The Monday Mail ~ help Jennifer find a new perfume

Boites aux lettres

This week we're helping Jennifer, who wants to find a fragrance that will make her think, that changes over time, and is distinctive but polite in company. She can pay up to $100, and while she doesn't have great local access to perfume stores (just Sephora and Macy's), she's willing to shop online. Here is what we know about Jennifer:

She works part-time for an online bookstore.

She's in her mid-30s and has two young children whose curiosity keeps her pretty busy.

She says she is a quiet, stealth-weirdo. She's also really nice with a tiny dark side, friendly but shy, goofy, introspective, curious, bubbly, articulate, talkative, and creative and with a critical eye.

She adores nature and speaks Japanese and German, and she is learning French.

One of her most interesting scent-experiences was interacting with a former co-worker, who would tell her what people smelled like naturally ("she has a library-like smell" or "She has a dry, campfire smell.")

Jennifer likes earthy, leather, anything on fire (candles, incense, cigarettes, pipe-smoke, bonfire), herbal-y or outdoorsy, bookstore or library stores. Her flip side: rich, feminine florals, spring-time greens. Some favorites include Cartier Declaration, Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Man, Estee Lauder Private Collection, Azuree & Knowing, Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps de Une Fete & Odalisque, Chanel No. 5 and Tauer Perfumes Incense Extreme (and she also likes Comme des Garçons Avignon).

Jennifer dislikes fig perfumes, raspberry-like violets (woody violets are ok), gourmands, vanilla and baking spices. She appreciates Thierry Mugler Angel but won't wear it, disliked Thierry Mugler Womanity, liked but didn't love Lolita Lempicka Le Premier Parfum.

Here are some of the fragrances Jennifer has recently tried:

Chloé Love, Chloé: a recent purchase, and she loves the waxy makeup and violet notes.

Estee Lauder Youth Dew: another recent purchase; she likes that it is spicy but not gourmand spicy.

Marc Jacobs Bang: she remembers liking it when she first smelled it — it seemed like a bright, fresh pepper — but now it seems a little flat.

Elizabeth Taylor Black Diamonds: sounded great, but there's something sweet in there that she didn't like.

What say you?

Note: top image is Boites aux lettres [cropped] by besopha at flickr; some rights reserved.

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  1. meg says:

    Oh, do at least try Patchouli 24. Yes, there’s some vanilla, but to me it’s a smoky library smell. It’s definitely worth a shot!

    • Abyss says:

      I love Patch 24 – it’s weird, unusual and totally addictive. The only reason I didn’t suggest it is because I’m not sure if it qualifies as “polite in company”.

      • meg says:

        Oh, you’re right! Maybe if you spray very lightly though?

        • Elena says:

          I also had this idea. I think a small sample would at least be very interesting to her!

          • Jennifer1977 says:

            That’s quite a few votes for Patchouli 24! I’ll have to give it a try.

  2. eaudemale says:

    hmmm Organza by Givenchy

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Is it similar to Organza Indecense? I’ve tried that one, it was a bit sweet.

  3. Abyss says:

    How about Etro Shaal Nur? It starts off with dry, slightly raspy vetiver and incense and develops over time into a spicier, softer/more plush, scent. Not sure what the retail is in US, but here it’s £64 so pretty close to $100 according to google.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      I have not tried it, but it will go on my list of decants to purchase. Thanks!

  4. springpansy says:

    CB IHP In the Library and Diptyque Eau Duelle come to mind as possible good fits.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      More for the decant list. I like the sound of “In the Library.” It’s like finding out they make an app for that. Or something.

      • SuddenlyInexplicably says:

        If you’re sampling from CB I Hate Perfume, check out Fire from Heaven. It’s a incense fragrance that smells absolutely “ancient” to me–that’s the only way I can put it.

        • Jennifer1977 says:

          “Fire from Heaven,” got it. I Hate Perfume is on Luckyscent, I am familiar with them.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Definitely look into Sonoma Scent Studio! It’ s a high-quality indie perfume line. Try Fireside Intense, Tabac Aurea, and Winter Woods. They’re easily available online and well within your budget.

