Thursday, July 30, 2009

Two by Sonia Rykiel: Le Parfum and Rykiel Woman (Not for Men!)

With the exception of Rykiel Rose, which left me resolutely unenthused, Rykiel fragrances have never failed to impress me. Belle en Rykiel (2006), my first exposure to the line, is a favored go-to, mixing lavender, chocolate, frankincense, coffee leaf, and heliotrope in a way which still manages to surprise me each time I spray it on. Sonia Rykiel (1997) is a fruity floral done right, with nice woody undertones (sandalwood, cedar) contrasted against a dense medley of pineapple, currant, violet, honeysuckle, and rose--a chamber piece from the nose behind the operas known as Opium and Dune. Even Rykiel Homme (1999) satisfies, pulling a few punches in what at first registers as standard masculine fare. After the yuzu notes up top wear off Rykiel Homme evolves into a strange tug of war between fig, vioilet leaf, jasmine, nutmeg, vanilla and vetiver, a sort of dewy, less adversarial Habanita, fresh off the ciggies. I enjoy all of these, but as good as they all are, none prepared me for Le Parfum and Rykiel Woman, two of the nicer discoveries I've made in the past several months.

Le Parfum (1993) is seldom mentioned on the perfume blogs (see the link below for a rare exception), and unavailable all but online. It's quite a best kept secret for a fragrance which projects so forcefully. The notes are listed as hinoki wood, mimosa, passion fruit, osmanthus, rose, iris, tonka, ambered precious woods, and vanilla. The ingredients on the box list treemoss extract as well. Rykiel Le Parfum sits somewhere between Mitsouko and Mauboussin, with the overripe fruit of the former and the vanillic woody rococo tendencies of the latter. Oh but it lasts--and lasts. Hours in, the osmanthus, which up to then has been pretty bashful, opens a can of whoop ass, and the thing really hits its stride. This is one of those fragrances you can wander around in. It has a rich, creamy depth to it which makes many contemporary perfumes feel sheer and flimsy by comparison. It's also a lot sturdier, a warm but declarative scent, a melodrama played out in stage whispers. I wish I knew who made it.

I expected to like or at least appreciate Le Parfum. The shape of the bottle announced slightly off-kilter but classy intentions: not quite round, not exactly symmetrical. Aside from Belle en Rykiel, a solid cube of glass with a lucite top, the line's bottles have always struck me as counter-intuitive, more playful and inconsequential than the fragrances warrant. Even so, Rykiel Woman (2003) is a shock. Striped glass, crap lettering, and a black cap with naff gold studs hardly augurs high quality. More like high camp. And in fact, when first applied, Rykiel Woman seems like an afterthought. But give it time. Moments later, something amazing wafts up from the point of contact, subtle but emphatic.

From what I was able to find online, the fragrance was the brainchild of Rykiel's daughter, who'd opened up a section within her mother's boutique featuring more risque apparel and, um, accoutrements. A sign on the door read "Not for men!"--though, of course, it was, if only indirectly. What's a bullet without a target? The bent was cheeky sadomasochism; thus the gold studs on black background, de Sade by way of the Village People, with a detour into Danielle Steele. Should the abnormal size of the bottle (a whopping 125 ml) and its ribbed design be regarded as some sort of wishful thinking? Who cares. The scent is fantastic, like something and nothing you've smelled before. What keeps me engaged with Rykiel Woman is how close it comes to many fragrances I've known and loved, and yet none have had its strange, hypnotic diffusion, both there and not there, a real come on, with substance to back it up. Very few fragrances sit on the skin this way, speaking to the air around them.

The notes are listed as pink pepper, violet, date, jasmine, solar flowers (oh dear), bulgarian rose, black pepper, olibanum, agarwood, leather, and amber. I'm here to tell you I smell very little of all that, least of which, solar flowers, whatever the hell those are. The leather is practically subliminal, though I wouldn't call what registers suede, either. The overall effect is much too dry to signal the date, too smooth to suggest the pepper. Nor is it floral in the least to my nose. What I do smell is olibanum and a very soft, very well-played agarwood, making this one of the better olibanum fragrances I've smelled, cozy and resonant.

Rykiel Woman has a well-deserved cult status on the fragrance boards. That said, when I read "comfort scent," I'm skeptical. Me, I've typically found that a comfort scent means barely there, a meek suggestion of a thing, no bark, no bite. Spending time with Rykiel Woman, I understand the term. It does in fact wrap around you like a blanket, paying off in dividends hours later, with a curious stealth persistence.

I purchased both at Rei Rien for affordable prices (Le Parfum for $26, Woman for $40). Please note that Rykiel Woman also comes as an EDT. I've only smelled the EDP and am told they are very different. The EDT is apparently much more of a fruity floral. If anyone has smelled Rykiel Homme Grey and can tell me something about it I'd be eternally grateful. I'm also curious to hear about Rykiel Woman Hot, a limited edition flanker.

For a post on Le Parfum, see the Non-Blonde blog.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

CREED Acqua Fiorentina: leave a comment to be put in a drawing for a free bottle

Creed’s newest fragrance called Acqua Fiorentina was created by Olivier and Erwin Creed, a father son collaboration. Acqua Fiorentina is meant to portray a fruit orchard at dawn in Tuscany.

“A Spray of Hope” is the informal tagline the company is using for this juice because a portion of it’s proceeds will be donated to National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund.

Acqua Fiorentina is a perfect summer “eau” to me. It’s sheer, refreshing and joyous. I’ll list the notes below but what I smell is a jammy plum, followed by a delicate rose and cocoa powder heart with a cedar/pepper drydown. It’s a fruity floral to be sure, but it’s not too sweet, it’s just right.

Acqua Fiorentina was released to the UK in June and will be available to the US market in October.

Notes are listed as: greengage plum, Renaissance roses, bergamot orange and Calabrian lemon, finishing with base notes of cedarwood and sandalwood – all from the orchards and gardens of Florence.

Leave a comment and we’ll draw one lucky person this Saturday, August 1st. (United States and International, we're equal opportunity at I Smell Therefore I Am :-)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Molinard Les Fleurs de Provence Mimosa

In addition to linden, I’m always on the hunt for mimosa scents. So far, my hands-down favorite mimosa fragrances are Parfums de Nicolaï Mimosaique, L’Artisan Mimosa Pour Moi and Caron Farnesiana. For a person who has never smelled mimosa in real life I’m awfully obsessed with this note. I wonder if I’ll feel the same way, once I smell the actual flower, or if living with this imaginary notion of mimosa makes it ever better.

If you’re familiar with my top there favorite mimosa scents, I would compare Molinard’s mimosa with Caron Farnesiana with which it shares the most similarity. The PdN and L’Artisan Mimosas are very true to the flower, exhibiting a natural and slightly green take. Caron Farnesiana blends mimosa with heliotrope and creates a marzipan-gourmand impression. Molinard’s Mimosa is also a creamy almondy scent that is surprisingly delightful. I bought Molindard’s Mimosa from BeautyEncounter for about $25 bucks, expecting that I’d use it to spritz my sheets if it sucked. It doesn’t suck, it’s pretty good, though I must confess to basing my review a bit upon the price tag.

Molinard’s Mimosa reminds me of the one and only time I made pie crust from scratch. The smell of dough and sensation of flour on my hands is this fragrance. There’s an element of L’Artisan’s Bois Farine here, a doughy quality which I want to knead between my fingers. Because of this association there’s a dometic diva idea running through my head – I imagine a country cottage with those adorable lace curtains, shifting quietly as a mimosa tinged breeze billows through them as I place the pie in the preheated oven. There’s a 1950s retro association about Molinard’s Mimosa – it’s cuddly soft, slightly doughy, dreamy and delicate. Unlike the PdN and L’Artisan there is no cucumber or green here – this is all creamy, dreamy deliciousness.

For $25 bucks Molinard Mimosa is wonderful. It’s not long-lived, lasting maybe 2 hours, and I do spray it on my sheets.

Above photo by Tearoom on Flickr

Thursday, July 23, 2009

TWRT 7.24.09

This week’s random thoughts –

Damn. True Blood is so good. I *hate* when the episode ends.

