Vintage Perfumes – To Vintage or Not to Vintage

Vintage Perfumes

For me, Vintage perfumes were not an easy route, it was the proverbial trip down the rabbit hole, without having any idea what was in there and what it was going to cost to get there and back.

It fascinated me, but I was always about stuff I could wear right now and was in steady supply. The Gobin-Daude search and find just about killed me — finding Seve Exquise, loving it, and now never being able to get it again. And let’s face it, a lot of vintage perfumes aren’tt wearable for everyday, not in the society we have that is sensitive to anything that makes a strong statement.

But more important, vintage of the really great stuff is super-expensive to get and super-impossible to find. Having a Black Belt in Sniping will not get you what you seek without lots and lots of cash. You are fighting those insane bottle collectors and the perfume collectors, and most of us don’t stand a chance of getting that much-longed-for bottle of Guerlain Djedi (weeps quietly) unless it’s an off day and everyone is asleep a the “buy vintage perfumes” switch. Further, if you were fortunate enough to score that treasure, what do you do when it runs out and there is no more to be had? Throw yourself in front of the Guerlain boutique in Paris, tying yourself to the door until they make some more? Well, yeah, that’s probably the approach I’ll take I would take, though overthrowing the French government, setting up a fast despotic regime so you can order Guerlain to break out the family recipe book and whip up a few batches of Djedi and Fol Arome may be a little more cool and trendy and less personally embarrassing.

Instead of dealing with that portion of heartache, I’ve ignored vintage perfumes until just recently. Then the siren song just became too loud, and I blame a few people, and they should know who they are, I’m scowling at them now. What happened was it finally became clear to me that enjoying vintage perfumes isn’t just about owning it or having enough to wear forever in an uninterrupted supply — it’s about smelling some of the greats, no matter how small a taste you can get, the things that they can’t/won’t make anymore, like vintage Lanvin’s Rumeur, which really is your favorite worn leather saddle after you spilled your wine on it when that handsome cowboy pressed you back against your horse while he was kissing you… or something like that. Sorry, that’s one of my favorite little, um, “mind vignettes,” otherwise known as MFs.

It’s about finding a scent that makes your heart pound because it is so gorgeous, like Guerlain’s Fol Arome — I don’t know what all notes are in this, a little anise, and who cares what the rest is, it is simply unlike anything else I have smelled, and it is utterly unique and beautiful. Others fall into this category — Miss Dior parfum, Weil Antilope, Sortilege, Lucien Lelong Passionement (whoever decided to ditch this should be shot, drawn and quartered and then shot again), the vintage Carons, which, thankfully, have stayed much the same (as of 2006, this changed after writing this post). Some vintage perfumes are not so old, but just discontinued, like Fath de Fath, Donna Karan Chaos (anyone want to go in on a bottle split? All this talk by March is just killing me).

Do I need to own those vintage perfumes? Well, yes!!! I mean, dang, you’ve got to be kidding me, I’d love to have all of them or at least one of them, but this is where I have changed in how I think of having and knowing a perfume. Regardless of possession, I will carry the memories of how these smell forever, and I really don’t need to wear them regularly or even once in a blue moon, though I find it most comforting to have a small sample or decant of all of them nearby. It is enough to know they existed at one time and were beautiful and still exist here and there in someone’s perfume collection or gramma’s bottom drawer. In the case of Guerlain, I will remain optimistic that one day Djedi and Fol Arome will find themselves on the re-issue list. In the meantime, there’s samples of these floating around, some on eBay, and it is well worth the scent education to have smelled them. Is it worth the trip down the Rabbit Hole? Oh, yes, it definitely is.

If you could pick any discontinued perfume in the world to get a little sample of, what would it be? And what full bottle would you most want?

  • Femme says:

    ANY of the greats that had been changed or discontinued, including Balmain’s original “Vent Vert”, for example.

