Perfume Review: Chanel No. 5 L’eau

Only this commendation I afford her, that were she other than she is, she were unhandsome, and being no other but that she is, I do not like her.

                        Shakespeare, “Much Ado About Nothing,” Act I, Scene 1

I could say the same thing about the most recent flanker to what may be the most iconic and easily recognized fragrance in the world: Chanel No. 5.

Giovanni Strazza's "The Veiled Virgin," which has always amazed me. How does cold marble look soft and tactile? No. 5 is, in my opinion, similarly amazing.
Giovanni Strazza’s “The Veiled Virgin,” which has always amazed me. How does cold marble look soft and tactile? No. 5 is, in my opinion, similarly amazing.

Created in 1925, with the addition of aldehydes – not widely used in perfumery at that time – to suggest the aroma and sparkle of clean snow, this floral creation is still the best-selling fragrance worldwide. This wasn’t the first commercial, or even successful commercial, use of aldehydes in a fragrance (those would be Armingeat Rêve D’Or, 1905, and Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, 1912, respectively), but No. 5 is overdosed with them, specifically C10, C11, and C12. As a consequence of its popularity and the growth of aldehydic florals in the industry, the use of aldehydes came to be so closely associated with Proper French Perfume that soap manufacturers began scenting their products with aldehydes, and now we tend to think of aldehydes as smelling soapy.

Full disclosure now: my mom wore No. 5 parfum, the mid-1960s stuff, until her bottle ran out in the early 1980s. It was her “dress-up” fragrance (the everyday one being Jovan Musk for Women, another aldehydic floral musk). My dad bought her a bottle of EdT for Christmas, but she didn’t care much for it. She took to wearing clean florals like Coty L’Effleur and Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue instead, until recently, and now she is devoted to the No. 5 Crème Velours pour le corps, the body cream. It is truly wonderful on her!

Although I always liked No. 5 on her, I didn’t want it for myself. What young woman wants to smell like her mother? Not this one.

cannes-med-klieg-lightsAlso: those blinding aldehydes. Klieg lights in the face, dude, at least before the florals pop up. I like them now, but No. 5 has always had that aggressive alde-slap opening, and it takes some getting used to. I’ve never smelled the early-90s Elixir Sensuel version (reportedly focused on ylang, with the aldehydes toned way down), but I liked 2007’s Eau Premiere very much, so I was looking forward to trying the new L’Eau variation, created by Jacques Polge and released this year (2016).

The SA who’s been working at the New River Valley Mall Belk since the mall opened in the late 1980s was there when I popped by last week, and offered me a manufacturer spray sample of L’Eau. L’Eau’s notes are Rose de Mai, lemon, mandarin, bergamot, orange, aldehydes, jasmine, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, cedar and “cottony” musk notes.

I was excited about trying it, and sprayed more liberally than I am wont to do, thinking that it would be a light scent that would need the three spritzes I gave my wrist.

no-5-leauAt first sniff, it was recognizably a light, citrusy version of No. 5, with the aldehydes damped to barely-there levels. (Which is fine; I was expecting any new version of No. 5 to be updated in this way.) As the minutes passed, the beautiful mix of florals that is the heart of No. 5 came up and the citrus receded, and it was even prettier. Lighter weight than Eau Premiere, and less rosy, it was more light-hearted and, probably, more wearable for many people.

Half an hour later, the florals were faint and there was an undeniable savor of white musk in place of the attractive woody-rosy-musk drydown of Eau Premiere. Two hours after first spritz, there was white musk, period.

Instead of No. 5’s glorious rose-jasmine-ylang-iris-sandalwood-skin musk, instead of the luminous and lovely Eau Premiere version, L’Eau smells mostly of… laundry. The first 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how much you put on, are really beautiful, a cheerful lighthearted summer-sundressy No. 5 being all friendly, and then? Dryer sheets in attack mode. GAH.

dryer-sheetsNow listen up. I don’t mind white musk per se; a lot of other reviewers hate it with a passion I don’t share. If it’s the only noticeable note grounding an otherwise-lovely floral, and it starts disappearing into my skin shortly after the florals recede, leaving very little drydown, I’m okay with that.

No, really, I am. Witness my fondness for Chanel’s own 1932, a sparkly citrus-jasmine-iris that ends in musk. (I just bought a decant of the soon-to-be-rolled out EdP version of the Les Exclusifs collection, having recently drained my 5ml decant of the original EdT. See? I don’t hate it when Chanel uses musk in a light floral.) I didn’t like No. 19’s flanker, Poudre, because it stripped out all the Amazonian qualities of the original and made her a Stepford Wife, all her individuality gone. But Poudre is not awful taken on its own merits; in fact, when I think of it as “a greener take on Prada Infusion d’Iris,” I find it cool and calming and very pleasant.

See, I don’t really mind a Chanel frag ending in musk… unless the musk comes across as vapid. And in this case, I think it does. Chanel could very well have sent No. 5 L’Eau in the same direction as No. 19 Poudre: musk, yes, but a nice woody or skinlike one shaped with iris, vetiver, and tonka, a cool smooth drydown very poised, groomed, and collected. Chanel-like. Instead, they gave us a laundromat.

Lasting power on me is about as expected with a light eau or cologne: 3 hours with one generous spritz on each wrist, a little over 4 hours if I follow the Annick Goutal spray-until-wet protocol. Sillage is soft to moderate, again depending on amount applied. I have no complaints for either. I am less happy, however, that the last two hours of L’Eau are so laden with clean, cottony, boring, dull white musk.

No. 5 L’Eau still smells enough like No. 5 that I’m encouraged. There’s no froot, no sugar, very little vanilla. It’s not a disaster. It doesn’t stink. Chanel could have screwed it up in a bazillion different ways. It pays homage without smelling overtly retro, and as such, might convince some young things with disposable income to spend it on Chanel fragrance. Being other than she is, she were unhandsome.

But there’s that laundromat. … and being no other but as she is, I do not like her.

Sigh.

Other reviews of Chanel L’Eau (all from people who liked it better than I did):
Victoria at Bois de Jasmin
Persolaise
Angela at Now Smell This
Gail at Ca Fleure Bon
The Candy Perfume Boy

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Perfume Review: Dame Perfumery Scottsdale Black Flower Mexican Vanilla

Artwork for Black Flower Mexican Vanilla, by V. Dave Dame. From Dame Perfumery website.
Artwork for Black Flower Mexican Vanilla, by V. Dave Dame. From Dame Perfumery website.

The Aztecs called vanilla tlilxóchitl, meaning black flower.  The origin myth explaining the existence of vanilla springs from the Totonac people, who live on the eastern coast of Mexico, and may have been the first to cultivate the vanilla orchid.  From Dame Perfumery’s website:

According to Totonac mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew.

I’ll be honest, I have never been the biggest fan of oriental vanilla fragrances for myself.  I did love Emeraude, back in the 80s, at first sniff, and even though it is now an absolute disaster (seriously, don’t sniff the current stuff. This has been a Public Service Announcement), it has a very definite vanilla focus and at one time was a pure-genius sort of fragrance, the kind of thing that belongs on cleavage.  Rumor has it that famously-vanilla Shalimar is a riff on Emeraude.  Other vanilla fragrances often either have a “vanilla-and” character, or can be ridiculously simple to the point of dopiness.  Either way, I have yet to really love a vanilla scent the way I love vintage Emeraude.  (See my Sexy Cake post for an elaboration on the subject.)  The short version is, I like my gourmandy vanillas (berry-vanilla, or caramel vanilla), or my white-floral vanillas.

