Thursday, October 29, 2009

La Prairie Life Threads Platinum: A Review in the Form of a Story

I'm sitting under a flowering tree with an old acquaintance, a pretty lady whose name I forget. The tree is weeping tiny petals. They fall into her long brown hair, a fragrant confetti. She has a faraway look, as if she's thinking back. I try to think back with her. Something in her expression is so familiar. I feel like we've been here before, that this moment is the sum total of many afternoons past. I can't put my finger on it, and the narcotic smell of the air clouds things even further.

We packed a lunch in an old leather box: French bread, a bowl of ripe plums, salad with a vinaigrette, red wine, a block of cheese. Cardamom and the bitter insides of the box mingle with the food on our breath. Ants make lazy, filigreed patterns across our gingham blanket, gravitating toward the woman in ever-elaborate formations. They've come all this way to find her, I think to myself. They traveled through tall grass, single file. The scent of the petals, maybe, which have asked a question they want to answer. Maybe they're drawn to her golden chiffon scarf, the way the petals settle there, as if in mid air, floating on a shifting cloud of colored smoke. She doesn't seem to notice their advance. She's gripped by a memory only she can see.

Maybe she's my mother, and this is a shared memory. We're in it together, only I'm so deep inside it I can't place it in time. It might be my grandmother, and this smell around us is the memory of sneaking into her bathroom so often as a boy, that little bottle in her medicine cabinet, something which smelled her age, telling me when I put it to my nose where she came from, what it felt like there, years ago. The faint smell of ash must be her cigarettes. I felt separated from her, smelling her past so secretively. Connected, but cut off. The woman might be a mirage; a figure in a dream. Maybe I'm dreaming about my childhood and an interconnected series of perfumes which speak from that place. Cabochard, Miss Balmain, Azuree, Diorling.

The wind blows through the woman's hair, stirring up the petals there. They scatter and dance about on her scarf, frantic polka dots, skittering under the layers of chiffon. The breeze brings in the last of the ants, speeding their arrival. On their backs they carry a disconnected bouquet of flowers: iris, jasmine, rose. The cargo is nestled in a bed of oakmoss. All of us are gravitating towards the same central point of some unspecified feeling. The flowers are trying to speak for the ants, they've arranged them into words, but I don't speak the language, and the woman, who might know it, is too distant to translate.

Laura Mercier Minuit Enchante: A review

Laura Mercier perfumes are not on my radar. In fact, I've never sniffed one before this month. I read a few rave reviews on MUA or was it POL and decided to give it a whirl. I can't say I expected much from it. Given that it's a woody, vanillic oriental, I figured I'd at least find it agreeable, but lo and behold I find it magnificent!

Minuit Enchante is a Nordstrom exclusive developed as a flanker to Nuit Enchantees; the similarity/difference between these two I cannot comment. As I began writing this review I did a Google search to find both Angela at NST and Patty at the Posse writing positive reviews Minuit Enchante. I was bummed they had already discovered this elixir and told ya'll about it's wonderfulness before me. Ah, well, I'm seriously smitten with Minuit Enchantee so I decided to be the chorus.

Minuit Enchante is a perfect cold weather fragrance for those who like orientals with loads of woods, incense, spices, vanilla and some florals to soften the dense spicefest. One point I'd like to underscore is that it's parfum concentration, 1.7 oz/50 ml for $90 and with it's exceptional sillage and longevity I'm jumping for joy. The perfume is concentrated so it sprays on with a slightly oily sheen. Now some may not like this sheen but I live for it knowing that it means I'll enjoy the scent for many hours to come. You know when you make a soup from scratch and after refrigeration you find a solid layer of fat at the surface? Well, that's a good soup, and this is a good fragrance.

The vanilla in Minuit Enchante seems present in the top, heart and basenotes. Do not fear, however, because this vanilla isn't foody. While I'd agree that the scent has gourmand leanings, I'll only go so far as leanings because it's a proper perfume, to me, and never remotely enters the kitchen/baked goods arena. Patty at the Posse has it exactly right when she compares Minuit's vanilla to a Shalimar sort of vanilla. Minuit Enchante, while a bit less hefty, joins my other favorite cool weather fragrances such as Theorema, Ambre Russe, Arabie, Ambre Sultan and Youth Dew Amber Nude. The style and mood of all these fragrances is similar; cozy, sexy, warm, goodness.

