Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dandy of the Day: Jane Bowles


Wife of Paul, and famously lesbian, Jane Bowles was a fascinating anomaly. How to explain the relationship between these two authors; both equally queer? Jane's writing was often (and even now) overshadowed by Paul's (The Sheltering Sky, et al), yet in some ways her work was perfectly comfortable in the dark. Her wryly comic characters smuggle ferocious idiosyncrasies. In "Camp Cataract", a woman comes to remove her deranged sister from the clutches of a rural retreat which has taken her imagination over the edge, with disastrous results. In Bowles' single novel, Two Serious Ladies, Christina Goering is a wealthy spinster in pursuit of sainthood who ends up as a high-class call-girl, while Frieda Copperfield leaves her boring husband and heads for Panama where she falls in love with a prostitute. Jane Bowles was as complicated and unlikely as her characters and the situations they found themselves in. Writing was an arduous ordeal for her, and in her lifetime she published very little; along with Two Serious Ladies, a play and a body of short stories. She eventually followed Paul to Morroco, where he chased boys and she fell in with a local woman named Cherifa who some believed poisoned her, hastening her early death. She was under-appreciated by the public at large, and chronically insecure, yet critically revered. Poet John Ashberry called Bowles "one of the finest modern writers of fiction in any language." Truman Capote considered her "one of the really original pure stylists".

An obvious choice for Bowles would have been Bandit. The contradictions embodied in Cellier's constructions are perfectly in keeping with Bowles' askew outlook, apparent in almost any line from her writing: “She was torn between an almost overwhelming desire to bolt out of the room and a sickening compulsion to remain where she was.” A more unexpected choice might be Heeley's Fine Leather. Fine Leather, too, is a contradiction: it smells more like hay than hide, evoking the sickly sweet aroma of an evacuated horse stall. Underneath this, a honeyed sweetness. Some people think of Chanel's Cuir de Russie when the word leather comes to mind: of sweetness and the supple, well maintained car seat of a Bentley. Others, like Bowles, go into the barnyard, lifting the saddle to find the smell it left on the horse's perspiring back.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Annick Goutal Neroli: A Review

Annick Goutal Neroli (2003, Camille Goutal) is the most gorgeous neroli fragrance I have ever smelt. I also love L’Artisan Fleurs d’Oranger, Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger and Le Labo Fleur d’Oranger 27, but Annick Goutal’s Neroli is the most beautiful.

To me, Camille Goutal captures the simplicity and freshness of orange blossoms most perfectly. I’ve always loved the smell of orange blossom from the first time I smelt the real thing, when I was a little girl visiting Walt Disney World in Florida. The scent of orange blossoms wafting through the humid Floridian air is intoxicating. My mother reminds me that I asked if she could plant some of these trees in our yard. Sadly, orange trees don’t do so well in the northeast.

Annick Goutal created a series of soliflore fragrances (Le Jasmin, Le Muguet, La Violette and Le Chevrefeuille) and they are all beautiful. Someone I met online asked me for perfume recommendations for her wedding day. AG Neroli was in my top five suggestions for a summer wedding and she ended up falling in love with it and choosing it for the big day.

Annick Goutal created Neroli as a soliflore, so it’s meant to smell like real orange blossoms, in nature; there is nothing strange or sweet or woodsy added as an unusual twist, it’s just simple, ethereal neroli. There’s a fresh green coolness to AG Neroli, which is easily worn in the hot summer. I would recommend AG Neroli to anyone who finds most floral perfumes overwhelming or too sweet. If my calculations are accurate, I’ve used six bottles of AG Neroli in my lifetime….one every summer since 2003. My 2008 bottle of AG Neroli is about 50% full so it will last me until the cooler fall weather arrives.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cold Shouldered: Santa Maria Novella Iris


Whenever I smell something new, or even read about it, I search the perfume blogs to see what other people have said. It's an abbreviated discourse or primer on the general consensus about the scent: do people like it, do they think it stinks, are they divided, are they nuts? Sometimes, it's months, or longer, before I can actually smell some of the things I read up on. I only smelled Parfumerie Generale the week before last. For the longest time, it drove me nuts wondering what exactly Kilian's line must smell like, and, being a violet nut, I was desperate to get my hands on Bois de Violette. When I did (thanks to Abigail, who's a total sweetheart) I broke the decant--before even getting it out of the package. The rest of the night, as I picked little glass slivers out of my skin, I smelled it on my fingers. That seemed, strangely, an ideal way to experience the chilly remoteness of that scent. Another note which has become a passion is Iris, and at a local shop which carries all of three Santa Maria Novella perfumes, I found their version.

I looked Santa Maria Novella Iris up online, and found...nothing. Today, I bought it anyway--regardless--and I couldn't be happier. Like Bois De Violette, SMN's Iris is a bit cold. It starts out vaguely candied, but in an oddly medicinal way. Like Bois De Violette, it wears its weirdness on its sleeve. Like Iris Silver Mist, it has a funereal radiance to it, projecting detachment, a pastel picture of iris under ice. It lacks the woodsy undertones of Iris Nobile, which, truth to tell, smells only indirectly of Iris, as if the scent is wafting over from a neighboring flowerbed, with who knows what in between. It has some of the fetid rootiness of Hermes Hiris, just barely, and precious little of the brightness Turin refers to in Ferre. But who needs bright when dim feels so good? SMN Iris makes things so dim they become spectral. The powder of most iris scents is handled so judiciously here that it registers more as a light layer of dust: again, under ice, and what does dust under ice smell like? You tell me.

Santa Maria Novella Iris smells like a ghost of iris, a memory left in your mind, melancholy and even a little sinister. It would smell great with the long black overcoat left behind in Ichabod Crane's closet.

The new face of something really good: Ellen Page


This is my formal request, submitted on Monday, July 28th, 2008, at 8:52 pm, that I hereby wish that Ellen Page be the new face of a really really really good perfume. (if you've been in a coma the past few years, Ellen Page was the main character in Hard Candy, Juno and played a supporting role in Smart People. Ms. Page is very cool, imho). I admit, she looks 12, but she's not. This perfume should be really good. It should aim to become a new classic. It can't be fruity or overly floral or too "pretty," it should have guts and charisma and break a few rules. Daring and fun comes to mind, too. So, whoever might be reading, please call Ms. Page. You'll have to talk her into it I'm sure, tell her it's a groundbreaking new perfume, simply extraordinary, and tell her there's a witty and interesting story behind it's creation. You'll need to woo her, but it will be worth it. Oh, and don't make her get naked for the ads, unless she wants to, let her be herself, you'll sell so much perfume, you'll make a mint, I promise.

Vintage perfume ad: Guerlain 1937


Vintage Guerlain ad for Vega (1937). I think the image is supposed to be the statue of liberty but she looks like a pretty evil she-devil to me...

Two Reviews: Sonoma Scent Studio's Champagne de Bois and Laila by Geir Ness

Today I wore one perfume during the day and switched to another this evening for the purpose of reviewing them both. One was very good and the other was "not very good", in my opinion.

I’ll start with the good review. It’s Sonoma Scent Studio’s Champagne de Bois. Champagne de Bois is a nice little number. To categorize it, it strikes me as a woodsy musk with some effervescence and spice. This is what I wore during the day and I was sniffing my wrists frequently and enjoying the aroma wafting around me. Champagne de Bois is subtle, although I think there’s a soft sillage due to the slightly aldehydic effervescence. My husband actually told me I smelled good today and this is big news! Champagne de Bois is so easy to wear, it has a very natural/organic aroma, and there’s nothing overtly synthetic or “perfumey” about it. I find the spice, musk, woods combo calming and well done. To me, it smells like a well-blended amber, musk, sandalwood, clove once dried down. There’s a slight sweetness, very slight, perhaps stemming from jasmine which is listed among the notes. To compare it to something mainstream, it reminds me a little bit of Givenchy Organza Indecence, which is one of my favorites, but Sonoma Scent Studio has created a more organic and natural woodsy aroma. (By the way, I’m not saying Champagne de Bois IS organic or natural per se, just that it smells that way).

