26 Vintage Fragrances Every Perfumista Should Try

Bourjois perfumes advertParfums Caron advert

[Ed. note: 5 years ago, I wrote an article called 100 Fragrances Every Perfumista Should Try. Every year since, it has turned out to be the most-read article on Now Smell This. I was less than satisfied with it when I published it, and 5 years on, it's really showing its age. This week, Angie and Kevin are adding to the fun with lists of vintage and men's fragrances respectively, and I'll be making some updates to my original article. Jessica will join in with a list of rose fragrances next month. Robin]

How to choose 25 vintage fragrances of the thousands of discontinued and reformulated perfumes out there? In compiling this list, I tried to choose fragrances that are important yet have changed substantially over time, or that have been discontinued yet left a significant mark in perfume or cultural history.

For instance, Guerlain Shalimar, while a landmark fragrance, is all right in its current incarnation, so I don’t mention it. Chanel No. 5 and Patou Joy have been monkeyed with, but they’re still recognizable (although real fans may want to hunt down the older versions). On the other hand, Lanvin Arpège is a whole new story these days. I aimed for perfumes that will add to your olfactory knowledge, even if you don’t love them. I also included a few that are just plain wacky and, I think, deserve a sniff.

So, let’s go. In alphabetical order:

1. Balmain Jolie Madame

A tough Germaine Cellier sharp green-violet-leather that is still in production, yet has lost its teeth over the years. In molding Jolie Madame to the times, her fusty goodness has been smoothed away.

2. Balmain Vent Vert

Dirty, mossy, sharp gorgeousness, also compliments of the innovative perfumer Germaine Cellier. Sadly, vintage Vent Vert is a volatile beauty and rarely survived the years well. If you find an old bottle, be sure to give it a few minutes after spraying to burn off any damaged top notes.

3. Bourjois Evening in Paris

This one is worth smelling because it’s a cultural milestone (and easy to find). After World War II, when even middle class Americans could pretend some knowledge of Europe thanks to the returning GIs, Evening in Paris symbolized all the glamour of France. Yet it’s still as easy to appreciate as an Avon talcum powder. This one underwent a major reformulation in 1991.

4. Caron Tabac Blond

Tabac Blond made its reputation as a tough libertine embraced by women who like a little black leather with their gorgeousness. It was jolie laide in a bottle. These days it’s turned into a friendly rose with a splash of birch tar. If you can find vintage Tabac Blond, grab it.

5. Caron Narcisse Noir

This is a murky, animalic fragrance of a type almost never made these days, but worth smelling to unlock the scent of many a 1940s bombshell’s boudoir. To those new to perfume, it might smell like a combination of motor oil, narcissus, and powder-infused muck, but old-timers recognize it as the imprint of a whole era of sex appeal. Seek out the extrait.

6. Christian Dior Dioressence

When perfumer Guy Robert created Dioressence, he built the acme of clean and sexy by infusing ambergris with a sophisticated aldehydic take on Miss Dior (see below). Over the years, Dioressence has been dumbed down to a mere rosy sketch of its old self. Try for the houndstooth boxes if you can.

7. Christian Dior Diorling

The ne plus ultra of elegant leather fragrances, now a fine but different fragrance. Leather lovers, grab this one if you can find it, and avoid versions in the smooth oval bottle.

8. Christian Dior Miss Dior (Original)

I’m not going to lie — Miss Dior is a tough fragrance to love. But once you do love her, you want her in her full freaky, dirty sage, animalic, mossy glory. Over the years, Miss Dior has been spanked about until she is teen-friendly. I cry to think of it. Complicating matters, just this year Christian Dior renamed its old Miss Dior Chérie “Miss Dior” (after reformulation, of course) and labeled the real Miss Dior “Miss Dior Original.” If you don’t recoil a bit on smelling vintage Miss Dior, it may not be a solid version of the original.

Coty Chypre advertCoty Emeraude advert

9. Coty Chypre

This was the first chypre, and for that reason alone it’s worth smelling. Frankly, the version I smelled didn’t blow me away. But Coty Chypre was manufactured for a long stretch and adjusted (and cheapened) frequently over those years, I’m sure.

10. Coty Emeraude

The old Emeraude was a real beauty, comparable to Guerlain Shalimar. Emeraude has legions of fans. You might well end up one. Emeraude has the advantage of being relatively easy to find.

11. Coty L’Origan

Rumored to be the inspiration for Guerlain L’Heure Bleue. The old stuff is gorgeous, herbal, and romantic. After about 1980, its beauty underwent the knife and came out more Stepford fragrance than original beauty.

12. Faberge Tigress

Come on. Whose mom or naughty aunt didn’t wear this? Simply to smell the Carter-era zeitgeist, it’s good to know Tigress. And the bottle is hard to beat.

