I’m an introvert. When I was a kid in after-school care, the aides always joked with my mom that I was a terror and they couldn’t control me—because I would literally sit in the corner with a book until she came and picked me up. At the same time, I like a good party, and I need to be social. I don’t like to party for partying’s sake–I’m not a club person. I like gatherings with friends, weddings, dancing at a bar when my friend is the dj.
The two scents I tried recently at Merz Apothecary speak to these two sides of my personality. Naturally I had to try a perfume called Old Books. Conceptually, this scent is a subtle recognition of the duality of the intellect and the body. There’s a definite patchouli note, on a background of incense, which is created by frankincense, myrrh, elemi, and olibanum. The overall effect is one of warm, old paper with candle smoke hanging in the air, as if a book had gathered the smells of a well-used library over the centuries, including sweat and other human emanations. One thinks of monks hunched over their manuscripts, alchemists doing their mystical experiments, scholars studying by candlelight late into the night. It’s very soft, definitely a close-to-the body scent rather than something dramatic. Consequently it’s perfect for nerdy book lovers. I love the way the muskiness becomes more prominent during the dry-down–it reminds me of Tocca’s Cleopatra in that way, although it’s a quite different perfume.
Meanwhile, Byredo’s Inflorescence could not be more opposite of Old Books. An unapologetically floral perfume, Luckyscent appropriately calls it “supercharged,” which is a great way to describe the flume of lily of the valley, magnolia, freesia, and jasmine that hits you right out of the gate. It really is like an overflowing wedding bouquet, with the various blooms asserting their dominance like a floral mood ring: sometimes it’s the lily of the valley that overcomes you, other times the jasmine. Yet this fierce floral is never piercing. Instead, this is a scent that envelops you. I envision a trellis of flowers rising from the ground at one’s feet to arch over your head, surrounding you with an almost palpable halo of scent. Unlike Old Books, this is not for a quiet evening among friends. This is a scent for the ball, to dance and dance to the orchestra until your toes bleed.
This is why so many have trouble identifying a “signature scent”–sometimes you need a perfume for every aspect of your ever-changing mood.