Mini-review Roundup, January 24, 2017

I always forget how much fun it is to do mini-reviews! I should do more of them.

Masque Milano Romanza: Okay, so you know I love me some narcissus, right? Oh, how I do love it. PdN Le Temps d’une Fete is still my favorite narcissus scent (not to mention, probably favorite scent of all time. OF ALL TIME, y’all), but I’m always looking for another narcissus scent. So then this Masque thingie showed up on the fumie blogs and I had to sample.

Narcissus poeticus

It’s pretty great, actually. The first five minutes it’s all drrrty intoxicating narcissus and a whap of something aromatic and bitter, and then that animalic stuff recedes to a lovely floral – narcissus and jasmine with green leaves. After that, the scent dwindles gradually to a vetiver-cedar base, very pleasant.  The drydown sticks around for the bulk of the time the scent’s on my skin, but that’s not the part I love, so this will never be a replacement for LTdF. All the same, it’s very good.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Natura Fabularis Tenebrae 26: Somebody I know from a fragrance split group offered a bottle split of several of L’Artisan’s Natura Fabularis (“Nature Mythology,” according to three different Latin-to-English online translators). Tenebrae was the one that seized my attention for some reason, and although the split didn’t work out — not enough takers, I think — I decided to sample it.

I was expecting something like this. (Image by Melurinn at DeviantArt; click through to follow link.)

This is not at all my usual sort of thing, of course. But something about the description, “a ‘dense and dark forest’ with incense, resins and sap,” just whispered that I needed to try it. Tenebrae means “shadows,” and I guess I was in a shadowy sort of mood, maybe. At this remove, I don’t remember.

So is it dark and dense? Is it foresty, shadowy, a David Lynch movie in a bottle? Nope. There’s enough vetiver and dry cedar in here that it comes off being quite light and dry and pleasant. The incense is prominent. Forest? Sap? Not so much. This reminds me a good bit of CdG Incense: Zagorsk, which I like. Good stuff. The juice is sort of light bluish-green, which I also like. It lasted for a good five hours on my skin, a big surprise for something that wears this lightly.

Serge Lutens Cèdre: this is the Serge that’s famous for its name being all Le Labo-misdirectiony, as in “Where’s the cedar? This is all tuberose!” (or amber, depending on who’s reviewing it). It’s also famous for being, and I’m quoting more than one person here, weird. I blew it off for a long time, but I finally broke down and got a sample, so I could check my opinion against everybody else’s.

Not that anybody is talking about Cedre these days. It’s one of the older scents in the Lutens stables, yet not a classic, so people forget about it. The official notes are cedar, tuberose, cinnamon, honey, musk and amber.

I put a dab of this thing on my left hand, and then I burst out laughing. Because, yes, it’s weird. It’s got some seeeeerious menthol going on the first two minutes, almost as minty as Tubereuse Criminelle, and then the next thought I have is, Hey, this is like the early blueprint for Memoir Woman: weird mint-spice thing, big white floral thing, cat-butt musk and leather.  I love Memoir Woman, which has Almost Too Much, including a bizarrely medicinal opening, going on for its own good.

Twenty minutes later, the honey is coming to the forefront of Cedre and the whole thing is getting softer and sweeter, muskier and cat-furrier. It’s less weird, though I would not call it conventional by any stretch of the imagination. And yes, there is (eventually) cedar in here, although I’m still getting a very caramelly-buttery tuberose all the way to the bottom. Good 4.5-hour sticking power, not much waft, but that might be the fault of applying from a dab sample. Four hours is a pretty good EdP ride for me and my scent-eating skin; your mileage may vary.

This is kinda nice. It’s got way less teeth than Memoir Woman, though, so I think I’m finding it a little tame. (inorite? In 2009 I’d have probably run screaming from it found it too weird to wear, but now I’m all blasé and claiming it’s not teethy enough for me. Heh.)

Tested anything new to you lately?

