The Muse in Wooden Shoes

Exploring a Scented Life: a blog about perfume, cooking, literature, family

The Muse in Wooden Shoes - Exploring a Scented Life: a blog about perfume, cooking, literature, family

Spring: An Embarrassment of Riches

 Redbud in the Morning Sun

My scent wardrobe is, like the climate in which I live, very seasonal.  We have weather distinct from one season to the next, and it can range from below 0F in winter, with snow and wind and hail, to 98F in summer, hot and practically humid enough to grow mushrooms on your skin.  The most comfortable seasons in this area tend to be spring and fall, with moderate temperatures and cool breezes and sunshine, though we certainly get plenty of rain (the average annual rainfall in my county is approximately 38 inches).

There are certain fragrances I wear at just about any time of the year, perennial go-tos.  There are other fragrances I associate with certain seasons or weathers, and I never think of wearing them at other times.  I love changing my fragrance with the season – I bring them out of the perfume cabinet and place them in the decorative hatbox on my dresser for easy access, and tenderly stow away the out-of-season back in the cabinet.  I try to wear my seasonal fragrances when they are in season, appreciating each  one like a beautiful day, though choosing among them is often a challenge.

Winter is easy: Alahine.  Ubar, Lyric, Memoir. Tiny dribble of Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant, if the weather is cold and damp.  Carnal Flower or La Myrrhe, if the air is so cold it turns to crystal.  Dolce Vita parfum.  Parfum Sacre. Vanille Tonka.    

Autumn is easier: Tabac Aurea, always. Champagne de Bois, Organza Indecence. Shalimar Light.  Vintage Magie Noire, if the weather is just right: cold, rainy, windy.  Smell Bent One.

Summer is easiest, with the fewest season-devoted scents: Fleur de Matin, Hanae Mori Haute Couture.  Ines de la Fressange first edition. Moschino Funny!, Rose d’Ete.

But spring?  Spring is hard.  I hate choosing in spring.  Green scents?  Violets? Lily of the valley?  Green florals, floral chypres, straight-up florals?  There are so many, and I love them all, and they all say “spring” to me in some way.

What to choose? And how to make sure nothing gets left out?  I still don’t know.  I have no real plan, I just get up and pick something to delight in.  Some favorites for spring:

Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet – “the greenest of all flower gardens.”  A big green juicy smack of galbanum and marigold gives way to very, very tender white flowers, from a wisp of tuberose to a hint of lily of the valley.

Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete – a shifting green-and-gold symphony like sunlight dripping through green leaves.  Galbanum, green notes, narcissus, hyacinth, patchouli, moss and woods combine to create the essence of happiness for me.

Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve - this long-discontinued, much-coveted floral chypre gem gleams like good pearls.  Very elegant yet gentle, with a powdery softness due to aldehydes and oakmoss, it is a reserved and quiet pleasure.

Jacomo Silences – cool, silver-green perfection.  Contemplative, streamlined, nothing extraneous at all.  Satin ribbons of galbanum, iris, rose, oakmoss.

Penhaligon’s Violetta – simplicity itself: green leaves, purple flowers, a whisper of sandalwood.  Shy but lovely.

DSH Perfumes White Lilac – the true delight of lilac sweetness, garnished only with a handful of leaves and a sprinkling of spice.  A joyful scent.

Guerlain Chamade – the essence of romance, it slowly blooms from chilly green opening to the budding jasmine-ylang-rose heart and on to the full-blown warmth of mimosa and vanilla in the drydown.  A perfume for surrender. 

Balmain Jolie Madame, in vintage parfum – a gorgeous juxtaposition of green notes, violet and gardenia against smooth leather.  Bittersweet in the best sense.

Chanel No. 19 – the Seven-League Boots of pure beauty and empowerment.  Galbanum, iris, oakmoss, and a whiff of leather, elegance with a riding crop.

Parfums DelRae Amoureuse – Languorous and vibrant all at once, with green notes, richly sensuous white florals, spicy notes, and honey set against a slightly-mossy sandalwood background. 

Christian Dior Diorissimo – the essence of spring, in the form of lilies of the valley.  That is all.  And it is spectacular.

What’s on your spring list?

Share

Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US, part I of the mini-reviews

I went malling this week! Here’s the first installment of mini-reviews for the Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances in the US for 2011.  (Thanks again for the push, Ari.)  All images are from Fragrantica.

Chanel No. 5 – I have a long history of familiarity with No. 5, and reviewed the parfum here.  I have been wont to grab a spritz or two from the tester when I breeze through the mall (it’s not often, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). I tried the EdP last summer and was surprised that I did not like it much; there’s an odd plasticky sort of accord in the drydown that seems out of place and just plain wrong. In Perfumes: The Guide, Luca Turin says that the EdP composition contains Polysantol, described as “the oily and prodigiously durable sandalwood drydown of Samsara.” (I didn’t mind Samsara so much, but I do admit that it smelled cheap to me, which I declare to be unforgivable in a Guerlain.) My store doesn’t have a parfum tester, so I make do with the EdT, which is still lovely and instantly identifiable as No. 5. I begin to wonder whether so many people continue to buy it because it is a) Chanel, the epitome of “classy” to so many Americans, b) despite reformulation, still smells mostly like itself, thus c) recognizable. No. 5 still has its furious whirlwind of soapy-whooshy aldehydes, and its golden-glow floral heart of rose, jasmine and ylang. It’s still worth wearing.