The list of notes actually seems to describe the scent for a change, they are: juniper, mace, ginger, clove, pimento berry, rose, jasmine, tuberose, peach, vanilla, musk, labdanum, benzoin, amber, myrrh, guaiacwood, cedarwood, sandalwood, agarwood. I don't smell the florals specifically, I can't pick out the tuberose or jasmine, but I can tell they're present and well blended with this mix of woods, spices and oud.

To keep a tally, the fragrances that knocked my socks off the most this year are: Sonoma Scent Studio's Tabac Aurea, Le Labo Aldehyde 44, my reunion with Mariella Burani, PdE Wazamba and Bond No. 9's Success is a Job in NY (I hope I'm not forgetting any, probably am, though).

The bottle is pretty, too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Loss of perfume

It's a sad day for me. As some of our readers may know, I've moved, along with the inventory of The Posh Peasant. Every single perfume was packed with the utmost care - electrical tape was lovingly wrapped around every top, miles and miles of bubble wrap was used, in some boxes I used pillows to cushion the little darlings. Inexplicably I still lost about 30% of my perfume. None of the bottles were actually broken or smashed but I lost an awful lot of perfume from leakage. An unopened bell jar of Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore is empty. A 90% full bottle of Vacances is empty. A full bottle of Guerlain Plus Que Jamais has only a drop remaining. Nearly every single Miller Harris perfume is empty (note to our dear readers - Miller Harris bottles are prone to leakage). Only a few drops remain of Chanel Coromandel. I never would have thought one of those giant Chanel bottles would leak - like all the Les Exclusifs, it was still in it's box - go figure how it could have possibly leaked. Guerlain Sous Le Vent also went from about 75% full to maybe 10 ml. I could go on and on but I'll stop here. Oh, and Nanadebary Pink and Bronze are gone. (Big dramatic sigh) I'll try to trudge along but I'm devastated! To anyone who is moving with their perfume collection, I suggest taking it with you, driving with it to your new home if possible, shipping is precarious even when you pack carefully.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Free Giveaway!

The Body Shop just launched a new perfume and body care collection called Love Etc. The aspect which piqued my interest is that the fragrance is created by Dominique Ropion.

Notes are listed as:
pear, neroli, bergamot, jasmine, heliotrope, lily of the valley, vanilla, sandalwood and creamy musk.

One lucky reader will receive:
50 ml (1.7 oz) bottle of Love Etc. eau de parfum
200 ml of Love Etc. Body Lotion

Anyone can win, our only condition is that you need to have left a comment on our blog at least once before.

We will ship outside of the United States of course. The drawing closes on Sunday, November 1, 2009

Good Luck!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Carolina Herrera: CH Man

I'm glad I gave this one a chance, because when I first smelled it my nose was probably exhausted, and it barely made an impression. It seemed to be one of those dread skin scents, the kind that whisper across your skin like the sound of a leaky faucet somewhere in the building. I'd been at the mall for an hour probably, shocked I could spend more than thirty minutes there. I was smelling perfume at the Russian kiosk, which is located smack dab in the middle of the place. I hadn't visited in a while and there was catching up to do: Michael Kors Very Hollywood, Shiseido Zen for Men, Queen Latifah, Marc Jacobs Lola, Cacharel Scarlett. They'd just received a shipment, too, so I was hanging around to see what might have come in.

Among the new arrivals was CH Men, and my first impression, based on the packaging, was that someone had put some time and thought into the thing. The bottle is one of those that make people who love fragrance happy: a big block of glass, half of which is covered in embossed leather. CHCHCHCHCHCHCH. It feels great running under your fingers. A metal CH pendant has been attached to a deep red grosgrain ribbon and knocks against the leather like a little drum. Still, after CH Women, whose bottle was tricked out in the same bells and whistles, I wasn't expecting much. Too bad, I thought, after spraying CH Men. What a shame the cologne doesn't carry the same weight as the overall first impression.

The sales assistant assured me that something was there, but I couldn't smell much of anything on my wrist. At first I was reminded of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's Zombi, with its dirt, rose, and violet notes. That was pretty thrilling. Would a mainstream masculine really make something that smelled of moist, flowered soil? Who could say. It was certainly gone before I could. Weirdly, as I looked at other things, I kept getting faint whiffs of that first spritz, convincing me that maybe I just couldn't hear CH through all the cacophonous Friday night noise and the bombastic tuberose of Very Hollywood. I bought some and brought it home. Just in case.

