I think of myself as someone with a rather discerning nose. I mean, I’m not too precious about just about anything in life–as a mechanical engineer especially, I can certainly handle whatever smells are around, pleasant or not, and endure them. But by discerning I mean, there are few smells that I deem “good”, especially when it comes to perfume. I don’t even know who makes department store perfume. Some of the fanciest, most expensive brands–Chanel No. 5, for example–I totally don’t get. What??
Smells, to me, are very personal. The best smells are relatable in some way. They should make you think of a scene, or an experience, or someone you know. My favorite perfumes, hands down, are by Jo Malone. I never liked any perfumes before the r/fragrance community on Reddit told me to try Wood Sage and Sea Salt, and for the first time in my entire life, I found a perfume scent I truly loved. I don’t love all the scents in the Jo Malone line, but I like most of them, and I like all of them way more than traditional perfumes.
But this post is not about Jo Malone! It is about Phlur, which I was intrigued by after trying Jo Malone (probably targeted advertising) and discovering fragrance. I realized that though I did not previously wear perfume, I did like to smell good, and I was always very particular about the smell of my room. I hated it when my room got that stale, human scent; I frequently opened windows–even in winter–and lit candles or burned incense. Good smells can make you feel so good. Smelling good has sometimes given me more confidence than a good hair day or a nice outfit. And there’s something much more personal and fulfilling about being complimented on your smell–that’s just about the nicest superficial thing anyone could say to me.
So, Phlur, a brand of “clean” perfumes that also claimed to transport you to forests or deserts and pickup trucks or something (online advertising of scents is difficult) was something I’d been eyeing for a while, especially their $18 for 3 fragrances trial. Fortunately, I was gifted a set by a friend of mine. Hooray!
I have to say, the Phlur scents I tried–Moab, Greylocke, and Sandara–did not have the omg-its-perfect moment that several Jo Malone scents had for me. But for a lot of different reasons, I still felt it was a great brand, an interesting mission, and worth trying. Scent, again, is very personal, so I am forgiving of scents purchased online. Furthermore, Phlur’s model is that they want you to try their scents before choosing, because they believe scent develops on a person’s body, and as such no sprayed card or packet other impersonal sample could do anyone justice. I found that to be true–I liked Phlur’s scents more when I was actually wearing them than when I was merely sniffing the bottle.
All of Phlur’s scents were very botanical. They almost smelled like a very strong blend of essential oils and spices, and were very concentrated. I realized as I was wearing them, though, that this was a good thing, although I didn’t love the scents themselves. The flaw of Jo Malone is that some of their scents are very light, and smell great in the bottle but dissipate quickly when you actually wear them. Sometimes I’m going for the subtle, smell-it-when-you-hug-me effect, but sometimes, I would really like a handshake to be enough. Phlur was more at the level of a handshake-distance in power (or should I say “volume”?), but still not overpowering or offensive.
Moab was very cinnamon-y, at least to me. Sandara smelled like clementines. And Greylocke really did smell like a walk through the forest–if the forest was your eclectic Scottish grandma’s herb garden. It just felt like a very strong plant smell–almost the way floral perfume is sometimes too floral, only Greylocke was too…grassy? Herbal? I can’t quite find the words, but I hope you get my drift.
All in all, I still liked them a lot more than department store perfumes, and enough to finish the bottles by using them daily. They at least left me smelling fresh–almost like deodorant scents–so that I was perfectly happy using them, but I personally wouldn’t purchase them after I finish this set.
P.S.–What does “clean” mean?
I hate it when buzzwords take something and give it this amorphous, ambiguous meaning, especially in the “socially responsible consumer” space, where people trying to make good decisions are fooled by pretty packaging and obscure policies. “Clean” means absolutely nothing to me, and Phlur advertises as a “clean” perfume brand. That means they make “clean” perfumes defined by whatever their own arbitrary standard is, and you can read about it on their site. I don’t give Phlur any ethics points for this–but I will give them points for what they are actually being, which is transparent. In my opinion, transparency almost ranks higher than actual ingredients used or processes performed, because it allows the consumer to make their own, educated decision about your product, and groups of consumers to put pressure on companies. Phlur does state all the ingredients they use in each scent, and I appreciate that transparency, which allows you to decide if they are “clean”.