Saturday, February 13, 2010

SOTD: Serge Lutens Un Lys, and samples, and glamor

Today was one of those days when I looked at the perfume ranks, picked one up, and put it on, with no debating or fussing at all. Intense, flowery, grainy Un Lys was perfect.

When I put it on, I was reminded of Debby H's comment about the aesthetics of samples.

I agree that the usual sampling experience is highly unsatisfactory. Wearing a drop or two of something magnificent is lovely. Prying a plastic cap off a recalcitrant vial and then arguing with the vial until it deposits the right amount on the right spot - or until it doesn't, and you've accidentally perfumed your necklace, watchband, or floor - is not. There's no ceremony. No glamor. Perfume, I think, should have glamor.

So what's this got to do with Un Lys? Well, the lack of glamor particularly bothered me with Un Lys. It's rich and feminine and carefully crafted, and even a drop can fill the space around me. So each drop seemed to deserve respect.

So  I gave my Un Lys sample a more appropriate home, decanting it into a pretty little half-ounce dabber bottle. It does seem to make all the difference. Instead of arguing with an ill-mannered vial, I can gently tip the bottle to wet the stopper (OK, I have to turn it upside down; it's a small sample), and ceremonially dab the perfume on my pulse points.

Photograph of several small apothecary bottles.
I enjoy that. I bought the first of these bottles ("apothecary bottles" from Accessories for Fragrances) for a perfume oil, because oil particularly needs a controlled-dab approach. But I liked the bottle so much that I bought another ten or so, plus a supply of tiny disposable funnels to fill them without disaster. The empty nine (or so) bottles lurk with my perfume collection, waiting for more very special samples or decants.

Of course, only samples or decants that I already love get this special housing - the first sniff remains unglamorous. If I have high expectations for a sample, I may decant the vial into a cheap sprayer. I suppose that I could try to add a bit more ceremony to this - no glamor to speak of, but a sort of mad scientist lab-bench puttering as systematically transform my vial samples into neatly labelled inexpensive glass sprayers arrayed in rows in, well, some container.

None of this fundamentally transforms the sampling experience - and it does make it more expensive - but it's a start.

Photo of Sarah Bernhardt: Wikimedia Commons.
Photo of bottles: Mine.


  1. I am completely with you on the wish to add glamour to samples, and agree on the lesser pleasure of wrestling with stoppers prior to dabbing - or stabbing sometimes, if the dipper is especially sharp.

    I have decanted OUT of blue apothecary screw top bottles into a variety of spray vials and pretty glass atomisers - but had I had these attractive blob-topped apothecary containers of yours instead, I would have left the scents where they were!

  2. The little blobs make me think of the Tenniel illustrations for Through The Looking Glass - like the bottles are a crowd of little pawns. I suppose that that's more nostalgic than glamorous, but that'll do nicely for me.

  3. Teeny tiny bottles are so unisafactory on so many levels. I could almost say that I like having a great big spray of a cheap (but good) fragrance from a lovely big bottle way more than trying almost anything from a 1ml tester with no spray. There have been a few exceptions to this rule (La Chasse aux Papillons proved to me that you can fall in love with something when you've only got 1ml to make a decision).

    Don't get me wrong, I'm over the moon to be able to buy decants at $3 a time. It makes sampling and reviewing so much easier. But I think I'm going to be investing in some of the alternative bottles that you've got to make the whole thing a lot more manageable.

  4. SignatureScent, speaking of spraying reminds me that I don't yet have a fully satisfactory _spray_ bottle for adding glamor to samples - or, really, decants, because a 1ml sample in even a half-ounce spray bottle would probably be too little to even climb all the way up the spray tube.

    Those dabbers are perfect for the flower bombs and other heavier/stronger scents, but if I were to buy a decant of something really light like Sublime Balkiss, I'd need a lovely atomizer. I haven't found one that's sufficiently lovely _and_ sufficiently inexpensive to keep a stock of five or ten around.

    (I do have the bitty glass atomizers, and those are Perfectly Fine, but they're just tidy, not glamorous.)