Thursday, April 28, 2011

A few perfumes I've loved this spring

Parfums DelRae Debut
Having first met Amoureuse, I didn’t think I was a fan of DelRae’s florals. Then I met Debut and realized Amoureuse and I weren’t meant to be friends but Debut and I are BFF’s.

Debut is an early spring scent. Debut begins all sharp and citrus (lime, bergamot) but then unfolds into an obvious note of lily of the valley (and hyacinth which isn’t listed in the notes) with a wet white floral/clean musk dry down. I find Debut to be delicate and a little green. Debut can be a heady scent with similarities to Diorissimo, Penhaligon’s Bluebell and il Profumo Blanche Jacinthe. I can’t wear Diorissimo or Bluebell but I love Blanche Jacinthe mostly for its fresh, delicate wetness. The fragrance Debut most reminds me of is Fracas. Debut doesn’t smell like Fracas, there’s no tuberose in sight and Debut is far less indolic, however, both fragrances are classic heady white florals, which somehow share a classy instead of brassy style.

Etro Dianthus
I meant to write a full review on Dianthus alone but never got the words together. I’m still a little shaky on what exactly this fragrance does for me. In summary, I have been wearing Dianthus a lot the past 6 weeks, so it’s fair to say I love it. The problem is that it smells so different at various times throughout the day that I’ve become stumped on how to describe it. If I tell you it’s both cool and warm, wouldn’t that just confuse you? If I tell you it’s powdery and spicy but not powdery in the traditional sense wouldn’t that also just serve to confuse? If I tell you it’s both subtle yet tenacious wouldn’t it begin to seem like this fragrance is a vortex of opposites? Well, maybe that’s just the point. Etro Dianthus is a bunch of seemingly opposite attributes all rolled up into one scent. This is precisely how the season of spring feels to me. Spring can be warm and cool, wet and dry, light and dark, dull, dreary and suddenly bright and blooming. Dianthus contains all these opposite attributes and keeps me interested all throughout the day. When I first smelled Dianthus, I didn’t realize it was based on carnation (dianthus being the Latin name for carnation). It took me a few wearings and a bit of poking around online to quite suddenly smell the carnation note. Once I did it loomed so obvious, but I initially didn’t find it to be a heavily carnation laden scent.

Etro Dianthus reminds me of the character played by Polly Walker in the film Enchanted April.

Annick Goutal Un Matin d’Orage
Un Matin d’Orage has become one of my favorite fragrances. It conjures a feeling, an emotion, and a dark spring thunderstorm. It smells like the lifting of a bad mood, to reveal peaceful contentment which had been stuck beneath a dreary bad day. I’m buying this for myself in the butterfly bottle. I must have it. And I don’t even like gardenia, not usually, but UMdO makes me love this floral note.

Guerlain Chamade
I’m always sportin’ Chamade at some point in the spring. I finally rewarded myself with the pure parfum and it is To-Die-For. The deep green galbanum note is more potent in parfum, I’d go so far as to say the parfum version of Chamade is more fierce than expected. Usually parfum concentrations wear closer to the skin and are smoother, but Chamade in parfum seems aggressive to me. I adore it.

Bond No. 9 Broadway Nite
I’ve been obsessed with this ever since wearing Sonoma Scent Studio To Dream a few weeks ago. To Dream reminded me of Broadway Nite and FM Lipstick Rose in its basic rose-violet personality.

I scanned the reviews of Broadway Nite and came away feeling insulted. Many reviewers say it’s far too overpowering; it’s loud, aldehydic and just plain awful. On me, it’s one of the most complimented fragrances I have ever worn. As far as the potency issue goes; I mean, really, you can’t just apply two spritzes of a powerful perfume and find it just right? I suppose you must love the scent first and then you would adjust the application to make it work for you. If you immediately hate the scent, the fact that it’s potent is only going to make you hate it more when it lingers on you for 6+ hours appearing to become stronger and stronger. I have, of course, experienced that "please-get-this-stuff-off-me" episodes a few times; once I tried Guerlain Insolence (in edt not edp) and initially thought I liked it until a few hours later when I would have paid $250 to be able to shower it off. This has also happened with Vivienne Westwood Boudoir; I was nauseous wearing that one. But me and Broadway Nite are tight... if my plane crash-landed onto an undiscovered island (and I lived to tell of it), I’d be happy to have a bottle of Broadway Nite with me until the rescue crews arrived. I have no issues with its potency; two sprays are perfect, delightfully perfect.

