The Signature Scent

Raised by my nature-loving parents who washed me with unscented soap, I was a late adopter of perfume. In my April 2016 Globe Style Advisor column, I told the little story about how I finally became fascinated with perfume and purchased my first signature scent, an event that made me feel very much like a grown woman. I continue to wear Le Parfum de 68 in the winter months although I’ve noticed for summer I now want something a bit more botanical… I’ve got a little crush on Hermès Un Jardin Sur Le Nil. I like to wear perfume on one wrist and one side of my neck only, so my natural scent (which to me smells like nothing, although I’ve been told it’s quite nice) has it’s own side too.

Do you have a signature scent? I love reading about people and their perfumes! On that note, this new letter on perfumes, The Dry Down, is excellent reading.

My entire life, I thought perfume was unwholesome, fake and toxic. I didn’t get it. Last year, someone dabbed some Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb on me. I didn’t think much of it. When my date picked me up that night, he gave me a hug that deepened into a super big squeeze. “You smell amazing!” he whispered into my ear…and I got it.

Flowerbomb is a lot, very sweet, very extra. Much like the man who liked it. It wasn’t exactly me, but it made me wonder if there was a perfume out there that I could call my own.

I sniffed around for a long time. Finding a signature perfume can’t be rushed. You can only smell a few samples before getting overwhelmed, and you have to wear a perfume for an entire day to really know it.

At the Guerlain boutique, I became curious about their exclusive collection of perfumes inspired by cities – Shanghai, New York, London… I love cities. As I was planning to go to Paris, I asked “what about the Paris perfume?”

Voila, La Parfum du 68, named for the address of Guerlain’s flagship. I tried it. Nope, too much. 68 immediately is sharp, nearly medicinal.

As I rode my bike back home, 68 warmed its way into my skin, developing into something like vanilla but less expected, more complex. Checking the perfume forums online, I discovered a flavour I’d never known before: tonka bean, vanilla’s wicked stepsister. This South American bean, prized in French cuisine, is illegal in the United States due to containing a controversial blood-thinning chemical compound called coumarin.

That evening 68 changed again, softening into a contrast of floral and leather. The next morning when I got dressed and smelled what lingered on my scarf, I felt compelled to give myself an extra big squeeze. It was so like me, like my life – not easy at first but deeply felt and very changeable, and I don’t have a United States green card either.

Of course, I had fallen for a very expensive perfume, a ridiculous extravagance I couldn’t justify, until I flew to Paris alone and began the process of courting myself in earnest. I wandered through the crowds of the Champs-Élysées to number 68, which looked exactly as it was drawn in gold on the bottle. I got it.