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Book and Perfume Review: The Perfume Lover by Denyse Beaulieu, and L’Artisan Seville a l’Aube

Oranges bénites / Blessed oranges

The subtitle for this book, by the author of one of the most long-running and influential/well-read perfume blogs, Grain de Musc, is “A Personal History of Scent,” and that’s a succinct description of what you’ll find inside its pages. We get all kinds of scented anecdotes, from perfume being banned from young Denyse’s home due to her father’s dislike of it, to her first exhilarating visit to a Paris perfume shop, to the shared bottle of “men’s” fragrance used by her university social group of young, intellectual punk-rockers as a sort of identity badge, right through descriptions of what she wore as a young freelance writer in Europe, what she wore at her wedding, and what scent became the symbol of a torrid love affair.

Perhaps more compelling to perfume fans than these stories is the story of how Seville a l’Aube came about, which is woven into the book. First there’s a chance meeting with Bertrand Duchaufour, then an invitation for her to come by his lab and learn more, followed by the story of how “the most beautiful night of [her] life” smelled and Duchaufour’s comment that it would make a terrific perfume. The seed – Ms. Beaulieu’s description of a Holy Week night spent in a Seville orange grove not far from the cathedral, standing with a Spanish boy and watching the religious festivities – fell on fertile ground, and much of the book is a step-by-step telling of how, exactly, a perfume is created. Continue reading Book and Perfume Review: The Perfume Lover by Denyse Beaulieu, and L’Artisan Seville a l’Aube

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Tuberose Series 15: Nuit de Tubereuse

I’ve seen several reviews of this scent, and at least one excellent interview (Denyse at Grain de Musc’s interview of Bertrand Duchaufour – warning, the accompanying image is a Matisse nude, probably NSFW) commenting that the reviewers are really enjoying the perfumer’s “new direction.” I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’m not very familiar with his earlier work, and I can’t really address the issue. I like Amaranthine very much, however, and if this is M. Duchaufour’s future, I like it.  To be brutally honest, I like Amaranthine much better – it seems so comfortable – but NdT is fascinating.

Perfume Review: L’Artisan Nuit de Tubereuse

Date released: 2010

Perfumer: Bertrand Duchaufour

Sample provenance: split of fresh bottle from retailer, 2010

Sub-category: Ummmm… freaky tuberose? (I just created that one.)

 Notes for NdT:  Tuberose, mango, citrus, cardamom, clove, pink pepper, pepper, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, rose, angelica, gorse, sandalwood, palisander, musks, benzoin and styrax.

After reading Denyse’s tantalizing “guess what tuberose scent I’ve been wearing lately that hasn’t been released yet?” teaser in December, and finding a bottle split active, I jumped right in, unsniffed. (Oh, don’t worry, it was 5ml. And tuberose. How could I go wrong?) And then the decant bottle arrived in the mail. I pulled the cap off and sniffed. “Huh. It smells like… dirt,” I said to myself. “I can tell there’s tuberose in there, but it’s mostly… dirt. Wet potting soil, actually. And maybe… is that mildew?”

(Those of you who are familiar with Duchaufour’s earlier work may stop laughing at me now.  Thank you.)

Put off by the mildew, I tucked my small decant away for several days. Pulled it back out again and smelled the nozzle… nope, still mildew, with something floral under there somewhere. Put it away again for another week. Then received an advance sample of another tuberose scent (yes, yes, review of this one on June 23, I promise) called Vamp a NY, from Honore des Pres’ new We <3 NY series, which also includes I <3 Les Carottes, and Love Coco. Vamp was so terrific that I felt I really must give NdT a real chance, instead of just sniffing the cap and getting frightened.

And the next time I picked up my bottle, it wasn’t nearly so mildewy/earthy. I could actually smell the tuberose, just a bit. So, okay, here goes: I sprayed a little on my thumb. And immediately thought of jungles. All that moisture in the air, and on the ground, and in the vegetation… so much vegetation, and every bit of it just this side of rotting.

There is at least one review that relates the opening to “Juicy Fruit gum,” and others that say, “big ripe mango,” and one that veers off someplace else with “neon and electric.” To be honest, I don’t get any of those things. What I get is JUNGLE, and it’s just that little bit scary. It’s borderline grossly overripe, and definitely weird, and I love March’s description of the opening: “The mind grasps at the smell, trying to categorize it as pleasant or unpleasant – and it’s both.” Yep. Exactically, as Tigger would say.  

