The Monday Mail ~ help Pamela find a new fragrance

Boites aux lettres

Today we're helping Pamela, and after that, the Monday Mail goes on its holiday vacation — it will return in January. If you'd like to get on the waiting list, see here.

Pamela wants to find a new signature fragrance that's more interesting than the generic fruity florals at Macy's and Sephora. Her perfect scent will be unique, warm, feminine and a little mysterious, but still accessible enough for everyday wear and versatile enough to take her into the evening. She can spend up to $150, and is happy to shop online. Here is what we know about Pamela:

She's a 20-something PhD student in English.

She lives in a small midwestern town, but travels quite a bit (and shops for perfume when she does).

Her personal style is a combination of classic, simple shapes and some more masculine cuts (button-down shirts, for instance but always in a feminine color), and she loves jewel tones.

She has brown hair with bangs, and brown eyes.

Pamela likes amber, sandalwood, musk, jasmine, tobacco, leather, spices, tuberose (more green, though), mimosa, violet and soap.  Some of the scents she enjoys at the moment include Frederic Malle Dans Tes Bras, L'Artisan Parfumeur Mimosa pour Moi, Kiehl's Original Musk and Chanel Coco Mademoiselle.

Pamela dislikes citrus, some powdery notes (see below), gardenia, rose, chocolate, sugar and berries.

Here are a few of the fragrances she has tried:

Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur: Reminded her too much of her dad's Obsession for Men.

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower: Too grassy and not creamy enough.

Balenciaga Paris: Almost right, but maybe a little thin — she thinks she'd prefer something more full-bodied.

Byredo Gypsy Water: She likes the spices, but it's also a little weak.

Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial: She loves the base, but not the cherry medicinal opening, and it might be a little over-the-top for daytime wear.

Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb: She likes it, but too masculine for her to wear.

Gucci Rush: Pamela has fond memories of her mom wearing this.

Lush Imogen Rose and Love, Chloe: She sort of liked the powder in these scents, so maybe powder isn't totally out. But she does not like Chanel No. 5, and does not like the difficult opening of some of the Lush scents.

Stella McCartney Lily, Gucci Eau Premiere, Givenchy Dahlia Noir: All too dull.

L'Artisan Parfumeur's Traversee du Bosphore: Nice, and might turn out to be a contender.

What say you?

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

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  1. eaudemale says:

    Poeme by Lancome

  2. friede says:

    Fellow English PhD (formerly a Midwestern grad student):

    – Check out the Imaginary Authors line for both the great scents (Memoirs of a Trespasser and Soft Lawn for sure, maybe Bull’s Blood?) and the concept (which includes bookmarks, fake author personas, etc.)

    – The only Chanel I like (being anti-powder myself) is Beige, but it might be too quiet for you

    – I know you hate chocolate (as do I), but Arquiste is another history-geek line that is also solidly beautiful and worth sniffing when you are out traveling, especially Anima Dulcis (yes, yes, based on chocolate, but mole rather than sticky fudgy glop)

    I’m not seeing any Lutens on your list of sniffed-stuff, and I suspect that you’ll find something distinctive/warm/right in that line somewhere — hard to tell exactly what, since there’s so many!

  3. egabbert says:

    Given all this: “Her perfect scent will be unique, warm, feminine and a little mysterious, but still accessible enough for everyday wear and versatile enough to take her into the evening. She can spend up to $150” as well as your note likes I think you need to try the Serge Lutens line. Try:

    Amber Sultan
    the sandalwoods (there are 3)
    Clair de Musc (clean) and Muscs Koublai Kahn (dirty)
    Chergui (tobacco)
    Cuir Mauresque, Boxeuses, and Daim Blond (leather/suede) …

    There are also several spicy/woody scents (Feminite du Bois), a couple of tuberose-centric ones, etc. …. If you can get to a major city with a Barney’s, you can sniff most of the line.

    Good luck!

  4. Eroica says:

    My vote is for Etat Libre d’Orange Like This (Tilda Swinton). I think it’d be perfect!

  5. JolieFleurs says:

    hhhmmm, try some Tabac Blond (Caron). It’s a leathery floral with lots of soft tobacco. It is exquisite in the extrait, but the edp is also nice. I believe Luckyscent carries Caron now, but I’d call the boutique in NYC. DiIane is a sweetheart, and will ship it to you.

