Monday Question – What Are Your Slow Burner Perfumes?

By Tara

Which perfumes took you ages to “get”?

Are there fragrances you only liked at first but then developed over time in to full blown love?

Do you find that you end up wearing these perfumes even more than those that were love at first sniff?

Does it often take you a while to get to know a perfume and fall for it?

Or are you dismissive if a sample doesn’t really grab you on the first time of testing?

My Answer:

If a perfume has a great reputation with people I trust and I fail to fall for it on initial testing, I will repeatedly re-try it over time to see if I can get what they do. If I really don’t like a fragrance on first trying it, I probably won’t persevere. Otherwise I will come back to it every once in a while to see if my feelings have changed.

The first time I tested my sample of Osmanthe Yunnan I found the idea appealing but it was just too dry for my tastes. Luckily the Hermessences are available in large 4ml samples so over several years I would come back to it in the summer and see if things had changed. Guess what? This was the year it clicked. So much so that we’re talking full bottle love and I can’t understand what took me so long.

Which perfumes have you had this experience with?

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68 Responses to Monday Question – What Are Your Slow Burner Perfumes?

  1. Joan says:

    L’Artisan’s Safran Troublant. It’s really subtle, so it took me forever to appreciate the richness of it. The fact that it blends with skin instead of standing out is good, I realized, not bad.

    Atelier’s Orange Sanguine is another one. It took me a while to appreciate its happy disorganization. I’m also kinda happy and disorganized, so that makes it even better.

    I’ve been planning to go back to Osmanthe Yunnan too. I have a sample of The Different Company’s Osmanthus, which took me a while to appreciate.

    • Tara says:

      I’m glad you concluded the way Safran Troublant blends with the skin is a good thing. It really is. I love that it manages to be quiet yet rich at the same time.

      As for Orange Sanguine, I think natural perfumes can take a little longer to “get” in general because they are so different to what we’re used to.

  2. ChickenFreak says:

    I’m the reverse for Osmanthe Yunnan – when I first tried it I loved it, and then one day I couldn’t smell the nuances any more, and it was all just sweet.

    On the other hand, it took me forever to “get” Fendi Theorema. I had to appreciate bitter and orangey and gingery notes, and all sorts of others, in other perfumes, before Theorema finally fell together. I’m finally starting to appreciate No. 5. And Mitsouko is still beyond me.

    • Tara says:

      That’s interesting. I’m wondering if Osmanthe Yunnan is a bit of a changeling.

      I bet eventually falling for Fendi’s Theorema was a bit of a mixed blessing, considering it is so hard to get hold of.

      I think Mitsouko is beyond a lot of people and I’m yet to appreciate No. 5.

  3. Lady Jane Grey says:

    Dominic Ropion’s Une Fleur de Cassie – it was an unsniffed buy few years ago, and I just wasn’t mature and educated enough parfumwise for that overwhelming scent of an acquired taste. I tried it few times and although I had a huge respect for it, I also found it almost scary and so it was left untouched for years. (Strangely enough when smelling UFdC I always have to think of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando…). Few months ago I had a brave moment and spritzed it on my wrist and was blown away by it’s beauty. O.K., the first 2-3 minutes still are all about waiting for its further development, but then it’s a cumin sparkled flower bomb for self confident Amazons… It’s a masterpiece, good old real parfumery.

    • Tara says:

      I enjoyed reading about your journey with Une Fleur de Cassie. I think “an acquired taste” is a good way to describe it. I often find that things which are an acquired taste can turn out to be the greatest loves of all. Almost addictive.

      Love “a cumin sparkled flower bomb for self confident Amazons”!

    • ChickenFreak says:

      The first time I tried Cassie it smelled like Elmer’s Glue. The second time it smelled like Elmer’s Glue with a flower stuck in it. I don’t find that unpleasant, but it feels to me like some of the notes that belong in a CB I Hate Perfume representation of a kindergarten classroom. I will be trying it again.

  4. lulllull says:

    Lipstick rose has been playing games with me for years. I almost got a full bottle about a month ago. Parfum d therese shares a similar story, and Noir epices. What is it with me and Malle?

