Friday, October 31, 2008

Une Rose

Like most perfume aficionados, I have my favorite accords. I can spend hours, days, or months, tracking a good leather scent down, and toward that end have amassed: Knize Ten, Tabac Blond, Cuir de Russie, and any number of lesser known specimens. My nose is always alert for galbanum, and iris is a big draw as well, as are tobacco, oakmoss, and virtually all things green. There are a lot to choose from in each of these categories, and I'm kept pretty happy, but rose, another favorite, has eluded me.

It isn't that I haven't found rose fragrances I like, or even that I've been looking for something incredibly specific, which is to say something I know before I smell it, as opposed to the other way around. It's just that most rose fragrances I've smelled or purchased haven't seemed exactly right for me, however much I admire them. Rose is in so many perfumes and colognes to varying degrees, right up top or submerged down below. I've enjoyed some of the masculines, like Cerruti 1881 and Aramis 900, and many of what I call the cult roses, particularly Ungaro III and Alain Delon Iquitos. I've looked into all sorts of unisex roses, like L'Artisan's fleeting Voleur de Roses, for instance. I enjoy many of the alleged feminines too--maybe even most of all--like Cannabis Rose, Paris, and Mille et Une Roses. I'll take high end, like the Rosines, and low, like Coty Exclamation. I have no shame. Some of these I own and wear occasionally, but none come close to Frederic Malle's Une Rose, which struck me as the perfect rose, perfect for me, from the moment I first smelled it.

Une Rose was created in 2003 by Edouard Flechier, the man behind Poison, among others. Une Rose is to rose what Poison is to tuberose, and takes over the senses in similar ways. The profile for Flechier on the Malle website states that in 1967 he entered the perfumery school of Roure Bertrand Dupont and studied with the son of the school's founder, Jean Carles, he of such classics as Shocking de Schiaparelli, Miss Dior, and Ma Griffe.

Une Rose conforms in theory to the vogue for what Abigail recently called the "dirty rose." To me this phrase, aside from basically alerting the consumer she or he is not looking at a bottle of "old fashioned" rose perfume, is practically useless. It's true there's a grunge note to Une Rose, as with Voleur de Roses and any number of contemporary rose fragrances. Often, dirty is meant in a literal way, indicating that the fragrance smells of the soil it was theoretically yanked from. In the case of Une Rose it seems to mean animalic, too. But Une Rose is much more complicated than this kind of simplistic designation can account for. The notes are listed as wine dregs and truffles, and though these pyramids are usually more fanciful than factual, this one offers a useful imaginative keyhole into the perfume.

I sprayed Une Rose at Barney's on a drizzly day in Seattle and forgot about it--for a few minutes, anyway. When I stepped outside it came rushing back at me full force, and seemed a perfect sensory accompaniment to the weather, lushly colored the way things are on an overcast day, more deeply saturated than otherwise, with a density I would probably be apt to characterize as romantic in the rain. It seemed so full-bodied you could get drunk on it, so when I later saw "wine dregs" on the packaging it made sense to me. I couldn't stop sniffing my wrist. I couldn't stop thinking of a fall day back in high school when I'd worn a blood red flannel shirt I'd gotten at a thrift store, and somehow, because of that color, felt ten times moodier than I had any right to be, totally melodramatic, as if I were a perfect accompaniment to the golds and browns falling off the trees out the window. The word intoxicating gets thrown around a lot when discussing perfume, but Une Rose is one of the few scents I feel the word isn't compromised by, and when I open my cabinet it seems to stand out in a burnished glow, drawing my attention among the other boxes and bottles.

TWRT 10.31.08 (This Week's Random Thoughts)

Well, I did it – I managed to wear one perfume for 5 straight days. Days 1-3 were easy. But day #4 was a struggle and today I ended up wearing nothing! I’m unscented. I can’t recall the last time I didn’t wear perfume. If I can decide upon a perfume I’m doing this again next week. I’m thinking of either Chanel No. 22, Teo Cabanel Alahine or Serge Lutens Chergui.

There’s a lot of desire for a “dirty rose” fragrance but why not dirty magnolia, jasmine, orange blossom or other florals?

The Office: I’m not happy about Holly being transferred to another location.

True Blood: Is Sam a Werewolf? This show is making me want to try V.

I found a forgotten stash of Strange Invisible Perfume samples and can’t wait to try several of them this weekend.

I’m really nervous about Tuesday’s election.

I read on MUA that Chanel No. 22 pure parfum will be available in the U.S. soon. I need to call Bergdorf and get on the waiting list.

There were Christmas decorations up when I was at the supermarket. It’s just too early.

It snowed in New Jersey this week. Strange.

Brinner is when you have Breakfast food for Dinner.

Madonna’s PR person should re-think all this divorce publicity.

I read on POL that Diptyque Opone is being discontinued. Oh, no! I love Opone.

Most orchids don’t have fragrance. Zygopetalum is a fragranced species and it would make an interesting perfume note. It’s sweet and peppery and green. My Zygopetalum is in bloom right now and it’s just beautiful.

Vanilla bean is from an orchid plant. Vanilla is the most universally liked flavor and scent.

Taken from Wikipedia – I thought this was rather interesting!
Vanilla is a genus of about 110 species in the orchid family (Orchidacea), including the species Vanilla planifolia from which commercial vanilla flavoring is derived. The name came from the Spranish word "vainilla", diminutive form of "vaina" (meaning “sheath” which is in turn derived from Latin “vagina.”

The new Olivier Durbano fragrance looks like a must try – it’s called Jade. I saw it on Now Smell This and the notes are: green tea, star anise, mint, cardamom, iris, jasmine, cinnamon, amber, patchouli, vetiver, moss, musk, immortelle and maté.

A bit late to mention but when you carve pumpkins to make jack-o-lanterns you can bake the seeds with a little salt and they’re delicious.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Saying you love Mitsouko is like saying you shop for groceries, the kind of statement unlikely to come as a newsflash to anyone--yet the fragrance does have its detractors. I don't know these people, naturally. I make a conscious effort not to know them. I very nearly developed amnesia about my relationship with one friend when recently she said Mitsouko smelled like that stuff that repels mosquitoes. Surely you don't mean citronella, I warned. After carefully judging my facial expression, she answered, certainly not.

Until I smelled the pure parfum at Nordstrom this month, I was fairly ambivalent about Mitsouko myself. I'd owned the EDT for a while, and pushed it to the "for special occasions" section of my collection, otherwise known as scents I dislike, am disappointed with, or don't understand. A spritz on the wrist lasted all of five minutes, it seemed to me, which was reason enough to move on.

I have no idea where this EDT falls on the reformulation continuum. It smells different enough from the EDP I purchased at Nordstrom that I wonder. The EDP has different packaging. The EDT has the geometrically striped, foil-bright gold box most of my Guerlain purchases from the local department store bear. The EDP box is more discreet, matte gold with a simple logo. Who knows what any of this means or where lines can be drawn or comparisons made. As I've mentioned before, don't expect clarification from the department store, or, God forbid, the Sephora counter, whose employees seem equally confused by the words Guerlain and Homme, the latter being a word they seem to take as some sort of environmental product for spraying on sheets or carefully abstracting unwelcome water closet aromas.

The Mitsouko EDP starts out bright and a little warm. It seems to give off heat, like simmering peaches. There are many other things in there, some of which you'll find listed on basenotes, though that listing is pretty sparse, as if this were a construction of admirable restraint. Perhaps that's true, and there's barely anything in Mitsouko. Maybe it's one of those experiments in minimalism so fashionable with people who like to believe things should be kept simple. I find that hard to believe, given how complex some of the Guerlain oldies are said to be. Their base materials alone would make quite complex perfumes. Whatever the listed pyramid of Mitsouko is, wherever you happen to be looking, I smell a strong gust of vetiver similar to that present in many contemporary perfumes. It presides over the entire composition, as far as I can tell, bolstering it from top to bottom with a fairly masculine character.

Though the EDT smells very similar to the EDP and is recognizably the same perfume, it lacks that quality. I smell the oakmoss prominently in the EDT, getting that muted, slightly fussy ambience associated now with elderly women and, increasingly, daring young men. This puts it closer to old school chypres, the closest of which, in my cabinet, would be Trussardi Femme and Rochas Mystere. Both possess a dry, almost smoky aspect absent in the Mitsouko EDP. The EDP is closer to the new chypres in many respects, not least because of their sunny disposition. Clearly, new means were applied toward a familiar end, but the result is arrestingly bright.

