Monday. First one of the year. Yippee.

Friday faceThe boys go back to school on Wednesday, so I got them up at (close to) their usual get-up-for-school times today, to get used to it again – and you wouldn’t believe the ill temper and grouching.

Oh, wait, that was me. I’ve been sleeping as late as 8:30 am… I know, I know, slugabed. 6:45 came way too soon today.

I’ve noticed over the past three or four months that I haven’t felt like trying new fragrances. Sure, I’ve taken sniffs of the newish drugstore cheapies, when I’ve been picking up prescriptions and replacing my mascara, and I think I even got inside the mall once and smelled… oh, what was that thing?  Some Lauder thing, I think, or was it Oscar de la Renta? I can’t even remember. But I have all these samples from Surrender to Chance languishing on my dresser, and I hadn’t been able to muster any enthusiasm for them.

Until today. Today I’m trying a sample of Sisley Soir de Lune, a floral chypre that Luca Turin called a “cheap and nasty knockoff of Parfum de Peau.” You know, I rather liked PdP, at least in small doses, but it’s a bit… okay, it’s raunchy when you get right down into it. Leather and castoreum, if I remember correctly. Soir de Lune reminded me of a cross between L’Arte di Gucci and Coco Mademoiselle, without that screechy quality that Coco Mlle has on me. This is the diva on a Sunday afternoon, lying on her couch and reading romance novels. It’s a modern chypre for sure, and I can see why lovers of the old-school mossy chypres dismiss it, but I am finding it rather pleasant, a “clean” and floral scent giving homage to the rose chypres of the past. This is a Dominique Ropion creation, and I don’t know what his budget was (which often seems to make the difference between Ropion scents that I like and Ropion scents that I don’t), but it has that roundness and self-confidence that I associate with fragrances composed by him.

Anybody familiar with this one?

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Valentine’s Day 2012: A Dozen Roses, Bottled

The classic – some would say cliché – gift to a woman on Valentine’s Day is, of course, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a dozen red roses, and jewelry. (My teenage daughter’s boyfriend brought her a card and six red roses yesterday; she gave him a handmade card and some candy. All together now: awwww, how sweet!) I don’t like chocolate in perfume, and the idea of jeweled perfumes will have to wait for another day, so here’s a look at some rose perfumes that I love. (Also, it’s an excuse to post beautiful pictures of roses.)

I do indeed love, love fragrances in which rose plays a major part, from light and girlish ones all the way through to dark Gothic ones. So many fragrances contain at least a little bit of rose – even if you can’t smell it on its own, it’s there, making everything smell round and full. I’ll admit up front that it is very, very difficult to find a rose fragrance that smells just like a freshly-cut dewy rose, because in order to obtain rose essence, the rose petals have to be treated in some way – from steam distillation to enfleurage (which involves pressing fresh petals in fat), to the modern scientific method called distillation moléculaire – and you always get “cooked” rose, not fresh. I figure if I want fresh roses, I’ll go to the florist.

For rose perfumes, I have a stash! Some of my favorites, starting from the light and girlish end:

Continue reading Valentine’s Day 2012: A Dozen Roses, Bottled

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Perfume Review: MFK Lumiere Noire pour femme

A Rose in Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss, at Amazon.com

I have to blame Denyse of Grain de Musc for this one, which she described as a “bodice-ripper rose.” Because, baby, it really is.

(Not that I regularly participate in bodice ripping of any type, since I never wear bodices, except possibly to church, which is not exactly prime bodice-ripping real estate. It might be Frowned Upon. Even if the church meets in a middle school auditorium and sits in plastic-and-aluminum chairs and listens to music played upon drums and electric guitars. Maybe especially then.)

Ahem. As I say, Lumiere Noire pour femme is one of those woody-patchouli-rose concoctions that I seem to be a total sucker for. I enjoyed Agent Provocateur and its limited edition flanker, DD (Diamond Dust). I liked the part of Guerlain Rose Barbare that did not smell like Rose Barbare-shop (I’ve pretty well convinced myself at this point that this effect is due to an “amber” material that smells like Barbasol to me). I liked Parfums d’Empire Eau Suave. I liked Teo Cabanel Oha. I liked Etat Libre d’Orange Rossy de Palma – one of the few ELdO scents, along with Putain des Palaces and everybody’s dividing line, Secretions Magnifiques, that I’ve bothered to smell. I liked Parfums de Rosine’s gritty Folie de Rose. I even liked the reformulated Lanvin Rumeur, for heaven’s sake – not enough to buy it, but enough to spray from the sample vial and say to myself, “Hey, this isn’t bad!” The fact that Francis Kurkdjian seems to be fond of this kind of thing, to the degree that he keeps playing with variations of it (i.e. the aforementioned Rumeur, Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance, Rose Barbare), doesn’t really bother me at all, despite the blogospheric sneers that we’ve smelled it all before: Derivative. Smells like Stella smells like Rose Barbare smells like Sisley Soir de Lune smells like Lady Vengeance smells like Perles de Lalique smells like Coriandre. Boring. Show us Something New.

And I agree, woody-rose-patchouli has been Done Before. L’Artisan Voleur de Roses might have started the revival of this style of fragrance, according to some sources, but it was dreadful: a choking cloud of earthy, oily, yet sharp patchouli, dusted with dried rose petals. I lived through it, but I was definitely not cheerful afterwards.

