10 Perfumes I Should Love … But Do Not

Heart Valentine

Recently as I was reading Self-Styled Siren’s fantastic post about Ten Movies Siren Should Love But Does Not, I got to thinking about fragrances that by all accounts should be among my favorites yet fail to move me. These are not the acrylic florals, the vulgar lollipops or the boring copycats. Most of the fragrances on my list are nicely done and distinctive enough to be memorable. For different reasons, they just do not appeal to me.

 

Serge Lutens Rahat Loukoum

I will not exaggerate if I say that Rahat Loukoum is my least favorite out of the entire collection. I would rather wear L’Eau than this blend of musk, heliotropine and vanilla. A high quality composition that smells like a cheap Duane Reade candle.

 

Jean Patou 1000

1000 is rich and opulent, but it is also heavy and opaque. As much as I love classical Guerlain and Chanel fragrances with all of their retro facets, 1000 strikes me as dated.

 

Grès Cabotine

Cabotine is a fragrance legend, and perhaps, this is the very reason I do not like it—I blame it for the current flood of squeaky clean florals that it engendered.

 

Chanel Gardenia

Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena calls it the best gardenia composition, bright and joyful. I have tried it in the EDT and in the parfum, but I cannot get away from the blandness of its floral accord. If you are a fan, please let me know why you love it. I feel that I am missing something.

 

Givenchy Amarige

The fragrance equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction—it clears everything in its path. Remarkable composition from the technical standpoint, but to be around it is a suffocating experience.

 

Hermès Jardin Sur le Nil

I suspect that Chandler Burr’s excellent article on the creation of Jardin Sur le Nil is the reason why I tried to love it as much as I did. I wear it from time to time in hot weather, but recently I have come to realize that I just do not find it that compelling. A fresh citrus-floral composition with a soft woody backdrop. Pleasant, but nothing earth shattering.

 

Tom Ford Jasmine Musk

On paper, Jasmine Musk is the fragrance made for me, because I love the combination of indolic jasmine and musk notes. They create a fascinating synergy, alternating between the leather darkness of animalic notes present in white florals and the sweet softness of modern musks. However, Tom Ford’s Jasmine Musk is too bland and limpid to be exciting.

 

Thierry Mugler Alien

 Another fragrance that contains all elements I should love: jasmine, orange blossom, woody musks and perfumer Dominique Ropion. On my skin, it is a disaster of decaying flowers and screechy amber.

 

Guerlain L’Instant de Guerlain

I much prefer the parfum concentration to all others, but if I have to pick a recent Guerlain launch to wear, I would rather go for Insolence. L’Instant feels as heavy as a crystal paper weight, with the richness of its vanilla and musk obscuring the finer nuances of magnolia flower and orange blossom.

 

Diptyque L’Ombre Dans L’Eau

L’Ombre Dans L’Eau is an interesting green composition, with a bold accent of verdant black currant buds and leafy notes. I like it enough to smell it in candle form, but as a personal fragrance, the green sharpness gets both monotonous and jarring as time goes on.

Photography by VeraKL

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56 Comments

  • Elisa: I can’t wear Alien either. Up top it smells like grape soda. August 26, 2011 at 9:44am Reply

  • pam: I absolutely love the Guerlains. But I agree with you about L’Instant. It is SO heavy. And I do want to love it. August 26, 2011 at 10:15am Reply

  • Victoria: It has all of the things I like, but it just does not come together for me. August 26, 2011 at 10:37am Reply

  • Victoria: Another friend said that the top notes remind her of Welch’s Grape Juice! August 26, 2011 at 10:38am Reply

  • Ceil: For me I agree with all except that the Rahat is nice on me. And I adore the Un jardin sur le nil. Amarige is just horrific on me. It was a fun idea to see what you think you SHOULD love! :) August 26, 2011 at 10:41am Reply

  • kjanicki: I bought a bottle of Un Jardin sur le Nil but gave it away when I realized I never wore it. There was something sour in the top notes and the wood/incense base was too sheer, I wanted more.

