It's that time of year again where I linger about drug stores and department stores trying to find a new perfume to call my own. I prefer to not smell like everyone else; call me singular, antisocial, crazy whatever, but I like knowing I have a unique aroma (And I'm not talking about the gym pong either). I get a thrill when someone stops me, who isn't a blaring example of crazy, and asks me what perfume I'm wearing. It's always a conversation starter with a fellow perfumista/o, and I like that kinship. So of course I'm starting out on the wrong foot, one cannot possibly buy a unique or rare scent in either a drug or department store.
So how do you go about finding a new, lost, underutilized, unique scent? First you have to know what you like. No point going floral if they give you headaches and if sandalwood makes you nauseous then you better know how to spot it. I find, if you know what's in your favourite perfume, finding a varying formula is usually a good thing. Be brave but sensible.
Let's use CK One as an example. I use this as it was the number one scent in the mid 90's for men and women. You couldn't walk ten feet without smelling it on someone. So let's say you like the lemon freshness of CK One but don't want to smell like everyone else. Find out what you like specificlly about the scent - it it the fresh lemon you get when you first spray it on? Or do you prefer the warmer green scent that follows about an hour later? Maybe it's the undertones of musk and amber - does your nose go right to the guts of the scent or does it prefer the airier side of the scent?
Well for me it was the airier side I liked, which is odd as I'm definitely a warmer, musk fan. As it was, I couldn't wear CK One on its own. I always mixed it with another scent, in particular Coco Chanel. When I wore the two layered together, I got stopped a lot. It became my favourite scent from 1994-1997. Coco also goes nice with lighter white musks.
Beginning in this way I found that certain combinations of scents were better then broad board scents. Kenzo Flowers is obnoxious to my nose as it's just flowers. It doesn't seem to mellow down to anything with character and diversity. It's just an bash of sharp, stinging flowers up the sinuses. Even though it has two of my favourite notes in it; opopanax (sweet myrrh) and musk, they're too overpowered to be fully appreciated.
A perfume has a personality. Three layers of revealing itself. Top, middle and base notes tell the story of the perfume. Top notes are what hits you when you first apply the scent, middle notes are what comes from the scent after the tops have evaporated a bit and the scent warms on your skin, base notes are the heavier scents that linger the longest and hold the scent together. Scents evoke emotions, memories and transport you to grassy glens, woodlands and waterfalls. They are an escape. Where do you prefer to escape to? For me it's the woods. What's it for you? Fields of poppies? Metalworks? Caribbean beaches? There's a scent or all of these.
What I do is I trawl the internet for scents I've never heard of. I frequent places like Basenotes and Now Smell This and find those exclusive little boutiques, or the scents that big brands keep private and don't advertise as heavily. Most of the boutiques will offer samples for a small price - no point buying a scent that sounds good on paper but ends up disappointing. Remember my Marilyn Miglen disaster? I thought I was getting a spicy, sweet rush of an oriental scent and ended up with an old ladies powder room. My Mother-in-law loves it so it's not a waste. So the samples is the best way to go. I also love the glass counters in the far right nook of Jenners where they hide the exclusive and obsessive scenteurs. I always walk away with a wish list and purse full of samples. I don't think one spray is ever enough to commit a lot of money to a scent - and let's be honest, a decent scent can cost a fortune (Says the woman who loves the smell of Old Spice and Coty Wild Musk).
So, I've finally decided on what my new scent is going to be for the new year. I'll buy the new one on my birthday. I just have to figure out whose scent to get. That makes no sense really now does it, but what I want is Cuir de Russie, Russian leather. It's done by a few houses; Creed, L.T. Piver and Chanel all do a version of Cuir de Russie. I currently have the L.T. Piver one and I like it a lot, but of course I'll have to ferret out samples of the others to be absolutely sure. I've read reviews of the Chanel that say it's not all that Russie, and there's heavy debate over whether Creed or Piver have the true Russie feel. What does it smell like? Light, fresh, hint of leather and woodsmoke. Fresh out of the bottle it's like a gin and tonic by the woodside. I adore this scent. The Piver one does fade to have a hint of plastic doll's head (and if you're a parent you may know what I mean) I've read it reviewed at "The most homoerotic perfume of all times" and oddly enough that doesn't turn me off it. I often wear men's colognes, or unisex scents, which Cuir De Russie is. Shame it disappears after a couple hours. I'm sure the Creed version will be too masculine as it's what Creed does, but the Chanel one has tweaked my interest and I'm heavy on the search for some.
Recent samples I've ordered are from Michael Storer. ($15 for a set of six) When I left a note in the paypal asking if there were samples of their limited edition scent, Winter Star, they sent me an email thanking me for my order and that they'll include the extra sample for me. How nice is that! I can't wait. I already love them for the customer service alone. (After posting this I went to my other samples haunt of Les Senteurs in London and nabbed five samples. I was hoping to find Musc Kublai Khan by Serge Lutens, but alas they had none. I'll review what I get.)
For now I have my Piver. Come give me a warm tight hug, I have a little behind my ear.