Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tocca Brigitte: A Review

I’m fond of Tocca perfumes. I like Touch & Stella. The whimsical bottles and boxes are darling. I don’t often use the word ‘darling’ and it reminds me of the mother of my childhood best friend who grew up in Kansas had a sweet little Midwestern accent and looked like a cross between Ashley Judd and Reese Witherspoon with bouncy blond hair. Anyway, Tocca’s branding is darling. I had been hopeful that Brigitte would be lovely and a worthy addition to the line. In a way I was routing for Tocca, cheering for them to concoct a nice new juice.

Unfortunately Brigitte falls flat. It starts off with a zippy blast of ginger and rhubard. For five minutes I thought they had done it ~ I thought they’d created an interesting scent. After the sixth minute Brigitte turns into a watery, fruity (papaya), rosey haze of boredom. Brigitte smells fine, surely there will be some who like it, but its blandness doesn’t do anything for me.

Notes: Papaya, ginger, rhubard, Morroccan rose, saffron, sandalwood & panettone

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Frederic Malle, Dans Tes Bras: A Review

This is the “She Said” review. Brian will supply the “He Said” review soon.

Dans Tes Bras is the perfume I’ve been looking forward to the most this year. When I read the list of notes, I expected a “woody violet” fragrance.

Dans Tes Bras is not a woody violet fragrance, or at least not like any woody violet scent I’ve ever smelled. It smells like mushrooms. Slightly salty mushrooms growing at the base of a huge oak tree with a smattering of fallen autumn leaves. Dans Tes Bras is the sort of fragrance that changes dramatically given the wearers body chemistry. My husband wore it for a few hours – it was a very salty skin scent on him. My close friend, Rob, wore Dans Tes Bras today, and his skin amplified the violet note. On me, it’s all about taking a walk in the country, strolling through the woods, smelling mushrooms, on an autumn day. Does it smell bad, you ask? No. Does it smell good, then? Sort of.

There’s a wonderful review on Perfume Shrine, where the writer goes into great detail about the various notes & elements of Dans Tes Bras.

I’m very curious about Brian’s reaction.

Notes: bergamot, cloves, salicylates, violet, jasmine, sandalwood, patchouli, frankincense, cashmeran, heliotrope, white musk

Dans Tes Bras is available in Europe already. It will be available in the United States in mid-October, 2008.
Barney's, exclusively, carries the Frederic Malle line in the US.

Cavemen in Pinafores: Perfume Does Drag

The other day, applying a perfume ostensibly intended for women, I thought, "I really better butch it up today if I expect to pull this one off."

Funny thing, though, how all that works: half way through the morning, I realized the perfume itself provided more than enough swagger. Maybe you know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the kind of fragrance which can come across like Corporal Klinger on M.A.S.H. All the markers are there: the satin, the tulle, the rouge, some lipstick. The hair is curled softly; it just so happens it's growing on the chest.

Like many male perfume bloggers I'm decidedly androgynous in my tastes, and feel strongly that a scent, though it tells a story in the bottle, only reaches conclusion on the wearer. Fragrance colludes with personality, and often works wonders when played against type. A guy in Lolita Lempicka, as Tania Sanchez suggests, can be a startling thing, akin to seeing the same tired movie with an entirely different cast. I'm not averse to wearing the allegedly chronic girly, such as Paris, Joy, or Herrera. What I'm getting at here is slightly different: the scent which mixes messages before one even applies it, and presents an even more complicated story on the skin.

The most obvious choice would be Black Orchid, a scent I, like many others, go back and forth on. Just when I decide it's silly and overrated, it changes my mind. Regardless, it bursts into the room, rattling the glassware. I think back to the first time I experienced it, at Sephora. I sprayed it on the back of my hand and instantly felt as though I'd opened a porn mag inside the Hallmark store. It felt shocking, like Angel once had, so wrong it was right. I admired it the way I admired a drag queen I walked the east village with one Saturday night in the nineties, before the area went antiseptic. You never knew what might happen to you out on the street, unless you were with someone so flagrantly confrontational, in which case you could expect to be egged. This particular drag queen gave it as much as she got it, and seemed fifty feet tall. This was a personality with the power to affect whatever environment it entered, not just interacting with it but altering it. Whatever you think of the dress and the make-up, you have to admire the balls.

Poison is so deeply associated with mile high bangs and Mildred Pierce shoulder pads, so tangled up in a cluster of mental recollections of the eighties (often heightened to the point of distortion) that one easily forgets or is prohibited from seeing at all how essentially masculine it is. Forget the tuberose; to smell Poison is to inhale a strange medley of spices most florals avoid at all costs. Coriander and carnation give Poison a peppery, woody aspect, embellishing the perfume's feminine properties with such a wallop of gusto that the category short circuits. I wear Poison occasionally. Everyone recognizes it, until they realize I'm the source. Then they're not so sure. How could it be Poison? What guy would have the guts to put it on? That slight element of surprise can allow a mental adjustment, enabling one to experience Poison outside its enforced context of era-specific excess and unfortunate-to-tragic fashion misfires.

Like many of the vintage orientals, Bal a Versailles is a bit of a winking Jesus, first uber-fem, then a resounding baritone. Some might say that winking is decidedly coquettish, settling the matter. But Bal a Versailles winks at such a rapid clip that the movement ceases to register. What's left is a kinetic, subterranean interplay between gendered codes and preconceptions. Some say the opening is inarguably feminine. I say nothing is inarguably feminine. Tie as many strings of pearls as you like around the neck of Barbara Bush. Dress her up in dowdy. Tell me she's simply a very straightforward, no nonsense woman, a la Barbara Stanwyck or, less generously, Janet Reno (which opens up another can of worms). I'm still not convinced George Sr. isn't in fact a tranny chaser. Which isn't to say Barbara isn't a woman. Just to say that a man attracted to her has wonky ideas about gender and tastes which, if dissected, might reveal unexpected, category-busting rather than -defining answers. It isn't that Bal a Versailles is beyond gender, but how many distortion filters can you put jasmine and rose through before they start going the other way? Bal a Versailles is the answer in action, working itself out right under your nose.

Spend some time with the oeuvre of Bernard Chant, and you'll start to notice certain similarities, not just between the feminines but between the feminines and their male counterparts. Many of Chant's male and female fragrances are so close in composition that it becomes increasingly difficult to regard the line supposedly separating them as anything but a mental construct. I sometimes wonder if Chant was a conceptual artist working in the field of perfume. It's as though he was engaged in a lifelong experiment. Create scents which resemble each other so closely that to discern gender differences between them would prove a bit like seeing the Emperor's new clothes. The only truly emphatic separation between the galbanum-driven Alliage and Devin are a few yards of marble flooring at Macy's and Saks. Likewise the woody-herbaceous rose of Aramis 900 and Aromatics Elixir, while Azuree and Cabochard lock eyes with Aramis. Was it Chant's project to demonstrate how little tweaking is required to edge a masculine into the feminine and vice versa? The distinctions between his masculines and feminines are so subtle as to imply mere formality. It's interesting to see the male consumer's largely negative reaction to Devin, such that it is (the fragrance remains, like Aramis 900, little known). Alliage, on the other hand, seems better understood. But it operates on a decibel one would consider more robust than a proper feminine. And if you're a guy who likes your fragrances to last, hop on over to the women's department. The only difference that counts between Alliage and Devin, it turns out, is a matter of hours.

Other fragrances which mix the gender codes: Cinnabar, Youth Dew, Gucci Envy, Habanitas, L'Heure Bleue, Chanel Cuir De Russie, Dune, La Nuit, Feminite Du Bois, Angel, Dioressence, Kingdom, Funny!, Caron Infini, Arpege.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Tale of Two Lilies

Frederic Malle Lys Méditerranée was created by Edouard Flechier and launched in 2000. Serge Lutens Un Lys was created by Christopher Sheldrake and launched in 1997.

I’m not sure what possessed me but after looking forward to autumn for the past two months and anxiously awaiting the ceremonious rotation from summer to fall scents, I decided to wear two lily fragrances today. Once in awhile I wear two different perfumes into the office, but only if they are similar in nature. Today I wore Lys Méditerranée on my left arm and Un Lys on my right. All day I kept sniffing each arm and comparing the two perfumes. These are two big beautiful lily scents, but they have their own unique personalities to be sure.