I enjoyed this review on Fragrance Bouquet for Bond No. 9’s new Andy Warhol series scent. It’s called Success is a Job in NY and I’m looking forward to taking it out for a spin now.

I’m not even a big vetiver fan but I’m needing some Guerlain Vetiver Pour Elle and Encre Noir Pour Elle.

The past 2 years or so I’ve been gravitating towards the color orange. Prior to this phase I never, I mean ever, wore orange.

Beverage of the week: Diet Dr. Pepper.

Kevin on NowSmellThis has caused me to also want to give a kidney for Comptoir Sud Pacifique Thé Eau de Parfum. I’ve never even sniffed it but with my love of tea scents, I feel like I’m craving it as much as he is. I'm so suggestible.

I didn’t realize Rupert Everett was such an imbecile (re: his MJ commentary).

Coromandel blossoms beautifully in the heat.

I finished off a bell jar of Chergui and ordered a new bottle from Aedes. When I received it in the usual square bottle with spray I realized I was actually happier this way – I prefer to spray.

Vintage Hermes Caleche is so much better than the current formulation. It’s terribly sad.

Because of this thread on POL I’m on the hunt for some vintage Shalimar. Again, terribly sad.

Sandwich of the week: ham and brie (both thickly sliced) on French bread with spicy mustard and cranberry sauce.

This is the point in summer when I’m utterly bored by light, fresh, summery scents and begin craving and wearing the heavies. Today I wore Chinatown.

Have a fragrant weekend, everyone!


Ladies and gents, the winners of the draw are DK and Tania.  Please get at us with your contact info.  Thanks for participating everyone and for all the wonderful comments.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Favorite CREED

Perhaps in the normal world, Creed is considered a fantastic perfume house. But in our world of perfume fanatics, Creed seems considered a mediocre house at best.

My experience with Creed has been good. I’ve sniffed bottle after bottle at Neiman Marcus, decided there are a few that I really like, and I’m happy with those that I have and love. Once I thought I was smitten with Love in White. I purchased it, then brought the bottle home to find that I detested the stuff – it made me want to crawl out of my skin. Thank goodness Neiman’s has an excellent return policy because I was able to exchange it for another perfume the next day. Pfffew! Love in Black is one of my favorites. For Creed, Love in Black is edgy, and I enjoy the sweet tarry violets with excellent sillage and longevity. In the late 90’s I wore Fleurissimo quite a bit. Almost to the point of it being my signature scent for about 1-2 years. For my husband, I’ve bought Green Irish Tweed, Tabarome and Neroli Sauvage and I think all three are excellent masculines, with Tabarome and Neroli Sauvage being easily unisex. I also have Fleurs de Bulgarie, which is nice, but not especially amazing. I had intended to buy Fleurs de The ROSE Bulgare but made a mistake. Rose de Bulgare is on my wish list at the moment.

The Creed that won my heart and made me have good feelings toward the house of Creed is Tubereuse Indiana. I know, it’s a strange name. The state of Indiana? I don’t think so. I think Creed is referring to India where the tuberose was harvested or at least where loads of tuberose is grown. I’m a tuberose lover – I can pretty much enjoy almost any tuberose soliflore – and usually a floriental that’s heavy on tuberose is my kinda scent. The thing about Tubereuse Indiana is that it hardly smells like tuberose at all.

According to Creed, Tubereuse Indiana contains the highest quality tuberose on a bed of ambergris and musk. Maybe it’s the blend of tuberose, ambergris and musk causing the scent to smell like a different flower and not tuberose at all. I think Tubereuse Indiana smells mostly like carnation. It’s a gorgeous, fluffy, somewhat powdery (in texture, not smell) fragrance. I absolutely adore Tubereuse Indiana. It reminds me of Caron’s Bellodgia. I compared Bellodgia and Tubereuse Indiana side by side to find that they are similar but when I do this it makes me smell the hint of tuberose in TI – it makes the tuberose more obvious and it shows that TI has more complexity.

Tubereuse Indiana is categorized as an oriental. It’s a very light and sweet oriental with it’s base being ambergris, musk and most likely some vanilla, sandalwood and amber. For me, carnation is the most prominent floral note but if I really think about deciphering notes I can also detect rose and gardenia. I find Tubereuse Indiana absolutely sublime and it works in any season. I can imagine someone who doesn’t like tuberose enjoying Tubereuse Indiana, because it doesn’t have any of the characteristics of most tuberose-heavy scents. There is nothing ‘in your face’ about Tubereuse Indiana, it’s delicate, fluffy, dreamy and refined.

Sillage is good and the longevity is also good. I find it lasts on me for at least 4 hours.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eau de Givenchy

Givenchy launched Eau de Givenchy in 1980, and it seems to be one of their last light and sheer fragrances for at least the next twenty years. My first meeting with Eau de Givenchy came in 1988 when my aunt gifted me a bottle as congratulations for passing my drivers test. Perhaps once you link a fragrance with a happy milestone - one symbolic of entering adulthood and new found freedom, the scent will always be a cherished memory. Eau de Givenchy, for me, is the summer of ’88. It is driving around with my friends, going to the beach and the mall and listening to the Violent Femmes, from the casette tape deck player in my first car, a powder blue Ford Escort named Nelly.

Eau de Givenchy is a charmer. Unlike other “Eau’s” its more potent and lasts a good 4-5 hours. When everyone is raving about Dior’s Escale a Portofino and Chanel’s Eau de Cologne, I must admit to feeling a little smug about my love of Eau de Givenchy. EdG costs about $30 and the longevity is far superior to the Dior and Chanel. It opens with a cheerful citrus and green burst that includes just a smidgen of fresh herbs and mint. I definitely find it more green than citrus but the bergamot lends a little hesperedic quality to the start. EdG dries down to a lovely clean, fresh, green floral that is very different from the “clean, fresh greens” of the past 10 years. EdG does not have the annoying peppery quality that I can’t abide, I’m thinking of Eau de Cartier and others in the same style.

Eau de Givenchy has a lovely floral heart and dry down. I find it’s reminiscent of sheer and ethereal florals like Diorissimo and Cristalle (edt). If you tested EdG blindfolded I would wager you’d think it was a new fragrance, there is nothing dated about it, nothing at all that screams 1980 to my nose. I can detect the honeysuckle and lily of the valley but I still don’t find it too sweet or cloying in the least.

The notes are: bergamot, spearmint, tagetes, greens, fruits, honeysuckle, jasmine, lily of the valley, tuberose, rose, cyclamen, orris, musk, cedarwood, sandalwood, and moss.

To me, Eau de Givenchy is a classic. It’s a hidden treasure with excellent longevity especially when compared with a slew of more expensive eau’s that don’t stay with me beyond 30 minutes.

Right now a 100 ml bottle is $33 at Rei Rien
OR $29 at Parfum1 (plus their 25% off code this month)

I can’t speak to the different bottles and perhaps slightly different formulations. I still have my old bottle from 1988, which is an amusing looking retro thing.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

SOIVOHLE' is inspired

SOIVOHLE' is the perfume line created by Liz Zorn. Soivohle' is an acronym standing for: Sending Out Inspired Vibrations Of Healthy Loving, pronounced “see-vo.”

Liz Zorn is an indie perfumer who is making waves in my perfume wardrobe. I often read other perfumistas lamenting that “such and such new perfume is just ‘meh’ it isn’t different or edgy enough.” Here’s my suggestion: if you want to smell some unusual and difference fragrances, that are obviously made with the highest quality ingredients, get yourself some Soivohle’.

Zorn makes two different perfume lines; a natural line (100% natural without synethics) and a moderne collection (mix of both naturals and some synthetics). Personally, I’ve found treasures from both lines, and I’ve also found the longevity of her fragrances to be very good, especially for the naturals.

Zorn seems fearless. She creates some funky, edgy, artistic perfumes. Soivohle’ scents are breathtakingly realistic and abstract at the same time. I know that might not make sense, but I’m confident it will, once you her smell her work.

