Mini-Reviews Roundup, Feb. 2017

Le Galion La Rose – a 2014 reorchestration of a 1950 fragrance, La Rose is not the soliflore I’d thought it would be. It is warm and woody, and yes, rosy. Very attractive, comfortable, pleasant; more interesting than a plain rosewater scent but I find it quite comforting.

Head notes | Bergamot, Violet Leaf
Heart notes | Rose, Ylang Ylang, Water Peach, Royal Lily
Base notes | Cedar, Patchouli, Vanilla, Musk

I have no idea what “water peach” is, but La Rose doesn’t accent any peachy notes. It’s not particularly vanilla-y either, which is refreshing. I mean, a gourmandy rose-vanilla is always nice (Rochas Tocade, Lush Rose Jam, Montale White Aoud, etc., etc.), but this one is mainly fresh pink rose and soft woods. Very lovely. Lasting power is about average for an eau de parfum on me, 4-5 hours, and the sillage is mild to moderate. €140 for 100ml, €9 for a 6.5ml mini at the Le Galion website.

Short reviews at What Men Should Smell Like and Colognoisseur.

Dame Perfumery Desert Rose – A bit of overlap here with the Le Galion, but… you know. Rose. Duh. I’m always a sucker.

Dame Perfumery says this about it: “A blend of Turkish rose otto and Damascenia Rose with touches of peach, Sicilian lemon, Egyptian jasmine, geranium, carnation, heliotrope, sandalwood, musk, amber and vanilla.  For a woman, mostly.”

I suppose in my mind, a desert rose would be dry, but Desert Rose is quite pleasantly fresh and dewy, at least for the first half. I was thinking that “Damascenia Rose” was a typo, since I had only ever seen it written “damascena.” Turns out that Damascenia is a Firminich molecule. Whatever it is, it’s really pretty in this fragrance, which does smell fairly natural. I get little touches of peach in it, as well as carnation, but as it wears on, the whole thing goes a bit soapy. $85 for 100ml edp spray, $35 for 10ml oil rollerball, $10 for $5ml edp spray.

Short reviews at The Scented Hound and Scent of Abricots.

The fancy engraved bell jar, which is even pricier than the regular $300 one.

Serge Lutens De Profundis – I had only a vague memory of testing this one before — you know me, not the biggest Serge Fangrrl — and wanted to retry it. I am completely ignoring the wacko Serge description (death, chrysanthemums, carnality at the graveside ew ew ew, no, I’m not quoting it here) and the letter Oscar Wilde wrote to his bosom buddy Lord Alfred Douglas from prison, which is the purported inspiration for the fragrance. And maybe the Fleurs du Mal Baudelaire reference too.

To be honest, the backstory put me off trying the fragrance seriously for a long time. Instead, I have focused on the “Out of the deep” movement from John Rutter’s Requiem. The Rutter is one of my favorite choral pieces, and it is somber and gorgeous and ethereal. And then there’s the J.S. Bach setting of Psalm 130, also wonderful. (FYI, there are two Bach settings of this text, and it’s not Cantata BWV 131 but BWV 38 that I remember.)

“Life!” by Mohan Nellore at Flickr, some rights reserved.

De Profundis the fragrance does not move me the way the Rutter does, but it is very very pretty. Yes, I just called a Lutens “pretty,” and I’m not takin’ it back. It’s pretty, y’all. Shaddup. It is both bold and tender at the same time, quite floral and cool and meditative, and while that may be because I don’t associate any particular flower with funerals, still. I like chrysanthemums in flower, and I like them in this fragrance along with the carnation and the violets and the incense.

I could wish for better projection and longevity from this one, at least from a heftily-dabbed sample. Maybe it’s better with a spray application, but I got about three hours’ wear and very little sillage.

De Profundis will run you $300 for a 75ml bell jar at the Serge Lutens website.  (Ow. And that’s for the plain one, so nope.)

Other reviews: Grain de Musc, Kafkaesque, Bois de Jasmin, Scents of Self, Patty at Perfume Posse.

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Mini-review Roundup, January 24, 2017

I always forget how much fun it is to do mini-reviews! I should do more of them.

Masque Milano Romanza: Okay, so you know I love me some narcissus, right? Oh, how I do love it. PdN Le Temps d’une Fete is still my favorite narcissus scent (not to mention, probably favorite scent of all time. OF ALL TIME, y’all), but I’m always looking for another narcissus scent. So then this Masque thingie showed up on the fumie blogs and I had to sample.

Narcissus poeticus

It’s pretty great, actually. The first five minutes it’s all drrrty intoxicating narcissus and a whap of something aromatic and bitter, and then that animalic stuff recedes to a lovely floral – narcissus and jasmine with green leaves. After that, the scent dwindles gradually to a vetiver-cedar base, very pleasant.  The drydown sticks around for the bulk of the time the scent’s on my skin, but that’s not the part I love, so this will never be a replacement for LTdF. All the same, it’s very good.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Natura Fabularis Tenebrae 26: Somebody I know from a fragrance split group offered a bottle split of several of L’Artisan’s Natura Fabularis (“Nature Mythology,” according to three different Latin-to-English online translators). Tenebrae was the one that seized my attention for some reason, and although the split didn’t work out — not enough takers, I think — I decided to sample it.

I was expecting something like this. (Image by Melurinn at DeviantArt; click through to follow link.)

This is not at all my usual sort of thing, of course. But something about the description, “a ‘dense and dark forest’ with incense, resins and sap,” just whispered that I needed to try it. Tenebrae means “shadows,” and I guess I was in a shadowy sort of mood, maybe. At this remove, I don’t remember.

