Perfume: When Everything Old is New Again

Yves Saint Laurent Champagne advert

Every once in a while I open my perfume cabinet's doors and am overwhelmed by the rows of bottles crammed shoulder to shoulder like glass soldiers. When it gets to be too much, I start giving bottles away. Rochas Tocade is an example. I bought it at an online discounter ages ago, but it was so sweet that it annoyed me. I swapped it away not long after. Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse is another example. I told myself that liked it a lot, but I rarely wore it. When I met someone who liked it better, I gave it away.

Earlier this week I found both Tocade and Yvresse (in its earlier incarnation, Champagne) at Goodwill and snapped them up. It had been so long since I’d smelled either one, and I as soon as I saw their bottles I missed them. Well, I won’t be giving them away again any time soon. Instead of cloying, Tocade smells almost golden on my skin and is just trashy enough to be fun. Champagne’s nectarine is so much juicier than I’d remembered, and its abundant moss is a deliciously fusty contrast.

Over the past six months, I’ve had a good time "shopping" in my own perfume collection and rediscovering fragrances I thought I knew. Here are some examples:

Guerlain Shalimar: Shalimar was my big rediscovery last year. I was convinced I knew it inside and out, then after not wearing it for months I sprayed some on and POW! It’s a whole movie in a perfume — a movie with sepia-toned sets, peacock feathers, spies, and cocktails with lemon twists.

Caron Nocturnes: Nocturnes is easy to forget because it doesn’t shout. But it’s so soapy and pretty, and I never before noticed its soft veil of moss. This could be a perfect bedtime fragrance.

Annick Goutal Songes: Why didn’t I remember what a glamorous bombshell this one is? Underneath the vanilla and tropical flowers is a dirty note that gives Songes a retro feel and transforms it from Dolly Parton to Dorothy Lamour.

Annick Goutal Eau de Charlotte: Another Goutal that fell out of rotation years ago, but which seemed perfect for a cold afternoon a few weeks ago. My memory of it was chocolate and cassis and crackers — but in words, not fragrance. This time out, Eau de Charlotte’s freakiness grabbed me. For all the thickness of its description, the perfume is somehow also cold and sheer. I need to wear this one more.

Parfum de Nicolaï Mimosaique: To be honest, after wearing Mimosaique for the first time in months, I like it less than I used to. It smells more flat than I remembered. Which means that I will probably give the bottle away, which means that I will probably miss it at some point…

Have you ever reached to the back of your perfume collection and pulled out a bottle you’d stopped wearing, and found something new in it? 

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35 Comments

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  1. songeuse says:

    I like the soft, pretty, soapy aspect of Nocturnes too. I find it relaxing in a way, and the fragrance puts me in a good mood. On a few occasions I have worn it to take exams, for university classes and when I took the GRE. Every so often I would stop for a few seconds and smell it, and it would be a nice little mental break. Apparently a lot of people don’t care for the current formulation of it though (I’ve never smelled the original so I can’t compare them).

    • Angela says:

      Hopefully when you wear Nocturnes these days you aren’t reminded of taking the GRE!

      I’m not sure how old my bottle is, but probably not too much more than 5 or 6 years old. I like it a lot.

      • songeuse says:

        Haha, no, I was wearing it enough before then that I don’t particularly associate it with that experience. That’s a good point though!

  2. johanob says:

    So many perfumes on your list that I adore!Tocade and Nocturnes are both beloved in my collection!I recently revisited Cristobal,such a warm and spicy carnation scent,especially great in the cooler Fall weather we currently have!My vintage Ivoire also needs some revisiting,I’ve never worn it much,but I still think it’s a classic.Byzance is another perfume I have been thinking about wearing more often!So many perfumes,so little time!!;-))

    • Angela says:

      Oh yes, Cristobal and Ivoire! Ivoire is another bottle I gave away but am curious about again. I’d like to try the new formulation–it’s supposed to be good.

      • johanob says:

        Definite difference between new/vintage Ivoire,I do like both,but only love the vintage one enough to have it in my wardrobe.

        • Angela says:

          Thanks for the tip! The newest version of Ivoire has been hard to get where I live, but I admit I haven’t looked very hard.

