The Monday Mail on Tuesday ~ help Nikki find a new perfume

Boites aux lettres

We're doubling up on the Monday Mail articles for a couple weeks in an effort to clear out the waiting list before the holidays (and if you'd like to be at the top of the list for January, see here). So today we're helping Nikki, who says she likes perfume but has never had the chance to try as many as she'd like. Nikki wants to find an everyday scent with good sillage and lasting power, but is open to anything; she'd also like to find a new winter fragrance. Here is what we know about Nikki:

She's a young, semi-broke 20-something professional living in New York City. 

Nikki was raised in an Asian household/family, and is usually quiet and gentle, but she also has a fiery side and can be very assertive.

Her hobbies include reading, writing, circus arts (trapeze, silks and rope), dance (not very good at it), cardmaking, and learning languages.

Nikki likes "masculine" scents (woods, citron, etc.), and there is something she likes about the dreaded "sporty" notes, but sporty perfumes tend to annoy her after a while. She particularly likes cedar. Perfumes she has liked include L'Occitane Atlas Cedar, Prada Infusion d'Iris (but it lasts about 2 seconds), Hermès Un Jardin En Mediterranee (she wanted it, but when she got a bottle, it seemed too sweet on her skin), Un Jardin Sur Le Nil (took a while for her to warm up to it, but she ended up really liking it), Lancome Magnifique (she doesn't love it, but likes that it's more spicy/woodsy than most department store perfumes); Kenzo Flower (she loves the top notes, the dry down is a little too dark and powdery), Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial L'Eau (she has never tried the original), Chanel Chance flankers (Eau Tendre was pleasant, Eau Fraiche is a little too screechy but there is something about she likes, and she loved it in college).

Nikki dislikes marine accords, heavy florals, very sweet fragrances, food notes and aldehydes. Perfumes that don't work for her include Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb, Aquolina Pink Sugar, Chanel No. 5, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle (pleasant for a few seconds, then annoying), Hermès 24 Faubourg, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, DKNY Be Delicious, Miss Dior Cherie, Prada Candy, Marc Jacobs Daisy, Hermès Eau des Merveilles (she wonders if she will like it in time, but the salty top notes made her feel nauseated).

What say you?

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

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46 Comments

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  1. egabbert says:

    Estee Lauder Sensuous Noir is a great woody scent for a budget.

    On the more expensive side, Feminite du Bois (Serge Lutens) is lovely with tons of cedar. There are several variations on the same theme in the line (Bois et Fruits, Bois de Violette, etc.)

    Sonoma Scent Studio is an affordable indie option with some great woody scents, but less widely available for testing in person.

    • nikki22 says:

      Thanks! Sonoma sounds like something I can get my hands on to test quite easily.

  2. I wonder how Nikki would like the new Donna Karan Woman. It might not have quite enough personality for her, though. One of the Sensuous family from Estee Lauder could be a possibility.

    And, I know this scent has taken a TON of negativity on the perfume blogosphere, but I think Bleu de Chanel is one of the best men’s sport fragrances out there, as well as being very wearable by women. And I don’t find it to be very heavy on marine notes. Maybe worth a shot?

    • Robin says:

      Just wanted to chime in on that one…I thought Bleu de Chanel was garbage, but my Mom loved it & bought some. So there you go.

      • Robin says:

        And gosh, later realized that might have come across as less than kind…did not mean to diss on your taste at all!

  3. ChocolatEyes613 says:

    Perfumes Nikki should try:

    Donna Karan Woman
    Estee Lauder Sensuous
    Prada L’Eau Ambree
    Balenciaga L’Essence
    Chanel Coco
    Bottega Veneta

  4. monkeytoe says:

    I have a couple of suggestions: Caron Parfum Sacre (dark rose and dark woods), Comme des Garcons 2 Man (spices and dark woods), Sonoma Scent Studio Forest Walk (woods with a smidge of flowers), Hermes Osmanthe Yunnan (best tea scent in the world), and Gucci Pour Homme (spicy, woody incense).

