Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs: Never As Good As the First Time

I had been itching to get my hands on her for ages.

If ever Mum went out, I’d steal in, to cop a feel. To prise her open and press her nozzle, to roll her coolness, to feel her weight.

Time and again, she left her tale-telling residue behind: on my hands, on my nose. My wretched fumblings exposed.

Treachery, trespass. How do I get you alone?

I wasn’t yet thirteen; far too young for ladies’ ways. In my room, I’d mash up rose petals and chalk to a scented tincture. Family holidays to St Ives supplied Devon Violets, a nuclear, lime-jelly green set off with a purple faux-satin bow. Rancid Avon cast-offs coloured umber in the glare of my window.

Yet, all the desperate while, my loyal girl’s heart beat a loving tattoo–for her, for the doubly dubbed … Anaïs Anaïs.

What a romance ours was! She was an armful–a profusion–of the whitest, most spirituous flowers. She was a beauty of the finest pre-Raphaelite proportions. She was Alphonse Mucha women hazily captured through gossamer gauze. She was lilies in pastel shades, she was semi-opaque. She was young. She was feminine.

She was also doing the rounds with just about every other girl of my age, not to mention my own dear mother and then–the shame!–my poor, mild-mannered Gran. She rolled capriciously from palm to palm, she clung without compunction to a million necks.

By the time I had been deemed of sufficient maturity to partake freely of Anaïs Anaïs, her ubiquity had–for me–become a phenomenon beyond the pale. I quickly tired of her. She soured. I dumped her ass for a bottle ofYsatis.

Yesterday, I caught a quick glimpse of Anaïs Anaïs in the window of my local Superdrug. Cryogenically preserved; a tawdry, heart-breaking £12.95.

I wanted to smell her again–just once! She was my first. Had she changed? Had I? Nostalgic desire. I cogitated: Could we ever relive the magic?

I asked the check-out girl to retrieve her from her ignominious top-shelf exile. My request was met with a grimace, a look of jaded, adolescent incredulity: Are you for real? You want to smell that old shit?

I just want to try it, I fudged (as though that were my very first time). She tried to convince me with steely resistance that, she was sorry, but there was no tester.

Oh, yes there is, I pressed. I was taller than her. I could see it up there, behind that box, there, at the back.

She made a conspicuous display of lugging over a recalcitrant footstool. She sprayed the back of my hand. I wordlessly fled. I found a nearby, desolate alleyway, and stopped.

Only then would I take her to my heart again …

Anaïs Anaïs. She wasn’t unlovely. She was full-on, top-heavy, lily-loaded, pugnacious. I was embarrassed to say that I found her loud–sharp, even–and, frankly, dispiritingly one-dimensional. She was also far less romantic and whimsical than I recalled, though (to her dubious credit) her unsubtle tenacity meant that, for a 'floral bouquet', she certainly went the distance.

Soon sated and deflated, I slunk back to my business and other chores. The day wore on. I tried honourably to memorialise my first love, but the thrill was gone. Anaïs Anaïs and her sillage had faded; she expired just as my memory of ever desiring her was expunged.

Do you remember your first scent like you remember your first love? Share your secrets here, with The Scentimentalist.


  1. What fantastic writing! This is a wonderful, sensual love story, dear Scentimentalist! They should make a film of it. With sample sachets distributed to the audience at the climax.

  2. I haven't got a story comparable to your early yearning for Anais Anais (a rasping yet sweet, ubersoapy, powderfest of a floral scrubber on me today, if you don't mind my saying so), but I did have a huge crush on my English A-Level teacher, and loved to catch a whiff of her Blue Grass sillage (vintage we must infer) - in the corridor or in her vintage Renault 5 when she gave me a lift home (we were the only two people at the school who lived the other side of town).

  3. this reminds me of an interview with charles schultz in which he insisted "peanuts" wasn't "art" because it wouldn't "speak to succeeding generations" and I wondered why wouldn't "peanuts" speak to succeeding generations?

    I know there are women on basenotes who still love this stuff!

  4. Oh, yes, Supermarky. This scent continues to have legions of fans, a fact of which Cacharel is no doubt quite aware. I am certain that it is still in production in part to serve women in their late 30s/early 40s, who still wish to preserve the scent of their youth -- and why not? Certainly, Anais Anais is one of the most frequently cited 'entry-level' scents for women on Basenotes, and on other sites.

