It was, as I fully hoped and expected it would be, both patently ridiculous and wonderful. (I wouldn't call these things poles - I would say they are wrapped around each other like red and white in a candy cane. The conversation veered from an older woman noting that if you're expecting to get lucky, perfuming yourself near your ladybits makes a lot of sense, through to a cleancut young man who explained the molecular structure of aldehydes.)
The evening had a very sensible structure. Using Michael Edwards' fragrance wheel, Lucy took us through 14 perfumes to match each of the categories (a couple with A and B scents). We started off with the florals, and I was predictably not very excited (I don't own anything that could be categorised as floral) until we got into the orientals - at which point I started to fall in love.
I have tried Lubin's Idole before - the only reason I haven't taken it home already is that it sits so firmly between the two perfumes I already wear most frequently at night, Guerlain's Shalimar and Frapin's Terres de Sarment. Idole got everyone in the room going, but it was the next perfume that blew me away.
I've been wanting an oud for a while (oud or aoud or oudh or agarwood is a resinous heartwood that forms in certain evergreen South East Asian trees when they are infected with a kind of mold). I have a sample of Montale's Oud Cuir d'Arabie, which wraps leather around this dark, resinous note, but I haven't figured out how to get my hands on a bottle of that yet. What I have managed to snag though is one of the six bottles of Midnight Oud by Romano Ricci for Juliette Has A Gun that have been brought into New Zealand, which was the stand-out for me of the evening.
This isn't just my first oud - it's also my first rose. (I have my eye on Guerlain's Nahema, but not until I'm a frightening old lady). I have the heavy bottle next to me as I write this, and I keep easing off the lid and taking another deep breath. The warm, milky scent of the saffron in the top notes plays off against the clean yet heady rose, which veers into geranium, and underlying it all is the darkly transparent note of the oud. It is divine.
I wore this for the first time on Friday, and I could still smell it in the crook of my elbows when I woke up the next morning. I attribute this to three things:
- Not going dancing on Friday night, and thus not sweating it off
- That it's an EdP, and not an EdT, like most of my perfumes
- That we got some good advice about how to apply perfume. First: apply straight after you shower, while your pores are open - don't wait until after you've dressed. Second, apply wherever the blood runs close to the skin: nape of the neck, wrists, inside of the elbow, back of the knees (I drew the line here, given I was in jeans and no-one was going to be nosing around my legs). Whether you perfume your hair is a personal preference (this is a terrible habit of mine, and why some days I leave the house smelling like I've bathed in Vetyver). And third - avoid spraying on the décolletage, especially anything with bergamot, as it will discolour the skin in contact with sunshine. You're welcome.
The other perfume that was an unexpected hit with me was Creed's Taberome. (Luca Turin is so sniffy about Creed that I've never bothered to try them). Taberome is a completely delicious, if very pricey, aromatic/citrus - a beautiful bright cologne with some smoky depths that made me wish I had someone young, male and impressionable whose life I could change by giving him a bottle.
A sidenote. I am bemused that more men don't wear cologne (or even more adventurous perfumes). I met a man at the evening who has 50 or 60 perfumes and - asides from being immaculately groomed, successful, and very personable - he seemed pretty normal. If you're sitting there now feeling like you're letting the side down, here are a few to try:
- Chanel's Pour Monsieur. Readily available. Diehard classic cologne. Good staying power.
- Davidoff's Cool Water. Available everywhere. You might scoff, but it smells fucking fantastic, especially on younger men.
- Dior's Eau Sauvage. Also easy to get hold of. A citrusy cologne just made for rolling around on bearskin rugs, if you happen to have one handy.
- Guerlain's Vetyver. A head-clearing green with a cold spice note and a bit of dirty grunt in there. This is my douse-yourself-in-it summer perfume, so please bear that in mind if we're ever likely to intersect.
- Guerlain's Habit Rouge. This is one of my go-to winter perfumes, so the same applies. Luca Turin describes it as 'sweet dust', and that won't make any sense until you spray it on your wrist, hold it to your nose, and then say ohhhhhh, now I get it.
- L'Artisan Parfumeur's Timbuktu. I have just started wearing this on occasion. Like Midnight Oud, it has terrific radiance - it doesn't reach out and strangle you, Poison or Opium style, but it does float around you like a bright cloud of warm, pinkish pepper, underlaid with vetiver and sweet woods. The most unusual on the list by far - but who wants to be normal?
(In case you're wondering, I just did a bottle count. A few months ago I threw out some perfumes I no longer wear. Now I'm down to - or up to - nine, three or four of which I wear with regularity, the others of which I pull out when the mood strikes me. I'm not anywhere near reaching the level of the lady I meet last week who has a purpose-built cupboard for her collection. But I thought she was fabulous.)