Tuberose Series Bonus: Giorgio by Giorgio Beverly Hills

I should NOT have tested this.  This is not going to be a serious, formal review because I just can’t stand to do it.  Also, with this review, you’re going to get pointless digressions and some disturbing emotional reactions.  You have been warned.

Perfume Review: Giorgio Beverly Hills
Date Released: 1981
Perfumer: Bob Aliano
Sample provenance: miniature bottle bought retail 2010

Subcategory: Loud dressed-up party tuberose composition

I wasn’t going to bother with this.  I blame Luca Turin yet again, for reviewing it in the downloadable updates to the original Perfumes: The Guide.  I should have known better from that stupid Insolence experience, but nooooooooo.  Also I was blinded by nostalgia and a fuzzy memory of what Giorgio actually smells like (which is, actually, not Turin’s fault).  He does make the excellent point that “many people harbor a sneaking fondness for the bad old days” of the excessive eighties, pointing out that outrageous and surprising perfumes like Angel are still succeeding, in these times of post-post-decadence.  Here are portions of his review (go read it in its entirety if you can, it’s an interesting and informed take):
**** Giorgio.  Fruity tuberose…  The secret of Giorgio was the discovery of an accord that could stand up to a monstrously powerful tuberose while extending it in interesting directions. Two heroically strong aromachemicals were drafted: one being… reminiscent of pineapple, and the second a… base made between… a fresh-almondy-marine material and… the Concord grape smell… The result was a cute, twelve-foot-tall singing canary, at first impossible to ignore, and at length too big to love.  But if any composition embodies what makes… classical perfumery great, it is Giorgio.

Okay, first off I’m going to say yet again that it is definitely not fair to give four stars to something that doesn’t smell good.  I do not give a flying flip whether it “advances the art of perfumery,” got me?  I only want to wear scents that smell good.  Secretions Magnifiques four stars, anyone?  Didn’t think so.  Now, I’ll wade through some difficult opening notes to get to something beautiful, or at least to something interesting.  And granted, people’s opinions on What Smells Good tend to, duh, differ.  I love tuberose and hate balsamic resins.  I think vetiver is boring.  I like rose and aldehydes.  You may think I’m nuts.  But for a reviewer that keeps dissing tuberose he calls “synthetic,” it was downright immoral of LT to praise this *&#^%^@(*@ mess.

Disclaimer:  I went to high school in the 80’s, all right?  And while I was wearing polite applications of Chloe from my dabber bottle, big spray bottles of Giorgio were all the rage.  Black rubber bracelets, banana hairclips, leggings and big tunics, Swatches and enormous abstract-art earrings in pink and aqua… and Giorgio.  Which I kind of liked then – I had a friend who seemed to have all the disposable income a girl could want as well as serious social cachet (she was the only really nice cheerleader at my high school, and my Bio lab partner), and she wore it in discreet quantities.  I thought she smelled nice.

There comes a time in your sober years when you appreciate your parents’ chintzy refusal to buy your teenage self trendy stuff.  I never had a yellow-and-aqua paint-splatter swimsuit to wear to the pool.  I never had a pair of Candies sandals, or even those fat-soled flipflops everybody wore.  And sure, I suffered when the cheerleaders went down the hall in a gang, snickering about my not-even-close-to-designer jeans and reeking of Giorgio, but now I feel better about the whole thing.  I recently showed my high school yearbook to my children, and they laughed at my hair but admitted that my clothes were “not as weird as what those girls are wearing, eww.”  Take that, Two Christies!  Take that, Charlene and Amanda!  Your trendy clothes were weird!

I freely admit I couldn’t afford it back then anyway.  And never mind all the science-chat about anthrancilates and whatnot, descriptions of Big Bird and grape popsicles, what Giorgio smells like to me now is money and humiliation.

