Categotry Archives: aldehydic floral


Perfume Review: Dior La Collection Couturier Parfumeur New Look 1947


Categories: aldehydic floral, Dior, Perfume review, Tags: ,

When Dior recently released its flotilla of “La Collection Couturier Parfumeur” scents, adding seven new fragrances to the existing Eau Noire, Bois d’Argent, and Ambre Nuit, I wasn’t interested. I’m not a big Dior fan anyway, and most of the descriptions of the new scents left me cold. A Leather, a Big Oriental, a Soft Floral, a Citrus Aromatic, more Colognes… um, no, thanks. I’m all stocked up. The only one that had any appeal at all for me was New Look 1947, and it didn’t seem all that exciting.

And then some commenters on a post at Now Smell This mentioned that New Look 1947 was a “big white floral,” and I was suddenly interested again. It seems that every year about this time, I reenter my All Tuberose, All the Time phase (Daisy wanted to know how that was any different from the rest of my year!), so “big white floral” suddenly yanked NL47 back onto my To-Test list.

In the interest of full disclosure, I declare to you that most of my year is Intermittently Tuberose, and I never seem to lose interest in that note, but cold weather just seems to call for it. (More tuberose-centric fragrance reviews to come over the months of January and February.)

Here’s the ad blurb from Dior: New Look 1947 ~ “February 12, 1947: A major event was held at 30, avenue Montaigne in Paris, where Christian Dior presented his first fashion show. With his flower women and bright colors, the Designer launched a fresh fashion trend. “It’s a New Look!” exclaimed Carmel Snow, Editor-in-Chief at Harper’s Bazaar, thus christening the Designer’s inimitable style. Today, the New Look has become an explosive, generous, ultra-feminine and floral fragrance.” The notes for the spicy floral include tuberose, benzoin, ylang ylang, rose, jasmine, vanilla and iris. The perfumer is listed as Francois Demachy, and New Look 1947 is intended for women.

A spicy floral with tuberose? An ultra-feminine floral? Count me in. And this review – Octavian at 1000 Fragrances (you may need to be patient and wait for the page to load, as I have to do) – incited me to jump in on a split of New Look ’47 when one popped onto my radar. Octavian calls this fragrance “parfum lingerie” and evokes greige/nude/pastel colors, “soft, powdery, creamy, very sensual.”  He also calls it “an infinite smoothness of flowers melting into an abstract note.”

So what I was expecting was a quiet white floral draped in yards of pastel tulle, moisturized and made-up and powdered and confectionized. Did I get that? Nope. Dior has a lot of nerve, calling it “explosive” and “generous,” not to mention “spicy floral.” It’s not very floral at all, nor spicy; in fact, my first impression was of cold cream.

I haven’t seen cold cream at the drugstore for yonks, but my mother used to use it to remove her eye makeup (when she bothered to wear it – most of the time she was a lipstick-and-mascara-only gal) when I was a child. I don’t even know what’s in cold cream, although at a guess I’d say there’s a hefty slug of lanolin in there. It’s a heavy, smooth, solid cream right on the verge of greasy, and if you have ever smelled it, you’ll likely recall its distinctive odor.

There I was testing New Look 1947, frantically sniffing my wrists every chance I got, looking for the tuberose, and getting “cold cream” and “face powder” instead. At first I thought it was just the dry weather we’ve been getting, because that can cause me to miss certain notes. (I spent at least two months thinking L’Arte di Gucci was just a nice gardeny rose, no kidding. I totally missed the cassis bud and costus until I wore it one humid afternoon. And when I smelled it entire, I fell really hard for it, in all its inconvenient, demanding glory.) So I cranked up the humidifier, which made my winter-dry nostrils feel better but did nothing for NL47. And then I wore it while doing some fairly energetic housecleaning, and that didn’t bring out the tuberose either.

I wore New Look several times, reapplying throughout the day – I get about three hours of wear out of it, about average for an EdT on my skin – and paying a lot of attention to it in repeated attempts to tease out the tuberose. Oh, it is there, all right, but it’s buried, as if the powdered-and-lotioned debutante in the tulle dress has one single tuberose petal tucked into her ballet-pink dancing slippers. Except that her dress isn’t tulle, it’s crepe de chine.

The only time I get much sillage from New Look is right at the beginning, when it’s all prim aldehydic sparkle. Very quickly it fades into a quiet skin scent, even if I do the “overspray” trick of spray-until-wet, let dry, and spritz one more time. That’s extravagant spritzage for me, but some fragrances just need that kind of presence to even register (notably, certain L’Artisans and Annick Goutals). This quiet skin scent has, I admit, the really lovely texture of crepe de chine, or that microfiber material called “peachskin”: soft, nearly sueded, smooth and drapey, and if you run your hand across the fabric as someone is wearing it, you can feel the warmth of the skin underneath. Try as I might, I cannot pick out any of the florals at all, they are so integrated into that creamy-powdery base. It stays in that vein for most of its existence on my skin, and reminds me of the basenotes of Mariella Burani, and even in a small way of Iris Poudre.

