Saturday, August 17, 2013

Testing friends' signature fragrances. As you know, I am semi-obsessed with reading online perfume reviews. Last night I idly joined the Fragrantica forums because it does this thing where it stops you being able to browse unless you sign up.

While filling out my profile it asked me for my favourite perfumes and 'signature perfume'. I used to really buy into the idea of a signature perfume, but I don't think I have one now; I own six perfumes and switch between them depending on my mood, the appropriateness of the perfume to the occasion based on cultural history, and ridiculous synaesthetic associations of perfumes with colours, which means I match them to my outfits.

I am always looking for new perfumes to find out more about. So, today, I asked my Facebook friends: Do you have a signature perfume? What is it? Why do you like it? And then this afternoon I went to David Jones and Myer, and tried to track down these perfumes to see what I thought of them.

I realise now that I missed some of them and will have to go back. Department-store perfume counters are the worst: they are full of prowling sales staff who represent particular perfume conglomerates, not the store, so they will only ever recommend 'their' brands, and they will still hit you up after you've said "Just looking" to two or three previous staffers. So I was constantly interrupted while holding my phone in one hand with the Facebook thread open on it.

Jess: I only own one so I guess it's my signature – it's Cacharel's Noa and I've worn it for so long I can't really even smell it any more. (Which makes me wonder what the point is.) I guess it works well with my skin chemistry, which I like as most perfumes seem to smell oddly metallic on me… a French exchange student gave me a bottle! The description makes it sound kind of cloying, but on me it always wears as a very clean white flower scent with a little hint of coffee. It has that nice gardenia/peony kind of crispness, so I guess I lucked into that one.

Now, I don't have much of an idea in my head of what peonies smell like, so I was keen to find this, but of course it wasn't among the four Cacharel perfumes available at David Jones.

Michelle: It used to be Issey Miyake, but I now always use Cartier's Baiser Volé, after finding it in the UK. It's supposedly based on the scent of lilies and it has a light fragrance that I prefer.

Yes – I tried this in Myer and lilies were my first impression. Or, more precisely, I had an impression of paleness and crispness. In the online perfume review world, I've often noticed the term 'white floral' used, which struck me as odd since there are so many different kinds of white flowers, but I understand the general sense of lightness it implies.

Baiser Volé means 'stolen kiss', although 'baiser' also means 'to fuck', as in the film Baise-Moi, and as my friend Emah discovered in high school French class after fatefully producing a anti-smoking poster with the slogan, "Ne baisez pas un fumeur; lechez un cendrier" ("Don't fuck a smoker; lick an ashtray"). Anyway, my overall impression of this perfume is of lightness and subtlety. I'm not sure what it would smell like on me, or how long it would last, given how light the fragrance is.

Emah: I switch between Opium and Poême. I actually love it when I walk past someone wearing Poême – it always makes me want to cuddle them, it feels like home. I may be a little weird!

Now I didn't try Opium, but I did get a card of Poême. I don't know what it smells like on Emah, but it is very sweet with a spicy undertone. I smell vanilla and jonquil or freesia. It actually reminded me of Joy by Jean Patou or Ysatis by Givenchy (which I am thinking about getting). But Poême has more vanilla and fewer aldehydes than either of those.

Jenna: Hypnotic Poison is a favourite of mine and none of my friends wear it because it's my signature perfume, but I've come to really love Versace's Crystal Noir. It's a beautiful scent based on gardenias with a warm woody overtone. Sexy!

I have always associated Jenna with Hypnotic Poison; it smells great on her and seems to suit her personality. When I tried Crystal Noir I was surprised by how comparatively subdued it is. Unlike Baiser Volé, which has a daytime feel, this one smells of the kind of 'white flowers' that bloom at night. There's a creaminess to it that smells kind of mysterious, and a vague nuttiness (apparently coconut is one of its ingredients).

Paulina: My current perfume is Comme de Garcons' 'Asterisk' (in that all it has on it is an asterisk, so I actually don't know what it's called. It smells like cinnamon, anyway.)

LOL, I had an awkward conversation with a charmingly urbane dude at Myer's Mecca Cosmetica concern about this. I zeroed in on two. The first was this one, which Fragrantica called "Comme des Garcons 2011" but the Mecca guy called "Comme des Garcons 5". It is a conceptual perfume: "an industrialized flower to go with glue, an imaginary flower from an unknown civilization". It smells weird and industrial, like the smell you get when you've just unboxed a new computer or mobile phone. The main ingredients are industrial glue and scotch tape, with leathery and musky elements. I guess some people might want to smell like an empty electronic product box.

