Friday, February 3, 2017

Try This: Niche Pocket-and-Purse Sprays Under $30

My apologies for the late post; I've been whammied by a sinus infection this past week, so I've spent most of my time blowing my nose and falling asleep to Golden Girls re-runs. Pro tip for those who find themselves similarly congested: I rub Bag Balm around my nostrils and above my lip about a dozen times a day to prevent cracking and bleeding. Yes, it's for cows. Yes, it works.

Now that we're past that, let me tell you that one of the things I hate most about congestion is that it renders fragrances useless. I love fragrance, you guys. I'm one of those weirdos who gets super-excited to pick out her perfume every morning. I thumb through my full bottles, splits, samples, and decants and take my time finding the scent that best suits my outfit and mood. For me, it's the final step in getting ready for work or a night on the town, just as important as a swath of highlighter or the perfect shirt.

That said, fragrance is an expensive indulgence. It's one of the reasons why I have so many splits and decants: $150+ a bottle makes me cringe. But there are absolutely affordable options on the market, even if you're in to the more expensive real of niche perfumery. Here are a few of my favorites.

Dame Perfumery: Dark Horse, $10 for 5ml

 Let me just say that I think the entire Dame Artist Collection is 100% worth it. Black Flower Mexican Vanilla turns weirdly rubbery on me, alas, but it smells amazing on everybody else; it's the ideal grown-up vanilla. Desert Rose is simple but beautiful, a stately rose smell that's simultaneously fresh, flowery, and light. But for me, the real winner from the collection is Dark Horse. This is a Pennsylvania autumn day in a bottle: it opens slightly sweet, yet never cloying. I'm reminded of taking hikes in our local parks with my partner, the air crisp and filled with the sound of dry leaves and branches cracking. It develops in to a slightly spicy guaiac-and-vetiver shroud throughout the day. While it maintains a light quality a la most summer scents, I'd definitely say this is an ideal cold-weather fragrance, and it's delightfully unisex. As a side note, their customer service can't be beat: my original 5ml of Desert Rose arrived with a goofy nozzle, and they immediately sent me a new bottle, no charge, no return.

SIZES: $85 for 100ml, $35 for 10ml, $10 for 5ml
NOTES: bergamot, lemon, cinnamon, jasmine, carnation, rose, clove, guaiac wood, vetiver, vanilla, musk
PURCHASE AT: Dame Perfumery

 Etat Libre d'Orange: Remarkable People, $12 for 4.7ml

Alright, truth time: I'm not that wild about most of the Etat Libre d'Orange line. It's not that their fragrances are bad, per se. I just think that they come up with these risque names and intricate backstories, and then the actual perfumes are...rather run-of-the-mill. The same could be said for Remarkable People, which has hardly any staying power and a note list that looks rather benign. So why do I love it? Those top notes, guys, those top notes! Remarkable People opens with a tangy-yet-effervescent mix of champagne and grapefruit that just brightens my day and makes me, of all people, actually enjoy a citrus smell. The pop of cardamom adds a hint of smoothness. The top notes barely last an hour before fading in to a slightly sweet, relatively generic mixture of sandalwood and jasmine, but because this is a low sillage fragrance, you can keep layering it on. I keep this in my work bag because it's so happy and inoffensive.

SIZES: $149 for 100ml, $90 for 47ml, $52 for 30ml, $12 for 4.7ml
NOTES: grapefruit, champagne accord, cardamom, jasmine, curry je, black pepper, labdanum, sandalwood, lorenox

Juliette Has A Gun: Lady Vengeance, $28 for 7.4ml

This option definitely has the most luxe packaging on the list: the bottle is heavy glass rather than plastic, the spray is very fine, and it arrives with plush padding in a matte box. Of course, you pay for this fancy presentation, but I think Lady Vengeance is worth it. Despite the wicked name and the scary-for-some notes list, I (as a wearer of many heavy, thick fragrances) find Lady Vengeance very wearable. The rose is a partially powdery, partially sweet, and the vanilla keeps the patchouli from being too dark or sweaty-smelling. It's a crowd pleaser, too; my mom normally only likes perfumes that smell soapy and "clean," but she really loves this one on me. Overall, I think this is a textured rose fragrance that works in a variety of situations: one spray for work, two sprays for a date.

SIZES: $135 for 100ml, $100 for 50ml, $28 for 7.4ml
NOTES: bulgarian rose, patchouli, lavender, vanilla

PK Perfumes: Gold Leather, $20 for 5ml

I've tried almost every fragrance from Paul Kiler's eponymous brand, but Gold Leather remains my favorite. Despite the absolute laundry list of notes, I find that this is, at its heart, a pure leather fragrance. By that, I mean this smells like actual leather--it's probably the most realistic leather smell I've ever owned, and I've owned quite a few. This opens sunny and sweet, with a mixture of freshly squeezed citrus (the satsuma is especially prominent) and some clean white florals. After a few hours, the scent becomes a bit richer, with notes like amber and tobacco taking over. And always, there's that leather in the background: a freshly-treated but not overtly chemical sort of leather scent, a smell that actually reminds me of opening up a new pair of boots or putting on your favorite jacket. There are a number of lovely fragrances from this line, and almost all of them are available as 5ml purse sprays for $15 to $20, but Gold Leather is one of the few that tempts me to buy a full bottle.

SIZES: $165 for 60ml, $110 for 30ml, $75 for 15ml, $20 for 5ml
NOTES: gardenia, tuberose, ylang ylang, helichrysum, honeysuckle, lily, jasmine, cananga, genet, satsuma guava, red mandarin, bergamot, smoke tree, amberwood, tobacco, clary sage, patchouli, oakmoss, leathers, benzoin, tonka, styrax, fossilized amber, musks, civet


  1. I love Lady Vengeance! Despite the fact that I enjoy fruity/citrus fragrances, and usually anything heavy on vanilla or patchouli will send me running. Somehow it just works!

    1. And see, I'm the opposite: fruits and citrus don't usually wow me, and I get in to a lot of thicker, richer fragrances.

    2. man, now i really want to try it!

  2. Lady Vengeance is a good intro for those looking to dry the dark rose side of the perfumery coin. My favorite ELDO is Fat Electrician. LOVE IT!

    1. Man, I didn't like Fat Electrician. I thought it was kind of a boring vetiver fragrance. :( Cute bottle, though.