Wednesday, June 30, 2010

D.S. & Durga

I got a chance recently to smell some of D.S. & Durga's limited edition fragrances, and I liked them enough that I'm now pretty curious about the entire line. There's an overall sense of mystery about the brand, which seems deliberate, like the perfumers are trying to stay out of the way. You can read the website for background on the duo behind the company, but the gist of the official story seems to be that D.S., a musician, and Durga, an architect, fell into perfumery the way one falls into an unexpected hole out in the yard, as though they hadn't seen it coming. This, along with the delicate botanical drawings featured on the website and on the packaging itself, makes the pair sound like something out of Beatrice Potter, characters who traipse through dewy green forests until some little stone appears to guide the way into ever more magical territory. Even the descriptions of the perfumes are somewhat whimsical. Here's the type for Royal Purpure:

"A fragrant study upon the Heraldic tinctures of medieval Anglo-Saxon families of Devonshire and Cornwall."

I have no idea what this means, but meaning doesn't seem to matter. Clearly, it's more about mood and tone. D.S. & Durga are sending up (I hope) Victorian apothecary culture the way a band like Arcade Fire appreciates the imaginative rhythms, look, and feel of the post-industrial gazette or early Sears Roebuck catalogs, creating a world of impressions bigger companies can only think to ape by employing skinny-legged models to sit on phallic objects with their skirts open.

The pair have a quiet indie sensibility which feels more like Portland to me than Brooklyn, but I started avoiding Brooklyn after the backward trucker cap infestation a good decade back, so Brooklyn ins't exactly a known entity to me at this point; I'm probably unfairly biased. I'm sure there are wonderful people in Brooklyn, some without their hats on backwards.

The D.S. & Durga website is good fun--artsy and eclectic. It avoids the usual pratfalls of indie perfumery (chiefly, lack of imagination or vision when it comes to packaging and the experience surrounding the product), without knocking you over the head with the distancing effects of impossible hipster chic. The boxes and bottles are simple without being flimsy or inelegant. They feel like something humble and special, resembling vintage drugstore designs.

None of this thoughtful attention to detail would matter if the fragrances were nothing special. While D.S. &Durga's fragrances are nowhere near as visionary or compelling as Sonoma Scent Studio, nor as accomplished as Andy Tauer, those two are useful comparisons; I don't think D.S. & Durga have any ambitions to work in that vein, which isn't to say they aren't doing compelling work; these are fragrances played in minor chords, creating uniquely nostalgic, off-beat moods. They have more to do with minimalism.

Royal Purpure is pine and fig, cypress and cedar. It's lovely, sharing something of Dzongkha's bitter spiciness. 1538 Rheims and East Mideast are the standouts of those I tried. I can smell cardamom and saffron in East Mideast, and a bit of the rose. 1538 Rheims smells of musk, patchouli, ginger, and iris. The copy reads:

"A handsome lady begins to appear in the upper window of a ruined tower, enchanting the whole township. A minor chaplain searches the ruins in vain. The room she appears in is mysteriously locked. Air blows from beneath the door."

Again, good fun, this stuff, but not so trifling, either. Most of it seems to last well, smelling soft but rich several hours after application. After reading otherwise on a few perfume boards, I'd expected differently. The fragrances are mellow but diffusive, and they have a quality I haven't sensed in anything else currently being made--handcrafted, mass produced, or anywhere in between. D.S. & Durga have some kind of licensing agreement with Anthropologie and can be found at most of its stores (unlike, say, Histoires de Parfum, which is on the website but not at many of the brick and mortar locations). They've just released a trio of edp's in larger sizes (50 ml, as opposed to .6 ounces), more affordably priced. Of these, I like Shake Shake Senora the best. Island Marigold, Heliotrope, and Vanilla Orchid, says the packaging. It's a wonderful treatment of vanilla, more herbal than I've smelled before, subtly medicinal.

Durga (real name Kavita Ahuja) and D.S. (aka David Moltz) have referred to themselves as "rogue perfumers". I like that. I appreciate what they're doing. They seem to be true artisans. Everything is bottled and packaged by hand. They travel, picking up the essences they use in their fragrances, all of which were at one time and might still be bottled not just by hand but in their own living room. Many of the essences and attars come from a centuries old shop in New Delhi. Ahuja once included herb books, locations, music, outdated wisdom, recipes, old medicine, and childhood as primary influences. "Memory is the most essential thing to making a scent," she said, "as you must remember the impression something has left upon you even if you are using your imagination."

Said Moltz not too long ago: "We thrive on the collective spirit of out friends in NYC who put their heart and soul into their own arts and crafts--jewelry designers, painters, screen printers, architects, clothiers. A good deal of our close friends make something with their own hands. We share information and we wear each others' creations."

In an interview online, Ahuja said: "I think we put out something very special. It's a time consuming product and we put a lot of ourselves into it."

