Mini-Review Roundup, Jan. 19, 2018

Penhaligon’s Orange Blossom, 2010 reorchestration of the 1976 release, composed by Bertrand Duchaufour: really very nice. I had bought this small split portion a couple of years ago, and then apparently “put it away for safekeeping”, which any fool knows is like tossing things into the Bermuda Triangle: you never know if you’ll see those items again. I found the decant when cleaning out my closet recently and, despite barely remembering buying it, decided to give it a shot. Regular readers know that I Haz Orange Blossom Issues, by which I mean that OB fragrances nearly always smell like soap on me. I mean, it’s generally nice soap, of the creamy Dove kind, but still: soap. Bleagh. Don’t get me started on the list of OB scents that do not work for me, because it’s long. If they don’t smell like soap, they smell like candy. I really like By Kilian’s (pricey) Sweet Redemption, which is orange blossom and myrrh, but every time I wear it, Taz says I smell like grape and root beer lollipops. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Honestly, I can’t remember why I went out on a limb for a 5ml split portion of the Penhaligon’s, other than I remember hearing it was good.

I’m glad I did, though. This one is distinctly un-soapy, which is a blessed relief, and more floral than candy-sweet. It’s a simple-seeming floral fragrance that is what I’d call a true soliflore, in that although there are materials in it other than orange blossom (notably petitgrain, jasmine, muguet, violet leaf, virginia cedar, vanilla), it mostly smells of orange blossom all the way through. The angle of light shining on the flowers changes, from a lemony-green sparkle up top to a warm, mellow, honeyed base. It’s lovely. It also only lasts about three hours with a moderate spritz, so the Annick Goutal spray-until-wet method would serve you well with it.

A couple of other reviews of the Penhaligon’s: Persolaise, Scent Epiphany and Olfactoria’s Travels.

Lubin EpidorAngela’s review on Now Smell This last May made me think that it would not be up my alley in the least. “Thick”?  Not my kinda thang. And Lubin’s ad copy mentioning peasant girls and ripe wheat and dreams is soppy and even more useless than ad copy usually is — even from Lubin, which is famous for its ridiculously OTT ad copy.

But then my almost-Evil Scent Twin Kafkaesque reviewed it and said it was very simple, linear, but called it “cozy comfort” and said she needed a decant. And then March’s review of it on Perfume Posse in December made me think that I needed to try this. She called it “unashamedly romantic” and “narcotic,” and told me the base was more hay/woody than sweet vanilla. So I ordered a 1.2ml spray sample.

La Faneuse by Emile Claus. Epidor smells like these colors: wheat and white and blue, all layered with honey-golden light.

And y’all, it’s gone already. I used it up. I like it that much.

The notes include violet, plum, orange blossom, jasmine, cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla and tonka bean. It is not complicated at all: it is just so golden and pretty. I get lots of violet, a haze of white florals, then a gentle wheaty, almond-cake drydown. Which sounds like not much, right? but it’s just so dang pretty, and it smells relatively natural. None of that blocky, lab-created jasminoid thing that annoyed the pants off me in Twilly d’Hermes. No buzzy Ambrox. I’m not saying there aren’t any synthetics in it, I’m just saying that the synthetics in it are not ones that trip my “this smells like Chem 102 lab” threshold.

Pretty, isn’t it? Also kinda floofy.

Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences

Ad copy mentions sparkling champagne and sequins; the bottle is floofy (see left). But the notes list is pretty simple: bergamot, black pepper, tonka, frankincense, white flowers, vanilla, white musk. The fragrance is pretty simple, too. It’s basically . . . vanilla.

To confess, I’ve never tried what’s generally recognized as the ne plus ultra of vanilla fragrances, Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille. (SDV itself has been revamped in the last couple of years anyway, and aficionados say it isn’t as long-lasting now.) Never mind the fairly malicious review of it in Perfumes: The Guide, because people who love vanilla still love SDV. Haven’t smelled L’Artisan’s late, lamented Vanilia, either. I did enjoy a sample of Dame Perfumery’s Black Flower Mexican Vanilla, though it’s a tad more powdery than I’d prefer.

The thing is, I love vanilla-flavored anything, so long as it’s real vanilla. Offer me a choice of vanilla or chocolate cake? Vanilla, please. Vanilla or chocolate ice cream? VANILLA. Hands down. But for some reason, I generally don’t want to wear vanilla perfume. (See the Sexy Cake post for further explanations.)

In fact, on my skin Nuit et Confidences was so straight-up vanilla that I got out a bottle of vanilla extract to compare it. The extract lasts longer — and is significantly less powdery.

