The Five-Stars, Pt. 2 – According To Me

61_1_blue-ribbon-perfect-logoOkay, my turn to give out the Best in Show blue ribbons.

It’s almost a guarantee that I’ll leave something out. It’s just going to happen; I already know it’s going to happen. Oh well. But here goes.

I do have some overlap with the P:TG five-stars. There are a few on my list that received short shrift from the Guide authors. Some weren’t reviewed at all; they were not in production at the time of writing (either discontinued, or not yet released), or they were available only from indie perfumers and not widely available.

I’ll point out here that “best” does not necessarily mean “favorite.” I’ve commented before that I can find something admirable without really loving it. Conversely, I can love something all to little-bitty pieces without needing to say it’s the best evarrr.  My favorite Beatles song, for example, is and will always be “Here Comes the Sun,” but I wouldn’t say it was the best musically. Or lyrically. Or most representative, most distinctive, most necessary to the history of Western music. In fact, I could make a pretty good case that the best-of-the-Beatles wouldn’t include it. I’ll try to keep those strictly-personal favorites off the list.

What’s on the list will be fragrances I think are distinctive, have a defined character, have endured, are classics, and can transport the wearer. Feel free to argue that I left something off, or included something unworthy… it’s my list, not THE list. 🙂 Items in red were not given five stars in P:TG, just by me.

Chanel No. 5 parfum and eau de toilette – like the Parthenon in a shade of creamy gold, amazing stuff, proportions just right. The EdP has something in it that raises my hackles; don’t know what it is but I wind up scrubbing an hour in, every time I try it.

Chanel No. 19 – forget that “wire mother” nonsense and see 19 for the Amazonian earth-witch that she is. Plenty of backbone, yes – lack of heart, no.

Dior Eau Sauvage – Remington Steele in a bottle. ‘Nuff said.

Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower – Robbed of a deserved star in The Guide, IMO. I suspect that someone felt it’s too copycat or perhaps not groundbreaking enough, or isn’t as good as Fracas. Bosh, I say. Fracas is amazing, and so is Carnal Flower, in a lastingly-fresh and green vein rather than the boudoiresque Fracas. It has plenty of personality and lasts for hours.

Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel – Jimmy Stewart in a bottle, ’nuff said.

Guerlain Apres l’Ondee – Impressionist perfection in periwinkle, blue and lavender shades. There’s nothing else like it.

Guerlain Chamade – like falling in love with someone you hardly noticed when you first met.

Guerlain L’Heure Bleue – One of a handful of classic Guerlain masterpieces I don’t personally love.

Guerlain Mitsouko – an autumn symphony. Another Guerlain masterpiece I don’t love.

Guerlain Shalimar – see L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko.

Jean Patou Joy parfum – if No. 5 is the Parthenon, Joy is the beautiful woman who just completed a tryst with her lover inside it. Raunchy, but gorgeous.

Neela Vermeire Trayee – All three of the first releases from Neela Vermeire (which came into existence in 2011) are wonderful, striking, and distinctive, but Trayee is as mesmerizing as staring at a burning candle.

Parfums de Nicolaï Odalisque – that elusive thing, an irisy floral chypre that doesn’t seem bent on slipping a shiv between your ribs.

Parfums MDCI Enlèvement au Sérail – see Joy.

Parfums MDCI Promesse de l’Aube – as lovely as the dawn in its name.

Parfums MDCI Rose de Siwa – a straight-up rose/peony bouquet that despite its lack of originality, smells so gorgeous and perfect and enticing that it makes people sigh in sheer happiness. (Suck it, rose haters. Go peddle your “but it smells like a bouquet!” elsewhere, we’re all full up on delight here.)

Robert Piguet Fracas – Fracas is the queen, no doubt about it.

Serge Lutens La Myrrhe – Unmistakable, solid, and glorious. The only Serge that seems to get out of its own way and simply exist in beauty without worrying about its artsy quotient.

Tauer Perfumes L’Air du Désert Marocain – nice. Distinctive, unlike anything else. Doesn’t move me, but it’s great.

Teo Cabanel Alahine – A floral amber of great personality and enough complexity to keep you paying attention to it, while also being comfortable and lovely. (Teo Cabanel started production in 2007, which might have kept it out of The Guide.)

Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl – yeah, yeah, stop complaining about it already. It’s good. It’s absolutely identifiable, and it’s never inappropriate.

I’m going to cheat and add a few fragrances that are no longer in production.

Gucci L’Arte di Gucci – the diva rose chypre in mink, carrying an absolute armful of deep pink roses (Pink Traviata hybrid tea, if I’m being specific to color) and sweeping through the room irrespective of other people in it. Seriously, this thing is Kathleen Battle – definitely temperamental, with a dark streak in her mood, but so gorgeous in the high notes that you almost don’t care. Discontinued sometime in 2006 or -07.

Jacomo Silences – cool, smooth and introspective. Silver-green, blue-purple, rose-pink, and moss-green, the most meditative non-incense fragrance I’ve run across. My preference is for the older parfum de toilette, which is more strongly floral than the most recent eau de toilette version, which is drier and more focused on vetiver, iris and moss. It’s a wishing well in a forest glade, a pair of swans gliding across a glassy lake. Rereleased as Silences Eau de Parfum Sublime in 2013 (nice stuff, smells like it could have been chosen as a No. 19 flanker), and then the original was axed in 2015. Shame.

Jean Patou Vacances – Gorgeous springy green with lilac and hyacinth, as green as it is floral, utterly tender and delicate. Nothing has ever matched it (except maybe Apres l’Ondee). I never smelled the original, only the Ma Collection version released in the 1980s, which was perfect. Reworked into a perfectly nice, dull, lilac-floral-musk in 2015.

Soivohle Centennial – The entire catalog at Soivohle has been revamped in the past year, and this gorgeous recreation of a classic floral chypre disappeared. If Mitsouko was a “perfected Chypre,” this is perfected Mitsouko – no floor wax, no moldy peach, no stabby fingernails, but a seamless and beautiful floral with plenty of backbone and plenty of resinous depth.

Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps d’une Fete – It was in production during the writing of The Guide. The bottle I bought in 2012, after draining a 1-ounce bottle of the 2007 version, was thinner and more weighted towards the pretty florals, away from the woody-mossy base. Then PdN announced that it would only be available upon request, and I snapped up another bottle of it via Luckyscent, only to find that it had been thinned still further. This version still smells like Le Temps d’une Fete, but wears like an eau fraiche. The original was amazing and gorgeous, unlike anything else. I contacted PdN by email in November of 2015 and asked if this scent was available for purchase, but was told that it had been discontinued. I could have cried.

