Barbara Bui Le Parfum & Sonia Rykiel Woman (Not for Men), by Nava

I always love to bring up some oldies but goodies, now and again; then I get severely annoyed because they’ve been discontinued. Barbara Bui Le Parfum and Sonia Rykiel Woman (Not for Men) are two scents that bear striking similarities to each other. Barbara Bui cannot be had (as far as I know), and Sonia Rykiel Woman can most likely still be found at one or two online fragrance discounters. I have fond memories of wearing both scents during my tenure as a “mature” student. They were warm, comforting and classroom appropriate. By the time I got to grad school, I was inhaling one or both of these scents on a daily basis; both were great for easing the stress that came with having to decipher the works of John Milton, John Donne, and (please keep the guffawing to a minimum) the Bible. When you study John Milton, it is imperative to have a copy of the King James Bible within close reach. There came a point when I was spraying one or both of these scents on my pillow. No joke.

I was watching a documentary the other night about the coming apocalypse, and for some reason, I started thinking about both these scents.  They were very similar: spicy, warm, incensey and a little leathery. I’m guessing that’s what my mind wanted to smell as I was listening to different hypotheses about how the world is going to end. My personal feeling is that the apocalypse will happen later this year when Oprah finally goes off the air. That’s a conversation for another day, but I started to get a bit miffed about all this “end of the world” talk. Silly me, I started thinking: what would I want to smell like if I knew the world was going to end? The answer was, Barbara Bui, or Sonia Rykiel Woman (Not for Men). Ridiculous, right?

Shortly after I wrote my In Memoriam post last November, my dear cousin S., whom I’ve been staying with, rescued a few of my bottles from my “former residence”. He just threw an assortment into a duffel bag, and I’ve been periodically wearing a few. My nose hasn’t been up to much these days, but one of the rare gems he happened to grab, was a still-sealed bottle of Barbara Bui. As I was watching that damn documentary, I remembered that the bottle was in there. I promptly dug it out, removed the cellophane from the box, and spritzed some on my pillow. Despite the coming of the apocalypse, I slept very well that night. Isn’t it wonderful how our sense of smell can yank us back from the abyss, making everything right with the world? I never for a second feared the apocalypse, but I sure as hell needed something comforting.

Sonia Rykiel’s version was a bit edgier, and more in-your-face. I tried valiantly to find the notes for it, but I was unsuccessful. They both smell so similar that I’m willing to accept spices, incense, jasmine, white musk, heliotrope, sandalwood, cedar and amber for both. As I said, Sonia Rykiel may have had a teensy bit of leather in there somewhere. Either way, it’s a shame they’re not around anymore.

I do have some good news to share: I’m moving into my own digs in a few weeks, and I’m hopeful that once I’m settled in, my schnozz will be up for some serious exploration. I’ll be walking distance from a TTC stop, so I’ll be motivated to explore points downtown, finally. I want to get back to some serious sniffing so I can experience what I’ve been missing. In the meantime, my pillow still smells like Barbara Bui Le Parfum, and the memory of Sonia Rykiel’s scent still manages to comfort me. How I wish both weren’t ever discontinued. Great perfume should be revered like great literature: it should be admired and adored for time immemorial.

Your Turn: What discontinued scent memories are in your vault?

Disclosure: Barbara Bui Le Parfum is from my personal collection. Sonia Rykiel Woman (Not for Men) lives on in my memory.

  • Olfacta says:

    Did somebody say “discontinued?” That’s all I need to hear — to me, BB is just about perfect for sleeping or cozy at-home wear, especially in winter. I bought a bottle online awhile back for around $25. I guess my other great love in discontinueds is L’Arte di Gucci — or Rose Jacqueminot. (To me, “discontinued” often means that it can’t be dumb-down reformulated, so that’s when I start checking the online discounters and fleabay for some.)

  • Winifreida says:

    OMG don’t get me started! Discontinuations, reformulations…it was bad enough when a bottle of Mitsouko I got about ten years ago just wasn’t herself…
    Its even worse when this collecting/perfumista thing hits and you have the time in the computer age to make it an obsession…
    I’m giving Serge’s exports one last chance. Even they change within the space of a couple of years! And I’ll be darned if I just believe the ‘reformulation’ ogre, I think many are just getting cheaper and dumbed-down.
    My new bottle of A La Nuit was ‘acceptable’. The Cedre is pew and acrid compared to the samples and decants I have from just a year or two ago.
    I’ve ordered Un Bois Vanille but I am pessimistic looking at recent reviews on Makeup Alley compared with old ones. You can just tell its not what it used to be…
    Even Tube Criminy has changed a little, I’ll swear my newest versions are not as ‘NAAASTY’ as the nose-singeing astral version of three years ago…what is the world coming to???

