The Browse

I had these three ladies over today.  They were pretty curious about the perfume thing.  I walked them through the whole perfumista sniff-and-share routine – here’s where the sample packages come in the mail.  (What perfume is in that huge box on the porch?  I have no idea.  Oh, never mind, it’s cereal bowls from eBay.)  Here’s what they look like when you open them – the vials, the sprayers, here’s how you wrap them up so they don’t smell in transit.   (Why does this package have a candy in it?   Well, why does this one here have a hand-embroidered hanky?  Well, because it’s from Musette.)

I laughed when I read the comments yesterday about misplacing bottles or samples.  I have samples and bottles, literally, all over the house.  I have a general idea of where to look for them, and I’m pretty good about filing them.  But you would be hard-pressed at this point to search a room and not find some incriminating evidence of my addiction.  There are two bottles of Annick Goutal on the kitchen counter, under the microwave and next to the sunscreen.  There are sample vials on top of the dryer.  (What is this unlabeled one?  Well … I have no idea.)   There are bottles in closets, in boxes, under the sink, in the guest bedroom… not that I’m complaining.  As long as they’re not sitting in the sun, or in the heat, I’m happy.

We sniffed a lot, talked about perfume styles.  The “old-lady” stuff and what types of notes lead you in that direction.  The concept of gourmands.  Modern perfumery.   Who gets into perfumery as opposed to, say, shoes, or wine (although there’s definitely a food/perfume/wine overlap.)   What we get out of sniffing scents together (a sense of community, the social aspect.)

At some point Etat Libre’s Secretions Magnifiques came up.  I wasn’t sure I still had the sample, as I was so terrified at one point that Hecate would get ahold of it and spill it and we’d have to tear that part of the floor up (other scents that provoke similar fears: my stoppered 1.7 of Poison; my sample of Vero Kern Onda; Lutens Borneo.)  Notes for SM via LuckyScent are: Iode accord, adrenaline accord, blood accord, milk accord, iris, coconut, sandalwood and opoponax.  I’m sorry we’re still having image upload problems, but if you google the name you’ll see the erect member on the label on the front of the bottle (there’s another label with a boring red/blue design.)

I read the ladies Luca Turin’s review of Secretions in The Guide (five stars – “nautical floral … an elegant fresh floral in the manner of PdN Odalisque, given a demonic twist by a touch of a stupendous bilge note”… etc.)    Then I popped the plastic top off the vial; I said I wasn’t sure you got the full effect sniffing the stopper, but that I didn´t recommend putting it on the skin.  I invoked the scrubber rule, and noted that SM was really, really hard to get rid of.  But one of the gals was game.  She’s not “into” perfume at all but is interested in it the way we go at it.  I touched the plastic dabber against her skin.  We waited.  Then we sniffed and talked about that horrifying part of it.  The part that smells like, well, secretions – to my nose, the point of the meetup between salty tears, (euphemism alert!) male essence and Aunt Flo.  Not to put too fine a point on it.  After a few minutes of thoughtful sniffing, my adventurous friend volunteered that maybe she should try to see if she could wash it away because she was feeling like that smell was going to make her vomit.

So we ran into the laundry room and I tried the liquid detergent direct on the skin, followed by a rinse; next I was going for the seal-in via deodorant (which works pretty well, actually), and an offer of something else on top.  But she seemed okay.  I mean, she didn’t puke while she was still at my house.

I did keep getting this vague, unpleasant smell later in the day and I realized that – yes, you guessed it – I must have gotten some micro-amount (1/8 of a drop?) on my fingertip popping the vial stopper out carefully.  That smell is still there, like I forgot to wash my hands after changing a diaper.  Really, there is something very wrong with that picture.  I wonder if there’s a person on the planet who really wears that thing?

Some good things came out of this.  One gal decided that what she really needed was some Theorema.  I wound up with a small bottle of Mandragore, which a) interested me because it doesn’t look exactly like mine, and b) thrilled me because it doesn’t smell like mine; it’s more peppery.   But I don’t think anyone ran home and called up Bendel for Secretions.

  • nozknoz says:

    Man, I’ve got to get rid of that SM sample that’s sitting in my closet THROBBING even now!

