On Signature Scents

I have been reading and rereading Alyssa Harad’s graceful new memoir, Coming to My Senses. There’s a moment towards the end of the book when Alyssa tries to track down her mother’s former signature scent. She reflects, “A signature scent’s promise- the promise that you will be remembered- offers a kind of immortality. After you are gone, your scent remains: on a scarf, on a dress, or on a stranger, swirling by someone you know, catching them up, catching them off guard.”

For most hardcore perfume lovers, the idea of limiting ourselves to one signature scent is archaic and a bit frightening. We proudly flaunt our perfume promiscuity, flouting monogamy in favor of a perfume harem. But I must confess that I intend on having a signature scent eventually. I want to smell familiar to my family and friends, to have them recognize and remember me by my perfume floating in the air. I want that immortality.

I have very high standards for my future signature scent. It can’t be just a sexbomb or a comfort scent; it’s got to have some intelligence to it, some cleverness. And I’d want it to be witty and playful, because having a sense of humor is incredibly important to me. The closest I’ve found so far is Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose. To me it smells like the most vibrantly violet-scented tube of lipstick, but three different people have told me that it smells like towels. I do not particularly want to be remembered as having smelled like towels. L’Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant is probably the perfume that I wear the most, but it’s not quite what I’m looking for either. I love the way it smells, but it doesn’t feel personal enough to be my signature.

How do you feel about signature scents? Do they appeal to you or freak you out? If you already have a signature scent, please share it with us in the comments!

33 thoughts on “On Signature Scents

      1. It would be like picking one fragrance for The United States Of Tara. Not really possible.
        Thrice I’ve thought I had a signature scent, Jazz, Fendi Donna, Le Male
        What can I say, I’m gregarious.
        Portia xx

  1. I’m totally with you on “someday, but not yet!” If I had to pick one today it would be Liaisons Dangereuses, but I have to wonder – by the time I get to “scent sticking age”, will that one still be me? (I’d still LOVE to know what my great grandmother wore to make my Mom think that LD smells like it. I have 2 and 1/2 weeks to bug her starting Sat.!)


    1. How amazing, that your potential signature scent is so similar to your great-grandmother’s! I wonder if these kinds of preferences run in the family?

      I dearly wish my towels smelled like Lipstick Rose, is all I’m sayin’.

  2. Like you, I love the idea of a signature fragrance, and I’ve already found what mine is, but I’m just not ready to settle down. Maybe someday.

    It was pretty easy to figure out which perfume I consider to be “mine.” I get a lot of compliments whenever I wear Ormonde Woman, but it wasn’t until I had a friend half-jokingly ask what I was wearing so she could get it for herself that I felt a panicky possessiveness that surprised me a bit. ANYTHING else in my collection I’m fine with having friends wear, and I’ve given out a lot of decants. Just not OW.

    1. That panicky possessiveness is exactly how I’ve realized my feelings for many a person! Ormonde Jayne is wonderful signature scent material, Dionne.

  3. I used to be a serial scent monogamist. Every time I broke up with a guy, I’d change my fragrance. Then I got married and settled into one lovely fragrance, until Armani decided to discontinue it. Somehow, my husband found a replacement bottle. But then that one got really low on juice so I went online to see what I could find. Didn’t find another bottle of juice, but I did find NST, BdJ and a host of other perfume blogs. The rest is history. Not sure I could be a signature scent person again. Besides, what guarantee do I have that my next signature scent will not be discontinued? Or worse yet, reformulated beyond recognition. Absolutely none, unless I choose Chanel No.5. The closest I’ve been getting to signature scent lately would be Chanel No.19 or 31 Rue Cambon. But I don’t see either of those as winter scents. Still searching for “The One”.

    1. A new perfume is much smarter than my usual coping mechanism for breakups (dying my hair truly stupid colors)! You bring up a really good point, Tatiana- committing to a signature scent puts you at risk for the heartbreak of discontinuation and/or reformulation. I guess it all depends on how you feel about the expression “Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all…”

  4. Ari, what a lovely topic. I think that I am not scared of the idea of signature scent. Nothing wrong with it. Here’s how it works for me right now: since I work from home, I experiment while I am alone, and then in the evening I put some of my FB scents on. I do not have THAT many FBs…. (who am I kidding, LOL!) I have quite a few. But I can imagine that I’d wear one for a period of time. Maybe. What I already do now is I notice which ones of my perfumes are liked by which friends and I wear them around them. They will remember me by the smell and I will get myself “in the mood for them” by putting that perfume on.

    Still, after all is said and done, I don’t think I would be able to just settle for one 😉

    1. Thank you, Warum! I definitely “dress up” for my friends in the perfumes they’ve commented on, too. So far, the perfume that’s gotten the most compliments from people in my age group is the original Lolita Lempicka, so I wear that pretty frequently.

  5. I was thinking about this last night. I love the variety of perfume, I really do. I love collecting samples and decants and maybe even saving up for a full bottle someday (I’m kind of a broke college student and beginner perfumista who has a grand total of two full bottles: Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle and Jean Patou Joy). But if I had to choose just one signature scent, I would pick Bond no. 9 Chinatown. I love the soft drydown and the lasting power is great on me. It’s also very feminine, and I generally prefer some femininity in my fragrances: leather makes me carsick, and I like wearing vetiver, just not all the time.

    1. I think that once you own a Lutens, you no longer qualify as a beginner, Sabrina! 😉 Chinatown is totally gorgeous. I have a decant and don’t wear it nearly as often as I should.

  6. Well written article! Actually do you mind if I use it tomorrow for writing my own one about signature scents. I got inspired by you!

    You know well my signature scent but I’ll let others know it’s Prada Amber Pour Homme

      1. Thank you! Would you mind writing a guest post for me sometime later? I wanted to ask personally but couldn’t find a way to contact you via your blog

  7. I did find my signature scent, only last year. I always wanted one, but I love so many scents that it was hard to nail it down to one. Alien by Muglier is my scent, but I do buy and use it’s flankers, which are superb.

      1. Original Alien is super grapey on me too (I think of it as jasmine syrup), so I’ve avoided all of the flankers. Now I know they’re worth checking out! Thank you to both of you!

      2. Do either (or both) of you like Alien Aqua Chic? I won a FB of it in a draw and it’s not for me, sadly. Would be happy to trade the whole thing for a decant of something else. If anyone’s interested.

    1. I’m happy for you, Eileen! 😀 I’m not crazy about Alien for myself (it’s that dang jasmine again), but I LOVE the name and the bottle.

  8. Yes, I love the idea of a signature fragrance, but no, I don’t think it will ever work for me. I’m way too promiscuous in my tastes to just stick to one; I’m too fickle to even be a serial monogamist.

    There is a practical side to this (not just due to my flibberty-jibbertyness): Any more than two days in a row of wearing one fragrance, and it can either start to go “off” on me, or I won’t be able to detect it anymore. Therefore, I like to keep my nose continually surprised and alert by switching up fragrances every day, or I give it a break on weekends by wearing no fragrance at all.

  9. When my fragrance hobby first started I didn’t stray far from one or two scents. I now have around thirty different fragrances, but still stay close to a few favourites. I probably could limit myself to one, but would miss many others. If I had to narrow it down, it would be between Dior Eau Sauvage and Guerlain Vetiver for my signature.

  10. I’ve wanted a signature perfume for years, but I always worried it would be discontinued. So I think it has to be one of the classics, or at least a perfume on the market for more than 20 years. I’m still on the lookout for it, but I also find it hard to wear just one. I change perfumes like I change my clothes, or with my mood. There are just too many choices. It was much easier to stick with one back in the day! The closest I’ve come to a signature is Guerlain Champs Elysees.

  11. I do love the idea that anytime someone smelled my trail around a corner, or on a coat, they’d know who was in the house. And when I’m gone, my children (grandchildren maybe?) might run across a waft and think, “Mom!/ Nana!” But ONE signature? I couldn’t do it. Could. Not. Do. It.

    I could have a small stable – maybe three to five scents – that feel very “me” and could serve as, well, a platoon of signatures. You know how baseball teams often have two guys who can play the same position, and whichever one of them isn’t hurt plays, or whichever one’s a left-handed hitter against a righty pitcher, gets into the game? That’s platooning. I gots perfume platoon, babe.

    So who am I platooning? you probably already know: Mary Greenwell Plum. Le Temps d’une Fete. Vintage Emeraude. Definitely those. I figure that my family already associates those scents with me… Bookworm told me once that Plum was the fragrance she most often thought of as “smelling like Mom.”

  12. “I intend on having a signature scent, eventually.” That’s it exactly! You’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s one of those things I’ll get around to someday. Whether I will ever actually be loyal enough to one scent is another thing entirely, though.

  13. Been there, done that. Now I want variety.
    There are a couple of perfumes that are special for me, my dress-up perfumes which I wear only for special occasions. Those are the closest I want to be to a signature scent. Other than that – nope. I do not mind being recognized as “Undina, who always smells nice” (or something to that effect). I do not need a special scent, THE one (people aren’t that good with recognizing perfumes anyway 😉 )

  14. I go through “phases” of signature scents. It’s more because I get excited about a new perfume and the compliments I receive from it than an actual feeling of “ZOMG this perfume encapsulates me!” But after a while, I find a new one and switch between the two. I’m like that with clothes too. I wrote a blog post on how to make your own perfume, in case you want to be the only person with one scent:


  15. I really understand your desire to have a signature scent. Alot of people who are of great importance in my life had signature scents. When my mother would walk by, a beautiful trail of Chanel no.5 just emanates from her. Her boudoir was clouded with the scent of no.5! My father meanwhile wore Poison, he never forgot his youth in the 80s! I always wished I could have a signature scent, so my future children would sniff a particular perfume and go, “Hey that’s mummy’s perfume.”

    If I had to stick to one perfume, it would probably be Mitsouko. I swear if I could I would bath in it! But Mitsouko does not suit those cheery happy days, she’s too serious for that. Oh well.

  16. For almost a decade Mitsouko was my signature scent (so much that my brother admitted it bothered him when a girl in his class wore it-that scent belonged to me!). Nowadays I’m too fond of variety and doubt I’ll ever settle down with one scent again, but in a way I still think of Mitsouko and Bandit as my signature scents (somewhat suprisingly those are also the ones that gets me the most spontaneous compliments from non-perfumistas)

  17. The idea of having a signature scent is romantic, but I don’t know if it would work for me. Any perfume I have, another person will have. I want a signature something that only I have. Maybe I should try to figure out how to make a perfume.

  18. I used to have signature scents and I guess I’m always looking for “the One”. I’m happy with all my perfumes and although I go through phases where I wear some more than others I can’t say I have any real signature ones. I love the idea of having one though. Maybe someday.

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