Mini-review Roundup, March 6, 2015

roundupCaron Pour une Femme – I’ve been interested in trying this for some time now. C’mon, I know that I don’t typically get on with the classic Caron fragrances (oh, don’t get me started), but this one is typically labeled a floral chypre. Okay, maybe we could be quibbling over whether it’s a floral chypre or a chypre floral – that is, whether it is primarily a chypre with a strong floral angle, or primarily a floral with chypre undertones. That’s a distinction I don’t feel myself particularly qualified to answer.

pour une femeHowever, Pour une Femme, originally released in 1934 and reformulated who knows how many times (definitely in 2001, when it was reorchestrated by Richard Fraysse) is actually one of those modern chypres. I smell very little oakmoss in here. Plenty of dark marmalade-y orange to start with (as with many Carons, the topnotes are not particularly nice), plus a deep rose and some orange blossom. Lots of patchouli, lots of amber. Deep into the drydown there’s a bit of incense. It’s pleasant. If you’re a Coco Mademoiselle/modern floral-chypre fan, it might suit you well. I’m glad I sampled rather than springing for one of those adorable silhouette bottles – seriously, is this not a fabulous bottle? I love it. It goes more ambery the longer it’s on skin and I like it less.

Notes (via Fragrantica): Orange blossom, mandarin, orange, incense, rose, vetiver, musk, sandalwood, amber. The patchouli isn’t listed, but it’s there.
Another review: Victoria at EauMG.

satin dollUzac Satin Doll – yes, another one of those modern floral chypres. There’s quite a bit of raw-carroty iris root in the topnotes of this one, though, and I rather like it. Can’t help being unimpressed in the first half hour, though, because where’s the tuberose? I was promised tuberose. And rose. And incense.

It was named for Duke Ellington’s jazz standard (listen to Ella Fitzgerald sing it here on Youtube.)

This one, I like more and more the longer it’s on skin. Oddly, the florals show up deeper into the base than they typically do, and they stick around awhile. It’s really lovely; I find myself thinking of Penhaligon’s Eau Sans Pareil (the new one – I never smelled the older version) and how refreshing and elegant it is.
Iris can sometimes feel satiny to me, and I like its presence here in Satin Doll. There is actually a bit of oakmoss in here, though I find myself wondering if it’s the atranol-free version. Not that that’s bad, necessarily – it just doesn’t feel like an old-school powerhouse chypre. Which is not a dealbreaker for me. The patchouli, too, is the heart-note stuff, very green and austere, no powdery dirt mess. There’s a good bit of wood in here, and a bunch of black pepper. I seem to have gotten more iris out of it than some other reviewers did, but since I’m not particularly fond of rooty iris, that isn’t really an enthusiastic recommendation. This is a nice smell. Not shelling out for it – and it doesn’t smell much like the song sounds to me – but it’s nice.

Two more reviews for you: The Silver Fox at Ca Fleure Bon and Angela at NST.
Notes (Fragrantica): elemi, pink pepper, black pepper, iris, tuberose, jasmine, rose, myrrh, incense, patchouli, opoponax, oakmoss.

I had also planned to include a review of Bogue Maai, but my reactions to that one were… um… unconventional, to say the least, so I’ll be putting that review up later.  I’ve also got reviews for Hiram Green Moon Bloom and Shangri-La written, as well. Watch this space for those.

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Oh, the tragedy! the loss! Jacomo Silences to be revamped

Thanks to a tweet from Robin at NST (@nowsmellthis), I’ve read the news: Jacomo has revamped its classic green-floral-chypre Silences.  I feel a rant coming on…

This article at CosmetiqueMag, dated February 13, 2012, describes the changes in French.  I don’t speak or read French (I took Latin and Spanish, and precious little good it does me with perfume, I tell you), so I went to Yahoo’s BabelFish translation page to get a better handle on this news item, which reads like this: 

Image from CosmetiqueMag.

Jacomo renoue avec Silences: Propriété de Sarbec depuis 1995, la marque remet au goût du jour Silences, son classique de 1978. Le jus, un chypre-vert aux facettes animales, a été revisité par Serge Majoullier (Mane). Il en a fait une composition plus moderne et lumineuse, tout en gardant le caractère vert de la fragrance, avec du galbanum et du cassis, un trio floral rose-iris-narcisse et un fond boisé-musqué. Le flacon noir garde la même allure mais la typographie du nom a été modernisée.

