Perfumista Bait

Elisa talks about types of perfumes that never fail to grab the perfume lovers’ attention.

My good friend L, who years ago worked at a perfume counter, is suddenly, newly obsessed with perfume. We frequently email about her exploits in the rabbit hole. One day, she half-bragged, half-complained to me about spending hundreds of dollars on a single sample order – all 1-ml vials! As she works through the samples, she’s tracking her impressions in a spreadsheet; there’s a Guerlain she describes as smelling “like a girl’s clean underwear drawer where she has been stashing her rancid Turkish delight and wet markers.”

Recently L asked me what perfumes I think of as “perfumista bait.” I had never heard the phrase, but I knew exactly what she meant – perfumes that us jaded connoisseurs are instantly drawn to and still get excited about.

The quintessential perfumista bait has something about it that’s rare and perhaps difficult – it’s both a delicacy and an acquired taste, like sea urchin. Below are a few of the categories that I think are especially appealing to us perfumistas.

Dark Roses

Why do so many perfumistas love rose notes? Perhaps it’s because they were so unpopular with the mainstream in the late ‘90s and into the aughts, so you almost had to go to a niche brand to find something revolving around rose. Rather than dewy, hyperrealistic soliflores, niche brands usually serve up unisex, leaning toward masculine “dark roses” – often a transparent rose accord with a woody base of cedar, sandalwood, patchouli, or incense.

Some perfumista-bait roses that spring to mind: There’s Paestum Rose, a spicy rose with lots of incense and cedar that Bertrand Duchaufour created for Eau d’Italie, a line that’s exclusive to a luxury hotel on the Amalfi coast (this glamourous exclusivity of course adding to its perfumista appeal). Amouage, a high-end Omani line that has perfumista bait written all over it, gives us Lyric Woman, another woody rose that’s spiced up with pepper and cardamom. And on the darkest end of the dark rose spectrum, there’s Tom Ford Noir de Noir, a dramatic rose for serious patchouli lovers. (I’d love to pair it with a black velvet suit or a long cape, if my wardrobe contained something so operatic.)

On a recent trip to Boston, I strolled half-heartedly through the beauty section at Saks, not expecting to be struck by anything in particular. But there was a line that appeared new to store and was new to me too: Ex Nihilo. It was textbook perfumista bait: great-looking bottles with heft and a perfect atomizer, and each one I tried invited a second sniff. When I got home, I promptly ordered samples of the few that most stuck out to me.

Ex Nihilo’s Rose Hubris opens with a sweeter, fruitier rose than any of the above – there’s a pretty litchi note – but with its backdrop of pungent (think insect-repelling) patchouli and labdanum, it still qualifies as dark. I’d wear Rose Hubris with a deep, raspberry-pink lipstick.

Rich Orientals

No line that caters to perfumistas would be complete without a rich, tapestrylike oriental – smoky, resinous ambers and incense are always popular, as are the creamy orientals that Robin at Now Smell This calls “wood pudding.”

Amouage Memoir Woman is the perfect example of a perfumista-bait oriental; complex and expensive-smelling, it’s unusual for being built around a licorice-y absinthe accord. Another perfumista favorite is Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan. Vanilla-heavy ambers can be almost too easy to like (and therefore not very perfumista-baity), but Ambre Sultan is more on the dry resinous side, with an odd mix of culinary herbs (including an oregano note, of all things) and a powdery, almost floury almond aspect that always reminds me of Play-Doh.

Oud, being rare (at least the real stuff), complex, and sometimes animalic, should by rights be perfumista bait, but it’s been so overdone for the past decade that we’re mostly wary of anything with the word “oud” in the name. But Ex Nihilo’s Oud Vendome stands out to me; instead of hitting you over the head with synthetic saffron, it comes off like oud candy, seductively honeyed and musky.


Truly animalic notes like ambergris, civet, and castoreum were common for much of the 20th century, adding a sexy, mammalian, jolie-laide touch to even “lady-like” florals. Now, most noses aren’t accustomed to what many perfumistas call “skank” (and further, a lot of these materials are restricted). But some of us are actively chasing that old-fashioned filth.

Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï Khan is almost like a test for budding perfumistas discovering how they really feel about animalics. One friend of mine tried it after asking me for musk recommendations, and had to scrub it off – her review used the words “fecal,” “mothball,” and “death”! L, on the other hand, really enjoyed MKK, though she too picked up on something fecal: “I checked my shoes a couple times when I was wearing it … in a good way!”

Barbara Herman, author of the perfume blog Yesterday’s Perfume and the book Scent & Subversion, is a hardcore lover of vintage scents. In 2016, she partnered with perfumer Antoine Lie to create Eris Parfums, a line of three scents with a vintage feel. Ma Bête (my beast) is the most animalic of the bunch – it basically smells like you sprayed orange blossom perfume on a dog.

