Survey a group of beauty-conscious Americans and many would undoubtedly agree that a Paris Hilton fragrance is for teenagers or twentysomethings and the sophisticated strength of Chanel No. 5 is for your grandmother. Certain scents typically have certain age associations.
But ultimately, what makes a scent "young" or "old" is subjective. While most perfumers agree that simple and sweet, fruity florals are the scent of preference for women and girls who are likely to have seen "New Moon," and that big, powdery, floral bouquets are most often worn by older women, that perception is largely dependent on one's personal interaction with the fragrance.
A thirtysomething may have smelled one too many retirees wearing Estée Lauder Aliage to want to dab it on her own pulse points. A fortysomething may feel a twinge of nostalgia for the patchouli of her youth and seek it out, while a twentysomething may simply want to smell like her friends -- or a celebrity.
"It is true that if you smell a 1920s or 1950s fragrance, there's a style you associate with a person of a certain age, compared to yours," said Luca Turin, a biophysicist and author who is one of the world's preeminent perfume experts. "However, if you come to it fresh and consider the fragrance carefully, you'll find that actually anything goes. Somebody who arrived from another planet might think that something great for grandmothers might also work for them."