Fragrance: Flitting and flirting

Have you ever looked at an old photo of yourself and thought, Who was that? Certain elements endure, but the surround has entirely changed. You can't imagine yourself back in the same clothes, or with that shag.

The same happens with scent. 

When I pass a perfume counter, I sometimes spritz what was once "my" fragrance, Lancome's Magie Noire, though the reformulation is a travesty. Magie Noire conjures white wine spritzers, shoulder-pads the size of footballs and "Don't You Want Me, Baby?"

I have a vintage bottle under cello wrap, but opening it would feel like releasing a genie; would I fall under its spell again and maybe phone my Aramis-wearing old flame? Chasing now-defunct perfumes is like restoring a vintage sports car: endless expense for a hint of former perfection.

Presently, I'm looking for an interesting (but not numbingly costly) everyday fragrance for winter. I currently enjoy Diptyque's Philosykos, Hermès' Eau de Merveilles, and Eau de Italie's Magnolia Romana among others, but I've got that wandering nose again.

Au revoir, So Pretty!

My friend Natasha made a recent pirouette from Cartier So Pretty (discontinued) to Stella McCartney's Stella, and there she is happily ensconced.

When I saw Colette recently, I dabbed Andy Tauer's sensuous L'Air du Desert Marocain on her wrist; she swooned. That's a penthouse-priced frag, though, and I want a more reasonable daytime splash, neither one-note nor teenagey. That spot is currently occupied by Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely (to which Chandler Burr accords top marks in his book, "The Perfect Scent") but I'm open to change.

Every few months, I've been ordering a selection of 7ml samples from LuckyScent, either their house sample packs or my own selections. I read the descriptions with a grain of salt; scents described as extraordinary may deliver all the allure of car deodorant. Other times, a note I'm convinced I dislike delivers delight.

To find their sample sets, search the Brands menu for LuckyScent Sample Packs. If you have a fragrance-loving friend, or even one curious about scent, the packs are spot-on gifts. There's one for men, too. Other niche vendors who will ship samples internationally are The Perfumed Court and The Posh Peasant.

The LuckyScent perfumes are not drugstore brands, though, and to sample is to learn that, with only rare exceptions, you do get what you pay for; I won't find my stealth bargain there. (Last year, a reader suggested Origins Ginger Essence, which I enjoyed, but like the Jo Malone line, the scent vanished in ten minutes.)

As for the health risks of fragrance, I am going to embrace my vice. The tiny amount I apply markedly improves my spirits (especially in the grip of our deep winter) and Le Duc loves scent, both on me and himself.

No sun, no smoking, less wine than I wish were advised—geez Louise, leave me with something! (Did someone murmur, "chocolate"?)  For those few drops' summoning of salt-washed beach or courtyard of gardenias, I am willing to repent... in a future life.  (Should I wear fragrance in public space, I choose a natural scent, except in bars. I mean, if I can smell someone's Dark and Stormy from five tables away, can we have a little give and take?)

Next year, I plan to explore more natural, eco-certified fragrances, and have already found that one in particular, Hiram Green's Shangri La, delivers a heady, fabulous chypre—but the price is steep as the imaginary paradise's snowy peaks; the eau de parfum is $US 165 for 50ml.

The Passage closes from today until 
January 5, 2016.
Have a merry, restorative, warm holiday.
Thank you, as ever, for reading
and especially for your comments!


