Classics on a Budget : Drugstore Perfumes

At one time “drugstore” simply signified the place a fragrance was purchased rather than a pejorative comment on its worth. Consider this–in 1975, Revlon chairman Michel Bergerac pulled the Revlon brand from department stores and placed it into drugstores, at a marketing level known in the trade as the mass market.  Now available at Rexall Drug were Charlie, Revlon’s wildly successful modern chypre; Intimate, Ciara, and Norell. Bergerac made the move when the competing Estée Lauder brand outstripped Revlon in the department stores, where the mid-priced Revlon lost sales to the higher-priced, “premium” Lauder products.

The move enhanced, rather than hurt, the Revlon brand. Its newest fragrance, Jontue, became a bestseller, as did Enjoli a few years later.  Shopping at the drugstores, I would find an array of both classic and modern fragrances that ranged from Dana Tabu to New West for Her to the blockbuster franchise of Elizabeth Taylor. The three decades from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s were halcyon days for drugstore scents, with many of the fragrances becoming near-instant classics, immediately recognizable in their ubiquity and proudly worn by thousands of women.Many drugstore fragrances have become to one degree or another cultural touchstones. There are just as many of them as there are niche and department store fragrance icons, and they elicit a certain nostalgia among those whose first bottle of fragrance might well have been Love’s Fresh Lemon.  Some captured a moment in time (Enjoli’s cheerful feminism) or a fragrance trend (Bonne Bell Skin Musk; Coty Vanilla Fields). Others had counterparts in more expensive premium lines (Emeraude) and some had brief popularity before vanishing from the radar (Jovan Grass Oil).

By the time Revlon entered the drugstores, Bonne Bell, Houbigant, Prince Matchabelli, Dana, Max Factor, Coty, Perfumer’s Workshop, and Jovan (among others) shared the single-counter turf that was invariably towards the front of the store in the cosmetics section. Each of these lines produced at least one classic. Coty alone produced over ten of them, including Muguet des Bois and Sand & Sable. Even a less prolific brand like Charles of the Ritz produced scents as widely varied as its eponymous Charles of the Ritz fragrance, Jean Nate, Enjoli, and Forever Krystle.  Although it was at a zenith almost 40 years ago, Jean Nate is arguably the most famous American drugstore scent; it above all others seems to express best the idea of a drugstore classic. Some might say that 4711, a German cologne first produced in 1792, deserves top honors.

With shelf space and sales associates at a premium, drugstore fragrances relied on television and print advertising and word of mouth to spur sales.  More dollars were spent on television advertisements for Wind Song, Charlie, Enjoli, and Babethan ever were spent on similar advertisements for Guerlain ShalimarChanel No 22, and Robert Piguet Fracas.  Tuxedo-clad Shelley Hack striding into a Manhattan hotspot after generously spraying Charlie onto her neck (“Now the world belongs to Charlie!” said the confidently spoken voiceover) prejudiced at least me against leaning in favor of purchasing perfume in a department store.

One spray of spicy, sassy Babe* on my wrist reminds me how different the drugstore fragrances of the 20th century were to the sugary and fruity mall fragrances of today. Babe’s blend of vetiver, floral, and waxy honey was marketed to young urban sophisticates. Today, this style reads as “adult” in a way that would not now be marketed to young women. Also in the chypre category was Prince Matchabelli’s mid-priced drugstore winner Cachet.

Due to the youth-oriented, hippie shift in the 1960s, musk occupied a special place in the classic drugstore pantheon. These musk fragrances were sold not as accessories to a wardrobe but as extensions of one’s own natural smell.  Bonne Bell Skin Musk, Jovan Musk, Coty Wild Musk, and Alyssa Ashley Musk were simple “you, but better” aromas that fit in with the youth zeitgeist and were perhaps the first “anti” perfumes.

A later trend in drugstore scents traded on the openly erotic with sex pheromones, a category of fragrance dominated in the drugstore by Jovan, who made so much money on the concept that they became the first corporate sponsor to underwrite a major concert tour (Rolling Stones American Tour, 1981). Sex Appeal burned brightly before giving way to the less successful Andron.  Both were responses to the age-old question of what perfume attracts women, and what perfume attracts men?

Flankers that spun off the original classic might be issued years after the original had faded from view, turning one release into a prolonged event: Ex’cla.ma’tion spawned six flankers, right up into the new millennium. Charlie had a whopping nine and a thirty-year lifespan.

Many of the classics have not stood the test of time, largely due to reformulation or to stylistic revisions that have flattened or dulled the originals: Emeraude is a case in point.  Many others are consigned to memory and to perspectives that no longer suffice as sellable.  The romance of White Shoulders has given way to the questionable allure of Lollipop Bling. Will we see another Jean Nate, something that can be a nearly collective fragrance experience?

What are your favorite drugstore fragrances?

*Many thanks to OperaFan for sharing precious drops from her personal collection.

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106 Comments

  • The Scentimentalist: Great article! These names take me back! I confess to rather liking Maja by Myrurgia, and in the 80s liked a Coty scent called — bizarrely — Smitty! September 5, 2012 at 8:02am Reply

    • Suzanna: I remember Smitty, but not what it smelled like. I think it was an attempt to catch some of the Charlie stardust–marketed to the same group.