Champagne de Bois is aptly named since the aldehydes make it start off with a bubbly blast. For the first 5-10 minutes it’s effervescent and citrusy. I think Champagne de Bois is an absolute gem of a woodsy perfume. CdB is delightfully smoooooth, I could wear this very often. The lasting power is excellent, on me I could still detect it after 5 hours.

Sonoma Scent Studio, Champagne de Bois’ listed notes: aldehydic top notes, clove, jasmine, sandalwood, amber, labdanum, vetiver and musk.

Now for the bad. This evening I removed Champagne de Bois and applied Laila eau de parfum by Geir Ness. I was looking forward to Laila since I’ve begun to like “fresh/watery” fragrances this summer for the first time in my life. There’s something about Laila hailing from Norway that made it seem like it would be particularly clean, sparkling and fresh. I imagined clear spring water trickling down the sides of snow capped mountains and beautiful fields covered in wildflowers. I thought Laila would smell like my stereotypically beautiful vision of Norway. To my nose, Laila is none of these things. It’s very synthetic, sweet and brings generic air freshener to mind. It is strong, I’ll give it that, and it has good lasting power, because I could only wear it for 2.5 hours before I tried to scrub it off, and it took 3 washings, the final one with dishwashing liquid to remove it entirely. Laila is not fresh but very sweet and fruity.

Laila’s listed notes: Norwegian lilies, watermelon and Norwegian snowflower.

(I should have known since watermelon is listed in the notes…)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Top 16 Perfumes: Summer 2008

Here’s the list of the top 16 perfumes that are my mainstays this summer. Most are the usual suspects; citrusy, breezy, refreshing and light. I feel as if I wear these fragrances as a remedy or a weapon against the heat and humidity more than just because I enjoy them! I do love these fragrances, but it’s that point in the summer when I begin to look forward to cooler weather, when I’ll have more perfume choices.

(Alphabetical order, not preference)

  1. Annick Goutal Neroli – gorgeous delicate neroli
  2. Caron Bellodgia – perfect spicy carnation
  3. Diptyque Oyedo – bracingly refreshing grapefruit & mint (yuzu = Japanese grapefruit)
  4. Diptyque Philosykos – verdant woody fig
  5. Gucci Envy – green, fresh, modern
  6. Hermes Eau des Merveilles – oceanic, sandy, salty, tinged with orange
  7. Hermes Un Jardin En Medinterrenee – soft citrus, herbs and florals in a fig base
  8. Hermes Un Jardin Sur La Nil – green & refreshingly dry fruit, green mango
  9. Jo Malone French Lime Blossom – Tilleul soliflore (linden/lime Blossom)
  10. Jo Malone Nutmeg & Ginger – softly spicy
  11. Keiko Mecheri Ume – unusually spicy dry Asian plum
  12. Miller Harris Bourbon Geranium – scented geranium leaves, rose and citrus
  13. Montale Sandflowers – sand, salt water, juniper, oddly mesmerizing & addictive
  14. Prada Infusion d’Iris – light happy iris with citrus and ambery woods
  15. Sage Machado Onyx – sweet beachy scent, black coconut, tobacco flower, vanilla
  16. The Different Company Sel de Vetiver – dry woodsy & green vetiver with a smidgen of salty skin

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Tale of Four Figs: Comparison and review of 4 fig fragrances

Fig fragrances have been a big trendy craze in perfumery for more than a decade now. It’s not often that I think there’s good reason for a big, trendy craze, but with fig fragrances, I do.
I’ve never been to Greece, but like any perfume whose aroma transports me, fig fragrances take me to an idyllic country scene, where I picnic under a shady tree overlooking a fig vineyard. Of course, since its Greece, I’m picnicking on olives, feta cheese and grape leaves with a bottle of good wine.
The first fig fragrance I ever tried was Diptyque Philosykos. Philosykos is a gorgeously green, leafy and woody fig scent. It’s as if Diptyque put the whole fig tree in a bottle, leaves, twigs, bark and fruit. Philosykos is very dry and yet obviously the story of a fruit. The lasting power is excellent and the sillage is just enough to make you smell nice but not obnoxious.
Next up is Jo Malone’s Wild Fig & Cassis which is also a gorgeous fig fragrance. Jo Malone’s fig is very ‘figgy’ and by that I mean fruity. It makes me think of fig jam in a bowl surrounded by leaves and greenery. Jo Malone’s fig is sweet and supposedly combined with cassis which is blackcurrant, a tart purple berry. Fig & cassis is a lovely combination, to my nose it’s both sweet and tart, a perfect combination. Jo Malone’s fig fragrance is nicely wearable; it’s what I imagine to be the most mainstream fig scent of those that I’ve smelled. The lasting power is also good, about 4-5 hours.
L’Artisan Premier Figuer Extreme was created in 2003, nearly a decade after the original non-Extreme formulation. I’ve never smelt the original, because I only purchase L’Artisan in the extreme formulations since L’Artisan seems to last barely a nanosecond otherwise. Premier Figuer Extreme is a very soft, milky, creamy, coconut fig. It’s not very green nor woody, it’s closer to a gourmand-ish fig scent. I wrote “ish” very specifically because it’s not a gourmand, it just verges on becoming one. There is a slight green leafiness and a smidgen of sandalwood to keep the “milky figgy” note interesting. This is a very soft and pretty scent, its passive when compared to what I might call Philosykos’ aggressive fig scent. Premier Figuer Extreme is complex when I compare it to the other fig scents I have, it’s just that it doesn’t scream “fig!” to me, so when I reach for a fig scent, I hardly ever reach for this one. Like most L’Artisans, the lasting power is never enough, perhaps 2 hours, and the sillage is non-existent.
Miller Harris Figue Amere is an oddball fig scent. There are several Miller Harris perfumes that I simply adore and this is not one of them. The name ‘Figue Amere’ is supposed to translate into ‘salty fig.’ Salty figs might be interesting, if it smelled like salty figs. To me, Figue Amere smells like chocolate with a teensy bit of fig if I really really focus on finding that fig note. Figue Amere is very sweet and I don’t detect a green or woody note at all.
My favorite fig scent is Diptyque Philosykos. Perhaps it’s because it was the first fig fragrance I tried; the one that taught me what a fig tree is ‘supposed’ to smell like. I also rather like Jo Malone’s Wild Fig & Cassis if I’m in the mood for something sweet. Philosykos is verdant, woody, strong and seems to scream “I am a fig tree, hear me roar!” I would like to sample L’Artisan’s original Premier Figuer, but I don’t imagine I’ll ever buy a bottle of it, due to the notorious lack of staying power of L’Artisan cologne. For the cost of L’Artisan perfume, I find the lack of tenacity to be unacceptable. If it were a $50 bottle, I wouldn’t judge it so harshly and I’d happily reapply, but since it’s pricey, I’m a tough critic.

Friday, July 25, 2008

This Week at the Perfume Counter. Special edition: La La Land

To those of you who live in big cities, the following will contain no surprises. I suspect people in New York and Chicago are accustomed to expertise at the fragrance counter. Here in Memphis, things are slightly different. You are pounced upon at Macy's; regarded suspiciously at Sephora. Perfumania sometimes stares coldly at you as if daring you to ask for one more smell strip. Only one store carries anything remotely niche: and only Bond No. 9, at that.

I spent the last week in Los Angeles, and while most of my time wasn't killed anywhere near the perfume counter, I did go to Barney's and the Luckyscent shop, and during these brief visits I felt like I was making up for a lot of lost time. My top priority was getting over to the Chanel boutique on Rodeo Drive. I'd read a lot about the Exclusives line, particularly Cuir de Russie. I heard it was like nothing else and wanted to verify that high praise. It was several days before I could get over there, and when I did, I had four travel companions in tow, none of them the slightest bit interested in perfume--at least, not in smelling it for hours on end.

