In much the same way as my grandmother’s perpetual birthday gift was Bluegrass my mother’s was Charlie. For years I had no idea what it actually smelled like side she was so frugal in her spritzing. She could never be accused of big sillage.
Indeed the first time I can recall finding out what this bottle I bought every year was, was when they started adding the multitude of Charlie colours. My mother was furious at the flankers; not least because she ended up with a bottle of Charlie Red one year. So to prevent this horror being repeated I had to know what the real thing smelled like.
I would probably spot it close up, but for me its a pretty unmemorable scent. I suspect that for my mother the marketing rather than the scent was what drew her to it. In the 1970s she was an independent working woman, much to my grandfather’s chagrin. The trouser wearing Charlie advert women was what she saw herself as.
My grandfather’s second wife was precisely the same age as my mum but her fragrances of choice could not have been any more different. Her tastes were BIG. There was sillage a plenty, and her scents entranced me.
Opium was her daily go to. My mother despised it for its showiness, I loved it for its exoticism. The woman herself wasn’t remotely exotic, though she not have unreasonably clearly considered herself the glamorous one in the family.
Opium smelled like warmth and magic to me. It lured you in like witchcraft. The spices and the heat so embedded themselves into my small brain that I can conjure them up, or at least the sense that they give me.
Her other perfume of choice was the much more challenging Poison. This was her special occasion scent. Like opium it was bold, but where Opium makes you feel like the semi willing victim of one of James Bond’s bad girls, Poison is Jaws.
Poison was like being hit over the head, yet in a strangely pleasant way. Intoxicating with a kick. Much like Charlie I could spot it, but I couldn’t say what the notes were.
Much as my mother tried to lead me down the path of subtle parfum I was drawn to the dangerous heavy hitters. Once I was earning a real wage and living alone I started to buy.
Opium was the first one. I loved it, but I was a chronically shy 22 year old and couldn’t wear it past my own front door. I couldn’t hide in crowd in Opium. I knew Poison itself was a no-go so went on the hunt for something similarly intoxicating. Conveniently for my search it was about the same time that Hypnotic Poison was launched. The lady on the Dior counter had me hooked the minute she told me about the marzipan note. An exotic scent that smells like my favourite food? Sold.
It was beautiful and did indeed smell like my beloved marchpane. It wasn’t as violent as its big sister and I was brave enough to wear it out. Unfortunately while it wasn’t obviously hitting me over the head, it was doing so subtly. After eliminating every other candidate it became depressingly apparent that the cause of endless headaches was Hypnotic Poison.
I had stayed away from any of the heavy hitters for a long time. Partly because I’d enforced a ban on my buying any more scents until I’d used up all those I had. Partly because I wasn’t sure I was brave enough yet.
Black Opium was a whim purchase in the post Christmas sales. I had no idea what the EDT smelled like, it was sat boxed on a shelf. Fortunately it is every bit as lovely as its sibling, but with a much more direct sexiness. Where Opium dances around making eyes and wiggling its hips, Black Opium looks you straight in the eye and asks “so now then?”