Mini-Review Roundup, Jan. 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty, isn’t it? Also kinda floofy.

Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences

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

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

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

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

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


Peonies, and Peony Fragrances

Peonies are some of my favorite flowers. I adore them.

My Sarah Bernhardt peonies - blooms six inches across!
My Sarah Bernhardt peonies – blooms six inches across!

One of my grandmothers grew them. The other grandmother adored them as well, would stop anywhere to bend and sniff the flowers. She called them “pinies,” which must have been either some Appalachian pronunciation variant, or a pronunciation specific to her mother, because no one else I know calls them that. My sister insisted on having them at her June wedding. My daughter loves them. When our sweet Hayley-dog died last summer, we planted peonies near her grave.

PinkParfait2I prefer bush (herbaceous) peonies, not the Japanese tree peonies, which look pretty but lack the delicate but pervasive sweet scent of the old-fashioned ones. I like the double-flowering type. And I prefer them in pale pink or white; the dark pink ones are attractive, but I always think the smell matches the color of the lighter pink ones. Maybe that’s simply because the ones my grandmother grew were pale pink (Sarah Bernhardt) and white (Duchesse de Nemours), but there it is, an irrational preference.

Unfortunately, you can’t dry peonies, either whole or in petals, and retain any of the lovely scent, and I presume that’s why peony accords in perfumery often can smell very synthetic. There aren’t all that many fragrances in current production that smell like real peonies, in my opinion, but every now and then one will pop up and gain my affection.

I know that peony scents are not generally loved among the perfumisti. Witness, just for example, Luca Turin’s review of Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pivoine in Perfumes: The Guide: “Like chewing tinfoil while staring at a welding arc,” and his review of Thierry Mugler Angel Pivoine as “Giant Transvestite [that would be Angel] versus Ditzy Blonde from Hell [that would be the peony component]” is hilarious. I think it’s probably safe to say that Dr. Turin has a special dislike for peony perfumes, however he may feel about the flower. And generally speaking, I see a lot of comments like “smells cheap” about many peony scents.

Duchesse de Nemours peonies.
Duchesse de Nemours peonies.

I don’t care. I’m always on the lookout for one that smells like my Sarah Bernhardts, which have a strong overtone of rose along with the more delicate peony scent, and a cool, light freshness. I’ve noticed that the few peony scents that smell most natural to me also contain some rose – and sometimes they’re marketed as “rose” scents, too! Here’s the shortlist for peony fragrances that come closest, in my opinion, to the Real Thing. Some of them are unfortunately discontinued or otherwise unavailable. (Sorry about that.)

rose de siwa fifParfums MDCI Rose de Siwa. First on the list is the one that smells closest to just-cut peonies, to me. It’s also by far the most expensive, and I cannot in good conscience recommend that you buy it, because it is neither wildly original nor reasonably priced. But it’s my favorite. It has notes of litchi, peony, hawthorn, rose, violet, cedar, vetiver and musk, and was composed by Francis Kurkdjian, who has a great track record of success with me. I tested it from a sample vial, expecting a fresh rose, but got an enormous bouquet of peonies and a bit of wood in the drydown. It is basically perfect if you love garden peonies. However, I haven’t yet made up my mind to sell my firstborn in order to buy a bottle.

(Kidding. Kidding kidding kidding. Of course, whoever bought my firstborn would have to fork over for two more years of college, and I don’t see that happening.)

dsh peonyDSH Perfumes Peony. This is a close second, and far less expensive. Lovely stuff. It is perhaps less rosy and more green, but it’s beautiful and the drydown is pleasantly woody. I’ve never smelled a DSH fragrance that smelled synthetic in the least, and this one is very nice.

peony & mossJo Malone Peony & Moss. This one was a limited edition in the “London Blooms” series, composed by Christine Nagel, and the bottles were gorgeous. (See? BOTTLE SO PRETTY.) Wish I’d bought one while it was still available. The notes for it included blackcurrant, green leaves, ivy, peony and moss, and it smelled very green to me. I like that. (Jo Malone is currently producing Peony & Blush Suede, which I haven’t smelled, but I hear that it’s quite pleasant.)