GREEN OAKMOSS – from the moderne collection
Green Oakmoss is the fragrance I was most excited to try. Initially, I was concerned it would be bland and flat, because oakmoss is generally used as a basenote, not meant to be the whole ensemble. But this is, indeed, a whole perfume, based upon the idea of the scent of green and oakmoss. It doesn’t just smell like the essential oil of oakmoss but instead contains it’s own top, middle and basenotes.

This stuff is genius. It starts off with an earthy green, almost black tea/bergamot vibe atop a mound of moss. Green Oakmoss isn’t particularly dirty or skanky, it’s a clean rendition of oakmoss, much like dirt doesn’t actually smell “dirty” when you’re gardening and scoop up a handful of soil.

I love Green Oakmoss, I think it’s brilliant. I enjoy wearing it solo, but it also occurs to me that you could layer it with other fragrances that you think need an injection of green earthiness. Sillage and longevity are very good.

ACOUSTIC FLOWER – from the moderne collection
Acoustic Flower is a fragrance originally created by Zorn a few years ago as a bridal scent, then reworked a bit and introduced as it is now. She describes it as a gardenia soliflore but I smell much more going on here. In fact, call me crazy, but for a millisecond, it bears similarity to Amarige by Givenchy, which is a floriental, created by Dominique Ropion. Now, many people hate Amarige, but I happen to love it, so any similarity with Amarige is an enormous compliment coming from me.

Acoustic Flower is potent, sweet and sassy. I think it smells like gardenia, jasmine and tuberose, although I know from reading Zorn’s notes that tuberose is not in the mix. As much as I love Amarige, these days it seems I adore the memory of it, because it’s a bit cloying and synthetic smelling. Acoustic Flower strikes me as a stripped down natural version of Amarige, one I can wear. Sillage and longevity are very good.

HONEYSUCKLE BIRD – from the moderne collection
Honeysuckle Bird is a sweet, floral, uplifting and joyful fragrance. The notes are listed as honeysuckle and white lily but once this fragrance dries down I smell the most delicious golden honey elixir. I mean thick golden amber colored honey in one of those ball mason jars sitting on the window sill with sunshine gleaming through it. Honeysuckle Bird is luscious.

GENUS ORCHIDACEAE – from the moderne collection
Ok, this is one of the strangest perfumes I’ve ever smelled. I really like it, and yet it sickens me a little bit. It causes me to keep smelling it over and over again, because I’ve never smelled anything like it before.

I hardly have the words to describe it, but here goes. Vanilla comes from an orchid plant. It is an orchid which produces the vanilla pods and long threadlike “beans” that are used in cooking and perfumery. Therefore it’s natural to combine vanilla and orchid together in a fragrance. Genus Orchidaceae seems organic and alive and causes me to visualize a gigantic vanilla orchid plant, much like the monstrous plant from the play Little Shop of Horrors.

Genus Orchidaceae smells sweet, vanillic, and green; but this is a textural green, one I can physically touch, the meaty soft petals and thick pale green shoots jutting out of the moss and bark. This green is very far from your usual perfumery green, it’s more like the feeling of bamboo shoots or hearts of palm in your mouth.

Surely this seems odd. An explanation might be that I grow orchids, I have about 26 plants, so I’m well acquainted with them. Zorn has captured an orchid plant in an almost supernatural way. I’m a bit haunted by Genus Orchidaceae. It is very sweet – about the same level of sweetness as Serge Lutens Chergui – and perhaps there is a similarity between these two scents – because while I also like Chergui, I find it a bit sickening, too. Maybe sickening isn’t the right word – perhaps a better word is haunting.

Another Soivohle' fragrance that I'm working on finding the words for is Purple Love Smoke. This stuff is very interesting. I need more time with it before I can write anything though. I'm also trying Tobacco & Tulle as well as Violets & Rainwater and her newest Mexicali Rose. Zorn has created an amazing palette of fragrances that just seem to keep getting better and better.

PHOTO CREDIT: above photo by Nathan Branch of

The Bright Side: Things I'm Looking Forward To

So there's bad news (no more quarterly installments from Perfumes: the Guide) but, hey, cheer up, there's plenty of good news, too. The fragrance industry is full of same old /same old (Another fruity floral--for moi? You...shouldn't have.) but every once in a while there are little glimmers of hope which manage to capture my attention. Here's where I'm finding the silver lining lately:

YSL Parisienne

I'm a big fan of Paris. Dirty secret: I layer the edp with patchouli (Patchouli Antique, Molinard, Comme des Garçons Luxe, Demeter). As anyone who even cursorily scans this blog knows, I'm an even bigger Sophia Grojsman fan. So the news that Paris is being updated or reinterpreted is music to my ears. There have been flankers (between 1999 and 2007: Paris Premieres Roses, Paris Roses de Bois, Paris Roses Enchantees, Paris Roses des Vergers Springtime, Paris Jardins Romantiques, and, more remotely affiliated, Baby Doll Paris) and others outside the corporate auspices of YSL have tried to approximate the original's greatness, but nothing comes close to that dew-drenched, violet colored rose marinated in wine.

I might be very much bored by yet another mainstream rose release, were it not for the participation of Grojsman. I'm not yet sure what kind of influence collaborator Sophie Labbe will have on the fragrance. I haven't been crazy about much if anything she's done up to now. But the description gets my mind racing. Damask rose, violet, peony, patchouli, and vetiver are nothing to shout about. But "a vinyl accord evoking metal gloss and varnish"? Someone's been paying attention to the more avant garde sectors of niche perfumery. While I doubt Parisienne will be anything close to Secretions Magnifiques, it is at least embracing an imaginative arena which moves beyond the tried and true, welcoming a broader range of fantasy projection from its consumer.


I have several bottles of Halston, and like them all, though I do notice differences. I have what appears to be parfum extrait from the early eighties, a cologne from a little later, and an edt I purchased last year at the mall for twenty bucks. Bernard Chant is credited with the original Halston, which I remember fondly from 1975. My sister and her friends wore it, and for a long time I couldn't smell it without conjuring a vision of her pink calico canopy bed. Regardless, it seemed very adult to me at the time--picture Carol King's Tapestry album playing in the background (everyone was listening to it; did any of us have a clue what she was really talking about?) --more so than Anais Anais, which came out three years later and seemed practically juvenile by comparison, custom made to match my sister's teenage bedroom decor.

The trend for reviving old fragrances with newer materials and a different, more ostensibly modern approach reminds me of the film industry's penchant for remaking classics. Sometimes the talent and the magic are there, and the results are a welcome surprise (see, say, Down and Out in Beverly Hills). Sometimes, you get a shrill, grasping approximation, an attempt to fix what wasn't broken (see Annette Benning and Meg Ryan in The Women, or Steve Carell in Get Smart). The Halston I know and love--all versions--is or was wonderfully woody, with weird herbal, mossy, and floral streaks zig-zagging through its structure and a bedrock warmth unique to Chant.

Elizabeth Arden now holds the license to market Halston fragrances, and has appointed perfumer Carlos Benaim to refashion the original Halston perfume--as a floriental. I don't remember anything like black currant in Bernard Chant's chypre, but this combination might just do the trick of approaching the original's strange contrasts at the very least.

Encre Noire Pour Elle

Basenotes reports that Christine Nagel, the nose behind one of my favorite fragrances, Encre Noire, has created a version for the ladies, Pour Elle. This will be news to many women I know, who claim Encre Noire as their own in a sublimely uncomplicated way. For me, there's such an exciting charge involved in crossing the aisle to grab a bottle of perfume in my fist. I use it not just to subvert or disregard boring gender codes and boundaries but to enter into an imaginative space few in the fragrance industry think to provide my sex entry into. I think many women must feel the same. For years they've been grabbing cologne off the bathroom shelf, walking around in someone else's pants. Hearing about Encre Noire Pour Elle, part of me inwardly sighs. Here's the line, it says. Let's not get out of control here. Let's all keep our seats.

