Random Thoughts

My nose is stopped up.  This is rotten.  Not only can I not smell anything, I wake up at night because I can’t breade drough by dose.

Watched The Outsiders recently with Bookworm.  The DVD she has is the more recent 20th anniversary release, with scenes that were deleted from the 1983 theater release.  Still a great movie, still a terrific book.  When the movie came out, only a year or two after I read the book as an 8th grader, I spent my babysitting money to go see it at the theater – twice!  Partly because it’s a great story, filmed well, and partly because it is an ensemble cast of, let’s be honest here, really cute guys.  Seriously: C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, and Leif Garrett.  At the time, I was a Tommy Howell kind of girl; I had a poster of him up on my corkboard in my room.  Ralph was too sweet for me, Matt too edgy, and Rob too pretty.  Now, 25 years later, what I notice about the boys in the movie (who were all in their late teens while filming, except for Patrick, who was 30, and Ralph, who was 20) is different.
  • Tom Cruise has a gap between his front teeth, and really great biceps. The less said about his acting skills, the better.
  • Emilio is, actually, a pretty good character actor. Too bad Charlie got the looks in that family!
  • Ralph looks like a middle-schooler.  Or maybe a human puppy.  Also, I cannot believe Casting bothered to audition anyone else for the role of Johnny; Ralph is perfect.
  • Rob is seriously gorgeous.  Apparently it is possible for a human being to approach physical perfection.  And I had no idea that the guy actually could act.  Sadly, a lot of his work wound up on the cutting room floor in ’83, but his scenes as middle brother Soda have emotional punch.
  • Patrick cannot act.  I knew this already, but I still don’t care.  Fab abs.  And that jaw…
  • Leif makes me think of Justin Timberlake.  Same frizzy blond hair, same cheesy acting skills.
  • Tommy Howell is a little out of his depth, but he has beautiful eyes.
  • I dissed Matt Dillon for years as having no reason to be in front of a camera other than his bad-boy good looks, which I claimed were overrated anyway.  Matt, I wronged you.  I apologize.  Now I know why all my friends had posters of you in their lockers: it was your mouth.  Or maybe those cheekbones.  Or perhaps the “provoking charm of [Matt] altogether.”  And your intensity dominated the whole film.  Every scene you were in, Matt, wound up slipped into your back pocket.  You rule, baby.

Sigh.  Well, I suppose I wouldn’t go back to being 15 again, but I can watch The Outsiders and pretend that it was a lot better than real life.

Fisher-Price has released a new toy: Elmo Live.  This animatronic wonder sings, laughs, stands, sits, tells jokes, and plays games. Holy cow, what’s the world coming to?  I hereby confess that I always hated Elmo.  Kermit was cool, Big Bird was dumb but sweet, and Oscar said what I always wished I had the guts to say.  Elmo is a toddler in red fur.  What’s so great about that?

NaNoWriMo starts on Sunday.  I’m getting ready.  Squee! 

And, most importantly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to The CEO!  Lots of love to my favorite husband (yes, I know you’re the only one), and many years of happy life ahead.  Mwah.

* Apologies to Sir John Suckling, for cribbing/messing with his poem “The Constant Lover.”  Image is from moviestore.com.

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Perfume Review: Rochas Tocade

In 1994, Rochas released this honkin’ ugly bottle of wonderful stuff, created by Maurice Roucel.  Thank goodness I read a positive review of it before ever seeing the bottle, which is one of the cheesiest things I have seen in my life.  The bottom part of it reminds me of the pretty shape of the Femme bottle, but it’s topped with a cylinder and a coolie hat in plastic Made In China colors.  It’s a shame, really, about that cap.  It’s too tall.  It’s pointy.  It’s plaaaaaaastic.

Ahem.  Muses in Wooden Shoes never, ever, buy perfume for the bottle.  And isn’t that lucky for us?  Tocade – which means “Infatuation” in French – is just lovely, and a genuine bargain at $25-30 for a large 100ml bottle. 

Here are the notes for Tocade:
T: green notes, bergamot, freesia, geranium
H: magnolia, iris, orchid, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose
B: patchouli, amber, musk, cedar, vanilla

Tocade is primarily a rose-vanilla-patchouli fragrance, and like Organza Indecence, it’s right at the edge of my low patchouli tolerance.  Other people might not find it very patch-forward, but I do.  Tocade opens with a breath of galbanum and a whisper of something my brain calls “fresh” – it’s probably the freesia – before heading full tilt for that rose-vanilla combo.  It’s a lovely rose, neither the fresh lemony rose you smell in, say Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose, nor the winey rose of Parfum Sacre or Voleur de Roses, but, rather, a glowing deep pink rose, smooth as painted china.  I do smell the magnolia and lily of the valley, and although I can’t pinpoint the orchid, there’s a smooth floral quality to the heart that seems to be common to orchid scents.  And although the base skates toward the sweet side, it’s not the marshmallow variety of vanilla/amber – there’s enough backbone in the cedar and patchouli, and enough dirt in the musk, to keep it honest.  Although it doesn’t smell like Shalimar, it does have that dirty, smoky vanilla vibe in the drydown.

