Serial Monogamy: A Perfume Story

“A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting. ”
― Christian Dior

I have long been in love with the idea of a signature scent. I say “idea” because while I was faithful to Coco Mademoiselle for several years in my early 20s, we broke up at some point and I’ve been a hussy, jumping around ever since trying to find something I could wear every day without getting bored or smelling it on every other girl (or guy!) who walks down the street. I’ve fallen love with another scent more than once, but not one worth forgoing all other scents for.

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At the moment I’m finishing up a bottle of Hermes Jardin sur la Nil, and am in a torrid, wild affair with Passion Boisee from Frapin, which is a perfume house that grew out of a French family cognac business that’s been going since the 13th century. This scent is the nearest I’ve yet come to fidelity! I also have a bottle of Commes des Garcon in Amazingreen which I bought against the day that my Hermes runs out, and a small spritzer of Replica by Maison Margiela in Jazz Club. As you may have gathered from the scattering of testers, I’m already on the hunt for the next fragrance up to bat when either of these go.

There are themes to my perfumes. I hate most florals and strongly prefer scents that are at least slightly masculine. Woods and spices are my go tos, with a healthy heaping of bergamot–since my Chanel days, I’ve never fallen in love with a fragrance that didn’t have bergamot listed in its ingredients. Know thyself, C.. I also sometimes steal a spray of Jeff’s cologne: an expensive bottle of Tom Ford that I don’t begrudge the cost of in the slightest because I adore it on him and it lasts forever. He mock complains whenever I bury my nose in his shirt or neck to catch a whiff, but you can tell he’s pretty chuffed to have such an easy way of seducing me with pheromones.

I’m still open to the idea that I will find The One, but these days I’m more okay with the notion that I may continue to play the field. I’m mostly faithful to whatever bottle currently lives on my nightstand–or two to be honest, one for warmer seasons and one for cold–but my eye, it roves. Always looking for the next best thing.

Because, kittens…at a deep and fundamental level, I’m a snob.

That bark of laughter you just heard was Jeff in the other room. “No kidding,” I believe was his precise response.

Well, there’s no helping it, I am a snob and I don’t like smelling like everybody else. First of all, there are a lot of glorious scents in the world–an almost infinite variety of combinations and notes that can be combined and recombined in ways that make even your favorite individual scents feel new and exciting while still invoking nostalgia. Secondly no perfume will smell exactly the same on you as it does on anyone else. Skin chemistry is neat like that! But that’s still no excuse for every girl in the lift to be wearing the same fragrance.

I think that the plethora of luxury brand perfumes (usually by major fashion houses) is completely understandable. Most of us may not be able to afford a Chanel jacket or bag, but we can afford a splurge on Chanel cosmetics here or there, and what has as much staying power as perfume? Well crafted and distilled, you shouldn’t need more than one spritz a day (possibly two in a pinch) and so a single bottle can get you through months if not years of wear. And so these scents organically and naturally permeate through pop culture and Instagram feeds. There’s no shame in it and if you have a beloved fragrance that you genuinely love that just happens to be popular, I will be the last woman in the world to comment on it. Heck, I’m just about to polish off a fragrance by Hermes that I picked up four years ago! I won’t be repurchasing it, but I’ve enjoyed wearing it for four summers in a row immensely.

But the truth is that I enjoy feeling that I’m wearing something just a bit different. In reality I know that tens of thousands of guys and gals are wearing the same scent as me, but the illusion is powerful. I enjoy stumbling into niche perfume sellers in corners of London or cities I visit on holiday and finding something quite unlike anything I could pick up at the Nordstrom’s counter. I like the (admittedly false) exclusivity of smaller, less well known houses who are making perfume the way that connoisseurs make cheese or wine–in small batches and to their own preferences or taste. I like feeling like I’m wearing something secretive and interesting. Like unto red lipstick, the effect may be purely psychological, but it’s real.


Your turn. Are you a one-perfume man or woman, or are you playing the field like me? Do you have a particular memory associated with a scent? Do you have or want a signature scent, or do you find the idea silly (or just plain boring)? Talk to me! 

9 thoughts on “Serial Monogamy: A Perfume Story”

  1. Total fragrance freak.

    Also (surprise) have similar taste to yours — and I often wear a man’s cologne, currently loving Terre by Hermes, after wearing Voyage by Hermes. Also finally wearing, and loving, Chanel No. 5.

    My summer go-to is Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet, from 1903…a man’s cologne.

    I hate smelling like everyone else. My fave, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s L”Eau de L’Artisan was (sob) discontinued. Now try to find my fave, Tiempe Passate by Antonia Bellanca. Crazy difficult to get a hold of.

  2. I had a Gucci one for a couple of years and now switched to a Victoria’s Secret one… I love the scent but a small handful of sprays never lasts the whole day. Sadly I’m too poor to buy perfume more than once or twice a year or I might try out more!

    1. Scent is definitely not cheap, but the best perfume is of course…the one you like! Regardless of where it comes from! VS perfumes don’t work for me but I know friends who swear by them.

  3. I’m in the mood for a change of perfume — currently looking for something new. I like Coco Mademoiselle, but I didn’t go out and buy another bottle after I finished my last one.

    I don’t like floral scents either, or smelling like everyone else! I like fresh citrus notes (L’Occitane’s green tea and bitter orange is nice) or something that’s a bit spicy. And I’m definitely with you on bergamot. Acqua di Parma does a unisex bergamot fragrance which I like, but I was slightly put off by a review which said it’s best for the more mature wearer. Not sure if that’s a bad thing?!

    I’m leaning more towards buying perfumes that are as natural as possible, as I avoid putting too many chemicals on my skin. And as much as I love brands like Chanel, they’re not cruelty-free. 😦 It’s difficult, though, to find a natural, ethical fragrance that actually lasts on my skin.

    NEOM Organics London has a new one which is on my list to try out, with notes of grapefruit, lemon and rosemary:

    1. Ethical perfumes are hard to find. A niche perfumerie I’ve found in London that you may like is Bloom and they allow you to purchase samples of perfumes if the notes sound like something you’d like. I’ve bought a few to try out myself!

  4. Nice post! I love perfume and especially Chanel perfume. I totally understand the idea of wanting to have your own scent and be different from everyone else.

  5. Atelier fragrances are phenomenal!!
    Cedar is one of my favorites (definitely more masculine) many of their scents are beautiful layered together & then you’ve created a one-of-a-kind scent, simply your own.

    1. Cedar is such a wonderful note and you’re completely right about layering. I like the Jo Malone brand for really owning that concept.

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