Susan B said…
I've been going through the same old standby for several years (Chanel's "Chance") started to feel overbearing, though I still love smelling it on others. I tried a few Serge Lutens fragrances, several of which I liked but that don't stay with me. The one that does, "Chergui," I love in limited doses, not an every day fragrance. The one that surprised me was Lancôme's "La Vie Est Belle." I expected a sticky sweet floral, but it's really a nicely balanced scent on me. Has some of the warmth and sophistication as "Chance" but isn't as domineering and it does last. Le monsieur likes that one too, and he's even pickier than I am. It's not horrendously priced and there are often gift set promotions.
Duchesse said…
unefemme: Thanks for the recc; I can find it easily and will enjoy checking it out. I know Chergui, it's heavy for me for day, a beautiful scent especially if you like leather and spice. (In Lutens, I wear "La Fille de Berlin".) The Lancome is a better price point for an after-gym spritz!
Try Estée Lauder Azuree. I have replaced the too expensive Badit by Robert Piguet with it as my daily spritz. And receive some many compliments. And it is a great price.
materfamilias said…
Love this post--too many cleverly turned phrases for me to cite a favourite but the shoulder pads made me chuckle! Also currently wearing Eau de Merveilles and wondering about the next bottle. Like you, I'm unrepentant about continuing to wear it, although not inconsiderate (try not to wear to yoga class, for example). My pet peeve with perfumes is the ridiculous sizes. I've worn Merveilles most days for a couple of years and damned if I can finish a 100 ml. bottle. Thinking the LuckyScent samples might be a good way to go-thanks for the recommendation. Do you know about the blog We Wear Perfume by one of the two British women of a certain age who write The Wonen's Room?
LPC said…
Have a wonderful holiday! I've got nothing to add to the perfume discussion, unfortunately, the closest I get is Sandalwood body lotion from Whole Foods!
Araminta said…
I have always loved Chanel's "Coco" for the evening but it now feels too heavy and over-powering even for a night out. I still like to open the bottle for a sniff now and then to recapture its heady delights. However, I agree that our tastes do change. Today I am loving "Chanel Noir" for daytime. Oh, the doomed attempt to trace a lost much-loved scent. I used to adore Balmaim's "Vent Vert", a wonderful green vetivier, and was delighted when they revived it. But the reformulation was nothing like the old being thin and harsh and fading fast. All the more reason to move on and keep experimenting.
Duchesse said…
Melissa: Thank you so much! Will definitely try. I loved Bandit, too and Fracas... once when I was wearing it, a NYC cabbie once wheeled around and said, "Lady! WHAT IS that perfume?" But that was the headily-scented '80s.

LPC: You may be in that aisle at Whole Foods now, but at one time, you, like so many of us, fell hard for a fabulouso frag- wasn't it an oud fragrance? Maybe from By Killian? You wrote a great post about it.

Araminta: Did you happen to read a previoius post on reformulations, "The Vanising Point of Perfumes You Loved"?

It saddens me deeply; part of it is due to not being able to use certain components (oak moss is one) but mostly it is what happens when the accountants trump the noses.

I too loved Vent Vert, so fresh yet a hint of mystery.
I remember buying and wearing a sensuous fragrance by Lanvin called My was heady and rich but quite strong...all my friends were wearing Patchouli at the time!
I love Hermes scents and have worn various different I am wearing Jour d"Hermes.
Mitsouko by Guerlain is my winter perfume but it has become increasingly difficult to find here in town.

Good luck on your hunt for your new fragrance...I am off to look at those websites now.
Happy Holidays!
Gretchen said…
Duchesse, along with Luckyscent and the other sample sites you referenced, you may wish to look into Surrender to Chance. They sell larger samples, decants, and variety packs of virtually anything and everything you could possibly wish for fragrance-wise (and they have fabulous deals). No sense not wearing an expensive perfume you adore, but cannot imagine using up within this lifetime or the next few, as bottle sizes are usually ridiculous these days. So much of what's available at decent price points is dreck, just as mass-market jewelry is so often lacking in imagination or quality. I also suggest Patricia de Nicolai (related to the Guerlain family) and Sonoma Scent Studio for amazingly high-quality, high-range fragrances that won't break the bank. And, as women-owned artist businesses, you can support entrepreneurship instead of Fragrance By Committee and Market Hype.
Jacinta Arnold said…
The Zara men's fragrances are very appealing.
Not particularly interested in fragrances except those of the Spanish rice with saffron I've just made ... I'm a bit sensitive to scents, but discreet perfume on others has never bothered me. Just hope you all have a lovely temps des fêtes and that you've taken advantage of the wonderful mild weather to have plenty of walks. I've been cycling every day!
Beth said…
Well, what can I say? Reading this post after an evening of Shangri-la bliss, I feel like the cat that just ate the forbidden canary. Hard to go back to canned food after that!
Mardel said…
I'd been wearing Hermes' Eau de Merveilles for a good while, a few years perhaps? at least a couple, and the bottle seems endless. Suddenly this fall it was no longer right for me and I can't explain that. Now I live in Lutens' Gris Clair, once a perfume I could only wear for certain occasions. Not an inexpensive scent though.
Duchesse said…
Mardel: Le Duc wears Gris Clair! I love it. Neither of those scents are inexpensive and though I have happily paid for them I am always on the lookout for a bargain scent, too- something that doesn't hurt so much to re-up.

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