I 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.
We 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?