The (Blind) Smell Test at WWD : Update

Another update on The Smell Test series from Women’s Wear Daily is in order. As I mentioned in my previous posts, the goal is to blind test recent launches and offer anonymous opinions. All ten judges, myself included, receive fragrances in plain lab bottles, marked only by number, smell at their leisure and offer a rating from 1 to 10. WWD is one of the leading and most influential fashion and beauty publications, and it’s a great platform for such a project.


The latest perfumes tested were as follows:

Creed Royal Mayfair

Diptyque Florabellio

Aedes de Venustas Palissandre d’Or

Kate Spade Walk on Air

Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Cologne Indélébile

The Smell Test feature is available without subscription.

My personal favorite from this batch was Florabellio, a quirky, strange thing but quite compelling.



  • Cornelia Blimber: Garlic smell, hahaha! That Florabellio could be useful for chasing Dracula.
    I love the blind tests. I hope Diptyque will learn the lesson and give us something better next time. February 10, 2016 at 7:13am Reply

    • Victoria: The Diptyque one is polarizing, but it’s quirky and very well-done. Better a perfume that elicits strong opinions than a scent that evokes nothing at all. February 10, 2016 at 7:30am Reply

      • Nick: Whenever I find a scent dissonant after a few tries, I try to remember how unusual and out-of-the-box this particular scent attempts –even if it might not please me. They surely deserve some decorations for trying to stand out amongst the inundated shelves. February 10, 2016 at 9:12am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Eccentric perfumes are nothing new in the niche industry. Harmonious perfumes on the other hand are rare.
          But allright, I withdraw my comment. All perfumes deserve a chance, and yes, only trust your own nose. February 10, 2016 at 9:35am Reply

          • Nick: Ah no no, I am not defending Florabellio at all. Everyone has his or her own opinion, and a perfume that elicits strong opinions — praise or censure — surely has quite the character. I am just voicing my own experience about how I would initially snub a perfume only to reflect back that it actually attempts something no other copies have dared to do. For example, Kouros had been a urinal cake to me until I learned to appreciate animalic scents. February 10, 2016 at 9:46am Reply

          • Victoria: For me most of the great classics are eccentric, including Joy with its punchy animalic notes, No 5 with a huge dose of aldehydes, and even Mitsouko with its mossy and fruity accord.
            But I agree with you that weird for the sake of weird quickly gets old. February 10, 2016 at 11:01am Reply

        • Elisa: Some of my favorite perfumes smelled weird to me at first. I think when you smell new launches all the time you start actively looking for weird because 80% of them are so samey. February 10, 2016 at 9:42am Reply

          • Nick: Exactly. I grew up in the fresh aquatic of the 90s, so imagine when I wanted to feel haute and went to try Antaeus for the first time in my life… Then, there was a point when I was hunting down the famous: Shalimar, Jicky, Mouchoir de Monsieur, Joy — the shrieks of civets! February 10, 2016 at 9:50am Reply

            • Elisa: I hated both Shalimar and Joy at first. Now I love them. February 10, 2016 at 9:52am Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: Well, that’s exactly what I said: every perfume deserves a chance, and you must only trust your own nose.
                Of course there are perfumes that are unusual to you at first sniff. I could cite exemples from my own experience as well.
                But eccentricity is not always interesting. Most of the time it is not. February 10, 2016 at 10:10am Reply

          • Ida: I don’t mind “weird” perfumes, but Florabellio just smells bad to/on me. I agree with one of the comments: “The whole impression is chemical, full of too many ingredients (…)”. Would I call it well done? Hmm… I’m really not sure. February 12, 2016 at 4:27am Reply

        • Victoria: Harmony in perfume is relative easy to achieve (provided you have appropriate skills), as is the outright dissonance, but what’s most difficult is to have balance between character and polish. Most of the perfumes we call classics are memorable because they have an overdose of a material, a small imperfection, a quirk to keep our attention. Which is why when you smell them for the first time, you may not find them instantly likable. Mitsouko needed a long courtship before I started enjoying. February 10, 2016 at 11:17am Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: ”balance” is what I meant saying ”harmony”. Thank you for correcting.
            A small imperfection, a little quirk is not the same thing as eccentricity.
            All artists know that perfection is what they aspire to, but are afraid of as well.
            For ex.: What critics reproach at the famous pianist Pollini: his perfection! February 10, 2016 at 11:43am Reply

