Perfume Layering: Truth or Dare?


I have never had that urge to experiment mixing perfumes. I hadn’t come up with the idea of scents layering on my own but once I had been introduced to it I loved it. The idea.

In 2000 Calvin Klein released Truth. It is attributed to 3 (three!) well-known perfumers – Alberto Morillas, Jacques Cavallier and Thierry Wasser – if you ask me, any one of them would have been enough but whatever went on with this perfume creation, not knowing or caring about notes or noses behind perfumes back then, I liked  Truth and immediately bought a bottle and a set of five Truth Oil Essences. Each one represented a note in the perfume – bamboo, citrus, sapling, lilac and vanilla. They could be applied one at a time or in any combination with or without the perfume.

CK Truth Oil Essences

As I said, I liked the idea of combining notes, being my own perfumer, enhancing one aspect of the perfume or the other dependent on my mood… The unfortunate part was that oil-based components were so subtle that worn alone they gave almost no projection, I could barely smell them from my wrist pressed to my nose; and applied on top of the perfume they were completely lost (not sure if you remember but Truth wasn’t even the heaviest of this brand’s perfumes out there: CK Obsession or Contradiction it was not – and still…). Applying oils was more hassle than results so while I went through two bottles of Truth EdP my essences stayed hardly touched.

A year later, in 2001, Michael Kors launched a collection of three fragrances called Notes from Michael. The collection included three fragrances (40 ml each), which could be worn alone or combined with each other: Glenplaid, Houndstooth and Tattersall. The set was expensive (I think, $120). A bit too expensive for our budget. But I really liked the idea… My vSO got if for me as a gift for my birthday.

Michael Kors Notes from Michael

I tried playing the layering game. Tattersall was my favorite so I almost finished it. Glenplaid was fine (2/3 of the bottle found its place on my skin). Houndstooth didn’t attract me at all so the only time I used it was in the combination with one of the other two but since it wasn’t adding anything to the composition more often than not I started skipping that extra step. So the bottle went off almost full.

And then I discovered Jo Malone. I think I loved the brand before I finished sniffing through the complete line: the idea of fragrance combining itself was enough to sell it to me.

Jo Malone Perfumes

Over years I’ve added to my collection more perfumes from Jo Malone line than from any else. You can’t even imagine how many times I wore different Jo Malone’s perfumes layered! Do you want to guess? No? It’s ok, I’ll tell you: three times. I like those perfumes “as is” and do not want to mess with the original composition.

I still like the idea of layering but in reality I’m with Birgit: Who am I to tamper with well-thought out and finely balanced creations? I won’t dare.

For more adventurous perfumistas I recommend reading Victoria’s (Bois de Jasmin) Layering Fragrances : Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena and French Elle and Elisa’s (The French Exit) On the Scent: Adventures in Perfume Layering.


Images: my own


My First Gender-Bending Perfume Fling: Givenchy Pi

In the nineties my perfume adventures were limited by what mass market ladies’ counters had to offer. But since there were much less new mainstream releases back then, usually after getting familiar with everything available for the appropriate gender I would entertain myself sniffing what was offered to gentlemen telling myself that my vSO might need one more bottle (as if he was running out of those four or five I’d previously persuaded him he would love).

One day while smelling new masculine releases I suddenly found myself drawn to one perfume.

Pi by Givanchy

π (Pi) by Givenchy – created in 1998 by Alberto Morillas, notes (according to Fragrantica) include basil, rosemary, tarragon, mandarin, neroli, geranium, lily of the valley, anise, vanilla, tonka, cedar, benzoin, almond and yellow sugar.

I liked it. Not for my vSO – for myself. I kept going back to the counter to try it again and again. It felt strange because, in my mind, there was supposed to be a strict distinction: feminine perfumes, masculine colognes and some new trendy creations called unisex (but those that I’d come across then were neither fish nor fowl). One day an SA struck a conversation with me and I admitted that I was thinking about buying it for myself. I don’t think she whispered but she definitely lowered her voice when she told me, in confidence, as if it was something about what people do not talk out loud, that many women like masculine perfumes. What was more important, she gave me a couple of samples of Pi.

When the samples were gone I bought a bottle. I think it was my way of breaking out of the habitual floral perfumes I used to favor (and probably still do). I wore Pi Eau de Toilette pour Homme reveling in my eccentricity and fearlessness. I think I liked not as much the perfume itself but that feeling of dare. And then we just grew apart. I didn’t suddenly start disliking Pi – I just didn’t feel like wearing it anymore.

Last year a friend of mine whose birthday is today, March 14th (M., if you’re reading this – Happy Birthday!), told me about that day being known as a Pi-Day. I’ve never heard about it before: having grown up with the European date system I’ve never seen the connection between 14/03/YY and number Pi. It was too late to do anything last year but I told her that if I would still be blogging in a year I’d write a story about this perfume since I kept this bottle for the last ten years. And I would have missed it again if it weren’t for her reminding me.

So here’s my Pi-Day story about Pi – the first masculine perfume I bought for myself. Now it goes into the Retirement Box.

I haven’t found any real reviews. Either it was really that bad or at least it wasn’t good enough for anybody to contradict Luca Turin’s disparaging comment in the Guide.

Do you remember your first perfume that crossed the gender line?

Image: my own