Falling In, Falling Out : Autumn is for Rekindling Old Flames

Reunited and it feels so good… Elisa writes about revisiting old crushes. Perfume-related ones, of course. 

There seems to be some kind of law that says if you give or swap away a bottle of perfume, within five years you’ll want it again. This law applies in my perfume life, in any case; I keep finding myself missing scents I believed I didn’t need anymore.

Maybe it’s just nostalgia. Lately I’ve been fantasizing about Gap Crushed Peony—not a cult classic on the level of Grass or Dream, but it was my favorite of the Gap scents, and it came in an oil format that not only smelled great but made your skin glisten sexily. There has even been a day or two when I wished I could wear Ralph Lauren HOT, a very “mall” oriental and a relic from my early twenties that I eventually donated to a charity fundraiser. I can’t quite remember what either of these perfumes smelled like, but I’m sure they would comfort me.

This fall, instead of listing my usual seasonal favorites (the leathers, the chypres, et al), I’d like to talk about ten perfumes that I let fall out of my life for one reason or another, and have since happily invited back in.

Kenzo Parfum d’Été

Parfum d’Été is one of the first bottles I ever gave away. It was post–rabbit hole, but my collection was still quite small; it all fit on the top of one small dresser. We were about to leave Boston, and my friend Chip was over, smelling my recent acquisitions. Chip had introduced me to Perfumes: The Guide, and when he took a liking to Parfum d’Été, a combination of gratitude—and reluctance to pack another bottle, probably—made me give it to him. It took me almost seven years before I decided I needed more, and purchased a mini of the older vintage. It smells just like 1992: absolutely clean and green and fresh in a piercing, slightly unnatural way, like light pouring through a wall of glass cubes. But it’s missing that nauseating, L’Eau d’Issey–style overdose of Calone, so it smells only of happy memories.

Annick Goutal Grand Amour

I can’t remember how I acquired my first bottle of Grand Amour, but I remember how I lost it. I gave it on a whim to a visiting perfume friend whose collection was vastly larger than mine, but lacking this particular grassy hyacinth. He had sent me several perfume gifts in the past, and I was delighted to be able to give him something he didn’t already have. A good four or five years later, I suddenly missed its shade of melancholy, late-afternoon yellow, and got another bottle in a swap. This one’s here to stay.

Divine L’Ame Soeur

In my early perfumista days, I had a fraught relationship with aldehydes, and usually found aldehyde-forward perfumes too sweet and overwhelming. (Chanel Nos. 5 and 22 were particularly hard to stomach.) At some point I had a sample of L’Ame Soeur; the No. 5–esque top notes were difficult, but I stuck with it and found a beautiful amber drydown, reminiscent of Alahine. Recently my appreciation for aldehydes has grown, so I ordered a new decant. Now I find this soft powdery floral simply lovely from top to bottom.

Sonoma Scent Studio Jour Ensoleille

There’s no big story as to how I lost this perfume. I just used it all up! However, I waited a year or two before ordering more, since I certainly don’t lack for options. September was a good month to order more, because Jour Ensoleille works beautifully as a late-summer-into-fall scent. It’s an opulently rich white floral with an ambery chypre base and, like most of Laurie Erickson’s creations, remarkable sillage. Smells like sunbeams in the woods.

DSH Tubereuse

Sometimes it surprises me when, after many years, my opinions on a perfume don’t change. When I first tried Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s take on tuberose years ago, it struck me as both beautiful and unusual. I’ve smelled a great deal more tuberose perfumes in the years between using up my first purse spray and finally ordering another one, but I still find Tubereuse beautiful and unusual. Hurwitz doesn’t play up the funky off-notes of the natural absolute (like, say, Tubereuse Criminelle); instead, it smells like the simply gorgeous, tropical part of tuberose, extracted and aged in oak casks: the white floral as California chardonnay.

Parfums de Nicolaï Sacrebleu

I’m constantly ordering, using up, and reordering Nicolaï samples—I seem to like almost all of her scents, but as Victoria of EauMG often says, I can’t buy bottles of every perfume I like. I first tried Sacrebleu because of Luca Turin’s haunting comparison of it to European railway lights, “lights the size of a teacup nestled between the rails, shining the deepest mystical blue-purple light.” This description didn’t quite prepare me for the Juicy Fruit accord in Sacrebleu. Regardless, I love this jasmine floriental in fall; its gum-and-clove-cigarettes vibe rather reminds me of high school, but with more elegance.