Masque is an Italian line that, like Amouage and Ex Nihilo, seems particularly rich in perfumista bait. Their Montecristo is an addictive animalic oriental, boozy and smoky, with a peppery, sweaty leather note that smells like pure pheromones to me. (I love it the way I love the smell of my husband’s armpits; is that weird?)

Of course these aren’t the only categories that draw in perfumistas. There’s the vintage chypre (now reformulated or discontinued), the only place to go if you want authentic, creamy and yet bitter oakmoss in quantity; and there’s the punishingly dry iris, chalky and rooty, melancholy and blue-gray. (Orris is very expensive now, but Alyssa Harad tells me it used to be dirt-cheap and was associated with prostitutes!)

What type of fragrance never fails to draw your attention?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin–classics like Guerlains and Chanel No 5 often bait perfumistas.




  • Awfulknitter: I think there’s also a real appeal for perfumistas in making sure to try ALL. THE. FRAGRANCES. Hence your friend’s crazy sample order. I nearly did the same thing the other day: I was ordering Christmas presents, and started to pop samples in my basket too. When I saw they had all but one of the Cartier L’Heure scents, I popped all those in, not thinking that they were about £5 each. Then I loked at the total, and thought, What are you doing?! Is it really worth spending so much, when the best possible outcome is falling in love with a scent whose full-bottle price is far too high? So I un-popped them out of my basket!

    Would you count Portrait of a Lady as a dark rose? it was too much for me at first, but slowly working my way through the (free!) sample, it’s really growing – although it always makes me feel underdressed!

    I love the description ‘wood pudding’ – reading Robin’s article, yup, those are my kind of scents. I’m also a sucker for incense (hello, Donna Karan Black Cashmere and Etat Libre d’Orange Rien Intense Incense) and cumin (Alexander McQueen kingdom – which might count as a dark rose too). November 20, 2017 at 9:12am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh yes, when I first fell down the rabbit hole, I felt so BEHIND, and so desperate to catch up! Now I have more untried samples than I know what to do with.

      I would definitely call Portrait of a Lady a dark rose. I need to get a new sample of that — I had one that didn’t smell right on me, but it always smells so good on other people. November 20, 2017 at 9:31am Reply

      • Awfulknitter: Oh yes, BEHIND is always how I feel! So many perfumes, so few pulse points… November 21, 2017 at 5:53pm Reply

        • Elisa: This feeling ramps up for me at end of year when everyone is doing their best of the year lists! November 21, 2017 at 11:07pm Reply

  • Michael: I think Victoria’s photo for this post is perfumista bait enough for me. 😝 What can I say, I love my Chanels, especially the Les Exclusifs.

    I would classify Portrait of a Lady as a dark rose. November 20, 2017 at 9:32am Reply

    • Elisa: I just visited a friend who unloaded a bunch of vintage Chanel on me, so I will be reeking of Chanel for the foreseeable future! November 20, 2017 at 9:35am Reply

      • Michael: I’m so jealous! The only vintage Chanel I have is a bottle of No 5 extrait de parfum from the 1970s. It smells glorious though, so much better than the current formulation. There is added depth and warmth, probably courtesy of the nitro musks and other ingredients that have been banned by the IRFA. November 20, 2017 at 10:30pm Reply

        • Elisa: Oh I’ll bet! I walked away with some No. 5 but it’s EDC or EDT, not extrait… November 20, 2017 at 11:55pm Reply

          • Michael: I’m actually dying to try some vintage Chanel No 46 and Jasmin … I bet they smell heavenly! November 21, 2017 at 12:13am Reply

            • Elisa: It’s like the Area 51 of perfumes! November 21, 2017 at 9:45am Reply

          • kpaint: Ooh, I love the EDC. (And EDT and extrait.) You’ve got the right kinds of friends 😉 November 21, 2017 at 3:29pm Reply

  • Sands: “La Nuit” by Paco Rabanne. Someone once described it as spraying ‘Tabu’ by Dana on a horse…”La Nuit” is by now a vintage classic from 1985. More recently on the iris front (iris-violet to be exact) is the to me beautiful “Violette Sacree” by Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger from 2014. It’s to my nose a smoky iris with a lovely violet angle…”L’Air de Rien” by Miller Harris with Jane Birkin is my last purchase of something recently animalic, with maybe costus causing a sweet sort of unwashed hair aspect mixed with vanillic musky amber and oakmoss and orange blossom which is itself sometimes appears as indolic to me…I had wanted this perfume for about 10 years since it came out and finally found a deal I could afford. Thanks for your post! (and I totally concur about ‘oud’ being overdone, I am supremely aware of brands that release an ‘oud’ as part of their lineup as I have come to find it gimmicky). November 20, 2017 at 10:07am Reply

    • Elisa: Smoky iris with violet sounds beautiful!

