Friday, August 31, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The Hidden Life of a Fragrance Addict: An Interview with Tom
I realized early on that I wanted to know more about Marina and about Tom after reading their reviews day after day. Oh, I would get snippets of memories and pieces of stories but they weren’t enough. What makes them tick? What do they do when they aren’t writing reviews or answering their many fans’ questions? I have to admit that any time I am thinking of buying something “unsniffed”, I write to Marina for advice. You are going to notice that a lot of the questions I asked to Marina and Tom are similar…OK, so sue me. (To read Marina’s interview check out the post on August 15th, 2007)
Tom has been so kind over this past year by giving me loads of praise for my reviews but also by sending me lots of samples (this was how I discovered my new love, Annick Goutal’s Sables). I want to share an interview that took place over the past few weeks by email. He was very kind and open about all aspects of his life. And, did I mention that he is very funny?
Tom, my year anniversary with PST is [in August] and I want to do something a little different so I thought maybe I would interview both you and Marina. So, what do you think?
Sure. As long as you don't ask me my real age or weight. Oh wait, it's the internet, I can lie!! Fire away and happy anniversary!
Tom lets start this interview with a little background information. Why don't you tell us where were you born and how many siblings you have? Are you the oldest child? What jobs did your parents have while you were growing up?
I was born in a small college town in Western Massachusetts, now known as the Lesbian capital of the US. For a small town it was fairly cosmopolitan since there were (are) five colleges in the area. It was a nice place to grow up: close enough to Boston and New York to be able to make day trips but still rural enough to be able to get lost in the woods, and with a lot of wonderful cultural activities available.
I am the middle child with an older brother and a younger sister, from whom I am very different: I think they rather roll their eyes at some of my pretensions. My mother ran the household while my father was the equivalent of an Admiral in the Merchant Marines, which would take him away for months at a time. At the time much was made of this by some people in our town. Questions were raised about how we children were being "affected". Of course, children will parrot what their parents say, so some kids in the neighborhood would try to tease me about it. Being a child who was precocious bordering on the diabolical I merely pointed out that when my dad was home, he was “home”: he drove us to school, picked us up, played ball, and made sure we did our homework- and he came home from work after those months with incredible presents. Their dad came home from work at 6, sat on the sofa and got drunk.
Shockingly I had only a few good friends...
In high school, did you belong to any clubs? What were your passions/hobbies? If you went to college, what was your major? What was your first cologne? Any special memories associated with it?
Nope, [there were] no clubs. My hobbies were reading and art, which led to me majoring in art in college. I believe Eau Sauvage was the first cologne I had but it holds no special memories for me: I still wear it!
Since you were an art major, did you do anything with your art? What do you do now?
I draw for fun, but I don't use art in my day job.
Do you have anything scanned in that we can use as an example of your work for the interview?
No, I rarely keep any of it.
What is your job? Are you a male prostitute? A spy? A drug dealer? I know, if you tell me you will have to kill me right?
Nothing that interesting. I work in finance.
So, how did you end up in California?
I first came out to California in 1984 to work at the Olympic Arts Festival from New York. I was here for about three months and was so homesick I practically cried through "Ghostbusters" When I got back to my crummy place in the East Village, I was like "what was I thinking?", Five years later I had an offer from friends to move back and stay with them, and I took it.
What are your favorite things to do in Los Angeles?
My favorite thing to do in Los Angeles is drive. A lot of the best things about architecturally are pretty much only available to see by car: architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, Schindler, Lautner, Eames, Ain and non-modernists such as Paul Williams, John Woolfe, Roland Coate and early architects such as Roy Seldon Price, the Greenes and Gordon Kaufman are far flung enough or up in the hills enough that doing a tour is easier by car. I no longer have a convertible, but my next car will be one. There is nothing more wonderful than a drive on a warm LA evening along Mulholland from Hollywood to Bel Air along Mulholland with the top down: the scent of jasmine palpable and the twinkling lights of the valley below are a lovely carpet. LA at my feet.
There is of course also going to the movies at some of the surviving movie palaces from the 20's and 30's. Graumann's Chinese is still there, as is the el Capitain (showing Disney movies). Graumann's Egyptian was spared from the wrecking ball, a bad 60's remodel and the '94 earthquake by the American Cinematheque, who restored it to it's slightly loony Egypro-Hollywood glory and shows a spate of revivals there. Sadly, Beverly Hills has been less fortunate, allowing the Warner theater to be torn down in '88 and what was left of the Beverly Theater to be razed a couple of years ago.
Favorite book (OK you can list more than one)
I have way too many favorite books to list, but near the top of them is E. F. Bensons Lucia novels. I just finished a biography of Morris Lapidus, the architect who went from darling of the intelligentsia to pariah when he went dropped modernism and started designing kitsch palaces like the Fontainbleu and the Eden Roc.
Again, way too many to list, but "Death Becomes Her" is up there. I tend to like classic movies (at least the ones that I buy on DVD) but I admit to owning both "Showgirls" and "Basic Instinct 2", and enjoying every second of their awfulness.
A long list as well. Right now I am listening to Mark Ronson, Charles Trenet, the new Joan Armatrading, Nouvelle Vague, the new Scissor Sisters and the new Bjork (which I don't think is that great)
Can I ask some personal questions?
