The best thing about scent is that it is often vividly and closely tied to memories, more-so than any of our other five senses. Sound, taste, vision, and touch tend to be more diluted memories, often fading with age and time.
If you’ve ever opened up an old bottle of perfume, you know it can transport you back to a phase of life, a place, or can bring back another person’s look and feel.
I associate many smells with places (like London traffic diesel exhaust and cool moistness), people (my dad’s Bay Rhum aftershave), and points in my history (drank Bombay Sapphire gin almost exclusively in college).
My favorite scent memories are with people, and how each scent framed that person. Cases in point:
My friend Brandie has worn Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb for years, which to me smells like powdery makeup, but fresh and light, not heavy. It matches her bubbly, effervescent personality.
Paul wears Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male, which is cool but sweet, and has been around for several decades. A good summer scent for him in his carefree, relaxed attitude.
Blair, a friend from growing up in Tampa, always wore Versace Red Jeans, which was sweet and spicy, and seemed very adult when we were teenagers.
For myself – I’ve worn a handful of colognes: Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy (early high school), l’Occitane Lavender (late high school), Issey Miyake Pour Homme (early college), and Jo Malone Fig & Cassis (later college); and more recently: Hermes Orange Vert and Diptyque Philosykos.
Two years ago, I stepped into the next level of fragrance, which is oil-based and has a far richer scent with Bond No. 9. I loved a bunch of them, so had a hard time committing to any. I never bought, but I did stash a number of samples, which kept me satiated.
Just recently, I discovered the Tom Ford Private Blends collection of scents, which are concentrated as oil-based Eau de Parfums rather than Eau de Toilettes, which are water-based. My friend Evan raved about the Tobacco Vanille scent so I followed suit to test drive them.
My favorite is Oud Wood, which is warm and spicy, but not too sweet. Not too heavy either. I’ve found that many spicy warm scents can turn very old lady, which is not sexy for a 20-something.
Oud also had a woodsy element, which appeals to me for a tie to cool, moist nature. Nothing smells bad about a richly populated Pacific Northwest forest.
Once you find something that works for your body, and people start to know you by it, you’ve added a dimension of memory and sense that gives you depth and distinctiveness.
One thing you to avoid is smelling like everyone else. As much fun as it is, shopping at Sephora or Nordstrom for your cologne, with only a handful of prechosen options, means you’re bound to pick a popular scent. Go with advanced research, testing, and samples, and be prepared to pay a bit more for something special.
Some brands I like, that offer more unique scents: Santa Maria Novella, Musgo Real, LUSH, Bond No. 9, and Diptyque. Jo Malone is getting more popular, now available at Nordstrom, but still with simple, flora and fauna based smells.
Stick with distinction, and you won’t feel like one of the smelly masses.