Coco Mademoiselle – this, as regular readers might remember, is the other fragrance, besides Dune, that my younger sister has forever banned me from wearing because she’s claimed it as hers. What she hadn’t realized is that her Coco Mlle is safe from me: I don’t like it. I smell it on a lot of women our age (30s and 40s) in this area, and I don’t like it on them, and I sure don’t like it on me. It’s a patchouli bomb on me, with a sharp screechiness to the topnotes and a muddy indistinctness to the floral notes. I wore it every day for about two weeks in 2011, connecting with a character I was writing whose signature scent it was. (Would it surprise you to find that I took an intense dislike to the character and stalled out on writing her story?) Continue reading

Share

Dior Dune eau de toilette

Dune is clearly enjoying a revival of sorts among perfumistas, what with all the fresh reviews of this 1991 release popping up on perfume blogs all over the place. And deservedly so, I might add.

I had never worn Dune and had only the most loose memory of it, having smelled it only on other people, and then infrequently. My sister A wore it; at the time, she was in college and I didn’t see her often. I remember giving her a hug when she was home for a visit, noting that she smelled nice. I asked if she had a new perfume. “It’s called Dune,” she told me. “And don’t ask to borrow it. It’s mine. Don’t go buying it, because I chose it, and it’s mine.”

(You’d think that I’d stolen her sweaters when we were teenagers!  But no. She’s four years younger, and we have wildly differing taste in music, clothes, and fragrance. Why she was so adamant about not sharing, I still have no idea. She was similarly possessive about her Coco Mademoiselle a few years ago.)

My sister-in-law E – mother of Curiosity and Primrose, if you were wondering – had worn Dune as well, but had given it up due to fragrance sensitivities of a close friend. A few years ago I gave her a mini I’d picked up for her, but I didn’t open it to smell because the box was sealed. So I still didn’t remember what Dune smelled like. Continue reading

Share

Sniffery in the “Big City”

By which I mean “the so-called big city,” with exaggerated finger air quotes and nudges and winks and elbows to the ribs, and it’s only big city if you live in Podunksville, as I currently do. This afternoon, I dropped off the rest of my family at the minor league ballpark and headed off for some mall sniffies. I enjoy revisiting the place where I grew up. Roanoke, VA is not big. Nor is it particularly citified, although it does contain several places I wouldn’t dare to drive through at night – especially not in my minivan with its “Virginia – Farming since 1614” license tags. But compared to where I live now, it’s “big city.”

Roanoke is approximately 50 miles from my house, and a good thousand feet lower in elevation. Consequently, it’s on average a good five degrees cooler here. Today, it was 93 F in Roanoke, and humid. The other thing about Roanoke is that it’s a valley surrounded by mountains, and the mountains hold the heat/humidity/air pollution in, so it can get really, really muggy. It was so today, with the mountains blue and hazy, and the air nearly wet enough to wring out.

Roanoke is where The CEO went once a year when he was a kid, to buy school shoes. His mother would bundle him and his sisters into the Plymouth in August, and they’d drive downtown to Thom McAn and buy one pair of leather shoes for each child. (Digression: Remember those days? I do. But I have weird feet, and my mother took me to Julien’s instead because they sold “corrective instep” Stride-Rite shoes. My first pair of school shoes I can see in my mind’s eye right now: dark red leather lace-up shoes, with a leather sunburst applique starting where the laces began and pointing toward the toe. I loved them. In first grade I owned a pair exactly the same, except in dark blue. I wore skirts to school, or corduroy pants, and was probably in third grade before I even owned a pair of jeans… I don’t think any of my children have ever worn anything other than sneakers to school. Ever. EVER.) The Thom McAn store downtown closed seventeen years ago. But Julien’s is still a going concern, catering to people with unusual footwear needs.

 

"Cross Creek Mall" from Wikimedia Commons

And there’s a mall; it contains a Sears, a Belk, a JCPenney, and a Macy’s. Belk and Macy’s have fragrance counters (oddly, Belk has a larger selection of men’s fragrances than Macy’s does). Bath & Body Works, where I’d gone to restock my sister’s bathroom shelves with Aromatherapy Lavender Vanilla body products, is closer to Macy’s. So I went a-merrily sniffing down the aisles at Macy’s.

The revelation: I’ve been spoiled by niche and indie perfumery. I’ve come to expect that the scents I plan to drop cash on be mostly natural-smelling, coherent, free of nasty chemical surprises, and interesting. That combination is difficult to find in many mainstream fragrances.

