Wednesday, 9 September 2015

In Which I Try Commercial Fragrances

Despite my deep love for indie perfumes, I never was into commercial fragrances. I sneezed as I walked past perfume displays. I tried perfume samples from Sephora and magazines only to be disappointed by their sameness. I bought Clinique Happy from the perfume section at my first job, a grocery store - during a no tax sale and with my employee discount - and used it when I belatedly remembered that I had it. I had a very brief love affair with Bath & Body Works, and even then, I gravitated to things like candles and lotions - staying away from things that were purely for scenting myself.

When I got into indie perfume, I thought that it might spread to commercial fragrances, so I tried a few times to find something that I liked and was willing to pay for, just by sniffing various things or dabbing on testers. I usually walked away empty-handed and annoyed. 

As my scent tastes have developed and deepened, I toyed with the idea of returning to try out some commercial fragrances. The stars aligned for me: I was sent some samples + a solid of some commercial scents in an exchange package, and then I saw a recommendation for Bobbi Brown's Beach. And...I decided to go check it out. I put a bit on from the tester, walked around the mall for a bit, and fell in love. I decided I was going to grab a rollerball.

It's the first commercial scent that I've felt that matched up with my personality. I've discovered that I like my scents to evoke memories, and I had never tried anything from the commercial fragrance world that reminded me of anything but the generic alcohol-based perfume scent. Probably also because I'm a raging hipster - though I do have a weakness for Victoria's Secret Love Spell. 

And to also put it bluntly: I got into indie perfume at 21, just before my style underwent a subtle shift to more adult things. It's most likely that I couldn't appreciate a lot of scents then, because I was less certain about who I am, and also had little to no experience with scents. Nearly three years later, I've changed and grown, and so have my personal preferences. So while alcohol-based perfumes tend to remind me of department stores, and that doesn't exactly feel like me, I'm not going to rule them all out anymore.

However, I have way too much indie perfume to even think about looking at commercial fragrances - at least the way I do with indie perfumes. I may casually take a sniff at the rollerball stand at Sephora, though. 

Including Beach, I have TokyoMilk Dark Tainted Love (in solid form) and samples of Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb and Tocca Margaux. These four are all fairly different, and I'm pleased to report that I don't really hate any of them. In fact, I love one of them and have overall positive feelings about two others. One I'm pretty meh on, but they couldn't all be winners. 

All scent descriptions were taken from (which doesn't suck that much anymore. Or sucks less. It's magical).

Bobbi Brown Beach

What it is:
A light, happy, and nostalgic scent that evokes warm sunshine and the sea breeze. 

What it does:

This bestselling scent captures the atmosphere and attitude of summer. Designed with an intoxicating blend of jasmine, sea spray, and mandarin, this eau de parfum is wearable anytime, anywhere. 

This smells like the beach. I tend to like rocky beaches, where I can clamour all over rocks and beachcomb. This doesn't smell like those beaches - it smells like a sandy beach on a hot summer day. It smells like sunscreen and ocean breezes and I swear I can feel the sand on my feet as I wear this. It's astoundingly realistic. In the bottle and on my skin, it starts with a burst of something that can only be described as Coppertone. Hello, sunscreen. It eases off after a bit and allows the fresh, ocean air scent come through. It feels warm and sunny and very much like the beach. I love it. I was surprised at how it grew on me - I wasn't crazy about it when I first tried it on at the store, but after a few laps around the mall to let it meld with my skin chemistry, I loved it. It's a great atmospheric scent. The throw is ion the higher end of moderate, as the first burst of sunscreen is potent, but it lightens a bit as it settles into the skin. The only downside is that it doesn't last very long on me, maybe four hours. 

TokyoMilk Dark Tainted Love (solid)

Dark Vanilla Bean, Sparkling Citrus, Orchid, White Tea, Sandalwood, Tonka Bean

Tainted Love has some kind of cult love - or at least it's one of the few fragrances I know about, though I'm not really sure where I would have come across it. There is a Japanese shop down the street from me where I picked up a TokyoMilk lip balm once, and they do carry some of the TokyoMilk Dark line as well, but I already knew about it before I was down there. I suppose it will remain a mystery for now. Anyway, I love my Tainted Love solid because of the packaging, perhaps more than the scent itself. It has a lovely clicky lid and fidgeters like me thrive on this kind of stuff. In the containter, it smells like a rich, luxurious vanilla tea. Sort of deep and dark, like a blackened purple. On my skin it lightens a bit and becomes more of a fresh, fruitier take on a dark luscious vanilla. It does have a little bit of what I call the perfume scent - it reminds me a bit of the department store, though less so than most. In solid form, this doesn't have amazing staying power, lasting about four hours on my skin. The sillage is moderate. I can catch whiffs of it now and again, and it's a pleasant scent. 

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb

Sambac Jasmine, Centifolia Rose, Cattleya Orchid, Ballerina Freesia, Patchouli.

I've tried a dupe of Flowerbomb before and I wasn't a big fan - way too sweet and floral for me. I was curious to see how the original fared on me. While it's not as cloying as the dupe I tried (a good thing), it's still not my thing. It's incredibly strong when I first spray it on. It's kind of sharp at first, before it turns into sweet florals. It reminds me of a really intense flower garden somehow mixed with a bit of sugar or cotton candy or something. It most definitely reminds me of a department store - I've been hit in the face with a wall of Flowerbomb going into Sears before. The sillage is high, and it lasted about six hours on my skin. Six headache inducing hours. Flowerbomb, you and I are not meant to be friends. 

Tocca Margaux

Blood Orange, Bergamot Blossom, Cassis, Green Gardenia, Black Jasmine, Ambery Violet, Cashmere Woods, Warm Musk, Benzoin, Vanilla, Heliotrope

Margaux is interesting - as in I like it, but I don't want to wear it. I just want to sniff it on other people. It does pique my curiosity about Tocca, though, and I think I'll be checking them out further to see if there's something a little more me. It smells like citrus musk in the vial, heavy on the blood orange. On my skin, it starts off as a citrus musk, with some floral elements and a drop of vanilla. It mellows into a vanilla musk, with green florals and a drop of citrus. It's really quite lovely. Not exactly my taste, as mentioned above, but I like it. It's got a youthful feeling about it, something pretty and fresh. It honestly reminds me of the Public Gardens here in Halifax, though I can't place my finger on why. The sillage is on the lower side, hugging nicely and only giving a whiff now and again, and it lasted about seven hours on my skin.

I doubt I'll ever have a collection of pretty glass bottles sitting on my vanity, but I will be taking a few more steps over time into mainstream and niche perfumes. 


  1. I used to really like Bobbi Brown Beach until the sunscreen element became too overwhelming. I still like it but kind of from a distance, not so much all around me.

    And Tocca Margaux is one of my two winter perfumes. All Tocca perfumes are on the pretty and ultra femme side but I feel like Margaux has a richness that the others lack.

    1. Tocca bottles are pretty enough on their own to pull me in. Sometimes I feel like I'm too young/brash/unrefined/whatever for a lot of mainstream scents, but Margaux was so close to feeling like me.


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