Monday, October 3, 2011

Smells like last century

As promised, here is the link to my latest perfume column, On the Scent: A Certain Vintage, on the smells of yesteryear, including discontinued gems like L'Arte di Gucci and Fendi Theorema as well as older versions of living classics like Joy and Diorella. Here's an excerpt:
To the perfume lover, vintage perfumes are a dangerous draw. There is reason to worry that after falling down the vintage rabbit hole, one may never want to return to the above-ground mall. That’s because they really don’t make ‘em like this anymore – many of the ingredients common in vintage perfumes are no longer in use due to reduced availability, ecological or health concerns, prohibitive costs, changing tastes, or some combination of the above. So if you like what you smell in vintage perfumery – real oakmoss in chypres, natural ambergris and civet, unctuous musks, a high percentage of natural floral absolutes – it may be difficult to accept what’s being manufactured today.  
The threat, then, is that you’ll fall head over heels in love with something in very limited availability. Let’s say you’re smitten with a bottle of Chanel No. 5 parfum from the ‘50s. Once it’s gone, there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever find the same vintage again, or that, if you do, it will be in the same condition or remotely affordable...
Read the rest!


  1. Lovely post on the vintages!

    Wanted to weigh in with my opinion on a few of those scents:

    I have not yet made my peace with Joy. Ho Panties all the way, just not my thang.

    The reissue of Vega is very, very nice, and I prefer it to the vintage stuff. It's a lot less... murky... in the base, and less powdered-sugar up top. (If you don't like aldehydes - which I think I remember you don't - all bets are off.)

    And it's true that there are a number of rose chypre thingies on the market these days. However, I love L'Arte, and I don't love the ones I can get my hands on. (Except, maybe, Teo Cabanel Oha. That might substitute, not that I will ever run out of L'Arte in my lifetime, given its stunning longevity and my three bottles.)

    I wondered if you had smelled Emeraude PdT next to L'Heure Bleue EdT. I hated L'HB edt (i.e. Medicine Cabinet of Hell), but you well know I adore vtg Emeraude, as well as another scent frequently described as medicinal - Serge Lutens La Myrrhe.

  2. Thank you Mals! I still think Joy is difficult to wear, but lately I see a roundness and beauty to it I was missing before (you know, hidden under the ho panties!). I will have to seek out the new version of Vega. I like aldehydes when they are not served up with too much sweetness (my reference aldehyde is White Linen), so if it's less sugary, I may like it more.

    Lucky you with all that L'Arte! I may splurge on a small bottle at some point, but I can't justify it until I use up some of my other rosies that I like just as much.

    As for LHB, the concentration I'm familiar with is EDP -- would you call that less medicinal than the EDT? (I still found it too medicinal for me.)

    I actually meant to add a footnote thanking you and another generous blogger (Aimee L'Ondee) for several of the samples I reviewed!

  3. These are all perfumes I worked with at the perfumerie I managed after college! I didn't realize so many of them were discontinued...I still have a gigantic bottle and a vintage crystal flacon of Panthere that I bought from the store when I left - and yes, I like 24 Faubourg, but think it's a bit sweeter and lighter and doesn't have the staying power of Panthere.

  4. Interesting, you think 24F is sweeter than Panthere? I felt like it went the other way around.

    I think it's different to try these perfumes now, having no prior attachment to them. When you've loved something for years and it becomes unavailable and someone tells you "There's other stuff like this," I'm sure you think, Fat chance.

  5. P.S. Treasure those old perfumes! They are worth a lot! And before you ever throw anything away, check with me first. ;)

  6. I would totally buy a perfumed named Ho Panties no matter how it smelled.

  7. Elisa - don't you think 24F has more of a vanilla thing going on than Panthere? But I'm probably comparing the actual "parfum" of Panthere to an "eau" of 24F. The thing is, with weaker versions, you're never getting the real essence of the fragrance, I think - but of course they're much more affordable.

  8. I tried a lighter version of Panthere, but I got lots of vanilla from it, more so than in 24F, but it may just be that we are paying attention to different parts of the fragrance, or that we're not comparing the same concentrations, as you say.

    I've never owned the real parfum version of anything!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.