Late last month, Brian sent Abigail a package of decants from his collection. Abigail had already mailed Brian several herself, including samples from the Bond No. 9, Ava Luxe, and Serge Lutens lines. When Brian arrived in LA for the premiere of his movie, for instance, a package was waiting at the front desk. He ripped it open so quickly that the Bois de Violette he'd been dying to smell flew out of his hand and, hitting the ground, shattered inside its plastic zip lock; a strange bit of deja vu, considering the Bois de Violette was meant to make up for a small vial of his late grandmother's violet perfume, broken in much the same way.
Brian and Abigail talk about perfume every day, all day, as if perfumes were celebrities who just had martian babies. Sometimes they talk on the phone. I Smell Therefore I Am is a record of their friendship, seen through the prism of perfume. Their correspondence over the decants they've traded are a good transcript of this friendship in action, and we present some of it here as an example of the way a shared passion can quickly become about more than itself; a reason to keep in touch, if nothing else:
BRAIN BRIAN BRAIN BRIAN!!!!!!!
I received your package today. It came about 1 hour ago. The postman rang the doorbell because there were 2 other boxes (I did my part this week to help the economy). Dogs barking and leaping everywhere and in the midst of it all...lots of perfume.
I have so far opened everything. I'm overwhelmed and haven't smelled a thing. I'm sitting here with all these vials in front of me. I haven't smelled 99.9% of them ever in my life! Which is incredibly exciting. I don't know what to do first.
Is the Givenchy III vintage?
Nahema has been on my mind.
Guerlain Vetiver and FM Vetiver have been on my mind.
I *almost* bought Balmain Jolie Madame from parfum1 but didn't.
Did you buy Washington Tremlett from Luckyscent while you were in LA?
Encre Noire!! (have wanted this for ages)
I'm giddy. I need to go lay down. Take a nap. This will take me about a week - to get through all of these.
THANK YOU SO MUCH :-D
It's nice to know I've given you at least some of the thrill your packages gave me.
The Givenchy III is old, yeah. I'd love to smell the new one to compare.
When you said you were into vetiver lately I figured I'd take a chance and put a lot in. There are other frags I have which use vetiver heavily but I started with the straight ups.
I also figured you'd want to smell Nahema, though my hopes weren't high it would make you a Guerlain convert. Still, I think Nahema, of the older ones, is less powdery. It has a curious aspect the others like Mitsouko, Chamade, L'Heure and Jicky don't. The sample I sent is perfume de toilette, whatever that means.
Tremlett I bought in LA yeah. I left the store without it then returned because I knew I'd regret not getting it. I'm not sure, still, what I think about it. There's a sour note in it which isn't bad to my nose, and it's a strange smell. The other night I smelled an empty container of mints and realized that might be the note in there I can't place, something minty. People say it's floral and I'm not sure I get that. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
Encre Noire I got in LA too. I've obsessed over it since first smelling it in March at Perfume House in Portland. It smells a lot like Vetiver Extraordinaire. Weirdly, their differences are tonal somehow. It's as if they're the same cologne with different color filters on them, bringing out different moods. I do think Encre is more peppery.
I can't wait to hear what you think of them. More where that came from, naturally.
OK, here's the status update:
I love Guerlain Vetiver. It's so refreshing compared to the vetivers I've tried lately, I know there are two different types, the citrusy and the earthy - this is the citrusy and it's nice.
I love Balmain Ivoire. It changes a great deal from first spritz to dry down. This is a happy scent. Fresh, happy and pampered. It's also wearable and doesn't seem like it could be offensive to anyone in an office or whatever.
I am just about touching myself over Nu. I love the soft pepper.
There is no doubt that I Hate No 19. However, I LOVE Bois des Iles. It's soft woods with a touch of powder and florals. So soft compared with other Chanels. BdI is well-behaved, understated and classy. It does not scream Chanel to my nose (Like No.'s 5, 19 and 22 do for me). I often forget that I like Coco and Coco Mademoiselle, too, but I only wear Coco M to interviews and formal events. BdI (aside from Cuir de Russie) is the nicest Chanel I've ever smelled.
I have tons more to send you but will hold off a little while you soak these in. It doesn't surprise me you dislike No. 19 (I LOVE it, of course, thanks to galbanum) but I'm shocked you like Ivoire at all. I secretly hoped, but never dreamed you would.
I love NU. All out of proportion. .Pour un Homme I love because it's the cologne my mother's young French husband wore. And he wore a LOT, like most Frenchmen. I knew it instantly when I smelled it for the first time at the Korean store. I immediately recognized it. Shot right back into my brain.
Right now I'm utterly confused. I THINK I'm wearing Nahema and the Fig & Vetiver one. There's no way you like the Fig & Vetiver - it doesn't seem interesting enough for you. It's realistic and smells like Fig & Vetiver. It's nice. I can see wearing it in the heat of summer for a refreshing spritz.
Nahema. Odd one... it kinda smells like medicine and makes my nasal passages feel numb.
My dog is wearing Ivoire.
Do you think it's galbanum that I hate? No. 19 was wretched for me. But if Ivoire contains galbanum it can't be true because I looove it. It's awesomely spicy and green and medicinal in the dry down.
