Unsniffed purchses: triumphs and tragedies

Chatting on BOTO the other day, dee and and I were discussing our unsniffed purchases. In a follow up post, dee asked:

Have you ever read a review so tantalizing, so tangible that it seemed like you could smell the fragrance wafting off your screen as you read?

I have. Lists of notes don’t necessarily communicate much but what enraptures me is the idea of the fragrance as it is conjured up by the metaphors, the allusions, and the historical and cultural references selected by the writer. Angela on NST is the most talented perfume writer around at the moment (I think). After reading her review of Chanel’s Coco I was back at the department store like greased lightning to test that fragrance again, for I had dismissed it at first. Now it is one of my great, great loves.

Angela’s review of Guerlain’s Chamade by-passed my brain and zapped straight to my fingers, so that within a very short time I had clicked my way into ownership of some vintage EDT. I had no chance to smell it in the shops here because Chamade is quite hard to find in Australia. And it was a triumph. I instantly loved and still love Chamade’s outrageously strange blackcurranty mix of sweet and sharp. The seller (on eBay) told me she received it years ago as a gift but had never really liked it. She had contacted Guerlain quoting the number on the bottom of the bottle and was told that it would have been manufactured in 1993. So that’s nice to know. And it was not expensive; other Guerlain lovers must have gone fishing that day. I can never make up my mind if I like the bottle, pictured here. Chic or ugly? Not sure. It does have a 1960s line about it, I suppose.

Next came tragedy. Emeraude. I had read about it so often. It seemed to me from a review by Mals on her Muse in Wooden Shoes blog that the Emeraude I bought, in the rectangular curvy bottle, was the vintage she had loved as a young girl. It is a fragrance the defines feminine sophistication, an oriental that pre-dates Shalimar, worn and adored by generations of women. Including my former mother-in-law, I instantly realised. I thought the scent she wore was an accumulation of hairspray, lipstick, face powder and so on. Which is okay if it IS hairspray, lipstick, face powder and so on. But not as a fine fragrance, and an historic icon to boot.

Then, about a month ago, I noticed some Norell going cheap on eBay. I’d read the most delightful and intriguing review again by Angela. True vintage Norell sounded to die for. I wanted to be a Norell woman. Well, readers familiar with the Norell story can predict what happened next. It turned out to be horrible, horrible. Look, I thought I was going okay: it is a purse spray that comes with a little vinyl pouch to protect it while it’s in your purse. Classy, I thought. Surely once it was down-formulated and ended up at the five-and-dime, the company that owned Norell would not bother with niceties like this. Well, I don’t know what vintage I’ve got. It may be pre-1999 (the year Norell was sold by Revlon to Five Star Fragrances). But although I find the ‘waft’ almost pleasant, the scent on my skin is a mixture of rotting fruit and insect repellant. I should have paid more attention to Angela, who was disappointed with her Norell too.

Part of my problem is that I love vintage fragrances, and there are so many traps there even if you do your research, as I thought I had. Still, I never risk large amounts of money, and risk is fun. What’s life if you never take a chance? I love pulling into my driveway at the end of a long day, wondering if the postman will have brought that lovely package that I have been dreaming about. My latest dream is of Patou’s Colony (read this wonderful review on Yesterday’s Perfumes and I challenge you not to be intrigued, even if pineapple in a perfume is not for you). I have ordered a tiny sample from The Perfumed Court and I know what I will be getting – the 1984 re-formulation. I’m playing it safe this time.

Now, having sprayed myself while writing this with Emeraude and Norell, I’m away to the shower to remove Eau de Disappointment.

7 thoughts on “Unsniffed purchses: triumphs and tragedies

  1. Anne-Marie, that Chamade review by Angela had me in an uproar for what seemed like an eternity! Fortunately, a kind soul took pity on me and sent me samples—I almost bought a bottle un-sniffed! While I like it very much, I haven’t made much headway through the 4mL in my cabinet… close one! 🙂

    I too, almost fell into the Emeraude trap, but I was saved by one of my evil-scent twins!! LOL, I still haven’t smelled it, but after reading this, I’m no longer tempted 😉

  2. Lots of people love Eneraude, so don’t write it off. Maybe I got a dud vintage, or maybe it just does not work for me whatever the vintage. Chamade is certainly a risky purchase unsniffed, especially as the eBay prices tend to be high.

    Hidden treasures going cheap! That’s what we all want. So the quest goes on.

  3. Thanks for the email, Anne –

    Ehh. You love what you love, you don’t love what you don’t love. It’s certainly possibly you got a dud bottle of Emeraude, particularly if you did get the edc in the bottle pictured. They’ve been using that bottle since the early 80s, I think, with continued formula degradation. (boo, hiss) I have a mini of, looks like, 50s edt, and it’s gone off; I have a mini parfum from the 70s, and it’s dreadful. The version that seems to have been consistently in good shape is the pdt.

    I’ve been avoiding Norell on my vintage jaunts through ebay. But I have a bottle of Chamade edt that looks similar to yours; the topnotes are reminiscent of nail polish, but after half an hour it’s gorgeous. (My verdict on the bottle? Ugly.)

    I’m going to have another go at my post office on sending you stuff…

    1. Hi Mals, yes, mine is the the EDC in that curvy bottle. It’s a pity, because I really do like the bottle shape. Can’t remember seeing anything quite like it, not that I’m a bottle collector by any means. Thanks fro dropping by.


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