FM Lys Méditerranée is a linear lily soliflore. It’s interesting to me that a true lily flower is not among the list of notes. There are flowers with lily in their name, but these are not actual lilies. Lys Méditerranée, however, smells like an enormous bouquet of white lilies with a few lilacs tucked in. I have Casablanca white lilies in my garden, as well as a lilac bush so the image I have when smelling Lys Méditerranée is a big vase of Casablanca lilies with a few bunches of purple lilacs artfully placed in the bouquet. There is almost very little else to say about Lys Méditerranée. If you adore the scent of lilies and lily perfumes then Lys M is a must. It manages to be sweet and floral but not overly so – it’s a soft and nicely balanced fragrance. In the background, there are hints of green, aquatic and spice notes, which I think are the elements that save Lys M from being too sweet. The green note, most likely from angelica root, allows the fragrance to be utterly wearable and keeps it from heading in the direction of air freshener. The aquatic note seems to make the fragrance realistic, as if you are actually smelling a vase of lilies, along with the leaves, stems and the water the flowers are standing in.

Frederic Malle Lys Méditerranée notes:
Top: Ginger Lily, Lily of the Valley
Heart: Angelica Root, Orange Flower, Ginger Lily
Base: Musk

SL Un Lys is another linear soliflore fragrance entirely focused on lilies. And these are big, massive lilies. The only list of notes I can find are: lily, musk & vanilla. Comparing these two fragrances side-by-side allows me to smell that FM Lys M is rather soft and “fuzzy” in comparison to SL Un Lys’ very clear and realistic lily. Where FM Lys M smells a bit like lilies with green, aquatic and spice notes, SL’s Un Lys smells singularly of lilies to me. Un Lys, perhaps by the addition of vanilla, is creamier, dreamy and dare I say erotic? Well, yes, the aroma of SL’s Un Lys is of a grand, almost too-heavy-for-it’s-stem lily with so much pollen on it’s stamens that its drooping over a bit. Un Lys is a perfect, gorgeous lily who beckons flirts and romances bees and humingbirds to come pollinate it. Un Lys is a photograph of a lily where Lys Méditerranée is an impressionist painting of lilies.

The potency and longevity of Serge Lutens Un Lys surpassed Frederic Malle’s Lys Méditerranée but that’s not to say FM’s Lys M is fleeting. Un Lys, as do most Lutens’ fragrances, has exceptional tenacity. Lys M’s longevity is good; I’d say average, about 4 hours.

In the end I can’t decide if I have a preference between the two fragrances. Perhaps I slightly lean towards Frederic Malle Lys Méditerranée because there’s a bit more complexity. But, for a person who hardly even likes lily perfumes (me), these are two insanely gorgeous lily fragrances that I wouldn’t hesitate to wear.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

31 Rue Cambon, Chanel: A Review

31 Rue Cambon, where have you been all my life? I haven’t even purchased you, yet. I ordered Beige and Cuir de Russie from the Chanel boutique and you came along for the ride, an afterthought tossed into the package, a lovely little 4 ml sample, a diminutive replica of the big 6.8 oz exclusifs bottle itself.

It’s taken me several weeks to get around to sniffing you. I love Beige and Cuir de Russie, but 31, I love you even more. Chanel says you’re a chypre. A chypre is loosely described as a fragrance based on the interplay of citrus, florals, woods, moss, amber and musks. Usually chypres contain oakmoss and can be relatively heavy and bitter. 31 doesn’t contain oakmoss and is beautifully light, flirty and warm. 31 seems more complex and multi-faceted each time I wear it. (So far I’ve squeezed 4 days/wearings from my little Chanel sample). I imagine 31 to be a butterfly softly fluttering in and out of elegant rooms inside a mansion. Each room contains aspects of the complete chypre, a breeze of citrus, some iris, a gust of woods and some patchouli. As the butterfly floats about the mansion, its wings stir up all the beautiful notes and brings them swirling full circle.

In a nutshell, 31 opens with a burst of bergamot, followed by a peppery-iris, and finally an ambery-patchouli-woody base. 31 doesn’t just dry down and stay there on my skin, but instead stays in motion, always peeking at me from different angles inside the perfume. I can’t say I’ve smelled anything like 31 before. My only critique is that I wish 31 Rue Cambon was more potent. I will surely buy the full bottle and, as large as an exclusifs bottle is, I imagine I will use it up, since I bet I’ll be dousing myself with it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ode to Hay

I love the scent of hay. Today I wore People of the Labyrinths, Luctor et Emergo and I kept thinking what a wonderful scent it is. I think POTL smells mostly of hay, play-doh and cherries but in the best possible way.

Serge Lutens Chergui also contains a gorgeous hay note. Chergui is intoxicating. I think it’s mostly about the hay note.

The smell of hay seems so insanely complex. I think it’s similar to tobacco and sandalwood in its complexity. It’s as if all the beauty of the meadow is wrapped up in that hay note. Hay doesn’t just smell like dried grass, it smells like everything ~ the grass, soil, fields, wind, sun, sky, cows, flowers, weeds and straw all rolled up into one gorgeous aroma.

Top 10 Perfumes for Autumn

I’m perpetually writing lists. I have ‘To Do’ lists for the office, ‘To Do’ lists for home, lists for gift-giving, for books to read, for gardening reminders & supplies, for movies to see, for TV to watch, for baby names, for vacation spots, and, of course, for perfume.

Since today is the first day of autumn, I began the list (in my head) of my top favorite perfumes for the season this morning. This has taken all day. I think the problem is that it’s nearly impossible to keep the list to 10. I’ve had to go back to the drawing board and shave off a few and add/replace a few all day long. The only way I was able to do it, in the end, was to allow myself to list a few “runner-ups” at the bottom (I know this is cheating…sorry).

Here are my favorites, in alphabetical order:

Bond No 9 Lexington Avenue
Caron Farnesiana
Chanel Cuir de Russie
Givenchy Organza Indecence
Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur
People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo
Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan
Teo Cabanel Alahine
Underworld by Liz Zorn (Soivohle’)

And, as I mentioned, here’s where I cheat and list an additional ten runner-ups (alpha order):

Caron Parfum Sacré, CB I Hate Perfume Burning Leaves, Chanel Beige (loving this), Chanel Bois des Iles, Diptyque Opone, Jo Malone Dark Amber , Michael Storer Monk, Samsara, Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois, YSL Nu (edp)

Enjoy the fall and your favorite autumn perfumes!

UPDATE: Somehow I need to add Serge Lutens Santal Blanc and Sonoma Scent Studio's Fireside Intense to my Top 10 list. I guess I'll remove FM Musc Ravageur and Shalimar to insert these two (10/3/08).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dandy of the Day: Crispin Hellion Glover

Some find it easy to dismiss him. He certainly gives them a headstart. To many his name has become synonymous with a litany of those adjectives reserved for the terminally idiosyncratic. Years ago, he took aim at David Letterman's head with his platform shoes and kicked his way out of the mainstream and into the margins. America knew him as the mesmeric goof-for-brains in Back to the Future, and the idea that he might not have been acting, might in fact be a genuine loose canon, made his mainstream audience more than a little uncomfortable.

Crispin Glover is one of the more fascinating actors to come out of the past few decades, mainly because he seems so out of step with the times. After various character roles throughout the eighties and nineties, he came to his own in parts which seemed to have been tailor made for his gifts. Willard, Bartleby, small but atmospheric bits for David Lynch, the Thin Man in Charlie's Angels. Ultimately, he came full circle, reuniting with Robert Zemeckis, the director of Back to the Future, in Beowulf.

He played Grendel, a role which in many ways presented a fascinating inversion of his painfully dweebish turn as Michael J. Fox's young father. Both were outcasts; each made a monster by his inability to fit in or gain control of his impulses or navigate the trecherous signposts of his destiny. Whatever you think of the movie as a whole, you can't say Glover isn't absolutely electrifying in it. During the course of his career he has written books, directed films (first What is It? More recently, It is Fine. Everything is Fine!) and traveled for speaking engagements which play more like vaudeville than book signings and question and answer sessions. Glover has smuggledthe avant garde into mainstream cinema and through mainstream cinema into the American living room.

Like his image, his cologne should be vintage, something from the fragrant yellowed pages of an out-of-print book. At night he might wear Etro's Messe De Minuit, a slightly oily incense recalling the damp stone walls of forgotten cellars and the ghostly suggestion of flowers once worn by the missing. He wouldn't pass up an opportunity to wear Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's Zombi. Cinnabar, with its dusty cinammon (a crimson velvet pillow for the nose), would be a more arresting choice. Something about its spicy rich hypnotic quality, its fragrant whiff of port wine, slightly turned, seems in perfect keeping with his image.

Sniff my Sillage, Baby

So often I read comments by fellow perfume fanatics on various blogs and forums that they don’t want the scent of their perfume to offend others. Most seem extremely sensitive and wary of anyone being able to smell their perfume, their sillage (aka scent trail) AT ALL. It seems that it’s now considered rude for anyone to smell your perfume except you. Perhaps that’s why L’Artisan is doing so well. Because surely, unless you have your nose stuck to your wrist, even you won’t smell a thing while wearing L’Artisan.