Then again, it's Christine Nagel, she of the wondrous Fendi Theorema, Miss Dior Cherie, A*Men Pure Coffee, Armani Prive Ambre Soie, Yves Rocher Rose Absolue, and John Galliano (you might not like it so much. I happen to love it). "Why should rose be for females and vetiver for males?" She asked in a recent interview. "Who decides this?" The answer is in the question. There is a vetiver for females. It's called Encre Noire. And Rose Absolue smells great on me.

Fath de Fath

I have it on good authority that one of the biggest detriments to the success of Fath de Fath was its packaging. The bottle leaked. I'm inclined to believe this, as a bottle I bought my mother leaked in transit, one of only two perfumes I've known to do so. Ask me some time about my flight from Greece last year and the leaky bottle of Luxe Patchouli. I made many friends on that packed airplane, I can tell you.

Where did I read about a reorchestration of Fath de Fath? I'm guessing it was Nowsmellthis. Some faint ghost of the infamous Iris Gris is also rumored to be in the works. My hopes are set higher for Fath de Fath, as there's less room to screw it up. Fath de Fath was a lovely balance of fruit and woods, though the pyramid provided by osmoz lists nothing much which could be misconstrued as woodsy, per se. Pear and tuberose do odd things together in Fath de Fath. Were there musks and civet in this 1994 composition? If so, they won't be resurrected. Still, the Benzoin Fath de Fath contained had a lot to do with the fragrance's chemistry, and no one has banned benzoin yet--or have they?


Another re-release from Robert Piguet, Futur has been brought back from the past. I don't really care what they've done to it. Baghari and Visa were revisited with sensitivity and imagination. I own both and love them. If also by Aurelien Guichard, the Futur, I predict, will look just as good. From the Piguet website:

"She is witty, outspoken, and supremely confident. Her style is effortless. Her fragrance intensely feminine."

Here we go again. She, she, she. The company calls Futur a green woody floral fragrance, which just about covers the bases this side of oriental. I repeat: I do not care. I have Fracas, Bandit, and the afore-mentioned Visa and Baghari. I want a little army of those black block bottles, with their Bauhaus font and packaging.

Aramis Gentleman's Collection

What could be more exciting than the re-release of eight classic Aramis masculines? JHL alone is more than anyone can ask for. Add to this Devin, New West, Aramis 900, and Tuscany (the remaining two will not be sold in the U.S.). And fantastic pricing. 100 ml at 48 bucks seems downright old fashioned. There are fanatical attachments to Havana all over the blogs. I haven't smelled it and can't say why--though birch tar, coriander, and leather is all I need to hear. Get at me in September. 900 is a fantastic, feral rose, Chant's inversion of Aromatics Elixir. Devin is Aliage in a tux.

I owned a bottle of JHL back in the early eighties and was very pleased with myself, but until recently, when I came across a few fugitive bottles in a remote department store, I couldn't remember why. Smelling it again, I knew. In case you've never smelled JHL, imagine Youth Dew making love to after shave. I'm guessing I loved it so much because it was the best of both worlds, masculine and feminine, a fragrance through which I could bring the worlds of my divorced parents back together.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea

A while back, Abigail raved about this little wonder, and I made a mental note to check it out. I don't know what's going on with Sonoma's website--the till is down, so you can look, essentially, but you can't touch--and some of you are going to be frustrated after reading this review, because I have high praise for the fragrance, but look at the bright side: you can't possibly know how truly wonderful Tabac Aurea is, and what you're missing, until you get your hands on it, and even then the exact nature of its powerful appeal will elude you.

For Abigail, Tabac recalls vintage fragrances--their complexity, attention to detail through depth and drama, the rich, dovetailing stories they tell. Her presiding image for the fragrance was Bette Davis. Funny how things work, because I'm picturing Robert Mitchum, whose sharp-angled cheekbones are trying to make something feminine out of what is clearly butch-saturated stock. Clearly, Tabac Aurea is unisex, gender-friendly, but in a sea of bland, interchangeable, unimaginative masculines, I'm apt to claim it as one for the boys. Then too, Tabac recalls some of my favorites: Histoires de Parfums 1740, Parfum d'Empire Fougere Bengale, Annick Goutal Sables. In all of these, immortelle plays a big role, and though there's no indication that Tabac Aurea even contains immortelle, the argument could be made that I simply love the kind of fragrance Tabac resembles.

That isn't giving what I'd include in my list of the top ten masculines of the last decade much credit, now is it? And yes, Tabac is that good. It's certainly the best tobacco fragrance I've ever smelled, but it's more than that, possessing the kind of magic words fail. Looking at the facts alone--persistence, projection, quality of materials--it blows Sables off the table. Sables is gorgeous, if you have something on hand to apply thirty minutes later, to console you once it has vanished. Tabac Aurea lasts all day on my skin, has the kind of diffusion that makes my presence beg questions from those I come into contact with ( that? Are Where did you get that? What is that called? Will you have sex with me? Would you mind doing it right here? Let's get married--just for the next ten minutes? Actually, can I just have that smell, so we can have sex alone?) and it is abundantly clear, from the moment you first smell it, that Tabac's creator refined and refined again in her effort to achieve such a careful, unlikely balance.

While it falls within the olfactory range of 1740 and Fougere Bengale, Tabac distinguishes itself enough that it's worth having all three--if, like me, you're that obsessively inclined, and worried about redundancy. Tabac speaks to those fragrances the way one smoky-voiced singer speaks to another, through tone and texture, but the music and personality are unique. The vetiver in Tabac imbues it with qualities neither 1740 nor Bengale possess, moving it farther away from the insular combustion immortelle gives the former, the sense that 1740 has a lot on its mind, is troubled and needs some time to think about it. 1740 harbors things, relishing its drama. To 1740, Tabac says, Hey, lighten up; it might never happen.

Which isn't to say Tabac is happy-go-lucky; just that it doesn't brood. Like Fougere Bengale, which uses lavender in a similar way, as if to clear its head, Tabac loosens up with vetiver. Unlike Bengale, which comes on like the most intoxicating (or, okay, I'll give some of you this: nauseating) spice cabinet this side of reality, Tabac has a persistent but subtle tangy aspect, a barely there fruit accord which operates similarly to the cassis bud in Iris Bleu Gris, subverting what might otherwise be an austere, stand-offish disposition. Tabac is foody, but more savory than sweet. It has woodsy undertones to it. Clove, tonka, labdanum, leather. Need I say more? If you're into this sort of thing, I'm guessing not.

I've resorted to comparison in an effort to convey an inexplciable mystery. Shame on me. Stupid, I know--but to do otherwise I would need a vocabulary which hasn't been invented yet. I love this stuff.

More Best of Summer : Brian's Picks

Recently, I discovered that I don't really care about light scents at any time of the year. I prefer heavier fragrances not just in the Winter, when they're said to make sense by serving as something approaching a comfortable blanket, but in the Spring, when they start mingling with the fresh, open air. The biggest surprise for me has been how much I like the power scents in the Summer. I think I might like them most of all at this time of year. It isn't just that citrus scents are so fleeting, though that's part of it. They hit the heat and poof, they're gone. Citrus scents and eau de colognes, however long they last, turn sour on sweating skin, as if trying to hide some basic facts of nature. Summer in the south isn't clean and composed. It's sultry and animalic, and the fragrances which make the most sense on my skin are the ones heat and sweat can only be complimented by, as opposed to struggled against.

1. Habanita (Molinard): Try it on in the Summer. The powder isn't there. It's as if someone blew off a coat of dust Habanita was submerged under, and now you can smell the basic structure underneath, more of those tobacco nuances, the weird peachy top notes, the push and pull of vetiver and vanilla. Infamously, the EDT lasts all day in the winter. It lasts just as well this time of year, and smells like sex warmed over.

2. Fougere Bengale (Parfum d'Empire): I only bought this last month, but I imagine the tangy, herbal thrust of the lavender gives it an interesting Summer dissonance it would be too well behaved to let show in the Winter. Immortelle and spices run like a strong current underneath, pulling you along.

3. Moschino de Moschino: This is indeed, as Tania Sanchez says, joss stick. However it distinguishes itself from many lesser orientals and even some of the superior classics by its weird, smoked florals.