The above images were lifted from articles I found online about the duo.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fashionable Attitudes: From Tuberose to Ylang Ylang

It's fascinating to read the comments about Abigail's Nuit de Tubereuse--mainly because I can't make any connection between what I smelled and what you all are talking about. A month ago, when I smelled it at Barney's, I found Tubereuse infinitely uninteresting. Like Abigail, I'm not much of a Bertrand D fan, though I do really love Amaranthine: I don't find it sugary or banal. But Tubereuse, which has been hyped for months and waxed poetically about, really seemed much ado about nothing to me, on top of which, the now-chronic persistence problem which characterizes all of L'Artisan on my skin. It's sad. Back when I first smelled a L'Artisan fragrance I thought the heavens had opened up. Now I'm horribly blase about the line. Maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe Bertrand just had his work cut out for him.

Meanwhile, I've smelled the new A Scent Florale and think it's a great addition to the original. Fainter, yes, and not as green, but the original has plenty of green to go around, and Florale retains a lot of it. I'm probably relieved that Florale doesn't feel like a corrective of some sort, an attempt to "fix" the most oft-cited problems with A Scent. Too sharp? Too masculine? Who cares? Florale is the kind of flanker I enjoy: it doesn't simply use its source material as a marketing springboard. It plays around with many of the same characteristic elements, tweaking and recombining them, almost as if the perfumers had been asking themselves, "How much can we push this, in baby steps, until it isn't quite what it was?" Only be staying very close to the original can the differences truly be enjoyed, the contrasts fully absorbed. The biggest difference are the highest top notes, a dewy burst of peony mixed with galbanum and, possibly, ylang ylang. Galbanum and Ylang Ylang have some interesting interplay, their rubbery, almost mentholated facets mingling nicely. The fragrance is closer to the skin than A Scent original but by no means a skin scent on me.

Speaking of Ylang Ylang, I'm only now getting around to Estee Lauder's Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang. I'm glad to be smelling it now, while the conversation about Nuit de Tubereuse rages on. I remember how disappointed people were in Amber Ylang Ylang. I thought, wow, it must be pretty bad. I'm surprised to find that I like it very much, though I suppose like many who did I should qualify that by saying it isn't the most groundbreaking thing I've ever laid nostril on. I wonder what makes Tubereuse, which seems so uninteresting to me, the topic of so much excitement and praise, while Amber YY was regarded so resolutely as a failure. I can see things being worked out in it, like the challenge of bringing vintage balsamic florals into the future. Oriental Lounge seemed to be asking itself the same questions, and answered them differently and possibly more emphatically. My impression is that Amber YY aimed for a more languorous tribute to those older sisters Bal a Versailles and Youth Dew. Ultimately it presents a far more mellow meditation on those themes. Much was made of the price, but 80 bucks for an ounce of Amber YY doesn't really seem exorbitant to me. Again, I don't smell the vanilla overload everyone seems to have suffered under, but talk to me in the winter.

Know what I continue to love? Histoire D'Amour by Aubusson. Another Ylang Ylang driven fragrance which didn't have the good fortune to have been created by Bertrand D or manufactured by L'Artisan. Personally, I like it as much as anything I've smelled from either. Another good one for me lately, and I have yet to review it, is Yosh's EDP version of Omniscent. I've read very little about it, and it strikes me as one of the best releases of the past six months. I smelled the EDP version alongside the original when I picked up a bottle at Barney's. They smelled not very similar to me. I suspect people haven't been reviewing it because they assume otherwise. Like Amber Ylang Ylang and Oriental Lounge, Omniscent approaches the subject of an older style of fragrance with both respect and irreverence, resulting in a uniquely contemporary wear.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

L'Artisan Parfumeur Nuit de Tubereuse

I’ll start by admitting that L’Artisan and me, well, we just don’t see eye to eye on what makes a good perfume. To me, a perfume is an art, a craft, a science and a consumer product all rolled into one. The piece I think L’Artisan misses is the consumer product aspect. They just don’t make many fragrances that last (some, yes, most don't). And if I can’t smell my own perfume, let alone anyone else ever getting a decent whiff of it, then it’s a big fail in my book. Reminds me of the moral of The Emperor Wears No Clothes; or like drinking wine and never feeling a buzz or taking a sleeping pill yet never falling asleep.

First off, Nuit de Tubereuse (NdT) is not much ado about tuberose. So if you’re a huge tuberose fan like me, you shouldn’t expect to find the creamy, sexy white flower we adore. But Nuit de Tubereuse isn’t meant to be a soliflore, you say? Well, correct, you are right, but I really can’t even find a hidden tuberose aspect or a tuberose agenda anywhere in here. It could easily be any white flower, it’s a nondescript floral aspect which could be jasmine, mimosa, gardenia, ylang ylang or a blend of all these. This floral is tropical, it is sweet and sultry and not sharp or heady or cloying at all. I wish L’Artisan had instead named NdT something like Nuit de Fleur Blanc or Encens de Fleur Blanc because this is what it smells like to me. Actually Encens de Fleur Blanc would be perfect. Pardon my French, I have no gift with it, I’m just playing here, so stop snickering in the corner over there.

