When trying to figure a new perfume, context is a huge help. Where does this unfamiliar scent fit in the fragrance map of the world? Or, never mind the world -- how about your brain? Filing away Gucci Rush as the last word in disco-ball poppers perfume might be hasty, for example, before you'd had a chance to experience Byredo M/Mink and follow the yellow brick road from de trop to way de trop. (M/Mink takes the locker room/chlorine smell of poppers and pushes it so far into church-in-a-zoo animalic incense terrain, that you don't know whether to throw up or sigh with pleasure.) Or, writing off the mysterious dry fruitiness of Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit as impenetrable would be premature before encountering the same accord in Lutens' Daim Blond, and flashing on their shared sueded apricot. Connecting the dots between fragrances is fun, but it can also fool with your head. Relativity can diminish the allure of previously adored scents, as well as elevating others you'd already dismissed as clunkers. If I had first smelled Yves Saint Laurent Belle D'Opium in a universe devoid of any other perfume, I'd say, “Sweet. Peachy. Syrupy. Woody. Hot. Cottony.” And then I'd say, “Gee, I wish there were some other perfumes in this stupid universe.” But it wasn't like that. I first smelled Belle D'Opium in a universe stuffed to the gills with perfume, a universe containing Bond No. 9 Chinatown, itself a universe stuffed to the gills with its own craziness. With all of Chinatown's rock 'em, sock 'em peach and patchouli and shellacked wood and gardenia -- you practically need extra nostrils to take it all in. And now having smelled Chinatown, I have a place for Belle D'Opium in my mental taxonomy. It's the cheap'n'cheerful Chinatown, which in turn I consider the grown-up version of teenage fruity-florals. So I guess that makes Belle D'Opium the teenage version of an adult fruity-floral. I don't know if that's a double negative, but that's where I am with my perfume relativity theory. So far.
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