Barbara Bui Le Parfum

Louise and I went sniffing at Nancy’s (and thanks again, Nancy!). It turns out she lives really close to me. Sniffing around a great collection with a couple of perfume pals is pretty much my idea of a perfect afternoon. Actually, having a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and a migraine-inducing chocolate torte on hand might have been even more perfect, but I´d have paid the price later. As it was I had to wind the windows down in my car to overcome the perfume miasma when the three of us went out for a post-sniff coffee. By the way, anyone who has ever doubted the concept of skin chemistry needs to go sniffing with a friend or two.

Louise is more flexible than I am, so she was using her legs. Her ankle smelled great – some new leather thing Nancy´s discovered. I had a trail of heaven up and down my arms – from the delicious woods of Annayake Undo (pour homme) through Serge Lutens´ Chene (and am I insane or does the very late drydown smell a lot like Malle´s Noir Epices?), on up my arm past the French patchouli one (what was it called?), Lutens´ Bois Orientale, French Lover, Andree Putman´s Preparation Parfumee (which, okay, all too quickly goes from the watery lily coriander driftwood to a fresh scent, but what a nice one), and some other things I applied and, well, forgot.

So, here´s my story, and everyone this has happened to before – raise your hand!! Because at home throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, I kept getting a whiff of something wonderful – creamy, warm, comforting, elegant. I kept trying to decide if it was two scents combining in my nose or layered on my skin (the new, coffee-musky Belle en Rykiel smells great layered with patchouli). Was it the Annayake? Something else?

Eventually I sorted out what the tantalizing scent was, gliding along in the background – the discontinued Barbara Bui Le Parfum (notes of spices, incense, jasmine, white musk, sandalwood, heliotrope, cedar and amber). The scent was only in production for a couple of years, d/c´d before I ever got around to it. If Nancy didn´t have an unfamiliar-looking, attractive square bottle sitting on her shelf I might never have tried it.

And what a shame that would be. Barbara Bui is one of those ideal, vaguely gourmand-but-not-foody comfort scents. There´s nothing austere or big-niche statement about it. It is a scent that is both comfortable and elegant – a mélange of creamy woods, soft, meditative incense, a hint of florals, sheer musk and a dusting of the sort of spices (cinnamon, cardamom and clove, maybe?) you´d find in some tasty dessert pudding. There is a clear, resinous amber note throughout, but you’re not being beaten over the head with it, as I feel about some ambers.

Part of my delay in figuring out which fragrance I´d fallen for is that the opening of Barbara Bui is its weakest moment: mostly amber and heliotrope, with a specter of Play-Doh lurking in the background, and while it´s not terrible I remember taking that first sniff, thinking meh — next, please, and promptly forgetting about it. It wasn´t until I tried it again that I remembered that opening fizzle, and all I can say is that if you´ll wait 20 minutes or so, the next several hours are well worth it. There´s some sort of perfect balance in those notes that creates a whole which is more appealing than its parts. There are bits that remind me of some other scents (Clinique Simply and Jil Sander´s Sensations spring to mind), but Barbara Bui is on a much higher plane of achievement.

It´s still available regularly on eBay, but given the short production span I wouldn´t bet the farm the supply will go on forever. Another example of a fragrance that deserved a much longer life – maybe that opening did it in, since so many consumers make their decision about a fragrance on those top notes. I decided I wanted to hoard some, because I´m pretty darn sure I´ll be working through Nancy´s generous gift of a partial bottle (thanks, Nancy!), so I bought a bottle on eBay. And … it´s been awhile since I´ve had a giveaway, hasn´t it? If you´d like to try some of this, say so in the comments below. If my bottle shows up I´ll send some out to the world.

amber image:

  • kuri says:

    Just tried the parfum today, thanks! Wow, yummy! Easy to wear, interesting, hard to describe, but I really like it. I may need a bottle. It just smells really good to me. I wanted to ask all my coworkers what they thought, but I forgot to.

  • Theresa says:

    I’ve been wanting to try this for a while! Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks.

  • Nthny says:

    The notes you described here make me think of one of my favorite fragrances of the moment: Lanvin Arpege pour Homme. It is dense and rich, with a touch of hesperidic brightness at the opening, quickly smoothing out to a milky iris with creamy hazelnut and dark vanilla. And it’s not niche! How bout that!