Patty’s review at Perfume Posse was more pithy (and a lot more fun, if not very close to my experience), something like, “J’Adore L’Absolu and Diorissimo had a hot two-week tropical affair and made New Look 1947 from their lusty floral loins.” Now that would have been worth it, in my opinion. I love lusty floral loins. Not to mention that J’Adore L’Absolu and Diorissimo (and Dolce Vita, come to think of it) are the only Dior fragrances I really enjoy.

New Look seems very much on the femme side of the aisle to me, with its accent on the tonalities of makeup – powder and cream – but I do know of at least two men who are enjoying it (and finding it much more of a white floral than I do). I like New Look 1947, but I do not love it, and I have to admit that it seems a little derivative to me. Not that that’s bad, mind you, but I already have a bottle of Mariella Burani, and a decant of Iris Poudre! I may keep trying to amp up the tuberose in it, because if that note registered to me, New Look 1947 might be more distinctive. I’ll wear it, of course, because it’s quiet and comfortable as silk underwear. It’s entirely polite and unlikely to annoy even your most rabidly anti-perfume neighbor.

It’s just a little sad that “quiet and comfortable” is the nicest thing I can say about it.

Top image is of the fragrance from Fragrantica. Second image is of several models in various New Look dresses from Third image is from a 1947 magazine, showing a travel makeup kit, from ggardenour at eBay.




Perfume Review: vintage Coty L’Aimant parfum de toilette


Categories: aldehydic floral, Coty, Perfume review, Vintage, Tags: ,

If the only Coty fragrances you’re familiar with are the celebuscents currently available, plus the old standby drugstore fare like Exclamation! and Vanilla Fields, you might be surprised to lay a nostril on an old Coty perfume. Where the newer scents actually smell cheap, with simple formulas and obviously synthetic ingredients, the older versions tend to smell much richer and more complete; they are worked-out ideas that evoke a mood and clearly make use of natural materials.

I have a bottle of L’Origan parfum that appears to be 1950s-era in excellent preservation, a small bottle of 1970s Imprevu, and samples of vintage Coty Paris and Les Muses. I also remember smelling a set of three Coty fragrances in cologne strength at Big Lots, a clearance-type retailer which I’m sure in retrospect was flogging perfumes in discontinued packaging or formulas, in the mid-1980s. There was Muguet des Bois, which I loved and begged my mother to buy me (she said no, I had Chloe and Cachet and I didn’t need anything else), and Les Muses, which I liked as well. The other bottle in the set was Chypre, which I didn’t like at all – which is not surprising for a fourteen-year-old, but how I wish now that I’d bought it then!

L’Aimant – which means both “Loving Her” and “The Magnet” en francais – was released in 1927, and it’s very much the product of its time, as an aldehydic floral. Notes for L’Aimant (cribbed from at least three different sources) include aldehydes, bergamot, neroli, plum, apricot, strawberry, violet, rose, ylang, jasmine, iris, oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, vanilla, although I don’t smell all of those notes. My bottle is parfum de toilette, mid-to-late 1970s, in the standard Coty flacon with the gold crown top. It’s the same formulation and bottle as my favorite of the various vintage Emeraudes I own.  Edit: The image up top is very similar to the bottle I bought.

For convenience, I decanted some into a small spray bottle, but I find that I actually prefer to dab L’Aimant. I should have made this point on my Emeraude review, but failed to do so – both of these fragrances become more noticeably powdery when sprayed from a decant bottle. I’m not a big fan of powder, and I find them smoother and less “old-fashioned” when dabbed. This might be a function of the aldehydes, but I’m betting it’s from the vanilla-sandalwood combination; it’s a slightly-musty sort of smell that I associate with scented talc powder and my great-aunt Leacy. My bottle of L’Aimant, which I bought on ebay for a song, may have been kept in less-than-optimal conditions, because my experience with it is that although it’s plenty potent for the time that it lasts, it doesn’t last more than three hours – sometimes four if I “spray until wet.”   Edit: Image at right here seems to be from the 1950s or 1960s.  It is eau de toilette.  I have not tried L’Aimant in this packaging, but I do have an Emeraude edt from this era, and it is very faint.  Of course, it may have suffered age damage; it’s hard to tell from just looking at vintage bottles.

L’Aimant has one of those Waft Vs. Up-close differences that intrigue me very much. Cuir de Lancome does this as well: in the air it smells very different than it does sniffed close to the arm I’ve put it on. At first it smells of aldehydes and vanilla, no matter where I’m smelling it. But the aldehydes burn off rather quickly – in five to ten minutes perhaps, and although it’s definitely aldehydic, it’s much, much gentler than No. 5’s Alde-Overdose opening. If I hoover my arm where I’ve sprayed L’Aimant, I can distinguish separate notes: there’s the rose and violet, there’s the jasmine and iris, there’s the oakmoss. There’s a kinship to YSL Paris in the heart that I notice when I sniff closely, and the base is very classical, with oakmoss and sandalwood.

