On Beauty

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 …

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27 thoughts on “On Beauty

  1. OMG! What a great question.Today for me, and I can’t tell you why except that when I put these three on lately I feel like I could become almost scent monogamous. So to tell you how close that is to happening, it took me 6 goes to get monogamous right, can’t even spell it when it comes to fragrance.
    Rosa Sur Reuse by SOIVOHLE,
    Auburn by Tauer,
    Lou Lou by Cacharel.
    Tomorrow? Who knows
    Portia xx

    1. Scent monogamy! Yes, I get that feeling too from some perfumes. ‘You are so gorgeous, why would I wear anything else?’ And yet it never lasts …

      I must check out that Aurburn. I have not caught up with Tauer’s Pentachords.

  2. I used to think Beyond Love was the most beautiful thing I had ever smelled, but lately I’m not really feeling it. I’ll come back around. Today my list would certainly include Cuir de Lancome. And you have me craving URC something fierce.

    1. I think it does take time to settle on what is beautiful for you. Beauty can be demanding, after all!

      I have STILL not tried Cuir de Lancome. Thanks for mentioning it.

  3. I spent some time thinking about it and it’s really hard for me. Not because there are too many perfumes and I cannot choose. Not because there are no perfumes I love. It’s just that I’m having a hard time assigning that “most beautiful” label even to those perfumes I love and don’t want to be without ever.

    But I tried my best and my three will be: Ta’if by Ormonde Jayne, No. 19 parfum by Chanel and Ubar by Amouage.

    1. Ha! Yes, and I deliberately did not try and define ‘beauty’ as everyone will have their own idea of what beauty is, and indeed, whether ‘beauty’ actually matters. I love your choices. No 19 parfum is very beautiful to me too.

  4. Great post and I love your choices. For me, the key to 31RC and its warmth lies in the ambery base.

    Off the top of my head, 3 perfumes that come to mind when I think of the word “beautiful” would be

    Honour Woman
    New Look 1947
    Bottega Veneta

    1. Many thanks, I will wear 31 RC next tome with that in mind. I don’t know Honour Woman, but I know your other two. Neither were quite to my taste and yet I admired their classical style. Lovely! (I really wanted to love BV but the fruit note is a bot sticky and overwhelming for me.) But it is always wonderful to see new releases as good as this.

  5. That was difficult! Here are mine (for today at least… 🙂 )
    Amouage Epic
    Puredistance I
    Mitsouko

  6. Anne-Marie, I have a sample of L’Heure Bleue that I’ve been needing to sample, and I will do that today because of your post. Hmmm, my most beautiful? Right now that would be

    Ormonde Woman – was there ever any doubt?
    Après l’Ondée
    Heure Exquise

    Of course, tomorrow it could be LTdF, or Mimosa pour Moi, or 28 La Pausa….. I’m noticing a trend of considering my light florals to be my most beautiful, which is interesting because they don’t comprise the majority of my wardrobe.

    1. More classics! If you love Apres l’Ondee, you should enjoy L’Heure Bleue, although the latter is far less ethereal.

      Oh yes, Heure Exquise. Yes. Must buy some more.

  7. I wore L’Heure Bleue yesterday after being inspired by your post, and thought about which of my favorites I would call the most “beautiful”.

    1. Divine Divine – magnificent fruity chypre
    2. Amouage Gold – I can’t wear this–it wears me, but I love to smell the bottle
    3. Caron Infini – liquid flowers–just breathtaking

    Today I will wear Une Rose Chypree. You have such an influence!

    1. Gulp! I hope I have not led you up the garden path then!

      I don’t know Divine but I love fruity chypres so I will check it out. Infini is wonderful, I agree.

  8. That post reminded me that I’m surrounded by some sharp cookies who know their stuff. Beautifully written posts like that make it a pleasure to continue my olfactory education.

    And you’re right. Perfection is boring.

  9. This is a gorgeous post and a great question, A-M. When I read it a few days ago, I was trying to put into words what “beautiful” would mean for me, and I couldn’t. But I was able to come up with my list (which like yours would probably change).

    Lyric, Amouage
    Climat, Lancome
    Vol de Nuit, Guerlain

    1. Thanks Natalie, and thanks for your thoughtful response. I have seen Climat mentioned with passionate attachment before, so I must check it out. Is it d/c, or just hard to get? And has been reformulated? Sigh. I was just looking at the Lancome website and there is nothing there that attracts me, although once or twice I have been tempted by Magie Noire. It has been reformulated , I know.

      1. I believe it is discontinued, but it’s not particularly hard to get. Many of the discounters have it, and it’s well worth checking out!

  10. What an incredibly beautiful review. Your connections between the perfumes and where they take you ware enchanting. I fell in love with the cool beauty of your writing when I read the section on Chanel ~ 31 Rue Cambon. To borrow from that Frank Sinatra song in “High Society” … You’re Sensational.

    1. Goodness! *Blush* Thanks Lanier! It is funny how the comparison with High Society cam to me, as I’m not really a movie buff. Anyway, glad you liked the post. 🙂

      1. I am both a movie buff and a fragrance nut so it really spoke to me. I LOVED IT. Some of my reviews inevitably link to films …I’m funny that way.
        Cheers!

  11. Ah, yes, beauty is in the nostrils of the behold– er, the besmeller.

    For me, beauty is never the merely-comfortable or the fun or the lightweight, though I wear those things pretty often. “Beautiful” carries those connotations of transcendence, and often I feel awe when sniffing a beautiful scent. It’s funny – Le Temps d’une Fete is one of my most favorite perfumes ever, and I adore it, and it is wonderful, but I’m not sure I’d apply “beautiful to it.” Wonder why?

    Three beautiful scents:
    SL La Myrrhe
    Amouage Lyric Woman
    FM Carnal Flower

    These are all things that make tears come to my eyes.

    1. Wonderful choices Mals! Transcendence – yes. They take you to another place, which often means you don’t want to wear them every day. A topic for another post would be ‘most loved’, in which case Le Temps may be at the top of your list.

      Despite the huge cost of shipping on PdN fragrances, I may finally spring for a bottle of Le Temps when the spring comes. It is a pain tho’, when the product costs $45 and the shipping $34 (from Luckyscent)! I think the PdN website has the cheapest option.

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