It turns out that the asterisk is just part of the CDG branding and appears on all the perfumes. Oh boy, I felt dumb. But based on Paulina's description, I think she means the original Comme des Garcons. It smells strong and spicy, but almost more a woody kind of spice than a foodie kind of spice – I get cedar or sandalwood. On the way home on the tram, I could smell it strongly from the Dymocks bag where I'd stored it as a bookmark in one of the books I bought.

Rochelle: Classic fave is Chanel Coco – a light oriental. Also love Gucci – very spicy and wicked. Am rather fond of Marc Jacobs' Daisy and J'adore for light daytime whiff. They were free samples. Am also a big fan of Serge Lutens fragrances. They have them in Myer in the city.

They do indeed! I saw them (they live in the Mecca Cosmetica concern) but didn't try any on, although I have heard great things about Iris Silver Mist, which is often mentioned in perfumista discussions about iris accords.

Coco has a lovely, complex smell; like the classic Chanel perfumes it basically smells rich and luxurious, but a little spicier than No. 5. I can't tell you how disappointed I am with the flanker Coco Mademoiselle, which was formulated to introduce younger consumers to whom Coco smells too 'old-lady'. To me it smells cheap and cloying, like a crass celebrity perfume.

I'm not sure which Gucci perfume Rochelle means (there are so many!), but I tried Daisy. I was worried that, like a lot of mainstream perfumes, it would smell too chemical, but it balances sweet and citrusy in an interesting and pleasant way. I forgot to try J'adore, but it is described as a fruity white floral.

Hannah: I like lighter fresh and citrus toned fragrances rather than heavy floral ones. My current favourite is 'untitled' Maison Martin Margiela but I've run out and it seems impossible to find in Australia. I also have L'eau par Kenzo which is an eau de toilette, so much lighter than a lot of perfumes. I have the pour femme and there is also a pour homme I believe.

Good news, Hannah! Your perfume is available at David Jones! On first whiff, it smells like freshly cut saplings or branches: very green and acerbic. It is apparently meant to smell like "greenery after rain". It's definitely an unusual perfume. After a while the greenery subsides and you get a subtle warmth that's both floral and spicy: like jasmine and incense. I missed the Kenzo reference, although I did consider the display in Myer and wonder if anyone had mentioned them. D'oh.

Tara: Le Baiser du Dragon, Cartier.

Another kissing perfume: this one is "The Dragon's Kiss". It was nowhere to be found, which annoys me as its main accord is described as "bitter almond", which made me wonder if it would smell like cyanide. (Detective novels have impressed upon me that cyanide smells like bitter almonds.) Tara added, "Oh sorry, mine isn't available in Aus, I import it from the US." So there you go.

Other perfumes I tried:

Ivoire by Pierre Balmain: To be honest I was mainly attracted by the incredibly sophisticated packaging; it looks like an Upper East Side calling card. Maybe it's just the associations of the name, but to me it smelled like expensive soap; clean and with an almost masculine aromatic undertone. I recently saw Woody Allen's new film Blue Jasmine, and this perfume strikes me as the kind of perfume Cate Blanchett's character might have worn.

Shalimar Parfum Initial by Guerlain: I really wish I could like the original Shalimar – it's such a perfume classic – but it smelled dirty and offputting on the card. Actually like soil! However, the Parfum Initial has a soft, powdery oriental quality that reminds me of Coco by Chanel.

Bois d'Iris by Van Cleef & Arpels: This smells amazing! It is now my second favourite iris perfume, behind Prada Infusion d'Iris Absolue. It smells warm and buttery, and fades down to a sweet spiciness that isn't as chocolatey as the Prada (or the similar-smelling Hermès Hiris, which I've only ever seen at Kleins Perfumery) but still seems somehow creamier than Shalimar Parfum Initial. Unfortunately it's from a special 'Collection Extraordinaire' and I am not willing to pay the insane price.

Iris Nobile by Acqua di Parma: Ugh, too sweet! You can hardly smell any iris in this at all: it's a very cloying orangey scent, almost like lollies. I think the sweetness comes from tuberose.

Stella by Stella McCartney: I keep persisting with this because I'm interested in rose perfumes but it never smells rosy enough, and too cheap and sugary.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Meter