Entertaining Statistics: Desert Island Perfumes

From time to time one of my blogger friends covers a topic that prompts more than just a comment, however lengthy one might be tolerated (or even appreciated).

Making lists of desert island scents is a well-known and loved pastime of many perfumistas, so that alone could send me packing boxes writing my own list. But the methodical way Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) approached the project could not have left me indifferent.

Vanessa, a market researcher by trade, considered multiple approaches to coming up with her list. She described those approaches (I’ll be referring to those, so if you haven’t yet, you should read her post to learn the details about each); but then she discarded some of them because of the complexity or data unavailability. Since all of my perfumes and perfume usage are documented in the homegrown database, I thought that I could pull off calculating some of the aspects that she abandoned.

I started with “the burning building speed grab method” (or as I call it – “Grab ‘n’ Run”) and came up with 20 perfumes I would be happy to have on that island if I had to evacuate without much time for packing.

* * *

Then I moved to the “systematic review of ALL perfumes owned” but decided to limit it only by those perfumes, which I own as a full or travel bottle or a large decant. I went through the list choosing carefully, which perfumes to include into the final list. As it always happens to me with these lists, I take it very seriously – as if I will have to actually live with those decisions. It wasn’t easy: I like, wear and want to keep wearing many more than 20 perfumes I chose for my list. But if I really had to choose… So I did – and I’m sticking by that Brute-force Search List (a.k.a. “Don’t Ever Want to Be Without”) and using it as a base for all further comparisons.

First I compared two lists – the Grab ‘n’ Run and Brute-force Search Lists. Surprisingly, even after careful consideration my final list still has 18 perfumes from my spontaneous list. The two substitutions were a close call with the initially selected Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom and Guerlain Chamade (parfum).

* * *

Then I remembered that about five years ago I participated in a similar exercise on Birgit’s blog (Olfactoria’s Travels) and did one of my Entertaining Stats posts based on the results. So I was curious to see how my list of 10 desert island perfumes from that time fared against my recent list. Seven (7 of 10) from the 2012 Desert Island List are still on my current list, and I still enjoy wearing Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, Antonia’s Flowers Tiempe Passate and DSH Perfumes Vert pour Madame, even though they got voted off the island, so to speak.

* * *

My variation on Vanessa’s “travel bag ‘nuclear precedent’ method” was a Top 20/12 List: perfumes that I wore the most often in the last 365 days. Sixteen (16) perfumes from my Brute-force Search List were among perfumes I wore the most during the last 12 months. But I kept thinking: how about the last 6+ years that I write this blog? Since I didn’t own all of the perfumes featured on my current list 6 years ago, and they joined my collection at different time, it wouldn’t be either accurate or fair to do a straight-forward aggregation of the times I wore each of them. So I calculated a relative popularity: total number of occasions during the last 6 years when I wore each perfume from my list divided by the number of days from when I wore it for the first time until today. That’s how I got the Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves List. It includes 10 out of 20 perfumes from the etalon list.

The table below shows my Brute-force Search/Don’t Ever Want to be Without List (sorted alphabetically by brand) and how other lists compare to it.

Brute-force Search (A-Z)
Grab ‘n Run 2012 Desert Island Top 20/12 Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves
Amouage Lyric + +
Amouage Ubar + + + +
By Kilian Amber Oud + + +
Chanel №19 EDT + + + +
Dior Miss Dior +
Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess + +
Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady + + +
Giorgio Armani La Femme Bleue + + +
Guerlain Cruel Gardénia + + +
Jo Malone French Lime Blossom +
Jo Malone Sweet Milk + +
Krigler Lieber Gustav 14 + + +
Lancome Climat + + + +
Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour + + +
Mona di Orio Vanille Les Nombres d’Or + +
Ormonde Jayne Ta’if + + + +
Puredistance Antonia + + +
Tom Ford Fleur de Chine + + +
Tommi Sooni Eau de Tommi Sooni II
Yosh Ginger Ciao + +
Brute-force Search Grab ‘n Run 2012 Desert Island Top 20/12 Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves

* * *

Same as Vanessa, I didn’t even think that I needed to try and represent each of the main fragrance families in my least (I loved her joke on the topic!), but I inspected my existing list with “the fragrance family method” and discovered that the most common type was Oriental Floral (9), followed by Floral Green (3), Floral (2), Oriental Woody (2) and one of each – Floral Fruity, Oriental Vanilla, Chypre Floral and Woody Aromatic. Clearly, I like my florals.