Also a fact to keep in mind: I really don’t care much for patchouli. Okay, full disclosure: most of the time, I hate patchouli. I seem to be very sensitive to it and can pick it up at extremely low levels, in fragrances where it’s not the focus. It tends to dominate fragrances, so that even if it’s not a star player, it seems like one to me. I don’t have any overtly headshoppy or hippie references for that; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been around any serious hippies and I’m quite sure I’ve never been in a head shop. It’s just that usually, patchouli seems dirty to me – musty, dusty, funky like old shoes, and I find it unpleasant.

I’ve seen a number of scent bloggers complaining in the last twelve months or so about the proliferation of “clean” patchouli in mainstream fragrances, and how boring that is, how un-patchouli-like, how unimaginative. But all I can say to that is that I rather like clean patchouli. It can be a bit astringent, when stripped of its earthiness, but that is preferable to me. Sometimes you’ll see this referred to as “patchouli heart note” or “refined patchouli,” and it is indeed a grade of patchouli oil that has been refined to remove certain aspects of the natural material.

Another thing I’ve noticed about my reaction to patchouli is that I seem to get on much, much better with it when the patchouli has been aged. It seems to soften and become more herbal and grassy, less dusty and earthy, as if the dried material has been revived to become fresh green leaves. It’s still pungent and aromatic, and almost camphor-y, but it seems that I like patch that way – surprise, surprise! Some of my very favorite fragrances contain a nice herbal-smelling patchouli note, I realized recently: Le Temps d’une Fete comes to mind, in particular.

I like patchouli still better when it’s paired with rose, as I was mentioning earlier with all that talk about Agent Provocateur and Rossy de Palma. There’s just something about sweet, lemony, floral rose that marries well with the herbal-woody-aromatic strength of patchouli; the materials contrast, but somehow share a vibrancy and brightness. The combination is something like a good duet, where the two voices have similar timbres and vibratory frequencies, though they’re singing in different octaves.

Im Boudoir, by Karoly Teuchert, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Lumiere Noire pour femme does not disappoint me. Right after applying it, I get a moment or two of bright, lemon-candy patchouli, and then I can smell the rose-patchouli duet. There is a period when I really notice the lily of the valley, although I might simply be familiar with the rose-patchouli-muguet combination from smelling Guerlain Idylle EdT (not the original EdP), which has quite a lot of muguet in it as well as those other items. After this bright start, the heart notes settle more deeply into the rose-patchouli territory, the fragrance darkens, and I begin to notice the slightly warm and dirty influence of narcissus and of cumin, both leading toward thoughts of sweaty skin and (dare I say it?) the boudoir. There’s also a hint of something dry and smoky in the drydown, perhaps just a tiny bit of frankincense? It has the sort of lime-pine effect that frankincense sometimes does, and that’s what I think I’m smelling. The entire effect of the fragrance is of light shading toward dark, as if the neon lights and chandeliers of a dressy evening out have led to a passionate personal encounter in the dimness of a private room.

Needless to say, I find it very sexy.

During the short period of time that I owned a small decant of Frederic Malle’s hugely-popular Portrait of a Lady, I compared Lumiere Noire pf to PoaL, one on each wrist. Before that, I would have described Lumiere Noire to be a Dark Rose, a dark gothic rose with kohl-lidded eyes. But next to each other, Lumiere Noire glowed like a candle, while all light disappeared into the far, far darker Portrait of a Lady, proving PoaL to be the true Darkest Rose I’ve come across. Eventually, I grew tired of the heavy balsam in the drydown of PoaL and sent my decant off to a good home with a friend. Although I think PoaL is a truly wonderful fragrance, I just couldn’t manage to wear it myself.

Theda Bara as Carmen, movie still from 1915, Wikimedia Commons

Then I tried Lumiere Noire next to Agent Provocateur Diamond Dust. APDD is recognizable as another rose-patchouli fragrance, but it is another mood altogether, flirty and girl-next-door-sexy compared to the serious, vampy Theda Bara all-out-seduction of Lumiere Noire. The Agent Provocateur is sweeter, with lighter florals (I think I smell jasmine), and friendlier, with more wood and light musk than patchouli.

Notes, according to the MFK site: rose, narcissus, pepper, lily of the valley, patchouli, balsam, orris, cumin. I don’t smell orris or pepper, and I’m not sure what FK means by “balsam,” unless it’s that note I thought might be frankincense. It is available at LuckyScent and Neiman-Marcus, as well as Liberty in the UK, and the Maison Francis Kurkdjian website, at $165 for 70 ml. My decant is about half gone, though I save it for special occasions.

Other reviews:  Denyse at Grain de Musc, Patty at Perfume Posse (brief), Octavian at 1000Fragrances.  In brief blog mentions or comments, Katie Puckrik called it “bombshell rose”, but Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am was underimpressed.  (I was disappointed.  Brian and I often like the same sort of thing.)

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The Shaving Cream Conundrum, Part II – and a mini-review of Guerlain Rose Barbare

It’s me.

Isn’t it?

I mean, it has to be. No one else is complaining.

It’s me.

There is either something about my skin, or something about my nose, that turns perfectly nice fragrances into the smell of shaving cream. I ranted about this phenomenon way back in the fall, and I’m not going to rant again, but I just don’t get it.

