A rose by any other name
November 10, 2011 2:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a new everyday perfume. Help me narrow the field of choices so I don't go noseblind in Macy's cosmetics department from sniffing everything I see.

I've worn Clinique Happy for years. I like it, but I'm in the mood for something...warmer. Spicier. Muskier. A teensy bit more mature. Citrusy notes are OK.

I'm not into anything super-floral, sweet, or powdery.

I'd like something more complex than an essential oil (also, I work in a fairly professional office, so I have to be careful not to smell too much like an import store or a bakery).

Expensive-ish is OK. Not looking for drugstore scents or Bath and Bodyworks-type scents. (I'd consider brands like Aveda and Origins, though.)

What would you recommend?
posted by elizeh to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (34 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I wear Curious by Britney Spears why yes I am embarssed to admit this and I think you might like it, based on what you're looking for. It's descirbed as "An exhilarating white floral accented with Louisiana Magnolia and wrapped in the sensuality of vanilla-infused musk." It's a nice cold-weather scent.
posted by jabes at 2:48 PM on November 10, 2011

two of my favorites are coco mademoiselle and estee lauder sensuous nude.
posted by mooselini at 2:49 PM on November 10, 2011

Another vote of Chanel's 'Coco Mademoiselle' OR maybe even Chanel 'Chance'. When I am not wearing that I like Stella Macartney's 'Stella'
posted by latch24 at 2:51 PM on November 10, 2011

I love Eau Flirt by Harvey Prince. It's not overly sweet or floral. I also recently got a sample of Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine, which is really nice. Very orangey overtones, but again, not sickly sweet. It's expensive, though.
posted by k8lin at 2:53 PM on November 10, 2011

Origins Ginger Essence. They have made it more citrus-y than it used to be.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:56 PM on November 10, 2011

I think you might like Bulgari's Eau Parfumee au The Vert -- kind of citrusy with a little mysterious smokiness underneath, but nothing too "much," and very elegant. Here's another review of it.

Give Balenciaga Paris a try, as well.
posted by argonauta at 2:57 PM on November 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Allure by Chanel or Miss Dior are my two favourite grown-up perfumes for daytime wear.
posted by essexjan at 3:06 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chanel no.19 is very nice, if you like vetiver and cypress. My go-to fave is Estee Lauder Sensuous.
posted by wowbobwow at 3:06 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

My lovely lady wears Coco Mademoiselle, too, and she smells so good I want to bark.

I have also liked Givenchy's Amarige, which is less "common"--I also think it smells more mature (for better or for worse).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:07 PM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

A couple of thoughts:

My favorite spicy perfume is a classic: L'Air du Temps, which is also quite affordable.

You may also want to check out Bond No. 9's Chinatown eau du parfum. It is not floral or sweet despite the ingredient list . . .

On the super expensive but awesomely wonderful front, you could take a look at the Amouage perfumes. They are incredible.
posted by bearwife at 3:16 PM on November 10, 2011

Oh, one more that fits your bill (and I wil second that many men, like Admiral Haddock, flip over the warm smell of Amarige) --

Paloma Picasso
. Really a great perfume, and definitely grown up.
posted by bearwife at 3:20 PM on November 10, 2011

Lolita Limpicka! I love this perfume. On me, it's subtly spicy and a little woodsy. The official description says it's floral, but it doesn't smell floral to me at all. Granted, this depends on how it smells on *you*. You can get sample sizes on Amazon.
posted by katillathehun at 3:24 PM on November 10, 2011

As one of my two main perfumes, I wear Il Bacio by Borghese : "plums, peaches, and pears, with mid and low notes of musk, amber and cedarwood"

You might want to also check out Lucky Scent - they have samples available for many of their offerings, and I've found some great stuff there.
posted by HopperFan at 3:36 PM on November 10, 2011

There's a process for doing this that worked well for me the three times I was able to go scent-shopping like a boss:
> take a friend, if you can!
> don't wear anything scented.
> wear short sleeves.
> make sure your nose is clear.
> most places with a large selection of scents have coffee to sniff between testings, but you could bring some coffee (dry beans, ground, or a cup of black drip (as long as you set it down in safe places and remember to toss it when you're done)) if they don't.
> bring a few moist towelettes/baby wipes (or go to a counter with remover and tissues - Sephora is ideal for this process).
> cruise the shelves with your list of likelies in hand and lightly sniff the atomiser, which should eliminate a few right off. check out any that caught your eye during the tour the same way.
> get enough sticks/strips for the remaining scents and make a sample for each scent. some counters will let you queue these up in an out of the way spot, some won't. you might want to do three at a time and just hold the samples between your fingers (don't let them touch) as you check out other things. give the samples a good whiff at first spray and again after 5min or so. eliminate any that don't smell good to you after settling. repeat until you've tested all the scents you were interested in.
> ideally, you're now down to just a few. spritz a very small amount from fairly close to your skin. you can do this down the inside of your arm, on the back of your hand, and in the crook of your elbow for best scent effect. rule out any that smell badly on your skin at first spray and wipe those off. let the rest settle for at least 15min (so your skin can warm and release most of the notes; I went window-shopping for a while).