The more I wear NdT, the more I discover new aspects of it.  On my first wearing, I found it nearly unbearably earthy on the open.  The second wearing revealed a green, sour mango up top.  (Neither experience was enjoyable, by the way.)  But on the third wearing, I got the pink pepper.  Now, you can whine about the ubiquitous pink pepper all you want, but in my opinion that’s like whining about the ubiquitous bergamot.  Nearly everything – particularly classical compositions – has bergamot in it, and it has the advantage of connecting notes you might not think of as connected.  Bergamot bridges fruit and floral, herbal and floral, citrus and herbal, citrus and floral, citrus and incense, floral and woods… you name it.  Pink pepper does that too, since it seems to work well in bridging fruit or citrus to floral, spicy, incense, or woody notes.  In Nuit de Tubereuse, it’s connecting that weirdly aromatic turned-earth aspect to that whanged-out mango and from thence to a muted tuberose and some jungly, moist greenery. 

A few months ago, I tested a tuberose scent from profumo.it (abdes salaam attar) called Scents of the Soul: Night Blossom. From the website: “This olfactory jewel (the tuberose is the most precious of floral essences) is set in a thick tropical night, smelling of humid underwood and strewn with scent traces of freshly trodden grass.”  What it smells like to me, though, is PATCHOULI PATCHOULI tuberose PATCHOULI PATCHOULI.  Nuit de Tubereuse, far from being the “perfume for a secret Parisian summer night,” that L’Artisan describes it as, is really what Abdes Salaam Attar was going for: a sweltering tropical night, where wafts of tuberose float over the “humid underwood.”  There’s no Paris in NdT – no wine, no baguette, no formal perfumey odors, no asphalt, no smells of humanity. 

The longer NdT is on skin, the more it relaxes. The tuberose gets softer and softer and the incense comes out on my skin, and the whole thing gets rather… pretty. It doesn’t seem to be either feminine or masculine, which I suppose is the best description of a unisex scent. The tuberose might make it seem to skew girly, but it’s not, trust me. Robin at NST struggles to define the drydown but calls it very sexy – and I don’t get that, either. I find it to be really pleasant, though, and very comfortable, although I suspect the woody-incense base just feels that way because I’ve recently experienced the hair-raising crypt dirt and jungle mildew of that bizarre-o opening. (It makes me think of the story about the cowboy who always bought his boots a size too small: “Don’t them boots pinch, Clem?” “Waal, sure they do. But it feels so good when I take ‘em off!”)

I really must address a few comparisons to other tuberose scents: the new one from the naturals line at Honore des Pres, Vamp a NY, which I am dying to tell you about but can’t until next Thursday, is another fragrance that takes certain unusual aspects of tuberose and overemphasizes them. But Vamp I found very, very easy to wear, unlike Nuit de Tubereuse. Both are intriguing and bold, tackling tuberose from new angles, definitely Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile Not Your Mother’s Fracas. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Fracas, mind you.) And, of course, I’ll refer you back to my review of Tubereuse Criminelle – another tubey frag with a weird, difficult opening – with the comment that I found TC “difficult just for the sake of being difficult,” and I don’t have any appreciation for the Rotting Raw Chicken of Death that accompanies TC’s otherwise-lovely tuberose. Nuit de Tubereuse, however, is entirely wearable. Weird, difficult, funhouse-mirror freaky maybe in spots, but wearable.

Quality    A   Definitely natural ingredients.

Grab-scale score   Ummmm… 4 to 9, depending on where it is in its development.

Short description   Freaky (dirt, jungle, and incense) tuberose. Maybe mango tuberose, if you get the mango reference (I don’t).

Cost   $$$   And can I just say? I think the bottle is gorgeous.  Oooh.  But we never buy perfume for the bottle, right? 

Earns compliments?   Yes, many – even when I was saying incredulously to my husband, “How can you call that alluring? It smells like mildew!” Strangers commented positively and spontaneously, which never happens to me.

Scent presence    Moderately strong. Moderately wafty sillage, approximately a five-foot diameter. Long-lasting (6-8 hours).

Review report:    Everyone in the world: Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, March at Perfume Posse, Olfactarama, 1000Fragrances, Marla at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, you name it.

I find that the entire exercise, playing up the odd aspects of tuberose absolute, reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows.  I love the Food Network, and am positively addicted to Good Eats.  Host Alton Brown’s show is a wacky combination of Julia Child’s The French Chef (anybody else remember the time she dropped a turkey on the floor?), Bill Nye the Science Guy, Dr. Who, and middle-school plays with bad costumes and terrible puns.  I love this thing.  Where else can you learn about the coagulation of egg proteins and the history of maize, while watching cavemen in glasses eat their first mussels and a giant squid attack a boat? (Seriously, go watch it.  It’s Not Your Mother’s Cooking Show.)

And Nuit de Tubereuse?  An intellectual essay on the less-attractive properties of tuberose absolute, that somehow manages to be quirky, attractive, unsettling and fun all at once.  It’s growing on me.  I’ll mention that The CEO’s comment on it was, “Alluring,” and various unsolicited remarks included, “You smell nice,” and “What smells so good in here?”  Wearing it, I still feel a little bit like I’m wandering a Heart of Darkness jungle – but there’s a light up ahead, and if I can just get out before that creature that’s following me catches up, I can soon be wearing a gorgeous coral silk faille halter dress, sipping a Planter’s Punch on the verandah.  I have hope… there’s that light, see?

Finally got the weird font thing fixed!  Top image is from fragrantica.  Lower one is Tuberose 9517-48 from jane.siet at flickr.

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Tuberose Series: L’Artisan Tubereuse

(As always, please forgive the lack of diacritical marks.) I’m not yet bored with tuberose in general, but some of these things are starting to smell alike. L’Artisan’s Tubereuse bored the pants off me.

Perfume Review: L’Artisan Tubereuse

Date released: 1978

Perfumer: none listed

Sample provenance: sample from swap, labeled as originally coming from The Perfumed Court

Subcategory: Typical buttery tuberose soliflore

Sadly for me, all these tuberose scents are starting to blend into one another. According to the notes, I should be smelling tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine, and coconut. Um, no. What tuberose I smell bounces back and forth between buttery and chemical. In fact, Tubereuse smells somewhat like somebody lifted a chunk out of Amarige’s formula and just bottled it. It’s a disappointing offering from the niche house that brought us Premier Figuier and Dzing!

Tubereuse has been around for awhile but rumors suggest it may be discontinued. Elena at Perfume Shrine hints that L’Artisan is planning to release a new tuberose scent in the spring of 2010.  She speculates that the new scent, composed by Bertrand Duchaufour, will replace the rather simple Tubereuse much in the same way that the new L’A vanilla scent, Havana Vanille, “replaced” the older Vanilia.

Whenever I have a really negative response to a particular scent, I try to wear it several more times if possible, particularly if the scent has some rabid fans (Tubereuse Criminelle comes to mind). I might have missed something the first or second time around – for reviews, I always test twice at a minimum. It took me four wearings to fall hard for Alahine, for example, and Ivoire de Balmain had to grow on me in the right weather. However, both times I wore Tubereuse I found myself waiting impatiently for it to wear off so I could put something interesting on, and when I checked other reviews, they tended to be weighted towards either “I don’t like it” or “There are better tuberoses out there,” with only the occasional “I like this, it smells like tropical flowers.” My theory on Tubereuse is that it came into being at about the time that Fracas was a bit down on its luck and smelling thin, and if not for that fact, it would have disappeared quickly. There is absolutely no reason for it to continue existing.

Quality      C. Smells like a mix of synthetic and natural tuberose; unimaginative composition.

Grab-scale score     3    In its favor, it does smell like tuberose. But it put me to sleep, and not in a comforting way.

Short description    Boring tuberose.

Cost   $$$   More expensive than it ought to be.

Earns compliments:    Those polled were noncommittal.

Scent presence   Moderate.  Moderate sillage.  Lasts 4-5 hours.

Review Report:  Bois de Jasmin, Now Smell This, fragrantica

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