  6. pampampam says:

    These are all amazing recommendations, thank you so much!

    I know about Serge Lutens, but I’ve only sniffed one scent from that line (don’t remember the name, but it smelled like ginger). I will definitely take a closer look when I’m in Chicago in a couple of weeks.

    • C.H. says:

      Yes just want to cosign with Friede & Egabbert above: I feel like there could definitely be a winner in the Serge Lutens line for you, maybe even something that doesn’t immediately sound like it fits the bill. I find the SL compositions off-beat enough that it’s even harder than usual to say just from the listed notes whether something will suit. I’m usually a hater of all scents foody, but I write this with Jeux de peau on one wrist and Louve on the other, and I’m oddly delighted by both. So many strange marvels–you def won’t smell like a Sephora!

      Happy sniffing!

  7. Emily says:

    Pamela, your reaction to Balenciaga Paris makes me think that Tom Ford Violet Blonde might work for you. It shares some traits with modern powdery scents like BP and Love, Chloe, but has more presence and oomph (to use a technical term).

    Others you might check out: Diptyque Volutes (beautiful tobacco scent; the EDT is a little brighter/spicier, and the EDP is richer and a little sweeter, but not overly so); Aesop Marrakech (clove, cardamom, and sandalwood); Chanel Cuir de Russie (iris leather; less sneezy than some of the other classic Chanels); Etat Libre d’Orange Jasmin et Cigarette (like it sounds, only more pipe-tobacco than cigarette, to my nose), Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie (drama-queen mimosa with spicy and leathery notes); and Cuir de Lancome (beautiful, warm floral leather). Happy sniffing!

    • JolieFleurs says:

      Oh, yes yes yes on the jasmin et cig (I was going to suggest it, but thought it might be too light…it’s really fun, though! I get more unsmoked cigarette at the bottom of someone’s purse than pipe, FWIW) and the Une Fleur de Cassie ( I have only ever smelled the body creme and it is really lovely)

    • farouche says:

      Second both Volutes, either EDP or EDT, and Cuir de Lancôme. Smoke & leather…yum!

  8. ladymurasaki says:

    I have a few suggestions.

    Tubereuse Couture by Parfumerie Generale; creamy tuberose and sandalwood. The dry down is soft and a little powdery.

    Tabac Blond Extrait by Caron; one of the best leather/floral scents. I prefer the extrait as it is deeper.

    Flor Azteca by Exotic Island Aromatics; spicy tuberose with a hint of coconut-like note.

    Tubereuse Criminelle by Serge Lutens; a very unique tuberose. There’s nothing like it. I particularly like the “root beer” vibe I get from this. It smells sharp initially but the dry down is soft and velvety.

  9. Abyss says:

    I would urge Pamela to try Serge Lutens Bois de Violette. The name is pretty self-explanatory – it’s a beautifully balanced woody violet that’s suitable for day-wear while remaining special and refined enough for the evening too.

    SL Feminite de Bois is also worth trying, it’s done in the same mould as above but with less emphasis on the violet and more on the plummy fruit.

    • Cybele says:

      second both of them. I also heard great things about Lutens’ Bois et Musc!

  10. lucasai says:

    Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea and Winter Woods
    Parfumerie Generale Cuir Venenum
    Prada Infusion d’Iris Absolue

    Those are my recommendations.

  11. Joshua says:

    I’d recommend Aqua Alba by Angela Flanders

  12. quixoticcynic says:

    Hello fellow 20-something English PhD student :-) (It’s interesting there are so many current or former grad students…particularly in English…who become so interested in perfume.) You might try Bottega Veneta (which might be a bit too powdery, though it’s not on me) and Estee Lauder Sensuous (which is a nice inexpensive woody/creamy perfume). Also, Miller Harris’s L’Air de Rien might be worth a sample, though apparently it goes verrry skanky on some. Come to think of it, if you are interested and can’t find samples of any of these easily, I’d be happy to send you some (gotta support the academia/perfumista overlapping sisterhood :-)

    • Karin says:

      Second Bottega Veneta!