4. Bandit (Piguet): There is no wrong time of year for Bandit. It spans the calendar, covering the bases. Grassier this season than last, to be sure, this green leather seems like a saddle left out in a field of chamomile. I never get that in the winter, when it seems like something you've snuggled into a pocket to keep warm.

5. Karma (Lush): Orange incense. People love it or hate it. In the winter, I...lurv it? In the summer, pure love for Karma. The heat activates subtleties that the cold leaves dormant, merely strident.

6. Daim Blond (Serge Lutens): I was so disappointed when I bought it last summer that I put it away and had only smelled it periodically ever since. Lately I pull it out and it makes perfect sense. The peachy cured leather smell lights up the skin. The heat makes it moodier, less the cheerful happy-go-lucky it is in the winter and fall, more unpredictable. It has issues, suddenly. I can relate.

7. Encre Noire (Lalique): Someone will have to convince me this isn't the best possible summer fragrance on a guy's skin, bar none. It smells virile without resorting to that chest thumping feeling you get from cruder peers. It's both fresh and filthy, inviting and repelling. Vetiver doesn't get much better.

8. Miss Balmain: A sister to Aramis for Men (born in a man's body), closely related to Aromatics Elixir, Cabochard, and Azuree (also great this time of year). This stuff is twenty bucks a bottle and based on the vintage bottle I own smells just as good presently as it ever did. It seems to grow warmer and thicker on the skin as it wears. Wonderful dry down, leather in deep floral hues.

9. Arpege (Lanvin): Especially the most recent reformulation. It smells of aldehydes, forals, and vetiver and sticks with you for the long haul.

10. Broadway Nite (Bond No. 9): the heady, almost waxy impressions of this fragrance are strong enough to get the point across, whatever the point is.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Best of Summer 2009

Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel perfumes and Smelly Blog was our organizer for today’s feature story about our favorite scents of Summer, 2009. Ten blogs are participating and you’ll see the full list with links at the bottom of this post.

Several blogs have already posted their summer '09 "favorites lists" so we decided to devise some eclectic categories, rather than just a straight list. We won’t all have the exact same categories, but there will be many overlapping one’s.

Abigail’s Summer 2009 --
Best inexpensive: Pacifica Nerola
Beautiful neroli /orange blossom for under $20

Best expensive: Parfums MDCI Un Coeur en Mai
Gorgeous green floral created by Patricia Nicolaï that seems a gentle tribute to Guerlain Chamade. Un Coeur en Mai wears beautifully – it’s elegant and long lasting.

Best beach (aka the Shore in Jersey): Creative Universe Mare
Mare smells like the natural beach – of sand, surf, sea breezes and escape/solitude

Best summer incense: Tie between Keiko Mecheri Oliban and YSL Nu (edp). Both KM Oliban and YSL Nu are airy and light incense fragrances that wear beautifully in the heat and aren’t overwhelming. Excellent for those days when you’re so tired of the usual summer fare (citrus and refreshing florals) and are craving something oriental.

Best summer chypre: YSL Y
Y seems made for the spring/summer, absolute summertime chypre perfection.

Best remedy for humidity: L’Artisan The Pour Un Ete. Chilled jasmine tea - ahhhhhhh

Best clean floral: Cabotine by Gres
Clean, green and floral. A striking fragrance with amazing longevity.

Best long lasting citrus: Parfums de Nicolaï Cologne Sologne. I’ve read that Cologne Sologne contains the highest percentage of neroli essential oil in a perfume. This is a floral citrus, not just a citrus which starts of shriekingly citrus but dries down to a dreamy spiked orange blossom cologne.

Best summer gourmand: Caron Farnesiana pure parfum. Farnesiana in parfum concentration is a divine cloud of mimosa/almond/marzipan. The summer heat brings out it’s most beautiful facets

Best sultry summer date night: Divine by Divine. Glamourous bombshell tuberose for a wicked good time. But always a lady, of course.

Best scent for a summer night out in the big city: Creed Love in Black. Love in Black smells like sweet violets and hot asphalt/tar/pavement. Something about the smell of pavement and walking around NYC in the heat of summer seems like a good pairing to me

Best outdoor party/picnic/BBQ: Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette. Voile de Violette is a plummy, jammy, sweet violet scent. It’s delightfully fun and flirty and perfect for an outdoor soiree.

Best scent that seems like it wouldn’t work in the heat but totally does: Caron Tabac Blond. Tabac Blond is sublime in the summer heat. Try it, you’ll see.

Best scent to wear while lounging in a hammock reading a book: Parfums de Nicolaï Mimosaique
Mimosaique is a mimosa soliflore that is utterly charming and cozy

Best summer tuberose: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Tubereuse
DSH Tubereuse is something I’ve discovered in the past few weeks. Wow, what a gem. This is now my favorite tuberose in general and it wears especially well in the heat. DSH Tubereuse is airy and gauzy and seems to contain a smidgen of vanilla and cinnamon making it insanely delectable.

Best scent for gardening and/or the farmer’s market: Annick Goutal Folavril
Folavril smells like fresh tomato plants, what’s more perfect that that?

Best scent for when you need a vacation but can’t get away yet: Monyette Paris. Monyette Paris is the most lush tropical gardenia based fragrance around. One sniff and you’re in the South Pacific, or Hawaii or just name the idyllic island of your choice.

Best summer scent for dining out with your in-laws: Chanel Beige. Especially if your MIL and FIL are difficult to get along with – Beige is like perfume on good behavior.

Check out the other blogs participating in today’s Best of Summer, 2009 piece:

Bittergrace Notes
Moving and Shaking
The Non Blonde
+ Q Perfume Blog
Perfume Shrine
Savvy Thinker
Scent Hive
Ayala’s Smelly Blog

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sample Drawing for the SMELL Reader

To enhance the quality of your reading experience, we at I Smell Therefore I Am are offering a sample drawing for some of our reviewed fragrances. We enjoy your comments and the conversatioins we've had with you over the last year and recognize that not everything we've reviewed is something you're necessarily familiar with or own. The winner can pick four fragrances from the following, all of which we've discussed in the past several months:

The drawing will take place next Wednesday, July 22nd. Happy browsing. To be considered, pick one of the above posts and contribute to the conversation by adding a comment here on the perfume or topic in question.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss

There was a discussion on POL recently started by cubby titled “Estee Lauder Fragrances, Why do they last so Long?” Estee Lauder perfumes do have the most wonderful longevity, don’t they? Many of the comments mirrored this sentiment and expressed their gratitude that Estee Lauder is committed to quality fragrances (“best bang for the buck” is what one POLer wrote).

Last year I was pleased by the launch of Sensuous – a mainstream fragrance that ventured into wooded territory. I was happy because EL was launching something different from the usual fare at Sephora and it made EL seem brave. Ultimately Sensuous left me cold, it was an utter snooze, but I’m still happy that EL went for it.

I was cheering for Estee Lauder again this year with news of Private Collection Jasmine White Moss. A green chypre for 2009 seems very brave to me. A green chypre also seems like a nod to us perfume fanatics, because, who else would be in the market for this sort of fragrance, but us, the complete fragrance junkies?! I mean, this is NOT a fruity floral, nor another Angel wannabe (this trend seems to have ended), or another safe clean floral number to bore us to tears.

No offense to others who have reviewed Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss (henceforth EL PCJWM) but I don’t see any reason to make side-by-side comparisons between it and other heavy hardcore chypres from thirty years ago. When I reviewed Cristalle Eau Verte and Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus I made comparisons to the original fragrances for obvious reasons but with EL PCJWM I wore it all by itself and made no such comparisons.

My initial reaction was “wow, this is really oakmoss-y.” The first 15-20 minutes spotlight oakmoss, and while I know it isn’t the real deal (given the maddening IFRA restrictions), this smells like good oakmoss. I went to Neiman’s first thing this morning with the intent of sampling EL PCJWM and then running several other errands, having lunch and doing a bit more sniffing later in the afternoon. I kept sniffing my wrists throughout the delay, evaluating and taking note of it’s development. It reminds me a bit of the original EL Private Collection as well as Azuree in it’s galbanum green-ness (as March on Perfume Posse also suggested). Call me the contrarian but I really love EL PCJWM, and I think I love it precisely because it is a modern chypre. To give you a point of reference, EL PCJWM reminds me a bit of an airy, less dense and complex, Ralph Lauren Safari.

