Monday, January 2, 2012

Perfume hunting

Every now and then I remember that the best way to find vintage perfumes is in the real world, not online. When you try to buy, say, pre-reformulation Egoiste on eBay, you're competing with a bunch of other perfume crazies who know how much it's worth, so unless you're extremely lucky or persistent you have to pay top-dollar. On the other hand, if you run across an old bottle of perfume at an estate sale or something like that, it's likely that the person selling it has no idea how much it's worth. In fact they probably think it's worth less than it was new, which, in some cases, is the opposite of the truth. So, on these rare occasions, like once a year, I get it in my head to search Craig's List to see if anyone's selling a bunch of old perfume at a garage sale or whatnot.

The last time I did this, I ended up getting vintage bottles of Eau de Joy, Hermes Caleche, and Shalimar Eau de Cologne for $50. The Joy I sometimes wear. The Caleche I swapped away. The Shalimar I still have, but the bottle is sealed. I'll probably sell it at some point. It looks like the oldest of the bunch by far. Today, I did the search again, and saw that someone near my apartment was selling a handful of perfumes, including a "huge" bottle of Yves Saint Laurent Y. From the picture, it was hard to tell what all the other bottles were, but I could see Aramis and Fendi among them. Y is a green chypre, meaning it's almost certainly been reformulated for the worse in the recent past. Aramis is a leather fragrance. Fendi is discontinued. She was selling the whole lot for $50. I figured if the Y and Fendi were in good condition, it would be well worth the cost and the trip, so I made an appointment.

We met in the lobby of the woman's high-rise. I asked if the perfumes were hers. She said yes, but she was moving and only wanted to keep a couple. She pulled them out of a grocery bag and lined them up on a table. I laughed. The bottle of Y was beyond huge. It must have been a display factice -- it looked like about 1,000 ml.  The cap was broken so she'd corked the bottle. I was worried about the condition but it smells fantastic. Ditto for the Fendi (which is similar to Theorema, but much brighter in color, more floral, and a little fruity ... kind of carnation pumpkin pie, with a leather undertone) and the Aramis, which looks newer but not brand new, and will smell terrific on John. I also got a little spray mini of Amarige. I left three bottles behind (Caesars Woman and two things I'd never heard of) and gave her $45 for the rest. Pretty good haul!

I am now the proud owner of a truly obscene amount of YSL Y of uncertain vintage. Here's Luca Turin's description of it:

This is the archetypal green chypre, fresh, scrubbed, prim and proper, made of excellent raw materials, with the slightly screechy feel of silk-clad thighs rubbing together. If this were an actress, it would be Danielle Darrieux. If it were a wine it would be a Chablis. If it were a car it would be a vanilla-yellow convertible Citroen DS. If it were a piece of music it would be the theme of Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.

Chypre lovers, please let me know you'd like a taste.


  1. Wow! That was some seriously good haul. :) Lucky you.

    How big is the Y bottle in the end? 1000ml?
    I would love a taste since you mentioned it. :)

  2. "Y" is one of my very favourite greens. So delicate with it's whisper of flowers. Luckily the reform is actually ok. I wore it for years then recently got a newish (last 10 years) bottle. Adore.

  3. Ines, I thought the bottle didn't say, but I just checked again and realized there's a sticker on the back, mostly faded but I can just barely read the type. It's 30.5 ounces, which is 900 ml -- I was pretty close!! Send me an email with your address and I'd be happy to send you some! You can get my email via my profile page.

    Jane, I wish I knew what year this was from. I'm thinking it's oldish because she actually managed to use a fair amount of it. Also the juice has darkened probably due to evaporation. Let me know if you ever run out!

  4. I wear Y occasionally and I love it. But my favourite green chypre is Givenchy III (even the new one).

    You know... John could almost wear Y because it's not floral or fruity or vanilla. But it definitely has a feminine feel to it. Givenchy III is more unisex... has a great soapy note it.

    Great haul!!!

  5. I have been smelling Y on paper but have yet to try it on my skin -- that may be my project for the day. I need to decant some into a manageable bottle!

    I believe I have a tiny sample of Givenchy III somewhere -- will have to dig it up and compare.

    I wore the Aramis last night I realized that, once you get past the top notes, you could almost mistake it for Jolie Madame!

  6. Really? I've got to get some of that Aramis! I missed an opportunity just before Christmas... a whole 4-piece kit for $80! Next purchase, for sure!

  7. Let me know what you think of it! Hopefully it hasn't been reformed.

  8. was hoping someone else would say this, but looks like i'll have to be the one to point out that craigslist is an online marketplace like ebay, not, in fact, the real world. though I'm not surprised there is more random cheap shit on it. That said, imagine the low-price vintage perfumes you could find if you looked in the REAL real world - facebook and twitter.

  9. The point is, I went and met the person face to face so I could see and smell the fragrances before buying. I did not order them online, which is a cross-your-fingers enterprise where you could get fakes or damaged goods. Most people (AFAICT) use Craig's List more like an advertising system, i.e. Come to my house and buy my shit.

  10. Congratz on such a grand haul! It has never occurred to me to try Craigslist. It's such an iffy proposition, but I will at least check out the listings.

    I would love a taste of the green. Thank you for the offer!

  11. Forgot to mention:

    LT's description: "If it were a car it would be a vanilla-yellow convertible Citroen DS."


  12. Remind me of your address (via email of course) and I will gladly send you some!