Sunday, December 31, 2006
Friday, December 29, 2006
Favorite Things 2006 aka Golden Colombinas
There is a wonderful tradition in a perfume/beauty-blogging universe of doing a collective post at the end of the year about the things we loved the most. This year, our project is entitled Favorite Things 2006. As far as Perfume-Smellin’ Things is concerned, from this year on, this “best of” post will also be known as
Golden Colombina Awards.
Our first Category is The Favorite New Perfume Line. The nominees are:
Mona di Orio
And the Golden Colombina goes to… Parfumerie Generale. Out of twenty or so of their scents, I love many (Aomassai, Bois de Copaiba, Cuir Venenum, Iris Taizo, Musc Maori, Tubereuse Couture…) and like practically all. I am looking forward to more Parfumerie Generale fragrances next year…and to all of them being sold in the US.
The Favorite New Perfume Release. The nominees are:
Black Orchid by Tom Ford
Blue Agava & Cacao by Jo Malone
Bois d’Armenie by Guerlain
Cuir Ottoman by Perfume d’Empire
Fleur de Narcisse by L’Artisan
L’Air de Rien by Miller Harris
Le Parfum Coffret (as a whole) by Thierry Mugler
Mandarine Mandarin by Serge Lutens
Paestum Rose by Eau d’Italie
Patchouli 24 by Le Labo
Songes by Annick Goutal
West Side by Bond No 9
And the winner is…I could not choose just one. Black Orchid, Bois d’Armenie and Fleur de Narcisse will each receive a Golden Colombina. These three scents never fail to impress and excite me; they are beautiful, deep, evocative and extremely wearable.
The Favorite Perfumer. The nominees:
Anne Flipo (for Fleur de Narcisse and many other L’Artisan scents)
Annick Menardo (for Bois d’Armenie, Patchouli 24 and Black)
Chris Sheldrake (for numerous Serge Lutens fragrances)
Christophe Laudamiel (for Le Parfum Coffret)
Francis Kurkdjian (for Indult Isvaraya and MDCI K/3)
Marc-Antoine Corticchiato (for Cuir Ottoman and Ambre Russe)
Maurice Roucel (for basically everything he does and just because)
Pierre Guillaume (for the whole Parfumerie Generale line)
And the winner is…Annick Menardo. She does the things with leather and vanilla that no one else can do, making leather forceful and comforting at the same time. Here is wishing for more Menardo creations next year!
The Scents I Wore and Enjoyed the Most in 2006. The nominees are:
1000 by Jean Patou
Black by Bvlgari
Black Orchid by Tom Ford
Bois d’Armenie by Guerlain
Cashmere by Cristiano Fissore
Colognes (Bois d’Argent, Cologne Blanche and Eau Noire) by Christian Dior
Colony by Jean Patou
Cuir de Russie by Chanel
Cuir Ottoman by Parfum d’Empire
Cuir Venenum by Parfumerie Generale
Daim Blond by Serge Lutens
Diorling by Christian Dior
Dzing! by L’Artisan
Flowerbomb Extreme by Viktor & Rolf
Guet-Apens by Guerlain
Kolnisch Juchten by Farina Gegenuber and Parfums Regence
Jasmin Full by Montale
L’Arte di Gucci
L’Eau du Navigateur by L’Artisan
Le Parfum de Therese by Frederic Malle
Messe de Minuit by Etro
Miss Dior by Christian Dior
Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle
Muscs Koublai Khan by Serge Lutens
Vanille Tonka by Parfums de Nicolai
Vie de Chateau by Parfums Nicolai
Yatagan by Caron
And the Golden Colombina goes to…Dzing! by L’Artisan – for being everything I like in perfume. It has leather, it has some sweetness, it has animalic undertone, it is complex, it takes me back to good times in my life…it is a perfection.
The Honorary Awards. These awards shall be given to honor perfume lines, perfumers and perfume notes for extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to perfumery, and for outstanding service in delighting, captivating and entertaining Colombina.
The Honorary Award - Perfume Line or House goes to…Christian Dior. Practically every scent done by this House up to the year 1999 (remembered with dread as the year of J’Adore) has been wonderful. All of the classic Diors (Miss Dior, Diorella, Dioressence, Diorissimo, Diorling, Dior-Dior, Diorama and the modern classic, Poison) “fit” me to the extent that I feel they were somehow created for me, with my tastes and sensibilities in mind. Although I am not a fan of most Dior scents created since 1999, I don’t think this is the end for Dior. I hope that it is not even the beginning of the end. Dior Homme, Bois d’Argent, Cologne Blanche and Eau Noire make me optimistic. If I have one wish for 2007, it is for Dior to re-issue The Classics for wider distribution.
This year, The Honorary Award – Perfumer / Lifetime Achievement is directly related to The Honorary Award - Perfume Line or House. I would like us all to remember Edmond Roudnitska and the amazing fragrances created by him for Dior (as well as Hermes, and Rochas!). His wife Therese might have been his muse, but I feel as if he created his perfume for me and me alone. Not a single of his creation I do not love or find difficult to wear. Here is to Roudnitska, with much respect and admiration!
The Honorary Award – Perfume Note 2006. This year was all about Leather for me. From the hardcore, sinister, vintage leathers like Lancôme Cuir to the elegant leather chypres like Miss Dior and Diorling, to the barbaric, tarry concoctions like Kolnisch Juchten and Patchouli 24, to the almost-edible, sweet leather of Cuir Venenum and Colony, to the cuddly comfort leather in Bois d’Argent…I love them all. My ambition is to try all leather scents ever created and to eventually own most of them. Yes, I dream big. I am working on a Directory of Leather scent and am hoping to add it to this blog in the beginning of 2007.
The special shout-out this year goes to Floral Notes, especially lily of the valley, jasmine and tuberose. The end of the world might be upon us, because this former (white-)floral-hater has been enjoying and craving some pretty heady floral stuff in 2006.
And to prove that I am human and not ALL about perfume, here are my two non-perfume favorite things from 2006:
Armani Prive Luminous Silk Foundation. Lightweight, amazingly efficient at concealing the imperfections, long-lasting and easy-to-blend, this is the foundation for which I have been looking for the last 10 years. What’s even more important, one of the shades, No 5, is absolutely perfect for me.
Comodynes Sunless Tanning Towelettes. The self-tanning solution for which I have been looking for the last 10 years. Non-greasy, fast-absorbing, non-streak and easy to apply, these towelettes are a dream come true.
Every self-respecting award ceremony must have at least one tearful thank you speech. So here is mine. I want to thank my wonderful perfume friends for making it possible to try the fragrances I could never have been able to try were it not for the generosity of my fellow perfume-addicts, for sharing their thoughts, impressions, perfume gossip and perfume news and for listening to my ramblings. Big, huge Thank You to the readers of Perfume-Smellin’ Things. (It still amazes me that there ARE readers.) Your comments make me so happy. And Special Thank You to my wonderful contributor Tom and the reluctant budding parfumista Mr. Colombina, the latter both for writing posts for me and for tolerating my obsession.
Happy 2007, everybody!
Image sources: perfumer.s-perfume.com, okadi.com, art-et-parfum.com, british-wild-flowers.co.uk, topfoto.co.uk
Please visit other blogs to read about more things we loved in 2006:
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Perfume Review: Caron N'Aimez Que Moi and Alpona
Review by Tom
Two more in the four-part Caron fest:
N'Aimez Que Moi
I can almost see how someone casually sniffing this one might actually drop the dreaded "Old Lady" bomb-that is if the roses and violets didn't smell so heartwrenchingly true to the flowers. For me, the violets take a backseat to the cabbage-rose accord, rounding it nicely out. There's also a tiny whiff of citrus: this is a sunny summer in an English garden. Does Caron have a patent on this rose? Or et Noir had it as well in it's demure drydown, this one starts with it. As it moves on, the violets and lilacs start coming in, as the scent becomes more of a classic chypre, with a woody and surprisingly carnal finish. I can see why it's a classic, and I can also see why some modern noses would dismiss it. I guess I'm not a modern nose.
What a difference 20 years makes! Unlike the graceful N'Aimez Que Moi, Alpona starts off with a surge of candied and liquored citrus worthy of any niche house open today. I also smell quite a bit of musk among the hesperides as well as bergamot. Thyme and Myrrh join into the middle, reminding me very much of Yatagan (now how bad could that be?) before finally settling down to that rich Caron base. Yatagan is still in there: muted and refined but still with a touch of the savage. I'd buy this in a heartbeat
Next time: the last of my Caron samples, ones from my lifetime, Montaigne and Eau de Réglisse.
Image source, okadi.com.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Monday, December 25, 2006
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Man re-creates fragrance possibly worn by Pope
I always wondered what scent, if any, do Popes wear. According to this article, one of them, Pius IX, the one who established the Immaculate Conception and papal infallibility as church dogma, rather unsurprisingly preferred a traditional kind of cologne.
A 69-year-old doctor from San Rafael found a purported recipe of the cologne in a limited-edition 1963 cookbook published in the United States. The cookbook alleged that the recipe has been passed down by the family of a French general who was in Pius' papal guard. Dr. Fred Hass was so impressed by the light, fresh fragrance (the main ingredients are orange blossom, lemon verbena, lavender, violet, clove and sweet orange) that he started making it for family and friends. Now, apparently, he is ready for retail.
Dr. Hass has 2,000 bottles in his garage and has streamlined the manufacturing process so he can fill a bottle every 10 seconds. A few 2-ounce bottles were already sold online for $24.99 each (affixed to each bottle was a brief history and likeness of Pope Pius IX), and Dr. Hass has had encouraging feedback from Nordstrom, Barneys New York, Guerlain, and Catholic gift shops. So stay tuned, Eau de Pius IX might be coming to the Nordstrom near you.
The rather appropriately Christmassy article, written by Carolyn Jones, is from San Francisco Chronicle. The image is from Mr. Colombina's earlier post.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Update the Wishlists! Les Exclusifs de Chanel
To be launched in February 2007 in Chanel boutiques and later in March at Bergdorf Goodman, are six new scents, Les Exclusifs de Chanel, a collection of fragrances featuring expensive, rare ingredients and representing the "artistic spirit" of the company's perfume business:
Coromandel. Named after the Chinese lacquered screens Chanel collected, it is a spirited oriental with amber and dry notes. (As a side note, also see this Lagerfeld dress and the makeup color palette, inspired by Coromandel screens)
28 La Pausa. Built around an iris note and named after a house Chanel owned in the South of France.
Bel Respiro. Named after one of Chanel's residences on the outskirts of Paris, this is a very green, fresh scent evoking "stems, leaves and springtime."