Yes, but I might not answer them.
Gemini. I share a birthday with Nicole Kidman. I am of course far, far younger ;-)
Chinese astrological sign?
Yes, once on the boat to Provincetown from Boston. I was annoyed that he wouldn't tell me how long I would live.
Have you ever had a mystical experience?
What do you think your purpose/destiny is (why are you here)?
To Annoy. I am really not sure I believe in destiny: sometimes I really think we're just plonked here and what we do with our lives is entirely up to us.
Let's talk about the gay thing now. When did you figure it out? Do you think being gay has impacted your life choices and if so how? What is your most romantic memory? Do you feel that being gay was a choice? Have you ever been the victim of anti-gay attitudes? Who do you have a crush on? Do you have a significant other? (Am I really nosy or what?)
I think I always knew I was gay, and if wasn’t, I most likely would have stayed in my hometown, gotten married and worn Madras. I do wear the Madras, but with a distinct sense of irony. And Prada sneakers.
I think my most romantic memory was one of those "gotcha" moments that life sometime hands you: I spent a wonderful afternoon in the Berkshires, getting to my lovely Inn at about 4 to one of those fluffy snowstorms that are lovely but won't cause power outages, but still have enough stick to them to make snow angels followed by a romantic and delicious dinner in a cozy restaurant in town, then back to the fire-lit room for an aperitif and... reading my book since I was there with my BFF Bitsy. But you know, I am not sure that I would have had a better time with a romantic partner.
I feel that my sexuality is no more a choice than me having green eyes and pale skin. I don't know that I have been the victim of anti-gay attitudes; if I have at least they had the good taste not to broadcast it. Except for pinheads who yell out of car windows, but that hasn't happened in years- perhaps because I am tall, well built and not very nice.
Not that there would be any reading here but can anybody explain the sport in driving through a gay neighborhood and yelling things? Its West Hollywood people, what were you expecting to find? Migrating Wildebeest? We don't go to Mar Vista and diss your curtains or your flat asses, do we?
I don't have a crush on anyone at the moment, I don't have a significant other, and yes, you are [nosy]. But that's okay.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only 10 bottles of fragrance, what are the 10 that you couldn't live without and why?
Well, I am sure the list will change, but as of now:
MKK because I would want something a little sexy.
CB Cradle of Light because it's so freaking lovely
French Lover because even on a deserted island I might want to feel a little dressy.
Reverie au Jardin because when I get sick of the island I can imagine a country garden.
SL Encense et Lavande for the same reason, but insert mountain church.
L'Air de Rien because its Veddy Jane Birkinness would do the same, with that musty house.
Kolnisch Juchten because its smoky, fatty yumminess would assuage my boredom with eating fish and fruit.
Caron Nuit de Noel because Christmas Eve on a deserted island would be helped- and there would have to be a bunch of Christmas Eves.
Dior Diorissimo would keep me from getting too homesick with its flowers.
And an underground reservoir of Annick Goutal Hadrien, because it's so refreshing, and in case this is one of those deserted islands lacking spa services.
What are a couple of your favorite scent memories?
Fall in New England, with the still warm days that have just a touch of that goose-over-your-grave chill that says winter's coming; the scent of leaf piles.
Early summer thunderstorms in New York: sudden torrential rains, lilacs and the smell of ozone.
Late summer drives along Mulholland in my old convertible: air so dry it feels like a hair dryer, jasmine and old car.
Is there anything else you would like your many fans to know about you?
I accept PayPal. ;-)
Thanks for being such a good sport.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
This week I started working for L'Artisan Parfumeur, and I thought it would be fair to let you know about this. Perfume-Smell' Things has always been and will always be my own private blog, not affiliated with the company that employs me, and it will, of course, keep going with five posts a week, as usual.
Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Sarrasins
Sarrasins is the latest addition to Serge Lutens's exclusive collection, described by the creators as "a sumptuous jasmin which smoothes its fur... a sigh of time" and "a stunningly beautiful jasmine, gloved in jet-black ink". Compared to Lutens's first ode to jasmine, A La Nuit, Sarrasins is sweeter and softer and perhaps even more "nocturnal". Whereas A La Nuit is a radiant vision of intoxicating white flowers, dazzlingly white and starkly contrasted to the blackness of the night, the jasmine in Sarrasins appears to me as if cast out of the darkness itself, an indistinct, shadowy shape blending with the onyx sky.
Sarrasins also strikes me as less of a pure jasmine, less of a soliflore than the gloriously true to life A La Nuit. There is honeyed, almost smoky sweetness in Sarrasins and an unexpectedly tobacco-like undertone, which certainly add intrigue to the blend but at the same time somewhat overwhelm the luminous and slightly animalic beauty of the jasmine. The scent has a strangely artificial feel, something raw, metallic, a little tangy. The artificiality seems entirely intentional, the effect purposefully designed to create a twist, to attempt that ugly-beautiful quality Lutens usually does so well. (Also note the conspicuous unnaturality of the unbelievably purple color of the juice.) Heaven knows, I wanted to love a new Lutens creation - and a jasmine at that! - but somehow Sarrasins falls flat for me. I can't put my finger on what it is exactly that disappoints me; my feeling of dissatisfaction is as hazy as the scent itself. Everything about the fragrance seems half-hearted to me; the jasmine is not allowed to fully shine and the "special effects" of smoke, ink and sweetness are not bold enough to seem truly original. The scent is very pretty and extremely wearable. I, however, hoped Sarrasins would do for jasmine what Tubereuse Criminelle did for tuberose, turning the flower into an odd and oddly compelling haute couture creation.