Chanel was pretty close to the picture I'd imagined. Rich, portly men buying impossibly expensive trinkets for younger women, who pulled out credit cards as if to pay their own way but were intercepted by said men, who then explained that the bills all come to the same place anyway. One saleswoman held up a petite, quilted handbag, pricing it at 2400 dollars. There were two floors. The fragrance counter was stuck in the back near the door onto the parking lot. The Exclusives were lined up along a high shelf. The bottles are about 6 ounces, chunky things, with magnetized caps which snap shut with a strange gravitational suction. Cuir de Russie was everything I'd been told to expect, and more, and they were out of it, and wouldn't be getting any more until after I left town. I was given a miniature and, once it was determined I wouldn't be accessorizing, sent on my way. I did pick up a bottle of Antaeus before leaving. My friend Bard wrinkled his nose, delivering the usual verdict. "Cat pee."

Knowing the patience of my friends was quickly wearing thin, I raced down Rodeo, first to Lalique, then to Dior. Versace was a bust. Inside, someone stated that Versace only made two colognes and when I asserted otherwise he stared at me as if he might call security. Two enormous Arab women with cheap hair squiggies took up most of the room at Lalique, asking questions which sent the sales staff running around in circles to find prices and check stock and dry the sweat under their arms in the privacy of the back room. It won't surprise you to know they left without purchasing anything. I suspected they'd done this many times, but, when they do spend money, they throw it around like confetti at a wedding.

The exasperated woman who ultimately helped me wore a skirt she probably doesn't do a lot of bending over in, and her hair was piled high on her head artlessly. The effect was very chic, making me feel overdressed and under-dressed at the same time. They had one more bottle of the divine Encre Noir, a peppery, grungy vetiver which is Guerlain's vetiver with a cigarette in its mouth, a bit of a hangover, and a big, boozy, let's screw this very minute look on its face. Dior is one long row of a place. with the clothes off to one side, threatening to gang up on you. Luckily, the fragrances are on the other side, where you instinctively rush for refuge. Eau Noire is similar to Annick Goutal's Sables, though I didn't recognize it until I got home to Memphis. Of the three masculines in this Slimane trio of special issues, it smelled the best, at least at first. Later, I smelled something incredible and found that it was Bois D'Argent, which I'd sprayed on my other wrist and lost interest in instantly. Now it smelled richer and deeper and kept evolving in ways that surprised me.

As we left Rodeo I spotted an Etro store, and wished I'd insisted on going in. I made a mental note to return, but it was several days before I could get back. The next day, I was again in the area, but after my extended trek down Rodeo I was given the option of one shop and one shop only, and the obvious choice was Barneys, where I could kill many birds with one stone. As we entered, my friends disappeared--to me at least. I'm sure they were still there. They might have been standing in front of me, waving bloody stumps where their arms had once been. All I saw was Serge Lutens and L'Artisan, Yosh, Strange Invisible Perfumes, S-ex, Baghari, Iris Nobile, and fill in the blank.

A dark-haired woman with an accent I took to be French approached and, ascertaining my familiarity with perfumes, went right to the good stuff. After spending several minutes with her, I realized she wasn't trying to push anything on me, and she knew the answer to almost every question I had. When I expressed my appreciation, she explained that she isn't in sales. A specialist, her only real job is to know what she's talking about.

She even had her own opinions, based on personal taste rather than sales figures. She had no interest in Baghari (I loved it) and, to her, the only outrageous thing about Outrageous was how synthetic it smelled. She convinced me to buy Daim Blond. I needed no help when it came to Iris Nobile and Bois de Paradis. The former is rich (I bought the EDP) and robust. Bois de Paradis is nutty and grassy and lists among its notes French Rose, Cinnamon, Blackberry, and Fig. It smells incredible; to this nose, the best of the Delrae line. The specialist gave me eight small decants to take with me. Among them: Arabie, Noir Epices, and Baghari.

Days later, when I made it over to Etro, I was less than enthused. Expensive clothes don't impress me; even with dangly, flashy things hanging off them. Yes I like your pants. I'm even vaguely intrigued that you paid several thousand dollars for them, but only because I'm imagining how much perfume I could buy with that kind of dough. It impresses me even less when you treat your small but somewhat impressive line of fragrances as if they were trifles you hand out as free gifts with purchase, ugly things cluttering your counter's real reason for being.

They had no tester for Messe de Minuit and had no intention of opening one. They only really sell it at Christmas, they said, as if I had the nerve to think of it out of season. They were gracious enough to let me smell a dust-laden candle, then laughed openly at me when I shipped my purchase back home to me. "You're sending it to yourself?" the salesman snickered. "Why yes," I said. "Should I send it to someone else and have them forward it to me instead?"

In case you're wondering, Messe de Minuit is sublime, an incense as true to its name as the Comme des Garcon line, it adds to their dry iterations a fantastically resinous quality, giving you both smoke and source.

The rest of the week was fairly dry, until I discovered, my last day in town, that the Luckyscent Scent Bar was a mere two blocks from where I was staying. Obviously, I raced right over. By the time I left, I had purchased five bottles of perfume. I returned from my car to buy one more. The saleswoman was polite and informative but decidely remote, as if she'd left the oven on at home. She answered my questions patiently but in such a way that the patience I required was made clear. I told a few jokes and she laughed, so I know she wasn't talking in her sleep. For a while I wasn't sure. I got to smell things I'd only read about, like most of the Parfumerie Generale line, Eau D'Italie, Heeley, Kilian, and others I forget. There were so many to smell. No wonder the saleslady was out of it.

I left with Heeley Fine Leather, Sienne L'Hiver, Les Nereides Patchouli, Un Crime Exotique, and Cedre Sandaraque. I returned a few minutes later for Washington Tremlett's Royals Heroes 1805 (I'd mailed everything else home. I needed SOMETHING for the plane trip).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dandies of the Day: ABBA

Back in the day, they loved to wear Opium by Yves Saint Laurent. All of them. ABBA likes to match, right down to their choice of cologne.

Today, the band members have updated their scent wardrobe due to the huge success of Mammia Mia! First the play and now a film (with Meryl Streep no less!).

These days, ABBA likes to wear Tom Ford's Black Orchid. They are, however, all looking forward to this Fall's release of White Patchouli.

The indies saved violet for me: three reviews

In one of my first blog entries, I made a list of the notes that I like and dislike. Among my dislikes was violet. My co-writer, Brian, happens to be a lover of anything violet, and mostly due to his enthusiasm for the note, I’ve tested several violet perfumes over the past few months.
For me, the indie perfumers make the most beautiful violet fragrances. I completely understand Brian's adoration of violet when I smell Ava Luxe Midnight Violet, Neil Morris’ Spectral Violet and Liz Zorn’s Domino Viole’. To a lesser extent, Serge Lutens has created a more-interesting-than-mainstream violet, Bois de Violette, but Lutens’ violet doesn’t thrill me, it’s all cedar with one tiny violet plopped in.
I’ll describe these gorgeous indie violets in alphabetical order – no favorite amongst them – they’re all beautiful and different:
Ava Luxe Midnight Violet – Midnight Violet was my first violet love. Serena Franco has created an amazing juxtaposition of light and dark, yin and yang, masculine and feminine in this fragrance. Ms. Franco takes violet, which is normally an uber feminine, sweet and powdery note and envelopes it in a forest of deep intense green with hemlocks, cedar, sandalwood and moonlight dancing upon mossy knolls. Midnight Violet is not cold, dirty or heavy on the skin; it’s just deep with emotion and imagination.
Spectral Violet by Neil Morris – Spectral Violet is, to my nose, the closest to a traditional violet fragrance. Mr. Morris, however, has removed everything I previously disliked about violet fragrances, and added a lovely complexity and dryness to the violet note. What I didn’t like about violet perfumes in the past, is that they were usually too sweet & cloying to the point of syrupy and always very powdery. Spectral violet is a sweet little candied violet that is balanced by being rested upon a bed of sandalwood, musk and vetiver. I love being able to enjoy an obviously violet perfume without all the powder puff sweetness. Spectral Violet has nice lasting power and just enough sillage for those close to you to smell it. Spectral Violet is just beautiful.
Soivohle’ Domino Viole’ – Domino Viole’, like Midnight Violet, is another deep and mysterious violet. Liz Zorn is the perfumer behind Soivohle’ and she has encased violet inside a gauzy cloud of incensey balsamic notes. Domino Viole’ is, if possible, both sharp and smooth as butter. The balsamic note is stunning and works magic when combined with the violet and green notes. Domino Viole’ is the least “violet-y” to my nose, but it’s still there, and it’s most likely what gives the balsamic, incense and green notes a lovely sweet pillow to perch upon.
Very soon I’ll be sampling two violet fragrances from Sonoma Scent Studio....can't wait.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Patchouli: The Dreaded Note

It seems as if everyone hates the smell of patchouli. I often wonder if this is merely because of the association with hippie dippy flower children or if everyone really hates the smell.