      Maja is still going strong! It was very sophisticated, as I recall! September 5, 2012 at 11:59am Reply

      • solanace: The Maja soap is a longtime favorite among the women in my family. Good one, must present it to my daughter, in due time (if it still exists then, sigh…) September 6, 2012 at 4:35am Reply

  • parisbreakfast: Jean Nate…I haven’t heard those two words in a million years!
    Whatever did I see in it?
    Maybe because you could buy it in a drugstore? Amazon still has it!
    thanks for a trip back to my tween years… September 5, 2012 at 9:43am Reply

    • Suzanna: parisbreakfast, Jean Nate was heavily advertised in the 60s and 70s, and, at a time when there were far fewer scents around JN was pretty visible on bathroom counters everywhere. September 5, 2012 at 9:49am Reply

  • Andy: I’m all for simple, cheap thrill fragrances, so I only wish drug store fragrances were as popular today. Today’s drugstore fragrance selection, at least where I live, is very limited and mostly unappealing to me so it’s hard to say what my favorite is. The Demeter line would seem to fulfill my desire for chep and simple scents, but even those are hard to find or absent in my drug stores, and of those I have sampled I didn’t find one that really appealed to me. One of my most treasured drugstore fragrances is a small bottle of vintage Norell, though, and while it’s too precious to use, it does make for something nice to sniff now and then. September 5, 2012 at 9:44am Reply

    • Suzanna: Andy, I agree that drugstores simply aren’t the same. A big store will have some of the old favorites, but of course memory makes them smell better.

      I just gave a friend of mine a bottle of vintage Norell! Nothing like what you can buy at CVS today. September 5, 2012 at 9:51am Reply

  • brian: Love this post, Suzanna. Fun read. Thanks. September 5, 2012 at 9:45am Reply

    • Suzanna: Glad you enjoyed it, Brian! I spent my teenage years at the drugstore, trying perfumes. September 5, 2012 at 9:49am Reply

  • OperaFan: Dear Suzanna – You’re very welcome!

    I do wish it could be possible to bring back fragrances like Babe and Enjoli in their original form. Even though I wore them as a teenager, they would still be suitable for me today due to their timelessness. In fact, I believe that my ability to appreciate them today is greater than back then.

    Looking back, I realized that in my small-budgeted ways, I was quite the perfumista with a sizeable collection of affordable fragrances. Jontu, Cachet, Babe, Coty Sweet Earth Wild Rose (for me, a pre-cursor to AG Rose Absolue), Jovan Mink & Pearls and a number of Avon fragrances. You could probably write several articles on some of the great Avon fragrances of the ’70s – but that’s another topic all together.

    Thanks for this wonderful journey back in time. September 5, 2012 at 9:49am Reply

    • Suzanna: OperaFan, thank YOU for “enabling” this post! In fact, I put on drop of your Mink & Pearls the other night and I am with you–I would find it suitable today.

      I was also a perfumista way back when. I can see my collection now: Rive Gauche, Chantilly, Emeraude, Tabu, Cachet (this was a favorite!), Sweet Earth compacts. September 5, 2012 at 9:53am Reply

  • Raluca: My mom uses Body Fantasies- Japanese Cherry Blossom and I think it’s a lovely, well-composed fragrance. It also has an impressive sillage. One time I stepped into a room and before I saw here I knew she was there because I could smell the fragrance. At $7 a bottle it’s a great find! September 5, 2012 at 9:50am Reply

    • Suzanna: Raluca, it’s good to hear about a new drugstore classic, and probably something some of us will want to check out! Thanks for stopping by! September 5, 2012 at 9:54am Reply

  • mals86: I was a drugstore-frag devotee as well! And my grandmother was addicted to those little Avon samples, so I sniffed my share of those too.

    Emeraude, even in the 80s, used to be pretty good – though not as good as the 1970s parfum de toilette I’ve managed to find on ebay, and of course the current stuff is just smelly water. SO SAD.

    Other drugstore loves of mine: Exclamation, Sand & Sable, Jovan Musk for Women (my no. 5-wearing mother, who made me take my Sand & SAble BACK, insisting that it was “too old” for 18-year-old me, still wears it and it’s still lovely). Revlon Navy, Xia Xi’ang, Prince Matchabelli Cachet.

    The vanished Aspen for Women was a big favorite of mine right as I left college, but nobody remembers it now: a light aquatic opening, classic rose-jasmine-ylang floral heart, pine notes and amber. Amazing stuff. It’s still available on ebay for cheap, but I don’t think it’s aged well.

    I never liked Charlie or LouLou, but I have a vague memory of owning a small deodorant spray of Smitty, which I think was a Coty scent as well. I don’t remember what it smelled like, just that I didn’t like it as well as Cachet, and nowhere near as much as my KL Chloe, which was a gift from my other grandmother and which I wore all through my teens. September 5, 2012 at 10:18am Reply

    • FastFoodLocal151: I wore Aspen for a few years in the early-mid 90s. I really loved the aquatic-floral-pine blend. I also wore Intimate Musk when it was Revlon, and Alyssa Ashley did a garden series – I had either a gardenia or a lily of the valley perfume from that – that was in the 80s. September 5, 2012 at 10:25am Reply

      • Suzanna: FFL, yes! Intimate Musk! I’d forgotten about it and Intimate. Intimate you can still find in vintage form and it has aged very well. And the Intimate Musk was a good flanker.

        You make me want to find some vintage Aspen now. September 5, 2012 at 12:01pm Reply

    • Suzanna: mals, I was crazy about KL Chloe! This and Halston dominated my late teens.

      I never liked LouLou either–although it was a huge hit in Europe and many love it to this day.

      I’ve found very decent Emeraude PdT on eBay, dating from early 1960s, that smells marvelous.

      “Smelly water” seems to be the fate of many of these fragrances. September 5, 2012 at 11:49am Reply

  • rosarita: Excellent article, thank you so much for the historical perspective and the trip back in time. I loved Norell when I was still in junior high school, bought with babysitting money which at the time was fifty cents an hour. You’ve jogged lots of scent memories. I remember owning Charlie, Norell, Jean Nate, Cachet, Heaven Scent, Chantilly (gave that one to my sister) and buying Wind Song as a mother’s day gift. I have a bottle of vintage Coty Wild Musk and love it; it’s my preferred bedtime scent. Sigh. I can’t think of anything comparable at my drugstores today, although I like to have a bottle of Jean Nate in the refrigerator in the summertime. The new one on Walgreen’s shelf still smells good. September 5, 2012 at 10:28am Reply

    • rosarita: Oh, I forgot Evening in Paris! Didn’t everyone have that? I don’t recall anything about the scent but I kept that cobalt bottle for years. September 5, 2012 at 10:30am Reply

    • Suzanna: rosarita, you’ve made a point here to which we can all relate–we all wore the same perfumes to some extent. The fragrance world was a lot smaller. We all had the same influences and were party to the same marketing schemes and other attractants. September 5, 2012 at 11:50am Reply

  • Liz G.: Thanks so much for the trip back in time. My first fragrance was Avon’s Honeysuckle when I was 12 or 13 but I most remember my first bottle of Charlie. I wore it when I was 15 for my first day at high school and I felt so sophisticated and grown up. And my mom always had a bottle of Jean Nate somewhere in her things. My taste now leans toward chypres and the ever lovely Dioressence is a favorite but I will always have a place in my heart for Charlie. Thanks for the great trip down memory lane! September 5, 2012 at 11:08am Reply

    • Suzanna: Liz, I adored Charlie. I got it when I was 18. It was all over the place with those ads, and it just smelled “right.” It was a definite signature scent for me during the first year of college! September 5, 2012 at 11:52am Reply

  • Claudia: I’ve always loved Jean Nate and still do! The “Friction pour le Bain” is so refreshing on hot hot days. Love’s Fresh Lemon was a favorite of mine in High school, along with Yardley’s Lavender scent. September 5, 2012 at 12:12pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Claudia, there is something very refreshing about Jean Nate, and it’s worth looking at now because there is nothing else like it out there. September 5, 2012 at 12:51pm Reply

  • nikki: I knew Charlie when I grew up in Europe as it was in all the magazines. My love affair with US drugstore perfumes started wit Jean Nate in ’87, then I was totally in love with Norell, what a gret fragrance, and Ciara, another great perfume. I don’t wear the perfumes too often, but I think they are great. Exclamation by Coty was quite something as well, wasn’t it created by Sophia Grosman? I really like drugstore perfumes! September 5, 2012 at 12:22pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Yes, Exclamation is authored by Sophia Grosjman, and it was enormously popular. September 5, 2012 at 12:53pm Reply

  • Divya: I’ve always loved Enjolie and how easy it is! September 5, 2012 at 12:59pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Divya, Enjoli is one of the precious samples our very own OperaFan shared with me. I agree, it is wonderful stuff! September 5, 2012 at 1:04pm Reply

  • Alityke: In the UK Boots was the scent shopping destination of choice. My choices were Cachet, J’Ai Ose, Fidgi and chypres are still my first choice.

    I remember Blasé was very popular but could take the lining from the nose if over applied.

    Later I fell for Rafinee and Charles of the Ritz.

    If my nose has a memory these were scents I would still wear today if they were released in their original formulation. In fact I am wearing an 80s chypre today but still would have been ought in Boots the Chemist – Givenchy III September 5, 2012 at 1:10pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Alityke, I definitely had Charles of the Ritz. Mine was in a metal can atomizer (these seemed to be a packaging quite common in that era, since I also had another scent or two in the cans). I can almost smell it now–loved it!

      Fidji is still a tremendous scent. September 5, 2012 at 1:59pm Reply

  • Claudia D.: I think I’ve received more compliments from my Coty Sun-Warmed Woods that I got for around $1.50 from Revco than any other scent I’ve worn before or since! Other past drug store favorites for me would be Lutece, Tabu, and of course, Love’s Baby Soft! 🙂 September 5, 2012 at 1:38pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Claudia, I’ve never heard of the Coty scent you mentioned! Will have to check it out.

      Love’s wearers seem to fall into two camps: Fresh Lemon or Baby Soft. Think it depended on how old you were, too, when they were introduced. September 5, 2012 at 1:57pm Reply

  • MB: As a kid I had the Love lemon scent you mentioned – it was my first scent – I definitely remember buying Love purple eye shadow packaged in something like an eyeball and I still remember the Ali MacGraw Love commercials. They were terrific. September 5, 2012 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Suzanna: MB, what a flashback! I recall eyeshadow packaged the way you described, like an eyeball. I had a sparkly mint green shade! September 5, 2012 at 1:56pm Reply

      • Yvonne: I remember almost every perfume perfume mentioned , Sand and Sable an Exclamation were my go to sents but my first was Electric Youth now that is totally 80’s for you . Summer nights parked with my boyfriend ahhh the memories. February 9, 2016 at 10:14pm Reply

  • Apollonia: Trying one drugstore scent after another with babysitting money was my introduction to perfume appreciation as a teenager. I loved Bonne Bell Skin Musk, Heaven Sent, Sweet Earth Compact in herbal fragrances, Love’s Fresh Lemon scent, Love’s Baby Soft, and one cologne I was crazy about that’s been discontinued: Eau de Love. It was pale golden in color and just beautiful as I remember it; floral and soft, not too sweet and probably with some woodsy-ness to it. No fruit as I recall, but it was decades ago! And also, the BEST civet oil ever was made by Alyssa Ashley and came in a black glass 2-inch round flatish bottle in the mid-70’s and I can recall buying it at the Sears fragrance counter! It was fabulous!