    I like Cabotine on fabric and I love l’Ombre dans l’Eau for that persistent green note, but I can see how it might get tiresome. August 26, 2011 at 10:42am Reply

  • Elisa: :) Usually when I’m with someone who tries Alien, they like it until I mention grape soda, then they can smell it too. August 26, 2011 at 10:52am Reply

  • Lavanya: I hear you on the Chanel gardenia. I recently bought a decant of the parfum, in a split. I just can’t bring myself to love it. It smells like a single vacant petal, just lying there..I remember liking it at some point..not sure if the fragrance has changed, or my taste.. August 26, 2011 at 11:18am Reply

  • Elizabeth: For me it’s, sadly, L’Heure Bleue. It’s the one perfume I wanted to love above all others. I’ve tried it in vintage, in parfum, and in vintage parfum. But something about it just makes me ill. Plus, someone told me that I smelled like beer when I wore it! And no, I hadn’t been drinking. At that point, I gave up. I like Shalimar and Mitsouko better, anyway. August 26, 2011 at 11:31am Reply

  • dleep: Just like Elizabeth I can’t wear L’Heure Bleue. I heard so many wonderful things about it but it just hates me. Also, Narciso Rodriguez. I just get nail polish remover. I thought for sure that it was for me from reading the description. August 26, 2011 at 12:39pm Reply

  • Bella: Hahaha, almost all of them are my asolute fave! along with Tiffany, new Elie Saab , original Dolce & Gabbana , Eau de Gucci , Initial by Boucheron. @ Elisa – many of my clients say Alien smells like grape soda but I came to conclusion that it’s just a collor of the bottle. August 26, 2011 at 1:21pm Reply

  • Emma: As a vegan who now only wears 100% organic cosmetics and shampoos free of synthetics (Dr Hauschka, John Masters, etc). obviously I should love organic scents and perfumes but I don’t. I found The Honore des Pres organic line ok, not bad but nothing amazing either although compared to other organic fragrances lines it’s the first one that reaches a more elevated level in terms of concept and marketing.
    Perfumistas more often than not admire and love Serge Lutens’ oriental dark and complex fragrances, for the most part I don’t (to the exception of Chypre Rouge, Iris Silver Mist and Encens et Lavande). I prefer his florals such as Bas de Soie, Un Lys and Vitriol d’Oeillet. August 26, 2011 at 1:45pm Reply

  • Rose D: Once, I read that Guerlain fragrances pick their wearer, not vice versa. Shalimar has decided not to pick me. In spite of my mother`s remarks, I tried to love it, but never did. As soon as it touches my wrist, it becomes intoxicating in the worst possible way. To my disgrace, Shalimar is forbidden for me. August 26, 2011 at 2:54pm Reply

  • Marion: I’ve got a few cult classics in this vein…No 5, Jicky, Bandit, Chamade, Cabochard, plus modern ones like L Air d d Maroccain, Escnetric Molecule ( the sweet smell of engine oil which I enjoy but don’t call perfume!) Serge Noire (my only scrubber, I sometimes wonder if the sample was wonky)….I also don’t *adore* No 19 for some reason; would rather Bas de Soie for a stinging smokey irisy hyacinth. Yet back in the day Caleche was one of the few of which I went through more than one bottle and I love Cristalle (and Diorella and Vent Vert having somehow missed them in my pre settling days before Mitsouko nearly ‘ruined’ perfume hunting for me)! August 26, 2011 at 5:55pm Reply

  • Erin T: Great topic! I love forward to “Perfumes I Shouldn’t Love… But I do!” My list of strange dislikes: 1. Annick Goutal Sables 2. Le Labo Patchouli 24 3. L’Artisan Havana Vanille (or whatever it’s now called) 4. Amouage Gold 5. Histoires de Parfums 1725/Casanova 6. Givenchy III 7. Comme des Garcons White 8. Ormonde Jayne Tolu 9. Parfumerie Generale Fellanilla 10. Aedes de Venustas August 26, 2011 at 7:50pm Reply

  • Erin T: Sorry, of course that should be “look forward”… August 26, 2011 at 7:51pm Reply

  • Emma: Disregard what I said previously about Honore des Pres, I had to go to Henri Bendel, tried them all again and bought the tuberose Vamp a NY ;-)) August 27, 2011 at 1:29am Reply

  • Nick: Dear Victoria,

    It is a long time between comments for me but my love for your site has not not abated! A daily pleasure.

