Perfume is polarizing. A little is intoxicating, but too much is off-putting. What’s a person to do? Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel thought she knew. The French fashion maven, the founder and namesake of Chanel, once said, “A woman who does not wear perfume has no future.”
Much has changed in the fragrance world since Chanel’s death 51 years ago. The lure of personalized smell is also substantially different today than when it was first practiced by Egyptians using essential oils, resin, unguents and scents to celebrate prayers and religious ceremonies. It’s unlikely the ancient concoctions were named Black Opium, Mojave Ghost and You. They’re among current popular perfumes with their mini-decanters as distinctively and boldly shaped as their names. And there are the time-tested standards from Chanel, now more than 100 years old, and Guerlain, founded in 1828.
“In my opinion, all kinds of people, even kids, should wear perfume every day,” says Wahi Smaoui, owner of Venus Perfumes LLC in Naples. “It changes your mood. When you dress up and you put on some perfume and you are ready to leave the house, you feel good about yourself.” Perfume and its five main varieties—parfum, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, eau de cologne and eau de fraiche—also have detractors. The scents can be serious allergens. Still, the perfume market is booming. A 5.5% growth rate is predicted in the next three years, according to industry analysts. Fashion icons Marc Jacobs and Gucci have recently entered the market. “I think it is a necessity now,” says Smaoui. “It gives you some joy and happiness. We need that.”
Relique d’Amour (pictured above)
Released in 2012, the name translates as “Love Relic.” Reviews conjure wild descriptions, despite the company’s assessment of its product as a “subtle floral scent with green accents of leaves and powdery touches of yellow pollen.”
The eau de parfum fragrance notes include fresh herbs, pine, white lily, pepper, oak, incense, myrrh, elemi, musk, moss and waxed wood. All that in a 3.3-ounce bottle?
If unsure, how about how a further company enticement? “The smell of an old chapel in a Cistercian abbey. Cold stone walls covered with damp moss. The waxed wood of the altar and old pews ornate with carvings. Linseed oil in lamps. Incense and myrrh discernible in the air.”
Now in its second century, the eau de parfum was “the world’s first abstract fragrance.” It’s still an icon, described as “exuding the very essence of femininity.”
In 1986, Jacques Polge reinterpreted his predecessor Ernest Beaux’s composition to create a fuller, more voluminous version of the offering known for use of aldehydes, the component with hints of almonds. It’s available at many area retailers, including Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Chanel boutiques.
Debuting in 1921, N°5’s eau de parfum is described as a floral bouquet composed around May rose and jasmine, and features bright citrus top notes. The aldehydes create a unique presence while the smooth touch of bourbon vanilla leaves an incredibly sensual trail.
A Tom Ford Private Blend, the eau de parfum is marketed as merging “primal leather with night-blooming jasmine suede, creating a distinctive spin.” It’s warm and spicy with notes of leather, saffron and black suede.
The designer’s 12-offering collection debuted in 2007 and is described by its namesake glowingly: “It’s where I have the ability to create very special, original fragrances that are unconstrained by the conventions of mainstream scent-making. Private blend is designed with the true fragrance connoisseur in mind.”
Ford says his perfumes are made in his own scent laboratory. They’re promoted as unisex colognes. Available locally at Sephora in Estero, Fort Myers and Naples.
Though Guerlain was founded by Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain in 1828, its Amber Floral fragrance (for men and women) is still a newbie, a teenager of 17 years. Its top notes are angelica, pear and pink pepper, its middle notes are jasmine and caraway and its base notes are vanilla and cedar wood.
How does its maker describe the creation? “Half-angel, half-demon, the verdant, crisp and herbal bitterness of angelica is kept at bay by the enveloping sweetness of vanilla. If it were a ballet, it would be Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.”
The perfume’s fanciers wear a scent further described as a “bittersweet confrontation.” It’s meant as a compliment. Available in local retailers including Dillard’s in Estero.