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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Serge Lutens Rousse at Aedes

My now deeply beloved Rousse is available at Aedes de Venustas, $100.00 for 1.69.oz.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Needle in a Haystack. Perfume Review: L'Artisan L'Ete en Douce

Today's post is a new installment in the Needle in a Haystack series, a joint project between Perfume-Smellin' Things and Aromascope. Ina and I fearlessly delve into the depths of our sample drawers, blindly pick samples and review them. This week, my random sample turned out to be L'Ete en Douce by L'Artisan. The fragrance has been originally released as a limited edition, under the name of Extrait de Songes. Annick Goutal, with their newly released Songes, took issues with the name, and L'Artisan withdrew the scent from the market, and later reissued it as L'Ete en Douce. Airy, gentle, transparent, the fragrance is very summery, very charming, very Giacobetti. Although there is nothing overly feminine in this understated blend, it makes me want to wear a very girly dress with a full skirt, perhaps even white gloves and a sun hat and to smile and twirl and generally behave completely out of character. Since L'Artisan doesn't have an ad for L'Ete en Douce, I decided to help them out. This is what a perfect advertisement for this little charmer of a scent would look like. L'Artisan, you are welcome:

The beginning of the scent scared me a little, in a sense that, with its barely-there musk and a hint of minty greenness, it was practically odor-less. But as soon as I started to grumble that it was yet another one of those scents that take understatement and minimalism to the ridiculous extreme, the floral accord started to blossom. I smelled a little orange blossom and a lot of linden. Now, linden is a very tricky note for me; in a lot of scents it has an incongruously gourmand, almost chocolat-like undertone, whereas I like my linden to smell greener, more ethereal. L'Ete en Douce achieves the desired effect by adding mint and hay to the blend. The former adds diaphanous coolness to the linden, the latter highlights the sweetly-green aspect of the note. The subtly-woody base further dries down (pun intended) the composition; quiet as it is, the fragrance lingers on the skin for quite a long time, finishing its development as a clean, musky skin-scent. L'Ete en Douce is refined and gentle, soft and gauzy; it strikes me as a kind of perfume that would be perfectly suitable for children as well as their elegant mamas. Little Miss Colombina and I must have a bottle for summer.

L'Ete en Douce is available at Barney's, $125.00 for 100ml.

Please visit Aromascope to read about Ina's Needle in a Haystack.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Perfume Review: 40º à l’Ombre, A la Figue!, Corrida and Ipanema by Satellite

Review by Tom

Satellite came onto the scene perfume-wise about a year and a half ago with Padparadscha (at least that's when they hit my radar). Colombina was a rather indifferent to it, I liked it enough to get a full bottle. I have to say that I have not made as many inroads on that bottle as I have with others in my cupboard, but I find it a wonderful circus-of-cedar that brightens up a winter day.

After an 18 month or so silence, Satellite has landed not one or two new ones but four new scents, all in gorgeous jewel-tones (which I would hesitate to spritz on while wearing a white silk shirt for fear of staining) and in bottles updated with caps that have amusing little dependant charms on chains. It should be silly, but it's really charming.

40º à l’Ombre

40º à l’Ombre (100º in the Shade) is described as a "bright, zippy fragrance poured over crushed ice and served in a frosted glass". I personally think that's the perfect description for Eau d'Hadrien, and I dare say I would find Hadrien more refreshing. Not that this is bad, it's a nice orangy-grapefruit fizz with lots of peel, but fairly fleeting. It's lasting power is my only caveat: I spritzed it on at about 5 and it was a distant memory by 6:30.

A la figue!

Desribed as being not overly green for a fig scent and I suppose that is a literal truth. It's not as green as say, salad, but it's still fairly green. I like green so it's not an issue. It does have a wonderfully rounded fruitiness and a quality that they refer to as "creamy" but for me is more like the particular unctuousness of actual figs: California is a big fig producer and there are even fig festivals. This creaminess reminds me of the fig shakes you get at the festivals; milk, ice and that glottal figginess. On a blasting hot day, trust me nothing could be yummier. I can just imagine this would have the same effect.


Corrida is a fruity floral. Did I scare you? Good. It IS a fruity floral, but nothing like one you'll find in a department store. It starts out rich and heady with a boozy shot of black currant, eventually softening and supplanted by sandalwood and white flowers. A bit like being served a vermouth cassis on a deck in the evening with the night-blooming jasmine just starting to be discernible. It wouldn't be the first thing I'd reach for, but I didn't run screaming either, and for me that's saying something. Now I want a Vermouth Cassis. Great.


This one surprised me by being by far the one that I liked the best. Surprised me because of the description (coconut, beach, blah, blah, blah) made me think of about five other scents from CB I Hate Perfume At the Beach 1966 to Bond No. 9 Fire Island. What I got was a very nicely blended skin scent with a hint of suntan lotion, and just enough grapefruit and orange peel to make you feel like vacation in Rio. On me this one is also the most long lasting, and oddly enough, not the first thing I'd reach for on a hot summer day (that's Hadrien; this would be on the list, but rather further down it). However, on a day like you east coasters are having (I got IM's from NY friends complaining about the "winter mix" of snow and sleet this March 16th) I would happily grab this screaming tourqouise vial of liquid happy and spritz away the seasonal affective disorder.

These are available at LuckyScent, at $75 for a nicely sized 100 ml bottle.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Review for Two: L'Artisan Tea for Two

Today Mr. Colombina and I celebrate our fifth anniversary (and they said it wouldn’t last!). To make today’s post a little bit special, we decided to review a scent together. So this is our Review for Two of Tea for Two. The review proves that in the Encyclopedia of Marriage, under the entry Opposites Attract, should be our picture.


Mr. Colombina:

Hell freezes over. And even then only if the fate of the free world depended on it … a gun was at my head … and Allah had 72 virgins waiting for me.

It’s way too “girlie” for me for one thing. And for another, it didn’t smell a thing like tea to me. Perhaps I was too locked in on anticipating REAL tea … Tetley, Red Rose, Lipton, PG Tips … you know … a “cuppa” … an “I’ll get the kettle on/cure-all” proper British cuppa tea!

I suppose I wouldn’t have been so disappointed if I had opened my mind and nostrils to the world of faux teas … IE herbal teas, green teas, fruit teas that never taste like fruit … and all those other “Oh aren’t we so posh” teas that nobody REALLY enjoys drinking but enjoys being SEEN drinking.

So you can keep your Earl Grays, Darjeeling’s, and your Raspberry Royale, and your I even think there’s one called “Camel Meal” … and bring me a proper cuppa. And while you are at it … a proper fragrance that smells like a proper cuppa.


Girlie? GIRLIE? Tea for Two has always seemed firmly unisex to me, with even perhaps just a tiny little hint of being on a masculine side, but OK. It is a shame though that Mr. Colombina disliked it so much…There I was, planning for both of us to wear it on our next holiday together…With it’s warm spices and the smoky, honeyed undertone, Tea For Two strikes me as a very autumnal fragrance. I would love to wear it during a romantic getaway in fall, in an old, small town, somewhere in Europe. Mr. C and I would walk the cobblestone streets, have fantastic meals in small taverns, and get very romantic at night…all the while wafting the double sillage of Tea For Two…But I guess, given his feelings towards this scent, this fantasy is not meant to come true…


Mr. Colombina:

Potpourri. Not that I have any clue what potpourri smells like, or is used for, or any intrinsic value it serves other than to demonstrate that women will spend their money on anything if it’s packaged well and their friends have also spent money on it.

So I say potpourri … which in French means, “over-priced basket of dead leaves” … in the sense of … well it has a (indefinable) smell alright but … so what.


Smoky, rubbery lapsang souchong with a dash of cinnamon and more than a dash of ginger. Warm, but not heavy, bracing, but not harsh, this is one of my most favorite tea scents, one of my favorite L’Artisan perfumes and an overall favorite…All of which makes me wonder, how many of the perfumes I adore and often wear smell disagreeable to Mr. Colombina. Since he has never once complained when I had worn Tea for Two, it means that a) he is reluctant to express his dislike in fear of emotional and other sorts of repercussions; b) the scent smells much better on me; or c) as I don’t ever overapply, he never notices what perfume I wear and is not interested enough to go out of his way and find out. Of the three scenarios, the third seems to be the most likely.


Mr. Colombina:

Something my mother would wear. Now I must state that although much different from my own, I recognize that my mother has her own sense of style. Then again, so does Rip Taylor.

There is something innately old-fashioned about this fragrance. I suppose it could come back, in a retro-way. But I would welcome that about as much as a Flock of Seagulls reunion tour.


Golden foliage, rich, ornamented fabrics, warm, exotic drinks, expensive cigars smoked in a library of an English mansion, crooked lanes of Krakow, Budapest and Oxford, cozy, loved-up days and passionate nights… Tea for Two to me is a perfect example of a truly “niche” perfume, elegantly exotic, off-beat, and very modern.


M. Colombina:

Who died?

Again, I was expecting TEA for two. If you brought me a cup of tea that smelled like this, it would be like bringing me a beer with a lemon wedge stuffed into the bottle. It’s just wrong!

Perfume makers, like tea makers and beer makers, ought to realize that sometimes they do get it right and should just leave well enough alone … rather than adding “complimentary” dashes of this or that.

I mean would the world end if suddenly cinnamon disappeared? It’s time to stop adding extracts of this and a hint of that and just bring me tea … with the bag still in the mug thank you … two sugars and a splash of milk … the way the world is supposed to be.


Who died?

When I first smelled Tea for Two, the words “embalming fluid” swam up to the surface of my horrified mind. I wondered why on earth someone would want to make a perfume that smelled so vile and who on earth would wear it. Fast forward to about a year ago…I don’t know what changed, perhaps my nose has matured, perhaps my perfume-weirdness threshold has become much higher, to the point that hardly anything bar the most disgusting (waves to Secretions Magnifique!) repulses me anymore…but whereas before Tea for Two was nose-burningly sharp and had a disturbing medicinal undertone, these days it is one of my favorite comfort scents, rich, warm, slightly honeyed, gently smoky and enveloping.

My own past experience with Tea for Two makes me hope that one day Mr. Colombina will learn to appreciate it too and will love to wear it… There are also ways to speed the process. Those wily ways consist of lots of flattery, hints that The Scent really, really turns you on, lingering glances that seem to promise things of which he doesn’t dare to dream, lots of eyelash-batting, stockings, a couple of shots of tequila, repeat for a whole week, and voila! Instead of wrinkling his nose and grumbling about “potpourri” and “something burning”, the male suddenly finds himself strangely attracted to a previously disliked fragrance and is eager to wear it every single night. After liberally spraying himself with The Scent, he will linger next to you, making sure you notice that he is wearing The Scent. If your excitement is not apparent and no flattering comments are forthcoming, he will remark, in a very specific tone of voice, with his eyebrow doing that James-Bond-y thing that it does, that he is wearing The Scent. At which point you shrug your shoulders and say, good for you, honey!


Mr. Colombina


Switching to this from my usual favorites (Quorum, Stetson, and thanks to Colombina’s efforts – Yatagan) would be like trading in my Steve Young jersey for a flowery moo-moo.

This scent is to fragrances what REO Speedwagon was to rock ‘n’ roll. It has all the hipness of an “Up With People” concert.

It is in a word … testosternicide.


Warm, comforted, très sophisticated, slightly bohemian…


Mr. Colombina:

On this, the fifth anniversary of Colombina becoming my wife (and though waning, I still suspect she did so having lost a bet with her friends) … I am thankful and blessed and content. Colombina can lose herself in a world of scents that is her own, whilst I (her scentless husband) playfully mock it. But I respect not only her passion for fragrance but the right she has to have her space, her realm, separate from me. I think it’s one of the reason’s our marriage is strong … in that we’ve become one … without losing our senses of self.

Our love has been blessed and made perpetual, with the life we’ve created together … for ourselves … and the actual life we created together… our darling daughter (and future perfumista) T ... she is our “T for Two!”

Colombina … I love you!


Oh you, old mushy. Thank you for tolerating my obsession and for almost voluntarily playing along. I wouldn’t swap you for a bottle of Djedi. And trust me, that means more than “I love you”.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Perfume Review: Etat Libre d'Orange Jasmin et Cigarette

A cigarette stubbed out in a pool of inexpensive jasmine perfume spilled on a table. A bleak morning after a joyless one-night stand, smeared mascara and a general feeling of being unclean and utterly miserable…This is Jasmin et Cigarette. Etat Libre d’Orange cite Hollywood glamour as an inspiration for the scent, but if so, the composition portrays the other, desolate side of glamorous life: the pain of rejection, the bitter taste of unfulfilled ambitions, the empty feeling of eternal loneliness…

There really isn’t much to say in a way of detailed development of this scent. Like with several other scents in Etat's collection, what the name tells you is literally what you get. Jasmin et Cigarette smells of, well, jasmine and tobacco. It is a great combination, with the dry-smoky tobacco adding an attractive husky quality to the sweet flowers. The notes go head to head from the beginning to end, without any sort of noticeable changes. Judging by the fact that the perfume is supposedly a homage to Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, I doubt that the creators purposefully opted for making the scent smell cheap but that is how it smells to me…like a perfume actually meant to appear cheap and jaded, in a totally calculated, stylized manner. If that, and not the usual sensual-bombshell-vamp effect, was what Etat envisioned for Jasmin et Cigarette, then kudos to them. I applaud them for coming up with an olfactory sequel to Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

The redhead will go home with her unexcited companion… To temporarily ease the ache of their loneliness, the two will have fevered and joyless sex…and the next morning the woman will wake up to the smell of a cigarette stubbed out in a pool of her cheap jasmine perfume, to the bleak light of another dreary day.

