Flip-Flop. Again.

flipflop111I’ve changed my mind on perfumes before.

Just to name a few I went from disliking to loving, and my original perceptions of them: Ralph Lauren Safari (too sweet), Jacomo Silences (too screechy), Amouage Memoir Woman (weird enough to come out of some sorceress’s grimoire). And then there was Guerlain Mitsouko, which I tried and tried and didn’t get, and then I got it, and promptly decided I didn’t love it and need never try it again.

I’ll probably reverse myself at least once more at some point in the future. There was a guy who used to work for my father-in-law who would say, “Uh-oh, we’ve got this back’ards. Got to flip it a hunnerd degrees the other way.” He meant 180°, of course, but you had to speak Charlesish to translate.

jasmine-poet-10I’ve flip-flopped, a hunnerd degrees different, lately.  Y’all hold on to your seats, because this one startled me.  I, like everybody else, have my preferences. I love rose and tuberose and narcissus, galbanum and aldehydes. I really hate balsamy orientals and I loathe patchouli in its earthy, dusty, cocoa-powder role; if it smells like Youth Dew, or God forbid, Opium, it is an abomination to me. Lavender gives me massive headaches. Indolic jasmine smells like soiled panties; the “clean” kind you find in, say, Jennifer Aniston‘s fragrance works my last freakin’ nerve, so jasmine soliflores are pretty much off the table.

Except.

Photo stolen from Bois de Jasmin (click for link).
Photo stolen from Bois de Jasmin (click for link).

I resniffed A La Nuit. And guess what happened? I liked it. It wasn’t poopy-diaper jasmine, or Ho Panties jasmine, or high-pitched squeaky-clean jasmine. It was just flowers. It made me relax enough to get sleepy, just from one hit.

So I wore it one evening. I still liked it. No poop, no panties, no screech. Instead, narcotic.

Huh. I’m hangin’ out with Jasmine the cool girl and we’re getting along just fine.

A Cautionary Tale: remember me and Chanel Cuir de Russie? I should have loved it. I like Chanel, I like aldehydes, I like floral leathers. In actuality, I hated it because it was such an odorealistic presentation of the cattle working pens here on the farm (iodine, rawhide, dust, dried manure, and fear). People kept telling me I was wrong, it was the softest pink leather imaginable, and one day, one day! it smelled like a perfect leather purse full of flowers, and that was wonderful. The next six times I tried it (differing concentrations/sources/weather), it was back to Virtual Working Pen, and I was back to hating it.

Here’s hoping I don’t start hating A La Nuit.

Jasmine. Who knew?

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Five for Summer, 2015

summer wildflowers, from Wikimedia Commons
summer wildflowers, from Wikimedia Commons

HOLY MOSES, it’s summer already. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t like summer. It’s hot, it’s sticky, it’s boring. I’m not a beach person. Gah. But I do change my seasonal perfume rotation to deal with summer, and here are a few fragrances I really enjoy wearing in hot weather.

Cool and refreshing: Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl. Go ahead and roll your eyes, perfumistas. I’ll wait.

You done? Okay then. There is something so unmussable about Tommy Girl, which survives heat and humidity with aplomb. Her hair doesn’t go limp (or frizzy) in the heat; her clothes don’t wilt. She goes on radiating relaxation and freshness for a long, long time, and that effect of drinking iced lemon tea on the porch near the flower beds is very welcome to me when I’m outside in our muggy summer weather. Don’t shoot the messenger, but Luca Turin was right about this one.

So Pretty: Carven Le Parfum. I know a lot of perfume people found this one underwhelming, but most of them have less interest in the Just Pretty than I do. I love a just-pretty, and this one is wonderful if you like that kind of thing. I like that kind of thing. It’s basically mandarin, sweet pea, jasmine, rose and a very cleaned-up patchouli/quiet woody base that lasts fairly well.

Green and composed: Jacomo Silences, the original. My bottle is the old 80s parfum de toilette, which has aged very well, probably due to its black bottle. It’s an air-conditioned blast of galbanum and the restrained elegance of iris and moss, with florals, particularly rose, in between. I have the reissued Silences Eau de Parfum Sublime, and it’s nice, but it lacks the bold eerie calm of the original, which has just been discontinued. Go buy some now, before it disappears from the discounters.

Zingy floral: Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune. Grapefruit, blackcurrant bud, petitgrain, something floral that I swear smells like rose to me, neroli, clean herbal patchouli and woody notes. Yeah, sure, it’s got that almost sulfurous thing going on up top, but I love it, and this citrus/floral thing is really refreshing in the heat. I’m less happy about the patchouli in the drydown, but I don’t like patchouli in general. It’s saying something that I don’t want to scrub this off when the patch floats up; instead I just want to reapply.

Most people love citrus fragrances. I usually don’t – the only traditional citrus/herbal/floral cologne I own is a small decant of 4711, and I don’t use it all that often. But I love a citrusy floral, and Pamplelune hits the spot. I’ve gone through a couple of minis so far, and I keep waffling on whether to buy a real bottle. Perhaps I will, when my Moschino Funny! is all gone.

And of course, I have to have a BWF. Always need a Big White Floral. Doesn’t really matter which one I pick, because they’re all good in the heat. Maybe not so great if you’re trying to get work done, because they can eat your head and monopolize your senses. But there’s nothing more swoony. Suggestions: Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums Carnal Flower or Le Galion Tubereuse (the rerelease), if you like your BWFs joyful and lighthearted. Escada Margaretha Ley (discontinued. #sorrynotsorry) or Honore des Pres Vamp a NY (bonus: all-natural) if you like them coconutty and tropical.

(Heh. I just crammed four perfumes into a one-perfume slot – how about me?)

So – what’s for summer wear in your neck of the woods?

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BWFs: Gardenia

whipped cream gardeniaI love gardenias, I do. I do. I crave them. It’s a little too cold for them to grow here in the mountains, unfortunately. If The CEO ever asked me what flowers I wanted for a corsage, I’d tell him tuberose (no, I wouldn’t, they’re unavailable around here unless you do a $75 special order) and then gardenia. I love yellow roses too, but that’s another story.

Gardenias. Sigh. Our neighbor once brought us a gardenia from his bush, back when I was, oh, twelve? Thirteen? And I was standing there in absolute heaven, while my poor mother was trying to say thank you without turning green. So I understand that not everyone likes them… but me, I love gardenias. So overwhelmingly gorgeous.

