Saturday, February 26, 2011

Le Labo Aldehyde 44

Sometime last year, Abigail started raving about Aldehyde 44.  At the time, I was just dipping into Oud 27and Rose 31, a few other Le Labo fragrances I'd been curious about.  I was pretty thrilled with both of those, and I'm sure I'll review them at some point.  I think I'll also revisit Patchouli 24, as I've realized, spending a few years with it now, how truly fantastic it is, and how little there is like it.  Despite all this--and the fact that Iris 39 is truly the holy grail of iris fragrances for me--Le Labo doesn't always thrill me, and comparisons with Muriella Burani didn't do Aldehyde 44 any favors, as I'd tried Burani, on Abigail's recommendation, and found it disappointing, so I didn't feel an urgency to trot on over to Dallas and look into Aldehyde 44, which is a city-exclusive at Barney's there.  It's not the first time I've been wrong.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Frederic Malle: Portrait of a Lady

Have we all had our hissy over this one?  Is it possible to discuss it with any objectivity now, or do we need more time?  Remember just a few months back, how desperate so many of us were to smell this?  The review Abigail wrote on Portrait was one of our most trafficked posts that month.  Some people reacted orgasmically to the fragrance, once they finally laid hands on it.  Many seemed slightly peeved with it----first confused, then openly hostile or dismissive.

image: David Kozlowski

On the one hand it's lovely.  Me, I get no fruit in Portrait.  It's rose and oud all the way.  So I'm confused when I read so many people saying it smells like a typical fruit-inflected floral patchouli thing.  Were I to smell this in a store, without any name or brand attached to it, I'd consider dropping coin for it.  It is most definitely an oriental.  And even for an oriental, it hardly seems pedestrian to me, costly or no.  It represents the apogee of a type of scent I don't have and want but can't find.  The closest relation for me is Montale's Black Aoud.  I've come this close a few times to purchasing Black Aoud: it's the perfect combination of rose and oud and priced at about 100 bucks for 50 ml, which seems pretty reasonable by indie fragrance standards.  The problem is, it doesn't last long on my skin.  Portrait solves that problem, lasting all day and then some.  It feels as if made with the highest quality ingredients.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hermes Parfum des Merveilles

Hermès launched Eau des Merveilles in 2004. For years I have loved, or I should say I thought I loved Eau des Merveilles, but this was in theory. The truth is, I never, ever (ever!) wear the stuff. Honestly, all this time I thought I loved EdM but what I enjoy is the idea of it, not wearing it. The thing is, I still think Eau des Merveilles is wonderfully original and phenomenal in its ability to capture the sensation of a day at the beach. It is such an amazing rendition of ambergris; I literally feel as if I’ve been at the beach all day, slightly salty, sweaty, earthy smelling skin. My hair and bathing suit filled with bits of sand. You know that feeling when you’ve sunned and funned all day and you’re sleepy and content on the drive home but the thing you want to do most in the whole world is take a shower? I mean walk in the door and get into a shower pronto? This is why I never wear Eau des Merveilles; it makes me feel gritty and dirty and salty and I Really want to wash the stuff off ASAP. So, for several years, when I’ve had the desire to wear Eau des Merveilles, I have actually worn Elixir des Merveilles instead. Elixir is sweeter and basically a gourmand version of EdM and manages to wear like a perfume on me instead of gritty, salty, screaming-to-be-bathed skin. Maybe there’s a bit childhood pathology in my desire to wash EdM off immediately. When I was a little kid, my grandmother would take me to the beach and we would stay All Day – I mean from 9AM to sundown. By the end of the day I wanted to be home and clean so bad I could have cried. Plus, you might imagine I suffered a good deal of sunburns from these all day outings, which I usually made worse with the application of baby oil (it was late 70's-early 80’s, we didn’t know about skin cancer yet).

Scent and Sexuality in the Seventies

Sarah Moon for the Pirelli calendar
In case you haven't read it, there's a wonderful meditation over on Perfume Shrine about Anais Anais, the iconic perfume by Cacharel.  Writing about Anais Anais several years ago, I appreciated its ad campaigns (old and new) but commented that the fragrance was pretty free of childhood associations for me.  Reading the Shrine article, which features information on Sarah Moon, the photographer of the fragrance's original look, all sorts of impressions came surging back, and I realized Anais Anais made more of an impression than I'd allowed for.   In concert with other social trends and currents of the time, it practically art-directed the era.