I will say that I loved the drydown of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Havane Vanille (renamed Vanille Absolument) – after the boozy, fruity, pipe-tobacco parts faded off, about eight hours into wearing HV, the vanilla appeared on stage solo, so clear and intoxicating. No hint of powder.  I sometimes had difficulty waiting out the early stages to get to the part I really liked.  What was really super-awesome about that clear, intense vanilla drydown was putting a dab of By Kilian’s Beyond Love on top of it. Tuberose-vanilla, yum, a do-it-yourself floral vanilla that I loved.

So I admit that I was sort of hoping that Black Flower Mexican Vanilla would be something like the drydown of HV, particularly when reading the description of it on the Dame Perfumery website: “A perfect vanilla is simply vanilla without added accents, and its creation is a task of restraint and avoiding misguided add-ons of ‘vanilla + such and such’.” 

The notes list for BFMV is more complicated than “simply vanilla.”  Fragrantica‘s list is as follows: lemon, grapefruit, caramel, nutmeg, gardenia, jasmine, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, musk, tonka. Fragranticans smell mostly vanilla in it, plus tonka bean; the other elements seem to be noted as present but not a large portion of the scent. I’d agree: vanilla and tonka, primarily. It’s not particularly sweet, either, which is nice in a vanilla fragrance.  I was expecting a floral cast, but there isn’t one: it’s mostly just vanilla-tonka.

What I don’t understand is what smells so powdery in it.  On my skin, BFMV has a good bit of powder, following its barely-citrusy opening. I do not smell much in the way of white florals or woody notes, and I don’t notice vetiver or nutmeg at all. The caramel shows up, but if I’m being honest, all it does is make me want to go buy a mini of Prada Candy.  Perhaps the powder is due to a dusty-quality patchouli making itself noticeable; whatever it is, I’m not enjoying that bit.

There is a similar dusty/powdery quality to another one of my “vanilla” fragrances, Givenchy Organza Indecence.  But OI has so much else going on (the orange, the spices, the woods) that I can forgive it a smidge of powder.  Black Flower Mexican Vanilla – not, I emphasize, very floral on me, despite its name – has placed the vanilla front and center, so there isn’t anything to distract me from the dusty qualities.  The aspect of the drydown of Havana Vanille (which does, yes, have a dusty quality in its heart) that I loved so much was its clarity and its complete lack of powderiness; it is much more like vanilla liqueur than the powdery stuff.*

Sillage is gentle and lasting power is quite good, 6-8 hours on me where I typically get 3-5 hours’ wear out of an eau de parfum.  If you are looking for a nicely-done, unsweetened vanilla fragrance, test this one. It might be what you’re looking for.  It’s decently priced, as well: you can still pick up a 7ml spray sample for $10 including shipping, and it’s worth it if you ask me.

*Habanita nearly killed me, if you’re wondering about my tolerance for that version of “powdery.”

Well done, Dame Perfumery. It’s still not my sort of thing, but it’s competent and pleasant and engaging to wear, all the same.

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Perfume Review: Byredo Flowerhead

flowerhead-by-byredoI’ve had this decant for a couple of months now, but I haven’t reviewed it yet. That’s partly because I needed a break from blogging, and partly because I was wearing it the afternoon that we took Hayley to the vet, never dreaming that she wouldn’t come home with us. But I pulled it out to retry today, and I am writing with a pic of Hayley-dog on the screen, so I think I will be all right.

This is a truly beautiful floral, centered on tuberose-jasmine-rose. I don’t think Byredo has done many florals, other than La Tulipe (mixed spring bouquet) and Inflorescence (a muguet). Byredo is very much an art-directed outfit, very visual, and typically the notes lists/art inspiration for their fragrances don’t encourage me to purchase samples. What I remember Byredo for is the sticky, melting, frozen-fruit-bar of Pulp, and the Blanche sample a friend sent me, which was fresh-air-and-clean-laundry to my nose (and I even like aldehydes. Oh well).

This one, as most fumeheads probably know by now since I’m months behind the curve on reviewing it, was inspired by the visual of an Indian bride adorned with a floral headdress. Byredo’s creator, Ben Gorham, is half Indian and had a large part to play in the wedding of his cousin, and was inspired by the vision of her with flowers for a head.

The six-year-old girl in me is RUTHLESSLY DELIGHTED at these bridal hairstyles. But they don't say "flower head" to me.
The six-year-old girl in me is RUTHLESSLY DELIGHTED at these bridal hairstyles. But they don’t say “flower head” to me.

Well, okay. Whatever caused Mr. Gorham to decide to focus on the natural glory of blossoms, I don’t really care much; I’m just here for the tuberose. And the jasmine and rose. Hand over the flowers and nobody gets hurt, okay?

The tuberose does tend to dominate, in my opinion, not that I’m bothered by that. It’s kept very fresh by tart berries, angelica and green notes, and I have to say this is one of the loveliest floral openings I’ve ever smelled, a glorious explosion of blossoms with the sharpness of cut stems and leaves. I love it. It’s almost like sticking your nose in a big bouquet – that’s one of my favorite scent experiences, by the way. The only thing missing from the bouquet is a “wet” dewy note. The visual for the fragrance features marigolds, and Ben Gorham has stated that he and perfumer Jerome Epinette attempted to include marigold but weren’t able to integrate it successfully. The tart berries and sharp herbal accents, to me, seem to take the place that marigolds would have taken, and I do love that effect.  In fact, the opening reminds me very much of Arquiste’s wonderful Flor y Canto (tuberose and marigold), and it’s gorgeous.

Half an hour in, it calms down a bit and the berries retreat, and there’s a wonderful tuberose-jasmine duet. The rose flies under the radar for me, and I can only pick it up occasionally, as a counterpoint to the white floral blend. There’s a fair proportion of natural materials in this, and it smells very fresh and gentle. I wish, to some degree, that the fragrance would stay loud, but the initial blast does calm itself down to a smaller sillage. This middle stage lasts three to three and a half hours, respectable for a floral fragrance on my skin.

Gradually it begins to fade away to a very quiet drydown. The official drydown notes are “suede and ambergris,” but I’m really smelling a quiet, dry woody musk rather than anything *I* would call ambergris. It may be, as a reviewer on Fragrantica suggests, Iso E Super there in the drydown. I am not sensitive to Iso E Super myself, can barely smell it at all; what I’m getting here is a soft, barely-there presence that simply helps to extend the florals. This stage lasts about three further hours on me, so that I get about 7-8 hours of wear from one goodly spritz. I would not choose the “spray until wet” method for this one (as I typically do for lightweight fragrances like summer Eaus and Annick Goutals), since Flowerhead’s initial sillage is so big.

Notes, according to Fragrantica, include lemon, cranberry, angelica, green notes, tuberose, jasmine sambac, rose petals, suede and ambergris.

Flowerhead is a really lovely fragrance. The straight-up floral is one of my favorite genres of fragrance, and I enjoy wearing it. One reviewer on Fragrantica says that it’s “too floral,” but I say Nonsense! No such thing! The more flowers the better!  Know your own tastes, I always say, and Flowerhead suits mine very well.

I could wish that the sillage would stay at the same level, or only gradually taper off, rather than dropping drastically half an hour after application – that was my frustration with DelRae Coup del Foudre, for example. At $220 for 100ml and $145 for 50ml, it’s probably outside my price range, but I will use and enjoy my 5ml decant.