Jasmin et Cigarette is the one fragrance from the Etat de Libre d’Orange collection that I would like to have in a full size bottle. I would wear it whenever the feeling of absurdity of it all and the existential ennui overtake me…which is practically every day. Jasmin et Cigarette is available at Henri Bendel, $65.00 for 50ml.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Perfume Review: Hampton Sun Privet Bloom

S&G Hampton Sun is a company specializing in luxury sun and skin care products. It was founded by Salvatore Piazzolla and Grant Wilfley, who reside in Manhattan and the Hamptons. Their first fragrance was meant to capture “the essence of the Hamptons” and to speak about the brand’s “core inspiration— the beautiful beaches of Eastern Long Island”. Developed by Ungerer & Company, for whom the partnership with Hampton Sun is the first fragrance venture, Privet Bloom was named after the privet hedges apparently synonymous with the Hamptons, and has notes of lemon verbena, bergamot, white hyacinth, jasmine, linden blossom, gardenia, orangeflower, dune rose, sea grass, cucumber, driftwood and musk. I must say that I am impressed with the fact that a sun-care company opted for a) choosing as their inspiration a destination different from the ubiquitous “topical” one, b) creating a perfume, the smell of which is in no way associated with suntan lotions or anything else stereotypically “beachy”, like exotic cocktails (in other words, for not using a coconut, pineapple, or any other exotically-fruity note), and c) not making it aquatic. It is an unusual and commendable choice for a brand these days to have a green floral as a signature perfume, and, keeping in mind Bill Blass’ recent release, it makes me tentatively hopeful of perhaps a new trend emerging, and the end of the era of fruity-florals. Forever a dreamer, me.

Sadly, I have never summered in Hamptons, so I cannot comment on how true the scent is to the spirit of the area, but it certainly possesses an air of “casual elegance” that would make it entirely appropriate for being worn during a luxurious weekend getaway in a posh mansion. On the other hand, there is a certain untamed, natural, wind-swept feel to the fragrance, which I like, and which makes my mind wonder to the area I actually know - the pale dunes by the cold Baltic sea, somewhere in Jurmala… Privet Bloom is a green floral composition that isn’t fresh as much as it is bracing. Those who don’t love hyacinth, might find the scent to be a little on the harsh side. This is a cold fragrance, with silvery-green, high-pitched notes of lily of the valley and hyacinth, aided by the bright citrusy notes, being much more prominent than the warmer and sweeter notes of linden, rose and orange blossom. Privet Bloom is not a particularly complex scent and does not go through many stages of development; in the beginning the citrus is more apparent, and in the base the appealing green freshness of cucumber surfaces, without watering the scent down or adding the dreaded marine undertone…but mainly the composition is a bouquet of wild flowers gathered during a the romantic walk in the dunes. As I am now in throws of mad love for green/white-floral perfumes, I thoroughly enjoyed Privet Bloom, and would love to have a bottle for summer…I would wear this Hamptons-inspired scent and dream of Jurmala.

Privet Bloom is available at, $65.00 for 1.7oz of Eau de Parfum (this review was of the EDP) and $49.50 for 1.7oz of Eau de Toilette.

The image of the bottle is from, the photo of the beach in Jurmala, Latvia, is from

Sunday, March 25, 2007

On the Wish-List: Penhaligon's Lily of the Valley Candle

Looks exquisite. Smells of lily of the valley. I must have it. $120.00 (ouch!) at Penhaligon's.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Perfume Review and a Rant: Etat Libre d'Orange Vraie Blond

Before I review Vraie Blond, the last aldehyde of this aldehydic week, please allow me to rant a little and get something out of my system.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Parfum est mort, proclaim Etat Libre d’Orange and very modestly proceed to declare that their collection is “clearly a small revolution in the formatted world of perfumes guided by profitability and consumer tests”. Firstly, any line that speaks about itself in revolutionary terms sets my eyes a-rolling. Because frankly, those who talk about “revolution” the most are the ones that deliver the least. The real olfactory revolutionaries are quietly creating truly original, quality scents without making much fuss about their “mission”. It also makes me laugh when lines like Etat boast the fact that they do not use marketing ploys to sell their scents. “Revolutionary” statements and the very bragging about the lack of marketing are just as much of a marketing technique as the usual pretty girl posters we see everywhere. Secondly, when I smell some of Etat’s scents, I find myself ruing the fact that “consumer tests” were not employed. Perhaps some things that the potential customers would have undoubtedly had to say about the fragrances, might have burst the bubble in which the creators of the line seem to exist. For example, a potential customer might have questioned the necessity of creating a “perfume” like Secretions Magnifique. In his email, Tom once called Secretions Magnifique the smell of a mobster washed out of the Hudson river and that to me perfectly sums up this hideous concoction of blood, sperm and fish. Why would a company create a “perfume” that smells like a floater? The only answer that comes to mind is- because they can. But just because science became so advanced that practically any smell can now be replicated, it doesn’t mean that all the smells out there should find their way into perfume, and just because the owners have funds so unlimited that they can make their every perverse idea come into life, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exercise common sense and have a modicum of taste. Yes, there is the “I Hate Perfume” trend in perfumery and perfumers are looking for new and unusual ways to express themselves, but…between true originality and shallow outrageousness lies a world of a difference.

And that brings me to the point of Etat’s advertising images. The line declares itself to be “free from every taboo” and advocates wearing “sexuality like a second skin (…) like a dare”. What with cartoon penises and pubic hair, the mentality of the tres liberated brand seems to me to be reminiscent of that of teenage boys (I hope the boys of 12-14 who have never drew a penis on the wall of the school toilet and then giggled all the way home, feeling very proud about their rebelliousness will forgive my sweeping generalization). In our fairly open-minded day and age, do the creators of Etat still feel so awfully repressed by the rigid moral code that they have to shout about being free from all taboos and shove their sexuality in everyone’s faces? And if they really, really have to, must it be done in such a juvenile, tacky manner?