    • Nthny says:

      I should be more specific… the notes you described don’t make me think of the Lanvin (actually they make me think of Comme des Garcons Perfume) but your description of the feeling the notes convey recalls the Arpege PH… the creamy, woody, floral, gourmand combo… anyway…… 🙂

      • March says:

        Barbara Bui is WAY less oddball than CdG parfum, which I also happen to love. But it’s a lot more aggressive, at least on me. Barbara Bui is more tame in a good way. Elegant but unobtrusive.

        Arpege PH I am FOREVER trying to get random men in Nordstrom to buy. I pretend I work there. Delicious scent.

  • noyna says:

    Hi, March! I’m sorry to have been out of touch lately…there’s ever so much to tell you. Ummm, some of it is about homming. Really. Sending you an e-mail today… It’s wonderful to hear about your sniffage — I hope to make it to DC sometime soon to explore more with you and continue our delicious chats. Please enter me into the drawing, if it isn’t too late!

    • March says:

      Sawadee ka! I miss Thailand like crazy. I didn’t get your email; please email me and tell me how you are doing, and all about homm.

      BTW I am reading a fun book right now called Bangkok 8, a police thriller set in Bangkok, told from the perspective of a Thai policeman (although the writer is English, or American, I forget). Great stuff. It’s even got perfume in it!

  • minette says:

    i’m laughing because today at the store i sprayed two bois 1920s on my legs – down near my ankles – because the shop folk had warned me that they change and might go south on me. they didn’t, but that was my solution. i even raised my leg to my nose while there – though thank goodness no one was there to see my acrobatic feat.

    the two i tried were real patchouli (after ten seconds of flirting with patchouli, it smells just like ambre extreme), and sutra ylang, which is quite nice, though i’m not sure worth the price. the vetiver ambre (is that right?) smelled good, but didn’t try it on skin. the shop just got the line, so i’ll have back to play with them. i haven’t seen much about them.

    oh, yes, please enter me in the BB drawing. thanks.

    • March says:

      You’re in! And I know nothing about the line, so I’m learning too. I love picturing your acrobatics.

  • sweetlife says:

    Oh, my. This sound sooo up my alley. Better put me into that draw!

    BTW — I tried Sushi Imperiale (still don’t get the name) a few months ago on a trip to LA and was shocked not to like it, since the notes sounded great and I love the line. It was sweet gingerbread and cloves (which always remind me of shaving cream) on me. The combo made me giggle. Will be interested to hear what it does on you skin as I’m clearly in the minority.

    • March says:

      That name. I know. I thought it would smell like fish?!?! But maybe all the good names are gone … on the other hand, as Patty pointed out, they just named a fragrance Night Bird, so there must be SOME good names left.

      Gingerbread and cloves sounds quite yummy to me.:”> I’m looking forward to trying it.

  • Gaia says:

    I’m so jealous you got to have a girl-sniffing afternoon. Here I am living within sniffing distance from all that’s good with no one but my long suffering husband who’s willing to play with me.

    No need to enter me to the draw: I’m already hoarding a couple of bottles of the Bui. I don’t know what they were thinking regarding marketing. She’s a great designer, but one needs to be into fashion to actually know her name, so why not sell it through the niche channels? There are enough of those just in NYC, and I’m sure it’d have done well with decent exposure.

    • Gaia says:

      By the way: I just looked at my own blog’s hit counter and you’d be proud how many people are all of a sudden googling Barbara Bui perfume (I reviewed it acouple of weeks ago). I’m assuming you’ve made them do it /:)

      • March says:

        Gaia! Periodically my Mozilla goes kerflooey (technical term) and all my perfume blog bookmarks disappear magically. And then I forget to load them all back in … I went back browsing, there Barbara Bui is! Great minds thinking alike, eh?8-|

        According to our blog CEO we’re getting a LOT of hits. I note the bottles are gone from eBay, but no doubt there will be more.

  • Kelly says:

    Oooh – sounds gooood! Please enter me.

    • March says:

      I’ll do it, but it sounds dirty.:”>

      • Lee says:

        Strap ons at the ready!

