Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shopping in LA: Recently Acquired

Los Angeles seemed more congested than ever this last time I was there.  Even getting coffee at the local coffee shop felt like being stuck in traffic.  Line for drink, line for creamer, line for sweetener.  Lots of excuse me please.  It was a hectic trip but a nice one, and going to look at perfume, whether at Luckyscent, Barney's, Fred Segal, or otherwise was always a welcome, if rushed, respite.

I'd never paid much attention to the Humiecki and Graef fragrances and was pretty pleasantly surprised, especially by Multiple Rouge, which is kind of a dream of a thing.  I call it Trashy Sophisticate, the kind of scent that showcases the best of high and low.  Rouge is sweet but savory, so tart (pineapple, peach, red berries, frozen orange) you think you won't be able to take it, even though, for me, it's pure joy from start to finish.  It's said to be linear but I see a lot of development in it, and the coriander and immortelle weave in and out with a subtlety I appreciated, given this isn't exactly an understated fragrance.  I suppose I agree with people who have characterized Multiple Rouge as an aquatic to aromatic fruity thing.  It has tremendous lasting power and good sillage that spreads happy waves around you.  Few recent discoveries have given me this much sheer pleasure.

I'd debated whether to invest in a bottle of Peche Cardinal by Parfums MDCI ever since I received a decant from Abigail over a year ago.  Most of the MDCI fragrances are pretty stunning.  Peche doesn't seem to be the favorite for the majority of those who appreciate the line, but it's always been my standout, and I knew that if I ever dished out the cheese for a MDCI bottle Peche would be the one.  I don't smell the artemesia in the blend - nor the blackberry, past the opening.  I do smell the peach, the coconut, the tuberose, the lily, and the musk.  Peche reminds me a little of Yvresse but it's drier, if no spicier.  This one seems a little trashy to me as well, in a way I really like.  While many of the MDCI fragrances seem to harken back to the forties and before, Peche reminds me more of the eighties - scents like Rumba, Poison, and Giorgio - though I think it's probably an easier wear.  I remember it being stronger in the winter, but everything becomes a bit of a whisper in the southern heat here.  The refill bottle is the most affordable purchase available, and even that is pricey.  The beaded tassel on the bottle helps soften the blow.

I like Le Labo Santal 33 better than I thought I would at first sniff.  I've heard complaints about the woody musky synthetic in the mix, about its insane tenacity, and I see that, but I see that in Ambre Fetiche too and like it there enough.  Santal is best in the beginning, where it feels most unusual, and yet when it dries down it's still better than half the stuff I smell in public.  Santal feels a little like an updated Grey Flannel to me, minus the galbanum, bergamot and sage.  Perfumer Frank Voelkl has done several things I like - Covet (Sarah Jessica Parker), Iris 39 (also Le Labo), and Ambre Passion for Laura Mercier.  All of these share with Santal a sort of tactile persistence, half way between doughy and fungal.  Voelkl has also done a few synthetic amber bombs for Kenneth Cole: Signature and RSVP.  RSVP is synthetically relentless, and Santal is like its dressed up cousin, covering it all up with a suit and a tie.  The real shock to me at the Le Labo counter was the Calone home spray.  All of the home sprays were interesting and like Dyptique's John Galliano I would happily wear them on skin.  Calone is the best.  It has the aquatic influence of Escape and L'eau d'Issey, but it punches things up with geranium and the signature Le Labo musk.  It lasts better than any calone fragrance I've tried, and while not a steal, it's cheaper, for 100ml, than the 50ml bottle of Santal.

Dyptique Olene has been around since the eighties, and though I imagine it's changed considerably since then, it still fits right in with that era's fragrances.  It reminds me a lot of Sung, and is about as much of a powerhouse, but it's kinder somehow.  The jasmine, if no more natural, smells a little less synthetic.  The indole will be a problem for some but does wonders for me.  Dyptique is discontinuing so many of its fragrances (I regret not buying the last bottle of Jardin Clos I saw) that I wonder how much longer Olene will be available.  It's strong, and lasts well.

