and blue cylinder YSL Rive Gauche Eau de Toilette for Women. Rive Gauche (Left Bank) was feminine, sharp but gentle. This was the perfume I purchased Duty Free at the airport on my first overseas (New Zealand) trip. Thus began my dedication to matching perfume with travel destinations – and my loyalty to any given brand was out the window and I became a perfume slut.

First mix and match was after Paloma was launched. Paloma Picasso (yes, Pablo’s daughter) is the inspiration behind this spicy fragrance. The notes are fresh and spicy with woody notes; ylang ylang, hyacinth and jasmine are in the mix. Paloma branched out from her jewellery design and introduced this perfume to the world in 1984. Packaging is a neat red base with a whoosh of black carrying her signature. This was my go to whenever I was travelling to an Asian country – it suited me for the hot and steamy days. I think a trip to Malaysia in the 80s to do a travel story for Harper’s Bazaar was the first time Paloma and I travelled together.

Some of the fragrances I have met and loved have disappeared now, leaving a soft scented kiss to be remembered. One sweet tiny bottle came on the amenities bag on Lauda Air (since merged into Austrian Airlines in 2012) on my way to Vienna. I tried to use it sparingly and kept the empty bottle for years and would open it occassionally to reminisce on a grand trip I had to Austria – my first and the one that made the country one of my fave European destinations.

Armani made my head swivel at the airport shops – as well as the brilliant red lipstick I coveted there was an array of tall bottles of cologne that came into my repertoire, Armani Code especially. I worked my way through most of the selection but stuck to Code and then . . . along came Giorgio Armani Si. Si, and Si Passion are almost perfect perfumes, and they sit among my collection as the Queen of Scents. Both timeless and elegant which befits a woman of a cetain age – me. Bit sultry a bit, chic and intense – what I aspire to be. But who knows what will come down the shoot and seduce me?

Moods change, age changes us and I have moved on from Palamo – I didn’t break up with her, just put her into retirement. Now for travelling in hot countries I have made a move on the English brand of Jo Malone – fragances and perfume. Jo Malone Lime, Basil & Mandarin (in a clear bottle)and Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka (black bottle) are my two travelling friends. Both are crafted fragrances that are fresh, opulent and uplifting – a little bit warming woody, a little bit citrus and floral. So Paris doesn’t hold all the perfume cards.

On home ground I like to liberally spritz Bvlgari Jasmin Noir from its sculpted black bottle and branded gold and black stopper, it can turn a casual night out into a blazing event.

I’ve taken a bold step into sniffing around the new, low key individuals that are going nose to nose with the big brands. One beauty I found in the gift shop of the National Art Gallery in Canberra is a cheeky addition – it’s called 004 (with notes of gin, mandarine and musc) from Bon Parfumeur, Paris. Really liking this and it’s light but packs a fragrant punch and elicits compliments.

Another interloper is Lumira Parfum with a redolence of Cuban tobacco. also a hit (purchased from a boutique gift shop in Huskisson on the south coast NSW). Never know where your nose will lead you in the pursuit of aromatic magic.

Like past friends and relationships, many perfumes have faded into a gentle twilight or are only remembered hazily like a one night stand. But there have been many and the beauty of a good perfume and a healthy nose – is that someone can walk past me, or sit next to me and their scent invades my olfactory senses which go into overdrive and memories of people, places and experiences come flooding back.

Travel and perfume, do you have your fragrant friends on your trips, or are you a little dab’ll do ya for special occassions?

Be brave, be bold, splash it on.

5 responses to “How to make sense of scents”

  1. Agreeing totally with your memories of perfumes, this post has reminded me why I wear perfume every day,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, nothing as pleasant as a fragrant spritz.

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  2. Some great perfume ideas here for future sampling. Thanks Bev.

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  3. Lovely memories there Bev. I too started with Tabu – the fragrance of my teenage years and holidays at the beach. Rive Gauche was also my next companion, followed by Lancome Poeme. Then I was seduced by Chanel No 5 and the more moody Coco. I dabbled with Annick Goutal, then found my signature scent in Issey Miyake, which is still my staple, along with Kenzo Flower for frivilous summer days. I flirt with Marc Jocobs Daisy, Chanel Chance and Carolina Herrera Good Girl sometimes, but Eau d’Issey is my forever perfume. Thanks for the olfactory reminisce!

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  4. Love this, Bev! I too have been a huge Jo Malone fan, and remember first inhaling the original in a swanky Dublin department store. My fragrances are now more sultry, less zingy, thanks to Cairo. I am obsessed with oud, and always have a tiny vial of oud-infused oil in my bag. I love how the major perfumiers have finally discovered this Middle Eastern staple.

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