A Fragrant Affair
Here’s the thing about me and perfume: I’ve already found my forever fragrance. I formed an understanding with my one true love, Chanel No19, many years ago, and we are utterly inseparable. On my dressing table at home there are probably six or eight bottles of scent, but that unassuming rectangular bottle of No19 is normally all I have eyes for. In the morning, it provides an important psychological transition between work and home. During the day, I’ll catch sight of it on my desk as you would a picture of your children and will consider a further spritz, much as you might think about checking in with your husband by text (although admittedly I never really do that unless there’s a transactional reason involving the purchase of milk or the transportation of a child). Almost certainly, I will spray it again before attempting the tube ride home; an invisible cloak of loveliness with which to do battle beneath London’s streets.
Unlike most perfumes, No19 is not overly interested in being sexy. I was talking to the perfume writer Persolaise about it the other day, and he asked me, somewhat awkwardly, what I respond to “people who say that as a perfume it’s a little… cold?” I said that perhaps what I love most about it is its remove, like spraying on a ready-made sense of personal space.
Admittedly, No19 and I do have what you’d call an open relationship. Ours is the kind of love that allows for freedom and experimentation, so other perfumes do come and go, but normally they’re associated with quite specific times and places: Jo Loves’s Gardenia comes out in high summer. Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue on a cold but glamorous winter’s night, like a Christmas party. Jo Malone’s Orange Blossom at the very first signs of spring. Louis Vuitton’s Rose Des Vents when it’s warm, and I’m wearing a dress. Sometimes, as is inevitable in a relationship, I get a bit bored of No19 and I might switch to Cristalle for a bit. It’s also by Chanel and has something of the same character, but is softer and a bit more mellow.
Spring Fragrances: What The Vogue Editors Are Spritzing
The curious thing about what happened this spring was that we weren’t even on a break. We were very much together. But then, I went to meet Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, the husband and wife team who created the perfume brand Atelier Cologne, which has grown so impressively since its launch in 2009 that it was acquired by L’Oréal just last year. Its premise is a good one; that people who love the fresh crispness of a cologne should not be bound forever to wear only the lemon, bergamot and associated citrus notes that colognes traditionally stick to. Why not take a classic cologne and add a rose in there, or a sandalwood or an oud? It’s an idea that I’m sure has perfume purists perspiring at the pulse points, but if we can get our head around driverless cars and Amazon Echo Dot, this should be fairly easy to deal with.
The thing is colognes aren’t really my thing. “Fresh” and “clean” aren’t my prerequisites for a fragrance; if anything, they’re “green” and “flowery”. What they brought out was Jasmine Angelique, which they describe as “a fresh and crispy luminous fragrance around jasmine in bloom.” I thought it smelt surprisingly nice, and brought it home.
The next morning: I woke up and felt like wearing it. This, it should be noted, is highly unusual. But there was something addictive about it. It had the same green, elegant register of No19 but with a burst of energy, like the sun suddenly streaming through a window. Normally at this point with a new fragrance I’d find its flaw: why on earth did they put vanilla in it? Pink pepper? Really? Yuck, there’s some fruit in here. All I got here, besides the jasmine, was angelica, which smelt heavenly, and something mellow but not too cloying in the base, which I later discovered to be tonka bean.
The next day: I wore it again. And the next, and the next. And then – something even more extraordinary. I had noticed when I brought the perfume home that they had kindly supplied me with a much smaller purse spray of the same scent. I’m not really a “purse spray” kind of girl. I forget to take it with me. Or it’s in the wrong handbag. Or it’s not what I feel like wearing. Or the atomiser comes loose and ruins my handbag. But this one I took with me and used every day.
Surprisingly, what I loved most about it was its freshness. Perfume, as with all relationships, is so much about timing. Possibly had I discovered it in winter I wouldn’t have loved it so much. But the freshness isn’t in a searing, lemon-oven-cleaner kind of way. It’s always subtle. It’s not like splashing your face with cold water; it’s like opening the window and letting the breeze come in. Then when the jasmine appears, it feels absolutely right; it doesn’t demand too much of you, lets you be what you want, wear what you want, go where you want. And as with No19, “sexy” isn’t its raison d’etre. I later discovered that Sylvie had created it to wear on her wedding day.
Six weeks later and our affair is still very much happening. I’m wearing it right now. But I also know, now, that the passion has already lost some of its intensity. What I hope, though, is that we will meet up every year in spring, and rekindle our romance all over again.