    Even now, Toujour Moi, Cafe, and Interlude come in very handy in autumn and winter as everyday, nothing-special fragrances to wear. They’re inexpensive, they smell good and you don’t mind spraying several times during the day. You can even spray your pillows or bulbs just before lighting. I use Sand and Sable as a room freshener! It’s great in the walk-in closet! September 5, 2012 at 2:55pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Thanks for that tip, Apollonia! I confess to doing the same with Wicked Wahine!

      I remember both the Sears fragrance counter and that Alyssa Ashley civet oil. When available, it’s a splurge item on eBay now. I never liked her musk much, but that civet oil was fantastic! September 5, 2012 at 3:25pm Reply

    • Diane: I loved this post and wish I found it sooner rather than two years later. I also loved Eau De Love! It had a frosted bottle and a domed shape silver lid. It smelled crisp and clean and almost like a very subtle men’s cologne but not heavy or heady. If anyone knows the company that made it. Or has found a similar scent I’d appreciate the heads up!
      Graham Web made a line of shampoos and hair products called Montage, which had a cologne that reminded me a little of the scent. But nothing has ever really come close. However, I did also like Love’s lemon version as well.
      I am very sensitive to scents and get headaches and really notice when others wear ones I don’t like. So, when I find one I do, I appreciate it.
      Right now I am loving Philosophy’s Amazing Grace, it is clean and not too much. Please write again on this subject! I loved it! November 22, 2014 at 8:51am Reply

  • Barbara: Enjoyed the article and it reminded me of one of my early teen years drugstore perfume. It was my first great fragrance love — Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps! I wore that for several years before discovering The classic Chanel No. 5. September 5, 2012 at 3:32pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Barbara, I had L’Air du Temps also and loved it. I still think it is one of the greats. It’s really fallen off the radar now, unfortunately. September 5, 2012 at 5:49pm Reply

  • Austenfan: All these scents are unfamiliar, but I loved this post. It’s interesting to see how time changes things.
    My introduction to perfume was my mother’s small collection. L’Air du Temps, Shocking, mostly L’Air du Temps.
    I do remember my first bottle of perfume so very very well. It was a mini of Anais Anais that I got ordering something like books. That tiny bottle lasted me for at least a year. In a way it’s a pity I didn’t keep it. September 5, 2012 at 3:47pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Austenfan, I bet many of these scents would be unfamiliar to my nose now. I’ve tried finding them, or finding something in them, but they seem like strangers to me for the most part. I’m still waiting for that aha! moment! September 5, 2012 at 5:50pm Reply

  • Caroline: I actually like 4711 when I feel it’s too hot to wear one of my regular perfumes. It’s light enough to use as body spray & doesn’t have that icky candy sweet smell that those body sprays in plastic bottles have. Plus I just LOVE that it’s referenced in Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff. September 5, 2012 at 5:30pm Reply

    • Suzanna: It’s a classic, all right! Body sprays are great, and you are right, it doesn’t have that terrible synthetic sweet note that the cheapies have. September 5, 2012 at 5:47pm Reply

  • maja: I used to love my mother’s Joie de Vivre by Lentheric in the 80s. 🙂 Nowadays I always have a bottle of Elizabeth Arden Green Tea. September 5, 2012 at 5:36pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Oh, yes, maja, Green Tea is another good one! It’s a more modern scent. September 5, 2012 at 5:48pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: It’s always a little depressing when an old favorite gets “demoted” to drugstore status. It’s kind of like not being welcome at the cool kids’ lunch table any more! I was so sad when Givenchy’s ‘Organza” tumbled off its perch at Bloomingdale’s and Neimans and landed at CVS! September 5, 2012 at 5:59pm Reply

    • Suzanna: I know what you mean, Lynn Morgan. Whether individual product or entire line, it’s depressing. It might be very good from a sales standpoint, however! September 5, 2012 at 6:35pm Reply

  • Kandice: What a wonderful post and what lovely memories this brought back. My mother wore White Shoulders during my childhood. I remember my father buying it for her on special occasions. I can still remember that scent today. It will always remind me of my parents and the special relationship they share. September 5, 2012 at 7:27pm Reply

    • Suzanna: What a lovely memory, Kandice! White Shoulders was always the most classically “ladylike” of the scents, not the women’s libber so popular from the late 1970s into the 1980s. September 6, 2012 at 9:25am Reply

  • Cyndi: Boy, does this article take me back! I used to manage a drugstore cosmetic and perfume counter for Thrift Drug Store in the early seventies. It was one of my first jobs. One perfume case had Chanel No. 5 and Arpege along with Chantilly, Cachet, and Tabu. I also remember the Love eyeshadow eyeballs, and all the Love bath and body products. My favorite Love fragrance at the time (and I’m really showing my age) was Eau de Love. September 5, 2012 at 7:55pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Go ahead and show it, Cyndi, and I am right behind you! Rah!

      Eau de Love I do not remember, and now I am curious. Love’s was such a big brand. I hadn’t remembered those eyeballs until today!

      I always had a vat of Chantilly on hand, the splash cologne. I loved it! September 5, 2012 at 8:41pm Reply

  • annemariec: No, I don’t think we will see another collective fragrance experience. The market is flooded with too many products now, and there is probably no going back. CK1 might be the last great collective fragrance experience, I’s say.

