Tammy Wynette's Signature Fragrance Smells Like A Woman

I tracked down a vintage bottle of Estée Lauder Private Collection.

When you think “Tammy Wynette,” you probably don’t think, “Exclusive perfume created just for Estèe Lauder, later worn by the Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson.”

But you should, because the legendary First Lady of Country Music--and don’t you dare dispute that--wore Estèe Lauder’s Private Collection perfume almost exclusively. I was tickled to discover that it was her signature scent.

I recently became completely obsessed with Tammy. I don’t mean I listen to her music once in a while; I mean it’s pretty much all I listen to. Tammy found me at a particularly vulnerable point in my life and I instantly attached myself to her catalog and her story.

Her songs are sad, funny, wistful, and true. They endure because they speak to a woman’s experiences.

Are you going through a tough breakup? Play “Til I Can Make it On My Own” and try not to tear up and sing along. Don’t let your preconceived notions about “Stand by Your Man” cloud your Tammy judgment. Listen to the tears in her gorgeous voice and let your heart guide you.

I devoured “Tragic Country Queen,” a delicious biography of the superstar, as well as her '70s autobiography, “Stand By Your Man,” as quickly as they arrived in the mail. My Spotify pretty much only plays Tammy and George Jones 24/7.

It was in the former that I discovered Tammy’s signature scent was Private Collection, and so I went to eBay and ordered a small bottle of vintage perfume for about $12.

Private Collection was, for a long time, the perfume exclusively worn only by Estèe Lauder herself. After all, when you have great perfumers at your disposal, why not have them create something just for you? That’s pretty much my dream. Eventually, she was persuaded to release it to the public, but she was really choosy at first: only Princess Grace and Wallis Simpson got their hands on a bottle. The name came from her enigmatic answer when questioned by those nearby what she was wearing: “It’s from my private collection.” You go, Estèe.

Private Collection is a classic green chypre. It starts off with a strong “green” note, almost piney but not quite.

The top notes are very bright and almost abrasive, but they settle down into a ylang-ylang center with an amber and sandalwood base. If you’re not used to vintage fragrances, this WILL smell old lady-ish to you, especially at first. But let it mix with your skin. See how it changes, how it adapts to your body chemistry. On me, the ylang-ylang note really sings. It feels like a woman’s perfume, not a girl’s.

I am surprised this was Tammy’s perfume of choice; it does read a little WASPy, a little Upper East Side. But that makes me love Tammy and Private Collection all the more; the pairing is unexpected, but I can smell the powerful, confident trail of perfume following Tammy about as she commands the stage. And that’s why I love it.

  • Have you ever gotten a whiff of Private Collection? What do you think?
  • Do you investigate the perfume habits of your music idols?
  • What's best fragrance discovery you've made of late?

Photos by Emily Ruf