If I was going to attempt to wear Giorgio, this was the day to do it: The CEO just left on a trip to the Farm Bureau National Convention, Bookworm’s gone for the day to an indoor track meet, and the boys are supposedly cleaning up their rooms but they keep sneaking down to the laundry room to visit Sara the ailing calf.  Here’s a transcript of our conversations about Giorgio:

Me: I’m trying this out.  What do you think?
Taz: Eww.  It makes my throat hurt.
Gaze (trying to be diplomatic, but failing): I don’t like that one.  It smells like… really bad Halloween candy. The hard kind in weird flavors, like you get from the people who don’t like kids but they don’t want people to think they don’t like kids.  So they give you stuff, but it’s nasty.
Me (secretly pleased):  Really?
Gaze:  And the pool.  It smells like the pool. You know, on really crowded days, when they put too much chlorine in there?
Me:  Ha ha ha ha ha!
Taz: Mom, I think Sara’s better, she’s eating that hay now.
Me:  Ha ha ha ha ha!
Taz:  Hey, Mom… Mom, why are you laughing?
Gaze:  I don’t know.  She’s acting weird.  Maybe that perfume is making her sick.
Me: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… (maniacal giggling)
Taz: Mom, will you stop laughing and make us dinner now?  Mom?  Mom! Stop laughing.  This is important.  Please go wash your hands, I don’t want my hot dogs to smell like that.

It would probably be pretentious of me to repeat that old saying about the mills of God grinding slowly, so I won’t.  But I will say that the taste of vindication is sweet.

I have a nasty headache now that I didn’t have when I put on this dab of Giorgio edt.  Thank the Lord, I can go take a shower now.  Maybe now I can cease the maniacal laughter.  Sample of Giorgio Beverly ILLS is going out with the trash as soon as possible.

And I’m sorry, I really am.  I should have known better.  But, see, this is why I love perfume.  Two drops of yellow gunk (which have consequently contaminated the air around me for seven hours) suddenly returned me to the horrors of being fifteen.  What else could do that so quickly?  What else could go straight for the jugular like that?  Nothing else taps so elegantly, so directly, so brutally, into the emotional center as perfume.

Top image from fragrantica.  Lower image from paper_antiquary on ebay.

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In Which I Revisit the Loud Perfume Issue

This has got to be the single weirdest perfume neurosis I have: if it’s got monstah sillage, I’m going to hate it.  Period. 

Every so often, I’ll run across comments from other perfume aficionados saying that they love scents that leave a trail, or that their very favorite perfumes enter the room before they do, or that they simply adore being surrounded by a cloud of good-smelling stuff.  Someone on fragrantica just posted this query last week: “I must confess I adore tail-y fragrances. I love to leave a lingering hint of my presence in the room or when I walk by. Which perfumes in your opinion have the best sillage? Merci!”

That’s when I start feeling like an alien, because I have the opposite perspective.  (Interestingly, I just came across a post by Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am, visiting this same issue, where she talks about not understanding perfumistas who don’t like sillage.  Maybe we notice the view that’s not our own first.  Maybe I’m not as alone as I thought.)

It’s not that I adore the quiet, “please ignore me i’m not wearing perfume” e.e. cummings-type scents.  I don’t.  (My sister, who typically wears gentle applications of Coco Mlle.* and smells lovely in it, was gifted with Alfred Sung Shi for Christmas.  She encouraged me to smell it and asked what I thought.  Aquatic Calone-y synthetic mess was what I thought, but what I said was, “It smells like water to me.”  She smiled with triumph, saying, “Yes, exactly!  It’s so nice and light.  And look, the bottle looks like a drop of water.”  I was wearing two three-hours-old spritzes of Bois des Iles, the Les Exclusifs version, which smells a bit thin to me compared to the old stuff, and which at that stage was little more than a faint spicy woodiness; she found it “heavy.”  Good grief, woman, I was thinking, it’s twenty degrees Fahrenheit outside.  Why would you want “light”?)

*Side note re Coco Mad: I’m not fond of it in a bottle; I don’t like it on my skin; it’s fairly ubiquitous; even if it weren’t my sister’s favorite, I wouldn’t wear it if a bottle fell from the sky.  But she smells great in it; it’s very floral on her with none of the gender-bending harshness it usually offers.  Actually, on her it smells like a day-old application of one of the vintage classic tailored florals: Eau de Arpege, maybe, or an old version of Jolie Madame: sternly beautiful. 

