Secrets and Lies: Perfumes I Have Never Smelled (but should have)


Today’s blog is brought to us by Odette Toilette associate Laurin Taylor, who braved Oxford Street on a Saturday to smell some of these fragrances (then just gave up and ordered them from eBay).

A confession: if you’d come into my former place of employment a year ago and told me you usually wore Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir, I’d have smiled and nodded. “Ah!” I’d exclaim, brandishing a bottle of Pafumerie Generale’s Isparta. “Perhaps you’d like this?”

I have never smelled Pomegranate Noir. But sometimes you have to fake it to make it, right?
I’ve been working in the perfume industry for nearly five years now. That sounds like a long time to me, but it’s really not. The learning curve in this business is huge, and there are still so many fragrances I’ve not yet got around to smelling: White Linen. Chamade. Pomegranate Noir (still). The list goes on.
While musing on this, I realised that I also haven’t seen a lot of films that everyone else raves (or rants about). In an effort to fill the gaps in my pop culture knowledge, I decided to spend a couple of weekends sniffing out the great, the good and the inescapable in both department stores and on Netflix. Here we go:


Yves Saint Laurent – Paris

You never hear the name “Sophia Grojsman” without “the great” preceding it – hardly unsurprising for the woman who gave us Calvin Klein’s Eternity, Lancome’s Tresor and Estee Lauder’s Beautiful. Everything I’d read about it suggested I could expect to be engulfed in a cloud of taffeta pink rose, the likes of which would be detected at the International Space Station. There is nothing I love more than a nuclear fragrance, so I dove in and sprayed with abandon.

Oh. I’m struggling to think of words here, because there was nothing to hang on to. On me, Paris turned out to be a pretty rose with a bit of proffered violets, as though it had forgotten to bring a bottle of wine to the party and stole some flowers from the neighbour’s garden instead. It felt almost apologetic, and I almost want to apologise for not getting it. Maybe the tester was old. Maybe my nose was tired. Maybe…it was the full moon?

My recommended film pairing is Beaches. You can’t mention the name in a room full of 30+ women without eliciting gasps of, “OHMYGOD, I LOVE that film!” I think that by the time I saw it more than fifteen years after its release, I was past the emotional window when it might have had an impact on my psyche. I just found it irritating and melodramatic. Again, I’m sorry. I didn’t want it to be this way.

Maybe it’s just me?

 Chanel – Coco Noir


It is trendy for those who profess themselves “in the know” to bemoan any new fragrance bearing the word “noir” in the name – never more so when it’s a reworking of a classic. “Whither the glory days of House Chanel?” we cry, clutching our bottles of Cuir de Russie to our bosoms as we take to the Internet to register our displeasure.

I was sniffy (pun totally intended) about Coco Noir when it debuted. Why would they meddle with my beloved Coco? Why do the callow youth of today not appreciate this masterpiece? Why am I still talking? I maintained my snobbishness until the day my flatmate breezed down the stairs wearing something delicious. “Wow,” I exclaimed. “I could never wear it, but it smells great on you,” offering the standard issue back-handed compliment of perfume lovers everywhere.

Reader, I can wear it, and it smells just as good on me.

My recommended film pairing for Coco Noir is Whiplash. Everyone I knew loved it, but I couldn’t imagine that a film about jazz drumming could ever hold my interest, until I found myself spellbound by JK Simmons magnificent performance and clenching my thighs as the story hurtled towards the end.


Body Shop – White Musk

Just last week I smelled everyone’s favourite pre-teen perfume for the first time ever, and I am here to ruin it for all of you.

When I listen to people talk about White Musk, it’s never about how it smells – it’s about the perfume running thread-like through a particular time in their lives. School halls, a summer abroad, a youthful romance or a more sophisticated friend (the one who was allowed to wear lipstick before everyone else in her year). Pulling it off the shelf in the Body Shop, I had no idea what to expect. At first, I smelled very little, but the fragrance slowly emerged and wove itself into a pleasant-enough white floral powdery laundry musk creature. In other words, a perfect blank canvas for your very own collage of teenage dreams and “I *heart* Paul” biro scrawls.

But wait a second. As I made my way home, I caught a whiff of something else. Something powerful. Something sweaty. Something…hairy. Underneath the angelic countenance lurks a heart of darkness. You guys. This is a stealth Muscs Koublai Khan – the most rump-grinding, drag you back to the cave by your hair fragrance that ever beat its chest in the jungle. It’s the mini-skirt and fishnets you stashed in your handbag to change into once you got out of the house. High-fives all around to you ladies for getting away with this one.  

My recommended film pairing for White Musk is Watership Down. How did I go so many years without seeing this delightful children’s classic about a band of plucky rabbits moving house? Why, just look at them hopping merrily through the – OH DEAR GOD! CHILDREN, COVER YOUR EYES! 


Viktor and Rolf – Flowerbomb

I’m lying. I’ve still never worn Flowerbomb or seen Frozen. I know the smell – it’s assaulted my nose in countless buses and Boots fragrance halls. And I inexplicably know the words to “Let It Go”, because the Internet does terrible things to you if you let it.

Even in the name of research – nope. Not gonna do it. I ain’t even sorry.

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