Other things I saw and grabbed: older bottles of M de Molinard, Balmain de Balmain, Apercu, and Soir de Paris.  I think I'll eventually need to get Czech and Speake's Cuba, which the SA at Lucky Scent says is referred to as Sex and Poop.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

More Tassels, Please: Things I'm Liking Lately

1. Please, please, please, put more tassels on perfume.  Put all kinds of dangly things - but tassels, if you can swing it.  Nothing feels better on a perfume bottle.  Nothing makes a perfume feel more like a perfume to me.  And don't skimp.  I like a nice, fat tassel.  Something you can really run your grubby little fingers through.  I have dozens of hundreds of fragrances.  Less than one percent have tassels, which really saddens me.  I realized this yesterday, when I saw the new Shalimar flanker, Parfum Initial.  I'm so tassel-deprived, it turns out, that it didn't matter what Parfum Initial smelled like (the verdict is still out on that).  I had to have it.  The Parfum Initial tassel is a little short for my taste but it has just the right heft.  It completes the bottle, and the fantasy, whatever that fantasy is (verdict still out on this too).  I look at almost every other bottle I have, however much I love the fragrance, and wish it had a tassel now.  They all seem slightly incomplete to me.  I get a little sad about it.  Another great tassel - the perfect tassel in every way - is the one on my bottle of Armani Onde Vertige.  Burnt cinnamon in color, attached to a longer cord with a pretty bead, it's just the right length, extending to the bottom of the bottle.  It's just the right thickness.  The bead makes a nice, delicate sound when it strikes the glass.  You want everything to go quiet so you can hear it better.  I suspect, seeing a well tasseled fragrance, that I would pay as much as thirty dollars more than I might normally.  Something comes over me.  I go into a fugue.

2. Chunky bottles get me every time, too.  The right kind of chunk, I guess.  Mona di Orio got chunk down better than possibly anyone has.  That big block of a bottle speaks my language.  I feel like I'm having a conversation with it.  Delicate things, those fragile, perilous case studies a la Lutens, get on my nerves.  I feel like I'm babysitting them.  I feel responsible for them in a way I resent.  What if they topple?  They're so anorexic, so kind of coy and anemic.  Oh aren't you pretty, you feel you're supposed to say.  Oh aren't you precious.  I want to slap these bottles.  I want to snap them out of their narcissism.  A blocky bottle holds its own and needs no such assistance.  It says, I deserve to be here and I'm sitting myself right down.  I like the Chanel bottles, for the most part, which are temperamental in transit but once arrived cannot be fazed.  Those taller Chanel bottles, the older things with the sturdy black caps, are even better.  Noting like Coco standing tall on your dresser, a miniature wall of scent.  The Mona di Orio bottles sit well anywhere, including your hand.  They could be used as a weapon.  While I can't imagine a scenario in which I'd need to wield a fragrance like a weapon, I enjoy knowing I could.

3. A blocky bottle needs the right cap, and again, Mona di Orio is doing this best.  Please try to tell me there is a better cap than this on the market.  I'd like to see you try.  Save yourself the trouble and admit defeat.  Worst are the gimmick caps.  Oh, I'm a butterfly.  Hey, I'm a bouquet of big vinyl flowers.  Who in Justin Bieber's camp thought this was a good idea, and how did they miss Marc Jacob's Lola, which would have deftly proven them wrong?  Many caps don't sit well on their bottles.  As much as I adore Parfumerie Generale, those black caps are a real issue.  They slide right off.  Often, the plastic ring meant to secure a cap to the neck doesn't secure a thing.  Histoires de Parfums realized the oversight of their earlier bottles, with those bizarrely ill-fitting gold plated caps, and redesigned a lot more intelligently.  Thank you.  A trendy little capricious cap mans nothing if it constantly falls off, as Tocade does for me.  Because of all these accident prone caps, maybe, I've really come to appreciate a good snap or click.  The Mona caps are solid, which is great, and unique, and there's a sound of finality to them.  Don't worry, they say, we've got this.  Go about your business.  A cap like the one on Natori constantly needs your help.  Beautiful stone cap, nice bottle, but a disastrous match.  The cap is too heavy.  It needs some kind of neck brace.  Other bad caps: Parfums Delrae, Keiko Mecheri, Cartier.  Other good caps: Byredo, Chanel, Etat Libre d'Orange, L'Artisan, Heeley, Malle, Diptyque, Cartier.

4. Guys who know a lot about perfume are my preferred sales associate.  It's just something I like.  The guys at Barneys have a little too much attitude for me, and seem rather bitter.  Recently, the one I dealt with actually rolled his eyes.  He couldn't be bothered with my questions.  He couldn't be bothered with the prospect of me.  Maybe I'm just that annoying.  The guys at Luckyscent Scent Bar are pretty dreamy and I'm glad I don't live in LA, because I think I'd probably stalk them.  I won't name them, in case some of you know them.  I don't want to embarrass them.  They're knowledgable, which is always a plus.  Okay, it's always freaky. You can't believe a sales associate actually knows what he's talking about.  For the most part, they're patient, but I don't really care much about patience.  It's their obvious love of perfume that slays me.  I'm like a puppy.  They're not just trying to sell you.  They have opinions, and favorites, and once you get them going it's like you're shopping with them.  I've found a few really good female sales associates - the local Estee Lauder SA is fantastic - but for me, finding a good guy sales associate is kind of special.  As a guy, I feel a little more understood dealing with them.  It's like being a Star Trek geek and finding a fellow Trekkie.  And if they bring out a tuberose fragrance they really love I just about go into a pleasure coma.