    But right now, Creed’s “Fleur de Rose de The Bulgare” comes to mind… Supposedly, it was made for Ava Gardner. That’s intriguing (and heady, I presume) enough.. 😉

  • brenda says:

    reading this has made me smile…yes i remember bakir, and may try the irma shorrell version (can it be so bad? don’t answer that!) but i really really want mary quant’s havoc…

  • tarleisio says:

    OMG…do I have to pick just one? ;-(

    Any old Guerlain. Any. I’d be thrilled to join you ladies on the picket line on the rue Tronchet or the Champs Elysèes wearing my loudest, most obnoxious tie-dye/Hawaiian-day-glo print shirt – fried retinas or your money back! – howling for reissues of…only everything! In French. And English. And Danish. German. And Irish Gaelic, if it would help. My very first ever proper perfume was a Guerlain, bought in Paris at the Champs Elysèes store, and it was Jicky, no less. (How’s that for an intro?) Not the version available today. I think it was reformulated, alas, because it’s just not the same anymore.

    Oh, and since I’m big on the green/chypre unique department, please, would somebody hogtie the grand pooh bahs at Christian Dior and coerce them to bring back Dioressence? Pretty please with puff pastry on top?Stunning, stunning, stunning stuff – right up there in the top five To Die For list, and my bottle is now down to a thick syrup that is no longer its former, glorious self…

    Oh, to inhale and exude, once more before I die…


  • Lucy says:

    One of my dreams is to own a bottle of Parfum Sacre parfum. Love the edp, but. Oh, & to get a sniff of the original formulation of Coty’s L’origan. & Chypre. I want to know what Chypre was like. While I am about it, weren’t Tabac Blond and Jicky reformulated at some point? Has anyone had a chance to experience the originals? Givenchy’s Le De would be fab, too.

  • Katie says:

    Between the post and comments, this is such a nice list of things!

    I’d love to get my hands on another bottle of Nuit de Longchamp. And Coty Chypre as it was originally released. Not a perfume, but it was the inspiration for it – I’d be over the moon to find the original incense of Toujours Moi. Wouldn’t that be astounding to find?

  • Donna says:

    Gobin Daude Seve Exquise and Guerlain Apres L’ondee parfum.

  • Maria B. says:

    About the European Union: Let’s not tell the bureaucrats how wonderful the extrait of Apres l’Ondee is. They’ll get actual pleasure about having put the kabosh on it (by banning one of its ingredients). Then they’ll go after other scents we love. It’s the bureaucrats’ hour of power!:o:((

  • Another vote for Coty Chypre. I love Chypres, so that’s an easy choice.
    And Chaos. March has converted me, too. So, now I need it.

  • Clarissa says:

    The original L’Interdict by Givenchy–hands down. Then Imprevu.

  • BBliss says:

    I am tiptoeing around the rabit hole – as I adore the Gobin Daudes that I’ve smelled. I’d want back the old Diors, the old L’air du temps and an old Laura Ashley called Emma.

    And, of course everything everyone mentioned above, even just to smell once…I want to experience it all!:d

  • Patty says:

    Pam, I love it when you guys mention things that I’m totally clueless about, only to incur a NEEDlemming, which is very different from a lemming.

  • Patty says:

    Maria — I would be a kind and benevolent perfume despot, I swear! There would be a bottle of Djedi and Voeu de Noel in every house! Ma Patous in every cupboard!

    I didn’t know it was those goofy laws stopping the gorgeous Apres L’Ondee extrait? That sucks an UFB amount. Don’t they KNOW?!?!?

    Now I need to find my own bottle of Antilope. I really really like it a lot, but I’m picky now, I want it in parfum. 🙂

  • Patty says:

    Tigs, awful, isn’t it? Become a snog, but it feels like vindication that the snobbery is worthwhile!

    I don’t think one day I’ll take back all the mean things I’ve said about bottle collectors, but it could happen! 🙂

  • Patty says:

    R — when you and J agree on one, I know I better pay attention. Fath Iris gris? As much as I love Fath de Fath, which I really need to write about this week, I suspect this one would work for me too!

  • Patty says:

    Tom, according to Luca’s book, there is a museum in France, the Osmoteque or something? But he says you can go in and look, but only those who have contributed some significant old perfume to the museum get to sniff.

    Do you think they’d take an old bottle of Stephen B? :d

  • Patty says:

    Madelyn — sometimes the only way is to set up the old eBay searches and hope one comes along! Eventually many do, but they go for such high prices, it is scary!