  • Kate says:

    Wait, wait, I thought a blogger wrote that an Italian firm bought the rights or recipe to make Barbara Bui. Its now available for $30.00 for 3 oz edp at MyBestPerfume. They have the oil too. A few years ago it was about $20 for same. Its gorgeous!

  • Laura says:

    Hi Nava. I came to this blog through an old post you had written about your Mother and immigrating to Canada. I wasn’t even looking for immigration stories so it was funny to have that come up. I’m Canadian and had immigrated to the US for a few years when I got married. So I do like reading about people who move back and forth between Canada and the US and what they think of each.

    Anyway, I can’t wear perfume. I am allergic to most of it. I do like sandlewood, vanilla or lemon scents in other things but have to be pretty careful about the ingredients in them. It is a nuisance to have allergies, each time I try a new shampoo (picked for the wonderful scent!) I have to take the chance on being allergic to it. Usually I am.

    I hope you are liking being in Canada, Ontario. Seems quite a few people from the US are thinking to move across the border due to the economy in the US and etc.

  • pyramus says:

    I hated Hermes’ Bel Ami when it first came out, but over the years I came to appreciate and eventually love it–but I never owned a bottle, just samples, and now it’s been reformulated so many times that it bears no resemblance to its former self, so all I have is the memory.

    But of course I have so so many scents that I don’t have time to really mourn it. And it’s not as if I’m completely cut off from the past. Maybe the first extrait I ever bought was Parfum d’Hermes, back in 1986 or so: I used it up, and it was my holy grail until last year when I bought a half-ounce of the actual vintage parfum. Who knows? Maybe a bottle of vintage Bel Ami will come my way some day.

  • dleep says:

    I just purchased a bottle of Barbara Bui from Amazon last week. I love it!

  • FragrantWitch says:

    That settles it- I MUST try Barbara Bui. If I can find some, of course! Theorema is my discontinued love and ai should track down a bottle on eBay before prices skyrocket. Unfortunately, I really fell down the rabbit hole just as we decided to send our daughters to private school. Thank goodness for samples and decants! :)

  • jen says:

    I’ve stocked up on Casaque from ebay, there seems to be a lot hoarded from the old days; I also just got a big sample of Barbara Bui from the bay.. I was an English major in the 70s and studied Milton and Donnne, but the bible was n ever mentioned–doesnt strike me as English lit, guess you had to go out of your way for that.

    • Nava says:

      The prof I studied Milton with was adamant about having a copy of the King James. IMHO, you needed it, and I was honored to study with her.

      • Musette says:

        totally agree – I wanted to do my Masters studies with a professor @ WashU who was considered, by many, to be THE foremost Milton scholar – alas, it was not to be – but I still love Milton. Love his spare, elegant style. And a thorough knowledge (or at least a reference-at-hand) of the Bible may not be a ‘must’ but it really helps big-time and enhances the Milton, in my humble experience…

        …and I will shut up about it now !


        • Nava says:

          Hey, any time you want to pore over “Paradise Lost”…

          • tammy says:

            I had English Lit and English professors insist on a copy of the King James Bible….as an accompaniment to Milton, Bunyan, etc, and also as an example of Early Modern English, as it was of course contemporaneous with Shakespeare’s writing.

            My Vault O’ Nightmares is filled more with reformulations than discontinuations, Fendi and several Carons featured most prominently.

        • jen says:

          My professor in Milton and Donne (wrote the textbook) was very good at the bibical references; also, it stands alone as literature and he never advised a copy of the bible. It was a very secular university tho. And now it’s over!

        • Furriner says:

          Hey! I was all ready to study Milton in grad school as well… until I burnt out, alas!

          I agree the King James is definitely English lit… if only for the influential style, at the very least. All those beautiful quotes we know by heart from the Bible is on account of that translation.

  • March says:

    I have three bottles of BB and I’m happy :d For something that’s been d/c’d (I thought Robin at NST at one point said it was back in production?) you can buy it cheap on eBay, and there’s some cheesy discount house advertising 1 oz for 10.50 (!) although I don’t know anything about them.

