I am the restless type. Every eighteen months, I get thoroughly fed up with our living quarters — the creaky floors, the electric stove and lack of water pressure, that bathroom window that won't open — and decide we should move. My husband puts much less stock in clean slates, being a skeptic with a good memory. He resents the higher rent and costs associated with changing residences, but he always acquiesces with the faint hope that I will keep the new apartment cleaner. (Ha!) And so, a couple of springs, falls and high summers over the last decade, we've spent our days packing clothes, dishes, Playmobil figures, perfume and one metric ton of books into boxes. Even after ruthless purges1 and some inevitable breakage, it seems we end up with more stuff in the new place than we had in the old. Since our last move two weeks ago, I've been wandering through the chaos aimlessly, moving papers and knick-knacks from one pile to another.
One of the few pleasures of re-locating is finding things of interest you never knew you lost. Around here, things of interest fall into three categories: 1) perfume samples; 2) books; and 3) jars of gourmet condiments and jams we will never use. Push back the couch and a dusty vial of Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale rolls out. Dismantle the bookcase and both a sample of Divine L'Homme de Coeur and a copy of Robertson Davies' The Rebel Angels emerge. There is an atomizer of Histoire des Parfums Noir Patchouli in the desk drawer with the income tax documents. Ah, old friends! With more than two new fragrances released each day now, it sometimes seems as if I first encountered these scents in the ancient past, rather than only a few years ago. With forgotten favorites in hand, it's easy to start feeling pretty testy about the rate of release in the perfume industry. But wearing the finds is the best cure for my scent cynicism: they still smell wonderful and they remind me of all the treasures in my collection. Without spending another penny, I could probably spend years surprising and enjoying myself with the samples I already have.
If you've been interested in fragrance for a while, you don't need to go to the expense and trouble of moving to remind yourself to re-try perfumes you're already encountered. I find reading lists and polls on the blogs is a great way to cue your memory. I was delighted to see Parfum d'Empire's Eau de Gloire on Denyse's Top Ten of Spring 2011 at Grain de Musc. This rough-hewn, flinty take on a lavender cologne, with its strange heart of immortelle-sweetened incense ash, launched in 2003 and was one of the first niche samples I ever bought. (I got it from Ina of the much-missed Aromascope.) It's like the older, rawer brother of Dior Eau Noire. I've owned a few decants of it over the years and have rarely seen it mentioned online.
This suggests another way to walk back along the path of your obsession, of course, which is to consult your records on purchases and swaps from early on. I've kept all my swap communications as well as the receipts and confirmation emails of the eBay days, but it's easy and instructive to just look at your account at decanting sites or sample retailers like Luckyscent. Checking now, I am tickled to find my first order from The Perfumed Court included a decant of Eau de Gloire (surprise!), that sample of L'Homme de Coeur I found under the bookcase, three scents by Stephanie de Saint-Aignan, Barbara Bui Le Parfum and a cologne by the Institut Très Bien (a house now sadly in limbo). That's a week of fun right there and, much to my husband's dismay, I'll probably spend some of the hours that should be dedicated to organizing and unpacking the condo tomorrow digging for the lost samples from that package of four summers ago. In the meantime, please find below my list of recommended niche scents you might have forgotten about, and do add your own suggestions for reclamation.
Hors Là Monde Shiloh: Some scents are consigned to obscurity by their deliberately limited availability (Kenzo UFO, Indult Tihota) or their price (Shalini, the Solange Azagury-Partridge perfumes). A few brands suffer from their own difficult or silly scent names and nightmarish release rate — Biehl Parfumkunstwerke and Hildi Soliani spring to mind. Shiloh, on the other hand, looks set to fade as a one-hit-wonder. Hors Là Monde has launched two flankers by Fabrice Olivieri, but neither of them have capitalized on the momentum of the well-publicized original scent by perfumer Michel Roudnitska. Shiloh is a beautifully typical M. Roudnitska creation, a big, luminous, sneezy rose in hot pink, oddly appetizing with its tingle of white pepper and garnish of candied lemon.
Romeo d'Ameor Les Impératrices Japonaises / The Great Empresses of Japan: Wait, what was that about bad names and multiple releases again? Then there's the over-egged P.R. and the additional hurdle of the fact that these seven scents are all sweet, insistent floral orientals, a category not beloved by perfumistas. This is a peony-incense, which sounds terrible. There's something really compelling about it, though, a drowsy feather-duvet calm. It reminds me of another underappreciated scent inspired by Royal Japan, Santa Maria Novella's Citta di Kyoto, and like that scent, would be disastrously smothering if worn on the wrong day. The balance of floral sweetness and solemn resin also recalls the fascinating and seldom-mentioned Etat Libre d'Orange Encens et Bubblegum.