Which isn't to say the Mitousko EDP is insipidly cheery. It isn't. It's a complicated smell pretending to be more straightforward than all that. It has stealth and wears powerfully. It's remarkably androgynous, part sultry, part swagger. The brilliance of the reformulation is its ability to look forward and backward simultaneously, to modernize Mitousko without reducing it to a museum piece, admirable but unwearable. It smells richer than most of what perfumers are producing today, and more accessible than much of what came before it. The 2 ounce bottle seems a steal to me, given the endurance the fragrance has.

The Case of the Missing Perfume: Did this fancy French bouteille come with a fragrance ...

...and what that question means for the value of other antique Laliques.

"Today, most perfume-lovers assume perfume bottles will be carefully designed, attractively packaged and sold brimming full with perfume.

"But the Ren Lalique bouchon mures (French for 'blackberry stopper') perfume bottle made in 1920 and featured at the Miami ANTIQUES ROADSHOW was originally sold empty. Skinner's Louise Luther, who appraised the blackberry tiara-topped bottle in Miami, valued it at between $20,000 and $25,000 because of its rare blue tint..."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dior Addict: A Review

It was only a matter of time before I got to Dior Addict. I’d guess that anyone who loves Loulou, Amarige and other big, loud floral-orientals would be inclined to like Addict. Addict is an attention getting fragrance. It’s a sultry, sexy, spicy, complex vanillic fragrance. I love Addict.

Don’t get the wrong impression of me. I’m not the woman in the office that everyone gags when they’re around because of the headache-inducing cloud of perfume surrounding her. I wear all types of fragrances and they aren’t all loud. I certainly don’t over-apply the uber-strong ones – but, without a doubt, there’s a place in my heart for certain fragrances that so many love to hate. Like Angel for instance – love it.

Addict is a rather difficult perfume to describe. It’s complex and smells differently from person to person and from day to day. Overall Addict is a citrusy-vanilla-floral-oriental. The structure of Addict reminds me of Angel. By this I mean it’s an addictive (I had to use addictive just once!) combination of traditionally feminine and masculine notes. Addict has a good dose of heady florals and vanillic sweetness, the typical feminine stuff, but it also contains a balancing amount of dry ambery woods, and it’s this combination that makes it so good. If Addict were solely a sweet sticky floral-vanilla I’d surely find it gaggity. The addition of the dry woods and spices give it depth and diffuses the sweetness - so instead of being repulsive it makes you want to smell it again and again.

I won’t lie to you and tell you it’s not a trashy fragrance. Addict smells utterly trashy. But it’s a good trashy. Addict is definitely that rebellious sister, friend or aunt that seems to live a rather (ahem) interesting life that you’d love to experience for maybe a month. I have an aunt named Paula. Paula was brilliant. She was a straight “A” student, got into an Ivy League college, quit college, became an exotic dancer, moved to California, did lots of drugs, wrote a book, married 4 times, re-married husband #1 recently, had a string of interesting and oddball jobs, owned a bookstore once, was a therapist for a few years (yup, a sex therapist), traveled the world, created her own line of vitamins, and is now a yoga instructor. Addict makes me think of my aunt Paula. It’s trashy yet it’s interesting, intelligent, thoughtful and creative.

To describe Addict more specifically, it starts as a citrus and very sweet vanilla scent. It’s not among the listed notes but Chandler Burr mentions that Addict contains coumarin. Coumarin is a sweet synthetic smelling vanillic-almond-salt water taffy aroma. Addict smells mostly of citrusy coumarin for the first 30 minutes or so. This isn’t my favorite part. Addict becomes a great fragrance once it dries down and the sweetness fades a little and the spicy, ambery woody notes appear. Upon dry down Addict shows it’s most interesting facets – it swirls about in a circle of sweet coumarin, florals and cinnamon, amber & spice.

Addict is not for the faint of heart. But if you like the occasional loud fragrance with sillage and longevity to spare check it out.

Longevity: Forever
Sillage: Huge – be careful

Notes: mandarin leaf, silk tree flower, Queen of the Night flower, rose, jasmine, orange blossom, absolute of bourbon vanilla, sandalwood from Mysore and tonka bean.

UPDATED a few moments after posting: Actually I just had an epiphany. Addict reminds me a lot of a supercharged Trouble by Boucheron on steroids.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Monogamous

I’ve mentioned that I’m a trollop when it comes to perfume and that I long to be a bit more monogamous. I’ve made a big decision. I will wear one perfume each week, Monday through Friday, during the day, and only allow myself to switch in the evenings and on weekends. This is my first week. I’ve chosen to wear Chanel Coromandel.

This will be a telling experiment for me. First, it will show me which perfumes I truly love. It will also show me which perfumes I think I love but I don’t. And it will also identify which perfumes I never choose to wear for an entire week.

Yesterday was day #1. I almost had a set back. I purchased Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie and it arrived in the mail. I struggled with myself because I nearly scrubbed off Coromandel so I could try Cassie. You know how exciting it is when a fragrance first arrives, right?! But then I decided to spray Cassie on a tissue and smell it that way.

Today I was perfectly happy to wear Coromandel again. It seems like I’m getting to know it better. I love Coromandel. The spicy patchouli-vanilla-chocolate-cinnamon aroma is awesome for cold weather. I’m hopeful that by the end of this week Coromandel will become synonymous with me – that it will seem like my scent.

Coromandel makes me think of a Vosges Red Fire chocolate bar. Red Fire contains: Mexican ancho & chipotle chillies, Ceylon cinnamon, dark chocolate, 55% cacao…it’s decadent, delicious and spicy.

You do realize I’m already thinking very hard about what I’ll wear next week…

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Letter to Maurice Roucel (aka an honest, normal person appreciation)

Dear Maurice,

I'm sure you're wondering why I send you so many of these letters. Do I have a life? Am I slightly off? Do I know your address? Yes, no, yet--just to get that out of the way. To be even more precise: I'm in love with you. And I don't want to alarm you by saying that, again, so let me just clarify that by in love with you I mean I'm obsessed, and by obsessed I mean I can't stop smelling your perfumes while thinking of you and how sweet and smart you are, and by that I mean I'm trying, I really, really am. I swear. It's not my intention to freak you out.

I tell myself you don't make these fragrances especially for me. I say, um, Brian, it's not like he's making a CONSCIOUS, concerted effort to rock your world. He would never jeopardize his career that way. He covers his ass by making a few for other people as well. The thing is, Maurice, it's just uncanny how much I love the things you do. I have Gucci Envy, Guerlain Insolence and L'Instant, Iris Silver Mist, Dans tes Bras, 24 Faubourg, Alain Delon Lyra, Missoni, Krizia K, Lalique Pour Homme, Kenzo Air, Bond no. 9 Broadway Nite and New Haarlem, Tocade, and...oh, I'm getting dizzy again. When I get dizzy, I get more obsessive. Ergo: I should probably hold back a little.

Suffice it to say I think you're a genius. So many of your scents contain your signature accord, Michelia longifolia, of the Magnolia family (okay, I'm taking this from Wikipedia, but I do know that you apprenticed under Henri Robert of Chanel, where you were head chromotography chemist for 6 years, and no, I do not know what that means, but I suspect you will be impressed that I care enough to have memorized it, and I can assure you that reciting it never ceases to impress other people too, into curiously stunned silence.) The doughy, sensory-saturating persistence of your fragrances sends ME into trances, Maurice (can I call you "my love"? I'm merely asking. It's okay, if not, just say so), and by trances I don't mean those mental fugues that make people lose control and consciousness and cause harm to buildings full of other people without remembering it later, unless I do mean that and have done such things and I've simply forgotten, in which case I sincerely apologize and may God forgive me. Did I mention I love you?

Did I mention I'm growing a mustache? Don't go thinking it's all because of you, Maurice. It's not like you're the only person in the world with one. Even some women have them. Don't be so vain, Mr. Maurice Roucel. Don't be so full of yourself. You're so lucky you have me. You're so lucky you have someone looking out for you, otherwise you could get a very big head, so big that you wouldn't be able to smell properly anymore, and then where would you be? Don't worry, I would certainly take care of you. I'm just telling you so you'll see we're not all that different, you and me. Soon we'll both have mustaches. We both love perfume. We both read the newspaper. I bet you like sunsets, too! It's not like I'm obsessed with you. Jesus. Don't be silly. I'm just keeping you posted.

