Some niche houses such as Serge Lutens provide the owners of their illustrious perfumes with the option of dab cap or spray, which as every perfume lover knows, alters the dosage and precise proportion of the perfumed composition as it touches the skin and thus its smell. The difference might be subtle, but the true scent freak learns which format of the fragrance he prefers. A dab can be more intimate, a spray more exciting and decadent. It’s just a matter of choice.



When buying vintage perfume, though, the difference between a vaporisateur and a screw-on bottle can be astronomical. Over my years of bargain vintage collecting I have come to realize that for some reason (and I don’t understand the chemistry behind it), many so called ‘natural sprays’ of vintage classics simply don’t stand the test of time and so I never buy them. I could come across parfums of Calèche, Arpège, Infini, N°I9 or any other such beauties at heart stopping prices, but discovering they are in spray form, leave them coldly on the shelf. There is just no point. I buy them for the perfume, but there is something inside the scent (some kind of preservative?) that turns the smell and makes it unwearable. I can smell the fixative, I can smell the gas inside (for some reason this doesn’t seem to be true of Guerlain, in which case the parfums de toilette of Mitsouko, Chamade and so on are by far the most pristine and beautiful renditions of those perfumes that I own).



In terms of disastrous design, though, nothing beat Monsieur Rochas. Jesus Christ. My first bottle of this scent (a kind of tauter Hermès Equipage, made by the same perfumer) had a spray that well, just kept on spraying. As in, you pressed the nozzle, the metal connecting it got locked down, and you simply could not stop it, as though the scent were throwing some kind of self-destructive tizzy and were determined to not let you use it.


Coming across a dirt cheap, huge full bottle of the same scent the other day on my usual rounds I snapped it up thinking it would make a very refined and elegant scent for my other half. I get home. Press play, and…..WHOAH we are talking tantrum. One bloody press down of the ridiculously delicate vaporisateur and we are talking champagne bottle. I0,9, 8, 7…… lift off.



Fizzing, the nozzle shut down (AGAIN? I couldn’t believe my eyes or nose) as it hissed like a bitch and proceeded to empty out a third of its contents, me on the sidelines helplessly watching and shouting at it and swearing no that’s it: no more of these cruddy old sprays from now on, dear friend, I’m a-dabbin’.






Filed under Flowers


  1. The same happened to me with Caleche. I discovered a tiny tear in the tube. Can I sift the perfume out via those little plastic perfume seaves? It’s more a bubbling noise, like small soap buds trying to blow themselves up And muttering darkly beneath the golden press button, as there was, alas, no cap included.
    I check the bottle like a vintage whisky, put markings on the bottle, but can the scent itself evaporate?

    • I am not sure, but I wish I had put this up earlier, as I truly do think that when you hunt for vintages you should not get vaporisateurs. The difference between a Caleche spray and a perfectly preserved boxed bottle is phenomenal. You simply aren’t smelling the real thing (if we are talking about the parfum. I have found the parfum de toilette and eau de toilette to be ok.)

  2. You just had me burst out in a fit of laughter. “As though the scent were throwing some kind of self destructive tizzy” absolutely priceless!
    But oh so true, I have to admit. My vintage bottle of Complice de Coty, from the 70’s, does the same thing. What I have learnt is that when you depress the spray head, keep your finger to the side of it and try to push it back up after the amount you want has been sprayed.
    I also am too familiar with the off smell emitted by the propellant gas that was added to some of these sprays also. My beatiful Farouche suffers from this problem. It has a smell that us rather off upon application, which takes a while to wear off, which detracts from the experience.
    I wish we could just always find pristine bottles of sealed extrait. In our perfect world.

    • I know the Farouche spray you mean and don’t think the Nina Ricci sprays last very well either, although once the gassy miasma disappears and then almost celery like smell has gone they usually finally bloom.

  3. Lilybelle

    I am so with you. Good to know about the vintage Guerlains.

  4. Nancysg

    My daughter bought a vintage bottle of Cabochard and had it shipped to me. I had to give it a try before handing it over to her. What I didn’t expect was the prolonged spray I received from the aerolized bottle! I didn’t know that perfume was even sold as an aerosol. Thank goodness there was not a problem with a sticky cap or the whole purchase would have gone up in fragrance smoke.

  5. I have had that experience more times than I would like to remember. Not just with vintage but also with newer perfumes. I presume the sprayer mechanisms are not always precise or that workable…and become”sprays gone wild”. I do find it quite cool that Serge Lutens gives us the choice and sends the scent with a screw cap, but also the extra spray top.

    • ‘Sprays gone wild’: perfect. The Monsieur Rochas has to be seen to be believed, though. It literally just locks down and then sprays itself out in a pressurized hissy fit. If it were a person I would slap it across the face and tell him to get a hold of himself.

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