Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Surprises: Creed Love in Black Revisited

Months back, Abigail sent me a sample of Creed's Love in Black. I liked it enough but it failed to capture my attention and imagination in any specific or enduring way. In retrospect, I suppose it had to do with the fact that there were other things I was busy anticipating, and it was hot outside, which probably doesn't do many fragrances any favors. What I'm starting to realize is how deeply price influences my initial judgment of a fragrance. I practically dismiss a fragrance I feel is too big for its britches. Two hundred something for 2.5 ounces? I mean, really.

I still think Love in Black is overpriced, but I found a much more affordable bottle, which prompted me to reconsider it. I sprayed some on my arm and walked around the mall with it. How had its remarkable longevity escape unnoticed? This stuff lasts. In some ways, it also seems completely different to me now. What seemed like a weirdly fuzzy violet before now smells lactonic, woodsy, and nutty as well, all good things in this case.

I looked at Abigail's review again on the blog and was amazed how evocative her description is, how close to what I smell now. Like her, I've always been totally impervious to the alleged charms of Creed. Before I heard of any other niche brand, people in shops which "exclusively" carried it were pimping it on me. I saw the price and smiled a withering no-thank-you smile I've practiced on many a sales assistant since. I liked Angelique Encens okay. More recently, I fancied Irisia enough to spend time considering a bottle. The rest, even those I hear talked about the most online, not so much. The row of bottles was like background music to me.

Yes, okay, everyone's doing an iris. It's the pink pepper of the moment, an ubiquitous marker of the perfume zeitgeist. And yes, many of them smell derivative at this point; some of them even when they were the first out the gate. And fine, hardened critics (not naming names) think Love in Black is a trifling thing, capitalizing on the vogue for new aroma-chemicals. But my needs and tastes are sometimes simple things. Love in Black smells wonderful to me.

I place it somewhere around the Stephen Jones fragrance for Comme des Garçons. They share a certain metallic vibe somehow, like violets plucked from the soil and plopped into a tin can. Love in Black's can is, admittedly, a little more rustic. It goes through interesting stages on my skin, as well, without ever feeling thinned out or otherwise diminished. Truth be told, I like it far better than Bois de Violette, though I understand that lightning will now strike me dead. Where Bois de Violette, however lovely, seemed superficially austere to me (a one trick pony), Love in Black uses its woods more interestingly, creating more depth and texture to the smell.

People seem to think that the name and the packaging are entirely off the mark, given this was a scent inspired by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Me, I see the logic. The black bottle makes me think of the black Lincoln Town Car in Dallas, Jackie's dark oversize sunglasses, funeral attire, the black and white images by Ron Galella revealing her masked irritation at the invasion of the public into her private life. The silver and velvet detailing juxtaposes soft and sturdy. In this sense, the contrast between the packaging and the scent, which isn't as dark as some expect, makes very good sense to me. This, to me, is Jackie O, not young Jacqueline, and Creed has intelligently played around with the intrinsic myths and contradictions of her public persona. The tiny, delicate voice. The steely will. The mixture of elegant understatement and over the top detail. That big black helmet of hair, theoretically soft, practically rock hard. I look at pictures of Jackie and wonder what was going on behind those sunglasses, however bright the smile, and Love in Black plays out that enigmatic tension wonderfully.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus

Along comes a Mitsouko flanker. Initially I was appalled. Then I read some positive early reports and became intrigued. The bottle arrived in my hot little hands five days ago and I’ve been pondering it a great deal. My first reaction was to spritz original Mitzi on one wrist and Fleur de Lotus on the other. I’m not sure why I did this because how could a flanker ever compare? I think the point is that Fleur de Lotus isn’t supposed to be Mitsouko, it deserves a wearing on its own. Well, the only reaction I’ll share about the side by side comparison is that 1 single spritz of original Mitzi (and I do not have vintage, I simply have a bottle of edp about 5 years old) is a million times stronger, deeper and full of character compared with Fleur de Lotus. If you love the original Mitzi, I don’t think a side by side comparison is a good idea – the original overwhelms it – I could barely detect Fleur de Lotus and kept smelling the original because I love it so.

When I wore Fleur de Lotus solo, it became more obvious that it’s inherently Mitzi, at it’s core, albeit with a softer, gentler, more floral and aquatic nature. Those who find original Mitzi too heavy or think it’s dated will likely find that they can enjoy a nice light chypre in Fleur de Lotus. Fleur de Lotus is pretty, it’s well done and it’s easy to like. I can only speak for myself in saying that I’ve never been on the look out for a Mitsouko “Lite” for the summer months. But for those looking for a well done Mitsouko “Lite,” this is it.

My bottom line is this: I think Guerlain created an admirable flanker to original Mitzi. This seems an astute business decision on their part. Fleur de Lotus will probably sell quite well because it’s much more contemporary and less challenging. I suppose I’m feeling a little depressed about Fleur de Lotus because while it’s a nice perfume, paying respectable tribute to the original, I have a sense of loss because of it. The classics have already gone the way of the dinosaurs due to IFRA restrictions, and with all the lighter, aquatic, more contemporary perfumes on the market it’s no longer possible for me to pretend that Guerlain isn’t simply in the business of making perfume. Of course this has always been the case, creating perfume is a business, so perhaps I’m just getting old, and frumpy. Fleur de Lotus is nice, if you’re curious, it’s worth a try.

Parfums MDCI: Just call me The Enabler

Parfums MDCI (Marchal Design & Créations Indépendantes), is a small French perfumery built on the philosophy that perfumes should be an art more than a business pursuit, and as such, fragrance should be a source of pleasure, pride and beauty rather than a commodity.

Parfums MDCI seem to me, to be creating modern classics. Their fragrance style stems from a love of classic perfumes from the Renaissance and the desire to create contemporary equivalents of the precious objects once owned by the Medicis and the Sun King and now kept in the Louvre, Musei dei Uffizzi, and the Treasure Room in Vienna.

MDCI scents are created by well known perfumers, namely Pierre Bourdon, Francis Kurkdjian, Patricia de Nicolia, and Stéphanie Bakouche. Similar to Frederic Malle, Parfums MDCI has given their perfumers absolute freedom and no cost limit (hence the high price tag of their perfumes, but thus far I have not come across anyone who deems them unworthy). MDCI’s prime objective for their perfumers (giggle, a Star Trek reference) is not to imitate or follow trends and not to necessarily create perfumes for the highest commercial success, but instead to create beautiful olfactory art.

Here’s the best way to experience Parfums MDCI ~

On their website, they have a sample program where you can choose five 10 ML samples (ample size!) for 55 Euros. If you decide to purchase a bottle after receiving the sampler set, they will discount the cost of the sampler set from your purchase! You should feel comfortable in knowing that their customer service is fantastic.

Here's a link to their website:

Click Here or here's the address:

(scroll to the bottom of this page for reference to the sampler set)

The transaction is handled through PayPal. Simply send them an email ( with your five selections, and then send payment to the same email address vial PayPal.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

L’Artisan Thé Pour Un Été

It really takes some seriously hot weather to snap me into summer scent mode. The past week we’ve had a massive heat wave and I finally succumbed to wearing a few of my favorite summer scents.

Bear these facts in mind, I generally dislike jasmine and I frequently disparage L’Artisan for their complete lack of longevity and sillage. Aside from a few, namely Timbuktu, Iris Pallida and Premier Figuer Extreme, I’m awfully annoyed by the fleeting nature of most L’Artisans. My all-time favorite L’Artisan, Mimosa Pour Moi, is also fleeting but I adore the scent so much I just put up with it by bathing in it.