Sarrasins will be available at Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido starting from September 1.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Botrytis, Sauvignonne and Le Boisé by Ginestet
Review by Tom
Last week March posted about sweet scents loved and loathed, and commenters Teri and Sweetlife reminded me of the delicious Ginestet Botrytis; a lucious scent that I had tried but never reviewed. Ginestet is a French vintner of renown, founded 100 years ago in Bordeaux. They have entered the perfume market with wine-based (sort of) scents, each quite beautiful.
Sauvignonne lists grapefruit, box tree, white peach with a base of dry white bordeaux (which begs the question why it's not called Bordeaunonne or something). It's a lovely citrus with just a touch of white wine note: as refreshing as a glass of white sangria, it also seems a bit more long-lived than most citrus scents I've run across. I don't know that I need another citrus scent, but if you are in the market for one, this is worth a sniff.
Le Boisé is less sweet than the other two and is somewhat marketed as a man's scent; it's packaged the most overtly winey- in a miniature wine bottle in a wooden box. It's a very nice wooded spicey concoction, but I sort of wish it's initial wine note stayed around longer. It's non intrusive in the way that some cedars can be, it was equally at home with the heat of the afternoon and the arctic chill of my office.
Botrytis lists honey, candied fruits, quince, pain d’epice, white flowers and a base of Sauterne. If Miel de Bois is killer bees on crack, then Botrytis is honeybees on ecstasy. I could barely unweld my nose from my forearm for the rest of the day. The gorgeous glottal honeycomb note stays around for quite a while, finally ceding to the flowery fruits, but never completely going away. The latter two on their own are merely pleasant compared to this, but that's damning with faint praise. Kate Jackson and Jacklyn Smith were eclipsed by Farrah's white-hot celebrity, but that didn't mean that they didn't have their own allure.
Botrytis is white-hot beautiful.
These are available at Beautyhabit and Luckyscent, $100 for 100ml
Monday, August 27, 2007
Mr Colombina and Little Miss Colombina Have a Sniffathon
Thursday, August 23, 2007
A Surge of Serge
Review by Tom
Today (Thursday, August 16th) I received a plethora of Serge: A trade with the wonderful Lee of Perfume Posse, which ended up with a nearly full bottle of Cedre, and a package from the Perfumed Court, including samples of all the exclusives I haven't tried yet (but will review, whether you like it or not) and the latest import, Louve.
Colombina dismissed this as pleasant, and it is: it's a well balanced cedar, with notes as various as cloves and tuberose. I think I have found a tuberose that I might actually wear: it's the barest peep of that gorgeous flower tinged with camphor amongst light woods, spices and I smell citrus. Will I reach for it? Sure. The camphor and the tuberose do a fascinating if very subtle dance around one another that I like a lot. Will I feel a burning need to replace it if it runs out? I don't know. It may be one of those in the line like Un Lys: quietly beautiful, and since it doesn't have the fireworks of some of the others, easily overlooked.
One that apparently is getting a meh/meh reaction on the internets; am I crazy that I love it? Yes, it seems like a less dirty, more almondy Rahat Loukoum. Is that a bad thing? Louve tones down the overt booziness of Rahat Loukoum, drops the cherries, amps up the Almond and adds a divine rose note (barely discernible) and replaces the musky musk of RL with a lighter musk - but I have to write that in this slighter concoction that this musk comes across as sly as a...wolf? . Do I wish that they would just release Rahat as an import? Well, yeah. Actually I would like them to drop the whole artificial "exclusive/import" crap and give me what I want. But I am at heart an American and feel it's my right to have bell jars delivered to my door (note to Mssr. Lutens, I will sell out my country if you will only deliver to me) whenever I so desire.
On its own Louve is a delicious scent, totally compelling and identifyably a Lutens/Sheldrake creation. Sitting here in 90 degree weather I am finding this Amaretto she-wolf gorgeous, and yes, as an owner of a bell jar of Rahat, I will be buying this when it shows up at Barneys.
Cedre is at Barneys and Neimans in San Francisco, I assume for $110, since it's not on the website. I assume also that Louve will be the same price in September. Look for it.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Perfume Review: Chanel Cristalle
Cristalle is a perfect white dress of a scent, light, breezy, elegantly simple. Like such dress, it is absolutely indispensable during the summer. Created by Henri Robert for Parfums Chanel in 1974, the chypre/fresh scent, with its mouthwateringly tangy, sparkling, indeed crystalline top notes, its sweetly-floral heart and it's sophisticated, mossy and earthy base has deservedly become a modern classic. Lacking the sumptuous aldehydes of the old Chanels, less sharply-green and austere than its contemporary, No. 19, less rich and glammed up than the beautifully expansive creation of the 1980s, Coco, Cristalle is perhaps the most approachable, versatile and easy-to-wear Chanel fragrance.