    • Emily says:

      Seconding Parfum Sacre (my SOTD!) and adding CdG 2 Woman, which to my nose is similar in style to Parfum Sacre. While we’re on CdG, Nikki might also like Jaisalmer, Kyoto, and Ouarzazate from the Incense Series. (And if she’s trying those three, why not sample Avignon and Zagorsk as well? :) ) Jaisalmer in particular is very cedar-y to me.

    • nikki22 says:

      Parfum Sacre sounds like a great idea. Do you happen to know if there’s a place in NYC I can test it out in person? :)

  5. Dilana says:

    I’d recommend that she try Atalier Cologne’s Bois Blond, which is a nice dry wood with good lasting power. It’s available in numerous places in NYC, and the travel size would be within the budget of at least a semi not broke Nyer’s splurge budget (or Christmass list request).
    It is also thoroughly appropriate as an every day scent for a professional.

  6. Bee says:

    not recommending specific scents but vetiver as a note, it might not be love at first sniff, but it grew on me, and it fills several of your conditions: “masculine”, woody, not sweet, not overpowering, but hovering around for a long time

  7. JolieFleurs says:

    The original La Perla is very cedar-y to my nose. Definitely not sweet or floral.

  8. Abyss says:

    Just like Bee I was going to suggest that Nikki looks into vetiver scents. They are woody (sometimes also smoky and earthy/rooty), tend to read as unsex or masculine and make good everyday scents.
    My favourites are Chanel Sykomore and Hermes Vetiver Tonka but there are lots and lots of other ones – Guerlain Vetiver is a classic, Diptyque Vetiverio is a very light take on the note so should be quite office friendly, for example even if not necessarily full of personality.

    Also, there’s no shame in crossing the aisle and checking out scents that are marketed at men – masculines that can be easily worn by women include Dior Eau Sauvage (and, heck, check out Diorella while you are at it), Guerlain Habit Rouge and Heritage, and Hermes Terre d’Hermes.

  9. jaclynhoek says:

    Nikki should try Van Cleef & Arpels Bois d’Iris and Serge Lutens Cedre. Neither is at all budget-friendly, but maybe she can start with decants.

  10. Emily says:

    Might be worth ordering a Tauer discovery set, if his range is within Nikki’s budget. L’Air du Desert Marocain, Incense Rose, and Incense Extreme might be good ones for Nikki.

  11. Thalia says:

    I think Nikki might like Eau de Cartier for every day — ctrus and lots of cedar.

  12. AnnieA says:

    Try Chanel’s Sycomore (wood and smoke) or Jo Malone’s Dark amber and Ginger Lily (smells cedary to me). If you are on a budget you can go for a split rather than a full bottle…

  13. Eva S says:

    Seconding Terre d’Hermes and Guerlain Vetivier wich are easily worn by a woman, own bottles of them myself! Also recommend that Nikki try Voyage d’Hermes..
    Perhaps try some leather scents like Kelly Calesh and Bottega Veneta?

    • Abyss says:

      Agree about Voyage, can’t believe I forgot about it.

      • behemot says:

        I second Voyage by Hermes, especially in pure perfum. I got a FB yesterday

    • ladymurasaki says:

      I would also add that she might want to try Voyage parfum instead of the EDT. I know it’s pricier, but it lasts longer and is smoother.

  14. turbovivi says:

    From the budget point of view, I think she’ll do quite well with the Cedar-heavy ones from Sonoma Scent Studio. Forest Walk and Winter Woods come to mind. At that price, she can get several 5ml bottles and try them all.

  15. Merlin says:

    Dior Homme sport is quite a nice gingery fragrance. And I happen to like Chanel Christalle Eau de Verte which is a lemon-tea scent that lasts a long time and strikes me as sophisticated. Perfumistas, in general, do not like this and see it as a travesty of the original Christalle (which smells really off on my skin).

