Fusspot seeks fragrance recommendations
June 16, 2017 9:03 AM   Subscribe

I want to smell nice, but I'm having a ridiculously hard time finding a fragrance that smells awesome, isn't horribly expensive, and doesn't give me a headache. I have a long and fussy list of requirements.

I have a sensitive nose and a lot of perfumes smell sharp or too strong. Maybe I'd be better with a solid perfume or lotion rather than a spray? I'm looking for something under $100, that only people close to me can smell, and that is somewhat sophisticated, so no strawberry or cookie scents.

I hate: almost all florals*, especially "white floral," carnations, peonies, orange blossom etc. I can't stand tea, cucumber, melon, sharp citrus, grass, or clove notes, either.

*Sometimes I am ok with florals if they are very soft and not the dominant note. I really like powdery, old-fashioned smells.

Am "meh" about: vanilla, sandalwood, musk, and patchouli.

I like: berry, pepper, peach, rum/booze, coconut, mint, anise notes.

I love: ginger, honey, sesame, almond.

I am allergic to: orris root, iris, geraniums, lilies, violets and violet leaf.

I have a budget of $100 and under.
posted by Stonkle to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Have you checked out Demter's fragrance library? You can build your own scent by layering a few of the single note colognes or investigate some of their unusual blends. They are pretty great about being straightforward about their ingredients and I'm sure would be happy to get very detailed about them if you contacted them with questions. They also have a solid return policy. When I've gotten samples they are nicely presented and quite sizable for the price. Just quickly searching they have honey, beeswax, ginger, almond and various berry scents that have positive reviews.
posted by Mizu at 9:18 AM on June 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

I use Pacifica solid perfume, which as an extra bonus is fairly widely available, at least in my area (it's sold at Whole Foods, for example, with samples of all). I use the Mediterranean Fig because to my nose it's the most complex and least "sweet" of their scents, but the Indian Coconut Nectar might be up your alley. Anyway, I definitely like the diffuse level of scent I get with the solid perfume.
posted by theweasel at 9:32 AM on June 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Have a look at Jo Malone scents

They're colognes (rather than perfumes) so they're very light.

Blackberry and Bay or Nutmeg and Ginger might suit.
posted by Dwardles at 10:03 AM on June 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Poivre Piquant by L'Artisan Parfumeur is supposed to smell like pepper, licorice, milk and honey. I have a sample of it somewhere but it was very unmemorable to me despite a terrific description (but I have trouble with L'AP in general.) It has a lot of notes you like, so worth a try.

Try a sample of Luctor et Amergo for your almond needs. I have read descriptions of it that reference vanilla, incense, and even white florals, but I think they are making that up so don't rule it out if you see that. If you dislike it, it will be for other reasons (people who don't like it tend to say it smells like play-dough, which is not inaccurate but also isn't necessarily bad.) I can't really wear it but it is interesting, unusual, and almondy, and almond is so hard to come by in perfume it drives me crazy. (The other almondy fragrance I am aware of is Serge Lutens' Rahat Loukhoum, but I think you would find it much much too sweet. it is also more cherry than almond.)

Poivre Piquant is within your budget; Luctor et Amergo is not, but if you liked it you could buy a few sample vials and make them last for a long long time.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:05 AM on June 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think you might enjoy perfume oils - they're stronger in the sense of being more concentrated than alcohol based perfume, but it's easy to apply tiny dabs for a much lighter application. They are inexpensive and last a long time. You really only need the smallest drops.

Here are some by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. I have tried all three and love the first two; absinthe is a little too true-to-life for me.

Obatala: sweet, fresh coconut

Bengal: honey, ginger and spices. It has a tiny bit of clove but it's blended enough that it's not a dominant note.

Absinthe: what it says on the tin. Anise and booze with a little mint.
posted by prewar lemonade at 10:11 AM on June 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

Have a look at Lush perfumes . I use The Smell of Weather Turning, and the name is a pretty accurate description. It smells of oak and peppermint, but warm, like it's been raining and the sun just came out.

