The ones that got away

Flotsam and jetsam – on perfume

Dear readers,

 My apologies for being a bit AWOL lately. These past weeks have been insane. It all began on a very early Sunday morning, when the combination of an attention-hungry cat, a large cup of tea and a laptop immersed in the finer points of an online retailer who shall remain nameless resulted in a tea-drowned and dead-as-a-doorknob laptop. The plot thickened on the following Thursday, when I was hugely surprised to land a great job, for real money, two hundred km away in Copenhagen. So in the space of four weeks, I’ve moved myself and the dastardly feline across the country, started this new (and exhausting) job, and broken in a new(ish) laptop that means I can’t use Word any longer. (But there’s Google Docs, no worries, so I can still write.) All in all, it meant I haven’t had a lot of time, certainly not to write – about perfume. 

Flotsam and Jetsam

But here I am, typing away, with a few flotsam and jetsam thoughts – on perfume. I spent an afternoon recently in and out of bookshops, vintage clothing stores, and two department stores. From one end of that afternoon to the other, I sniffed quite a few of them. All of these things put together led me to writing this post. 

I sniffed my way around YSL Libre and Tuxedo, Diptyque Kyoto and Do Son for good measure, several of the “new” Amouages including one that made me swoon (I’ll be getting back to those), a new L’Occitane and Chanel 1932, a longtime favorite I reviewed a long time ago. I still curse the day I met Tom Ford’s Lost Cherry for being so good, damn it. I swore an oath to buy one of those astonishing Cire Trudon candles I sniffed.

I wondered about how so many brands are displayed in places like department stores. Copenhagen might not have the floor space of, say, Harrods, or Neiman-Marcus, and yet, they still manage to lead you into a ground floor maze of a staggering amount of brands, all competing for the same customers. 

Behind the designer fragrances, the knock-offs, and the teenaged budget friendly raspberry bombs, in a small, exclusive, carpeted corner, there were the high end niche brands: Histoires  de Parfum, Initio, Diptyque, the Collection Extraordinaire of Van Cleef and Arpel, the vast output of Maison Margiela. Just don’t have the nerve to ask for Untitled, as I did. No one had ever even heard of it. 

Plebeian problems

And Amouage, a brand once exceedingly dear to my heart for the perfume stories they sang on my skin. I took several deep breaths. 

And then. 

I’m not a tall woman. On a good day, I stand 5’2” in sneakers. Yet every single Amouage was displayed at around 175 cm – or a good 5’9” – and up. I came to that particular location to wallow a little in two Amouages that got away from me, and if only one were available, that one. My press sample of Fate Woman was stolen/purloined by Ms. Hare and despite pleading, begging, bribing and cajoling for over eight years, I’m n-o-t getting it back. Ever. 

Fate Woman was about 6’4” up. No way in Hades I could ever reach it, and sales assistants had made themselves scarce in the Saturday afternoon crush. 

So I sniffed my way through the 5’9 shelf. All the new Amouages, with two exceptions. They were good, they really were. But something was missing, something I could barely articulate, yet there it was, conspiciúous by its absence in every one of those fancy bottles. 

The Groove in the Heart

On the left end of the shelf, two older bottles. Love Mimosa – a beautiful, sunny, spring in mimosa blossom, and I say this as someone who likes the blooms if not the perfumes. Malle’s Une Fleur de Cassie notwithstanding, mimosa is a note I can live happily without, and yet, Love Mimosa is outstanding. 

Next to Love Mimosa was another Love, Love Tuberose. (I do!) I grabbed the tester, applied a little to my unperfumed left arm and – swooned

It wasn’t the magnificent tuberose note, salicylates and all, nor the chantilly cream-with-extra- Madagascar Bourbon vanilla+tuberose heart, and then – I had to sit down on a gray velvet pouf when it hit me. 

It was the heart. Love Tuberose, like its sibling Love Mimosa, like Fate, like Journey, like Memoir, Epic, Ubar, Gold, Interlude, Jubilation and Lyric twinkling away in the soft spotlights out of reach for plebeian, pedestrian, midget moi, like every Amouage I have ever tried in over eleven years of perfume writing, had heart. Boundless, Crimson Rocks and all those other new releases, had none I could determine. This is why – you’ve read it here first – I’ve decided this ‘review’ will be my last ever Amouage review. I’m no longer anywhere important or influential enough to receive press samples any longer, and I’m OK with that.

The one that got away 

Up in the gods of the perfume case, somewhere around the seven foot mark (I wish I were kidding), another fervent love twinkled in the spotlights. The one that got away. The one sitting at the very top of my personal wishlist, the press sample I drained to droplets and fog and swore (for over six years and counting) that someday, some way, it would be m-i-n-e. Our relationship was so personal, I couldn’t even write about it, since that would make public what was a uniquely private love.

The duo of Amouage Sunshine is uniquely private for me. Sunshine Woman arrived on the day I became a grandmother, and since it was the only thing I had to give at the time, I gave it to my daughter, who since declared it her personal The One, along with several heartfelt lamentations of the How-Can-A-Perfume-Cost-So-Much variety. She still has that press sample and uses it to this day for special occasions. 