13. Hermes Bel Ami

The original, in the cocktail shaker-like bottle, was gorgeous and fetid at the same time. Immensely masculine, and irresistible. The current version is tamer.

14. Givenchy L’Interdit

Thanks to Audrey Hepburn, L’Interdit is destined to be a classic. If you can’t find the original of this aldehydic floral fruity classic (not the very different, strawberry-heavy version in the squat bottle that debuted in 2002), try the 2009 Les Mythiques remake in the tall, plain rectangular bottle.

15. Guerlain Mitsouko

I add this for the Mitsouko enthusiasts who track Mitsouko’s evolution over the years and lament its disfiguration since the IFRA limits on oakmoss. I’m more of a Rochas Femme girl, so I haven’t really kept up to the minute on Mitsouko’s evolution, but I’ve found that vintage Eau de Cologne is a good substitute for Parfum if you can’t score any older than five or so years old.

16. Jean Patou Colony

I can’t say Colony is a classic, but as a pineapple chypre it’s so delightful and goofy that if you get the chance to smell it don’t pass it up. 

17. Jean Patou Moment Suprême

This is another personal favorite, a gorgeous lavender-amber perfume that disappeared long ago. Lavender too often is relegated to men’s colognes. Here, it’s a melancholy, and sadly forgotten, poem on its own.

Lanvin perfume advert 1Lanvin perfume advert 2

18. Lanvin Arpège

Arpège has had a few, distinct lives. In its first incarnation, it was a glamorous aldehydic floral. It was reformulated in 1993 as a distinctly different fragrance, still beautiful, but replete with full-bodied woods and earthy base notes that overwhelm the original’s delicacy. The original version didn’t always age well, but it was worn by so many PTA moms that it’s worth knowing.

19. Lanvin My Sin

Whether you like it or not, you’ve got to smell it. Similar to Caron Narcisse Noir, My Sin is a stamp of its time, like mink stoles, Old Fashioneds, and cigars. It’s a mix of animal essences and spring-like flowers that ends up smelling like a fetid dressing table, yet somehow much more desirable.

20. Lanvin Scandal

Perfumer Edmond Roudnitska reportedly called this a perfect leather fragrance. Do you really need to know more? It’s wickedly difficult to find, but I list it to give you (and me) something to dream of.

21. Lucien Lelong Indiscret

Lovers of Indiscret note that Yves Saint Laurent Opium didn’t come out of nowhere. Indiscret is a spicy, narcotic floral that appeals to modern noses. A version of Indiscret is still made but is barely recognizeable.

22. Millot Crêpe de Chine

A piece of perfume history, both for how it was made and for its fragrance. Crêpe de Chine was discontinued in the early 1960s1 and is tough to find, but worth a sniff if you like dreamy retro woods.

23. Rochas Femme

Like Arpège, Femme has had two distinct phases. The first phase, truer to Edmond Roudnitska’s original, is a sexy, animalic lemony-peachy chypre. Over its 40-year life, Femme was, of course, reformulated more than once, but still played to its original theme. In 1989, Femme was reformulated into more than simply an “adjustment” to its original perfume, but into a bossy perfume with an in-your-face cumin note. I love both fragrances, but perfume lovers will want to know the original Femme because it’s referred to so often.

24. Schiaparelli Shocking

For years, Shocking was a popular animalic rose-honey scent. Its popularity waned, and in the 1990s it underwent a major reformulation. The new version never really caught on. The vintage version is a door into another age.

25. Weil Zibeline

Weil first made furs, then ventured into fragrances to complement them. Zibeline is a spice-laden scent that has captured many a perfumista’s attention, and despite originating in the years of Prohibition, Zibeline is easy for the modern perfume wearer to love.

26. Worth Je Reviens

Je Reviens has been made over more often than the little black dress. Each time, though, it seems to simplify to the point that it’s lost its mystery altogether, even in the (now discontinued) couture version. Early versions of Je Reviens are a queer mixture of modern and old fashioned in a green-floral scent that embodies the vibe of science fiction films from the 1930s with flying saucers that look suspiciously like upturned pie tins zooming over flower-sprigged meadows.

I'd intended to keep the list at 25, but couldn't help bumping it up one. Really, I could easily add another 25. What would you put on the list?

See also: How to find perfume at thrift stores, How to Buy Vintage Perfume and On reformulations, or why your favorite perfume doesn’t smell like it used to.

1. Update: When, exactly, Crêpe de Chine was discontinued is up for debate. I’ve heard anecdotal reports of people buying it as late as the early 1970s, but I can’t find any authoritative date that it stopped being produced.