I suspect that BabelFish isn’t a particularly good translator.  This literary gem is what it managed to come up with:

Jacomo joins again with Silences:  Property of Sarbec since 1995, the mark gives to the last style Silences, its traditional of 1978. The juice, a Cyprus-green with the animal facets, was revisited by Serge Majoullier (Basket). It made a more modern and luminous composition of it, while keeping the green character of the fragrance, with galbanum and blackcurrant, a floral trio pink-iris-Narcisse and a wooded-musky bottom. The black bottle keeps the same pace but the typography of the name was modernized.

Ummmmyeeeeaah.  I’m going to mess with the English version myself to see if I can induce it to make sense:

Jacomo relaunches Silences:  Owned by Sarbec since 1995, the brand has revamped its 1978 classic Silences for modern tastes. The juice, a green chypre with animalic facets, was revisited by Serge Majoullier (Mane). The composition was made more modern and luminous while keeping the green character of the fragrance, with galbanum and blackcurrant, a floral trio of rose-iris-narcissus and a woody-musk base. The black bottle remains the same, but the font of the name was modernized.

Better?  I hope so.  (Mane is an aromachemical company and its name should not have been translated.  Basket??  Pfaugh.  Also, the verb tenses were inconsistent, and I don’t know enough French to tell whether that was the fault of the original article or not.) 

NOW we get to my real point:  They’re messing with Silences again.  Is there oakmoss listed in the notes? Iris? Nope.  Dang it, this gorgeous otherworldly thing, the greenest smell possible, this galbanum genius, is likely going to wind up smelling like the revamped Lanvin Rumeur.  I’m going to be ticked.

Of course, I have two big bottles of Silences parfum de toilette, and it’s probably a lifetime supply (and Bookworm hates this galbanum anyway so I have to be careful where I wear it), but I am going to be ticked if they screw it up.  I suppose that A) it’s been reformulated before, maybe multiple times, and B) there was no way they could have kept all that oakmoss in the formula anyway – but if it loses that strangely eerie, meditative, coolsmoothsatin quality, they might as well scrap the darn thing.

floating on green satin
This is what wearing Silences should feel like.

There’s so far no word on when this will take place.  It may very well be that the revamped Silences will be decent, if completely different in character than the Silences I know and love.  I mean, if they’re putting real narcissus in there with the rose, it might have a chance. But in that case, I think I’d prefer that Jacomo discontinue Silences and give the new thing a completely different name.

Awkward Silences, anybody?   (Apologies to the amazing Jack Mason.)

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Perfume Review: Chanel 31 Rue Cambon

This fragrance, frequently deemed the most striking and original of the six “Les Exclusifs de Chanel” released in 2007, has been reviewed by many, many perfume bloggers… but not by me. Robin at Now Smell This reviewed it in the context of the Exclusifs collection; Victoria at Bois de Jasmin reviewed it as a stand-alone. Denyse at Grain de Musc reviewed it as reminding her of Great Chypres We Have Known, several in succession (and so, famously, did Tania Sanchez in Perfumes: The Guide, in a small difference of opinion from Luca Turin). Recently, Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am reviewed it as fulfilling a brief that simply said “elegance” and “the most Chanel of all the Chanels.”

Looks like it’s my turn. I’m reviewing it from the perspective of having heard that 31 RC, as I’ll call it, was “good,” and as a newbie to perfume, I should try it. Dear Daisy sent me a sample, and I had to agree: it is good. Shortly thereafter I got in on a bottle split, and own a sadly-depleted 10ml decant.*  Incidentally, the Les Exclusifs were originally only available in 200ml bottles, selling at about $210, but have recently been made available in 75ml bottles, at $110.

31 Rue Cambon, named for the apartment which Coco Chanel kept Much has been made of 31 RC being the “no-oakmoss chypre,” or the first “modern chypre.” I should probably mention that I’m not one of those people who throws tantrums about my chypres having their teeth pulled. (I know, I know, it hurts to lose the things you love, and if the use of rose in perfumes were suddenly restricted the way oakmoss has been, you’d better bet I’d be pitching seventeen kinds of hissy fit.) But then, I only love chypres if they are heavily floral, and I’m not all that bothered by less oakmoss. I’ve always said, if a fragrance has that bitter edge to it, even if it has less oakmoss than a “proper” chypre should, it’s a chypre in my book. If you’re a big fan of the bitter greenies like Bandit – or Diorella, even – 31 Rue Cambon will not seem like much of a chypre to you.