I agree with you. Nu is in a class by itself. It's a masterpiece. The pepper is done so well - it's not sneezy - even though it's quite present. I can see sniffing yourself constantly while wearing Nu.
Yeah I was wondering the same thing about you and galbanum. I'll have to send you more g scents to figure it out. Ivoire uses galbanum with exceptional subtlety. So does Anais Anais. When I learned Anais has galbanum it suddenly made total sense to me and I now feel very protective of it. Have you smelled Alliage? It's the mother of all galbanum scents. If you hate it, you probably dislike galbanum because it IS galbanum the way Coke is cola.
You're totally right about the Anthusa. It totally bores me. You are the first one to wear it out of that bottle. I smelled it for the first time since I got it at TJ Max when I decanted it for you and I was like, okay, it's nice, but I can't imagine wearing it with so many other smells I have and love at my disposal.
Nu made me a major fan of Jacques Cavallier. I've smelled just about everything he's done.
Kingdom is him too I believe. I LOVE it and bought three 100 ml bottles at a discount store. I wear it a lot.
The Frenchman divorced my mom once he got his citizenship. He was a heel but had awesome taste. Very very French and hot and just DOUSED himself in cologne, which I loved. So did all his friends. I suspect he was bisexual, which doesn't necessarily mean anything.
re: your feeling protective of Anais Anais. That's interesting.
Now that I think about it I feel protective of Amarige. Also Angel (and I don't ever wear Angel). And Lou Lou. And Ungaro Diva. Have you ever smelled this stuff? It was my first real perfume purchase at 14. I haven't smelled Diva in about 18 years and I imagine I'd hate it, but perhaps not. I love the bottle. I also feel protective of Poison. I bathed in Poison when I was 17. The inside of my powder blue ford escort (named Nelly) reeeeked of Poison. I also had huge puffy bangs, 2 inches of blue eyeliner and blue mascara, skin tight Guess jeans and massive clunky belts and earrings. Huh, most of my protected scents are powerhouse 80's frags. I don't feel protective or give a shit about anything niche.
I just realized that Dominique Ropion created both FM Carnal Flower and Amarige. Do you have the other Alexander McQ - My Queen? D.R created that too.
What is this patchouli frag you sent me? It smells pretty much like straight up patchouli. I love it.
very quick status update:
Guerlain Vetiver: like
FM Vetiver: love x10
Le Feu d'Issey: hate. gagging. could this be mislabeled?! it smells nothing like the reviews. i didn't read any reviews until after an hour when I couldn't take it anymore and needed to know what the heck this wretched stuff was... (i know you didn't mislabel it, it's just atrocious on me).
just scrubbed everything off and reapplied Ivoire and Nu....loooove these 2.
yeah Feu is challenging. I admire it but find it sort of unwearable, personally. It's like carbonated orange juice and milk got together and decided to screw with people's heads.
I'm so glad you like the vets and Nu. Was hoping you'd be into the latter. I'll send you a bigger decant of it now that I know.
M7 and Dzing.
I like M7. Yup, there's a point when it smells like flat coca cola but that vanishes and now it's just weird and I like it. Peppery. Likeable & wearable. I can see this being sexaay on a guy.
Dzing .... oh L'Artisan.... I am not a fan of thee... I dislike 9/10 L'Artisans. Have you tried Timbuktu? I'm curious about Timbuktu. Dzing smells like melting plastic. Or like a plastic frisbee after the dog has been chewing on it. I just read about the circus thing - and nope - it doesn't smell like that.
tried 2 when I got home.
Lauder Azuree: at first I thought "aldehyde attack" and nearly scrubbed it off. now it's growing on me. spicy, woody, leathery, niiiiice. for the first 20 minutes I was convinced it was NOT me but I'm really liking it now. there is this 'eye watering' sensation - I'd have to spray it on my ankles to keep it away from my face!
Balmain Jolie Madame - big gorgeous dirty sweet gardenia...then poof...gone. I don't know if it's because Azuree is on the other arm overpowering it but I can't smell Jolie M after 1 hour.
Jeepers, just went to wash these 2 off so I can try others...Lauder's Azuree will not let go! was this one listed in your piece about longevity?! Final verdict: I love it.
I liked M7 more than I expected I would. I'm trepidations about trying Yatagan...
I'm amazed you haven't tried Azuree before. I think it's beautiful. It's one of those weird, vaguely leathery old frags made by Bernard Chant. It's almost exactly like Aramis, which he also did, and all his are actually similar and interchangeable in some ways. One night we were going to a Mexican restaurant and I sprayed Aramis 900, Aromatics Elixir, Cabochard, Aramis, and Azuree on. My friends all rolled down their windows. It was a major assault. I wanted to see how far I could push the threshold. So often I wear less than I want to , and spray thinking more of others than myself.
Try Jolie Madame later again when it isn't competing with Azuree. It's actually a leather violet. I of course love it. I have so many more to send you, dear. And you're such a good recipient. Because you make sure to respond to every one. Now that I've sent them, I understand why that's important. You send them as much to hear the other person's thoughts as to bestow fragrant beauty on them.