Thursday, August 22, 2013

In Love with Discontinued Perfumes: an Exercise in Masochism

"I don't know what possesses me, but I have a terrible tendency to fall in love with fragrances right before they get discontinued. I've just done it again. I need my head examined.

I've had a decant of Eau de Camille lying around forever, just finished it up this past spring. I've pondered a bottle off and on but never got around to it. Then I heard last week here on POL that Annick Goutal was discontinuing it, so I checked the site and sure enough, it's gone. This is where a sane person would sigh and shrug and decide it wasn't meant to be. I, on the other hand, said "Hey! Sounds like it's finally time to get that bottle!" Which I did (half price on Amazon, which didn't help).
And now it's here, and I can't believe how insanely great it is. Ivy! Privet! Grass! Stemmy green goodness with a hint of spring flowers! It's like a garden party in a bottle. Honeysuckle in the verge, croquet on the lawn. Playing amongst the hedges. It's much fresher than my decant, which makes me suspect it does deteriorate, and if course it's DISCONTINUED so I'll need to keep it in the refrigerator or something because I am a TOTAL IDIOT.

Anyway. It's a sweetheart of a fragrance, and hopefully I'll be sick to death of it before it runs out".

This is but one example (taken off my compatriot-in-fragrance Twitchly from the Perfume of Life forum) that shows as plain as daylight the sweet poignancy, the sheer masochism of loving fragrances that have been discontinued. The procastrinating until the very last possible moment. The panic, the excitement and mad folly when the opportunity comes, knowing full well, 100% consciously that this is doomed, that the pain is sure to follow. The savoring of the sensation when the prized moment comes. The sweet regret when distanced a bit from it. The realization that we're transient, just like perfume is...Oh yes, Bataille or von Sacher-Masoch would have a minefield with perfume lovers today. After all BDSM and perfumes aren't totally disjointed.

I'm in love with extreme mental torture.
I'm in love with the way you hold your head and just cry.
I'm in love with all these affairs of the heart.
There's no peace for the wicked.
Loud and clear. The angels tell me,
no peace for the wicked.
 ~No Peace for the Wicked, The Only Ones

I well recall my own days when I had first discovered Lanvin's seminal My Sin (Mon Peche), a long discontinued marvel allegedly composed by the "mysterious" and "exotic" Madame Zed (so much has this stirred the collective conscious that even entire chick-lit novels are built on this tidbit). The panic to secure every possible concentration (there's eau de toilette, extrait de parfum but also Eau My Sin, a slightly different proposition), the hawking over auctions, the frenzied correspondence with Swiss perfume collectors and finally the pain in using it in measured drops on my neck and behind my knees resembled Severin's unbridled desires for Wanda; or so it seemed at the time... That scent adventure was followed by many others over the years: limited editions of YSL Opium (such as the stupendous Fleur de Shanghai), the sweaty leathery La Nuit de Paco Rabanne, the innocuous but filled with memories Eau d'Eden, Guerlain's scarce Loin du Tout, the origami darkness of Shiseido Nombre Noir, Chanel No.46 and its troubled history, or the buttery softness that one would wish would come as luxe underwear for fetishists, Doblis by Hermès...Each and every one of them a doomed bond, a predestined to wither and die love affair; not because of anyone's fault...because that was the way it was meant to be.

And with the increasing axing of many of the classics, due to allergens, poor sales or impossible to serve financially formulae, the story only takes on additional chapters, like a mutant 19th century novel by Eugène Sue, serially published in sepia periodicals.

Let's be factual: Masochism is unique to man (woman); animals do not seek to get unaccomodated, only humans do (and with such fervor!) And since by its own definition masochism is pessimistic and realistic, as Gilles Deleuze showed in his brilliant reasoning, it's quite noble to fall for a lost cause. Thermopylae didn't get famous for being a victorious occasion after all.
In appreciating fragrance for its intellectual properties (its transient beauty, its capturing of the zeitgeist but also of a personal scent timeline) the direct object itself is desexualized, gaining heroic nuances that go beyond the carnal, into the spiritual, whereas the entire human history is sexualized, i.e. put under a new light because everything surrounding that experience gains an unforeseen intensity spanning the senses. Far from a libertine tittilation, indulging in a paradise lost is an exercise in banishing the role of authority, the paternal figure, in submerging oneself into a primal Oedipal status. Securing a discontinued perfume is defiance; revolt against the system; appreciation of what is (by now) forbidden to you. The quest becomes the hunt for treasure, the securing of the loot a prize in itself; the impossibility of refueling nevertheless means an acceptance of mortality. In a way, loving discontinued perfumes has helped me mature.