Ralph Lauren Safari for Women – apparently this went out of production, and then came back in. The current version is thinner, less mossy-ambery and lasts less long, but I think it’s still good; the older version is five stars for sure. This is the warmest green I know, and one of the few commercial fragrances that smells like hay drying in the field, as opposed to earthy, fermented hay in a barn. It’s drying grass, polished wood, and an unsweetened vanilla (well, okay, and a bunch of other things including marigold, rose and jasmine, and moss), and manages to be formal and elegant while staying unfussy, like a pristine white tablecloth.

What overlooked marvel would make your five-star list?

Share

The Five-Stars, Pt. 1 – According to Perfumes: The Guide

Five stars - CopyThe Friday challenge at Now Smell This this week was to wear a fragrance rated five stars in Perfumes: The Guide. Some readers, including me, made it a five-star week, and in fact I’m going to continue wearing one five-star scent for as long as it’s still fun. We’ll see how long I can keep going before I want something else.

Part One of this series is the list of five-star fragrances according to Perfumes: The Guide.  Part Two will be the list according to me. Five-star fragrances are described in P:TG as “masterpieces.” From my reading, additional criteria seem to involve things like distinctiveness, coherence, consistency, decent raw materials, and possibly innovation.

I won’t get into critique of the book that had the perfume blogs buzzing, or of the criteria used by authors Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, though I would recommend that everyone who’s interested in perfume at least read it. Today I’d like to talk about the fragrances instead.

However, I will point out that even though the authors undoubtedly have a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the industry as well as of the heart of perfumery, they’ve got their own personal biases. So do I. So does everyone with a nose, so if you disagree with anyone on perfume, take their judgment with a grain of salt. Your own judgment is what matters most.

Tania Sanchez addresses the preference issue head-on when she says, “… one can certainly admire a perfume without necessarily loving it. Love, of course, is personal (but best when deserved).” She hits the issue from the side when answering FAQs, in this fashion:

Q: Why has Amarige got only one star, when it is in a top ten list in the back?
A: Amarige is a genius work of perfumery, utterly recognizable, memorable, technically polished, and spectacularly loud. But we hate it. In the end, we figured this was the fair thing to do.

Well, okay then. There you go, bias is acknowledged so you are allowed to disagree.

Here is the Perfumes: The Guide’s list of five-star fragrances (in alphabetical order by house, not by perfume name), and what I think of each one of them. If there is no description, I have not smelled the fragrance.

