Sniffed and Unsniffed

The weather’s been gray and rainy – not in a bad way, it gives me hope that spring, as they say, is just around the corner.  It’s the kind of weather that calls out for Fendi Theorema, which is what I’ve been wearing.  A lot.  And for me, it’s a nice change of pace to really wear a beloved perfume (rather than three or six new things) for an entire day.

Of course in the middle of that I got my bottle of the 1999 Calice Becker Ines – bought from Overstockperfume for $14.99 for 1.7 oz (!), I think with shipping the total was less than $22, and it came – literally – the next morning.   I already had on Theorema but I sprayed some Ines on anyway, on the opposite arm.  It was quite the felicitious combination.  Not a layering – I could still lift a wrist and smell either – but I love doing that sometimes.  Theorema’s candied orange on one arm, Ines’ warm, musky embrace on the other, and the scent of the two of them mingled in the air around me… joyous.  And I got compliments, both from a daughter and a stranger.  As opposed to funny looks.  A nice change.

I did try the Balenciaga Paris.  Reviews have been mixed – it’s a quieter scent, a violet, not too sweet, done something along the lines of Prada Infusion d’Iris, maybe a bit more punch.  I haven’t seen the bottle in person but in the photos it’s gorgeous.  It’s been noted that the musky base tends to linger.  I have to say … linger it did, to the point that it wore out its welcome.  I’m having trouble putting my finger on exactly what my problem with it is/was.  It’s certainly light, and Prada IdI never gave me that trouble.  But that base stays and stays and stays and it’s just persistent enough, in maybe a marginally fresh/metallic way?  That it began to annoy.  Not to the point that I scrubbed, but to the point that I buried it.  Under some Mandragore.  I know.  You’re shocked.  I’ll be trying it some more, and if I fall in love (and I might, as I like violet very much) I’ll let you know.  Until then, let’s all bow our heads and have a moment of silence for the fact that we can’t buy Laura Tonatto’s discontinued Eleonora Duse, the greatest violet I’ve ever loved and lost … oh my GOD!!!!!!   It’s on her website again!!!!!!!   I wonder if it smells the same … notes grabbed from there: ylang – ylang Comores – bergamot Italia, violet victorian, iris Italia, lily of the valley, mimosa, woody, poudry, cedar Texas, vanilla Madagascar.  72 Euros!!!  Hmm….

Today’s post, inspired by my cheapie Ines, and because I’m curious:  everything can’t be Serge and Amouage and some vat of stuff you have to order direct from Florence or Ulan Bator (although you know I would, and pay $50 shipping).   What cheap thrills have you indulged in?  I’m thinking of discounter-available frags.  There’s a whole world out there of good stuff that’s under the radar – I had no idea that Becker Ines even existed, and I’m amused to see from comments to that post that several of you already own and wear it.  So, let’s hear about your other online “budget” finds – whether they lived up to expectations or not. Did anyone try that Bill Blass Nude that Angela blogged about?  How was it?  And if your cheap scent was bought unsniffed, whether after a review or because you saw it in a plastic case at Marshalls and had heard about it, I’d love to hear how it worked out – I’m always interested in people’s success rates with unsniffed purchases, as mine is not great.

PS. For anyone interested:  I see in the Sunday NYTimes that Martin Margiela Untitled will be available “this month” in the new boutique in NYC: phone #212-989-7612, no size or price quoted.

Sources: Calice Becker Ines: overstockperfumes.com; Balenciaga Paris, private sample, Fendi Theorema, my own bottle.

207 Comments

  1. Such timing for today’s post, I just bought L’Or de Torrente unsniffed from a discounter site, and am hoping the coffee note surfaces for me. Super discounted perfumes are very difficult to find in Australia, and I envy the bargains you can snare in the US. I was moved by Angela’s post and did buy the BB Nude at a good price, again unsniffed (as I do). What may be “sparkling aldehydes” for some people is for me getting whacked over the head with the synthetic stick! It does settle down after awhile, but in the meantime I feel I’ve cleared the room of all flying insects. Still, it’s fun.

    • I really like L’Or de Torrente – I have a decant – and it’s one of the most gorgeous bottles ever. The combination of coffee and rose is so unusual, but good. ~o)@};-

    • I’ve not tried Torrente! There are a lot of comments on this post … many of which I’ve not tried either. :”>

    • Hi,

      I work with a company called Parfums de Coeur and would absolutely love to send you over some samples to review.

      Best,
      Alissa

  2. Mine was Balmain (de Balmain) on Mistress Shelley’s recommendation. A great little sparkly green. You know I like my sparklies. I got it for about $1.17 on beautyencounter. It got here in about 4.3 seconds.

    I like it a whole lot!

    xoxo >-)

    • You and your mean greenies! And your sparklies… there are some amazing deals out there, eh?

  3. Tabu. I am the only person on Earth on whom it’s a skin scent, but it is. At $6 for two small spray containers, the fact it only lasts a couple of hours doesn’t bother me much.

    • I have some vintage, and … well … it was like a buffet spilled down my shirt. /:) And I put it on pretty lightly. Maybe I should try the new.

      • Maybe you should just back. away. from. the. Tabu. Madea isn’t joking when she says she is the only person on Earth, honey. That stuff is scarylicious! Madea, if you’re ever in Chicago, you holla, okay? I want to smell this on you! The former manager of the cellphone/laundromat/drycleaners/Avon distributor place in town (hey, we’re tiny – but we’re hooked UP![-x ) – she wears that and it’s a Mighty Mighty, indeed!

        xo >-)

        • Musette, come to New Orleans and you can smell it on me while we sip one of the many drinks the Cresent City is famous for. Come to think of it, maybe Tabu is stronger than I thought, and everyone’s just too festive to notice it…:-?