Thé Pour Un Été is one of the most perfect summer perfumes, period. It is fresh, airy and sublime. Here’s the overall gist of Thé Pour Un Été; imagine a glass of chilled jasmine tea, with lemon and a sprig of mint. I don’t even like jasmine but the jasmine in Thé Pour Un Été is so perfectly orchestrated that I simply adore it. The jasmine is tempered by the green/herbal notes, keeping it crisp rather than indolic and the tea note gives it just a little more character than a plain floral fragrance. For me, the ratio is like this: 50% crisp jasmine, 25% tea, 25% lemon/green.

Olivia Giacobetti created Thé Pour Un Été in 1995. I’ve begun to notice that I’m a big fan of Giacobetti, particularly for warm weather fragrances. Giacobetti also created some of my other summer favorites, such as Diptyque Philosykos, Hermes Hiris, Frederic Malle En Passant, L’Artisan Premier Figuer and Parfum D’Orsay Tilleul. Giacobetti’s style seems to involve delicacy, naturalism and a little surprise factor. In Hiris, Giacobetti added a carrot note; in En Passat, she used a doughy-bread note; in Premier Figeur, she included green leaves and coconut milk; and in Philosykos she put the entire fig grove, bark, leaves, fruit and all, in the bottle. In other words, Giacobetti ensures that her fragrances are gorgeously natural, never an artificial or synthetic smelling note, but always a little shock factor, to keep things interesting.

L’Artisan Thé Pour Un Été is divine. While the idea of chilled jasmine tea with lemon might seem overly simplistic, the aroma itself is too jarringly beautiful to disregard. Thé Pour Un Été is an olfactory antidote for a hot summer day, it lifts my spirit and keeps me sniffing my wrists all day. As mentioned above, L’Artisan drives me crazy with their lack of tenacity, but Thé Pour Un Été’s longevity is better than most of their fragrances, it still isn’t great, but it sticks around for about 3-4 hours on me. Like Mimosa Pour Moi, I like this scent so much, I just re-apply.

Rating: 5 stars
Sillage: a little
Longevity: below average but not terrible, about 3-4 hours on me

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sisley Soir de Lune (2006): A Review

I thought I read that Dominique Ropion created Soir de Lune for Sisley. I was a little surprised, but within 45 seconds I had found it on and bought it using their 25% off code. Soir de Lune arrived; I sniffed, I swooned, I love it, but now I can’t find the reference to Dominique Ropion being the perfumer. Perhaps he wasn’t. UPDATE: Turns out Soir de Lune *is* a Ropion creation

Nevertheless, Soir de Lune smells like a Ropion masterpiece. It’s a full bodied spicy, floral chypre, which somehow manages to be fresh, clean and classy. Soir de Lune literally translates to Moonlit Evening in English. Perhaps the name infers Soir de Lune is meant to be a decadent evening fragrance, but I would happily wear it anytime/anywhere. This is also why I’m writing about it on a 92 degree day in New Jersey. While Soir de Lune is a luxuriously full bodied and present perfume, it is also fresh and gauzy enough to wear in warm weather. I wore it last week on a dreary, chilly, spring day and just loved its spicy floral notes. Today was the hottest day so far in 2009 and somehow Soir de Lune managed to show me it’s fresh, clean, almost soapy-green-dry side. It really is a marvelous little wonder. Soir de Lune certainly envelopes the wearer and has potent sillage but miraculously it doesn’t overwhelm. I think of fishnet stockings, which cover the skin, but not completely, allowing all sorts of skin to poke through. Soir de Lune, like a pair of fishnets, provides a dramatic entrance, but allows the wearer to emerge, never overtaking.

Soir de Lune is one of those perfumes where a list of notes doesn’t give you a clear picture. I would describe it as a modern chypre, with a clearly defined citrus top, floral & spicy heart and woody base. Soir de Lune has the “dancing” quality of well done modern chypres, which causes the scent to be multi-faceted instead of uniform. The notes swirl around you allowing you to smell different aspects of the composition throughout the day. At times, Soir de Lune has a blazing rose heart, reminding me of Ungaro Diva, except subtract the heaviness of Diva and add a dose of modern freshness.

Notes: citrus, bergamot, mandarin, lemon, coriander, nutmeg, chili pepper, rose absolute, mimosa flower absolute, jasmine, lily of the valley, iris, peach, tree moss, musk, honey, sandalwood, and Indonesian patchouli

Rating: 5 stars
Sillage: perfectly potent
Longevity: excellent, all day or all night

The cap of the bottle is a bit tacky (sigh) but overall the fragrance is so good I'm starting to find it charming...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Fragrance Foundation Wants YOU to Join their FIFI AWARDS FACEBOOK Page


WHAT: The Fragrance Foundation wants you to join their FIFI AWARDS Facebook Page! ( Become a fan of the FIFI Awards on Facebook and your name will be submitted to win the best fragrances of 2009!

The FiFi Awards & Celebration® is an annual event hosted by The Fragrance Foundation and honors creative excellence and achievement in the fragrance industry. This is the biggest event in the fragrance world attended by nearly 1000 industry executives.

On May 27, 2009, at The FIFI Awards Gala, we will announce the Best Fragrances of the Year and other supporting categories.

At the 2009 FIFI FINALIST BREAKFAST, to be held this Friday morning, April 24th, those nominated for a FIFI in their category will be told if they have made it into the TOP 5.

WHEN: You can start becoming a Facebook fan of the FIFI AWARDS right away. However you must be fans of the FIFI AWARDS PAGE before 4 PM EST April 29, 2009 in order to be eligible for the Top 10 Sampler and by 4 PM EST May 1, 2009 in order to be eligible for the Grand Prize give-away. Current fans are automatically eligible.

On Friday, April 29, 2009:
Two FIFI Awards Facebook friends will be randomly selected to win:

A FIFI TOP 10 SAMPLER GIFT BAG – with almost 100 perfumes represented!

Friday, May 1, 2009:
One FIFI Facebook friend will be randomly selected to win:

GRAND PRIZE: Full size bottles of TOP 5 NOMINEES.
Retail Value: $700-1000


• To enter you must become a fan of the FIFI Awards Page
• Winners will be announced via Facebook.
• You may enter only once.
• Winners will be selected in a random drawing.
• Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 years of age and over.
• Alternatively, those not wishing to join Facebook can submit their name for consideration by sending their name, address, and age to:
Facebook Give-Away
c/o The Fragrance Foundation
545 Fifth Avenue, Suite 900
New York, NY 10017
• No purchase is necessary
• Odds of winning will depend on the number of entries received
• Any applicable taxes are the sole responsibility of the winner
• Void where prohibited
• The Fragrance Foundation reserves the right to cancel, suspend, modify, or terminate the give-away in the event of any technical malfunction, including any unauthorized tampering or anything beyond the control of The Fragrance Foundation

For more information about this give-away program or about the FIFI’s,
please contact:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Parfums de Nicolaï Cococabana

Parfum de Nicolaï Cococabana is the best tropical coconut scent I’ve ever smelled. I am NOT a lover of tropical scents but I love PdN Cococabana. It is true to nature, and it’s precisely because it smells so natural that sets it apart from other sweet fruity tropical “nothings” made for tweens.

I admit I never would have tried Cococabana until after reading Luca Turin’s review in The Guide. Cococabana would never have appealed to me, but LT’s review piqued my interest.