So is it dark and dense? Is it foresty, shadowy, a David Lynch movie in a bottle? Nope. There’s enough vetiver and dry cedar in here that it comes off being quite light and dry and pleasant. The incense is prominent. Forest? Sap? Not so much. This reminds me a good bit of CdG Incense: Zagorsk, which I like. Good stuff. The juice is sort of light bluish-green, which I also like. It lasted for a good five hours on my skin, a big surprise for something that wears this lightly.

Serge Lutens Cèdre: this is the Serge that’s famous for its name being all Le Labo-misdirectiony, as in “Where’s the cedar? This is all tuberose!” (or amber, depending on who’s reviewing it). It’s also famous for being, and I’m quoting more than one person here, weird. I blew it off for a long time, but I finally broke down and got a sample, so I could check my opinion against everybody else’s.

Not that anybody is talking about Cedre these days. It’s one of the older scents in the Lutens stables, yet not a classic, so people forget about it. The official notes are cedar, tuberose, cinnamon, honey, musk and amber.

I put a dab of this thing on my left hand, and then I burst out laughing. Because, yes, it’s weird. It’s got some seeeeerious menthol going on the first two minutes, almost as minty as Tubereuse Criminelle, and then the next thought I have is, Hey, this is like the early blueprint for Memoir Woman: weird mint-spice thing, big white floral thing, cat-butt musk and leather.  I love Memoir Woman, which has Almost Too Much, including a bizarrely medicinal opening, going on for its own good.

Twenty minutes later, the honey is coming to the forefront of Cedre and the whole thing is getting softer and sweeter, muskier and cat-furrier. It’s less weird, though I would not call it conventional by any stretch of the imagination. And yes, there is (eventually) cedar in here, although I’m still getting a very caramelly-buttery tuberose all the way to the bottom. Good 4.5-hour sticking power, not much waft, but that might be the fault of applying from a dab sample. Four hours is a pretty good EdP ride for me and my scent-eating skin; your mileage may vary.

This is kinda nice. It’s got way less teeth than Memoir Woman, though, so I think I’m finding it a little tame. (inorite? In 2009 I’d have probably run screaming from it found it too weird to wear, but now I’m all blasé and claiming it’s not teethy enough for me. Heh.)

Tested anything new to you lately?

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More Serge testing

Un Bois Vanille Serge Lutens for women

This is the latest round of Serge Lutens testing, with results as follows. Blue, I love. Pink, I like. Orange, I’m neutral on. Green, I dislike. Purple, I despise. Beyond La Myrrhe, there’s not a single SL fragrance that I am dying to own – so far, anyway.

Daim Blonde – opens up very, verynicely – apricot jam and a bit of jasmine, and I can smell the suede note too. Unfortunately, it spends about an hour and a half smelling like shaving cream amber, which is a definite no-go for me, before settling for a light woody-suede drydown. I’m waffling between Like and Dislike on this one, so I think I’ll have to add a new category for “meh,” or neutral.

Douce Amere – “Bittersweet” is not usually my thing except in love stories and chocolate, so I was pleasantly surprised by Douce Amere. It’s sort of like a grown-up Caron Aimez-Moi, less floral and less girly, and since I have tired of the powdery vanilla at the bottom of Aimez-Moi while still liking the violet-anise-rose top of it, I’m finding that I enjoy Douce Amere’s stronger anise-tonka-wood accord much more.

Serge Noire – another one I was expecting to hate hate hate. I read the list of notes, and I read Kevin’s hilarious review at NST, and I just knew I was going to hate it.  (Tom at PST liked it much better.)  Well, snatch me baldheaded: I like it! I’m not sure I could actually wear the thing, but it reminds me very strongly of the opening of Memoir Woman, which I absolutely love (though I admit that without the gorgeous white floral heart, I would not like Memoir). I do actually find the whole medicinal, cold-hot, apothecary-shop cast of it very interesting, and I like smelling it. As a perfume, though, a smell to intentionally put on skin? Too weird, dude. I call it pink anyway.

Un Bois Vanille – this one’s pretty terrific, all woody and roasted and so very very comfortable.  Oddly, this is marketed to women (according to Fragrantica), but I’d call it unisex, myself.  Actually, UBV should be worn by awesomely-devoted-and-reliable men who are not exactly drop-dead sexy but very appealing anyway (Team Peeta, anyone? join me!).  Un Bois Vanille only suffers because I ran across Smell Bent One first. SB One is much spicier, not nearly as dark and roasty as UBV, but the thing is, if forced to choose, I would probably prefer spice to espresso. Especially when “spice” is $40 a bottle, and “espresso” is $180. However, if my fairy godmother wrapped a bottle of Un Bois Vanille in sparkly blue Cinderella satin and tulle and left it on the seat of my created-from-a-pumpkin minivan, I’d certainly wear it.

This was a good bunch.   In terms of my personal absolute loves, though? Patricia de Nicolai is STILL kicking Uncle Serge’s butt, even though Uncle Serge has many, many more wares for me to choose from, and even though they vary so widely and are so inventive, for which we must give him all massive due credit.

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Tuesday Roundup: Serge Lutens Mini-reviews, Part 3

This is the latest round of Serge Lutens testing, with results as follows. Blue, I love. Pink, I like. Green, I dislike. Purple, I despise. Beyond La Myrrhe, there’s not a single SL fragrance that I am dying to own – so far, anyway.   Thanks again to everybody kind enough to send me samples… and you might have to remind me who you are, because my older emails are just buried in this insane pile…

Arabie – curry spices and amber and woods, very rich and almost edible but almost sweaty, too. I like smelling it, but not on my skin. I’d rather smell this smell in a house where I’ve been invited to dinner.

