Perfume Review: Le Labo Lys 41 and Ylang 49

Le LaboI’ve said it before: Le Labo annoys the fire out of me.  I won’t go into all the reasons here since I yarked about it in my Aldehyde 44 review, but suffice it to say that I find this French high-end niche brand really pretentious, and I mean beyond your typical French attitude.  Also, I have been irritated by the fact that frequently the name of the fragrance does not necessarily indicate what it will smell like. (For the uninitiated, Le Labo names their fragrances after the number of accords and the accord that makes up the largest percentage of the formula.  Ergo, Tubereuse 40 does not actually smell of tuberose; it smells of citrus and neroli in a classic cologne structure.  For a tubey fan bored by classic cologne, GRRRRR. ‘Nuff sed.)

However, I did like Aldehydes 44 (which, stunningly, does smell predominantly of aldehydes, go figure), and Patchouli 24, which had originally skeered the bejesus out of me simply by being named after my bete-noire-ish raw material but turns out to smell like smoke, rubber, leather and vanilla, like Bvlgari Black turning into the Hulk version of itself.  And when I began to hear good things about Le Labo’s new 2013 releases named after lily and ylang, which are two of my favorite raw materials… well, I resisted. And resisted, until I just couldn’t resist any more! I snagged samples.

white flowersLys 41, composed by Daphne Bugey, has notes of lily, tuberose, jasmine, woods, vanilla and musk. And oddly for a Le Labo, that is exactly what you smell. The tuberose-lily pairing is paramount, with wisps of greenish jasmine (with possibly a hint of the bitter-orange of petitgrain, and also the yielding satiny texture of orchid) peeking through. It’s heady but not overwhelming, fresh and soft at the same time — a just-picked bouquet that hasn’t had time to reach full-blown dropping-petals voluptuousness. Eventually it softens to a very gentle vanilla-woods drydown that is neither too sweet nor too rich.  It is, plainly, beautiful, carrying the suggestion of billowing white skirts.  My guess is that a man might find this one too femme and too soft.  I’m dabbing from a vial, and the longevity is not great, 3-4 hours on me despite containing two natural materials that tend to last on my skin (vanilla and tuberose).  Spraying would probably help the lasting power, but since the sillage is gorgeous in the first 20 minutes and negligible after that, you might be in for a very wafty ride, i.e., a stay-home-until-your-cloud-relaxes one.

Ylang 49 is the one that has been making perfume bloggers and critics rave; its floral-chypre braininess is something we bloggers seem to miss in the current perfume world, which seems obsessed with calling fruity, sweet, clean-patchouli frags “chypres.”  Composed by Frank Voelkl, it contains notes of ylang-ylang, gardenia, oakmoss, vetiver, patchouli, sandalwood and benzoin.  Vetiver comes to the front of this one for me, hiding the lush white florals underneath rooty, leafy, earthy materials.  There’s an odd, salty, celery note in here (usually that is associated with a jasmine partial material, I’ve heard in talking with Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio, and sometimes I get celery in other vetiver scents as well) that I don’t like much, and a bitterness that tends to block the white florals.  This scent I find deeply disturbing, and when Persolaise mentions Dzongkha and Sel de Vetiver in his review, I begin to understand why: both those fragrances are also very earthy and rooty, and they tend to make me think of dank cellars, decomposing jungle vegetation, and pondwater.  I would like to report more on how it develops on skin, and whether it ever gets to a point where I find it bearable, but alas, I cannot. I made it 43 minutes the first time I wore it, and 28 the second, before I had to scrub due to nausea.

pond water

Sorry.  I really am.

I am a Philistine. I don’t like early Duchaufour compositions, and I don’t like vetiver. My recommendation is to Know thyself.  If you love Dzongkha, snap this sucker up.  I tend to do fine with very floral chypres, but not this particular one.

Both of these fragrances are available in the US at Le Labo boutiques and at Lucky Scent, at $145 for 50ml and $220 for 100ml.