Sr. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux speaks of re-creating a gardenia scent in a ÇaFleureBon interview: Gardenias are somewhat wild and raw, and you have to be careful not to domesticate the scent too much. The perfume must remain a bit unbridled. For a gardenia, the sharp green edge has to echo the milky, almost buttery sides harmoniously, and the animalic sides, which are both indolic and cresolic have to be very present as well. The descriptors “fruity,” “ripe,” “bitter,” jasminic,” “honey-like,” “smoky” and “fungus-like” also come into play.

gardenia arrangementFlores-Roux has it right: it should be very green but very creamy, lush but earthy. He calls gardenia “wild and raw,” but I think the word that comes most to mind for me with real gardenias is “narcotic.” As in, I can’t stop smelling them. A gardenia should make you weak at the knees.

Unfortunately it’s a difficult note in perfumery – because gardenia essence is extremely costly and labor-intensive to make, not to mention flower-intensive. And therefore it’s extremely costly. What usually happens is that perfumers “build” a gardenia on a base of tuberose plus other notes, and thus you rarely get something that replicates the flower.

gardenia 2Here’s an incomplete list of gardenia perfumes (whether smelling of gardenia, or just named for the flower), in no particular order. If you have suggestions, please add them in the comments, and I’d love to hear if you shrink from the real flower or melt in its presence. The ones I’ve tried are in pink lettering.

Tom Ford Private Blend Velvet Gardenia (discontinued since 2013) – this one is a kitchen-sinky gardenia, complete with earthy mushroom notes and a bit of bleu cheese. Divisive. If you love it, you love it. I didn’t, but I have issues with “earthy.”

Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia (which I like to refer to as ELPCTG) – lovely stuff, a good bit primmer than the Tom Ford. Sort of bridal, but in a good and lush sort of way. No off-notes to my nose here. I hear the parfum is STUNNING.

Michael Storer Stephanie – buttery gardenia (I think it’s a composition done with tuberose, not some of that pricey gardenia extract) with some musk and a slug of pepper. The pepper can take you aback; it did me. It leans a little too lactonic, though, for me. I wanted more green notes.

gardenia 4Marc Jacobs – This is beautiful stuff. Really. Gardenia/tuberose/jasmine, on the delicate side. I don’t know why I don’t own any. (Edit: actually, I do still own a mini bottle of the parfum, but it had gotten sort of lost in amongst all my mini bottles. I’ve been wearing it since I located it.)

Marc Jacobs Gardenia – incredibly beautiful bottle, but word is that it’s more aquatic than the original and less gardenia.

DSH Pink Gardenia – Lush Marilyn Monroe kind of fragrance, but done on Dawn’s usual musk base, which means it goes a bit too sweet on me.

Serge Lutens Une Voix Noire – This is Uncle Serge’s dark look at gardenia, not just an homage to Billie Holiday but also with the classic Lutens weird twist. It could be the smell of the Lady Day as her show winds down, with the gardenia she always wore in her hair beginning to brown and wilt from the heat of her body and that of the club, with a whiff of body odor, and the smell of burning tobacco in the ashtrays on the tables, and the hot sweet smell of whiskey and brandy left in the glasses. Could be, if you choose to interpret it that way. Or you could interpret it as a hot mess: wilting gardenia, dipped in meaty Mexican food and then in buttery caramel sauce, and rolled in some stale cigarette ashes to boot. I have a decant of this I bought unsniffed, and I never never never wear it. Three guesses as to why.

Isabey Gardenia – lovely. I’m not overly fond of the citrus notes up top, nor of the ambery ones at the bottom, but in between it’s attractive.

Guerlain Cruel Gardenia – as Luca Turin says in Perfumes: The Guide, “Not a gardenia.” He’s right. It’s not even a gardenia built out of tuberose. Still, it’s a very pretty perfume.

Chanel Gardenia (Les Exclusifs) – Also not really a gardenia. Sort of a lightweight mishmash of white flowers. Nice, pretty, not gardenia.

gardenia 3Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion – another not-really-a-gardenia. This is a tuberose with greenery. I like it anyway, but I don’t own any.

Jovan Island Gardenia – The current version is thin and bare, gardenia blooming three blocks away across chlorinated pools and the gasoline fumes from the whole neighborhood’s lawnmowers. It used to be better. Now it’s strictly low-rent.

Coty Sand and Sable – This one used to be better, too; when I was in high school in the mid-80s, I craved a bottle of it. (This is the one my mother made me return to the store, insisting that I was too young to wear it and smell like a divorcee on the make. Well, not that she SAID that, but I knew what she meant by the way she said it.) It starts out pretty cheerful and radiant like a real gardenia, but a scosh of air-freshener lilac and that screechy synthetic jasmine that saws on my nerves make it smell super-cheap.

Tuvache Jungle Gardenia – what I’ve smelled labeled as Jungle Gardenia was NOT the stuff I remember from my childhood. Man, could this thing knock you out from down the street: narcotic in the best sort of way. Now me, I loved that sensation. If you run across the vintage, snap it up. And if you don’t like it, send it to meeeeeee.

Edit: for full disclosure the sample I tried was secondhand, and I don’t know its provenance. It smelled thin and barely-there; like I say, the stuff I smelled growing up in the 70s was incredibly lush and powerful. If you notice in the comments, Jeffrey Dame says that the current version (since 1998) is made according to a 1974 formula. He’s kindly offered to send me a sample, which I’m going to accept with alacrity! I’ll report back when I have tried the new stuff.

Tauer Perfumes Sotto La Luna Gardenia – what am I to make of this thing? I still haven’t figured it out (need to review). It reminds me quite a bit of Tableau de Parfums Loretta, and it’s weird. It hits the mushroomy highlights though not the bleu cheese ones, but there’s that Tauerade Ambrox stuff in the bottom, and it’s… well, remember what I said about Une Voix Noire? It’s a little like that, minus the cumin and the ashtrays: sweet and wilty. Plus fruity. Plus balsamy. SO MUCH going on. Incredibly radiant, too. Look out.

Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia – if you like your gardenia with incense and a big mantle of grape Kool-aid*, this is the one for you. Pleasant, if you can get past the grape-flavored stuff. (* This effect, to me, is a sure sign that the gardenia in question is built out of tuberose, and maybe a bit of orange blossom. Methyl Anthranilate occurs naturally in certain white flowers; it’s isolated from natural sources and added to grape flavoring to intensify the grapeness. I have a range of tolerance for Methyl A., and this one is at least twenty decibels higher than the top end of it.)

Illuminum White Gardenia Petals – The former Kate Middleton reportedly wore this one when she married Prince William. It is quite innocently bridal, and has gentle sillage. It’s not very gardenia-like, either; it also boasts notes of lily, jasmine and muguet. Really, there’s a ton of that screechy synthetic jasmine in it. It’s not for me, but it’s at least inoffensive.