  16. Liza says:

    Inexpensive:
    Caron Yatagan

    Intermediate:
    Donna Karan Black Cashmere

    On the pricey side:
    Frederic Malle Bois D’Orage
    Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentree

  17. gr8belief says:

    Chanel 19 was the first thing that came to mind, but it’s a bear to find.
    Then Estee Lauder Alliage – all the notes you mention are included in this older EL classic. Also EL Private Collection (not the newer ones.).
    I was on a quest for similar notes and kept finding myself in the men’s colognes or older aunts’ vanities where the EDPs are slightly younger than I am ( and many bottles so much prettier than the frou frou that matches most new frou frou scents I find everywhere today).

  18. PetronellaCJ says:

    Seconding Guerlain Vetiver (always :)) and adding Etro Palais Jamais and L’Occitane Vetyver for different angles of vetiver.

    Also suggesting Keiko Mecheri Oliban, it is a quite lovely tobacco/woodsy scent.

  19. poodle says:

    I didn’t like Flowerbomb either but maybe Spicebomb might be a better option. I’d also like to put in a vote for Sonoma Scent Studio as well. Winter Woods is really nice, so is Tabac Aurea. Another scent that comes to mind is Marc Jacobs Bang which I have seen at discounters for pretty good prices.

    • gr8belief says:

      Bang was under ten dollars last month at a discount retailer, so I had to try it. A better package would have been a charred cedar pepper grinder instead of a shiny and unstable bauble. I like to wear it when I’m going to be outside all day.

  20. ladymurasaki says:

    Nikki; why not get decants instead of a full bottle of just one scent? That way, you might be able to have a few scents you really like from the suggestions here within your budget.

    Since I’m a big white floral freak, I can’t think of much to recommend, but I would suggest Ormonde Jayne Woman and Voyage d’Hermes Parfum. They are both pricey, but as I’ve suggested, you can get decants. :)

    Enjoy the journey!

    • nozknoz says:

      Decants are a good idea!

    • nikki22 says:

      Thank you! Would decants have to be purchased on ebay or something of the sort?

  21. nataliape says:

    Woods, masculine, cedar….I’d say try Comme des Garçons Wonderwood or 2 Men. Perfect cedar masculine is Gucci pour Homme.

    For a perfect citrus, go for Eau de Guerlain.

  22. mough says:

    Jo Malone has a great Cedar, but I’ll be gummed if I can come up with the name; it’s Cedar and….Something. But it’s good. Not really cheap, but maybe you can find the 15 ml bottle. The bath products, again, pricey, are really nice, the bath oil and the creme. Lasting power is a little better than usual for JM.

  23. sweetgrass says:

    Mough, are you referring to Sweet Lime and Cedar? I couldn’t remember either so I looked it up.

    I was also thinking Jo Malone 154, and I second the Eau Sauvage rec above.

  24. C.H. says:

    I feel like Diptyque Philosykos or Jo Malone Wild Fig and Cassis could appeal to someone who likes Jardin en Med but wanted less sweetness. Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir is worth trying too (much less sweet than the name might suggest).

    I’m with those who like Terre d’Hermes.

    Gucci pour homme is maybe not the most unusual fragrance, but I do like it, and it’s cedar-y.

    Burberry Brit for Men is more lemon-y than I care for but maybe that would be perfect for you!

    Chanel No. 19 Poudré reminds me a bit of Infusion d’Iris, lots of iris; could be worth trying in case it lasts longer (I don’t really recall, though I did find it -very- powdery in late stages; don’t know if that is a plus or a minus here.) Of course Infusion d’Iris Absolue as well. I find the first Infusion d’Iris easier to manage but if it flamed out too fast for you, maybe the Absolue would stick around longer.

    In terms of things that have more staying power, many of the L’Occitane men’s scents are great. I personally find them actually too persistent to wear myself (to me it feels like they stay so loud! for so long!), but I find basically all of them attractive: Eau de Baux, Vetyver, Eau de l’Occitan.

    Not precisely in line with what you describe, but for another accessible masculine, I think Spicebomb’s great (and I say that similarly not being much for Flowerbomb.)

    An anti-rec: the Kiehl’s “Aromatic Blends” include one called Vanilla and Cedarwood, but it is far, far more vanilla than cedar, alas. To me it smelled like birthday cake, suspect it would not be your thing (nor mine).

