Monday, September 26, 2011

Coming clean with myself

I realized yesterday that I dislike Bond No. 9 Chinatown.  This is after years of thinking I loved it and that it was among Bond’s best offerings.  Oddly, I still think it’s a neat perfume on others, and I still think it’s among Bond’s bests, but on me it reeks of waxy crayons.  I picture red and purple crayons.  Melted.

This got me thinking about all the other perfumes I've professed my love for when in fact I’ve finally admitted to myself I dislike.  The “admittance to myself” is the key point.  I haven’t gone around pretending to like these perfumes for anyone elses' sake but my own.  I talked myself into liking them.  Many for years.  I’m unsure why.  I’m not the type of person who routinely pretends to enjoy perfumes she doesn’t.   I don’t think I’ve ever pretended I like Chanel No. 5 or Apres L’Ondee; because I’ve known from the start I would never wear either.  I also don’t think this is a case of my taste changing over time.  My taste has changed over time.  I’m experiencing a period right now where I dislike almost all of my ambery perfumes; everything ambery smells musty to me.  But this is a sudden change, and I think (hope) it’s temporary.  There are plenty of fragrances I’ve disliked over the years, but these aren’t the ones I forced myself to like, thinking that I truly liked them.

In addition to Chinatown, here are a few more I’m finally admitting I just don’t like:

Guerlain Shalimar.  Oh, I’m sure I’ve said I love Shalimar a hundred times.  I even wrote a post about how great it is on this blog.  But you know what?  I think it smells like vomit.  On me at least.  And I don’t like it. 

Histoires de Parfums Tubereuse 3 L’Animale: is another one I think smells waxy and also fatty.  I hate it.  This is beginning to feel cathartic.

Hermes Caleche:  Caleche’s sharp aldehydes shriek at such a high pitch on me it almost always gives me a headache.   I’ve worn an entire bottle in my lifetime.  No more.

Serge Lutens Chergui:  another one I’ve worn an entire bottle’s worth and sung its praises.  It’s been awhile now since I’ve worn it and there’s a reason for that; it makes me nauseous.  It’s too sweet and contains that honey note I don’t enjoy. 

So there, I’ve done it, I’ve listed five perfumes I’ve forced myself to like for a long time.  But I don’t like them, and I won’t wear them ever again.   Do you have any fragrances which you’ve openly said you liked, perhaps favorably reviewed or worn many times, only to finally admit to yourself that you just don’t like the stuff?


Elisa said...

This is hilarious. I still love Chinatown, but I've always been on the fence about Chergui. Some days it smells like fabulous pipe tobacco, others like an old bottle of hair gel.

I don't think I've ever convinced myself I love something that I actually hate, but I've certainly spent months trying to convince myself I like something that I feel so-so about. The thing is, it often works. I forced myself into a fondness for Paloma Picasso and Joy for example. There are others still in the process of being forced. These fence-sitters are worth keeping around in the meantime, but may eventually be swapped.

Abigail said...


I have good luck with fence sitters, very often finding I love them years later.

This post is a whole other phenomenon for me. I can probably think of several others. I have no idea why I forced myself to love these for so long. I wore entire bottles of Caleche, Chergui and Shalimar. I didn't wear an entire bottle of HdP L'Animale but I did wear it for at least a total of 7-10 full days. WHY??

Elisa said...

Yeah, the fence-sitter thing is probably pretty common. This is the first I've heard of the "I love it but I actually hate it" phenomenon, which is why it's so hilarious. I'm especially surprised about Chergui, because I distinctly remember you writing about your love for it more than once.

Abigail said...

yeah, which is why this is rather embarrassing! I also waxed poetic about Shalimar, too.

((wants to hide a little))

Elisa said...

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. ;)

Brian said...

I'm going through a similar thing. I'm feeling frustrated with niche fragrances mostly, and realize that scents which seemed satisfying to me at the time I bought them are less so over time - they don't wear as well as I imagined, they don't feel as satisfying somehow. I've felt this way about L'Artisan and Lutens for some time, though I admire some of their fragrances and even own one or two.