Patchouli is, without a doubt, a strong smell and it doesn’t wash off easily. It surely is one tenacious little note. I often see posters on the fragrance boards saying that they liked xyz fragrance until they noticed a hint of patchouli, then it was ruined. I can’t say that I’ve ever hated the smell of patchouli. In a way, I like it. To me, it’s rather clean smelling in its oddly musky earthy way.

I’ve been to several ‘Dead Shows,’ not because I love the Greatful Dead but because I’m utterly amused by the scene. The overpowering smell of patchouli is always a given, as are people begging for a ‘miracle’ (a ticket) and selling vegetarian fare (Dead Heads needed to eat since they camped out in parking lots for days on end). Sometimes I think the smell of patchouli mixing with an unclean person’s skanky body odor is what many people consider the actual smell of patchouli. If you subtract the skanky body odor, which is what the patchouli was meant to cover, you actually find an interesting fragrance. I’ve been one of the (perhaps few) who always try a scent when it’s blended with patchouli. L’Artisan Voleur de Roses is one example of this. I couldn’t wait to try it, and I loved it. I love the scent, but like most L’Artisan fragrances, it disappears within 20 minutes, even the patchouli note couldn’t make a L’Artisan last a full hour.

This brings me to a patchouli fragrance that I just love and wear often. It’s Keiko Mecheri Patchoulissime. So far, no one has commented or made a face that I stink like patchouli when I wear Keiko Mecheri’s patchouli. I’m so happy to have finally found a perfumer that treats patchouli as the centerfold of a fragrance and does it in a beautiful delicate wearable way. Perhaps if enough time passes, so that most don’t remember the association between patchouli and unclean hippies, everyone can stop hating patchouli so much. I think it’s a misunderstood and sadly unused note in most perfumes. It adds a gorgeous depth and lasting power, especially to musky perfumes but also to florals. Congratulations to Keiko Mecheri for being brave enough to take on the “dreaded note.”

Guerlain Cruel Gardenia: A Review

Guerlain’s Cruel Gardenia has been on my wish list for a few months and I finally bought some and gave it a test drive today. Sometimes I like a good gardenia note, but gardenia this is not; this is even better. Oh, this is much better than a typical gardenia fragrance. This is a gorgeously crafted, spiffy-spicy floral dream.

Cruel Gardenia opens with a lush, creamy spicy tuberose note, to my nose. There are hints of neroli and violet and a light spiciness that make you stop everything and pay attention to it. I sniffed and sniffed and kept doing so every 5-10 minutes trying to understand this beautiful creation. Guerlain’s Cruel Gardenia is like a dominatrix, she orders you to pay attention, and you do. Once Cruel Gardenia settled in, I was smitten. This is a subtle, sophisticated masterpiece. It doesn’t smell very much like other Guerlain fragrances that I’m aware of, at all. Cruel Gardenia has a smidgen of powder, just the teeniest dusting once it’s completely dried down. It is most definitely floral but in a very confident and non-attention seeking way. The floral notes eventually blend together to create a unified floral scent that is indescribable, it’s like a newly discovered flower growing in Bali that no botanist has ever seen before nor smelled. Yes, there is a slightly prominent gardenia note with hints of tuberose, violet, perhaps ylang and neroli but they all blend together into this gorgeously jaw-dropping aroma. The unified floral scent is perfectly balanced, it isn’t sweet and it isn’t dry. There is a musky spiciness that envelopes the overarching floral note which gives it complexity and a “grown-up” sophisticated quality. There is a little sillage, but it's definitely not a heavy or overpowering scent. It lasted about 4-5 hours for me, so I'd call it average in this regard. I'm smitten.

I’m thinking that the name, Cruel Gardenia, is dead-on, because now I want to buy a full bottle of this stuff, and that’s just cruel.

Per Guerlain, the list of notes and description of the fragrance is as follows:
"....Essence of damask rose with hints of peach and neroli create a refreshing initial burst of florals. Gradually, the scent of gardenia develops with the grace of violet, warmed by ylang-ylang from the Comoros and white musks. These lingering notes, present from the beginning, form the backbone of the composition. Essence of Tonka Bean sustains the white musks and moves into a sensuous note of vanilla and sandalwood"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Creed Love in Black: A Review

I must admit to not being a huge Creed fan. I really like Fleurissimo, and have bought about 3 bottles of it and wore it quite often in the late 90’s, but I’ve never loved another Creed fragrance. Creed’s Love in White wasn’t to my liking at all. But when I read the list of notes for Love in Black (henceforth LiB) I was immediately curious: Greek wildflowers, Violet, Virginia cedar, Iris from Firenze, Clove, Tonkin musk, Violet from Grasse, Bourgogne blackcurrant, & Rose (taken from Creed press release).

LiB starts off with a blast of violet/iris and tar, almost like a hot asphalt driveway on a 100 degree day. LiB remains fairly linear; the violet, iris and floral notes settle atop this tarry dark stew and eventually blend seamlessly into an unusual floral aroma. This is particularly unusual for Creed. I’d go so far as to call LiB rather edgy for a Creed fragrance. The floral notes are sweet but the tarry, musky, spicy notes definitely counteract any overdone sweetness and create a nicely balanced aroma - perfectly sweet and dry at once. After a few hours, LiB becomes a smidgen powdery, but in a good way; overall I don’t smell much other than the violet, iris, tar and musk notes and it doesn’t morph into something very different or complex. I rather like LiB, more than I anticipated I would. I’ve worn it three times now and each day I liked it more. It has nice sillage, so it’s not a close to the skin fragrance, and it also has good lasting power. I’m a stickler for lasting power so I’m pleased when I can still smell LiB on my skin at the end of the day. LiB is most definitely a unisex scent, but then again, I’m of the thinking that anyone should wear anything they want.

For another review of Creed's Love in Black, check out Marlen’s at PerfumeCritic.com

http://www.perfumecritic.com


For purchasing information and everything you need to know about CREED: http://www.creedperfumes.us/

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dandy of the Day: Sarah Silverman


Sarah Silverman is to satire what Julia Child is to cooking.
Sarah Kate Silverman is an American Emmy-Award nominated comedian, writer, singer, guitarist and actress.
Sarah is a gifted satirist who relishes exposing controversial societal issues such as racism, sexism, religion and homophobia. She’s so good at satire that I think there’s a whole segment of people that just don’t get her; they think she’s a jerk. Sarah is especially good at potty humor and nearly anything that one might consider uncouth. While Sarah is quite pretty, even beautiful, she doesn’t seem to emphasize this, or capitalize on it at all; she prefers to wear jeans, sneakers, tee shirts and her hair in a ponytail most of the time. This casual, carefree appearance didn’t stop Maxim from putting her at #29 in their 100 Hottest Women of 2007 issue. Sarah was even on the cover of Maxim (and, of course, she didn’t allow the photos in Maxim to straight-jacket her into any sort of sultry sex pot imagery, her satirical comedic charm was captured instead).
Sarah Silverman has openly admitted to battling depression and thanking Zoloft for her current emotional health. She’s such a funny seemingly outgoing and gregarious person that it’s hard to imagine her depressed, but there are so many people; actors, comediennes & writers in particular who are dealt the depression card.
In my mind, Sarah wears 3 different perfumes for 3 different moods. When she’s working, acting, socializing and “on” I think she wears Comme des Garcons Red Carnation. Red Carnation is hot, spicy, unusual and yet floral and pretty. This is Sarah’s public personae.
When Sarah is at home in her pajamas, writing, meditating and being alone, I think she wears Aqua di Parma Iris Nobile. Iris Nobile allows her to be introspective, to write, to relax and concentrate.
When Sarah is out with family, friends, running errands, going out to dinner or the theatre, she likes to wear Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ American Beauty. American Beauty is the most beautiful pure red rose. Sarah is, at heart, a person who cares about other people and the world enough to write comedy aimed at breaking cultural stereotypes and helping people see the ugliness of sexism, racism, etc. She is an idealist and she loves the aroma of a pure and innocent red rose.

