Parfume du Jour: Chamade (Guerlain)

Why wear it? It snowed again today, and spring feels very, very far away.

What does it do? It presents in one package a sophisticated chypre, a sleek modern floral, a tender suede-soft leather, and an indescribable feeling of youth and newness. It whispers optimism in one's ear at the very moment when one might falter.

How do I feel? Weary and in need of a lift. Yesterday I wore Florineige Cuir de Russie and felt infused with a rakish energy that carried me through my night shift with ease. But even after having slept rather deeply last night, I woke feeling as if I'd spent the night in a state of bleak alertness. Cuir de Russie's elegant iris might have proved too unsubstantial to support me as I needed. But Chamade's narcissus laid rightful claim to all the vigor I lacked today.  I let it carry me, and I feel no shame at my own weakness.  Sometimes it's too much to pretend to be strong.

Must de Cartier Vintage Eau de Toilette (Cartier)

Last week, my downstairs neighbor -- a former regional sales rep for a fragrance corporation -- gave me a handful of manufacturer's minis she'd been using as Christmas tree ornaments. A loop of gold lamé ribbon around the neck of each little bottle, et voilà! I really admired her ingenuity in finding a purpose for these perfume-filled bibelots. I'm almost regretting having consigned mine. Almost.

The offerings included several negligible Avons, vintage Chloe, Karl Lagerfeld KL, Coco de Chanel, Gucci No. 3, Worth Je Reviens, and Must de Cartier. Tuberose remains a tricky note for me; I already own (and never wear) Chloe, and KL smells so similar that I may let them both go. The Worth smells like hot dog water, but its cobalt glass bottle is topped by an adorable gilt cherub which just screams Christmas; it has a fighting chance of getting repurposed once more as an ornament. Coco's always welcome, and I found the Gucci No. 3 really quite lovely, a sort of floral pousse-cafe for the nose. And then we come to Must de Cartier.

The heart of MdC (the name "Must" alone begs to be followed by "...and Mildew") reads like Dutched cocoa dust. This, I like. But to get to it, you have to start at the very beginning-- a bilious acid-fruit accord which swerves at reckless speed directly into a "fresh deodorant" ice patch. Now, unless we're talking about a York Peppermint Patty, "fresh" and "chocolate" generally don't belong in the same sentence. Just when it seems that the only way to get from here to there is to crash through the railing and over the cliff's edge, MdC jerks the wheel and forces the vehicle back on course. And thank god for that, because for a minute there, I thought for sure we'd end up in Rampage Pour Femme territory, where all tow trucks fear to tread.

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, mandarin, peach, galbanum, neroli, jasmine, iris, carnation, narcissus, orchid, ylang-ylang, lily, vanilla, amber, benzoin Siam, opoponax, tonka, oakmoss, leather, Brazilian rosewood, sandalwood, vetiver, musk, civet