Amouage Gold Wearing this is like walking into a football stadium or some other giant enclosed space, albeit in the case of Gold, the AstroDome ceiling has been gilded and carved into rococo shapes. Enormous, colossal, too big for any one person to wear. (The body lotion, however, is wonderful.) Four stars.
Amouage Homage (now d/c)
Amouage Ubar I own a 5ml decant of this and am always forgetting I have it. It reminds me of my small bottle of Lancôme La Collection Climat, and of Parfums Divine Divine: creamy civet lemonade. Nice, but there are other fragrances I love better, and other Amouages I prefer. Four stars.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzing! Yep, virtual circus. Fun, but who really wants to smell of stale orange circus-peanut marshmallow candy, sawdust, and tiger pee? Three stars.
L’Artisan Timbuktu
L’Artisan Vanilia (now d/c)
Azzaro pour Homme Instant headache. So. Much. Lavender. Two stars.
Badgley Mischka Fruity chypres never suit me. They always seem curdled; I always get nauseous. Two stars.
Bond No. 9 Chinatown Fruity chypre/oriental. See “Badgley Mischka.” Two stars.
Boucheron Boucheron Pleasant, but muted. Basically floral soap with very sharp edges. Described by LT as “huge floral,” but he’s wrong. Three stars.
Bvlgari Black I like Black. I do. It smells mostly of new sneakers, or new bike tires, plus a powdery vanilla that reminds me of flavored coffee-creamer powder. That’s fun. Genius? Nope. Four stars.
Cacharel LouLou For once I’m in total agreement with LT’s description of it as having a texture like those glass Christmas-tree baubles that look like velvet and feel like sandpaper. We just differ in our enjoyment of that texture. Also, this sucker is really loud. I lived through the 1980s; I don’t necessarily want to revisit them. Two stars.
Caldey Island Lavender
Caron Pour un Homme
Caron Le Troisième Homme This is a floral (jasmine) fougére. Not my thing, and actually I find it sort of creepy. Three stars.
Caron Yatagan
Chanel 31 Rue Cambon For full disclosure, TS gave it four stars and I’m with her on that. It’s lovely, I enjoy wearing it, but I don’t think it’s groundbreaking or classic. I’ve gone through a 10ml decant (of which the last ml was unwearable, after six years), but to be perfectly honest, I could probably get by with just my Téo Cabanel Alahine for a floral amber.
Chanel Bois des Iles Lovely, lovely stuff. I first tried it from a sample of pre-Les Exclusifs eau de toilette, and it lasted at least four hours, dabbed. The Les Exclusifs version lasts about two hours on me, sprayed-until-wet. The parfum lasts better but hovers only two millimeters above skin. I’m taking half a star off the P:TG rating because of the longevity and sillage issues.
Chanel Cristalle Citrus chypres are not my thing, but in any case Eau Sauvage kicks this thing’s butt all over. Four stars.
Chanel Cuir de Russie As I’ve commented before, smells like our cattle working pens: live hides, dust, iodine, dry manure, sweat and fear. Just no. Two stars.
Chanel No. 5 eau de toilette Absolutely. The Guide nailed it.
Chanel No. 5 parfum Ditto.
Chanel Pour Monsieur
Chanel Sycomore
Clinique Aromatics Elixir As I’ve commented before, AE smells like somebody took a wiz all over a rose hedge. On paper, two days later, it’s absolutely wonderful; too bad I can’t skip that opening. Great stuff, unwearable by me, and a real bludgeoner into the bargain. Three stars.
Clinique (formerly Prescriptives) Calyx (now reformulated) I can’t manage the opening, which smells like overripe, rotting fruit. Once it’s past that stuff, it’s a wonderful sweet juicy floral with good intentions. Four stars.
Davidoff Cool Water This is the men’s version. Groundbreaking and all that, sure, but I think it smells a bit bare and chemical. Four stars.
Dior Diorella Fruity chypre. See “Badgley Mischka” and “Chinatown.” Two stars.
Dior Homme (now reformulated) Nice stuff. I don’t love it, but I think I may have tested the current version, which seems thin to me. Four stars.
Dior Dune Like a lot of powdery vanillas, it sits there on my skin being boring and flat. On my SIL, it’s great, warm, cozy. Four stars.
Dior Eau Sauvage This is what Cristalle wants to be when it gives up merely pretending to be nice and trims those lethal fingernails. Five stars.
Dior Poison (now reformulated) Man, I used to hate this thing back in the day. Dorm halls reeked of it. So did the university buses. Now that it’s been tamed and everybody isn’t wearing six spritzes too many, I rather like it. It has, however, lost its poisonous edge and they’ve upped the orange blossom in it so that it’s almost soapy. Four stars, unless you’ve got the old, soft, esprit de parfum concentration, in which case it gets five.
Elternhaus Unifaith (MoslBuddJewChristHinDao)
Estée Lauder Azurée Gin with lemon, driving gloves, a full ashtray, pointy fingernails and a steely gaze. Scary. Three stars.
Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise Two hours of lovely flowers, becoming barer and shriller after that thanks to whatever jasminoid aromachem. Like all the other classic Lauders, has something in the base that turns my stomach after a couple of hours. One of my aunts wears this, and she always smells lovely; I think it’s my skin. Three stars.
Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise Men
Estée Lauder Knowing Gives me the same nausea issue as the others, but it’s probably my favorite from this house. I love a nice rose chypre and wish I could wear Knowing as well as another one of my aunts does. Four stars.
Estée Lauder Pleasures Pale flowers and laundry musk. It might be the first and best of this kind of squeaky-clean thing, but leaving aside the usual Lauder base, this might be one of the most boring things I’ve ever smelled. Three stars.
Estée Lauder Private Collection I so wish I could wear this; green florals are right up my alley. Alas, the Dreaded Lauder Base pops through at T-2 hours. Four stars anyway.
Estée Lauder White Linen I like aldehydes, but White Linen has always smelled sour and vinegary too me. My private name for it is “Mildewed Laundry.” Three stars.
État Libre d’Orange Sécrétions Magnifique In The Little Book of Perfumes, which wound up being largely a stageshow revue of the five-stars in P:TG (plus reviews of four classic fragrances you can only smell at the Osmothéque in Paris), TS admits that she disagrees on SM and describes it as “absolutely revolting, like a drop of J’Adore on an oyster you know you shouldn’t eat.” Bang on, lady. It’s horrifying. One star.
Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel Classic, conservative, reassuring, absolutely masculine. Five stars.
Givenchy III I agree with LT that it smells like dirt under the flowers. We just disagree on how appealing that should be. Three stars.
Givenchy Insensé (now d/c)
Gucci Envy (now d/c) Metallic enough to make my back teeth hurt. Two stars. Yeowch.
Gucci Rush
Guerlain Après l’Ondée (recently reformulated) Impressionist perfection, at least in the version available in the mid-2000s. Now it’s more irisy and colder, less wistful with its heliotrope toned way down. I’d give it four stars now, but the older stuff is amazing and absolutely deserved its five stars.
Guerlain Chamade The epitome of romantic surrender, starting cold-shouldery as it does in galbanum and hyacinth and aldehydes, moving through rose, jasmine and other assorted flowers, and then gradually melting into a powdery-creamy mimosa-vanilla-woods comforter. Five stars.
Guerlain Derby
Guerlain Eau de Guerlain
Guerlain Habit Rouge
Guerlain L’Heure Bleue The EdT is Hell’s Medicine Cabinet. The parfum is medicinal pastry, but in a really good way. Five stars.
Guerlain Insolence eau de parfum Horrifying shrieky attack parrot with knives attached to its beak and feet. One star.
Guerlain Jicky Lavender and bad breath. Two stars for being groundbreaking and influential, zero for smelling good.
