Sometimes less is best: When parfum or extrait isn’t all that

extraitWhen it comes to fragrance, it seems that the purer, stronger or more concentrated the better is frequently the rule of thumb. The pure parfum or extrait is seen the standard for how the scent ideally should smell and is the ultimate form of scent for perfumistas.

This was most certainly the case for me recently, as I shared with you all in a recent blog post about finding love with vintage Mitsouko parfum. We tend to think that if the EDP is good, then the parfum / extrait will be great, right? But what about when that’s not the case for you?

Up until now, I really couldn’t think of any examples in my perfumista life. But I’ve just experienced the first “less is best” scent on my skin.

From the moment I first tried it several years back, I adored Roja Dove’s Diaghilev. Its lovely, vintage-y vibe just hit the spot for me and a little dab of it put me into heaven. So when I recently had the opportunity to try the parfum, I jumped at it.

extrait 2 In the spirit of experimentation, I did a wrist-to-wrist comparison using the extrait on one arm and the original EDP on the other. And although the extrait was fine, there was a little note in there (tobacco, cumin, something?), that kept pinging my nose and putting it slightly off balance throughout a good portion of the scent. The EDP, however, was as dependably smooth and beautiful as ever. Eventually, the scents merged into a similar late middle and drydown, so in the end, no harm, no foul.

But I was surprised, as I was certain the extrait would have had the angels descending in a heavenly chorus for me. Although truth be told, I probably should be grateful. The Diaghilev pure parfum is so pricey that I ought to be singing a hundred “Hallelujahs” that I wasn’t wild about it and dreaming up ways to somehow afford it. (Can I swing a second or even third job? Mortgage the house?)

In all fairness, I do remember reading somewhere that Roja Dove had changed Diaghilev between the strengths, tweaking it somewhat, so that’s likely what happened. And the tweaked parfum just didn’t suit my skin as well as the original version, the EDP which was launched in 2010. Not that the EDP is affordable either, when you can find it, but all things considered, I can live with my decant and be pretty happy.

What about you? Have you had any instances in which the parfum or extrait didn’t please you as much as the EDP or even the EDT of the same scent?

  • malsnano86 says:

    Just commented up top that I don’t like No. 19 (a favorite) in parfum – but I prefer No. 5 in extrait. I also just sprang for a 5ml decant of Amouage Memoir Woman in extrait, which is less floral and deeper in the base than the edp. I love the edp more, but the extrait is way sexier.

    I tend to do better with Guerlains in extrait, but Chamade I have loved in every concentration I’ve tried – edt, vintage edt, edp, vitnage parfum de toilette, and extrait. Wonderful stuff.

    I have not tried Diaghilev in extrait, though I had a sample of the edp and thought it was quite nice. The tweaked version does not sound as if it would suit me at all.

    • Ann says:

      Howdy, Mals! I saw your comment up above; you and a lot of other great perfume minds are thinking alike about the 19. As I mentioned to someone else, the extrait and the Eau Premiere are the only two ways that No. 5 agrees with me even a little bit. I’m glad to hear from another Chamade fan, and so great that you love all of it — I can’t wait to try it. The Diaghilev extrait seemed a bit heavier and animalic (on my skin, at least) but some people like that. I’ll just stick with my little bottle of the EDP. BTW, I didn’t even realize that they’d made Memoir Woman in an extrait. Oh, dear (wallet runs shrieking out of my purse to hide). Did you dab or spray the extrait? Mmmm … need to find out more about this. 😉

  • SallyM says:

    Great question. So far I haven’t met an extrait that I don’t like, but I think that’s in part due to the fact that I much prefer to dab rather than spray. As mentioned above, I prefer vintage Opium EDT over the parfum, and to that list can be added No 19, No 5, and Mitsouko. I do tend to balk at the prices of extraits, but then I reason that because I only dab a wee bit, they are more cost effective – it’s amazing how I rationalize things in order to smell good…

    • Ann says:

      Sally, I hear you on your “rationalization” — I think along those lines, too. 🙂 I do envy you being able to wear No 5 and Mitsouko in the EDT; that must make your wallet do a happy dance.

  • tammy says:

    I tend to vastly prefer extraits, partly because I love strong perfumes, partly because I like skin scents as opposed to sillage monsters and partly because I prefer splashes to sprays, BUT….I find I infinitely prefer Guerlains in EdT.