    Back to back and Mitsouko has also appeared different at different testings and I cant seem to GET them. Well, now mitsouko is the only perfume I wear to bed… But it took a long time!

    I havent tried Osmanthe yunnan. Off to check it out 🙂

    • Tara says:

      Oh I really don’t think it’s just you at all. Malle perfumes are works of art and take time for most people to get, I would say. It took me a good while to fall for Portrait of a Lady and Lipstick Rose has a plastic-y note that I can’t seem to get past. I could go on…

      Back to Black went from hate to love for our own Olfactoria, so you are in good company 🙂

  5. Olfactoria says:

    Hi Tara,
    I have quite a lot of those… (does that mean I’m an extremely unreliable reviewer? *worries*)
    The latest perfume I came around to is Guerlain’s Cruel Gardènia. All of a sudden I love it to the point of wanting a full bottle, whereas earlier I just saw a soapy floral reminiscent of Nivea cream (not a bad thing, but surely not love either).
    Tuberose perfumes took me a good, long while, but now I wouldn’t want t live without them. I totally blame the Candyperfumeboy for this.
    And I have you to blame for leather: Cuir de Lancome and Cuir de Russie made a leather convert out of me. 🙂

    • Tara says:

      B, I think it happens to you quite a lot because you don’t give up as easily as many of us. This is a really great thing and something I admire.

      Interesting to read that Cruel Gardenia is the latest perfume this has happened with.

      I’m very glad I’ve made a leather convert out of you 🙂

  6. Undina says:

    Most of my loves are those on a first … two-three sniffs. Usually I know almost immediately that I like the perfume and then it takes a couple more times to figure out that I like it enough to want to wear beyond the sample.

    A huge exception from this rule is Chanel No.19: it took me years to warm up to any chanel and then one day it clicked – and I can’t imagine not having No.19 on my deserted island 😉

    • JennyJo says:

      Do you wear the EdP or the EdT of Chanel No 19? I bought the EdT a while ago, after much deliberation, but though lovely I also find it quite thin and sometimes even wimpish.

      • ChickenFreak says:

        Just to cause trouble, I have to mention that a parfum/extrait also exists, even though you can’t get a proper bottle through normal channels in the US – I was introduced to it in one of those mini Christmas sets, and then bought decants, and then begged a friend who was traveling to France. The parfum is my favorite perfume; I don’t even like the EDT or EDP. (Though oddly I like Poudre, which I suspect I should think of as a travesty.)

      • Undina says:

        My most favorite is the EdT version, I prefer it to EdP and on my skin it stays long enough. I also have it in extrait – it smells differently and stays even closer to skin (it’s a dab bottle).

    • Tara says:

      Undina, I am so surprised to learn that No.19 actually took you years to warm up to. It is a perfume I associate so strongly with you.

      Just goes to show that sometimes it can be well worth persevering.

  7. Madeleine says:

    Hi Tara,

    Most of my top perfumes are ones that I have re-tried, discarded and come back to again and again: Carnal Flower (on first sniff I found it quite masculine), Le Parfum de Therese (loved the story on first sniff but didn’t feel right until the gazzilionth try), Mitsouko, Habanita. And it works the other way for me too. I loved L’Heure Bleue on first sniff, but I never reach for it because it now just doesn’t work on me.


    • Tara says:

      Hi Madeleine,

      It’s easy to think that “love at first sniff” is the real deal, but your favourite perfumes show this is not necessarily the case. More evidence also that Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums seems to be the house with the most perfumes which take time to get to know.

      Sorry to hear about L’HB. Such a shame when that happens.

  8. Ellia says:

    Usually I have to try once to understand if I like it or not… and I come back to re-try it couple of times more just to be sure if the particular juice is a full bottle worthy or if I just like it but do not wish to own it:)
    I do remember only couple of fragrances I was confused with at the very beginning: Habanita and 31 Rue Cambon…
    And I still try to appreciate the beauty of Mitsouko and Chanel No. 5… but no luck yet))

    • Tara says:

      It’s definitely worth spending the time before deciding if something is full bottle worthy. Even if you really love it on first try. On the spot purchases are to be avoided but most of us have done it. If I manage to walk out of Selfridges without a bottle of Dior’s new Grand Bal when I get to try it, I’ll have done very well!

