A gourmand lover myself, I am no stranger to tonka bean and bergamot accords.
It's finally starting to warm up and I'm on the hunt for a summer scent. A good scent tells a story—at least that's what most niche fragrance websites will have you believe. This week, we are testing out mainstream fragrances at department/beauty stores and comparing them to niche brands that are twice the price. This is a long one, so get some refreshments and let's see what scents are worth breaking the bank.
Viktor and Rolf
One of the worst parts of Sephora is the fragrance section. There's usually a cloud of freshly sprayed Paco Rabanne 1 Million and Thierry Mugler's Angel amalgamating in the air. If you're not entirely nauseated and survive long enough to browse their latest fragrance collection, you'll find a revamped offering of indie/luxury brands like Juliette Has a Gun and By Killian amongst more familiar brands like Chanel, Chloe, and Dolce&Gabbana. Most fragrance buyers in Sephora are probably looking for well-known names they can buy as gifts or easy, to-go perfumes, I figure. Viktor and Rolf's Flowerbomb ($85.00) perfume is one of the most commercial fragrances a person can buy, and yet it's also the safest perfume to purchase if you're a little unsure what your nose likes best. A perfect blend of sugary sweet notes (bergamot, tea, white floral) paired with spicy accords (rose, musk, patchouli), Flowerbomb is one of the best sweet and spicy florals on the market. Be careful, though, the scent can get a bit headache-y if overdone. It's a been-there-done-that scent that Legally Blonde's Reese Witherspoon would wear in her forties if she hadn't gotten into Harvard and was living out her depleting youth at a department store kiosk. (Oops, that was bleak.) But it's good…for that type of scent.
Viktor and Rolf's Flowerbomb: ⭐⭐⭐
Another commercial goody: Prada Candy by Prada ($122.00). It's a sweet and light candy lover's dream. Unlike Flowerbomb, its sugar notes are complemented by caramel, vanilla, and balsamic accords; it's powdery and softer on the nose and doesn't scream at innocent bystanders. Dolce&Gabbana's Light Blue ($78.00) is an easy buy if you're into airy, green, woodsy fragrances. At first sniff, light blue sometimes smells like window cleaner, but those lemon accords dry down to a romantic green base with rose, jasmine, and cedar at the forefront. It's clean and fresh and worn by millions of women, so at least you know you won't offend your subway buddy.
Prada's Prada Candy: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Dolce&Gabbana's Light Blue: ⭐⭐⭐
And if you're looking for a fragrance that's a safe buy for this upcoming mother's day, consider Lancome's Julia-Roberts-endorsed perfume, La Vie Est Belle ($94.00)—French for "life is beautiful." This is a scent Legally Blonde's Reese Witherspoon would wear if she didn't go to Harvard and became a regular accountant somewhere, something that's both mature and youthful. It's slightly powdery like Prada Candy but has a stronger flower base with iris, jasmine, and vanilla accords.
Lancome's La Vie Est Belle: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Now, time for the niche perfume. Am I biased? Yes. It's no secret that I like my perfume niche, preferably from an obscure Italian brand that only delivers on the 12th of every month. Joking, of course. But sometimes shopping niche fragrance houses can feel a bit intimidating. Luckily, I live in Brooklyn and there seems to be a healthy market for fancy perfume starting with the beautiful fragrance experience provided at Twisted Lily. Dedicated to housing the most creative, innovative, and luxurious perfumes on the market, Twisted Lily is a must for perfume lovers in the New York area and is a great place to sample scents and learn about note compositions. I left the store with a small bag of samples that, to my surprise, I all enjoyed in small and curious ways.
Slumberhouse, a perfume line created by Josh Lobb, uses obscure and unusual notes to blend complex compositions that are equally elegant and rebellious. Kiste ($160), a delicious, boozy peach gourmand blends tobacco, tonka bean, honey, and patchouli for a mouthwatering sweet fragrance with a dark, mysterious edge. In the family of unusual compositions.
