Thursday, October 2, 2008

It Smelled so Good and Now I Am Not Loving it as Much!

One of my readers, the lovely Sandra from Prague, sent me an intriguing mail the other day recounting a phenomenon not unheard of among perfume lovers ~no, not reformulation:
"Before taking off to Tunisia, I bought a fragrance pretty much unsniffed - OK sniffed briefly for top notes which is not much help. Estee Lauder Beyond Paradise Blue. In the hotel room it smelled ... well, sort of sea-like fresh and in any case noticeable in the oppressive heat, unlike Azuree Soleil, the epitomy of beach bliss, who could frankly not be detected at all. Now I know why Arabs wear such strong fragrances! Nothing else penetrates the solid wall of heat.

Back in Prague, what's left in the bottle of Beyond Paradise Blue smells ... well beyond paradise, not in hell exactly, but AWFUL, with a strong air-freshener synthetic note that makes me sneeze. And yet, when I spray it on - with a light hand this time - I hear the waves splashing the warm sand, feel the warm lapping of sea foam around my ankles, my toes sinking in the shore, the breeze singing in my hair, and the salty smell of the sea. I feel free-spirited and joyful and forgive Beyond Paradise all the pointy venomous critics I would otherwise no doubt utter."

This made me recall about when I tried an unidentified batch and concentration of L'Heure Bleue in a big department store on the Guerlain counter one fateful hot afternoon that I bought Vetiver instead (which I loved, by the way). Coming back home the heavens opened and magisterial orchards came into vision with all the grandeur of a royal pavillion. The experience was never replicated and L'Heure Bleue has not smelled so poignantly beautiful to me ever again. It will always trouble me, because I view the scent very differently now: what was that nectar and why it smelled so good on that particular day when I was so young and so carefree? Perhaps what that smell reminds me of is exactly the smell of my insouciance and the enthusiasm with which I viewed my budding occupation. Perhaps it irrigates my mind still for a reason which I have yet to find.

Have you had similar experiences?

Pic taken at Lagonissi, Greece


  1. I have similar experiences on a weekly basis! Really, my response to a scent can vary wildly over time, and I'm sure there are a multitude of factors at work. The down side of my changeable sense of smell is that it makes me very reluctant to part with anything. I always hope I will like it again someday--and in fact, I often do.

    I think buying a new and pricey scent that you've only tried while traveling is an especially bad idea (not that I haven't done it.) Being in an alien environment tends to knock my whole nervous system askew, and I've often been very disappointed with vacation purchases. The worst case was AA Gentiana, which I tested during a trip to Sweden and simply HAD TO HAVE. When I bought a bottle after I got home, it was completely intolerable, and never got better. I wound up giving it away.

  2. Ooops, I think I missed your point a bit. I was talking chemistry, and you guys were talking memories. I think Fleurs de Rocaille has some of the same quality for me that LHB does for you, E. I first encountered it during a teen trip to France and I always thought of it as one of the most beautiful scents ever made. But, to be honest, it doesn't really do anything for me now, whether the juice is vintage or new. Nevertheless, when I sniff it, I am 15 and back in France, seeing a little of the world for the first time.

  3. I think L'Heure Bleue smells best in hot weather too!

  4. Dear M,

    I can very well understand this and it does happen a lot, which is why I am reluctant to part with something myself: who knows, it might surprise me again!
    Gentiana is something peculiar: theoretically it should be very fresh in an aromatic (non citrus) way and then it falls flat and becomes blah. I had the same effect so I can sympathise...

  5. M,

    LOL, I think both of your comments are valid as both factors do come in this. I agree about FdR: it's a nicely made perfume (although I gather not "us" really) and it's very sweet that it brings up such precious memories for you. I have a similar nostalgic feeling with Anais Anais and Soir de Paris. *sigh*

  6. Dear D,

    that's great to hear as I was feeling completely weird in saying so. And yet, I have never replicated the effect although we do get hot weather...don't know why! I guess batches have varied wildly.

  7. Anonymous02:17

    The first time I smelled Tuscany by Aramis (I was a teen) has never really been replicated again, ever in my life. Of course, I still admire the scent, but this was my first 'real fragrance' that I received as a gift from my aunt - she walked me up to the Aramis counter and bought me my bottle. Now, wearing it on my skin, it's just not as good as that good memory.

  8. M,

    what a precious gift: not only a fragrance but the memory to go with it. I think sometimes we invest those precious moments with the idealised phantom of our past carefree state of mind and nostalgise because of that.

  9. Anonymous07:18

    I had a similar experience with L'Heure Bleue. I hated it the first time I tried it - dry mid-western winter. This summer in London (warm, damp, muggy) I tried it again and WOW! It just bloomed in the humidity and I wore it non-stop. I have since worn it in hot and humid conditions and it is a totally different fragrance and in my top 5 now!

  10. Anonymous07:19

    sorry - forgot to add my name to the anon L'Heure Bleue


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