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The last time I was in Paris, I had coffee with a perfumer for a mid-sized niche line. We've known each other for a few years and have gotten to know each other quite well. On this day, I asked him what fragrance he wore most often. Without missing a beat, he answered 'Bel Ami from Hermès. You're surprised' he said, 'You were expecting me to say I wore one of my fragrances.' The look on my face had given me away. 'The fact is, I do wear my fragrances, but I've worn Bel Ami since before I started making perfume. It's a sentimental choice for me. Besides, it is a classic men's scent and one of the best leather fragrances ever created, but the truth is, I am one of those people who prefers Jean-Claude Ellena's version better than the original.' He paused for a moment. 'Wait, you don't have coffees with Ellena too, do you?' I assured him that I don't, though if I was ever given the opportunity to have a coffee with M. Ellena, I would not turn him down.

After some more conversation and canelés, we said our goodbyes and parted ways. But for the rest of the day, my mind kept going back to Bel Ami. A quick stop at Hermès for a sniff and a sample, and I understood my friend's fascination with the scent.

When Hermès, the saddler come luxury goods manufacturer, wanted a perfume centred around leather, they turned to Jean-Louis Sieuzac, who created Bel Ami for the brand in 1986. Sieuzac drew inspiration for the fragrance from Guy de Maupassant's novel, Bel Ami, published in 1885. Set in Paris, during the Third Republic, it tells the story of provincial upstart Georges Duroy, who ascends to power by manipulation, opportunism, seduction and politics to become one of the most successful men in Paris. The story is told against the backdrop of lush scenes and characters of belle epoque Paris.

Soon after its release, Bel Ami became the standard for leather-based fragrances. But times change, and in 2014, Bel Ami was reformulated by Hermès house perfumer Ellena to comply with IFRA regulations. I have never smelled the vintage version, but I'm sure glad I listened to my French friend and bought the 2014 version.

Bel Ami opens with a nose-tingling note of citrus that leads to cardamon – sweet, spicy and resinous and warm spicy clove. The cardamon and clove are deep, aromatic and exotic. Could this be a nod to the three years Georges Duroy, spent in military service in Algeria? If it is, sign me up! As the spices settle on my skin, they are lightened by a note of basil that's fresh and herbal and slightly anisic, giving the opening a gentlemanly elegance. Cue the leather - Russian leather that is. That rich leather smell that's synonymous with luxury goods - think leather gloves or handbag or boots. Here it's smoky, potent and virile. Musk adds sensuality and warmth to the leather, making it sensuous and supple, while powdery iris gives Bel Ami sophistication. Patchouli is sweet, rich and woody complements the Russian leather beautifully. At the base, vetiver is deep, warm and woody, while vanilla softens the virility just enough to turn Bel Ami into a very smooth operator.

The drydown is warm, sweet, sophisticated and undeniably masculine.

One has to wonder if Georges Duroy had worn Bel Ami, would he have gotten to the top of the Parisian social ladder faster? Without doubt.

Bel Ami is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.

Image-wikipedia.com - Leather tools by Scott Bauer
 

Chanel Coco EdT 50 ml. - perfumeniche.com

You know those magazine stories that you read, usually in waiting rooms, about a couple finding each other after breaking up and being separated for years? After their fling or affair, life took them in different directions. They met someone else, had a family or whatever, then found themselves single in midlife. Chance brings them together, they reconnect and fall in love all over again. But this time it’s different. Older and wiser, they truly get to know each other and the new love that grows between them is deep and unwavering, a love they will share for the rest of their lives….

Well, that is the story of me and Chanel Coco. We had a long and happy relationship twenty years ago, but lost touch as the new niche fragrances and shiny new perfume bottles started to crowd my shelves. But Coco and I  reconnected unexpectedly, and now I’m in love again with this spicy oriental, which is so French and so chic and so beautiful. 

Coco was launched in 1984 at the tail-end of the 1970’s YSL Opium “monster Oriental” trend. It was created by Chanel’s in-house perfumer, Jacques Polge. His inspiration was Coco Chanel’s private Paris residence which was filled to the brim with beautiful Oriental objets- Venetian glass, Chinoiserie panels, leather-bound books, etc.  Polge brilliantly paired this inspiration with Chanel’s unique design aesthetic, resulting in a brand new version of oriental fragrance - brighter, assertive, more intriguing with dried fruit notes mixed in with the traditional spices and florals and warm resin notes. Coco revealed a level of sophistication that lifted it out of the mainstream into the realm of wordless beauty. 

My bottle is the EdT, which seems to have changed the least from reformulations, and is brighter and more transparent than the EdP. The distinctive Chanel aldehydes burst out of the bottle, like champagne, soon morphing into fruity fizziness, like a splash of liqueur in spritzer water.  A cloud of fresh natural mandarin notes mixed with sweeter orange blossoms slowly slides into the heart where the florals announce themselves. 