Chanel Cuir de Russie

You know that dream where you find a room in your house you didn’t know you had? I have a perfume version of that dream—I dream that I find a stash of rare and wonderful perfumes I have been neglecting, hidden away in some corner of a closet. Earlier this month, it happened in real life, when I unearthed a small box of samples I had forgotten I had. This was one of those samples, made for me by a friend in New York after I sniffed her bottle. I put it on and thought, Where have you been? Bulgari Black is often likened to lapsang souchong, but for me the vanilla overpowers the smoke. Cuir de Russie gets my vote for best smoked tea.

Boucheron Jaipur

Here’s another perfume I buried and didn’t touch for at least five years: a half-used mini of Sophia Grojsman’s Jaipur. (When I was a kid, I would sometimes hide money or candy somewhere in my room, as a present for my future self to happen upon later.) You know how fresh apricots sometimes have a bit of a rosy blush? Jaipur smells like that color, pink over peach.

Parfumerie Generale Cozé

My first decant of Cozé came my way by mistake—I had wanted Cadjmere. Well, reader, I finished it. And now I have more. There’s a kind of stone-ground Mexican chocolate you can buy that comes in disks and is slightly grainy. Cozé is a warm, spicy patchouli (spicy like capsaicin, but also black pepper) that kind of hits you on the back of the tongue and reminds me of that pleasantly rough texture.

Donna Karan Chaos

My original sample of Chaos met a sad fate: evaporation through hoarding. I kept it in my bag “for emergencies” until it dried up from disuse. My resupply lives on my desk—in sight, in mind, one hopes. Chaos is related to the fruity-spicy-woody family of fragrances associated with Pierre Bourdon and Christopher Sheldrake (e.g. Dior Dolce Vita and Shiseido Féminité du Bois) but cut through with a clean, fresh musk that gives the whole thing lift: a purifying antidote to chaos.

If you have ever repurchased a perfume after living without it for a while, I would love to hear about it!

Also, please take a look at these lists by Grain de Musc :: Now Smell This :: The Non-Blonde :: Perfume Posse

1st image by Bois de Jasmin, 2nd by Elisa.

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50 Comments

  • JH: Thank you for reminding me to try Sacrebleu again! I’ve tried it twice or thrice, but wasn’t too fond of the fruity candy-like sweetness of it. Time to revisit it! Did you try the original Sacrebleu or Sacrebleu Intense? Seems like there’s only the intense version now. September 22, 2017 at 8:05am Reply

    • Elisa: The one I have now is the Intense version — they smell very very similar to my nose! But I don’t have both versions to compare side by side. September 22, 2017 at 10:06am Reply

      • Patricia: I only have the Intense version and wore it the other night to my husband’s retirement party (I hadn’t yet read your article). I knew I’d be hugging many well-wishers, and Sacrebleu’s spicy sweetness seemed just perfect. September 24, 2017 at 5:33pm Reply

  • Jillie: Oh yes, Elisa – so many regrets!! In particular my nearly full bottle of Malmaison by Floris, given to a friend because she loved it on me and was wild about carnation fragrances. How I moped a few years later when I realised that it was discontinued and was in fact a perfumista cult perfume!

    I never gave my Parfum d’Ete away, but when I suddenly had a yearning for it recently I bought a new bottle and was bitterly disappointed to find how synthetic it now smells. I should have just remembered it at its best. September 22, 2017 at 10:03am Reply

    • Elisa: Yes, and one never knows what will become the lost, discontinued perfume of the future 🙂

      I agree, the newer version does not have as much depth. I liked it when I tried it before the vintage, but having smelled the vintage, it really was better. September 22, 2017 at 10:07am Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Dear Elisa and perfume lovers,
    My recurring dream is that I receive or buy for a low price a bunch of vintage perfumes.
    Oh, the horror of waking up from that dream!
    Also, when I got to the name of Cuir de Russie, my “system” froze as I just couldn’t handle the thought that anyone would give away such a wonder! Fortunately I see that was not the case, lol.
    I mostly gift my mum with my unwanted beauties, and occasionally I’m able to steal a spray. Dior Addict and Chanel Allure EDP smell way better on her. September 22, 2017 at 10:23am Reply

    • Elisa: Not the case! 10 years ago I never would have believed I could have so much perfume that I’d forget some of what I have, but here we are. September 22, 2017 at 10:47am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: Oh yes: Crabtree & Evelyn’s original Sandalwood. I bought two or three of those large dark red boxes with that Indian elephant miniture between 1990-193/94 and used with wild abandon. I remember actually using it as a room sray in a horridly dirty youth hostel in St. Petersberg.
    Then I moved on.
    Now years on, I wish I could have one more bottle! September 22, 2017 at 10:45am Reply

    • Elisa: I love that you used it as room spray 🙂 September 22, 2017 at 11:15am Reply

  • Mariann: I adore Chaos and I have a small decant, but would love a bottle or alternatively does anyone have a good suggestion for something similar? September 22, 2017 at 11:00am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh dear…the current version of Chaos is good but it looks like it’s sold out at the department stores that usually carry it. That smacks of discontinuation, which is very sad.

