Flapper Perfume

The 1920s was an influential decade for perfume, though striking changes in fashion began in the years immediately after World War I. The dust was settling in Europe after the war which had laid waste not only to infrastructure but also political alliances and the young male population, and everybody was tired of wartime bleakness and deprivation. There was a feeling that the old ways were gone and done with, and young women in particular were ready for a change. Gone were old-fashioned morals as well as those complicated hats, hairdos, and long dresses over rigid wasp-waist corsets.

The modern young lady was wearing tube dresses with little underpinning and tank-style bodices and short skirts, as well as dramatic makeup. She was drinking, not tiny ladylike glasses of sherry but potent cocktails in jazz clubs. She was cutting her hair and smoking! in public, yet! She could vote (as of 1918 in the UK for women over 30, and as of 1920 in the US). She could drive. She could — gasp! — possess her own checkbook.

And she wasn’t wearing her mother’s perfume, either.

She wasn’t wearing a soliflore  — lavender toilet water, or a simple floral like Coty’s Jasmin de Corse. She wasn’t wearing a simple floral bouquet like Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, or a soft floral oriental like Guerlain L’Heure Bleue. No, she was wearing a decadent, sensual oriental, a sharp and bold chypre, a sparkling aldehydic floral, or a gender-bending leather or tobacco scent. New directions in scent abounded, and aren’t we glad?

Here are some fragrances that graced many flappers’ wrists and décolletages, and which are still in production today (albeit in changed form). Try one, or a handful of these, and smell history.

Guerlain Mitsouko (1919, fruity chypre) This more elegant take on the chypre is such a classic among perfumistas that it is hard to imagine it being daring, but it is. It has the bold chypre tripod structure of bergamot-oakmoss-labdanum, rounded with peach undecalactone, and it smells not only formidable but also kind of, well, ripe. I’m guessing that those flappers who danced the night through smelled a bit like this on their way home at dawn.

Millot Crêpe de Chine (1925, aldehydic chypre) Crepe de Chine was a mashup of the bold three-part chypre structure and the modern-at-the-time aldehydic floral. It is bold, but in a well-groomed, exquisite-tailoring kind of way. Where Chypre was a little, well, tribal, Crepe de Chine is much more civilized. This is for the flapper who only drinks her cocktails out of proper glasses, rather than resorting to a hip flask.

Guerlain Shalimar (1921, oriental, came into wide release in 1925) It was once said that there were three things a respectable woman did not do: smoke in public, dance the tango, or wear Shalimar. With its almost chiaroscuro contrasts of bright bergamot-lemon top and dark smoky, leathery, vanilla-balsamic base, it is striking… and sexy. Louise Brooks wore Shalimar; ’nuff said.

Corday Toujours Moi (1920, spicy oriental) This one is a kitchen-sinky oriental similar to Tabu (1932) with some green notes, and it is extremely bold. It wafts. It is a Liberated Woman scent very far from, say, the very-Victorian Berdoues Violette. It goes perfectly with its name, “Always Me,” and the attitude “Look, I have my own checkbook! and these great T-strap shoes!”

Caron Tabac Blond (1919, tobacco/leather) There is no tobacco listed in the notes, by the way, but the effect is at least somewhat tobacco-like. This scent seems to me to be an androgynous, “let’s steal all the things that smell like a gentlemen’s club,” appropriation of notes that had been regarded as traditionally masculine, softened by traditionally-feminine florals.

Molinard Habanita (1921, leather oriental) This scent began its life as an additive for cigarettes — you were supposed to dip the glass rod into the oil and stroke it along the length of your cigarette, so that while you smoked, the fragrance filled the air. Leaving aside the reason this was A Thing (you didn’t want Mumsy dear to know you were smoking? I mean, presumably she also knew about the hip flask and the lace step-ins, so you weren’t fooling anybody), Habanita probably smelled good with the tobacco smoke. Here’s Robin’s description at Now Smell This, because it’s pretty perfect: “If you can imagine dousing yourself in baby powder, donning an old leather jacket and then smoking a cigar in a closed room with a single rose in a vase 10 feet away, you’ll get the general idea.”

Chanel No. 5 (1925, aldehydic floral) Perfumer Ernest Beaux’ attempt to recreate an Arctic snow field and Coco Chanel’s affinity for the smell of starched linen combined with No. 5’s enormous overdose of aldehydes, the aromachemical that is in smell form big Hollywood klieg lights. (Maybe.) And Chanel’s famous dictum that a woman should not smell of flowers, but like a woman, played into its abstract presentation, too. (Maybe. There are a number of contradictory stories about its genesis.) No. 5 feels like a smooth marble sculpture to me. In its day it was utterly modern, and to its credit, its florals are still lovely.

