The Intervention Perfumes

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that this is your Scented Life these days: you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, and when you read Coming to My Senses: Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride by Alyssa Harad, you identified with every bit of her journey into perfumista-dom, and you now own enough perfume to scent yourself until you’re 211 years old, should you live that long.

And your friends and family have seen your perfume collection, and their eyes got round and they looked at each other in consternation and started talking about that TV show, “Hoarders.” 

And when people ask you about your “number,” you fudge it.  You come up with reasons not to count the backup bottles of vintage Emeraude, for example, or the old bottle of Victoria’s Secret Pink that you never wear anymore, or the decants, or the miniatures you bought in a lot on eBay, because, c’mon, they don’t matter, they were on deep discount or they were birthday presents or they’re not in the current rotation or you need them for reference.

Let’s just say.  For the sake of argument.

Family Arguments
So then your family members and friends stage an intervention.  They say things like:

“We’ve noticed that you seem to have a lot of perfume.”

“We’ve noticed that you often have difficulty choosing a perfume for the day.  In fact, we’re sometimes late because you couldn’t decide which one you wanted to wear.”

“We’ve noticed that you sometimes get cravings for a particular scent in the middle of the day, so you wash off what  you have on and put on something else.”

“And it’s time to stop.  You need to downsize.”

Nooooooooo! you scream.  No, I need all these perfumes. I need them all, they’re all different and I love them all and I want to be able to complement any mood, any weather, any occasion.  I need them!

“You seem addicted.”

I can stop anytime I want to, you say.  I can.  No problem.  I’m just enjoying myself.  I’m not addicted.

Then they get tough.  “We’re going to go through your cabinet.  You can choose a dozen perfumes to keep, and everything else is going away.  We’ll find good homes for them, don’t worry about that, but you need to decide which ones you want to keep.”

Nooooooo!  I want them all!

“Stop behaving like a child.  We know what’s best for you.”

“You will still have perfume!  You can keep a dozen bottles.”

“Maybe we should make it fifteen.”

Yes!  Or, or twenty!  Or maybe twenty-five.  I need to change with the seasons, don’t forget that.  And some of these things are dressy, and some of them are best worn with jeans, and some —

“Yeah, we get it.  Pick twelve.”

Twenty.  I need twenty.

“No, twelve is enough.”

But what if I fall in love with something new?  I could, you know.  Very easily.  They’re making new and fabulous things all the time.  In fact, Uncle Serge is planning a new gardenia —

“If you want a new bottle, you must either finish one, give one away, or sell one.  We are very serious about this.”

And when you bow to the strictures your loved ones place upon you, you pick twelve.

Seems like most perfume bloggers visit and revisit this topic from time to time: the Desert Island Frags.  As in, Which are the ten perfumes you would prefer not to live without?  Which ten do you love the most?  Which ten would you sell a kidney, or a first-born child, for?  (See this recent post at Olfactoria’s Travels to see readers come out of the woodwork to share their favorites.) I’ve always been a little annoyed with the “desert island” idea – very few of my favorites would do well in tropical heat – but I have a list, of course.  Everybody has a list. 

And of course, somebody always says, “I couldn’t do just ten, I had to bump it to twelve.”  Or fifteen, or twenty, or fifty…  And somebody else says, “Well, that’s my list for THIS week, but it’ll change without warning.”

Mine changes, too.  But this is what it looks like at the moment, in no particular order:

Vintage Coty Emeraude parfum de toilette

Teo Cabanel Alahine

Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete

Mary Greenwell Plum

Serge Lutens La Myrrhe

Guerlain Shalimar Light

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower (of which I only have a decant, of course)

Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea

Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet

Vintage Chanel No. 19 eau de toilette 

Cuir de Lancome


There, that’s twelve.  And I’m annoyed at leaving Jacomo Silences, Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete, and Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur off the list, but there you go – you cannot have everything.  Give me another thirty seconds and I’ll have got this list to twenty cannot-do-withouts… F Malle Iris Poudre, Tableau de Parfums Miriam, Guerlain Chamade, Chanel No. 5 parfum, Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka. 

There, that’s twenty.  And I could keep going, but you get the idea, don’t you?  And why on earth would I want a “signature scent” now?  It would be like wearing the same clothes day in and day out.  (I know, some people do that.  Some people do fine wearing a uniform and don’t miss picking a sweater by the color and the weather. Whatever floats your boat, I say, but it doesn’t float mine.)

So: which bottles do you keep?  Which do you reluctantly place in the “Goodwill Donations” box or offer to fumehead friends?


