Friday, June 22, 2007

Sniffing Out the Answers

I recently received, via email, the following perfume quandary:

Here’s my issue that I’m hoping that you can assist with. I can’t find a new perfume, and I can’t figure out why the hell no one has put together a “If you like Perfume A then you’re sure to like Perfume B, C, D, E, and F!” or “If you like Perfume G you’re sure to like Perfume X, Y, and Z!” list for all us non-collectors out there. Lots of perfumes I find truly offensive and/or they become truly offensive on me (I’m a sweaty girl, if you must know) and it’s difficult to find one I like, my boyfriend likes, and that doesn’t cause friends and family to hold their noses. All I know is that I go to Sephora or Neiman’s and my little nose is worn out after testing three or four perfumes and I end up frustrated and toting home yet another installment of Ralph Lauren Romance. Which I adore, by the way, it’s my sig frag, but I seriously would like to branch out.


Scent of a (Frustrated) Woman

Turns out, I'm a total fashion blogging failure, because I had no advice for her (well, besides "quit your job immediately and develop a perfume guide and then split the profits with me"). Therefore, it was the least I could do to give her a clever pseudonym (and by "clever," I mean, "not clever") and open up this question to you, my brilliant, sweet-smelling, beauty-savvy readers.

So, does a magical perfume guide like this exist? Do you have a strategy for braving the perfume section and emerging successful/happy/able to use your nose? Are you enough of a perfume expert yourself that you'd be able to take these clues (enjoys Ralph Lauren Romance, sweats often) and suggest some specific alternatives? And if so, do you do parties?

Spill your perfume knowledge into the comments section just as I spilled an entire bottle of Claire's vanilla body spray into a pile of my favorite clothing in seventh grade and lost all my friends. That was the worst analogy ever, but you get the idea (I hope).


Jennifer said...

Love that purfume bottle, the color is so nice!

Queen Michelle said...

I suggest the reader identifies the 'notes' of her favourite fragrance and then simply searches online for other perfumes containing the same or similar notes, so for example I love Micheal by Micheal Kors and that perfume contains these notes:
sicilian bergamot, clementine, pomegranate, davana oil, sheer cognac, dewdrop notes, red berry rose, crimson rose petals, sheer spring jasmine, sheer port accord, ylang ylang, natural chamomile, rosewood, red incense, tolu balsam, white amber, bio-musk. I have managed to identify it's the musks I mostly like, so I also like Blu by Bulgari which has similar musk base notes. I like quite masculine smelling fragrances which are usually heavy on the musk. I avoid anything heavy on rose notes, but I like citrus notes.

This is quite a helpful resource to help identify the notes in perfumes

Anonymous said...

Hello! Like queen michelle said, she would have to know her favorite notes of perfume, but I really like
They sort them all out by type, and you can purchase samples for really cheap for a trial run.

Kasmira said...

I like the perfume blogs, like basenotes and nowsmellthis. They often review fragrances and I find it helpful to read their impressions and the comments from readers.

The Fashionable Kiffen said... has some good messageboards - I think that the posters on the fragrance board know everything there is to know about perfume and they are very helpful!

Anonymous said...

What a brilliant post. Really. I have often suffered the same dilemna. I'm walking around the makeup counters with my eyes tearing from endless perfumes I have to smell. Really, whoever this poster is, cheers to you my fellow scenter. ---Shanstar

Becca said...

Here's a link to try: You can choose a perfume you like and get three recommendations for other perfumes you might enjoy. For Ralph Lauren Romance, they suggest Givenchy Very Irresistible: Bulgarian Rose, Forever and Ever Dior. and Lacoste Touch of Sun.
As mentioned above, Lucky Scent is a great place to explore perfumes and order samples. Fragrant Fripperies ( is run by Patti of the Perfume Posse blog, and is the best for hard to find fragrances. You can order samples and decants of various sizes, and the service is excellent.
Definitely check out the perfume blogs as mentioned above. Now Smell This has an extensive archive of perfume reviews as well as links to more perfume sites. You will learn about all kinds of fragrances you never knew existed.
My final tip is for perfume sniffing/shopping. Try carrying a small bag of coffee beans with you to clear your senses. A few whiffs in between perfumes seems to work for some people.

daddylikeyblog said...

God, I knew you guys were brilliant, but I'm totally blown away. And you smell good too! Maybe we could have dinner sometime?

Sarah said...

They beauty of Sephora (which I never knew until the last time I went perfume shopping) was that they will make you a sample of ANY scent in the store, even if they don't have one of those prepackaged samplers. So if you find something you think you might like, ask for a sample and then wear it for a week.

That's what I did and now I'm running around smelling Young Sexy and Lovely by YSL.

laila said...

Hey, I need to call you back. Also, Joe and I went fragrance shopping just yesterday: He got Burberry London. Totally not what you'd expect, huh?

Emma said...

All I know is I used to wear Aquolina Pink Sugar and it made me smell, to borrow a phrase, "like a baby prostitute". A baby prostitute who had just escaped from the sugar factory after bathing in cotton candy. It was very, very, very cloying and girlie and I don't recommend it unless you are a pixie-like little feminine Lolita type who can work the very sweet perfume. I mostly wear Fresh Apricot Fig which sounds beyond gross but it's nice. Also, Valentino is good, and I think tomorrow I'm going to buy myself something new at Sephora for summer. Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue, maybe? Who's to know? Also, I have to advise against Hanae Mori. It smells good for a while and then it doesn't anymore. At least, that's what happened to me.