Prada Infusion d'Iris: A Review

Let me start by admitting that I’m not a huge iris fan. I like iris focused fragrances but I don’t usually love them. I have Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist because there is something addictive about that cold, metallic, damp scent, but Iris Silver Mist is an anomaly for me.

For the most part, I find iris fragrances cold and verging on dreary and sad. When I’ve worn The Different Company’s Bois d’Iris or Aqua di Parma Iris Nobile, I seem to become melancholy, introspective and quiet. When a fragrance seems to change my mood I do think there is something to the science of aromatherapy. I am deeply affected by the aromas around me and by the fragrance I wear. Iris fragrances make me feel like a character from Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights; like a woman trapped in a dreary life she doesn’t want to lead.

Prada’s Infusion d’Iris is a completely different sort of iris fragrance. I feel happy when I wear this scent. It most definitely smells like the traditional cold metallic iris, but this iris is suspended in light & joyful citrus and wrapped in a gauzy earthy green aroma. Prada’s Infusion d’Iris speaks to me of spring, summer and celebrates rebirth, budding, damp gray April days after a rain shower, but, with the promise of beautiful vegetation and blue skies just around the corner. Prada’s Infusion d’Iris is perhaps not for the typical lover of iris, there aren’t any clumps of cold wet dirt or flower bulbs nestled 6 inches under the cold March soil here. For the person who hasn’t yet found an iris fragrance to love, perhaps because they find the cold, wet dirt smell off-putting, then this could be your new iris. It is a very easy scent to wear, it’s extremely subtle and sheer and by that I mean I have about 8 heavy-handed sprays on right now and I still have to bring my wrist to my nose to smell it. It is subtle and delicate yet it does remain on my skin for many hours. If it’s possible to be both delicate and tenacious, Prada has managed this. I’m pleasantly surprised by this fragrance. I bought a bottle a few months ago and I’m glad I purchased the 3.4 ML size because when I wear it I apply a lot so the bottle is already only half full.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Monk by Michael Storer: A Review

This is a long overdue review of Monk. Michael Storer has six fragrances in his line and Monk is my favorite. I like all the others, too (Kadota & Stephanie are my two other faves), but Monk is the one for me.
Here are the listed notes from Mr. Storer: Birch tar oil, frankincense, civet, musk, cocoa absolute and sandalwood.
I smell much more than the above list of notes. I also smell a smoky tobacco and leathery note which is just sublime. The musk has an ambery edge and if I really really focus I can detect the cocoa absolute but you wouldn’t notice this unless you read the notes. The cocoa absolute is probably what gives Monk is easy-wearing appeal. While it’s dark, sensual, gothic and musky, that cocoa note adds a smidgen of sweetness that rounds it out and makes it easily wearable and not truly a weird gothic creation. To me, Monk seems like a very modern take on old classics like Bandit, Tabac Blond and Cabochard by Gres. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bandit, Tabac Blond and Cabochard, but these aren’t the perfumes I wear to the office or on a day when I need to consider others. Monk manages to simultaneously be a perfume I can wear anywhere, yet still maintain it’s slightly unusual and musky aroma. Monk is a well-blended fragrance, none of the notes stick out obtrusively over the others, and it’s a smooth and balanced smoky/musky/leathery masterpiece. Monk, like most musky fragrances, wears pretty close to the skin. Congrats to Michael Storer for creating a gorgeous fragrance that is unusual yet completely wearable. And at $82 for 2 fl oz, Michael Storer’s fragrances don’t break the bank and that is always appreciated.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mimi La Rue: I never met you, but I'll miss you

Red Flower's Champa roll-on will always remind me of Mimi La Rue, Tori Spellings' pug. Here's why:

Last week I was at the salon having my hair done. I use salon time to catch up on all the gossip and fashion magazines. Last weekend I came upon a very sad announcement. Mimi La Rue passed away in June.

My eyes filled with tears when I read this from People magazine:
Mimi LaRue died at home surrounded by her family, including Spelling's husband Dean McDermott, 41, son Liam, 1, and newborn daughter Stella, 10 days old. "I'm devastated," said Spelling, who reveals her dog had suffered from medical problems relating to her hips and neck for years. "I'm convinced she waited around to make sure I had the daughter I always dreamt about before she left us."
I Smell Therefore I Am is about all things scented. I have two dogs and I love the smell of their paws, I think they smell just like Fritos. I imagine Tori Spelling misses the smell of Mimi La Rue. I remember a Great Dane I had growing up, his paws smelt like fresh cut grass because he was always running around in the back yard until his paw pads turned greenish. The two dogs I have now actually love having their baths. I use lavender scented shampoo and tell them they smell nice (pronounced nooooyyyyce) as they're being sudsed up.
The Salon carries Red Flower organic fragrances. I had just tested Red Flower's Champa on each wrist before I read the article about Mimi La Rue’s passing. The smell of Champa will always remind me of Mimi La Rue now.
Farewell, Mimi La Rue, you little pug legend. You lived a good life and I just know you were loved very much and will be missed.

The Experiment

I’m working on a theory about perfume compliments from others and the type of perfume worn. I did an experiment this week where I specifically wore inexpensive fragrances on certain days and expensive niche perfume on other days. I consistently received compliments on the days I wore the inexpensive perfumes. Except for one day when I wore an expensive perfume and received compliments nonetheless (the most actually). I kept a log.
Here’s how the week played out:
Monday: Nerola Orange Blossom by Pacifica $19.95, available at Whole Foods Market, received 2 compliments
Tuesday: Serge Lutens Chergui, $expensive$, zero compliments
Wednesday: Provence Sante Tilleul, $27 for a big bottle/100ML, 3 compliments, and one woman in ladies room asked what it was and wrote the name down
Thursday: Gucci Envy, average cost, 1 compliment
Friday: Frederic Malle Carnal Flower, $expensive$, 4 compliments
Wednesday was the only day without compliments and this was the most expensive perfume of the week. I recently wrote a piece about my beloved Serge Lutens Chergui. Chergui was my personal favorite of the week.
The exception to this theory is Frederic Malle Carnal Flower. Everyone loves this stuff.
So, I’m thinking that there’s interplay between cost and sillage. The less expensive perfumes with strong sillage get noticed and complimented while the more expensive perfumes that wear closer to the skin either don’t get noticed or aren’t liked.
As I’ve said before, I’ll keep wearing what I like, I just wanted to share my silly little experiment of the week.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Caron Tabac Blond Parfum vs. EdT and in general

This evening I’m only wearing two perfumes. On one arm is Caron’s Tabac Blond in the EdT concentration and on the other arm is Caron’s Tabac Blond in parfum extrait concentration. I love making these sorts of comparisons. Next week I plan to get Caron’s Narcisse Noire parfum to compare with the EdT I already have. Sometimes I find there is very little difference or that I actually prefer the EdT concentration which is usually easier to find and less expensive. Tonight, however, I think the parfum version is taking the lead. Yes, in my mind it’s a bit like a horse race. I keep sniffing every 15 minutes or so to see how things are changing in the various phases. I’m in the dry down phase now and it’s definitely the parfum Tabac Blond that’s the clear winner.

In the beginning, after the initial spritz, the EdT smelled mostly like alcohol and the parfum smelt immediately like buttery suede with spices (clove and carnation). The parfum stayed surprisingly true to form from the first spritz all the way through the dry down and it’s about 3 hours later now. The EdT on the other hand (on the other arm I should say) was the one that morphed the most. The EdT started off much like an unsettled blast of alcohol, almost gasoline like, but after 5 minutes began to exhibit the lovely suede-leathery spicy carnation smell that I adore so much about Tabac Blond. The EdT stays a bit tamer in the dry down, exhibiting more sweet vanilla spicyness compared to the truly rebellious parfum, which stays in a smoldering tobacco, leather, spicy mood throughout.

