Thursday, 23 January 2014

My Collection, How Much Is Enough? Plus - A Giveaway!

A popular thread on the forums of Fragrantica and Basenotes is ‘Perfume Collection Show-off’, an intriguing and addictive spot where you can ogle lovingly posed photographs of the collections of your peers. An oppositional and equally intriguing thread also often appears, entitled ‘How much is Enough?’

After viewing photos of Facebook friend Paul’s gargantuan collection (inhabiting a floor to ceiling IKEA style open shelving unit), I began to ponder my own (and much more modest) collection. I would love to be left alone with Paul’s shelving for a greedy olfactory party but if I owned it, it would be a nagging source of worry. I’d fear for all the molecular disintegration and the stress of working out “Erm.. What shall I wear today?!”.

 Paul's astounding collection

What I did find pleasing upon perusal of the photo, was the mixture of niche and high street fragrances, suggesting that Paul buys his scents without brand bias. Inevitably, we’ll be repeatedly drawn to houses that use a familiar base across a range, such as Guerlain’s infamous Guerlinade or Ormonde Jayne’s peppery wood, if we feel a desire for the base. However, the true fumie explores everything by everyone, even if costs £20 from Marks and Sparks.

Fragrantica members store their perfumes on a virtual glass shelf, each shelf contains space for ten. I have a personal ‘wobble point’ when I spill over onto shelf four. Somehow, more than thirty FBs (an abbreviation of ‘full bottles’ used by the community to exclude decants and samples) seems overly decadent to me and as Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume suggested, we will probably be outlived by our perfumes.  This is amplified further by the fact that bloggers spend a lot of fragrant time wearing samples, hoping that the inner muse will inspire us to write about them. During this time our own bottles patiently wait, craving attention in the cupboard.
Fragrantica shelves

Since taking these photographs, a large bottle of Perles De Lalique arrived which further wobbled my shelf number four. As it’s an utterly beautiful keeper, something will have to go!
So I set about analysing my FB wardrobe. I divided it into 3 piles:

The A list: Beloved perfumes that I would feel comfortable wearing all the time, they complement my personality and make me consistently happy.

The B list: (specialists): Perfumes that I don’t wear very regularly but turn to for specific occasions or to create a particular mood. My ‘travelling’ scents appear here, e.g. those that I might wear in bed to take me somewhere in my imagination such as a forest or historical location.

The C list: Those that I don’t truly love but for some reason can’t get rid of, they still have a hold over me.

As you’ll see from my collection, I have wide ranging tastes, from haughty chypres to buxom orientals. Citrus features strongly, as does wood. The only missing genres are ouds and heavy gourmands, both of which I generally struggle to feel the love for. My collection has changed rapidly over recent years but is now slowing down as the abundance of samples I amass sates my thirst for smelling everything.

I apologise for the lack of correct French accents and possible incorrect spellings. As I write I’m recovering from flu, wrapped in a blanket on the sofa and frankly can’t be bothered checking in with Professor Google and his wife Madame Online International Keyboard.
Links have been set up on those that have appeared in reviews, just click on the perfume’s name to be transferred.

The A list (clockwise from the back):

Caron – Eau de Reglisse EDT (my first and my greatest niche purchase)
Dior – Escale Aux Marquises EDT
Ormonde Jayne – Ormonde Woman EDP
Trish McEvoy – Gardenia Musk No.4 EDT
Robert Piguet – Calypso EDP
Penhaligon’s – Lavandula EDP
Yves Rocher  - Cedre Bleu EDC (I am going to weep inconsolably when this discontinued exercise is the beauty of woods runs out, amazingly, it cost me £7)
Guerlain – Mitsouko EDT

The B list (clockwise from the back):

Yves Rocher – Essence Neroli EDP purse spray (behind the Guerlain mini)
Guerlain – L’ Instant de Guerlain Parfum (ltd edition bottle)
Parfums de Nicolai – L’ Eau Mixte EDT
Robert Piguet – Visa EDP (Miniature roll on)
Guerlain – Vintage Shalimar EDC (yes, it’s true, in perfect nic, wohoo!)
Guerlain – Vol de Nuit EDT (refill bottle)
Guerlain - Mitsouko EDP (I prefer the EDT, hence why this one is on my B list)
Serge Lutens – Fille en Aiguilles EDP (this would be on my A list were it not so perfect for going to bed in a forest
Guerlain – Eau Imperiale EDC
Guerlain – Habit Rouge EDT
Penhaligon’s - Cornubia EDP
Yves Rocher – Vanille Noire EDP
Guerlain – L’ Heure Bleue EDT
Mauboussin – Mauboussin EDP (this should actually be A list!)
Neal’s Yard – Pure Essence Rose No. 2 EDP

The C list (from left to right)

Guerlain – L’ Instant Magic
L’ Occitane – Eau Ravissante
Annick Goutal – Musc Nomade
Donna Karan – Essence Labdanum
Chopard – Casmir (a most peculiar oriental, but look at the bottle, how could anyone get rid of this beautiful gold minaret?)

What I would add to the collection if I could currently afford it: Jovoy – Psychedelique, Jul et Mad – Terrasse a Saint Germain, Caron – My Ylang, Neela Vermeire –Mohur, YSL – In Love Again (I tried with this one but bought a dud vintage, boo..), Cartier – Essence du Bois, Olfactive Studio – Chambre Noir, Chanel – Cristalle Eau Verte, 4160 Tuesdays – Urara’s Tokyo CafĂ©.

