Thursday, October 10, 2013

Vintage Perfume Mystery: Accidentally Untitled

The quest for vintage perfume leads me to some dark and dusty corners of antique stores where I sometimes find nameless bottles with no labels. Of course, it helps to know your Guerlains and be able to recognize certain treasures, like the amazing Jicky in a quadrilobe Baccart bottle I got over the weekend. A smartphone also helps quite a bit in some cases, but every once in a while I find something interesting that smells nice but I have absolutely no idea what it is.

Sometimes taking them home and doing research online and in books can help. Case in point: this bottle that I got as part of a lot the dealer really didn't want to keep. It smelled "pretty" and the bottle was obviously old and of good quality. I found it in one of my books as well as online. This is Secret de Suzanne by Suzanne Perichon of Suzanne Perfumes Paris. The perfume was created in 1924 and if I have to guess I'd say it was discontinued right after WWII. There are ads from the 1940s (below), but none later than 1946. You can see an example of an empty bottle from an eBay auction. Secret de Suzanne smells floral, as far as I can tell, and it's quite easy to wear.

A bigger mystery is the bottle on the left in the picture below, next to Caractere by Bruyere:

The big bottle is numbered 68 and may or may not be Baccarat. There's a stamp on the bottom but it's far to worn to read and identify. According to some online sources, Baccarat used 68 for Bruyere around 1909 or 1910. However, as far as I can tell Bruyere bottles had a slightly different shape , as you can see in Caractere, which is indeed a signed and stamped Baccarat. Unlike my Caractere, the mystery bottle wasn't sealed, and in fact, at first I suspected it was a decanter and not a commercial perfume. Things get even more mysterious, as the juice inside smells like a very beautiful and rich vintage Mitsouko (Caractere, if you're curious, is a soapy mossy powerhouse). The stoppers, though, are practically identical:

Next we have a bottle that I nearly didn't get. The juice looked too dark to be still alive, but when I opened it in the store the entire area was filled with the unmistakable smell of civet:

The last mystery bottle is only semi-untitled. It was part of the vintage lot I mentioned above and while obviously not too prestigious, it's one of my favorites. The label "NM" made me think at first that it was a perfume made for Neiman Marcus, but obviously the logo and font are wrong and the cap looks a bit too cheap to be a Neiman Marcus item. The bottle is small, about 10 or 12ml. The perfume itself, though, smells like a lighter and more floral version of Bandit, but still leathery and mossy.  I love wearing the mystery NM, even though I have absolutely no idea what this is.

Do you recognize any of these bottles? Do you have any untitled perfumes you hope to identify some day? I was thinking that if enough readers send me photos of their mystery bottles I will publish another post where we can try and help each other.


  1. The really dark one is Youth Dew! Also, I know you've found the "68" on the Baccarat bottle which correspeonds to Bruyere, but before the turn of the century Baccarat was making these bottles for Houbigant, Pinaud and *many* other houses which wouldn't ring a bell w us these day, and from what I can tell a great deal of their business was still dependent on private commissions, so I doubt you could ever pin this one down. The large size seems like it might be one of these old bespokes....from who knows which house. Could be Bruyere given the number, their older bottles of the era (unlike the one you posted) are regular 4-cornered types, but the shoulders slope - as do those from the era by Soubise and several other houses. Then again the non-sloping shoulders on your bottle may just be due to the larger size.

  2. I don't recognize the bottles b/c I'm a functional illiterate w/ regards to vintage scent. However this past weekend at a garage sale I bought my first vintage bottle - almost half full - of something called Dianthus by Molton Brown. I tried to research it on the internet but came up empty.

  3. The only NM I could find on Perfume Intelligence [perfumeintelligence dot co dot uk] was for Neiman Marcus in 1951 and is discontinued. I had another bottle of a perfume made specifically for Neiman Marcus a few years ago, but it did not look like yours (can't provide pictures because I gave it to someone for whom it was a special memory). Maybe Neiman Marcus customer service has a historian who could provide insight?

  4. Unfortunately I don't know what your untitled bottles may be. In my travels I have come across some untitled vintages as well. One I did purchase because I liked it, but I also knew it was a Lucien Lelong (whose labels are notorious for going missing). I have no idea which fragrance it is, but it's great so I sometimes wear it.

  5. Did I miss something or didn't you say you had acquired a Baccarat bottle of Jicky? Is it among those pictured? If not, please post.

  6. How lucky that you found Secret de Suzanne! Love that perfume. Can't help you with the other bottles, but I'm fairly certain that the NM is indeed from Neiman Marcus. I have a bottle of that one and their Faube (the bath oil). The one you have isn't the same bottle as the one I have, but I'm fairly certain I've seen yours on ebay before (am a vintage perfume junkie and I'm afraid ebay is my only option since there literally are zero antique stores or estate sales with perfume near where I live) and your description sounds very much like the NM which I have. I had read somewhere (no idea where now) that it was similar to Cabochard and so I bought it on faith - definitely is in that vein, only lighter than Cabochard or, as you say, Bandit.

  7. Anonymous is absolutely right about the Youth Dew - there is a beautiful sealed one with original box and brochure on ebay right now with good photos - ebay item number 271295581652. nozknoz

  8. I have several bottles that are unidentified. I am a vintage perfume junkie and love your idea of sending photos to see if we can name our treasures!

  9. Francis Denney`s Interlude might be the dark one...

  10. The one you nearly didn't get should be youth dew skin perfume. I have one bottle of 1/2 Oz exactly like that.

  11. Yes, the others are correct. The dark one before the last one is vintage Estee Lauder Youth Dew Skin Perfume.

  12. I recently purchased a cheap, sealed bottle like yours that I had assumed (independently of this blog post) was Youth Dew. On arrival, I saw it has a gold foil "Purdeu" on the label mount, and "cachet" on a sticker on the bottom of the bottle. I can't find anything on "Purdeu", though wonder if it's possibly a copy of Prince Matchabelli's Cachet. The perfume is very dark like yours. I guess I should open it and compare it to Youth Dew (don't have any cachet), but for some reason I find it a mental challenge to break the seals on an old bottle and turn treasure from pristine to used. It looks perfectly identical to the Youth Dew though. The glass is marked "Bottle made in France". These little mysteries!

  13. Hi Gaia,

    The number 68 does not refer to the Baccarat model number. The Baccarat model number refers to the particular bottle design in the Baccarat catalog. These bottles were sometimes used only by one perfume company or the same bottle may have been used by several. In the 1940s, Bruyere adopted the simple, elegant clean lines of the earlier Baccarat design which was popular during the early 1900s and other companies used this bottle design for years.

    The number 68 should be inscribed on the base of the bottle and the base of the stopper, this was done at the factory to show that the two pieces were ground to fit exactly and would be matched up at the end of the production line, that way a bottle would not be matched up with the wrong stopper, which would not have fitted correctly. Every bottle on the production line was given a number in succession, so each bottle would have it's own number.

    It certainly appears to be a Baccarat flacon, my Baccarat book is packed away in storage but I will see if I can find it to help you out here.

    You had mentioned that there is somewhat of a mark but it is faded. To bring the mark back to life for a few moments, rub the base of the bottle briskly against a piece of soft cotton like an old tshirt or towel for several seconds, then immediately breathe hot air upon it, this should bring up any old faded acid stamps for a moment or two. You may have to do this a few times to see it.


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