One Thousand Scents

Thursday, September 20, 2007

England Swings

If you're reading my other blog--no particular reason you should, but you might be--then you know I'm in the UK for a couple of weeks.

They take fragrance very seriously over here. It's wonderful. Even small drugstores in smallish cities such as Bath have large and varied selections of scents, and not all the usual Calvin Klein or celebrity stuff you find in any old drugstore, either (though there's plenty of that); older scents are fairly easy to come by, particularly in the larger cities.

A great number of people wear fragrance: you can be walking down a street almost anywhere and catch a ribbon of scent from a passer-by. I walked into a restaurant a couple of days ago in Cardiff; a young woman was sitting near the door, and I was intoxicated by the scent of Byzance. Just this morning, in Edinburgh, a tiny old woman crossed my path and I was delighted to smell something young and fresh on her (I think it was Guerlain Insolence, but I wouldn't swear to that in a court of law).

It isn't just the women, either. A free daily newspaper called Metro has a style section, and here's a quote from today's issue, in a piece about what the well-dressed man will be wearing this fall, from a stylist named Thom Murphy:

Chanel No. 5. I kid you not! This big nan's blouse perfume is only for the truly hard boys. It's such a familiar smell but, on a man, the fragrance changes and leaves people confused--which is always good.

I would have to agree with that. I used to wear Chanel No. 5 (the extract, or perfume, which is the densenst and most interesting version), and on my skin it was dark and strange and fascinating, not anything like you'd imagine on Marilyn Monroe. I can't see myself wearing it any more; my skin, and my nose, have changed. But I'm glad I had the chance to once.

I have been shopping, of course, and I've been extremely good, managing to limit myself to 14 scents. On my second day in London, I bought a bottle of YSL Yvresse and a tiny bottle of Thierry Mugler Alien. The next day, at a high-end department store called Debenham's, I got 30-mL bottles of Dior's new Midnight Poison (rose, patchouli, ambergris, vanilla) and the new Kenzo for men, Tokyo (spicy-fresh, woody, incensy). And then a couple of days later in Bath, I bought a couple of different sets of 5 Salvador Dali miniatures, including the astounding original scent, the men's scent, Daliflor, Rubylips, Laguna (which I used to hate--have I changed enough to love it?) Dalissime, Eau de Rubylips, and a couple of others. Add in a bunch of samples, and I have lots to write about in the coming months. In theory.

What didn't I buy? Lots of things. Today I was in an Edinburgh store called Jenner's, and was much tempted. Tom Ford's recent Black Orchid was exceedingly tempting, but the price was way out of my league. Likewise with Caron's Tabac Blond: it seems like the sort of thing that would sit well on my skin, but I couldn't justify the price tag (£80 or so for a 50-mL bottle if I remember correctly). If they had had Poivre or Coup de Fouet, I think I would have bought, regardless of the price, because of my mad love for carnations. They also had a bunch of Serge Lutens, but I thought it was wise to steer clear. There will be other trips and other temptations....

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