Friday, July 4, 2008

Rekindled Interest in Perfume: A Reader Asks

Here at Perfume Shrine we receive lots of mail and the questions of readers often give us pause for thought and commentary. Amanda, a kind reader who lives somewhere where perfume choices are restricted to the department store asked me advice about what to sample for her renewed interest in perfume.
Without further ado, here is the questioning part of her mail:

"I haven't worn perfume since my first child was born. He will be 17 soon and I think it is time for me to indulge in it again. Back then I had a love hate relationship with Diorissimo and wore Madame Rochas for nights out. A friend has given me some ideas and I have tried Carolina Herrera and Valentino which are beautiful but don't suit me and Sensi and Opium which I find too sweet and indolent: They make me feel I should be lounging back on cushions eating Turkish delight. I have on my list to try Yvresse, Baby Doll and Princess by Vera Wang and since I read the first few pages of your blog I will try Miss Dior although it was never right for me in the past. Have you any suggestions for perfumes that might contain similar constituents to Madame Rochas?
When I add essential oils to my bath I always seem to choose geranium, clary sage and rose. I don't much care for vetiver"

In her follow up mail to me, prompted by my Yves Saint Laurent Series, she told me that:

"This past week I have tried the fragrances from Yves St Laurent. I found them all too sweet and not sophisticated enough. The opening notes to Baby doll were delicious but once they had past it was too much like body soap and lost its appeal."
With that in mind, I gave some thought to her issue and welcome your suggestions as well.
Personally I think that since Amanda had success with Madame Rochas, she should stay true to an equally elegant concept. Madame Rochas was one of the favourites of both my mother and grandmother and they both smelled wonderful in it, making me swoon. Since that one, alas, has been altered in recent years, she should probably search for a comparable floral aldehydic along those classy lines. Of course there is no guarantee that anything currently on the market could approximate the fragrance she wore and loved, but we can try, can't we?
Amanda also seems to like rosey scents, as both geranium and rose oils feature powdery floral notes and to dislike too sweet scents (which I can sympathise with!) and current musks.

I would have suggested the metallic rose of Rive Gauche laced with icy splendour, but she has mentioned sampling the Laurent line and I deduce she must have dismissed it.
My first recommendation then would be Le Dix by Balenciaga, a perfume hailing from 1947 but with such elegance that it should stand on its legs today just as well. It has been also reformulated, as has everything, but it hasn't lost its appeal.
Another suggestion would be Caleche by Hermes, which also denotes polished class in its aldehydic florancy with some chypre overtones, never too sweet, never too decadent.
I would also recommend Calandre by Paco Rabanne, another cool rose with aldehydes which smells perfumey in the best sense, but also has the slightly clean/warm feel of Madame Rochas.

In the more recent crop of fragrances I would suggest Amanda tries 212 by Carolina Herrera as well as Sicily by Dolce & Gabanna: they feature a cool-warm contrast with a lathery element and aldehydic accents which contribute to an elegant disposition, despite their young age. While she's at it I think she would like the original Dolce & Gabanna Pour Femme, the one in the red velvet box with the red cap. It's one of those traditional-smelling contemporary fragrances that smell good on just about anyone, although she might find it a little floral-sweet.
Bearing in mind both the cool-warm rose and the lathery ambience I can't help but suggest the very sophisticated "clean" of Allesandro dell'Aqua: it features rose and geranium and has a light floriental character which is discreet and good-mannered. And for something that has the opening grapefruit accent of Baby Doll but none of the sweetness or the soapiness, I'd suggest Un Jardin sur le Nil by Hermes in their Jardins line, for day wear.

Please help Amanda find a fragrance: suggest away! (but keep it in the easy-to-get markpoint)

Illustration by Rene Gruau courtesy of


  1. I'm thinking she should give Arpege a try, too bad it only department store stuff because I would most definately have her try Baghari.

