Elizabeth and James Nirvana Bourbon and Rose

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Time of death: September 9, 2015. “The celebrity party is over,” WWD pronounced, citing the $100 million drop in celebrity fragrance sales between 2011 and 2015. It’s time for the afterparty, a more exclusive gathering of celebrities who made smarter decisions about their fragrance lines. At the top of the guest list are the Olsen twins, those plucky slow lorises behind Elizabeth and James.

Downright uncanny.

Nirvana Bourbon and Rose are the latest in a long line of shrewd choices over at Elizabeth and James. Rather than flooding the market with flankers after the huge success of the original Nirvana fragrances, the Olsens took a respectable three years to develop the next pair. The happy result: two solid-quality fragrances that actually surpass the originals.

Nirvana Bourbon is the clear breakout star of the duo. It’s a sheer, woody vanilla, closely related to niche vanillas like Arquiste The Architects Club and Le Labo Vanille 44. This is very good stuff, especially for the price ($25 rollerballs are yet another smart Olsen decision). Nirvana Rose is an elegantly musty rose; think warmer and less fresh than Stella McCartney Stella. I prefer Nirvana Bourbon for myself, but I respect the creative risk behind Nirvana Rose. Young American customers tend to be suspicious of rose notes, and while Nirvana Rose certainly isn’t heavy, it’s not a light, fresh rose, either.

That’s the secret to the Nirvana fragrances’ success, I think. They’re not lowest common denominator scents. They respect our intelligence. The nosedive in celebrity perfume sales is a lesson to brands who insult the customer’s intelligence by slapping a celebrity’s name on increasingly awful juice. You can’t get away with that anymore. Party on, Olsens!

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. I tested Nirvana Bourbon and Rose at my local Sephora.

The D.C. Perfume Tour

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Come for the pandas, stay for the perfume!

D.C. has been unprecedentedly fashionable lately (thank you, FLOTUS!), but the Nation’s Capital still isn’t exactly a world leader in perfume shopping. But as this perfectly respectable, approaching-double-digits list of D.C. fragrance destinations hopefully demonstrates, we’re starting to catch up!

Le Labo

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D.C. actually got a double dose of Le Labo last year: a free-standing boutique in the Shaw, and the first Nordstrom Le Labo counter in the country at Nordstrom Tysons Corner. I’d opt for the boutique, which carries a wider range of products (15 ml sizes, concrete candles). Still waiting on the D.C. City Exclusive, guys!

CityCenter DC

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Shoulders straight. Pinkies up. We’re headed to D.C.’s fanciest new neighborhood, dahling. Don’t get distracted by Momofuku; we’re here for the trinity of luxury boutiques (and their boutique-exclusive perfumes!) This is the only Hermes boutique for several states, i.e. the only place to experience the wonderful boutique-exclusive Hermessence range. There’s also a Dior boutique, confirmed to carry La Collection Privee, and a Jo Malone boutique, currently the only outlet for Jo Malone Rare Teas collection.

Arielle Shoshana

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With everything from niche classics (Tauer Perfumes, L’Artisan Parfumeur) to the cutting edge (Neela Vermeire, Parfumerie Generale), D.C.’s first niche fragrance boutique boasts the D.C. area’s largest selection of both niche scents and cat-themed coffee table books.

Santa Maria Novella

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Wasn’t it thoughtful of Santa Maria Novella, Florence’s oldest perfumery, to save us money on airfare by bringing Florence to us? Rose-scented dog deodorant is just one of the charming curiosities waiting inside this tiny treasure chest of a boutique. And while you’re in the area, don’t miss the particularly impressive Saks Fifth Avenue (FULL Guerlain line, Chanel Les Exclusifs) a block away.

Tysons Galleria

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The Galleria just hasn’t been the same since florist/fragrance shop Art with Flowers, may its memory be a blessing, closed a few years ago. But between a formidable Neiman Marcus (Byredo, Roja Dove, Boadicea the Victorious), a well-stocked Saks (By Kilian, Bond No. 9), and a Chanel Boutique (Les Exclusifs!), Tysons Galleria still packs quite a punch in the perfume department.

Parfum de France

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Parfum de France operates on a unique, intriguing business model. It carries both select niche lines (Amouage, Clive Christian) and vintage mainstream scents (often long discontinued). I was once lucky enough to find a bottle of Guerlain Meteorites here.

bluemercury (multiple locations)

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Let’s show some hometown pride for Bethesda-based bluemercury! It’s been a few years since bluemercury carried brands like Serge Lutens and L’Artisan, but you can still find Creed, Diptyque, and Acqua di Parma alongside upscale hair, skin, and makeup products.

Did I miss any hidden gems? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links.

Not Even For Free

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I LOVE this story, you guys. So every day we put a “scent of the day” outside the shop. Last Wednesday, that scent was CB I Hate Perfume Burning Leaves. Towards the end of the day, two mischievous teenagers stopped in front of the scent of the day.

“Let’s just take it,” one of them giggled. “I’m gonna take it,” the other whispered back. (Note to mischievous teens: our shop has unusually good sound acoustics.)

