Subjectively Bad Perfumes

There are objectively bad perfumes. Oh yes there are, and no amount of Luca Turin’s impassioned defenses of Etat Libre d’Orange Secretions Magnifique can convince me otherwise. TokyoMilk Honey & The Moon is not an objectively bad perfume. In fact, Honey & The Moon is relatively popular among fumies, and has an almost unprecedented number of 5-star ratings on Makeup Alley. But it is unquestionably the worst perfume that I have ever smelled. Worse than that horrible Rihanna perfume. Worse than vintage perfumes that had obviously gone off decades ago. WORSE THAN AQUOLINA PINK SUGAR. You guys, I cannot even believe that I just typed those words.

I knew my experience with Honey & The Moon would be rather different from that of other fumies from the moment that I sprayed it on. The honey note was intensely, painfully sugary (and regular readers will recall that I wear some pretty damn sweet perfumes on the regular). But nothing could have prepared me for the monstrous transformation that Honey & the Moon underwent about five minutes in. This perfume became absolutely rancid. I don’t even know how to describe it to you, except to say that it smelled like something was rotting. I remember that Luca Turin’s review of Serge Lutens Miel de Bois explained that certain honey notes are often perceived as urinous by some people, so I suppose that’s what happened here, although I’ve never had that reaction to other perfumes with prominent honey notes.

So what are your subjectively bad perfumes? We’re not talking about the perfumes that pretty much everybody agrees are terrible. We’re not talking about widely beloved perfumes that you think are overhyped and just okay, either. We’re talking about widely beloved perfumes that smell straight-up horrible to you. Perfumes that you truly cannot imagine anyone actually enjoying. Have at it in the comments, y’all!

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33 thoughts on “Subjectively Bad Perfumes

  1. DRAKKAR NOIR. Never shall I understand what makes this hellish swill so popular. It’s like a haymaker to the face, and I suspect that those who wear it WANT to leave that impression with us.

    RE: Tokyo Milk: I agree– when Margot Elena goes for sweet, it’s overpowering.

    1. Have you smelled the original Drakkar Noir, Meg? I totally agree that it’s horrid now, but I figured that its popularity must be because it used to be nice and had been reformulated. Can’t believe it was always this bad!

      1. Drakkar Noir came out in 1982, and the halls of my high school reeked of it when when I entered as a freshman in fall of 1983… so yes, I am pretty certain that I have always, always, absolutely flat-out loathed the stuff. If it has been been reformulated so that it is actually worse than it was in 1983, GOD HELP US ALL.

        1. It is DEFINITELY WORSE now. But I admit that I really, really, really liked DN back in the day. (OMG, I’m only a year older than Meg.)

  2. I am almost afraid to post this, but… By Kilian Back to Black. I know everyone loves this scent. I do too, for about the first 3 to 5 minutes. When I first tried it, my daughter was home on break. We were sitting next to each other on the sofa and sprayed it on simultaneously. Our initial reaction was “Mmm, this is wonderful, lovely, delicious.” Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Spicy and tobacco. Yum. Then just as quickly, it went rancid, sour and awful. Our reactions went from Mmm to urg! Yuk! Yew! Scrub it off! Had to scrub it off in the laundry room with Boraxo to get it off. My favorite SA at Saks said maybe it was the tobacco note that turned and to try it in the solid which was more stable. So I tried the solid one day while shopping. Uh, nope! Had to run to the ladies room and scrub the solid off too. Maybe it’s the tobacco, maybe it’s the honey, but this fragrance just doesn’t work for me.

    1. NO FEAR, Tatiana! What a shame about Back to Black. I love it, just like everyone else, and am sorry that it doesn’t work for you! Have you ever tried Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille? It’s so delicious, and quite a bit less, errr, dramatic than Back to Black. Perhaps it would go easier on you?