      Congrats on finally finding a bottle of L’Air de Rien. I love when that happens. November 20, 2017 at 10:09am Reply

      • Sands: Thanks Elisa, there are some reviews of “Violette Sacree” by Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger online, and various places to buy it. I can’t find quickly any sources that offer samples…but of course they may be out there. Thanks for the congratulations. I am an internet scavenger when it comes to perfume collecting. Have found some good deals and missed out on others. November 20, 2017 at 3:49pm Reply

        • Rebecca: My mini reviews for lifestyle blog Luxe Provence are here if you are interested. Glad you love Violette Sacrée. I am going to dig out my sample and wear it tomorrow 🙂

 November 22, 2017 at 4:21pm Reply

          • Sands: Yes, Violette Sacree feels to me a very special fragrance. I am curious about the whole line now, which I have yet to test (I live in Amsterdam, and the closest place to test is Utrecht which I am planning in future). Thank you for your informative and inspired link of mini reviews. Very helpful to have other perfume associations to compare as well…I collect and study perfumes ardently since 2004. here is my Fragrantica profile page 🙂 November 23, 2017 at 7:39am Reply

  • Ari: This post title was nothing short of perfumista bait! 😉
    My personal bait is saffron. I would sniff chloroform if you told me it was saffron chloroform. November 20, 2017 at 10:18am Reply

    • Elisa: Ha!! Did you ever try Fifi Chachnil? It seems not to be available anymore but what a great saffron/rose/tobacco. Wish I’d bought a bottle when I had the chance. November 20, 2017 at 10:21am Reply

    • Jehanne: That opening saffron note in Safran Troublant is glorious–about as convincing a saffron as I’ve ever smelled. November 24, 2017 at 6:36pm Reply

  • Ann: wonderful article Elisa!

    I relate to your friend’s sample purchase pride/regret, as I’m sure many of us do!

    I’d love to know what Guerlain she described so colorfully (I laughed out loud)

    I started by loving the Rich Orientals, now searching out the Dark Roses, not familiar with Paestum Rose, thank you for the tip 🙂 November 20, 2017 at 10:31am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Ann! I went back and checked — it was Rose Barbare!! (I like Rose Barbare…) November 20, 2017 at 10:33am Reply

      • Ann: Oh boy, Rose, Patchouli, Honey, Aldehydes, …better go add this to my sample list 🙂 November 20, 2017 at 10:39am Reply

  • Filomena: I fell into the rabbit hole decades ago and I now have hundreds of full bottles. I have not bought very much recently and when I have it’s been a travel spray (as I have no more room for full bottles plus they are a lot less expensive). Now that I am getting older, I wonder what will happen to my collection in the future. November 20, 2017 at 10:44am Reply

    • Elisa: I too always opt for purse sprays now if they’re an option. Do you have younger family that you can pass on any of your perfume to? November 20, 2017 at 10:56am Reply

      • Filomena: I have a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter, plus a girlfriend that is into perfume. About six months ago I gave her and one other friend (who’s not really into perfume but wanted a few for her dresser) about six bottles each, which wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure my daughter-in-law would be interested in only my Chanels and my granddaughter (12 years old) has not expressed much interest in perfumes yet as far as I know. November 20, 2017 at 11:08am Reply

        • Elisa: That’s great, it’s so nice to have people to share with. Give the granddaughter time! November 20, 2017 at 12:22pm Reply

          • Filomena: I will give her time. She looks a lot like me so maybe she will have some of my same passions. November 20, 2017 at 3:12pm Reply

            • MaureenC: There is always the option of doing an auction for your favourite charity like the one Victoria does for MSF each year. You could decant 10mls or so of each bottle for your personal use. Then you would know that your perfumes will go to homes that will appreciate them and support something you care about. December 4, 2017 at 10:54am Reply

  • Filomena: My youngest son (who has been living me for 2 1/2 years…it was supposed to be 2 weeks), started bugging me to let him sell them (oh, he want a percentage although he has been living for free for the past couple of years), but I said NO, I am not yet ready to part with them. November 20, 2017 at 11:12am Reply

    • Elisa: Unless there’s something you really don’t want anymore, I’d wait! November 20, 2017 at 12:23pm Reply

      • Filomena: I am going to wait. November 20, 2017 at 3:18pm Reply

        • Cassieflower: Hold firm, Filomena. Your collection could well provide you with some nice trips or holidays in your golden years. That’s what I’m telling myself😉 November 20, 2017 at 5:21pm Reply

          • Filomena: Cassieflower, I am going to “hold firm”. November 20, 2017 at 11:21pm Reply

