Friday, March 19, 2010

Comforting Scents for Uncomfortable Times -- A Group Blog

All my fragrances comfort me. They surround me with beauty and artistry. They let me move inside an invisible sphere. That sphere is where I live.
Pure vanilla extract is a kind of perfume. It scents foods and drinks, giving them an elusive deliciousness. I haven’t found my perfect vanilla perfume yet, but I’ve dabbed fine Madagascar vanilla extract on my pulse points as a scent. While it lasts, it smells like home -- an idealized home. Perhaps that is the true definition of comfort.
The only requirement for a comfort scent is that I own a bottle of it -- enough to use generously. I save samples for daytime, for evaluation and identification. These are the concept scents, the new, the niche, the challenging, the ones I chase, always behind the curve. Usually there is nothing comforting about them. I don’t think they’re meant to be.
I like to sleep in a bed of roses. 
My favorite rose for sleep -- or a nap (a midafternoon perfumed nap is the ultimate indulgence) is Rochas “Tocade,” that mixture of rose and boozy vanilla. When I wake up during the night, Tocade lulls me back to sleep. I don’t think I’ve ever worn it in the daytime. We’re strictly nocturnal, Tocade and me.
I’ve written a lot already about Cartier’s “So Pretty,” which is becoming a sleep favorite, too. It’s not challenging in any way, doesn’t insist on analysis. It’s just a rose, with soft berry and fruit, sweet, quiet and undemanding.
Rosine’s “Poussiere de Rose” is similar to “So Pretty,” -- I really have to compare them one of these days -- but, again, there is something about it that is relaxing. It’s soft, slightly sweet, a plummy rose, and when I apply it, I get a little delirious at first. It’s not as much a sleep scent as the other two, because there is also something ennervating about it, and I love to walk in its delightful haze.
Then there’s (vintage) YSL “Paris”. Somehow I missed this one during the Eighties. Violet is difficult note for me, too, but this scent....I haven’t yet actually worn it anywhere but to’s not exactly because I’m afraid to wear it out of the house you see, it’s just so in your face. ROSE and VIOLET. I am fascinated by it. By the bottle, designed to recline on its side, in front of the more upstanding ones. I reach for Paris more often than I ever thought I would. And, after a few hours spent melting into skin, it’s so much more cooperative.  And  it’s still there in the morning.
In summer, my tastes change a little. The American South is known for its humid nights, and I put away my heavy resin scents in April. Even cooled by air conditioning, the senses know it’s steamy outside. Thousands of tiny tree frogs roar all night, the bullfrogs drum and the grasshoppers rasp. Sometimes I hear owls hooting, cats fighting -- the natural world is wide awake. On the hottest nights I still love “Eau Parfumee au the vert,” with its light cardamom, tea (and a little bit of rose). Or “Anais Anais,” the coolest fresh-flowers scent I know. Or “Silences,” with its loads of galbanum green, just slightly bitter. These two layer beautifully, as fresh as morning. 

A recent vintage discovery is Coty’s “L’Aimant.” I bought a big bottle of the cologne. It has the old-fashioned aldehyde note, but it dries to the softest, most powdery floral I’ve yet found. It’s subtle, so if I want to punch it up a little, I wear the perfume, too. I haven’t tried this in summer yet, but will, and maybe as a sheets spray.
There are other summer sleep scents in my collection -- vintage “Intimate,” a soft and powdery Chypre; Lanvin’s “Oxygene,” an ozonic floral (never thought I’d like one of these, but I like this one) and the soft, incense-and-heliotrope Barbara Bui. For hot weather day wear, I’m partial to citrus and forthright greens. They bring something else to the party -- the sense of touch. Comfort for a July day: a cool spray on overheated skin. Like “4711” straight from the refrigerator, in that big bottle, enough for head to toe. “O de Lancome,” after a workout or before a class. Light citrus-patchouli “Eau de Rochas,” bone-dry vintage “Y,” the green leaves and violet “Eau de Cartier;” our summers are long. 
When I lived in Los Angeles, there was a jasmine vine under my bedroom window. The perfume from its blossoms wafted up and found its way to me on summer nights. The scent was intermittent, riding in on the breeze. Although some have come close, I’ve never found a jasmine perfume that matches it. 

