Perfume Review: Chanel No. 5 L’eau

Only this commendation I afford her, that were she other than she is, she were unhandsome, and being no other but that she is, I do not like her.

                        Shakespeare, “Much Ado About Nothing,” Act I, Scene 1

I could say the same thing about the most recent flanker to what may be the most iconic and easily recognized fragrance in the world: Chanel No. 5.

Giovanni Strazza's "The Veiled Virgin," which has always amazed me. How does cold marble look soft and tactile? No. 5 is, in my opinion, similarly amazing.
Giovanni Strazza’s “The Veiled Virgin,” which has always amazed me. How does cold marble look soft and tactile? No. 5 is, in my opinion, similarly amazing.

Created in 1925, with the addition of aldehydes – not widely used in perfumery at that time – to suggest the aroma and sparkle of clean snow, this floral creation is still the best-selling fragrance worldwide. This wasn’t the first commercial, or even successful commercial, use of aldehydes in a fragrance (those would be Armingeat Rêve D’Or, 1905, and Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, 1912, respectively), but No. 5 is overdosed with them, specifically C10, C11, and C12. As a consequence of its popularity and the growth of aldehydic florals in the industry, the use of aldehydes came to be so closely associated with Proper French Perfume that soap manufacturers began scenting their products with aldehydes, and now we tend to think of aldehydes as smelling soapy.

Full disclosure now: my mom wore No. 5 parfum, the mid-1960s stuff, until her bottle ran out in the early 1980s. It was her “dress-up” fragrance (the everyday one being Jovan Musk for Women, another aldehydic floral musk). My dad bought her a bottle of EdT for Christmas, but she didn’t care much for it. She took to wearing clean florals like Coty L’Effleur and Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue instead, until recently, and now she is devoted to the No. 5 Crème Velours pour le corps, the body cream. It is truly wonderful on her!

Although I always liked No. 5 on her, I didn’t want it for myself. What young woman wants to smell like her mother? Not this one.

cannes-med-klieg-lightsAlso: those blinding aldehydes. Klieg lights in the face, dude, at least before the florals pop up. I like them now, but No. 5 has always had that aggressive alde-slap opening, and it takes some getting used to. I’ve never smelled the early-90s Elixir Sensuel version (reportedly focused on ylang, with the aldehydes toned way down), but I liked 2007’s Eau Premiere very much, so I was looking forward to trying the new L’Eau variation, created by Jacques Polge and released this year (2016).

The SA who’s been working at the New River Valley Mall Belk since the mall opened in the late 1980s was there when I popped by last week, and offered me a manufacturer spray sample of L’Eau. L’Eau’s notes are Rose de Mai, lemon, mandarin, bergamot, orange, aldehydes, jasmine, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, cedar and “cottony” musk notes.

I was excited about trying it, and sprayed more liberally than I am wont to do, thinking that it would be a light scent that would need the three spritzes I gave my wrist.

no-5-leauAt first sniff, it was recognizably a light, citrusy version of No. 5, with the aldehydes damped to barely-there levels. (Which is fine; I was expecting any new version of No. 5 to be updated in this way.) As the minutes passed, the beautiful mix of florals that is the heart of No. 5 came up and the citrus receded, and it was even prettier. Lighter weight than Eau Premiere, and less rosy, it was more light-hearted and, probably, more wearable for many people.

Half an hour later, the florals were faint and there was an undeniable savor of white musk in place of the attractive woody-rosy-musk drydown of Eau Premiere. Two hours after first spritz, there was white musk, period.

Instead of No. 5’s glorious rose-jasmine-ylang-iris-sandalwood-skin musk, instead of the luminous and lovely Eau Premiere version, L’Eau smells mostly of… laundry. The first 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how much you put on, are really beautiful, a cheerful lighthearted summer-sundressy No. 5 being all friendly, and then? Dryer sheets in attack mode. GAH.

dryer-sheetsNow listen up. I don’t mind white musk per se; a lot of other reviewers hate it with a passion I don’t share. If it’s the only noticeable note grounding an otherwise-lovely floral, and it starts disappearing into my skin shortly after the florals recede, leaving very little drydown, I’m okay with that.

No, really, I am. Witness my fondness for Chanel’s own 1932, a sparkly citrus-jasmine-iris that ends in musk. (I just bought a decant of the soon-to-be-rolled out EdP version of the Les Exclusifs collection, having recently drained my 5ml decant of the original EdT. See? I don’t hate it when Chanel uses musk in a light floral.) I didn’t like No. 19’s flanker, Poudre, because it stripped out all the Amazonian qualities of the original and made her a Stepford Wife, all her individuality gone. But Poudre is not awful taken on its own merits; in fact, when I think of it as “a greener take on Prada Infusion d’Iris,” I find it cool and calming and very pleasant.

See, I don’t really mind a Chanel frag ending in musk… unless the musk comes across as vapid. And in this case, I think it does. Chanel could very well have sent No. 5 L’Eau in the same direction as No. 19 Poudre: musk, yes, but a nice woody or skinlike one shaped with iris, vetiver, and tonka, a cool smooth drydown very poised, groomed, and collected. Chanel-like. Instead, they gave us a laundromat.

Lasting power on me is about as expected with a light eau or cologne: 3 hours with one generous spritz on each wrist, a little over 4 hours if I follow the Annick Goutal spray-until-wet protocol. Sillage is soft to moderate, again depending on amount applied. I have no complaints for either. I am less happy, however, that the last two hours of L’Eau are so laden with clean, cottony, boring, dull white musk.

No. 5 L’Eau still smells enough like No. 5 that I’m encouraged. There’s no froot, no sugar, very little vanilla. It’s not a disaster. It doesn’t stink. Chanel could have screwed it up in a bazillion different ways. It pays homage without smelling overtly retro, and as such, might convince some young things with disposable income to spend it on Chanel fragrance. Being other than she is, she were unhandsome.

But there’s that laundromat. … and being no other but as she is, I do not like her.

Sigh.

Other reviews of Chanel L’Eau (all from people who liked it better than I did):
Victoria at Bois de Jasmin
Persolaise
Angela at Now Smell This
Gail at Ca Fleure Bon
The Candy Perfume Boy

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Tuberose Series 18: Fracas

It would be pointless to review tuberose scents and leave out The Queen of Them All: Robert Piguet Fracas, of course. It would likewise be pointless to refuse to review it just because everyone else has reviewed it.

fracas adA brief history: Created in 1948 by perfumer Germaine Cellier for designer Robert Piguet, Fracas was designed as the pinkest, girliest, swooniest Big White Floral ever. It’s The One BWF to rule them all, if you will. Piguet’s fashion house closed in the 1950s, and its fragrance arm folded some time in the 1970s-’80s (a shame, really – Cellier’s gigantic floral and its butchy leather counterpart Bandit would have fit perfectly into the ’80s More Is More zeitgeist), and then the name was sold to a company called Arpel in the mid-1990s. The Piguet fragrance business was revived in 1998, with perfumer Aurelien Guichard reportedly responsible for the reorchestrations of most of the classic Piguet fragrances, from Fracas and Bandit to Calypso and Baghari.

It was the 1980s which saw restaurants banning the use of scents such as Giorgio Beverly Hills, or more correctly the overuse of that decade’s popular go-big-or-go-home bludgeoners, but Fracas is also one of those big, and I mean B I G, fragrances that can clear a room. Or a concert hall. (Or a football stadium, for that matter.) Ergo, everybody has an opinion on Fracas, and it largely depends on whether you like big white florals or not. I do!

I’m always surprised to see Fracas referred to as being THE tuberose perfume, because it isn’t just tuberose. There’s a big slug of creamy-soapy orange blossom in there, too, and jasmine and lily of the valley and half a dozen other florals, plus peach and moss and woody notes. It is, in fact, symphonic and baroque and dramatic densely constructed. I tend to see it in my mind as being one of those gigantic ball gowns one saw in the mid-1950s, made of iridescent flamingo-pink satin, with layers of ruffles. (The dress in the Piguet ad at the top of the page is far more streamlined than the one in my mind.) It’s so femme as to be almost ironic, and you will either find it intoxicating or ridiculously over-the-top.

tubeyFracas wasn’t the first tuberose-centric fragrance released (that would be Le Galion Tubereuse, created by Paul Vacher and released in either 1937 or ’39 – see Grain de Musc’s post here), but Fracas was an immediate commercial success. It has always been iconic and instantly recognizable, worn by countless women and inspiring just about every tuberose fragrance since.

I have only tested the modern eau de parfum, though I’m quite sure I smelled the old version on other people when I was a child – when I first tested my sample, it was familiar to me in a lovely way. On me, Fracas opens with a beautifully green, fresh tuberose. Hyacinth and a very crisp green menthol are noticeable, but I never get the citrus. Gradually the green notes tone down, and the white florals become very creamy and buttery. The orange blossom is very noticeable to me. Occasionally I get a whiff of jasmine and gardenia, and occasionally a tiny hit of violet. The basenotes are far less distinct than the florals, to my nose, but they are pleasant. The drydown is lovely, a sweet white-floral woody musk that smells like clean skin and goes on for hours and hours.

Sometimes when I wear Fracas, the orange blossom comes to the fore very quickly and the whole thing smells like cold cream. Other times, the tuberose stays front and center, but the orange blossom always shows up for me no matter what. This aspect is probably why I don’t adore Fracas. I like it, I almost love it – but that soapy, creamy orange blossom interferes to a degree that precludes my personal adoration. Still, it is amazing and there is nothing else quite like it. If you like tuberose, or BWFs at all, you simply must, must try it.

For further reading (see whuttimean about everybody reviewing it?): Robin at Now Smell This, Kafkaesque, Yesterday’s Perfume, Bois de Jasmin, The Candy Perfume Boy, Perfume Shrine, Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things and Donna at the same blog, just for starters.

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Perfume Review: Dame Perfumery Scottsdale Black Flower Mexican Vanilla

Artwork for Black Flower Mexican Vanilla, by V. Dave Dame. From Dame Perfumery website.
Artwork for Black Flower Mexican Vanilla, by V. Dave Dame. From Dame Perfumery website.

The Aztecs called vanilla tlilxóchitl, meaning black flower.  The origin myth explaining the existence of vanilla springs from the Totonac people, who live on the eastern coast of Mexico, and may have been the first to cultivate the vanilla orchid.  From Dame Perfumery’s website:

According to Totonac mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew.

I’ll be honest, I have never been the biggest fan of oriental vanilla fragrances for myself.  I did love Emeraude, back in the 80s, at first sniff, and even though it is now an absolute disaster (seriously, don’t sniff the current stuff. This has been a Public Service Announcement), it has a very definite vanilla focus and at one time was a pure-genius sort of fragrance, the kind of thing that belongs on cleavage.  Rumor has it that famously-vanilla Shalimar is a riff on Emeraude.  Other vanilla fragrances often either have a “vanilla-and” character, or can be ridiculously simple to the point of dopiness.  Either way, I have yet to really love a vanilla scent the way I love vintage Emeraude.  (See my Sexy Cake post for an elaboration on the subject.)  The short version is, I like my gourmandy vanillas (berry-vanilla, or caramel vanilla), or my white-floral vanillas.

I will say that I loved the drydown of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Havane Vanille (renamed Vanille Absolument) – after the boozy, fruity, pipe-tobacco parts faded off, about eight hours into wearing HV, the vanilla appeared on stage solo, so clear and intoxicating. No hint of powder.  I sometimes had difficulty waiting out the early stages to get to the part I really liked.  What was really super-awesome about that clear, intense vanilla drydown was putting a dab of By Kilian’s Beyond Love on top of it. Tuberose-vanilla, yum, a do-it-yourself floral vanilla that I loved.

So I admit that I was sort of hoping that Black Flower Mexican Vanilla would be something like the drydown of HV, particularly when reading the description of it on the Dame Perfumery website: “A perfect vanilla is simply vanilla without added accents, and its creation is a task of restraint and avoiding misguided add-ons of ‘vanilla + such and such’.” 

The notes list for BFMV is more complicated than “simply vanilla.”  Fragrantica‘s list is as follows: lemon, grapefruit, caramel, nutmeg, gardenia, jasmine, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, musk, tonka. Fragranticans smell mostly vanilla in it, plus tonka bean; the other elements seem to be noted as present but not a large portion of the scent. I’d agree: vanilla and tonka, primarily. It’s not particularly sweet, either, which is nice in a vanilla fragrance.  I was expecting a floral cast, but there isn’t one: it’s mostly just vanilla-tonka.

What I don’t understand is what smells so powdery in it.  On my skin, BFMV has a good bit of powder, following its barely-citrusy opening. I do not smell much in the way of white florals or woody notes, and I don’t notice vetiver or nutmeg at all. The caramel shows up, but if I’m being honest, all it does is make me want to go buy a mini of Prada Candy.  Perhaps the powder is due to a dusty-quality patchouli making itself noticeable; whatever it is, I’m not enjoying that bit.

There is a similar dusty/powdery quality to another one of my “vanilla” fragrances, Givenchy Organza Indecence.  But OI has so much else going on (the orange, the spices, the woods) that I can forgive it a smidge of powder.  Black Flower Mexican Vanilla – not, I emphasize, very floral on me, despite its name – has placed the vanilla front and center, so there isn’t anything to distract me from the dusty qualities.  The aspect of the drydown of Havana Vanille (which does, yes, have a dusty quality in its heart) that I loved so much was its clarity and its complete lack of powderiness; it is much more like vanilla liqueur than the powdery stuff.*

Sillage is gentle and lasting power is quite good, 6-8 hours on me where I typically get 3-5 hours’ wear out of an eau de parfum.  If you are looking for a nicely-done, unsweetened vanilla fragrance, test this one. It might be what you’re looking for.  It’s decently priced, as well: you can still pick up a 7ml spray sample for $10 including shipping, and it’s worth it if you ask me.

*Habanita nearly killed me, if you’re wondering about my tolerance for that version of “powdery.”

Well done, Dame Perfumery. It’s still not my sort of thing, but it’s competent and pleasant and engaging to wear, all the same.

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Fragrance Throwdown: Ines de la Fressange I versus Ines de la Fressange II

THROWDOWN!
THROWDOWN!

It’s been a long while since I’ve done a throwdown, but thanks to Portia’s comment the other day, I finally got down to business to set the two Ines de la Fressange fragrances head-to-head.

Okay, first off, let’s clarify things: the first Ines fragrance was discontinued before the second came into being, so apparently nobody thought it would be confusing to give them the same name. (Wrong.) Luckily, the packaging is different enough that there should be no question which version you’ve got – unless you are looking at a sample vial labeled simply “Ines de la Fressange.” Because then, you’re going to have to smell it to find out. 🙂

Inès Marie Lætitia Églantine Isabelle de Seignard de La Fressange, daughter of a French marquis and banker and an Argentinian model, is a model and couturier who worked exclusively for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel in the 1980s.  She is a designer in her own right, and has owned a chain of boutiques; she recently wrote a style guide called Parisian Chic. On top of her own career, she’s a mother as well: that’s her lovely daughter Nine d’Urso featured in the ad campaign for Bottega Veneta’s first fragrance.

Photo stolen Fragrantica.
Photo stolen Fragrantica.

And in 1999, she released the first perfume under her name. It was created by Calice Becker.  This one was packaged in the octagonal column bottle with simple silver top, and the juice inside it is a soft peachy-yellow color. That’s appropriate, because this scent is one of the best representations of fresh peaches out there (according to me), at least in the topnotes.  If you’re already shuddering, please give me a moment. It’s not about the peach. In fact, it’s a multilayered Proper Lady’s Fragrance, and if I had to classify it, I’d have to resort to a description that goes like this: Aldehydic Fruity Floral Woody.  It’s not exactly everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, but it’s complex.

The notes for Ines I include peach, aldehydes, bergamot, Brazilian rosewood, rose, jasmine, ylang, carnation, iris, lily of the valley, sandalwood, tonka bean, benzoin.  I warn aldephobes that the aldehydes are noticeable here. They are less soapy than they can sometimes appear, and add a great deal of sparkle in a fizzy Champagne-like way. The peach is not sweetened, candied, or even creamy; it’s very tart and refreshing. From that sparkling Bellini top the florals come up, and they are beautiful. The rose and ylang are prominent to my nose, but this is definitely a big bouquet of flowers, symphonically floral in the way that, for example, Estee Lauder’s Beautiful and the old Karl Lagerfeld Chloe are floral. Both of those fragrances are considerably bigger than Ines’ first – if they’re big hotel-lobby arrangements, this one is a far simpler mixed arrangement on your best girlfriend’s dinner table, not formally arranged but simply flowers heaped into a bowl in a simple profusion. The base, which blends benzoin and sandalwood undergirds all those flowers with a warmth and friendliness. I do not know whether the sandalwood is real Mysore, though given the release date, it is just possible that there is at least some in there. The general effect of the fragrance is summery, graceful, and effortless, maybe even a bit nostalgic.

I reviewed the first Ines (Garden Party in a Bottle) in August of 2012, and I still love it every bit as much as I always did – maybe more, because supplies are truly drying up. (It’s extremely hard to find now. I paid under $15 for a 1-oz bottle from Beauty Encounter – not affiliated – in 2009, and under $20 for a 1.7-oz, once I realized how lovely it was. Those days are gone.  I can’t find any reasonable supplies of this one at all, save for ONE 100ml bottle, currently listed at $150, on eBay. It seemed to have been available at the discounters when I wrote that review two years ago, but time unfortunately goes in one direction…) I wear this fragrance only in the summer, when its quiet, effortless elegance seems just right. It’s perfect for tea parties and afternoon weddings, or any occasion where peach silk and cream lace wouldn’t be out of place.  (For other reviews, click the “Garden Party” link above.)

Photo stolen Fragrantica. See, isn't this bottle pretty?
Photo stolen Fragrantica. See, isn’t this bottle pretty?

The second fragrance from the house of Ines de la Fressange came just five years later, so I might assume that the first one didn’t sell like hotcakes. (It might have been too ladylike.) This fragrance, packaged in a beautiful flask-shaped bottle with a gold overlay and gold oak leaves, was created by Alberto Morillas.

I recently snagged a manufacturer’s sample of the 2004 version and have been wearing it. It’s… nice. It’s perfectly okay.  It may be suffering from not being sprayed, because even dabbed generously it’s pretty quiet (and I’ve heard from two friends who own both versions that the Morillas one is louder and more fun).

Notes for this one include bergamot, mandarin, either blackcurrant or blackberry depending on the list, neroli, peony, iris, white rose, muguet, patchouli, benzoin, vetiver, white musk.  I’ve read reviews of this one that call it “blackberry musk,” but to be honest that’s not what I get out of it. It is, instead, something of a Coco Mademoiselle clone on me, dominated by patchouli until very late in the drydown.  I am sort of freakishly sensitive to patchouli, so of course your experience may vary, but there it is: patchy floral.

It opens up with a sharply acidic fruit note – I say it’s blackcurrant and mandarin – and, to be frank, the opening is my favorite part of this one.  “Froot” smells that approximate candy or Kool-Aid, those I don’t like, but I tend to appreciate a fruit note that smells realistic, as this does.  It’s nice. Blending with that tart fruit accord is some neroli, joined by rose and peony, and then very quickly I get a snootful of patchouli. It’s at this stage, and for the next four hours, that Ines II reminds me of Coco Mademoiselle. (It also reminds me of Patou Enjoy, for that matter, and it’s not all that surprising since all three are modern chypre florals, “modern” meaning no oakmoss, with a number of notes in common. Come to think of it, a three-way tussle between CM and Enjoy and Ines II would be a fun throwdown as well.)  There are clearly some natural florals involved here, as well as some that are clearly synthetic (the peony, obviously, and there’s a “clean rose”

Well into the drydown, Ines II becomes a real joy to wear. It’s in this late stage that I do begin to get the musk, which does have a berry tinge to it, and there’s a good deal of benzoin. I am a sucker for that, I admit. The soft plushy base lingers for a long time, as a quiet skin scent, and it’s lovely.  Whether you find Ines II pleasant may depend on whether you like this style; if the phrase “modern chypre” incenses you, you’ll curl your lip.

This one is still available (albeit in limited quantities) at discounters, and it’s reasonable, approximately $30-35 for a 50ml bottle.  Other reviews: The Non-Blonde, March at Perfume Posse, Musette at Perfume Posse (brief).

Neither one of these fragrances are groundbreaking or innovative or terribly distinctive; nor were they apparent commercial successes.  I enjoyed wearing both of them, however, and it’s highly unlikely you’d cause a fellow elevator-occupier to faint while wearing these.  Ines II seems very much “of its time,” the husky-voiced, floral-patchouli-musk “modern” chypres of the early 2000s, but for all that it’s quite pleasant.  Ines I is a Calice Becker through and through, with its soft-edged floral blend that seems shot through with light and grace.

It’s pretty clear which one I prefer, but then I love perfumes done in a soft mixed-floral bouquet style.  Feel free to disagree.

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Perfume Review: Byredo Flowerhead

flowerhead-by-byredoI’ve had this decant for a couple of months now, but I haven’t reviewed it yet. That’s partly because I needed a break from blogging, and partly because I was wearing it the afternoon that we took Hayley to the vet, never dreaming that she wouldn’t come home with us. But I pulled it out to retry today, and I am writing with a pic of Hayley-dog on the screen, so I think I will be all right.

This is a truly beautiful floral, centered on tuberose-jasmine-rose. I don’t think Byredo has done many florals, other than La Tulipe (mixed spring bouquet) and Inflorescence (a muguet). Byredo is very much an art-directed outfit, very visual, and typically the notes lists/art inspiration for their fragrances don’t encourage me to purchase samples. What I remember Byredo for is the sticky, melting, frozen-fruit-bar of Pulp, and the Blanche sample a friend sent me, which was fresh-air-and-clean-laundry to my nose (and I even like aldehydes. Oh well).

This one, as most fumeheads probably know by now since I’m months behind the curve on reviewing it, was inspired by the visual of an Indian bride adorned with a floral headdress. Byredo’s creator, Ben Gorham, is half Indian and had a large part to play in the wedding of his cousin, and was inspired by the vision of her with flowers for a head.

The six-year-old girl in me is RUTHLESSLY DELIGHTED at these bridal hairstyles. But they don't say "flower head" to me.
The six-year-old girl in me is RUTHLESSLY DELIGHTED at these bridal hairstyles. But they don’t say “flower head” to me.

Well, okay. Whatever caused Mr. Gorham to decide to focus on the natural glory of blossoms, I don’t really care much; I’m just here for the tuberose. And the jasmine and rose. Hand over the flowers and nobody gets hurt, okay?

The tuberose does tend to dominate, in my opinion, not that I’m bothered by that. It’s kept very fresh by tart berries, angelica and green notes, and I have to say this is one of the loveliest floral openings I’ve ever smelled, a glorious explosion of blossoms with the sharpness of cut stems and leaves. I love it. It’s almost like sticking your nose in a big bouquet – that’s one of my favorite scent experiences, by the way. The only thing missing from the bouquet is a “wet” dewy note. The visual for the fragrance features marigolds, and Ben Gorham has stated that he and perfumer Jerome Epinette attempted to include marigold but weren’t able to integrate it successfully. The tart berries and sharp herbal accents, to me, seem to take the place that marigolds would have taken, and I do love that effect.  In fact, the opening reminds me very much of Arquiste’s wonderful Flor y Canto (tuberose and marigold), and it’s gorgeous.

Half an hour in, it calms down a bit and the berries retreat, and there’s a wonderful tuberose-jasmine duet. The rose flies under the radar for me, and I can only pick it up occasionally, as a counterpoint to the white floral blend. There’s a fair proportion of natural materials in this, and it smells very fresh and gentle. I wish, to some degree, that the fragrance would stay loud, but the initial blast does calm itself down to a smaller sillage. This middle stage lasts three to three and a half hours, respectable for a floral fragrance on my skin.

Gradually it begins to fade away to a very quiet drydown. The official drydown notes are “suede and ambergris,” but I’m really smelling a quiet, dry woody musk rather than anything *I* would call ambergris. It may be, as a reviewer on Fragrantica suggests, Iso E Super there in the drydown. I am not sensitive to Iso E Super myself, can barely smell it at all; what I’m getting here is a soft, barely-there presence that simply helps to extend the florals. This stage lasts about three further hours on me, so that I get about 7-8 hours of wear from one goodly spritz. I would not choose the “spray until wet” method for this one (as I typically do for lightweight fragrances like summer Eaus and Annick Goutals), since Flowerhead’s initial sillage is so big.

Notes, according to Fragrantica, include lemon, cranberry, angelica, green notes, tuberose, jasmine sambac, rose petals, suede and ambergris.

Flowerhead is a really lovely fragrance. The straight-up floral is one of my favorite genres of fragrance, and I enjoy wearing it. One reviewer on Fragrantica says that it’s “too floral,” but I say Nonsense! No such thing! The more flowers the better!  Know your own tastes, I always say, and Flowerhead suits mine very well.

I could wish that the sillage would stay at the same level, or only gradually taper off, rather than dropping drastically half an hour after application – that was my frustration with DelRae Coup del Foudre, for example. At $220 for 100ml and $145 for 50ml, it’s probably outside my price range, but I will use and enjoy my 5ml decant.

Other reviews: EauMG, The Scented Hound, Robin at Now Smell this, Grain de Musc, Patty at Perfume Posse (brief), Colognoisseur.

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Perfume Review: Tauer Eau d’Epices

12 Eau D'Epices Tauer Perfumes for women and men

I was rather pleased to open an email from Jeffrey Dame asking if I would like a sample of Eau d’Epices to review. I had tested a small .3ml sample of it when it was produced as a limited edition in 2010, and liked it. But I’d used up my tiny sample ages ago, and since it’s not really my usual sort of thing I had not sought out any other supplies. (I tell you honestly, if it had been an offer of a sample of Orange Star or Zeta, I’d have said, “No, thanks, I’m familiar with those and I don’t want to waste your time. Now if you’d like to send me a bit of Carillon pour un Ange or Une Rose Chypree, or something else new from Tauer, I’d be all over that.”)

I have maintained from early on in my Tauer sniffery that when a Tauer fragrance works for me, it is wonderful, and when it doesn’t work – it really doesn’t work. There are at least several Tauer productions that I liked but didn’t feel the urge to purchase, but I tend to have strong reactions to the ones that I’ve tried. At this point I have worked my way well into the line, with the exceptions of Lonestar Memories, Vetiver Dance, and the Pentachords series.  The line offerings are about evenly split between Ooh, I really like this and No, thanks, not my thing.

The nifty little hang tag that came with my 1.5ml manufacturer spray says this about Eau d’Epices (sorry, no diacritical marks. Life is short.):

“HEAD NOTES: An Indian basket of spices with cinnamon, cardamom, clove and coriander with red mandarins.
HEART NOTES: An opulent heart of orange blossom, jasmine, orris root and incense.
BODY NOTES: A woody cistus ladaniferus resin, softened with ambergris, tonka beans and vetiver.”

Before we begin the Review Proper, you must understand that while I’m a big spice fan, I’m not typically a big fan of its oriental/woody accomplices. If there is a spicy fragrance, chances are very good that the perfumer is buttressing the spice rack with the usual suspects of labdanum, woods and balsams. And it’s true, I can name only a handful of spice-focused scents that I wholeheartedly enjoy: Donna Karan Black Cashmere and DK Chaos, Comptoir Sud Pacifique L’Eau du Gouverneur (sadly, discontinued), the long-gone Prince Matchabelli Potpourri, and Caron Poivre (one of the very few Carons I like). What these scents have in common is a spicy warmth without the ballast of heavy oriental notes underneath. The woody notes that serve as their bases are lighter. Poivre and Potpourri are distinctively floral while Black Cashmere is comfortingly creamy and L’Eau du Gouverneur cedary.

Commonly, the fragrances known as “spicy” are really essays on tolu balsam/labdanum: YSL Opium, Estee Lauder Cinnabar and Youth Dew, and even Tauer’s own L’Air du Desert Marocain. Regular readers will know that I think Opium and Youth Dew are evil, and any hint of the Dreaded Youth Dew Accord is the kiss of death for me. I was quite enjoying Frederic Malle Noir Epices when the Specter of Youth Dew popped up, and that absolutely scratched the fragrance off my tentative “look for a decant” list.

L’eau d’Epices is not much like my other favorite spicy scents, either, but it does lack the heavy, sticky, mustiness of Youth Dew. It does have that “Tauerade” aura, which seems comprised of ambrein, a sandalwood-like accord, and incense (see this Nathan Branch interview with Andy Tauer and the Perfume Posse post which first mentioned the phrase “Tauerade”). And like many of the other Tauer fragrances, it lasts several hours on me, even with my scent-eating skin.

Up top L’eau d’Epices is very brightly citrusy, with an orange tang that is very like the sensation of digging your thumb into a tiny fragrant clementine. Wonderful stuff, very refreshing without being in the least cologne-ish (yawn). It lasts for about twenty minutes on me, lingering on into the beginning of the spicy aspect, and this is my favorite part of the experience. The spices join the bright orange fairly soon, with the cinnamon and especially the cardamom prominent. Underneath, though, is the Tauerade, and if I sniff up close it’s quite noticeable.

Within half an hour the orange blossom – in this case, a soapy, neutral, barely-floral one – comes into play, with a dry earthy iris (never a favorite), but the spices linger. Within an hour and a half or two hours of application, I’m into the Tauerade. It’s still sprinkled with a light dusting of spices, and the dryness of vetiver offsets to some degree the richness of the labdanum/ambrein. If I apply one or two spritzes, L’Eau d’Epices lasts approximately five to six hours and radiates only a few inches above skin after the first half hour. I have been hesitant to spritz more, because Tauerade can be a headache and a half for me when overapplied.

L’Eau d’Epices is definitely a woody oriental fragrance, but it seems rather lightweight on me for that sort of scent, a sort of oriental veil – “Water of Spices” indeed. For me, that’s all to the good with regards to a genre that I don’t automatically love. I can imagine myself enjoying it in weather that would suit hot mulled cider or orange-spice tea; that is, fall to winter.  I particularly do love the orange-spice opening of this fragrance.

If you’re wondering how close L’Eau d’Epices is to Orange Star, I’ll just comment that I disliked Orange Star very much.  The salty-amber quality of it was too rich for me, and the orange blossom was extremely soapy (that’s a recurrent difficulty for me in particular with orange blossom), and there was a distinctive, raspy, “Tang dust in the back of the throat” quality that made it unwearable for me. The Tang-dust effect is fairly widespread (some people refer to this as baby aspirin, I think), but I don’t like it any time I run across it. L’Eau d’Epices doesn’t have any of these problem areas – again, it’s my problem – and I find it more focused on the spices and the quietly woody base than Orange Star is.

(It’s interesting to me that this scent which I’d only wear in cooler months is being released in spring. I noticed that Carillon pour un Ange, which for me is perfect in spring weather, was released in autumn, and although Switzerland has the same weather as the US, both these releases seem timed awkwardly. If it were up to me, I’d be releasing a lily of the valley scent in January or February, when people are starting to think longingly of green shoots pushing up through grass, and releasing a lightweight oriental in, say, August or September, when the seasons are beginning to turn and sweaters start to come out of cedar chests. But I don’t work in the business, and perhaps I’ve got the whole thing wrong.)

L’eau d’Epices is available in the US at all the usual sources (LuckyScent, MiN New York, The Perfume House in Portland OR, and IndieScents) for $135 per 50ml bottle.  Also available at Tauer Perfumes.  With thanks to Jeffrey Dame of Hypoluxe and to Andy Tauer for the sample.

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Perfume Review: Esther P Fragrances

Esther P is a new company based in Canada, selling fragrances created in Grasse, France. From the website’s “About Us” page:

After selling perfumes in her shops for years, Josette André decided to create her Esther P line when she realized that people who love perfumes were often disappointed by mass production. Hundreds of issues every year, that finally were all smelling similar, aiming to please everybody, and not fulfilling the expectation of the connoisseurs. Most of the time, perfumes are marketing products, and customers have to follow the trend. This is not our vision.

For us, wearing a fragrance is a very personal decision. It must fit your personality, and you have to wear it and feel comfortable with it in the same way you wear your favorite clothes. Our products are certainly not a one-fits-all line, for us, each woman is unique. Never would our fragrances copied from an existing one. Each one would represent for a woman a moment close to her feeling, imagination, or way of life. These fragrances are a creation for someone wanting a unique, personal, made- for- her-only fragrance.

The main idea Josette gave to our creator, was “Simplicity”, hiding a very complex creation. This same simplicity crowns the culmination of techniques and skills supported by high standards of quality products. For each fragrance, we have chosen the purest and most natural components. Every time it is possible, we use natural ingredient, and when available, products from France. Our production reflects the luxury French signature. Ingredients, complex and modern harmonies, chic bottles, we want Esther P to be on all counts the ambassador of French elegance.

These fragrances will be sold through a network of independent and selected stores.

I recently won a sample set of Esther P fragrances from online retailer IndieScents, and wanted to review them briefly here. Fragrance info was taken directly from the Esther P website. 

Barbara

Barbara is a woman living energetic days. Fresh with Lime and Spicy Anise, and the long lasting feeling of wearing fresh white linen. The Amber and Musk in the background reveal the sophisticated side of this lively woman.

Floral Oriental. Eau de Toilette.

Head notes: green notes, anise, sweet fennel, lime

Heart notes: jasmine, cotton flower

Base notes: ambergris, musk

Testing Barbara: Green notes apparent up top, along with something that smells like pear. Tiny touch of lime, not getting the anise. I don’t know what “cotton flower” smells like, but if it’s that “clean” thing you get in the B&BW Cotton Blossom, I don’t like it. Basically, after the first few minutes, this smells like clean laundry.  Not quite as nice as AG L’eau du Ciel, either.

Barocco

Barocco is a floral harmony, elegantly blending Tuberose, Ylang-Ylang with a Jasmine heart and spiced clove. For a stunning and passionate woman. Soft Floral. Eau de Toilette and Parfum.

Head notes: white flowers, ylang-ylang, tuberose

Heart notes: lily of the valley, jasmine, spices, clove

Base notes: ambergris, white musk

Barocco starts off with JASMINE and some muguet; I’m not picking up on any tuberose or ylang, or indeed any spices.  It is soft, and it’s reminding me to some degree of something or other a friend’s mother used to wear, back in the 80s. This, however, is much quieter (and duller).  Eventually it begins to warm up, with less of a synthetic jasmine feel and more of a white floral mix.  However, it then dives straight for the laundry musk.  It’s a bit like Jessica McClintock’s fragrance.

Boteh Esther P for womenBoteh

A dreamy oriental. Filled by images of cashmere, gold embroidery, soft pillows along pools fragrant of Mysore sandalwood and Damascus roses. Green Oriental. Eau de Toilette and Parfum.

Head notes: grapefruit, blackcurrant, hyacinth

Heart notes: jasmine, Mysore sandalwood, rose

Base notes: vanilla, ambergris, musk

Testing Boteh: Blackcurrant immediately apparent, as well as the rose and vanilla. Up top, it reminds me a little of Moschino Funny, except that it also has a dusty, baby-aspirin quality I don’t like much.  Also reminds me a little bit of Micallef Mon Parfum Cristal, though I think that has better materials. This is wearable, though.

Fugue Esther P for womenFugue

Behind the fresh citruses and white flowers, a hint of discreet woody scent and musk, for a woman sure of herself, an apparent simplicity for a complex and sophisticated woman.  Oriental. Eau de Toilette and Parfum.

Head notes: mandarin, bergamot, pineapple

Heart notes: lily of the valley, iris, jasmine, heliotrope

Base notes: vanilla, sandalwood, cedar, tonka, musk

Citrus and musk, that’s all I’m getting. Maybe a little bit of muguet.  Not an oriental – it’s mostly laundry musk with some pale woody notes.  I don’t even smell any vanilla. It’s somewhere between Cashmere Mist and Light Blue, without the Cashmeran of the former and the Windexy aquatic notes of the latter.

L'Eau d'Emma Esther P for womenL’eau d’Emma

 “L’Eau d’Emma”, fresh and crisp. A harmony of sweet orange and fruity mandarin, with summer jasmine and iris, shaded by a cedar tree. Fresh floral. Eau de Toilette.

Head notes: citrus (mandarin, bergamot, lime, sweet orange)

Heart notes: jasmine, iris

Base notes: Atlas cedar, patchouli from India

This is a beautiful citrus fragrance, not quite a traditional cologne, but similarly fresh and invigorating. It starts out with a very lovely mixed-citrus blast, which is joined by that very clean jasmine material, and then a pleasant cedar… but then it goes to white musk, again. Overall it lasts a little less than two hours on me. This is not a type of fragrance I really enjoy – I don’t particularly enjoy citrus florals – but this one is very refreshing and attractive. I would still rather have Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune for a citrus floral (grapefruit, jasmine, rose, cedar and patchouli), particularly at this price point.

Queen of Persia Esther P for womenQueen of Persia

Queen of Persia….A soft and modern Oriental fragrance. Rose and Jasmine, the symbol flowers of Grasse in Provence. Candied fruits soften the very modern note of incense and patchouli. Ambered Oriental. Eau de Toilette and Parfum.

Head notes: mandarin, bergamot, rose

Heart notes: jasmine, rose, candied fruits, iris

Base notes: vanilla, patchouli, frankincense

This is really pretty. It might be my favorite of the line. Not particularly “candied,” thank goodness, and it’s not as high-pitched as some of the others I’ve been smelling from this line. They are NUTS calling it an “ambered Oriental,” though, and regular readers will know that I am definitely not much of a customer for either amber or oriental! It’s neither. It is a rose-jasmine floral with a nice non-laundry base, and it’s somewhat similar to Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle, without CM’s screechy patchouli.  It’s pleasanter to wear, but also doesn’t last the way a real oriental would – a good .3 ml application was gone in three hours.

The PR material makes a point of saying that these fragrances were all composed in Grasse, and that they reflect the centuries of perfumery originating there… but my opinion is that these are not particularly original, and they’re not going to appeal to perfume fans. As far as that goes, they smell fine. They’re at least department-store quality, or perhaps a little better, because although they do have that ultra-clean, streamlined feel of floral synthetics, there are at least some natural florals mixed in.

Longevity on these, on my scent-eating skin, is very bad, ranging from 2 hours to 4. Sillage tends to be very quiet to moderate, even with the heftier florals like Queen of Persia and Barocco. Of course I am dabbing from a vial (using about a third of a ml each time, and my test spot is pretty soaked) instead of spraying, and that might affect the experience.  However, most of these scents eventually get eaten up by white musk in the drydown (exception Queen of Persia, which nevertheless smells like several other department store scents with a modern-chypre base). I am a little surprised that Indie Scents is carrying the brand, since these are not anywhere near as wildly original as most of their other stock.

Again, pleasant fragrances, but not anything I would shell out for. In each case I could pick a different (and probably less expensive) option that would be better in terms of longevity and originality.

Each fragrance is available in eau de toilette; four of them are also available in parfum strength. I tested only EdTs. The parfum bottles, I must add, are particularly lovely, and if I were a bottle hound I’d want one. The Esther P fragrances are available at Indie Scent (only the EdT concentration, at $110 per 100ml bottle) and also at the Esther P website, but you have to email for ordering info. I do not know how much the 50ml parfum bottles cost.

My thanks to IndieScents for the sample draw.

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Perfume Review: Marc Jacobs Daisy, EdT and EdP

Daisy Marc Jacobs for women
The adorable bottle for the original EdT version.

I’ve never reviewed this fragrance, although I encountered it early in my perfumista-dom – in late 2007, about the time I discovered Now Smell This and began really investigating fragrance rather than making do with whatever inexpensive scent I could afford.

In the fall of 2007 my sister asked for Coco Mademoiselle for Christmas. I Googled for a review and discovered NST; when I went to the mall I sniffed everything, including Daisy, and found that I liked it very much.  I bought a mini of the EdT on ebay. Soon after that I “fell down the rabbit hole,” as the saying goes, and Daisy seemed quite undistinguished once I’d smelled things like Chanel No. 19, vintage Jolie Madame, and Amouage Dia.

But I went by the mall yesterday to sniff whatever Macy’s had new, as well as some older things I wanted a refresher sniff of, and I gave myself a good spritz of Estee Lauder Modern Muse on one hand and one of Daisy EdP on the other.

Daisy Black Edition Marc Jacobs for women
The EdP version. (There are several editions of this thing. I rather like the black bottle with hot pink bendy flowers.)

Daisy lasted a good six hours on me, a little longer than the usual EdP performance on my skin, and carried a noticeable but quiet sillage.  It is, to use the terminology in Robin’s NST review of the EdT, “massively pleasant,” and I still think it’s one of the nicest unobtrusive fragrances currently marketed.  No, it’s not bold and distinctive – it’s just… nice.  Nice.  I know plenty of fragrances that are bolder, that seize my attention, but I put it to you that Daisy is distinctive in its niceness.

Noticeable to me is a light citrus and fruit top, with plenty of green. This slides into a gentle white floral, sweetened by violet, and from there into a pretty, comfortable, my-skin-but-better, woody musk drydown.  It never smells like frooty Kool-aid or straight-up laundry musk to me; instead, its core is a soft, sheer white floral. Which might, to be honest, be more interesting to me than to a lot of other people. Let’s face it, if your idea of how you’d like to smell on a regular basis is Calvin Klein Obsession or Iris Silver Mist or Passage d’Enfer, you’re going to find Daisy oppressively dull.  For a floral aficionado like me, Daisy is probably more acceptable.

The official notes for the original Daisy EdT, composed by Alberto Morillas, are strawberry, violet leaf, pink grapefruit, gardenia, jasmine, violet, white woods, vanilla and musk.  Marc Jacobs’ website lists only strawberry, gardenia, jasmine, violet, white woods, cedar and birch as the notes for the EdP and says that it is a “more intense” version of the EdT; Fragrantica suggests that there is no difference between the original in the clear glass bottle with white daisies (the EdT) and the black glass bottle with gold daisies (the EdP). My opinion is that there is a small difference between the two, with the EdT having more grapefruit, and the EdP more jasmine/vanilla. I like them both. There is a creaminess to the EdP as well, the same sort of cold cream thing I liked so much in Esprit d’Oscar.

I mean, look, I have yet to buy a full bottle of Daisy and it’s likely I never will, what with all the perfume I own. But you could do a lot worse than this. If you’re in the market for a nice quiet wallpaper scent, you could get stuck with Donna Karan Cashmere Mist, or Taylor Swift Wonderstruck, or (God forbid) Chanel Chance, all work-appropriate, inoffensive things that somehow smell a great deal nastier to me than Daisy does.

Other reviews (most are of the original EdT):  Robin at NST, EauMG, Victoria at Bois de Jasmin, Katie Puckrik Smells, Perfume Shrine.

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Perfume Review: Micallef Mon Parfum Cristal

Mon Parfum Cristal M. Micallef for women

Mon Parfum Cristal was released in 2013, intended to be a “more crystalline” version of Micallef’s 2009 Mon Parfum. I have not smelled Mon Parfum and wonder if the “cristal” addition to the name was intended to reference the highly decorative bottles Ms. Micallef often uses, rather than the scent itself.

When I think of “cristal,” the French version of crystal, a few things come to mind: the brand of Champagne (though I’ve never had that, either!), chandeliers, gems, icicles, wineglasses, and… aldehydes. Well, you know me, I’m still the AldeHo.  However, there is nothing clear-and-sparkly about this fragrance. Rather, it is opaque and cuddly. Not that there’s anything wrong with that in itself, and the fragrance is very nice. But it’s not very crystalline in nature.

The notes for Mon Parfum Cristal are pink pepper, cinnamon, rose, vanilla, musk, toffee, musk, and amber.  (See? just from the notes list, you’re already thinking What about that has anything to do with crystal?? Well, nothing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

The fragrance opens up with what seems to me like a bit of orange as well as the pink pepper and just a dusting of cinnamon.

Aside: it has become common among perfume fans to proclaim themselves sick of pink pepper, which always strikes me as being a silly stance to take. Sure, it seems like 80% of new launches contain pink pepper, but given the recent crackdown on citrus notes, I ask you, what are perfumers to do? Pink pepper, a synthetic aromachemical with rosy and mildly piney angles, functions much the same way as bergamot or other citrus notes do, and it serves a purpose. Pink pepper rarely serves as the focal point of a fragrance, but rather as a bridge or accent. (See this Fragrantica article by Elena Vosnaki of Perfume Shrine for more on pink pepper.)  You don’t hear people complaining, “Seems like everything out there contains bergamot these days!” It might be true that fumeheads much prefer citrus to pink pepper, and that stance is understandable. Everyone has preferences. But to complain that everyone is using it seems silly to me.  Whine about the recent overuse of synthetic oud, if you like; oud tends to be used as a focus rather than an accent. Okay, rant over. Sorry. Back to review.

Mon Parfum Cristal moves fairly quickly into its rose-vanilla heart and stays there most of the time. It is rather sweet, given the vanilla/toffee/amber notes, but the rose is really a lovely one, and the whole thing is girly and pretty and pleasant. I really can’t see a man enjoying this one much, but this confection is made for, say, the niece who loves pink. Longevity is good, approximately six hours on me, and the sillage is moderate. I’ve been dabbing from a mini bottle, but sprayed the scent has more presence.  I’d call this a “fleurmand” – a floral gourmand – because it’s focused on the rose and toffee notes.

The fragrance reminds me just a bit of Tocade, though it lacks Tocade’s “That Slut” sexiness, which seems to come both from its frilly rose-vanilla coupled with its smoky, dusty patchouli. Mon Parfum Cristal is every bit as frilly-sorority-girl, but it’s the sorority girl who’s slept the sleep of the righteously-caught-up-on-her-studies, not the one who stayed out all night doing keg stands. However, there is a distinctive “Micallef” recognizability to it as well; I’m not sure what it is, but all of the fragrances from this house that I have smelled seem to have in common a pleasantly-raspy vanilla in the base.

I haven’t seen the actual Mon Parfum Cristal bottle, though I think it is pretty in photos, and looks like it would be a pleasure to hold in the hand. The juice, too, is a pretty peachy rose color.

The perfumer for MPC is Jean-Claude Astier, who seems to have been responsible for much of the perfumed output of Micallef.  I’m not sure that this fragrance is available for purchase in the US as of yet; however, LuckyScent carries the original Mon Parfum, $225 for 100ml, so perhaps they will be carrying MPC soon.

Elena Vosnaki reviewed Mon Parfum Cristal on Fragrantica, here.

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Perfume Review: Le Labo Lys 41 and Ylang 49

Le LaboI’ve said it before: Le Labo annoys the fire out of me.  I won’t go into all the reasons here since I yarked about it in my Aldehyde 44 review, but suffice it to say that I find this French high-end niche brand really pretentious, and I mean beyond your typical French attitude.  Also, I have been irritated by the fact that frequently the name of the fragrance does not necessarily indicate what it will smell like. (For the uninitiated, Le Labo names their fragrances after the number of accords and the accord that makes up the largest percentage of the formula.  Ergo, Tubereuse 40 does not actually smell of tuberose; it smells of citrus and neroli in a classic cologne structure.  For a tubey fan bored by classic cologne, GRRRRR. ‘Nuff sed.)

However, I did like Aldehydes 44 (which, stunningly, does smell predominantly of aldehydes, go figure), and Patchouli 24, which had originally skeered the bejesus out of me simply by being named after my bete-noire-ish raw material but turns out to smell like smoke, rubber, leather and vanilla, like Bvlgari Black turning into the Hulk version of itself.  And when I began to hear good things about Le Labo’s new 2013 releases named after lily and ylang, which are two of my favorite raw materials… well, I resisted. And resisted, until I just couldn’t resist any more! I snagged samples.

white flowersLys 41, composed by Daphne Bugey, has notes of lily, tuberose, jasmine, woods, vanilla and musk. And oddly for a Le Labo, that is exactly what you smell. The tuberose-lily pairing is paramount, with wisps of greenish jasmine (with possibly a hint of the bitter-orange of petitgrain, and also the yielding satiny texture of orchid) peeking through. It’s heady but not overwhelming, fresh and soft at the same time — a just-picked bouquet that hasn’t had time to reach full-blown dropping-petals voluptuousness. Eventually it softens to a very gentle vanilla-woods drydown that is neither too sweet nor too rich.  It is, plainly, beautiful, carrying the suggestion of billowing white skirts.  My guess is that a man might find this one too femme and too soft.  I’m dabbing from a vial, and the longevity is not great, 3-4 hours on me despite containing two natural materials that tend to last on my skin (vanilla and tuberose).  Spraying would probably help the lasting power, but since the sillage is gorgeous in the first 20 minutes and negligible after that, you might be in for a very wafty ride, i.e., a stay-home-until-your-cloud-relaxes one.

Ylang 49 is the one that has been making perfume bloggers and critics rave; its floral-chypre braininess is something we bloggers seem to miss in the current perfume world, which seems obsessed with calling fruity, sweet, clean-patchouli frags “chypres.”  Composed by Frank Voelkl, it contains notes of ylang-ylang, gardenia, oakmoss, vetiver, patchouli, sandalwood and benzoin.  Vetiver comes to the front of this one for me, hiding the lush white florals underneath rooty, leafy, earthy materials.  There’s an odd, salty, celery note in here (usually that is associated with a jasmine partial material, I’ve heard in talking with Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio, and sometimes I get celery in other vetiver scents as well) that I don’t like much, and a bitterness that tends to block the white florals.  This scent I find deeply disturbing, and when Persolaise mentions Dzongkha and Sel de Vetiver in his review, I begin to understand why: both those fragrances are also very earthy and rooty, and they tend to make me think of dank cellars, decomposing jungle vegetation, and pondwater.  I would like to report more on how it develops on skin, and whether it ever gets to a point where I find it bearable, but alas, I cannot. I made it 43 minutes the first time I wore it, and 28 the second, before I had to scrub due to nausea.

pond water

Sorry.  I really am.

I am a Philistine. I don’t like early Duchaufour compositions, and I don’t like vetiver. My recommendation is to Know thyself.  If you love Dzongkha, snap this sucker up.  I tend to do fine with very floral chypres, but not this particular one.

Both of these fragrances are available in the US at Le Labo boutiques and at Lucky Scent, at $145 for 50ml and $220 for 100ml.

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Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Tuscan Leather

next-tuscany-leather-sofaAh, leather. I am late to the leather bandwagon, and am still blaming Chanel Cuir de Russie for that.  (I did have something of a revelation with regards to CdR recently,  in that one afternoon I tried the same masochistic retest that I periodically attempt, and CdR did NOT smell like our cattle working pens. Instead, it was smooth leather, iris and a very buttery ylang, really lovely. However, the next day? Back to cattle pens. And the parfum? CATTLE PENS. I can’t win for losin’, as they say.)

But the leather scents that I like, I really like.  I adore Cuir de Lancome, which smells like the inside of my mother’s good leather purse, ca. 1975. I have swoony love for Balmain Jolie Madame in the parfum, which is like wearing a kick-butt pair of leather combat boots and carrying an enormous bouquet of violets, complete with the leaves and maybe one gardenia in the center (you only need one gardenia to be able to smell it).  Parfum d’Empire Cuir Ottoman, which I like to call “Odd Footstool” because it makes me laugh, is a delightful mix of leather followed by caramelly amber. Yum.

tuscan leatherTuscan Leather, from Tom Ford’s pricey Private Blend line, was recommended to me as a straight-up leather scent, and I have to say that it does smell like a leather sofa to me – soft, polished, comfortable.  The notes, according to Fragrantica, are saffron, raspberry, thyme, olibanum (frankincense), jasmine, leather, suede, amber and woody notes.  The scent does actually carry on with leather all the way through, unlike some other leather fragrances, which have a leather stage but don’t seem to stay there. Instead, Tuscan Leather is pretty literal. I do not smell raspberry in here, though other people seem to catch it. It is a little on the sweet side, especially compared to the ferocity of the green-leather classic Bandit, but I rather like that TL has the feeling of a cozy nook rather than a rawhide whip. There is a creaminess to it, which I’m attributing to the saffron because that note seems to offer a creamy effect in other scents with saffron.  I do smell a bit of incense, which melds with the woody notes toward the base, and as the fragrance goes on, more and more amber.  It never winds up as ambery-sweet as Cuir Ottoman, though, and the general effect is of a men’s club, with multiple leather sofas and a vague whiskey-and-pipe-tobacco hint.

A friend of mine shudders when she smells this, insisting that it reminds her of cocaine. I don’t have any reference for that in my personal life, so I’m at a loss. Sure, it may actually smell like sniffery-jollies in a 1980s nightclub, but I would never ever know.

Tuscan Leather is on the masculine side, and it’s unusual for me to thoroughly enjoy wearing a fragrance geared toward men*, but this one I do.  Sillage is moderate and longevity average; I typically get 3-6 hours of wear from an eau de parfum, and I get about five hours’ worth out of TL. Toward the end it becomes quite sweet and ambery, having finally left behind the leather and the woody-incense notes, but I don’t mind so much.

It’s ridiculously expensive at $225 for 50ml, or $280 for 100ml, at major retailers such as Nordstroms and Neiman-Marcus, just like the rest of the Private Blend line, so I’m not going to buy any, but it is wonderful, and I would love to smell it on a man.

(*I have notoriously girlified taste.  I can usually wear unisex fragrances easily but I simply cannot manage anything even vaguely fougere, or anything with a shaving-cream angle.  It’s like wearing cotton Y-front briefs. Just NO.)

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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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