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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Perfume Review: Creed Love in White

To create Love in White, the scent meant to symbolize the sensation of freedom felt at sea and to evoke white sea foam and white clouds (“elements shared by all humanity”), Master Perfumer Olivier Creed traveled to the seven seas, or rather, five continents, and personally selected the ingredients for this fragrance, Creed’s first in five years. The chosen notes were “orange zest from Southern Spain, white jasmine from the Italian Coast, daffodil from the French Riviera, sandalwood from Mysore India, young rice husk from Tonkin, iris from Egypt, magnolia from the Guatemalan Mountains and vanilla from the Island of Java.” Quite appropriately, in view of such global ingredients, the percentage of proceeds from the sales of Love in White will go to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). That is perhaps the first time that I encounter freedom, humanity and charity being the part of the description of a scent. To be very honest, as far as fragrances are concerned, all I want from them is to be gorgeous, at least a little wearable and romantic (oh yes, I am "deeply superficial"). Luckily Love in White fulfills all three criteria. So much so that I don’t mind the fact that it is rather aquatic in its nature. Coming from me, the absolute hater of marine notes in perfume, this is a huge compliment.

Love in White starts fresh and green on my skin; to my nose the beginning smells of lilies of the valley and grass (perhaps this is the daffodil I smell?), there is most certainly no orange zest or anything citrusy at all. The aquatic accord comes and goes, it is there in the beginning, adding a certain coolness and clarity to the composition. Sandalwood, magnolia and vanilla are the best part of the scent, they bring warmth, sweetness and, to me, wearability. The sweetness lingers for quite a long time with but a hint of aquatic somewhere in the distance. The fragrance is heady without being loud and lasts quite a long time on my skin. As for the image it evokes in my mind…how about a bride in her pristine white attire? Love in White makes me want to be 19 and absolutely, utterly, madly, head over heels in love…To be planning a big white wedding with a big white dress…To live again in the charmed and poignantly perfect world of bridal magazines with their glossy innocence. To return to the time of seemingly eternal summer and cloudless sky.

This wonderfully nostalgic and movingly pretty fragrance can be yours for $110-195.00; it is available at Aedes, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus, to name only a few.

*The painting is by Jon Whitcomb.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Perfume Review: Les Parfums de Rosine Rose de Feu

A deeper glow: a rose of fire:
A rose of passionate desire
Lone burning in a lonely heart.
Victor James Daley, Years After

Rose de Feu is a new addition to one of my favorite fragrance lines, Les Parfums de Rosine. According to Robert from Aedes, Rose de Feu has only been released in Europe and is not expected to be launched in the US till the next year. My Google search for information about the new Rosine only revealed one store carrying Rose de Feu, namely First in Fragrance; this tells me that perhaps the fragrance right now has a very limited release or have not actually been released at all and First in Fragrance has just happened to miraculously obtain pre-launch bottles. If anyone has any more information about Rose de Feu and when and where it will be available, please comment!

As far as I can judge from the description on First in Fragrance, Rose de Feu’s list of ingredients includes “green notes”, cardamom, bergamot, ylang ylang and magnolia. It also may or may not contain cinnamon, honey and gingerbread. To my nose, the most apparent notes in Rose de Feu are apple, thyme, rose, cardamom, magnolia and sandalwood. No cinnamon and gingerbread in sight, at least on my skin. The scents starts with what I can only describe as a scent of very ripe, sweet red apples, that accord is strangely accompanied by thyme, and I must tell you it is not a bad combination at all. It gets even better when the rose joins the composition. It is a sweet, honeyed rose and is gorgeous combined with the fruity and herbal notes. As the scent progresses, a note that to my nose smells like a mix between frangipane and jasmine and what I assume is actually magnolia, brings a certain spring-like, joyous quality to the composition. The smell of thyme disappears but cardamom steps in to keep things interesting; the note is spicy and creamy at the same time and adds a little “kick” to the blend. Cardamom vanishes before the drydown; the latter features soft sandalwood, rose and the “magnolia” note described above.

The fragrance does not strike me as particularly “fiery”. It is softly sensual and is neither too sweet nor overly spicy. I can see why First in Fragrance would advise to wear it for candlelight dinners, there is a certain romanticism in this scent, but I would say that Rose de Feu is subtle enough to be worn at any time of the day and for any occasion. This complaint will sound awfully vague, but as far as I am concerned, beautiful though it is, Rose de Feu lacks an oomph and a depth. I will not be rushing to order it from Germany and will wait patiently till it is released in the US.

Rose de Feu is available at First in Fragrance, where 50 ml retails for EUR 68.00 and 100ml for EUR 90.00. Samples are available for EUR 3.00 each.

*The ad for Rose de Feu is from (First in Fragrance).

*The painting is De la Pomme aux Levres by Georges Barbier.

Perfume Review: Fifi Chachnil

Fifi Chachnil is the pseudonym of Delphine Véron, the designer of playful fifties-inspired lingerie and the owner of Parisian boutique Fifi Chachnil. Her first perfume, Fifi, was created by Jean Guichard of Givaudan (Director of the Perfumery School, Senior Perfumer, and the first-ever receipient of 2000 François Coty Award), the nose behind such classics as Deci Dela, Lou Lou and Obssession. Fifi is an oriental scent and has notes of coriander, mandarin, rose, lily of the valley, amber, and tobacco. On her site, Fifi Chachnil describes the main function of lingerie as the ability to put us in a good mood. She notes that it is linked to our imagination and “can be either excessive or sweet. It can express a natural frivolity that deals with insolence and lightness.” Mademoiselle Chachnil’s lingerie is sensual yet blithe and humorous, retro-chic that does not take itself seriously; the same philosophy is evident in Fifi the fragrance. Don’t expect the heavy seductiveness of Vivienne Westwood's Boudoir. Fifi is sexy and a little impudent in a lighthearted kind of way.