VS pink, fragranticaVictoria’s Secret Pink. I don’t mean Pink Beach or Pink Thong or whatever the heck VS is currently marketing, or even their newer version of Pink, which is not the same as the original early-2000s version in the conical bottle. It’s a green floral with notes of artemisia, juniper berries, mandarin oranges, violet leaf, bergamot, peony, freesia, neroli, muguet, sandalwood, musk, vanilla, and vetiver. It was composed by Annie Buzantian and is more green than any of the others I’ve listed here, even the DSH. Still very pretty, though.

Not included on this list are a number of fragrances with “peony” in the name (including the L’Occitane peony fragrances and Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine), because they don’t smell real to me. Also not included is a really nice fragrance, Penhaligon’s Peoneve – not because it doesn’t smell natural, but because it smells of jammy rose to me with not a peony petal in the mix. Another one I didn’t include was Parfums DelRae Coup del Foudre, because while it is absolutely gorgeously peony-rose for an hour, after that it shrinks down to the skin in a marked manner, and the sudden disappearing act annoys me.

Donna (“Flora”) who reviews for Perfume-Smellin’ Things, has in private conversation recommended Ellen Tracy Peony/Rose. That one is also unfortunately discontinued and I haven’t smelled it, but at this writing you can buy the gift set of perfume and lotion on Amazon for about $27. Donna likes her perfumes lush and trés femme, and we have a lot of overlap in our tastes. The notes list includes peony, rose, and gardenia.

One more I’d like to try is Parfums de Nicolaï Rose Pivoine, which I seem to remember was recommended to me by Blacknall at A Perfume Blog, and has notes of red fruits, rose oil and absolute, geranium, chamomile, woody notes and musk. I am a little concerned about the geranium, which often seems a little screechy to me. But it’s PdN, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and try it when I get the opportunity. (Incidentally, PdN is now listed on Fragrantica as Nicolaï Parfumeur Createur. Which, okay, it’s their company and they can play with the name. I keep wanting to say PdN, though.)

I also hear that Ann Gerard Rose Cut is a lovely fresh rose with peony, but haven’t smelled that one either. Please do comment if you’ve tried it.

Are you a peony fan? Please share your favorite peony fragrances!


May Day, 2013

Muguet for May Day
(Is this photo not absolutely gorgeous? Click on it to be taken to the photographer’s Flickr page.)

Not having had much of a tradition of celebrating May Day, other than the Maypoles we used to dance around in elementary school, I’ve adopted the sweet one of celebrating muguet, or lily of the valley, as a good-luck charm on the first day of May.

Muguet (or LotV, as it’s often abbreviated by fumeheads), is a tricky note. It cannot be produced from the flowers, as they yield no scented oil, and must be produced by a combination of several synthetic aromachemicals, at least one of which has been severely restricted in the past 3-5 years, so that recently manufactured lily of the valley notes smell mostly like harsh cleansers.

Does that make you as sad as it makes me?

There are innumerable muguet fragrances on the market still, but very few that have really charmed me.  Here’s a wonderful article on the note from Elena at Perfume Shrine, if you’d like to go exploring.  I’m going to list a few muguet scents that I really like.

diorissimo gruauI have a bottle of Diorissimo, once recognized as Queen of all the Muguet scents – it was lively, floral, young, scrubbed clean on top but with an undercurrent of human warmth underneath, provided by the animal growl of civet. By the time I bought my bottle (a tester bottle from approximately 2006), that animal growl had largely disappeared, and so had some of the sparkle.  It’s still lovely, still wearable, but there is the tiniest hint of screech in it if you pay attention.

