I should probably let you know that I’m planning some changes for The Muse in Wooden Shoes.
I started blogging in 2009. That’s a long time ago, now. While I’ve also written about family and farming and literature, this blog has been focused on perfume. And I have mixed feelings about the truth: that perfume doesn’t consume my brain space the way it used to. I still love it, but I’m simply enjoying what I have and only sampling the occasional new-to-me scent that appeals based on notes.
That’s probably obvious, given that I haven’t written much beyond a few reviews over the past couple of years, and I’ve probably yapped on about my children much more frequently of late than I have about, say, my longtime fragrant love, tuberose. I have been spending far more time on novel-writing and on trying to get my life organized to pursue some professional goals.
I’m reorienting my focus toward fiction right now.
As a result, I’m planning to migrate this site back to its WordPress.com location and drop the museinwoodenshoes.com domain. That should happen shortly before Christmas, and I will of course post a link to that old, soon to be new-again, blog. (Which is hosted for free. Which is kind of the point.)
I do hope to post once a month or so, just to keep my hand in, even if everybody’s gotten tired of my not posting regularly and moved on to other fumehead blogs. Thanks for reading and talking about perfume with me over the past ten years.
Our daytime high temperatures have finally, finally dropped out of the 90s to the upper 70s level which is more seasonal for us, historically. I only turned off the air-conditioning on Sunday evening.
It’s super-dry. Even after the very-welcome rain we got over the past two days, we’re well under our typical monthly average of 3.7 inches. I’d complain to the management, if I thought it would do a whit of good.
However, as a hopeful effort, last week I transitioned from summer fragrances to the ones I wear more in early autumn — not the deep autumn, chilly weather, heading-into-winter ones, but the ones for my very favorite time of year: a blue-and-gold October, embroidered with red and orange leaves. I’m sorry to say we seem to be having more of a “green leaves on the trees until they turn brown and fall to the dead grass” sort of a month, which is such a bummer.
Anyway, these are the bottles that left the Hatbox of Current Rotation for storage in the bedside washstand: Jacomo Silences edp Sublime 2012 Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere Ines de la Fressange 1998 Hanae Mori Haute Couture Arquiste Flor y Canto Arielle Shoshana Saturday Donna Karan Gold edp Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete YSL Paris Pont des Amours Carven Le Parfum Moschino Funny! Hermes Kelly Caleche edt Chanel No. 19 edp Chanel Les Exclusifs 1932 Maison Lancome Jasmins Marzipane
It was surprising to me, given our miserably hot-n-humid summer, how little I wore my usual citrusy florals, like Haute Couture, Funny!, Kelly Caleche, and the Carven. I barely wore No. 19 and the BWFs (Flor y Canto, Jasmins Marzipane, and DK Gold) as well; it seems I stuck to rose and mixed florals.
Guerlain Les Elixirs Charnels Floral Romantique remained, and so did Mary Greenwell Plum. Those are sweet florals with a little edge to them, and since it’s remained so warm this far into autumn, they’ve been serving me well.
Moving from the washstand to the Hatbox: Mariella Burani Leonard de Leonard Ralph Lauren Safari Lubin Epidor Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete Smell Bent One Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka Jacomo Silences 1978 Fendi by Fendi Cuir de Lancome Balmain Jolie Madame (mini parfum) Shiseido Inoui Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea Coty Chypre (mini parfum) Lanvin Arpege (mini parfum)
It’s probably not cool enough yet for either Tabac Aurea or Arpege, but I’ve already been wearing the heck out of Safari, Le Temps d’une Fete, and Jolie Madame (which The CEO doesn’t like, but oh well). And Epidor you’d think would be too summery, but it smells like plums and drying hay to me, and it is gorgeous. I’ve been wearing that one to sleep in.
I can’t remember when I first heard of Rogue Perfumery. It may have been on a perfume blog (which one?) within the last few years, or it may have been mentioned by another perfumista in a Facebook group discussion. I’m still not sure. One of my favorite sites for perfume research, Fragrantica, lists Rogue under Perfume Houses; my other favorite, Now Smell This, doesn’t reference it at all.
Briefly, Rogue Perfumery is the brainchild of Manuel Cross, a chef who became intrigued with creating fragrances a little over ten years ago. (Read more at the link above.) Rogue Perfumery, befitting its name, is defiantly and unrepentantly noncompliant with IFRA regulations.
In any case, a member of a perfumista Facebook group wore a Rogue Perfumery scent a few weeks ago and mentioned it as his scent of the day. I was intrigued, did some research, and immediately ordered samples.
Rogue’s website has a small menu in the top right corner: Shop, Collection, About, and Contact. “Shop” takes you to Rogue’s Etsy shop, where you can buy perfumes chock-full of intoxicating and IFRA-restricted ingredients such as oakmoss, nitromusks, and eugenol at $75 for 30ml, $110 for 60ml, and $150 for 100ml. You can get a boxed set of 8 samples (including a preview due to release in late summer of 2019) for $33, or a set of 3 samples of your choice for $15.50, which is what I bought.
I chose three samples (Chypre-Siam, Champs Lunaires, and after deliberation, Mousse Illuminee in spite of its “masculine” designation) and received a bonus fourth sample of Derviche. The samples are sturdy 2ml vials, each individually bagged with a gorgeous Art Deco-style illustration to identify the scent.
CHAMPS LUNAIRES I started with Champs Lunaires, because tuberose, is why. I’ve long been a lover of BWFs, and in my opinion it is difficult to go wrong with white florals. This one is described as “moonlit fields of white flowers,” and how could I pass that up? Notes include tuberose, white rose, pomelo, sandalwood, coconut milk, and musk. Mr. Cross’s Etsy listing description says this:
The tuberose base I created for Champs Lunaires was based on three models: the realism of PK Perfume’s TNT, the amped methyl salicylate notes of Serge Lutens’ Tubereuse Crimenelle, and the lusty creamy fruit notes of Piguet’s Fracas.
Ironic that Tube Criminy was part of the inspiration for Champs Lunaires, because this deep into my BWF exploration, TC is still the only scent in the genre that I really cannot bear. I had the misfortune to have cleaned out the refrigerator the week I tried it, and that forgotten package of uncooked chicken at the back had an odor that (oh Lord help me!) I will smell in my nightmares forever. When TC echoed it, I nearly tossed my cookies, and did not even care about the lovely clear tuberose that followed the opening. I liked the wintergreen part; could not manage the decay.