Continue reading Tuesday Roundup: Serge Lutens Mini-reviews, Part 3

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The (Side) Dish on Uncle Serge: mini-reviews, part 2

Remember my super-mini reviews of the Serge Lutens fragrances I’ve tried, and my general impression of the line, back in October? Well, I’ve had the chance to try a few more, thanks to some generous folks who sent me samples, and here’s another installment of short reviews. I found some I rather like, one I’d probably buy if I were rolling in cash (I’m not), and another couple I don’t like, which is about par for me with regard to the Lutens line. The ones highlighted in pink, I like. The ones in green, I vaguely dislike but don’t hate. There are no highlighted-in-purple Kill.Me.Now hate-and-despise fragrances in this set, thank goodness.

Vitriol d’Oeillet (sample from Tammy)

Angry Carnation” doesn’t seem to apply to this at all. For one thing, there’s little to no floral aspect: no fresh green, no creamy ylang, no dewy petals. There is a bare hint of clove, a lot of pepper, some geranium, some rose, and a lot of wood. Drrrrry. Add in some coumarin, but I do not really get the creaminess some reviewers mention.

If I may be sacrilegious for a moment, what this reminds me of is a drier Old Spice. The aftershave, mind you, because there’s more than a hint of shaving cream to Vitriol d’Oeillet (argh, the thought of splashing something called Vitriol on one’s face!). Vd’O may be, and probably is, made with good ingredients, while I notice that Old Spice doesn’t smell much like its old self these days. When I was a child, I could count on chipping in some pennies to help buy Dad an Old Spice gift set (some combination of aftershave, cologne, deodorant, or soap-on-a-rope), and I smelled it for years on him. Probably a decade ago, he gave it up. It didn’t smell right to him, and he stopped wearing cologne at all.

The consternation most reviewers seem to feel concerning Vitriol d’Oeillet seems not to be due to disgust; rather, the complaint seems to be boredom. Vd’O smells okay to me – nice, even – and if I were able to score some at a considerable discount, I’d probably buy it for my dad. Smelling Vd’O on my wrist, I’m transported back to the Father’s Days of my childhood, leaning in to give my father a hug after he’d opened the obligatory box of Old Spice and dabbed on a little cologne. For that reason, I probably like it more than I ought to.

Now, if only I could get Angry Carnation at Old Spice prices…

Chene (sample from Julie)

Now, this I like. A lot. It is extremely dry and on the verge of astringent, but I rather like it. It’s rather linear, with an attractive oak wood note and the (apparently obligatory) Lutensian cedar, which I’ll also admit to liking most of the time.

At the same time, I can’t help being sort of bored by it. It feels like a very tiny piece of, say, Sonoma Scent Studio’s lovely To Dream, of which my favorite part was the fleeting, uplifting whiff of oakwood. Chene smells mostly the same all the way through to me, with a bit of citrus up top and a hint of tonka bean, perhaps, in the base. Chene would probably make a great layer when one wanted to add a dry, unsmoky woody cast to something else.

Again, I like it a lot. But I don’t think I need it.

Fleurs de Citronnier (sample from Odonata)

Awwwwwwful. I might have known I wouldn’t like this, but I tried it anyway. It’s all fake lemon, screechy indeterminate white florals, and hissy laundry musk. I smell like Mr. Clean. HATE. P:TG, which I did not consult until after testing, calls it a “failed cologne.” There you go, more confirmation that I wouldn’t like it: I don’t even like good cologne. Eventually, after a couple of hours, it gets more vaguely floral and less hissy, but I still don’t like it.   Awwwwwful.

Ambre Sultan (sample from Sharon)

Minute one: Sweet, waaaay sweeeeet. Caramel syrup.

Minute two: There is a honkin’ ton of patchouli in this.

Minute four: Getting more interesting, with a dusty, almost burnt quality.

Minute six: Whoa, where are all these herbs coming from?

Minutes eleven through fifteen: Waitaminnit. Why do I smell Play-doh??

Minute sixteen through hour three: Sweet vanilla-amber.

Overall? Eh. I don’t hate it. I wouldn’t go out of my way to wear it, either.  In fact, if you offered me a bottle free of charge, I’d turn it down.

Fleurs d’Oranger (sample from Sharon)

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this. For one thing, I hardly ever get on well with orange blossom – it so often goes soapy on me. For another, I keep hearing about how “sweaty” this thing is, with its dose of cumin. However, I’m probably not as susceptible to cumin as a lot of people are, given my enjoyment of cuminy Amaranthine, Dolce Vita, and modern Rochas Femme. I barely smelled any cumin in Fd’O at all. (Elisa suggests that the sample I have may be the reformulated, less-cuminy version. Could very well be.)

Also, this scent is not straight-up orange blossom. Almost from the first minute, I smelled jasmine – a big rich French-style jasmine, not the tropical kind. Ten minutes in, the tuberose peeked out, and I relaxed. Oh, yes, sweet white florals bein’ all friendly, just my style. At this point, The CEO walked by and said, “Oh, that’s nice. Very floral. I like florals on you.”

Bottom line? I like it. I don’t like it more than, say, Kate Spade’s original and now unobtainable white floral scent, or that Cristina Bertrand #3 scent, another mixed white floral. I don’t think I’d pay Serge prices for it, what with that big bottle of Cristina Bertrand (eBay, $12 including shipping) in my cabinet, but Fd’O is really lovely.

