The Royal Nonesuch of Perfume

Several years after we moved to the U.S., we found our friend F. who we knew back in our student days. He emigrated about 8 years before we did, and we lost each other. So it was great to re-connect. But since we settled down on the opposite coasts, we visited each other several times over the years, but mostly our communications were over the phone.

Most conversations with F. revolved around the topics of trips and theater attendance – mostly F.’s since my vSO and I, being new immigrants, weren’t traveling or going to theaters much. We would also talk about books and movies, and there we probably still had a lot in common, though sometimes during those calls I had that strange feeling as if I was being quizzed on how interesting our life was. Most likely, it was all in my head and F. was sincere in his attempts to share with us cultural experiences and impressions but I do remember the feeling and my limp attempts to keep up. And then one day F. told me about a wonderful new film they’d just seen: a very unusual, avant-garde and so forth…

Today I don’t have much patience to waste time on something I dislike, if I can help it. But 17 years ago I patiently sat through the complete 81 minutes of The Blair Witch Project, going through the stages of confusion, disbelief, annoyance, anger and – did I mention disbelief? I couldn’t believe F. actually liked that and recommended it to us! And he wasn’t the only one who raved about it: there were enough high ratings and favorable reviews and articles online. It was beyond my comprehension… And then something clicked: I knew what it was!

AT THE COURT HOUSE!
FOR 3 NIGHTS ONLY!
The World-Renowned Tragedians
DAVID GARRICK THE YOUNGER!
AND
EDMUND KEAN THE ELDER!
Of the London and Continental Theatres,
In their Thrilling Tragedy of
THE KING’S CAMELEOPARD,
OR
THE ROYAL NONESUCH ! ! !
Admission 50 cents.

LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED

I’m not sure if you were as impressionable as I was when I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to remember what that handbill was about, but I was so captivated by the psychological component of the scam that it stayed in my memory for decades.

In short, a couple of scoundrels announce that performance in a small town. First night, when it proves to be not much of a performance, the audience figures out that, in addition to losing money, they will be ridiculed by their peers. So instead of beating up the con artists right there and then, the first half of the town goes out and tells the second half how hilarious the play was. Then the rest of the town’s population pays for the same questionable experience. So the third night the whole town comes to the performance anticipating the revenge and armed with things to throw. But the con men disappear right after collecting the entrance fee.

My theory is that with The Blair Witch Project it just took too long for the “whole town” to watch it, so meanwhile the “first half” had time to cool down.

Recently, after reading Mals’ (Muse in Wooden Shoes) review of Oriza L. Legrand‘s Chypre Mousse, I started thinking that for the last couple of years I was participating in another adaptation of The Royal Nonesuch. And while it’s definitely not on the TBWP’s scale, I would say that it covers a population of at least several Twain’s towns.

The Royal Nonesuch

Mals was the first blogger (out of those whose blogs I read) who openly described how awful her experience with Chypre Mousse perfume was. Until then I read only positive reviews and I paid my “admission fee” (I got a 5 ml decant in a friendly split). The first test was such a shock! I actually hated the scent but suffered through the development hoping it would get better – it didn’t. Then it took me some time to get around testing it once again – the same result but that time I quickly retreated to the shower.

I do not plan to ever test Chypre Mousse again and, just in case, I will probably stay away from the brand altogether. But for some strange reason not only I didn’t write about that experience in my blog, I don’t think I’ve ever commented on any discussion of this perfume. I call it strange because I don’t have any loyalty towards this brand, I didn’t get it as a gift from somebody’s deeply loved bottle and it’s not even a small indie company, which I would be afraid to harm by saying something negative. Of course, it means I wasn’t saying anything good about it either so analogy isn’t complete but still I feel like with my silence I helped propagating the illusion of the consensus about this perfume being great, and one day we may end up in the “third night” crowd, as it was described through the eyes (nose?) of Huckleberry Finn:

I see that every man that went in had his pockets bulging or something muffled up under his coat – and I see it warn’t no perfumery, neither, not by a long sight. I smelt sickly eggs by the barrel, and rotten cabbages, and such things; and if I know the signs of a dead cat being around, and I bet I do, there was sixty-four of them went in.

