Chanel No. 5 L’Eau

For ten glorious minutes, No. 5 L’Eau is exactly as promised: No. 5 with an Instagram filter. Brightened, a little desaturated. A sheer, slender No. 5, brimming with the signature sparkling aldehydes, paler than its predecessors. For those first ten minutes, I found L’Eau undeniably lovely, and would have happily recommended it to anyone who prefers No. 5’s effervescent top notes to the golden warmth of its drydown. But the family resemblance quickly fades, and L’Eau softens into a wisp of a white floral with a cloud of that white musk Chanel is so damn fond of lately.

No. 5 L’Eau is unambitiously pretty. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want in a perfume. But it’s not what I want from a No. 5. The original No. 5 revolutionized the definitions of femininity in perfumery, liberating women from floral fragrances. Taming that rebel yell into L’Eau’s tasteful whisper doesn’t sit quite right with me. I don’t like seeing L’Eau’s wonderfully distinctive opening smoothed into unremarkable pleasantness, especially in light of Chanel’s declaration that “No. 5 L’Eau is the No. 5 of today.” Because this demurely bland little fragrance is not the No. 5 we need today. We need the trailblazing No. 5, the No. 5 that put some steel in your spine. Now more than ever.

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. My No. 5 L’Eau sample was acquired at 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.

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.
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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. 

Crying Over Spilled Perfume

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Last night, I ripped open the package of Catherine Deneuve pure parfum I’d bought for this week’s celebrity perfumes workshop. You probably know where this is going from the post title. Despite the Fort Knox’s worth of bubble wrap, the bottle was completely empty. Every last drop of this priceless (well, $29.67 for 1/16th ounce, but who’s counting?) perfume had leaked.

It’s not my first brush with perfume tragedy- there’s the bottle of (vintage!) Chanel No. 5 parfum that spilled in my purse, or the J. Crew rollerball that was already half-evaporated when I opened it- but this one definitely hits the hardest. There’s always more No. 5, but Deneuve was discontinued years ago, so it feels like I’ve lost a little piece of perfume history. At least the box still smells amazing.

What’s your greatest perfume tragedy? Leaks, shattered glass, discontinuations- spill the juice! (METAPHORICALLY, PLEASE.)

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. I purchased all products featured in this post (sob). 

The Scents of Self Guide to Barcelona’s Museu del Perfum

Don’t let that 2.5 Trip Advisor rating scare you away. Ignore the review calling the Museu del Perfum “one room you could walk around in 1 minute.” That lowly one room contains one of the most unbelievable perfume collections on earth, a spectacular 4,000 bottles ranging from ancient Egypt to modern day.

The museum starts off old-school: Roman clay urns from 500 B.C., gorgeous 18th century Italian glasswork, and even two bottles owned by Marie Antoinette. I somehow have only one picture from this section. Bad blogger!

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She’s totally judging my blogging. Major side-eye.

About halfway through the collection, the fragrances are categorized by national origin. It’s nice to know that Israel and Palestine peacefully coexist, at least behind a glass case in Barcelona.

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We’ve finally reached my favorite part! The end of the museum is a dazzling parade of long-lost, legendary fragrances from the last century.

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They had all the big names, but even more thrilling were the unknowns. Chanel Ivoire, Guerlain Fol Arôme, Meteor de Coty;  mysterious bottles that I had never heard of before despite their big brand names. Lost fragrances that no longer exist outside of the museum’s display cases. All you can do is stare at them through the glass and try to imagine what they would have been like.

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No museum is complete without a gift shop, and Regia Perfumería has one of the best selections of niche and high-end fragrances outside of France. If you can tear yourself away (I couldn’t without a bottle of the deliciously warm Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur), the magnificently whimsical Casa Battló is just a few Gaudí-designed tiles further down the street.

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A few more spectacular bottles that didn’t fit into any particular category:

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The original Amouage packaging!
The original Amouage packaging!
I really need more perfume bottles to be in the shape of bears.
I really need more perfume bottles to be in the shape of a bear.

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Disclaimers: This post does not contain affiliate links. Please note that the museum goes by both Museu del Perfum (Catalan) and Museo del Parfum (Castillian Spanish). All museum captions are in Catalan, which my high school Spanish was totally unprepared for.