Wearing your favorite chypre, you go into the Registry Office to renew your license and the attendant leans across the desk to confide: "I'm sorry — we need the ventilation system cleaned. I think something died in there." Or you are standing at the bus stop, bathing in the warm glow of some animalic rarity — Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï Khan or JAR Ferme Tes Yeux, for example — when the friendly, guileless woman next to you asks if you work at the nursing home. Maybe you are quietly eating your soba noodle salad when a man seated at the next table over starts demanding of the waitress the source of that smell. He will say, "It's like some kind of… wood." He stresses this last word as if he is deeply and personally offended.
Fellow fragrance fanatics, I know you have publicly suffered for your passion. Listed here are five fascinating perfumes that I think are well-suited to the hibernation of early winter. Please share a story of fragrance-based humiliation with us or berate me for including your signature scent below.
Issey Miyake Le Feu D'Issey: Luca Turin wrote of the original (discontinued, non-light) Le Feu that "smelling it is like a frantic videoclip of objects that fly past at warp speed" (translation by Chandler Burr quoted at The Curious Wavefunction); I get lime peel, milk, urinal pucks, coated Aspirin, varnished wood, ginger hand soap, a gentle sweat and citronella candles. Like Turin, I find Le Feu D'Issey amusing, but those who are bothered by the cacophonous quality of, say, Guerlain's Jicky in parfum, will most likely find it barfy.
Visionaire WET: Forgive me for this one, because: a) it was a limited edition developed by perfumer Dominique Ropion for Visionaire Magazine's Scent issue; b) it smells like a mix of musky sweet soap powder and… erm, a gender-specific bodily fluid. For a more widely available scent that smells quite different, but induces similar squirms in some people, try the very XY Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Cuba.
Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie: Une Fleur de Cassie — also created by Ropion — has fans who speak of its sensual, grown-up beauty; to me, it combines the flat, peppery odour of damp newsprint, a urinous sharpness and floral dusting talc. It's a feral fragrance that can inspire looks of vague, but profound disturbance in passersby.
The Different Company Rose Poivrée: Chandler Burr recently stole my thunder on this one, but I'm going to praise its scornful elegance anyway. Rather like a more luminous and streamlined Alexander McQueen Kingdom, Rose Poivrée juxtaposes a berry-bright opening with the wildly intimate yet cold drydown of rose absolute and civet. Ideally, it should be worn by a beautiful woman who cuts her own hair — badly.
Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune: To you, it may smell like shiny happy grapefruits holding hands, but others may get cat pee in a gym bag.
Related reading: see Perfume Insults & A Quiz.
Note: image via Parfum de Pub.
I second you on Une Fleur de Cassie and Rose Poivree, and I only wish I had Ferme Tes Yeux to trot out in public. I'll have to think on this one today….
Help, I really liked Le Feu d'Issey and wondered where it had gone…!! This gives one explanation.
Driving my car with my two adolescent children, I wore Boucheron Jaipur and they both said in disgust: “mom, you smell like pee!”
OMG! I'm still laughing at “shiny happy grapefruits holding hands”
Well, I only have a teeny bit of the Ferme Tes Yeux (strangely, it's the *only* JAR they don't carry at the Perfumed Court – I wonder why?:) I'm interested in what you'll think of today. I often think of your comment on Feu – that it smells like L'Artisan Piment Brulant and Poivre Piquant mixed together. It *does* smell like two competing perfumes.
Apparently Le Feu was a commercial flop, and it's been discontinued for a while. I got my bottle on eBay, as I was late to the party.
I like and own Jaipur PH, but I don't really remember what the women's version smells like. Thanks for giving me something to go check out today!
Thank you! Personally, I get the REM version of Pamplelune, but I know others get everything from sweaty sneakers to onions…
Erin, I think that Le Feu was a very challenging scent in the '90 with all the Eaux de this and the that. It was different, completely different.
I love Boucheron Homme and I should have chosen Boucheron instead of B. Jaipur, I somehow realised that very soon after I had it in my posession. Before that I had Byzance I was really in love with those heavy oriental scents. Still like them but won't wear them anymore. But pee…that is a total different matter.
Yes, I think Le Feu must have been a real shock for those who associated Issey Miyake with ozone and aquatic scents. And as for the Jaipur, I'm peeking at the note list and not seeing any of the usual “pee” culprits like honey. Could it be the fruits?
