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.

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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.

Christian Dior Miss Dior Cherie

In many ways, the evolution of the Dior fragrance line mirrors the evolution of its fashion line. Dior’s glory years were during the 1940’s and 50’s, the years of their ultra-feminine, wasp-waisted New Look. The fragrances that Dior put out during that time period, such as Diorissimo or Miss Dior, were intended for elegant, sophisticated New Look women. These days, elegant, sophisticated women no longer appear to be Dior’s target audience. The classic Dior fragrances have been reformulated to all hell, and in their place we have such monuments as Dior Addict 2 and Dior Addict Shine.

However, there are still a few bright spots in the Dior line. We discussed Hypnotic Poison the other day, and now we turn to what is probably currently Dior’s most successful fragrance, Miss Dior Cherie. As you are probably already aware, Miss Dior Cherie bears no resemblance whatsoever to its predecessor (beyond the very cute bottle). It is not particularly elegant, and it is most certainly not sophisticated. It does, however, smell very, very good.

MDC is a vivacious, whimsical strawberry fragrance, with a touch of what must be the lightest jasmine note in all of perfumery. It smells something like strawberry lip gloss, with all of the delightful middle school associations that entails. Although the official notes list musk and “caramelized popcorn”, you really won’t find much beyond that very sweet strawberry note. Additionally, I want to commend Dior for hiring Sofia Coppola to create the cutest ad campaign of all time. So much more charming than all of those “sexy sex sexity sex” ads out there.

Christian Dior Hypnotic Poison

Was ever a perfume created that was better suited to femme fatales than Hypnotic Poison? There’s the name, of course, and then there’s the apple-shaped bottle in a shade somewhere between dried blood and Chanel Vamp, evoking temptresses from Eve to Snow White’s evil stepmother.

Who I always thought was pretty fabulous, personally. Is that Vamp I spy on those nails?

Finally, we come to the fragrance itself. With vanilla and coconut as its most prominent notes, one could not be blamed for expecting HP to be just another girlish, flirtatious vanilla. Instead, it is that rarest of things: a vanilla for grownups. A fabulous bitter almond note gives HP a seductive edge over its vanillic brethren. The effect is something like seeing a confident, sophisticated woman, perhaps clad in a sharp YSL suit, in a room otherwise populated by sorority sisters.

A friend declared HP “overly mature”. In a world where, at age 23, Heidi Montag felt that she needed ten different surgeries, HP may indeed be a “mature” fragrance. I, for one, am thankful that such fragrances still exist. However, I won’t deny that this is a strong, heady fragrance, and is probably best in smaller doses. I find Hypnotic Poison to be absolutely beautiful, almost poignant in its darkness. It’s the best of the Poison line, for my money.

OH MY GOD YOU WERE SO PRETTY BEFORE WHY WHY WHY WHY

By the way, if you have a different answer to the question posed in the first sentence, please share it in the comments!

Miss Dior Cherie L’Eau

Mother Nature, who apparently feels pretty bad about that whole Snowmaggedon thing, has decided to bless Maryland with absolutely fabulous weather. It’s 70 degrees, the sun is shining, and that most glorious of flowers, the purple crocus, heralds the approach of spring. Finally I have the opportunity to break out Miss Dior Cherie L’Eau, a recent flanker for the uber-popular Miss Dior Cherie. For some of us (me me me me me), the original Miss Dior Cherie was akin to a screaming toddler whose face is covered in ice cream- a gooey, overly sweet mess. These folks will be pleased to know that MDC L’Eau bears absolutely no resemblance to its predecessor (or to Miss Dior, but I was pretty sure that went without saying).

The official list of notes provided by Sephora claims that MDC L’Eau contains strawberry leaves, pink jasmine, caramelized popcorn, strawberry sorbet, and patchouli. This is rather bizarre, considering that MDC L’Eau does not smell like any of these things. MDC L’Eau opens with a citrusy top note and segues into a very delicate gardenia note, which then mingles with a light musk. MDC L’Eau can be thought of as a more feminine take on the traditional cologne. It has a refreshing quality that reminds me of my favorite flavor of gatorade, the light blue Glacier Freeze. There’s something very Easter-y about MDC L’Eau. It’s as if the perfumer created it using pastel colors, as opposed to the neon pink of original MDC.

Now, a word about cost, which is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. MDC L’Eau is available at Sephora in only one size, 3.4 ounces, for $82. Trust me, you’re gonna need that larger size, because MDC L’Eau has no lasting power whatsoever. Earth to Dior: those Marc Jacobs splashes have similarly poor lasting power, but they come in TEN ounce bottles for $68. Because I find the price outrageous, it is unlikely that I would ever purchase this. I will just have to sigh over what a truly pretty fragrance this is.

Disclaimer: I have sampled MDC L’Eau many times at Sephora.