  4. I’m one of the people who bought BB Nude unsniffed and liked it. And liked it enough to buy a back up bottle! At $14 it wasn’t a hardship. Read Angela’s review on NST if you’re curious because I can’t describe it any better than she did. But I’ll add this: it smells like someone took a green scent and turned up the heat on it. I like to wear it to bed.

    • I did read it — galbanum-heavy aldehydes aren’t my first love, but she sure did make it sound good.

  5. Bvlgari Black – if I remember correctly it was only about $30 (USD) online. I place about 70% of the blame on LT, and the rest on other reviews I read after LT’s glowing endorsement.

    That said, I love the thing. It’s probably my only ‘weird’ perfume other people actually like on me.

    • I second Bvlgari Black, in fact, I’m wearing it right now! It’s so quirky and quixotic!

    • I should retry Black. I could never get past the rubber-tire bit… I love the bottle, though. 🙂

  6. Up here in the Great Not-So-White-This-Year-Anyway North (Vancouver) there’s nothing cheap to be had from Canadian etailers and I’m always chicken to order from south o’ the border in case I pay through the nose for duties and taxes. Fortunately we have Winners, our version of your Marshall’s, I think, and my latest bargain-basement find has been Rochas Poupee (what a name, eh?), a really fun gardenia/pineapple number with just the right touch of doll’s head (French doll’s head, dontcha know). The bottle cap is covered in a kind of spray-on orange felt. Fun, funky, $14.99 for 100mls.

    I just have to mention my thrift store find of yesterday, too: a 2.5 ounce bottle, full and in its box, of Champs Elysees Too Much, for 18 bucks (and that’s Canadian). No smirking, please! It may be one of the major Guerlain laughing-stocks/underdog releases, but Yikes, I was amazed by how much I liked this. I think I may even love it. Calabrian bergamot, mimosa, lily, hyacinth, jasmine, narcissus and benzoin – it’s a Big Yellow Floral and it yells Springtime at the top of its lungs. The gas jockey who waited at the car window while I popped the hood for an oil check said I smelled great. Yes I did. 😉

    • I love it-the gas jockey! Just this morning I was thinking while eating my oatmeal about being in Canada–the menus always offered strawberry ice cream to top it off-do they still do that?

      • That’s a new one, m. But then, I rarely get anywhere over on the other side of the Rockies. 😉

    • I wonder if the Canadians are paying more attention to the incoming stuff? I buy from Canada all the time and have it shipped here.

      Poupee I remember thinking was a lot of fun — it had just come out on one of my trips to Paris and it was everywhere. I’d not seen it here, though.

      Hey, if that Guerlain makes you happy, that’s what counts. :)>-

        • P.S. The non-functioning blushing emoticon is for the Guerlain. But March, where are you finding these fabulous Canadian sources that have been flying under my radar? Which online stores? Enquiring Canucks want to know. $-)

          • So, you’re keeping this fantastic Canadian source all to yourself, March? =((

          • I am embarrassed to admit that I realize most of what I was nattering about was Canadian eBay — they’re happy to ship here, and the exchange rate is (was) favorable. But also there was another place that sold hard-to-find stuff like almost all of the Annayake line, of which I’m very fond, and some other interesting things. And I thought it was Cosmolane — they pop up in Annayake google searches — but when I go to their website they’re not there. 🙁 So. I FAIL.

            • Glad you failed, actually, March. Thought ’twas I who’d been missing the boat on the ultimate Canadian fragrance bargoon source. I’m relieved. #:-s

      • :”>

        I’m telling ya, I’ve had problems with that blushing emoticon for weeks now. How, er, embarrassing. #-o

    • Robin, I too would like to know about Canadian perfume e-tailers, if they’re out there. Had some LuckyScent samples sent to me as they were under the customs limit, but have otherwise been a been e-shopping chicken too. BTW which Vancouver thrift store was it, if you don’t mind revealing its location?

      Real Canadian Superstore(!) is sometimes pretty good for perfume sales. I bought D&G Feminine and Anais Anais for $15 apiece a couple of months back.

      • Thanks, I never thought to check out Real Canadian Superstore. Glad you got those deals.

        The very best place I’ve found for thrift store treasures is the Salvation Army shop in Gibsons, believe it or not. It’s just far enough away from the Big City to discourage vintage hounds, but close enough to the fancy summer places on the Sunshine Coast to get some great donations.

        P.S. I can’t believe I’m divulging my Numero Uno source to a bunch of rabid bargain hunters. What a saint. o:-)

        • Thanks, St. Robin! Will have to get up that way sometime. Chilliwack Thrift Store is pretty good too..

    • Well, it ain’t as cheap as it used to be … :-w … I have two bottles and the oil. I love it.

  7. lady stetson…i just adore it..already am stockpiling back ups..norell bath oil,stetson cologne,grey flannel,cabotine,youth dew bath oil…there are so many good quality bargains out there!

  8. It seems lately I’m only buying relatively expensive decants unsniffed. Funny, that… hmmm. And probably stupid, but what can you do?

    I love the online cheap, though, and dang there’s a lot of it out there too, eh? Last summer I discovered Chopard Mira Bai, which is surprisingly nice — a fruityish thing, but not the usual modern dreck. Not as lucky with Gres Cabotine: it totally enchanted me from a sample vial, but it smells worth every penny of the $10 I think I paid for an ounce. 😮

    I’m even amazed that at this point, 100ml of Terre d’Hermes & Eau de Merveilles are about $45. Other very cheap thrills are KenzoAir and He Wood (both around $20/50ml).