Andrée Putman Préparation Parfumée: Released in 2001 and created by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti, this is the prototype driftwood fragrance. Not my favorite genre, I'll admit, but Préparation Parfumée deserves kudos for its nicely streamlined rendition of a natural-smelling aquatic. The pepper notes are pleasantly dry and the cilantro heart is fresh and surprisingly durable — cilantro haters beware!
Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile: Whether you favor the sparkling, slightly soapy Eau de Toilette or the more vivid, solar chypre structure of the Eau de Parfum, this is a beautiful perfume. It isn't an orris-centered fragrance — the Eau de Toilette is an anise-kissed orange blossom and the Eau de Parfum, while adding a darker mossy base, is still more about petals than undergrowth — and I wonder if it is going to be one of those fragrances where the name and ad copy do the scent a disservice by attracting primarily soliflore (or solinote) purists.
Crazylibellule and the Poppies Musc et Patchouli: When was the last time you wore your Encens Mystic, Dans tes Bras or Chère Louise solid? While they're a great cheap thrill, the scented oil does seem to evaporate out of the Crazylibellules relatively quickly, which is not ideal for your average perfume freak. By the time you get around to wearing your favorite, you might find it is an odorless twist-up stick of wax in cute packaging. While I love the aforementioned three fragrances, and others besides, Musc et Patchouli from the Shanghaijava collection is the only one I'm likely to replace. A soft, milky floral musk, it is a comforting and beautiful skin scent worn on its own, in addition to being a perfect layering fragrance.
1. Things we appear to have thrown out or left behind in previous moves include: a brand new pair of shoes, my husband's toolbox and tools, the left side of our bed frame, a playpen, a set of Le Creuset cookware and my engagement and wedding rings.
Note: top image is Moving Mess - Day 4 by Velo Steve at flickr; some rights reserved.
I’m moving soon and am terrified about losing perfumes!
A couple of good perfumes that No One Ever Mentions: Frederic Fekkai Eau Sensuelle, which is a very pleasant, fresh/dry orange blossom (I first heard about it in a comment on NST, actually), and Moschino Couture!, a cheap-and-cheerful type scent with tart fruity notes and a sheer woody-vanilla base (somewhat similar to Sensi, though I like Couture better).
I love the Fekkai scent too! I found it at Ross not long ago and bought it unsniffed, rmeembering what I’d read about it. Definitely worth it!
Whoa, does sound like a winner! Will have to track it down here somewhere here. Do they generally carry it where they sell the hair products?
I’m pretty sure it’s discontinued — I found a bottle for $10 at Marshall’s. Worth keeping an eye out for at discount stores.
e, this is the first move (I *think* anyways – knock on wood) where we haven’t broken a bottle of perfume. I’ve never lost anything big, like a Chanel vat or vintage anything, etc., though. Don’t worry – if you have smaller collection with less to spare, it may be easier to be really careful with what you do have. And you’ll always get those “bonus” samples that emerge from their hiding places. Good luck and enjoy your new place!
Thanks for the recommendations, too. Looks like I need to try the Frederic Fekkai Eau Sensuelle, even though I’m hit-or-miss on orange blossom – but dry sounds great. And I’m sure I got a Moschino Couture sample from Dusan once, so there’s another one to dig up!
What a fun post – you’ve jogged my memory on several samples that I haven’t tried (even after years!). But you have my sincere sympathy on moving. Being a typical Cancer and home body, I hate it above all things. I was glad to read the photo credit and see that at least it wasn’t your place – I hope yours doesn’t look as bad!
Ha! I *hope* mine would look better in a photo at this point, but I’ve had two weeks. The image caption appears to say “Day 4” and I’ve purposefully blocked the fourth day from my memory.
Erin: congrats on your recent move! I used to love love love moving – 9 times in 5 years before I ended up here – but more moves than that between college, grad schools, across country, different cities, etc. I love that experience. I feel myself bristling now under the contraints of my good (and fortunate!) “serious job”. Every fall, I want to move.
Anyway… I’ve also been diving into my vast samples collection to help alleviate my current perfume crisis: I’m dying to smell “new” things but I can’t really get to any decent counter and I don’t want to spend a fortune on new samples. I’ve also realized that my nose is better than ever and I can smell things I couldn’t before. Revisiting samples has been really interesting. I recently fell madly in love with OJ Ta’if that I blew off before! It is a real joy to rediscover the neglected treasures I already have.