Lanvin My Sin/Mon Peché (1924, aldehydic floral) Like No. 5, My Sin is an aldehydic floral, but it is dark and carnal in a way that No. 5 has never been and will never be. It’s a complicated perfume: along with the aldehydes and florals are some deep woods and an animalic base just shy of “Are there mating buffaloes somewhere on the premises?” I suspect that it got worn more often by women grabbing a little vicarious sinful pleasure than by women who were actually sinning while wearing it, but there you are. Brilliant marketing. And that cat! Love it.

Chanel Cuir de Russie (1924, leather) Again with the gender-bending for 1920s gals. Leather was previously known as a masculine note, and this leather-for-ladies boasts the enormous and expensive Chanel powdery iris as well as florals and aldehydes. Fans speak of its “good purse” leather, or its “expensive car” leather, both things that flappers seemed to enjoy.

Weil Zibeline (1928, aldehydic floral chypre-oriental) “Zibeline” means “sable” in French, and this fragrance was intended for scenting furs. As you might guess, Zibeline is heavy and rich, and yet dry and aromatic. It smells very much not of this century, but it is a luxurious scent in the best sort of way. One imagines fancy cars and diamonds and satin gowns, and that ne plus ultra sable, for a fancy party.

By 1929, with the stock market crash around the corner, the general prosperity which had allowed so many young women to taste freedom and decadence was about to disappear, and the day of the flapper was drawing toward a sudden twilight.

What the flappers left behind were some glorious abstract perfumes. Like much of the Art Deco of the period, the fragrances are bold yet graceful, natural yet influenced by humans. Chanel No. 5’s beautiful florals are buttressed on either side by the highly-artificial aldehydes and the pillowy strength of (nitro) musks. Shalimar’s combination of lively bergamot and smoky-sexy vanillin makes it round and memorable, unlike anything smelled in nature — but if you smell it on a person, even now, fifty-‘leven reformulations after its release, it has affinity for skin and does not scream I AM SYNTHETIC! the way many modern fragrances do.

There were, of course, several other classic fragrances released during the 1920s which are still favorites today, but I have not included everything here. Caron’s Nuit de Noel (1924), Bellodgia (1925), and Narcisse Noir (1925), for example, were hugely popular and remain extant, but they are not what I think of as bold and daring “flapper perfumes.” Nor are Chanel’s lovely woody Bois des Îles (1925) and satin-smooth Lanvin Arpège (1926). Coty L’Aimant (1927) is likewise a bit too prim, Emeraude (1920) too soft.  Jean Patou’s Chaldée (1927), as a perfume recreation of French suntan oil (we can blame Coco Chanel for popularizing the tan!), seems to go with the flapper propensity for displaying bare skin, but it was not as widely worn as the others. Bourjois Evening in Paris (1928) is a gentle floral composition. Patou Joy, released in 1929, in my mind belongs to the Depression era.

Mia on the left, Carey on the right.

Do you have a favorite flapper perfume? Do you love Art Deco and low waistlines? Does Daisy Buchanan make your heart sing? (And did you prefer Mia Farrow or Carey Mulligan?) Do share!

If you’d like to read more about how the social phenomenon of the flapper arose, check out this post at We Heart Vintage.

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Mini-review Roundup, January 24, 2017

I always forget how much fun it is to do mini-reviews! I should do more of them.

Masque Milano Romanza: Okay, so you know I love me some narcissus, right? Oh, how I do love it. PdN Le Temps d’une Fete is still my favorite narcissus scent (not to mention, probably favorite scent of all time. OF ALL TIME, y’all), but I’m always looking for another narcissus scent. So then this Masque thingie showed up on the fumie blogs and I had to sample.

Narcissus poeticus

It’s pretty great, actually. The first five minutes it’s all drrrty intoxicating narcissus and a whap of something aromatic and bitter, and then that animalic stuff recedes to a lovely floral – narcissus and jasmine with green leaves. After that, the scent dwindles gradually to a vetiver-cedar base, very pleasant.  The drydown sticks around for the bulk of the time the scent’s on my skin, but that’s not the part I love, so this will never be a replacement for LTdF. All the same, it’s very good.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Natura Fabularis Tenebrae 26: Somebody I know from a fragrance split group offered a bottle split of several of L’Artisan’s Natura Fabularis (“Nature Mythology,” according to three different Latin-to-English online translators). Tenebrae was the one that seized my attention for some reason, and although the split didn’t work out — not enough takers, I think — I decided to sample it.

