Like many people who grew up in my part of the world, I come from Scottish stock (although my maternal grandmother was Native/Aboriginal Canadian, just to keep things interesting.) Besides a love of single malts, turnips and dishes based on organ meats, I have inherited that particular brand of stubborn crustiness made famous by the Scots. This is the time of year when I indulge in one of my family's favorite movies: Scrooge, the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol", starring the incomparable (and Scottish) Alastair Sim. There are bitter days when I prefer Ebenezer before his conversion. As someone currently in Robin's fifth stage of perfume involvement, I find myself reading fragrance news and reviews — and even, I'm ashamed to admit, the enthusiastic recommendations of experienced sniffers — and thinking HUMBUG! When I'm in one of these black moods, it takes a special (and especially cheap) fragrance to thaw my Glaswegian heart. Here are five that brought the heat.
Thierry Mugler Cologne: This stuff is on sale in enormous bottles everywhere, and over the years many intelligent people have sent me samples. Yet I still refused to try it and for two reasons: 1) I feared it would be a whine of soapy orange blossom; and 2) universal enthusiasm makes me particularly grumpy. But there comes a day when each of us must join Facebook, read a Salmon Rushdie novel or sniff Mugler Cologne. After sampling the scent, it took me about a week to break down and buy a bottle of this most improbable of classics.
Yves Rocher Secrets D'Essences line: Voile D'Ambre and Rose Absolue are lovely fragrances that the Yves Rocher people will practically pay you to take off their hands. What are you waiting for?
CB I Hate Perfume Revelation: I believe I started my perfume obsession in a fairly common way by looking for scents that contained odors I found appetizing. My initial frenzied searches were for fig, almond pastry and coffee perfumes. I gave up on the figs first, deciding that they tasted better than they smelled. I was wrong. An aptly named perfume, Revelation is a photorealistic fig, a fig that takes you to the very core of figginess. Really.
Crazylibellule and the Poppies Encens Mystic: I was extremely disappointed when I smelled this at a drugstore in Paris and it smelled like waxy nothing. This was some kind of Dada, anti-perfume experiment, but clearly crazy people continued to rave about it. Then a wise person suggested that the tester I tried might have dried out, rather like the glue-stick it resembles. I am so taken with my new, potent stick of Encens Mystic that I refuse to be embarrassed about my past grousing.
Tauer Perfumes L'Air du désert marocain: I hope the people responsible for the onslaught of "luxury" releases this year shiver in fear when they hear the name "Andy Tauer". This second reasonably priced, deeply romantic release from Tauer Perfumes is a must-try. With its airy cedar, dry roasted spices and kiss of boozy sweetness, it is one of the most beautiful and comforting perfumes I own.
Prices and shopping information: A 123 ml splash tester of Thierry Mugler Cologne is $24.99 at Scentiments. Retail prices for Voile D'Ambre and Rose Absolue are $46 and $47 respectively for 50 ml, but Yves Rocher never fails to give you at least 40% off the retail price. Currently it's $25 (and you get a free necklace). CB I Hate Perfume Revelation is $85 for 100 ml of water perfume; see the listing for CB I Hate Perfume under Perfume Houses. Crazylibellule and the Poppies Encens Mystic is $16-18; see the listing for Crazylibellule and the Poppies under Perfume Houses. Tauer Perfumes L'air du desert marocain is $65 for 50 ml; see the listing for Tauer Perfumes under Perfume Houses.