I’ve read Chandler Burr’s interview with Luca Turin where Turin describes Tabac Blond as (paraphrasing here) “dykey (for dykes), dark, angular and unpresentable.” By the end of Turin’s statement, I believe him to be saying that Tabac Blond is quite edgy, unusual, interesting and truly chic. I don’t think I’d call Tabac Blond “dark,” either in EdT or parfum, but it is definitely edgy and not something Laura Bush or the country club set would wear. Tabac Blond is for the woman who is completely confident, comfortable in her own skin, opinionated and has a sharp witty sense of humor.

While I think the parfum extrait version is the clear winner in a side-by-side comparison, I still think the EdT concentration is a beautiful perfume. If you can’t easily find the parfum, don’t fret, the EdT is less expensive, easier to find and still a knockout. Tabac Blond in either concentration blows most leathery, spicy, tobacco perfumes out of this stratosphere.

My Beloved: Chergui

I don’t understand why it took me so long to try Serge Lutens Chergui. I’d read a few reviews and it piqued my interest but I just didn’t get around to it. I’ve tried so many other Lutens fragrances, and loved many of them. Not so long ago, I tried Chergui for the first time. After about 20 minutes I felt like I’d wasted so many precious years of my life trying other perfumes when Chergui had been here, had existed, and been waiting for me for me to try it. Chergui makes me swoon like no other perfume has before. I simply cannot write a review of Chergui, the words fail me. Maybe someday I will find the words, but not yet. One thing that happens with Chergui is that I love it for about the first 2 hours, and then it dries down to something that smells slightly similar to Miel de Bois. I hate Miel de Bois. So what I do is reapply Chergui, so I never get to that Miel de Bois stage. I reapply it like a crack-addict never wanting to come down off her Chergui high. I love this stuff. Chergui is nearly the color of merlot wine, perhaps a bit more brown, a brownish merlot color. It’s amazing stuff, I need to cut this short so I can go reapply…

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Its Possible that I Smell Odd to Others

This week, as I arrived to the office in the morning, and walked past the receptionist, she remarked that I smelled nice, “like incense” she said. I stopped (of course I stopped, any conversation about perfume stops me in my tracks) and asked more specifically what she meant, since I wasn’t wearing anything “incensey” I was curious. She said, “well, it smells nice, like those incense sticks from Tibet, that you buy in the natural food store.” I told her it was actually a carnation scent, thanked her, and went about getting to my office and starting the day. I was wearing Ava Luxe Oeillet Blanc, a white carnation scent that I adore; it’s spicy, slightly powdery and a gorgeous carnation fragrance. I had no idea that I might smell like incense from a headshop to others.

A few months ago, I was in an elevator with a stranger. She said “what’s that weird smell in here, it smells like cleaning fluid?” I sniffed the air, I didn’t smell cleaning fluid, I suspect she smelled my perfume. Oh, God, I thought, she thinks my perfume smells like “weird cleaning fluid?” I was wearing L’Artisan Voleur de Roses.

A few weeks back, one of my colleagues was leaving the company for another job. I hugged her as she was all packed up and ready to leave the office. She said, “you always smell so good, yet so unusual….what is that you’re wearing…it smells like snickerdoodles.” I had to think for a moment, I was wearing Prada, which has a vanilla base. Snickerdoodles? I wouldn’t have thought that.

I saved the best for last. One day this spring, I was wearing Guerlain L’Heure Bleue at the office. My boss came around behind me so he could see my computer screen since we were making changes to a document. So, he was just a few inches away from me for a few moments. After we finished the document and he was leaving my office, he said “it smells like those Flintstone’s chewable vitamins for children in here.”

Thanks goodness I don’t really care what other people think about my taste in perfume. Well, I don’t care and I do care all at once. I know for sure that I don’t wear too much (overpowering) perfume because I’m very careful about that. I haven’t stopped wearing any of the above fragrances and love them just the same. It just strikes me as hilarious that perhaps I’m so obsessed with perfume that it smells entirely differently to me than it does to others who aren’t such, well, who are such perfume connoisseurs. If I was wearing Apothia Velvet Rope and someone said I smelled like a martini, well that would be expected. If I was wearing Serge Lutens Musc Koublai Khan and someone said I stank, well, that would serve me right! But when I’m wearing perfumes that seem to smell nice and relatively normal (all of the above scenarios are perfumes I consider “normal” enough for office wear) I find it perplexing. Is it because I know what a carnation perfume smells like, that I would never consider it smelling like anything other than carnation? L’Artisan Voleur de Roses – is it because I know its basically roses and patchouli so I only smell that and not cleaning fluid, which is what others might smell? It’s not that I go out of my way to wear perfumes that no one else is wearing, it’s just that I’m attracted to very specific perfumes and they aren’t usually the uber popular one’s. Actually, I did wear Thierry Mugler’s Angel for a few weeks in 1997 before it became the hit perfume of the decade. When it first came out I loved it. I still love it actually. It was so unique and stunning. But when everyone and her mother, sister and best friend starting wearing it, well, I just couldn’t do it. I have a bottle of Angel and like to wear it during the holidays because it reminds me of Christmas.

Anyway, to conclude this little ditty about smelling weird to others; I sure hope I don’t smell really weird….because I like what I like and it wouldn’t be me to leave the house without perfume. I’d rather leave the house with wet hair than sans perfume! But there are times when a non-perfumista nose picks up the strangest aroma from a fragrance I think smells like something else entirely.

And, just for the record, so you don't think I might actually smell strange, I get compliments most of the time....but there are the occasional off-the-wall comments.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tribute to the Indies


I'd like to express my gratitude for the indie perfumers. I’m focusing on the indies, not the niche perfumers, who seem to be an entirely separate category. Niche perfumers are usually well-funded and spend much of their production budget on sexy packaging, designs and bottle labels. The true indies, are usually one-woman/one-man acts, who are seriously passionate about fragrance. Most indie perfumers, to me, seem more adventurous than any large perfume house. They might have little financial backing but they are willing to take risks, because the juxtaposition of scents intrigues them. I love that indie perfumers aren’t necessarily concerned with what’s trendy, what the “it” note is that year (pink pepper!). I imagine indie perfumers to create what they think will be interesting.
To illustrate this point, an article in the New York Times from a few years back quotes Beth Terry responding to a question about the livelihood of an indie perfumer:
“….it’s not an empress's ransom, exactly, but enough to fuel a perfumer's creative vision.
I don't want to rule the world; I just want to keep experimenting.'' Recently, balmy spring days made her think of sangría. ''Don't you love that smell? Wouldn't you like to bottle it?'' Ms. Terry asked. '' I think I will,'' she said.
Being able to create and bottle up whatever they please, is what allows many indie perfumers to make some unusual and stunning fragrances. Take, for example, Midnight Violet by Ava Luxe. Until I smelled Midnight Violet, I didn’t like violet scents. Ava Luxe (Ms. Serena Franco) took violets, and removed all the syrupy sweet powdery-ness and placed those delicate blue & purple flowers in a dense forest of damp earth, balsam, hemlocks, cedar and the dark of night. It’s as if she combined yin and yang, masculine and feminine, day and night into one fragrance. Violet is almost exclusively associated with uber-feminine girly perfumes. And earthy, balsam, cedar scents are most often associated with traditionally masculine fragrances. Ava Luxe has married the two and it works like a Shakespearian sonnet. I don’t mean to focus solely on Ava Luxe, I have a whole slew of indie perfumers that I’d to honor by listing them here but Midnight Violet sticks out for me because this is the perfume that allowed me to finally appreciate violet.
Here are the indie perfumes that I’m familiar with, I’m sure there are others, but let’s give a big round of applause for:
Aftelier
Aroma M
Ava Luxe
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (memorable website)
Creative Universe by Beth Terry
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Keiko Mecheri
Mandrake Apothecary
Michael Storer
Neil Morris (just discovered this week, where have I been?)
Possets Perfume
Sonoma Scent Studio
Soivohle' by Liz Zorn (adding on 7/15/08, Gail pointed this out to me in her comment and I knew I had forgotten someone!)
Strange Invisible Perfumes (SIP is now being carried at Barneys, is SIP still indie?)
Tauer Perfumes (Andy Tauer has hit it big time, Aedes de Venustas is now carrying his line, so can we still consider him an indie?!)
I’d love to know of more indies, I know this is a short list. I have questions next to some because they’re now being carried at exclusive shops and I wonder if this will take away their indie status and potentially impact their creativity?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dandy of the Day: Christopher Walken