Etat’s belief that their fragrances are marvels of “olfactory eroticism” seems to me to be touchingly misguided. They say that their perfumes are for “those who no longer want to merge with the mass but who on the contrary want to rediscover perfume of seduction”. What do teenage boys even know about seduction? Please! When I smell Putain de Palaces, Rien, and Nombril Immense, not to mention Vierges de Toreros and Eau de Floater, I don’t feel seduced, I feel assaulted. Many perfumes in the line suffer from the Too Much of a Good Thing disease. Putain, Nombril and, most sadly, Rien (which on paper sounded very “me”) smell too robust, too forceful, like they have too many notes, like the perfumer excitedly threw together all the ingredients he liked and forgot to self-edit…They smell like they were carved out with an axe, as opposed to being intricately sculpted with a finer instrument. Encens et Bubblegum, while, to me, not actually unlikable, smells too simplistic, too Demeter-like in the literal olfactory translation of its title. The same applies to Divin’Enfant. Je Suis Homme and Antiheros, although absolutely wearable and even pleasant, are rather unoriginal and unexciting. I very much liked Eloge du Traitre, but I feel it is imperative for people at Etat to know that Caron called to say they want their Yatagan formula back ... I would sum up my impressions of Etat Libre d’Orange scents and the whole attitude of the line by quoting the fabulous Nina Garcia: Aesthetically Not Pleasing.

There were two scents that I found to be neither repulsive nor too derivative. Revolutionary miracles of modern perfumery they are not, but I would happily wear them. I will talk about Jasmine et Cigarette next week. Today’s perfume is

Vraie Blond

According to the primitive teenage imaginings of the boys at Etat, a real blond has “a full-fledged décolleté, shapely hips and a sensuous catlike walk” (can’t you just see them drooling while writing the description?). Her “perfectly curvaceous body in a sequined lamé dress” is “a Technicolor vision of the American dream”. So she is basically a hussy with no taste in clothes. Luckily, the scent is not nearly as vulgar as the creators want to make it sound. In fact, it is a very pleasant fragrance that speaks to me about youthful prettiness and innocence rather than of tired, crude sensuality.

On a blotter, the crystalline quality and the sparkly effect of the aldehydic top notes are more apparent. On my skin, the scent has a softer, “fluffier”, “thicker” feel. It is a little candy of a scent, redolent of sweet peaches and velvety myrrh. In the middle stage, a “downy” sort of smell that I take to be vanilla mixed with heliotrope emerges, it has a slight almond undertone, which I could do without but which doesn’t bother me much. The drydown is fluffier still and does smell of the promised suede, but the note could have been a little stronger. All in all, the scent is pretty, smiley, playful and very wearable. It is not particularly interesting, but compared to the rest of the line, it is surprisingly tasteful and lovely. I don’t need a whole bottle, that sweet heliotrope-like accord makes Vraie Blond the kind of scent of which I will tire very quickly, but a decant may be in order.

Vraie Blond, and most of the other Etat Libre d’Orange scents are available at Henry Bendel, $65.00 for 50ml. (At least the line is objective enough about their scents not to overprice them. And on that final caustic note- Dixi!)


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Perfume Review: Jean Patou Caline

Câline was released by Jean Patou in 1964 as “the first perfume dedicated to the teenage girls”. In 1984 this elegant “tribute to youth” has been re-issued as a part of Ma Collection, only to be subsequently discontinued with the other eleven wonderful scents. On the subject of Câline being a perfume for “teenage girls”, I have to say that, as much as I hate to generalize (when I was 13, I wore Poison, not a typical teenage choice, is it?) it seems to me that an average teenager accustomed to pinkety-pink, sugary-fruity, Barbie-esque concoctions and rather bland citrus fragrances, which are these days considered to be “youthful” and teen-appropriate, might find Câline to be rather too mature and sophisticated. This is a scent from an entirely different epoch, for very different teenage girls. In the context of here and now, Câline smells like a refined, understated, neutral in the best sense of the word fragrance that a woman of any age (and since it is not in any way overly feminine, a man too!) would find appropriate to wear in practically any circumstances.

The top, aldehydic, notes of Câline are fresh, a little green, slightly bracing. They set a rather solemn tone for the rest of the composition, a tone, which I find very enchanting. The heart, in which I mainly smell silvery, shimmery iris, with maybe just a hint of sweet orange blossom, has unexpected piquancy, a certain mossy earthiness even. The base is dry and ambery, with a surprisingly resinous, even somewhat incensey undertone; the whole effect is simple, uncluttered. This is not a complex scent, but it is one of those fragrances, the seeming simplicity of which is supremely elegant. Delicate, graceful, just a little bit aloof, charmingly somber, Câline to me is a poised young lady with a gentle oval face and serious eyes. She wears gloves and a small hat; she is a ladylike vision from the time that is gone forever. There is a certain melancholic feel about the scent, a certain sense of it being a little out of place in our robust, largely unladylike era, but its understated beauty, the timeless appeal of its elegant notes are the factors that at the same time make it so appealing and so very wearable over 40 years after its release.

Câline has been discontinued, but can sometimes be found on eBay.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Perfume Review: Le Labo Aldehyde 44 (Marina's Take)

Those who do not believe in the importance of skin chemistry, should read other reviews of Aldehyde 44 and then come and smell the scent on my skin. To Tom, Aldehyde 44 smells “of the perfect, most beautiful Spring”, Amy finds it to be “the fizziest, champagne-iest thing” ever, Ina adores its “luscious, rich floral” aspect, Victoria admires the “soft glow and refined structure”, and Patty, whom I envy the most, gets “happiness”. The fragrance, which is one of Le Labo’s locale-specific creations and is only sold in Dallas, is generally - and somewhat jokingly- considered to be rather too refined to be exclusive to Dallas (big hair, oil-money... you saw the eponymous soap-opera, so you know) …not to mention that the very concept of locale-specific fragrances is rather annoying, but I digress…Me, I think Aldehyde 44 is sold in the very right place…Allow me to explain.

Firstly, forget the champagne. On my skin, Aldehyde 44 does not sparkle. The aldehydes here do not have the effervescent effect I usually love about them. They seem…heavyweight, for the lack of a better term…not bubbly, fizzy and lighthearted but rather harsh and forceful. Instead of the elegant radiance of precious stones, I get the blinding light of a humongous fake diamond. We are not talking jewels, we are talking bling. The floral notes seem browbeaten into submission by a very prominent woody accord, which to me has the nose-burning qualities of a hefty dose of guaiac. Tuberose must be given credit, because it certainly tries to be smellable, to soften the sharp corners and to add much-needed creaminess to the very angular composition, but ultimately it fails, defeated by the dark, harsh woods. The woody aspect of the composition and the sober, non-frilly quality of the aldehydes make Aldehyde 44 undeniably unisex, perhaps even with the slightest inclination towards the masculine end of the unisex spectrum.