5. Perfumes that people hate or think are just a bit much always, when I finally smell them, seem like a dream come true.  I'd heard about Byredo M/Mink for months.  I'd read that it was stinky, strange, or conversely brilliant.  I was shocked when I got my hands on some.  Really?  All that fuss over honey and aquatics?  Somehow, rather than disappointment, I feel relief.  I feel, mind you, no less estranged from the currents of popular opinion than normally, but I'm glad to find something unusual and wearable and relieved that the hype is once again really just that, without the fragrance being a total letdown.  Absolue Pour Le Soir was another one.  Oh the cumin, people said.  Oh the horror, the stealth, the unbearable tenacity.  Whatevs.  Pour Le Soir is gorgeous.  Yes, plenty of cumin, but magnificently blended, and curiously strong without being overpowering.  The only fragrance I can think of which really does live up to its reputation is Etat's Secretions Magnifiques.  I won't wear it, though I appreciate it.  In fact, what I appreciate most is its hostility.  SM is unique among fragrances in its insistence on being difficult.  I know, I've heard many people say it smells just delightful on them, that they don't get anything foul, or challenging out of it.  And I think they're lying.  It's meant to be challenging and it is a challenge and whether or not you can withstand the challenge is an entirely different issue.  I'm liking M/Mink so much that it hurts.  Of course, everyone who hates Byredo said that they'd finally gotten it right.  Often I wish those people would shut it.  Everyone, even Guerlain, gets it wrong, all the time if not frequently.  I truly gorgeous fragrance is a freakish exception.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mona Di Orio Vanille

In November, I reviewed Cuir, a fragrance I continue to love but rarely wear.  Cuir was different in many ways than most of what I'd smelled by Mona Di Orio, which wasn't a bad thing.  It was simply stronger and a lot more linear, and it felt more operatic in its singleminded bullheadedness than anything else she'd done, including famously skanky Nuit Noire.  What you got at first was what you got at long last.  I admire Cuir and I think it smells fantastically assertive - it's bold in a way I appreciate - and maybe it's just the heat that's turned me away from it for the time being.  Like Norma Kamali's Incense it becomes something approaching a sci-fi creature in the humidity.  It has spinning teeth and goes into attack mode.  Still, I'm defensive about it, because it seems to be one of those fragrances that people who don't like what Di Orio does use as an illustration of her failures, and the perfume's so-called drawbacks always seem like bonus points to me.

I was doubtful when, during a recent visit to Luckyscent's Scent Bar, someone raved about Vanille and suggested I smell it, I guess because something in his voice and praise led me to feel that Vanille was going to be the "break out" fragrance for the line.  I assumed, in a knee jerk way, that this was meant to imply that everything before Vanille was a near or total miss, and I figured it must be pretty boring.  I smelled other things for a while before I finally brought myself to smell Vanille--including Di Orio's Tuberose and Vetyver, neither of which I particularly liked - but I was pleasantly shocked when I got around to the third of this most recent trio, part of the perfumer's L'Ombres D'Or series.  Vanille smells like a Mona Di Orio fragrance, and yet, like Cuir, it smells like something different - not just for her but in general.

I think probably my reluctance had a lot to do as well with vanilla's vogue.  I felt the same about iris and fig at one time, a kind of eye-rolling, enough already resistance.  Don't get me started on oud. But Vanille isn't the kind of vanilla I've smelled before.  The listed notes are petitgrain, clove, orange, rum, vetiver, sandalwood, guaiac wood, amber, tonka, and vanilla.  What you get from that is something unique among vanilla fragrances, something at once drier and more succulent, slightly boozy throughout, and spiced to perfection.  The tonka and guaiac, I think, give the fragrance something that feels like vintage Guerlinade, though the overall feel of Vanille is distinctly contemporary.  Vanille is a sexy fragrance.  It makes you want to touch yourself.  I can only assume it would make you want to touch other people, too, if they happened to have some on.  I'm going to guess this one will bring its wearer a lot of compliments, the kind people get closer to give.

