Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Miles on Vials

Anyone who’s been a fragrance enthusiast for a while has one. It may be a bucket or a cigar box or a plastic bag. I know it’s there somewhere, lurking, like those jeans in the way-back back of the closet (you know the ones). Like the photo album with all those pictures of you when you were fourteen and in full 80’s gear. Like those, er, Polaroids in the shoe box.
Swap etiquette is a curious thing. Because it often takes place between women who don’t know each other, there are certain unwritten rules. (It has occurred to me that these same unwritten rules, and there are many of them, are precisely what drives the opposite sex to distraction, but maybe that’s another topic.)
Anyway, one of the rules is that you always include langiappe, pronounced “lawn-yawp,” which is a Louisiana term for “a little something extra.” To not do so could be seen as crude, gross, selfish, greedy or all these. So one generally throws that little something extra into the package, typically something you tried and didn’t much like. Often it’s the langiappe you got from somebody else. 
Some of these vials have more miles on them than George Clooney’s itinerant hatchet-man character in “Up in the Air.”  I’ve gotten swap vials with glass worn so thin that they break when dropped. Some have seen the world; some have seen it more than once. Some have labels so stained and blurred that I can’t tell what’s in them. Some, however, are treasures; perfumes from the truly generous, or, occasionally, the newbie passing along a sample with has no idea what she has.
So let’s take a random sampling from my (plastic, Zip-Loc, quart-sized) swaps bag and see what’s in there.
Chanel Chance. Cute little roll-on bottle with a pink lid. About half a ml of cloudy juice that smells the same to me as every other mass-market “frag.” What is that stuff they put in there? And cloudy juice in a roll-on = somebody else’s shed skin cells, yuck. This one goes in the trash.
Annick Goutal Sables. Of maple-syrup fame. Not bad if you love immortelle, but I’d rather not smell like the short stack at IHOP.
Bulgari Omnia Crystalline. One of the endless Omnia flankers, not bad particularly, but there’s no reason to wear it.
Patou Adieu Sagasse EDT. What is this doing in the swaps bag? I’m keeping this one. Based on carnation but soft, not sharp. Maybe one of the 90’s reissues?
Outrageous! One of the (few) missteps from Frederick Malle. A focused, cynical attempt to lure the kiddies, apparently, with notes of Caipirinha -- which is a fire-water sugar-based sneaks-up-on-ya liquor I’ve been known to imbibe at Brazilian steakhouses -- clean laundry (white musk), etc. In general, any fragrance with an exclamation mark in the name should be avoided.
Comptoir Sud Pacifique Le Rose Santal -- about 1 ml in one of those vials that looks like it’s seen the world. Neither rose nor santal, just something (very) vaguely floral.
Parfums DelRae Amoureuse -- Partially peeled-off label; long dark hair (not mine) stuck to it. Lots of people love this. I’m just not much of a lily fan.
Donna Karan Gold -- A nifty manufacturer’s spray vial with about 1 ml in it. Another lily fragrance, though. Oh well.
Bond No. 9 Saks Fifth Avenue for Her -- A good sized manufacturer’s vial with about 1 ml of the nastiest, waxiest, room-clearingest TUBEROSE! I’ve yet experienced.
Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy -- Somewhere in the world there is a tank farm containing what is apparently the fragrance base for every aimed-at-the-young elixir on the market. This smells a lot like “Chance” which smells a lot like “Beyonce Heat” which smells a lot like...well, every other bolted-to-the-shelf tester bottle I saw at Target last week. 
Rochas Tocade -  About half a mil in a 3 ml sprayer. Hey, I like Tocade a lot, especially in winter, especially for sleeping. But, dear anonymous swapper, spring for some 1 ml vials, willya? To put a few drops of fragrance in a big container makes you look stingy.
Perry Ellis 360 White EDT -- Smells something like a men’s fragrance -- I swear there’s some dihydromercanol in there. “White” must be label-speak for “white musk.” Generic “designer” stuff, meh.
I haven’t been swapping much lately, and none at all with strangers, so I haven’t looked in my swaps bag for quite some time. I was surprised at its contents. Not all of it was Viva La Juicy -- there’s some pretty good stuff in there. Buried treasure, one might say. 
So...what’s in yours?

