Have you ever lost your scent mojo? Then if this has happened to you, lately, I would like to suggest – if you live within striking distance of Oxford Street – that you might like to head towards the Dior Maison de Parfums, in Selfridges. (It’s catty-corner from the Chanel fragrance boutique, which may mean atomisers at dawn for the brands themselves, but it’s heavenly for scentophiles.)
The Scent Critic has had sniffer’s block, you see. I put it down to a rather tawdry little scent of which I took a spectacularly gorgeous picture (if I say so myself) but – try as I might – could not bring myself to blog about. It was too cheap. Too headachey. Too… damned awful, actually. And then the other day, I sat down for a one-on-one consultation on a comfy sofa at the Dior Maison de Parfums, and was led by the hand – and the nose – through the 10 intriguing and mostly downright gorgeous Collection Privée creations that are exclusively available in this scent oasis, a footstep from one of the world’s most nightmarish (to me) shopping streets.
You can sniff and spritz to your heart’s content in this glamorous department, but I can recommend a ‘consultation’ with one of the rather well-trained, Dior-clad beauties who seem justifiably to be pinching themselves at their good fortune for landing this fragrant gig. You’ll be asked what you like, scent-wise, but also several ‘personality’ questions – are you a party person or do you like evenings in…?, for instance – before smelling a ‘shortlist’ of spills that have been secretly spritzed with the scents, out of more than a couple of dozen Dior scents in all, which the consultant has at her immaculately-varnished fingertips. (Partly so that you don’t have any preconceptions about what you’re being asked to smell. About, for instance, J’Adore, never mind the infamous Poison…) The idea is you end up with a recommendation for night (for me, it was Ambre Nuit), and for day.
Actually, it’s a day fragrance from the Collection Privée that started my pulse racing again. Milly-la-Forêt is a cologne, essentially, which I found an excellent zoosh-it-all-over cool-down in the recent burst of hot weather. (All the Maison de Parfums scents – which do not come cheap – come in chic, hefty, chunky spray flacons with magnetised black caps.)
Blink and you’ll miss the pleasing citrus topnotes in this: unlike most colognes, it’s pretty light on the mandarin and bergamot, the tang of which is swiftly softened by powdery, almost velvety heart notes: orange blossom, iris (that’ll be the powder, then), and the daintiest touch of jasmine. The perfumer’s notes (it’s by in-house ‘nose’ François Demachy, like the rest of the Maison creations) say that it’s ‘cottony’ – and it sure does have a hint of the Johnson’s Baby Powders about it, that nostalgic quality that whisks you right back there, being swaddled by your mum in a fluffy towel after bath-time. Or doing the same, for your own toddler.
This is named after Christian Dior’s own country retreat, Milly-la-Forêt, and is designed to conjure up the ‘tranquility of this millhouse in the woods, a veritable haven of peace…’ I really do find it almost aromatherapeutically calming. Damp, almost mossy at times. Then when it’s hung around a while, a soft muskiness emerges that adds a dimension lacking in conventional colognes, which has you slightly compulsively sniffing your own body in that way ‘skin-like’ scents have.
Yet the overall effect is still cool and green, not exotic and sexy. This is something you’d wear for your own pleasure. (Although this is not an opinion shared by other scent bloggers, who’ve in some cases been – well, more than a bit sniffy about this.) The Scent Critic doesn’t give a damn what anyone else thinks: this brings my pulse instantly down, like one of those stress-relieving essential oil blends, only much more glamorously. And even if it’s an illusion, it feels usefully like it’s bringing my temperature down, too. (Happily there are myriad other Dior creations to switch to, when winter sweeps in and something cosier is called for.)
I like it. A lot. Because it’s so not overwhelming, I can re-zoosh several times in a day and go through the whole unfurling process again: the scent equivalent of watching time-lapse photography. And for getting The Scent Critic’s mojo back, I’ll always be a little bit in Milly-la-Forêt’s debt. Which is lucky, because I have the luxury of nine more Maison de Parfums creations to work my way through.
Next up? One for my fellow vetiveraholics. Watch this space. I’ll be back in the twitch of a nostril. Promise…