Monday, November 21, 2011

Perfumes I ought to like... but don't

 Earlier today I tried wearing Jean Patou Sublime for about the fifth time. There are so many fantastic fragrances from Patou that I find it curious I don’t enjoy Sublime.  From Sublime’s list of notes it seems like a perfume I would cherish (listed notes are orange, Mandarin from Sicily, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, rose, jasmine, orange blossom, vetiver, sandalwood, oak moss and vanilla). Plus, Sublime is a floral oriental which is my favorite fragrance category.  But today, I tried Sublime for the final time, and I just don’t like it.   

This got me thinking about other fragrances it seems I should love, but don’t.  Take for instance the entire Ormonde Jayne line.  I completely understand why many of you hold up the Ormonde Jayne line as being one of the best.  Most of the Ormonde Jayne fragrances pair interesting and unusual combinations.  They seem unique, special and well-crafted.  The ingredients seem high quality and the bottles are lovely.  But, every single OJ fragrance ends up smelling virtually the same to me once dried down.  I’ve read that this might mean I’m hyper sensitive to Iso E Super, which is an aroma chemical, said to be used freely by Ormonde Jayne (and virtually all perfume houses, not just the OJ brand).  Iso E Super is supposed to be a wonderful “connector,” adding a smooth, robust quality to fragrances and smelling like velvety woods and/or amber [You can find a helpful article about Iso E Super over at PerfumeShrine].  For me, almost every fragrance (except Tiare and Frangipani) ends up smelling like murky synthetic, artificial woods.   I want to enjoy some of the fragrances from Ormonde Jayne, but sadly, I can’t.

Aside from some trepidation about wearing patchouli in public, I do love the smell of patchouli.  I enjoy many fragrances with a hefty patchouli base, some of which are the original Prada and Angel.  I also value and appreciate potent fragrances with excellent longevity.  Chanel Coco Mademoiselle can be described as a sweet patchouli number that’s both potent and lasts forever.  But the sum of its parts just doesn’t add up to something I can wear.  It seems like I ought to like Coco Mademoiselle but it makes me run, not walk, in the other direction.
I also love ambery orientals.  Teo Cabanel Alahine is my #1 BFF and I’d classify it as an ambery oriental or perhaps as a floral oriental.   I hold perfumer Maurice Roucel high regard as he’s created a whole list of wonderful perfumes I appreciate and wear.  But somehow, even though Guerlain L’Instant was created by Roucel and its an ambery oriental it is perhaps my most dreaded fragrance of all time.  Guerlain’s L’Instant is the olfactory equivalent of ‘nails down a chalkboard’ for me.  It’s been a very long time since I even tried to wear it and I don’t think I attempted wearing it more than twice.  When people say Thierry Mugler Angel is tooth-achingly sweet I often think they should be describing L’Instant not Angel.  L’Instant is a sharp juxtaposition of citrus and sweeeet that makes my skin crawl.  When I read the list of notes it seems like L’Instant should be beautiful, but the reality for me, is that it’s a fearsome monster.  I enjoy plenty of sweet fragrances (Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum eau Poudree is one) but for the most part I’m finding I like orientals to be dry (such as Alahine and Canturi) instead of sweet.  Or perhaps it’s simply that Guerlain L’Instant is my nemesis

A few other notes I typically enjoy are mimosa and almond.  And as I’ve outlined above I always appreciate long wear and potency.  Yves Saint Laurent Cinema is a potent, long wearing fragrance with prominent almond and mimosa notes.  In theory, I should like Cinema, but in practice, I don’t.  Now, don’t get me wrong, YSL Cinema is not my nemesis and it doesn’t make me run away.  In fact, I’ve smelled Cinema on others and find it pleasant.  But on me it’s a boredom issue, it just doesn’t do anything, anything at all, for me.  I’ve tried wearing it a couple times and within an hour always have the strong urge to remove it and apply something I really enjoy.

Last but not least is a cheery little number which features a pretty spring bouquet and most notably a strong linden note.  I love fresh, innocent, natural smelling florals, which is why I adore just about the entire Annick Gotual line and I especially enjoy the scent of linden.  La Chasse aux Papillons is one of L’Artisan’s  bestsellers, and it even has reasonable longevity AND has just about the prettiest fragrance name ever (La Chasse aux Papillons roughly translates to Chasing Butterflies in English). Nevertheless, I still can’t find anything to like about this fragrance.  I blame the pink pepper note which is quite strong in the Extreme version, but it’s also noticeable in the regular edt.  This pink pepper note seems jarring and throws off the easy-going florals for me.  Aside from this peppery quality, I just can’t get excited about La Chasse.  Sure, I could wear it without hating it, but it doesn’t make my heart sing; it’s as if I was wearing SJP Lovely or D&G Light Blue.

Do you have fragrances which seem tailor made for you, but somehow, they fall disappointingly short and you don’t like them? 


Anonymous said...

