Saturday, August 16, 2008

She Said, He Said: behind the scenes memos between your I Smell Therefore I Am editorial staff

Hey Brian,

...disappointing perfume day. I bought a bunch of perfumes from - they have amazingly good deals. I bought everything unsniffed, but for the price, no biggie.

1. Habanita - gagging from the powder - I thought I would love this - but the baby powder is too much - I can't get through it to the tobacco or leather.

2. Casmir by Chopard - Josh said it smelled like a street hooker (i seriously hope he doesn't know this from first hand experience). It is wayyyy too sweet.

3. Balmain Ambre Gris - very sweet - I might end up liking it - smells so differently on Rob. Maybe the chemistry thing is true after all, I always thought it was a farce. I like the bottle.

I also got Madness by Chopard - haven't tried it yet.

I was so excited about Habanita. The reviews were glowing. Sometimes I wonder if perfume-addicts smell the perfume too closely. If I didn't know what Habanita was 'supposed' to smell like - I wouldn't get it at all. It's only because I read the reviews and know the list of notes that I didn't scrub it off after 5 minutes. The bloody stuff doesn't scrub off either - I can still smell it!!! I'll happily wear Bandit and Tabac Blond and skip Habanita if I want to smell leather/tobacco.

I have no tolerance for sweet 'fumes lately. I wonder if I'm changing? I'm obsessed with vetiver, balsam, sandalwood and patchouli.

Purchased Chanel No 19 from ebay today. Anxiously awaiting Chanel Bois de Iles - should arrive tomorrow or next day.

I really like the Balmain Ambre Gris bottle. I'm looking at it right now. The top is making me think of a microphone. I love the cube-shaped bottle and label. I really like simple bottles - like FM, SL, Jo Malone, Teo Cabanel, Miller Harris, Hermes, and Chanel.


Hey Abigail,

I just decanted Habanita for you yesterday, and doing so I thought, I wonder if I should even do this, I bet she won't like the powder. Still, it was on your list. I'm holding off on the Cuir de Russie since you don't know if you ordered it or not, but I'd love to smell the bois when you get it.

The Balmain sounds right up my alley. I typically love their stuff, bar none.

Casmir I have too. I bought it as a gift and re-acquired it several years on. I don't wear it and rarely sniff it. It smells like suntan oil to me, which can be nice, when you're sunning, and your sunblock is scentless.

Turin wrote an article recently which commented on how many perfumers are heavy smokers. Lots, he concluded.

Cuir de Russie came from Chanel today and arrived in pristine condition. They wrapped the shit out of that thing. No samples, disappointingly. I had visions of them trying to make it up to me. I'm interested now in Coromandel and Respire.


Hi Brian,

You know, I actually thought the whole "it doesn't work with MY chemistry" thing was just a way for people to say they didn't like it, politely. The difference between Balmain Ambre Gris on Rob's arm vs. mine was astounding. The woods and ambergris/salt was apparent on him and not at all on me. If it smells on you like it does on Rob I'm sure you'll like it (and it's $24.95 for 100 ML!!)

So I'm working from home today and as yet unshowered. I still reek of Habanita and Casmir!! Both of these deserve recognition for their lasting power - Mon Dieux!

Parfum1 sent a free bottle of Worth by Je Reviens. I've never heard of it but am scared to try it. The juice is NEON BLUE.

I'm oddly obsessed with the Balmain Ambre Gris bottle. I want to keep it in front of me and use it as a paperweight.

I also ordered Ivoire for next to nothing. It hasn't arrived yet.


Oh Abigail,

It saddens me that you aren't enthused with Habanita, but I'm holding out hope that it'll grow on you, like Bandit. I took the Habanita decant out of the package I sent you and sprayed it on myself in the early morning. It lasted all day. I'd forgotten how persistent it is.

Here's the thing: Yes, there's something very powdery about it, but I think that's just the edt, and it eventually goes away. Recently I smelled the EDP and it doesn't have that powdery density--at all. When I first sprayed the EDP I thought they'd completely reformulated the fragrance. I'm sure they tweaked something (they always do) but many edp's are slightly different, and Habanita's ends up in roughly the same place as its edt concentration.