Eventually, it occurred to our daring duo that they might want to actually try the fragrance they were about to run off with.

“Ugh!” Blonde Teen screeched. “I don’t want that! Who would want that?”

Our discerning critics immediately took off, leaving poor, rejected Burning Leaves safe and sound.

That exciting caper got me thinking: are there any fragrances you wouldn’t wear even if someone handed you a free bottle? My personal “not even if you paid me” would probably be Gorilla Perfumes Lust. There’s nothing objectively wrong with Lust, but that heady jasmine is completely overwhelming to me.

Bath and Beyond

As a kid, bathtime was storytime. Every bath was another episode in the rich inner lives of my Barbies, starring Little Mermaid Barbie, Spice Girls Barbies, and Headless Ken. (Well, Technically Headless Ken. I still had his head. I just couldn’t get it back on his body. Not sure if that’s better or worse.) I still take a bath almost every day after work, but Ken and his Barbie harem have since been replaced by a horrifying number of bath products. (Scented, of course!) My all-time favorites:

Lush Ickle Baby Bot

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The cheapest Lush bath bomb, and therefore my constant companion in college. It’s not as strongly scented as many of Lush’s other bath bombs, but it does turn the water a very calming shade of blue.

Philosophy Senorita Margarita

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I’ve been using Senorita Margarita since long before the legal drinking age; my first bottle was actually a bat mitzvah gift! A winning combination of sour and salty, this is for pre-big-night-out baths.

Bath & Body Works White Tea & Ginger Bubble Bath

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Gone, but not forgotten! An excellent, high-bubble formulation in one of the best Bath & Body Works scents. I’m sure the other scents are nice too, but I’ll keep hoarding this one as long as I can.

What’s in your bathtub these days? Any favorite bath products that we need to try?

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. All products featured in this post were purchased by myself, much to my wallet’s dismay. 

Chanel Boy

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Gabrielle Chanel considered Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel as more than her soul mate; he was her double and her alter-ego. Inspired by their love, BOY CHANEL is a vibrant, perfectly balanced scent that challenges tradition and transcends gender.
chanel.com

Dear Parfums Chanel,

Hi guys! Me again!

Boy is very good. In general, Chanel fragrances are very good. I will continue to buy them, because that money goes right to the Wertheimer family. But I beg you to stop this romanticized, obsessive fetishization of your literal Nazi founder. Your continued insistence on waxing poetic about Gabrielle “Documented Nazi Spy” Chanel and the minutiae of her not-nearly-miserable-enough life makes me so, so twitchy.

Boy is the latest in a long line of fragrances paying swooning tribute to Chanel’s “soul mates”, her “confidantes”, her favorite color, even her goddamn home decor. THE WELL IS DRY, CHANEL. IT WASN’T EVEN A GOOD WELL TO BEGIN WITH. You cannot make me care about Coco, Chanel. You cannot make me care about her lacquered screens or her “soul mates” or her goddamn prom date. I promise that there is more exciting perfume name source material than the woman who reported directly to motherfucking Heinrich Himmler¹.

If you’re having trouble thinking of names that aren’t inspired by the petty, small woman who took advantage of Nazi laws forbidding Jewish ownership of property to petition for the seizure of Parfums Chanel from its legal Jewish owners², may I offer a suggestion? Your current head designer, Karl Lagerfeld, is the owner of the cutest cat in the world. Choupette Lagerfeld is a veritable fount of potential perfume names! How about Francoise or Marjorie, Choupette’s full-time maids? What about all of the models who’ve had photoshoots with Choupette? Gisele! Kendall! Laetitia! Linda! Name one after her favorite iPad app!

Choupette must love Pokemon Go so hard.
Choupette must love Pokemon Go so hard.

And then you put Choupette in the ads, okay? It’ll go more viral than Brad Pitt, promise.

Cats in perfume ads. Inevitable.
Cats in perfume ads. Inevitable.

Don’t worry about my consulting fee; not having to write one of these posts every time you release a fragrance dedicated to good old Gabby is payment enough.

I know it might feel a little silly at first to name your products after a cat, but I promise that it’s no sillier than naming them after the woman who paid for the medical, living, and funeral expenses of Walter Schellenberg, head of SS Foreign Intelligence, until his death in 1952³. (SEVEN YEARS AFTER WORLD WAR II, for all you “she did what she had to do to survive the war” apologist schmucks.)

Good talk, guys! Can’t wait for Eau de Choupette!

P.S. Boy is an intriguing, multifaceted lavender softened by heliotrope. It is both more interesting and less masculine than the “aromatic fougere” it is being advertised as. Nice job, Olivier Polge. (In all seriousness, Olivier, Eau de Choupette is one of my all-time best ideas. Get on this.)

¹ Vaughan, Hal. Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011: p. xix (Prologue).
² Mazzeo, Tilar J. The Secret of Chanel No. 5. HarperCollins, 2010: p. 150.
³ Vaughan, Hal. Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011: p. 205-207.

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored (could you tell?) and does not contain affiliate links. I sampled Boy at my local Chanel boutique.