    • Gabriela: Thats not very nice of your son… I would auction them, when and if you are ready someday, for Doctors Without Borders or simply keep them until the end…. they are part of you, right? November 20, 2017 at 12:24pm Reply

      • Filomena: Gabriela, they are definitely a part of me and brighten up my day. I still work full-time and go to the gym 4-5 times a week, so I think I can continue to enjoy my perfumes as long as I am able to. November 20, 2017 at 3:20pm Reply

        • Gabriela: Oh my, full of energy I see! You will certainly enjoy your perfumes for a looooong time! November 20, 2017 at 4:13pm Reply

  • Melissa: Perfumista bait? NICHE. That discovery, that “na na a boo boo I found it first!” feeling. That kinda jerky, vain feeling I get when someone asks me what I’m wearing and they get a blank look when I tell them. I know I know. I’m actually quite nice, honest!
    Anyway, lines like Tauer, DSH, Vero Profumo fit the bill. Different, well made, not well known. November 20, 2017 at 12:13pm Reply

    • Elisa: ha! I sometimes feel kind of bad when someone asks me what I’m wearing and it’s something pretty niche and hard to find — ideally I want them to go buy it!

      I’ve loved almost everything from Tauer, DSH, and SSS. those are my fave indie houses. November 20, 2017 at 12:39pm Reply

  • Severine: Loved this post! Dark roses, orris and animalic are my perfumista baits too! Thanks for all the niche house recommendations. My fav animals is Serge Lutens Tubereuse criminelle. Please recommend me more orris ones! November 20, 2017 at 12:31pm Reply

    • Elisa: I hope someone pops in with luxurious orris recs — it’s not really my specialty! November 20, 2017 at 12:41pm Reply

      • Ariadne: Hi Elisa,
        I get a lot of orris/iris from Misia edp.
        The mention of Iris and Aldehydes reel me right in! November 20, 2017 at 5:57pm Reply

        • Elisa: I love iris in chypres, but I’ve never been one of those people who dies for super rooty, carrot-y iris as in Iris Silver Mist! November 20, 2017 at 6:31pm Reply

      • Natalie: A little late to the party! I just received a sample of Bruno Fazzolari’s Feu Secret and am in love with its orris butter smoothness. Like Cuir de Nacre after a brisk fall hike. December 2, 2017 at 3:00pm Reply

    • Cassieflower: You could try OJ Orris Noir. One of my favourites and full of personality. A night on the town scent. November 20, 2017 at 5:26pm Reply

    • rainboweyes: Orris & niche is the combo that‘s very likely to spark my interest. I love orris in chypres but also elsewhere (not a gourmand scent lover, though).
      Currently I‘m wearing Equistrius, Dzongkha and 31 Rue Cambon in rotation. November 21, 2017 at 7:51am Reply

  • spe: Your last two categories always get my attention: orris and/or oakmoss.

    However, I’ve been nonplussed by most releases and am continuing to decrease my collection of 24. I blame my recent discovery of vintage No. 19 parfum for my general lack of enthusiasm for most other fragrances. That level of quality and finesse is tough to match. November 20, 2017 at 12:34pm Reply

    • Elisa: I know how you feel. Most of my acquisitions in the past couple of years have been vintage, not new or niche. November 20, 2017 at 12:42pm Reply

  • Debby: Great post!

    I really shouldn’t as I simply can’t afford them, but can’t resist getting samples of stuff like Amouage, funnily enough this article is great timing as I’ve tried two today: Gold Femme and Epic Woman. Gold is probably the most beautiful example of a vintage vibe aldehyde I’ve smelled, sadly has that horrible dirty hair note after a while which I am overly sensitive too. Epic, well, it is perfectly named. Absolutely stunning, another dark incense rose like POAL which is another of my shouldn’t have samples!
    Incense is most definitely my personal bait. November 20, 2017 at 1:04pm Reply

    • Elisa: I’ve been playing with Masque samples lately and they do incense very well! Not cheap by any means, but a little cheaper than Amouage, at least… November 20, 2017 at 1:13pm Reply

  • Danaki: Great article Elisa. The bait for me happened via the department store. I was looking for a perfume to replace one I finished (which I’d bought – badly chosen – in duty free). Anyway, I sampled and bought on the whim Narciso Rodriguez For Her edp, which is musky (slightly skanky in a clean way) and rosy (the edt is more orange blossom). I was intrigued as it smelled different to me so thought to google it, bumped into Victoria’s review of it and stumbled into the rabbit hole. I now have a collection of about 100 FBs, minis, samples, etc. I’m firmly in the hole and won’t be getting out any time soon. November 20, 2017 at 3:52pm Reply

    • Elisa: I love hearing people’s stories about how they fell down the hole. It used to be so much easier to finish bottles, didn’t it? November 20, 2017 at 4:01pm Reply