Cococabana opens with a sweet creamy coconut milk note along with an almost coconut “nutty” note, perhaps a bit like the outside husk of a coconut. The coconut note is obvious at first, but it is done with a light hand, the prominence of coconut fades slightly as the perfumes dries down. In the beginning I also smell pineapple, mango and what I imagine to be an orchid-type accord (these fruits and florals are not listed among the 'official' notes but it’s what I smell). Once the fragrance dries down a smooth sandalwood and cedar wood note emerges which blends seamlessly with the coconut. This woody coconut aroma is a brilliant blend – it’s blissfully tropical – but one that you can enjoy and won’t sicken you and make you think of suntan oils. The juicy pineapple note fades eventually (completely on me) and an orange note emerges – it’s this orange note along with the sandalwood + cedar + coconut notes that linger on me for hours. I find it utterly charming, soothing, and not particularly sweet upon dry down. Cococabana starts off sweet but dries down to only a mildy sweet woody orange scent. I’m surprised by how much I enjoy Cococabana. Realistically, there is definitely a time and a place for this scent. I’ve enjoyed wearing it in warmer weather – I can certainly imagine bringing it along with me for an island getaway and applying it lavishly! But I can also see myself wearing it once in awhile during the dreary winter months as a mood enhancer.
I’ve been increasingly impressed by Parfums de Nicolaï. Mimosaique is my favorite mimosa scent of all time. Sacre Bleu! is gorgeous and Odalisque is better than Diorissimo (ack! I said that). I also love the fact that you can buy PdN parfums in a 30 ml size – choices are 30 or 50 ml which is fantastic for us perfume-aholics who don’t want huge bottles. The 30 ml size is $45 which seems a bargain for such a high quality fragrance.

I believe Beauty Habit carries both the 30 & 50 ML sizes while Luckyscent only carries the 50 ML size.

Rating: 4.5 stars
Longevity: excellent
Sillage: perfect – not too light and not too heavy

Notes (taken from Luckyscent):
coconut, bitter oranges, ylang-ylang, tuberose, cedar wood and palm

Givenchy Extravagance d’Amarige: A green floral gem

Extravagance d’Amarige, created by Michel Gerard in 1998, bears absolutely zero resemblance to the original Amarige.

Extravagance d’Amarige is the wrong name for this fragrance. It does not smell extravagant nor is it any sort of offspring of Amarige – not a cousin nor a half-sister not even related by marriage. Extravagance d’Amarige (EdA) is a hesperidic green floral. It is very likeable and easy to please. It reminds me a bit of Guccy Envy with a punchier citrus top or perhaps (dare I say it) Chanel No. 19 with a warmer, gentler, kinder personality. I suspect the reason that EdA may not have sold well is because people assumed it would smell like the original Amarige on steroids – and who would want that?

This weekend I was wearing EdA when I happened to run into my friend Rachel downtown. Rachel strongly dislikes all perfume except for Laura Ashley No. 1. In case you aren’t aware, Laura Ashley No. 1 is discontinued and very difficult to find – it often sells for more than $250 per 1 oz on ebay. None of this really matters aside from the fact that Rachel pretty much never compliments me on my scent. Well, Rachel loved EdA and made a point of saying so a few times. I wasn’t quite sure how to take this compliment. The compliment came from a person who hates perfume aside from Laura Ashley No. 1 (which I don’t like). I’ve decided it means that Extravagance d’Amarige is simply easy to love. It’s not “perfume-y” which is usually the complaint from those who dislike perfume, and it’s a green floral, which is a relatively natural sort of scent.

Extravagance d’Amarige is one of those perfumes which I love writing about because I think it’s a hidden gem. Nobody ever mentions it, yet it’s an extremely appealing fragrance for lovers of green florals. The longevity is excellent and the sillage is nice. EdA is gorgeous for the summer months, it’s fresh and lively; a perfect blend of citrus, and green florals spiked with a dash of peppery sandalwood. The “green” quality is gentle, you won’t envision crushed leaves, stems and a cow munching on grass, but you will immediately recognize that EdA is a green floral. If this description appeals to you I highly recommend Extravagance d’Amarige, which surely can be found for cheap these days.

The bottle is attractive but I despise logo – the “e” in “e”xtravagance being on its side is just bad, bad, bad.

Notes –
Green mandarin, tagete, pink peppercorn, jasmine, orange blossom, violet leaves, black iris, wild strawberry, sandalwood, cedarwood, musk, ambrox

Rating: 4.5 stars
Longevity: excellent
Sillage: just right (not too much, not too little)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Elizabeth Arden Bluegrass

Bluegrass was launched by the design house of Elizabeth Arden in 1934. That seems odd to me, I thought it was a 1970’s fragrance. I guess that’s because I was most aware of Bluegrass in the 70’s and early 80’s. In addition to a beautiful honeysuckle perfume, my grandmother wore Bluegrass.

When I was a child, I thought my grandmother smelled so good. My grandmother didn’t have much money at all, so she wasn’t able to wear glamorous clothing or jewelry or makeup, but she always look good, “neat as a pin” she would say, and she always smelled fresh. Sometimes she made her own clothing and other times she would buy simple items from discount stores that she would dress up with a scarf or a pin. She never looked wealthy or sophisticated but she always carried herself well and was kind, charming, extremely neat, clean and precisely put together.

In the spring I think of my grandmother more often. She loved the bright yellow forsythia bushes, the daffodils (which should called jonquils – are they different?), tulips and pansies. She never had a car or her driver’s license so she walked everywhere. In the spring she would walk into town and do her shopping and always pick up cards to send to her grandchildren, usually with a few dollars tucked inside.

Perhaps not surprising for a perfumista but one of the most vivid memories I have of my grandmother was her smell. I didn’t even know she wore Bluegrass until a few months ago when I asked my mother if she knew what her perfume was called. Bluegrass, said my mom. Recently I saw Bluegrass at a drugstore for $15 so I bought it. I came home and couldn’t wait to spritz it on, to see if it smelled as nice as it did on her. Well, it doesn’t smell good. It smells an awful lot like laundry detergent and a strong fresh greenish floral fragrance. It made me so sad. My grandmother probably wore Bluegrass because it was available at the drugstore and affordable to her. But then I realized I shouldn’t be sad. I always thought she smelled so good, and surely everyone who knew her did, too. Maybe Bluegrass, like everything else, has been reformulated. Whatever the case, it smelled beautiful and fresh on her.

I like to think that having the great sense of humor that my grandmother did, she would find it amusing that I bought a bottle of Bluegrass that is currently being used as a bathroom air freshener. In fact, it’s a fantastic bathroom freshener, far superior to Lysol or any of the other scents created to mask yucky bathroom odors. Bluegrass doesn’t just mask the scent in a room – it takes over! It’s clean smelling and lingers for quite a long time. Perhaps it’s on the pricey side for an air freshener but in a silly way I’ve been thinking so often of my grandmother lately – and getting a chuckle when that fresh & clean smell wafts down the hallway from the bathroom.

Small Wonders: La Perla

Every once in a while I suddenly stop ignoring a scent I've willfully disregarded for an extended period of time, and give it a smell, and it turns out to be a real sleeper. For a year I've been going to this kiosk in the mall. They have some rarities, some discontinued items, some stuff you'd otherwise have to get online. They're not the cheapest place but they're handy, and a short drive across town. There are all kinds of things in this little glass square planted in the center of the mall, many of which, even when scouring the shelves for something I haven't tried before, I consistently turn up my nose at.

I don't even think I really ever gave La Perla much more than a cursory glance. The name sounded cheap and negligible. The black and white box looked even cheaper. Sandwiched between Il Bacio and Elizabeth Arden's Blue Grass, La Perla seemed determined to defy my attention span, hell bent on boring me. I don't know what struck me yesterday but I decided to give it a chance.

