Friday, January 22, 2010

Perfumes: The Buying Spree

Since being gifted with a copy of Perfumes: The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez, I've been obsessed with fragrance and siphoning my income to start a small collection. Prior to 2010, my "collection" could hardly be labeled as such; it was limited by the fact that I considered perfume to be an extravagance best restricted to gifts. I reserved my "nice" perfume (Gucci Rush) for dates and parties and such and wore something cheap and simple, if anything, during the day, like Fresh Strawberry Flowers or the Crushed Peony oil the Gap used to sell.

The Turin/Sanchez book inspired me to realize that perfume is really a pretty affordable luxury. Small bottles can be found for under $30 and larger bottles last nearly forever. Although I did, at my last address, finally throw out two old bottles I'd had since high school; like everyone else, apparently, I used to wear L'Eau D'Issey and Clinique Happy, the latter of which I take it on good authority hardly suits me. Weirdly, in junior high or maybe even earlier I was fond of White Linen, which even at the time I recognized was kind of an old lady fragrance. I think all three were presents from my grandmother. She may have also given me a bottle of CK One. I seem to remember wearing that for a while in 7th grade. Ironically, I felt original for eschewing Sunflowers and Vanilla Fields.

Here are some perfumes I've bought recently:

Juicy Couture - The original, not Viva La Juicy or Couture Couture. Still, sounds like it would be cheap fruity crap created for college students, but this is actually a very classy floral, mostly tuberose, I'm told. (I don't even know what a tuberose looks like.) I bought a teensy rollerball from Sephora and anticipate upgrading to full-size down the line.

J'Adore - This is just a very pleasant, not too strong floral which is nicely inoffensive for daily office wear.

Flower by Kenzo - A more forceful floral. I like this review in the column Scent Notes, especially since it compares Flower to my stand-by since college:
If one is to categorize it, I would hang it next to the brilliant work of abstract art that is Gucci Rush, which smells like being in a fabulous hair salon — the sprays, the shampoos, the metal sinks, the hot blow-dryer air. It’s Flower’s second act that smells like an abstract art concept: the idea of a flower, all the flowers you ever smelled, but perfected, flooded with halogen light (this thing must be loaded with methyl dihydrojasmonate, a molecule like liquid light), smoothed with powder.
C.O. Bigelow Winter Lemon - I bought the lotion and liked it so much I went back and bought the eau de cologne the next day. I think this is for men? It doesn't smell at all like cleaning products. It's got a bit of fig and clove in it that really do make it smell dark and wintry; it reminds me of lemons that have started to turn and shrivel so they lose that bright edge. Smells both masculine and pretty to me.

Angel - This was another small bottle purchase. I liked Angel when it first came out and was a big deal, but remembered it being mostly chocolatey. The review in the guide convinced me it was more complex than I remembered, and it really is. It smells crazy, lasts all day and keeps changing; it almost smells different with every spray, sometimes fruitier, sometimes with an almost bugspray-like off note. Sort of addictive.

Here are some I want to buy:

Carolina Herrera - This was the signature fragrance of my best friend's mom when I was in jr. high and high school, so I associate it with the '90s. Because my mother doesn't wear perfume, it seemed very glamorous. Surely I'm old enough to pull it off now.

Envy - An expensive-smelling green (obvi) floral.

Notorious - I've never smelled this, but the description is sooo enticing: "a bracingly chilly gin-and-Campari top note, then a whiskey-cola middle section." Mmm, remind me to order a Negroni later. Don't worry, I'll smell before I buy. Some of the stuff these guys like smells atrocious to me. So far, almost anything launched more than 30 years ago. Maybe my nose needs training?


  1. There is a wildly popular, long-running primetime TV drama in France about the owners of a perfume farm. A perfume farm? Imagine a sprawling, picturesque vineyard, but with wildflowers instead of grapes. All the characters are ridiculous cliches: the owner is a classy old patriarch with a white goatee and a big nose, the son who stands to inherit the farm/factory/thing has a variety of love interests with the people who work there and (presumably) vendors and suppliers. They talk a lot about perfume. It's like "Dallas" for France. I don't even know how to Google it.

  2. how about au naturel? Eau d'Elisa?

  3. I have more fun helping guys shop for scents. I love smoky vetiver and lemony scents. For the longest time I wore The Body Shop's White Musk, but they messed with the formula and it hasn't been the same for about two years. Creed makes a scent called Tuberose Indiana-- I love that one, too, but haven't been able to find it locally.

    Any time a guy has said, "Mmm. You smell nice." I'm wearing cocoa butter lotion.

    L'oreal makes this juniper and rosemary shampoo now- it smells like hippy. I love it when you can smell your own shampoo all day.

    J'Adore smells good on certain women. It reminds me of my favorite Italian friend, and this conversation I once had with her about how expensive it is in Italy, and how I was all, like, "Wait. We can go to Khol's and get some for cheap."

  4. Chip told me you blogged about our book. Glad you like it! P.S. I am apparently the only person in the world who liked Notorious.

  5. I used to run a perfume shop, so this is a great passion of mine. I know now when a woman walks past who is wearing it - even twenty or thirty feet away - I can always tell. It's just the most distinctive smell; it's the patchouli in it I think. I like Mugler's newest - Alien. More vanilla, less patchouli.
    There are some really wonderful perfumes, single note, in the Caron line if you ever get a chance to smell them - I particularly liked their "Blond Tabac," which is a beautiful masculine-smelling fragrance that turns out to smell great on women. One of my other favorite perfumes was called "Panthere" by Cartier. I hardly ever wear it - it's one of those "serious" perfumes you talked about. Every day I like a little grapefruit - Pamplemousse by Comptoir Sud Pacifique makes a terrific one that smells like fruit, not cleaning products, and a little bit like the South Seas might.

  6. Have you ever been to ihateperfume? (They don't actually hate perfume).

  7. TS: Thanks for stopping by and for writing the book! Does Luca like Notorious?

    Jeannine: Glad we share this passion/obsession! I have read about Blond Tabac. I love tobacco smells, though I don't smoke.

    Reen: I had not -- checking it out. Thanks!

  8. He liked it too, but it is always possible we were both insane. I remember it came in the middle of a particularly bad batch of new perfumes, and of that menacing lot we agreed it stood out for being basically pleasant.

  9. I'm still intrigued by the Campari note. But perhaps, in any case, it's best _not_ to wear a scent that everyone else in the world hates ...

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  12. Nice post, finding a good perfume is not a difficult job, but finding a perfume in antique bottle is quite difficult.