The First Perfume I Ever Loved... & a Prize Draw
Where perfume lovers are concerned, there might be some truth to Henry Louis Mencken's statement that one always remembers the first [perfume] love with special tenderness, but after that begins to bunch them. So to celebrate Valentine's Day, we decided to put the jadedness aside and to dedicate this post to our firsts... First perfumes we ever loved. Join us and list yours for a chance to win a 50ml bottle of Park Avenue, courtesy of Bond No 9. One commenter will be chosen at random. As an aside on other loves, what was the first city you fell in love with? For me [Marina speaking here], it was New York. I have lived in various cities over the years, but with none have I felt such an immediate and strong connection.
My first perfume love? Do I really have to tell you? All right then. It was a half-empty bottle of Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers discarded by a friend who clearly had better taste than I did. Though I instantly removed the spray nozzle so I could drizzle small amounts onto my arm instead of suffering through a full spritz, I adored it. I really did. I thought it smelled like the sunflower honey I’d once tasted, and like the sun-warmed scent of the flowers themselves—that vegetal, hay-and-flowers field smell. In my memory it still does, and always will, no matter how often you say the words acquatic or nightmare to me. What can I say? It went with my Benneton sweaters.
There were a few before her; Love’s Baby Soft and Jean Nate come to mind, but the first perfume that I ever loved and could truly call the one was the 1985 rose masterpiece by perfumer extraordinaire Sophia Grojsman. Maybe it was my age (let’s just say I was no longer a non-discriminating junior girl that only had access to the Walgreen’s beauty counter), maybe it was the time, but one thing is for certain; I was enamored at first inhale. Not your mother’s rose, Beautiful by Estee Lauder is a vibrant, voluptuous bouquet that has sandalwood and incense at its base making it a lush and complex head-turner. There have been many perfumes that I have outgrown, changed my mind about and simply, don’t care for anymore, but somehow, Beautiful has endured. I wear it to this day with affection and inevitably, every time I do I am stopped by curious strangers that ask, “What is that Beautiful perfume?”
I fell head over heels in love with Dior’s Diorissimo when I was 18 years old. Granted, the only reason that I even tried it was because it was rumored to be Mick Jaggers favorite and at the time he was the fervent object of my desire. I’ve never regretted it. My husband adores it and one of the best tributes that it ever got was from my son who declared to me at the tender age of 16 that if he ever met a woman who smelled of Diorissimo that he would probably be a goner. Sure enough during the greening of the spring of 2006 he met a lovely young girl who was to be his very first true love. She danced up to him at one of the local street fairs with flowers in her hair and a stem of fresh lily of the valley clasped in her hands. The wanton charm of Diorissimo is that it is all at once modern yet classic, demure yet completely and passionately sexy. Diorissimo is still my very favorite and I’m fairly sure that this always will be. No other perfume has ever been able to weave that glorious green spell that continually disarms me, bewitches me and sends me dancing with light speeds into vast whirlwinds of passionate fun!
When I think back to the days of normal perfume behavior, i.e. using one bottle until it is gone, then thinking (albeit not much) about the next, I mostly see a black hole. Nothing really comes to mind, I must have used several fragrances in those unenlightened days, but many are too atrocious to mention in a place like this.But thinking back again and again for the purpose of this post revealed one single, distinctive sphere-shaped red bottle. One scent that stands above the sea of unremarkable utility scents. Le Feu d’Issey.I loved it. It was different. The bottle alone was indicative of what was to come – something unusual. It smelled sharp, milky, spicy, flowery, musky…it has been a while, and I didn’t know how or at least didn’t attempt to describe a perfume then. Of course, as is just my luck, it is discontinued. The time was not ready for it, and neither was I. But one of these days, I will get lucky and snatch it up on eBay, to be reunited with my first love. And for the first time we will be able to talk.
My love affair with perfume started very early, with something I found in my Christmas stocking when I was no more than nine or ten years old. It was a cute little green pagoda-shaped jar of Avon Hana Gasa perfumed crème sachet. This was one of Avon's best fragrances back then, a really pretty fresh green floral with plenty of lily-of-the-valley, one of my favorite floral notes to this day. I felt so elegant and grown up when I wore it, especially since luxuries like perfume were rare in our household. Hana Gasa has been discontinued for a long time, but recently I found a full bottle of the liquid perfume online and decided to take a chance; I think I only paid about four dollars for it. To my delight it was still good, a sparkling green splash of delicate flowers in a bottle of that same shade of pale green with the pagoda cap, and I have been enjoying it as much as I did the first time. Who says you can't have your first love back again?
My first love was L'Artisan's Incroyable. Not sure of the exact name, just Incroyable (incredible in French). It contained plum and blond tobacco. I first smelled it on my Uncle Steve and I asked him about it and got almost no information. Several months later I was at Stanley Korshak in Dallas and was chatting with a woman that had recently had foot surgery. We were talking about my search for my uncles cologne but knew almost nothing...no name, no brand...nothing. I mentioned my Uncle Steve had the exact same foot surgery. She asked if my uncle happened to be Steve Kelley (of course he is my uncle). She said she was friends with Steve and then she reached under the counter and pulled out a bottle of Incoyable and told me that she had sold Steve his bottle. Sadly, L'Artisan no longer makes Incroyable.