Turns out it's better than a good third of the fragrances I own. A rose chypre in the style of the old Coriandre (R.I.P.) and Halston Couture (So Long, We Hardly Knew Ye), closely related to Aromatics Elixir, Miss Balmain, and even, more recently, Etat Libre D'Orange's Rossi de Palma and Agent Provocateur, it has persistence and diffusion like very little on the market today. It has a discernible amount of oakmoss in it and enough patchouli to satisfy the die-hard, as well as Coriander, cardamom, ylang ylang, honey, orris, vetiver, sandal and benzoin. It costs all of 35 to forty bucks.

You would think La Perla dates back to at least the mid seventies. It smells old school, rich and warm and happy to reach out and greet the casual passerby. It's bold but textured and complex. Like Aromatics Elixir, it's forceful without being a bully.  It smells classy and a bit déclassé, playing out these contradictions as it dries down on the skin.  It's like a fragrance your mother wore yet it feels modern, as if determined to step into the near future.

In fact, it was created in 1987. La Perla, basically a panty firm, has something like a dozen fragrances under its belt--no pun intended. Who knew? I didn't. I'm not a big fan of panties, as you can imagine. "La Perla" was the first fragrance, after which followed IO, Eclix, Creation, Charme, and others. I suppose La Perla could be considered a glorified Victoria's Secret, but "La Perla" is better than anything that fixture of the local mall ever produced, as far as I know. It was created by Pierre Wargnye, the nose behind Drakkar Noir, Tenere, and a bunch of masculines I find dreary and uninspiring (Antidote, anyone?).

Now that they've absolutely destroyed Coriandre, which remains on the market as a frail ghost of its former self, it's reassuring to know you can still find something like it, an alternative or a compliment to Aromatics Elixir.  La Perla achieves the depth of focus found in those classic rose/floral/leather chypres with a level of sensory detail that approaches photo-realism.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Acqua di Parma Profumo: don't overlook this chypre

As a lover of classic dry chypres I happened upon Profumo a few months back. I already had Acqua di Parma's Colonia, Iris Nobile edt and edp (both gorgeous) and
Colonia Assoluta. I like Acqua di Parma - their fragrances are all good to excellent
and it's hard not to appreciate the solidly simple bottles and screaming yellow
boxes (although the Profumo I have came in a bright red box). Both AdP's branding
and their fragrances are classic and well done.

When doing some research for this review I noticed that Marina over at Perfume Smellin'Things beat me to the punch - she did a nice review of Profumo last year. Marina is right on - Profumo is easy to acquire (now sold at Sephora), not terribly expensive, and excellent. Profumo is a chypre along the lines of Chanel's 31 Rue Cambon, and Ralph Lauren's Safari (though must less powerful than Safari).

I love pointing out overlooked gems. Profumo isn't mentioned much on POL or MUA.
31 Rue Cambon is splashed all over the place - not surprisingly since it's gorgeous - plus it's Chanel so there's the whole brand mystique going on there. Safari get's mentioned here and there - it was created by Ropion and it's discontinued so go buy some while bottles still remain! But Profumo, around since 1930, is exquisite and boasts over 300 separate ingredients.

Profumo is a classic retro styled chypre. I've been thinking about it lately because
I'm writing up my list of "must purchase" back up bottles now that the ghastly restrictions going into effect on January, 2010. Profumo is a dry, woody, floral chypre. Exquisite and classic are the adjectives that immediately spring to mind. I also think of custom tailored suits and tastefully elegant couture the likes of Gwenyth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman. Profumo is elegant and refined in an "old money" sort of way. This isn't the fragrance of a brassy, flashy new starlet. Profumo is the fragrance of someone with the aura of Catherine Deneuve. Profumo surrounds you in an aroma that seems confident, talented, wise, articulate, witty and beautiful. If you love perfume as much as I do you'll understand how it's easy to understand the personality of a perfume. Profumo has a personality that I aspire to - and like to wear on certain days, for specific instances where I want to exhibit these
traits. Of course, I can see how a person would like to wear this everyday, easily.

Is Profumo unisex? Of course.

The scent of profumo is one of those abstract chypres that's impossible to describe. Overall its dry, slightly woody, slightly floral and just a smidgen of the smoothest powder. On me, Profumo wears somewhat lightly, it's not a big blast of perfume, but a 'just right' average amount of sillage and longevity.

Top: bergamot, ylang-ylang and peony;
middle: jasmine, rose, French labdanum and amber
Base: oakmoss, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood and musk.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fendi, "For Women"

With so many of the greats set for discontinuation, it probably seems silly to wax nostalgic about the original Fendi, which was discontinued all the way back in 2005, before any of the crippling restrictions went into effect. Even recently extinct Palazzo is a more practical cause celebre.  Still, before I'd ever heard anything about Guerlain or Givenchy, I was spending what seemed like a fortune at the time (1985) for a bottle of Fendi eau de toilette. It was one of the first perfumes I ever bought, and though it was intended for women and owning it would give me some explaining to do, I couldn't help myself. I had to have it.

I've always been a sucker for a good wood smoke fragrance, which is what I took Fendi to be. I had no idea what was actually in it.  I only knew they sold it in the women's department, and that I loved it beyond reason. Now I know the pyramid: cardamom, coriander, bergamot, mandarin, laurel leaves, lily-of-the-valley, geranium, cypress, cedar, moss, labdanum, tonka. What's most remarkable about this incredibly potent perfume--potent even among its eighties sisters--is how devoid of floral notes it is. What, even then, made it feminine? It has less florals than most of today's men's colognes. Dior Homme is far more floral than Fendi, but so are less overtly flowery male fragrances.

Smelling Fendi now, years after first purchasing it, I'm able to examine it a lot more closely, a little more out in the open, and I realize it really isn't a wood smoke fragrance either, not officially, not exactly.  It smells leathery, with incense undertones, a pronounced herbal influence, and spices.  The spices, of course, aren't polite.  Cardamom gives Fendi a piercing, camphorous quality, a touch of resinous warmth; coriander magnifies the combustibility, reinforcing the overall terpenoid character.

As it turns out, Fendi has a lot more in common with masculines than feminines, a disposition signaled by the advertisement, which depicted a woman snuggling up to Michelangelo's David, perhaps her inner male.  Fendi is closer to aromatic fragrances like Kouros (geranium, coriander, laurel), Trussardi (laurel, geranium, tonka, landanum), and Paco Rabanne (tonka, geranium, laurel) than Poison, Giorgio, or Paris.  Several years later, Fendi would affirm this by producing Fendi Uomo, a more officially masculine variation on the women's fragrance, close enough in spirit that the two might as well have been brothers.

Both EDT and EDP require a light touch.  Fendi EDP is a little less overtly smoky to my nose, but the dry down comes very close to what you get in the EDT.  Both have off the chart longevity.  Comparisons have been made to balsamic orientals like Youth Dew, Bal a Versailles, and Opium, but Fendi is nowhere close to keeping that company.  It has no fruity embellishments and, as mentioned, no discernible floral backbone.  Granted, Youth Dew is no delicate flower itself, but Fendi is butcher still, and maybe even ahead of its time.  Ten years younger, it relates very clearly to the original Comme des Garçons by Marc Buxton (geranium, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, labdanum, cedarwood) and it has more than a little in common with Comme des Garçons 2 Man, as well, also by Buxton.  Michael Edwards classifies Fendi as a floral chypre, which seems a bit of a stretch.  Still, though not listed, oakmoss is in the basenotes, and lily of the valley IS, after all, a flower.  Fendi is still available online.  I would love to know who created it. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vintage Perfume Ad of the Day: Guerlain Chamade

Few perfumes are as flat out lovely as Chamade, with its fuzzy but piercing top notes (galbanum, hyacinth, bergamot, greens) and its floral heart of jasmine, ylang ylang and black currant buds. Designed by Jean Paul Guerlain in 1969, Chamade is a brilliant evocation of Spring, an awakening of the senses, a heady mixture of pollen, dew, and fresh blossoms laid out over the classic Guerlinade signature of iris, tonka bean, vanilla, rose, and jasmine.