You may be relieved to note that Champs Lunaires reminds me not in the least of the opening of Tubereuse Criminelle, which is both a relief and a disappointment. I liked that wintergreen thing, and I get very little of it in Champs Lunaires. It doesn’t remind me strongly of Fracas, either, which is probably good. Champs Lunaires is creamy and soft, but lacks the fatty-soapy orange blossom overdose that Fracas beats me over the head with every. single. time. I wear it. I never smelled PK Perfumes’ TNT (Tama ‘n Tuberose), though I counted Tama a friend and still miss her.
Champs Lunaires is simply lovely. It has a fresh, cut-stem greenness in the opening, and then it blossoms out to a full, rounded, creamy, gentle tuberose scent that is not so much a Big White Floral as it is a friendly one. It stays pretty a long time, about six hours, before fading away.
Side note: I’ve noticed recently that BWFs — maybe because they tend to “sink in” to my skin and get cozy — are the easiest no-brainer scents I wear. As in, I can put on something like Black Orchid Voile de Fleur and just roll all day and stop really thinking about the way I smell, or anything else for that matter. I mean, I literally go brain-fuzzy with comfort, like I’ve worn fuzzy slippers to work. I feel like there’s a lesson here, or a maybe a warning.
In any case, Champs Lunaires is gorgeous. If I wasn’t already stocked up with BWFs, I might buy it.
CHYPRE-SIAM The impetus for my sample order was Chypre-Siam, the fragrance my friend was excited about. The Etsy listing details its origin as a variation on Coty Chypre using slightly different accents, as if it had been born in Thailand instead of in France. Manuel Cross says that he was picking kaffir lime leaves for a curry dish not long after testing the seminal Coty fragrance, and caught a whiff of jasmine nearby:
I thought how novel it would be to recreate, not the original Chypre, but rather the experience of the original using Southeast Asian materials (namely kaffir lime, holy basil and lemongrass…)
My first sniff of vintage Coty Chypre (a well-preserved parfum from the late 1960s), following my surprise love ofDSH Perfumes’ take on it in oil format (don’t bother looking for it on the website now, it’s been out of production for years), bowled me absolutely head over heels. I would never have thought it was my kind of thing, and maybe it’s still not, but it is stunning. Elemental, a perfumery Titan. It doesn’t give a fig what anybody thinks. So, a new take on Chypre? I had to smell it.
Also, that bottle is amazing. LOOK AT IT. Look at the angular, uneven Art Deco lettering in gold on green, look at the shape of the label, look at the cap decorated with gold baubles and green ribbon! So reminiscent of the Coty packaging, so gorgeous on its own.
It’s a far cry from Mall Juice, and a new variation on the original is right up the alley of a perfume outfit that calls itself “Rogue.” The Etsy page uses this description: Opening notes are kaffir lime and basil. Jasmine and ylang sweep across the forest floor and rest upon a warm base of oakmoss, sandalwood, spices, benzoin and civet. I’m fairly certain those aren’t the only notes, but the list is a fair representation of the smell.
The opening of Chypre-Siam is a tad difficult for me. Kaffir lime I am really not familiar with in real life, as Thai restaurants are uncommon here in rural Appalachia, and I only remember running across the note in one fragrance, Anya’s Garden Kaffir Cologne, which I did not like at all. I can see that someone might find the opening exciting and exotic, but it seems really brash to me.
After the opening, Chypre-Siam settles down to a truly lovely moss-edged floral glowing with jasmine. It’s very green and expansive, and I do find myself thinking of tropical jungles which hide not only exotic blooms among their luxuriant greenery, but also dangerous fauna . . .
(The jungle might just be on my mind at the moment because that’s where Gaze right now, spending a month in the Philippines as part of an exchange program between US ROTC cadets and the Philippine Military Academy. He’s already got some harrowing stories, and I am super-grateful he didn’t tell me about them until after they were over. Whew. This “mother-of-young-men” gig ain’t a walk in the park, I tell ya.)
I don’t get much in the way of civet; there’s just a tad there to soften some edges. The moss is real and plush, the sandalwood aromatic and deep. The labdanum is warm and golden without having that mildewed-tarpaulin effect that it sometimes has. The whole thing? Beautiful. Lasts several hours, even on me. Sillage, dabbed from the vial, stays fairly close to the skin, but would probably bloom better if sprayed. Chypre-Siam only comes in EDT strength, but it feels more powerful and richer than that.
I will confess that I tried Chypre-Siam on one hand and put some of my cherished vintage Coty Chypre on the other, for comparison. This was probably unfair of me, but I tried very hard to be impartial when considering.
The citrus notes of the Coty are faint with age, so in the first twenty minutes, Chypre-Siam with its aggressive opening stage blasts the Coty out of the water. Then for the next several hours, the two are remarkably similar. I do get a bit more rose and less ylang-ylang from the Coty, and the lonnnnng maceration time (according to the Coty’s packaging, at least 50 years) has buffed its surface satin-smooth. Chypre-Siam is, however, fully as excellent in quality, and it is a joy to wear. The Coty, hand-sanded as it were by that long time in the bottle, slides almost imperceptibly into its long lovely drydown. Chypre-Siam’s gear changes are more noticeable, but since I particularly dig the turn from the middle, very-floral, phase to the basenotes, when my nose is catching the blend of jasmine and moss and sandalwood with hints of leather, those changes are wonderful. If the melody of the Coty was entrancing the first time around, Rogue’s cover version, while putting its own spin on the classic, is every bit as good.
Hence, I say to you all, if you feel like you missed the boat on Coty Chypre, worry no more about it. Haunt not the eBay auctions; wager not a week’s pay on the vintage. Instead, hie yourselves Rogue’s Etsy page, and buy this. No, it’s not Coty’s Chypre rebottled — and I’m not going to say it’s better, having already loved the Coty — but it is amazing and wonderful and a worthy successor. Six thumbs up.
For another blog review of Chypre-Siam, check out The Alembicated Genie’s swoon here.
