The Beauty of Scent, Scrutinized for Pleasure

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

3 Houses To Rule Them All

Recently I asked the question on Twitter: if you could only have access to the releases of three perfume houses for the rest of your life, which would they be? For me, there must be a classic line, a line that inventively uses synthetics, and an all-natural line. The three I have chosen demonstrate each respective arm of perfumery exceptionally well. There are lots of choices to suit every mood within each house, so there's no way I would get bored.

Guerlain is not without its hiccups in perfume history (especially over the past 15 years or so), but overall, it's undeniable that the classics that have come out of this house have been monuments to the raw emotions of life. As time goes on, I fall deeper and deeper in love with Guerlain.

As far as all-natural perfumers go, to my mind, there is no one better than Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes. In fact, Mandy's talent takes her out of the strictly-natural realm and lets her perform in the same arena as the big boys. She continues to ensnare new fans as her exposure grows within the perfume-loving and blogging community, and with a new fragrance launch right around the corner, I do believe that the future is looking (and smelling) awfully rosy for her.

My third and final choice has to be a house on the avant-garde side of perfumery, a house that is very comfortable manipulating synthetics and pushing all kinds of buttons and envelopes. It's got to be Le Labo. Their attitudes and practices confound some, offend others, but I cannot deny that their playfulness and wit carries over to their olfactory design aesthetic, and I love it. Besides, Oud 27 changed my life.

I must know, if you had to choose, which 3 houses would rule your kingdom?


  1. this is difficult - but probably Guerlain, L'Artisan and Miller Harris (basically so I could have L'Air de Rien available to me for the rest of my life) But I would sorely miss Creed's Fleur de Bulgarie and YSP Opium..and...and..! ;)

  2. oh and what about Hermes!?!? Oh yes, this is too hard!

  3. Guerlain, Dior (Just for Miss Dior, and you KNOW I don't mean Miss Dior Cherie) and and and I don't know. Annick Goutal, I think.

  4. L'Artisan, CB I Hate Perfume, Tauer Perfumes.

    Wow that is hard. I feel confident in my choices though.

  5. Having to choose makes me sweat and twitch, but I'll play: Tauer, because Andy can do no wrong; DSH because she's both an original and a classic lover who knows her way around naturals and JAR because he created my Ferme tes Yeux. Honorable mentions go to Anya whose work loves my skin, and anything Maurice Roucel does outside of the mainstream lines.
    Yes, I'm cheating. I just can't do with only three.

  6. Frida: Besides Guerlain, looks like we're on very different wavelengths! It's interesting how SO many people of widely varying tastes seem to love Guerlain. It's very cool.

    Mitzy: Dior's got a couple I'm in love with: Leather Oud and Addict. Very beautiful perfumes.

    Diana: Interesting choice with CBIHP. I still have only tried The Fir Tree, and mean to try several others very soon. I keep putting it off because the samples are expensive (but generously sized).

    Gaia: I almost picked Ormonde Jayne, because they make Woman, which is one of my top 3 faves of all time, but I decided to go with lines that I really loved several fragrances from. In reality, I'd miss OJ Woman so much, I'd probably barf. I like your choices of Tauer and DSH. I could have easily picked Liz Zorn, too, but I decided not to cheat. Not that there's anything wrong with cheating. ;)

  7. Oh my

    Le Labo and Serge.

    Actually, that's all I need. Wow, not as hard as I expected that to be.

  8. Gaia -- And now I have to to change L'Artisan to DSH Perfumes. I think. Yeah. I think so.

  9. I can't say anything about Le Labo, since I've only tried Bergamotto 22 and dislike their whole 'city-exclusive' thing. But geez, this is hard...

    OK, I'd have to say...Serge Lutens, for the breadth of his range.

    Amouage, for perfumed journeys that always evolve and change and shift, and because of their maximalist aesthetic - sometimes, a lot of a good thing or 23 can be...stunning!

    And Aftelier. Mandy Aftel is a breathtaking perfumer. Cepes and Tuberose changed MY life forever!

    Bubbling away right underneath would be...DSH, Andy Tauer and Guerlain. They've all changed my life, too!

    I cheated. I know...;)

  10. It's so interesting that a lot of the same houses keep popping up in people's answers!

    Joey: Good choices, and points for brevity!

    Sheila: I knew we'd have that Aftelier solidarity! I considered Amouaage as well, but since there's only one perfume of theirs that I can't live without, I had to eliminate them. I'll tell you though, I don't like to imagine a world without Opus V! It would be very sad.

  11. Hmm, I almost said, oh, that's an easy one. Now I had to limit myself because it instantly went over 3. :)
    Serge Lutens, Guerlain and I think I'll go with Parfum d'Empire.

    But I had to remove Le Labo and PG, and that was when I gave it 3 seconds thought. :)

  12. I definitely agree on Guerlain, but I couldn't live without Serge either. The last one I couldn't possibly decide on, I'd feel bad for betraying all the ones I didn't mention :-)

  13. I would choose Chanel, Ormonde Jayne and Parfumerie Generale.

    Oh it's so hard to leave out the others. In second place, I also wear a lot of Diptyque, Parfums de Nicolai, and L'Artisan Parfumeur.

