Friday, March 23, 2012

Fragrance Friday: Perfumes, Revisited

Before I subject you to the opus below, have you entered the giveaway?

Regular readers of the blog are familiar with Fragrance Friday, wherein I "review" a perfume. Up until now, these posts have been entirely subjective, opinionated, and rather empty of content. I've enjoyed writing them immensely, but I'm not sure how helpful they really are to anyone except me. In the interests of becoming a better blogger (and because I needed a new topic to obsess over and thereby procrastinate with), I've started to delve into the world of perfume more intensely. 

First, some general websites to keep in mind/check out: OsMoz, which has fragrance pyramids and family classifications (see below for more on those topics!); Basenotes, where people post fragrance reviews (I like going there to check out the general consensus on a scent); Fragrantica, which has both snapshot love/like/hate ratings and more in-depth reviews (you have to register to access all the content, but you can do that either with a Facebook account or an email; I used my BJB email account, since I don't care if that gets spammed, though I haven't had any trouble with it yet); and the MakeupAlley Fragrance Board, which I haven't actually explored yet, but which I've heard is an excellent resource (for swapping, fragrance reviews, recommendations, etc.), and I will definitely get into it soon.

I read Perfumes: The Guide, by Luca Turin (a God in the perfume reviewing world, apparently, and very funny) and Tania Sanchez, which has ~2000 perfume reviews. It served as a very nice introduction to the field and to make me aware of some of the heavy-hitters in the perfume world. I don't agree with some of their reviews (they called Chance eau fraîche, one of my favoritest scents, "chemical floral" and "utterly banal"), but it's an entertaining read, and their negative reviews are often hilariously condemnatory. It was published in 2008, and there have been many perfumes released since then, so I advise checking out the website for a spreadsheet with all of the perfumes from the book, as well as some newer perfumes. It's a fantastic resource, and made it much easier for me to build my own spreadsheet wishlist!
From there, I moved on to Now Smell This, a veritable encyclopedia of perfumery online (Bois de Jasmine is another similarly in-depth resource that I just happened to discover later, but it is well worth your time to check out both! I've linked to some of BdJ's most informative posts at the bottom). The reviews are very evocative and non-judgmental, and there are numerous reference posts that have helped greatly in my perfume education. You should read them all, but in particular, these, which combined have completely shifted the way I approach perfume (listed somewhat in order of how informative they were for me, but your background undoubtedly differs from mine, so take that with a grain of salt):
Robin's list of things (part 1) she wished she'd known as a newbie perfumista (part 2). If you're wanting a great introduction, this is the place to go. It covers everything, and has links to the other articles below (which I'm including anyways, in case there's a particular topic you find interesting!)
Perfumista tip: the five biggest misconceptions about perfume. Even if you have no interest in perfume, read this. You will be amazed at what you learn.
Perfume Glossary, wherein they define pretty much all the terms you should know (much more in-depth than the glossary in Perfumes: The Guide)
     Bois de Jasmine's Speaking Perfume: A to Z of Common Fragrance Descriptions is an even more thorough, excellent resource, which has links to more in-depth articles, as well as examples of perfumes that exhibit the note of focus. Read this.
Perfumista tip: on lists of fragrance notes, why they matter & why they don't. How did I not know this before?!
Perfumista tip: on reformulations, or why your favorite perfume doesn't smell like it used to. Everyone who has any interest in perfume needs to read this. It is great background information, and will make reading many perfume reviews a lot clearer
Perfumista tip: on fragrance families, which is very informative about the source and purpose of family designations (like oriental, chypre, fruity floral, etc.)
Perfumista tip: how to apply perfume. From this article, I gleaned a wonderful tip: apply perfume to the back of your forearm. Works so well!
A perfumista lexicon, to help you navigate the world of online fragrance reviews and discussions once you feel ready to dive in. I've been enjoying reading Perfume PossePerfume Shrine, and Perfume Smellin' Things, but there are untold other 'fume blogs out there!
Perfume Reviews, which has a complete list of all the perfumes that have been reviewed on the site. Extensive and very helpful!
Perfume Shopping Online, with a bunch of (affiliate) links to places to buy perfume online (who'da thunk?).
And Perfume Shopping in New York and London; I'm going to try and check out at least a couple of the New York places!

