Mini-Review Roundup: Opus Oils, August 9, 2012


Dirty Sexy Wilde

Opus Oils

Several perfume bloggers have been impressed by the quality and inventiveness of perfumer Kedra Hart’s concoctions at Opus Oils, and so several months ago I ordered a sample set. I can’t remember whether this was just before the Flapper Collection became available, or whether I was more drawn by the notes lists for the Burlesque Collection, but in any case I have a sample of each Burlesque fragrance, as well as one of Dirty Sexy Wilde and one of Dapper from the Les Bohemes Collection.

A word about oils: I’m not a big-sillage fan. I like there to be a little trail to follow me when I move, but I really suffered in the ’80s from the mushroom clouds of Giorgio and Poison and Obsession. I’ve also got scent-eating skin, so you’d think I’d probably be the ideal customer for the lower-sillage, high-longevity of perfume oils. In reality, I don’t mind oils, but I do find them less appealing than alcohol-based fragrances in general. These are nicely done, but I think a few of them could have benefited from the openness that alcohol allows. Sometimes oils can be somewhat dense and uncommunicative.

Continue reading Mini-Review Roundup: Opus Oils, August 9, 2012


Perfume Review: Tableau de Parfums Loretta

Back in March, Brian Pera (of the blog I Smell Therefore I Am) proposed a novel fundraiser for the next installment of his film project, A Woman’s Picture: donate a certain amount of money, and choose your “reward” based on the amount you donate. Some of the choices included fragrances composed by Andy Tauer, including one expressing film noir (Dark Passage, a seriously-limited-edition thing that was only available for this fundraiser, and which did not appeal to me based on its described notes of dark chocolate and patchouli and tobacco), and one (Loretta) that would eventually become available through the film’s website,, as one of the characters’ fragrances.

You might remember that I fell very hard for the first Evelyn Avenue-Tauer collaboration scent, Tableau de Parfums Miriam. When I heard that the next one would be a tuberose, my eyes rolled back in my head. I offered some financial backing to Brian’s film, and chose as my reward the 7ml purse spray of Loretta and the tuberose soap.

I haven’t tried the soap yet, though it smells wonderful in the package. But Brian’s description of Loretta as “dreamy, moody, voluptuous, mysterious, forbidden” intrigued me. So did the notes list: “Ripe dark fruit, velvet rose, spicy tuberose, orange blossom, patchouli, woody notes, ambergris, leather and sweetened orris.”

And it was to be a Tauer tuberose! What tubey fan wouldn’t want her hot little mitts on that? I certainly did. Badly. Especially after I read Andy’s blog post on the floral essences involved in Loretta.

I’ve taken a couple of weeks with Loretta, trying to get a handle on it, before writing this review. I’ll confess right now: at first, Loretta – and this was much like my experience with Amouage Memoir Woman – confused the heck out of me. I remembered very well Brian’s and Andy Tauer’s comments on Loretta, and the notes list, and the things I was supposed to be getting out of the scent. But the smell on my skin was Not That.

Brian talks about lush tuberose and even-lusher dark fruit, as well as balsams and woods. Andy talks about the beautiful rose note and the spiciness of the tuberose, and the connection between the floral orange blossom and the woody notes. Continue reading Perfume Review: Tableau de Parfums Loretta


Perfume Review: Cartier Les Heures de Parfum XIII La Treizieme Heure


When I first read about the “Heures de Parfum” Collection from Cartier, I mentally shrugged and said to myself, “Well, if I run across them, I’ll try, and if not, oh well.”

That’s still my feeling about the line.  But a kind friend sent me a sample of XIII: La Treizieme Heure (as always, please forgive the lack of diacritical marks, as they’re not available on the software I use for blogging), and although it was composed by Mathilde Laurent and had gotten terrific reviews, it didn’t seem very much like me.  Leather, smoke, patchouli and vanilla? Uhhhhh, no thanks, not my thang.

I wuz wronnnng.