Born, Ronald Walken, changed his name to Christopher.
Mr. Walken has said that his adopted name of "Christopher" sounds "like a sneeze” and he prefers to be called Chris.
He has different-colored eyes (one blue and one hazel). This is a condition known as heterochromia.
You're surprised you say? Don't be. Walken is a total dandy. Just look at him, listen to him speak, and reflect upon his acting career. The man is a gifted actor, and all the while, with that hair? That odd dialect that seems from a country all its own – I think it’s called Walkenland (near Greenland or Queens or something). Walken doesn’t seem to take himself very seriously. He’s won an Oscar and a best supporting actor award. Just for a moment, reflect upon his wildly diverse assortment of films ~ Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, Biloxi Blues, Joe Dirt, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Catch Me if You Can, Communion, The Prophecy, The Funeral, Poolhall Junkies and on and on. Walken is known for his darkly calm yet maniacally unstable monologues that verge on humorous. Walken is also a fantastic dancer. He’s studied dance and manages to work a little jig into nearly every film he’s in.
Walken flaunts his, some might say, worst features. He gussies up his hair, makes it as big and pompadour-ish as possible, he prefers to stay rail thin, even while playing tough guy characters. What sort of fragrance is the embodiment of Walken you ask? Walken seems rather comfortable in a ten thousand dollar Italian suit, doesn’t he? I imagine he would enjoy a cologne called One Man Show by Jaques Bogart. Never heard of it? Well, that’s the way Walken wants it. One Man Show is a dry woodsy cologne with hints of oakmoss and tobacco. It’s sophisticated and classy, but still manages to dance to the beat of its own drummer.

Chamade: An Appreciation


Chamade was virtually the first thing I ever smelled at the Guerlain counter, though not the first thing I saw. It's possible to find Guerlain's greatest hits here at the mall, but don't expect anyone to pull them out and show you without being asked. When you do ask, the saleswomen do a double take, either because they've never noticed them before or have but can't believe someone's looking for them. Pink and purple, L'Instant and (My) Insolence sit right up front, bracketing Hilary Swank's toothsome smile. Samsara and Shalimar are stored below, behind glass, very old fashioned in their staid red and blue rows. Chamade is behind the counter. Its gold box nearly disappears into the wall, alongside Mitsouko, Jardins de Bagatelle, and sometimes, if you're lucky, Jicky, all similarly packaged. You can forget Nahema, and the masculines don't even rate an appearance. Where Champs-Elysees is placed depends on the whim of whoever happens to be bored on the clock that day, and how old she is. Its pink and gold markings straddle the fence of old and new. Of all the Guerlain names, Chamade was the most intriguing to me.

I've since purchased L'Heure Bleue, Mitsouko, Nahema, Coriolan, Vetiver, Shalimar, Habit Rouge, and Samsara, in no particular order, but only finally picked up Chamade this afternoon. Why I saved the best for last is something of a mystery to me. Something about Chamade convinced me I wouldn't be able to pull it off; whether the heady impression of narcissus or the overall potency of the fragrance, I don't know. At the time I first smelled Chamade it did seem overwhelmingly, inarguably feminine to me, of no particular age but of very definitively gendered. What gave? Mitsouko is arguably masculine by conventional standards, but L'Heure Bleue? Samsara isn't exactly butch either. I think my tastes keep expanding, and my nerve keeps building. I might not have worn Chanel No. 19 a year, or even a month, ago. I might have said, like my friend when he smelled Cannabis Rose on me, "Hmm, too girly."

Something's changed; probably, mostly my mind. Outlook is everything. The Perfume Guide helped. The idea of a Best Feminines for Men list, like everything else Turin does, isn't simply about itself, about the idea of better and best. It's about expanding your view. Once you've allowed that Mitsouko might be worn by a man, you inevitably question why you ever thought it shouldn't have been. What exactly about Mitsouko, and, by extension, any other fragrance, makes it masculine or feminine? Very little, it gradually seemed to me. That the Perfume Guide was written by a male/female duo who happened to be romantically partnered makes that process of re-evaluation even more interesting.

What I noticed right off the bat this time, picking up Chamade, is that, yes, there are florals. But once you process that, and move on, you smell everything else. Chamade is slightly oily, as Turin praised and others have complained. Inside that, or beyond it, you smell all kinds of things. Exactly what I'll leave to your own discovery. It's a favorite of mine and I enjoy the hard won right not to defend the position with detailed analysis. I love it more than anything because it waited patiently for me and, once I came around, held nothing back. It's as complicated as it ever was, and I'm a little less simple-minded.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Null and Void: Baghead Fashion, Summer 2008

The staff of I Smell Therefore I Am put ourselves out there at risk of public scorn and rejection. Does this scare us? Sometimes. There are many weird, crazy people in the world. We're not saying you're one of them, but inevitably you will encounter a few.

We take the bag off our head so that you don't have to. We protect your right to privacy. We salute one's right to hide behind a mask! How else would you throw eggs without risking getting some flung back at you?

It is for this and so many reasons that we present to you the latest in paper bag fashion, right off the runway:

Ladies, what could be more fashionable than this, the height of chic? Dare we say nothing? Notice please the off-set eye holes, for that seductive come hither look. The shoulders are custom fit, the bag deceptively durable. Once home, you can even store fruit and sundry goods in it.



Not everyone wears her bag out on the town. Sometimes, you want a jeans and t-shirt look, for a night at the movies. Well, casual can be glamorous too. Notice the chin gear on this one (perfect for convertibles). And note the pleasantly blank expression. The eye holes are conveniently located in the back, for the scary parts during your feature presentation. The bag in question, using the latest technology, can actually be rotated on your head, as if to turn the other cheek.

Men, don't think we've forgotten you. How could we? You know what we always say: why wear anything at all when you have a bag over your head?


A word of caution, as this is a perfume blog. Please, please, do not apply perfume while wearing your bag and lighting a cigarette. Bags are fashionable but highly flammable. It might feel like fur, but they don't call it paper for nothing. (Disclaimer: No bags were injured during this re-enactment)













And remember: your dog friends can easily give you away!










As you can see from this limited medley, anonymity doesn't have to be annoying.

Our Bad: Tom of Maine's IS Okay After All!

We here at I Smell Therefore I Am apologize for inadvertently contributing to what appears to have been a rather pernicious rumor about Tom's of Maine. We stand corrected. Like others, we were fooled. How ironic that in a story about thinking for oneself we were misled by erroneous information posing as do-good anti-hype. It goes to show how complicated the marketplace is, and how consistently one must struggle to think for oneself. Here at I Smell Therefore I Am, we attempt to report factually, but as our format is a blog, our posts are opinion driven, and sometimes we are wrong. While we appreciate people pointing our mistakes out to us, so that the correct information can be posted, we like to hope this will be done without malicious intent or in a mean-spirited way. We should also point out that we're not CNN. We're not reporting on hidden weapons facilities here. We're just expressing our love of perfume, which is sometimes, for us, hasty, messy, and emotional.

We would like to take this opportunity to point out that, because we recognize that ugly, untrue rumors are often started by anonymous people, in the future we will be more selective about publishing posts by those without profiles, unless you have something which isn't hateful to say, or we know you and understand that, as with your colleagues in the CIA, your identity must be protected at risk of death.

Apparently, the rumor that Tom's of Maine supports anti-abortion groups has circulated for some time. Finally, the company responded with a press release, which we include here in the spirit of abject contrition:

At Tom's of Maine we fell that abortion is a very private and individual decision. We have never and will never support operation rescue or any other anti-abortion organizations. Our co-founders Tom and Kate Chappell have never and will never support anti-abortion groups personally or through corporate efforts. In a related area, we do not use company funds to support political causes. To us, respecting employee and customer freedom and valuing the diverse opinions we hold is part of our strength.

