Dear Scent Diary,
I try never to buy perfume on first sniff. First of all, it’s impossible to get a sense of how it wears on your skin during the course of a day. Will it last? Will it change? If it does, in an interesting way or in a way you’d rather it didn’t? And then there are the less quantifiable reasons – will I get bored with it or decide in a week that the gorgeous elixir in the store is actually unwearable in my daily life.
The key word in the first sentence above of course is ‘try’. My perfume hobby is useless to me if it isn’t entertaining and enjoyable and sometimes illogical and impractical. And so on my recent trip to Seattle, when I fell in love with Byredo’s Bal D’Afrique at Barney’s, I happily committed the first sniff purchase sin.
The initial whiff reeled me in: a slightly musky, juicy citrus note – a blend of bergamot, vetiver and orange blossom gives the impression of sweet juicy orange (I gather since orange isn’t listed as an official note on their website). At this point early on, there are similarities to Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal’s opening blast. As it develops though, they diverge down different paths – Vetiver Fatal towards a dry green woodiness, and Bal d’Afrique towards a musky, cedar-y, yet still juicy dry-down.
Overall, Bal D’Afrique is light, juicy to the end, extremely well-blended, lasts and is downright gorge-licious. And how does it fare on all the caution points I listed above? Pretty damn well. It does last (10 or more hours on me with liberal application), it does change to a take on a musky, woody character but retains the sweet juiciness that grabbed me originally, and it does keep my interest.
One of the most telling perfume occasions is when you’re going to be meeting someone for the first time and you’d like to make a favourable impression. Which scent do you choose? Sure it depends on the type of person you’re meeting and how they fit into your life (is it your mother-in-law or a new business associate?). But regardless, this kind of stress test for my perfume collection often produces some very useful information.
On two such occasions (a dinner party and a new client meeting) I reached for Bal D’Afrique. Granted, it has the shine of a new love, but the boxes it checked for me are what was telling – it’s what I chose to give a breezy, appealing, carefree, and happy impression at the dinner party and a ‘not trying too hard’ impression at the client meeting. Huh.
As far as new acquisitions go, I’d call it a great success.