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Power Shopper

Once in a while, people invite me to their homes to discuss books. This is great fun not only because they provide delicious finger foods and say nice things about my book, but also because they often give me a thank-you present on my way out. Is this a great gig, or what?

I attended one such event last month, and, to my delight, the thank you pressed into my hand was a bottle of perfume, specifically, Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir. We passed it around and took nose-hits off it like a gang of sommeliers with a new pinot. And when I arrived home, well, let’s just say nuzzling was involved.

So the question I was left with that evening wasn’t, "Did someone really spend all afternoon stuffing almonds into dates?" but rather, "How did I forget about perfume for so long?"

The last time I had a signature scent I was 13, and my aroma of choice was Coty Wild Musk, which seemed quite the bargain at the drugstore. To the great relief of noses everywhere, I’m all grown up now, and Walgreens isn’t going to cut it.

The center section of Saks Fifth Avenue, filled with jewelry and make-up (or, as I like to call it, the Hall of a Thousand Joys), is hopping, but I eventually make my way to the back counter, where I meet my very own Fragrance Specialist. Let the sniffing bonanza begin!

I try some classics, Joy and Arpege, but the Pomegranate Noir inspired me to get progressive, and soon I am in a cloud of new fragrances like Bond No. 9’s The Scent of Peace and Hanae Mori’s Butterfly. A special, single drop of John Varvatos for Women perfume almost wins me over.

But I’ve been saving something very special for you, something rare and fine and hot pink. Oh yes—my savvy readers are nodding enthusiastically—I’m talking about La Femme Perfumery on 12th Avenue South, Naples. We are goin’ downtown, ladies.

As soon as I walk in the door I’m channeling Marilyn Monroe. The pink and black décor brings the word boudoir to mind, and I feel exquisitely girly. Marie Christine greets me with a compliment about my high-heeled black leather Prada boots, and we are officially bonded. If the fate of the world ever rests on finding that perfect fragrance, I’m following her.

I’m captivated by Acqua Di Parma’s brilliant blue bottles and feel a swoon coming on when Iris Nobile fills the air, followed by the unisex Colonia. But it’s the Blu Mediterraneo di Capri that leaves me unable to concentrate on what Marie Christine is saying.

Once I come to my senses (still surreptitiously sniffing my wrist), I am impressed by the charming bottles and charitable bent of Creed. Each sale of Love In White benefits UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), while purchases of Virgin Islands Water, which smells as heavenly as it sounds, benefit NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

I’m all for charity, but even more aromatic pleasures await with Annick Goutal’s citrusy Eau d’Hadrien, already a classic among those in the know. But it’s Songes, with its intriguing frangipani note, that’s giving the Blu Mediterraneo a run for this shopper’s money. I indulge myself with one more try, Goutal’s new Mandragore, but mind and nose finally come to a consensus, and Songes emerges the victor.

As I stroll out trailing the scents of a hundred different essential oils, I realize there are still a few hours of daylight left; and so, in keeping with the theme of the day, I head to Random Acts of Art in The Village on Venetian Bay to check out their hand-blown perfume bottles.

When I confide my mission to owner Rani Richardson, she delights in giving me a crash course (almost literally) in how to tell whether a perfume bottle is functional or not. She grasps the top of an exquisite glass Pillar by artist Buzz Blodgett, gives the stopper a firm turn, and then suspends it from that delicate stem, allowing the heavy column to hang in the air without any other support.

When my nerves can’t take it anymore, she laughs and says, "That’s how you can tell it’s airtight. Though I don’t suggest trying it unless you’re pretty sure it is." Even after that successful demonstration, I’m not trying it, especially not with any of the bottles that grace her shelves.

The Orchid by Luzoro draws my eye with its extravagant art glass stopper and impressive size, but then we’re quickly hopping over to the faceted Blue Flower by Milon Townsend, and the Trumpet Flowers by Elizabeth Mears. The Teapot by Christian Thirion tickles me, but I keep coming back to The Orchid, and I make my second conquest of the day.

Even if you already have a signa-ture scent, how long has it been since you took a deep breath of fresh air and reset your olfactory sense? Go cold turkey for a week, and then give something new a try. I can practically guarantee a few nuzzles in your future.

The Mission
Smell Delectable

The Contenders

Sak's Fifth Avenue, Waterside Shops, (239) 592-5900
Joy Perfume, $400
Arpege, $135
Bond No. 9 The Scent of Peace, $175
Hanae Mori Butterfly, $90
John Varvatos for Women, $125

La Femme Perfumery, 12th Avenue South, Naples (239) 434-7444
Acqua Di Parma Iris Nobile, $127
Acqua Di Parma Colonia, Unisex, $110
Acqua Di Parma Blu Mediterraneo di Capri, $98
Creed Love in White, $190
Creed Virgin Islands Water, $190
Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien, $160
Annick Goutal Mandragore, $160
Annick Goutal Songes, $160

Random Acts of Art, The Village on Venetian Bay (239) 435-0668
Buzz Blodgett Pillar, $155
Luzoro The Orchid, $450
Milon Townsend Blue Flower, $195
Elizabeth Mears Trumpet Flowers, $395
Christian Thirion Teapot, $200

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