Saturday Question: What Was Your Starter Brand?

Last week when Portia posted about the most worn L’Artisan Parfumeur perfumes, I noticed that several commenters mentioned that they started their niche perfume stage of the hobby from that brand. That’s why I decided to run it as a formal Saturday Question.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #62:

What Was Your Starter Brand?

Many of us came to this hobby through the years of using 1-2-5 (or more) “OTC” perfumes at a time. But then there was a moment when we discovered niche perfumes. And usually the next step would be hunting for samples of perfumes from that brand and, more often than not, becoming a lifelong fan of the brand.

So, it would be interesting to know whether it happened this way for you and, if yes, what was the brand and whether you still love and wear it.

My Answer

Formally, I could have named Jo Malone as such a brand since back 15+ years ago it was still kind of niche-ish brand, and the only place I could try it was at a local Neiman Marcus, to which I didn’t dare to go for a long time (unless accompanied by a family member visiting from another state where she worked at NM). The fact that back then they didn’t accept any credit cards but their own wasn’t helping either. Only later, when they started accepting all American Express cards, I remember venturing into the store to pick up a bottle of Jo Malone’s perfume, fearlessly presenting my Costco AmEx card to a quite snobbish SA.

I think Jo Malone is still the most represented brand in my collection. I still like and wear perfumes that I own, and whenever I can I check out their latest releases. But these days I rarely like any of them enough to buy.

But the true niche brand – something that I’ve never seen or even heard of before and then got to investigate – was Amouage. After reading multiple reviews, I bought a set of five 1 ml vials from Aedes de Venustas – and that was a beginning of long relationships with the brand.

I love, own and wear several Amouage perfumes (to name a few, Gold, Dia, Lyric and Memoir), and having been given a choice of getting perfumes just from one brand for the rest of my life, I would have been really torn between Amouage and Ormonde Jayne, with probably Amouage winning because of Gold that reminds me a lot of my most favorite perfumes of all times – Lancome Climat (I’m just not sure that these days I would be able to settle on one perfume, even if it’s my number one, but I wouldn’t be able to choose too many alternatives from Lancome – that’s why it wouldn’t have been a contender in that cruel hypothetical choosing game).

But as to Amouage newer perfumes… I should probably do a separate post about it. Soon.

Rusty and Amouage Epic

What Was Your Starter Brand?

59 thoughts on “Saturday Question: What Was Your Starter Brand?

    • I also wore Petite Chérie “before niche,” but since back then no other perfume from the brand that I tried worked for me, so I got to love it much later.

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  1. Tough question because I started this obsession around 1970-71 and there really weren’t any niche available for me at the time. Does Antonia’s Flowers count as niche? If yes, I had a bottle in the early 80s. But being faithful to one niche house would have been a decade later with Annick Goutal, a brand I discovered in Paris, then found in the city. Saks Fifth Ave did BOGOs several times a year back then and I would get two different fragrances , 100 ml each, for a grand total of $90. Needless to say I must have had 20 bottles, all thunked over the years.
    My family also likes Jo Malone and we’ve gone through many bottles. I gifted each of the girls a bottle when they turned 18.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I started my collection with Calvin Klein Obsession, but I think the first niche was Serge Lutens A la Nuit.

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      • It took some time for me to start my perfume journey after I bought that first bottle of Obsession. A couple of years, I would say, until I discovered A la Nuit and then started exploring the whole line.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I thought we were talking about niches. For regular perfumes the 3 were Bvlgari Femme, Prada L’Infusion d’Iris and Chopard Casmir and Hanae Mori. Much earlier it was Rive Gauche and Estee Lauder Aliage.

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      • Aliage!!! Was just discussing Aliage in a text with a dear perfume pal. Aliage was amazing!!! Have you sampled current formulation? I’m curious. Today I am wearing current White Linen…another blast from my distant past. First time wearing it in maybe 30 years. I still love it, even reformulated.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. My starter niche brand was Annick Goutal. Vanille Exquise. I ordered a sample pack of vanilla fragrances from TPC and I enjoyed it so much I bought my first bottle online. Quickly moved on to add La Violette, Grand Amour, Quel Amour, Mandragore, and others. It’s still among the most represented brands in my bottle collection (Guerlain, Lolita Lempicka and Nicolaï are the top of my list.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a great question. I’m thinking it was Ormonde Jayne, but it could be Annick Goutal either. Both brands went on to have a high hit rate. I consider Frangipani and Songes to be in my top ten.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My first niche purchase was People of the Labyrinths, but that was a one-off. Then I discovered L’Artisan next, along with Comme des Garçons.

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    • I know the name, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever tried anything from People of the Labyrinths. Comme des Garçons somehow also went past me. I think their bottles didn’t appeal to me, and there were many other more interesting brands to check out at Barney’s – the only store that carried this brand around.

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  6. I had been interested in perfume for a long time, but I really dived into the hobby in the early 2000s, and I think Andy Tauer was the first niche brand that sort of blew my mind. I used to read a lot of Makeup Alley and NST, and probably that was where I learned about him. I remember my wonder at smelling LADDM (I hate writing their names, I always misspell!) and some of the others. I also dabbled in Serge Lutens who got a lot of love back then. I kind of miss the days when there were fewer brands, and when somebody mentioned a perfume there was a reasonable chance you might have tried it.