No.18. Mamed after the Chanel jewelry boutique at Place Vendôme, it is built around the note of ambrette seed extracted from hibiscus flower.
31 Rue Cambon. Named after the location of Coco Chanel's couture workshop, it is a chypre built without oakmoss.
Eau de Cologne. A lively floral with citrus, bergamot and neroli.
The "old" boutique exclusives, Gardenia, Cuir de Russie, Bois de Iles and No.22 will also be included in the line, with an updated packaging.
Les Exclusifs will be available in 200 ml sprays for $175.00. Eau de Cologne will also be available in a 400 ml splash for $300.00.
(From WWD, Basenotes, Now Smell This. The image is from WWD.com)
The questions I have are: why such big bottles, how involved was Christ Sheldrake in the creation of these six, where are the rumoured re-releases of the vintage Chanels, what about Reve, and finally - who is with me to plan an Ocean Eleven kind of heist in order to finance the purchase of Les Exclusifs?
Friday, December 22, 2006
Spirits of the Scents Past - My First Five Perfumes
There is something so nostalgic about the Holiday Season…I always find that I miss my past, my home, my childhood and my long-lost loved ones the most during this time of the year. So today, Ina of Aromascope and I decided to have a séance of sorts, to evoke Spirits of the Scents Past and to talk about the very first five scents we have owned and loved. According to the family legend, I began to stick my curious nose in my mama’s perfume bottles back when I was still a wee Soviet toddler. I am not quite sure through what, undoubtedly black market, channels my mama managed to obtain the kinds of scents she had, but her vanity table featured quite a collection: Madame Rochas, Climat, Magie Noire, Paris, Anais Anais, some others I cannot remember and, from the late 1980s, Poison…
The moment I laid my eyes on that green box and that purple bottle, the moment I was allowed to take a tiny, careful sniff…I gave my heart to Poison and has loved it ever since. The creaminess, the “roundness”, the robustness and the headiness of that gorgeous juice are incomparable. For an awe-struck little me it was the epitome of Luxury. Twenty years later, I still find Poison to be one of the most, if not the most, striking and opulent perfumes that I know.
After years of being loyal to Poison and Poison smell-alikes (like, for example, Jeanne Arthes Cobra), I was given as a present a perfume called Marina de Bourbon. Created by a real French princess (natch!), it is the only fruity-floral scent I have ever passionately loved. We’ve been through so much together, Marina and I. She was with me when I was the happiest; she was with me when I was in hell of misery and despair. Eleven eventful years later, we are still going strong. If that is not true love, if that is not a real Holy Grail perfume, than I don’t know what is. Oh, and to address the question of how Marina smells…I am not sure if I could even tell you…she smells so familiar, she became a part of me…I perceive her to be shimmery, exquisitely-sweet, soft-golden.
If you found my affection for a fruity-floral scent being rather out of character, then have I got an even bigger surprise for you…when I was twenty, I fell in love with White Linen Breeze by Estee Lauder, and I still love it, the aquatic undertone and all. It smells fresh, airy, gently feminine, a little melancholy…the way this painting by Don Seegmiller looks.
1996 has truly been a fateful year in my life, in bad ways more than in good ones…and it must have been the year when I first realized that I could not be satisfied anymore by owning just one or two scents. It was in 1996 that I first got to know Sotto Voce by Laura Biagiotti. A soft, velvety, subtly-woody, gently-powdery, delicately-sweet, the scent, as the name suggests, has a hushed quality about it. It is understated and incredibly charming. My then-boyfriend liked that perfume so much, he actually wrote a little poem about it…something about whispers and violins…a year later, actually right around this time of the year, the said boyfriend, a temperamental, if not to say rather mentally unstable character, left a huge bouquet of white roses and a bottle of Arden’s True Love (a scent I will not discuss here, because I dislike it intensely) under my door, as a means of saying sorry for something or other...but I digress… ah, those were the days…
At twenty-one, I met Coco. Many bottles later, she is still an important and deeply beloved part of my perfume wardrobe. She is my “go to” perfume when I need to impress, seduce and feel really and truly dressed-up. She is so chic, so warm, so enveloping. She speaks in a soft, husky voice, her trail is spicy and sweet. And, perhaps because she is such an old friend, I find her extremely soothing. Glamorous as she is, she does not complain when I wear her with an old sweater, sans makeup; when I feel sad and lonely, she never fails to comfort me.
Please share your First Five Scents. And then please go to Aromascope to read about Ina’s dark, aquatic past.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Perfume Review: Caron Or et Noir and Farnesiana
Review by Tom
Or et Noir
Or et Noir starts with a winey rosy flourish that (although it was beautiful) made me think I could never stand to wear it: not unless I morphed into a still-gorgeous woman in a black satin sheath about to swan my way down the grand staircase, not ready for my close-up but to tell them to fish that worthless Holden bastard the hell out of my pool and bring me another gigolo.