Annick Goutal Un Matin d’Orage – Nice. Not very gardenia, either, more a watery version of soft-focus white florals (gardenia, magnolia, jasmine sambac). That said, I think it’s lovely and if a bottle came to live at my house I’d wear it. It’s close to Dyptique Do Son, but where Do Son smells highly artificial to me (it has some clearly-synthetic tuberose in it as well as the watery accord), UMd’O smells more realistic. Pretty stuff, if you don’t mind aquatic notes.

Ineke Hothouse Flower – haven’t smelled this one, but Ineke Ruhland comments that she added creamy lactones and extra green notes like galbanum and fig leaf to tuberose to make it smell like headspace gardenia. I generally do very badly with Ineke fragrances, and I haaaaaate fig leaf, so I have not put this on skin.

JAR Jardenia – apparently a properly green-and-mushroomy-and bleu-cheesy version of gardenia. I haven’t smelled it.

Aftelier Cuir Gardenia – leather and gardenia as the name suggests, I’m told.

Arquiste Perfumes Boutonniere No. 7 – another indie version that is geared toward men. I’m not sure how that works (is it a gardenia fougere? I don’t know).

Jovoy Paris Gardez-Moi – Nice. Something along the lines of ELPCTG, but with a bit of grape Kool-aid up top. I’d rather have ELPCTG.

Penhaligon’s Anthology Gardenia – a reconstruction of an early fragrance by B. Duchaufour. No bloggers have anything to say about it, apparently. Shrug.

Strange Invisible Perfumes Epic Gardenia – I haven’t smelled this one, or any SIPs. Word has it that this one is good but not as good as SIP’s first gardenia perfume, Lady Day, which had to be discontinued because of the disappearance of a crucial raw material.

Creed Fleurs de Gardenia – apparently not a realistic gardenia, more a mixed floral.

Evyan White Shoulders – Like the Tuvache and the Jovan gardenias, this one used to be rich and lush and overwhelmingly narcotic, and easily bought in a drugstore. I remember it very well from church! (What else did church ladies wear? Youth Dew, of course, which is an entirely different story.) These days it’s made by Parfums International – whoops, no, Elizabeth Arden bought P. Intl. As you might guess, it’s only a shadow of its former self. Sad. Fortunately, you can still find Evyan-produced vintage bottles on eBay for not a lotta cash.

Parfumerie Generale Gardenia Grand Soir – Everyone I know was disappointed in this one’s being so ladylike and not very gardenia-y, by which I suppose we mean, well, ladylike. Gardenias are not ladylike. Gardenia screams “sexy” to me far more than tuberose ever does. Anyway, some people find a bunch of blackcurrant in this one, which I admit intrigues me. I love blackcurrant.

Aerin Lauder Gardenia Rattan – Reportedly, another “delicate” and office-friendly gardenia scent, which probably means that it isn’t gardenia-ish at all.

Parfums MDCI Nuit Andalouse – gardenia, jasmine, and orange blossom. A really lovely white-floral blend that reminds me somewhat of the original Marc Jacobs. Of course on me the orange blossom takes over, but that’s okay because it doesn’t go soapy.

VC&A Collection Extraordinaire Gardenia Petale – another I haven’t smelled; it’s reportedly one on the ladylike side.

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BWFs: Tuberose

The Tuberose Series OpenerThe Aztecs called it omixochitl, bone flower. The Mexicans call it nardo de San José, St. Joseph’s staff. Its common name in English refers to the tuberous nature of its bulb. Everybody has an opinion on the flower’s smell! What more is there to say about tuberose that hasn’t already been said by a million people, not to mention perfume bloggers? Fragrantica says: No note in perfumery is more surprisingly carnal, creamier or contradicting than that of tuberose. The multi-petalled flower is a mix of flower shop freshness and velvety opulence. Victoria of Bois de Jasmin says: Nothing captures better the essence of tuberose than its meaning in the language of flowers, used in Victorian England. Tuberose signified both dangerous pleasure and voluptuousness. The scent of the flower is a fusion of white petals and warm skin, an arresting sensual and heady fragrance. On a blotter, tuberose absolute opens up with a faint green note before warming into a sweet jasmine-like scent underscored by a rubbery accord. It vacillates between the coconut sweetness and the warm skin impression, as it dries down.

It’s funny – I don’t have an impression of tuberose as being “sexxxy” – it just smells good to me, luxurious and heady and rich but not slutty in the least. I’ve loved it from the start.

Tuberose is the Queeeeeeeen. She just is. And if you disagree, she will cutchoo. It’s okay with me; I love her. Most people either love her or hate her. For the lovers, here’s a list of BWF’s that feature tuberose, whether as a soliflore or as the centerpiece of the composition. (For the haters, you can keep this list for reference of Things to Avoid.) I’ve tried a number of these; the ones in black text I haven’t. Bolded ones I really enjoy.

glorious tuberoseSoliflores:

By Kilian Beyond Love
Le Galion Tubéreuse (newly rereleased)
DSH Perfumes Tubéreuse
Annick Goutal Tubéreuse
Santa Maria Novella Tuberosa
Caron Tubéreuse
L’Artisan Tubéreuse (discontinued)
Creed Tubéreuse Indiana
Il Profvmo Éclair de Tubéreuse
Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle (The opening doesn’t work for me, but it’s not the camphor/gasoline/menthol – it’s the rotting raw chicken note in there. Bleargh. Can NOT handle it. If you can get through without smelling that, you’re golden, because the rest of it is a wonderfully uncomplicated, simply-beautiful floral tuberose.)
Prada Infusion de Tubéreuse (infusion de boring, if you ask me)
Prada No. 6 Tubéreuse parfum (limited edition)
Parfumerie Generale PG17 Tubéreuse Couture
I Profumo di Firenze Tuberosa di Autonno
Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Tubéreuse
Hiram Green Moon Bloom (all natural)
Floris Tuberose
Terra Nova Tuberose (oil format)
Bruno Acampora Blu (oil format)

mixed flower tuberose arrangementCompositions:

Honore des Pres Vamp a NY (all natural)
Robert Piguet Fracas (There’s a ton of orange blossom in here, so much so that Fracas actually smells like tuberose-scented cold cream to me. Still the Queen. Still intoxicating.)
Robert Piguet Petit Fracas
Robert Piguet Douglas Hannant
Miller Harris Noix de Tubéreuse
Pilar & Lucy Tiptoeing Through Chambers of the Moon
Mona di Orio Tubéreuse
Versace Blonde (Huge. Somewhat synthetic. But nicer in the parfum.)
Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger (as much tuberose as orange blossom)
Ava Luxe Tuberose Diabolique
Bath & Body Works Velvet Tuberose (YEAH YEAH I LIKE THIS ONE FOR A CHEAP THRILL, SO SUE ME)
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture (Again, SO SUE ME. But it’s really good in the parfum.)
Frederic Malle Editions des Parfums Carnal Flower
Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia (one of the very few Lauders that doesn’t go nasty on me after 2-3 hours)
L’Artisan Nuit de Tubéreuse
Histoires des Parfums Tubéreuse 1 (Capricieuse), 2 (Virginale), and 3 (Animale)
Dior Poison
Nasomatto Narcotic Venus
Roja Dove Scandal
Giorgio Beverly Hills (It’s dead. Don’t try the new stuff – but the old, despite being huge, was rather nice.)
Diptyque Do Son
Carolina Herrera Carolina Herrera
Parfums DelRae Amoureuse
Givenchy Ysatis
Arquiste Flor y Canto (tuberose and marigold and copal)
ByRedo Flowerhead (tuberose, jasmine and rose)
Parfums d’Empire 3 Fleurs (tuberose, rose and jasmine – pretty but I found it soulless)
Serge Lutens Cedre
Serge Lutens Datura Noir
Karl Lagerfeld Chloe
Givenchy Amarige
Tableau de Parfums (Tauer) Loretta (plum/grape/tuberose/PATCHOULI. A freakfest. Like Poison on acid.)
Guerlain Jardins de Bagatelle
L’Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons (smells like perfumery linden to me, not like tuberose, but everybody ELSE says tuberose)
Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion
Balenciaga Michelle
Madonna Truth or Dare
Kim Kardashian Kim Kardashian
Michael Kors Michael
Providence Perfumes Cocoa Tuberose (all natural)
Anya’s Garden Starflower (all natural)
Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose (another all natural)
Parfums de Nicolaï Number One
Ramon Monegal Kiss My Name
Jean Paul Gaultier Fragile
Amouage Honour Woman
Jil Sander No. 4
Jo Malone Tuberose Angelica

Goodness, there are a LOT of tuberose/tuberose-centric perfumes. A LOT. This is by NO MEANS a complete listing. Rather terrifyingly, I’ve tried 48 out of the 68 listed here (that’s about 71%).

So, is tuberose your BFF, or your worst enemy?

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BWFs: Lily

Gold Band lily. (All photos in this post are from Wikimedia.)
Gold Band lily. (All photos in this post, except the last, are from Wikimedia.)

Lily, in my opinion, isn’t the chiefest among the big white florals, but it’s a lovely one. I won’t get deeply into the definition and explanation of why white florals smell the way they do; I will simply point you in the direction of this blog post and this one by Elena of Perfume Shrine, for further reading.

I love lilies. Madonna lilies, Easter lilies, stargazers, orientals, all of them. I can’t have them in the house, however, unless I snip off the stamens. For one thing, the orange pollen stains, badly. I once ruined a white eyelet dress by getting too close to these monster 6-foot tall white lilies that bloom near the door at our old church. For another, the pollen is murder on my allergies. At that same church, they always used to decorate the rail of the choir loft with lilies at Easter, and before the service was over my head was stopped up and I was sneezing nonstop. Once the stamens are gone, though, I’m just fine.

Stargazer lily.
Stargazer lily.

And the smell – floral, green, spicy, creamy – is heavenly. Luca Turin famously commented that lilies en masse smell like ham, and I don’t really get that specific reference, but I do understand that thick, almost-salty, almost-fleshy smell. It’s gorgeous. It’s funny, but lily scents tend to highlight either the spicy aspects of the flower, or the creamy ones. Hard to find a photorealistic one, and I’m not sure I really want one of those; I’d rather just have a lily in a vase, sans stamens.

Lilies in perfume can sometimes take over – not that I mind that much.

(I’m not talking about lily of the valley, which has a completely different smell. Yes, they’re white florals, but I never think of muguet scents as “Big” white florals. No, not even Diorissimo.)

Easter lily.
Easter lily.

In the lists below, I’ve included both soliflores and scents where lily is the star among other noticeable components. The fragrances I’ve smelled myself are in color, and the bolded ones are favorites of mine. Any lily lovers out there? Please suggest some good ones.

Soliflores:
Serge Lutens Un Lys
Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums Lys Mediterranee
Donna Karan Gold (discontinued)
Cartier Baiser Volé
Annick Goutal Des Lys
Yves Rocher Pur Desir de Lys
DSH Perfumes Madonna Lily
Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia
YOSH Stargazer
Antica Farmacista Casablanca

Mixed lily bouquet.
Mixed lily bouquet.

Compositions:
Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs (a floaty, green mixed floral centered on lily)
Tom Ford Shanghai Lily (spicy lily with milky-incensey woods, sort of as if DK Black Cashmere and DK Gold made a baby)
Ineke Gilded Lily (fruity modern chypre with lily)
Hermes Vanille Galante (lily intersecting with vanilla, a soft billowy scent)
Serge Lutens La Vierge de Fer (stern metallic lily)
L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer (faint lilies and soapy incense)
Oriza L. LeGrand Relique d’Amour (lilies and incense and cold stone – similar in concept to Passage d’Enfer, but in my opinion this one works where Pd’E doesn’t)
Penhaligon’s Lily & Spice (discontinued – lilies, spice and musk)
Le Labo Lys 41 (another soft billowy white floral with gardenia, jasmine and vanilla)
Keiko Mecheri Soussanne (lily, datura, and sandalwood)
Tom Ford Jardin Noir Lys Fumé (lily, ylang, and labdanum)
Jovoy Paris Lys Epona (woody lily)
DSH Perfumes Mother of the Bride (big mixed bouquet of lily, rose, and carnation)
DSH Perfumes 1,000 Lilies (Susinon) (lily, cardamom, sandalwood and incense)

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BWF January

Handmade paper flowers.  I'd rather have a ginormous bouquet of real ones, of course, but since THAT ain't gonna happen, here are these. (Click the picture for details on purchasing these. Not affiliated, I just admire.)
Handmade paper flowers. (Click the picture for details on purchasing these. Not affiliated, I just admire.)

So it’s January, and it’s dreary outside, and I want flowers. Big ones. Big smelly ones.  I keep hearing perfume friends talking about “picking up a couple of stems of tuberose at the market” with which to scent their houses, but I don’t live in a big city with a well-stocked flower market, so that’s out. (I could special order them… at a minimum $75 order, so THAT ain’t gonna happen.)

