Mini-Reviews, March 12, 2014

Arquiste Flor y Canto (Rodrigo Flores-Roux, 2012) – Notes list: tuberose, marigold, magnolia, plumeria, copal. (from Fragrantica) The first five minutes are the best. The BEST: juicy wet green tuberose with the nose-tickling sharpness of marigold (gosh, I love marigold). After the herbal slap of it, though, this settles into a skin scent* of sweet tropical floral. I don’t pick up much on the plumeria (tiare); it’s mostly tuberose but with that creaminess of magnolia making the scent even softer. After two and a half to three hours, the copal finally shows up, a dry woody thing toning down the sweetness of the tuberose.

(Found this on Yahoo; don't know what it is or where it came from, but it is STUNNING. WANT.)
(Found this on Yahoo; don’t know what it is or where it came from, but it is STUNNING. WANT.)

I’m dabbing from a sample vial, and perhaps this would be better sprayed. As it is, it shrinks down to minimal sillage within an hour, and I kind of hate that. Either stay BIG or be small, one or the other, please.  Other than that, it’s very pleasant and easy to wear. Lasts less long than I expected, about 4 hours. Seems to be a lot of naturals in here, though.

*White florals tend to have the effect of “sinking in” to my skin. They don’t radiate very far off me.  Carnal Flower, widely recognized in the perfume community as a “wafter,” on me? Doesn’t waft.  I don’t walk around trailing clouds of tuberose or jasmine or ylang. I can even wear, gasp, vintage(ish) Poison without choking people. Or so I’ve been told – unless people are lying to me.  (Hmmm.)

belovedAmouage Beloved Woman (Bernard Ellena, 2014) – Notes list: Top notes are lavender, jasmine, rose, clary sage, chamomile, cloves and cardamom; middle notes are immortelle, labdanum, ylang-ylang, patchouli, benzoin, olibanum and violet; base notes are musk, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla, castoreum, civet, leather and ambergris. (Fragrantica)

Man, this is… hmm. Incredibly powdery? It’s got a powder level similar to that of Shalimar, and almost to Habanita levels. Not my sort of thing. The spicy florals in it are just gorgeous, though, and the tiny touch of civet makes this very much a throwback sort of fragrance, a 1950s Woman of the World scent. I don’t typically do well with lavender or clary sage, and the first few minutes are a swirling uh-oh-maybe-I-shouldn’t-have-put-this-on-my-skin.  (I like the kind of sage you cook with, I like that. Clary sage, nuh-uh. Smelled it growing live, in Thomas Jefferson’s garden at Monticello, and jerked my head back so fast I nearly got whiplash.) The rose is nice, and I’m picking up a bit of clove and ylang, but this is basically a powdery oriental with some flowers and it is not doing a darn thing for me.

Like most scents from this house, it’s long-lasting and complex and solid.  But it is Fusty.  I mean, I wear Jolie Madame in vintage extrait on a regular basis, and you’re talkin’ some Old Lady Perfume right there – but this is just not my variety of old-fashioned perfume. This has that dusty patchouli I hate, but I’m also getting a lot of that powdery type of vanilla and olibanum (frankincense).  I can’t do this sort of thing. I think Musette over at Perfume Posse liked this thing, and we have a lot of overlap, but Just No.

Yay, another Amouage I don’t like!** I would seriously hate to fall for all of them.  I still need to get my nose on Gold Woman, Fate Woman, and Interlude Woman. Because it never pays to ignore Amouage – even if you don’t like them, they are rich and amazing and you are better for having smelled them.

Tom Hardy. Leather jacket. Memoir Woman in extrait, y'all. Wow.
Tom Hardy. Leather jacket. Memoir Woman in extrait, y’all. Wow.

