THE NOSE KNOWS.

/// IMAGES TOP: David Downton. IMAGES BOTTOM: Austin Eavesdropper, Perfumes: The Guide

When I was little kid, my mom wore this Oscar de la Renta perfume.  It came in a tall, fluted bottle with a black cap, and it wasn’t one of those loud, prototypically ’80s perfumes like Poison. This was a soft scent, something meant not to seduce but to make you feel at ease.  Whenever she hugged me goodbye each morning, she off to work and me off to school, it was a comforting smell, like nestling your cheek into a cotton blanket.

I will always associate this smell with my mom, and the other day at KUT, I passed a woman in the hallway wearing it.  As we all know perfumes like to discontinue their classics, rather callously so, so it was kind of a shock to smell it again.  “Is that Oscar de la Renta?” I asked her.  She turned around to me and smiled.  “Yes!  Doesn’t it take you back?”  And it did.

I heard somewhere once that smell is the sense most closely associated with memory.  Is that true?  I like to think so.  It would explain why I always think of my mother when Oscar de la Renta lingers in the air, or why I instantly feel like a 13 year-old girl when Polo Sport enters the room.  BOYS!!  says my brain, remembering the first cologne to ever grace the hallways of my junior high.

Scent is obviously so personal, and our tastes for it access some mammalian part of us that goes beyond self-image.  I, for example, think of myself as rather feminine, but hate – loathe – smelling like flowers.  I always gravitate towards things that smell like cookies, or to more unisex scents.  These days, I’m wearing a perfume with “Cannabis” in the title, which not only smells good but makes me laugh.  That’s it above.

I got to thinking about all this yesterday, when I was thumbing through my copy of Perfumes: The Guide.  I pull it off the shelf from time to time when I’m needing a little writing inspiration, particularly because the co-authors – Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez – pen such winning descriptions.  They’re also fabulously bitchy.  Here’s their review of the Beauty Rush Appletini perfume from Victoria’s Secret:

“Victoria’s Secret has determined that its customers need 1) cleavage and 2) to smell precisely like dime-story candy. You may discern an implicit insult to the male mind in this pair of facts.”

Snap!  You should hear what they have to say about Mary Kay.

But Turin and Sanchez also wax poetic over scents they truly adore, like Missoni’s Missoni, which they deem a 5-star scent: “The effect is an uncanny feeling that the perfume is alive, somehow composing itself as it goes along.  Most other perfumes are rapidly fading photographs: This one is a movie.”

I love this book so much.  You should get a copy, Reader.

Anyway. I’ve long wanted Austin to have a parfumerie, one of those places that was dedicated to just perfume, not the scent section tucked inside Sephora.  Far-flung Eavesdropper readers, do you have one of these where you live?  Is it fun?  I was reminded of my wish the other day watching New Girl, when Schmidt designs his own perfume for Cece at one of those stores.  His was a disaster, but I think it’d be a different story if we went.  I might need some hand-holding though, or else I’d be likely to bottle the scent of chocolate eclairs and call it a day.

Are you all perfume wearers?  What’s your scent?