Or my full bottles, and why I cherish them like a dragon cherishes gold. A generous dragon.
For people in and outside the perfume community, the following is a list of the full perfume bottles I own and the feelings they inspire in me. In perfume community parlance, FBW is an abbreviation for ‘full bottle-worthy’- a perfume that you love enough to invest in 50 mL of at least. No mean feat when you’ve established a healthy collection of beloved scents. I don’t know that that much of anything is FBW to me anymore- few things are even worthy of 5 mL decants. Usually I work through my samples and those that I grow attached to become wish list items for future sample or decant purchase. I just don’t see myself needing (or finishing) full bottles now that my collection is so well-rounded and satisfying. As such, most of the perfumes I have in full bottles are ones that I bought earlier in my perfume career, when the urge to amass was still strong (now I prefer to just rest upon my laurels and an avalanching mountain of samples and decants). But my bottles and I have long histories (and tender feelings), let me introduce them.
- Bottle the first, L’Air de Rien: Miller Harris
This was the first niche perfume I ever bought and my first purchase as a ‘perfumista’. I bought a dab sample from Surrender to Chance and fell in love as soon as I smelled the place I had spread it on my skin. As it developed the love only deepened. It’s warm and furrily animalic, with hay and booze. It reminded me of the stables where I rode, warm horse bodies a bit sweaty in the dust mote-specked sunlight, leaning against their sleek shoulders and feeling the rhythm of their breathing.
- Vintage Shalimar: Guerlain
Would I name my daughter Shalimar? Quite possibly. Probably stronger as middle name material. Old Shalimar is a luxurious smoky vanilla bed with a catlike purr. The new stuff is fairly insipid next to it (blame the horrors of reformulation) but old Shalimar is an eternal queen, complete with pet tiger and jeweled feet.
- L’Heure Bleue: Guerlain, Current or Vintage
The current version is raspier in a way that irks my mom (personally, while I do find the vintage gentler and creamier, I don’t think of the raspiness as a fault so much as a characteristic.) L’Heure Bleue is an orchestral mix of the floral, powdery, cosmetic, edible, and oriental. It’s velvety and is named for that beautiful hour of twilight, one of my favorite times of day.
- The last of my grand Guerlains, Vintage Mitsouko
Yeah, I would pretty definitely name my daughter Mitsouko. Mitsouko is a dusky and mossy peach, a little spicy, full and round, a little juicy, a little fuzzy. A gorgeous scent, especially in the fall.
- Baghari: Robert Piguet
A sweet orange aldehyde burst, like a fizzing drink, candied oranges, and a bit of amber to ground it. It’s soft and sparkly and full and encompassing. There are a lot of lovely fizzing aldehyde scents- Chanel’s No. 22 and Tauer’s Noontide Petals are good alternatives- but nothing feels quite like this for me. Radiant and comfortable, lasts well overnight.
- Eau de Mandarine Ambree: Hermes
I know there should be an accent aigu on that first e. MA is a more recent purchase and I would have bought a smaller amount but it is quite reasonably priced and no one was decanting. Like Baghari, it focuses on sweet orange with amber underpinnings, but unlike Baghari it has no bubbling aldehydes or powder. It’s juicer, more natural (less diva-like), and fresher. Though Hermes bills it as a cologne, it performs like a regular perfume. The passionfruit in the top and heart notes is delicious. Perfect for hot weather and a refreshing wake up.
- Alien Essence Absolue: Thierry Mugler
What a strange scent. I absolutely love it. Another ‘warm weather’ fragrance with amber underpinnings. I like this flanker much more than Thierry Mugler’s original Alien (though that’s good in its own right). I received a sample of this from a friend over Christmas break a few years ago immediately before I had to spend a week in the hospital and the smell completely permeated my room. That may sound unpleasant to some, but it was delightful to me, both before leaving and upon returning. I decided it was too synthetic and discarded it. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I reclaimed it and used up my sample, eventually ordering a full alien-like bottle. It’s a syrupy and radiant jasmine, good year round, but quite powerful, as with most/all Muglers. (Tauers and Muglers, radiant by way of radioactive- as in half life of eons).
- Songes: Annick Goutal (EdP)
Annick Goutal generally makes limpid little things (lovely in their limpid way, delicate and wispy floral beauties) but this is an exuberant and unashamed big white floral melange. Primarily ylang and frangipani with a touch of jasmine. Warm and enveloping, perfect for the summer. Like a cloud of petals (the name translates to ‘Dreams’ in French. I was lucky enough to get one of the beautiful frosted glass moon bottles with gold lettering. Pretty definitely the most beautiful bottle I own.
