When I first started perusing the fragrance reviews on MakeupAlley a few years ago, it wasn’t long before I stumbled on the acronym “HG”, for “holy grail” (this while still deciphering NIB and FBW). I was reading the reviews in the hopes of finding my own HG, in fact. I’d dreamed of having a scent that would reflect me perfectly, that I would be known for. And, as Coco Chanel said, I would always be able to pick out my coat by the smell.
Signature scents run in my family. My mother, along with many of her coworkers in the County Clerk’s office, wore Jontue for years, until a supervisor finally complained of the viscous cloud of perfume lodged near the bank of filing cabinets. She then switched to Toujours Moi. One of my grandmothers lived in a double-wide with a walk-in closet that my grandpa tricked out with shelves to hold her Barbara Cartland novels. She had a green compact of Moonstone solid perfume on the dresser next to her Virgin Mary jewelry box. My other grandmother, who I associate more with the smell of cigarette smoke and bleach, still wears Youth Dew.
My holy grail, though, would be more sophisticated, but not pretentious. It would have history, but not be dowdy. It would be complicated and sexy and peel away in layers over time, but still be down-to-earth enough for a picnic. Sound impossible? Not at all. I soon found my HG: L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain. I reveled in its French moodiness and soon shelled out for the extrait and a large bottle of the eau de parfum. I was completely satisfied — for about a week. Then I decided it was too, well, moody. And French.
After a while, I started to feel like the Elizabeth Taylor of perfume buyers, loving and leaving them by the gallon. Now I know that my holy grail is a shapeshifter. The scent I want to wear changes, depending on the weather, what vintage coat I’ve pulled out of the closet (unlike Chanel’s coat, mine all smell different), and even what movies I’ve been watching lately. Common threads may run through my string of faux-HGs — a hint of leather or incense in the dry down, an overall warmth, a medicinal bite at first spritz — but until I’m consistently one person with one mood and one bent to my imagination, I’ll need a shelf of fragrance bottles from which to choose. But I guess that’s the nature of the holy grail. The quest never ends.
Note: NIB stands for "new in box"; FBW stands for "full bottle worthy". Image by Arthur Rackham via wikipedia's entry on the Holy Grail.