Sunday, 14 August 2016

Vial bodies*: how I seem to diss scent samples in sprayers with white tops

70s Go-Go boots ~ Source: eBay
This week on A Bottled Rose, Tara posted some mini-reviews of the new range by Art de Parfum. She had a better strike rate than me - I liked one quite a bit once it dried down (Sensual Oud - I know, it has Oud in the title, but it was really rather nice!). Then another one I found 'interesting' (Signature Wild), though by rights I shouldn't have liked it because it has the dreaded davana note in it - hey, Jasper Conran Mister, that I ordered by mistake instead of Mistress and ended up giving to my brother, who is using it as an air freshener, here's looking at you! And does anyone even remember Jasper Conran Mistress or Mister, such is the evanescent nature of the perfume scene...?

But the other new releases in the Art de Parfum range seemed more like oddball mainstream rather than niche scents to my nose, and I even thought one or two smelt overtly aromachemically, if you know what I mean, such that the overall composition failed to engage / mesh, let alone wow. Tara and I chatted about this afterwards because she has a much superior nose to mine and did not get a synthetic vibe from this range, something I know she would normally pick up on straight away. So I vowed to try the quintet of scents again, because I was disappointed by my own lacklustre reaction to them.

But there's more...!

I remembered that I had a similarly mixed reaction to the ROADS collection of fragrances, a number of which I featured in a post here. I quite liked several, but the rest sadly left me cold. I couldn't imagine buying a bottle of any of them. Why am I not surprised that piece didn't make the Jasmine shortlists this year? Well,for starters it is more of a travelogue than a set of perfume reviews, never mind its less than reverent tone...;)

And then there was another coffret of samples I was kindly sent by Jeffrey Dame of Hypoluxe - a capsule collection of scents under the aegis of Thorsten Biehl's Kunstwerke, by perfumers Geza Schoen, Mark Buxton and Patricia Choux. I featured a Mark Buxton composition (mb01) that particularly caught my fancy in this German-themed post from 2014, but again I was underwhelmed by the set as a whole, notwithstanding the pedigree of the perfumers whose work it showcased. I remember one perfume reminding me forcefully of  Dior's J'adore L'eau cologne florale, for example, a resolutely mainstream flanker of the ever popular J'adore.

It was the same script - only more so - with a range called Aura Soma, the least said about which the better.

And yesterday it dawned on me that the common thread between all four sets of samples is the fact that they have WHITE TOPS. It seems that at some subliminal level, my brain does not equate white tops with 'niche' / 'luxury' / 'high end' scents, regardless of their actual quality and how they may or may not smell.

A quick delve into my 'samples in progress'  boxes and bowls reveals that the scents I do regard highly mostly have black tops, or little stoppers. One range (not pictured and yet to be featured) even has classy blue apothecary-style vials!

In the bowl above are samples from the following brands:

Ormonde Jayne
Mona di Orio
4160 Tuesdays
Papillon Perfumery
Hermes - translucent!
Aftelier Perfumes
Ex Idolo
Acqua di Parma - a sort of mother of pearl finish, but definitely not your bog standard white!

So then I scurried off to find my presentation box of Puredistance samples, which - whether I like each and every one of their range or not - is a house which resoundingly epitomises quality ingredients for me. I was reassured to see the serried ranks of black tops, giving further weight to my theory.  Yes, I know M is missing - I gave it to a friend who gave it to her colleague.

And to put the lid on my research, I opened a big box of atomiser samples that I had collected at the start of my perfume hobby. Verdict: of the seven white plastic-topped sprayers that came to hand, six were mainstream designer scents, including a couple of 'regular' Chanels. The only high end brand that had gone for white was By Kilian (Forbidden Games), and I am now racking my memory as to whether they may actually use black tops on their other collections?

Well, what a turn up! I am not saying that I have never loved a perfume in a sample sprayer with a white top, or never disliked one in a black top, but I can say that in the main my perception of perfume in quality terms really does seem to be a black and white issue. ;)

Finally, here is Serge Lutens, taking absolutely no chances with an opaque brown number, similar to the (black?) vials of Keiko Mecheri. Which is all very well, but these come with their own issues, namely that you have no clue about fill levels. Until they finally stop working. An annoying phenomenon which I have addressed in this Scent Crimes post - from six and a half years ago, no less!

So I have to ask - is it just me whose perception is influenced by sample top colour, or can anyone else relate?

It sounds a pretty preposterous theory on the face of it, but I toss it out there notwithstanding. Maybe top colour is in fact some kind of  unspoken 'code' in the perfume industry that I have only now tumbled to?!

And yes, I did own a pair of boots like that in the 70s - white patent, which I teamed with my pink (you heard right!) wet look coat. Personally, I am not sure that white boots - or white atomiser tops - or white shoes on men, even on a golf course - were ever a good thing...

*With apologies to  Evelyn Waugh. (It shouldn't really be 'bodies', come to think of it, being more about the tops, but I shall push the envelope of poetic licence.)