I was expecting something like this. (Image by Melurinn at DeviantArt; click through to follow link.)

This is not at all my usual sort of thing, of course. But something about the description, “a ‘dense and dark forest’ with incense, resins and sap,” just whispered that I needed to try it. Tenebrae means “shadows,” and I guess I was in a shadowy sort of mood, maybe. At this remove, I don’t remember.

So is it dark and dense? Is it foresty, shadowy, a David Lynch movie in a bottle? Nope. There’s enough vetiver and dry cedar in here that it comes off being quite light and dry and pleasant. The incense is prominent. Forest? Sap? Not so much. This reminds me a good bit of CdG Incense: Zagorsk, which I like. Good stuff. The juice is sort of light bluish-green, which I also like. It lasted for a good five hours on my skin, a big surprise for something that wears this lightly.

Serge Lutens Cèdre: this is the Serge that’s famous for its name being all Le Labo-misdirectiony, as in “Where’s the cedar? This is all tuberose!” (or amber, depending on who’s reviewing it). It’s also famous for being, and I’m quoting more than one person here, weird. I blew it off for a long time, but I finally broke down and got a sample, so I could check my opinion against everybody else’s.

Not that anybody is talking about Cedre these days. It’s one of the older scents in the Lutens stables, yet not a classic, so people forget about it. The official notes are cedar, tuberose, cinnamon, honey, musk and amber.

I put a dab of this thing on my left hand, and then I burst out laughing. Because, yes, it’s weird. It’s got some seeeeerious menthol going on the first two minutes, almost as minty as Tubereuse Criminelle, and then the next thought I have is, Hey, this is like the early blueprint for Memoir Woman: weird mint-spice thing, big white floral thing, cat-butt musk and leather.  I love Memoir Woman, which has Almost Too Much, including a bizarrely medicinal opening, going on for its own good.

Twenty minutes later, the honey is coming to the forefront of Cedre and the whole thing is getting softer and sweeter, muskier and cat-furrier. It’s less weird, though I would not call it conventional by any stretch of the imagination. And yes, there is (eventually) cedar in here, although I’m still getting a very caramelly-buttery tuberose all the way to the bottom. Good 4.5-hour sticking power, not much waft, but that might be the fault of applying from a dab sample. Four hours is a pretty good EdP ride for me and my scent-eating skin; your mileage may vary.

This is kinda nice. It’s got way less teeth than Memoir Woman, though, so I think I’m finding it a little tame. (inorite? In 2009 I’d have probably run screaming from it found it too weird to wear, but now I’m all blasé and claiming it’s not teethy enough for me. Heh.)

Tested anything new to you lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guerlain Shalimar – see L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko.

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

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

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

Parfums MDCI Enlèvement au Sérail – see Joy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What overlooked marvel would make your five-star list?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mini-Review Roundup, Sept. 19, 2014

roundupYee-haw!!! A mini-review roundup again, after, like, months.

Guerlain Vol de Nuit (modern EdT, from Surrender to Chance) – after a brief hit of galbanum, this smells like… um… nothing, really. Musty nothing. I keep spraying it multiple times, trying to find it, but it is so pale it’s like it doesn’t WANT to be found. The notes list and descriptions I’ve read say that this is supposed to be a woody oriental. The only thing I can call it is confusing.  I’ve heard that the current version isn’t good (see Victoria’s comparisons of vintage and current Guerlains at Bois de Jasmin), but I assumed it was another one of those “compared to the old stuff it’s terrible.” Boy, they weren’t kidding. It’s awful. Doesn’t even smell like a Guerlain to me, whatever that means. (Notes: bergamot, galbanum, petit grain, jasmine, daffodil, spices, iris, vanilla, amber and woody notes.)

Carven Ma Griffe (vintage EdT, again from Surrender to Chance). Another big hit of galbanum to start, but also a blast of decaying aldehydes, followed by moldering whitish floralish stuff and then a ton of vetiver and musk. Vetiver/musk/aldehydes seems to pop up a lot in fragrances that had their heyday in the 1960s and 1970s (Madame Rochas, Rive Gauche, Prince Matchabelli Cachet – and even in the wonderful Chanel No. 19), but I don’t like it. It bores the crap out of me. The reason I love No. 19 and like Annick Goutal Heure Exquise is the galbanum-iris-rose stuff, not the vetiver-musk. Borrrrring.  I thought I’d love this. Nope.  (Notes: aldehydes, gardenia, green notes, asafoetida, clary sage, lemon, iris, orange blossom, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, rose, labdanum, sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, benzoin, oakmoss, vetiver and styrax.)