But what surprised me the most about the development of this scent on my skin, was the amount of musk and the obviously animalic/dirty quality of the note. From the end of the middle stage forward, Aldehyde 44 smells on me like it belongs in Mugler’s Perfume Le Coffret and is closely related to Orgie and not very far removed from Human Existence. It is skanky, sweaty, unwashed and, bizarre as it sounds, sleazy-smelling. I am normally a huge fan of "dirty" scents, and so I am surprised that I am unable to appreciate the animalic side of Aldehyde 44. I suppose that the juxtaposition of the aldehydes, which are typically considered to be “classic” and “refined”, and the dirty base is interesting and shows thinking “outside of the box”, but for some reason it seems incongruous to me and bothers me (perfume impressions are purely subjective and utterly irrational and sometimes one encounters scents, which in a note-by-note analysis and in the overall impression intended by the composition should be a perfect fit for one’s tastes…but the magic doesn’t happen, or worse yet, the scent clashes with one’s …personality? skin chemistry? who knows?). The image that Aldehyde 44 leaves in my mind as it is slowly releasing its base notes on my skin is that of J.R. Ewing…Aldehyde 44 is how J.R. would smell after a night of riding the mechanical bull at Gilley’s bar…and his mistress. And that is why I don’t love Aldehyde 44 and that is why I find it to be entirely appropriate for Dallas…the infamous soap-opera if not the actual city.

And since Le Labo seems to be intent on continuing with their locale-specific line, here is my suggestion for their next scent. I think they should take their concept a step further. Big-city-specific perfumes are not exclusive enough. Le Labo should venture to small countries, the ones that are hardly ever visited by tourists. Now that would really show their pledge to the noble act of bringing back “the days where brands and their soul offered authenticity that deserved that little extra travel commitment”.

I propose they make their next scent a chypre, a fantastically wonderful chypre, and only sell it in one of the smallest countries in the world, like Tuvalu. Everyone knows that we, perfume nuts, would travel very far to get our hands on a good chypre. And just think of how that would boost Tuvalu’s economy! Exclusive AND socially-conscious, what could be better? After that, the only logical step would be to launch their new perfume in space. You can’t get any more exclusive than that.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Perfume Review: Le Labo Aldehyde 44 (Tom's Take)

Review by Tom

Le Labo started out over a year ago, and both Colombina and I quickly found at least one favorite. They have added new fragrances to their line, some of which are location specific. For instance if I wanted to huff Tuberose 40, I would apparently have to go to New York to do so. Well, I have friends in New York, and it's my default vacation destination so this does not get up my nose as far as if there was a new and delicious fragrance that was only available in say, Dallas, where I know absolutely nobody and am likely never to set foot in.

D'oh! Her comes Aldehyde 44.

The official notes are all about the white flowers: jasmine, narcissus, tuberose and of course aldehydes. The aldehyde-phobic needn't pull away in fear here. This juice doesn't have the usual powderiness that seems to be a staple of other aldehyde-heavy classics like Chanel No. 5, and the white flowers, rather than being heady and indolic are very light. So light for me that I don't make out the individual flowers at all, I just get a sense of white florals (I swear Mimosa is in there) and an opening sweetness that's quite heartbreaking. Patty at PerfumePosse had a great review of this where she wrote that it embodies happiness: a "..happiness that is complex and embraces all of life’s sorrow and joy. For me the opening smells of the perfect, most beautiful Spring, and the knowledge that there must inevitably be a Fall. Or an adult seeing a youngster in the full first flush of love and knowing that there might be heartbreak in the future. As the scent develops, so do the flowers, becoming more luscious with the addition musk and finally harder with the addition of woods. Oddly for a scent that reads like you should be able to smell it from space, it stays extremely close to the skin.

This one is working my very last nerve. Dallas?!? DALLAS? First of all, are they have to realise that this is going to be decanters early Christmas present, right? Second, with all due respect to any Texans out there, but does this sound like it has anything to do with Dallas? It's so obvious that it should be sold out of Los Angeles! I'm not (only) being selfish here. I've often thought that there should be a scent that encapsulates my adopted home, I've even made up notes for it. This one screams "Hollywood": the sparkling happy ingenue opening deepens over time into a lusher, more intense middle and a slightly brittle, blasted-bud finish. It reminds me of what F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of Joan Crawford (in her younger days, before she became the clench-jawed beetle-browed robot we all remember from the 60's):

"[She] is doubtless the best example of the flapper, the girl you see in smart night clubs, gowned to the apex of sophistication, toying iced glasses with a remote, faintly bitter expression, dancing deliciously, laughing a great deal, with wide, hurt eyes. Young things with a talent for living."

Le Labo, when you do finally do Los Angeles, you better be good. Really good.

Aldehyde 44 is (Clenching jaw more firmly than Joan in "Best of Everything") only available at Barneys in Dallas for $230 for 1.7 ounces or $360 for 3.4 ounces. I am trying my best to ameliorate my annoyance by the first part of that sentence by repeating to myself the second part with prices. So far, it's helping.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Perfume Review: Chanel No. 22

There is a little bit of mystery surrounding Chanel No. 22 (which, of course, makes it all the more appealing). On the one hand, according to, the scent was named after the year in which it was created, 1922. On the other hand, it is also said that the fragrance “was presented in 1928 to a world yearning for lightness to dispel the gloom of difficult economic times”. According to the cute and amazingly uninformative little book that accompanies Les Exclusifs, No. 22 is “a light variation of the brilliant No. 5”, and it thus might be possible that No. 22 was one of the mods given to Chanel by Ernest Beaux, among which she has chosen the variation that became No. 5, and No. 22 was returned to a year later and became a “white floral” to match Chanel’s new White Look.

Has it been up to me back then to choose a favorite between “the mod No. 5” and “the mod no No. 22”, I would have undoubtedly chosen the latter, and Marilyn Monroe would have famously worn to bed a scent as elegantly aldehydic and abstract as No 5, but a little warmer, a little earthier. Who knows how that extra little bit of warmth might have changed her life…but I digress. I have to respectfully disagree with the people at Chanel about No. 22 being a “light variation” of No. 5. Firstly, the former seems to me to be as full-bodied a scent as the latter, albeit a little softer, a little smoother. Secondly, although following the same abstract trend and featuring the same hefty dose of aldehydes, No. 22 is otherwise an entirely original composition that should be judged on its own merit and not as a “variation” of another fragrance.