It's weird, how much you seem to know about me; the way I feel, the way I think, the way I smell. It's as if you made Tocade because you know how much I adore vanilla. It's like you woke up one day and realized, Hey, I bet Brian really likes chocolate and melon, and you went right to the lab, and did whatever you do in there (what is it you do, anyway? I want to know everything about you, I get so curious I grit my teeth and even chip them sometimes!) and you came out holding Missoni in your hand, and you said to one of your assistants (oh, to be one of these lucky people) "Please, make haste, take this right away to Brian," and you gave them my address, and they rushed right over, because they knew how serious you were. You're so thoughtful. And sensitive. I mean, how did you KNOW? The moment I smelled Broadway Nite, that intoxicating blend of lipstick, honeysuckle, and rose, I knew you'd created it because it would remind me of all the adult women I knew in my life when I was a child, the way they smelled when they hugged me, never without lipstick, never without perfume. Maurice Roucel, how do you know these things? When did you become psychic, and under what circumstances?

Here is why I'm writing. I love you. I might have said that already. Can it hurt to say it again? The other thing is, I was wondering, the Amouage is very expensive. You know, Reflection Woman? Seeing as I've purchased so many of your fragrances and wear them regularly and sign on to Basenotes to defend Lolita L and Insolence against their idiotic, small minded detractors (or did, until they canceled my membership and barred me from doing so because, I guess, they can't handle the truth, or called me a psycho or whatever, PLEASE, I'M not the one who wears Just Me on a daily basis) I was just wondering if you could find it in your heart to get the folks at Amouage to send me a bottle, just a teensy one--do they come in six ounces?--like, you know, as a gift, as a thank you. The reason I suggest this is I know you're really thoughtful, and psychic, like I said, but in case we're too far away and you can't get a good read on what I'm wanting (or is it signal, like a cell phone?) and you're so thoughtful you want to get me SOMETHING, I thought I'd make sure you knew. You could also send me a picture. It doesn't matter if it's the same one I asked for last time. I ruined that one trying to paste a cut-out of myself next to you.

Signed: your biggest fan, who thinks you're brilliant, and is losing space in his cabinet thanks to you. Just kidding! I mean, I AM losing space, but don't worry, I have four more rooms--and relatives!


Friday, October 24, 2008

TWRT 10.24.08 (This Week’s Random Thoughts)

Having a cold really puts a damper on sniffing.

Sonoma Scent Studio’s Winter Woods is genius.

I prefer cooler weather over the heat of summer. It’s better for my hair and for sniffing.

Givenchy Amarige Harvest Edition 2007 is Crazy Good (I’ve said this a million times so I’m a broken record on this subject).

As much as I dislike dealing with sales associates, I love the woman at Saks in NYC who I call to place orders (Christine is it?). She includes tons of Chanel miniatures for me.

I watched my first episode of Mad Men this week. True Blood is such a guilty pleasure.

I’m turning into a coffee person instead of a tea person. But still, there’s nothing like the afternoon tea ritual.

Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere smells nice, but it’s fleeting. I have no need for it.

Still must remember to buy candy for Halloween.

I can’t wait until the presidential election is over. Our next president better be Obama lest I need to move to Sweden, Canada or Spain.

Dogs are full of joy and spread joy.

Heliotrope doesn’t work well on me.

I’d like to smell perfumes focused on herbal notes like Thyme, Sage, Lavender, Marjoram and Basil.

I’ve decided Apres l’Ondee gives me the creeps. I know this is worthy of 50 lashes but Apres l’Ondee is so dated. It smells like a musty plastic floral arrangement and makes me think of a funeral home. And it does smell melancholy, perhaps downright sad and miserable.

Last night’s The Office was great – I love Holly, she’s as crazy as Michael.

Chanel Coromandel is a wonderful patchouli scent – I love the vanilla and chocolate notes.

I need to practice yoga - I’m so inflexible it can’t be good.

I’d love a new mimosa fragrance. A scent focused on mimosa but also spicy.

Low-fat cream of mushroom soup is an amazing base for sauces and soups. It’s especially good as a base for a creamy pasta sauce.

Steamed artichokes make wonderful appetizers.

Diptyque Opone is a ‘back of the closet great’ for this time of year (its rose & saffron, sort of a rose potpourri).

I need to figure out this double blind perfume experiment. I’m curious about the extent to which brand mystique and advertising effects me.

This Week at The Perfume Counter: Seattle

I missed my first flight to Seattle last Saturday. Supposedly, the alarm didn't go off. That's what my boyfriend tells me, though I suspect this is like the time my bottle of Port disappeared and he looked at me with a wide-eyed face swearing innocence. Luckily, I was able to book a flight for a few hours later.

This put me into Seattle at 4, rather than 11:30, as originally scheduled. I was going for a film festival, but my main priority was finding out where Nordstrom and Barney's were in relation to my hotel. The festival programmer who picked me up assured me they were nearby. I dumped my bags in the room and raced over to Nordstrom, not expecting much. I'd looked online the night before and hadn't seen anything I was too desperate to smell. I remembered the disappointment of Nordstrom in Portland months before. The only surprise that trip had been Declaration Essence, which knocked my socks off.

As it turned out, Seattle Nordstrom had many things I've been curious to get my hands on: many of the Guerlains, for instance, in all concentrations. They had pure parfum testers in spray bottles, meaning I could cover my whole hand in Mitsouko and L'Heure Bleue. If you haven't smelled these in anything other than EDT you might want to. Mitsouko in particular smells phenomenal. It stayed on my skin for the rest of the day. Best of all, the store stocked Vol de Nuit. Perfume House in Portland once sent me a sample of the EDP but it was very old and smelled nothing like the fragrance I smelled at Nordstrom. Nothing I'd read had led me to expect the bold gust of galbanum at the the top of Vol de Nuit. Osmoz categorizes the fragrance as oriental-vanilla. I get the oriental, and even the vanilla to some degree, but the galbanum puts it in an entirely different place for me, somewhere closer to Miss Dior.

The informed expertise of the woman who helped me made her ubiquitous presence more bearable. At least she knew what she was talking about, I guess. My biggest complaint when a clerk follows me so closely is not being able to concentrate. Smells speak slowly to me a lot of the time. It takes me a while to figure out what they're saying. The pervasive background of mindless chatter at the mall never helps, and a clerk complimenting my good taste as she pimps the latest Boss on me can make me downright homicidal. The best I can hope for is intelligence and the ability to carry on a relatively enlightened conversation.

I was able to smell many of the Carons I hadn't spent much time on before, of which Parfum Sacre and Aimez-moi were my favorites by far. Aimez-moi might be the best violet I've ever smelled, finding just the right combination of contrasts. The addition of cardamom and anise takes the fragrance right to the edge of violet. Magnolia and jasmine soften things up. Vanilla gives the already tasty quality of violet a nearly edible doughiness. Parfum Sacre is a rose with incense undertones, due to the counterpoint of pepper, mace, myrrh and cardomom. It wears lightly but with persistence, and smells by turns incredibly simple and impressively complex, like the heady air in a cathedral during mass.

Abigail has written about Tom Ford's White Patchouli elsewhere, not so favorably. I was more impressed, attracted by the medicinal quality she found abhorrent. The fragrance strikes me as a favorable alternative to Lovely and Narciso Her, both of which wear so lightly on me I cease to detect them after a few minutes. Both have left me feeling on the outside of an in joke. White Patchouli has their musk-driven foundation, but locks things in with a healthy quotient of patchouli, incense, and coriander.

I also smelled Private Collection Gardenia and Amber Ylang, the latter of which I liked more than the former, reversing my expectations. David Yurman was pretty enough. The new Shiseido Zen is a pleasant, even somewhat compelling patchouli bomb. Another surprise was the presence of the Chanel Exclusif line at Nordstrom: Coromonadel smells, to me, remarkably similar to Prada. 28 La Pausa is a boozy iris on the rocks. No. 22 is a gorgeous alternative to numbers 5 and 19.

Barneys was the true disappointment. I'd expected Baghari, the comme des garcon incense series, the Rosines; in short, the selection I'd encountered in LA. Instead, there were Lutens and Malle, and very selective offerings from other lines. I did eventually get Malle's Une Rose during my stay, after spraying it on one morning out of curiosity and spending the rest of the day under its aromatic thrall. I've heard the arguments against Une Rose's bid as best rose ever. I've heard how it isn't supposedly anything truly exceptional. A rose is a rose, etc. I've heard all that and expected very little. The truth is, it's fantastic in every way. And if this is all a rose perfume can hope to do, then the stakes are very high. I've yet to smell a rose that compares more than favorably.