    In Australia in the 70s (in my memory anyway) the chemists brands were Yardley, Lentheric adn 4711. Yardley was British and so was Lentheric (I think?). Penetration of American brands was not as great, at least in the chemist scene. Lauder, Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden were big in the department stores. Revlon and Max Factor were in the department stores too, I think. I don’t remember seeing Coty anywhere, at least not in my small city.

    So my early perfume memories are quite different from the ones I read about on teh American blogs. Yardley was terribly English and Lentheric went for a combined English/French aesthetic. Its perfume Panache is still pretty good, as is Tweed – a chypre with a lot of backbone. An alternative for women who can’t afford Miss Dior.

    These days the chemists are full of the celebrity and cheaper designer brands like Calvin Klein. Sometimes you see some Lauder or Chloe. Yardley and Lentheric are harder to find, but you do see them chemists in suburbs and regional cities and towns. I travel a bit for work and often wander into chemists to see what they have.

    Great piece of writing – many thanks! September 5, 2012 at 7:59pm Reply

  • Suzanna: Thank you, annemariec, for you kind words and your additions! I’m glad you mentioned CK1, because to that I’d add L’Eau d’Issey, Eternity, and Acqua di Gio as the last important collective scents.

    Yardley had a big drugstore cosmetic presence in the late 60s—I was a tiny kid, but I remember being wowed by those striped lipsticks and pots of gloss. Very British, indeed–and that was considered very cool!

    Agree about Tweed, and the vintage is still great! September 5, 2012 at 8:39pm Reply

    • annemariec: Oh yes, those are also great collective scents. I remember Tania S saying that just about everyone she knew owned L’eau d’Issey.

      This post is such fun. I applaud all those women who loved Charlie! back in the day. It must have been great fun to wear. It smells fairly cheap and harsh to me now though. Reformulated? I guess so. September 6, 2012 at 4:20am Reply

      • Suzanna: I agree about Charlie, and I suppose we must consider that it smelled cheap and harsh back in its day, too. Which brings up the question of why make a perfume that smells cheap and harsh? Is it that only cheapish synthetics are used to keep costs down?

        I would not have known cheap and harsh when I was a teen. Prob. everything I had smelled that way! September 6, 2012 at 9:24am Reply

  • Cyndi: I also loved Yardley! The Slicker Lip Polishes and Oh! de London cologne. I saw one of the Yardley magazine ads with Jean Shrimpton the other day.
    Soooo long ago! September 5, 2012 at 9:02pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Cyndi, I’m a connoisseur of vintage cosmetic ads, so I know the Shrimpton ads and they were glorious–representing that “Swinging London” aesthetic so wonderfully well. Half a century ago! September 5, 2012 at 9:27pm Reply

      • annemariec: I love those ads too. And there were some great Yardley of an earlier generation, late 40s and early 50s – sooo stylish. Yardley had a fragrance called Bond Street. I don’t know what it smelled like bit the ads are wonderful. Yay for the internet – you can browse this stuff whenever you like. September 6, 2012 at 4:15am Reply

        • Suzanna: annemariec, I spend a good deal of time browsing the Internet!

          Perhaps someone recalls Bond Street and can tell us what it was like. September 6, 2012 at 9:22am Reply

  • Silvana: One of my brothers gave me L’Aimant for my fourteenth birthday, and I loved it–made me feel so grown up (it was my first real perfume) and reminded me a bit of my Mom’s Chanel No. 5.

    I forgot all about it for years, when my growing love for vintage perfumes reminded me to look for it on ebay. It’s astonishingly pretty, and yes, it still reminds me of No. 5. Since then I’ve found vintage versions of Emeraude, which is just gorgeous. (I don’t know what the current version is like.)

    Was Crepe de Chine a drugstore scent? I find it intoxicating and I’ve been stockpiling it. Absolutely beautiful chypre. I agree with you, Suzanna, that these wonderful chypres (like Cachet, e.g.) seem very grown-up now, especially in comparison with the fruity floral sweet scents — perfumes that my farm-bred grandmother would have called “a fist in the nose.” September 6, 2012 at 3:21pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Silvana–a “fist in the nose” has made my morning! How descriptive is that?

      Yes, Crepe de Chine was drugstore where I lived. It was top-of-the-line drugstore, seemingly more exotic (due to the ad) than the other scents. Much too grown-up for me! However, once again we have a chypre in an era of chypres. There was a chypre trend the way there is a fruitchouli trend now.

      Vintage Emeraude is, as they say, “da bomb.” September 7, 2012 at 9:36am Reply

  • cyndee: The perfume I loved as a teen was Possession by Corday. My aunt gave this to me for high school graduation. I believe it was available at Mervyn’s. Lovely fragrance. Does anyone else remember it?
    I last saw it about 1970. Also loved Emeraude, but the new is nothing like the old.
    I am new to the internet and looking up old perfumes. I had no idea of the reformulation of vintage perfumes. Now I am sad. I thought it was just my memories building up things in my mind about how wonderful the old fragrances were. September 6, 2012 at 7:51pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Cyndee, I have never heard of Possession. That’s a first! However, I’ve looked it up, and it was named after Charlotte Corday (yes, the same one, soon beheaded as was the custom of the day, who murdered Jean Paul Marat in his bathtub).

