Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Favourite - and least favourite - perfume *bottles* in your collection


This is a blog post theme with which I have been toying for some time. I have seen features discussing which perfume bottles on the market people consider to be the most beautiful - or the least attractive - but decided to confine the question to bottles I own. Within this finite category I would venture to say that aesthetic considerations have come into my acquisition decisions down the years, but not to any great extent.

So I had a little rummage in the several boxes housing my collection, and started to draw up a list of possible candidates for either title.

Before going any further, I should mention that the twin pack of flacons above are not mine, but rather are from the little perfume museum in Barcelona I have in fact visited (though I can't say I remember them, as there were so many strange and wonderful specimens to take in). The set belonged to Marie Antoinette no less, and is therefore quite long in the tooth. In view of the unfortunate fate of their owner, we should perhaps be impressed they managed to keep their tops all these years...!


For the most beautiful bottle, I initially thought of going with this 15ml bottle-ette of Calypso from natural perfumery Ajne in California. It is one of the smallest perfume receptacles that could feasibly be counted as full-sized, as well as being the most expensive I have ever bought. I reviewed the scent in question many years ago here, and am pleased to report that I still have some of this sultry tropical number left, and that it hasn't turned. The problem with the bottle is - if I am perfectly honest - that the metal filigree work is tacky and cheap-looking: the gold is too gold, if you know what I mean, while silver - or any silverish alloy for that matter - would have been more refined. It is so easy to get gold-type metals wrong. See how much better this cheap tea light holder looks next to it? Hmm...actually, the gold filigree doesn't look too bad in my photo, but trust me that it does in real life - and light!



Indeed I made that very mistake again recently with some make up bags and purses from a company called Elizabeth Scarlett. Several people reading this so nearly got one for Christmas(!), but luckily for them I sent the whole lot back due to the cheap and gaudy-looking fastenings - and made sure to tell the company so. Actually, the pouches were also very creased, and even though I have greatly relaxed my high ironing standards during lockdown, the extremely wrinkly state of the fabric was troubling. Which is a shame as the designs were gorgeous. So yes, it only takes a little slip on one aspect of a product's design to compromise the whole shebang. Going back to Calypso, it also didn't make the cut because its spray mechanism has given up the ghost, so you have to unscrew the whole caboodle and anoint yourself with the rather sharp and pointy end of the little white tube-y thing. Meaning Calypso is out of the frame on two counts. And I swear I am not dismissing it because I felt the shop in Carmel stood me up when I tried to visit. ;)

Now there was a clue to my favourite bottle in the image above of the Elizabeth Scarlett pouch, which has quite fortuitously been styled next to a (bizarrely empty) Annick Goutal bottle. I own three AG perfumes: Grand Amour, Le Chevrefeuille, and Songes, and the prettiest of all is....Le Chevrefeuille! How much do I love that egg yolk yellow ribbon, which nicely sets off the elegant fluted oval-shaped bottle. It is not unlike a boiled egg that has been given a good hard squeeze, something I daresay we Brits are all looking forward to come June, hehe.


Then honourable mention should go to DKNY Gold, even though my bottle is scratched and battered.


I love its 'beaten' gold panels (in an acceptable shade of gold ;) ) and chunky square wooden top, with a soupcon of a nod toward Brutalist architecture.


And what about my least favourite? Well, there was a lively jockeying for position amongst the shortlist: a hot contender was the overblown and space-guzzling Oscar de la Renta, with its floral excrescence of a top, which makes it difficult to store. It is such an awkward beggar in fact that it also refuses to have its image rotated.


Then I do like the graceful arch of my Flower by Kenzo Oriental, but it towers above the other bottles, and invariably ends up lying on top of them like a stagediving pop star. But no, the accolade of 'least favourite' has to go to Olfactive Studio's Lumiere Blanche. What a plain, functional, dull, rectangular non-entity it is! I have seen more seductive half bottles of cheap vodka or maple syrup. 


Plus my olive oil bottles are all without exception more winsome than this lumpen thing. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must say I didn't actually buy the Lumiere Blanche - it was a kind hand-me-down from a fellow fumehead. And I speculate that my aesthetic sense would have been sufficiently offended to have put me off a purchase even if I had been lusting after the scent. Which is saying something, because the juice usually trumps all.

Finally, another pic of the winner, topped off by its bright and luxuriantly bouffant bow! Spring is not quite here, but how cheering is this sight?


And now I would be interested to hear about your own bottle awards, based on your personal perfume wardrobe.


(Photo of perfume bottles at the top of the post from Wikimedia Commons via Marta Muntada Artiles; photo of palmier pouch from; photo of church in Berlin from - other photos my own)


cookie queen said...

I love the Lutens bell jars, Malle’s, and the Chanel Exclusfs. Simple and elegant is my thing. I don‘t particularly like the Amouage Library Collection bottles, but don‘t hate them. I dunno about frilly bits on bottles but it is joyful I will say that! CQ.

cookie queen said...

*Scuse typos and lack of an apostrophe in Lutens‘. I never expected it to post when I pressed publish. Holy Cow.