      Habanita has taken me a long time to appreciate too and I’m looking forward to trying the edp. I still have days when I go back to my diminishing edt sample and think it’s not for me.

      I have heard a lot of people just don’t get 31RC on the first few tries but I fell for it straight away.

  9. poodle says:

    Chanel No.5 is one for me. I hated the stuff but kept trying it to see what all the fuss was about. One day it clicked. The other that I can remember is Womanity. I cringed in horror when I first smelled that one. It was awful but something in it made me want to smell it again. The next time I did I liked it. I bought a bottle at a discounter and after wearing it a bit I loved it. It’s the salty fig I think, and it lasts for hours. I didn’t like Fracas either and now I own that one too. Go figure.

    • Tara says:

      Poodle, I think this is turning out to be a much more common experience than we might have thought.

      It’s funny isn’t it, how sometimes we don’t like a perfume but feel compelled to try it again. I guess that’s a sign of a perfume that can become an acquired taste. I’m glad you grew to love Womanity and Fracas too.

  10. Neville says:

    I loved a number of Vetiver at first or second sniff, Encre Noir and Givenchy’s Vetiver being two favourites. But I could never got Vetiver Extraordinary (FlM). On a whim one day I bought a bottle, and now find myself reaching for it on mornings when I don’t want to understand.

    • Tara says:

      Hi there Neville,

      How interesting that you bought a bottle on a whim, even though you didn’t “get it”. I love that you now have a fragrance for mornings when you “don’t want to understand”. I need to have a think about that category – obviously one Frederic Malle excels at 🙂

  11. Darilyn says:

    My slow burner was Guerlain Angelique Noire. Every time I wear it, I am
    still amazed how it develops from it’s sharp green notes, into a golden
    soft vanilla!

    • Tara says:

      I love it when a perfume has such a surprising development like that. Angelique Noire is a perfume I’m very much looking forward to getting to know better.

  12. The hardest two for me were Chant d’Aromes (90’s version) and PdN’s Odalisque. Had to persist with both. Should it be love at first smell? Not sure, vintage Cotys are beautiful at first, at last, and all the times in between, which changes my thoughts on the subject. Before I’d have said a perfume should always have something off kilter, that makes you think. Now?

    • Tara says:

      I’ve tried Chant d’Aromes quite a few times in the hope of falling for it. I’d love to try the vintage stuff. Even in parfum it hasn’t moved me so far, sadly.

      It’s a good point as to whether perfumes should just be beautiful from start to finish or have something off-kilter about them, like you say. I guess I would conclude there’s room for both in a collection, without one being better than the other.

  13. jamesdennard says:

    The first time I sniffed Guerlain’s Habit Rouge and Heritage I was unimpressed. But since I had fallen hard for Vetiver I kept going back to them. Habit Rouge has since earned a permanent spot in my top ten. I am content to keep a sample of Heritage around for the time being.

    • Tara says:

      I went through a sample of Habit Rouge hoping to get what LT got (sweet dust, wasn’t it?) but with no luck. I’m glad you got there though and it’s in your Top Ten no less!

      • jamesdennard says:

        I always remember the sweet dust comment. I think of it more in terms of talc, but I understand and get why he uses those words. The change in my opinion might have had something to do with smelling it in the bottle versus on skin. But regardless, it will likely be a favourite of mine for a long time to come.

  14. lucasai says:

    Happy new week to Olfactoria and Tara 🙂

    I usually for for a fragrance within two or three tests. If it doesn’t click this fast I leave this fragrance behind and even if I retry some time later it doesn’t become a love. I once risked and bought something that wasn’t a quick love and now I hate this scent.

  15. Dionne says:

    Mine is Après l’Ondée. At first smell it really didn’t do much for me, but now is one of my most cherished fragrances. Most of my favorites were love-at-first-smell, but this one took a good year to “get.”