1947muguetaddukeI can remember being entranced with a bottle of Coty Muguet de Bois back in about 1985 or so, when I located it at the Big Lots store. I should have bought it even though my mother kept telling me that I already had plenty of perfume and what on earth did I want with something that cheap?  I remember it as having a pronounced green quality (always a draw for me, of course) as well as the lily of the valley, but I remember almost nothing else about it.  It’s still in production, but I hear that like all (ALL! Coty, you SUCK!) of Coty’s fragrances surviving from earlier days, its composition has been cheapened and now it smells like a ghost of its former self.

kenzo p d'eteKenzo Parfum d’Ete – the old one, from 1992, as opposed to the newer one from 2002, which is also lovely but far less floral – is a staple for spring-through-early-summer for me. It doesn’t really smell like summer to me, as summer in these parts can be ripe, humid, heavy. Other than that, though, it is really delightful. There is a crispness to this one, probably from the identifiable hyacinth and green notes, but the muguet is prominent. There’s a beautiful clean fresh-air quality that flows through it, approximating the smell of sheets dried in the sun, and I think I love Parfum d’Ete best sprayed on sheets or a nightgown, where it helps me relax into sleep.

2666455-lily-of-the-valley-forest-of-springAnd then there is Andy Tauer’s genius muguet fragrance called Carillon pour une Ange, which I like to refer to privately as “Angel Bells.” I reviewed this one here, if you’d like to read further about it, but it is truly wonderful. I only have three small 1ml samples, and have not quite yet used up the first of them; this one would probably be overwhelming for me if sprayed. Two drops will scent me for a good six hours, with excellent projection, thank goodness. I doubt I’ll ever buy a full bottle, but I don’t ever want to be without at least a sample of it, because it is stunning. There is an earthiness to the thing which reminds me of the dirt those little white bells grow in, a forest-floor wildness that serves as a marked contrast to the clear floral tones, and I love it. I do.  It smells exactly like the photo above, with the saturated green notes, the lily of the valley, and under all the mossy-mulchy deliciousness of fresh damp dirt.

Wishing you all a wonderful May Day.  Today I’ve chosen Carillon pour une Ange – I waited to see what the weather would be like before making my choice. If it had been dry and sunny I’d probably have picked Diorissimo, but it’s damp and misty, and under those conditions the “Angel Bells” really sing.


A Week of Violets II: Annick Goutal La Violette

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

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

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

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

And from Lucky Scent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top image is from LuckyScent; lower one from Rainbows4All.


The Big Violet List

There is something about cool weather that makes me long for violets.  I don’t know why I love violet scents, given that the violets that grow wild in this part of the country are scentless, shy little things, and I have never smelled fresh Parma violets.  I keep coming across them in novels, and have always loved the idea of them – small purple flowers with a heavenly fragrance.

Violet Week is coming up the first week of November!  You can read reviews of several violet scents at Redolent of Spices and at Scent of the Day, as well as here at Muse in Wooden Shoes.  I’ll be reviewing Caron Aimez-Moi, Annick Goutal La Violette, and Penhaligon’s Violetta.  Others to be featured include: Creed Love in Black, Parfums de Nicolai Violette in Love, Soivohle Violets & Rainwater, Guerlain Attrape-Coeur, CB I Hate Perfume Violet Empire, Balmain Jolie Madame, and (maybepossiblyI hope) Stephen Jones for Comme des Garcons.

Violet was one of the first notes I explored upon becoming interested in perfume, and I’ve tried quite a long list of violet scents, both soliflores and violets-in-composition.  Violets, composed largely of ionones and irones, can have fruity, powdery, woody, and/or sweet aspects as well as the expected floral ones, and you may enjoy some of those aspects while not enjoying others.

If you’re interested in investigating violet as a note, here is a compendium of the violet scents of which I’m aware, along with brief descriptions of the ones I’ve tried, to help you get started.  I hope you find at least a few you enjoy, and if there are any other violet soliflores or violet-focused fragrances you’re aware of, please let me know of them.


