Comparison sniff: Hermes Eau des Merveilles, Eau Claire des Merveilles, Ambre des Merveilles and Elixir des Merveilles

Dear Scent Diary,

images-2Like many of the scents I’ve ended up loving, I wasn’t that impressed with Hermes’ Eau des Merveilles when I first tried it. It’s a salty, transparent orange scent with some woods and amber blended in. Okay…and? I promptly forgot I was wearing it until much, much later when I was a bit taken back by how great and unexpectedly sexy I smelled. “Wow, okay,” I thought, “Maybe I’m starting to get it now.” The next day, when I threw on the jacket I had worn the day before, I was literally distracted by my sudden gorgeous personal aroma. I probably shouldn’t have been driving.

The thing about Eau des Merveilles is, you’re never drawn to how it smells, it’s about how you smell. The salty ambergris seems to meld with the salt of your skin to create the ‘you’, while the orange and woods rise up to create the ‘but better’ part of the equation. I find it to be the perfect scent for when you’re going to be amongst people but aren’t sure if they’re perfume nazis or not. Eau des Merveilles will never offend, and yet is very present, making both my perfume enemies and myself very happy. For me, EdM holds down a very important fort in my perfume wardrobe: it’s my well-cut white t-shirt and high-end jeans scent. Casual, but still stylish and a little sexy.

So. Since I am such a fan, I was very curious to know how Ralf Schwieger and Nathalie Feisthauer‘s little understated masterpiece compared with Jean-Claude Ellena’s three more recent flankers. Here’s my take.
nd.9583Eau Claire des Merveilles – Lighter, more floral, less salty and even more polite (as if that was necessary). While Eau des Merveilles manages to be polite in a very original, present way, Eau Claire does it in a more traditional, quiet, shrinking-from-view kind of way. My least favourite. Wait, now I’m being polite. I hate it.

UnknownAmbre des Merveilles – Opens with a layer of vanilla and boozy amber over the salty ambergris. As it dries down, the vanilla adds a sweet layer over the transparent orange and salt of the original. At times late in the drydown, it smells syrupy and woody and outdoorsy all at the same time. Ambre des Merveilles manages to be something very original in its own right: a fresh amber scent. I like.

nd.3168Elixir des Merveilles – This one comes out of the gates with a bang. The ante is upped and every note is doubled down. The transparent orange of the original makes way for a potent swirl of orange zest, chocolate and spices. I was in love straight away. Which I should know by now, is a bad sign. As Elixir dries down, it keeps much of its potency as the saltiness of the ambergris becomes more prominent. It’s denser, richer and sweeter than the original and after a few hours, I realized that that’s actually a bad thing. What makes the original so brilliant in my books is its ease. It’s like a person with natural style. Elixir is the person wearing designer pieces from head to toe but looks like they’re trying too hard. It’s by no means a bad scent – in fact, I do like it. But in the end, the only one I really want to own is the original. Good thing I already do.

All the facts about Serge Lutens perfumes

Dear Scent Diary,


When I was preparing the previous post on The Best Sample programs and Discovery Sets, I came across this very helpful page called “Serge Lutens – Nearly All the Facts” compiled by Bela, author of the blog ‘Frag Name of the Day’.

It’s a post with, you guessed it, nearly all the facts about the line in one spot, including a chart with every scent they’ve ever released and when, whether they come in bell jars or spray bottles, notes, whether the samples are available in liquid or wax and even what colour the label is.

ANNND it gives instructions on how to ask for and receive the Petit Livre des Salons (their book of wax samples) for free.

Serge Lutens' Petit Livre des Salons.

Serge Lutens’ Petit Livre des Salons.

She refers to a handwritten letter or phone call in the post, but I’ve also had success with a thoughtfully-worded email.

It’s a nice reference page to bookmark.

Best Niche Perfume Sample Programs and Discovery Sets

Dear Scent Diary,

order-perfume-samples-online-800x800A pet peeve of mine is when perfume houses don’t offer a way to sample their scents. Um, helloooo? You do you know what business you’re in, don’t you? While I’m not a stranger to blind buying, I refuse to be forced into it. That’s why I try to make a point of rewarding the houses that ‘get it’ and offer samples or discovery sets for reasonable prices. This is my personal list in no particular order:

Sample and discovery sets directly from the perfume house:

Olfactive Studio – Sample set of four 1.2 ml spray samples for 6 euros or $8, and a Discovery Kit that includes all five fragrances in 4 ml spray vials for 35 euros or $55 shipped worldwide with some exclusions. No shipping to US or Canada.

Parfums d’Empire – Discovery set of of all 13 scents in 2ml spray samples for 22 euros shipped worldwide.