  14. I saw this question on Twitter and was really curious to read the answers. There is more range in them than I expected. I am going to cheat and pick four. :) Guerlain and Hermes, because they make some of my top favorites, Frederic Malle because there are many I like a lot and the quality is always there, and Estee Lauder because they make things that are pretty and inexpensive.

  15. Not that difficult for me and I have the bottles to prove it...
    No1 Serge Lutens: I love the mind play with the contradicting and confounding notes, I love the aesthetics. Very versatile on skin, you can just fine tune the sillage with a varied application.
    No2 Parfum d' Empire: some of my favourites are in their lines. Again a nice game with different sources of inspirations and daring choice of notes.
    No3 Heeley: I own none yet but this is their fault because they are so hard to choose from. I thought their Esprit du Tigre would be a joke, smelling like tiger balm, but it isn't! And they have the only herbal mint fragrance, not medicinal, I have ever smelled.
    I would love to squeeze in Montale because in their huge line-up they have some stunning creations.

  16. Tauer, Sonoma Scent Studio and By Kilian! I'd sure miss my Roucels though.

  17. I thought about this the entire day, but my mind refuses to limit myself, whenever I think I have it, there is a but...
    Fully knowing I will change my mind in about seven seconds nere we go:

    1. Amouage
    2. Aftelier
    3. Parfumerie Generale

    Hermes, Chanel, Guerlain, told you, impossible.

  18. Carrie, I visit your lovely blog and you are asking a nightmare question! Argh! The only two I can say for sure are Guerlain because I adore those classics and Chanel because I can't live without the Exclusifs. As for the third I just can't decide. I could be depressingly mainstream all the way and say Dior because of my love for Bois d'Argent but that would be a shame. Maybe Serge because I can't imagine not being able to try what he comes out with next but the same goes for Tauer. Perhaps Parfums d'Empire or Atelier Cologne because they are so wearable. Although I've just got my first 2 Aftelier samples (Candide and Tango)so I might go for that tomorrow. Sorry Carrie, great post but I give up!

    Love the well thought out reasoning behind your choices though.

  19. It's interesting how everyone seems to know their first two choices right away, but it's that third one that's causing all the pain.

    If I could pick a second set of three, they would definitely be Liz Zorn, Amouage and Ormonde Jayne. Choosing 6 seems much less daunting, doesn't it?

  20. It is hard... Let me try:
    1. Ormonde Jayne
    2. Chanel
    3. Amouage


  21. I'd go for Ormonde Jayne, Guerlain and Parfumerie Generale, I think. And if you made me go just for mainstream brands (including only the mainstream ranges of the brands that have exclusive ranges too!), I think I might say Chanel, Kenzo and Bvlgari instead.

  22. Shoot me now!!!
    Carrie putting me on her list and Olafactoria and Tarlesio as well. it doesn't get any better than this. Thank you so!!!!
    Mandy Aftel

  23. You can tell by everyone's answers exactly who gives you original and stunning AND wearable creations time and time again. Amouage is expensive, yes, but their perfumes last all day and are rich and complex. I also love that lots of you are naming independent perfumers like Mandy, Andy and Dawn. The truth is, we cannot live without them. They have changed the game.

  24. Mandy, the door has been opened, we are going to remind you every chance we get how much we appreciate what you do. Quid pro quo!

  25. Fun, fun, fun! I love these masochistic questions, lol ;)

    1. Amouage,
    2. Ormonde Jayne,
    3. Parfumerie Generale

    Yep, I would give up Le Labo, the makers of one of my HG scents (Poivre 23), and I would give up L'Artisan, and Guerlain too. I really think I could content myself with those three lines for a good twenty years... so long as they keep producing new scents!

  26. Gadzooks! I can't answer this question, especially since I have Aftelier samples on the way! Interesting answers. I with kjanicki on Diptyque - I might have to choose them too.

  27. Dee- good choices!

    Joanne: you stinker! Since you didn't answer, I'll answer for you. Estee Lauder, Estee Lauder, and Estee Lauder. :)

    Alright, I'm making an amendment to the original scenario: we do have to choose only three perfume houses, but we can all go over to each other's houses to borrow spritzes and decants. Does that help take the sting out of making this decision? I think so.

  28. 1. Parfumerie Generale
    2. Hermès
    3. L'Artisan

    I'm pretty sure these are the 3 I listed when you asked on Twitter. I would miss my Chanel and Lutens, but these 3 are pretty solid at the top. I haven't sampled any Amouage - I'm afraid I'll fall for them, too!

  29. hmmm.... this is hard because I'm still exploring. I'd have to go with the 3 I'm addicted to the most right now:
    1. Frederic Malle (LOVE Bigarade Concentree)
    2. Atelier Cologne (love everything)
    3. Acqua di Parma (love the Blu Medditeraneo collection)

    Great question!

  30. Miller Harris
    Andy Tauer

    Though I'd be very tempted to say Ava Luxe instead of Guerlain - I have a lot of frags from both houses, though neither of them does a fig that makes me screech with joy. Maybe Hermes because of Un Jardin en Mediteranee and Eau d'Hermes... Hard pick, that last one. First two though - shoo-ins. We're sympatico somehow.