The official notes list reads Not Very Me:  leather, maté, birch, narcissus, bergamot, patchouli and vanilla.  (Well, except for the narcissus, that’s Very Me.)  The description of the scent didn’t move me either, seeming both pretentious and sort of faux-dangereuse:  Mathilde Laurent called XIII La Treizième Heure “olfactive trickery, like a crime with premeditation.”  I don’t even get what that means.  Still less do I understand another quote from Ms. Laurent about this fragrance: “By smoke, I mean perfume. Smoke like a fascination, to be worn like a trap with intent.” Continue reading Perfume Review: Cartier Les Heures de Parfum XIII La Treizieme Heure


Perfume Review: Sonoma Scent Studio Jour Ensoleille

 All in the Golden Afternoon

I am something of an SSS fangirl, with several of Laurie Erickson’s fragrances on my “favorites” list: Tabac Aurea, Champagne de Bois, Nostalgie, and Jour Ensoleille.  I know I’ve mentioned this one several times, especially since it came back into regular production after a slight reformulation in 2009.  But I’m wearing it again today from my tiny purse spray, and I think it’s awesome, and I notice that somehow I’ve never managed to do a full review.  So without further ado, here it is. Continue reading Perfume Review: Sonoma Scent Studio Jour Ensoleille


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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy Now Smell This

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


Perfume Review: Penhaligon’s Malabah

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

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

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


Book and Perfume Review: The Perfume Lover by Denyse Beaulieu, and L’Artisan Seville a l’Aube

Oranges bénites / Blessed oranges

The subtitle for this book, by the author of one of the most long-running and influential/well-read perfume blogs, Grain de Musc, is “A Personal History of Scent,” and that’s a succinct description of what you’ll find inside its pages. We get all kinds of scented anecdotes, from perfume being banned from young Denyse’s home due to her father’s dislike of it, to her first exhilarating visit to a Paris perfume shop, to the shared bottle of “men’s” fragrance used by her university social group of young, intellectual punk-rockers as a sort of identity badge, right through descriptions of what she wore as a young freelance writer in Europe, what she wore at her wedding, and what scent became the symbol of a torrid love affair.

Perhaps more compelling to perfume fans than these stories is the story of how Seville a l’Aube came about, which is woven into the book. First there’s a chance meeting with Bertrand Duchaufour, then an invitation for her to come by his lab and learn more, followed by the story of how “the most beautiful night of [her] life” smelled and Duchaufour’s comment that it would make a terrific perfume. The seed – Ms. Beaulieu’s description of a Holy Week night spent in a Seville orange grove not far from the cathedral, standing with a Spanish boy and watching the religious festivities – fell on fertile ground, and much of the book is a step-by-step telling of how, exactly, a perfume is created. Continue reading Book and Perfume Review: The Perfume Lover by Denyse Beaulieu, and L’Artisan Seville a l’Aube


Perfume Review: Guerlain Après l’Ondée

"Irises in the old rain garden," from jthomasross (click to follow link).
“Irises in the old rain garden,” from jthomasross (click to follow link).

As I write, spring has budded outside. The daffodils came up a week ago; the hyacinths popped out shortly after. The grass has begun to grow tall and green up from its drab winter state, and I see the tall spiky leaves of wild onions growing up through it on roadsides. The cherry trees – from wild to domesticated fruit-bearing to Japanese ornamental – are blooming in froths of white and pink lace.

When I went outside this morning to take the boys to school, no fewer than six male robins were singing their heads off from different trees, claiming their territory.

Spring has really come. And so it is time to wear one of the loveliest spring fragrances in my collection, or in anyone’s collection: Après l’Ondée. Created by Jacques Guerlain in 1906, it is the softest and most wistful scent I have ever smelled. Contemporary with the Impressionist movements in painting and in music, it is a perfect expression of the soft-focus dreaminess of both Monet and Debussy, an indistinct swirl of violet and heliotrope gauzy as a silk chiffon scarf. Continue reading Perfume Review: Guerlain Après l’Ondée


Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US: part IV of the mini-reviews

If you thought Part III was a bad bunch, just wait. This was worse, waaay worse, way the heck past worse and into Will the Horror Never Stop? I am warning you now: snark will ensue. Sensitive people should go read one of my more cheerful reviews instead. (Try Mary Greenwell Plum, or Carnal Flower. Better yet, try reading my review of SSS Nostalgie, which costs less than any of these fragrances and was handmade with love and skill by somebody who still knows what real flowers smell like.)

Here’s the fourth and final installment of mini-reviews of the most popular women’s fragrances in the US last year.  For Part I, click here, for Part II, click here, for Part III, click here, and for the description of the original project, click hereContinue reading Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US: part IV of the mini-reviews


Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US: part III of the mini-reviews

Here’s the third installment of mini-reviews of the most popular women’s fragrances in the US last year.  For Part I, click here, for Part II, click here, and for the description of the original project, click here.