Great post. Vamp a NY and Guerlain's Paris to Moscow fall in this category. The note list for PtoM is swoonworthy to me: Lemon, bergamot, red currant, jasmine, absinth, plum, pine needles, Tonka, white musk. And the name reminds me of "Murder on the Orient Express", so that's a plus. But the fragrance is just ok on my skin, every time I've tested it. I actually want to re-test on a really cold day because I'm hoping it will magically be everything I want it to be. But I'll have to wait until I'm in another city for that.

Abigail said...

I thought Vamp a NY was horrid, but I never expected to like that one! it smells like lard with a dash of tuberose.
The Guerlain, Paris to Moscow, does sound promising, though. That's a shame it's doesn't live up

Ines said...

Thank you!
It seems I am also hyper-sensitive to Iso Super E because all OJs have this shrill note that takes over the whole perfume and is all I can smell. Except for Tiare and Frangipani.
Does Iso fall into the musk category? Because that's what I thought was wrong with each of the OJs I can't wear - that is a note they share.
And I couldn't agree more on L'Instant. :)
I keep wondering how can anyone like and wear that? It is one of the rare perfumes that have an almost gag effect on me (when applied on me).

Anonymous said...

When I read the notes for Chanel No. 19, I was sure I would love it. I don't. I keep trying it in case something has changed (hey, I grew to love Shalimar, why not No 19) but so far, it's a no go. Maybe I should sample the new version.

Ann C.

Olfacta said...

Montale's Black Oud. Sorry, smells like feet to me. Iris Silver Mist. Unwashed, soil-bearing carrots infused in vodka.(I really should revisit that one, though, because after 3 1/2 years doing this I'm finding that my tastes have changed a bit.) Oh, and White Linen -- screechy, nails-on-blackboard.

In the case of Sublime, that opening note is off-putting fer sure. But the rest of the ride is great, especially the drydown (I have vintage EDT, so no idea what the new one smells like.)

Elisa said...

I also expected to love Vamp a NY and thought it was pretty gross.

I should also love Tocade, but nope: too sweet w/ not enough rose, and there's a really soapy note that drives me crazy. If I want a cheapo gourmand I'd rather wear Hanae Mori or even Pink Sugar.

Fiona said...

Fracas. Smells like candy floss to me.
Coco Mademoiselle also leaves me cold.
Eau des Merveilles, or any concentration thereof - sour and thin and bitter.
Actually, just about anything by Jean-Claude Ellena; they all seem to turn on me.

annemariec said...

Y by Yves Saint Laurent. I love chypres, I love greens, I love understated, well-tailored classic fragrances. But every time I try it I get bored very quickly. It seems to lack character, but at the same time it tries too hard to impress. This lady cares too much what people think. Chanel No 19, on the other hand, goes her own way and doesn't care what people think. That actually makes her more fun and relaxing to be with.

But I will keep trying Y. There may still be an 'ah ha!' moment.

Scenterella said...

I always enjoy your posts because they make no apologies for the fact that you don't always agree with what seems to be a majority of the perfumista community. I think this is the first time I've seen someone on a perfume blog or Makeupally actually saying they don't enjoy Ormonde Jayne fragrances or YSL Cinema. I am glad to finally hear it--I have tried to like these fragrances, thinking that I'm missing something, but I never like them. The Ormonde Jaynes and Cinema all end up as musky pencil shavings on me for some reason, and I'm not a fan of that. Glad to hear I'm not crazy!

Abigail said...


Oh, but that IS what Iris Silver Mist smells like, on it's best day! :)

that's too bad about Y. I actually like that one. But I see what you mean. It's polite.

Pencil shavings is true! And I think there are many who enjoy that smell. Not me. Even Frangipani and Tiare have left me cold (and I thought I loved Tiare for awhile there, but after a few wears, Tiare dries down to a musky vetiver fougere, so I'll stick with Cristalle & PdN Week-end au Deauville instead!)

Katie Puckrik said...

Love this premise, Abigail! I'm filled with sorrowful disappointment in myself that I can't love Mitsouko. I feel like I'm not just missing the boat by not digging it - I'm missing the entire fleet. I love rich, dark, Queen-of-Sheba perfumes - so what's my ding-dang problem with Mitsouko? It smells oily and a bit stale to me. The only way I allow myself off the hook is to surmise that older formulations smelled better...?

Vanessa said...

Delighted to be able to open your blog on my Netbook - for some reason Firefox likes you but my version of IE doesn't, and I have been tantalised by post titles too numerous to mention which I haven't been able to go on to read!

Anyway, enjoyed this post very much, and heartily agree on L'Instant and Cinema and Sublime! Am not mad about Coco Mlle either and even prefer the cheaper - and less potent - knockoff from the European discount grocery chain Lidl.

I don't care for L'Heure Bleue, Shalimar, Jicky or Mitsouko, that quartet of behemoths, and I am sure I could come up with a huge list of other scents I have failed to like that are generally well regarded, if I thought a bit more. Ormonde Jayne, on the other hand, I mostly love! : - )