Datura Noir (sample from Sharon)

Now, this one I expected to like – and I do. A white-floral-oriental? Yep. That particular alley in my Perfume Town is always free of obstructions. Just back that semi up to the warehouse, Mack. The general effect is tuberose and vanilla-lemon pound cake, and it is some radiant stuff. One spritz on the back of my left hand stuck with me for five hours, creating some nice sillage. It’s heady and luxuriant as some magical flowering jungle that might come and eat your house while you’re asleep… so you’d better watch out.

I think there may be some coconut in this, come to think of it. Maybe it’s Five-Flavor Pound Cake (vanilla, lemon, almond, coconut and butter flavorings) instead of just vanilla-lemon. After testing, I checked Perfumes: The Guide just to see, and its review mentions cherry/heliotrope. I’m not sure I get cherry, but almond definitely. I know cherry and almond go together; frequently I get “cherry” out of some fragrances that many people would call “almond,” but this time it went the other way around for me, almond instead of cherry.

I like it a lot. If a bottle appeared in my Christmas stocking, I’d wear it. Again, I haven’t found a Serge other than La Myrrhe that I’d consider selling my kidneys to get, but if I had the discretionary spending level of, for example, Melinda Gates, I’d probably buy this. When my Vamp a NY decant, and my bottle of Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur go dry, I might have to consider Datura Noir.

Fumerie Turque (sample also from Sharon – I think)

I tried this on a chilly Saturday while waiting for the town Christmas parade to come by. The parade start time was delayed by the passage of a train, so I had plenty of time to watch my sons run around and be silly, and plenty of time to sniff my wrist.

I’m still not sure what’s going on with this one. Right at the beginning, it’s really dirty-smelling under the sweet tobacco, which is delightfully rich. The effect is animal butt covered in caramel: whoa. My first thought was that there is a spectacularly filthy musk in FT, but now I’m wondering if it’s the honey. I’m not all that experienced with honey-containing fragrances.

People talk about this one being both smoky and richly sweet, but I didn’t smell much smoke. I tend to be sensitive to smoky notes, often finding Shalimar unbearably smoky and smelling smoke in things that aren’t supposed to contain that effect. Even Tocade has become too smoky for me. But this? No smoke. Animal butt and sweet gingerbread, that’s it.

I like FT. The filthy angle pretty much guarantees that I wouldn’t wear it much, but I’d put it in the “like” box.

There will be more Lutens mini-reviews to come. My deep thanks to everyone who so kindly sent me Serge samples. (And I promise to get you some samples in return! I promise!)

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Lutens Love?

Photo by JC.
The fragrance house of Serge Lutens may be the most generally-admired among the fragrance community.  You could make a case for Guerlain (or Creed, if you’ve been reading at Basenotes) being that house, but overall, I think there’s been a great deal of adulation pitched in Mr. Lutens’ direction.

There’s been some blame, too, though that seems to have subsided from the peak of indignation about the time that L’Eau Serge Lutens, a super-clean fragrance purporting to smell like a freshly-ironed shirt, was released in 2010, to the horror of many a perfume blogger.  “Serge has sold out!  ‘Clean’ rules us all now!  Perfume is going straight to hell!  I might as well take my toys and go home!”   Mind you, I’m not making fun of those horrified bloggers.  I do hate the idea that fine fragrance is going the way of the laundromat, and anything distinctive and startling – like the quintessential Serge Lutens fragrances – are frowned upon by the public at large.  I hate the idea that any fragrance that doesn’t smell “fresh and clean” might disappear from the face of the earth. 

But I did get the impression, reading various perfume blogs and comments on the fragrance forums (Makeup Alley, Basenotes, Fragrantica), that Serge Lutens was the End-All and Be-All of the scented world, the perfect modern iconoclastic perfume house.  Over and over again I read:  Iris Silver Mist is the best iris fragranceChergui is the best tobacco/honey/amber fragranceBois de Violette is the most perfectly balanced woody floralMuscs Koublai Khan is the musk to top all musksAmbre Sultan is the best amber fragrance ever.  So every time I’ve gotten the opportunity to test a Serge Lutens fragrance, I’ve done so.  For me, that often means buying samples, or begging samples from friends, since there’s no SL distributor anywhere within several hours’ drive of where I live.  The results have been very, very mixed.  

Image from Fragrantica.com.

I absolutely adored La Myrrhe from first sniff of my sample – the first Lutens I got my hands on.  I often see reviews of it that call it “medicinal,” “cold,” and “inexplicable,” but right from the beginning I loved its glowing, scintillating, light-filled quality and the incredible sense of  introspection and peace and comfort I feel when I wear it.   I saved pennies for a 2ml decant.  Then I saved for another one, and waited for a 20% off sale at the decanter.  I now own about 25 milliliters of it, and I cherish every drop.  I wear it when I really, really need a hug but can’t flop on the couch in lounge pants, with an enormous latte, some shortbread, and a favorite paperback.    I wore it to my grandmother’s funeral this past December, and it was such a reminder of inner quiet and strength and beauty. It lifted my eyes.

I was surprised to find, when testing other Serge Lutens fragrances, that I didn’t have strong feelings about most of them.  I loved La Myrrhe, and a few others I despised,  but by and large, I was emotionally unmoved.  It still strikes me as odd that I don’t have more of a love-hate reaction to most of the scents, because they are indeed often described as odd and unpredictable, with twists that make them intriguing and unique among all the J’Adores and Cashmere Mists and Clean fragrances of the world.  It is possible, however, that I haven’t tried enough of the ones that have what people tend to call the “signature Lutens stewed fruit accord.”  Because I’ve had to seek out samples, I lack familiarity with much of the line, and the scents I’ve chosen to sample have tended to be the less polarizing ones.

