Wednesday, December 22, 2010

This Week At The Perfume Counter: Guest Blogged by Elisa

Here's the thing. It's rarely much fun shopping by yourself. Just last night, a friend and I were talking about how maddening it is to visit the perfume stores alone: the vendors aren't always so patient, when not exceedingly pushy. They can sometimes take the fun out of it. There's safety in numbers. When you bring a friend, you feel more insulated, more understood, and you don't feel so bad when you ask the sales associate to reach for the precariously placed bottle on the back of the highest shelf.

I do have friends, thankfully. Alas, few here in town would jump at the chance to head for the discount fragrance store. Elisa and I live in different states, so we can't exactly make trips to the mall together. But why should that stop us? Like a lot of my online friends we email constantly about fragrance as if sitting in the same room, carrying on a conversation. When she wrote me this morning to tell me about her most recent visit to the "perfume counter", I decided to meet her there, if only virtually, by commenting on her finds. Here's to speaking from one self-contained bubble to another.

"I had a three-hour layover in Dallas yesterday," she wrote, "and found a duty-free shop with testers of a bunch of fragrances I never see testers out for anywhere. I had a total sniffing spree and it was great because the store was empty and the woman who worked there didn't harass me. I didn't try anything on, just sniffed from blotters, but among the stuff that was totally new to my nose."

We're starting with...


Elisa said: "This was so tame compared to what I expected! I seem to recognize the smell from some bathroom of my past -- I get a definite out-of- the-shower, shaving-cream-residue vibe. Could be a reformulation? I don't know, but I found it pleasant, not shocking."

Brian said: "I think we just need to start assuming they're all reformulations. Except in the forgotten, dust-laden drugstores of rural America. I guess the musks would have been a big part of Kouros back in its day. When people start talking about how audacious Muscs Koublai Khan and Miel de Bois are, I think, Kouros was there first. There's a strong astringent honey note in Kouros I relate directly to Miel. And I get a lot of incense there too. The aftershave thing, too. It's confusing to me when people, guys usually, say that Kouros is unwearable now. Says who?Miel de Bois is considered totally undomesticated by many, but they never suggest it's outdated. The whole truck driver analogy annoys me too. People like to say that Kouros is a truck driver's cologne; a relic in polite society. Funny, I know a few women who worship it as a feminine. Whatevs."

Paco Rabanne Pour Homme

Elisa said: "Wow! This was so great. Can't believe I've never smelled this before. Reminded me of ginger ale somehow, but nice and dry. like a good cocktail. You can tell this is what men's fragrances used to smell like before they all started smelling like Cool Water."

Brian said: "Paco Rabanne is so robust. I love a whole group of these--at least, I group them together. Quorom, Van Cleef, Giorgio for men, Azzaro. All that patchouli and lavender. Look for Van Cleef if you ever go to a discount store. It's hard to come by but I've seen it a few places. It reminds me of Paco but isn't as spicy, if memory serves. Regardless, they correspond interestingly. Do you like Cool Water? I appreciate it but it's so hard for me to like it. I think it has to do with the fact that it was such an assault weapon in high school. Then again, Poison and Paris were assault weapons and I was happily slain. I think it must have been a certain kind of guy who liked Cool Water. And no matter who that guy was, he always wore it. I'm not a big fan of that guy."
YSL Baby Doll

Elisa said: "I thought this was kind of charming but it's kind of a sweeter Moschino Funny."

Brian said: "Baby Doll has that super tart blackcurrant note. Your mind puckers at the smell of it. I never thought about the similarity between the two but you're right. Still, Funny has the blackcurrant and my eyes don't water. By the way, I'm so confused. Is Baby Doll discontinued or not? It must be big in Japan. Thus the duty free. Aren't the Japanese the ones who started the pacifier trend for adult women in nightclubs?"

DKNY Woman

Elisa said: "Nice but who needs another citrus? I still haven't found a tester of Signature anywhere."

Brian said: "Don't be too hasty with DKNY. It's kind of a great scent. I hate citrus fragrances generally. To me, it has that citrus effect but is done with sleight of hand, because ultimately it's more of a tea and tomato leaf affair. I should send you a vial of Signature at some point. I have an older bottle, the sculpted gas station attendant implement thing. It's a beautiful fragrance, and hard to describe. Spicy, floral, sueded. You can't put your finger on any one thing."

Givenchy EauDemoiselle

Elisa said: "What great packaging. I forgot I'd read about this somewhere and totally thought it was from the '70s, but it smelled nothing like the '70s. Which makes sense, because it's new of course. The box is freaking inspired."

Brian said: "I know, right? And the ad was great. People said it was ripping off Twilight, as if Jane Eyre had been an adaptation of the Twilight Saga or something. It was so gothic, like something off an old Harlequin book cover from the 60s. Opera cape, dreamy green pastoral setting, moody yet lethargic model expression. What does the box remind you of? It's a slightly different vibe but to me fits with the ad. It feels gothic too, like the hallway of gilt-framed photos you walk past in a haunted mansion. Too bad the perfume itself is so uneventfully prissy."

J'Adore L'Absolu

Elisa said: "Definitely better or at least richer than J'Adore, but it wouldn't seem to make any kind of sense to own both."

Brian said:
"I don't even know
what J'Adore smells like anymore. It barely seems there to me, like they've altered it so many times it has no sense of personality anymore. Are these flankers as good as the original or just better than mediocre?"


Elisa said: "Can you believe I'd never smelled this? It was nice. I'm sure you'd need to try it on skin to get a real sense of it."