Other reviews: EauMG, The Scented Hound, Robin at Now Smell this, Grain de Musc, Patty at Perfume Posse (brief), Colognoisseur.

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Perfume Review: Tauer Eau d’Epices

12 Eau D'Epices Tauer Perfumes for women and men

I was rather pleased to open an email from Jeffrey Dame asking if I would like a sample of Eau d’Epices to review. I had tested a small .3ml sample of it when it was produced as a limited edition in 2010, and liked it. But I’d used up my tiny sample ages ago, and since it’s not really my usual sort of thing I had not sought out any other supplies. (I tell you honestly, if it had been an offer of a sample of Orange Star or Zeta, I’d have said, “No, thanks, I’m familiar with those and I don’t want to waste your time. Now if you’d like to send me a bit of Carillon pour un Ange or Une Rose Chypree, or something else new from Tauer, I’d be all over that.”)

I have maintained from early on in my Tauer sniffery that when a Tauer fragrance works for me, it is wonderful, and when it doesn’t work – it really doesn’t work. There are at least several Tauer productions that I liked but didn’t feel the urge to purchase, but I tend to have strong reactions to the ones that I’ve tried. At this point I have worked my way well into the line, with the exceptions of Lonestar Memories, Vetiver Dance, and the Pentachords series.  The line offerings are about evenly split between Ooh, I really like this and No, thanks, not my thing.

The nifty little hang tag that came with my 1.5ml manufacturer spray says this about Eau d’Epices (sorry, no diacritical marks. Life is short.):

“HEAD NOTES: An Indian basket of spices with cinnamon, cardamom, clove and coriander with red mandarins.
HEART NOTES: An opulent heart of orange blossom, jasmine, orris root and incense.
BODY NOTES: A woody cistus ladaniferus resin, softened with ambergris, tonka beans and vetiver.”

Before we begin the Review Proper, you must understand that while I’m a big spice fan, I’m not typically a big fan of its oriental/woody accomplices. If there is a spicy fragrance, chances are very good that the perfumer is buttressing the spice rack with the usual suspects of labdanum, woods and balsams. And it’s true, I can name only a handful of spice-focused scents that I wholeheartedly enjoy: Donna Karan Black Cashmere and DK Chaos, Comptoir Sud Pacifique L’Eau du Gouverneur (sadly, discontinued), the long-gone Prince Matchabelli Potpourri, and Caron Poivre (one of the very few Carons I like). What these scents have in common is a spicy warmth without the ballast of heavy oriental notes underneath. The woody notes that serve as their bases are lighter. Poivre and Potpourri are distinctively floral while Black Cashmere is comfortingly creamy and L’Eau du Gouverneur cedary.

Commonly, the fragrances known as “spicy” are really essays on tolu balsam/labdanum: YSL Opium, Estee Lauder Cinnabar and Youth Dew, and even Tauer’s own L’Air du Desert Marocain. Regular readers will know that I think Opium and Youth Dew are evil, and any hint of the Dreaded Youth Dew Accord is the kiss of death for me. I was quite enjoying Frederic Malle Noir Epices when the Specter of Youth Dew popped up, and that absolutely scratched the fragrance off my tentative “look for a decant” list.

L’eau d’Epices is not much like my other favorite spicy scents, either, but it does lack the heavy, sticky, mustiness of Youth Dew. It does have that “Tauerade” aura, which seems comprised of ambrein, a sandalwood-like accord, and incense (see this Nathan Branch interview with Andy Tauer and the Perfume Posse post which first mentioned the phrase “Tauerade”). And like many of the other Tauer fragrances, it lasts several hours on me, even with my scent-eating skin.

Up top L’eau d’Epices is very brightly citrusy, with an orange tang that is very like the sensation of digging your thumb into a tiny fragrant clementine. Wonderful stuff, very refreshing without being in the least cologne-ish (yawn). It lasts for about twenty minutes on me, lingering on into the beginning of the spicy aspect, and this is my favorite part of the experience. The spices join the bright orange fairly soon, with the cinnamon and especially the cardamom prominent. Underneath, though, is the Tauerade, and if I sniff up close it’s quite noticeable.

Within half an hour the orange blossom – in this case, a soapy, neutral, barely-floral one – comes into play, with a dry earthy iris (never a favorite), but the spices linger. Within an hour and a half or two hours of application, I’m into the Tauerade. It’s still sprinkled with a light dusting of spices, and the dryness of vetiver offsets to some degree the richness of the labdanum/ambrein. If I apply one or two spritzes, L’Eau d’Epices lasts approximately five to six hours and radiates only a few inches above skin after the first half hour. I have been hesitant to spritz more, because Tauerade can be a headache and a half for me when overapplied.

L’Eau d’Epices is definitely a woody oriental fragrance, but it seems rather lightweight on me for that sort of scent, a sort of oriental veil – “Water of Spices” indeed. For me, that’s all to the good with regards to a genre that I don’t automatically love. I can imagine myself enjoying it in weather that would suit hot mulled cider or orange-spice tea; that is, fall to winter.  I particularly do love the orange-spice opening of this fragrance.

If you’re wondering how close L’Eau d’Epices is to Orange Star, I’ll just comment that I disliked Orange Star very much.  The salty-amber quality of it was too rich for me, and the orange blossom was extremely soapy (that’s a recurrent difficulty for me in particular with orange blossom), and there was a distinctive, raspy, “Tang dust in the back of the throat” quality that made it unwearable for me. The Tang-dust effect is fairly widespread (some people refer to this as baby aspirin, I think), but I don’t like it any time I run across it. L’Eau d’Epices doesn’t have any of these problem areas – again, it’s my problem – and I find it more focused on the spices and the quietly woody base than Orange Star is.

(It’s interesting to me that this scent which I’d only wear in cooler months is being released in spring. I noticed that Carillon pour un Ange, which for me is perfect in spring weather, was released in autumn, and although Switzerland has the same weather as the US, both these releases seem timed awkwardly. If it were up to me, I’d be releasing a lily of the valley scent in January or February, when people are starting to think longingly of green shoots pushing up through grass, and releasing a lightweight oriental in, say, August or September, when the seasons are beginning to turn and sweaters start to come out of cedar chests. But I don’t work in the business, and perhaps I’ve got the whole thing wrong.)

L’eau d’Epices is available in the US at all the usual sources (LuckyScent, MiN New York, The Perfume House in Portland OR, and IndieScents) for $135 per 50ml bottle.  Also available at Tauer Perfumes.  With thanks to Jeffrey Dame of Hypoluxe and to Andy Tauer for the sample.

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Perfume Review: Esther P Fragrances

Esther P is a new company based in Canada, selling fragrances created in Grasse, France. From the website’s “About Us” page:

After selling perfumes in her shops for years, Josette André decided to create her Esther P line when she realized that people who love perfumes were often disappointed by mass production. Hundreds of issues every year, that finally were all smelling similar, aiming to please everybody, and not fulfilling the expectation of the connoisseurs. Most of the time, perfumes are marketing products, and customers have to follow the trend. This is not our vision.

For us, wearing a fragrance is a very personal decision. It must fit your personality, and you have to wear it and feel comfortable with it in the same way you wear your favorite clothes. Our products are certainly not a one-fits-all line, for us, each woman is unique. Never would our fragrances copied from an existing one. Each one would represent for a woman a moment close to her feeling, imagination, or way of life. These fragrances are a creation for someone wanting a unique, personal, made- for- her-only fragrance.