    And the cheapest of the cheap has gotta be Grey Flannel. I think 400ml goes on the bay for like $15. I keep meaning to get a bit, but no way in hell I’m buying 400ml!! And next to that, a mini hardly seems worth the shipping. I owned GF back when… at these prices, do any of you know if it’s just been watered down or cheapened to the point that it’s not even worth buying?

    • Joe, that was such a lovely scent, back in the day. Don’t know what it smells like now but I remember just swooning whenever a guy would come into a room wearing it (judiciously applied, of course. remember Polo? Remember how it seemed that every guy who wore that stuff marinated in it? was it them? or was it Polo:-?

      I say Go Fot It! Just the notion of 400ml of anything is funny! You could indulge your curiosity and if it’s good, you can gift your friends!

      xo >-)

    • Grey Flannel is on my cheap happy list, too. I got it as a pre-emptive strike against Axe. Shouldn’t have worried, though; the manchild likes Terre d’Hermes. 😉

    • Grey Flannel makes me very happy. My dad’s an Old Spice guy but I bought him a bottle of Grey Flannel or two back in the day, so it makes me think of him.

  9. Well, Theorema has a lasting place in my heart (beloved describes it for me, as well), but a more recent bargain basement buy was Histoire d’Eau Mauboussin. I purchased unsniffed on the rec of Marlen over at Perfume Critic, and it’s been a winner (at under ten bucks, chances were good that I’d at least be able to call it a successful auto air freshener). Warm woods and some spice with a very slightly camphorous note – it’s nothing like its name implies – it has (dare I say it) a little bit of a Lutens vibe.

    • I should try that Mauboussin. I wanted Topaze (?) forever, the niche-y one, but never found it.

  10. Oh, and I did buy — after Kevin’s great recent NST review — the Infusion Organique Buddha’s Fig. Unsniffed. Only $35/50ml. It’s nice and will be nicer in warm weather (today was *only* 65° or so). Sort of a poor man’s Philosykos; not as creamy.

  11. Ooh, a topic near and dear to my heart. :”> My favorite cheap thrill is Jacomo Silences, which smells just like Chanel 19 but with a smoky undertone. I’ve been wearing it liberally all week since the thaw has been underway. I bought BB Nude a couple of years ago and liked it but swapped it away; I forget why. 8-| Bulgari Blu Notte (a tester) was a cheap thrill from Parfum1’s sister site, Perfume Port. With shipping, it was under $20 iirc and is a nicely complex oriental-ish number that blows hot and cold. Nice. Coulda sworn I had a sample of Ines but can’t find it now; still, I’m very intrigued…..

      • Yar, it tis. I was intro’d to and gifted a bottle of that by a dear, dear friend 😡 Lucky me!

        xo >-)

          • Didn’t like Silences when I tried it in the fall, but wore it three times last week, falling more in love with it each time – and then broke down and bought a bottle for less than $20.

    • I cannot believe how many great ideas are on here today! And I bet there was a run on Silences years ago when Victoria reviewed it.

      • That’s how I got my bottle!

        It has languished at the back of the closet since then, but I’ll have to try again now that I’ve grown to love No. 19.

        • Funny, I was the other way around…have loved Silences almost since first sniff, but found it took a while to find love for No. 19. Which I have. In spades. 🙂

  12. Welcome to the UK, where you can’t buy anything cheaply. Either that, or they see me coming and up the prices! My cheapest buys were Habanita edt for about £25 and a half-price Etro, so also about £25 (can’t remember which one) in Liberty’s sale (one of the ones that wasn’t Anice – they had about a thousand bottles of that they couldn’t give away)!

    • Ack, you’re kidding me! I’ve been looking for Anice at a decent price! But in my case, welcome to the European mainland, where discounters and/or bargains are an even rarer sight than in the UK.

      My cheapos include Jil Sander Sun, which I wouldn’t be without and which is always on sale *somewhere* (my 30ml cost me €12, I think), and a D&G Light Blue from the bargain bin. ‘Course, that one now gives me a raging headache, so I’m not really counting it.
      And I recently found a shop that stocks Lavera all-natural perfumes (or glorified diluted essential oils – nevertheless, some are nice) at a relatively bargainish price.

    • It seems we’re at an advantage on the cheapies, not sure why? I noticed on eBay as well…

      Funny, I smelled Light Blue three times yesterday at the mall. I like it but I do suspect people can’t smell it on themselves and overapply.

  13. It was because you mentioned Theorema (lots, I seem to remember) that I bought it unsniffed and at a great price and liked it. But my question is, what will you do when you can’t get it any more? I see it is more and more difficult to find, and the price is rising. Is there anything that you would say smells similar?

    • You cry. :(( I’m pretty sure that’s the last of the Theorema. I have a backup bottle, one of the few I’ve bought. And I can’t say that anything smells like Theorema to me.

  14. PS: Just a thought – but is it your birthday this month? Just wondering … perhaps the clue is in your name???

    • Nope! June! But March is my month in many ways. :)>- I always joke that Christopher Brosius named Black March for me.

      • Looked up Black March – sounds wonderful. I may end up not using my Theorema – give me a few months to make up my mind (it always takes me an age) and I might well gift it to you, as I think it will deserve someone who loves it rather than one who merely likes it.

        • That’s incredibly sweet of you — if you’re determined to part with it, feel free to contact me sometime. But I think if you have room you should consider holding onto it. Unless they rerelease it it’s only going up in value.