And I do have wonderful experiences in “loud” tuberose scents — that’s probably the one note I really want to luxuriate in — like Balenciaga Michelle, but I like to wear them when I’m going to be alone all day.   Tatiana parfum is beautiful. Fracas does not eat my head if I dab it.  Carnal Flower is ethereal, not carnal, and I might love it best of all the tuberose scents I’ve tried.

I think I’ll just have to admit I’m a freak.  All the classic big-sillage perfumes, to be honest, sort of terrify me.  Opium-Cinnabar-Obsession, known to me as the Axis of Evil, head the list.  YSL Paris I can take, but only if it’s applied lightly.  Youth Dew? KILL ME NOW. Insolence edp almost did kill me (see below).  Amarige, LouLou, Paloma Picasso, Narciso Rodriguez for her, Samsara, Angel…

I absolutely hate walking around trailing fumes like some noxious walking toxic waste dump. Hate it hate it – it’s as if I’ve got toilet paper stuck to my shoe: embarrassing and socially inept.  Worse, for me big sillage is like those I’m-naked-in-public dreams — way too personal for words. People across the room do not need to know what sort of mood I’m in.

I like to be smellable within a three-foot radius, as a wisp of “Mmm, something smells good,” if I move.  I like for my husband to tuck his nose into my neck in order to smell me.  I like to be, well, polite, having had way too many movies/concerts/journeys ruined by someone else’s perfume mugging me via my nostrils.  Probably, too, my years ‘n years of choral singing has inhibited me with regard to putting on large doses of scent.

Perfumes: The Guide called Insolence edp “monumentally skillful” and reminiscent of L’Heure Bleue, which I like very much, so I had to try it.  Can I just say, MISTAKE?  I spritzed one measly little spritz, my usual practice when sampling, and immediately wanted to cut my hand off at the wrist.  Immediately.  It was Loud.  It was Extremely Loud.  I kept walking about the house turning lights and electronics off, just to get some peace.  I mean, I actually experienced it as being auditory hell.  I put earplugs in.  I suffered for about half an hour before deciding to be kind to myself by getting out the unscented deodorant and the Tide.  In the meantime, more and more analogies came to mind:

  • When I was in college, I had a friend who shared an apartment with four other guys.  Cisco the Architecture Student was a workaholic who frequently slept at the A-School while working on a project.  Unfortunately, his door would be locked when his alarm clock went off at six a.m. — loud and nonstop.  BEEP  BEEP  BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP, into infinity, or until Cisco came home at four p.m. and turned it off.  You could not be in the apartment and not hear that cursed alarm.  Insolence!
  • I have a nightmare of being lost in a huge parking lot, unable to find my own car.  Then suddenly, every single car alarm in the entire parking lot begins to shriek, over and over and over.  Insolence!
  • If you ever read one of those companion books to the Harry Potter series — Bookworm is a fan — called Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, purportedly one of Harry’s textbooks, you will come across the description of a magical tropical bird called a Fwooper, which has brightly colored feathers and which is not recommended as a pet, as its incessant singing causes insanity.  Insolence!

On the other hand, one of the loveliest scented experiences I’ve ever had was when I put on two healthy dabs of what I thought was No. 5 cologne.  It was actually vintage parfum, with much of its aldehydic oomph muted, probably by age (which is what fooled me into thinking it must be cologne) — and when the florals came out to play, I felt as if I were trailing a gorgeously-scented cloud.

And for that vintage Magie Noire edt, one drop is plenty.  Two drops is Gloriously Too Much, and I’d never wear that in company.  Magie Noire is best outside in chilly fall weather, anyway, in my opinion.

31 Rue Cambon can put out some lovely, refined sillage; the one time anyone ever complimented my perfume at work I was wearing it.  It might have been because usually people can’t smell me.  (The compliment?  “That’s nice perfume. Sort of flowery, isn’t it?”)

So, okay, I like some sillage.  But I think my optimum sillage level is probably lower than that of many perfume fans.  Please weigh in with your opinion: am I totally off my nut?  Just a little too sensitive?  The soul of sensible? 

The image is Incandescent Fumes by Debmalya Mukherjee at flickr.