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  1. Abyss says:

    Oh my goodness, where’s Cabochard? I could onlu afford about half a drop of vintage and it’s amazing – like Bandit with marginally better manners. I gather it’s been defaced beyond all recognition but the vintage is glorious *sigh* Being a leather ho, I was very keen to try Scandal as well but, while perfectly nice, it didn’t make as much of an impression.

    • Emily says:

      YES to vintage Cabochard. I stumbled across a tiny but intact bottle of extrait at an antique store, and it is just heartbreakingly beautiful. If I had to restrict myself to stalking and obsessing over one vintage perfume, it would be this one.

      • Angela says:

        I hope you stumble over a big cache of it soon!

        • Emily says:

          Thanks, Angela. Maybe the kitties will come through with a nice Christmas gift for me.

          • Angela says:

            Dang it, my cat Mae West already bought me a furnace for Christmas. But maybe the dog could come through with something!

      • Abyss says:

        “If I had to restrict myself to stalking and obsessing over one vintage perfume, it would be this one.”

        In general, I try to avoid going down the vintage rabbit hole but I completely agree with this!

        Also, I’m completely green with envy about your antique shop find. Lucky girl, hope you wear the heck out it.

        • Angela says:

          It sounds like she will, lucky for everyone within nose range.

          • Emily says:

            You bet I’ve been wearing it! It’s hard to feel that any occasion truly justifies it — just because it’s so darned wonderful and there’s so little of it — but I’m even more angsty about it evaporating unused.

          • Angela says:

            I like your attitude! Make every day an occasion, because, truly, it is.

        • Illdone says:

          The downside of being into vintage perfume is :
          It cost’s an arm and a leg because ;
          -You have to find them , it can be done but it takes patience, time and let’s be honest, a lot of money
          -You have to store them right once you have them ; no small thing once you have hundreds of bottles – I needed them (hah!) for comparisons-sake.
          – Any idea how long you will hesitate to open a sealed bottle because once it’s opened well..it’s opened (I’m looking at you my precious Cuir de Russie, Vol de Nuit…)
          – If you own many of the vintages never in your life you can use them all up because of a lack of skin space but also there’s a lack of opportunity to wear them ; Schocking can be schocking and after all one has work, clients and so on that can’t be bothered simply because you’re obsessed.
          I strongly advice not to fall in love with them, look who’s talking ; they’re like the guy you always wanted but couldn’t live with or without..
          Stick to buying decants, having the full bottles is wonderfull but unmaintainable also you’ll hesitate less wearing decants.
          That should take the pressure of ebay, I guess?

          • Angela says:

            It’s definitely a heartbreaker to fall in love with a vintage fragrance. But I still think they’re worth smelling if you get the chance–not to own, but to know. Just like I know I’ll never own a Picasso, my life is still richer for seeing a few.

    • Angela says:

      Funny you mention it–I put Cabochard on the original list, but I was afraid the list was too leather-heavy! It’s a beauty, though. Nice and tough.

      • Abyss says:

        No such thing as leather-heavy for me… except that, in this context, it’s quite depressing, of course.

        Also, if there is a high proportion of excellent leather scents that have been either axed or mauled then that’s an interesting trend in itself and makes me wonder about the reasons behind it. Is it down to changes in fashion/tastes alone or are there other factors to do with ingredients, etc?

        • Angela says:

          My guess–and it’s completely a guess–is that it isn’t so much the cost of making a leather fragrance smell like leather, but the fact that leather fragrances can have such strong characters, and strong character isn’t always marketable. Some perfume companies may have tried to capture a larger market share by making a perfume more “friendly.”

  2. Emily says:

    In addition to Cabochard (see above), I’d add Magie Noire to the list. The old version is spicy-leathery-woody-green heaven, whereas I have nothing nice to say about the new version.

    • Angela says:

      Oh yes. Magie Noire, even in its sorry present state, is getting harder to find, too.

  3. pyramus says:

    How old is old enough to be vintage? I am obsessed with eighties scents and I think that Parfum d’Hermes, not quite thirty years old, is one of the all-time great fragrances. It was discontinued at some point and then remade in 2000 as Rouge Hermes, not at all the same thing, because the update smells cheerfully modern and is missing the original’s thick, plush fur-coat quality and complex chypre base. Vintage Parfum d’Hermes extrait is the most expensive-smelling thing I have ever encountered.

    If that doesn’t count as vintage, well, I’d have to say your choice of Jolie Madame is right on the money: the original was a thing of brute genius and the reinvention, a tame, wispy thing, has literally nothing in common with it except the name. There oughta be a law.

    • ladymurasaki says:

      I think pre-reformuation for any scent.

      • ladymurasaki says:


        • Angela says:

          Funny, I didn’t even notice the type!

          • platinum14 says:

            Like one of my teachers used to say: some people see typos and bad grammar, other people are too busy actually reading the message.