That should give you a small number to choose from. Of course, you could also ask for take-away samples at the appropriate counters and do the heavy picking at home over a number of days, too. I just wanted it over with. I was taught this process by a very good friend who never wasted her money on scents she later came to regret and always smelled absolutely appropriate and fabulous.

My favourites, which may or may not fit your criteria (but could give you a more precise gauge), are:
Ghost Deep Night
Amor Amor
Lolita Lempicka (I believe this will be too sweet for you)
Bulgari Omnia (I think too heavy for you...I ultimately tired of it)
Very Irresistible by Givenchy
Dolce & Gabbana pour femme
posted by batmonkey at 3:38 PM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I know you said nothing too floral, but I recommend Issey Miyake's L'Eau d'Issey Eau de Parfum. It has floral notes but comes across as fresh and mature. My mom also swears by Child.
posted by infinityjinx at 4:00 PM on November 10, 2011

If you haven't, you should familiarize yourself with the fragrance wheel. Perfumes are broadly classified into four categories: floral, fresh, oriental and woody, and from there break down into more detailed categories, often with some overlap. When I decided to invest in a really good perfume, I spent some time at a perfumerie (Sephora is a great place to "try on" scents) familiarizing myself with the different types.

I tend not to take perfume recommendations at face value--not because I don't believe that one person loves a scent, but because a person's pheromones blend so uniquely with fragrances that what smells good on someone else (or even in a bottle or spray stick) may smell unpleasant on your own skin. That's why people will tell you to try on a scent and walk around for a bit. Let the strong initial astringent smell mellow out a little and you will get a good idea of how the fragrance mixes on you. I was disappointed to learn some perfumes I had my eye on (whether it be from the label/designer/bottle or aroma) that seemed great on a stick just made me wrinkle my nose when it had been on my wrist for a few minutes.

Sephora usually has a panel inset in its fragrance wall that consists of a bunch of little shelves of individual bottles separated by their distinction in the wheel. Double check with someone working there that they aren't mixed around (which can easily occur), and that way you can see which specific group you prefer. The little scent stick holders usually have a pen to write down the fragrance's name before you spray to keep track of them all, and don't forget to separate them so they don't all become one mass scent. I came into the store armed with a couple of scents I was interested in and found a few more that I didn't hate, and working with the very helpful employee there, was able to narrow down my choices to about four or five bottles. From there she made me little sample bottles for each one, labeled them and sent me home.

I spent a week or two trying out the fragrances until I had a clear winner. Some scents I liked at first but found that as the night wore on, I didn't love the notes they mellowed into. Others were great at first but quickly faded, which would have meant reapplying. If you're looking for a "signature" scent, this is not something I'd rush. Good luck! I hope you find something you love! (For the record, I ended up buying Tom Ford's Black Orchid, an exciting woody oriental blend that starts out musky and matures into an almost vanilla scent. Mademoiselle came a close second but felt more like a sweet wedding-guest perfume, and I would use it for special occasions.)
posted by therewolf at 4:20 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

p.s. Sephora's Fragrance Finder is a good resource when you have a bottle or category to start with and want more suggestions in that vein.
posted by therewolf at 4:21 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are describing Prada's Amber.

(the new Prada scent is awful, btw.)

Nthing Chanel Mademoiselle, but it might be too flowery for you?

Chanel 19 - if you are lucky enough that this smells good on you - YES.

Chanel Allure? Sure! Try it!

But yeah, I'm pretty sure you are describing Amber.
posted by jbenben at 4:35 PM on November 10, 2011

+1 again for coco mademoiselle. It's a great perfume!

I'm also not very in floral scents at all. In college I really liked on of The Body Shop's Of a Man fragrance which was light & kind of spicy. I've tried Black Orchid & it was interesting but ended up smelling to me like burnt vanilla in the end & was a little too heavy.

My favorite these days is Tocca Catania. Wear it constantly, wore it for my wedding, LOVE the fantastic scent. Smells like peppery jasmine (although that does sound odd) and reminds me slightly of almonds.
posted by lyra4 at 4:46 PM on November 10, 2011

Ms. Steady has taken to wearing Reb'l Fleur, and I really really like it. It is very warm and spicy, musky without being skunky, flowery without being floral and vanilla-y without smelling like cookies. She is constantly getting asked about it whenever she wears it.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:03 PM on November 10, 2011

I can't remember which one it is, but there are two Jardin de... perfumes (actually eau de toilette) by Hermès which I really like.