    I’ve been giving L’Instant a second chance recently. I have a 5ml dab bottle of the EDP and that is actually perfect – a low dose is ideal because it is incredibly rich. I imagine and EDP spray would dispense just too much. A small application of the parfum is probably ideal. Luca Turin savaged it upon its release, but rediscovering it I’m actually pleasantly surprised and it is, for better or worse a very Guerlain scent. I agree though, Insolence is beautiful. August 27, 2011 at 3:47am Reply

  • Ann C.: For me, it’s Chanel No 19. I expected to love it, but each time I test it from my sample, it’s too papery or chalky for me. I’m disappointed that it doesn’t work on me, but I have given up on it, at least for now. August 27, 2011 at 7:13am Reply

  • Suzanna: Of your list, V., I am aligning with Jardin Sur le Nil above all. Who is the person who did not expect to love it after that wonderfully crafted narrative about its development? And then it, like its predecessor, didn’t work for me; none of the series smelled much like a jardin (which I imagine to smell mostly of jasmine and rose). I finally forced myself into Mediterrannee, only because of a fig bender.

    Alien goes all ways wrong, even the parfum strength, after showing promise in the opening minute or two. A sonic boom of a fragrance, along with Amarige.

    L’Ombre dans L’Eau I have come to love after years of mighty resistance for reasons you mention. Now, I love the tomato-leaf sharpness that smells of hot sun on the leaf, and a drydown that becomes warm and mildly spicy over time. August 27, 2011 at 9:00am Reply

  • Martha: Well, each to his or her own taste. I don’t care much about the others, but 1000 has been my favorite perfume for several years. But it’s become impossible to find in the parfum, at least in the States, so probably a lot of other people agree with you.

    I don’t know if you can explain what you mean by dated, but I find the use of that word intriguing. Trite?

    At any rate, I love this blog, and the way it opens my sense of smell. Thank you!! August 27, 2011 at 10:21am Reply

  • jtd: (Sorry if repeat—don’t think I sent properly.) Victoria, I feel like we’ve somehow been hovering over the same perfume contemplations. Alien and Amarige are equally nose-searing to me. Un Jardin sur le Nil was unmemorable literally as I was smelling it. l’Instant didn’t meet the expectations the perfume itself set up and therefore was more disappointing than bad—possibly a worse scenario in commercial perfumery.

    I’ve just written a negative review of Alien (then felt bad until Sherapop’s entreaty on B’notes to write negative but not nasty reviews.) And just last PM I wrote but haven’t posted reviews of l’Instant (completely agree with you) and Patou’s 1000 (agree to disagree?!) that I’ll try to but up on B’notes today.

    Two to share: I just couldn’t tolerate Aromatics Elixir. Couldn’t find a bit of it that appealed to me. Went away from it for a long while (clearly I then changed because it didn’t) and came back not just loving it, but recognizing it as one of the seminal perfumes of the 20th century. And here’s the one that mentioning makes me look for the rocks about to be thrown at me. I don’t like Bandit. I love green chypres and bitter leathers, but after the first few moments of Bandit, these two aspects cancel each other out to me and Bandit seems a vague woody scent.

    Quick fan note, Victoria. I’ve been reading your daily reviews and comments and am so impressed by your critical skills combined with a far-ranging optimism. Look at today’s topic. It’d be so easy to rant and run, but your combination of analysis and subjectivity make it the start of a conversation, not a shopping list of opinions. I’m hoping to learn more from your approach of well-considered commentary. August 27, 2011 at 10:38am Reply

  • Victoria: It is there! ;) August 27, 2011 at 1:41pm Reply

  • Victoria: It would be fun to do the reverse–the perfumes I should not love, but do! Sounds like it should be a sequel to this post. August 27, 2011 at 1:42pm Reply

  • Victoria: I keep hanging on to my bottle of L’Ombre dans L’Eau in hopes that someday it will click with me. I love the idea of it. August 27, 2011 at 1:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: It is pretty, but rather lacking in excitement. I still think that the best garden was Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia. It really smelled like fresh flowers. August 27, 2011 at 1:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: Guerlain classics can be very difficult. I know several people on whom L’Heure Bleue smells like rotten fruit or even hops (so, yes, I can see where you might get beer.) August 27, 2011 at 1:45pm Reply

  • Victoria: NR is another tricky one. Some people are anosmic to the musks in it, and as a result, they only get the sharp floral notes. August 27, 2011 at 1:45pm Reply

