For this Inside the Perfume Cabinet article, we feature NST's Kevin. Who better to tell his story than Kevin himself?
I became interested in perfume through gardening. My grandmother got me hooked on plants when I was 8 years old; her favorites were all scented: wallflowers, geraniums (for the leaves’ scent), daffodils, sweet peas, Summersweet, magnolias of all types, Nicotiana alata, evening stock, mignonette, roses, lilies, sweet box, Carolina allspice, on and on. I was intoxicated by those aromas and thrilled when I realized many of the scents were available year-round — in soaps and perfumes.
I remember fragrances my parents owned when I was a child. My father wore Chanel Pour Monsieur, English Leather and bay rum colognes. My mother wore perfume sporadically; she had bottles of Chanel No. 5, Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps, Houbigant Quelque Fleurs, Guy Laroche Fidji (worn the most) and Lanvin Arpège (a friend gave her this every Christmas…and my mother hated it). We lived in a small town but the local drug store, of all places, served up great milkshakes AND a large selection of good perfumes. With milkshake or Cherry-Sprite in hand, I’d peruse the shiny chrome-and-glass perfume section, almost always deserted on weekdays.
Many perfume notes ignite desire in me: hay, mock orange, broom, daphne, daffodil, birch, camphor. Other notes I love are frankincense, immortelle, tobacco leaf, linden, iris, Peru balsam, sandalwood, nutmeg, cumin (within reasonable limits), saffron, and all things citrus (without exception!) -- lime, mandarin, grapefruit, lemon, bergamot, bitter orange. Fruit notes I like besides citrus include banana, pineapple, mango, guava; I'm a 'tropics' guy. I even like oudh when it’s “natural.” Perhaps I love vetiver and rosewood most of all? Sigh...you see why I'm a fragrance nut.
I don’t enjoy Calone/ozone (usually), heavy oak moss, “white” (laundry) musks, caramel, spun sugar, fudge-like/candy notes, carnation (love the flowers in nature, dislike the note in perfume; ditto with lilac, wisteria and hyacinth). Coffee is hit or miss. Iso E Super, Ambroxan and Cashmeran can be problematic for me when they’re the star in a perfume.
If I could choose only ONE perfume in the world, past or present, to appear in front of me, I would become paralyzed with indecision. So: I’m choosing several, and I want them all in original formulations — 1882 Houbigant Fougère Royale (a heavenly scent; the oldest version I’ve found so far was from the 1950s); Jean Patou Chaldée and Colony; “Kyphi” as the pharaohs experienced it; never smelled it, want to: the 1975 version of Halston parfum in the Elsa Peretti bottle. Halston's notes sound sensational: bergamot, marigold, galbanum, spearmint, peach, jasmine, rose, iris, ylang-ylang, cedar, moss, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood, frankincense, musk, and amber...whew! Finally, and for the dog-topped bottle alone, D’Orsay Toujours fidèle (1909).
I store my perfume in three places: 1. upstairs in a pitch-black cabinet that is situated over an unused cement-and-stone coal storage space on the floor below; this cabinet stays cool all year; 2. downstairs in the basement (autumn/winter scents stay there in summer, spring/summer scents stay there in winter…to make seasonal fragrances easier to find, and use, upstairs); 3. on my bedside table, I keep lightly scented floral or citrus lotions, a candle or two, and colognes I can wear right before bed – fleeting fragrances.
Sampling mass quantities of fragrance over the years has taught me:
- Never to believe hype or lists of notes in a perfume;
- Never to judge a perfume by its price…or perfumer (perfumers create duds and I assume the final product is what the client wanted!);
- Not to fret about or mourn reformulated or discontinued perfumes (there are plenty of perfumes to enjoy);
- I can’t try all the perfumes that are released each year;
- About IFRA; it would never have been in my consciousness if it weren’t for the perfume blogosphere.
Note: First two images by Kevin — top: his perfume cabinet; middle: his bedside perfumes; bottom image: D'Orsay Toujours fidèle from an advertisement.