Nuit de Tubereuse opens with a tropical, sweet, almost candy-like beginning. In essence, it’s a fruity floral. (Just say it with me people, “it’s a fruity floral!”) It’s a fruity floral with heaps of incense and earthy resinous dirt. So imagine a nice fruity floral, with a natural vibe, with about three-quarters resinous incense taking up the composition. You’ll easily recognize this incensey-resinous heart and base, I think Robin at NST has named it “Duchaufourade.” At times there’s a bit of morphing, I smell some vanilla here and there, however I get zero of the green, bitter or vegetal quality others have discussed and I've been looking. On me, this is how I would describe it to give you a reference point: Take YSL Nu edp and mix with a sweet tropical fruity floral and viola you have Nuit de Tubereuse.

Am I a Bertrand Decahufor fangirl? Not really. I think he makes interesting aromas, things that are fun to smell, to sniff for a short while to see how they morph, but I don’t think he makes real perfumes. I just scanned the long list of perfumes Duchaufour has created (thanks to Robin at NST for her amazing ability to keep us all organized and in the know). Of Duchafour’s long list of works, I only have feelings for a few, such as L’Artisan Havana Vanille and Fleur de Liane (a nice green floral), Eau d’Italie Paestrum Rose and I actually like one of his lesser known works probably the best, Lalique Flora Bella. So much of Duchaufour’s work strikes me as interesting aromas but not proper perfumes. For instance, I don’t think of the following as proper perfumes: Piment Brulant, Timbuktu, Dzongkha, the CdG insence series, etc.

You might recall that I felt like the lone dissenter who hated Amaranthine (another Duchaufour creation). Well, I certainly do not hate NdT, in fact, I think it smells quite pretty, but I don’t find it wears like a perfume on me. It lasts about 1 hour maximum and the sillage is nonexistent. I’ve been wearing NdT for 3 days. For three days I’ve applied 4 sprays to each forearm and 2 big sprays to each wrist and then I spray in the air and walk through it. I’ve accosted several household members and asked if they smelled me. Three different family members said they didn’t smell much, one gave me the best she could with “you smell nice, a little sweet maybe?” For me to smell NdT I have to bring my nose to within a 1/2 inch of my arm. You might have noticed that I become extremely frustrated by lack of sillage. As far as I'm concerned, NdT is a consumer product and a perfume needs to last and project a bit. Shouldn’t that be a rule? A LITTLE projection, not Angel projection but just enough?

You might ask “what if NdT had plenty of sillage and longevity?” Well, then, I might like it a great deal more. At least I wouldn’t have anything to complain about and could focus solely on the scent. As I’ve already stated, NdT is a pretty smell, not particularly odd or unusual to me, just a nice fruity floral over an incensey base.

At this moment I feel a bit too practical. I feel like the dissenter, once again. I read others impressions, most are falling all over themselves with adoration of Duchaufour and I just think, “so what? If I can’t wear it like a perfume, then it’s just some sort of aromatherapy.”

Additional reading:
Review at NowSmellThis
Exclusive Duchaufour interview at Grain de Musc
PereDePierre's review
Review at Muse in Wooden Shoes
Review at Ca Fleure Bon
Octavian over at 1000 Fragrances
and the server for Perfume Posse is down otherwise I would link to their reviews (yes, more than one!)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Oh, the Womanity!

The big question: “What does Womanity smell like?”

To me, it smells like salt. It’s a little woody, a smidge sweet, but mostly it's a mild salty skin scent with some aldehydes. For a Mugler scent, Womanity is low key. It is not a sillage monster like previous perfumes from Mugler.

Womanity begins with some bright citrus notes but quickly dissipates into a mild, vaguely fruity (fig) scent over salty driftwood. Caviar is listed as a note and I don’t smell anything resembling fish eggs (thank goodness). Womanity is much more subtle and tasteful than I expected. It’s quite wearable; anytime, anyplace, and I think it would work in the heat as well as cold weather. Actually, I’m not sure what others will think but the most apt description I can give you is salty driftwood. It reminds me of the seashore, of the breeze blowing off the ocean on a mild and temperate day. I like it.

For a fantastic piece on Womanity, with marvelous pics and witty commentary, vist Nathan Branch’s blog

For an in-depth critique of the marketing and progression of the Mugler brand visit Grain de Musc

For Robin's take at Now Smell This

Above pic not entirely stolen, credit is being given, to the brilliant Nathan Branch.

Some Oils

It's probably the heat but my skin isn't doing much with most of the fragrances I own lately. Even the strongest old reliables (your Habanita, your Poison, your Opium, your Shocking) have been disappointing me. For a few weeks I stopped wearing much of anything. Then I turned back to oils.

I've been collecting oils for years, dating back to high school, I think. I can't remember the first oil I got but I do remember a lot of the earlier things, like a bottle of "Sandalo" a friend brought back from a trip to maybe Guatemala. I can't remember what friend, or what he was doing there, and I'm not a fan of Sandalwood, really, but I think this one is probably better than most of the versions they sell today. I was always very good at tracking down places which sold oil. And I probably bought them mainly because I could. It was even weirder back then for a guy to buy perfume. Oil I could say was diffusive, atmospheric. It was environmental as opposed to personal, which in my mind made it okay. I had an alibi for it. I looked for oils at head shops and import places. Later, in New York, I found it all over the place. I kept the oils in an old wooden box.