    I actually do like Jasmin et Cigarette, but I just don’t like the idea of going around smelling like that. People would be giving me the evil eye, for sure. So that sample languishes, too.

  • Heidi says:

    Oh, I want to show people my collection! I’ve recently found all these amazing vintage frags at the local antique malls and I’d love to share them with someone. Like a little museum in a shoe box. But I don’t know anyone else in rl who cares about perfume. It’s so sad, hording them all away and having no one else to show and be like “Look! Vintage LHB. Isn’t it pretty? Try it!”

    When I found my immaculate, boxed bottle of My Sin extrait, I brought it to my favorite perfume counter guy at the mall and was like “Isn’t this amazing? Look at this thing!” And he wasn’t very impressed. He opened it and said “Wow, that’s old.”

    SIGH. It was such a let-down. It’s like bringing a rare Picasso sketch to a poster store and expecting them to be like “FANTASTIC!”

  • Rappleyea says:

    After being terrified that Joe was going to be sending this stuff to me, and laughing my butt off at these great stories, I forgot to say how much I enjoyed your original post! But I did, so thank you.

    • Joe says:

      Does that mean you’re not askeered anymore? >:)

      I should mention that in my head, I think of this stuff as “Eau de Autopsy.” 8-x

  • Dante's Bra says:

    I want to hear about the Soulgasm ’cause it sounds possibly even worse than SM!

  • sara says:

    SM is the vilest scent on earth. Loved reading your post today–anyone that wants to try it after reading it will be engaging in the olfactory equivalent of putting one’s hand on a hot stove…

    • March says:

      Well, Patty mentioned that Human Existence in the Mugler coffret. And that was pretty bad, but more like sewage. This was more repulsive to ME. But then I never put HE on my skin either.

  • sweetlife says:

    SM blah, blah, blah.

    I want to hear more about that peppery, different-bottle Mandragore!

    • March says:

      Okay. :* Said galfriend brought her bottle and gave it to me because she loves it and it does nothing for her. We both have the “femme” (round”) bottles, and mine is bigger — but mine’s the frosted purple glass, which is I thought the way it came? Hers is shiny purple, like a grape. And both our bottles are probably several years old by now, so perhaps they’ve just aged differently. I wear mine all the time (but it’s getting pretty empty.) The first thing I said smelling hers was, it’s more peppery!

  • ScentRed says:


    Thanks everyone for making me laugh on an otherwise crummy day (back out of alignment, no sleep, kids suffering from DST disorder – not a good combo). I’ve never smelled SM and might sniff a cap if I came across it, but won’t be buying a sample.
    My luck it would explode in my purse on the way home from the mailbox and be with me forever.

    p.s. how can SM be freely available and Theorema on the endangered species list? What’s wrong with the world?

    • March says:

      Glad we made you laugh. (I just got back from going with Diva to get her Learner’s Permit. Another Milestone…)

      I know, I know! I dropped it once in my closet and was terrified it had shattered!

  • Disteza says:

    I have yet to find any of the ELdO scents that do not result in instant scrubbing: they seem uniformly awful in one way or another.
    That being said, I have a FB of SM, which I picked up for free off of someone who had made the worst possible of all unsniffed purchases from The Guide. Her words: “Just get it outta my house!”
    The SO and I were all set to try the ultimate Halloween challenge 2 years ago with said excess SM–we were going to dress up as vampires and douse ourselves liberally with it, becuase we imagined that we would smell as convincing as we looked. Ultimately, I gagged on the first spray and he wouldn’t go through with it after smelling me up close. For the rest of the night I think I genuinely frightened the greasepaint off of those got a whiff of me! I remember actively wishing for someone to spill a drink on me to tamp it down some, and I was never so happy to get home to scrub that mess off. I still have the bottle, and I’m trying to think of ways to spray it on our more creative (read bloody) Halloween displays so they have that extra stink of realism. >:)

    • Melissa says:

      Hahaha! What a great use for it. But only if you could live with yourself. Which it sounds like…you couldn’t! =))

    • Shelley says:

      OMG. Too funny! Love the idea. I’m going to toss in my twice-annual recommendation for Rose Poivree as a Halloween scent…to me, it’s roses, as Morticia Addams would love them. Gotta be the older version, though.