Guerlain Mitsouko Mitsy hates me. It took me over twenty tries to really “get” Mitsouko. I tried current EdT, I tried EdP, I tried vintage EdT, I tried vintage parfum, I tried current parfum. I tried different times of year and different weathers. Finally I tried some parfum from the early 1990s, and then I got it: round, full, autumnal, tapestried. I still don’t love it the way I love the vintage Coty Chypre parfum I tried – Chypre made me cry tears of overwhelmed happiness – but Mitsy is a force to be reckoned with. Five stars.
Guerlain Nahéma I have trouble smelling Nahema. The first time I tried it, I could tell there was something on my skin but could not smell it. The second and third time, all I really got was scented soap. I feel cheated, but there it is. I can’t give something this inane five stars; I’ll go with two. Word is this one’s discontinued anyway.
Guerlain Shalimar Lemon-vanilla-tar-and-sex. Utterly distinctive; in all its variations it’s always Shalimar and it’s always far too sophisticated for me. A marvel of perfumery. Five stars.
Guerlain Vol de Nuit I don’t understand this scent at all. If I look at the notes, I should like it if not love it: galbanum, jasmine, narcissus, moss and woody notes. On paper it sounds like my beloved Le Temps d’une Fete. I’ve gotten two different samples from the decant services (both edt, both relatively recent), and they smell like… nothing. Musty nothing. As if I opened the trunk that belonged to my great-great aunt and a moth flew out of it. I can’t be smelling what everyone else smells. One star.
Hermés Osmanthe Yunnan Gorgeous apricot-tea floral that lasts all of 2.4 seconds on me. How can they charge $200+ for this? Three stars.
Histoires de Parfums 1740 Marquis de Sade (now reformulated)
Issey Miyake Le Feu d’Issey (now d/c)
Jean Patou Joy parfum Heh heh heh. This thing is raunch in overdrive on me – amazing, alive, and thoroughly unashamed to be walking home the morning after, with hair bedraggled and makeup smeared, missing her panties. I can’t wear it, but it’s a five star if anything is.
Kenzo Ça Sent Beau “Beau” as in beautiful? No. This struck me as being like Calyx for Dudes. The melon-mango-flower-shaving cream thing is just Too Weird. Three stars.
Knize Ten
Le Labo Patchouli 24 (now reformulated) Smells like the 150-year-old stone smokehouse behind my grandparents’ house, which produced many a Virginia ham in its day. Fascinating, but who wants to smell like that? Three stars.
Lolita Lempicka I resisted trying this one for ages, as I’d read that it was a takeoff on Angel. It’s only tangentially related, and LL is both interesting and really pretty. Four stars.
Lush (formerly Be Never Too Busy to Be Beautiful) Breath of God
Missoni Missoni Off-putting, like a soft chocolate with an incompatible flavor center (lemon? Kiwi? Mango?) Two stars.
Montale Oud Cuir d’Arabie
Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Man
Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman Wonderfully coniferous for three minutes, violet for one, and then amberamberamberamber. Dull and considerably overrated. Two stars.
Paco Rabanne Calandre (now reformulated) I was taken aback by TS’s “wire mother” review of Chanel No. 19, particularly because this hissy, metallic, narrow-eyed parody of femininity should have gotten that review instead. Three stars.
Parfums de Nicolaï New York
Parfums de Nicolaï Odalisque (now reformulated) Doesn’t move me, but is really wonderful. Delicate yet strong in nature. Okay, fine, I’ll call it five.
Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps d’une Fête (reformulated twice and now d/c*) If you held a gun on me and told me to choose one bottle, just one, of all the ones in existence in the world, I’d pick this one. Magical. Eight stars. 😉
*For a time, you could special-order it through the PdN website. However, when I emailed PdN in November to ask about it, I was told it was not available. I have backup bottles, but I mourn.
Parfums MDCI Enlèvement au Sérail Reminds me of Joy. Different flowers, same raunch, same aliveness. Still unwearably skanky for me personally. But given my reaction, how can I give it fewer stars than Joy? Five.
Parfums MDCI Invasion Barbare
Parfums MDCI Promesse de l’Aube Absolutely gorgeous. As innocent as Enlevement is carnal and just as florally overwhelming. Five stars.
Pascal Morabito Or Black
Robert Piguet Bandit How can I give this perfume that always rushes at me with a scimitar five stars? (shudder) Sure, it’s got galbanum. Sure, it’s amazing and influential and all gender-bendy kewl, but I hate it. I can’t wear it. Four stars, and that’s because I’m allowing for history.
Robert Piguet Fracas Everybody always says Fracas is The Quintessential Tuberose scent, but that’s not so. However, you can make a case for it being The Quintessential Big White Floral, because of that metric crap-ton of orange blossom in there. Basically, on me it smells like tuberose cold cream, and wearing it is like whacking a guy you fancy over the head with the heel of your marabou kitten-heel slipper and dragging him into your boudoir to have your way with him, once he wakes up all disoriented by your cloud of scent. Five stars.
Rochas Tocade (now reformulated) I liked Tocade at first. I used up a good 30 ml of it when I first bought the bottle, because it was awfully friendly. Then That Slut Tocade started hanging out with the smokers, and every time she came home her bottle smelled like ashtray. Maybe this fragrance doesn’t age well, but whatever. I’ve gone right off her and am ready to kick her out of the sorority. Three stars.
S-Perfumes 100% Love Hissy, screechy geranium-y rose backed by pungent patchouli and dusty chocolate-milk mix. Dear God, kill me now. One star.
S-Perfume S-eX
Serge Lutens Bois de Violette Nice. Faint and timid version of Feminité de Bois. Way overrated. (And I even like violets.) Three stars.
Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist Reportedly the earthiest, driest, rootiest, most pallid and ethereal iris evarrrrr. I don’t know why it makes me think of pigtailed little girls with freckles playing hopscotch. I find it cheerful. Four stars.
Serge Lutens La Myrrhe Like a pink-and-gold sunrise over blue-shadowed snow. Pristine, cold yet warm. Astonishingly beautiful. Five stars.
Serge Lutens Sarrasins Filthy jasmine leather. Who wants to wear this? Smells like what I imagine the back room of a strip club would smell like. (Also, it’s purple. I hate purple.) Three stars.
Tauer Perfumes L’Air du Désert Marocain A very calm, meditative, yet comfortable scent. I wouldn’t have called it transcendent, but I can’t really name a reason I would knock a star off, so all right, five stars.
Theo Fennell Scent (now d/c)
Thierry Mugler Angel Like I drank an entire bottle of cherry cough syrup and fell into a vat of Drakkar Noir. I do not give two flips that Angel started the whole gourmand trend and the fruitchouli trend and the gender-crossing Coco Mlle. trend. Famed perfumer Guy Robert is quoted at least a couple of times in P:TG as saying “A perfume must above all smell good.” This? Doesn’t. One star.
Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl Like drinking lemony iced tea in the sunshine in an American garden. Pretty, unpretentious and easy to wear. (Hello, Angel? This one smells good. Take notes.) Five stars.
Yves Saint Laurent Kouros
Yves Saint Laurent Opium (now reformulated) If I may use someone else’s words: “A genius work of perfumery, utterly recognizable, memorable, technically polished, and spectacularly loud. But [I] hate it.” One star, and I’m not sorry.
Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche This aldehydic floral packs every bit as much metal as a factory floor and is considerably less warm and fuzzy. It has rose in it? Where? That’s no rose, that’s a very screechy geranium, plus a hyacinth note so metallic it twangs. Two stars.
Yohji Yamamoto Yohji Homme (now d/c)

