So instead I thought I would just play a game with myself - as I did nearly exactly three years ago, it turns out! - to pick my Top 20 Desert Island Perfumes at the moment. A compact capsule collection, if you will, to last me until the next time I change my mind, as surely I will. Yes, I thought it would be interesting to compare the results of this latest exercise with my previous list, though this time round my focus has been as much on the possible ways to go about such a selection, and which methods I ended up choosing, as my fragrance choices in themselves.
I have just had a quick look back at my previous post to see which MO I used there: in 2014 the first phase of the process was to get all my bottles out and stare long and hard at them, then make a list of the perfumes I would actually buy again. I came up with 19 out of 70(!). Then I scratched my head and asked myself: 'Which perfumes do I wish I had bought instead?' and came up with a further 16. And promptly had to knock five off the first list to come up with a final (and somewhat luxurious, it now seems to me) tally of 30. Helped by the fact that I am probably in even more of a plateau phase of my hobby, three years on - assuming it is possible to have plateaus of varying degrees of flatness - I am going to limit myself this time to a whoppingly whittled 20.
|There are some scarf albatrosses in there also.|
So without further ado here are the MOs I used/considered:
The burning building speed grab method
Otherwise known as: 'Which perfume bottles would you save if you only had minutes to leave a burning building?' (You may rescue up to 20, and it doesn't matter if you don't own them in the first place.) By dint of including imaginary bottles, this is in effect a cunning fusion of the two methods I used in 2014. And is more or less what I did this time, namely, I took a sheet of blank paper and tried to come up with my top 20 perfumes in a spontaneous and fairly speedy brain dump. So that pretty much is it, and I could almost stop the post right here, except that I did go on to refine my selection by partially dabbling in other methods along the way...
The systematic review of ALL perfumes owned, including samples, to determine favourites
This goes beyond Phase 1 of the actual method used last time, and in 2017 fell at the first fence. I couldn't be bothered to even open the cupboard to look at a couple of boxes of full bottles, never mind my decant drawer and seven bulging bags of samples. I took all these photos after writing my post! So by setting the bar too high, I was quickly paralysed by inertia, preferring to rely on a much more knee jerk MO of what I could remember I liked off the top of my head. As a result, I may well have forgotten some major loves. Even though as a market researcher, I always maintain that unprompted beats prompted recall every time, so I may have been unduly swayed by my professional principles here. ;)
The travel bag 'nuclear precedent' method
Ex-Mr Bonkers used to worry about falling sick and a dep taking his place in one of the many bands he played in, on the premise that the last man to do a gig is likely to get the call next time. So by the same token, it could be argued that whatever scents are in my 'grab and go' travel bag - a variant on the burning building concept you might say - are ones that I have enjoyed wearing recently and which might equally serve as a capsule wardrobe 'going forward' (did I really say that, even in inverted commas? - shoot me now!). But I wasn't buying that argument and didn't even look in the bag, firmly believing I should cast the net of my mind more widely, notwithstanding its wide mesh (and the associated big holes of my recall).
The fragrance family method
I entertained this briefly, noting that there was nothing on my list that resembled a citrus cologne, and promptly dismissed it. Why should I have to include colognes or chypres for the sake of some vague impulse of deference to Michael Edwards? I mean wheely? And maybe some of them ARE chypres, you never know. I obviously wasn't going to take the time to find out, though it might have been quite revealing. I know in my heart that I am ineluctably and primarily drawn to wistful powdery orientals, sultry florals with a twist, and the odd soft leather, and if that means I end up doing the fragrance selection equivalent of buying 25 pinky nude lipsticks and nary a one in that orangey red that would also suit me, so be it. Or buying the same shirt in every colourway, as I observed last time.
|My complete 'winter collection' against a backdrop of snowy duvet!|
The scents for all seasons method
Now this is an MO I did toy with, and in the direction of which I do in fact partly nod, though not so slavishly as to segment my picks by all four seasons. I just kept a vague eye on whether I had wintery orientals and ambers in the mix as well as some summery florals - that could equally be springlike if we don't confine that season merely to scents with notes of hyacinth, daffodil and narcissus. I do actually keep both my full bottles and samples in bags for 'winter' and 'summer', so this split is clearly meaningful for me.
|My complete summer collection' against a backdrop of blue blanket sky!|
The scents for all occasions method
As I work from home, if I work at all, and the 'holidays' I take tend to be going on tour with The Monochrome Set and loitering on station platforms rather than lazing on sun loungers, I am more or less immune to the classic 'occasion-based' perfume wardrobe categories along the lines of 'office appropriate', 'beachy', 'kicking back on a Saturday in a crisp white shirt and jeans', 'dolled up to the nines for a Christmas party straight out of Love Actually' etc. I pretty much have 'sitting in the bedroom I use as a home office', 'going to Lidl', 'visiting my elderly friend', and 'going to gigs' scents - I shall resist adding 'poking round garages and hedges looking for the cat' scents, in the hope that those episodes are not to be repeated. So as you can imagine, this method barely flitted into my mind before flitting right out again.