          • Angela says:

            Now I see I actually wrote “type” when I meant “typo,” so that just goes to tell you, I guess.

      • Angela says:

        Definitely a 1980s scent is vintage!

    • Angela says:

      Parfum d’Hermes is swooningly gorgeous, true, in that million dollars and armloads of orchids way. I didn’t know it was out of production! Drat.

      • Tama says:

        They still have it – I tried some on at the Hermes boutique. It was very animalic on my skin, great stuff.

      • thenoseknows says:

        I ADORE PARFUM D’HERMES!!!!!!!! The Modern Version doesn’t seem to be as Vanilla Laden as i remember but it is still CHEWY Good in that Husky Throat Lauren Bacall Kinda Way!

        • Angela says:

          You’re in good company!

  4. ladymurasaki says:

    What, no Joy?

    Great list, Angela. Surprised to find that I’ve tried most of these and own some :)

    I’m still on a hunt for a vintage bottle of Tabac Blond… Sadly, I’ve exhausted my supply.

    • Angela says:

      Joy has definitely changed, and I was on the fence about including it, but finally decided it was still enough of itself to stay off the list. If you’re a Joy lover, though, it would be good to seek out the old stuff, that’s for sure.

      • ladymurasaki says:

        Angela, I fortunatley have my mother’s vintage Joy. She lost her sense of smell after a terrible sinus infection (poor girl) so I got to keep it ;-)

  5. alyssa says:

    Oh my god, I have such mixed feelings reading this. On the one hand, great post, Angela and yes, everyone should smell these. And I would add vintage Joy in EDT for sure. On the other hand SHHHHHHH!!! ARE YOU NUTS? TAKE THIS DOWN RIGHT NOW. WE’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO FIND THEM AGAIN.

    Just kidding! Sort of. :-)

    I will clearly be doing a vintage Scandal giveaway, soon…

    • Angela says:

      I know the feeling! Greedy me wants them all for myself, too. But the angel sitting on the other shoulder wants every perfume lover to have the joy (in some cases) and experience (in others) of knowing them.

      • alyssa says:

        I really am joking. But I do try to avoid introducing newbie perfumistas to vintage scents because I feel like its such a heartbreaking enterprise. I mean, by definition, you’re chasing after something that doesn’t officially exist. Sometimes, though, I meet someone who I know is just made for one of those older perfumes and then I just can’t resist.

        • Angela says:

          Oh, I know you’re joking. The key, I guess, is to appreciate smelling a few drops of a vintage fragrance without actually needing to own a bottle. Maybe we should start thinking of great old perfumes like we think of the Mona Lisa. We may only be able to visit her on the occasional trip to Paris, but at least we’ve seen her.

          • Rappleyea says:

            Great analogy!

          • alyssa says:

            I love that, Angela, and I do feel that way about some of the perfumes I won only 1 ml of….but…. Greed. It is a human thing.

          • Angela says:

            Yes. I know it all too well….

    • Tama says:

      Hahaha, I kind of thought the same thing. “Crap, it will be months before this all settles down on eBay!”

      • Angela says:

        Maybe we should start up a sample company, fast!

  6. Omega says:

    I’ve only tried like one or two of these, lol! I gotta get with the vintage more.

    • Angela says:

      It’s an expensive hobby!

  7. agritty says:

    What about Vol de Nuit? The original is soooooo beautiful and sad and the current version is just flat….

    • Angela says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that! My Vol de Nuit is probably 6 or 7 years old, and I haven’t smelled any more recent. *Big sigh*

      • Rappleyea says:

        Vol de Nuit was going to be my suggestion for the list too. Especially the parfum. There was a discussion recently on one of the weekend polls about it where I was chided for recommending vintage. I can understand that, but I’ve smelled many, many reformulations over the years and like you said about Joy and #5, many while changed, are still recognizable. If the new Vol de Nuit juice hadn’t been residing in an airplane propeller bottle, I never would have known that it was VdN. Luckily, BG took it back.

        I think that VdN was such a distinct and hauntingly beautiful scent. Guerlain did a decent job with the Mitsouko reform (despite lacking oak moss), I don’t know why they had to butcher VdN beyond all recognition.

        • Angela says:

          You’re breaking my heart!

  8. RusticDove says:

    Vintage, classic perfumes are probably my favorite catagory, unfortunately. A couple I would add to the list are the original Missoni perfume (from the late 70’s/early 80’s) & the original Chloe, as their new versions are absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, like the originals. They didn’t even attempt to do something similar. I guess it’s assumed (by the mainstream brands) that people only want fruity or laundry detergent or cleaned up patchouli type scents nowadays. (There are a few department store offerings these days that are well done exceptions, but it’s rare.) Thank goodness we have niche fragrances!