      We all have reformulation woes, so you have come to the right place. Things simply change but our memories of them do not. September 7, 2012 at 9:41am Reply

  • Tania: Oooh, drugstore perfumes! (Though in the UK we had ‘chemists’ instead). I used to love those shelves, they were my playground as a teen.
    My first was Aqua Manda. Then I discovered Coty: Wild Musk, Complice, L’Aimant, those solid perfume compacts. And Yardley: Sea Jade and Bond Street. Max Factor did a Musk Jasmine oil I simply wore to death. I also liked Wind Song, but Cachet was too sweet for me. I never liked Charlie, though. Or Lentheric, which was everywhere – Tweed, Tramp… they didn’t appeal to me.
    And Brut! The ’skinheads’ and ‘suedeheads’ of my day wore Brut a lot, girls included. I remember a bottle passing hand to hand in the queue for the local church disco, from skinhead boys in Ben Sherman shirts, Doc Martins and braces, to girls in two-tone skirts with feathered hair…. we thought we were so cool. Brut used to smell really good, back in the day. I doubt it does now, though I haven’t tried it.
    Nowadays, if you don’t want Chanel, etc, the choice in Boots is very limited. Not much apart from body sprays which smell like fly-spray, fruit salad or ozonic melon, and Charlie (which apparently can’t be killed). I’d love to revisit a chemist shop of the seventies. Oh for a time machine! September 7, 2012 at 6:58am Reply

    • Suzanna: Tania, thanks for the British perspective! I will join you in that time capsule (and go broke in the doing).

      You’ve brought up a few more I’d never heard of: Thanks for contributing. September 7, 2012 at 9:43am Reply

    • sandra vona: I read your article on on ole drugstore perfumes , do you have any memory of carnation?
      Back in the 50s my grandma went to the drugstore and bought a small tin of solid perfume in , carnation, so many memories of grandma and she smelled so good, wish i could at least find out who made it , any help i would appreciate so much. Sandra. July 9, 2013 at 9:53pm Reply

  • Tangopoet: So fun to hear what you all loved! I still like Jean Nate and often find it at Walgreens. It doesn’t last long on but it’s great after shaving legs to avoid bumps. I taught my daughter this trick too.

    Maja soap is special, and very special to me because I first used it in Spain, introduced to me by my Dutch lover – who became my husband.

    Ambush by Coty was my signature scent in high school, and I’m still known for that even though I haven’t seen it in decades. Canoe by Coty for men is still around, I believe, as is British Sterling. September 7, 2012 at 8:16am Reply

    • Suzanna: Tangopoet, I love that you are still known for Ambush! It must have been some signature!

      Thanks for that tip about Jean Nate–one that I bet many of us can use! September 7, 2012 at 9:45am Reply

  • breathesgelatin: My first perfume was in this category, at the end of the drugstore perfume era in the mid-90s: Cover Girl Navy! September 8, 2012 at 1:47pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Breathesgelatin, Navy was very popular, and you are right–at the end of that era. September 8, 2012 at 6:31pm Reply

  • Moi: Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a big ol’ bottle of the Babe of my junior high school days. That was a real stunner, and THE perfume of choice among all my girlfriends. Can you imagine, 13, 14 year old girls going for it today? You are spot on in your assessment: it would most likely be seen as “old lady.”

    That being said, I do find that there are still come pretty well done drug store scents. The one I wear most is Lady Stetson. I find it cheerful without being cloying, sophisticated without begin difficult, and wearable while still having presence. September 9, 2012 at 9:05pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Moi, I have Lady Stetson also; it is in my mind the best inexpensive scent out there.

      Babe was huge, as you know. What would be a cognate today, in the drugstore market? September 9, 2012 at 9:49pm Reply

  • Diane Reed: Ahhh what a great post! I was actually googling looking for the scent and found this thread. Looks like a lot of others agree it is a great subject! Funny how scents can rubberband you right back to a time… My favorite scent was Loves’s Eau De Love! I would love to find it! I am VERY sensitive to strong smells and so am pretty choosie. Nothing since then compares. Don’t you just hate when things get discontinued? Right down to laundry detergents, bar soap, deoderants, shampoos! I loved Montage shampoo and also loved this cheap aftershave my boyfriend used to wear called Timberline! Too funny… it could probably get me hot all over again! I wear Philosophy’s Amazing Grace now… just clean and fresh and not heavy and old lady huggy too much smell. If anyone can find either Timberline or Eau De Love, I’d love your source! September 11, 2012 at 11:48pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Diane, my only suggestion would be to set up searches on eBay for the items you want. You’d be surprised how frequently things turn up! September 12, 2012 at 7:44am Reply

      • Diane: Suzanne
        Thanks for the advice ! I just found this thread again! Funny, I googled again and your article out of all of them, was the first I chose to go to and after posting AGAIN. Lol. I realized I’d already found this and posted and you’d replied! So embarrassing. November 22, 2014 at 9:03am Reply

  • Mimi: I was living in San Francisco when I first ventured beyond dabbling in fragrances. This was the late 60s and early 70s (I’ll just date myself right off the top) and there were pharmacies all over town that were like department stores. They had makeup, great hair products, beauty products and fragrances. Like another of your readers, I would so love to time travel back to one.

    I, too, started with Eau de Love. The drugstore scent I miss the most, and I don’t know that I can even spell it any more, is Cerissa. I thought it very feminine, but I think my sister and I were the only 2 women in the solar system who cared for it.

    My step-mother wore Intimate and I remember it smelling glorious, nothing like it is today. September 18, 2012 at 12:34pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Mimi, wow, great flashback! I can envision such a drugstore!