However, sniffed in the air as I move my arms about, L’Aimant smells like nothing so much as my mother’s peach pie: hot, tangy baked peaches and a hint of pastry dough, plus melting vanilla ice cream. It smells sweet and rather delicious, in the manner of L’Heure Bleue, which in turn was emulating Coty’s own L’Origan (more on that relationship soon, I hope): not entirely gourmand, but both floral and edible at the same time.

I do keep wondering whether there is some unlisted combination of notes in this fragrance that adds up to “amber” – there’s a definite sweetness to it that isn’t entirely attributable to vanilla on its own. In this fashion, it’s closely related to Emeraude, which is a vanillic amber, and also to L’Origan, which has a similar oakmoss-sandalwood-vanilla base. All three, as a matter of fact, clearly share some DNA identifying them as COTY. 

L’Aimant, like my darling Emeraude, is currently in production, but as a mere wraith of its former self. Emeraude is a shadow: thin, facelifted, and chemical, and so is the present version of L’Aimant. Avoid both of them, please.  At left is a picture of the current bottle Coty is using for L’Aimant.

If I could wish for anything from Coty, it would be Daphne Bugey’s reconstructions of classic Coty fragrances that Luca Turin is always banging on about in Perfumes: The Guide. Other than Emeraude, I don’t even know which ones they are. (La Rose Jacqueminot? Chypre?) Even in pricey retro crystal bottles with the Art Deco Coty lettering, and at Lutensian cost levels, I’d probably buy them. Many other vintage perfume fans would probably buy them, too. Please, Coty? Please? I’m beggin’ here. You think if we start a letter-writing campaign and point out to Coty that they stand to make a mint selling L’Aimant L’Original and Emeraude L’Original, they’ll come through? It couldn’t hurt. Here’s a link to Coty’s customer service department.

I’m off to write a begging letter to Coty… and to call my mother and ask her to bake me a pie when the fresh peaches show up this summer. Mmmmm…

Some other reviews of L’Aimant: Fragrance Bouquet, Anita at Perfume Posse, Scentzilla (brief, with a focus on old perfume in general).

Image of vintage L’Aimant parfum de toilette is from eurofinegifts at ebay.  Image of vintage eau de toilette is from millieg2 at ebay, and image of modern packaging is from annsgold at ebay.



Perfume Review: Guerlain Vega


Categories: aldehydic floral, Chanel, Guerlain, Perfume review, Tags: ,

Vega, named for that bright star in the constellation Lyra , was composed by Jacques Guerlain and released in 1936.  It was reorchestrated by Jean-Paul Guerlain and rereleased in 2006.  It is an aldehydic floral with notes of rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, iris, and sandalwood.  I’ll go ahead and say what you’re already thinking: Yes, you’re right.  It is indeed Chanel’s iconic No. 5, done up Guerlain style.

Okay, okay, it isn’t exactly No. 5.  The aldehydes have much less of that brilliant glare of sunshine-on-snow than No. 5’s do; the jasmine is sweeter and more prominent than No.5’s, and the ylang more buttery.  Iris is not the cool, chic Chanel style here, it’s more of the satin ribbon tying the bouquet together, and to be honest I don’t smell a lot of sandalwood in Vega.  The sandalwood is present, but to my nose is utterly eclipsed by that dirty-sweet Guerlinade that I like so much in L’Heure Bleue parfum: woody vanilla, with musk, amber, and tonka, as well as whatever-it-is in Guerlinade that reminds me of cat fur.   The opening is a little soapy, particularly near the skin, but the waft in the air has a juicy, peachy sweetness to it that I like very much.  It’s a happy sort of smell for me – it smells like perfume and it smells like flowers, and after awhile it smells like vanilla.  Gaze gave this one two thumbs up:  “Smells like Nana,” he said.  “Except, you know, it’s sort of fruity.”  The floral blend (rose-jasmine-ylang) is so beautiful that it’s been used in hundreds and hundreds of fragrances, which is why this trio of floral notes is a true classic. 

So, basically… um… fine, I’ll say it again.  Vega is No. 5, Guerlain style.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Vega is a lot like No. 5 with her hair down, lounging on the mussed bed and considering a cigarette; No. 5 sitting on the deck in the sunshine with a lemonade, with her top button undone, laughing and dabbing sweat away from her temples and cleavage; No. 5 at home after she’s wrestled her four kids into bed and read stories and given kisses and fed the dog and collapsed on the couch to have her feet rubbed by her adoring husband.  No high heels, no uncomfortable couture party dress with underwear armor, no diamonds: Vega is beautiful and relaxed and really, really friendly.

Mind you, I think No. 5 is absolutely wonderful, and one of the things I like best about it is that it can be appropriate for all kinds of situations, from fried-chicken picnics to the opera (um, applied discreetly, of course. Dabbed from the parfum bottle is best).  Vega is similarly versatile.  And to me, No. 5 is the comforting, welcome smell of my mother.  Yet for years I found it too cold and a bit harsh, like those TV studio lights that can wash out facial tones.  It’s only within the last year that I’ve begun to appreciate its  bouquet-on-a-marble-stand perfection, and learned that I truly love its sandalwood-iris-musk base.  Had I smelled Vega first, I’d have fallen for it immediately.  Most of the things that people tend to find challenging about No. 5 have been softened in Vega, and I’d bet if No. 5 is hard for you to deal with you might do better with Vega.