So go ahead and fall headlong with a discontinued fragrance, don't be scared! You will derive a poignant pleasure in enjoying what fragrance you have left in your bottle, each application all the more tinged with melancholy because it's running out. In a way, wearing a beloved discontinued scent is like finding a virtuous woman, prized above rubies. And the more gorgeous, the more artistically beautiful the fragrance is, the more elevated that experience is.

What about you? Do you feel that way? Do you love certain discontinued scents or do you just go on when something gets axed? Please share in the comments. 


  1. My Sin, Most Precious (Evyan), Elysium (Clarins), Femenite du Bois (Shiseido), Heaven Sent (Helena Rubinstein), Topaz (Avon), Dolce Vita (Dior)
    I miss 0- and mourn - them all!!!

  2. Sarahbelle,

    *heavily sighing besides you with downcast eyes*

    Yup, so many marvels...

    However, thankfully Feminite du Bois is salvaged in some (decent) form in the newer Serge Lutens version (available wherever Serge Lutens perfumes are sold).

    Is Dolce Vita discontinued as well? I seem to see it here on the shelves, but need to check for sure (could be just the tester out, forgotten, with no merchandise to sell).

  3. I stand corrected.
    Neiman Marcus has Dolce Vita.

    More to the point: has Dolce Vita!!! [whipping credit card out, now]

  4. SB,

    enabler, who me??


    Glad you found your love!! This does warm the cockles of my heart. (hope I got the idiom right! LOL)

  5. Anonymous16:03

    This topic is a recurrent on for me. The allure of discontinued or limited editions is undeniable. I've resorted to procuring bottles of fragrances that I REALLY liked, not loved. Just incase. I discover something, place it on my "maybe" list, eventually find that is gone for good, and then suddenly it's on the "MUST HAVE" list and I'm furiously searching the web to find it!

    Masochism indeed!!

  6. oh, i do both...i search ardently for scarce bottles of things i love and no longer can find due to discontinuation or disappointing reformulation. and i move on, ever seeking new loves.

    rather like i do with men, actually... ;)

  7. Oh yes! It happened just yesterday! I went to the perfume store and tried a lot of things, but I really felt in love with *another* damn Chanel, Cristalle. At least it's not from the Les Exclusifs! Anyway, the SA said it was going to be discontinued. I was going to buy only a 100ml EdT, so I panicked and got a 50ml EdP too. After a while (a had sprayed the EdT on the left arm and the EdP on the right arm) they became so different, the EdP much heavier on jasmine and sweeter, so I went running to the store *again* and asked them to exchange the EdP for a small bottle of EdT.

    And now I'm happy. They will last me a long time (160ml total), and Cristalle does last a lot on my skin, it is not like Sycomore.

    BTW, I still can't believe Cristalle is going to be discontinued. Is it true? Well, the brazilian Chanel online store doesn't have it for a long time...

  8. voxsusanna00:11

    Ah! My late mother indoctrinated me into Millot's Crepe de Chine -- long gone, and the GCMS refabrications disappoint. No other chypre has captured my heart like it. (I'm open to suggestion from the wise noses here, or course!) Then there was Jitrois, of which Balenciaga's Rumba became a kind of step-sister on my perfume tray. And as soon as I adopted le Feu d'Issey the marketing rug was pulled out from beneath it. B'bye.

  9. annemariec01:35

    I've been engaged on a little perfume project if my own devising: test three d/c classics before they become impossible to get: Cuir de Lancome; Donna Karan Gold; Fendi Theorema.

    So I went for a FB of Cuir de Lancome, having noticed that the prices are finally started to climb on this one.

