Swap-Shaming and Aging Gracefully

I was slowly getting curious about the new releases when I was swap-shamed!

It happened like this.

I was, as I said, getting back in the new release-mojo when I read that Guerlain had a new perfume out in the L’Art et le Matière series called Joyeuse Tubéreuse. I wanted to test it, and when I saw that a woman, Dimitra, at Parfumo was ready to swap 5mls, I initiated a swap.

I want to tell you the story as to thoroughly warn you of this person, but it also serves a higher purpose than to merely shame the swap-shammer.

I send the small swap parcel containing one ml of L’Heure de Nuit and 5ml Spiritueuese Double Vanille (SDV) as well as several samples. Then I heard nothing for 16 days, although I enquired, since normally the post from Denmark to Germany takes 5 days at the most, and often 2-3 days only. After just over 2 weeks, she said she had received the swap, but the SDV had turned and was completely black, that she had compared it to the one in the Guerlain shop and it didn’t smell the same and that she had sent my end…

I then wrote that I was terribly sorry and asked what I could do to rectify this, that to the best of my knowledge it hadn’t been off when I last wore it, and whatever touched my skin when I decanted (by pipette) had not made me suspicious, but that I would check again using the sprayer.

Back to SDV; You see my photo here and the perfume has certainly darkened, (if not exactly blackened!) testing it with the sprayer, I found that although it hadn’t turned, which is an acidic disgusting and absolutely unwearable smell, it wasn’t fresh anymore, and it had definitely changed and now smelled like it was aging/ perhaps starting to go off. Even if after 15-30 seconds this stage was over.


SDV in the middle, the ‘black’ juice.


One of the reasons it would never have occurred to me that what I decanted could be questioned to its quality, was the fact that it was a Guerlain and a very ‘oriental’ one at that, so much less likely to turn than a lighter fragrance. I like my vintage fragrances, and so far, have not come across a turned perfume from Guerlain, even if I have many vintage bottles, some are even just decants and samples as old as 50-80 years and still pristine, aged but certainly not turned. Even my Chamade extrait (known to be problematic) is superb.

Could my, probably 10 yr old bottle of SDV already be turning? And I saw a complaint from someone whose Guerlain perfume in bulb atomizer had started flaking. I’ve not read anyone complaining about SDV before, so, am I just unlucky or is this the new future of perfume? Will there be no ‘vintage’ from 1990s-2017 for people in 2050 to smell?


Jessica Lange, with a little help. (both actresses born 1949)


Sigourney Weaver as nature intended

This did make me think how contemporary fragrances no longer have time to age,and no longer made so that they can in fact age gracefully. The newmolecules get used before anyone knowsif they are stable ( I remember a case of Frapin over at Olfactoria’s) Again, and again, vintage lovers are told that the perfumes they worship were meant to smell different intheir day, yet many smellfresh, and the best ones smell divine. The materials used might age, but stored properly they rarely go completely off. It made me think of the difference between aging gracefully and plastic surgery.

Perhaps a harsh comparison, and after all most people DO use up their perfume, and do not hoard collect like perfumistas.


Take another fragrance of mine and compare these two: Fath de Fath 6 yrs old approx. and Fath de Fath from somewhere between 1946-1949! Vintage still fresh, and look at the flaky stuff of the new one…

Fath de Fath new and old, see the flaky stuff?

It saddens me to see so many new fragrance launches and thinking that most of them will probably not stand the test of time. The way I unearth an old sample of Djedi, and still get to time-travel and experience a bygone era, will that be a possibility from today’s perfumes? Storing your most loved contemporary fragrance for 50 years, would you still have a fragrance worth wearing?

Getting back to my unhappy swap experience. A month after that last message from her, and many messages (from me,) later a parcel finally arrived, and I couldn’t wait to rip it open, only to find: everything, even extras, returned to me, except 1 ml missing from the SDV and the sample of L’Heure de Nuit, which she had kept. I got: No message, no explanation, no Neroli Outrenoir as thank you for the L’Heure de Nuit perhaps, even no parcel at all had been better than this awkward and petty reaction. And just like that, I had been swap-shamed by Dimitra of Stuttgart!


Have you ever experienced contemporary perfumes turn? Have you been swap shamed?

11 thoughts on “Swap-Shaming and Aging Gracefully

  1. Asali, what a terrible experience. I know you to be a very honest and fair person, as was evident in our split last year. The generous samples you sent along with the main fragrance certainly were not one of them “off”. Perhaps Demitria is not experienced enough in vintage fragrances to understand whether or not something has truly degraded. I have ordered vintages from ebay several times. Early in my fragrance journey, first buy was Guerlain Samsara edp circa 1995. I thought it had gone off because the initial spritz smelled somehow stale but after several minutes settled into its beauty. The color was also darker. I ended up loving it even more than the current formulation.