This list does not include anything released after 2009; nor does it include anything Dr. Turin has reviewed since the publication of P:TG in his Style Arabia columns. It was a vast undertaking, and yet it is now (and always was, really) inadequate to the current flood of perfumes on the market today. Still worth a read for information and entertainment, if you ask me.

Share

I hate purple

Um. So.  I hate purple.

WRONG. WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS.
WRONG. WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS.

Which is sort of sad, y’all. Hating a color? It’s weird, and frivolous, and has no earthly point to it.  All the same, I hate purple. Not all purples, mind you, though if you show me a purple garment I will probably duck and run rather than put it on my body. Probably.

lilacMind you, I like some purple flowers.  Lilacs, orchids, grape hyacinths, wisteria, crocuses, irises, pansies, tulips, violets: all good. (Lavender: not.)

grape juice_0   Ihave no objection to purple jam or juice or fruit.

cut youBut if you painted my bedroom purple, or replaced all my blue and green and cream and coral sweaters with purple ones, I would have to cut you. There’s just something about it that makes me feel, okay, depressed and angry and, I dunno, wrong.

As for purple perfumes… hmm. Well. You’ve got perfumes in purple bottles, and then perfumes that smell purple. What smells purple? Lilac. Lavender. Plum or berries. Violets. Heliotrope, maybe, though I tend to think of heliotrope as smelling cotton-candy pink. I have iconoclastic taste when it comes to purple perfume, too…

There aren’t that many that I’d choose to wear. Certain lilac ones, maybe – like DSH White Lilac, or Patou Vacances (though Vacances is at least as green as it is purple, or maybe even more so).  OH! Of course, Guerlain‘s lovely silvery-lilac Apres l’Ondee, I’d wear that.  Dior Poison, in that skeery deep purple bottle, though I admit it doesn’t smell as intensely purple as it used to. Lalique Amethyst wasn’t awful. I like Natori, in that purple bottle, and Thierry Mugler Alien, ditto, but neither one actually smells “purple” to me.  And violets, of course, of which there are a plethora of lovely violet scents: Penhaligon’s Violetta, for choice, but also Annick Goutal La Violette, and the apparently-disappeared Soivohle Violets & Rainwater (sad, it was lovely stuff). I rather like Lolita Lempicka.

But I hated Guerlain Insolence. Hated the stinky-jasmine purple juice of Serge Lutens Sarrasins.  Hated Marc Jacobs Lola. Was not impressed by SL Bois de Violette.

Okay, fine… I like THIS shade of purple:

THIS ONE, I like.
THIS ONE, I like.

How’s your relationship with purple, whether color or smell?

Share

Best of 2012

Bookworm making drum major.

Gaze and his cousin Curiosity both making it to the Virginia National Geographic Bee.

Taz turning 12.

The Hunger Games novel series, which I read with Bookworm this year.

Our church (located half an hour’s drive away) spinning off a new church plant in our town.

Making progress on two novels.

The investment in bull semen (oh, honey, do not even ask me, seriously, do not, because you don’t want to know, you truly don’t) that paid off beyond what we expected.

As for perfume, however, I feel like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Well, okay, I did enjoy L’Artisan’s Seville a L’Aube, and Denyse Beaulieu’s book detailing the fragrances inspiration and progress.  And the three Neela Vermeire scents – Bombay Bling, Mohur, and Trayee – are lovely, and I hope to review them soon even though everybody else has already done so.  Sonoma Scent Studio Forest Walk was not much my style but very nice; SSS Nostalgie suited me much better, and if I hadn’t won a bottle of  Tableau de Parfums Miriam last year I’d have wanted one of Nostalgie (the two are not twins, but share a vintage feeling and some very similar notes). Micallef Ylang in Gold (review forthcoming) is also very pleasant.  I haven’t reviewed Parfums de Nicolai Musc Intense, but that’s nice too.

Regarding mainstream releases – well, I liked Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb. And I liked L’eau de Chloe.

I went overboard anticipating Serge Lutens‘ new gardenia, Une Voix Noire, and jumped in on a split of it, only to find that while I think it’s good (and yeah, that’s another one I need to review), it does not really speak to me, much less sing in a sultry nightclub voice.  And I am STILL slavering over the idea of an updated Jacomo Silences, but apparently it is only sold in a few locations in the US and nobody seems to have samples, so I have not smelled it yet.  Arrrgh.

(Jacomo, I’m DYING here.  Seriously: work on your US distribution, please.  Please. And think about packaging up some samples, willya? I mean, c’mon, even Lutens does that. Amouage does that.)

On the other hand, I did have some wonderful scented experiences.  I enjoyed Alyssa Harad’s wonderful book, Coming to My Senses (oh, great, there’s ANOTHER thing I have neglected to review).  And I explored two genres of fragrances that I’d previously only dabbled in and declared “Not Me” – incense and orange blossom – and found them to be “Sometimes Me.”

I have decided that I will not focus on the disappointments and tragedies and frustrations of 2012; I will merely be glad to see it go as I wish everyone an enjoyable New Year’s Eve.

So long, 2012. Don’t let the screen door hit you in the butt on the way out, okay?

Share

Announcing a Change, and Coming Attractions

Paramount Theater Marquee

Regular readers will probably already have noticed that my posting pace has slowed down, from 4-5 posts a week to about two. Partly this is because it’s summer: the kids are home, there’s lots to do, yada yada… Mostly, though, this is because I’m working on a story and a novel, and my thoughts are going in the direction of my nonblog creative writing.

Oh, I’m still wearing perfume and reading books! And I do keep the blog in mind throughout the week. But other things are calling me, and because this blog has always been an outlet for writing, I don’t feel guilty about changing the format here from time to time.

For the moment, I plan to continue with at least two weekly posts. One of those will, of course, be Scent Diary. The other post will be either a Mini-Review Roundup, a full-fledged perfume review, a Fragrance Throwdown, or a book review. There may also be a rant or a Random Thought Explosion in the mix as well. I’m not going away, and the blog will be updated, but not as frequently as I’ve done in the past. I hope you’ll stick around.

Posts I am currently working on and that will be published in the coming weeks include the following:

Perfume Review: Sonoma Scent Studio Forest Walk

Mini-Review Roundup: Opus Oils Burlesque Collection, plus Dirty Sexy Wilde and Dapper

Mini-Review Roundup: Neela Vermeire Bombay Bling, Trayee, and Mohur (if I FIND my Mohur sample, that is)

Tuberose Series Perfume Review: Dior Poison

Tuberose Series Perfume Review: Miller Harris Noix de Tubereuse

Tuberose Series Perfume Review: JPG Fragile

Tuberose Series Perfume Review: Versace Blonde parfum

Perfume Review: Vintage Muse de Coty

Book Review: Mockingjay (part 3 of The Hunger Games trilogy), by Suzanne Collins

Book Review: The Selection, by Kiera Cass

Book Review: Coming to my Senses, on Perfume, Pleasure, and Becoming an Unlikely Bride, by Alyssa Harad

(Okay, I’ll come clean: I’ve only started writing three, no, four, of these. The others I’m still taking notes on and deciding where the review will go. But STILL. They’re IN THE WORKS. I PROMISE.)

I’m also still working on/revamping “Bright as Day,” and starting to take notes and make plans for a fictional book based on an incident in my late grandmother’s life. It’s a fascinating story, really, and I’m probably going to be in hot water with my mother when she realizes what the book’s about – because it’s a family secret that I didn’t find out until I was in my twenties and some of the parties involved were already deceased. By now, of course, most of the family members have died, and the only ones left are my mother and two cousins.

The big issue here is, how many details of the debacle will I have to change? Which facts are necessary to the story, and which can I fudge? Which facts should I fudge, to make it more dramatic? More to the point, my most frustrating struggle with the story is that my narrator isn’t speaking to me yet.

Yet. She will, though. I just have to be patient. I don’t, in fact, know which of the four major female characters will be my narrator, or whether they’ll take turns. I’ve got to go into my box of family photos and stare at people for awhile to see if anybody will start to talk.