    Gold I bought as a clutch of samples from an eBay seller, and have not decided whether I like enough to upsize.

    Theorema I have just upsized from sample to large decant. I like it a lot, but find that PdN's Sacrebleu does similar work, although Sacrebleu is a bit too sweet. I'm happy to swing between both.

    So those are my most recent forays into d/c perfume-land. Mostly I don't get too stressed. I'm generally good at loving what I already have. I love that Eau de Camille story though! I find Camille too bitter (and shortlived) but I can understand why people would love it.

  10. I was legitimately holding my breathe in the opening paragraph to find out whether or not the hero gets a bottle xD I've been in love with Thierry Mugler's A*Men Pure Havane for months now, not realizing it had been discontinued since 2010. I'm very fortunate that FragranceNet sent me a bottle to review on my blog, because otherwise I'd be craving it's beautiful scent for the remainder of my days with no outlet!

  11. Anonymous08:04

    It seems most of my fb purchases are d/c or ltd ed, often, like Scentatorium, going immediately to my 'must buy' list. These have included Tea for Two, Seville a l'Aube (ltd), Gold, nasomatto Nuda, Mahora, Caron eau de reglisse, Cuir de Lancome, Kingdom, Yvresse, Gucci edp, Krazy Krizia... and a good deal of these are amongst my favourites... oh and vintage Opium.. So many more that I wish I could find for a good price....

  12. I'm with Sarahbella on the Elysium (Clarins} very beautiful fragrance. I mostly miss Roger and Gallet almond blossom soap. I don't know why i even opened my last bar-kicking myself for that.I am now forgetting what it smells like-their has to be a bar floating around this world somewhere right?

  13. Helg, I am very sad Goutal's Camille is gone. I loved it so in our hot summers and I thought it would always be around as Annick Goutal named this scent after her daughter.
    I am going to miss Camille - there is nothing like her :(

  14. Old and new I love them all. Some of the reformulations have me feeling like I have lost a favourite perfume and gained a new friend because they are so different. I have collected some stockpiles of my fave vintage but have decided to let some be fabulous memories. Last year when CHANEL was worried they may have to cease production of CHANEL No 5 I bought some, in case. You know how it is,
    Also on the discontinued list I grabbed Mitzah, Dew Musk, and some PdNs that BoisdeJasmin has now reported as not going.
    Portia xx

  15. Anonymous14:51

    The only time I've ever had this happen to me was after winning two tiny decants of Creed's Angelique Encens and vintage Tabarome, now discontinued. Each bottle now has literally one drop each.

    Funny thing is, I wore the two together -- Angelique on my earlobes, wrists, and collarbones, for example, and Tabarome in the crook of my elbows and the breastbone, just dots here and there, combining into this glorious cloud around me -- and ONLY when I would see my orthopedic surgeon. He and I flirt a bit, always have, even when my husband or son were the patient rather than me and I was just along for the ride. My husband says that Dr. Parker usually treats professional hockey players and old people, so it was probably a treat for him to have a younger woman with all of her teeth in his office. ;o)

    When I went through a prolonged shoulder ordeal for two years, I always wore that combo, and only for Dr. Parker. I even wore it for surgery in January. Now I'm fully recovered and so far all of the rest of my joints are holding up all right (knock wood), so it seems that my relationship with Dr. Parker lasted just as long as my supply of Creeds!


  16. And isn't it our luck that the fragrance houses discontinue the best ones! :) Like, in another post, I will be looking for the nearest TJ Max for Douceur de Vanille. :(

  17. I am always wary when a perfumehouse get new owners as in this case Annick Goutal or if they re-makes their bottles and web-site as PdN recently. And of course I was to lazy when it came to Camille. It have been on the "prospectlist" for years but I never was in a hurry, I thought this would be a safe one as it's custommade for Camille after the guidelines of her mother. But probably it dosen't sell enough and of course the new owners have to have the usual 3-5 years pay-back on their investment. When browsing the new Goutal website with the rebottled juice I found that my most favorite Goutal Mon Parfum Cheri par Camille isn't there anymore and last night I ordered a back-up bottle. I can understand that this "contemporay Rochas Femme" doesnt sell enough given the current fragrance enviroment, but IMO it's one of the best fragrances on the whole perfumemarket the latest years.I'm so relieved an extra bottle.

