My Perfume Identity

May 19th, 2008

You know, how you spend most of your life trying to figure out what your identity is? All the emotional turmoil and whatnot it causes you? One thing I’ve realized as I hit my 30s is that I don’t really try to fit in any more. I am who I am – take it or leave it, world. There’s always potential for growth, of course, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’ve been doing quite a bit of rediscovering myself lately, now that I’m living in my home country as a grown-up, and part of this process has had to do with perfume or smells in general. It has led me to think on where I stand with perfume now or what my perfume identity is.

First of all, quite literally, where does perfume stand with me? In Latvia, it stands on shelves of but a few chain stores along the lines of Sephora, with a fairly impressive selection of what we call department store fragrances. However, in addition to certain scents launched in Europe first/only, there are also lines you will never see in typical department stores in the U.S., those that are no longer distributed and are forced to spend the rest of their shelf life at various discounters. Such would include Trussardi (Skin, Jeans, the newly launched Inside), Laura Biagiotti (Roma, Laura, the newly launched Donna), Sonia Rykiel (Le Parfum, Woman), pretty much everything by Salvador Dali, Paco Rabanne, S.T. Dupont… Then there’s Chanel No 19, Shiseido Feminite du Bois, Dior Jules – all with no takers, it seems. As for the niche lines, you can pretty much forget it. There’re a couple boutiques featuring the ever so dear to my heart (ha!) L’Artisan Parfumeur, Parfums de Rosine, Etro, Aqua di Parma, Comme des Garcons. I should also mention L’Occitane. That’s about it!

But I do not despair. After 8 years of easily available vibrant assortments and abundant selections of all kinds, I enjoy the sufficiency I find here. I had to part with my perfume collection before the move but did ship a box of samples and decants, hoping they’d come in handy once the craziness is over. I’ve barely touched them in 3 months. Instead, I’ve given my perfume soul to the chosen few: Chanel parfums (as in pure parfum) – Coco, Coco Mademoiselle, Chance, Allure; the newly found love in Narciso Rodriguez For Her, Prada Infusion d’Iris, Calvin Klein Euphoria, Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir; the mad love at first sniff in Comme des Garcons 888 (review to follow).

In other words, my perfume identity never stops evolving: from a Guerlain girl I’ve turned into a Chanel girl; formerly shying from mass market releases – to their new appreciation. This identity also is very easily influenced. During my recent visit with a school friend, she raved about her favorite perfume so much that it became my favorite before we even parted our ways (Narciso Rodriguez For Her in EDT). One short elevator ride with an impeccably dressed, stylish, middle-aged woman exuding a most sensuous aroma produced the sheepish, ever-so-annoying question, “Excuse me, what perfume are you wearing?” and a bottle on my dresser that same day (Calvin Klein Euphoria). What can I say? When it comes to perfume, I’m often someone else or that something else I don’t have.

What is your perfume identity like, and how has it changed recently, if at all? Please share.

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  • 1. Billy D  |  May 20th, 2008 at 11:15 am

    This may sound strange, but a lot of my perfume identity is tied up with my favorite floral note, iris. As a man, of course, my choices are limited in the floral categories,* so big white florals are out of the question for personal use, as well as just about anything with tuberose. I just love to think of myself as chilly, purple-grey, and slightly metallic. That may be why my HG is Iris Silver Mist. Even though they are all truly odes to the iris, I still feel like I need full bottles of ISM, Bois d’iris, and L’homme de coeur. And I will not rest until I can actually procure my own full bell jar of ISM, because, along with the iris thing, I am niche snob (that’s why Dior Homme is not on my list) and I long for some longevity (hence no 28 la pausa or Infusion d’iris for me).

    It has changed recently in that I no longer covet vintage perfumes at all–I went through a terrible phase with that, and discovered that it satisfied a curiosity rather than a real interest and was not worth it when there are so many gorgeous contemporary perfumes to be had.

    *That being said, I do adore a narcissus or violet note as well.

  • 2. Victoria  |  May 20th, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    I loved this post, because it indeed seemed to exude a certain serenity and confidence that I love to see in writing. I am glad that you are happy in your new-old place.