      Try some of the woody fruity scents in the Serge Lutens line (Bois et Fruits, Feminite du Bois, etc.). September 22, 2017 at 11:14am Reply

      • Mariann: Thanks will do. Ive steered clear of those so far because its rare that I like fruit notes. But worth a sniff by all means! September 23, 2017 at 3:43am Reply

        • Elisa: They have a grown up, dusky/plummy fruitiness, nothing too candy-sweet.

          I also love their scent Boxeuses, which is like a plummy leather. September 23, 2017 at 11:08am Reply

  • Celeste Church: I was moving a year and a half ago and to Yosemite of all places. Who needs 120 bottles of perfume in the woods? Turns out I do. I have about 80 bottles away and am now happily (stupidly?) replacing them. The one I’ve missed the most is my 1993 Christian Dior Dune…what in earth was i thinking? Have found a few bottles of the vintage on eBay and it’s exactly like a joyous reunion with the one that got away! September 22, 2017 at 11:11am Reply

    • Elisa: It’s just the best when you can find vintage bottles on eBay and they aren’t stupid expensive. It’s amazing how different stuff from the 80s and 90s smells compared to current perfumes! September 22, 2017 at 11:16am Reply

  • Sandra: Songes, is a perfume that I had abundance of samples of, gave it away, and now years later I have a full bottle I can’t live without.

    No 19 Poudre, bought and return this one and repurchased again.

    One perfume from the 90’s, that I loved was the regular Gio by Giorgio Armani..does anyone remember that one? I am kicking myself for not pulling the trigger on buying a bottle of that years (and years) ago. Would be perfect for this time of the year. September 22, 2017 at 11:43am Reply

    • Elisa: You sound like me!

      Oh yes I remember Gio. Armani had some interesting perfumes going for a while. September 22, 2017 at 11:48am Reply

      • Sandra: Just checked the ‘bay. Bottles of Gio are not cheap! September 22, 2017 at 12:09pm Reply

    • Marzipan: I remember Gio…had a bottle of it when it first came out and drained it within two months. September 22, 2017 at 5:05pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I love your list as it contains many of my own favourites. The only ones I’m not familiar with are the American Indie scents.

    Both Luca’s reviews and Robin’s enthusiasm made me try the Nicolaïs in 2008 or 2009. I was just starting to collect then, and I think I must have had money to spare as I distinctly remember blind buying some 15 30ml bottles. Most of those are halfway finished so it was money well spent!

    I went through a bottle of Kenzo Parfum d’Eté in the nineties. It was a lovely perfume, although I never felt the need to repurchase it, plus the bottle was gorgeous. September 22, 2017 at 11:53am Reply

    • Elisa: I have quite a few of those 30 ml bottles myself and they drain quickly! I did swap one away that I blind bought, Vanille Tonka. Knowing me I’ll start wanting it again any day now… September 22, 2017 at 11:59am Reply

  • Severine: Victoria of Eaumg! I like her reviews! When she quit YouTube (probably due to trolls), I discovered Victoria of Bois de Jasmin.

    Question: I am looking for a Goth rose frag. Elisa, please recommend. Do any of DSH ones fit the bill? September 22, 2017 at 12:20pm Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, “goth rose” is my kind of rose! Some favorite dark roses: Noir de Noir, Rossy de Palma, Miller Harris Geranium Bourbon…

      From DSH – her recent Rubis Rose is really nice! September 22, 2017 at 12:57pm Reply

      • Elisa: I just remembered that Ex Nihilo has a great dark rose too, though the name escapes me at the moment. You could also go in the oud/rose direction! September 22, 2017 at 1:40pm Reply