    Lastly, a little tip, a couple of times just poking my head into the men’s section in department stores has been enough to prompt an SA to fill my purse with samples to test on “my boyfriend”. (I am sure this imaginary person is very grateful.) You might go and see what they volunteer!

    • C.H. says:

      Haha whoops that got a little long.

  25. hajusuuri says:

    I suggest L’Occitane Eau des Baux; cypresswood and incense with hints of cardamom and coumarin. It is tagged as a masculine but I think it works equally well for both genders. It is $50 for 100 mLs. L’Occitane usually has some kind of giveaway with minimum purchase of X…so your $s will go a longer way. Be prepared though to encounter stingy SAs…no samples unless you buy something — kind of counterintuitive in my opinion.

  26. Cybele says:

    Dior Eau Sauvage
    Comme des Garcons 2 (silver bottle)
    Tom Ford Grey Vetiver

  27. nozknoz says:

    You might want to try an interesting NYC indie line, D.S. & Durga, which is actually produced in Brooklyn, I believe. Their website describes the perfumes and lists stockists. Also, Kevin has reviewed some of them here on NST.

  28. moore says:

    Le Baiseur du Dragon, Burberry Brit, Shaal Nur, Leather Oud.

  29. helenviolette says:

    I suggest- Serge Lutens Chene and will second the notion of exploring vetivers and since you are in NY and have access to lots of sniffing- I think you should find the Cartier les heures and smell the trezieme and fougheuse (ask for samples!) bc even tho these are not budget friendly if you find THE perfume you will make it happen! Also go check out CB I hate perfumes boutique! Happy hunting ;)

  30. sullapelle says:

    Oh boy, you have a lot of options. This will be hard:) I’ll throw one in the mix. I think you’ll really like the note vetiver, most common in men’s cologne. Diptyque Vertiverio is stunning and has wonderful sillage. I also second DS&Durga. Good woody scents, hand crafted, done beautifully.

  31. Perfumista8 says:

    I suggest trying Diptyque Tam Dao. It’s a beautiful, calming woody fragrance that’s unlike anything else.

  32. Subhuman says:

    Usually when reading these Monday Mails, one fragrance will pop into my head and insistently screech at me until I hit the “reply” button. This time it’s Hanae Mori HM. It covers the “masculine notes” ground with light cedar and citrus – a beautifully rendered, realistic lemon – and features a velvety, dark-fruit sweetness (blackcurrant) that never cloys. There’s a dash of this, a spot of that, all adding up to a rather elegant potion that ticks quite a few boxes (I want woody, but not wood chips! I want a bit of sweet, but not candy! I want citrus, but not too bright!). I find HM incredibly versatile and easy to wear without being boring. The fact that it’s marketed to men ensures that the sugar content and floral notes (subdued as they are) won’t be over-the-top. It comes in Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette; counterintuitively, the former has a stronger fresh lemon quality while the latter strikes me as a tad sweeter (and thinner, but only just). Both are worth a try, and can be had for peanuts at discounters (fellow semi-broke 20something here!)

  33. L says:

    Seconding Feminite du Bois and Tam Dao. I would also like to suggest Sens et Bois by The Different Company. Notes are Chinese cedarwood, white violet, black pepper, elemi, ginger, patchouli, vervain, bergamot and incense. Decants can be had at The Perfumed Court or Surrender to Chance.

  34. bookwyrmsmith says:

    I would head to a discouter TJ Maxx/ Marshalls/Ross and see if I could find Oro by Roberto Cavalli . It’s sort of a blend of spicy,creamy and woodsy -I love it . Minis are probably findable on ebay for around $15. FB at discounter -about 30 or less.
    If you like tobbacco scents and are on a SUPER tight budget Tim McGraw Southern Blend is kinda nice too for a drugstore find. Or in my case thriftstore find -also an option- you may score some unreal values in perfume finds . Guerlain Parfum for equal or less than you would pay for a Starbucks drink?

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