        Too far?:”>

        March, did you finish *that* book?

        • March says:

          This is embarrassing. I am pretty sure Diva found it. The shame doesn’t seem to have killed me. Anyway, I relocated it and … it’s gone. Like that missing vile of Borneo. My best guess is it wound up in the several bags of books I just donated to the local library.:-” I am praying my name wasn’t on anything in there.

  • I am so jealous you got to meet Nancy, and so jealous that Nancy got to meet you!
    Marina :d

    • March the nosy says:

      Puh-lease. You’re in NYC and you’re jealous of ME?!? What are you doing there? Work? Wait … is it the sniffa?

  • violetnoir says:

    Woman, if I had known you liked it, I would have sent you some more.

    Have your tried Sonia Rykiel? The round, frosted bottle? It smells very much like BB.


    • March says:

      Hey, you can’t anticipate ALL my needs. Happy to have a bottle.

      I think I read somewhere else, someone comparing it to Sonia Rykiel, which no, I have not tried, I don’t believe. I will now, though.

      PS Did I ever remember to thank you profusely for the Sous le Buis!?:-” I’ve been wearing it. One of the green meanies I love.

      • violetnoir says:

        Oh yes, darling, you did last week or whenever it was that you received it. I think it was around the 5th.

        I am so happy that you are enjoying it! 🙂

  • Louise says:

    Got plenty to share, little woman…\:d/

    • Louise says:

      That’s Sushi Imperiale for you, Marchessele

    • March says:

      Yum! Thanks! D’you think I’ll like it?

      • Louise says:

        Yup-though it’s a little sweet, it is a real comfort scent. I adore it-and it lasts really well (Maria, are you there?).

        • Maria says:

          I’m at work on an ancient computer. I do like Sushi a lot. WHether it would be too sweet for March, I don’t know.

          Gad! The screen cuts off the whole right side of the text as I type. Who knows what I’m sending you.

  • tmp00 says:

    I’d love to give this one a whirl, please enter me in the draw.

  • Gina says:

    Please do enter me in this drawing – this sounds divine!

  • Bluechile (Cathy) says:

    Since we can call ourselves anything we want when posting a comment, I was going to call myself “March and Nancy’s Neighbor(ish)” :)>- but thought that might be a tad forward ….. 😉 anyhoo….please enter me in the drawing.

    March, daarling, does Art With Flowers carry the PG or SL lines? I haven’t gotten my sorry self over there yet (I’m falling hard for PG). When I consider that a year or so ago, my love/knowledge of perfume included only Shalimar and Miss Dior Cherie, well, I appreciate the Decanting Gals anew.

    • March says:

      Well, we’ll have to get together and sniff at Art w/Flowers!

      I need to figure out who owns AwF. I think Bill chooses the merch, and it’s pretty random. Nice, but random. I think we need to work on them in terms of brands they carry. L’Artisan and Serge: yes. (but not ALL of them). PG: no. Louise and I think they should.

      • bluechile (Cathy) says:

        Sniffing with you guys? The idea has “I’m not worthy” duking it out with “Hell, yes!”

        • Louise says:

          Ah, hell yes!

        • March the nosy says:

          Hmmmmm, I see who’s been over on fleaBay buying samps of BBui…

          c’mon, it would totally be fun. I wouldn’t even yell at you if you said Passage d’Enfer smelled like liver, like Sariah did.

          • bluechile (Cathy) says:

            mmm…liver….well, the cats will like it better than The Mitsouko Incident. :d

            You do realize that your review of BBui is to blame for my ‘bay-slumming, right?

            [On a totally unrelated-to-perfume issue…I got a about 8 inches of hair cut off on Friday and I discovered that there is a very.fine.line between a ‘do that is artfully scrunched and one that is simply demented bag-woman. Something to keep in mind.]

          • March says:

            I can scrunch with the best of them. I feel your pain. Who hasn’t had a bad haircut? But it’s okay. It’s better than being one of those women who has clearly been working the same ‘do for the last 25 years, you know? At least you tried something. As I tell Diva, It Will Grow Back.;):-w

            That’s the first thing I bought on eBay in eons. Think they’ve noticed my one-woman boycott? 😕 No, probably not.

