For those … everybody who hasn’t read Episode 1 of my Déjà vu [supposed to be] series, I want to explain that the idea is to feature those perfumes that to my nose are very close smell-alike. Not just a feeling or an association, not just the same genre or several recognizable notes but really close scent resemblance.
What is a perfect starter house for a young perfumista? I’m not talking about a real estate to store all 3 bottles in the collection. A perfume house. If you ask me now, I’ll say L’Artisan, Hermess (Hermessance) or Chanel (Exclusifs). But I didn’t know it when I started my journey so the first niche brand that I tested intentionally on the onset of my hobby was … none of these. I placed my first ever samples order: seven 1 ml vials from the same brand.
The second perfume from the line that I tried was one of the most expensive perfumes I’d ever tried at the time. I read many great reviews and mentions of the house itself and of this perfume in particular. I was expecting a miracle. And it was a miracle… in a way. In a couple of minutes of wearing it, with astonishment, I realized that to my nose that perfume smelled A LOT like another perfume I knew and liked. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t at home so for several hours I kept smelling my wrist and thinking if it was possible. As soon as I could I applied my perfume to another wrist. My first impression: it wasn’t the same perfume but they smelled very similar. And I liked my perfume more.
I checked available information. Sure, there were some notes in common but it didn’t mean much. I needed somebody else to acknowledge and confirm my discovery. I ran multiple searches and couldn’t find any other mentioning of this similarity. I even tried to contact one of the bloggers who I noticed was familiar with my perfume and wore it but I’ve never heard back from her. When I asked my friend lyu what the perfume I tested reminded her of (if anything) she told me without thinking: “my perfume name>!” But I wanted more.
Almost a year later I asked several blogo-friends to participate in a blind testing and contribute their thoughts for this post. I sent each of them two vials. I needed to distinguish them but I was afraid that using numbers or letters would somehow reveal my attitude towards those perfumes or will suggest my preferences. So I wrapped vials with electrical tape – blue and yellow. Here are their thoughts. Keep in mind that these are fragments of e-mail exchanges and not finished reviews. I did some minimal editing trying not to introduce too many errors from me as I was selecting paragraphs to publish here. Emphases (bold, italic and color) mine.
Vanessa of Bonkers about Perfume:
I have tried Yellow and Blue about four times now, and have more or less used the samples up, so I thought I should jot down my impressions while I have got them on again and they are relatively fresh on my skin and in my mind!
Firstly, I don’t think they are the same, but I think there are very similar all the same – a bit like the same perfume but with different facets accentuated in one vs. the other:
Both have a powdery (aldehydic?) retro feel, both are florals with a hint of green in them.
Blue has a smoother quality, is a little more green and less aldehydic. It reminds me a bit of Antonia, but is more powdery and not as vanilla-y or ambery, so it never entered my head that it could BE that. But the greenness reminds me somewhat of Antonia out of the few perfumes I know that are anything like these two samples.
Yellow, on account of its greater powderiness, reminds me of Chamade, though Chamade is sweeter and fruitier, and somehow a bit more approachable. Yellow feels very old school, which is why – when I read the reviews and notes of the new SSS Nostalgie – I instantly wondered if it could be that though I haven’t smelt it.
And then the fact that you showed Climat to Natalie at your recent meeting made me think that maybe it [Yellow] could be that (having googled the notes), however on reflection neither of these scents are remotely animalic, whereas Climat has civet. I like to think I have good radar for civet, but who knows?! And Climat sounds like it might be a richer scent overall, based on the base, so possibly not such a good contender (plus I have never smelt it either!) All of which goes to show how suggestible and easily led I can be by something topical, or which looks like it might count as “circumstantial evidence”. : – )
The other perfume that Yellow and Blue both remind me of, Blue slightly more so, is Niki Saint Phalle.
What I learn from eyeballing all these note lists (Vanessa has included those for all the perfumes listed above but I’ve decided to omit them – Undina) is that the perfumes I think Yellow and Blue smell like, as well as being retro in style, and prickly aldehydic florals (in varying degrees), and green (in varying degrees), they all have LOTS OF NOTES, i.e. they are “busy” perfumes, quite big productions, as used to be the fashion. These are not contemporary scents, of that I am fairly sure, unless it is a new launch inspired by an earlier era like a Miriam or Nostalgie, but not those (and I haven’t smelt Miriam either!).
Am at the far drydown stage now, some 7 hrs after application, and the two are not as similar at this point as I thought from previous trials. It could be that my nose cross contaminated the two sites by transferring traces of one perfume to the other hand or it may just be that I am more familiar with them now and hence able to spot differences more easily.
They are both smoother by far now, but Yellow remains markedly more powdery/aldehydic even at this late stage. Blue did get even closer to Antonia as it wore on but I still don’t think it is that, as it lacks the rich ambery vanilla warmth. The smooth green facet is very like it though.
It struck me […] that the more I tried them, the more distinct they became. Yellow was more powdery and Blue more green – what confused me was the fact that they both felt from the same time, so that in itself was a point of similarity. And as it is not a category of scent I am very familiar with, it is perhaps all the easier to lump things together. Like young people’s “old lady”.