Bois de Jasmine is written by a Victoria, a trained perfumer, and is a fantastic resource. She does wonderful comparisons of reformulations vs. vintage versions of perfumes, so you can know whether they're different enough to warrant trying to hunt down the old version (usually, they are!), and her reviews are thoughtful, concise, and very revealing. Some posts in particular that you should check out (besides the "Speaking Perfume" article linked above):
Her round-up of all General Perfume Articles
The myth of the fragrance pyramid
How to select perfumes
Fragrance shopping advice
Perfume reviews by note (an excellent way to look for new perfumes to try, once you know what notes you're fond of! I'm still not completely there, but I enjoy reading them nonetheless)

Perfume samples are a great way to try a wide variety of scents without breaking the bank. You can often get some at department stores (higher end [Nordstrom and up] is generally more generous than lower end [Macy's and down]), though the selection is more limited. You can do fragrance swaps, though I've not yet even tried to do that, since the whole process is more involved than I tend to want to get (I'd rather throw my money at someone and not have to do anything).

so cute!
I've ordered from The Perfumed Court, and I highly recommend them; they have awesome starter sets (and more advanced sets, too) that can give big discounts on samples; I got Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose as part of the set I chose from the 100 Fragrances Every Perfumista Must Try (as selected by NST!) set, where it worked out to $3 for the sample, rather than $12 had I bought it alone. Most of the discounts aren't that drastic (often it's $4 normally but $3 as part of a set), and not all fragrances can be purchased as part of a set, but it's a good way to save a few bucks if you're willing to do the math. They've got a truly enormous selection, and everything is available as a sample (ranging from $2.99 for 1 ML to...a lot more than that, if it's vintage, hard to find, or obscenely expensive). I ordered the smallest size, 1 ML (0.034 oz), which is smaller than carded (commercial) samples generally are, but it's still more than enough product to get a good sense of the scent. Plus, it's a vial, not a spray bottle, so much less product is used every application (though it's also harder to tell what the sillage of the fragrance will be when applied normally!). The customer service is great; they were waiting on one of the perfumes that I'd ordered a sample of, and sent me an email to let me know it might be a few days, but the package still arrived within a week and a half of my ordering it. The samples are safely wrapped in a plastic bag, inside a gift box (at least for the set that I got), which is then wrapped in oodles of bubble wrap, so I doubt you'll ever have to worry about it breaking en route! Now I've got, like, 50 things on my wishlist from them (Parfum sets for Guerlain and Chanel, for one thing), and I feel I should warn you that you may fall into the pit and never recover. But hey, at least we'll have each other down there (and our delicious, delicious perfumes)!

Lucky Scent also has a lot of samples to try, and though theirs are only 0.7 ML, many of the ones that are $4 apiece on TPC are only $3 from LS, so while the relative cost is higher, the absolute cost is lower, and for people (like me!) on a budget, every dollar counts. I plan on ordering from Lucky Scent once I've figured out which scents cost more from TPC and aren't available as part of sets, so I'll let you know how that goes!

Aedes has an awesome sample program, where you can order 7 samples (include a couple extras in case one you want is out of stock) for $15 total, and get a $5 coupon to use on a future purchase (you can also get 7 free samples with any order). They carry a lot of great niche brands (Serge Lutens, Diptyque, L'Artisan, By Killian, and others), and while I don't know how big the samples are, it's a fantastic deal regardless. Little more than $2 for expensive niche samples? Yes please! I'll post a review once I've ordered from them as well.

Here is the spreadsheet I've made, if you care to look at it; these are the perfumes that I hope to someday try, though my coding system for ranking them is perhaps opaque to people not me. It's by no means complete or static, and I made it for my own use only, but you're welcome to make use of it as you like.

Okey, I think that's pretty much everything! If you made it here, I'm sorry. You can look forward to some (slightly more) legit Fragrance Fridays, with sourcing and notes and everything, in the weeks to come.

How do you feel about perfume? Are there any blogs you recommend? Or any scents?
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