    • Nava says:

      So you’re the one hoarding all the bottles!! :d

      I think that “back in production” story was a tall tale. I posted above that I was told the same thing at the BB store in NYC, and still haven’t seen it.

  • maidenbliss says:

    Nava, so good to hear your cousin nabbed some bottles for you–hope this year is way better for you!
    I just grabbed up an 8ml of Cinema off eBay and it’s a beautiful scent-inexpensive as well.

    I’ve got AC and BB in my PC cart-if I become addicted it’s good to know LV or Saks may have some left.
    Back in the 80’s I wore Houbigant Ambergris and noticed the bottle I used to buy for about $8 selling on eBay (there was only one) for over $100. I didn’t shed any tears, there’s so much perfume, the market is flooded w niche and commercial-the offerings are staggering. Even if things I love have been phased out there’s more perfume out there than I’ll probably ever smell.

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Maiden.

      I’m looking forward to smelling so many new things very soon, that I’m not losing sleep over what is no longer available. It’s fun to reminisce though, isn’t it? 🙂

  • gina thompson says:

    Nava, have huge bottle SR. Want a decant?

  • Tiara says:

    Nava: Yay on the new digs and recovering some of your stash!

    I miss Sotto Voce by Laura Biagiotti. I have some left but am not willing to shell out the big bucks it now commands when it’s available on eBay.

    The other one is Femme Jolie. I have a backup bottle but have decided to enjoy it while I can. Can’t take it with me and there isn’t a guarantee of tomorrow so why not!

  • karin says:

    I’ve seemed to fall in love with a couple of scents just as they were discontinued. Attrape-Coeur is the first, and now Cartier’s Panthere! I mentioned this in a former post, but a very nice SA at Saks NYC offered me a purse spray of the Panthere parfum with my purchase of one of the L’Heures (XIII). I’d never tried Panthere before, but I was game. Of course, he told me it had been discontinued…I should have known right then and told him DON’T SEND IT TO ME! I see Beauty Encounter still has a few bottles, so I may break down and buy one…and if I call Mr. SA over at Saks, he may have a stash of it.

    But is it really worth hunting down these lost treasures? AC and Panthere are still available if you hunt, but so many others are like buried treasure. There are so many new fragrances out there that are wonderful. Change is good, right? ;-)

    Which reminds me of another scent I’d love to smell again – Ritz by Charles of the Ritz. It came in a metallic bottle. I remember it smelling like Coca-Cola. Anyone else remember this one? I’ve scounted it out on eBay and such, and it seems that every bottle that comes up is priced in the hundreds. Silly, isn’t it? If I’d only known, I would have kept mine!

    • Nava says:

      I think my mom once bought a bottle of Ritz during one of her duty-free store splurges. They had some killer makeup, too IIRC.

      Every time I see one of those bottled “priced in the hundreds” it really ticks me off. That’s why I never look on ebay for anything anymore.

    • Claudia says:

      I remember having a small splash bottle of Ritz. That was one of the few lines my local department store carried. I don’t remember what it smelled like at all though. I worked at that store for a couple years in the late 1970’s, so I think it must have been then that I had it. It had a silver cap.

  • Mrs.Honey says:

    Ruffles by Oscar de la Renta. I wore it in high school but kept one tiny bottle and, on a whim, tried it. I still love it, but don’t love having to buy on the evilbay.

  • Musette says:

    Like Sherri M, one of mine would be Parure. The other would be Ondine – anybody remember that one? I only ever saw it at the Marshall Field’s in Old Orchard – and that was 20 years ago! I know the Country Store has it but 😕 somehow I don’t think it’s quite the same.

    So glad you’re getting your ‘fumes back and getting your life back, too! FWIW the only thing you will need in order to survive the coming Apocalypse is a limousine – just ask John Cusack! ;))

    xo >-)

    • Nava says:

      I know many people love the Vermont Country Store, but I wouldn’t buy one of their smell-alikes. The disappointment would probably kill me.

      I’m holding out for one of those underground condos in the missile silo in Kansas. John Cusack can keep his limo. :d

  • Nava,

    hope your new abode is just great!

    Incidentally I had posted a list of notes on the Rykiel Woman Not for Men on my site a long while ago, compared with the ones for Barbara Bui:

    Hope this helps.