This is one of my sexier perfume options, I confide.  It’s a casual, comfortable, party-girl kind of sexiness, a white tee shirt and jeans sort of sexiness, not the femme fatale variety.  It’s so friendly and affectionate that one imagines Tocade to be unable not to flirt outrageously with everyone (yes, everyone) she meets.  In fact, I usually refer to it as That Slut Tocade.

Which is probably unfair, but since it amuses the heck out of me while expressing that “friendly sexiness” that is Tocade, I’m going to keep using it.  That Slut Tocade.  Heh.  Beavis and Butthead would be so proud.  (By the way, according to a French-speaking friend, it’s pronounced toe-COD.  Just in case that might be helpful.) 

True story:  I bought Tocade this past spring, just about the time the weather was getting too warm for it.  I promptly put it in my closet, inside a box with a few other cold-weather scents.  Two months later, I opened the closet, and a big waft of Tocade stumbled out and threw her arms around my neck, slurring, “Hiiiiiiii!  I’m Tocade.  I’m a little druunnnk (hiccup) and I’ve somehow (giggle) lost my panties, will you take me ho-ome?” Whew.  I promptly made sure the (ugly) top was on firmly, and then put the bottle inside a plastic bag inside the box.  That was three months ago, and I continue to get hints of Tocade when I open the closet.

(So be careful with this stuff, willya? Don’t, you know, spill it on your closet floor or anything.)

I’ve used the phrase That Slut Tocade often enough now that I think I’d better clarify: I like it.  I really, really like it.  It’s comfortable without being a real wallpaper scent, and my husband likes it too.

But it really deserved a better bottle.

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Five for Fall, 2009

Inspired by the Fall Picks posts on many perfume blogs this week, I’m doing my own. And I was going to make it Ten Picks, but since I’m hoping to be doing this again next year, I’ll keep the list short so I can explore different scents in 2010.

I love fall. Love it, love it. The temperature’s generally comfortable. The sunshine (when we get it) is a golden shade we never see in any other season. The wind is bracing rather than icy. The trees change colors; hickory nuts and black walnuts drop onto the drive. Squirrels and chipmunks are busybusybusy. Woodsmoke begins to fill the crisp air, and there’s frost on the ground in the mornings. More than that, autumn has always been for me a time of new beginnings. Feelings rise up in me and can’t be quashed – or forgotten.

For those warm golden days when the sun pours warm cider over distant tweed hills: Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea. To me, it smells of dry leaves, pipe tobacco, fresh hay, a worn leather bomber jacket, and the warm skin of one’s sweetheart, and an aromatic mossy forest floor, with spiced cider wafting by from somewhere in the distance.

For cold rainy days when you just want a sweater (and a good raincoat!), I want Givenchy Organza Indecence. This is spice cake eaten near a bonfire, so that you smell the spice and vanilla just as much as you smell the smoke and the wood. Cozy, it sticks fairly close to my skin and only wafts gently when I move. I like that.

For romantic evenings, Ormonde Jayne Ta’if casts a spell, with its peppery rose and saffron creaminess. It is delightful, sensual, and a bit dreamy, as if it can’t quite keep the memory of stars out of its head.

For dreary days, when the sun is slow to wake and the sky remains gray, I love Lanvin Arpege. I have a small bottle of the reformulated EdP, and also a tiny bottle of vintage extrait. I really, really wish there were some way to merge the top and heart notes of the reformulation with the drydown of the vintage – the new stuff just disappears when it gets past its harmonic floral heart, but the basenotes of the old are symphonic and jaw-droppingly gorgeous, with creamy sandalwood and crisp vetiver. The middle stage of development in the original is so rich it feels almost decayed. Of course, that effect still seems to fit with leaf mould on the ground and the richness of fruit that ripens in the fall.

For anytime I need a close-to-the-skin veil of loveliness, I would want to wear Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. I still haven’t smelled the original Black Orchid, but VdF has plenty of personality, and I think the original would, um, scare me. VdF races through plum and very smooth florals (ylang and gardenia, prominently) through cinnamon and woods to a very creamy, luxuriously feminine ending. It’s like a bowl of Feminite du Bois with milk poured over, and it doesn’t disappear on me like Feminite du Bois.

Others I’m enjoying: Lancome Magie Noire, Chanel 31 Rue Cambon, Amouage Lyric, Gres Cabaret, and Shalimar Light.  It might soon be cold enough to break out the Bal a Versailles, too.

Image is Fall in Forest from nancymeowdrew at flickr; it was taken in Virginia in 1991.  This is very much what fall looks like around here.

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A Few Swoony Rose Scents

I feel like going off the deep end with some luxuriant, voluptuous, carmined, velvety Dark Rose scents.  SOTD is Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur (did anybody think a name that long was a good idea?), and while it is lovely, I’m waiting for it to wear off. 

I simply want Take No Prisoners Rose at the moment.  I want to reread Philippa Gregory’s sensual and frightening Wideacre; I want rose petals in my bath; I want a cashmere sweater in the richest deep red.  I am longing to sniff a couple of new ones – the Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire PourFemme (you can read Helg’s voluptuously-written review here– she’s clearly smitten!), and DS&Durga for Anthropologie East MidEast (Kevin’s more straightforward review is here).

