Friday, January 23, 2009

This Week at the Perfume Counter

I haven't been reporting from the perfume counter much lately because almost all of my purchases were made online.  I got sick of the hassle--and it is a hassle, the retail environment, even under the best of circumstances (friendly, informed staff, accessible testers, et al).  Ultimately I don't want anyone, even someone I like, hovering around me when I look for perfume.  I'm self conscious and need time to myself.

Then I wanted Fendi Asja, because it was made by Jean Guichard (Eden, Loulou, La Nuit) and I'd read about it somewhere, and I remembered seeing it at the local Korean discount perfume shop, and why bother sending off for it when I could drive across town and within a half hour have it in my sweaty little paws?

This prompted further ventures into the perfume marketplace.  I hadn't been to the Russian Kiosk in months, after the woman who works there seemed to have been insinuating, last time, that I'd somehow swindled them by trading my bottles of Gucci Nobile, Le Feu D'Issey, La Nuit, and other rarities for their moderately priced, widely available perfumes, when I'd only paid between 25 and 35 dollars a pop.  This greatly offended me, as I knew what I was selling them was valuable and rare (unlike some of the stuff they've tried to tell me is no longer possible to find, even when I know otherwise, having seen it upstairs at Perfumania and been born further back than yesterday) and because my selling them something at mark-up was no different than them doing the same to me, and what I was selling them was actually quite valuable and will make them quite a little chunk of cheese, whereas there are only so many people I can pawn off a bottle of Gucci Rush on as if it's a hard to find elixir.  Still with me?  I'm sure, if you spend any amount of time shopping retail for perfume, the tone of this rant is a familiar one to you.

There was a new guy behind the counter.  Where do all these Russians come from?  He was just as pushy and wanted to tell me what I wanted.  I very quickly disobliged him of the idea he would be able to piss on my leg and tell me it was raining.  I was happy I braved the annoyance of a drop-in, though, because they had Paloma Picasso's Tentations, created by Sophia Grosjman.  Two bottles.  I did that thing where I panicked for a small moment, thinking I should buy them both, because what if these were the last bottles on Earth?  Then I got over it and moved on.

I returned to the Korean store the following week, buying another Guichard perfume, Cartier's So Pretty.  If you haven't tried it you might consider it.  I love it.  It's a fruity floral, to be sure, but rich and decadent.  I think Tania Sanchez was spot on when she called it a Mitousko with Creme de Cassis.  It feels like an older perfume.  It isn't shot through with that "radiance" which gives so many modern fruity florals no legs to stand on.  To my nose, that radiance usually involves an anemic transparency.  Not so with So Pretty, which is like falling into plush upholstery.  It's a deep, dark smell with a lightning bright touch of fruit.

I also got Grosjman's Kashaya, done for Kenzo.  When I first started collecting perfume I never thought I'd eventually own as many Kenzo perfumes as I do.  Ca Sent Beau, Jungle Homme, Jungle Elephant, Flower, Amour.  I own and like them all, and Kashaya is yet another surprise.  Someone on felt very smart for revealing the true identity of Kashaya: it's Sun Moon Stars, by Lagerfeld, thinly disguised.  Having spent time with both, I fail to see this supposedly striking similarity.  Kashaya is unmistakably Grosjman, but I'm unaware of anything in her oeuvre that smells quite like it.  Initial application indicates more floral than oriental, but the heart and the dry down are resolutely the latter, with what seems like the perfumer's trademark carnation augmented with sandalwood, amber, vanilla, and musk.  It wears beautifully and comes, if you can find it, in a carnival glass, leaf-patterned bottle.

The Korean store had Valentino Vendetta by Edouard Flechier, Rykiel Homme, and Sander for Men by Jacques Cavallier, all of which I nabbed.  Vendetta is a spicy masculine, with lavender and clove.  I'd heard it doesn't last long, but it lasts well on me.  Rykiel Homme is an unusual thing, fruity and candied and woodsy all at once, and so well balanced that you can't accuse it of erring on the side of any of those things.  I find it pretty addictive and I'm eager to try Rykiel Grey (also Flechier).  Sander is said by Luca Turin to be slightly cold, merciless.  I'm impressed by it myself.  Don't expect a break with tradition.  Sander smells decidedly conventional, yet better than most of the stock at Sephora.

At Ike's, a little discount drugstore here, I've found many good things (Kingdom, Cinema, Opium EDP), and a few months ago they put everything they had on sale, fifty percent off.  You can imagine the damage this did to my pocketbook.  I'd always wanted Polo but not enough to splurge fifty bucks.  25, no problem.  And so on.  As far as I knew there were two Ike's in town and I'd cleaned both out.  Imagine my elation when, yesterday, driving off the beaten path, I saw another location.  It was as if a window in time had opened up, revealing entirely unknown territory.  I bought the following: very rare original formula Montana Perfume at 10 dollars, and Laura Biagiotti Venezia, at 22.  Venezia is an unusual floriental, not resinous at all like Opium and Cinnabar and Coco.  At some point I might write about it, once I spend more time with it.  It wears like a dream and I can see why people still look for it.

In a few weeks I go to Portland, for a return visit to the Perfume House.  I already called to see if they have the hard to find, discontinued Ferre de Ferre.  They do, one bottle, and are holding it for me.  Ferre is what I consider a violet aldehyde, with influences of incense and spice and other faint florals.  The top notes aren't so distinguished but the whole thing mellows into the most intoxicating, distinctive blend.  It will be nice to revisit the Perfume House, having learned so much since the first time.


nathan said...

*blinking in awe*

It sounds like you killed a good amount of time in probably one of the most enjoyable way I can imagine.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you lucky boy!!!
But it's not luck, it's your skill and determination ,really. And you deserve every drop of these treasures:)

Tania said...

Sounds like you did well, even if you did make a dent in your money!

ooh, original Montana? Is the the woman's or the men's?
I used to love the woman's version back in the day. But I had two bottles, and they both turned quite quickly despite being carefully kept in the cool & dark. So I've never tried to find any 'vintage', just in case it would be turned. Besides, the 80's are gone...;-)

Brian said...

big dent, yes. Women's Montana. I have the original men's, which I like. The women's is very peachy, huh? The box looks like it was sitting in that case ever since the perfume first came out. Thankfully, the counter is away from windows. Wait a minute--the eighties are gone??? Oh man. Okay, you just blew my mind.

Tania said...

Was it peachy? I can't remember exactly how it smelled - only that it was big and loud and grew shoulderpads and warpaint blusher on anybody who wore it. I imagine Gozer the Gozerian wore Montana.

Shhh, shhh... just put on a DVD of 'Working Girl' and everything will be ok... ;-)