Photo by Pat Borow.


Jen said...

I love this post as it sounds all too familiar. However, someone just sent me as an extra a still carded Dolce & Gabbana Sicily sample that I have been wanting to try. It's very rare that something shows up on my "to try" list as an extra. I was quite pleased.

Elisa said...

Heh, I like Saks Fifth Ave. for Her, lilies, AND several fragrances with exclamation points in the name! For me, "Clean" and "Fresh" are the words to avoid.

I just got a sample of Bulgari Omnia Crystalline recently, and fear it has the dreaded Diet Sprite accord.

Vanessa said...

Love the title of this post! And just as Up in the Air is a film very close to my heart, you've touched a nerve with me here... For I am much exercised by my experiences on MUA, and recently rehomed a lot of my unwanted samples to a women's refuge - not the most hellish ones from my bag of hell, but more the middle of the road, designer ones. Don't want to cause these poor women any more distress - or, God forbid, put them off perfume for ever.

In my bag of hell lurk things like FCUK perfume, the entire Joop! line(!), some very obscure (and to my nose, peculiar) scents like Demeter New Zealand or Index Pomegranate Anise by Fresh, and a "faux-Ajne" that could be anything, but Lakshmi it surely ain't!

Olfacta said...

Hi Jen -- I have gotten some really nice langiappe in MUA swaps, like Parfum Sacre, which many MUA'ers seem to own. I should've mentioned that I guess. And then there are those other ones.

Olfacta said...

Hi Elisa -- I don't know what it is with me and lilies. I think it may have something to do with Easter dinner -- my mom was partial to them and they can have a cloying odor which doesn't mix too well with ham -- maybe because it's similar? "Clean" and "Fresh" are dead giveaways to the presence of some lime-y aromachemical, imho.

Olfacta said...

Hi Vanessa -- I know! We all get those samples that no one has ever heard of or ever will again. I haven't had the pleasure of smelling pomegranate anise and hope I never will!

Rappleyea said...

Well I'm certainly late to this party, in fact the janitor is sweeping the floor and everyone has left! But I'm catching up and I loved the post.

I've been very lucky in my langiappe. Swappers have been extremely generous and thoughtful, and one, beloved by all as the Empress of Enabling, delights in sending me something wonderful enough that I'm forced to own some!

This reminds me that I'm woefully behind in testing... need to dig into that sample basket!
P. S. I have to admit to being relieved that nothing from my last package to you made this list!

Darryl said...

I know I should keep my sample vials around for "reference", but I'm not a hoarder by nature and hate clutter, so I chuck the ones I don't use. My fragrance drawer (ahem) is currently populated with a bunch of Tauer, CdG and Le Labo samples from a recent LuckyScent spree, and the miasma of incense/wood/patchouli/swamp-water/crypt-dust that meets my nostrils every time the drawer is opened is truly something to behold. My favorites are both LL's: Vetiver 46 and Patchouli 24. Their vials are rapidly dwindling and I'm starting to panic.

Also, a nitpick, because I have no life: Caipirinha is actually a cocktail made from cachaca, the fire-water liquor you referred to. Substitute rum for the cachaca and you'd have a daiquiri. The more you know...

Alice said...

I just found your blog (and I've bookmarked it)! I love this post--so true, so often the lagniappe is sad, road weary perfume...However, in my very first swap, one FB for another FB, my swap partner sent close to 80 samples which included almost every 'vanilla' perfume known to man as langiappe. (She knew I was brand new to the 'wonderful world of perfume' and she had asked what note/s I liked. I answered 'vanilla'.) Some of the vials included a few precious drops, others were full 2.5 ml sprays! There are many lovely, generous people involved in our 'hobby'; I met one of the loveliest in my very first swap!!

Rich Hendrix said...

The heart sinks with jasmine and Grasse and dry down with May rose. An exceptional taste only for those who can afford it, it became a parody and a light of hope to the difficult times of the World War and the crashing economy.

Joy perfume