The main idea Josette gave to our creator, was “Simplicity”, hiding a very complex creation. This same simplicity crowns the culmination of techniques and skills supported by high standards of quality products. For each fragrance, we have chosen the purest and most natural components. Every time it is possible, we use natural ingredient, and when available, products from France. Our production reflects the luxury French signature. Ingredients, complex and modern harmonies, chic bottles, we want Esther P to be on all counts the ambassador of French elegance.

These fragrances will be sold through a network of independent and selected stores.

I recently won a sample set of Esther P fragrances from online retailer IndieScents, and wanted to review them briefly here. Fragrance info was taken directly from the Esther P website. 

Barbara

Barbara is a woman living energetic days. Fresh with Lime and Spicy Anise, and the long lasting feeling of wearing fresh white linen. The Amber and Musk in the background reveal the sophisticated side of this lively woman.

Floral Oriental. Eau de Toilette.

Head notes: green notes, anise, sweet fennel, lime

Heart notes: jasmine, cotton flower

Base notes: ambergris, musk

Testing Barbara: Green notes apparent up top, along with something that smells like pear. Tiny touch of lime, not getting the anise. I don’t know what “cotton flower” smells like, but if it’s that “clean” thing you get in the B&BW Cotton Blossom, I don’t like it. Basically, after the first few minutes, this smells like clean laundry.  Not quite as nice as AG L’eau du Ciel, either.

Barocco

Barocco is a floral harmony, elegantly blending Tuberose, Ylang-Ylang with a Jasmine heart and spiced clove. For a stunning and passionate woman. Soft Floral. Eau de Toilette and Parfum.

Head notes: white flowers, ylang-ylang, tuberose

Heart notes: lily of the valley, jasmine, spices, clove

Base notes: ambergris, white musk

Barocco starts off with JASMINE and some muguet; I’m not picking up on any tuberose or ylang, or indeed any spices.  It is soft, and it’s reminding me to some degree of something or other a friend’s mother used to wear, back in the 80s. This, however, is much quieter (and duller).  Eventually it begins to warm up, with less of a synthetic jasmine feel and more of a white floral mix.  However, it then dives straight for the laundry musk.  It’s a bit like Jessica McClintock’s fragrance.

Boteh Esther P for womenBoteh

A dreamy oriental. Filled by images of cashmere, gold embroidery, soft pillows along pools fragrant of Mysore sandalwood and Damascus roses. Green Oriental. Eau de Toilette and Parfum.

Head notes: grapefruit, blackcurrant, hyacinth

Heart notes: jasmine, Mysore sandalwood, rose

Base notes: vanilla, ambergris, musk

Testing Boteh: Blackcurrant immediately apparent, as well as the rose and vanilla. Up top, it reminds me a little of Moschino Funny, except that it also has a dusty, baby-aspirin quality I don’t like much.  Also reminds me a little bit of Micallef Mon Parfum Cristal, though I think that has better materials. This is wearable, though.

Fugue Esther P for womenFugue

Behind the fresh citruses and white flowers, a hint of discreet woody scent and musk, for a woman sure of herself, an apparent simplicity for a complex and sophisticated woman.  Oriental. Eau de Toilette and Parfum.

Head notes: mandarin, bergamot, pineapple

Heart notes: lily of the valley, iris, jasmine, heliotrope

Base notes: vanilla, sandalwood, cedar, tonka, musk

Citrus and musk, that’s all I’m getting. Maybe a little bit of muguet.  Not an oriental – it’s mostly laundry musk with some pale woody notes.  I don’t even smell any vanilla. It’s somewhere between Cashmere Mist and Light Blue, without the Cashmeran of the former and the Windexy aquatic notes of the latter.

L'Eau d'Emma Esther P for womenL’eau d’Emma

 “L’Eau d’Emma”, fresh and crisp. A harmony of sweet orange and fruity mandarin, with summer jasmine and iris, shaded by a cedar tree. Fresh floral. Eau de Toilette.

Head notes: citrus (mandarin, bergamot, lime, sweet orange)

Heart notes: jasmine, iris

Base notes: Atlas cedar, patchouli from India

This is a beautiful citrus fragrance, not quite a traditional cologne, but similarly fresh and invigorating. It starts out with a very lovely mixed-citrus blast, which is joined by that very clean jasmine material, and then a pleasant cedar… but then it goes to white musk, again. Overall it lasts a little less than two hours on me. This is not a type of fragrance I really enjoy – I don’t particularly enjoy citrus florals – but this one is very refreshing and attractive. I would still rather have Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune for a citrus floral (grapefruit, jasmine, rose, cedar and patchouli), particularly at this price point.

Queen of Persia Esther P for womenQueen of Persia

Queen of Persia….A soft and modern Oriental fragrance. Rose and Jasmine, the symbol flowers of Grasse in Provence. Candied fruits soften the very modern note of incense and patchouli. Ambered Oriental. Eau de Toilette and Parfum.

Head notes: mandarin, bergamot, rose

Heart notes: jasmine, rose, candied fruits, iris

Base notes: vanilla, patchouli, frankincense

This is really pretty. It might be my favorite of the line. Not particularly “candied,” thank goodness, and it’s not as high-pitched as some of the others I’ve been smelling from this line. They are NUTS calling it an “ambered Oriental,” though, and regular readers will know that I am definitely not much of a customer for either amber or oriental! It’s neither. It is a rose-jasmine floral with a nice non-laundry base, and it’s somewhat similar to Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle, without CM’s screechy patchouli.  It’s pleasanter to wear, but also doesn’t last the way a real oriental would – a good .3 ml application was gone in three hours.

The PR material makes a point of saying that these fragrances were all composed in Grasse, and that they reflect the centuries of perfumery originating there… but my opinion is that these are not particularly original, and they’re not going to appeal to perfume fans. As far as that goes, they smell fine. They’re at least department-store quality, or perhaps a little better, because although they do have that ultra-clean, streamlined feel of floral synthetics, there are at least some natural florals mixed in.

Longevity on these, on my scent-eating skin, is very bad, ranging from 2 hours to 4. Sillage tends to be very quiet to moderate, even with the heftier florals like Queen of Persia and Barocco. Of course I am dabbing from a vial (using about a third of a ml each time, and my test spot is pretty soaked) instead of spraying, and that might affect the experience.  However, most of these scents eventually get eaten up by white musk in the drydown (exception Queen of Persia, which nevertheless smells like several other department store scents with a modern-chypre base). I am a little surprised that Indie Scents is carrying the brand, since these are not anywhere near as wildly original as most of their other stock.

Again, pleasant fragrances, but not anything I would shell out for. In each case I could pick a different (and probably less expensive) option that would be better in terms of longevity and originality.

Each fragrance is available in eau de toilette; four of them are also available in parfum strength. I tested only EdTs. The parfum bottles, I must add, are particularly lovely, and if I were a bottle hound I’d want one. The Esther P fragrances are available at Indie Scent (only the EdT concentration, at $110 per 100ml bottle) and also at the Esther P website, but you have to email for ordering info. I do not know how much the 50ml parfum bottles cost.

My thanks to IndieScents for the sample draw.

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Perfume Review: Marc Jacobs Daisy, EdT and EdP

Daisy Marc Jacobs for women
The adorable bottle for the original EdT version.

