Are you a one-scent woman, or do you flit from one perfume to the next? We all have the ones we always return to for AN INSTANT RUSH OF COMFORT, glamour or confidence. But with up to 1,000 new ones launching each year, it’s easy to get distracted. Ten writers gave up their signature scents to SPRITZ SOMETHING DIFFERENT
1. FOR THE SENSUALIST
Cloon Keen Sybarite by Maggie Armstrong
At first this was like opening a tin of spices, and being suddenly taken to a languorous tea table in an opulent Middle Eastern palace, maybe Alexandria two centuries ago. I pictured smoke and backgammon. But I was overwhelmed, culture-shocked. Over the days it softened and what I thought were cloves and pepper and cocoa beans dissolved into a lovely honey, baked fruit miasma. Sybarite is actually a blend of bergamot, jasmine, Bulgarian rose, sandalwood, amber and patchouli. I read this and felt pretty stupid. My mother, also smell illiterate, declared “it’s sweet” and was compelled to identify each esoteric flavour, but couldn’t for the life of her. Neither of us got any of them, but the key is we wanted to. Sybarite is the kind of mystery evening dalliance you think desperately hard about the next day. As its name suggests, it’s a scent for the sensualist, the night person, who looks for complication. It stays long on your skin, but could give colleagues the wrong idea if you wear it during the day. It could be full of dark suggestion. It comes in a traditional square ink bottle. As a writer and as a technophobe I delight in this. €76, at Cloon Keen Atelier, Galway, and Arnotts.
2. FOR YOUNG HEARTS
Marc Jacobs Daisy Delight and Eau so Fresh Delight by Daisy Hickey
My namesake scent, Daisy by Marc Jacobs, has always been a favourite: in just one year I managed to spritz through two giant bottles of the stuff. And now it’s growing up: this new duo have a maturity the original Daisy lacked. I find both Delight and Eau So Fresh maintain the original Daisy’s characteristics – girly, fresh and sweet – while having a touch more sharpness. Eau So Fresh is prettier and cleaner than its older sister while pale green Delight, with apple and freesia notes, is more summery. Love at first scent. From €61, at Debenhams.
3. FOR THOSE WITH STYLE AND SUBSTANCE
Balenciaga Rosabotanica by Rosa Abbott
My nose has always been drawn towards heavy oriental fragrances like Chanel’s Coco and Guerlain’s Mitsouko. But although delicious for nocturnal appearances, such statement-makers aren’t always appropriate for everyday wear. So I’m on the hunt for something more versatile. I had high hopes for Balenciaga’s Florabotanica when it came out, as I instantly fell in love with the distinctive flacon – geometric; boldly striked through in black and white – but a quick spritz at the perfume counter proved disappointing: a little floral and light for my heady tastes. Rosabotanica, the follow-up scent, was instantly more intriguing. Much more fresh and green, with hints of mint, fig leaf and spicy pink peppers, it’s rose-based, but more evocative of lush green foliage and freshly cut stalks than a more traditional bouquet. The initial blast is quite intense, but the scent soon settles down into a more haunting, musky aroma. Undertones of those oriental amber and woody notes that I love start to emerge here, more lingering than overpowering. (My only gripe, in fact, is that I found myself chasing a second spritz in the afternoon to “top up” – Rosabotanica fades a little faster than I’d expected.) After a few days of consecutive wearing, I was hooked – and the one morning I forgot to spritz before work, I found myself hankering after its fresh, zingy appeal as much as my morning coffee. €67.30, at House of Fraser and Arnotts.
4. FOR THOSE WHO WANT A CONVERSION
Bottega Veneta Essence Aromatique by Antonia Hart
Thursday evening, and I’m just in the mood for a new perfume so I’m generous with my first application of Bottega Veneta Essence Aromatique. I immediately regret it, because this first wave reminds me of an aftershave, totally different from the straightforward citruses and florals chinking about in my top drawer. I’m on my way to supper with three women friends, all of whom recoil from me. “It hasn’t settled yet,” I explain, flapping a menu at my collarbones, and it does round and soften through the evening, but not enough for any of them to risk the greeny-grey bottle, pretty and all as it is. Saturday morning, and a puff of eau de cologne improves the atmosphere of a pre-dawn train to Limerick. Throughout my UL seminar it’s unpleasantly mingled with the scent of slowly steaming cashmere, but I can hardly lay that at the perfume’s door. Home again that evening I catch my five-year-old for a bear hug. “What do I smell of?” His whisper back is full of hope. “Chocolate?” I can’t quite get used to it on my skin, but do catch myself burying my face in a trace-bearing silk scarf, looking for a hit of those leathery, ambery riches which seemed so overpowering at first. After four days I’m eager to get back to my old favourites, but when I go for my floral fix I do wonder whether it’s time to replace its girlish simplicity with something more sophisticated. I may not be converted to this scent, but I may be converted by it. From €73.70, at Harvey Nichols.
5. FOR THOSE WHO LIKE THE FINER THINGS IN LIFE
Arquiste Anima Dulcis by Sarah Halliwell
I love the idea of having a signature scent that conjures you up, even in your absence. One drop of Chloé is more evocative of my flamboyant godmother than any photograph. But I haven’t remained loyal to just one scent since my teens, spent liberally doused in Cacharel’s LouLou. I flit from smoky greens to strong modern florals, depending on the day or mood. Though open to persuasion, I’m fussy: anything sweet or vanilla-y makes me want to leave the room. So the cocoa absolute, vanilla, cinammon and chilli in Anima Dulcis did not sound enticing – too much like a pudding recipe for a start. And yet its rich strangeness has me weak at the knees. It’s spicy, smoky and otherwordly, yet not remotely heavy. I like the way it smells modern yet ancient at the same time and makes people lean in, intrigued. It lingers on the skin, warm and distracting; my driving is dangerously erratic as my wrist is constantly at my nose. Though I’d hate to confine myself to just one scent, I’m seriously tempted. €145, at Parfumarija, Westbury Mall, Dublin 2.