The Big White Floral, or BWF, is one of the most polarizing genres of perfume available. People either love it or they haaaaaate it, and they bring out the cross and the garlic to defend themselves (sort of the way I get with dusty tolu/patchouli orientals). I, of course, love me a BWF.

Andre', WWE baddie wrestler and consummate showman, who played Fezzik in "The Princess Bride," was a sweetheart... but he was huge. 7'4", 450 pounds huge. Sometimes BWFs are like that.
Andre’, WWE baddie wrestler and consummate showman, who played Fezzik in “The Princess Bride,” was a sweetheart… but he was HUGE. Like 7’4″, 450 pounds huge. Sometimes BWFs are like that. (Photo links to the book at Amazon, but I’ll warn you that the book is roundly panned by readers.)

BWFs can range from soliflores to mixed florals to floral orientals (and possibly even white-floral chypres, depending how strong a floral presence there is), but quite often, the operative word in the sentence is “BIG,” like Andre-the-Giant BIG, and that might be part of the issue. I’m not generally fond of potent sillage, and I prefer to keep my waft within a couple of feet of my person, but I’ll break that rule for a beautiful BWF.

I’m going to list a few of my favorites, just the tip of the iceberg, today, and will follow it up with more detailed listings, organized by central note, over the next couple of weeks. Here are some fragrances that come immediately to mind when I think of BWFs:

Karl Lagerfeld Chloë, the original. It’s still being produced (now by Parfums Chloe), but it’s strictly an online-stock thing now, and it’s had the heart sucked out of it long ago. If you loved it in the late 1970s, don’t bother smelling a new version now, it’ll break your heart. The vintage is still available on eBay, and the three samples I’ve smelled of 80s Chloë all smelled wonderful. This is a big, generous, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink floral on a bed of woods and moss, with peach and citrus and a tiny flourish of aldehydes up top for sparkle.  Carnation and rose are also present, as are muguet, jasmine, and honeysuckle but it is, first and always, a BWF centered on tuberose.

Christian Dior Poison. Yep, the Beast That Ate My College Dorm. It’s tuberose and orange blossom, plus resins and a few spices and a jammy plum so overwhelming you could swim in it. Definitely a white floral and a huge one (the sillage on this, even the reformulated stuff, is monster), but I can only think of it in terms of deep amethyst. Is that marketing, or is it truly a purple smell? I don’t like big sillage, I don’t even like purple, and I still don’t know why this stuff is so addictive.

Frederic Malle Editions des Parfums Carnal Flower. Centered on tuberose, with a lush, fresh jasmine backing it up, it is nonetheless somehow green, with menthol and green leaves up top. I first smelled it on a winter day so cold that warm breath turned to frost, and it was perfect. I’ve worn it on muggy summer days, too, and it was perfect. It’s never been not-perfect for me.

Robert Piguet Fracas. A ton of virtual ink has been spilt over Fracas, the first widely-popular tuberose-centered fragrance, created by Germaine Cellier to serve as the femme-est, pinkest, bombshelliest fragrance evarrrrr.  Despite assertions of it being THE Tuberose Fragrance, it is also completely and utterly jam-packed full of orange blossom, jasmine, gardenia, lilac, peach, and a zillion other things. The orange blossom is particularly prominent to my nose, and Fracas smells like nothing so much as it does a starlet’s dressing table, complete with lipsticks and cold cream and swansdown powder puffs and lavish bouquets.

Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur.  Big bad Black Orchid’s ingenue sister, this EdT version is discontinued. It centers on tuberose and ylang-ylang, with a milky, peppery veil over them. There is a light but persistent oriental base under it, with benzoin and woody notes.  I can’t find the right text color for it, but it’s a sunsetty orange-pink color, pretty but vivid.

More BWFs to come.

 

 

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It’s Cold, but I Smell Good

We haven’t had quite the frozen-tundra effect that some of the rest of the country has had recently (Facebook friends were posting about their under-zero temperatures), but it’s been pretty cold over the past couple of days, getting down to single digits at night… with WIND, giving us a wind chill factor of below zero. Brrrr.

Aren't these gorgeous?
Aren’t these gorgeous?

I’ve been fighting the cold with white florals – looks like my January tuberose/white floral obsession has rolled back around again. I’ve been wearing the following:

Houbigant Orangers en Fleurs. This is a very floral orange blossom with jasmine; a bit soapy but not overly so, as many many orange-blossom fragrances go on my skin. There may be a bit of tuberose in here too.

Robert Piguet Fracas. Not for nothing is Fracas the Queeeeeeeeen – she’s a movie star in cream satin and diamonds, with a dressing room jam-packed with bouquets, and a dressing table littered with cosmetics of every kind, lipsticks and face powders and mascara and beauty patches and eye shadows and kohls and blushers and cold cream. Enormous, and exaggerated to the point of artificiality, but beautiful. This is not, to my mind, “a tuberose perfume.” It’s a mixed white floral in which tuberose and orange blossom share the billing.

Le Galion Tubereuse (2014 rerelease). According to Grain de Musc, the original 1939 version of this tuberose soliflore predated Fracas, and reportedly influenced its creation – though I don’t see a lot of relationship between the two, honestly.  This one is very green and fresh – Fragrantica lists several fruity notes in the rereleased version, fruity notes I don’t get at all. It also lists orange blossom, but pretty much all I get from the Le Galion is tuberose and green leaves.

ByRedo Flowerhead. Tuberose, jasmine, and rose, with some bitterish stuff up top that mimics the delightfully pungent smell of marigold (though reportedly marigold, an important component of the Indian brides’ headdresses that Flowerhead refers to, was too difficult to add to the composition). I was wearing this for the first time when Hayley-dog died, so I’d been reluctant to wear it again, but it is very beautiful.

Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. Sadly discontinued, this gentler version of the polarizing original (I can’t stand Black Orchid; the florals are completely overwhelmed with a cucumber/dirt thing that smells like dank basements) is heavy on tuberose and ylang, with a milky, peppery veil. I’d like to smell Velvet Orchid, the newest flanker to Black Orchid.

If I hadn’t used  up my sample of Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger – the newer stuff, less packed with cumin than the first version released – I’d be wearing that too, as it’s just as much tuberose and jasmine as orange blossom, and very lovely.

I once looked into getting fresh tuberose stems at the local florist. They were available – by special order, $75 minimum. Wonder if I could force the bulbs, and if so where I could get some…

Anybody else craving white florals in the cold?

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Perfume Review: Byredo Flowerhead

flowerhead-by-byredoI’ve had this decant for a couple of months now, but I haven’t reviewed it yet. That’s partly because I needed a break from blogging, and partly because I was wearing it the afternoon that we took Hayley to the vet, never dreaming that she wouldn’t come home with us. But I pulled it out to retry today, and I am writing with a pic of Hayley-dog on the screen, so I think I will be all right.