    In fact, up until the last year or so I couldn’t stand any Guerlains at all ( other than Chamade) but I found Vol de Nuit at a great price and decided to get it just because…didn’t realize it was an EdT til it arrived and I was very pleasantly surprised. Took a chance on a great deal with Mitsy and same thing…adored her. (In truth, I had discovered Femme prior to that purchase, and think she may have helped me understand Mitsy better.)

    I am hoping to find some Shalimar EdT in that glorious bottle at a good price, and see if the scales drop from my eyes regarding her as well.

    • Ann says:

      Tammy, that is so neat that you found love with several Guerlains in the EDT. I do hope you can find love (or at least like) with the EDT Shalimar, and it would be so great to get that wonderful bottle, wouldn’t it?. Alas, that’s one scent that I can’t ever seem to get to click with my skin, in any shape or form.

  • Dina C. says:

    After years of wearing No. 19 in both edt and edp, I was excited to try vintage parfum. I found that the extrait wasn’t the revelation that I had hoped for. It wore very close to the body and didn’t have much lasting power. I’ll have to try it again someday if I get a chance.

    On the other hand, I own and really enjoy Chamade, Diorella and Gucci 3 in extrait. All three have a wonderful wafting power and last for hours.

    • Ann says:

      Howdy, Dina! I think we’re seeing a trend here with folks like you who prefer the 19 in edt and edp. Maybe some scents, like that one, just lose some of their lift, sparkle, personality, etc., when pared down to the parfum form. And others, like your Chamade, Diorella, etc., really shine somehow in the extrait.

      • Ann says:

        BTW, you’re the third person to mention Chamade — can you believe I’ve never tried it? (Or if I did, it was so long ago that I’ve forgotten it.) I’m going to Surrender to Chance to remedy that ASAP! 🙂

  • Portia says:

    Hey Ann,
    I am an extrait sucker. LOVE them.
    Portia xx

  • zazie says:

    Interesting topic – and am glad for you that you didn’t fall for this particular extrait, given the astronomical price!! 😉
    I’ve met several extraits that fell short – for my tastes – of their edt/edp counterpart.
    Recent examples are n°19 and l’heure bleue – I suppose that I prefer these iris loaded fragrances in their lighter, less powdery versions!
    In some cases, I can barely smell a difference in quality between concentrations – bois des iles and cuir de russie come to mind…the extrait is just a tad deeper, but I am not sure it justifies the price markup!
    (n° 5 and chamade, on the other hand, are perfumes I don’t care for in edt/edp and absolutely love in extrait, go figure! Maybe the more floral the perfume, the more I appreciate the “luxury” version of the extrait!)

    • Suzy Q says:

      Zazie, I also adore Chamade and No 5 in extrait. I like the edt’s too. Most of all I like to wear both formulations at the same time.

    • Tena says:

      Zazie – I find that the 2 CdR concentrations smell the same to me too, but the extrait lasts easily 4 X as long.
      Strangely enough, I love No 5 in EDT, but I have a bottle of the pure parfum sitting virtually unused as there is something in the more concentrated form that falls so flat on me. If anyone wants a swap, I am open to the idea.

      • Ann says:

        Hi, Zazie! Thanks! You are the second person to mention that they liked 19 in its lighter concentrations. It’s interesting that you mention that BdI and CdR are not all that much different in the extrait; that’s the only way I’ve sampled either. I definitely will have to try them in the lighter forms, as it certainly would be easier on the wallet. I’m with you on the No. 5 extrait — that and the Eau Premiere are the only two ways I can even attempt to wear that Chanel.

  • FeralJasmine says:

    After years of cherishing vintage Opium in all forms, I have finally admitted to myself that my favorite version is the vintage EDT. There is no comparison.

    • SallyM says:

      I absolutely agree. I’ve mentioned in other posts that I alone kept YSL afloat with my collection of all things Opium in the late 70s and 80s and I still have several bottles from that time. The EDT is by far my favorite – while I love it all, ALL I say! in the bottles, the parfum has always been a bit headache inducing on skin, while the EDT is absolutely perfect.

      • Ann says:

        I’m nodding my head in agreement with you, FeralJasmine and SallyM — the Opium EDT was great. I wore it back in the ’80s and early ’90s, and I, too,found the deeper concentrations to be just too much.