45 thoughts on “The Intervention Perfumes”

  1. I created a “desert island” list once before but one’s list inevitably evolves over time. My first seven are pretty easy-peasy:

    Cuir de Lancome
    Donna Karan Gold
    Rossy de Palma
    L de Lolita Lempicka
    Belle en Rykiel
    Chanel Egoiste
    SSS Tabac Aurea

    Then things get tricky. I’d need a tuberose but my fave tuberose keeps changing. Lately I am really feeling DSH Tubereuse, which didn’t especially move me at first. Flower by Kenzo used to be on my list, but I’ve become sensitive to the musk in it so we’re not friends right now. I’d want something by Tauer I think — but then maybe I could satisfy amber cravings with Alahine. Rose Praline is fast approaching my all-time favorites list, though I don’t actually have a bottle yet. White Linen and Angel are also vying for a spot, even though I hardly ever ACTUALLY wear them. It’s a tough exercise!

    1. It really is hard, isn’t it? Once you have so many favorites, it’s difficult to prune. I mean, the bulk of my stuff is just, well, okay, I LIKE it but it isn’t swoony lurve… and then there are the ones I don’t want to be without.

  2. Oh. My. Gosh. So funny and glad to see Tabac Aurea made your list, I happen to be wearing it today. It arrived in the mail yesterday and I have been literally wallowing in it ever since. If I could find a way to permanently afix the spritzer inside a nostril, I would not hesitate. That’s addiction for you. Next month may find me selling my body on the street corner to get the money to buy a gallon! Who needs self respect when you can sniff Tabac Aurea as you lie comfortably in the gutter, eyes glazed and fixed on the starry midnight sky?

    As far as the “Top 10” Game goes, I am afraid to play. I dont own that many full bottles and even though I have sampled many I have to really LOVE it to get a full bottle and since I must pay the dratted mortgage, my collection is so small most would laugh at even calling it a collection. But if I DID have a grand collection, TA would head up my “Top 10” for sure!

    1. Tabac Aurea is awesome. Awesome, I tell you! I actually wear it less than some of my others, but it’s irreplaceable and it always messes with my emotions so much.

      Big or small, your collection is a collection. 🙂 I think I spent too much time thinking, “Well, I like it and it’s not expensive,” instead of saving for big bottles of the things I do love. Oh well.

      1. I do that too! especially when things or on sale or discounted..My husband’s hard to follow advice is- buy 1 (expensive- he usually means serge lutens of frederic malle) bottle of something you love instead of multiple cheaper ones..

  3. My birthday’s coming up, and for the first time since I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, The Engineer actually asked me, “Do you want perfume for your birthday?” It surprised me, and so I responded, “Well….yeah. Do you want to get me something other than perfume?” “No, I just wanted to make sure you were still interested in perfume as a gift.”

    That’s about as intervention-y as it’s ever gotten around here, but seriously, I gotta ask, do I look like I’m slowing down?

    1. Heh! “Do I look like I’m slowing down?”

      I actually *have* slowed down, somewhat. I used to be alllll over those parfum1 20% off sales, looking for whatever they had that I might possibly like to buy, and then I would sometimes buy into splits of new things, 5 or 10ml at a time, if I thought I’d like them. After several purchases of scents I eagerly awaited and then turned out not to like much, I sort of gave up on those splits.

  4. I believe this is my first comment on your site…though I follow you very closely (mwahahahha). No, seriously–great blog & great writing.

    Mitsouko EDP pre-2008
    Serge Lutens La Myrrhe
    Clinique Aromatics Elixir
    Chamade extrait
    L’Heure Bleue PDT
    Patou Sublime EDP
    Vintage Vent Vert EDT
    Amouage Ubar
    Chanel 19 Vintage EDT
    Parure (EDT, and I have an extrait coming my way!)

    As you can see, I lean heavily toward vintage or vintage-style perfumes. I also love Vol de Nuit extrait, Rochas Mystere, EL Private Collection, Carnal Flower (though sometimes I get a waft of hot dryer sheet off of it), Eau Sauvage…and the list goes on. Recently sampled Seville a l’Aube and am hankering for a FB, too.

  5. Funny post C, it made me giggle! I’m only commenting to say that I’ve only recently discovered SL La Myrrhe and wow, it is glorious. I’m not surprised it made your list in all its aldehydic glory. I’ll refrain from a list as I’m one of those annoying folk who just can’t, for the life of me, narrow it down to such a number, I just can’t! 😉

    1. Oh, La Myrrhe… La Myrrhe. Sigh. It is really the back of beyond beautiful.

      I figure, as long as I don’t have to narrow it down, it’s only an intellectual exercise.

  6. Having done Olfactoria’s Travels I won’t re write, though they have changed. Of course! I would like to say that in the situation you have put forward I would find it easier to let my partner and friends go.
    Portia xx

    1. My thoughts, exactly, Portia. I found myself thinking: If he ever tries that, we’re going to weed the 26 bowling balls he ABSOLUTELY NEEDS to bowl well.