  15. Anything bought unsniffed that works is a bargain…I’ve had about a 50/50 hit rate on those. They usually do find a nice home, however, if they don’t like me :d/

    Welllllll, bargain is relative-but how about a pristine bottle of vintage Scandal (still in wrapper) for under $50? That would be my find-of-the-year :d

    • why are all emoticon collapsing into silly grins? are we losing all nuance? 8-x :p @-)

      • I lost nuance, meaning, and general significance a while ago. @-) In my communication, at least. 😉

    • Naughty girl! No tempting people and making them crazy with eBay scores! >:p Dang…. where’s the finger-wagging emoticon?

      I know, they can always find a good home.

  16. My best cheapest unsniffed buys are: Lancetti Via Condotti, Habanita & Royal Bain De Caron. Latest are well-known, but Via Condotti is really great leather-flower Italian scent $29.99/3.4 oz

  17. I did buy Nude unsniffed and liked it. I also got Lady Stetson as well based on The Perfume Guide’s rec. I’ve been eyeing Silences on fleabay and it sounds like another cheapie worth popping for.

  18. I also got Jacomo Silences and love it’s green, galbanum springiness.

    Based on LT’s review in the Guide, I got Moschino’s L’eau Cheap and Chic which he compared to SL’s La Myrrhe. It’s got pine-resin, sage, vetiver, and a soap powder background with aldehydes according to him. It’s nice, and it was certainly cheap.

    • I should try that Moschino, I like some of the others. And the bottles are often wonderful.

  19. OK, you’ve already helped me by answering my big question for the morning (and I got up seriously late, too, so you saved me a lot of time) of what to wear–time to get out that samp of Theorema!

    I think the best bargain I got was a full bottle of Shiseido Feminite des Bois, from Amazon. I don’t remember what I paid for it, but it seemed cheap.

  20. PS: I seem to be in the minority as far as luuuuuuuurving Balenciaga Paris is concerned, but you’re right, for such a light frag, it’s got incredible staying power.

    • I’ll join you in the minority Francesca! I love it too.

      • I’m dying to try the Balenciaga on skin. Can you compare it to the VCA Bois d’Iris at all? It’s good to have a reference for a review…

        • You should be secretly cheering for minority status…just think, “that much quicker to the discounters”… <):)

        • It’s definitely more violet than iris, although there’s some overlap. BdIris is woodier. There’s something about the base in Paris that begins to grate … that citrus/musk, vaguely like Light Blue? Not the same smell, but the same kind of annoyance after awhile. 🙂 But I may change my mind.

    • Well, as I said, I’ll retry it. It is remarkably persistent. I have enough for another few days of spraying.

  21. It’s been a while since I’ve found a new, low-priced love, but I have a few old stand-bys. A number of the Ferres fit nicely in this category, as confusing as their names can be. Ferre edp (new) by Bourdon (the iris-based one) be found for incredibly low prices. The original Gianfrancco Ferre edt in the “skyscraper” bottle is a soft summer floral. Equally inexpensive. And GFF Donna Red, also a summer floral, can be bought in vats for next to nothing.

  22. Based on one of Luca Turin’s reviews, I picked up a relatively cheap bottle of Aramis 900 (the old Herbal) unsniffed. I’ve had decent luck with unsniffed acquisitions in the past, and the Aramis was no exception. Nice. Very nice. I’m enjoying it (although not today…) What $ amount did we decide the new “free” was? :d I troll the local TJ Maxxes looking for cheapies, and my favorites have been Azzaro Pour Homme (which shouldn’t really count, cuz I’ve been wearing it since the 80’s when it wasn’t discounted..), Gucci Pour Homme (the incense-y one), John Varvatos, Story by Paul Smith, just to name a few. I have to confess that I also own a largish bottle of Mambo for Men by Liz Claiborne. I know – rip up my perfumisto card…. Guilty pleasure, cheap as hell, and it just makes me happy smelling it (although perhaps not others, so I don’t wear it out much – more of an after-shower in the evening if I’m just sitting around).

    • The new free is anything under $75, IMO. And “cheap” is less than $100. :d

      I’m not going to rip your perfumista card. If you saw some of the stuff on my shelf you’d laugh.

      • Excuse me, if you’re in the UK, these amounts are the same in pounds, so £75 is free and £100 is cheap (and £200 is still a bargain…..). Just clarifying a technical point here.

      • I would never laugh. Mambo is NOT the only smelly skeleton in my closet…..8-x

        • I am staring at this spray called SOULGASM.

          :-&

          Do I dare? How bad can it be. Pretty bad, right?

  23. Well, I haven’t seen any mention of the drugstore Chantilly, but about 20 yrs ago I used to layer it w Azuree. Sensual/powdery; woodsy amber sexy. This is a great post – now I’m off to Rite Aid. I love their policy-if you don’t like it, bring it back, no questions asked. I don’t buy perfume there, but it’s the best way to try inexpensive make-up. And now I can get a whiff of Lady Stetson.
    Francesca: what is your take on SFdB?

      • March, you can take your tongue out of your cheek, now. =)) as if…..

          • Actually, was referring to the Chantilly layer. I KNOW you have Azuree. You’re the one who wrote that spot on review of it. Spot on, chap! Your description makes me think of a Polo ad w middle aged ladies out on the lawn, gin and tonics, tennis. Very evocative. I cut/pasted/sent to my sister–she used to spray all her furniture, her home w it. It got me so pissed off because back then $28 was a lot for perfume! I guess there’s more out there than I realized for less than $28 after reading this.
            Now I’d like some suggestions for Egyptian Musk if anyone cares to chime in.

    • I haven’t sniffed the Lutens version yet, but I love the Shiseido. It’s a warm comfort scent, good for a cold yucky day, or on any day when I can’t really decide what to wear.

