The differences between a grown up perfume and a mature one aren’t always immediately clear, but if you look closely enough, contrasts begin to emerge. A mature scent is strong, heady, noticeable; big body notes like oud, rose, and vanilla pummel through. This perfume has seen things, been there done, done that—reminds you that folks used to read the newspaper instead of Twittering all day. It commands your attention, forcing its story upon your nostrils. And it’s loud—so loud! Lest you miss an important detail.
I went through a stretch of wearing mature fragrances—about a little over a decade. I can’t remember if it began in high school or college, but let’s just say I was an impeccably fragranced student of some kind. Maybe my subconscious was picking up cues from my mother. She wore White Linen and Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist at the time. Or maybe it was something much simpler, in that when you’re young, nothing’s more appealing than the thing you can’t be: older, richer, wiser. Because a mature fragrance’s scent is just half its story. What it says about the wearer is more cutting. It says, “I want you to experience what I have already determined to be beautiful.” It also says, “While I love a powdery Bulgarian rose, what I love most is the concept of more.”
Grown up fragrances live in the realm of less. They are quiet, subtler. To smell one on another person, you have to lean in—literally—before you’re allowed to catch a whiff, rendering it equal parts power play and a sign of respect. Grown up fragrances are clean. They remind you of a few clear notes, instead of a cluster of many. They are sophisticated and chic. If they were clothing brands they’d be The Row or Phoebe Philo’s Céline or an impersonation of either, like Cos. If they were a movie, Nancy Meyers most certainly directed it.
My favorite grown up fragrances are Lake & Skye’s 11 11, and Rosie Jane’s Leila Lou. When I met makeup artist Rosie Jane Johnston many years ago, she told me she created her signature scent with her makeup clients in mind. She liked fragrances, but she wanted to wear something that wouldn’t offend her clients while she was putting in work. With notes of jasmine, pear, and fresh cut grass it smells like spring, or Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop (the concept, not the actual fragrances). It is aggressively fresh, and I love it.
Lake & Skye’s 11 11 is more ambiguous. Its description reads: “A simple yet bold unisex blend inspired by the teachings of Kundalini yoga and the color white. It is a sheer, clean and uplifting fragrance with an ethereal vibe. The scent captures the feel of skin after emerging from the ocean, mixed with a crisp texture and transparency.” I think it smells like the idea of Martha's Vineyard? Or money, absent of pretentiousness. Like a pricey handbag without a visible logo—those who know, know. Like Leila Lou, 11 11 is also available in rollerball form, so to use, you’re meant to rub the oil on your body’s pulse points. There’s something about the ritual of putting it on this way that elevates the experience as a whole. A maximum impact for the most minimal scent. Even it that impact doesn't last forever (and it won't—you'll have to reapply at least once to get through the day), at least for a time you'll get to remind yourself that you're a really cool adult.
Photo via ITG.