This is a truly beautiful floral, centered on tuberose-jasmine-rose. I don’t think Byredo has done many florals, other than La Tulipe (mixed spring bouquet) and Inflorescence (a muguet). Byredo is very much an art-directed outfit, very visual, and typically the notes lists/art inspiration for their fragrances don’t encourage me to purchase samples. What I remember Byredo for is the sticky, melting, frozen-fruit-bar of Pulp, and the Blanche sample a friend sent me, which was fresh-air-and-clean-laundry to my nose (and I even like aldehydes. Oh well).

This one, as most fumeheads probably know by now since I’m months behind the curve on reviewing it, was inspired by the visual of an Indian bride adorned with a floral headdress. Byredo’s creator, Ben Gorham, is half Indian and had a large part to play in the wedding of his cousin, and was inspired by the vision of her with flowers for a head.

The six-year-old girl in me is RUTHLESSLY DELIGHTED at these bridal hairstyles. But they don't say "flower head" to me.
The six-year-old girl in me is RUTHLESSLY DELIGHTED at these bridal hairstyles. But they don’t say “flower head” to me.

Well, okay. Whatever caused Mr. Gorham to decide to focus on the natural glory of blossoms, I don’t really care much; I’m just here for the tuberose. And the jasmine and rose. Hand over the flowers and nobody gets hurt, okay?

The tuberose does tend to dominate, in my opinion, not that I’m bothered by that. It’s kept very fresh by tart berries, angelica and green notes, and I have to say this is one of the loveliest floral openings I’ve ever smelled, a glorious explosion of blossoms with the sharpness of cut stems and leaves. I love it. It’s almost like sticking your nose in a big bouquet – that’s one of my favorite scent experiences, by the way. The only thing missing from the bouquet is a “wet” dewy note. The visual for the fragrance features marigolds, and Ben Gorham has stated that he and perfumer Jerome Epinette attempted to include marigold but weren’t able to integrate it successfully. The tart berries and sharp herbal accents, to me, seem to take the place that marigolds would have taken, and I do love that effect.  In fact, the opening reminds me very much of Arquiste’s wonderful Flor y Canto (tuberose and marigold), and it’s gorgeous.

Half an hour in, it calms down a bit and the berries retreat, and there’s a wonderful tuberose-jasmine duet. The rose flies under the radar for me, and I can only pick it up occasionally, as a counterpoint to the white floral blend. There’s a fair proportion of natural materials in this, and it smells very fresh and gentle. I wish, to some degree, that the fragrance would stay loud, but the initial blast does calm itself down to a smaller sillage. This middle stage lasts three to three and a half hours, respectable for a floral fragrance on my skin.

Gradually it begins to fade away to a very quiet drydown. The official drydown notes are “suede and ambergris,” but I’m really smelling a quiet, dry woody musk rather than anything *I* would call ambergris. It may be, as a reviewer on Fragrantica suggests, Iso E Super there in the drydown. I am not sensitive to Iso E Super myself, can barely smell it at all; what I’m getting here is a soft, barely-there presence that simply helps to extend the florals. This stage lasts about three further hours on me, so that I get about 7-8 hours of wear from one goodly spritz. I would not choose the “spray until wet” method for this one (as I typically do for lightweight fragrances like summer Eaus and Annick Goutals), since Flowerhead’s initial sillage is so big.

Notes, according to Fragrantica, include lemon, cranberry, angelica, green notes, tuberose, jasmine sambac, rose petals, suede and ambergris.

Flowerhead is a really lovely fragrance. The straight-up floral is one of my favorite genres of fragrance, and I enjoy wearing it. One reviewer on Fragrantica says that it’s “too floral,” but I say Nonsense! No such thing! The more flowers the better!  Know your own tastes, I always say, and Flowerhead suits mine very well.

I could wish that the sillage would stay at the same level, or only gradually taper off, rather than dropping drastically half an hour after application – that was my frustration with DelRae Coup del Foudre, for example. At $220 for 100ml and $145 for 50ml, it’s probably outside my price range, but I will use and enjoy my 5ml decant.

Other reviews: EauMG, The Scented Hound, Robin at Now Smell this, Grain de Musc, Patty at Perfume Posse (brief), Colognoisseur.

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May Bells

muguet postcardFirst, a public service announcement: I’ve been having technical issues with the blog again. WordPress blogs are apparently susceptible to hacker attacks, according to my web host platform, and any time someone tries to hack the blog, the web host shuts down the blog for a minimum of 15 minutes.

To prevent attacks, I first added an extra administrative password. It didn’t help. I was still facing a “locked out of the blog” situation every 4-5 days, on average. Then I added another layer of protection, by restricting the log in to my specific IP address. That helped for several weeks… until my IP changed. This is, apparently, normal; “dynamic” IP addresses are only active a certain period of time, and the router will change them periodically. Normally the user doesn’t even notice. But having my blog linked to my IP meant I had to log in to my web host account and change the htaccess code (no, don’t ask, I don’t really even know what it is) to reflect my new IP address. Then it happened again this week, and I couldn’t post or reply to comments until I made adjustments.

GAH. Frustrating.

In any case, it’s back up and running, and I can talk about lily of the valley, which I meant to do yesterday on May Day, but didn’t get to.

lotv ground coverOne of my aunts has a house near the lake, and her back yard is completely shaded by trees. She has a gorgeous patch of lilies of the valley, and I’ve loved them ever since I smelled them growing at Aunt Becky’s house. I wanted them in my bridal bouquet, but when I found that they’d have to be imported from the Netherlands, that put them out of my financial reach. Wish I’d just asked my aunt to provide them.

There’s a lily of the valley plant growing in my front flowerbed – just one, a gift from my sister-in-law to my daughter, whose birth month flower it is. It bloomed beautifully the past two years, but there aren’t any buds on it yet. I’m hoping they’re just delayed, and they’ll bloom when Bookworm gets home next week.

There are a number of lily of the valley (abbreviated LOTV, called muguet in French) fragrances, but if you’re at all conversant with IFRA restrictions, you know that the crucial aromamolecule associated with them, hydroxycitronellal, has been restricted in usage. It does, apparently, cause allergic reactions in large quantities. You can’t make a realistic LOTV fragrance without it, so classic muguet fragrances have all been reformulated.

