Do you ever give perfumes a last ditch chance after dismissing them one or maybe two times before? I am drawn to certain perfumes, over and over again, not because I love them but because everybody else loves them and so I find myself second guessing my own judgment.
After all, there are plenty of perfumes that I’ve dismissed too easily to then turn around and love hard on them six or twelve months down the line, so it’s certainly not out of the question that it’s just me, and not the perfume.
But sometimes – just sometimes – it is the perfume.
I’ve owned Teo Cabanel Alahine three times. The first was a generous sample from a kind Basenoter. I remember liking it well enough, but being utterly puzzled as to the mass adoration it inspired out there in the stinkoverse. I passed the sample on. But when Teo Cabanel was having a change-of-bottle sale, I began to sweat it, wondering if I’d been too hasty to judge Alahine, and thus, doubting myself, I bought a much-reduced bottle.
Opening the bottle and spraying liberally, I once again thought: What is the big fuss about?
I just didn’t get it.
To be fair, I loved the huge, beautifully baroque-scaled opening. Still do. For the glorious thirty to fifty minutes that Alahine blooms on my skin, I swear to forsake all other ambers and pledge my undying love to this one. It reminds me a bit of the big diva perfumes of the eighties, like Joop – the kind of stuff you wear to knock out the competition on the dance floor. Gorgeous chewy labdanum and powdery sweet benzoin heaped high and covered with syrupy, fleshy indolic flowers like jasmine and orange flower, big buttery yellow ylang, supported by whiff of dirty patch and musk…..but then, POOF! Gone.
Yep, within the space of barely an hour, Alahine completely falls off the ledge. It is a bit shocking, to be honest. The dry down goes on for a bit, in that traditional, slightly boring way most ambers do, along the benzoin-labdanum axis. But all the action has already happened – look behind you and you might catch a glimpse of it in the rear-view mirror. Wearing Alahine is a bit like having the sexiest, most drop dead gorgeous man sit next to you at a bar and then discovering that he has no conversation.
I sold my bottle for a song. But someone on the Facebook forum where I sold it said something that I never forgot. He said, “You’ll regret selling Alahine. It’s one of the most beautiful perfumes ever made.” And thus started the second, even longer cycle of regret over Alahine. The minute I posted the parcel off at the post office I began to long to have it back in my possession.
And now it is. A dear friend and I agreed to a swap a few days ago – I got her small bottle of Alahine (she has a huge back-up bottle) and I sent her an equivalent amount of Coromandel. So, now, almost 18 months on from having sold my bottle, what do I think of Alahine?
Still very pretty, still woefully weak, etc. I don’t care about the longevity issues anymore, to be honest. My friend and I discussed this, and we agreed that we both have so much perfume now that hourly reapplications are the way to go with Alahine.
But now I think I was right in my initial judgment. I find Alahine to be a little bit old-fashioned. Not retro, just old-fashioned. And while it’s very nice, it’s hardly the second coming of Christ that some reviews make it out to be. I also still think it smells a little like Joop.
Not a big disaster – I’ll sell or swap this bottle of Alahine. But I won’t be longing for it ever again. But if you ever see me wondering out loud if I’ve made a mistake, feel free to slap me.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a drastic change of heart to fall in love with perfume I initially disliked or to start questioning “what was I thinking?!!” after I’ve been infatuated with perfume for a while. My changes are usually more subtle: perfume might grow on me while initially I wasn’t too interested in it or I might get tired of perfume that I used to like a lot. And I’ve never gone through re-purchasing something that didn’t work for me the first time around. But there are some perfumes to which I keep coming back hoping that, maybe, this time I’ll see what others see in them. Those are Chanel No 5, Shalimar, Mitsouko or, if we talk of newer ones, By Kilian Back to Black, Frederic Malle Carnal Flower or MFK Absolue Pour Le Soir. So far no luck, I would rather go scentless than wear one of these.
I was surprised that Alahine didn’t last on your skin but then I went through my records and found that at least once I had the same experience with this perfume when I realized that it disappeared much sooner than I expected. But on other occasions the longevity was good.
Hi Undina, I think part of my weird habit of buying and re-buying the same perfume that doesn’t work for me is down to the fact that my perfume habit began when I lived in Montenegro and didn’t have access to any niche or specialized perfume at all (no Guerlain there until recently, for example, and certainly not Mitsouko), so when I bought, I tended to buy partial (used) bottles because they worked out to be much cheaper than ordering samples. But I have to be honest – a big part of why I’ve developed this rather unfortunate habit is because I lack the self-discipline to reign myself in. I’ve read your blog for a while now, and I think that you have an admirably strict policy with yourself regarding new purchases, and you exhibit a self-restraint that is beautiful in and of itself. I too would like to buy only what I love – hence this blog (trying to take one thing off until I get down to the essentials I love and need). But it’s definitely a work in progress.
Alahine is a victim of my constantly high expectations. A massive part of the pleasure I take in perfumes comes from reading about perfume and other people’s words and impressions are so valuable to me that sometimes I buy totally into their experience of the scent and forget the bad/poor/middling experience I myself had with the scent. I can convince myself of anything, just from hours of breathing in the love expressed by other people.