Friday, April 16, 2010

Scents That Sing Spring: Bee - Side

When I went to my cabinet to search for ideal Spring scents, I started getting everything that was right up front out of the way, so that I could find the treasures buried in back. At some point, I realized that the ones I was moving are the fragrances I'm wearing right now, and therefore I needn't look any further. It made me start thinking about what a Best-of list is; how personal a proposition it is. While something by a niche line might unanimously be regarded as exemplary in its category, I might just be getting more mileage out of something rather pedestrian from the mall. There's ideal, in other words; then there's what I'm wearing.

The following are things the cooler weather and psychology of Spring have teased to the fore of my collection lately. Along with those are things I wouldn't normally put on my list, typically because they don't happen to be ground-breaking, particularly hip, or quintessential in some way. I call this the B-Side list because I think we all have these kinds of favorites in our collections and wear them regularly, right alongside the A-side. In some cases they give us just as much or more pleasure. Some of them seem downright underrated to me and I sometimes wish I heard more about them.

Laura Mercier - Neroli

Aside from a few limited editions, I haven't given much print to the Mercier line. Funny, because I own three of the fragrances, and gifted someone with a fourth. I ignored Neroli for a long time because I assumed it must be fleeting. Why get attached? Recently, I was bored waiting for something at the counter, and I sprayed some on my wrist. I smelled it all day and thought about it all week. I repeated this a few weeks later to make sure I hadn't just imagined the stuff lasted well. Eventually I bought a bottle, and Neroli really is a little sleeper. It isn't straight up Neroli. The note is bolstered with musks and florals, but these additions make the neroli stand out, and neroli is what you're conscious of.

Hanae Mori - Haute Couture

This is but a song online, and worth every penny. It's a green jasmine. Fresh stems, laundry in the breeze, just the right touch of coriander and just the right amount of 'strange' in the mix. Haute Couture is a pretty happy scent, but it isn't empty-headed. There's some gravity to it, and just a little drama.

Gucci - Flora

I think this is the first time I'm admitting to owning this. I've had it for well over six months, and grab it far more often than I ever imagined I would when I got it in a trade as an afterthought. I've smelled various osmanthus fragrances. None give me the satisfaction of Flora. I like it more and more each time. And I find it lasts. I don't care for the EDP version. It's heavier, and focuses more on the undertones, drowning out what's well judged in the toilette. Flora was almost unanimously dismissed at the time of its release. The general consensus seems to be that it's routine, nothing special. Having spent some time with it, I feel like I discovered something it takes patience and open-mindedness to see, and I recognize how the swift reviewing process of the blogs can sometimes do more harm than good.

Armani - Sensi

Which brings me to Sensi. Like Flora, this one takes time. Spend an afternoon with it. You'll see. It's a simple melody but a great tune. I forgive a lack of innovation when it makes up for itself in duration and diffusion. Sensi is stronger than you expect. Like several of the bloggers participating in this exercise, I tend to like heavier scents: orientals, chypres, the old school stock. For a long time I took that to mean I wouldn't be interested in Spring-like scents, but the ones I gravitate towards have presence, like those orientals I love. Sensi smells like a breath of fresh air, its creamy jasmine landscape painted in oils rather than watercolors, and is something of a chameleon; it works as well during the winter months as the Spring. No wonder. Fragrantica classifies it as an Oriental Woody.

Creed - Irisia

Let Irisia represent all the green chypres I start to wear regularly around this time of year. Givenchy III, Jean Louis Scherrer, YSL Y, et al. What to do when you read that Irisia (one star) is marked by "exceptional banality and unpleasantness" in the same grouping of reviews which gives Britney Spears Believe three stars? Surely that's a joke. Don't believe it for a second. I don't know that I prefer Irisia to other classic green chypres, but I wouldn't say it's anywhere close to inferior. The name is misleading, as any hint of iris is hard to pick out. I'm guessing I reach for Irisia the most because it smells more masculine than its brethren.

Perfumer's Workshop - Tea Rose

This is either your...cup of tea, or it isn't. I've enjoyed it for years, in minor doses. The bottle I have dates back to the eighties, and smells quite different from the bottle I smelled recently at TJ Max. The current version smells like a vinyl blow-up toy. The dry down eventually moves closer to what I remember, but it lacks some special factor which makes it feel much further removed. The Tea Rose I recall is one of the best rose fragrances of its kind ever, as far as I'm concerned.