"During the time of Napoleon," Guerlain copy reads, "the drum was the means of communication between the general and his soldiers. There were several kinds of drumbeats including the 'chamade', a very fast beat which was an order to retreat. Is there a heart that has never beaten wildly? Who can pretend never having their heart turn upside down, so appropriately symbolized by the upside down heart of the flacon? Chamade by Guerlain embodies self-surrender in the face of love. "

The perfume was partly inspired by a Francoise Sagan novel. La Chamade (1966) told the story of Lucile, the young mistress of a wealthy older patron, who falls unexpectedly and helplessly in love with a younger man. In 1968, a year before the fragrance was created, a movie adaptation hit the theaters, and it seems likely that Guerlain's presiding influence was Catherine Deneuve, the film's iconic French star; more so than the novel itself or even the film. Deneuve would serve as muse to Guerlain again, a decade later, resulting in Nahema.

While the copy above suggests a state of weak-kneed infatuation, the swooning intoxication of first love, the book and the film depict a woman who at a young age is already jaded when it comes to matters of the heart. In order to stay with a man she doesn't love, she shuts down her feelings. Consistent with Sagan's body of work, the story deals essentially with lost, even doomed love among the wealthy and the disillusioned. Ultimately, after moving in with him, Lucile makes a decision to leave her young lover, returning to the life of luxury afforded by her loveless arrangement with a man more than twice her age.

So cool she was almost supernaturally detached, Deneuve seemed the perfect choice for the role of Lucile, and Guerlain's Chamade has a lot to do with that curiously aloof quality she embodied, with its undercurrent of existential discord. Like the story and the movie adapted from it, Chamade the fragrance is about heightened inner feelings coming up against an icy, placid exterior. Far from being a sweet, lovely perfume, indicative of innocence and naivete, Chamade is, as the ad in question states, about 'a woman who is sure of herself'. Because she is so sure of herself, the feelings of intense emotion induced by love are that much more intense, and lurking under every new beginning is the sense of unhappy ending and decay, a state of affairs which imbues Chamade with a slightly melancholic subtext. Lucile returns to comfort and advantage, after all, because life is short and she doesn't want to feel the pain that comes with happiness. She would rather be dead to the world than alive to the chaos of the universe. A poster for the film, far from sweet and romantic, depicts Deneuve and her suitors bundled together like sticks of dynamite.
The model in the ad resembles Deneuve. She faces herself in the mirror, confronting the surface impression other people see when they look at her. Her lips suggest a private smile--or a faint derangement, part pleasure, part sadism. Perhaps she's just been introduced to a man who has swept her off her feet, exposing her vulnerability, and, for the time being, she doesn't mind being floored. Perhaps the smile is self-satisfactory. She's pleased with the image she projects to the world, or sees herself differently, now that she's in love. Maybe she's fooled everyone, even herself, and now the truth dawns on her: this exterior isn't so hard after all. The photo captures her before she has the sense to be frightened by the approaching lack of control these new developments augur.

A vase of Tiger Lilies sits between her and her reflection. Lilies in general are said to symbolize feminine qualities of mercy, compassion, kindness and unconditional love. The Calla Lily indicates a sober female magnificence; the Pink Lily, coquetry. The Tiger Lily represents the more powerful aspects of femininity as well as, in general, fierceness, power, and strength, all of which are in keeping with the source novel. Bold orange in color, the Tiger Lily suggests personal success, wealth, pride, and self-direction, a fiery intensity of emotion verging on combustion. "I dare you to love me," the Tiger Lily says. The model touches the edges of the mirror as if trying to get ahold of herself.

Friday, April 10, 2009

TWRT 4.10.09

This Week's Random Thoughts

I love Acqua di Parfum Profumo, a review is coming next week.

Why on earth did Pam quit Dunder Mifflin and join the Michael Scott Paper Company? The funniest line: when Ryan was on his cell phone and said …”Pam would be a 6 in the city but probably a 7 out here.”

I’m very much looking forward to Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte and Guerlain Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus. To the Mitsouko purists reading this – please accept my sincerest apologies. I understand that the idea of a Mitsouko flanker causes your brain to explode after which you stare at the wall wondering what this world is coming to…but, but, I’m looking forward to this one. Early reports are good – it’s being said that Fleur de Lotus stays true to the original Mitsouko.

Is Adam the shoe-in on American Idol? The thing I’m beginning to like about Adam is that he’s just so hard to define – to label – to categorize. Adam seems to be his own brand of unique. I do have a soft spot for the rocker chick, Allison. Lil Rounds is just not getting the “artistry” thing that Kara keeps talking about.

Last week I wore Sonoma Scent Studio Ambre Noir to the office and received not one, not two but three genuine compliments from colleagues – all separate compliments, in the span of a day. These are not perfumistas but ordinary colleagues. All three wanted to know exactly what it was and where to buy it. This was the highest praise and interest in any perfume I’ve ever worn in my life.

While wearing Chanel No. 22 this week someone asked if I was wearing White Linen...

I TIVO’ed the new Amy Poehler sitcom and will watch it this weekend.

This will likely reoccur: Victoire Gobin Daude – where are you? Will you please make perfume again? A lovely person sent me a sample of Jardins Ottomans and after smelling this and Seve Exquise and Sous Le Buis I think it’s a cryin’ shame that your aren’t sharing your beautiful creations with us.

A part of me wishes she could go back in time and watch Magnum PI reruns after school.

I recently signed up for automatic monthly donations to RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network) and ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Automatic monthly donations are a beautiful thing. You also receive a year end statement.

Happy Passover and Happy Easter everyone!

The Smell of Claude: Parfum de Peau, Parfum d'Homme, Parfum d'Elle, Just Me

A few months ago, I found a bottle of Montana perfume at the local discount drugstore. Half off the original price ($44), it seemed like a steal to me. Never mind the beat up blue box, the lid of which was barely hanging in there. Never mind the fact that the bottle was a dreaded splash. I wasn't that impressed with the scent when I smelled it, but at twenty two dollars it seemed like something I should have, and I bought it.

The box said, simply, Montana, in a script anyone who went to high school in the eighties would instantly recognize. I couldn't find anything about it online--on basenotes, on makeupalley, on the blogs in general. The consensus seemed to be that Parfum de Peau was the best of the designer's fragrances, but I'd never seen it. I had seen Parfum d'Elle, smelled it, and been turned off by it; specifically, a strange, off-note of piss-honey which reminded me of a syrup-drizzled variation of Miel de Bois. I'd also smelled Montana Blu, a later fragrance created by Annick Menardo (Bulgari Black, Lolita Lempicka, Le Labo Patchouli 24), a floral aquatic which bored me before I even brought the bottle up to my nose. I found nothing on plain old, blue box Montana, so I set it aside and forget about it for a while.
Imagine my surprise when, weeks later, I discovered that Parfum de Peau has also gone by the name Montana, and that the nose behind it was none other than Jean Guichard (Eden, Lou Lou, Obsession, Asja), whose work I've been appreciating more and more lately. It was later reformulated by another great, Eduoard Flechier (Poison, Une Rose, Vendetta Uomo) with synthetic castoreum. It blew my mind to think that this wonderful thing was sitting right on my own cluttered table, that I'd had it all along, that I'd been so disinterested when I first gave it a go. I smelled it again and wondered where my head had been the first time. Montana de Montana/Parfum de Peau is wonderfully bizarre in its way.