** I really like Lyric Woman. I thought I loved it, but somehow I don’t manage to wear it often. It’s a very meditative thing, though, and I like to wear it to classical concerts. I really like Ubar (the reissue); it reminds me a good deal of Lancome Climat. (Gah, I should get my Climat out and wear it more often. So pretty.) I liked Jubilation XXV, the incense-centered men’s version rather than J25, the fruity-chypre women’s (ugh, you know me and fruity chypres). But I adore Memoir Woman, adore adore adore it. It is not very Me, and yet it is. Besides my 50ml EdP and the lotion I got for Christmas, I just snagged a 5ml decant of the EXTRAIT DE PARFUM, y’all. Swoon. (The Body Cream is good too – I only have a tiny sample of that, but it’s gorgeous. Less complicated than the EdP.) I think I originally said of the extrait, it’s Tom Hardy in a leather jacket, and that’s still true. You know I love me some TH.  

Young aspen trees. Aspen for Women smells more like conifers to me, definitely does not have the golden cast of autumn aspen leaves, but this fresh outdoorsiness seems appropriate for the smell of it.
Young aspen trees. Aspen for Women smells more like conifers to me, definitely does not have the golden cast of autumn aspen leaves, but this fresh outdoorsiness seems appropriate for the smell of it.

Coty Aspen for Women (no perfumer or notes available) – I’ve mentioned this before, as a scent I wore right out of college and loved. It was first produced in 1989 or 1990, and disappeared by 1994, according to my memory. I wore it maybe two years before my bottle – left out on the dresser the way I’d always done, not knowing how damaging light is to perfume – started to smell odd and sort of maple syrupy, and I threw it away. It was always louder than anything I’d ever worn before, and still more radiant than most everything I wear even now! One spritz radiates pretty far.

It’s tough to pick out notes in this thing, and the men’s version (still extant) is really no help, as they don’t smell similar, so bear with me here. Up top is some “fresh,” ozonic sort of note, possibly Calone but I don’t pick up any melony overtones. There’s still some citrus in here, possibly bergamot, but it’s starting to deteriorate so it’s hard to tell. Under that is a sharp coniferous aspect, plus a soft rose and, I think, orange blossom, as it is soapy-clean and sharp-fresh at the same time.  There’s a good deal of wood in here, not real sandalwood but a sandalwood-esque generic blond woods thing, and I’m thinking some cedar too. If I had to guess, possibly some cardamom as well. It’s a little in the vein of classic woody men’s fragrances, which might be why I still like it. I’m not picking up on any patchouli at all, and there is no fougere element or amber present to my nose, either. No fruit, no vanilla – this was a real weirdie even for 1990, and that’s probably part of why it was discontinued.

You can still buy this on eBay, even boxed, but my eBay bottle and a sample I got from a friend who bought a used bottle both are clearly starting to deteriorate in the way that my original bottle did, with an “off” topnote and a maple syrup angle. I probably should use it up and let it go; its instability is possibly another reason why it, like the original Victoria by Victoria’s Secret, was discontinued.

Oh well.

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Fragrance Throwdown: Coty L’Origan vs. Guerlain L’Heure Bleue

I smelled L’Heure Bleue first, not long after I’d smelled the ethereally beautiful Apres L’Ondee, and not long after I’d rediscovered lovely older versions of Coty Emeraude.  I’d run across a mention of it in a book, and just had to find out what the heroine’s perfume smelled like.  I didn’t know, at the time, any of its history.

I hated it.  I called it “Hell’s Medicine Cabinet.”  Mind you, I tend to like medicinal smells – witness my love of clove and mint, and my utter-swoon immediate love of Serge Lutens’ famously medicinal La Myrrhe, and my toe-curling happiness when I crack open the tin of Porter’s Liniment Salve.  But I thought L’Heure Bleue’s combination of anise, bergamot and coriander was jarring and unpleasant.

It was only later, when a swap friend sent me a sample of L’Heure Bleue that was a much darker color than the sample I’d tried before, that I realized I’d sniffed the Eau de Toilette.  The penny dropped: I frequently have difficulty appreciating EdT concentrations of classic Guerlains.  Not always, of course: the aforementioned Apres L’Ondee comes to mind, and so does Chamade, also Vega – but Mitsouko and Shalimar EdTs are complete disasters for me.

