Quarter-Life Crisis

As of July 26, I have officially hit late twenties! (Which makes Scents of Self eight years old, y’all. Scents of Self is A THIRD GRADER. If she’s following in my footsteps, next year she’ll have to switch schools after a few “recess incidents.” Eight year old Ari had not yet quite mastered that most crucial of lessons, “hitting is bad.”) Staring down the harsh reality of never again (or, uh, before) qualifying for “25 under 25” lists, I gave in to my quarter-life equivalent of the mid-life crisis red convertible: a new perfume display shelf! (I had a college roommate whose mom celebrated getting divorced by buying a helicopter. She ended up selling it almost immediately, because “there’s just no place to park a helicopter.” We’ve all been there, girl.)

Shall we stroll down perfume storage memory lane to see just how extensive the upgrade is?
The mini-fridge stage! Pros: protected the perfumes from a newly-adopted Zelda. Cons: it was actually a wine cooler, so the perfumes kept falling through the intended-for-wine-bottles slats.This bookshelf loyally served me from high school all the way through my first post-graduation apartment. That apartment, however, was located in New York, and just a few trips to The Strand quickly exceeded its capacity.A very cute step shelf from Target. Not even close to enough room for the books.

Back to the fridge! Yes, it’s the safest place for a perfume to be (protected from heat and light), but now no one else can see all my beautiful bottles!The most recent storage solution, an eight cube Ikea Kallax. There’s finally enough room for both the perfumes and the books, but it’s not the most elegant piece of furniture.

My previous perfume organizational systems were always pretty much just “prettiest bottles up front,” but I feel like I should be taking advantage of the shelf’s segmentation. Any advice on the best ways to sort a collection?

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The D.C. Perfume Tour

Cherry-Blossoms-

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

le labo

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

citycenter

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

shop

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

santamaria

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

tysons galleria

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

parfumsdefrance

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)

bluemercury

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.

Serge Lutens Rahat Loukoum

Rahat Loukoum: the non-export Serge Lutens that spawned a thousand pilgrimages to Paris. After my very own Paris pilgrimage, I am prepared to offer my (extremely important) thoughts on this cult fragrance. Rahat Loukoum is a very pretty cherry/almond fragrance. It is intensely sweet, but still maintains a delicate touch. I know that “very pretty” is not exactly a ringing endorsement, but I stand by it. Pardon the sacrilege, but while Rahat Loukoum is certainly an attractive fragrance, I honestly do not find it to be enough of an improvement on my $29 bottle of Carol’s Daughter Almond Cookie to justify the $130 price increase. Rahat Loukoum also degenerates into a bit of a sugary mess after a few hours. Again, while this sugary mess still smells good, it’s not the sort of thing for which one pays $160.

Perhaps in a few years, as my nose becomes more sophisticated, I will be able to detect more of Rahat Loukoum’s subtleties. But until then, my recommendation is that you save yourself a $3000 plane ticket and just make a pilgrimage to your local Sephora for some Almond Cookie instead.

Serge Lutens Gris Clair

Oh man, you guys. Some incredibly foolish individual seems to have forgotten to remove her rollerball of Juicy Couture Couture Couture from her coat pocket before putting said coat in the laundry, and now everything smells like that damn stuff. So here is a very quick review of JCCC: Smells like white grape juice! Great when you want to reminisce about last week’s Shabbat dinner with the Greenburgs! Not so awesome in large doses!

Get out of my clooooothes

Onto the main order of the day, SL Gris Clair. I have just recently begun sampling the offerings of the mighty Lutens, but even as a Lutens novice it seems clear to me that Gris Clair is an outlier in Lutens’ usual Oriental aesthetic. Gris Clair smells like sopping wet, incredibly natural lavender. The SL website calls it “lavender dust.” Although I do not smell any dust, I can feel its effects; Gris Clair’s lavender is softer than the average lavender note, which generally reads as masculine. Gris Clair is remarkably pretty, but I doubt that it is unique enough to garner that SL price. Still, I’ve never smelled such a pure and lovely lavender note.

What’s your favorite Lutens, dear readers? Which ones should I try next?

Gris Clair, and other Serge Lutens fragrances, can be found at Aedes de Venustas, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and bluemercury. It can also be purchased on the Serge Lutens website, Beautyhabit, or Luckyscent. Gris Clair is $120 for 50 ml.

Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille

Despite being a master Girl Scout cookie salesman, I was not a particularly successful girl scout. I actually got suspended from my troop for “bullying” the local Boy Scouts (an OUTRAGEOUS FALLACY that I will deny to the death). I do, however, have many positive memories of the Girl Scout days, the most vivid being the s’mores. There’s nothing like 2 graham crackers, some Hershey’s chocolate, and a marshmallow burnt to a charcoal-colored crisp.

Un Bois Vanille was the first Serge Lutens that I was able to enjoy without any effort. With notes of black vanilla absolute, licorice, sandalwood, coconut milk, beeswax, caramelized benzoin, bitter almond, Gaiac wood, and tonka bean (Luckyscent), UBV is nothing short of mouthwatering.

The opening is strange, with an awful lot of licorice. I am growing to tolerate anise in compositions such as Lolita Lempicka and Caron Aimez-Moi, but I’m not sure what it brings to the table here. This stage soon gives way to delicious s’mores goodness, complete with extra-burnt marshmallow and a roaring campfire in the background. The coconut gives it a creaminess, and the woods and almond balance out what could have been potentially overwhelming sweetness.

Luca Turin calls UBV a coffee fragrance, and I suppose the “burnt” vibe could be interpreted as roasted coffee beans, but I just don’t get “coffee” as strongly as I do the s’mores imagery.

UBV is often compared (unfairly, I think) to Pink Sugar. However, Pink Sugar has a prominent raspberry note (which I can’t stand) that is nowhere to be found in UBV. If you like the idea of Pink Sugar but the reality makes you want to cry, do give UBV a try.

Disclaimer: I tried UBV at bluemercury.