I was about ten years old when Anais Anais came out, and this very specific soft focus look was everywhere.  It was a sort of 1970s re-imagining of erotica popular in the twenties, the kind of images you'd see on forbidden postcards.  Women at their vanities, gauzy daylight filtering through lace curtains, eyelet-ridden blouses, crocheted shawls, long hair gathered in loose buns, off the shoulder lingerie, water basins and pitchers on antique wooden washstands, cascading ferns, heavy rouge and big doe eyes, canopy beds.  Reading the article on Shrine synchronized all these images from my childhood in Texas, and I was reminded how pervasively a Trifecta like fashion, film and fragrance could take over culture back then, before the internet, the cell phone, and the Twitter account shifted and dispersed the information landscape.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Three Faces of Habanita

On Valentine's, Josephine over at Notes from Josephine posted an ode to Habanita.  It went:

Wood Stain
Just Lit Cigarette
ATV Exhaust
Root Beer with Dry Ice
Board Meeting
Fresh Laundry

It's getting complicated with these older perfumes.  There are now several versions out there.  Sometimes several means many.  I own three versions of Habanita--and each smells quite different.  They're clearly the same fragrance.  I wouldn't say by any stretch that Habanita has been vandalized beyond recognition.  But the earliest version I own is a slightly different conversation than the latest.  So when I read Josephine's ode, I wondered which she was talking about.

One of the easiest ways to make distinctions between versions is to describe the packaging.  In the event the packaging hasn't changed (I don't believe Habanita's has--much, if at all), the list of ingredients is instructive.  My earliest bottle of Habanita lists only aqua, parfum, and alcohol.  Let's call that Version 1.  Version 2 has a longer list, and that list includes oakmoss.  I take this to be a more recent version, but not maybe as recent as the parfum formulation Molinard released a few years ago.  That's Version 3.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Scent of the Day: The Smell on My Sweater Sleeves

Every morning, as I get ready for work--practically unconscious, mind you--I pull out a sweater and shove into it.  The wrists are powdered with the memories of who knows how many days of perfume, and I love the smell--but I never consider stopping there.  Instead, I move to the cabinet and pick something out for the day.  This morning, I was in a hurry, and left without grabbing anything.  Without a package on its way in the mail, I never might have been caught dead in public without a bottle of something on hand--it's like going out in  my underwear--but because I didn't immediately drench myself in the present I've been able to enjoy the past in an entirely different way these last several hours.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Woman's Picture: Scent Memories On Film

Several months ago, I posted about Patou 1000, offering a bottle giveaway.  I asked you to leave comments relating your earliest memories of fragrance and the people you remember wearing it.  The comments were some of the most interesting and touching I've read online.  Each one zeroed in on deeply personal stuff, relating perfume directly to memory and the primal stuff of childhood.

Since then, I've started a page on Facebook for a film I'm completing called WOMAN'S PICTURE.  With your permission, I'd like to post some of those comments on the page, opening up the conversation to a wider group of readers.  Feel free to like the page or drop in to say hi.  I won't go into too much detail about the film here.  The Facebook page spells most of it out.  I will say it focuses on perfume and memory and strong female characters who are based in one way or another--or many--on the women I remember from my childhood.  I chose Valentine's Day to announce the project because I consider this film an extended valentine to people I loved very much and miss seeing in the world.

WOMAN'S PICTURE is in post production and will be screening over the next year or two, at festivals first, then elsewhere.  We'll have a trailer up soon, as well as some perfume-related shorts and projects, on a website which will be launched around mid March or early April.  I'd love to see you all there.

The url is

If I Wanted to See Your Tan Line I'd Be Buying Your Drinks, Not Your Perfume

My response to a post called Who Will Save us from the Vulgarity over at The Perfume Chronicles, one of my favorite blogs.  Who Will Save Us talks about perfume advertising and marketing which uses sex as its, um, central thrust.  The most recent example of this, taking it, supposedly, to the level of high art, is the project Petit Mort, a collaboration between a perfumer (Bertrand Duchafour) and several others, under the auspices of Kilian Hennessey.  Petit Mort is meant to evoke or provoke--whichever comes first (puns are inevitable discussing such things)--that apparently salty and pseudo-revolting moment of sexual orgasm:

"Yeah, the Petite Mort ["project"] is…well, I mean, what next, petite merde? Thankfully it hasn’t permeated the perfume enthusiast’s consciousness much yet. I posted what was intended as a satire of the Petite project last week, thinking everyone would immediately apprehend the references, and it dawned on me that not everyone has heard of the project, as eminently laughable as it is. The Petite Mort website is truly like a Saturday Night Live commercial parody, back when they were worth watching. I lifted most of my ad copy for Petite Fart directly from their site, verbatim. What I’ll give Marc Jacobs, though I generally class him with Tom Ford, is a sense of humor (self serious Ford lacks one).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yosh Omniscent Rocks