A word of caution about words of caution:  Everything I've heard warns against spraying too much of Vanille at once.  It might just be my skin but Vanille is nowhere near as diffusive as Cuir, and to my nose, while not subtle, it's certainly no powerhouse.  Like Cuir, it stays fairly consistent throughout, but it's playing at a lower decibel.  Several people have advised against spraying it altogether, opting instead to dab.  I've yet to find any fragrance I'd rather dab than spray, for my own sake or anyone else's, and Vanille is hardly the place I'd start.  Wear it with abandon, I say.  It might just make you some bedfellows.  This is a beautiful fragrance, and another demonstration that Di Orio is infinitely more talented than her detractors would have you believe.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hazy Dayz

Thank goodness Brian has been keeping our readers entertained since I’ve been MIA for quite some time! Does anyone even remember me?!

I’ve moved, so I find myself in a different part of the country, the southeast, where it is insanely hot and humid. After two years in the high desert, I forgot exactly what humidity feels like. Oh... now I remember, it feels oppressive and wet and heavy and just plain awful! I knew I would have an adjustment, even though I have lived in somewhat humid climates before, but these past few weeks have made me feel like I’m living in a steam bath.

So here I am in this steam bath and I simply cannot wear my beloved perfumes! Normally I lean towards light and simple soliflore fragrances in the summer, no matter where I live, but this humidity commands something so zesty and refreshing it seems my only options are things like Diptyque Oyedo or Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Mentafollia (I don’t own Herba Fresca but Mentafollia is similar) and Bvlgari Eau Parfumee The Vert Extreme. I’ve also been able to wear a few from Annick Goutal, such as Neroli and Le Chevrefeuille but everything else is just too much and sometimes even these that I’ve just listed are too much. The air is so heavy and wet that perfume doesn’t diffuse around me, it just sits there, in a lump on my wrist, giving me the distinct feeling that I shouldn’t have sprayed it on at all. A woman standing in front of me in line the other day was wearing something heavy, I think it was Angel (which I love) and for the first time in my life I nearly recoiled from her. I felt like a traitor.

For those readers in hot, humid climates; how do you manage? Do you wear only the sheerest and lightest scents or are you able to simply wear whatever you want? Problem is, I do have a large number of sheer, zesty, summery scents (oh, just thought of another few good one’s Parfums D’Orsay Tilleul and Miller Harris Geranium Bourbon) but I tire of these types of scents, so much so, that I end up wearing nothing (double gasp), I’ve just been going scentless lately. And, according to my knowledge of the weather here, this could continue until about October.

A perfumista in exile

Friday, July 8, 2011

Factice on Film: A Short Starring Voodoo, the "Perfume"

Here's another short in the Woman's Picture series, a snapshot companion piece to a longer segment which will come out next October based on the character of Ingrid, who appears in name only here but is an intensely felt presence.

At the time of the Ingrid movie's release online at Evelyn Avenue, Tableau de Parfums, perfumer Andy Tauer's ongoing collaboration with the project, will release its third fragrance, named after the character.  I haven't smelled Ingrid yet so I have nothing to tell you about it, other than to say I have smelled the first two, Miriam (release date: Oct. 2011) and Loretta (release date: March 2012) and can tell you they're wonderful.

All of the Woman's Picture material weaves perfume into its story lines in some way.  Here, Mackie, a recurring character, shops in a vintage clothing store, trying to find wardrobe for a silent film he wants to make about Ingrid, who seems to have left him for some reason.  Instead, he finds a factice, as poor a substitute for her as it is for a real perfume.

I guess I'm lucky I can't afford to collect these dummies because I don't have the space for them, but "Silent Movie" let me indulge the fantasy.  Apparently, the perfume I thought was fictitious, Voodoo (the fragrance featured in this short), actually existed.  But it's as rare a find as Mackie's factice is.  I'm told Coty made Voodoo at one time.  It wasn't very popular and was discontinued.

Mackie and his sister Meredith are a little like me and my sister and probably like a lot of siblings.  They're living in the present and the past at the same time.  Mackie wants to forget; Meredith wants to rehash and work through things somehow.  I think maybe Mackie spends more time in the past than he wants to acknowledge.  Why else would a rare factice of Voodoo be such a find?  Why else would he obsess over his ex the way he does?  The difference between Mackie and Meredith is that she wants to talk about it and he doesn't, or can't, or whatever.

