I’m horribly intimidated by people who worship at the altar of Guerlain.
They say, “Mitsuoko, a classic of the genre,” and “L’Heure Bleue is my universal reference,” in reverent tones. I nod silently and try to look discerning while hoping my Lolita Lempicka or LUSH holds against my nervous sweat.
I keep trying Shalimar–vintage bottles and new–and sometimes it’s cedar sawdust and vanilla powder, and sometimes it’s leathery old lemons and oddly sweet turpentine.
I’ve just never gotten a “feel” for the stuff. It lasts forever on the skin, projects like mad, and reminds everybody else of somewhere, some time, or someone, but I’ve never understood the magic.
Everything wonderful is in there–a citrus opening, earthy rose and patchy iris in the middle, smoke and civet and balsam on the bottom–but there’s never that gestalt moment when the scent becomes more than the sum of its parts.
So I keep sniffing it, hoping for the a-ha understanding, when my novice schnozz graduates to full-on fragonista, capital-N-Nose, and maybe I will see the light that is Guerlain.
Shalimar was introduced in 1925, when Paris was overrun with American jazz and the années folles of art and entertainment following the Great War.
Gershwin hit Europe with Rhapsody in Blue that same year.
This father-son duo do a great piano arrangement.
La, this is lovely.
Incense that’s been soaked in sweet wine.
An antique spice chest with gilt hinges.
A library of treasured books that has survived flood and fire, split spines, dogeared pages, L.Ron Hubbard and Nicholas Sparks.
Wormwood takes the sweetness from the cloves to make them leathery and rich, but roses soften the edges, making it feminine.
Fills the room then slowly fades to the skin, lasting all day, and even longer in the hair.
Emaan Zadjali is an American-Omani online sensation who calls her music “trap-soul.”
I like this smoky tune.
A golden oldie from 1962–and proof that ladies of a certain age can still hold their own–classy, fun and sexy.
(Elizabeth Taylor wore it!)
Opens with lovely roses and neroli, then gets almost fruity with the creamiest jasmine ever. After it warms up with sweet benzoin and balsam, civet slinks in with vanilla and stays within arms reach for days.
That same year saw the release of Joan Baez In Concert, with this song that caught the ears of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
This one is a little bit genius.
First breath is sangria and smoke, a quick break between acts on the side door sidewalk of the theater, then sticky honey sweets to soothe the throat as the lights flicker–Places, please!–and meanders back to leather and walnut-wood seats and gaslight.
Stays close, and lasts on the skin with benzoin and incense for ages.
This is one of my favorite interludes-
Peachy aldehydes that morph into peppery spice–cinnamon and clove, balsam and patchouli–then fade to oriental incense over dry powdery rose.
This one was first released in 1953–Joan Crawford wore it. It’s got a great slinky, film noir, dark-silhouette-framed-in-smoke feel… she commands all your attention until she’s done with you.
This one came out the same year.
The adorable bottle opens with that ambrosia fruit salad made with orange jello and canned peaches and marshmallows that your gran always made for parties, then turns into handfuls of powdery Smarties for a few hours.
Lasts longer on clothes than skin, a deeper dry down of vanilla sweet resin, infused with peach cordial.
Weird and flirty and so fun.
I love it.
This was a big hit in 1994, when Deci Dela came out. Also sweet and funky and fun.
This is what Santa wears when he’s visiting a naughty house, because they’re a little nice, too, aren’t they?
Manly gingerbread cookies left under the tree.
Bright fir, fresh cut, leaking sticky pine pitch, and spice–baked ginger, ground cloves–with a syrupy base of resinous vanilla musk.
Long lasting in personal space, balsam trails with with brown sugar rubbed into the skin. Unisex, but should be worn by St. Nick types with big beards and twinkling eyes.
I like the candle even better. The pine takes center stage with a fruity note of cranberry, backed up by some smoky rose infused tea.
My house smells like a present–I’ve been a good girl this year.