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.
Photo by Pat Borow.