Don’t take me wrong, Fifi is all woman, feminine from her glossy head to her pedicured toes clad in high-heeled pink marabou slippers. But this is femininity with a twist, or what Fifi Chachnil calls “insolence”. That twist is coriander. Fifi starts with coriander’s astringent sweetness (or sweet astringency) and the note remains the most prominent on my skin throughout the scent’s development. Coriander adds am oomph, a certain agreeable sharpness (or that frivolity and lightness so dear to Fifi Chachnil’s heart) to what otherwise could have been an undoubtedly pretty and warm but not very remarkable composition. Coriander makes the rose note sparkle and tones down the resinous sweetness of amber. In the drydown, tobacco adds its husky voice to the blend bringing with it a certain “come hither” quality, but again the potentially heavyweight sensuality is kept in check by the dry and sparkling coriander note.

Fifi is a stunning fragrance, sexy and full of character, unconventional femininity done to perfection; it now tops the list of my favorite "pinup scents" (Lipstick Rose, Iris Poudre, and Teint de Neige). It is available at, €96.00 for 85ml.

*The painting is Diary by Gil Elvgren.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Perfume Review: Escada Collection

Escada Collection has been released in 1997 and seems to have been discontinued, but still pops up in the stores here and there, with its ever-changing limited edition bottles. Escada is a warm, rich woody-oriental with the notes of manadarine, cola, tuberose, jasmine, sandalwood, musk and vanilla. It is one of my favorite comfort scents, in fact, it is my ultimate comfort perfume; whenever I am cold, tired and miserable, I put on some Collection and instantly I am soothed and warmed by its sweet, smoky, velvety aroma.

I was quite surprised to see mandarine among the notes of Collection, this note is not at all apparent on my skin. Different lists of notes tell different stories, some have a plum note and some don’t, I believe that it is there, because Collection has certain lush, ripe, sweet fruitiness that smells nothing like mandarine. That sweetness perhaps can also be explained by the presence of the “cola” note, though I am not entirely sure that I can distinguish that accord in Collection. Tuberose adds wonderfull creaminess to the scent, and the blend of sandalwood, musk and vanilla in the drydown is soft and smooth. I do not know where it comes from, perhaps there is a tobacco note here as well, but there is a delectable sweet smokiness in Collection, not unlike that of Cherry Shisha Tobacco used in hookahs (waterpipes, narguiles). Collection is a delicious, sensual, rich scent, very different from Escada’s other rather forgettable offerings, it is a must have for the dreary winter days and nights.

Collection is right now available at Nordstrom, $100.00 for a Limited Edition 1,7oz bottle. The same bottle can often be found on eBay for almost half the price. The rumour has it that Collection has been seen in some TJMaxx and Marshalls stores for as little as $19.99, I have never had such luck and suspect that it is just an urban myth.

*The picture is Caterpillar Smoking a Narguile by John Tenniel.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Perfume Review: Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis

Whereas Bois et Fruits by Serge Lutens is a smell of the woodier and wilder part of the Paradise, Bois de Paradis is what Eden’s fruit and rose orchard smells like. Created for DelRae by Michel Roudnitska, Bois de Paradis is a heavenly (pun fully and shamelessly intended) blend of woods, blackberry, fig, rose, amber, and spices. In my opinion, it is one of the most exquisite scents, a seamless, magical harmony that is luscious, sensual and irresistible. When I smell Bois de Paradis, I, like Baudelaire, “see a panorama of blissful shores, a-dazzle with the sun’s monotonous blaze, a languid island where Nature lavishes rare trees and luscious fruits…”

I adore the blackberry note in Bois de Paradis, it is ripe and succulent, its dark sweetness perfectly balanced by woods. The rose note is quite prominent on my skin; it is a honeyed, lush rose and is stunning combined with fruits. A certain peppery or perhaps even incense-like quality of this scent keeps the lushness of fruits and roses from being overwhelming. The amber note, ornamented by fruits and roses, is stunning, an amber note to die for. The fragrance comes in Eau de Parfum and is very long-lasting on my skin, 10-12 hours at the very least. Bois de Paradis never fails to make me happy even on the dreariest of days, one sniff and it takes me to “vast seas whose monsoons bear me away to enchanting climes, where space is more blue and more profound, where the air is redolent of the smell of fruits and leaves and the skin of human beings.” It is Thanksgiving today, so, in spirit of the day, I am thankful to DelRae and Roudnitska for creating this amazing perfume.

Bois de Paradis can be found on, $125.00 for 1,7oz.

*The photo of Bois de Paradis is from
*The painting is Venus Verticordia by Rossetti, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth, UK.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Bois et Fruits

“Le bois, vivants et organique, fixe le caractère de mes parfums” (wood, alive and organic, fixes the character of my perfumes), said Serge Lutens. Shiseido’s Féminité du Bois, the grand woody oriental scent of 1990s, was Lutens’s ode to cedarwood and the inspiration for his Les Eaux Boisées, Bois Oriental, Bois et Musc, Bois de Violette, and Bois et Fruits. These four variations of Féminité du Bois each juxtapose cedar with a different accord: vanilla, musk, violet, and fruits. Les Eaux Boisées are my favorite part of Les Salons du Palais Royal collection, and of them, Bois et Fruits is the most beloved.

Bois et Fruits combines cedar with notes of peach, apricot, figs, and plums, and thus emphasizes the fruity side of its “Great Mother”, Féminité du Bois. Having said that, Bois et Fruits is actually much drier and less sweet than Féminité. It starts with a dry cedar note, within seconds the ripe fruitiness of figs and plums becomes apparent, the fruits balance the dryness of the woods and cedar keeps the potentially excessive sweetness of fruits in check. The overall effect to my nose is that of dried fruits mixed with a slightly incensy, sometimes even almost leathery accord. Bois et Fruits is a subtler scent, it is much less forceful than Féminité du Bois, and even though it has fruits in its title, it actually translates much less fruity on my skin that its predecessor. I always imagine that Bois et Fruits is the scent of Paradise, or at least of the woodier, wilder part of the Garden of Eden.

