Saturday, November 8, 2008

This Week at the Perfume Counter: Chicago

Traveling to film festivals is fun, mainly because I get to do a lot of perfume shopping. Here in Chicago, I'm sharing a room with my cameraman, who scoffs at what he must consider an addiction. He made it very clear, as we drove into town, that he had no intention of accompanying me on my desperate search for a fix.

That was last night. This morning, he seemed disappointed when I informed him I'd be going ahead as planned with my mission: Barneys, Saks, Nordstrom, possibly Bloomingdales. He might tag along, he said, but only for coffee. Suit yourself, I said. Happy to have you. As we sat at Starbucks feeding another kind of addiction, he announced that he would be joining me for the duration, after all. I made it very clear I had no intention of being rushed or allowing anyone to make me feel stinky. This seemed reasonable to him, and off we went.

It's unreasonably cold in Chicago. I brought t-shirts and jeans and light jacket. I was far more concerned, as I prepared for the trip, with figuring out where all the stores were. Did Saks have Dioressence? I tried to find out. Was it true there might be a L'Artisan studio or something? I did my research, but couldn't get an answer to that. I passed several Urban Outfitters and thought perhaps I should slip in and pick up some cheap gloves, maybe a light sweater, but that would mean at least fifty bucks off my perfume budget. Ladies and gentlemen, I froze for fragrance.

Saks was congested, packed to the rafters with furs and high hairdos. Some of the fur came from little lap dogs. Why do people--often men--bring these creatures shopping with them? It seems to say, "I'm rich! I bring my dog everywhere!" I suppose that's impressive, until they soil the impression of their tidily coiffed appearances with a nice wallop of doo doo on the white marble tile of the store. Maybe rich dogs don't doo doo, which is part of their charm. I wouldn't know.

I smelled the new Annick Goutal trio: Myrrhe Ardente, Encens Flamboyant, and Ambre Fetiche. Encens interested me, mostly in contrast to what Goutal normally produces. It seemed an interesting departure, though a touch bloodless for my taste. The other two did nothing to capture my attention, though I was distracted by said cameraman, who'd started taking pictures, even after I advised against it.

The friendly salesman pointed the cameraman in the direction of Clive Christian Number 1, which sent him into paroxysms of pleasure. Get a room, I whispered, though the salesman seemed to enjoy the show, I suppose because of the price tag and the commission such a sale would involve. Cynical me? I proferred "X" instead, which is a good 500 dollars less; comparatively, a bargain, at 300. Diroessence smelled nice, like I remembered, though I don't remember getting such a strong sense of Galbanum. It isn't even listed in the pyramid, so maybe it's the geranium I'm smelling. Interestingly, the Miss Dior smells very different from the one I purchased at the Russian-run perfume kiosk back home, so maybe I have an older formulation after all. I can see why everyone's made a fuss over the newer version.

The salesman let me smell from a bottle of Amber Absolute, one of those outrageously priced Tom Ford fragrances. Someone who'd bought it in New York returned it in Chicago, so they happened to have one. It smelled perfectly lovely, though I'd rather have five heart-stopping perfumes than one over-priced novelty, however unatrocious it might turn out to be. It didn't last long on my skin, by the way. I'm sure that won't surprise you. Before we left my companion sprayed buckets of Clive Christian X on his neck and chest. He was convinced, as we walked down the street, that women were reacting to him differently, though I didn't notice anyone throwing herself at his feet. He seemed hurt when I told him I couldn't smell it a few feet away.

Barneys was wonderful. The specialists there make me feel I'm shopping for perfume with Abigail. They know what they're talking about, have their favorites, will tell you what does and doesn't have staying power, and seem as happy as you are to be talking to someone with at least a basic knowledge of perfume. My specialist was bottle blond with great shimmery, shocking peacock eyeshadow. I took to her instantly. Even the cameraman got excited. He'd never been around someone so informative in a store, someone who didn't talk like she was reciting from a pamphlet within earshot of upper management. He smelled Comme des Garçons' Jaisalmer and decided he couldn't live without it.