It happened again today.

You might already know of my love for rose chypres, given how I natter on about L’Arte di Gucci and PdE Eau Suave and Ungaro Diva and how wonderful Knowing parfum was for two hours before the Evil Lauder Base sent its throttling tendrils up to nauseate me. I even liked Rose de Nuit pretty well, although its weird chewy texture sort of freaked me out. You know how certain types of cheeses and dried-up marshmallows (don’t ask me how I know this) just squeak in your teeth when you bite them? Rose de Nuit squeaks.

So I was thrilled to receive a swap parcel with a sample vial of Guerlain Rose Barbare, from the niche-y L’Art et la Matiere line (as always, please ‘scuse the lack of diacriticals). Word on this one went like this: “ambery rose,” “dark thorny rose,” “modern chypre with rose,” “Mitsouko with rose instead of peach.” And I thought, “Ooooh, a rose Mitsouko, maybe I’d like that. And look, it’s composed by Francis Kurkdjian, he of the stunning, sexy, modern rose chypre Lumiere Noire Pour Femme!”

Guerlain’s description of Rose Barbare: “a heady, incisive Ottoman rose (aldehydes) over a modern structure of honey-chypree notes”.  You’d think they’d be more forthcoming, instead of insulting potential customers by not bothering to tell them what’s in it, but no. That’s all you get in the way of notes: rose, aldehydes, honey, and chypre (bergamot, labdanum, patchouli and something mossy-ish, I’m guessing, in the manner of modern chypres).

I dabbed Rose Barbare onto my wrists Tuesday afternoon and went to pick up Bookworm from track practice, a twenty-minute trip. And things started out well: clearly a beautiful high quality rose ingredient here, framed in some nice green stuff that seems to be mostly patchouli of the kind I tolerate well, all grassy and herbal. But within fifteen minutes, I was getting shaving cream. And it stayed shaving cream for the next five hours, too.

There’s no getting around it: it’s shaving cream. I stuck my wrist under Gaze’s nose and asked what he smelled.  Separately, I asked Bookworm.  They both identified it immediately, without any hints.  And let me be perfectly honest here, I think shaving cream smells great. It’s a smell I find extremely pleasant on a man. Fougeres tend to remind me of shaving cream – I assume that’s a trickle-down effect, by the way: a body care product picking up the smell of fine fragrance. And I don’t want to belabor the point here when other scent bloggers have addressed the issue of gender in fragrance so well and thoroughly,1 but I don’t want to smell like shaving cream! It’s a smell so clearly identified with men in my mind that wearing it on my person feels like wearing men’s underwear when I’m not one: clearly it doesn’t fit me. It chafes.

There are other accords that bother me: the cloying yet dusty Coco-Opium-Cinnabar-Youth Dew-Stetson-Tabu tolu balsam + patchouli accord; the depressing soapiness of orange blossom; the flat, chemical cleaning-products accord I sometimes get from linden and/or muguet notes; the musty-basement thing I can’t quite pin down, but seems related to carrot seed, or iris, or powdery violet; and whatever it is in that dang Lauder base, and in SSS Vintage Rose, that makes me want to toss my cookies. It’s only ToluPatch and Lauder that are bad enough to force me to scrub – the others I struggle through rather than washing off.

I’m not a big fan of citrus, classical colognes, or what Robin at NST calls “wood pudding scents,” (search there for more info) either, but that’s a boredom issue, not a sanity issue.

It’s only the dreaded shaving cream accord that rouses my righteous ire this way, and I think that’s because I tend to avoid the other accords, which is pretty easy. It says “Lauder” right there on the bottle. Ergo, avoid. No prob. The scent description says “balsamic oriental”? I know it’s not for me. The fragrance is focused on OB or linden or iris? Probably not gonna be my bag, I won’t bother with it. There are too many other scents I want to try anyway, I’m probably not missing much.

But shaving cream accord? There’s no warning for that. It always strikes out of flippin’ nowhere. In so-called feminine scents. There I am, all happy in a green garden full of rose bushes, and then suddenly I’m trapped in the enormous stadium-size nightmare barbershop maze. Grrrrrrrr. Before testing, I read five perfume blog reviews of Rose Barbare, with comments, as well as about 40 brief reviews on Fragrantica and Basenotes, and nowhere was there a complete list of the notes (I guess Guerlain didn’t release them) or a description of RB as being even vaguely fougere-y.

The short list of suspects for Shaving Cream Accord (hereafter, SCA) are as follows: lavender, coumarin, and/or opoponax. I think further testing is in order – but if you happen to have any insights to share, I’d be ever so grateful.

A few other reviews of Rose Barbare:  Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, Aromascope, Perfume-Smellin’ Things, and Perfume Shrine.  See? Nobody says “shaving cream.”  Curses.  It’s me.

Top image is Barbershop pole from felixtcat at flickr; lower image is Rose Barbare from fragrantica.

1See this post and comments, and the follow-up post, at Grain de Musc and this one at Left Coast Nose, at minimum, for serious discussion on the subject that I frankly don’t have the cojones to address here. (Ha ha. Little gender humor there… of course, it’s a pun, which some people call the lowest form of humor.)