            • Victoria: Eccentricity is not the opposite of balance, though. At least, not in the context of perfumery as I was taught it. Balance or harmony are purely technical parameters, while eccentricity is about character. A perfectly balanced composition can also be eccentric, if it manages to convey a distinctive message.
              A badly constructed perfume is not eccentric. It’s just poorly made. February 10, 2016 at 11:55am Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: Of course eccentric is not the same as badly constructed. But in my view, if a composition is well done, and the outcome is weird, than there is a flaw in the result.
                A strong message is not necessarily eccentric.
                But as we are speaking of perfume, the last word is for you. February 10, 2016 at 12:25pm Reply

                • Victoria: Not necessary strong but distinctive, as I said in my comment. Yes, that’s an important component. As for examples of well-done and eccentric perfumes, I have plenty, from Guerlain Jicky to Bulgari Black.

                  But I don’t have the last word on perfume! 🙂 February 10, 2016 at 2:23pm Reply

                  • Cornelia Blimber: also a distinctive message is not nesserarely eccentric,
                    Perfumes like No5, Jicky, Mitsouko etc. were eccentric only in their context. they were ahead of the time. That was not so difficult in their epoch of florals for ladies and lavender for gents. Nowadays it’s more difficult to bring something new. So some try to be distinctive being weird, in the niche industry.
                    Of course you may have the last word. You are professional as it comes to perfume, I am not.
                    Well, I will give the Creed and the Diptyque a honest try. February 10, 2016 at 2:38pm Reply

                    • Cornelia Blimber: sorry, necessarily! February 10, 2016 at 2:39pm

                    • Victoria: Jicky is still wonderfully eccentric. February 10, 2016 at 3:55pm

          • Notturno7: Same for me, now I love Mitsuko but I got a bottle of it first when I was jet lagged at the airport and when I got home it felt too mossy and I was like ‘why did I buy this’!!
            I didn’t like Carnal Flower (or Coco Mademoiselle- it felt too ‘clean’ till I got EdP and pure perfume )at first sniff either- but now I can’t ‘peel off’ my nose from my perfumed wrists? February 11, 2016 at 9:23pm Reply

            • Karen (A): If you can, try Coco pure parfum – it is like wearing sparkly black diamonds. February 12, 2016 at 5:27am Reply

              • Notturno7: Thanks Karen,
                I never tried pure perfume Coco. I have a body cream that I had for like 8 years and it smells great and also EdP and I love them both. Isn’t it amazing how perfume can be SO much better! Last summer when traveling through Heathrow I tried all these pure perfumes in Chanel boutique and I never liked Allure but pure perfume Allure was SOOO nice and fruity and I almost bought Cuir de Russie perfume on top of big EdT that I already have but managed to control myself ?lol February 13, 2016 at 2:48pm Reply

                • Karen (A): Yeah, the pure perfume is really beautiful. The small bottle makes it “affordable”, but it’s tough trying to figure out what to buy and what to just enjoy a sample of or even just a paper tester. So many beautiful perfumes! February 13, 2016 at 3:29pm Reply

            • Victoria: The parfum in Coco Mademoiselle is such a lush thing! February 12, 2016 at 11:56am Reply

              • Notturno7: Yes, Coco M perfume is fabulous. I don’t know why they don’t make an ounce size yet! They had only quarter ounce till recently, maybe 1-2 years ago. Can’t wait for the big bottle of perfume, like they have in No 5 February 13, 2016 at 2:51pm Reply

                • Victoria: I prefer the smaller size, because it’s hard to use it up quickly, but I’m not sure why they don’t make the larger size. Perhaps, it’s not as popular. February 14, 2016 at 2:39pm Reply

      • spe: The Creed was also polarizing. I’d like to give the Diptyque and Creed a try.