The summer solstice has rolled around again, and it’s already hot. And will get hotter. Summer is my least favorite season.
I did enjoy summer when I was a kid — back when “summer” meant “school’s out, a week’s vacation away from home, swim meets, playing/hanging out with friends, spending time at my grandparents’ house, and Deb’s frozen lemonade.” These days it just means that the weather is miserable (thank God for A/C) and The CEO is home and cranky about farm stuff. So, yay.
On the other hand, The CEO and Taz just built us a lovely brick walkway from the front porch to the shop lot next door. I’m pleased about that.
Also, Bookworm has bought a car to replace the 2005 Sebring my dad gave us when he bought his Jeep SUV a few years ago. Sabrina has been a good car, but she’s had close to a thousand dollars’ worth of repairs in the last year, and we’ve gotten to the point where maintaining her in drivable condition is going to get expensive. Right now, she’s making a truly ominous creaking noise, as if she’s got a broken motor mount. Yikes. So Bookworm has purchased a 2016 Honda-certified Civic, as yet unnamed, that we hope will serve her well.
Gaze is spending a month in the Philippines, courtesy of an Army ROTC program called CULP (Cultural Understanding and Leadership Program) that is, more or less, a foreign exchange program with U.S. military allies. We had expected he’d be spending the time sleeping in rustic barracks in Manila and doing a field exercise in the jungle, and we loaded him up on sunscreen and bug spray. As it turned out, the currently-favorable monetary exchange rate meant that this crop of ROTC kids from across the country is staying in a 5-star hotel with a breakfast buffet Gaze described to us in a text as “insane.” They will still be spending a week in the jungle, but at least they’ll be comfortable before they go.
We took Taz to Emory & Henry this past Saturday to get him signed up for classes, and came home with swag: a Wasps Cross Country t-shirt and an E&H polo for The CEO, an Emory & Henry Mom t-shirt for me, and car stickers to go along with our Yale and Virginia Tech ones. Taz has already started his conditioning program for the upcoming XC season.
The Army has assigned my brother-in-law from Fort Hood in upstate NY to Fort Lee in Virginia, less than an hour’s drive from his hometown and about three hours from my parents’ house. They’ll be moving there next month, and everybody is thrilled.
On the fragrance front, I have changed the spring perfumes for the summer ones; I love making the seasonal switch as the weather changes! Rotating IN: Ines de la Fressange (the 1998 Calice Becker) Hanae Mori Haute Couture Arquiste Flor y Canto Arielle Shoshana Saturday Donna Karan Gold edp Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete YSL Paris Pont des Amours Carven Le Parfum Moschino Funny! Hermes Kelly Caleche edt Chanel No. 19 edp Maison Lancome Jasmins Marzipane
REMAINING: Guerlain Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique Jacomo Silences edp Sublime (the 2012 version, not the 1978 galbanum bomb — which I also love) Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere Mary Greenwell Plum
Rotating OUT: Shiseido Inoui Penhaligon’s Violetta Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet Chanel No. 19 edt, vintage Ralph Lauren Safari Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete Cuir de Lancome Parfums DelRae Amoureuse Parfums DelRae Wit
Wit could probably have remained, but it’s getting crowded in the Hatbox of Current Rotation. Le Temps d’une Fete has been a year-round choice for me in the past, but sometimes it’s too much in the heat (and if I want it, I’ll just haul it out of the bedside cabinet). I swapped the rosier, friendlier No. 19 edp for the bitey, leathery vintage edt. I did not pull out the Teo Cabanel Early Roses, because the more I wear it, the less I like it. I finally dragged out my manufacturer sample, which made me want to buy some, and tested it against my small bottle. The liquid in the bottle is altogether harsher with a ton of Iso E Super, and I suspect that some kind of reformulation took place between the production of the sample and this bottle. That definitely happened with my beloved Alahine, so I am nearly certain a change occurred with Early Roses as well. (Boo on you, Teo Cabanel. Guess all those natural florals got too expensive, but MAN, did they smell great. RIP, Alahine.)
If you’d asked me last year what fruits I enjoyed, I’d have said, “All of them . . . except mango. It’s got a weird ‘off’ taste to it, and I don’t like it.” Of course, I haven’t tried every single fruit in the world, much less all the varieties of each fruit! (On the “haven’t tried” list: persimmon, pawpaw, custard-apple, feijoa, jackfruit, pitanga, quince, sapodilla, sapote, tamarind, soursop, rambutan, dragonfruit, pomelo. I’ve also never eaten fresh dates or figs, though I do like them dried. I have eaten gooseberry preserves, but not fresh gooseberries.) I have, however, eaten such unusual fruits as uglifruit (Jamaican tangelo), pluots/apriums, carambolas (starfruit), guavas, lychees, papayas, fresh blackcurrants, and boysenberries.
I mean, I’m not as limited as Taz, who, despite all my efforts to accustom him to different tastes, will only eat apples, grapes, and canned mandarin oranges. It’s sad.
But mangoes? Bleah. Too much, um, whang. (“Whang” is a slangy southern word that refers to a taste that isn’t what it should be and indicates that the particular food you’re eating may not be fresh, or that the food is considerably more sour or bitter than you were expecting. See this short clip from Sh%t Southern Women Say, starting at about 1:19, for more.)
Plant Medicine News breaks down the scent of mangoes, listing the chemical names of the aroma compounds and their qualities. I won’t get all sciencey on you and share the chemical names, but the scent descriptors range from peach, fruity, pineapple, cucumber, green, caramel,maple, and coconut to sulfurous, terpenaceous, vinegar, cabbage, barnyard, metallic, sweaty and rancid, with cooked rice, cooked potato, and hay somewhere in the middle.
I’m pretty sure I was getting a lot of sulfur and terpene, and maybe a tad of rancidity out of mangoes — in short, whatever it is that makes tropical fruit smell and taste, you know, exotic and weird and tropical. (As Luca Turin asks in his review of Fraiche Passiflora in Perfumes: The Guide, “How do fruits know when they’re in exotic places? Who taught them to samba?”) I was not a fan of mango.