The best part of Seattle was Perfumerie Nasreen, located off the lobby of the Alexis Hotel. This downtown shop has many scents you won't find elsewhere. It's uncomfortably small and precariously arranged, and feels as though you've stepped into someone's perfume cabinet. The testers are perched atop their boxes, which is fine until you get to odd-ball bottles like Kenzo Flower. For the most part, it's help yourself in there, though there are places you have to ask for assistance. The owner knows a lot about perfume, but don't ask her about Turin and Sanchez, whose names she hasn't bothered to commit to memory. She refers to Perfume: The Guide as "that book" and dislikes it immensely for being so opionated. She is very opinionated herself, and proceeded to tell me precisely which perfumes to love and which to despise. When I pointed out to her that most people, writers and admirers alike, feel very strongly about perfumes, for and against, and that Turin and Sanchez ("those people") were simply giving voice to that passion, she rolled her eyes insolently. Her seasoned disdain seemed silly to me, given how many new customers the book must be bringing her. I wouldn't have bothered to seek her out if all I knew to look for was Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

She's a shrewd businesswoman. During Christmas she delivers five pounds of chocolate to the perfume counters of each Nordstrom location, expressing her thanks for customers they have "referred to her". Methinks she owes "those people" and "that book" some chocolate too. It was a fun place to shop, despite or even because of her bossy flourishes. When I arrived with my friend and we began spraying testers, she demanded the door be opened. I get a headache, she explained, which did seem a problem for someone running a perfume shop. She seemed impatient with our exhaustive curiosity, though I'd been there several days before, when someone else was behind the counter, and spent three hundred bucks before leaving. Surely a perfume migraine is preferable to "I can't pay the rent" aches and pains. She also fibbed, which was only unusual because both my friend and I made it perfectly clear within minutes of our arrival that we knew more than a little about perfume, if only by the ones we requested to smell. When I asked if her cap-less bottles of Guerlain Parure were testers she denied it emphatically, curtly assuring me that this was how the bottles had arrived from Paris. Similarly, I was born at night, but not last night.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brand Mystique

Do I love Guerlain’s Apres l’Ondee because it’s Guerlain and shrouded in a glamorous elegant mystique? Did I give Serge Noir five hours of my time simply because it was created by Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake? Do I like Chanel Beige because it’s Chanel?

What if I took Apres l’Ondee and put it in an unmarked bottle and sniffed it for the first time? What if my friend was a budding perfumer and he handed me a vial of Serge Noir – what would I say to him about his first fragrance? What if Beige was in a bottle labeled as the newest ‘fume from Britney Spears?

I used to work in marketing and branding was my specialty so I find myself thinking about brand mystique frequently. I would love for Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez to review their next 100 perfumes blindfolded. I’m planning to do this myself, I have a hunch I’ll smell blue when I’m supposed to smell pink, but we shall see.

Pyramus, from One Thousand Scents, wrote about blindfolded reviewing in Brisk: CSP Bois de Filao and I think we should all do it – choose a day and make it “blindfolded review day.”

Did I choose the above photo because of who it is? Yes...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Annick Goutal, Ce Soir ou Jamais: A Review

Rosa rugosa (Rugosa Rose, Japanese Rose, or Ramanas Rose) is a species of rose native to eastern Asian, where it grows on the shore often on sand dunes. When I was a child I had a sandbox in my yard. Since the area around the sand box inevitably became sandy my Mother planted Rugosa rose bushes to form a barrier between the sandbox and the lawn. The fragrance of a Rugosa rose is unmistakable; Rugosa has some similarity with the aroma of a Tea Rose combined with a green lemony geranium smell. The flower itself isn’t as beautiful as most other roses so I’ve always thought that the Rugosa rose makes up for its simple appearance with a strikingly gorgeous aroma.

Annick Goutal’s Ce Soir ou Jamais smells exactly like a Rugosa rose to me. Ce Soir ou Jamais roughly translates to “Tonight or Never” in English – but the intention of the name is meant to be an “invitation to love.” Ce Soir ou Jamais is an astonishingly beautiful rose fragrance that starts off a bit sharp and lemony but dries down to an achingly beautiful Rugosa rose scent. There are many well orchestrated notes at play in this fragrance; violet, jasmine, pear, cassis, hibiscus, ambrette seed…I’ve read that there are 160 notes in Ce Soir ou Jamais and that it took Goutal over ten years to finish. Ce Soir ou Jamais is relatively linear with the only change occurring when the scent becomes softer, velvety and luscious from its initial sharp, lemony and heady moments. It’s realistic as opposed to perfumey – I feel as if I’m sniffing an actual rose garden in nature with its dewy green leaves and luscious blooms and petals.

Ce Soir ou Jamais is easily one of the most beautiful rose fragrances I’ve ever encountered.

Longevity: Very good 4+ hours
Sillage: Average

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chanel Coromandel: A Review

Not so very long ago I wrote on this blog that Chanel wasn’t my fragrance house of choice. That was before I had tried the full Les Exclusifs line. Obviously I made a hasty decision because in the past six weeks I’ve fallen hard for 31 Rue Cambon, Bois des Iles, Cuir de Russie, No 22 and Beige. Today I met Coromandel.

It seems that Chanel jumped into niche territory with their Les Exclusifs perfumes. To me, Coromandel is Chanel’s most daring fragrance among the Les Exclusifs offerings. I’ve previously admitted my affection for patchouli. Oftentimes I find patchouli to be a clean, earthy and refreshing aroma, similar to the way pine needles make your nose and sinuses tingle. Coromandel starts off extremely tingly with an overtly masculine & astringent quality. The first ten minutes of Coromandel aren’t particularly pleasant, so keep that in mind when trying it for the first time. For me, Coromandel is all about the dry down.

Chanel describes Coromandel as a “dry ambery oriental,” however, I never do smell amber in Coromandel, what smells most obvious to my nose is patchouli, vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate. Coromandel is overall a wonderfully spicy, earthy oriental fragrance. The vanilla and chocolate notes are present but faintly swirled about in the background, not upfront and not even remotely gourmand. The vanilla and chocolate notes serve to temper the strong patchouli blast and soften its edges. Coromandel is very dry and spicy and easily unisex. The patchouli is pungent but Chanel has removed any of the hippie-dippy skankiness and left us only the most beautiful and wearable parts. Different from other perfumes in the Les Exclusifs line Coromandel is strong and tenacious.

For anyone who likes patchouli or a dry spicy fragrance Coromandel is a must.

Longevity – Excellent 5+ hours or more
Sillage – Could be strong

Estee Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang: A Review

Estee Lauder’s newest addition to its Private Collection is Amber Ylang Ylang. On Estee Lauder’s website the fragrance is touted as an “oriental amber” and, in spite of myself, I’ve been really excited for it. I’m a huge fan of comfort scents and anything that focuses on amber is usually the epitome of a comfort scent.

I purchased the eau de parfum, not the pure parfum, which means I didn’t get a bottle with the handsome stones; the edp bottle has a hammered gold colored cap as shown in the above pic. It’s still a nice looking bottle, simple, classic and somewhat masculine.

There’s not so very much to say about Amber Ylang Ylang itself. It smells like a straightforward amber & vanilla fragrance with a pronounced play-doh note for about the first hour. Don’t get me wrong, Amber Ylang Ylang smells good, I’d go so far as to say it smells really good, but it’s just too simple to garner much more praise than that. Given that it’s Estee Lauder’s Private Collection I did expect something more sophisticated. Truth be told, Amber Ylang Ylang basically smells like something you could purchase from Bath & Body Works. If someone gave me Amber Ylang Ylang as a gift, I’d be perfectly happy with it. But since I shelled out $120 I’m a bit miffed that it’s not a step above what it is.

Amber Ylang Ylang notes: ylang absolute, Italian bergamot, geranium oil, Bulgarian rose absolute, cinnamon Ceylon, incense, vanilla bean, sandalwood, and amber.

Amber Ylang Ylang, as part of Estee Lauder’s Private Collection, is only available at select department stores.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

From the back of the closet: Gucci Envy

Gucci Envy is my Chanel No. 19.

Envy is brilliant. Envy is all about greenness, but not a specific or natural green, instead it’s an abstract greenness. Envy could be described as a soft, modern, fresh, green fragrance but that might cause you to think it’s boring. Envy isn’t boring. However it is distinctly fresh and modern. Envy is at first boldly green but it soon tempers itself and becomes softly soothing, it’s not strident or sharp like like Vent Vert or Chanel No. 19.