It turned out to be parfum my friend had sent me, and it was a totally different beast: soft, plush, rich, warm, strange, aloof yet friendly, like a stray cat who has deigned to have its chin scratched by a stranger.  It was an eye-opening experience.  “So this is what they’re talking about,” I pondered.  “Not the EdT.”  I went straight to ebay and looked for a bottle of parfum – and found one.  Modern, 1 ounce, slightly-used, missing its paper label, being sold for cheap by a woman who needed cash, post-divorce.  The impression I got was that her ex-husband had given it to her, and now she couldn’t get it out of the house fast enough!

Understandable: L’Heure Bleue is nothing if not memorable, immediately identifiable at the faintest whiff of sillage.  It’s not the kind of fragrance that one could wear casually; as a signature scent, it is both quirky and comforting, melancholy and romantic.   Its name, The Blue Hour, refers to twilight, with more connotations of romance and melancholy.

Even in parfum, the opening is a bit bumpy.  It’s aromatic and medicinal in a way that I remember from visiting hospitals as a kid in the 1970s, and still not very pleasant.  However, in the parfum, the coriander seems to drop out quickly, leaving anise and clove singing a close harmony.  The clove note becomes more floral and carnationlike in just a few moments, and then there’s that orange blossom.  I am not a huge orange blossom fan, as it often has a “milled soap” angle for me.  There is a hint of that in L’HB, but then the rose and heliotrope pop up, and it veers sweet and woody and almost almond-pastry-like.  I do notice that in hot weather, the anise note seems to be prominent throughout the development, and I like that a lot.  In winter, it’s very much Floral Bearclaw, with  lots of orange blossom and almond, and I find it less interesting in the winter.

L’Heure Bleue is the kind of fragrance that, if you loved it, could haunt your memory all your life.  Sadly, I do not love it.  I admire it.

My bottle of L’Origan came from eBay, in a little satin-lined leatherette case.  The packaging seems to be that used by Coty in the 1940s through (possibly) the early 1960s, so I’m not sure how old this bottle is.  The cap is a bit tarnished, and the liquid is definitely darker and more orange than pictured here (probably due to the aging of the jasmine and/or the orange blossom).  But the box, and the rubber (plastic?) stopper under the cap, seem to have protected the fragrance fairly well.

Of course, it is vintage, and although in fairly good shape, it is not very long-lasting (two and a half to three hours, compared to L’Heure Bleue’s five hours on my skin).  There is a slight mustiness in the topnotes, as well, and the woody parts of the base seem very dry, with cedar dominating the sandalwood.  I smell a sharp clove note, as well as some rose and jasmine with the orange blossom.  But where I sniff L’Heure Bleue’s drydown and think, “Eh, almond pastry,” I keep bringing my L’Origan-wearing wrist to my nose.  There is a soft benzoin-tonka-vanilla angle, the same sort of thing I love so much in Mariella Burani, but the woods tend to dominate it, and perhaps I’m picking up on a bit of incense as well.

As others more knowledgeable than I am have pointed out (see Denyse’s review at Grain de Musc here, or Octavian’s at 1000 Fragrances here), Jacques Guerlain seemed to take each one of Francois Coty’s groundbreaking scents and develop the ideas further: adding the rich peach note of Persicol to the structure of Chypre and creating Mitsouko, or adding a brighter citrus note, a more sharply delineated jasmine, and that genius hint of tar to the Emeraude structure to create Shalimar.   Clearly, L’Heure Bleue admits kinship to the older L’Origan, one of the first “soft,” Oriental Florals.  What’s the difference in notes and development?

I’m still not sure.  In fact, LHB seems less descended from L’O than tangentially related.  The anise and heliotrope notes hark back to Guerlain’s own Apres l’Ondee, while much of the structure – orange blossom, eugenol (clove) and ambery vanilla – seems to dovetail with that of L’O.  L’Origan, though, has what seems to me to be a darker cast; it’s less melancholy, more mysterious.  There seems to be more clove in L’O, more aromatic and herbal details, and it seems rather drier to me,  just to mention a few differences.    Halfway through the development, L’O has gone  right to the edge of a mossy kind of bitterness that makes me wonder if there’s vetiver in there, whereas L’HB  has veered toward vanilla and heliotrope.