    • March says:

      What they said. I can’t decide which is worse — having bought a FB of SM by mistake, thinking it would be nice, or being the current owner. And wow, the idea of having a full bottle of that stuff in my house is terrifying! :-ss

  • Shelley says:

    I think you created a much more memorable visit than simple tea & crumpets would do. ;));))

    You know, I haven’t yet sampled the Secretions Magnified (erm, Magnifique). I’ve had enough scrubbers to know I shouldn’t knowingly invite :-& until I am good and ready. A moment which doesn’t appear on the horizon as I do a quick scan of the road ahead…. That is not a complaint. Not at all. That is the calm evaluation of One Who Does Not Enjoy Quease.

    I do think the one friend deserves a cup of her favorite libation for being such a good sport. Though maybe you should wait a bit before offering, lest her choice be Alka Seltzer… :-j

    • March says:

      Oh, I don’t think there’s any Big Fat Hurry to try SM. And to be honest, this very nice woman did not tell me until she began to feel queasy that … there are smells that make her feel queasy. 😮 If I’d known, I definitely wouldn’t have put it on her. But I figured, hey, she’s a consenting adult…

  • Mrs.Honey says:

    I skin tested SM because I just had to based on the fuss on the boards at the time. It did not smell overly human to me. Rather, it made me think of the bodily secretions of an alien with poor hygiene. Nonetheless, I kept my vial (marked and in its own baggie, of course.) I think the appeal of resniffing is that it is such an odd scent.

    Regarding Poison: I bought a little stoppered mini at a garage sale. It is Esprit de Parfum. Is this the stuff you use a toothpick to dispense? I just apply it with my fingers. On me, it is a warm, sexy, close-to-the-skin scent. No one else commented on it (and I work in a cubicle surrounded by friends who would have said something to me if it had bothered them.)

  • Musette says:


    I’m with Louise! How Could You?:o

    Great gravy! Couldn’t you have terrified them with something a little less, well, terrifying? =)) I’m thinking maybe…heck, I can’t think of something terrifying Oh! How about Catagan? Or …..sorry, the mind is still boggling over SM.b-(

    You are the New Dr. Eeeeevil!

    xo >-)

    • March says:

      I know. I’m ashamed. We got on the topic somehow. And I’d showed them other virtual-reality scents (other CBs, like Gathering Apples.) I’m thinking that they were thinking, well, how bad could it be?

  • Louise says:

    March-How Could You :o:o:o !

    These nice ladies were guests in your home, and you SM’ed them? OMG =))

    I opened my little samp of this several years ago and dabbed a drop on the eagerly (ha!) extended fingers of the ex and ds-the howls were great. I must be as sadistic as you….=d> Of course, my ds forgave me, and the ex is, well the ex… 8-x

    • March says:

      I hope you were in your scent-killing stage then, so at least it didn’t linger forever.

      I know, I know! We’d gotten to talking about strange scents, and one thing led to another…

  • Fernando says:

    In December and January, we had a mini-reunion at my sister’s house: my wife and I, my sister and her husband, the other sister, my parents, and various grown-up kids. I took a lot of little sample vials and started teaching them things. At one point, my sister said “Oh, I have some vials too!”

    It turned out that she had read The Guide and had ordered some samples of the five-star scents from LuckyScent. But not being obsessive about it, she hadn’t really done much with them. So we started sniffing.

    Then she brings out a vial and says it’s from Etat Libre d’Orange but there is no fragrance named on the vial. Of course it was SM. After some digging in her sample bag, I found the little paper flier with the description, including the picture of the “male member” in flagrante delicto. The reaction was interesting to see.

    The thing smells awful, sans doute. But it’s interesting how once you see that picture and realize what the name refers to, it smells worse. The associations are just too strong.

    Well, luckily the other vials actually had perfume in them…

    • March says:

      Hahahah!!!!!!! That is SUCH A GREAT STORY. Because of course if you’re ordering five-stars from Lucky, that could be on there… and unlike me at the Posse, they don’t put Mr. Yuck (or a skull and crossbones) on there.

      Did anyone dab it on?

      That’s interesting. I already had a sense of what it would smell like before I smelled it. Wonder if I came to it cold…

      • Maggie says:

        Nup. I came to it cold several years ago when the Etat Libres first arrived in store in Australia.

