Sunday, July 06, 2014

Acquired Tastes: Perfume

Many of my favorite perfumes were love at first sniff, but not all. Some took a bit of courting before I succumbed. But the most interesting thing is looking at the ones that required a real change of heart before becoming staples. Here are my "acquired taste" perfumes:

1-3) Shalimar, Samsara, Chanel No. 5. All three were perfumes I've known forever (or close to that, in the case of Samsara which was released in the 80s). Shalimar and No.5 were so ubiquitous I didn't pay attention to them, and Samsara rubbed me the wrong way for years. The first two only required actually wearing them purposefully to fall in love (I can't picture my life without vintage Shalimar). With Samsara it was more about concentration (extrait and edp vs. edt) and nose experience.
4) Bandit (Robert Piguet). Hemp, smoke, scorched leather- the very first time was difficult and unsettling. Bandit challenged a lot of my perfume prejudices and won.
5) Vetiver Dance (Tauer). Between the green oiliness and my well-known muguet issues, it took months before I managed to wrap my mind around Vetiver Dance. I also think that the actual juice I had needed to age a little more to reach its full potential.
6) Cabaret de Gres. I thought it was nothing but a rosy soap and ended up going through bottles of the stuff. What a sneaky little chypre!
7) Fracas (Robert Piguet). This was another case of concentration. I still won't touch the eau de parfum with its explosive sillage that covers the world in a buttery tuberose-gardenia haze, but a dab of extrait de parfum is incredibly sexy.
8) Loulou (Cacharel). It's hard to form a real opinion on a perfume one's sister used as a nuclear weapon, but decades later I found myself an owner of a vintage bottle, and the rest was simply a matter of finding the courage to spray.
9) Zagorsk (CdG). The first time I wore it wasn't pretty. It involved a hot summer night and one mojito too many. I refused to retest it for several months after that incident, but once I did I bought a bottle.
10) Eau d'Elide (Diptyque). One day I woke up with a craving for this and all previous doubts were forgotten. I can't even try to explain the process.

Did you ever do a 180 degrees on a perfume? What were your acquired tastes?

Photo of a 1944 beauty device that reshapes the nose via


  1. Hello Gaia,
    I enjoy reading this blog everyday. Love this article.

  2. Laughing hysterically at number 8!!! The only fragrance I can think of that grew on me was Narciso Rodriguez For Her. I really, really hate musk, actually, but I ended up sniffing all the women at this party until I found the one the heavenly smell was coming from, and it turned out to be this fragrance that I'd sniffed at hated at a department store. I have actually never grown to love the fragrance as much on myself as I did on her, but just two spritzes of this and it's Compliment City all day, everywhere, all the time. Hmmm!!

  3. Oh, Shalimar was an acquired taste for me as well! :D
    I remember smelling it when I first got seriously into perfume and thought to myself: "What in the world are all of them smelling that they like?!"
    Now it's my all time favorite. :)
    Also, it took me years to get Parfum de Therese and now I adore it.

    The same happened with Nuit de Tubereuse now I think of it. I hated that rendition of tuberose but now I find it rather nice and wearable for the heat we're having.
    I'm pretty sure I could come up with several more if I wanted to... ;)

  4. Tuberose. In any incarnation. One day it just smelled different. Jour d'Hermes. I'd blind bought it because it was JCE so I presumed I'd love it, but didn't. Stashed it away then woke one day craving it. Funny how that happens isn't it? Similar situation with iris too, like Hiris and Pierre de Lune. Still waiting for the galbanum love to appear..

  5. Angel, Mitsouko and Muscs Koublaï Khan. If we are talking about notes, rose and vetiver.

  6. Maybe Poison? I must be a child of the 80's but wearing this (maybe "wearing" is the wrong word. "dousing self heavily") seemed trend right or something. Seemed right to my early teenage self. Smelling it recently, I literally gagged. I'm not sure if it was my memories of my tragic childhood or this tragic perfume that made me gag. Pretty sure I'm never going to try to sniff this again.

    1. This smells different to me. I wonder if it was reformulated.

    2. Makes sense if it did.
      I should clarify that I de-acquired my love for Poison... sadly and obviously.

  7. Mitsouko-- it took about a year (it didn't help that i got a bottle of Eau de Toilette, which is much more concrete saw-like than the EdP or parfum). But one day, it just clicked, and now it's what i'd grab if the house were on fire.

    As far as notes, rose took a while, and now I'm obsessed (Isparta by Parfumerie Generale is my current fave, along with the usual suspects Ungaro Diva and L'Arte di Gucci). Rose chypres make me stand up straighter and think clearly! Gres Cabaret is such an underrated beauty, no?

    Dante's Bra

  8. As a child, I hated all the strong classic I wear all the time now in vintage form: Shalimar, Tabu, Youth Dew, Opium, Ysatis, Poison. (My feelings about certain flavors also changed with adulthood: I used to hate herring, sweet gefilte fish and scotch and now I love those things.) There are a few perfumes I hated back in the day, however, that I still hate now (even though I own some for old times' sake): Emeraude and White Shoulders are two. Not sure how I feel about Tatiana. Found it unbearably cloying in the 1970s; want to resample the vintage. And I still cannot abide black liquorish, neither in vines nor in perfume. They should banish that note!

  9. The whole topic of fragrance is fascinating to me. Gaia, I've been reading your posts on perfume for some time now and had commented to you how helpful they were for one trying to learn such as myself. So thank you for taking the time to write about them. After all of my reading, I have found that my approach to fragrance hasn't changed at all. If I try one and immediately recoil, that's the end of that. If I try it and think "maybe" I get a sample and try it a few more times to make a decision. If I try it and it's love at first sniff....well, that's self-explanatory. While the perfume "experts" may sniff ( pun intended) at this approach, it works for me. For what is the purpose of wearing fragrance if you don't love it? Oh, and I hate Poison too. With a passion. That stuff makes me gag. Literally the only perfume I have ever been around that I cannot even politely tolerate.

  10. So glad you led off with Shalimar! I talked my mother into buying Shalimar for me when I was in high school. It was in an uber cool Truman Capote story (or I thought it was). Then I was horrified by what it smelled like, LOL. It took me nearly four decades and a vintage boule bottle of EdT to love it. nozknoz

  11. I still have not managed to power through it with Shalimar. I have a bottle of the Parfum Initial, which is Shalimar with training wheels and I can just about manage that, but I still don't rock it.
    However, Mitsouko has finally bent me to her will and I can wear her. Still don't rock it though. And the Peaches are still not my favourite thing.
    I am currently persevering with Paloma Picasso, who has a tendency to knock me over if I'm not careful. Too HUGE for me just yet.
    But Bandit I can wear with a swagger in my stride. I am very proud of finally womanising up enough to wear Bandit and Cabochard with glee. :-)


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