        I really enjoy these combined critiques! February 10, 2016 at 10:56am Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, the comments by others are fun to read, especially after weeks of testing, smelling and writing my own observations. February 10, 2016 at 11:21am Reply

      • Michaela: Cornelia and Victoria,

        I am delighted with your conversation here! I find it perfectly applies to music, poetry or painting, or any form of art, as well. February 11, 2016 at 3:52am Reply

        • spe: Yes! I’m remembering an eccentric, unbalanced fragrance with overdose that I didn’t like at first sniff (recoiled, actually, when I smelled it at its launch at Hermes, NYC) but that haunted me weeks later and ended up being my signature for years: Hiris. It received a one star from Luca T, a factlet that kind of makes me feel like an outside-the-box rebel perfumista.
          As Cornelia says, ultimately you must trust your own judgment. I still love Hiris! February 11, 2016 at 10:24am Reply

          • Victoria: I I agree on Hiris. We had a very interesting discussion on this very topic not long ago:
            There are certain ways to judge a fragrance–character, technique, etc., but at the end of the day, you bring your own experiences, sensitivities and affinities to bear. There are numerous perfumes that aren’t that interesting objectively but that I enjoy either because they evoke a pleasant memory or just make me smile. The same goes for art, literature, music, etc. February 11, 2016 at 11:32am Reply

            • Cornelia Blimber: I was flabbergasted reading Luca Turin on Hiris! I love it! by the way, it is lovely together with L’Heure Bleue (both new and vintage). February 11, 2016 at 12:26pm Reply

              • Victoria: I can see why he didn’t like it. There is something grey and melancholy about Hiris, but to me it evokes something vintage and patina-covered, and I like that impression. February 11, 2016 at 2:07pm Reply

              • spe: Can’t wait to try this combination – thank you for the suggestion! February 12, 2016 at 12:40am Reply

                • Cornelia Blimber: Nothing wrong with grey and melancholic. Perfect companion to my beloved Gothic Novels, will wear Hiris today reading Ann Radcliffe. February 12, 2016 at 3:45am Reply

        • Katherine X: Food (haute cuisine) as well! February 11, 2016 at 11:17pm Reply

          • Katherine X: I meant the conversation also applies to food. February 11, 2016 at 11:18pm Reply

            • Michaela: Katherine X, right!
              There are 2 different questions here that we often tend to combine into a single one:
              – is it good?
              – do I like it? February 12, 2016 at 3:21am Reply

              • Mia: Very sound analysis, thanks Michaela! February 13, 2016 at 4:28am Reply

      • Lisa: I fell in love with Florabellio last year after Jessica reviewed it. It starts off nutty and toasty with its coffee note and then becomes salty-sweet. It’s my most complimented perfume. February 12, 2016 at 4:46am Reply

        • Victoria: I didn’t notice coffee at first, but the more I wore it, the more it became obvious. I really like that note. February 12, 2016 at 11:59am Reply

  • Karen (A): Very interesting reading the testers’ comments. Such a huge range for each fragrance – helps to explain how one person’s treasure just leaves someone else cold. And how each of us just needs to trust our own noses for what works on us. February 10, 2016 at 7:15am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: I wholeheartedly agree, Karen, you said it so well. Amazing how different the perceptions are. Only trust your own nose!! February 10, 2016 at 7:17am Reply

    • Victoria: With a couple of exceptions, overall the scores actually have been quite close. February 10, 2016 at 7:31am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: ???? Suddenly the content is locked, subscribers only! February 10, 2016 at 7:21am Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, I see. Frederic Malle and Kate Spade are subscribers only. Usually, the WWD articles online are open only to the subscribers, but we asked for The Smell Test results to be open to everyone and the magazine agreed. Those two might not have been open yet, but they will be. February 10, 2016 at 7:29am Reply

      • Karen (A): I wondered if it was a glitch on my computer – could access all but those two. February 10, 2016 at 10:30am Reply

        • Rina: Nope, locked for me too. And the only one (Malle) I was interested in… Boo. February 10, 2016 at 1:47pm Reply

          • Victoria: Please check later. They should be able to unlock them. February 10, 2016 at 2:20pm Reply

            • Rina: Thank you, will do! February 10, 2016 at 2:21pm Reply

              • Rina: Still locked today. Oh well… February 11, 2016 at 1:00pm Reply

  • Elisa: So interesting how polarizing the Creed and Diptyque perfumes were. I think that first review on Florabellio has to be Luca Turin, it sounds just like him. I want to try both of them now! February 10, 2016 at 8:47am Reply