However, last week, I was at the grocery store buying ingredients for fajitas because I had run across a new fajita marinade recipe from Isabel Eats, and I saw a different variety of mango than I had tried before. The only mangoes I was familiar with were the large red-and-green ones, and these were smaller, S-shaped, a uniform gold color. I bought two on impulse, largely because my mother used to buy odd fruit at the grocery store in order to let us kids try something new. (I still remember my first taste of kiwifruit. I was twelve. YUM.) These mangoes were a tiny bit wrinkled, and they smelled delicious and ripe.
I looked up the technique for slicing mangoes on Mango.org, and found that the golden mangoes I’d bought were the Honey or Ataulfo variety, as opposed to the Haden or Tommy Atkins varieties I had eaten before. Ataulfo mangoes are generally known to be sweeter and less fibrous than other varieties, and have a thin cling-free pit. They also have less of the “whang” I found so objectionable in the past. My first taste of the Ataulfo was sheer heaven. Sure, there was a tiny undecided moment of wait-is-this-thing-rotting?-oh-I-guess-it-isn’t, but I came down on the side of finding it addictive.
The very next day I went back to the store and bought more, after reading that June is the last peak month for Ataulfos. Now I’m hooked. The CEO likes mangoes — he says, “Eleven million fruit bats can’t be wrong,” — and Gaze, who is a Fruit Omnivore and will probably be in Tropical Fruit Heaven while he’s in the Philippines later this month, doing ROTC training, does too. Bookworm and Taz? Big nopes. Taz wouldn’t even try them, and Bookworm is overcome by the Dreaded Whang. Which, you know, I get, even if I have come around on the edge of possible wrongness that probably comes from those sulfur compounds.
I keep thinking of a Perfume Posse post in which March rhapsodized over the angelic dichotomy of lush almost-decay that is a perfectly-ripe mango, but I cannot find it. This happens to me pretty frequently. I was sure that Abigail of I Smell Therefore I Am posted about the first Ines de la Fressange, because whatever it was that I remembered her saying about it was what made me buy a 1-oz. bottle from Fragrancenet for like $12 in 2010. As it turns out, I can no longer find that post, or another perfume blog post at all on the subject. There are two from Perfume Posse, actually, but both of them also mention the second Ines de la Fressange fragrance, and neither is the ode that I remember reading. So huh. Did I imagine reading posts back in the day, or have they simply disappeared in the interim?
Anyway, back to perfume: now I want a mango perfume, complete with ripe juiciness and that subtle hint of danger. Jo Loves makes two mango scents, but because they haven’t yet gotten a US distributor, I can’t sample either one. (I could buy a bottle online untested, but that seems idiotic, not to mention spendy.) Then there’s a Pacifica Brazilian Mango Grapefruit, and Parfums de Nicolai, which is now to be known as Nicolai Parfumeur Createur, did an eau fraiche with mango that somebody (Robin of Now Smell This, maybe? Eau Exotique?) loved, but the PdN is discontinued. There are a bunch of mango solifruit fragrances by outfits like Demeter and The Body Shop, but I don’t know how good they are or how long they’d last. Vilhelm Parfumerie makes something called Mango Skin which sounds great, but it’s Vilhelm and it’s niche, so it is certain to be more expensive than I really want. Ditto for Manguier Metisse by Pierre Guillaume’s Huitieme Arte brand. Neela Vermeire’s Bombay Bling is fabulous, but also probably out of my price range. Nava at Perfume Posse mentioned that Ed Hardy’s Hearts & Daggers for Women smelled to her like Thai mango salad, minus the onion and hot pepper. That appeals, and it’s a cheapie brand. Wonder if my Wal-Mart would have a tester for it?
All this despite my conviction that I have more perfume than I need to finish out my life. Shrug. I’ll probably look for a mango scent desultorily until I give up on finding The One, and by then I’ll be craving something else.
Maybe just those Ataulfo mangoes. I will fight you for them.
(Incidentally, those fajitas were fabulous. Make them now.)
Robert Piguet’s fragrance line was originally an extension of its couture fashion line, established in the 1930s. Its first fragrances, Fracas and Bandit, were developed with Germaine Cellier and quickly became big perennial sellers. The couture house closed in 1951, shortly before Piguet’s death, but the brand continued to develop and market fragrances into the 1960s. The house, now exclusively selling fragrance, was sold several times, the last time to Fashion Fragrances and Cosmetics in the late 1990s.
Since that time, Robert Piguet has reformulated its classics to adhere closely to their original versions, albeit with modern materials, and has also released several entirely new fragrances. The house nose seems to be Aurelien Guichard; I have only seen his name and no other perfumer’s connected with the newer fragrances, and we do know that he designed the reorchestrations of Piguet’s classic scents.
I very rarely get the chance to smell the newest, latest, hottest niche perfumery, much less all the indies, but for whatever reason, I’ve had the opportunity to test a fair portion of the fragrances from this house, and wanted to do a few thumbnail reviews here.
I’ve divided these as Robert Piguet has suggested in its marketing materials: unisex fragrances are highlighted in green. Women’s in (Fracas) pink, of course. Ones I’ve smelled are in bold. I have not listed limited-edition anniversary versions, because typically there is nothing special about the juice. (I’ve also not listed Fracas for Men, which is produced by a licensee of the name from the ’70s era and is generally not regarded as being a legitimate Piguet fragrance.)