Actually, in the case of that Art de Parfum sample pictured above, we are also talking a bit of the body as well as top... Maybe it was the additional - and substantial - plastic 'shoulder' that tipped me over the edge?!


  1. Oh, Nancy, what with your finger foods and brain possibly wired to dislike white my brain is a little confused too. I had a quick check on my Amouage sample box, luckily they were all gold !

    1. Hi Angie,

      I do wonder about my brain sometimes. That said, I am still happy for you with your gold-topped Amouage samples. ;)

  2. LOL... I love this post. I am almost tempted to see if there is any correlation between sprayer tops and my love for the perfume....but wait. That means that I would actually have to be organized about my samples and that means I would have to clean out my office, and that means....oh this is too much work. Thanks for the fun read :)

    1. Hi Steve,

      Oh dear, that does sound like far too much trouble to assess your sample top colours. Though if you ever do, please report back!

  3. Can't say I really pay attention to the sample top colors. I love those boots. I had a similar pair in the early 70's, too. I really loved them at the time.

    1. Hi Tatiana,

      Probably best not to be swayed by the colour, as I may be tuning to out to all manner of worthy scents because of this irrational reaction.

      I remember my boots more clearly now - they had patent shoe bottoms and wet look insert leg pieces that were stretchy if that makes any sense?

  4. Perhaps we see the white stuff as very 'basic bitch' :)
    and I see Turin also has a big problem with white packaging and says nothing good ever comes out of it.

    1. Hi Unknown,

      That could be so. I also wore white shoes in my 20s but felt there was something vaguely wrong about that, and white trousers - and leggings - can sometimes be wrong - though also fabulously right.

      I did not know that about Turin. It just occurred to me that it was interesting that even the sample of Puredistance White did not have a white top. I guess it has to fit in with the rest of the set.

  5. Hi Vanessa. This is great. I'm not sure I dig the white tops either. I'm thinking of a range that I have samples of in a lovely box but that aren't doing anything for me at all. At least they're spray not dab though. Love the style of the boots - white is very difficult to pull off though. Black is best!

    1. Hi Megan,

      Interesting that you are also having this issue with another sample set. I agree that more people can pull off black, but white can be lovely on the right person / in the right weather. I bet there is a lot of it being sported in your part of the world!

  6. Interesting. I do find white plastic tops not very appealing, but have never experienced your anti-white bias. What about home made decants? Do they have an effect on your perception?

    1. Hi Sabine,

      That's a good point you raise about homemade decants and I have actually got some out and given the matter some thought. I have no problems whatsoever with white there. Probably because I often know the perfume contained therein. I think the bias kicks in when I am trying a new line of scents and this is how they are presenting themselves and my first impression of them?

  7. Mega LOLZ for this post, V.
    I only have a prejudice against stopper vials because I don't think you get the full effect.
    You are right about By Kilian using black tops for their other collections, which are also far superior!
    Do let me know how your Art de Parfum re-run goes.

    1. Hi Tara,

      I do feel terribly superficial to have this mental block, yet pleased to have spotted a pattern at last. I remember being quite troubled that I didn't like the Geza Schoen compositions amongst those Biehl scents, as he is one of my favourite noses as a rule. And the Art de Parfum ones are stocked by Bloom, so they wouldn't spring for them you would say if they didn't make the grade. Though the Aura Soma and ROADS ones were more of a complete unknown, if you know what I mean, so I had no preconception either way other than the one about white tops, obviously!

      Thanks for the clarification about the By Kilian ones. I have had that sample of Forbidden Games for ages, but have never felt an urge to try it so far. Maybe I know why now!

      I will let you know re the Art de Parfum range rematch. I do think the Sensual Oud one is a winner. On the subject of oud, I see that Get Lippie is smitten with that Amaroud range you also liked. The saffron one in particular.

  8. Ha, only you could think of such a thing, but I tend to agree with you and - who would have thought- even LT, if he indeed said that nothing good ever comes out of white packaging (I take that as being the bottle NOT the box :-) )

    1. Hi Asali,

      I take Unknown's comment also to relate to the bottle, as there are some high end perfumes in white boxes that are utterly unaffected by the choice of white there - thinking of Puredistance again. Madonna's Truth or Dare was in a white bottle, mind you. I am not sure I could ever quite embrace Creed's Love in White for that matter, both of which examples committed the additional crime of being opaque. I rest his case.

  9. You make me chuckle, loved it.
    Portia xx

  10. I'm completely with you! I think I even went farther: I dislike white tops in home-made decants as well. And while I liked By Kilian's "white" series bottle packaging, I thought back then that the samples looked "cheaper" than their black counterparts.

    1. Hi Undina,

      Oh, I am so glad you agree - I do see you as someone who is especially sensitive to packaging in all its manifestations.

      And thanks for explaining what the difference is between the black and white By Kilians.