So the sniffery goes like this: I walk into Macy’s, right past the big display of Thierry Mugler Angel, the fancy lopsided star bottles. There’s no “fragrance counter” here, rather a little stand for the register and miscellaneous stuff the SA’s need, and several tall freestanding shelves, upon which are placed the stock of the fragrance department. These are the fragrances I see on the shelves:

Beyonce Heat and Heat Wave

Burberry Brit, Touch, and Gold

Bvlgari Omnia, Omnia Green Jade, Omnia Amethyste, and Blv II

Calvin Klein Eternity, Euphoria, Obsession, Beauty, and cKOne

Chanel No. 5 (in edt, edp and parfum as well as body products), Allure, Chance, Chance Eau Fraiche, Chance Eau Tendre, Coco, Coco Mademoiselle

Christian Dior J’Adore and L’eau Cologne Florale

Coach Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum, Coach Poppy

Dolce et Gabbana original Dolce et Gabbana, Light Blue, The One, and Rose The One

Donna Karan Cashmere Mist and Be Delicious

Ed Hardy Hearts and Daggers, Love & Luck, and something else I don’t remember now

Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue and Mediterranean

Gucci Flora, Guilty, and Gucci Eau de Parfum

Guerlain Shalimar (only the EdT)

Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey, L’Eau d’Issey Florale

Jessica Simpson Fancy, Fancy Love, and Fancy Nights, as well as the new I Fancy You

Juicy Couture original Juicy Couture, Viva la Juicy, and Couture Couture

Katy Perry Purr

Lancome Tresor, Tresor in Love, Poeme, Magie Noire, Hypnose, Magnifique, and Miracle

Marc Jacobs Lola and Daisy, and Daisy Eau So Fresh (gag me with a plastic SPOON, words cannot possibly express how much I hate that name, even though I still have a fondness for Daisy)

Paloma Picasso

Paris Hilton Siren, Just Me, and CanCan

Prescriptives Calyx

Queen Latifah Queen and Queen of Hearts

Ralph Lauren Romance and Romance Always Yours

Thierry Mugler Angel, Angel Innocent, Alien, and Cologne

YSL Parisienne and Opium

It’s been, oh, ten months or so since the last time I was in Macy’s fragrance department, and it was surprising to see what was missing: L’Air du Temps, Poison, Dior Addict, and Be Delicious Fresh Blossom, all of which I’d seen on my last visit.

The Clinique fragrances are an aisle or two over: Happy, Happy Heart, Happy for Men, and Aromatics Elixir.

Also, there’s a whoooooollle long counter full of Estee Lauder, with testers for every single flankered thing: Estee. Beyond Paradise, BP Blue, BP Men. Pleasures, Pleasures Sheer, Pleasures Intense, Pleasures Exotic. White Linen, Pure White Linen, PWL Light Breeze, PWL Pink Coral. Beautiful, Beautiful Sheer, Beautiful Love. Cinnabar. Youth Dew. Knowing. Azuree. Bronze Goddess, BG Soleil. Private Collection, the original only. Tuscany per Donna. Intuition. Spellbound. Dazzling Silver. Sensuous and Sensuous Noir. (No Dazzling Gold or Youth Dew Amber Nude or Alliage or PC Tuberose Gardenia, though.) I had a nice conversation with the older lady staffing the Lauder counter: she was surprised that I knew what the bottle for Cinnabar looked like, even as I mentioned that I was smelling it because I wanted to know if I still hated it. She likes Estee and Beyond Paradise, herself.

 

Macy's from Wikimedia Commons

The young man who was so enthusiastic about perfume and helpful to me on two prior visits to Macy’s wasn’t working this afternoon, but there were several SA’s floating around, with offers of help. “Are you looking for anything in particular, ma’am?” And when I said no thanks, I was just browsing and smelling, each one smiled and told me things like, “Oh, enjoy!” or “Feel free to sniff, and if I can get you anything or answer any questions, please just wave at me.” Maybe it’s just in Really Big Cities that the SA’s are snobby… The Belk SA’s are clueless but very pleasant. (I know nobody trains those poor people adequately. I spent a summer and two Christmas breaks from college running a cash register at Sears, and nobody ever told me a dang thing about what I was selling, whether it was lingerie, women’s wear, or children’s wear. Or belts. I once had a customer scream at me because I asked her in which department she had found a belt which had no tag, so I could find out how much to charge for it.)

I sniffed nearly everything. I’ve already smelled the Juicy Couture things, and I think they’re hideous. Ditto Cashmere Mist, ugh. The Ed Hardy packaging just annoys me, so I didn’t pick up any of those, either. I was shocked that there were a lot of testers missing. I didn’t ask about them, so I suppose it’s possible that the SA’s had hidden them, but the testers were AWOL for several things I’d have loved to have smelled: the original Dolce et Gabbana, Paloma Picasso (do I hate it as much as I used to?), Mugler Cologne (does it really smell like steam?), and that new Justin Bieber thingy. Actually, I’m not surprised that the tester for the Bieb’s fragrance was under wraps; they ought to have one chained to the counter.