  • Patty says:

    Now I want that cuir d’iris thing, gah!

    I did sneak out and buy some of the bui, I couldn’t help it, it could be gone tomorrow!!!

    • March says:

      I guess I thought you already owned Cuir d’Iris?!?! Like, you know, everything else you already own…;) I hope you like the BBui!

  • Robin says:

    BB is a great scent, and it really is a shame it got axed. If it had been a L’Artisan (and IMHO, it could have been) it would have sold, methings.

    • March says:

      I can’t figure out how any of those one-off designer scents stay in business unless you distribute them outside your own store, and/or get a place like Lucky to sell them. Otherwise I’d guess it’s just a vanity thing. ITA about your L’Artisan comment, with any kind of exposure it would have been a success, and it would fit in the line nicely.

  • sybil says:

    Please put me in the drawing. I’ll try anything, and this sounds very nice! BTW–I still owe you for introducing me to Theorema…

    • March says:

      Well, Theorema is one of those universal gifts. Like eyesight or something.:x^:)^ So you’re welcome but I can’t take credit, it’s bigger than me…;) And I am looking forward to Theorema weather coming right up.

      You’re in!

  • Divalano says:

    So now I’m not only jealous of Lee for his early access to the new PdE’s but I’m terribly envious of you girls for your visit to Nancy now, too. The leather scents got my antennae up; don’t think the Kitsune is me but maybe I do have to try the PG Iris Cuir. Hmm.

    And yes, please enter me in the BB drawing, creamy warm comforting & elegant sounds yum to me 🙂

    • March says:

      You’re in!

      The Cuir d’Iris doesn’t have that super-sweet PG base that chafes me sometimes. I thought it was a gorgeous combination. The Kitsune is leather/incense, and I need to revisit it.

  • Judith says:

    For some reason, I have never been as moved by BB as most people seem to be (thank goodness for Tigs).:) I mean, I thought it was nice, but. . . But what WAS that new leather????

    • March says:

      Well, we don’t overlap 100% on the frags. I think I have more of a comfort scent jones than you do (maybe not.) Hey, what did you think of Haramens? I’m afraid to try it on now. And what about Sushi? Spicy? Dessert-like? Vanilla?

      Actually :d I just heard back from Nancy. The OTHER leather was Armando Martinez’ Kitsune, which was very interesting, although I think I liked it more on Louise than she did. I think it’s new to Nancy’s store. And the PG Cuir d’Iris smelled delish on her, but I think I already told you that? But it was mostly Cuir after 15 minutes on her. Nice one, though.

      • March says:

        OMG. “Think” has replaced “actually” kill me now>:p

        • judith says:

          Actually, I don’t think I’ll kill you. :d:x

          I love the Cuir d’Iris–wonder if I should try Armando’s new one.

          • Judith says:

            And I have not yet tried Haramens (reviews didn’t make it sound too enticing)–just sent away for the Night Bird, though. . .

          • dopey j. says:

            haven’t tried sushi either; way behind on my sniffing (trying both to work and save money) and incompetent in my posting. :((

          • March says:

            When I saw your moniker in my inbox I thought, look, a newbie de-lurking! And what a cute nickname! Heh. Isn’t it fun that you can fill in anything you want to as the name?

            Um, that work/save money thing… what is up with that?:o

          • March says:

            It is incense and leather, so I’m thinking it’s got potential for you. Not that I’m suggesting any more purchases. Oh, no, not me.:-“

  • loverdoll says:

    I Have heard much about this one also, and it sounds interesting . . .please enter me,too.
    Also want to know about the new leather, seeing as how I am a leather girl all the way . . . .G

    • March says:

      One was Parfumerie Generale Cuir d’Iris, which was a very nice iris/leather, but Louise killed the iris off. OTOH Louise can kill almost anything off, so unless you know you have the same skin chem, don’t let that stop you. The other (I just heard back from Nancy) was Armando Martinez Kitsune. I feel obligated to point out you can get (I am pretty sure) samps of both of these on The Perfumed Court. I also believe they have a leather sample pack.

      • Lee says:

        I must test some of Mando’s stuff. I’ve only ever smelled Maquillage and then got too lazy to keep up…

        • March says:

          Well, who can keep up? You’d have to sniff new product 8 hours a day. I still haven’t smelled most of the newish PGs, along with a million other things.