Hazel said...

Thing they sell in Prague are these little perfume bottles wrapped in metal filigree and studded with 'gems'. I even have one incorporating the Holy Infant of Prague. Totally kitsch, but I have three or four of them. A lot of my real perfumes are Miller Harris who favour the chunky glass rectangle. I think my favourite is the Diptyque 34, not so much for the shape, which is an unremarkable oval cylinder, as for the satisfying clunk when you replace the top.

Vanessa said...

Hi cookie queen,

I am so excited that you managed to leave a comment!- two comments, technically. Typos most certainly excused.

I don't own a Lutens bell jar, but they are a pleasing shape, and would make serviceable doorstops. Malle's are stylish in a sensible way - a bit like a taller version of Bulgari Black, which I always think of as an ice hockey puck, without ever having played it. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Hazel,

I love those perfume bottles of yours from Prague, which do in fact have their moment in this post - can't quite make out the Holy Infant one, but see one that might be it:

I have a couple of Diptyques - one oval, one the earlier chunky rectangle in design - and I totally get the satisfaction to be gained from the clunky top. My Burberry lipstick has a magnetic closure and swivels round to close, like eager iron filings falling in line.

Tara said...

Hi V
I agree that AG bottle is wonderfully cheering and very Spring-like.
My boring answer is the same as ever. My Vol de Nuit propeller bottle, which is now empty and sits on my windowsill.
I also love my opaque Vero NAJA bottle with its heart-like shape.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I had to refresh my memory as to the look of the propeller bottle, which doesn't in fact have an actual propeller on top like a helicopter, but is very fetching as it is. However, being empty I am not sure it counts, hehe, so we may have to run with NAJA instead. ;)

Old Herbaceous said...

I'll start with the positive: my most beautiful bottles. I have the Guerlain Muguet 2016 bottle with the silver filigree; it is like a lovely jewel (and was designed and made by a Parisian jeweler). I also have a Vol de Nuit propeller bottle but it's not the parfum -- it's a special edition shimmer powder, and the glass is green-blue. It also has an atomizer, which I avoid with perfumes, but it looks so glamorous! I love the bottles in Hermes' Jardin collection, with their ombre glass in different colors and their graceful shapes. The Tiffany & Co. bottle and those of its flankers are gorgeous -- I especially like the Intense flanker's bottle, as it is a clear shade of "Tiffany blue". Now for the bad -- there is only one fragrance bottle that I truly despise, and it is the interlocking circle one for the Bvlgari Omnia scents. Ugh! And it's hard to spray, as well, and it dribbles. I don't own one because I won't buy that, but luckily Bvlgari also sells the Omnia scents in its "Charms" travel sizes, and those are very pretty.

Old Herbaceous said...

P.S. There is a line of fragrances whose bottles I adore but don't own: Atelier des Ors. I have samples of their gorgeous fragrances, kind gifts from my visit to their office in Cannes, courtesy of blogger Megan In Sainte-Maxime, but don't own a full bottle. Yet. lol!

Vanessa said...

Hi Old Herbaceous,

I hear you on the annoying closure of the Bvlgari Omnia scents - I do remember it. Was quite partial to Omnia Crystalline as it happens, and the pale green one whose name escapes me, and of which I may still have a mini.

Luckily you have some truly gorgeous bottles in your collection to offset the odd, impractical exception!

Vanessa said...

PS Just looked up the Atelier des Ors bottles, which are reminiscent of the propeller one in fact - maybe that is what appeals to you? I never found any of their scents that truly grabbed me, but I have by no means explored the whole line, and that stunner of a bottle might be a spur to further sampling...;)

Catlady1649 said...

I like a lot of the Guerlain bottles, Shalimar and all the flankers, Mitsouko. I like the bee bottles as well. I know what you mean about the Oscar de la Renta bottles. It takes me ages to work out how to fit the bottle back into the box.

Sarah Waite said...

Hi Vanessa,
Perfume bottles are so important aren't they? When I see those awful super expensive oud based things with tacky jewels and gold fretwork I can't help thinking of how bad taste the bling is. You know exactly how powerful and bombastic they will smell by their over the top decoration.
My favourite bottle is now discontinued - the original bottle for Estee Lauder Estee. It was very Art Deco indeed and wore a nod to something the mechanic might use on your car - tres industrial.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I love the comparison between some perfume bottle designs with liquor/spirits bottles! There is a slippery slope, I think, between chic minimalist to downright lazy. Having said so, I appreciate Serge Lutens’ flat, rectangular bottles which fit extremely well in drawers.

My favourite bottle designs include Cartier Delices and the gorgeous red, round glass bottle. I have Songes (minus the ribbon, but with the silky cord and cardboard nag tag) and love the heavy gold cap in contrast to the boiled egg. Estée Lauder Tuberose Gardenia is another favourite with its minimal but elegant hammered gold cap (I see a theme with the gold caps...).

Please see my regards to Truffle - which one do you think is her favourite?


Vanessa said...

Hi Catlady 1649,

Funny that you also have that Oscar de la Renta, and similar problems with it!