Maurice Roucel created Broadway Nite which seems fitting because I enjoy many of his other creations; such as Bond No. 9 New Haarlem, Gucci Envy, Le Labo Jasmin 17, Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur, Hermes 24 Faubourg and Guerlain Insolence (edp only). Aside from Gucci Envy, most of these fragrances ain’t no shrinking violets; suffice it to say I enjoy Roucel’s style in general and amongst all his creations, Broadway Nite is my favorite.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Last 5 In-Person, Real Time Perfume Interactions

You might think that people comment on my perfume all the time.  Alas, they don't.  It's exceedingly rare that anyone says anything about it, and I wear, I imagine, quite a lot.  The last week or so has been a bonanza of interaction.  People at the store.  People at the dinner table.  On a park bench.  Passing on the street.

Here's something else:  I rarely smell perfume on other people.  It's a sad fact of life I try hard to accept.  My friend Jack and I talked recently about how much perfume we give away and how infrequently we smell any of it on its recipients.  I don't know why but lately that changed, too--if only just a little.  Here are the top 5 most recent encounters.

1. Standing in the perfume section of TJ Maxx.

Which is a pretty desperate state of affairs lately, by the way, unless you are so in love with Hugo Boss that you can never have enough of it.  I'm standing there, trying to be excited about the one vaguely interesting thing I managed to find, Si Lolita (I did not end up buying it but holding onto it for a time made me feel a little less despondent), and a woman asks me about it, wondering if I've smelled it and if it's any good (I have and it's okay, if your only other option is Hugo Boss), and I pretended to be buying it for a "girlfriend" because this always makes things easier, and suddenly the woman says, "What's that YOU'RE wearing?  That smells GOOOOOD."  I was wearing an oil I'd made.

2. Sitting down to Easter dinner in a double wide.

My friend's family invited me over to celebrate the holiday.  There were two rather large holes punched in the wall and I tried not to focus on how they might have gotten there, and so close together, as if someone lost his temper a lot but was able to really focus it in one little area quite adeptly.  The guy at the end of the table had a mullet.  The oldest son wants to be a cheerleader, and I think not the male kind.  The younger twins seem embarrassed by this.  The guy with the mullet was probably in his seventies and belched loudly and prodigiously.  There was something mocking about his mullet.  It dared you not to be offended in some way by it.  We were in a military town, and before the meal we'd been to the commissary, where I'd put on a little Youth Dew bath oil.  A little spot of relief on my wrist.  The woman across from me at the table--married, better or worse, to mullet-- suddenly perked up and said, "who smells so good?"

I felt my face turning red but figured oh to hell with it.  Me, I said.

That must be Obsession, she said.  I really like Obsession.

3. Sitting on a park bench next to an Indian burial mound.

I was talking to a friend.  A very attractive, newly acquired friend.  Very stylish.  Very well put together.  One of those guys who seems to have stepped out of another time--slightly vintage looking.  They don't make faces like his much.  You see them in old tintypes. He had on a boat neck striped shirt.  Thick blonde-ish brown hair.  There was a little breeze in the air, and I could smell his day on him, and underneath that, just faintly, the gorgeous, silky smell of Chanel Egoiste, totally personalized by a full 24 hours of wear.  He'd put it on that morning, he said.  It mingled with his cigarette smoke.  I had a little trouble focusing on what he was saying.  This is what perfume ads try to capture, I thought.

4. Warehouse office downtown.

A girl I know who has received much perfume from me, and never seems to be wearing it, smelled wonderful one day.  As we talked the smell came in and out, yanking me into different moods and thought patterns.  She told me she'd layered Jo Malone Grapefruit Cologne with Bond No.9's Scent of Peace.  The Malone she doesn't tend to think much of by itself, and frankly Scent of Peace is war on my nerves on its own, but the combination was just enough of a curve ball to call a truce, and super lovely.