When Turin called Habanita "vetiver vanilla" I couldn't understand what he was getting at--until I smelled the EDP, where the vetiver is pronounced from the beginning. The EDP has that lemongrass tang to it, and feels much lighter going on, almost transparent, and yet into the heart and the dry down it has reached the same points as the edt. After discerning the vetiver in the EDP I can now smell it in the edt, and I enjoy it much better. I'm sickened though. I looked on perfume1 and see that it sells at half what I paid for it elsewhere.

I think part of the problem with fragrances like Habanita whose reputations precede them is the fact that by the time you get hold of them you've built up an unconsciously specific idea of what they must smell like, and you're inevitably disappointed. Usually, some sort of adjustment period follows, where you grow to appreciate the scent on its own terms or--not.

I purchased Ambre Gris online yesterday. What does gris mean, anyway? It's like Bois and Tabac and Cuir: all over the place in perfume nomenclature. I suppose I could look it up, but you can only open so many windows on the computer screen, and mine are all occupied with perfume blogs and discount vendors.

On the way to work this morning I thought, I don't even LIKE Amber. Then I started to think how a bad review can make you just as interested in a perfume as one which praises it. Somehow, the things you said about Ambre Gris made it sound super appealing to me. Elsewhere I saw burnt sugar and caramel, some earthiness, etc. I hope I like it. The bottle alone seems have-worthy.

I'll expect to know what you think of Ivoire, naturally.


Hey Brian,

Balmain Ivoire arrived today. My first reaction was: Dial & Dove soap! Now it's settled in and it's really nice. It IS mostly soapy but when I smell closely there's a lot more going on - sort of a spicy green with a hint of soap. I like it. There's something comforting and parental about it. The smell makes me feel like I'm being taken care of and everything is going to be all right... ;-) what is that sortof dark, medicinal, metallic smell? And I'm not being negative, I like this smell...(oh, but this bottle, so ugly! looks like it came off a drugstore counter from 1976!)

re: Gris ~ I assumed Ambre Gris was just the French word for ambergris. You know what ambergris is...that's why I was expecting Ambre Gris to smell salty - which it DID on Rob's arm and not mine.

I totally agree about fragrances whose reputations precede them. Unfortunately there are so many of these. I could make a really long list of perfumes that are classics and receive rave reviews that I'm smelled and wondered "what's the big deal?" I definitely think I oversprayed Habanita the other night. I tend to spray quite a bit when I'm smelling a scent for the first time. With Habanita, this really wasn't a good thing to do.

Bois = Wood
Tabac = Tobacco
Cuir = Leather

'Bois' seems everywhere. Now that I'm thinking about SL Bois de Violette - the name accurately describes the fragrance. I expected more violet - but the name roughly translates to 'wood violet' - so that's why it smells to me of a pile of cedarwood with one tiny violet plunked in the middle.

On my left arm is Ivoire and on my right arm is Caron Parfum Sacre. The jury is still out on Parfum Sacre, I don't know what to make of it yet. One thing I really like to do is AVOID reading reviews and the list of notes as much as possible. This way, when I smell something, it isn't influenced by whatever has already been said. I like to lessen the power of suggestion as much as possible.

Did you see the comment I received a few days ago about Immortal Flower on the Balmain Ambre Gris review? I thought that was an interesting and helpful note. I didn't know the story of Annick Goutal Sables nor the story of Immortelle. You know, of course, Annick Goutal Sables is on the list now...

I love amber. Teo Cabanel Alahine is very ambery to me and it's one of my favorites. Amber needs to be relatively dry, not sweet, and then I love it. I've been waiting for Serge Lutens to make a nice dry amber for years.... Serge? Are you reading?! Because his last few launches...mostly cinnamon and veering toward gourmand....haven't impressed me....

- A xo

Dear Abigail,

Yeah, I figured out the bois and tabac and the cuir (though it took a while to bring myself to pronounce it correctly out loud), but gris seemed contradictory. How can ambre be gris then Iris too? It seems to mean gray, from what I can find online, which makes perfect sense for the latter, which is totally gray to the point of glittery. But it makes little sense when tagged onto amber. So go figure. I'm sure some kind benevolent soul out there will write to let us know.