Also, I hear that Carven has reorchestrated and rereleased this one with a “soft” rollout, no heavy advertising, but I can’t find a sample of the current version anywhere. Guess you have to live in Europe to get it, even though their recent Le Parfum is available in the US.

Speaking of which, I really enjoyed my carded spray sample of Carven Le Parfum. So pretty. So, so, SO pretty. I am often just as thrilled with a just-so-pretty floral fragrance as I would be if you came up and thrust a dewy bouquet right into my arms. I’m not ashamed.

sweet-pea-0210-lIn any case, Carven Le Parfum starts off with citrus and a tart apricot note, and then quickly eases into a gentle mixed-white-floral. It is clearly a Francis Kurkdjian fragrance, which is generally a good thing from my viewpoint – I like FK’s stuff, generally. There’s some clean patchouli in it, which absolutely ruined Elie Saab Le Parfum (also composed by Kurkdjian) for me, but here it isn’t too hijacky, it’s just a support for the lovely florals to rest on.  I’d say that it skews a bit younger and more innocent than the Elie Saab, and despite the apricot, less sweet to my nose. The hyacinth is prominent to my nose, but it does also actually smell like sweet peas, which my mother used to grow up against the wood fence in our yard when I was a child. The only other sweet pea fragrance I can recollect trying was Lolita Lempicka’s Si Lolita, which was also jam-packed with pink and black peppers, but ended with a lightweight amber. That one was sweeter, and spicier, less floral in character.

I like it. If I owned this, I’d wear it. So what if it’s not groundbreaking or dramatic? It’s pretty.  Fragranticans are calling it “sweet,” but it’s real fruit as opposed to the fakey-fakey stuff I call “froot,” and as I say, not particularly what I would call sweet. No cotton candy here, though if you’re a fan of dry, woody, incensey stuff you’ll probably hate it.  (Notes: mandarin blossom, apricot, white hyacinth, sweet pea, jasmine, ylang, sandalwood, osmanthus, and Indonesian patchouli.)

Historiae Jardin De Le Notre – apparently this was an exclusive fragrance created for sale for the Domain of Chantilly at the Le Notre Gardens, and it’s no longer available. But it’s a pretty, gardeny floral that came my way as a carded sample, and I enjoyed it so I’m discussing it.  It starts out with a green-leaves accord, which slides into an attractive mixed-floral bouquet (rose, hyacinth, lily of the valley). The notes list on the card also includes gardenia, but that’s clearly delusional; I get a lot of clean jasmine out of this. It eventually goes a little screechy, but not more so than my 2006 Diorissimo; I just have less tolerance for that these days, and after three or four hours, I’m ready for something else.

DSH Perfumes Peony – this is, well, peony. Plus a bit of rose and a good bit of greenness, and it is another bundle of pretty flowers atop a tiny bit of musk to extend the florals. I like it a lot, though not quite as much as the delicate, lovely peony/fresh-rose MDCI Rose de Siwa. But I can’t afford Rose de Siwa, so if you loved that you might want to check out DSH Peony.  (Notes: peony, grass, green leaves, rose.)

Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire California Reverie OOOOOH, I said to myself upon smelling it for the first time.  Citrus floral! So pretty!  That lasted a fairly long time for this sort of light floral thing, at least about three hours, before I started getting tired of the jasmine.  (Notes: mandarin orange, neroli, jasmine sambac and frangipani, beeswax and vanilla.)  If I owned this, I’d respray every two hours for the addictively beautiful citrus-floral opening.  And then I’d kick myself for literally blowing, like, $2 a spritz.

Parfums d’Empire Corsica Furiosa – not “furiosa” at all.  Nope. It’s a pleasant herb-garden fantasy with grass and plenty of tomato leaf, and something that smells like juniper to me, as well as some light woody notes. Stays green all the way through, but it is quite light and fleeting, with minimal sillage to me.  Reading Kafkaesque’s review of it has me wondering if I *am* anosmic to ISO E Super after all, because I’m not picking up rubbing alcohol or pepper at all, and Corsica Furiosa is so light! There and gone. (Notes: mastic, lime, grass, hay, honey, moss, labdanum, mint, tomato leaf, pepper.)

I’ve also recently tested Piguet Douglas Hannant, which reminded several people (including me) of a lightened-up Fracas. Then I reacquainted myself with Fracas. I’m planning on a Throwdown for those two soon.

Enjoy the weekend! Our high school football team travels about 75 miles away for tonight’s game (WHAT were they thinking, scheduling that? Driving right past a dozen other schools? Silly), so the band isn’t going. I get a rare band-mom night off. 🙂

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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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