    • egabbert says:

      Was just about to say this! Budget friendly and really beautiful scents that tick off your earthy, smoky, outdoorsy items. She also has a couple of violet scents you might like.

      • Rappleyea says:

        Thirding this! SSS was my suggestion as well. Besides Laurie’s two “smokey” ones, I also suggest Forest Walk.

        Also, for the “rich, feminine floral side” try some of the Guerlains, which are available at department stores. Good luck!

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      I think Katie Puckrik mentioned one of their perfumes in her scent finder app.

  6. Aparatchick says:

    Thirding this rec. SSS scents are “distinctive but polite in company” and will definitely make you think. They’re excellent quality and well within your price range.

    • Dionne says:

      Fourthing that rec: try her Incense Pure, Tabac Aurea, Winter Woods, Fireside, Bois de Violette and Forest Walk.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      This sounds promising.

  7. Bradamante says:

    second Shaal Nur. Got some similar tastes: love Knowing, Azuree, Incense Extreme and nr 5, for example, also proud owner of Love, Chloe. As for violets with leather: how about Jolie Madame de Balmain? My version is about 6 years old, and I really love it. Hope the current incarnation still fits the bill. If you love Azuree, you might want to give Aramis a try. Also developed by Bernard Chant, just as Azuree was, and clearly related to it. Not for the faint-hearted, though…

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Have you ever judged a perfume by its bottle? I have. Aramis. But I will check it out now.

      We must be perfume soul sisters.

      • Bradamante says:

        Well, let’s wait for your verdict on Aramis first ;-) But there is definitely a similarity in tastes! (Et comment ils vont, tes études Françaises?)

        • Jennifer1977 says:

          Eh, comme ca! But I sound like a dumb, drunken baby.

  8. chrisaxp says:

    I think she should try Suede by Michael Kors. It is available at Sephora and can get a tester and see if it works for her.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Yay! Something that maybe I could try in person instead of receiving in the mail.

  9. turbovivi says:

    I don’t know why but I think her quirkiness goes really well with Frederic Malle L’eau d’Hiver.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Does l’eau d’hiver smell wintery? How is it quirky?

  10. Sapphire says:

    Woody violet–Tom Ford Violet Blonde is very nice.
    Incense–Donna Karan Black Cashmere (original if you can find it). Perfect for a crisp fall day walking in the woods.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      You’ve piqued my curiosity in Black Cashmere, although previously I wouldn’t have given it a second thought because I don’t like Cashmere Mist.

      • Regina says:

        They’re really very different – Black Cashmere is much less “safe”, I don’t think you’ll find it has the same feel as Cashmere Mist at all. I think you should also look into the Comme des Garcons line, especially CDG2, or maybe browse through Robin’s reviews on this site to see if any CDG descriptions catch your fancy – to my mind many in this line have that quality of making you think without bludgeoning those around you.

      • Bradamante says:

        I have Black Cashmere. A very very sexy incense. Don’t know Cashmere Mist, but read that it differs vastly from the Black version.

        • Jennifer1977 says:

          It’s unusual for a flanker to be better than the original, but with so many people recommending it, I should give it a try.

  11. Cybele says:

    Patchouli 24
    Bulgari Black
    Cuir de Russie
    Bois de Violette
    By Kilian Back To Black

  12. COSMICSCENTS says:

    I think she would like Costume National Scent Intense

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      The internet has made me asking “What’s that?” kind of a dumb question.

      Cybele, rat-a-tat-tat, you just hit me with a perfume machine gun.

      • Cybele says:

        Yes, I know, I was interrupted and had to make it quick. The first 4 the brasher ones, the last 4 the pretty ones- all of them can make you think, or have brains so to speak.

        • Jennifer1977 says:

          Believe it or not, I once found Dzing! at T.J. Maxx. I was early in my love of perfumery. So I read “The Guide,” and decided that something described as being “vanilla paper,” sounded really boring. I skipped it. And I have cried ever since.

          • Cybele says:

            funny, thought it sounded extremely intriguing- like the kind of weiredness or aliveness that “makes you think”. I am really curious about what you will find in the end!

