The husband gave me a look when he realized that I just bought my third backup bottle of turn-of-the-century Miel de Bois. I shrugged. My current bottle is nearly empty, and as you probably know, Uncle Serge has put this genie in a bell jar ($300 at Barneys) and the current version doesn't quite cut it (rumor blames IFRA, but who knows). The new old bottle joined its brethren in the drawer unit I keep in the basement. It's getting very full.
Twenty five years ago I never thought about buying perfume backups. When a bottle I was using got to be about 10% full I'd buy a new one. Or move on. I was young and the world was full of more perfume to explore. I kept doing it as far back as fifteen or twelve years ago, only keeping one or two extra bottles of my top favorites. It was easy and relatively cheap. Why would I need more than one bottle of Panthere de Cartier?
Because stuff got got discontinued at an alarming rate. Good stuff. Precious stuff. New bottles of my old favorite, Lauren, no longer smelled right, and some guy named Luca Turin explained in his blog that nothing will ever smell the same again and that Guerlain was going to the dogs. Not long after that I realized that I could no longer find Donna Karan's Black Cashmere and YSL Nu on the shelf at Sephora, that L'Occitane has discontinued my beloved Neroli and replaced it with something completely different under the same name, something weird was happening at L'artisan, and where was all the oakmoss going?
To the discounters and to eBay, that's where. And I did, too.
My backup cave includes bottles from various makers and years. A handful still follow the old rule: get one when the old bottle is quickly emptying (Serge Lutens L'Orpheline, PG Ilang Ivohibe, PG Cuir d'Iris, Onda), but most are treasures I'm guarding with my life. From the old classics in vintage and very vintage formulations (Femme de Rochas, Chanel, Guerlain, Coty, Guerlain, Bandit, Guerlain, Caleche, Guerlain, see a theme here? All the vintage Shalimar in the world and every bottle of Shalimar Light that had crossed my path) to various Serge Lutens perfumes that were rebottled and changed too much. There are modern favorites in their original form (Dzing!, various Goutals, several MPG in the old bottles, discontinued modern Guerlains (Iris Ganache, Philtre d'Amour), and discontinued mainstream cheap thrills that I refuse to lose (Silk Way, Cavalli Oro).
A large part of the secret vault is occupied by multiple bottles of perfumes that I could not tolerate their demise. To those mentioned above you can add stuff like Niki de Saint Phalle, Cartier So Pretty, Cuir de Lancome, the original Shiseido Feminite de Bois and Zen in various concentrations, Jil Sander No, 4 and No.2, Organza Indecence, Barbara Bui, Amarige Mimosa... I could go on, but I'm scaring myself (and simultaneously want to go over to eBay and look for just one more bottle. Or ten).
Where do you stand on backups? What are you guarding with your life?
Image: Arthur Rackham- Fafner now watches the hoard, from Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods, 1911