Alameda 2013 – Modern chypre. Really, a sweetened patchouli-rose with lily, something like Calypso but without the cheerful fruit, heavier on the patch and castoreum. Baghari 1954 – Aldehydic woody floral. I bought a small portion through a split. Obviously, vintage bottles age differently, but this thing was intensely animalic on me, so much so that the grocery clerk actually leaned away from me while ringing me up. Baghari Refo 2006 – Still an aldehydic woody floral, but cleaner. Candlewaxy aldehydes, an intense orange, woods. Bandit1944, reformulated 2006 – Mean green chypre leather in both iterations, though the modern ingredients took some of the bulk out. Tried to shiv me in the nose, then went for the eye socket. I had to duck. Bandit indeed. (Hmph.) Calypso 2010 (Original released in 1950s) – Floriental. Candied orange peel, rose and geranium, a greeny herbal patchouli, a bit of suede, and iris. Fun and pretty. I’d have bought it if I didn’t already own at least two other rose-patchouli scents. Cravache Refo 2007 (Original released in 1960s) – Aromatic woody chypre. Douglas Hannant 2011 – Fracas Lite, with pear (also see Petit Fracas, below). To be honest? I liked it. And I’m not sorry. I mean, it sho’ ain’t Fracas, but then absolutely nothing else is. Fracas 1948, reformulated 2006 – Iconic Giant White Floral. My in-depth review is here. I’ve tried both 1960s parfum and the current EdP; both are very good, though the modern is streamlined (to some degree!) where the vintage was plussshhhh and narcotic. Futur Refo 2009 (Original released in 1960s) – Green floral. I was sure I’d love this, but I don’t; it is standoffish and almost unfriendly, in my opinion, and now I understand why some people hate green florals. There is a ton of violet leaf in this, which I don’t mind, but also a ton of vetiver, and I wanted more florals than I got. There’s no reason Piguet should classify Futur as feminine, other than that the original was intended for women. I’m convinced a man could wear this successfully. Gardenia 2014 Jeunesse 1975 Knightsbridge 2013 (Harrods exclusive) – Leather. This scent is still exclusive to Harrods and more expensive than the rest of the line (which is not exactly cheap), at $325 for 50 mls, but I found it really enjoyable. It’s a rose made out of smooth glove leather, sprinkled with nutmeg and drizzled with Calvados, resting on a bed of makeuppy iris powder. Not quite edible, almost addictive. If only it were priced reasonably . . . L’Entier 2018 L’Insomnuit 2016 Nuit Velour 2017 Oud Delice 2015 Oud Divin 2015 Petit Fracas 2012 – Fruity floral. Like its name suggests, it’s a youthened version of Fracas; actually, it’s Lite-Fracas-Lite, with a fruity topping and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. (I preferred Douglas Hannant for a modernized Fracas.) Rose Perfection 2013 – Rose soliflore. Wisps of powdery violet and a little mean-green smack of geranium surround a very pure, pretty rose. I’d probably rather have YSL Paris, but this is nice. V Intense 2014 Visa 1945 Visa Refo 2007 – Woody oriental. Part of this I liked (the candied-peach/vanilla/suede thing), part of this I really really hated (the Angel-esque, piercing patchouli). Overall, I found it nauseating, but if you liked Angel, give it a shot.
Les Celestials de Knightsbridge Collection: La Lune 2017 Les Etoiles 2017 Les Soleil 2017
Nouvelle Collection: Bois Bleu 2013 Bois Noir 2012 – Woody incense. Sometimes I like a nice woody incense (Comme des Garcons Zagorsk, anybody? Amouage Jubilation XXV?), so I tried Bois Noir. Smoky guaiac, aromatic cedar, frankincense and some fairly harsh woody aromachemical lead into dirty patchouli and labdanum. Sigh. No. Casbah 2012 – Oriental spicy. This one is what I expected Bois Noir to be: woods and incense, with nutmeg added. Not something I’d buy at this price point, but really nice. Mademoiselle Piguet 2012 – Floral woody musk. Basically, soapy orange blossom, screechy neroli, and shaving-cream tonka on me. I didn’t love it. Notes 2012 – Herbal fougere. I didn’t realize it was a fougere before trying it (Fragrantica calls it a chypre), but IT SO IS. And therefore, Not My Thing. Oud 2012
Pacific Collection: Blossom 2012 Chai 2012 Jeunesse 2012 – Fruity floral. I thought I might enjoy it — I like a good fruity floral, emphasis on good — but the Pacific Collection was patently made for the Asian market, which tends to favor very light florals, and Jeunesse (“Youth”) is an olfactory raspberry macaron, sugared berries over a floral background so light it’s almost not there.
Overall, there are only a few Robert Piguet fragrances I would wear on a regular basis: Knightsbridge and Douglas Hannant (forgive me, Fracas, but that cold-cream orange blossom sometimes just does me in). Maybe Calypso, if I wasn’t already stocked up on rose-patchouli scents. On the other hand, I think the line is fairly well-composed and varied, and Fracas is so iconic that everyone should at least smell it, even the modern iteration.
Posting has been spotty of late, as I work through some plans for the empty-nest life coming as Taz leaves for college in the fall. My original plan was to stay at home until the first two children entered school, and then return to full-time employment.
But then there was Taz (surprise!), and since in my experience, life gets exponentially more complicated with each additional child, I did not knock myself out trying to find another accounting job to replace the one I left when I married The CEO and moved to this semi-rural area. In fact, I wanted to return to college and earn the degree in English I’d always wanted, but there wasn’t money for that. Instead, I wound up working a series of part-time jobs just to supplement the farm income: delivering newspapers, providing childcare, transcribing recorded depositions and interviews for a court reporter business, and handling the books at our local NAPA dealer.
When I left the bookkeeping job, my intent was to become a full-time novelist. I have to this point written two books, but have not found a publisher. Truly, I feel that my fiction could really benefit from some more education, and I would love to pursue a master’s degree in literature, but we’ll have to see how that goes.
In terms of posting here, I do have another set of mini-reviews to put up soon, so look for that.
So the polar vortex spun through and then we had spring-ish weather for a few days, and now the cold is back. Feels like a normal February.
I’ve been wearing a mixed bag of fragrance favorites: Jolie Madame, Ralph Lauren Lauren (vintage) and Safari, Guerlain Floral Romantique, Chanel 31 Rue Cambon. Tried a few new vanilla scents from CocoaPink (Frosted Eyelet and Snowflakes, which were nice but no Triple Vanilla Dream, wink wink). Retried my samples from January Scent Project for a review I think I might have promised a year ago — just the three original scents of Eiderantler, Selperniku, and Smolderose, since I can’t get my paws on the newer Vaporocindro (though I don’t think it’s up my alley anyway).
No news on the Essure removal front, because I can’t get anyone at the allergist’s office to return my calls about testing me for allergies to nickel and titanium. I think it may be time to go see a different allergist.
The knee is still weak but recovering. Plantar fasciitis is mostly at bay. Gained four pounds back, so I must regroup with the diet.
Attended an alumni function for my small college, at the Taubman Art Museum in Roanoke with a former housemate. It was so nice to see Laura, and to see that her post-separation life is gaining a shape it maybe always should have had.