Borsari Violetta di Parma – an old, old-fashioned, reference soliflore.  Very quiet, very powdery, and although the notes don’t list it, I think there may be a bit of rose in there.
Berdoues Violettes de Parma – another old-fashioned, powdery violet.  I didn’t like it at all.
Berdoues Violette Cherie – a flanker that’s even softer and more powdery than the original, as far as I can tell from descriptions.
Berduoues Violettes Divine – a “dark version” flanker in beautiful packaging; deep, sweet, and fruity with a woody drydown that eventually gets a little tiresome.
Annick Goutal La Violette – Upcoming review (here).
Penhaligon’s Violetta –  Upcoming review (here).
Possets Silver Violets – sugary-fruity violet.  Could come in a cereal box labeled “Violet Puffs.”  Urgh.
Soivohle Violets & Rainwater – Upcoming review at Redolent of Spices.  My take: after reading Musette’s descriptions of this at Perfume Posse that repeated the phrase “little whump of dirt,” I gave in and tried it.  Nothin’ but violets, floral-sweet, no powder at all.  Nice, but linear.  Or so I thought, until about the fourth try, when I finally got the “dirt,” which to me was more like a dry, earthy base that made me think of forest floors.  Still, the “dirt” note is not the focus, but leads to a very pleasant, coherent drydown that puts this one high on the list of violet soliflores.
Caron Violette Precieuse – I really should invoke the Thumper rule on this one, because the only thing I have to say about it is this:  Hideous.   I am, of course, talking about the current reformulation of an old favorite, so if you’re still hoarding some from the days when it was good, please realize I’m not talking about The Precious.  (And share, for heaven’s sake.)
L’Artisan Verte Violette – powdery violet plus powdery green.  I don’t know how they got the green to be powdery, and I don’t wanna know.  I found it to be deeply boring.
Laura Tonatto Eleanora Duse – the favorite violet of March over at the Posse.  Like Violets & Rainwater,  you get a lovely sweet deep violet over a pleasant woody drydown.  I think I prefer V&R due to the ghost of cologne in ED, but I’d pick either one ahead of any number of other violet scents.

Soliflores I haven’t tried, with brief descriptions of their “angle”:
Devon Violets – traditional powdery violet
CBIHP Wild Pansy – green and violet, reportedly simpler than Violet Empire
Yardley April Violets – traditional powdery violet
Santa Maria Novella Violetta – citrus violet green
Devon Violets – traditional powdery violet
Molinard Violette – violet woody musk
Geo. F. Trumper Ajaccio Violets (discontinued, apparently) – green violet
Guerlain Meteorites – powdery rose-violet
Prada No. 7 Violette – galbanum, rose, violet, iris, leather
DSH Perfumes Violetta di Murano – green notes, violet, woody

Violet compositions:
Caron Aimez-Moi
– Upcoming review (here).
Balmain Jolie Madame – violet, leather, moss.  Upcoming review at Scent of the Day.  My review is here.  (Oddly, violet is not listed in the notes, but there’s a ton of it in JM.)
Stephen Jones for Comme des Garcons – aldehydes, violet, and metal/tar (“meteorites”).  It’s like violets growing on black lava rock, weird but oddly pleasing.
Coty L’Origan – orange blossom, violet, and anise.  The vintage parfum is a mossier version of L’Heure Bleue, which it predated.
YSL Paris – rose and violet.  Flowers larger than life and fifteen times as romantic.  Don’t overspritz or you’ll radiate like Three Mile Island, except prettier.
Bvlgari Pour Femme – mimosa and violet.  I hate this one – there’s something like a musty basement in the middle that I can’t stand – but it certainly has its fans.
Guerlain Attrape-Coeur – Upcoming review at Redolent of Spices.
CBIHP M4 Room with a View – hay, baked earth, violets.  Based on the famous romantic scene in the E.M. Forster novel, where George Emerson kisses Lucy Honeychurch on a hillside outside Florence.  Oddly, I didn’t find this one all that romantic.  Instead, it feels a little like a thrown-together soup that needed more time on the back of the stove for the flavors to meld.  It doesn’t smell like a Florentine hillside; it is very sweet. I don’t know why I’m snarky about this, except that I wanted to swoon and didn’t.
Ava Luxe Midnight Violet – violet and cedar.  An utter disaster on me, given that the amber in the base is the variety that comes off to my nose smelling like shaving cream.
Serge Lutens Bois de Violette – violet and cedar.  I liked Feminite du Bois, but wasn’t all that impressed due to the fade-out and -back-in during its development.  I really like PdRosine Poussiere de Rose, and I love Dolce Vita.  My opinion on this one is – Meh.  Nice, but transcendent? No.
Guerlain Insolence – berry rose violet.  The EdT and EdP are slightly different formulas.  The EdP is shrieking insanity, if you ask me – it chased me out of the room.
Balenciaga Le Dix – aldehydes, violet, sandalwood.  I had actually forgotten to add this one at first, largely because I’ve only tried it from a vintage mini bottle bought on ebay – and I didn’t smell any violets in it!  Could have been that particular bottle, which I’ve since swapped away – but everybody else says “violets” for Le Dix, so I added it to the list.  I should probably retry it, from a reliable source.
Worth Je Reviens – aldehydes, green notes, mixed florals including violet.  Seems more “floral bouquet” to me personally, but some people get violets out of it.
Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman – evergreens, violet, amber.  Intriguing and unusual.  Sadly for me, the amber tends to take over and I can’t smell anything else, but this is the darling of many a perfumista, and deservedly so.
Frederick Malle Lipstick Rose – Powdery violet and rose.  My personal reaction to the sample?  “Yes, it smells like old-fashioned lipsticks – exactly like them.  Very clever.  Brilliant work.  Kudos to F Malle.  Now gimme my money back.”  I have no idea why I like YSL Paris and dislike this one, but that’s the case.  I make no apologies.
Guerlain Apres l’Ondee: my review here. Short version: Impressionist perfection.