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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

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Tuberose Series 20: Stephanie

 

Stephanie bottle, from Michael Storer website

I think I first saw a mention of Stephanie from Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am, shortly after I first saw her mention Michael Storer in a review of Monk. Monk still doesn’t sound like my kind of thing, but Stephanie sounded right up my alley.

Perfume Review: Michael Storer Stephanie

Date released:2007

Perfumer: Michael Storer

Sample provenance: bottle split, 2011

Sub-category: Lush white floral with tuberose

I still don’t know much about Michael Storer, except that he has a website and sells several fragrances which are not exactly hot topics on the perfume blog circuit but are generally well-regarded. The webside tag says, “Niche fragrances for the individualist.” I’m down with that, I suppose. Besides Stephanie, the other feminine fragrances are Yvette and Genviève (what, all Michael’s women are French?); also available are Kadota and Winter Star, described as unisex, and two masculines called Djin and Monk. The website explains that after many years spent in the fashion industry, Mr. Storer began making perfumes, and that his philosophy of fragrance leads him to create scents which are somewhat linear so that the “signature accord,” so to speak, the central character, is what sticks around.

To read about each fragrance, you click on the bottle in the photo, whereupon you immediately get a brief flash of a black-and-white arty nude or partially-clad body, rolling through to a description of the fragrance notes. (Can it be a coincidence that the images of women are soft-focus and fuzzy, while the images of men are stunningly crisp and clear? No matter.)

As far as I can tell, the fragrances are all eau de parfum, and priced at about $85 for a 2-ounce bottle: a good deal compared to a lot of niche fragrances.

 

White Gardenia, from Wikimedia Commons

Stephanie is described as being a gorgeous, accurate recreation of the headspace of a gardenia flower. The notes listed, with the admission that it’s an incomplete list, are: pink pepper, black pepper, galbanum, angelica root, sambac jasmine absolute, tuberose, and chrysanthemum for a green finish. I love gardenias – sweet and floral and swoony and sort of weird, too – and I think Mr. Storer has done a lovely job with this scent, although I admit that it doesn’t smell distinctively gardenia to me. In practical terms, gardenia absolute is extremely rare, produced in minuscule, ridiculously expensive quantities, and any “gardenia” scent on the market is pretty much going to be custom-built out of tuberose. Which is fine with me, really.

In my opinion, rather than being strictly gardenia, Stephanie is a straight-up, no-twists, white floral. She (I know, a cheap and easy anthropomorphization – sorry) reaches out and grabs a handful of your shirtfront and pulls you close, where you fall deeply under her spell.

Well, you have to like white flowers to fall under the spell, but still.

I smell the spiky-sharp green of galbanum and chrysanthemum right away, but it doesn’t last long before we are into white floral territory. I can pick out tuberose and the jasmine sambac, and I think there must be a honkin’ dose of orange blossom in here as well, because there is a faintly soapy aspect to the scent. I smell the black pepper, too, which is fine, I like that, and it just adds a little counterpoint to the sweetness of the florals, which is indeed pretty sweet. Underneath the florals is a quiet, unobtrusive base of wood – cedar, maybe? – and musk.

I think it’s beautiful. Stephanie’s floral notes seem to be mostly natural; I don’t get any of that astringent-yet-too-sweet quality that pops up with synthetic tuberose. And like most tuberose scents, it lasts a good long time on me, though with much quieter sillage after the first hour or so. I usually get about six hours from two spritzes (one wrist, smeared to the other, and base of throat), which is pretty good longevity for me.

Is it better than some of the other gardenia fragrances I’ve tried? Not sure. It’s not nearly as diffusive and long-lived as Estee Lauder’s pretty-pretty Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, and it’s not as green as the tropical Kai. However, it didn’t feel like the throwback scent that PCTG did to me, and it seemed better blended than Kai. Stephanie is swoony, a lovely tropical vacation in a bottle, and I know I’ll enjoy wearing my small decant.

Quality: A

Grab-scale score: 8.

Short description: Lush white floral.

Cost: $$

Earns compliments? Yes.

Scent presence: Moderate, with moderate sillage. Lasts about six hours with two spritzes.

Review report: Abigail at ISTIA, Sweet Diva, Scent Signals

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