Until I introduced him to Malle and Bois D'Orage and he nearly disintegrated in astonishment right before my eyes. The Malle rep, a fantastically snobby Frenchwoman, took one look at his Jaisalmer and subtly rolled her eyes (you missed it if you blinked), informing him that the Comme scents are all synthetic. They smell wonderful, I said, just to see whether she'd backpedal. Instead, she simply said that yes, some of them were; she was simply stating a fact, she said. Neither of us needed to talk up my perfume convert on Pierre Bourdon's magnificent fragrance. The male Malle rep assured him that women love it so much they wear it themselves. Quickly, realizing how this might have come across, he corrected himself; they don't wear it because it's girly, he said, but because they have to smell it, even if no man they know has the common sense to wear it. Sold: one bottle of Bois d'Orage, for 130 dollars.

I checked out the Rosines, trying to remember which ones Abigail says she loves. I responded favorably to Un Folie de Roses, Rosa Flamenca, and Poussierre, which I had trouble pronouncing with a straight face. Folie reminded me of Dioressence and seemed a better buy. The staying power proved very impressive. Hours later, I can still smell it on my wrist. Still, I wasn't sure. Did I really need another rose fragrance? Less than two weeks ago I bought Malle's Une Rose. I passed, opting instead for Serge Lutens' Chene, an impressive woodsmoke evocation. I also bought the Diptyque Galliano room spray. In LA, a saleswoman suggested I buy it and spray it on my clothes. I couldn't see doing this. Would it really last? Today I sprayed some on my coat. Again, I can still smell it. And what better thing to spray on your coat? It's as if you just came in from a bonfire. I smelled Galliano several years ago, when it first came out, I think. I'm not sure why I've waited this long to get such a sure bet. My third purchase was Diptyque's L'ombre Dans L'eau, which I won't bother trying to describe right now, except to say that it makes MY eyes subtly roll--back into my head.

Postscript: Later, I returned with the Chene and exchanged it for a Rosine. I loved the Folie but thought it smelled too similar to too many things I own. I loved the Poussiere but would I really wear something with so much amber in it? I purchased Flamenca. Now, hours later, I wonder. The other two persisted. Flamenca died something of a quick death on my skin. That could be due to the fact that the other two were under my coat, protected from the elements, whereas I'd sprayed Flamenca on my hand.

I'd be grateful to anyone for sharing her/his thoughts on the Rosines.


ScentScelf said...

If you are reading this before you leave, and you have time, you were right around the corner from the L'Artisan shop. It's on the ground floor of the 900 North Michigan building/shops, kitty corner from the Ethel's Chocolates stand which is there in the middle of the open area.

Poussiere from the Rosines gets my vote of those you tried. (And yes, I'm grateful I only had to write it.) But, as folks are generally quick to point out, they are all well done.

Abigail said...


Why didn't you take me with you? ;-)

Diabolo is my favorite Rosine, which is a weird combination of rose & mint which I don't think many like.

But I love just about all of them. Seriously. Rose d'Ete is nice, the most basic rose called La Rose de Rosine is gorgeous, Un Zeste de Rosine is a zippy citrusy rose for summer, Poussiere is one of the best, honestly I don't think they make a bad fragrance.

I'm laughing out loud that you've already returned one!

Diptyque L'Ombre dans L'Eau - how did I not send that to you before? It's a big powerful rose with lotsa green (privet - you know, like a hedge). I've always loved L'Ombre...glad you do, too.

xxooo Abigail

Gail S said...

Personally, I'm dying to try the new Rose Praline (don't know if they would have had that one yet). My favorites are Une Folie (gotta love a rosy chypre!) and Kashmirie because I enjoy the saffron.

Touching on the subject of shopping with a canine, my daughter takes hers with her everywhere that dogs are allowed and I must say that he's better behaved than many of the human patrons. Walks quietly at her side, doesn't bark, doesn't poop or pee indoors, sits down by her feet when she's stationary. I'm also convinced that the cute factor gets more samples from the salespeople :)


Perfume pilgrim in Chicago. I loved it.
Maybe I will join you next time....

Brian said...

Gail, I'm such a snob. What do I have against those little dogs? They never hurt anyone--that I know of. Would you believe me if I told you some of my best friends have little dogs? Chihuahuas, even. Apologies to your daughter.

You know, I ended up taking Serge Lutens Chene back in order to get a Rosine, which was Flamenca. Then I took that back, and got Poussiere. It was between that and Folie. Folie smelled so much like some of the fumes I have (Ma Griffe, Miss Dior) that I couldn't justify it. Then I got home and realized that Poussiere smelled strikingly siilar to Bond No. 9 Broadway Nite. They dry down in different directions, thankfully.