Last night we went to a local French restaurant that we enjoy, with its pale-pink, ornate-chic decor and good food and wine. After we sat down, one of the first things I noticed was a waft of very “feminine” perfume—sweet, floral, slightly powdery—in my mind, very “pink.” The scent corresponded to our server’s repeated presence, so I assumed that she was wearing it and intended to ask her later what it was. Soon, though, other servers walked by who also projected the fragrance my way, one of whom was a tall, muscular man I would not have associated with this floral-gourmand little number, but I expect this kind of dichotomy these days.
The indisputable plurality of servers—but not the workers who brought the food out from the kitchen, who walked more slowly and carefully—emanating this scent trail led me to develop the theory that perhaps the perfume was part of their uniform, which otherwise constituted black clothing underneath an apron. Talking through a mouthful of French onion soup, I blurted this hypothesis enthusiastically to my other half, simultaneously acknowledging that if anything, restaurants seemed more likely to request staff to abstain from wearing perfume lest it interfere with customers’ experience of the food.
His counterproposal turned out to be the accurate scenario: the culprit was the woman sitting at the adjacent table with her back to us, whose face I never saw. Every time a server whizzed by between our tables, in the embodiment of efficiency, they basically fanned this woman’s sillage at me. It’s fortunate that the perfume wasn’t unpleasant and didn’t get in the way of our enjoyment of the food.
I never found out what it was, but to me it smelled a bit like Hermès Twilly d’Hermès without the ginger note. Twilly is a bit of an oddball for me. During last weekend’s gallivant to Nordstrom, my aim was to smell Chanel Paris-Riviera, which I did, but the salty note (also in Paris-Deauville, I think, but I could be wrong) mixed with neroli wasn’t something I liked much. The sales associate also walked me through the Hermès Jardin series, and then we got to chatting about Chanel N°19. Nordstrom was running a promotion that offered free engraving on all full glass bottle purchases of perfume. I walked around the mall with my scent strips, none of which seduced me, but I went back with my new idea: to buy a full bottle of Chanel N°19 EDT (as I have only the EDP) and get it engraved. The sales associate then apologetically informed me that they hadn’t carried it in 5 years and that it was very hard to find, but offered to make me a sample of something else.
I saw Twilly on the shelf and asked for that, because I vaguely remembered having tried it before and then reading something that made me want to try it again. Did I want the original, or the newer version? I blanked because I thought I had tried and ruled out the newer one with its pink pepper enhancement, but I couldn’t remember what it was about the original that I had missed. She pointed to the bottle of Twilly d’Hermès Eau Poivrée and explained that anything with the word “poudrée” added to the name meant the perfume was “even more feminine.” The cognitive dissonance made me very confused and when I weakly said something like, “That one says ‘poivrée,’ which means it has pepper, right?,” she reached for the original and declared, “This is the one for indecisive customers,” meaning most people would like it.
Later, alone with my sample and safe from further perplexity, I tried to parse out why Twilly seemed to be claiming nostalgic value in my mind. It’s “pink” for sure. Did it remind me of a pink, scented pen I loved when I was 7 or 8 years old? Upon further sniffing, I realized it didn’t, but it probably smelled like a perfume that teenaged girls would have worn in the 90s. I don’t know tuberose perfumes well enough to compare them, but Twilly seems more like a melange of dainty white florals. (Fragrantica lists tuberose, orange blossom, and jasmine.) Wearing it on a car ride sealed my notion that I don’t like ginger as a note in perfumes—I first discovered this when I added ginger root SCO2 extract as an ingredient in a blend I was experimenting with a while ago. And maybe I’m not keen on sandalwood as a note either, although I love the smell of sandalwood essential oil (both Indian and Australian varieties) on its own. Overall, Twilly is quite pretty, but trying it on again, I think it’s lost any memory associations.