      • Sherry: My story was similar: I used to wear perfumes but there were only 1 or 2 bottles. I stopped wearing when I shared an office with someone was extremely sensitive to any scent, coughed upon entering the office the day I tried wearing a naturally scented hand cream (according to the label 98% natural ingredients!). Then I became pregnant with child #1 and #2, no perfumes for 8 years. Two years ago I had a beautiful blooming jasmine during summer, I had to sniff every single flower before leaving for work! It bloomed continuously for 2 months! After the summer the plant died left me really sad and blue. Longing for the heady sweat, apricoty and slightly indolic memory of my summer jasmine, I started a quest of searching for my perfect jasmine perfume I can wear all year around, and stubble into Victoria’s blog about jasmine and jasmine perfumes. I had happily fallen into the rabbit hole and discovered rose, vetiver and incense! 2 years and 40 something FBs later I am still searching but haven’t found my perfect jasmine yet. So, the searching continues… November 20, 2017 at 8:32pm Reply

        • Elisa: Which jasmine has come closest to perfect? (It’s so hard for a perfume to capture the feel of a living flower) November 20, 2017 at 9:41pm Reply

          • Sherry: A La Nuit was too indolic. Olene was closest but in an odd day it doesn’t smell like jasmine. Celestial Jasmine Eric Buterbaugh was lively jasmine but lacked a light touch of indole… and too expensive. My next experiment is to layer EB jasmine with a La Nuit if I manage to buy a sample! I will keep looking… November 20, 2017 at 10:07pm Reply

            • Elisa: I may have suggested this in another thread, but have you tried the By Kilian jasmine, Love and Tears? November 20, 2017 at 10:21pm Reply

              • Sherry: Thanks and I will! The local Dept store By killian didn’t have tester of love and tears. Looks like I will go further down the rabbit hole! November 20, 2017 at 10:48pm Reply

                • Silvermoon: Have you tried Annick Goutal’s Songes? or the Le Labo Jasmine? November 21, 2017 at 5:10pm Reply

                  • Sherry: Thank you for the suggestion. I have Songes EDT but it smells to me more like a coconut perfume. I didn’t get the jasmine at all. Le labo jasmin was pretty but maybe a bit musky so it lost the ethereal aura the real flower has. I realized nothing will be exactly comparable with the real flower, thank you for the kind suggestion! November 21, 2017 at 6:56pm Reply

                    • Silvermoon: Sherry, it simply is frustrating if one would like nature to be replicated in a perfume. I think nothing can really capture the complex and nuanced beauty of a flower. I have the same feeling with my favourite flower, the gardenia. I’m resigned to enjoying its unique perfume on the flower, and use gardenia perfumes as an abstract idea reminding me of their beauty – but not replacing the flower.

                      Maybe rose notes are the ones that come closest to nature. Not sure about the chemistry that allows this, but it is why rose based perfumes are so wonderful. Perfumista bait! November 22, 2017 at 6:56am

        • Sharon: Sherry, You might want to try Sonoma Scent Studio’s new perfume, Bee’s Bliss. I received my sample yesterday in my order and I was entranced by the heady aroma of jasmine, it was practically narcotic! I am ordering a FB soon. The owner’s name is Laurie Erickson and she is a fabulous niche perfumer. November 21, 2017 at 5:29pm Reply

          • Sherry: Thank you and will try November 21, 2017 at 6:57pm Reply

        • Jehanne: I would second Killian’s Love & Tears. I was on a huge jasmine kick 4 or 5 years ago, and that was the only perfume that I could find with the right mix of green notes and indole. It’s gorgeous. November 24, 2017 at 6:40pm Reply

          • Elisa: Yes, I haven’t smelled in a while, but I remember it smelling very natural/realistic. November 24, 2017 at 7:25pm Reply

      • Silvermoon: Hello Elisa, thank you for the bait-like post! Couldn’t agree more about how difficult it is to finish bottles now. My story was more a slide down the hole than a fall. Always loved perfume but never had more than three on the go. Then some years ago, I came across the Frederic Malle counter in Liberty’s. Started chatting with the very good and knowledgeable SA, learned a lot and unusually came away with two (Fleur de Cassis and Iris Poudre). This sparked my interest in learning more about perfumes, which prompted me to buy Turin & Sanchez’s great book ‘Perfumes: the A-Z Guide’. First it was fun to just read their descriptions, recognise the familiar ones and imagine the smells of those one didn’t know. But soon that wasn’t enough 😀. And the slide got steeper. November 21, 2017 at 5:07pm Reply

        • Elisa: That’s a familiar story! The A-Z Guide definitely pushed me off the edge right down in the rabbit hole. November 21, 2017 at 5:08pm Reply