  24. The biggest hit ever was Tocade, which seems to show up in large quantities at the local TJMaxx. I bought one because of the review in The Guide, my wife loved it. Then I gifted bottles to various friends, and we have at least one backup bottle. All bought for under $15. The other one that was a success was a bit more expensive, but also a great find: Badgley Mischka.

    Masculines are a bit more predictable: I’ve bought Halston Z-14, Azzaro pour Homme, and YSL Jazz at discounters: all good, none dazzling. And Grey Flannel of course, which I like but my wife finds too sharp (the violet, of course), so I have to wear in very small quantities.

    But there are catastrophes too… Odeur 53 didn’t work for me at all when I got a cheapie at ebay, and Pour un Homme smells synthetic and annoying.

    • Odeur 53 is fascinating but I don’t want to wear it. Those masculines sound delicious, and I am a big fan of Grey Flannel.

      Tocade I love, but only *very* lightly.

      • I love Tocade, but I am soooo surprised that you do March! Roses and powder? 😮

        • Well, I suppose it’s officially roses and vanilla, but it’s pretty powdery to my nose.

  25. It’s cheap, joyous and named Ines – what in the world am I waiting for?! 🙂 I think a bottle is going to find its way towards me…

    • Hon, it’s fate! You have to get it! And if you hate it, eh. You could have spent that on lunch, you know?

    • Ines,

      yes, you must! But you must get both. March is right – you can easily spend more on lunch than on both bottles of Ines. The leaf one you can get tres cheap at parfum1 and the Becker is at beautyencounter (do not go through Amazon – it’s a rip – go direckerly to the source)

      xo >-)

      • Oh! I didn’t know there was an easy source for the leaf version, thanks! I had to win mine on eBay.

      • Thanks for sharing the sources for Ines. Enabling indeed. :d

    • This is definitely multi-enabling! 🙂
      And now I’m off to get both bottles. Yay!

  26. My cheap thrills: Byblos Byblos (in the blue tilted bottle) and Calyx. I also won a Magie Noire mini for around $5. All were former signature scents back in the day and all can be purchased for next to nothing 🙂

    • Calyx is a great, overlooked scent and very easy to find. I just have to spray lightly.

    • Yum … Byblos and Calyx (in reasonable doses, of course,) both so bright and fresh. Another great sparkling, if a bit soapy, scent that can be had fairly cheaply on eBay or the discounters is Extravagance d’Amarige. I just got a decant of it from TPC and forgot how much I loved it. Will have to get more soon. And thanks, March, for the great reminder of Theorema. What a treasure!! If only we knew how scarce it would become, we could’ve stocked up. But if I ever stumble on the mother lode of it, I’ll definitely share since it has so many fans on here!

  27. For inexpensive, I like Sand & Sable, Giselle and like Zeezee above, Jil Sander Sun.

    However, my favorite cheapo is Dana’s California. I’ve seen it described as “green mandarin, bergamot, lemon, lavender fougere” as well as “floral aldehydes, exotic woods, and low notes of vanilla, musk and oakmoss”. Just makes me happy. Lasts only few hours but it’s so inexpensive who cares!

    • I’ve not tried California. Sand & Sable I love on the right day — in summer, oddly, you’d think it would be too heavy. But it has some major sillage.

  28. Anyone ever buy Madame Rochas? I see it all the time at a steep discount. I’ve been wondering if I should take a gamble.

    • I have, Suzy Q. Tempted by the very steep discount you mention, with haunting echoes of “Rochas Rochas (Femme)” swirling in my head, so I thought hey, if they make one thing that causes all that furor, why not try this?

      Which led to a twisted path. It is aldehyde-y, which I am not a fan of, and a bit soapy. HOWEVER, I kept playing with it, and–like Mals with Silences–had one day where all went well, and I found what I liked best was the drydown. Rose-y. Old school-ish, but not entirely. (DH liked drydown; for comparison, other scents he has liked on me include Magie Noire and…uh-oh, drawing a blank; blast Daylight Savings!!)

      There is a marked difference between the current version and vintage…just saying. But that’s a story for another day.

      • I notice Rochas Femme is also cheap. I imagine it’s a shadow of its vintage self but, then, I haven’t smelled either one of them.

        • Can’t speak to the Femme, but I know there are people who like the Absolu…but I wouldn’t want to tempt you. Not like March there. You *did* see her suggest you go try Madame, no? I mean, just because it would be easy and cheap and interesting to draw your own conclusions… >:) 😉

          • Enablers! All of you!! 🙂 I’ve got a list of full price lovelies I’m saving for. Must keep reminding myself of that. Over and over again.

        • Actually, the new Femme is really quite marvelous. And a steal. An excellent combination. =d>

          • Ditto on the new Femme. The vintage is beyond gorgeous but is another animal entirely.

            Shelley? how is it you are not acquainted with the Femme? You are certainly acquainted with me and Floyd knows I am the Queen of Femme, thanks to March sending it to me so it could rip my heart right out of my chest. I think I have 3 bottles of the current and several vintages..we’ll have to sniffa one day

            xo >-)

            • I think you first started your Femme love when I was a) still askeered of Big Perfume, and b) somebody mentioned cumin. Don’t make me mention Kingdom again…/:) Okay, I’m a big girl now. I’m ready. Bring on the Femme.

              • And I just saw Olfacta’s comment. “Aldehydic floral.” That right there is such a roll of the dice for me…and never a so-so result. Almost always STRONG one way or the other, positive or negative, though generally ☟. I’m still puzzling that out.