Michael Edwards classifies it as "chypre - floral", but initially it smells like your average eighties fruity floral, some of which might be due to its having inspired so many fragrances since its introduction in '86, however tamed its imitators. Deeper in, the scent is a revelation of finely calibrated opposites; peach and blackcurrant against pepper and cardamom, powerhouse tuberose against equally pungent ginger and carnation, with animalic leather tones lurking underneath it all. Even when compared to the fragrances of its day (between 1980 and 1985: Fendi, Jardins de Bagatelle, Jean-Marc Sinan, Obsession, Paloma Picasso, Vanderbilt, Giorgio, Paris, Poison, Calyx, Beautiful, Coco, Ysatis) Parfum de Peau comes out looking like a powerhouse. It has more in common with masculines of the time, sharing the off-kilter, urinous bombast of Kouros, and the animal growl of Lauder for Men, Dior Jules, and Givenchy Xeryus. Among its female counterparts, Paco Rabanne La Nuit comes closest in terms of the sheer, beastly nerve of Peau's base notes (castoreum, patchouli, civet), but even La Nuit, which will win you no favor amongst canine population, pales in terms of audacity. La Nuit was also created by Jean Guichard. Peau was a tribute to Montana's muse and future wife, Wallis Franken, whose style was decisively androgynous, her hair bluntly cut to match the right angles of Montana's geometrical garments.In retrospect, it's easy to dismiss Montana as a joke. The exaggerated curves and angles, pinched waists and power shoulders, primary colored, head to toe leather and wool ensembles seem cartoonish now, something Cruella Deville might design for Olive Oyl. It hasn't helped that Montana himself, like Karl Lagerfeld, seems intent on freezing his own 1980's look in time, gravity and decay be damned. In contemporary photos, Montana comes off looking like a caricature, more mustached Barbara Cartland than master tailor. And while many of his peers have aged no more gracefully, their clothes withstand the test of time looking a little more dignified. Thierry Mugler might have turned himself into a stuffed, pinched sausage of a fantasy action hero, but his fashions look as forward thinking now as they did back on the runway.

At the time, Montana was as radical as Parfum de Peau, and his overall sensibility was well suited to the fragrances he released. Montana's formative years were full of unlikely contrasts and emphatic, satirical overstatement. Born in Paris to a German mother and a Catalan father, he began his fashion career in 1971 making jewelry out of papier mache and rhinestones. In 1972, he designed biker outfits for the MacDouglas Leather company; in 1973, a ready to wear leather collection. He formed his own company in 1979, presenting his first collection, Hommes Montana, two years later. He opened his first boutique in 1983, following this, in 1986, with a second. Between 1990 and 1992, he designed haute couture for the House of Lanvin, work for which he was received two consecutive Golden Thimble awards. Despite the acclaim, he was replaced, his approach having been deemed by the money men at Lanvin as a bit too extreme for the consumer's taste. The Montana Fragrances Company launched in 1984.The fragrances were as consistent with the designer's vision as Armani's sleek, shades-of-grey fashion banalities have been with Armani Code, Armani Diamonds, Armani Sensi, and Attitude. Montana was one of the chief emissaries of the big shouldered, the oversized, and the asymmetrical, and his work, a confluence of the feminine with the masculine, was in keeping with cultural signposts of the time, like the razor angled exaggerations of Patrick Nagel's artwork and the outwardly artless slouch and flop of New Wave music and its stars, whose MTV videos served as a runway into the mainstream. Though Montana was said to have been inspired by the carefully pleated drapery of Mme. Gres, his own work, aside from a few obvious tributes to that style (see the above photo), was more aggressively basic, deceptively simple. Montana's achievement has primarily been in silhouette, whereas Gres' had to do with the detail within the form. What Montana took from her was a studied sense of effortlessness. Like Montana's clothing, the Gres gown seems to have simply fallen that way on the body. Both were precision tailors dealing in concentrically arranged swirling lines.

Like Parfum de Peau, Montana Parfum d'Homme (the original, also by Flechier) was a bold olfactory proposition, equally complex. The first impression is a citrus and aldehyde counterpoint off-set by the herbal influence of lavender, pepper, and tarragon and the spicy-sweet addition of cinnamon. The herbs persist into the heart, transitioning smoothly into more aromatic accords. Flechier contrasts these to notes of rose, jasmine and carnation, and the mixture of pine, sage, geranium, and florals is a unique one. The base is a more traditional masculine infrastructure of sandalwood, patchouli, leather, amber, cedar, oakmoss, and labdanum. The fragrance was reformulated in 2001 and rechristened Montana Pour Homme, a name which, removing the word parfum, perhaps sought to give the Montana man his balls back. Even balls couldn't help the scent itself, which became a watery nonentity of citrus and indeterminate accords.

After coming around to Parfum de Peau, I revisted Parfum d'Elle and found that it, too, deserved more than a cursory dismissal. Released in 1990, d'Elle is a toned down study in opposites, as intriguing as de Peau in theory, but more languid, more mellow in practice. Fragrantica classifies it as a fruity chypre, listing its top notes as lime, ginger, melon, mandarin orange, bergamot and lemon; its middle notes as tuberose, hyacinth, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and Brazilian rosewood; and its base notes as tonka bean, amber, vanilla, oakmoss, cedar and tobacco. It must be the collision of tuberose, tonka bean, and tobacco which gives the original parfum d'Elle its almost freakish beauty. It comes off like Ziggy Stardust, scary and pretty, turning the recognizable signposts of feminine beauty and glamor in on themselves in a way which forces you to re-evaluate your relationship to them. Parfum d'Elle, too, was reformulated. In 2002 it became an entirely different proposition, milder still, more listless for it.

My other Montana favorite is the late 199os release, Just Me (predating Paris Hilton's theme-park fragrance by nearly twenty years). Just Me was marketed by Vera Strubi, who, as president of Thierry Mugler Parfums Worldwide, had helped ensure Angel's success in the suburban mall, circa 1992. In 1995, Clarins had acquired, along with Azzaro fragrances, Montana's line. Parfum de Peau and Parfum d'Homme had been successful, and Montana was still a going concern in the worldwide market. But if Angel could make it, the possibilities seemed endless. Not so much when it came to Just Me, however strange a brew. Just Me's perfumer, Francoise Caron, had created Ca Sent Beau, for Kenzo, a decade earlier. With its part woody, part fruity florals, Ca Sent Beau was a clear precursor. Just Me is just unusual enough, on the surface of things, more careful in its contrasts than Angel. Compared to Angel, it's a dainty everyday scent. On its own, it's an odd thing, fruity in an almost antiseptic way up top, with spectrally weird polar points of acidic pineapple, sickly sweet melon (a la Parfum deTherese), indolic jasmine, and chocolate.

Just Me was a failure in a big way, if only because Angel put the stakes so high. Montana's subsequent releases paled by comparison, lacking the nerve, the playful disregard for clear boundaries and common sense. Even the bottles became boring, flattening out into distinction-less excuses for elegance. Gone were the falling leave kinetics of those older, Noguchi on acid containers, which echoed the drape and falling motion fold of the clothes. Though he lost the rights to licensing his name and ultimately sold the line, Montana himself continued to design, but as a public figure, let alone a force in fashion, he produced nothing remotely close to the the angular affronts of his eighties work. Luckily, most of his best fragrances can be still be found online. The House of Montana went bankrupt in 1997. When Wallis Franken fell from the couple's third floor Paris apartment, her mysterious death was ruled a suicide, and Montana lost his muse in the worst possible way. The Montana BLU line, a failed attempt to translate the Montana asthetic to more afforable casual wear, was launched in 1999. A younger generation of designers have expressed their debt to Montana's eighties and nineties ouevre, notably Alexander McQueen, whose stratifying Kingdom could also be seen as an homage to Parfum de Peau.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tom Ford Purple Patchouli: A Review

Purple Patchouli might be the least liked of the dozen perfumes good ole Tommy Ford launched in 2007. I have been very curious about it for some time now but given the exclusive price tag my curiosity simply lingered. Last month I bought some big ticket items from Bergdorf and the fabulous sales associate there tossed in a bunch of 5 ml Tom Ford samples with my purchase.