    My perfume identity always evolves too. When I started working, there was a period of time when I did not want to smell anything at all after work hours. I was tired of scents, but in the retrospect, I also need time to adjust to new job, new apartment and a crazy travel schedule (six transatlantic flights in less than two months took their toll!) Now, I am happy to return to my usual loves–white florals, chypres, Guerlain, Chanel, Lutens. I have to say that my tastes did not change that drastically. I just feel stronger about what I love.

  • 3. winterwheat  |  May 20th, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Love this post.

    My perfume identity used to be more unidimensional: androgynous, spare, modern, and arty, wtih an emphasis on woods and spices. Now it’s all over the place. I still don’t like scents that are excessively delicate and “feminine” (if feminine means high-pitched, heady notes like white florals and fruits) because they feel silly on my 6′ frame, the way a tiny gold chain bracelet would on a body that needs (and can carry off) a bold cuff.

    I like statement scents, so even though, for instance, Lipstick Rose is almost cartoonishly “feminine,” I love it. And scents with unique notes (black hemlock in Ormonde) draw me. Still, I love warm skin notes like amber, leather, and musk. “Clean” perfumes aren’t my thing. I like to celebrate the body by wearing fragrance that complements its natural scents, not perfume that is meant to sanitize.

  • 4. Marina  |  May 21st, 2008 at 6:33 am

    I think you know my perfume identity of the moment very well. Powdery roses and Guerlain :-)

    But…Dior Jules?! *thud*

  • 5. aliki  |  May 21st, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Lovely postand great timing for me: I had to undergo a minor surgery that requested 1 week at a clinique (counting the 2-3 days completely off by anesthésie and other legal drugs). The nurses truly laughed at the sight of my toilette kit: 1 toothbrush and FIVE perfumes, which corresponds exactly to my nowadays adventurous and surprising perfume identity: I never know beforehand what scent my day shall be made of! I thought I would never wear roses, but I love Eau Suave from Parfums d’Empire; I thought I could only feal intellectual love for Guerlain but am completely crazy about historical Vega and the newest Eau de Shalimar (purists, pls don’t through stones at me). Am looking forward to Escapade a Portofino (Dior). Globally speaking, having had a beautiful Bandit mother, I am a loyal chypre, and having practiced years of reks sharki have made me love all orientals (woods, spices, amber….). I partially chose the surgeon for this operation because he wears a delicious woody juice he brought from Dubai. I can appreciate on others, but have never ever been an all flower or fruit scent lady (yet).

  • 6. Flora  |  May 22nd, 2008 at 1:09 am

    Ina , it is partly because of you that my own perfume identity has changed recently. You showed me that all Guerlains are not Shalimar, and I even fell in love with some of them!

    In general, I have come to appreciate rich, intense and complex scents more. I am sure that it is partly becaue I am older now, but when I was very young I wore almost nohing but green or white florals and delicate floral bouquet scents. Now I am a huge fan of incense/myrrh perfumes, which I got started on when Caron Parfum Sacre’ first came out. That started me down the road to appreciating a broader spectrum of fragrances, I think. Then along came Patou Sublime and I went crazy for that. The “me” of twenty or more years ago would never have thought of wearing Rochas Absolu or Guerlain Cuir Beluga, yet I love them now. Spice? Bring on the L’Artisan Timbuktu! Sweet gourmand? I just tried Ava Luxe Loukhoum for the first time today, and I adore it utterly. Smoky leather? Oh yeah, Tauer Perfumes Lonestar Memories! Sure, I still love the florals of my youth, but I will try almost anything now, and it is so much fun! I love reading about others’ experience with perfumes that are way out of the mainstream, and it inspires me to keep trying them myself.

    I will always be a classic Caron and Patou fan, yes, but now I am more adventurous than ever before. I owe a lot of that to the perfume bloggers (like you !) who have opened up the world of perfume for me in a way I never dreamed of before. :-)

  • 7. chayaruchama  |  May 22nd, 2008 at 6:16 am

    Oh, Inochka !
    How wonderful to see you again …!

    I’m game for anything- if it rings true, feels authentic.
    Complex, simple, ethjereal, earthy…I love ’em all.

    You sound happy-
    Which makes me happy !

    Many kisses your way, darlin’.

  • 8. violetnoir  |  May 22nd, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Oh my goodness, Ina! I am so happy to see that you are back. I missed you and wondered how you were doing.