Histoires des Parfums – Six 2ml sample vials of your choice for 10 euros shipped worldwide (refundable with 120ml bottle purchase).

Juliette Has a Gun – Discovery set of nine 2ml vials for 10 euros shipped worldwide with some exclusions (refundable with any purchase within 2 months).

Maison Francis Kurkdjian – Your choice of four 2ml spray samples for 12 euros shipped worldwide.

Atelier Cologne – Sample set of all 11 fragrances in non-spray vials for $15 or $3 per individual sample. Shipped worldwide.

Slumberhouse – Sample suite of four 2ml glass vials for $20 + shipping worldwide.

Memo Paris – Two different sample sets of four 2ml samples for 4 euros each + shipping to select countries. No shipping to US or Canada.

Keiko Mecheri – Five 2.5 ml spray samples of your choice for $18 shipped in North America, + shipping for International.

Illuminum – ‘Haute Perfume’ or ‘Vaporizer’ sample set of sixteen 1.5 ml sample vials for 25 pounds + shipping worldwide.

Etat Libre D’Orange – Discovery Coffret of all 27 of their scents in 1.5 ml vials for 49 euros + shipping worldwide (also see below who give a voucher with purchase of this set). Individual samples for 3 euros each + shipping.

Huitieme Art Parfums – Discovery set of ten 2ml spray samples for 24 euros + vat + shipping to select countries worldwide.

Spadaro – 2 ml samples of all three scents for $10 shipped worldwide.

Olympic Orchids – Deluxe sample box including twenty 2ml sample vials for $40 shipped in North America.

Ysuzac – Samples a la carte: your choice of any six 2ml spray samples for 5 euros each + shipping worldwide.

Tauer – Discovery set: your choice of five 1.5 ml spray samples for $32.90 to the US, 31 euros to France, and 25.40 euros shipped to Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Individual samples also available.

Neela Vermeire – 2ml samples of all three scents for 22 euros shipped worldwide.

Sonoma Scent Studio – Gift set of ten 1ml sample vials for $40 shipped in the US.

Heeley – Individual 2 ml samples of any of their nine fragrances for 3 euros each + shipping worldwide.

Le Labo – Individual samples for $6 each ($12 for City Exclusives) shipped. Discovery set of three 5ml sprays for $58.00.

Carner Barcelona – Individual 2.5 ml spray samples for 5 euros each shipped worldwide.

Tallulah Jane Naturals – Three 1.7ml spray samples for $15 shipped worldwide.

Osmia Organics – Up to five 1ml dab samples of perfume concentrate or perfume oil for $2 each + shipping to select countries worldwide.

PK Perfumes – Discovery set of all twelve fragrances for $25 + shipping worldwide.

Czech & Speakle – Sample pack of ten samples for 2.50 pounds + shipping worldwide. 5 pound gift voucher with purchase.

Ineke – Deluxe sample collection: Gift box of 1.5ml samples of all 8 perfumes for $25 shipped in North America, fully redeemable against future purchase.

Les Nez – Sample set of four 2.5 ml spray samples for $22.40 + VAT shipped worldwide.

Smell Bent – Sample pack of five 4ml travel sprays (premium scents 2ml) for $28 + shipping, worldwide.

Siovohle – Individual samples starting at $4 each shipped worldwide from the US (international on a case by case basis.)

Providence Perfume Company: Sample Coffret Set of ten deluxe sample sprays for $68 + (expensive) shipping worldwide. Individual samples $7 – $12.

Penhaligon’s – Scent Library of ten sample vials of their most popular men’s and women’s scents for $25 + shipping. Also available at

Ormonde Jayne – Discovery set of twelve 2ml spray samples for 48 pounds shipped worldwide.

Sarah Horowitz Parfums – Discovery sets of 1ml vials from $9 – $21.50 plus shipping in North America.

Aftelier – Individual 1ml spray samples for $6 each ($15 minimum) + shipping, worldwide.

1000 Flowers – Sample pack of three sample vials for $21 CAD + shipping worldwide.

Cognoscenti – Sample set of three 1ml sample vials for $12 + shipping worldwide.

Imaginary Authors – ‘Bookshelf’ of seven 2ml spray samples for $35 + shipping worldwide.

Les Parfums de Rosine – Sample set of all fifteen scents in vials for 25 euros shipped worldwide.

Lorenzo Villoresi Firenze – Individual 2ml spray samples for 3.40 euros each + shipping to select countries worldwide.

Kerosene – ( Sample set of all eight fragrances in 2ml vials for $38 + shipping worldwide.

By Killian – ‘Velvet Pouch’ sample set of ten 1.5 spray samples for 25 euros + Vat shipped to select European countries. Set of five samples also available for 15 euros + Vat.