I plan to eventually add links here to my other — long-neglected — blog, the one focused on my fiction. I’m currently working through a program called DIY MFA, and am working on a third book as well as some historical-fiction short stories.
And Taz made the official decision to attend Emory & Henry College next fall. He’ll be majoring in history (with an intent to teach), and if all goes well, will be running cross-country for the Wasps. We’re so proud.
Here are some mini perfume reviews for you today; generally speaking, these were not winners for me. I could have titled this post “What Was I Thinking?” and you would wonder along with me why I bothered to mess with orientals when I have such a poor track record with them.
I dunno. It’s winter? It’s really cold? There are some orientals I do like? I felt like being inclusive and equal-opportunity? I was wearing my Bad Idea Jeans?
Or . . . it’s winter? Srsly, I got nothin’. I guess I feel like whining about these.
Guerlain Le Parfum du 68: (How did I even get this? Was this a freebie someone sent to me? I can’t possibly have thought this would suit my tastes.) Fragrantica calls it a “woody spicy,” not an oriental, but on me? oriental. Very powdery, not woody-spicy — there is a ton of tonka bean in this. Official notes: spicy notes, immortelle, tonka bean, benzoin, incense and leather. But it’s really like a no-citrus, powder-bomb version of Shalimar: boring.
Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche — I’m not much of an amber fan, as you might know. Honestly, I can’t remember why I got this sample, unless it’s because I picked it up for cheap when The Posh Peasant was going out of business as a decant service.
The official notes are “amber, frankincense, labdanum, styrax, benzoin, iris absolute, vanilla, and Russian leather,” but what this thing smells like to me at first sniff is root beer. Eventually a nice bit of what smells like church incense (heavy on the benzoin, yum) pulls up, and I think some woods, but it’s unable to overcome the initial impression of root beer. Good thing I like root beer. This one lasts forevvvver, which is unusual on my skin and probably due to its focus on basenotes. I like it, but it’s a one-trick pony.
Annick Goutal Myrrhe Ardente — I tend to like myrrh wherever I run across it. (Why? Dunno.) It’s not as universally beloved as frankincense, and it often smells medicinal, but [shrug] there it is. Official notes: myrrh, benzoin, vanilla, tonka, gaiac wood, and honeyed beeswax.
I read at least a couple of reviews of this scent that called it “all root beer, all the time,” but I don’t get root beer out of this one. (Unless, of course, somebody mixed up my samples. Possible.) There’s something very sharp and not-quite-unpleasant but not-entirely-pleasant about it. Herbs? It reminds me just a tad of the wackadoodle opening of Serge Lutens’ almost universally reviled Serge Noire, except that I liked Serge Noire, and I don’t like this.
Actually, I begin to believe that maybe someone did mix up these samples. There is a crap-ton of labdanum in the sample labeled Myrrhe Ardente, and no noticeable labdanum (which often smells like a mildewed rubber tent to me) in the sample labeled Ambre Fetiche. But . . . I dunno. Meh. It occurs to me now that there was literally no point in my testing oriental fragrances, even if they did come from Annick Goutal.
Incidentally, Goutal has revamped their line and changed all their packaging within the last few years, and I miss the old stuff. The new bottles seem less charming and more commercial. But the lovely Songes and Heure Exquise are still on the website, and I’m relieved.
Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyante — PSYCHE!!! I never actually managed to get a sample of this well-regarded (Tania Sanchez gave it a 4-star review in Perfumes: The Guide) third member of the Les Orientalistes collection, and now the collection is defunct if I remember correctly. Oh well. Supposedly smoky, piney and frankincensey, which is kinda not my thang anyway. Just thought I’d mention it since I was testing the other two.
SIGH. I think I will go put on some vintage Coty Emeraude and call it a day.
Having whined so loudly and bitterly last fall about my personal health issues, I figured I was about due for a lemme-sum-up post. If you’re here for the perfume, check back on Thursday for a Mini-Review Roundup.
So an update on my weight: down 25 pounds from last June. I kinda went off the diet in December and have had some difficulty really following the plan this month, but have only gained two pounds back. (So far, anyway.) Since I had many more than that to go, I’m back on the diet now. It’s a reduced-carb, lower-glycemic-index, lower-fat regimen, the original South Beach Diet — not the one you see ads on TV for now, because Nutrisystem bought SB out. I could probably lose weight on the ketogenic diet, but could I sustain the diet for long? I doubt it. And even if I could, it seems that cutting out an entire category of healthy food is probably not great long-term. So. SBD it is.
I have not yet lost enough weight for the Essure removal surgery I was considering, so I’m still trying to do an end-around run through getting some allergy testing, because there’s a different doctor who would probably be willing to remove it for that reason. He’s in Virginia, at least, and if I had an allergy test showing sensitivity to nickel, he’d code it as necessary for insurance to cover at least part of the cost. HOWEVER — the allergist my old GP sent me to has yet to actually order the tests, even after my repeated calls to check on it. So I need a different allergist, too.
The plantar fasciitis in my left foot abated enough for me to stop physical therapy . . . and has begun to recur, so I need to step up my PF exercises again. I think it may just be an ongoing issue for me the rest of my life, and it may be associated with SITTING a lot. Which, as you know, a writer does a great deal of. Therefore, I need to be dividing my time between sitting and exercising my fingers on a keyboard, and moving the rest of my body around.
I messed up my knee on vacation in Hawai’i — it was that long, long steep hill down to the beach at Hanauma Bay on O’ahu first, and then that long, long steep hill at the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Gardens on Hawai’i a few days later, plus the walking from terminal to terminal at airports. (If those two places hadn’t been absolutely AMAZING, I’d be kicking myself now for visiting them.) Plus twisting my knee on unstable ground at home the following week, twisting it again the day after that, in the long grass in the shop lot in the dark, getting wood, and then twisting it badly again two days later on snow. The new doctor in my primary care office said he thought it was probably arthritis, exacerbated by my weight, and gave me a prescription for heavy-duty naproxen sodium for the inflammation, as well as suggesting lots of R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, in case you’re not familiar). It helped to some degree but the knee is stiff and painful most of the time now. I’ve definitely been seeing the wrong GP! I’ve officially changed my primary care physician to the new guy in the practice, who was sympathetic but practical and didn’t dismiss my concerns.