  • Patty says:

    Allison, those Patous are really spectacular. Some of them so difficult to wear, but really unique and beautiful.

  • Patty says:

    Julia, I don’t think I’ve heard of that one, but it sounds wonderful!

  • Patty says:

    Skine sounds awesome! I know Diane has samples and decants of Voeu de Noel, and I need to go grab a sample.

  • Patty says:

    March — yeah, something something Faunes, was supposed to be a filthy little thing. I need a sniff of that as well. That would be the sample I would pick, as well as the Caron Voeu de Noel, which I think I’ll go snag right now.

  • Pam says:

    So many good ones already listed. Echoing Rumeur, original Emeraude and Chypre and anything original from Coty along with some of the ancient Guerlains and long defunct Carons.

    I would very much like to smell a pristine bottle of Houbigant’s Essence Rare from the ’20s and and also a pristine bottle of Essence Rare parfum from the ’70s.

    Would also like to smell Praetexte and Scandal from Lanvin along with Millot’s original Crepe de Chine. There are many others on the list, but I’ll stop here.

    Great post, Patty. Happy holidays to all!

  • Patty says:

    Judith — I dream of that bottle of Fol Arome as well. It’s everything Shalimar should have been.

  • Patty says:

    L — I think we need to tie ourselves to Guerlain next fall — en masse, like a group of us. We’ll get signs in French and wear horrible American Tourist clothing. They’ll surely be too embarrassed to turn us down!

  • Maria B. says:

    Patty for European Union despot! Let’s start the campaign. It would no longer be enough just to be despot of France–ah, the good old days. It’s the ding-dong European Union’s list of harmful chemicals that is stopping the production of the extrait form of Apres l’Ondee. Grrrrr. That list could use some trimming. I just got some extrait, but that’s it.

    I really can’t choose just one vintage fragrance. Any Guerlain would be lovely, of course. I remember having sniffed Weil’s Antilope, which you mention, and having found it to be lovely.

    I got a bottle of Sortilege extrait when I was six years old. A professional acquaintance of my father’s brought it back from a trip to Paris assuming wrecklessly that a man my father’s age would have a grown-up young lady for a daughter. My father was 43 when I was born. :d

  • Patty says:

    Dennis, you are killing me. 🙂 Day shopping trip to Paris, harumph!

    Next time you’re there, chain yourself to the Guerlain front door and tell them you are there for the duration until they start making those old things again.

  • Patty says:

    Kathy, how different is the old White Shoulders from what they make now? I haven’t smelled the latest iterations.

    I had to really think about it a lot, but I will never regret having and smelling the Gobin DAudes or Djedi or Fol Arome or vintage Rumeur, I just can’t. They are totally worth smelling, even if it’s just one time.

  • Patty says:

    Annie, can you ever find those anymore? That just breaks my heart!

    There should be a new law introduced for 2007 — all perfumes that are discontinued must have their recipe divulged so other people can make them.

    Signed — Perfume Sluts United

  • Patty says:

    L — I wish I had some Djedjjji to send you (sorry, can’t remember how many J’s it should have, so I threw in extras). If I ever come by some, you will definitely be on my list to send some too. It really is completely different from anything else.

  • Tigs says:

    Oh Patty – so true, so true. I’ve just been thinking about this: how I avoided vintages because people always seemed so *snotty* going on and on about them, and complaining and whining about the reorchestrations and then I tried a few and ack!- they were better. I’m a snob. I knew it would happen. The Patou Ma Collection should be revived and hmmm… Chaos, original L’Emeraude, Shanghai and Dioressence, Diorella in parfum, etc. etc. ad naseum.

  • violetnoir says:

    Hmmm…Yardley Oh de London! How about some of those old Guerlains. And throw in the Iris Gris while you’re at it, P!


  • tmp00 says:

    Jean Patou Normandie and Cocktail jsut off the top of my head.

    Seriously, there should be some sort of scent museum to record some of these.