        • faith: silvermoon i really thought i knew a little something about perfumes until i read that book as well. a couple years later i found bois de jasmine. now i smell perfumes in my sleep! ooh i would love if someone else has had this experience. it is like discovering new colors. very surreal……. December 1, 2017 at 1:56pm Reply

          • Silvermoon: hello faith,
            I see what you mean by smelling perfume in dreams or discovering new colours. For me, it is really the mood or emotions that perfumes evoke that give me such pleasure. And the book provides a fun-filled appreciation of perfume perfection. December 1, 2017 at 2:07pm Reply

  • Lily: I don’t know that I am a “perfumista” in the sense of liking difficult scents…most of the time I like things that smell pretty to me, and on me. Not a fan of iris, oak moss, or heavy white florals (my nose is sadly sensitive to the fecal side of indoles). But that still leaves a wide swath of “not mainstream” or “not average girl my age” tastes, as I don’t like fruit and while I don’t mind floral blends, I prefer to smell specific flowers (vs things like Gucci Bamboo which a friend wears and it smells lovely on her but also very…generically pretty, I am wearing perfume, lovely, not…anything that catches my imagination). I gravitate more toward adjectives or moods. Elegant. Arresting. Mysterious. Edgy. Moody. Those descriptors get my attention. That makes me sound like I like dark heavy hitters. Lol. I have a few, but mostly I like things that I find beautiful and evocative. But when I see dramatic descriptions – especially adjectives rarely used – I sit up and investigate further. Probably my most perfumista picks are Jacomo Silences, Bulgari Black, and Caron Parfum Sacre. November 20, 2017 at 9:28pm Reply

    • Elisa: For what it’s worth, your tastes may change! It took me a while to appreciate and then finally love oakmoss and plenty of other “difficult” materials … but I also still love simply pretty things, too. November 20, 2017 at 9:43pm Reply

      • Lily: Yep! I am content to enjoy where I am now and sniff new things with an open mind. Maybe my brain just wants to keep some things for exploring later 😉 November 20, 2017 at 11:51pm Reply

        • Elisa: Yes definitely no need to force it! November 20, 2017 at 11:57pm Reply

  • Lily: Oh, and if we’re sharing how we fell down the rabbit hole: post divorce from someone who got migraines from perfume I decided I wanted to try wearing some and make an educated choice vs just doing what my family did and then what my ex wanted. Since my mom doesn’t wear perfume and none of my friends had more than 1 or 2 scents and not much advice beyond “go to the mall and ask for help” I decided to Google before I went to the mall. And found BdJ. And read about 100 reviews and articles and knew I was hooked on wearing scents as adornment, as art, as sensory beauty in a day that may have no other real beauty. It was a great obsession for the 8 months of limbo waiting to sell our old house and move away. November 20, 2017 at 9:33pm Reply

    • Elisa: I love that story! Here’s to “sensory beauty in a day that may have no other real beauty” November 20, 2017 at 9:45pm Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Hi Elisa and perfume lovers,

    I consider myself a perfumista since 5 years now.
    I already experienced the jaded state of not being inspired anymore by new scents.
    However time to time, a new or vintage gem makes my heart beat faster.
    I keep an eye on new releases and read older reviews to know what to sample.
    I do not have a group of fragrances that entice me, as I love everything from light florals to heavy animalics.
    For me it’s meticulous sampling that leads to great discoveries. I try to identify the perfumer behind scents, as I tend to love the other scents of the same creator.
    Edmond Roudnitska, Jacques Guerlain, Jacques Polge. Dominique Ropion and Olivia Giacobetti are my favourites.
    The important thing is endless curiosity, and courage to try scent groups you think you hate. I did not like chypre scents for a while then I fell in love with them.
    I hope this helped somehow, I wish everyone happy sampling and collecting. November 21, 2017 at 9:15am Reply

    • Elisa: I’ve experience the same thing, Nora — I now love things that I originally thought I hated, whether it was materials or styles. There are now very few things that aren’t my thing! November 21, 2017 at 9:47am Reply

  • Sandra: I fell for fragrance when I smelled Obsession in the 90’s and Cristalle.

    Some fragrances that captured my attention, but at that time I was no confident enough to wear them was Songes and Coco

    A fragrance memory I have is going to the Caron boutique in NYC (its now closed) when it first opened and trying Aimez Moi for the first time. I was captivated and “wowed”. I don’t know why I never got a bottle. I still think of that moment and that fragrance. It smelled so amazing and captivating. November 21, 2017 at 11:37am Reply

    • Elisa: It took me a long time to feel confident in, and “ready” for Coco too!

      Isn’t that strange, how we can completely fall in love with something but not buy it? One of the first fragrances I remember being that wowed by was Gucci Rush; I smelled it in a magazine when I was in college. I did get a bottle though! It’s all I wore for a year or two. November 21, 2017 at 11:42am Reply

      • sandra: Gucci Rush!! That bottle was so retro and modern at the same time.