    Isn’t it interesting how we evolve in so many ways over the years. Life is about change, and it sounds like you are adjusting appropriately.

    As for perfume, I think–no, I know–I would adjust accordingly if I moved to a place that did not seemingly have as much to offer as California.

    But, I would miss my Guerlains…

    Hugs to you, my friend!

  • 9. tmp00  |  May 23rd, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    I think that the core of my perfume identity is that I am a perfume sl*t. I flitter from new thing to new thing and have discovered that I have to make myself try something until I have gone through at least two decants before buying a bottle. Other than that I am very vetivery these days!

    I would love to run across a dusty store full of Feminite de Bois..

  • 10. Yiie  |  May 25th, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Like fashion, my love for certain types of fragrances has changed over the past years.

    As a teenager, I loved the smell of anything fruity and sweet. Couldn’t get enough of the aldehydes in cheap perfumes. But as I have matured, I hate the commercial fruity, sweet smells. I love complex, rich, floral scents and smelling different to everyone else.

    I don’t care much for overly commercialised brands. Instead, I love perfumes by Serge Lutens, Annick Goutal and Creed. :)

  • 11. carole  |  May 27th, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I used to only love spicy, heavier fragrances. They made me feel seductive and mysterious (I was neither seductive nor mysterious-still am not). I loved Obsession and Giorgio, and Knowing by Estee Lauder. Samsara was a signature scent for years.

    Then one day I hugged a freind who was wearing Eau d’Hadrien, and I could not believe such a scent existed! I wore all the AG scents for years and they made me feel fabulous.

    This started a trend for lighter, more transparent scents. I like everything by Jean CLaude Ellena and Olivia Giacobetti. Minimalism makes me happy.

    Here is my dilemma: I recently reignited an old flame ( started dating a man that knew me wehn I wore spicy scents). He adored the spice, and thinks of it as part of me. I’m not sure that part of me exists anymore! I may have to teach him to learn to love D’Zing! or Jardin Sur e Nil.

    Glad to see you blogging again, and I hope you are well.


  • 12. Yelena  |  May 27th, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Ina- it’s wonderful to once again read your thoughts on fragrance. I am so glad that you are rediscovering your love of scent and that you are gravitating towards Chanels. They have always been synonymous with tranquility to me for some reason and I can never competely be without a Chanel in my weekly rotation. In terms of my perfume identity, I am a bit frightened that these days Serge Lutens seems to compement my mood most frequently and with the addition of a few dark rose scents and some pineapple and vetiver for summer, I seem to be complacently satisfied. I do hope that you will continue to write and share your experiences in Latvia with us.

  • 13. dinazad  |  May 30th, 2008 at 4:22 am

    Good to have you back! Welcome home!

    I used to be a three-perfume girl: one for summer, one for winter, one for evenings. Now I’m a perfume junkie, wanting new surprises daily. Like Chaya, I love ’em all, provided they’re reasonably interesting, even if I don’t wear them. And, judging by the number of bottles and decants in my apartment, I want to own them all……

    But at the core, I’m intensely loyal to my favourite scents. I’ve been wearing Roma and Chopard Madness since they appeared on the market and have no intention to ever stop wearing them. I even occasionally return to the first scent I ever bought (because the tiny pine-cone-bottle was the only one I could afford), Pino di Silvestre. A few others have joined the core scent family I can’t ever do without. All of the other fragrances I own are distant cousins, friends of cousins, spouses of the friends of cousins. Perfectly charming and always welcome, but not the ones that know me inside out.

  • 14. Maria  |  June 4th, 2008 at 2:30 am

    My perfume identity awakes when i spray on A.maze perfume from the Dutch Fashion Designer label The People of the Labyrinths. You should experience the difference from when you spray it on and several hours later. It’s like a complete bouquet of roses opened up!
    I found out that they launched a new e-shop lately. Worth a visit: http:\\, there you can also see the other perfume which they created, Luctor et Emergo.
    Get addicted!

  • 15. Teri  |  June 17th, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    So happy to ‘see’ you on your blog, again. And to ‘hear’ your thoughts from a world away. There are so few things that truly constitute a universal language and I believe fragrance is one.

