A Fickle Nose

I’ve never been the one-perfume kind of girl; I’m always searching for a new fragrance, which can convey how I’m feeling at that point in my life. Hours spent in various beauty halls over the years have even helped me to develop a rather unimpressive olfactory sense, which I test with every over-perfumed individual that passes by.

If the array of perfumes that one owns says anything about one’s personality, then one look at my dressing table would tell you that I’m rather indecisive. The little glass bottles contain a myriad of fruity, oriental, citrusy and floral scents, and I definitely couldn’t pick a favourite. My mood, outfit and plan for the day dictate my choice of fragrance; a choice which, contrary to my indecisive nature, takes only a split-second to make as there is always one scent that encapsulates my frame of mind better than the others.

Photo: A Few of My Favourite Scents

A Few of My Favourite Scents

However, for a while, there was one exception to my perfume dalliances. Several years ago, my mum and I paid a visit to Liberty on a trip to London. There, I found a fragrance by Creed, which is, in their own words “a discreet family-owned perfume house dedicated to the creation of highly original fragrances of extravagant quality”. Founded in London in 1760, it soon became a supplier to the royal household. Today, seven generations later and still essentially a family business, the House of Creed operates from its boutique in Paris’ 8th Arondissement, producing exclusive perfumes for its loyal clientele.

The scent that captivated my senses was Silver Mountain Water (SMW) by Creed – a scent that I thought really could be my signature scent. Hints of the fresh, luxurious fragrance lingered on my jacket for a week, and the impression was lasting. At over £80 for a 30ml bottle, and with no Creed stockists near us in Oxfordshire, the pleasure of SMW was confined to visits to London. For years, I fantasised about adding the simple white bottle to my dressing table and, when I moved to London, every visit to Peter Jones on Sloane Square was marked with a spritz of SMW.

The Creed Stand at Liberty

Just over a week ago, I decided to celebrate the end of my exams with a visit to Liberty to explore the new Assouline Literary Lounge (I read a lovely post about it by A Girl, A Style). I was even toying with the idea of cementing my enduring love affair with SMW by indulging a large proportion of my student bank balance on a certain small white bottle.

Before we go further, I must tell you that the perfumery room at Liberty London is out of this world, housing an impressive range of niche and exclusive fragrances, which you wouldn’t find in the average department store (great if you want to find an individual scent that you won’t find your boss wearing). Sumptuous, opulent and intimate, it is one of the few beauty halls which makes the process of choosing your scent feel as important as I think it should. But, it was in this beautiful room that I found proof, if proof were needed, that my nose is as fickle as the British weather. Liberally spraying SMW on my scarf, it took me a few moments to notice that the scent failed to evoke the usual sense of effortless luxury. Once again, my dreams of a faithful perfume relationship were crushed.

The Perfumery Room at Liberty

All rather melodramatic, I know, but then I think the effect of perfume can itself be dramatic. It triggers the imagination, in an instant whisking you away to another world, a long-forgotten memory, a dream, a desire. Every so often I will recognise a scent from my childhood in the sea of smells that we’re exposed to every day, and suddenly I can be there in that moment again. Memories that I thought were deeply locked away in my past become crystal clear, but a perfume brings back more than just a time and a place. For me, perfumes (and smells in general) are intrinsically tied to emotions.

Although I don’t have a signature scent, many of my friends and family do, and I find huge comfort in embracing someone I haven’t seen for a while and breathing in their familiar scent, which wouldn’t seem right on anyone else. Whenever a whiff of a particular fragrance by Hugo Boss passes me by, I turn my head to inspect the man who’s wearing it. The scent instantly conjures up thoughts of my dad. My memories of him (he lives abroad) are so intertwined with this smell, that I can spray the scent on a tester card, close my eyes, and drift into the carefree summers that I spend with him. A holiday in a bottle.

On the other hand, I stopped using Calvin Klein Euphoria instantly, when I noticed that it was a favourite of my ex’s ex. And that is why I don’t think I will ever have a signature scent: my emotions are too emotionally tied to my nose. I couldn’t wear the same perfume in the throes of love and the depths of loneliness. In the same way that some women draw on a red lip for a boost of confidence, I know that a spritz of Rose Essentielle by Bulgari will make me walk a bit taller.

Photo: Rose Essentielle by Bulgari

Rose Essentielle by Bulgari

Perfume has punctuated the last ten years of my life, and my favourite perfumes are associated with particular periods in my life. Many of the bottles sit unused for months until I suddenly feel that they are ‘right’ again. A good example is Eau des Merveilles by Hermes. A gift from my mum, who bought it on a plane without smelling it, the little bottle was unused for about a year, until one night (after a breakup) I craved the strong, woody, masculine scent.

Now, having recently turned twenty, I feel like a whole new chapter of my life has been opened, and I look forward to punctuating the next ten years of my life with more scents, and the memories that will be associated with them. I’ve penciled in another trip to Liberty, and I can’t wait to meet The One. That is, until the next One comes along.

How about you? Do you have a signature scent, or does your fragrance of choice change with your mood? I’d love to hear about your favourite places to shop for fragrances!

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Hello, you

Two years ago, I packed up all my worldly possessions to move to London, where I would study Physics at university by day, and explore the city that had captivated my dreams since the age of eight by night.

Being far more inclined to pick up a copy of Vogue than the New Scientist, I wasn’t convinced that Physics was the degree for me, but I couldn’t be more sure that London was where I wanted to study. Like in any city, there’s a sense that everyone is in a rush, always on their way somewhere and I couldn’t wait to be a part of this buzz.

After lectures, I would sit in little cafés with my laptop, a coffee in hand (I’m not a huge fan, but one can pretend…), and study (or people-watch). On my lecture-free mornings, I might wander down to Harvey Nichols and window shop on Sloane Street. I’d go for runs along the embankment, and, in the evenings, I would catch up with friends over cocktails.

Or so I thought. Study Physics I did, but London’s many charms were quickly forgotten as the assignments piled up, and the hours clocked up in bed went down. After my first year of student life, the summer vacation came as a relief from the constant string of deadlines, and any dreams of becoming London’s decidedly-poorer student-equivalent of Carrie Bradshaw were truly extinguished.

After three months of R&R at home in a small village with my family, I craved being back in London. I missed my independence, and I missed having the choice of more than one running route. This year, I told myself, I would make the most of London life. Surely it was all just a matter of time management?

If so, then I wasn’t very good at it.

Another sleepless year passed by as I did my best to stay atop of the assignments and other activities that I had signed up for.

Now, aged twenty, halfway through my four-year degree, and becoming progressively less literate with every equation that I squeeze into my head, I have decided that it’s time I stopped living from deadline to deadline and started living (full stop) – no more “coulda, woulda, shoulda”!

Join me as I search for inspiration, and document my thoughts on, well, whatever takes my fancy (as a guide, this is unlikely to include woodwork, gardening, or motor sports). Maybe, along the way, I’ll even get a better idea of the person that I am and what I really want to do with my life. I don’t have the legs to be Carrie Bradshaw, you see.