The first perfume I ever fell in love with must have been vintage Coty’s Emeraude – or the faint impression thereof. I was probably four or five years old and had been turned loose to play in my grandmother’s jewelry box, which seemed like a trove of impossible riches. Among the costume jewelry, souvenirs, and the few delicate gold items she kept in the jewelry box, she had a little gold-toned scent bottle with a filigree front adorned with red and transparent fake jewels – an item that seemed to have been secreted away from a mysterious harem somewhere. It was empty, but a powdery, exotic Oriental scent redolent with resins and flowers clung to its interior. I sniffed, and sniffed, and was transported. I refilled the bottle over and over with water, which, after four or five days, took on enough of the scent to scent my skin when I dabbed it on like a precious elixir. Sadly, she had no idea what fragrance had once graced it, as she had inherited the piece - so I remained haunted by its graceful ghost for years. It took me decades to identify it.
YSL’s Paris was the first perfume that stole my heart. I loved being wrapped in juicy roses and ambered violets and felt unabashedly feminine, romantic and seductive whenever I wore it. Not long ago I nostalgically sprayed some on and my daughter excitedly exclaimed “Mommy- that’s the way you used to smell when you kissed me good-night!” She looked so happy- it must have brought back memories of when our family was still “a real family” prior to my divorce. Those days are gone forever and I doubt I’ll ever remove the cap again from Paris' dusty crystal bottle. It used to be painful to know that “you can’t go back” but now, at long last I’m happy to say, I no longer want to.
Define love, right? My first perfume love could have been my mother's Madame Rochas, of which I was in awe, taken with its olfactory sophistication, the golden lace of its packaging and the fact that it was my mom's...Or it could have been Marina de Bourbon, gifted to me by someone when I was in my very late teens, which I faithfully wore and adored for many years ...But I am not sure whether my love for either was the love of perfumes themselves or more of the people associated with them. I believe The First Perfume I Ever Loved for the perfume itself was Farnesiana by Caron. I can place the moment that love happened in place and in time. I can still remember the aaah! feeling and the disbelief that such gentle, bittersweet, haunting beauty can really exist...It was a proper perfume answering to all canons but it was more than that, it was a story, it was an atmosphere. That fairy with soft eyes took my heart forever. The course of true love has never run smooth, we had our ups and downs, but Farnesiana is one fragrance I never want to be without. That is love.
The original Chanel Cristalle was my first real perfume love. I was a Southern California beach chick, like, okay? mall-hopping with my fellow Valley Girls and scoping for foxy surfer dudes, when I came across Cristalle at a Chanel counter. The SA tried in every way to dissuade the smitten teen (me) from buying a bottle, but I insisted. It was so very primeval, so green, so cold, so weird! It was as far from Love's Baby Soft, the current high school fave, as I could think of. I wore it practically every day throughout high school. I cried when they reformulated Cristalle....
They say you never forget your first love. That is true in romance and it is equally true in the fragrance. I remember with vivid detail my first perfume love. I remember saving my wrinkled dollar bills from my steady babysitting job to purchase her. I remember learning how to say her name. I remember bravely walking into the store, setting my sites on the opulent fragrance counter that I had frequented with my aunt, and asking for her. I remember feeling so grown up in acquiring her at a mere fourteen years old. I remember exploring her white, clean packaging, studying her curves and inhaling her fragrance. Yes, I remember … Her name was Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel. I can conjure her scent in an instant, for she accompanied me nearly every day through my sophomore year of high school. She mentored me like a loving, big sister. A little powdery, a lot floral and definitely not sophomoric, her sophistication embraced my wholesome, naïve adole-scents. Yet, her lack of overly musky or animalic bases ensured her consistent appeal to my untrained nose. Cheerful orange blossom, sweet lily and springtime hyacinth underscored by sandalwood and incense, Anaïs Anaïs’ accords are always appropriate, even for my strict, parochial school days. If only the pains of growing up were not associated with her, I would reconnect with her, asking for another warm embrace. Instead, I will always remember … with love and adoration.
The first perfume I ever loved I suppose was Joy, since it was the scent my mother wore when she and my father went out. Although I have grown to love it independently of her memory, in some way it will always make me flash on her leaning over to kiss us goodnight before heading out to a dinner party or the theater with Dad, The fist scent that I fell in love with for my personal use and the one that started me off on this journey of being a scentaholic was Diors Eau Sauvage, when I was a teen. I smelled it first at the long defunct local department store Steiger's and was blown away by it. It was so fresh and clean and bright and happy smelling. I had to have it. I saved my allowance and did odd jobs for months until I could finally get on my Raleigh and pedal over to the Hampshire Mall and make my purchase. Although my first love has been supplanted by others I still have some and still wear and love it.
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