Take two perfumes: both are made by luxury perfume houses, they smell very similar, and they come packaged in equally attractive bottles. One costs $75, and the other, which is discontinued, costs twice that. Which one will I buy? Assuming that my budget is up to it, chances are I’ll go for the discontinued scent. What is that all about?
There’s something about a discontinued perfume that makes me crazy to smell it and maybe own it, even if I never would have bought the scent were it still in production. Thanks to this illogical urge, I have enough discontinued perfume that had I saved my money instead I could have replaced my living room windows. I have bottles that I can’t swap away (hello vanilla fruit of Lagerfeld Sun Moon Stars), bottles that I like well enough but wouldn’t have bought otherwise (that means you, “smoking in a cafe with roses and a spicy plum tart” Guerlain Parure), and bottles that I adore (witness my lifetime supply of vintage Miss Dior, the skanky variety). And, of course, there are all the bottles I can only dream of: Lanvin Scandal, vintage Guerlain Mitsouko parfum, Dior Dior, and the old Diorama.
I think it’s human nature to focus on the rare and the fleeting and to want to hang on to the things that pass away. For instance, I’m nostalgic for the time when people didn’t have cell phones and so had to be on time and couldn’t blather at the supermarket, or when dressing gowns and real breakfasts were popular, or when TV sets didn’t have remote controls. I’m sorry that I can barely remember what my first love felt like or what my grandmother smelled like — and I wish I could taste her blackberry pie, too.
On the other hand, the world continues to change, and new, good things come to us. New music, novels, and wine come every year. No, I won’t be able to taste the champagne James Bond pulls from the refrigerator in Goldfinger, but he hasn’t had any of the St. Innocent pinot noir I’ve had, either. Yes, Edmond Roudnitska and Germaine Cellier are done now, but Jean Claude Ellena, Christopher Sheldrake, Bertrand Duchaufour and Olivia Giacobetti (and so many more wonderful noses) will continue to make new perfume. Real oakmoss and Mysore sandalwood might be hard to find, but the fragrance industry will develop new compounds with interesting scents.
Once, during a down time in my life, a friend told me, “I hope you remember to look forward.” What good advice, even when times aren’t so bad. When I can get a sample, I do want to smell discontinued and vintage fragrances. Who wouldn’t? But it’s o.k., too, that some fragrances disappear. After all, we still have the Osmothèque.