Seattle Sniff Spree Part 2: Nordstrom (Sample Heaven)

Dear Scent Diary,

As a Canadian, I’m realizing now that we northern fume enthusiasts are slightly crippled compared to our neighbor to the south. I had no idea perfume samples were doled out with such abandon in the US. I haven’t travelled abroad since my perfume affliction took hold so I can’t speak for the sample situation anywhere else, but man – you Americans have it good. I was bowled over when I spied these containers at practically every counter during a scout of the Nordstrom fragrance section:


As you can probably guess by my reaction, we have nothing like this in Canada. Samples are given out stingily or at special events only. And they are generally never offered.
A little giddy and not really knowing the lay of the land, I picked up one of the empty spray sample vials and started making myself a sample of the exclusive Guerlain L’Art et la Matière fragrance, Cuir Beluga, which to my surprise and delight was sitting oh-so accessibly on a shelf with every other Guerlain perfume.


Guerlain (L’Art et la Matière testers, top right), Annick Goutal.

An SA instantly appeared and offered to label it for me. “Uh, sure,” I said as I handed it to her. She hurried off and rushed back with the sample carded. In the meantime, I’d started on making a sample of another L’Art et la Matière fragrance, Angelique Noire. “I’m happy to make samples for you.” she said. Oh. Is that how it works? I handed it to her and asked for some Mitsouko as well for good measure. “Right away,” was her answer.

DSC03389The Bond No. 9 counter was right next to the section we were in so I asked if I could try New Haarlem. I was immediately handed off to another SA who actually seemed excited to help me. New Haarlem has practically reached mythical status in my mind since I’ve read and heard about it for so long without the opportunity to try it. I was cruising for a let down but remarkably, I was impressed. It’s actually more refined than I expected. The lavender top notes keep it fresh and inedible even as the coffee note swoops in. This isn’t a frappuccino dumped on your wrist as I’d feared, but an aromatic frag with a warm, unexpected coffee aroma. Undoubtably encouraged by my oohing and awing, the SA practically fell over herself to make me a sample.

I may have to move.


Chanel Les Exclusifs



As I cruised the rest of the section, I reminded myself of Chanel Sycamore and Diptique L’Ombre Dans L’eau with a spritz to each wrist (I either already have or have had samples), made notes to come back and try some Creeds and some Annick Goutals. As I was leaving, I found a lonely bottle of Tonka Imperiale (another L’Art et la Matière) on a Guerlain makeup display. With no SA’s in sight, I made the most of the baskets of samples and helped myself to one.

I’ve read that Nordstrom has plans to expand into Canada (though unfortunately not to the West Coast where I live). I look forward to it regardless, as their sample policy will most likely force other retailers in Canada to do the same.

I will live in hope.


Seattle Sniff Spree Part 1: Barneys (Frederic Malle, Byredo, Arquiste, L’Artisan)

Dear Scent Diary,

A semi-planned, semi-spur-of-the-moment trip to Seattle materialized this past weekend and not only provided the opportunity for some perfume scouting and recreational sniffing, but also to meet a fellow perfumista. Live. In the flesh. With the ability to speak to one another, not through comments on a blog, but in real time over a table, and eventually over a Frederic Malle counter. (Those lucky enough to have friends who aren’t bewildered by your perfume hobby might not understand how exciting this was.)

DSC03408Dasi and I met at the entrance to Barneys (natch). After an enjoyable exchange of non-perfume related info (she’s as interesting and intelligent as I’d imagined) we descended upon the fragrance department where Dasi is a regular visitor (natch again).

Seattle’s Barneys is a small, intimate store with a very well-curated selection of, well, everything they sell. If you’re interested in drooling over shoes or handbags, they have the ones to do it over (read Celine ‘it’ bags and Isabel Marant shoes). Their fragrance section is the equivalent. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as an ‘it’ fragrance, but the ones they do carry are very much coveted.


Frederic Malle






L’Artisan Parfumeur, Serge Lutens

I’ve been itching to try some of the fragrances in the Arquiste line and finally got a chance to take a sniff. I tried Anima Dulcis on skin (but was not as impressed as I wanted to be). None of them particularly grabbed me to be honest – more testing is required.

Dasi has ruined Seville a L’Aube for me. If you have it, go take a whiff. Now smell it again and see if you smell tortillas. Yep. Same thing happened to me. Sorry. You can blame Dasi.


A Frederic Malle scent chamber.

I came dangerously close to buying Frederic Malle’s En Passant on first sniff. Gorgeous ethereal, watery lilac that is very soft up close and has a beautiful billowy, feminine sillage. Managed to stay coy for now. It’s only a matter of time, however.

On this day, it was the Byredo line that seemed to get the better of both of us. We tested each of them and spent all too much time trying to figure out the vegetal note that seems to dominate Pulp (it’s green pepper). But it was Gypsy Water that stole Dasi’s heart and Bal D’Afrique is the one that followed me home (biased review to come).

Kudos to the Barneys staff who knew just when to help and when to leave us to our happy huffing.

All in all, it was a perfumista’s dream date.