Sunday, November 23, 2008


So a few weeks ago I decided that I would FINALLY get a bottle of Bel Ami, which I've been pining for since there was different packaging and I DRENCHED myself in in Paris. It was a Sunday, and i went directly to the Hermes store, which was closed. Dammit! But then I walked down to Barney's, where I've never bought anything in my life and I wasn't even sure it was a real store, and I found it there. So I bought it. But the cool thing was that I saw all these scents that I was only dimly aware of--either I'd heard of them, seen them once or twice before or read about them in Perfumes: The Guide. So I started smelling.

I forget the name, but apparently there's a perfume line where the owner just let the perfumers do their thing and he didn't mess with it. So the perfumes have their own names, but also the name of the perfumer on them. Jean-Claude Ellena did one or two. I think someone named Roudnitska did another. Well, some of these are just divine. The Gardenia one is great---it's like gardenia, but when I first smelled it I got tuberose. And not the flower, but more like the notes that are in the natural oil that you might smell at Enfleurage (though not the enfleurage tuberose)--inky, indolic maybe, very green and not altogether pleasant. Of course, these notes are blended well with the rest of it, and the whole thing works. Good stuff. There was a musk one that I liked too. Another thing I really liked at Barneys was something from the Bois 1920 line I think it's called (yes, the salesperson pronounced it "boyz"), and it smelled of evergreen and firewood. Interestingly, when I first smelled it the word "phenolic" filled my head, because it smells distincly smoky, but also almost like a chemical leather, somewhat similar to the Baseball Glove oil that CB I Hate Perfume makes, which itself smells like leather shoes or car seats, but with a weird, chemical nuance. And it smells weirder and muskier when it starts to degrade, which is remarkably quickly compared to pretty much every other fragrance you'd pay for, even drugstore brands. I loved it when I smelled it, and I was telling a friend about it, and I mentioned that when I smelled Sycomore by Chanel, I was all like, "For that price I could make this." Because you know that making your own will ALWAYS cost more than buying it prefab. But with Sycomore it cost so much that I knew I could make it with stuff like galbanum and diluent; it just wouldn't be as long-lasting. Anyway.... I remember saying that I could make that but not this Bois 1920 one. And then my friend smelled it and he was like, "You could make this. You HAVE made this with that leather oil you had." And I was like, "Hmmm, yeah. He's right. Because that leather was extremely phenolic...." Interesting.

So I bought the Bel Ami, and it's a good thing that I went there, because I got all these testers. There was one for Ralph Lauren something or other, but I think I gave it away because it was too fresh. And there was another that was sickeningly fresh and I gave that away even faster. But there were these three Italian scents which were breathtaking, but ridiculously costly: there was Cuomo (I may screw these names up), a leathery-sounding one; Tabaco, self-explanatory, and Sushi Imperiale, a gingery spicy one. Cuomo: hated it. It smelled leathery only in the sense that English Leather smells leathery. In fact, it kinda smelled soapy. Gross. Tabaco: amazing. It smells just like pipe tobacco, but in a general way. It really smells like it has a crapload of tonka in it. In fact, I was afraid that if I put too much on I might get some kinda coumarin sickness. But it's just lovely. And long-lasting too. Sushi Imperiale: brill. Love it. Just brill. But all of these retail for I think about $140/oz. That's a rip. They're very pleasant, but not innovative enough to pay that kind of money for. Forget it. Another great tester I got was for Five O'Clock au Gingembre, and I can't really say what it smells like at this point, because everytime I smelled it I smelled something new that is a favorite scent of mine: labdanum, spice, tobacco, helichrysium, hay/beeswax, tonka.... I was like, "OK, this scent can't possibly be/have all these things. Something is coloring the way I'm smelling this. I can't smell it if I'm thinking 'labdanum' and get an objective reading. I'm gonna have to smell this again later." And I haven't smelled it that much since, but there is that possibility that it's an absolutely brilliant scent that is life-changing. (OK, not "life-changing"...) I do have to note that I wore it one day and had that experience of thinking, "Who is wearing that amazing perfume?!? Is it the UPS man? Is it someone in the building? Is there some cake from another dimension somewhere? ...OMG, it's ME!!!!!" So that's a good sign. It, however, is also around $140 an oz, so forget that. I suppose if I really wanted a tonka like scent I could just mix tonka, flouve and helichrysium into some diluent and have something natural-but-not peak performance.

Anyway, in spite of all those testers, I'm really, really, really happy that I finally own some Bel Ami. Because even though it's apparently been reformulated in recent years (I'm not sure if I've ever smelled the original), I still love love love the way it smells. When I put it on I think mostly of this particular notion I have of a hay/labdanum accord, and I lerv that. Even with the citrus notes and the cumin, which I'm not sure I detect well. I also like the fact that it's not typically sweet, nor is it "fresh."

And that's the beep.

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