I’m not sure what to wear next, but here are a few of my options.  Most of these are decants, the full bottles being a little out of my price range, which is why I’m careful with dosage – something in my brain goes cha-ching! every time I spray.  Not to mention that most of these are also Grande Dame Perfumes with corresponding sillage…

Amouage Lyric Woman – deep wine-y rose and dry, smoky, astringent incense.  Piercingly beautiful, Leontyne Price singing Vissi d’Arte.  Quite expensive, but in this case, price indicates quality.
Ormonde Jayne Ta’if – a rose of the desert, sweet and deep, dusted with pepper and saffron, standing barefoot under the stars.
Caron Parfum Sacre’ – lemon-spice-pepper and rose, flowing into warm vanilla-woods and cool myrrh.  This is the mother that tenderly kisses her sleeping children before becoming a lover again in the bed of her marriage.
Gres Cabaret – rose curled atop a down comforter before the fire, letting its smoke twine through her hair.  Wonderful fragrance, ugly bottle, unbelievably great price.  I think I said something about “toasted marshmallow” before, but it’s not sweet – what I was getting at was that cushy, pillowy musk.
Juliet Has a Gun Citizen Queen – rose dolled up for the nightlife, in a violet bustier, fishnets and leather stilettos – and a killer-diller red lipstick.  Very, very sexy.

That Slut Tocade is little too flirty and shallow for the current mood, L’Arte di Gucci a little too imperious.  I’ll take my roses rolling in passion today.

Come slowly, Eden
Lips unused to thee.
Bashful, sip thy jasmines,
As the fainting bee,
Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums,
Counts his nectars – alights,
And is lost in balms!
                                   – Emily Dickenson

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At Home in Orientals

When I was young, Opium was the Hot Ticket in Fragrance. And not just Opium, but Cinnabar, Coco, LouLou, Poison, Obsession, Tabu, Youth Dew, and Shalimar. Seems like everyone was just drenched in resiny, spicy, heavy Orientals that, to my young nose, were related to Chemical Spills, Nuclear Power Plant Accidents (anyone remember Three Mile Island? Or worse, Chernobyl?), and Industrial Waste. Opium ruined more cultural gatherings than I could shake a stick at, and all I really knew about it was that it was, duh, an Oriental.

I had a friend at college who seemed to be going through the same things that I was – we suffered through first year together. We conferred, discussed, and giggled over all manner of issues. And we sighed, in tandem and at a distance, over Smoky Charles, who had stunning smoky gray eyes, and Gorgeous John from the Basement, who was as Cary Grant as a college freshman could be. We liked performing in musicals; we both played the piano (she far better than I); we both sang in the chorus; we loved novels and poetry and romantic English love stories. Suzanne and I dithered over whether or not to ditch our long-distance boyfriends, and rolled our eyes at our mothers’ ridiculous worries. We haunted the thrift store for elegant vintage night wear and cashmere shrug sweaters – which, at the time, were long out of style – and diamante’ brooches. Occasionally she let me borrow that thrift-store black velvet dressing gown with ivory crocheted lace. Together we counseled our friend Beth on how best to flirt with a fun, handsome boy we all knew: Mark ImpossibleLastName.

Three years later, Mark and Suzanne would marry, a few months before the end of college, telling her worried mother that they “just couldn’t wait to live together.” Gasp! How shocking! Getting married in order to have, you know, S-E-X!!

Suzanne had long wavy strawberry-blonde hair, loved Asian décor, and enjoyed making toast over the bulb in her desk lamp. She could make waiting for a bus fun. Her faults? 1) She simply could not manage to arrive anywhere on time. 2) She could be oblivious to other people’s moods. 3) And she wore Cinnabar.
She wore it discreetly, instead of bathing in it as so many Opium-lovers seemed to do, but it was the one most frustrating thing about her. I remember saying to her once, when I was having a supremely bad day (it involved a calculus test, among other things), “I could never wear those Oriental perfumes. They’re so heavy and dusty and strong.”

She serenely told me, “I know you couldn’t, but they’re very Suzanne.” She shook back her hair, releasing a wave of Cinnabar (ugh), and then smiled at me. “Let’s go find something for you.” The Something turned out to be a very, very small bottle of Coty Ex’clam-a’tion!, a straight-up sweet rose floral that I eventually ditched along with that boyfriend (um, yes, the one that SSS Tabac Aurea reminded me of). I don’t regret saying goodbye to either one.

I spent years afterward saying to people, “I like perfume, but no Orientals please. I don’t like them at all.” I had no idea what, exactly, an Oriental was, but I thought it meant, “nasty thing that smells like Dust of the Crypt.”

Fast forward fifteen to twenty years, and I’ve gotten interested in perfume again, now that the bombastic 80’s and the soap-and-clean laundry smells of the 90’s have fallen out of fashion. I rediscover an old love, Coty Emeraude… and am utterly stunned to find out that my Darling Emeraude is, yes, an Oriental.

Oh, yes, it is. And it turns out that many of the scents that I love, that I just adore and feel the most “me” when wearing, are Orientals too. Shalimar Light comes to mind, as does Natori, Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, Amouage Lyric Woman, Ormonde Jayne Ta’if, Bal a Versailles, Parfum Sacre’, Citizen Queen, L’Heure Bleue, Organza Indecence, Bvlgari Black, Rumba, Bois des Iles, Dolce Vita, La Myrrhe, and Tocade.  Whew. And I don’t even own all of those – but all of them feel comfortable and warm and lovely, and in some way like a second, beautifully-scented, skin. They’re weighty and smooth – ornate and lushly detailed – luxurious and beautiful.

