Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Revisiting an old scent

My first "real" perfume was Hermes Caleche. I received it as a gift from my roommate's boyfriend. I'll always be grateful to him, even though I don't remember his name.

I had a birthday coming up and I remember whining that noone ever gave me "feminine" presents. I always got books and records (I almost typed CDs and then had to remind myself they weren't around then). I believe (but I wouldn't swear to it) that I even specifically stated that I'd like to receive perfume as a gift.

Whatever it was I said exactly, this nice young man gave me a bottle of Caleche. Not only did I not expect a gift from him, for I hardly knew the fellow, but I certainly didn't expect a bottle of French perfume.

I found it an enchanting scent, feminine without being flowery. It became my "signature scent". When I used up my first bottle, I wanted to buy another, and went to a department store. They didn't sell it! The sales woman told me I had to go to the Hermes store or that, perhaps, one of the perfume discounters in lower Manhattan might have it.

I was terribly intimidated by the idea of going into the Hermes flagship store. That place sold little scarves for hundreds of dollars! But I didn't have to, for the woman behind the counter at Altman's was right - I was able to buy some Caleche at a small discount perfume store. I still remember the shock on the store clerk's face as I asked if they carried Caleche. Such an old-fashioned perfume, and I certainly didn't look like anyone who would wear it. The Hermes came in an awfully dull beige bottle which just screamed conservative. I, on the other hand, wore strange clothes I made myself, nearly white facial powder and red eyeshadow. Not your typical Caleche wearer.

When I moved to Maine in 1991, I brought my perfume collection with me. But soon, I realized that wearing scent was just not part of my new life. I could not imagine wearing perfume while attending to my sheep. It didn't fit. Besides, I was so in love with all the new smells of nature, I didn't want anything to stand in the way of that. So, I gave my perfume to the Salvation Army. I'm sorry I didn't keep it, for everything I had has been reformulated.

Tonight, I finally opened up the sample vial of Caleche that I have in my possession. I've been putting it off for months. Knowing that it would be different (and having read all the bad reviews) I felt like revisiting it would be like smelling the scent of dissapointment. I'm in a bad mood this evening, so I figured it couldn't make it worse, but it might make it better. Either I would be pleasantly taken back to one of those lovely firsts in life or I would be, well, dissapointed. But, really, I was expecting something truly awful, so there was nothing to lose.

I opened the vial. My first impression, "No! It smells the same! What were they talking about?!" Ah. I smiled.

It took, at most, a full minute for my reaction to take a sudden turn. That first impression was about as fleeting as they come. Around the time I started to smile, my nose sent me a message, "Hold on a moment. That was a ruse."

And so it was. What has changed? The first moment, so perfectly like the original, turns immediately into baby powder. And not a nice baby powder, but used baby powder. Not a pretty picture. And certainly, not a nice scent.

Oh well.


Anonymous said...

oh, that's too bad...Is Caleche supposed to be a leather chypre? I mean the way it used to be?
I never smelled it but I saw Liz Zorn have a few vintage bottles of Caleche for sale at her boutique in Ohio, she had bought them from an old perfume store that went out of business. That was about a year ago, she might still have it. Just saying...I know how tragic it is when old loves get reformulated.

Julie H. Rose said...

That's odd. I left a comment about two hours ago and now it's gone.

Said I, "I'm not going to track down the original when there are SO many great new fragrances out there."

Have to move on like one does with a lover who is not the person they once were. . .

Anonymous said...

It's good you're taking it in stride:) Plus, you're right, there are great things out there to be discovered.