  • Victoria: I love the original Dolce & Gabbana! It is so rarely mentioned these days. August 27, 2011 at 1:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: I like Sa Majeste de la Rose, which is a very good, vibrant rose. I know that it gets lower marks than some other Lutens, but it is very elegant. August 27, 2011 at 1:47pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, this is so true! I know that Apres L’Ondee picked me, while Shalimar only tolerates me. :) August 27, 2011 at 1:59pm Reply

  • Victoria: Aromatics Elixir is another fragrance I simply cannot handle. It is beautiful, but whenever I wear it, I feel suffocated. In general, the American chypre fragrances are a challenge for me, because they are quite dry and woody. I like my chypres softer and plusher like Mitsuoko or even Miss Dior (which is fairly austere.) On the other hand, Estee Lauder Private Collection and Azuree are among my top favorites.

    Thank you very much for your feedback and a compliment. It makes me very glad to hear it! August 27, 2011 at 2:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: No, definitely not trite! Dated as in referencing another time, to which I cannot relate. So, it is a very subjective definition. As I said in the intro, most of these fragrances are very good. Most I would consider to be 4 star fragrances (according to my ranking system.) It is just that I do not care for them. I have difficulty with most of Patou fragrances, including Joy. I admire it, but occasionally I find it difficult. However, some days, it is just gorgeous on my skin, and I cannot get enough. Strange, no? August 27, 2011 at 2:05pm Reply

  • Victoria: That story is one of the best pieces on fragrance development. I so wish that CB could have written more of such pieces, but I think that the secrecy of the fragrance world means that very few brands would want to allow it. August 27, 2011 at 2:07pm Reply

  • Victoria: I had an on and off relationship with No 19 until one day it just clicked. If there is something intriguing about it, you should at least keep a sample around to revisit time to time. It is a gorgeous fragrance, and it is worth courting. August 27, 2011 at 2:08pm Reply

  • Victoria: Nick, thank you! I think that you are right, the proper dosage of L’Instant is essential for experiencing it correctly. I find it easier to wear the parfum, which is very plush and elegant. Plus, you can smell more of magnolia in it. August 27, 2011 at 2:09pm Reply

  • Victoria: :) Sounds great! I really like this fragrance myself. August 27, 2011 at 2:09pm Reply

  • Victoria: Aedes de Venustas is a fragrance I like, but do not love. I am not sure why, but it just does not do anything for me. A very pleasant smoky incense, whereas I would love something more unusual. August 27, 2011 at 2:11pm Reply

  • Victoria: Jicky is my least favorite classical Guerlain, I have to admit. I am not a big fan of it even in the vintage formulation. Now, the modern one smells like a fabric softener, which is a complete disgrace. August 27, 2011 at 2:12pm Reply

  • Cybele: L’Air de Rien doesn’t work
    Bandit is difficult, too
    I like 19 and Aromatics Elixir but hardly wear them, though I seem to more and more get into 19 recently, its serious and odd but sexy at the same time August 27, 2011 at 3:59pm Reply

  • Cybele: hm and Chinatown August 27, 2011 at 4:09pm Reply

  • Julie: My big challenge is Aromatics Elixir. Don’t know how I missed it in the 70s. Reading the notes makes me salivate, but the first time I smelled it, all I got was musty grass baskets. I’ve been working on it, though, and last night when I sprayed it, I got fresh grass baskets! August 27, 2011 at 5:01pm Reply

  • Brooke: I love the notes and the idea of Youth Dew and Azuree but neither translate well onto my skin. I often pass a Lauder counter and retry yet my opinion hasn’t changed. August 27, 2011 at 10:24pm Reply

  • Lily: I adore sur le nil – one woman’s sour is another woman’s refreshingly tart :) I love the citrus blast and the ribbon of cold incense that persists well into the drydown. A favourite in hot/humid weather. August 28, 2011 at 3:10am Reply

  • Lily: Serge Noire was a real scrubber for me too… Perhaps we both had wonky samples?? (think not) August 28, 2011 at 3:12am Reply

  • Vanessa: Agree with you on all of these, haha, except that the parfum of 1000 is very nice, and I don’t detect the civet in that version!