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  7. The first niche brand I got to know about was Penhaligon’s, if that counts – my first encounter was at an airport duty free store, though! In terms of discovery, I would say it was Le Labo. When I went on my first “sniffing tour” in NYC in 2019, Le Labo was the first perfume boutique I entered, and I bought the full discovery kit and found that I liked most of them. Now, their Ylang 49 is one of my all-time favorites. Too early to say whether I have or will develop lifelong loyalties to any brand, as I don’t currently have more than 1 full bottle from any given brand.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When people were starting on this hobby 7-8 years ago, I was almost envious: there were so many great perfumes for them to discover! These days… There are still hundreds of wonderful perfumes, but with all the reformulations, it’s hard to know which of the highly praised perfumes are still the same as those, about which people raved; and with thousands of new perfumes being released each year, it’s impossible to figure out whether you’ll like something without actually smelling it (previously, when many people whose tests you knew and could compare to your own were writing about the same 50 perfumes, you could at least partially predict whether you needed a sample).

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  8. OOOHHH! Love this undina.
    My first was Tauer Eau d’Epices and it’s still fabulous. I’ve bought quite a few others too, mainly in the 20ml travel size when it was available.
    Guerlain was my great OTC love and I still adore it, as the house started out as fragrance does that count as niche?
    Portia xx

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  9. What a great question! Looking back, I think I’d have to say Penhaligon’s and Jo Malone. When I first reignited my interest in fragrance, it was after reading Chandler Burr’s The Perfect Scent, about Hermes’ development of Un Jardin Sur Le Nil with Jean-Claude Ellena. So I was very into Hermes’ fragrances from the start of my renewed obsession, but I don’t think they really count as “niche”. In 2015, my husband gave me Jo Malone’s Red Roses, and also Penhaligon’s Blasted Bloom, which I wrote about here: https://scentsandsensibilities.co/2015/12/21/fragrance-friday-blasted-bloom/. 2015 was also the year that Penhaligon’s launched Ostara, which I still love and hoard: https://scentsandsensibilities.co/2016/02/20/fragrance-friday-ostara/. And that year, Jo Malone launched its Rock The Ages collection, including Lily of the Valley & Ivy, and Tudor Rose & Amber, which I also love: https://scentsandsensibilities.co/2016/05/14/may-muguet-marathon-lily-of-the-valley-and-ivy/.

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    • Chandler Burr’s book was a big catalyst for me jumping into perfumes and niches in a big way. It was also the beginning of my fascination with Jean-Claude Ellena and his perfume creations.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’m curious: where did he get Penhaligon’s? Was it somewhere abroad, or did you have their store somewhere around?

      I’m asking because here, in CA Bay Area, Penhaligon’s stores appeared for a couple of years several years ago but didn’t survive – at least in the area where I live.

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  10. Serge – Douce Amere and Miel du Bois started it all, back when 90€ (Or was it even less, I can’t remember) was a small fortune for a perfume 😊 I still have them, but only wear them infrequently. Today I prefer De Profundis and Ambre Sultan from that brand.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My first niche was Escentric Molecules (Escentric 2), but it was a one bottle only affair. My first multiple bottles niche house was either Serge Lutens (Gris Clair, Jeux de Peau) or L’Artisan (Dzing!, Bois Farine) – sorry, can’t remember the order of the purchases, just that I bought two from each house in the same 18-month period.

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    • I like both Gris Clair and Jeux de Peau, though for the latter I never went beyond a decant.
      I loved-loved-loved Molecule 1 (yeah, I know, but still love it – when I can smell it, that is :) ), but the other “molecules” left me cold, so I stopped testing them at some point.

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  12. Excellent question! I think I’d have to cast my vote for Amouage as well. Even though I’d been living in the Middle East for a few years, I had not heard of the brand until I started reading perfume blogs and everyone was talking about Opus VI and Interlude. Fortunately, it was easy for me to pop over to the boutique at Wafi Mall in Dubai and try them first hand. It has been all downhill from there, as they say. I was fortunate to be able to also try all the amazing attars as well as the perfumes and Amouage remains the leader in my list of brands that I own the largest number of scents from. It has been interesting to see how the brand has been evolving and I think, like you, I am desperately clinging to the old Amouage even if I understand why they are moving forward in a new way. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m thinking about revisiting some of the “older” Amouage creations: I think I might need to pick up a couple more, before they are completely phased out by newer creations.

      I tried just a couple of attars but I wish I learned about them and tried them sooner while they were still available.

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  13. My starter niche brand was Comme des Garçons. My sister introduced me to it. I’m still a fan of the brand. One of their recent releases Copper was really good and I’m looking forward to trying the latest release Rouge.

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  14. Way back when Hermès was niche, I would have said that was my starter brand. I bought Kelly Caleche EDP and the original Voyage. If it’s not niche, then I’ll say Atelier Cologne (I bought a coffret of five 30mL bottles). And if Atelier Cologne is not niche, I will say Le Labo; it took me a while to decide on getting Iris 39 even though I knew it was the fragrance for me. Finally, if Le Labo is not considered niche, I will say Andy Tauer’s line.

    Now you can flog me with a wet noodle because I did not follow instructions. 😆

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    • Nah! While it is as creative as your usual parfumath, you followed the letter of the poll quite well ;)

      Vaoyage… I wasn’t aware there was more than one. I wonder, which one I have.

      Atelier Cologne was totally niche – until they were sold. Le Labo… I still think of them as niche, though I am reluctant to try the current version of Iris 39 – I don’t expect anything good from it.

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  15. Similar to you…Jo Malone as my ‘gateway brand’ to niche proper, then Ormonde Jayne. I was into OJ in a big way till the range started to confuse me with its exotic flanker series. ;)

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