Now for the bad news: Vega is hard to find.  Really, really hard to find.  Right now on ebay there are two 4.2 oz tester bottles, being sold at $400 a pop, and one bee bottle of the same size (125ml) for $350.  The Guerlain website lists it in a 60ml bottle in the “exclusive fragrances” line.  I managed to jump in on a bottle split, and I have a 5ml decant that is rapidly disappearing.  That’s the other part of the bad news: Vega is EdT concentration, and it’s got standard EdT lasting power – about three hours on me.  I have recently begun following the “spray until wet” technique for lightweight scents and getting better staying power from them, but I cannot do this with Vega.  Spray Until Wet leads to aldehyde headaches, even though Vega’s aldehydes are fairly gentle for an aldehydic floral.  Therefore, I’m stuck with reapplying every three hours if I want to keep smelling Vega, which I do.

Oddly, nobody seems to be talking about this one in recent days.  Fragrantica doesn’t even list it.  Nobody mentions, “Oh, I’m wearing Vega today,” at the lazy weekend polls at Now Smell This.  Or maybe it isn’t so odd: Vega isn’t new, it’s pricey, it was released four years ago, it’s a boutique exclusive and hard to find.  Also, lovers of aldehydic florals have plenty else to wear: No. 5,  No. 22, Liu, Chamade, Caron Nocturnes, Divine L’Ame Soeur, White Linen and Pure White Linen, L’Interdit, Le Dix, Arpege, My Sin, Climat, L’Aimant, Calandre, Rive Gauche, Je Reviens, Madame Rochas…  the list is long.  I’m finding that with few exceptions (the Lauders, of course, and the sugary disaster of No. 22 on me), I really love aldehydic florals.  You’ll be seeing more reviews of these sparkly gems here as time goes on.   

Other reviews: Bois de Jasmin, Patty at Perfume Posse, Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Victoria’s Own.  Brief but telling description of Vega in Angela’s post at Now Smell This.

Top image of the Vega bottle is from the blog Victoria’s Own.  (Isn’t that gorgeous? The bottle is really beautiful.)  The vintage Vega ad is from Perfume-Smellin’ Things.  It doesn’t really get across the soft, approachable smiling nature of Vega, but the rays of light fit very well.



Perfume Review: Lancôme Climat


Categories: aldehydic floral, Lancome, Perfume review, Tags:

Tested in three versions: vintage (late 70’s/early 80’s?) parfum and new (2006?) La Collection edt, from my personal collection, as well as a private  sample of the old blue-and-black packaging from the 90’s. 

I wore the La Collection version first, on a blustery Saturday in January, before all the snow came. A story here: my hometown boasts a couple of “historic” hotels, one of which was bought by a university, renovated/enlarged into a hotel-and-conference-center, with its own restaurant and bar, and is now thriving. The other hotel, after the original owners died, was purchased by Doubletree Hotels and partially renovated. It did well for a few years, and it was during this time that The CEO and I were married and spent our first night of conjoined life in the honeymoon suite of the Patrick Henry Hotel. After a few years, Doubletree found it was losing business to the hotel/conference center, and it pulled out. The new owners took long-term residents, and the glamor of the Patrick Henry faded pretty quickly. There have been at least two changes of ownership since then, and there was talk of tearing down the building so as to avoid dealing with asbestos abatement. Most recently, a local businessman, wishing to prevent the loss of the beloved building, bought it, intending to sink several million dollars into renovation. The beautiful carved caryatids will stay and grace Williamson Road.

On that blustery January day, the hotel sold off a large part of the old furnishings. Instead of sending old bedsteads and artwork and lamps to the dump, the new owner sold them and donated the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.  I didn’t manage to pick up any furniture, but I did buy a colonial-frame mirror for $25 (mahogany! Beautiful – and a really heavy sucker, too) aaaaand la piece de resistance, the key to the room we stayed in on our wedding night. Now how cool is that?

Climat was keeping me company that day, and I enjoyed it very much. Having seen several reviews calling it an old-fashioned white floral, I’d predicted I’d like it – but I was surprised at how much so.

Notes for Climat:

Top: violet, peach, aldehydes, bergamot, rosemary

Heart: lily of the valley, rose, narcissus, tuberose

Base: sandalwood, amber, tonka bean, musk, civet, bamboo, vetiver

The first thing I smelled were the aldehydes, of course. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it’s worth repeating: I like aldehydes; they say “Proper perfume!” to me. It’s not that everything I wear is an aldehydic floral, but I tend to feel comfortable and at home in them. (Early exposure to Mom’s No. 5 is my explanation for that. And also that I have an uncomplicated relationship with her, so that the smell of her perfume is pleasant to me.) Immediately under the aldehydes, I smelled what I call “aromatics” – bergamot and herbs, somewhat similar to the beginning of Alahine, where it’s bergamot and lavender. This is a very juicy, green note that carries on for some time.  Under that, though, before I even got to any florals, I noticed the civet. Yeah, civet… I was able to pinpoint it pretty easily, since I’d worn both Ubar and Parfum Sacré within the previous week. I tend to like civet, too, in small amounts where it gives a gravity and depth to florals that might be somewhat lightweight without at least some ballast. Here the civet is very quiet and makes me think of one of the favorite smells of many perfumistas – cat fur. I wouldn’t say cat butt – just warm, dusty fur. But please be aware that your mileage may vary (YMMV), and you should have a working relationship with civet before purchasing any Climat!