Chanel scents generally "love" me, and Cristalle, along with No. 22, is the Chanel scent that loves me the most. It is always perfect, it never has off days, when strange notes suddenly appear out of nowhere, irritating and bothering me. The citrusy-green top notes have a tonic effect on me, I adore their refreshing sharpness, which is akin to a playful splash of ice-cold water on the face on a searing-hot day. But it is the heart where the real magic happens; the sweet greenness of hyacinth, the indolic whiteness of jasmine, a hint of dewy melon and a dash of cumin combine into a complex, sensual but still miraculously light, luminous harmony. The beautiful chypre base conceals a subtle trace of soft patchouli, which underscores the dry earthiness of moss and plays off the warmly piquant cumin. Like a perfect white dress, Cristalle is deceptively simple, its flawless structure and sublime proportions making it invariably easy going and forever fascinating.
Cristalle Eau de Toilette (which is my preferred formulation of this scent and the one described here) is available on Chanel.com, $62.00 for 2oz.
Images are by Sam Shaw.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Perfume Review: Chanel No 5 Eau Premiere
Up until a couple of years ago, when Chanel No 5 Elixir Sensuel was released, Parfums Chanel seemed reluctant to play the flanker game with their legendary No. 5. I wonder if even Elixir Sensuel can be justifiably called a flanker as it simply is a different formulation (concentration, consistency) of No. 5 rather than a new scent capitalizing on the success of Chanel's bestseller. Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere steps rather more boldly into the flanker territory. I have been expecting to see a release of Chanel No 5 Eau Fraîche or Eau Délicate or Eau d'Été for a while now, as the creation of a "lighter, fresher, softer interpretation of N°5" seemed to me to be inevitable. And here it finally is, under the name of Eau Premiere. Jacques Polge has tweaked No. 5 to achieve "a silky-smooth harmony of notes that reveals the delicate facet of the world-renowned fragrance".
The first sniff is comfortingly familiar, recognizably No. 5-ish. The aldehydes seem much softer, but the beautiful ylang-ylang of Chanel No. 5 is there, as is iris, the two notes of No. 5 that have always been the strongest and the most beautiful on my skin. The effect is indeed softer, smoother, less powdery. After a short while the scent becomes surprisingly citrus-heavy; these are bright, candied citruses (bergamot? lemon?), and I have never smelled them while wearing the regular No. 5 in any of its concentrations. My problem with Chanel No. 5 have always been its "coldness", its -strange as it sounds- absolute perfection. To me, it is like an exquisite marble statue, breathtakingly beautiful but lifeless. And so as far as I am concerned, the addition of the lively, sunny citrus notes was quite welcome. The citruses breathed life into the marble features, brought a smile upon the haughty face of No. 5. The moment I smelled those honeyed, solar notes, I wanted to own Eau Premiere. Luckily, the reason won and dragged me out of Saks, to wait and see how the composition would develop further. Luckily, because the subsequent development was not that great. Believe it or not, the base of Eau Premiere smells on me not unlike a "lighter, fresher, softer" version of...Obsession. That's right, Obsession. There is something in the drydown of the new Chanel, something heavy and strangely sharp, something ambery-musky that is very out of place there and that makes me uncomfortable. Something that will prevent me from ever wanting to own a bottle of Eau Premiere.
Overall, I find Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere to be quite attractive. It is fresher than the regular No. 5 but not too fresh, lighter but not understated to the point of blandness. By taming the aldehydes and the powderiness it perhaps makes No. 5 more approachable to those wary of such notes. It seems somewhat more youthful than No. 5, but it does not smell young. It still possesses the versatility of the great classic; like Coco Chanel intended, a woman wearing it may "shop in the morning, take tea in the afternoon, and go to the theatre in the evening" (Michael Edwards, Perfume Legends).
Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere is available at Saks, $125.00 for 5oz.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Perfume Review: Chanel No 19
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Happy Birthday, Mlle Chanel!
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Bespoke scents for historic figures
Marian Bendeth interviewed perfumers Francis Kurkdjian, Christophe Laudamiel, Jean Michel Duriez and Maurice Roucel asking each to pick a famous persona and describe a perfume they would create to suit that persona. Francis Kurkdjian chose Maria Callas, Christophe Laudamiel - Marlene Dietrich, Jean-Michel Duriez - Marie Antoinette, and Maurice Roucel - Julius Caesar and Jesus Christ. I was intrigued by Roucel's idea for Christ's scent. "I would create the smell of purity", he says, but instead of choosing predictable "pure" acquatic or ozonic notes, the perfumer opts for the ingredients that would evoke "the color white": "I would use powdery floral notes such as heliotrope, but it would also be spicy, and have iris, also violets and woods. These notes have so many sides to them, they create an aura." Kurkdjian's perfume for Callas, "a floral bouquet fragrance based on a tuberose accord, with a soft, spicy trail of fresh clove buds and green cinnamon bark that wraps your body and soul" and Laudamiel's scent for Dietrich, "woody, floral, fruity, opulent and rich" also sound very interesting. Duriez's interpretation of Marie Antoinette's persona through the lens of the eponymous the Sofia Coppola was quite unexpected.
You can read the whole article on Canada.com. Please note that due to a mistake on the part of National Post, Bendeth's interview is published without a byline and appears to be a part of Iris Benaroia's article. Please scroll down to the paragraph starting with "Judging by the number of new fragrances..." to read the interview.