What I made an effort to smell were largely scents I’ve not intentionally sniffed before: Angel Innocent (chemical custard), Fancy Nights (which would have been better with less restraint – it should have been a big trashy thing, I’d have liked it more), I Fancy You (glorified shampoo), Beauty (rather nice, an inoffensive lily scent with a nice woody cast), and Euphoria (berry-candy-vanilla, somehow not as good as the superbly-trashy Dark Kiss at Bath and Body Works). Also, I laid nostrils on some Lauders I’d not tried, and even that thing that Musette over at the Posse calls Aromatics of Dooooooom (yes, I find Aromatics Elixir hideous). Azuree is just ashtray-nasty, and Spellbound is not as sweet (“cloying” as PTG calls it) as I’d thought, but still it’s fairly synthetic-icky. I also smelled Poeme, which I was unfamiliar with – and I have to say that I was happier not knowing what it smelled like. Tresor in Love was not dreadful, but not interesting either.

And I sniffed some old enemies as well: Opium, Obsession, Youth Dew, White Linen. Obsession seems lighter, and so does Opium, but I still hate them. White Linen still smells to me as if it should have been named Mildewed Laundry: sour, squinty-eyed, suspicious. (Mind you, I like aldehydes!) I resmelled Private Collection, and actually sprayed it on skin. It is wonderful for all of an hour, and then it tries to kill me with that Lauder base. Surprisingly, Cinnabar smells rather nice to me now, very cinnamon-spicy and sweet and warm, but that Lauder balsamic thing is in there so it was also a complete bust.

Youth Dew I still despise to the depths of my being, so I suppose the world can go on turning. If I ever mention on the blog that I like Youth Dew, somebody is going to have to come down here and check my body for signs of alien invasion.

 

Collection of panterachik at Fragrantica.com

There is very little available at the mall that is rich, distinctive, and wonderful-smelling. It’s depressing as heck. Aside from Shalimar and Chanel No. 5 (and okaaaaay, fiiiine, toss some of the Estee Lauders in there too if you like), it’s kind of a desert. Way too many fragrances smell like other fragrances: Gucci Guilty smells an awful lot like Coco Mademoiselle; Coach EdP smells sort of like Calvin Klein Beauty. Worse, too many fragrances simply do not smell good.

I came home and put on some vintage Caron Parfum Sacre, and I felt better. I sniffed my Mary Greenwell Plum, and my Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete, and felt better still. I sniffed my DSH Oeillets Rouges and felt positively euphoric.

Perfumery is not dead, no matter the state of the mall.

Share

Perfume Review: Dior La Collection Couturier Parfumeur New Look 1947

When Dior recently released its flotilla of “La Collection Couturier Parfumeur” scents, adding seven new fragrances to the existing Eau Noire, Bois d’Argent, and Ambre Nuit, I wasn’t interested. I’m not a big Dior fan anyway, and most of the descriptions of the new scents left me cold. A Leather, a Big Oriental, a Soft Floral, a Citrus Aromatic, more Colognes… um, no, thanks. I’m all stocked up. The only one that had any appeal at all for me was New Look 1947, and it didn’t seem all that exciting.

And then some commenters on a post at Now Smell This mentioned that New Look 1947 was a “big white floral,” and I was suddenly interested again. It seems that every year about this time, I reenter my All Tuberose, All the Time phase (Daisy wanted to know how that was any different from the rest of my year!), so “big white floral” suddenly yanked NL47 back onto my To-Test list.

In the interest of full disclosure, I declare to you that most of my year is Intermittently Tuberose, and I never seem to lose interest in that note, but cold weather just seems to call for it. (More tuberose-centric fragrance reviews to come over the months of January and February.)

Here’s the ad blurb from Dior: New Look 1947 ~ “February 12, 1947: A major event was held at 30, avenue Montaigne in Paris, where Christian Dior presented his first fashion show. With his flower women and bright colors, the Designer launched a fresh fashion trend. “It’s a New Look!” exclaimed Carmel Snow, Editor-in-Chief at Harper’s Bazaar, thus christening the Designer’s inimitable style. Today, the New Look has become an explosive, generous, ultra-feminine and floral fragrance.” The notes for the spicy floral include tuberose, benzoin, ylang ylang, rose, jasmine, vanilla and iris. The perfumer is listed as Francois Demachy, and New Look 1947 is intended for women.

A spicy floral with tuberose? An ultra-feminine floral? Count me in. And this review – Octavian at 1000 Fragrances (you may need to be patient and wait for the page to load, as I have to do) – incited me to jump in on a split of New Look ’47 when one popped onto my radar. Octavian calls this fragrance “parfum lingerie” and evokes greige/nude/pastel colors, “soft, powdery, creamy, very sensual.”  He also calls it “an infinite smoothness of flowers melting into an abstract note.”

So what I was expecting was a quiet white floral draped in yards of pastel tulle, moisturized and made-up and powdered and confectionized. Did I get that? Nope. Dior has a lot of nerve, calling it “explosive” and “generous,” not to mention “spicy floral.” It’s not very floral at all, nor spicy; in fact, my first impression was of cold cream.