 

Now, when I feel that I’ve done everything I could to warn “the rest of the town”, I do not mind hearing how great Chypre Mousse works on your skin. Does it?

Advertisements

33 thoughts on “The Royal Nonesuch of Perfume

  1. I never watched TBWP but to me a similar experience was Lost in Translation. ( don’t get me started) I think it’s called mass hysteria ;-) I didn’t like Chypre Mousse, but thought only Kafkaesque waxed lyrical about it, and I’ve seen her do that with several ‘odd ball’ perfumes I knew wouldn’t be me, so I just thought it was a taste thing.
    There are some nice perfumes in the Oriza lineup, although probably you shouldn’t order decants :-)

    • I’ll take your word for it but will probably keep my distance from the line for now. And you should trust me when I advise against ever attempting to watch TBWP ;)

  2. Brilliant and what a great graphic! It’s like The Emperor’s New Clothes.
    Sadly (or not) I haven’t tried Chypre Mousse or seen The Blair Witch Project.

    Are you still in touch with F?

    • Thank you, Tara. It seems I enjoy making “movie posters” (I haven’t checked but I think it’s at least my third, not counting variations on the Twins).

      F. and I do talk to each other from time to time but I’m being cautious with any of his recommendations ;)

    • Steve, any link to your site at any time is welcome!
      I read your review and saw that “bottom line” but you still gave it 2.5 bones! ;)

      I’m glad we agree on the BWP film! I was getting envious reading all those comments above about not having seen the movie.

      • U – I don’t give many perfumes bones under 3, so 2.5 is not a ringing endorsement by any means. I guess I could have gone to 2…but maybe I was trying to be nice as this was getting so much love from everyone.

  3. I loved this post so much – as Tara says, it is similar to The Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome, and though I have read Huckleberry Finn it is so long ago that this marvellous part of the tale hadn’t stayed with me. Not tried the perfume in question, but have seen the film and what a load of old cobblers it was. I felt as you do about Chypre Mousse about Alaia – couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. Hesitated to post a negative take on the scent, but something welled up inside me in the end and I did anyway!

    • “a load of old cobblers” :))

      It’s not that rare that I do not find perfume too interesting while others like it or I like something that leaves others cold – this is something I expect. But the situation when I can’t imagine how anybody can find it pleasant are not that common.

      I thought about the Emperor’s New Clothes, but I think it’s a little different… While in case of the ENC people were reluctant to speak up fearing that they just didn’t understand something while others were “on board” with it, with the Royal Nonesuch they were deliberately propagating the con knowing it was a con – not to be the only ones who had bought into it.

  4. Oh I enjoyed this one. Yes there have been a bunch of perfumes I have really detested that got good reviews and just like TBWP it was almost impossible to understand how any one else could stand them, let alone like them!
    Taste is unpredictable for sure, but sometimes I really don’t understand how certain things can fly- at all. But then I don’t get Game of Thrones and don’t like Angel, so am an oddball myself :-)

    • “how any one else could stand them, let alone like them” – is exactly what I was thinking!

      I couldn’t watch the Game of Thrones, though not because I thought it was that bad – just too intense and involving for me: I don’t want to think about fictional situations and TV characters off-screen other than in passing, remembering a funny scene or a phrase.

      As to the Angel, I’m curious: do you find it unpleasant as a scent (not as a perfume to wear but on its own)?

      • Angel unpleasant…hm, not per se. It’s too pronounced for me, it wears me and makes me feel conspicuous. I once tried wearing it for a couple of days, and annoyed my family in the process. They really didn’t like Angel, or at least, did not like Angel on me.
        Enjoy A*Men and had a bottle of that. I might have liked some of the flankers like the Taste Of series.

  5. I enjoyed this post and the graphic!! As for Chypre Mousse, I know I tried it years ago but I don’t remember anything about it. Absolutely no recollection.
    Talking about not understanding mass hypes, like Vanessa said, I couldn’t get why Alaia was so well received… To me, it smelled so generic and nothing special…

    • Thank you, Magpie. Movie posters inspire me, which is funny since I do not go to cinemas too often or even watch films on TV/DVD/streaming recently, I prefer TV series (which is probably noticeable from my blog since I have several series, to which I keep adding “episodes”).