One of the words from Luckyscent’s description of Yosh Omniscent eau de parfum is Feast. Omniscent is a feast. In my own words, had I not ever read Luckyscent’s description, I would have used cacophony. This got me thinking about how we have better and more accurate words to describe abundance and beauty for many of our other senses but not many words that describe the intricacies of our sense of smell. Feast is a word for our sense of taste, it’s describes a large pleasurable meal. Cacophony describes our sense of hearing, it’s not really meant to be a positive word since it best describes unpleasant sounds in combination; such as a racket, a discordant blast of dogs howling and babies crying. But, for me, there is often the occasion when a slight cacophony of sound turns into a masterpiece; such as rock ‘n roll.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Introducing: An Ultra Exclusive, Limited Edition Fragrance

We here at I Smell Therefore I Am have often asked ourselves, "How can one capture the idea of the emotion of the sensation of a bodily function?" That is a mouthful, and quite a lot to think about. Sitting in our little production offices, our thinking caps screwed on tight, we've also sometimes pondered the age old question, "How does one collect a substance whose production can only be stimulated from within?" These are questions prehistoric men tried to work out on the rough stone walls of their cave dwellings, and though many have asked themselves since, we at I Smell think we have come up with the most exclusive answer to this age old insoluble. We not only managed to isolate this substance, but have found a way to manufacture the stuff ourselves and to present it in the most luxurious manner possible, at the most pointedly expensive price imaginable. We gave it a French name, to make it extra fancy. Ladies, and gentleman, we present to you: Le Petite Fart.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Laurel and Hearty: Laurel, by Comme des Garçons and Monocle

Comme des Garçons has produced some of my favorite things. Luxe Patchouli costs an arm and a leg, sure, but oh how I love it. I finally caved and bought some. Far less pricey, the original fragrances are still, years later, astonishingly good, and up until about 2005, there was no going wrong for me. The Leaves series, the Red series, the Sweet series. Incense (2003) was a real stand out for many, including me. I liked some of the Synthetic series a lot as well. The Guerilla fragrances came out in 2004, and though they were fairly weak, as if done in watery pastels (albeit in stains the colors of raw meats and berries), they were about the last thing I truly liked, excepting Stephen Jones, Laurel and, to a lesser extent, Daphne.

Laurel is the second in the line's collaboration with Monocle. CDG now seems to have turned away from the series and toward one on one collaborations of this kind. Both Daphne and Stephen Jones were collaborations. Hinoki was the first Monocle scent, and I didn't care much for it; the world is short on great fragrances but full enough of very well done cedar type things. The latest collaborations, with designer Jun Takahashi ("Undercover"), leave way too much to the imagination. They feel uninspired. Laurel has had its critics, too, but for me it's instantly likable and compelling.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coze: Parfumerie Generale

It surprised me to discover I've never written a review or even really anything at length about a Parfumerie Generale fragrance, especially given the fact I like as many of them as much as I do. While I wouldn't say I like Coze the best, I do think it epitomizes perfumer Pierre Guillaume's style: sweet and woody, an earthier recombination of elements you find in the work of Christopher Sheldrake for Serge Lutens. Sheldrake sometimes errs on the side of syrupy excess. Coze works these balances out perfectly, calibrating the sweetness so that it feels less like something off a pastry shelf, more like something you'd find some tree trunk leaking out in a moss-laden forest.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Knize Two: Fine and Dandy

For a while, Knize Ten was pretty hard to come by over here in Geographically Marginalized US of A. I did eventually find a bottle--at Perfume House, in Portland--but it was the last one. It felt sufficiently precious for something so difficult to find: a glass-stoppered, Fred Astaire-slender bottle in a wooden box. I was scared to use it, for fear of some near-future occasion when only Knize Ten would do and none would be found.

Two years ago, visiting Milan, I found plenty of the stuff in an out of the way perfume shop. The greater discovery? The other Knize colognes still seemed to be in production as well. I loved Knize Two but it seemed so similar to Grey Flannel that I opted for Knize Sec instead. Until yesterday, when Knize Two arrived from LuckyScent, who now carries the Knize line, I regretted passing on a full bottle. Smelling it again, I see that I slightly misjudged the fragrance. It is similar to Grey Flannel, but distinct in wonderful ways.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Scent Memory: Paris by Yves Saint Laurent

There was a time during my teens when every girl seemed to be wearing this, which made being a girl seem very exciting to me.