Bois et Fruits is available exclusively at Les Salons du Palais Royal in Paris, where it retails for EUR 100 for 75ml.

*The painting is The Golden Serpent by Michael Parkes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Perfume Review: Shiseido Feminite du Bois

Created for Shiseido by Serge Lutens, Christopher Sheldrake and Pierre Bourdon in 1992, Féminité du Bois revived the interest in woody notes in women's perfumes and launched a thousand other woody-oriental fragrances, including Les Eaux Boisées from Serge Lutens’s Les Salons du Palais Royal collection*. Féminité du Bois is centered around a cedarwood note that stays present from the top to the base notes. Combined with the dark fruitiness of peach and plum, the sweetness of honey, the ripeness of roses, the spiciness of cinnamon and clove, and the smoothness of sandalwood, cedar shows its feminine, warm, extremely sensual side. Like Bois des Iles, this is one of those scents in which I feel most “at home”, and I suppose in a way it is a comfort scent for me.

Having said that, Féminité du Bois is not soft and cuddly. It is a hearty scent, darkly sweet and robust. It makes me think of Painting, 1944 by Clyfford Still, with its black vastness slashed by a serrated red line. Féminité du Bois has the same abstract forcefulness; like the colors in Painting, the notes here are applied “thickly”, like slabs of paint thrown at the canvas with a palette knife. I can only describe Féminité du Bois as “exquisitely robust”; generous and full-bodied as it is, the fragrance is incredibly well blended, and is one of the most sophisticated scents that I know.

Féminité du Bois is available in a variety of forms, including Parfum, Eau de Parfum, Eau Timide (a more delicate version of the scent which “softens your skin with water-fresh moisture”, a good option if you find the regular version a little too intense), Parfum Stylo, Too Heavenly Body Cream (indeed a heavenly treat, moisturizing and very true to the scent, I would recommend to all the fans of Féminité, if you can find it), Mist Emulsion Body Veil, and Deodorant Body Spray…And now the bad news…As far as I understand, Shiseido does not export Féminité du Bois to the US, consequently, it is rather hard to find. Right now it seems to be available at, $90.00 for 1.6oz of Eau de Parfum. It also sometimes pops up on eBay, but is never cheap even there.

*Apart from Les Eaux Boisées (Bois et Fruits, Bois et Musc, Bois Oriental, Bois de Violette), among other scents undoubtedly inspired by Féminité du Bois are Miller & Bertaux Eau de Parfum # 1 For You, Guerlain Aromaparfum Exaltant, and Delrae Bois de Paradis.

**The painting is Painting, 1944 by Clyfford Still, Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Féminité du Bois ad is from

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Breaking News. New Scent by Les Parfums de Rosine.

A new scent has been added to Les Parfum de Rosine line, it is called Rose Feu. The new fragrance right now is only available at First in Fragrance and, apart from the rose, it seems to have "green" and "woody" notes, cardamom, bergamot, ylang ylang and magnolia. First in Fragrance describes it as a sensual scent for candlelight dinners, “warm like the colour of the cinnamon-honey and like the scent of gingerbread. “

As for when Rose Feu will be available in the States, according to extremely helpful and knowledgable Robert from Aedes, at this point it is only released in Europe, we will have to wait till next year to find out whether and when it will be launched in the US.

Rose Feu retails at First in Fragrance for EUR 68 for 50ml and EUR 90 for 100ml.

Many thanks to wonderful perfumer for finding out about this new Rosine fragrance!

*The picture is by Anne Taintor (

Monday, November 21, 2005

Perfume Review: Chanel Bois des Iles

Ah, Thanksgiving…Turkey, yams, pumpkin pie…But also cold, dreary weather and the imminent arrival of winter. Being a big fan of sunny summer days, I fail to find solace in brightly colored autumnal leaves or the first delicate snow on the ground, and generally I am not in a thankful mood at the end of November. When I am this cold and miserable, I reach for my beloved woody-oriental scents*, and if I feel grateful for anything, it is for these wonderful fragrances.

The one that I am perhaps most grateful for is Bois des Iles by Chanel, one of my “Holy Grail” scents; whenever I smell it after a (always short) break, I keep wondering why do I bother owning other scents, forever looking for more scents, and chasing after new releases, when clearly nothing can compare to the perfection that is Bois des Iles. Part of the exclusive Rue de Cambon collection, it is a blend of sandalwood, vetiver, tonka bean, vanilla, ylang ylang, iris, coriander, rose, jasmine and aldehydes. The notes sound quite ordinary, yet somehow they combine to create a miraculous scent, smooth, soft, infinitely wearable. Luca Turin said it best when he called Bois des Iles “un magique vin chaud qui guérirait des maux de ce monde”, a magic hot wine that would cure evils of this world (Le Guide).

Created by Ernest Beaux as the first woody fragrance for women, Bois des Iles is the proof that wood can be feminine, warm and sensual. Ironically, contrary to that statement, the fragrance actually starts rather dry, earthy, and cool (iris), there is a certain astringent sweetness to it that I believe is the coriander note. This is the scent of a dryad, a tree spirit of Greek mythology, a creature that is both otherworldly and crucially connected with this world. As the fragrance develops, it “warms up”, and the sensual aspect becomes more apparent. Different lists of notes tell different things, some mention bitter almond and gingerbread notes, and some don’t, but, on a good day, with the right skin chemistry, those two notes are very apparent, they are like a dark golden shimmering core of the scent, the warmth that illuminates Bois des Iles from within. Sometimes, there is even a cinnamon-like note in the scent, and when it is there, Bois des Iles is at its warmest and most luxurious, not just hot wine, but a veritable magical elixir, an olfactory equivalent of liquid gold.