For me rose scents are ones that I judge the most harshly, even more than the dreaded aquatic. There are too many god-awful rose scents out there that one almost forgets that it's divine when done well.
This is done well. After the somewhat raucous opening, the scent settles down into some seriously beautiful roses: soft petals, green shoots, a hint of peppery leaves and the barest trace of sunshine and soil. Truly beautiful.
Farnesiana starts off much more conventionally wearable for me, with it's initial scent of mimosa and vanilla, conspiring to smell something like Amaretto- just a hint, as if the glass of ice came back for a refill. It starts to slowly evolve into heart-wrenching lily-of-the-valley and lilac that's so evocative of summer at home to me that it just needed wet grass to be New England summer 1977. Then the oddly amaretto-like accord comes back in, along with something dusty, like the note in some of the Japanese Commes des Garcons. What year was this made? 1947? It's woody, almondy, musky, vanilla, slightly maternal but slightly disturbing. It is.. wonderful. The drydown is what I wanted Luctor et Emergo to be on me but it went all play-doh.
What I am starting to see here is a trend, and one that is showing me where a lot of the modern niche houses have built upon: sometimes assaultive openings? Check. Florals supplanted by odd notes? Yep. Unusual spiced used to interestingly disconcerting effect? You betcha! Even (gasp!, or gasp for the 40's) androgyny? Sure, of the 4 I reviewed so far, I would definitely wear two (Tabac Blond and Farnesiana) and wouldn't exactly weep bitter tears if the other two showed up in my Christmas stocking. Since however, they are only available in the Paris Salon, I sadly doubt that would happen. But I look forward to seeing what Alpona and N'Aimez Que Moi have in store for me.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Perfume Review: Danielle Steel Danielle
Admit it, you have read at least one Danielle Steel novel…if not, go ahead, cast the stones and snicker. I have stopped being interested in the genre by 1991-ish, when I was fifteen or so, but prior to that I had read at least half a dozen of Steel’s books. And, to keep shameful admissions coming, I will admit that I was actually looking forward to trying Danielle Steel’s fragrance, Danielle. I was intrigued. I hoped the scent would be an olfactory bodice ripper, a heady, luxurious, slightly tasteless but fascinating, come-hither perfume evoking heaving bosoms, eyes clouded with desire…a perfume full of intrigues, rather predictable twists, and incredible, inhuman passion that lasts forever and triumphs in the end despite the most implausibly horrific hindrances…Fracas meets Poison, that is the kind of scent I wanted Danielle to be.
In reality, which hardly ever matches the wild flights of one’s imagination, the scent turned out to be rather tame and pleasant, a scent of Steel’s readers rather than her larger-than-life heroines. It is a politically correct, neutral fragrance that a woman who is polite, discreet and unadventurous in her everyday life would not be ashamed to wear. The books she reads might be full of forbidden love and appalling secrets, but her perfume must not be in any way offensive to anybody or even too noticeable. Forget the incredible passion. Sex might sell books, but it seems that the creators of Danielle believed that conventional and timidly trendy sells perfumes. Sugary yet slightly watery, Danielle has vaguely citrusy top notes and moderately sweet, slightly vanillic floral heart. The drydown, the happy end of it all, is musky and unremarkable. The whole composition is ever so slightly reminiscent of Angel, but a very, very tactful and bland version of Angel. It is very wearable and very dull, a scent-by-numbers, with no heart and no imagination. Which? Really isn’t surprising at all, since Danielle Steel admitted to New York Post with admirable honesty that she was involved in designing the bottle and packaging, but was basically indifferent to what was in it. “It's called a floriental and it's for the mass market, not Bergdorf's. For 25 years, I've been asked to put my name on a fragrance, and Anna Wintour made the match. I finally decided if it brings me some money, why not?”
Danielle is available at Sephora, $35.00-$125.00.
The images are from bravotv.com and daniellesteelbeauty.com.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Claude Marchal, the creator of Parfums MDCI, talks about his line
Last Friday, on Aromascope and Perfume-Smellin’ Things, we had a lively discussion of Parfums MDCI. We wondered about prices and guessed about whom the company considered to be their target audience and I think we were all intrigued. Claude Marchal, the creator of MDCI wrote me an email, addressing the questions we had. With his kind permission, I am posting it below practically in its entirety. I must say that it made me look at the line with completely different eyes, and above all, it is always nice to know that some companies (usually, understandably, smaller companies) are concerned about the opinions of their potential clients and care enough to actually initiate a dialogue…that exclusivity does not exclude charm and willingness to communicate.
“Reading the comments posted on your blogs, it became obvious to me that some of your visitors like our designs, and others don't, which is perfectly natural. We have chosen a narrow road, trying to add value to fragrance with artsy presentations, exposing ourselves to critics (or praise!).
But our company seems to be perceived as elitist and overpriced; which is not our intent nor our philosophy, even if definitely MDCI intends to position itself somewhere near the top: there is no other way for a small brand which invests a lot in design and quality ingredients and components.
We also produce on a very small scale, not because of snobbism but because these crystal bottles are extremely difficult to make, a hundred a year is a realistic maximum! To compare with Lalique (good friends of mine, by the way), Lalique produces limited editions of 2500 to 4000 units a year. Industrial. Molded. Glass. Plastic seals. Ours are crystal, cast from manually-made individual wax models; each stopper is manually adapted and paired to its particular bottle, hand-finished, then numbered etc., etc...