      1. Ha! Sauce for the goose.

        The intervention thingy was, of course, a device to avoid the whole “desert island” scenario. I’d have a choice comment or two to make to The CEO about his collection of farm supplies…

          1. …lawnmowers? Wasn’t familiar with those.

            Now, The CEO’s tractors all run. Most of them are older than I am, but they do run. (The age exception is the JD 4440, the only one with A/C. 1978. Came with optional 8-track player. All the rest of them, older’n me…) But he cannot pass up any piece of chain, however long or short.

  7. I know I have an addiction since as I read the fictional intervention I feel angree 🙂

    I won’t re-think the list I wrote on Birgit’s blog but since you’re allowing two more perfumes, let me think of what I want to add to my deserted island stash…

    I’ll go with Chanel Cuir de Russie and Neela Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling.

  8. Great post and a fun list! Having read our blog for some time now I feel I’ve travelled with you in your explorations of many of these great loves.

    I’m not playing the desert island game today except to list the fragrances that are on the dressing table at the moment:
    EL: Beautiful (mini), Private Collection and Pleasures (mini)
    Rochas Femme
    Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Flora Nymphea
    Ginestet Botrytis (lareg decant)
    Habanita (about to into hibernation for the summer)
    Le Temps d’Une Fete (small decant, nearly finished)
    SSS Nostalgie
    Le Labo Baie Rose 26 (decant bought via Facebook)

    I need to live until I’m 211 years old in order to enjoy all these … and the others … to the full.

    1. You know, I was looking over my list and thinking, “Oh, have I reviewed all of these?” Turns out I have reviewed most of them. Tabac Aurea’s only a mini-review. I only commented on Silences when I was whining about it being reformulated (NOTE: Chaya Ruchama, if you know her, has tried the new stuff and says that it is FBW!! SQuee!!). And I’ve mentioned Rose d’Ete at least once in a best-of-summer, but no full review. The rest? Yeah, wrote about ’em. 🙂

      I haven’t tried a couple of your current-rotation standbys – Botrytis and Baie Rose. (And you know me and the Lauders, sigh.) But those are good scents! I would suggest that we invest in some sort of experimental long-life drug, but perhaps I’d rather leave scented goodies behind me. For the grandchildren, someday.

  9. ooh- fun! Since I didn’t get around to commenting on Birgit’s post- I will here..I actually don’t many of the perfumes that would make my list..I have been lately buying into too many splits especially I need to sort of scale back on that. And I did buy two very spendy candles for our wedding anniversary- so no perfume full bottles for me for a
    But here is my desert island/mountain resort list..:) (many of these I don’t bottles of)

    My list of twelve:
    1. FM Carnal Flower
    2. FM Iris Poudre
    3. Montale Black Oud (for some reason- I have never bought a bottle of this..and it has been one of my faves for years)
    4. Aftelier Secret Garden
    5. By Killian Sweet Redemption and/ or L’Artisan Seville l’aube
    6. Vintage L’heure blue pdt.
    7. Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle
    8. Vintage Chanel No.5 parfum
    9. Puredistance M
    10. DSH Pandora
    11. Ormonde Jayne Tolu/Ta’if
    12. PDN le Temp d’Une fete

    I am sure I am forgetting a host of other ‘fumes so these will do for now..I really must try La Myrrhe

    1. La Myrrhe is like nothing else in the world. At least according to me.

      You have some gorgeous things on your list too! I thought Secret Garden sounded SO lovely; I didn’t buy a sample because I usually have very poor longevity with all-naturals. And I haven’t tried Black Oud or M, but lovely stuff.

      Your husband is probably right, save up for the ones you really love. I should follow that advice…

  10. I can relate to this. Good thing my dad is obsessed with perfume too, so much of it comes from birthday and Christmas presents from him.

    Can’t name any absolute favorites right now, but I can name ones that I keep in the back of my collection and don’t really wear, like Givenchy Organza and Guerlain Samsara.

      1. If you do start selling on ebay let us know your user name. You’ve reviewed things I would love to have and if they happen to be your unloved, so much better. Then again, my husband keeps mentioning that I need to organize and thin out my collection.

        1. I’ll post something about it when I’m ready to list things. My ebay account was actually set up by The CEO, sorta kinda, and the reasoning is convoluted.

          I have recently (well, in the past four months or so) snagged backup bottles of Things That I Love, and I am not sorry. The cabinet is sort of… groaning… full to bursting… but that just induces me to rehome some things I like but don’t adore, to make room for the Beloveds.