- Philosykos: Diptyque
I picked up this lovely at Luckyscent’s Scent Bar in LA while I was visiting my grandma. My dad has grown fig trees and I love figs. Both the EdT and EdP are brilliant, but I prefer the former. The bottles are very satisfying to hold as well. Primarily a spring and summer scent, this is the whole fig tree and my favorite of the many fig scents that I have tried. You have woodiness, ripe juicy fleshy fruit, and overhanging shady and damp boughs of green leaves. Quite lovely.
- Vintage Le Temps d’Une Fete: Parfums de Nicolai
LTd’F is the only all green perfume that I’ve ever truly loved. My bottle and I had to overcome many obstacles to be together. I tried my sample and fell in love. Read on perfume blogs the next day that it was being discontinued. Because I always use up my samples like a good girl before buying, I obsessed about what to do before finally ordering it. And I’m so glad that I did. It has a warmth and balminess that I don’t find in most green scents, which tend toward the wet and cool. I attribute this to the resinous incense, opoponax, listed in the notes.
- Prairie Nymph: Smell Bent
Smell bent is an odd duck of a company but they consistently put out good, interesting, and affordable scents, even if the concepts are a bit out of left field. Prairie Nymph is a bright nectar-like honey mixed with the juicy tang of tart orange. Turns out you can wear honey-animalics in the summer.
- Vintage Diorissimo: Dior
One of my first bottles, the smell of lily of the valley captured in liquid form. It is truly a breath of spring, light but and smooth, a smell like white. Moist and natural and purely gorgeous. A friend of mine caught up to me while I was walking to class this past year (I was wearing this) and told me he had turned a corner and followed behind a person he correctly assumed was me, because I smelled so good. I have a bit of a reputation 😉
- Cuir de Lancome: Lancome
Why does this fragrance remind me of sleek tan hunting dog/pointer-type things? Maybe because the leather reminds me of horse paraphernalia. But it’s soft and suede-y, so only fancy horse paraphernalia. Like Brits who wear soft scented gloves and go on fox hunts? Who knows. But this is supremely comforting and good in all but the hottest of weather. It’s steady and dependable, casually beautiful.
- Cristina: Hilde Soliani
My second to most recent full bottle purchase and one I agonized over for years. I first smelled this beautiful thing at Scent Bar, the same trip on which I bought Phil (Philosykos, we’re very friendly). But because I had only smelled it once I couldn’t just throw caution to the wind and BUY it (I know impulse perfume purchases and casual flings are what vacations are for, but I’m an agonizer and this is why I write lists). But I never forgot it even though I couldn’t find it anywhere for years. And then I finally found a sample. And then found a bottle. And now that bottle is mine. Why do I love it? Well, it’s a vanillic patchouli but it has that delicious smell of roasting nuts that you get on city streets when there are vendors with the Nuts 4 Nuts stands. I love those things. They smell so good I just stand downwind and huff the air.
- Tabac Aurea: Sonoma Scent Studio
Wouah. I have the smaller bottle but this is brilliant. Perhaps you miss smoking tobacco while eating gingerbread cookies in your boyfriends leather jacket in a chill and sunny Autumn forest. If so, let this be your therapy. If not, let this be your therapy.
- Bal a Versailles: Jean Desprez
If nothing, this post will convince you that I am a fan of the animalic. I love this thick honeyed and raunchy civet-musk-leather on a sumptuous ambered floral bed. I have a splash bottle of vintage EdC. It’s not very cologne-y and a dab goes pretty far. An extremely good deal as well, so far as fragrance is concerned. It’s kind of effulgent.
- Vintage Parfum Sacre: Caron
The Carons have been incompetently reformulated but it’s easy enough to find old versions online. Perfume Sacre is a piquantly spicy incense-rose. The rose does take a backseat to pepper and clove and cardamom, and the scent gives you a kind of warm glow, especially in cold weather. A perfect medicine for the winter blues, it invigorates you.
- Vintage Nuit de Noel: Caron
Which I received today, thanks to a certain perfume friend! Inspired by Christmas night, and it’s easy to see smell why. It’s rather churchy (or so I imagine, being the offspring of an atheist lapsed Catholic and an atheist with aspirations to Quaker)- replete with incense lifted by snowlike drifts of aldehydes and the dark varnished wood of pews and much-treaded floors. The spices and subtle leather give the warmth of a crackling fire and there’s a nutty sweetness frequently likened to glazed chestnuts (chestnuts roasting on an open fire?).
And those are my treasured full bottles. Eighteen will probably seem like tons to some and a drop in the bucket to others. Regardless, all are treasured. I firmly believe that all can be worn by men as well as women- the division of perfumes into masculine and feminine is exceedingly dull.
I wonder what the next full bottle will be…