Envy was created by Maurice Roucel in 1997. Roucel has created some of my favorites: Bond’s Musc Ravageur, Broadway Nite, New Haarlem, Hermes 24 Faubourg and the newest Malle, Dans Tes Bras (which is still an enigma to me). Roucel excels at creating the abstract perfume. None of Roucel’s fragrances just listed smell like exact replicas of something natural. Instead, Roucel creates new aromas that more or less smell like the idea of something. In the case of Guccy Envy, he created a scent that smells “green,” the abstract smell of the color green.

Longevity: it’s a bit too soft, so I douse myself in it, which then gives the fragrance about 4-5 hours of green goodness
Sillage: soft-average

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Frederic Malle, Iris Poudre: A Review

Iris Poudre was created in 2000 by Pierre Bourdon. Iris Poudre translates to “Powdery Iris” in English so this is the reason it’s taken me eight years to purchase it – I’m not a fan of most powdery fragrances (I still shudder at the thought of Habanita).

Iris Poudre is not so powdery after all. There’s a hint of powder, but it’s a conservative amount, such that if the name of the fragrance didn’t contain ‘powder’ I might have found this beautiful perfume long ago.

This is the description of Iris Poudre from the Editions de Parfums website:
“Iris expresses raw classical beauty. Tonka bean, musk and vanilla bring softness and warmth, while the base of sandalwood and vetiver adds a melodious resonance. If Pierre Bourdon's Iris Poudre were a garment, it would be a cashmere sweater - classic but personal, appropriate for most occasions, something one never tires of. It is a grand floral aldehydic.”

No offense to anyone but I am so tired of the cashmere sweater analogy. And, in this instance, I don’t think Iris Poudre is remotely similar to a ‘cashmere sweater’ type of fragrance. For me, a ‘cashmere sweater’ type fragrance would be prominently amber, woods and vanilla, not iris. That said, I understand what those calling Iris Poudre a cashmere sweater are getting at – it’s that Iris Poudre, like a cashmere sweater, is a sophisticated, classic yet versatile fragrance. ‘Raw’ is another word in the description from Editions de Parfums that baffles me. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding the usage of this word, in the context of classical beauty, but I would never use the word ‘raw’ to describe Iris Poudre myself. The best way I can describe Iris Poudre is to say it smells like an iris fragrance created by Chanel. Iris Poudre smells classic in a totally Chanel-esque way. It’s fairly linear and does not change a great deal from initial spray to dry down. The usage of aldehydes in Iris Poudre are reminiscent of a Chanel Exclusif – meaning that the aldehydes are there – but not particularly aggressive. Iris is certainly the main act in this fragrance; she is there at all times. In the beginning, Iris Poudre has a slight vegetal and cold quality, being a lover of Iris Silver Mist, I enjoy this stage. But Iris Poudre warms up a bit by the time it dries down, and overall I wouldn’t consider it cold but instead warm and the vegetal quality softens to a nearly undetectable status.

Iris Poudre seems a perfect fragrance for the perfumista who loves classic fragrances. I do think most iris fragrances are meant for perfume aficionados and not mainstream fragrance buyers. The aroma of iris is just unusual enough that I imagine those who don’t have more than a dozen bottles of perfume and who can’t quickly recite the definition of ‘chypre’ would find it just a bit too odd ;-) However, Iris Poudre, in the scheme of other iris fragrances, is a rather middle of the road fragrance. For instance, Iris Poudre is nowhere near as earthy, cold, and idiosyncratic as Iris Silver Mist but it’s also much less girly and sweet when compared with L’Artisan’s Iris Pallida. Iris Poudre seems to stand in the middle of the pack – not particularly edgy – but also edgier and more unisex than Iris Pallida and Acqua di Parma’s Iris Nobile.

I happen to love Iris Poudre. It’s an exquisitely done iris aldehydic fragrance that’s sheer and transparent with enough facets to make you want to inhale it again and again.

Longevity: Excellent – 6+ hours
Sillage: Soft – Average

Iris Poudre notes (from basenotes) –
Top: bergamot, orange, rosewood, ylang-ylang, carnation
Heart: magnolia, jasmine, muguet, violetta-rose, aldehydes
Base: iris, musk, amber, vanilla, sandalwood, ebony,
The Editions de Parfums website also mentions: tonka bean and vetiver

You may purchase Iris Poudre from Barney’s and Editions de Parfums from the U.S.

Pic "Tennessee Irises" from

Friday, October 17, 2008

TWRT 10.17.08 (This Week’s Random Thoughts)

Hermes Eau des Merveilles is brilliant.

Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche is another back of the closet great.

Orchids require much less sunlight than I thought.

I dislike dealing with sales associates. I prefer to shop online.

I tried, but I just can’t watch Survivor.

Caron needs to improve their image – their boxes and bottles look like they’re going out of business.

It would be wonderful to have my car detailed.

Must remember to buy candy for Halloween.

NARS eye shadow and lipstick are the best.

Gucci Envy is my Chanel No 19.

Amber is a tricky note, it can be horrid.

Why do people pay more than retail price for perfume on ebay? (seriously, do they not know the price?!)

There will be a new Star Trek movie next summer (2009)

Last night’s The Office was great – it’s back on track.

31 Rue Cambon is exquisite.

Brian, my cell phone is dead and I can’t find the charger.

Lavender isn’t relaxing for me, it’s energizing.

I love soup.

Would the following make a nice fragrance: Rose, pepper and milk?

I've considered getting a tattoo for so many years. The indecision is making up my mind.

The more I wear Chanel Beige the more I like it. Note to self: sometimes you need to be monogamous with a perfume to really get to know it. Being a trollop and wearing three different perfumes per day can be confusing.

More on Guilt

I've been thinking a lot about Abigail's recent post, "Banish the Guilties," particularly in the context of the last presidential debate. Watching McCain's facial expressions (someone please tell this man that the camera records you even when you're not speaking, and the mike picks up every little snort and impatient, fussy exhalation of bewilderment) I thought a lot about engagement and disengagement. For a long time, I've considered myself disengaged. I've responded to the kind of politics McCain represents (insincerity disguised as earnestness, entitlement disguised as no-nonsense, take charge altruism) by diving deeper into myself and my interests, instinctually regarding the political system as something hopelessly divorced from my interests or well-being.

I felt guilt for buying perfume when people are starving, for writing about it when people like McCain are waging war on foreign soil, plunging the country into despondency, division, and baseline instability. Maybe I represented everything I hate, I thought; mindless consumption, resigned acquiescence to a dismal state of affairs. I had my nose buried in bottles while every day my cousin, called back to Iraq so many times I lost count, ran the risk of again watching a truck he might have been in but for a slight, circumstantial twist of fate, explode on the road ahead of him, killing all his friends.

I was cynical about Obama at first. It seemed like hype to me, the celebration of all things Barack--in the media, on facebook, in coffeeshops, on car bumpers. I'm so used to the kind of politicians I've grown up on that anything approxomating recognizable intelligence, sincerity, and real human experience seemed impossible to me. If you've never eaten anything but MacDonald's, the concept of gourmet is a little tricky, if not unimaginable. Yet, seeing Obama speak, I instantly understood what people mean when they try to describe how revolutionary JFK was when he first appeared on the American political horizon.

Whatever you think of Obama, it's clear he's a good speaker, that he speaks truth in some fashion heretofore unknown in contemporary politics, that he values thinking, reasoning, and deductive muscle in the face of blanket stupidity. It might be this more than anything that makes his name sometimes seem synonymous with hope. It's clear, listening to him, that engagement and disengagement are fairly elastic terms. Does an instinctive, bullshit-detector dismissal of politics as usual mean disengagement, or survival, a commitment to refusing insincerity until by miracle something more authentic comes along?

Look, I'm not going to argue that buying perfume and getting lost in its finer points isn't at least slightly precious. But I do think it matters, and not just because it makes an indivual happy. I think it's bigger than that. Making a movie last week, I suddenly realized that, far from doing something silly and removed from real life experience, I and the four people working with me were committing to the unlikely, against all odds. In a culture which disregards intellect, community, and feeling in equal proportions, we'd committed ourselves to the ultimate transgression: an attempt to reach out to each other and beyond, to speak to people on a level we all have the capacity to understand. The fact is that to make a movie is a huge endeavor. Keeping a blog is too. Everyone who reads the latter has joined you in a space of thought and feeling no corrupt politician can touch. Everyone who sees the former has the potential to be touched, reached, or moved. You can call this escapism, but maybe, looked at in a slightly different way, it means escapism from the forces which conspire to keep us alienated and immune to the difference between sublime pleasure and deadened apathy.

