I wore Santal 33 for many years. It felt foggy and lush. I liked the way it made me complicated and, above all, beddable. I stopped right around the time people I dislike began to wear it, and then moved on to despising it around the time boutique hotels decided to smell like it. It’s a gorgeous scent, but “pervasive” isn’t a word I like coming to mind with a personal fragrance. I later found comfort in a new scent. Let’s be nice and call it Fragrance X. However, this past January, I had one of my adorable semi-annual identity crises. The matter at hand: Do I smell sexy?
Fragrance X is soapy, citric, and bright, which I find aquatic and antiquated like Polaroids of Santorini or very fit senior citizens. The bottle is nearly halfway empty, which is the closest I’ve ever come to finishing an entire fragrance. Still, I needed answers. I consulted a friend I often call upon for radical (often harrowing) honesty. Let’s call him Evan, because that is his name. Below is an excerpt of our conversation, edited for content and clarity.
Or: I’m genuinely wondering if my fragrance is sexy or just pulpy.
Evan: Have you asked anyone to smell you and tell you the truth?
Or: I haven’t. I’m shy.
Evan: I guess I'm a little confused about the stakes in this situation—but I do also want to confirm that you are exhibiting signs of insanity.
Determined to give me an immediate answer, he went to Sephora on his lunch break. He sprayed Fragrance X on a takeaway card, walked laps around this shopping center, and texted me back. The verdict was in.
Evan: I wanted to say that I react (as most people do) inordinately to scent, sexually, and this smell gave me 0 hotness vibe. It has 0 lust inside of it.
Aghast, I spent a few weeks trying several new “sexy” fragrances: Cartier Declaration smelled like Sting after riding a horse cross-country. Eau d'Hermès smelled a little more like saliva than I prefer. I almost bought Fierce by Abercrombie & Fitch. Then I found Goest.
If you aren’t familiar with Goest, they’re a fragrance house based in LA. They speak to several of my primal interests as a consumer: minimalist in packaging (the flacons are universally appealing, palmbable), innovative in spirit (they have a Smokers’ Perfume I’m dying to try despite not being the target demographic), and uncommon in quality (more on that later). They are to the dizzying market of fragrances what no-makeup makeup is to the Instagram explore page—a palliative.
I chose Grand Tour. It starts off damp, and green. Citrus and basil. Its finish is abstract. There’s cedar that pulls more “forest” than “chest of quilts.” Leather that reads like a Want Les Essentiels tote, not a car interior. It wears close to the skin and at the end of the day, I can still smell it on my wrists. It’s what I imagine both Zoë Kravitz and Detective Stabler to smell like. It has filled the “conceptual/woody” void that Santal 33 left behind.
So, do I smell sexy? Jury’s out. I might just have come out of my shell enough to ask, though.
Photographed by the author.