Doctor Fell

Dr Fell

Dr Fell

I do not love thee, Doctor Fell
The reason why, I cannot tell,
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not love thee, Doctor Fell.

My father, who was an old school Virginian and fond of a peaceable dinner table, used to stop nascent disagreements by saying, “De gustibus non est disputandem”. There’s no arguing over taste, and once he said that, we had to drop our heated discussion of Disco vs Punk, or whatever other nonsense had popped into our chuckle heads that day.

Sometimes I will come across a perfume that is clearly cleverly composed, stable, and possessed of finesse, or longevity, or whatever it is that lifts one perfume over the enormous crowd of also-rans, and that is becoming very popular, and will just dislike the heck out of it.  

I know it’s not the perfume. What is it?  It’s the same phenomenon that made a prominent Victorian lady  (Frances Trollope, I think?) ask someone please to explain the jokes in The Pickwick Papers to her. She was shut out of a giant party that Britain was enjoying in 1835, whirling with crinolined and pantalooned abandon around the book, and it was completely incomprehensible to her.

I feel her pain. With many perfumes, the same thing happens to me.  By the way, I’m not talking here about the mainstream releases.  I know I’m not going to like most of them, and when I do: Bottega Veneto, or Sensuous Noir, or Martin Margiela’s Untitled, I know that they are oddball scents, and will probably be called that by the majority of reviewers.

No, my real trouble is with the mini-hits of the perfume world, picked up and dandled by one blogger and reviewer after the other.  Then I will smell whatever it is, and either I don’t think it’s good (and stick by this) or I know it’s good – but I still don’t get it.

A case in point was de Nicolai’s Le Temps d’un Fête.  Everyone adored it in the world of perfume blogging.  Le Temps turned up regularly on lists of everyone’s favorite Spring Perfumes (these appear every year, like robins on front lawns) and usually I will find one commenter or another who will have Le Temps on theirs. Le Temps is indeed, remarkably green.

This aversion resurfaced recently when I received yet another sample of L T (from Luckyscent, as I had bought a lone bottle of a de Nicolai scent I do like, Nicolai Pour Homme).  Well, it can’t have been that bad, said I.  Everyone else likes it, my brain pointed out, and several of the everyones know what they are talking about. “Oh, come on, stop being such a baby” said my super ego.

So I cracked the sample open, and there it was, the same scent I remembered.  My mental image is of a tulle scrub brush in bright green, swabbing out my nose. Ouch.  It hurts, frankly.  I re-capped the sample, and after trying to wear Le Temps for two miserable hours, promptly gave it away.

Now in a logical world, this would not happen. Le Temps is a green floral, and I am always off-gassing about green florals, and how there are not enough of them out there. It contains galbanum and opoponax, jasmine and narcissus, sandalwood and oakmoss, patchouli and wood notes, materials that in the ordinary way, I love.

So why do I dislike this elegant, sophisticated, dry perfume with its great galbanum lifting top notes like wings, so much?  Because to me, the wings are bumblebee wings and the actions is up and down, buzz, buzz, and my nostrils are irritated. Oh Lawd, get this stuff away from me now!

We are dealing, folks, with one of the most unpredictable things on earth – a visceral reaction.  The truth is that Le Temps is Doctor Fell to me.  Le Temps, Titanic, and Brussels Sprouts are beyond my coping skills. Nope. Just can’t do it. This particular joke is on me.

What’s your most irrational perfume aversion?

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27 thoughts on “Doctor Fell

  1. Great writing Blacknall, I love your style. Funnily enough, it is two perfumes from the De Nicolai line that produce a similar reaction for me. The one is Pour Homme, the one you like, and the other is New York, very popular with bloggers. I’ve always felt bad about this, because on paper, in theory I should have loved these, but on skin they were nausea-inducing. That is a visceral reaction, no doubt. It’s something I can’t explain, but when I’ve worn them, I’ve felt sick. Another perfume that did this to me was L’Artisan’s Havana Vanille (I think the name has changed now), which again, left me literally retching. Something about the weird, sweet but vegetal musky vanilla in it. Perhaps it is no coincidence that enother Duchafour creation, this time for Penhaligons, does a similar thing – Amaranthine. It has to my nose a vanilla-banana note, mixed with florals, that turns my stomach! Again, a blogger favourite, but not for me.