I’ve never reviewed this fragrance, although I encountered it early in my perfumista-dom – in late 2007, about the time I discovered Now Smell This and began really investigating fragrance rather than making do with whatever inexpensive scent I could afford.

In the fall of 2007 my sister asked for Coco Mademoiselle for Christmas. I Googled for a review and discovered NST; when I went to the mall I sniffed everything, including Daisy, and found that I liked it very much.  I bought a mini of the EdT on ebay. Soon after that I “fell down the rabbit hole,” as the saying goes, and Daisy seemed quite undistinguished once I’d smelled things like Chanel No. 19, vintage Jolie Madame, and Amouage Dia.

But I went by the mall yesterday to sniff whatever Macy’s had new, as well as some older things I wanted a refresher sniff of, and I gave myself a good spritz of Estee Lauder Modern Muse on one hand and one of Daisy EdP on the other.

Daisy Black Edition Marc Jacobs for women
The EdP version. (There are several editions of this thing. I rather like the black bottle with hot pink bendy flowers.)

Daisy lasted a good six hours on me, a little longer than the usual EdP performance on my skin, and carried a noticeable but quiet sillage.  It is, to use the terminology in Robin’s NST review of the EdT, “massively pleasant,” and I still think it’s one of the nicest unobtrusive fragrances currently marketed.  No, it’s not bold and distinctive – it’s just… nice.  Nice.  I know plenty of fragrances that are bolder, that seize my attention, but I put it to you that Daisy is distinctive in its niceness.

Noticeable to me is a light citrus and fruit top, with plenty of green. This slides into a gentle white floral, sweetened by violet, and from there into a pretty, comfortable, my-skin-but-better, woody musk drydown.  It never smells like frooty Kool-aid or straight-up laundry musk to me; instead, its core is a soft, sheer white floral. Which might, to be honest, be more interesting to me than to a lot of other people. Let’s face it, if your idea of how you’d like to smell on a regular basis is Calvin Klein Obsession or Iris Silver Mist or Passage d’Enfer, you’re going to find Daisy oppressively dull.  For a floral aficionado like me, Daisy is probably more acceptable.

The official notes for the original Daisy EdT, composed by Alberto Morillas, are strawberry, violet leaf, pink grapefruit, gardenia, jasmine, violet, white woods, vanilla and musk.  Marc Jacobs’ website lists only strawberry, gardenia, jasmine, violet, white woods, cedar and birch as the notes for the EdP and says that it is a “more intense” version of the EdT; Fragrantica suggests that there is no difference between the original in the clear glass bottle with white daisies (the EdT) and the black glass bottle with gold daisies (the EdP). My opinion is that there is a small difference between the two, with the EdT having more grapefruit, and the EdP more jasmine/vanilla. I like them both. There is a creaminess to the EdP as well, the same sort of cold cream thing I liked so much in Esprit d’Oscar.

I mean, look, I have yet to buy a full bottle of Daisy and it’s likely I never will, what with all the perfume I own. But you could do a lot worse than this. If you’re in the market for a nice quiet wallpaper scent, you could get stuck with Donna Karan Cashmere Mist, or Taylor Swift Wonderstruck, or (God forbid) Chanel Chance, all work-appropriate, inoffensive things that somehow smell a great deal nastier to me than Daisy does.

Other reviews (most are of the original EdT):  Robin at NST, EauMG, Victoria at Bois de Jasmin, Katie Puckrik Smells, Perfume Shrine.

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Perfume Review: Micallef Mon Parfum Cristal

Mon Parfum Cristal M. Micallef for women

Mon Parfum Cristal was released in 2013, intended to be a “more crystalline” version of Micallef’s 2009 Mon Parfum. I have not smelled Mon Parfum and wonder if the “cristal” addition to the name was intended to reference the highly decorative bottles Ms. Micallef often uses, rather than the scent itself.

When I think of “cristal,” the French version of crystal, a few things come to mind: the brand of Champagne (though I’ve never had that, either!), chandeliers, gems, icicles, wineglasses, and… aldehydes. Well, you know me, I’m still the AldeHo.  However, there is nothing clear-and-sparkly about this fragrance. Rather, it is opaque and cuddly. Not that there’s anything wrong with that in itself, and the fragrance is very nice. But it’s not very crystalline in nature.

The notes for Mon Parfum Cristal are pink pepper, cinnamon, rose, vanilla, musk, toffee, musk, and amber.  (See? just from the notes list, you’re already thinking What about that has anything to do with crystal?? Well, nothing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

The fragrance opens up with what seems to me like a bit of orange as well as the pink pepper and just a dusting of cinnamon.

Aside: it has become common among perfume fans to proclaim themselves sick of pink pepper, which always strikes me as being a silly stance to take. Sure, it seems like 80% of new launches contain pink pepper, but given the recent crackdown on citrus notes, I ask you, what are perfumers to do? Pink pepper, a synthetic aromachemical with rosy and mildly piney angles, functions much the same way as bergamot or other citrus notes do, and it serves a purpose. Pink pepper rarely serves as the focal point of a fragrance, but rather as a bridge or accent. (See this Fragrantica article by Elena Vosnaki of Perfume Shrine for more on pink pepper.)  You don’t hear people complaining, “Seems like everything out there contains bergamot these days!” It might be true that fumeheads much prefer citrus to pink pepper, and that stance is understandable. Everyone has preferences. But to complain that everyone is using it seems silly to me.  Whine about the recent overuse of synthetic oud, if you like; oud tends to be used as a focus rather than an accent. Okay, rant over. Sorry. Back to review.

Mon Parfum Cristal moves fairly quickly into its rose-vanilla heart and stays there most of the time. It is rather sweet, given the vanilla/toffee/amber notes, but the rose is really a lovely one, and the whole thing is girly and pretty and pleasant. I really can’t see a man enjoying this one much, but this confection is made for, say, the niece who loves pink. Longevity is good, approximately six hours on me, and the sillage is moderate. I’ve been dabbing from a mini bottle, but sprayed the scent has more presence.  I’d call this a “fleurmand” – a floral gourmand – because it’s focused on the rose and toffee notes.

The fragrance reminds me just a bit of Tocade, though it lacks Tocade’s “That Slut” sexiness, which seems to come both from its frilly rose-vanilla coupled with its smoky, dusty patchouli. Mon Parfum Cristal is every bit as frilly-sorority-girl, but it’s the sorority girl who’s slept the sleep of the righteously-caught-up-on-her-studies, not the one who stayed out all night doing keg stands. However, there is a distinctive “Micallef” recognizability to it as well; I’m not sure what it is, but all of the fragrances from this house that I have smelled seem to have in common a pleasantly-raspy vanilla in the base.

I haven’t seen the actual Mon Parfum Cristal bottle, though I think it is pretty in photos, and looks like it would be a pleasure to hold in the hand. The juice, too, is a pretty peachy rose color.

The perfumer for MPC is Jean-Claude Astier, who seems to have been responsible for much of the perfumed output of Micallef.  I’m not sure that this fragrance is available for purchase in the US as of yet; however, LuckyScent carries the original Mon Parfum, $225 for 100ml, so perhaps they will be carrying MPC soon.

Elena Vosnaki reviewed Mon Parfum Cristal on Fragrantica, here.