    And when you take over France and start forcing the release of the discontinued ones, can I come and play too? Please? I bake! Just sayin’ :d

  • Madelyn E says:

    Hi, I would love Sortilege, L’opera , Coty’s Imprevu and Donna R – Roberta de Camerino. Jolie Madame . So many ..Now how to get them ?
    Madelyn E

  • Allison in MA says:

    My vintage wishes include the original Jolie Madame, Givenchy III and Caline by Jean Patou. I see these occasionally on Ebay but I don’t want to risk buying something that has turned.

    I have heard that Creed’s Fleur de The Rose Bulgare was changed at some point, anyone know if that’s true? If so I would like to try the original.

  • Julia says:

    I would gladly chop off my pinky toe for an unopened bottle of Germaine Monteils Bakir (perfume strength, not the cologne). Though I know it’s acessible as a remake from Long Lost it’s really the original juice I crave.


  • Camilla says:

    What a perfectly delightful post. Wonderful to read and perfectly illustrated. I know so much exactly how you feel.

    It’s very much like love, isn’t it? Eventually we have to conclude it is better to have loved and lost than never loved at all… I’m still trying to evolve to that point. But honestly, there is little hope of escape from the siren song for any of us, as even today, perfume houses tease us with their fickle habits:((

    Which vintage scent would I love most to smell? Who could choose just one? I will say just for today it would be Skine, by Guerlain. This is an ancient one pre-1900’s. But the name! It taunts/haunts me. Caron’s Voeu de Noel would also be high on my list, especially at this time of year.

    But as I’ve been loving Sublime recently, one of Jean Patou’s fabulous vintage scents would be quite welcome: Colony, Cocktail or L’ Heure Attendue, especially if it comes with the scarf!

  • March says:

    One of those old Guerlains. No, I can’t pick one. How about all of them? What was that one — Faunes? Ack — send me back in time!:x

  • Judith says:

    For the bottle, I will take Fol Arome please. The sample is hard to pick–I have several on my list!! I will go with Fath Iris Gris.

  • Elle says:

    Oh, falling down that rabbit hole is a terrible thing for the budget and sanity – the agony of having sniped w/ a shockingly high, desperation scented price (way beyond that in any sane budget)and then still losing it to a #*%@&# bottle collector. But, yep, it’s still wonderful and magical. I would sell my soul and several assorted relatives for a vintage bottle of Fille d’Eve (I got the reissued version and it is *drek*). And a lifetime supply of Djedi. If you want someone else to join you in tying themselves to the door of Guerlain, just let me know – I’ll be there.

  • Dennis says:

    Hello! Another great post…I would love to smell the original Coty Chypre. I like chypres as a general rule, and would love to have the first and greatest to compare/contrast. And one thing else I would like, call me crazy, is a cologne that Bic (the pen/lighter people) made in the late 80’s. It cost about $5 at the drugstore but it smelled great, and it would be great to take a trip down memory lane to college days!

    Don’t worry. My taste level has gone up slightly…just picked up SL Cuir Mauresque on a day shopping trip to Paris. One bonus of living in London…access!

  • Kathy says:

    Vintage White Shoulders parfum. I would love to put my hands on that one. It reminds me of the happiness and contentment of childhood with my grandmother. While it’s not perfume, I would also love to have some of the original Avon Honeysuckle soap that my grandmother used to tuck in with her quilts. Heaven!

    I have been avoiding trying the discontinued scents, but you make a great point for trying them for the experience.

  • Annie says:

    Oh,Lord!!!….Now that I’m MUCH older,and Still the quest goes on(and on,and on)for yet another wonderful fragrance…I find that I long for two in paticular(here’s betting that absolutely no one has even heard of these):a huge bottle of We Moderns that was made exclusivly for Saks,and Tapestry…I think Mary Chess made this…I wore them all through school(high school and college)…We Moderns was a green scent,but Tapestry was a beautiful,full-blown oriental….I can still smell them,as they were like no other(sobs in hankie):((

    • Paul says:

      I have two full 8 ounce bottles of ‘We Moderns’ if you are looking. One has been opened but not used the other is original packaging.

  • Leopoldo says:

    Being pretty much a vintage virgin, at least in this incarnation of scent addict (I’ve sniffed em in the past, but like a born again teen slut, I cannot recall the experience), I’d go with Djedi. Its description haunts me.