Share

Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances in the US, 2011: Wrap-up

Stacked perfume

I’m still surprised that I managed to test all of the Top 20 Bestselling Fragrances for Women in the US in 2011. I’m usually doing a hit-or-miss sort of testing, just the scents that appeal to me, or whatever I can scrape acquaintance with.  (To read previous posts on the subject, click these links: description of original review project, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.) To wrap up, I have some comments on the State of the Mall and fragrances you can find there, specifically relating to the Top 20 US.

The only fragrances on the bestseller list that I’d wear for myself would be Chanel No. 5 and Prada Candy, or possibly Chance Eau Fraiche or Light Blue in hot weather. The Lauder fragrances (except Youth Dew) tend to smell wonderful to me for about two hours, after which they work my Last. Freakin’. Nerve, and I must scrub them or vomit. It’s not them, it’s me.  Knowing and Beautiful would probably be on my personal list if they didn’t do that Lauder Evil Basenote Thing.  Sure, I’ve now found that I can wear the Lauders on fabric, but with all the perfume I have, I just don’t feel the need to do that. 

I do notice that for all the perfumista hatred directed at way too many insipid fruity floral fragrances, there aren’t that many fruity florals on the list. J’Adore, Chance Eau Tendre, and Romance would be the only ones I’d put in that category, and they’re not awful. There are some fruit-bomb sort of things, like the Taylor and Justin fragrances, and the berry-candy-patchouli freakiness of Angel, and a certain number of clean-smelling fragrances like Light Blue, Happy, and Cashmere Mist (and possibly Sensuous Nude, though I would argue that SN is more discreet than “clean”). Continue reading Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances in the US, 2011: Wrap-up

Share

Slow Burn: a rant about perfume blogging, Part I of II

The Grudge
...um, no. This isn't my car.

IRL, y’all, I am a touchy person.  A rude driver can ruin my morning.  If I call  The CEO’s cell phone to ascertain whether he picked Gaze up from track practice at the middle school, and he answers all my questions truthfully yet not completely, Bill Clinton style, obfuscating the situation and making me think ma blue-eyed bebe with his long eyelashes is standing on the school steps all alone instead of riding safely home with his sister, I am livid for twenty minutes.

Also, I can hold a grudge like nobody’s business.  I am the Repeat World Champion of Grudge-Holding.  I can cradle up my grudges like an armful of fluffy kittens and not let them go even when they are scratching me to ribbons. 

I am working on changing this behavior.  It is not easy.  Today I have failed, miserably.

Sometimes it takes me awhile to get my mad on.   I’ll hear or read some comment and be vaguely annoyed, and tell myself to just “let it go.”  So I’ll have, I thought, let it go, and six weeks later I wake up mad, and it takes me some time to figure out why.  And then I will need to address my feelings about whatever-it-was that annoyed me, and get the feelings all out in the open before I can really release the issue’s emotional hold on me.

So.  Here goes.  And I warn you now, toes will be stepped upon.  I have my big girl boots on today.  Names will be named.  I am prepared for the consequences.

I read this post by Dane on Pere de Pierre, which talked about “crap bloggers” and chastised new perfume bloggers for being unlearned and spreading misinformation.  It annoyed me, and I considered commenting, but then I realized that Dane has never once responded to any comment I’ve made on his blog, and that there was very little point in my saying anything to him.

Besides which, I get the feeling that he’d consider this blog a “crap” one. Continue reading Slow Burn: a rant about perfume blogging, Part I of II

Share

The Captain Retires

I came to baseball kicking and screaming, having married a guy who had fallen in love with the Boston Red Sox at the tender age of eight.  And guys may change careers, they may ditch their trucks or their old jeans or their wives… but they never lose that first sports love.

I’ve seen more baseball games than I had ever dreamed I’d watch before marrying The CEO.  Heck, we made a pilgrimage to Fenway Park on our honeymoon!  I’ve come to better understand the game, and even enjoy it now, especially when watching it live, where you can get caught up in the excitement and people-watch.
Jason Varitek
This guy might have been a part of my changing attitudes.  He first started playing regularly for the Red Sox in 1998, the summer I was pregnant with Gaze.  I liked his mighty thighs.  As time went on, and the kids began to play softball/baseball themselves, The CEO took opportunities to point out attributes of major league players that he’d like to see in his offspring.  Jason Varitek‘s name came up pretty frequently, mentioned in connection with preparation and work ethic, with focus and discipline.   Varitek was well-known for his dedication to the game and was named team captain in 2004, only the third such for the Red Sox (the others were Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice, both Hall of Famers). 

The Woodenshoes family heading to a Red Sox-Orioles game in Baltimore, 2008. See Bookworm's Varitek shirt? (Photo by me.)

 

It didn’t hurt that he was also easy on the eyes.  Bookworm, herself a catcher, was notably hero-worshippy when The CEO took her to see Boston play at Camden Yards in Baltimore.  We saw him play there several times and never managed to get an autograph, since he was always busy before the game warming up pitchers, oblivious to any fan presence.

Captain, as he was known in our household, was famous for his analysis of the game and his willingness to put himself on the line for the good of the team.  Since 2008, when his productivity with a bat began to decline and he was platooned with Victor Martinez behind the plate, his contribution to the team was valued more for his ability to inspire confidence in pitchers and other teammates. 

Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek (33)He announced his retirement on March 1 of this year, at the age of 39.  Of course teams change personnel as the years pass; it’s expected.  The guys I saw play at Fenway in 1992, back when you could still scrounge a ticket or two without hocking your arm and leg to get them, have all retired.  And it’s true that last year, he wasn’t smacking balls with the same authority he had in the early 2000s.  He’d lost some running speed, too.  The Red Sox can find another bat, and another guy to wear the catcher’s mitt.  It’s just that it’ll be a long time before they find a catcher with All That again: the batting, the catching, the good long throw to second base, the ability to analyze the situation and make the proper play, the patience to research every single batter his pitcher was due to face, the willingness to get between an angry batter and his pitcher*. 

(* See the start to the bench-clearing brawl between the Red Sox and the Yankees in 2004 here.  Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo, known for occasional wild pitches, hit New York batter Alex Rodriguez with a pitch.  Rodriguez, cursing, started to charge the mound when Varitek shoved his mitt in A-Rod’s face to stop him, and then the chaos broke loose.)

