Perfumes I wanted to love

We were sitting in André’s kitchen as we were looking at his recently-retired perfume collection.  André seemed quite detached from it all.  He had moved on… and when he showed me some beautiful enamaled copper plates from the 60s and 70s, he was obviously impassioned.  As I perused the collection for things to purchase we spoke about Fracas, which I already had.  Andre said, “I wanted to love Fracas.”  “So did I”, I responded.  And then there was a silence.  I sat down.  Neither of us spoke.  We were both lost in our thoughts.  I remember thinking… I should go home now.

When I got home, I opened my magic closet and I realized that there were several perfumes that I bought unsniffed that I just WANTED to love.  Whether it was the creator that attracted me or the process or the myth, there were some perfumes that I had decided would be my signature perfume before I smelled them… only to put them back on the shelf after a couple of outings.  What’s odd is that NOT loving them feels like a personal failure.  If these were masterpieces, why didn’t I love them?  Here are three that come to mind.

Fracas by Robert Piguet

Germaine Cellier’s tuberose marvel is referenced every time a new tuberose perfume comes out.  It’s the standard.  But I almost gag when I smell it.  That butter note grabs me by the throat and I just can’t wear it!  And yet, many of my friends LOVE Fracas.   Just yesterday at a perfume lecture, the very first woman I handed the Fracas scent strip to oohed and aahed. “What is THIS?” I responded, “Uh… Fracas.” “Oh, it’s beautiful” she said as she scribbled notes on her handout.  Must be me, I thought.

Chamade by Guerlain

I know that Chamade is studied by students wanting to become perfumers because of its extremely long development… over many, many hours so they say.  I smell the same field flower fragrance from the beginning to the end… nothing special.  In fact, of my many perfumes it seems to me the one that evolves the least.  Maybe it’s my skin?  My nose?  I wanted to love Chamade… but it didn’t work out.

Insensé by Givenchy

I love floral scents and I resent that there are so few available for men.  And so when I read that Insensé by Givenchy was one of the very few florals for men created in the early 90s, I decided right there and then that it would be one of my favourite scents.  But when I first wore it I thought… This is a floral?  Where are the roses?  The jasmine.  Ylang ylang?  I’m getting mostly herbal on a woody base… anything BUT floral.  I wanted to love this one too… but I didn’t and I still don’t.  Ormonde Jayne Man is a much better floral… masculine, handsome and beautifully wearable.

It’s interesting, though, that I would never sell them.  In fact, I still have an emotional connection to Fracas, Chamade and Insensé… it’s difficult to explain.  Maybe I’m hoping that one day I’ll fall in love with them, only this time knowing what they’re really all about.  Love is funny that way.

Next week, I’ll get back to perfume reviewing.

Have a nice week everyone!

Top image : The Confession (1896) by Sir Frank Dicksee

Leave a comment


  1. I cannot wear Fracas too. Actually, I cannot wear any kind of tuberose, the mighty Carnal Flower included! I am also embarrassed I don’t love Mitsouko, Ormonde Jayne Woman, and any of the Chanel exclusives! Yes, Bois d’Isle is no exception to the rule. Ok, I’m blushed, but at least, I know what I want 🙂

    • It’s odd when a perfume is hailed and yet… you can’t get near it. I’m very neutral on Mitsouko. It’s OK. Maybe people are talking about the earlier versions… but my bottle doesn’t get used very often.
      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Who is Andre and when is he sending me all his unloved perfume??? 😉

    All these mentioned take time…sometimes years…to appreciate fully. Sometimes only the smallest of hints can turn ambivalence into pure love. Look for the dry ylang note in the heart of Chamade (after the poisonous green note fades).

    In Fracas, a honeyed orange blossom is hidden between the tuberose and the soapy musks.

    I haven’t smelled Insensé in quite some time now…even the reissue flopped.

    • I’m going to retry them and look for those hidden notes. Maybe it does take more time. One just feels so left out when everyone is on a bandwagon and you’re humming a completely different tune! Thanks for the comment.

  3. I like but don’t love Fracas. I have a bottle because it was on sale at Winners. I feel the same way as you do about Chamade. I read the reviews and the notes and I was sure that this was going to be the Guerlain I finally fell for..but no. It was nice but boring and a little old-fashioned but not in a knock me out of my socks with civet or oakmoss way.

    Maybe it’s the curse of collecting? I have quite a few perfumes now that I seem to have grown apart from. My Tauers, my Duchaufours. Maybe I’m just a different person now. Maybe it’s a phase.

    • Do you think it is the collector’s curse? You know… it could be. We smell so much and we want to fall in love all the time… but that isn’t possible, is it? Sad. But I guess that keeps us going… looking for the next big love affair. Great comment!

    • I too have plenty of full bottles that I almost never wear, mostly obtained because I could get them cheaply and they seemed like a good addition to the collection. All in all I really didn’t spend that much on them, so I try not to feel too guilty about it. Especially considering some of my greatest loves were unsniffed purchases. I assume, or hope, that they’ll eventually be swapped.

      • Thanks for the comment! I guess we all have those special loves in our collection.

  4. isabelle

     /  October 7, 2011

    Bonjour Normand,
    Merci de nous faire sentir qu’on n’est pas obligé de tout aimer même s’il s’agit d’un grand parfum. Pour ma part, je ne porterai jamais le Chanel No. 5. Mais j’aurais tellement aimé l’aimer!


    • Je pense qu’on a tous des parfums qu’on aura voulu aimer dans nos vies. Merci beaucoup pour le commentaire!



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