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Perfume Review: Escada Margaretha Ley

Here I am again with a totally useless review of a discontinued fragrance. I apologize in advance.

marg leyLike I said, this one’s gone.  There is some confusion in my mind as to whether Margaretha Ley (the founder of the Escada brand, now deceased) and Escada Escada (original) are the same fragrance. Some sources say yes, some say they’re slightly different. The packaging was slightly different as well, and judging from the notes list on Fragrantica, they’re pretty close in smell.

In any case, this is a powerhouse. Fragrances based on tuberose or jasmine often are, which you probably know, and if you’re sensitive to Big White Florals, you’ve certainly been bludgeoned by someone’s Fracas or Dior Poison or (common in my area) Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds.

(HEY. White Diamonds in parfum, dabbed delicately, is really lovely. But I’ve smelled it overapplied, too, and it can be quite nausea-inducing – and I really like BWFs.)

What’s immediately apparent with one half-spritz of Margaretha Ley is jasmine. And coconut. And ylang-ylang. You’ve got all the creamy aspects of BWFs – I swear there’s some tuberose in here too – as well as lactonic milky  stuff like coconut and peach. There is also some noticeable vanilla and spicy notes – clove, I think.  Hyacinth is in the notes, but I am not picking up on the metallic aspect of hyacinth, more just the spicy floral part. The entire thing is quite sweet, though not on the level of, for example, the gorgeously rich Prada Candy.

The only other scent this really reminds me of is the old Diane von Furstenberg Tatiana. Don’t bother trying it now, it is a chemical mess, but back in the day, when I was in college*, it was really lovely. The spicy notes were more prominent in Tatiana, and I think it was based on gardenia rather than jasmine, but there was a level of congruence there, with the spicy-creamy white flowers.  It is a tropical beach of a fragrance, though not fruity at all. I think of trade routes from the Indies and tropical flowers and drinks made with coconut milk…

If this is your thing, hunt up some Margaretha Ley, or some Tatiana, via ebay. The parfum minis for Tatiana are still available at a reasonable price, though the Escada is not priced reasonably. You might get lucky and find a partially-used one for cheap, as I did via a fellow perfumista.

Then, kick back on your autumn porch and dream of Tahiti.

Notes for Margaretha Ley (released 1990, composed by Michel Almairac, discontinued): Lime, hyacinth, coconut, peach, iris, jasmine, orange blossom, ylang, cloves, musk, sandalwood, vanilla.

Notes for DvF Tatiana (released 1975, still in production but no longer pleasant IMO): Lime, hyacinth, orange blossom, jasmine, narcissus, gardenia, tuberose, rose, musk, sandalwood, amber.

* If I have not told you the story about my Tatiana stash, I ought to.  You remember when my mom, who haaaaaates fresh gardenias and BWF fragrances, made me take my newly-purchased bottle of Sand & Sable back to the drugstore, claiming it was “too old for me”? (I was 18.) Well, my first year of college, I bought a mini bottle of Tatiana at the drugstore and, as I had been taught, applied it delicately from the little splash edt bottle. I took it home with me for Spring Break… and over the course of four days, it disappeared.

Disappeared.  My sister swore she hadn’t seen it. My grandmother (who liked it) said she hadn’t seen it. My mother… well, let’s just say I have my suspicions to this day.  (Still love you, Mom. But maybe I ought to charge you for this replacement mini I bought on ebay.)

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Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Tuscan Leather

next-tuscany-leather-sofaAh, leather. I am late to the leather bandwagon, and am still blaming Chanel Cuir de Russie for that.  (I did have something of a revelation with regards to CdR recently,  in that one afternoon I tried the same masochistic retest that I periodically attempt, and CdR did NOT smell like our cattle working pens. Instead, it was smooth leather, iris and a very buttery ylang, really lovely. However, the next day? Back to cattle pens. And the parfum? CATTLE PENS. I can’t win for losin’, as they say.)

But the leather scents that I like, I really like.  I adore Cuir de Lancome, which smells like the inside of my mother’s good leather purse, ca. 1975. I have swoony love for Balmain Jolie Madame in the parfum, which is like wearing a kick-butt pair of leather combat boots and carrying an enormous bouquet of violets, complete with the leaves and maybe one gardenia in the center (you only need one gardenia to be able to smell it).  Parfum d’Empire Cuir Ottoman, which I like to call “Odd Footstool” because it makes me laugh, is a delightful mix of leather followed by caramelly amber. Yum.

tuscan leatherTuscan Leather, from Tom Ford’s pricey Private Blend line, was recommended to me as a straight-up leather scent, and I have to say that it does smell like a leather sofa to me – soft, polished, comfortable.  The notes, according to Fragrantica, are saffron, raspberry, thyme, olibanum (frankincense), jasmine, leather, suede, amber and woody notes.  The scent does actually carry on with leather all the way through, unlike some other leather fragrances, which have a leather stage but don’t seem to stay there. Instead, Tuscan Leather is pretty literal. I do not smell raspberry in here, though other people seem to catch it. It is a little on the sweet side, especially compared to the ferocity of the green-leather classic Bandit, but I rather like that TL has the feeling of a cozy nook rather than a rawhide whip. There is a creaminess to it, which I’m attributing to the saffron because that note seems to offer a creamy effect in other scents with saffron.  I do smell a bit of incense, which melds with the woody notes toward the base, and as the fragrance goes on, more and more amber.  It never winds up as ambery-sweet as Cuir Ottoman, though, and the general effect is of a men’s club, with multiple leather sofas and a vague whiskey-and-pipe-tobacco hint.

A friend of mine shudders when she smells this, insisting that it reminds her of cocaine. I don’t have any reference for that in my personal life, so I’m at a loss. Sure, it may actually smell like sniffery-jollies in a 1980s nightclub, but I would never ever know.

Tuscan Leather is on the masculine side, and it’s unusual for me to thoroughly enjoy wearing a fragrance geared toward men*, but this one I do.  Sillage is moderate and longevity average; I typically get 3-6 hours of wear from an eau de parfum, and I get about five hours’ worth out of TL. Toward the end it becomes quite sweet and ambery, having finally left behind the leather and the woody-incense notes, but I don’t mind so much.

It’s ridiculously expensive at $225 for 50ml, or $280 for 100ml, at major retailers such as Nordstroms and Neiman-Marcus, just like the rest of the Private Blend line, so I’m not going to buy any, but it is wonderful, and I would love to smell it on a man.

(*I have notoriously girlified taste.  I can usually wear unisex fragrances easily but I simply cannot manage anything even vaguely fougere, or anything with a shaving-cream angle.  It’s like wearing cotton Y-front briefs. Just NO.)

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Perfume Review: Micallef Denis Durand Le Parfum Couture

I know nothing of couture.

And, to be honest, I’m not bothered that I don’t. I’m fine not knowing. Couldn’t afford it, couldn’t fit in it, find it interesting to look at but not very practical: that all adds up to my don’t-care attitude.

An evening frock by Denis Durand.  I actually like this one a lot, despite its overblown quality - it's a slinky Hollywood vixen being nuzzled by a giant mutant pink rose, what's not to love here?
An evening frock by Denis Durand. I actually like this one a lot, despite its overblown quality – it’s a slinky Hollywood vixen being nuzzled by a giant mutant pink rose, what’s not to love here?