I don’t even want to talk about that. It’s too depressing. So I’ll just mention a few lovely LOTV fragrances and ask whether you wore one yesterday.

lov3Muguet soliflores:

Dior Diorissimo – THE quintessential LOTV. I have a bottle from ca. 2006, and it’s lovely but already heading toward the screech of the current version.  Sigh. I wore it yesterday.

Coty Muguet de Bois – I almost bought this at Big Lots (an “overstock” store) in the mid-1980s. I think I was maybe 14 years old and didn’t have any cash on me, and my mom wouldn’t pony up. She said I already had plenty of perfume and didn’t need any more, so I should forget it. (I had three bottles: Avon Sweet Honesty, which I didn’t like much, Prince Matchabelli Cachet, a floral chypre so prim that it practically tugged your neckline up all by itself, and Karl Lagerfeld Chloe, which I wore most of the time.) Wish I’d begged hard enough, or gone back later. I remember it as being a green, fresh floral, and very pretty.

Other soliflores include Guerlain Muguet, Caron Muguet de Bonheur, Annick Goutal Le Muguet, Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley. No doubt there are others; I haven’t tried these.

rsz_bouquetLily of the valley is also presented frequently in composition with other notes, and I find that often the screechy edge is blunted by the presence of other florals. Here are a few to try:

Kenzo Parfum d’Ete (the 1992 version) – green notes, muguet, hyacinth, peony, rose, narcissus and a cool woody drydown.  Discontinued. (The new version is nice, too, but not LOTV.)

Gucci Envy – the notes list is quite similar to that of the Kenzo, but it is strikingly metallic to my nose and difficult for me to wear. I don’t like it, but a lot of people do.

Parfums DelRae Debut – still haven’t smelled this one, either, but it is based on a cool, citrus-tinted muguet with green notes and linden blossom.

Jessica McClintock – so old-fashioned a floral bouquet centering on LOTV that it could be its own lacy handkerchief.

Parfums de Nicolai Odalisque – jasmine, muguet, iris and moss. Simple and elegant in the extreme.

Both Serge Lutens Clair de Musc and Jovan Musk for Women are soft, quiet clean-musk fragrances that make good use of a gentle muguet note in the heart.

Tauer Perfumes Carillon pour un Ange might be a favorite. It’s green notes, muguet, and an earthy/mossy/leathery drydown.  Beautiful stuff, very potent, extremely radiant. A drop or two will do you.

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Perfume Review: Escada Margaretha Ley

Here I am again with a totally useless review of a discontinued fragrance. I apologize in advance.

marg leyLike I said, this one’s gone.  There is some confusion in my mind as to whether Margaretha Ley (the founder of the Escada brand, now deceased) and Escada Escada (original) are the same fragrance. Some sources say yes, some say they’re slightly different. The packaging was slightly different as well, and judging from the notes list on Fragrantica, they’re pretty close in smell.

In any case, this is a powerhouse. Fragrances based on tuberose or jasmine often are, which you probably know, and if you’re sensitive to Big White Florals, you’ve certainly been bludgeoned by someone’s Fracas or Dior Poison or (common in my area) Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds.

(HEY. White Diamonds in parfum, dabbed delicately, is really lovely. But I’ve smelled it overapplied, too, and it can be quite nausea-inducing – and I really like BWFs.)

What’s immediately apparent with one half-spritz of Margaretha Ley is jasmine. And coconut. And ylang-ylang. You’ve got all the creamy aspects of BWFs – I swear there’s some tuberose in here too – as well as lactonic milky  stuff like coconut and peach. There is also some noticeable vanilla and spicy notes – clove, I think.  Hyacinth is in the notes, but I am not picking up on the metallic aspect of hyacinth, more just the spicy floral part. The entire thing is quite sweet, though not on the level of, for example, the gorgeously rich Prada Candy.

The only other scent this really reminds me of is the old Diane von Furstenberg Tatiana. Don’t bother trying it now, it is a chemical mess, but back in the day, when I was in college*, it was really lovely. The spicy notes were more prominent in Tatiana, and I think it was based on gardenia rather than jasmine, but there was a level of congruence there, with the spicy-creamy white flowers.  It is a tropical beach of a fragrance, though not fruity at all. I think of trade routes from the Indies and tropical flowers and drinks made with coconut milk…

If this is your thing, hunt up some Margaretha Ley, or some Tatiana, via ebay. The parfum minis for Tatiana are still available at a reasonable price, though the Escada is not priced reasonably. You might get lucky and find a partially-used one for cheap, as I did via a fellow perfumista.

Then, kick back on your autumn porch and dream of Tahiti.

Notes for Margaretha Ley (released 1990, composed by Michel Almairac, discontinued): Lime, hyacinth, coconut, peach, iris, jasmine, orange blossom, ylang, cloves, musk, sandalwood, vanilla.

Notes for DvF Tatiana (released 1975, still in production but no longer pleasant IMO): Lime, hyacinth, orange blossom, jasmine, narcissus, gardenia, tuberose, rose, musk, sandalwood, amber.

* If I have not told you the story about my Tatiana stash, I ought to.  You remember when my mom, who haaaaaates fresh gardenias and BWF fragrances, made me take my newly-purchased bottle of Sand & Sable back to the drugstore, claiming it was “too old for me”? (I was 18.) Well, my first year of college, I bought a mini bottle of Tatiana at the drugstore and, as I had been taught, applied it delicately from the little splash edt bottle. I took it home with me for Spring Break… and over the course of four days, it disappeared.

Disappeared.  My sister swore she hadn’t seen it. My grandmother (who liked it) said she hadn’t seen it. My mother… well, let’s just say I have my suspicions to this day.  (Still love you, Mom. But maybe I ought to charge you for this replacement mini I bought on ebay.)

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Perfume Review: Le Labo Lys 41 and Ylang 49

Le LaboI’ve said it before: Le Labo annoys the fire out of me.  I won’t go into all the reasons here since I yarked about it in my Aldehyde 44 review, but suffice it to say that I find this French high-end niche brand really pretentious, and I mean beyond your typical French attitude.  Also, I have been irritated by the fact that frequently the name of the fragrance does not necessarily indicate what it will smell like. (For the uninitiated, Le Labo names their fragrances after the number of accords and the accord that makes up the largest percentage of the formula.  Ergo, Tubereuse 40 does not actually smell of tuberose; it smells of citrus and neroli in a classic cologne structure.  For a tubey fan bored by classic cologne, GRRRRR. ‘Nuff sed.)