        The SA offered me a few to try all of which were pretty much “meh” for me, nothing that grabbed my attention.

        She was very good at not allowing me to build up any pre-conceptions. She held the tester bottles so that the pictures weren’t visible. When she got to SM she said “a lot of people love this”.

        I sniffed the tester spray outlet, my head snapped back, and out came the usual words – “eeeeeug – that’s AWFUL”. So no idea what it smelt like before trying but the same reaction.

  • Patty says:

    Secretions, gag. I can’t even think about it without hurling. And it’s not like I mind any of those smells by themselves, none of them make me gag, but that metallic squeeginess of SM just did me in.

    I far preferred that Mugler Scent of Humanity thing. At least that was rank and foul, but didn’t make me puke. 🙂

    • March says:

      Did you have to make samples of it? Who does that decanting? Do they hold their breath?

      The Mugler … that smelled more like sewer to me. New York (or, I guess, Paris) sewer in July.

  • Francesca says:

    I snapped my head back and threw my scent strip away so fast, I couldn’t even form an opinion on what I thought SM smelled like. Based on descriptions, I can imagine it being worn to a hot, sweaty, 70’s gay disco, layered with Rush.

  • Nancy C. says:

    With all the praises being heaped on Theorema I just had to go out to fleabay just now to buy a mini. Sounds like something right up my alley. SM however not so much. But very funny someone would actually create and market it. What’s the ad copy on it? I assume it’s not something along the lines of “Nostalgic for the days of diapering? Buy Secretions Magnifique!” 😡

    • March says:

      The bottle has a rampant member on it, at the point of explosion, complete with flying droplets. (I really wish our image loading was working) although there’s another boring bottle with a red and blue target thing. Here, don’t let your eyes get stuck in the top of your head while they’re rolling:

      Etat Libre d’Orange is a newly liberated olfactory territory, a land free of any taboos and preconceptions. A land where perfume is art and perfumers have free reign. It is only in free-thinking lands like this that truly original fragrances can be born, the ones that make us gasp not only because of the provocativeness of their concepts but because of the staggering innovation of their composition. And no scent is more original than Etat Libre d’Orange’s bête noire, Secretions Magnifiques. An ode to sensual pleasure, to the rush of adrenalin, to tension and relief, this subversive perfume tricks you into smelling things you had never expected to smell in a perfume. The insinuating, saline sensuality of its iode-blood-milk accord is extraordinary. It is a perfume-chameleon: on some it will smell astoundingly animalic and on others it will be almost childlike in its softness. A love-it or hate-it fragrance if ever there was one, some consider this a masterpiece of modern perfumery.

      They have other ones called Pardon Me Baby, I don’t Swallow. And Giant Belly-button (in French.)

  • Ruanne says:

    Of course I want to smell it now too. This reminds me of when I saw my friend take a bite of something at a potluck, gag, and then turn to me with a huge smile, whispering, “This is horrible! Taste it!”

    My mother had a bottle of Replique on her dresser for approximately 100 years. It had clearly turned, yet every so often, I had to go in there and take another whiff to try to decide why it was so very wrong.

    • March says:

      That’s a great Replique story. I have an old, slightly rancid bottle, but the drydown’s lovely.

      Yeah, the chunky-milk phenomenon. It was like that when I lived in the midwest and went to buffets and etc. Those salads with the coconut. And mayo. And jello. And mini marshmallows. And … I have to stop now. :-&

      • Joe says:

        I love that coco-marshmallow-jello-mandarin orange salad thing. But with sour cream, not mayo. =p~

  • Sarah says:

    You know, I must be a sick little puppy because I want to smell this now. I can’t imagine there *ever* being a situation where I’d wear it, but I’m so curious about it, I HAVE TO SMELL IT. And damn, that means buying a 1ml because I want to smell it NOW not wait until I do my London Perfume Crawl in the next couple of months.
    I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?

    • March says:

      Well. Don’t spill it in your car. And try not to wear the whole vial at once. It would be lovely at the office.

      I don’t know that you’ll REGRET it. And their Incense et Bubblegum made me almost as sick, FYI.

