Tuesday Roundup: mini-reviews, March 13, 2012

Aftelier Amber – So, okay, this is perfumery amber, all rich and sweet and syrupy. What else is there to say about it? It’s so average that I’ve tested it three times, thinking, “There must be something I’m missing here.” Nope.

Aftelier Lumiere – lemon plus Pine-Sol. Hideous. I am not a big fan of whatever variety of frankincense could be described as “sour” or “lemony,” however expensive it may be, so of course I hate this. Possibly if you like L’Artisan’s Passage d’Enfer, you may get on with this kind of thing.

Jo Malone Peony and Moss – A note, first: now that the Jo Malone line is run by Estee Lauder, JM can use the “white moss” material used in EL Private Collection Jasmine & White Moss, which is apparently IFRA-compliant. I have trouble with the Lauder base, but so far have not noticed issues with Jo Malone fragrances, and I don’t know if that’s because the JM samples I’ve been testing predate the Lauder takeover, or whether Lauder has not messed with the JM formulae. This is a new fragrance (limited edition), so I’m thinking that Lauder isn’t using its regular base in the Jo Malones.

On to the fragrance: I like perfumery peony. It doesn’t smell much like real peony, which might be my favorite fragrant flower of all time (Sarah Bernhardt, please), but it’s nice. At times it can veer a little synthetic, a little high-pitched… but here, there’s enough mossy material to keep it out of perky-cheerleader range. Perfect for attending a summer tea party in a floral dress, and since I believe in tea parties and floral dresses, this sort of thing is just up my alley. If “summer tea party” made you snort, Peony and Moss will too. I’m not sure I need a bottle, since my summer-tea-party-fragrance niche is pretty full already, but I really like it. (Now, to go schedule a summer tea party of my own…)

Creed Spring Flower – This is a nice simple fruity-floral, just pretty and not much else. I can tell that there are some natural florals in here (rose, jasmine), and if I’d run across this five years or so ago, I might have fallen hard for it. These days, having become conversant with greater things, it provokes only a yawn. It’s competent but unexciting, and if I’m going to shell out for a bottle this expensive, it had better excite me.

Floris Madonna of the Almonds – essentially, this is a cologne-structure thing, all citrus and spice underlaid with a pretty, almond-sandalwood base. I like the almonds very, very much, but the cologne part bores me. I’d wear this in the summer if I had a bottle, but my summer needs are pretty much covered (see Peony & Moss, above) so I don’t think I’ll be getting any.


Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US: part III of the mini-reviews

Here’s the third installment of mini-reviews of the most popular women’s fragrances in the US last year.  For Part I, click here, for Part II, click here, and for the description of the original project, click here.

Clinique Aromatics Elixir – my mall does not have a tester for Aromatics Elixir! In fact, when I asked about it the Clinique SA gave me a hunted, defensive look. “We don’t have a tester,” she said. “I’m not sure we have any of that in stock, either.” I found this strange for a scent that is popular enough to warrant inclusion in the Top 20 list. Perhaps it doesn’t sell well locally – though I know I’ve seen a tester at Macy’s, at the bigger mall located 55 miles away. Or perhaps they really were out of stock. Or perhaps the Belk’s buyer just hates AE. Or maybe the SA hates it and didn’t want to have to smell it in the air after I’d sprayed and left… in any case, I don’t have a sample of it at all. What I remember about it is that it is a real room-clearer, bitter with greens and resins, with a bit of rose running underneath, a sort of Incredible Hulk version of L’Arte di Gucci. I’ll revisit AE if I get hold of a sample, or manage to drive to Roanoke. Continue reading Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US: part III of the mini-reviews


Perfume Review: Amouage Memoir Woman

Memoir Woman was designed as part of a pair of fragrances, as is common with Amouage, and the two fragrances were meant to explore the “timeless narrative of man and woman.” Released in 2010, the scent was composed by Daniel Maurel and Dorothée Piot, and categorized as a “spicy leather-animalic chypre.”

Topnotes: cardamom, mandarin orange, pink pepper, wormwood (absinthe). Heart notes: clove, incense, pepper, woody notes, jasmine, rose, white flowers. Basenotes: musk, French labdanum, oakmoss, styrax, leather.