Suzanne and Mark did finish college; they’ve been married now for nearly twenty years and have four lovely children. I haven’t seen her since 1999, when Gaze was a baby and Suz was pregnant with her third. We’ve only been corresponding through Christmas cards for years, but I have recently found Suzanne’s email address and will be contacting her soon. I’m hoping for more news than will fit on a Christmas card. I can’t wait to find out what perfume she’s wearing these days, and I can’t wait to tell her how wrong I was about Orientals!

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Perfume Review: Bath & Body Works Moonlight Path, Clone No. 3

Okay, today we’re going way downmarket for the review of our next Chanel No. 5 clone: Bath and Body Works Moonlight Path. I’ve long been a customer of B&BW – largely because if I want anything fancier than drugstore body products, they’re it. I do have a few favorites among their offerings: I dearly love their Aromatherapy Orange Ginger lotion, their Velvet Tuberose is a terrific, low-budget Fracas Lite, and I wore the Freesia bath products all during my honeymoon.

On the Late & Lamented List: Freesia is gone. It’s been replaced with Sheer Freesia, which is simple and pretty but lacks the crisp greenness I remember smelling in the old one; I think there may have been some aspect of lily of the valley along with the freesia in the old version. Sigh. Well, I still have some Diorissimo.

My husband’s sister and her husband once gave me some really rich hand cream scented with Moonlight Path for a birthday. I opened it, sniffed and exclaimed, “Chanel No. 5!” My brother-in-law gave me the fish eye, and I hastened to explain that it wasn’t exact, of course – it just reminded me of my mother’s scent. And then I had to explain that I liked No. 5 but didn’t wear it because, well, it was my mother’s scent, “and you know how that is, right?” And then I shut up, because I was Just Making It Worse. (Sorry, K. It was a nice gift you and E. picked out – I used it all up with pleasure, and it smelled nice, and you have good taste. And I love you both. Which you know. Grin.)

So when I began seriously sniffing No. 5 Smell-Alikes, I remembered Moonlight Path, and went back to the Bath and Body Works store at the mall to retest it. It’s not as close to the icon as Mariella Burani is, and even farther away than Eau Premiere, but it does echo some of the facets of No. 5, particularly the powdery aspects.

Here are the notes for Moonlight Path:
Top: Bergamot, lavender, mandarin, coriander
Heart: Rose, jasmine, violet, tuberose, ylang, lily of the valley
Base: Sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, vanilla, amber, musk, patchouli

I never smell the lavender in Moonlight Path, which is probably a good thing, lavender being an un-favorite of mine. The congruencies of notes between the two scents include bergamot, rose, jasmine, ylang, lily of the valley, and all the base notes. Indeed, it’s the drydown of MP that reminds me most of No. 5, and since MP is fairly light, it’s the drydown that I spend the most time in while wearing it. I do smell that rose-jasmine-ylang-LotV combo that is such a pleasant part of No. 5 for me, and that’s enjoyable in Moonlight Path, but sadly, it doesn’t last very long here. It is powdery.  Very powdery.  Intensely powdery, even – and I’m not all that big a fan of powder. The list of basenotes sounds more complex than it actually is in Moonlight Path, contrasted directly with No. 5’s rich and shimmery sandalwood and musk base.

It’s perfectly nice. But powdery, you know… and if you like that kind of thing, the body products might layer very nicely (and, um, cheaply, if you care) with No. 5.

Top image: Moonlight Path body butter at B&BW; bottom image is Fillable Puff Patter with Powder at ebay, which my late grandmother would have absolutely adored.  She’d have bought one for every woman she knew, bless her heart.

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Oasis in the Desert

This is going to seem ridiculously familiar to some of my perfumista friends: The American Mall – at least in bucolic suburbia – is a perfume wasteland.

I had the rare chance to go to the mall yesterday. The CEO insists that all errands be combined as much as possible, so I don’t often go to the small city/big town in which the mall is located. It’s twenty miles away, a good half-hour’s drive – but I had a dentist’s appointment today, and afterward hit the mall. Our mall has four anchor stores: Sears, JC Penney, Belk, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Only one of those, Belk, has sniffies available. They’ve got a big sale going on at the moment, so I went in.

I should explain that it always sort of depresses me to read a blog entry about some new commercial release, because I know that I’ll maybe possibly someday get to sniff it – but only if it’s at Belk, which is mainstream all the way, baby. I won’t get to stroll into Aedes and smell the new L’Artisan, but things like Marc Jacobs Lola, Idole d’Armani, and Lancome Hypnoses Senses are available.

There were testers for all three at Belk. I sprayed each on a card, and they were either “Bleah, too sweet” or “Meh, boring.” What a waste of aisle space. Belk has all the Estee Lauders, except the new Private Collections – which does me absolutely no good because of that Horrible Lauder Base. They’ve also got some Escadas, the Jessica Simpsons, Queen, Juicy Couture, Ed Hardy, a few Lancomes (Tresor, Hypnose, Magnifique, and Hypnose Senses – no La Collection here), and Ralph Laurens. Oh, and of course they have Chanel (no Les Exclusifs, obviously).

