The Monday Mail ~ help Paula find a new perfume

Post box, Bologna

This will be the last Monday Mail for 2013 — it's about to take its annual holiday break. If you want to get on the waiting list for January, follow the instructions here

Today we're helping Paula. She wants to find a signature fragrance — she likes the concept, but she also has Asperger's syndrome, and that has complicated her search. Price is not important so long as it doesn't get Clive-Christian-spendy. Here is what we know about Paula and her scent preferences:

She's in her late 50s, and her clothing style is usually soft knits with dramatic jewelry.

She describes herself as intense and introverted. 

She is fascinated by perfumes, and loves to sample new scents, but is prone to sensory overload (she prefers bland foods and dim lights, for example), and most perfumes end up being "too" something (rich/sweet/sharp, whatever) and get on her nerves over the long term.

Paula works as a 911 operator (and she blogs about it — she also likes to write). Her job requires that fragrance stay confined to one's own personal space (no sillage to speak of, in other words). She'd like something that is both calming and comforting in this environment.

Ironically, the scents that have made her swoon in the past have usually been powerhouses: Estee Lauder Azuree & Spellbound, Gres Cabochard, Guerlain Jardins de Bagatelle. Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady is her newest favorite, but she doubts it will work on the job even applied lightly.

Paula likes a variety of notes, including rose, citrus, vanilla, almond/heliotrope, clean musk, oakmoss, "cool" incense and leather.

She doesn't usually like white florals or very spicy scents, with some exceptions. Prominent aquatic notes tend to make her queasy.

What say you?

Note: top image is Bologna - no bill posting [cropped] by on1stsite. at flickr; some rights reserved.

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  1. egabbert says:

    If you want something with minimal sillage you might explore all-natural perfumes, like Sonoma Scent Studio’s Spiced Citrus Vetiver or something from Aftelier, like the new Cuir Gardenia.

    Your other option to dab rather than spraying, which usually keeps things much closer to the skin.

    • Rappleyea says:

      Seconding the SSS Citrus Vetiver, and vetiver is very relaxing.

      • Rappleyea says:

        And speaking of SSS, Paula might like her Sienna Musk.

  2. TheSnailsPajamas says:

    Hmm, I would say something like Atelier Cologne Vanille Incensee (sheer vanilla oakmoss) or Serge Lutens L’Eau Froide (mineral minty incense)

    • AnnieA says:

      in fact, most of the AC line might work, like Trefle Pur or Orange Sanguine, my own favourites.

  3. ladymurasaki says:

    Here are my suggestions for Paula.

    Comme des Garcons “Kyoto” – this is my go-to incense fragrance. I wear it when I want to feel calm.

    Parfums de Marly “Herod” – a warm vanilla and tobacco scent. It has a moderate sillage and a little goes a long way.

    Montale “Highness Rose” – Lush bouquet of red roses. It has a soft to moderate sillage.

    Bvlgari “Black” – I mostly get vanilla, tea and rubber from this. I know it sounds strange, but I think it’s worth trying.

    • songeuse says:

      Kyoto was my first thought for incense too.

  4. Satsuma says:

    I would recommend trying Nicolaï’s Kiss Me Tender. Strong on the almond/heliotrope, affordable, and a little spray makes for a skin fragrance.

    • Meg says:

      Seconding Kiss Me Tender. :)

  5. Dilana says:

    I agree with the recommendation for Vanille Insensee by Atlier Cologne. You might also want to try the Rose Anonyme from this line.

  6. Seqmet says:

    As you like leathers I must just recommend Parfum d’Empire’s ‘Cuir Ottoman’. A beautiful, comforting but interesting leather, softened by iris.

  7. monkeytoe says:

    Parfums DelRae Panache and Mythique are both excellent close to the skin fragrances with personality. Chanel Cuir de Russie parfum or Heeley Cuis PLeine Fleur would make great close the skin but interesting scents that fall in line with your tastes. Guerlain Apres l”Ondee, especially in the discontinued extrait, is a good option as unlike some of the old school Guerlains, it is not a sillage powerhouse.

    • Rappleyea says:

      Seconding the Cuir de Russie. That’s the one I wear when I don’t want to be overwhelmed with fragrance.

  8. Omega says:

    Bottega Veneta seems about right:). A light application shouldn’t be too distracting.

  9. JolieFleurs says:

    Nuit de Noel in the extrait stays very close to the skin, but has the complexity of those powerhouses.

    Also, Bvlgari Au The Verte is simple but light and pretty, and is calming for me.

    Vol de Nuit in edt is light but oakmossy and greenish, and I also find it rich without being overwhelming.