Oh, I sort of get it. I had a former colleague, who wore Giorgio, and she over applied it, to the point that her office perpetually wreaked of Giorgio as if she had sprayed the walls with it. I’ve also experience Calvin Klein Eternity on the subway, when the train had broken down, and the AC stopped, in the middle of July, and all of us passengers were cramped in that subway car like sardines with someone who must have mistakenly spilled an entire bottle of Eternity on herself (I had to think it was a mistake). So, yeah, I get it, it can be awful to be overcome by someone else’s perfume.

I’m *not* talking about over application. I’m addressing simple ordinary sillage. I absolutely want sillage from my perfume. I want individuals who enter my office to get a light whiff of my perfume. I want those who ride in the car with me, those seated right next to me, to smell my perfume. I wanted the person standing next to me in the elevator get a whiff. Call me crazy, call me rude, call me whatever you want, but I will not wear perfume that doesn’t have sillage. Without a doubt I wear perfume for myself. I wear perfume that I like, but I also unabashedly wear perfume so that others think I smell good (you can insert sexy, nice, unusual, smokin’, mysterious, in place of “good” depending on the day).

If a perfume is strong with mega-sillage, then I apply it lightly. I’d much rather have the issue of too much sillage, and adjust to a lighter application, than too little sillage, leaving me to douse myself to smell a damn thing. Take Lou Lou by Cacharel for instance. The past week I’ve had a Lou Lou reunion. Lou Lou has amazing sillage and longevity. The fact that I adore the scent of Lou Lou coupled with its tenacity and sillage means I think Lou Lou rocks the free world. Other good examples are Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur and Carnal Flower – props to Malle for these creations. Keiko Mecheri’s Loukhoum, while ethereal and delicate, is a beautifully tenacious juice – props to Ms. Mecheri for creating a sillage sensation. I could go on and on but you get the point.

Bottom line: I hope this over-sensitivity to fragrance doesn’t get any worse and in the meantime ~ sniff my sillage, baby.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Swap Meet: Nahema, Nu, Encre Noire, Yatagan, Azuree, et al.

Late last month, Brian sent Abigail a package of decants from his collection. Abigail had already mailed Brian several herself, including samples from the Bond No. 9, Ava Luxe, and Serge Lutens lines. When Brian arrived in LA for the premiere of his movie, for instance, a package was waiting at the front desk. He ripped it open so quickly that the Bois de Violette he'd been dying to smell flew out of his hand and, hitting the ground, shattered inside its plastic zip lock; a strange bit of deja vu, considering the Bois de Violette was meant to make up for a small vial of his late grandmother's violet perfume, broken in much the same way.

Brian and Abigail talk about perfume every day, all day, as if perfumes were celebrities who just had martian babies. Sometimes they talk on the phone. I Smell Therefore I Am is a record of their friendship, seen through the prism of perfume. Their correspondence over the decants they've traded are a good transcript of this friendship in action, and we present some of it here as an example of the way a shared passion can quickly become about more than itself; a reason to keep in touch, if nothing else:


I received your package today. It came about 1 hour ago. The postman rang the doorbell because there were 2 other boxes (I did my part this week to help the economy). Dogs barking and leaping everywhere and in the midst of it all...lots of perfume.

I have so far opened everything. I'm overwhelmed and haven't smelled a thing. I'm sitting here with all these vials in front of me. I haven't smelled 99.9% of them ever in my life! Which is incredibly exciting. I don't know what to do first.

Is the Givenchy III vintage?
Nahema has been on my mind.
Guerlain Vetiver and FM Vetiver have been on my mind.
I *almost* bought Balmain Jolie Madame from parfum1 but didn't.
Did you buy Washington Tremlett from Luckyscent while you were in LA?
Encre Noire!! (have wanted this for ages)

I'm giddy. I need to go lay down. Take a nap. This will take me about a week - to get through all of these.

Abby xxoo

Hi Abby,


It's nice to know I've given you at least some of the thrill your packages gave me.

The Givenchy III is old, yeah. I'd love to smell the new one to compare.

When you said you were into vetiver lately I figured I'd take a chance and put a lot in. There are other frags I have which use vetiver heavily but I started with the straight ups.

I also figured you'd want to smell Nahema, though my hopes weren't high it would make you a Guerlain convert. Still, I think Nahema, of the older ones, is less powdery. It has a curious aspect the others like Mitsouko, Chamade, L'Heure and Jicky don't. The sample I sent is perfume de toilette, whatever that means.

Tremlett I bought in LA yeah. I left the store without it then returned because I knew I'd regret not getting it. I'm not sure, still, what I think about it. There's a sour note in it which isn't bad to my nose, and it's a strange smell. The other night I smelled an empty container of mints and realized that might be the note in there I can't place, something minty. People say it's floral and I'm not sure I get that. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Encre Noire I got in LA too. I've obsessed over it since first smelling it in March at Perfume House in Portland. It smells a lot like Vetiver Extraordinaire. Weirdly, their differences are tonal somehow. It's as if they're the same cologne with different color filters on them, bringing out different moods. I do think Encre is more peppery.

I can't wait to hear what you think of them. More where that came from, naturally.



OK, here's the status update:

I love Guerlain Vetiver. It's so refreshing compared to the vetivers I've tried lately, I know there are two different types, the citrusy and the earthy - this is the citrusy and it's nice.

I love Balmain Ivoire. It changes a great deal from first spritz to dry down. This is a happy scent. Fresh, happy and pampered. It's also wearable and doesn't seem like it could be offensive to anyone in an office or whatever.

I am just about touching myself over Nu. I love the soft pepper.

There is no doubt that I Hate No 19. However, I LOVE Bois des Iles. It's soft woods with a touch of powder and florals. So soft compared with other Chanels. BdI is well-behaved, understated and classy. It does not scream Chanel to my nose (Like No.'s 5, 19 and 22 do for me). I often forget that I like Coco and Coco Mademoiselle, too, but I only wear Coco M to interviews and formal events. BdI (aside from Cuir de Russie) is the nicest Chanel I've ever smelled.



I have tons more to send you but will hold off a little while you soak these in. It doesn't surprise me you dislike No. 19 (I LOVE it, of course, thanks to galbanum) but I'm shocked you like Ivoire at all. I secretly hoped, but never dreamed you would.

I love NU. All out of proportion. .Pour un Homme I love because it's the cologne my mother's young French husband wore. And he wore a LOT, like most Frenchmen. I knew it instantly when I smelled it for the first time at the Korean store. I immediately recognized it. Shot right back into my brain.



Right now I'm utterly confused. I THINK I'm wearing Nahema and the Fig & Vetiver one. There's no way you like the Fig & Vetiver - it doesn't seem interesting enough for you. It's realistic and smells like Fig & Vetiver. It's nice. I can see wearing it in the heat of summer for a refreshing spritz.

Nahema. Odd one... it kinda smells like medicine and makes my nasal passages feel numb.

My dog is wearing Ivoire.

Do you think it's galbanum that I hate? No. 19 was wretched for me. But if Ivoire contains galbanum it can't be true because I looove it. It's awesomely spicy and green and medicinal in the dry down.

I agree with you. Nu is in a class by itself. It's a masterpiece. The pepper is done so well - it's not sneezy - even though it's quite present. I can see sniffing yourself constantly while wearing Nu.



Yeah I was wondering the same thing about you and galbanum. I'll have to send you more g scents to figure it out. Ivoire uses galbanum with exceptional subtlety. So does Anais Anais. When I learned Anais has galbanum it suddenly made total sense to me and I now feel very protective of it. Have you smelled Alliage? It's the mother of all galbanum scents. If you hate it, you probably dislike galbanum because it IS galbanum the way Coke is cola.

You're totally right about the Anthusa. It totally bores me. You are the first one to wear it out of that bottle. I smelled it for the first time since I got it at TJ Max when I decanted it for you and I was like, okay, it's nice, but I can't imagine wearing it with so many other smells I have and love at my disposal.

Nu made me a major fan of Jacques Cavallier. I've smelled just about everything he's done.

Kingdom is him too I believe. I LOVE it and bought three 100 ml bottles at a discount store. I wear it a lot.

The Frenchman divorced my mom once he got his citizenship. He was a heel but had awesome taste. Very very French and hot and just DOUSED himself in cologne, which I loved. So did all his friends. I suspect he was bisexual, which doesn't necessarily mean anything.



re: your feeling protective of Anais Anais. That's interesting.

Now that I think about it I feel protective of Amarige. Also Angel (and I don't ever wear Angel). And Lou Lou. And Ungaro Diva. Have you ever smelled this stuff? It was my first real perfume purchase at 14. I haven't smelled Diva in about 18 years and I imagine I'd hate it, but perhaps not. I love the bottle. I also feel protective of Poison. I bathed in Poison when I was 17. The inside of my powder blue ford escort (named Nelly) reeeeked of Poison. I also had huge puffy bangs, 2 inches of blue eyeliner and blue mascara, skin tight Guess jeans and massive clunky belts and earrings. Huh, most of my protected scents are powerhouse 80's frags. I don't feel protective or give a shit about anything niche.

I just realized that Dominique Ropion created both FM Carnal Flower and Amarige. Do you have the other Alexander McQ - My Queen? D.R created that too.

What is this patchouli frag you sent me? It smells pretty much like straight up patchouli. I love it.

very quick status update:

Guerlain Vetiver: like
FM Vetiver: love x10
Le Feu d'Issey: hate. gagging. could this be mislabeled?! it smells nothing like the reviews. i didn't read any reviews until after an hour when I couldn't take it anymore and needed to know what the heck this wretched stuff was... (i know you didn't mislabel it, it's just atrocious on me).

just scrubbed everything off and reapplied Ivoire and Nu....loooove these 2.



yeah Feu is challenging. I admire it but find it sort of unwearable, personally. It's like carbonated orange juice and milk got together and decided to screw with people's heads.

I'm so glad you like the vets and Nu. Was hoping you'd be into the latter. I'll send you a bigger decant of it now that I know.



2 more:

M7 and Dzing.

I like M7. Yup, there's a point when it smells like flat coca cola but that vanishes and now it's just weird and I like it. Peppery. Likeable & wearable. I can see this being sexaay on a guy.

Dzing .... oh L'Artisan.... I am not a fan of thee... I dislike 9/10 L'Artisans. Have you tried Timbuktu? I'm curious about Timbuktu. Dzing smells like melting plastic. Or like a plastic frisbee after the dog has been chewing on it. I just read about the circus thing - and nope - it doesn't smell like that.

tried 2 when I got home.

Lauder Azuree: at first I thought "aldehyde attack" and nearly scrubbed it off. now it's growing on me. spicy, woody, leathery, niiiiice. for the first 20 minutes I was convinced it was NOT me but I'm really liking it now. there is this 'eye watering' sensation - I'd have to spray it on my ankles to keep it away from my face!

Balmain Jolie Madame - big gorgeous dirty sweet gardenia...then poof...gone. I don't know if it's because Azuree is on the other arm overpowering it but I can't smell Jolie M after 1 hour.

Jeepers, just went to wash these 2 off so I can try others...Lauder's Azuree will not let go! was this one listed in your piece about longevity?! Final verdict: I love it.

I liked M7 more than I expected I would. I'm trepidations about trying Yatagan...



I'm amazed you haven't tried Azuree before. I think it's beautiful. It's one of those weird, vaguely leathery old frags made by Bernard Chant. It's almost exactly like Aramis, which he also did, and all his are actually similar and interchangeable in some ways. One night we were going to a Mexican restaurant and I sprayed Aramis 900, Aromatics Elixir, Cabochard, Aramis, and Azuree on. My friends all rolled down their windows. It was a major assault. I wanted to see how far I could push the threshold. So often I wear less than I want to , and spray thinking more of others than myself.

Try Jolie Madame later again when it isn't competing with Azuree. It's actually a leather violet. I of course love it. I have so many more to send you, dear. And you're such a good recipient. Because you make sure to respond to every one. Now that I've sent them, I understand why that's important. You send them as much to hear the other person's thoughts as to bestow fragrant beauty on them.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

This Week At The Perfume Counter: Givenchy III, Van Cleef Gem, Voile de Fleur, Dolce and Gabbana By

The Russians at the perfume kiosk in the mall have some kind of racket going on. I can't decide just what. Of course, I have my own racket. Last week, after sitting on my "I'm going to sell this all on e-bay and make millions of dollars" stash, I realized that my drive for new perfume is stronger than my patience when it comes to navigating the internet marketplace. Now I understand why the Korean perfume shop owner I bought it all from had it priced so low; he couldn't be bothered, either.

The stash includes 6 bottles of Gucci Nobile, 3 bottles of Feu D'Issey, 3 bottles of Paco Rabbane La Nuit EDP, a truck load of Etienne Aigner No 1, 1 bottle of Kenzo Peace Pour Homme, 1 bottle of Yohji Men, 2 huge bottles of Cristalle EDP, old formulation Givenchy III, and others which presently escape me (plus I'm bored with this sentence).

This week, I mentioned to the Russian woman who seems to run the kiosk that I had this stash, and she was very interested. She said she would pay me, but I knew I would never get what they were worth in dollars from her, and why charge her what they cost me when I could trade them for more expensive perfumes from her inventory? So I traded my Gucci Nobiles, and even writing this I feel a pang of remorse. Perhaps I should have held on to them. It's as if I cashed in my nest egg and have nothing to fall back on.

The problem is I have most of what I want from their stock, except for a few, like DK Fuel for Men and DK Unleaded, which smell nice but fade quickly from what I can tell. I bought Van Cleef Gem and Dolce and Gabbana By for Her before we made this arrangement and wished I'd waited so I could have gotten them for free. But I couldn't, which is why I'm cashing in my nest egg in the first place.

For the curious, Gem is brilliant. I would venture to say it's a fruity floral, with a definite contrapuntal thrust of spices. Others have compared it to Rochas Femme, and I see the similarity, though Gem is decidely (and aptly) brighter. Smelling it, I thought, Well that's too ladylike even for me. I might as well wear a dress and a flower in my hair and bat my eyes. But it stuck with me as I shopped, especially into the dry down, which is more compelling than the Olivier Cresp reformulation of Rochas Femme, possibly because it contains animalic notes which pre-date restrictions. Besides, batting my eyes comes naturally to me. Gem was composed in 1987 by Roger Pellegrino, of Anais Anais and Armani Eau Pour Homme.

Dolce Gabbana By has piquant citrus notes up top, very quickly moves into caffienated territory, then sticks much too close to the skin for my taste. It's nice, but nothing I would miss were it to suddenly vanish from my stash. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and I suspect By will outlast many of my fragrances, most of which are much louder and persistent and will be reached for more compulsively.

The next several days I returned to the Russian kiosk with bottles of Gucci Nobile, though the drive isn't a short one. I suppose I made several trips so as to lessen the blunt force trauma of instant divestiture. I'm guessing I instinctively feared some horrible withdrawal. I traded for the new, much soapier formulation of Givenchy III (me likey) and Tom Ford Extreme, which the Russians mistook for garden variety Tom Ford for Men. I explained the difference without mentioning the difference in price, as I figured Extreme was a fairer trade for Nobile in any case. As has happened before, they didn't believe me, until they unboxed the Tom Ford for Men and performed a comparison test.

Extreme is fantastic--tarry, smoky, leathery goodness--and it lasts all of twenty minutes. The nearest analog I can think of is Burberry London for Men, which shares Extreme's preoccupation with some fantasy version of an exclusive Men's Club library, complete with port wine, cigar smoke, and suit and tie sweat. Like Extreme, London is gone before you know it. I wanted Extreme regardless. It smells that good, and besides, memories fade too.

The last thing I traded for was Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, EDT. It smells like the EDP done right, and unlike Extreme has staying power. The focus is on white florals, but with the same saving grace of the EDP, a grungy patchouli base. The patchouli gnashes its teeth at the pretty white florals and the tension plays out on your skin. I wish Tom Ford didn't annoy me so much. I'd feel so much better about buying his fragrances. Every time I see his face I'm frustrated by the compulsion to wipe that pseudo-sexy look off it. It's like some bridge and tunnel guy coming on to you at the bar. He's sweet talking you and everything he says has a winking eye to it, and all you can think about is that blindingly God-awful gold chain around his neck, wondering how many chest hairs it pulls off when he removes it, if he ever does.

At the thrift store I found semi-vintage ml samples of Rochas Femme, Equipage, and Miss Dior. The latter interested me most. Much has been made of Miss Dior's degeneration, and there's certainly a marked difference between the version I own and the version I smelled the other day. The latest formulation is soapier, more pungent, an uncomplicated, cheerful good-time gal. The version I smelled at the thrift store was much darker, more oriental, without the newer iteration's focus on green. Surprisingly, I prefer the version I own. I know: to some, this is like saying I have a preference for boxed wine. Fine. Leave me in the grass boozing it up on my discount vino. More for me, I guess.

But back to the racket. What are the Russians up to? Or after years of cold war conditioning and despite my ostensibly liberal leanings do I simply distrust Russians? I leave it to you to decide. When they gave me my Voile de Fleur, they asked if I minded not getting the box. It really doesn't matter to me, unless I think I might eventually re-gift the perfume at hand. I knew I'd want to keep Voile, or more specifically, that no one else I might give it to would want such a corruption of the white floral, so I opted for box-less, and was given the bottle of Voile in a cheap, imitation gauze bag (gauze is cheap to begin with, so you get the idea), and I left without asking questions.