Another comparison is with Clive Christian's top of the line perfumes, available for $2500.00 at select department stores...
In fact, I do not know exactly for how much our fragrances go for in Russia, prices which seem to annoy your readers.
I think that the problem originates in Moscow, where prices may have gotten out of control. By the time they get there, prices have more than doubled, thanks to retailer's margins, duties, etc., etc. (pretty much the same way caviar prices increase when it reaches fine stores in Paris). Add the weakness of the US dollar versus the Euro (1 euro= 1,30 US$), and our fragrances start to be out of reach, which we do not want!
In fact, we try to remain affordable: 1,5 fl oz of EDP can be ordered from us, in Paris, for Euros 120.00, and 2,5 fl oz for Euros 150.00 in the aluminum spray bottles used as refills for the pricey crystal flacons. This until our new presentations are ready next year. (Our website has to be quickly updated on this point: there is a real demand for the fragrances, and it would be foolish to stick to the idea of limiting refills to the happy few capable of buying the expensive crystal flacons).
Also, prices are not available on our website, for several reasons, none linked to any desire to fleece innocent customers:
1- Our merchant site is not ready, we are sort of overwhelmed by our workload: give us a little more time to improve on it!
2- We are still trying to figure out how to protect our direct sales business model, and make it compatible with a more normal distribution ( i.e. Neiman Marcus or some other high-end dept. stores).
3- We are working hard on new, more affordable presentations, which should be ready by the end of February 07: high quality glass spray bottle with what I think is a lovely and quite unique Limoges bisque stopper…
Expect retail prices in the neighborhood of Euros 300.00 to 400.00 for 2,5 fl oz of EDP, and glass spray refills available for around Euros 120.00 to 150.00.
OK, this is not cheap, but this is not only within the reach of successful suburban Mafiosi!
We want to stick to our low-key, small volume model, not by crass elitism, but to keep things manageable, creativity high, and customers happy. And yes, small volumes mean higher prices...and exclusivity! (…)
Thank you for reading this loooong message till the end…
Claude at Parfums MDCI “
For more information about MDCI, please visit parfumsmdci.free.fr
The image is from parfumsmdci.free.fr
Monday, December 18, 2006
Exploring Thierry Mugler Le Parfum Coffret - Boutique Baldini, Amor and Psyche, Nuit Napolitane
Thanks to the kind invitation from Paramount Pictures, last week I was able to attend an advanced screening of Perfume. I am not going to make a fool of myself pretending to be a movie critic and reviewing the film (I am here to make a fool of myself talking about fragrance); I will just say that I thought that Perfume was beautifully, masterfully done, a treat for the eyes. It had a very difficult task, to translate scents described in the book into images, to make them come alive, and I think it achieved its goal admirably. As far as I am concerned, it could have been more forceful, more gruesome; perhaps my threshold of tolerance for disgusting is unnaturally high, but I found Perfume the movie a little on a mellow side, not quite as powerful as the book. For me, the cause of such unexpected mellowness lied in the casting of the main character. Ben Wishaw was so good looking, soulful and frail, that I found myself sympathizing with the man he was playing. I wanted to cuddle, feed, and generally mother poor dear Jean-Baptiste and basically rooted for him throughout all his morbid endeavors. Perhaps that actually was the director’s intention, I don’t know. I just know that I felt nothing but cold indifference and repulsion to Grenouille when I was reading the book. I also found it rather funny that the representatives of the French lower classes in the movie spoke with Cockney accent. I suppose the creators thought that it would be most indicative of the social status and recognizable throughout the (English speaking) world, and come to think of it, a fake French accent would have been infinitely worse.
Of all the fine actors in the movie, I thought that Dustin Hoffman shone the brightest. He portrayed Baldini with wonderful, understated humor and made him into such a believable, human character, that I felt as if the movie lost a lot of its life and sparkle, when Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Giuseppe Baldini met his unfortunate demise. Today’s short reviews of Boutique Baldini, Amor and Psyché, and Nuit Napolitane from Mugler’s Le Parfum Coffret is my salute to the Master.
It was Baldini’s “ambition to assemble in his shop everything that had a scent or in some fashion contributed to the production of scent. (…) The result was that an indescribable chaos of odors reigned in the House of Baldini…the blend of odors was almost unbearable, as if each musician in a thousand-member orchestra were playing a different melody at fortissimo.” * Boutique Baldini, created by Christophe Laudamiel, although not pungent enough to cause “a confusion of senses”, does succeed very well in evoking the mishmash of smells and a claustrophobic atmosphere in the store. Boutique Baldini smells of the frangipani so beloved by the Maitre, over-ripe roses, powdery violets, sweet wine, sandalwood and incense. It is a warm, robust scent, rather attractive and not unwearable but perhaps better off used as a home fragrance. One drop of the thick-smelling perfume on a handkerchief should be enough to conjure the ghost of the stiff, pathetic and proud Baldini, in his wig and a blue coat adorned with gold frogs.