From that point, Climat settles into a beautiful, well-blended floral scent. It’s still wearing that hat with a veil (the aldehydes), and some lacy undies (the civet), but Climat is a New Look dress scent if there ever were one. It’s a 1967 creation in white gloves and a fitted bodice, all buttoned and prim in roses and lily of the valley. There may be some tuberose in there, but it’s like black-and-white photos of a tropical vacation. I’m actually a little surprised not to see iris in the notes; Climat can be a little powdery, particularly in vintage parfum, and it reminds me a little bit of the powdery-smooth iris in Goutal’s Heure Exquise.

The base is lovely and very quiet, primarily sandalwood and vetiver, with just a hint of vanilla, and the warm cat-fur accent of civet. Climat lasts about 5-6 hours on me, about average for eau de parfum on my skin; the vintage parfum I have is probably age-damaged, because it doesn’t last that long. If I had to come up with just a few words to describe it, I think I’d have to pick “smooth” and “ladylike.”

I’ll warn you now: if the idea of yourself being described as “ladylike” made you spew coffee, Climat is not for you. If Cuir de Lancôme seemed too Donna Reed for your taste, you won’t do any better with Climat. (Try Sikkim or Magie Noire – even the current version – for a Lancôme fragrance that doesn’t wear pantyhose and heels. Incidentally, Sikkim is a lot like a spicier version of Stetson, and I think it would be terrific on a man.)

Here’s Luca Turin on Climat:  Created in 1967, Climat was born old, a laggard latecomer to the Ma Griffe tweedy-floral category… The Collection version of Climat is excellent… and makes an ideal grown-up fragrance for someone who clearly isn’t.

Well. Dr. Turin’s always right, except when he clearly isn’t. (I will forbear to mention the Insolence debacle, the Missoni schizophrenia, and the Giorgio insanity.) I’ll respectfully disagree with him in regards to two points. First off, “tweedy floral”? Nope. No tweed. No Katharine Hepburn or Miss Moneypenny in Climat, it’s too soft. It’s a full-skirted silk gabardine dress, not dressy enough to wear out for cocktails but too dressy for business attire. Secondly, “a grown-up scent for someone who isn’t?” Did he not notice the civet? Is he seriously recommending this scent for teenagers?

Look. I’m 42. Climat doesn’t do anything to my mental age (and Bookworm took one sniff and said, “Old lady talcum powder – you know, it smells nice, but sort of grandmotherly,” so I honestly don’t see any teenagers wearing it for aspirational aging, as Turin seems to imply). Maybe I feel like I’ve finally matured into “ladylike,” when the occasion warrants; I find that concept fairly attractive. I wear my cultured pearls. I just bought my first “good” handbag, without worrying about spending the money on a nice leather purse that ought to last me years. I like the sense of poise and posture that I have when I wear Climat; it gives me a sense of confidence.

I’ll admit that it really doesn’t appeal to me on days when I’m wearing jeans, nor would I reach for it when dressed up for a Hot Date. But if I’m in my favorite contour-waist micro-denier polyester trousers and a nice sweater, I’m happy in Climat. It also goes well with my ¾ sleeve teal wrap dress.

A word on formulations: the vintage parfum I have is rather overwhelmingly powdery. I do wonder if it’s suffering from age and poor storage – the top notes are that nail-polish-y acetone of decayed aldehydes + bergamot.  It’s less sparkly than the “La Collection” version. Oddly, Lancôme does not list concentration on any of the La Collection scents. I’m making an assumption that they’re edp’s, based on their longevity on my skin. The old version of Climat in the blue-and-black packaging is inferior, synthetic dreck. Avoid it.

La Collection sets can still be found in limited quantities at online discounters, and of course on ebay. I bought my set for under $40, including shipping, for four 15ml splash bottles. The other bottles in my set are Magie, Sikkim and Mille et une Roses; some sets offer Sagamore instead of the rose one. I do wish that I could have found Climat in a bottle bigger than the half-ounce I have now.  It’s beautiful, and I find myself thinking about it often when I’m testing some crappy modern heartless floral.

Review Report: Bois de Jasmin, Perfume Posse, Basenotes.  Top image is vintage Climat ad from lmajot at ebay; lower one is Patrick Henry Hotel by mattames at flickr.