A kind friend sent me some of this wonderful fragrance. Earlier, I’d read the words “animalic chypre” and raised my eyebrows, thinking, “Well, I can write this one off the test list.” Animalic chypre is so not my style. In fact, it still isn’t, and may never be – but I’ve come to understand that Memoir Woman is very difficult to classify. Like another morpher, Chamade, Memoir Woman smells very different from top to bottom. Unlike Chamade, which can be classified as a green floral with an oriental base, Memoir is tougher to pin down. You think it’s going one way, and then you hang a hairpin turn and find yourself somewhere completely different.

Upon first spritz, my nose crinkled up and I jerked my head back. Such a strange smell! So weird – and yet so oddly appealing. I sniffed more. I kept coming back to my wrist, tracking each facet in turn. “I can’t figure this out,” I said to myself. “It isn’t a chypre. It isn’t particularly animalic. I smell a little bit of leather, but it’s not A Leather Scent, either. Is it a floral? Not really. So what is it?” Continue reading Perfume Review: Amouage Memoir Woman


Oh, the tragedy! the loss! Jacomo Silences to be revamped

Thanks to a tweet from Robin at NST (@nowsmellthis), I’ve read the news: Jacomo has revamped its classic green-floral-chypre Silences.  I feel a rant coming on…

This article at CosmetiqueMag, dated February 13, 2012, describes the changes in French.  I don’t speak or read French (I took Latin and Spanish, and precious little good it does me with perfume, I tell you), so I went to Yahoo’s BabelFish translation page to get a better handle on this news item, which reads like this: 

Image from CosmetiqueMag.

Jacomo renoue avec Silences: Propriété de Sarbec depuis 1995, la marque remet au goût du jour Silences, son classique de 1978. Le jus, un chypre-vert aux facettes animales, a été revisité par Serge Majoullier (Mane). Il en a fait une composition plus moderne et lumineuse, tout en gardant le caractère vert de la fragrance, avec du galbanum et du cassis, un trio floral rose-iris-narcisse et un fond boisé-musqué. Le flacon noir garde la même allure mais la typographie du nom a été modernisée.

I suspect that BabelFish isn’t a particularly good translator.  This literary gem is what it managed to come up with:

Jacomo joins again with Silences:  Property of Sarbec since 1995, the mark gives to the last style Silences, its traditional of 1978. The juice, a Cyprus-green with the animal facets, was revisited by Serge Majoullier (Basket). It made a more modern and luminous composition of it, while keeping the green character of the fragrance, with galbanum and blackcurrant, a floral trio pink-iris-Narcisse and a wooded-musky bottom. The black bottle keeps the same pace but the typography of the name was modernized.

Ummmmyeeeeaah.  I’m going to mess with the English version myself to see if I can induce it to make sense:

Jacomo relaunches Silences:  Owned by Sarbec since 1995, the brand has revamped its 1978 classic Silences for modern tastes. The juice, a green chypre with animalic facets, was revisited by Serge Majoullier (Mane). The composition was made more modern and luminous while keeping the green character of the fragrance, with galbanum and blackcurrant, a floral trio of rose-iris-narcissus and a woody-musk base. The black bottle remains the same, but the font of the name was modernized.

Better?  I hope so.  (Mane is an aromachemical company and its name should not have been translated.  Basket??  Pfaugh.  Also, the verb tenses were inconsistent, and I don’t know enough French to tell whether that was the fault of the original article or not.) 

NOW we get to my real point:  They’re messing with Silences again.  Is there oakmoss listed in the notes? Iris? Nope.  Dang it, this gorgeous otherworldly thing, the greenest smell possible, this galbanum genius, is likely going to wind up smelling like the revamped Lanvin Rumeur.  I’m going to be ticked.