Which leads my words to Sunshine Man. 

In quite a few ways, I’m profoundly lucky NOT to be able to buy everything I come across that I come to love. I can’t afford to make mistakes, and blind buys, as any perfumista will tell you, should be approached with extreme caution. For me, this means I only buy what I truly can’t live without. The End. 

Most lemmings pass with time. The ones that stick in the mind, the ones that stick around, the ones, in short, that set their metaphorical hooks in my bathetic gray matter and declare in neon letters OMG YES – those are the ones I prefer to buy, and as this perfumista has evolved these past almost twelve years of perfume writing, those moments are ever fewer and further between. As my mother used to say, if you can’t afford anything at all, you can at least aspire to the best. 

I make no distinction between masculine and feminine perfumes. I wear whatever I damn well please and really, who’s going to know never mind care anyway? As one famous perfumer put it: 

The only difference is the ‘Pour homme’ on the label. 

If I were to sum up the mood of Sunshine Man in three words, they would be …

Stupid Happy Perfume

Lavender anything has been a love of mine ever since those endless Christmas present cakes of Yardley English Lavender soap adorned and perfumed my teenage dresser drawers. I adore the scent of lavender, adore that lavender has done wonders for two sleep-deprived fractious toddlers back in the day when I had them, and I adore lavender perfumes on me. 

Of all the lavenders to love on Planet Perfume, two have made it to my personal stratosphere. One is vero profumo’s Kiki, which I don’t own and fervently wish I did, and the other is Sunshine Man, which I also, alas and alack, don’t own for no other reason than I truly did love my press sample to death.

Imagine a cookie. The apotheosis of cookie. Sweet, vanilla-scented, almond-base lavender-with-an-orange-brandy-twist … cookie. The kind of cookie that makes you want to dance just a little, a cookie that makes you glad to be alive to experience it, a cookie other cookies should aspire to be when they grow up, and Sunshine Man is nothing if not a decidedly adult cookie. 

This isn’t a cookie you’d hand out in one of my classrooms, for sure. For one thing, that kick of Curaçao liqueur that underpins the lavender is an acquired taste. For another, the lavender is not your usual lavender – this lavender has an herbal, dark green and slightly sharp edge lightyears away from any fusty old lady and Yardley English Lavender associations. This is Lavender Luxe. Those puffs of sugary vanilla may nudge it towards gourmand territory, yet Sunshine Man teeters on that brink without ever once falling in. 

As time goes on, the vanilla comes forward accompanied by toasted almond. I wrote ‘as time goes on’, and being an Amouage from the Bad Old Days this means 16+ hours of evolution. 

All told, few perfumes put a smile on my face as wide as Texas faster than this one. 

For an entire day. 

For over six years, Sunshine Man has accompanied me and defined me through my days. Through four years of teaching college and praxis teaching and paper writing and even a few of the many exams I endured writing, performing and survived, through woes and wonders, through everything I’ve been through these past six+ years. 

The Case for Optimism

While it may not be apparent on this blog, it would be entirely fair to state that throughout my life, I have had spectacular bad luck in so many ways. 

So when fate finally decides to let up and just let me have it, ALL of it, it’s highly unnerving, to say the least. 

Yet lo and behold, after a thoroughly depressed autumn and early winter, I landed THE job of my dreams that wasn’t ‘best-selling author’. At a place that’s happy to see me, every day. With students who greet me with smiles and hugs, and colleagues who always ask how things are going and bosses who ask if there’s anything they can do to help me thrive. Every day.


Fate isn’t finished with me yet. 

I landed a (sublet) apartment in Copenhagen in my EXACT kind of neighborhood – funky, artistic, bohemian, culturally diverse and just a little edgy – of a kind 150 other people gladly would have killed me for, 20 minutes commute away from my school. (Apartments in Copenhagen are very hard to come by, unless you can afford to buy, and I can’t.)

I also have a publisher who really believes I should be The Next Big Thing, and has invited me to participate in things that might help me get there. 

I am closer to my family than I have been for over twenty years, and I’m back among all the things I love and adore – book stores, perfume shops, vintage clothing stores, museums, art galleries, movie theaters and other theaters, a whole smorgasbord of culture to immerse myself in. 

In short, I have everything to look forward to, even on an unremarkable Saturday morning full of spring-feeling sunshine. 

All that’s missing is that stupid happy perfume known as … Sunshine Man. 

If only I could reach the tester in the store. 

With thanks and gratitude to someone I am thrilled and grateful to call my friend.

7 thoughts on “The ones that got away

  1. May your former hardships continue to now reap the rewards you so richly deserve.
    You will reach that tester of “Stupid Happy Perfume” and enjoy it all the more. Smile nicely & take a small sample vial with you and ask the SA if you could have a sample to take with you to try at leisure. You know the drill, conversation, appreciation & a smiling polite request can work wonders!

    1. Thank you, Alityke! Samples are increasingly hard to come by with or without bringing your own supplies. You won’t get any in the department stores, for sure. (Although a few other retailers do.) And yes – civility gets you everywhere and sometimes, everything. 🙂

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