A Perfumed Evening

imgres-4I hosted my neighbourhood book club this month, and my choice was Chandler Burr’s The Perfect Scent.  It’s a wonderful account of his year following a perfumer and a celebrity as they create new fragrances: Claude Ellena, who makes Un Jardin sur le Nil, his first as the in-house perfumer for Hermes, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who embarks on her first fragrance for Coty, Lovely.

We often do food and drink that’s linked to the book in some way, so I got rose Turkish Delight, Chowder’s violet candies, lavender jelly for the cheese board, and I made a cardamom and ginger dressing for the cantaloupe and a rosewater-flavoured yogurt for the strawberries.  Yum!  For drinks, I had spiced rum punch and Elderflower pear cider and Elderflower liqueur.  All highly recommended!

As part of the evening, I got samples of the perfumes Burr discusses in the book, and I asked everyone to bring their favourite perfume: a smell and tell component to the evening.  We had a tour through all the samples, and it was striking how polarized opinion could be on some of the perfumes.  My favourite perfume, Dzing! by l’Artisan Parfumeur, makes me deliriously happy because it smells like hay and animals and, yes, a bit like manure.  Two other women who smelled it smelled, wait for it, electrical fire!!  One of them had had an electrical fire recently and said it smelled exactly like it.  Obviously not a happy connection.  We rounded out the night by discussing the book and told stories about our fragrance memories and about how we came to love our favourites.

imgres-5We all had our memories of heavy perfumes we left behind with our youth, like Rive Gauche, Poison, Anais Anais, Obsession and Ralph Lauren.  Do you remember those?   We all had memories of women in our lives who are inseparable from their fragrances.  For me, it’s my mother and Youth Dew.  Inseparable.

My fascination with all things perfume truly began about five years ago when I discovered that there exists a perfume called In the Library, made by Christopher Brosius for CB I Hate Perfume.  It turned out that the only woman in Toronto to carry his perfumes was right around the corner.  Sadly, I really did not like the smell of In the Library, but two of the notes in it, Tobacco and Old Leather, were available as individual scents.  I bought them on the spot, and gave them to my husband to wear.  They are simply scrumptious, and it gives me a profound sense of calm and pleasure to smell those scents on him.  I have since bought about six of his perfumes, each with its own wonderful story and unfolding pleasures.

His In the Library started me on a quest to find other perfume that smelled like books.  I’d get very strange looks when I asked about it, but one store owner who really knew his stuff said, “Nothing like books, but what about hay?  Some people think this one smells like paper.”  And he introduced me to my beloved Dzing!  His store has since disappeared, so my favourite scent remains elusive.  All the better to make you yearn, my dear.

What perfumes have you forever left behind?  What are your current favourites?

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8 thoughts on “A Perfumed Evening

  1. Loves baby soft
    Jean Nate- smells like my grandmother
    Charlie- blast from the past The first perfume I bought my mother(she lovingly wore it)

    Lilly of the valley-
    Lauren- by Ralph
    Obsession-brief
    Diorissimo-
    Joy – forever will remind me of my Mother and her love for it.
    Coopertone – and Bain du soliel -not really perfume but non the less can transport me to to the best summers
    of my life
    Last but not least Eternity, my now signature perfume. Guess I am becoming old.

  2. Chanel No.5 will always, always, always be my mother. I can smell it anywhere and instantly am transported to her arms. Bleach will always be synonymous with my grandmother. I wonder what my scent is? Even if you don’t wear perfume there’s a scent . . .

    • So many people said that about Chanel No. 5. Bleach was not on our list! One of us, who cannot wear perfume, said she was sad that her kids would not have a perfume scent memory of her, as they do of her sister. (Everytime someone walks by who wears her sister’s perfume, they say, “Oh! That reminds me of Aunt….”) But I do think we have a scent, even without perfume.

  3. My paternal grandmother, Nana, was a Shalimar woman. Sometimes I go into the drug store just to have a sample. I had a sense my parents’ marriage was over when my mom stopped asking for Zen. When I was four or five, my maternal grandmother gave me a box of all of her discarded perfumes, of which L’air du temps was a favourite due to the bottle, not the scent. My great aunt Veronica had a solid perfume compact of Lily of the Valley which I can still smell when I think on her. I have a Jean Nate horror story (bad allergic reaction to a lovely gift of bath products) which has become one of my infamous “Little Mama Stories.” For a long time my signature scent was (and probably still is) Marc Jacobs, sometimes known as Marc Jacobs woman (the original marc jacobs scent before they went all berserk with rubber bottles and honey bees). I received it in a very large sample size from a friend who had been to the launch party and didn’t like it. I liberally sprayed it on. Hated it. Left the bottle at my friend’s. Begged her next morning to take me back to her place to pick up the bottle. As for new romances, I hate to admit it, but I’m a huge Flowerbomb enthusiast. Vive la Gourmande!

    • Great story about the Marc Jacobs sample! That’s why it’s so important to wear a perfume, and wear it for days, before buying. I just got a sample of Spicebomb from Sephora on Bloor. Love it. They are wonderful about samples. I just wish they had more perfumes!

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