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Dear Scent Diary, December 13-14

I’m planning on making this a recurring feature, in which I document the fragrances I wore and/or tested during the week, including the circumstances and whether they were right for the occasion or not.  To be blunt, my Excel file is getting really bloated, and I’m not keeping track of samples very well at the moment. 
Then, too, I figure this ought to be an easy way to oversee which bottles are getting used, and which aren’t. 
I’ll start back a week ago, because I had an epiphany, and didn’t blog about it because I didn’t think it was worth a whole post.  Turns out I changed my mind.  Last Sunday and Monday, the 13th and 14th, my community chorus held its winter concerts.  They went well, no major screwups.  (Hey, you can’t count on that.  Last concert, two separate soloists went totally off the rails: one skipped a portion of her solo, which you might not have noticed unless you were familiar with it – the accompanist picked up where she was, and there was no big hole; the other got completely lost and there were several measures of either silence or wrong notes.  Weird, the stuff that happens to amateur vocalists.  Both of those ladies had been just fine in rehearsal.)  I was fortunate this year to be picked for a solo, and for those (few) of you who wanted to know how it went – it was fine, and Monday I’d say was even pretty, although I don’t think I ever did it justice.  I was afraid of screwing it up and never really relaxed, which is sort of a metaphor for life, right?  You can overthink things.  Anyway, I think Mozart’s music is like whipped cream: perfect to start with, sheer heaven if you do it right, but even bad whipped cream is better than no whipped cream.
Here is the lovely voice of Lucia Popp with the Ambrosian Singers Philharmonic Orchestra, performing Laudate Dominum.  Please click on it to enjoy it – c’mon, it’s Mozart.  It’s beautiful.  You should never turn down beauty, unless you’re in a hurry because somebody is bleeding.  (Oh, and I could only dream of sounding like Lucia Popp.  Sigh.)
My epiphany: I’ve been singing with choral groups since I was five.  (My mother made me.  That’s definitely a story for another post.)  One of the cardinal rules for choral singing, along with Always Have a Pencil and Never Chew Gum During Rehearsal, is Please Don’t Wear Perfume to the Concert.  Last week, I Broke The Rule.  (Gasp!) There are people who break rules all the time – a few months ago, The CEO decided to turn left at a red light, because, as he said, “We’re late for church, and nobody’s coming toward us for half a mile, you can see that far,” – but I’m not one of them.  Breaking rules for no good reason gives me hives.  (I gave The CEO down the road for that one, especially since the kids were in the car – let’s all chastise him together now: bad, bad CEO.  Bad Example.)
But I was really stressed.  I’ve had this cold for seven weeks now, off and on, and while it’s not really hindering my daily life – it’s winter, nobody’s freaking out over my tissue use – I haven’t been what I’d call In Good Voice since about September.  And I was dreading the possibility of screwing up Mozart, which is a crime against humanity, or at least a crime against the ears of humanity.  So, I confess, I broke the rule, and snuck a spritz of Mariella Burani.  Just one, in the cleavage, so I could lower my chin and catch a tiny breeze of it if I needed it.  MB is a comfort scent for me – it’s vaguely reminiscent of Chanel No. 5, which is what my mother wore when I was a child, although it’s far quieter and less immediately recognizable to the noses of many.  The low sillage and the metaphysical hand of Mom on my shoulder made it just right.
You know what?  Nobody noticed.  And later, it occurred to me that the whole perfume ban probably came about primarily because of those killah sillage monsters of the 80’s.  Which I wouldn’t wear to a concert, so I think I’m safe.  And I had a great time singing and smelling Mariella.
Image is Some Perfume Bottles by parfumgott at flickr.  I don’t know whose collection it is, but I’m envious.  Check out the vintage Dior in houndstooth, and those Goutals in the gorgeous butterfly boules.  There’s also J’Adore and Ungaro Diva, both in pretty bottles, and I recognize at the right front a vintage bottle of Nina Ricci, probably L’Air du Temps.
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Knocked Flat on My Sittin’-Place

Very brief post today, ya’ll. Yesterday I tested Sonoma Scent Studio’s Tabac Aurea, and was absolutely knocked flat by my emotional reaction to it. I’d like to review this gorgeous thing, but I’m not sure I can be objective at all. You see, Tabac Aurea smells just like an old boyfriend of mine. I spent all yesterday in a tailspin, and I can’t manage to be coherent about the scent.