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Bouquet of Roses

The rose is so central to perfumery that there is a stunningly long list of rose-centered fragrances, and an even longer list of fragrances that contain it but don’t focus on it.  Today I’m concentrating on perfumes in which rose plays a lead role.  I had thought of simply listing my favorite rose scents, but since a) that list is always changing and b) there are a large number of rose scents that I find pleasant but just Not My Thing, you get a BONUS LIST of all the rose scents I’ve either tried, want to try, or in some cases have simply heard of.  I’m hoping that this will be an organic, always-growing sort of list, and I’m certainly open to suggestions on the subject.   At the moment, there are more than 175 scents on the list, so I hope you’ll be able to find a few that suit you.

So. To simplify matters, I’m going to subdivide.  I’ll list the categories of rose scents that seem to make sense to me – feel free, of course, to ignore the categories or rearrange them however you see fit.  The names in color I’ve tested or worn myself.  Some of these may be vintage or discontinued.  Please forgive the lack of diacritical marks.

In each category, I’ll also be offering a very simple rating based on my very-personal reaction to each scent: I didn’t like it, I liked it, or I adored it.  These are entirely subjective, and you may hate every last one of my favorite rose scents, while finding my reject pile productive.  One perfumista’s “meh” is another one’s treasure. Dislike=*, Like=***, Love=*****. Simple and clear? Good. If it’s not, please ask a question about my idiosyncratic ordering system.

ROSE SOLIFLORES, or SIMPLE, FRESH, BRIGHT ROSE SCENTS:
Jo Malone Red Roses *** A little too powdery.
Sonoma Scent Studio Velvet Rose ***** Once the patchouli settles down, a lovely armful of crimson roses.
Creed Fleur de The’ Rose Bulgare*** Very like Sa Majeste’, but perhaps more lemony.
Montale Highness Rose ***** Beautiful, liqueur-like bright rose; v.v. expensive!
Serge Lutens Sa Majeste’ La Rose *** Lovely, fresh green rose with dewdrops on the petals. I don’t know why I don’t love it, but I don’t. For someone else, it might very well be five stars.
Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose *** A little on the mean side, a little too prim for my taste.
Stella McCartney Stella (Please note, there are several flankers for this one. I’m not listing them.)
Annick Goutal Rose Absolue
DSH Perfumes American Beauty *** Deep, rich winey crimson roses.  A little potpourri-ish in spots.
People of the Labyrinths A.Maze
Chloe eau de parfum, eau de toilette (not the old orange-colored tuberose/orange blossom version)
Bvlgari Rose Essentielle
Brousseau Ombre Rose
Vera Wang Truly Pink
Paul Smith Rose
Zara Rosa Bulgara
Crabtree & Evelyn Evelyn Rose
Les Parfums de Rosine Diabolo Rose
Lorenzo Villoresi Donna
Baby Phat Goddess
Keiko Mecheri Mihime
Caron Rose
Stetson Shania
YOSH Sottile
Floris White Rose
Floris China Rose
Shiseido White Rose
Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Rosa Magnifica
Czech & Speake Rose
* Very powdery, thin, squeaky thing.
Priscilla Presley Roses & More
Avon Roses, Roses
Coty La Rose Jacqueminot (vintage, discontinued, long-gone)
L’Occitane Rose 4 Reines
MDCI Rose de Siwa
Fragonard Apres Tout
B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful B Scent
I Profumo Miele Rosa (Honey of Rose) ***  Very pretty – also, very nearly naughty.  Smells like the sheets of a double bed, the morning after, when someone went to bed wearing a rose scent.  (Wasn’t Boudoir supposed to smell like that? Haven’t tried it yet.)

AMBERY OR ORIENTAL ROSES (excluding spicy orientals):
Lancome Mille et une Roses
 *** Lovely and very quiet. The very light ambery base keeps the rose from getting shrill. Well worth smelling, at least. (Why is the liquid blue, though?)
Chloe eau de parfum Intense
Agarscents Bazaar Ambergris Rose Attar (oil) *** Simple rose attar with salty notes. Great in the bath.

Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie * Rose and Dove soap.  Not my thing, but if it’s yours, enjoy.

Yves Rocher Rose Absolue *** Pretty thing – spicy rose jam and sweet amber. Smells very natural and very simple.

Lancome Tresor
Guerlain Nahema  (might be the wrong category here – I can’t say, because I am anosmic to this fragrance)
Rochas Tocade ***** I love That Slut Tocade, with her cheerful vanilla-patchouli.
The Body Shop Moroccan Rose
Bond #9 Broadway Nite ***
A lot like Tocade, only under neon lights.  Reminds me of glitter fingernail polish and is extremely loud.  Nice, though.
Juliette Has a Gun Midnight Oud
Parfums de Rosine La Rose de Rosine
Parfums de Rosine Secrets de Rose
Tauer Perfumes Le Maroc pour elle
Cacharel Gloria
Caron Or et Noir
S Perfumes 100% Love
*  Chocoberry rosechouli.  Um, no.
Penhaligon’s Hammam Bouquet
Parfumerie Generale Brulure de Rose
Vivienne Westwood Anglomania
Amouage Epic Woman
Montale Deep Roses
Sonoma Scent Studio Vintage Rose *
One of the few absolute scrubbers I’ve run across. I’ve tried it four times on different days, and it was Lauder-like (means death to my nose). The longest time I was able to keep it on without scrubbing was 20 min. However, several people I know just adore this one. Must be my skin.
Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis (some fruit and woods as well, but seems primarily an amber fragrance to me) * Truly dreadful on me. Very little rose, very little wood, but lots of turpentine and sugary amber.
Keiko Mecheri Oliban
Bond #9 West Side