      “Generic” is actually OK in my book, there I can understand how somebody can enjoy it – even if I don’t. I might be surprised by a high praise to such perfume but tastes are different. Surprises come from the scents that I find unpleasant in general, not just “not working” for me. But it probably just proves how differently we all perceive the smells.

  6. Brilliant use of Huckleberry Finn, especially the last quote. I do very little sampling so I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered that “are you kidding?” feeling. I do, however, try to get a sense of whether I might like something by reading reviews written by those whose tastes are similar.

    As for Lost in Translation, I would agree with Asali. Blair Witch Project; saw the trailer, that was enough.
    I remember may years ago seeing the film, Plenty (which had previously been a play) Her review: “We went to see Plenty, we saw some.” :-)

    • Thank you, Lindaloo.
      If anything comes my way, I usually try it – even if I do not expect to like it. But of course I’m usually more selective when I buy samples/decants. But still it doesn’t always help :)

  7. Hehe, this is such a fun post. I enjoy reading about things people *don’t* enjoy because it just feels so much more legitimate, haha. I have tried Chypre Mousse – because I was told it was so unlike anything else. Perhaps it is unlike anything else, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing either. I’ll probably give my sample another go or so, since I did not find it terribly nauseating (*cough*florabellio*cough*violetchocolatier*) but I doubt I’ll fall in love. To be fair, I don’t think I’m one for mushroom or damp earth in my perfume. I recently bought an unmarked AG at the thrift shop and it smells heavily of a mushroomy thing (perhaps it has gone bad, I really do not know), and quite honestly that damp fungal smell makes my stomach turn ever so slightly. I managed not to shower it off, but it wasn’t a pleasant evening nonetheless. Anyhow – I haven’t found an Oriza yet that I love, but I’ve only tried 3 or so. If you never try another, I think you’ll be fine. There’s no shortage of perfume in this world. =D

    • Thank you, Sun. My rants are usually reserved to the perfume-related events/enterprises/trends that I do not like/condone, I rarely spend efforts on particular perfumes I didn’t enjoy but sometimes…

      Mushrooms isn’t a note for my perfume preferences either but most of those that I tried weren’t as much disagreeable with all of my senses as this one way – you can clearly see that I was traumatized by it ;)

      And yes, you’re right: even if all brands cease producing new perfumes, at the rate I test I’ll be able to get something new for me to test for the next decade easily.

  8. Chypre Mousse! I love it. I’m notorious for buying 30, 50 and 100 mL “samples” but the description was too weird that I decided to get the sample set first…and since trying it for the first time did not repel me AND NST had its first Splitmeet, I decided to host a split of this and have not regretted it. In fact, I feel like I need to buy a back-up bottle the next time I come across a deal!

    Alaia was on my list of Must Try and I was disappointed on first sniff.

    There are a few bloggers whose reviews carry more weight for me than others. For example, since Lucas and I have very similar tastes (as you know wink wink), I tend to end up dismissing the ones that did not get a glowing review from him. Just about the only one that he loves but which I could not stand despite trying numerous times is Oud Palao. As for Kafka, our tastes are less similar and that helps but when our tastes converge, wowee!

    • Well, my dear, you were the reason I bought the decant (I participated in your split): I can hardly think of any perfumes that you liked and I didn’t (well, maybe a couple) and I don’t remember actively disliking any of the perfumes that either Lucas or you liked (I thought there was a case or two but I don’t remember which perfumes). We might vary in the level of liking the same perfume but to have the opposite opinion – this is something new! :) You also were a reason why I tried it for the second time: I couldn’t believe that it could be that horrible for me when you liked it enough to buy a bottle! :) And then you were the reason why I was reluctant to write about it – and I wouldn’t have, probably, if it had been a gift from you. But since I participated in the official split, I decided I was justified (I hope it didn’t offend you).