I still have the box, which sits in my office, pretty separate from all the perfume I own, which indicates to me that I regard oils and perfume as two entirely different things. Perfumes are to be worn, where oils are to be taken out and smelled. I realized only recently that, though I now wear oils more frequently than I once did, I still maintain that weird bias. Mostly I've worn oil around the house, until recently. In the past month, I've resumed looking at oils when I shop, and I've come home with some pretty interesting things.

It was great to see a post on perfume posse the other day about majmua attar, especially considering I'd been wearing some lately. Mine is made by Nemat and was picked up at Whole Foods. I suspect it isn't as good but it's no less a jolt to the system. You really have to smell this stuff for yourself. March at perfume posse described it as "simultaneously green, floral, woody, and earthy" and she's right, "it shifts". A lot of the oils I like do, but Majmua is particularly mercurial. There's so much going on, in such a concentrated substance, that it really does seem to unfold over time. Your mind probably takes a while to put all its qualities into perspective, too. Majmua is the antithesis of most modern perfumery, which aims to be instantly apprehended, all parts clearly perceived at the outset. Majmua is openly dense, and it wears amazingly in the heat, deepening rather than thinning out as most fragrances seem to on me.

I first got Djinn, by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, back in January. It wears well enough in the cold, but is strictly medicinal without something to warm it up and activate its smokiness. I avoided it until about a week ago because I thought it would be too much right now. To the contrary, it's an amazing thing. The humidity airs it out a little, so that it really does have the waft of smoke. I could never figure out where the actual smoke of this so-called smoke fragrance was. In the winter, it had a whiff of ash to it, but more than anything it reminded me of something more astringent, approaching witch hazel. Now I can smell all kinds of things. Today I'm smelling cinnamon, and barely-there clove. I praised BPAL's Highwayman to high heaven months ago; yet, the exact opposite of Djinn, Highwayman is a heat scent that requires cold to paint its picture. In the summer, Highwayman is truly overwhelming. It's all creosote; all the florals you smell in a cooler climate are gone. Djinn, on the other hand, thrives with scents of burning wood and ash and various things you barely ascertain beyond its veil of smoke.

Nemat actually puts out several oils I like. Jannatul Firdaus seemed too soapy to me at first, but I put it on before leaving one morning and for hours I could smell its complicated composition. Much lighter than Majmua, it shares that woody, green, floral fusion, minus Majmua's very thick balsamic backbone. I'm pretty sure the sandalwood Nemat uses is bottom of the line, but you get nice whiffs of it throughout Jannatul's development. Jannatul is an interesting choice as a masculine I think. Mogra (Indian Jasmine) is more determined to stay on the feminine side of the continuum. That doesn't stop me from wearing it, as I like it's darker take on jasmine, faintly spicy, if not particularly indolic. Again, I suspect that Nemat is a more watered down, Whole Foods friendly version of what you might find from other, less ubiquitous distributors, but it's a great scent. I have a massive bottle (we're talking probably 4 ounces) of Arabian Wood, which used to be a lot better than Nemat's current version. It was once a wonderfully smoky oil. It's still perfectly nice, but I have trouble smelling it on my skin.

Another Whole Foods stalwart is Kuumba Made, which distributes a selection of oils I generally like. My favorite is Tunisian Opium, but Arabian Rose runs a not so distant second. Tunisian Opium is very much like YSL's Opium, but there are noticeable differences, some more subtle than others. It has an herbal bent missing from classic Opium. And it amps up a presence of vanilla. It's actually a little closer to Youth Dew than Opium, all things considered, but different enough from both, primarily in its persistence (those both last forever in the winter; not so much in the summer). Arabian Rose has pretty nuclear tenacity, and while pretty is far from sweet. Black Coconut and Tunisian Opium are great, as is the Amber paste Kuumba makes. The Frankincense and Myrrh combo is decent but nothing special.

On a recent trip to Joshua Tree I discovered a line by Ramakrishnananda. My favorite by far is Padma, which mixes rose, clove, and jasmine to interesting effect. It isn't heavy, but it lasts, and it has presence, and I would say it's perfectly unisex for something with so much rose and jasmine in it. Other oils by the line are interesting but not as compelling. One is a dead ringer for Fahrenheit. Another is a fairly artless (if nice) blend of orange blossom and honey. An oil called Aphrodesia is also pretty fantastic. Outwardly nothing special, it wears well. I smell florals mostly but softened by musks probably. The oil is deep purple and comes in a nice box, also purple.

I would love to hear what oils other people wear and how they get them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Soivohle' Geranium Rose Mint

With the name Geranium Rose Mint you might expect something sharp or at least very green with a bit of toothpaste. Not so. I was surprised to find this such a soft scent with hints of geranium, rose and mint. The mint isn’t especially noticable at the start, it begins with a lovely green citrus, rosey geranium leaf, with an abundance of soft, mild, somewhat vanillic musk.

My point of reference for geranium scents are Miller Harris Geranium Bourbon and Frederic Malle Geranium Por Monsieur. Both are much sharper with outgoing personalities. The Miller Harris dries down to a green, refreshing scent while the Malle stays very minty throughout.
Soivohle’ Geranium Rose Mint (SGRM) is an extremely laid back fragrance considering it’s cast of characters. The notes of geranium, rose and mint are definitely discernible but in a lazy Sunday sort of way. None of the notes are fighting for your attention, they just languidly make themselves known, with the mint showing up much later, almost upon dry down. SGRM is fresh overall but a softly subdued and sweet sort of fresh. The base notes of vanilla, amber and musk are strong throughout, lacing the entire composition together and keeping the scent quite gentle, airy and sweeter than anticipated.

I admit that I sampled this fragrance expecting (and wanting) a green zesty little number. But upon wearing it the past few days I’ve decided its quite nice the way it is. Geranium Rose Mint is within Soivohles’ naturals collection, the longevity is decent, sticking around maybe 2-3 hours on me. Sillage is low but it’s still there on the skin for about 3 hours.

For a point of reference, there’s a slight similarity between SGRM and Guerlain Acqua Allegoria Mentafollia. Both in their style, scent, softness and longevity. But they’re still entirely different fragrances worth giving a shot if this type of fragrance appeals to you.

Notes taken from Soivhole website: sweet orange, mint, geranium, roses, marigold, jasmine, with a light vanilla, amber base.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Tuberose Project

The scent of tuberose is heady. It is potent, fleshy and sweet. I realized recently that long before I understood what a tuberose note smelled like, I’ve always gravitated toward tuberose-laden perfumes. Givenchy Amarige is usually considered a tuberose bomb. I don’t think of it that way, it seems equal parts tuberose, orange blossom and mimosa over a sultry oriental base, but given that there’s a hefty dose of tuberose in it, it makes sense that I found it and clung to it back in the mid-90’s and wore it as my signature scent for about five years. I mean every single day for five years. I recall sniffing all the available Miller Harris perfumes in a little boutique in New Hope, PA, one afternoon. After spending an inordinate amount of time standing and sniffing (the shopkeeper was giving me looks) the one I selected was Noix de Tubereuse. And, even though I now think it’s one of the most worthless tuberose soliflores on the market, I recall standing in Neiman’s one day and after smelling every Jo Malone fragrance on the counter, I walked away with JM’s Tubereuse in hand.

For the most part, I don’t seek out tuberose soliflores. I prefer my tuberose prominent but mixed with a blend of other white florals over an oriental type base. My favorites are, as mentioned above, Amarige, as well as Roja Dove Scandal, Divine, Noix de Tubereuse and Annick Goutal Songes (which, for the record, doesn't list tuberose among the notes, but seems tuberose-esque to me). These are all love or hate scents, I don’t think there are too many people on the fence about the fragrances I just listed.

I do occasionally wear tuberose soliflores, namely Frederic Malle Carnal Flower, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Tubereuse, Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia and Parfumerie Generale Tubereuse Couture. It’s usually during the warm weather months when I want to wear something that smells realistically and wholly like a tuberose plant.

Here’s my take on the tuberose fragrances I have in my collection. Not all are soliflores, but most are:

Annick Goutal Tubereuse: raw, realistic, unrelenting, unabashedly tuberose. Naked tuberose. For the tuberose connoisseur. Quite a bold fragrance, really.

By Kilian Beyond Love: A gorgeous tuberose. Sultry, sweet and perfect. I can’t explain why I don’t wear this one more often. I guess I must admit to being biased against By Kilian as a line. Their prices pissed me off initially and I never got over it. Since I obviously purchased this one I guess I decided it was, in fact, worth the price tag. It’s just perfect. Not especially sweet, a touch of freshness, just perfect.

Caron Tubereuse: This probably isn’t fair, because I’ve heard so many say this is a fabulous tuberose, but on me it smells like dill pickles. It just never changes from a sour, marinated vegetable into a pretty floral. It’s a pity because I just know there’s something good here.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Tubereuse: sheer tuberose softened by vanilla. My favorite tuberose for wearing in public because it’s not strange, it’s simply beautiful. It’s manages to be an obvious tuberose yet doesn’t display too much of the flowers' carnal nature. DSH Tubereuse is a virgin, not a slut, like most of the other tuberose soliflores. But don’t get me wrong, this pretty virgin is worth checking out, she’s a gorgeous maiden.

Diptyque Do Son: a nice beginner tuberose or perhaps better classified as a tuberose for those who dislike the “challenging” bits of other tuberose scents. Do Son is a beautiful white floral, somewhat fresh and not especially indolic with good longevity and a little pepper.

Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia: This is another tuberose virgin, like DSH Tubereuse. Here the tuberose is gorgeous, luminous, bright and fresh, but it downplays the fleshy, carnal characteristics. I think this is beautiful and worthy of a space in anyone’s tuberose collection.

