Second chances: Perfume love when you least expect it

I’ve been down the perfume rabbithole for quite a few years now, and I’m still learning to “never say never.” For it often seems that as soon as I do, I get blindsided by the very thing I mentally wrote off.

So I’m wondering today: What scents have you been “meh” about or even dead-set-against trying, but were won over
when you finally sampled them? Or perhaps it took a few tries for love
(or like) to bloom?

soleia 2For me this year, it was Guerlain’s Lys Soleia. I’ve always considered the Aqua Allegoria line nice and a well-priced entry point into fine fragrance and the house of Guerlain. But none of them have really grabbed me, save for Mandarine Basilic and Pamplelune.

So when I sniffed the Soleia in the bottle at Neiman Marcus late this winter, I thought it OK, but wasn’t interested enough to spray it on skin. I took a blotter out of the store, left it in my car and didn’t give it another thought.

Lo and behold, when I opened my car door on a warmish afternoon a few days later, what a dreamy, creamy, gorgeous scent surrounded me! Even my sunglasses smelled heavenly (they were sitting atop the paper).

So it became obvious that I had been too hasty and I had to take this seriously. Samples landed here recently and I eagerly applied.

Now I like most lily-centric fragrances, but sometimes the note can be a bit overpowering. Not so in the Soleia: a dab of vanilla and a touch of ylang-ylang (among other notes) slide gracefully into step with the lily to cushion it and create a softly sunny scent; deliciously but subtly hinting at tropical climes. I can see this being a lovely, office-friendly choice for most of the year: comforting in fall and winter, and pretty for spring. Although I can’t say how well it will do in the dead heat of summer. But I’m game to try it even then.

Incidentally, the Lys Soleia was one of Portia’s Posse best of spring picks, so I’m in good company, albeit belatedly.

AND surprise love No. 2: Robert Piguet’s Mademoiselle Piguet.
It only mildly interested me when I first smelled it on a blotter, but after repeated sniffs, something about it compelled me to go back and give it a skin test.

Now some have pooh-poohed it, calling it too sweet, too girlish, and dismissive of it as a starter Piguet. Of course, to each his own. But to my mind, not everything has to be a blockbuster of Fracas and Bandit proportions, and not everything has to be rock-your-world amazing/intriguing/weird. Sometimes a charming, ingénue-like scent is just what’s needed in this uber-hectic world. As I wrote in the Posse best of spring this year:

“This orange blossom scent, warmed by tonka bean, isn’t fancy or complicated, but it is simply pretty; in fact, I’d almost call it a “pretty” comfort scent. I tried it on a whim, and really surprised myself by liking it as much as I did.”

Bonus points for this and the Lys Soleia for not being off-the-charts expensive and fairly easy to get.

BTW, hope everyone had a wonderful time at L.A. Scentsation and had (or will have) a safe trip back home.
I know that many of you, like me, weren’t able to make it and cannot wait to hear tales of the Posse’s scented adventures, see photos from the events, and of course, the BUS!

  • Tara Aveilhe says:

    I was dead-set against loving Thierry Mugler’s Alien — mainly because I wore Angel to death in my early 20’s and had become convinced that Mugler’s scents were just a little too obnoxious for my now-thirty-something and more discerning self. Ha! Was I ever wrong! I’ve recently (and unapologetically become addicted 🙂

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Tara, thanks for stopping by! I can’t do Angel but in the right mood, I, too, can groove on some Alien. Especially the body cream — dee-lish!!

  • shaney says:

    I was NOT interested in trying vintage Diorella when it was offered in a swap, but I caved because I liked the look of the bottle :), and when I got it, I couldn’t **BELIEVE** how amazing it was!

    • Ann says:

      Wow, Shaney, you really had a happy ending there! Congrats on your great find — always good to be open to new things and it can really pay off, like it did for you …

  • Joan says:

    It took me a while to appreciate Parfumerie Generale’s Felanilla. Mainly because it’s so abstract that I had to read several reviews to understand the notes.

    • Ann says:

      Joan, you are so right. It’s definitely an unusual scent that takes some time to get to know.

  • It took me a few tries to come around on Angel. I hated it at first. I’ve tried Alien a few times thinking maybe it’ll magically work for me one of these days, but it hasn’t happened yet. That windexy thing always gets me.