      I’m glad that it works for you even though I still can’t wrap my head around this fact! :)

      With Kafka I get amazed every time when we both dislike the same perfume on the similar level of intensity (it doesn’t happen too often), as to the liking the same perfume – it happens even less often (but it did several times). With the majority, I could probably safely skip testing the perfumes she really liked.

      • Heh, I forgot that you participated in my split! And I absolutely don’t ever get offended if someone does not like a perfume I love, even if that perfume was sourced through yours truly — life is too short! And it is very unusual for us to have totally opposite reactions :-)

  9. I have a sample of this that I haven’t tried yet. Now I’m not so sure I want to. I had a feeling I might not like it so I’ve been hesitant.
    I hated that damn movie. Almost got up and walked out.

    • Next time, when you feel that strongly about anything, just don’t tolerate it! Life is too short to suffer fools, pretentious movies or bad perfumes. As to the Chypre Mousse, since you do have a sample already, as well you could try it to judge for yourself – just make sure to do it with a warm water and soap on a stand-by – just in case ;)

  10. I’m also a bit of a Chypre Mousse fan, though never quite got to springing for a full bottle. I should, though. I think it works well on me, and I didn’t lose interest in it through several wearings. I’m with Vanessa though, on Alaia: I entirely failed to find anything interesting or even just boringly pleasant in it. Perhaps it just dies on my skin. My bigger bafflement was with one of the vero scents that everyone adores… I got completely overwhelmed by the passion fruit in it, and found it sickly.

    • Out of all vero’s perfumes only Mito and Kiki smell nice on my skin but even with those that don’t work for me I can understand how they might be pleasant for somebody else, and they don’t smell bad for me on paper – just on my skin. With “not interesting”, “generic” and “boring” perfumes I also can understand: they might be good/unusual/interesting enough with different experience or expectations. But CM… We must have differently tuned receptors – I can’t explain it otherwise.

      • Individual taste differences fascinate me… The whole “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” thing. Whether it’s different receptors, different associations, emotional resonance, or what ever is behind it, the way we all find delight (or lack of delight) in different things is glorious. And sometimes a reassuringly boring perfume is exactly what I need–sometimes I don’t want my scent to be the stepping forwards to take all my attention. But Nothing will ever persuade me that custard in any form is delicious, though, that Dan Brown is a good writer, or that TBWP was a good film. Nope. (But I can enjoy Game of Thrones for the costumes if nothing else.)

  11. It has been some time since I tried Chypre Mousse but I remember being disappointed. I was surprised because, as you say, it was getting lots of love and I generally love chypres. I remember it going flat and just sort of nasty. It made me hesitate to try the line (although I love the graphics on their bottles!). I don’t know about you, but I find that generally a line will either smell great on my skin, or the whole line will fail on my skin … I guess it’s just skin chemistry. I had a similar feeling about Alaia. I didn’t dislike it, just didn’t feel particularly special.

    I love the Huck Finn analogy. Such a great book.Thanks for the reminder. And I love your kitty’s face–best part of the poster. :)

    Very interesting article.

    • Thank you, synthia! I’m glad you liked it.

      I agree, usually brands either work for me or they don’t and in a while I’m less inclined to even test those that on previous occasions didn’t do anything for me – even if everybody else loves them.

  12. Thanks, Undina, for this post. I haven’t tried Chypre Mousse, but had heard the hype. I appreciate your stance as the first lone voice. You were clever and kind, which is a difficult pitch to hit.

    I agree with the Alaia naysayers above. It’s the fragrance that stopped my unsniffed purchases–thank heavens I waited until it was more widely available to try. Now when I think about buying unsniffed, I remember Alaia. (Deep apologies to the lovers out there, but it was not for me.).

    Please write what’s in your heart and nose! You have an amazing writing voice. Be well.

    • hemlocksillage, you’re too kind. Thank you for the encouragement and good wishes.

      Somehow that Alaia hype missed me completely: I think I heard something about it but nothing more. But I’m glad that it helped you to stay off unsniffed purchases: it’s almost always a bad idea, in my opinion.

What's on your mind? (I encourage posting relating links to your posts)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s