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.


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.



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.


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


Mini-Reviews Roundup, October 4, 2012


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.


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.


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


Mini-Review Round up, July 6, 2012

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


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


Mini-Reviews Roundup, May 24, 2012

The short version: Two duds and a perfectly acceptable fragrance this week.

La Prairie Life Threads Platinum – I haven’t heard much about this thing in a couple of years, since La Prairie put out its Life Threads trio. This was the one that perfumistas seemed to like best, but after smelling it on my skin, I have to wonder whether it was mere comparison to Pink Sugar and frooty florals that made an impression. Platinum is vaguely chypre-ish, but manages to be both soapy and thin. My first thought: Kudos for the game plan, but zero points for execution.

After it’s been on skin for about two hours, it reminds me of the faded far drydown of Deneuve or Miss Dior (though less powdery than Miss Dior). It’s quite wearable at that point, but still far too thin. I can’t imagine who actually bought this. Why wouldn’t you just go buy a bottle of not-too-ancient Miss Dior on Ebay? Heck, even current Miss Dior might be an improvement. Or if you really like chypres, why not buy DSH Perfumes’ perfectly-stunning (if not very “me”) Pandora, or Vert pour Madame? Continue reading Mini-Reviews Roundup, May 24, 2012


Mini-Review Roundup: Spadaro Sole Nero, Noche del Fuego, Doux Amour

Okay, so it’s been several weeks since the so-called Tuesday Roundup has actually been ON Tuesday. I hereby rename it the Mini-review Roundup, thereby allowing me to toss it up on the blog on any day of the week without guilt. I’ll still try to get one of these babies posted each week.

Oh, and by the way? Today, May 9, 2012, marks the twentieth anniversary of the day I married The CEO. Congrats to us, with my sincere wish that the second twenty years be better than the first. We’re for the long haul.

Today I’m reviewing three Spadaro fragrances which the company’s PR rep was so kind as to offer to send me. I promised honest reviews, not automatic raves, and PR was happy with that, so that’s a win-win all around, I think. It speaks well of a company when they’re willing to let the quality of their products show itself.

I had heard of these when they were released in late 2011, but didn’t have any way to sample and wasn’t familiar with founder Kate Spadaro. From the brochure accompanying these nicely-sized spray samples:

My mother’s free spirit led us to explore all forms of creativity, from concocting facial masks using ingredients found in the garden to customizing our perfumes with fragrant oils… this led to my career in aromatherapy and home design, where I transform environments through scent, lighting and music. The fragrances I create are inspired by my travels to far away destinations and the people I meet along the way. Each is infused with soul, love and passion.”

Photo courtesy Now Smell This

Continue reading Mini-Review Roundup: Spadaro Sole Nero, Noche del Fuego, Doux Amour


Tuesday Roundup Mini-reviews, May 1, 2012

Chloe L’Eau de Chloe

This 2012 release, composed by Michel Almairac and  packaged in a soft celery green, is a muted modern chypre, soft and pretty and elegant. Let me be perfectly honest here: I hated Chloe eau de parfum with a passion, and not just because of its bathroom-cleaner industrial product vibe. I hated it especially because I wore the original Chloe, a rich white floral concoction on a base of woods and moss, for a decade, and I still consider that the new version is a total travesty. (Yes. I have been known to whine.)

I fully expected to hate this one too. But this L’eau is very much in the line of, say, Idylle eau de toilette, with citrus, rosewater and just a hint of muguet, some clean patchouli and pale woods in the drydown, and I’d swear there’s a ghost of iris in there too, because it is a satiny-powdery thing. Pale, of course, but who says there’s no need for a pale chypre eau, especially in summer? I say there is. I say this is pretty. It smells the same pretty celery green as the color of its liquid, and I’m quite fond of that shade.  I’m not going to buy it myself, but at least I won’t whine if I should encounter it in elevators. Continue reading Tuesday Roundup Mini-reviews, May 1, 2012