Since I can remember my Granddad smoked. It was cigarillos for the longest time, but when I was about 10 he moved to the pipe. I remember one of my aunts picking up the cube of pipe tobacco from the end of the kitchen table, saying “Gosh, I love the smell of it.” I remember the corridor of the house, late in the evening, filling with the sweet, earthy, smokey scent. At the determined age of 75, he quit smoking. But my love for that end of the scent spectrum didn’t.
It’s no surprise that my preferred perfumes feature many of these qualities. Darker, more opulent, raw fragrances. Those that say more Dive Bar Diva, than Pretty in Prosecco …
YSL Black Opium was instantly one of my favourite perfumes as soon at it was released the Christmas before last. Featuring in my first Scent Spectrum on Florals as the edgy alternative to classic white florals. The Opium family are very much tailored to the IT Girl of the era they’re made in, sophisticated with a air of mystery. My idea of the ideal sweet scent comes from soft spices, in this instance it comes from pink pepper and an almost chocolatey note that is carried through the black coffee base. White flowers and vanilla are the feminine touch, while pachouli and cedar give the green, earthy base – these would often be the heart of many mens fragrances, pulling us into an enigmatic androgynous scent that I simply cant get enough of!
Just in time for Valentine’s day this year, Black Opium gains a partner in crime in the form of Black Opium Nuit Blanche. It has a lot in common with its scent sister. Caffeine hit, orange blossom for a soft, white heart, and the warm spicy base that draws you in deeper and deeper. However it’s been rebalanced. Firstly, the vanilla isn’t as prominent, and the sweetness of the pink pepper is replaced with a gently smoked bourbon pepper. There’s a nod to classic formulas with the introduction to a more powdery element right at the end – my weakness! Named for a Parisienne all-night arts festival, that alone should tell you everything you need to know. I didn’t think anything could top Black Opium in my mind, but Blanche Nuit has blindsided me. If you see this in store, don’t dare sniff it from the bottle – a spritz on each wrist, and enjoy it when you have a moment, and again as the day goes on, and again as night falls and the air cools. It’s transformative, transfixing, and timeless. Can you tell I like it?
Okay, so a scent-snob like me, you’d be forgiven for thinking I steer clear of celebrity perfumes, but not Lady Gaga. I really liked her first fragrance, Fame, as a welcome digression from the overwhelmingly sweet, synthetic florals too many were pedaling. This sweetness came from honey and balsamic and apricot fruit – and I really liked it, so I instinctively added her next release, Eau De Gaga, at the top of my wish list. The bottle has nothing on the Nick Knight design of it predecessor, but it doesn’t need the showpiece like the black fluid or any of that, because it’s a star in its own right. All black bar its simple silver label, out of darkness wafts rich woods and aged leather, enveloping like an old oversized leather armchair. Settling into the crevices is a powdery floral to round it out and a light lime citrus cuts through the top so that you don’t get too comfortable. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t think this fragrance got nearly enough of the hype the first did. It’s fast becoming the perfume I wear for myself, when I want something soft and seductive, and I already dreading my little bottle running low.