Amor and Psyché was a very successful fragrance created by Baldini’s competitor, Pélissier. It contained lime, orange blossom, attar of rose, clove, musk, jasmine, bergamot, rosemary, musk and storax. Baldini thought that it was “disgustingly good”, “an absolute classic- full and harmonious. (…) It was fresh but not frenetic. It was floral, without being unctuous. It possessed depth, a splendid, abiding, voluptuous, rich brown depth – and yet was not in the least excessive or bombastic.” ** Grenouille, with his immeasurably finer nose, did not consider Amor and Psyche to be quite so wonderful. In fact, he thought it was bad, “there’s too much bergamot and too much rosemary and not enough attar of roses”. To me, Laudamiel’s version of Amor and Psyche smells like a traditional Eau de Cologne, with a bright lime note, the sunny orange blossom and the slightly indolic, sweet jasmine. It is a light, joyful scent with not much depth at all, let alone “voluptuous, rich brown depth”. As the scent progresses, something slightly animalic comes to the surface, a sweet, indolent musk note, which I would have loved to be stronger. It is a beautiful, summery scent, one of the most wearable in the Coffret.
Nuit Napolitane is “the proper perfume” made by Grenouille out of Amor and Psyche. “The scent was so heavenly fine that tears welled into Baldini’s eyes…The perfume was glorious. It was to Amor and Psyche as a symphony is to the scratching of a lonely violin.” It awakened in Baldini “the most sublime memories”, “he saw himself as a young man walking through the evening gardens of Naples; he saw himself lying in the arms of a woman with dark curly hair and saw the silhouette of a bouquet of roses on the windowsill as the night passed by; he heard the random song of birds and the distant music from a harbor tavern; he heard whisperings at his ear, he heard I-love-you and felt his hair ruffle with bliss…”*** Nuit Napolitane by Christophe Laudamiel is simultaneously more citrusy-fresh and “thicker” and sweeter than Amor and Psyche. It has a wonderful, subtly fruity, boozy undertone that I can only compare to the smell of very sweet apple wine. I find it to be less floral than (Laudamiel’s version of) Pélissier’s creation, and at the same time Nuit Napolitane is much more full-bodied, it has more character and smells like no other scent that I know. In words of awe-struck Baldini, “it was something completely new, capable of creating a whole world, a magical, rich world, and in an instant you forgot all the loathsomeness around you and felt so rich, so at ease, so free, so fine…” Nuit Napolitane is at once innocent and sensual, dreamy and full life. Like Amor and Psyche, it is also very wearable.
The coffret can be purchased at Thierry Mugler USA, $700.00 for 15 bottles in a red velvet presentation case.
The stills from the movie Perfume are from perfumemovie.com
*Patrick Süskind, Perfume The Story of a Murderer, Pocket Books New York, 1986. Page 54-55.
** Ditto. Page 73
*** Ditto. Page 101.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Perfume Review: Parfums MDCI
Just when one thinks that the concept of Exclusivity has been taken to the level of impossible, along comes a company and proves that nothing is impossible in the world of très chic and ultra-niche. Today Ina and I are talking about Parfums MDCI. MDCI is a small French company built on the excellent idea that “fine fragrances should be an art more than an industry, a source of pleasure, pride and beauty more than a commodity.” MDCI finds its inspiration in the period of Renaissance and strives to create “modern evocations” of the precious objects kept in Galerie d’Apollon in the Louvre, in Musei dei Uffizzi, in the Schatzkammer in Vienna, in the collections of the Medicis and the Sun King. The exquisite flacons contain fragrances created by Pierre Bourdon, Stéphanie Bakouche and Francis Kurdjian, who were given absolute freedom of creation and no cost limit (“only the very highest quality, the best origins have been used, none of controversial animal origin implying suffering or fragilization of a specie”). The only requirement was not “to try to please the greatest possible number, never to imitate or follow the day’s trend or fashion.” Pierre Bourdon and Stéphanie Bakouche created the two masculine scents and Francis Kurkdjian the three feminine scents in the collection.
Pierre Bourdon’s scent, PB2241, was meant “to incarnate strength, power, wealth, and the conflicting feelings inspired by the severe but beautiful portrait crowning the men's flacon”. It starts bracing and strong, as forceful and audacious as the man who can afford to wear MDCI most probably should be to be able to afford it. The beginning is bright with bergamot, tangy with ginger, it has a cool, herbal-green undertone, the chilliness of lavender and on the whole is undeniably Manly and rather reminiscent of quite a lot of traditionally, powerfully masculine fragrances. After a while, the cold freshness subsides and I can smell some leather and lots of gorgeous, sweet sandalwood. Ginger, vanilla, lavender and amber ornament the wood beautifully, making the blend somewhat evocative of Chanel’s Egoiste, only less sweet, less “exotic”. I can’t believe I dare to say such a thing about a scent created by the legendary Bourdon, but PB2241, as luxurious as it smells, lacks some sort of a twist, something “modern” to balance the “traditional”. Notes: bergamot, grapefruit, pineapple, melon, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg ginger, basil, thyme, lavender, oak moss, vetiver, sandalwood, rosewood, leather, Darjeeling tea, amber, musk, vanilla, jasmine and violet.
