I hope we have reached the point in time in North America when a woman wearing a men’s fragrance does not merit lengthy discussion. About a third of my collection is intended for men and many of the notes I often enjoy are associated primarily with masculine or unisex perfumery: lavender, bergamot, lime, cedar, ginger and shrubby notes like lentisc. I find I choose my masculine favorites on days when I want to leave my olfactory “signature”, when wearing a brisk cologne or some deep, musky woods is a way of asserting my individuality. Below are the five I have painfully selected as my recommendations for women — boy, this was hard!
And, in the spirit of the Prix Eau Faux, I have attempted to do a little mimicry of my own. I have written each of my reviews today as if I were a different member of the perfume blogging community. Having quickly discovered that this was very difficult, I beg your indulgence — and the forgiveness of reviewers I have lovingly imitated. With one prolific exception, I believe I have managed to pen reviews of scents that the blogger him or herself has not covered. Please comment with your guesses as to which descriptions “belong” to which bloggers.
Caron Le 3ème Homme de Caron / Third Man: Were it a pricey niche offering, Third Man has the sort of note list that would have my pants pockets vibrating (ahem) as the walleted credit card inside trembled with fear. Luckily, this complex fougère is available online for prices that tragically misrepresent the scent’s perfection. There’s a classic cologne feel to the opening, fresh and aromatic, which cedes to a lovely floral heart and base, dark and tinged with smoky, spiced yumminess. But the scene-stealer here is the lavender, sauntering its way through the scent like Welles in the eponymous film, everything cocked at an angle, smirking with insidious charm.
Paloma Picasso Minotaure: Released in 1992, Minotaure is a genial blend of cedar and vanilla, accented with a dollop of sunny citrus. (Other notes include aldehydes, lavender, geranium, jasmine, sandalwood, tonka bean, musk and patchouli.) An essentially linear fragrance, it is sweet but not candied, simple without being boring. Late in the proceedings there is a whisper of powder and that’s pretty much the whole story. Minotaure is comforting and charming, and if I can’t help feeling I would perhaps prefer it were darker and less sweet, well, then I won’t deny that it is exactly perfect for what it is.
Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentrée: It would not be misleading to suggest that Bigarade Concentrée is one of the most seamless examples of Jean-Claude Ellena’s vision. Radiant, weightless and yet possessing a striking sensuality, the composition radiates the warm golden light one notices in Spanish Baroque paintings. Once the transparent verdancy of the opening fades, a soft rose and dry accord of hay and cedar weave their way through the astringency of the central bitter orange, lending the refreshing note a rounded quality, like an iced oolong tea.
Chanel Egoïste: Hey, have you smelled this? If you’ve been put off by its “fresh” and smarmy successor, Egoïste Platinum, then you need to direct your attention to the main-stage show. You can thank me later. The original starts off with a tickle of pepper and a juicy pastel mandarin, and then a pretty, potpourri-ish rose kicks in. Now, rose and I don’t always play nice, but there is a saving bit of aloofness there, maybe from an infusion of carnation, and then the scent settles into rich sandalwood-and-plum goodness. It’s the sort of thing a serious, sapient young girl of fourteen could wear. Hommes, make of that what you will.
Christian Dior Eau Noire: Eau Noire is a discombobulating fragrance, one that weirds me out in the best possible way. With the lavender, clary sage and cedar, I feel I ought to be out striding along, getting the kind of vigorous exercise that requires a loyal hound, smoky tweeds and a striding stick. But here is the immortelle and vanilla and suddenly I am hauling a gooey sundae around the heath with me. The thing I so love about this Frances Kurkdjian creation is that it makes me wonder why I never thought to do such a thing before.
Note: image via Images de Parfums.