    • Tara says:

      I know you went through quite a journey with Apres L’Ondee, Dionne, and that it has a special place in your heart. I can imagine it is all the more precious for that.

  16. Nina says:

    Nu by Yves St. Laurant was to me, at first, not powerful enough and it languished in my collection. I picked it up during the summer and suddenly fell in love with it. Now I’m afraid I can’t find the original formulation I have so I’m being very stingy with it. Chanel No. 5 was another fragrance I didn’t like at first and now there are times when nothing else will do! Great Monday question!

    • Tara says:

      Thanks, Nina!

      I think subtle or quiet fragrances like Nu can be the most easy to dismiss at first try. We are so hoping to swoon at first sniff, but some perfumes take time to get to know and are well worth the time and effort if we can give them that. I hope you find some more of the original Nu!

      • Anita Monnroe says:

        Nina, if you can find NU in soap or cream, you will fall crazy in love with it. My own YSL scent that I had trouble liking is “In Love Again”. It just didn’t seem to be real perfume, just something you might like in the hot summer when you didn’t mind smelling like grapefruit. I learned to appreciate it a bit more, but avoid it most of the time.

  17. Nina Z says:

    For me some of the most wearable perfumes take a while because they are not dramatic, swoon at first sniff fragrances. I was disappointed at first at Noir Epices because I was expecting a spice bomb, but then I re-tried my sample and found it a beautiful subtle and wearable fragrance. I also had the same experience with Bois des Iles and Chanel No 22. Now all three are some of my favorites for regular wear. Ormonde Jayne Woman was a swoon at first sniff scent, and I still love it, but I find I don’t wear it that frequently because it is somewhat demanding (distracting?).

    • Tara says:

      Natalie at Another Perfume Blog did a great post recently about how we view wearable fragrances in Perfumeland. It’s an interesting point you make – that the more wearable perfumes can be easy to overlook because we are waiting for our socks to be knocked off. Sometimes a subtle beauty can become completely beguiling over time. Having said that, I bought Bois des Iles on the spot!

      I can absolutely relate to what you say about Ormonde Woman because it is so distinctive and compelling. It’s not a perfume you can just put on and forget about. Wonderful when you’re in the right mood though.

  18. Åsa Firth says:

    As an almost brand-new-perfumista I have to ask a question instead of answering yours, I hope you don’t mind Tara… You see, I wonder how much other factors play a role in whether we connect with a scent or not. Factors such as the time of year (i.e. is it hot, dry, wet, cold), even time of day perhaps. And our general sense of ourselves; how are we feeling? Good, strong, sad, daring, happy? Or are these factors null and void for the seasoned perfumista, something that even I will eventually just “know”?

    • Tara says:

      You are very welcome Asa! Good question.

      Those factors you mention are absolutely important. You’re spot-on. I really don’t think it changes over time, not for me anyway. If I’m not in the mood for a loud perfume it won’t matter how good it is, I just won’t be able to appreciate it. Climate is also often important. I tried Hermessence Ambre Narguile in summer and it was just suffocating, but in winter it is cosy and just heavenly. I usually pick my Scent of the Day based on my mood and the weather that day.

  19. dremybluz says:

    My slow burner was Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminalle. It first reminded me of rubber tires dipped in paint solvent. Then when I finally “got it”, a family member accidently knocked my bell jar on the floor. They offered to buy a new bottle until they found out what it would cost. I had to keep from laughing at the look of horror on their face, Thank goodness they finally made it an export brand and was able to buy a 1.7 oz bottle on ebay at a decent price.

    • Tara says:

      I think Tubereuse Criminelle is a slow burner for a lot people. “Rubber tires dipped in paint solvent” really made me smile! Not what we’re accustomed to in our perfume but can be wonderful in a small dose on a hot day. I’m sorry about your bell jar but I’m glad you managed to replace it at reasonable cost. Wow, your room must have smelled pretty pungent for some time!

