Beauty is different for all of us.
I’ve had a go at deciding my top three most beautiful perfumes and while it was not easy, explaining why is even harder. So I will plunge right in and see where I end up.
Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue
L’Heure Bleue was reputedly a favourite of novelist Jean Rhys, and every time I wear it, and I mean every time, I think of her. L’HB evokes the winter-wet streets of London and Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, and the lonely women about whom Rhys wrote, time after time. I wear it only in winter, usually on wet days. Some fragrances help you combat the cold with their own spicy heat: I’m thinking particularly of YSL’s Opium, Chanel’s Coco and EL’s Youth Dew. But L’HB is not a refusal of coldness or loneliness, it accepts that those states are realities we all go through. L’HB tells me that I can walk in solitude and not be unhappy.
Andy Tauer’s Une Rose Chypree
The trouble with some chypres, especially the greens, is that they can be too pleased with their own perfection. URC is saved from over-seriousness by a tremendous radiance at opening derived from its citrus notes, and by a lovely warm powderiness in the drydown that reminds me of Goutal’s Heure Exquise (which, by the way, would have made it on to this list if my sample had not run out). URC is all sunshine and dust to me, with warm roses and cool geranium leaves in the middle. A certain scratchiness throughout (from the spices I guess) also saves the thing from perfection; perfection is boring (see below).
Chanel’s 31 Rue Cambon
Luca Turin wrote that rarely had a perfume given him such an ‘instantaneous impression of ravishing beauty at first sniff’ as did 31 Rue Cambon. In her slightly dissenting review Tania Sanchez said that she finds 31RC ‘lovely but not moving because not strange’. I agree with both of them. 31RC is ravishing, and yet I rarely wear it. Turin likens it to Grace Kelly lighting up the room in Rear Window. Me, I think of Grace Kelly in High Society. 31 RC is the Tracy Lord of perfume. Tracy’s family and friends love her but really, behind all that sparkling beauty, she is brittle, unapproachable and dull. Only her first husband Dexter holds the key to her heart. I’m searching for the key to 31 RC but it eludes me. I will keep trying.
So: beauty? You might have noticed that there are no gourmands on my list (unless you count the almonds and pastry of L’Heure Bleue). I’m okay with gourmands but they don’t move me as much. My choices suggest that beauty for me is about classicism and restraint. But where warmth is lacking, as it seems to be in 31 RC, I am confused.
Anyway, this is just today’s list. Talk to me tomorrow and it might be Miss Dior, Chanel No 19 and Le Temps d’Une Fete. And the day after …