Brian said: "No I can't. It's a gorgeous thing, weirdly pretty. People should wear Dune and talk about it much more than they do. Again, when I hear raving about Lutens and L'Artisan and any number of other niche lines, I think back to Dune and how it did and does so much of what they do and had such a massive head start. I guess I'd just like to see it get it's props a little more frequently. This is one of those perfumes from the more recent past which has been just as influential as far more vintage fragrances. I always feel a little shock when I smell it."

Dolce & Gabbana (the original)

Elisa said: "Had never smelled this either to my knowledge. As with Dune, felt like I needed more time with this one since it's a dense oriental thing."

Brian said: "Dense like a brick is dense, yes. I love it, though. It's a continual onslaught of scent which makes Estee Lauder Spellbound seem like an eau de cologne. I got a 30 ml bottle because in its way it's like Norma Kamali incense. You will not be wearing this without getting it pregnant. And you will be helping to raise that child the rest of your life. It's a commitment."

YSL Cinema

Elisa said: " a foody vibe from it, as in savory, which always weirds me out a little (tried Le Parfum de Therese recently and it was VERY foody to me, like I had some kind of seafood casserole on my arm, had to wash it off -- I should love this, what the hell?). Less immediately appealing than previous two but might be a sleeper?

Brian said: "Cinema shows up at TJ Max a lot, as in all the time. I do like it. It's pretty. It's pleasant. Oh ok, it's very very nice. There are no big surprises there but who wants to be shocked all the time? It's good to alternate this kind of scent with things like Dolce and Gabbana. Every parent wants a break from the baby once in a while. Cinema isn't bland--it's actually pretty rich--but it's similar to Sensuous Noir, which I know you like, in the sense that it's fairly unassuming, kind of a reliable sleeper."

Concluded Elisa: "I was so grateful for this experience I felt obligated to buy something so I got a bottle of A*Men Pure Malt, which again I never see anywhere. I don't need 3.4 oz of anything at this point but it was only $60."

Note: I got most of these images from the tumblr sites Horror + Glamour and Meet The Lady. I don't know the sources.


Marina said...

I find Eau Demoiselle charmingly old-fashioned, but feel that they stopped half-way with that effect, and it's a shame they didn't take it all the way. Love the ad.

Ardisia Crenata said...

Is the first photo (the one for Kouros) an ad? Do you know anything about it? It's amazing.

Elisa said...

The Givenchy ad totally looks like a book cover! I love that it's not sexy, or faux-sexy, unlike every other perfume ad. The box also reminds me of book covers, those '70s book covers with floating heads on a white background.

I don't like Cool Water, particularly; it smells basically fine until one very strident aromachemical takes over -- I think it's dihydromercenol? This material smells like dishwashing liquid to me. In fact I think it is in dishwashing liquid.

The DKNY I would definitely try again. Tomato leaf?! It did have the kind of "steam iron" note that I think LT talked about, super clean but not sweet. I forgot to smell the man one, but Woman could easily be a Man I think.

Fun shopping with you!

Brian said...

Maybe they didn't know the potential, Marina. I dunno. It seems like it could have been so great.

Brian said...

Ardisia, I wish I did know. I found it on a friend's blog, after apparently seven hundred other people had blogged it and passed it along. I would love to know the story of this woman.

Brian said...

Elisa, don't bother with DKNY Man. Now THAT is truly your ho hum everyday citrus--with some equally ho him aromatics thrown in. I'm adopting Ho Him as the new term for most masculines.

Elisa said...

Ho Him! That's delightful.

Angela Cox said...

Thank-you Elisa I hadn't tried most of these. My daughter wears Cinema and I quite like it . I must try Dune and soon ! . I love what Brian says about the cloak thing and not every darned cloak etc is anything to do with Vampires. I only have to put velvet into E:Bay and all I get is Goth this , Goth that etc. Then that thought of a mansion , I rather like the thought of a vampire's mansion with framed images of nothing on the wall.

ScentScelf said...

DKNY Woman...that's the obelisk with a note of wet cobblestones inside? That one can go funky on me (not quite metallic, not quite chemically, but leaves my nose in a near permanent scrunch), but on good days, it's a weird odd in a good way something.

Cinema is a pleasant predictable something I have a back-up bottle of. (Sssssh....) Probably as much due to price point as love, but that's a combination I can embrace in a perfume relationship.

Dune. D@mn. I really need to try that. I hate malls and department stores, though. I think my stint in retail + whatever saturation with shopping thing I hit spelled overload doom for me.

Which is a problem--how else to try Wrappings?

indieperfumes said...

I could really use that black cloak.

FruitDiet said...

I, too, am annoyed by that "truck driver" stigma that all the great masculines from the late 70's/ early 80's have. Truck driver? Whenever I wear Kouros, no matter how much I have on, without fail someone tells me how great I smell. It's truly my favorite masculine ever. I sort of realized that Chandler Burr is an idiot after reading that thing about civet where he said Kouros was unwearable. Perfume-savvy people fail to realize that these things do not register as urinous to normal, non-perfume-savvy people. Unless you have been trolling the internet, reading a million reviews that tell you they smell like urine, working up your imagination beforehand, they register as "smells great" or "cologne". Even Secretions Magnifiques, which is much more blatantly gross in a different way, doesn't raise an eyebrow unless you TELL people it's supposed to smell like blood and semen- I wear it all the time, and strangely, people always think I'm wearing Le Male. At least the "truck driver" thing isn't as widespread and pervasive as how everyone condemns any fragrance released before 2000, or any fragrance that is strong enough that it can actually be smelled, as "old lady".

This reminds me of that stupid guy on basenotes' typo-ridden review of Yatagan, that said something like, "I don't want to meet people who wear this fragrance, because it is for gay truck drivers and straight guys who live out their perverse erotic fantasies in the dark" or something like that.