I'm glad I did. CH does indeed smell like damp earth and flowers, with some spice and stewed fruits thrown in. The notes are listed as mandarin, bergamot, grapefruit peel, saffron, nutmeg, jasmine, violet, wood, ambergris, vanilla, moss, burnt sugar and leather. I smell none of the first three, nor vanilla and ambergris. The impression of soil must be created by the saffron and violet, I've decided. Jack Black Signature for Men has a heftier dose of saffron and smells only vaguely similar. There the saffron is coerced by cedar into traveling in a very different direction. I smell date, too, but nothing in the literature for CH confirms this.

CH Men is the best mainstream masculine I've smelled in eons. It isn't a skin scent after all, though it doesn't exactly scream its way through a room. I wouldn't call it subtle, but I'm not going to accuse it of grandstanding either. I find it pretty addictive. There isn't a marine accord to be found. There's no patchouli, clean or otherwise. No cardamom. The leather is somewhere in the background, complimenting the violet and saffron in ways which bring to mind Serge Lutens. CH Men, unlike its feminine counterpart, isn't aiming to be all things to all people. It's wonderfully idiosyncratic, and this too places it in the company of niche lines like Lutens, Etat Libre d'Orange, Diptyque, and Parfum D'Empire, among others. Any one of these might have produced CH Men. It's more likely than Carolina Herrera. Then again, I'm a big fan of Herrera for men, and once I study it, I see a link between that fragrance's use of immortelle and the employment of saffron in CH. Like Herrera, CH has good longevity. It smells nothing like anything in the department store, which is, alas, probably why you won't find any there, short of a Russian kiosk.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

JHL: The Secret's Not So Secret Anymore

It never occurred to me back when it first came out, but JHL is, as many online have commented, so similar to Youth Dew, Cinnabar, and Opium that it could easily replace any one of them on the shelves and no one would be the wiser. Aramis has just relaunched JHL as part of its Gentleman Collection, along with Havana, Devin, and Aramis 900. I've yet too smell Havana but hear it's somewhere out of this world, too, which is saying I like JHL very much. Then again, I like Youth Dew and Cinnabar. I bought both of them sometime last year and wear them regularly. At first they seemed spectacularly feminine. Then they just seemed like something I would wear. You can find infinite scrolls of copy on those legendary perfumes, so I won't dwell on them. What I'm more interested in, really, is how somebody got away with releasing JHL as a masculine at a time when Kouros and other hairy-chested behemoths ruled the roost.

I'm also fascinated by the fact that I never saw any connection at the time. Did anyone else, or was it just me? How was it possible that Estee Lauder would even venture such a stealth move on the buying public, conflating masculine and feminine right under the consumer's nose, without concern that such a sales strategy would backfire? For as long as I can remember now (okay, a little over a year) I've been championing the erosion of gender categories in fragrance. They seem so arbitrary and bogus, mere marketing tools. Smell is democratic. A man washes his hands in flowery soap and thinks nothing of it, yet, somehow, Aromatics Elixir is beyond the limits of masculinity, no matter that it smells very similar to Aramis for men. We seem to ignore the blurred boundaries between these fragrances across the so-called gender divide as though we've internalized the segregation of scents which technically smell virtually the same.

How many men smelled Youth Dew or Cinnabar on their lady friends (mothers, wives, grandmothers, steadies, strangers) and liked it? Lauder must have done the math. By pouring Youth Dew into a butch bottle with a masculine monogrammed label (ostensibly for her own husband) she allowed men to wear what they'd already been enjoying for years. I imagine Mr. Lauder smelling Estee's neck for the umpteenth time. Oh that smells wonderful, he says. You should try some, says she. Oh no, I couldn't possibly, he guffaws. It's so feminine. I like it on you, dear. What if Estee simply poured Youth Dew or Cinnabar into a new bottle, as a little experiment. Here's a businesswoman who sold more units than the average highest-selling male. I wonder how many times she felt condescended to, as though her province were simply the house-bound lady folk. How many times was she made to feel that in a world of men she wouldn't sell those numbers? How must she have felt, being treated as if her proper place were in the home? It would certainly bolster my desire to make a point--if only for my own personal satisfaction--and I have only a fraction of her ambition and drive.

