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.


17 responses to “Sniff spree: Les Exclusifs de Chanel, Tom Ford, Hermes, Comme des Garcons

  1. R

    Oh wow! Nice samples you got THERE! :)) I guess they’re given more willingly to people actually having a jumpy credit card in their possession. Mine is shy at its best, downright misanthropic at its worst. Not many niche samples fall in my lap on my perfume trips. YET….

    Yet..I have tried some of the aforementioned! And I’m gonna tell you all about it. HAHA!

    Malle – going for the Dries von Noten tomorrow so nothing here. But Portrait of a Lady I wanted to love but I CAN’T. Yes, it’s oriental, it’s seductive, it’s rose and patchouli but damn it if it doesn’t make me slightly nauseous! For now, there’s nothing on Malle front to steal my heart and force my wallet to open like a flower in spring.

    Chanel – I am jealous you can try the exclusifs, no such thing in Romania so far.. I’m dying to try Sycomore, but will settle for Lalique – Encre Noir. Same with Tom Ford..

    But really, all I wanted to say is that CdG Incense series is just wonderful. I was surprised you didn’t even mention Zagorsk which for me is probably the winner, I keep trying to decided between it and Avignon so far and just when I think Avignon si too catholic, it pull me back with it’s wonderfulness. Kyoto is meditative and interesting indeed but have you tried Hinoki?

    Wonderful trip and wear it well!


    • Hi R!
      My credit card is usually very shy as well but I live outside the city – so when I do go in, I usually have a plan to sniff and potentially buy certain things I’ve been lemming. I hate to come away empty-handed when I’ve finally got the chance πŸ˜‰ I actually did not like POAL when I first tried it, but every time since then, I’ve liked it more and more. Never say never with perfume. Except if it makes you nauseous! Re CdG – they didn’t have Zagorsk or I might have come home with that one. I’m actually almost through a bottle of Hinoki (love it) so I think that’s what pushed me over the edge with Kyoto. Thanks for your fun comment!

  2. It sounds like a good day. That’s an impressive haul. Congratulations on your new bottle! I’m not familiar with Commes des Garcons but I’m glad you’ve got the perfume you liked.

  3. Great picks, you had some fun. You know what – Dries Van Noten is totally not for me, I ordered a sample as I mentioned earlier and worn it for one whole day and the result was “not for me”

    Ah, a fellow Kyoto lover here too! And count my mum in as well πŸ˜€

  4. Das

    I luuuuv coming home with little scented strips of paper :-). Sounds like an awesome day!

    Unfortunately, the SAs usually peg me as the usual fruity floral gal? At Chanel, the SA barely mentioned that they had a new scent (she called 1932 ‘retro’ smelling) and said she KNEW I’d like Beige. Um, no. Or they try to steer me to the non-Exclusifs counter to try Chance! Ugh. I want them to push Sycomore!

    Argh! I hope you do get to try the DVN soon. Seattle’s not that far from Vancouver :). Potrait of A Lady was the scent El Hub said he could smell from the second floor when I was in the basement (not a compliment), so yeah … pretty but I don’t see it in my future, ha!

    It’ll be interesting to read your inevitable comparison of the Merveilles scents – I have a definite favorite.

    I think it’s a great thing that your wallet got a little fun in the end!

    • Hi Das!

      Oh, I hate it when SA’s do that. They are not helping themselves. I once got pegged as an orange blossom lover based on my nationality (I’m Chinese) and he practically got angry when I said I wanted to try scents with other notes. I held it against him and orange blossom for a long time πŸ˜‰

      I finally caved and ordered a decant of DVN like a good girl. Have you tried it? And I am planning a trip to Seattle at the end of next month so I’ll have some more sniffing to do.

      Thanks for your comment Das – you always make me smile.

      • Das

        I support you for holding that against the SA! Jerk! πŸ˜‰ I could tell you lots of funny stories of my mainstream perfume counter experiences. I either feel like I’ve stepped onto some kind of reality show or I’m passing through the Twilight Zone.

        Yes, I’ve tried the DVN. I like it a lot. A lot. It would be the most sandalwood-y scent I owned if I got weak the next time I popped into Barney’s. I’ve tried other sandalwood ‘soliflores’ and they were not rounded enough, if that makes sense. In contrast to reviews that call DVN a snickerdoodle-centered fragrance, to my nose, it’s more of a sandalwood. I think the sweet notes help make it more satisfying for me than something plainer like 10 Corso Como or Tam Dao, although I should really do more research.

        When I was about 6 years old, a family friend who was from India gave me a bookmark made out of real Indian sandalwood. I treasured it inside my Little Twin Stars pencil case and remember opening it only to smell that wonderful scent. Ahhhh so good! I wish I could recapture that exactly. πŸ™‚

      • Ha! I’d love to hear your stories – maybe between us, we’d have enough for a good post πŸ™‚
        Will my DVN decant EVER arrive?! Argh! Thanks for your take on it. I feel I know exactly what you mean.
        You’d think I had a sandalwood scent memory like yours the way I love that note. You’ve inspired me to go spritz some SL Santal Majescule for the evening. Thanks Das!

  5. I wanted to say a belated but heartfelt Thank You for this post. I live in a city where if The Bay doesn’t stock it, you’re out of luck πŸ˜‰ This week I made it to Vancouver for the first time since being bitten by the perfume bug. Your comments and info were truly helpful.

    One thing you should know – the Roden Grey shop were down to 2 bottles of Jaisalmer and a tester bottle of Kyoto, with no plans to restock. Someone I spoke to at the shop said it’s because CdG doesn’t allow retailers to buy the frags only, they must also stock their line of men’s apparel, and apparently these don’t sell as well – hence the winding down. The assistant then tried to sell me a box of Kyoto incense πŸ™‚ I briefly considered saying I’d take it if he’d throw in the tester for free, but the truth is that I didn’t have time to test Kyoto properly and, erm, I’d already spent enough elsewhere anyway.

    On which note, I should also said that I met the S.A. of my dreams at Holt Renfrew! Sadly, she said it was her last week on the job. *suppresses a sob*

    • Hi chamekke!
      I live in a city like that too so I feel your pain. Thank god for online shopping! I’m glad you had a good trip – there’s another store that I didn’t make it to that day called The Perfume Shoppe. They’ve got a great selection of niche and a lovely woman runs it, which makes up for the fact that the displays are a bit cluttered and dusty…perhaps you know about it. Too bad about the SA at Holts – I would have asked for her name if she wasn’t leaving!

      • I did visit The Perfume Shoppe and had a fabulous impromptu consultation with Naz… she was awesome and I came away with 2 lovely new frags. Basically I left Vancouver in a haze of blissful nose fatigue! My only regret is that I couldn’t sprout additional arms to spray perfume onto, and more noses to sniff them with πŸ˜‰

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