Perfume Review: Mariella Burani, Clone No. 2


Categories: aldehydic floral, Chanel, Mariella Burani, Perfume review

This is one of several posts in which I’ll be reviewing perfumes that are similar to, or are based on, or that remind me of, Chanel No. 5. Today we’ve got Mariella Burani, which I have in EdT. I first heard of it through Abigail’s review on I Smell Therefore I Am, which you can read here, and when ScentScelf (of Notes From the Ledge) approved, I had to try it. People, this stuff is dirt-cheap and lovely, which is a combination that always sacks me for a loss. I bought my bottle on ebay, slightly used, for $15.50.

This is one of the prettiest bottles I own. If I didn’t worry about light damage, I’d leave it out for decoration – I adore the hefty glass rectangle topped with the red-orange resin roses that should be tacky, but instead are kitschy fab.

Mariella Burani starts out with the sunniest, happiest citrus ever, with a sheer fizz of aldehydes. The aldehydes don’t give the impression of soapiness here; they sparkle briefly and evanesce. This citrus is miles away from furniture polish, and although the notes don’t list orange, I infer it. In fact, MB reminds me of childhood Florida vacations and the tangerine sherbet we’d eat at Baskin Robbins at the beach. It seems soft, rather than bracing. This citrusy veil seems to cling to the perfume as it develops. But as the scent moves into its floral heart, it begins to smell reminiscent of No. 5. When I look at the list of notes, it’s clear why: ylang, rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, and iris are listed for both fragrances. MB’s floral heart is blended very well, and the effect is smooth, voluptuous, and Just Plain Pretty.

I should explain that I am a sucker for Just Plain Pretty. I’m never put off by such girly articles of clothing as cotton sundresses trimmed in eyelet, or by fluffy blue sweaters, and Mariella Burani is no exception. It’s not that I never want something complicated or interesting or tough – it’s just that a pretty, feminine, fragrance always makes me smile.

My favorite part of the scent story is the part where the floral heart begins to fade, and the orientalesque base begins to turn up. There is, as Abigail mentions, a creaminess about it that makes me think of pearl necklaces. The effect may be due to the benzoin-tonka bean-vanilla combination. Geek alert here: I checked my Excel perfume file for the notes on some of my very favorite perfumes – Emeraude and Shalimar Light – and bingo! Benzoin, tonka, and vanilla.

Another attractive aspect of MB is that it seems weightless – neither a light, refreshing cologne for summer, nor a richly gourmand oriental for winter. In this, too, it is reminiscent of No. 5’s uncanny knack of being Appropriate For All Occasions. Also like No. 5, it seems ageless to me as well – my teenage daughter and my mother could both wear it as well as I can.

If Mariella Burani has any flaws, they are that a) it doesn’t last very long on me, and b) I don’t get much sillage. It zips through its development, from sunny orange through pretty-lady-florals to creamy base, in about three hours. This is, of course, normal for my skin experience with EdTs, and my bottle was so inexpensive that I don’t mind spritzing with abandon. Our weather has been what I call comfortable (60-70 degrees F), which may not be warm enough to show off MB. On two successive nights, I sprayed my wrists and neck one time each, and woke up warm and cosy the next morning, smelling the most gorgeous creamy floral scent; I was actually sad that it was time for my shower. Perhaps warmer weather would encourage the scent to bloom into the air a little more. And I think the EdP might suit me better; one would hope that the longevity would be better than the EdT’s lasting power.

This scent is lovely on its own; it’s an excellent alternative for those who find classic No. 5 difficult to wear. If the edp comes within my reach, I will snap it up.

Notes for Mariella Burani:
Top: tarragon, bergamot, rosewood, lemon
Heart: ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, iris
Base: amber, sandalwood, tonka bean, patchouli, musk, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver

Top image: my bottle, purchased at ebay.
Bottom image: 50’s cotton sundress at



Perfume Review: Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere


Categories: aldehydic floral, Chanel, Perfume review

This is the first of several posts in which I’ll be reviewing perfumes that are similar to, or are based on, or that remind me of, Chanel No. 5. First up is Chanel’s own flanker, No. 5 Eau Premiere, created in 2007 to modernize No. 5 for the current taste.

Opinions have been rather divided on Eau Premiere, with perfumistas typically taking one of two positions:
1) It’s No. 5, slimmed down and warmed up, palatable to modern consumers and quite wearable.
2) It took all the glory of No. 5 and sold it out, dumbed it down, ruined the perfection.

I take Position 1. Bear in mind, though, a few facts: I like aldehydic florals. I have generally found No. 5 to be a little on the cold-and-powdery side, at least until I discovered that vintage parfum I wrote about in the last post. Slight differences from classic No. 5 actually make me happy, because I can wear the scent without smelling exactly like my mother. And lastly, I tested Eau Premiere before I found that vintage parfum.

