Dreaded D-word and Back-up Bottles

Discontinuation is a horrifying word for many of us. More than once I caught myself feeling sad when I heard the news about perfumes being disconnected – sometimes even if those weren’t perfumes I loved or wore.

A while ago in the post on this topic Blacknall wrote:

Anyone who loves perfume tends to complain about the arbitrary way in which one scent after another can bite the dust, but we have to remember after all these are businesses, not revolving exhibitions. Either perfumers manage to stay current with public tastes and fashions or they don’t, and when they don’t, sales decline.

Even though I agreed with her in principle, something bothered me – so I kept thinking.

While discontinuation might be a necessary evil, a conspiracy theorist in me has a lot of doubts. Are those perfumes that get discontinued really worst sellers? Or, with everything else being equal, do companies put on the chopping block something that is more expensive to produce – be that due to costs of raw materials, bottle production, packaging or any other components that affect the bottom line? And isn’t it a negative reinforcement: companies train customers to like simpler perfumes that are cheap(er) to produce, put much more into promoting those – and as a result get lower sales for better perfumes and then discontinue them?

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I’m not even sure that reasons are the same for different companies in the same market. But I’m wondering if it is really in companies’ best interest to silently kill off the scent that didn’t meet whatever criteria are required for staying on the show for the next season. Is there really any downside to letting loyal fans know that the discontinuation is coming, which would allow them to stock up on their favorites? (And if we’re talking about the U.S., those would be acquired at full price since perfumes never go on sale in big department stores here.)

Whatever the truth is, I don’t expect to learn it from any of LVMH or Estee Lauder‘s companies. And since the reasons would be different for those brands, for which economies of scale do not apply, there’s not much sense in asking them either. So I’ll have to keep wondering until somebody publishes an all-revealing memoir.

When I recently heard of three of the perfumes I like being discontinued – Diptyque Volutes, Bvlgari Black and Tom Ford Fleur de Chine, – I realized that I wasn’t ready to buy a second bottle of any of them. Eau de Tommy Sooni II has disappeared with the brand, but even if I could find a bottle now, I’m not sure I would buy it. I might regret it one day but for now it feels like I have enough of them, taking into the account SABLE (Stash Above & Beyond Life Expectancy – Vanessa ©) state of my collection. I thought about it more and realized that Ormonde Jayne Ta’if is the only one, about which with a 100% certainty I can say that I’d buy a back-up bottle (or two) in a heartbeat at the first mentioning of the D-word.

Ormonde Jayne Ta'if

Look at your collection. Disregard decants, samples and “to buy” lists and concentrate only on full bottle of perfumes that are still in production. Now imagine that you learn that those all are being discontinued (not all at once: that would be too cruel even for a hypothetical question). Are there any perfumes for which you would buy a back-up bottle?

Images: my own

55 thoughts on “Dreaded D-word and Back-up Bottles

  1. Oh Yes! All of my Prada bottles would become back-ups. I’m through my 2nd bottle of Amber Pour Homme and will certainly buy it again. And I will stash it for my lifespan if it gets discontinued. I think I could live without other perfumes (of course I would miss some) but life without Prada would not be the same ;)

    • I hope they think twice before discontinuing this one – or they’ll have one really unhappy fan with a blog! ;)
      In addition to Ta’if I don’t imagine my life without Climat but since this one is already discontinued and I’ve stocked up on multiple back-up bottles of different formulations, with these two I’d feel much better even if everything else goes away.

  2. I only have one backup bottle…Roja Parfum’s Creation-R (Risque)…just in case it ever goes away. I have others that I am thinking about, but I keep pulling myself back to reality to not go down that rabbit hole. Oh…I just realized that I have a backup of vintage Caron Nuit d’ Noel. See, I can’t even keep track of my own collection!

    • Those that you have already do not count! With these you’ve already proved that you don’t want to be without them. The question was about those, to which you have previously committed once.
      I should re-test Caron Nuit d’Noel: I’m always get curious about perfumes that others love that much.

  3. That quote does make me sound heartless, though thank you, and I hereby confess that I just bought a large back up bottle of Le Temps d’un Fete, and looking at my collection, would also buy Bois d’Armenie and Vanille Tonka in a heartbeat if they were chopped. I too have the SABLE concept!

    • I actually really liked your post and more than once I defended that aspect of perfumes discontinuation. And I like when something that my friends wrote provokes me to think – so thank you.

  4. I can think of a few that I would definitely buy backups for! Olympic Orchids Tropic of Capricorn is one, it was a life changing perfume for me. It solidified my perfume aesthetic, made me realize what I was really looking for and wearing it is still an almost spiritual experience. I would also buy a backup of Xerjoff Mamluk if it was ever threatened. It’s both opulent and supremely elegant and I can’t say that about any other scent in my wardrobe.

    And any discontinuation of a Slumberhouse will always warrant a swift purchase if I don’t have it yet, or a backup if I have it and love it. I also always keep my eyes open for older Slumberhouse bottles. Some of my favorites are already discontinued or they were LEs to begin with and I’d buy a reasonably priced backup of any of them in a heartbeat. And even the ones that are not DCd were just better (more intense) before, so I’ll hoard older bottles if I get the opportunity.