  20. Bee says:

    just an example: Ormonde Jayne woman – I was about to give my sample away, but decided to try it a last time and suddenly I needed a full bottle (wearing it today)

    • Tara says:

      Bee, thank goodness you tried that sample one more time!

      I’m glad I also tried again with OJ Woman, it’s really exceptional but the spookiness can be challenging at first.

  21. Ines says:

    I hate it when my comments disappear. :S

    But I love the question. 🙂
    It took me forever to get Shalimar, for quite a time I couldn’t understand what was the fuss about. And I really didn’t like it before I started loving it.
    As for somethhing I liked but only recently grew to love, that would be Cruel Gardenia. Which is strange, I wore it today and I realized there is a clean feel to the white floweriness but it doesn’t bother me here. 🙂

    • Tara says:

      Thanks for trying to comment again, Ines. It’s so frustrating when that happens.

      I’m surprised to hear it took you quite a while to click with Shalimar. I loved it on first spray and I’m so glad you keep trying with it. I definitely find that the greater reputation a perfume has (with my friends more than anyone) the more likely I am to persevere with it.

      So you’ve come round to Cruel Gardenia like B, then? That one must be quite a grower.

    • Ines, Shalimar is one of my slow-burners too — I never liked it until very recently when I finally opened and tried a vintage bottle of EDC that I had languishing in my closet. It’s soft and smoky and leathery and great!

      Also, Champagne de Bois didn’t speak to me the first couple of times I tried it; I was much more interested in other scents from the SSS line. Then suddenly last winter I HAD to own some.

  22. Civava says:

    I think it took me a month to really started to love Beyond Paradise by Estee Lauder. Then I wore it all till the bottle was finished. I fall for what people are saying about some perfume but I try to wait (that is the hard part) thet the first attack of enthusiasm is over so I can think clearly and wisely (that is hard too). I have a bunch of samples at home I haven’t even come close to yet and it is a shame ;-). I never liked white flowers perfumes, now it seems I like them so much I’m actually planning to buy full bottle. Never say, never!

    • Tara says:

      “Never say never” is absolutely right! I know Olfactoria wisely approaches perfume with this in mind. You can miss out on so much if you write off a note or a complete genre of fragrances in that way. I’m glad you’re beginning to embrace white florals, I’m well on my way too and hope Dior’s Grand Bal will be my first full bottle too.

      We all find restraint in perfume tough, but it sounds like you are doing a good job.

  23. Vanessa says:

    Ooh, good question, and the answer is quite a lot, though I reserve the right to “unget” them at a later date. Amouage Lyric was one, and PD Antonia (though I am still not mad about the opening). Bal a Versailles took me a few attempts and there are a ton of others I am still working on. That said, if the scent is utterly repellent from the off, I rarely perservere!

    • Tara says:

      Hi Vanessa

      I think we should do “Which perfume did you unget?” as a Monday Question!

      i know what you mean about the opening of Antonia. Even PD1 took me a while too, just because it is deceptively simple and easy to dismiss on first try. It was only when B generously sent me a partial bottle that I really got to appreciate and fall for it.

      Amouage Lyric is one I need to go back at some point. Epic on the other hand was easy to fall for. I think you did well to keep trying with Bal a Versailles.


  24. Candice says:

    Thierry Mugler Angel takes the cake. It took me 7 years, but I’ve finally come to an understanding with it. This is the friend I love but don’t bring everywhere because I have too many other loves, though we usually have a grand ol’ time once she’s mellowed into the drydown.

    The second is Shalimar, with whom I’ve had an abusive relationship for 4 years. The dirty, powdery vanilla-bug-spray note tortures and intrigues me in equal measure. The kicker is I thought I’d like the Eau, the Initial, and the L’eau more (smaller dose of bug spray) but after wearing those, I went right back to Shalimar. I must like the pain.

    The others are my “crack fragrances”. Usually scents that I passed over many times because they smelt “meh” on paper but became addicted to when they were finally applied to skin (and possibly into my bloodstream). These include No 19, L’Instant de Guerlain, Serge Lutens Five O’clock au Gingembre, and Gucci Eau de Parfum (big glass bottle brown jus).


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