I’ve been hearing rumours for some time that my go-to warm weather fragrance, D&G L’Imperatrice, is being discontinued. You guys know how I handle my favourite things going extinct: with much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
I mean, I’m only half Vulcan.
But I’m not one to take this stuff lying down, so I decided to use this as an opportunity to hunt for a new scent. But where do I even start? How do you find a new perfume when you HATE how 99% of things smell?
Fortunately, I have Beth and Kara in my life; both are perfume geniuses. They recommended I head to The Perfumed Court and order some samples so that I can try out a bunch of scents slowly, without the sensory overload that comes from hitting up the Sephora fragrance wall.
But then I hit another stumbling block: How do I make this into an interesting article? Smells are incredibly subjective and personal, which makes reading what other people think about them almost useless. I know that certain universally beloved perfumes make me retch when I smell them, even though they always sound nice on paper. I mean, who hates Chanel No. 5? Me, that’s who!
And then I had an idea. According to every ad I’ve ever seen, perfume is meant to evoke a feeling or a mood. So why not get literal with it?
I decided to try out eight perfumes named after emotions or states of mind and see if that’s really how they made me feel.
There’s only one way to find out.
Obsession by Calvin Klein
Obsession smells like my childhood, because I feel like almost every adult woman I came into contact with wore this perfume. It has fruity and floral top notes (mandarin and orange blossom are the ones that stand out most strongly to me) with a powerful amber base. It’s marketed as “sensual and haunting,” which I think is code for “lingers, gets on everything.”
Here is how this perfume should make me feel:
And here is how it actually makes me feel:
As soon as I took off the lid to the tiny vial, I knew this was not going to be the fragrance for me. If the late '80s and early '90s had a smell, this would be it; and while I don’t mind a classic fragrance, I don’t want a dated one.
Obsession is very warm and heavy, with something spicy yet sharp hovering around the edges. It smells like a dark orange to me, which is something I wouldn’t mind in a winter fragrance, but not for the summer. I wore it for a day, and although it changed a little on my skin (there was more vanilla in it after a few hours than when I originally put it on), it didn’t totally transform. I felt like I was walking around in a Pigpen-style fragrance cloud.
Does it live up to the name? I don’t think so. To me, obsession would be a cold feeling--something sharp and steely and honed like a razor’s edge. Obsession the perfume is far too warm and cloying, and it gave me a headache. The emotion would obviously give someone ELSE a headache.
The verdict: No to purchasing (not 1985), no to the emotion.
Egoiste by Chanel
Beth loves Egoiste, and although it’s marketed as a men’s fragrance, it definitely works for women as well. The top notes of tangerine and rosewood aren’t as evident as the base notes of sandalwood and vanilla, which makes it a very complex and changeable scent.
Egoiste means “selfish,” so here is how the perfume should make me feel:
And here is how it actually makes me feel:
I wore this fragrance two days in a row, and I still have no idea if I like it. In general I don’t like woody-citrusy scents, and sandalwood almost always gives me a headache, but I don’t hate this.
There’s a note in here that I can’t identify, but it makes me think of carnations sitting in a woodsy library. The vanilla is deep and rich rather than cloyingly sweet, which I like, but on the whole, I’m not left with a terribly strong reaction to this. I forget what it smells like until the sample is back under my nose again, and even then I’m like, “I guess this is OK.” Not something I’d expect from Chanel.
Does it live up to the name? A little. I suppose that when I think of very selfish people, there is a certain transience to them--I generally forget about them as they breeze in and out of my life. However, this fragrance is a little too complicated to really represent selfishness, which is pretty hollow. If I were designing a fragrance to represent selfishness, it would be sugary-sweet with notes of desperation and anger at the core.
The verdict: Meh to purchasing, sort of to the emotion.
Envy by Gucci
The grandmother of the sugary Envy Me, Envy is a classic green floral. It starts off with a strong rush of hyacinth, jasmine and freesia, three strong notes that somehow don’t overpower the softer lily of the valley. There’s something faintly bitter hiding underneath all these flower petals, though, that stops this perfume from being too young or candy-ish.
Here’s how this perfume should make me feel:
And here’s how it actually makes me feel:
My review: I’ll level with you guys: I wasn’t expecting to like this perfume based on the name alone. Envy is kind of ugly emotion to me, so why would I want to bring that into my life even as a fragrance?
But then I loved it! I couldn’t believe it! The greenness of the florals make me think of a mossy fairytale forest right after it’s rained, rather than a humid, sticky greenhouse full of white flowers.
Envy worked really well with my body chemistry, evolving through the day into something bright yet restrained and grown-up, though I couldn’t smell it anymore after six hours. Sigh. Nothing gold ever stays.
Does it live up to the name? Absolutely not. I can’t think of an emotion LESS suited to this perfume. Envy, to me, would smell red and thick--something like Opium, but with an even heavier base. It would be dark and creeping, like treacle. It would NOT smell like a green spring breeze!
The verdict: Yes to purchasing, ABSOLUTELY NOT to the emotion.
100% Love by S-Perfume
Apparently, this is what’s called an “odd floral,” a description that made me pretty excited to test it out. This fragrance has listed notes of chocolate, peony, rose and blueberry, which are meant to combine together in an interesting, almost gourmand way.
Here’s how the perfume should make me feel, because being 100% in love is totally a feeling:
But here is how I actually feel:
You guys know that I don’t like most smells, so maybe it won’t have the impact that I want it to, but THIS IS DISGUSTING. There is a sharp, rubbery note in this that I can’t identify, and although I’m sure it’s meant to make the perfume “interesting,” it just makes it revolting. It honestly smells like someone ate some fruit and a pound of chocolate, then threw up.