    • Angela says:

      That’s what I say, too–thank goodness for all the fabulous, small-production fragrances coming out these days!

  9. Tama says:

    I have been having fun snapping up cheap, junky-looking lots of vintage perfumes that I barely know about. I kind of promised myself not to get all het up about any particular vintage scents but just enjoy what I stumble on. There are a couple I’m on the lookout for, but it’s not rabid.

    I recently got a miniscule bottle of Balenciaga Le Dix parfum, which is really amazing to wear. It was with some old drugstore perfumes that aren’t around anymore, and smell a darn sight better than most new drugstore perfumes (gives Sand and Sable a pat on the head). Also, today I got a mystery bottle that turned out to be Quelques Fleurs parfum, part of a mixed bag that had interesting scents like vintage (Deco bottle) Muguet des Bois, Youth Dew cologne, Tissu D’Or, Parfums Ciro Reflextions Esscent, Emeraude pdt, and Avon Somewhere (Every vintage batch has an Avon, but some of them are delightful).

    Anyway, I have smelled several of your picks, and own a few. It must have been tough to narrow down the list. Maybe we need a Part Deux.

    • Angela says:

      I know! Le Dix (now discontinued, boo) would be on part 2, as would Windsong, Cabochard, some Jovans, the old Toujours Moi, and a bunch more.

      • Tama says:

        I need to smell Windsong again. I have a feeling I would like it. I see little sets of the Matchiabelli crowns sometimes. Tempting.

        • Angela says:

          I love those crown bottles.

    • nozknoz says:

      Tama, I also love wearing Le Dix!

      • Angela says:

        It’s a good one, especially for a spring day!

  10. farouche says:

    I only own a few vintage perfumes, but I’d have to say that Bandit by Robert Piguet, though not for the faint of heart, is fabulous.

    • Angela says:

      Bandit should be a character in its own movie! But do you think vintage versions are markedly better than what Piguet has out now?

      • farouche says:

        Good point. Does anyone know the answer to this?

        • Angela says:

          I think the current version is pretty decent.

        • RobWales says:

          The current “Bandit” is really good, I think.

          • Angela says:

            Thank goodness!

  11. annemarie says:

    Wonderful post: micro-reviews are tough to write, so well done!

    I’m so glad to see both Femme and Dioressence on your list, as both are great loves of mine (Miss Dior too). Having no fear of cumin, I wear Femme I wear in the reformulated version. I have not found vintage Femme in good condition and am unwilling to risk any more $ on that quest.

    And (vintage) Dioressence! Just so sexy, so unapologetically rich and complex. Dioressence is the most loved new find for me this year. What I especially love is that it manages to be warm and enveloping – a perfect winter scent – without being smotheringly sweet or sentimental. 24 Faubourg pulls off this trick too, and I love it also. 24 Faubourg is a another perfume with brains.

    • Angela says:

      As soon as I’ve typed up this comment, I’m going to the perfume cabinet to forage for my 24 Faubourg. You’ve made me crave it.

  12. Ericgmd says:

    Well well…U-hum…Lump in my throat…knowing that Kevin had only ONE spot in Men’s masterpieces in the final elimination.
    So I will just say it straight out. Where are?
    – Rochas Macassar
    – Christian Dior Jules
    – Guerlain Derby
    (and back to Women’s now)
    – The original Shiseido Feminite Du Bois

    • Angela says:

      Kevin will have his own list this week, but you’re right–I don’t know if he’s including any vintage fragrances. I hope he is!

  13. moon_grrl says:

    Diorella. I try not to weep too much for scents gone by, but oh, do I ever miss my funky fresh Diorella. The last reformulation completely killed it.

    • Angela says:

      “Funky fresh” is a great way to describe it. I haven’t smelled the very latest version, but it sounds like I don’t need to waste my time. So sad!

      • Aparatchick says:

        That IS sad! I bought a bottle of Diorella 40-some years ago on my first trip overseas. It made me feel like the most sophisticated teenager in my hometown!

        • Angela says:

          And I bet you were, actually.

      • thenoseknows says:

        I have Never smelled ANY of the Proper Versions of the Dior Scents… I know… I Know… I Need to… But I HAVE Smelled the New Versions… and I have to say they are BEAUTIFUL! I am not going to Lie… If i never smelled the Originals, the current versions are Satisfying enough for me in the extreme, Especially Dioressence and Diorella which are both GLORIOUS! and Miss Dior is Still a Hoot and a Holler for me. Maybe I Simply don’t KNOW any better, but they Kinda Hit The Gooey Part of the Pleasure Center of My brain!

        • Angela says:

          Then stay far away from some of the vintage versions, especially Miss Dior and Dioressence (in my opinion, anyway). But then again, maybe you have the gift of appreciating what’s there and not missing what’s disappeared!