Are the Russians smuggling fake bottles in authentic boxes--or does the average mall shopper simply have a natural aversion to tester bottles, which can seem like used goods or knock-offs to those who buy one bottle at a time? Where do the Russians get their stash? I've asked jokingly, pretending not to be looking for an answer, but they've never taken the bait. Some of the boxes--like a recent addition, Caron Pour Un Homme, from the eighties--look like they went through a rock tumbler. The lids hold on by a thread.They didn't have Gucci Rush for Men, they couldn't find it anywhere, then one day, suddenly, presto, there it was.

Are they siphoning fake juice into old bottles? Like every shop owner they aren't above giving you a line. They've informed me with straight faces that DK Gold is discontinued and impossible to find, even though Perfumania carries it, right upstairs. They've said the same about others. When Giorgio Red for Men was recently re-released, they priced it at 65 dollars, assuring me how rare it was. I bought it, then saw it later elsewhere for half the price, and by elsewhere I mean everywhere. They're up to something, I just haven't figured out what. Clearly, pawning off my cheaply bought bottles of discontinued fragrances at top dollar prices, I'm up to something to, so perhaps the cold war is alive and well? It's all very cloak and dagger at the local mall, people. Make sure you bring your trench.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

You Know You're a Perfume Addict When...

Inspired by a hilariously funny post on Perfume of Life forum ~

You use the phrase “to my nose” on a daily basis

You know the difference between, edp, edt, extrait, elixir, pure parfum, etc.

You can easily convert ml to oz, drams to ml and back again. In fact, these conversion sites are bookmarked.

Your emails and forum posts are peppered with: SL, FM, CdG, L’A, EL, POTL, AG, KM, YSL, AL, DSH, FBW, HG, LS, BH, etc.

You know a scrubber is a very bad thing

Decant, swap and split are words you use nearly daily

You understand these acronyms and think it’s completely normal: SOTM, SOTD and SOTE

You know Unsniffed purchasing is dangerous territory but you do it anyway and try not to admit it

The names Ellena, Roudnitska, Grojsman, Lutens, Sheldrake, Ropion, Goutal hold every bit as much meaning (if not more) than Obama, McCain or Palin

You purchase back up bottles of perfumes you fear will be discontinued (dc)

You have an unusually friendly and first-name-basis relationship with your mail carrier and clerks at local post office

You know the latest fragrance releases, even before sales associates do, and you know so much more than the SA’s, yet you try to be polite and listen with patience

Friends and family members hide when you come at them with your wrist saying “smell this”

You buy perfumes you don't even like or would never actually wear because they are "classics" or "you might want to have as a point of reference"

You sniff your wrists or the crook of your arm countless times each day, others might think you have an unfortunate tick.

You always apply a few quick spritzes before bed. If you forget, you bounce right back up and get your fix.

As soon as you find out a friend is going overseas, you begin the list

You’re wary of trying limited editions in case you fall in love

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Me Newsletter, aka "Why I'm So Important and Everything I Say Is Something You Should Hear" Volume 12, Issue 3

Dearest Reader,

Well, well, well--and what a busy week it's been.

Several days ago, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez did an interview with the Guardian, during which--hold on to your hats--Mr. Turin slammed yours truly--AND whippets, for (I guess) good measure. Being the proud owner of a poor, defenseless whippet, and knowing, as I do, that these animals are closer to humans than most of the people you will be subjected to on a daily basis, this offended me deeply. I looked at my little whippet, Mimi Layla Beauregard III, and felt as if she'd been molested somehow, as if all the little Mimi Layla's out there had been held down and taken advantage of, right out in the open, for the whole world to see.

Naturally, it's my duty to get my feelings about this out of the way, right off the bat, before I move on to other, more pressing issues. I knew you would be waiting to hear from me on this, so I have dilly-dallied not. Naturally, I find Mr. Turin's insensitivity appalling--but this wasn't his only offense. He also called my favorite fragrance ever, my signature scent, "slutty". So, I take it, I am a whore--and Mimi Layla Beauregard III, a shivering pansy. Perhaps we are both whores and live in sin, shivering in our sluttish perfume. I don't think it's right to run around calling other people sluts. Certainly not Mimi Layla, who was neutered at six months, may God forgive me.

I think Mr. Turin should think before he speaks. I think he should spend an afternoon in Mimi Layla Beauregard III's shoes before he goes around making blanket statements about one of nature's loveliest, most precious blessings. Clearly, he likes to push buttons. Clearly, he has never known the joy of waking to the angelic face, sleek and still--not shivering, no--of the whippet. If ever a whippet does shiver I can assure you it's due to some cruel, vicious, careless, tossed-off slander such as this. I assure you, Mr. Turin is not the first to denigrate this lovely creature's good name. I can also tell you I won't be the first slut to stop buying his books.

Speaking of sluts, I urge you to join me in boycotting Estee Lauder. Have you noticed that the models in their Sensuous ads seem to be naked under those large white shirts--and whose shirts are they, after all? I'm appalled at Estee Lauder, for stooping to this. Even Gwyneth Paltrow, so pure and blonde, has joined in, stripping off her pants and underthings to shill this perfume. Like you, I have standards, reader. I don't go around flashing people willy nilly. I don't sleep in just any man's bed and if I did I certainly wouldn't borrow his shirt in the morning. I'm a liberated woman, thank you. I have my own shirts. I am not some sensuous slut, despite what some seem to think. My mother taught me better than that, and I expect yours did too. I'm ashamed and embarrassed for Blythe Danner, Gwyneth's mother, who seems so sweet and caring. I'm ashamed for any woman with a mother. To be so defenseless, walking in to the mall, confronted immediately with a bevy of panty-less marauders. I very nearly collided with a rack of costume jewelry. I rushed right home to tell you all about it.

That reminds me. Next month, I will be inaugurating a new feature. I will choose a topic I suspect people would most like to hear me hold forth on, and I will hold forth on it at length. One burning issue I sense people would like me to address is: what do I, your faithful memoirist, tend to think about most. Another: the carelessness of others when it comes to wearing perfume in public. I, like you, believe people should be seen, not smelled. Why should I be reminded constantly of their presence? I have a lot going on. I have a lot to think about. And when I'm done thinking, I'm dedicated to reporting back to you. From this, I will not be distracted.

Not everyone feels this way, as you know. Not everyone is considerate or thoughtful or thinks of the rest of the world when applying her perfume in the morning or before an evening out--though I don't go out, myself, because Mimi Layla Beauregard wishes to be read to at night from her favorite book, Good Thoughts and The People Who Think Them: My Story, In My Own Words, As I Lived It, Told by Me, and I am not one to fall short on my commitments.

Some women douse themselves, is what I'm getting to. Some women think about nothing but themselves. Pathologically incapable of considering the thoughts and feelings of others, they virtually bathe in perfume, and by perfume I don't mean the kind you and I wear. I mean the kind of perfume the average whore out on the street would wear, so that men driving by at modest speeds might be lured in their direction and encouraged to commit lascivious acts involving broom handles and phone books and cell phones and I shiver to think what else. I'm talking about the kind of perfume that speaks in capital letters, drawing attention to itself.

For weeks I've dwelt on this issue, because I know how important it is to you, dear reader, that I think of you constantly and consider at all times what you would want me to discuss. I can tell you, I won't hold back when it comes to this topic. If women insist on wearing that kind of perfume, and wearing it that loudly, then I will spare them nothing. I will make my feelings known. I know you would want me to, and I don't blame you. I understand just how you feel. Something should be said or done to these women so they will know how offensive it is to have to smell them. Perfume should be discreet. It shouldn't smell so much.

I am writing a letter to Mr. Turin's publishers in hopes of getting his book pulled off the shelves. People should know the filth running through this so-called gentleman's mind. I think if they knew how much it upsets someone like me they would yank every last copy of Perfume: The Guide out off circulation. And I will be writing Estee Lauder's corporate headquarters as well. No more women in oversized shirts. No more pandering. After all, who is the buyer for this perfume--men, or women? Perhaps Mr. Turin is the ideal buyer. Perhaps Mr. Turin is the slut. If so, Estee Lauder should know this.

I will send these letters out first thing tomorrow, you can be sure, and of course I will keep you posted. Until then, your friend in perfume and as ever committed to keeping you posted on my thoughts and feelings as they come to me...

Hear Me Out Club, aka I Know You Are But What Am I?
Southern Chapter President

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Want My Hymen Back

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time. I wish I could return to the days when four fragrant lovers satisfied me and made me complete. I recall the good ole days with a particular fascination and innocence. Back then, I would wear a perfume every day for an entire season. I’d romance that perfume day and night, never switching during the course of a day. I was seasonally monogamous with each perfume love. I’d only switch to a different perfume love when the seasons changed and it was unquestionably the right moment to move along to my next perfume love. It wasn’t a sad parting, because I knew we’d be back together the next season. I’d switch scented partners four times per year. I miss those days, when I was a perfume virgin.