    • Gabrielle Langley: I love the idea of “Goth rose.” Have you tried “Galop d’Hermes,” a wonderfully subversive rose blended with saddle leather. It is elegant yet entirely unique, and definitely posesses a dark, mysterious, Gothic character.
      Sometimes Stella McCartney’s “Stella” can smell like a dark rose to me, but there is also a bright almost lemony counter-point that emerges at times. When I used to wear it, “Stella” was quite the chameleon, changing from dark to light, a very shadowy and unpredictable (in the best sense of the word).
      L’Artisan’s “Voleur de Rose” might also fit the bill, although I personally find it a bit strong on the patchouli. It is worth sampling though as an example of a very dark rose. September 22, 2017 at 1:33pm Reply

      • Severine: Hi Elisa and Gabrielle,
        Thanks so much for helping me out. Will definitely take a sniff at these lovelies. Have a lovely autumn kindling new and old flames! September 22, 2017 at 3:35pm Reply

  • Gabrielle Langley: I have just this week repurchased Cartier’s “Baiser Volé,” the original edp version. Returning to it after some time away, it feels like home. The hologram scent of fresh cut lilies is exquisite! It seems to blend perfectly into my skin. Mathilde Laurent is a true genius!
    I have been wearing Bottega Veneta (original version) as a signature scent for the past three years. I love its woody European character, but it is feeling a bit over-powering lately. (I live in a very warm and humid climate). “Baiser Volé” is the perfect antidote. September 22, 2017 at 1:21pm Reply

    • Elisa: Lilies are my very favorite flower!

      I always like to pull out Bottega Veneta in fall myself. I agree that it can be a bit much in hot or humid weather. September 22, 2017 at 1:25pm Reply

  • Maureen: Is it too embarrassing to admit here that I *loved* Grass? A friend once asked why on earth I would want to smell like a gardener, but I happily ignored her. They managed to bottle one of my all-time favorite smells: fresh-cut grass. I probably wouldn’t wear it today but I sometimes wish I had a bottle to sniff. September 22, 2017 at 2:55pm Reply

    • Elisa: Never! Grass has a very devoted following.

      As an allergy sufferer, I must admit I don’t have great associations with the smell of fresh-mown grass 🙂 September 22, 2017 at 2:56pm Reply

  • spe: Well, I convince myself that if I sold it or gave it away, somehow I wasn’t connecting with it. I’ve been very tempted to re-buy many, but so far it’s only been 31 Rue Cambon and Rive Gauche. September 22, 2017 at 3:19pm Reply

    • Elisa: That’s probably a good policy! I feel less bad buying a new sample or a decant versus a whole new bottle, though. September 22, 2017 at 3:21pm Reply

  • Joy Erickson: I really enjoyed your article today. I loved Boucheron Jaipur. I think that I gave my bottle away. I recently purchased a decant to determine if I still liked it. I do’t know if it was a reformulation, but the dry down instead of being complex and exotic was just musk, one of the perfume elements that I truly dislike. I think it was because of overuse in cheaper perfumes when I was at University.
    I also have my rabbit holes of FB’s and boxes of decants. It was not overwhelming in the beginning, but is becoming so.
    Your article caused me to think back on so many perfumes of the 70’s and 80’s that I wish I still had. So many just caused me to start out my day in such great spirits.
    I also enjoyed all of your suggestions for new and old choices. September 22, 2017 at 3:41pm Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Joy! I wouldn’t be surprised if Jaipur has been reformed, that is too bad….

      Wouldn’t it be nice if we could visit our own museums of all our past scents, and smell them just as they really were? September 22, 2017 at 3:56pm Reply

      • Joy Erickson: That would be so wonderful. Each of my past scents would evoke a memory of that time. There are times the fragrance of a past perfume even makes me feel young again!! September 22, 2017 at 4:05pm Reply

  • Brenda: I do enjoy being nostalgic about scents. After all, they should grow and change as we do, I think. When very young, my grandmother introduced me to Migues de Bois …and as a young teenager I used to like Lily of the Valley (I think it was by Yardley). There was a lot of saving up to go to the drugstore to purchase it. Then my days filled with Babe …and Anais Anais…then Oscar- and, happily on and on… September 22, 2017 at 4:44pm Reply

    • Elisa: I have never heard of Migue de Bois, what was it like? September 23, 2017 at 11:05am Reply

      • Brenda: Hello there – first, I apologize for incorrect spelling of this cologne/perfume. It was called Muguet des Bois by Coty…& apparently the nose behind it was Henri Robert. It’s year was 1941 – and the price point was likely quite low as it would have been a bit of an extravagance in my Ahmee’s life. Research tells me it was a floral green – & it’s what she always smelled like – as well as Rum & Butter Life Savers…thank you for your
        interest. September 23, 2017 at 12:22pm Reply

        • Elisa: Oh yes, Muguet des Bois – sorry, I thought it was some older bois I wasn’t aware of! Lily of the valley.