Un Jardin Sur le Nil
Un Jardin en Méditerranée

I think it was the latter...really nice, delicate, fresh, not "girly" or sweet.
posted by ArgyleGargoyle at 5:49 PM on November 10, 2011

So I had this problem recently, too, and instead of just picking a new perfume based on store visits, I bought a previous version of this fragrance sampler from Sephora. It includes a bunch of sample sizes and a voucher for a full size fragrance of the one that you like. The kit I bought had 12 samples in it, I think, and out of that I really liked half of them and am currently having a hard time deciding between three (although I think I've picked the one I like best - Gucci Flora, which based on your description you might really like). Also, the samples have lasted for about a week each, so it's been nice to try them all on for a few days each, get the opinion of my husband and some of the women I work with, and get a sense of how long a scent will last (some I could still smell at the end of the day, others disappeared pretty quickly).
posted by echo0720 at 5:50 PM on November 10, 2011

I think Armani Code (women) sounds a lot like what you're describing. Definitely (to me) warm and musky and a touch of spicy as well. It's what I'm wearing right now and I really like it.

Here's the smell description from the website:

Armani Code for Women begins with top notes of Orange Flower, Ginger, Jasmine, and Seringa Flower, followed by rich base notes of Lavender Honey, Sandalwood, and Vanilla.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:53 PM on November 10, 2011

This sounds like exactly what you are looking for. It was discontinued for a while, but it has been re-released. My favorite perfume of all time. I do not care for florals either.

Givenchy Organza Indecence

A distinctly rich and sensual oriental fragrance, Organza Indecence fuses the warmth of cinnamon, fresh spices and vanilla with the exotic aromas of jacaranda wood, patchouli, amber and musk.
posted by JujuB at 6:01 PM on November 10, 2011

I wear Happy quite a lot too, and my other two most worn favourites are Clarins Eau Dynamisante (very herbal, faintly citrusy, very clean and fresh without smelling like a greengrocers) and Kenzo D'ete (a white floral, but not overly flowery). Kenzo does another flowery one, called Flower, that I also have, which is a little spicier. I go to The Perfumed Court for samples and decants, I am very firmly forbidding myself to go there right now and spend the children's Christmas present money. You can search there by notes and types, it's a lot of fun.
posted by thylacinthine at 6:10 PM on November 10, 2011

The fragrance reviews at Now Smell This have never lead me wrong, and have introduced me to a lot of unusual/niche perfumes.
posted by apparently at 6:32 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I highly suggest Penhaligon's Malabah.
posted by oflinkey at 7:55 PM on November 10, 2011

Armani Code for Women. I found it by saying -- spicy, musky, citrusy, not floral -- to the gal at the Macy's fragrance wall. They know their stuff.
posted by freshwater at 8:06 PM on November 10, 2011

To riff off of ArgyleGargoyle's suggestions, you might like Hermes' Eau d'Orange Verte, which I sometimes wear layered over Un Jardin en Méditerranée all-over fragrance (not the EDT; you don't want to kill people dead with scent). If you want to splurge, picking out four fragrances for a coffret of Hermessence scents is a lovely experience.

They can be pricey as well, but I also wear red flower and Malin +Goetz fragrances.
posted by evoque at 8:27 PM on November 10, 2011

Based on your descriptions, I'd check out Fresh's line (I like citroen and violet) or Shiseido (I like Zen). Neither has overly floral or sweet stuff, and these are the workhorses in my perfume drawer.
posted by *s at 7:35 AM on November 11, 2011

I wear Dolce & Gabbana's Light Blue at work, have received a few compliments. It's pretty easy to come by at Macy's.

A few years ago I got a bottle of Ungaro's Apparition at Marshalls for $30 on a whim; it quickly became a favorite of mine. Raspberry liqueur + patchouli.

I like the more green than floral Bulgari Omnia Green Jade but a lot of people don't... I also have found that the scent doesn't last very long.

There's always Angel, which people love or hate. I love it; to me, it is not girly at all. You can get it at CVS these days, and a very little goes a long way.

Nthing recommendations for Hermes fragrances but they are pricey.

Try Sephora - you can sample at will.
posted by Currer Belfry at 7:48 AM on November 11, 2011

I personally looooovee Eau de Issey and D&G Light Blue which were mentioned above, but they might be too young/fresh for you if you're trying to move away from Happy-land. Then again, you might want to try Eau de Issey because I've never met anyone who didn't like it. Seriously.
posted by radioamy at 8:17 AM on November 11, 2011

Come to think of it, the perfume I usually wear might fit the bill - Emporio Armani Diamonds. It was actually a gift from my fiance's mother but it is a good balance of fresh/mature.
posted by radioamy at 8:17 AM on November 11, 2011

I have narrowed it down to Prada Amber, Chanel Mademoiselle, and Miss Dior. Thanks everyone!
posted by elizeh at 12:51 PM on November 13, 2011

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