    • Jillie says:

      Do try Parfums de Nicolai’s L’Eau a la Folie – it is more reminiscent of the old Diorella than the actual current Diorella!

      • Angela says:

        I have yet to try that one, but I want to. Thanks for the comparison!

  14. FearsMice says:

    Maybe they’re not considered “great” or “classic” — but I do miss the original versions of Givenchy III and Ysatis.

    • Angela says:

      Have you tried the Les Mythiques Givenchy III? I like it. Ysatis is definitely a classic!

      • FearsMice says:

        Have tried any of the Les Mythiques, but will make a point to seek them out. Thanks, Angela!

        • FearsMice says:

          Er, have NOT tried any of the…

        • Angela says:

          I think they were pretty well done. I haven’t tried GIII side by side with vintage, though.

          • Rappleyea says:

            It’s definitely better than many reforms, but obviously missing the oak moss.

          • Angela says:

            Too bad!

  15. Nita says:

    Thank you so much for this list. Some of them bring back strong memories, even a few tears. How I loved many of these and wish that they were still easily available in their original form. Vol de Nuit has been a favorite for many years, and the new one is breaking my heart. Truly, it’s not the same fragrance. It has lost its mystery and style. Why, oh why? If it is because of the European union, I wish that France whom secede. I don’t want to hurt the feelings of anyone of the people at Guerlain, but I am going to write and tell them how I feel.

    • Angela says:

      Please do write! Vol de Nuit is so lovely, and Guerlain should know people miss it.

  16. Erin says:

    Well, nothing is certain in this valley of tears, but I knew I could count on you for my Moment Supreme and vintage Femme. And that last cheater addition to the list was important, too — I just finished the last little dreg of the vintage Je Reviens you sent me long ago and there was extra poignancy in the last drops.

    Like M, I also fume over Diorella, and furthermore, Diorissimo. I have not gone to smell the current version of Eau Fraiche de Dior either, because it would likely crush my heart completely: oh, the rosewood, the oakmoss, the musks. I tend to be a perfume optimist (as well as a general one), but I have to shield myself carefully.

    • Angela says:

      What is it with all the nasty Diors these days? I know they say the Diors are just wickedly difficult to keep true with modern materials, but I’m skeptical.

      • alyssa says:

        I can forgive them for a lot, now that I’ve smelled Grand Bal. Wish it weren’t so exclusive.

        • Angela says:

          It sounds like I’d better get me a little Grand Bal to sniff…

  17. Nice selection. I’m glad to see that you didn’t go with the usual suspects.

    • Angela says:

      To me they felt like the usual suspects!

  18. poodle says:

    My mom just gave me a bottle of Evening in Paris she found while cleaning out a drawer. I haven’t tried it yet. I also just got a sample of vintage Femme which I can’t wait to try as well. I said I would not go down the vintage rabbit hole but every now and then I find myself slipping.

    • Angela says:

      If you truly fall head over heels with something, it can be a heartbreaker. But just being able to smell something beautiful that is no longer made is a privilege, I think. Enjoy the Evening in Paris and Femme!

  19. hajusuuri says:

    I’m with Poodle in not wanting to go down the vintage rabbit hole; however, I find myself curious enough from these discussions to try to obtain some through trusted sources such as Surrender to Chance. If I end up not liking something, I can always swap it with the knowledge that I got it from a reputable source. I don’t know enough what vintage should look/smell like to stalk them on evilBay and I also don’t frequent places with antique stores.

    Recently, I got vintage Chanel Gardenia in a swap. It doesn’t smell at all like the Les Exclusif version which I like….the vintage one is much better!

    • Angela says:

      That’s a nice one to get in a swap!

      You’re so right about vintage samples, too. They’re very swappable.

  20. annemarie says:

    Adding: I explore vintage fragrance much less than I used, but on my must-try list is Givenchy III (sample due any day) and Bal a Versailles. The latter seems to have almost defined ‘perfume’ for a couple of decades after its release in 1962.

    • Angela says:

      Givenchy III is wonderful, and I think the Les Mythiques version serves it well. You have a great point about Bal a Versailles.

  21. Nile Goddess says:

    Umm … where’s Fidji?

    By Guy Laroche.

    Should be on the list IMHO

    • Angela says:

      Yes–a good addition. Thank you!

  22. Rappleyea says:

    Wonderful list, Angela. And added to the fact that I saw my first movie over the weekend on a *senior* ticket, is that I wore so very many of these before they were vintage! ;-) Great perfumes all!

    One I haven’t tried, and now really want to since I’ve fallen in love with Montaigne, is Tabac Blond.

    • Rappleyea says:

      Forget to ask – your mention of Tigress reminded me of Woodhue, which I used to wear back in the day. Have you smelled it recently?