More violet compositions I haven’t tried, with descriptions pulled from fragrance forums like Fragrantica, Makeup Alley, and Basenotes:
Fresh Index Violet Moss – violet and moss, both powdery, with a white (laundry) musk drydown.
Balenciaga Paris – violet “modern chypre.”  Both reviled and praised for its quiet, non-ditzy office-wearability.
CBIHP Violet Empire –  Upcoming review at Scent of the Day.
Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette – mossy violet floral.
SSS Wood Violet – violet and cedar.
Soivohle Purple Love Smoke – grape Jimi Hendrix violet.
Alexander McQueen MyQueen – violet patchouli vanilla.
DSquared SheWood – citrus violet cedar.
Jean Charles Brousseau Fleurs d’Ombre Violette Menthe – mint violet woody.
Parfums de Nicolai Violette in Love – Upcoming review at Redolent of Spices.
Creed Love in Black – Upcoming review at Scent of the Day.
Christiane Celle Calypso Violette – rose honey violet.
Lush (now Gorilla) Tuca Tuca – violet vanilla vetiver.
Roxana Villa Illuminated Perfumes Gracing the Dawn – violet-floral chypre.

Images of Viola Odorata from Wikimedia Commons.


Lilac Time

I love lilacs, and they’re blooming like crazy right now.  My neighbor’s lilac bush is heavenly.  And there’s an abandoned house right near the elementary school that has SIX beautiful lilac bushes in white, lavender, mauve, soft purple, periwinkle, and dark purple.  They are stunning, and every day it hurts me that no one lives there and no one takes advantage of the gorgeous blooms.  If there was a place to park my vehicle and go clip some branches, I’d do it, trespassing be darned. 

I haven’t tried all of these lilac-based scents, but the ones I have, I’ve made a few notes on.   I’ll update it as I test some of these.  But really, this post is just an excuse to throw out all the gorgeous pictures of lilacs I can find. 

Oh, and Happy birthday to Ellen!  I’ll have to make that White Lilac Nostalgia cake again when I see you.  (I can’t find a picture of it… not even on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s websiteIt’s in her Cake Bible, which I haven’t used in farrrrr too long.)

Lilacs keep popping up in literature, too: in the poems “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” by Walt Whitman, and “The Barrel-Organ” by Alfred Noyes, and the short story “Lilacs,” by Kate Chopin.  Lilacs form a large part of the plot in Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All, by Allen Gurganus.  Not to mention the famous T.S. Eliot poem that starts out, “April is the cruelest month.”

Jardin de France Eau de Cologne 1920 Lilas  (Lilac, jasmine, rose, musk)  No reviews of this one anywhere.

Demeter Lilac  (Jasmine, white soap, lilac)  Review at 1000 Scents.  

Pacifica French Lilac (Nectarine, magnolia, hyacinth, lilac, heliotrope)  No full-blown reviews of this anywhere, but comments are abundant and generally positive.