I look at some of my fragrances now and think, what was I thinking? Typically it's that they don't last on me as well as I'd like, or they don't project enough. Then there are the fragrances, many more in number, that I bought I think from the excitement they generated. After I spend some time with them I can't figure out what's supposed to be so exciting. It's like a song we all liked and suddenly can't remember why.

I can't think of many modern fragrances that give me the satisfaction of either the older greats or the relatively cheap pleasures I can find almost anywhere. I'm more excited by many Estee Lauder fragrances than the majority of niche things I own or have smelled. And frankly Coty Exclamation still gives me a thrill not much else matches.

FruitDiet said...

I LOVE this post. It takes such time and devotion and money to discern how one REALLY feels about a fragrance, and I think that people who claim to instantly know whether they like something, uninfluenced by the opinions of others, are all full of shit. Whenever I say I suddenly hate something that I once sung the praises of someone obnoxious goes "OMG BUT YOU USED TO LIKE IT? WHY WOULD YOU PRETEND TO LIKE SOMETHING IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT LOL I'VE NEVER DONE THAT!!!"

For one thing, I can't decide from samples; I must have the drama of a full bottle. This reminds me of all those years I wasted away pretending to like Sonic Youth, proclaiming the greatness of Sonic Youth to anyone who would listen, and purchasing every one of Sonic Youth's myriad albums at full manufacturer's standard retail price before I realized that Sonic Youth are terrible and just plain fucking boring. I did not truly know this until I owned a pallet-loud of Sonic Youth product that I desperately needed to rid myself of.

I recently admitted that excessive aldehydes give me a headache and make me miserable. I also slimmed down my collection from about 200 to 120. I'm far less tolerant and far pickier now than I used to be. It is very difficult to admit to yourself that something you want so desperately to like, that an identity that you dream of having, just doesn't work for you.

Abigail said...


Same here. Aside from Alahine, which is niche, and my BFF, there are so few niche scents that stand the test of time for me. I find I'm better off with department store brands, such as Love, Chloe which I've been impressed with.

Certainly I still love Diptyque and other niche brands but the explosion of all these ridiculously expensive 'super exclusive' (Xerjoff, Kilian and so many others) brands is annoying and I've found few among these that I love.

Like you and Exclamation, I'm still obsessed with Loulou. :) which now that I think about it, Love, Chloe is a really stripped down version of Loulou)

FruitDiet said...

I also just think Serge Lutens sprinkles disappointment around everywhere his fragrances go. The only one I own is Muscs Koublai Khan, that alleged "dirtiest fragrance ever", and contained in the slender and expensive bottle is a faint and agreeable odor of Burt's Bees Chapstick sans mint and the same laundry musks used in White Diamonds (which, by the way, is a much more artful fragrance). Today I found myself spraying MKK with abandon every hour on the hour, in order to more quickly use it up so I don't have to think about it. My point is that the Serge Lutens brand seems to frequently induce a reaction of initial hysteria and subsequent embarrassing admissions of extreme disappointment.

Abigail said...


I love your comments. These last two made me laugh out loud (a lot). I don't think your intention is to necessarily be funny, but your comments come across as being so real, true and with raw emotion. I just love it!

Normally I'm pretty direct about perfumes I don't like, even when they are in the "cult following" crowd like L'Artisan or Duchaufour or Guerlain or whatever. But there has (obviously) been a few that slipped through the cracks and I've forced myself to "like" for FAR too long! No more I say!

And I've decided to stop bothering with certain brands if they piss me off in any way (such as Xerjoff, etcw hich I will not even sample)

I don't hate aldehydes as a rule, but Caleche keeels me. I can wear others aldehydic scents happily but I agree that aldehydes probably are what cause a lot of headaches and hatred of perfume.

DWR said...

I don't have this problem as much as I have the problem of knowing how much I don't like something everyone else likes, then putting off reviewing it and trying it over and over again, trying to figure out what I'm missing so I can convince myself i *do* like it. But I never do. And eventually I get around to saying so, but it takes a while.

