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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Scent Diary, Nov. 5-11, 2012

Sorry for the delay in posting – people have been sick here and I’m busy with other stuff… also, no photos or links today. They take TOO MUCH DANG TIME.

Monday, Nov. 5 – Gah, it is Monday. Gah, I am so far behind on NaNoWriMo that I don’t think I’m going to catch up, and I am strongly tempted to bail on the whole thing. Probably should. SOTD: Le Temps d’une Fete.

Tuesday, Nov. 6 – Another frosty day. I am really going to have to cut and cart away all the dead annuals in the front yard; they look terrible. SOTM: Comme des Garcons Eau de Parfum, the newish one in the bottle that looks like a melted light bulb and purports to contain notes of packaging tape (I love the smell of packaging tape). Actually, it is a) sort of nauseating, in that I-can’t-identify-this-but-it’s-making-me-sick sort of way, and b) boring. Essentially, it’s a dull floral. Reminds me somewhat of the dull floral hiding under the skeevy stuff in Secretions Magnifiques. And why bother with that? Bleargh.

I voted. It took me longer than it’s ever taken me before: 35 minutes from the time I walked out of the house until the time I walked back in. I had to wait in line for awhile. I’ll confess: I wasn’t happy with either one of the major-party candidates for President, and don’t feel compelled by any one of the minor parties on my ballot (Libertarian, Green, Conservative). I voted for the candidate who has slightly more in common with my values and stance on issues, according to my conscience. That’s all I can do.

Looking at the news on TV and Internet, and reading comments by friends on FB, it seems that the country is more divided than ever (well, since the Civil War, anyway, and see how much fun THAT was? At least SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND soldiers dead, not including civilians who starved to death) ideologically. And I’m wondering: is victory sweeter when the margin is closer? Is it more fun to win when there are so many people who disagree with you? You’d think so, given the gloating. (I already knew, from watching The CEO’s thirty-five-year devotion to the Red Sox, that losing stings worse when winning is juuust outside your grasp. And the losers are being pretty gosh-darned whiny about it.) #sosickofpolitics!!

SOTA: DSH Prophecy, a nice incense-amber thingy cushioned with Dawn’s usual soft musk base, which I tend to like. It’s in oil format, and I’m wondering if it would be more forthcoming in EdP. At least I smell good. Continue reading Scent Diary, Nov. 5-11, 2012

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Mini-Reviews Roundup, October 4, 2012

roundup

Vintage Rochas Femme parfum de toilette – I have tried the reformulated Femme from the 2000s and enjoyed it. Yes, even that cuminy stuff some people say smells like B.O.? Just smells like spice-cabinet, Mexican-food cumin to me. I like it. I like it with the peachy-plummy stuff and the ambery-woodsy stuff. So I figured I’d do great with vintage Femme.

Uhhh, nope. Big FAIL. Stewed MESS. Remember Kevin’s hilarious post on NST reviewing Serge Noire (which, for the record, I like)? Well, that’s how this vintage Femme comes across to me: a big ol’ witches’ brew of way-past-ripe. Stinky, even.

Weird, huh? I mean, I’m perfectly used to vintage perfumes, how dense they can sometimes be, and how patient you have to be to let them settle in and get comfortable and bloom on your skin. And sometimes they might look just fine in the bottle, and still be age-damaged. However, when that happens and age has damaged a perfume, there’s usually a sense that something smells wrong, or there’s a “hole” in what you’re smelling, or a fadedness, a sense of something missing. This bottle has none of that. Nothing about it seems age-damaged: no nail-polish, no maple syrup, no holes or fadings or erasures, no sense that it’s moldered. No mustiness.

It’s just doing the same sort of thing that fruity chypres usually do on my skin: curdle. The comment that people usually make about older Femme is that it smells like warm skin. (Sometimes they say it smells like post-coital skin.) But this is more like a vat of stewed fruit that has rotted and gone garbagey. There is just something about fruit + oakmoss that goes really horrid on me, I confess. I did okay with that ONE 1990s Mitsouko parfum, but the fruity-chypre genre really disturbs me in general.

I’ve already found a new home for this little bottle of vintage Femme, and I hope both the bottle and its new owner will be very happy.

Esteban Classic Chypre – This one started off really lovely, a bergamotty rose-jasmine accord made serious with oakmoss and woods and patchouli, very classic, very pretty. Eventually it settled into something that smelled most horrifyingly of Calvin Klein Obsession, which I hate almost as much as I hate Opium and Youth Dew. I did not scrub it. But I wanted to.

Accord Parfait Chypre (Bergamot & Black Tea) – what can I say? The bergamot’s pretty obvious, and so is the black tea. Did I ever mention that I love the smell of brewed black tea? Or black tea leaves, for that matter. I do. I make a gallon of sweet iced tea every other day (The CEO mainlines the stuff, and I might have a glass every couple of days myself), so I know what plain black tea smells like, and I like it. This smells delightfully like strong, unsweetened black tea… for about twenty minutes. Then it’s gone, leaving behind a faintly mossy-woody drydown. Honestly, I think this fragrance is more like a strongish tea cologne. Might be truly wonderful in summer heat.

Accord Parfait Boisé (Heliotrope & Santal) – well, this is very pleasant. It’s built along the same woody-vanilla lines as Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille and Smell Bent One, but instead of the dark roasted effect of UBV or the chai-tea spices of One, it has a delicious lacing of heliotrope (and not the Play-doh variety), and I think I’m also getting a hint of cedar and a sprinkling of pink pepper too. This was another Surrender to Chance sample, and the brand’s perfumes are apparently not sold in the US – apparently this is another set of niche perfumes that are not too complex but very attractive anyway, probably due to some a) decent raw materials and b) restraint.

Accord Parfait Famille Fleurie (Mirabelle & Gardenia)– again, what an attractive fragrance this is. Nothing earth-shaking, nothing strikingly unusual… just pretty. It is, to be honest, like a little piece of Mary Greenwell Plum or the top/heart of Juicy Couture parfum, without the different drydowns of those fragrances (modern chypre or caramel wood, respectively). There may be a very quiet woody-musk base in Famille Fleurie which serves to extend the pretty floral heart, in which I smell tuberose, jasmine and a hint of rose. It doesn’t seem particularly gardenia-specific, lacking the overripe and heady aspects of the flower, but most “gardenia” fragrances do, anyway. The fruit is tangy and unsweetened but quite present. Really nice

Tom Ford Jardin Noir Ombre de Hyacinth – on the opening, I’m reminded of Bas de Soie and Penhaligon’s Bluebell, only less strident. There’s a really nice quality to it that makes me think of dirt in spring, damp and just waiting to start growing stuff. Metallic dirt, does that explain anything? They could have called it “Silver Shadow,” that would have been appropriate.

After awhile, it begins to smell a little bit like Prada Infusion d’Iris, without that silky-powdery musk thing that Id’I does so well. After that, it goes thin and slitty-eyed. Having gotten me into a mood calling for “green and iris,” it got all stabby, so I went and covered it up with a goodly spritz of Jacomo Silences parfum de toilette, which was completely delightful.

You should just go buy Silences instead. Or wait for the revamped version, Silences eau de parfum sublime, instead – Chaya Ruchama mentioned the EdP Sublime on her Facebook page, commenting that the new one is actually nice and she might even call it full-bottle-worthy. (I mean, it isn’t as if Tom Ford really needs my cash to fund his lifestyle.)

Vintage Caron Bellodgia parfum de cologne – oh, this is niiiiiiice. Very nice. After a ten-minute soapy stage, it’s all beautiful carnation floral. I get the jasmine and rose in here, too, but carnation is center stage. So pretty. (Thanks, Shelley!!) The downside to wearing this is the recognition that Caron has Totally Screwed This One Up. I suppose all perfume carnations are doomed at this point, due to IFRA restrictions on eugenol, but I for one am kinda ticked off about it. Carnation fans are all in mourning.

Malmaison! The original Metallica (stupid name anyway)! Old-school Old Spice! Bellodgia! All gone or messed with. Grrrr. I do still have Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s really beautiful Oeillets Rouges. And Fragonard’s pretty-pretty Billet Doux was available on the website last time I looked. (Why do I not have a bottle of that? I’d probably wear the heck out of it.)

But do not even talk to me about Vitriol d’Oeillet. I think that’s a good fragrance, but it doesn’t smell much like real carnations, ergo I am Not That Interested.

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More Serge testing

Un Bois Vanille Serge Lutens for women

This is the latest round of Serge Lutens testing, with results as follows. Blue, I love. Pink, I like. Orange, I’m neutral on. Green, I dislike. Purple, I despise. Beyond La Myrrhe, there’s not a single SL fragrance that I am dying to own – so far, anyway.

Daim Blonde – opens up very, verynicely – apricot jam and a bit of jasmine, and I can smell the suede note too. Unfortunately, it spends about an hour and a half smelling like shaving cream amber, which is a definite no-go for me, before settling for a light woody-suede drydown. I’m waffling between Like and Dislike on this one, so I think I’ll have to add a new category for “meh,” or neutral.

Douce Amere – “Bittersweet” is not usually my thing except in love stories and chocolate, so I was pleasantly surprised by Douce Amere. It’s sort of like a grown-up Caron Aimez-Moi, less floral and less girly, and since I have tired of the powdery vanilla at the bottom of Aimez-Moi while still liking the violet-anise-rose top of it, I’m finding that I enjoy Douce Amere’s stronger anise-tonka-wood accord much more.

Serge Noire – another one I was expecting to hate hate hate. I read the list of notes, and I read Kevin’s hilarious review at NST, and I just knew I was going to hate it.  (Tom at PST liked it much better.)  Well, snatch me baldheaded: I like it! I’m not sure I could actually wear the thing, but it reminds me very strongly of the opening of Memoir Woman, which I absolutely love (though I admit that without the gorgeous white floral heart, I would not like Memoir). I do actually find the whole medicinal, cold-hot, apothecary-shop cast of it very interesting, and I like smelling it. As a perfume, though, a smell to intentionally put on skin? Too weird, dude. I call it pink anyway.

Un Bois Vanille – this one’s pretty terrific, all woody and roasted and so very very comfortable.  Oddly, this is marketed to women (according to Fragrantica), but I’d call it unisex, myself.  Actually, UBV should be worn by awesomely-devoted-and-reliable men who are not exactly drop-dead sexy but very appealing anyway (Team Peeta, anyone? join me!).  Un Bois Vanille only suffers because I ran across Smell Bent One first. SB One is much spicier, not nearly as dark and roasty as UBV, but the thing is, if forced to choose, I would probably prefer spice to espresso. Especially when “spice” is $40 a bottle, and “espresso” is $180. However, if my fairy godmother wrapped a bottle of Un Bois Vanille in sparkly blue Cinderella satin and tulle and left it on the seat of my created-from-a-pumpkin minivan, I’d certainly wear it.

This was a good bunch.   In terms of my personal absolute loves, though? Patricia de Nicolai is STILL kicking Uncle Serge’s butt, even though Uncle Serge has many, many more wares for me to choose from, and even though they vary so widely and are so inventive, for which we must give him all massive due credit.

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Mini-Review Roundup: Opus Oils, August 9, 2012

 

Dirty Sexy Wilde

Opus Oils

Several perfume bloggers have been impressed by the quality and inventiveness of perfumer Kedra Hart’s concoctions at Opus Oils, and so several months ago I ordered a sample set. I can’t remember whether this was just before the Flapper Collection became available, or whether I was more drawn by the notes lists for the Burlesque Collection, but in any case I have a sample of each Burlesque fragrance, as well as one of Dirty Sexy Wilde and one of Dapper from the Les Bohemes Collection.

A word about oils: I’m not a big-sillage fan. I like there to be a little trail to follow me when I move, but I really suffered in the ’80s from the mushroom clouds of Giorgio and Poison and Obsession. I’ve also got scent-eating skin, so you’d think I’d probably be the ideal customer for the lower-sillage, high-longevity of perfume oils. In reality, I don’t mind oils, but I do find them less appealing than alcohol-based fragrances in general. These are nicely done, but I think a few of them could have benefited from the openness that alcohol allows. Sometimes oils can be somewhat dense and uncommunicative.

Continue reading Mini-Review Roundup: Opus Oils, August 9, 2012

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Mini-Review Round up, July 6, 2012

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Parfums de Nicolai Kiss Me Tender – The short version: licorice marshmallows, yaaaay!

The long version: KMT starts out with an anise focus set atop a delightful heliotrope-vanilla-marshmallow (ethyl maltol) base. I didn’t think I would like it, until I actually tried it on skin. Yes, it’s sweet. But there is a tender greenish streak through it that lightens some of the sweetness. There’s also a hint of rose and violet, though it isn’t powdery at all.

I like it. I wore it on one of the hottest days of June so far – 101F in miserably-humid Washington, DC weather, on our admissions tour of Georgetown University – and it was quite pleasant. No hint of the huge flesh-eating patchouli-marshmallow of Angel bursts out of Kiss Me Tender, even in the heat. It just smells nice, all cool and sweet like a licorice popsicle. Lasts about 4 hours, not as long as you’d think based on the notes list. I like the heliotrope in it, particularly because it doesn’t go Play-Doh or artificial fruit-flavored. I’ll probably use up this generous sample (thanks, Joe) but not buy a bottle. Continue reading Mini-Review Round up, July 6, 2012

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Mini-Reviews Roundup, June 5, 2012

Keiko Mecheri Gourmandises – Lovely. It’s sort of a cross between Tauer Une Rose Vermeille and Montale White Aoud, but without URV’s vivid mandarin note and WA’s bandaid note. Vivid berries zip by at the speed of light, followed by a really pretty rose note, and then a nice rich vanilla. And as you might expect of a crossbreed of such parentage, it’s neither vermilion red nor pale and fluffy, but sort of a delightful raspberry-whipped-cream color. I could also call it a more delicate, more floral version of Hanae Mori Butterfly, which I like a lot, even if I find it too young to wear personally. I’d wear this.

This scent was composed by Yann Vasnier. The official notes are jasmine, amber, rose, and powdery notes, but I would not call it a particularly powdery scent.  Continue reading Mini-Reviews Roundup, June 5, 2012

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