Here are super-miniature reviews of the Lutens scents I have tried:  Pink, I vaguely like.  Green, I vaguely dislike.  Purple, I hate and despise to the depths of my being.

Bas de Soie – a hyacinth made of aluminum.  In a lab.  Chilly.  Made my back teeth hurt, and yet I did not hate it.
Bois de Violette – neither enough woods nor enough violet for my taste.  Ehh.  I don’t get the reason Luca Turin loves it so much.
Borneo 1834 – Patchouli chocolate. Kill. Me. Now.
Chergui – tobacco, honey, spices and the musty smell of old people’s houses that my grandmother used to drag me to for visits when I was a kid.  Just to the left of Just Right – it goes wrong enough that I can’t wear it because it makes me angry.
Clair de Musc – clean, soft, pretty, boring.  I’d rather have Jovan Musk for Women.  Especially at the price.
El Attarine – La Myrrhe with fruit and wood, and therefore all the clear white light of LM is smudgy.  Not bad, but not my favorite.
Feminite de Bois – nice.  I’d rather have my old Dolce Vita, though – it’s happier.
Gris Clair – another Kill. Me. Now. Lavender nightmare of unending depression.  Eeyore in a bottle.  I had to scrub it off before I decided to end it all and put my head in the oven.  (Luckily, I did remember that I have an electric oven.  And the Tide+unscented deodorant worked.)
Iris Silver Mist – carrots and gray iris. I like it and find it cheerful rather than austere, but it isn’t love.  This is the icy goddess of iris?  Nope.  Iris n’ Carrots, two nice little pigtailed girls playing  “Miss Mary Mack.”
Louve – cherry cough syrup/baby powder.  I recoiled.  I gritted my teeth for 50 minutes before scrubbing.  WTH did they bottle this for? Could successfully be used to torture me.
Nuit de Cellophane – nice.  Forgettable.  When this one was released, when I was still pretty new at this sniffery deal, I was puzzled at how annoyed all the bloggers were with a “pretty” Serge fragrance.   Now I see the point: sure, it’s nice.  But so is J’Adore L’Absolu.  “Nice flowers” has been Done.
Rahat Loukoumseriously? AlmondrosecherryPlay-doh weird.
Rose de Nuit – squeaky rose/geranium with galbanum chewy as dried-up marshmallows.  A Mean Girl.  Smells like one of those glittery-eyed fake smiles that really means, “I’m only biding my time until I can crush your ovaries in my hand.” 
Sa Majeste La Rose  – nice. Pleasant. Pretty.  Upscale version of Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose.  I don’t need it.
Sarrasins – super-indolic jasmine and… wait.  My brain just exploded.  I can’t figure it out.  However, I don’t really want to try to figure it out.   Poop, jasmine, and something that smells like skin?  Wait, my brain just exploded again.
Tubereuse Criminelle – Menthol cough drop + rotting raw chicken of death, followed by sweet pretty tuberose.  NO.  NO NO NO.  Gah.  Kill. Me. Now.
Un Lys – nice.  Forgettable. I much prefer DK Gold, or even FM Lys Med.

And recently tried Jeux de Peau – gave me the giggles and made me hungry by smelling like slightly-burnt palmier pastries drizzled with butter and maple syrup, before settling into this really nice sandalwood.  It’s clever and amusing and intelligent, and if it were priced like a Smell Bent (where it would fit right in), I’d buy it and wear it, no matter if people wondered where the French toast smell was coming from.  At Lutensian prices, I think I’ll give it a pass.  Also, Gaze said he liked the way it smelled, but it gave him an instant headache.

Photo by MS.
The ones I haven’t tried:  Blue, I’d like to try.  Orange, I’ll give it a fair trial.  Brown,I’m not looking forward to.

A La Nuit – not promising, because I’m not much of a jasmine fan.  This is the “death by jasmine” one.
Ambre Sultan – the herbs and patchouli make me very very wary.
Arabie – I can only take curry in very small quantities.  I’m skeered.
Bois et Fruits – I might like this a lot, as in my imagination it’s a bit like Mauboussin.  OTOH, I already own some Mauboussin.
Bois et Musc – I have a feeling this will bore me.
Bois Oriental – Sounds boring to me too.
Boxeuses – I’m intrigued.  Could be good.
Cedre – I love tuberose.  Tuberose-wood sounds a bit dodgy, but I’d still like to try this.
Chene – might be too dry and/or masculine for me, but I’d like to smell.
Chypre Rougenothing about this one sounds nice to me.
Cuir Mauresque – not a big leather fan, either.  I love Cuir de Lancome, but that’s Leather for Wimps.  Hated Cuir de Russie.
Daim Blond – I have a sample and will definitely try.  I like apricot, and I like my leather soft.
Datura Noir – BWF fan that I am, this one might work, though it could possibly go too sweet.
De Profundis – I’m not encouraged.  “Earthy and chrysanthemum-y” doesn’t appeal.
Douce Amere – I like anise, but I dunno about this.

Funny... it LOOKS harmless. "Lavender flower" from types-of-flowers.org.