GREEN ROSES (lots of green notes here, but no moss – mossy roses are in the rose chypre section):
DSH Perfumes Rose Vert ***** Some citrus here, but mostly herbal notes plus a soft, natural rose. Expensive, and worth it.
Jacomo Silences ***** Almost more “green” than rose, thanks to galbanum and moss; also a lot of iris. Bonus: cheap!
PdR Un Zephir de Rose
MDCI Un Coeur en Mai
Penhaligon’s Elizabethan Rose

CB I Hate Perfume Tea/Rose *** I should have loved this.  Somehow, I just didn’t. Very pleasant, though, and worth smelling.
CITRUS ROSES (this subgenre is really just not my thing, so no 5-stars here for me):
Clarins Par Amour Toujours
Parfums de Rosine Un Zeste de Rose
***  Attractive, just not my style.
Hermes Rose Ikebana
Eau de Pamplemousse Rose
Cerruti 1881
***  Pretty. I like the citrus-herb stuff.
Pacifica Egyptian Bergamot Rose
Mariella Burani Eau Rosee
Perfumes 06130 Yuzu Rouge
*** Again, I find these citrus roses pleasant but uncompelling.
YSL Baby Doll Paris (and a gazillion flankers)

WOODY or INCENSE ROSES (I’ve sometimes called these Dark Roses, although I’d also include Rose Chypres in the Dark Rose category):
Caron Parfum Sacre’ ***** When I die, I want to be wearing Parfum Sacre – preferably in extrait!
Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose *** Rose+Myrrh. Lovely, but I find myself wanting either more myrrh or more rose.
Gres Cabaret *** Some people have called this a poor person’s version of Lyric. It’s definitely cheaper, and contains a soft, cushy musk that I enjoy. But it’s not Lyric.
Amouage Lyric Woman ***** If there’s no Parfum Sacre’ available, I’ll die in Lyric, thanks.
Frederic Malle Une Rose *** Frightening stuff. It makes me feel threatened. But if screaming insane-asylum roses are your thing, this is your scent. The rose note in it is very beautiful; it’s the woody-amber thing that grates like nails on a chalkboard.
Czech & Speake No. 88 *** Gorgeous spicy-woody thing I’d prefer to smell on a man. Don’t know why.
Czech & Speake Dark Rose *** Very nice woody rose.  I think the Montales are better oud-rose fragrances.
Comme de Garcons Woman 2
Bath and Body Works Sandalwood Rose (discontinued)
ByRedo Rose Noir
Parfums de Rosine Poussiere de Rose
 *** A lot like Feminite du Bois, with more rose. Since I have a partial anosmia to FdB, this version is preferable to me.
PdR Rosa Flamenca
Annick Goutal Ce Soir ou Jamais
Amouage Homage
Fresh Cannabis Rose
Clarins Par Amour***
  Lovely.  A poor girl’s version of Amouage Lyric.  (Could be a poor man’s as well – it’s woody enough for men.)
Montale Black Aoud
Montale Red Aoud
Montale White Aoud
Montale Aoud Damascus
Montale Aoud Roses Petals
*** Slightly-bitter oud-y opening, then lovely pink roses.
Montale Aoud Queen Rose *** Similar to ARP (above), but big florid red roses instead.  I have a very slight preference for this one.
YSL Elle
Keiko Mecheri Gourmandises
Tauer Incense Rose *
Tart mandarin top, winey rose, and patchouli-frankincense base, a bit disjointed.  I expected to love it, but didn’t.
Amouage Lyric Man
Etro Shaal Nur ***  Rose-incense-woods.  Would have loved this one if it had had less patchouli in it.

VIOLET ROSES:
YSL Paris *** A little too loud and insistent for me, but smells good. I’d have to put this one on with a toothpick to be satisfied with the sillage. Insistently girly, so if that’s not your style, you probably wouldn’t like any of the violet roses. (Like Stella, there are many flankers – a limited edition every spring. My favorite flanker, which would earn five stars, is Pont des Amours. I hear Roses de Bois is lovely, too.)
Coty Exclamation *** A little on the powdery side; strikingly similar to Paris, but with a sweet, peachy cast. I’d love it more if it didn’t remind me of high school.
Drole de Rose *** Again, pretty, but didn’t really catch my heart.
Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums Lipstick Rose *** Yep. Smells like lipstick. And I would wear that why?
YSL Parisienne * Thin version of Paris with pleasant cranberry topnote.  Uninteresting after fifteen minutes.
Guerlain Insolence (more violet than rose) * Shriekingly loud.  You could successfully torture me with this. 
Ralph Lauren Lauren (Vintage only) *** Very lovely, with a green-herbal cast over the rose and violet.  A little on the soapy side.
Celine Dion Always Belong
L’Occitane Rose Nuit de Mai