Hi, Erin! Glad to see you over here!
I love your descriptions of these (although oddly I don't get *that smell* in WET.)
I have all sorts of nuisance fragrances. As you know. I would say the one that provokes the most alarm in public is CB Musk. I was standing in line at the PO one day and the man behind me looked at the bottom of his loafer, I think to see if he had stepped in something… Miller Harris Rien is all barnyard on me, even worse than the JAR. (And seriously, they don't have any others on TPC?!? That must be all that's left…)
My mother-in-law, she is a fan of White Linen, had been given White Linen Breeze for a change (by me) and she told me very honestly later that she couldn't stand W.L.Breeze for it reminded her of 'a wet cotton towel that hat been thrown in a corner and and forgotten about, for about a week'! Some bad breeze.
I wore MKK once, and when it was still in the first few minutes of it I got on the bus. An elderly woman made rather a fussy, overstated face and moved her seat away from me.
Miel de Bois in it's first flush of killer-bees-on-crack does the same thing. I love that…
I almost spit out my coffee reading that!
I remember reading somewhere that somebody thought a scent smelled like a dried, mouldy washcloth. I don't think it was White Linen Breeze, though. More fruits! We're going to blame it all on the fruits – or your mother-in-law I have a stereotypical, tortured relationship with my MIL, but we share a love of Chanels, particularly No. 19.
LOL, glad you didn't spray it everywhere – I've done that once or twice….
Thanks! (I guess you were away last time I posted – I missed you!) I wish I got the fresh, powdery snuggle you get in WET, although I think it's a really neat scent. Alarming, though. I considered putting CB Musk on the list, as well as MKK. Certainly, I expected to see them listed as potential offenders. It's taken me a little while, but I'm starting to fall for the CB.
Sorry, they have every JAR *but* Ferme Tes Yeux. I don't think I was clear. I think perhaps there is not a lot of demand for it
You should move to Calgary, where you can get kicked off the bus for that! (Robin posted an article from the Calgary Herald about 6 months ago that had a woman getting thrown off the bus for Very Irresistible twice…)
You know Miel de Bois is very strong on me, but I don't get the pee. That Lush fragrance Flying Fox (with jasmine and honey)smells urine-like to me, though.
I read somewhere that Une Fleur de Cassie reminded the writer of that particular swamp-like stench of the brackish brown-green water in a vase after a bunch of flowers had been left in it to rot for weeks.
Sometimes, I'm in a very Cassie mood, oddly enough. . .
I need to re-try, but I am *pretty* sure it's MKK that I sprayed on and two of the kids declared, nice! Which floored me, frankly. They seem to reserve their spleen for my incense scents.
The SA at Bergdorf (did I tell you this already?) says sweet little old ladies come in, sometimes with their husbands, try all the JARs and then pick Ferme Tes Yeux. As Robin observed, a lot of vintage frags smell much gamier than what the modern nose is used to. And with that — off to dig up something noxious, it's the perfect weather for it! I'm thinking: MKK or Yatagan.
Well, it's an *interesing* scent, and sometimes interesting is quite good enough nowadays, right?
My mother-in-law once gave me a fragrance and that one smelled so bad: it was something like grandmothers in their very last days of their lives or anything like that – it smelled OLD, very OLD. The name of the scent was Gloria Vanderbilt.
I felt really insulted. I know she meant well and she brought it especially from The States, but @#@# wrong choice!
Some time later she gave me another scent and that was a better one: Choc by Caron. I was still in the beginning stage of scents and had only bought till then: Fidji, L'Air du Temps and Youth Dew.
It's great to begin this weekend with so many 'bad memories'.
Caron Choc? I don't recognize that one – must go searching! Sounds like you had (have!) great taste. Youth Dew and Fidji are two faves of mine. Actually, my MIL gave me Manifesto by Isabella Rosellini, one of the few interesting celeb scents out there, so she's doing well so far. Hope the weekend goes okay!
Incense seems so innocuous! I guess the colder ones like Bois D'encens or damper ones like Etro MdM could be off-putting. I put on MKK two days ago and my mom said “Whoa!!” I asked her if she disliked it, and she said “No, it's just….” but she couldn't finish the sentence. Yatagan weather is the best sort of weather!
I am confusing two names. The name of the Caron fragrance was Nocturnes and Choc was a body lotion by Pierre Cardin that my MIL also gave me. She has been spoiling me.