FruitDiet said...

Oh I still love me some aldehydes- it's just the EXTREME ones that kill me, like Rive Gauche, which came out of the bottle as a relatively scentless migraine and left a light impression of cheap powder. But ye gods, how I wanted to love it because of that black and blue metal canister and the ads with the woman on the telephone! But I do like many aldehydic fragrances, particularly everything Estee Lauder. I think the key is that it must have some substance under the aldehydes (like Azuree's dirty leather or Youth Dew's patchouli attack) and mustn't just recede into a tinny, high-pitched undifferentiated floral accord. I think that aldehydic fragrances probably worked a lot better when people didn't bathe daily- the soapiness wouldn't seem harsh and redundant as it does on dry, already soapy, daily-bathed skin. If you smelled musky already, some aldehydes would give a passing impression of cleanliness before you get to the main course.

Department store is always better than niche, flat-out. Probably number one on the list of "Things One Mustn't Say in the Perfume Community." The only niche brand I've been totally enamored with is pre-Like This Etat Libre d'Orange, because they provide the advertising, concept, and concrete identity that the best department store fragrances have (Ex: Eternity=YOU ARE HAPPILY MARRIED AND HAVE IT ALL, ALL THAT THE OBSESSION GIRL LOST WHEN SHE DEVOTED HER LIFE TO DECADENCE AND DISCOS). And so many niche fragrances smell like lame, watery imitations of department store fragrances, for snobs that want to smell like everyone else (or hardly smell at all) but want Niche Prestige. So, gimme my Youth Dew and my Poison and I'm fucking thrilled.

Ines said...

:) I haven't yet admitted such a thing to myself, but there's time. I do go in the other direction though. I don't like something, and then suddenly it clicks into place. Like Shalimar. I love ir.

And finally someone else who gets nauseous from Chergui. The funny things is, of all the offerings in Palais Royal SL boutique, I came out with Chergui. And afterwards I realized I can't wear it.

Ines said...

:) I haven't yet admitted such a thing to myself, but there's time. I do go in the other direction though. I don't like something, and then suddenly it clicks into place. Like Shalimar. I love ir.

And finally someone else who gets nauseous from Chergui. The funny things is, of all the offerings in Palais Royal SL boutique, I came out with Chergui. And afterwards I realized I can't wear it.

RM said...

I had to laugh when I read this post because yes, I'm guilty of this too!
But I don't think the problem is whether mainstream scents are superior to niche or vice-versa but maybe more so to do with our expectations. Like, with designer stuff, I tend to judge every scent I sample based on it's merits. I don't expect/want to like it and the marketing (half naked model writhering or pouting or writhering around and pouting) is all a bit meh. If I like it, I like it, if I don't, I don't.
But with niche, say for example something like L'Air Du Desert Morocain (sp?) the imagery created by the perfumer/house is so evocative, so beautifully rendered I WANT to like the perfume.
So I walk around wafting 'L'Air' thinking I'm pretty cool but also slightly unsure about whether I like the actual smell and someone will say, "Ah, dude, you smell like an old lady."
Part of me thinks, yes! He's right! The other part of me thinks, 'No, he's WRONG! I smell like the AIR floating across the SANDDUNES mingled with the spices and floral aromas in the mystical and exotic land of Morocco!'
6 months and a full unused bottle later, I'm kicking myself.
If this thing had a 'David Beckham Instinctively Intimately Instinctive' label on the bottle, I would have dismissed it outright.

Elisa said...

Dude, I'll take your bottle of LADDM. That's the kind of old lady I want to smell like! (As opposed to the Shalimar kind.)

Anonymous said...

I can completely imagine how cathartic this post must have been to write. I often change my mind on things. As yet, I haven't admitted to myself to disliking something I wore a whole bottle of, but give it time and I won't be surprised if I do. I also wonder if there is a sort of unspoken assumption that when we're talking about love and hate with perfumes, our tastes won't change - just our minds?

FruitDiet said...