Sara Darling said...

Hmmm... I have a scientific experiment to suggest. I know some (but generally not department stores, sadly) fragrance sellers will have a little bowl of coffee beans in the perfume section. You can sniff the coffee beans and it's supposed to clear your olfactory palate, as it were, so you can appreciate the next fragrance on it's own merits and not have it mixed up nose-u-larly with the last one. This doesn't work to clear up your fore arm if you've already got eight patches of perfume taking up so much room you consider checking to see if you're that one freak who can sniff her own elbow. But it can help you weed out inappropriate perfumes before the skin test.

In any case, my scientific query is this: one might feel a trifle odd walking around the department store perfume section with a bag of French roast, and I'm wondering if it would work to walk around carrying a latte to sip/sniff between perfumes. People do that so much anyway... I can't reason out whether that would work or if you'd just decide every fragrance you smelled had a lovely top-note of steamed milk (or chocolate if you like the mochas) from the non-coffee latte element. Someone (i.e. someone less lazy than me) could test this....

Kirsten said...

Philosophy's Grace!!! it's so purty without being nasally offensive. :D

Christine said...

I actually did a post about perfume earlier this week ( and I have to agree with Queen Michelle..look at the top notes in your favorite perfumes, and look for perfumes with similar notes. Also, Sephora has little scent-labels at the bottom of every perfume description: "oriental", "woody-oriental", "floral," etc. Look up your favorite perfume, and click on the label's link: it will show you all that are in the same category. It is very accurate as far as all my favorites are in the same category! And then you can go to Sephora with 3 or 4 specific ones in mind to try.

millie said...

Well I don't really have anything smart or even relevant to say...but here's a story:
I've been wearing the same perfume for almost eight years. And a while ago I was like...dude I seriously have to branch out! So I found one that was quite similar (no great secret here; I actually discovered it by rubbing a Vogue magazine all over myself). So anyway I tried some on at the Duty Free store in Ireland, right before boarding a plane to Italy. And it almost killed me. I mean I was SO allergic, I literally like, broke out in hives and I sneezed probably four hundred trillion times on a one-hour plane ride, and I couldn't breathe and it sucked. So I guess the moral of my story is, don't try a new perfume right before boarding a plane. And maybe, if you like the one you've been wearing for so long, maybe you should just stick with it. I mean when I see old friends, and they give me hug, they say "ooh it smells like milena!" and that's pretty cool, you know? It's like at this point my natural essence is Gucci Rush, I mean I practically excrete it out of my pores. And another moral: the similar one to Gucci Rush that almost killed me was Dior Pure Poison, and both have woody bottom notes and floral top ones. Somebody wrote earlier that you should find out what the main "notes" are, and to that I say amen. Also, call me crazy, but the descriptions for both are always "sexy, seductive, yadayada" and I think Winnie wrote a post once about how the hell do you describe a scent as fresh or sexy or smart, but who knows, maybe they're on to something here.

angela said...

Sephora provides this service.

In case the link doesn't work- go to fragrance on the Sephora site. On the left hand side of the page under Other Ways to Shop- Fragrance Finder.

You can at least narrow done the ones you go to the store to sniff.

theovereducatedvalet said...

I agree that Basenotes is a good resource, particularly for being able to start shopping with a list of a few perfumes to sample instead of being completely at sea.

My best advice is to really take your time in choosing a new fragrance and to try to enjoy the experience of it. It's probably not something you can nail in just one trip, since I find that your mood can influence what's appealing. Deciding on a scent is all about the image you want to project and the way you want to feel when you're wearing it - once you've ruled out the perfumes that really just rub you the wrong way/smell bad. If you make it a point to stop and try 4 or 5 perfumes each time you're near a fragrance counter, after a few visits, you'll start to hone in on certain styles that you like. When I'm picking a new fragrance, I always go back and "visit" it in the store a couple of times before I buy, just to make sure that I'm still head-over-heels.

Getting samples to take home is also a great idea. Barney's has a nice variety of fragrances and they'll make you a little sample of whatever you want, if they don't have prepackaged vials available.

Henna said...

I would agree towith the Sephora advice. Go on their website and click through the different fragrance categories they have (orientals, florals, etc.) and see what categories the perfumes you already like are in. Then try other ones in the same category.

I did this and realized that I love florals since all the perfumes I own are from the floral category.

Hope that helps!

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Anonymous said...

so this post is kind of old, but i am sure i'm not the only one who loves to read old daddy likey posts when she should be working. so for anyone who is still looking to branch out when it comes to scents i recommend - you can enter a perfume you like and are then presented with a number of alternatives that might work for you. you can even say which aspect you like about the scent and they will make different suggestions accordingly. actually playing around with this thing is another awesome way to waste time at work (if not as awesome as reading daddy likey) (god i'm a suck up!) and it makes the next perfume shopping trip so much easier because you have some ideas where to start.

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