Kevin attached a note to a perfume sample he sent me this week. “Angie: this smells like a skunk eating a donut!” it said. Without Kevin’s suggestion, I might have simply written the perfume off as a funky orange blossom. Now I’ll never be able to smell this fragrance without picturing Pepé Le Pew tucking into a cruller.
Then there was Robin’s review of L’Artisan Parfumeur Nuit de Tubéreuse. She cannily pointed out a Juicy Fruit note in the fragrance. When I read the review, I already had a bottle of the fragrance and already loved it. But from then on I’ve never been able to shake the association with foil-wrapped strips of gum.
I can mostly divorce the words “Coca Cola accord” from certain patchouli-inflected perfumes like Dana Tabu. I’ve managed to overlook “cat pee” references for grapefruit- or cassis-based fragrances. I’m also pretty good at separating civet and dirty musk from their frequent tags of dirty socks, genitalia, bad breath, and worse. (Just look up a few reviews of Serge Lutens Muscs Kublai Khan and see what I mean.) But some comparisons stick.
Sometimes the comparisons are positive, but they still affect how I view a fragrance. For instance, I’ve heard the violet-rose combination referred to as “face powder” enough times that it takes an effort for me to see beyond a vintage box of Coty powder when I sniff Frédéric Malle Lipstick Rose. Of course, that’s part of what Lipstick Rose plays on. And all of those fragrances labeled “beachy,” such as Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess and Bobbi Brown Beach, smell like Coppertone even before my nose reaches the bottle.
Fortunately, I'm slow enough in identifying notes that without a giveaway label to latch me onto an idea, I usually have at least a few minutes to enjoy the fragrance’s sensations before my story brain takes over. I just smelled Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Ligne Trapeze, a fragrance she made for the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in Denver. It was familiar, yet sophisticated. Instead of scrambling to label its (very obvious and familiar) central note, I forced myself to relax and enjoy it. Before I knew it, “violet” drifted into my head, but without its candied associations. Nice.
What about you? Have you read any descriptions of fragrances or notes that changed how you view those perfumes for better or worse?