If someone tells you you smell like an old lady then you're doing something right. Non-perfume people can only smell three things:

"Old Lady"- anything with a strong, identifiable character. Whenever I wear classic masculines I get old lady comments. When I wear anything of any interest to me whatsoever people laughingly talk about how I smell like an old lady, like, "Oh that Jack is such a character with his OLD LADY SMELLS gotta love him!" and I laugh along good-naturedly, "That's ME!" but secretly I want to kill them for thinking it's acceptable to tell me I smell like an old lady because they're too fucking stupid to conceptualize anything beyond deodorant smelling good.

"Baby Powder" which implies that what you're wearing smells cheap and they don't like it, because it is invariably something that smells nothing like baby powder on a completely objective level.

and, finally,"Ooh that smells good," which covers ONLY the Bath and Body Works oeuvre and small doses of clean calone scents. The most compliments I've ever gotten on a fragrance was when I wore fucking Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers one day, and damned if I'll allow that to happen again. Of all of the 150 some-odd complex, artful masterpieces of perfumery I have in regular rotation, the only one that smells good to normal people is goddamned SUNFLOWERS, which is like a conceptualized scent of aspirin.

So, yes, I think it is absolutely essential to not take into account the comments of others (unless they're commenting favorably on your Secretions Magnifiques, second most complimented fragrance I own after Sunflowers) which will make you a wizened, bitter person like me and will allow you to wear whatever you want.

(credit for that three-part delineation of What Normal People Smell goes to my brilliant friend Monica)

Maureen said...

This is so funny. I bought a FB of Donna Karan Gold because I loved the scent, and then I wore it like 3 times, and every time I got an enormous headache. I still like it, but I am afraid to wear it. Last time I wore it I actually just sprayed on my back...darn if I didn't get a headache. I wish I knew why.

Unknown said...

Reading your post and the comments above has been the most fun I've had all day!

I also don't like Chergui, it smells like Mr. Bubble bubblebath to me.

Something I haven't admitted on my own blog: I don't like Guerlain. Shalimar, who wants to smell like meons and vanilla? Mitsouko and Apres l'Ondee, yawn. Jicky - ew. I haven't found one I like. I've felt like a fake perfumista for a while hiding that, but it feels good to get it off my chest.

Things that I used to love but now don't wear: Tauer Incense Rose ande Rose Chypree. I really, really loved them, but now they are just wayy too strong and not subtle enough.

Elisa said...

Guerlain haters unite! The only one I've liked enough to buy is Insolence (because it's all Roucel, no Guerlain).

Abigail said...

You f'ing kill me.

"Powder" is one I get a lot. When I am wearing something so completely NOT powdery. Last week at the doctors office the nurse told me she loved my perfume and said it was nice and powdery. It was Hampton Sun Privet insanely Green and not at all powdery.

The Guerlains I love don't have the "guerlainade" base. So, like you, I love Insolence edp and my favorite is Chamade. I also like Nahema. Oh, and I like many of the Aqua Allegorias which most don't even think of as being from Guerlain.

I also thought I loved Chergui the best out of all the Lutens and now I think it's a tie between Fleur d'Oranger and Bas de Soie but FdO has been reformulated and ruined. All those woody stewed fruits from Lutens make me roll my eyes. And the sweet stuff really doesn't suit me.

Abigail said...


I'm glad this post has made you feel better and allowed you to admit you don't like Shalimar :)


I try very hard not to get caught up in the brand imagery and the 'aspirational' nature of perfume wearing. This is why it's rather shocking that I've allowed myself to think I love these 5 perfumes I've listed above for so long. These 5 (Shalimar, Chinatown, Caleche, etc) are perfumes that *should* be my thing. I love orientals and big florientals and I have a soft spot for a good aldehyde so I think I forced myself to think I enjoyed these because they just seemed so ME. But, alas, they just aren't. I hate them (on me I dislike them, on others I don't mind smelling Shalimar, etc..)

Abigail said...


You know what's ironic? I took to wearing Caleche on my back and on the lower half of my body the last few an effort to avoid a migraine. I still got a migraine.


annemariec said...