        I forgot to also add Shalimar to the list. It took me awhile to wear that perfume because I felt like it was always wearing me… November 21, 2017 at 5:37pm Reply

        • Elisa: Yes, I love the bottle. And it took me a long time to appreciate Shalimar too. November 21, 2017 at 11:06pm Reply

  • rickyrebarco: I might sample a perfumista bait perfume but if I don’t really love it I won’t buy it. I do, however, love Amouage Memoir and Teo Cabanel’s Alahine. November 21, 2017 at 3:39pm Reply

    • rickyrebarco: Of course the first fragrance I fell for, at 4 years old! was Dana Tabu so I’ve always liked a challenge! November 21, 2017 at 3:41pm Reply

      • Elisa: Wise beyond your years 🙂 November 21, 2017 at 5:09pm Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: What an original post: „perfumista bait“!
    Being in Oman at the moment – and having visited the Amouage factory in Muscat the day before yesterday and the frankincense souk in Salalah just this morning – my bait is definately frankincense!
    What strikes me most here – with regard to perfume – is how lovely the people smell here! There is this delicious incense scent on people’s (especially men‘s) clothes, and the Omani men‘s robes (dishdashas) have a small tassle at the neckline in order to apply and then smell perfume. Just imagine men in the „West“ sniffing perfume they themselves applied at their necks without squirming or blushing at the mere thought!
    Apropos Amouage: do you or anyone know Opus IV which has this stewed fruit or to my mind: date scent? It‘s the forth perfume from the library line, and I find it quite compelling! Perhaps because the local dates are just out of this world 😀 November 22, 2017 at 7:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, enjoy your trip! If you have a chance to visit Nizwa, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s an oasis town, and it has a beautiful fortress on the hill.
      Near the market in Muscat there is a South Indian restaurant, where I ate one of the best fish pilafs ever. November 22, 2017 at 7:59am Reply

      • OnWingsofSaffron: Yes, Nizwa is quite wonderful and next to the impressive fort, I thoroughly enjoyed the date souk, or rather a big shop full of different date products. Apart from all sorts of date varieties from crunchy-fibry to toffee-chewy, I rather liked the cardamom-flavoured dates: delicious!
        And indeed, we too had a fabulous lunch in a very simple Indian eatery in Old Muscat on the road towards Sidab! Food is quite lovely here, and I love the Omani biriyanis! November 22, 2017 at 9:38am Reply

    • Elisa: I WISH men here did that, and that they smelled of frankincense! November 22, 2017 at 8:38am Reply

      • OnWingsofSaffron: 😆 November 22, 2017 at 9:38am Reply

    • Cassieflower: My daughter lived in Oman for a short period recently and said the same thing. She raved about all the perfumeries there. They take their personal grooming and scenting very seriously. November 23, 2017 at 3:23pm Reply

      • OnWingsofSaffron: How lucky she was! Oman seems a delightful place to spend some time. I truely hope it stays like that. November 23, 2017 at 9:44pm Reply

  • Golnareh: Speaking of jasmin scents, a few years ago Marc Jacobs had and gen discontinued a perfume the name of which I forget. The bottle was a delicate pink and the scent persisted during the day but wasn’t overpowering. It was so lovely! Sigh! November 22, 2017 at 8:34am Reply

    • MmkinPA: Was it Blush? Fragrantica says it was from 2004. November 22, 2017 at 8:55am Reply

      • Golnareh: Yes! I loved it. Of course I’m more of a scent enthusiast than anything else, and I’m not certain whether it could have held its own, in the sense of technique and expertise used in it, against other perfumes you discuss. But I quite enjoyed it while i used it. November 22, 2017 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Sherry: I do have MJ blush and it is lovely. To me Blush is similar to Annick Goutal le Chevrefeuille, Blush more on the jasmine side, AG on honeysuckle, both are light, airy and innocent. Both are beautiful. I can’t say Blush is a dead ringer for real jasmine but fairly close (some of you may recognize me as the one looking for a perfume closest to a real jasmine). I got my bottle thru eBay for a good price. Good luck! November 22, 2017 at 9:40pm Reply

  • Jehanne: Elisa, what a great piece! For me, the bait is whatever elusive note I’m currently hunting for. So, for example, this past year I’ve been looking for a feminine incense (something with either fruit or flowers that still has a strong amount of incense in it); every time I hear of a new incense release, I immediately have to order a sample.

    New releases from my go-to houses–Chanel, Hermes, sometimes Killian–are very hard for me to resist too. I just did a blind buy of Twilly, because I couldn’t resist the idea of that ginger note. Plus, I was really curious to see how Christine Nagel would pick up the Hermes reigns from JCE. November 24, 2017 at 6:33pm Reply

    • Elisa: Hi Jehanne, thank you! What do you think of Twilly? I haven’t gotten around to smelling it yet, but I’m planning on braving the mall pretty soon to check out a bunch of newish releases. Very curious about that one, and the new Atelier Cologne coffee tuberose thing.

