Mini-Review Roundup, Jan. 19, 2018

Penhaligon’s Orange Blossom, 2010 reorchestration of the 1976 release, composed by Bertrand Duchaufour: really very nice. I had bought this small split portion a couple of years ago, and then apparently “put it away for safekeeping”, which any fool knows is like tossing things into the Bermuda Triangle: you never know if you’ll see those items again. I found the decant when cleaning out my closet recently and, despite barely remembering buying it, decided to give it a shot. Regular readers know that I Haz Orange Blossom Issues, by which I mean that OB fragrances nearly always smell like soap on me. I mean, it’s generally nice soap, of the creamy Dove kind, but still: soap. Bleagh. Don’t get me started on the list of OB scents that do not work for me, because it’s long. If they don’t smell like soap, they smell like candy. I really like By Kilian’s (pricey) Sweet Redemption, which is orange blossom and myrrh, but every time I wear it, Taz says I smell like grape and root beer lollipops. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Honestly, I can’t remember why I went out on a limb for a 5ml split portion of the Penhaligon’s, other than I remember hearing it was good.

I’m glad I did, though. This one is distinctly un-soapy, which is a blessed relief, and more floral than candy-sweet. It’s a simple-seeming floral fragrance that is what I’d call a true soliflore, in that although there are materials in it other than orange blossom (notably petitgrain, jasmine, muguet, violet leaf, virginia cedar, vanilla), it mostly smells of orange blossom all the way through. The angle of light shining on the flowers changes, from a lemony-green sparkle up top to a warm, mellow, honeyed base. It’s lovely. It also only lasts about three hours with a moderate spritz, so the Annick Goutal spray-until-wet method would serve you well with it.

A couple of other reviews of the Penhaligon’s: Persolaise, Scent Epiphany and Olfactoria’s Travels.

Lubin EpidorAngela’s review on Now Smell This last May made me think that it would not be up my alley in the least. “Thick”?  Not my kinda thang. And Lubin’s ad copy mentioning peasant girls and ripe wheat and dreams is soppy and even more useless than ad copy usually is — even from Lubin, which is famous for its ridiculously OTT ad copy.

But then my almost-Evil Scent Twin Kafkaesque reviewed it and said it was very simple, linear, but called it “cozy comfort” and said she needed a decant. And then March’s review of it on Perfume Posse in December made me think that I needed to try this. She called it “unashamedly romantic” and “narcotic,” and told me the base was more hay/woody than sweet vanilla. So I ordered a 1.2ml spray sample.

La Faneuse by Emile Claus. Epidor smells like these colors: wheat and white and blue, all layered with honey-golden light.

And y’all, it’s gone already. I used it up. I like it that much.

The notes include violet, plum, orange blossom, jasmine, cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla and tonka bean. It is not complicated at all: it is just so golden and pretty. I get lots of violet, a haze of white florals, then a gentle wheaty, almond-cake drydown. Which sounds like not much, right? but it’s just so dang pretty, and it smells relatively natural. None of that blocky, lab-created jasminoid thing that annoyed the pants off me in Twilly d’Hermes. No buzzy Ambrox. I’m not saying there aren’t any synthetics in it, I’m just saying that the synthetics in it are not ones that trip my “this smells like Chem 102 lab” threshold.

Pretty, isn’t it? Also kinda floofy.

Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences

Ad copy mentions sparkling champagne and sequins; the bottle is floofy (see left). But the notes list is pretty simple: bergamot, black pepper, tonka, frankincense, white flowers, vanilla, white musk. The fragrance is pretty simple, too. It’s basically . . . vanilla.

To confess, I’ve never tried what’s generally recognized as the ne plus ultra of vanilla fragrances, Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille. (SDV itself has been revamped in the last couple of years anyway, and aficionados say it isn’t as long-lasting now.) Never mind the fairly malicious review of it in Perfumes: The Guide, because people who love vanilla still love SDV. Haven’t smelled L’Artisan’s late, lamented Vanilia, either. I did enjoy a sample of Dame Perfumery’s Black Flower Mexican Vanilla, though it’s a tad more powdery than I’d prefer.

The thing is, I love vanilla-flavored anything, so long as it’s real vanilla. Offer me a choice of vanilla or chocolate cake? Vanilla, please. Vanilla or chocolate ice cream? VANILLA. Hands down. But for some reason, I generally don’t want to wear vanilla perfume. (See the Sexy Cake post for further explanations.)

In fact, on my skin Nuit et Confidences was so straight-up vanilla that I got out a bottle of vanilla extract to compare it. The extract lasts longer — and is significantly less powdery.

Now, for full disclosure, my bottle of vanilla extract is actually double-strength Madagascar bourbon: fairly expensive stuff from The Spice House, with vanilla bean in the bottle, absolutely worth its weight in gold. It has taken me three years to get the bottle down to the last teaspoon, and that vanilla bean has been macerating in there for long enough to infuse the stuff with real magic. At the current price point, it’s $26 for a 4 oz. bottle, compared to $190 for 3.4 oz. of Nuit et Confidences (currently out of stock at the Goutal’s US website). Frankly, my dear, I’d rather have another bottle of the double-strength vanilla extract.

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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

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Perfume Review: Penhaligon’s Malabah

The name “Malabah” appears to be a variant of “Malabar,” which is the name of a region in India, the northern districts of Kerala state. It’s also the name of the horse in “The Rocking-Horse Winner,” D.H. Lawrence’s eerie little story about a fashionable family in debt, and a son that rides his rocking horse until he’s sure which horse to bet on in the big races. I have a manufacturer’s sample vial in packaging of hot-pink paisley and gold filigree, and I gather that the whole thing is meant to evoke India. Malabah was released in 2003, one of the few feminine-aimed Orientals in the floral-heavy Penhaligon’s line.

The scent opens with a big hit of citrus and tea, not quite the green-tea note I had expected but more a smoky black tea. This is followed by spices (cardamom, ginger) of the sprightlier sort, not the warmth of clove and cinnamon. A lovely rose note joins in quite quickly, and the ginger/tea/rose accord continues for some time before it’s buoyed up by a warm sandalwood and amber. The official notes list includes citruses, tea, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, rose, orris root, amber, musk, and sandalwood.

I can’t say whether Malabah really smells like India – probably not! – but it does fit my limited idea of India, with its tea and spices, rose and sandalwood. I had been classifying Malabah as a “lightweight Oriental,” of which there are fairly few, but I think perhaps the term “tea Oriental” might be more accurate. Continue reading Perfume Review: Penhaligon’s Malabah

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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?

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A Week of Violets III: Penhaligon’s Violetta

The last review of this week’s joint blog project concerns Penhaligon’s Violetta.  You can go check out Redolent of Spices and Scent of the Day for more violet scent reviews, as well as my list of violet scents

Violetta, created in 1976, is a straightforward violet fragrance.  That’s more or less what you need to know – except that where many other violet soliflores tend toward either the powdery (Borsari Violetta di Parma) or candy-sweet (Berdoues Violettes de Toulouse), Penhaligon’s is all flower and leaf.

The official notes, according to Penhaligon’s,  include citruses, geranium, violet, sandalwood, cedarwood, and musk.  However, I’m almost sure there’s some violet leaf in there too – it’s quite sharp and green for quite some time, and has a spicy, aromatic quality that seems to indicate violet leaf.

From the Penhaligon’s website:

Created in 1976, Violetta is a dark, dusky and mysterious fragrance suffused with the achingly nostalgic purity of violets. Surprisingly green and sharp to begin with, it becomes lush and velvety as it develops. The sweet violets are complimented by green notes of garden geranium and supported by subtle woods and musks at the base. One of our most surprising fragrances, it captures the elusive violet with incredible clarity and potency.

“Surprising?” Not really; like I said earlier, it’s pretty much all violet leaves and blooms.  Violetta begins with the bright, clean green note of violet leaf, and the intense sweetness of deep purple violets.  It stays here for most of its three-hour experiment, with an interesting spicy accent and a floral freshness to its heart – it’s violets All The Time, but for me very much like crushed fresh plants: no powder, no candy.  Which is the way I like my violet scents, to be honest.  The light woody drydown gradually becomes apparent during the last hour.  There’s a whisper of musk, too, but not enough to be distracting, and I think this restrained, woody drydown may be the part of the fragrance that really sells me on it.  It’s not entirely masculine, but there’s a dryness from the cedar and sandalwood that keeps Violetta from being wholly girly, like the Goutal La Violette.    Too, it’s reminiscent of a walk through the woods, complete with patches of blooming violets among the trees. 

This is an Eau de Toilette, and like most EdTs, it doesn’t have great staying power.  I don’t mind that, though – three hours of this beauty is well worth it.  After testing as many violet fragrances as I could get my hands on (oh, there are more I haven’t gotten to yet, but at last count my Violet Scents Tested list numbered 24!), I still think Violetta is my favorite violet solflore, with Soivohle Violets and Rainwater as runner-up.  It blends well with other fragrances, it stays fresh and clean and woody-floral, and that bottle is just darling.  I need one.  My decant is rapidly disappearing.

Here’s a review of the talcum powder formulation of Violetta, by Jessica at Now Smell This, and a brief review by Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am.

Image of perfume bottle is from Fragrantica.com; image of blooming violet is from Wikipedia Commons.

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Perfume Review: Penhaligon’s Amaranthine, or Amaranthigh, or Amaranthingy


Amaranthine by Penhaligon’s London, New for Fall 2009
Amaranthine is a corrupted floral oriental for those private moments when everything is anticipation. It opens with a dramatic flourish of spices and tropical green. This unsettling lick of drama is beautifully ambushed by an unctuous accord of jasmine and ylang-ylang, a heady bloom renowned for its aphrodisiac properties, and clove swathed in spices, tea, musk and the rounded beauty of tonka bean absolute.  The perfume is reportedly “reminiscent of the scent of the inside of a woman’s thigh”. *

Head notes – Green Tea, White Freesia, Banana Tree Leaf, Coriander Seed Oil, Cardamom Absolute  Heart – Rose, Carnation, Clove Oil, Orange Blossom, Ylang Ylang Oil, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute   Base  – Musk, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Condensed Milk, Tonka Bean Absolute

You know what? For once, the ad copy is pretty accurate, although perhaps it overstates the “drama” and “aphrodisiac properties.”  * The hilarious quote about thighs is purportedly from composer Bertrand Duchaufour, from cosmeticsinternational.  It alone made me want to smell this thing, and people seem to be associating the scent with the word “thigh” now.  Maybe it’s just that “thigh” is a funny word, which it is.  Say it six times in a row: thigh thigh thigh thigh thigh thigh.  Kudos to you if you said it without snickering; I couldn’t.

And look at those notes, too – does that sound anything like thighs to you??  The notes say “tropical floral with oriental base” to me, and that’s a category I like in general.  So here it is the beginning of winter, and I’ve spritzed Amaranthine four days in a row, to make sure the experience isn’t a freak occurrence.  I think, honestly, it would be better in warmer weather.  It’s a bit light when one is wearing sweaters and shivering in a cold rain.  But even though it’s been less satisfying in early December than, say, Alahine (about which, more coming next week), I say this:  Amaranthine is beautiful.

It starts out with fresh, dewy florals only lightly dusted with spices.  I get very little tea from it, although other reviewers find it more prominent; I get more general “green” notes.  And yes, there’s a banana hit to it, probably from the ylang, although it’s a green banana thing, not an overripe squishy vibe.  I can’t identify rose in there, but the carnation is prominent, as well as the orange blossom. The jasmine is grassy and fresh, as opposed to that indolic heavy Joy-type jasmine that makes me think of dirty panties, and it doesn’t stand out. 

Eventually I get down to the base, which is soft and clings to the skin, and still retains a veil of freesia and orange blossom.  I was a bit worried about that “condensed milk” note, but although Amaranthine is a little sweet, it reads as floral sweetness to me rather than gourmand.  At this stage, it smells a bit like skin smells if the weather is warm and it’s been most of a day since it’s been showered: not squeaky-clean, but not smelly-sweaty either.  Like, you know, skin, warm and slightly moist.

It may be my nose, but I’m not getting of the weirdness some other reviewers have discovered.  Nor do I get the smuttiness that some people have described.  Is it just too cold and/or dry? Is my brain twisted? I’m not sure.  All I get out of Amaranthine is tropical, relaxed, fresh beauty.  I’ll be putting my decant away for a few months, at least, and wearing things more appropriate to this chilly weather.  When the time is right, I’ll know.

On a related subject (THIGHS!), I’m going to talk about body image.  I have a daughter in her early teens.  She’s healthy and fit; she’s petite; she’s still wearing a few things from the girls’ department, particularly dresses, as she finds the juniors’ department offerings immodest.  (I’m not complaining.)

But she said to me the other day after track practice, “You know, Mom, I have big thighs.” I looked at them and raised my eyebrows.  “They’ve got muscles.  I mean, you can actually see my thigh muscles. They’re runner’s thighs.”  I nodded.  “I think that’s the reason I have trouble finding jeans that fit.”  (Yeah, tell me about it.)  But I’m not going to apologize to my kid for giving her the thunder thighs genes, because – honestly? – she’s got great legs.  She complains that her broad shoulders make her shirts fit funny, and her muscly thighs make her jeans tight, and how her jeans are always too big in the waist if they fit her hips.    

And she’s looking around her high school at all the girls with thin thighs and thinking, How come I don’t look like them?, while I’m looking at her and thinking, Hey, that is my basic body shape, just younger and shorter and much, much thinner, and it’s beautiful.  It’s a swimmer’s body (okay, a short swimmer’s body!), and it’s healthy and athletic and beautiful. 

And I think I want it back.  I’ve been avoiding exercise for way too long.  Time to remedy that.

Ad copy from Penhaligon’s.  Top image: Amaranthine in the limited edition crystal flacon, from Penhaligon’s.
Center image: Shield Bug on Globe Amaranth by innermt at flickr.
Bottom image: 2008 Cross Country by nmhschool at flickr.  No, it’s not Bookworm, but she runs cross-country and distance track.  I’m so proud of her.

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