Amouage – Boxed sample set of twelve spray samples – women’s or men’s set for 72 euros + shipping.

Purdistance – Boxed sample set of four 2ml spray samples for $59 shipped worldwide.

Houses with a sample policy that isn’t on their website:

Frederic Malle – If you phone the NY store, they will send you three samples of your choice for a handling fee of $20.

Serge Lutens – If you email them, write them, or phone them, they will send you a ‘book’ of their wax samples (Petit Livre des Salons) and possibly a spray sample of a current scent. (They’ve been very accommodating on two occasions for me but some have not had luck, fyi.)

Robert Piguet – If you email them, they will send you any samples of your choice for $3 each + $15 shipping.

Hermes – If you send them a thoughtful email, they will send you any sample you ask for (though I’ve heard they’re more helpful in North America than in Europe).

In all these cases, the stores will be most accommodating if you sound like you intend to buy. Keep that in mind when you craft your email/call.

When you can’t get sample sets directly from the house, these are the options:

Niche perfume e-stores that offer sample sets and individual samples: – Prepackaged sample sets of five (vial and spray) samples of these brands: Agonist Sample Set $35, Amouage Sample Set $35, Bois Sample Set $20, Carthusia Sample Set $25, Comptoir Sud Pacifique Sample Set $20, A E Courday Sample Set $25, Etro Sample Set $20, Frapin Sample Set $20, Histoires de Parfums Sample Set $20, Keiko Mecheri Sample Set $25, Lorenzo Villoresi Sample Set $20, L’Artisan Sample Set $20, Montale Sample Set $20, Parfumerie Generale Sample Set $25, Parfums d’Empire Sample Set $25, Phaedon Sample Set $25, Parfums de Nicolai Sample Set $20, Penhaligon’s Sample Set $20, Purdistance individual samples $10, Ramon Monegal Sample Set $30, Serge Lutens Spray Sample Set $25, Yosh Sample Set $20.

Or choose five individual 1ml dab samples of any fragrance they carry for $20. All prices include shipping worldwide. (First in Fragrance) – Lorenzo Villoresi Sample Set of sixteen 1.5 spray samples for 45 euros, Vero Profumo sample set of all three scents in 2ml samples of Eau de Parfum (9 euros) or Extrait de Parfum (11 euros), Puredistance boxed sample coffret of three scents for 25 euros, Amouage boxed sample sets for men and women (six 2ml spray samples) for 45 euros. All prices + shipping worldwide. – Montale sample sets by theme (Aouds, Roses and Flowers, Woods and Musks etc.), seven manufacturer vial samples for $10 + shipping worldwide ($10 refunded if you purchase a full bottle). Amouage boxed sample sets for men and women (six 2ml spray samples for $50) and mixed (ten 2ml spray samples for $75) + shipping worldwide. – Discovery Pack of eleven 2ml vial samples of L’Artisan fragrances $45, Discovery Pack of eleven 2ml vial samples of M. Micallef women’s fragrances $49, Discovery Pack of eleven 2ml vial samples of M. Micallef men’s fragrances $47, Amouage sampler of six 2ml spray samples $50 and some individual samples for Slumberhouse, M.Micallef and Mary Greenwell. All + shipping duties and taxes to many international destinations. – Sample pack of any three fragrances they carry for $15 shipped in the US. Includes a $10 coupon good towards a full size version of one of the sampled items (coupon expires 60 days after issued). Prepackaged manufacturer’s sample sets of Ineke, Linari, Penhaligon’s and Tocca $15 – $25. All + shipping internationally. – Individual 0.7 ml samples of practically every fragrance they carry for $3 – $8 depending on the scent, + shipping. They also have these sample sets: Yosh Sample Suite of six 0.7ml dab samples for $30, Decinnal Sample Set of four 1ml sample sprays for $18, Purdistance Sample Set of four 2ml sample sprays in a gift box for $60. All + shipping worldwide. – Sample Program: Order individual dab samples (probably about 0.7 ml) of practically every fragrance they carry for $5 each shipped worldwide. Also available: Amouage boxed sample set of ten 2ml sample sprays for $75 + (expensive) shipping worldwide.

Aedes de Venustas ( – Sample Program: Choose any 7 fragrance samples (manufacturers) for $20 inclucing shipping (US only) and get a code for $5 off your next order. – Fragrance flights of six 1.5 ml mixed niche samples for $18. Comes with a special 20% coupon code towards a full size purchase. Also, individual samples of some of the scents they carry (click on the scent you’re interested in and it will be an option, or not). All + shipping worldwide. – Etat Libre d’Orange – Discovery set of twenty-five 1.5ml samples and a poster for 24.95 pounds + shipping (UK only). You also get a voucher for 24.95 pounds toward a full bottle purchase.

