Suzanne's Perfume Journal

March 24, 2012:

It doesn’t compute—not the unseasonably warm March weather, nor my perfume cravings for this time of year, but I am more than content with both, so it makes no sense to me to try and write about the kind of green and floral scents that most perfumistas in the northern hemisphere are bringing to the fore of their perfume closets right now. Hopefully in a week or two I’ll be interested in donning something green or floral that is more season-appropriate, but the way I’ve been feeling lately I sort of doubt it. I really like wearing oriental perfumes in the heat, and all this week I’ve been wearing Un Crime Exotique from Parfumerie Générale (a decant of it arrived on Monday from the most darling redhead on the planet, Ines).

Un Crime Exotique is one of the few perfumes of which one can say it smells exactly like its list of notes, which in this case include Chinese osmanthus, gingerbread, tea, cinnamon, star anise, mate absolute, vanilla sugar and South Sea Island sandalwood. It’s the kind of perfume that brings so many wonderfully indulgent associations to mind that one could write about it convincingly in any number of ways. The first day I wore it, I thought about its name, coupled with its gourmand richness, and found myself humming a Suzanne Vega’s film noire-like tune:

It won't do
to dream of caramel, 
to think of cinnamon
and long for you.

It won't do
to stir a deep desire, 
to fan a hidden fire
that can never burn true.

Perfect, I thought. Intense longing between two people who shouldn’t be dreaming of each other seemed like a fittingly exotic “crime,” in a sense; a rather tasty idea to write about. Except that with every whiff I took, I was convinced that Un Crime Exotique sided more on the side of indulgence than restraint.

And so my mind loped off in a slightly different direction. Thinking about the bosomy fullness of the scent and it’s red-headed spiciness, I remembered an episode of Firefly in which Christina Hendricks (of Mad Men fame) served up the most ingenious seduction I’ve ever seen on television while attempting to hijack Nathan Fillion’s spaceship. I played around with that idea for a long while, but it seemed a little too camp for Un Crime Exotique.

Then last evening when I walked out into my lawn to do some light yard work, and with a good day’s run under my belt (my first ten-miler in recent months), certain chores accomplished, and the suffusion of warmth that the evening sunlight and lazy stirring wind gave off, I inhaled this perfume’s eggnog spiciness and was transported to a vacation my husband and I once took to the Bahamas. It struck me that the most fitting way for me to write about this perfume was from an island perspective, for certainly the most exotic crime is the one that seems most foreign and most true—and there is nothing restrained in the way that island life will get under your skin and rob you of your steely heart, replacing it with something that will serve you better.

So without further ado…

Un Crime Exotique is a spiced-rum smell, deep and full-bodied, grafted onto the most generously creamy base you can imagine, such that wearing it is a remembrance of what it’s like to walk through the Straw market at Nassau, to feel the caressing words of bosomy, black-skinned women calling out to you, “Hey Sugar Sweet. Can I braid your hair?” It is the scent of largesse written in the most simple script; the scent of remembering what it is like to smile back and, knowing that your hair is too ridiculously short to braid, to say yes. And to say yes again when you hand over your money for a straw basket that might not have been woven in the Bahamas, but who cares? If all of life’s transaction were so cordially conducted, we would all be richer.

Un Crime Exotique is the smell of cinnamon and ginger so strong and stirring that to wear it is to remember how the hot breath of an island is as every bit as thrilling as that of a new lover. Explore, says that breath. Take off your clothes, shed your armor; come, let us know the skin of one another. It is a reminder of what a privilege it is to be a tourist, in any country—whether it be of sand or flesh—and the importance of surrendering some of your own identity in the process.

Un Crime Exotique is the smell of thick, candy-custard pleasure that holds you to the here-and-now. With its sandalwood and vanilla base accord as rich as they come, and married to such spice, this perfume won’t let you forget you have it on. Indulge, and make no apologies about it, is what it commands, and if you’re the type of person who is already down with that, wearing Un Crime Exotique will make you say, “Hot Dog!” But if you’re the kind of person who can’t slow down for a minute, or take the time to pay a genuine compliment to someone or, at the very least, to blow some smoke up their bum as you’re hurrying past, then wearing Un Crime Exotique will give you pause to consider some of these things.

Because what it smells most of is sweet, old-fashioned permission to enjoy la dolce vita. And I don’t know how you see it, but from my side of the fence it seems that an element of courtesy is inherent to that kind of enjoyment.

Which when you are in Nassau means that you will take the horse-drawn surrey ride and give your driver a generous tip; that you will go deep-sea fishing and not feel gypped if the fish aren’t biting; and that you will smile and flirt like a Bahamian and hand over your money for a new straw purse, as well as the perfume at the duty-free.

Because to not do so would be a crime of the most common kind. And no one likes a petty thief.

Parfumerie Générale Un Crime Exotique eau de parfum is the creation of brand owner and perfumer Pierre Guillaume. It can be purchased from, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $100. [UPDATE: In the years since this post was published, the company discontinued this perfume. I consider myself lucky to own a bottle.]

Lyrics from the opening verse of the Suzanne Vega song "Caramel" © 1996 WB Music Corp. / Waifersongs Ltd.

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Parfumerie Générale Un Crime Exotique and Crimes of the Heart