  18. on its way :-)

  19. Just forgot - speaking of Nicolaï, new packaging & site: Earlier this summer when considered to stock up some more of one of my green summerstaples, Cologne Friction, I checked the new website and of course,it's not any longer avaiable in the cologne-line.Now I have to treasure my bottle and use more of Thierry Mugler Cologne instead as it's quite similar in style

  20. LRyan14:46

    one word...Annam.

  21. Anonymous19:24

    i have a friend working in AmorePacific,the company which bought over Annick Goutal. They are going to rebrand Annick Goutal, therefore the ribbons are going, and the packaging has been changed and they are going to now focus on the AG logo. of course, the pricing strategy will also be changed. AG will be raising prices outside of France by a lot, and making it cheapest to purchase in France.

  22. Scentatorium,

    it's a path we're taking in these crazy time when everything is being so drastically altered and love (or even like) seems so very transient. I feel for you.
    Thanks for commenting!

  23. NFS,

    nobody said life is easy, eh? But it can be fun all the same ;-)

  24. Sibilum,

    thanks for sharing.

    I highly doubt they'd discontinue production, though regional distribution problems are nothing new. For instance the EDP of Chanel No.19 in the US has been erratic at best (which I am convinced is one of the reasons why most US perfumistas prefer that concentration over the others; again, the scarce becomes desirable). Since they have produced a flanker to the original (the Vert one), the brand of Cristalle is rejuvenated which is good news for the continuation of production. I suppose you can always buy it online?
    Good thing on stocking up to make things easier on you, though, so enjoy!

  25. Vox,

    I understand your pain and thanks for commenting with your experiences and disappointments (boy, are we doomed, eh?)

    Crepe de Chine is a bit of a unique experience. Perhaps you might like Norell, though that one isn't too easy to find in a vintage pristine form either.
    You remember Jitrois? I'm amazed, you're the first person I hear who mentions that brand!

    Hope you find something to -somewhat- replace your long lost loves.

  26. AMC,

    interesting comment!

    I think Lancome's Cuir will be reissued at some point; it's got enough of a cult following. Probably again as a limited edition or limited distribution, like they did with their oud. The prices will climb up before that happens, though.

    Gold is lovely for those who love big opulent lilies and ambery florientals, but that's a prerequisite and not all people are conductive to that vibe. I understand.

    As to Theorema, take note that Sacrebleu is being discontinued and only Sacrebleu Intense remains. I do feel that Theorema is lighter and less almondy than Sacrebleu though (which mostly reminds me of LHB).

    Glad you enjoyed the true perfume story re:Camille!!

  27. Gil,

    thanks for commenting!

    It was a bit of a nail biter, that true story, eh? It resonates so much with many of us that it makes it very identifiable.

    I always liked things in the Mugler line and it irks me that they get either discontinued or are brought as limited editions to begin with (Havane is among the best, true enough) that I can only nod by head in sympathy. You're lucky to have received this specifically for reviewing! Enjoy.

  28. Lynley,

    thanks for cataloguing your lost loves, I found some among them which are my own loves as well. And I didn't know Nuda was discontinued! So soon since launch, eh? Makes one wonder.
    I suppose since most of these are rather modern juice and recent discontinuations, you will be able to find disappointed buyers who are willing to sell their bottles at a decent price. Good luck!

  29. Patriciacha,

    I agree with you two gals 100%. I also loved Elysium which managed to straddle the line between green floral and aquatic and come across as the perfect blend to satisfy both ends. I don't know why I never stocked up. Maybe because it was the 90s and I naively believed things would be around for ever? Probably.

    The R&G soap sounds lovely (haven't tried IIRC), but don't kick yourself; you enjoyed a pleasure that you deserved. If luck and fate wants it, you will come across some out of the blue, trust me ;-) :-)

  30. M,

    it's a pity about Camille being gone, exactly because it was steeped in personal stories. But then others steeped in personal stories in the AG line have gone too, so it's obviously not in the new business plan to keep around mementos. All the more sad, but that's how it is.
    I agree that it was pretty unique (so was Eau du Ciel and Folavril)

  31. Portia,

    thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences on these pages.

