I mean, it has to be. No one else is complaining.
There is either something about my skin, or something about my nose, that turns perfectly nice fragrances into the smell of shaving cream. I ranted about this phenomenon way back in the fall, and I’m not going to rant again, but I just don’t get it.
It happened again today.
You might already know of my love for rose chypres, given how I natter on about L’Arte di Gucci and PdE Eau Suave and Ungaro Diva and how wonderful Knowing parfum was for two hours before the Evil Lauder Base sent its throttling tendrils up to nauseate me. I even liked Rose de Nuit pretty well, although its weird chewy texture sort of freaked me out. You know how certain types of cheeses and dried-up marshmallows (don’t ask me how I know this) just squeak in your teeth when you bite them? Rose de Nuit squeaks.
So I was thrilled to receive a swap parcel with a sample vial of Guerlain Rose Barbare, from the niche-y L’Art et la Matiere line (as always, please ‘scuse the lack of diacriticals). Word on this one went like this: “ambery rose,” “dark thorny rose,” “modern chypre with rose,” “Mitsouko with rose instead of peach.” And I thought, “Ooooh, a rose Mitsouko, maybe I’d like that. And look, it’s composed by Francis Kurkdjian, he of the stunning, sexy, modern rose chypre Lumiere Noire Pour Femme!”
Guerlain’s description of Rose Barbare: “a heady, incisive Ottoman rose (aldehydes) over a modern structure of honey-chypree notes”. You’d think they’d be more forthcoming, instead of insulting potential customers by not bothering to tell them what’s in it, but no. That’s all you get in the way of notes: rose, aldehydes, honey, and chypre (bergamot, labdanum, patchouli and something mossy-ish, I’m guessing, in the manner of modern chypres).
I dabbed Rose Barbare onto my wrists Tuesday afternoon and went to pick up Bookworm from track practice, a twenty-minute trip. And things started out well: clearly a beautiful high quality rose ingredient here, framed in some nice green stuff that seems to be mostly patchouli of the kind I tolerate well, all grassy and herbal. But within fifteen minutes, I was getting shaving cream. And it stayed shaving cream for the next five hours, too.
There’s no getting around it: it’s shaving cream. I stuck my wrist under Gaze’s nose and asked what he smelled. Separately, I asked Bookworm. They both identified it immediately, without any hints. And let me be perfectly honest here, I think shaving cream smells great. It’s a smell I find extremely pleasant on a man. Fougeres tend to remind me of shaving cream – I assume that’s a trickle-down effect, by the way: a body care product picking up the smell of fine fragrance. And I don’t want to belabor the point here when other scent bloggers have addressed the issue of gender in fragrance so well and thoroughly,1 but I don’t want to smell like shaving cream! It’s a smell so clearly identified with men in my mind that wearing it on my person feels like wearing men’s underwear when I’m not one: clearly it doesn’t fit me. It chafes.
There are other accords that bother me: the cloying yet dusty Coco-Opium-Cinnabar-Youth Dew-Stetson-Tabu tolu balsam + patchouli accord; the depressing soapiness of orange blossom; the flat, chemical cleaning-products accord I sometimes get from linden and/or muguet notes; the musty-basement thing I can’t quite pin down, but seems related to carrot seed, or iris, or powdery violet; and whatever it is in that dang Lauder base, and in SSS Vintage Rose, that makes me want to toss my cookies. It’s only ToluPatch and Lauder that are bad enough to force me to scrub – the others I struggle through rather than washing off.
I’m not a big fan of citrus, classical colognes, or what Robin at NST calls “wood pudding scents,” (search there for more info) either, but that’s a boredom issue, not a sanity issue.
It’s only the dreaded shaving cream accord that rouses my righteous ire this way, and I think that’s because I tend to avoid the other accords, which is pretty easy. It says “Lauder” right there on the bottle. Ergo, avoid. No prob. The scent description says “balsamic oriental”? I know it’s not for me. The fragrance is focused on OB or linden or iris? Probably not gonna be my bag, I won’t bother with it. There are too many other scents I want to try anyway, I’m probably not missing much.
But shaving cream accord? There’s no warning for that. It always strikes out of flippin’ nowhere. In so-called feminine scents. There I am, all happy in a green garden full of rose bushes, and then suddenly I’m trapped in the enormous stadium-size nightmare barbershop maze. Grrrrrrrr. Before testing, I read five perfume blog reviews of Rose Barbare, with comments, as well as about 40 brief reviews on Fragrantica and Basenotes, and nowhere was there a complete list of the notes (I guess Guerlain didn’t release them) or a description of RB as being even vaguely fougere-y.
The short list of suspects for Shaving Cream Accord (hereafter, SCA) are as follows: lavender, coumarin, and/or opoponax. I think further testing is in order – but if you happen to have any insights to share, I’d be ever so grateful.
1See this post and comments, and the follow-up post, at Grain de Musc and this one at Left Coast Nose, at minimum, for serious discussion on the subject that I frankly don’t have the cojones to address here. (Ha ha. Little gender humor there… of course, it’s a pun, which some people call the lowest form of humor.)