The Single Note Symphony

There are so many perfume releases these days that the perfume wearing public risks being inundated by them.  What is perhaps worse is that so may the non perfume wearing public.

Anyone who buys perfume tends not to buy just one bottle,  but multiple ones.  There’s a perfume for every season and every mood, and while that may be fine for those who love to collect, for the rest of us, restricted by budget or space or time, the edited wardrobe may become a necessity.

You can do this business of editing in various different ways, but the one that I think is most charming and ultimately most defining of an individual’s style and taste is to use variations on a single note to stake your own atmospheric territory in the world.

My way of doing this – and I have been doing this for a number of years now – is to adopt perfumes in complementary groups of three.  These triads work for cold weather, hot weather and evening.  Say that I love the smell of peach for instance, I might choose Guerlain’s Chant d’Aromes for everyday cold weather wear, MDCI ‘s Peche Cardinal for warm weather and Peau de Peche for formal attire.  There’s a wardrobe, self defining, internally consistent, and stylish.

Say you are a lover of jasmine.  You can adopt Mona di Orio’s Oiro for warm weather, Bulgari’s Mon Jasmine Noir for cold, and Miller Harris’ Jasmine Vert for formal wear.

Or take tobacco.  There’s Bel Antonio from Hilde Soliani for winter, Jasmin et Cigarette for Summer from Etat Libre d’Orange, and Fifi Chachnil for formal. You can turn the same trick to your advantage with sandalwood by using Caswell Massey’s Sandalwood for summer, Chanel’s Bois des Isles for winter, and Samsara for formal.

Say you have an outré taste for dirt.  Since there’s such a wide range of choice, a fumic tendency towards pika is easily accommodated. Try Demeter’s Dirt for summer, Wild Hunt for winter and Serge Lutens’ De Profundis for formal.

Even something really difficult, like, say, ginger can be arranged. There is that oldie but goodie Gingerale by Demeter for summer.  There is Five O’Clock au Gingembre from Serge Lutens for winter, and either the old perfume Shanghai from Lentheric, which can sometimes be found for a few dollars on ebay, or the reliable little oriental from Jo Malone Nutmeg and Ginger.

It’s an easy and a sophisticated way to wear perfume, even if you are not particularly sophisticated about fragrance.  All you need to know is, what do you like the smell of?  Then a Google search and a list of names should give you plenty of opportunities for finding who makes your favorite version of chocolate or mushrooms, or licorice.  Nothing one note about this symphony.


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4 thoughts on “The Single Note Symphony

  1. This is similar to how I do it as well, although it wasn’t planned that way, it just sort of evolved. I’ll typically explore a note thoroughly and pick my top three for decants or a full bottle. For example, last summer I worked through the green note and ended up with Heure Exquise, Silences and Bel Respiro; because I feel satisfied with them, it’s rare that a new green frag results in a lemming, because that part of my collection feels complete. For some notes, one is enough: I now have a mimosa perfume I’m happy with, as well as a licorice perfume. (And of course, there are a couple of notes when three just isn’t enough…..)

    The difference between our two systems is mine doesn’t have cold/hot/evening categories.

    • Somebody else does this as well? Yay, I feel less eccentric. The cold, hot, evening categories can also work out to linear, less linear, and downright complex versions of one note. But having written this, I realize I didn’t say how I was managing the note evolution this winter: JR Watkins Lemon Hand Cream (I know)vintage Emeraude and Mouchoir de Monsieur. It’s a lemon-stravaganza admittedly, but works.
      On the subject of green notes, I was at Sniffapalooza and as fate would have it, they were giving out the new Silences. Fingers crossed on that one, they also had the new Ivoire, so green notes were at least slightly represented. Haven’t worked up the nerve to try either yet…

    • This is something I realized I did after many years. Before that I’d have said that I wore things seasonally, but actually I have always grouped scents around one or two notes. Sometimes I layer them-I know-pretty bad of me. Probably explains why I don’t wear any “masterpieces”.

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