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower: the queen of all tuberose fragrances. Carnal flower is ultra green and realistic. Powerful, sexy, sultry, fleshy, sweet, lush and long lasting. Carnal Flower makes me imagine a gigantic Georgia O’Keefe painting of a tuberose (if she were to have painted a tuberose, that is). This O’Keefe tuberose is erotic and exaggerated.

Guerlain Mahora / Mayotte: Some say these are different, I say it’s too close to call. Both are slightly powdery, tropical tuberoses. Not my favorites but nice. I imagine these would appeal to those who want something more ‘perfumey’ as opposed to something strictly realistic. Mahora/Mayotte are impressionistic as opposed to photographic.

i Profumi de Firenze Tuberosa d’Autunno: This is a cool tuberose. Cool as opposed to warm. It isn’t particularly bright or fresh but simply a smooth realistic tuberose. It strikes me as an alternative to Tubereuse Criminelle which has always seemed a cool metallic tuberose to me. Wait for the dry down, because this shows it’s best side after 30 minutes. This is a great one which not enough people seem to know about.

Jo Malone Tubereuse: weak tuberose. The words “blah” and “waste of money” come to mind.

L’Artisan Tubereuse: weak tuberose with a medicinal sharp edge. Reminds me a bit of Caron’s Tubereuse, though not quite as much pickle.

Le Labo Tubereuse: mostly orange blossom, bright, fresh and sunny. If you want tuberose don’t look here.

Miller Harris Noix de Tubereuse: sweet oriental floral with emphasis on tuberose. Warm, spicy and old school. Not a photographic or realistic tuberose by any stretch but a floriental.

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Tubereuse: Lush, deep realistic tuberose with a soft ambergris dry down. This is a great one.

Parfumerie Generale Tubereuse Couture: sugary sweet tuberose with some green and a vanillic base. This one doesn’t receive enough fanfare for it’s beauty. I think it’s gorgeous. Some similarity between this and Kilian’s Beyond Love, in it’s take on tuberose.

Prada Infusion de Tubereuse: sheer beginner tuberose, fleeting, but pretty while it lasts. Seems like a "Martha Stewart" tuberose.

Roja Dove Scandal: big warm white floral with emphasis on tuberose. Not a tuberose soliflore but an impressive white floral for those who love tuberose.

Robert Piguet Fracas: white floral with emphasis on mostly orange blossom though it strangely gets billed as a big tuberose scent. It just isn’t so much about tuberose. It’s still gorgeous, but tuberose is a minor player.

Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle: dries down to a exquisite cold tuberose beauty if you can last through the horrific moth balls at the start. And I mean *IF* because the first 20 minutes are awful.

Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia: very realistic tuberose which emphasizes some of the most unusual elements of tuberose; some say mushroomy, others say moldy, I just think it’s quite fleshy and not particularly wearable for me. It has been discontinued so perhaps most people smelled these off putting notes.

So, what are your favorite tuberose scents? I am always interested to smell a new tuberose...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Berdoues Violette Divine

Berdoues is a French perfume house established in the early 1900’s with it’s original violet fragrance, Violettes de Toulouse. Violet soliflores were a huge trend, an absolute craze, during the early twentieth century, similar to the fruity floral phenomena of the past decade. The house of Berdoues has managed to stick around all these years and has now added two new violet scents to their repertoire. Their original, Violettes de Toulouse, is a typical violet fragrance, very similar to Borsari Violetta di Parma. It is sweet and pleasant but possesses that plastic-y note I can’t stand. Their other new violet fragrance is Violet Cherie, which is aimed at a younger consumer, essentially a violet-fruity-floral.

Last year Berdoues introduce a heartier, denser violet called Violette Divine. I admit it was solely the packaging that caused me to purchase this one. The boxes are darling and the bottles are retro chic, plus they were on sale at! I wasn’t expecting much and wouldn’t have been upset had I not liked Violette Divine. But the good news is that I like it. Violette Divine is a nice sweet violet, more potent than most, with a woodier dry down and no plastic note.

I can’t find a straight list of notes anywhere so here is the mumbo jumbo ad copy: “Intense, powerful and sensual, it opens with notes of mandarin. The heart is magical with violet and cedar, while the romantic base consists of sandalwood.” It starts off almost like a violet gourmand to me. There’s something highly vanillic and syrupy at the start. But if this puts you off, don’t worry, this is brief and the vanilla fades away to mostly a dense violet note. A sweet, deep purple violet note with a touch of spice and a mild woody base. This is nice. It is not exceptional or even especially good, but it’s nice. My favorite violets are still firmly in place: Creed Love in Black (for a sweet, edgy take), Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette (for a cheerful, jammy, flirty violet) and Penhaligon’s Violetta (for a fresh, green, unisex violet) and Annick Goutal La Violette (for an old school violet soliflore that isn’t too sweet or powdery, and doesn’t have plastic).

If you don’t already like violet fragrances Violette Divine isn’t going to change that, but if you enjoy violet scents and collect a variety of them you might want this one, if not just for the pretty packaging.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Refreshing tonics: a cure for what ails you

It’s been over 95 degrees the past week and even though it’s a dry heat I have been in the mood for refreshing fragrances. I’ve been wearing a lot of Heeley Oranges & Lemons Say the Bells of St. Clements and Creed Selection Verte. Most of the notes in refreshing scents are fleeting, so I try to find fragrances that are crisp and light but still have as much heft and longevity as possible. For the most part, when I’m looking for refreshing scents, I want something citrusy, green or herbal. Some florals are nice but only if they’re airy, not dense, and blended with some combination of green/citrus/herbs.

