Oriza L. Legrand samples

I was going to do my usual history-in-brief, but I think I’ll just link to the Fragrantica info on this perfume house, and get straight on to the frag reviews. My sample set came with seven scents, really nice sturdy 2ml sealed glass spray vials, and then I managed to scrounge up a couple more in the standard decant service 1ml dabber vials. Deep breath. Okay, I’ll start with the ones I didn’t hate and proceed from there.

Small historic church interiorReve D’Ossian – The name makes reference to Ossian, the purported author of a cycle of epic poems in Gaelic (really the 18th-century work of James MacPherson), and the notes are aldehydes, incense, pine, cinnamon, benzoin, elemi, tonka, guaiac wood, opoponax, balsamic notes, sandalwood, leather, labdanum and musk. Longtime readers will look at that list and think, Okay, Mals is gonna definitely hate this. I thought I would, too. I don’t. It might be my favorite of the nine I tried – not that I’m jonesing for a larger amount of it, but I enjoyed wearing it. It does that cool-and-meditative thing that incense does, and when it softens into the basenotes it gets comforting. Not ground-breaking, quite linear, but it holds a feeling of quiet, expansive equanimity for me.

Heliotrope Blanc – I’m iffy on heliotrope, too. (Never once has perfumery heliotrope ever smelled like the plants I had growing in the front flower bed – those smell like jelly doughnuts! – but often will go very powdery or Play-doh-y.) This one is powdery, but pleasant nonetheless. Did I love it? Nope. Notes are orange blossom, heliotrope, violet leaf, almond, mimosa, iris, musk, rice, benzoin and tonka. I tested this on one wrist, with Parfums de Nicolai Kiss Me Intense on the other, and KMI was far more to my taste.

Marions-Nous – The silly name means something like “let’s get married,” and of course it is a floral bouquet – with aldehydes, orange blossom, hyacinth, rose, carnation, ylang, iris, jasmine, cloves, tonka, civet, musk, and sandalwood. The preponderance of orange blossom in there pretty much guarantees its resemblance to scented soap to me. I mean, it’s nice soap. Nice soap is better than most of the rest of this fragrance line, IMHO.

Relique d’Amour – okay, I didn’t hate this one either, though I didn’t mind it. It’s faint lilies, incense and a cold stone effect, but there’s also a hint of old vasewater and celery in there too. Official notes include: fresh herbs, pine, white lily, powdery notes, pepper, oak, incense, myrrh, elemi, musk, moss, waxed wood. I wished to pick up the “waxed woods” note, but didn’t find it.

From here it gets much, much worse. #sorrynotsorry

Oeillet Louis XV – Y’all know I love carnations, except when they go bitter-soapy. This one is bitter, soapy, AND powdery, on top of cloying honey sweetness, and I really hated it. Official notes are carnation, pink pepper, mandarin, honey, white orchid, iris, rose, clove, rice powder, musk, woody notes. The topnotes are okay, and from there it keeps devolving further into OMG why did I put this on my skin? gedditoffme.

marcy_borders_c0-17-640-390_s885x516Jardins d’Armide – I suppose it’s not all that weird that a company that used to make scented wig powder should feature powder in its modern creations, but this thing is OTT powdery. We are talking baby-powder BOMB, people. It starts off promisingly enough – I get the heliotrope right off the bat, and there’s a nice rose-violet, and then five minutes later I’m blinking from a Dumpster’s worth of powder. Remember the picture of that lady who was covered in dust after the World Trade Center bombings, and who died of cancer last year? (Prayers for her family.) That’s how I feel wearing J d’A. Official notes are rose, powdery notes, orange blossom, orris root, violet, carnation, wisteria, honey, almond, tonka bean and musk.

oh heck noHorizon – I didn’t expect to like this “oriental fougere”, and I sure didn’t. Petitgrain, tangerine, marmalade, rose, cognac, amber, tobacco leaf, cacao, almond, oak, patchouli, benzoin, ambergris, white tobacco, vanilla, honey, leather and peat.  Sounds great, right? But on my skin, it’s a big ol’ slug of patchouli and sweated-out booze, and it smells like poor judgment – not just no, OH HE** NO.

Forest StagChypre Mousse – this is the reason I bought the sample set. I blame Kafka for this one; she is my Mostly Evil Scent Twin, but every now and then we have congruent tastes. I was expecting something like vintage Coty Chypre, or even original Miss Dior (which is an acquired taste, to be sure): green notes, moss, woody notes, and labdanum, a veritable Bambi’s Forest right there on my wrist.

No.

garbage forestInstead, I got this pile of garbage right in the middle of said forest. Yes to moss and a hint of galbanum, but also tons of dirt and garbage atop it, with the sour fizz of rot over all. It gives me enormous stonking headaches every time I try it, and terrible nausea. Every member of my family recoiled from me with horrified expressions, so it wasn’t just my sniffer. Sprayed on paper, I pick up fleeting impressions of various woodsy things – wet fern, mushroom, raw chestnut, something sweet like pipe tobacco, and was that mint? – amid the overall greenness. On my skin? Awful. Indescribably awful. A decomposing mess.

But the worst disappointment for me was Deja le Printemps. Described as a gentle green floral, it seemed like the one most up my alley, and I didn’t check the notes list (mint, orange blossom, chamomile, fig leaves, clover, mown grass, lily of the valley, galbanum, musk, vetiver, cedar, moss) before trying it on skin. You saw it in the list, right? It’s there. I should have known: those blasted fig leaves.

It looks so innocuous, doesn't it? NOT.
It looks so innocuous, doesn’t it? NOT.

I’ve never experienced live fig trees or eaten fresh figs (I love the dried ones, which are the only ones you can get in this temperate zone), so I do wonder how I’d react to this bitter, acrid green scent in the wild, so to speak. I don’t usually mind sour, pungent notes like blackcurrant or grapefruit – but fig leaf just does me in. I hate it. I could not wait to get Deja le Printemps off my skin. I stuck it out for two hours, and then just could not stand it any more. The galbanum in this thing was pretty and soft, and everything else just lovely, but that (@*% FIG LEAF… I’m still mad about it.

Oriza L. Legrand’s range includes sixteen fragrances; I tried nine. I might be interested in giving Muguet Fleuri a go, and I wouldn’t turn down a shot at Violettes du Czar either, if I didn’t have to buy it. I don’t know how different Royal Oeillet is from the earlier rendition of Louis XV or whether to bother with it. However, I have zero interest in Villa Lympia, Vetiver Royal Bourbon, Foin Fraichement Coupe (perfumery hay absolutely never smells like hay to me) or Cuir l’Aigle Russe.

I am now sending my Oriza samples off to a new home, where I hope they’ll be welcome. How have you done with this house? Like it, love it, hate it?

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The Five-Stars, Pt. 1 – According to Perfumes: The Guide

Five stars - CopyThe Friday challenge at Now Smell This this week was to wear a fragrance rated five stars in Perfumes: The Guide. Some readers, including me, made it a five-star week, and in fact I’m going to continue wearing one five-star scent for as long as it’s still fun. We’ll see how long I can keep going before I want something else.

Part One of this series is the list of five-star fragrances according to Perfumes: The Guide.  Part Two will be the list according to me. Five-star fragrances are described in P:TG as “masterpieces.” From my reading, additional criteria seem to involve things like distinctiveness, coherence, consistency, decent raw materials, and possibly innovation.

I won’t get into critique of the book that had the perfume blogs buzzing, or of the criteria used by authors Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, though I would recommend that everyone who’s interested in perfume at least read it. Today I’d like to talk about the fragrances instead.

However, I will point out that even though the authors undoubtedly have a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the industry as well as of the heart of perfumery, they’ve got their own personal biases. So do I. So does everyone with a nose, so if you disagree with anyone on perfume, take their judgment with a grain of salt. Your own judgment is what matters most.

Tania Sanchez addresses the preference issue head-on when she says, “… one can certainly admire a perfume without necessarily loving it. Love, of course, is personal (but best when deserved).” She hits the issue from the side when answering FAQs, in this fashion:

Q: Why has Amarige got only one star, when it is in a top ten list in the back?
A: Amarige is a genius work of perfumery, utterly recognizable, memorable, technically polished, and spectacularly loud. But we hate it. In the end, we figured this was the fair thing to do.

Well, okay then. There you go, bias is acknowledged so you are allowed to disagree.

Here is the Perfumes: The Guide’s list of five-star fragrances (in alphabetical order by house, not by perfume name), and what I think of each one of them. If there is no description, I have not smelled the fragrance.

