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  1. #1

    Default Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    I recently purchased some vintage colognes circa 1950, although I could have gotten slightly older or slightly younger vintages up through the 80's+. I understand there is a trade off between seeking bottles of original versions and seeking ones that are the least degraded. Some really old bottles can be wonderful if they've lead a sheltered life.

    Each fragrance has its own history of formula revisions, new company ownership, re-imaginings, etc - I'm referring to only pre-restriction history here. When selecting from available vintages I'm wondering what is the deciding factor is if there are no very stand out years for production.

    If storage history is not suspect do you still generally tend to avoid colognes, EDT, EDP, or perfumes that are past a certain age?
    What is your sweet spot if there is a choice of ages?
    What is the oldest bottle of fragrance you own that you feel is still wearable?
    ”I want all the perfumes”
    Currently wearing: Diorella by Christian Dior

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    A huge factor is - how it was stored. Also, was it used or sealed? I usually first look for spray bottles that come sealed in a box or at least with a box. Sunlight, high temperatures and oxygen are the enemy. So whichever way seems most conducive to mitigating those degradations is preferable. Granted, many times we just don’t know the life of a fragrance. If something is sealed in a box but has been sitting for years in a hot attic or other harsh climate, it’s potentially far worse (for me) an outcome than a partially used bottle that sat in a cool dark place. And when we are purchasing online, how do we really know and what do we trust? With online purchases, I try to pay attention to the details of the picture. What does the condition of the box, bottle, etc look like? Is it dusty? Faded from sunlight exposure? Torn? Damaged? Color of the liquid close to original or appropriate for its age? Is their random hair on the bottle (yes I noticed a strand on a bottle pictured recently)? The saying, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ can be a huge help at times. While a great picture can absolutely mask the horror that actually (potentially) sits inside a bottle, a presentation that’s done without care is a red flag for me.

    I do like getting original release bottles. A lot of times I enjoy that version of the scent the most. I also appreciate that the original release is (or should be, or could be) a representation of the original concept. It’s just something I appreciate and enjoy. Having said that, I do realize that it often doesn’t work out that way and perhaps a second or third version is better to get. Ultimately, it’s often a blind buy (even if I have a good idea of what I should smell) which means it’s a gamble. And I take to heart the adage of not betting more than I’m willing to lose.
    Sent from the bayou, using homing gators.

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    First: Earlyn, I've been quietly enjoying your vintage fragrance venture, and I look forward to reading about your future discoveries. I've been dipping my toe in the vintage miniatures waters myself, and may yet immerse myself more deeply.

    Second, I, uh, second everything Diddy says. I've been gambling a lot with blind buys of full bottles, but I've been fortunate not to make any expensive errors as of yet—at least, that I know of, since I still have a slew of as-yet-untried bottles. I would never counsel anyone to approach it as I have been, but what the hell: it keeps me from spending the money on shoes. Do your research, look for red flags on sellers and their wares, and be prepared to land a few duds. More recent bottles will likely be fresher, but a fresher batch of the version you don't want strikes me as a false economy.

    Have fun!

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    My 70s bottles are mostly acceptable, and more so the 80s ones. I don't have that much before the 70s, and what I have has imperfections. So I'd say for wearability, 80s is probably the sweet spot for me. Also, most ingredients were still available in the 80s (save perhaps nitromusks, I think these were axed before that, but am not sure), so formulas tend to be ok.

    cacio

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Hi Earlyn-

    This is a great question, and my simple answer is: I don’t avoid any bottle due to its old age.

    My “sweet spot” is to buy bottles that are as old as possible as long as the perfume is in good condition—sealed or nearly full, not darkened. If I can date the bottle precisely using batch codes, great, if not, I rely on packaging and ads. I enjoy wearing perfume from bottles from the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s and later.

    I would say that most older vintages are good into the mid 1980’s. After that, I would investigate and proceed with good information.