    • spe: Agree. February 10, 2016 at 10:58am Reply

    • Victoria: Creed was unexpectedly polarizing too, and to me the interesting part is how it does a big white floral but with a dandy twist. A bit like Arquiste’s Boutonniere no 7. Yes, both perfumes are worth sniffing. February 10, 2016 at 11:11am Reply

    • MrsDalloway: You’re right – here’s the thread he started on Basenotes: February 11, 2016 at 7:34am Reply

      • Elisa: 🙂 Reading the whole guide 2-3 times was like machine learning! February 11, 2016 at 9:42am Reply

  • Roxann: I adore florbellio. It was one of the few fragrances I have bought without trying samples for several days. I haven’t worn it much this winter, but it is laying in the drawer waiting for spring. February 10, 2016 at 11:18am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s uplifting and happy, isn’t it? I like a perfume that has a sense of fun, and it does smell wonderful. February 10, 2016 at 11:22am Reply

  • Aurora: Enjoyed the diverging opinions, perfume varies so much from person to person – especially when tried on skin, I wonder whether the panelists were applying on their skin.

    Now I want to try the 3 of them, really I should explore Creed being in the home country but I don’t know where to start and being in the dark I don’t find the price too attractive. Creed is barely mentioned by any of us. February 10, 2016 at 3:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t see much of this line around here, and a couple of my favorites like Aubepine Acacia and Rose Bulgare were discontinued. Green Irish Tweed is also quite good.

      We usually test on both blotters and skin. February 10, 2016 at 4:00pm Reply

      • Alicia: Not a fan of Creed either, but I have given male friends a few bottles of Green Irish Tweed, which they like very much. I also loved Rose Bulgare on my grand mother. I have never worn a Creed fragrance myself. For their price I rather buy Chanel, Guerlain, Lutens or Malle. Even Tom Ford. Certainly Amouage. I think that Love in White gave me such a bad impression that I have avoided Creed ever since. Very unjust,I know. February 10, 2016 at 7:03pm Reply

        • Victoria: I also didn’t like Love in White and for a number of various reasons I lost interest in the company. But it was good to smell their perfume blindly, because some aspects of it were very nice. February 11, 2016 at 4:03am Reply

      • Surbhi: Is it different from Fleur de rose bulgare? February 10, 2016 at 10:11pm Reply

        • Victoria: Here is the one I’m talking about:

          Robin also compares it to Fleurs de Bulgarie in her review. February 11, 2016 at 4:05am Reply

          • Surbhi: This one is not discontinued. I saw it at piemen marcus last week. And on their website too. It is on my list to get some day. February 11, 2016 at 11:08am Reply

            • Victoria: Ah, very good! Thank you. February 11, 2016 at 11:33am Reply

            • Alicia: Surbhi, Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare is a pure rose if I remember well. If you are looking for that you might like to try Serge Lutens Sa Majesté la Rose (i wear it a lot with much pleasure), and Frederic Malle, Une Rose ( this is more expensive, but also very good).Every night I sprinkle my pillow with Tea Rose, also a very pure rose, which you can buy for a song, and it is delightful. None of them smell synthetic. I don’t think that Rose Bulgare will add more to your rose experience than the SL or the FM. Now, if you want an oriental, complex rose there are several, but at the moment I am wearing the superb Amouage Lyric Woman by Amouage. It is truly lovely.Another entrancing one is Guerlain Nahema, my favorite rose. For a dark rose you can’t do much better than SL Une Fille de Berlin. Bois de Jasmin has reviews for most of these; you might want to look at them. February 11, 2016 at 2:28pm Reply

              • Surbhi: Thank Alicia for the recommendations. I wear Sa MAjeste infrequently. Doesn’t go that well with him. But for some reasons creed one wasn’t rejected right away. I also wear Le Fille de Berlin. I have love hate relationship with it. I love it some days and on others I am like why did I even get this one.

