Thinking outside the Box

Several years ago I read a post on Olfactarama blog about bottles collectors*. The following paragraph made me thinking:

Even as a young girl I hoped to someday have a vanity, on which there would be a mirrored tray, full of fine perfumes in their beautiful bottles. The bottles atop my cabinet now — Agent Provacateur comes to mind, in its pink ceramic egg crowned by a plain metal spray nozzle — aren’t the most appealing ones. Those are stashed safely in the dark interior.

As I was reading that passage, I realized that from an early age my idea of storing perfumes was somewhere in the dark – a cupboard, a dresser or a cabinet. A mirrored tray hadn’t been a part of our culture: usually there was not enough space in the bedroom to have that tray and nothing to put on it. Since perfumes were rare and expensive women tended to store them in the original packaging. Opening a box, getting a bottle out and sparingly applying a perfume – all these were parts of a ritual.

After moving to the U.S., for years, while coming across perfume bottles in my friends’ bathrooms and on their dressers, I would wince. I never offered any unsolicited advice but it felt like a sacrilege to leave unprotected perfume out in the open. But over time I came up with a rationale why it was an acceptable MO: with those 2-3 bottles that my friends owned they were much more likely to run out of perfume than have perfume running out on them (through evaporation or turning bad).

While I think it is fine for “civilians” to store and use their perfumes as they pleased – be it even on a windowsill or in a glove compartment – I still get distressed every time somebody demonstrates pictures of their poorly protected collections in perfume-related FB groups. I do not comment but I feel bad about those bottles. And I do not buy partial bottles without a box any more.

My Perfume Storage

The picture above shows how my collection is stored. In the walk-in closet, away from direct light, covered by a curtain from a blackout fabric (the cat-Christmas-themed towel on top is for decorative purposes only) and in their original boxes. And, as I recently commented on Vanessa’s post on a similar topic (Through the keyhole…a peek at some of my friends’ perfume collections…), in summer for those couple of days when it gets especially hot I turn AC on during the day to keep my perfumes safe. It’s interesting because Rusty doesn’t mind hot weather and it’s much cooler in the room where he spends most of his time while we’re away working.

After this substantial preamble I want to admit that for a while now I’ve been thinking how unfair it was that I get to see those beautiful bottles that I have in my collection so rarely and how great it would be to have some of them out on my dresser. After all, many of the bottles are beautiful and unusual – unlike most boxes, I must say.

As much as I would love to see my collection more often, there is no way I could put perfumes I love “in the harm’s way.” First I decided I would buy several perfumes just to use bottles. I didn’t want to spend too much on this project but I thought of a couple of brands that were perfect candidates: I liked the bottles and didn’t like those perfumes. First I bought Van Cleef & ArpelsFeerie EdT. Feerie EdP (a beautiful dark-blue bottle) was next on my list and I even found it for an extremely good price… It was too good to be true: the seller was confused and sent me the second bottle of EdT, which I returned. Then I was too busy to keep looking for it. The second brand I wanted to use for the purpose of displaying was Salvador Dali. But even though many of their perfumes are sold at discounters online, I don’t remember when I saw any of the bottles last so I was afraid that by now they might look really cheap. So I kept postponing the purchase hoping to come across them one day somewhere. And I had the same problem with a mirrored tray: while there were many online offerings, I just couldn’t buy any of them without actually looking at them: there are so many cheap-looking objects produced nowadays.

Perfume Bottles on my Dresser

In the end I decided – at least for now – to use what I already have:

  • Instead of a tray I put on my dresser a decorative plate “J’adore Parfum – I Love Perfume” that I got as a gift with purchase.
  • Mentioned above bottle of Feerie EdT
  • Two empty bottles: Annick Goutal‘s Petite Cherie (I used up this one but couldn’t throw it because I like these colored AG’s bottles) and Salvador Dali’s Laguna (20 years ago I got it from my friend after she finished it: I liked the bottle but not enough to splurge on the perfume)
  • Two partial bottles (perfume gone bad): Les Parfums de Rosine‘s Roseberry and Yves Rocher‘s Nature (it’s one of my old favorites so I have another bottle with good perfume but I like this leaf design and kept this bottle for no good reason – probably for this project
  • Vintage mini-bottle of Chamade by Guerlain that I bought at a thrift store (perfume is marginally usable but I prefer a modern version).

I like my arrangement. It looks nice on my dresser and I think for now I scratched that itch. But those Dali bottles and Feeri EdP…

Do you buy unboxed bottles? Do you have any bottles on display?

Images: my own

* I cannot give you a link to that post because there’s something funky going on with that blog, it has some strange redirect happening and I suspect malware.