Perfume in the Glossies: September
This month, Allure again pleasantly surprises with the amount of perfume-related coverage. There is a an essay, Scents of Self, by the detective writer Kate Atkinson (One Good Turn), in which, after a somewhat unnecessary intro on the history of perfume through the ages and the countries, Atkinson talks about the fragrances of her heroines, her love for Arpege, Joy, Coco, and her decreasing ability to actually smell them, as well as about childhood and other memories associated with some smells (I love that she too finds the smell of lilac melancholy: "the near tragedy of lilacs"). She concludes the article with the following advice:
"Don't mess about with whole wardrobes of scents; go for one clear message (...) I know one day (...) one of my daughters will be stopped in her tracks by the scent of Arpege, and for a second I will exist again for her, fully formed."
Another remarkable article in the issue is Message in a Bottle by Brooke Le Poer Trench, about fashion houses and their fragrances. The author quotes perfumers (Grojsman, Wasser), perfume consultants (Gotlieb) and designers (Kors, Giannini) to explain the link between the fashion and the perfume and the appeal of scents for the brands and their clients. Le Poer Trench then provides a perfume-chronology for seven fashion houses (Dior, Chanel, Wang, D&G, Calvin Klein, Lauren, Armani) as well as a categorisation of some designer scents according to the scent families. Some interesting tidbits:
"...we conducted a quick survey in Times Square with two fragrances - Daisy by Marc Jacobs and the new Gucci by, yes, Gucci. Twenty women were asked to close their eyes, sniff, and guess which is which. Seventeen out of 20 got it right"
"A very chic aunt who was always surrounded by a cloud of tuberose inspired Michael Kors's signature scent."
"Chanel's saying "I had a chance, and I took it" inspires the name Chance..."
"It's a modern vision of sexiness", [Olivier] Cresp says." [about Light Blue for Femme]
Other perfumes mentioned in the issue: Eau d'Italie Bois d'Ombrie, Mark Jewel; "musical notes" of Mariah Carey's, Usher's and Sean Combs's scents. Fashion publicist Bonnie Morrison loves Angeliques Sous la Pluie by Frederic Malle. Model Helena Christensen thinks Le Labo Rose 31 "has a hypnotic and very intoxicationg scent.Everyone asks me about it when I wear it." The issue also come with a sample of Donna Karan Cashmere Mist.
All in all, for a publication not specializing specifically in perfume, this a wonderfully perfume-full issue. Kudos to Allure yet again.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Perfume Review: Robert Piguet Cravache and Visa
Owing to the facts that Cravache and Visa are being re-issued together, that I first tried them at the same time and that I am a romantic fool, I will now forever imagine them as a couple. He is sophisticated and sensible, significantly older than her. She is young, impossibly pretty, feisty and capricious. He is tenderly protective towards her, she worships him. They are on a honeymoon, cruising exotic lands on a white liner. It all takes place no later than in the 1960s, while the world is still gallant and glamorous.
Anthropomorphizing the scents aside, Cravache is what I always think of as an archetypal masculine scent, refined, bracing and charismatic without being macho. The copy describes it as a “warm elixir”, but I perceive the new Cravache as a cold scent, done in understated hues of gray and green. The vintage Cravache is warmer and deeper, its sharply-aromatic top notes have a more pronounced herbal undertone, its heart is a complex affair, woody, earthy, slightly piquant, the base is the wonderful, dark mix of leather, moss, tonka and amber. (And if it is this interesting and alluring in a vintage sample, how amazing it must have been freshly bought some 44 years ago!) The new version, “rebalanced” by Aurelien Guichard “to blend tradition and modernity”, lost the greenness of the herbs, the warm spiciness of geranium and carnation, and practically the entire base, including leather (and thus the name, Riding Crop, doesn’t fit that much anymore). The old Cravache is still recognizable here, but as a ghost of its former, more audacious self. After the chilly citrus top notes subside, the new Cravache becomes practically all-lavender on my skin, cool, brisk but not sharp. The lavender is delicately spiced by nutmeg and rests on a dry, similarly cold foundation of vetiver and patchouli. The new scent is simpler but still very elegant, perhaps even more sharply tailored than its adventurous predecessor. It smells well-bred and noble, and, despite the typical declaration about the “modernity” added to the composition, it seems to me more “traditional” than the old Cravache.
The new Visa, on the other hand, does smell as if it was infused with a generous dose of “modernity”, i.e. sweetness. I have not had a pleasure of smelling the original Visa, created for Piguet in 1945 by the legendary Germaine Cellier, for “a sophisticated woman [who] travels the world but never gets lost in the crowd”, but my first reaction upon smelling the new version is to say that it is too fruity to be a true replica of the 1940s creation. Then I think of Mitsouko with its peach, Colony with its pineapple and Le Fruit Défendu, that cornucopia of succulent fruits, and I am not so sure anymore. Besides, prominent as peach and pear are, they don’t have that annoyingly sparkling, über-youthful feel that haunts most of the contemporary fruity fragrances. These are ripe, almost over-ripe fruits, starting to darken and decay. Still, smelling the top notes, I am tempted to pronounce Visa too sweet for my tastes. But then surprises start to happen, the first of them being the appearance of immortelle, which smells green and meaty and totally unexpected amidst the fruits and the creamy flowers. It is a hint of masculinity in an extremely feminine, sultry and languid middle stage of ylang ylang and orange blossom, it is a Twist, and I love it.