Encens et Lavande – I have a sample of this too, but I’m betting that it’ll try to throttle me within the first six minutes.  I hate lavender. (Or it hates me – instant migraine.  Just yesterday, I tested Azzaro Pour Homme, and while it smells pretty darn good, and kinda sexy even, the lavender immediately rose up and tried to smash my head with a rock.)
Fille en Aiguilles – not impressed by pine, and not a huge incense fan either.  Doesn’t sound to my taste.
Five o’Clock au Gingembre – could be good, with tea and candied ginger.  Would like to sample.
Fleurs d’Oranger – I might have a sample of this lying around.  The cumin alarms me, especially in the context of orange blossom, since I’m not generally a fan of OB either.
Fleurs de Citronnier – neroli, iris, and musk?  Probably not going to suit me.
Fourreau NoirPatty from Perfume Posse calls this “Lavender Pancake Syrup with Hookah.”  SO not me.
Fumerie Turque – another possible winner, though it might go too masculine.
L’Eau Serge Lutens – not even gonna bother. 
Mandarine Mandarin  – nothing in the notes appeals.  That said, nothing in the notes doesn’t appeal, so maybe.
Miel de Bois – I predict urinous disaster.
Muscs Koublai Khan – I predict hairy-man-sweat disaster.
Rousse – a possibility.  I like Red Hots.
Santal Blanc – another “might be good.”
Santal de Mysore – woody rum cask?  I’m leery.
Serge Noire – go read Kevin’s review at Now Smell This.  Be amused and repulsed at the same time.  Now try to get past it to try Serge Noire with a fresh nose.  (I can’t.)
Un Bois Sepia – cedar, vetiver, patchouli, and sandalwood?   I’m not enticed; in fact, I’m a little repelled, just from the description.
Un Bois Vanille – if it’s anything like the sweet-woody bits of Smell Bent One, I’ll probably like it, but I can’t imagine needing to own it since I already have a bottle of One.
Vetiver Oriental – y’all know I don’t care much for vetiver.  I predict celery disaster.
Vitriol d’Oeillet – could be good.  Could be dreadful.  My standards for carnation fragrances are very high (DSH Oeillets Rouges and Floris Malmaison).

Photo by NH.
If you’d like to read the results of my recent poll on feelings toward the house of Serge Lutens, click here.  The comments are enlightening as well, since many people spelled out which scents they liked.   An informal request for comments among some Facebook perfume friends revealed that similarly, there were quite a few fans of the line, with many more people finding it to be hit-or-miss for them.  Several people remarked that they tended to love the scents released earlier (the Bois series and ones that were described as “stewed fruit”), but haven’t liked the recent releases, with L’Eau and Nuit de Cellophanecoming in for their share of contempt.   Joe A commented that not all the fragrances work for him, but he admires the SL sensibility in making scents that are intelligent and unusual and interesting. 

I think I agree: we need more Weird-but-Wearable in the fragrance world.  I’ll quote Luca Turin in Perfumes: The Guide (yet again), in his review of Le Feu d’Issey:  “[P]erfume is, among other things, the most portable form of intelligence.”  Yes, we need more of that, please.  I think I need to try more of the early, stranger, Lutens scents.  Whatever Uncle Serge is up to lately, I’m still interested to find out…

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Coming up: The Big Dish on Uncle Serge, from my perspective

Bell jar of La Myrrhe, so far the only Serge Lutens that I truly love. Image from Fragrantica.

(It’s Elisa’s fault.  She brought up Five o’Clock au Gingembre when I was cursing my bad luck with the gingery-yet-shaving-creamy Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale.  I started talking about my general feelings about Lutens’ fragrances, going down the list of the ones I’d tried – and then realized – HEY, this’d make a great post!)

I’m doing some polls at Facebook perfume groups and Fragrantica, concerning general thoughts about Serge Lutens fragrances.

I’m doing a poll here, too.  Want to weigh in, before I post my comments on Friday afternoon?  Please do so!  Edit – HEY, if ya gotta choose “Other,” please please explain what you mean in comments.  I’d really appreciate knowing what goes on in your head with regard to the Serges.

[polldaddy poll=5579062]

Also, if you have a favorite or favorites from this house, I’d love to hear which one(s) you love.

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Tuberose Series 8: Tubéreuse Criminelle

Famous, or perhaps infamous, for its difficult opening, TC has nevertheless a devoted fan club among perfumistas: Beauty armed with a Really Big Knife.

Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle
Date released: 1999
Perfumer: Christopher Sheldrake
Sample provenance: purchased from TPC in 2009

Subcategory: Atypical (scary) green tuberose soliflore

After all the reviews I’d read, I was expecting the difficult opening. It did not disappoint in its terrifying awfulness. So how awful was it? Pretty darn bad: Vicks’ Vapo-Rub plus raw chicken (why, yes, I had recently cleaned out the fridge, how did you know?) plus chlorine. Or maybe kerosene.  Eek.

However, I have been known to suffer through some difficult openings before now, particularly with vintage scents. For example, my vintage Victoria parfum (the first Victoria’s Secret perfume, released back when the outfit had at least a vestige of class) smells almost as horrid for half an hour – think swimming pool plus maple syrup – and then settles into a very lovely fresh-floral chypre. I’ve now smelled Victoria from three different bottles, and they all have damaged topnotes, which has got to be one reason it was discontinued. The other reasons probably have to do with hot pink thongs and the proliferation of sugary-fruity smells, but I digress.

Here’s Tania Sanchez’ review of TC in PTG:
           **** Menthol Tuberose. If Ethel Merman were a floral, this would be it – loud, proud. Tuberose absolute usually contains, especially at the start, disturbing aspects of rubber and rotting meat. While most fragrances disguise or eliminate these potentially unpleasant effects, this one amplifies them: an icy blast of camphor, a salty, bloody smell, and a white floral bouquet so indolic you think it must be a mistake, getting stronger by the minute. Terrific.

And let me encourage you again to go pick up a copy of Perfumes: The Guide, or the new edition, Perfumes from A to Z. Even if you disagree with every review (you won’t), it’s a fun read, and a bargain at less than $15. It’s even fun to argue out loud with the authors when they’re wrong, despite the fact that people around you will think you’ve lost your marbles.

