Angel Belsey is a Londoner. She owns too much perfume and too many books.

Teint de Neige

Ask my husband what just about any perfume smells like, and his first reply will probably be "talcum powder." It's hilarious--that is his reliable response, from Youth Dew to Tubéreuse Criminelle to Coco. This tendency may be down the fact that many fragrances have a musk note, and musk can smell powdery to some people. In fact, when pressed, he often doesn't think the powder is a "clean" smell, but instead more "dusty."

He once commented that, even though so many fragrances smell like powder to him, he didn't think anyone would want to smell like powder. Imagine his surprise when I told him that there is indeed a "powdery" fragrance category--and that I even had a sample of a scent for which he had just described its sole purpose.

I first encountered Teint de Neige when I went to Les Senteurs looking for a wedding perfume. I was a little dismayed when, after having told the woman who was looking after me that I wasn't looking for a floral, she kept handing me florals. As I recall, I left with samples of:

* Dia * Oiro * Amoureuse * Teint de Neige * Carnal Flower (this only after I said, really, these aren't working--give me something darker!)

Now, I'm slightly gutted that she didn't listen to what I actually wanted. If she had given me Arabie, which I've only recently discovered on my own, I would have bought it immediately--it was exactly what I was looking for at the time*. Nevertheless, I can't blame her (and I still love Les Senteurs! go there!): I think she had a particular idea of what "wedding" meant, and I got the chance to explore a category that I don't really take much interest in as a rule.

Teint de Neige is pretty. It's white. It's all powder, all the time. It's feminine. It's light. It's sweet. It smells like girls. It's relatively straightforward. It is, in short, exactly the opposite of what I normally wear and enjoy. Nevertheless, there is something about it that I absolutely love.

It goes on like a powder puff full of talc, big and white and noisy. This is not a "dusty" or musky powder--this is the clean smell of bathtime, washed and dried, warding off any future grime with your big powder puff.

After an hour, though, the powder changes. That is, it becomes a different kind of powder. There is some discussion in the comments at Now Smell This about what "Teint de Neige" means in English. The Lorenzo Villoresi website says that it means "the color of snow," but a native French speaker points out that it really means "snow-white complexion."

Honestly, "snow-white complexion" makes far more sense, because the heart of this fragrance is that of cosmetic powder and powder-scented lipstick. Throughout the (long, long, long) life of Teint de Neige, you are enveloped in the beautifully feminine--but absolutely unmistakable--scent of, well, makeup.

To anyone reading with horror: this is not anything like as weird as it sounds. Many modern cosmetic products have no scent at all, but many (especially those in your grandmother's collection, I would wager) have a soft, subtle, powdery rose scent. It's a concept that has also informed other fragrances, notably Frédéric Malle's Lipstick Rose. Fragranced makeup was something I didn't understand in my childhood--("why does this lipstick smell like powdery roses?")--but now, I do. There are only two people who will be close enough to the makeup to notice. It's a kind of shared secret.

And that, my friends, is why I think Teint de Neige (and Lipstick Rose, for that matter) is actually quite a sexy fragrance. Sure, on the surface it's big and white and clean, but anyone who has kissed a scented, belipsticked mouth almost certainly has particular connotations attached to that waxy, powdery smell. This is the power of scent memory.

I also don't think Teint de Neige is a winter fragrance--again, nobody in Perfume World is wrong, per se, but I personally think anyone who associates it with snow has been influenced by the mis-translated name. Toward the end, this is the scent of face powder disintegrating slightly on a balmy night, or the scent of a warm lipstick tube cheekily uncapped at the dinner table. What we have got here is a hot date.

Teint de Neige, Lorenzo Villoresi, 2000 Notes: jasmin, rose, ylang-ylang, sweet, powdery and floral notes; tonka bean; heliotrope, musk (or, especially at the beginning, the note of a freshly-showered gran powdering her face, holding a freshly-diapered baby, and standing outside a powder factory that has just had an explosion)

*In the end, for my wedding perfume I opted for Chanel Coco, which still has floral elements, but which is spicy and warm, and one of my favorites--and, perhaps most importantly, not likely to get discontinued!

Miel de Bois

Muscs Koublaï Khän