In any case, I’ve now had a baseline x-ray, from which the orthopedist determined that I have mild osteoarthritis and mild narrowing of the knee joint. He gave me exercises to do, and suggested that if things are not considerably better in a couple of months, we’d try a steroid shot. The orthopedist was terrific, too. Listened to me, didn’t treat me like an idiot, gave me common-sense advice without throwing a prescription at me in the hopes that I’d just go away. Taz had actually seen this guy last year when he was having hip pain, and Dr. Maher was just that great with him. It feels good to rediscover medical professionals who take exam-table-side manner seriously.
Still a long road to walk. But I’m still walking, and still jumping through those hoops.
I do. Lots. I almost always prefer vanilla-flavored desserts to chocolate ones. (Well, except truffles. Because truffles, y’all.)
Because of that flavor preference, I’ve always thought I should love a vanilla fragrance. However, I’m beginning to realize that I’m probably wrong. I mean, honestly, I would love to smell like vanilla extract — and I’ve often heard of people wearing it as fragrance. The one time I tried it, the vanilla was gone in less than an hour, so clearly that inexpensive trick is not going to work for me.
The first vanilla-named scent I remember running across was Coty’s Vanilla Fields, back in the 1990s — and I didn’t much like it for myself, though I found it pleasant on other people. I seem to remember my sister wearing it in her teens/early 20s.
I would like to smell like vanilla, sometimes. Thing is, vanilla fragrances often are “too-something,” by which I mean too powdery, too smoky, or too buttery-oily for my personal tastes. My ideal vanilla fragrance would smell like a very deep, rich vanilla extract, with zero powder, and minimally sweetened. The vanilla fragrances I enjoy are not simply vanilla: Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka, which despite its name smells like a rum-and-coke with lime, Shalimar Light (lemon-vanilla woods, without the mildewed-tarp aspect of the original) and Coty Emeraude (vintage only, please). Sometimes the cocoa-powder bit (it’s the dreaded patchouli) of Givenchy Organza Indecence gets to me, but I like the spicy-vanilla-woods part pretty well.
When I say I want a vanilla fragrance, I’m pretty picky about what Will Not Do. I don’t want floral vanilla, I don’t want powdery vanilla, I don’t want musky vanilla, I don’t want berry or fruity vanilla, I don’t want cookie vanilla, I don’t want smoky vanilla, I don’t want sugary vanilla, and I most definitely do not want that horrible cheap-vanilla-candle oily vanilla. I might take a boozy vanilla if the alcohol part wears off quickly enough, but pretty much I just want plain-old vanilla-vanilla.
Vanilla fragrances I have tried and dismissed for various reasons are numerous, especially after I made the big push to find “my vanilla.” Here are the ones I had the biggest hope for and yet was disappointed by:
Too powdery (by FAR the biggest category of vanilla fails for me) Bulgari Black (Mind you, it’s sort of genius. I like the new-sneakers/bicycle-tires rubber note, but the vanilla part of it is flat and powdery.) Dame Perfumery Black Flower Mexican Vanilla (Nice stuff, not as powdery as some but still too powdery for what I want.)
Too smoky Le Labo Patchouli 24 (Does not smell like patchouli. Instead, smells like an incinerated vanilla ice cream cone lying on the floor of the smokehouse on my grandparents’ 1860 farm.) Guerlain Shalimar, of whatever vintage or version or strength (Shalimar is shockingly drrrty on me and very cigarette-ash smoky. It’s gorgeous on the right person, but that isn’t me.)
Too buttery/oily/waxy Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences (Vanilla cake with artificial butter flavor.) Lavanila Pure Vanilla (that weird vanilla-candle note I cannot STAND)
Too boring Indult Tihota (Vanilla bean musk. I thought I’d love it; instead, I nearly went to sleep.)
Vanilla fragrances that were close to being right but juuuust a tad off perfect: Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille (Delicious boozy vanilla that somehow did not render me smitten, for no reason I can articulate. Shrug. Good thing, because it’s über-spendy.) Tom Ford Vanille Fatale (Interesting but wacko off notes interspersed with gorgeous vanilla. Drydown is gorgeous and pretty much a dead ringer for the MUCH cheaper PdN Vanille Tonka.) Seveline Vanille a Madagascar(Really nice, close to a non-powdery vanilla extract linear experience. Unfortunately unavailable in the US. I guess I could have someone mule it to me from France, but I don’t love it enough.) Lawrence Dumont Vanille de la Reunion (After a frightening three-minute waltz with that horrid buttery/rancid-oil Yankee Candle smell, it smoothed out and went linear vanilla extract. That part I liked, but it’s discontinued anyway.)
I did not bother trying to test the much-beloved and long-gone L’Artisan Vanilia. I want a Cheap Thrill Vanilla, not something I have to hunt down, pay through the nose for, and mourn when there are no longer any dregs to be found.
I started this post in late 2016 and then held off publishing it while I did more research and tried more vanilla scents. I may now have found my vanilla, though: CocoaPink, an independent fragranced-body-care maker that I originally found on Etsy, that now seems to have its own website, produces a wide variety of fragrances and leans heavily on the foody ones. I tried a good dozen of theirs, either secondhand from other fumeheads or ordered directly from the site, in either oil format and alcohol-based, and a couple of them I tried in both formats. There is a lonnnnnng list of vanilla scents there. Many of them were too sweet for my taste, but I came up with a couple of contenders.
The winner? CocoaPink’s version of Spiriteuse Double Vanilla (description from the website: Based on Guerlain’s famous vanilla. This duplication is high quality and made with notes of pure vanilla, real benzoin extract, frankincense, spices, cedar, pink pepper, bergamot, and ylang-ylang) mixed with their version of Tihota (website description: essence of pure, unadulterated sugared vanilla beans with a soft hint of musk), to create a thing they call Triple Vanilla Dream. It’s got the deep, rich, long-lasting complexity of vanilla extract that I’d been longing for, yet with the simplicity of straight-up vanilla, and it lasts for hours on me. Bonus: that sucka is cheap — 10ml for less than a double sawbuck and 60ml for a half-C-note, both in “Smell me across town” strength.
