A few people commented on Tuesday’s post about my penchant for buying fragrances unsniffed, so I thought I’d do a roundup of the successes and failures of this habit of mine. Now, while I do tend to buy unsniffed, I do not tend to buy unresearched, so my hit-to-miss ratio is actually pretty good.
Also, I tend not to buy unsniffed if I can sample the fragrance in person, or, failing that, obtain a sample online (Lucky Scent and The Perfumed Court were my go-tos when I was doing more sample-buying). Some perfume houses also do their own samples, and I’ve gotten some that way (Ava Luxe—or at least she used to, Czech & Speake, Grossmith, Les Parfums des Rosine).
Without further ado, here are my 10 favorite fragrances that I have ever bought unsniffed:
Badgley Mischka — Badgley Mischka. This is an intense, jammy fruit blend—really gourmand and rich. It almost reaches the point where the fruit starts to seem overripe and on the verge of fermenting. I’ve smelled some similar fragrances and hated them, but this one just works for me. It’s not for everyone, but I love it on a cold winter day. The bottle is very luxe in heavy, faceted glass. I found it a few winters back at Winners.
Guerlain — Eau de Shalimar. This was less of a “blind” purchase, since I was already familiar with—and in love with—the original Shalimar, at least the newer reformulated versions. How could a light version go wrong, eh? And it doesn’t at all: it’s one of my all-time faves for summer. It amps up the citrus and tones down the powder.
Hilary Duff — With Love… This is a surprisingly unique fragrance with notes of tropical fruits and flowers. It wears lightly and is a great everyday kind of scent. And I happen to think the glass bottle is oh-so-adorable! Why, oh why, do they discontinue things I love?! It also pains me that I never got to try the flanker, Wrapped With Love, and it seems a little hard to find online these days.
Madonna — Truth or Dare Naked. The flanker to the original Truth or Dare is surprisingly better—and I thought the original was pretty decent (albeit a “lite” version of Robert Piguet Fracas). It’s a creamy, warm, woody floral. I think it’s just a shame that the bottle isn’t better quality: it looks coffin-esque and is actually made of lightweight, cheap-feeling plastic. I mind a bit less only because I got both Truth or Dares for CA$15 each on StrawberryNet.
Missoni — Missoni. Missoni seem to have issues coming up with unique names for their fragrances; this is one of at least three perfumes (the other two are from 1982 and 2015) released by the Italian designer that is simply named Missoni. Mine is a 2006 release, and was actually made by Estée Lauder. It’s a gorgeous, summery, citrusy-floral with a heavy dose of Nutella (chocolate and hazelnuts).
The Perfumer’s Workshop — Tea Rose. I’ve previously talked about this in Top 20 Cheap Thrills in Perfume. It’s an absolute no-brainer if you are a rose fan. I still want to get my grubby hands on the 2014 parfum version!
Van Cleef & Arpels — Midnight in Paris. It does share its name with a Woody Allen film that I find unappealingly self-indulgent, but that doesn’t in the least taint my impression of this eau de toilette, marketed to men in 2010 by jewellers Van Cleef & Arpels. Many compare this one with Bvlgari Black, and while I see the similarities, I prefer Midnight for its sweeter, cozier feel. Also, just look at that stunning bottle. Just look at it! None of the guys around me think it smells like a men’s fragrance (they’re all just so macho, right?) so this one is mine! All mine.
Yves Rocher — Secrets d’Essences Rose Absolue. This is one of my all-time favorite rose fragrances, which is of course why Yves Rocher discontinued it a few years ago. It’s a soft jammy rose with a hint of spice to it. The nose, Christine Nagel, also composed Lancôme’s 2000 et Une Rose / Mille & Une Roses, another of my rose faves.
Yves Saint Laurent — In Love Again. I bought this many years ago (’99 or ’00, I think) at a TJ Maxx/Marshalls in the US. I mostly bought it because it was cheap and the box looked pretty, but it also turned out to be a fabulous grapefruit fragrance that never failed to garner compliments (not that I care, but it is one of the few fragrances I have that gets commented on; Lancôme Poême, worn with a very light hand, and Givenchy Eaudemoiselle are the other two). I had my mom pick up two backup bottles for me; I just hope they haven’t turned! YSL has since re-released In Love Again, but I’ve read that it’s not quite the same as the original. Their Baby Doll is a similarly light and fruity scent, but it’s just never done it for me.
Honorable mentions: Chopard Wish, Christian Lacroix for Avon Absynthe, Grès Lumière Rose, Crabtree & Evelyn Song de Chine (which is long discontinued and doesn’t have a Fragrantica entry), Paul Smith Rose, Queen Latifah Queen.
And here is my list of 7 Duds. I’ve been lucky in that there haven’t been too many, compared with the successes!
Benetton — Colors de Benetton Woman. I got this in a swap sometime in the ’90s. I have no idea why—it may have just been an extra or something. Anyway, I don’t know if it turned or what, but it’s gross. Sharp and horribly cheap, like something you’d pick up at Canadian Tire (you know, like bug repellent).
Caron — Fleurs de Rocaille. The perfume house of Caron has a long and illustrious history, and I’m sad that I’ve never gotten to try any of their vintage scents, which are supposed to be phenomenal. I have sampled quite a lot of their current formulations, which are apparently pale shadows of their former glory. I did, however, like Bellodgia, Parfum Sacré, and Nuit de Noël (which gives me a terrible rash where it’s applied), which leads me to question my sanity in purchasing Fleurs de Rocaille unsniffed, instead of Bellodgia or Parfum Sacré! I only vaguely remember that Fleurs de Rocaille, originally launched in 1933, was mentioned in the 1992 film Scent of a Woman, and that it should not be confused with Caron’s Fleur de Rocaille, released in 1993. Anyway, it’s not a terrible fragrance at all—it’s a very floral composition that reminds me a little of dryer sheets—but it’s terribly boring and I wish I had spent the money on something else.
Elizabeth Arden — Arden Beauty. I’m not usually a fan of Elizabeth Arden fragrances, but I was terribly curious about the rice flower and lotus notes in this one. I couldn’t find a tester at any Elizabeth Arden counters, so I picked it up for dirt cheap at Winners. Sadly, it doesn’t make me think any better of the Arden perfume lineup—I think it smells thin and sharp, and every penny the cheap fragrance that it was.
mark. by Avon — hello pretty. I’ll be honest, I can’t remember what this smells like. I picked this up on a whim the last time I ordered from Avon (a very, very long time ago), mostly because the bottle looked cute, and it was supposed to have a lychee note. It just smelled bland and cheap; I’ve smelled drugstore shampoos that were nicer.
Oscar de la Renta — Rosamor. I am a huge fan of So de la Renta, an ultrafeminine floral, and I love roses, so I bought this cheaply at Shoppers Drug Mart several years back. It’s incredibly bland and watery. Not worth even at a discounted price.
philosophy — Falling in Love. This was another swap failure—it’s not a bad fragrance by any means, just not for me. Too much berriness, I think. I can be fussy with berries in my scents. I gave it away to someone who loved it.
What are your greatest unsniffed successes and failures? Do you even buy unsniffed?