There is something medicinal about Ivoire, now that you mention it. I bet it's the galbanum, which probably gives it that weird, menthol glow. I really love Ivoire. It does smell parental, too. I kind of like the bottle. Compared to the new Van Cleef bottle it's downright high class. The bottle seems like a drugstore version of Chanel's packaging but I love it. It's down to earth.

I love immortelle. I didn't realize you'd never smelled Sables. Something else I'll have to send you. I wonder if you'd care for it. The overall effect is burnt sugar sweet. Immortelle is to Sables what aldehydes are to No. 5, like someone had a little left in the bottle and thought, well, I might as well put it in, otherwise it'll go to waste. Immortelle is in Coriolan by Guerlain and in Diesel Fuel for Life, though to me it's more difficult to detect in both of those. Boucheron's Initial uses it too.

I've seen that Ayala Moriel has a perfume based around immortelle, called Immortelle l'Amour. The notes are: Vanilla, Rooibos tea, Wheat absolute, Broom, Sweet orange, and Cinnamon. What the hell is broom? Basenotes lists four or five fragrances using it as a note. Perhaps there is a broom absolute? To my uninformed mind, it's like saying "hair from the seat cushion my dog Alfie sat on yesterday." But who am I?



Unknown said...

Broom is Genet, a very pricey absolute. There are varying grades of it, and the perfumer must source many before finding a great one. The binomial nomenclature is Spartium junceum.
From the White Lotus newsletter: Broom/Genet Absolute is extracted from the flowers of the wild shrub, Sparticum junceum which grows in Italy, south of France, and Spain.

The absolute is a dark brown, semi solid or very viscous liquid, with a deep roseaceous-floral, coumarinic, honey, sweetness. A fine herbaceous, hay-like accord sits beneath the surface and has good tenacity.

In perfumery it is used in various floral bases where its rich honey-sweet, floral notes add richness, fullness and body to the composition. Rose bases, tuberose, cassie, mimosa, honeysuckle and violet benefit from its presence.

Blends well with flouve eo, hay eo and abs, helichrysum eo and abs, blue chamomile eo and abs, fir balsam absolute, tonka abs, orris root abs and co2 extract, boronia abs.

Brian said...

Thanks, Anya! Your entry has so many fantastical names it almost sounds like a fairy tale of plant life. Binomial nomenclature! Spartium junceum! I am all for hay and honey-sweet, and I wouldn't dream of kicking anything which improves upon violet out of bed. I think this is much better than the smell left by my dog, though I assume that great quantities might give me cause to reconsider.

H. said...

Habanita is, I think, my favorite parfum. But I discovered it and had a supply of it, from a time when I believe it was still in its original form.

Brian, you are correct that Habanita has been reformulated. However! recently, Molinard put out their 1849 Collection, which is comprised of the original formalae of several of their classic scents.

I only just discovered, when I went shopping for Habanita for the first time in years, that it had been reformulated. Why? I was so unhappy to hear it.

Reviews of the current formula are disheartening, and everyone says the same as you, Anya and Brian: How can this be the fabulous, sensual, mysterious scent of which everyone's rhapsodically spoken?

In one blog, the reviewer gave the same avid review of Habanita as have given Habanita her reputation. She was very impressed. It is a singularly appealing scent. Others were posting comments descenting, calling it powdery, smoky, old-smelling, and other unattractive descriptors.

Eventually, it was discovered that the reviewer had unknowingly tested the original formula, the parfum from the 1849 collection. This is apparently the difference.

I don't know if the current parfum is great and the EDT, not. Though in my experience, the EDT, in its original formula, did not degenerate into an overly-powdery scent, either, something I associate with drugstore brands of scent.

We should form a petition to the President of Molinard, Jean-Pierre Lerouge-Benard, asking that they always make the original formula available, of Habanita:,
60 bd. Victor Hugo

06130 GRASSE, France

~ H.