      1. Actually, TF Tobacco Vanille is one of my “go to” sweater weather fragrances. Absolutely love it! I guess that’s why I don’t feel it’s such a huge loss that Back to Black doesn’t work for me. So maybe it’s the honey, because the tobacco in TFTV works really well for me.

  3. A couple of years ago I tried one of those early Tokyo Milk scents on skin in an Anthropologie. It smelled OK at first, but within 15 minutes I was gagging. It smelled overwhelming like cheap hot cocoa, but worse, and it was everywhere, and would NOT scrub off. I swear I could smell it for three days, after several showers. Like I would put new perfume on that arm, and it would smell awful, though the same perfume smelled fine on the other arm. Tokyo Milk ruined my arm! Now I’m kind of afraid to try anything else from that line, though I think the candles smell nice.

    Anyway: one perfume I really despise and will never wear again is Balenciaga Rumba.

    1. TOKYOMILK RUINED THIS WOMAN’S ARM!!! I wonder which perfume that was??? Thankfully, I don’t think I’ve ever tried it on myself, whatever it is.

      This comment just makes me wish that the Anthropologie owner/founder wasn’t such a conservative shmuck, because Anthropologie really does have a very forward-thinking selection of perfumes.

      Never tried the Rumba, but wasn’t that one of JCE’s louder perfumes?? Maybe strong Ellena scents really don’t work for you!

      1. Rumba is downright Carnival in Rio, up-all-night, boob-shimmying loud. I adore the hot-dust note in the base, but LORD there’s a lot to work through before you get there.

  4. Ari I’ve never tried a Tokyo Milk fragrance but I’ve visited the website and Honey and the Moon was one I was considering. Now I don’t think so. Have you tried any other Tokyo Milk?

    1. DO NOT ORDER HONEY & THE MOON UNSNIFFED, even for those low TokyoMilk prices!! I like a lot of other TokyoMilk scents, and own two- Gin & Rosewater and Bittersweet. I think that it’s a great line overall, so don’t you dare let this one review discourage you!!

  5. I abhor perfumes that smell like dirty barnyard animals. Two that i recall wanting to cut my hand off just to get away from the smell, are L’Artisan Dzing! and Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan.

    1. Yeek! I suspect I’d be much less fond of Dzing! if I smelled dirty barnyard animals in it. Luckily, all I get out of it is cardboard and leather! I’ve been hearing lots of people say that much of the skank has been reformulated out of MKK recently- can anyone confirm if it might be safer for Rictor now?

  6. A memorable scrubber was Lush Breath of God, that wasn’t wholly unexpected since I knew it was a odd scent but I really had to rush to the nearest ladies room to scrub it off.
    The most recent scrubber was Love, Chloe. I know many like it but to me it smells sour and absolutely vile!

    1. I suspect that LOTS of perfumistas experienced a great deal of disappointment at the Lush store following that five-star review for Breath of God in The Guide! Breath of God doesn’t move me much in either direction, but I absolutely loathe Lush Lust.

  7. The first time I tried Angel, shortly after its release (escape?), I did not realize just what a monster scent it was and oversprayed–this is in the heart of a humid summer in Jacksonville, FL, no less! Fortunately the ladies’ room was well-stocked with industrial-grade liquid soap, so I saved myself and many others whose paths I crossed that day. I can now wear Angel (after MANY years’ wait), but I know “just a little dab’ll do ya” like Brylcreem.

    CAN NOT wear Fracas, no matter how tiny a drop I apply. Smells wonderful on my SIL, though.

    1. Lord have mercy, Angel in the Florida summer!!! I’m cowering just thinking about it. I got a free Fracas rollerball at Sniffapalooza and am struggling to make it work for me, too. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled a perfume with such an insistent attitude!

  8. Clinique Happy. This allegedly most beloved of perfumes — seriously, I can’t get over have many great reviews this thing gets — smells like an unwashed locker room trying to be covered up w/ too much deodorant spray. My younger sister used to wear it when I was a teenager. People are always touting as as being ‘fresh’ & ‘youthful’ or something, but to me it smells horrid. I am not alone. My dad loathes it. Granted, he pretends to dislike perfume in general but that’s a lie. I was doused in Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta yesterday and both he and my mum told me I smelled really nice.