The SA who came over to talk to me about Chanels… doesn’t like them. Oh, except for Chance Eau Fraiche. Which she pronounced Aw Fresh. I mean, I grew up here and I’m used to the local accent, but really. I told her that I liked Eau Premiere and got a blank look, like “what’s that?” I pointed. “Oh. I don’t like No. 5, it’s too heavy and old fashioned. But try this, it’s nice and soft.” She sprayed Allure on a card for me. This SA, at a guess, is at least 40, judging by her skin (and yes, I know that’s not nice of me). Hey, I’m 40… ish… too!

I asked to sniff Coco, having heard from a longtime wearer that it smells softer these days. “No, it hasn’t been changed,” the saleslady says. “You like that? That’s an old one.” She sprayed it for me anyway. I was hoping it would be less Opium-ish than it used to be. I don’t hate it as much as I used to, but… still NO. Dear God, NO.

So now I get why people are always complaining about the arid landscape of mainstream, and why they hate that SA’s are so uninformed about what they’re selling. True, all true. Recently over on Now Smell This, Angela reviewed vintage Millot Crepe de Chine as something of an antidote to an unsuccessful sniffing trip; the comments about perfume SA’s are interesting to read. You can access it here. I just hadn’t realized how bad it is – gosh, if you’re going to sell something as luxurious as perfume, perhaps you should find out something about it, hm?

Lost in the scented desert, trying to find my way out, I finally saw an oasis: Shalimar. At the bottom of the case, lovely blue-and gold tester bottle locked up, the only Guerlain in the place sat on a shelf and glowed at me from amid the dreck. I don’t even wear it – it goes pretty tarry on me and can scare the horses, if you know what I mean – but boy, did it look good! Shalimar is still the Grand Old Diva – and to quote Luca Turin, “God bless Guerlain for still doing this stuff.”

I went home and put on a drop of vintage Shalimar parfum de toilette, and then topped it with a little spritz of Shalimar Light.  It was lovely; the Shalimar TarNilla was just right in the woodsmoke-laced rainy evening.  Ahhhh.
Top image: Sahar (Kavir) by Hamed Saber at flickr; Shalimar extrait at ebay.

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Random Thoughts

In my rant of yesterday, I completely forgot to wish Gaze a happy birthday.  Dear Gaze, Noticer Par Excellence, you’ll never completely know how wonderful you are.  I consider myself privileged to be your mother.  Many more years of life to you, sweet baby.

Two drops of vintage Magie Noire EdT does indeed turn out to be way too much.  In a glorious sort of way.

Scent of the Day: Parfums de Nicolai  Vanille Tonka. The weather is cold and wet and nasty, and VT is a good antidote.  For some unexplained reason, this scent always makes me happy.  I love the way it makes me feel like Miss Piggy, sipping champagne (fine sparkling muscatelle, actually, a bargain at 95 cents) and complaining that the bubbles get up her nose and make her all giggly.  Limes, vanilla, carnations, Dr. Pepper and frankincense – what’s not to love about this scent?  Heck, no, it’s not Serious Perfume, but it’s not some candy-coated fruity teenybopper blah either.  And for your viewing pleasure, here’s a small clip from The Muppet Movie, showing Piggy and Kermie on their first date and featuring Steve Martin.  It doesn’t go long enough to show the bubbles, but they’re there.  Trust me. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiGAAHG0O1A

I’m off to sniff the bottle cap, myself.

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Rant: I Don’t Want to Smell Like Shaving Cream!

If I can manage to keep from swearing, I would like to say something about fragrance that smells like shaving cream:

I hate it with a passion.

 Shaving cream actually smells good. It’s a good clean soapy smell, on its own, and I do really enjoy snuggling up to a freshly shaven man (thank you, CEO), but I don’t want to smell like that. Really. Seriously, Perfume-Creating Folks, JUST STOP DOING THAT. Please. I’m begging here.  It ruined another drydown again today, and I’m just getting really sick of that.

A short list of scents I’ve tested – either unisex ones or those intended to be marketed as feminines – follows, delineating scents I’ve found to contain whatever-the-&*##-it-is that smells like shaving cream.

  • Pilar & Lucy Tiptoeing through Chambers of the Moon (tuberose, amber, shaving cream)
  • Ava Luxe Midnight Violet (violet, earthy woods, shaving cream)
  • Caron 3rd Homme (jasmine, woods, shaving cream) Okay, okay, this one’s ostensibly a masculine… but worn by many women.
  • Les Nereides Imperial Opoponax (soap and shaving cream)
  • Parfums de Nicolai Eau Turquoise (citrus, cedar, shaving cream)
  • PdN Cedrat Intense (lemon zest, shaving cream)
  • L’Artisan Iris Pallida (anise, florals, vetiver, shaving cream)
  • L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer (pine, lily, and shaving cream)
  • Slava Zaitsev Maroussia (spice, rose, and shaving cream)

GAH.  If I knew what note combination equals shaving cream, I could avoid it. (Lavender, tonka bean, musk? Opoponax?) I don’t even know. And half the time the lists of notes are so sketchy that even if I did know what combo creates sharp-edged-bathroom-sink angst for me, the accord might not be listed so that I’d know to avoid that scent.  Okay, I get it that not all people get “shaving cream” out of those scents. But I do, and I’m not happy. GRRRRRRR!

