Who Loves a (Perfumed) Mystery?

I, your faithful Musette, am off doing something planetary.  Please shout a HOLLA! to Marla who is Guest Posting for me!!!


Who Loves a (Perfumed) Mystery?

By Marla

I think all card-carrying perfumistas have heard of Chandler Burr’s Untitled Series. I tried to get in on the first series over at Open Sky, but it was a logistical mess. So I gave up on the idea until Luckyscent took over the operation. Since then it’s been smooth sailing and I’ve been a participant for the last two rounds. It’s been a surprising delight!

The Untitled Series is a project based on the idea that perfume is (or at least can be) olfactory art, and that it both follows and participates in major trends in Western art and architecture. Now whether or not you buy the premise, the game itself is a ton of fun. You buy a bland-looking lab bottle of either 15ml or 30ml for twenty bucks from Luckyscent. They ship it to you pronto, and you sniff. Then muse. Then sniff. Then write. Then read what everyone else is writing (“I can’t believe they said that!” or “I am thoroughly in accord with this wise perfumista….”) Chandler warns us over and over that we are not to try to parse notes, and that we are not supposed to guess the name of the mystery potion. OK, he warned us! And like the rowdy schoolchildren we are, we completely ignored him. Everyone guessed way wrong, each time.

S02EO3 was my first mystery perfume. It seemed over-the-top masculine and aquatic to me, very Cool Water/Issey Miyake. But the other female participants were wearing it, maybe I should, too? The guys around me used up much of my bottle before I could really decide if it was my thing. Other perfumistas reported that random dudes were seeking out and using up their bottles before they could fully report. When one participant left his bottle in his office’s men’s room as a social experiment, it was half-emptied pronto, then swiped! Finally, the reveal: it was a totally new perfume to the market, Drakkar Essence. We’d been sampling and writing about it before it was released. It was fascinating to try a perfume with no marketing materials, no identity at all apart from our own discussion of perfumery and art. I had thought I was immune to marketing and “only cared about the juice.” Ha! You can read the discussions over at Luckyscent, and on Basenotes, try the perfume the next time you go the mall, and form your own opinion on it. Mall trash or treasure? My guys say treasure. I for one am going to enjoy a few more samplings on the masculine side of the aisle, and I’m not so averse to the mass market as I snobbishly used to be- some of these mall thingies are pretty darn good.

S02EO4 had me screaming, “Yes, cupcakes!” and rolling around in the stuff (I sprayed it on my sheets and pillows) before falling asleep to enjoy some truly lovely, fluffy dreams. Other samplers got wildly different impressions: skanky flowers, musk, bakeries, plastic, and even dark forests. Some thought it pretty, some sexy, some puerile. A few of the guys actually rocked it, but most of us agreed it was pretty much a lady ‘fume. What a surprise when the mystery scent turned out to be the newly launched CK Reveal! Again, head on over to Luckyscent and Basenotes to read the discussions; they are pretty hilarious. I would never have tried this IRL, but I’ve used up half my bottle already and I’m still getting good dreams from it. Who knew?? I can’t wait for the next round, it could be anything….


  • Eloquaint says:

    Even as we speak, I am looking at my new bottle of Untitled S02E05, which arrived yesterday in the mail.

    I tried it as a small wrist-spritz on my first go-round with it, because that’s what I’m used to doing, and it doesn’t present very well that way. I got baby oil, freesia, and wheat before it turned into a sort of generic, though not exactly unpleasant, perfume smell. I went with a bigger application for my second try and got lily of the valley, baby oil, freesia, a buttery-yeasty smell that i LOVED, more very nice, polished baby oil and a smell I couldn’t put my finger on but which was very nice in an “I’m wearing a good perfume” way, and then at the end of the night it smelled very strongly like the juice in my brand spankin’ new bottle of Chanel #5 EDP. Like, crazy resemblance. I had gotten it all over my pajama shirt and it was a nice way to fall asleep. After the Afrin took hold. It’s ragweed season here and lately I think I’m huffing as much Afrin as I am perfume. Well, not really, but you get my drift.

    As a colorful aside, I don’t even know what ragweed smells like. I find that ironic, considering the stuff is up my nose for about 6-8 hellish weeks every year. I can see some totally sadistic niche house putting out a ragweed perfume someday.

    I am dying to hear what other people have to say about S02E05. i really liked it and will be glad to wear it, which is good because I inadvertently ordered two bottle of it.

  • audrey says:

    Next round is up! I bought mine last night, participated in 03 and 04. Love it!

  • KimB says:

    yup, somehow i missed that this was going on !! (based on my bottle count, i think i qualify as a perfumista, yet still managed to miss this 😉
    so – i’m very glad you mentioned this and off i went to read comments at luckyscent and basenotes. what a fascinating experiment!! just sent off for the newest untitled – this will be so much fun!