5. Standing at the oil counter mixing something.

A guy came in looking for something for erectile issues.  I didn't know the store carried such a thing.  They went right to it.  He was looking at jewelry, too.  I thought, oh, some lady is really in for no end of trouble, and all she gets for the incessant "attentions" will be a little pair of silver earrings she's probably instantly plotting to return.

Another guy came in.  Some kind of itching disorder.  His wife believes things are coming out of her pores.  The ladies at the counter went right to the herbs again.  If you think the fragrance counter is full of intrigue you should step up to the oil section of your local hippie apothecary.

I was very fascinated by all this but kept focused on my oils, until some other guy came in looking for who knows what, and started sniffing the air.  What's that smell? he asked, obsessed.  It made me so happy.  I had all my little bottles open on the counter next to him: rose, patchouli, clove, cinnamon, ylang, Nag Champa, Jasmine, sandalwood.  Turns out he was smelling the rose geranium, which I'm pretty fond of, too.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dioressence: Moss Appeal

Diorella, Diorama, Diorling, Diorissimo and Miss Dior seem to get the lion's share of appreciation when it comes to older Dior fragrances, and while I like several of them very much, I think my favorite is the newest of the old, Dioressence.  Granted, of the lot, I've never smelled Diorling and Diorama in anything close to original form, and the Diorling reformulation is pretty pale compared to what it must once have been, so maybe I'm biased.  I should also say that I haven't smelled the most recent version of Dioressence, either.  Still, for me, the original 1979 Dioressence would be hard to beat.

Guy Robert, the perfumer behind Dioressence, created several other well known fragrances, a few of which remind me more than a little of Dioressence in certain ways.  I can smell some of the dusty incense quality from Hermes Caleche in Dioressence's heart, for instance, and something of Amouage Gold in there as well.  Dioressence is a chypre and smells quintessentially of oakmoss to me once you get past the pronounced geranium, galbanum, and rose up top.  In fact I would say that the most interesting movement of the fragrance for me is its seamless segue from galbanum to oakmoss, creating an interesting, textured progression from one distinct green note to another, each of which would seem to get lost taken together.

Osmoz lists the notes as the following: aldehydes, orange, galbanum, bergamot, carnation, geranium, rose, cinnamon, benzoin, patchouli, oakmoss, and vanilla.  Violet is included in the description but not the pyramid.

I suppose there are those who will smell Dioressence and sense nothing but a wallop of old style patchouli.  There's certainly enough in there.  And the patchouli combined with the cinnamon can seem like a lighter version  of H.O.T. Always by Bond No.9, or a slightly more domesticated animal relation to the original Givenchy Gentleman, but to me the cinnamon and patch seem like embellishments, meant to support or underscore the primary green notes.  Even the carnation, geranium, phantom violet and rose seem to hover around in the background to my nose, making the fragrance a lot more masculine than most modern feminine fragrances.  No guy raised on a steady diet of mainstream sports colognes is apt to agree with me, of course.  Dioressence reminds me of another pretty masculine old feminine, Trussardi, which was released in 1984

Dioressence feels a little moodier than the other vintage Diors.  Diorella is sunny and succulent; Diorissimo quite upbeat as well.  Miss Dior, while not prim, is certainly more sedate than Dioressence.  Something about Dioressence reminds me of some seventies bohemian hang out, infested with velvet pillows and thick with lingering incense smoke.  Miss Dior would walk into such an establishment clutching her purse pretty tightly.  Staring at supine Dioressence, spread across a series of batik-patterned throws and a thick shag rug, she'd wonder whether something hidden in the carpet might jump up onto her tweed jacket and hitch a ride home with her.  In style it certainly straddles the hallmark fragrances of the 40s and 50s and the bold pronouncements to come in the 80s.

It has moderate projection and lasting power and for the most part settles down to a nice soft mossy haze after about thirty minutes to an hour or so on me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Becomes a B-r-r-r-r-utalist Most?

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Center of Olfactory Art curator and author Chandler Burr argued for the official re-appraisal of perfume as an art form, making the case, essentially, that a perfumer is an artist and should be regarded as one, and that when we discuss perfume we might consider it within a context wider than the commercial arena within which it has typically been consigned by its marketers and corporate reasons-for-being.