Know-How: Making Perfumes Last Longer

Most of us own enough perfumes to last us if not for the rest of our lives but at least for a decade or so. We have supplies to make ourselves any number of decants and purses to carry those decants for perfume touch-ups during the day. But still again and again a question of how to prolong life of those fleeting substances is raised in blogs, perfume forums and magazines. Every time I hear about making anything last longer, I think of this Garfield cartoon:

Garfield June 30 1998

On a more serious note, one of the constantly repeated advices is the same one that is usually given for a general well-being and skin care, namely hydration/moisturizing.

Before you apply your perfume, make sure that your skin is super moisturized.

Fragrance lasts much longer on moisturized skin.

Applying fragrance-free moisturizer to your body is an excellent preparation for applying fragrance

If you have dry skin, moisturize it before applying your perfume (use a fragrance free moisturizer); it will help your scent last a lot longer.

Do these sound familiar? For many years for me it was a given, I never questioned the wisdom. Besides, I routinely apply body moisturizer after each shower so I never actually had a chance to check the supposition.

A couple of months ago in a post on Andrew Smells I read a passage that surprised me:

By applying moisturiser after applying your fragrance spray you significantly increase the longevity of the fragrance, in other words you smell good for longer.

I questioned the author if he just misspoke while describing an application order, but Andy replied: “No, that’s the order we were taught.” (and even gave me a link to an article with the same advice; you can look it up in his comment if you follow the link). “Maybe it doesn’t make much difference? Have you tried both orders?” he asked.

It got me curious and I conducted a series of experiments. Petite Cherie by Annick Goutal was a perfect candidate: I like it a lot but it doesn’t last on my skin for too long.

Annick Goutal Petite Cherie

I tried several different combinations (all after shower): 1) just perfume on bare skin; 2) an unscented body lotion and then perfume on top of it; 3) perfume directly on skin and then a layer of an unscented body lotion; 4) a matching body lotion and then perfume on top of it; 5) perfume directly on skin and then a layer of a matching body lotion. Out of these five runs I got just two distinct results:

Perfume placed (#1) directly on bare washed skin, (#2) on top of an unscented body lotion or (#3) under an unscented body lotion stayed on my skin its usual 2 hours and then became a pleasant skin veil noticeable only if to press my nose into my wrist.

Perfume applied either (#4) on top of or (#5) under a matching body lotion, even though loosing projection within the same 2 hours (maybe 2.5), stayed as a well-recognizable skin scent probably twice longer than from perfume not layered with a matching lotion.

But the most important result was that I didn’t notice any improvement in longevity due to added moisturizer – be it on top of or under perfume. Of course, mine is just anecdotal evidence. That’s why I’m asking you:

Have you personally experienced a prolonged perfume life on your skin after applying a moisturizer?


Images: Garfield from the official site; perfume – my own.

In the Search for the Perfect Pear

In my childhood August a month before the school started and a month when an old pear tree in my grandparents’ garden was ready to share with us the best pears I’ve ever eaten in my life.

August Pear

I was too little to think of such things as variety so all I can remember now: it resembled Comice pear – green-yellow with an occasional red blush. The tree was tall, with a lot of branches. Low hanging fruits … were allowed to ripe on the tree. Whenever I felt like it I could go there and choose which one I wanted to eat. Pears that grew higher on the tree would be usually picked slightly immature and left to ripen in the summerhouse. My Grandfather had built it himself and I loved spending time in it – playing when I was younger or reading when I got older. A wonderful smell of dozens ripening pears accompanied me in those hot summer days when tired of running around in the sun I would resort to the shade of the summerhouse.

Unlike mimosa, linden or lilac – all scents which I always loved and wanted to wear as a perfume, I’ve never considered pear to be a wearable scent. I like eating them in the season, don’t miss them off-season and definitely don’t want to smell of them.

I like Petite Cherie by Annick Goutal – created in 1998, notes include pear, peach, musky rose, fresh-cut grass, vanilla. But I wore it for years before I learned it had a pear note. Even after that I thought I couldn’t smell a pear note. I tried to describe how Petite Cherie smelled and I couldn’t. I can’t come up with words to represent what I smell and the scent doesn’t remind me of anything else so I can’t even offer an association. I do not have any special memories connected to Petite Cherie, so probably I really just enjoy the scent. If you’ve tried it you know how it smells and if you haven’t – try because whatever description you’ll read will not give you the right picture of what to expect from this perfume. For years I thought of it as of a universal darling but recently I met a couple of people who, to my surprise, found this perfume to be unpleasant. I wore it again while working on this post and I still love it.