(Ahem. End digression number two.) Anyway, TC is this Freddy Krueger of a smell for about ten minutes, maybe fifteen, and then it develops a very, very sweet candied-floral note reminding me of Chanel No. 22 for a few minutes before the tuberose takes over. From here on out, it’s pretty much a lovely tuberose, with tiny occasional whiffs of orange blossom and cool hyacinth, until the drydown. And there’s another problem: four tests, an exhausted sample, and I have yet to actually smell the drydown. The scent development, on my skin, goes like this: a) horror movie b) tuberose floral c) GONE. The base contains styrax (benzoin), musk and vanilla, so you’d think I’d get at least a whiff of them, but nope. Nothin’. I never smell any of the spices, either, and I love spice notes. Wonder if I’m anosmic to the musk? I don’t know. Usually vanilla sticks around for ever on my skin, but not here.

In one of the review links I’ve provided below – it’s the first one, by Marina at Perfume-Smellin’-Things – the experiences of the commenters range from “all tuberose, no nasty green” to “the nasty green never went away” to “all sweetness on me.” Seems that YMMV (your mileage may vary) is especially applicable to TC, so please be aware that this fragrance may interact with your skin in unexpected ways!

Notes for TC:
Eucalyptus, camphor, jasmine, orange blossom, tuberose, hyacinth, nutmeg, clove, styrax, musk, vanilla.

I admit defeat. I get it, okay – this is Velma Kelly as Killer Babe Tuberose, all voluptuous in her green dress, packing heat and refusing to let you get too close. But all I want to know is, why? What’s the purpose of the evil opening? Thorns on a rose? Or is it more like the cowboy who always bought his boots two sizes too small, because it felt so good when he took them off?

I suppose I just don’t find Tubéreuse Criminelle all that compelling, given that there are so many alternative tuberose scents. Yes, it’s a beautiful tuberose fragrance. But if I wanted the experience of a difficult opening, since that is occasionally fun, I’d pick up something really vintage. And if I wanted a straight-up tuberose, I’d wear Fracas or Beyond Love. TC is well-made, it’s interesting, you could do a lot worse. It just strikes me as being difficult simply for the sake of being difficult, and that annoys me. (I don’t drink my coffee black, either, make of that what you will.)

The Bottom Line:
Quality           B    Clearly good-quality materials. Thematic. I can’t smell the drydown, otherwise I’d have given it an A.
Grab-scale score   3
Short description   Malicious stiletto-wielding tuberose.
Cost   $$$
Earns compliments: I don’t know. My family, at least, is pretty traumatized.
Scent presence  Slightly less than average (2 spritzes last 3-4 hours), moderate sillage.
Review Report: Marina at PST, Robin at NST, Donna at PST, Tom at PST, Bois de Jasmin, Pere de Pierre, Chicken Freak’s Obsessions.

Image of TC from fragrantica.  Center image is Tuberose Buds by Dev-Happy at flickr.  Image of Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in the film version of Chicago from imdb.com. 

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Perfume Review: Feminite de Bois and Dolce Vita

Shiseido Feminite de Bois and Dior Dolce Vita share some DNA; they may as well be sisters.  Both creations of Pierre Bourdon, with Christopher Sheldrake for Fem de Bois and with Maurice Roger for Dolce Vita, both perfumes are woody orientals focusing on cedar, seen through the prisms of fruits, florals, spices and vanilla. 

FdB was created in 1992, and then disappeared about the time that Serge Lutens left Shiseido to found his own perfume house. Partly in order to have a line of fragrances readily available for sale without starting from ground zero every time, Lutens and Sheldrake created several fragrances from the starting point of Feminite du Bois, highlighting different aspects of the original scent: Bois et Fruits, Bois de Violette, Bois et Musc, Un Bois Vanille… are there more? could we go on ad infinitum?? Never mind. FdB has been rereleased through the Lutens house, slightly reformulated.  I tested the Shiseido version, and it is a gorgeous, dark, smooth scent that cascades over the skin like plum liqueur into a glass. It has body, it is opaque, it is startlingly strong and feminine at the same time.

FdB starts out with a honeyed, spiced plum note that never really leaves. From there, it moves into a deep, rich floral-spice heart that feels like a heavy satin robe the color of blackberries. I begin to smell the cedar at this point, and it is sweetly aromatic, highlighted by rose and violet and spice. Unfortunately, two hours in, the scent all but disappears from my skin. I suspect that perhaps a musk is at fault. Five hours from application, I can smell it again – very close to the skin, but present – and it is glorious. I’m always a fan of a good rich benzoin-vanilla-woody drydown, and this one is rich and robust. I cannot wear FdB without thinking of a shadowy paneled room in the evening, with a fire that has gone to coals in the fireplace.

Dolce Vita, on the other hand, was released by Dior in 1994. Bourdon won the brief for a new Dior fragrance, having submitted an early draft of Feminite du Bois. (I somehow wonder if that was embarrassing, or whether it might have been vindication that Here Is a Great Smell.) Dolce Vita was at one time unavailable in the US, but is apparently available again. Perfumista friends say that it has been reformulated and is much thinner; my own bottle of edp is older. I also own a tiny bottle of parfum, which is amazingly rich.  Please ignore the fruity floral Eau de Dolce Vita – I’m sure it’s nice enough, but it’s a totally different scent.