Perfume virginity allowed me to fully cherish and romance one single fragrance for approximately four straight months. As a perfume virgin, my clothing, my car, my house, my bed linens would smell recognizably like “me.” Because even though I switched my scented loves each season, I cherished each fragrance long enough for them to be recognized as my signature scents, for them to become me.

These days I’m a whore. A slut. A trollop. I probably have over 350 bottles of perfume. I like all of them, but I don’t love and cherish and fully know each and every one. I slut around, giving about 2-4 perfumes a spin each day. Sometimes I’m so quick with a particular fragrance it’s nearly a ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’ experience. I’m so eager for my next perfume fix that the scent of the previous one still lingers on my skin and I have to shower it off so the next perfume won’t know just how recently I was with another. I’m constantly on the prowl, looking for the next gorgeous composition, the newest trophy, or the vintage old classic I somehow missed.

I miss the contentment of perfume virginity. I wish I could go back in time but I can’t. I’m too far gone now. Perhaps I could join David Duchovny at the rehabilation center where he being treated for sex addiction. Damn, I bet he smells good. How would I pack for the rehab? I wonder how many bottles I could fit in my suitcase.

Chanel Beige: A Review

Chanel has never been my perfume house of choice. I understand why so many love Chanel No 5 but it’s never been a fragrance I could wear. I love Chanel No 22, but I don't wear it often. Chanel No 19 is decidedly not my thing, to me it smells cold and mean, and I imagine a woman such as Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada to smell like Chanel No 19.

Nevertheless, there was something about the description of Chanel Beige, perhaps it was simply the name itself, Beige, that seemed approachable and potentially a friendlier Chanel to me. I ordered it unsniffed (yes, I bought that huge Les Exclusifs Collection 200 ml bottle!). Chanel Beige arrived yesterday and I wore it last night and I’m wearing it today.

I love it. It’s definitely Chanel. It’s a real old-fashioned classy sort of perfume – and by that I mean it’s an abstract floral, seamlessly well-blended without any specific notes seeking attention over others. It is a smell that will never remind you of a particular flower or thing – it’s a ‘perfumey’ perfume – a complex aldehydic bouquet – but a subdued and soft aldehydic bouquet. Beige does not call attention to itself, in the way that I would say Chanel No 5 does. I’d classify Beige as an understated fragrance.

I was surprised by Beige for the first hour because it smells like a fruity-floral. The initial application doesn’t smell like a Chanel to me, it smells nice, I should say, like a well-done fruity-floral, but it’s undoubtedly fruity and floral and very sweet. However, once Beige dries down, the fruity quality disappears and it becomes unabashedly Chanel. It’s a soft abstract white floral. It’s pretty yet grown-up pretty. It’s something I would wear when I want to be taken seriously, when I want to smell sophisticated and ladylike. Beige does not make me conjure up images of New York society women with large clunky jewelry, perfectly coiffed nor a cold, bitchy woman like Meryl Streep’s character from The Devil Wears Prada. I wouldn’t classify this as a cold scent – it smells and feels rather warm on me. You might wonder about the similarity with Chanel’s Gardenia, and while Beige is also a white floral, I find it less heady and sweet, and more soft and subdued than Gardenia. I much prefer Beige to Chanel’s Gardenia myself.

Just for the record, my favorite Chanel’s are Coromandel and Bois des Iles. I consider these warmer and easier for me to pull off. Coromandel, Bois des Iles and Beige are not similar in any way, aside from each carrying off that distinctive Chanel-esque theme, but it gives the reader an idea of my style/preference, and since all perfume reviews are entirely subjective, I figured listing my other Chanel favorites might be helpful. I also don’t typically go for white florals, but Beige is a beautifully soft, abstract and classic white floral bouquet that is grounded in a dry ambery base (amber is not among the listed notes) leaving it not too sweet or heady in the least.

Apparently there was a Chanel fragrance called Le Beige now long discontinued that was introduced in 1931. I have never smelled this fragrance so I cannot attest to whether it’s similar or if the new Beige is a re-introduction of sorts or a completely new fragrance altogether.

From Chanel’s press release…on Beige:
"I take refuge in beige because it's natural," said Mademoiselle Chanel. Sandy beige, honey beige, clay beige, whitish beige… She loved all shades of this colour, which evokes natural elegance and grace. An elusive colour with infinite variations, beige may seem quite ordinary. And yet, behind this apparent simplicity, it hides a discreet sensuality that builds slowly before revealing itself fully. This sensual outburst is interpreted by Jacques Polge through a bouquet of hawthorn, freesia and frangipani, with shimmering hints of honey. A stunning blend of white petals and yellow gold...in other words, a breath of Beige.”

Chanel Beige is available in the U.S. at Saks
$190.00 for a 200 ml bottle

UPDATE: 10/20/08 The more I wear Beige the more I like it. Beige has lovely freesia & sweet honey notes that have become more obvious over time.

The quote and bottle image are taken from Chanel’s press release.

Newsflash: Perfume, The Guide is openly opinionated.

Now Smell This has posted an excerpt from an interview with Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez which was published in the Guardian. The interview interests and irks me in equal measure, for various reasons. The pull quote reads:

But if the title lacks poetic fun, the book most certainly does not. Although the language occasionally dips into the kind of hyperbolic floweriness one perhaps must expect from enthusiastic connoisseurs, on the whole it is written with pleasing plainness and, most of all, a sense of humour. Guerlain's Mouchoir de Monsieur is lauded with an adulatory four-star review and readers are advised that "if you can wear it without thinking of Rupert Everett playing Beau Brummell, do so by all means", while something called Montana Mood Sexy is dismissed with one star and a curt "not tonight".

I'll be the first to tell you that I disagree with Turin and Sanchez on various reviews. Last night, for instance, I picked up a bottle of Spellbound, thinking, "Nice, cloves and flowers, mmm, oh yes, here we go," whereas they find it a stink bomb with a merciless range of detonation only instinct and God can protect you from. Abigail and I both, I believe, would gladly tape ourselves shut, as Turin suggests, in a room with Amarige, though unlike him we wouldn't hesitate to tape others in with us. I'm not sold on Beyond Paradise, which the authors rate spectacularly. I don't see the sunset from a Concorde window, nor receive inner calm from its sillage. But I don't agree with Abigail all the time either, nor she with me, and reading Perfume: The Guide is hardly about consensus.

The other day I compared Sanchez and Turin to Pauline Kael. Kael, of course, was famously opinionated. Her Spellbound was Woody Allen. Others, including me, loved his work in the late seventies and eighties. I remember being shocked, when I discovered Kael's writing and sought out her New Yorker archive in the school library, that she didn't love Manhattan, was left cold by Stardust Memories, was hostile to Interiors and Broadway Danny Rose. I was petulant for about twenty minutes, then I got over it. Andrew Sarris and others might have loved Allen's movies, but they wrote like a college course on biophysics. I wanted someone who shared my irrational obsession with film--and wasn't too above it to fess up.

Reading the above quote from an otherwise favorable paragraph and a friendly interview overall, I bristle at what I take to be a typically lazy British priggishness. Call me picky. The whole project of the Guide, it seems to me, is to create new territory for the very concept of such a book. Any best of list is highly personal, and to the extent it seeks to conceal that subjectivity, a sham. Here's a book which, like Kael's criticism, collapses the format, exposing that inevitable bias with candor and wit. The bias is embraced, and rather than speak to you as an authority garbed in a velvet smoking jacket, with a dry air of superiority and a bogus assertion of the definitive, it speaks to you as a fan, with enthusiasm, passion, and drive. It wrings its hands and gets right in the room with you. Doing so, it engages you in a dialog. The sensibility of Sanchez and Turin is refreshingly interactive rather than smugly self-enclosed. They strip the critical format of its silly supposed-to's, challenging you to meet their strong opinions with opinions of your own. They ask you to think and converse, rather than receive and regurgitate. And they aren't afraid to make enemies by taking on the big boys.

Of course the title lacks poetic fun. Um...duh. In quotes. In light of the book's project, which is at least in part about parodying the concept of a definitive guide, it exists on a higher level of word play than the writer of the Guardian piece is apparently able to apprehend. I call it a Bible in a similar spirit of good humor. It doesn't try to conceal its lack of journalistic objectivity. To the contrary, Turin and Sanchez laugh at the notion such a thing exists, as well as open up the debate about who makes or what constitutes a canon. Can journalistic objectivity be counted on to tell you what you should own or smell? Hardly, at a time when taste is clearly marketed and formulations change, unannounced, from day to day.