Jasmine, and the delicious earthiness of dried rose and carnation petals fold into cardamom, cinnamon, sweet pimento, rich clove and dark fruit notes, so that the heart pulses with plush warmth and rich aromas.  The heart of Coco is just impossibly beautiful, is all I can say, and I’m thrilled that Coco EdT dries down slowly and evenly so I get to enjoy this gorgeous heart accord for several hours. 

The dry down is creamy and resinous from sandalwood, woody and warm from opoponax and incense, with hints of animalic sexiness from leather and civet, and finally, added depth from vanilla and whiffs of bitter chocolate from tonka bean. Coco’s waft is subtle and sophisticated, the scent lasts for many hours on my skin, its spicy scent clings lightly to sweaters and scarves, making it one of my most favourite cold-weather fragrances. 

Chanel Coco is one of those rare scents the nose can’t resist, one of those “You smell so good!” or “What are you wearing?” fragrances. In fact, giving me a hug this morning, my husband who rarely comments when I wear perfume, murmured in my ear “Mmm, you smell good, you smell expensive…” Wow! The man has a good nose!

For me, Coco isn’t a blast from the past, and it is definitely not “dated” when compared to the new niche and artisanal fragrances I’ve purchased in the past year. What it truly is, and always has been, is an authentic classic, a work of perfume art that is timeless, and therefore is as beautiful and relevant as the day it was launched. 

That’s the thing about perfumes – some you will fall in love with over and over, and you will wear them and love them forever. 

Chanel Coco is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.

Welcome to perfumeniche.com

"She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight."

                                                                       Raymond Chandler

We are Gwen and Kay, two perfumistas making our scent journey in the cool, clear North.  We are also BFFs - we hang out together a lot, travel together - so we try, buy and share fragrances.

What started out as a shared interest grew into a hobby, and has now become our obsession.

We’ve spent many evenings with a glass of prosecco, a little cool jazz playing in the background, spritzing, sniffing - “How does this smell on you?” and, sadly, sometimes scrubbing.

We’ve tested and tried hundreds of samples over the years, and when we deemed a fragrance ”full bottle worthy” (FBW), one of us has tracked it down and bought it. We now own a lot of really great perfumes, and we continue to buy bottles of what we think is the best of "niche" as new scents are launched.

Also, we include many perfume "classics" that are the foundations of modern perfumery - like Shalimar, Chanel No.5, Eau Sauvage - plus other perfume "gems" that have been discontinued, or were ahead of their time when launched but now fit perfectly in the Niche category. 

With so many exciting discoveries, we can’t help but talk about our passion with other friends. Wherever we go, people ask “What is that perfume you’re wearing? Where can I get that?” So we end up sharing a bit of our “juice” with friends. But the circle has grown, so we've started this website to let others buy and try samples from our collections and experience the fragrant beauty we write about.

WHAT WE DO

We blog

We blog once a week and post a story about a scent from our collections, and add it to our Decant Store. We're not scent critics, so these aren't negative reviews. We love all our fragrances  - that’s why we bought them! But we describe how we think they smell, and share our stories about why we love them - maybe you’ll rediscover an old flame, or fall in love with a new scent.

Or we post conversations about whatever has grabbed our attention recently. Or we write about a specific perfume note,  and offer a Decant Pack, which allows you to explore new territory by trying 3 or 4 fragrances in a special pack at a special discount price.

We sell

We sell 1 ml. decants - .7 ml volume once you allow for the stopper in the vial - filled from our own bottles in our collection because the only way to experience a fragrance is to try it on your own skin. We take the fragrance from its original bottle and decant it into a smaller brand-new, 1 ml sterilized glass vials so that you can try it on your skin to see if you like it.

Through our Decant Store you'll have access to some of the world’s greatest niche scents, hard-to-find fragrances, and classic favourites. 

When you click on the Decant Store tab you’ll find our personal descriptions of each of the fragrances we currently offer from our collection, then you can add them to your Shopping Cart.

Let's be clear (this is a disclaimer!!)

  • We don’t sell full bottles of any fragrance - just .7ml decants. We only sell decants  from the perfumes we've bought.... because we love them.
  • We don't re-sell manufacturers samples.
  • We don’t represent any perfumers or distributors, so we don’t have every scent from a whole line of perfume.
  • We aren’t being paid to promote any product or scent.

If, after sampling a fragrance, you decide that you must have it, i.e. it is FBW (full bottle worthy), and you can’t find it, e-mail us and we will direct you to the best source we know – retail store or online source.

We provide

A place for you to learn about scent, and to share your fragrance experience with others. Click on the section called Resources, under My Perfume Notes (see top right), where  you'll find a Glossary, and fragrance FAQs. You'll also find two great tools we've created - Handmaps and My Sample Perfume Notes - so you can keep track of, and record your own scent experiences.
 
We hope you enjoy perfumeniche.com, and visit us often. Leave your preconceptions behind, look around, see what’s on offer, read the Blog, share your experiences and discoveries, and join the circle.

It’s just us.