I went looking for images of Denis Durand’s couture frocks when Parfums Micallef so kindly offered me a sample of the fragrance composed with Durand’s sensibility in mind. They’re interesting, at least – often what I’d call over the top, in terms of silhouette or embellishment, and really only wearable when you’d want to make an emphatic statement. “Simply pretty” is not really applicable to any of the ones I saw, though I will say that often the embellishments are luxurious and very feminine – Swarovski crystals, silk ruffles, enormous floppy satin bows. Le-Parfum-Couture-Denis-Durand-for-M.-Micallef-cafleurebon-300x300

The flacon offered for this fragrance is beautiful, too, at least in photos. It’s square and blocky, with a blocky rectangular lid, but as the press release says, “Dressed with hand sewn delicate Chantilly black lace, the bottle is adorned with a little satin bow and a golden medal with the initials of the two artists.”

Micallef calls it an oriental, but it seems quite floral to me so I’m going to toss it in the floral-oriental category and be done with it.  As for the notes:

Head notes: Ceylon cinnamon, Italian tangerine

Heart notes: Bulgarian rose, orange blossoms, honey and animalis

Base notes: sandalwood, patchouli, amber and white musk

On to the fragrance. Does it smell like this dress?

A Durand dress that fascinates me. LOOK at it - all pale pale pale pink satin with a floppy bow, and the black Chantilly lace overlay, and - holy cow. Slit practically to the waist.
A Durand dress that fascinates me. LOOK at it – all pale pale pale pink satin with a floppy bow, and the black Chantilly lace overlay, and – holy cow. Slit practically to the waist.

Um… well, without the slit rising to risque levels, it’s not too far off.  It wears closer to the skin than these outrageous dresses would suggest, for one thing. For another, it’s not particularly dark, but it’s not a clean bright floral either. There’s enough of a black-lace quality to the earthy base to suggest evening wear and liaisons over drinks, but the florals are quite lovely. Orange blossom tends to dominate the heart, and despite the Animalis note – which smells something like my fur hat, a delightful hint of really-vintage fragrances – it is relentlessly clean on me, like a bar of scented soap. (But then, I typically get a soapy quality out of orange blossom, so this is nothing unusual.) The opening moments remind me just a bit of Tauer Une Rose Chypree, with the aromatic tangerine and cinnamon, and they might be my favorite part of the fragrance. Not that the rest is dull or badly composed at all – no, it’s lovely.  A number of people are getting oud and honey out of this, but I really don’t. There’s nothing about it that smells particularly animalic (the way oud and honey often can) to me, and it’s possible that other reviewers’ “oud” is my “dry wood,” but honey can sometimes go really, um, ladyparts on me, and I am not getting any of that at all.

The drydown is what many oriental-lovers are going to rave about, because it is warm and sensual without being too sweet or too raunchy. It makes me think of Givenchy’s Organza Indecence, though Parfum Couture is a little drier, its patchouli a little more prominent. I smell both sandalwood and a different, drier kind of wood in here (is this what everybody else is calling oud? I’m really only familiar with oud from those Montale rose-oud things, and the By Kilian Arabian things, and those were all much more medicinal), as well as a touch of amber.  Lasting power is about average for an edp on me, 4-5 hours, and sillage is also average.

Another Durand dress. I don't know how you could walk in it (or sit, for that matter), but it is a gorgeous color.
Another Durand dress. I don’t know how you could walk in it (or sit, for that matter), but it is a gorgeous peacocky thing.

All in all, a very lovely fragrance.  It’s available at Lucky Scent in the US.

Other reviews of Le Parfum Couture: Angela at Now Smell This; Mark at CaFleureBon (brief); Kafkaesque; That Smell; Chemist in the Bottle; The Scented Hound.

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Perfume Review: Jacomo Silences eau de parfum Sublime, plus a sample drawing

Some of you might remember how much I whined over the news of a reformulated Silences last year, because, yeah, I was whiny on the level of an  overtired three-year-old. Sorry ’bout that.

First, because I made you read it. Second, because I was wrong.

The new take on the very-70s original is that good.  You do have to be a fan of green scents, I’d hazard, but I definitely am.  Just the other day I was listing my extensive collection of scents I wear in spring, and most of them are green florals, of course.

This color combo looks a lot like my mental image of Silences.
This color combo looks a lot like my mental image of Silences.

Silences edp Sublime reminds me not so much of its predecessor, which is relentlessly, eerily green with lashings of rose and iris, as it does of a gentle version of Chanel No. 19.

I was disappointed in Chanel’s updated flanker of No. 19, titled Poudre, as to my nose it was barely green at all and seemed to be mostly clean white musk with hints of dry iris. While pleasant, Poudre seems more closely related to Prada’s ubiquitous, nicely-done Infusion d’Iris, with perhaps a tiny green veil.Silences edp sublimeSilences Sublime, as I’ll call it for the duration of the review, opens up with the gentle bite of galbanum and a very small hint of blackcurrant bud, both rather subdued, along with a light veil of aldehydes. You might not even notice the cassis bud at all – it’s gone quickly and doesn’t have that big cat-pee hit (hey, I like the cat-pee thing, but I know it’s controversial). More prominent is the floral heart, where rose is joined by a delicate lily of the valley note and  a tiny bit of floral dirt from the narcissus.  The iris seems to pop up with the basenotes (woody notes, vetiver and musk), and it’s lovely in a very quiet way for a good four hours.

Sillage is mild to moderate unless you try the spray-until-wet technique, and then it’s only moderate; longevity is really more like edt than edp on my skin. Silences Sublime strikes me as being really a hot-weather kind of fragrance, a dry cooling breeze that soothes my grizzled temper and lends a bit of elegance without the ramrod posture that No. 19 evokes.

As for comparing the Sublime to the original – well, for one thing, the original version of Silences that I own myself is parfum de toilette, and it is a galbanum monster that lasts allll day even in humid summer. (I feel certain that more modern Silences eau de toilette is lighter than the almost-oily pdt.) Silences is the sweet pink color of rose, the calm blue-purple-grey color of iris, the clover green of galbanum and the olive green of moss, satiny ribbons that trail out behind you in unexpected, arresting beauty, as you wander in quiet contemplation.  Silences Sublime has much less presence, and as I say, seems much closer to No. 19 in character than to Silences. I suspect the addition of aldehydes to Sublime and the base’s focus on vetiver-musk rather than moss creates that likeness.

This looks like the color scheme for Silences Sublime, too. Well, perhaps it needed a bit more pink, but it's close.
This looks like the color scheme for Silences Sublime, too. Well, perhaps it needed a bit more pink, but it’s close.

I am enjoying Silences Sublime very, very much, and find it even easier to wear than Chanel No. 19 (which can be a little demanding of my attention – delightfully so, but still demanding).  It’s quite reasonably priced, and I bought my 100ml bottle via New London Pharmacy’s website for under $80 shipped. Lovely stuff. Jacomo really should make it more easily available in the US, because I predict it would sell beautifully.

Sometime soon I really should create a diagram showing Silences, Silences Sublime, Chanel No. 19 in various concentrations including Poudre, Annick Goutal Heure Exquise (in edt and edp), Calandre, Rive Gauche, and Madame Rochas on a continuum, because they all seem somewhat related to me along an axis of green notes/galbanum, aldehydes, rose, iris, vetiver, moss and musk.  Clearly that note combination is a favorite of mine (though I’m not as fond of Rive Gauche and Mme Rochas as I am of the others).

I’m offering two 2.5-ml spray samples of Jacomo Silences eau de parfum Sublime.  To enter, please say you’re interested and tell me whether you like any of the scents on my hypothetical continuum.  (It’s okay to say you’ve never investigated any of them. I hope to pull you in!) Drawing will close on Thursday at noon Eastern Standard Time. Drawing is now closed.