    I wonder now if reformulation might play a part in my story? Or is it merely the fact that I once coveted Anais Anais so badly, and am now cynical and spoiled for choice?

    PS I still love 'Peanuts'.

  5. My first love was Escada Sexy Graffiti that I bought in a duty free shop in Mexico, well my parents bought it for me actually. It was my first real perfume and I reveled in it's fruity floral goodness. I still remember how I felt evertime I reached for that bottle. I've learned so much and my tastes are very different, so I doubt I would like it now but I'll always remember it.

  6. This is wonderful, dearest Scentimentalist. The headiness is making me think of my french penfriend who wanted everything to be 'romantic'. Anais Anais, Richard Clayderman, Barry Lyndon at a repertory cinema on the left bank. I stayed with her for one week. It was another country of feeling. I hadn't yet fallen in love so it was achingly compelling to understand so clealry someone else's version of what that first love would feel like. It was pure adolescent speculation.

  7. I used ot like Anais Anais. But my first was Chanel No 19. I loved the citrusy fagrance. Very unisex I thought. I smell it now and it seems alien and familiar.

    I don't know why I felt it was androgynous, masculine even. It is a girly as all the others. LOL

  8. I was about 6 years old. There was a giant bottle of Joy on my mother's dressing table.
    Somehow what was supposed to be a secret sniff wound up being an overturned bottle on my dress.
    I must have passed out from the fumes because I woke up the next morning all clean and un-smelly
    in my very own cozy bed. Funny how scent can be instantly connected with memories.

    Susan Hannaford

  9. Kathleen Bryson7 August 2009 at 01:17

    Hmm. I loved a friend's Paris in my late adolescence, and associated it with my first lover (my Paris-loving female friend boarded with my male first lover - complicated, moving on). I inherited a half-used bottle from my Paris friend, but grew out of it by the time I was in my early 20s. I also do remember the same ex-boyfriend of that time period wearing both Pierre Cardin and Lacoste and the scents seemed ever so sophisticated to me at the time, and grown up - probably because I was also having sex for the first time. I associated them with him, and I liked to wear them myself. That was around the time I first realised I was a perfume transvestite.

    The first perfume I bought for myself with my own money was, however, Activist by the Body Shop. I think that was a "men's" cologne as well. Eventually I expanded my taste to both women and women's perfumes, but expanded taste doesn't mean cutting out prior tastes, which I've retained as well. I think my perfume journey has rather followed my life journey.

    P.S. Thank you for the Kenzo Amour suggestion, which I completely adored once I had the correct, non-floral bottle. It is *very* much like Hypnotic Poison, my current favourite.

  10. Amazing! How lovely to wake and discover these comments.

    CampbellX: I am in utter agreement with you. I adore No. 19, and for me it is perfect androgyny, not at ALL girly. I go back to it time and again, and I always will.

    Susan: Am quite persuaded that upending a bottle of Joy could prompt instant death. In a fabulous way, of course ...

    Kathleen: I love your idea of being a perfume 'transvestite'. This is brilliant! I may have to come back to you on this. And yes, I concur completely that your perfume and life journeys intersect. Scent and sexuality, anyone?

  11. Beautiful, just beautiful. Didn't know this blog existed, but now i do i will be following often.

    Its a shame about Anais Anais though. I still think it is a beautiful scent. It surely would raise rave (maybe polarized) reviews if it were launched today. But sometimes, we discover, painfully, that what(or who)we loved in the past remain better as memories. Sometimes, revisits either remind us why we parted in the first place, or show us how far we have "moved on".

    Fortunately, i still love Old Spice, of which i had abundant supply, thanks to my dad, as well as Cinnabar and Chanel 5, thanks to Mum. I was too young in the early '70s to understand or even care about gender-basing of scents.

    Once again, lovely blog.

  12. The first one that I truly loved (not counting my father's Old Spice) was Max Factor Le Jardin, with the Jayne Seymour ads. I even had the flanker - either Jardin Noir or Jardin du nuit, or somesuch. I never smelled it again after I finished the last bottle over 20years ago, so its memory will survive untarnished for me.