  13. sbe13 says:

    OK, so I, like many others, thought immediately of:

    SSS WInter Woods
    L’AP Timbuktu
    DK Black Cashmere

    I’ll add By Kilian Straight to Heaven and CB I Hate Perfume Black March.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Why did I read this as “Straight to Hell?”

  14. nosideup says:

    May be a bit sweet, but dzing or Bulgari Black have that dusty, paper-y smell and are very, very special.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Oo! I have Bvlgari Black, and I love it.

      It’s my alternative to Shalimar, which is my mom’s fave.

      • Bradamante says:

        O dear… Bulgari Black I have too….

        • Jennifer1977 says:


          • Bradamante says:

            there’s no avoiding it anymore…

  15. nosideup says:

    Also, Breath of god (gorilla perfumes, in Lush stores) for a peculiar smoky perfume!

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      I’ve heard people refer to “Breath of God,” as mentholy, but not smoky. I’ll have to give it a try.

  16. SuddenlyInexplicably says:

    Annayake Miyako, a beautiful, very wearable incense fragrance, that is currently going for a song on ebay.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      ” that is currently going for a song on ebay.”

      You’re singing my tune.

  17. Dilana says:

    You might try CDG White, (Under $100.00). It is a Lily of the Valley (for your spring and white flower likes) with a sort of spicy almost incense kick, It is easily available on line, Commes Des Garconnes is actually a Japanese clothing line (another of your interests). The fragrance will be distinctive but the lily of the valley note keeps it from straying beyond the realms of a traditional perfume.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Thank you for the thought you put into your suggestion. I do indeed enjoy most things Japanese, but presumed Comme de Garcons was French.

  18. sweetgrass says:

    You might try Diptyque Volutes. It’s a nice spicy scent with tobacco notes. Lubin Idole might also be a good one to try, or L’Artisan Timbuktu. For a violet, try Tom Ford Black Violet. I’m generally anti-violet but this one is good.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      “Black Violet,” is that the one that has kind of a cucumbery smell?

      • sweetgrass says:

        Hmm.. it didn’t seem cucumbery to me, but I admit it’s been a while since I smelled it. I think I’ve heard the cucumber thing about Black Orchid, but I didn’t get it in that one either.

        • Jennifer1977 says:

          Some descriptions make me scratch my head, too.

  19. bookwyrmsmith says:

    Norell perhaps?

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Describe Norrell, please.

  20. PetronellaCJ says:

    Floris Mahon Leather (leather, saffron, vetiver, woods and amber) or Humiecki & Graef Askew (birch tar, cardamom, leather, ginger, grape, vetiver, mimosa).

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      The saffron and birch tar ingredients sound very interesting.

  21. galwaygirl001 says:

    My two recommendations:
    chanel cuir de russie – perfect leather – also polite in company but with a tiny dark side ;-)
    and one of my favourites – terre de l’encens by cloon keen atelier – frankincense & woody iris from a niche perfumery in Ireland.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      I have been silently stalking the first one for some time now….

  22. nozknoz says:

    Don’t miss Andy Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocaine and Clinique Aromatics Elixir (especially if you can find the Perfumer’s Reserve version).

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Yes! I love “L’air du Desert,” even though La Puckrik doesn’t like it.

      What does she know.

      • Bradamante says:

        there! I have it too! And love love love it. Speaking of which – have you ever smelled Yatagan? In the category ‘Perfumes that make you think’ a definite yes-yes. And I have a secret regarding Yatagan…

        • Jennifer1977 says:

          Tell me your secret….

          • Bradamante says:

            I combine L’air with Yatagan. Sacrilege… But it works AMAZING on me. The ‘what are you wearing my lovely’ kind of amazing. However – I do not dare to advise anybody to follow my example…

    • SuddenlyInexplicably says:

      Seconding the Tauer. It’s brilliant.