                • I’m stunned she is getting ald. floral from Femme (I can’t find her original comment so I’m rolling with What You Said She Said) :-D. At least not in the current iteration (ymmv). Be brave, it won’t hurt you. Honest!

                  xo >-)

                  • oops. nebber mind.

                    a) it nested below your comment and I was too stupid and lazy to look there

                    :”>

                    xo >-)

                    • Oh, I’m still willing to try it. As long as I have a pal there ready to pick up the pieces from any disaster that may result. 😉

                  • Aldehydic + floral = Femme? Musette, you are the Queen of Femme and I am the Princess, and we agree that that just doesn’t add up. It’s a fruity chypre, period, and many sources back that up. So Shelley, fear not. :)>-

                    Original versus Olivier Cresp’s 1989 reformulation: Yup, if you cut your teeth on the old stuff, the new stuff isn’t exactly the spitting image, but comparing edt to edt it’s close enough to give probably 80% of the satisfaction. There’s cumin listed, but there’s no trace of sweat – Cresp’s cumin is more of the green, oakmoss-supporting variety. Again, fear not. 🙂

                    • Robin R, I shall keep a chair empty with a cup of tea (or whatever we’re drinking) in front of it in your honor, in appreciation for your support. 🙂 (Of course, if Musette has to put me through a decontamination shower, I may drink your cup. ;)) Srsly, I find *all* of the input interesting and helpful.

                    • Glad you do. And I’d love to have that cup of tea one day!

            • One cheapo seller on the ‘bay says of Femme: “recommended for romantic use.” Oh my!!! (fans herself)

          • Love the new Femme. As Musette said, though, it’s a completely different animal than the vintage. The new is very cumin-y, which is not everyone’s favorite.

    • I have. I also have a small bottle of the vintage EDP. It’s not for everybody — really sharp and aldehydic on the opening — but it dries down to a musky floral and is very office-appropriate IMHO. I actually like the modern EDT as much as the vintage. However, I did buy it a couple of years ago so can’t speak to any reformulation issues. But I think I paid around $22 for 100 mls, so it would be worth a chance — IF you like aldehydic florals.

      • Olfacta, I’m wondering perhaps if it’s more acetone than aldehydes you’re getting? That’s a hallmark of many a vintage bottle, especially if it’s small and more prone to a little bit of deterioration than a larger bottle (providing both are equally full). Just a thought, because I’m puzzling over this interesting mystery. 😕

        • Vintage femme is notorious for gone-bad 8-x top notes, and I have several bits to support this theory. RobinR-I think you may be right-acetone/vinegar perhaps? 8-}

          • That’s what I’m thinking, Louise. I’ve got some bits of elderly Femme too, in various stages of off-ness, and some do have that initial whoof of something pickle-y or nail-polish-y, as one or two other vintage scents in my collection. It just kind of goes with the territory.

            (Aldehydes, for anyone intrigued by this exchange, are deliberately added to a fragrance along with other ingredients in its composition to heighten/enhance character — much like a coat of varnish brings out the depth and richness of a wooden table is the analogy that I’ve heard used and it’s a good one. Chanel No 5 is said to be the happy unintended consequence of an overdose of aldehydes, and it was the beginning of their popularity. If you’re not sure what an aldehydic floral is, No 5 couldn’t be a better introduction — or if you have some Serge Lutens La Myrrhe handy, that’s crammed with them, too.)

            P.S. Louise, are you The Louise of Epic/Jubilation XXV fame? I sent you a great big Thank You yesterday. :)>-

        • Hmm…my verbiage was garbled I suspect — I meant to say that the “new” Madame Rochas EDT was more appealing to me than the old. But I’m comparing them now, and the vintage does have those “old aldehydes” on opening (like most old fragrances, you just have to wait for the bloom.) The new has that musky-but-still-ladylike floral mix, although the aldehydes are very much in evidence. But for twenty bucks or so for a big bottle, it would be worth taking a chance.

          • Olfacta, not sure if you meant to say Femme instead of Madame Rochas just now, but if it’s Madame Rochas you’ve been meaning all along, then that one IS, you are absolutely correct, a massive aldehyde BOMB!!!! That one could clear a room within seconds, I swear. @-)

            • And that is what makes it so o-> !!! (fwiw, I have dubbed this the new ‘fierce’ emoticon, okay? okay.)

              Mme. is a rough row to hoe, if you’re not into aldehydes. In fact, even if you are, it needs to be applied with a careful hand (imo). I heart No 5 in EDP and wear it often – and everyone on here knows my aldewhorishness – but even I….even I quail before Mme R’s pow(d)er sometimes.

              xo >-)

              • Yes, Mme R is a force to be reckoned with. You are now officially both the Queen of Femme AND the Queen of Madame Rochas. I genuflect at your hem, Your Majesty. ^:)^

        • Good point. I think it’s the acetone myself. It just goes w the territory as you say, especially w small bottles. :-ss This little emotiman makes me laugh so hard! Nail biter

  29. Oh, I love happy cheap.

    Already mentioned: Balmain de Balmain, Silences, Habanita, and L’Or Torrente. (That bottle for L’Or is worth the price of admission; did I mention I like leaves when we chatted about Ines? These leaves are GOLD, baby, along with the type on the bottle.) Pour un Homme can sometimes be synthetic (who said that up there? can’t find it), but was worth adding in, especially considering I’ve the only X chromosone in the house. Grey Flannel. Oh, that Habanita.

    Not mentioned: Dali Laguna. (I kid you not; whacked out bottle is but an extra. Fresh w/o being marine. Actually, I guess I’d call it “vaguely vanillic fresh” on me.) Yves Rocher Voile d’Ambre. And I’ll toss a Caron Third Man in for good measure.

    • You guys are killing me with the Torrente … god, I know it’ll be a disaster. It’ll smell like laundry and boxwood on me or something. :-ss

      I have Third Man! I love all the Man Carons, actually, much more than the women’s.