Which isn't to say adjustments weren't made to the formula. The truth is, there isn't much difference between JHL, Youth Dew, Cinnabar, and Opium--how else would the experiment work, otherwise? But there are subtle adjustments. JHL has the faintest whiff of fir, a certain strain of alpine airiness moving through its structure. Michael Edwards classifies it as "aromatic--rustic", whereas Cinnabar, for instance, is listed as "oriental--spicy". Both have rose, cinnamon, and carnation in their hearts. Both open piquantly with a zesty spritz of orange. JHL replaces Cinnabar's incense with labdanum, adds pimento up top and the fir note instead of jasmine, which makes a far subtler adjustment than you might expect. It might also be that Lauder wanted to show in some way how little distance there is between making a so-called feminine into a so-called masculine. Baby steps, really. It certainly would have shown that knowing a thing or two about women was in some ways knowing as much about men. Was Estee Lauder this avant-garde--the Marcel Duchamp of perfumery and cosmetics? If so, don't count on anyone giving her credit for it, despite the fact that Devin is a dead ringer for Aliage, and Aramis 900 just a hop skip and a jump removed from Tuscany per Donna.

I received a bottle of JHL in grade school, and couldn't have been happier. I liked it better than any cologne I'd ever smelled, and wearing it was vaguely confusing, because I generally had no taste for male fragrances, certainly far less than I do now. For years I'd hung out at my mother's bureau, enjoying her aged bottle of Youth Dew in secret. I could never put it on. I couldn't risk letting anyone smell it on me. I had to absorb the smell mentally and store it in my head. I was so conditioned, so programmed by social codes and mores, that when JHL came along, I had no idea I was finally able to bring my love of Youth Dew out into the open. It was still a secret, even from me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sniffing around the Dallas Northpark Mall

YSL Parisienne
This is supposed to be edgy, right? It's not edgy for me. It smells like fruity candy. A little tartness perhaps from blackcurrant. It's a nice enough fruity floral but isn't FB worthy for me. It will surely have fans, it's nice. I just can't help comparing it with Paris which effortlessly eats it alive in one gulp.

The Different Company Oriental Lounge
Sweet. Gourmand. Vanilla. Foody. I can think of loads of other oriental gourmands for a lot less $$ that I like better.

Byredo Gypsy Water
So faint I can't be bothered describing it. It's too faint for it's price tag.

Frederic Malle Angelique Sous La Pluie
Gin & tonic for 5 minutes then just water. Virtually scentless.

Frederic Malle Geranium Pour Monseuir
I didn't expect to like this, but I do. It's a greenish herbal (geranium) minty little number. I like the natural herbal freshness. I left Barney's with a large sample and will wear it a few more times.

Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles
This is not so much a perfume as it is the smell of Christmas. It's a beautiful pine-y aromatic scent. I also have a large sample of this and will try wearing it a few times. It doesn't strike me as unlikeable in the least - only that it might seem more like a home fragrance than a perfume to many.

Guerlain Idylle
Pleasant and pretty. Reminds me of Acqua di Parma Magnolia Nobile a bit. The bottle is nicer in person. Idylle is a light fresh floral. It will have fans, it's nice enough.

Now I WANT Le Labo Tubereuse 40 and LL Oud 27. Tubereuse 40 is not so much about tuberose but instead a citrus-y neroli. It's fresh and gorgeous. Le Labo Oud 27 is an easily wearable oud for me. It's softly sweet and resinous with loads of woods, straw, hay and a dab of honey. Oud 27 dries down to a woody musk that's not especially interesting but the beginning and middle stages are yummy and at least the dry down isn't band-aids or oud-pee. Until my visit to Barney's the last 2 days I didn't realize I was such a Le Labo fan. Go figure.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Alien and Angel Liqueur de Parfum

I was excited to hear about these several weeks ago, but figured they'd never reach me, so I was beside myself with glee when I found out they'd arrived at the local Dillards last Friday. I'm a fan of Alien and Angel and have been at least marginally interested in all the various Mugler flankers. The flankers to A Men have been the most compelling to me. B Men is pretty addictive. A Men Pure Malt and Pure Coffee are excellent fragrances as well. The idea behind the Liqueur series seemed intriguing. Apparently, liquor-making techniques were applied to the manufacture of these perfumes, resulting in something richer, a bit boozy, more nuanced and complex.