The Center of Olfactory Art, a newly christened division of New York's Museum of Arts and Design, is, apparently, about rooting around for new ways of evaluating and imagining many of the perfumes we have seen simply as an extension of the companies for whom they were manufactured.  In fact, COA might be said primarily to be about expanding the vocabulary we use to discuss perfume.  While many of us who love fragrance are quite accustomed to calling one a creation rather than simply a commodity or someone like Picasso an artist rather than simply a painter or a sculptor, when the public at large thinks about a perfume, the framing device is generally Gucci or Donna Karan or Jessica Simpson.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sonoma Scent Studio To Dream

This is the first time I’m breaking my rule of always spraying from the bottle and wearing a perfume 2-3 days before writing a review. Full disclosure: I’ve only sampled SSS To Dream from a dauber vial but I have worn it for 2 days and I’m blown away by it. I’m in lust for To Dream and cannot wait for my bottle to arrive, which, of course, is already on order and in transit!

Ms. Erikson, perfumer behind Sonoma Scent Studio, sent me a sample of To Dream on a whim, thinking I might not like it, because it’s similar in structure with her existing fragrance called Lieu de Reves. I am enamored with virtually all fragrances from SSS but Lieu de Reves and a few of her musks just never resonated with me. I sampled To Dream, in a way, just to be polite.

Wow!! The word ‘Wow’ is all I could think initially. To Dream (TD) is built like a classic rose/violet/aldehyde fragrance. One of my absolute favorites in this genre is Bond No. 9 Broadway Nite as well as Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose. Yves Saint Laurent Paris is also a famous rose/violet scent but Paris, as much as I love the high school memories it conjures, is like nails on a chalkboard for me. Bond’s Broadway Nite and FM Lipstick rose are two of my ultimate rose/violet glamor puss scents. In fact, I don’t often receive compliments on the fragrance I’m wearing, but I always, I mean it’s uncanny, but I always receive a compliment from someone when I wear Broadway Nite. Erickson’s To Dream gives homage to these sorts of glamor puss rose/violet scents but with the SSS trademark woody incense dry down.

Similar to the advice American Idol judges give contestants each year; if you’re going to take on a famous song or artist, someone incredibly original and iconic, like Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston, you must change it up a bit and make it your own. I was thinking about this analogy with Erickson’s To Dream, about how rose/violet fragrances are classics and many of the best one’s are quite well known. To create another rose/violet fragrance and make it sing, make it worthy enough to add to an existing collection which may contain several rose/violet scents already, Erickson would have to make it different, unique and phenomenal in its own right. To Dream is just that; it’s a glamorous rose/violet fragrance infused with the Erickson/SSS magic.

To Dream starts off as an obvious rose/violet aldehyde. After five minutes the aldehydic quality diminishes and a delectable rose/violet/mossy/woody scent emerges. To Dream is potent but it’s not loud. While not a gourmand there is still a delicious sensation here, I feel the urge to lick my wrists. The thing I love about rose/violet scents is that you really don’t have to like the notes of either rose or violet because the combination is something different entirely. I don’t know exactly why, but it’s these sorts of scents, these rose/violet aldehydes, like Bond’s Broadway Nite or FM’s Lipstick Rose that make me think of glamorous old movie stars and red lipstick. To Dream takes the standard rose/violet scent and anchors it with a gorgeous woody base and a dab of incense. Instead of keeping To Dream light and mostly floral, Erickson gave it a deeper base, like an iconic glamor puss with a sultry husky voice.

Erickson strikes again, she has created yet another masterpiece with To Dream.

Notes: Violet, rose, heliotrope, cedar, amber, frankincense, oakwood absolute, vetiver, tonka, orris, vanilla, musk, sandalwood, oakmoss, subtle suede, cocoa, and aldehydes

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Alien Sunessence 2011: Edition Or D'Ambre

I don't know why--because they've largely been disappointing--but every year I look forward to all the various Thierry Mugler seasonal, limited edition flankers with the kind of excitement I imagine a teen feels waiting for the next installment of the Twilight franchise.  The flankers for A*men have been more consistently promising, and I don't have many complaints there, but, aside from the astonishingly good Alien and Angel Liqueur duo (2009), the results over at the lady counter have often left me disappointed.