Oh yes, the bee bottles are beautiful - I have one, Lys Soleia, if the Aqua Allegoria ones count.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sarah,

I know the sort of blingy bottles you mean and they really don't do it for me - much too bombastic as you say, but possibly popular with Russian oligarchs?

I had to look up that Estee Lauder bottle and think I found it - it is indeed a thing of retro beauty.

Vanessa said...

Hi Joyce,

I am so with you on the matter of minimalist veering towards lazy! I do also see your point about the compact convenience of the slim rectangular Serge Lutens bottles, of which I have one example (Un Lys).

The Cartier bottle is impressive (had to look it up ;) ) and I agree wholeheartedly about the Tuberose Gardenia top. In fact I have come very close to buying a bottle, in great measure prompted by that very accessory! I have owned a mini of it in the past which had the same top, and I found it adorable.

Vanessa said...

PS Yes, I do spy a gold top theme, especially one that is a bit beaten / hammered!

Oh, to answer your question about Truffle, she isn't interested in my bottle collection, in stark contrast to Undina's Rusty...her thing is wool, which cannot be left unattended for even a few seconds. ;)

Undina said...

The first second I saw that ancient bottle picture I thought of that museum in Barcelona. It would be interesting to see if I have a picture of it :)

It’s not the first time you ”beat me to” a topic :) I will post in the next couple of weeks something vaguely related to it.

I used to love Annick Goutal bottles, especially colored ones. I have, in addition to the clear one, a black, a white and a blue. I wanted to get a couple more, but I didn’t like perfumes :)

I think Chanel makes great bottles, both for the regular line and for Exclusifs. Chamade extrait is beautiful. Shalimar... I like that bottle so much that I’m considering the purchase of a vintage bottle - even though I cannot stand perfume itself ;)

Cheaply looking bottles for niche perfumes offend me. I’m fine though when those are done y indie brands if perfumes aren’t too expensive.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I can well believe you would have better recall than me of the contents of that well-stocked museum - our respective visits being another random thing we have in common, along with our Burberry lipsticks. ;)

I look forward to your similar post - there's always room for more people's takes on this topic.

I can probably guess what the black, white and blue bottles might be - or have a go.

Shalimar and Chamade do indeed have beautiful bottles - I know a lady who used to be a perfume buyer, and has a huge Shalimar factice in her conservatory which she uses as a doorstop.

Anonymous said...

Truffle is a discerning cat! Mine show indifference to perfumes unless it’s the small sample vials - they like to paw at those despite my best efforts to hide them!

Another favourite bottle design is Dune (Dior). A very ergonomic design!


Vanessa said...

Hi Joyce,

Yes, now you mention it, Truffle does love batting the small vials around - she recently hid one of the new Papillon perfume under a dinner mat for several days!

On inspection, Dune appears to have handy integral carrying handles / ears. ;)

Anonymous said...

My prettiest bottle is Lancome's Oud Bouquet, and most fun is a mini Jean Paul Gaultier Eau de Parfum in the form of a snow globe.

The ugliest is Smell Bent's Bollywood or Bust. It's one thing to put all the money into the perfume itself, but this is as cheap and utiliarian as a bottle of drugstore hand sanitizer. --AnnieA

Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

I had to google Oud Bouquet and it is lovely indeed. I remember the snow globe mini - great pick!

I also took a look at the Smell Bent bottle, if you can even dignify the container with that name. It is very tacky and ordinary looking, I agree.

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

Hey Vanessa,
Love this topic.
I do agree that your early style of Annick Goutal bottle is far superior to the modern incarnation, also have a few of them even in the lovely coloured glass.
Sorry, but I adore the early Olfactive Studio bottles. They're so smooth, easy to hold and spritz, line up beautifully together and are generally a genial addition. When they did the changeover to the new whiz bang offering I panic bought quite a few.
I'm also 100% for the DKNY EdP bottle. Did you know the EdT lacks the beaten gold?
My current two favourite bottles in the collection are Lolita Lempicka Elle l'Aime and Samsara extrait bottle, with honourable mention to Neela Vermeire's elegant flacons.
Dislikes? Ramon Monegal bottles are lovely looking but very awkward to spritz. The early Juliete Has A Gnu bottles become sticky and ghastly in your hands after some time (BLEAURGH), also those heavy animal heads on the Penhaligon's series that look like old 70s Selangor and are heavy enough to break bones or spear you in the bathroom. Lastly, I still get a bit grumpy when I use the modern Grandiflora bottle, they moved from those lovely domed 100ml bottles to very functional black glass bottles that look like they were extremely cheap and it's taken the shine off the brand for me. Don't even get me started on Mona di Orio.
Portia xx

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

Thanks for your thoughts - with your large collection you have many examples to draw upon.

I was interested to hear you like the Olfactive Studio bottles. Their lining up ability I am prepared to concede. ;)

I did not know that about the EDT bottle of DKNY Gold, and don't think I would want it so much without the beaten gold panels.

I am not familiar with all the other perfumes you mention, but it sounds like you have a few bees in your bonnet with some of the bottles.