I love both the Parfum and the Eau de Toilette version, but, sacrilegious as it may sound, I think I actually prefer the latter. Parfum is more powdery to my nose and disappears much faster, while Eau de Toilette is actually smoother and softer, and the wonderful, warm and elegant drydown of sandalwood, vetiver and tonka bean, though staying quite close to the skin, lasts for many hours.

Bois des Iles is available at and, where 0,5oz of Parfum retails for $160.00 and 3,4oz for $80.00.

*From Michael Edwards: The family of Woody-Orientals emphasizes the woody character of floral Orientals; their flowers and spices play second string to the dominant sandalwood and/or patchouli notes. The Oriental influence is more noticeable, too, and balances the deep wood notes.

**The first painting is Hiver Approche by Zenker; the second is The Dryad by Evelyn De Morgan.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Next Week

Five Perfumes I am Thankful for This Thanksgiving
or the Ode to Woody-Oriental Fragrances.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Perfume Review: Parfum d'Empire Ambre Russe

When I first heard about Ambre Russe, I grumbled. Vodka note in a perfume with “Russian” in its title, how stereotypical is that?! Still I must admit that I was extremely curious. Ambre Russe is the second fragrance from Parfum d’Empire, company dedicated to the creation of olfactory equivalents of famous figures and/or the general ethos of various empires; their first perfume, Eau de Glorie is a homage to Napoleon, a citrus scent made interesting by the notes of tea, licorice, leather, tobacco and incense*. With Ambre Russe, the perfumer Marc Antoine Corticchiato apparently decided to go completely over the top, after all the scent was inspired by Tsarist Russia and we all know the way those tsars were, they ate too much, drank more and hated and loved intensely. Accordingly, the notes spell excess: vodka, champagne, tea, incense, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ambergris, vanilla, leather…

With notes this baroque and rich, the fragrance was seemingly destined to be cloying, perfumey, too intense, too…Too Much. Shockingly it is none of these things. Yes, it is a rich, robust, dark scent, but the notes are blended perfectly and, instead of being overwhelming and bizarre, like a dish with too many incompatible and flavorful ingredients combined in an attempt to create an exotic treat, Ambre Russe is warm, sensual and luxuriant, and I like it very much, vodka and all.

It starts with an almost physically hot blast of amber and incense, both notes hearty and sweet. There is a very pleasant honey-like accord in the top notes and a strange but no less enjoyable smell of beeswax. I must say that, after much eye rolling and grousing regarding the vodka note, I cannot actually smell it at all, though undoubtedly the note could not have been meant to be perceptible on its own, a pronounced alcoholic accord would have made the fragrance smell “turned”. Champagne is also not obvious to my nose, but there is a certain “boozyness” in the top notes, something feisty and exhilarating, and it lifts and lightens what otherwise might have been too dark, somber and heavy scent. I love the way the tea note is combined with spices making the scent smoky and sweet, very comforting and satisfying. For the cumin-wary, the note is there, but it is subdued. The leather note that enters the blend in the drydown is softened by vanilla; in its turn, the leather ensures that vanilla does not dominate the drydown. The smoky-spicy-full-bodied character of Ambre Russe is just as evident during that last stage of its development.

What I especially love about this fragrance is the fact that, in my opinion, luxurious and lavish that it is, it does not take itself seriously and does not glorify its in no way ideal subject. The Russian comedy Ivan Vasilyevich Changes His Profession (Иван Васильевич Меняет Профессию, 1973) is what comes to my mind when I smell Ambre Russe. Ivan the Terrible accidentally changes places with a Soviet upravdom (administrator, superintendent) and much hilarious chaos ensues. One of the best parts of it is the scene of the Tsar’s feast: “Pike heads, intestines, red caviar, black caviar, foreign caviar…” (In fact, I am surprised there is no caviar note in Ambre Russe, to make up for this regrettable omission, and to achieve the highest level of decadent extravagance, layer Ambre Russe with Guerlain’s Cuir Beluga :-)).

Ambre Russe is a nostalgic but humorous olfactory portrait of Imperial Russia. The immense wealth, the buckets of vodka and the rivers of champagne, the tea sweetened with lots and lots of honey, the leather note that may or may not have been meant as a kinky innuendo, the candles lit in front of golden icons and incense burned in desperate attempt to find forgiveness for all the sins and excesses…it is all there. But it is my belief that Marc Antoine Corticchiato wanted for his take on Tsarist times to be taken with a wink and an affectionate roll of the eyes and a resigned shrug of the shoulders: “Those Russians!”

Ambre Russe is not (yet?) available in the US. In France, it retails for 75 euros for 100ml.

* Another new scent from Parfum d’Empire is dedicated to Joséphine and is called Eau Suave.

**The "gastronomic" photo is from

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Perfume Review: Chanel Gardenia

Jan Moran calls Gardénia a “polished” scent, and that describes it precisely, Gardénia is soft, smooth, and refined. There are no loud notes, no sharp corners, just white floral silkiness. Gardénia was created for Chanel by Ernest Beaux in 1925 and re-released in 1993, when, according to Luca Turin (Le Guide), a note (unspecified but reminiscent of Dior’s Poison) has been added to the formula, rendering the scent unrecognizable. Gardénia I am reviewing is not vintage, but even this reformulated version is so incredibly beautiful that I cannot imagine how much more stunning it could have been. Please comment if you are lucky to know the old version!

According to the aforementioned Jan Moran, Gardénia has top notes of absolutes of jasmine, gardenia, orange blossom, and tuberose, heart notes of clove, sage, pimiento, and base notes of musk, patchouli, sandalwood, and vetiver. The rumor has it that there is actually no gardenia in this scent, and that is what my nose tells me as well. The most prominent note on my skin is orange blossom, very alike the one in Rosa Flamenca by Les Perfumes de Rosine; in fact, these two scents smell quite similar to me. However where in Rosa Flamenca orange blossom is accompanied by rose and is rather sweet, in Gardénia it is made greener by jasmine note and sage. That is not to say that Gardénia is a green or herbal scent, not at all, there is a little greenness somewhere in the beginning of its middle stage, but the velvety tuberose note is also apparent and it warms and softens considerably what could have been a much sharper scent. I really do not smell much (if any) patchouli in the drydown, just a little woody sweetness of sandalwood and some light musk.