The beginning of No. 22 has a joyous, vibrant feel brought on by the aldehydes: the top notes are sparkling like precious stones and effervescent like the most expensive of champagnes. The bright effect is softened a little by the presence of orange blossom, which here smells creamy and powdery, somewhat along the lines of the orange blossom in Patou’s Divine Folie, only much less sweet. The note in No 22 has the same “retro cosmetics” undertone that makes me think of vintage face powders and lipsticks. And so there you are, having a wonderful time, sipping champagne, checking in the mirror your perfect makeup and your jewels, and not expecting any special surprises from a lovely Chanel scent you are wearing, when –Whoosh! – out of nowhere appears a humongous, incredibly luscious, heady bouquet of the buttery tuberose and the creamy ylang-ylang and the slightly peppery carnations…The flowers come accompanied by a very distinct and very unexpected incense note. Judging by what I read on various forums, the world is divided into two groups: those who get the incense in No 22 and those who don’t. Personally, from the beginning of the middle stage forward, I smell a lot of incense in No 22, to the extent that, if I were to describe the perfume in three words, I would have characterized it as Aldehydic-Floral-Incensey. Incense is like a black thread running though the whiteness of the composition, binding together the stems of the white flowers comprising its bouquet.

That incense note and the warm, woody, earthy base of vanilla, amber, sandalwood, musk and vetiver are the factors that make No 22 so special for me and so preferable to the cold, marble beauty of No 5. These surprisingly sweet, slightly balsamic, rather brooding notes breath life into a very elegant, very beautiful and very classical blend…Without the prominent incense, vetiver and amber, No 22 would have been a blushing bride getting married in a veil, with eyes cast modestly down…With addition of the darker notes, it is that same bride, in the same creamy-white trousseau, hiding under her veil and in her downcast eyes a dark little secret and a knowing smile.

The No 22 that I am describing comes from a pre-Exclusifs bottle. If you have smelled the new No 22, please share your impressions and comparisons.

Chanel No 22 is now part of Les Exclusifs de Chanel collection and is only sold in selected Chanel boutiques and Bergdorf Goodman, $175.00 for 200ml.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Next week...

...All Aldehydes, All The Time. Five reviews of four scents featuring aldehydic notes are coming up.

Aldehydes are an important group of chemicals derived from natural and synthetic materials. "They help to reproduce the odors of certain plants, provide individual scents of their own, and will enrich and strengthen a fragrance."(Nigel Groom) "Aldehydes add a vivid, quick quality to top notes. variations can be powdery, fruity, green, citrusy, floral or woody." (Jan Moran)
The photo of Ernest Beaux, the Pioneer of Aldehydes, is from

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wearing my favorite green scent, Eau Noire. As Mr. Colombina is a little Irish, there will be some celebratin' later tonight. Have a great day, everybody!

Friday, March 16, 2007


Still feeling ridiculously under the weather. Please forgive the absence of a review today. It's not that my sense of smell has gone (surprisingly, it hasn't), it is that the brain refuses to work in any sort of creative way. I am making myself comfortable by wearing Rousse. I went from feeling meh about it to falling madly in love. Spraying it on instead of dabbing makes all the difference. When sprayed, it smells more intense and much more complex, it envelopes one in a mist that is warm but not overwhelming. Dabbing really doesn't do Rousse any justice.

Stay healthy and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Perfume Review: Jean Patou Joy, Ma Liberte, Cocktail and Pan Ame

Review by Tom

Today, I am going to review a few fragrances of one of my favorite houses, Jean Patou. The reviews are going to be pretty random, since they are reviews of beensy bottles I got on eBay for about six bucks apiece.

I'm not going to write a real review here of Joy, since I don't have it and don't feel the need to actually go out and smell it to refresh my memory (My friend Johanna wears it beautifully and often). It's of course a perfect frisson of jasmine and roses, its opening with a bright shock of green, its drydown with a darker shock of civet. It's perfect, it's classic, it's criminally overlooked. Sad that so many women today eschew these fragrances in the pursuit of ever-more frilly and sparkly little-girl fragrances: ladies, little girls do not have power, or magic, or allure (if the man you're dating disagrees, RUN), WOMEN do. Joy, and scents like them are scents for women: utterly feminine, but with the strength and allure that adulthood and experience brings.

Ma Liberte

Created (according to Basenotes) in 1987, and since killed off, Ma Liberte opens with a soft lavender cut with the slightest whiff of tobacco: the kind in Tabac Blond. There's helitrope and citrus in there as well, and as it dries, there's a very powdery patchouli (don't be scared, it is faint) as well as cedar and sandalwood. Reading what I have written, this reads like a mens cologne, but that's totally not the case. It's very feminine, but I can see where it may have been lost in the sea of new releases: this whispers when most other fragrances of that decade shouted themselves hoarse.


Launched in 1930, this chypre apertif opens with a sparkle of citrus and lavender, every bit as crisp and refreshing as a martini made with one of those trendy bespoke vodkas. Honeysuckle, hyacinth and clove come in as the scent becomes more of a chypre and less of a cocktail. The drydown is very dry indeed; the flowers are never overpowering. This smells to me what Myrna Loy would have worn for drinks on the terrace at the Hotel Bel-Air. It's, well, classy: the female equivalent of Royal Bain du Caron, which is what William Powell would be wearing as he refreshed Myrna's vermouth-cassis and lit them cigarettes. Needless to say, this one I'd buy a full bottle of. (in a small voice) I could get away with it!

Pan Ame

Fruity floral? Arrgh! Right?

I should hate this, but somehow I can't: the fruit note really is true to the slightly sweet woodiness of the way the pear smells, and the floral is more like a leafy greeness (it's supposed to be "violet leaves). Sandalwood and musk (surprisingly musky) ground the scent. It's not me at all (and I actually am not sure that it's going to be the bulk of the commenters either) but I do like it's spunky, happy fizz.

Joy, is of course available at fine deparment stores. Personally, I say damn the torpedoes and go for the full-on perfume versions. The older Patous (which I would love to sample) were available at the now sadly defunct Bullocks Wilshire, which had a truly spectacular first floor fragrance department (an atop which the climax of "Ghostbusters" was filmed). That they are not all more widely available to appreciate is very sad indeed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Perfume Review: Barbara Bui Le Parfum

Barbara Bui's style is typically described as minimalist, "urban modernist", evocative of the duality of "yin and yang", strength and softness. If ever there existed a fragrance perfectly fitting into the overall aesthetics of a fashion brand that launched it, it is Barbara Bui Le Parfum. The scent has a wonderfully uncluttered feel; its "lines" are clean, its colors understated. It skims the body and floats around it like a seemingly simple Bui garment, in pale beige silk.

On my skin, Le Parfum goes through three rather distinctive stages. It starts with a softly-candied floral accord. I smell mostly heliotrope, a note, which, when used in moderation, like here, is capable of creating an enveloping, pleasantly "fluffy", slightly-sugary effect, which I find very comforting. In the second stage, incense becomes very apparent. To me, the presence of incense is what makes Barbara Bui Le Parfum interesting and original. It is that little twist that I adore in fragrances. It is unexpected. After the somewhat sweet beginning one anticipates the continuation and intensification of the theme of candied florals. Instead, the scent becomes drier, and acquires a tranquil, almost meditative quality. From being "just" pretty, it suddenly transforms into something elegant and a little unconventional. The base finishes the development with a slightly peppery, lightly balsamic, woody touch. Whenever I smell Bui, I have a feeling that it is what Kenzo people wanted their Amour to smell like but did not succeed in achieving quite the same effect, simply because they did not add to their scent enough incense.