  3. egabbert says:

    This happened to me recently with NR for Her. I put some on just to compare to Modern Muse, and I was like Hot DAMN, this stuff smells terrific! It revealed some facets I’d never noticed before (making Modern Muse seem all the more dull in comparison).

    • Angela says:

      Don’t you love it when that happens? I do!

  4. You must be a MIND READER, Mon Angel Angela! I was just a few days ago thinking about how I had my Bottle of Paco Rabanne XS totally wrong in my thoughts about how it smelled! I spritzed it on because i was tiring of the usual rotation of A*Men Flankers and my Le Male Gaultier Summer edition and wanted to smell something different. That day the XS Behaved in ways i actually never remember it behaving… it had me catching a whiff of it and wondering what my clients at work were wearing only to find it was my own cologne that was intriguing me! There was something more Warm and Vanillic about the fragrance amidst the Warm Spices and Herbs that hallmark that fragrance! I fell back in love with it and wore it 2 days later again to delight!

    You Are a Genius, My Angel! And Shalimar is EXACTLY as you said! I thought i had her figured out and last time i smelled her, she knocked me off my feet and made me wolf whistle like Mae West was in the room! ;-) I need to get my Dear Mum a bottle of that Tout De Suite! MWAH!

    • Angela says:

      Hey, my cat’s name is Mae West! She would love that comment, I’m sure–if only she spoke English.

      I’m glad XS is showing you what it’s got…What a great surprise.

  5. Ericgmd says:

    Thank you Angela for a nice topic as usual. I will start by saying that on my next vacation (don’t know when that will be!) I want to hang out with you so you can take me to your Goodwill and Thrift stores. Why is it that when I venture into one, my finds are Avon cap-less porcelain bottles or Jovan Vanilla Fields at best? And when you do, your finds are treasures like Mystere de Rochas, Yvresse and Tocade?
    That’s not fair.
    Rediscovering old scents has been less than successful for me lately. My reaction has been “how could I have liked that?” And did I offend anyone by wearing Heritage by Guerlain and its moth balls undertone or Antaeus by Chanel which smells like everyone’s uncle Ernie (who smoked) back in the 80s.
    I am becoming a true lightweight and I suspect some sort of poisoning or a conspiracy. I can only tolerate the mild fresh patchouli floral scents and Sephora is my sanctuary! What’s the antidote?!

    • Marjorie Rose says:

      Can I tag along to the thrift shops, too? ;)

      • Angela says:

        Absolutely! It’s hit or miss, but sometimes it really pays off.

    • Angela says:

      Oh, “how could I have worn this?” is a topic for a whole other blog post….

      Yes, come to Portland and we’ll tackle the thrift shops together!

      • Ericgmd says:

        Thank you. I can’t wait for your “how could I have worn this?” post Angela!
        I may take you up on your invitation. On my way to Vancouver in 2015 perhaps.

  6. flannery says:

    Not a bottle but a sample fits the story for me. Looking for something else I was digging through drawers when I found an old Christmas card box and was shocked to find it didn’t hold cards but samples that I had tried and rejected about a year ago. I’d put them aside to put up for swap or sale on ebay. Of course I had to try them all again and all were indeed ones that didn’t work for me with one BIG exception. One little sample vial of Rose Poivree fell out and one sniff transfixed me. What???? I’d rejected this???? What was wrong with me???

    It was beyond gorgeous on my skin and a full bottle quickly arrived and oh how happy I am that I gave this one a second try. Did I ever really sniff it before? I must have or it wouldn’t have been in the box. Yea for second chances that work.

    • Angela says:

      Yes! It was pure kismet that you found that box….

  7. Marjorie Rose says:

    I don’t think I’ve been at this long enough to properly be surprised by a long-forgotten scent, but it adds fuel to the hoarding fire! I mostly try to not keep things I don’t love, but knowing I might change my mind some day makes it THAT much harder to make the call to send something on to a better home!

    • Angela says:

      Even with the stuff I give or swap away, I still have so much perfume that I don’t feel like I can give my bottles the love they deserve. It’s awful.