However, I did like Aldehydes 44 (which, stunningly, does smell predominantly of aldehydes, go figure), and Patchouli 24, which had originally skeered the bejesus out of me simply by being named after my bete-noire-ish raw material but turns out to smell like smoke, rubber, leather and vanilla, like Bvlgari Black turning into the Hulk version of itself.  And when I began to hear good things about Le Labo’s new 2013 releases named after lily and ylang, which are two of my favorite raw materials… well, I resisted. And resisted, until I just couldn’t resist any more! I snagged samples.

white flowersLys 41, composed by Daphne Bugey, has notes of lily, tuberose, jasmine, woods, vanilla and musk. And oddly for a Le Labo, that is exactly what you smell. The tuberose-lily pairing is paramount, with wisps of greenish jasmine (with possibly a hint of the bitter-orange of petitgrain, and also the yielding satiny texture of orchid) peeking through. It’s heady but not overwhelming, fresh and soft at the same time — a just-picked bouquet that hasn’t had time to reach full-blown dropping-petals voluptuousness. Eventually it softens to a very gentle vanilla-woods drydown that is neither too sweet nor too rich.  It is, plainly, beautiful, carrying the suggestion of billowing white skirts.  My guess is that a man might find this one too femme and too soft.  I’m dabbing from a vial, and the longevity is not great, 3-4 hours on me despite containing two natural materials that tend to last on my skin (vanilla and tuberose).  Spraying would probably help the lasting power, but since the sillage is gorgeous in the first 20 minutes and negligible after that, you might be in for a very wafty ride, i.e., a stay-home-until-your-cloud-relaxes one.

Ylang 49 is the one that has been making perfume bloggers and critics rave; its floral-chypre braininess is something we bloggers seem to miss in the current perfume world, which seems obsessed with calling fruity, sweet, clean-patchouli frags “chypres.”  Composed by Frank Voelkl, it contains notes of ylang-ylang, gardenia, oakmoss, vetiver, patchouli, sandalwood and benzoin.  Vetiver comes to the front of this one for me, hiding the lush white florals underneath rooty, leafy, earthy materials.  There’s an odd, salty, celery note in here (usually that is associated with a jasmine partial material, I’ve heard in talking with Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio, and sometimes I get celery in other vetiver scents as well) that I don’t like much, and a bitterness that tends to block the white florals.  This scent I find deeply disturbing, and when Persolaise mentions Dzongkha and Sel de Vetiver in his review, I begin to understand why: both those fragrances are also very earthy and rooty, and they tend to make me think of dank cellars, decomposing jungle vegetation, and pondwater.  I would like to report more on how it develops on skin, and whether it ever gets to a point where I find it bearable, but alas, I cannot. I made it 43 minutes the first time I wore it, and 28 the second, before I had to scrub due to nausea.

pond water

Sorry.  I really am.

I am a Philistine. I don’t like early Duchaufour compositions, and I don’t like vetiver. My recommendation is to Know thyself.  If you love Dzongkha, snap this sucker up.  I tend to do fine with very floral chypres, but not this particular one.

Both of these fragrances are available in the US at Le Labo boutiques and at Lucky Scent, at $145 for 50ml and $220 for 100ml.

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Simply Pretty: Micallef Ylang in Gold Perfume Review

ylang in goldIt’s Christmastime, and I’ve been making my grandmother’s boiled custard. First, I should explain: “boiled custard,” in the American South, is not your classic custard preparation. It is not the same as baked custard, and it is definitively not crème anglaise, either. It is more like a thin, drinkable sauce than a pudding. My grandmother Nell always made it at Christmas, and we’d have it at our family Christmas Eve dinner, poured over a slice of pound cake or spooned up from cups or small dessert bowls, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream slowly melting on top.

It is not a “fancy” dessert. No raisins or candied cherries or chocolate, no dustings of shredded coconut or dragees or chopped nuts adorn it. It tastes of egg, milk, sugar, and vanilla, and it is exactly as good as its texture is smooth.

In fact, Nell never gave me her recipe. She’d say, “Well, you start with a gallon of milk – whole milk, mind you – and fourteen eggs.” Then she’d sigh, shake her head and go on, “It’s tricky to make. You’d just have to watch me make it sometime.” And then she’d leave the table. My aunts knew the recipe, and the trick, apparently; after Nell’s Alzheimer’s disease forced her to sit and watch at family get-togethers, Aunt Doris would sometimes bring a pitcher of boiled custard, to my father’s delight.

My mother recently gave me a copy of this recipe, scaled down and adapted for the microwave, and I made it for Christmas dinner, to be eaten with pound cake. It’s delicious: smooth, velvety, fragrant with vanilla.

Which brings me to Micallef Ylang in Gold.

Cast an eye over the notes list: tangerine, peach, lychee, bitter orange, geranium, sage, rosemary, artemisia, mint, ylang-ylang, rose, magnolia, lily of the valley, sandalwood, vanilla, musk, coconut, oakmoss. Pretty complex list, isn’t it?

The fragrance smells anything but complex. It does not smell fancy. It is simple, and simply pretty, a tropical-floral smoothie with plenty of vanilla and coconut, the perfect beachy refresher when you are longing for sunshine.

It’s well-named. Other reviewers have mentioned green notes lightening the floral pudding, but I don’t perceive them as a strong presence. There is a pretty, tangy citrus opening followed by ylang – big buttery floral YLANG, lots of it – and other floral notes. I can pick out the rose fairly easily, and the creaminess of magnolia. The base is dominated by vanilla, with more creaminess from the coconut and a cushiony musk.

The fragrance, which I’ve been dabbing generously from a 5ml sample graciously provided by Micallef’s PR company, has soft to moderate sillage (it would probably radiate a bit more when sprayed) and lasts about four to five hours on my skin, which is about average longevity for an Eau de Parfum for me.

It’s simple, yes. Despite that long list of notes, Ylang in Gold is ylang and vanilla and coconut, very simple, very smooth, and very, very pretty. When I’ve worn it, The CEO has trailed me around the house remarking about how attractive I smell (his fondness for traditionally-femme scents is legend), and who wouldn’t want that?

Sometimes simple is best.

Which brings me to That Bottle. I’ve heard some whining about blingy the packaging is, and how gimmicky the optional gold shimmer is, but I disagree. I like the shape of the bottle, and the crystals decorating it seem shimmery to me, a soft sparkle rather than a Las Vegas glitz. Dressed up, yes, but appropriately so. My sample did not contain the gold shimmer, so I can’t speak to that aspect of the fragrance.

A bottle of Ylang in Gold will set you back $245 for 100ml, gold shimmer or not. In the US, it’s available at Luckyscent.

Here are a few other reviews of Ylang in Gold: The Alembicated Genie, Angela at Now Smell This, Musette at Perfume Posse, and (brief) Eyeliner on a Cat. (As always, if you know of other reviews, please share in the comments.)

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