Amouage Gold Wearing this is like walking into a football stadium or some other giant enclosed space, albeit in the case of Gold, the AstroDome ceiling has been gilded and carved into rococo shapes. Enormous, colossal, too big for any one person to wear. (The body lotion, however, is wonderful.) Four stars.
Amouage Homage (now d/c)
Amouage Ubar I own a 5ml decant of this and am always forgetting I have it. It reminds me of my small bottle of Lancôme La Collection Climat, and of Parfums Divine Divine: creamy civet lemonade. Nice, but there are other fragrances I love better, and other Amouages I prefer. Four stars.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzing! Yep, virtual circus. Fun, but who really wants to smell of stale orange circus-peanut marshmallow candy, sawdust, and tiger pee? Three stars.
L’Artisan Timbuktu
L’Artisan Vanilia (now d/c)
Azzaro pour Homme Instant headache. So. Much. Lavender. Two stars.
Badgley Mischka Fruity chypres never suit me. They always seem curdled; I always get nauseous. Two stars.
Bond No. 9 Chinatown Fruity chypre/oriental. See “Badgley Mischka.” Two stars.
Boucheron Boucheron Pleasant, but muted. Basically floral soap with very sharp edges. Described by LT as “huge floral,” but he’s wrong. Three stars.
Bvlgari Black I like Black. I do. It smells mostly of new sneakers, or new bike tires, plus a powdery vanilla that reminds me of flavored coffee-creamer powder. That’s fun. Genius? Nope. Four stars.
Cacharel LouLou For once I’m in total agreement with LT’s description of it as having a texture like those glass Christmas-tree baubles that look like velvet and feel like sandpaper. We just differ in our enjoyment of that texture. Also, this sucker is really loud. I lived through the 1980s; I don’t necessarily want to revisit them. Two stars.
Caldey Island Lavender
Caron Pour un Homme
Caron Le Troisième Homme This is a floral (jasmine) fougére. Not my thing, and actually I find it sort of creepy. Three stars.
Caron Yatagan
Chanel 31 Rue Cambon For full disclosure, TS gave it four stars and I’m with her on that. It’s lovely, I enjoy wearing it, but I don’t think it’s groundbreaking or classic. I’ve gone through a 10ml decant (of which the last ml was unwearable, after six years), but to be perfectly honest, I could probably get by with just my Téo Cabanel Alahine for a floral amber.
Chanel Bois des Iles Lovely, lovely stuff. I first tried it from a sample of pre-Les Exclusifs eau de toilette, and it lasted at least four hours, dabbed. The Les Exclusifs version lasts about two hours on me, sprayed-until-wet. The parfum lasts better but hovers only two millimeters above skin. I’m taking half a star off the P:TG rating because of the longevity and sillage issues.
Chanel Cristalle Citrus chypres are not my thing, but in any case Eau Sauvage kicks this thing’s butt all over. Four stars.
Chanel Cuir de Russie As I’ve commented before, smells like our cattle working pens: live hides, dust, iodine, dry manure, sweat and fear. Just no. Two stars.
Chanel No. 5 eau de toilette Absolutely. The Guide nailed it.
Chanel No. 5 parfum Ditto.
Chanel Pour Monsieur
Chanel Sycomore
Clinique Aromatics Elixir As I’ve commented before, AE smells like somebody took a wiz all over a rose hedge. On paper, two days later, it’s absolutely wonderful; too bad I can’t skip that opening. Great stuff, unwearable by me, and a real bludgeoner into the bargain. Three stars.
Clinique (formerly Prescriptives) Calyx (now reformulated) I can’t manage the opening, which smells like overripe, rotting fruit. Once it’s past that stuff, it’s a wonderful sweet juicy floral with good intentions. Four stars.
Davidoff Cool Water This is the men’s version. Groundbreaking and all that, sure, but I think it smells a bit bare and chemical. Four stars.
Dior Diorella Fruity chypre. See “Badgley Mischka” and “Chinatown.” Two stars.
Dior Homme (now reformulated) Nice stuff. I don’t love it, but I think I may have tested the current version, which seems thin to me. Four stars.
Dior Dune Like a lot of powdery vanillas, it sits there on my skin being boring and flat. On my SIL, it’s great, warm, cozy. Four stars.
Dior Eau Sauvage This is what Cristalle wants to be when it gives up merely pretending to be nice and trims those lethal fingernails. Five stars.
Dior Poison (now reformulated) Man, I used to hate this thing back in the day. Dorm halls reeked of it. So did the university buses. Now that it’s been tamed and everybody isn’t wearing six spritzes too many, I rather like it. It has, however, lost its poisonous edge and they’ve upped the orange blossom in it so that it’s almost soapy. Four stars, unless you’ve got the old, soft, esprit de parfum concentration, in which case it gets five.
Elternhaus Unifaith (MoslBuddJewChristHinDao)
Estée Lauder Azurée Gin with lemon, driving gloves, a full ashtray, pointy fingernails and a steely gaze. Scary. Three stars.
Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise Two hours of lovely flowers, becoming barer and shriller after that thanks to whatever jasminoid aromachem. Like all the other classic Lauders, has something in the base that turns my stomach after a couple of hours. One of my aunts wears this, and she always smells lovely; I think it’s my skin. Three stars.
Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise Men
Estée Lauder Knowing Gives me the same nausea issue as the others, but it’s probably my favorite from this house. I love a nice rose chypre and wish I could wear Knowing as well as another one of my aunts does. Four stars.
Estée Lauder Pleasures Pale flowers and laundry musk. It might be the first and best of this kind of squeaky-clean thing, but leaving aside the usual Lauder base, this might be one of the most boring things I’ve ever smelled. Three stars.
Estée Lauder Private Collection I so wish I could wear this; green florals are right up my alley. Alas, the Dreaded Lauder Base pops through at T-2 hours. Four stars anyway.
Estée Lauder White Linen I like aldehydes, but White Linen has always smelled sour and vinegary too me. My private name for it is “Mildewed Laundry.” Three stars.
État Libre d’Orange Sécrétions Magnifique In The Little Book of Perfumes, which wound up being largely a stageshow revue of the five-stars in P:TG (plus reviews of four classic fragrances you can only smell at the Osmothéque in Paris), TS admits that she disagrees on SM and describes it as “absolutely revolting, like a drop of J’Adore on an oyster you know you shouldn’t eat.” Bang on, lady. It’s horrifying. One star.
Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel Classic, conservative, reassuring, absolutely masculine. Five stars.
Givenchy III I agree with LT that it smells like dirt under the flowers. We just disagree on how appealing that should be. Three stars.
Givenchy Insensé (now d/c)
Gucci Envy (now d/c) Metallic enough to make my back teeth hurt. Two stars. Yeowch.
Gucci Rush
Guerlain Après l’Ondée (recently reformulated) Impressionist perfection, at least in the version available in the mid-2000s. Now it’s more irisy and colder, less wistful with its heliotrope toned way down. I’d give it four stars now, but the older stuff is amazing and absolutely deserved its five stars.
Guerlain Chamade The epitome of romantic surrender, starting cold-shouldery as it does in galbanum and hyacinth and aldehydes, moving through rose, jasmine and other assorted flowers, and then gradually melting into a powdery-creamy mimosa-vanilla-woods comforter. Five stars.
Guerlain Derby
Guerlain Eau de Guerlain
Guerlain Habit Rouge
Guerlain L’Heure Bleue The EdT is Hell’s Medicine Cabinet. The parfum is medicinal pastry, but in a really good way. Five stars.
Guerlain Insolence eau de parfum Horrifying shrieky attack parrot with knives attached to its beak and feet. One star.
Guerlain Jicky Lavender and bad breath. Two stars for being groundbreaking and influential, zero for smelling good.
Guerlain Mitsouko Mitsy hates me. It took me over twenty tries to really “get” Mitsouko. I tried current EdT, I tried EdP, I tried vintage EdT, I tried vintage parfum, I tried current parfum. I tried different times of year and different weathers. Finally I tried some parfum from the early 1990s, and then I got it: round, full, autumnal, tapestried. I still don’t love it the way I love the vintage Coty Chypre parfum I tried – Chypre made me cry tears of overwhelmed happiness – but Mitsy is a force to be reckoned with. Five stars.
Guerlain Nahéma I have trouble smelling Nahema. The first time I tried it, I could tell there was something on my skin but could not smell it. The second and third time, all I really got was scented soap. I feel cheated, but there it is. I can’t give something this inane five stars; I’ll go with two. Word is this one’s discontinued anyway.
Guerlain Shalimar Lemon-vanilla-tar-and-sex. Utterly distinctive; in all its variations it’s always Shalimar and it’s always far too sophisticated for me. A marvel of perfumery. Five stars.
Guerlain Vol de Nuit I don’t understand this scent at all. If I look at the notes, I should like it if not love it: galbanum, jasmine, narcissus, moss and woody notes. On paper it sounds like my beloved Le Temps d’une Fete. I’ve gotten two different samples from the decant services (both edt, both relatively recent), and they smell like… nothing. Musty nothing. As if I opened the trunk that belonged to my great-great aunt and a moth flew out of it. I can’t be smelling what everyone else smells. One star.
Hermés Osmanthe Yunnan Gorgeous apricot-tea floral that lasts all of 2.4 seconds on me. How can they charge $200+ for this? Three stars.
Histoires de Parfums 1740 Marquis de Sade (now reformulated)
Issey Miyake Le Feu d’Issey (now d/c)
Jean Patou Joy parfum Heh heh heh. This thing is raunch in overdrive on me – amazing, alive, and thoroughly unashamed to be walking home the morning after, with hair bedraggled and makeup smeared, missing her panties. I can’t wear it, but it’s a five star if anything is.
Kenzo Ça Sent Beau “Beau” as in beautiful? No. This struck me as being like Calyx for Dudes. The melon-mango-flower-shaving cream thing is just Too Weird. Three stars.
Knize Ten
Le Labo Patchouli 24 (now reformulated) Smells like the 150-year-old stone smokehouse behind my grandparents’ house, which produced many a Virginia ham in its day. Fascinating, but who wants to smell like that? Three stars.
Lolita Lempicka I resisted trying this one for ages, as I’d read that it was a takeoff on Angel. It’s only tangentially related, and LL is both interesting and really pretty. Four stars.
Lush (formerly Be Never Too Busy to Be Beautiful) Breath of God
Missoni Missoni Off-putting, like a soft chocolate with an incompatible flavor center (lemon? Kiwi? Mango?) Two stars.
Montale Oud Cuir d’Arabie
Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Man
Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman Wonderfully coniferous for three minutes, violet for one, and then amberamberamberamber. Dull and considerably overrated. Two stars.
Paco Rabanne Calandre (now reformulated) I was taken aback by TS’s “wire mother” review of Chanel No. 19, particularly because this hissy, metallic, narrow-eyed parody of femininity should have gotten that review instead. Three stars.
Parfums de Nicolaï New York
Parfums de Nicolaï Odalisque (now reformulated) Doesn’t move me, but is really wonderful. Delicate yet strong in nature. Okay, fine, I’ll call it five.
Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps d’une Fête (reformulated twice and now d/c*) If you held a gun on me and told me to choose one bottle, just one, of all the ones in existence in the world, I’d pick this one. Magical. Eight stars. 😉
*For a time, you could special-order it through the PdN website. However, when I emailed PdN in November to ask about it, I was told it was not available. I have backup bottles, but I mourn.
Parfums MDCI Enlèvement au Sérail Reminds me of Joy. Different flowers, same raunch, same aliveness. Still unwearably skanky for me personally. But given my reaction, how can I give it fewer stars than Joy? Five.
Parfums MDCI Invasion Barbare
Parfums MDCI Promesse de l’Aube Absolutely gorgeous. As innocent as Enlevement is carnal and just as florally overwhelming. Five stars.
Pascal Morabito Or Black
Robert Piguet Bandit How can I give this perfume that always rushes at me with a scimitar five stars? (shudder) Sure, it’s got galbanum. Sure, it’s amazing and influential and all gender-bendy kewl, but I hate it. I can’t wear it. Four stars, and that’s because I’m allowing for history.
Robert Piguet Fracas Everybody always says Fracas is The Quintessential Tuberose scent, but that’s not so. However, you can make a case for it being The Quintessential Big White Floral, because of that metric crap-ton of orange blossom in there. Basically, on me it smells like tuberose cold cream, and wearing it is like whacking a guy you fancy over the head with the heel of your marabou kitten-heel slipper and dragging him into your boudoir to have your way with him, once he wakes up all disoriented by your cloud of scent. Five stars.
Rochas Tocade (now reformulated) I liked Tocade at first. I used up a good 30 ml of it when I first bought the bottle, because it was awfully friendly. Then That Slut Tocade started hanging out with the smokers, and every time she came home her bottle smelled like ashtray. Maybe this fragrance doesn’t age well, but whatever. I’ve gone right off her and am ready to kick her out of the sorority. Three stars.
S-Perfumes 100% Love Hissy, screechy geranium-y rose backed by pungent patchouli and dusty chocolate-milk mix. Dear God, kill me now. One star.
S-Perfume S-eX
Serge Lutens Bois de Violette Nice. Faint and timid version of Feminité de Bois. Way overrated. (And I even like violets.) Three stars.
Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist Reportedly the earthiest, driest, rootiest, most pallid and ethereal iris evarrrrr. I don’t know why it makes me think of pigtailed little girls with freckles playing hopscotch. I find it cheerful. Four stars.
Serge Lutens La Myrrhe Like a pink-and-gold sunrise over blue-shadowed snow. Pristine, cold yet warm. Astonishingly beautiful. Five stars.
Serge Lutens Sarrasins Filthy jasmine leather. Who wants to wear this? Smells like what I imagine the back room of a strip club would smell like. (Also, it’s purple. I hate purple.) Three stars.
Tauer Perfumes L’Air du Désert Marocain A very calm, meditative, yet comfortable scent. I wouldn’t have called it transcendent, but I can’t really name a reason I would knock a star off, so all right, five stars.
Theo Fennell Scent (now d/c)
Thierry Mugler Angel Like I drank an entire bottle of cherry cough syrup and fell into a vat of Drakkar Noir. I do not give two flips that Angel started the whole gourmand trend and the fruitchouli trend and the gender-crossing Coco Mlle. trend. Famed perfumer Guy Robert is quoted at least a couple of times in P:TG as saying “A perfume must above all smell good.” This? Doesn’t. One star.
Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl Like drinking lemony iced tea in the sunshine in an American garden. Pretty, unpretentious and easy to wear. (Hello, Angel? This one smells good. Take notes.) Five stars.
Yves Saint Laurent Kouros
Yves Saint Laurent Opium (now reformulated) If I may use someone else’s words: “A genius work of perfumery, utterly recognizable, memorable, technically polished, and spectacularly loud. But [I] hate it.” One star, and I’m not sorry.
Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche This aldehydic floral packs every bit as much metal as a factory floor and is considerably less warm and fuzzy. It has rose in it? Where? That’s no rose, that’s a very screechy geranium, plus a hyacinth note so metallic it twangs. Two stars.
Yohji Yamamoto Yohji Homme (now d/c)

This list does not include anything released after 2009; nor does it include anything Dr. Turin has reviewed since the publication of P:TG in his Style Arabia columns. It was a vast undertaking, and yet it is now (and always was, really) inadequate to the current flood of perfumes on the market today. Still worth a read for information and entertainment, if you ask me.

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Mini-Review Roundup, late January 2016

I’ve been testing a few things new to me and trying to work my way through the Sample Stash, having becoming interested again in sniffing things other than my favorites. So here goes!roundup

l'wren scottL’Wren Scott (for Barneys): This perfume, released by the model and designer in 2009, in conjunction with her design label, generated some buzz around the time of its introduction with the then-staggering price of $195 per 100ml bottle. It’s a price that certainly seems less staggering now, given the price hikes we’ve seen across the board, but it was a shocker at the time. Scott, who was dating Mick Jagger for a time, died in 2014 and her business folded, of course. I’ve recently seen bottles on eBay for $50, so it’s within reach now of those of us not able (or willing) to drop big bucks on our fragrance.

Ms. Scott said in interviews that she mixed her own oils and was highly involved in the creation of her fragrance, from the notes to the packaging. This I believe – celebrities who are interested in fragrance for itself tend to release fragrances that are interesting, at least.

This one is downright quirky. First, it’s a spicy floral modern chypre. And when I say “spicy,” I don’t mean cozy baked-goods spices like cinnamon. I mean anise, artemisia, curry tree, coriander and cloves. The anise seems prominent to me, but the effect is highly aromatic in an unusual way. There’s a ton of patchouli, and lots of jasmine and geranium – very little oakmoss, but this is a chypre in the modern style. It’s big, bold, and in character something like that 80s beast, Ungaro Diva. Oddly for something so bold, it doesn’t last very long on my skin. It’s aromatic and woody enough that I would think it would be perfectly comfortable for a man to wear.

Here’s a masculine take on L’Wren Scott, at CaFleureBon.

I would have liked this bottle were it not for the plug-ugly lettering. Bleah.
I would have liked this bottle were it not for the plug-ugly lettering. Bleah.

Comme des Garcons Blue Encens: I went through a brief period of wanting to smell all the incense fragrances I could, after finding the smell of high-church incense very pleasant. (Hey. The Baptist church I grew up in had cinderblock walls, and although I visited St. Andrew’s several times to admire its beautiful jewelbox interior, I never went to services there. It took a visit to Malta five years ago to introduce me to church incense.)

Blue Encens has the traditional incensey mix atop a dry (not sweet) amber, with cool spices. It reminds me a good deal of the late, lamented Comptoir Sud Pacifique Eau du Gouverneur – all that pepper and sheer spice! It’s not particularly ashy, nor very woody. Nor is it groundbreaking; it’s just nice. I enjoyed this one. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that I did – its composer, Evelyne Boulanger, also worked on CdG Zagorsk (speaking of which, I like it again).

A few more reviews: Ann at Perfume Posse; Katie Puckrik Smells; Bois de Jasmin.

l'air de rienMiller Harris L’Air de Rien: Luca Turin’s review of this one in Perfumes: The Guide doesn’t make it sound like anything I would want to wear. However, there’s a regular commenter on Now Smell This who loves it and finds it comforting. I can’t remember which of her mentions of it convinced me that I needed to try it, but I’m pretty sure she talked me into it.

The notes listed are simply neroli, patchouli, oakmoss, amber, musk and vanilla. Of this one, Turin says, “It smells of boozy kisses, stale joss sticks, rising damp, and soiled underwear. I love it,” and gives it four stars.

Eww. To me, however, it simply smells like “skin musk,” with perhaps a veil of that “old books” smell.  I mean, I can smell it, but it sort of melts into the skin and becomes a pleasant ambient scent. I don’t get a lot of patchouli in this, though I expected to. Would I wear it? Probably not, but that’s more a matter of finding it unexciting than finding it dirty.

Okay, so it’s MUSK. We know what happens with musks – they’re large molecules right at the edge of human perception, and many people are anosmic to (they can’t smell) several musks but can smell others. I suspect this is what happened to me with Smell Bent’s Commando, a fragrance recommended by Tom of Perfume Posse and Perfume-Smellin’ Things as smelling like the “impeccably clean skin of a child.” Um, nope. Nope. That thing is crowded locker room all the way, dude. And Patty at Perfume Posse calls L’Air de Rien “the huge catbutt perfume that skanked its way across the perfume universe,” at first, before deciding it was a lovely musky leather.

Other takes on L’Air de Rien: an excellent, informative double review from Denyse Beaulieu and Elena Vosnaki at Perfume Shrine, Victoria at Bois de Jasmin, and a rather negative one from Katie Puckrik Smells. Bonkers about Perfume and EauMG got much the same out of it as I did. Dirty? You’ll have to try it yourself.

burberry weekendBurberry Weekend for Women: According to Fragrantica, it’s a fruity floral with some powdery notes. I thought it might be safe to test it when going to the salon for a haircut-and-highlights, but wound up having to scrub it off. Why? It smells of adult diapers to me – that is, stale urine. It’s horrible.

With notes of citrus, peach, and your quieter floral elements of hyacinth, peach blossom and mignonette, it sounds completely inoffensive, right? Well, somewhere down the list of notes, there is sage. Sage, in perfumery, is straight-up pee to my nose, and there’s the culprit. Aromatics Elixir smells urinous to me, too. (Sorry. It is what it is.)

Victoria over at EauMG has a different opinion on it, and I’m betting that hers is the more common reaction.  (How about that? The inoffensive one offends, and the skanky-catbutt one smells fine to me. You never know.)

More mini-reviews coming soon – I’d forgotten how much fun this is!

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Mini-review Roundup, March 6, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mini-Review Roundup, Sept. 19, 2014

roundupYee-haw!!! A mini-review roundup again, after, like, months.

Guerlain Vol de Nuit (modern EdT, from Surrender to Chance) – after a brief hit of galbanum, this smells like… um… nothing, really. Musty nothing. I keep spraying it multiple times, trying to find it, but it is so pale it’s like it doesn’t WANT to be found. The notes list and descriptions I’ve read say that this is supposed to be a woody oriental. The only thing I can call it is confusing.  I’ve heard that the current version isn’t good (see Victoria’s comparisons of vintage and current Guerlains at Bois de Jasmin), but I assumed it was another one of those “compared to the old stuff it’s terrible.” Boy, they weren’t kidding. It’s awful. Doesn’t even smell like a Guerlain to me, whatever that means. (Notes: bergamot, galbanum, petit grain, jasmine, daffodil, spices, iris, vanilla, amber and woody notes.)

Carven Ma Griffe (vintage EdT, again from Surrender to Chance). Another big hit of galbanum to start, but also a blast of decaying aldehydes, followed by moldering whitish floralish stuff and then a ton of vetiver and musk. Vetiver/musk/aldehydes seems to pop up a lot in fragrances that had their heyday in the 1960s and 1970s (Madame Rochas, Rive Gauche, Prince Matchabelli Cachet – and even in the wonderful Chanel No. 19), but I don’t like it. It bores the crap out of me. The reason I love No. 19 and like Annick Goutal Heure Exquise is the galbanum-iris-rose stuff, not the vetiver-musk. Borrrrring.  I thought I’d love this. Nope.  (Notes: aldehydes, gardenia, green notes, asafoetida, clary sage, lemon, iris, orange blossom, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, rose, labdanum, sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, benzoin, oakmoss, vetiver and styrax.)

Also, I hear that Carven has reorchestrated and rereleased this one with a “soft” rollout, no heavy advertising, but I can’t find a sample of the current version anywhere. Guess you have to live in Europe to get it, even though their recent Le Parfum is available in the US.

Speaking of which, I really enjoyed my carded spray sample of Carven Le Parfum. So pretty. So, so, SO pretty. I am often just as thrilled with a just-so-pretty floral fragrance as I would be if you came up and thrust a dewy bouquet right into my arms. I’m not ashamed.

sweet-pea-0210-lIn any case, Carven Le Parfum starts off with citrus and a tart apricot note, and then quickly eases into a gentle mixed-white-floral. It is clearly a Francis Kurkdjian fragrance, which is generally a good thing from my viewpoint – I like FK’s stuff, generally. There’s some clean patchouli in it, which absolutely ruined Elie Saab Le Parfum (also composed by Kurkdjian) for me, but here it isn’t too hijacky, it’s just a support for the lovely florals to rest on.  I’d say that it skews a bit younger and more innocent than the Elie Saab, and despite the apricot, less sweet to my nose. The hyacinth is prominent to my nose, but it does also actually smell like sweet peas, which my mother used to grow up against the wood fence in our yard when I was a child. The only other sweet pea fragrance I can recollect trying was Lolita Lempicka’s Si Lolita, which was also jam-packed with pink and black peppers, but ended with a lightweight amber. That one was sweeter, and spicier, less floral in character.

I like it. If I owned this, I’d wear it. So what if it’s not groundbreaking or dramatic? It’s pretty.  Fragranticans are calling it “sweet,” but it’s real fruit as opposed to the fakey-fakey stuff I call “froot,” and as I say, not particularly what I would call sweet. No cotton candy here, though if you’re a fan of dry, woody, incensey stuff you’ll probably hate it.  (Notes: mandarin blossom, apricot, white hyacinth, sweet pea, jasmine, ylang, sandalwood, osmanthus, and Indonesian patchouli.)

Historiae Jardin De Le Notre – apparently this was an exclusive fragrance created for sale for the Domain of Chantilly at the Le Notre Gardens, and it’s no longer available. But it’s a pretty, gardeny floral that came my way as a carded sample, and I enjoyed it so I’m discussing it.  It starts out with a green-leaves accord, which slides into an attractive mixed-floral bouquet (rose, hyacinth, lily of the valley). The notes list on the card also includes gardenia, but that’s clearly delusional; I get a lot of clean jasmine out of this. It eventually goes a little screechy, but not more so than my 2006 Diorissimo; I just have less tolerance for that these days, and after three or four hours, I’m ready for something else.

DSH Perfumes Peony – this is, well, peony. Plus a bit of rose and a good bit of greenness, and it is another bundle of pretty flowers atop a tiny bit of musk to extend the florals. I like it a lot, though not quite as much as the delicate, lovely peony/fresh-rose MDCI Rose de Siwa. But I can’t afford Rose de Siwa, so if you loved that you might want to check out DSH Peony.  (Notes: peony, grass, green leaves, rose.)

Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire California Reverie OOOOOH, I said to myself upon smelling it for the first time.  Citrus floral! So pretty!  That lasted a fairly long time for this sort of light floral thing, at least about three hours, before I started getting tired of the jasmine.  (Notes: mandarin orange, neroli, jasmine sambac and frangipani, beeswax and vanilla.)  If I owned this, I’d respray every two hours for the addictively beautiful citrus-floral opening.  And then I’d kick myself for literally blowing, like, $2 a spritz.

Parfums d’Empire Corsica Furiosa – not “furiosa” at all.  Nope. It’s a pleasant herb-garden fantasy with grass and plenty of tomato leaf, and something that smells like juniper to me, as well as some light woody notes. Stays green all the way through, but it is quite light and fleeting, with minimal sillage to me.  Reading Kafkaesque’s review of it has me wondering if I *am* anosmic to ISO E Super after all, because I’m not picking up rubbing alcohol or pepper at all, and Corsica Furiosa is so light! There and gone. (Notes: mastic, lime, grass, hay, honey, moss, labdanum, mint, tomato leaf, pepper.)

I’ve also recently tested Piguet Douglas Hannant, which reminded several people (including me) of a lightened-up Fracas. Then I reacquainted myself with Fracas. I’m planning on a Throwdown for those two soon.

Enjoy the weekend! Our high school football team travels about 75 miles away for tonight’s game (WHAT were they thinking, scheduling that? Driving right past a dozen other schools? Silly), so the band isn’t going. I get a rare band-mom night off. 🙂

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Scent on Canvas Perfume Reviews

Scent on Canvas is a relatively new perfume house, based in Barcelona, Spain. It is the creation of Béatrice Aguilar-Cassarà, a formally trained perfumer who also loves art. She collaborated with perfumers Alexandra Kosinski, Shyamala Maisondieu and Jórdi Fernandez to create fragrances, which were then presented for visual interpretation by artists. The boxes containing the fragrances are printed on the inside with these original works of art (signed and numbered); you must unfold the box to see the entire work.

I haven’t seen the artwork except online. But I thought this was an interesting concept, and I was delighted that the Scent on Canvas website offers a sample pack, sturdy 2ml spray samples of each fragrance, for 12 Euro including shipping. Each fragrance is offered at €130 for 100ml. Blanc de Paris is an eau de parfum; the others are all extrait de parfum.
scent on canvasThere are five fragrances in the Scent on Canvas lineup, and I’ll review each one briefly. From the website:

The collection spans five fragrance genres with nuanced olfactory work within them: the starchy, woody musk, a predetermined crowd-pleaser (Blanc de Paris); the dark musty-mossy with guts (Noir de Mars); the mysterious, coppery woody (Ocre Doré); the rosy floral with mysterious, spicy-suede tonalities (Rose Opéra) and the complex hesperidic-leathery (Brun Sicilien).

Each of the scents has a color in its name: Golden Ochre, Sicilian Brown, Parisian White, Mars Black, and Opera Pink. More specifically, each fragrance shares a name with a specific color of paint.

Blanc de Paris, for women, was created to evoke “dancing on an early spring morning among flowers,” by Béatrice Aguilar-Cassarà. The notes list includes green mandarin, Calabrian bergamot, citron, iris, Bulgarian rose, white flowers, white musk, sandalwood, and benzoin. The artwork for this one was done by Maria Torróntegui.

I’ve tested this one three times. The first time, I applied a hefty spritz to the inside of my wrist, and the second application was a half-spritz, more like a large one-drop application, to the web of skin between thumb and first finger. That’s my optimal site for “I’m not sure I’m not going to hate this, so I’ll put it somewhere that’s easily washable.” As you might imagine from that strategy, the first test was a resounding failure. But the second and third were not, and since those took place seven weeks after the first, I’m not sure what the difference could be. The fragrance was freshly made and needed some time to meld fully? I had something on my skin (my bath gel? A stray drop of soap from washing the dishes?) that reacted badly with the fragrance? The third application was another hefty spritz on my forearm.

The first time I wore it, the citrus was very noticeable, a sharp freshness that I enjoyed, but it was followed by an overwhelming note of toilet cleaner, very harsh – like Comet or Ajax. I often get this toilet-cleaner effect from fragrances containing a linden flower note (for example, L’Artisan’s La Chasse aux Papillon and Tauer Zeta, though there are others as well), and I suspect that it just goes harsh on my skin. I never perceived any rose in this fragrance, and that disappointed me. What with the toilet cleaner and the white musk, I felt like a hotel maid pushing my cart down the hall for a full eight-hour day. You probably know that white musk is a very persistent base note, and it sticks around for a long time, even on my scent-eating skin. I did notice a wisp of iris root, and the benzoin was definitely there under the musk, but that first test was not pleasant.

The second and third tests were certainly more enjoyable. There was less citrus, and the fragrance seemed to move much more quickly to its floral heart. I can pick up on some clean jasmine, and there might be some muguet in there as well as the linden blossom. The benzoin was more prominent on the subsequent wearings, and since I love the stuff, this was all to the good. The white musk still tends to dominate the fragrance, and I’m not particularly fond of that, but it was much nicer in the later tests. It still lasted approximately eight hours on me, and smelled pleasantly clean.

This is really not my kind of fragrance; I didn’t get much of a spring-flowers effect. It is more of a clean musk fragrance with floral notes for freshness and benzoin for a powdery softness. But if you want to smell clean without smelling overtly like laundry, this might suit you quite well.

Brun Sicilien I wasn’t sure I was going to like. It’s a unisex leather fragrance, created by Alexandra Kosinski, and according to the website, it was meant to evoke “instinct, courage and freedom; the redolence of wild horsemen.” I sometimes have difficulties with leather fragrances being too woody, or too harsh, but this one is actually rather nice. In fact, it might be my favorite of the five. The accompanying artwork was provided by Tano Pisano.

The notes for this fragrance include Sicilian mandarin, white flowers, jasmine, leather, suede, black pepper, cardamom, heliotrope, musk, amber, birch, Indonesian patchouli leaf, and Madagascar vanilla. I don’t get much citrus in this, and in fact it reminds me quite a bit of a slightly-louder Cuir de Lancome (which I love). The spices are smooth, staying in the background, but I get quite a bit of jasmine and what might be narcissus.

There is leather in this, but if you were hoping for rawhide or saddles, with that birch tar accent, you might be disappointed. I’m not. I like my leather purse-like, thank you very much, and this scent pleases me. As the fragrance draws to a close, approximately six hours after application, it becomes more and more vanillic and creamy, and reminds me more of Parfums d’Empire’s ultra-comfortable Cuir Ottoman. It does keep its leather focus throughout, however. It’s not as heavy on the amber as Cuir Ottoman, or as sweet, and I think I like Brun Sicilien better.

I’ve worn this scent several times and will probably use up my sample with enjoyment. If it’s still available when my stash of Cuir de Lancome gives out, I might buy some.

Noir de Mars is not my usual sort of thing, and after testing it I’m positive that aficionados of the Truly Dark would laugh at its pretension to evoking black. If you liked CdG Black, or PureDistance Black, or LM Parfums Black Oud, or even Le Labo Patchouli 24 – or if those weren’t dark enough for you, forget this one. It’s nowhere near as cuddly or as much fun as I find Bvlgari Black (new bike tires! Ice cream!), but it won’t bite you. The perfumer, Jordi Fernandez, says this of the scent: “Every path is open to he who vibrates to the authentic aroma of oud.” The website explains that the perfumers traveled around looking for a source of oud of a certain quality, and finally settled on a source in Laos.

I don’t have much experience with oud, other than the admittedly synthetic oud used by Montale (which, oud connoisseurs would sneer to hear, I like). It’s just not my thing, and the fragrances I like that claim to contain it are typically focused elsewhere – on rose, usually. I like the Montale rose-oud things (Aoud Roses Petals is really nice), and I really enjoyed By Kilian’s Rose Oud and Amber Oud, neither of which have a noticeable quantity of oud, synthetic or otherwise. So if you demand the Real Deal – well, I have no idea. This one I’m reviewing from the perspective of an avowed floral lover.

This one comes with artwork by Jordi Trullás. Its notes include agarwood (oud), guaiac wood, sandalwood, cyperus esculentus, myrrh, leather, gurjan balsam, amyris, and amber. Cyperus esculentus, or yellow nutsedge, is considered an invasive weed in the US, but in Spain its tubers are used to produce an almond-milk-like drink called horchata. I’m not familiar with it, and I’m not particularly familiar with gurjan balsam or amyris (elemi), either. Oh well. What I was expecting was a dry woody fragrance, and that’s what I got. It’s dry and woody, and reminds me of Clint Eastwood somehow.

It opens up with, yeah, wood. Wood wood wood wood. Dry, almost charred wood, and a slight hint of leather work gloves (The CEO wears them on the farm), as well as a very tiny thread of sweetness among the resins, which become more significant as the fragrance progresses. There is some bitter mustiness to it, which is never an effect I enjoy. Noir de Mars does become more comfortable as the burnt note dissipates, and the sweetness deepens somewhat. Wood and resin is pretty much the deal here, and unfortunately I don’t know enough about these particular woods and resins to say to myself, “Oh, hey, there’s the elemi!” Ehh. It might be laziness on my part, but I am not inclined to do a lot of research in this area, since I don’t foresee myself wearing a lot of fragrances in this genre.

The fragrance lasts a long time on me, about eight hours even with a very light application.
It is meant to be unisex, and undoubtedly a woman could wear it. Just not me.

Ocre Doré, meant to highlight the luxurious aroma of white truffle, was composed by Shyamala Maisondieu. The brand’s creator says of it, “true luxury is found in nature’s perfection: on virgin land, in cascades of crystal water, in the reflection of light on a diamond and in the white truffle, an aroma that penetrates everything around it with an intense fragrance of flowers, woods, silence and mystery.” Its notes are interesting – it’s not often that an oriental type fragrance opens up with galbanum! The notes list includes Iranian galbanum, tea, maté, white truffle, oakmoss, “undergrowth,” guaiac wood, Paraguay wood, Virginia Cedar, Indonesian patchouli, and labdanum. The accompanying artwork, an abstract featuring varied tones of gold, yellow, brown, and orange, with a surprising streak of chartreuse, was provided by artist Mariona Esteba, and it makes me think of the Grand Canyon. The artwork is really lovely.

Ocre Doré opens with a sharply herbal/medicinal cast. Despite the presence of galbanum in the list, I don’t smell much of it. It’s there, yeah, but I really get more maté than anything else, with a raspy dryness underneath it. I dislike raspiness in my fragrances, and surprisingly I found this fragrance even more dry and raspy, more difficult for me even than Noir de Mars. Eventually the labdanum shows up, and it has that peculiar wet-canvas-tent profile that I also dislike in certain grades of labdanum. All in all, the two tests I made with this scent were a true trial of endurance for me.

It’s rare that I love a fragrance in the oriental genre. I have trouble in particular with balsamic notes, particularly when they are the focus of the fragrance, and I sincerely do not appreciate that raspy effect of very dry, earthy patchouli. For that reason, Ocre Doré is pretty much a failure for me personally. I did not scrub it; I gritted my teeth and rode out the six hours of wear. (Eight hours with a three-spritz application. Why did I do that? Urgh. Quease city. But that’s me, y’all. If you don’t have any trouble with Shalimar, or Obsession, or Parfumerie Generale L’Oiseau de Nuit, or… well, pretty much any oriental on a classic framework… you won’t have any problem.) If this is luxury, y’all can keep it, thanks. I repeat: my preferences are coming to bear in great degree on my verdict, but there it is. You never wear a fragrance in a vacuum. If you don’t like green florals, then no matter how often someone tells you that Chanel No. 19 is a beautifully balanced, elegant, dry green floral/chypre, then you’re not going to like it. So it is with me and Ocre Doré. I don’t like it personally, and it has a lot of well-regarded company (in terms of oriental scents considered to be well-made and wonderful) that I also don’t love. It’s Just Not My Thing.

It was intended as a feminine scent, but I think a man could wear it just as well. It is not sweet; rather it’s woody and (as I whined), dry, so dudes, go ahead.

Rose Opéra (now that’s a pretty paint color, I say!) is also intended as a feminine fragrance, but unlike Ocre Doré really does seem feminine to me. Perfumer Jordi Fernandez was inspired by a field of saffron, and the scent is meant to call to mind the luxury and romanticism of Marc Antony and Cleopatra perfuming themselves with saffron. This is my second favorite of the collection, and it really is truly lovely. The notes pyramid lists Calabrian bergamot, wild strawberry, jasmine, artemisia, Turkish rose, marigold, Spanish saffron, nutmeg, pink pepper, cardamom, macis [nutmeg flower], Javanese vetiver, cyprerus scariosus [cypriol or Nagarmotha], Peruvian lentisque, patchouli, Virginia cedar, and incense.

I get just a tiny whiff of intense strawberry, and then it’s gone. Actually, in the first hour or so, Rose Opera reminds me a great deal of By Kilian’s (not-oudy) Rose Oud, which also has woody notes and saffron. I really like Rose Oud; the rose in it is so silky and beautiful, and the vanilla light and creamy, and that Band-aid note just makes me happy. (I think I fell down a lot as a child. Band-aids meant help, and love.) The rose in Rose Opera – by the way, if you check Fragrantica, somehow the Turkish rose has been left out of the notes list, at the time of writing – is similarly beautiful, silky and rich and smooth. The saffron balances it and keeps it from being either sour or too sweet. The spices are very light here, and the drydown is woody and cool, less gourmandy than BK Rose Oud or L’Artisan’s Safran Troublant, but along the same lines. It also reminds me to some degree of Montale White Aoud, without the raspy balsamic base that makes White Aoud difficult for me.
It does not last as long as some of the others, but Rose Opera does stick around for 4-5 hours, approximately the same length as Rose Oud and considerably longer than Safran Troublant.

It’s a lovely fragrance, very femme, and like I say doesn’t reinvent the wheel – it’s just pretty. Whether you’ll like it will depend on whether you like woody/gourmand rose scents and what your position is on the “just pretty” fragrances. Like I say, it’s not groundbreaking, but it is well-done and very nice.

The Scent on Canvas fragrances are all nicely formulated, with a fair percentage of naturals (no more or less, overall, than most niche fragrances). I haven’t found one that I am going to run out and purchase on the spur of the moment, but if Brun Sicilien or Rose Opera were given to me, I’d certainly wear them with happiness.

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Mini-Reviews, March 12, 2014

Arquiste Flor y Canto (Rodrigo Flores-Roux, 2012) – Notes list: tuberose, marigold, magnolia, plumeria, copal. (from Fragrantica) The first five minutes are the best. The BEST: juicy wet green tuberose with the nose-tickling sharpness of marigold (gosh, I love marigold). After the herbal slap of it, though, this settles into a skin scent* of sweet tropical floral. I don’t pick up much on the plumeria (tiare); it’s mostly tuberose but with that creaminess of magnolia making the scent even softer. After two and a half to three hours, the copal finally shows up, a dry woody thing toning down the sweetness of the tuberose.

(Found this on Yahoo; don't know what it is or where it came from, but it is STUNNING. WANT.)
(Found this on Yahoo; don’t know what it is or where it came from, but it is STUNNING. WANT.)

I’m dabbing from a sample vial, and perhaps this would be better sprayed. As it is, it shrinks down to minimal sillage within an hour, and I kind of hate that. Either stay BIG or be small, one or the other, please.  Other than that, it’s very pleasant and easy to wear. Lasts less long than I expected, about 4 hours. Seems to be a lot of naturals in here, though.

*White florals tend to have the effect of “sinking in” to my skin. They don’t radiate very far off me.  Carnal Flower, widely recognized in the perfume community as a “wafter,” on me? Doesn’t waft.  I don’t walk around trailing clouds of tuberose or jasmine or ylang. I can even wear, gasp, vintage(ish) Poison without choking people. Or so I’ve been told – unless people are lying to me.  (Hmmm.)

belovedAmouage Beloved Woman (Bernard Ellena, 2014) – Notes list: Top notes are lavender, jasmine, rose, clary sage, chamomile, cloves and cardamom; middle notes are immortelle, labdanum, ylang-ylang, patchouli, benzoin, olibanum and violet; base notes are musk, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla, castoreum, civet, leather and ambergris. (Fragrantica)

Man, this is… hmm. Incredibly powdery? It’s got a powder level similar to that of Shalimar, and almost to Habanita levels. Not my sort of thing. The spicy florals in it are just gorgeous, though, and the tiny touch of civet makes this very much a throwback sort of fragrance, a 1950s Woman of the World scent. I don’t typically do well with lavender or clary sage, and the first few minutes are a swirling uh-oh-maybe-I-shouldn’t-have-put-this-on-my-skin.  (I like the kind of sage you cook with, I like that. Clary sage, nuh-uh. Smelled it growing live, in Thomas Jefferson’s garden at Monticello, and jerked my head back so fast I nearly got whiplash.) The rose is nice, and I’m picking up a bit of clove and ylang, but this is basically a powdery oriental with some flowers and it is not doing a darn thing for me.

Like most scents from this house, it’s long-lasting and complex and solid.  But it is Fusty.  I mean, I wear Jolie Madame in vintage extrait on a regular basis, and you’re talkin’ some Old Lady Perfume right there – but this is just not my variety of old-fashioned perfume. This has that dusty patchouli I hate, but I’m also getting a lot of that powdery type of vanilla and olibanum (frankincense).  I can’t do this sort of thing. I think Musette over at Perfume Posse liked this thing, and we have a lot of overlap, but Just No.

Yay, another Amouage I don’t like!** I would seriously hate to fall for all of them.  I still need to get my nose on Gold Woman, Fate Woman, and Interlude Woman. Because it never pays to ignore Amouage – even if you don’t like them, they are rich and amazing and you are better for having smelled them.

Tom Hardy. Leather jacket. Memoir Woman in extrait, y'all. Wow.
Tom Hardy. Leather jacket. Memoir Woman in extrait, y’all. Wow.

** I really like Lyric Woman. I thought I loved it, but somehow I don’t manage to wear it often. It’s a very meditative thing, though, and I like to wear it to classical concerts. I really like Ubar (the reissue); it reminds me a good deal of Lancome Climat. (Gah, I should get my Climat out and wear it more often. So pretty.) I liked Jubilation XXV, the incense-centered men’s version rather than J25, the fruity-chypre women’s (ugh, you know me and fruity chypres). But I adore Memoir Woman, adore adore adore it. It is not very Me, and yet it is. Besides my 50ml EdP and the lotion I got for Christmas, I just snagged a 5ml decant of the EXTRAIT DE PARFUM, y’all. Swoon. (The Body Cream is good too – I only have a tiny sample of that, but it’s gorgeous. Less complicated than the EdP.) I think I originally said of the extrait, it’s Tom Hardy in a leather jacket, and that’s still true. You know I love me some TH.  

Young aspen trees. Aspen for Women smells more like conifers to me, definitely does not have the golden cast of autumn aspen leaves, but this fresh outdoorsiness seems appropriate for the smell of it.
Young aspen trees. Aspen for Women smells more like conifers to me, definitely does not have the golden cast of autumn aspen leaves, but this fresh outdoorsiness seems appropriate for the smell of it.

Coty Aspen for Women (no perfumer or notes available) – I’ve mentioned this before, as a scent I wore right out of college and loved. It was first produced in 1989 or 1990, and disappeared by 1994, according to my memory. I wore it maybe two years before my bottle – left out on the dresser the way I’d always done, not knowing how damaging light is to perfume – started to smell odd and sort of maple syrupy, and I threw it away. It was always louder than anything I’d ever worn before, and still more radiant than most everything I wear even now! One spritz radiates pretty far.

It’s tough to pick out notes in this thing, and the men’s version (still extant) is really no help, as they don’t smell similar, so bear with me here. Up top is some “fresh,” ozonic sort of note, possibly Calone but I don’t pick up any melony overtones. There’s still some citrus in here, possibly bergamot, but it’s starting to deteriorate so it’s hard to tell. Under that is a sharp coniferous aspect, plus a soft rose and, I think, orange blossom, as it is soapy-clean and sharp-fresh at the same time.  There’s a good deal of wood in here, not real sandalwood but a sandalwood-esque generic blond woods thing, and I’m thinking some cedar too. If I had to guess, possibly some cardamom as well. It’s a little in the vein of classic woody men’s fragrances, which might be why I still like it. I’m not picking up on any patchouli at all, and there is no fougere element or amber present to my nose, either. No fruit, no vanilla – this was a real weirdie even for 1990, and that’s probably part of why it was discontinued.

You can still buy this on eBay, even boxed, but my eBay bottle and a sample I got from a friend who bought a used bottle both are clearly starting to deteriorate in the way that my original bottle did, with an “off” topnote and a maple syrup angle. I probably should use it up and let it go; its instability is possibly another reason why it, like the original Victoria by Victoria’s Secret, was discontinued.

Oh well.

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The Return of Mini-Review Roundup!! June 4, 2013

YAY! I finally feel like writing mini-reviews.

Osmanthus fragrans 'Fudingzhu'Parfums d’Empire Osmanthus Interdite – Sadly, I cannot remember who sent me this lovely decant (scatterbrain!), but I am enjoying it in this warm weather.  I have only smelled live osmanthus/tea olive blossoms once, and that was briefly, when we visited South Carolina a few years ago, in swellllltering heat.  I only recall that they smelled wonderful.  Osmanthus Interdite contains a good slug of rose as well as apricotty osmanthus, and it is primarily floral with a fruity overtone.  Fragrantica says the notes are : Fruity accord, apricot, tea, osmanthus, jasmine, rose, leather and musk. There’s nothing of Luca Turin’s vaunted “apricot/suede/soap/tea” accord here – well, maybe a hint of tea, but no soap (and I get soap out of a lot of fragrances, many more than I’d like) and no leather.  Oh well. Because this is very beautiful, and lasts several hours on me.  I’m still trying to find something that smelled like a shower gel I had in the late 80s called “Peach Rose Hyacinth” – and this is not quite it, but it’s close.

Isn't this a delightful montage?
Isn’t this a delightful montage?

Vero Profumo Mito – this is my first foray into the world of Vero Kern’s highly personal and well-regarded fragrances. Bloggers and fumeheads of my acquaintance raved about this scent when it was first released, and I thought, “Hey, good for Vero, everybody loves it, doesn’t sound like my cuppa.” I heard “woody” and “citrusy” and “mossy,” and I knew that didn’t even vaguely resemble something I’d wear.  But here’s the full notes list: Citruses, galbanum, champaca, jasmine, magnolia, hyacinth, cypress, moss.  Toss the galbanum and all those white flowers in, and you come closer to something I find compatible – and thank goodness, that’s what I get. Yes, there is citrus, but it burns off pretty quickly for me. Lots of white florals, lots of moss, some galbanum and a resiny fir thing, and the entire scent seems so very retro-1970s in such a lovely way. The scent seems to call for white gloves and a sheath dress, and it isn’t something I’d be terribly comfortable in, but it really is wonderful. Calls up the ghost of Miss Dior and just smells so nice. Would be great on men as well.

(Image from "This Means War." Stolen from somewhere online, can't find it now, sorry.)
(Image from “This Means War.” Stolen from somewhere online and cropped, can’t find it now, sorry.)

Amouage Memoir Woman EXTRAIT – Yes, they make some Amouages in extrait, be still my beating heart. My wallet is running and hiding now – I think they go for something like $700 per 50ml, way way way out of my budget. Whoa. Y’all know I love Memoir W in edp (see my original long-winded review here), and when Dear Daisy the Queen Enabler sent me a bit of the extrait and I put a dab on my thumb, it put paid to my getting anything productive done the rest of the day. Because this thing damps down the Serge-Noire-y herbal stuff and the gorgeous white florals (which I do love, really) in favor of the rugged basenotes, like leather and moss and styrax and labdanum. And leather. Did I say leather? Honey, this thang is like Tom Hardy in a leather jacket.  I mean, stop the horses.  Overall I prefer the edp, but the extrait is another beast entirely.

Okay, Rose de Siwa smells like rose. But it also smells like the Sarah Bernhardt peonies I love. I have a huge bouquet on my table right NOW.
Okay, Rose de Siwa smells like rose. But it also smells like the Sarah Bernhardt peonies I love. I have a huge bouquet on my table right NOW.

Parfums MDCI Rose de Siwa – Ahhh, pink roses. Pink dewy roses and peonies, in the morning, so fresh and pretty that you can’t help falling a little bit in love.  I have steadfastly ignored every MDCI that’s come down the pike – I originally said Amouage was too rich for my blood, and now I own a bottle of Memoir, a hefty decant of Lyric, and a small one of Ubar, having fallen hard, so I have insisted that I don’t need any more spendy loves. But this one could change my mind. For one thing, it’s composed by Francis Kurkdjian, and I generally have very good luck with his output. For another, this smells in spirit very much like my beloved Sarah Bernhardt peonies (I think all peonies should be light pink, because I am prejudiced!), which happen to be huuuuuge this year, blooms seven inches across and I’m not joking. They are gorgeous.  Peonies remind me of my grandmother Nell, who grew them, my grandmother Sarah Lou, who loved them and called them “pinies,” my sister, who used them in her wedding, and my daughter, whose birthday coincides with their blooming.  The notes list for Rose de Siwa includes, yes, peony, litchi, hawthorn, rose, violet, cedar, vetiver and musk.  I repeat, gorgeous. If a bottle of this fell from the sky I would give a bit of it to every woman in my family, so we could smell realistic peonies and sigh together.

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Mini-Review Roundup, Friday, March 22, 2013: three from Olympic Orchids

Woot! Two in a row. Guess that’s why it’s “random.”

Have been wearing rose chypres for the past few days, the louder the better: L’Arte di Gucci, Lumiere Noire pour femme, Olympic Orchids Ballets Rouges. I only have a sample of the Ballets Rouges, and it’s almost gone, but I really like it.

I don’t think I’ve actually reviewed any of the Olympic Orchids samples I have on hand, and that’s probably because one of them sort of traumatized me. Remember my whining about Tauer Orange Star being Death by Tang Dust? Well, Olympic Orchids Golden Cattleya, despite being adored by a couple of fume bloggers I love to read – Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies and Victoria of EauMG – did its darndest to kill me, as a sort of Death By Tang Dust Plus Honey-Schweet Overdose.  And so, despite loving Ballets Rouges, I let the other OO samples languish. Skeered, you know?

red roses architectureBut I just got a couple of them out again and tried them on skin, so here are some mini-reviews. Ballets Rouges  is really lovely, a true old-school rose chypre with some labdanum in the base and a hint of something intensely fruity, like super-concentrated jam, streaking by at the speed of light from time to time throughout the duration of the scent experience.  It reminds me quite a bit of the wonderful Soivohle Centennial, but it’s clearer, without the angora soft-focus fuzz of Centennial, and it’s rosier, less of a floral mix.  I could live in this one, on days when I want to be luxuriously larger than life. Notes for this one: Bergamot, aldehydes, thyme, mandarin, fresh rose accord, rose de mai, ylang, musk, oakmoss, patchouli, labdanum.

golden cattleyaGolden Cattleya – and I should be clear here, I’m not familiar with varying orchid smells, except the Sharry Baby one that smells like milk chocolate, and that mostly because of the uber-girly LeLong Pour Femme – has notes of narcissus, orange fruit, orange blossom, honey, pollen, cream soda, amber, labdanum, vanilla, musks, and sandalwood. What it mostly smells like to me is a very very syrupy-sweet Creamsicle, extremely honeyed, and it wafts like crazy. Crazy, I tell you. Beeeeg sillage.  Also, big Tang Dust Effect, as I mentioned, and the longer it’s on, the more I start to feel like I’ve eaten too much midway food at the fair, so although a lot of people like this one it is just sort of frightening for me.

Pot. Miya's Radiance 'Red Beauty'Red Cattleya is a fruity-fruity-fruity floral – that is, it starts out very fruity, with honeydew melon and peach, and then gradually slides into a fresh springlike floral that still remains quite sweet.  I usually do quite well with fruity florals, and the fruit in this is not your fake-froot stuff, but the realistic fruit notes seem nevertheless to have been drenched in honey. Can’t do it. Notes for this one: citrus, peach, apricot, melon, hyacinth, gardenia, violets, lilac, musk, exotic wood, vanilla.

I still have Little Stars and Javanica to test, so we’ll see how those go.

Happy Friday to you!

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Mini-review roundup: Alkemia Fragrances, Part 2

Artwork for Tronada.
Artwork for Tronada.

Part 1 of my Alkemia sample review was way back in mid-December at the end of November(!), before I got all ennui-ed up with writing about perfume (thank goodness that’s over, at least for now).  Sorry to make you wait for Part 2, but here it is.  To recap, in case you don’t feel like clicking back for Part 1, Alkemia is a fragrance shop on Etsy, specializing in perfume oils.  I’d gone looking for “frankincense perfume” over there, and Alkemia is where I fetched up, spending some time digging the lovely illustrations and nicely-written descriptions for these interesting fragrances.  Sharra is the owner/perfumer, and I’m impressed by how well she was able to recommend additional samples based on my other choices.

Arcanum is one I dithered over when ordering my 5 samples for $10, eventually deciding on something else. It showed up as a freebie anyway, which tells me that Miz Sharra knows how to recommend! Alkemia’s description: An enigmatic yet compelling blend of seductive eastern spices, aged patchouli and sandalwood. Frankincense, nag champa, and dragons blood deepen the mystery.

I don’t know what dragons blood smells like; I only know that it’s some kind of herbal thingy that seems to show up in a lot of places you can buy essential oils, and that it sounds all spooky and stuff. (Draaaaagons blooood, ooooooh. The part of me that reads fantasy novels is delighted.) I also don’t know that I have smelled nag champa on its own.

All the same, this fragrance is very interesting. A little dark, a little threatening maybe… it is too incense-focused to be witchy, but the word “ritual” keeps coming to my mind, and it’s not a comforting thought. I’m too Baptist to find “ritual” comforting.

Ardorem XXI was another that caught my attention, but I was worried by the combination of notes, which sounded like the fragrance could turn out a kitchen-sinky mishmash, so I put it on my second-tier list. Sharra sent me a sample anyway. (See? She’s good.) Alkemia’s description: In numerology, twenty-one is the number of perfection by excellence. Ardorem 21 is a complex elixir of 21 precious essences including: coriander, mandarin, amber, nutmeg, saffron, bourbon geranium, blue lotus, tobacco, musk, clove, sandalwood, vetiver, Kashmiri tea, cardamom, black pepper, and Japanese incense.

Sniffed from the vial, it mostly smells of lotus, which is a pretty, clean, watery floral smell that doesn’t seem like it would dominate. Having smelled it in other compositions, though (notably, some of DSH Perfumes’s high-concept and lovely Egypt perfumes), I can say that it does tend to take over. It’s not an offensively high-pitched floral note like lily of the valley can be, and you’re probably not going to call it icepick-to-the-eye-socket because it doesn’t have that relentless, industrial-strength cleaner vibe. But it dominates – sort of like when you look at pictures of the Supreme Court in the late 1980s, your gaze goes straight to Sandra Day O’Connor and only slowly do you note the rest of the justices. (I love me some SDO. She always looked sort of queenly, like she was accepting her due, and she always seemed so wise. But I digress again.)

Tronada is not at all my usual thing, but I wondered if it might suit my novel character, who discovers a fragrance that doesn’t smell like department store perfume and falls in love with it. I’m trying to find that one thing. (At this point, I still think it’s Donna Karan Black Cashmere, but I have a few more things to test.) Alkemia’s description: An homage to the Gods of Thunder – the scent of crackling ozone and wildly lashing rain tearing across a summer night.

Awesome, succinct description, I must say. And pretty darn accurate. I mean, people tend to know what a summer storm smells like. Don’t you? You get that lovely ozone smell, the petrichor smell of rain hitting dry dirt, some leaves, some excitement, some wet. And that’s Tronada. Perfect. I could wish it to be a little stronger, but that might make it less accurate. You will not think of Cool Water or Acqua di Gio or New West, those classic ozonic-aquatic fragrances. This one smells like a – well, like a summer storm. Duh.

Wing of Bat is the last sample I have, and I chose it because it was described as a gentle green chypre. I often have trouble with green chypres, which like to rise up suddenly and stiletto me. (Seriously. I hate Bandit and Aromatics Elixir and Givenchy III, which smell like diesel fuel, stale urine, and dirt – dirty dirt, not nice potting soil – to me, respectively. I don’t mind dirt if it’s supposed to be there, as in Soivohle Violets & Rainwater.) Love the gentler floral green chypres, though, like No. 19 and Jolie Madame, so I thought I’d try this. Alkemia’s description: A damp mossy cave redolent with moonlight reflected in a chypre of oakmoss, green patchouli, crushed ferns, dirt, ambergris and a bit of leather.

Wing of Bat does smell like dirt. But in a good way, dirt with green things growing out of it. Rocks, moss, green stuff… it’s all here, along with a slight wet dankness that you wouldn’t want in your house but which seems perfectly natural in, say, a cave. The county I live is is honeycombed with them, which I only found out about a couple of years ago, when my daughter took a summer PE class that did some fun stuff like white-water rafting and spelunking. They visited two of the many caves in the area. I should have known, really – our farm boasts no fewer than three sinkholes, and I knew that the surrounding area was composed geologically of karst (rock bearing large amounts of calcium carbonate, which is easily eaten away by water). I like caves.

And I like bats. They don’t seem spooky or vampiry to me, though, there’s just a sort of homely magic to them. I mean, they fly in the dark! They eat bugs! Bats are cool! I mean, I don’t want them making nests in my attic and filling it up with guano, which is toxic to the human respiratory system, but I really like bats.

So. Wing of Bat is for all you Katniss-and-Peeta-in-a-cave wannabes. It’s earthy, green, alive (there are none so alive as teenagers on the verge of violent death, right?), and I enjoyed it very much.

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Mini-review Roundup, Jan. 25, 2013

Whoops. Found this mini-review roundup in the “in progress” folder, and as far as I can tell, I never published it.  (If I’m wrong and my search function is failing me, please let me know.)

Edit, Jan. 28: Due to some strange database issue with my web server, this may never have been posted at all, or posted wonky, or something.  I know at least one person attempted to comment and wasn’t able to. BIG WHOOPS.  So anyway, I deleted the article and reposted it.  Sorry for any confusion.

Comme des Garcons PLAY Red – rhubarb-cherry, followed by a mushy floral thing and some thin heliotrope. Robin at NST liked this one and thought it was fun, but I disagree. Booorrrriing. I’m getting a citrusy tart fruit out of it and it seems fairly linear – pleasant, but not something I want to smell like, and certainly not at CdG prices. In the drugstore it might be a different story.

Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia – drawn by Robin’s review on NST and the mention of cardamom and incense, I bought a small 30ml bottle during a sale at the JM website. Then I had second thoughts, and didn’t even open the bottle to spray it. Left it alone for some time, then sold it at cost to a fellow fumie… and began to wonder whether I’d done the right thing. Got a sample to check – and yes, I did the right thing. This is a lot of that Giorgio-esque tuberose, with its grapey-berry quality (this is an aromachemical that occurs naturally in some white flowers, such as tuberose and jasmine, and which belongs with said white flowers, but which is often isolated and used as a flavor booster for grape products like Kool-Aid and candy in the US, which would explain why the grape-berry thing seems very artificial to Americans). I accidentally dumped the ENTIRE vial, oopsie, down my arms and cleavage by being clumsy, but it didn’t overpower me. Thank goodness I didn’t do that with vintage Giorgio! In any case, I kept sniffing and re-sniffing for the cardamom but never found it. The incense and a very light woody note eventually come out in the drydown, but I never stopped getting tuberose. This fragrance is pretty and pleasant but kinda dopey and unoriginal, like that one girl back in high school who was selected as a cheerleader and from that point on never did anything without consulting and following the dictates of the (smarter, meaner) Queen Bees. Amanda P, this one’s for you.

TokyoMilk Dark La Vie La Mort (Life Death) – Tuberose. Synthetic, I think, or a cleaned-up version: sweetish, no camphor, no weird. Hint of grape, but not nearly so much as the JM Vtg Gardenia. Also, a sort of milky quality. There’s something green in here as well, and an earthy-fruity quality. Fig? Vetiver? Both? Not sure. I don’t think I like it. Official notes include gardenia, hibiscus leaf, cardamom (WHAT cardamom?) and jasmine.  Not lovin’ it.

 

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Mini-Review Roundup: Alkemia Fragrances, part 1

Alkemia Fragrances is an Etsy shop which I found recently when doing a search for “incense perfume.” Simple, eh? There were a few other perfumes listed, but Alkemia has several with prominent incense notes, and so I decided that a five-piece sample as well as a small 5ml bottle of the current special, Yuletide Blessing, might be a fun way to explore the business.

I hadn’t heard of Alkemia before, but then there are quite a number of small independent fragrance shops that have hung out their shingle at Etsy. JoAnne Bassett, A Wing and a Prayer Perfumes, Roxana Illuminated Perfumes, and Sweet Anthem are all indie perfumers who do a brisk business over on  Etsy, which is a haven for handcrafted and beautifully-made items, a marketplace for people who make terrific things out of their kitchens or sewing rooms or garages. Check it out – who knows what wonderful, unique items you might find?

Alkemia offers fragrance oils only, similar to Possets or Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (two indies the serious perfumista might already know). Even DSH Perfumes, which has in the last few years moved into what I’d call “higher-end indie” along with Tauer Perfumes and Aftelier, started out in Boston with scented oils. Dawn still makes tons of items in oil, too. I’ll be honest here and comment that I don’t generally prefer them, since they can be very reticent and close to the skin on me, and sometimes I want to waft just a little. Some people find longevity very good with oils; my skin tends to be drier, so I generally don’t get any more length of wear out of them than, say, a potent EdP, i.e., four to six hours.

I was immediately captivated by the lovely image attending Yuletide Blessing (currently on sale at $5 for 5ml, plus shipping, as a year-end thank-you to customers from Alkemia’s owner, Sharra – but hurry, the price is only good as long as supplies last). The description appealed to me, too:

An incantation of traditional Yuletide offerings to welcome the return of the sun and bring blessings for the coming year – bayberry for wealth, pine for health, cedar for protection, cinnamon for good luck, bay for wisdom, cloves for friendship, frankincense for gratitude, myrrh for material abundance, apple for love, and orange peel for a happy home.

It sounded like a really nice candle, to be honest. And that’s all right, because sometimes you just want a nice home fragrance, something that smells like Christmas. I love the smells of Christmas. Yuletide Blessing delivers on that front, too. It starts out a little heavy on the fruit – apple and orange can be a little overwhelming, and the orange does get a bit into that “Tang dust/baby aspirin” effect that I struggle with, but within about twenty minutes it’s calmed down and the spices and other woody notes come forth. I don’t smell frankincense distinctly; perhaps it’s dovetailing with that pine note, but the effect is nice. Definitely no Pine-Sol or fake pine-tree car air-freshener here. The myrrh, however, is prominent to my nose along with the spices.

When I asked for opinions from my kids, Gaze said, “Smells like gingerbread cake. I’m getting a lot of spices and vanilla. Do I smell cardamom?” And Bookworm said, “Hey, that smells like a candle! A really nice one.” Heh. Guess you know what kind of candles I like, now. As a matter of fact, I never bother with them in warm weather, so the ones I own tend to be things like “Frosted Gingerbread” and “Spiced Pumpkin” from places like Target or Wal-Mart, or the delightful “Winter” from Bath and Body Works. I also have a couple of cherished “Noel” candles from Annick Goutal, so you see that my candle scent choices focus on spices with citrus, pine, woods, and/or incense. And it may be this experience with candle fragrances affecting my perception, but Yuletide Blessing strikes me as being less a personal fragrance than one designed for the home.

But I say that’s perfectly fine. Sometimes you just want the house to smell like Christmas. I’ve been using a drop or two in simmering water, along with a clementine peel or two (yay, it’s clementine season! We’ll be eating them until they run out our ears!), to scent the house.

The longer this is on skin, the more delightful and dark and incensey it gets.  Niiiiice.

Les Mysteres is next up. Alkemia’s description: “Fig, fruit of the female mystery, covert and inward, Mediterranean fruit, with your covert nakedness, Where everything happens invisible.” – D.H. Lawrence Les Mysteres is an opulent, resinous blend of aged frankincense, black figs, labdanum, dark amber, Russian tea, swirled with a trio of sensual musks.

Regular readers are thinking, “Waitaminnit, Mals hates fig perfumes.” And I do. I love eating figs, and I like fig fruit in perfumes, but fig leaf gives me hissy fits. There is something cold and poisonously green about fig leaf that I cannot stand, and cannot explain. I mean, I like galbanum and coconut, for heaven’s sake! Why fig leaf, with its bitter, milky-green aspect, bothers me is anybody’s guess. I scrubbed Philosykos. I walked around with Premier Figuier as far away from my nose as possible, until it wore off, and then I gave that sample away fast, baby. Sonoma Scent Studio’s Fig Tree, which Laurie Erickson was kind enough to send me a sample of along with one of her lovely Nostalgie, did not please me either, and quite a number of people loved that one. I didn’t mind B&BW Brown Sugar Fig, which my sister wore for some time, though I wouldn’t have worn it myself.

Les Mysteres appealed because it seemed from the description to concern itself with fig fruit, along with several deep rich notes that might counteract the effect of any wayward homicidal fig leaf. On skin? Well, yeah, fig leaf tried to pop out of the woodwork and throttle me, and things were a bit iffy for a good half an hour. With all those rich basenotes in there, I was expecting a warm decadent smell, a sensual heavy-lidded labdanum. But instead, it’s Lotsa Fig Leaf. I never got a strong labdanum presence in it, though the tea was there. And very little amber – instead of being sweet and rich, it’s green and (okay, yeah) mysterious. Not my cuppa fig tea, though if you like dry dark fragrances, it might be for you.

I just discovered that apparently Salma Hayek is fond of Les Mysteres, which is actually pretty interesting. Salma Hayek has probably got a bank account that could handle a multiple-bottle purchase of Amouage, or those exclusive boutiquey Guerlains like Vega (ooh, love Vega!), but instead she’s buying and wearing $12 fragrance oils from Etsy. How cool is that?

(Okay, full disclosure: if I could swing a multiple-bottle purchase of Amouage, I’d want… well, I already own Memoir Woman, and I’d love to back up my disappearing 15ml decant of Lyric Woman, but that’s it. And Guerlain? I already have Shalimar Light and Chamade and a mini of Pamplelune. I do want Vega. And maybe the pretty-but-overpriced Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique. And that’s all. Actually, I just disproved my own point, so nyevah mind.)

Falling Stars at Winter Solstice was the next one I tried. Alkemia’s description: Walking into a wooded clearing, you look up in wonder at thousands of stars across the darkened sky. Suddenly, a falling star streaks across the sky, so low you can almost touch it. Catch your breath. Make a wish. Aromatic balsam needles, a dab of dark musk, sweet myrrh, incense resins, melted snow and a touch of cabin woodstove smoke.

The balsam needles are prominent in the opening, as I’d thought they might be, and there is a whiff of something cold in there along with the woodsmoke. This reminds me of a more-outdoorsy CdG Zagorsk, or Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods, and it’s really delightful. Cold, smoky, woody, but warm underneath, the sort of thing that makes you want to breathe in the cold air a much as you can. There is a balsamy sweetness underneath, maybe the sweet myrrh (opoponax). Very nice. Very wintery, which you’d expect given the name. I think I’d leave it in the cabinet come March, and be dying to get it out again in October.

La Belle Epoque is sort of an outlier in this group, which I mostly chose in the hope of finding something daringly different. This one isn’t. That is, La Belle Epoque is very much my usual style, i.e., The Big Girly Floral. Alkemia’s description: A complex floriental homage to the opulent elegance of Gilded Age femininity. A glorious blend of precious florals including jasmine sambac, tuberose, iris, rose, and lily of the valley blended with plum, apricot, tahitian vanilla, blonde amber, bitter almond, and oakmoss on a soft bed of delightfully powdery musks. Outrageously romantic.

This could have been a big floofy mess, what with the fruity notes and the vanilla and all those big ol’ flirty florals. Instead, it’s lovely. Very Marie-Antoinette, very Petit Trianon, all rouge-cheeked shepherdesses with powdered wigs and yards of ribbon and gilded crooks, no sheep manure anywhere. If you just threw up in your mouth a little, La Belle Epoque is not for you. This one, though, seems to suffer a little from the influence of whatever’s being used as a carrier oil. There is a stale, waxy feeling to it that doesn’t seem connected to the fragrance notes, and I’m wishing for an EdP instead of oil format. Oh well. It might be pretty great used as bath oil.

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