And in point of fact, it doesn’t seem like all that much of a chypre to me. I would classify it alongside Guerlain’s lovely (and discontinued, grrrr) Attrape-Coeur and my darling Teo Cabanel Alahine as a Floral Amber.

Notes for 31 Rue Cambon, cobbled from reviews and the Chanel website: bergamot, jasmine, iris, patchouli, labdanum. This is surely not a complete list; the fragrance is far more complex than that, and I suspect that the amber note is not straight-up labdanum but rather the Ambre 83 base that Luca Turin mentions as being the centerpiece of Attrape-Coeur. It is, however, a list that mentions every note discernible to me.   Some reviewers mention pepper, but I don’t pick up on it.

Now that I’ve gotten the “to chypre or not to chypre” discussion out of the way, what’s 31 RC actually like? It starts off with bright citrusy notes of lemon and bergamot, with just a tiny hint of bitter-green, and for just a moment or two I think of Chanel Cristalle, that classic citrus chypre (which, for the record, I do not love). After the first five minutes, I’m already smelling amber underneath the citrus. It’s the same rich, plush-but-not-too-sweet amber note that you get with those other floral- amber fragrances I already mentioned, and which I also smell in Mitsouko (another chypre I don’t love). 31 Rue Cambon seems to slide effortlessly from citrus into jasmine, and from there into gorgeous satiny iris, but everything always underpinned with the soft amber. There is a bare hint of patchouli in the base, but – thank goodness – it’s the aged, green/herbal kind, and merely a suggestion anyway, not enough to bludgeon me. The fragrance is seamless in its transitions, and even after the citrus and jasmine are gone, they have left an impression on my brain, so that even the far drydown carries with it a suggestion of the way 31 RC smelled from the beginning.

The entire scent is a perfect model of elegance – clean lines, nothing sticking out, nothing overemphasized. It’s not the crisp elegance of a perfectly-pressed white blouse or the stern perfection of a tight chignon with not a hair out of place, however. It’s far more comfortable and effortless than crisp and restrained, and it imparts a graceful, smiling demeanor. When I wear it, I feel rich – and, somehow, nicer.

31 RC is thick, like a full chord, and yet somehow airy and weightless. This is a quality it seems to share with Chanel No. 5 – it’s lushly sensual, and at the same time it is never too much. The seamlessness, the tactile satin effect, make it very easy to wear despite its fullness.

The one quibble I have with 31 RC is the same one that most people have with it: it’s a little too light. Chanel needs a parfum concentration of this. I keep seeing the prediction that they’re working on a parfum and it’ll be released any moment, but we’re now four years (almost five!) into the life of this scent, and there is no parfum available, nor any definite announcement of one coming to the market. Which makes me wonder if the balance goes off somehow when you try to strengthen the mixture. This makes me a little sad: I love Bois des Iles, too, but it’s so fleeting that the Les Exclusifs EdT just frustrates me. Knowing that the parfum is available, even if I can’t afford it, makes me feel a little better. 31 Rue Cambon does have a slightly stronger presence than Bois des Iles, and it does last for close to four hours on me, twice as long as BdI, but I have to snorfle my wrist to smell it for that last hour.

That said, I still think 31 RC is wonderful. “Distilled elegance” sounds about right to me as a short descriptor. I think I’m always going to want to have a small amount on hand, for wear when I feel I might need a reminder that I’m a worthy human being.

A few other reviews, besides the ones linked in the first paragraph (and I do mean a few – there are dozens more!):  Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things calls 31RC “austere, yet opulent,” and I’d agree wholeheartedly.  Dane at Pere de PierreAbigail at ISTIAThe Non-BlondeFor the Love of Perfume1000 Scents.  

* Here’s some further information on bottle splits (scroll down into the post), in case you’re not familiar with this wonderful opportunity for owning small amounts of full bottles you can’t afford. In my case, there are a lot of scents I’d love to own, but can’t swing $200 a pop; sometimes I don’t even want a whole bottle, and 5 or 10 ml is the perfect amount. Splits are the way to go, if possible. Robin at NST has more information, too.

Image of 31 Rue Cambon bottle from Fragrantica.  Image of Coco Chanel and Suzy Parker ca. 1957 from The Recessionista.

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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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