Dubai Diaries: On the scent hunt
Kirstin Bernabe is on a perpetual quest to zero down on her signature fragrance.
Over the past few weeks, I have been on a hunt — like a dog literally sniffing around Dubai’s malls, looking for a perfume I can wear every day. I want a signature scent, something people can remember me by — like how I remember my grade school crush, my ex, my psychology professor, a film student who sat next to me in college, or the lady boss who asked me about how I saw myself in five years during my first job interview. Don’t we all have those smells in mind?
Some scents of people — whether someone special or a stranger you rode the lift with — seem to be sleeping in one corner of our brains. And when they’re woken up, they trigger a memory. I wanted to have that scent, and so the search began.
At first I thought it was Gucci Bloom, with its burst of flowers that lovingly says ‘nice to meet you’. I caught my first whiff of it about four years ago. I wore for it for a time and loved every ounce, but then I thought I’d give others a try. I went from Big by Lush and Rituals’ Jing hair and body mist to Chanel 1957 and Jo Malone’s ever-popular Peony and Blush Suede. They made it to my short list but didn’t feel like The One.
Then, at the Dubai Mall, Le Labo caught my eye. Its raw, industrial interiors and apothecary-inspired bottles invited me to come and smell. And I’m glad I did. Its fragrances made my androgynous heart flutter. They’re fresh, original, distinctive but not in-your-face.
I got too excited that I mentally divided my arms into segments and sprayed each Le Labo scent. Of course, testing a perfume doesn’t work that way. You have to wear only one and walk around or even spend a day with it, to see if it’s a match.
I bought a box of 5ml samples and dated one scent every day. After a week, I was able to narrow my choices down to the fresh, musky scent of Another 13 and the sunny floral Neroli 36. I still can’t decide which one will get the crown, though.
This crazy search for an everyday perfume was actually prompted by the unopened box of Penhaligon’s Luna in my closet.
Luna — the scent that paints a picture of a sparkling fairy flying through an enchanted forest, leaving a trail of pixie dust behind — is my one great love. I bought it in 2019 but never got to open it because I was saving it for my wedding day.
Perfumes are bottles of memories, and I wanted Luna to bottle up the joy of tying the knot with my soul mate.
With Covid still around, the supposed 2020 wedding is not likely to happen anytime soon but, well, life goes on. And everyday life is still worth a spritz of something special, isn’t it?
Kirstin just learnt that Penhaligon’s Luna has been out of stock for almost half a year now and hundreds are on the waiting list. She has zero plans of selling hers.