When I observe my collection in this detached way, I see a haul of fumes that differ wildly from each other. However, there is a distinct link – they are all (perhaps with the exception of the last two on the C list) very easily wearable and do not represent an olfactory challenge. Which is probably why I have only reviewed about a third of them for Odiferess.  Imagine trying to review Mitsouko, where would you start? This seamless ‘liquid nice’ is impossible to describe without drawing on history and mythology and turning it into a thesis. 

Although ‘wearable beauty’ defines my ownership, the avant-garde and conceptual more frequently stirs my creativity, prompting me to write about scents that I would be highly unlikely to buy a bottle of.

So dear readers, I ask you, is there a defining trait in your collection? Do you have a narrow or vast genre appreciation? Do you possess a haul to rival Paul’s creaking shelves or, alike Jean Lindsay, just one faithful signature scent?

Leaves your comments below or on the facebook page to be entered into a draw to win a  sample of my gorgeous newbie – Perles de Lalique (see, I’m already trying to get it used up!). The draw will be UK only due to our daft postal rules, as usual, sorry to my International readers but please do join in, I appreciate you!


  1. I enjoy how personally connected you are with each bottle in your collection (it seems). I feel the same way with mine, and when it grows too big, I start to have bottles where my only connection is remembering that I bought it because it was on sale, or I was having a temporary love affair with it. :) Not good enough reasons for this minimalist!

  2. And then it has to go, right? Ebay time!
    I guess our attitudes to our collections probably reflect our attitudes to everything else we own. Although I collect bits of antique glass and pottery, I am a ruthless 'chucker-out-er' and have very little that's neither lovely or useful in my (tiny) apartment. It runs in the family, whenever my mum gets a charity collection bag through the letterbox she always finds things to put in it.

  3. I missed Bonkers quote. What a thought to be outlived by our perfumes! I wish our real life collections looked as chic as the Fragrantica shelves. Drink lots of liquid and keep warm.

    1. Thanks Jordan. I've been glugging gallons of hot Vimto cordial, regressing to age 4.
      After I wrote this, I did a little (iffy) maths and guesstimated the total ml of my FBs, decants and samples. Based upon wearing an average of 200 ml per year, my current age of 40 and the fact that a lot of my bottles are quite depleted, I will hopefully outlive mine if average life expectancy looks on me kindly!
      It is a bit grim isn't it?

  4. Even though not all FBs in my collection are those without which I cannot possibly live, almost none of them got in the collection by mistake and I want to keep most of them for one reason or the other.
    Since I do not do real perfume reviews, I wear only my perfumes (FBs or decants bought/swapped for the purpose of wearing). The only time I might wear a perfume from a sample is if I'm considering the FB purchase and want to get a full impression. Otherwise I do spot testing after (or before) the regular perfume wearing time.
    It's interesting: full-bottle-wise we have just two perfumes in common - Calypso and Fille en Aiguilles. And I haven't even tried 15 (fifteen!) of the perfumes in your collection.

    1. Hi Undina, didn't you have a mini Vanille Noire at some point? I've enjoyed reading your Yves Rocher posts. So many of their scents are under the radar here due to the fact that we don't have shops. I made a very urgent trip to Yves Rocher last time I was in mainland Europe. 'Then boyfriend' luckily understood my obsession!
      I'm so pleased that you love Calypso, I cannot speak enthusiastically enough about this extraordinarily glamourous scent.

    2. Oh, yes, I forgot. I still have that mini. So we have three! :)

  5. Aha - the quote about being outlived by one's perfume collection is originally from my SIL and relates equally to owning a lot of knitting wool or perfume - SABLE (Stash Above and Beyond Life Expectancy). I used to joke about owning the equivalent of an EU perfume lake, and unfortunately it is still growing, despite my best efforts - okay, not very good efforts - to quell the lemmings.

    Anyway, was very interested to read your classifications and also to note that we don't have a massive amount of crossover, which I sort of figured from our meeting. But Calypso is in your A list I see! I'd bump Musc Nomade up a notch, hehe. Funnily enough, though I haven't articulated anywhere nearly as clearly as you this three tiered classification, I sort of do follow it with my plastic storage bins: Love most, like quite a lot, and the rest. Unlike Undina, I have acquired many bottles in haphazard and thoughtless ways, and would love to prune my collection down from 70+ bottles to half that. But first I need to check the bucket triage is correct!

    1. Vanessa, please invite me round for the almighty pruning! I love the smell of Musc Nomade but it has absolutely no projection and I can only smell it if I stick my nose to my wrist, which makes me look like I'm wiping my nose on my arm. It's one of those that you have to apply in bed on the arm that you hold your bedtime book open with. That's the only way you get to smell the goodness..
      I also have a 'SABLE' of drawing materials. Art shop addiction.

  6. I love looking at people collections. However, I need to get rid of mine on my website. It's makes me feel like I am showy or greedy or crazy. I'm not sure which one it is. Maybe it's all of the above. And I believe that I have plenty on my C list and probably a few on my D list. Ahhhh, Guerlain and Caron, a girl after my own heart. This was a fun read. Thanks!

    1. Hi Steve, I've not seen your collection. I must head over to your blog and take a peak as soon as I finish this note. Such a shame the Atlantic exists between us, I'd love to have a Caron sniffing party, I still have so much to root out from this brand. I'd imagine a Caron party would include the wearing of vintage clothes and the adoption of a cod French accent, my kinda thing!