    • I’m really bothered by limited editions: I think that it’s warranted to do a limited edition bottle – the way Hermes does some of their perfumes, but a limited edition perfume seems really wrong: perfume is a very intimate substance, it’s not a blouse or even a shade of nail polish. What if I buy that LE edition and really love it? So now I’m being punished for being a fan and a supporter of the brand?!!

  5. I believe I’m a member at the SABLE club too, and recently I’ve become more aware of that both with regards to new buys and back ups which seem to be less of a concern these days.
    I believe I’d be unhappy with the amount left of De Profundis and stock up, and I do feel the need to soon find an extra bottle of older Vol de Nuit edt, not that I don’t have quite a lot of different versions of this one, but I use the edt the most, and this is one I never ever want to run out of.

    • I think I should go ahead and buy Vol de Nuit extrait before it’s reformulated beyond the recognition… or am I late already?
      Heaving read your “I’d be unhappy with the amount left of De Profundis ” I realized that the reason some of my favorites didn’t make it to the “definitely buy a back-up” list is because I’ve bought those perfumes relatively recently and still have 60-90% left in the bottles, so hypothetical scare of discontinuation isn’t enough for me to feel the pain. But I still can’t guarantee that I would not hit that ORDER button if I actually learn about them being discontinued.

      • I know exactly what you mean. By 30ml I start feeling scared by perfume LOVES, if I know there’s a chance the perfume in question might get reformulation

        • Aaargh! PC is being repaired, and replying with iPad is driving me nuts…
          So might get reformulated or DCed it was supposed to finish.
          As for VdN reformulation. I think the older the version the greener it gets, while the newer extraits feel more orris powdery. I think it’s partly due to maceration. So it’s really a case of what one prefers. Test the new ones would be my advice. I personally like them all :-)

          • Well, I did prefer the “new” one – but it was as of a couple years ago, so now nobody knows what I find in the bottle when I try it again. But I will and report back :)

  6. I’ve been thinking about this on and off since this morning, say about 12 hours, and I can’t honestly think any FB I have and still in production that I need to have a backup. The one came close was Violet Blonde. When I heard this might have been discontinued, I thought about buying a bottle but it was only a thought. Maybe I haven’t found “the one” yet. ;)

  7. I think if perfume companies didn’t change to cheaper formulas then sales of those perfumes often wouldn’t go down. Most people are very loyal to their scent but if it changes they are unlikely to repurchase.
    I am in the throw of Marie Kondo-ing my home so I would try not to buy any back-up bottles. However I would have to purchase a back-up of Passage d’Enfer if it was being discontinued because I think I’d struggle to find another incense I loved as much and I rely on it when I need calming.
    Like Asali,, I’m running low on old Vol de Nuit edt but am resisting looking for another bottle so far.

    • I’m ashamed to admit but I don’t think I’ve ever tried Passage d’Enfer… I should rectify that ASAP!
      I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s book (or ever plan to do that) but if it works for you, I’m glad. My objection to this type of a self-help books? I think it’s extremely sexist: I can’t imagine a professional man worrying about that stuff or looking for comfort in changing his life this way.
      But I do try to declutter my perfume hobby by sticking to the smallest possible samples for testing: since I realized that I wasn’t able to let go even those samples that I tried and disliked, I decided to try and do the testing on 1-2 ml samples. This way I do not waste too much of perfume (especially if it’s coming from a friend who likes that perfume). If I like it, I’ll go for a bigger decant or a bottle soon, if no – I’ll feel better just hoarding that small sample in the “library” until it dies there.

  8. Hello Undina! The only one would be Miller Harris L’air de Rien. Well, maybe L’Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons, too. YSL has already screwed up Opium and I am hoarding my last semi-decent bottle but I really should wear it due to other bottles going bad in my collection.

    • Hi Carol!
      I was actually thinking about your recent post about decants/bottles that went off – and that was one more reason why I wouldn’t want to duplicate all of my favorites: if I have a back-up bottle and it goes off, I will be probably even more upset than if I don’t have it any more.

  9. Discontinued is a dirty word!

    I already have back ups of Bvlgari Black (2), L’AP Tea for Two, L’AP Safran Troublant and Atelier Cologne Sous le toit de Paris. Others that I would rush out to buy back-ups if discontinued include:
    – Guerlain Cuir Beluga
    – Chanel No. 19 EDP
    – Chanel Coromandel
    – Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist
    – Serge Lutens Chergui
    – Puredistance Opardu

    Now I wonder if I have basically just come up with my desert island fragrances or what I would rescue if some kind of event were to happen that would necessitate such a drastic culling of my collection?

    • :))
      It’s a good list, I like it. The only bottle from your list I have is Chergui (a partial one) so I don’t know how I’d feel about the rest… No 19 (but EdT) might be on my “buy a back-up” list but with Chanel being so ubiquitous, I’d have a feeling that I could always find something on eBay…

  10. It’s Ta’if for me too! No suprises there. Am also loving the sample of Fleur de Chine you gave me, so had I owned a bottle, that could have been a late contender. I did buy a back up bottle of Cuir de Lancome, and am glad about that. Very sorry to hear about Volutes and Black going, but will probably not run out of either any time soon.