    I don’t like Mitsouko or Shalimar, so feel I am lacking there, as those are a couple of behemoths. August 28, 2011 at 5:18am Reply

  • nikki: what a great topic, thanks Victoria! well, i don’t like Chanel 19 anymore, gave away my apres l’ondee, aromatics elixier is just too much, angel makes me sick, amarige is deadly, cabotine is smelly, 1000 de patou really isn’t fun, white linen by EL is boring….i used to love must de cartier and now it makes me sick to my stomach. as i get older, my skin seems to change or my nose? August 29, 2011 at 12:33pm Reply

  • Flora: Amarige is a WMD as far as I am concerned, I hated it at first sniff and I still do – and I normally love tuberose perfumes. I don’t think there is much of the real thing in that beast.

    Iris Silver Mist baffled me – I was hoping it would finally be THE iris perfume I could love, but it’s such an ice queen it won’t allow itself to be loved. It is beautiful but only in a distant, alien way. August 29, 2011 at 4:21pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Got to defend Chanel’s Gardenia! For the most part, I am resoundingly indifferent to the entire Chanel line (I think I am the only person on earth who loathes Chanel Number 5!)but I find Gardenia charming: lighter than most gardenia fragrances, some of which can be gaggingly sweet or so heavy they are funereal, it has a softness and a spriteliness that I enjoy. I makes me feel chic and Parisienne and it is even wearable in warm weather which many gardenia scents are not.

    Jardin sur le Nil would make a lovely body spray or eau de cologne- something light and inexpensive to splash on after a long hot summer day scent and format- but as an expensive, premium scent, it doesn’t wuite make it. Not unpleasant, but it doesn’t have enough gravitas to justify its price and its pedigree. August 29, 2011 at 5:56pm Reply

  • natalie: I tried so hard to love Lalique’s Encre Noire! Especially after your best of 2006 article but this one did not like me at all which is odd because I love the smell of the earth after a rainfall. Mossy woods? Vetiver? Leather? Musk? Those are all things that I love, but for some reason, does not work on me :( Maybe someday, I will revisit it… August 30, 2011 at 1:41am Reply

  • Rowanhill: I love L’Ombre Dans L’Eau – as a room spray. Perfect sprayed on pillow covers on a cool summer evenings. August 30, 2011 at 8:35am Reply

  • Bella: I love it…. loud, demands attention but feminine and glam …Original Dolce & Gabana and my personality…perfect fit. August 31, 2011 at 6:33pm Reply

  • sisty: Oh, no, no! I beg you to reconsider 1000. Applied moderately, and detected at a bit of a distance, it’s like something from another, perfect, world. September 6, 2011 at 9:16pm Reply

  • Aisha: I used to LOVE Amarige back in the early 1990s. I used to work as an ad copywriter for a department store, and Amarige was so different from all the powerful fragrances other women were wearing (and I mean p-o-w-e-r-f-u-l). I went through two bottles of the stuff between 1990 and 1994. I also applied it with a light hand. :-)

    Around mid-1994, the fragrance started making me ill. My nose started telling me it was too sweet. That’s when I switched to Coco Mademoiselle. That one started giving me a headache (although I can tolerate it better now), so I switched to Pleasures and wore that for a few years. Then I had a child and stopped wearing perfume. Until now. :-)

    The one I never liked was Obsession. It’s OK on others, I suppose, but absolutely terrible on me. I used to feel the same about Poison until recently when I tried some I had in a miniature my mom gave me way back when. It actually smells better on me now than it did back then. August 21, 2013 at 2:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: I used to work part time as a sales associate at a department store in college, and there was a woman, another SA, who wore Amarige. She even looked like someone from Amarige ad! It suited her perfectly, but when I smelled it recently on a girl at a dance studio, I recoiled. Like you, I thought that it was too sweet, too cloying. It didn’t help that she overapplied it. Maybe, in small quantities I could like it ok, but I haven’t tried. August 21, 2013 at 3:26pm Reply

      • Aisha: Well, let me know how that goes. ;-) I still have a miniature bottle of Amarige, and every once in a while I’ll take a sniff of it. It still smells the same to me, so I immediately uncap Coco M.

        It’s funny how our bodies can change in such a short period (four years), and how a perfume can start smelling so different on us and to us. And yet, my other favorites still smell just right on me. August 21, 2013 at 3:35pm Reply

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