  8. perthgirl says:

    Well done on your find!
    I can’t give bottles away- even if I rarely or never wear them, as I know how often I rediscover or change my mind on them, or simply regret it afterwards.
    I didn’t initially think much of Yvresse, but it’s one of the ones that one day- Love!! Also the case with Amaranthine, Armani Prive Pierre de Lune (it was in the ‘to get sold’ box. SO glad I resmelled it!), and Jour d’Hermes. Jour was a blind buy I regretted until the weather warmed up, and I suddenly craved it for it’s juicy freshness.
    I’m looking forward to the omg what was I thinking post too ;-)

    • Angela says:

      I was just thinking about Jour d’Hermes today and wishing I had a fat bottle of it to spray all over me and on my sheets. Spring is definitely on its way.

  9. Laurels says:

    Like Marjorie Rose, I’m too new at this to have long-lost perfumes that might surprise me, but I haven’t worn my Opium for at least nine months, and now I’m thinking I’ll wait until fall and see if it’s what I remember. I wore it almost exclusively for 20 years, and fell down the rabbit hole after deciding I didn’t want another bottle. Maybe I’ll have a new appreciation for it–although that’d probably just lead me deeper into the hole, searching for vintage.

    • Angela says:

      Oh, it will be so interesting to see how you respond to the Opium after having spent so much time away from it!

  10. nozknoz says:

    This is a great topic. I love or like most of the perfumes you mention. I’m not very familiar with the AG, and I don’t really love Champagne at this point, although I will definitely keep it because I love the bottle. It’s a bit too powdery for my taste, but perhaps it will grow on me? I did wear it recently and thought that it was almost Tresor done right. (I am always attracted to the teeniest whiff of Tresor at a distance, but it is far, far too loud and strong for me.)

    I really do love these older perfumes. This winter I’ve worn Jil Sander Woman III often (for me). I just adore it and find it both complex and reassuring. I read somewhere that it’s been described as a perfume done for women with mens’ perfume ingredients. I agree and think that’s part of its appeal.

    • Angela says:

      I always liked Champagne, but I think I liked it more intellectually than on a gut physical level. But when I recently tried it, I loved it! (In fact, as soon as I’m finished with this comment I’m going to spray on a bit.) I doubt Champagne has changed, so it must be me.

  11. monkeytoe says:

    I don’t want to stop you from your generosity, but when I give away a bottle I save myself a small decant to check again in six weeks. There have been so many books, movies, and pieces of art that have taken a bit of time to inveigle their way into my psyche that I want to save a smidge of the scent to check again to see if it just wasn’t my day/week/month to hit me just right.

    • Angela says:

      ….And that is exactly what I’m learning. Keeping a decant is a smart way to check back on it.

  12. Sarah K says:

    I do this periodically with Coco. I’ll go for months (or years) without wearing it, and then when I do bring it out I always wonder why I don’t wear it more often. Last time I wore it to compare it to 31 Rue Cambon. I like 31 RC, but I realised that I like Coco even more.

    I actually had a similar experience with Beige today. First time I tested it I thought it was nice, but not much more than just ok. Today I retested and, while the first 30 minutes are still just an ok honeyed floral, it then becomes a very nice honeyed floral indeed!

    • Angela says:

      I need to retry Beige, because I had the same initial experience that you did. Both Beige and Jersey need a good resampling.

  13. annemarie says:

    Keeping a decant is a great idea. I sold my bottle of Samsara EDP at a garage sale about two years ago because I found Samara just too, too huge to wear. Since then I’ve smelled a lot more sandalwood fragrances and it would be useful to be able to go back to Samsara again for another sniff, it being one of the biggest statements on sandalwood in the history of the world. :) Fortunately it’s readily available to test in store. Still, lesson learned.

    • Angela says:

      When I bought the Tocade and Champagne, I bought a bottle of Samsara, too. I have a love/hate relationship with it, but sometimes I do want to wear it.

  14. Oakland Fresca says:

    Funny your blog coming along when it did. My mom bought me the Ineke sampler set for Xmas, and while I enjoyed trying out all the scents… none really swept me away and some I downright didn’t like. Lots of folks on NST have praised Evening Edged in Gold, but I just didn’t get it. But this morning I thought I’d give it another whirl and I am loving it. Stone fruits, osmanthus, powder, and some skin scent. It is lovely!

    • Angela says:

      Oh, you make it sound so good! I too dismissed it at first as “nice,” but I wasn’t driven to try it twice. It sounds like I’d better find that sample again.

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