6. FOR THE MEN
Giorgio Armani Eau d’Arômes by Leonard Daly
The classy bottle made me eager to try this, even though I am generally a lover of floral scents and the notes in this are woody and spicy. I almost always find on trying a woody spicy aftershave that I end up disliking it because it’s all I can smell for the day. Eau d’Arômes is not like that at all: light and subtle, it does not overpower your senses. Its base notes of vetiver (a beautifully smelling grass native to India), cardamom and sage work to give the scent its wonderful warmth. Ginger adds more warmth, while patchouli infuses the fragrance with a beautiful, lingering spiciness. The two top notes are oranges – bergamot and mandarin – which give an initial hit of freshness. It’s a sophisticated fragrance that bridges the gap between heady woody scents and fresh florals. Just perfect for the warmer days of spring. €62, at Brown Thomas; nationwide from April.
7. FOR THE SOPHISTICATE
Chanel Les Exclusifs Extraits Jersey by Mary Dowey
Soft, sensual, sophisticated, light but persistent, enveloping … these are my initial jottings about Chanel Jersey. Penned by a picky person who has hunted endlessly for a pleasing new fragrance, spraying scent after scent into the dead air of duty-free shops for years, they are unusually positive. We are off to a promising start. This is surprising not just because of my implacable nature, but because Jersey contains a little dash of jasmine – a smell that I have never liked. It is detectable for the first second or two, then overridden by other elements which I prefer. Lavender, vanilla, a touch of musk … these are spun together in such a harmonious way that Jersey slowly reveals itself as a subtle, comforting presence. Good perfume, like good wine, takes time to unfold. If fragrance evokes memory, then Jersey makes me think of clean sheets drying in the Provençal sun. If it suggests texture (as I believe all perfumes do), suede comes to mind – or a featherlight dusting of face powder. If a mood is conjured up, it’s quiet confidence with an edge of glamour. I simply love wearing it. What more can I say? Oh yes, one other thing. Himself says it’s sexy. €186, at Chanel boutiques.
8. FOR AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER
Lancôme La Vie Est Belle L’Eau de Toilette by Marie Kelly
I’ve had a steadfast relationship with my signature scent since I was 15 years old. That’s almost 25 years without so much as a brief encounter in a duty free – I’m a Virgo you see, loyal to a fault. And a traditionalist; the scent is Chanel No 5. So I accepted a bottle of La Vie Est Belle with only mild interest and vague preconceptions about pinkish looking perfume bottles and syrupy scents. The first spritz sent out a wave of sweet fruitiness that made me sniff the infused air with arch skepticism. It was an unexpectedly strong introduction. But the scent dried down on my skin surprisingly fast – within just a couple of hours – and what seemed saccharine to begin with settled into smooth rather than sweet vanilla, with almond-like traces courtesy of the tonka beans and praline, and the faintest hint of jasmine. Although described as key ingredients, the iris and orange-blossom notes were for me mere murmurs, the clear command coming instead from the warm vanilla. If No 5 is the olfactory equivalent of a little black dress, then this eau de toilette is more akin to a cashmere cardigan, utterly different but, in the right context, equally chic. From €62, at counters nationwide.
9. FOR THOSE WHO WANT SUMMER, BOTTLED
Nuxe Prodigieux Le Parfum by Sarah McDonnell
The accompanying literature suggests this perfume might “effortlessly cast a spell on men”. It did, but not in the way Nuxe intended. A fan of Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse oil since we began to stock up on trips to France before it was available here, my husband was always particularly taken by its Ambre Solaire-style scent and was pleased to discover the perfume bears more than a passing olfactory resemblance to the restorative oil he oft slathered on his hair and skin. (There is a shimmering version of the oil, by the way, but I warned him off that, for obvious reasons). Yes, this fragrance may be packed with citrussy bergamot and mandarin as well as orange blossom, gardenia, magnolia and rose – all ingredients just the right side of unisex – but it relies heavily too on the base notes of vanilla and coconut found in the oil itself, those most estival, beachy, transporting of scents. Nuxe calls this ability to fetch the user away to a hotter clime the “hot sand effect”. As for us two, barging each other in the hall, where I now keep an array of scents on the hall table for quick spritzes as we exit – I’m abstaining from Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene and Chanel’s Beige in order to road-test this one – we just mist it on and think about trawling the internet for flights. And that feeling lasts at least until we encounter our first set of traffic lights. When it runs out, we can always buy another bottle. €48.60, at Arnotts and pharmacies.
10. FOR THOSE WHO WANT A PORTRAIT OF A PLACE
Jo Malone London Rain Black Cedarwood & Juniper by Jane McDonnell
A perfume dilettante, I flit from fragrance to fragrance from those arrayed on the mantelpiece in my room. They have all earned their place there because I know what I like. I only want to wear scent that reminds me of a person, place or thing or emotion that I enjoy remembering. So, when presented with Black Cedarwood & Juniper, from Jo Malone’s new limited edition collection, London Rain (a set of four fragrances), I wondered if this would really take me back to the days when I lived in London. It did. London smells to me of roses and railings and parks in the rain – as well as the odd whiff of an Hermès bag on Bond Street and, on Sundays, incense from the Brompton Oratory. All smells seem more evocative in the rain. I put on this scent and I feel a pang of nostalgia; it’s a fine aromatic portrait of a rainwashed city on a summer night, humid with moss and cedarwood. It’s modern, urban and exciting. Takes me back. €100, at Brown Thomas.
This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this, don’t miss our April issue, out Thursday April 7.
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