Delrae - Debut

There are a few dead horses I tire of hearing people beat. One is that the first four Delrae fragrances are just too...this or that. If Debut, Eau Illuminee, Bois de Paradis, and Amoureuse aren't the very best niche perfumery has to offer, my nose isn't smelling right. Let's stop complaining about how heady they are, or can I expect silence about how thin the overwhelming majority of modern fragrances besides these have become? You can't have it both ways. The first four Delraes represent a big fat Yes to perfume lovers. This perfume lover wouldn't dream of saying no.

Lorenzo Villoresi - Yerbamate

I'm not suggesting the line doesn't have its share of admirers. Yerbamate, like several other Villoresi fragrances, is something of a cult item. Still, you don't see the scents getting much attention when the time for this kind of list arrives. I think they deserve a special boost here and there, to help counteract some of the beating they've taken recently. Yerbamate is one of my favorite Villoresis, though I'm pretty partial to Garofano and Teint de Neige. Its weird, smoky green character isn't something I've come across in any other fragrance, and it's one of the most persistent tea scents I've smelled. Truly one of those rare fragrances you have to smell for yourself.

Etro - Magot

Not exactly one of the line's best sellers, and in fact I might never have purchased a bottle had I not run into one for ten bucks at TJ Max. I liked it from the start, but it's taken me a long time to place it properly. Don't ask me why, but I kept thinking Magot was a floral. Instead, it's tangy, a bit woody, and creamy. There are florals in there--jasmine and iris--but they aren't the centerpiece. Magot is a cheery fragrance but not without gravity. It smells like you feel when you first walk out your door to face the day.

Nina Ricci - Love in Paris

Another one that grew on me, or that I grew into. Jasmine, apricot, rose, peony and star anise on a base of woods and musks. It seemed too easy, so I dismissed it for a long time. Now I've learned enough to know how difficult easy is.

Please see Abigail's list, below, for links to participating bloggers of Scents That Sing Spring.


Ines said...

Wait - are you saying Eau Illuminee and Amoureuse don't get love?! How is that possible?
Although, I cannot wear Debut, I tried and it just smells wrong on me (I keep thinking my skin does something to it to make it so).

KathyT said...

I love this list! I haven't tried quite a few things on it, but I love that you included some non-niche fragrances. Is it okay to express my love for Sensi and Flora as well as for my enormous bottle of D&G Feminine? I actually found myself wondering one day if I should just ditch all of my discount purchases (and there are many)for my niche collection, but I enjoy so many of them. There's a Romeo Gigli one that smells like spring in a bottle to me. LM Neroli is my list for the next time I go to the mall.

Mals86 said...

"Bee-side" - I love it, how clever.

I'm still hip-deep in green florals these days, especially loving Chamade, Le Temps d'une Fete, Silences, Crown Bouquet, and No. 19. This might be, hands down, my favorite fragrance genre, so I'm not going to pass up the chance to wear these while they seem so right.

Now I'd like to smell Haute Couture: green jasmine? yum. Really the only way I can wear jasmine, otherwise it goes all dirty-panties on me. Love in Paris, too, sounds right up my alley.

Flora is extremely pretty and well-done, but like most people I'm all stocked up on "pretty." If a new smell doesn't grab my heart and squeeze, I'm not going to buy it.

I've only smelled a few Delraes - Amoureuse is gorgeous and I'm contemplating a decant, but Bois de Paradis was Just Beyond Awful on me. Hiiideous, in fact. The opening was a bizarre combo of mint and turpentine, and the berry and sugary amber combined in a disastrous way. I thought I'd love it, and I tried eight times. NO. NO NO NO. But you can't say I didn't give it a fair shot.

ScentScelf said...

Well, there ya go. I wouldn't have thought that about Irisia in a hundred fact, I wouldn't have even bothered. Too many perfumes to either savor or get to know, especially given that I don't always have headspace or time for perfume. Creed has disappointed enough that it is something I'd play with only if...well, if I happened to be stranded near a counter with Creed and had time on my hands to play. :) Good to hear your thoughts on it--especially since that's a powerful trio you conjure an association with.