I liked it in both alcohol and oil formats, but I’m strongly tempted to get it in their Voluptuous Body Butter, because a) the body butter is super-emollient and lovely, and b) again, you can get the big 4.75 oz tub for way less than $20.
(Yikes. It’s been so long since I did a full fragrance review that I can’t even remember the last time. That’s embarrassing.)
I finally got around to testing Amouage Fate Woman. It’s now been more than five years since this one hit the market, garnering praise from Luca Turin and Kafkaesque, and I’m just now giving it a sniff. (Probably because on occasion, I have violently differing opinions from those two respected fragophiles.)
I still have mixed feelings about Amouage fragrances. They’re all rich and complex, which is awfully nice in these days when department store frags seem one-dimensional. But they’re expensive. And given that they’re so strongly art-directed and tend to have strong characters, you really have to appreciate the concept. My feeling on them is, if you make the choice to buy an Amouage, you’d durn well better wear the thing, or you’ve wasted your cash. Generally, too, the lasting power tends to be good, and I put that down to quality materials in adequate concentration — which is important to me, given the twice-aforementioned high price point.
I’ve enjoyed several of them without feeling the urge to buy: Jubilation XXV (the men’s version), Bracken Woman, Myths Woman, Dia Woman. I do own a cherished decant of Lyric Woman from 2010, before they amped the ylang-ylang and muted the rose in it. But Gold Woman was seriously filthy on me. And I hated both Epic Woman (sour ashes) and Jubilation 25, the women’s version (curdled fruit, as most fruity chypres go on me). Beloved Woman was a greasy powder-monster, Honour Woman had this weird brackish pondwater thing (Bertrand Duchaufour’s favorite vetiver, I’m pretty sure) that ruined the pretty florals, and Interlude Woman was simply a hot mess. I thought the chemical flatness of Sunshine Woman had to be a joke. Frankly, Interlude and Sunshine put me off trying another Amouage for a couple of years, and I have never managed to get my nose on any of the Library/Opus series.
Memoir Woman blew my mind for a good couple of weeks before I fell in love with it; it took me four years of scraping by on tiny decants before I found a tester bottle and snapped that sucker up. I still adore the stuff, though I admit it is oddball and definitely not to everyone’s taste. I don’t wear it often, though, because the weather has to be cold enough or it will smother me. I mean, c’mon, a leather-herbal Big White Floral? Freaky, and a monster in summer. Plus, the thang has beastly sillage and you can smell me coming around the corner. But I lurve it when the weather is right, and in our current low-30sF temps, I’ve been craving it like nobody’s business.
Ahem. Back to Fate Woman . . . I bought my sample so long ago that I discovered I’d actually purchased two samples from different decant services: one splash 1ml vial, and one 2ml spray. Last week I decided to combine them, and in doing so, managed to spill a bit on the top of my (paper-and-cardboard) Hatbox of Current Rotation. It beaded up, and I wiped up the excess with a tissue, leaving the tissue on the dresser before going on to something else I wanted to wear. But ever since, I keep entering my bedroom and getting whiffs of something deliciously old-skool perfumery: rich florals, plus resinous woods and, as the French might say, un peu de gousset (a hint of gusset, because so many classic perfumes smell a bit naughty).
Fragrantica classifies Fate Woman as Oriental Chypre Floral and describes it as a “spicy floral.” I’ve already said that it comes across to me as a floral on a rich, retro base, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone given its gigantic notes list: bergamot, chili, cinnamon, pepper, rose, jasmine, daffodil, incense, labdanum, vanilla, patchouli, benzoin, leather, oakmoss.
Angela at Now Smell This was underimpressed, mentioning that on her, Fate Woman was primarily a narcissus floral with an overwhelmingly powdery cast. I don’t get huge powder out of Fate W at all, especially on paper (that tissue I blotted the spill with is still sitting on the dresser, radiating boudoir smells). I also don’t get the oakmoss/chypre angle. It’s a tiny bit spicy, but mostly a rich incense-floral on my skin, faintly dirty with castoreum and narcissus. It has moderate sillage and lasts for several hours on my scent-eating skin. Quite nice stuff. I’ve really been enjoying the waft of that tissue on my dresser.
Am I impressed? Do I want to buy it? Nope. If a bottle fell out of the sky, I’d probably sell it. But then, I’m not much of an oriental-chypre fan; it’s just not my style. And then, too, I think it seems very 1950s-elegant-dressing-table to me. If I wanted a fragrance like that, I could pick up something considerably cheaper on eBay. It’s good; it’s not to my taste.
So we’re having Mud Season again, the Cold Variant: after a year in which the area where I live received 56.54 inches of precipitation, 53% more than our average yearly rainfall, this year is looking just as damp.
Frankly, I’m so over Mud Season. I like Winter, except when it turns into Mud, and I’m thisclose to petitioning God for a cold snap, so at least the mud will freeze. I’ll take snow. I’ll take wind. Just — if it’s going to precipitate like last year, can we please have some cold weather??
I’ve been wearing scents with notable citrus lately, due to a Facebook perfume group’s weekly challenge. Despite thinking that I was never going to make it a whole week on citrus scents — which generally last all of three nanoseconds on me, and three very boring nanoseconds they are, too — I’ve managed, and very pleasantly, too. I’ve worn Shalimar Light (bergamot, lemon), Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka (lime), Alahine (“citruses”), Chanel 1932 (lemon, grapefruit), DSH Chypre (bergamot), and Pierre de Velay Extrait No. 11 (“citruses”). Of course, none of these are technically citrus-focused fragrances, which is probably why I like them. And, true, they are cheerful in the middle of January Drear.
WordPress has updated their editing platform (again), and I can no longer highlight snippets of text and change the color, the way I used to assign certain colors for each fragrance. That’s why the above paragraph looks odd: I tried highlighting “Shalimar Light” and giving it its classic blue color, but it turned the entire paragraph bloo, so I had to send it back to “dark gray,” and only then did I notice that “dark gray” is not actually the default shade. I can’t fix it now, either. I don’t mind updates, generally, but I think I’m unsure about this particular WP version.
I was born in the said middle of said January Drear. Today is my birthday, and today I’m wearing Alahine (again).
So, are you a citrus-scent lover, or are you like me??