SPICY ROSES:
Frederic Malle Noir Epices
 *** More spice and woods than rose, but I’d definitely call it a rosy scent.
Chanel Coco * I find the spices lovely, and the rose attractive. It’s that cursed tolu balsam that just kills the rest of it for me.
Lancome Sikkim (La Collection) *** A gentler, less-tolu version of Coco. Still can’t wear it.
Penhaligon’s Elixir
L’Artisan Safran Troublant
Miller Harris Rose en Noir ***
Very lovely; a lot like Tauer Une Rose Chypree but quieter.
Ormonde Jayne Ta’if ***** Pepper, saffron, rose, and wood. Amazing and beautiful.
PdR Rose Kashmirie
Miller Harris Rose en Noir ***
Pretty woody rose with green notes and spice. Should have been called Rose in Green and Russet.
Il Profumo di Firenze Zafferano

FRUITY ROSES:
Annick Goutal Petite Cherie ***** Pear-rose. I love it beyond all explanation.
Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete ***** Apple-tea-rose, with a hint of melon.  It smells like the blowsy, sweet yellow roses we had in our yard when I was a kid. They weren’t much to look at, but they smelled awesome. That’s why I love this one.
Gianfranco Ferre Ferre Rose
Valentino Rock’n Rose
Lanvin Rumeur 2 Rose
Juliet Has a Gun Miss Charming
Dolce et Gabbana Rose The One
Sonia Rykiel Rykiel Rose
The Body Shop Cassis Rose

PdR Roseberry
Keiko Mecheri Damascena
Dior J’Adore
*** Quite pleasant.  Seems ubiquitous, I smell it on lots of people.
Lancome Miracle
Miss Dior Cherie
(berry-patchouli-so-called chypre) *  Dear Lord, Kill.Me.Now. Nauseating.
Bath and Body Works P.S. I Love You * Extremely synthetic.  I like the occasional B&BW frag, but not this one.
Lalique Tendre Kiss
Parfums de Nicolai Balkis
***  Raspberry rose with some woods, very nice.

ROSE CHYPRES:
L’Arte di Gucci ***** There IS no better rose chypre, IMO. This is the ultimate rubies-on-green-velvet.
Estee Lauder Knowing * As you know, the Lauder base makes me nauseous. This is gorgeous for two hours, if a little more mossy than I’d like, before the cursed Lauder base comes by to kneecap me.
Parfum d’Empire Eau Suave *** A quieter version of L’Arte. Very, very pretty.
Teo Cabanel Oha ***** Spicy rose chypre, somewhat reminiscent of Tauer’s lovely Une Rose Chypree, but without the heavy emphasis on amber that makes that one difficult for some people.
Montana Parfum de Peau *** A little too much leather for me, but really intelligent. Like L’Arte without the screaming neon pink roses – and for me, the screaming pink roses really make L’Arte.
Ungaro Diva *** If I ever run out of L’Arte (not likely!) and can’t find any Oha, I’ll buy this. It’s a little less focused on the rose than the other two, although there’s a huge rose presence. The mossy base is really lovely, and less dirty than the Montana. For some reason it seems to call for my snootiest outfit, while I’d wear L’Arte anytime.
Agent Provocateur
Vivienne Westwood Boudoir
Etat Libre d’Orange Rossy de Palma Eau de Protection
Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance
Giorgio Armani Armani Prive Rose Alexandrie
Guerlain Rose Barbare *
A disappointment for me: started out a thorny rose, then turned into shaving cream.
PdR Rose d’Homme * Like Coco and Drakkar Noir made a baby, a cross between Spicy Oriental and Aromatic Fougere.  Not my cuppatea.
PdR Twill Rose
PdR Une Folie de Rose
Sisley Soir de Lune

Perles de Lalique PATCHOULIPATCHOULIrosePATCHOULI.
Bond #9 Bryant Park
Parfumerie General Corps et Ames
Jean Couturier Coriandre

ROSES THAT DON’T SEEM TO FIT IN ANYWHERE ELSE:
Juliette Has a Gun Citizen Queen
 ***** Technically called a chypre, but really a rose-violet-leather without any moss at all. This one makes my knickers fall down.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire Pour Femme ***** Another technical chypre, but I’d describe it as rose-narcissus-patchouli, without moss. Similar to Citizen Queen, but even naughtier.
Tauer Perfumes Une Rose Chypree’ *** Not exactly a chypre IMO, as there isn’t a lot of moss. Lovely amber, with some spice and juicy mandarin topnotes.  Some people find it too rich.
Jean Patou Joy * I guess you could have fit this in under Classic Rose-Jasmine Blends. Joy still smells like dirty underpants to me; the jasmine seems to overcome the rose. I’d never call it a rose-centric scent, although I could be talked into calling it a rose blend.
Cartier So Pretty (a fruity-rose chypre) *** Well-made, interesting thing.  Nauseates me, but that’s the fruity-chypre talking.
Oscar de la Renta Rosamor
Laura Biagiotti Laura Rose
PdR Ecume de Rose
(beachy)
PdR Rose Praline (gourmand)
DSH Perfumes Beach Roses *** Salty, musky rose, very light and pleasant.
Keiko Mecheri Mogador (rose-floral blend) *** Perfect scent to wear to a wedding, or a summer afternoon tea. Lovely stuff.
Parfums de Nicolai Rose Pivoine
Antonia’s Flowers Tiempe Passate
(musky)
L’Artisan Voleur de Rose (patchouli) *  Again, I’m not much of a patchouli fan.  This one scared me.
Annick Goutal Heure Exquise (green-iris-rose) ***** Somewhere between Chanel No. 19 and Silences.  Lovely thing with lots of iris and galbanum.
Estee Lauder Beautiful (tobacco rose) *  Gah.  The Estee Lauder base just kills it.  I know, that’s just my nose, so if you do well with Lauders, give it a whirl.
Art of Perfumery 5 (hay rose)
Parfums d’Empire 3 Fleurs (tuberose-jasmine-rose) *** Pretty, but has no soul.  Honestly, I could have put this one together myself with some good-quality absolutes and a whiff of galbanum.  I liked Mogador much, much better.
Coty Paris (floral blend, vintage and discontinued) *** Lovely retro thing, an elegant aldehydic rose-violet-jasmine-lilac blend that would be perfect for scenting handkerchiefs.
E. Coudray Jacinthe et Rose (floral blend)
Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb (floral blend) *  Anyone for some candied flowers?
Guerlain Idylle  (floral blend)
SIP Black Rosette (no idea on the category here – notes of mint and leather and tea)
Agent Provocateur Strip (so-called chypre; smells mostly to me of iris & labdanum, like a stripped-down 31 Rue Cambon or Alahine – or a floral Shalimar Light without the citrus) *** I like this a lot, but at the same time it reminds me so much of so many other fragrances that I can’t give it five stars.