The softness of this scent amazed me, somehow I expected something more heady and perhaps aldehydic from the scent created that many years ago; I was prepared to make an effort to “understand” this fragrance. I was resigned to only be able to admire it from the distance, as I do with Chanel No 5. Yet, as the other two Rue de Cambon scents, Bois des Iles and Cuir de Russie, Gardénia is incredibly easy to love and to wear. Still, there is something “old world” about this scent, perhaps that very softness and smoothness adds a touch of grace and style, a touch of that indefinable something that whispers rather than shouts glamour. Laugh if you must, but Gardénia always makes me think of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and the 1974 movie based on the book. The young, glamorous and exotic Countess Andrenyi (Jacqueline Bissett) would have worn this perfume so well, as would the rich, charismatic Princess Dragomiroff (Wendy Hiller), and even the composed, aloof Mary Debenham (Vanessa Redgrave). Gardénia is to me the epitome of inconspicuous luxury that is taken for granted and is never over the top, of natural elegance, of taste and discretion.

Gardénia is available from or, where 0.5oz of Parfum retails for $160.00 and 3,3oz of Eau de Toilette for $82.00. Of the three Rue de Cambon scents it also seems to be easier to find online in places other then Chanel and Gloss, for example, is selling 1,7oz of Eau de Toilette for $65.00.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Perfume Review: Bond No. 9 West Broadway

West Broadway, nominated for a FiFi (Fragrance Foundation) award for Best Men's Fragrance Introduction, is described as a “lime gimlet*, laced with crisp greens, mate, and sheer musk. “ As far as I am concerned, there is nothing masculine, citrusy, boozy or green about this scent. West Broadway is a unisex-leaning-towards-feminine, woody fragrance with an incense accord in the top notes and a sweet, musky drydown.

Google search for the notes in West Broadway resulted in the following astonishing combination: mate, lime, lily of the valley, musk. Either the creators of this fragrance do not reveal a big chunk of the ingredients or every retailer has got hold of the wrong list of notes. It is of course also entirely possible that my skin chemistry is to blame (or rather to thank) for such a discrepancy between what West Broadway is supposed to smell like according to the description and what it does smell like to my surprised nose. The only two accords from the official list of notes that are actually present on my skin are mate and musk.

Mate**, a beverage native to Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil, is brewed from the dry leaves and stemlets of Yerba Mate tree. If I remember correctly, the wonderful mate tea I tasted in the past smelled gently smoky, tobacco-y, green-ish; all these descriptions can be applied to West Broadway. Still, the mate note alone cannot account for a very distinct cedarwood note, not unlike that in Serge Lutens’s Bois Oriental and Bois et Musc, nor does it explain the presence of a peppery, incense-like accord in the beginning of West Broadway. There is absolutely no hint of lime or lily of the valley, on my skin. As I mentioned above, the drydown, which is still manifestly woody, acquires certain sweetness and a pleasantly musky quality.

I really like West Broadway, this is the second Bond No. 9 scent (first being Chinatown) that is definitely full bottle worthy for me. Whatever the reason it smells the way it does on my skin, I hope that the olfactory anomaly is here to stay, and that after I do acquire a bottle, the scent would not suddenly turn into a green lime gimlet of the official description.

West Broadway can be found in Bond No. 9 boutiques, Saks, and, among other places, It retails for $178 for 3,3oz.

*Lime Gimlet - 2 oz Gin; 1/2 oz Lime juice cordial; 1 Lime wedge.

**Other fragrances with mate note are Annick Goutal Duel, Calypso The, Comme des Garcons Tea, Comptoir Sud Pacifique Ecume de The, Kenzo Jungle Homme, L'Artisan Jacinthe de Bois, and Lorenzo Villoresi Yerbamate.

***The photo shows a gourd and a bombilla, traditionally used to drink mate; it is from

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Perfume Review: Bond No. 9 Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street, the latest Bond No. 9 scent, was named after the new Bond No. 9 boutique, their fourth in New York. The story goes that the fragrance was meant to be a gourmand scent evoking the smell of cakes, namely cupcakes from the famous Magnolia Bakery. Perhaps the plans have changed in the process or the cupcakes in question are a new, hip, urbane New York kind, spicy and herbal rather than sweet and vanillic. The fact is that Bleecker Street does not evoke any (known to me) baked goods and is not a gourmand scent in general. Anyone who knows the details about the concept behind the fragrance and what happened to those cupcake plans, please comment.

I can imagine that some people, having been lead to expect a sweet gourmand scent, will be disappointed in Bleecker Street. Have I not heard the reports about the scent’s herbal, unisex, non-sweet nature from those who have tried the new Bond No 9, I might have felt let down as I do like gourmand fragrances. But I also like quality unisex scents that are fresh without being aquatic or overly green, and that is precisely what Bleecker Street is, to my nose.

When sniffed directly from a sample vial, the scent seems to be quite masculine, a ubiquitous “male cologne”. However, applied to the skin, it immediately loses the masculine edge. It is not a feminine fragrance by any stretch of imagination, but it does fall very neatly into a unisex category. Bleecker Street starts citrusy-green on my skin, with almost a vague aniseed accord to it. It grows greener by the second and, strangely enough, the scent makes me think of young, unripe cucumbers with their raw, dark green, and astringent scent. Cucumber is normally not one of my favorite fragrance notes, which is I why I am rather shocked that I like this note so much in Bleecker Street. Having said that, I must make a disclaimer that there is NO cucumber note among the official list of the ingredients (violet leaf, cassis, thyme, jasmine, cedarwood, cinnamon, oakmoss, suede, patchouli, amber, vanilla). Skin chemistry works in mysterious ways.