As Denyse of Grain de Musc points out, the Coty fragrances have a tendency toward crudity, where their Guerlain counterparts are smooth and seamless.  And yet, and yet… I love (vintage) Emeraude with all my heart, while finding Shalimar a little over-the-top.  And L’Heure Bleue has very little emotional impact on me at all, while L’Origan stirs me.  Maybe it’s just me – or perhaps it’s that my L’Origan is vintage and my L’Heure Bleue is not.  The first time I opened that little bottle of L’Origan, I was bowled over by its sheer beauty.  L’HB never did that to me, not even in parfum. L’HB was a stray cat, L’O was a Siberian tiger lounging in the sun: powerful, beautiful, and potentially dangerous.

Notes for each fragrance from Fragrantica.

L’Origan: Bergamot, orange, coriander, pepper, peach, nutmeg, clove, carnation, violet, jasmine, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, rose, benzoin, incense, cedar, musk, sandalwood, vanilla, coumarin (tonka bean), civet.  Fragrantica reviews here.   See also Victoria’s review at Bois de Jasmin, and this lovely one at Memory and Desire.

L’Heure Bleue: Anise, coriander, neroli, bergamot, lemon, carnation, orchid, jasmine, violet, clove, orange blossom, rose, heliotrope, iris, sandalwood, musk, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver, tonka bean.  Fragrantica reviews here.  See also:  Kevin’s review at Now Smell This, Donna’s review of the parfum at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, and The Non-Blonde’s review, as well as this one at For the Love of Perfume.

Photo of wrestlers from Wikimedia Commons.  L’Origan ad from ebay seller adlibrary.  Other photos mine.  (Since my L’HB bottle had lost its sticker before it came to me, I added one.  It’s too big, and probably the wrong color – so sue me! At least you can tell what it is now, in case you’re not familiar with the inverted  heart stopper.)

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Perfume Review: vintage Coty L’Aimant parfum de toilette

If the only Coty fragrances you’re familiar with are the celebuscents currently available, plus the old standby drugstore fare like Exclamation! and Vanilla Fields, you might be surprised to lay a nostril on an old Coty perfume. Where the newer scents actually smell cheap, with simple formulas and obviously synthetic ingredients, the older versions tend to smell much richer and more complete; they are worked-out ideas that evoke a mood and clearly make use of natural materials.

I have a bottle of L’Origan parfum that appears to be 1950s-era in excellent preservation, a small bottle of 1970s Imprevu, and samples of vintage Coty Paris and Les Muses. I also remember smelling a set of three Coty fragrances in cologne strength at Big Lots, a clearance-type retailer which I’m sure in retrospect was flogging perfumes in discontinued packaging or formulas, in the mid-1980s. There was Muguet des Bois, which I loved and begged my mother to buy me (she said no, I had Chloe and Cachet and I didn’t need anything else), and Les Muses, which I liked as well. The other bottle in the set was Chypre, which I didn’t like at all – which is not surprising for a fourteen-year-old, but how I wish now that I’d bought it then!

L’Aimant – which means both “Loving Her” and “The Magnet” en francais – was released in 1927, and it’s very much the product of its time, as an aldehydic floral. Notes for L’Aimant (cribbed from at least three different sources) include aldehydes, bergamot, neroli, plum, apricot, strawberry, violet, rose, ylang, jasmine, iris, oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, vanilla, although I don’t smell all of those notes. My bottle is parfum de toilette, mid-to-late 1970s, in the standard Coty flacon with the gold crown top. It’s the same formulation and bottle as my favorite of the various vintage Emeraudes I own.  Edit: The image up top is very similar to the bottle I bought.