    If indeed current formulations are going off quickly, that does not bode well for future generations who wish to try a vintage of their favorite fragrance. I hooe it is not so.

    As for your bad swap experience, karma will find Ms. Demetria. I am sorry it happened all the same.

    • Dear Marlene, thank you so much, and I hope you found your licorice in the Hilde Soliani, even if the original swap wasn’t as we all hoped 🙂 I love wearing the Saliisiiissssimo (spelling???) in summer, so it has been dormant for a while. Stale is perhaps the right word… And whereas I don’t really mind her expecting a completely fresh version, although asking this up front would have been nice, I absolutely mind the lack of communication, that was like a slap in the face. A dear experienced parfumista would say; may karma turn all her perfumes to vinegar 😉

  2. Just recently I read somewhere (either in the NST’s SOTD thread or on one of FB perfume groups) several people mentioning that their DSV got darker – though I don’t think anyone complained that it turned. Moreover, I would be more than surprised it it hadn’t been reformulated at least a couple of times since you bought your bottle, so it doesn’t really make sense to compare it to the modern “fresh” version – it might be anything.

    Over the last 20 years I had a fair share of turned perfumes – both contemporary and vintage – so I’m not sure how serious the problem is and when it started. But since I do not like vintage perfumes (mostly; I love my Miss Dior), I do not want perfumes to “age” – gracefully or otherwise, I would prefer them to stay always young (which probably isn’t possible with any natural ingredients 🙂 ).

    I never had a really bad experience swapping perfumes – most likely, because I do not engage with anybody to whom I wouldn’t send that perfume “just because”, without the exchange. But in my early days in the Perfumeland I remember one strange case: I sent another blogger (she’s long gone from the blogosphere, I don’t think anybody remembers or even knew her but I won’t name names) precious mls of Alahine from the small decant that I bought because she was very eager to try it. We weren’t doing an actual swap – rather exchanging some thing to try. Several days later, in her package to me, I found that Alahine sample. As I said, I was very new to all that, so my first thought was that I did something wrong and she was returning it to me. In reality, she just wasn’t too organized, so she didn’t remember that she got that sample from me and just passed it on – I wasn’t even sure if she actually had time to test it. I remember that it upset me.

    I’m sorry about your situation: whatever happened with your SDV, it doesn’t excuse this person’s behavior. She could have told you that she didn’t want SDV in its condition and that she would be sending it back. With everything else. (Though, from my extensive experience, it doesn’t take a ml of perfume to figure out that it’s turned – but it’s just enough to test it and decide that you do not like it) She could have offered to send you in that return package a smaller sample for you to try (of the perfume she was supposed to have send by that time!). It should have been your decision to offer her NOT to return some/all of the extras – it wasn’t nice to pick and choose what to keep. And in general she should have communicated better. Forget about her and enjoy your perfumes before they need a plastic surgeon 😉

    • Dear Undina, I’m so happy for you chiming in with your always very objective views, and assuring me I’m not crazy. I didn’t plan writing about the experience, but I felt there were many layers to the situation that could be discussed. Also: as ‘niche’ is becoming watered down and more and more people turn to perfume outside of the so-called mainstream, is parfumistahood as it used to be, changing as well?
      1.Yes, I completely agree on the ‘comparing old stock to new’ with regard to formulations etc
      2. So your Diorissimo is not vintage?
      I get your point, sometimes it would be nice for things not to change. With vintage no longer in production, (or not in production in a passable reformulation,) aging gracefully is I believe the only way to enter the vintage world, and so I like and prefer it to not at all, and don’t always feel it has actually changed as much as perfumers and brands will have us believe.
      3. That is my worst fear returning something to the person who sent it to me! Which is why I normally pass on only stuff I decant or obtained myself.
      4. Thanks for noting the huge amount missing from the decant. It was exact thought; you are not returning my end of the swap, you are returning just over half of it! And as you say it would all have been ok, had we had a talk about it.
      I will forget her, thanks, Undina. I feel better for sharing the experience though 🙂

      • I have 2 Diorissimo – “more” vintage (approx. 15 y.o., I think, maybe more) and “less” vintage (approx. 6 y.o.). I prefer the “younger” version since the top notes of the “older” one are slightly off for the first couple of minutes.

    • Forgot to mention, that I did try and search for people with SDV aging problems but couldn’t find it, only pictures of perfume looking similar to or darker than mine, so thank you for that one too.

  3. How upsetting. I’m so sorry this happened. Life is stressful enough with our passion causing us grief. I hope writing about it helped a little.
    Swaps are tricky. I know Vanessa has a lot of experience in this area.
    I haven’t swapped much but the last time I swapped a bottle it was for another of a much lesser value, but i was happy because I wanted it. The swapper then said the one she got from me wasn’t to her taste and would I mind if she sold it on? I said yes because I didn’t feel I had the right to say no. She then sold it for a good chunk of money which – rightly or wrongly – irked me.
    I didn’t know about the new Guerlain and hope you get to try it. Val and I want to try the OJ exclusive to Fortnum and Mason next week – Jardin d’Ombre.
    Vintage is a risk but I still want a bottle of the old Miss Dior. I’ve never had anything turn. The top notes are gone from my vintage Vol de Nuit but that’s to be expected from decades old perfume.