For the most part, the Angel Sunessence fragrances have half the lifespan of their original inspiration and seem very nakedly to be attempts to modify for the few who dislike or hate Angel the things which make the rest of us love it so maniacally.  "Angel toothpaste!" as Luca Turin remarked enthusiastically about one of these flankers, is good for a whirl, I guess, but it doesn't exactly leave you feeling sated, or particularly clean for that matter.  As toothpastes go, it left a pretty bad taste in my mouth.  Innocent and its rather jaded follow-ups have consistently failed to even marginally interest me.  The Alien Sunessence fragrances have, on the other hand, smelled so much like the original Alien, that I had a hard time seeing the point, let alone the difference.

I approached Or D'Ambre without much hope, and at first I thought, "same old, same old".  It was only later, when it persisted much longer than even the original Alien seems to, and seemed more interesting than any of its sister flankers by far, hours in, that I came around to what should have been its very obvious appeal.

Thierry Mugler's ad copy tends to delight or grate with its fanciful silliness, depending on your mood, and I'm not sure I smell the promised "trio of wealth" at the top of the fragrance: "the wealth of vitamins, the wealth of the exotic, and the enchanting wealth of warmth."  We all love the French and admit that they are superior in the art of fragrance.  Is all this wealth not enough to buy them an English speaking think tank?  Upon first spraying Ambre, what I get is something very refreshing; if calling that a wealth of refreshment makes more sense of things to you, I invite you to do so.  For me, it's a little more specific.  Ambre offers a weird citrus sheen or zest which is not only unusual for an Alien flanker but engineered in such an unusual way that it compliments the fragrance's weird synthetic sensibility perfectly.  This metallic hesperide lasts all of ten minutes, tops, and flows seamlessly into the heart of the fragrance, a practically teeming virtual reality of impressions.

For something as openly synthetic as Alien, Ambre has a remarkable series of moods and transitions; many more than your average, supposedly superior, more allegedly natural fragrance, which typically purports to use only the highest quality raw materials.  I've always loved the synthetic qualities of Alien, the way it feels super saturated and weirdly succulent without losing that unique cyborgian effect, like something Sean Young's character might have smelled of to Harrison Ford in Blade Runner, a simulation of memories combining childhood sunsets, his mother's jasmine perfume, and the new patented Sumolinoline Vinyl upholstery of his hovercraft.  Alien absolutely feels half human, half mechanical to me, and I love that, and what made the liqueur version so compelling, aside from the fact it smelled like a million bucks, was the sense it gave of taking those synthetically engineered qualities and aging them like a fine liquor, giving them a richness that screwed around with your mind the way someone implanting memories might.

Ambre takes those pastoral-domestic fantasies, those memories of things you might or might never have experienced, and carries them in a tote bag to the beach.  Distinctly summery, it smells, somewhere in there, of sun and suntan oil on skin and the heat bearing down on your closed eyelids.  The fragrance shifts over time on your skin, sticking with you the way the experience of the beach does by the end of the afternoon, when the salt of your sweat has mingled with the oil you applied throughout the day, and your feel somewhat crunchy and sated from the effects of the wind, heat, and sand.  It's an interesting take on amber, applying the Alien sensibility to it, and conceptually it is far stronger than any of the Sunessence flankers have been.  It feels very much in keeping with the original Alien's creative agenda and yet extends it in an interesting direction, exploring slightly different territory.

Ambre is credited to Dominique Ropion, and like much of what he does it has remarkable longevity.  For an Eau de toilette Legere (all the Sunessence flankers are) it has tremendous staying power and feels exceptionally rich, long after application.  While it becomes increasingly subtle as it wears on, it never feels weak, nor watery, as many eau legeres do on me, particularly those which feature some kind of citrus aspect.  And despite the silliness of the ad copy, Ambre does indeed retain an unusual warmth throughout its development, matching the bottle's solar design in execution.  The notes listed include vanilla, orchid, amber, woods, and the wealthy trifecta of tonics up top, including kiwi, which is lost on me.  Ambre unmistakably resembles original Alien but is quite different in many respects.  Spray them side by side and you won't mistake them again.  I would argue that Ambre outlasts Alien, as well.  As for liking Ambre more than Alien, for those who didn't care much for the original, I can't say.  I love both without reservations.