As the fragrance develops, a leathery accord- surprise No. 2 – becomes apparent. It is not smoky or tarry or harsh, this is the soft, supple leather of a chic clutch that absorbed the fruity and floral perfume of its glamorous owner, but it is still leather, and as such – infinitely alluring to me. The base of Visa has a rich, nutty, cuddly quality that vanilla brings to a scent when it is judiciously blended with darker, woody and earthy notes, in this case, patchouli, sandalwood and vetiver. It is a luxurious base of considerable depth, certainly worthy of an older creation. Visa can not be an everyday scent for me, this capricious beauty demands An Occasion.. If I were to go on a cruise around the world with the wearer of Cravache, I would use it with much pleasure.
Visa and Cravache are scheduled to be launched in October and will be sold exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Le Bon Marché in Paris and at Harvey Nichols in London. Visa will come in Eau de Parfum, $65.00-$95.00, and Parfum, $190.00 for 1oz. Cravache will be available in Eau de Toilette, $55.00-$85.00, Hydrating Body Wash/ Shave Gel, $38.00, and Aftershave, $65.00.
Please click over to Bois de Jasmin, to read Victoria’s review.
Image sources, art-dept.com, ffandcltd.com.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Another trip to ScentBar
Review by Tom
...This time at the behest of Lee, as part of a trade. Not that I need an excuse to go there, since they are of course very nice and very free with letting me spritz. Which I did with Il Profumo Chocolat Amere, but on the blotter, not on me. Chocolate is an iffy note for me, it can be gorgeous (Borneo 1834) or it can be less successful. Chocolat Amere started off as less so, galbanum heavy sharp dark chocolate. After a few minutes on the blotter it became a lot better, but not perhaps me. I can appreciate it, but I don't see myself wearing it. ($90 for 100ml)
From its opening Acqua Viva by Profumum seems like one I would wear in a heartbeat; if you've been, like me, hoping for a lemon scent that had a bit more lasting power and Ooomph that the ever-delightful Eau d'Hadrien, then this is right up your citrus grove. Opens with the most perfect simulacrum of freshly grated lemon zest I've ever smelled: it's giggle-inducing. As it develops, it becomes ever so slightly sweeter, and the drydown features a hint of cedar and cypress. Downside? I hate to write this, but the ending is just not that different than AG Eau du Sud, which I love and adore and own and is about $120 less. ($210 for 100ml)
Olibanum by Profumum At first sniff, this may be the first Profumum that I may actually be seduced into buying: Luckyscent refers to it as "Stone walls, gothic archways, flickering candles and chanting voices" what don't they mention is that they are up to no good. They are chanting for something very bad indeed and may be sacrificing a virgin or at least virginity to get it. Fades a bit as it developes into something less dark (and I wish it didn't) but little hints of that naughty slightly rubbery incense keeps peeping out. ($210 for 100ml is starting to make sense)
Montale Boise Vanille is interesting: the vanilla is very true to the bean with that curious glottal woodiness that anybody who has worked with vanilla pods will recognise instantly. It's almost an old-school vanilla, something you would imagine would preceed Veronica Lake's entrance to the room. It becomes woodier and slightly more lemony (and more unisex) as it gets on, finally adding a hint of peppery patchouli. Yum. ($95 for 50ml)
Montale Musk to Musk I can't tell about. Either my deskankotron skin totally ate it or it's the first aquatic white musk in history. Pleasant, light, slightly woody with the barest touch of aoud. The musk for people that think they hate musk. Perfectly nice, but way down on the list of things I'd reach for at that store. ($95 for 50ML)
Lee, these are coming your way, we expect a report...
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Will The Real Colombina Please Stand Up! A brief interview with our fragrant leader.
This interview comes with a giant WARNING! First off, I am not a journalist; in fact, I don’t even pretend to be a writer in any way. I do read a lot though. Secondly, I realize that because this is a perfume blog, this should be fragrance related. After asking many questions that had nothing to do with scent, I snuck in a few at the end. I hope you find this as entertaining and informative as let’s say…“Oprah”.
Now that the warning is out of the way, I want to point out that this “interview” is being posted on Marina’s birthday! She was a great sport throughout the process of emailing back and forth. I also want to add that this is my year anniversary writing (sporadically) for Marina’s blog. What I would like everyone to do is to read the interview first, and then add a note to the responses listing why you appreciate Marina and her Perfume-Smellin’ Things blog. OK? Got it? [Marina here, feeling extremely self-conscious. What I want you to do is to join me in congratulating Kelley on his blogging anniversary. Thank you.]
Marina, tell us about your family and some of your earliest memories. Where were you born? What was your first bottle of perfume?
I was born in Russia, and, looking back now I realize what a happy, careless childhood I had. I was the only child and was spoiled rotten not just by my parents but by a grandma and a great-grandma. You can imagine!
My very own first bottle of perfume was Poison, bought for me when I was, I think, 13-14. Prior to that I've been "borrowing" my mom's Madame Rochas, Climat and Magie Noire.
Tell us a little about your experiences at school in Russia. Were you a cool kid? A nerd? What hobbies did you have growing up. When did you leave Russia and why? Also, how did you meet Mr. Columbina?
