The Battle of The Bottle

Le Parfum Ideal Bottle

Le Parfum Ideal Bottle

We have all had similar experiences if we buy old perfume, namely stuck stoppers.  In this particular case the stopper was stuck tight in a bottle of Houbigant’s Le Parfum Ideal. The bottle was quite small and from my reference books on perfume flagons, I was convinced that the scent probably dated from 1925-1930 or thereabouts.

All of that was fine I had the bottle, I had the box, and the bottle was pristine with threads still tied and sealed in wax as a matter of a fact, which suggested an early 20th century date to me.  BUT there was no way of getting Ideal open.  Like everyone else I have tried numerous methods for opening old bottles.  My favorite, and the least likely to harm bottles is the old freezer technique.  In this one you merely take your bottle and put it in the freezer for twenty minutes or so, and then the stopper often contracts slightly away from the edge of the bottle mouth.  Then you give it a faint woggle sideways, and often as not the stopper gives.  This is a relatively painless procedure and does not damage old labels or risk snapping off the top of the stopper ( a minor disaster in my opinion).

That is my favorite way of dealing with stubborn stoppers, however in this case it proved useless.  I had to try method number two which is not a favorite, and that is to hold the stopper under a stream of hot water.  This has drawbacks, for starters some water always dribbles down the side of the bottle and then you get label disintegration or wrinkling, which is unsightly.  Also I never know how long to keep up the hot shower.  The idea here is to dissolve old perfume residue which may have sealed the stopper in the bottle neck.  Long story short, no amount of showering would convince Le Parfum Ideal to let go. The hot water did dissolve the remains of the wax though, and slightly damaged the label.  At this point I had spent the best part of a day trying to open the bottle and decided to cease and desist and go to bed.

Next day, day two to be precise, I tried the alcohol bath.  Here you create a bath of isopropyl alcohol and put your bottle neck down in it with plastic wrap on top to keep the

Box and Bottle

Box and Bottle

fumes from escaping.  Again the hope is that any dried perfume gluing the stopper in place will dissolve.  Not in this case.  I soaked LPI for hours, but nothing doing, and when I got nowhere by evening, I resorted to the freezer at twenty minute intervals again.  This  produced no result. At this point forty eight hours had elapsed since the perfume arrived. On day three I was back to holding the bottle under the hot tap and desperately looking online for further bottle opening advice, but that well had run dry and by now I was reading tales of intrepid husbands who had drilled open ancient bottles of No 5.  I wanted to keep the bottle, so drilling was well and truly out.

Then my hub became curious.  What was  the problem exactly?  I explained and he said, the answer was a wrench. “Wrench!” I bellowed with visions of crystal stoppers shattering all over the kitchen counter tops, “Wrench! Are you mad?”

Voila, open bottle avec wrench

Voila, open bottle avec wrench

He wasn’t though, he went and got the correct size of wrench and a towel to wrap the bottle, and with me cowering in the next room with the cat, struggled with the stopper. And pop! Out it came and hit the Hub in the face he said, with a wave of perfume nobody had smelled for eighty or ninety years.  He said it was rather a good wave, and unique in his experience.

He was right. Old Le Parfum Ideal is  a rich tobacco and jasmine note with aldehydes flattening out in the top, and a dry down reminiscent of Coty Chypre’s.  Ideal is opulent and well worth the trouble it gave us. Which was a lot, that bottle put up a three day fight.

What is your favorite stopper opening method-or do you have a good story of an old bottle?

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11 thoughts on “The Battle of The Bottle

  1. Oh the tales of stuck stoppers that I can tell! Your Parfum Ideal was clearly a tough one, and I’m glad your DH was successful. I have called for spousal assistance from time to time, and he does come up with innovative ideas. One involved my pulling the stopper up while he administered a gentle lateral thwack to the neck. Worked great (something about force being exerted in two directions at once), I have had two broken stoppers, on pristine bottles of Nuit de Noel and Moment Supreme extrait.The Nuit de Noel broke because I was new at the game and was twisting and jiggling the stopper sideways, so I don’t do any of that any more. The Moment Supreme broke after the freezer treatment, so I avoid that now as well. I should add that in each case, I was able to buy an empty replacement flacon cheaply, so life goes on, although the initial trauma was very real.

    My preferred method lately is this: I make collars of alcohol-soaked cotton for the neck of the stopper and let the bottle sit for as long as I can stand, overnight and a day, re-soaking the cotton a few times. Then I use a cuticle pusher tool from a manicure set (it has a flat but rounded chisel-shaped end) wrappd in more cotton and very, very gently pry upward around the stopper. I go around and around, exerting very little pressure at any specific point until…POP! Hallelujah!

  2. OK then, listen up folks-if you’ve had bottle battles in the past.

    The cuticle pusher tool is a new one to me and I am busy making note of it because I know perfectly well this is not my last old bottle. Oh how those broken stoppers make me cringe. On Nuit de Noel too, the black flagon there is half the fun.

    Anyway great advice and thank you for sharing 🙂

  3. I have yet to have had trouble with vintage bottles, and that’s probably because I haven’t run across any *really* old ones. My Coty Chypre is, by my best guess, late 1950s/early 1960s. The Coty Muse and the L’Origan are both older by maybe a decade, but they had these teeny little rubber plugs just inside the stopper, and I had no trouble getting them out. I did buy an empty Chamade parfum bottle because it was so lovely, and I put my decant of pdt into it.

    I admit that I do kinda lust after an old Narcisse Noir bottle – with the black Bakelite top? So beautiful. I’d buy one and put something else in it, if I could find one that didn’t cost two limbs.

  4. You never can tell with old bottles. I have two veteran Muse bottles, look like they have a very strange ovoid crystal hat on (see below sorry for huge image cannot get this thing to reproduce a sensibly sized one) part of a set of three I bought for ten dollars. So you might end up finding your N N bottle for less. My own preferred strategy is Estate Sales.

    Anyway, this old LPI is far and away the oldest bottle I ever found and the seal was odd-wax. Never seen that before but some really old flagons have that wax seal. Eerie part is that the perfume smells perfectly modern to me. The only thing I really notice is that curious part No5 part Chypre thing it has going on.

  5. Ha! ha! I like the bottle stories, very clever engineering tips. Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!!! (as the cat said to driver when passing the perfume store, ‘Let meowt .’

    I started this Valentine day wearing old Avon “Elusive” to donut shop, took my coffee walk in empty platz, and returned home to fix hair to look better for errands. I then spritzed on sample my daughter gave me, Oscar de la Renta’s “Extraordinary”.

    The only bottle story I can add is that the Avon bottle I doused from this morning is shaped like a small swan made of milk glass, a tiny gold crown as the cap.

    Ladies, may your day go swimmingly, swans on the water of perfume rivers.

    Many thanks for sharing your perfume stories online.

    • Thanks for your bottle story!

      Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone btw. Martha’s comment reminded me and I did not even do the traditional Valentine’s post!

      I wonder what everyone’s scent of the day is? I’m bucking the trend for roses with violets and iris in Florentina. Plus maybe some Apres L’Ondee 🙂

  6. Wrench, great, I like his style! I am a big fan of the hot water trick, especially with jam and chutney jars. An alcohol bath sounds a bit too much like hard work to me, hehe.

    • However the collar of alcohol soaked cotton is not too fatiguing and seems to work well, the only problem is the %^**!!$ alcohol evaporates!

  7. It was a great story with a happy ending! I’m glad you got your perfume and bottle intact.

    There are no stories from me since I do not buy vintage perfumes but it’s a good knowledge to have: you never know when a pristine bottle of something you’ve never hoped to see just gets to you.

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