    I also had a hard time with Tauer’s Une Rose Chypree the first time I tried it. I think I had something of a sensitivity to violet notes, so much so that I thought I had gotten a sample of Une Rose Vermeille by accident. My skin seemed to push that note, so I had kind of an aversion to it until I met a couple of scents with violet notes that I really liked. It’s still not my favorite by any means. But my nose readjusted somehow, and when I revisited it, what I had picked up as violet wasn’t nearly as strong as I remembered, and I was enjoying it. I don’t know if I need a full bottle, but it’s nice to know it can work for me.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Jennifer! I hear you on Angel and Alien — I still can’t wear the former but have learned to enjoy the latter. Sometimes, no matter how you try, a scent’s just not going to be for you. There are several (looking at you Shalimar and Mitsy) that So I pass on them and go on to something that makes me happy. Glad you’re able to make the URC work for you; it’s a beauty.

  • Connie says:

    That’s funny. Both of those perfumes had ‘off’ notes to me. Lys Soleia had a vaguely acidic scent on my skin, and Mademoiselle Piguet got weirdly waxy and plasticky. I have not yet fallen in love with anything that I had previously dismissed. I think I may be too stubborn. Oh well- it saves money.

    • Ann says:

      Hey, Connie! Skin chemistry is such a funny thing, isn’t it? Although I must admit I got a little hint of waxiness, too, when I initially sprayed the MP on a blotter. Luckily, when I decided to give it a skin test, that pretty much disappeared. You like what you like and that’s great — plus, as you say, it is money saved.

  • Tara C says:

    I had a fantastic time on the bus – Portia, you are so wild and crazy! – thank you to the Perfume Posse organizers for a great event. I got so much great stuff it was like my birthday! 🙂

  • Liz K says:

    I just bagged three back up bottles of Ineke’s Sweet William from Anthro. The first time I tried it I was underwhelmed. It was too sweet to be carnation to me (I am still looking for a mildly spicy/herbal that is just right) and I scrubbed it as soon as I got home in spite of my husband saying I smelled great. My next trip in to look for a skirt I walked by a girl spraying the tester and thought, “Wow, that would be a very nice scent for work”. The following trip (to look for a blouse to go with my beautiful new skirt that matches NOTHING at my house), I saw they were on the clearance shelf and grabbed one. Went back last weekend for “Mother’s Day shopping” and bought the remaining bottles that were intact.

    • Ann says:

      Oh, Liz, it sounds like you found love with Sweet William in perfect timing — on clearance! Congrats on your stash! I’m chuckling at your skirt and blouse purchases: I’ve done that a time or two myself. Then a month or so later, I pull the items out and say, “Good grief! What was I thinking?” But I hope you have no regrets and enjoy your outfit immensely.

  • Mary says:

    This happens to me so often I can barely pick just one. It’s why I have probably a hundred samples…I’m ambivalent about most, but when I revisit, the love starts to grow. Couldn’t stand No. 5 for ages, and now I adore. Totally bored by SL a la Nuit, but now that the weather is warming up, I’ve purchased it in a frenzy! The latest is Musc Ravageur. This winter, my nose must have been malfunctioning because now, I cannot get enough of it…..go figure.

    • Ann says:

      Mary, it’s so funny how things work like that, isn’t it? I’m still coming around to No. 5 (but I got a sample of the pure parfum and I get it a little more), but love the FM and have been craving the Serge for the warmer months. Enjoy!

  • Musette says:

    Hi, darling! Almost too tired to type but wanted to stop in and say hi! We had a GRAND! time on The Bus!!! More on that later – I’m sure Patty will be posting about it tomorrow and I’ll be yarking on and on about it for freakin’ EVAH!!! LOL!

    I agree on those non-challenging frags – they definitely have ‘their place’. Mine are legion; among the go-to’s in my rotation are Chanel No 5 edt (not the edp, which smells very different), the current Diorella, which I think is $89 for a bazillion ml) and Cartier Baiser Vole’, which is the one I was trying to remember when I was reading about your lily up there.


    • Ann says:

      Thanks for stopping by, sweetie! All that fun, fabulosity and traveling does wear a person out, doesn’t it? So glad you all had a wonderful time. Can’t wait to hear your impressions of Scentsation. And I love your picks; the Cartier is such a nice lily; I need to wear it more often.

  • Martha says:

    I agree that sometimes a nice, non-challenging fragrance is just the thing. The last thing I want is to feel self-conscious about my scent.

    • Ann says:

      I agree, Martha, especially in the workplace where you might have to be careful about what you wear. Although I still love a challenge, the older I get, the more I’m happy to enjoy a pretty or soothing scent.