I haven’t seen cold cream at the drugstore for yonks, but my mother used to use it to remove her eye makeup (when she bothered to wear it – most of the time she was a lipstick-and-mascara-only gal) when I was a child. I don’t even know what’s in cold cream, although at a guess I’d say there’s a hefty slug of lanolin in there. It’s a heavy, smooth, solid cream right on the verge of greasy, and if you have ever smelled it, you’ll likely recall its distinctive odor.

There I was testing New Look 1947, frantically sniffing my wrists every chance I got, looking for the tuberose, and getting “cold cream” and “face powder” instead. At first I thought it was just the dry weather we’ve been getting, because that can cause me to miss certain notes. (I spent at least two months thinking L’Arte di Gucci was just a nice gardeny rose, no kidding. I totally missed the cassis bud and costus until I wore it one humid afternoon. And when I smelled it entire, I fell really hard for it, in all its inconvenient, demanding glory.) So I cranked up the humidifier, which made my winter-dry nostrils feel better but did nothing for NL47. And then I wore it while doing some fairly energetic housecleaning, and that didn’t bring out the tuberose either.

I wore New Look several times, reapplying throughout the day – I get about three hours of wear out of it, about average for an EdT on my skin – and paying a lot of attention to it in repeated attempts to tease out the tuberose. Oh, it is there, all right, but it’s buried, as if the powdered-and-lotioned debutante in the tulle dress has one single tuberose petal tucked into her ballet-pink dancing slippers. Except that her dress isn’t tulle, it’s crepe de chine.

The only time I get much sillage from New Look is right at the beginning, when it’s all prim aldehydic sparkle. Very quickly it fades into a quiet skin scent, even if I do the “overspray” trick of spray-until-wet, let dry, and spritz one more time. That’s extravagant spritzage for me, but some fragrances just need that kind of presence to even register (notably, certain L’Artisans and Annick Goutals). This quiet skin scent has, I admit, the really lovely texture of crepe de chine, or that microfiber material called “peachskin”: soft, nearly sueded, smooth and drapey, and if you run your hand across the fabric as someone is wearing it, you can feel the warmth of the skin underneath. Try as I might, I cannot pick out any of the florals at all, they are so integrated into that creamy-powdery base. It stays in that vein for most of its existence on my skin, and reminds me of the basenotes of Mariella Burani, and even in a small way of Iris Poudre.

Patty’s review at Perfume Posse was more pithy (and a lot more fun, if not very close to my experience), something like, “J’Adore L’Absolu and Diorissimo had a hot two-week tropical affair and made New Look 1947 from their lusty floral loins.” Now that would have been worth it, in my opinion. I love lusty floral loins. Not to mention that J’Adore L’Absolu and Diorissimo (and Dolce Vita, come to think of it) are the only Dior fragrances I really enjoy.

New Look seems very much on the femme side of the aisle to me, with its accent on the tonalities of makeup – powder and cream – but I do know of at least two men who are enjoying it (and finding it much more of a white floral than I do). I like New Look 1947, but I do not love it, and I have to admit that it seems a little derivative to me. Not that that’s bad, mind you, but I already have a bottle of Mariella Burani, and a decant of Iris Poudre! I may keep trying to amp up the tuberose in it, because if that note registered to me, New Look 1947 might be more distinctive. I’ll wear it, of course, because it’s quiet and comfortable as silk underwear. It’s entirely polite and unlikely to annoy even your most rabidly anti-perfume neighbor.

It’s just a little sad that “quiet and comfortable” is the nicest thing I can say about it.

Top image is of the fragrance from Fragrantica. Second image is of several models in various New Look dresses from oldmagazinearticles.com. Third image is from a 1947 magazine, showing a travel makeup kit, from ggardenour at eBay.

?

Share

Perfume Review: Dior J’Adore L’Absolu

I almost never notice perfume ads, except for the ones posted on perfume blogs, specifically the “new launch for Perfume X” and “I hate this ad” posts.  Probably that’s because A) I don’t watch a lot of TV,  B)I don’t subscribe to any fashion magazines, and C) I live nowhere near a large city where I might see a billboard, or an in-store ad.  If I’m shopping for something other than food, I’m probably at Lowe’s, or Dick’s Sporting Goods, not Macy’s, and that’s a semi-sad commentary on the shopping excitement of a mother of three.

Okay, so I do watch some TV.  But it’s likely to be either the Discovery Channel or the Food Network, neither of which is big on fragrance advertising.  And having said that, I have to admit that even I saw that TV spot for J’Adore.  You know the one: starring the lovely Charlize Theron in a slightly-suggestive, upscale striptease.  It’s been around for several years, apparently, but I hadn’t seen it until, oh,  Christmas 2008, and I really only noticed because The CEO and I were watching some movie on TV.  Usually he flips around during commercials (does that behavior come standard with a Y chromosome??), but he stopped dead and said, in reverent tones, “Look!  Is that Charlize Theron?”

“Looks like it,” I said.  “And she’s taking off her clothes,” I pointed out, helpfully, knowing that he’s a fan.

