Viewer Mail: Rescue Me from Floral/Citrus Doldrums

Hi Katie,

Your post on the Gap's Individuals scents reminded me of my current scent identity crisis. At this risk of embarrassing myself by revealing my particularly "tween"-ish preferences, I've run through the following list of attempts to discover my scent soul-mate over the past six months:

1. Victoria's Secret Love Spell (no, I am not a 14-year-old cheerleader and yes, I actually did think that this was a good idea at the time)
2. Victoria's Secret Everything Refresher Spray with Organic Citrus (this smells good on the way out of the bottle and then mysteriously disappears upon impact with my skin)
3. Victoria's Secret Angel (apparently I like to get my fragrance where I buy my panties)
4. The Body Shop Satsuma Perfume Oil (the home scent version smelled so great in my apartment, I guess I wanted to take it with me to work; also disappears on the skin far too quickly)
5. Vera Wang The Fragrance (just gives that blah feeling)
6. Benefit B Spot (also not very exciting)

I also had fleeting romances in the past with:
1. Hugo Boss For Her (this was my 7th grade go-to)
2. Clinique Happy(got old fast, but I briefly tried the new "Happy Heart" at the mall and was tempted to take it home with me)
3. DKNY Be Delicious (we're still hook up sometimes, but I always feel guilty afterwards)
4. Yves Saint Laurent Baby Doll (this was a half-empty bottle from my godmother, it represents the more fashionable lady I sometimes pretend to be)

I'm lost in a sea of "almost there" flavors and I stare in my medicine cabinet every morning trying to figure out which of my barely diminished bottles I should waste a bit more of. Like Anne Hathaway's Princess Diaries character pre-makeover, I leave for work each morning feeling like "this is as good as it's going to get." I long for the excitement you exude when reviewing so many discovered scents.

A brief and disinterested exchange with a Sephora employee helped me discover my basic likes/dislikes in fragrance.
Love it:
1. Citrus, citrus, citrus (I want to feel like a bar of Dial Soap, without the soapy scent, if that's possible)
2. Light floral
Hate it:
1. Musk of any sort (makes me feel like my deodorant failed by the end of the day)
2. Anything sweet, especially vanilla (ditto on the failed deodorant sentiment)

I'm on pins and needles waiting for your reply. Please help me to escape the doldrums of decent scents and discover something I can be passionate about.

Thank you,


Hi Kariyushi -- no wonder you’re staring into the void of your medicine cabinet every morning for fume inspiration! You’ve saddled yourself with a bunch of “starter fragrances” that are the perfume equivalent of training bras. It’s time to “lift and separate” with some proper, grown-up scents. Given your preferences, and along with the seemingly oxymoronic desire to feel like a bar of soap without the actual soapy smell, allow me to introduce you to your brand new soulmate: Chanel No. 5 Eau Première. This instant classic is a youthful reworking of the original No. 5, and is a citrus-y, softly-powdery light floral. It shimmers lightly around the skin, and suggests soap without actually smelling “soapy”. I’m confident that you two will have a beautiful future together.

If you still feel like playing the field, these are all amazing in the light floral/citrus genre:

Chanel Cristalle eau de toilette
(sparkling, green floral & citrus chypre)
Chanel Cristallle eau Verte (radiant lime & jasmine freshness)
Kenzo Eau de Fleur de Magnolia (light orange blossom & magnolia)
Comme des Garçons 3 (a radiant imaginary flower)
Fresh Citron de Vigne (crisp, light citrus)
Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien (woody lemon)
Annick Goutal Hadrien Absolu (more intense version of Eau d’Hadrien; slightly more floral)
Jo Malone White Jasmine & Mint (just as it sounds, floral & fresh)
Nanadebary Green (crisp citrus & herbs with a bit of spice)

Also, I’m on a Miller Harris craze these days – I think this line is consistently high quality and a joy to wear. My favorite MH doldrums-chasing scent for you is:

Fleur de Matin (zesty green aromatic florals with citrus)

And check on the men’s side of the aisle for these (bearing in mind that cologne is unisex genre, if you’re worried about such things):

Hermès Concentré d’Orange Verte (classic citrus cologne)
Thierry Mugler Cologne (citrus/floral in a steamroom)

Try these and sniff some passion back into your neglected nose!



  1. LOL! Training bras!! Nice.

    I like your suggestions--some because I already like them, some because I'd like to try! (Miller Harris, here I come.) Re: Eau de Hadrien...a couple of online sellers have a travel size 3-pack of Goutal "fresh" scents, including Hadrien and Nuits de Hadrien, along with Mandragore, at a good price. Mandragore qualifies as a push-up bra, too, I think. ;)

  2. ScentSelf - Yes! I saw that Goutal 3-pack, very smart of them. Les Nuits d'Hadrien is my fave out of that batch. Mandragore must have "blank-out juice" in it, because I forget what it smells like 5 seconds after I sniff it.

    I should also give a citrus shout-out to Christian Dior Diorella and Eau Sauvage, for being fresh with stealth musky-moss "rowr".

  3. Hey Katie,

    You may remember me asking you for perfume advice about a month ago while I was in the midst of an scentidentity crisis. Your advice was fabulous and I had a lot of fun trying to track down all of the scents you suggested. I paid a visit to the Chanel counter at my local Nordstrom's to check out the Chanel No. 5 Premiere and was immediately set upon by a pair of false-lashed, buxom blondes that had so neutered their natural features with face paint and bleach that they succeeded in looking like matching Harajuku girls from the top of one of Gwen Stefani's bottles of noxious skittlesque elixirs.

    Despite my apprehension towards interacting with these living cartoon characters, they actually ended up being quite helpful. While I definitely understood your suggestion of Chanel No. 5 Premiere based on my description of what I wanted (soap, but not soap, but yeah let's bring in some soap), I found that I have been using scented soaps for so long that I didn't remember what regular soap really smelled like. Chanel No. 5 Premiere was interesting, but a bit too powdery. Harajuku One suggested that I try Chanel Chance Eau Fraiche if I wanted something a bit more citrusy. I fell in lurve immediately. I fully intended to march home and buy my new lurve online through your site, but the twins had me in their grips. They offered me $20.00 in Nordstrom bucks and a discount on the Bare Minerals I was clutching if I signed up for a Nordstrom card. I couldn't resist the temptation, and walked out with a fresh bottle of Eau Fraiche.

    We are very happy together, and I still credit you with helping me find my new bff.

  4. "Noxious Skittlesque elixirs"? Thank you, Kariyushi, for your services towards the Perfume Vocabulary Effort (PVE). Your medal is in the mail.

    Chance Eau Fraîche, eh? I do believe you're onto something! You took my ball and ran with it, still staying within the Chanel playing field. Hats off (and a few layers of face paint) to Harajuku One for sorting you out with a winner. I was exploring Eau Fraîche just the other day and digging the fresh-but-not-cheesy sunshiney-ness.