Once in an idle interval, I remember toting up all the perfumes worn by every member of my extended family according to scent families. An idiotic little game of parallelisms and no doubt OCD as all get out, but bear with me.
What I discovered was that of about a dozen of us, only one of us wore Orientals, and that was my Mom with…drum roll… Tabu.
Even Chypres were better represented (by me), but of Orientals there were, well, only that one .
Why was that? Now that there are more of us, and several of us are a good deal younger than the original test sample, I find the exact same thing. The ladies in my family wear fruity florals, and aldehydic florals and the odd citrus perfume but now, only one Oriental, namely Poivre, worn by me. No one else wears them at all.
My own explanation for not wearing Orientals has to do with stuffiness. I don’t like it. I like open windows and the smell of air and sea and meadows and space, I suppose, and Orientals are smell crowded rooms. The air inside an Oriental is often dense and smoky and resinous and sweet and heavy, and this makes me think of restaurants at late hours and opium dens at any hours. These are the sorts of places that squirmy people like me do not frequent. You must have the gift of stillness, or at any rate a disinclination to stir very often. People like me can’t do this. We like to run outside and slam the doors behind us, and breathe in the evening air, all of this makes us, or me anyway, a very bad customer for the oriental perfume.
Poivre I wear because it has this air of outrageous heat, which makes it, I guess, the only pepper Oriental, a total capsaicin fest, and one of the very few that does not speak of enclosed spaces, but rather of a bonfire.
I can wear Orientals I find if they have a healthy draft of air, or fire, or something in them in them somewhere, like the angelica note in old Angelique Encens, or a sort of greeny-earthy patchouli like the one in Kriglers’ Lovely Patchouli, or the fire down below in Poivre. Then it is okay, but otherwise I find myself wondering if I can prize a window open because someone is wearing something that is just suffocatingly heavy and it’s…me. That is when a large number of Oriental perfumes down the years have been creamed and scrubbed off my skin to be replaced by nothing at all, or something with a large lemon or green note in it.
This does not mean that I don’t appreciate the great perfumes in the genre. I do. I just don’t wear Nuit de Noel or Shalimar or Bal a Versailles or L’Heure Bleue. From my informal poll of my own family, I realize that I am not alone in this reluctance to wear Orientals. Evidently a lot of other people feel that Orientals are just too big and too crowded with scent molecules, and just stick around too long.
All of which makes me think that may be the day of the oddball Oriental may be back. How about Orientals with more vetivers, galbanums, geraniums, angelicas and herbs and peppers? What could happen; a few different perfumes, a broadening of the Oriental spectrum?
Well, anyway, I would certainly try one or two or four.