  11. Love the article, Mals.
    My list of perfumes I cannot be without:
    Parfums de Nicolai, Eau d’Ete
    Chanel Cristalle edt
    Chanel Cuir de Russie
    Frederic Malle Feminite de Bois
    Parfums de Nicolai, Sacre Bleu
    Parfums de Nicolai, Vanille Tonka
    The Different Company Jasmine de Nuit
    Dior Dune
    Paul & Joe Blanc
    Chanel 31 Rue Cambon
    Paco Rabanne Calandre (pre-reformulation)
    Parfums de Nicolai Odalisque

    It has been fun/funny to watch, through the last seven years of my “hobby,” those which have fallen off my radar, and those that have held my affections.

    1. Oh, another PdN fan, yay for you! Your Chanels, though, are ones that do not work for me. (I am endlessly fascinated by the ways in which my tastes overlap, or don’t, with other people’s tastes.)

      And isn’t it interesting that sometimes old loves stay loves, and sometimes they turn into “Eh, I never wear this anymore” scents. Or even fragrances you can’t stand anymore. 🙁

  12. Vero Profumo Rubj
    FM Lys Mediteranee
    OJ Ta’if
    OJ Frangipani
    l’Artistan Seville l’Aube
    Vero Profumo Mito
    SL Fleurs de Citronnier
    SL Fleurs d’Oranger
    Neela Vermiere Bombay Bling
    Tauer Carillon Pour Un Ange
    MdO Vanille
    OJ Woman

    Now I just need FBs of all of these!

      1. Which one? I’ve only been wearing perfumes for about the last half-year, so there are a ton I haven’t had the chance to try yet.

        1. Christy: the only one on your list that I’ve tried is the Tauer Carillon, which I liked, but not enough to spring for a FB. I admit that since there are so.many.perfumes in this world, I only smell what I can easily get my hands on. I just refuse to get a lemming for something by description only. Fierce, I know, but I had to set up ridiculous boundaries for myself to s l o w my perfume buying!

          1. I can’t get my hands on anything easily–I live in rural New Hampshire. So Posh Peasant and Surrender to Chance is my “easy” for samples. Now that I’ve got a better idea of the types of scents I’m likely to enjoy or not, I’ve started buying 5 ml decants of ones that sound good instead of samples of all sorts of stuff. That is working pretty well!

          2. Rural VA here. I know whatcha mean about samples.

            I haunted ebay for samples and minis for a time. That can work, if you have a good idea of what you might like (and if it’s not niche, of course).

    1. Hi, Christy! You say you’re a relatively new fumehead? But you have such good taste!!

      I haven’t tried any of the Vero scents, just haven’t been really drawn to them. Or the Mona Vanille (I think the only one of hers I’ve tried was Tubereuse, which did not thrill me but I can’t remember why). But I was looking over your list and thinking, Hey, she’s a Floral Sister! And you like orange blossom, don’t you? I think my favorite on your list would be Carillon pour un Ange. Funny, I was just looking for my samples of that today. Can’t find them.

      Guess that would be a sign to GO CLEAN OUT MY SAMPLES BOX ALREADY, wouldn’t it? Assuming I was being rational.

      1. Yep, very new! But I learned from the best–all you bloggers : ) I’d read and read and read you all, then order samples. Lather, rinse, repeat. Add 5 ml decants. Etc. I definitely looove my white florals: orange blossom, lemon blossom, frangipani, jasmine, lilies, lily of the valley, datura. For tuberose so far I’ve only had a sample of Carnal Flower and, while my husband and daughters were over the moon about it, I mostly got rubber–it made me very sad! With VP Rubj edp I get passionfruit and cumin but no white flowers, which apparently are in there. Anyway, I love that one for reasons other than white florals, but it is my favorite of all! I haven’t tried the extrait or any of her others besides Mito. For amber and vanilla-centric, so far I’ve only tried MdO Vanille and By Kilian Amber Oud (also wonderful but I have a bit of a hard time with the oud–if there weren’t oud it’d be on my list); I expect my list in that area will change significantly once I have several more under my belt. I haven’t tried too many green-centric scents yet either, but Woman and Mito cover very different parts of that spectrum, I think.

        I should probably note that I only own 3 full bottles of anything, and two are ones I won and don’t particularly care for. So of my list, I only own OJ Frangipani. Birthday tomorrow so hopefully I might have Rubj, Ta’if, or Lys Mediteranee soon!

        1. You’re probably smart to put off buying full bottles until your tastes settle somewhat.

          I rather liked the Oud in Amber Oud… but there are other things I find challenging. Patchouli, anyone??

          Yeah, OJ Woman and (from what I’ve read ot it) Mito are definitely different sides of green. And happy birthday!! I’ll wish you some Lys Med.

          1. One of these days I’m sure I’ll start appreciating oud. Not quite yet, though lol. Thanks for the wish!!

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