“Yes, she is,” he replied, smiling, and didn’t change the channel until the sultry voice-over of “J’Adore… Dior” had finished.

I admit, a little shamefacedly, to not hating that ad.  I should be offended as heck by the Perfume = Sex framework, which generally bugs me.  The not-so-subliminal message is, of course, that J’Adore makes beautiful women take their clothes off.  But I watched Charlize stalk through this gorgeous house in her Manolos and gold beaded evening gown and jewelry, flinging it all off with what looks like relief after the stress of an awards gala, saying things like, “Gold is cold, diamonds are dead… Don’t pretend, feel what’s real.”   And I thought, “Hmm.  If it smells real, I might like that.”

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of women get J’Adore as a romantic gift from their boyfriends and husbands who bought into the “this perfume gets hot women naked” angle, and possibly because of its romantic name: “I adore you” in French.  Also, the bottle is rather attractive, which is always a plus for men buying Valentine’s Day and anniversary gifts.  J’Adore was composed by Calice Becker (who has composed a number of scents that I really like) and released in 1999 as a fruity floral, with accents of plum, jasmine, and orchid. 

So I went into Macy’s one day, right at the very beginning of my interest in perfume, and trawled the fragrance section, picking up various bottles and sniffing them.  I was so new to the experience that I didn’t even know what a mouillette (scent strip) was for.  I hated Deseo and Pink Sugar, was repelled for the hundredth time by the sharpness of Shalimar edt, and really enjoyed MJ Daisy.  A tester of J’Adore beckoned, and I sprayed a little in the air and sniffed.

I did not like it.  It smelled metallic and chemical to me — and I’ll remind you that at that point in my sniffage, I was used to drugstore fragrances and body splashes from Bath and Body Works, and therefore well-acquainted with synthetic aromachemicals.  J’Adore smelled to me like it was an honest but failed attempt to produce something that smelled like fresh flowers and warm skin.  I was annoyed at the fake smell of the “feel what’s real” perfume, and crossed it very firmly off my list. 

But after reading a review of L’Absolu in Perfumes: The Guide, I thought, “You know, it could have been good with more naturals; I’ll hunt up a sample.”  And when one came my way in a sample swap, I expected something better from it.

Notes for J’Adore L’Absolu: mandarin, champaca, ivy, jasmine, orchid, rose, ylang, tuberose, plum, amaranth wood, blackberry musk.

L’Absolu, a limited edition that can now be found at some online discounters, is indeed far nicer than the original.  There’s lots of good jasmine and rose in here, with some creamy ylang-ylang and a tuberose that I didn’t notice in the original version.  Everything is blended and pretty; the drydown is coherent and pleasant, and seems like it might actually contain some of that bright-smelling Australian sandalwood oil rather than a generic “woods” note.  It’s attractive start to finish, and I think this is the way the standard version of J’Adore should have smelled: worthy of its Dior heritage.

And at the same time, I can’t help but think that I should have been wearing something like it when I was sixteen, instead of the enormous, flirty, white-flowers-and-the-kitchen-sink Chloe that I actually did wear.  J’Adore L’Absolu is perfectly pretty, a nice background scent, and a fragrance that I would find entirely appropriate on my fourteen-year-old daughter.  It feels a little too young, and perhaps too naive, for me to wear. 

I notice that I’m having this reaction toward lovely, happy florals lately — anything that would have captured my heart when I was twenty and which smells like the olfactory equivalent of a cloudless summer day just depresses me now.  Which, of course, says a lot more about me than it does about the fragrance in question.  J’Adore L’Absolu, Van Cleef & Arpels First Premier Bouquet, Teo Cabanel Julia, Keiko Mecheri Mogador… beautiful, well-done, interesting, summery florals all.  And they all made me feel like I had an elephant sitting on my chest.

I don’t know why.  Green florals often have a youthful, fresh-faced quality, and that genre is one of my favorites.  I never seem to feel old and tired when I wear them — not even the tender, young Vacances or Crown Bouquet makes me feel my age. 

And it’s not that I mind straight-up florals.  I think the difference is that the ones I mentioned above seem romantic to me: hopeful, wide-eyed, starry, hearts-n-flowers romantic.  Girlish I can wear.  Simple I can do.  Romantic?  Makes me feel like an idiot.  The CEO and I are coming up on eighteen years of marriage.   I don’t want to imply that it stinks, because it doesn’t.  But romance seems very silly to me at the moment.

Here’s the only blog review I could find for J’Adore L’absolu:  Patty at Perfume Posse.  There’s also a brief description of the original at Bois de Jasmin, and a thorough, thoughtful review of the original at Perfume Shrine.

Top image is from Fragrantica.  Second image is courtesy of Perfume Shrine. Lower image is Flowers store from EmilyBi at flickr.

Share

Discontinued Saints

I blame Left Coast Nose for this one.  She mentioned a scent she liked in a comment, and then helpfully pointed out that it’s discontinued.  Which got me to thinking… how much of the stuff I actually own and wear is no longer being produced and sold at retail?  A bunch of it, that’s how much.   Edit:  I should explain, I bought nearly all of the following at online discounters, where most of them are indeed still available at the time of writing.  Exception Shalimar Light, which is getting scarce as alligator feathers.

