Originality shouldn’t be an end in and of itself. There is a quote, often attributed to Brummell that goes : “True elegance consists in not being noticed”— a beautiful piece of self-evident truth, that unfortunately doesn’t hold much weight when it comes to perfumery.
As a rule of thumb, you should avoid wearing a perfume that suffocates others within the confines of closed quarters. Originality does not always equate with quality – you might enjoy your cardamon / cedar / anchovy cologne, but bear in mind that such avant-garde piece of work might be a little too groundbreaking for others to enjoy.
On the flip side, a perfume that goes completely unnoticed is barely a step up from that other extreme.
Finding a perfume to call your own is a complex task – you have to find the right notes to complement your style and personality. It’s all about striking the right balance between projecting yourself to your best advantage, and drowning in your own narcissism.
A perfume is something intrusive. It’s the only element of style that invites itself into the personal space of anyone you happen to talk to or pass by. You never put on perfume only for your own sake, whether you intend to or not.
You might want to be mindful of that simple fact, especially if you spend a substantial amount of time in a closed environment – an office for instance. The elegant route is to wear a perfume that can be appreciated by the majority (and that perfume shouldn’t be too aggressive).
In this category, many bestsellers will do the trick.
However there are some, yours truly included, that hate to smell * their * perfume on half a dozen colleagues a day. Fortunately, there exists many quality, office-friendly perfumes to choose from that are less well known by the masses.
What follows is small selection of three perfumes, for those of you out there who want to (discreetly and elegantly) set themselves apart from the crowd…
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Penhaligon’s Esprit du Roi
Esprit du Roi is not Penhaligon’s most memorable fragrance, much less the most daring one. All things considered, Esprit du Roi treads along some very conventional lines.
And yet, what a pleasure to wear.
EDR is a woody fragrance, fresh and lightly floral, with a hint of tomato leaf that brings about an interesting contrasting touch to the citrus and mint opening. The core is more floral, with a simple yet elegant ylang-ylang / geranium accord, casually spiced up by a minute amount of clove and cardamon.
The base is wood and musk, from which the aldehyde proverbially blooms as the perfume nears the end of its progression.
A long lasting piece of work, with a pleasant and somewhat breezy sillage.
Eau du Roi is easily the most conventional of Penhaligon’s collection, though that is not saying much, considering the strong personality of the house’s usual offering.
But that is not a bad thing ; EDR is quite simply a pleasant perfume, and a safe choice for those who want to wear that light touch of British composure, even in workplaces that frown on olfactory boldness.
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Many vetiver fragrances go for the earthy, smoky and somewhat dirty side of the plant. With Vetyverio however, Dyptique took the opposite route, resulting in a very green and flowery take on one of perfumery’s most timeless fragrance families.
Vetyverio opens on a short-lived citrus blast, underlined by a few herbal touches that brings some appreciable depth to an otherwise rather classic opening.
Briefly after, however, the vetiver enters the scene, tempered by a stunning floral bouquet that strikes a graceful balance between the strength and earthiness of the vetiver plant and the softness brought about by the geranium, iris and rose trifecta.
The base notes consist of musky cedar that masks a light touch of amber, structuring and closing up the fragrance in a very coherent way.
As per usual with Dyptique, the progression remains elegantly linear – no surprises here…it’s almost a Dyptique trademark.
Though Vetyverio won’t put the vetiver niche on its head, it brings enough twists to the family to be both relevant, pleasant and easy to wear. A very safe bet indeed.
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Lorenzo Villoresi’s Mare Nostrum
Arguably the freshest perfume from Florence’s very own Lorenzo Villoresi – a stunningly mediterranean fragrance both easy to wear and easy to love.
Mare Nostrum is a tasteful chypre, light as a sea breeze. It opens up on a bergamot / mandarin accord that smells both clean and sunny. Nothing overly strong here ; Mare Nostrum is at heart a summer cologne, flowery and comfortable.
When the jasmine and the narcissus bloom at the core of the fragrance, la dolce vita takes over. And there is nothing the woody, musky and ambery base notes can do about that.
So close your eyes, and imagine a small mediterranean hamlet with houses painted in white to ward off the sun, lost somewhere along the parched coastlines of Greece or Sicily, surrounded by fragrant shrubs, and lightly cooled by a faint but persistent sea breeze. This is Mare Nostrum Aura Maris.
A relative lack of sillage coupled with a very decent longevity, make Mare Nostrum an easy perfume to wear and enjoy, without having to drag an olfactive boom chain around the office.