Josine and I have been friends for thirty years, since a love of dressing up in lacy clothes and getting silly at parties showed we were on the same wavelength as students. Later on, of course, we would bond over the more serious issues of work, relationships, children…but there was always perfume.
Until I met Josine, I would drench myself in fuggy floriental clouds of Chloe and Dioressence on the basis that I liked a fragrance with punch and these instantly evoked memories of previous good times. Ma Griffe was childhood and my mother’s scent. Whenever I smell Opium, even now, (a boyfriend bought me a bottle of Opium and I was thrilled that he saw me as a woman who could carry off that powerful blast of sensuality) I am back at a
party wearing a slightly strange raw silk dress I have made myself, and anything is possible. Cambridge
Josine was altogether more sophisticated. She was a Guerlain woman, even then, who knew all the scents and histories of this grande dame of Parisian perfume houses. Not only could she describe all the component parts of Apres L’Ondee, that melancholy old-fashioned iris and heliotrope scent, but she could wear too, though usually she opted for the racier Shalimar and Chamade.
My favourite Guerlain classic has long been Jicky. It was one of the first “modern” French perfumes when it was created in 1889 because it used synthetic oils. A bracing spritz of citrus and bergamot soon mellows into a wonderful lavender, amber and vanillin. Just delicious, though you have to watch for the point when it develops the same dungy tang that an excess of white jasmine can pump into a warm atmosphere.
It’s bad enough for those of us who use perfume as an essential part of our memory archives that perfume manufacturers constantly “update” their scents, even the classics. But worse by far when scents are discontinued. I still mourn the demise of Dior-Dior, that zingy accompaniment to those first months with my future husband.
And I’d only relatively recently discovered L’Occitane’s Ambre, with its gorgeous warm cistus and honeyed wood when it disappeared from the shelves. I found a near-miss at Senteurs & Provence in Apt: Lothantique’s Ambre. It’s lovely too, but for me, between the two it’s the difference in olfactory terms between hearing music played by an oboe when you long for the rich, round sexy notes of a saxophone.