      Cerissa I have never heard of–wonder if anyone else has. September 18, 2012 at 2:12pm Reply

      • Mimi: Suzanna: I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of Cerissa. I couldn’t remember the name and had to research for it—really research. I don’t think it was very popular. I wonder what I would think of it now. September 21, 2012 at 9:21am Reply

        • Suzanna: Perhaps someone will come along and chime in here! September 21, 2012 at 9:31am Reply

  • kath: Does anyone remember Gingham it was very sweet but I loved it as a young teenager her is Australia. February 28, 2013 at 12:49pm Reply

    • Suzanna: No, I’ve never heard of it! Perhaps someone will come along who remembers it, though! March 1, 2013 at 10:10am Reply

    • anitaoolong: I loved Gingham too! I’m also from Australia, and this lovely fragrance was popular with my circle of friends when I was a teen in the ’80’s. As I remember it was a light, spicy, musky scent – very nice. July 5, 2013 at 6:16am Reply

  • Mary: Does anyone remember Bonne Bell Cool Skin II? If someone can help me with the notes, I’d love to find something similar or recreate it. March 4, 2013 at 10:42pm Reply

    • CangMao: I LOVED Cool Skin! Ditto what Mary said… Does anyone remember it? Remember the notes? Or know of something similar on the market today? I keep looking… I think it would be a great scent for “today.” September 10, 2013 at 10:53pm Reply

      • Mary: Yay! Someone else remembers Cool Skin! I am really looking for Cool Skin II, it was a little different than Cool Skin. I found a bottle of Cool Skin a few months ago and bought it. There is a bottle currently for sale on eBay! September 11, 2013 at 9:02pm Reply

  • Janet: I loved Charlie as a teenager, and a solid perfume that I can’t recall the brand of – I think it was Yardley, it was a range of tiny little bright coloured plastic pots of solid perfume. I think they were called Yum Yum Pots? The scents were very fruity and wild (late 60s, early 70s). Does anyone remember these products and the correct name? March 7, 2013 at 7:46am Reply

    • Suzanna: Wow, no idea, but perhaps someone will stop by to add information. I don’t recall these at all! The solid perfume I had was the Coty compacts, the Sweet Earth, but I do recall plenty of Yardley in the drugstore when I was very young. March 7, 2013 at 10:56am Reply

    • Tourmaline: Hi Janet,

      I hope that you are still out there and that you receive or find this comment. I have just read Suzanna’s wonderful nostalgic article from 2012. The perfumes that you are remembering were indeed called Yum Yum Pots. Not only do I recall them from my teenage years in Brisbane, Australia, but I still have two of them stored away in the perfume archive section of my fridge!

      The perfumes were released in around 1974 and the brand name on the base of each pot is Pfizer Leeming. They were part of the Skinny Dip range and came in four scents. On the top of each pot is written “Skinny Dip” and then the name of the scent. There was “Wild Strawberry”, which came in a bright pink pot, a mandarin or tangerine scent that came in an orange pot, a lemon scent that came in a yellow pot, and “Melon Crush”, which smelled like fresh rockmelon and came in a light green pot.

      As you might have guessed, I bought the strawberry and melon scents. I bought them in 1975, when I was in grade nine at school, and I remember that several of my classmates had other fragrances from the range, as well as the Skinny Dip cologne. On account of the fact that they have been kept in the fridge, my two pots still smell good, almost 40 years on, although the texture has become granulated. Unfortunately, the gold writing has come off the lid of the pink pot.

      A couple of months ago, I found a full-page magazine advertisement for Skinny Dip cologne and all four of the Yum Yum Pots. It is from the Australian Women’s Weekly and I’m happy to inform you that you should be able to access it yourself via the Internet. There is a wonderful resource that has been developed at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. It has digitised issues of the Australian Women’s Weekly from 1933 to 1982 and currently they have a trial webpage. If you do an Internet search for “The Australian Women’s Weekly – Trove” or “National Library of Australia Women’s Weekly”, then you should find the link to the page.

      Once you are on the page, there are two ways that you can find the ad. The easiest way is to type “Yum Yum Pot” into the “Search articles” section. The colour page will come up, amongst a number of black and white pages. The other way is to locate the December 4 1974 edition of the magazine and find page 88. (Note that sometimes the wrong page number seems to come up at the bottom of the screen, but you will recognize the colourful Skinny Dip products when you see the page.)

      The other great news is that you can download a pdf version of the document and save it.

      I wish you all the best in your search! November 23, 2014 at 12:45am Reply

      • Janet: Hi Tourmaline,

        Wow, oh wow! Thanks for sharing this information! I was just now doing my about-annual google search to try to find the elusive yumyum pots and found your reply from last year. I will check out Trove right now – and I am particularly jealous that you have two pots that still smell yum yum! Thanks again for sharing this information! Kind regards, Janet April 24, 2015 at 2:05am Reply

  • Joni: my favorite was called Khara by max factor .I wish they still made it . I have used almost every one of the named perfumes here . I believe I started with evening in paris . March 16, 2013 at 5:02pm Reply

    • Suzanna: I sort of remember Khara! Another blast from the past, an olfactory one. I believe many of us know most, if not all, of the perfumes on this list. March 17, 2013 at 12:38pm Reply

  • Sandra jones: Great thread. Been trying to remember the perfume I lived from the 70s and this site has just prompted me – Aqua Manda by Goya, and I now find it has been relaunched! Sadly nit at 70s prices though. I remember Tweed, Charlie, Gingham, L’Aimant, my mum’s collection of Avon fragrances, 4711 and one of the first ‘adult’ fragrances I loved – Cabochard by Gres. Closely followed by Miss Dior. July 22, 2014 at 2:30am Reply