Dolce Vita, in contrast to the soft deep texture of FdB, sparkles off the skin with bright tangy fruit and the heady spiciness of lily. Instead of curried stewed fruit, I experience the fizz and sweetness of a bellini. DV’s heart is a floral-spice as well, and I seem to smell carnation as well as the lily and magnolia notes listed.   I begin to smell cedar and sandalwood (a bright, almost floral woody note – perhaps it is Australian sandalwood?) along with the florals. I do not smell the listed coconut, but the drydown is sweeter and less rich than in FdB, with heliotrope softly lingering on my skin with the woods. The texture here is not the satin-smoothness of FdB, but a rather pleasing irregularity, possibly like shantung. I cannot wear DV without thinking of a sunlit autumn afternoon, and I find that I prefer its golden, sunny disposition to the melancholy of Feminite du Bois.

Notes for Shiseido Feminite de Bois, from fragrantica.com:
Top: honey, carnation, ginger, cinnamon, cedar, rose
Heart: orange blossom, plum, peach, violet, beeswax, cloves, cardamom
Base: sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, benzoin, vanilla, atlas cedar


Notes for Dior Dolce Vita, also from fragrantica:
Top: lily, peach, bergamot, grapefruit, rose, cardamom
Heart: apricot, magnolia, lily, cinnamon, heliotrope
Base: sandalwood, vanilla, coconut, atlas cedar

Images, from top to bottom: forest shadows by AsAutumnDies; golden light by ..Peter…is back; both from flickr.
Shiseido Feminite du Bois and Dior Dolce Vita photos from fragrantica.

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Perfume Review: Serge Lutens La Myrrhe, Or, Healing in a Bottle

Serge Lutens’ La Myrrhe was one of the handful of fragrances given five stars in the book Perfumes: The Guide (Turin/Sanchez), so I decided to wangle a sample of it from The Perfumed Court and at least give it a sniff.

Frequently I am perplexed by the scents that Turin and Sanchez rate as outstanding. There are several Estee Lauder fragrances that received five stars, and I don’t like any of them. I don’t like them, as in, “If you’re TRYING to kill me, go ahead and put Beyond Paradise on my skin!” There seems to be a common base to the Lauder scents – Lauderade? – as there is to many of the classic Guerlains and Carons, and to Ormonde Jayne and Tauer perfumes, and the Lauder base absolutely nauseates me. More on P:TG and the Lauder scents in another post, but I will point out that often Turin and Sanchez are absolutely on the money with their ratings. This is such a case, in my opinion.

La Myrrhe is, to put it plainly, beautiful. It seems rather simple to me in terms of structure: aldehydes, mandarin, anise, and myrrh. That’s all, although the list of notes is considerably longer. But simplicity and quality materials can add up to pure gorgeousness, when all the pieces dovetail. And they do dovetail here, at the crossroads where the clean klieg lights of aldehydes, the angularity of anise, and the medicinal spiciness of myrrh overlap, a Venn diagram of weird loveliness. The fragrance seems all of a piece, cool and smooth as a worry stone, and I found myself at peace when wearing it.

Victoria, of Bois de Jasmin, has a lovely review of La Myrrhe here: http://boisdejasmin.typepad.com/_/2005/11/fragrance_revie_18.html

I agree with much of her analysis, including her observation that La Myrrhe may be difficult to wear. I certainly would not reach for it often. However, there is a very specific, very personal reason for me to love it, and that’s why the subtitle of this post is “Healing in a Bottle.” What La Myrrhe reminds me most of is that homely, sticky yellow stuff that came in the green-and white tin: Porter’s Liniment Salve.


I have a mostly-full 2-ounce tin in my bathroom cabinet – it’s twelve years old, minimum, and seems not to lose any efficacy with age, at least going by results. This magic stuff predates antibiotic ointment (the formula was patented in 1912), and, in my experience as an active child and as the mother of active children, actually works better. Listen to what’s in this stuff: “Chlorobutanol, cresylic acid, zinc oxide, camphor, ammonia and oils of cajeput, clove, sassafras and myrrh in a base of petrolatum, beeswax and lanolin.” Cajeput is tea tree, or melaleuca, oil, which is antiseptic and analgesic; cresylic acid is synthesized from coal tar, chemically related to creosote, with antifungal action; chlorobutanol sounds nasty but is a mild anesthetic with antifungal and antibacterial properties. Caution: the salve is rather greasy – it sticks to skin well, without stinging – and can stain clothing yellow.

I repeat the list of odorous ingredients: camphor, creosote, ammonia, cajeput, clove, sassafras, myrrh, beeswax and lanolin. These are not exactly quiet smells. They proclaim loudly that they are about their medicinal business, fighting the good fight against bacteria and disease.

The combination was one of the most distinctive smells of my childhood – and one frequently smelled, too. (I fell down a lot.) Mom often anointed me with Porter’s, topping it with a Band-Aid and a kiss before proclaiming me Good As New. Smelling Porter’s makes me feel loved, tended, and healed, a deeply emotional experience.

I may therefore be one of the few people in the world who can actually enjoy wearing La Myrrhe. Commenters at other perfume blogs and forums often point out that it is a cold fragrance, with no warm amber or fuzzy fruit to set off its marbled perfection, that to many of them it smells painfully medicinal, and also that it seems more an artistic exercise than a full, rounded perfume with its own story. They may be right. But to me, La Myrrhe has such a striking resemblance to the “good parts” of Porter’s Liniment Salve that I begin to think I need a decant, for days when I feel bruised and scraped by the world, and in need of a mother’s kiss.
Notes for La Myrrhe: aldehydes, mandarin, myrrh, lotus, anise, bitter almond, sandalwood, honey, jasmine, amber, musk, various spices, pimento (Yes, it does actually contain amber, but it is a rather dry type as opposed to a sweet, warm type.)

Photo of myrrh from flickr, some rights reserved; photo of Porter’s Liniment Salve from lehmans.com.

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