Here’s perfumer Laurie Erickson’s description, from the SSS website:
Tabac Aurea has an enticing golden amber drydown and a pipe tobacco note that is gentle enough to be enjoyed by women as well as men. It’s smooth and softly gourmand, with notes of amber, woods, spices, tobacco, leather, tonka, labdanum, patchouli, and vanilla. The amber accord combines earthy, dry notes with some sweet notes and subtle fruity notes to create a beautiful, woodsy, golden aura.

Just for the record, I am happily married (to someone else). I don’t miss this guy; I don’t want him back; I haven’t seen him for twenty+ years and I’m not about to go looking for him. But he smelled amazing – and it was just his natural smell, he never wore cologne.

I burned through my sample already, and I neeeeeed some Tabac Aurea, smelling as it does of autumn and nostalgia. If my heart stops turning over, and I can manage some objectivity at some point in the future, I’ll review it. In the meantime, though, just go visit the SSS website and order a sample: http://www.sonomascentstudio.com/FragranceShop.shtml

Thanks to dear Daisy for the sample.

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Perfume Review: Balenciaga Michelle, Or, I Begin to Understand Loud Perfume

Today’s review: Michelle by Balenciaga. Created in 1979 and discontinued some time in the 90’s, so far as I can tell, this oomphy floral carries some of the weight of 80’s-era perfumery, when everything was BIG and LOUD. Remember Opium? Poison? Obsession? YSL Paris? Giorgio Beverly Hills? If you don’t, you probably weren’t born yet. (Although I admit that I never smelled Paris until a few months ago, or at least I don’t remember smelling it before. It must simply not have been popular where I live.)

This is, by and large, a Tuberose Fragrance – not exactly the straight-down-the-gullet tuberose overdose that Fracas does so gloriously, or the richly sweet Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia version, but the tuberose does dominate it, and it is rather effusive in the classic tuberose manner.

Here is where I confess a thing or three:
1) I love tuberose. I used to wear tiny dabs of the original Chloe; I never minded the clouds of Giorgio Beverly Hills that ballooned through the halls of my high school; I used to swoon with jealousy whenever a friend of mine, who wore Sand and Sable, walked by; I adored the original tuberose-and-spice Tatiana perfume; after years of scrimping on perfume and using one bottle at a time of drugstore fragrance, it was Bath and Body Works’ Velvet Tuberose that propelled me headlong into Perfume Love.

2) My mother despises tuberose. I bought a small bottle of Sand and Sable once, after a judicious spritz from the drugstore tester, and my mother made me take it back, claiming that I wasn’t old enough for it (I was 17) and that she didn’t want it in the house anyway. Mom – and by the way, we get along very well! – is queen of powdery florals. She wore No. 5 eau de cologne, Anais Anais, and Coty’s soap-and-baby-powdery L’Effleur.

3) I despise huge, resiny orientals like Opium and Tabu and Youth Dew. Gah. If I were ever to be tortured by SPECTRE or some other nefarious crime ring, there’d be no need for the Chinese water torture or sticking bamboo needles under my fingernails: put me in a small room with a person doused in Opium, and I’ll be begging for release within minutes. Just shoot me now, please! And since those huge, resiny orientals all seem to be Big, Loud Perfumes, with monster sillage, it follows that I hate loud perfumes. I honestly thought that Poison, although not resiny, was one of the worst things I have ever smelled.

It has always seemed crude and socially irresponsible to me that some people seem to bathe in their scent, radiating their favorite smell around them the way Pigpen, in the Peanuts comic strips, raised a cloud of dust everywhere he went. Sure, wear what you want – it’s a free country! – but I resent having someone else’s scent forcibly shoved up my nostrils. Particularly when that scent is as noxious to me as one of the Big, Loud Ones. And doesn’t it seem to happen that the people who are drawn to those SMELL ME! scents are usually the same ones who overapply? I mean, I’ve never smelled someone who seemed to have bathed in, say, Borsari Violetta di Parma, a scent so quiet on me that it utterly disappeared within five minutes.