I was very curious about SB1, a masculine scent created by Stéphanie Bakouche. A young woman perfumer was given a carte blanche to create a men’s scent, what would she do, what would be her dream masculine fragrance? It turns out, Mlle Bakouche and yours truly day-dream about the same sort of man. He has elegance, warmth and depth. Unlike the man of Bourdon’s creation, he is understated, he does not emanate power and obvious wealth, but his charisma is undeniable. The scent juxtaposes the freshness of citrus fruits, lavender and spices with the warmth of vanilla and wood…a concept similar to Bourdon’s, yet resulting in an entirely different fragrance. This is a quiet, cuddly composition, slightly powdery with violet, sweetly piquant with cardamom. A beautiful scent for a soulful, sensitive (and probably non-existent) man, it can very easily be worn by a woman. Notes: grapefruit, bergamot, violet leaves, white thyme, cardamom, lavender, ginger, cedarwood, vanilla and musk.
Francis Kurkdjian’s first creation for MDCI, 1182/K1, is a scent "Pour le jour", “a classical and refined "oriental floral”. On my skin, it is surprisingly reminiscent of my beloved Attrape-Coeur, only fresher, with less of that dirty amber I love in the Guerlain’s creation and with a pleasantly candied, vaguely fruity undertone. The citrusy top is juicy and playful, a sunny accord of sugary citrus fruits. From there the blend moves on in the floral direction, into the creamy embrace of ylang-ylang balanced by the airy headiness of jasmine. The base is still fairly Attrape-Coeur-esque, its sandalwood velvety and sweetened by vanilla. A wonderfully pretty scent that smells like it would be a somewhat cheaper alternative to Attrape-Coeur but is actually way, way more expensive. Notes: mandarin, lemon, ylang-ylang, jasmine, sandalwood, tonka bean and vanilla.
1096/FK2 is, according to MDCI, “all pink” or “all rose”, a woodsy floral for soft moments ("moments doux”). This is the scent for the young daughter of the man from PB2241. The heiress is surprisingly unspoiled, sweet-natured, and still a little childish. With her wavy blonde hair, big blue eyes and porcelain skin, she is as pretty as a picture on a vintage ad for lipsticks and powder. The perfume is tender and fresh, truly the vision in all pink: pink peonies, pink roses, and pink fruits, with just a hint of purple from soft violets. It is as far removed from the kind of scents that I like as it can possibly be, but it is undeniably attractive. The fans of romantic, airy, girly florals would adore FK2. Notes: litchi, peony, hawthorn, Moroccan and Turkish roses, violet, cedar, musk and vetiver.
0442/FK3, described as an oriental floral, "Parure pour le soir” (ornament for the evening) is my favorite from the line. It is just the kind of floral that I love, the floral with a spicy twist, with the woody warmth, with the dark depth of patchouli. Jasmine is the star note in the composition; it is evident in the top notes, where it is made sweetly-piquant by the blend of citrus and what I would swear is cardamom; in the heart it is indolent, luxurious, aided and abetted by the sensual tuberose and the languid ylang-ylang… and in the base it is the most attractive of all, its dazzling beauty shining the brightest on the nocturnal background of patchouli, vetiver and sandalwood. I find FK3 to be somewhat similar to Indult Isvaraya; Kurkdjian seems to like the contrast of white florals, woods and spices as much as I do. Since there is no chance at all that I will ever be able to afford FK3, I will be pinning my hopes on eventually getting a bottle of Isvaraya instead. FK3 notes: bergamot, mandarin, ylang-ylang, jasmine sambac, tuberose, rose, wallflower, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla and vetiver.
I must confess that I don’t know the cost of MDCI scents. The site is discreetly silent on the subject and I felt it would be just too obviously un-chic of me to actually raise the question in my email exchange with the very charming Claude Marchal. The rumor has it that we talking of thousands of euros for crystal flacons (eat your heart out, Jar) and of hundreds for refills. According to the site, “the crystal flacons are presented empty in a hand-made, silk-lined jewel-box” and come with two 60 ml aluminum refills holding the fragrance chosen by a customer from the five scents I described above. Refills are also available to order, however you would have to be a registered holder of at least one crystal flacon or a “legitimate person expressly designated by one” to buy a refill. MDCI flacons are signed, numbered and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Each flacon is decorated with a gilded bronze ring, which by special order can be made of solid 18 carat gold or engraved. In other words, the flacons seem to be as -or perhaps even more- important as the juice they contain. I have not had the pleasure to see one in real life, but they do look like they are worth the price. The scents on their own…probably not.
For more information on the perfumes, flacons and on how to order, contact Parfums MDCI, Tel.: 01 41 44 01 93, E-mail: ParfumsMDCIparis@free.fr
Please visit Aromascope to read Ina’s impressions of the scents!
The images are from parfumsmdci.free.fr.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
A Holiday Surprise
Review by Tom
A very generous blogger sent me three very interesting samples, and I am breaking into the Caron reviews to strike while the iron is hot.
From Thierry Mugler"s "olfactory interpretation" of the book Perfume, Colombina described this one by writing "it could be a Demeter kind of scent for Body Odors" and "It puts the previously skankiest perfumes like CB Musk and MKK to absolute and utter shame".