  • sara says:

    Lovely article. SRWNFM is one of my all-time favorites. In my DC’ed vault that’s discontinued–not Washington DC–I have Asja, Metalys, Boudoir, Cinema, Voilette de Madame.

  • Alice C says:

    I’m so happy you’ve got some of your perfume back—hoping you’ll recover all of it. Kudos to your cousin!!

    I’ve just gotten a bottle of Meteorites (unsniffed), but I love it. It took me back in time to an Easter morning and Mom was dabbing some French violet water on me and my two sisters (in our matching Easter dresses). I’m not saying the violet is the only thing going on there, just that the violet note transported me back in time for that moment! It’s funny how that happens…

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Alice. I’ve been embracing violet more and more as I’ve gotten older, and that’s a lovely memory you’ve got. 🙂

  • Amy K says:

    I just used up the last precious drops of my Theorema extrait at the start of the new year. I’ll buy a replacement bottle of the EDP on eBay before it disappears, but that will probably only be an option for another year or so, and then it will be $500 per bottle when one does show up for auction.

    Congratulations on your new digs! If there’s a TJ Maxx nearby, you might check there for Sonia Rykiel. I still see it at my local store occasionally.

    P.S. I was one class away from a minor in Religion when I majored in English. If I had to design an English program for college students, Old Testament and Greek/Roman mythology courses would be mandatory.

  • Ann says:

    Hi Nava, love the post! And so very glad that things are looking up for you. You have been in my thoughts and prayers (and hooray for the perfume rescue mission — may there be many more!!).
    I, too, love Barbara Bui, in fact, just had it on the other day. It can still be found on eBay and some samples, too, I’ve seen recently. Have not tried the Sonia Rykiel, but it sounds lovely.
    My vault of discontinued beauties includes the original Cartier Musts (EDT, EDP, II EDT and II EDP). I’m not too keen on the new versions as they are a bit too overwhelming.

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Ann. There may yet be more rescue missions. Stay tuned…

      There is so much out there I want to wrap my nose around. I can’t wait for Musette’s review of that horse/tea Cartier scent. 🙂

  • Sherri M. says:

    Sooo sorry; I read this first thing in the morn and I hit the wrong button. More coffee…anyway..I can’t find Exalting anywhere! Please chime in anyone, if you know where to get one. I also love Terracotta Voile d’Ete and got a bottle when it was $19.99, though I see prices are creeping up on that also.

    I’d love to know how Guerlain chooses which of its fragrances become part of its Parisienne line. How is it they choose something like “Cherry Blossom” over Parure or Attrape Coeur?! Anyway, no rants first thing in the morning!

    Nava, lots and lots of blessings to you in your new place and I hope 2011 is your best year so far!!

    • GUerlain more or less discontinues either what sells very low (Metalys) or what cannot be produced under current IFRA restrictions (Philtre d’Amour etc);)
      Cherry Blossom on the other hand is perfectly harmless…in all senses of the word. :d

    • Nava says:

      Thanks again, Sherri! 😡

  • Sherri M. says:

    Nava, That is so wonderful!! So happy everything is coming together for you!

    I thought BB was very soft and pretty–can definitely see wearing it as a comfort scent. I try not to fall in love with things I know are impossible to get, but unfortunately I have fallen for a few:

    1. Guerlain Parure: Beautiful Chypre
    2. Guerlain Exalting: Got a Sample of this from evilbay
    and it seems really pretty, but cannot even find a

  • marina says:

    Well I crawled out from under a rock and realized they discontinued Attrape-Coeur and Quand Vient la Pluie…still in shock. Not enough of either in my vault :)

    • karin says:

      Marina – yes, I’m shocked by the discontinuation of AC as well since I only discovered it about 6 months ago, and it’s become my HG! If you’re wanting another bottle, though, you should still be able to find some. Word is it’s been discontinued, but remaining stock is still available in some stores. I know of someone who recently purchased a bottle from Saks.

      • Louise says:

        The Las Vega boutique is well-stocked-free shipping, no tax, etc. They have a number of hard-to-finds.

    • Nava says:

      I swapped away a bottle of AC I bought at Bergdorf’s during Sniffa a few years ago. What was I thinking???

  • SilviaFunkly says:

    I LOVE that Sonia Rykiel, it’s one of my favourite comfort scents.