My sister remembers the address of every house we ever lived in, and we moved around quite a lot as kids.  She remembers every phone number, every neighbor's name, every last little thing I did and choose to banish from my own memory.  Sometimes I can't believe the things she recalls really happened.  They seem so make believe to me, and I wonder why she can remember and I can't.  I can feel a little hunted sometimes in our conversations, because I've carefully selected what I want to bring along with me into the present, and her onslaught of biographical detail can be overwhelming and contradictory to my view of the past.

Like Mackie, I remember weird details, like the smell of a perfume someone wore.  I don't want their address, or to remember too clearly the problems or conflicts we had.  I want to remember their effect, and fragrance is like a ghost that way, carrying all that stuff in a tangle of feeling and thoughts I don't have to pick apart and break down.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Stuff and Nonsense

This week I received a package of vials from Olfacta including all kinds of essential oils and absolutes.  Most of them I'd never smelled isolated this way.  There were:  myrrh, frankincense, civet, labdanum, castoreum, tuberose, rose, jasmine.  Many others.  I couldn't help myself and poured many of them into a mix I'd made a few days earlier.  The vials still smell, thankfully, so I can use them as references, but my own oil smells MUCH much better now, too.  The oakmoss she sent was particularly rich.  I'd smelled oakmoss at various places but nothing remotely this aromatic and downright mossy.  It was practically chocolately.  I've visited a few distributor sites over the last several years, wondering if I should dip into mixing my own more zealously.  Having smelled these, and dumped them into the same pot so impulsively, I know that would be a pretty dangerous (i.e. expensive) move.  But I continue to fantasize about my own little lab.

I've been watching a lot of old movies lately.  Mostly Ingrid Bergman.  I got a DVD set of three films she made before Hollywood "discovered" her.  I can't even imagine a time anymore when someone could truly be discovered, imported, and shaped that way.  Everyone discovers everything at this point.  It's all there, circling around the internet.  We're all flies on the wall and know every room, every little pocket of the universe, it seems.  People, things and places have maybe lost that same kind of epiphanic sense of discovery.  Of course, Ingrid Bergman has a life before Hollywood claimed her.  Judging by these films, a very full one.  She had a distinct personality and the studio bosses seized on what was already there.  But no one had yet seen it on youtube and it must have been shocking to see her on screen, over here, for the first time.  Even I'm shocked a little, watching her in these films.  She's speaking a language I don't understand and yet I feel I get what she's saying, because her face and voice are so universally expressive.  She was so young - and had such maturity in her youth - that she seems like someone you would have no choice, given the opportunity, but to want to know all about her.

I went from watching these films to seeing the premiere episode of this season's True Blood, which by comparison seemed harsh, shrill, brassy, and infinitely sloppy.  So much thought went into presenting and showcasing Bergman.  I watched True Blood wanting something that focused, someone that brilliantly lit and felt, to appear.  No such luck.  There's really no star power in the show - judging by this episode, which is trying to be all things to all people and ends up feeling like a room full of gnats vying for your attention.  The show's version of the shock generated by seeing Bergman on screen was to suddenly make Tara a lesbian.  I don't know, the tawdry aspect of this show, once sort of a cheap thrill, feels a little morning after at this point.

Abigail told me she is adjusting to the sordid heat of her new environment.  She went from hot and dry to hot and humid, which is as some of you know a very different thing.  Everything seems too much to her, she said.  She puts on perfume and it's way too heavy, way too thick.  Cloying, maybe.  People say this about our weather but I get the opposite.  Everything feels insufferably sheer on me.  My friend Jack says my problem is I don't put nearly enough of anything on.  I'm the sprayer's version of a dabber.  But I do spray profusely and it's just...poof, all gone.  About the only things that really bloom on my skin this time of year are Norma Kamali Incense -which I discovered, after receiving Olfacta's vials, is as much Labdanum as frankincense (who knew these were so similar in so many ways?) - and Habanita, which is rich and robust in the winter but rises from the skin with the steamy quality of hot asphalt in the summer.

I'm looking forward to the new Gaultier.  Kokorico.  Yes to cocao.  Hit the like button.  Yes to the bottle, which is fantastically tacky and looks like one of those novelty lighters good-time smokers and cocktail party hosts used to sit out on the glass-topped coffee table, right next to the cigarette dispenser in the shape of a dog.  Press the button and the mouth drops out a Marlboro.  Big ceramic lobster ashtray nearby.  Yes to another Annick Menardo fragrance.  Here's hoping it's less the sugar overload of Lolita Lempicka, more the rich buttery gourmand of Hypnotic Poison and Kouros Body.  Yes to fig leaf, naturally.  But I worry about "woody", which often seems marketing shorthand for Meh.