Once the fragrance dries down the oakmoss and aldehydes burn off and what you have left is a soft green floral. The jasmine is obvious at the start but after time passes it becomes mostly a mixed floral affair. It’s a lovely composition. It’s a weightless, carefree and easy-going modern chypre. I don’t find fault with it because it’s much less smoldering than chypres of years past, I like it for it’s faceted yet wispy quality. Similar to the way I ended up liking Shalimar Light, while I’ll always love original Shalimar, there’s a place in my heart for modern chypres, for lightness, and simple beauty. The galbanum & vetiver notes (I think) keep the fragrance from straying into “sweet” territory and it stays nicely dry throughout.

After lunch and other errands I returned to Neimans and Nordies and sniffed a whole bunch of other perfumes. Everything else just seemed mediocre. EL PCJWM really stood out, this is a winner, so I bought myself a bottle. I decided it was that good.

Taken from the Estee Lauder website:
Notes: Black Currant Bud Absolute, Galbanum Absolute, Bergamot Absolute, Aerin's Jasmine Sambac Absolute, Estée's Ylang Ylang Absolute, Estée's Jasmine Absolute, Violet, Orange Flower Absolute, Orris, Patchouli Heart Absolute, Vetiver Absolute, White Moss Mist Absolute (an Estée Lauder exclusive).

Truth in Advertising: Kenzo Ca Sent Beau

Reading "summer faves" on the various blogs over the past few days, I noticed a trend weighing very robust fragrances against fresh citrus eau de what-have-you's. It isn't so counter-intuitive to wear thick, heavy, persistent scents during the hotter months, though you'd never know it from marketing campaigns and seasonal releases. As mentioned on the grain de musc blog, "Perfumes blossom on moist flesh: as they rise in the heat, they display more facets than at any other time of the year…"

Still, if you find yourself wanting the best of both worlds, nothing beats Kenzo Ca Sent Beau. Created by Francoise Caron in 1988, originally titled, simply, "Kenzo", Ca Sent Beau is a magical alliance of plum, peach, and citrus with one of the more unusual treatments of tuberose on the market. The fragrance has woody facets as well, and spices (cardamom and coriander). It spins off wonderfully from the skin, maintaining this precarious balance between fresh and feral for hours, meandering from rose to gardenia to magnolia to rose. Simultaneously rich and straightforward, Ca Sent Beau is true to its name, smelling ten times better than nine out of ten so-called summer perfumes twice to three times its price. To me it resembles tuberose steeped in orange water.

Some find Ca Sent Beau challening. I can see that, if by challenging you mean unusual or unique. As I smell more fragrances and my nose becomes more accustomed to the perfumer's palette, many fragrances smell like another, and are distinguished by subtle grades of difference. Ca Sent Beau is like nothing else.

Friday, July 10, 2009

TWRT 7.10.09

This Week's Random Thoughts ~

I love seafood. I grew up in New England so perhaps it was inevitable. But when I eat seafood in a restaurant I always feel like I should hide my plate. Most of my friends find calamari, oysters, lobster and shrimp disgusting so I feel self concsious about eating these foods in public.

True Blood is SO GOOD. Nurse Jackie (Edie Falco) is also a great show.

While I was away on vacation I decided to pack light and brought only (3) 10 ml decants. I was bored out of my mind by mid-week with only 3 perfumes.

I’m working through a large number of DSH samples in order to select additional DSH fragrances for The Posh Peasant’s inventory. Obviously, we can’t carry all of them, because she has such a vast array of scents, so it’s becoming really hard for me to narrow it down to a short(ish) list. So far, I’m extremely impressed with Tamarind Paprika, Piment et Chocolate, Bois du Chocolate, Giardini Segreti (a lovely white floral) and Parfum de Luxe. Three of the DSH perfumes we carry already that I find exceptional are American Beauty, Celadon Green and Tubereuse. Dawn’s Tubereuse is magnificent. I noticed BeautyHabit began carrying a few of her fragrances and Tubereuse is among them.

I’m looking forward to the new Estee Lauder Private Collection – Jasmine White Moss.

Serge Lutens La Myrrhe is an oddly addictive fragrance.

I love the ceremony of English Tea. This week I ate tea sandwiches several times for lunch. For those in the U.S., the secret is to buy Pepperidge Farm *extra thin* bread, cut off the crusts, and thinly layer both slices of bread with butter and sprinkle just a tad of salt and pepper on the butter. Then add razor thin slices of cucumber, tomato and egg ‘n cress. So delish!

I’m very excited about the two new Parfum d’Empire scents: Wazamba (Love the name) and 3 Fleurs.

I laugh to myself nearly everyday when I read comments on Now Smell This and there’s a long litany of cranky people complaining about the price point of expensive perfumes. Of course I would prefer to be able to afford every perfume I wanted, but my goodness, it seems so whiny, to complain about every single new expensive release. Perfume is a luxury item, is it not? If it were toilet paper which was so expensive, then I’d join in, but it’s perfume, folks.

It’s too bad Turin and Sanchez aren’t writing any more installments to The Guide. I thought this was their job? I didn’t realize they had other things going on.

Do you recall back in the 80’s (I think) when studies were done on mice to find whether Saccahrine was dangerous to human health. It turned out that Saccahrine was found carcinogenic to the mouse. Later many people dismissed this finding because they said the mice were given loads upon loads of the substance, more than any normal mouse could ever consume. Sometimes I think of this analogy with perfume. To the normal person, perfume probably isn’t harmful, but what about those of us who wear 4 different fragrances every single day of our lives?!

See the photo above? It’s not a cracker but a facial sponge. I cannot believe I’ve lived as long as I have without using these sponges. Ever try to remove a clay mask with simply your hands and water? What about a cleanser that doesn’t foam but goes on like lotion? These facial sponges are my new favorite discovery this week. (I realize I’ve been daft for quite some time).

Beverage of the week: Pour pure mango juice to fill approximately 1/4 of glass. Fill remaining glass with diet tonic water. Add lemon wedge.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz: Celadon Green, Revisited

In the span of our lives, if we’re lucky enough to live to a ripe old age, one year seems so fleeting, so inconsequential, so brief. As an adult, I can sadly say I’ve wasted full years of my life. When I was a child I remember how one year seemed a vast expanse of time; an enormously lengthy period that would take ages to conclude. I remember thinking Christmas would take forever to arrive or that summer vacation was so very far away. When I was around 11 years old and wearing the obligatory ‘training bra’ and waiting for my first period to arrive (a la Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret) every day seemed an eternity. I thought I would never grow up, things moved so slowly back then.

As the years have moved past I’m beginning to cling to every moment. As I reflect upon the past year, I’m amazed at how much I’ve changed. Just focusing on one aspect of my life, my interest in perfume, I can see how much I’ve learned, I’ve smelled, I’ve experienced, grown and spent (!).

About one year ago, in June, I wrote a review of DSH Celadon Green. At the time, I wasn’t nearly the green fragrance aficionado that I am now. Looking back at this review, I’m surprised at how well I described this fragrance. Everything still stands as true for me, except for the fact that I now think Celadon Green is much, much more exceptional.

In the span of twelve months, I’ve smelled and worn so many green perfumes. I revisited many of the classics, such as Chanel No. 19, Balmain’s Vent Vert, Guerlain’s Sous le Vent and Ma Griffe. I sampled all sorts of leafy greens like Diptyque’s Eau de Lierre, Hampton Sun Privet Bloom, Byredo Green, Chanel Bel Respiro and Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau. Then there were the “green-ish” fragrances, by which I mean scents with a predominantly green flair but other spotlighted notes like citrus, florals or tea; these were, Bulgari au The Vert, Annick Goutal Folavril, Gucci Envy, Creative Universe Te, L’Artisan’s The Pour Un Ete and Jean Patou Vacances. Then I discovered a category of green that floored me. It was Gobin Daude’s Seve Exquise and Sous Le Buis. I came upon these too late, as Gobin Daude had already been woefully discontinued and these two fragrances are now impossible to find. Seve Exquise and Sous Le Buis were ground breaking for me. These were green scents that didn’t just smell like sharp, vegetal, green “things” like leaves or grass but instead a gentle abstract idea of the essense of green. I’ve been lamenting the disappearance of Gobin Daude fragrances for months now.

