It's probably the heat but my skin isn't doing much with most of the fragrances I own lately. Even the strongest old reliables (your Habanita, your Poison, your Opium, your Shocking) have been disappointing me. For a few weeks I stopped wearing much of anything. Then I turned back to oils.
I've been collecting oils for years, dating back to high school, I think. I can't remember the first oil I got but I do remember a lot of the earlier things, like a bottle of "Sandalo" a friend brought back from a trip to maybe Guatemala. I can't remember what friend, or what he was doing there, and I'm not a fan of Sandalwood, really, but I think this one is probably better than most of the versions they sell today. I was always very good at tracking down places which sold oil. And I probably bought them mainly because I could. It was even weirder back then for a guy to buy perfume. Oil I could say was diffusive, atmospheric. It was environmental as opposed to personal, which in my mind made it okay. I had an alibi for it. I looked for oils at head shops and import places. Later, in New York, I found it all over the place. I kept the oils in an old wooden box.
I still have the box, which sits in my office, pretty separate from all the perfume I own, which indicates to me that I regard oils and perfume as two entirely different things. Perfumes are to be worn, where oils are to be taken out and smelled. I realized only recently that, though I now wear oils more frequently than I once did, I still maintain that weird bias. Mostly I've worn oil around the house, until recently. In the past month, I've resumed looking at oils when I shop, and I've come home with some pretty interesting things.
It was great to see a post on perfume posse the other day about majmua attar, especially considering I'd been wearing some lately. Mine is made by Nemat and was picked up at Whole Foods. I suspect it isn't as good but it's no less a jolt to the system. You really have to smell this stuff for yourself. March at perfume posse described it as "simultaneously green, floral, woody, and earthy" and she's right, "it shifts". A lot of the oils I like do, but Majmua is particularly mercurial. There's so much going on, in such a concentrated substance, that it really does seem to unfold over time. Your mind probably takes a while to put all its qualities into perspective, too. Majmua is the antithesis of most modern perfumery, which aims to be instantly apprehended, all parts clearly perceived at the outset. Majmua is openly dense, and it wears amazingly in the heat, deepening rather than thinning out as most fragrances seem to on me.
I first got Djinn, by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, back in January. It wears well enough in the cold, but is strictly medicinal without something to warm it up and activate its smokiness. I avoided it until about a week ago because I thought it would be too much right now. To the contrary, it's an amazing thing. The humidity airs it out a little, so that it really does have the waft of smoke. I could never figure out where the actual smoke of this so-called smoke fragrance was. In the winter, it had a whiff of ash to it, but more than anything it reminded me of something more astringent, approaching witch hazel. Now I can smell all kinds of things. Today I'm smelling cinnamon, and barely-there clove. I praised BPAL's Highwayman to high heaven months ago; yet, the exact opposite of Djinn, Highwayman is a heat scent that requires cold to paint its picture. In the summer, Highwayman is truly overwhelming. It's all creosote; all the florals you smell in a cooler climate are gone. Djinn, on the other hand, thrives with scents of burning wood and ash and various things you barely ascertain beyond its veil of smoke.
Nemat actually puts out several oils I like. Jannatul Firdaus seemed too soapy to me at first, but I put it on before leaving one morning and for hours I could smell its complicated composition. Much lighter than Majmua, it shares that woody, green, floral fusion, minus Majmua's very thick balsamic backbone. I'm pretty sure the sandalwood Nemat uses is bottom of the line, but you get nice whiffs of it throughout Jannatul's development. Jannatul is an interesting choice as a masculine I think. Mogra (Indian Jasmine) is more determined to stay on the feminine side of the continuum. That doesn't stop me from wearing it, as I like it's darker take on jasmine, faintly spicy, if not particularly indolic. Again, I suspect that Nemat is a more watered down, Whole Foods friendly version of what you might find from other, less ubiquitous distributors, but it's a great scent. I have a massive bottle (we're talking probably 4 ounces) of Arabian Wood, which used to be a lot better than Nemat's current version. It was once a wonderfully smoky oil. It's still perfectly nice, but I have trouble smelling it on my skin.
Another Whole Foods stalwart is Kuumba Made, which distributes a selection of oils I generally like. My favorite is Tunisian Opium, but Arabian Rose runs a not so distant second. Tunisian Opium is very much like YSL's Opium, but there are noticeable differences, some more subtle than others. It has an herbal bent missing from classic Opium. And it amps up a presence of vanilla. It's actually a little closer to Youth Dew than Opium, all things considered, but different enough from both, primarily in its persistence (those both last forever in the winter; not so much in the summer). Arabian Rose has pretty nuclear tenacity, and while pretty is far from sweet. Black Coconut and Tunisian Opium are great, as is the Amber paste Kuumba makes. The Frankincense and Myrrh combo is decent but nothing special.
On a recent trip to Joshua Tree I discovered a line by Ramakrishnananda. My favorite by far is Padma, which mixes rose, clove, and jasmine to interesting effect. It isn't heavy, but it lasts, and it has presence, and I would say it's perfectly unisex for something with so much rose and jasmine in it. Other oils by the line are interesting but not as compelling. One is a dead ringer for Fahrenheit. Another is a fairly artless (if nice) blend of orange blossom and honey. An oil called Aphrodesia is also pretty fantastic. Outwardly nothing special, it wears well. I smell florals mostly but softened by musks probably. The oil is deep purple and comes in a nice box, also purple.
I would love to hear what oils other people wear and how they get them.