Perfume is well known to smell different on different people, but have you ever had the same perfume vary on you when you traveled?
The first, and only, time—so far—that this happened to me was with Juliette Has a Gun Sunny Side Up. I liked all the samples in their discovery kit that I bought, except for Anyway, which is supposed to showcase neroli, Hedione, and Ambroxan, but ended up neither here nor there for me. Otherwise, even the gourmands, such as MMMM…, were quite palatable. Mad Madame and Lady Vengeance are both delectable, red-lipsticked roses that make a strong statement.
Sunny Side Up is an easy sandalwood, sweet but not saccharine, warm but not suffocating. It is meant to highlight sandalwood, vanilla, and jasmine—and though I’m not a particular fan of vanilla or jasmine, these notes work well to complement the round woodiness. This perfume fit me like a favorite sweater, or tunic, depending on the season; casual, and perfect for a day out on the town. Say, a city on the East Coast of the United States, where I’m based.
I brought my sample with me to London, England last summer. It was light jacket weather, with occasional spells of drizzle. Definitely more humid. To my surprise, I started finding Sunny Side Up too sweet and a bit annoying. The smell seemed to have changed. So much for initial impressions…? I soon diverted my attentions to a litany of skin-scent, musky, bois de this-and-that types and heavy oud-rose contenders as I embarked on a sniffing tour in earnest, and put Sunny Side Up aside for the rest of the trip.
Once back in my regular environment, however, I used it again, and voilà, it was as pleasant as before. Not too sweet. Certainly not annoying. It smelled just like it did before (qualitatively different from how it smelled in London).
If anyone has an explanation from a chemistry standpoint, I’d be curious to know. Which aromachemicals are most susceptible to variation with humidity? Is it more about other environmental factors? Have you experienced something similar?
13 thoughts on “When in Rome… (perfumes behaving differently in other places)”
This is interesting. It happened to me years ago on a business trip to New York, right at the beginning of spring. I took Eau de Gentiane Blanche with me. I was still good, but behaved differently. It felt spicier there (like, Peruvian food spicier). I attributed it to a lack of humidity (in comparison, at least. It was a rainy spring in NY, but I come from the steambath known as Panama…) and my nose picking things up abnormally because of it
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This is great. I just know where I live in Upstate NY I can pretty much where a winter fragrance all year around – especially working in an office.
P.S. There was once a time I decided I would only wear fragrances from brands based in Rome – Bulgari – Brioni – Valentino. Didn’t last long but it was kind of fun
I suppose that makes for a tradeoff with all the heavy winters!
Why Rome specifically? It sounds more challenging than, say, Florence…
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I have a lot of heritage from South Italy and Rome is a little better compromise in Italian culture between North and South B-) I like their style, architecture, etc. Plus Bulgari has been my favorite. But where the brands are located are a bit of a misnomer anyways, since Versace was from South Italy inspired by Greek heritage but moved their company to North Italy. And the Bulgari family was from I guess Northern Greece originally.
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First time I had a similar experience was about 6 years ago: on my trip to Europe I brought a set of perfumes that usually worked fine in our North California summer (hot during the day, cool at night, not too humid). It was a disaster! The only perfume that worked nicely in hot humid weather was Diptyque Volutes, while all light florals were just horrible.
Interesting that light florals didn’t work in humid weather. The heavier the better, then, in that climate?
It seems that oriental/vanilla perfumes bloom in wet heat while my standard florals just dissipate (wilt?).
Good to know!
Fils de Dieu behaves also differently. When it’s cold I get more vanilla rice pudding, in warmer weather I get lots of shiso notes.
Which do you prefer? I love shiso but haven’t really smelled it in marketed perfumes. Is it cumin playing tricks in Fils de Dieu?
I like cumin, but I don’t get a lot of it in Fils de Dieu.
I was trying (and failing, obviously) to guess what might cause such a dichotomy. However, I just looked it up on Fragrantica and cumin isn’t listed. Maybe the shiso top note is escaping much faster in the heat but being held down by the humidity, making it more prominent?
I’ll stop speculating now 😉