But trying is so much fun.

This article's title is an homage to Michelyn Camen's original article of this same name on Sniffapalooza Magazine in 2008.

OTHER PARTICIPATING BLOGS: (Thanks to Ayala Moriel for organizing this!)
Katie Puckrik Smells
Savvy Thinker
Roxana's Illuminated Journal
BitterGrace Notes
Perfume Shrine
Notes from the Ledge
Scent Hive
The Non Blonde
Perfume in Progress
A Rose Beyond the Thames
I Smell Therefore I Am
Savvy Thinker


ScentScelf said...

I chuckled when you mentioned putting pure Madagascar vanilla extract on your pulse points, both at the image, and then at the fact that I thought "Holy cow, that stuff got expensive enough to be called an attar!"

Then, I proceeded to imagine applying rising bread dough to my pulse points. Not so good... ;)

Aha! I have tried and loved Poussiere de Rose. You are telling me it has an overlap with So Pretty? So now, instead of just happily recalling your review of So Pretty, I'll now have to go find some?? sigh Always, another. ;)

Many of the others you mention and respond to I nod along with. Paris, I haven't smelled (blart, another for the list; at least so far today's additions are easily found--no, wait; you said vintage; double blart), but you've got me interested.

I find myself attracted to vintage L'Origan more than L'Aimant, but agree with your description.

Layering Anais Anais with Silences? Really? Spends a little time mentally rehearsing Hunh. I can't quite conjure it, but I don't get a negative warning, either. Gonna have to try that. Silences, incidentally, is one of my Very Best Favorites, and generally ends up on any permutation of my limit-it-to-x lists. (Top Ten, Desert Island, Variety for a "Wardrobe," Comfort, Protection, Interest...what have you.)

Oxygene? Argh. You make me rue the day I put a FB in a swap grab bag. At the time, I just didn't get much out of it. Would be interesting to re-visit it now. I do remember it being pretty much "ozone" on me; I wonder if I'd get more hint of floral now?

Happy Equinox.

Scent Hive said...

I am very envious of your jasmine vine. I leave for Kauai in a few days and cannot wait to get my nose into some tropical flowers!


Lucy said...

Gorgeous writing! True perfumistas are those who look forward to and plan the perfume to wear to sleep in each night...and roses are most soothing.
This reminds me too of Mandy Aftel saying that she uses perfume on her face and hands so she smells it herself, the most. We have all our tricks and our manners!

Perfumeshrine said...

LOL! You're such fun! And yes, what can beat that extraordinary stuff that real jasmine, that deep, heady, sweetly aching beauty can do on a summer's night?

Several of your choices are sneaking in on my revisit list, bad P, bad! :-D

Olfacta said...

Hi S! Oxygene was one of those $14.99-at-TJ Maxx-things. I might have felt differently If I'd paid more, but there really is something nice about it on summer nights. (And think I need to get some more Silences...)

Olfacta said...

Hi SH -- Kauai, for someone with an olfactive bent, must be paradise indeed. Have a good trip!

Olfacta said...

Hi L - Thanks so much! I think that most, if not all, of us wear scents to please ourselves. And the reason we need such huge collections is...we wear it to sleep, too! And for naps. And to bathe in. And so on.

Good to hear from you!

Olfacta said...

Hi E!

Yes, that jasmine is one of the things I miss about California. We can't grow it here, winters are too cold.

I loved your recent series on musk btw! Cleared up a lot of confusion, thank you!

Katie Puckrik said...

Loved reading your list, Olfacta. And I like Lucy's comment about us fumecore types looking forward to our bedtime perfume - so true!

