Peonies, and Peony Fragrances

Peonies are some of my favorite flowers. I adore them.

My Sarah Bernhardt peonies - blooms six inches across!
My Sarah Bernhardt peonies – blooms six inches across!

One of my grandmothers grew them. The other grandmother adored them as well, would stop anywhere to bend and sniff the flowers. She called them “pinies,” which must have been either some Appalachian pronunciation variant, or a pronunciation specific to her mother, because no one else I know calls them that. My sister insisted on having them at her June wedding. My daughter loves them. When our sweet Hayley-dog died last summer, we planted peonies near her grave.

PinkParfait2I prefer bush (herbaceous) peonies, not the Japanese tree peonies, which look pretty but lack the delicate but pervasive sweet scent of the old-fashioned ones. I like the double-flowering type. And I prefer them in pale pink or white; the dark pink ones are attractive, but I always think the smell matches the color of the lighter pink ones. Maybe that’s simply because the ones my grandmother grew were pale pink (Sarah Bernhardt) and white (Duchesse de Nemours), but there it is, an irrational preference.

Unfortunately, you can’t dry peonies, either whole or in petals, and retain any of the lovely scent, and I presume that’s why peony accords in perfumery often can smell very synthetic. There aren’t all that many fragrances in current production that smell like real peonies, in my opinion, but every now and then one will pop up and gain my affection.

I know that peony scents are not generally loved among the perfumisti. Witness, just for example, Luca Turin’s review of Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pivoine in Perfumes: The Guide: “Like chewing tinfoil while staring at a welding arc,” and his review of Thierry Mugler Angel Pivoine as “Giant Transvestite [that would be Angel] versus Ditzy Blonde from Hell [that would be the peony component]” is hilarious. I think it’s probably safe to say that Dr. Turin has a special dislike for peony perfumes, however he may feel about the flower. And generally speaking, I see a lot of comments like “smells cheap” about many peony scents.

Duchesse de Nemours peonies.
Duchesse de Nemours peonies.

I don’t care. I’m always on the lookout for one that smells like my Sarah Bernhardts, which have a strong overtone of rose along with the more delicate peony scent, and a cool, light freshness. I’ve noticed that the few peony scents that smell most natural to me also contain some rose – and sometimes they’re marketed as “rose” scents, too! Here’s the shortlist for peony fragrances that come closest, in my opinion, to the Real Thing. Some of them are unfortunately discontinued or otherwise unavailable. (Sorry about that.)

rose de siwa fifParfums MDCI Rose de Siwa. First on the list is the one that smells closest to just-cut peonies, to me. It’s also by far the most expensive, and I cannot in good conscience recommend that you buy it, because it is neither wildly original nor reasonably priced. But it’s my favorite. It has notes of litchi, peony, hawthorn, rose, violet, cedar, vetiver and musk, and was composed by Francis Kurkdjian, who has a great track record of success with me. I tested it from a sample vial, expecting a fresh rose, but got an enormous bouquet of peonies and a bit of wood in the drydown. It is basically perfect if you love garden peonies. However, I haven’t yet made up my mind to sell my firstborn in order to buy a bottle.

(Kidding. Kidding kidding kidding. Of course, whoever bought my firstborn would have to fork over for two more years of college, and I don’t see that happening.)

dsh peonyDSH Perfumes Peony. This is a close second, and far less expensive. Lovely stuff. It is perhaps less rosy and more green, but it’s beautiful and the drydown is pleasantly woody. I’ve never smelled a DSH fragrance that smelled synthetic in the least, and this one is very nice.

peony & mossJo Malone Peony & Moss. This one was a limited edition in the “London Blooms” series, composed by Christine Nagel, and the bottles were gorgeous. (See? BOTTLE SO PRETTY.) Wish I’d bought one while it was still available. The notes for it included blackcurrant, green leaves, ivy, peony and moss, and it smelled very green to me. I like that. (Jo Malone is currently producing Peony & Blush Suede, which I haven’t smelled, but I hear that it’s quite pleasant.)

VS pink, fragranticaVictoria’s Secret Pink. I don’t mean Pink Beach or Pink Thong or whatever the heck VS is currently marketing, or even their newer version of Pink, which is not the same as the original early-2000s version in the conical bottle. It’s a green floral with notes of artemisia, juniper berries, mandarin oranges, violet leaf, bergamot, peony, freesia, neroli, muguet, sandalwood, musk, vanilla, and vetiver. It was composed by Annie Buzantian and is more green than any of the others I’ve listed here, even the DSH. Still very pretty, though.