Want more roses?  Go check out “Raphaella’s Roses” at Sniffapaloozamagazine.

Top image is Romantic rose bouquets from instyleweddings.com (gosh, I want those orange ones!).  Other images are from vintagegardens.com or? ??antiqueroseemporium.com ?- go check out their websites for garden porn.  Everything I see there, I want.

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Perfume Review: L’Arte di Gucci

L’Arte di Gucci is gorgeous, a lushly sensuous and rich-smelling rose chypre. It is bottled elegance, all cheekbones and red lipstick and swan neck, a sophisticate in a fitted suit, with naughty black satin-and-lace undies. Which is very much not my personal style – but I adore L’Arte nevertheless.

Or perhaps I love it the more for being what I’m not but would like to be. There’s very little room in my life for expensive naughty undies; I gave up fitted suits aaaages ago, before I got pregnant with the first of three children; I’ve never had a swan neck or long legs. I look horrified (and horrifying!) when I wear black, particularly the sort of slinky black thing that seems to just go with L’Arte di Gucci. Think evening gowns in black lace, hats with veils, stiletto heels, Singapore Slings and cigarettes in holders. Think Alexis Carrington, from Dynasty. Think everything that says Expensive and Haughty Heart-breaking Female Here; if you fall in love with her, it’s your own stupid fault for not resisting.

And let’s have a word about that bottle at this point, shall we? Can you say UGLY? Can you say Tacky, boys and girls? Somebody done hit it with the Ugly Stick, as we used to say when I was growing up. (We also said, “Ugly as homemade sin,” but clearly the word “homemade” has no discernible relation to the bottle of L’Arte, as tarted up as it is in black and gilt.) Holy cow, is that thing ever a bottleful of Boogie Nights! On the other hand, it is opaque black* glass – super for keeping the fragrance safe from exposure to light – and quite satisfyingly heavy, with a subtle curve not apparent from the photo. *I refer to the edp version; the edt has the same shape and hideous gold squiggle, but its glass is clear. This is my bottle:

L’Arte di Gucci was released in 1991 – but smells very retro to me, with the saucy backbone one expected of fragrance in the late seventies. If you have smelled Ungaro Diva, another Big Rose Chypre which was released in 1983, L’Arte di Gucci will smell familiar to you, although L’Arte seems more focused on the rose, more forceful, and less symphonic.

From Fragrantica.com, here are the notes for L’Arte di Gucci:
Top notes are aldehydes, coriander, fruity notes, green notes and bergamot.  Middle notes are mimosa, tuberose, orris root, jasmine, muguet, rose, geranium and narcissus.  Base notes are leather, amber, patchouli, musk, oakmoss and vetiver.

I do not smell much in the way of aldehydes here, but bergamot and green notes are prominent. The unspecified “fruity notes” undoubtedly include cassis bud, with its intense, shocking-pink tartness. I notice that spraying the scent makes the cassis – which can read as “cat pee” to some – far more noticeable and bitter, and I also typically smell a plasticky note when I spray that I do not notice when I decant and dab instead. I very much prefer to dab this one.  When I read the back of the bottle, and (ahem, attempt to) translate the French, I see that tagete (marigold) and cassis bud are both listed, but aldehydes and “green notes” are not.


The heart is nearly all rose-geranium, with the other florals very much in the background, simply adding some roundness. I do smell the cool iris here, and the deep haylike nuance of narcissus serves as a bridge into the drydown, rich with the bitter edge of moss and patchouli and sweet with amber and musk. I do not smell leather, nor much vetiver, but I do often smell a fuzzy, skinlike note that I believe to be the costus (listed on the bottle, not on fragrantica).  I like it.

