Today at Barneys, my sales associate was as reckless as he was brilliant. We talked and talked about every fragrance under the sun, and every discussion reminded him of three more things I absolutely had to try, and before I left, I had sampled about 100 scents. It was like being at one of those all-you-can-eat buffets in Las Vegas. But without all the fatty starches and annoying children. (Or is it annoying starches and fatty children?)
I tried the entire Heeley line (perfectly pleasant but unmemorable: Travis, Nick Hornby, Jimmy Fallon, your pick), the entire Bois 1920 line (sharp and strong, but all of them smell sort of the same) and, unfortunately for me, the entire L'Artisan Parfumeur line.
This is where my sales associate and I parted ways: he loves L'Artisan and every time I rejected one, he had another ready to go. If this were a dating service and L'Artisan were my potential partners, I would've walked out and asked for my money back.
The one thing I will say for the line is, unlike Bois 1920, all of its scents seemed wrong in different ways. There was wrong blackberry and wrong spice rack and wrong licorice and wrong pepper.
And then I moved onto Frédéric Malle and smelled Bois d'Orage (French Lover outside the USA). Katie, it smelled EXACTLY like my father. Jesus.
At first, I couldn't place the scent, I just knew I was nine years old and my dad was standing there in his dirty overalls. And then it hit me: stale smoke. My father smoked cigars but never around the house, so he always smelled as if he had smoked a cigar two hours ago. And he smelled of dirt and sweat because he worked in hot greenhouses all day long.
And this is the smell of Bois d'Orage. It's completely unsweetened and unsentimental, just like my dad, which actually makes it quite sentimental. (My dad died when I was 18.)
I was heartened to come home and read Luca Turin's review in The Guide, in which he confirms Bois d'Orage smells of stale cigar smoke and sweat. There are times when smelling stuff that I can't tell what I'm smelling, and I'm certain I have no more of a clue than any other blockhead off the street. But Bois d'Orage is right in my wheelhouse, I'm an expert at Bois d'Orage, and so that's what I bought today.
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