There are many classic perfumes that weren't discontinued and survived rebranding and reshuffling; These fragrances are still in production and available for their fans for those of us who want to get acquainted with them and learn how it all began.
It's no secret (unless you work for Chanel) that everything has been reformulated. Classic perfumes, designer perfumes, and even niche fragrances (Serge Lutens is perhaps the most honest about it). Some of those reformulations are more adequate than others, but if you're curious and enthusiastic enough about the subject, these are seventeen perfumes that are currently on the market but are worth the time, effort, and money it takes to find and smell in vintage form:
Guerlain- Mitsouko and Shalimar. While the juice currently on the shelves under these revered names is still better than about 80% of other department store fare, the only way to truly understand the greatness of Guerlain is to smell the real thing. Honorable mention: Jicky.
Balmain- Jolie Madame and Vent Vert. The latter is till a pleasant perfume for green lovers, but there's nothing like the original for a lesson in galbanum. As for Jolie Madame... sigh. I'll cry if I talk about it.
Dior- Everything, but especially Miss Dior (now called Miss Dior Classic), Diorella and Dioressence. I sniffed the most recent versions (exclusive to Saks and Dior boutiques, I think) and they're a clear improvement over the stuff from one, three or five years ago. Still, there's something pale and languid about them which you'll understand once you've smelled the real thing.
Chanel- No.5 (extrait de parfum), Cuir de Russie and No.19. If the difference between old and new Jolie Madame makes me want to cry, Chanel reformulations give me frag-rage. The new No. 19 is the most criminal, bearing little resemblance to the forceful and crisp galbanum-iris-oakmoss of yore.
Gres- Cabochard. Smoke and leather. While I can't for the life of me imagine Coco Chanel in her own No.5, vintage Cabochard fits her to perfection.
Givenchy- Ysatis and Organza Indecense. Givenchy perfumes used to be wonderful. Over the years they've been thinned, diluted, and cheapened. I'd actually advise to seek most of them in their vintage incarnations but the floriental Ysatis and the creamy Organza Indecense are too beautiful to miss.
Rochas- Femme. I actually had to check the company's website to verify that Femme is still in production. They bastardized and cuminized it so many times I wasn't sure they didn't give up on it completely. In any case, the original was a glorious fruity leathery chypre like no other (but somewhat related to Mitsouko).
Lancome- Magie Noire. This is a case of a perfume better off dead. The 1978 perfume was, indeed, magical. What's left of it is as sexy as the Lancome counters where it's sold.
YSL- Opium. The fragrance pretending to be Opium has stolen the identity of a sex icon. We shouldn't let the thief get away with it.
Annick Goutal- Eau d'Hadrien. Once upon a time Eau d'Hadrien was a landmark perfume, the perfect combination of Mediterranean citrus and cypress green. Then came IFRA and reduced poor Hadrien into a generic lemon cologne.
Please add your recommendations. Remember: I only mentioned perfumes that are still in production, as ghostly and ghastly as they might be.
Vintage ads: hprints.com