Fine, I give up, I’m scrubbing this off, and then I’m going to put on way too much vintage Magie Noire (two drops should suffice) and go for a windy walk.  A girl has to do what a girl has to do.

Image is “Angry Woman” at Acclaim Images (no, it’s not actually me).
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Perfume Review: Mariella Burani, Clone No. 2

This is one of several posts in which I’ll be reviewing perfumes that are similar to, or are based on, or that remind me of, Chanel No. 5. Today we’ve got Mariella Burani, which I have in EdT. I first heard of it through Abigail’s review on I Smell Therefore I Am, which you can read here, and when ScentScelf (of Notes From the Ledge) approved, I had to try it. People, this stuff is dirt-cheap and lovely, which is a combination that always sacks me for a loss. I bought my bottle on ebay, slightly used, for $15.50.

This is one of the prettiest bottles I own. If I didn’t worry about light damage, I’d leave it out for decoration – I adore the hefty glass rectangle topped with the red-orange resin roses that should be tacky, but instead are kitschy fab.

Mariella Burani starts out with the sunniest, happiest citrus ever, with a sheer fizz of aldehydes. The aldehydes don’t give the impression of soapiness here; they sparkle briefly and evanesce. This citrus is miles away from furniture polish, and although the notes don’t list orange, I infer it. In fact, MB reminds me of childhood Florida vacations and the tangerine sherbet we’d eat at Baskin Robbins at the beach. It seems soft, rather than bracing. This citrusy veil seems to cling to the perfume as it develops. But as the scent moves into its floral heart, it begins to smell reminiscent of No. 5. When I look at the list of notes, it’s clear why: ylang, rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, and iris are listed for both fragrances. MB’s floral heart is blended very well, and the effect is smooth, voluptuous, and Just Plain Pretty.

I should explain that I am a sucker for Just Plain Pretty. I’m never put off by such girly articles of clothing as cotton sundresses trimmed in eyelet, or by fluffy blue sweaters, and Mariella Burani is no exception. It’s not that I never want something complicated or interesting or tough – it’s just that a pretty, feminine, fragrance always makes me smile.

My favorite part of the scent story is the part where the floral heart begins to fade, and the orientalesque base begins to turn up. There is, as Abigail mentions, a creaminess about it that makes me think of pearl necklaces. The effect may be due to the benzoin-tonka bean-vanilla combination. Geek alert here: I checked my Excel perfume file for the notes on some of my very favorite perfumes – Emeraude and Shalimar Light – and bingo! Benzoin, tonka, and vanilla.

Another attractive aspect of MB is that it seems weightless – neither a light, refreshing cologne for summer, nor a richly gourmand oriental for winter. In this, too, it is reminiscent of No. 5’s uncanny knack of being Appropriate For All Occasions. Also like No. 5, it seems ageless to me as well – my teenage daughter and my mother could both wear it as well as I can.

If Mariella Burani has any flaws, they are that a) it doesn’t last very long on me, and b) I don’t get much sillage. It zips through its development, from sunny orange through pretty-lady-florals to creamy base, in about three hours. This is, of course, normal for my skin experience with EdTs, and my bottle was so inexpensive that I don’t mind spritzing with abandon. Our weather has been what I call comfortable (60-70 degrees F), which may not be warm enough to show off MB. On two successive nights, I sprayed my wrists and neck one time each, and woke up warm and cosy the next morning, smelling the most gorgeous creamy floral scent; I was actually sad that it was time for my shower. Perhaps warmer weather would encourage the scent to bloom into the air a little more. And I think the EdP might suit me better; one would hope that the longevity would be better than the EdT’s lasting power.

This scent is lovely on its own; it’s an excellent alternative for those who find classic No. 5 difficult to wear. If the edp comes within my reach, I will snap it up.

Notes for Mariella Burani:
Top: tarragon, bergamot, rosewood, lemon
Heart: ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, iris
Base: amber, sandalwood, tonka bean, patchouli, musk, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver

Top image: my bottle, purchased at ebay.
Bottom image: 50’s cotton sundress at syriekovitz.com

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Perfume Review: Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere

This is the first of several posts in which I’ll be reviewing perfumes that are similar to, or are based on, or that remind me of, Chanel No. 5. First up is Chanel’s own flanker, No. 5 Eau Premiere, created in 2007 to modernize No. 5 for the current taste.

Opinions have been rather divided on Eau Premiere, with perfumistas typically taking one of two positions:
1) It’s No. 5, slimmed down and warmed up, palatable to modern consumers and quite wearable.
2) It took all the glory of No. 5 and sold it out, dumbed it down, ruined the perfection.

I take Position 1. Bear in mind, though, a few facts: I like aldehydic florals. I have generally found No. 5 to be a little on the cold-and-powdery side, at least until I discovered that vintage parfum I wrote about in the last post. Slight differences from classic No. 5 actually make me happy, because I can wear the scent without smelling exactly like my mother. And lastly, I tested Eau Premiere before I found that vintage parfum.

