My “go-to” perfume counters are…

When people I meet discover that I write a perfume blog often their next question is… “What’s a really good perfume?  I’ve never been able to find anything that I like.”  Years ago I would name the usual suspects… No. 5, Shalimar, Givenchy III.  Beginner’s mistake!  Later, I would ask a few probing questions… “Well… do you like florals?  Lemony scents?  Woods?”… but this confused the issue even more because most novices don’t know what they like.  And if they know what they like… they don’t need my advice.

So… I’ve recently changed my tactic.  Now I send them to 3 perfume counters… Guerlain or Chanel, and if money is an issue, Estée Lauder.  If they are really interested, I leave them with one parting thought… Chanel’s eaux de toilette are usually better than their eaux de parfum.  The opposite is true for Guerlain.

The wisdom of my new strategy was confirmed recently while reading Dane’s enlightened and brilliant list of masterpieces on his sadly now defunct peredepierre blog.  Just glancing the post, one sees that Guerlain and Chanel are over-represented and the truth is… Dane is so right.  So why bother even trying to correctly pronounce Serge Lutens or risk being attacked by the J’Adore perfume sniper.  Go to the Guerlain and Chanel counters and test.  Buy nothing at the first visit (a lesson which I fail at from time to time).  If you’re an “off-road” kind of person, by all means venture out to the other counters but if you are just starting and don’t want to make a mistake… Guerlain, Chanel and Estée Lauder are your best bets.

And if you can’t find anything there, I suggest you take up piano lessons instead.

Leave a comment


  1. FiveoaksBouque

     /  August 1, 2011

    Normand, love the piano-lesson picture. That seems like very sound advice. Among those three brands there is a world of good choice. With a knowledgeable salesperson thrown into the mix, the neophyte is bound to come away happy!

    • Thanks for the comment! If you can’t find something at one of these, it’s because you don’t like perfume… period!

  2. annemariec

     /  August 2, 2011

    Lovely post, and great advice, and thanks for the link to Dane’s masterpieces.

    It’s a pity that you can’t recommend the Dior counter, but I agree with your assessment. As for Givenchy, Lanvin, Ricci, Caron, Patou … no.

    The issue at the EL counter is the bewildering number of flankers. All those breezes and blooms and whatevers. Easy for a novice to get lost. Over at Chanel, they are pretty careful with their flankers.

    • You know… that’s a very good comment about Estée Lauder. I see them now in front of me… all the different colours of the rainbow. But EL’s pricing is pretty good… and even though their drydowns are a little disappointing, when they’re “on”, they’re pretty good.

      What worries me about Dior is their lack of cohesion and consistency… but there are some VERY beautiful things in there. I love Poison but I’m not crazy about its several flankers. As for men, I still wear Eau Sauvage on a regular basis. It’s still one of the best masculines around… after all these years. And, then you’ve got Fahrenheit, which I think is horrible.

      • Anonymous

         /  August 2, 2011

        I agree about Dior and consistency. You’ve got Eau Noire, which is fascinating, and you’ve got the latest Miss Dior Cherie. Not fascinating.

      • Perfect example! Thanks!


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