This Week at the Perfume Counter: In which your roving I Smell Therefore I Am reporter makes the marketplace rounds, nostrils flared

I keep going back to the Estee Lauder counter. Do I want Sensuous? I can't decide. I do and I don't and I might and maybe, don't pressure me. Everyone says it smells great for an Estee Lauder fragrance, but I tend to scratch my head at that, and not because it itches. I continue to be surprised at the House of Lauder: this week, by Beautiful. What an incredible, gooey, tobacco rose. Try to convince me otherwise. The more I smell Bernard Chant's work, the more astonished I am. Azuree, Aliage--even Estee, which many consider some kind of mistake. Is it because I grew up smelling the Lauder line that I love the fragrances so much? My mother had a half-empty/half-full bottle of Youth Dew on her dresser. It still might be there. I loved the gold bow affixed to the elastic band. I loved the smell, which seemed so dated it had pushed back into the future going in the opposite direction. I can't remember who had Estee on her dresser; possibly my paternal grandmother. I stood before her bureau smelling from the open bottle, which she displayed on a gilt, mirrored tray. It smelled fantastic then and smells even better now, with an emotional pull to it from accumulated memories. A brighter, more startling cousin to Chanel 5 and Arpege. Its silver cap seemed perfectly apt to me at the time. There was something chilly about it, like iced flowers.

Friday at the mall, the Lauder counter was unattended. A pretty blond came over to help but didn't know whether they stocked Tuberose Gardenia. She did price Sensuous for me, and told me, as they all do, how fantastic it smells, as if, being a guy, I can't smell a difference between, say, Joy and Ajax. Yes, yes, I said, fantastic, fantastic. After pricing Sensuous for me, she left, explaining that whoever usually worked Lauder was, like, in the bathroom maybe and would be back later, presumably in case I needed someone to tell me how good something else smelled. I left and went across the hall to Perfumania, which sometimes requires a great deal of patience. The staff there works on commission and, I'm told by someone who migrated to Macy's, are encouraged to sell, sell, sell. It isn't enough that you buy a bottle of Posion. You must also buy Ralph Lauren Pure Turquoise, and lotion, and here, what about this, and this other thing, and--hello, where'd you go? Someone at corporate believes there's no hope of a return customer at Perfumania--the client walks in, crazed, buys on impulse, then leaves, forever--so why bother with subtlety?

I'd just smelled Cinnabar and wanted to compare it to Opium. I also wanted to know the difference between the three Opium flankers Perfumania stocks, but I've been down that dead end road before. They have no idea. Better luck on the website, which has no pictures for these and offers no clearer an idea. My favorite saleswoman was there (I call her Gladys). She knows I have a problem and need zero encouragement. I'll be back no matter what happens, again and again and again, often several days in a row. If the whole city evaporated in a strange toxic cloud overnight I would still drive over, out of habit, exiting my car, walking directly to the location of Perfumania, without noticing its conspicuous absence, until I stood on its once-hallowed ground or whatever and looked up and was like, oops, oh yeah, that apocalypse thing. Gladys has her tester strips ready in one hand as I approach, a pen in the other. Hello, Brian, she says. What are you buying today? When I leave, Gladys doesn't say good-bye or come see us again. She says, see you tomorrow.

I couldn't tell the difference between Opium and Cinnabar and figured I'd allowed sufficient time for a bathroom break, so I returned to the Lauder counter. It was still unattended, and the blond was gone now, too, but a rather dour young lady approached me, or rather, waited for me to approach her. Did I imagine a tone of impatience in her voice? I wanted to price Private Collection. My sister used to wear it and it smells so-

Yeah yeah, hold on a second, her demeanor said. She was back there reaching around in the display case like a blind woman, and I thought, dare I guide her? She didn't seem like the type who wanted the raft at her drowning moment, unless she could be made to feel she'd found it and inflated it herself. It's right there, I started to say. Yeah, I know, she snapped. I'm just trying to blah blah blah, as if I'd interrupted a delicate procedure and now she'd have to start all over. Hmm, she practically yawned, once she'd extracted the Private Collection. "We have one pocket size and one larger but the larger is a spray and the pocket is a roll-on so your best bet is to go with the larger." I could plainly see, reading the boxes, that both were spray bottles, but didn't point this out. And how much is the Estee, I asked, once she'd priced the PC. Very cheap, it turned out, as the Lauders usually are. I took one of each. Ringing me up, she entered 3333 instead of 33, and was suddenly humble, as if I might run to the bathroom and report her mistake to the Lauder rep.

Other purchases this week included: Michael for men, Romeo Gigli Sud Est, Magie Noire (the old one), and ENjoy. I should point out that of all the perfume counters I've been to in the last few weeks, with the exception of Memphis Fragrance (which is always friendly), Walgreens was the most helpful. Imagine that.

YSL and the Nu Wave: A Review

Much has been made of Nu’s unisex appeal. There’s no mistaking the floral accord, but the alleged white orchid here is no more prevalent than the iris in Dior Homme, and tempered similarly by contrasting influences (in Dior’s case, leather; in Nu’s, pepper and incense). Both have a heavy waft of powder about them. Is powder feminine? Someone tell Habit Rouge. This is a tiresome line of argument, as which scent should and should not be worn by one sex or the other is a now nearly cro-magnum hang-up. Fragrance augments persona, and personality transforms perfume, creating context and reference point: thus, a man in Nu is a unique assertion of masculinity, and a woman wearing it has the forceful charisma of a truck driver (and yes, some men like that kind of thing. Give them the chance to discover it). A sexier masculine than its wan aquatic contemporaries, smokier than most feminine fragrances dare, Nu is quintessentially bisexual. Ford thrives on such complex cross-references and gender conflations. To wear Nu, Black Orchid, or M7 is to dispense with broad generalization, engaging the intellect of wearer and witness in an unspoken dialog about the myths of he and she. Nu harkens back to Habanita and Bandit in its heightened ambiguity, looking forward to a time when the male and female sections at Sephora will collapse into one and the same thing.

For the rest of this review and others, visit perfumecritic.com.

Dandy of the Day: Tilda Swinton

Actors are vain, needy creatures. Do they look okay? Are you sure? Should they do it again? They could do it louder. They could do it with more enthusiasm. They could do it as if they were a woman who's just lost her dog. Do you like them? Do you really like them? Most actors need to know. They need to be at the white hot burning center of your attention. If they can't be, they might die. We all might die. What actors do is of world importance: more important than war, famine, sickness, crime. Actors cure all those things just by speaking out--about their views, their experiences, their favorite colors. They want you to know: they're special. They want you to know you're special, so you can thank them for pointing it out to you. It goes without saying: without them, you wouldn't be special at all. It goes without saying but they're saying it anyway. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there, who hears it, unless the actor is present and can then report it through various actor-y techniques. It's impossible to watch most actors on screen without wondering how many people they've thrown hairbrushes at, but there are exceptions among these exceptional beings, and one of those exceptional exceptions would seem to be Tilda Swinton. She doesn't play lesbian serial killers, true, but packing on pounds is a little excessive, if you ask her, just to show you aren't afraid of looking homely, especially when it's vital to you that everyone knows you're truly not. She shows up on the red carpet in Issey Miyake, looking like origami. She has no shame. She'll play man, woman, whatever. She leaves you to figure it out. She works with small directors, odd little films, and big budget headliners, even blockbusters. She speaks out without patting herself on the back. She doesn't pretend to be self-deprecating. In her personal life, which is mostly, blessedly, personal, she's her own person. Still devoted to the father of her ten year-old twins, she is also with actor/artist Sandro Kopp. Don't ask if you don't want to know; otherwise, she'll tell you. It's not like they're robbing banks or something. They're all together, though not in that Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Ashton Kucher way. Swinton is our dandy of the day for this unfussy candor and many other reasons, and judging by her fashion forwardness, which is practically futuristic, we suspect she would wear something niche. We suggest Iris Silver Mist or Tubereuse Criminelle, if she doesn't know about them already (if she does, she likely heard of them long before we did). Both are nearly avant-garde in their strange interplay of pretty and potent, angular and full-bodied, dirty and petite. Some would encourage you to wait an hour or two after application before entering out into the world. Use caution with these two, they'd say. Tilda would say those first two hours are the very best.