    The reformulations (though sometimes necessary) are a pain in the butt, there's no question about it. It's very disappointing to buy something sure that you're replenishing a very intimate, familiar object and then discovering a different beast; it's a sort of betrayal similar to having your loved one react in a crucial situation in a way that you would never have expected.
    I never seriously bought that Chanel would discontinued No.5 (it would make absolutely no business sense), besides the natural jasmine ratio (let alone the Grasse tale, which is bogus for the most part, excluding the extrait) was always pretty low enough in the lower concentrations. BUT an atrocious reformulation could be the only way to continue, so buying an extra bottle never hurt anyone.
    As to the rest, glad you stockpiled as I'm sure you will get the most out of those. Dew Musk was axed eh? I never did like that one. Wonder why though; seemed like complying to the regulations (to the best of my recollection, mind you) and wasn't that slow a seller I suppose (I could be wrong on that score).

    Anyway, thanks again!

  32. Marsi,

    this is a stupendously delicious story, thanks so much for bring it on here. I was reading and reading and smiling. What a ballet of flirting!

    It's perhaps sad that the supply of the fragrances had to dwindle to follow your fortunate recovery from the injuries. But at least it created such an enjoyable anecdote to recount among perfumephiles. :-)

  33. Jolene,

    Me personally, I seem to have the curse. Almost EVERYTHING I really like gets discontinued, not only in perfume, but in skincare (argh) and makeup too!!! I don't know why. Either my taste is atrocious and the market is telling me so in not so subtle ways, or else I have very peculiar needs which aren't shared with many others, well, not enough to keep the product afloat at any rate.

    I seem to recall (don't remember my source) that DdV would be re-issued at some point? Don't take me too seriously and do grab that bottle at TJMax when you see it (wish we had something similar here), but just keep that in mind for the future. ;-)

  34. Parfumista,

    yeah, you have an excellent point there!

    The new owners at AG are doing everything they can to estrange the loyal clientele: changing what was beloved about the packaging, discontinuing some of the less "trendy" fragrances, chopping off anything that is too costly to keep producing (Tubereuse I'm looking at you!) and raising the bar on the "status"/prices.

    I do believe that the Parfum Cherie de Camille was a limited edition to begin with; I seem to recall seeing it as so at French sites back when it was launched. I haven't even tested it (the reason being that it was LE and I knew it would be a hassle to replenish if I liked it) but I understand that it was more geared at perfumistas who wanted heavy stuff than the average Goutal customer. Glad you have secured your own extra bottle!

    And thanks for voicing your concerns here. :-)

  35. Perfumista,

    the Nicolai site and packaging was in dire need of a redesign for some time, so I'm not too worried.
    The axing of anything is mostly due to ingredients' concerns (Sacrebleu vs Sacrebleu Intense which stays), so it's more hopeful than with AG.
    Interesting about the Cologne Friction; it wasn't that old to begin with, so it's a bit jarring to see it go. I do love Cologne Sologne myself, it's such a perfect summer cologne.
    Nota bene that Mugler's Cologne is also discontinued though -to the best of my knowledge, though there is stock left floating around on sites/stores (so grab, grab, grab, this is a great one!)

  36. LRyan,

    thanks for commenting.

    Ah, each commenter stabs the knife a bit harder and deeper. :-) SO MANY things are axed. I can't bring myself to digest it all.

  37. Anon,

    thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

    Yeah, I had devoted an article to the new packaging meaning a rethinking of the whole approach, though the raising prices is surely a very "me too" move on their part; everyone is just copying everyone else's business positioning reflected in the price and this only leaves us consumers with much higher priced fragrances to pay for! (I say, let's vote with our wallets)

  38. [sarcasm]

    And may I add that raising prices outside France and keeping them lower in France is a VERY stupid move. Unless they're also working for the French Ministry of Tourism.


  39. Anonymous22:56

    Elysium - yes... and Paul Smith - the original fragrance in the beautiful red bottle... 😯


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