If that one isn't to your taste, they have a good selection and very clear ingredients lists.
posted by teaspoon at 10:12 AM on June 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I hate florals too. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab can be kind of overwhelming but through trial and error I discovered I like amber. My all time favorite is Aglaea, which has peach, too! I'm wearing it right now. You can also search by ingredient and order a bunch of tiny samples ("imps").
posted by astrid at 10:15 AM on June 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

You like powdery, old fashioned? You owe yourself a whiff of Lorenzo Villoresi's Teint de Neige. And I agree 100% about People of the Labyrinth Luctor et Emergo! Amazing cherry-almond-hay. Both are spendy, but easy to get decants and samples from Surrender to Chance.
posted by apparently at 10:17 AM on June 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Maybe see if you like a sample of Juliette Has a Gun? It's musk but super mild and subtle - more like the suggestion of perfume than actual perfume. I usually don't like musk, but I do like this one.

You might also check out Le Labo. They'll custom make perfumes in store, but I didn't see any mention of it on their website.
posted by snaw at 10:23 AM on June 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has a vast selection. Their messageboard also has a review section.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:29 AM on June 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

My go-to for the past few years is Ed Hardy's Skulls and Roses. It's described as "a blend of citrus, strawberry, peach, musk, and caramel." Don't let the citrus scare you--it is NOT sharp; I actually like citrus scents but can't really find them in this blend, which I consider a "warm" fragrance. (But not too warm--I usually don't like musk, but this one is light enough to work for me.) The strawberry and peach are the clearest notes to my nose.

(Buyer beware: this fragrance is available in male and female versions, and the male version is sharp and awful. Get the silver box/white skull, NOT the black.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:29 AM on June 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

At fragrantica you can search perfumes by note and the perfume reviews include votes from users about discernable notes, sillage and longevity as well as (often very long) user descriptions.
posted by windykites at 11:06 AM on June 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I like getting fragrance samples before/instead of committing to full bottles. Surrender to Chance sells sample-size decants of just about every perfume in existence; I also like Luckyscent for their smaller but interesting collection. Luckyscent also sells a "fragrance fitting" sample pack where you can tell them everything you've said here and they'll pick a few samples that fit your needs.

One specific fragrance that I keep coming back to over the years, and that I think you might like, is Outremer Cola. It's much more sophisticated than you'd think a cola fragrance would be; it's a really light, almost ginger-aley scent that has good longevity but stays close to the skin. And it's cheap!
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:33 AM on June 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

Nthing Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and you can search by note on their site. There are lots of similar sellers of perfume oils on Etsy, too - I'm a fan of Alkemia. Douceur de Vivre sounds like it might suit you, and you can order samples too.
posted by cardinalandcrow at 11:35 AM on June 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

This might sound odd because it does have a tea note, but I don't think it's very noticeable: NEST Indigo. It definitely strikes me as berry/pepper/boozy in a way. Bonus, you can get a travel rollerball size for not a big commitment.

Another idea is to try L'Occitane almond body products. While they don't have a perfume, if you use the shower oil and the body lotion or body oil layered, you will definitely find it has a lasting gorgeous scent. It is one of my favorites.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:45 AM on June 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Seconded on NEST, my favorite is Midnight Fleur but I love all the scents I've tried. Most of them are a combination of woodsy/fresh to me instead of straight floral, which I hate. Sephora has tiny rollerballs to give them a good go.

I like Elizabeth and James Nirvana Bourbon for a nice booze scent.
posted by impishoptimist at 2:07 PM on June 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Pinrose has some unique scents, and you can buy a sample pack of single-use scent-soaked cottons (they call petals) to try them out.
I suspect you'll like Gilded Fox, it's one of my favorites, layered with Secret Genius.
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:40 PM on June 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're near a Sephora, you can get free samples of several fragrances to see if they work for you. You might like Derek Lam's 2am Kiss, which is a grown-up smelling amber-based scent.
posted by spindrifter at 3:57 PM on June 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

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