While citruses tend to find their way into my rotations later in the evolution of spring to summer, I do enjoy them. I've got them in forms from a straight up hydrosol spray to proper perfume, though it's hard for me to find pleasure in anything beyond, say, and Aqua Allegroria treatment. Which is why your mention of the Mercier is registering in my "find it and try it" ledger.

One of my best "pedestrian at the mall" scents is one I'll be talking about when the warm weather becomes more stable...Bulgari Rose Essentiale. It is a fine "straight up" rose. (At least, the bottle I have, which at this point is a few years old; have no idea if they've messed with it, which was pretty faithful to the garden and turned flourescent or fruity or skanky or whatever. Not that there's anything wrong with just ain't this.)

Brian said...

Ines, no, they do get love, but there's often a reaction against them too, as if they're way too strong. They are strong. They can be almost nuclear in strength. I like that. They seem very close to the spirit of classic old school perfumery to me. I guess I'm going mostly by the Guide and by the dust they collect at the one local store which sells them here.

Kathy, weird you mentioned D&G Feminine. That stuff, too, is nuclear, and I was just riding around with it in my car the other day, smelling it at stoplights. Don't ask. I would love to get my hands on an older bottle to see how it's changed. But I do love it as it is now. Is the Gigli an eau fraiche? I have one which is bright honeysuckle and screams Spring. Top of its lungs. It's like parking yourself next to the vine. Really great stuff.

I LOVE Silences, Mals. I've always wondered about Crown Bouquet. So it's nice? I don't know if I'd like Flora as much as I do if I were a girl. Boi de Paradis was wretched? Say it ain't so. That was the first I bought and the hardest to track down. I still love it to death but it's such a fall frag for me. Try out the Haute Couture. But if you find pleasant like Flora kind of meh you might not like it?

Scentself, a few places sell Creed here, but Irisia is hard to come by and isn't one of the more popular fragrances of the line. I kept smelling it every time I saw it, and loving it, but its horrible review in the Guide led me to believe I must be imagining things, and I was scared to put down money for it, worried I might get it home and realize, suddenly, how horrible it is. Eventually I found a bottle for half the usual asking price. I wouldn't have purchased had I felt like it was redundant. I have many green chypres and it's somehow unique among them. While I don't smell iris per se, there's a rich, buttery quality to the scent which makes me think it must be iris butter. I don't smell that in the others.

KathyT said...

Hi Brian,

My Romeo Gigli is Woman EDP. The notes are listed as:

Mandarin, Tagetes, Melon Cantaloupe, Green Tea, Violet Leaves, Sea Breeze, Rose Morocco, Indian Jasmine, White Nymphaea, Lotus Flowers, Licorice, Orris Florence, Musk, Cedarwood, Benzoin Siam, Vanilla Zanzibar.

What a mess, right? It also has my sometimes nemesis - melon. Somehow it just works for me though. It will never set the world on fire, but I don't always want my fragrances to be difficult. I might need to search out the eau fraiche if it screams honeysuckle.

My bottle of D&G Feminine could definitely be considered nuclear, and the bottle is so big that I will never be able to use it up. Why do all of my discount binges involve the gallon sizes? I'm pretty sure that it was one of my first fragrance fanatic in training purchases, so it's at least 10 years old. I'd love to send you a decant if you are interested - let me know and I'll send you my email.

Rose said...

Tea Rose is so lovely- and so underated- it's really hard to get in the UK though I do know a chemist that has it. it's very joyful and very good for Spring.

I am a fellow Irisia fan- apparently it was made for Sophia Loren- which makes me feel pretty good about wearing it too!

AnnS said...

I'm enjoying reading your spring picks quite a lot- and lo and behold! One of the first mentions I've ever seen for the LM Neroli on a serious fragrance blog. I discovered this about three years ago now when I was desperately craving the breath of fresh air that orange blossom brings. I have been happy with it ever since - I get a type of sweet limoncello type accord in it along with the florals. And I've worn Tea Rose since I was in high school (a looong time) and I'm always happy to see it mentioned. Though I do agree that the current version is not as pretty as it once was. My older sister wears Sensi, which is really lovely too... good picks for sure!

Katie Puckrik said...

Cool little B-sides list. Although if you'd billed it as A-sides, I wouldn't know the diff. Love that Tea Rose! But Flora's a different story: it's all over once I pick up on the burnt hair accord. Apparently, I'm the only one who smells that, because I only get blank looks when I bring it up.