Fragrance Throwdown: Sonoma Scent Studio Lieu de Reves versus SSS To Dream

Rose-violet is a classic perfumery accord. The two notes combine to make something that smells neither like rose or violet, but something else, something soft and pillowy that often reads as traditionally feminine, familiar from its use in scenting lipstick and face powder. Probably the most well-known rose and violet scent is Yves Saint Laurent’s classic, Paris, which was composed by Sophia Grojsman and released in 1983, with numerous flankers released since then.

A brief listing of rose-violet scents:

Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose

Guerlain Insolence

YSL Paris and its Printemps flankers

YSL Parisienne

Ralph Lauren Lauren (vintage)

L’Artisan Drole de Rose

Houbigant Demi-Jour

Juliet Has a Gun Citizen Queen

Etat Libre d’Orange Putain des Palaces

Coty Paris (long discontinued, but a very pretty aldehydic floral based on rose, violet, and hyacinth)

I had tried Lieu de Reves a few months ago, from a battered, nearly-empty swap sample vial, and had not liked it: it was powdery to the nth degree, with that musty violet note that I typically have trouble with. Bleargh, I said, and tossed the empty vial in the trash. But I recently received a fresh sample directly from Sonoma Scent Studio, and I’m fairly certain that the earlier sample I tried had gone off. This is a lovely scent best described in one word: soft.

Notes for LdR, from SSS website: Heliotrope, violet, rose, jasmine, cedar, amber, vetiver, tonka, orris, vanilla, musk, and very soft aldehydes. Perfumer’s Comments: I’ve had this blend in mind for a long time, wanting to use violet, rose, and heliotrope in a powdery scent with a gourmand touch but with some soft woodsy notes and less vanilla than most scents of this genre. The heliotrope, rose, violet, and cedar make nice companions. Like most rose and violet combinations, this scent feels a bit romantic to me, but the drydown is on the quiet and reflective side rather than being a full-blown floral.  Released 2009.

Lieu de Reves pulls up a memory of 5th grade for me: Bonne Bell Lip Smackers in Dr. Pepper and Root Beer flavors. Looking at the notes, I’m not quite sure why I’m getting “Lip Smackers” out of it – but I am, and every single time I pull my wrist up to my nose, I smile. (And then I remember that I’m not eleven years old anymore.)

If I try, I can pick out the violet and heliotrope, as well as the orris and vanilla, but nothing else. It is powdery, but in a creamy, nearly-edible sort of way. I like it. It’s lovely, and settles down fairly quickly to a skin scent that lasts about four hours on me, albeit only perceptible at 2-centimeter range. Lieu de Reves is very, very pretty and feminine; The CEO gave it a thumbs-up.

Reviews of LdR:

To Dream is a variation on the soft rose-violet center of Lieu de Reves, but with more of the woody, resiny notes that perfumer Laurie Erickson does so well.

Notes for TD: Violet, rose, heliotrope, cedar, amber, frankincense, oakwood absolute, vetiver, tonka, orris, vanilla, musk, sandalwood, oakmoss, subtle suede, cocoa, and aldehydes.Perfumer’s Comments: I wanted to create a new scent for the Boutique Collection inspired by the floralheart of Lieu de Reves but with a more complex woodsy base. Frankincense and a new oakwood absolute added nice accents, as did cocoa and suede. Afteradditions, subtractions, and re-balancing, the new variation is quite different but still shows lineage to Lieu de Reves.   Released 2011.

To Dream begins with aldehydes and the intoxicatingly sharp smell of oakwood. Other reviewers have mentioned wine barrels, but I associate this particular note with freshly split firewood, and also with the turpentine that my grandmother used to clean her china-painting brushes. As it develops, the familiar soft rose-violet comes to the fore, and then eventually a woody-incense base that is sweetened by tonka and vanilla. I love the juxtaposition of the soft, powdery, feminine floral notes with the strong, almost aromatic woody notes. This scent also settles down into a skin scent after about an hour or so, but it stays more interesting to me than Lieu de Reves. I do not pick up any oakmoss at all, or any cocoa, and To Dream hangs around with me for about four hours.