Once the Joan Collins/Disco Era/Big Hair Glam effect of the opening is over, my general impression is that of a wildly overgrown garden, roses and thorns, exotic flowers and bizarre Gothic vines snaking about the cast-iron seating, with late afternoon sun shafting down through the clouds and creating an intense pink-and-green light and shadows effect. I’d say chiaroscuro, but in my mind at least, that refers to black, white, and graytone, and L’Arte is decidedly colorful.

L’Arte di Gucci was discontinued in 2007, probably done in by the one-two knockout punches of 1) the general taste tending toward the sweet and gourmand, and 2) the IFRA regulation of oakmoss. A sad situation. I’d hoard the bottle I have, but I love it too much. It can still be found, particularly in the edt version (which I have not smelled), on the odd online discounter, or at ebay. The 5ml bottles of edp seem readily available at ebay, however, at the time of writing. Try to pick one up if you can.

Top image is of Joan Collins as the superbly nasty Alexis Carrington, from flickr. Second image is of Bianca Todd, a photographic portrait made by Peter A Juley & Son, from Smithsonian Institution at flickr. (Ms. Todd was a painter in the 1880’s; I’ve never seen her work but I’d like to. She certainly looks as though she was really having fun, and not simply showing off her opera costume. I’ll bet she was a fireball.) Third image is from the author’s collection. Fourth image is Hottest Pink Rose by julev69 at flickr.

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Rose Chypre, the Womanly Scent

The first chypre I ever met was, of course, the masterpiece Mitsouko.
She didn’t like me.
And, to be honest, I don’t like her. Oh, I tried. I tried edt and edp (I gave up on finding the parfum version, since a .5ml sample at The Perfumed Court is, what, $14? anyway, too pricey for something I’m not ever gonna love). I tried it in different weathers and different moods… no dice. And I tried other chypres, too, green ones like Jacomo Silences and Niki de Saint Phalle. Shall we just say, not good?! I think I’ll leave it there, with the words EPIC FAIL ringing in the silence.

So while I was complaining busily that there was absolutely nothing shameful in smelling girly in rose-violet and powder, or voluptuous in big white florals – while I snarked that I hated chypres, I found them too demanding, too evil-tempered, too nasty, too witchy… the rose chypres were stalking me from my blind side.
As practically everyone with half an eye on the perfume world knows, the classic chypre accord is a tripod of bergamot, oakmoss, and amber (from labdanum/cistus/rockrose). It is aromatic, bitter, and bracing; it smells of the Wild World; it feels sharp and dangerous. The addition of floral notes to the chypre accord softens this uncompromising sharpness, teaching it manners and softness. Rose seems to have a special affinity for chypres, creating a feminine strength, a beautiful power, out of what was once something of a bully.
Rose chypres seem, to me, to be the way a woman – a strong, secure, beautiful woman – should smell. She should be confident; she should not be naive; she should wear whatever she wants, whether that means red lipstick with her rubber barn boots, or ripped jeans and a girly white lace blouse. She should be curious and creative and willing to take care of herself as well as the other people in her life. And she should smell of both her soft side and her independent side, as rose chypres do.

Here is an incomplete list of rose chypres (actually, some are floral chypres with a strong rose component, one is a woody chypre with rose, and at least one has an added oriental facet)

  • L’Arte di Gucci
  • Parfum d’Empire Eau Suave
  • Ungaro Diva
  • Ralph Lauren Safari
  • Estee Lauder Knowing
  • Tauer Une Rose Chypree (Floral chypre oriental)
  • Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit
  • Parfums de Rosine Une Folie de Rose
  • Frederic Malle Une Rose
  • Montana Parfum de Peau
  • L’Artisan Voleur de Roses
  • By Kilian Liaisons Dangereuses
  • Agent Provocateur
  • Agent Provocateur DD Diamond Dust, a limited edition
  • Jean Couturier Coriandre
  • Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum
  • Lancome Magie Noire (Woody chypre, with rose-floral heart)
  • Deneuve (Floral chypre)
  • Victoria’s Secret Victoria (Floral chypre)
  • Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance
  • Gres Cabaret (Floral woody chypre)
  • Sisley Soir de Lune
  • Sinan Lune
  • Teo Cabanel Oha
  • YSL Rive Gauche (Aldehydic floral chypre)
  • Perles de Lalique
  • Olympic Orchids Ballets Rouges
  • Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire
  • Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady
  • Tauer Perfumes Une Rose Chypree
  • DSH Rose Vert

The scents in red I’ve tested. The ones in bold are favorites. The ones in purple I tested and disliked, for one reason or another (Knowing was gorgeous for two hours before deteriorating into the Lauder base that so nauseates me on my skin; Paloma was so fierce she nearly scared me to death). Obviously, I haven’t tried all of these, but I will for darn sure attempt it! Look for more reviews here as time passes. There is a brief review of Victoria under my post on Vintage Perfumes; it is more floral than chypre, with rose and other floral notes as the focus.

Unfortunately, the rose chypre seems to be a style of the past, particularly of the 1970’s – a decade with which I have very little affinity, but which seemed to smell great. Rose chypres can be quite sophisticated, and that’s not fashionable these days, with everyone wanting to smell of cotton candy and fruit… but I digress. Rose for femininity, chypre for backbone: what’s not to love?
Images: A Late Given Rose by kuzeytac at flickr; Mossy Forest Floor by lonejeeper at flickr; Rose d’Anjou II by Ira Tsantekidou.

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