Now, for full disclosure, my bottle of vanilla extract is actually double-strength Madagascar bourbon: fairly expensive stuff from The Spice House, with vanilla bean in the bottle, absolutely worth its weight in gold. It has taken me three years to get the bottle down to the last teaspoon, and that vanilla bean has been macerating in there for long enough to infuse the stuff with real magic. At the current price point, it’s $26 for a 4 oz. bottle, compared to $190 for 3.4 oz. of Nuit et Confidences (currently out of stock at the Goutal’s US website). Frankly, my dear, I’d rather have another bottle of the double-strength vanilla extract.

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A Week of Violets II: Annick Goutal La Violette

My second review for Violet Week, a joint blog project along with Redolent of Spices and Scent of the Day, is for Annick Goutal’s La Violette.  This scent is actually a violet soliflore, where Caron Aimez-Moi is not, though it’s not as violet-focused and simple as some of the other violet scents I’ve tried. It’s part of Goutal’s “single-flower” series, which also includes Le Chevrefeuille, Le Jasmin, Neroli, Rose Absolue, and Tubereuse. Released in 2001, it was composed by Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal.

The Perfumes: The Guide review is fairly complimentary, giving it four stars and the description “vivacious, fresh and pink-cheeked,” while also mentioning a slight off smell of glue or paint thinner and comparing it to L’Artisan’s girly Drole de Rose (also four stars). I don’t get the “vivacious” description; to my mind, it’s shy and pretty and romantic instead.

Here’s part of the ad copy from the Annick Goutal website:

This fragrance is mischievous and flavorsome like a violet candy, tender as an ancient lipstick, shallow like the little stem once worn in women’s décolleté.

And from Lucky Scent:

Annick Goutal loved the subtle and extremely feminine smell of this flower. This is why Camille decided to dedicate this perfume to her mother with whom she liked to nibble lightly on violet stems to get its sweet taste.

Harmony of flower, leaves, and stem, for a floral fragrance subtly touched with a green note. When a touch of rose is added, the violet becomes even more seductive. This scent is mischievous and savory like a violet candy.

The notes for La Violette are bare-bones notes: violet leaf, violet, and rose, and darned if that isn’t just about as simple as the fragrance actually is. There may be other materials in there, but if so, they’re awfully quiet and serve only as supporting cast members technical crew. There is indeed a very fleeting haze of paint thinner or nail-polish remover in the top, but it is literally gone within seconds. There seem to be no basenotes to this fragrance: no musk, no woods, no moss… My experience with it is this: fresh green and intense violet to start, then powdery-woody violet and a bit of pale rosewater later, and then a fade into skin. The scent experience, even “sprayed wet” the way I do to increase a gentle scent’s impact and staying power, is ephemeral and light, and only lasts two to two and half hours on me.

The whole thing is about as girly and innocent and sweet as you could ever want – if you’re looking for the perfect smell for the flower girl in your wedding, this is it. If you’re looking for a fragrance to announce, “I’m harmless and lovable” to your dorm mates or new neighbors or prospective in-laws, this is it. This is actually a terrific handkerchief scent, too: the tiny hint of powder along with the sweet violets makes it extremely ladylike without calling to mind the dreaded “old lady” soubriquet. It’s perfect for wearing while lifting a flowerlike face to your young swain for that first chaste kiss, or for worshipping from afar.

It is definitely not a scent for seduction, however – it’s far too innocent for that. It’s too gentle and retiring for an office scent, too (you don’t want to smell innocent and romantic at the office, or people will dump their work on your desk and expect you to do it for them).

That said, La Violette is downright pretty. It’s as pretty and shy as the flower that inspired it. If “just pretty” tempts you, you couldn’t go wrong with this one.

Here’s a lovely review from Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am.

Top image is from LuckyScent; lower one from Rainbows4All.

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Fragrance Throwdown: Chanel No. 19 versus Annick Goutal Heure Exquise

In my mind, I’ve been calling this kind of head-to-head (wrist-to-wrist?) comparison a Celebrity Death Match. However, I’m now concerned that if I make it a regular blog feature, some rabid lawyer-type person may start getting all up in my grille about that phrase being copyrighted. I don’t think that Bobby Flay, restauranteur and chef, star of the Food Network shows Boy Meets Grill, Iron Chef America, and Throwdown with Bobby Flay, would care. He didn’t invent “throwdown,” and his show with “throwdown” in the title prominently features his name. Clearly, this blog is not in danger of being mistaken for being any project of Bobby’s, since it involves neither slabs of red meat nor the intense spices he’s famous for using. FWIW, I don’t think that perfume has much to do with Claymation celebrities, either, but just to be on the safe side, the two-fragrance comparisons are now Fragrance Throwdowns.