      • Angela says:

        I think I have a sample of the vintage around somewhere, but it’s been ages since I’ve smelled it.

    • Emily says:

      I envy you — both for having worn these fragrances before they became vintage, and for the cheap movie tickets. :)

      • Rappleyea says:

        But not the wrinkles!! :-D

    • Angela says:

      Congratulations on the reduced pricing! And the memories of some of the beautiful old perfumes.

  23. annunziata says:

    What a great list. I especially appreciate your having included a favorite of mine, Patou Colony. I’ve recently resolved to stop mourning the reformulated classics (well, as best as I can) and appreciate some of the great new scents that have filled voids for me — like DSH Vert pour Madame and Pandora. I had bad luck with some vintage Femme, it was deliriously beautiful and then rapidly turned.

    • Angela says:

      I like your attitude, and I’ve tried to adopt it, too. When I’m finished with the vintage bottles I have, I’ll bid them goodbye and be grateful for some of the marvelous niche perfumes out now.

  24. Kelly Red says:

    I love that you included Worth Je Revien as #26. That was my favorite scent for at least 2 decades, but when it changed that was the end. I may have told this story before but my VERY french grandmother first bought me Je Revien at age 14. She may have lived in this country for over 70 years but her formative youth was in France. She always wore “good” jewelry, spent money on quality shoes and handbags (after her death I practically tackled my cousin to snag her tan croc Kelly bag!!!) and ALWAYS wore perfume, real perfume. As myself and my cousins each hit our teen years she took it on herself to introduce us to a signature scent. I was the oldest and it was Je Revien, my next cousin was Arpege and my youngest cousin was Shalimar. Quite heady stuff for Iowa teens but we all wore them for years. SHe had a knack for matching scents w/ people. She herself wore #5 and to this day I can’t smell it and not get a little verklempt.

    • Rappleyea says:

      I love your story, Kelly, I was about the same age as you were when my uncle, a career Army officer, sent me my first bottle of Je Reviens parfum from France. What glorious stuff! I too wore it for years before giving up after too many reformulations. Recently, someone *ahem* sent me some and now I’ve been bitten by the JR bug all over again!

      • Kelly Red says:

        I still have one small blue round bottle of vintage Je Revien. I rarely wear it anymore as I’ve moved on to deeper, smoky scents, but I often open it and inhale. :)

      • Angela says:

        I hope you’re enjoying it!

    • Angela says:

      You have a croc Kelly bag? I’m almost hyperventilating! If we ever meet, I hope you’ll let me touch it.

      Your grandmother sounds fabulous. Everyone needs a French grandma, I guess.

      • Kelly Red says:

        LOL, I do. I pulled out the oldest granddaughter + Kelly first name as my right to the bag. I sent it to Hermes to be refurbished and it came back looking beautiful. The only annoying thing about it is that most people think it’s a knock-off!! I wish I also had some of her shoes, but she wore a size 5!! She could be harsh in her opinions and lord help you if those steely eyes turned to you, but she was a pip.

        • Angela says:

          She sounds truly amazing. You’re lucky to have that in your DNA.

  25. thenoseknows says:

    I Suggest that if you can also Grab a Tiny Bit of Lanvin “Pretexte” As well… I suggest you DO! It’s a RICH, DARK Floral Oriental with a Smoother, More Tobacco (Smoking Tobacco) Like Leather Finish to it’s rather Flamboyantly Gorgeous Floral Base notes… also a Deep Chime of Vanilla runs through the Finish that gives it an even more Carnal Feel. It’s not as Unladylike as Scandal… But perhaps it is even more Dangerous!

    • Angela says:

      Pretexte sounds MAGNIFICENT. I must try it.

  26. thenoseknows says:

    The Original Big Outsize 80’s Version of Carolina Herrera is also a Grand Old Scent!

    • Angela says:

      I’ll have to search that one down, too!

  27. nozknoz says:

    I like some of the other Jean Patous as much as Moment Supreme and Colony. It’s probably a matter of personal preference, and they are all high quality perfumes, so I’d just recommend sampling which ever ones you have the opportunity to try. Which is pretty much how I feel about vintage perfume in general, I guess. :-)

    In addition to some of those mentioned above like Diorella, I’d want to add Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum, YSL Rive Gauche and Molinard Habanita to the list. (The new formulation of Habanita is worth trying but not a substitute for experiencing older versions.)

    • Angela says:

      I completely agree about Rive Gauche–I’d forgotten about that one. Is Mon Parfum discontinued now? Or maybe it’s changed a lot?

      • nozknoz says:

        Good point! I guess I was assuming that Paloma Picasso had to be as dead as a dodo because of the oak moss, but google seems to show it in many sites. I haven’t tried any recent versions. It would be a miracle if it’s still a powerful chypre, but who knows!