Of course, I have two big bottles of Silences parfum de toilette, and it’s probably a lifetime supply (and Bookworm hates this galbanum anyway so I have to be careful where I wear it), but I am going to be ticked if they screw it up.  I suppose that A) it’s been reformulated before, maybe multiple times, and B) there was no way they could have kept all that oakmoss in the formula anyway – but if it loses that strangely eerie, meditative, coolsmoothsatin quality, they might as well scrap the darn thing.

floating on green satin
This is what wearing Silences should feel like.

There’s so far no word on when this will take place.  It may very well be that the revamped Silences will be decent, if completely different in character than the Silences I know and love.  I mean, if they’re putting real narcissus in there with the rose, it might have a chance. But in that case, I think I’d prefer that Jacomo discontinue Silences and give the new thing a completely different name.

Awkward Silences, anybody?   (Apologies to the amazing Jack Mason.)


By Kilian – Worth it, or not?

I whined about these scents being “soooo expennnnnsiiiiive” for a long, long time. The ad copy was annoyingly pretentious, the packaging even more so. I eschewed trying them. I rolled my eyes every time somebody praised one of them. I said to myself, “There is no reason for you to go off the deep end over something so ridiculously overpriced, whether they’re good or not.”

But, see, the thing is, the By Kilians are good. Really good. I still don’t feel that I need one of them fancy-pants black bottles in a locking box, not for $225 a pop, and I probably don’t need a refill bottle for $175, either. (Probably not.) But the travel bottles (7.5ml) are slightly less ridiculously-priced.

Thanks to a generous giveaway from Musette at Perfume Posse in November, and to a promotion involving By Kilian’s Facebook page, I have recently had the opportunity to try several others from this brand. Like most houses, it’s a mixed bag for me – some of them are terrific, some merely competent. There were two that I didn’t like at all and wouldn’t wear. All of them are clearly composed of some good stuff, which at least justifies, to some degree, the crazy price point.

Continue reading By Kilian – Worth it, or not?


Dior Dune eau de toilette

Dune is clearly enjoying a revival of sorts among perfumistas, what with all the fresh reviews of this 1991 release popping up on perfume blogs all over the place. And deservedly so, I might add.

I had never worn Dune and had only the most loose memory of it, having smelled it only on other people, and then infrequently. My sister A wore it; at the time, she was in college and I didn’t see her often. I remember giving her a hug when she was home for a visit, noting that she smelled nice. I asked if she had a new perfume. “It’s called Dune,” she told me. “And don’t ask to borrow it. It’s mine. Don’t go buying it, because I chose it, and it’s mine.”

(You’d think that I’d stolen her sweaters when we were teenagers!  But no. She’s four years younger, and we have wildly differing taste in music, clothes, and fragrance. Why she was so adamant about not sharing, I still have no idea. She was similarly possessive about her Coco Mademoiselle a few years ago.)

My sister-in-law E – mother of Curiosity and Primrose, if you were wondering – had worn Dune as well, but had given it up due to fragrance sensitivities of a close friend. A few years ago I gave her a mini I’d picked up for her, but I didn’t open it to smell because the box was sealed. So I still didn’t remember what Dune smelled like. Continue reading Dior Dune eau de toilette


Perfume Review: Sonoma Scent Studio Nostalgie


Image from Sonoma Scent Studio

I first tested a sample of this back in September, though nose Laurie Erickson has been working on this scent for about a year now. I tested another version in November, and Nostalgie has been tweaked slightly from that version, which I liked very much. The working name was “Classic,” and the idea was a vintage-inspired floral scent.

Seems that vintage-inspired is hot right now, at least among the independent perfumers – witness Andy Tauer’s beautiful Miriam, produced for Tableau de Parfums, and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ lovely-but-not-me Pandora, Vert pour Madame, and Mirabella. I couldn’t be happier with a trend in the perfume world: it means excellent raw materials, plenty of naturals, the use of aldehydes and oakmoss and hard-to-source real sandalwood. Above all, it means rich composition and quiet confidence, qualities I like in my perfumes and which are difficult to find in the current market, full of thin and skeletal iFrags, as Denyse of Grain de Musc calls them.

Laurie was so kind as to send me a sample of Nostalgie, and I’m very pleased to review it. In a word, it is gorgeous.

