Penicillin and the wheel have already been invented, so we thought we’d do our bit for all mankind by testing drugstore perfume. This idea was born partly from the fact that we’re bugged by the whole niche fragrance snob concept, and mostly because it sounded like fun. We wanted to answer that Eternal Question: could you get a decent fragrance at your local drugstore? So we kicked the idea around and established the basic rules:
1) We’d go to the drugstores separately (which makes sense, since one of us lives in Denver and one in Washington, D.C.), sniff a few things, and select three scents: one for ourselves; one for a gift; and one worst-in-show scrubber.
2) No “cheating” by selecting a classic, a dupe (“smells like Giorgio!”), or an otherwise perfectly respectable fragrance that’s wound up in the locked glass case in Drugstore Purgatory – it has to be a genuine drugstore perfume, something you can’t get at your local department store.
3) No diddling around, sniffing and resniffing – one trip and you’re done.
4) Then we’d exchange the gift fragrances via mail, for further praise or derision.
March’s First Impressions: I haven’t shopped for perfume at the drugstore since I was sporting braces and a tube top. My visit to the local CVS this week was an eye-opener. First, I couldn’t believe the drugstore has TWO separate little dishes of coffee beans to clear the palate after you’ve sampled, say, Shania, before moving on to Stetson. Second, the locked cabinet was surprisingly well-stocked – nothing on my wish list, maybe, but plenty of fragrances priced in the mid-$40s (helloooo, Oscar and J.Lo!) that could be gifted. Unfortunately, those were off-limits for our experiment. Third, CVS is a little light on testers, and let me tell you that if you open up enough little boxes in a furtive manner for discreet spritzing, eventually you will garner the attention of the store security personnel.
Patty’s First Impressions: My memories of shopping for drugstore perfume was formed in the ’70s, and those were the bonanza years of many cheap little fragrances, some of them quite good. You could stop at the fountain for a Cherry Sprite, sit on the naugahyde stool, spin around and get your friend who worked there to bring out the smelly stuff while you tried on the whacky plastic sunglasses. Things have changed. In between snagging some deodorant and cookies, I finally found the “unsecured” winner at my third stop. My first stop was a new Walgreens where they seem to have hidden the $4.95 perfumes. My second stop was a Walgreens that was older and had a handful of things that I could lift out of the cheap packaging and sniff and try not to laugh. Beyond Musk, Musk, Musk and his other brother, Musk, there wasn’t a lot to go through. After looking longingly at the locked case, I made my choice between the three stores. Motivation for shopping for perfume at the drugstore — you can pick up a lot of things you forgot you need to stock up on, plus get a pack of cookies and a cold drink. Drawbacks — Lack of selection and testers, but no lack of musk.
March and Patty Joint Conclusion: Musk is the New Black and the Old Black at the Drugstore.
And the winners?!?!? Tune in next week for the thrilling results of drugstore perfume.