                I didn’t like une rose when I tried it first. But then apart from Musc Ravageur I didn’t like any FM first time around. But after 3-4 trials I have fallen in love with few including CF, VE, Dries, PoAL, Magnolia

                I will try AMouage. I have read that name a lot on this blog. February 12, 2016 at 10:07am Reply

                • Alicia: Surbhi, you might want to try two radiant Annick Goutal roses, Rose Absolue and Rose Splendide. February 12, 2016 at 5:45pm Reply

      • Aurora: Making a note of Green Irish Tweed, thank you Victoria. Ah the dreaded discontinued. Another venerable house Floris discontinued the lovely Florissa (I got a bottle for a very reasonable price) and I don’t understand their reasoning at all. February 11, 2016 at 7:20am Reply

        • Victoria: It could be the regulations, but I’m not positive in this case. I also loved their carnation perfume. February 11, 2016 at 7:57am Reply

  • marymary: I don’t like Creed perfumes, they smell like vegetables and not in a good way. They’re not warm or soft enough for me. February 10, 2016 at 3:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ll have to look out for this note next time I smell RM. February 10, 2016 at 4:07pm Reply

    • spe: It took me many tries with Creed. I used to wear Irisia. Somehow it was “flat” on me – didn’t develop, but I do like the smell.

      However, I think the Creed line is highly chemistry dependent. I say this because you wouldn’t believe how great Spring Flowers smells on my sister. It is now her signature. It doesn’t smell good on me unless I make Spring Fling (50/50 Spring Flowers and Fleurissimo). I can wear Love In White well whereas she cannot.

      Anyway, the bottom line is try the Creeds on – paper won’t be a good estimation of their effect on your own skin. February 11, 2016 at 10:42am Reply

  • Austenfan: I’ve only read two reviews; the Creed and the Diptyque. What I find interesting is how different fragrances are perceived ‘even’ by professionals. It’s like 10 surgeons discussing the pro’s and con’s of a certain procedure on a patient. You’ll be sure to hear 10 different opinions. February 11, 2016 at 7:27am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Oh my goodness! So when you are sick, it it wise consulting at least 5 surgeons…and then the problem: which one must be trusted… February 11, 2016 at 7:40am Reply

    • Victoria: The interesting part was that out of a dozen or so perfumes we’ve smelled those two were the ones with scores all over the place. We pretty much agreed on the rest.
      I think that the more something deviates from the familiar, the more divergent the opinions become. I also remember when Angel was first launched, the reaction among professionals was all over the place. But today most would agree it’s a modern classic. February 11, 2016 at 7:55am Reply

      • Austenfan: I can see that happening. I forgot that I had also read the reviews of Pallissandre d’Or, where the differences were less outspoken.
        I can’t read the Malle or the walk on air.

        I’m sure it must be a very enjoyable exercise as well. February 11, 2016 at 8:45am Reply

        • Victoria: I wrote and asked for those two to be opened. Hope that they will be accessible soon.

          It’s a great exercise, especially since the test is done blindly. February 11, 2016 at 11:22am Reply

    • Elisa: My mother has a lot of complicated health problems so she does in fact get different recommendations (often completely opposite) from different doctors all the time. Makes “second opinions” very confusing! February 11, 2016 at 9:44am Reply

  • Annikky: I’m glad you found Florabellio compelling. I was puzzled the first time I tried it, but I had to go back and try again. I’ve been enjoying it more with every wear. Not sure I’ll ever get a full bottle, but I feel much more sympathy for this one than for most Diptyque’s recent launches that have been perfectly pleasant, but not memorable in any way. February 11, 2016 at 11:26am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s definitely more memorable than other perfumes they’ve launched lately. I liked Eau Rose, but their Geranium wasn’t interesting (and at any rate, next to Malle’s Geranium Pour Monsieur it seemed very thin.) February 11, 2016 at 11:39am Reply

  • flowergirlbee!: i am dying to see what was said about the malle perfume and it is still locked.any idea when i will be able to see it? February 13, 2016 at 12:07am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m sorry, I don’t know. I wrote to the editor, though.
      Kate Spade’s perfume was ranked around 5-5.5 because it was too bland, while Malle got a score around 6, if I recall correctly. The fragrance wasn’t particularly memorable or interesting. February 14, 2016 at 1:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: They are now open. March 7, 2016 at 4:38pm Reply

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