  30. Unsniffed cheapie buys that turned out excellent, all under $20: the aforementioned Becker Ines, Ivoire de Balmain, and Mariella Burani edt. I wear the toothpicks out of all of them – especially the Mariella, which smells like No. 5’s sunny-natured Italian cousin.

    Silences was another cheapie success, but I wore it several times from a sample first. Sand & Sable was an early high school love but I didn’t own a bottle until a few years ago; unfortunately, my teenage daughter has swiped it. (Good for her, though.)

    • Oh, and just found out that beautyencounter has a half-ounce bottle of AG Grand Amour for $15. Haven’t smelled it yet, but the notes say ME and I do well with the lighter Goutals, so I think I’ll indulge.

      • Although … well, I wouldn’t describe it as “light.” It’s closer to Passion than, say, Hadrien.

        • I meant, I’m good with AG’s lighter florals. I’d probably rather chew tinfoil than wear Hadrien, actually. /:) Passion was honky weird, but I liked Songes and Gardenia Passion (okay, I admit to Mandragore too).

          And lucky me, ma little bird is an underapplier, so S&S is fine on her.

    • I swear I’ve smelled the Burani, maybe at our local Perfumania, but I can’t remember… I’ll look.

      And I can think of way worse smells on a teenager. So lucky you, as long as she isn’t drenching herself in it!

  31. Oh, how did I forget V’tae Sacred Fire? Under 20 bucks, wonderful spicy woody goodness. Dee-light-ful 😉

  32. Well now you’re on Cheap Street, my neighborhood. My city, Atlanta, is probably the largest one in the US without a specialty perfume store or even a well stocked niche counter at our Barney’s. We have an N-M, and a Saks, but I have an aversion to SA’s flitting about me being annoying while mentally adding up the price of what I’m wearing, so I tend to stay away from those. That leaves samples/decants, the onliners and, well, you know.

    I do homework both on the scent and on the discounter or seller so haven’t been burned (yet). I have a pretty good idea of what something is going to smell like even if I haven’t sniffed it. Silences, Paloma Picasso, Grey Flannel, vintage K and Paris; Femme, Mystere, Folie de Rose, — almost everything in my cabinet was bought at an online discounter or fleabay or private sale or flea market/antique store. With the super-expensive niche fragrances I’ll usually get a large decant (or a small one if I don’t know if I’ll like it but need to know what it smells like — the lemmings usually live here).

    As an aside, there was amusing comment on BN awhile back from an obviously newbie SA trying to discourage people from buying fragrances this way because they were “old.” The poor girl. She was stoned (in the Biblical sense) cyber-style. “Old” is what we want! the commenters shouted. Never saw here there again.

    Getting bargains is my sport. I never was all that good at tennis. Galaxian, maybe.

    • “almost everything in my cabinet was bought at an online discounter or fleabay or private sale or flea market/antique store.” You rock, woman.

    • Fragrance bargains as sport? Oh, Olfacta, YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The thrill of the hunt, the almost guilty feeling (in a good way) of scoring a bottle of “old” extrait for a tenth of its value . . . There ain’t nuthin’ like it. 😉

      • True that on the thrills. OTOH, sometimes you get T-boned by auctions, as I did last night, by a Most Impressive display of sniping in the last 45 seconds of an auction. More than tripled the price…went from “brag worthy bargain” to “did you double check your market values?”

        Sadly for me, I do think the winner still came out on the good side of market share. (Weak applause…”yay, winner.” Especially if you happen to be reading. :)>- ) ) But the territory was far beyond the limits of “steal.”

        Which is what we’re talking about now. (Right? Right?? Oh, I do love what went bye-bye…) ((I’m letting it go. Budget is budget, and it’s not a bargain if you can’t pay for it.))

    • Olfacta, my sympathies are with you as well, being an (suburbanite) Atlantan myself. It’s a darn shame that there’s so little to choose from. A few years back in Perimeter Mall, there was a Blue Mercury store which carried Serge, L’Artisan and some others, but now nothing. A niche fragrance wasteland, more’s the pity!!

  33. I love hunting at the discounters! That’s where I’ve found Femme (I’m joining all of you in the love for the current Femme), the Bvlgari teas and Balmain’s La Mome, which no one loved but me (it appears to be the perfume version of straight-to-video). I don’t think I paid more than $25.00 for any of those bottles.

    Last week I bought 50 ml of Filles des Iles Floral Solaire for $9. For an inexpensive tropical floral that NST Robin says is “louder and sweeter than Bronze Goddess, but not quite so loud and sweet as say, Coty’s Sand & Sable,” it does the trick.

    • The Bvlgari Teas. Sadly underappreciated. 🙁 I know Green is the classic. I am on my second bottle of White, and now that I’ve worked through my decant of Rouge I should get some.

  34. I’m all about cheap, because I don’t have unlimited funds to throw around right now.

    Some cheap successes: I mostly like Cabotine, although about one in three times I wear it I get this faint rank swampy note; love Cabochard unreservedly — I’ve never smelled the original, so I don’t know what I’m missing there; Yves Rocher’s Iris Noir and Rose Absolue are both lovely on me, and don’t smell nearly as cheap as they are.

    On the other hand, Yves Rocher’s Souffle/Breah/whatever was awful — like cheap hairspray. I thought it might work like Bronze Goddess, but not so much. And Voile D’Ambre was way too sweet, like a toffee factory, on me.

    I really want to pick some Habanita — and oh, that Lalique bottle!

