Today I thought I’d return to a favourite subject of mine – scent. I have loved scent since I was a child, being taken to one of our town’s department stores by my mother, and being introduced to the scents she loved, such as Guerlain’s Mitsouko and Lanvin’s Arpege.
Over the years I acquired my own favourites – and yes, Mitsouko is still there, but Arpege is now, sadly, a shadow of its former self.
My ‘taste’ in scent changes with the seasons, so that in the autumn I use Hermes’ Caleche , Hermes’ 24 Faubourg and Jour d’Hermes … However, I was wearing 24 Faubourg in the summer of 2015 when we were in Stourhead Gardens in Wiltshire …
An elderly gentleman, one of the National Trust guides, came up to me and mentioned that as I passed by he smelt the lovely floral fragrance of my scent, and what was it? as he’d like to buy some for his wife! The last time I had my scent remarked upon was when I used to use Worth’s Je Reviens (and still a fragrance I love.)
As the days lengthen and thoughts turn to summer, so I change my scent accordingly …
Here you will see ‘O’ de Lancôme and several other floral scents: Rose Exquise (by Plantes & Parfums) has a very light rose fragrance, as is Rose Regenerante by Panier de Sens. (Both of these I bought from www.frenchsoaps.co.uk)
Roses in the rose garden at RHS Rosemoor, Torrington, North Devon, UK
What surprises me is how different all the various rose scents I have, including Acqua di Parma’s Rose and my rose room spray and pillow mist, actually smell!
Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet is an old favourite – this can be used by both men and women – and forever it will remind me of the many lovely visits my husband and I had to Combe House Hotel near Honiton, Devon, which until 2015 was owned by friends of ours, Ruth and Ken Hunt. After almost 20 years at Combe they sold their hotel and moved to Australia, and Combe House, a Grade 1 Listed Elizabethan manor house, the centrepiece of the 3500 acre Combe Estate, is now The Pig At Combe, one of the group of Pig hotels. Our friends chose Blenheim Bouquet as their ‘house’ scent, for the toiletries of the guests’ rooms, and I will forever associate this fragrance with beautiful Combe.
My latest purchase, and which triggered today’s post, is Quelques Fleurs L’Original by Houbigant (right, above).
However, in their book Perfumes A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez (published 2008) they are somewhat scathing about Quelques Fleurs and say:
“One has to regard with some suspicion a perfume that claims to be the ‘original’ version, much as one does those who preface a statement with ‘I’ll be honest with you.’ It was a 1912 composition, and it is pretty clear that easily half of the materials in the current version did not exist in 1912. I would be prepared to forgive everything in the name of progress if the fragrance were remotely interesting. But it is as dull as floral can be, an olfactory dumb blond that would work well only as an air freshener.”
I don’t know what the perfumers at Houbigant would say to that but I find it delightfully floral and sophisticated. I sometimes think that, as with wine, a lot of remarks are made simply for effect.
In an article some years ago in The Lady, Kate Shapland says: “1912 was a vintage year for scent. Guerlain brought out L’Heure Bleue which, as the first ever oriental, was pronounced scent of the year; Houbigant’s refined Quelques Fleurs came into being; and Caron unveiled Narcisse Noir, a scent based on daffodils and became Gloria Swanson’s signature (she had it sprayed all over the set of Sunset Boulevard before every performance.)” Sadly, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez haven’t many kind words for Narcisse Noir, either, but as I’ve never smelt this fragrance, I cannot comment . But I can say that I have a passion for perfume!