I dabbed on Purple Patchouli a few weeks ago but didn’t think very much of it. Once I transferred the coveted juice into a spray/atomizer (because I simply can’t get the true impression of a fragrance by dabbing it on), I realized, wow, Purple Patchouli is a character.

When I think about Purple Patchouli in the overall scheme of Tom Ford’s collection I realize it’s really sort of a “Purple Black Orchid.” In fact, it would make much more sense if Black Orchid had been named Black Patchouli instead. Then we’d have: Black Patchouli, White Patchouli and Purple Patchouli. There, all better. Now you can sniff Purple Patchouli and “get” it.

Purple Patchouli, starts off very “purple” for me. I get a blast of sweet violets and very nearly a blueberry note (similar to Guerlain Insolence edp). Purple Patchouli is much sweeter than I’d imagined and this sweetness stays throughout. There are definitely floral notes, jasmine I would guess, and leather and amber notes. I think the “purple” smell I’m noticing must be the orchid accord, which is rather sweet, somewhat jammy and tropical. Fold this jammy purple orchid around earthy leathery patchouli and, viola, you have Purple Patchouli. The patchouli note is definitely apparent for me, I don’t think innocent bystanders would think I was wearing straight up patchouli but the trademark patchouli is on the guest list at this party. Others mention citrus and vetiver but I don’t detect these as being prominent on their own.

Purple Patchouli would smell uber-sexy on guys. I like it on myself and think it’s surely unisex as Tom Ford engineered these fragrances to be. I quite like PP but find it a bit much for office wear (I don’t wear Black Orchid to the office either). I see myself wearing PP on the weekend and out amongst friends. I think the patchouli note is what makes me uncomfortable wearing it to the office or for traditional “stuffy” settings. Purple Patchouli has a playful, sexy, night-out-on-the-town vibe to it for me. Once I finish this 5 ml sample, I think this might be a full bottle for me.

Three additional reviews of Purple Patchouli ~

Marina at Perfume Smellin Things
Kevin at Now Smell This
Patty at Perfume Posse

Friday, April 3, 2009

Iris Bleu Gris

I debated getting Iris Bleu Gris for weeks before finally deciding to take a chance on it. Before this, I tried several other Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier fragrances, most of which I've written about: George Sand, Camille de Chinois, Ambre Precieux, Parfum d'Habit, Or des Indes and Eau des Iles. I wasn't thrilled with Parfum d'Habit and ultimately didn't buy a bottle. There were huge discrepancies between the way it smelled to me and the way I'd heard it described. It was tamer, lighter, almost sheer, and decidedly fleeting. Lovely, but I decided early on that when it comes to skin scents, you can never have too few.

That discrepancy and lack of forcefulness made me suspect that Iris Bleu Gris would be nothing like I'd read. Ironically, curiosity about Iris Bleu Gris was what brought me to Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier in the first place. I love iris but find that it's such a variable note in fragrance. It seems to be one of the most interpretive, and it has polar attributes which appeal to different perfumers and wearers, defining iris for them in contradictory ways. I'm more often unenthused by an iris scent than those whose reviews I consult, it seems to me. It doesn't help that many of the current iris iterations introduce a peppery quality I find about as appealing as maple syrup on garden salad.

Eventually, I spent more time with Ambre Precieux, and saw how wonderfully it lasts and evolves on the skin. I revisited all the Maitre fragrances and found similar, equally admirable complexity. I'd dismissed Ambre for various reasons initially. I can't enumerate them, as they were, I think, mostly instinctive and reactionary, a product of very specific expectations and subsitutes for lack of better words to describe or articulate what appeals to me. Once those expectations dissolved the true merits of the fragrance emerged, its rich, cozy ambience, its steady, mildly herbal diffusion and warmth. Ambre Precieux isn't a skin scent, but it works differently on my skin than equally persistent fragrances, which substitute volume for nuance. Ambre projects in a much more refined, subliminal way.

My fears about Iris Bleu Gris were entirely unfounded. Granted, it smells nothing like I expected. It simply smells much, much better. The treatment of iris predates the current interpretation, which aims at the root and photo- or hyperrealism at or around ground level. I imagine many people, having been fed on fragrances like Iris Silver Mist and Bois d'Iris (to name a few of the more popular contemporaries), might de disappointed by Iris Bleu Gris. Its deployment of iris is subtler, less overtly woodsy or astringent. That isn't to say that the iris is warmer than, say, Iris Silver Mist. An unmistakable affinity exists between the two. There are absolutely medicinal influences in Iris Bleu Gris, but they're not as literal-minded as you might expect. There's earthiness but your nose isn't rubbed in it. Where other iris fragrances dig into the dirt to expose iris root and whatever happens to be clinging to it, Iris Bleu Gris evokes the smell of damp soil in the open air. It widens its net to take in a broader picture of iris in bloom, perfectly content to stay above ground, approaching the subject panoramically, at eye level.

When you focus on singling them out, you detect individual notes: jasmine, moss, vetiver, vanilla. When you relax into the fragrance, they cohere into an associative whole, augmenting the iris note in ways which feel by turns austere, dewey, lush, and intriguingly piquant. Many talk of a leather note in the mix, some going so far as to make comparisons with Jolie Madame and other vintage leather chypres. I can get on board with that, though I would characterize the leather as soft and supple, more hand glove than car seat or horse saddle. The opening of the fragrance, though in no way candied, is practically fruity, indicating a currant note. This dances in and out of the heart but has so well integrated by the dry down that it enhances an overall sense of sharpness and cool languor.

As many have commented, the extended dry down is sublime. The wondrous thing about Iris Bleu Gris is how close it comes to so many dread accords before surpising you. Iris Bleu Gris is in control, working expertly on your senses by combining familiar notes with unexpected results. You might expect things to go powdery, for instance. The fragrance certainly seems headed in that direction. And yet it stops short, showing what a difference a fraction makes. This keeps you engaged in unique ways, alive to the perfume's continual evolution the way you might listen for the various layers of sound outdoors, surprised by the depth and texture your subconscious mind normally tunes out or takes for granted. Exquisitely calibrated, Iris Bleu Gris demonstrates the highest level of artistry and craft, resulting in a testament not just to Jean Laporte's particular gifts and strengths as a perfumer but to the imaginative and emotional territory perfume can access. This is an exceptional fragrance.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea: A Review and a Free Sample Drawing!

Tabac Aurea makes me feel like Bette Davis, devastatingly confident, bold and sultry, lounging on a velvet sofa, head tossed playfully back in enthusiastic laughter.

The soundtrack in my head are the lyrics to Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes -
Her hair is Harlow gold
Her lips sweet surprise
Her hands are never cold
She's got Bette Davis eyes

She'll turn the music on you
You won't have to think twice
She's pure as New York snow
She's got Bette Davis eyes

Tabac Aurea is a drop dead gorgeous tobacco fragrance. I think I’m transported to a Bette Davis’ frame of mind because Tabac Aurea is so well done it feels as if it’s vintage, from a time and place when there weren’t unnecessary restrictions on perfume ingredients, when fragrances were created slowly with utmost attention to detail, each one a work of art, each one crafted as if to stand the test of time, each bottle a small luxury to be treasured on a woman’s dresser.