Here are some of my favorites ~

Atelier Orange Sanguinne: this has become my favorite citrus. It’s zesty and sweet and never sours. The first few minutes are the most realistic and uplifting bunch of blood oranges I have ever smelled.

Parfums de Nicolaï Cologne Sologne: Mostly zesty neroli and citrus, this is an intensely uplifting scent that seems more concentrated and long lasting than most in this category. A liquid antidepressant.

Creed Private Collection Selection Verte: care for a pinch of herbs and some peppermint? Selection Verte is the most straight-up crisp, brisk, olfactory herb garden. Longevity is minimal but it’s excellent when used like an old fashioned cologne.

Elizabeth W Sweet Tea: Just as the name says. Sweet Tea. Like in Texas.

Parfums D’Orsay Tilleul: Linden blooms. One of the best. With a touch of vegetal/cucumber that’s utterly thirst quenching.

Atelier Trefle Pur: This line has caught my attention. Trefle Pur is a softly green scent that starts off innocently enough with images of clovers and sunny meadows but dries down to a deeper mossier green similar to ô de Lancome. Longevity is decent for this sort of thing lasting 2-3 hours on me. But if you try it, be sure to spray and spray yourself wet.

Miller Harris Geranium Bourbon: This is based on the idea of rose scented geraniums. So while it’s a bit rosey it isn’t meant to be a floral rose fragrance. I think many try this and find it to be a disagreeable rose floral but once you realize it’s a green, herbal scent it makes sense. Many years ago before I began my orchid collection I had a scented geranium obsession. This fragrance really works for me because it smells so perfectly of the fuzzy leaves and flowers from a scented geranium plant.

A Scent by Issey Miyake: This is a gorgeous green chypre-esque fragrance. Nice longevity.

Jo Malone White Jasmine Mint: This one doesn’t get much credit but it’s a nice light jasmine with a fantastic heap of mint to keep things brisk and unusual. It’s an unsweet floral but it still dries down to a floral if you feel yourself looking for some jasmine.

L’Artisan The Pour un Ete: This almost goes without mention, it’s the best jasmine & tea scent.

Sisley Eau de Campagne: Tomato Leaf citrus. Gardeners delight.

Annick Goutal Les Nuits d’Hadrien: I’m such a huge fan of Annick Goutal perfumes but they’re bestselling fragrance, Eau d’Hadrien, just leaves me flat. AG has another version of Eau d’Hadrien called Les Nuits d’Hadrien which is essentially a citrus oriental. Now this, I love. Many say it starts off smelling like Lemon Pledge. Well, this might be true, especially if you find lemon notes to always smell like cleaning agents. But if you find yourself attracted to a nice lemon note, imagine it draped over a woody oriental base. It’s subtle and fresh yet manages the complexity of a woody oriental. Very nice.

Parfums de Nicolaï Mimosaique and L’Artisan Mimosa Pour Moi: Now neither of these are particularly refreshing by the definition I gave above (citrus, green or herbal) but even though they are florals they are so delicate, airy and soft it’s like a mimosa scented breeze caressing your skin. Dreamy.

Diptyque Oyedo: sugared grapefruit. Technically sugared yuzu on steroids. Insanely appealing.

Hermes Pamplemousse Rose: A pretty rose/grapefruit combination with an especially juicy grapefruit note, rind, pith and all.

Lorenzo Villoresi Yerbamate: strangely humid sensation of soft green herbs and grasses with hay and nondescript wildflowers in the meadow. Some mint, some citrus, dries down much sweeter than it starts.

All of the above aren’t going to last you through an entire day. I carry a small decant and re-spritz when needed.

I could list about 20 more fragrances in this category but I’ll stop here otherwise those people will come with straight jackets.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Summer Dulldrums

I keep trying to remember where I was this time last year, because the mood I've been in for the past month or so feels very familiar, and I want to think it's some sort of seasonal affective disorder which takes root right after Spring. Nothing depresses me more than Summer. I can count on one finger the fresh scents I like, and I'm not a heat person, though after fifteen years in the South I've developed a thick enough skin to get me through to October without incident. I admit, a few of the fragrances I like end up on people's Spring and Summer lists, but I tend to wear them in the Winter, preferring their crisp sensibility in a colder climate. The seasonal flankers rarely interest me. My skin seems to sweat away whatever I spray at it in a matter of minutes.

This is all another way of explaining why, like Abigail, I haven't been writing much lately, I guess.

And yet I keep wearing, and keep trying to wear, and keep smelling. It's just that I'm not as inspired as I get during the Fall and Winter seasons. And a funny thing happens; when I surrender a little, and give up trying to make sense of Spring and Summer fragrances so single-mindedly, I return to the things I truly like, and see them in an entirely new context.