This a fabulous post and a highly entertaining discussion. SSS's Champagne de Bois is one that I thought I loved but have to acknowledge now that I just don't. Fortunately I only bought a purse spray.

I try very hard to be careful with my FB purchases and thoroughly test a fragrance first. But what has happened a few times is that I have loved a fragrance while I was wearing it from a sample or small decant, but once I buy the longed for full bottle, I find it does not affect me as much. I think this must be a simple case of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. You always want something you don't have.

These days, splurges and gifts-to-self aside, I try to keep the major part of my collection as minis and decants. Even though the cost per ml is higher, I still save in the long run. If I run out of my decant of Diptyque's Philosykos, great, I'll buy another. No big hassle, no huge emotional investment.

I've loved my little mini of Dior's Dune, and when it runs out, which it will soon, I'll buy another. Of course if I go through three or four minis of Dune, THAT will be a sign that I am wasting money and should buy a full bottle.

That's the plan anyway!

Thanks for a great post.

reganmeister said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
reganmeister said...

Nina Z said...

I loved this post, applaud your honesty, and I join your current take on Shalimar (vomit). However, you maybe being a bit too hard on yourself. For it's possible your tastes have changed because you've become overly sensitized to some note in the perfumes, so it stands out more now to you. I've been curious for sometime about how some perfumes (especially Shalimar) are beautiful to some people but just smell terrible to me (so it's not just a matter of taste). I asked my husband (a chemist) about it, and one possibility is genetic differences in how we perceive smell, but he also brought up the idea that a person can become hypernosic (opposite of anosic) to certain smells that other people can barely perceive.

annemariec said...

Yes, Laurie Erikson (Sonom Scent Studio) discussed that theory once on her blog. Being hypernosic to a certain note prevents you from smelling other notes in that perfume which you may actually like. It might also explain the 'scrubber' phenomenon, whereby the more you hate a perfume the harder it seems to scrub off. We've all been there!

Abigail said...

NinaZ & annemariec,
I must be hypernosmic to some form of civet because I become sick to my stomach when I smell MFK Absolue pour le Soir. I could not get that stuff off fast enough. I also had a similar reaction with VW Boudoir which I think has a bit of civet in the base. I say "some form of civet" because I'm fine with civet in some scents, such as Joy.
Interesting...I didn't know "hypernosmic" existed but it makes total sense.

Elisa said...

Abigail, maybe it's the difference between real and synthetic civet?

I think I am hyperosmic to some kinds of woody amber (always synthetic), and some aldehydes (ditto, at least in isolated form).

FruitDiet said...

Whaaaat happened to Reganmeister's brilliant post about Opium??

Brian said...

OOOPS. We deleted the following comment by ReganMeister. Sorry, RM:

Oh God how I tried to love Opium. From the moment of its launch. Until last month. God, how I tried. I loved the ads and wanted to be decadent and devastating. In the early 80s I cleaned out my tragic weekly salary to get myself a lavish Opium gift set including a big tasseled bottle of EDP, bath oil, body lotion, and bath powder. And, movingly, I even bought a special enamel Chinese tray to put it on. And, and, and...I didn't really like it. Not really. And it gave me a headache. And by the way, where was my David Lynch directed erotic lifestyle? And the years passed, and the tassel got dusty, and I couldn't figure out what you were supposed to do with the powder (I remember thinking "Bath powder? Do you put it in your bath?" and hesitantly trying it...) and eventually the remaining bits were quietly (but consciously) trashed during a move. Yet every five years or so, I would try again. Perhaps a flanker? The EDT concentration? Maybe this mysterious non-flanker in a really pretty opaque black bottle?
Now I give up. For reals. I am not a sexy odalisque, I'm a brusque green tomboy, as my mother knew when she gave me my 14th birthday "You're a woman now" bottle of Aliage." Which I liked, but pretended I didn't.

Which brings us to a new blog idea, perfumes you pretended to yourself you DIDN'T like.

By the way, I taught Fruit Diet in high school and am proud to call him my friend today. He is the only real genius I've ever known.