Gaze sniffed this fragrance on my skin and commented first that he liked it, then that he thought he smelled aldehydes. (I’m so proud.) The CEO’s comment was that it smelled like a freshly-cleaned hotel room to him; he’s not a fan. (Dang. I still think it’s beautiful.)

I’ll be nursing my small spray sample of To Dream, because I already have a rapidly-dwindling decant of Citizen Queen. Who knows, maybe The CEO will change his opinion. Mind you, I don’t necessarily wear perfume to suit him, but I do try to take his preferences into consideration.*

Reviews of To Dream:

*He once told me that he “really disliked” Chanel No. 19. That was a couple of years ago. When I spritzed rather generously from a tester of edp in the Rome airport Duty, though, he commented that I smelled nice. “Really?” I asked. “Because you once told me that you don’t like this one.”  He looked puzzled.  “I did? Well, I was wrong. It’s nice.”  So perhaps he’ll have a change of heart. And if not, it’s okay; I’ll wear To Dream for me.

I found both of these fragrances to be lovely, individual, well-made, and very wearable.  My preference is personal, and you may very well decide you prefer Laurie’s original take on rose and violet.  I like the woodier one; it smells like… freedom.

Fragrance notes and photo of To Dream from Sonoma Scent Studio.  Wrestlers photo from Wikimedia Commons.  Photo of Lieu de Reves from Fragrantica.


7 thoughts on “Fragrance Throwdown: Sonoma Scent Studio Lieu de Reves versus SSS To Dream”

  1. I think almond (heliotrope) and vanilla together create a root beer effect. Not sure why it particularly smells like the Lip Smackers’ version of root beer — maybe because the aldehydes smell waxy!

  2. I love it too Carol. I always enjoy your reviews very much and read them every day , even if I don’t happen to comment. 😉

    To Dream is another perfect creation of Laurie’s.
    I can’t wait to get my own FB.


    1. It really is great, isn’t it?? I was disappointed when The CEO said, “I don’t like that.” I mean, I may have to content myself with this sample, and just keep it away from him.

      You know, I was reading something… uh, somewhere… today (can’t remember where) where the commenters were talking about how much they liked Le Labo and found the indie/niche scents (like Tauer and SSS) “unfinished” and “crude.” I have YET to try a Le Labo that impressed me. I like Aldehydes 44, of which I have a small decant, but let’s be honest, Mariella Burani kicks A44’s butt. So does Champagne de Bois. All the commenters were guys (wait, was this on Basenotes? probably), I noticed, and I’m on record as saying that those guys are all on crack.

      SSS rules. Le Labo, in my experience so far, is pretentious overpriced urban hip crap. (I have not tried their Patchouli 24 that everybody raves about, but I doubt it’s my style anyway.)

      (Wow, way to hijack comments away from To Dream… duh.)

  3. Oh you simply must convert him Carol. Wear it enough to make it “yours” and he’ll snuffle you anyways I bet. 😉
    I will happily support small perfume houses like SSS, Tauer and DSH for the rest of my days if I had to.
    Unfinished and crude?? Well that suits me just fine I guess! (You know how much URC means to me)
    I DO love Iris 39 but like you I’m frikkin’ over paying bookoo bucks for something that’s supposed to be sooo extravagant and high end. Excuuuuuuuse me, I’m middle -class. Some might say poor (even though I’m living the best I’ve ever lived.)
    I fall for expensive niche scents not for the hype but how they make me feel when I wear them.
    But even if they were the bee’s knee’s if they cost me $300 and up, I can’t abide!
    Jerk-off (Xeroff?? I’m talkin’ to you!) LOL:P
    Hoity-toity crackheads! 😀

    Although yes yes I’m guilty of loving Poal. Damn them.


    1. Oh, I know about those niche things… I want to hate them. I wanted to hate every F Malle I laid a nostril on. I said bad things about the price structure.

      And then I smelled Carnal Flower and Iris Poudre. Swoooooon. Those bad – mffhmf – words about Malle – mmphffhmfh – don’t taste all that bad.

      I have said similar things about Xerjoff and LeLabo and Grossmith. And JAR, let’s not forget about those hoity-toity crackheads. So I must stay far away from testing any of their products, lest I be required to eat my words again. Look, they might be good. But are they BETTER than DSH or Tauer or SSS? Methinks not.

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