    My oldest bottle is probably a flacon of Houbigant Note, which may date from 1918 if available accounts are to be believed. It’s still wearable.
    Currently wearing: Parure by Guerlain

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Quote Originally Posted by grayspoole View Post
    My oldest bottle is probably a flacon of Houbigant Note, which may date from 1918 if available accounts are to be believed. It’s still wearable.
    I adore reading comments like this!!!!
    Sent from the bayou, using homing gators.

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Quote Originally Posted by Earlyn View Post
    What is the oldest bottle of fragrance you own that you feel is still wearable?
    That I personally bought myself for my wedding and still use, now 52 years later - probably Balafre
    Remember that while it is perfectly acceptable to criticize the content of a post - criticizing the poster is not.
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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    I haven't bought anything in quite awhile, as my collection feels complete...but I have a cabinet full of gorgeous vintage perfumes whose quality is a testament to the value of research. If you know specifically what you're looking for (concentrations, production years, batch differences, company ownership, box and bottle design, label details, box markings, etc.) before you start shopping, you can focus with a knowledgeable eye on photographs of potential purchases. I generally look for bottles in their original boxes, preferably sealed; if the box has been opened to show the bottle, I look for the right color liquid and reject anything dark and syrupy-looking. I want to see photographs from every angle, including the bottom of the box/bottle. Whenever possible, I know in advance whether the base should be embossed or labeled, and how the information should read (including company addresses) for the specific fragrance I'm after.

    The oldest wearable perfumes in my collection are from Molinard (1920s); Chanel, Schiaparelli and Caron (1930s); Guerlain, Lanvin, Dior, Patou and Worth (1940s). I'm sure there are others that I'm not remembering at the moment. Unless a perfume is from one of the great houses, preferably boxed and sealed, I generally look for bottles manufactured between 1970-1998. I like to purchase different concentrations of the same vintage scents. After awhile, intuition becomes educated and it becomes possible to take intelligent risks.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Dang it!! I was just making a post and had picked out a bunch of quotes from all these great responses to this question and then the system just blanked out my posting box so...

    I just wanted to respond with thanks for all the good insights, and say how interesting it is to hear about the vintages in people’s colllections.

    Diddy - Your response makes a great pre-purchase checklist.

    PStoller - Minis are the gateway to craziness but make samples possible that might not have been otherwise. You might want to search the forum for “L’Heure Bleue and salad spinner” if you think this venture has been entertaining. I always strive for fun.

    Cacio - I think you and grayspoole are in agreement that, considering release date, the 1980s are a good compromise for vintage ingredients and minimized degradation of fragrances.

    grayspoole - It’s good to know that there’s really old stuff that still has legs as long as you know how to spot it. I can hover up to the 80’s and still dive deep for the Joy. That’s an astounding thing that 1918 bottle!

    Hednic - 58 years for that bottle and its been yours - impressive. You win for sure!

    Bonnette - Your collection does sound lovely. As you say is “a testament to the value of research” — and there it is in a nutshell. Sounds like you’ll do older stuff with the great houses but with others prefer 70’s-90’s.

    Bavard - That graph is great. I see there is a cluster there mostly from the 70’s-90’s, and you said maybe the things changed later in the 90’s.

    I’m sorry my other response was lost - This reads like a book report, but I wanted to see everyone’s take on this put together, and it seems that 70’s - 90’s are a magical place for many fragrances - good ones still in production with a range of ingredients still available, and not too aged to have lost their charms. I think I have a lot more investigating to do in those decades.
    ”I want all the perfumes”
    Currently wearing: Diorella by Christian Dior

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    A lot of great suggestions here. I just wanted to add that the formulation also influences my decision making. I am nearly always shopping for feminine vintages, and I will choose the extrait over anything else if I can when I am blind buying a vintage perfume for the first time. I find extraits generally hold up very well and provide the best introduction to the scent.