      • Graham says:

        You know, March, funny you should say that. I had the same reaction to Encens et Bubblegum. I’m afraid that it may have turned me off from ELO for good (although Joe or someone else mentioned a couple others that I needed to try…). Do SM and E&BG share a particular note or chemical that induces that reflex? Something that runs through ALL their stuff? I made the joke once about something similar to “Guerlinade” – “Orangeade”, perhaps, or, given the gag reaction of many folks, maybe the creation of a new French pun, “Degueulinade”…

        • Winifreida says:

          YES I reckon they do share a blood note, (I have Putain and Rossy and samples of all of them except SM) and I find it in the top note of all. I find it also in the heartbreaking Lonestar Memories. It must be some aldehydic thing because there’s even an edge of something similar in La Myrre and the ‘Real Blonde’ which I thought hilariously gave a whiff of – bleach. (And no doubt absolutely deliberate!)
          Turin talked about some nitrile chemical…

          • Rappleyea says:

            Laurie at SSS sent me a small sample of a raw material called piconia, and on my skin it had that coppery/blood smell. I really disliked it. That *might* be one of the materials used.

        • March says:

          I don’t know why Incense/Bubblegum was so dreadful, but it was. I mean, it doesn’t sound bad, does it? And I love incense (and I like the smell of bubblegum.) But the two together made my teeth ache. It was a profoundly sweet yet inedible smell.

        • Heidi says:

          I was just thinking this the other day, about ELdO scents. There is something about the indolic jasmine in both their Charogne and Jasmin et Cigarette that is really synthetic-smelling to me. Something really gratingly household cleaning fluids about it. Is this the note you mean? I don’t know if it’s actually the jasmine or if I’ve just decided myself it is. Anyway, do all the ELdO scents have that? Ugh.

    • Melissa says:

      See my comments above. It has a magnetic pull. I can’t stop re-testing it. But I am no worse than those of you who keep a sample vial hidden in your dresser drawer, wrapped in seven layers of plastic!!!


  • Joe says:

    Love your story, March, and I’ve gotta tell you that I find myself developing this strange SM fascination. My sample is actually making its was back to me after getting sent around as a gag gift to a couple “victims” (like an evil perfumista chain letter). I really couldn’t get that thing out of my house fast enough (double- or triple-baggied, too). But now I want to try it again. I miss it. I think everyone should try it to see what all the fun’s about. 😮

    Actually, it doesn’t remind me of any (ahem!) secretions or blood (I was a bloody nose kid too, and I still get them from time to time). What I think it maybe most reminded me of was raw meat with some kind of metallic edge. I’m a total omnivore, but one of the things that grosses me out most is if I’m cleaning or prepping meat (especially poultry) and that smell just gets on my hands. You should see me scrub with the nail brush and then sniff obsessively to make sure it’s all off me. So yeah, that’s SM for me… yet I want it back.

    Recently SM came up as a discussion on our split board and several people said it makes them gag, but they still have to smell the bottle every time they go in Bendel’s.

    Seriously, are there people who WEAR it? And I’ve wondered several times, was Luca Turin *high* when he wrote that review??? Elegant fresh floral my @$$!!!!

    • zeezee says:

      “…I find myself developing this strange SM fascination.”


      Funny on more than one level. I wonder if ELdO named it like that on purpose, too? I wouldn’t put it past them.

      • March says:

        Oh yeah. I’m going to go try an image upload. But you can google it. And they have other provocatively-named scents.

        • March says:

          Image upload FAIL. But google the name and you’ll get … the picture. There’s an erect-member label, at the point of release.

          • zeezee says:

            Oh, I know about the squirty weener label… I meant the additional funny of the acronym SM.

    • Rappleyea says:

      I am officially terrified 😮 Joe as I just mailed off a package to you and it has my return address on it! YIKES!! I pray you never get that maleficent sample back.

    • March says:

      Do you remember when I went to Sniffa in the fall, the Bendel area was crazy, and you know all their bottles have quasi-similar labels and I CAMETHISCLOSE to SPRAYING SM all over myself, thinking I’d grabbed Nombril Immense or something. Thank God I rechecked. I’d have died right there on the floor.