Suzanne of Eiderdown Press
Both of these smell like one of my very favorite categories of fragrance: rich, aldehydic-floral perfume with a complex bouquet, done in the classic French style.
I opened the blue vial first and my first thought was, this smells like Amouage Gold pour Femme. Then I opened the yellow vial and things got very difficult because, though there is a difference between the two perfumes, they so smell very, very similar.
After much sniffing, I still think that the blue vial resembles Amouage Gold most closely. It smells a bit brighter in its florals than does the perfume in the yellow vial. I feel like I can smell the silvery lift of lily-of-the-valley in the blue vial perfume. Not that it smells like a lily-of-the-valley perfume (not at all), but it smells “higher in octave” than the perfume in the yellow vial. It has a little more lift, while the perfume in the yellow vial smells somewhat deeper to my nose.
To me, the yellow vial smells like it has more of a Chanel base when it dries down: I smell more of that warm jasmine that reminds me of a Chanel perfume (though I’m not necessarily saying this is a Chanel perfume). A little more musk, too. This perfume has a slightly more animalic drydown than the perfume in the blue vial. It reminds me of vintage Chanel No. 5 in its drydown, but its top notes don’t smell quite the same as Chanel No. 5.
(a day later)
I kept thinking about the drydown on the perfume in the yellow vial: there is a urinous tinge to that drydown that I find rather appealing (sexy, even though it doesn’t sound sexy) that reminds me of vintage perfumes. And I tried to think of other notes, besides jasmine, civet and musk, that can have an animalic tinge to them — and I thought of narcissus. I don’t know if narcissus used as a perfume note smells urinous, but if you’ve ever smelled narcissus flowers — the ones they call paperwhites — they smell urinous.
Quite some time ago, JoanElaine had sent me a fragrance package that included a small dab vial of Lancome Climat edt. And I remembered that when I originally tested it, it reminded me of Amouage Gold, but the dry down was more animalic (on the urinous side, rather than on the indolic side) and I remember it had narcissus in the base. So today I dabbed some on my skin and then dumped the remaining drops on a perfume blotter. On skin, I couldn’t come to any solid conclusions, but on paper — oh my goodness! The scent really matched up with what you sent me in that yellow vial.
My final assessment — I think the blue vial smells like Amouage Gold. I think the yellow vial smells like Lancome Climat. And I think both of them smell very much like one another.
Natalie of Another Perfume Blog:
I’m pretty sure the blue vial is Climat. I find it fuzzy, warm, like someone took the idea of Ivory soap and transformed it into a very luxurious-smelling perfume. At the very beginning, there is an animalic touch, but it is slight and does not last very long. On my skin, the whole life of the fragrance is peachy, warm, and golden. I can smell the florals (mostly jasmine and I think lily of the valley), but they are not “white floral diva” to me, because of the powderiness of the fragrance as a whole. The drydown is even more “golden” and I can smell a bit of the sandalwood, but it remains very peachy and powdery.
The yellow vial I don’t recognize. At times it smells very similar to Climat (or the blue vial, I should say) to me, so maybe it is another formulation or concentration of Climat? I suppose it could be, but really I don’t think it is. Although it has similar notes, it actually smells to me as if someone took the blue vial and said “Let’s do this perfume, but focus it on the animalic notes rather than the powdery peachy notes.” This one to me has an almost metallic musk that I find rather unpleasant, and I feel the civet is very prominent. It’s a bit too much for me at the beginning. As it dries down, it gets a lot prettier and more similar to the blue one, but I think I smell more iris in the drydown of this one. Once when I wore it, it almost reminded me of No. 19, but I haven’t ever experienced No. 19 having that metallic-animalic-civet thing going on. Maybe I would have liked this better if I had not always had the Climat/blue vial on the other wrist. :) But I would have to get through the first hour for sure!
I won’t keep you wondering any longer. Let’s see what perfumes Vanessa, Natalie and Suzanne tested.
Blue Vial contained Climat by Lancome (my first perfume love) – created in 1967 by Gerard Goupy, notes include violet, peach, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, bergamot, rose, narcissus, aldehydes, rosemary, tuberose, sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, musk, civet, bamboo and vetiver.
Yellow Vial contained Amouage Gold – created in 1983 by Guy Robert, notes include rose, lily of the valley, frankincense, myrrh, iris root, jasmine, ambergris, civet, musk, cedarwood and sandalwood.
I thought it was hilarious: Suzanne has identified both perfumes but switched them.
By now I’ve worn both of these perfumes on many occasions, I’ve tested them separately and in parallel again and again. I think that I can tell them apart, at least on some stages. But, in my opinion, they are so similar that could have been, as Vanessa pointed out, “same perfume but with different facets accentuated”.
Please give a link to your blog’s post(s) if you reviewed any of these perfumes.
If you’d like to be entered into the draw for two color-coded vials (red and green?) of these perfumes to do your own comparison, please mention it in your comment.
Images: my own.