  13. farouche says:

    I think that Pamela might like to try Fendi Theorema, a lovely warm spicy (powderless!) amber that would be a great day to evening option. Bulgari Black is unusual and terrific for the right person. Prada L’Eau Ambree, although it might be a bit too generic for Pamela, wears easily throughout the day. And Sensuous Nude by Estée Lauder might be nice in the body cream or touch-on fragrance.

  14. Bee says:

    have you tried Dzing! (artisan parfumeur), Bulgari Black, Felanilla (PG), musc nomade (annick goutal)? If you feel like splurging on a sample: “M” by purdistance… my favourite leathery-spicy-warm scent (could be too unisex for you though)

  15. Rappleyea says:

    I came on here and read Angela’s review of SSS Nostalgie first and then today’s Monday Mail. I had to laugh as Pamela exactly described Nostalgie in what she was looking for.

    I’d also recommend SSS Champagne de Bois as well as Laurie’s two violet fragrances: Voile de Violette and Wood Violet.

  16. Mitzi says:

    I wwould suggest Van. Cleef Arpels First Love, a lovely warm ylang and amber fragrance.

  17. C.H. says:

    I have not researched the availability beyond the sample I have, and I worry it’s discontinued, but triangulating from Musc Ravageur and Spicebomb (since it sounds more like just that those two don’t suit, rather than that you dislike them), I wonder if you’d like L’Artisan Tea for Two. Lots of notes in common, but it might feel more feminine than either of those two. It’s more refined than Spicebomb, I’d say, and it doesn’t have the fairly masculine open that MR does (also much less musky).

    Just to shake things up: a mini of Toujours Moi edc came into my possession and I’m surprised at how much I enjoy it (many from that era are just way too much for me to handle). Another warm, spicy (and in this case rather tobacco-y) option. It might feel a little ‘old’ but I feel like that has the potential to play in sort of cool and interesting way, especially if you are in your twenties and in humanities grad school! Like a way-easier-pull-off version of Tavi Gevinson’s gray hair. (Mm, still envious of that, is it too late for me to try it?) Anyway, relatively cheap and easy to come by, so even if it’s a long shot, it could be worth a try!

    Hope your program is going well!

  18. austenfan says:

    If my memory serves me right Balenciaga Paris is a violet. Another lovely violet that has a bit more presence is Annick Goutal La Violette.
    A mimosa fragrance that is very lovely but not often talked about on the blogs is L’Infante by Divine. It’s a gorgeous sunny floral that has quite a nice presence. If you google Divine you will find the fragrance house. I think Luckyscent carries the line in the States.

    • JolieFleurs says:

      Oh, wow, I got a sample of that in a swap once and fell in love with it! I didn’t know what the notes were, and the label had gotten wet so I didn’t know the house. It is sooo pretty.

      Thanks for mentioning it and solving my mystery!

      • austenfan says:

        You are very welcome. Have you tried any of the others in the line? They are well worth it. My favourites are Divine and L’Homme de Coeur.

  19. dolcesarah says:

    Tea for two
    Tabac Aurea
    ELO’s PUTAIN de Palaces and Chargone and Archives 69
    Lady Vengence
    Champaign du Bois
    Mazzolari’s Lei
    Montale’s Oud Blossom, Mukalhaat, And wild Pears. Red Aoud if you serious enough.

  20. dolcesarah says:

    Bal d Afrique
    Seven veils
    MUSC by Mona di Orio

  21. nozknoz says:

    There are several recommendations above for perfumes form Parfumerie Generale (PG), and I agree. This line has great perfumes that aren’t super expensive. I would add PG Indochine.

  22. pampampam says:

    Wow, thank you for all the suggestions! I can’t wait to go shopping.

  23. Sapphire says:

    Seconding all the suggestions for Diptyque Volutes. Their Eau Duelle is a dry vanilla that might also work for you. Would also recommend trying the original Omnia, which is dry and spicy (meant to be like chai tea). Not in department stores anymore, but should be available at online discounters. Champagne de Bois and Tabac Aurea are both great for fall, though more assertive. You could also consider decants of Guerlain Tonka Imperiale or Oriental Brulant. Happy hunting!

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