Caswell-Massey Lilac  (Lilac).  Simple and inexpensive.

Crazylibulelle and the Poppies Lilas Spiritual  (Lilac leaves, lilac, lily and vanilla)  I think this is one of the Crazysticks solids.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Angelique Lilas  (Angelica, white lilac, ylang-ylang, cedar, heliotrope)  Reviews at Now Smell This and Blogdorf Goodman.

Highland Lilac (Just lilac).  This one has a lot of fans on Makeup Alley, but a few detractors as well.  Review (brief) at Perfume Shrine.

I Profumo di Firenze Lilla  (Lilac, duh)  Very pleasant, simple lilac.  (Blame Daisy.)  However, this one is no longer on the iPdF website, so I don’t know if it’s still available.  I’ve been generally impressed with the very few iPdF scents I’ve tried – they all smell fresh and natural, and they’ve lasted longer than I expected they would.  Edit: after boasting that I’ve never lost a sample vial – well, I’ve lost this one.  Dang.  I wanted to retest.

Ineke After My Own Heart  (Green notes, bergamot, raspberry, lilac, sandalwood, heliotrope, musk)  Reviews at Feminine Things and Perfume ShrineTested this one today (4/23) and am sadly unimpressed.  What berries? What green notes?  What sandalwood?  All I’m getting here is air-freshener quality lilac and some laundry musks.  Even the heliotrope is not coming through.  I’m sure Ms. Ruhland’s a lovely person, but I haven’t done well with the few of her scents I’ve tested.  (Liked Evenings Edged in Gold the first three times I wore it, but then it developed the dreaded Tang Dust Accord, and I had to give it away.  Field Notes from Paris was a big ol’ hairy mess on my skin… probably at least partly due to the orange blossom.)

DSH Perfumes White Lilac  (“A light and dewy lilac note with a slightly fruity top note nuance”)  I’ve ordered a sample from the DSH Perfumes website, which always reminds me of the candy store in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 70’s movie with Gene Wilder).  Update: Ohhh.  This is lovely.  It’s still a simple soliflore, but there’s a green freshness to it that I really like. Ordered a small bottle, squee!

DSH Perfumes Purple Lilac (“A heady, honey-sweet lilac note with spicy undertones”)  Ordered a sample of this one too – my prediction is that I’ll like it better than White Lilac because of the “spicy undertones”, but we’ll see.  It’s always a pleasure testing DSH scents.  Update: it’s very pretty, but the description is right about it being heady and sweet.  It’s almost Too Much, even though I only dabbed a bit.  My sample is oil format, so I don’t know if the edp wuld be different.

Yves Rocher Pur Desir de Lilas  (Lilac, almond)  Another simple and inexpensive one.  Some people find the almond note distracting, some don’t.

Parfumerie Generale Ether de Lilas Blanc sur Feuillage Tendre (Leaves, mandarin, lilac, passionflower, orange blossom, bark, iris, musk)   I actually can’t find this anywhere but TPC, as part of a Lilac sampler – they don’t even sell it separately at TPC.   It was a limited edition, apparently, and has been discontinued.  Reviews at Perfume-Smellin’ Things and Perfume Posse.

Rochas Tocadilly  (Cucumber, lilac, coconut, jasmine, hyacinth, sandalwood)  I admit that I broke down and ordered a small bottle of this – on sale, mind you! – from an online discounter last week and am waiting for it to show up.  Edit: I just got an email today that they’ve sold out of it, “So sorry, we don’t got it, we can’t get it, we’ve credited your account and here’s your consolation prize $5 off coupon.”  Now I’ll have to go searching againFrom the reviews I’ve read, this one is either a love-it-or-hate-it scent, so I’m prepared for the worst.  It was inexpensive, or I wouldn’t have gambled.  Review at Perfume Shrine (I’ll disclose to you now that this review of Helg’s encouraged several people to buy the scent, and it turned out badly for some of them – there was a short conversation about it on Perfume Posse, but I can’t find it now.)  Further edit, 5/28: I found it elsewhere for even cheaper.  I enjoy this one – it’s all watercolor florals (lilac, jasmine, hyacinth, & something that Helg says is wisteria) on a background of soft plushy musk.   Reviewed today.