  • Anne says:

    Oh, what I would have given to have been there with all of you! I would have brought the best chocolate cookies EVER!

    :((:(( Ok, ok, now that I’m done crying…

    Nancy sent me a sample of this along with some purchases back in the fishbone days. I fell in love, found a bottle (think it was ebay) and now I can’t wait for the temperature here in Miami to drop to below 95 so I can wear it again, and again and …. :)>-

    • March says:

      Mmmmmm, those look like the perfect chocolate cookies! I love me an excellent cookie without a lot of bells and whistles, you know? Just really good ingredients and great flavor.

      Miami. Yikes. You guys make our summers look like Maine.

  • Gail S says:

    I received a small decant of Barbara Bui just a couple of days ago and have no idea which one it is. Would love to be entered into the draw so I can compare!

    Umm..anyone in West Texas have a Nancy-size (and quality) collection? Because I’m really jealous! Waaaannnntt to go sniffing somewhere good!

  • Lee says:

    You are insane

    *runs off to do sniff comparison between Chene and Noir Epices*:d

    • Louise says:

      It was such fun-can’t imagine more fun than playing perfume with these two sweet, smart, sassy sisters (can you guess we are doing alliteration in class this week?). I am forever grateful for the my chance meeting with March at Sephora last year, and for Nancy’s wise examination of our zipcodes (off by a single digit). Beside’s our perfume love, they are sensitive, savvy, supportive (OK, OK, I am done with the letter s now!).

      March, I think the patchouli you smelled with the Rykiel was the Rykiel-at least that’s what I get from it, along with the coffee and muskiness-very pleasant. But, dang, girl! When I woke up at some ungodly hour this morning, and read your review, I had to go find my Bui sample.

      And, of course, it’s nowhere to be found in my stash of samples-not that they’re organized, of course. So, I regret my dismissing it, both awhile ago, and when we visited. I did find a huge sample of Poivre extract, and some Maroc Pour Elle-today’s scent. Not a total loss, then!

      • Louise says:

        Lee-I swear I posted this to post. You and March can straighten out your own issues regarding her sanity!

      • March says:

        Louise, I know! I would be so sad without you to play with. Although the security folks at Montgomery could rest easy, knowing those two freaky women wouldn’t be there sniffing each other’s bodies in the coffee shop.

        Well… I layered that nice French patch with the Rykiel, discreetly, while I was sitting there. Wanted to give it more bottom. So to speak. That Belle STILL reminds me of something and I can’t figure out what.

    • March says:

      Well? Well? I can always argue that the fumes got to me.

      How was your birfday?

      • Lee says:

        Lovely indeed – nice presents, wonderful south Indian food. Caught up with lots of friends, rested, saw nice things, and bought Musc Ravageur. I also got to sniff all of those new Parfum d’Empire scents….

  • kuri says:

    Ooh, I’ve read about this before. The notes sound yummy, other than the clove. Oh wait, I have no problems with cloves, it’s aniseed I dislike 🙂 I’d love to try it!

    Annie, I’m curious how you discovered it. Was it sold in dept. stores?

    • March says:

      Anise — you and me both. Bleargh.:-& There’s my professional, unbiased opinion. You’re in!

      To the best of my knowledge, Barbara Bui wasn’t carried anywhere but in her boutiques (I think there’s one in NYC and in Paris, and probably a few others.) And then they d/c it because it wasn’t selling well enough. To which I respond, duh. But I have noooo idea how distribution channels work.

      • kuri says:

        I see. I have no idea how that works either, but if it was only through her boutiques then I’d imagine that she funded the costs of the perfume herself. It’d be nice if she’d bring it back. At least a limited edition run 🙂

        Ironically, I still haven’t figured out if Hanae Mori carries her perfume in her boutiques. I dared to investigate a boutique once, but didn’t spot it and lacked the courage to ask a saleslady.