  • angeldiva: Hello !!! I have found my tribe !
    I fell in love with the perfumes at Sav-ons beginning in the late 1960’s. I would LOOOOVE any info on a Yardley fragrance that went down the rabbit hole. It was called, “Mountain Greenery.” It came in a glass tube inside a cardboard tube. The smell was green on green on GREEN. Heaven! By discovering, and reading the blog I purchased Vent Vert – very similar opening!
    I loved the frosted textured bottle of Cache. My mother have me Avons: Hana Gasa. I would love to find anything close to this pretty oriental.
    My dear late mother who was a formidable Taurus wore ,”Shocking,” by Schiaperelli. She says she landed my father with it! lol they were married 52 years, and are now both angles in Heaven. She also wore Chanel 5.
    I can smell both of my parents by visiting any drugstore. A jar of Ponds cold cream smells like my Mom is standing on my right. A whiff of: Brut, Aquavelva or Skin Bracer smells like my Dad is standing on my left.
    Peace September 25, 2014 at 8:33am Reply

    • Victoria: Isn’t Vent Vert beautiful! I’m glad that you discovered it, and yes, it’s the best green perfume out there. Few things compare.
      And thank you for sharing all of these wonderful memories! September 25, 2014 at 10:55am Reply

  • Estee: This thread is as good as it gets because we can’t go back in time for our favorite scents.
    Mine was as a young teen, Mediterranean Cruise made by Rexall found in their Rexall store in a small town in the Pacific Northwest in the late 60’s. Oh, I so remember Babe. I really dumped it on. I saved the bottle of Mediterranean Cruise for years and then lost it in a trunk forever with my beloved rock collection from childhood. The things we remember. Thanks for all the sharing. I loved reading everyones comments. May we all find that magically fragrance that transports us. September 28, 2014 at 7:34pm Reply

  • angeldiva: What a hoot! I have read everyones comments , and just love this !
    Here in Los Angela circa 1969- there was a novelty scent marketed to teenage girls that I just remembered. It was called ” SKINNY DIP.” It came in a bottle that felt like it was coated in rubber, and when you sprayed it on : it fizzed up and foamed !!!
    I was too young to own of buy a bottle, but it was a big hit with my elder sisters friends. If you could get past the chemical dry down it just … well… smelled!
    I have recently purchased the Jai Ose I wore
    in high school, love it. I am on the perfume nostalgia highway of life.
    There are also oceans of retro scents available here at a pharmacy called CVS.
    But, nothing as kinky at SKINNY DIP lol !!!
    Peace October 13, 2014 at 7:07pm Reply

  • terri: What a lovely thread. I hope people keep adding to it. My mother wore Intimate and later, Charles of the Ritz. I remember Cerissa. There was Ciara, and then Cerissa. Google images for Cerissa and you will find a great ad featuring Lauren Hutton. There were so many lovely drugstore perfumes back then with terrific ads and commercials as well. I have a small bottle of Lady Stetson in my cabinet that still smells good. And a small bottle of my favorite drugstore perfume, Nokomis. January 2, 2015 at 7:57pm Reply

  • rob0t: I’ve fallen in love with Tabu and Toujours Moi, as well as Navy. I got a sample set of these old beauties and only Chantily just didn’t do it for me. It smelled nice in the bottle, but as soon as I got it on me it became a very weird smell that I just couldn’t stand.

    I have a number of fragrances I wear, some of them from Bath and Body Works. However, as far as drugstore/grocery store fragrances go I’ve been keeping to Tabu, Toujours Moi and Navy. February 11, 2015 at 8:02am Reply

  • MaggieToo: I can hardly believe I made it all the way through this article and ALL the comments without finding a single mention of the Faberge drugstore scents of my teenage years in the late ’60s. Woodhue, Tigress and Flambeau were the classics, often sold in trio packages of all three together. I spent my last two high school years in a wondrous cloud of Woodhue soap, powder and cologne.

    I keep thinking I’ll pick up one of the many vintage bottles that turn up on eBay, but every time I look at them I feel a little fearful of the flood of memories that would almost certainly entail… April 5, 2015 at 2:17pm Reply

  • Charlene: I loved this! I used to buy a perfume/cologne at our local drugstore. For the life of me I cannot remember the name. It came in a beautiful pink bottle, that looked like pink satin. I thought it was Ambush, but none of the “vintage” bottles of that looks like it. It was soft, but everyone said they knew I had walked the hall when they smelled it! December 25, 2015 at 9:41am Reply

  • martha: trying to find name of perfume used in mid 1960s. Bought at Rexall Drugs, came in blue bottle and had vanilla scent. Just reconnected with old friend from college days and that was his favorite. Lots of guys went to college with loved it. Guess they thought I was miss Susie homemaker. December 28, 2015 at 5:39pm Reply

  • Fiona: I remember old 1970s perfumes called Blue Blazer and Apple Blossom. They were always found in department stores. In my early teens- late1970s there was a perfume sold in chemist shops called Love is.. it also featured the famous Daily Mail cartoon etched on the front which went by the same name. The bottle was simple and clear with a white cap and the perfume was also clear. Does anyone remember it? I remember Gingham and Jovan Musk oil too..A walk down Memory Lane! July 25, 2016 at 11:52am Reply

    • Estee: Fiona,
      I see both Gingham and Jovan Musk oil are on e-bay. Have some fun. Thanks for your post. September 28, 2016 at 5:59pm Reply

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