Houbigant’s Subtilite

Sometimes I really think that half the fun of perfume is- literally-in the bottles.  I love so many antique bottles that can’t be produced today.  In the past that old dictum of Coty’s, namely that a perfume should appeal as much to the eye as to the nose, was strictly adhered to, nowadays not so much.

There on the left you see one of those bottles that collectors are generally after, and who can blame them?  It’s a beautiful presentation and just the sort of thing you might want for your favorite perfume.

What I do is to look for some of these wonderful old bottles and then decant into them.  The best way to do this is to clean your bottle thoroughly.  So step one,  gently clean the outside with detergent liquid in warm water ( this cleaning is by hand in the sink lined first with an old towel so if your hand slips- no breakage!).  Then fill the bottle with  isopropyl alcohol for twenty four hours.  If there is dried perfume around the bottle neck, make a cotton wool collar soaked in alcohol and tie it on.  The old residue comes off easily. Very often this first alcohol fill will clean out the last of any perfume from the flagon, but if you think you detect any remaining odor after the bottle dries, repeat the process. (This by the way was how the perfume urns at Caron were cleaned back in the day and is a reliable method.)

Another beautiful Houbigant bottle from

Flea markets and estate sales are really good hunting grounds for these old containers, and then there is your own collection. Shop your cabinet.  Don’t throw out old bottles. Clean them and they will provide good homes for decants, things bought in ugly flacons, or partial bottles.

I sometimes have a mania for finding limited editions of old perfumes or re-issues and putting them in the original bottle.  I’ve tried this with Coty’s Muse, and the results were quite pretty.  Most often though it’s simply an impulse to make a commercial product more personal and more attractive.  I have to admit to having few qualms about moving some of my old de Nicolais into new glass houses.

Best of all you get to indulge in another passion which is bottle collecting, but the bottles end up being useful.  I particularly enjoy the trick of taking something very mass market and putting it into something very high end.  Nobody

Weil’s bottles for the perfume Cassandra from

suspects what you’ve done-Yves Rocher in crystal?  Why not? I will even cop to having re- located powder into new powder boxes ( the best come from old vanity sets) and to putting niche perfumes  in personal bottles of my own.  Take for instance the crystal and silver bottle inherited from my Hub’s family into which I poured one of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s less expensive fragrances for a summer.  The bottle looked fabulous, I smelled good, and frankly so did the perfume cabinet since unbeknownst to me that bottle leaked faintly.  Needless to say if you are using a VERY old flagon check for stopper soundness! ( fill with colored water and turn upside down for a night in a sink over a rag.  You’ll see what is watertight!)

It’s maybe an odd way to expand and house a collection, but consider, using old bottles is green, is personally expressive, and looks great- how can you lose?

Do you ever decant into antique glass?

Be Sociable, Share!

6 thoughts on “Bottlemania

  1. I’m afraid I don’t, mainly because in my neck of the woods I rarely see it. Yes, I see plenty of those cut glass bottles with bulb atomisers, but I don’t like them. But I can see that your approach is much nicer than collecting vintage bottles and leaving them in a manky state with sticky brown juice in the bottom – just for the sake of preserving original content which have probably long gone off. It sounds fun!

    I’ve been thinking about my near-empty bottle of Songes. I bought it with its last 10 mls from a Facebook friend, and I’ve nearly finished it. I like it because the sprayer is a bit dysfunctional so it just spits the juice, rather than spraying it. With a fragrance as strong as Songes, this is good.

    The thing is, I have a big new 100ml bottle of AG Songes. Thanks to your bottle cleaning tips, I now know how to clean the old one and I could decant a small amount into the old one if I want. (Goutal bottles have sprayers that screw off!) I could clean the sprayer too – but that might mean it will stop spitting, which is the whole point of the exercise. Hmmm …

    1. Atomizers are problematic in my experience. The overly efficient behave like power washers, and the others encourage evaporation – bleargh!

      So at least your spitter isn’t wasteful, which is a good thing. The old bottle of Songes – well you never know when something hideously housed will come along and then you will have a pretty new residence for it, ready for a new tenant. The Goutal packaging was always very attractive.

      I hope you’re more efficient at labeling than I am – mine fall off!

  2. Ooooooh…I like it–filling empty pretty bottles with new fragrance. Great tip on putting alcohol into old bottles first, and how to test for leaks by adding colored water, then turn bottle down overnight onto a cloth in sink.

    This is a creative green way to repurpose empty but beautiful old bottles that really shine on display with new perfume in them. Otherwise, the empties might be hidden in an old shoebox forever as non-useful space takers.

    It customizes a collection, too.

    Coty was right about much of the beauty of the product being in the elegance of the bottle.

    I bought a bottle of “Joy” in Paris once at Galleries Lafayette? but it came in a little aluminum bottle which was light-proof to preserve the perfume, but its stark ugliness was a turnoff. I remember the disappointment.

    I was young. It was my first bottle ever of a “fine” scent.

    That thrill somewhat made up for the bland aluminum mini-thermos, but I was never happy to display it. Always a bit of a downer every time I decanted from it to wrist.

    1. That’s too bad that the first bottle of Joy was aluminum! No crystal? Dear me, you would think that Jean Patou would have sold it all in pretty containers.
      Well at least you can always re-purpose old bottles now. By the way there are still some firms who have not kicked the old aluminum bottle habit- I might mention Montale!

  3. I put my decant of Chamade pdt into the empty parfum bottle – you know, that upside-down heart one – and don’t feel even a tiny bit guilty. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *