Perfume Review: Balenciaga Paris

I had wanted to try Balenciaga Paris shortly after it came out last year. I like violets, and the bottle is pretty, and most of my regular blogs that had reviewed it mentioned that at least it wasn’t a fruity floral. In short, Not As Bad As It Could Have Been. Or, Could Be Worse. I finally got my hands on a sample (my thanks to Undina!) and immediately sprayed it on, to see what I thought.

The ad copy calls it a floral chypre and its creator (Olivier Polge) says of it, “It’s here. When you wear it. You smell it.” A lot of the original release material concerns its “face,” Charlotte Gainsbourg, about whom I know just a teaspoonful more than nothing. Also, I don’t think I’ve tried many Olivier Polge fragrances. I didn’t like Polge’s Pure Poison or Dior Homme (yeah, yeah, so sue me), or either of the Viktor & Rolf fragrances Polge authored. Also also, I like Le Dix and Rumba, but I’m not a big Balenciaga fan so I knew I could manage to be objective about this scent that ‘fume bloggers spent a lot of time discussing last year and into this.

The issue that seems to be getting in my way here is not Balenciaga or its fragrances, but the other scents called Paris. Coty had one, a soft floral focusing on a powdery rose-violet-lilac accord, with accents of carnation and heliotrope, released in 1921 and discontinued at some point before Yves St. Laurent released its behemoth floral of the same name, the vehemently-pink, loud and cheerful yet romantic rose-violet scent that embodies the 1980s so well. I like both of those fragrances, though I’ve only worn the Coty from a dabber vial (thanks, Donna!). I do understand that this fragrance is meant to be the embodiment of the Balenciaga house of fashion, but because I don’t follow haute couture fashion – or, indeed, any fashion at all – the reference is really lost on me.

Balenciaga Paris – hereinafter referred to as B. Paris – is very, very different from those two scents. It’s relatively quiet, and its violet accent is very pleasant, but it’s so… beige. I don’t understand it. A comment on Now Smell This suggests that B. Paris is something like Cashmere Mist, and although they do not smell alike, there is the veil effect that Cashmere Mist does so nicely. I don’t care much for Cashmere Mist myself, since it seems highly chemical to me. B. Paris escapes that chemical aura and smells fairly natural except for its basenotes.

Bergdorf Goodman calls B. Paris, “a lovely paradox. A demure violet with airy blossom and delicate peppery notes. A fragrance that is mysterious and fragile, yet leaves a lasting trail.” Fragrantica lists notes of violet, violet leaves, carnation, patchouli, and Virginia cedar.

I’ve worn B. Paris several times over the past few weeks and each time I have enjoyed the scent quite a lot in its opening stages. It is clearly violetty, a sweet fruity violet that I think is adorable. There is a fresh green cast from the violet leaves. It is a little frustrating to me that this stage doesn’t last very long, because it’s my favorite part of the scent. Although the violet is sweet, it’s tempered by the violet leaf and that dry cedar, as well as some not-listed but clearly-present musk that goes on and on and provides the longevity of B. Paris. I don’t get much carnation, which is a shame. I love carnation.

It’s funny… the more I wear B. Paris, the less I have to say about it, except that it is quite pleasant. I don’t perceive a lot of sillage with it, and the musk portion lasts a long time, albeit very close to the skin. Do I love it? Do I want a bottle? Nope. It’s a little… dare I even say this?… boring.

I mean, I geddit, okay? It’s a violet skin scent. That in itself is really fairly nice; I like violet and I’m happy to see a mainstream fragrance highlight that most old-fashioned note. I have no complaints about it. I’m just not compelled. And forget the description of “modern floral chypre” – I don’t even get a lot of patchouli, that linchpin of “modern chypre” fragrance. It just isn’t a chypre. It is a floral woody musk, with a faintly earthy cast deep into the drydown, like dry clay. I like it. I think it would be impossibly to hate it. I just don’t long for it the way I do some of my other Scent Veil fragrances such as Mariella Burani, or the scent most ‘fume bloggers love to make fun of, Marc Jacobs Daisy.

Other reviews: Katie Puckrik Smells, Robin at Now Smell This, Patty at Perfume Posse, Dane at Pere de Pierre, Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am, and Abigail’s separate review at ISTIA, Grain de Musc, The Non-Blonde, That Smell. Reviews range from “This is growing on me,” to “Nice, but not something I have to have.”

Image is from Fragrantica.

 

 

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Perfume Review: Moschino L’Eau Cheap and Chic

I had had a vague impression that Moschino’s fragrances fared pretty well in Perfumes: The Guide, having been moved to try a couple of them on the basis of their reviews. However, I went back through the updated paperback version, which is actually titled Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, and found that three Moschino fragrances (Cheap & Chic, L’Eau C&C, Friends Men) received three stars, two (Funny!, Moschino) received four stars, and three more (Glamour, Hippy Fizz, and Uomo?) received only two. So, not as consistently good as I had remembered, but still, the brand’s overall grade is a solid, if undistinguished, C.

The review of L’Eau Cheap and Chic (“aldehydic resinous”), by Tania Sanchez, compared it to one of my dear loves, La Myrrhe:

This sleek little number uses a big dose of some funny salty-anisic herb, like sage or tarragon, plus a smooth, translucent pine-resin smell and vetiver background to give its soap-powder floral a haunting twist, which for a while does a pretty good likeness of Serge Lutens’s insanely wonderful (and not sold outside of Paris) La Myrrhe. A nice surprise.

The “pretty good likeness of… La Myrrhe” reference completely overwhelmed my natural resistance to “soap-powder floral,” “pine-resin and vetiver,” and “salty-anisic herb” references, the more fool I, and I bought a mini bottle on ebay late last summer. I was thrilled to open the little green-and-orange box and pull out the bulbous little bottle, hoping against hope for something that approximated the rosy, calm, shot-with-gold-light peacefulness of La Myrrhe, at a price less than Firstborn Child.

I was disappointed pretty quickly. I knew the review had said L’Eau C&C resembles La Myrrhe “for a while,” but honestly? It’s not even close. Sorry, but it’s Just Not. Not even the aldehydic start has much in common with La Myrrhe, much less the overall impression. I realize that LM is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it surely is mine: the sparkly aldehydes, the florals that don’t nominally include rose but somehow add up to a glowing deep pink color, the sharp, nearly medicinal aspect, the almost metallic tang. I love it. I find it comforting.

L’E C&C starts off with some dry aldehydes that make me think of talcum powder, and I suspect that if you hate aldehydes this is not going to be your kind of fragrance at all. Aldehydes can sometimes come off like powdered sugar, as in Chanel No. 22, but here they’re not sweet. The aldehydic start is followed by something vaguely herbal – it’s a little like opening up your spice cabinet and getting a whiff of all your tightly-closed herb jars, but less foody-savory. There may be some lavender in there, too, and definitely a pine note. I cannot pick out any florals at all, unless there be just a bare hint of some miscellaneous “fresh” note like freesia, or (a very bad) orange blossom; there is definitely a soapy quality to the fragrance that I don’t care much for. I don’t smell any anise, either. The thing is just so dry, it’s like unbuttered toast. After the almost-savory middle, there’s a salty, thin vetiver to end, and L’E C&C tails off rather gracefully into nothing. The whole ride is over in about three hours on me, if sprayed, and in about two if I dab, even generously. I certainly think it’s unisex (not that I’ll be able to talk The CEO into wearing it).

L’Eau Cheap & Chic is not all that bad, really. It’s certainly more interesting than a lot of middle-of-the-road fragrances that I’ve smelled: dry, outdoorsy, restrained by choice, sober, yet quirky. It reminds me a little bit of L’Artisan’s Passage d’Enfer (the pine), a little bit of Santa Maria Novello’s bizarre-yet-compelling Melograno (the dry, powdery aldehydes, the herbal and woody aspects), and a little bit of Cacharel’s Noa (the soapy floral), but does not remind me at all of La Myrrhe. And of course, Moschino is very reasonably priced, so it’s easy to pick up a mini here or there. But if I’m being honest, I have to say that I don’t like it.

Notes for L’Eau Cheap & Chic: Lily, rose, freesia, grapes, anise, orange, vetiver, heliotrope, amber. It was composed by Ilias Ermenidis and released in 2001. Oddly, the aldehydes – which are most definitely present, are not listed. Vetiver is the only listed note that really stands out to me, and I would not even call this thing a floral, as it doesn’t smell in any way floral to me. As for the grapes and orange, I don’t smell them either. Could be they’re buried under snowy aldehydes, but typically I like fruity-aldehydic florals (witness my love for Iris Poudre and Ferre 20), and I don’t get even a hint of fruit in L’Eau C & C.

I can only find reviews at the fragrance forums – Basenotes, Fragrantica, Makeup Alley – and they seem singularly unhelpful in this instance, being mostly made up of descriptors like “clean,” “young,” “powdery,” “musky,” “stinky,” “boring,” or “sexy.” (Yes, apparently some people have a fetish for soap.)   Image from Fragrantica.

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A fragrance that smells like soap and flowers…

I think I may have gotten a little snarky over on Now Smell This recently, where the topic of discussion was Jennifer Aniston’s new perfume, Lolavie.    (Edit: the name “Lolavie” was axed after Marc Jacobs’ PR people threatened to sue Aniston if she didn’t change the name to something less like MJ’s Lola.  I don’t think anybody would have mixed up the two: Lola is a big sweet floral mess in a tacky bottle, IMO.  Lolavie was renamed “Jennifer Aniston” just before its release.)  A number of regular commenters opined that although it doesn’t sound like a fruity or sugary scent, it sounded suspiciously like a non-perfume perfume: “clean but sexy” and “floral but not flowery” sure seems an awful lot like Overpriced Nothing in a Bottle to some of us.  A commenter who’s relatively new to the blog – and hooray for that, I say!  It’s wonderful when new people show up and have a different opinion – commented that clean, floral-soap scents smell terrific to her, and that even if she bathes with scented soap, that light clean fragrance doesn’t last all day, and she’d like her perfume to smell clean and flowery for several hours, thank you. 

I said something like, Yes, that’s a very pleasant effect, but there are tons of things out there already that do that.  She commented that there isn’t a single fragrance genre that isn’t overrepresented, and she’s glad to see a nice, clean, inoffensive scent coming from Ms. Aniston.  She’s probably right on the plethora of everything currently on the market… except there can’t be too many fresh green florals for my taste (go see my ginormous post on green florals if you’re unconvinced).  So I apologize for intimating that we don’t need yet another Clean Floral, and I do hope rbrown (her user name at NST) sticks around and joins the fumeheads in commenting – and of course, she’s very welcome here!  It’s not often that we all agree on something anyway; quite a number of perfumista faves I just hate (Opium, Bandit, Poison, and Aromatics Elixir come to mind), and I’m unrepentant.  You Like What You Like, Period.

So it got me to thinking, how many of us do enjoy scents that smell like you’ve washed with a lovely floral soap?  I admit, there are a few I like, although it’s not a genre I’d call a favorite, and I have to be in the mood for “floral soap” or it just annoys me.  And my mother, She of No. 5, also likes that effect – just about every scent she’s ever worn has had either a soapy or powdery facet (sometimes both!), so that “floral soap” says, definitively, MOM to me.   Mind you, I’m  not “above” smelling like soap and flowers.  Sometimes you just want to smell like you have recently had a shower; there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  It’s very pleasant.

I’m putting up a poll: do you like “floral soap” scents or not? 

[polldaddy poll=3069120]

If you do like floral soap scents, I’d love to know which are your favorites.  Here are some fragrances that smell like floral soap to me:

Chanel No. 5  Far more complex than “floral soap,” of course, but it does have elements (the aldehydes, the musks) that remind me of soap. 

Cacharel Anais Anais  Mom wore this one, too, after her old bottle of No. 5 edc ran low.  Sharper and more herbal than No. 5, it nonetheless conjures up a tubful of bubbles for me. 

Coty L’Effleur In the “smells like you just bathed with a nice French soap” category, we have a winner.  This scent created in the early 90’s and discontinued some years ago, is in my opinion an absolute dead ringer for a lovely hard-milled French soap scented with flowers.  Mom wore this for several years, and what she liked about it was precisely that it smelled like good soap. 

 Alfred Sung Shi  Mom recently bought this for my sister, who normally wears Coco Mlle (and who once wore Dune).  My sister liked its clean smell.  When I commented that I thought it smelled like water (I wasn’t being complimentary), A. said, “Oh, yes!  Isn’t that nice? It’s not heavy at all, it’ll be nice for summer.”  I shut up then.

Annick Goutal Eau du Ciel  Recently I discovered this little-known fragrance (my thanks to Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am), and it smells to me like nothing so much as line-dried bed linens.  This is a smell I absolutely adore.  Nothing smells so downright clean and effortlessly wonderful as sheets dried on the line outdoors, especially if hay is being made nearby as it frequently is on our farm.  Sheets dried on the clothesline smell like grass, flowers, fresh air, and sunshine – even if you pack them away in the linen closet for awhile.  Notes on this fragrance: sweet grasses, hay, linden, violet leaves, rosewood, iris.  It’s not exactly Floral Soap, but it does have the Clean +  Flowers feeling.

Vintage Lauren by Ralph Lauren.  (Don’t bother with the currently-available-at-retail, it’s a bottleful of nothingness.)  This scent, in its ruby-colored cube bottle, brings back a lot of memories of college for me, as it was a scent worn by a friend.  Notes include: green notes, rose, violet, and oakmoss, and the effect is exactly that of floral-herbal soap.  Lovely.  I bought a partially-used bottle on ebay for less than $10, and the scent is worth far more than that.

Ivoire de Balmain.  I hesitate about including this one, because it’s such a shape-shifter.  Starts out with a galbanum blast (not exactly a “floral soap” element) and then moves into a beautiful soap smell.  Pretty soon the moss comes to join the soap, and this stage is a bit iffy on me – it only seems to work if the weather’s humid and warm.  Eventually, the drydown gets rich and honeyed – back to the floral soap, but with some amber and woods too.  The “soap” is dead on, but there’s so much else going on in there that I’m not sure this one really belongs.

(Edit alert!  I remembered a couple more soapies.)

Donna Karan Cashmere Mist   A heckuva lotta people love this one; it’s a perennial seller, but it’s my personal definition of boooooooring.  It’s the epitome of just-out-of-the-bubble-bath, where you poured in a ton of Ivory body wash (which, I admit, I really like, especially Fresh Snow, which I can’t find anymore, sad sad face) and then after drying off, smoothed six layers of really rich body lotion on and spent three hours rubbing it in.  Ivory body wash + creamy lotion.  I mean, nice, but… gosh. Dull.

Cacharel Noa  I once owned a mini bottle of this, which I kept wearing to work before I realized that it might possibly be the reason I kept getting sleepy halfway through the morning.  The list of notes is extraordinarily long for a fragrance that smells like a post-bath nap, and I never got the cilantro or coffee that P:TG raved about.  TS rhapsodizes in her review that although Noa is quiet, it always seems to have something new to say.  To me, it was as if the “something new” was simply the next name in the phone book.

(Subsequent edit, April 4, 2011: ran across another soapy fragrance.)

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Flora Nymphea   Ran across this in an airport Duty Free shop, spritzed it on a whim, and immediately decided I was getting my mother a miniature bottle.  It’s an orange-blossom soapy thing, quite pleasant.  I’m not the only one finding it soapy, either – I’ve seen at least four blog reviews saying the same thing. 

Here are a few more that have been recommended by various people as smelling like Floral Soap (I haven’t smelled them myself, and can’t comment on how closely they resemble soap):

Floris Seringa

Lacoste Pour Femme

Dolce & Gabbana original for women

Philosophy Pure Grace

Bvlgari Petits et Mamans

ByRedo Blanche

What do you say?

Image is Lovely green soap and dish from sunshinesyrie at flickr.com.

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