Manifesto, nice! Like that one, very light and very feminine. Isabella Rossellini is quite a woman.
Oh yes, I like Nocturnes. And Mainfesto has lots of sweet pea, which is quite nice. She is very interesting – and a perfumista, too, it is said…
I too have one European celeb scent: Le Temps d'Aimer, by Alain Delon. I liked him in the '80s but have no clue how he is doing now. I loved Le Temps d'Aimer. FYI Alain Delon was a famous French moviestar.
My worst buy in the '80s was Coco. Used it once or twice and no more. Was just not 'my kind of scent'. In the new millennium I bought Coco Mademoiselle and that one I really like.
My Coco from the '80s definitely does not fit in the list of today.
Have a lovely weekend everybody!
Love this post. I'd have a lot to add to your list if you were letting in layered combos…
And thanks for the Fleur de Cassie description. It's adored as simply beautiful by so many people I know who have excellent taste that I kept thinking, huh? Hmmm… Maybe I got a bad sample? Maybe I just hate narcissus (which I do, the real-life flower, but it doesn't smell like that).
P.S. Take it easy on the Gloria Vanderbuilt up there! It was all new (if never quite fresh) in the early 80's when it was part of my high school routine. Soft and powdery. Though I wouldn't dare to sniff it now.
But then, I adore Coco, too!
I don't remember the smell of Gloria Vanderbuilt, though I remember what the box looked like. And I like Coco, too, though it seems as if Chanel has tinkered with it a couple of times. Didn't it seem a little more balsamic before?
Thank you for your kind words and support on the UFdC issue. I don't think we are alone; it's one of those fragrances you either “get” or you don't, I think. I keep trying!
LOL at your description of Wet! Do you find it similar to Musc Rav?
Anyway, I was going to tell you how psyched I was to stumble upon an old sample of Le Feu knowing how much you like it.Unfortunately I think the juice is off, you know that metalic tang of the top notes? On the plus side, along with it came two samps of Boudoir. My oh my! I immediately thought of you and your rev at EB. Boudoir's all that and spells love for me
Well, all this is a roundabout way of saying that I once was a victim of my immoderate scent application and layering. A spray one too many of Chergui layered w/ Boudoir (two dabs on the chest, just that once) in the confined space of a bus had people around me grunt and wrinkle their noses. No wonder — I was smelling like a h@@ker (mind you, one with great taste in perfume) after a long and busy night.
Oh and my GF absolutely detests the “rancid lipstick” that is(n't) Iris Silver Mist.
Coco Mademoiselle was my staple scent for years. Glad to see someone else likes it!!
Had to LOL on the Caron Nocturnes as well…as I am sitting here on a Friday night chilling with my Caron samples, and Nocturnes is my discovery of the evening. Gorgeous!
Erin–fun post!–and again, doused in Carons as I am, I should probably stay indoors for the rest of the night. LOL But had to ask, does anyone else NOT get the animalic Rose Poivree? I have never tried a more innocent scent–it starts out on me smelling like dry victorian rose potpourri, and never evoles into anything more racy than rose tinged with a bit of fresh green. Quite pretty, but I was floored the first time I read everyone else's take on it–I thought it was as innocent as can be!! Must be my weird skin chemistry!
Thank you very much for sending me the marvel of WET – it's so horrifying, yet oddly wearable. As for the Feu, it could be off, since it was discontinued some time ago, but it's just as likely that it's fine and you just hate it. Most people did. A lot of people aren't fond of Boudoir, either – they find it too sweet, rich and powdery. I love it, though; it's one of those rare scents that doesn't take itself seriously at all. So glad you like it too. Boudoir and Chergui together, though – whew! You're a brave man! Those are the two opaquest scents I know….
Pia, thanks. That's some chemistry, I have to say. How do you do with the Carons? I get a weird almost mouldy/peppery smell in most of them, no matter how beautiful they are otherwise.
Brave? No, just plain dumb. 'Opaque' seems like a perfect descriptor for those two, you're right. I chalk that up to musk. It's so true about Boudoir having a playful edge, the toothpaste note as I remember you called it. What I don't understand is why it's been discontinued…
Will check again if my samp of Le Feu is really off. Speaking of Miyake, how do you like the L'Eau Bleue?