I could not get this off my skin fast enough, and I could not bring myself to smell it again, even for this article. If I had to choose between wearing this perfume again and being eaten alive by ants, I would give serious consideration to the ants.
Does it live up to the name? If being in love felt like this perfume smells, nobody would ever fall in love again. It’s that gross.
The verdict: NO FOREVER to purchasing (not insane), THANK GOD NO to the emotion.
Alien: Le Gout du Parfum by Thierry Mugler
Because I’m pretty sure everyone and their mother is familiar with regular Alien, I decided to try out a slightly different version of the old standby. This “taste of fragrance” version is really interesting; you can smell the classic Alien perfume, but there are added notes of caramel and what smells to me like amaretto. This really brings out the warm amber base of Alien Classic without overpowering it with candy.
And yeah, Alien is an emotion. It is like Velociraptor in that way. It should make me feel like this:
And it makes me feel like this:
Gourmand perfumes aren’t my favourite, but I like this a lot better than standard-issue Alien. I think it’s because the salted caramel cuts the white florals quite a lot, making it a more mature and less-expected scent. I wasn’t sure about the amaretto-like notes, but after wearing it for a day, they opened into a warm and comforting smell on my skin. Three people asked me what I wear wearing while I was out running errands, and one lovely old man told me I smelled like a fancy cake shop. I’ll take it.
Does it live up to the name? It is a taste of fragrance, that’s for sure, but it isn’t very alien. I don’t even think classic Alien is very alien, unless said otherworldly creature crashed their spaceship into a flower show. I prefer the Le Gout du Parfum version to the original, hands down, but it still isn’t very alien to me. An alien perfume should smell cool and metallic, with hints of strange flowers you humans can’t even identify. I mean, I assume. Not like I’m an alien myself or anything.
The verdict: Maybe to purchasing, no to the emotion/state of being/planet of origin.
Happy by Clinique
One of Clinique’s bestsellers, Happy is a very bright and upbeat fragrance with a lot of cheerful citrus (grapefruit is the first thing that hits you) sharing space with more delicate florals like lilies. A base of what smells to me like honey keeps it all together.
The perfume should make me feel--and in fact, DOES--like this:
My review: This smells like sunshine and wide open spaces and letting go of a bunch of helium-filled balloons. It really does make me feel HAPPY.
On my skin, the red grapefruit notes fade away quite quickly and let the bright honey base shine through, which I don’t mind, because honey is delicious. However, even that faded after about four hours, meaning that I had to reapply it again and--OH NO--experience that lovely rush of initial cheerful citrus again.
My biggest problem is that this is a pretty common perfume, and I am a magical unicorn who doesn’t want to smell like everyone else.
Does it live up to the name? Unquestionably.
The verdict: Maybe to purchasing, YES to the emotion.
Insolence by Guerlain
Oh man, what a perfume this is! It is loud and bold, yet perfectly put together. Violet seems to be the primary note here, with, like, a million other florals like tuberose and what I think is raspberry? It has an old-fashioned powdery base, like an Old Hollywood starlet’s dressing room, that pops up after a few hours of wear.
Insolent is an emotion I was very familiar with in my teenage years, and it should make me feel like this:
In real life, it makes me feel like this:
If you mashed Kara and I together and then blended us into a perfume, this is what we’d smell like. It is over-the-top. It’s glamourous. It’s a tiny bit trashy in the best way, while also containing really elegant notes. It’s perfectly balanced, and most of all, it’s FUN.
To be sure, this is a ballsy fragrance and makes me think of rhinestone-encrusted evening gowns mixed in with family diamonds and ostrich feathers galore. It is a perfect mixture of party girl and society dame, and I am SO INTO IT.
Does it live up to the name? Yes, with a but. The dictionary definition of insolence is “rudeness and bad behaviour,” but in the colloquial sense it has more of a cheeky, rebellious connotation. This is definitely a perfume for someone who would be feeling a little mischievous, and even if she didn’t act on it, you’d know she could. I think this perfume is definitely playfully insolent, rather than vacantly or maliciously so.
The verdict: Yes to purchasing (though I will wear in moderation), mostly-yes to the emotion.
Wonderstruck Enchanted by Taylor Swift
I will be real: I sprayed this on myself at the grocery store while I was buying more bananas. It smells exactly like the colour of the bottle; there are about a million pink-and-red-smelling florals here, with a strong opening note of passionfruit and berries and an artificial-smelling vanilla base.
According to the weird double name, it should make me feel like this:
But instead, it makes me feel like this:
I know that I am well outside the age range that this perfume is being sold to (even though I unashamedly LOVE T. Swift), and therefore I’m probably not meant to love this incredibly busy olfactory explosion. But even when I was 12 through 20, I don’t think I would have sprung for this. There’s just too much of everything happening in this fragrance--Berries! Florals! Vanilla! Wood!--which doesn’t make it interesting or complex as much as it makes it exhausting and muddy. I know the bar isn’t set terribly high for teen-targeted celebrity perfumes, but I think T.Swift can do better than this, especially as her audience grows up.
Does it live up to the name? I am not feeling especially wonderstruck nor enchanted after living with this perfume for a day, so no.
The verdict: No to purchasing (too old), certainly not to the emotions.
Have you guys tried any of the fragrances on this list? How about any other emotion perfumes? Did they suit their names, or not so much? Does anyone else think a lot about how feelings would smell if they had fragrances, or is that just me?