Suddenly, just a few days ago, when I wore DSH Celadon Green, it occurred to me how similar it is to these Gobin Daude fragrances. I’m not implying that Celadon Green is a copy of Seve Exquise, but it is decidely in the same scent family. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has created such an enormous number of fragrances that it can be overwhelming to figure out which to try. I certainly haven’t tried them all but after a solid year of sniffing I must say she is a brilliant perfumer. Chandler Burr wrote a piece about DSH which was quite complimentary but I don’t think he even reached the tip of the iceberg – which is that she’s created some absolute masterpieces. Celadon Green is a masterpiece in the genre of gentle abstract green fragrances. It reminds me of the precious beauty of nature, of life, birth, and death. Celadon Green conjures me at 11 years old, just budding, slowly unfurling, full of wonder and impatience. Celadon Green smells of existence, of time passing, and reminds me to live.

Rating: 5 Stars
Longevity: Average (about 3 hours)
Sillage: Soft/Average

The image is a painting by Helen Frankenthaler called Spring Veil. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has said this painting was part of the inspiration for Celadon Green.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Serge Lutens La Myrrhe: A Review

Am I the only person who finds La Myrrhe reminiscent of Chanel No. 5? For me, La Myrrhe smells like a Lutens/Sheldrake homage to No. 5, with their characteristic twists and bold signatures, of course.

Aside from the similarity with No. 5, La Myrrhe is an enigma. From the start, it’s sheer and bright, it leans toward bitter, and, to be blunt, medicinal. But then it’s also resinous (the myrrh) and there’s a hesperedic layer throughout the fragrance and an almost (very feint) marzipan paste.

Is La Myrrhe difficult to describe? Yes. Is it what I expected it to smell like? Not at all. When I think of myrrh itself, I imagine Diptyque’s L'Eau Trois, which is my favorite myrrh scent. I also have Annick Goutal’s Myrrh Ardente, which didn’t work out for me, it smells nice, like woody rootbeer, but not as I’d hoped. La Myrrhe doesn’t smell like myrrh essential oil, as you might expect, given it’s name. It is most definitely the aldehydes that remind me so much of Chanel No. 5. La Myrrhe starts off with a great soapy aldehydic pop which lasts for the first hour.

Like several Serge Lutens fragrances, La Myrrhe is not to be evaluated upon first sniff or even the first hour. After the aldehydes burn off, the fragrance changes. It loses it’s soapy aldehydic pop and instead turns sweetly spicy, like spiced Coca Cola, with anise and woods. This combination is generally what myrrh smells like – it isn’t a mistake that there’s a Coca-Cola/root beer vibe.

La Myrrhe has such stark duality that I imagine there are many who would either love the opening and dislike the dry down or vice verse. I happen to like both, the aldehydic start and the sweetly spicy dry down, but overall I like this fragrance, I don’t love it.

La Myrrhe clearly conjures a vision of a certain type of woman for me. She’s the offspring of proper wealthy ladies who have worn Chanel for decades but this lady prefers not to flaunt her wealth. Instead she exudes a bohemian charm, with chunky jewelry, loose wavy hair and maybe even a tattoo. Ignoring her politics, personality and history but based solely on appearance I imagine Angelina Jolie wearing La Myrrhe. It needs to be mentioned that La Myrrhe makes an excellent masculine as well.

Minimal sillage but long lasting overall.

Notes: Mandarin, bitter almond, sandalwood, myrrh, honey, jasmin, amber, musc

PS: I just came across the shoes and loved them. Made by L.A.M.B, called Tegan Pumps, available at Nordstrom. Since I couldn’t find a good photo of a La Myrrhe bell jar and I did not want to assault you with yet another photo of the overexposed Jolie I went with the shoe image. And, I do image La Myrrhe wearing nicely with these shoes.

Caron Nuit de Noel

I don't need you to tell me this is the wrong time of year to be reviewing this fragrance. The spiced, nutty, soft florals of Nuit de Noel are diametrically opposed to the heat of summer. But it's on my mind. Yesterday, I was at my aunt's for lunch, and she started talking about my grandparents--how wonderful they looked when they got dressed up to go out, how chic. My grandfather was handsome when he was young, she said. My grandmother has good taste.

My grandmother died ten years ago but my aunt has started talking about the dead in the present tense. Her cousin died last year but is very strong and good at getting around. Her brother died right before her mother, a brain tumor, very sudden, but he lives in her mind as a constant, vivid presence. The impact these people had on their environment persists in the present for her, however long gone the source. In the last year, I've noticed myself referring to people I know with someone else's name. My grandmother used to do this. She addressed me as all of my uncles and male cousins before finally getting it right. I had three uncles and countless male cousins, so this took a while. Eventually, she never got it right, and had no idea she was off the mark. I refer to my grandmother as Nana, my childhood understanding of the Italian term, Nonna. This kept confusing my aunt, who thought I was talking about her grandmother. It's funny how tricky words and memories are, how the past lodges in the mind, altering, confusing, or influencing the present.

My aunt talked about the perfume my grandmother wore on the special occasions she dressed up to go out. It was in a green, tasselled container flecked with gold--maybe. She wanted to say it was called...Christmas Eve? No, she was almost positive. The thought that my grandmother and I might have been connected by the love of a perfume sent an electric charge through me, but I sorted patiently through the questions necessary to narrow things down. Listen, I finally said, there's a wonderful fragrance called Nuit de Noel. Could that have been it?

My aunt was insistent that, no, it hadn't been French. Okay, but was the name printed on the bottle, I asked, wondering if maybe my grandmother, knowing the French name, used the translation when discussing the perfume with her daughters. Then too, Caron issues special editions in crystal flasks and such around Christmas, so perhaps the name wasn't on the bottle. My aunt couldn't remember. Like me, she remembers going into my grandmother's room as a child to admire the bottles on her dresser. I don't remember the green tasselled container. I do remember the white and black herringbone of Miss Dior, and how it set the tone for my grandmother's room, with its plush, pastel and cream area rug, its floor length, satin curtains, the moss greens and rose and faint blues, the gold filigree tray on her dresser, the air of quiet in there...

And what did it smell like?

Oh, well it was subtle, my aunt said. It didn't shout. You got up close to her and you could smell it. She dabbed it, just a little, on her neck, and it radiated. Very warm. I remember it in my head, she said. I can conjure it like it's here now. But I can't describe it so well. When she got up to go to the bathroom, I looked Nuit de Noel up on the computer. I did a search under "Nuit de Noel bottle" and up came an image of that gorgeous, almost macabrely elegant black deco bottle beside its green case, a moss-colored tassel the size of the whole affair decorating one end. When my aunt emerged I asked her if this was the perfume she remembered. Her excited, affirmative reaction made me feel as though I'd found a long lost relative, or brought forth a ghost. I had, in a way. She wants a reunion and has asked me to track down a bottle just like that one. She'll pay the price.

My grandmother was a classy but no nonsense Northern-Italian immigrant. Her family came from Lucca. She was always impeccably dressed. Assimilating into the ways of the South was difficult at times, as she was much more headstrong, less frilly than what was expected of the Southern Woman. She was dark haired and olive skinned with Greco-Roman features. Southern women, as a rule, were expected to retreat, like pretty wallpaper you had the choice of noticing--or not. My grandmother didn't retire--even if she'd wanted to, in the context of the South, her looks emphasized her difference and presence emphatically. She came forward in almost every situation. She was a fierce, opinionated friend and a withering adversary when her bullshit detector was alerted. "Look at her in her stupid pearls," she used to grimace when Barbara Bush came on the news, making it clear she could barely stand to look at her. Like many Southern women, my grandmother had her hair done once a week. Her house was just so. But she had a unique style, almost masculine in expressing its femininity.