Yes, to be sure, Turin and Sanchez insist that the nose recognizes a good smell, and instinctively suffers from a foul one, and every nose essentially "knows" the difference. They make no apologies about their snobbery. Snobbery is part of the project. Yours as well as theirs. But if their book is a guide to anything, it's a guide to their passions and engagement, and like Kael they hope to be disagreed with, if only to keep evolving the discourse. They would likely scoff at my attraction to Spellbound, but doing so makes me define my position more articulately. Knowing what they like, and how personal their tastes are, encourages you to get to know yourself as well. As John Waters recently said about the state of modern movie-going, and I paraphrase: People leave a blockbuster these days and it doesn't occur to them to really detail for themselves just how bad it was and why, and how different their reaction is from what they've been told it will be or is supposed to be.

The "language occasionally dips into the kind of hyperbolic floweriness one perhaps must expect from enthusiastic connoisseurs"? She makes that sound like a bad thing, as if yet another newspaper article's objective report on the doings of one of its advertisers would be preferable.

I'm just saying.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Return of Perfume, the Guide (online)

Lucca Turin and Tania Sanchez have decided to publish quarterly installments of their Bible, Perfume: The Guide, which is a relief to those of us who've been wondering what they think of Calvin Klein Euphoria, Acqua di Gio, Allure Homme Edition Blanche, Estee Lauder Sensuous, Giorgio, et al. Some of these were omitted from the original publication. Some have since been released. Others had fallen outside the authors' radar, which is hard to believe but there you go.

In case you're wondering, Giorgio gets four stars. "It is considered polite to deplore the excesses of the eighties (and to trot out Opium, Poison, and Giorgio as exhibits)," writes Turin. Consider Turin impolite. Those eighties mainstays might have OVERstayed their welcome at the time, but you can hardly blame the salt someone used to rub into your wound. And to deprive yourself of salt forever after doesn't make much sense, unless you simply want to punish yourself.

The authors are champions of the forgotten, the neglected, and the wrongfully maligned. Conversely, they remain the best bullshit detectors in the field when it comes to the overrated and the ridiculously hyped. Serge Lutens' Five O'Clock au Gingembre is commended for its "pleasantly salty, meaty note" but ultimately "settles for the smoky vanillic smell of plain benzoin."

The writing is so literate you sometimes wonder if in fact you're reading about perfume. Sanchez and Turin are to perfume what Pauline Kael was to film. They are just as wonderfully opinionated, as passionate, informed, and insightful. Like Kael they manage to write poetry disguised as criticism, and one of their chief accomplishments, to my mind, is an ability to break things down without lobotomizing them. They elevate perfume and the people who love it in the process.

This writer much appreciates the entries on Heeley in particular. If you haven't smelled them and can somehow, get to it. Cuir Pleine Fleur is as wonderful as Turin tells you it is, and then some. "CPF should serve as an object lesson to all, from Hermes to Cartier," he writes, "who hanker after a new type of beauty in masculine perfumes." What that new type is? Wondrously strange, hay and leather, the smell of the stall and the flower beds beyond it. CPF lasts and lasts, and of all the fragrances I own, it elicits the most interesting, exclamatory reactions, often from strangers. It's that lovely.

The first installment of the online addendum to the Guide can be downloaded on the book's website. What are you waiting for?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dandy of the Day: Count Alfred D'Orsay

Count Alfred D'Orsay was one of the most celebrated Dandy's of his day (1801-1852). During Count D’Orsay’s time, a particular kind of gentleman, such as Beau Brummel, aroused admiration among the upper crust through their witty remarks and outlandish clothing. They were eager to be noticed and imposed a certain life and dress style in this bored bourgeois society.

Alfred D'Orsay was one of the most famous Dandies of his era. Count D’Orsay was talented in the arts as well as being a witty conversationalist and extravagant dresser.

Count D’Orsay’s more exceptional talent, however, turned out to be that of creating perfumes. His interest was sparked when his mistress Lady Blessington could not find a fragrance she enjoyed. In England, the fashion of the day was intensely musky perfumes, which did not suit Lady Blessington.

And so began the life long ambition of the Chevalier. Alchemist of luxury and love, D'Orsay rapidly developed a growing passion for perfumery. It’s said that in each of his homes he dedicated a room to the creation of fragrances. He continued to dabble in perfumery for the rest of his life.

Parfums D’Orsay was established after his death and named in his honor. Count D'Orsay's original "Eau de Bouquet" was reportedly "reworked" into the line's Etiquette Bleue fragrance.

I recently fell in love with D’Orsay Tilleul, which is the most gorgeous linden fragrance I’ve ever smelled.

Parfums D’Orsay website (click)

Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur: A Review

Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur (henceforth FM MR) launched in 2000 and was created by Maurice Roucel. Maurice Roucel has created several of my favorite fragrances (Bond No 9 Broadway Nite, Bond No 9 New Haarlem, Gucci Envy, Hermes 24 Faubourg, Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist) so this coupled with MR coming from Frederic Malle nearly guaranteed I would love it.

And love it, I do. Here’s the thing, I don’t like dirty-body-odor-animalic-musky perfumes like Serge Lutens Musc Koublai Khan. I really don’t like musk-dominant perfumes at all. In a nutshell, FM MR is a musk perfume for those who don’t like musk. First of all, FM MR is rather sweet and safe for a musk. If FM MR were a person, she’d be a classy, prep school educated, pink twin-set and pearls girl, with a pair of fishnets and stilettos hidden away in her weekend bag.

FM MR opens with a lavender citrus blast that hits the back of my throat and makes me cough. Within 5-10 minutes the opening disappears and it begins a beautiful journey to the ultimate woodsy, musky, vanilla, and spice dry down. The longevity is unbelievable. I mean really unbelievable. A few sprays will last you all day and easily through the night. I’m a stickler for lasting power so I’m incredibly impressed by the potency (2-3 sprays will do you!) and lasting power which makes the price tag seem just about reasonable.

I think FM MR is casual and soothing as well as sexy. It’s a sweet skin scent in its very own league. Stunning.

Maurice Roucel’s next fragrance for Frederic Malle, Dans tes Bras, arrives at Barney’s next month. It’s described as a woody violet and I can hardly wait.

Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur’s listed notes:
Top: Lavender, bergamot
Middle: Clove, cinnamon
Base: Gaiac wood, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla, tonka, musk

Available at Barney’s (click for website)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Binge Dieting: Secret Obsession, Magnifique, Sensuous and Other Anorexic Simulations

What is it with the latest batch of commercial releases? What aroma-chemical or marketing approach lends them all the baffling sense of sameness? Pick up Lancome Magnifique, Estee Lauder Sensuous, and Calvin Klein Secret Obsession to name several. The dry downs of the latter two seem virtually identical: politely discreet, vaguely woody, a half-assed, half-finished accord akin to someone with stale breath turning his face away so as not to offend you, inadvertently insuring you won't be able to hear what he's saying any more than you can tell what his sentence smells like. Magnifique shares with these a thinned-out sweetness in the top notes, as if someone diluted the overall composition with water and vodka and anything else she had at hand, just to see how far she could extend it before its aroma reached that barely-there threshold.

What do these fragrances and this apparent trend have to say about the buying public's desires or our cultural sensibility as a whole? Many fragrances targeted specifically to the Asian market take into account the Asian buyer's partiality to perfume so pristine it ceases to smell like perfume, creating fragrances which bow their heads and avert their eyes in deference to all who approach. Americans, on the other hand, seem to be obsessed with fruity florals, or someone thinks they are and relentlessly produces them. Add to fruity florals the obscenely, obsessive-compulsively clean. Aqua di Gio continues to be a bestseller in the masculine market, even as masculines inch ever more toward the floral. Meanwhile, Dolce and Gabbana's Light Blue is a top-seller with women and smells like something a man would spray to hide the B.O. his girlfriend finds offensive or the lingering odor of a particularly torrid indiscretion.

The Reds and Giogios and Poisons and Paris' of the eighties seemed in keeping with a culture-wide disregard for the feelings or circumstances of others, a fashion for big-shouldered, high-haired silhouettes, and an imposition of one's self onto one's environment, as if the latter weren't complete or noteworthy until the arrival on the scene of the former. Trends change but always reflect cultural values to some extent. So what's with all the anemic fragrances flooding the department store counters? Are we wishy-washy, non-committal, or simply afraid of our own shadows?

It's interesting to compare the reviews of Chandler Burr and the intellectual team of Lucca Turin and Tania Sanchez. While all three revere the great creations of perfumers past, Burr advances the idea that the practical application of these creations in the contemporary social environment is non-existent at this point, while Turin and Sanchez hold to the idea that perfumes are timeless and relevant; they no more go out of fashion than a Dior cut from 1940 or the Declaration of Independence. It's all about attitude and character, and homage without context is worthless. Change is great, but at what cost?

