Two-faced perfumes (love and its opposite, delivered in one spritz)

Gum Wall
Gum Wall


Most perfumes elicit a visceral reaction upon first encounter—love, like, dislike, heck no, or meh. Sometimes a love may turn disappointing toward the drydown, or a dislike may mellow into something acceptable.

But have you ever experienced a perfume that swung from mind-blowing infatuation at the opening to downright repulsion through the wear?

I might be an outlier on this one, but I’ve met a couple.


Jeroboam Ligno

I am seldom seduced by any kind of perfume, and I read others’ tales of olfactory aphrodisiacs with a twinge of envy. Mind you, I haven’t smelled the exact perfumes that they’ve raved about (so many are vintage), so I’ll have to compare notes after I’ve had the chance. When I first tried Ligno, I thought I might have found mine. It was bright and enswathing, skin and cashmere, fresh and musky at the same time. Intimate. Green in a masculine, aromatic way—probably the bergamot and clary sage—with a hint of the beginnings of body odor from new sweat before the bacteria have done their thing.

According to Jovoy, “When the devilish patchouli note meets the pheromonal aspects of the natural ambergris and the brand’s trademark blend of enigmatic musks, the result is beyond a perfume; it becomes an alchemist’s potion full of aphrodisiacal promise…” I could believe it! This must be the magic of real ambergris. Fragrantica also lists castoreum as a heart note.

For the first hour or so, the promise delivers. Soon after, however, the body odor aspect develops, and it’s no longer the fresh kind. I discovered this while sitting in the office the first time. The repeat experiment took place in a restaurant. Both times, I felt very self conscious, though no one said anything.

Ligno also doesn’t seem to wash off easily.

My favorite from Jeroboam so far (I’ve tried only Ligno, Ambra, and Vespero—all free samples I got with a purchase at Jovoy last year) is Vespero; though it doesn’t have the same instinctual appeal, it offers a fruity (grapefruit and apple), floral (geranium and jasmine) welcome to complement the woods and the potent musk base shared among Jeroboam creations.


Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede

This was new and displayed at the counter when I visited Les Senteurs last year. I sniffed it while my purchase of something else was being processed, and almost piled a full bottle of it on top immediately—but walked away with a decant instead. I couldn’t describe it. Hollow and glossy. A bit metallic (maybe I was influenced by the golden-colored bottle) and also reminded me of a lotion I used to use as a child. The white, glycerin-textured kind.

I had sprayed a little on my wrist, and as I continued to walk around London, it became more like a “typical” cologne. Sigh of relief that I hadn’t given in to an impulse buy. Months later, as I tested the decant, I realized it was more complex than that. Mineral, ozonic. Those were the words I was looking for, found on Fragrantica. Herbal and aquatic, too. The brand explains it as “an elegant and unexpected harmony around a quartet of mandarin, violet, immortelle and suede,” with additional notes of saffron, osmanthus, and Akigalawood.

It’s certainly different. Fascinating.

Until the harmony wears off and leaves behind a monotone of synthetic hollowness, a bit like plastic. Like the lotion I can’t place, or maybe the tube that contains it.

Ganymede, a perfume I understand as little as its namesake moon of Jupiter.


I suppose it wouldn’t be possible for these kinds of volte-face to occur in the reverse sequence…?






2 thoughts on “Two-faced perfumes (love and its opposite, delivered in one spritz)

  1. I loved Vanille Insensée at first spritz, such a lovely and beautiful vanilla, but after a hour a strange synthetic woody note appeared, which I hated. Luckily I just have a decant and not a FB


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