And she'll tease you
She'll unease you
All the better just to please you
She's precocious
and she knows just
what it takes to make a pro blush
She's got Greta Garbo stand-off sighs
She's got Bette Davis eyes

She'll let you take her home (it whets her appetite)
She'll lay you on the throne
She's got Bette Davis eyes

“Aurea” is a latin word translating to mean “golden” in English. Tabac Aurea is a smooth blonde pipe tobacco scent blended with woods, refreshing earthy textures, amber, labdanum, leather, tonka and a smidge of vanilla knitting it all together. Some say they smell leather prominently but I don’t, this is all woody tobacco perfection for me. I find the quality of Sonoma Scent Studio fragrances easily on par with Serge Lutens. Yes, I’m serious. Particularly her woody notes, definitely remind me of the Lutens Bois series. Tabac Aurea is not smoky; this is fresh, unsmoked pipe tobacco, it is smooth, clean and refined. Laurie Erickson, the perfumer, treats the tobacco note as if it was a flower; a gorgeous golden tobacco flower unfurling atop a stem and leaves which are actually a cherry wood pipe.

She'll take a tumble on you
Roll you like you were dice
until you come up blue
She's got Bette Davis eyes

She'll expose you
when she snows you
off your feet with the crumbs she throws you
She's ferocious and she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush
All the boys think she's a spy
She's got Bette Davis eyes

Tabac Aurea is not solely a masculine – it’s effortlessly unisex. I’ve tried Tabac Aurea first as a sample – dabbed it on from a glass vial, then later, sprayed from the bottle. I was impressed with the fragrance from the vial but once sprayed it became apparent that the scent is over the top gorgeous. When sprayed, Tabac Aurea exhibits more of its cherry pipe tobacco quality and the ambery, spicy notes emerge more predominantly. The slight fruity notes are subtle but linger throughout. Ms. Erickson describes the perfume as having some sweetness and an overall golden aura and I definitely see that. Especially the golden nature, the aroma of Tabac Aurea wraps around me and recalls sitting outside on a warm, dry afternoon watching the sunset across a freshly hayed field.

And she'll tease you
She'll unease you
All the better just to please you
She's precocious and she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush
All the boys think she's a spy
She's got Bette Davis eyes

Important note! There will be a drawing for free samples of Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea. Please leave a comment with your email address to be entered into the drawing by Monday night (April 5th). I will randomly choose 2 lucky winners. I have carded samples directly from Sonoma Scent Studio but because I enjoyed spraying the scent so much I will also include a spray samples.

Please visit Sonoma Scent Studio online by clicking here

Notes: amber, woods, spices, tobacco, leather, tonka, labdanum, patchouli, and vanilla.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cheap Thrills: Dunhill Desire for a Woman

It's a testament to Maurice Roucel's talent that his cheapest fragrances often smell as good as his high end niche reputation makers. K de Krizia is an amazing aldehyde floral, dirt cheap online. Nautica Voyage, a miraculous little sleeper of a scent, retails for as low as thirty-five dollars. Rochas Tocade (25 bucks) smells as fantastic, if not more so, than Guerlain L'Instant (60-70). Lalique Pour Homme (roughly $35) might just smell better than Bond No. 9 Riverside Drive (three times the price). Nothing compares to Iris Silver Mist, of course; then again, it's more an out-of-body experience than a perfume, and holding it up to mere mortals for comparison is like looking for a Paul Lynde "type" to play David Bowie in a high school musical. Wondrous oddities aside, Roucel's work remains remarkably consistent.

One key to that consistency is his trademark magnolia accord, which relates many of his scents to each other and smells so rich, creamy, and tangible you swear you could eat it or touch it or slather it all over yourself. Tocade is vanillic rose laid out on this signature base. L'Instant uses it not just as a foundation but as reason for being. You smell it everywhere in Roucel's ouevre, from Broadway Nite to 24, Faubourg. Tenacious sans bombast, it transitions from high to low, adapting itself to everything in between. What could be cheesier than something named Dunhill: Desire for a Woman? And yet, like almost everything else he's done, missteps and heavy hitters alike, Dunhill Desire too arranges itself around that familiar rubbery magnolia accord.

Lush, long lasting, and impressive, Desire has more going on in its top notes than the entire formulas of many a mainstream fragrance. I bought my 2.2 ounce bottle for 30 dollars--so it has more going on for less money, too. I'm not going to pretend I've wasted much time on Dunhill fragrances as a whole. There seem to be so many--for men, at least--the majority of which strike me as something my straight male friends would wear, lured by some aspirational fantasy associated with the name.

"Dunhill caters to the needs of the discerning man," says the company's ad copy, "from formal and casual menswear, to handcrafted leather goods through to fine men's jewelry" and so on, ad nauseum. Not pens and pencils but "writing instruments"; not watches but "timepieces". Jude Law is the spokesmodel and litters the website looking studiously urbane; suave, styled within an inch of his life, and bored out of his mind. "I'm sensitive, well dressed, and sometimes known to lean against the shelves in my library reading from a randomly selected, leather bound book," his sensitive expression says. Greys, tans, black, white. The menswear line is designed for "the modern gentleman and the maverick traveler."

I suppose a maverick travels in his own private plane, as opposed to lowly first class, and lives in a world drained of color. With their facile attempts at signaling a certain kind of cut-rate Ralph Lauren affluence, the few Dunhill masculines I've smelled depressed the hell out of me--as if to be a man means ipso facto to be magnificently tedious--and why be depressed, with so many wonderful things to smell out there? I've ignored Dunhill, and will probably continue to do so. Desire for a Woman seems to be an anomaly for the line: it smells like nothing else on the shelf, performs impressively, and like my favorite Roucels, manages somehow to suggest both impeccable taste and fun-loving, imperturbable trash.

I don't know exactly what's in it. I only know that I like it. It starts out intensely floral but very subtly evolves on the skin, arriving at a perfectly calibrated olfactory architecture of spiced amber, buttery warmth, and woods. From various sources online I've heard rose, freesia, caramel, sandalwood, and vanilla. There could be watermelon in it, for all I really know. Like everything else Roucel does, Desire smells edible without feeling particularly gourmand or foody. His fragrances share this precarious quality with the work of Sophia Grojsman.

Think of Desire as L'Instant Intense. I was always disappointed by L'Instant, and smelling Desire I now know why. L'Instant was far too timid; a miscalculation for which Roucel overcompensated, three years later, with Insolence, Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill to L'Instant's Masterpiece Theater. Desire situates itself somewhere in the middle of these extremes, a luxury it earned, most likely, by virtue of its market. Imagine the pressure applied at Guerlain, which has a real heritage to uphold, compared to the fairly straightforward, faux historical mass market imperatives of an outfit like Dunhill, whose incessant releases survive or perish according to a sink or swim mentality. Desire seems like Roucel having some fun, with a more relaxed attitude and a healthier sense of humor. The bottle is shimmery fuschia, just so you don't miss it, a delicious squeal of laughter compared to L'instant's pale whispery, watered down purplish pink.

Dunhill marketed Desire as the fragrance equivalent of the young woman in a pajama top designed to look like her boyfriend's, only in bright girly colors. Smells a little like his cologne, they said, but not to worry: strong enough for a man, but made for a woman, etc. Lo and behold, the reverse holds true. The perhaps unintentional effect of Desire's conglomerate of notes is a dreamy-sweet, curried pipe tobacco aroma, a mixture of powdered bubblegum and smoking room which makes the fragrance, in fact, a far superior masculine than any of the Dunhill males I've had the misfortune of smelling.