Tubéreuse Animale (Histoires de Parfums)

Today a total stranger leaned towards me across the circulation counter and took my hand in hers. "What ARE you wearing?" she asked in a churchgoer's whisper seldom deployed in public libraries these days. "You. Smell. AMAZING."

I wrote it down for her on a yellow PostIt. Leaning closer, she squinted at the name in obvious confusion. "It's a small house," I explained helpfully. "Not mainstream, based in Paris-- but their stuff is available at Bergdorf's."

Her eyes went round with surprise. "You're saying this is a nowadays perfume? I could have sworn I'd been smelling it all my life." And lest I think she means this is a bad thing, she clutches my wrist again. "Whatever it is, it's a CLASSIC."

I agree with her on all points. Tubéreuse Animale does smell like a tribute to another time, one not too terribly bygone but just distant enough from our modern milieu to seem a bit dated. This is no crime, especially not to perfume lovers. Why else do we covet Chamade, Halston, Azurée, and other fabulous fragrant mile-markers, prizing them sometimes even more highly than the newest product on the shelf? And yet, my patron is not the only one who feels she must express her love for vintage in a whisper. In the face of constant cultural emphasis on the new and now, many of us subsume our yearnings, turn them into "guilty pleasures"... or simply wear older perfumes in self-conscious silence.

Tubéreuse Animale is the answer to our dilemma. Like a Biba mini-dress or a von Fürstenberg wrap, its silhouette is unmistakably, immutably retro. Yet it is an honest-to-god contemporary perfume, wearable right now, by modern women, for modern reasons. (Do we and our reasons ever really change?) Go ahead and wear it with lips sealed. It still makes a statement that will cause total strangers to open up and start talking.

Scent Elements: Tuberose, neroli, kumquat, plum, aromatic herbs, tobacco, immortelle, honey