Thursday, May 21, 2009

What a pleasure this turned out to be!

An appointment this evening took me near Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale's, and Neiman Marcus, so I decided to visit their perfume departments to sniff some scents I had been reading about. It's May, but reviews of Black Cashmere were really tempting. I am told that my taste in scent is skanky, and skank seems to be a significant part of Caron's Yatagan, so I was looking for that too. And while I was there I knew I would buy Je Reviens, which I used to wear constantly although it's not a bit skanky.

Je Reviens was an expensive, even exotic high-end perfume when it was first given to me at 18. (For most 18-year-olds, it competed with Tabu and Ambush, of course, and about which, yuck.) Then about twenty years ago, Je Reviens was repositioned as a drug-store fragrance. Same scent but different marketplace! Then just a few years ago it was repositioned back upmarket ... still the same perfume, although ...

The "although" is because European guidelines are forcing the reformulation of many old fragrances to eliminate some natural ingredients that allegedly stir up allergies. Perfume scientists now can isolate specific scent molecules and create artificial analogs; doing that can eliminate the allergic response, but noses are noticing that it can also eliminate the characters of some scents. But new reviews of Je Reviens say it's the same wonderful smell, full but light enough to wear during a Bookstore C workday.

Well, I didn't find any of them. Since I love/adore/will kill for old Guerlain scents (Shalimar and Jicky especially, sometimes Mitsouko) I went by the Guerlain counter and -- memory having failed me, and what I was looking for being unavailable -- tried a spray of Samsara, which has not interested me in the past. Omigod! Maced? Well -- hit in the face with something hard and sharp and mean-smelling, lemon, maybe? and tarragon. I walked around the store, taking time to see how the fragrance would develop, and finally thought, This is just ghastly, I have to go home and wash. It's a warm night so the car windows were open, and on the way home I noticed the loveliest of scented breezes playing near my face. Could it be the Samsara? It was. It took about 30 minutes to get past that opening blast, but now -- three hours past that spritz -- I am all but typing with my nose welded to my arm where that luscious scent sits.

Oddly, with food I can pick out the ingredients in a smell, but I am not very good at it with perfume. But there's now a base note in this scent that seems a bit old-lady, and I recognize that as the one significant flaw in Guerlain's classic scents: some people identify them with old ladies. Well, it may be that like my Shalimar-wearing Cousin Ethel, they were kick-up-your-heels flappers once and this was their perfume then as well as later. Mmmm, it's not so old-lady as it is sumptuous home with oriental rugs, heavy draperies, and stained glass shades on copper lamps -- also like Cousin Ethel. The base note could be sandalwood. Costly, luxurious, sensual. Also like Cousin Ethel? You heard it here first.

Smells -- even most "bad" ones -- have always delighted me. (There's that skank business again, and speaking of consonants, I can savor, briefly, a skunk smell.) When I was a little girl, I loved -- as what little girl doesn't? -- sniffing the perfume bottles on my aunts' dressing tables. Betsy had White Shoulders (I gag on the memory), Tabu (what was wrong with her?), and Emeraude (that's three strikes). My mother and her sister Billie both wore Joy -- it's a total classic, very green, and I cannot abide it.

Grandma Lydia wore Arpège; I love the stories about Jeanne Lanvin and her beloved daughter. I have read that the little child in the Lanvin trademark is Jeanne's daughter, and this link says that Arpège was created for the daughter's 30th in 1927.

Hmmm ... by 1927 my grandmother was the mother of four daughters; I wonder when she started wearing Arpège, and why. Colette called it the "thoroughly modern" fragrance, and in fact, Grandma Lydia was a thoroughly modern woman.

No comments: