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.)


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.


Perfume Review: Micallef Denis Durand Le Parfum Couture

I know nothing of couture.

And, to be honest, I’m not bothered that I don’t. I’m fine not knowing. Couldn’t afford it, couldn’t fit in it, find it interesting to look at but not very practical: that all adds up to my don’t-care attitude.

An evening frock by Denis Durand.  I actually like this one a lot, despite its overblown quality - it's a slinky Hollywood vixen being nuzzled by a giant mutant pink rose, what's not to love here?
An evening frock by Denis Durand. I actually like this one a lot, despite its overblown quality – it’s a slinky Hollywood vixen being nuzzled by a giant mutant pink rose, what’s not to love here?

I went looking for images of Denis Durand’s couture frocks when Parfums Micallef so kindly offered me a sample of the fragrance composed with Durand’s sensibility in mind. They’re interesting, at least – often what I’d call over the top, in terms of silhouette or embellishment, and really only wearable when you’d want to make an emphatic statement. “Simply pretty” is not really applicable to any of the ones I saw, though I will say that often the embellishments are luxurious and very feminine – Swarovski crystals, silk ruffles, enormous floppy satin bows. Le-Parfum-Couture-Denis-Durand-for-M.-Micallef-cafleurebon-300x300

The flacon offered for this fragrance is beautiful, too, at least in photos. It’s square and blocky, with a blocky rectangular lid, but as the press release says, “Dressed with hand sewn delicate Chantilly black lace, the bottle is adorned with a little satin bow and a golden medal with the initials of the two artists.”

Micallef calls it an oriental, but it seems quite floral to me so I’m going to toss it in the floral-oriental category and be done with it.  As for the notes:

Head notes: Ceylon cinnamon, Italian tangerine

Heart notes: Bulgarian rose, orange blossoms, honey and animalis

Base notes: sandalwood, patchouli, amber and white musk

On to the fragrance. Does it smell like this dress?

A Durand dress that fascinates me. LOOK at it - all pale pale pale pink satin with a floppy bow, and the black Chantilly lace overlay, and - holy cow. Slit practically to the waist.
A Durand dress that fascinates me. LOOK at it – all pale pale pale pink satin with a floppy bow, and the black Chantilly lace overlay, and – holy cow. Slit practically to the waist.

Um… well, without the slit rising to risque levels, it’s not too far off.  It wears closer to the skin than these outrageous dresses would suggest, for one thing. For another, it’s not particularly dark, but it’s not a clean bright floral either. There’s enough of a black-lace quality to the earthy base to suggest evening wear and liaisons over drinks, but the florals are quite lovely. Orange blossom tends to dominate the heart, and despite the Animalis note – which smells something like my fur hat, a delightful hint of really-vintage fragrances – it is relentlessly clean on me, like a bar of scented soap. (But then, I typically get a soapy quality out of orange blossom, so this is nothing unusual.) The opening moments remind me just a bit of Tauer Une Rose Chypree, with the aromatic tangerine and cinnamon, and they might be my favorite part of the fragrance. Not that the rest is dull or badly composed at all – no, it’s lovely.  A number of people are getting oud and honey out of this, but I really don’t. There’s nothing about it that smells particularly animalic (the way oud and honey often can) to me, and it’s possible that other reviewers’ “oud” is my “dry wood,” but honey can sometimes go really, um, ladyparts on me, and I am not getting any of that at all.

The drydown is what many oriental-lovers are going to rave about, because it is warm and sensual without being too sweet or too raunchy. It makes me think of Givenchy’s Organza Indecence, though Parfum Couture is a little drier, its patchouli a little more prominent. I smell both sandalwood and a different, drier kind of wood in here (is this what everybody else is calling oud? I’m really only familiar with oud from those Montale rose-oud things, and the By Kilian Arabian things, and those were all much more medicinal), as well as a touch of amber.  Lasting power is about average for an edp on me, 4-5 hours, and sillage is also average.

Another Durand dress. I don't know how you could walk in it (or sit, for that matter), but it is a gorgeous color.
Another Durand dress. I don’t know how you could walk in it (or sit, for that matter), but it is a gorgeous peacocky thing.

All in all, a very lovely fragrance.  It’s available at Lucky Scent in the US.

Other reviews of Le Parfum Couture: Angela at Now Smell This; Mark at CaFleureBon (brief); Kafkaesque; That Smell; Chemist in the Bottle; The Scented Hound.


Perfume Review: Jacomo Silences eau de parfum Sublime, plus a sample drawing

Some of you might remember how much I whined over the news of a reformulated Silences last year, because, yeah, I was whiny on the level of an  overtired three-year-old. Sorry ’bout that.

First, because I made you read it. Second, because I was wrong.

The new take on the very-70s original is that good.  You do have to be a fan of green scents, I’d hazard, but I definitely am.  Just the other day I was listing my extensive collection of scents I wear in spring, and most of them are green florals, of course.

This color combo looks a lot like my mental image of Silences.
This color combo looks a lot like my mental image of Silences.

Silences edp Sublime reminds me not so much of its predecessor, which is relentlessly, eerily green with lashings of rose and iris, as it does of a gentle version of Chanel No. 19.

I was disappointed in Chanel’s updated flanker of No. 19, titled Poudre, as to my nose it was barely green at all and seemed to be mostly clean white musk with hints of dry iris. While pleasant, Poudre seems more closely related to Prada’s ubiquitous, nicely-done Infusion d’Iris, with perhaps a tiny green veil.Silences edp sublimeSilences Sublime, as I’ll call it for the duration of the review, opens up with the gentle bite of galbanum and a very small hint of blackcurrant bud, both rather subdued, along with a light veil of aldehydes. You might not even notice the cassis bud at all – it’s gone quickly and doesn’t have that big cat-pee hit (hey, I like the cat-pee thing, but I know it’s controversial). More prominent is the floral heart, where rose is joined by a delicate lily of the valley note and  a tiny bit of floral dirt from the narcissus.  The iris seems to pop up with the basenotes (woody notes, vetiver and musk), and it’s lovely in a very quiet way for a good four hours.

Sillage is mild to moderate unless you try the spray-until-wet technique, and then it’s only moderate; longevity is really more like edt than edp on my skin. Silences Sublime strikes me as being really a hot-weather kind of fragrance, a dry cooling breeze that soothes my grizzled temper and lends a bit of elegance without the ramrod posture that No. 19 evokes.

As for comparing the Sublime to the original – well, for one thing, the original version of Silences that I own myself is parfum de toilette, and it is a galbanum monster that lasts allll day even in humid summer. (I feel certain that more modern Silences eau de toilette is lighter than the almost-oily pdt.) Silences is the sweet pink color of rose, the calm blue-purple-grey color of iris, the clover green of galbanum and the olive green of moss, satiny ribbons that trail out behind you in unexpected, arresting beauty, as you wander in quiet contemplation.  Silences Sublime has much less presence, and as I say, seems much closer to No. 19 in character than to Silences. I suspect the addition of aldehydes to Sublime and the base’s focus on vetiver-musk rather than moss creates that likeness.

This looks like the color scheme for Silences Sublime, too. Well, perhaps it needed a bit more pink, but it's close.
This looks like the color scheme for Silences Sublime, too. Well, perhaps it needed a bit more pink, but it’s close.

I am enjoying Silences Sublime very, very much, and find it even easier to wear than Chanel No. 19 (which can be a little demanding of my attention – delightfully so, but still demanding).  It’s quite reasonably priced, and I bought my 100ml bottle via New London Pharmacy’s website for under $80 shipped. Lovely stuff. Jacomo really should make it more easily available in the US, because I predict it would sell beautifully.

Sometime soon I really should create a diagram showing Silences, Silences Sublime, Chanel No. 19 in various concentrations including Poudre, Annick Goutal Heure Exquise (in edt and edp), Calandre, Rive Gauche, and Madame Rochas on a continuum, because they all seem somewhat related to me along an axis of green notes/galbanum, aldehydes, rose, iris, vetiver, moss and musk.  Clearly that note combination is a favorite of mine (though I’m not as fond of Rive Gauche and Mme Rochas as I am of the others).

I’m offering two 2.5-ml spray samples of Jacomo Silences eau de parfum Sublime.  To enter, please say you’re interested and tell me whether you like any of the scents on my hypothetical continuum.  (It’s okay to say you’ve never investigated any of them. I hope to pull you in!) Drawing will close on Thursday at noon Eastern Standard Time. Drawing is now closed.


Perfume Review: The Vagabond Prince Enchanted Forest

ench forEnchanted Forest is the first fragrance produced by the new perfume company The Vagabond Prince, which was started by the founders of the fragrance website Fragrantica (my favorite resource for notes lists). There’s some nice stuff there on the Vagabond Prince website regarding the artwork on the bottle and the lovely packaging – it doesn’t mean much to me, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m something of an art Philistine (to the despair of my art-history major sister). Here’s what the creators have to say about it:

The fragrance was suggested by Nature itself. It’s the smell of the forest, when you step in it in the night. The darkness of the night keeps your senses alert, enhancing every smell and every sound you experience, including your own heart pounding. The night awakes your instincts, you need some time to get used to their language and feel as if you’re a part of this night forest that’s opening to you its grand beauty. Then the dense darkness steps aside and you can smell a delightfully moist fresh air.

Lucky Scent, one of the distributors for Enchanted Forest (it’s also available at MiN NY and at the Vagabond Prince website), shares this information about it.

Enchanted Forest is inspired by the endless sea of Russian forests and fairytales, as well as the most sensual ancient Slavic celebration named Kupala, rooted in the times of darkness, when all on the Earth knew its soul and its name (often too powerful to be uttered in vain or at all). French perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, the famous creator of fragrances for L’Artisan Parfumeur, Comme des Garçons and Penhaligon’s, built Enchanted Forest around black currant, the smell and taste of which are so beloved in Russia and many other countries where it grows.

I gather that a number of people who have tested this fragrance have been rather disappointed in it. Led by the mystical title and their own experiences with fairy tales, not to mention the ad copy, they’ve imagined it being a foresty sort of scent.

blackcurrantsFact is, it’s not. It is All Blackcurrant, All the Time.  The quote from perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour in the ad copy also mentions this angle:

“Enchanted Forest is the only perfume I know of that is built around blackcurrant as the sole raw material, to such an extent that one can say it is a CASSIS! My inspiration for this perfume was primarily the fruit of blackcurrant itself, from which I drew enormously the strength of the perfume. The blackcurrant is the MOST IMPORTANT fruity note of the range that exists in perfumery. Blackcurrant and the sulfur effects of blackcurrant are the basis for the reconstruction of almost all fruits that perfumers and flavorists know. It is HUGE!”

Okay, okay – leaving aside the ridiculousness of the all-caps emphasis, this is pretty much the deal. He’s right. Enchanted Forest is not about the forest, it’s about the cassis, top to bottom, front to back. Remember that, and you’re probably going to be okay, assuming that you like blackcurrant.  Clearly a number of people don’t.  It has acidic and sulfuric characteristics that often seem to evoke the scents of cat pee, sweat, and body odor.

I usually love blackcurrant, myself. A number of my favorites contain it. For example, Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune, though centered on grapefruit, is also chock-full of blackcurrant.  Cassis plays a large part in the delightfully neon-Gothic rose chypre L’Arte di Gucci.  Blackcurrant with raspberry, strawberry, and blackberry notes make up the deliciously juicy, natural berry notes of Hanae Mori.  It lightens the sweet woody-vanilla rose of Clarins Par Amour.  It adds to the strange, shape-shifting, green-into-floral-into-warm-oriental character of Guerlain Chamade.

fortunaprzodI first became acquainted with blackcurrant as a fruit when my college choir traveled to Europe for two weeks. In Poland we were contantly offered bottles of sok, or juice. The juice we drank most often was a lightly-sweetened blackcurrant cordial that I immediately took to.  (Ribena is similar, but much sweeter.)  Unfortunately, you can’t get it here in the US.  Wish I could – yum.

In any case, my experience with Enchanted Forest is that it’s not particularly foresty. It is, as I said, dominated by blackcurrant all the way through, almost to the very end. I love it.

The opening is pretty much cat pee/berry/citrus, in the classic manner of cassis bud notes, and I like that. It stays there for some time, with various green and herbal and pine notes passing through, but I never feel like I’m in the forest; there isn’t any underlying earthiness to evoke the forest floor. Instead, it’s maybe a garden full of blackcurrant bushes, backed up to a forest but not in it. I hardly notice aldehydes or the “alcoholic effects” notes at all, since I’m overwhelmed by this tart, aromatic, hyperrealistic berry. If I hoover my arm, I can pick up the fir and some sweet booziness (the davana, perhaps?), but the waft is still alllll blackcurrant. If you’re thinking that “fruity” is a cop-out, you’re thinking of frooty celebuscents. This is not one of those.  It is anything but airheaded, and it’s right on the verge of “don’t mess with me.” When was the last time a fruity fragrance, without a leather or chypre base, did that? I can’t think of one.

Half an hour in, I begin really picking up more herbal, green notes – the patchouli shows up as well as the rosemary and coriander seed, but they’re still dominated by the blackcurrant. I really get a stem-and-twig thing going on here, and I think I’m finding the vetiver.  About an hour after that, though, the fragrance seems very floral to me, with lots of rose – yeah, still under the blackcurrant, a ghost of L’Ombre dans L’Eau there – and some other floral notes, and I really love this part.  It goes on singing in this floral/tart berry/woody stem-and-leaf register for several hours, and it really is beautiful.

Six to eight hours later, the drydown has shed most of the notes that were prominent earlier, and it settles into a very lovely, cozy sweet woody thing: plenty of benzoin, some musk, some woody notes… the vetiver returns, the cedar shows up, there’s a very tiny hint of moss.  It’s gorgeous. It reminds me of the drydown of vintage Emeraude, perhaps drier and less vanillic, but it is just so comfortable and quietly attractive without being overtly plush like Emeraude.  As I said earlier, I love it.

I’m not sure what other people think about smelling it on me – I know that some of my family members gave me suspicious looks during the first hour, and then remarked favorably on it. And it may not be for you.  It does not, in my opinion, bear much relation to the usual Duchaufour oeuvre, which for me is a good thing since I often find his work strikingly dank, like old cold musty basements, and unwearable. If you’re looking for this to be “a Duchaufour,” like Dzongkha, you are going to be disappointed. Enchanted Forest really should have been called something like “Woodsman’s Cottage Garden,” but I doubt that would have sold any bottles, so there ya go: actual truth-in-advertising is sometimes not a good thing.

The notes list for Enchanted Forest is long, and I definitely don’t get all of these notes, but it’s interesting reading, at least.  (This info is directly from Fragrantica.) Top: pink pepper, aldehydes, sweet orange (traces), cassis flower, blackcurrant leaf, hawthorn, effects of rum and wine, rosemary, davana. Heart: blackcurrant bud absolute, CO2 blackcurrant, Russian coriander seed, honeysuckle, rose, carnation, vetiver. Base: opoponax resinoid, Siam benzoin, amber, oakmoss, fir balsam absolute, Patchouli Purecoeur, castoreum, cedar, vanilla, musk.

Here are a few other reviews of Enchanted Forest: Ines at All I Am – A Redhead; Signature AscentA Kafkaesque Life; Doc Elly of Olympic Orchids at Perfume Project NWThe Scented Hound; Mark at Ca Fleure Bon; The Non-Blonde; and a really hilariously snarky review by Jen at This Blog Really Stinks.  (As always, if you know of more reviews, please let me know.)


Simply Pretty: Micallef Ylang in Gold Perfume Review

ylang in goldIt’s Christmastime, and I’ve been making my grandmother’s boiled custard. First, I should explain: “boiled custard,” in the American South, is not your classic custard preparation. It is not the same as baked custard, and it is definitively not crème anglaise, either. It is more like a thin, drinkable sauce than a pudding. My grandmother Nell always made it at Christmas, and we’d have it at our family Christmas Eve dinner, poured over a slice of pound cake or spooned up from cups or small dessert bowls, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream slowly melting on top.

It is not a “fancy” dessert. No raisins or candied cherries or chocolate, no dustings of shredded coconut or dragees or chopped nuts adorn it. It tastes of egg, milk, sugar, and vanilla, and it is exactly as good as its texture is smooth.

In fact, Nell never gave me her recipe. She’d say, “Well, you start with a gallon of milk – whole milk, mind you – and fourteen eggs.” Then she’d sigh, shake her head and go on, “It’s tricky to make. You’d just have to watch me make it sometime.” And then she’d leave the table. My aunts knew the recipe, and the trick, apparently; after Nell’s Alzheimer’s disease forced her to sit and watch at family get-togethers, Aunt Doris would sometimes bring a pitcher of boiled custard, to my father’s delight.

My mother recently gave me a copy of this recipe, scaled down and adapted for the microwave, and I made it for Christmas dinner, to be eaten with pound cake. It’s delicious: smooth, velvety, fragrant with vanilla.

Which brings me to Micallef Ylang in Gold.

Cast an eye over the notes list: tangerine, peach, lychee, bitter orange, geranium, sage, rosemary, artemisia, mint, ylang-ylang, rose, magnolia, lily of the valley, sandalwood, vanilla, musk, coconut, oakmoss. Pretty complex list, isn’t it?

The fragrance smells anything but complex. It does not smell fancy. It is simple, and simply pretty, a tropical-floral smoothie with plenty of vanilla and coconut, the perfect beachy refresher when you are longing for sunshine.

It’s well-named. Other reviewers have mentioned green notes lightening the floral pudding, but I don’t perceive them as a strong presence. There is a pretty, tangy citrus opening followed by ylang – big buttery floral YLANG, lots of it – and other floral notes. I can pick out the rose fairly easily, and the creaminess of magnolia. The base is dominated by vanilla, with more creaminess from the coconut and a cushiony musk.

The fragrance, which I’ve been dabbing generously from a 5ml sample graciously provided by Micallef’s PR company, has soft to moderate sillage (it would probably radiate a bit more when sprayed) and lasts about four to five hours on my skin, which is about average longevity for an Eau de Parfum for me.

It’s simple, yes. Despite that long list of notes, Ylang in Gold is ylang and vanilla and coconut, very simple, very smooth, and very, very pretty. When I’ve worn it, The CEO has trailed me around the house remarking about how attractive I smell (his fondness for traditionally-femme scents is legend), and who wouldn’t want that?

Sometimes simple is best.

Which brings me to That Bottle. I’ve heard some whining about blingy the packaging is, and how gimmicky the optional gold shimmer is, but I disagree. I like the shape of the bottle, and the crystals decorating it seem shimmery to me, a soft sparkle rather than a Las Vegas glitz. Dressed up, yes, but appropriately so. My sample did not contain the gold shimmer, so I can’t speak to that aspect of the fragrance.

A bottle of Ylang in Gold will set you back $245 for 100ml, gold shimmer or not. In the US, it’s available at Luckyscent.

Here are a few other reviews of Ylang in Gold: The Alembicated Genie, Angela at Now Smell This, Musette at Perfume Posse, and (brief) Eyeliner on a Cat. (As always, if you know of other reviews, please share in the comments.)


Perfume Review: Coty Chypre in vintage parfum. I mean, the furniture was moving.

It’s entirely possible that more has been written about this one perfume than any other. Chypre, first released by Coty in 1917, was one of the first widely-produced commercial versions of an accord – the classic bergamot-oakmoss-labdanum – that, according to some people, had long been in use in the Mediterranean. Some of the things perfume writers have said about it: Chypre defined a genre. Chypre was brutal and Fauvist and outlined in broad strokes the formula that would undergird dozens of better, more sophisticated perfumes. Chypre was “big-boned and bad-tempered” [Luca Turin] and uncomfortable, bony and angular. Chypre was not as striking or as classic as the great fragrances that would follow in its footsteps. Chypre opened up great swaths of territory to be explored. Chypre laid down the structure for jewels of the genre such as Mitsouko, Miss Dior, Jolie Madame, Cristalle, Femme, Aromatics Elixir, Bandit, Diorella, Givenchy III, Chanel Pour Monsieur, Estee Lauder Knowing, Amouage Jubilation 25, Acqua di Parma Profumo… It’s difficult to read any serious perfume writer’s work and not come across a discussion of Coty Chypre, which is only surprising when you consider that very, very few people who are interested in perfume have ever smelled it.

Continue reading Perfume Review: Coty Chypre in vintage parfum. I mean, the furniture was moving.


Perfume Reviews: Micallef Collection Vanille fragrances (Vanille Cuir, Vanille Fleur, Vanille Marine, Vanille Orient)

Photo courtesy of Fragrantica.

The US distributor of Micallef fragrances, Hypoluxe, kindly offered me a sample set of Parfums Micallef’s newest fragrance line for review, and I promised my honest opinions of these four scents.

(I love PR review samples, but I always try to make it clear to the sender that I’m not going to praise a fragrance unless I like it. Most companies are very gracious about this stance, and I think in general that’s encouraging.)

The PR packet for Collection Vanille has this to say about the set: “A four-movement symphony on the theme of vanilla,” and [the collection] “consists of four fragrances combining the sweetness of vanilla with specific notes of leather, oriental, floral and water fragrance families… the collection has been created with the best natural oil of Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar.”

A word about my relationship with vanilla: I like vanilla, it’s the finest of the flavors1. That is to say, I would usually rather have vanilla cake than chocolate, and definitely I prefer vanilla ice cream. However, I’m not a huge vanilla fragrance fan. I like it as an accent, but probably the only vanilla-focused fragrance I ever really wear is Hanae Mori, and even then, I only wear it at home. (I really hate chocolate notes in perfume, for what that’s worth.) I do love my vanilla-accented Shalimar Light and my vintage Emeraude and my Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka, and I enjoy my little decant of L’Artisan’s Havana Vanille (now Vanille Absolument). I used to really like Rochas Tocade’s smoky rose-vanilla, but these days my bottle of it smells more like ashes than anything else, and I’m not wearing it. Givenchy Organza, that vanilla-and-white-flowers extravaganza, is perfectly nice but a bit dull.

So I’m interested, generally speaking, in vanilla-plus fragrances, which these are. Here are my reviews, in alphabetical order. Continue reading Perfume Reviews: Micallef Collection Vanille fragrances (Vanille Cuir, Vanille Fleur, Vanille Marine, Vanille Orient)


Mini-Reviews Roundup, October 4, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together: Guerlain Mitsouko, a sort-of Perfume Review

Let’s get this straight, right up front: I have tried. I mean, she’s the Empress. Ruler of all she surveys, epitome of style and grace and the Art of Perfume, often-cited as “the best fragrance ever.” Oh, the shame I have felt at failing to adore her! It’s me, isn’t it? It must be my fault. I have given the Empress plenty of skin time, plenty of chances to make her case with me, multiple trials in varying weathers, various concentrations and ages. All in all, I have worn Mitsouko in five different versions now, probably up over twenty trials now…

And… FAIL. Failfailfail. Only one of these concentrations has worked for me, and even that one was not love, so I hereby put the Empress back on her pedestal, bow low, and step away. Y’all go ahead and worship, I’ll not stop you. I’ve seen the greatness now, but not the love.

I tried modern Eau de Toilette first, early in my Fumehead Forays, back in 2009. I liked the ambery basenotes, but that was all: Mitsouko was shrill and musty, dusty and unpleasant, good bone structure in a really ugly dress. I swapped my decant.

Then at some point I realized that I typically do very badly with classic Guerlains in EdT formulation. They often seem harsh, sharp, un-blended. Stabby, even. Shalimar EdT? Hideous lemon-patchouli-dirty ashtray-powder bomb. L’Heure Bleue EdT? Hell’s Medicine Cabinet. Yuck. I made peace with Shalimar in PdT, a beautiful lamplight glow in a rainy evening with woodsmoke in the air. L’Heure Bleue in parfum smelled full and complete in a way that the EdT does not, all deliciously-medicinal pastry.

(I did love my small decant of Apres L’Ondee from the minute I bought it, though. And Chamade, which I first tried in vintage parfum de toilette, has been lovely in every version I’ve tried. But those are strongly floral; make of that what you will.)

So then I sampled Mitsouko EdP, and it was, well, not as awful. Again, I really liked that nice ambery thing in the base, but the rest of it seemed so… just wrong. Just wrong. Ditto for the sample of vintage EdT a kind friend sent me. People wear this on purpose? Gah.

Mitsy parfum (from a sample labeled “vintage” at Surrender to Chance) was peach and mustiness. Musty musty musty. HORRible. Beyond horrible. I mentioned the fact that I was Officially Giving Up on Mitsouko on a Facebook perfume group, and a longtime fan of it suggested that the oakmoss has gone off in this parfum. Someone who’s only recently come around to liking Mitsy swears that a vintage Eau de Cologne version is the only one she can possibly do; “no screaming,” she said, and “the peach is in the background.” Someone else recommended the EdC too, but the only way I know of to get it is to buy a whooooole bottle of it on eBay, and I just don’t think it’s going to work for me, so there I’d be, with a whoooooole 100ml bottle of Mitsouko EdC that I’d have to get rid of somehow…

And then, I went trolling eBay, Just in Case, and bought this beyond-cute micro-mini parfum of Mitsouko in this very-cute li’l box, just to try. The famous Louise says it’s generally a good iteration, from the early-to-mid-1990s, and she owns two of them. (You don’t know Louise? She’s good friends with March of Perfume Posse, the instigator of a whole slew of PP posts labeled “Blame Louise,” and the wearer of all kinds of things that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot dabber vial top, like Angel, but also of Datura Noir, which I like, and she’s BFFs with Mitsy. Also, she teaches middle school, which just leaves me gasping in awe.)

I could wear this. There’s no Mean Girl in this bottle. Everything is there: the bergamot, the milky peach, the jasmine. The labdanum and iris. The oakmoss. Well, let’s be honest here: the oooooooakmosssssss. This thing is All About the Oakmoss. Which, okay, if you are an Oakmoss Ho, I can see how Mitsy would be the ne plus ultra of fragrances for you. And clearly it is for a lot of people.

Also, it is symphonic in a way that makes me finally get why people swoon over it. I geddit now, okay? I geddit. Everything works together and swirls in the same direction and has this distinctive personality, and yes, it is autumnal, and rich and nostalgic and tapestried and masterpiece-y.

Yet I remain a Mitsouko Philistine.

It still does not speak to me in the way that its predecessor Coty Chypre does.

I’m still not absolutely convinced that there isn’t some sort of mental placebo effect going on when I test old Cotys versus classic Guerlains (particularly the old Guerlains that seem based on their Coty counterparts – like Shalimar and Emeraude, L’Heure Bleue and L’Origan), because the Guerlains are very good. Is it that all the old amazing Cotys are gone, either discontinued or crippled through ever-cheapened reformulations, and I’m such a sucker for The Love That Can Never Be? Or is it that I’m annoyed with everybody’s saying that Jacques Guerlain improved all of Francois Coty’s ham-handed creations, that Coty was after the shopgirls’ trade while Guerlain, more artful, pursued the deeper purses and discerning noses of sophisticated women?

Could be any or all of those. Or, I think again as I resmell my sample of gen-u-wine vintage Coty Chypre parfum from the vial, it’s simpler and more personal: M. Coty knew what would clutch at my heart, and he bottled it.

I don’t think it’s going to happen, Mitsy and me. I just don’t. I’m just going to let her go. I just heard this song on the radio last night, Taylor Swift in a semi-humorous vein, singing, “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” and it seemed so appropriate I had to laugh. Mitsy and me? Never getting back together. I’m never trying her again.  I mean, like, EVER.

Because, finally, I appreciate her. But we don’t love each other. And I am, finally, okay with that.

(Meanwhile, Coty Chypre? All those tiny parfum bottles of you languishing in Great-Aunt Mary’s girdle drawer in the highboy or Cousin Mildred’s attic? I know you’re out there somewhere. Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad. I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe…)

NB: My gen-u-wine sample of vintage Coty Chypre parfum came from Surrender to Chance, where it is ridiculously expensive but still cheaper than airfare to Paris to visit the Osmotheque. Just so you know. And the stuff is pristine, too: the bergamot’s a little faded, but there isn’t any nailpolishy weird topnote as I’ve come to expect from really-vintage perfume. Review coming soon.

BTW, I have no idea why some text is dark here and some is lighter gray.  I wrote this all in one piece on my laptop.  I keep trying to fix it, but so far no dice.


Garden Party in a Bottle: Ines de la Fressange

This fragrance, purchased for a song at an online discounter three summers ago – not even a whole song, to tell the truth, more like twelve whistled bars of an sweet old folk tune, maybe “The Happy Wanderer” – has become a summer staple for me, and more valuable with every new release of a so-called-”sexy” fruitchouli.

I was absolutely sure that I could blame Abigail of I Smell Therefore I Am for this one – but I can no longer find the blog review that I could have sworn she wrote for it, and so I can’t prove anything. (It’s possible that when ISTIA switched blog hosts a few years ago, the post disappeared into the cloud, but who knows?) Continue reading Garden Party in a Bottle: Ines de la Fressange


Perfume Review: Sonoma Scent Studio Forest Walk

Oh, and guess what, I LIED when I said I would post my review of the Calice Becker-composed Ines de la Fressange scent this week.  I really meant I’d post THIS one.  Because it’s been written for three weeks and was just lannnnnguishing in my “Ready to Post to Blog” folder, where I had (ahem) lost misplaced it. OOPS.

Forest Park

This is the newest offering from SSS (although I’m sure nose Laurie Erickson is at work on another scent, because that’s how she rolls), meant as a virtual-reality meander through a beautiful West Coast forest. Continue reading Perfume Review: Sonoma Scent Studio Forest Walk