    I take more chances on vintage extraits, but I'm very picky when buying vintage colognes. Given the lightness of the concentration, a cologne has to be really well preserved to smell good. That said, I prefer many of my favorites in the vintage EDT - all of the vintage Diors and No.19. Deep vintage Chanel, Caron, and Guerlain EDC's are all exceptionally good.
    Currently wearing: Parure by Guerlain

  11. #11

    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    After several years of hunting for original formulas and trying to find the oldest bottles I could, I've come to the point where I rarely seek out the original version of a fragrance if it is over 15-20 years old. A couple of cases in point for me are Guerlain Heritage and Chanel Egoiste. I'd rather have both of these in bottles no older than 2005 and wouldn't even consider owning the current versions honestly. In other words I'd much rather have mid-vintage versions of these two. The only time I would seek out an old vintage of a fragrance is if the other formulations are just horrible, as is the case with the reformulated/newer bottles of Dunhill Edition for example. So for me, older is definitely not always better. It's been my experience that after a certain amount of time, regardless of the fragrance and how it was stored, that the potency and complexity of the fragrance is inevitably degraded after a certain amount of time.
    Currently wearing: Herod by Parfums de Marly

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    A huge factor is - how it was stored. Also, was it used or sealed? I usually first look for spray bottles that come sealed in a box or at least with a box. Sunlight, high temperatures and oxygen are the enemy. So whichever way seems most conducive to mitigating those degradations is preferable. Granted, many times we just don’t know the life of a fragrance. If something is sealed in a box but has been sitting for years in a hot attic or other harsh climate, it’s potentially far worse (for me) an outcome than a partially used bottle that sat in a cool dark place. And when we are purchasing online, how do we really know and what do we trust? With online purchases, I try to pay attention to the details of the picture. What does the condition of the box, bottle, etc look like? Is it dusty? Faded from sunlight exposure? Torn? Damaged? Color of the liquid close to original or appropriate for its age? Is their random hair on the bottle (yes I noticed a strand on a bottle pictured recently)? The saying, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ can be a huge help at times. While a great picture can absolutely mask the horror that actually (potentially) sits inside a bottle, a presentation that’s done without care is a red flag for me.

    I do like getting original release bottles. A lot of times I enjoy that version of the scent the most. I also appreciate that the original release is (or should be, or could be) a representation of the original concept. It’s just something I appreciate and enjoy. Having said that, I do realize that it often doesn’t work out that way and perhaps a second or third version is better to get. Ultimately, it’s often a blind buy (even if I have a good idea of what I should smell) which means it’s a gamble. And I take to heart the adage of not betting more than I’m willing to lose.
    I agree with everything you said except for maybe the hair...now anybody that has a significant other with long hair KNOWS that those darn hairs can wind up any and EVERYWHERE! HAHAHA
    OFFICIAL MEMBER OF CREED'S "FAN BOY" CLUB

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Quote Originally Posted by My two scents View Post
    I agree with everything you said except for maybe the hair...now anybody that has a significant other with long hair KNOWS that those darn hairs can wind up any and EVERYWHERE! HAHAHA
    Fair point!
    Sent from the bayou, using homing gators.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Quote Originally Posted by cpp214 View Post
    After several years of hunting for original formulas and trying to find the oldest bottles I could, I've come to the point where I rarely seek out the original version of a fragrance if it is over 15-20 years old. A couple of cases in point for me are Guerlain Heritage and Chanel Egoiste. I'd rather have both of these in bottles no older than 2005 and wouldn't even consider owning the current versions honestly. In other words I'd much rather have mid-vintage versions of these two. The only time I would seek out an old vintage of a fragrance is if the other formulations are just horrible, as is the case with the reformulated/newer bottles of Dunhill Edition for example. So for me, older is definitely not always better. It's been my experience that after a certain amount of time, regardless of the fragrance and how it was stored, that the potency and complexity of the fragrance is inevitably degraded after a certain amount of time.
    This is my experience with fragrances also. There can be anywhere from a few months to roughly 15 years of "In-Bottle Maceration" that occurs with well-conceived fragrances from reputable brands (which is a period of time after the first few uses of a bottle). After air is introduced into the bottle, these fragrances gradually get better, smelling richer, more complex, and generally deeper than they did upon first spray. But then that development reaches its apex and passes. Once that happens, the trend begins to reverse, and the fragrance begins to lose definition, weaken in the drydown, and a few notes "spike out" and lose balance. I've noticed this tends to happen with vintages that are over 20 years old. This phenomenon has been misinterpreted and perhaps sometimes intentionally misidentified as being an olfactory illusion and/or an objective change in olfactory perception once a person becomes familiar with a specific scent, but that is not what I've just described here. What I'm describing is an arc to the maturity of a fragrance - in the bottle. It's a maceration process that occurs post production. And when I read about fragrances, especially Creed fragrances, I am delighted to find that I'm not alone in recognizing this phenomenon.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    I’d guess that all perfumes follow an arc of maturity, but not all fragrances improve with age. So the trick is to try to determine when that approximate apex occurs assuming, because of variation in ingredients, that the maceration time may be different from fragrance to fragrance, In some reviews people will say they’ve had a fragrance for some years and only thought it was OK when they first tried it, only to find they love it when they try it again years later. Maybe their preferences have changed or maybe the scent has gotten better (for them) in the bottle. Another reason to wear anything you really like now, because it won’t necessarily stay that way.