It won’t be the same, Captain.  I hope to see you again – anybody smart enough to snap you up as a manager will be lucky to have you.  But I’ll miss you and your steadfastness on the field.  And those mighty thighs, I’ll miss those too.Jason Varitek

Share

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

Share

Oh, the tragedy! the loss! Jacomo Silences to be revamped

Thanks to a tweet from Robin at NST (@nowsmellthis), I’ve read the news: Jacomo has revamped its classic green-floral-chypre Silences.  I feel a rant coming on…

This article at CosmetiqueMag, dated February 13, 2012, describes the changes in French.  I don’t speak or read French (I took Latin and Spanish, and precious little good it does me with perfume, I tell you), so I went to Yahoo’s BabelFish translation page to get a better handle on this news item, which reads like this: 

Image from CosmetiqueMag.

Jacomo renoue avec Silences: Propriété de Sarbec depuis 1995, la marque remet au goût du jour Silences, son classique de 1978. Le jus, un chypre-vert aux facettes animales, a été revisité par Serge Majoullier (Mane). Il en a fait une composition plus moderne et lumineuse, tout en gardant le caractère vert de la fragrance, avec du galbanum et du cassis, un trio floral rose-iris-narcisse et un fond boisé-musqué. Le flacon noir garde la même allure mais la typographie du nom a été modernisée.

I suspect that BabelFish isn’t a particularly good translator.  This literary gem is what it managed to come up with:

Jacomo joins again with Silences:  Property of Sarbec since 1995, the mark gives to the last style Silences, its traditional of 1978. The juice, a Cyprus-green with the animal facets, was revisited by Serge Majoullier (Basket). It made a more modern and luminous composition of it, while keeping the green character of the fragrance, with galbanum and blackcurrant, a floral trio pink-iris-Narcisse and a wooded-musky bottom. The black bottle keeps the same pace but the typography of the name was modernized.

Ummmmyeeeeaah.  I’m going to mess with the English version myself to see if I can induce it to make sense:

Jacomo relaunches Silences:  Owned by Sarbec since 1995, the brand has revamped its 1978 classic Silences for modern tastes. The juice, a green chypre with animalic facets, was revisited by Serge Majoullier (Mane). The composition was made more modern and luminous while keeping the green character of the fragrance, with galbanum and blackcurrant, a floral trio of rose-iris-narcissus and a woody-musk base. The black bottle remains the same, but the font of the name was modernized.

Better?  I hope so.  (Mane is an aromachemical company and its name should not have been translated.  Basket??  Pfaugh.  Also, the verb tenses were inconsistent, and I don’t know enough French to tell whether that was the fault of the original article or not.) 

NOW we get to my real point:  They’re messing with Silences again.  Is there oakmoss listed in the notes? Iris? Nope.  Dang it, this gorgeous otherworldly thing, the greenest smell possible, this galbanum genius, is likely going to wind up smelling like the revamped Lanvin Rumeur.  I’m going to be ticked.

Of course, I have two big bottles of Silences parfum de toilette, and it’s probably a lifetime supply (and Bookworm hates this galbanum anyway so I have to be careful where I wear it), but I am going to be ticked if they screw it up.  I suppose that A) it’s been reformulated before, maybe multiple times, and B) there was no way they could have kept all that oakmoss in the formula anyway – but if it loses that strangely eerie, meditative, coolsmoothsatin quality, they might as well scrap the darn thing.

floating on green satin
This is what wearing Silences should feel like.

There’s so far no word on when this will take place.  It may very well be that the revamped Silences will be decent, if completely different in character than the Silences I know and love.  I mean, if they’re putting real narcissus in there with the rose, it might have a chance. But in that case, I think I’d prefer that Jacomo discontinue Silences and give the new thing a completely different name.

Awkward Silences, anybody?   (Apologies to the amazing Jack Mason.)

Share

We Won't Forget, 2011

Veterans’ Day, 2011
 
To my dad, who served in the US Navy in peacetime
 
To my brother-in-law Bob, who served in the US Army in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and returned this past January from a stint in Afghanistan
 
To my friend Army Lt. Terry Plunk, who died clearing landmines in the Gulf War
 
To all those who gave their lives for their country
To all those who served
To all those who are serving now
To all those who will serve in the future
And to their families
 
My deep and heartfelt thanks.
 

 Photo is Arlington National Cemetery, by RuthannOC at flickr

(This is a recap of a post from Veteran’s Day, 2009.  It’s still true.)

Share

Book Review: The Little Book of Perfumes: The Hundred Classics, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

The first thing you need to know before you read this review is what I thought of the two earlier perfume-review books by these authors: I own both, frequently refer to them, and occasionally read them for fun and enjoyment, finding the snarky reviews as naughtily delightful as the lyrical ones are angelically so. My early forays into perfume sampling were in some cases guided by Perfumes: The Guide, with mixed results. I would never have ordered a sample of Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete – which has been on my Top Three All-Time list ever since – without reading Dr. Turin’s description of it as being “something close to perfection, rich, radiant, solid”. On the other hand, I’m not quite ready to forgive him for the rave review of S Perfumes 100% Love, which I hated. And I’m not even going to talk about Secretions Magnifiques, which positive review had any number of perfume fans preparing to come after him in a mob bearing torches and pitchforks.  Suffice it to say that as a strict guide to perfume choice, the earlier books were as controversial as they were helpful.  I’m writing this book review from the perspective of one familiar with the authors’ earlier works, as it’s my belief that most of my blog readers will also be familiar with them.

If, by some chance, readers are not familiar with the authors and/or their previously published fragrance review books, here are a few facts: Dr. Luca Turin has a PhD in biophysics, has spent many years studying olfactory science, and authored The Secret of Scent. Tania Sanchez is a writer and perfume aficionado well-known for her reviews on MakeupAlley. The two are married. For more information, please read this interview with the authors on Now Smell This, dating back to shortly after the first edition of Perfumes: The Guide was published in 2008.

The new, hardcover book is slender and handsome, measuring about 8 ¼” by 4 ¾”, with an attractive black dust jacket embellished with white. The endpapers are bright pink, an elegant 1950s-retro color combination that makes me, for one, smile. The book is 107 pages long, including indices, and includes the following features:

Acknowledgements

Authors’ Note states that they “judge formula changes based on side-by-side tests of previous years’ bottles and new samples, direct from the firms whenever possible.”

A new Foreword by Tania Sanchez points out that “the fragrances reviewed in this book are not the greatest of all time – instead, they are those that struck us as far above their peers in quality, inventiveness, or straightforward beauty when we surveyed nearly 1900 during the writing of Perfumes: The A-Z guide,” and also that this smaller book eliminates the one-line, snarky reviews for which the authors caught so much ire in earlier editions. (The two-word review for Paris Hilton’s Can Can comes to mind here: “Can it.”) I’m glad to see that the reviews that remain are all thoughtful, well-expressed, and darned helpful if you are trying to place a fragrance along the timeline of historical development, or trying to figure out its structure.