  • SallyM says:

    Where do you read the ongoing reviews for this game – as people are testing, I mean? I went to LS and found the series – there is apparently 05 up at the moment with the reveal supposed to be today (10/1) but I don’t see any reviews for it. It sounds like something I’d be interested in taking part in! Thanks for the heads up Marla 🙂

    • masha7 says:

      Hi, SallyM!
      I’m participating in 05, and I think they got the reveal date wrong! Oops….But it seems like it is an older perfume, or at least, one that has been in circulation for awhile. Of course we are all going to try to guess what it is, and Chandler will have to try to curb our enthusiasm for guessing once again! 🙂

  • Lisa D says:

    I’ve been in on two of the Untitled Series – one turned out great for me (it ended up being Un Jardin Sur le Nil), and the other made me recoil (Drakkar Essence). I think it’s a really fun idea, though I decided (after the recoil) that I was going to save my scent simoleons for perfume that I really knew I wanted.

    • Gwenyth says:

      Just want to jump in here to say I, too, recoiled a bit from the first spray of S02E03 (which turned out to be Drakkar Essence). The weird thing is that over several sessions of being attracted to the scent and wearing it because it was a mystery, I began to be more interested in wearing it. The weather seemed to help my experiments because the hot temperatures at that time seemed to play in a wonderful way with the scent as I wore it. I had many, many compliments on the scent S02E03. It had a lovely sillage that folks could detect and they liked it! I was VERY surprised when it was revealed that S02E03 was actually a soon-to-be-released perfume – Drakkar Essence. Never in a million years would I have even spritzed DE if I’d seen it in a store — so the purpose and result of the Untitled Series has been a huge success for me.

    • masha7 says:

      Lisa and Gwenyth, my first experience with 03 was like yours, I nearly jumped out of my own skin! I thought, “Why did Chandler pick THIS??” But just like you, Gwenyth, I kept wearing it (well, mostly, my menfolk wore it), and it grew on me. My guys got lots of compliments from people who never make perfume remarks. Sadly, I got no compliments, but 03 was not a smooth match for me. I get most of my perfume compliments when I wear L’Heure Bleue, which is a very different beast! And you are right, 03 is particularly good in hot weather, the heat seems to bring out more of its interesting facets.

      • Lisa D says:

        I’ll spritz it on the boyfriend, and see if it works for him! I can’t bring myself to wear it – it smells to my nose like all the most popular masculines from the past ten years, all rolled into one and then turned on HIGH. I’m in total agreement about the concept of the series, though – I think it’s a fantastic idea.

  • Maya says:

    Fun post, Marla. I freely admit that with sooooo many perfumes out there, marketing does make a difference in which ones to try. It definitely influences what I expect. I know only one person who is truly interested in nothing but “the juice”. I think what Chandler Burr is doing is great!

    • masha7 says:

      Hi, Maya! I feel a little chagrined that, prior to the Series, I truly felt I was “above the marketing”. I know now that’s just not true. How a perfume is marketed, and where it is sold, those are big influences!

  • Donna S says:

    I love The Untitled Series and have been checking Luckyscent constantly for the next launch! I find it a great way to experience fragrance and share with other perfumistas what we are getting from a bottle not labeled. Totally cool!

    • masha7 says:

      Chandler hinted that the next installment of the series would be a much older perfume, but we’ll see, he loves to surprise us. I was amazed at how much work goes on behind the scenes to launch each mystery. It’s truly a labor of love for him.

      • Donna S says:

        That would be fun! I Iike vintage. But…that could just be a tease. His concept is great and you’re right, what goes into the release is truly a labor of love!

      • Donna S says:

        I received my bottle as well and thought it smelled more vintage inside the bottle which excited me than when it escaped and got to play with the air! It became a little sweet and as it developed almost had a playdoh vibe which I thought I smelled. I couldn’t decide if I liked this or not. Initially I had the softness of the Chanel no 5 and then it got a little spicy and sweeter as it developed. I’ll have to revisit on a colder day I think. Jury still out for me.

  • poodle says:

    Great post Marla. Those perfume experiments have always seemed interesting to me. I’m actually curious to try Reveal because from what I’ve heard it’s a wee bit better than the standard fruity floral junk we’ve been smelling at the malls. If it gives me good dreams that would be a wonderful bonus as well.

    • masha7 says:

      Hi, poodle! Give Reveal a try. It comes across at first as a sweet confectionary scent but there is a lot to it. I have no idea why it gives me such good dreams, but there must be some neuroactive aromachemical in there that induces the pink and fluffy vibe. It’s not something I’d have ever tried in a store, but that’s why Chandler’s giving us the anonymous lab bottles!