Friday, September 25, 2009

Changing taste

Fall has arrived. Though it crept up slowly, it feels as if it's all so sudden. This morning is gray and there is a blanket of leaves upon the ground. Last night, as with all the nights in the last week, I was keenly aware of how early it became dark out, and the reality that soon it will be nearly dark at 3:30 in the afternoon is starting to set in.

When the weather changes, my taste in fragrance usually changes along with it. This season something else has changed. I've pulled out some of my favorites and their charms eluded me. My love of frankincense seems to have left me. In spite of that, Serge Lutens' new Fille en Aiguilles tempts with it's promise of a sweeter version of L'Artisan Passage D'Enfer.

Thankfully, I can't afford such a splurge, nor would I jump at a unsniffed purchase of a scent composed of notes I may have lost my taste for. I do wonder why some fragrances that had transported me fairly recently have lost their spell-binding allure, or simply their comforting familiarity. I'm not one given to fickleness. I suspect something larger is going on. Hormones?

We know so little about the sense of smell. I know that smell has a profound effect on me. It always has, from a whiff of something bringing back forgotten memories and images, to my first experience of falling in love, and remembering the revelation of burying my face in my 16-year-old boyfriend's neck and feeling literally weak in the knees. The word "swoon", bandied around in romantic writing, is certainly real. There are those who've never swooned, and I feel a bit sorry for them. It is delightful, and a bit frightening in the way the experience reminds the conscious mind that it's not entirely in control.

I nearly swooned the first time I smelled Annick Goutal's Encens Flamboyant, and now it's leaving me cold. I quickly posited "hormones?" and left us all hanging. Yes, I suspect it might be hormones. I'm going through the big change, the unmentionable mid-life menopausal thang (and there, I've mentioned it). It wouldn't surprise me in the least if this could cause immense changes in taste in one's sense of smell. It is times like this I wish I was a researcher. I feel quite sure of my thesis, and I'd love to prove it.

In lieu of that, I've only myself to test my hypothesis out on, and my few readers. Anyone else experience sudden changes in taste and smell? I suspect any large life changes can trigger them, and certainly changes in weather and season seem to always do so.

Image note: Frankincense (Boswelia). I knew Frankincense was a resin, but of what I was ignorant. Go here to read about its processing and history in detail.


Anonymous said...

Sorry that you temporarily lost your favorites to the hormonal onslaught. I say temporarily because these things are in constant flux and are sure to change. Do you feel like you've developed new inclinations scent-wise, though?
I know I lot of women experience a big change after pregnancy due to hormons.
My sense of smell started to became more sensitive as got into my late twenties and turned thirty. At 34, I can say it's the most acute it's been in my whole life. I have no idea why.

BitterGrace said...

There's no doubt hormones play a huge role in the ability to smell. The most obvious thing for me is that my sense of smell is very dull just before my period, and very sensitive in the middle of my cycle. Generally speaking, the higher my estrogen level, the more I crave green and floral smells. When my estrogen levels are low, I crave warm, rich, resinous scents. When I was anorexic (and so produced next to no estrogen) I liked very heavy, hot smells--patchouli incense, etc.

I wonder what you are craving, if you're old faves aren't doing it for you? Or are you just avoiding scent altogether?

Susan said...

Yup-hormones will do it to you. Especially since, not only does the perfume have a different effect when you smell it from the bottle, it might actually stink when you put it onto your skin. I've gotta say that, since our NYC visit, I have been wearing only Fire From Heaven and Smoky Tobacco...mmmmm....that Smoky Tobacco is heavenly on these chilly days!

Julie H. Rose said...

I'm struck by how sensitive you all are, but I know all three of you love fragrance, so that makes sense.

I'm not sure what I'm craving right now. My sense of smell doesn't seem dampened in any way. I only feel I need to re-explore, which is not a bad thing!

I am reminded that in my late twenties, after smelling a fragrance once, I could name it instantly on someone. Nowadays, it is rare that I encounter anyone with scent on here in the boondocks, so I don't know if I've lost this ability. I think I may have, however, so perhaps my sense of smell is not what it used to be.

jmcleod76 said...

I'm hoping that the coming winter will rekindle my love for Encens Flamboyant. I bought that small bottle last spring, and haven't been able to wear it since. Any time I try, it sickens me within the first few minutes.

I haven't been able to bear HM for Men for the last few months, either.

Truthfully, I think the summer months just made me less appreciative of any frgrance at all but the absolute lightest and most uncomplicated - like Caldey Island Lavendar (did you ever end up ordering any) and d'Orange Verte.

The one exception is Terre d'Hermes. I wore that yesterday and, even though I first fell in love with it in January, it's started to lose its charm in the cooler weather. Summer really brought out the best in that fragrance. I used to think it was a perfectly good winter scent, with those piney notes, but now that I know what it's capable of being, I can't envision wearing it in the winter.

Maybe Smells Like Boi will come back from hiatus now that the weather is cooling. I just haven't been in the mood to sniff anything new since late spring, which is a real shame, given the sheer number of unworn samples waiting in my cupboard.

Julie H. Rose said...

Aw, Jaime, it's too bad that the Encens sickens you.

Nothing I've loved in the past has turned on me (or would that be the other way round?) as strongly as that, except for long lost loves that I have perhaps outgrown, and reformulated scents. Then again, I used to adore Chanel, but now can't abide any of them for more than five minutes.

I'd love to see more Smells Like Boi posts (and I'm not the only one)!