    • Thank you sir!
      By now, anyone who reads this blog knows that I have a love/hate relationship with the de Nicolai house. Some things I love, particularly Cologne Sologne, and some I can’t stand, one of course being the aforementioned Le Temps. But I’m betting that I’m not the only one.

      Nicolai Pour Homme is very good on me if I don’t over apply. It’s almost the pinkie finger application. Like you I found New York slightly nauseating, and the same went for Fig Tea.

      As for those strange L’Artisans mostly done by Duchaufour, they seem to enchant some people and sicken others. Did you get to try Seville a L’Aube? That was a no no for me.

      • I haven’t tried a lot from the line. I think the only others are their patchouli (which was a little weird on me) and Weekend a Deauville, which I actually liked.

        I have tried Seville a L’Aube – the hit of 2012 with bloggers! I didn’t mind it, but equally I wasn’t blown away either. I sort of enjoyed the opening, but later on there was that sort of weird vanillery note that I’ve noticed in other Duchaufour compositions. Almost a rotting, milky kind of vanilla note….

    • Oh the relief, someone who really knows her perfume agrees with me!

      My great ambition in life is to end up like Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies, that is wizened, opinionated, and a great Moonshine brewer (but that is something we have to keep between ourselves. For quite unreasonable reasons the BATF seems to disapprove.)Still a little corroboration always feels good even while I’m perfecting the opinionation.

      • hahaa! Me too! Actually I’m getting there – I no longer dye my hair, and I’m growing it so I can wear it in a bun all the time…next up is for me to wear an apron 24/7! I want a still room soooo badly! Am thinking of how I can extend the back porch for that purpose.

        Your secret is safe with me! ;) (and I’m not sure if I know perfume; but I do know what I don’t like)

        • Personally want to have one of those highly combustible stills in the backwoods so I can work it in my best granny get up accessorized with the front loading rifle my kin fought in the war with. Civil? Revolutionary? Whadaya got?
          Guess there’s more Le Temps for Mals!

        • Frida, we ARE twins. My hair’s in a bun as we speak, and I have four fancy aprons waiting for me at home– one has an advertisement for Mrs. Lovett’s Meat Pies on it. :)

  2. SIIIIIIGGGGHHH.

    Well. At least today there will be no more dithering over whether I try some untested sample, or go for a head-to-toe application of The Gem What Is Le Temps, which is one of those fragrances that cause my eyes to roll back in my head out of sheer pleasure. Six spritzes, here I come. (No, no, the new stuff. I’d only do two of the older.)

    I don’t get Dzing! I just don’t. Sure, it’s all woody-vanilla, but there is Tiger Poo and candy in there as well, and… just… who WEARS Tiger Poo? Apparently, a lot of people. But not me.

    And then there’s 24, Faubourg, which I did not like. And Vraie Blonde. And… waitaminnit, there are more, but now my head hurts and I want my Le Temps.

    • So here’s my checklist:
      Dzing-love the idea can’t wear it. There is that big cat litter thing going on.
      24-We know, a debacle on me.
      Vraie Blonde-I like it but my Hub hates it. Maybe No22 would fill the same space?
      Lots of Le Temps for you, and buy it up, because they do reformulate over there, far too frequently for my taste.
      Did you hate New York?

      • I have not smelled New York.

        I decided long ago that there is only so much time, and only so much skin space, and only so much mental space, and only so much budget for buying samples, and unless a so-called masculine gets huuuuuge thumbs up for being “wearable by girls, even girls who like their florals,” I’m probably going to give the whole masculine-marketed thing a miss. (I really like Egoiste, but a lot of women wear that .)

        • New York is kinda sorta one of those good for girls masculines. The whole thing is an orange chypre with what I smell as cumin. Fragrantica says not though.

          • I concur. New York is wonderful– a beautiful blend of soft/strong, and very androgynous. If I had to choose a masculine to wear forever and ever, it would possibly come down to a tie between this and Or Black.

          • And Michael and I were just saying that it gives us the tummy turns! Cumin strikes again, I expect. But Mals does not mind cumin, on her own say so!

  3. Say what you think! I read your blog for your opinions. I don’t have to agree with every scent you adore to appreciate your thoughts on scent.