After reading comment after comment that Goutal’s Heure Exquise could be the long-lost twin of Chanel No. 19, I decided to wear them at the same time.

I love Chanel No. 19, particularly in vintage edt. (The parfum’s nice, too, but for this one I’m happy with the edt.) Needless to say, the suggestion of another fragrance very like my own personal Seven-League Boots got my attention. The raves of other HE fans, particularly those of AnnS on NST, intrigued me. The comparison in Perfumes: The Guide, where both fragrances get four stars, made me resolve to test Heure Exquise, although I’m appalled at the description of my Tough Gal perfume as “neurotic.”

Here’s Tania Sanchez on HE:

…HE is one Goutal that I genuinely love: a rich galbanum-and-iris composition close to Chanel No. 19 but, in contrast to the neurotic feeling of the Chanel, with a generous, warm backdrop of woody and animalic notes that feels like falling into a featherbed.”

I wound up with two samples of HE edt in two separate swaps, and it was oh-so-eagerly that I dabbed on some Heure Exquise. Galbanum, okay… rose, check… iris, check… vetiver, present. I saw the family resemblance right off. But where No. 19 was the emboldened, booted sister off to conquer the world, or at least the DMV, Heure Exquise was the prim, judgmental, “Come back here and get back to your knitting, like a proper lady!” sister. That iris note, while escaping the fatal Hiris and Bvlgari Pour Femme musty-basement qualities, was dry. Dry as toast, drrrrrrrry.

It made me think of the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, complaining to his wife that his daughter’s prospective in-laws are just too different for her to be happy: “This no work, Maria, this no work! They so drrrrry, they’re like toast. My daughter gonna marry Ian Miller with the toast family -” and I concurred: too dry. This no work.

And then I got the bright idea of doing a Celebrity Death Match Fragrance Throwdown. In this corner, the toasty-dry Heure Exquise edt. In that corner, the modern No. 19 edt. First was the elimination round – I decided that if modern No. 19 rolled over HE, then I wouldn’t even bother with testing other concentrations.

Notes for No. 19: Galbanum, neroli, bergamot, hyacinth, rose, jasmine, narcissus, muguet, iris, sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, musk, leather (leather in the vintage, not in the modern).

The notes for Heure Exquise are sketchy, but here’s the list from TPC: Galbanum, iris, rose, hyacinth, sandalwood. I would estimate that there’s also vetiver and musk.

Round 1: For the first 30 minutes, it looked like 19 was on top, no contest. HE was quiet, soft, a whisper of galbanum flowing into a patina of rose, while 19 was a fresh wind tossing my hair. And then as 19 began to soften into its soft classical florals, HE settled down too, into a plush rosy powder puff with a texture smooth as a baby’s butt. And by the drydown, HE had eaten 19’s lunch, with a pillowy, rosy musk that rounded out the edges of the sandalwood and vetiver. I was annoyed, and only slightly mollified by the fact that HE had beaten modern 19, not at all what I’d call the Real Thing. I began to feel like Vizzini in The Princess Bride: “Inconceivable!”

Round 2: Vintage No. 19 edt stepped in to face HE, winner of the first round. HE was the same lovely experience – a light veil of galbanum over the rose and iris, the smooth powdery-musky softness of sandalwood.  Vtg 19, though, is still an Amazon.  Not a pillow in sight, vintage 19 is still striding about the springtime landscape, among the flowers, in those boots of hers.  She’s smiling, glad to be alive.

Heure Exquise is lovely.  I recommend it, particularly if you found No. 19 a little too assertive.  For me, though, the assertive nature of No. 19 is what I prize.  This is especially important to me, I think, because I don’t really own any of the classic bludgeoner scents like Angel or Poison.  It’s my considered opinion that everyone should have a “Don’t Mess With Me” invisible-armor fragrance.  (Unless you are Dirty Harry or Leona Helmsley, of course, who don’t need invisible armor.)  I have two: No. 19, and Jolie Madame.  JM stands up to frigid winter weather but is too much even for me in the heat; No. 19 fills the bill for spring and summer.

I did not test Heure Exquise against No. 19 edp, which is softer and rosier than either the edt or parfum; I’m guessing that they’d be almost twins.  I also haven’t tried HE in edp, which is said to be rosier than edt.  I love rose, too – but if I want rose, I think I’ll get it elsewhere.

Throwdown result: No. 19 in vintage edt or parfum is the winner, by this judge’s preference.  However, another judge might feel free to declare for Heure Exquise, depending on personal preferences, since it’s equally well-composed of quality materials.

Review Report (for Heure Exquise; see my review of Chanel No. 19 for other reviews of it): Aromascope, I Smell Therefore I Am, 1000 Fragrances.

Image is from Wikimedia Commons.

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