        • Angela says:

          Inspired by your comment, I wore the EdC (which I’m pretty sure is out of production) today. It lasted the whole danged day, and it smelled like a smoky old chypre. I bought it at Marshalls a few years ago.

  28. dolcesarah says:

    I luckily own full bottles of vintage: Miss Dior, Jolie Madame, Mitsouko (2), and Rochas Femme. Spent maybe $200 on all them. It can happen.

  29. dolcesarah says:

    What about Caron’s Farneisana?

    • Angela says:

      That’s a beauty. I haven’t smelled it lately, though.

  30. dolcesarah says:

    Angela, got them all at estate sales. Be there early and go straight to the dressing table and jewelry box. I found a beautiful ruby ring. I wish I could post a picture on here. But cannot. I forgot the Caron’s I have gotten. Farneisana (2) and Nuit de Noel. Both vintage.

    • Angela says:

      That’s great advice, thanks!

  31. rodelinda says:

    I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard that the 2011 reformulation of Apres l’Ondee destroyed the lovely heliotrope note and changed the feel of the fragrance. I’m hoping it’s not true, but if so, I guess it deserves a spot on the list.

    • Angela says:

      Oh noooo! Big sigh.

    • Dionne says:

      Sorry to confirm it rodelinda, but it’s true. I own both post and pre-2011 formulations, and the post-2011 is mainly violets and iris. Pretty, but not Après l’Ondée.

      • Angela says:

        Well. That one should definitely go on the list then. Damn.

  32. Flora says:

    Jean Patou Colony is indeed a great one – but Vacances is just perfection, probably the finest green floral perfume ever made.

    • Angela says:

      I do like Vacances, but I have to admit that air fresheners have ruined me on lilac! It’s terrible. Even fresh-cut lilacs from my garden remind me of Glade.

      • Flora says:

        Oh no, that is very unfortunate! Even En Passant?

  33. SmokeyToes says:

    Hi Angela,
    I would add two to the list of must try vintage perfumes, Jacques Fath Iris Gris, (beautiful iris over a woody floral base) and Sheherazade Parfum by Jean Despriz (aldehydic floral over a chypre/amber base).

    • Angela says:

      Hi Liz! Iris Gris is dreamy–amazing–and a vintage legend. I’ve smelled it once and loved it. I will seek out Scheherazade, too. I love Bal a Versailles. Thanks for the recommendations!

  34. Guy Duff says:

    This is a very helpful and well written article. I concur with most of the recommendations in the article. I will add however that there are a large number of other fragrances that could have been mentioned. So many of these vintage fragrances are for me associated with certain times and memories of life as they are for all those who either used or were in the company of those who used them. Given my age, I am particularly enamored with the fragrances of the 80’s and 90’s. I find a pretty comprehensive list of fragrances, some not nearly as well known as those listed in this article but many of which I gave as gifts in my younger years when these fragrances were “new.” http://lyndavalliche.com/wp/vintage-perfumes-for-women/ . As for a more comprehensive list going back to the beginning of the 20th century, Wikipedia has a good list here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_perfumes. I wish there were more articles discussing the vintage perfumes by decade. Wishing all a happy holiday.

    • Angela says:

      I love the idea of having lists of notable fragrances by decade. Thanks for stopping by, and happy holidays to you, too!

  35. Marie69 says:

    Bakir. Original by Germaine Monteil. Estee Lauder´s original Azuree. Creature by Gilles Cantuel. So many perfumes – so little time.

    • Angela says:

      Great suggestions! Yes–so many beautiful perfumes makes this hobby a blessing and a curse.

  36. Kisa says:

    Great article, Angela. Thank you. There so many fragrances I would like to try, if I can only find and afford them.
    As for Crèpe de Chine, it was definitely produced in the early 70’s. I wore it from 1969, when I was studying in France, until I married in 1975. From 1971 through 1974, I lived in Manhattan. The city buses I took to and from work often had advertisements for C de C. One read, “If you are wearing Crèpe de Chine, this is your bus.” Another showed a half empty bottle and the words, “By this time, you should have quite a history.” I’m not certain, if it was “history”, it might have been “past” or something similar. Other than that, I am certain of the time frame because of it being linked to major life events.

    • Angela says:

      I love those advertisements! Thank you for posting them. I especially like the one with the half-finished bottle. Nice.

  37. Kisa says:

    Hi again Angela,

    I would love to see a list of VINTAGE fragrances that are still in production and haven’t suffered much by reformulation. What do you think should be on that, probably very short, list?


    • Angela says:

      This is a good question, and it requires some thought. I can tell you that Chanel No. 5 still smells good, and I recently had the chance to compare L de Lubin vintage and reformulated, and the new version came out well (in my opinion). This is a good idea for a perfume article.

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