  9. Both vintage and modern Diorella. Plastic doll’s head and rubbish bin overdue for collection.

    Another SuperScrubber that I have hated since it first came out – Chanel Chance.

  10. Oh, great question, Ari. My subjectively bad picks include Apres L’Ondee (dodges tomatoes), Arpege (hides), and Carillon Pour Un Ange. Yikes. I feel sick just typing those.

  11. Eau d’Hermes.

    Some days it smells REALLY, REALLY bad (some days it smells fantastic, so go figure). It’s great if you layer the teeniest dab with something else and can give a ‘simple’ perfume great complexity. By if you spray a big spray of it, by itself, holy macarel. That thing can be scary bad. It’s just so much *sweat*. (then again, I have an older bottle, so it’s probably more tame now)

  12. ANGEL. Also Noir Epices and Le Maroc pour Elle were seriously nasty on me. I think there might be a patchouli thread running through there…

  13. I hate Angel. And Chance (how in the WORLD anybody wears that, I do not know). And DelRae Bois de Paradis – though I think that’s a skin chem issue, because it truly smells like turpentine and blueberry pancakes with maple syrup on me. Heeeeeedious. And POTL Luctor et Emergo, straight-up Play-Doh, GAH.

  14. Byredo M/Mink – the Godzilla of laundry musks. It’s like sticking your head into a box of Tide and taking a BIG snort.

  15. Louve by Serge Lutens turned out to be my nemesis. Totally unexpectedly turned all syrupy sweet Cherry Coke on me. Ugh. Had me running for the soap and then some.

  16. Delurking 🙂 So, at 39, as a distraction from the political pain I was feeling this February, I started exploring the wilds of the perfume counter, seeking a more adult alternative to the aquatic florals I’d been wearing since college (ah, the 90s). One of the first ones I tried was Tresor. I forced my self NOT to scrub it off since I wanted to see what it would be like as it dried down, but I swear it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It smelled exactly like the rotting papayas on the long and twisty road to Hana in Hawaii. As it dried down, it developed the same acrid sweetness as the fumes from the oil refinery near my house–the ones that hit you in the back of the throat. It was horrible. I’ve since learned that a number of other people also get rotting fruit from Tresor, but that was a pretty brutal object lesson in body chemistry and perfume. Turin is full of crap with that whole “they smell the same on everyone” bit.

  17. Angel. The thought of it made me shudder just now. Drove home from Dillards with my arm out the window. Once home, I scrubbed with ever-increasing vigor and industrial-strength products (including Lava soap with the grit in it that is sure to remove the first layer of skin–unfortunately, Angel seemed to have penetrated layers and layers deeper than that). I had to change the sheets the next day; wanted to take a chainsaw to my arm the second day. Husband avoided me like I had the flu or wanted the house painted. I won’t even give it the smallest dab now. In fact, if my husband is with me at the mall, he takes my arm and lock-steps me quickly past the Angel counter. He isn’t taking any chances.

  18. Mitsouko (Guerlain) is hideous on me, it smells like rancid castor oil. And I have tried several strengths and even vintage, they all smell vile on my skin. The only one that was worse for me was an Ave Luxe scent, I believe it was called Shisha (or something similar). It seemed like a scent I would love, all the notes were right up my alley, but when I put it on my skin, it actually made me feel very nauseous instantly. Strange but true. I have never had a reaction like that to any other perfume, even ones that many people think smell dreadful.

    Ironically, several of my favorites are mentioned in the comments above. I adore Muscs Koublai Khan (I even bought a bell jar), Miel de Bois (I love the note that others seem to think smells like a latrine), and Bois de Paradis. Different strokes for different folks.

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