(I apologize right now to you if you are one of those people who wear Youth Dew or Opium or Coco, or their ilk, in tiny amounts designed to keep the sillage within a two-foot radius of your person. There aren’t a large number of you delicate Poison-appliers.)

Opium is the reason I feel this way, obviously, and just as obviously, there’s a story: It is 1980. I am twelve years old, and I have been saving my piggy-bank money to go see the summer’s blockbuster movie, The Empire Strikes Back. I’ll be in the company of some friends, and Kelley’s mom will drop us off at the Tanglewood Mall Theater and then pick us up afterward. I’m so excited. I’ve only got enough cash for the movie, but Kelley and Beth get buttered popcorn and sodas. As we’re standing there choosing seats in the nearly-full theater, and Kelley’s offering me a sip of her Dr. Pepper out of the “spare straw,” we get a faint whiff of perfume. It disappears. We sit down; the theater is filling up rapidly. Just before the movie starts, an older woman with husband in tow sits down next to me, in the last unclaimed seats. She has bathed in Opium. It rolls off her in waves. My stomach turns over. I trade seats with Beth, but I can still smell Opium Lady, in nauseating detail. Halfway through the movie, I have a pounding headache and a roiling stomach; I have to spend most of the rest of the time sitting on the lobby carpet, breathing deeply and trying not to cry over missing the movie.

You see? Do you SEE why I hate loud perfume?

Sorry for shouting. Loud perfume gets me exercised… which brings me back to Michelle. Yes, my rant notwithstanding, this is actually a perfume review.

I bought a small bottle, for less than $7!!! on ebay, of vintage parfum spray recently. (Parfum spray! Drastically luxuriant!) I had liked both Rumba and Le Dix from the house of Balenciaga, and for seven bucks, I thought it would be worth trying Michelle. Then I read a review (see the bottom of this post) of Michelle that mentioned its “ginormous heart of tuberose and rose,” and I was hitting the “Bid now” button faster than you can say, “Ginormous tuberose.”

I wasn’t too worried about the “bug spray accord” Michelle is reputed to have in its top notes. I’ve tested enough vintage perfume by now to ignore the first five minutes, which frequently contains less-than-pleasant “bug-spray”-like notes, which I had assumed to be stale aldehydes. In any case, the aldehydes are gone quickly, and there is a hint of watery, tropical coconut-and-flowers that says “Hawaii” to me. And then we’re down into the heart of Michelle, which is a glorious tuberose-and-carnation party. There seem to be other florals swirling around the walls at this party – the rose is lovely, the ylang and orchid creamy – but the tuberose and carnation are doing the samba in the middle of the room, with the music turned up LOUD. I mean, LOUD. I applied the perfume about twenty minutes before getting into my minivan to drive the kids to school, and the whole vehicle smelled of it by the time I dropped them off, fifteen minutes after leaving home. I radiated tuberose for hours! If Michelle reminds me of any other perfume, it is Diane Von Furstenberg’s rich tuberose-and-spice Tatiana, which I wore in my late teens. However, Michelle seems more complex and has a lovely drydown of some depth, which Tatiana lacks. The base has an interesting twirl of moss, vanilla, and sandalwood, but compared to the three hours’ worth of tuberose, it is very quiet. The tuberose seems to persist through the drydown, trailing loveliness whenever I move.

And here is my revelation: People wear loud perfume because they love it, and they don’t care what anybody else thinks. (If you’re thinking, Well, DUH!, I wonder how many people you’ve smothered in your past.) I just did not give a flip that some people hate tuberose, because I was swooning in its voluptuous embrace, and it was beautiful. Sometimes you just have to make yourself happy. But I’ll play nice, and not wear Michelle to the theater.

Notes for Balenciaga Michelle (from Perfume Shrine):
Top: Aldehydes, gardenia, green notes, coconut, peach
Heart: Carnation, tuberose, iris, orchid, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose
Base: Sandalwood, oakmoss, musk, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver

Helg at Perfume Shrine has a much more rational review of Michelle here: http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/2009/09/balenciaga-michelle-fragrance-review.html. Thanks to her for pushing me into buying this unsniffed.

photos from flickr, some rights reserved
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