Continue reading Perfume Review: Sonoma Scent Studio Nostalgie


Tuberose Series #22: Juicy Couture


Juicy Couture parfum mini from fragrancenet.com

Perfume review: Juicy Couture, in edp and parfum

Date released: 2006

Perfumer: Harry Fremont (also responsible for cKOne, Armani Sensi, Ralph Lauren Romance, and all the Vera Wang Princess fragrances, among others)

Sample provenance: manufacturer spray sample of edp given to Bookworm in 2010 (and swiped by me), parfum mini purchased in 2012

Subcategory – oh, heck, I’m going to change “subcategory” to “brief description.” There are a whole lot of ways you can do tuberose. Brief description: lightweight tuberose with fruity notes and subtle vanilla-woody base.

I don’t want to talk about the women who formed Juicy Couture and sold plushy yoga pants to Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, and I don’t even want to talk about the advisability of dressing fashionable women in plushy yoga pants and slapping a could-be-naughty adjective across their hind ends. So I just won’t.

I also don’t want to talk about Barbie, the quintessential pinkified little-girl toy that was the supposed muse for the fragrance. Juicy Couture designer Pamela Skaist-Levy commented, “It smells like something Barbie would wear.” (This is an inducement to buy it? Huh.)

Bookworm’s 15th birthday present from her Nana included a little spray sample of Juicy Couture edp in very-cute paper packaging that resembled a pink purse. I had already read the four-star review in Perfumes: The Guide, praising Juicy Couture as “a nicely crafted floral incorporating that rare thing, a delicate, transparent tuberose… one of the best in the [abstract floral] genre.” So with her permission, I pulled out the spray sample and spritzed her arm. Continue reading Tuberose Series #22: Juicy Couture


Fragrance Throwdown: Givenchy Organza Indécence versus Anné Pliska eau de parfum


Photo of wrestlers via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s Full Review Friday post is another Fragrance Throwdown.  I’m glad to see these wrestler guys again – I had missed them!

I had owned a small bottle of Organza Indécence for three years or so and enjoyed it before smelling Anné Pliska. AP seemed to me to be a darker, thicker rendition of Organza Indécence – OI on steroids, if you will – and I thought it would be interesting to test them wrist-to-wrist.

Organza Indecence (original packaging) from Fragrantica

Notes for Organza Indécence, from Fragrantica: Cinnamon, tangerine, jacaranda wood, plum, patchouli, amber, vanilla. With all those weighty notes, you’d think this would be a heavy oriental behemoth, a 400-pound gorilla plopping himself on your couch with a bag of chips and the TV remote, but it isn’t. Instead, OI is warm but lightweight, a nice slubby silk sweater that has texture and warmth but doesn’t smother. I never seem to notice the plum, and I can’t pick out jacaranda as opposed to other wood. I do also pick up on a few notes that aren’t listed; perhaps I’m imagining them, but possibly they’re there in smaller quantities; I think I smell a bit of rose, and I’m almost certain that there’s cedar in the base as well as a light touch of skin-type musk.

Continue reading Fragrance Throwdown: Givenchy Organza Indécence versus Anné Pliska eau de parfum


Tuberose Series Perfume Review #21: Amouage Honour Woman

Perfume Review: Amouage Honour Woman

Date released: 2011

Perfumer: Alexandra Carlin and Violaine Collas

Sample provenance: sample purchased from Aedes.com, 2012

Sub-category: Summer-weight white floral with tuberose

The following never happened. But it could have…

Mals was having an amazing day. She was walking down a city street, the heels of her new brown leather boots tapping on the sidewalk, shopping bags swinging by her side. She was musing to herself that the cashmere sweater she’d found on sale was just perfect – simple, classic, a lovely soft shade of gray-blue. And the boots! Will wonders never cease? The boots were perfect, too. Butter-soft, the right heel, they fit her ankles, and they didn’t make her feet ache. She’d worn them out of the store. And that tablecloth, that was a wonderful find for $10… White linen with drawn-thread work, just the size for her harvest maple table, guaranteed resistant to the tiniest food stain, machine washable. Perfect.