I was a cool nerd :-) My hobby has always been and always will be reading. In fact one of my earliest memories is of me at 3-4 years old, reading Uncle Remus story, How Mr. Rabbit Was Too Sharp for Mr. Fox.
I first left Russia, because I won a scholarship to study abroad, then another, and then yet another. The journey of a thousand miles truly begins with one step...Mr Colombina and I met in Oxford, where I was working on my DPhil (PhD).
Astrological sign? (Leo) Chinese astrological sign? (I am an ox!) Have you ever had your palm read? Been to a psychic? Have you ever had a mystical experience? Why do you think your purpose/destiny is (why are you here)?
I am a Leo and a Dragon. Bossy, conceited and flamboyant, yep, that would be me. I had my palm read and my future told by someone once. It is scary how right she was on many counts. She even predicted the character of my daughter, years before the said daughter was a twinkle in anyone's eye. Apart from that, I don't think I have ever had anything that could be described as mystical happen to me. I have always fancied myself somewhat of an existentialist, and I don't really believe there is a purpose to this life or that one has a destiny. I have always felt that, just like Sartre said, existence precedes and rules essence (don't ask me how that goes with a psychic predicting my daughter's character though). I believe that we create our destiny as we go.
Tell us a little about Mr. Colombina. What does he do? Is he from the United States originally? What is your life like with such a funny guy? What is the most romantic thing that he has done? We are also dying to know about Little Miss Colombina, so can you tell us about her?
Mr Colombina is American with English (his mum) and German (his dad's family) roots (he also has some Scottish, Irish and Spanish blood). Add to that my Russian, Polish and who knows what other pedigree and you can see what a multinational being our daughter is. What is it like to live with a funny guy...Borrowing Billy Graham's words, I will say that Mr C's keen sense of humor helps us to tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected, and outlast the unbearable stuff that life throws at us. The most romantic thing he has done was probably proposing to me at Heathrow airport. Our little Miss Colombina is truly the most unique person I've ever met, if I say so myself. She has a tremendous imagination, she is a little actress, she is eccentric in all these wonderful little ways, and she is just a sweetie and a cutie.
What are your current hobbies? What are your favorite movies? Favorite books? Favorite singers/bands? (Don't worry, we will be getting to perfume soon)
Is blogging a hobby? Somehow it feels like it occupies a bigger and a more important part in my life than a mere hobby would. I love old Soviet comedies, as for favorites books, they are: Michael Bulgakov The Master and Margarita, Albert Camus The Myth of Sisyphus, Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Erich Maria Remarque Heaven Has No Favorites, and John Galsworthy The Forsyte Saga. I also love many of Françoise Sagan's books, and everything ever written by Marina Tsvetaeva, Anna Akhmatova and Agatha Christie. As for singers/bands, I love Elton John, Sting, George Michael circa The Older, The Walflowers (what happened to them?!), Goo Goo Dolls, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica.
Since this interview is being posted on your birthday, I won't burden you with long lists of favorites (Best Winter Fragrance, Best For Hot Weather, Best Oriental...) instead, I want you to list your deserted island picks. If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have 10 bottles (10 is a generous amount for traveling but who cares?). List the 10 you couldn't do without and why.
A couple of months ago this wouldn't have been possible, but I feel as if lately I have been finally letting the superfluous, the Not Really Loved scents to sort of fall away and found myself left with the "core" scents, the ones that are truly Me and that I Really Love. They are:
A Maze by People of the Labyrinths, because it is incredibly gorgeous and sumptuous.
Aoud Roses Petals by Montale, because it fills me with a strange sensation of being newly in love.
Iris Poudre by Frederic Malle, because it is sublimely perfect from start to finish.
Chanel No 22 for the exact same reason. These two are my Instant Chic scents. I put them on and I feel perfectly made up and perfectly attired, even if I am not.
Une Fleur de Cassie by Frederic Malle, because I find it strange and strangely comforting.
White Aoud by Montale, because I find it to be drop-dead gorgeous and comforting. It's like one of those great celebrity moms, say Liv Tyler, glamorous but also warmly maternal.
Messe de Minuit by Etro, because if I didn't have it, I would go mad. It is my stress relief drug of choice.
Diorama, because it was created for me in my previous incarnation as a existentialistically-inclined socialite in the post-war Paris. What? No laughing, no laughing! This scent is so "me", it feels like it was custom-made for me.
Dzing! by L'Artisan, because it rather inexplicably smells like very happy years from my past
Une Crime Exotique by Parfumerie Generale, because it smells like Russia, like winter holidays, like childhood and like fairy-tales.
What are a couple of your favorite scent memories?
My mom's perfumes, the smells of hers and grandma's cooking and baking, the scent of peonies that my great grandfather planted when I was born, the gasoline of which my dad always seemed to smell, the smell of Samara circus (i.e.Dzing!), the smell of mandarins on New Year's Eve, the smell of the Baltic sea, the fragrant air in Sochi, the scent of my daughter's hair and her neck when she was a newborn.
And for the last question, is there anything else about you that you would like your readers to know?
Dear readers, dear commenters, you mean a lot to me, I say it with all sincerity, from the bottom of my heart. I can't believe you want to read my ramblings and I am very thankful to you for reading them!