* * *

“The scents for all seasons method” also inspired me to look at my list: 7 of 20 I can wear all year long; others came in different combinations of the seasons when I usually wear those perfumes, so it all boils down to 10 perfumes for the Winter rotation, 15 for Spring, 15 for Summer and 13 for Autumn.

* * *

Since I have special categories for my perfumes, I ran “the scents for all occasions method” test on my Brute-force Search List and confirmed that the two main categories – Office Wear and Special Occasion – were well covered: of the 20 I can wear 14 to the office and 12 to any dress-up party. I even have 2 in that list that I consider my Tropical Vacation perfumes.

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess and Shoes

I don’t think “the covering all my favourite notes method” would work as a selection method (and I’m not talking about choosing an unknown scent based on the pyramid) since having a note in the list doesn’t necessarily mean that I could smell that note in that perfume. But it was interesting to see if my favorite notes were well represented in the list. So I came up with what I think is a list of the notes, to which I’m partial in perfumes, and then checked it against perfumes on my Brute-force Search List.

Favorite notes: linden, amber, lavender, iris, black currant, rose, mimosa, lily of the valley, narcissus, galbanum, sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver.

Almost all (19) perfumes on the list had at least one of the notes mentioned, which isn’t a complete surprise since rose and sandalwood are very ubiquitous notes (I count each of these in 12 perfumes). Amber and vetiver were spotted in 8 perfumes, iris – in 5, galbanum – in 4, cedar, LOTV & Narcissus – in 3 each, and the remaining 4 notes were covered by 1 perfume. If to judge strictly by notes, Chanel No. 19 is the closest to my ideal: it has 8 of the 13 notes I deemed favorite. Lancôme Climat takes the second place with 6 notes. And the third one for 5 notes goes to Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour. And if you are curious as to which one perfume from my list didn’t have a single of my favorite notes – it’s Jo Malone Sweet Milk – go figure!

* * *

Even though I could relatively easy check “the ‘inclusive’ perfume house / perfumer approach,” I decided against it: it makes absolutely no sense to represent some abstract “known,” “famous,” or “established” perfume house in one’s personal preferences list; but to arrive at my personal list of favorite brands or perfumers I would have to use a list… of my favorite perfumes, which would just create a circular reference.

* * *

Whenever somebody on my Reading List rates perfume or even just expresses liking/disliking it, I pay attention. But I mostly do it just to figure out whose tastes are closer to mine to rely upon their future opinions to navigate the plenitude of future releases. So while I did look up ratings on Victoria’s (Bois de Jasmin) site, I did it only because it was one of Vanessa’s methods. I got 3 ***, 5 **** and 4 *****. No ratings for 8 of my favorites. And I don’t really care either way.

* * *

I think I wouldn’t be able to use “the scents I had happy times in method”: my all-time/long time favorites were with me through all possible times, so they are time-tested. With the newer additions to my wardrobe and my MO to wear a different perfume every day and rarely returning to the same one more often than once a month, it’s almost impossible to build that association between any particular perfume and the level of [un]happiness. Which is probably for the best: I can classify all of my favorites as my “happy times” perfumes.

Happy Times

* * *

The final approach – The Field Test – is my own method, which I plan to run in April. I intend to wear each of the perfumes on my Don’t Ever Want to Be Without List and see if “in practice” I feel about them the same I felt “in theory” while working on the list.

If you’d like to join me, do your own list (of 10 – 15 – 20 – your choice) your most favorite perfumes and wear each one them at least once before the end on April – and we’ll compare notes in May.

Images: my own

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26 thoughts on “Entertaining Statistics: Desert Island Perfumes

  1. Wow, wow, wow! I’m always so totally amazed and impressed by the fact with how much ease you’re able to build all those databases and compare things.
    I’ve seen desert Island perfume posts many times but I’m rarely joining with my choice. My collection is relatively small compared to other perfumistas so dismissing some other perfume that I love just as much would be a shame for me.

    I enjoyed the read and good luck during your April task.
    I will be on a quest to start reviewing the new things I brought from Esxence ;)

    • Thank you, Lucas. I’ll be back to report results.

      I know what you mean about leaving out favorites: every time I do not include one of the perfumes that I enjoy wearing into a list, it feels as if I give up wearing it :)

  2. I so enjoy your lists and statistics :)
    I may wear some of my all time favorites this month as well but I am not sure I could come up with a list as my desert island perfumes probably change day by day!