  2. Baghari would have been my choice as well, the new version is very nice for a change.
    I hope she's keeping notes!

  3. Maybe Youth Dew? Or any classy Chanels (for instance Coco)?

  4. I feel for this lady for its like living in Australia - not much of a range. OK, you know I love Guerlain so if she can get her paws on this company where she lives I would ask her to try Nahema (rose's) and have a sniff of Champs Elysee - it might be a little "sweet" but I love it ! LOL
    Try Jicky and for colder times of the years - give Mitsouko or Shalimar a bash.
    Otherwise - what about Joy (lots of roses) , Bal a Versailles or Joile Madame???

  5. Dear L,

    those are classic choices and classy too but something tells me she will find them heavy? Maybe No.22 by Chanel would fit the bill? Or might she find it too sweet?

  6. Dear M,

    I think your recs on Joy and Nahema would be great and even Champs Elysees sounds like something Amanda might like. I hope she's taking notes!

    Personally I love all the others you mention ;-)

  7. I know what you mean, No. 22 is good choice as well if one likes aldehyde, but on the other hand you need a Chanel boutique to find No. 22 nowadays (sigh).

  8. Yup, that's why I didn't suggest it in the blog post body, only mentioned it in the comments because it seemed a good enough rec for this case.
    Perhaps she might like Coco Mademoiselle from the modern Chanels? It has that cool-warm feeling and ins't too heavy on vetiver. Hmm...

  9. Anonymous13:14

    Aw, I know it's going to be to heavy (no aldehydes, hence the Arpege recommendation is better) and perhaps not so sophisticated, but if she likes the floral of Carolina Herrera, perhaps a Lancome Poeme? (No, I see her comment about "sweet and indolent"...the magic 8-Ball says "please try again"...

  10. Anonymous13:19

    "To" and "too". I do know the difference...
    *Sigh. The holiday was a good one.*

    Caleche seems like a good one try to me, and probably also Kelly Caleche should be given a test drive. (She does like floral notes.)

  11. SLF,

    LOL, you probably had heaps of fun!

    Kelly Caleche! Why didn't I mention it? *smacks forehead* It's light, but with good sillage and projection, has flowery elements, has a slightly bitter edge which aleviates the floral sweetness, is modern yet classy...
    Definitely worth a try!

  12. Anonymous16:27

    Great suggestions!
    My tips: Diorella, Dioressence, Cristalle, Kenzo Flower.

  13. Excellent, Lavinia! Thank you :-)

  14. Anonymous21:15

    No, there's nothing excellent about my tips, you are too kind! :-)
    But you completely lured me into Le Dix. I should try it, it is not the first time you mentioned it.

  15. Anonymous06:13

    what about Chanel No 5 parfum - not sweet and less powdery than the edt and edp. Also Paloma Picasso. And Guerlain Mitsouko or L'Heure Bleue or Shalimar. None are what I would call sweet and they are lovely classics more available than some other Guerlains. Plus a number of Estee Lauder's are good - I personally like Knowing.

  16. Oh Lavinia, surely not :-)
    Le Dix is fabulous, you should definitely try it! It will get its space on these pages soon ;-)

  17. Dear Kim,

    those are all excellent classics and I love many of them! Indeed No.5 is vastly superior in parfum and it is my preferred formulation as well: it's just deeper, richer, mmmm.
    I do hope Amanda gets to try out your suggestions and report back!

  18. Thank you everyone for your wonderful suggestions, it is so good of you to help me out. I will take time to sample all that I can.

    The exception will be Arpege, that is my mothers favourite perfume and has too much association with her, she is very special and I could not step up to her fragrance and all the memories it holds for me.

  19. Amanda,

    I am overjoyed to see that the suggestions pleased you and I am looking forward to your impressions when you try some of them out :-)
    Arpege for your mother: what a lovely memory! I respect your choice not to usurp her perfume.

  20. Amanda I would also add Estee Lauder's Knowing to the list.


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