Clinique Aromatics Elixir – my mall does not have a tester for Aromatics Elixir! In fact, when I asked about it the Clinique SA gave me a hunted, defensive look. “We don’t have a tester,” she said. “I’m not sure we have any of that in stock, either.” I found this strange for a scent that is popular enough to warrant inclusion in the Top 20 list. Perhaps it doesn’t sell well locally – though I know I’ve seen a tester at Macy’s, at the bigger mall located 55 miles away. Or perhaps they really were out of stock. Or perhaps the Belk’s buyer just hates AE. Or maybe the SA hates it and didn’t want to have to smell it in the air after I’d sprayed and left… in any case, I don’t have a sample of it at all. What I remember about it is that it is a real room-clearer, bitter with greens and resins, with a bit of rose running underneath, a sort of Incredible Hulk version of L’Arte di Gucci. I’ll revisit AE if I get hold of a sample, or manage to drive to Roanoke. Continue reading Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US: part III of the mini-reviews


Perfume Review: Amouage Memoir Woman

Memoir Woman was designed as part of a pair of fragrances, as is common with Amouage, and the two fragrances were meant to explore the “timeless narrative of man and woman.” Released in 2010, the scent was composed by Daniel Maurel and Dorothée Piot, and categorized as a “spicy leather-animalic chypre.”

Topnotes: cardamom, mandarin orange, pink pepper, wormwood (absinthe). Heart notes: clove, incense, pepper, woody notes, jasmine, rose, white flowers. Basenotes: musk, French labdanum, oakmoss, styrax, leather.

A kind friend sent me some of this wonderful fragrance. Earlier, I’d read the words “animalic chypre” and raised my eyebrows, thinking, “Well, I can write this one off the test list.” Animalic chypre is so not my style. In fact, it still isn’t, and may never be – but I’ve come to understand that Memoir Woman is very difficult to classify. Like another morpher, Chamade, Memoir Woman smells very different from top to bottom. Unlike Chamade, which can be classified as a green floral with an oriental base, Memoir is tougher to pin down. You think it’s going one way, and then you hang a hairpin turn and find yourself somewhere completely different.

Upon first spritz, my nose crinkled up and I jerked my head back. Such a strange smell! So weird – and yet so oddly appealing. I sniffed more. I kept coming back to my wrist, tracking each facet in turn. “I can’t figure this out,” I said to myself. “It isn’t a chypre. It isn’t particularly animalic. I smell a little bit of leather, but it’s not A Leather Scent, either. Is it a floral? Not really. So what is it?” Continue reading Perfume Review: Amouage Memoir Woman


Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US, part I of the mini-reviews

I went malling this week! Here’s the first installment of mini-reviews for the Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances in the US for 2011.  (Thanks again for the push, Ari.)  All images are from Fragrantica.

Chanel No. 5 – I have a long history of familiarity with No. 5, and reviewed the parfum here.  I have been wont to grab a spritz or two from the tester when I breeze through the mall (it’s not often, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). I tried the EdP last summer and was surprised that I did not like it much; there’s an odd plasticky sort of accord in the drydown that seems out of place and just plain wrong. In Perfumes: The Guide, Luca Turin says that the EdP composition contains Polysantol, described as “the oily and prodigiously durable sandalwood drydown of Samsara.” (I didn’t mind Samsara so much, but I do admit that it smelled cheap to me, which I declare to be unforgivable in a Guerlain.) My store doesn’t have a parfum tester, so I make do with the EdT, which is still lovely and instantly identifiable as No. 5. I begin to wonder whether so many people continue to buy it because it is a) Chanel, the epitome of “classy” to so many Americans, b) despite reformulation, still smells mostly like itself, thus c) recognizable. No. 5 still has its furious whirlwind of soapy-whooshy aldehydes, and its golden-glow floral heart of rose, jasmine and ylang. It’s still worth wearing.

Coco Mademoiselle – this, as regular readers might remember, is the other fragrance, besides Dune, that my younger sister has forever banned me from wearing because she’s claimed it as hers. What she hadn’t realized is that her Coco Mlle is safe from me: I don’t like it. I smell it on a lot of women our age (30s and 40s) in this area, and I don’t like it on them, and I sure don’t like it on me. It’s a patchouli bomb on me, with a sharp screechiness to the topnotes and a muddy indistinctness to the floral notes. I wore it every day for about two weeks in 2011, connecting with a character I was writing whose signature scent it was. (Would it surprise you to find that I took an intense dislike to the character and stalled out on writing her story?) Continue reading Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US, part I of the mini-reviews