Lately, more and more I’ve noticed the texture of fragrance. Not just how perfume smells, or the colors or moods it evokes, but the sense of thickness, slipperiness, or warmth it evokes. How can liquid smell furry or smooth, cool or scratchy?
Sure, some fragrances smell like particular materials, so it’s natural they’d remind you of that material’s texture. For instance, an oily leather fragrance might bring to mind the rough texture of a motorcycle boot including its rubber tread. Other perfumes, though, don’t smell like any one particular thing, yet they have definite texture. They can be expansive or tight, fluffy or slick, pebbled or icy smooth.
As I unpacked my fall clothes this weekend and laid the wool skirts, cashmere sweaters, velvet jackets, and mohair cardigans on the bed, I thought of perfume and texture again. Here are some of my matches with cool weather textures. I’d love to know about yours.
Wool. Wool can be fluffy like mohair, thick like a sweater, or tightly woven like gabardine. Oak moss has always felt earthy yet fluffy to me, so for me moss-laden perfumes often have the warm, airy texture of mohair. An old-style chypre like Acqua di Parma Profumo feels just like a pale mocha hand-knit cardigan with half-dollar-sized mother of pearl buttons. Fragrances with warmth, body, and presence but not a lot of structure feel more like a Shetland sweater. Serge Lutens Chêne is one. For a wool gabardine feeling fragrance, I turn to Lancôme Cuir de Lancôme. I know — it should feel smooth and hard like leather, but to me it is a sweet, toasty gabardine.
Cashmere. A skin-like musk can feel as soft as cashmere to me. The musky second half of Frédéric Malle Angéliques sous la Pluie feels warm and delicate as cashmere, for instance, as does, believe it or not, Jovan White Musk. A powdery iris, like another Frédéric Malle, Iris Poudre, has the smooth and tight yet soft texture of cashmere, as does Annick Goutal Heure Exquise.
Velvet. Warm, fruity rose fragrances feel as dense and soft as silk velvet with its supple hand. Guerlain Nahéma is an example. Amber scents, like Annick Goutal Ambre Fétiche or densely woven orientals, like Amourage Epic Woman, can also feel velvety, but more sturdy, less texturally sinuous, and more like cotton velvet.
Then there are the hybrids. Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar has the texture of knitted wool overlaid with wet silk charmeuse. Guerlain Shalimar Ode à la Vanille is velvet knotted with scratchy tulle (in the best possible way). Flower by Kenzo Oriental is velvet, too, but whipped somehow into powdery goose down. Ormonde Jayne Tolu should feel like velvet, but has a surprising crisp edge that gives it more the texture of organdie overlaid with beaver (horrible as a dress, but lovely as a fragrance).
Does fragrance have texture for you? What are some of your favorite autumn textures and corresponding fragrances?