    With fragrance, as with most everything in my life, I’ve marched to the beat of a different drummer. When having a signature scent was in, I had at least a dozen in regular rotation. When having a designer logo splashed across everything one owned (including one’s perfume bottle) was the height of popularity, I sported vintage obscurities in unmarked bottles that I found at estate sales.

    But in complete opposition to my prediliction for bucking the tide, I also fell hopelessly and irrevocably in love with one of the most mainstream designer fragrances of the late 1980s – Giorgio’s Red. For a period of about 4 years it was very nearly a signature fragrance and I still love it and wear it occasionally to this day, even though it’s hopelessly out of date in this age of clean, spare fragrances (it’s a big ballsy in-your-face chypre).

    With the advent of the internet and blogging, I discovered there was a whole world of people out there who would have enthusiastically joined me in wearing Lucien LeLong’s Tailspin (one of my estate finds back in the day), I was thrilled.

    I’m still highly unlikely to follow trend. You will not find me wearing any fragrance that smells like fabric softener, clean towels, or a can of fruit cocktail today. But I reserve the right to change my mind 5 years from now when everyone is wearing Opium clones again. :)

  • 16. Alleykatze  |  June 18th, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Ina, it’s good to see you again after so long (I hadn’t realized you moved) and your expressions here of contentment and *I-am-who-I-am, take-it-or-leave-it* are wonderfully honest and refreshing. Once I reached a certain age, I also became less concerned about what people think and whether they found me *acceptable* to them or not. As for my perfume identity, I started out with classics from Caron and Guerlain (having been introduced to them at the tender age of four) and Chanel and they remained my mainstay fragrances, even though I flirted with trendier scents. I discovered niche scents about six years ago, and although I am very fond of most of them, like you, I have reached my saturation point and now am focused on paring down. Once the bottles are finished, I have no plans to replenish them, save for a few, and feel I could be perfectly content with 10-15 scents, tops.

  • 17. Alleykatze  |  June 18th, 2008 at 4:38 am

    PS – I’m also looking forward to hearing more about your new life in Latvia, a place that I’ve long been fascinated with, and how you are adjusting to being back.

  • 18. Silvia  |  June 18th, 2008 at 7:34 am

    So, so glad to read you again Ina ! I didn’t have the heart to take your blog off my list of favourites, in the hope that you would reappear one day.
    When I first left my country to live abroad, many people told me I was brave, but the real courage for me would have been to stay and now, to go back. I love the poem Ithaka by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, if you don’t know it, here it is:
    I think in a round about way it also contains my perfume identity !

  • 19. Holly  |  June 22nd, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    I used to be a purely Chanel girl myself, Coco, Coco Mademoiselle, Allure Sensuelle (my fave). But to the dismay of my husband and my bank account I have found Montale and don’t know how I”ll go to my grave without owning every single one. White Aoud (destined to become a timeless classic), Black Aoud for the perfect vixen in me. Queen Roses for ultimate femininity, Oriental Flowers, I could go on and on. Luckily I have found The Perfume Shoppe in Vancouver ( which seems to have the best prices on Montales and a great and varied selection. Now, if only they carried Creed as well for I hear the siren song of Fleurs de The Rose Bulgare beckoning. …

  • 20. kate  |  June 23rd, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    I think I was a CK girl when I was 16, then I became a Chanel (my 20’s).
    I think I’m a Goutal. That also love everything made by Olivia Giacometti…
    It’s nice to hear from you. Welcome back !

  • 21. Isabeli  |  July 28th, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Hi! I agree with u so much.. In the past I used search for sth that would be a “truely me”. Now I simply search the fragrance that I would appreciate, that would reflect my current mood, etc. I don’t need anything that would replace my personality:) So I do not stick to one perfume, but use a few. At the same time I both love “clean” perfume and the sensual, oriental. In this matter I’ve changed a lot.
    In the past I used to wear:: Opium Dior, Eva, Chanel No.5, Eternity CK. Now I’ve switched to: Parfume Sacre Caron, but alsoTrue Star, California Cologne, Woodhue Cologne, Pure White Linen LB by Estee, Quelques Fleurs Houbigant & Sicily DG (the last two are my fouvorites). I intend to buy Demi-Jour as long as it is available, and I Songes by Goutal.