      Has there been an incense that came close for you? November 24, 2017 at 7:24pm Reply

      • Jehanne: My bottle of Twilly hasn’t arrived yet! But, the new Atelier Cologne releases always intrigue me too.

        The best I’ve been able to do on the incense front is Fille en Aiguilles, which I’ve worn for a few years (there’s a nice plum note in there that I love). But, I feel as if I’m still searching for my hg incense. November 24, 2017 at 7:32pm Reply

  • John: Great piece! For me, the bait was something to do with complexity and atmosphere… As a teen, I had stumbled across two great fragrances in succession (Grey Flannel and Fahrenheit), both indisputably in their heyday in terms of formulation (this was the late1980’s-early 90’s). Ironically, my choices were mostly dictated by advertising, but both of those fragrances powerfully conveyed a sense of place/state of mind through complex compositions (both were arguably chypres too…). After that, I would always buy something new when my old scent ran out, but the mainstream releases that followed (I recall owning CK1, Escape and Eternity…I guess I was susceptible to CK’s advertising campaigns! In any case, the emphasis on fruity waters, melon notes and general escapism did not excite me, and I just stopped wearing fragrance for years. Fast forward about two decades later/three years ago, and, following a rough patch in life, I began becoming interested in scent again. Almost at random, I found a tester of Eau Sauvage (another complex, evocative chypre) in a drugstore and sprayed it on, recalling old print ads from my youth (that bottle is memorable.) The rest is rabbit-hole history. I still gravitate towards something I can’t quite describe. I think that my favourite fragrances (Eau Sauvage, Caron Pour un Homme, Habit Rouge and Antaeus) all have complex, sometimes contradictory structures, and all of them have a strong dose of naturalism (typically herbal) in balance with their more abstract components, and all are redolent to me of some kind of atmosphere that is less about escape than it is a quickening and enriching of the present moment. For me the hesperidic notes in my favourite compositions also conjure a deep classicism with its Mediterranean roots; that’s my bait. November 26, 2017 at 12:55pm Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you John! It seems that men’s scents, at least the majority of those available in mainstream outlets, have really veered away from naturalism for the past, gee, 25 years? I personally love an old-school lavender-heavy fougere on a man and when no men are around to humor me I just wear them myself. (I wore Nicolai pour Homme earlier today…) November 26, 2017 at 6:22pm Reply

      • John: Yes, I’m wearing Caron’s rather lavender-heavy ‘jasmine fougere’ Le Troisieme Homme today in fact… My son and his partner are millennials keen to avoid gender convention in any case: he wears vintage women’s Opium (I found him the bottle in a thrift store) and she wears Caron Pour un Homme. But yes, naturalism… I love a good piece of rendering, especially when it is somehow appended to an abstraction in the overall effect. Maybe this helps to explain the ‘breath-of-fresh-air’ reception that Twilly has been receiving? November 27, 2017 at 4:14pm Reply

        • Elisa: I was going to recommend Le Troisiemme Homme but then I suspected you were already familiar with it! I love that one. November 27, 2017 at 4:47pm Reply

    • Silvermoon: hello John! you put it beautifully when you write it is “less about escape than it is a quickrning and enriching of the present moment “. Although in many ways a beautiful perfume can also be evocative of past moments or memories.
      Like Elisa, there are a number of wonderful men’s perfumes (so-called), which I happily wear and even more happily smell on men. Eau Sauvage and Knize Ten are among my top favourites. Have you ever tried the latter? November 27, 2017 at 4:00pm Reply

      • John: I agree about evocation, although it is interesting the way a really lovely composition evokes past sensations generally but maybe no one particular past? (This reminds of something Kant wrote about beauty, but I’m sure I do not trust myself to encapsulate it!)

        Knize Ten is certainly on my list to hunt up next time I am someplace like the Perfume House in Portland (I live on the west coast of Canada, which, other than Vancouver, is pretty lacking in places to smell things beyond the usual Sephora/department store range….) Or one day I’ll get to Vienna and see all the Klimt and Schiele and Kokoschka and Loos, and cafes where Rilke used to hang out, etc., and pick up a bottle of Knize at the same time. November 27, 2017 at 4:10pm Reply

        • Silvermoon: Picking up a bottle of Knize Ten in Vienna sounds like the loveliest idea. I really do like to buy a perfume when traveling, almost like a souvenir of a place. Meanwhile, maybe you could order a sample so you can test it out (and save you having to wait until you make it to Austria). 😊 Here is hoping you get there soon! November 27, 2017 at 4:18pm Reply

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