Burr often gives high marks to compositions which recall those vintage perfumes the way postmodern writing begs, borrows, and steals from the classics of literature, tossing all its constituent attributes into a hybrid which recalls without specifying exactly what or when. His unqualified appreciation of Sisley's Eau du Soir is a good example:

"It is an expert pastiche of the traditional French “animalic”—i.e., the smell of animal (a classic trope of French perfumery)—but in a version for the 21st century. This take on animalic is not redolent of an armpit but rather of a mink coat, which is to say it is the smell of real leather plus real hot fur. This is a visceral luxury, and Mongin builds the perfume’s top by welding it to a greenish, sleekly modern floral."

Turin's dismissal of the fragrance as insipid, empty-headed knock-off is equally indicative of his own values. The perfume doesn't even rate a review in Perfume: The Guide; rather, he knocks it in passing, in the course of another fragrance's review, as if throwing a passenger out of the car without stopping to let her out. To Turin, Eau de Soir is a perfume which recalls the classic green chypres, to be sure--the way a town in Disney's Small World attraction recalls its real time source. You can't expect to understand Japan from the little pivoting automatons in kimonos.

Don't get the idea Turin and Sanchez are living in the past. Witness Turin on Chanel No 5 Eau Premiere: "This is abstract, classical perfumery at its best," he writes, "revisited by people who do not see modernization as an excuse for screwing up." Turin will be the first to slam Guerlain for altering its classics, unless or until he feels the job is being well done. Progress is great: hurray for the future. Turin just happens to be the strongest critical voice in his field speaking out for the recognition of perfumery as art, the relevance of art to cultural history, and the importance of history to culture at large. That isn't to say Burr dismisses the past or perfume's artistry. Of Germaine Cellier, the nose behind Fracas, Bandit, and Vent Vert, he said: "an artist working in the olfactory medium." It's simply to say that Burr and Team Turin-Sanchez are necessary polar points in the modern dialog about perfume, presenting its complicated, panoramic picture to date. That Burr presents the picture using photo-realism and Sanchez-Turin represent it with the kinetic brush strokes of cubism illustrates how much room there is for interpretation.

What would these three say about the relative sameness of modern commercial perfumery offered at the local mall; specifically, about Secret Obsession, Magnifique, and Senuous? This is the face of perfumery the average consumer digests and perhaps demands in some way. How can someone like Calice Becker go from the pungent glory of Tommy Girl and J'Adore to the milquetoast timidity of Secret Obsession within such a relatively short amount of time? Turin, at least, has sounded off regarding Sensuous, remarking, "...up close the fragrance disintegrates over the first hour into a bare array of disconnected things failing to cohere: white floral, synthetic wood, praline-like amber. All told, thin and lacking mystery."

Perhaps the modern fragrance reflects the contemporary obsession with diet and self-abnegation and a concomitant nation-wide phenomenon of obesity. Are these fragrances our way of punishing ourselves for our indulgent excesses? If we're going to gorge ourselves on the fruity gourmands and decadent pleasures of heady floral bouquets, we must, we might feel, at some point fast. At least we have the wit and erudition of writers like Sanchez, Turin, and Burr, who elevate the conversation to an ideological plane which feels as rich as chocolate and feeds the mind without indulging its apparent need to eventually deny itself pleasure.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

This Week at the Perfume Counter: Belle en Rykiel, Lancome La Collection, Bijan V.I.P.

I really scored the other day at Marshalls. Every once in a while, one does, though happening upon something unusual requires frequent visits and a persistent trek through a sea of Elizabeth Taylor fragrances. In this context, even Ralph Lauren Hot would have to be considered a real find. This time, however, I was truly surprised.
On the same day, I found Demeter’s Patchouli, Belle en Rykiel, and a boxed set of four half-ounce Lancome La Collection re-issues which included Magie, Mille et une Rose, Climat, and Sikkim, all eau de parfum. The first was seven bucks. The Sonia Rykiel was 20. The real bargain was Lancome, at 25 dollars. I couldn’t wait to get it all home.

I expected to like the La Collection, and I did like them—every last one. The Belle en Rykiel was more of a curiosity to me, and cheap enough I didn’t mind shelling out for it. Osmoz classifies it as an aromatic oriental. I won’t argue, though the apparently forceful lavender is news to my untrained nose. I don’t get that astringency, nor even much of a floral note. The composition smells to me of coffee and amber, very bright up top, winding down to a smooth, addictive, ambery patchouli; “feminine, but with a nod to the masculine,” its marketers proclaim. No one else, smelling this on a man’s or a woman’s skin, would make such tiresome classifications. According to basenotes.net, Belle en Rykiel was created by Jean-Pierre Bethouart, the nose behind Caron’s Parfum Sacre, in 2006.
I’d smelled Climat and Mille et une Roses at Saks several months ago, when I was in LA. A saleswoman accosted me, refusing to cease and desist until I told her what I was looking for. I spat out Cuir by Lancome, knowing they wouldn’t have it but hoping otherwise, and off she whisked me. The surgically enhanced blonde Lancome rep, whose fake fingernails looked more natural than the expression permanently etched upon her face, had never heard of Cuir, and hearing me pronounce it got a look in her eyes which might, I imagined, have been revulsion, had she been able to move her features properly.
She offered La Collection instead. I wasn’t enthused by the bait and switch but couldn’t hide my instant attraction to Climat. A rich, classic fragrance, its floral core is made nearly vibratory by a rich vetiver base. I liked it, but not as much as I imagined I would like the phantom Cuir. Mille et une Rose, I was informed, is a bestseller. I left without smelling the other two. Like most perfume shoppers, I prefer to be left alone with my addiction.

Someone had obviously opened the Lancome box, though I didn’t see this until I got it home. Someone else had taped it shut. The bottles are small glass decants with cut crystal stoppers, and I imagine various shoppers had used the perfume freely or even spilled it by the time the staff got to it. A little of the Climat and the Mille et une Rose were missing. That bothered me less than I thought it should, as the untouched Sikkim and Magie turned out to be my favorites anyway.

Like Belle en Rykiel, Sikkim and Magie are ambiguous, indeterminately gendered, Sikkim more straightforwardly so. Sikkim is an impressively rich oriental chypre which opens with a strong thrust of galbanum. There are spices, vague hints of incense and, as with Miss Dior, an ultimate descent into rich leathery territory. According to Marlen from perfumecritic.com, who reviewed the fragrance for nowsmellthis in 2006, the remaining notes include: aldehydes, ylang ylang, bergamot, gardenia, thujone, carnation, jasmine, narcissus, orris, rose, amber, castoreum, moss, patchouli and vetiver.

Sikkim was originally released in 1971. Magie, created by Armand Petitjean in 1950, is a more conventionally attractive perfume, with notes of jasmine, violet, musk, and amber. Magie is one of those vintage floral slash animalic compositions which are now virtually extinct, and because the fruity, clean floral scents on the shelves of Sephora now equate with femininity, the masculine is by default…almost anything else. Petitjean created many fragrances for Lancome throughout the thirties, forties, and fifties, among them the elusive Cuir, which I’ve yet to smell.

Other treks to the counter included a few stops at Perfumania, where, intending to pick up a bottle of Kouros, I instead bought V.I.P. by Bijan and Burberry London. I can’t find anything about V.I.P. on the internet—not on basenotes, nor osmoz, nor have I found it reviewed anywhere. I’m no good at picking out notes which don’t happen to be galbanum, rose, violet or patchouli, but if pressed I might identify angelica in V.I.P. It has something in common with many of the woody aromatics I’ve smelled and owned-- Fendi Uomo, Azzaro Now, French Lover—yet when you compare them it holds its own with unique touches.

London is one of those fragrances I buy when I can’t get my hands on anything that excites me more. I bought quite a lot last week, probably at least partly due to the anonymous email I received last Friday from nicecritic.com, which said: “Brian, your cologne/perfume is very strong on a regular basis. My feelings were hurt and I wanted to know who the culprit was. Do I really spray that much on? I’ve always sprayed less than I want to, and try not to wear some of the more aggressive fragrances out in confined spaces, like the office or, say, the post office. Receiving this kind of email made me want to douse myself in Poison or Paris. I wanted to wash my hair in Miel de Bois or Broadway Nite. Use Alliage for mouthwash. It made me lonely in my obsession for perfume, and a late-night call from Abigail, fellow aficionado, really lifted my spirits.

When I discovered from nowsmellthis that Fresh was re-releasing Tobacco Caramel and Patchouli Pure, I called Sephora immediately to see whether they have it. At this point I don’t know why I bother. The girl on the other line had never heard of patchouli and thought I was saying something I’D never heard of. To aggravate me further, I suppose, she made no effort to put me on hold and walk three or four feet over to the Fresh section for a more thorough investigation. Sephora is the only shop I know that will tell you what they have in stock based on guess work. Perhaps she might have used her headset, had she not removed it to answer my call. Shopping online has been so nice lately, compared to this idiocy.