Well, that just about says it all. The first few minutes of this is the literal interpretation of sweat. Old sweat. Not romanticised, sweetened or made like your lovers post-coital embrace like MKK. Not that wierdly feral, berry like, ridden hard gay-porn accord of CB I Hate Perfume. This is the sour sweat of desperation and failure. Perhaps even insanity. This is the smell of the crazy homeless person you cross the street to avoid. This may be the way that most people smelled back in the day before indoor plumbing, but it's not the way I'd like to smell.
As it dries, it becomes less human and a little more animal, something more like civet. It becomes more wearable,but that's like saying that being strangled is a bit more personal than being shot.
You're still dead.
But you know what? After about a half hour, I kind of started to like it.
Also from the Coffret my wonderful benefactress sent me a smidge of this one- a strange skin scent with some of the odd sourness of HE (is it cumin?), toned down with something creamy that I can't quite pick out. On me it fades very quickly to almost nothing: a very light musk. I tried adding a bit of Human Existence to it but that didn't help. The Orgie promptly killed off most of the HE, making it quite wearable, but the HE eventually slashed its way back.
Rich Hippie Psychedelic
A polar opposite of the darkness of Human Existence, Psychedelic, as Colombina wrote, is one happy scent: on me it's extremely linear. It smells to me like Orange Marmalade. One of the really expensive ones from England, bursting with orange peel and spices and that bright fizzy smell if home-made vanilla extract(vanilla pods that have been soaked for months in really good vodka) We get very few of the drab, depressing overcast days in Southern California that I remember from my youth in the northeast: if you live there you know the ones: late March when you are convinced that spring is never going to come. This scent would be a happy antidote to those grim days. I can't imagine not grinning ear-to-ear putting this on.
And for those of you who were wondering, Yes I did layer Human Existence with both CB Musk and MKK. Both of them kind of stomped all over HE, MKK let a bit of it through but it just made MKK smell a little, elderly? CB Musk was not letting stop it's little sex party: it rolled right over it. HE was relegated to a distant corner, brooding. Phew! I was scared for a moment there!
The still from Perfume is from perfumemovie.com. The image of the Orange Marmalade with Champagne jar is from fortnumandmason.com.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Perfume Review: Indult Isvaraya, Manakara and Tihota
Indult, a new collection of perfumes from
Isvaraya (“Unto the Supreme”, in Sanskrit). With notes of patchouli, Indian plum tree and jasmine sambac, the scent is a dream of
Manakara, named for the town in
The Indult line is set to be launched in French Sephora exclusively, on January 8th 2007. Only 999 bottles of each scent will be available, each retailing for EUR160 for 50ml. The scents might be released in the States at some point in the future, but nothing has been confirmed. My only hope for getting hands on a bottle of Isvaraya will be eBay.
The images are from indult.fr
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Perfume Review: Yves Rocher Voile d'Ambre
Tom asked last Friday if I could review a twenty dollar scent for a change. I am always up for a challenge, especially the kind that isn’t really challenging at all. In our age of online discount stores and eBay, bargains for all sorts of fantastic scents are only a click away (Yatagan for $25.00, anyone?). Apart from discounted but usually pricey, high-end fragrances, I own and love truly budget perfumes, like Coty Wild Woods and Dana English Leather Musk. Yves Rocher’s Voile d’Ambre, at $23.00 for 1.7oz (never mind that it says on the site that the regular price is $46.00; you hardly ever see Yves Rocher charging regular prices, there are always sales going on), is another cheap-ish favorite in my collection.
Those who are familiar with the company know that for every ten or so bottles of what I call “olfactory filler”, there is a really nice, even, dare I say it, original scent at Yves Rocher. For me, the examples of good quality, interesting Rocher scents would be the dark and brooding Isphahan, the somewhat Poisonesque Nuit d’Orchidee, the ethereal, ladylike Magnolia, the super-cuddly Cocoon and the recent release, Voile d’Ambre, this poor perfumista’s Flowerbomb Extreme. The “poor” comment is not a reflection on the quality of the blend. To me it is right on the level of Flowerbomb Extreme, that is to say it is not a masterpiece of originality at all, but is very pretty and lovable. The two are not by any means identical, however Voile d’Ambre has the same kind of glamorous candied-ness that I like in Flowerbomb Extreme.
Don’t let the word “amber” in the name mislead you into believing that it is an amber-heavy fragrance. The note, although present, is not especially prominent. It serves more as a warm background for the rest of the notes (green mandarin, cardamom, myrrh, incense, opoponax, vanilla, sandalwood and patchouli). Incense and myrrh are also rather subdued if not entirely non-existent. The beginning smells of sugared citrus fruits and sweet spice, the heart is vaguely floral, honeyed, resinous and vanillic, the drydown is a very satisfying blend of soft wood, warm patchouli and more vanilla. Voile d’Ambre is a very attractive scent that feels dressed-up enough to be taken out to a party and yet, because of the vanilla, sweet amber and warm drydown, has a comforting feel. The fragrance is sweet but not cloying. It should suit very well those, who like me, have a soft spot for these kinds of vaguely gourmand compositions.
Voile d’Ambre is available at Yves Rocher, $23.00 for 1.7oz, $9.50 for a 1/2oz and $3.00 for a miniature. The body lotion and shower gel are both really nice as well; they are highly perfumed and very true to the scent of Eau de Parfum.