Patou Vacances   (Galbanum, hyacinth, grass, hawthorne, lilac, mimosa, sandalwood, vanilla?,  musk?)   The very essence of spring, the most tender smell ever.  The delicate stems are bruised by even the most glancing of caresses, and one smells their translucent green scent.  Lilacs peep from among the greenery.  I only have a sample, but it is stunning stuff.  Long discontinued, very hard-to-find, and if you do find it, it will be hideously expensive.  I think I found a 6ml mini for sale at an online discounter for $45; they had the big 75ml bottle for $250.  Reviews at Perfume Shrine, Perfume-Smelling Things (Donna), Bois de Jasmin, and Now Smell This (Angela, brief).

Soivohle Lilacs & Heliotrope (new, not released yet, due to be released in mid-2010, released as of today, 4/22, at the Soivohle website!)  The word on this one is that it does approximate the smell of fresh lilacs in a beautiful soft, non-air-freshener way.  From Soivohle:  “A formidable pairing of lush iconic florals, opening with the green tinged freshness of lilacs in full bloom, settling to a rich heart of white and purple lilac, a touch of orchid, and the slightest hint of rose melding into the heliotrope, with a base of mosses, soft musk and benzoin.”  I caved and ordered a sample. Update: it’s lovely.  It’s even more heady and sweet than the DSH Purple Lilac, though, with a relatively weighty base that might be more than I want when I’m wanting fresh lilacs. I’m thinking it will be just right on those gray winter days when I wonder if spring will ever come. 

Soivohle Lilacs & Roses (new, just released 4/22/10 at Soivohle, description from the website)  “A classic blend of floral notes beginning with our Persian Lilac Accord, Roses, Centifolia Absolute, Tuberose and a touch of jasmine, grounded by a sultry oriental base.”  Update: I did not like this one. It was oddly musty and heavy. Further update: Just tested a sample of vintage Coty Paris today, 5/3, and it was everything I expected from L&R: lilacs and roses and jasmine, old-fashioned, faintly spicy, a little powdery.  Paris is very pretty and genteel, and I think it would be a perfect handkerchief scent.

Frederic Malle En Passant   (Lilac, green notes, aquatic notes, cucumber, wheat) I have a sample of this that’s languishing alone in the sample box.  To be honest, I’ve been leery of trying it because I’m afraid I’m going to be disappointed.  But… it’s lilac time, and I’ve been claiming that I was waiting for the right time, so no more excuses.  Will test it this week.  Reviews at Now Smell This, Perfume Posse (Patty), Bois de Jasmin, Scentzilla, and I Smell Therefore I Am (Abigail).  Update: Wore it this morning, and from the cool dewy lilac notes through the fleeting whiff of bread, it’s beautiful.  It’s also gone in about half a heartbeat (okay, okay, I got somewhere between an hour and a half and two hours), despite hefty dabbing on my part.  That is somewhat par for the course for lilac fragrances, but I know that both Lilla and Vacances lasted longer on me.  If I am going to fork out for a pricey F. Malle, I want it to last at least a couple of hours.  I’ve only got enough in my vial for one more sampling, and I’ll give it another shot.  But I’m not holding my breath on the staying power (although I probably could with no damage, it’s that transitory). OTOH, it might last better if sprayed generously.

Edit: I forgot about ElizabethW Lilac, a simple soliflore.  I had a sample of this, tried it, and promptly forgot it.  Which probably tells you all you need to know about it.  It’s maybe half a step up from air-freshener, but not particularly nice.

All photos are from  Top to bottom: Last Lilacs from lynda naranjo; Lilacs from Von Taylor Pop 38; Lilac A Floral Fountain from organicpixel; Lilac, MANY SMALL ONES… from magda.indigo; Lilacs in a Blue Ball Jar from patia; White Lilacs from glittering plastic butterflies; Many Lilacs from p h o t o l i f e; French Lilac from imagemakercan; Lilacs a’bloom from KarenMarleneLawsen; White lilacs from simon -n- kathy; closeup of purple lilac from Mrs. Gemstone; white and purple lilacs from anela.