        • March says:

          I wouldn’t set foot in one of those places. But Hanae sells her stuff everywhere else, so it’s okay. Barb shoulda done the same./:)

    • annie says:

      :(I honestly can’t remember;I first bought a decant from Terri’s Temptions,or Martin Chung(Parrellx..such a sweetie,God rest his perfumed soul),or one of the Perfumed Court Ladies,then I bought a new bottle on e-bay,as her boutique was the only other place to get it….I like it better than any Donna Karan,etc.:-“

  • annie says:

    8-|OOOOOOOOH,Lordy….Barbara Bui! I wore this for several years,before it was d/c’d (a total record for me)…I worked in a hospital lab,and had to run to the E.R. to do a test on a patient.One of the nurses passed me,and said “you smell so GOOD”,what do you have on,,,,Escape?”…gakgakgak!…..I later reasoned that she was into saving lives,not niche perfumes,and that I would recover….it is a wonderful,classy,subtle perfume;good to wear day or night to absolutely ANY event;probably one of my all-time faves/:)

    • March says:

      Hahahahahaha!!! My equivalent horror would be for someone to say, what do you have on, Angel? But you’re right, she’s saving lives. And your assessment is right on. I NEED a few more things that are day-to-night, attractive but won’t scare anyone, you know?:-“

  • Amarie says:

    What a blissfully wonderful time!
    There is no-one near who shares my passion and I have to resort to those nearest and dearest to indoctrinate.
    The notes in Barbara Bui sound just perfect, so please enter me.

  • hausvonstone says:

    Argh! You evil thing – you have hit upon my current vicious lemming. Are we in virtual sniff sync? Wah wah wah. I’ve been googling this all week. I was watching (though not buying) that on eBay. Please enter me in the drawing… AND please tell if you have tried Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale. Very cinnamon warm pudding, I thought. Rich.

  • k says:


    I wish I understood what is going on. I have read through several pages here, and I have only recognized a few of the scents mentioned. I feel totally out of the loop…I am thinking that there is no way I can afford any of the scents I see here. 🙁

    But you do seem to be having fun at it…

    • March says:

      k, welcome! it’s okay, hon! Be Not Afraid. This is fancy-pants perfume, aka Niche Perfumery. It’s what you’d sniff as an alternative to, say, the stuff you could find in your local mall. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy mall stuff, niche perfume is just different (and frequently much more interesting.) It’s like … I’m struggling for a good comparison here. Let’s say you discovered you REALLY LIKED tea. So you decided to stop buying your tea at the grocery store, and once you ran out of options to try at your local gourmet grocery store you went online to expand your obsession. When you think, “I don’t recognize any of those names,” let it be a fun thought rather than a scary one.<:-p For a next step scroll back up to the top of this post and click on the link on the left-hand side, PERFUME 101. It's sort of an intro to niche perfumery and a suggestion of things to sniff.

  • Maria says:

    Oh, what fun you gals had! I wish I’d been there with you. I want to know what Louise’s leather was. I also want to know what else worked particularly well on her. Not that you’re not a beacon to us all, March. 😀

    Hey, I tried to insert an automatic emoticon and it didn’t work. If you see a whole line of grins, that’s why. Thanks for reminding me about Andree Putman. I have a sample and haven’t tried it yet.

    I’m reading the Riot Act to one of my classes Monday. What do I wear on such occasions? Why, Cuir de Russie, of course. (Repeat of Riot Act reading to follow on Friday.)

    Please include me in the draw.

    • Louise says:

      I want to know what Louise’s leather one was, too! It was verrry nice, but I just don’t remember it’s name. Nancy? Can you help?

    • March says:

      Lord, now EVERYONE wants to know what that leather was. Cripes. She tried two things — the PG Cuir d’Iris, which was gorgeous on her but she killed off the iris right away. REALLY NICE LEATHER, though. Made me think about what I could layer in the way of leather and iris. The other one … hang on, let me go browse the Court. Nope, I’ve emailed her, I’ll post back.

  • Tigs says:

    Maybe I gave up too fast. A long-awaited try at this and I thought total “meh”. But I was in a scent-filled, open concept Italian restaurant and was wearing painful squeezy shoes, so maybe I was not in a proper testing frame of mind.

    • March says:

      No, no, no!!! Pointy-toed shoes totally reduce your ability to fairly judge a perfume, due to poor circulation in your head.

      Yeah, I trained to be a doctor.:))