Patchouli is one of the notes that never fails to become the most prominent on my skin, but in this case it is absolutely non-existent. As are cinnamon, suede, amber and vanilla. Having seen the base notes, I fully expected Bleecker Street to drastically change its character right after the middle stage, to lose its dry, green, herbal nature and to dry down almost a la New Haarlem, dark and sweet, with patchouli and vanilla overwhelming all other notes. Not so. This is the first fragrance where the base notes never show up on my skin. Bleecker Street stays darkly green, fresh, and dry all through its development, until it disappears some 6-8 hours after the application. If I had to compare Bleecker Street to any other scent, I would say that it is somewhat along the lines of my beloved Violette Precieuse (with the violet notes taken out). Bleecker Street has the same composed, elegant, dry, green quality about it.

Bleecker Street is not a scent I would want to wear in cold weather, but I imagine it would be great come spring and summer and this is when it may become full bottle worthy for me. It also seems to me that this fragrance would layer wonderfully with sweet, vanillic, gourmand scents.

Bleecker Street can be found in Bond No 9 boutiques, or, among other places, at lusciouscargo. It retails for $185.00 for 3,3oz.

*The photo of cucumbers is from

** Many thanks to C. for making it possible for me to sample Bleecker Street and a dozen other Bond No. 9s! Mwah!!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Perfume Review: Rance Josephine

The Rancé dynasty started their business as manufacturers of perfumed gloves in Grasse, in 1600s. In 1795 François Rancé decided to devote all his time to perfumery and soon allegedly became Napoleon’s favorite perfumer, creating several fragrances both for the emperor and for Joséphine Bonaparte. Recently Rancé has released two of these scents, Le Vainqueur and Joséphine.

For a fragrance originally created approximately 200 years ago, Joséphine is surprisingly modern. It is a soft floral scent, with slight fruity undertones. The blend is remarkably smooth, none of the notes stands out. Among the top notes (May rose, hawthorn, jasmine, ylang ylang and hyacinth), the rose is most prominent, but it is a very “quiet” rose, sweet and gentle. Even though I say that this note is the most obvious to my nose, I would not call this a rose-heavy scent at all. Hawthorn is a note that I came to associate with a certain opaque, “nutty” quality; it usually smells on my skin like grated hazelnuts, and I can smell this very pleasant accord in Joséphine. Hyacinth, which is ordinarily strikingly green and piercing to my nose, is very subdued here, as are jasmine and ylang ylang. When the heart notes (iris, blackcurrant, white peach, cloves, galbanum and violet leaves) come into play, I can definitely smell a peach note; cloves and blackcurrant are absolutely non-existent to my nose. The base notes (ebony, sandalwood, white musk, Bourbon vanilla and ambergris) are to me the best part of the scent; again, all the notes are very subdued, the wood is incredibly soft and sweetened by vanilla. Unfortunately, and this is my only complaint about Joséphine, in the late drydown, vanilla acquires a very prominent position and becomes practically the only note left, on my skin. Joséphine stays very close to the skin but it is quite a long lasting scent nevertheless, I can still smell it 8-10 hours after a single application.

As I mentioned before, there is nothing “vintage” about the smell of Joséphine. Moreover, this fragrance reminds me of some other scents, though I cannot quite figure out which ones, something released in the late 90s, perhaps one of Les Belles de Ricci. It also reminds me of one of the Ghost fragrances, namely –I think- Serenity, but I would have to re-visit that fragrance to know for sure. All in all, Joséphine is a lovely perfume, feminine in a gentle sort of way and very wearable. I imagine it would appeal to the fans of the scents like Flower by Kenzo and Jean Paul Gaultier Classique. Joséphine is not exactly “my cup of tea”, and so I am in no great hurry to purchase a bottle, but I might buy one in the future, it is a beautiful scent.

Joséphine is available on, $80.00 for 50ml or $115.00 for 100ml.

*The painting is Josephine Bonaparte by Andrea Appiani
PS. Luca Turin is back and one of his reviews today is of Le Vainqueur, and he is not impressed, to put it mildly. Please see his blog.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Perfume Review: Lancome Hypnose

This review was made possible
by wonderfully generous J.
Thank you!

After almost a decade of launching rather forgettable fragrances (Attraction, anyone?), Lancôme decided it was time to finally match the previous success of Magie and Trésor. The responsibility of being such a Renaissance perfume fell on Hypnôse, their latest fragrant offering, which also happened to be the 50th fragrance from the House of Lancôme. The twisted bottle is a slender version of the original Magie bottle dating to 1950. The scent, created by Annick Ménardo and Thierry Wasser of Firmenich, is centered around the vanilla and vetiver notes of Magie, and also includes passion flower and white florals (Top note: passion flower; Middle note: Sambac jasmine, solar notes (?); Base note: vetiver, vanilla, as per osmoz). It is not entirely clear to me why Lancôme considered it necessary to launch a perfume “inspired” by Magie, when that same year the company re-introduced Magie itself, as a part of La Collection. I assume the scent is supposed to convey the image of continuity as well as modernity of Lancôme perfumery.

The scent is classified as woody oriental, and on his site, Fragrances of the World, Michael Edwards suggests that if you like Hypnôse, you might also like such woody orientals as Kingdom, Tam Dao and Samsara, and vice versa. As far as I am concerned, Hypnôse is practically nothing like those three woody orientals extraordinaire. Hypnôse is much less woody and oriental than it is floral and fruity. I have not had a chance to smell passion flower* in real life, so I am taking it for granted that the pleasant, soft, fruity, somewhat peach-like, accord in the beginning of Hypnôse is in fact passion flower. In a little while a jasmine note enters the scene, again it is soft, subdued, sweet yet somehow also fresh; to my nose, it smells a little like jasmine tea. The scent gets drier and greener when vetiver joins the composition; when (subtle) vanilla appears, the dryness turns into slight powderiness and the green-ness gets replaced with sweetness.