I had titled this post “Love’s Retail Lost,” and then when I went looking for a photo to accompany it, I found this:

which, although not precisely on topic, was too good not to share.

I checked my Excel file, where I keep notes on what I’ve tested, what I’d like to test, and what I’ve bought, to find out.  To be fair, I excluded my (extensive) collection of vintage miniatures, which I bought primarily because they were vintage/discontinued/hard-to-find.

Mariella Burani edt.  I think Mariella Burani is still making some kind of fragrance, but the eponymous one is no longer produced.  When you find it at the discounters, it’s likely to be very cheap because stocks have been dumped.  This does not reflect its quality.

YSL Paris Pont des Amours Printemps Edition 2008   Again, another LE.  I can’t really complain about limited editions not sticking around, however much I’d like to (I’m still mourning over the L’Artisan Jacinthe de Bois I never got to smell).

Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur   I have seen Black Orchid recently in a retail store, but not VdF, and I can’t find an online listing for it at a retail establishment. 

Balenciaga Rumba.  Another “let’s just dump it at cost” scent because it’s been discontinued and there’s tons of old stock sitting around.  It’s a very 80′s style fragrance, big and rich and vampy, and that is quite unfashionable these days.

Donna Karan Gold.  Recently discontinued, along with a slew of other Karans.  I am saddened to report that they are still making the (hideous, IMO) Be Delicious and all its sugary little flankers.

This one’s in question: I can’t find Givenchy Organza Indecence, whether the original or the Les Mythiques version, anywhere.  But March says in her comments to me on this post she was told it’s not discontinued, just really hard to find.  Givenchy should get its act together – this one was a both a big seller and hugely popular among perfumistas.

L’Arte di Gucci.  It doesn’t surprise me that this one’s kaput, to be honest.  It’s too… too big, too lush, too animalic, too shrieking, too everything  for current tastes.  (Except marshmallowy and fruity.  It’s not fruit-flavored-candy enough for current tastes.  And now I’ll stop snarling about the fruity gourmand fad, at least for now.   I admit to liking Hanae Mori.)

Stetson Rich Suede, which was probably an LE to begin with.  Oh, well.

Ines de la Fressange 1999, the Calice Becker fruity floral  – there’s a newer version in a tall bottle with gold leaves, a gourmandish thing by Alberto Morillas, but I think it too has been discontinued.  I know I snark about fruity florals from time to time, but this one is done just right: light-hearted, tangy, a bellini in a bottle.

Okay, okay, fine, I’ll cop to this one: Victoria’s Secret Pink.   This would be the original Pink, not Pink Beach or Pink Angel or Pink Panties or whatever the heck those ever-sluttier Victoria’s Secret execs are coming up with these days, an airy green peony-freesia floral that is still pleasant to me, and which I bought another mini of this past year, to replace the old one that was getting really low.  My excuse? The CEO likes it.

Victoria’s Secret Victoria.   The very first fragrance VS released, waaaay back in the… late 80′s, I think, a beautiful floral chypre that nonetheless has a difficult opening due to age.  I’ve now smelled three different bottles of this, and all three are off in the topnotes - decayed bergamot, or something.  I never owned this when it was new – I couldn’t afford it.  But it’s lovely, when the weird top burns off.  VS used to carry really beautiful, elegant nightwear – I had a gorgeous teal satin spaghetti-strap nightie that I wore for years – heavy satin, with four-inch-deep soft ivory lace.  Victoria smells like that thing felt – elegant, luxurious, pretty.  

Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet.  I hereby curse Clive Christian to live, without diamonds and Lexuses and cash, sleeping in a tent and eating local food, in a miserably poor place for three months.   Perhaps he’d give up this ludicrous “most expensive perfume in the world” nonsense, and all the teddibly posh trappings of his current perfume business, which just annoys the %#** out of me. 

Cuir de Lancome.  A perfume with brains and beauty and a backbone?  Of course it’s discontinued, because no one under the age of 21 bought it.  Look, I’m not being ageist.  I think young women should wear what they like, even if I happen to find the popular fruity-sweet style ditzy and unpleasant.  It just burns my shorts that Lancome should decide not to continue producing a beautiful scent and selling it to “mature women” because they’d rather concentrate their efforts on selling things like Miracle So Magic and Tresor In Love.  Which I doubt very much will sell better than Cuir – they’ll just sell to the right demographic.

Shalimar Light.   News Flash: Eau de Shalimar is not an acceptable substitute.  Whose bright idea was it to bottle the smell of lemon baby wipes?

Guerlain Terracotta Voile d’Ete.  This may have been intended as limited edition as well, but I can’t find anything that says so definitively.  (Note to self: Aha!  This is what Agent Provocateur Strip was reminding me of!  Not an exact match, of course – this is spicier – but similar in the floral-amber category.)

I’m not even including reformulated things like Ralph Lauren Lauren - the reformulation of that one was like taking Sigourney Weaver and turning her into, oh, Blake Lively* - and Kenzo Parfum d’Ete – which has been changed into a different, but still pleasant, scent.  (*Please don’t hate on me for the Blake Lively comment.  Blake’s fine as she is, but in my opinion, Sigourney is Too Much Woman to be turned into someone young, blonde, and… hmm, how to say it?  Naive.  Blake should aspire to be Sigourney, not the other way round.  RL Lauren used to be kind, interesting, beautiful, classic and strong.  Now it’s merely pretty. )

So if I count up the discontinued scents, ignoring the reformulateds and the vintages, that’s, like… (frantic scrambling to get the calculator) a whopping 28.6% of my full bottle wardrobe.  This is a little scary.  You think so?  On the other hand, it might tie in to the fact that I am a Total Sucker for stories of lost love.  This is probably even more scary when you consider that I bought all of these bottles knowing that these fragrances had been discontinued.

Anybody else as crazy as me?

Image is I’d rather be a perfect sinner by theilr at flickr.com.

Share

Perfume Review: Feminite de Bois and Dolce Vita

Shiseido Feminite de Bois and Dior Dolce Vita share some DNA; they may as well be sisters.  Both creations of Pierre Bourdon, with Christopher Sheldrake for Fem de Bois and with Maurice Roger for Dolce Vita, both perfumes are woody orientals focusing on cedar, seen through the prisms of fruits, florals, spices and vanilla. 

FdB was created in 1992, and then disappeared about the time that Serge Lutens left Shiseido to found his own perfume house. Partly in order to have a line of fragrances readily available for sale without starting from ground zero every time, Lutens and Sheldrake created several fragrances from the starting point of Feminite du Bois, highlighting different aspects of the original scent: Bois et Fruits, Bois de Violette, Bois et Musc, Un Bois Vanille… are there more? could we go on ad infinitum?? Never mind. FdB has been rereleased through the Lutens house, slightly reformulated.  I tested the Shiseido version, and it is a gorgeous, dark, smooth scent that cascades over the skin like plum liqueur into a glass. It has body, it is opaque, it is startlingly strong and feminine at the same time.

FdB starts out with a honeyed, spiced plum note that never really leaves. From there, it moves into a deep, rich floral-spice heart that feels like a heavy satin robe the color of blackberries. I begin to smell the cedar at this point, and it is sweetly aromatic, highlighted by rose and violet and spice. Unfortunately, two hours in, the scent all but disappears from my skin. I suspect that perhaps a musk is at fault. Five hours from application, I can smell it again – very close to the skin, but present – and it is glorious. I’m always a fan of a good rich benzoin-vanilla-woody drydown, and this one is rich and robust. I cannot wear FdB without thinking of a shadowy paneled room in the evening, with a fire that has gone to coals in the fireplace.

Dolce Vita, on the other hand, was released by Dior in 1994. Bourdon won the brief for a new Dior fragrance, having submitted an early draft of Feminite du Bois. (I somehow wonder if that was embarrassing, or whether it might have been vindication that Here Is a Great Smell.) Dolce Vita was at one time unavailable in the US, but is apparently available again. Perfumista friends say that it has been reformulated and is much thinner; my own bottle of edp is older. I also own a tiny bottle of parfum, which is amazingly rich.  Please ignore the fruity floral Eau de Dolce Vita – I’m sure it’s nice enough, but it’s a totally different scent.

Dolce Vita, in contrast to the soft deep texture of FdB, sparkles off the skin with bright tangy fruit and the heady spiciness of lily. Instead of curried stewed fruit, I experience the fizz and sweetness of a bellini. DV’s heart is a floral-spice as well, and I seem to smell carnation as well as the lily and magnolia notes listed.   I begin to smell cedar and sandalwood (a bright, almost floral woody note – perhaps it is Australian sandalwood?) along with the florals. I do not smell the listed coconut, but the drydown is sweeter and less rich than in FdB, with heliotrope softly lingering on my skin with the woods. The texture here is not the satin-smoothness of FdB, but a rather pleasing irregularity, possibly like shantung. I cannot wear DV without thinking of a sunlit autumn afternoon, and I find that I prefer its golden, sunny disposition to the melancholy of Feminite du Bois.

Notes for Shiseido Feminite de Bois, from fragrantica.com:
Top: honey, carnation, ginger, cinnamon, cedar, rose
Heart: orange blossom, plum, peach, violet, beeswax, cloves, cardamom
Base: sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, benzoin, vanilla, atlas cedar


Notes for Dior Dolce Vita, also from fragrantica:
Top: lily, peach, bergamot, grapefruit, rose, cardamom
Heart: apricot, magnolia, lily, cinnamon, heliotrope
Base: sandalwood, vanilla, coconut, atlas cedar

Images, from top to bottom: forest shadows by AsAutumnDies; golden light by ..Peter…is back; both from flickr.
Shiseido Feminite du Bois and Dior Dolce Vita photos from fragrantica.

Share