    I think you raise a very good point about consumers becoming ‘trained’ to like simpler, samey perfumes with a lower cost base, as a result of which the periodic culling of less mainstream scents that are more expensive to produce becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

    • All these talks about Ta’if discontinuation are making me nervous! :) Now I started thinking if I should do a preemptive strike and just buy a back-up bottle…

      In the light of these thoughts it’s even scarier that big corporations keep buying niche brands…

  11. I recently bought half a bottle of the long discontinued Burberry Brit Gold on Ebay, because I really like it and my bottle will be empty next winter.
    I also have a backup of Slava Zaitsev’s Nikita, but both my bottles were only 15ml, so that is not an insane amount of perfume.
    I would definitly try to get a backup of SL A la Nuit, Chergui and La fille de Berlin if they were discontinued and am thinking of getting another bottle of Korres Tonka Purple, as long as I can still find it. First three: Because they are my “standard perfume wardrobe”. Last one: Because I wore it much more than I thought I would and went through almost half a bottle in one winter – which is a sign of me really liking it. For all the other perfumes: I like them, but there are many others I want to try.

    • I have just a mini bottle of La fille de Berlin and I had some reservations about this perfume (not related to the scent itself) but if it ever gets discontinued, I might reconsider buying a FB of it.
      And I understand what you mean when you say “there are many others I want to try”: with many perfumes that I like and wear but do not love my thinking is “why to buy a back-up and risk it going off if there will be other interesting perfumes?” But those that are love… Those I want to have in my life as long as possible.

  12. Hi Undina, I’ve thinking about your question since reading your post a couple of days ago. The difficulty I have with answering is that I am beginning to see how much mood, season, stress levels, general health, budget (!) etc etc influence my feelings about my fragrances and my decisions to buy or not…I know this is true for anything I think about, serious matters or pleasurable ones like perfume, and will almost always think again, or think some more. The time factor is in a way the sanity test. If I love a scent in the same way or more for a few years, it requires back up. Catch 22: will it still exist in a few years time? Inevitable side effect: being without the perfume I will have by then a long time loving relationship with or having a back up bottle (or several) that I will never use because it was an infatuation after all. I haven’t fallen down the rabbithole very long, two years or so, and is there a perfume I know and love this long? Possibly Heure Exquise, which I have a backup for. But my taste is still fluctuating, a few months ago I was in a real iris phase (which I thought would last), and I still like iris a lot, but since Ostara (I have a back up for that as it is discontinued) I am mostly attracted to what I call yellow flowers. Amouage Journey is possibly my current favourite, and I would buy a back up in a heartbeat (at the moment that is). My love for sandalwood and spices is ongoing, but would I buy a back up for Trayee…? Today not in a heartbeat. But possibly tomorrow…

    • Hmm… Probably I need a back-up bottle for Heure Exquise, if I can still find the older bottle (I don’t know if it has been changed much recently but I just do not trust those new bottles).
      Tastes change, that’s true. But some perfumes just stay with us… If only we could predict which ones and do it in time to get that vital back-up bottle.
      You scared me with Ostara for a minute: I’m still thinking if I want a bottle. But I checked: it’s sill on the brand’s site.

  13. The only backup I have is MPG’s George Sand. But the scents are different (one seems to have more citrus on top), so I am off the whole backup plan.

    Whatever happened to the Tommi Sooni house? The line can’t be found anywhere. Such a shame as some of their scents were gorgeous.

  14. Well, although I have a really small collection, there are 2 bottles that I currently have BUBs for – California Reverie and Douce Amere (export bottle, not bell jar!). In the event of discontinuation I don’t think I’d double double up on CR, but I may on Douce Amere!

  15. Hey Undina,
    All the ones I worry about have BUs already.
    I do get extra vintage whenever I see it for a good price though, just in case.
    One thing I am definitely springing for a BU of this season is not fragrance as such but fragrant oil: Shea Fabulous Oil by L’Occitane. Madly in love with it right now.
    Portia xx

  16. If I heard Byredo 1996 was being discontinued I’d buy a BUB immediately. I might say the same about Misia, too, but I haven’t had a lot of time to live with it yet. I’ve got a backup bottle of Calandre.
    Volutes is being discontinued?!? It just came out. I just discovered it! Good grief.

  17. I would back up all versions of No. 19, except the Poudre. Other choices would be Amouage Lyric, SL Boxeuses, Ormande Woman, Perfumes Delrae Wit, and Hermes Eau des Merveilles. I already have backups of LaP Seville a L’Aube, Cuir de Lancome, and Bond No. 9 Chinatown. Also bought a decant of Volutes EdT to back up my current decant!

    • I was thinking about No 19, but it’s one of those perfumes that is so widely available on the secondary market that I kind of thought that I would be able to buy it even if it gets discontinued. But I’d rather it didn’t :)

  18. No back up bottles for me. I find that my taste in perfume changes over time and I am always open to falling in love with something new :)

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