    I really like Le Temps, but I’m with you on MMM’s Untitled. By Untitled’s note list and near universal love on the ‘net, I thought I’d love it as well. No way! Same with Jour d’Hermes. I’ve tried to like it, and it’s okaaay, at best. At times, I truly dislike the fruity note in it (pear?), and want to scrub it away. Makes no sense to me.

    What fascinates me is that I rarely detest anything on someone else, unless they over apply it. There are perfumes I can’t stand on me, which I’ve complimented on others.

    • MMM Untitled was pretty ashtray-like on me. Cristalle does that too, and I don’t like either one of them. (There’s another usually-beloved one that I cannot stand on myself, Cristalle. Ew.)

    • Untitled reminded me of two scents, now I come to think on it, (and I did like it, but didn’t buy it) . One was another de Nicolai, Vetyver, in which there was a lot of cumin. And, let’s see, Fat Electrician, which I suspect darkly of being Habanita’s New Jersey cousin.

      Yes , know what you mean about scents you can’t wear yourself being quite tolerable on other people, and even notably nice. A case in point for me is MDCI’s Peche Cardinal which smells of vitamin tablets and canned peaches on me, but on other women produces a virtual still life with tuberoses and peaches. What is up with that?

  4. Yes, irrational is the right way to pin it down. In my case, there is an aversion towards any prominent tuberose note… The DNA of my soul must be traced at the far opposite end in a virtual continuum. Most of the time I feel unsophisticated, failing to appreciate it. I have tried and became good friends with patchouli (not to the point to wear Aromatics Elixir), but tuberose enters my nasal passages as harsh, soapy, and flat… Thus, perfumes like Carnal Flower, Fracas, Coco Mademoiselle leave me unimpressed. Time will tell weather I am going to cave in, joining most perfumistas’ hype (yours too :-) ). Now that I am thinking about it, love and hate is a rather obscure oscillation, so who knows… But nay…

  5. Hi Alexandra,
    Something about smells goes straight past the rational part of the brain doesn’t it?

    Hear you on the tuberose scents since I can’t handle them either. The only one I have was diluted with vanilla. Result …tuberose milkshake!

    You may find a tuberose one day that you like, but it’ll probably be an unusual one that lets its freak flag fly, either that, or you may experience one of those weird about faces where something you hate becomes wonderful.

    Or you could layer a smidge of tuberose over something you like. Woody orientals and chypres get along with tubey.

  6. Your anecdote about Lady Trollope pretty much mirrors my overall reaction to Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s works thus far, although I will keep plugging away at that library with grim determination until I GET IT. For a less niche answer, I offer up Ysatis– I pout, fold my arms like a petulant child, and simply refuse to like it.

    • Been years since I smelled Ysatis, but I recall it as a sort of convoluted thing, as for Dawn Spencer Hurwitz she can be very good: Rose Vert, Minuit, or weird: Hippie Chic. Then sometimes her scents will not quite gel, sadly, Guimauve de Soie comes to mind. In general I like her stuff, but do recognize that they might not be for everybody. You don’t have to labor in the DSH back catalog if it’s not for you!

      And you know Soivohles, which I keep hearing about, particularly Centennial, and Rose de Rouse (?) so you have fabulous stand ins for La Hurwitz. Has anybody tried Ayala Sender?

  7. You do not like Brussels Sprouts?!! Let me regroup before Ican think/talkabout perfumes ;)

    Le Temps d’un Fête is one of the perfumes that I like one day and almost cannot stand another. I have no idea what creats that duality but a bad experience it takes me a while to work up enough courage to do it again. So I end up choosing not to wear those perfumes more often than the opposite.

    Chanel No 5 (and its younger sister) doesn’t work for me no matter how many times I try. The same goes for most classic Guerlains (Chamade and Vol de Nuit being exceptions).

    • Yes I know. One finds oneself either in the Brussels Sprouts loving faction or the Sprouts detesting faction . Never came around to them, although to just about everything else!

      Le Temps is also an example, in my case, of knowing the previous version which was a peppermint rose, sort of like Diablo Rose from Les Parfums de Rosine. Genuinely liked that and have never liked the new version.

      And Chanels are interesting. I’m with you, can’t wear No 5, but my daughter loves it. Are some people born with the NO5 gene?

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