    Would be interesting to do a GCMS on a new perfume and then regularly over the course of 5-10 years to see exactly what’s changing. I know perfumers can use GCMS on vintage perfumes and see chemical remnants that give clues to what has been lost. I’m not a chemist so don’t know how the reconstruction of perfumes works or which chemical components are more prone to breakage aside from the obvious top notes.
    ”I want all the perfumes”
    Currently wearing: Diorella by Christian Dior

  16. #16

    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Quote Originally Posted by Earlyn View Post

    Would be interesting to do a GCMS on a new perfume and then regularly over the course of 5-10 years to see exactly what’s changing.
    That would be interesting, but ultimately I'm not entirely sure it's necessary (it might be). I'd be curious in it, but I'd also be curious in a chemist doing this first: a simple ratio analysis by volume of how much alcohol and water is in the brew initially, followed by how much is there after six months. One theory is that the alcohol and/or water evaporates from the mix once the vacuum is breached by oxygen, which then concentrates the perfume extrait and makes it smell stronger.

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    -
    -- I buy it if it looks and sounds like it's in good condition and if possible send it back if it isn't.

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bavard View Post
    For a bottle that would have otherwise stay sealed, removing the annual perfume samples for the gas chromatograph could run you up against the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
    Yes, but if you leave it in the sealed bottle, you have Schrödinger's fragrance.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Quote Originally Posted by PStoller View Post
    Yes, but if you leave it in the sealed bottle, you have Schrödinger's fragrance.
    Funny! OK I guess I was getting too nerdy, but here’s my daughter’s favorite shirt -
    DF940CF6-D077-43CF-AA87-E160576709E2.jpeg
    ”I want all the perfumes”
    Currently wearing: Diorella by Christian Dior

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Quote Originally Posted by Earlyn View Post
    Funny! OK I guess I was getting too nerdy, but here’s my daughter’s favorite shirt -
    DF940CF6-D077-43CF-AA87-E160576709E2.jpeg
    Great!

    As for Heisenberg, a cop pulled him over on the freeway and asked, "Hey, buddy, do you have any idea how fast you were going?"
    Heisenberg replied, "No, but I know where I am."
    The cop said, "Well, I clocked you at 90 mph."
    Heisenberg threw up his hands. "Oh, great! Now I'm lost"

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    Default Re: Vintage geek opinions about bottle age and sweet spot, please.

    Perhaps I have low tolerance for turned juice, but personally I'd be very wary of anything going back further than the 1960s, and even then so much would depend on the visible condition of the perfume and box. The composition and concentration of the perfume itself also make a difference, of course: resinous extraits (e.g. Shalimar) tend to be fine, but I'd steer clear of bright, citrus-heavy EdTs older than perhaps thirty years.

    I suppose my 'sweet spot' for 20th-century classics would be the 1990s: old enough not to have been affected by first wave of ingredient restrictions, but young enough still to be intact.




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