The listed notes for both No. 5 and Eau Premiere are, duh, pretty much the same:
T: aldehydes, neroli, bergamot, lemon, ylang-ylang
H: rose, jasmine, LotV, iris
B: vetiver, sandal, patchouli, vanilla, amber

I suspect that the differences in smell come from changes in the proportions of the notes. Eau Premiere, which is an eau de toilette, starts off with a burst of juicy citrus, only lightly veiled with aldehydes. I never smell citrus in the original, and I’m guessing that the aldehydes simply overpower the citrus – or maybe the citrus is only there in light proportions, to keep the aldehydes from smelling too soapy. From that pleasant, smiling citrusy start, EP moves fluidly into its floral heart. This is the point at which it tends to smell most like its famous ancestress – that creamy ylang, the floaty jasmine, the cool powdery iris. The rose is more prominent to my nose in EP than in the original, and that seems to make EP more friendly, more romantic, and, possibly, less whip-smart, as if the EP girl has taken off her reading glasses to entice her chem lab partner into asking her for a date.

(No. 5 wouldn’t have bothered. She’d have stared him down through those lenses, model-beautiful nonetheless.) This floral stage lasts about two hours on my skin – by and large, Eau Premiere seems to develop less than No. 5, with stages flowing into each other instead of the striking changes of No. 5.

EP finally moves into a sandalwood-vetiver-vanilla-and-musk drydown. It is nicely balanced between dry and sweet, between the vetiver and vanilla, but it is quite light, and does not amaze like the cool-warm/dry-rich base of vintage No. 5. The sandalwood is, sadly, not the full-bodied and gorgeous thing one finds in the vintage No. 5 – but then, what is these days? I don’t even smell the same sandalwood in modern No. 5 parfum – it’s nice, but not jaw-droppingly beautiful as it is in the vintage. I have read several complaints that Eau Premiere’s drydown seems to just disappear, but that hasn’t been my experience. Scents, especially edts, don’t last very long on my skin: usually I can expect three hours from an edt, four tops. Eau Premiere, on the other hand, lasts 6 hours + on me, with the last half of it emanating a decidedly citrus-musk blend. I think – I am not entirely sure, but I think that I’ve read that there exists a particular musk that has citrus overtones, and my guess is that this musk is present in EP. Toward the end of the story, it is all I can smell – a light, clean musk, with a hint of citrus.

As promised, the skin difference anecdote: I bought a small bottle of EP for my mother, the No. 5 girl, for her birthday. While I was visiting her, she gave me one spritz on my neck and one on my wrists, then spritzed her own. An hour later, we were in the kitchen peeling potatoes and I leaned over to sniff her neck. Hmm. I sniffed again. Mom smelled like your average ditzy fruity-floral mall frag. I sniffed my own wrists: Hmm. No. 5. Mom again: peachy floral mish-mash. Me: No. 5 (except less powdery). No peach. Three hours later, she smelled like No. 5 (more powdery than I had smelled), and I smelled like citrus musk. Weird. Of course, this may all be simply my perception, but it is odd that it doesn’t smell the same on me as it does on her.

I find Eau Premiere very lovely, and like its famous precursor appropriate to any number of occasions. It is more citrusy, more rosy, more friendly, more linear, while being less aldehydic, less cold, less complex, less powdery. In short, it is designed to suit the modern taste. I think it does so admirably.

Images are Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere at and glasses model 0072 by gwg_fan at flickr.



My Mother Wore Chanel No. 5


Categories: aldehydic floral, Chanel, Perfume review, Vintage, Tags:

I came to the investigation of perfume with emotional baggage (don’t we all?): Chanel No. 5 is the scent of my mother. I cannot smell it without thinking of her – the person who is my mother, and my mother who is a person, by which I suppose I mean both the individual and the role.

Sometime in my teens, it began to feel odd to me to call my mother “Mama,” since all my friends said “Mom” instead. So I changed. But in my early childhood, “Mama” she was, and Mama wore Chanel No. 5 eau de cologne. She’d grown up in a very frugal household, and my father was also quite a frugal person, and like many others of her generation, perfume was only for special occasions, and if she was wearing pantyhose, the perfume would follow. I remember watching her get ready for some social event – a concert, probably, or perhaps a Christmas dinner for my dad’s office – and as soon as she’d gotten dressed and put on her shoes, it was time for perfume. She’d dab some from the bottle onto the base of her neck, her wrists, and behind each ear. I always asked to sniff the bottle, and I always recoiled from the bright-lights and bug spray smell that came from it. It was hard for me to understand that that nasty smell would turn into a floral, intensely powdery, very feminine scent on Mama’s skin.

Eventually that bottle of No. 5 ran dry. It was replaced, briefly and unsatisfyingly, by Anais Anais, and then later by Coty L’Effleur, and still later by Elizabeth Arden’s 5th Avenue, all of which are strongly floral and containing at least some element of bathtime, either soap and/or powder.

As a young woman looking for a scent to call mine, I automatically crossed No. 5 off my list. I’d pick up a bottle in a department store from time to time, sniff, and think, “Nope, too powdery and cold. And anyway, that’s Mom’s perfume.” As recently as last year, I was still thinking, “Oh, I can’t wear No. 5. It’s too powdery. It smells like my mother.” And that was my mindset: Chanel No. 5 is a classic, an icon, a lovely scent that resembles the cold marble perfection of a Michelangelo statue, giving off Don’t Touch Me vibes. Uh-uh, not for me, not this girl, no way no how.

