Why I love being 40 – perfume #blogvember

The best thing about being 40 is knowing my own mind. More precisely, the best thing is knowing what I like. It was very plain today, while chatting with a charming and yet extremely young assistant in Mecca Cosmetica. In the first two minutes it was obvious that she was learning about perfume from chatting with me rather than selling me anything.  She did know her product range, but she couldn’t have made a suggestion for me based on any description of what I liked. As it turned out, I told her. I also told her that this was one of the good things about having worn perfume for 20 years, you learn a thing or two.

Shopping for perfume is one the great pleasures of my life. The intoxicating and heady mix of beautiful bottles and the range of different scents that can only be imagined, all in the one place, is truly mesmerising for me. My favourite window shopping trips as a poor student were to David Jones’ Elizabeth street store. Steering away from cosmetics and veering toward the perfume counters was always such a pleasure. Never mind that I was too poor to buy anything much. At least, after testing a few fragrances, it meant that I wafted out into George Street in a sillage of uni-sex ozone and green tea that were so huge during the early 1990s. It might have been a Chanel if I’d been feeling brave or if the dragon ladies of the Chanel counter were having lunch, leaving the younger relief staff in charge of the counter. It was a number of years before I bought perfume regularly, although I did often wear Eau Savage by Dior. A cologne for men from 1966, with notes of sandalwood and vetiver as well as musk and bergamot. I had a tiny 30 mL bottle, which I acquired somehow, I don’t remember how anymore. I loved it. And now I know that it was the beginning of a life-long love affair with its key ingredients.

I fell in love, hard, with Allure in 1996 and wore it everyday for years and years. I prioritised spending money on it, even when I was very hard up. It was the only fragrance I wore, except Eau Dynamisante, with its beautiful Chypre freshness. Then I read a piece by Estee Lauder’s daughter in law, Evelyn, who talked about fragrance wardrobes. It was a timely read, I realised that even though I loved the tiny purse spray packs Allure came in, I couldn’t really appreciate it anymore. The sillage I’m sure, signalled my presence, long before I arrived in a room. But it was too familiar to me. I could no long smell it. Allure features, sandalwood, vetiver, vanilla and bergamot in with its flowers, rose, jasmine, orange blossom.

I headed overseas with a new found enthusiasm for a fragrance wardrobe and to duty free shopping heaven. From then on I had multiple favourites, and more than one on the go. I moved on from Allure to the outlandish Ambre Sultan. A fragrance from Serge Lutens that is polarising. Amber, vanilla, patchouli, wood and coriander. I loved it. And I smelled like no one else.

In Paris in 2007 I discovered Serge Luten’s Santal Blanc. Sadly now discontinued, it is a uni-sex marvel that can be worn year round, it is a scent with pink pepper and rose, with sandalwood. I particularly loved consulting, in appalling French, with the consultant at Galleries Lafayette about the best Lutens perfume for me. Complete contrast to Ambre Sultan.

From Santal Blanc with its warm woods and spices I moved on to bigger and more outlandish scents. Straight to Fracas. Created in 1948 Fracas, it is described by the Roget Piaget house as:

“Fracas, created by perfumer Germain Cellier in 1947, became the fragrance signature of a small and knowledgeable coterie of women… Classic femininity and modern sensibility collide within this lush white floral fragrance.  Seductive tuberose mingles with jasmine and gardenia in a profusion of fragile white flowers before revealing a base of sandalwood and musk.  Fracas is the signature fragrance for those who want to make an unforgettable impression.”

What I can say, is this, wearing Fracas, is like wearing sex. Tuberose perfumes are not for everyone. Some people recoil from their headiness. I am still waiting till I can afford the ultimate tuberose perfume, Carnal Flower.

Do Son - Diptyque

Do Son – Diptyque

What I thought after I came home with Diptyque Do Son today was, how many perfumes I have managed to wear over the years. It is a long roll-call. It has some common elements, sandalwood, vetiver, neroli, tuberose. There were some scents I had almost forgotten, but while researching this, I have remembered. Amarige is one key example. I had a brief flirt with it when I was young. It features, you guessed it sandalwood, tuberose and neroli. That was twenty years ago. Turns out, I’ve known what I like all along.

I also know that Tom Ford Neroli Portofino smells exactly like 4711. Exactly. One whiff and it is 1978 and I am 4 and smelling my grandmothers perfume collection. This is what I love about being 40.