I have used the word “pleasant” several times and I will use it yet again. It is a very pleasant scent, inoffensive, soft, and pretty; having said that, it is also quite unremarkable. It reminded me of two frangipane-based scents; in its first, fruity, stage, Hypnôse is quite similar of Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipane Absolute, the rest of the time it smells to me very much alike Chantecaille’s Frangipane, only less heady, less bright, less sumptuous, less memorable. The drydown also reminds me of some other scent, perhaps a much lighter version of Flower by Kenzo, I am not quite sure. Though eminently wearable, Hypnôse does not live up to the originality of Magie and/or Trésor, and somehow it does not seem to me to be the perfume worthy of being such a milestone as the 50th Lancôme fragrance.

I was able to locate Hypnôse at, where it retails for $59.50 for 1,7oz.

* Passion flower was discovered in South America in the 16th century by Christian missionaries who considered the plant to be a good omen for their mission. They called it the passion flower because to them it symbolized the crucifixion: five petals and five sepals are the ten disciples, minus Judas & Peter; the outer fringe is the crown of thorns; five stamens are the number of wounds Christ received and the knob-like stigmas of the pistil are the nails. In Japan passion flower is known as 'The Clock Plant' and that comparison seems much more matter-of-fact.

Among other fragrances with passion flower note are Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again Fleur de la Passion, Calvin Klein Eternity Love and Eternity Moment, Hugo Boss Boss for Woman, Escada Ibiza Hippie, Estee Lauder Dazzling Silver, Giorgio Beverly Hills Wings, Bob Mackie Masquerade, and Crabtree & Evelyn Passion Flower.

(The picture of passion flower is from

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Perfume Review. HRH Rose: Sa Majesté la Rose by Serge Lutens

We are so accustomed to being constantly surprised, if not shocked, by the unusualness of Lutens’ perfumes that it is indeed astonishing, how comparatively simple this composition is, all rose, only slightly enhanced and showcased by woods and a light clove note. Luca Turin wrote in his blog that he finds Lutens florals “a little trite in a white-lace sort of way”. Having enthralled us with his art of juxtaposition, having startled us in the past by brutally animalic (Muscs Koublai Khan), cold, rubbery (Tuberose Criminelle) and camphoric (Borneo 1834) notes, Serge Lutens is perhaps starting to suffer consequences of his customers always waiting for a "twist", that curse of M. Night Shyamalan's career.

Where Sa Majesté la Rose is concerned, the twist is that there is no twist. What we have here is simplicity of a classic creation with its immaculately balanced proportions and harmonies. This is the Rose to rule all roses; she is a classical beauty, full of serene sensuousness and refined splendor, and all is order, beauty, richness, quiet and pleasure in her fragrant kingdom. Sa Majesté la Rose is an idealized portrait of a flawless rose, a rose as rose should be, a rose imagined by a love-struck poet, painted by a hopelessly romantic artist, Pygmalion’s perfect rose.

Sa Majesté la Rose is available at Aedes, $92.00 for 1,69oz

*The photo of Sa Majesté la Rose is from
*The painting is Galatea by Gustave Moreau, Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Perfume Review. Pre-Raphaelite Rose: Rosa Flamenca by Les Parfums de Rosine

Les Parfums de Rosine, one of my favorite fragrance lines, was established by Marie-Hélène Rogeon, great-grand-daughter of Louis Panafieu, famous for creating a moustache cream used by Napoleon III. Rogeon’s grandparents also created fragrances for Paul Poiret, the first couturier to start his own perfume line. In 1911 Poiret launched his first perfume, dedicated to his daughter, Rosine, who died in infancy. Known as Les Parfums de Rosine, the line produced some 30 odd scents and then disappeared from the market. In 1991, after working for houses such as Givenchy and Pierre Balmain, Marie-Hélène Rogeon re-opened Les Parfums de Rosine. The specialty of the house is rose scents, each one a different take on this stunning flower.

One of my favorites* among Les Parfums de Rosine, Rosa Flamenca, was created by Marie-Hélène Rogeon as a homage to the gardens of Andalusia. Rogeon fused orange blossom, bergamot, petit grain, rose, sandalwood, benzoin, figwood, and white musk to create a luminous, warm, and velvety fragrance. On my skin, it starts with a honeyed orange blossom accord that is soon joined by a sumptuous, sweet rose, but is never overwhelmed by it. The two co-exist side by side till the very drydown, where they are blended with smooth sandalwood and the softest of musks. The rose of Flamenca is orange, golden, Pre-Raphaelite; it is opulent and sweet, almost edible. This is what Flaming June smells like in her hot slumber, on my favorite painting by Frederic Lord Leighton**. Whenever I smell Rosa Flamenca I am reminded of that painting, the euphoric symphony of color, the hot, vibrant orange, which is precisely the shade I imagine the rose in Rosa Flamenca to be.

Available at Barneys, $98.00 for 3,3oz

*You can find here my review of another of my favorites in Les Parfums de Rosine line, Un Zest de Rose.

**The painting is Flaming June by Frederic Lord Leighton, Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico. Although Leighton is more often described as a neo-classicist and was in fact quite opposed to the Pre-Raphaelite credo of art, this particular painting without a doubt reflects a Pre-Raphaelite influence, both in color and in composition.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


Some of my favorite rose scents.

«La rose posède de multiuples facettes
qui illuminent les parfums»

Jean-Michel Duriez (Jean Patou)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Clair de Musc

Let me start by saying that I am not a musk lover; so far there have been only two musk scents that I wanted to own, both of them by Serge Lutens. The two could not be more different. The musk is usually regarded as one of the most sensual components in the perfumery; Muscs Koublai Khan, the first Lutens musk I adore, is the epitome of that sensuality. It is an incredibly dirty, animalic, breathtakingly erotic scent that makes my mouth dry and my knees weak. Now imagine the scent thst is the absolute opposite. Where Muscs Koublai Khan is corporeal, Clair de Musc, the second Lutens musk I love, is ethereal. Where Muscs Koublai Khan is grimy and soiled, Clair de Musc is luminous and transparent. Muscs Koublai Khan showcases musk’s earthy, sinful, very human aspect. Clair de Musc is purity and light that is out of this world.

