Mini-Review Roundup, Jan. 19, 2018

Penhaligon’s Orange Blossom, 2010 reorchestration of the 1976 release, composed by Bertrand Duchaufour: really very nice. I had bought this small split portion a couple of years ago, and then apparently “put it away for safekeeping”, which any fool knows is like tossing things into the Bermuda Triangle: you never know if you’ll see those items again. I found the decant when cleaning out my closet recently and, despite barely remembering buying it, decided to give it a shot. Regular readers know that I Haz Orange Blossom Issues, by which I mean that OB fragrances nearly always smell like soap on me. I mean, it’s generally nice soap, of the creamy Dove kind, but still: soap. Bleagh. Don’t get me started on the list of OB scents that do not work for me, because it’s long. If they don’t smell like soap, they smell like candy. I really like By Kilian’s (pricey) Sweet Redemption, which is orange blossom and myrrh, but every time I wear it, Taz says I smell like grape and root beer lollipops. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Honestly, I can’t remember why I went out on a limb for a 5ml split portion of the Penhaligon’s, other than I remember hearing it was good.

I’m glad I did, though. This one is distinctly un-soapy, which is a blessed relief, and more floral than candy-sweet. It’s a simple-seeming floral fragrance that is what I’d call a true soliflore, in that although there are materials in it other than orange blossom (notably petitgrain, jasmine, muguet, violet leaf, virginia cedar, vanilla), it mostly smells of orange blossom all the way through. The angle of light shining on the flowers changes, from a lemony-green sparkle up top to a warm, mellow, honeyed base. It’s lovely. It also only lasts about three hours with a moderate spritz, so the Annick Goutal spray-until-wet method would serve you well with it.

A couple of other reviews of the Penhaligon’s: Persolaise, Scent Epiphany and Olfactoria’s Travels.

Lubin EpidorAngela’s review on Now Smell This last May made me think that it would not be up my alley in the least. “Thick”?  Not my kinda thang. And Lubin’s ad copy mentioning peasant girls and ripe wheat and dreams is soppy and even more useless than ad copy usually is — even from Lubin, which is famous for its ridiculously OTT ad copy.

But then my almost-Evil Scent Twin Kafkaesque reviewed it and said it was very simple, linear, but called it “cozy comfort” and said she needed a decant. And then March’s review of it on Perfume Posse in December made me think that I needed to try this. She called it “unashamedly romantic” and “narcotic,” and told me the base was more hay/woody than sweet vanilla. So I ordered a 1.2ml spray sample.

La Faneuse by Emile Claus. Epidor smells like these colors: wheat and white and blue, all layered with honey-golden light.

And y’all, it’s gone already. I used it up. I like it that much.

The notes include violet, plum, orange blossom, jasmine, cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla and tonka bean. It is not complicated at all: it is just so golden and pretty. I get lots of violet, a haze of white florals, then a gentle wheaty, almond-cake drydown. Which sounds like not much, right? but it’s just so dang pretty, and it smells relatively natural. None of that blocky, lab-created jasminoid thing that annoyed the pants off me in Twilly d’Hermes. No buzzy Ambrox. I’m not saying there aren’t any synthetics in it, I’m just saying that the synthetics in it are not ones that trip my “this smells like Chem 102 lab” threshold.

Pretty, isn’t it? Also kinda floofy.

Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences

Ad copy mentions sparkling champagne and sequins; the bottle is floofy (see left). But the notes list is pretty simple: bergamot, black pepper, tonka, frankincense, white flowers, vanilla, white musk. The fragrance is pretty simple, too. It’s basically . . . vanilla.

To confess, I’ve never tried what’s generally recognized as the ne plus ultra of vanilla fragrances, Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille. (SDV itself has been revamped in the last couple of years anyway, and aficionados say it isn’t as long-lasting now.) Never mind the fairly malicious review of it in Perfumes: The Guide, because people who love vanilla still love SDV. Haven’t smelled L’Artisan’s late, lamented Vanilia, either. I did enjoy a sample of Dame Perfumery’s Black Flower Mexican Vanilla, though it’s a tad more powdery than I’d prefer.

The thing is, I love vanilla-flavored anything, so long as it’s real vanilla. Offer me a choice of vanilla or chocolate cake? Vanilla, please. Vanilla or chocolate ice cream? VANILLA. Hands down. But for some reason, I generally don’t want to wear vanilla perfume. (See the Sexy Cake post for further explanations.)

In fact, on my skin Nuit et Confidences was so straight-up vanilla that I got out a bottle of vanilla extract to compare it. The extract lasts longer — and is significantly less powdery.

Now, for full disclosure, my bottle of vanilla extract is actually double-strength Madagascar bourbon: fairly expensive stuff from The Spice House, with vanilla bean in the bottle, absolutely worth its weight in gold. It has taken me three years to get the bottle down to the last teaspoon, and that vanilla bean has been macerating in there for long enough to infuse the stuff with real magic. At the current price point, it’s $26 for a 4 oz. bottle, compared to $190 for 3.4 oz. of Nuit et Confidences (currently out of stock at the Goutal’s US website). Frankly, my dear, I’d rather have another bottle of the double-strength vanilla extract.

Share

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.

Share