  • 22. Jayne  |  August 14th, 2008 at 3:37 am

    I discovered your blog today during my ongoing quest to find Fidji *perfume*. (Your blog entry from April last year). EDT of Fidji is all over the place and to my nose it’s like an entirely different scent to the perfume. I have a bottle of the perfume that I so love I have eeked it out over the last 30+ years. It still smells totally wonderful and still makes me feel wonderful too every time I wear it. My quest continues (I do extensive web searches every few months when my dwindling supply grabs my attention again). Things are getting so desperate that I’ve now written to l’Oreal (and that makes me feel like a bit of a perfume ‘anorak’) . Which brings me up to this newest blog entry. I have several favourites depending on the season, the weather, how I feel or how I’d *like* to feel but only two perfumes have stayed with me all my adult life and in their vintage form, i.e. in bottles of fragrance that are now both probably in excess of 30 years old.
    Femme by Rochas – which my husband comments on every time I wear it, hence its staying power.
    Fidji – For me and me alone, and I guess I’d therefore say it’s my signature scent, it has to be Fidji. Fidji the perfume though. Forget the EDT it’s a mere pale reflection of this outstanding fragrance.
    If anyone knows where I can buy the perfume, please do tell. (Yes, you’re right, I *am* kind of fixated on finding more)!

  • 23. sharon m  |  September 7th, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    i have stumbled across this site very unexpectedly and just love what i’m reading – what a fantastic read! i have a passion for fragrance but like most over time become addicted to different smells. after living quite near to london uk and being able to obtain very different or unusual fragrances and having a large wardrobe of fragrance it has come( maybe like you in some ways) as a huge shock to live in a beautiful but small town on vancouver island where all you can get are regular department store brands. a lot of these i have come to enjoy and appreciate more and more however still miss the availability of more unusual fragrances . presently i am enjoying tom ford black orchid, gucci by gucci, dior midnight poison, and have just gotten lancome magnifique my now fav. whether because of age i seem to prefer deeper more defined woodsy fragrance or because” its the new more fashionably note” i’m not sure however over time i have gone from the subtle , femimine floral barely there fragrance to something much deeper . fragrances do become part of our persona and are too be enjoyed and loved for the memories they do invoke. thank you for such a wonderfully written blog!

  • 24. Uma  |  September 10th, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Hello Ina!
    I’m so glad you go on blogging – I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while (though never commented 😉 ) and really started missing it.
    As you I’m in my early thirties. My biography as a perfumista started as a romantic girl (Oilily). After that I tried to become a cooler teenager (CK one, of course) and self-confident young woman (Hugo Boss), but I luckily changed directions when I first tried Coco Mademoiselle. Since then this fragrance has accompanied me, even through my stages as a multiple personalilty in scent (exploring niche and the traditional creations of Guerlain and Caron – and so many more…).
    Right now I do only own 6 (six!) fullsizes of fragrance, which is amazingly few in comparison to my former collection and a much less extraordinary choice: Chanel Coco Mademoiselle and Chance (just as you), Gucci by Gucci, Guerlain Figue Iris, Shalimar Légère and Armani Sensi.
    Yes, I still have a large box of samples and little decants. 😉 .
    But I stopped trying to be a Goutal girl and turned my back on extremely daring and experimental fragrances (at least for personal use), I made my peace with the fact, that deep, rich, aldehydic orientals simply don’t fit me and that hesperides will always remind me of my grandpa in the first place.
    I think, that’s something like becoming “myself”, at least in respect of fragrance.

  • 25. Bobby  |  October 28th, 2008 at 5:14 am

    My perfume identity was stuck with floral and strong musky scents. The first time I appreciate wearing perfumes was when I was in high school. Wearing CK one then switched to Polo Sport. Then again explore the scent of Drakkar. And now enjoying the masculine scent of Graphite blue by Realities.

    Thank you for this post, I enjoyed reading it


    Make Homemade Fragrances

  • 26. Style Spy  |  November 13th, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Like Marina, the idea of bottles of “Jules” going unloved makes me feel a little faint.

    My perfume identity gets simultaneously more expansive and more limited: I find myself liking more kinds of perfume, but not needing as many examples of any one kind.

  • 27. oliver  |  November 25th, 2008 at 1:25 am

    I used to have a freak on Femme. Now I also use Coco and Roma. Few days back my cousin sister gave me Midnight…..just amazing for any party occasion.




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