  31. Amouage, Hermes and Etat Libre dOrange

  32. DSH, Liz Zorn, Oups Oils for flexibility, productivity (hehe more releases more perfumes for ME, didnt think of THAT did ya peeps!), and perky, funny perfumers behind the scents.
    I have abt 25 honorable mentions and YOU know I LOOOOOVEEE you Perfumers!!!! XOXOOXOXO

  33. See, many of you have vacillated, but you come out with three good answers at the end!

    Skye, I love your choices. All three gals, I am pretty much obsessed with. :)

  34. I came up with the first two really easily- Serge Lutens and Frederic Malle..
    I was thinking about the third house- My first thought was Montale- for my beloved Black Aoud which usually satisfies me when I want a perfume that is slightly 'difficult'- sort of the olfactory equivalent of a thunderstorm....However, I have been falling in love with Mandy's perfumes with Tango being a great 'thunderstorm' scent when I'm in a particularly difficult mood. It sort of rose up to meet my moodiness. So I might have to also go with Aftelier. I've tested five and I want to own four of pretty high hitrate..:)

  35. Lavanya- I'm tickled that you chose Aftelier for your 3rd and that you and Tango are getting on so well. I'm always so pleased to see Mandy's perfume getting some love!

  36. yeah- today when I suddenly felt scared about running out of Tango and Cepes & Tuberose, I realized I must be in love..:D.
    When I first smelled Tango, I was intrigued but didn't think I'd fall in love but I did.. Today, I literally poured Tango on my skin. I'm surprised at how long Mandy's perfumes last on my skin- and my skin usually eats up perfume. I love Cepes and Tuberose and Shiso..oh and Lumiere is lovely as well- not very 'me' but exquisite..

  37. I haven't tried Lumiere yet, but I think you and I are somewhere near the Scent Twin category, because we love the same ones. I mean to try every single one of the Afteliers, but not everything is going to work for everyone. Like you said, it's sort of shocking for me, too, to realize I have so many loves in just one well-edited perfume range. Have you tried Cacao yet? That was one I didn't expect to fall for so deeply, but it's stunning.

  38. Oh, and Lavanya, get a sample of Haute Claire when you can, you've never smelled anything like it. Seriously. I need a bottle as soon as possible.

  39. Yes- I've noticed we like a lot of similar scents..:). I tried Cacao years ago (sometime in 2007), on a trip to New York and I DID like it! I dislike (or atleast thought I disliked) chocolate notes in perfume but I love the scent of Cocoa absolute so I ended up loving the citrus and cocoa opening of Cacao..Cacao along with Shiso were the stand outs for me at that time. Have you tried any others? Parfum de Maroc is on my to-try list too..(but you don't like rose do you?)

  40. Oh My God- really? I do not need another lemming..*shuts ears, eyes and nose* yes- I read your tweet and it does sound very lovely! too many lemmings!!!! But it does make me very excited- that I still have so many more of Mandy's perfumes to discover.

  41. You're right, I'm not crazy about rose but I love Parfum de Maroc. The rose is not heavy at all. I also love Memento (similar to Tango), Honey Blossom, and Tres Vert edp is really nice too. There's not a single one I've tried and haven't liked, actually. I really need to sample the solids, have you tried any of those yet?

  42. No way! I'd pick L'Artisan Parfumeur, Guerlain and By Killian, but how would I live without my favs from Caron, Dior, Chanel No. 5, Via del Profumo, Tauer, SSS, FM, Pd'E, Amouage, MDCI, Etro, Diptyque, Rochas, vintage Lanvin... At least you are inspiring me to try Aftelier. ~~nozknoz

  43. Good question. Too good, in fact. I actually CANNOT answer it, although I've enjoyed reading everybody else's responses.

    I found it almost impossible to come up with a Top 10 of individual perfumes, so coming up with a Top 3 of perfume houses is just beyond my capabilities.

    But one thing's for sure: Guerlain would be in the Top 3.

  44. Hey Carrie- I'm mayybeme on twitter- Just realized that my profile doesn't actually have my name listed- so you might not have realized that that was me..:)

  45. Haha, you are right, I didn't know who that was on Twitter! Thanks for clearing that up for me. :)

  46. 1. Guerlain
    2. Boucheron
    3. Chanel

    Carrie, this was a difficult decision for me, but at least you gave me THREE choices. As it turns out, all my choices are French Houses. I chose GUERLAIN because, to me, it is the quintesSCENTial epitome of French perfume – any perfume really - at every level. BOUCHERON, my second choice because on any given day it is my personal go-to fragrance (and my husband loves it on me). Finally, CHANEL, primarily for sentimental reasons because No5 was my mother’s personal fragrance and because it was the gift of her miniature bottle that began my lifelong passion for collecting minis. But also, because Chanel (No5) created the first synthetic and their (her) worldwide influence is undeniable not only for perfume, but on fashion as well.

    Leslie Ann

  47. Awesome choices, Leslie Ann! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your picks!