Barbara Bui Le Parfume is one of the most versatile perfumes I own. It can be taken absolutely anywhere. It is as appropriate for a casual stroll on the town as it is for visiting a sick relative or attending a black-tie affair. It is also one of my favorite comfort scents, and my go-to scent, which I invariably choose if nothing else feels quite right. As far as I understand, Le Parfum can only be purchased from Barbara Bui store: 115 Wooster St., New York, NY 10012 . Tel.: 212-625-1938 When I called to inquire about the exact price of Le Parfum, I was told that Bui is not making this scent anymore, not because it wasn't selling well, but because the company had problems with the scent manufacturer. I was also told there might be another fragrance coming instead, but nothing is certain. How sad.

...And to dispell the blues...there is a Quiz going on at Made by Blog...Any cinema-maniacs and fans of Insolence out there? This is the quiz for you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Perfume Review: Christian Dior Diorama

You are going to the Opéra and are dressed in the most expensive of silks and furs. You are rather bored with your adoring companion and spend the drive looking with slight disdain from the window of the Rolls at the nocturnal Paris. Your nose buried in the collar of your mink coat, you find yourself delighting in tonight’s perfume. You wonder if you could possibly be smelling melons, their luscious scent bursting with sunshine. There is something sparkly in this fragrance, almost champagne-like. Combined with the fruits (you think there might also be peaches and plums), the fizzy note seems so wonderfully joyful, like a happy smile…no, more than that- like unrestrained laughter…it is almost out of place in your life, which lately seems plagued by ennui.

In the Opéra, your carelessly shrug off your furs into the arms of your escort. The show is dull and too long. The only exciting aspect of the evening seems to be your perfume. Every time you get little whiffs of it, your heart flutters a little. Never before did you find a scent to be not simply agreeable, but as meaningful and beautiful as a peace of art. Discretely smelling your wrist, you realize that the scent has changed, and although a little of the fruitiness you liked in the beginning still lingers, white flowers are now in full bloom, mostly jasmine, with perhaps some roses thrown in for good measure. They smell intoxicating, like a garden at night…pitch-dark night somewhere far, far away from here, somewhere exotic, where the life is full of danger and ardor…

During the intermission, you sip champagne, enjoying just a little bit the admiring stares of the men and the furtive jealous glances of their women. Your perfume smells warmer now; there is something underneath those heady white flowers that is downright dirty ..Something that smells like soil in the garden at night, the soil on which you’d lie in a passionate embrace with someone dark and gorgeous, someone who excites you, who makes your knees weak and your mouth dry…You smile at your lover thinking, what a shame it is that he can never be that somebody…You tell yourself that you must get out of the relationship that has become so tedious and stifling.

On the way home you decide that you will break up with your lover as soon as the car stops, before he suggest he sees you inside. Nose buried in a collar of your fur-coat, you marvel at what a total waste of a beautiful evening this outing has proved to be. Breathing in the warm, slightly spicy, strangely comforting notes of your perfume, you suddenly feel as if your heart might simply burst with hope and anticipation of a new beginning…Admiring the lights of Paris, you think of what a bizarrely absurd thing this life is…absurd and beautiful.

Diorama is available at Harrods and at Dior's Boutique Avenue Montaigne in Paris, tel. 00 33 1 40 73 57 95 .

The first image is from

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Monday, March 12, 2007

From the Mouths of Husbands: A New Launch from the House of Mr Colombina

In a man’s world, there are five senses. Sight is first, and all the others are tied for second.

The male of the species does not associate memories with smells like women do. Therefore I took it as a tremendous challenge to design, create and promote my own male cologne.

How the thing is actually going to end up smelling is far down the list of importance. Firstly, it needs a name. The name of the cologne is way more important than it’s scent. It needs to sound masculine …slightly macho …fun but slightly dim …and definitely not girlie.

After minutes of careful study and with “you better get this done today because otherwise, I have nothing to post” Colombina deadline pressure looming, I have the name … the name of the newest men’s fragrance that will have the men’s counter at Macy’s looking like a Soviet bread queue.

The House of Mr. Colombina proudly announces the release of …. (drum roll)

…The new smell that is …. masculine …very macho …fun but slightly dim …

“Diesel” pour homme!

Could anything possibly sound more manly?

Well that’s half the battle won. Now I suppose I should … I don’t know … figure out what this stuff will smell like.

Now keep in mind, I have no clue as to how essences are actually gathered, manufactured, obtained, or otherwise how they actually get in the bottle. So putting the technical stuff aside, I am just going to gather all the stuff that emits the smells I want, throw them all in a big hopper and shake it up a few times.

Naturally, we need some diesel smells. So I need a locomotive, a late 1980’s model of a Volkswagen Rabbit and for the sake of it …one of Vin’s t-shirts.

But I … (as instructed by Colombina … who’s battling a wicked cold with the patience of a medieval pillager) … am supposed to include some smells that have some sort of subconscious value or treasured memory to me. Hmmmm …

I know for example that leather scents are popular. But what leather scent stirs fond memories for me? At least one I can tell Colombina about. I mean after five years of marriage, I still have some secrets and we’re not quite ready to go down the path of my former German girlfriends.

Actually, the leather scent that does stir some fond memories … and only the American and Latin American males will relate …is the smell of a brand new baseball glove. A new baseball glove is perhaps the only thing in a male’s life that starts out all stiff and hard, that he wants to make softer and supple. This is done by purchasing the glove in late autumn … soaking it in baseball glove oil – yes there is actually such a product and I would wear it by itself as a cologne – and then inserting a ball … (a BASEBALL, for those of you putting in your own jokes) … and tying it up with string. You then let the glove sit all winter (usually under your bed) and then by springtime, your new glove is broken in and ready to use.

I know from Colombina telling me about some specialty fragrance company, that there is at least one company selling bizarre sort of every-day scents like brewing coffee and baking bread. I don’t want one of those smells specifically. However, I would like one specific domestic smell as one (of many) ingredients in “Diesel.”

I have always been fond of the smell of Bacon! From our days in England, Colombina will recall that I was a master of the weekend morning “British Fry-Up.” This is a gluttonous concoction of so-called breakfast foods that really amounts to about a week’s worth of food for anyone who is not in England. For breakfast, they fry up some eggs, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, french fries (chips), and baked beans and then serve it up with about a loaf and half of toast and a pot of fresh tea.

