That’s Scents


interesting to read your post on stationeries. i love them myself. how about a post on elegant perfumes for men and women? or do you not use them?

thank you!

The inbox has been full of interesting questions lately — thank you one and all!

(Green Irish Tweed by Creed, reputed to be Cary Grant’s favourite cologne. Mrs. E. doesn’t like it on me…)

There are those who will tell you that a man should simply smell clean. Soap and water, that’s the ticket. And there are some very nice soaps out there. Delightful stuff. Just ask Meg.

When we’re dealing with scent, we are talking about one of the most intimate luxuries. After all, we apply it to bare skin and it interacts with our unique chemistries. There is science involved here — topnotes, bass notes, middle, finishes, etc. .

I’m awful at science.

Here are the two things that you need to know about cologne/perfume: how it smells on you and how long it lasts.

During my brief stint as a ballroom dance instructor, a new student walked through the door. He was of middle age, well-preserved, full head of salt and pepper hair, easy and elegant clothing of the Polo variety (band collar shirts, well cut khakis, good loafers). He drove a Jaguar — British racing Green with a tan leather interior, of course. Nice fellow. Smelled awful. His choice of cologne, I’m sure it was a fine and trusted brand, just didn’t react well with his natural scent. He smelled like a dung heap.

So, lesson one: wear it. Ask for a sample at the counter, or order one from an on-line specialist like Lucky Scent. Spray a bit on a wrist and walk around the store for a half hour. Don’t try more than three samples. You’ll just confuse the issue and overload your sense of smell. Once it starts to work on you, take careful note. If there is a whiff of the stockyard, head for the bathroom and wash the stuff off. If you can still stand it and sort of think that you actually like the way you smell…

Try a small bottle.  Lesson two: A sample size is still best. About how long does the scent last? At $100 + a bottle, how often are you going to have to reapply? Scent is big business and your elixir of choice is liable to be costly. Good ingredients, an exclusive blend, marketing and other overhead costs all add up. By taking some home, you get a chance to wear it around without being overly conscious of it. Run it by your significant other by wearing it around and waiting for a reaction. A strong reaction either way is good.

Parfum, also known as fragrance,  is the highest concentration of essential oils with very little in the way of water and alcohol added.

Eau de parfum is the top of the heap when it comes to longevity and is what I think of when I want to buy Mrs. E.”Coco by Chanel”, her signature scent. This is the real thing, heady, lasting, deep. Expensive.

Eau de cologne is the runner up. It will last a shorter time as it is a bit more diluted than the parfum. This is normally what Mrs. E. winds up with. Colognes may be worn by either men or women. Acqua di Parma is a classic invented in the 1930’s to be a unisex cologne. Mrs. E. doesn’t like it on me.

Eau de toilette is the least expensive and the shortest lasting of the three. Think of it as the lightest mixture. It is the least expensive. Safari for Ralph Lauren is a good example. Mrs. E. prefers this scent on me as I wore it when first we met. Which is why I continue to wear it.

As personal as scent is, it is hard to recommend one over another. I tend to grassy, green, woodsy and citrus scents. I also like Vetiver (Guerlain made the archetypal) and used to wear it when we were in France, as I could easily find a version in Grasse. As a young pup I wore Kouros, but it didn’t last into my whisky soaked majority. There were dalliances with Polo, Jazz, Égoïste, Trafalgar 1805, St, John’s Lime,  but I’ve more or less settled on Safari until I find the perfect cologne.

The important thing is to not overdo it. Scent, like wearing braces, should come as sort of a surprise.

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