The bulk of the book is, of course, the Perfume Reviews. Essentially, this book is comprised of the five-star reviews from the earlier, lengthier editions, with updates for the 2011 version of those fragrances wherever e possible. Some of these fragrances – usually due to IFRA restrictions on raw materials – are no longer the works of magnificence that the authors felt that they were in 2007. Many of the reformulated scents, about 40%, have 2011 updates. I’ll list a few for you here: Guerlain Apres l’Ondee, Chanel Bois des Iles, Chanel Cristalle, Dior Diorella, Robert Piguet Fracas, Guerlain Habit Rouge, Jean Patou Joy parfum, Chanel No. 5 edt and parfum, Yves St. Laurent Opium, Dior Poison Guerlain Shalimar, Caron Le Troisieme Homme. Nearly all the reviews for fragrances known as “classics” do have updates. I was extremely pleased to see – finally! – a dissenting opinion from Ms. Sanchez following Dr. Turin’s rave review of Etat Libre d’Orange’s divisive scent Secretions Magnifiques. I’ll quote that one for you here (and only that one update, since I don’t want to discourage sales to curious people).

[Secretions Magnifiques] 2011: Smells exactly the same. For the record, there always should have been a dissenting view from me on this one: one star, absolutely revolting, like a drop of J’Adore on an oyster you know you shouldn’t eat. Whatever you do, do not allow any to touch your nose when you smell it off a paper strip. I know Luca is a convincing proselytizer, but trust me.

(Amen, sister. Not for nothing is this fragrance generally known among my perfumista friends as Secretions Gagnifiques…)

The authors also note that some of their chosen fragrances have now been discontinued, such as Theo Fennell Scent and L’Artisan Vanilia. Further, the few already-discontinued scents reviewed in the original, such as Le Feu d’Issey and Yohji Homme, are noted as still being discontinued.

Following the reviews, there is a section written by Luca Turin on the Osmotheque, the only perfume museum in the world. It stores and displays discontinued fragrances of “artistic significance,” and allows visitors to smell samples of these otherwise-unavailable joys. The Osmotheque was founded by perfumer Jean Kerleo and is currently directed by Patricia de Nicolai (who created my dear darling Le Temps d’une Fete, included in The Hundred Classics). Dr. Turin suggests that the Osmotheque should sell their reconstructed beauties, with “no reference to the original name, compounded according to the proper formula. The aficion will know its own. Label each bottle with a skull and crossbones and the warning ‘Do not put on skin’ to avoid IFRA trouble. Maybe if they did this they would shame the brands into reintroducing classic fragrances. I’m not holding my breath, not least because I need to sniff my strip of Iris Gris.” I agree. I do love my 1970s Coty Emeraude parfum de toilette, but I’m sure the recreation of the original parfum would put it to shame.

The Osmotheque section includes reviews of four scents only smellable in original (recreated) form at the museum: Coty L’Origan, Coty Chypre, Coty Emeraude, and Jacques Fath Iris Gris. I’d love to compare the Osmotheque’s version of Coty Chypre (not, you understand, the 1980s eau de toilette rerelease, which is pleasant enough) to my DSH Perfumes version of Chypre, which takes my breath away. And Dr. Turin also touches on the reason I love Emeraude so much: “the two halves of the fragrance [minty-fresh topnotes and lavish oriental accord] are so carefully welded together that they form a single deep saturated, transparent hue, not so much an emerald as the name would suggest, more the green starboard light of a ship gliding by in the dark.” I’d have put it more simply: to me, Emeraude smells like itself, top to bottom, all the way through. You can remark on its similarity to Shalimar, but Emeraude does not smell like Shalimar, it smells like Emeraude – a warm, smiling, bosomy presence, plush but clear.

The section following discusses Sources used by the authors to obtain samples: the Osmotheque, samples sold online, major brands, niche firms, specialty retailers such as Lucky Scent and Aedes de Venustas, department stores, and independent decanters such as The Perfumed Court. The authors also recommend, for perfumery raw materials, exploratory kits from The Perfumer’s Apprentice.

The last few pages are made up of a Glossary, Top Ten Lists, and an Index of Brands (fragrances listed by perfume house). These should look familiar to you if you’ve read the earlier books, except that I don’t remember seeing the “Desert Island” lists of each author before, and that was a fun read.

As I mentioned before in the “book review coming” post, I very much doubt that anyone who owns either of the two previous books will find it necessary to own this one as well. The material in it that you haven’t read before is good stuff, from Foreword to updates to Desert Island lists.  However, if you haunt the perfume blogs as I do, you probably already know that, for example, Diorella has been messed with recently, as have most of the classic Dior fragrances – and not for the better (except perhaps Poison, which probably needed to go on a diet, at least by my standards). You probably already know that IFRA has forced changes to the classic Chanels, and although they seem thinner and lack the lovely sandalwood of yore, the reformulations are still in the spirit of the earlier fragrances. You probably already know that Guerlain’s reformulations of their classics are uneven, with a few smelling slightly better these days due to a rebalancing of the formula, a few fragrances noticeably different but still very good, and a few having had the soul stripped from them.

I’d love to keep this book, but I have plans for it: I’m giving it to my local library. That’s my advice for those of you who are still wondering whether you need a copy: buy one (or two, or four), skim it lightly for the new bits, and then give it as a gift to people who are completely nonplussed as to why you love perfume. Buy a copy for your local library – or for your favorite sales associate, if you are so lucky as to have one of those. It’s short enough to be a quick and entertaining read even for people who have little interest in fragrance, and compelling enough to, perhaps, change that.

Not to mention, I want to encourage supporting people who write about perfume for a living. The book is fairly inexpensive, at $18.00 retail and $12.24 at Amazon.   It will be released on October 27, 2011, exactly a week from today, and it is possible to preorder it.  (Please note, if you go to Amazon, the associated reviews are actually for Perfumes: the A-Z Guide, which confused me momentarily.) A publicity copy was provided to me for review from Viking, free of charge.  Please note: Reader Nina clarifies for us that authors receive better royalties when books are purchased from independent booksellers than they get when we order from Amazon (and, presumably, other online sellers).  Keep that in mind when making a decision to buy books.

Also see Dimitri’s review of The Little Book of Perfumes at Sorcery of Scent.  (I love his blog pictures.)  Book image from Viking.

Share