      I’m having trouble figuring out how to discuss this delicately without making people vomit up their breakfast. I hear you on the raw meat, but honestly, to my nose it’s more dimensional than that in terms of human odor. See, that was nice and vague…

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Joe. Yes, guilty as charged. Almost every trip to Bendel results in a magnetic pull toward the SM tester.

      I blame it on my friend J, who started the trend. J’s “incident” with the leaky SM tester bottle spray mechanism was simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. It must have left a scent-seeking imprint in our brains. An impulse to repeat and master the trauma. 😮

    • Graham says:

      “And I’ve wondered several times, was Luca Turin *high* when he wrote that review??? Elegant fresh floral my @$$!!!!” Hahahahaha – that was MY thought when I got the Guide; HOW am I supposed to take anything else LT says seriously?? But then, I remember that everyone smells things a bit differently. As for me, I’m FIRMLY in the gag group. I’d be hard pressed to tell you exactly what scent comparison I get out of it, because my brain can’t make it that far – it just shrieks and tries to jump out of my skull. b-(

      • March says:

        That’s funny, I actually wrote the “was he high” part in this post and then deleted it as too undiplomatic … you know, in The Emperor of Scent (? the first one?) LT was constantly sniffing really foul stuff, in fact I think it was nitriles. Maybe he just doesn’t find the scent as repulsive as the average person.

    • Mals86 says:

      On the SM: raw meat, yes. And sweat and curdled milk and… get this stuff offa me!!:-&

    • Robin R. says:

      Joe, are you the kind of guy to miss really disturbing yet compelling lovers and want them back too, despite overwhelming evidence that they’ll just hurt your again in the very same way? That popped into my head somehow . . . 😕

  • Flora says:

    LOL, now I know FOR SURE that SM is one perfume I never have to try!!! =))=))=))

  • mary says:

    I love your descriptions, especially the diaper residue description. I achieved that effect while experimenting around layering violet oil over something woodsy. Why pay a premium for that smell when diapers are so . . . everywhere? Thanks for the fun blog!

    • March says:

      Every now and again I layer two perfumes on my skin and get, not something that awful, but something surprisingly bad. To the point that you think, come on, what went wrong here? 😕

  • violetnoir says:

    What a crazy story! March, I don’t know if you have fulfilled your community service requirement for the year, or if you have scared off two potential perfumistas! 😕

    But I do know one thing: Please consider tossing, maybe even burning, your vial of SM. That stuff is vile!


  • Robin says:

    What a hysterically funny story! But we have to stop telling more people about Theorema — eventually, we’re all going to run out.

  • Tiara says:

    That woman who tried SM sounds like a real trooper–did you send her home with something that smelled fantastic or was she too afraid to try anything else after that?

    What are the odds she’ll turn in to a perfumista?!

    • March says:

      … she pretty much quit after that. Weird, I have no idea why. I mean, we sniffed a couple more things.

      I figure the odds are slim that she’ll turn into a perfumista, but that’s true for anyone, even before they’ve smelled SM. I do think they had a good time, though.

  • (Ms.) Christian says:

    :xHmmm-must just be me, but SM does not offend or upset me. I kind of like it because on me and to me it smells like blood. No, I’m not a vampire but I did have a lot of acute nosebleeds (epistaxis) as a kid and my grandmother’s “cure” was to put a knife (always the same old kitchen/butcher knife with the worn, faded wooden tang and the long blade that was so old it had a half moon out of it where it was used the most for cutting) on the back of my neck, which was sone hoodoo for stopping the bleeding. Instead it scared the bejeezus outta me, made me more frightened so I cried hard and got that rich, iron like taste of blood in the back of my throat mixed with the salty taste of tears mingled in. So WHY the hell do I enjoy a scent that vividly recalls such violent memories?


    Probably because I know I’m safe from all that as an adult, I have not had a nose bleed in decades, I’m in control (or I have the illusion of it) and now I can CHOOSE to smell like blood with no cutlery involved. And I love weird scents, which is why I swooned when Bvlgari Black came out. Gee, I could smell like burnt rubber!

    • Francesca says:

      I believe it was March who once said SM smelled like “bloody knife.” So there ya go!

    • March says:

      I think a bloody nose and the fear of the knife is a good description, although …. well, if you’re happy, I’m happy. :)>-