To adore perfume, enough to read or write about it, enough to allow the magical properties of its scent to transport you back into your memories and ahead toward your potential, to flex that muscle of emotion and imagination is, to put it in the simplest possible way, to care.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Special Edition: "Tag You're It"

Let's see how I can follow directions... :-D

I've been "tagged" by Olfacta at OlfactaRama to participate in a game. Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you. (above)
2. Post the rules on your blog. (okay)
3. Write six random things about yourself. (below)
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. (below)
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog. (will try)
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up. (will do)

Six random things about me:

1. I won the spelling bee in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade.
2. I get pulled over for speeding a lot.
3. I love reading historical fiction.
4. I'm crazy about my dogs.
5. I don't mind insects, but if a snake comes within 50 feet of me I lose my mind.
6. I'm an Aries with Scorpio rising and a moon in Pisces. This equals ~ Independent/courageous, passionate and so mushy and sensitive on the inside.

and...(drum roll please) are my tags!

Julie at Everything is Interesting:
Aimée L'Ondée at Mossy Loomings:
Dane and Mark at PereDePierre:
Cris at Perfume da Rosa Negra:
Rocketqueen at Rocketqueen's beauty blog at
Divina at Fragrance Bouquet at
Octavian at 1000 Fragrances at

Now all of you fine people do the same, following the rules, and I guess we'll get a nice little community web-ring going!

From the back of the closet: Youth Dew, Eau des Merveilles and Anne Pliska

The quest continues, maybe I should label this as a series. Today I decided to wear some more forgotten gems, oldies but goodies, which are in the back of my closet. During the day I wore Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew (!) and this evening I changed into Hermes Eau des Merveilles on one arm and Anne Pliska on the other.

First, I love Youth Dew (there I said it!). The first 15 minutes are “old classic aka little old lady” but once the fragrance settles and blends into my skin I love it. Youth Dew isn’t a sweet little old lady but one with a Harley in her garage. While Youth Dew has a sort of “dated” aroma it’s also aggressive and edgy. I’m a firm believer that anyone can wear any fragrance especially if they toss aside preconceived notions and simply allow the scent to meld with their own essence. On me, Youth Dew is so spicy it growls.

Youth Dew notes: spicy notes, orange, bergamot, peach, aldehydes, clove, rose, ylang-ylang, cinnamon, orchid, amber, tolu, patchouli, benzoin, and vanilla.

In the evening I wore Hermes Eau des Merveilles and Anné Pliska edp. I’ll start with Hermes. I chose Hermes EdM because a commenter mentioned it the other day after I reviewed Bvlgari Black. Hermes EdM is a gorgeous fragrance and while I would always include it on my “top perfumes” list I just never wear it. It seems to be a novelty for me, something I love in theory but never get around to wearing. Well, tonight I wore it. I really do love this salty, woody, ambergris aroma. EdM takes me away (I think of the commercial “Calgon…take me away”) to a beach on a cool breezy day. As a rule I love salty scents and the combination of salt with woods, amber and pepper are simply dreamy. Note to self: Wear Hermes Eau des Merveilles more often!

Hermes Eau des Merveilles notes: elemi, bitter orange, Italian lemon, Indonesian pepper, pink pepper, ambergris accord, oak, cedar, vetiver, balsam of Peru and tears of Siam

The last fragrance of the day is Anné Pliska edp. I used to like this but things have definitely changed. I’m not enjoying Anné Pliska at all. I love amber but tonight Anné Pliska is smelling like an orange creamsicle – yuck. There was a time when I thought
Anné Pliska was the superior ambery oriental to CK Obsession and a nice modern interpretation of Shalimar. Now I think Obsession is easily better than Anné Pliska and Shalimar will always be the gold standard in the amber/citrus arena. Bleck – it really does smell like an exact fragrant replica of an orange creamsicle…. I need to scrub my arm and apply Hermes EdM to both.

Anné Pliska notes: Bergamot, amber, patchouli, geranium, musk, vanilla

Salvador Dali Pour Homme: Eminently Strange

Now that the leaves have started turning and the weather has noticeably cooled, many of the scents I wear and own suddenly smell remarkably different than I remember. It isn't just that they last longer and project more. They seem to have gone through some transformation in the dark recesses of my perfume cabinet. I find myself liking scents I previously felt ambivalence towards and had quickly forgotten about.

I liked Kenzo Jungle Elephant but didn't love it, for instance--until this evening, when a friend who likes Feminite Du Bois but finds it lacking in the lasting department came over and I suggested Elephant as a more tenacious alternative, like Feminite on diesel. I sprayed it on my arm to demonstrate, hoping she'd like it more than I did so I could free up some storage space, and was struck with the thought I might not want to give it away after all. It smelled fantastic, conjuring all sorts of associations formerly lost on me, back in the heat of summer, when I first purchased it.

After she and the Elephant left, I rearranged my perfume cabinet, wondering what else I'd banished to the back. The first thing I found was Salvador Dali Pour Homme, a fragrance I purchased sometime last Spring. I wore it once to work, and was deeply embarrassed by what I loosely characterized as its barnyard charms: some sickly whiff of muguet mingling wantonly with excremental musk. I felt as though I'd worn the same pair of underwear two days in a row, after an unexpected overnight tryst, the kind of stay-over you leave abruptly, first thing in the morning, and smell on your upper lip the rest of the day. There was something about Dali I wanted to like and almost got on board with, but something about it didn't sit so well, either.

I was surprised, back then, by its lasting power. Then again, longevity isn't something you look for in your underwear. I loved the bottle, and the packaging, both of which struck me as perfectly apt representations of Dali's ambiguous but potent qualities; black, frosted glass, a genital contour so evocative you could imagine pubic hair sprouting on its surface, all of this encased in the kind of box an obscure vintage port might have, if it wished to camouflage itself as poison. The ubiquitous lips lid of Dali fragrances has seemed laughably naff on every juice released by the brand, save for this one, where, contrasted against the sexualized Gothic features of the bottle and box, and the juice itself, the mouth seems, somehow, downright sinister. All of this is enough reason to hold onto a cologne, of course--if only as an oddity.

The Dali I sprayed on my arm tonight is only remotely similar to the Dali I remember. The balance between muguet and musk seems perfectly judged. The lurch I first perceived from the aromatic notes up top to the floral heart is a much more decorous transition, practically imperceptible. The geranium and jasmine seemed to be shouting at each other back then. The muguet seemed to be rotting somewhere in the balance. Something about the cool weather, its chemistry, the mood it puts me in, disposes me to experience Dali now in an entirely different way. To be sure, it's a weird one; but, I would add, fantastically weird.

Dali was created in 1987. Osmoz classifies it as an oriental fougere, which makes sense: that's an unusual category to begin with, a bit of a clash. 212 Sexy Men and Joop Homme are also classified as such, and couldn't seem farther from the territory Dali occupies. Those scents reassure by sticking to known combinations. Dali is bold in a more unsettling way. Cedarwood, patchouli, musk, leather, amber, sandalwood, and vanilla don't exactly constitute an unconventional base. No one level of Dali would surprise anyone; not the fougere medley up top, nor the floral arrangement in the middle. The layers themselves aren't uncanny; their superimposition over each other, however, creates something so wilfully strange it borders on the macabre. The juxtapositions shouldn't work--and wouldn't, in theory or on paper. Somehow, in practice, they not only work but achieve some sublimely unlikely alchemy.

It might be that Dali's smoky oiliness just doesn't function properly during the summer months. Maybe it's like trying to see a Van Gogh properly under fluorescent lighting, or watching Dark Shadows at Christmas, where Barnabus Collins seems more like Edith Prickley than a vampire. Cooler weather seems just right for the fragrance. It starts to breathe, inhabiting the imagination in much more dynamic, insidious ways. Maybe it's like a bag of leaves or grass clippings. Leave it out in the sun and everything you like about the smell goes rancid and obscene. Keep it in the shade and it seems like bliss wrapped in plastic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Here comes Trouble

Boucheron, Trouble: A Review

Continuing my quest to wear some forgotten gems, I came home tonight and changed into Trouble by Boucheron. Trouble was created by Jacques Cavallier, who also gave us Alexander McQueen’s Kingdom, Stella McCartney Stella and one of my favorites, Yves Saint Laurent Nu (among many others).

First off, I love the bottle. The top is a gold coiled snake and the base is hunky square-ish glass the color of blood. The base reminds me a little of Ralph Lauren Romance.