A storefront caught her eye: The Dream Perfumery, lettered in a clean but flowing script above the door. Her eyebrows went up, and she dodged across the lanes of oncoming walkers to have a closer look. The building itself seemed to be made of marble, and the interior was softly lit. The heavy glass door swung open when she put her hand up to it, and then she realized that someone inside had opened it for her.

Thank you,” she said in faint surprise to the young woman holding the door.

Oh, do come in,” the young woman said. “Lovely day, isn’t it? I’m Graciela, and we’re so pleased you stopped by.”

Mals blinked. This was not what the kind of treatment to which she was accustomed. And the inside of the shop was absolutely luxe, with a whisper-soft carpet and walls hung with fabric in rich colors. It smelled of many mingled scents, as a perfume shop should.

Continue reading Tuberose Series Perfume Review #21: Amouage Honour Woman


Perfume Review: By Kilian Sweet Redemption

Orange blossom image from theflowerexpert.com


Okay, okay, okay. Okay, all right?

I surrender. There. I said it. Are you happy that I have turned into a cheese-eating surrender monkey*?

No? That’s not good enough?

(heavy sigh) Okay, but I’m only going to say this once.


(* No, no, I like the French.  And I love cheese, too.  Everything is fine.)

See, I used to hate orange blossom. Well, not so much hate it as be horribly bored by it. Orange blossom still has a tendency to go all soapy on me, and I really intensely hate the idea of buying perfume, only to smell like hygiene products. NO. THANKS.

There are tons of perfectly lovely orange blossom fragrances out there that people love and that are adorably orange blossomy and smell very nice. Except on me. The following are just examples of Orange Blossom scents that went straight to Nice Floral French-Milled Soap on me:   AG Eau du Ciel (it smells like sheets freshly dried in the sun in the backyard, which is a wonderful smell but I prefer it as a linen spray), Bvlgari pour Femme, Jo Malone Orange Blossom, John Varvatos Artisan, L’Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons, SSS Femme Jolie, Caron Narcisse Noir (reformulated), Hermes 24, Faubourg. Continue reading Perfume Review: By Kilian Sweet Redemption


Six Harvey Prince fragrance reviews, and a giveaway

I knew very little about Harvey Prince when I received an email from a PR representative, offering a giveaway on this blog. Right away, I went to the Harvey Prince website to scout around a bit.

The website says that HP was founded by two brothers who didn’t want perfume to be “overwhelming, overpriced, and full of toxic chemicals,” and after composing a fragrance found inspiration in the person of their mother. The website also points out that certain smells have certain effects on our mental processes, and that each of the Harvey Prince scents have been created to take advantage of these olfactory receptor-to-brain linkages in order to affect behavior and perception.

While I am not opposed, in theory, to this version of aromatherapy, some squinty-eyed part of me is rather skeptical. Does this sort of thing actually work, I wonder? And whether or not, as reported by scientific study, men actually become, um, interested in a woman smelling of lavender and pumpkin pie, will these scents actually smell good?

Because I have to say, I don’t think I want to throw this Man Bait lavender-pumpkin-pie scent out there on my skin and having guys follow me home. I’m quite certain The CEO would not approve. Sure, I’ll try it on him and see what he says. Or does. (I may actually report the results, depending.)

I’ll also point out that although the website claims that the Harvey Prince fragrances are hypoallergenic, and do not contain “parabens, phthalates, PCBs, BPAs, GMOs, sulfates or other toxic chemicals,” these do not seem to be all-natural perfumes as that category of fragrance is usually defined. They do not smell like the natural fragrances from independent perfumers that I have worn before, coming far closer to smelling like mainstream perfume house releases. And to be honest, the marketing research is so all-pervasive that the “no synthetics” spiel comes across as a ploy to appeal to customers who like the idea of their fragrance being different than all those accessible scents that just anybody can buy at Walgreen’s, or at Macy’s.

But I put aside my skepticism to test these scents and judge as dispassionately as I could how they actually smell, and whether I would buy them for myself. The results were mixed; I’ll explain.

Continue reading Six Harvey Prince fragrance reviews, and a giveaway