Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Perfume Musings (of an ex-smoker)

I'm not sure I've ever said it or even thought about it much but I used to be a smoker and I believe that's where my fascination with perfume began. I may have lacked a true appreciation for the dangers of that bad habit but I certainly realized the reek of smoke clinging to one's clothes, hair and hands was not pretty. I recall selecting my signature scents, partially on their ability to blend in with and mask the residue of my cigarettes. And so I leaned naturally towards sharp greens, smoky leathers and spicy orientals from early on. Those types of perfumes seemed best suited to masking fumes and after repeated wearings they became my preference. While my love of proper perfumes waned and laid dormant for a long time after I quit smoking, I continued to have a keen interest in incense and the head-shop variety of scented oils. Now it's been some time since my interest (being polite) in perfume has been rekindled but recently I found a nifty little bottle of Bandit parfum, that famous leather scent by Robert Piguet. This is the vintage version, not the horrifying newer release (which I keep, unopened and wrapped in it's cellophane- as a punishment, on my lower shelf). The tarry, almost skunky-tart green leather of the original version is mouth-watering. The scent memory is pure bliss as well: my smoker's hands redolent of comfortably roasted tobacco, my back warmed by the autumn sun, strolling through the Tenderloin, with a group of junky musician friends, on our way to a friend's flat. No bills and no cares- and an innocent ignorance of everything to come, the vigor of youth stinging in my blood. Those were the days, lol.
But Bandit was there with me, covering up every trace of indiscretion and adding a certain flare, an unexpected dash of style to my low-brow ways. So now of course Bandit is an old friend. It understands me and I understand it. I discovered other soul-sisters in the guise of scents, specters and members of my perfume-spirit family, scents that took me back to down-home and my soul's roots. At one time there was Halston Couture (never just Halston, only the Couture!) which was the first perfume I actually inducted into the Vintage Vault. I went into absolute panic mode when that one was discontinued; it was before the days of the internet and trying to locate a bottle of HC was a truly monumental project. Chanel's Cuir de Russie and Opium joined the select group, and most of my old-school chypres now belong as well. These are the scents I reach for first when I want to feel wise and witty and warm but no one seems to get it (or me). I guess this is more a perfume reminisce and a chance for me to sing the praises of the heavy perfumes, those strange brews that were authored for a purpose even it was just to challenge, whose makers weren't afraid to use potent ingredients in generous proportions, and who succeeded in creating masterpieces capable of not only masking the repellent odours that haunt our very existence, but also seducing us with the very same breath.
The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

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