While I empathize with your restlessness, obviously, I think it’s marvelous that you’re rediscovering samples you’ve already got with your educated nose. Much better than getting new stuff and being disappointed or bored with it! And I agree that Ta’if is one that can really sneak up on you. I know it took Robin a few tries before she was hooked and I wore it many times before I fell for it.
Ta’if definitely snuck up on me. I was doing a rose-roundup of all my samples a few weeks ago, so it was in the mix. I just put it on with the attitude it would go into my get rid of baggie. Boy was I in for a surprise. After smelling so many rose smell-alikes (nice but not moving me), Ta’if really jumped out. Maybe it smells better in the summer heat too. Needless to say, I am now earnestly saving my pennies for a big purchase sometime sooon. I only wish OJ had a distributor here in the US/North America.
They keep *promising* a North American distributor and then it never happens. The OJs are not cheap to begin with, and then with the shipping on top, it can become a pretty expensive treat. They’ve been running lots of free shipping discounts this year, though – Valentine’s, Easter, Mother’s Day – so hopefully you can hold out for one of those.
Moving is an excruciating experience. If i never move again in my life it will be too soon. Realistically, i will probably have to suffer a few more times though.
You sound like someone who remembers thing intensely! I have an excellent short term memory, but most experiences before last week are just gone. My brain just doesn’t work that way, I’m like the past-less person. It makes me sad sometimes, but it’s occasionally a blessing: I’d certainly never move if I remembered what it was like last time. And I never get bored, because everything seems new!
It’s easy to miss the set of Le Creuset, while the sample vials get reliably transferred, LOL!
Its great being that free. I have inhabited the same room in the same house for three decades (and still managed to lose all my pots.)
Sorry about your pots! I still miss my cookware. I thing we missed first was the toolbox: hard to put anything together at the new place with no tools. I would like to feel more connected to my home (or room!), but it’s not the way I’m made, I guess. My daughter tends to be more nostalgic for the places we’ve left, so maybe she’ll be more grounded.
Hey, if I ever get out of here I’m running, and not looking back! Although with my 20+ bottles of perfume I’ll be the best smellin refugee around : )
Oh God, I literally gasped when read you had left behind your wedding rings in one of your moves! That is a terrible fear of mine as we’ve moved a lot with my husband’s job over the last 10 yrs.
Loved the mini reviews and reminder to dig through my sample pile – too often I get fixated on the shiny new fumes coming down the pipeline.
But isn’t it great to realise it would not actually be the end of the world. After all Erin survived to write another post!
And isn’t it great how many times I can use ‘great’ in a single discussion. Just great, isn’t it?
It is great that Erin was able to survive to write another post, for I would have missed her knowledge and wit greatly.
It is also great to know that the loss of material objects (like engagement/wedding rings) will not be a harbinger of the coming apocalypse.
My rings are not expensive, they are not family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. I look at them and see the crappy job my husband was at while he worked his way through college. The excitement of two young dumb kids walking into a small jewelry store, knowing nothing and with only a couple hundred bucks to put down on something for layaway.
But if I did accidentally lose them my husband would understand . . . he’s pretty great like that.
Awww, thank you. And that’s an awesome story! (And sounds like a great guy.) Mine were not the blingiest rings, either – my hubby was in law school when we married – but of course I loved them and I miss them. After we married we went on a geek honeymoon to Washington, D.C. – stayed at the Watergate, went to the Smithsonian and did historical walks etc. – where we saw a fascianting gemstone exhibit. I fell in love with alexandrite and its color-changing properties. Two years ago, we bought a nice smaller ring with an alexandrite and so I can look at that now and feel grateful for my forgiving man and the history we share together.
Oh my God! Y’all are cracking my up tonight! My cat just ran out of the room in a huff over all my excessive jubilation! It’s really *great”!
Glad you’re enjoying the thread and apologies to your cat!
You know, I’m sometimes surprised he stayed married to me after that! Not one of my finer moments, I assure you. It wasn’t the end of the world, though, as Merlin says. I’m sure you’ll manage to hold on to yours, so don’t lose sleep over it.
All to easy to get fixated on the shiny new ‘fumes, so you’re not the only one…
Ack, “too easy”, of course.
Have you considered an RV or the high seas?
Tulip: LOL!! My daughter was just asking me today why we don’t live on a boat. Don’t have a good answer, I guess.
Happy to see another Erin post, and right on time. Coincidentally, this morning, because it’s warming up, and because I was a little bored, I thought of a piece you wrote a few months ago and ordered a decant of F Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur. And because I was missing L’Institut Tres Bien, I thought I’d try some Eau d’Italie Cologne-we’ll see. What would you suggest for someone who misses L’Institut? (other than checking under the sofa?)