So light is Clair de Musc, it almost has no smell. The wizards Lutens and Sheldrake created an olfactory equivalent of transparency, clearness and light. It starts with a gently citrusy accord of bergamot and even more delicate note of orange blossom, softly the floral notes (mostly the jasmine, to my nose, light and almost green) step in to be in turn joined by the whisper of sandalwood. The iris note brings a certain cold quality to the fragrance; Clair de Musc is cool and perfectly clear, like water from Galadriel’s pitcher, running to feel The Mirror of Seeing. Looking into the cold transparent depths of Clair de Musc one almost feels that it is possible to see there things that were, and things that are, and some things that have not yet come to pass. Whenever I smell Clair de Musc, I see Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, all long blonde hair and flowing white dress; it is no wonder that my geeky Lord of the Rings loving soul finds this fragrance irresistible.

*The picture of Clair de Musc is from
*The first photo of Galdriel is from,
the second one is from

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Perfume Review: Alexander McQueen My Queen

Three years after launching his first fragrance, Kingdom, a love-hate scent if ever there was one, Alexander McQueen decided to brave the perfume waters again, with his new scent, My Queen. Kingdom was not an easy scent to understand, wear and love, but it was thoroughly original with its sweaty cumin note and the dark, sensual, “smells like sex” quality, undoubtedly much related to the aforementioned cumin note. With My Queen, the designer makes an attempt to appeal to a wider audience, to avoid offending the noses that shy away from the “dirty” accords. My Queen is much more feminine than Kingdom, much lighter and more easy going and is supposed to convey an enchanting fairy-tale like image. Clearly, McQueen is still fascinated by all the things royal, legendary and theatrical, but where Kingdom is an Arthurian legend “realistically” depicted in the recent King Arthur movie, My Queen is the mellow, romanticized interpretation offered in First Knight.

Described in the promotional materials, My Queen sounds incredibly complex. It has the structure with four facets, Marvelous (Parma violet and sweet almond), Dazzling (orange blossom absolute, white musk and heliotrope), Mysterious (patchouli, cedar and vetiver) and Intoxicating (Florentine iris and vanilla). Each facet portrays a layer of a woman's personality, and all four radiate from a common heart and shared base. Confused yet? I know I was.

In reality, it is a case of much marketing ado about nothing. The scent starts with a vague aniseed note and an even vaguer violet one, moves on to rather indistinct “florals”, and dries down to a quite nice if ubiquitous patchouli-vanilla-woods combination. No almonds, no “dazzling” orange blossom…My Queen is a very pleasant, entirely wearable, certainly inoffensive but entirely forgettable scent that reminded me of a legion of other fragrances, including Lolita Lempicka (by whose purple fairy-tale image it seemed to have been heavily inspired), Serge Lutens Douce Amere, Joop Muse, Caron Aimez Moi and even, strangely, Royal Bain de Caron.

"It's a fairy tale and the fairy tale has no end. The idea of the fragrance is to last for eternity," says McQueen. My opinion is purely subjective as is my skin chemistry, and only time will tell whether this fragrance would join the ranks of truly eternal classics, but it is with much regret that I predict a soon oblivion and possible discontinuation.

My Queen is available at Nordstrom, $58.00 for 1,6oz.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Perfume Review: Madame Rochas

This post was inspired by the photo of Madame Rochas, found on the wonderful site Touten Parfum (that photo is used here with the kind permission of Claudine Auguet, the owner of Touten Parfum). When I was a child, my mother used to wear Madame Rochas, and I can still remember the box with its gold lace ornament and the beautiful slimline bottle with the golden top, standing among her other perfumes and fascinating cosmetic items that I was not allowed to touch. Even the mention of this perfume makes me so very nostalgic; Madame Rochas was my first introduction to the world of perfumes and to the general idea of femininity and elegance.

Madame Rochas is a refined perfume, a polished, sophisticated beauty, an elegant and timeless floral aldehyde composed by Guy Robert in 1960. It starts true to its aldehydic nature, rather harsh and aloof, with notes of bergamot and neroli; this is a stage which I endure rather than enjoy. However in a little while the aldehydes subside, and the flowers (rose, jasmine, tuberose) enter the scene. Strangely enough, I, the white-floral hater, really enjoy the languourous tuberose note in the middle stage of Madame Rochas. The more the fragrance developes on my skin, the more I like it; amber in the early drydown brings a certain elegant powderiness to the composition, and when the woods step forth, Madame Rochas turns into a wonderful skin scent, a delicious and lingering fragrance of cedar, sandalwood and musk. The perfume was inspired by two great classics, Chanel Nº5 and Arpege, and indeed it is reminiscent of both, however, to my nose, Madame Rochas is less aldehydic, more powdery and creamier, with a more pronounced woody-musky element in the drydown.

My mother does not wear Madame Rochas anymore, having moved on to softer, sweeter scents, semi-orientals and woody-orientals, and the grand classic aldehydes like Madame Rochas are not really my taste and don’t fit into my life all that well. Having said that, there always will be a place in my heart reserved for this fragrance (and a place in my perfume cabinet reserved for at least a miniature bottle of the scent). Whenever I smell it, I am an awe-struck little girl again, enthralled by the golden lace on the box and the graceful bottle and the scent that seemed to me to be the epitome of “French”, so very chic and glamorous. I still consider it to be one of the most elegant fragrances. As Luca Turin notes in his Le Guide, Madame Rochas would be ideal with “un cabriolet DS Chapron couleur crème anglaise”.

*The photo of Madame Rochas is from
*The photo of Citroën DS Chapron Dandy is from

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