My Taste in Perfume Hasn't Changed — It Simply Grew Up

I still love how the perfume of my teen years smells, but I can't bring myself to wear it.
Publish date:
August 3, 2016
perfume, vanilla, Serge Lutens, vanilla fragrances, growing up, Comptoir Sud Pacifique

When I was younger, my biggest concern regarding my personal fragrance was whether or not other people would find it pleasing. This probably describes how teenagers approach lots of situations, though. You want to choose something you like, something that is really you, but avoid crossing into the territory of intruding on the comfort of those around you. That, or I could just be the epitome of a polite Canadian.

When I was younger, I didn't want to wear anything too loud, too dark, or too offensive because the last thing I wanted was to be that girl walking down the hall with the cloud of perfume that had everyone curled over in a coughing fit. Maybe it reminded me too much of the overly used body spray the jocks would douse their designated hall with. I can't imagine navigating the halls of high school with any sort of fragrance-related allergy.

In the time since, even as a "grownup," I've noticed a very specific factor in my perfume choices has remained: vanilla. My love for the sickly sweet has evolved into a search for the rich, boozy elements of a more sultry vanilla (very present in my bottle of Bond No.9 New Haarlem). I find myself drawn to a more rounded-out scent, often featuring an earthy or powdery dry-down. I've realized you can love a singular element of a fragrance and build around that.

I took my love of vanilla and, over the years, have cultivated a very specific idea of what I want my perfume to smell like. It's how I fell so in love with Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille and my current favorite purchase, Jeux De Peau. Both scents are warm, powdery variations of what I love about vanilla. Jeux De Peau isn't even a vanilla scent, but it definitely draws on the gourmand, decadent factor of my favorite (sickly sweet) teenage perfume, Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanille Extreme.

Vanille Extreme is a spot-on olfactory creation of a warm, fluffy vanilla cupcake with a towering pile of sweet vanilla icing on top, and it had people stopping me in the street asking me how I smelled so good. Grown women were asking me what I was wearing because they wanted to purchase it, so I guess my perception of a grown-up perfume is all relative.

It's a perfect example of how what I consider an adult perfume can being completely off by someone else's standards. You might consider perfume "adult" based on the price or quality of ingredients instead of the actual smell. You could consider anything vanilla (the backbone to most of my favorite fragrances) completely juvenile and dismiss it entirely. It's all about your personal history, your experiences, and the emotions each scent brings up for you.

My sister has worn the same perfume, Marc Jacobs Daisy, since she was a teenager, and she'll argue to the death about how she thinks the concept of an "adult" perfume counteracts finding something that is fundamentally you. It's a fair argument to make. Feigning a love for products or fragrances because you feel you are supposed to like them completely defeats the purpose of the product. It's supposed to amplify who you are, not stifle it.

It also makes me wonder if we really make that much of a leap from the perfume of our youth to what we wear as adults. Like I mentioned, I realized my favorite adult perfumes still draw on the defining factors of my sickly sweet teenage scent. I've just found versions of it that I find more sophisticated.

So what makes something an adult perfume? If my sister (and I'm sure many others) can continue to wear the same scent for years, spanning many life experiences, why do I feel I can't? How do you decide what is or isn't a grown-up perfume?

As much as I'd love to spritz on some Vanille Extreme like my sister can with Daisy, I don't think I could take myself seriously if I wore it. Not that I dislike the scent, but I associate it with a much softer, more naive version of myself. It would feel too strange to revisit something that completely defined an entire section of my life.

The sickly sweetness of Vanille Extreme represents the naive, innocent Sam I no longer embody. I suppose that scent memory is the defining factor, the line between the perfume of my youth to those I wear today. I still love gourmands, but they have to have a little edge to them. Who knows — I might repurchase a bottle of Vanille Extreme out of nostalgia some day. I just don't know that I could ever wear it.

· What did you wear when you were younger? Would you still wear it now?

· When you hear "adult perfume" what do you think of?

· Do you see people differently based on the perfume they wear?