You know, I've never understood if it *was* discontinued here. It's definitely hard to get, but for a long time it was still advertised on the Vivienne Westwood website and it still says “In Production” on Basenotes (not that that's a guarantee.) Have you tried Boudoir Sin Garden? The note list did not appeal to me.
And I love Eau Bleue, thank you! A lot of people are put off by all the sage, but I dig it. And my husband likes it and comments on it, which is a rare and winning thing…
No, I haven't tried Sin Garden (the only VW I did try was Boudoir), but can see how its dolled-up notes might not appeal to you, or to me for that matter
So glad you *and* your hubby like the Eau Bleue. You know, EB strikes me as a mellow Yatagan, without Yatagan's uncompromising dryness and patch overload. Ok, they may have really nothing in common, but I guess what I'm trying to say is EB could just be my gateway to Yatagan
Visionaire WET – is that the one from the collaboration between Ropion and photographer Richardson? I believe it is and I also possess a bottle (lucky me!) of it… It definately makes me think of Musc Ravageur on stereoids. I haven't worn it yet actually, but sprayed my arm with it a few times. Funny thing is that after I got this I also started to spot the “wetness” in Thierry Mugler Cologne. From being a fresh out of the shower-scent, it has now become a cinnamon ridden scent with a juicy beginning.
I love when one fragrance make you appreciate another one so much more, or help you to approach it from another angle and notice things you didn't see clear before.
Something enterely different namely, Which men's fragrances would you recommend to women to wear?
So Many times I found that mens scents smelled so good that I actually felt tempted to buy some but I only bought Le Male by Jean Paul Gauthier. Did not use it on myself but just liked it so much. Aqua di Gio by Armani also smells so good to my nose and never smelled bad on any man that used it.
This is a different subject but I wonder what you would write.
“L'Heure Bleue”—after getting into a car with my friends, one of them said “something smells like a public bathroom in here”. Yeah–“thanks for the input, pal ” :)…it's supposed to smell like a maudlin flapper who's listening to a Victrola play jazz, while in her stone/wood arts & crafts estate, fool…
Marianne, you just caught me a little early! I'm going to do a “Five Best His for Her” and “Five Best Hers for Him” eventually. In a way that subject is difficult for me, because I probably wear about 30% men's fragrances, and I never consider something “too masculine” for me to wear. Have you tried the new Fleur de Male from Gauthier? Doesn't work for me, but it has a floral angle that many women love. In terms of lines, I likeall or most of the male Carons, Parfums de Nicolais, Diors , Guerlains and Hermes.
I think I must have cinnamon-amplification powers, because that's really all I get from Musc Ravageur. I definitely need to spend more time with Thierry Mugler Cologne. Both it and WET have that infamous “S” molecule, right? I've always been a bit wary of TM Cologne, because I have troubles with orange blossom. But it would be interesting to try it again in light of your discovery…
Everybody needs a gateway to Yatagan! I love Yatagan, of course, but always found it a bit brassier and bossier than Third Man. It's a little bit of a drama queen. Eau Bleue is stealthier, without being any less strong !
Well, that's a very specific vision! I like L'Heure Bleue, so it's a vision closer to my heart. (Not hard, I guess – who holds any public bathroom close to their heart?) A lot of people seem to get a cold, medicinal scent from L'HB, though, like chilly white tiles. There's a touch of something like tile and soap in Vol de Nuit, too – but I don't appreciate any rude input on that one either!
I'm trying my best to grow into the Carons. I purchased the rather recent Fleur de Rocaille quite recklessly the other day, and half way home realised it was making me ill and cranky. The SA at Caron are lovely–I returned my unopened bottle, and they sent me a bunch of samples of the classics to try–I'm doing my best to be able to carry off Tabac Blond, but so far Nocturnes is as far as I can go. Narcisse Noir totally defeated me and had me running for the Clorox. I think what you described as mouldy/peppery sounds a bit like what I keep calling (to myself) the 'vintage' note. Pour Une Femme is beautiful, if a bit 'much', but might be ecstasy on a snowy day (or night!). It seems to lack that odd note…. Have you found any at all that you like?
I am looking forward to your article about 'his for her and hers for him'! Mens fragrances offer a whole new spectrum to me :).
Remember liking Boucheron Homme so much that I wished it was for us ladies as well.
Will go and try FdM! Kelly Caleche would smell great on a man. Also 'very headstrong' Sicily by Dolce and Gabbana would do nice on men too.