That nagging question rears its hoary head yet again: Is bigger necessarily better? I don’t know about you folks, but size does make a statement ... even when it’s aw-shucks goofy. Honestly now, given the opportunity to explore the immensities of space, to climb an alpine peak or be dwarfed by the magnificent height of a skyscraper over, say, idling away a day in some Wunderkammer or hunched over a microscope, I’d choose the former. I guess it speaks to my desire for something different, some experience that will rouse me from cyber-myopia or the minutiae of workaday life. I cast my demitasse spoon, gaily, into the volcano’s fiery sublimities.
Over the last week or two, I realize that I’ve been lusting over the larger formats in which one can find some of the best of wine and perfume. Typically, in wine-speak, these are the magnums and the double-magnums; in perfume-speak, they are referred to as “splash” bottles. When it comes to buying wine in larger formats, the concern is generally a lower surface-air ratio. For a very precious cuvée, a larger format grants some insurance of the wine’s development and viability over time. (Hmm.. Shouldn’t that 1928 Romanée Conti be ready about now?) Many bottlers inflate the prices of larger formats because they are harder to come by.
When it comes to perfume, larger formats speak to thrift, the ability to decant into smaller bottlers and, let’s face it, the basic human desire to show off. Yesterday, at Barneys New York, I know I saw the perky thirtysomething’s face light up when she saw the Frederic Malle L’Eau d’Hiver in a 250mL splash. But her look was less about thrift than about a beautiful big bottle sparkling under the halogen minis in her Waterworks master bath. And I don’t blame her. After all, didn’t women of my great-grandmother’s generation use an entire bottle of eau de Cologne for each ablution at Baden Baden or Bad Ragaz. For the valets, it must’ve been like carrying milk bottles to the spa, if not as commonplace.
With the mass-market release of Prada Infusion d’Iris in an unheard-of size – 600mL or thereabouts – there seems to a micro-trend developing for larger bottles of lighter formulations. Chanel caught on to this when they wisely released Les Exclusifs in large, unassuming splash-like bottles. Who knows, maybe Guerlain will release Eau de Shalimar in a sailboat-sized splash. When I was done soaking my guests with it, I could reuse it for pennies or, better yet, goldfish. Perhaps when the chips are down, size is a comfort to us, a means of saving face despite recessionary woes and the morbid morality of penny-pinchers.
My only gripe in all this – bottle designers, hear me out – please include an atomizer!