  • eldarwen22 says:

    What has always kind of bugged me about the extrait version of any perfume is that they don’t really come in sprays. Along with the price point. How many extraits come in a spray bottle? The only one that comes close in my collection is Nasomatto Nuda. What kind of disapointed me what the tuberose. I cannot stand tuberose as a dominant note in perfume. Nuda’s saving grace is the indolic jasmine and I do wish that Nuda did come in EDP form.

    Now, the price point. While I’ve never been a fan of Amouage’s prices, I have a hell of a time trying to justify $120 or more for anything in extrait form. Simply because it usually is a quarter ounce and the fact it is a dabber bottle and I do have some issues with evaporation. Hence, why I am about to head over to STC and get decanting supplies.

    • Portia says:

      Hey Eldarwen22,
      The Amouage parfums come in a spritz, also Guerlain does those fab gold tone metal cages for their spray parfums, CHANEL has lovely bakelite cases for their parfum spritz and there are others but I can’t think right now.
      The price point can be a problem,
      Portia xx

      • Ann says:

        Howdy, eldarwen! Seconding you and Portia on those eye-popping price tags. I only have small vials of the few extraits I own. You’re smart to get decanting stuff — that way you can wear your scent just the way you like it.

  • Suzy Q says:

    Bois des Isles. As Caroline mentioned above about No 19, the edt of BdI is more effervescent and I like that. The parfum is beautiful but that gingerbread note is just a bit too pronounced for me. I’ll stick with the edt.

    • Ann says:

      It’s a great scent, Suzy Q, and I’m glad you like the EDT. A friend gave me a vial of the parfum a while back and it’s all I’ve ever known of BdI, so i’ll definitely have to explore the EDT; thanks!

  • Civet says:

    Hope I won’t be burned at the stake for saying this, but I find Mitsouko extrait and EDP loathsome and migraine inducing. The EDT, however, is very nice!

    • Katherine says:

      Civet, I totally agree with you! For some reason the EDT is so much better on me.

      • Ann says:

        Civet, no judgment here — you like what you like and it’s all good.You and Katherine are lucky to be able to wear those; they really don’t like me at all 🙂 .

  • Caroline says:

    Admit I haven’t waded much into the Amouage or Roja waters. So far neither line has anything I’ve loved. I’ve found that I prefer my vintage no 19 edt to the parfum. The parfum is lovely & rosy, but the edt is more effervescent and somehow a truer version of what I think the scent should be.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Caroline! I can totally see that, esp. with a scent like 19. You would miss that kind of bubbly, effervescent effect that’s part of the fragrance’s charm. Yay, money saved!

    • malsnano86 says:

      Oh, I agree on No. 19 – I love the (vintage) edt as well as the edp, but I don’t care for the parfum at all.

      • Ann says:

        Mals, you are in great company — we’re getting a regular choir here today who are exactly on the same page with you! 🙂

  • foxbins says:

    Following your reasoning exactly, I thought, “If the edp is good, the extrait must be out of this world!” i bought a bottle of Amouage Gold Woman last year at Bendel’s, got it home, sprayed each wrist once, waited for that glorious floral melange…and choked on soap. It was so UNBELIEVABLY soapy I had to scrub it off. I was horribly disappointed (you can imagine) and planning how I could swap the extrait for the edp….The following week I decided to try again. I sprayed about 1/4 of a spray on my stomach and then got dressed. For the rest of the day, the lovely floral, civetty aroma wafted up from time to time. Apparently I have several hundred years’ worth at the volume I am spraying. Part of me wishes I had bought the edp. At least, it’s wearable now and not a total loss, but if I ever forget and spray my normal amount I will be in the shower pronto.

    • Ann says:

      Oh, no! I can feel your disappointment clear across the miles — what a letdown after such high hopes. But at least you figured out how to wear it. You could always pull out a decant for yourself and then sell the rest of your bottle or at least swap some samples/decants of it with other perfumistas who are big Gold fans. Or spray a bit into a sample vial and just dab it on and see how that works. I had a sort of similar disappointment last year with Amouage Beloved: Loved it out of the sample vial, but once I sprayed it, arghhhh. I’ll stick to dabbing that beauty.

    • Musette says:

      foxbins, go over to Surrender to Chance and try the VINTAGE Gold parfum. Whole ‘nother kettle of fabulous! I, too, was underwhelmed by the current extrait – until, like you, I found the correct dosage.