Not included on this list are a number of fragrances with “peony” in the name (including the L’Occitane peony fragrances and Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine), because they don’t smell real to me. Also not included is a really nice fragrance, Penhaligon’s Peoneve – not because it doesn’t smell natural, but because it smells of jammy rose to me with not a peony petal in the mix. Another one I didn’t include was Parfums DelRae Coup del Foudre, because while it is absolutely gorgeously peony-rose for an hour, after that it shrinks down to the skin in a marked manner, and the sudden disappearing act annoys me.

Donna (“Flora”) who reviews for Perfume-Smellin’ Things, has in private conversation recommended Ellen Tracy Peony/Rose. That one is also unfortunately discontinued and I haven’t smelled it, but at this writing you can buy the gift set of perfume and lotion on Amazon for about $27. Donna likes her perfumes lush and trés femme, and we have a lot of overlap in our tastes. The notes list includes peony, rose, and gardenia.

One more I’d like to try is Parfums de Nicolaï Rose Pivoine, which I seem to remember was recommended to me by Blacknall at A Perfume Blog, and has notes of red fruits, rose oil and absolute, geranium, chamomile, woody notes and musk. I am a little concerned about the geranium, which often seems a little screechy to me. But it’s PdN, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and try it when I get the opportunity. (Incidentally, PdN is now listed on Fragrantica as Nicolaï Parfumeur Createur. Which, okay, it’s their company and they can play with the name. I keep wanting to say PdN, though.)

I also hear that Ann Gerard Rose Cut is a lovely fresh rose with peony, but haven’t smelled that one either. Please do comment if you’ve tried it.

Are you a peony fan? Please share your favorite peony fragrances!

Share

Le Temps d’une Fete… Again

Horse chestnut tree in autumn
Horse chestnut tree in autumn

Most people seem to associate this fragrance – which Parfums de Nicolai has recently placed on limited distribution, if not discontinued it entirely GAH I AM DISTRAUGHT – with springtime.

And I understand that. I do. The green-gold cast of it, the narcissus and jasmine and galbanum of it, that all says Springtime very clearly. However, I think I might love it even more in the fall of the year.  Because the blooming part of it seems to recede when the angle of the sunlight changes and the world goes more golden, and what I smell most in it is its woody notes and lovely green-herb aged patchouli.

I tend to have a complicated relationship with patchouli. The cheaper varieties tend to smell very dusty and earthy to me, dirty in a not-good way. (I mean, dirt, plain dirt in the garden, smells nice. Dirt as in uncleanliness is a whole ‘nother thing.) Aged patchouli with rose is Magickal. Aged patchouli smelling green and alive, the way it does in Le Temps d’une Fete, is smooth and gracious.

You know how in autumn, the late afternoon sun is almost gold as amber? How it slants across fields and through leaves only now turning from green to yellow, looking like a shower of gold fit to dazzle poor Danaë?

Green fields, turning leaves, golden sun: Le Temps d’une Fete in autumn. I turn, and turn, and turn again to it – with joy.

Share

Mini-Review Round up, July 6, 2012

roundup
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

Share

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

Share

Spring: An Embarrassment of Riches

 Redbud in the Morning Sun

My scent wardrobe is, like the climate in which I live, very seasonal.  We have weather distinct from one season to the next, and it can range from below 0F in winter, with snow and wind and hail, to 98F in summer, hot and practically humid enough to grow mushrooms on your skin.  The most comfortable seasons in this area tend to be spring and fall, with moderate temperatures and cool breezes and sunshine, though we certainly get plenty of rain (the average annual rainfall in my county is approximately 38 inches).

There are certain fragrances I wear at just about any time of the year, perennial go-tos.  There are other fragrances I associate with certain seasons or weathers, and I never think of wearing them at other times.  I love changing my fragrance with the season – I bring them out of the perfume cabinet and place them in the decorative hatbox on my dresser for easy access, and tenderly stow away the out-of-season back in the cabinet.  I try to wear my seasonal fragrances when they are in season, appreciating each  one like a beautiful day, though choosing among them is often a challenge.

Winter is easy: Alahine.  Ubar, Lyric, Memoir. Tiny dribble of Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant, if the weather is cold and damp.  Carnal Flower or La Myrrhe, if the air is so cold it turns to crystal.  Dolce Vita parfum.  Parfum Sacre. Vanille Tonka.    

Autumn is easier: Tabac Aurea, always. Champagne de Bois, Organza Indecence. Shalimar Light.  Vintage Magie Noire, if the weather is just right: cold, rainy, windy.  Smell Bent One.

Summer is easiest, with the fewest season-devoted scents: Fleur de Matin, Hanae Mori Haute Couture.  Ines de la Fressange first edition. Moschino Funny!, Rose d’Ete.

But spring?  Spring is hard.  I hate choosing in spring.  Green scents?  Violets? Lily of the valley?  Green florals, floral chypres, straight-up florals?  There are so many, and I love them all, and they all say “spring” to me in some way.

What to choose? And how to make sure nothing gets left out?  I still don’t know.  I have no real plan, I just get up and pick something to delight in.  Some favorites for spring:

Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet – “the greenest of all flower gardens.”  A big green juicy smack of galbanum and marigold gives way to very, very tender white flowers, from a wisp of tuberose to a hint of lily of the valley.

Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete – a shifting green-and-gold symphony like sunlight dripping through green leaves.  Galbanum, green notes, narcissus, hyacinth, patchouli, moss and woods combine to create the essence of happiness for me.

Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve – this long-discontinued, much-coveted floral chypre gem gleams like good pearls.  Very elegant yet gentle, with a powdery softness due to aldehydes and oakmoss, it is a reserved and quiet pleasure.

Jacomo Silences – cool, silver-green perfection.  Contemplative, streamlined, nothing extraneous at all.  Satin ribbons of galbanum, iris, rose, oakmoss.

Penhaligon’s Violetta – simplicity itself: green leaves, purple flowers, a whisper of sandalwood.  Shy but lovely.

DSH Perfumes White Lilac – the true delight of lilac sweetness, garnished only with a handful of leaves and a sprinkling of spice.  A joyful scent.

Guerlain Chamade – the essence of romance, it slowly blooms from chilly green opening to the budding jasmine-ylang-rose heart and on to the full-blown warmth of mimosa and vanilla in the drydown.  A perfume for surrender. 

Balmain Jolie Madame, in vintage parfum – a gorgeous juxtaposition of green notes, violet and gardenia against smooth leather.  Bittersweet in the best sense.

Chanel No. 19 – the Seven-League Boots of pure beauty and empowerment.  Galbanum, iris, oakmoss, and a whiff of leather, elegance with a riding crop.

Parfums DelRae Amoureuse – Languorous and vibrant all at once, with green notes, richly sensuous white florals, spicy notes, and honey set against a slightly-mossy sandalwood background. 

Christian Dior Diorissimo – the essence of spring, in the form of lilies of the valley.  That is all.  And it is spectacular.

What’s on your spring list?

Share

Fragrance Throwdown: Guerlain Chamade versus Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete

 (I know, I know, I keep promising a throwdown between Ysatis and Divine edp… to be honest, I haven’t settled that one to my satisfaction, and to be further honest, I haven’t worn either in recent days since I’ve been craving green scents. The issue is tabled1 for now, to be revisited in the future when my interest in those two fragrances returns.)

Due to a rather-too-literal reading of Perfumes: The Guide, and a cursory examination of the notes, I had it in my head that these two fragrances were similar. I even posted a query once on fragrantica.com as to how similar they were, having smelled Chamade from a decant obtained via eBay (vintage pdt, if you care) but not having smelled Le Temps d’une Fete2.

Here’s the passage, from the Luca Turin’s P:TG review of Le Temps d’une Fete:

***** green narcissus … Le Temps d’une Fete is irresistibly lovely. Futhermore, it fills a gap in my heart I didn’t know existed. I have always been impressed by the structure of Lancome’s Poeme but dismayed by its cheap, angular execution. Conversely, I have always loved Guerlain’s Chamade but deplored a slight lack of bone structure, particularly in the latest version. Le Temps d’une Fete marries the two and achieves something close to perfection, rich, radiant, solid, with the unique complexity of expensive narcissus absolute braced by olfactory bookends of green-floral notes and woods. Very classical, and truly wonderful.

Somehow I seemed to have entirely skipped over Poeme there (I have never smelled that one, either) and glommed onto the Chamade:LTdF comparison. I checked out the lists of notes and thought, “Hey, those are similar. I should try some Parfums de Nicolai stuff.”

Notes for Chamade: aldehydes, galbanum, bergamot, hyacinth, lilac, jasmine, rose, muguet, cloves, narcissus, sandalwood, amber, benzoin, vetiver, vanilla, tolu balsam, peru balsam.

Notes for Le Temps d’une Fete: galbanum, hyacinth, narcissus, sandalwood, opoponax, patchouli, cedarwood.

Was I crazy? Probably. I look at the lists of notes now and notice that the only ones in common are galbanum, hyacinth, narcissus and sandalwood, and while those are distinctive notes, they’re buttressed by very different accents. I’m months more sophisticated now than I was back then (HA!), and if I was looking at the two scents now I wouldn’t make assumptions that they were similar. However, because I keep seeing questions from people who were misled, as I was, by the P:TG comments, here’s my take on these two beautiful, dissimilar green florals.

Because I smelled Chamade first, I’ll review it first. I swapped for a decant of vintage parfum de toilette with Queen Enabler Daisy, who’d bought it and then found it old-fashioned and a bit stuffy. (I think since then she’s acknowledged this step a mistake, and hosted a humongous split of vintage Chamade edt; more jewels in her crown…) Chamade was released in 1969, named for the French novel of that name (La Chamade, by Francoise Sagan), which was made into a film starring, of course, Catherine Deneuve. The title refers to the drumbeat which was used in the French army to signal Retreat; it also refers to the quick beating of the heart in the throes of romantic surrender. The bottle, too, is interestingly-shaped and beautiful, hinting at a heart turned upside down by love.

Upon first smelling Chamade pdt, I was ready to dismiss the idea of romance in connection with it: it was full of aldehydes and galbanum, two notes that can go very powdery and which make up a lot of the current idea of Old Lady Perfume. Even experienced perfumistas can have difficulty with one or the other of those notes. Up top, Chamade is cold and dry; the aldehyde-galbanum combo is fairly bitter and unpromising, even to me, and I like both of those notes. After the aldehydes burn off, however, the galbanum relaxes a little but lingers on my skin for nearly an hour – the longest opening of any galbanum scent I’ve tried (there have been plenty).

Only gradually does the galbanum capitulate, rolling through a hyacinth note that is floral but lacks the typical spiciness of that element, and then ushering in a golden, classical rose-jasmine heart. There is a freshness to the middle portion, thanks to a breath of lilac and muguet, but it’s primarily rose and jasmine, a shimmering elixir that really does seem like liquid gold, with the lovely accent of haylike narcissus. Two and a half to three hours after application, the golden heart begins to soften and melt into a beautiful, smooth, carefree drydown that is somehow both rich and light. Look at all the materials in the base: vetiver, vanilla, benzoin, sandalwood, and amber, plus the balsams that I typically dread. They never bother me here – either the proportion is small, or I’m so captivated by this drydown that I never notice the balsams. Chamade’s base is as much texture as it is actual smell, smooth and creamy and gliding. Luca Turin’s review in P:TG says, “… a strange, moist, powdery yellow narcissus accord that had the oily feel of pollen rubbed between finger and thumb.” There’s enough vanilla that you’d peg it as a Guerlain, but it is in no way foody or sweet. Nor is it slightly-naughty in the fashion of many of the classic Guerlains, with their common rich Guerlinade base; in fact, it smells clean even well into the rich creamy base.

Chamade gradually progresses from that stiff, prim, almost unfriendly opening, to that relaxed, caressing, helplessly-in-love base, and I’ve come to feel that it’s a very romantic scent. It blossoms so completely that it’s hard not to find it suggestive of fully-opened petals and sensual delight. I think of it in terms of green and gold, and it is beautiful.

A brief word on concentrations, with the caveat that I am most familiar with Chamade that was described as vintage: the 1980’s pdt is probably the powderiest version. One edt I tested was probably 1990’s, and so was the tiny bottle of parfum. The parfum is very creamy and morphs from galbanum to floral slightly faster than the pdt, but not as quickly as the more-sparkling edt, which has the least powder and a drydown slightly less deep than the pdt or parfum. I haven’t smelled a version I haven’t liked, but I do hear from longtime lovers of Chamade that it’s a bit less rich in the base these days, post-reformulation, while still smelling largely like itself and therefore still worth buying in the current version.  Edit: I’ve now tried modern Chamade edt, and it is very close to the ’90’s sample I have, albeit a teeny-tiny bit thinner in the base.   

(Other reviews of Chamade: Bois de Jasmin, Angela at Now Smell This, Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am, The Non-Blonde, Sweet Diva, Yesterday’s Perfume.)

Le Temps d’une Fete, on the other hand, was released in 2007 by Parfums de Nicolai. The (silly) name had been used before by PdN for a different scent, which was revamped and rereleased. Unlike Chamade, there is no interesting ad campaign, no connection with a beautiful French actress, no lovely bottle shaped like an upside-down heart.  In fact, the bottle is downright ugly, in my opinion.

Luckily, LTdF doesn’t need any extras. It is simply wonderful on its own, overcoming its puerile name and ungainly bottle. Like Chamade, it starts out with galbanum and rolls through hyacinth into a heart composed primarily of narcissus. I don’t know how much narcissus is in there, but I think it must be a high percentage, because it’s so clear and to the forefront that after becoming familiar with this scent, it’s very easy for me to pick narcissus out of most compositions. The drydown is a deepening of the heart notes, as the woody basenotes come up under the gradually-fading narcissus. The woods are well-blended with a lightweight, grassy patchouli that never bothers me, as patch can frequently do, and with the smooth deep resiny presence of the opoponax. I continue to smell narcissus plus the base for a long time, and although some reviewers have found it to be rather dirty and earthy, I don’t perceive it that way at all. I find it graceful, confident, and optimistic.

It is only an edt, but two sprays will last about 6-7 hours on me with light sillage. I can usually smell my arm without bringing it to my nose, but you won’t smell me coming around the corner. This is my preferred distance to waft fragrance.

I have read complaints from a few perfume fans that LTdF smells too much like the standard PdN base to be really spectacular, and since more than one of them is saying it, I think this has to be taken into consideration. I’ll also point out that I’ve tested twelve PdN fragrances, and I didn’t notice a “PdN base” as consistent and identifiable as such, the way that most Estee Lauder scents seem to share DNA. Perhaps this shared base, if there is one, is really only noticeable if there is something in the base that a tester finds objectionable. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a common PdN base, but I didn’t perceive it myself. Of the twelve PdNs I tested, I adored two (this one and Vanille Tonka), and liked four others very much (Odalisque, Maharanih, Balkis and Juste une Reve). The others did not impress me.

It’s very difficult for me to review Le Temps d’une Fete, as I find myself unwilling to pick apart the components of its smell because it is such magic to me. I perceive it as a happy scent, as peaceful as sunlight dappling the surface of a small pond in a green glen. It is one of the few mood-brightening scents I’ve encountered, and I treasure it for that.

(Other reviews for LTdF: Pere de Pierre, Patty at Perfume Posse – brief, The Scented Salamander, Nathan Branch, and I’d swear that I read someone’s review that called this scent “witchy” but I can’t find it now.)  

So. Chamade and Le Temps d’une Fete, head to head? The two share similar notes in their respective openings. Chamade is mutable, developing into full-blown rich vanillic florals; Le Temps, while not linear, has a far narrower range of development, with narcissus dominating its character. Chamade is romantic; Le Temps is magic. Chamade is complex and possibly demonstrates a higher level of mastery of the art of perfumery; Le Temps has simpler aims but manages to be both beautiful and distinctive.

(Do I have to choose? Can’t I have both? Actually, I do own two decants of Chamade pdt, a tiny bottle of Chamade parfum, and two small bottles of Le Temps d’une Fete, one of which I bought myself and one I swapped some L’Arte di Gucci to get.)

I’ll take the opportunity to observe that in this era when some fragrance fans call $100 a bottle “the new free,” both of these scents are relatively reasonably priced. An ounce of LTdF edt runs $42; the big 100ml bottle is $120. 100ml of Chamade in edt will set you back about $100. Kudos, again, to PdN for making their scents available in small bottles, and also for making those small bottles comparable in per-ml price to their large bottles. Then, too, since Chamade’s been around for awhile, it’s often available more inexpensively on ebay or at online discounters.

You say I have to choose? Well, then, purely on happiness points, I pick Le Temps d’une Fete for myself. But I don’t think you could go wrong with either one of them. Judging on this one is strictly subjective.

Top image is from Wikimedia Commons.  Perfume images are from fragrantica.com.

1That is, “tabled” in the American sense: the matter is set aside for further discussion at a later date. I understand that in the British sense, “tabled” means the issue is brought up for debate at the present time, which usage actually makes more sense to me.

2Please excuse the lack of diacritical marks. This drives me nuts, actually, that I have to go look for the correct spelling complete with mark, then look up and insert the special character. Consistently. I tend to be a nitpicky person, but the truth is that I don’t know my proverbial elbow from my proverbial derriere, at least in French (although I think derriere should have an accent mark over the first e… but which way does it angle?) and I simply can’t be bothered. If it ain’t on my keyboard, I’m probably not gonna type it. So sue me. And I apologize for the snarkiness. There are a couple of commenters on NST that get their knickers in a twist over lack of diacritical marks, but THEIR keyboards probably have the darn things readily available…

Share

Random Thoughts

In my rant of yesterday, I completely forgot to wish Gaze a happy birthday.  Dear Gaze, Noticer Par Excellence, you’ll never completely know how wonderful you are.  I consider myself privileged to be your mother.  Many more years of life to you, sweet baby.

Two drops of vintage Magie Noire EdT does indeed turn out to be way too much.  In a glorious sort of way.

Scent of the Day: Parfums de Nicolai  Vanille Tonka. The weather is cold and wet and nasty, and VT is a good antidote.  For some unexplained reason, this scent always makes me happy.  I love the way it makes me feel like Miss Piggy, sipping champagne (fine sparkling muscatelle, actually, a bargain at 95 cents) and complaining that the bubbles get up her nose and make her all giggly.  Limes, vanilla, carnations, Dr. Pepper and frankincense – what’s not to love about this scent?  Heck, no, it’s not Serious Perfume, but it’s not some candy-coated fruity teenybopper blah either.  And for your viewing pleasure, here’s a small clip from The Muppet Movie, showing Piggy and Kermie on their first date and featuring Steve Martin.  It doesn’t go long enough to show the bubbles, but they’re there.  Trust me. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiGAAHG0O1A

I’m off to sniff the bottle cap, myself.

Share

Perfume Review: Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka

I’m jumping into perfume reviews with a favorite: Vanille Tonka. I read the notes for this one on a perfume blog: lime, mandarin, cinnamon, carnation, vanilla, tonka bean, and frankincense – and immediately went looking for a sample. It’s rare that I guess correctly whether or not I’m going to like a fragrance, just considering the listed notes, but guess what? I was right. That doesn’t happen often enough in general, so just the fact that I was right (once!) is cause for celebration.

The other cause for celebration is that this thing makes me giddy. Every time I spray it, I get happy. It seems perfect for chilly weather. I haven’t worn it in warm weather yet, and I’m not sure I’m going to, but the happiness factor guarantees that I’ll at least try it once. It starts out with a burst of tangy lime, and a hit of cinnamon oil. Remember those cinnamon-oil toothpicks the boys used to bring to middle school and pass around, before school authorities figured out how dangerous each and every thing brought onto school grounds can be? Those toothpicks smelled great, and if you chewed on one, it burned your tongue and cleared your sinuses. The cinnamon in Vanille Tonka isn’t quite that strong, but it’s not very foody. Likewise, the vanilla is not your average sweet marshmallow/custard/ice cream vanilla; it’s smoky and restrained. The carnation is present, only vaguely floral, underneath the vanilla and tonka base, and the whole thing is covered in a veil of frankincense, with its dry, lime-y, smoky depth.

VT is not universally loved – March over at Perfume Posse said she’d rather stick a fork in her hand than ever smell it again, and Luca Turin, in Perfumes: The Guide, calls it dull next to Patricia de Nicolai’s first perfume, Number One. (I’ll comment that VT reminds me more of Sacrebleu than it does Number One, which has a vaguely chypre-ish groove.) But it does have its fans: Robin at Now Smell This, despite not being a vanilla fan, calls it “lovely,” and Victoria at Bois de Jasmin comments that it is “sophisticated” and “comforting.”

For me, though, Vanille Tonka is all about lime and vanilla, and I always get this mental picture: tipsy limes staggering around, dancing through the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick forest, laughing their heads off every time they bounce into a giant carnation. Sophisticated? Well, maybe next to a vanilla fragrance like Jessica Simpson’s Fancy. When I wear Vanille Tonka, it’s because I want a little fun.

Share