One of my pet perfume peeves is when sales assistants get all up in my grill when I’m contentedly sampling fragrances. There I am, like Dennis Hopper with the gas mask in Blue Velvet, snorfing deeply of every bottle on the counter, when the intrusion commences.
“Can I help you?”
I strike a perky D.I.Y. tone in my response.
“No thanks! I’m happy sniffing for now!”
Ignoring my obvious self-sufficiency, the SA will persist, “What notes do you like?”
An inward sigh from me, and then an outward, “Incense.”
“Oh! Then you’ll love this!” the SA will say, forcing some random spice on me.
Yesterday at Barneys, it was a clove fragrance called Seductive from the organic line Intelligent Nutrients. I dutifully sniffed, frowned and said dully, “It’s clove. I don’t like clove.”
The SA was determined to turn lemons into lemonade.
“Oh, I don’t like clove, either! I’m from Hawaii -- I’m a gardenia girl. But men LOVE clove! You’ll be amazed at the reaction you get from men when you wear this! Women come back after trying this to buy it, because of all the attention they get from men!”
So, I’m supposed to sit in cloud of Christmas ham spices all day long to lure random men? How ‘bout I just wear the ham? Men like ham too, I hear. And what about what I like? If I’m wearing what I love, I won’t be a Sourface McMeany, and I’ll get attention from everyone, men, women, zebras, tomatoes -- whatevs, Lady.
Ooh, don’t get me started.
I was at the snazzerella Etro boutique on Rodeo Drive a few months back, eager to dive into their range of 22 fragrances. Etro’s clothes may be an awkward sock-hop of Oriental and Preppy, but the perfumes are ambitious and interesting. I knew I liked the smoky chai of Palais Jamais, and was intrigued by the dirty-hair myrrh of Messe de Minuit orange incense. And I already owned Shaal Nur, an easy-wearing lemon vetiver.
I lined up the perfumes like shots at a bar, and proceeded to systematically spritz and sniff my way through them. A voice cut through my happy haze.
“You kill your nose after three, you know.” The Etro guy was holding a container of coffee beans towards me.
Not the dreaded coffee beans! If I wanted to spend the afternoon smelling coffee beans, I’d be eight miles east at Intelligentsia Coffee. But still there persists the urban myth that coffee “clears your palate”, somehow magically vacuuming up the cacophony of odors in your nose. Never mind the reality that all you’re doing is introducing yet another intense aroma into the din. That all you really need to do to keep going is to take a fresh air break when your nose is overwhelmed.
“No thanks,” I said firmly in the direction of the proffered beans. I picked up my next perfume, Sandalo, spritzed, sniffed, and went into a dream.
Sandalo eau de cologne is a warm, buttery sandalwood. There’s an odd, “off” note when it first hits the skin, a sour milk bite that might be an indication of the listed cedarwood. As soon as you’ve wrinkled your nose, it’s over, and you’re into the strangely petrol-like aspect of sandalwood. Yeah yeah, sandalwood’s a cozy, woody smell, you know that, but there’s always that sharp gasoline attack right at the top. The gasoline softens, but there remains a thin shell of camphor around Sandalo’s creamy mmm-ness for the whole ride, like the candy coating around almond M&Ms. Just to keep you honest.
The sour milk and petrol start is the perfume version of a sleepy dog turning around herself three times before she settles in for a long, snuggly sleep, because five minutes in, Sandalo’s cuddled into your skin for the duration. It’s the ultimate perfume for flower-haters -- or lovers, as the case may be, because no flowers were harmed in the making of Sandalo. It’s all sandalwood, all the time, supported by a sensual accord of amber, musk and patchouli. Come all you men and women who want to smell like a deep sigh of “ahhhhhhhhhh”. Sandalo is here to spoon you.
Image by elisfanclub