For convenience, I decanted some into a small spray bottle, but I find that I actually prefer to dab L’Aimant. I should have made this point on my Emeraude review, but failed to do so – both of these fragrances become more noticeably powdery when sprayed from a decant bottle. I’m not a big fan of powder, and I find them smoother and less “old-fashioned” when dabbed. This might be a function of the aldehydes, but I’m betting it’s from the vanilla-sandalwood combination; it’s a slightly-musty sort of smell that I associate with scented talc powder and my great-aunt Leacy. My bottle of L’Aimant, which I bought on ebay for a song, may have been kept in less-than-optimal conditions, because my experience with it is that although it’s plenty potent for the time that it lasts, it doesn’t last more than three hours – sometimes four if I “spray until wet.”   Edit: Image at right here seems to be from the 1950s or 1960s.  It is eau de toilette.  I have not tried L’Aimant in this packaging, but I do have an Emeraude edt from this era, and it is very faint.  Of course, it may have suffered age damage; it’s hard to tell from just looking at vintage bottles.

L’Aimant has one of those Waft Vs. Up-close differences that intrigue me very much. Cuir de Lancome does this as well: in the air it smells very different than it does sniffed close to the arm I’ve put it on. At first it smells of aldehydes and vanilla, no matter where I’m smelling it. But the aldehydes burn off rather quickly – in five to ten minutes perhaps, and although it’s definitely aldehydic, it’s much, much gentler than No. 5’s Alde-Overdose opening. If I hoover my arm where I’ve sprayed L’Aimant, I can distinguish separate notes: there’s the rose and violet, there’s the jasmine and iris, there’s the oakmoss. There’s a kinship to YSL Paris in the heart that I notice when I sniff closely, and the base is very classical, with oakmoss and sandalwood.

However, sniffed in the air as I move my arms about, L’Aimant smells like nothing so much as my mother’s peach pie: hot, tangy baked peaches and a hint of pastry dough, plus melting vanilla ice cream. It smells sweet and rather delicious, in the manner of L’Heure Bleue, which in turn was emulating Coty’s own L’Origan (more on that relationship soon, I hope): not entirely gourmand, but both floral and edible at the same time.

I do keep wondering whether there is some unlisted combination of notes in this fragrance that adds up to “amber” – there’s a definite sweetness to it that isn’t entirely attributable to vanilla on its own. In this fashion, it’s closely related to Emeraude, which is a vanillic amber, and also to L’Origan, which has a similar oakmoss-sandalwood-vanilla base. All three, as a matter of fact, clearly share some DNA identifying them as COTY. 

L’Aimant, like my darling Emeraude, is currently in production, but as a mere wraith of its former self. Emeraude is a shadow: thin, facelifted, and chemical, and so is the present version of L’Aimant. Avoid both of them, please.  At left is a picture of the current bottle Coty is using for L’Aimant.

If I could wish for anything from Coty, it would be Daphne Bugey’s reconstructions of classic Coty fragrances that Luca Turin is always banging on about in Perfumes: The Guide. Other than Emeraude, I don’t even know which ones they are. (La Rose Jacqueminot? Chypre?) Even in pricey retro crystal bottles with the Art Deco Coty lettering, and at Lutensian cost levels, I’d probably buy them. Many other vintage perfume fans would probably buy them, too. Please, Coty? Please? I’m beggin’ here. You think if we start a letter-writing campaign and point out to Coty that they stand to make a mint selling L’Aimant L’Original and Emeraude L’Original, they’ll come through? It couldn’t hurt. Here’s a link to Coty’s customer service department.

I’m off to write a begging letter to Coty… and to call my mother and ask her to bake me a pie when the fresh peaches show up this summer. Mmmmm…

Some other reviews of L’Aimant: Fragrance Bouquet, Anita at Perfume Posse, Scentzilla (brief, with a focus on old perfume in general).

Image of vintage L’Aimant parfum de toilette is from eurofinegifts at ebay.  Image of vintage eau de toilette is from millieg2 at ebay, and image of modern packaging is from annsgold at ebay.

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