This is in response to the question, "Do you believe in a 'holy grail' fragrance?". Yes, I've gotten obsessed with this to the point that I've joined two perfume-specific webboards.
My take on this is kind of backwards, I guess:
I was introduced to 'real' scents sometime in high school, when I was given a couple of minis of Paloma Picasso. Kind of ridiculously strong for a 15-yr-old even in the 80s, but it's always been the scent I compare everything else to - even if I'm looking for something quite the opposite in character.
I've had several scents that lasted for long periods of my life: Feminite de Bois when I was a few years older, Red Door in college (until a housemate made it her signature too), I can't remember what I wore in grad school but probably couldn't afford much. I somehow found a spray bottle of Joy in Marshall's just before I got married, and after we moved to a metropolitan area, I wore Robert Isabell's Calla and By by D&G. I collected oodles of things from Duty Free shops (Diorever, Salvatore Ferragamo, Ultraviolet, Patou For Ever) on a couple of visits to family in England, and would buy something from time to time (Casmir, Amor Amor) but didn't feel settled with one particular scent.
The area that we lived in had pretty bad air quality, and my sinuses suffered. I would have to go for long stretches wearing nothing. I also worked in an environment where scent was not tolerated.
I eventually wound up having a septoplasty to relieve my poor old sinuses, and my sense of smell vanished for about a month. It was really unnerving, how many pleasures this took away - food in particular. Once it came back, I looked for something gentle to wear every day, and chose Clarins' Par Amour Toujours.
But now, we have moved, I've had a second baby, and my 30s are waning. PAT feels too young to me, and I went back to 'something like Paloma Picasso, but not so strong' for my new scent. I'm very happy and will likely wear Premier Figuire Extreme most days (good grief, I will be known here as "that PFE girl" if I mention it again!), but there's just too much out there to say that's the only one for me. And there will always be a rounded bottle with a black sillouette on my dresser!