Another perhaps strange smell that invokes some fond memories for me is the smell of vinyl. This has nothing to do with former German girlfriends. (Perhaps a few Norwegian ones though). Actually, it takes me back to my youth, when my family had an above-ground swimming pool. Unlike cement-based in ground pools, the above-ground variety had a vinyl lining. At the beginning of every summer we would have to scrub the winter’s dirt from the vinyl with soapy water, before refilling the pool for the summer. It’s a similar scent I suppose to “new car smell” if you buy a new car with vinyl seats, but it becomes distinctive with the elements of soap and water.

And then for good measure, throw in the smells of my grandma’s house (a mix of moth balls and litter box), a hint of chlorine (from the swimming pool), a dash of Cuban cigars (contraband in the USA but readily available in the UK) and a smattering of stinky cheese.

One manly ingredient …that is as much a must to a real man … as a pair of Jimmy Choos was to Carrie, Miranda, Samantha & Charlotte …is the smell of lighter fluid. Not cigarette lighter fluid, mind you; but the smell of barbecue lighter fluid. Remember, there is only one rule when it comes to lighting a barbecue … you can never put too much lighter fluid on the fire. Ideally you’d like the flames to be visible from the space station!

Also getting lobbed into my hopper will be miniscule amounts of motor oil, airplane model glue, freshly mown grass clippings and some pine tar (another baseball smell – it’s rubbed on the baseball bat so you don’t lose your grip).

And finally, I need to include some sweat. Firstly, I am not talking about, “I just finished a ‘fun-run’ for some inane charity" kind of sweat. I am talking about two kinds of sweat: the sweat of a beautiful woman (a goddess like Colombina, for example) in the throes of passion...

...And secondly the type of sweat that only comes from youthful exuberance and the rush of adrenaline one can only attain while doing something a little bit naughty, like buying your first girlie mag when you’re underage from a drug store on the other side of town.

One childhood memory smell that I have no idea how to capture but is a real smell … I swear it … is when I was younger and perhaps even today …there was a smell in the early winter, when you could tell the first snow storm of the season was looming.

And my piece de resistance, in making “Diesel” THE man’s fragrance to have is that it will not be sold at department stores or boutiques or even on-line but available ONLY at hardware stores!

Picture in the pool is of The Colombinas. Picture of the barbeque shows Mr Colombina attempting to get flames whilst English weather reduces them to smoke.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

On a To-Try List: Jovan Mink + Pearls

Mink and pearls, very me. And the notes sound fantastic: aldehydes, hyacinth, galbanum, clary sage, bergamot, jasmine, narcissus, jonquil, rose, carnation, tuberose, patchouli, castoreum, amber, tonka, moss, leather, musk.

If you have tried this scent, please share your impressions!

The info is from H&R Fragrance Guide: Feminine Notes, 1984. The image is from

Friday, March 09, 2007

Needle in a Haystack. Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Chene

I often lie awake at night and dream of a perfect storage solution for my samples and decants. The storage of my feverish dreams is an impossibly-high-tech, or rather sci-fi container disguised as an antique cabinet… Inside…is an infinite space …At a push of a sequence of silvery buttons, the desired vial is brought out from the depths of the “cabinet” with a swoosh of invisible robotic hands… No more panicked rummaging through numerous boxes, no more swearing in the manner that would shock even the most foul-mouthed fishwife, no more unidentifiable samples without labels, no more having to empty out the whole drawer just to find that one tiny little vial, that needle in a haystack…

In reality, my samples are kept in what a friend would call an organized chaos, and a foe would rightfully identify as a mess. On a good day, the newly arrived samples are immediately categorized as Reviewable and Non-Reviewable. (On a bad day they are just dumped on my desk and sit there till a good day comes.) The Non-Reviewable samples are put into either the Somehow Get Rid Of Box or the Don’t Want to Review but Can’t Part With Yet box. The lucky Reviewables are placed into this 12"x7"x7" chest…

…and there they stay, patiently awaiting their destiny…At night, when all is quiet, you can hear the Etat Libre d’Orange samples whimpering in horror, they know that the Review Day is upon them… Some wonderful treasures (the vintage Diors! the old, obscure Guerlains!) have been in that chest for over a year, because I am either too intimidated by their beauty to dare to write about them or because their reviews keep getting postponed in favor of the never-ending new releases…It is entirely possible that some samples will still be in the box, a decade from now.

I tried dealing with the backlog of samples by having Sniffathons, but those are awfully exhausting. The solution was arrived upon by the super-smart Ina of Aromascope who came up with the idea of the Needle in a Haystack post, which from now on will become a regular feature on our blogs. The sample (or decant) of the day will be chosen by each of us blindly (no cheating allowed) and promptly reviewed. And this is how I have chosen my first Needle in a Haystack. I closed my eyes, stuck my hand into the Reviewables Chest, groped about, clutched a random sample, prayed the random sample won’t turn out to be Gucci Rush or POTL, opened my eyes and saw…Chêne.

Chêne is one of the Serge Lutens scents (or scents in general) that I should have loved but didn’t. With notes of oak bark, cedar, birch, immortelle, tonka bean, rum, black thyme and beeswax, it seemed to have my name written on it in bold capital letters. Yes somehow it left me cold. Yes, I acknowledged its spicy-woody gorgeousness, but the earth refused to move even a little bit when I wore Chêne. And such sad state of affairs would have probably continued were it not for Ina’s Needle in a Haystack idea. Reluctantly I applied Chêne, bracing to write a blah review about a Lutens fragrance…and the magic finally happened! What used to be too-sharp, became intriguingly astringent; the perfume, which was too dry, suddenly acquired a succulent, unexpectedly sweet undertone.

Chêne opens up on me with an accord that I can only describe as a smell of spicy prunes. The bitter woods seem to be paired with a fruity, boozy note, and the resulting luscious piquancy is incredibly attractive. As the scent progresses, the “fruits” disappear and the complex, opulent woody accord begins to showcase its numerous facets. The woods of Chêne are smoky, dry, spicy, velvety, warm; practically every characteristic that can be attributed to a woody note is present here. I adore the stage when the intense herbaceousness of the thyme and the sweet, green “meatiness” of immortelle become apparent. The base is a sophisticated affair in reddish-brown and dark-green, with the fiery woods, the slightly medicinal rum and the sweet, sweet tonka enveloping the wearer in a magical, deep, alluring sillage that only Lutens is capable of creating…The good news is that now I have another Lutens fragrance to love. The bad news is that I urgently need yet another bell jar… oh well!

Chêne is available exclusively at Salon du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris, €100.00 for 75ml.

Please visit Aromascope to read about Ina's Needle in a Haystack.

The first image is from the second is my own, the third is from