I don't remember smelling the Miss Dior on her, which makes me wonder if someone had given it to her, whereas Nuit de Noel makes perfect sense. No white florals for her. No sweet nothings. Nuit de Noel, like my grandmother, is solid yet subtle. It expresses a singular point of view. Nutty to the point of smoked, barely floral, softly spiced, it feels like an expression of character, something you observe or perceive emotionally rather than smell, the kind of scent which might be some strange manifestation of the wearer's bedrock identity rather than something they dabbed on. For my aunt, Nuit de Noel was my grandmother, and having her own bottle will mean communion with the afterlife. Here's hoping this doesn't confuse her further.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lettuce Love the Vegetable Scents of Summer

Apparently I love the smell of vegetables. Two of my all-time favorite scent notes, especially during the hot & steamy months, are mimosa and tilleul (aka linden or French lime blossom). In case you’re looking for recommendations for amazing mimosa soliflores they are Parfums de Nicolaï Mimosaique and L’Artisan Mimosa Pour Moi. The best tilleul fragrance I’ve ever comes across is Parfums D’Orsay Tilleul which I literally bathe in on hot days; Jo Malone’s French Lime Blossom is also nice but you can also get by with a cheapie from Provence Sante called Tilleul (of all things). I’ve read reviews about my favorite mimosa and tilleul soliflores on other blogs and found that many folks notice a decidedly vegetal quality to them. I wouldn’t have noticed this cucumber association had it not been mentioned, but, as it goes with the power of suggestion, now I do. Cucumbers don’t really smell like this – it is the fragrance industry’s translation of cucumber that people are smelling. Nevertheless, I think most of us can identify the scent of cucumber, tomato or other vegetal aromas in our fragrances.

It’s July, therefore it’s steamy hot in Jersey, so I’m loving Roger & Gallet’s Lettuce soap, as well as their Tilleul shower cream and body lotion. I adore Miller Harris Geranium Bourbon and Annick Goutal’s Folavril which both smell like the most refreshingly joyous tomato plants and geranium leaves. If you had a vegetable garden growing up or have one now and love the scent of tomato plants, you really must try both of these fragrances. I also have a gigantic vat of Marc Jacobs Cucumber body splash, which is a nice scent, but needs to be applied about six times per day, which isn’t something I usually get around to doing.

I think most hardcore perfume aficionados might balk at these vegetal scents and not consider them “real” perfume. In a way, I understand that, because I wear these scents during the hottest days when I can’t bear to wear a true perfume. Nevertheless, I love me some lettuce…and tomato….and cucumber…when the thermostat

Oh, and don't even get me started on this brand I just found at Williams Sonoma called Cucina. They have a hand wash and lotion that smells like zucchini flower...

Cartier Panthere

I'll have to revisit it in the winter, but for now Le Baiser du Dragon is a disappointment, a murky vetiver and amaretto melange. I'd expected to like it. Maybe many people were expected to like it, and that's why it fails to raise hairs. The real surprise for me has been Panthere. Like Baiser, it has great packaging. That panther on the lid is gen-yew-whine glass, as heavy by itself as the bottle, the faceted body of which sure is pretty to look at. Unlike Baiser, Panthere isn't just superficially distinctive.

Panthere uses tuberose wonderfully, adjusting it with a soft woodsiness that truly tames it, though while giving the impression it might at any second pounce forward. That's an interesting tension. I love tuberose but, as oft-mentioned, it almost as a rule seems to take over a composition. Before Panthere, I would have sworn there was no such thing as a fragrance with tuberose which wasn't a tuberose soliflor. Juicy Couture augments tuberose with salty watermelon. Poison adds dates and spices. Fragile zests the note with crushed greens and citrus. While only Fracas captures the buttery rubber quality of the real thing, all of the tuberose fragrances I've smelled are unmistakably tuberose.

Panthere is an exception. Decidely old school, it has a masculine affect, speaking floralese in a slinky baritone. Everything is just so, everything as it should be, making this kind of thing seem a matter of attention to detail. If so, not many perfumers are paying attention. More likely, this kind of balance requires exceptional skill, imagination, and patience. Tonka and patchouli are discernable in the base, but there's a delicacy to the composition that many of Panthere's eighties contemporaries lack. The patchouli, particularly, has a light touch, allowing the tonka's hay-like properties to emerge. Labdanum warms everything up, contributing hints of leather, subtle smoke, moss and honey. There's a suggestion of amber but only a whisper, virtually subliminal. Judging by revews online (what few there are) others register the amber more forcefully.

There's also an eau legere version, which smells nothing like Panthere original--not even remotely. Panthere is very hard to find now, often fairly expensive, and worth it, in my opinion.

Magenta Backdrops: Versace Man

When I first smelled Versace Man, a little less than a year ago, I compared it to Guerlain L'Instant Homme. I sought out similarities between the two, comparing them as if they were immediate neighbors on some imaginary continuum. Ultimately I made facile connections. Versace was a good time at the disco, hairy chest sweating, shirt open to navel, gold chains, something like Armand Assante on a bender. L'Instant was closer to Fred Astaire, all buttoned up, impeccably turned out, never broke a sweat, skillfully gliding around like sleepy background music.

I doubt I would ever have considered these two in the same breath had they not arrived in the mail at about the same time, because, smelling them now, I see the only tie that binds them is a refreshingly femme-coded approach to the masculine: spice and woods through a veil of soft florals. When you spend a lot of time smelling fragrance, many things start registering as vaguely similar. Twenty tuberose fragrances, a thousand vetiver bases. A rose is a rose is thirty different perfumes at once.

Which isn't to say there's nothing to recommend Versace Man. But you smell so much that sometimes the finer points get lost. You overlook things, make snap decisions without realizing how rash they are. I always liked Versace Man, even when I rotated it to the back of my cabinet. I just never wore it--or decided I never would. It smelled enough like L'Instant, and L'Instant was Guerlain and, well, Versace is, as the white trash protagonist in Showgirls says, "Versayce".

Versace Man might still be at the very back of my cabinet had I not totally reorganized it last night. Finding it, I sprayed some on. I'd forgotten how much I loved the fragrance when I first smelled it. I hate so many masculines; like many feminines, they seem more an advertisement for or a reinforcement of gender, beating you over the head with their crudely contoured olfactory propaganda. It often seems the only way to get around this is to totally subvert their intended application. Poison smells like the eighties on women. On a man, it smells like the future. A guy in lily is a total collapse of sensory expectations. Modern masculines, even supposedly feminine masculines, often fill me with a nagging despair I liken to nerve gas, from which only tuberose can sometimes rouse me and clear the air.

I won't call Versace Man radical, but whoever came up with it (art directed by Donatella, created by...who knows?) seemed to understand the power of gender f*@-ing, the lure of slightly misaligning things, and this sensibility immediately distinguishes the fragrance from almost everything else currently on the same proverbial shelf. It smells even more like a departure when you learn it came out in 2003, well ahead of the current trend for masculine florals. Versace Man is unquestionably a precursor to Dior Homme, though Givenchy Insense predates it by a decade.

I do get a little of the neroli in the opening. I get none of the general fruitiness or synthetic buzz some register. From the start, I get just about everything else listed in the pyramid provided by Basenotes. For me, Versace presents one of the more attractive, intelligent uses of saffron in a male fragrance. This softens the whole affair in just the right measure. Cardamom and pepper are used so skillfully and judiciously you might think you've never smelled them properly before. Amber, labdanum, and tobacco notes waft up throughout.

No vetiver is listed but there's a ghost of it there, like a phantom limb. This is perhaps what vetiver smells like after a night of coitus with cosmetics, an Indian dinner date, and someone else's scent of choice. Versace has good longevity and moderate projection. It's the kind of fragrance others get closer to you trying to smell. It diffuses like the smell of sex around an unmade bed, daring you to make the connection. Part milk, part powder and spice, it exudes some of the dissonance found in more animalic fragrances without actually going there. It holds up in the summer. In the winter, it has stealth properties. And it has a little more Astair in its Assante than you might first ascertain.