  23. hajusuuri says:

    Recommendations for Jennifer:
    – Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee
    – Prada Infusion d’Iris Absolue (earthy but bright)
    – I Love Les Carrottes (earthy and weird)
    – Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb
    – SSS Forest Walk
    – Andy Tauer anything with incense (invest in a discovery set – you get to pick 5!)
    – Ineke Field Notes from Paris (or buy the discovery set directly from the website and you can then apply the price you paid for the discovery set towards a FB purchase)
    – Frapin Speakeasy (I have not smelled this but I know I will at some point in the near future)

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      You’ve hit upon something I didn’t consider: boozy scents.

      Does Speakeasy smell the way one would expect?

      • hajusuuri says:

        I can only go by descriptions from what I’ve read. Lucas from Chemist in a Bottle describes it as smelling of lime, sweet orange and rum in the opening (think mojito) and it also has geranium, tonka bean, tobacco, leather, musk, immortelle.

        • Jennifer1977 says:

          The rum would be a nice falltime scent.

  24. Jennifer1977 says:

    Thank you everyone, for your recommendations! Much appreciated. Now, I have to promptly spend some money. Before I wither up and die.

  25. CM says:

    I recommend checking out Smell Bent for some interesting scents. Particularly, look for One which kinda smells like books. You might also try ave lux. #23 is a great incense scent. I like heliotrope As well.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Ah. I’ve found another app for that.

  26. Lucy says:

    One of my favorites is David Yurman (the original, not one of the fruity “essences.”). A small bottle is $75 and it makes a statement. It also packs a wallop so apply sparingly if you want it to be polite. I love it because it changes its mind through the day. At one point it’s as if I’ve stuck my nose into a rose bigger than my head and then the next minute it’s green and then I smell masculine. I don’t think it’s at Macys or Sephora, but Dillard’s, Nordstrom, and other department stores have it.

    btw, with the exception of your children and speaking three foreign languages, reading your profile felt like I was reading about myself. My real name is Jennifer. I was born in 1977. Quiet, friendly, shy, curious, goofy, critical eye…check, check, check…No idea if I naturally smell like a library though.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Ha! We must be twins. ; )

  27. moore says:

    L’Eau Par Kenzo Indigo PH.

  28. Jennifer1977 says:

    I’ve never heard of this one before, but every Kenzo I have tried I’ve really enjoyed.

    • moore says:

      It smells a bit like Déclarátion. Nice stuff. Try the vintage Dior Homme either. :)

      • Jennifer1977 says:


        I love Declaration!

        One of my faves.

  29. Vincent says:

    Dior Leather Oud and Tom Ford Tuscan Leather.

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Oo, thanks! I’ve been curious about oud fragrances.

  30. sullapelle says:

    I totally agree with the CB I Hate Perfume suggestion. Great selection of woody, smokey goodness. For incense, two great options: Comme des Garcon Avignon ($80) or Cardinal from Heeley. Beautiful church-like incence. For leather, Cuir by Mona di Orio is wonderful. Good luck!

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Yes, I have tried Incense Avignon, and I love it.

  31. sllat says:

    I love a number of the aforementioned fragrances (Cuir de Russie, Aramis, Bvlgari Black) and would like to suggest one more. I think you would like Coze by Parfumerie Generale. If you look up the notes it sounds like a gourmand, but in reality it is more of a warm leather/tobacco/cognac sort of blend. Delicious and comforting and so appropriate as winter approaches. Happy sniffing!

    • Jennifer1977 says:

      Coze: added to my TPC wishlist.

  32. Like many I’d suggest In the Library, but also perhaps Etat Libre d’Orange’s Like This.

  33. Jennifer1977 says:

    I’m curious to try more Etat fragrances in general, but one thing I don’t get is how they’re fairly inexpensive, and yet their samples on TPC are disproportionately pricier. Or maybe my math is wrong.

  34. shonnamarie says:

    1.(my favorite)Original Gucci.
    2. David Yurman.
    3. Victorias Secret’s Seduction~Dark Orchid.
    4. Burberry Body
    5. True Love
    6. Calvin Klein – Beauty
    7. Original Vera Wang
    8. Alfred Sung – Sung
    9. Zents – Sun
    10. Chanel – Allure

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