Last year, the catalyst was Habanita. I love Habanita in the Winter but to me it had always seemed a study in powdered excess. In the heat, the powder dried away, leaving all the tobacco I'd always heard about but failed to see. It became this amazingly smoky, sultry thing. And yet if you ask almost anyone, Habanita (and many other fragrances I love) are strictly back shelf material until October rolls back into view.

What I'm starting to realize is that, while yes, there are plenty of scents which speak to a season in some site-specific way, the idea of seasonal fragrance in general is as much of a marketing tool as gendered fragrance is. I knew this, but never thought too much about it. Taken to its logical conclusion, it means that what really changes seasonally are our perceptions, so that it isn't necessarily about buying something different as seeing the same thing in a different way. No marketer would let that theory fly out the boardroom.

Yesterday I tried Bijan for Men, and was amazed by it. I'm wearing it today. It has a wonderful orange undertone, some oakmoss, nutmeg, clove, carnation, cinnamon, fir, honey, florals, leather. Aside from the orange, these are not the kind of pyramid players you see allowed off the bench during June, July, and August, and yet you put them on that stove and they start to cook in a fantastic way. I can smell Bijan and I know that almost everything I'm loving about it at the moment is something that would be dormant during the Winter. The stuff I'm liking most would be inert without the heat.

A few other fragrances I found the heat to reactivate for me lately have been: Shocking by Schiaparelli, Lush Karma, Serge Lutens Chypre Rouge, and Kenzo Elephant.

I'd love to hear your allegedly counter-intuitive Not-So-Summer Summer discoveries...

Friday, June 4, 2010

TWRT 6.4.10

This Week’s Random Thoughts

Hello fragrance’s been awhile. Life has gotten in the way plus I’ve had very little interest in perfume. It happens I guess.

I found the best coconut fragrance: Profumi del Forte Vittoria Apuana. This is even better than Parfums de Nicolaï Cocacabana because it stays coconut and doesn’t turn into orange & sandalwood.

It’s 95 degrees in Santa Fe today. Dry heat is so much more manageable than humidity. It’s not a myth, it’s true.

I’ve realized I don’t like strong cedar notes. Probably the reason why I can’t get into SL Bois de Violette, it’s all cedar, all the time, on me.

Some new fragrances I’m loving:
Heeley Oranges & Lemons Say the Bells of St. Clements: This wins the longest name prize; it’s longer than Bond No. 9 Success is a Job in New York. But what does it smell like you ask? It’s a beautiful citrus neroli, very similar to Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier but more citrusy and zesty.

Profumum Ninfea: beautiful powdery rose, along the same idea as L’Artisan Drole de Rose but greener and more potent.

Bond No. 9 Saks-en-Rose is another powdery rose I’ve mentioned before. If you like this sort of soft, green, slightly powdery pink rose, give this a shot, it’s nice.

Santa Maria Novella Melograno: ok so this isn’t new but it’s new to me. I love it. I have no idea what a pomegranate smells like but this is powdery (not talcum powder, but perhaps orris root powder), slight incense and slight sweet tartness. It’s unusual.

I simply cannot wait for Parfums DelRae Coup de Foudre. A bottle is on the way.

American Idol is over and for the second year in a row the wrong contestant won.

My favorite new beauty item: Silk pillowcases. Not satin but raw silk. These are so amazing for your skin and hair. You don’t wake up looking like a cat dragged you through the bushes backwards, and supposedly there will be less wrinkles (jury is still out on this but it makes some sense).

Once you go Greek, you never go back. Yogurt. I’m talking about Greek yogurt. Chobani brand especially.

This time of year I become wistful. I see cars decorated by high school students, “We Made It! Class of 2010!” I regain that feeling of hope, freedom, joy and slight anxiety that I felt so many years ago. It’s a tingly sensation.

Did you know Martha Stewart was a model before she became Mistress of the Domestic Domain? That’s her in the photo above.

I’m having a rose phase. Une Rose is so beautiful it’s distracting. Sonoma Scent Studio Vintage Rose is so palpably juicy, jammy and plushy petals over wood. Serge Lutens Sa Majest La Rose is pure and simple rose perfection. Amouage Lyric, though not especially about pure roses, makes me want to roll around in it.

Nurse Jackie is such a great show. The characters are fantastic. My interest in The United States of Tara has waned. Similar to Weeds (which I couldn’t stomach after season 2) the main character annoys the heck out of me. True Blood begins again in a few weeks – yayyyy!

Where has Caron Montaigne been all my life? I haven’t a clue why I never bothered to try it but it’s a beautiful fruity floral. Vintage yet modern. Soft yet potent.

My beverage of the past month has been iced tea. Unsweetened iced tea with a splash of white grape juice for sweetness.

Sandwich of the week: tuna salad wrap. I’ve been mixing tuna with light mayo, diced celery and red onion, adding celery salt and pepper, then topping with dill pickles and tomato. The only tuna I eat is Bumble Bee solid white albacore in the gold colored label. Sometimes I sprinkle chopped cilantro or basil across the top, too.
Have a fragrant weekend everyone!