We're enjoying the jasmine right now in LA. I prefer it on the vine, though - my husband likes to bring a bit inside to enjoy, but I have to banish it from the bedroom. I find it just TOO overwhelming...right next to my nose.

Singlemalt said...

Comfort scents. I 'd think I'd like to lie in a bed of baking spices. My kitchen is my center. Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace.....
bread flour, yeast, Lime lemon, almond. Some of the taste of life. What I don't use I can give to others. I'm a cook as much as I love perfume.
But my comfort scents.,we recently learned that we may have to put our oldest kitty down for chronic renal failure-we just recently went through thyroid treatment and radiation for a non-cancerous tumor. My comfort scents are Costomer Sugerwood and Tabbaca and /calvinKlien Sceret Obession. i have a lot of other comfort rituals.

This is what has been only happened recently. My farther pasted away last March(yes, the call came at three in the morning.). My cousin died later that summer as did my aunt, a neighbor, and my mother's cat. Plus the parents of several co-workers. Good god. What can you say or do. For some reason I picked up the bottle of Channel Coco
my brother-in-law gave me 16 years ago. i feel in love with it and started researching other perfumes. There is an incredible sub cultural. some time it has been alright. Other times it has been a bit expensive to the pocketbook. I wonder how many of us have started this way

Rose said...

Tocade- what a lovely scent this is- and yes the combination of rose and vanilla is very soothing. I am also very fond of any rose note, not just because of my name, they just calm you I find

Olfacta said...

Hi K- Good to hear from you! "Fumecore." I love that. Been trying to think of a word to replace "perfumista," which I'm tired of. May I?

Cuttings from our jasmine vine in L.A. would brown quickly once inside, so after a few attempts I stopped trying. We have a vine here called "Confederate Jasmine" but it isn't hardy and--omg. I just looked out the window. Snow is falling!

Olfacta said...

Hi SM -- Wow. So much. It's amazing what we can withstand. I'm sorry for all these trials you're having. I lost both parents and cat in one year, and all I remember was just putting one foot in front of the other one and keeping on, for a long time. It did, eventually, get better.

Perfume is comforting. Now, when having a hard day, I will often spritz up with something lush. It helps. The pocketbook suffers some, but imagine what drugs cost! I guess my drug of choice now is the 8 ml decant.

My sympathies on all of it.

olfacta said...

Hi R -- Yes, there is definitely something about roses -- the Queen of flowers. Another reason to like them.

Katie Puckrik said...

"Fumecore" - you heard it here first, ha-ha! In fact, I just coined it in that very response, to signify an even harder-core level of fumehead. So use it, by all means. I, too, am tired of "perfumista", which is played out and excludes the lads.

That's why I came up with "fumehead" when I started my YouTube channel - I wanted to hit on a fun and accessible label for our sorts, like "foodie".

Rappleyea said...

Wonderful post! I haven't tried most of your picks, and I find it interesting how many people find rose scents comforting. I love the real thing growing on a bush but am usually disappointed by rose perfumes.

I find Guerlain's SDV very comforting. Most folks will probably find my other comfort scent a strange one as it is Mitsouko parfum. There is something about it, especially in the dry down, that smells like the feather pillows my great aunt used to make for me.

You are entirely right - a scented nap is the ultimate indulgence.

Olfacta said...

Hi R -- Thanks! I feel a cold coming on, so with any luck maybe I'll get to take one of those naps later today.

I used to think I didn't like rose, and, unfortunately, the first rose soliflore I bought was much too green for my tastes at the time. Still don't much like rose soliflores. But mixes are another story.

Olfacta said...

Hi R -- Thanks! I feel a cold coming on, so with any luck maybe I'll get to take one of those naps later today.

I used to think I didn't like rose, and, unfortunately, the first rose soliflore I bought was much too green for my tastes at the time. Still don't much like rose soliflores. But mixes are another story.

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