Regarding Robertson Davies, my fave in that last trilogy was What’s Bred in the Bone-what a book. Didn’t like The Rebel Angels as much. Academics murdering one another is fun, but not that fun.
Donnie, thanks and I’m glad I was timely… in posting if not in answering your comment! Sorry – we’re still recovering here, I was chaperoning a school trip for my daughter and we leave for Florida tomorrow, so it’s a busy week for me. Hope you like the Geranium PM! It’s quiet and both minty and bitter-leafy, so I know it disappointed a lot of FM fans, but I thought it was lovely, and kind of snuck up on you in a Heeley fragrance sort of way.
Musing on your L’Insitut TB problem. My fave straight-forward colognes not from that brand are the Chanel exclusive and Eau des Fleurs de Cedrat by Guerlain, but no orange blossom there, as in Institut Italienne. How about i Profumo di Firenze Zagara?
I get restless, used to move every 3-4 years for work, but feel moving is hell and can’t imagine voluntarily doing it after 18 months. The mere thought of packing up my perfume collection exhausts me, so I’m amazed by your energy!
I used to give away most of my perfume whenever I moved (before I had more than 10 bottles at a time and realized light was the real enemy of perfume, not time), thinking it would be ruined in long overseas shipping. I especially miss my perfume from the 1990s, in particular, for example, tiny rectangular bottles of Caron Tabac Blond and En Avion. Huge sighs!! I am still hoping my Safari lay-down bottle might resurface when I unpack the last box – I can’t remember if I finally left it behind in my last move or not…
Not Safari, but Lauren – the one that came in red bottles.
Ah the last box! I don’t know if you’ve seen the Pixar/Disney movie “The Incredibles”, but the wife character (voiced by Holly Hunter) calls Mr. Incredible at work to tell him they’re finally moved in, a year after they arrived, because she unpacked the last box. I feel like that sometimes. And, hey, I’ve never gone overseas – that definitely requires more energy and planning than I’ve got. Hope you find that Lauren, it’s hard to come by the vintage now.
Remodeling is almost as bad as moving. Maybe it’s worse. I tend to keep things to use in the “new room”, only to lose them and only find the dusty box in the garage 2 years later. I must have little makeup and skincare samples that are 10 years old.
It’s a masterbath and bedroom remodel and this is just hell trying to clear out everything for demolition tomorrow.
I can’t find a FB of Bodicea the Victorious Pure and I’m blaming the shifty-eyed electrician’s son who worked on my kitchen remodel. It’s a very distinctive bottle that a man wouldn’t mind having. I know this kid hates my house (it”s old and they have to go into the attic and the crawlspace all the time), and he’s got a real attitude about working and all. I can’t tell my contractor because it probably happened month’s ago and I don’t really have proof. But still.
All my other fragrances are in a refrigerator, in boxes. Hopefully that will discourage wandering hands.
They say if you can live through a renovation you can live through anything. And very unusual story about the electrician’s son! I’d never even considered that such a thing would happen and it must be very distressing to have a person you don’t trust in your house. We’re going on vacation tomorrow, so I hope my cat-sitter doesn’t have a perfume fetish…
I used to move on a whim – which is difficult when you’re moving a 3,000sf house (and additional 2500sf art studio). But I used to do it all the time. I would buy a house, then remember I had to sell my current house, etc…then madly pack up – and move.
I doubt I will do that again. And since I didn’t begin this perfume collection until I moved to this little shotgun shack, I’ve yet to experience the terror-filled joy of moving an entire armoire full of perfume! The next time I move I hope will be the last, which is why I’m in no huge hurry.
Even without the move, though, I am always finding treasures. I don’t keep spreadsheets or anything – it’s always a crapshoot, remembering where I got stuff. But a Certain Someone Who Just Moved is the reason I fell in love with Bel Respiro – and I’d forgotten all about that! Thank you!!!
Ack! Moving a studio must be hell. Canvases and paints and solvents and everything: yikes! And I think shall wear Bel Respiro tonight, in honour of you and the divine Ms. Ferguson. Hugs to you!
I remember Organza Indecence being sprayed in the Perfume Dept. as I passed by and thinking what a sharp, vile scent it was. Now that I am a full-blown perfumista and I have revisited Indecence, I have a completely different opinion of it. It is a sexy, cinnamony fragrance with great musky depth and staying power. While it is totally not my fragrance category and I could not wear it, I have complete respect for it now.
On the other side of the coin is Eternity which I loved because of the top note, and then made the terrible mistake of buying it for my mother. The drydown was unbearable and I don’t think the bottle was ever finished because it was torture.
Yes, many a fragrance that has repelled me at the counters has won me over via sample. And I’ve had many impulse bottles I’ve regretted, too…