The listed notes for both No. 5 and Eau Premiere are, duh, pretty much the same:
T: aldehydes, neroli, bergamot, lemon, ylang-ylang
H: rose, jasmine, LotV, iris
B: vetiver, sandal, patchouli, vanilla, amber

I suspect that the differences in smell come from changes in the proportions of the notes. Eau Premiere, which is an eau de toilette, starts off with a burst of juicy citrus, only lightly veiled with aldehydes. I never smell citrus in the original, and I’m guessing that the aldehydes simply overpower the citrus – or maybe the citrus is only there in light proportions, to keep the aldehydes from smelling too soapy. From that pleasant, smiling citrusy start, EP moves fluidly into its floral heart. This is the point at which it tends to smell most like its famous ancestress – that creamy ylang, the floaty jasmine, the cool powdery iris. The rose is more prominent to my nose in EP than in the original, and that seems to make EP more friendly, more romantic, and, possibly, less whip-smart, as if the EP girl has taken off her reading glasses to entice her chem lab partner into asking her for a date.

(No. 5 wouldn’t have bothered. She’d have stared him down through those lenses, model-beautiful nonetheless.) This floral stage lasts about two hours on my skin – by and large, Eau Premiere seems to develop less than No. 5, with stages flowing into each other instead of the striking changes of No. 5.

EP finally moves into a sandalwood-vetiver-vanilla-and-musk drydown. It is nicely balanced between dry and sweet, between the vetiver and vanilla, but it is quite light, and does not amaze like the cool-warm/dry-rich base of vintage No. 5. The sandalwood is, sadly, not the full-bodied and gorgeous thing one finds in the vintage No. 5 – but then, what is these days? I don’t even smell the same sandalwood in modern No. 5 parfum – it’s nice, but not jaw-droppingly beautiful as it is in the vintage. I have read several complaints that Eau Premiere’s drydown seems to just disappear, but that hasn’t been my experience. Scents, especially edts, don’t last very long on my skin: usually I can expect three hours from an edt, four tops. Eau Premiere, on the other hand, lasts 6 hours + on me, with the last half of it emanating a decidedly citrus-musk blend. I think – I am not entirely sure, but I think that I’ve read that there exists a particular musk that has citrus overtones, and my guess is that this musk is present in EP. Toward the end of the story, it is all I can smell – a light, clean musk, with a hint of citrus.

As promised, the skin difference anecdote: I bought a small bottle of EP for my mother, the No. 5 girl, for her birthday. While I was visiting her, she gave me one spritz on my neck and one on my wrists, then spritzed her own. An hour later, we were in the kitchen peeling potatoes and I leaned over to sniff her neck. Hmm. I sniffed again. Mom smelled like your average ditzy fruity-floral mall frag. I sniffed my own wrists: Hmm. No. 5. Mom again: peachy floral mish-mash. Me: No. 5 (except less powdery). No peach. Three hours later, she smelled like No. 5 (more powdery than I had smelled), and I smelled like citrus musk. Weird. Of course, this may all be simply my perception, but it is odd that it doesn’t smell the same on me as it does on her.

I find Eau Premiere very lovely, and like its famous precursor appropriate to any number of occasions. It is more citrusy, more rosy, more friendly, more linear, while being less aldehydic, less cold, less complex, less powdery. In short, it is designed to suit the modern taste. I think it does so admirably.

Images are Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere at fragrantica.com and glasses model 0072 by gwg_fan at flickr.

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My Mother Wore Chanel No. 5

I came to the investigation of perfume with emotional baggage (don’t we all?): Chanel No. 5 is the scent of my mother. I cannot smell it without thinking of her – the person who is my mother, and my mother who is a person, by which I suppose I mean both the individual and the role.

Sometime in my teens, it began to feel odd to me to call my mother “Mama,” since all my friends said “Mom” instead. So I changed. But in my early childhood, “Mama” she was, and Mama wore Chanel No. 5 eau de cologne. She’d grown up in a very frugal household, and my father was also quite a frugal person, and like many others of her generation, perfume was only for special occasions, and if she was wearing pantyhose, the perfume would follow. I remember watching her get ready for some social event – a concert, probably, or perhaps a Christmas dinner for my dad’s office – and as soon as she’d gotten dressed and put on her shoes, it was time for perfume. She’d dab some from the bottle onto the base of her neck, her wrists, and behind each ear. I always asked to sniff the bottle, and I always recoiled from the bright-lights and bug spray smell that came from it. It was hard for me to understand that that nasty smell would turn into a floral, intensely powdery, very feminine scent on Mama’s skin.

Eventually that bottle of No. 5 ran dry. It was replaced, briefly and unsatisfyingly, by Anais Anais, and then later by Coty L’Effleur, and still later by Elizabeth Arden’s 5th Avenue, all of which are strongly floral and containing at least some element of bathtime, either soap and/or powder.

As a young woman looking for a scent to call mine, I automatically crossed No. 5 off my list. I’d pick up a bottle in a department store from time to time, sniff, and think, “Nope, too powdery and cold. And anyway, that’s Mom’s perfume.” As recently as last year, I was still thinking, “Oh, I can’t wear No. 5. It’s too powdery. It smells like my mother.” And that was my mindset: Chanel No. 5 is a classic, an icon, a lovely scent that resembles the cold marble perfection of a Michelangelo statue, giving off Don’t Touch Me vibes. Uh-uh, not for me, not this girl, no way no how.