When I first smelled them at the counter, I didn't notice much of a difference. I sprayed them on strips and found, walking around the mall, that of the two Angel seemed to be the most divergent from its source. It still had the overall tone or olfactory profile but with a more subdued patchouli and a notable absence of chocolate. Alien Liqueur seemed practically identical to its source; so much so that I couldn't justify spending 100 bucks on it. When I got home, however, I realized how wrong I was.

Alien Liqueur is incredibly rich and lush. It lasts forever on the skin. I sprayed some on four hours ago and can still smell it, rich as ever. Like A Men Pure Malt, it was aged in an oak wood barrel for eight weeks. Angel was aged for the same amount of time in a cherry wood barrel. This makes sense, as I detect in the latter a sort of sour cherry tobacco accord, like something left to languish in a pipe. That isn't altogether unpleasant, lending it aspects which remind me of older perfumes, which get thicker rather than more diffuse as they dry down. Angel Liqueur brings to mind port wine (or, okay, cognac) and dark, aged leather, all of which I love. The first ten to twenty minutes are pretty divine, with a protracted, boozy opening.

Alien strikes a bigger cord with me. Alien Liqueur differs from the original primarily by way of depth and its treatment of jasmine. The original seemed very rich to me until smelling the liqueur version. I wouldn't say that the original is weak now, but I wouldn't say it's as decisive a perfume as I originally thought either, and believe it or not, it's certainly more transparent. I enjoy both but find the original to be much more of a sugar rush than I imagined, the jasmine caramelized in a way which seems adolescent compared to its liqueur counterpart, which bundles the flower in folds of velvety texture. Who knew I would like these two better than almost anything I've smelled lately, most of which I expected so much more out of.

Diddling around Dallas: Digging Aldehyde 44

So I'm moving from Princeton, New Jersey to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The last 2 weeks I've been making my way slowly across the country - taking a leisurely tour of the southeastern states and now I find myself in Dallas, Texas. So far, I've found most of the main streets and back roads of America to be fragrance free with virtually zero shops selling interesting perfumes, especially not any of the niche gems. Even in New Orleans I didn't find much perfume. New Orleans was much more about antiques, food, casinos, strippers and Voodoo Juice (my drink of choice for a few days).

About six months ago I read about Le Lebo Aldehyde 44, wanted it desperately, then realized it was a Dallas exclusive. Thinking I'd never be in Dallas, and not knowing anyone in Texas, Aldehyde 44 quickly vanished from my mind. Until today when I strolled into Barney's Dallas. I made a perfumista dash for the Le Labo counter and could barely manage a cursory hello to the sales associate while I sprayed myself with this gorgeous elixir named Aldehyde 44. OH MY GAWWWWWD. It was love at first sniff. One of my top 5 favorite perfumes is Chanel No. 22 and Aldehyde 44 bears a strong family resemblance.

Created by perfumer Yann Vasnier, Le Labo Aldehyde 44 is without a doubt my favorite from the Le Labo line. Granted I haven't tried every single Le Labo scent available but I do have Iris 39, Rose, Labdanum, Ambrette and today I sniffed Oud. Oud, by the way, is much more intriguing and wearable than I'd previously imagined. Given my affection for aldehyde embellished florals, Aldehyde 44 does not disappoint, in fact, it's much more amazing than I'd imagined. It opens with that sparkling, frothy fizz of Chanel-esque aldehydes and is also reminiscent of Piguet's Baghari. Aldehydes, especially this white floral type which you would recognize if you have Chanel No. 22 or No. 5 are especially radiant and sophisticated. Aldehyde 44's aldehydes are flawlessly white and snowy without the usual powdery quality found in this fragrance style. The initial burst of Aldehyde 44 makes me huff my arm. I initially wrote "The initial burst of Aldehyde 44 makes me WANT TO huff my arm" but I removed the want to because I'm simply huffing this stuff - not just wanting to - I'm doing it.

Somehow Aldehyde 44 courts the haughty memory of Chanel No. 22 and No. 5 but veers away towards it's own warm, sensual, femme fatale composition. I adore Chanel No. 22 in all it's haughty glory, but Aldehyde 44 is earthier, more floral, modern and sexy.

Le Labo's Aldehyde 44 is a beautiful perfume. For me, it was worth stumbling upon in Dallas and paying the $400 price tag (100 ml size). Yes, I felt it irresponsible if I did not mention the price of this lovely juice. It's expensive.

Notes: aldehydes, tuberose absolute, narcissus absolute, jasmin sambac, musks and woods