The covering all my favourite notes method
Well, I entertained this one for a millisecond and it went straight onto the 'too hard' pile. There are so many notes I like, that to achieve a balanced collection where they are all represented with no undue weighting towards one or another would need the mindset of an investment manager balancing a portfolio of cash, gilts, property, bonds, bellwether tracker funds, slightly riskier ones in emerging markets, and a punt on the Health Lottery. I did vaguely notice along the way that certain fragrances had rose or lily or ylang ylang in - and I know I like those - but if I am picking scents I like overall in the first place you would think I must be homing in on my favourite notes, even if only at a subliminal level.
The scents I had happy times in method
Now this one was quite appealing, but I tried to resist picking scents this way, confining myself to a selection based on a perfume's intrinsic appeal rather than experiential association. It is theoretically possible to have a brilliant time wearing a very mediocre scent, which then gets uprated just because it happened to be in the right place at the right time. So I ditched that as an MO, though I will say there are a handful of scents in my shortlist whose wearing does bring back happy memories, but which made the cut largely on their own merits.
The 'inclusive' perfume house / perfumer approach (I am a bit 'method'-ed out at this point)
This started out as a casual (retrospective) consideration of whether I had at least one scent each from Chanel and Guerlain in my shortlist (I do!) - just because they are behemoths, no more that that - and segued into musings on whether I should consciously include the work of indie perfumers I admire and/or like as individuals (whether I have met them or not - this exercise is getting more and more abstract :) ). But I decided that despite certain personal leanings, that shouldn't influence my fragrance choices, and concentrated solely on the perfumes, regardless of provenance. I have to say that there would be a slew of such scents bubbling under the top 20, but I have been very strict, sadly.
The Bois de Jasmin seal of approval approach!
Now at this point the plot thickens and takes an unusual turn...with my 20 perfumes more or less in the imaginary bag, I was googling the note lists at the end of Victoria's reviews of some of them on Bois de Jasmin - I know, I know, I cracked a little bit about the notes! - and realised in passing that the first few perfumes I looked up were (quite fortuitously) either rated by her as four - or even five stars. So I immediately stopped paying any attention to the notes(!) and started googling reviews of my shortlist purely from a star point of view, to see how consistently my selection lined up with Victoria's seal of approval. And it transpired that all of the scents on my list had either been awarded four or five stars or were not featured at all, which may or may not be significant. I am sure I have seen three star reviews on BDJ, and I hope I haven't picked a mix of her favourites and a bunch of other ones she rates too poorly to feature, being as diplomatic by nature as she is erudite, dainty, and winsomely immersed in the culture of her native Ukraine.
So there you have it...a list completely conjured up out of nowhere, with a few backward glances at other selection approaches, which slightly influenced the outcome round the margins.
Drum roll...please feel free to heckle at me, with pained cries of: 'But hey, you forgot xxxx!' (Not least the accents, I know...)
Am splitting my list loosely into 'wintery' and 'summery', which is not to say I wouldn't break those rules too, obviously.
Chanel Bois des Iles
Caron Parfum Sacre
Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Chine
Ormonde Jayne Ta'if
Parfumerie Generale Brulure de Rose
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Cimabue
Flower by Kenzo Oriental
Christian Dior Ambre Nuit
House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved**
Annick Goutal Songes
Ann Gerard Perle de Mousse
Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle Carnal Flower
Mona di Orio Tubereuse
Serge Lutens Un Lys
Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess
ELDO Fils de Dieu, du Riz, et des Agrumes
En Voyage Perfumes Zelda
**NB This was very nearly Aroma M Geisha Noire, and may yet flipflop to that some day.
And how many of these do I actually own? Er....four! (See top photo.) I did own Brulure de Rose, but it is all gone. Not that there is much left of three of the four fragrances in question. And I must still have 50-60 bottles in my collection in total, some of them inveterate albatrosses. The most distressing of these have been relegated to the cupboard under the stairs or a special plastic bucket dedicated to 'aspirational sales'.
I would love to know if you have had a go at compiling your own top 20 scents lately, and if so, whether it was a struggle, and what made the cut. In the light of people's comments, I could be mightily tempted to do mine all over again!
Hmm, yes, that is yet another possible selection MO, come to think of it:
'The what do my fellow perfumistas rate' method