And then… dum dum DUM… the ebay auction. I was looking for a bottle of parfum to give Mom, since the miniature bottle of Eau Premiere I had found for her was perfectly pleasant, but somehow not as nice on Mom as it was on me (more on that in a few days.) Then, too, the perfume blogs were full of outrage over the IFRA restrictions on fragrance ingredients like jasmine and oakmoss (both of which are components of No. 5), and how awful it was that many classics were going to be reformulated, if they hadn’t been already, and how it might be time to go hunt up vintage bottles of this and that on ebay…

So I bit. I started watching auctions for “vintage No. 5 parfum.” Bid on a few and lost. Bid on a few and got horrified at the prices. Read many many blog comments saying, “Watch out for fake Chanel perfume on ebay!” and “Beware of ebay sellers filling an old parfum bottle with new cologne!” Checked on the price of a new bottle (eek! $155 for half an ounce). Bid on an old, opened-and-slightly-used 1-ounce bottle of parfum… watched over the auction like a mother hen her chicks… and it was mine, for $33 including shipping.

The bottle arrived. I opened it, deeply suspicious – how could it be such a pale color, when we know that jasmine scents tend to go orange with age, and the box was clearly so 1950’s? – and was surprised not to be knocked over by the aldehydes. They were there, but quite muted. “Cologne,” I sighed out loud. “Cheaters.” Ah, well – it was recognizably No. 5, and even if it was cologne, it was worth something, right? I smeared two healthy dabs onto my wrists and went to eat lunch, musing that aldehydes are weird molecules, smelling as they do of soap, candle wax, and glacier ice.

Half an hour later, I became aware that I was moving in a cloud of gorgeousness, and my mouth dropped open. This wasn’t cologne, this was No. 5 parfum, the Grand Dame of Classic Perfumery. This was No. 5 as I had never smelled it: intensely floral, seamlessly blended, with a sort of golden glow that made me think of angels. I wandered about the house kicking myself because I could have been smelling like this, instead of all those drugstore fragrances, all my life! Still later, as the florals began to subside into a base dominated by real sandalwood and a glowing musk, I was astonished at the way the scent seemed dry and cool, yet at the same time rich and smooth. This was a drydown in the grand old-fashioned style, seemingly composed of nearly every base note in the perfumer’s lexicon. Amazing. Amazingly beautiful. Women should indeed smell like this, I thought.

I have now worn No. 5 extrait de parfum from five different bottles, four vintage and one modern (thanks to Daisy and Belle de Sud, my swapper friends), and every one of these bottles is different, although clearly recognizable as No. 5. I’m sure that most of the differences can be attributable to age and storage conditions, but it’s so strange that the scents are now so divergent from each other. One has loads of aldehydes and a musky drydown; one has wonky topnotes that smell a bit of floor polish and a heart that seems heavy on rose; one is mostly jasmine, iris, and sandalwood, very powdery; one is the bottle I just described – glorious – and one is a modern bottle, which seems to be all there, in the proper proportions, and is crisply edged as a brand-new hundred-dollar bill.

What I like best about No. 5 is its versatility. It seems weightless and ageless; it is unaffected by weather or by events of the day. It could be worn as easily to a fried-chicken picnic as to a symphony concert, and as easily in winter as in summer. Then, too, it seems to smell of money and class: both expensive and beautiful. I even like the fact that it’s fairly ubiquitous among a certain age group, and nearly everyone has smelled it enough to identify it, therefore making it an ideal mask of sorts. If I feel the need to hide my vulnerable, emotional self behind a competent costume, No. 5 is perfect for that. I’m not saying it’s absolutely perfection, mind you, or even that it is the pinnacle of the perfumer’s art. But for what it is – cool, elegantly lovely, and aloof – it is wonderful.

And I’m struck again by the fact that my mother, who’s always preferred tailored to frilly, classic to trendy, plain to fancy, has great taste in scent. I still can’t smell No. 5, in whatever incarnation, without thinking of her. I always smile. For early scent memories, for hugs and kisses, for peanut butter and apple sandwiches, for not killing me outright after I walked nonchalantly across the top bar of the swingset, for homemade dresses and baths and haircuts, for teaching me manners and for the millions of things you’ve done for me… many thanks, Mom. I love you.

Listed notes for No. 5:
Top: aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, neroli, ylang-ylang
Heart: jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, iris
Base: vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, patchouli, oakmoss, musk


No.5 was composed in 1921 by Ernest Beaux, the fifth of nine options created for Coco Chanel to choose from.  It may be an apocryphal story, but M. Beaux commented that he was inspired by the smell of snow.  (Indeed, having been close to an actual glacier in New Zealand, I can understand the reference.) 

Images, from top to bottom: Chanel No. 5 parfum, from chanel.com
1973 Catherine Deneuve photo Chanel No. 5 pefume ad #2 by 237 at ebay
1959 Elegant Woman Chanel No. 5 perfume ad, from magicelectron at ebay
Mom at my sister’s wedding in 2002

For Christmas, Mom will be getting part of my favorite vintage bottle – I can’t bear to give it up entirely! – and perhaps a bottle of her own. (Sssh, don’t tell her.)

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