    • PekeFan says:

      I second the Bvlgari Au The Verte and add Hermes Narcisse Bleu, which stays close to the skin and is, IMHO, universally appropriate

    • L says:

      Thirding Bulgari Au The Verte – I also find it calming.

      Etro Shaal Nur is a soft lemony incense. Could be a natural fit for you.

      I’ve suffered several brain injuries in my life which leave me prone to sensory overload.

      This past year I edited a book and Saturday was the author’s book signing. Fearing overwhelm, I almost wore no fragrance, but then thought of my old favorite, Eau d’Hadrien by Annick Goutal. Perfect.

      Good luck with your search!

  10. Sapphire says:

    Diptyque Eau Duelle is a really nice, woody vanilla. The new Jo Malone Saffron Cologne Intense sounds like it would be overwhelming, but is a really nice, light woody scent. Also, you might like Jo Malone Blue Agave and Cacao. The original Omnia in the brown box is a light, chai tea type fragrance. And Hermes Santal Massoia (in the Hermessence line) is a light, woody scent with a fig accent (the only fig I don’t find too sweet). Good luck!

  11. MikasMinion says:

    Kyoto and Vanilla Insensee both jumped to mind for me too. Also, maybe try some For Strange Women samples as they are naturals and wear close. A friend shared a drop and I just put in a huge sample order as I really liked what I tried.

  12. kindcrow says:

    Solid perfumes tend to stay close to the skin, so if something is too intense in its liquid form, a solid might work better for you. Solid perfumes are also easy to take with you so that you can re-apply if needed.

  13. Rappleyea says:

    My thought for Paula, and especially as a good scent for work, is Honore des Pres I Love les Carottes, a soft, rooty carrot/iris and as it wears, I get whiffs of rose. Very soft and lovely.

  14. Cybele says:

    Hi there, I recommend you Clair de Musc by Serge Lutens and Bois d’Iris Van Cleef & Arpels also second Bottega Veneta.

  15. missionista says:

    Hi Paula,

    I’d suggest some of the newer Diptyque fragrances, which are not too strong. Possibly Ea Rose (if the watery elements aren’t too much for you). Alternately, I find L’Artisan Parfumeur perfumes to be somewhat fleeting without a huge sillage, so if you try a few from that line you may find something that works for you.

    • AnnieA says:

      They have a few of their scents in solid format, for under $50.

  16. elise says:

    I’ll second any Nicolai’s! Rose Piovine might be worth a try…and definitely try Mona D’Orio’s Rose Hollande….

  17. Dawnkana says:


    A soft floral leather… Cuir Fetiche by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier.

    Tom Ford White Suede – Clean, dry, powdery, creamy, more suede than leather.

    For musk – Musc Bleu by Il Profumo. Very clean, soft, and pretty.

    There are lots of great suggestions. Have fun sampling.


  18. hajusuuri says:

    I recommend: (notes from Fragrantica)

    Byredo Gypsy Water – bergamot, lemon, pepper and juniper; middle notes are incense, pine needles and orris root; base notes are amber, vanilla and sandalwood

    L’Artisan Safran Troublant – passion flower, sandalwood, red rose, vanilla, saffron, sugar and ginger – it could possibly too spicy but it a soothing spicy

    Others already suggested and I second, third or fourth (!)
    - Bvlgari Black
    - Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensee
    - Diptyque Eau Duelle

    Good luck!

  19. L says:

    I forgot to add Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker. Clean musk, incense and lavender. It’s another calming, never-too-much standby. I used up my decant and keep meaning to buy a bottle.

  20. Liza says:

    It may be a bit spicy, but I wonder if Paula might like Eau d’Italie’s Paestum Rose.

  21. Robin says:

    A comment from Carla Cook at Facebook:

    “I also have AS, and it sounds like Paula & I have similar tastes. Based on her likes & work restrictions on sillage, I’d recommend she sample: Heeley Cardinal: cool, bright, clean incense Rossy de Palma’s Eau de Protection: Portrait of a Lady ‘lite’ IMO – rose with a light pepper & patchouli drydown Hermes Eau de Pamplemousse Rose – lovely, crisp rose & grapefruit Serge Lutens Datura Noir – low sillage yet rich blend of almond, heliotrope, vanilla, & coconut”

  22. Lucy says:

    Add another vote for Vanilla Insensee. Also, you may want to try Stella by Stella McCartney, a modern, clean rose. Both are available in rollerballs which I find keeps scent closer to the skin than spray, especially if you let it dry before getting dressed.

  23. nanah says:

    Après l’Ondée or L’Eau d’Hiver – both understated, calm and with lots of quiet almond/heliotrope.

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