          My brother and I used to buy butter rum lifesavers and eat the whole roll in one sitting 🙂 September 23, 2017 at 1:37pm Reply

  • MmkinPA: I have yet to finish a full bottle, and have not given anything away that I truly miss. But I lost a bottle of 1989 No 5 edc during a move, and I did buy a decant to have because I missed the memories that bottle evoked. (It was a gift from a boy I met the last night of my summer abroad in France during college!). Elisa – so happy to see Jour Ensoleille on your list. I have a travel spray of this and love it! September 23, 2017 at 9:27am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh that’s so sweet! How sad to lose that memento.

      Laurie’s travel sprays last a long time! I seem to always have five or six of them floating around. September 23, 2017 at 11:06am Reply

  • Tara C: I rue getting rid of my vintage Eau de Givenchy, L by Lolita Lempicka and Rochas Alchimie. On the one hand I feel like I am just hoarding stuff I am not currently using, but on the other hand I fear getting rid of some irreplaceable things I may crave later. So I am doing nothing (except getting rid of duplicate unused bottles of things that are no longer favourites). September 23, 2017 at 7:48pm Reply

    • Elisa: Yeah, it’s tough to find that balance between not hoarding and minimizing future regrets… September 24, 2017 at 5:58pm Reply

  • Tania: Hello Elisa, I gave a lot of bottles away on a whim, the only one I regretted giving away is Oriental Express by Thierry Mugler.
    I agree with spe that if you give a bottle away it means it is not really for you.
    I also believe we tend to give bottles away (or sell them) because having a big collection can be overwhelming. Plus most of them we also buy on a whim 😉
    I do crave Mon Parfum Chéri, par Camille lately of which I had the edt. Now they only carry the edp and I wonder if there are big differences? September 24, 2017 at 5:17am Reply

    • Elisa: I don’t exactly regret giving things away since it’s a way of sharing my too big collection. It just surprises me how often I start to miss those old scents. Scent memories run deep! September 24, 2017 at 5:59pm Reply

  • John: Speaking of embarrassing confessions (see above), I seem to be in the middle of a flame-rekindling rabbit-hole fall myself… I recently found a vintage (1997) bottle of Old Spice Cologne which turned out to be quite lovely (strange to say that a cologne formulation from this era is acting like a contemporary EDP) with really fantastic benzoin and nutmeg notes. I paired it with a bottle of the aftershave from the same era (and, need I say it? From the same thrift store), and the contemporary deodorant… This is where things veer into embarrassing territory. I recognize that my nostalgia is not only for the scent itself, but for the ethos of having a complete grooming regime built around one fragrance, a choice that seems, in light of today’s informed eclecticism, sort of hopeless, dad-ish and a little tacky. And yet the idea sort of fascinates me. It may be a longing for my 1970’s childhood, but I now find myself mistily eying large splash bottles of Grey Flannel, Eau Sauvage, or Caron Pour un Homme online (and, needless to say, all the accompanying grooming products)… September 24, 2017 at 1:47pm Reply

    • Elisa: I totally understand that! My dad always used to keep aftershave around, and it seems like men don’t use that anymore? It’s nostalgic for me too! September 24, 2017 at 6:01pm Reply

  • clareobscure: Hi Elisa. Your post & this discussion have really hit the spot for me. Great idea- ‘the one that got away’… so poignant & intriguing. Grand Amour by A Goutal is an all time favourite for me. It summons up my first perfume thrill- Chamade by Guerlain, which must have been reformulated, because it no longer has divine properties on my skin.
    My perfume give away regret is Jo Malone’s Blue Agave & Cacao, now discontinued. For me it was the best of Jo Malone’s perfumes. I gave a full bottle to my sister when she was in a very low place. The discontinuation of it was sudden & unexpected. I had a chat to a lady working on the JM counter, about its withdrawal. She said it didn’t sell well & was deemed to be a poor fit with the rest of the collection. I’m still suspicious & don’t really believe that’s the reason. Call me petulant…What do you think, Elisa? Anybody else amongst our experienced contributors? September 25, 2017 at 3:27am Reply

    • Elisa: Not selling well is a common reason for discontinuation, though it’s also possible they stopped being able to get some material that’s in it. Sorry you lost a favorite! September 25, 2017 at 9:27am Reply

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