Trouble is marketed as an oriental and I’d say it’s a diet oriental gourmand. It reminds me of all sorts of other fragrances – there’s a strong similarity with Dior’s Hypnotic Poison; it’s a bit like Jean Paul Gaultier’s Classique and there are definitely elements of Dior’s Addict. As much as I like Hypnotic Poison, I’d wear Trouble over it any day. Hynotic Poison is sweeter and has a plasticy quality that bothers me after awhile. Trouble is just a smidgen less sweet and it’s devoid of that plastic note. Like Addict, Trouble contains a strong vanillic base, but it’s more discreet with more woods, amber and citrus percolating through the vanilla.

Trouble begins with lemon. For the first 5-10 minutes, Trouble is a sweet vanilla-lemon-candy aroma. Once Trouble dries down it becomes a decidedly comfy fragrance. It's essentially a lovely blend of vanilla, amber, soft woods and citrus. I know it’s supposed to be a femme fatale, sexy, sultry scent, but the truth is it’s much more like a pretty gal all cozy in plaid flannel pj’s with her hair in pigtails and a mischievous look in her eyes than a femme fatale. I’ve read that there are some that think it’s boring and ordinary. Trouble isn’t groundbreaking but it’s really quite good. It’s the sort of scent that will undoubtedly be complimented. It is not overly anything – not too sweet, not too heavy, and not cloying – it’s just right.

Foxglove (digitalis) is among the list of notes and I can’t help but think it’s there because foxglove is highly poisonous (remember the name…this stuff is trouble!).

Trouble can be had for cheap; it’s $37.81 at today.

Longevity: Excellent – 5+ hours
Sillage: Average

Trouble’s notes: lemon, foxglove (aka digitalis), Sambac jasmine, amber, blue cedar, and vanilla

I think I’ll wear Trouble tomorrow, too.

Banish the Guilties

Yes, I’ve been feeling out of sorts lately, too. I read a wonderfully candid piece on OlfactaRama blog called Fiddling While Rome Burns, about fragrance obsession guilt while the economy is in a downturn. People are losing their homes. This isn’t just random “people” on the news, I know someone who is foreclosing on her home. Our country is still at war, people are dying. So, OlfactaRama asks, “does it feel a bit extravagant to be writing about perfume?” My answer: Yeah, it does.

Lately, I think I’ve been unconsciously focusing on fragrances that I already have. I’ve been having a love affair with decidedly “un-trendy,” inexpensive perfumes that I’ve had for years. Ivoire de Balmain was one, then Loulou, Bvlgari Black, Ava Luxe Mousse de Chine and today it’s Chanel Cristalle. But this is sort of a self-imposed guilt, I think. Surely it’s important to continue enjoying life, even in the face of difficult times and obstacles, right? I think the guilt more or less boils down to the idea that perfume is a trivial, unnecessary luxury item. Well, of course it is unnecessary, almost everything is truly unnecessary besides the basics that one needs to survive.

After feeling guilty for the past month and having these conversations in my head about the uselessness of writing about fragrance I’ve decided that this is silly. Life will march along, we will all manage to get through these tough times in our own ways, and I will continue to obsess about perfume because it makes me happy. In the moments where I’m sniffing a perfume for the first time or the fifty-first time, I’m happy. On my drive home from the office I think about which perfume I will change into for the evening I feel happy. When I know I have a box waiting for me at home, I'm ecstatic. When I’m writing about a fragrance I get so deeply involved with it's aroma that I experience “olfactory joy.” Perfume is a hobby, an obsession, an escape and it makes me very happy.

So, today I’m wearing Chanel Cristalle edp. It’s been a long time since I’ve worn this. I’d forgotten how wonderful it is. Chanel Cristalle is a beautifully light chypre based on citrus and florals. I love the aldehydic citrus kick in the beginning. The citrusy quality dies down after the first hour and it becomes a well-done fruity floral. I’ve had this bottle for at least 10 years and I’m happy to be under its spell today.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sonoma Scent Studio, Winter Woods: A Review

Searching for the ultimate autumn & winter fragrance? I’ve found it ~ Sonoma Scent Studio’s Winter Woods.

I reviewed Sonoma Scent Studio’s Fireside Intense and Ambre Noir last week. Both Fireside and Ambre are phenomenal, however, they might be better suited to diehard dry woods, leather and amber fans like me. Winter Woods, on the other hand, is a gorgeous and much tamer composition for those who enjoy some woods but not a lumber yard extravaganza.

Winter Woods is cozy ambered woods, with a touch of smoke. WW is slightly sweet and while it doesn’t smell like this, it makes me think of pumpkin bread, mulled cider and flavored coffees by the fire. Laurie Erickson, the perfumer, has perfectly captured the ideal autumn afternoon. The day is sunny yet chilly so you’ve donned your favorite weekend sweater and jeans and taken the dogs for a hike. As you round the last curve of the path towards your house you take a long deep breath of the crystal clear air inhaling all the beautiful scents of autumn, the fallen leaves, woods, bark and chimney smoke in the distance. You see smoking rising up from the chimney and know that your husband has lit the fire. The dogs prance ahead and beat you to the back door because they can smell the aroma of dinner cooking in the oven.

Winter Woods is a gentle, cozy & reflective sort of aroma. It seems perfectly suited for reading while lounging in your favorite chair by the fireplace. Laurie Erickson must use extremely high quality ingredients because she presents you with the most perfect wood and amber notes. I mean Serge Lutens quality.

Longevity: Excellent ~ about 4-5 hours
Sillage: Soft

Winter Woods Notes: Guaiacwood, cedar, sandalwood, birch tar, cade, oakmoss absolute, castoreum, amber, vetiver, ambergris.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Loulou by Cacharel

It was the summer of 1987, the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school. I was lucky enough to get to Europe for a month to visit family and travel around. My friend and I spent two weeks in Paris. When we first arrived in Paris, I bought Loulou in the airport. I was already a budding perfumista at the age of 16 and had Diva by Ungaro, Poison, White Linen and Joy in my suitcase. But something about the dreadfully tacky box and bottle containing Loulou captivated me, so I had to have it. I wore Loulou every single day for the rest of the trip.

I’ve been wearing Loulou more and more over the past year. Since wearing it exclusively in high school I haven’t worn it or even smelled it for at least fifteen years. Loulou and I are having a reunion of sorts. I admit it was Perfumes: The Guide that made me find Loulou again. For all the fragrances where I felt Turin & Sanchez didn’t get it right, they made me happy by getting it exactly right with Loulou.

Loulou is a diva. But she isn’t a cold, manipulative, demanding or selfish diva. Instead she’s the lovely warm, curvaceous diva that everyone on set loves. If Marilyn hadn’t professed her love for wearing Chanel No 5 to bed (and if Loulou existed during Marilyn’s time) I would say Marilyn wore Loulou.

Loulou is a loud yet soft, powdery floral oriental. Somehow, Jean Guichard, the perfumer, manages to keep Loulou from going completely over the top and makes you want to smell it again. I’ve read reviews that call Loulou a “grandma” sort of fragrance. I guess if you consider your grandma a sultry, exotic a burlesque sort of way...then it could be a grandma fragrance. Loulou is the sort of abstract perfume where I won’t even begin to describe the notes. It’s a well blended soft floral-oriental which creates an aroma that’s altogether it’s own without any realistic florals or spices exposing themselves. I think Loulou smells vintage, it gives a big nod and bow to classic, full-bodied and complex perfumes. I’ll put the list of notes below but I don’t think the list would help anyone figure out what it smells like.

I have a soft spot for under appreciated fragrances. Loulou, to me, is an underdog. She’s stuck in a cheesy 80’s box and a light blue and burgundy plastic bottle. The house of Cacharel has created some beautiful perfumes; Anais Anais, Eden and Noa come to mind, yet most seem to think Cacharel is an awful drugstore brand. Sometimes you really have to look beyond the packaging and just smell the juice.

I couldn’t agree more with Luca Turin’s final statement about Loulou:

“This is one of the greats.”

Longevity: forever
Sillage: huge – no more than 2 sprays please

Almost everywhere I checked had a different set of notes. This is what I believe to be the correct (or very close) list ~
Notes: Jasmine, bergamot, mimosa, apricot, cashmeran, marigold, Tiare lily, iris, sandalwood, vanilla & incense

Bvlgari Black

Bvlgari Black, created by Annick Menardo launched in 1998.