And then… dum dum DUM… the ebay auction. I was looking for a bottle of parfum to give Mom, since the miniature bottle of Eau Premiere I had found for her was perfectly pleasant, but somehow not as nice on Mom as it was on me (more on that in a few days.) Then, too, the perfume blogs were full of outrage over the IFRA restrictions on fragrance ingredients like jasmine and oakmoss (both of which are components of No. 5), and how awful it was that many classics were going to be reformulated, if they hadn’t been already, and how it might be time to go hunt up vintage bottles of this and that on ebay…

So I bit. I started watching auctions for “vintage No. 5 parfum.” Bid on a few and lost. Bid on a few and got horrified at the prices. Read many many blog comments saying, “Watch out for fake Chanel perfume on ebay!” and “Beware of ebay sellers filling an old parfum bottle with new cologne!” Checked on the price of a new bottle (eek! $155 for half an ounce). Bid on an old, opened-and-slightly-used 1-ounce bottle of parfum… watched over the auction like a mother hen her chicks… and it was mine, for $33 including shipping.

The bottle arrived. I opened it, deeply suspicious – how could it be such a pale color, when we know that jasmine scents tend to go orange with age, and the box was clearly so 1950’s? – and was surprised not to be knocked over by the aldehydes. They were there, but quite muted. “Cologne,” I sighed out loud. “Cheaters.” Ah, well – it was recognizably No. 5, and even if it was cologne, it was worth something, right? I smeared two healthy dabs onto my wrists and went to eat lunch, musing that aldehydes are weird molecules, smelling as they do of soap, candle wax, and glacier ice.

Half an hour later, I became aware that I was moving in a cloud of gorgeousness, and my mouth dropped open. This wasn’t cologne, this was No. 5 parfum, the Grand Dame of Classic Perfumery. This was No. 5 as I had never smelled it: intensely floral, seamlessly blended, with a sort of golden glow that made me think of angels. I wandered about the house kicking myself because I could have been smelling like this, instead of all those drugstore fragrances, all my life! Still later, as the florals began to subside into a base dominated by real sandalwood and a glowing musk, I was astonished at the way the scent seemed dry and cool, yet at the same time rich and smooth. This was a drydown in the grand old-fashioned style, seemingly composed of nearly every base note in the perfumer’s lexicon. Amazing. Amazingly beautiful. Women should indeed smell like this, I thought.

I have now worn No. 5 extrait de parfum from five different bottles, four vintage and one modern (thanks to Daisy and Belle de Sud, my swapper friends), and every one of these bottles is different, although clearly recognizable as No. 5. I’m sure that most of the differences can be attributable to age and storage conditions, but it’s so strange that the scents are now so divergent from each other. One has loads of aldehydes and a musky drydown; one has wonky topnotes that smell a bit of floor polish and a heart that seems heavy on rose; one is mostly jasmine, iris, and sandalwood, very powdery; one is the bottle I just described – glorious – and one is a modern bottle, which seems to be all there, in the proper proportions, and is crisply edged as a brand-new hundred-dollar bill.

What I like best about No. 5 is its versatility. It seems weightless and ageless; it is unaffected by weather or by events of the day. It could be worn as easily to a fried-chicken picnic as to a symphony concert, and as easily in winter as in summer. Then, too, it seems to smell of money and class: both expensive and beautiful. I even like the fact that it’s fairly ubiquitous among a certain age group, and nearly everyone has smelled it enough to identify it, therefore making it an ideal mask of sorts. If I feel the need to hide my vulnerable, emotional self behind a competent costume, No. 5 is perfect for that. I’m not saying it’s absolutely perfection, mind you, or even that it is the pinnacle of the perfumer’s art. But for what it is – cool, elegantly lovely, and aloof – it is wonderful.

And I’m struck again by the fact that my mother, who’s always preferred tailored to frilly, classic to trendy, plain to fancy, has great taste in scent. I still can’t smell No. 5, in whatever incarnation, without thinking of her. I always smile. For early scent memories, for hugs and kisses, for peanut butter and apple sandwiches, for not killing me outright after I walked nonchalantly across the top bar of the swingset, for homemade dresses and baths and haircuts, for teaching me manners and for the millions of things you’ve done for me… many thanks, Mom. I love you.

Listed notes for No. 5:
Top: aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, neroli, ylang-ylang
Heart: jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, iris
Base: vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, patchouli, oakmoss, musk

No.5 was composed in 1921 by Ernest Beaux, the fifth of nine options created for Coco Chanel to choose from.  It may be an apocryphal story, but M. Beaux commented that he was inspired by the smell of snow.  (Indeed, having been close to an actual glacier in New Zealand, I can understand the reference.) 

Images, from top to bottom: Chanel No. 5 parfum, from
1973 Catherine Deneuve photo Chanel No. 5 pefume ad #2 by 237 at ebay
1959 Elegant Woman Chanel No. 5 perfume ad, from magicelectron at ebay
Mom at my sister’s wedding in 2002

For Christmas, Mom will be getting part of my favorite vintage bottle – I can’t bear to give it up entirely! – and perhaps a bottle of her own. (Sssh, don’t tell her.)

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