  3. I have to try the Sweet Milk one – love the picture next to the Russian can of condensed sweet milk, i bet will bring some childhood memories, tort Napoleon, etc. :)

  4. WOW Undina,
    I wish I could be as dedicated to cataloguing historic wearings as you, it’s amazing to me.
    Having just been on holiday with a very truncated perfume library I enjoyed working within its constraints every day. Luckily there were extra bottles added on the trip so I never got bored and in fact I wore vintage Miss Dior parfum more than anything else. It is perfection in a bottle.
    Portia xx

  5. Great list, undina! My desert island list would include these for sure;
    Kilian Flower of Immortality, Heeley Iris de Nuit, McQueen My Queen, Chanel Beige and Chanel Jersey, Pierre Guillame Shermine, Guerlain Mon Exclusif, Guerlain Joyeuse Tuberose, Guerlain Angelique Noire, Guerlain Spiriteuse Double Vanille, Guerlain Shalimar and Guerlain L’Heure de Nuit and L’Heure Bleue, Annick Goutal Le Chevrefeuille, Annick Goutal La Nuit Etoilee’, Isabey Fleur Nocturne and Lutens Une Voix Noire. I love les fleurs!

    • From your list I tried 10 perfumes. I love Angelique Noire and enjoy wearing Beige, SDV and Nuit Étoilée from time to time, but the rest – we’re clearly on different waves (though I can’t be completely sure since who knows – maybe I’ll love the other 7 when I try them? :) )

  6. Oh my gosh, how much did I enjoy this post, the methodological rigour of which puts me to shame, hehe. I loved the cross referencing of results by different methods in tabular form, and the field test will indeed be interesting. Several on your list were ‘bubblers under’ for me eg Amber Oud and Lyric.

    And LOL at ‘voted off the island’. Thanks for taking my half baked notions and truly running with them – it made for a great read!

  7. Undina, we share a few favorites: No. 19, Bronze Goddess, TF Fleur de Chine, and the Tommi Sooni (I was sad when they disappeared, just as I discovered them.) Is the Miss Dior the vintage or newer version?

    • I was also sad about Tommi Sooni. Now I’ll have to balance between saving it and using before it goes bad.
      I have several: vintage perfume, vintage EdC and EdT from 3-4 years ago (and I refuse to accept the name change, so Miss Dior Cherie will never be Miss Dior in my eyes).

      • Ha, ha, totally agree! I scored a vintage Miss Dior several years ago on Ebay that looked a bit shop worn, putting it kindly. The top notes weren’t great but the rest of it was to die for. Even the only slightly older ones still smell great to me. I see no similarity in Miss Dior Cherie (I couldn’t remember the name) and the original. The original was so powerful, and the Cherie was such an insipid little miss, imho. As to tommi Sooni, I bought the No. 2 and wanted the No. 1 but could never get it, it just disappeared so quickly and without warning.

        • “little miss”?! In my opinion, it was a HUGE miss! ;) Joking.
          There is (and has never been, from the first, much better version of this flanker) nothing in common between the original Miss Dior and that now impostor. Dior just decided to take cashing out on the iconic name all the way up (well, rather down) to a completely new level: they just rob the real Miss Dior off its name and “awarded” it to a completely different perfume. Oh, well… I should probably stock up on the vintage one while I still can.

  8. Fantastic, Undina! And the pictures were so superbly arranged! Surprisingly, despite us being scent twins, we don’t overlap in our Top X! From your Brute Force list, I have a FB of only 3 (No. 19 EDT, Tommi Sooni Tommy Sooni 2 and By Killian Amber Oud) and none would have made it to my Top 20. I will wear as many of my favorites for the rest of April and we’ll compare notes!

    That Rusty is so photogenic!

    • Now I’m dying to know your Top… any! Give me 10. Or 20 :)
      Will, at least, No 19 EdP be there?

      Rusty… It was actually his birthday that we celebrated with that bottle of wine. And he got that strange toy, with which he refuses to play (as with the most of other bought toys). But that picture definitely represents “happy times”… And I just checked: that day (Christmas Eve/Rusty’s birthday) I wore Fille en Aiguilles? which didn’t make the list, but I like it nevertheless.

  9. Notice that on ly Ta’if, Chanel No 19, Amouage Ubar, and Climat made all four selection methods!
    It was a great post of Vanessa’s and the only problem is that I keep on editing my lists no matter which method I use :-)

    • Correction: all five since the list itself is the result of the selection :)

      I’m going through all these perfumes now to see how I would do with actually wearing just these 20. I’ll revisit my notes in the end and see if I change my mind.

  10. Pingback: Bespoke Perfumes, Who Needs Them? – Undina's Looking Glass

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