Maybe I’m too far along in my perfume addiction, but I’ve never thought of Black as weird or edgy – I’d call it interesting. I’ve also never thought of it as among the top 10 best perfumes of all time. Sure there are hints of smoky rubber but they seem low key and soft. Black is mostly a fragrance about vanilla. It starts off smelling like celery salt. Then it morphs into smoky celery salt and rubber. Then when it finally settles down it becomes prominently a soft woody, celeriac vanilla. I really love Bvlgari Black particularly the celery salt bits. Overall it’s a cozy comfort scent for me. I put Bvlgari Black in the same category as People of the Labyrinth’s Luctor et Emergo. They’re both hard to define and seem in a category all their own, they both have cult-like followings and they’re both comfort scents. I’ve never figured out what’s so ‘black’ about Bvlgari Black. I know there’s black tea among the notes but I don’t detect it at all. If I where to give a color label to Black I’d say it’s Pale Green.

I’ve been wearing Black a lot since I read Perfumes: The Guide by Turin & Sanchez. I was somewhat shocked by the high marks it received and very shocked that it placed in the top 10 perfumes of all time. Of course, being a scholar in the field of olfactory science, means Turin knows much more than me when it comes to perfume. Turin is knowledgeable of all the elaborate details of perfume making. He knows how difficult certain notes are to create and he knows more about the history and structure of perfume than I ever will. But Bvlgari Black just isn’t that amazing for me. I do love it, just like I love POTL Luctor et Emergo, but I wouldn’t place POTL in the top 10 either.

I need to subtract points from Black because it lacks longevity and has virtually zero sillage. When I wear Black I need to douse myself in it, (I mean douse, like 10 sprays) in order to smell it for about 3 hours. The first hour is the most interesting. I like Black the best before it dries down to a comfy vanilla. I fail to understand what Turin is raving about in his review of Black. To me, Black seems like an interesting starting point. I suppose it is groundbreaking in its structure and its ability to morph through an unusual assortment of notes and yet still smell pleasing and beautiful. Perhaps Menardo or another perfumer could build upon this idea but make it more daring and also add some longevity and sillage this time.

Black is an interesting fragrance and it smells really good. I do think that more people ought to try it because it’s a worthy fragrance for those that want something unusual yet not too odd. Black is easy to wear and unlike POTL it can be had for cheap.

Longevity: Poor
Sillage: Soft

Keiko Mecheri, Loukhoum

Keiko Mecheri is among my favorite niche perfumers. Bois de Santal, Umé, Osmanthus, Gourmandises and Patchoulissime are fragrances that I wear often in the summer. All of KM’s perfumes bear a thematic similarity ~ they’re relatively simple, modern, delicate and understated. I often think that the Keiko Mecheri line strikes a decidedly Asian sensibility and I hope this isn’t because I know the perfumer to be Japanese.

I’ve read that some think the KM line is a series of Serge Lutens knock-offs. It certainly is possible that Keiko Mecheri used Serge Lutens as her muse, however, her fragrances are so completely unique and different from SL that I don’t think this statement bears any truth. The only instance where there is a strong similarity is with Serge Luten’s Rahät Loukhoum and Keiko Mecheri’s Loukhoum. Most people will tell you that Rahät Loukhoum is the far superior fragrance, and while I would agree that Serge Lutens is superior overall, this is the only instance where I don’t think so. SL’s Rahät Loukhoum, based on a Turkish dessert by the same name, is unwearable for me. Rahät is a cherry, almond & vanilla syrupy sweet extravaganza. Rahät is an aroma that I think best left for home fragrance or a candle. A Rahät candle would be nice. I’ve tried Rahät so many times and in the end I just can’t stomach it and always think it simply isn’t meant to be worn. Keiko Mecheri’s Loukhoum, on the other hand, is also based on the Turkish delicacy, but somehow KM’s Loukhoum seems like perfume to me (and not a candle). KM’s Loukhoum is very similar to SL’s Rahät as far as the notes, but I think it’s the execution that’s completely different. KM Loukhoum is a very sweet confection but it’s also a slightly powdery, fluffy, cloud-like aroma. KM’s Loukhoum is an aura that surrounds me, making me think of sweet “air”, whereas SL’s Rahät smells like a realistic physical dessert sticking to my wrist.

I would guess that Loukhoum is the most popular fragrance in the Keiko Mecheri line. I don’t like sweet gourmand fragrances but somehow this one works for me. It’s so ‘airy’ that I don’t feel overcome by it. KM’s Loukhoum also manages to make me feel cozy instead of hungry. I also assume it’s the most popular in the Keiko Mecheri line because the gourmand fragrance genre has been all the rage with mainstream department store and Sephora-type audiences. I can’t help but think if Keiko Mecheri had a mainstream, instead of niche, showing it would outsell Pink Sugar, Philosophy, and every sweet, fruity, floral confection on the market.

Keiko Mecheri’s Loukhoum needs to be applied with a light hand. It builds up to an extremely strong aroma if you overdo it. And the longevity of KM Loukhoum is unreal! It lasts all day and into the night (easily).

Longevity: unbelievable ~ easily 12+ hours
Sillage: depends upon application but it can be strong

Notes: Hawthorn blossom, Bulgarian rose absolute, precious woods, vanilla, Comores flowers, white almond, musk

The overall aroma seems to be honey, almond, soft powdery woods and sweet vanilla. I don’t smell anything flowery.

Keiko Mecheri recently announced two additional Loukhoum perfumes so there will now be a trio of Loukhoums. She has created Loukhoum eau Poudrée and Loukhoum Parfum du Soir.

Loukhoum eau Poudrée will be a lighter and more floral (rose) version of the original.

Loukhoum Parfum du Soir will be an even richer and intensely vanillic version of the original.

Friday, October 10, 2008

CB I Hate Perfume: Mr Hulot's Holiday, A Review

Christopher Brosius has caught my attention.

The salon where I get my hair done carries the CB line. I was there today and with foils in my hair I covered myself in about five of CB’s perfumes trying to decide upon a new one. I already have and adore Russian Caravan Tea, Burning Leaves and Lavender Tea. I left the salon with Mr. Hulot’s Holiday.

Mr. Hulot's Holiday is described as the smell of the Mediterranean while on vacation (as in the movie of the same name). It’s supposed to smells of salt water, seaweed, driftwood, and the old leather suitcase you brought with you. I smell everything except the leather suitcase. It seems that no one, including me, likes aquatic scents. I think it’s the salt that allows me to like this aquatic. It seems like there’s a bit of ocean spray wafting up from my wrists right now. And, yes, there really is a seaweedy quality as well as a soft, in the background, driftwood note.

Here’s my dilemma (because I tend to over think these things)… If I hadn’t read the story and didn’t know what I was ‘supposed’ to be smelling what would this smell like? This is why my wrist was stuck in my friend’s face about an hour ago. His response, “rubber and baby powder.”

Well, the thing is, I already knew what Mr. Hulot’s was supposed to smell like so the salt note seems particularly striking to me. It’s a soft, contemplative fragrance and I like it immensely.

Longevity: average, about 3 hours
Sillage: soft to none.

The concentration I have is perfume absolute/oil as opposed to edt/water. The absolute is not thick like typical fragrance oil but instead more like a slightly thick edp. It’s not oily and blends into the skin quickly and without any greasy sheen.

CB I Hate Perfume website

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ava Luxe Mousse de Chine: A Review

Mousse de Chine is a delightfully wispy chypre from Ava Luxe. That is, if Mousse de Chine technically is a chypre at all. In my book chypres open with some aldehydes and dry down to a deep, oftentimes heavy, base containing oakmoss and/or patchouli. Mousse de Chine does not appear to contain aldehydes but oakmoss, labdanum, ambergris and musk are among the list of notes.

Chypre or not, Mousse de Chine is a lovely fragrance. It opens with a bergamot, citrus, soapy accord that is refreshing, clean and jubilant. Then it settles into a slightly powdery, musky, mossy aroma. I expected Mousse de Chine to be much heavier and I’m pleasantly surprised at its delicate composition. Likely it’s because I know lavender is among the notes but I do detect an herbal aroma that makes me take deep meditative sniffs of it. Mousse de Chine is yet another fragrance from Ava Luxe that I really enjoy.

Longevity: Excellent ~ 4-5 hours or more
Sillage: Soft to Average

Notes: bergamot, lime, fern, lavender, amber, Spanish moss, oakmoss, labdanum, musk, ambergris.

Mousse de Chine can be purchased from the Ava Luxe Website

pic: Underwater Dreams by *SAB687 on