Sample and decant sites: – Vast selection, curated sets, owned and operated by Patty of Perfume Posse. Monthly discounts if you sign up for the newsletter. – Vast selection, curated sets, once owned and operated by Patty of Perfume Posse. Monthly volume discount codes if you sign up for the newsletter. – Large selection of predominately designer fragrances. Good prices, free shipping over $50 in the US. – a newer site with a smaller selection of niche and designer, good prices and free shipping over $50 to US and Canada, free over $75 international.

That’s it, that’s all. I’d love to know if I’ve missed anything.

Feel free to follow the blog or share if you found this useful.

Sniff spree: Les Exclusifs de Chanel, Tom Ford, Hermes, Comme des Garcons

A day killed in Vancouver.

A day killed in Vancouver.

Dear Scent Diary,

I started my smellathon at Holt Renfrew where my mission was to sniff and potentially buy the new Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle. It wasn’t meant to be, however as the damn thing hasn’t arrived in Canada yet. My credit card was forced to wait impatiently in my wallet. I didn’t spend much time at the Malle counter after the bad news, though both Portrait of a Lady (mmm, dark, spicy, complex) and Bigarade Concentree (wow, citrus zest!) were calling my name.

I shuffled a few steps to the Tom Ford counter for a few huffs there. I managed to resist buying Santal Blush on the spot (love at first sniff, but let’s date first) – and I was surprised to like Oud wood as much as I did. There was no inky, medicinal oud note blasting my head off the way I’d become accustomed by the Montales I’ve tried. This is a smooth, friendly oud that I’d like to get to know.

A few more steps and I was at the Promised Land.

holt renfrew chanel perfume counter


I let the SA ‘sell me’ on giving the Les Exclusifs line a try. OH, ALL right. Bois des Illes (hmmm, I love sandalwood but I’m strangely not in love), then 31 Rue Cambon (oooh, sophisticated chypre) then No. 18 (unsettling at first, drying down to gorgeousness), Bel Respiro (ahhh, plush aromatic), and Sycamore (mmm, luxe vetiver and cedar). I was confused by my lukewarm reaction to Bois des Illes (the other scent I thought was my destiny) again leaving my credit card in my wallet unexpectedly.

Chanel samples in tow, I sauntered over to the Hermes counter where I was lured for a sniff of Jour d’Hermes (see my reaction here), Elixir des Merveilles and Ambre des Merveilles. As an Eau des Merveilles fan, a comparison diary entry is, as Brad Pitt says, inevitable.

Roden Grey

Roden Grey

After a little window shopping in Gastown (a cobblestoned historic district with many shops), I wandered into Roden Grey – a men’s boutique that happens to carry the entire line of Comme des Garcons fragrances. By now, my wallet was practically jumping out of my purse and when I spied the CdG Incense series, a purchase, I feared, was imminent. I’ve always admired the CdG Incenses and was excited to take a comparison sniff. Avignon, as everyone will tell you, is pure catholic mass. Jaisalmer is sweet and spicy with lots of cardamom and fresh wood – a contender. Kyoto is dry, cedar-y, meditative, spiritual and something I’d fallen for on a previous trip. It was the winner – and is my newest baby.

It’s been a good day in my books when my feet are killing me and my nose is tired.

Classic Ellena: Jour d’Hermes

Dear Scent Diary,

Went on a bit of a smelling spree today. I’m in Vancouver on business, but lucky for me, the ‘business’ only lasted an hour and I had the rest of the day to wander around all the city’s perfume hot spots. One of the first things I smelled was the new Jour d’Hermes, Jean-Claude Ellena’s proof to himself and the world that he could do a feminine scent – as if any of us had any doubt.

dc56196f2bfd6315c3824a1e1b294e08Jour d’Hermes opens with a burst of juicy florals that hit a citrusy high note right off the top. It’s bright and tart and lovely. There’s no powderiness or typical perfuminess that a floral blend with no one dominant flower can often conjure. To my nose, it becomes obvious within minutes that the same hand that created Un Jardin Sur le Nil had a hand in this as well. The tart refusal to become sweet, the brightness, and the indelible marker style tenaciousness is to my mind, classic Ellena. The sillage is fairly strong and yet the scent is light – another Ellena magic trick.

Did I buy? Well, I’m generally not a ‘buy-on-the-first-sniff’ kinda girl, so no. Will I go back and buy? I’d have to say no. My tastes run unisex and woody and this is firmly in the ‘fresh, crisp, citrusy, floral’ camp. I have no doubt it will be adored by many, but it shall only be admired from afar my me.