Drugstore Cowgirls (drugstore perfume)

Penicillin and the wheel have already been invented, so we thought we’d do our bit for all mankind by testing drugstore perfume. This idea was born partly from the fact that we’re bugged by the whole niche fragrance snob concept, and mostly because it sounded like fun. We wanted to answer that Eternal Question: could you get a decent fragrance at your local drugstore? So we kicked the idea around and established the basic rules:

1) We’d go to the drugstores separately (which makes sense, since one of us lives in Denver and one in Washington, D.C.), sniff a few things, and select three scents: one for ourselves; one for a gift; and one worst-in-show scrubber.

2) No “cheating” by selecting a classic, a dupe (“smells like Giorgio!”), or an otherwise perfectly respectable fragrance that’s wound up in the locked glass case in Drugstore Purgatory – it has to be a genuine drugstore perfume, something you can’t get at your local department store.

3) No diddling around, sniffing and resniffing – one trip and you’re done.

4) Then we’d exchange the gift fragrances via mail, for further praise or derision.

March’s First Impressions: I haven’t shopped for perfume at the drugstore since I was sporting braces and a tube top. My visit to the local CVS this week was an eye-opener. First, I couldn’t believe the drugstore has TWO separate little dishes of coffee beans to clear the palate after you’ve sampled, say, Shania, before moving on to Stetson. Second, the locked cabinet was surprisingly well-stocked – nothing on my wish list, maybe, but plenty of fragrances priced in the mid-$40s (helloooo, Oscar and J.Lo!) that could be gifted. Unfortunately, those were off-limits for our experiment. Third, CVS is a little light on testers, and let me tell you that if you open up enough little boxes in a furtive manner for discreet spritzing, eventually you will garner the attention of the store security personnel.

Patty’s First Impressions: My memories of shopping for¬†drugstore perfume was formed in the ’70s, and those were the bonanza years of many cheap little fragrances, some of them quite good. You could stop at the fountain for a Cherry Sprite, sit on the naugahyde stool, spin around and get your friend who worked there to bring out the smelly stuff while you tried on the whacky plastic sunglasses. Things have changed. In between snagging some deodorant and cookies, I finally found the “unsecured” winner at my third stop. My first stop was a new Walgreens where they seem to have hidden the $4.95 perfumes. My second stop was a Walgreens that was older and had a handful of things that I could lift out of the cheap packaging and sniff and try not to laugh. Beyond Musk, Musk, Musk and his other brother, Musk, there wasn’t a lot to go through. After looking longingly at the locked case, I made my choice between the three stores. Motivation for shopping for perfume at the drugstore — you can pick up a lot of things you forgot you need to stock up on, plus get a pack of cookies and a cold drink. Drawbacks — Lack of selection and testers, but no lack of musk.

March and Patty Joint Conclusion: Musk is the New Black and the Old Black at the Drugstore.

And the winners?!?!? Tune in next week for the thrilling results of drugstore perfume.

  • Katie says:

    Aw, you know, I still kind of like Jean Nate, but it’s hard to discern if it’s my nose or my memories talking there.

    One drugstore scent I loved that a friend used to wear is Aspen. I don’t understand how, but she would smell delicious, like some peculiar candy whenever she wore it. Like, I’ve never smelled as delicious EVER as she did when she wore Aspen. God, I should look for it again. It really didn’t smell quite “right” on me, but I’m curious to revist it.

  • Patty says:

    Can I wait until I sniff it to commit? I mean, all day? Can it be a half day?

    Okay, okay, I’ll do it.

  • marchlion says:

    Marina — really?! You found a keeper? Will have to google the bottle. It was tough going, I tell you… can’t wait to see what Miss P selected for me. Hey, P, let’s up the ante — you have to wear my gift to the office, with no disclosure, and ask folks what they think! Assuming, of course, you can bear to spray it on your skin. I’ll find some victims on this end. Whaddya say?

  • Marina says:

    Received a sample of Wild Woods today. It really IS reminiscent of The Mother of All Bell Jars a.k.a. Femenite du Bois. Very very decent scent. It looks like I will have to venture into the unknown, dangerous territory of Walgreens and such…nah, I’ll ebay for it! :biggrin:

  • marchlion says:

    Marina — I checked my list, no Wild Woods, sorry. Would have been a blessed relief from the Musk.

  • Patty says:

    I enjoyed your celebrity foray, Victoria, too, which kinda got us to thinking about venturing into this vast wasteland. So when are you reviewing Shania? :biggrin:

  • Victoria says:

    So much fun to read this! After my foray into celebrity fragrance market, I am ready for anything (and many from that group turned out to be nice). I am a former Soviet pioneer! I am all for equality. ūüôā

  • Patty says:

    That was one I kept looking for, never saw it. Also had heard about some Lily Prune thing that allegedly is carried in some drugstores. Never saw that either. Musk and more musk, plenty of that.

    The real question is, have we now abandoned our niche, snobby fragrance ways, and become confirmed drugstore perfume shoppers?

  • Robin says:

    Great idea!! Can’t wait to see the outcome.

  • Marina says:

    You two are my heros. I am all aflutter, waiting for the results.

    Have either of you encountered Coty Wild Woods while at drugstores? If yes, what did you think??