    • Cabochard is a beautiful cheapie, isn’t it? Too bad it has no lasting power. I would love to score some vintage. I used to wear Habanita-I think Caswell Massey used to carry it in the 80’s. ^:)^

  35. I don’t do so well with unsniffed. I buy based on reviews thinking I’ll love something, and it turns out to be either meh or a total fail. Discount unsniffed purchases:

    Hits: Loulou, Mauboussin, Organza, Eau de Rochas, Insolence EDP (used sparingly!)
    Misses: Tocade, Belle en Rykiel, Yvresse, Eau de Star, Vanille Noire du Mexique

    There are others I’ve purchased unsniffed that were fails as well. Most recent was Escale a Portofino. I did purchase it from a discounter, and also had a gift cert., so it only cost me $11…but I could have used those $ towards something that I loved instead of something unsniffed that’s turning out to smell like lemon Mr. Clean. Yes, I read those “cleaner” reviews, but ignored them cause I thought, I like lemon!!!! Ugh!

    • Oh, but I love Portofino! I’m so sorry … it’s rather nutty on me, like caraway. It smells quite unusual (although in a good way.)

      • Well, I ain’t giving up yet! Trying it for the first time today…I’ll give it a few more tries before tossing it into the swap bin!!!

        • Karin, I had the same experience. And I wanted to love it so badly …… :((

  36. I ordered the Bill Blass Nude unsniffed and HATED it! It wasn’t just Angela’s doing (and if you’re reading this Angela I adore your reviews!), a friend extolled its virtues as well. But it was horrible on me. Certain aldehydes just turn to mothballs on my skin- and not in a charming way. VC&A First does the same. It’s a good thing Nude was cheap as sin- no harm, no foul. 🙂

    • First is this gigantic ridiculous thing, and I have to be in exactly the right mood, but then I love it.

      Nude, as delightful as it sounds in general, does not sound like “me.”

  37. Uh….I got the individuals by Gap “the Natural” on sale at the Gap, and it’s a huuuuggge hit. Weirdly, I’ve gotten more compliments on this than pricier stuff.

    • I reviewed a million of those awhile ago and yes, for most of them, I’d much rather smell that than, say, Axe, or any number of other things.

  38. Has anyone tried Maja? Seems to average about $14, and sounds like me, but some of the notes are daunting(lavender turns sharp on my skin.)

  39. Here I am, Madea! My sister bought me some Maja for Christmas one year, but it was the soap, wrapped in red/black. Or are you referring to something else? I thought it was rather nice. 😕

  40. Well, I did manage to score 1/3 of a large bottle of Dior-Dior for .99 on Ebay recently. with the S/H it cam to a whopping $3.85. It was listed in a bizarre way in another country and it was only by chance I came across it. That said, I also picked up a mini bottle of Bakir cologne for $9.99 incl s/h an US Ebay. 🙂

    Once I on back in the job game, I have my eye on a bottle of Azuree — a complete steal at $35.00 at pretty much any dept. store.

    I still have not quite recovered from those reports of Gobin-Daudes selling at snooty Takashimaya for under 20 bucks a few years back, though…

  41. I recently bought Cuir de Lancome unsniffed (for a bit over $30 ) and I was very pleased. After a few stinkers (including a few cheap buys at T,J, Maxx) I was a little worried I would get burned, but I decided to take the risk and I’m really glad I did. I’ll have to grab another bottle to tuck away for future use.

    • Oh, CUIR! Forgot my Cuir, which I bought totally unsniffed, and which I love and my husband loves and which totally fascinates me: if I sniff my arm, I get flowers and smoky and vetiver, but if I wave my arm in the air, the waft is My Mother’s Good Leather Purse, complete with face powder and lipstick and a hanky spritzed with No. 5.

      Paid $34 for mine. Suppose I forgot because “Under $20” is cheap and “over $20” isn’t, in my cheapskate brain.

    • Wait … WAIT. YOU GOT LANCOME CUIR FOR $30???????? :-w

      At a discounter?

      I’m not even going to think about it.

      I love it. And I paid a lot more than that.

      • yeah. 30.75 in one place and 35.75 in another. I dunno if you want me to list the wheres – I can always send it sep if you prefer.

        xo >-)

  42. Unless I’ve missed it, I can’t believe no one has mentioned Sonia Rykiel For Women yet. It’s cheap everywhere and I think my first – unsniffed – bottle was £20.00 for 50ml at an online discounter here in the UK. I would pay sooo much more for this if I had to…shhhhh.

      • I’ve broken it out for spring and oooh-ee baby, it smells grrrrreat! @};-

  43. Love this list. I love cheapies!

    Favorites: Cabaret, Rochas Femme (new) & Tocade, YR Rose Absolue, Sand and Sable, and Auric Blends (Amber and Lover’s Moon are particularly nice).

    Favorite blind buy: Kingdom.

    Not-so-favorite blind buys: Cabotine, EA Green Tea

  44. I bought the Lancome Collection set based on the Posse’s recommendation–Magie, Climat Sikkim and Sagomore–unsniffed–around $38, Perfumania. Sigh. They smell pretty for a few minutes. Climat turns soapy quite quickly. Sikkim and Sagomore vanish. 🙁

    • I bought that unsniffed too – my set had Mille et une Roses instead of Sagamore. Love all of them except Sikkim, and Climat STAYS for hours. Luckily, that makes me happy. (Again with my cheapness – set cost $40, so I didn’t include it on my cheap list…)

  45. Thanks for this post, March. It’s good to be able to walk into TJ Maxx with a mental list.

    • Ours never has anything. Just row after row of Giorgio, Caesar’s Woman and Elizabeth Taylor.

      • I got last year’s Marc Jacobs splashes (well, two of them) for $19 apiece. Yum! but it was only at one TJM. All the rest were like ??? while they were stacking rows of Giorgio, Caesar’s Woman and ET

        xo >-)

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