Kiste: Sweet. Sweet. Sweet. Think of peaches soaking in whiskey in Alabama heat. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
A Lab on Fire's Paris*L.A. ($125.00) is a perfume inspired by America's favorite beverage—a cold glass of coca-cola—paired with the Parisian macaron cookie. I never thought I would want to smell like a tall glass of coke, but this perfume is decadent.The lime opening is fresh and sticky but is not sickening or cloying; these notes eventually dry down to the creamy, rich center of the macaron, a sugary vanilla that has spicy hints of coriander and ginger—one of my favorite notes in perfume.
A Lab on Fire Paris*L.A.: It's a cold can of coke, a splash of lime, and beautiful, crisp ginger. The dry down is a macaron cookie with a vanilla cream center. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Another stunning gourmand is Nobile 1942's La Danza delle Libellule ($125.00) which is Italian for "the dance of the dragonflies." This composition is gorgeous. On the days I wore my sample, I received multiple compliments from strangers. Its opening is made up of juicy bergamot (another favorite note of mine) and red apple; its middle notes are composed of cedar and cinnamon; its exceptional ending is a feminine musk sweetened up with coconut and vanilla. This perfume is the quintessential summer gourmand. It's decadent, feminine, and sure to give you a few admirers.
Nobile 1942's La Danza delle Libellule: So beautiful. So delicious. So delightfully girly. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Growing bored of sweet gourmands and florals, I tried a sample of L'Artisan Parfumeur's Dzing ($130.00), a perfume inspired by the circus. Yep, you heard right… the circus. This is probably one of the most challenging and oddly addictive scents to ever grace my nose. The opening notes smell exactly like walking into a stable or a circus ring with multiple elephants. It strangely smells of a leather horse saddle, elephant dung, caramel, vanilla, musk, and candied apple—and it's magnificent. This is a composition with a strong leather opening (courtesy of saffron and white woods accords) and its middle notes melt into a dreamy caramel apple. It's delicious and oddly fascinating for being so. I will say if you're not a leather fan, you'll probably find this composition to be disgusting. It's for a particular nose—that's for sure—but it's one of the most fascinating, challenging scents I've ever worn and I love it.
L'Artisan Parfmeur's Dzing: Wow. Truly unlike anything I've ever smelled. This is a truly unique composition and certainly one that's adult and playful. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Oils are more concentrated than EDPs (Eau de Parfums) and tend to be more expensive, but a little goes a long way. Oils interact with the chemistry and warmth of your skin, allowing the olfactory notes to fully form during the initial opening and dry down. I had the pleasure of testing out a very expensive and lauded oil called Musc ($200.00) by the highly respected Italian house Bruno Acampora. This is one of the most beautiful musk perfumes I've ever tried. It's dirty, spicy, and sweet all at once. At first, I couldn't put my finger on why this scent was so beautiful to me until I realized it was a sweetened patchouli with a clove-bomb packed in the center. In a single description, Musc is the smell of fresh, sweet dirt spiced up with cloves and patchouli. The earth/mushroom notes in the opening fade away within a few minutes revealing a soft patchouli that's refined by rose, violet, and clove accords. The scent is both feminine and soft, bold and mysterious—it's a perfect musk that makes you want to roll around in your sheets.
Bruno Acampora's Musc: Divine, feminine, sexy, and warm this scent is everything I'd want in a patchouli scent. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Jalaine, another expensive perfume house, offers a high-end selection of perfume oils that are highly concentrated and blended using high-grade ingredients. Silk ($150.00), composed to smell exactly like a cloud, is rich and warm, airy and cool. I know, that makes no sense. It has a marine accord that slightly smells like salty ocean water, and this is paired with a gorgeous white amber that's deeply rich and spicy. It's one of those scents that makes your nose feel like it's bouncing back and forth from each note—in a good way. But when you really sit with this perfume, it warms up to the skin and creates this buttery vanilla. The marine notes fade into the background and it actually smells like you're sitting on a cloud. It's a beautiful scent, but more of a luxury fragrance for special occasions.
Jalaine's Silk: Smells like your floating on a cool cloud in the sky. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I mean, what more do you need to smell good? Maybe this summer you'll discover you're more of a gourmand girl or an animalic musk lover. It doesn't hurt to try some new scents, so get to sniffing. This week's pick was very hard to choose, but I am ultimately picking La Danza delle Libellule as my favorite of all the samples. Until next time, I smell really good.