  • rosarita says:

    Hi, Ann! There have been lots of scents that took me a long time to love; Angel took ten years before I could appreciate it and now I really like it. Fig was a note I wrote off and now I have several fig perfumes I love; tuberose is a note I loudly claimed I could never wear. But this spring, I have been working at expanding my horizons, samplng white flowers and finding some I truly love. SSS Joir Ensolielle, which I’m sure I’m misspelling, is a gorgeous blend where tuberose is prominent and I’ve been wearing the heck out of it this spring. Looking forward to hearing the war stories from LA!

    • Ann says:

      Yay! I’m happy to hear that you’re coming around to tuberose a little bit. Sometimes all it takes is finding that one particular scent and the note starts to make sense to your nose. Keeping an open mind makes all the difference. Hope you’re doing well.

  • Portia says:

    Hey Ann
    I’m so glad you love the Guerlain. I am sadly missing it here in the LA heat. You also were missed on the bus. It was a riot. Maybe next year?
    Portia xx

    • Ann says:

      Hi, dear! So you think the Lys would have worked well in heat? Good to know. I really missed you guys, too, but definitely next year. And so glad you all had a great time!

      • alityke says:

        Long time no post for me but great to catch up now I’m up & running again. the Lys Soliea is a duel personality scent, lily in the cooler times and a woah! ylang/tiare wonder in the heat. Both personalities are lovely and resonate perfectly in the relevant conditions. IMHO it is potentially a future classic and could fit right in the main Guerlain line not just the AAs. I hope it stays in the permanent AA line up

        • Ann says:

          Thanks — very good to know! I won’t hesitate to try it in the heat now. And happy to find yet another fan of it. Let’s hope they keep it for a long, long time.

  • annemariec says:

    Your remark about not everything having to be be a blockbuster like Fracas etc really resonates. I’m really enjoying Shalimar Parfum Initial at the moment – the pink one – even though it is the sort of thing that is normally too sweet for me and I’m older than the target market. The response from perfume enthusiasts and especially Shalimar lovers to SPI has been muted, if not hostile, and I do understand that. But SPI works beautifully on me (in particular, a beautiful note of iris).

    Sometimes you just want to smell pretty, and not walk around carrying the weight of history on your shoulders. And SPI is not expensive or hard to get. If I want a FB I can order it online with a few clicks of the mouse and without having to scour ebay or commit my grocery budget for a month.

    Call me superficial, but I do finally now understand the pleasure of finding a Shalimar (or insert your own blockbuster – Chanel No 19, Habanita, Fracas) of my own. I can see why marketing departments work hard to harness that desire in young consumers.

    • Ann says:

      Amen, Annemarie! Love your comment about “carrying the weight of history on your shoulders.” BTW, I’ve never been able to wear Shalimar in any of its regular formulations but I was able to pull off the Initial as well as the vanilla one. And affordability is nice, too!

  • hajusuuri says:

    Given how much I loved Neela Vermeire Trayee on first use, I had high hopes for Mohur. I was expecting a spectacular rose when I first tried Mohur, but all I got was the strong smell of pencil shavings the entire time. There was no dry-down, just pencil shavings. I gave Mohur a second and third try and it has now grown on me. While Trayee is still my favorite, I also now like both Mohur and Bombay Bling.

    • Ann says:

      So glad the Mohur has grown on you. I, too, loved Trayee right off the bat, but was a little hesitant on the Mohur, too, as well as the Bombay Bling (the cumin in it scared me). But all three have turned out to be major loves. That’s saying a lot when we perfumistas like all three scents!

  • spiker says:

    Hi Anne,

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the trip to LA – this whole work thing just gets in the way of so much fun.

    As for scents to give a 2nd sniff – CB’s I hate perfume – 7 Billion Hearts didn’t do a thing for more first time a tried it. I don’t know if I was expecting something sweeter rather than the smoky loveliness, but for whatever reason, I didn’t think I cared for it. Of course, 2 weeks later I found that I was craving it. Now my only concern is I don’t want to wear it on tough days because I don’t want to ruin it by associating it with rough times.

    Can’t wait to hear all about LA.

    • Ann says:

      Hi! I know, I know — work is such a killjoy, isn’t it? I’m glad to hear you came around to 7 Billion Hearts. I tried it once or twice and just couldn’t “get” it. So maybe I should go back and sample again? Thanks!