    I hope your cousin’s perfume rescue missions continue, it is so so wrong…

  • Isa says:

    Pierre Cardin Bleu marine pour femme (the shape of the bottle was similar to a microphone). Well, to say the truth, it still exists, but the scent has been completely changed from the one I own. It was a wonderful woody-salty fragrance which makes me thought of the sea and driftwoods. Now it is a complete disaster and it only smells to… hairspray.

  • Millicent says:

    Ooohh, lucky me, I got a bottle of the Barbara Bui in the Posse’s Swapmania. I hadn’t sniffed it before (tried in Paris last year, and schlepped all over looking for it because I didn’t realize it was discontinued), and it turned out to be a lovely example of something that isn’t me but that I really enjoy anyway. So, BB doesn’t count as a scent memory at all, but a new favorite.

    The memory vault that SHOULD HAVE STAYED CLOSED was my late night-nostalgic order of a decant of Laura Ashley No. 1, which I wore during my high school years in the early 1980’s. Along with those tent-like Laura Ashley flannel dresses. Dear god, what was I thinking?! (If I could make the emoticoms work, I’d add the nauseated green face at this point.)

    • Musette says:


      You NEED that emoticon! 😀

      xo >-)

    • Nava says:

      I’d probably be in the same boat as you if I ever caught a whiff of Pavlova! I wore that to death in high school.

      I was browsing through the Shoppers Drug Mart circular last night and happened to see that they have Chantilly on sale. Dare I venture to sniff it or will it be :-&??

  • Masha says:

    These are 2 of my favorites, I have backups of both! The Rykiel has a pepper kick in the opening that makes it edgier, reminds me very much of a CdG incense frag. The Bui has a subtle but fun, ultra-synthetic materials note that makes it smell very appropriate in a museum of contemporary art. I get lots of compliments on them both. Barbara Bui was supposed to be re-debuting a couple years back. Does anyone know what happened?

    • Nava says:

      I wandered into the Barbara Bui store in SoHo about 3 years ago and was told something similar. I am still waiting…

  • dee says:

    “Isn’t it wonderful how our sense of smell can yank us back from the abyss, making everything right with the world?”

    Nava, that is so true. This morning I wasn’t feeling well, and as I got out of my 20-year-old Honda and the door swung back and attempted to snap off my leg, I took a deep breath attempting to find the strength to face another stressful day… and inhaled Memoir. And then I laughed. I guess the incongruity of the image—scruffy me wearing such a fabulous perfume—lifted my spirits. I raised my wrist to my nose, and the world *really was* right again.

    Barbara Bui is in my discontinued vault, and she’s got lots of friends, bless her heart! :)

    • Ann says:

      Hi Dee, hope you’re feeling better. I just had to second your comment about how perfume can make the world right again. I, too, love Memoir. It’s the first Amouage that I can wear, and I feel like a million bucks when I have it on.

    • Musette says:


      The 20 yr old Honda is reason enough to rejoice, imo. I had one of the first Civics and had I not given it to my s-i-l (who crashed it, the moron) that thing would probably be ticking along to this day. An incredibly well-made line, at least back then!

      xo >-)

      • dee says:

        It’s true, Musette, I love that car! I’m a Honda gal from way back, and this gal has never let me down. But part of me thinks it’s a little silly that a woman who drives a 20-year old car spends what I do on fragrance. Priorities! Who needs a new car, anyway??

        • dissed says:

          My old Jeep salutes your old Honda. Long may they roll.

          • tammy says:

            My 1986 Toyota pickup salutes your old Jeep, and all the old Posse Hondas, as well as my husband’s old Civic Hatchback, who finally left us after 386,000 miles. I’d rather spend $23,000 on books, music, perfume and candles!

            Here’s to Priorities!

    • Nava says:

      Ah, the burgeoning discontinued vault!

      My favourite thing to do is put on the most unlikely perfume to go with the unlikeliest of outfits. Jeans, t-shirt, Fifi Chachnil. Perfect!

      Good luck with your Honda. 🙂

  • I’m going to say Vivienne Westwood Boudoir (I’m actually not certain it’s discontinued, but I think it is). It was the first time I can remember experience the benefits of a good skanky perfume. Sort of comforting, sort of disturbing. Like me, I guess. Wait, disturbing or disturbed? Jury is still out.

    • FragrantWitch says:

      Oh no! I could never quite make up my mind about this one but I sprayed some in House of Fraser today and now I need some! It used to be a nearly unbearable skank-fest but apparently times
      (And body chemistry) change.