One Thousand Scents

Friday, February 19, 2010

Running in Place

If you pay attention to the world of perfumery, you will have noticed that for quite some time now it has been pretty nearly impossible to keep up with the battalion of new releases.

Nearly every celebrity has one, rapidly followed by a bunch of flankers: Soccer player David Beckham and his wife Victoria have eleven between them, Mariah Carey has been cranking out one a year since 2007, Sarah Jessica Parker has seven under her belt.

The big perfume houses have been muscling into the niche market by cranking out massive editions, somewhat more exclusive than their department-store brands, of five, eight, a dozen scents either all at once or in a rapid series; Chanel's dozen Les Exclusifs, Dolce and Gabbana's tarot-inspired series (only five so far, but there will be more, since there are 22 cards in the Major Arcana), Cartier's hours-of-the day series (five so far of a projected 13). Hermessences started with four and now number 10. Armani Prive has 9 scents in the line.

The niche houses, new and established, are fighting fire with fire. Tom Ford, in addition to his slightly more mainstream scents (Black Orchid, White Patchouli, Tom Ford for Men, and Tom Ford Extreme), has a huge series of exclusives, currently up to 22, with no end in sight.

Most of these scents, of course, will not survive, but they're out there, and in addition to the let's say thousand or so new scents that hit the market every year (that's three a day not counting Sundays, and it's probably a conservative guess), there are all the other thousands that have already been released; old classics like Shalimar and Chanel No. 5, trendy things that haven't outstayed their welcome yet, eighties scents like Obsession that somehow keep a toehold in the market. If you are one of those people like me who really want to smell everything that comes along, you're doomed. If you were starting right now, you'd have to narrow your field dramatically, or just give up in despair.

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a sample pack from Luckyscent, the Late Winter set of 17 1-mL samples. They do these packs maybe six times a year, collecting many of their recent acquisitions and selling them at a reduced price (this one was $40, a good deal on what would be over $50 if you ordered them individually). The web page shows a gunnysack that looks like this

and I thought it was just an amusing graphic, but no, the pack really does come in a little four-by-six drawstring bag, which is charming. (There's a sticker on it announcing which set it is, just as you see in the picture, but unfortunately this sticker comes off very easily, so if you have more than one set, you pretty much have to write the contents directly onto the bag, or resign yourself to opening it up and fishing around, which you will have to do anyway, unless you are more organized than I am and keep your samples organized in boxes or little racks.)

At any rate, as I said, there were 17 samples of new fragrances in the pack: two by Costamor, three by Odin, ten by Nez à Nez, and the newest Costume National and Isabey. While I was ordering, I figured I might as well make it worth the postage, so I got some things I hadn't tried yet, another 13*, mostly Comme des Garçons.

I received my batch of 30 samples on Tuesday, in addition, you may recall, to a set of 11 Ormonde Jaynes I got the Friday before and another half-dozen samples of Serge Lutens scents (included with an order I placed for a couple of things I thought were going out of production), so, disregarding the complicated math, that's forty-six untried fragrances that have come into my possession in the space of a ten days, and this does not count the boxes of samples I have fished through but just have not had the time to try--fifteen or so in a previous Luckyscent sample order (the Fall set, I think--the sticker has come off and gotten lost) and a pile of Penhaligons, plus the plurality of a Perfumed Court order that I received, oh, some time last summer, and a large padded envelope full of Bond No. 9s, which I have reviewed eight or nine of and yet which never seems to become any emptier.

And in the three weeks or so since I placed that Luckyscent order, of which I have tried four things, there are nine more fragrances added to their stable.


Luckyscent has two of the four** Costamor scents, named for and based on the aromas of Costa Rica. Tabacca was the one that intrigued me, because I do love a good tobacco scent, and because of its clever name, which suggests a tobacco scent for women.

This one may be a niche scent, but it has its eye firmly on the mainstream, because it opens like a fruity floral scent, with a burst of apple and rose. Lurking underneath is sweet tobacco with a sharp green edge, and there's nothing particularly feminine about it; it's just tobacco, and if you hadn't experienced the opening, you would probably even guess that this was a men's scent. The closing is a long-lasting sweet woody amber of the sort you find in a great many things nowadays.

Although there are not many tobacco scents for women on the market, I can't see that there's anything special about Tabacca. It's reasonably priced for a niche scent, $75 for 50 mL, but there are lots more interesting tobacco fragrances out there, even if most of them are aimed at men: Herrera for Men, assuming it hasn't been reformulated beyond recognition, is or used to be a stunner, Versace The Dreamer is like nothing else on the market, and even Etat Libre D'Orange's Jasmin et Cigarette is more novel than this one. I guess if you're looking for a nice, simple, non-threatening, niche-esque tobacco scent, something that reads as a bridge between a department-store fruity floral and something a little more daring (but only a little), then you could do worse than Tabacca.

* Why 13? Because if you live in Canada, the shipping cost for a sample-only order of fewer than 15 items is $5 by U.S. Post, $20 by FedEx if there are 15 or more samples. But the sample pack counts as one sample. So go ahead and order a bunch; by my reckoning, you can get 5 more samples with the money you're saving on shipping, as long as the total number of items is under 15.

** Why 2? Why not the whole line? Did the Luckyscent buyer sample all four and decide that only these two were good enough?


  • Thats not a bad idea at all! My problem is that I have a bunch of colognes and do not rotate them in what I wear as often as I should. I'm not sure if I could add another 15 or 20 to my collection! But I just might have to.

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    By Blogger 99Perfume, at 5:47 PM  

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