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Perfume Review: The Vagabond Prince Enchanted Forest

ench forEnchanted Forest is the first fragrance produced by the new perfume company The Vagabond Prince, which was started by the founders of the fragrance website Fragrantica (my favorite resource for notes lists). There’s some nice stuff there on the Vagabond Prince website regarding the artwork on the bottle and the lovely packaging – it doesn’t mean much to me, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m something of an art Philistine (to the despair of my art-history major sister). Here’s what the creators have to say about it:

The fragrance was suggested by Nature itself. It’s the smell of the forest, when you step in it in the night. The darkness of the night keeps your senses alert, enhancing every smell and every sound you experience, including your own heart pounding. The night awakes your instincts, you need some time to get used to their language and feel as if you’re a part of this night forest that’s opening to you its grand beauty. Then the dense darkness steps aside and you can smell a delightfully moist fresh air.

Lucky Scent, one of the distributors for Enchanted Forest (it’s also available at MiN NY and at the Vagabond Prince website), shares this information about it.

Enchanted Forest is inspired by the endless sea of Russian forests and fairytales, as well as the most sensual ancient Slavic celebration named Kupala, rooted in the times of darkness, when all on the Earth knew its soul and its name (often too powerful to be uttered in vain or at all). French perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, the famous creator of fragrances for L’Artisan Parfumeur, Comme des Garçons and Penhaligon’s, built Enchanted Forest around black currant, the smell and taste of which are so beloved in Russia and many other countries where it grows.

I gather that a number of people who have tested this fragrance have been rather disappointed in it. Led by the mystical title and their own experiences with fairy tales, not to mention the ad copy, they’ve imagined it being a foresty sort of scent.

blackcurrantsFact is, it’s not. It is All Blackcurrant, All the Time.  The quote from perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour in the ad copy also mentions this angle:

“Enchanted Forest is the only perfume I know of that is built around blackcurrant as the sole raw material, to such an extent that one can say it is a CASSIS! My inspiration for this perfume was primarily the fruit of blackcurrant itself, from which I drew enormously the strength of the perfume. The blackcurrant is the MOST IMPORTANT fruity note of the range that exists in perfumery. Blackcurrant and the sulfur effects of blackcurrant are the basis for the reconstruction of almost all fruits that perfumers and flavorists know. It is HUGE!”

Okay, okay – leaving aside the ridiculousness of the all-caps emphasis, this is pretty much the deal. He’s right. Enchanted Forest is not about the forest, it’s about the cassis, top to bottom, front to back. Remember that, and you’re probably going to be okay, assuming that you like blackcurrant.  Clearly a number of people don’t.  It has acidic and sulfuric characteristics that often seem to evoke the scents of cat pee, sweat, and body odor.

I usually love blackcurrant, myself. A number of my favorites contain it. For example, Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune, though centered on grapefruit, is also chock-full of blackcurrant.  Cassis plays a large part in the delightfully neon-Gothic rose chypre L’Arte di Gucci.  Blackcurrant with raspberry, strawberry, and blackberry notes make up the deliciously juicy, natural berry notes of Hanae Mori.  It lightens the sweet woody-vanilla rose of Clarins Par Amour.  It adds to the strange, shape-shifting, green-into-floral-into-warm-oriental character of Guerlain Chamade.

fortunaprzodI first became acquainted with blackcurrant as a fruit when my college choir traveled to Europe for two weeks. In Poland we were contantly offered bottles of sok, or juice. The juice we drank most often was a lightly-sweetened blackcurrant cordial that I immediately took to.  (Ribena is similar, but much sweeter.)  Unfortunately, you can’t get it here in the US.  Wish I could – yum.

In any case, my experience with Enchanted Forest is that it’s not particularly foresty. It is, as I said, dominated by blackcurrant all the way through, almost to the very end. I love it.

The opening is pretty much cat pee/berry/citrus, in the classic manner of cassis bud notes, and I like that. It stays there for some time, with various green and herbal and pine notes passing through, but I never feel like I’m in the forest; there isn’t any underlying earthiness to evoke the forest floor. Instead, it’s maybe a garden full of blackcurrant bushes, backed up to a forest but not in it. I hardly notice aldehydes or the “alcoholic effects” notes at all, since I’m overwhelmed by this tart, aromatic, hyperrealistic berry. If I hoover my arm, I can pick up the fir and some sweet booziness (the davana, perhaps?), but the waft is still alllll blackcurrant. If you’re thinking that “fruity” is a cop-out, you’re thinking of frooty celebuscents. This is not one of those.  It is anything but airheaded, and it’s right on the verge of “don’t mess with me.” When was the last time a fruity fragrance, without a leather or chypre base, did that? I can’t think of one.

Half an hour in, I begin really picking up more herbal, green notes – the patchouli shows up as well as the rosemary and coriander seed, but they’re still dominated by the blackcurrant. I really get a stem-and-twig thing going on here, and I think I’m finding the vetiver.  About an hour after that, though, the fragrance seems very floral to me, with lots of rose – yeah, still under the blackcurrant, a ghost of L’Ombre dans L’Eau there – and some other floral notes, and I really love this part.  It goes on singing in this floral/tart berry/woody stem-and-leaf register for several hours, and it really is beautiful.

Six to eight hours later, the drydown has shed most of the notes that were prominent earlier, and it settles into a very lovely, cozy sweet woody thing: plenty of benzoin, some musk, some woody notes… the vetiver returns, the cedar shows up, there’s a very tiny hint of moss.  It’s gorgeous. It reminds me of the drydown of vintage Emeraude, perhaps drier and less vanillic, but it is just so comfortable and quietly attractive without being overtly plush like Emeraude.  As I said earlier, I love it.

I’m not sure what other people think about smelling it on me – I know that some of my family members gave me suspicious looks during the first hour, and then remarked favorably on it. And it may not be for you.  It does not, in my opinion, bear much relation to the usual Duchaufour oeuvre, which for me is a good thing since I often find his work strikingly dank, like old cold musty basements, and unwearable. If you’re looking for this to be “a Duchaufour,” like Dzongkha, you are going to be disappointed. Enchanted Forest really should have been called something like “Woodsman’s Cottage Garden,” but I doubt that would have sold any bottles, so there ya go: actual truth-in-advertising is sometimes not a good thing.

The notes list for Enchanted Forest is long, and I definitely don’t get all of these notes, but it’s interesting reading, at least.  (This info is directly from Fragrantica.) Top: pink pepper, aldehydes, sweet orange (traces), cassis flower, blackcurrant leaf, hawthorn, effects of rum and wine, rosemary, davana. Heart: blackcurrant bud absolute, CO2 blackcurrant, Russian coriander seed, honeysuckle, rose, carnation, vetiver. Base: opoponax resinoid, Siam benzoin, amber, oakmoss, fir balsam absolute, Patchouli Purecoeur, castoreum, cedar, vanilla, musk.

Here are a few other reviews of Enchanted Forest: Ines at All I Am – A Redhead; Signature AscentA Kafkaesque Life; Doc Elly of Olympic Orchids at Perfume Project NWThe Scented Hound; Mark at Ca Fleure Bon; The Non-Blonde; and a really hilariously snarky review by Jen at This Blog Really Stinks.  (As always, if you know of more reviews, please let me know.)

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