    • I did help, thank you, Tara. I fact I didn’t know I was going to write about it till I did, it was simply blocking me from writing of other things… Weird ah?
      I have swapped a fair bit, admittedly not recently, and generally, parfumistas are awesome. In the beginning, I was swamped with all these amazing people overwhelming me with their swapping kindness. At times it was almost embarrassing me, so I quickly tried to always pay it forward by taking a leaf out of their book. I might not always have succeeded, but I always had that in my mind. As I wrote to Undina, this swap made me question whether this notion has changed?
      I believe the whole World Wide swapping experience might have created that sense of generosity at the beginning, and I wonder if the postal problems and the diminished WW swapping, could have changed the atmosphere? All just speculations of course, and it might just have been a bad one off…
      What a nasty situation, I completely understand how that irked you. Basically, you were being generous and she was taking advantage of it, even if it might not have been planned, it’s hard to think it wasn’t.
      I didn’t know about the new OJ, I suppose because it’s exclusive.

  4. Shame on Dimitra of Stuttgart! That is extremely rude behavior on her part. I remember purchasing a decant of SDV from The Perfume Court not long after it was launched and the fragrance was dark from the get-go. It smelled quite dark and wonderful, too.

    I once sent a blogger (no longer active on the blogosphere) a little package of perfumes because I saw on a comments forum that she wanted to try a particular perfume I’d just purchased a decant of — and because I loved it and hoped it would get more fans (it was Cartier l’Heure Convoitee), I thought I’d offer her some. I wasn’t expecting a swap from her, but it would have been nice to receive a thank-you. (And I do know that she received the package, because I tracked it through the postal service.)

    As far as perfumes turning, I’ve had some turn color (Chanel No. 22 went from a light, golden yellow to a much deeper, orange-ish tint, for instance), but the change in color has never affected the smell, thank goodness.

    • Thank you, dear Suzanne! Yes, that was what I remember it used to be like; someone, completely unknown to you, writes she wants to try something, you have it, and you offer to send it. That she then couldn’t even send a note of thanks, well shame on her too. Shame on all those petty parfumistas!
      I used to read through those fairy godmother-wishes on the Posse, then it quickly turned into; I would like to try ‘a decant of unicorns tears please’, ‘a bottle of the rarest perfume on earth’ etc, and that put me seriously off.
      I know you like your dark perfumes, and I know I’ve had the opposite reaction (to Dimitra), having tried older versions, not liking the freshness of a younger batch. Whether it be a different formulation or perhaps just a few wrinkles and a bit of a life lived 😉

  5. Ooh, there is so much I could say on this topic – it is indeed a theme with many layers…and firstly sorry for your shame – I have been there, though the shame unfolded in a different way. I loved your plastic surgery angle too. I am of the generation that mostly feels that ‘having work done’ creates an unlevel playing field for the rest of us, a bit like private education indeed, but I see younger women in their 20s and 30s already complaining about their wrinkles etc and I find that sad.

    Anyway, to your failed swap and its associated ignominy. I have recently had a bottle of Eau Duelle returned (in a sale, not a swap) because the top notes were not deemed to be sufficiently nuanced any more – or really there at all! But no way had it gone off as such, it was more base-forward, as it were. Our communications were polite at least, and I refunded the person her money.

    And Tara is right – I have done A LOT of swapping – upwards of a hundred trades on MUA for example and there are some really nutjob people out there, one of whom used her alleged degenerative muscle condition to elicit a whole bunch of perfume from me although she had nothing but tacky earrings and a half used blusher to give me in return. Moving on…

    There is a well known – and regarded! – perfumista in the US (not a friend of mine or anyone I know) who shamed me early on in my swapping ‘journey’: we were swapping 20ml of a £65 a bottle scent (me) for 5ml of a Tom Ford Prive one (her), to give you the slavishly money-orientated comparison, and I also threw in some nice soap. Anyway, allegedly the package arrived trashed. I asked how trashed, in case it was more cosmetic and some of the perfumes were still okay and usable. She declined to answer. Fearful for my reputation on MUA I immediately sent the entire package again, including more high end soap, and spent an extra £7 on signed for delivery. As she was out when it arrived, this meant that her husband had to queue at the post office to sign for and collect the parcel, which she also complained about. I was so cross and so very out of pocket, when all I received was 5ml of something for my trouble. I still have it indeed, as it annoys me even to wear it.

Comments are closed.