Etro Sandalo a deep sigh of “ahhhhhhhhhh”.

One of my pet perfume peeves is when sales assistants get all up in my grill when I’m contentedly sampling fragrances. There I am, like Dennis Hopper with the gas mask in Blue Velvet, snorfing deeply of every bottle on the counter, when the intrusion commences.

“Can I help you?”

I strike a perky D.I.Y. tone in my response.

“No thanks! I’m happy sniffing for now!”

Ignoring my obvious self-sufficiency, the SA will persist, “What notes do you like?”

An inward sigh from me, and then an outward, “Incense.”

“Oh! Then you’ll love this!” the SA will say, forcing some random spice on me.

Yesterday at Barneys, it was a clove fragrance called Seductive from the organic line Intelligent Nutrients. I dutifully sniffed, frowned and said dully, “It’s clove. I don’t like clove.”

The SA was determined to turn lemons into lemonade.

“Oh, I don’t like clove, either! I’m from Hawaii -- I’m a gardenia girl. But men LOVE clove! You’ll be amazed at the reaction you get from men when you wear this! Women come back after trying this to buy it, because of all the attention they get from men!”

So, I’m supposed to sit in cloud of Christmas ham spices all day long to lure random men? How ‘bout I just wear the ham? Men like ham too, I hear. And what about what I like? If I’m wearing what I love, I won’t be a Sourface McMeany, and I’ll get attention from everyone, men, women, zebras, tomatoes -- whatevs, Lady.

Ooh, don’t get me started.

I was at the snazzerella Etro boutique on Rodeo Drive a few months back, eager to dive into their range of 22 fragrances. Etro’s clothes may be an awkward sock-hop of Oriental and Preppy, but the perfumes are ambitious and interesting. I knew I liked the smoky chai of Palais Jamais, and was intrigued by the dirty-hair myrrh of Messe de Minuit orange incense. And I already owned Shaal Nur, an easy-wearing lemon vetiver.

I lined up the perfumes like shots at a bar, and proceeded to systematically spritz and sniff my way through them. A voice cut through my happy haze.

“You kill your nose after three, you know.” The Etro guy was holding a container of coffee beans towards me.

Not the dreaded coffee beans! If I wanted to spend the afternoon smelling coffee beans, I’d be eight miles east at Intelligentsia Coffee. But still there persists the urban myth that coffee “clears your palate”, somehow magically vacuuming up the cacophony of odors in your nose. Never mind the reality that all you’re doing is introducing yet another intense aroma into the din. That all you really need to do to keep going is to take a fresh air break when your nose is overwhelmed.

“No thanks,” I said firmly in the direction of the proffered beans. I picked up my next perfume, Sandalo, spritzed, sniffed, and went into a dream.

Sandalo eau de cologne is a warm, buttery sandalwood. There’s an odd, “off” note when it first hits the skin, a sour milk bite that might be an indication of the listed cedarwood. As soon as you’ve wrinkled your nose, it’s over, and you’re into the strangely petrol-like aspect of sandalwood. Yeah yeah, sandalwood’s a cozy, woody smell, you know that, but there’s always that sharp gasoline attack right at the top. The gasoline softens, but there remains a thin shell of camphor around Sandalo’s creamy mmm-ness for the whole ride, like the candy coating around almond M&Ms. Just to keep you honest.

The sour milk and petrol start is the perfume version of a sleepy dog turning around herself three times before she settles in for a long, snuggly sleep, because five minutes in, Sandalo’s cuddled into your skin for the duration. It’s the ultimate perfume for flower-haters -- or lovers, as the case may be, because no flowers were harmed in the making of Sandalo. It’s all sandalwood, all the time, supported by a sensual accord of amber, musk and patchouli. Come all you men and women who want to smell like a deep sigh of “ahhhhhhhhhh”. Sandalo is here to spoon you.

Etro Sandalo is available from, starting at $70 for 3.3 oz

Image by elisfanclub


  1. I get mad a SA who think they know what their doing too lol sometimes I feel like saying "Hey, I know more about your job that you do. If I didn't have 2 jobs already I'd take yours". Maybe someday I'll do that lol

  2. Oh, can I relate to this! I don't look fashionable, so the SAs can be real snooty but I do love sandalwood. Hilarious bit about smelling like a ham--nice writing!--and my first real laugh of the day. Love the kittens, too, but I am a sucker for those. Okay, I've got to try the Etro Sandalo. Thanks for the turn-on!

  3. To be fair, I must state that by and large, my local Barney's SAs are incredibly knowledgeable about perfumes. I've had many enjoyable afternoons being turned onto new things by the staff there. The rogue "clove pusher" who snagged me was at a separate counter.

  4. Perfume, shmurfume... What is with the rack of kitties? I have had my fair share of kitties, in fact one is curled up next to me right now, but those poor pusses look posed. I will admit, tho, that is one of the fun things about kittens. They are so poseable, especially when they are asleep. At least these don't have funny clothes on like they are supposed to be humans. Oh, and my kitty? She is grooming the dog. She LOVES the dog. He has the cleanest head around - Ha!

  5. Isn't it funny how most of SA's insist that they know what we would love or need? I just gave up on explaining them that if most of the times I don't know what I want, how can they know? But two years ago I found the perfect perfume shopping spot... Wolf Parfumerie, in Bielefeld. They carry most of the brands I like, like Annick Goutal, Serge Lutens and Etro and the store manager just lets me spend a couple of hours there sniffing anything I want (while my patient husband goes out for a cigarette each 5 minutes) because he knows that at the end of the journey I will leave the store with a few bottles, a big smile on my face and looking forward for my next visit. Of course this is something I do only once a year, but it's always so much fun going there!

  6. Sabrina, that is my definition of a perfect perfume shop: they have a large selection and they leave you the hell alone while you commune with pretty smells.

    The SAs who constantly lurch in and disturb my reverie (even after a few polite but firm "No thanks, I'm just happy sniffing!" comments from me) are "just trying to do their job", I'm sure. But I do appreciate being left alone -- unless the SA is as doolally about fumes as I, in which case I love to get their take on the offerings.

  7. Of course they are just doing their job, and I'm pretty sure they can be very helpful for the average customer. Thing is they should at least know how to identify a "perfume hound", and make her/him a happy customer:) But of course there are some exceptions to the rule... the girls at Charles de Gaulle Duty Free, for example, have a great knowledge of perfume and are some of the few SA's I can rely on (plus they also give great chocolate advice):)