No, I don’t think you will experience the kind of “adventure” that your imagination might conjure up after seeing the picture above, but if you try your hand at layering, you certainly could find yourself in the midst of an olfactory adventure. Not long before I saw a new post on the FromPyrgos blog on this subject, I began doing a lot more layering than I had in the past. The reason is that I began to apply a scent when I first woke up, and in some cases I would barely be able to smell anything several hours later. Perhaps my sensitivity (at least to most notes/accords/chemicals) has been low lately, or it may be that I crave more complexity on a not-entirely-conscious level, but whatever the case may be, my opinion on layering has changed significantly. However, I do want to make it clear that until very recently I would have agreed with the FromPyrgos author on this subject, and it’s possible that in the near future I may go back to agreeing with him, for all I know !
A few years back, when I first experimented with layering, I found that mostly what resulted were bad note clashes. However, now that I rarely scents that I find “synthetic,” this seems less of an issue, though I’m careful to think about exactly why I want to layer one with another. One thing that may have led me to reconsider layering is that lately I’ve made up quite a few decants (mostly for swaps), and doing this usually means getting small amounts of all kinds of different scents on my arms or shirt (or even on my neck or face). In the past, I found this to be rather irritating, but lately I’ve found that I can tell which scent I’m experiencing at any given moment, and also that it seemed to be a more pleasant experience (I’m not sure if there is a connection between these two).
Perhaps providing an example would be helpful here. About a week ago, I wore a rose and coffee scent, L’Or de Torrente. After a few hours, I decided to spray on some Romance for Men by Ralph Lauren (lower down from where I sprayed on the first, a few inches above the navel). It seemed like L’Or de Torrente was somewhat “revived” by Romance, but also it was like a new scent had been created (my “mind’s nose” seemed to vacillate between these two perceptions). It also seems like a vintage scent can be enhanced by a more recent (and “synthetic”) one, so long as one gets the layering right, in terms of how much is used and where it is placed on the body. Generally, it seems like the stronger scent should be sprayed lower on the chest or abdomen, and one should start with just one spray of each, give it a while, and then decide if more sprays are needed.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that this is a good idea for everyone, and may only work for a small minority (and even then one needs to be careful). Undeniably, however, some scents have been created with the thought that consumers would layer them (or that it would be an option). My guess is that the Perfumer’s Workshop was the first major attempt at marketing this kind of approach to the general public, at least in the USA. The major benefit to me is that I can now wear scents that I would often think about wearing but then decide against, and when you have a few hundred bottles (as I now do), you have to ask yourself if there is a better way of using scents you hardly ever wear.
One example is Connect for Men by Liz Claiborne. If I am interested in a tea scent, I’ll likely go for L’Occitane’s White Tea, but if I want a tobacco type scent I’d reach for Bogart Pour Homme (among others) instead of Connect. So, what I did the other day was to spray on Le Baiser du Dragon EdP a few minutes after waking up, and then when I found myself getting a little bored by it, a few hours later, I sprayed on Connect a few inches below where LBdD was applied. The result was that I was able to detect certain notes/accords more clearly in both scents than I could if I had only applied one. Connect, however, was clearly considerably weaker, but since I thought the combination was quite pleasant as is, I didn’t apply more. My plan is to do that some day, but with so many scents from which to choose, I wonder if that will ever come to pass !
An example of a scent that seems perfect for layering (for me) is Nautica Voyage (I have the original formulation). I like at least one aspect to it but not others. I know that I might like it if I apply it when I wake up, but I also know that I’m likely to be bored if not irritated by it within a few hours, so my plan is to simply see how I feel about it after it settles into the drydown (I’ll update this post when I do that). A few days ago, I first applied four sprays of vintage Nicole Miller for Men, because it’s a bit weak, and after a few hours I decided to try spraying Zara Gold Man (first formulation, with similarity to Aventus) once, a couple of inches lower. This led to more note clarity, especially the notes in NMfM. The day after that, I began with Homme de Gres for four to five hours, then applied circa 1990 Grey Flannel, and then a few hours later, Tommy Hilfiger’s Eau de Prep (women’s). In this case, the newly applied scents didn’t seem to clash or clarify notes, but rather it was more like a smooth transition.
My last layering combination was vintage Cabochard EdT, then one spray of Jovan Intense Oud underneath it several hours later (the Cabochard was quite weak by then). The Jovan dominated, but the Cabochard added subtle leathery nuances. So far, in my recent layering adventures, I haven’t experienced any really nasty note clashes, but then again I won’t even think about layering with two scents that I perceive as having clear “synthetic qualities.” Perhaps the key “trick” is to wait for the first scent to begin to bore you, and then select a scent that your “mind’s nose” is telling you will work well with it. If I hadn’t experienced some very pleasant smells after decanting and finding myself asking, “what combination could be responsible for this?” I doubt if I would have tried layering again, but on those days where the first scent doesn’t supply what I’m seeking, I see no reason to refrain from layering experimentation.
UPDATE: I tried layers with Nautica Voyage. First, when I got out of bed, I sprayed on Je Reviens (about 15-20 years old if not more, I’d say), but after a couple hours I could barely smell anything, so I decided to spray Voyage underneath. I could smell that for perhaps an hour, without much effect on the Je Reviens, which I now got it mild wafts, but then both seemed to be very weak. In this case, I think Voyage would be better on its own, as these two seemed to cancel each other out, especially after the voyage dried down.