Deep Red by Hugo Boss – created in 2001 by Alain Astori and Beatrice Piquet, notes include black currant, pear, tangerine, blood orange, ginger leaves, freesia, hibiscus, sandalwood, Californian cedar, vanilla and musk ( This is one of my favorite perfumes from my pre-perfumista period of life. I know Perfumeland’s attitude towards that brand. I realize that it probably isn’t that great and stands out both in this post and in my current collection. And I do not care: I liked Deep Red for many years; I went through two bottles of it and still have some juice left in the third one; and I still enjoy wearing it.

English Pear & Freesia by Jo Malone – created in 2010 by Christine Nagel, notes include pear, freesia, rose, amber, patchouli and woods (from; other sources mention quince, rhubarb and white musk). Sweet, almost gourmand but not quite because of the strong floral component. It’s a bright and warm scent but at the same time it maintains transparency usual to Malone’s colognes. It doesn’t develop much on the skin (as most of other perfumes in this line) but if you like what you smell it’ll stay with you for hours. I got a small decant of English Pear & Freesia from a co-worker and I will buy a bottle once it’s gone.

La Belle Hélène by Parfums MDCI – created in 2010 by Bertrand Duchaufour, notes include pear accord, aldehydes, tangerine, lime blossom, rose essence, osmanthus absolute, ylang-ylang Madagascar, orris butter, hawthorn, Mirabelle plum, myrrh, vetiver Haiti, patchouli, cedar Virginia, amber, oak moss absolute, white musks, sandalwood, licorice wood (luckyscent). It’s a true gourmand scent, sweet but with some dirty note in the drydown. For me La Belle Hélène smells not like a pear fruit but like a pear tart (love those). It’s much more complex than English Pear & Freesia. I got my sample from a draw at Persolaise – A Perfumer’s Blog. I like how it smells and develops on my skin but I’m not sure if I want to wear it as a perfume. The price is also a stopping point. So when I’m done with the sample I won’t probably be seeking even a decant (read the review that inspired me to test this perfume again recently).

Mon Numéro 1 by L’Artisan Parfumeur – created in 2009 by Bertrand Duchaufour and re-launched in 2011 (though I can’t find it now on L’Artisan’s website), notes include pear, basil, bergamot, violet leaves, black currant buds, mimosa, osmanthus, magnolia flower, hay, musk, vanilla. I have a strange relationship with this perfume. I thought I would like it. I wanted to like it. It opens very nice and fresh on my skin but then in one out of three times it becomes too soapy – and not in a nice, clean way. It always dries down to a more pleasant and well-balanced scent but it doesn’t excite me, I do not feel compelled to wear it more. I’m very grateful to my perfume friends for the opportunity to try it (Suzanne shared with me some Mon Numéro 1 from Birgit’s sample) and want to assure them that it wasn’t a total waste: even though I do not like it as much as they did (read their reviews through the links above), Mon Numéro 1 helped me to learn what is called “pear” in perfumery. I do not recognize it as a pear scent but I smell it in all tested perfumes with that note listed in the description. So now I know. And I do not mind smelling like that “pear.”

Honey Pear Tea

What is your perfect pear?

Mine – Honey Pear by Golden Moon Tea.


Images: my own

WTD, Episode 1.6: Petite Cherie by Annick Goutal

Annick Goutal Petite CheriePetite Cherie – created in 1998, notes include pear, peach, musky rose, fresh cut grass, vanilla. I tried Petite Cherie soon after it was released and immediately liked it. After I went through my sample and realized that I still liked the perfume and wanted more, I bought a small bottle of EDT online. It was a mistake: on my skin most Annick Goutal’s EdTs stay for maybe 30 minutes (not that I have a much better results with EdPs but still). After that first bottle I bought another one (that time an EdP version), and then – another one… Petite Cherie is one of my all time favorites. It smells very pleasant on my skin. It’s not a perfume I would wear to a party or any other occasion where I want to make an entrance but it is beautiful, fresh and at the same time elegant enough not to be out of place on a tropical vacation or in a busy boardroom. For years I liked the perfume and didn’t know it had a pear note in it – I do not smell it. I know now that it’s there, but I still cannot smell it. I do not smell peach as well, which is maybe not bad if to think of how much I do not like Annick Goutal’s take on a peach in Le Mimosa.

To address perfume’s fleetingness I recently bought a matching body cream. It doesn’t help much. But now I enjoy both – the cream and the perfume.

Sillage: medium (3 out of 5); tenacity: poor (2 hours).

Image: my own

See all episodes:

Weeklong Test Drives, Season 1: Annick Goutal
WTD, Episode 1.1: Eau d’Hadrien by Annick Goutal
WTD, Episode 1.2: Grand Amor by Annick Goutal
WTD, Episode 1.3: Le Mimosa by Annick Goutal
WTD, Episode 1.4: Heure Exquise by Annick Goutal
WTD, Episode 1.5: Neroli by Annick Goutal
WTD, Episode 1.7: Songes by Annick Goutal