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Perfume Review: Robert Piguet Baghari
Getting to know Baghari was like falling in love with someone who looked a little like a person you adored years ago, like recognizing familiar, beloved features on an entirely new face. The moment I smelled the sparkly powder of Baghari's aldehydes, I felt at ease and at home. I knew this scent even if I have never encountered it before. It wasn't the familiarity of a derivative fragrance, no, the scent had the recognizable feel of a classic. Baghari, with its sugared violets and roses, adds a touch of gourmand-craving modernity to the elegant lines of a time-honored floral-aldehydic, but does so judiciously and tastefully, adopting the new scent for the slightly sweeter tastes of a great-granddaughter of the woman who used to wear Chanel No 22 (which was the beloved I recognized in Baghari), Liu and the original Baghari.
Concerning the latter, I own and treasure a sample, which is quite old. Time practically erased the supposedly bright top notes of aldehydes and citruses, and started its inexorable process on the creamy heart, so what I am left with is the dark, dirty base. But it seems to me that to know that base alone is to know one of the main differences between the old and the new Baghari. The reissued composition lacks the earthiness and the animalic muskiness of its more sensual predecessor. Still, unlike some of the recent re-releases, the new Baghari is recognizable if not as an exact replica (let's face it, with different materials and different - or more! - guidelines, that is practically impossible) then at least as a direct descendant of the 1950 creation. With its sumptuous bouquet of sunny neroli, ripe, nectarous rose and jasmine and sweet, powdery violet and iris, and a languid, expansive feel of the composition, Baghari stays true to the grand and insolent spirit of the rest of the Piguet collection. I imagine the glamorous Fracas and the daring, impossibly sophisticated Bandit surprising themselves by feeling unexpectedly fond and strangely protective of this youthful reincarnation of their long-gone sister.
I will review the latest additions to the Piguet line, the newly reissued Visa and Cravache, on Friday.
Baghari is available on Amazon, among other places, $65.00 for 1.7oz, $95.00 for 3.4oz.
Image sources, imgmodels.com (the picture of the beautiful Sasha Pivovarova), amazon.com.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Perfume Review: Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia
In his speech at the World Perfumery Congress 2007, Daniel Annese, Senior vice president and general manager of Estée Lauder International, talked about “the notion of heritage, which acts as a symbol of simplicity and authenticity to today’s consumers. In other words: look to the past to define the future. While the idea of “retro” means brining back chic packaging, it also means reinterpreting classic fragrance notes”. (Perfumer & Flavorist, August 2007, WPC insert, page 4.) Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia is that idea of heritage and retro brought to life. When Estée Lauder launched Private Collection, she allegedly shared with the public a scent which she originally created for herself and a few friends. Paying the tribute to her grandmother, and at the same time offering herself as a replacement for the Estée-the aspirational model- in the minds and hearts of consumers, Aerin Lauder makes available to the world the scent she “has treasured for so long and shared only with her closest friends”. (Via the Estée Lauder press release.)
In an interview to Allure, Aerin Lauder said: “Everyone who smells the new scent really loves it, because it is very floral, and it’s very easy to wear. It’s not polarizing; there is nothing unusual about it. It’s not spicy and scary, it’s just like a beautiful bouquet of flowers.” (Allure, August 2007, page 245) Before I smelled Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, I found this quote puzzling, doing a disservice to the scent. Easy to wear, nothing unusual about it? After sampling Tuberose Gardenia, I understood that Lauder was talking about the classicism and elegant simplicity of the composition. There is nothing unusual about a white sundress, that eternal summery classic, and yet it is endlessly attractive. The same would be true to say regarding the new Lauder perfume; there is nothing particularly unique about this harmonious union of two white florals, nothing except its lusciousness and its extraordinarily silky feel. Tuberose and gardenia are fierce notes and, when put together, might result in a blend of formidable headiness. In Private Collection, however, the star notes, although not understated, smell soft, non-aggressive. The long-lasting scent certainly has presence, but it is not a forceful presence, the sillage envelopes one gently, like an organza shawl, and does not loudly herald one’s arrival or impolitely linger in the room after one’s departure.
It is a simple scent, in a sense that nothing distracts the nose from the natural beauty of the title notes. Tuberose and gardenia appear simultaneously the moment the fragrance is applied, and go hand in hand till the scent wears off, many hours later. The two main notes are apparent from start to finish; in the very beginning, a cold, almost green floral accord, which I take to be lilac and lily, freshens the composition slightly, only to disappear very fast; at some point towards the end, a scent acquires a certain dry piquancy, which might be carnation…but really, if one is not tracking the development at regular intervals in order to prepare a review, one might not register the notes that appear in supporting roles and would probably just enjoy the unadulterated beauty of tuberose and gardenia.
When I wear Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, I feel as if I am one of the “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places” that inhabit the world of Slim Aarons’s photographs (see his books, Once Upon a Time, A Place in the Sun or A Wonderful Time. An Intimate Portrait Of The Good Life). It is the beau monde of pool parties, croquet and white villas overlooking always-blue seas. The world where women wear white sundresses with simple lines, made of luxurious fabrics, and exude the air of thoroughbred elegance.
Coming back to Daniel Annese’s idea of “retro” scents, I would not go so far as to say that Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia smells in any way old-fashioned. It has the patrician elegance, the approachability and the versatility of a classic. Sometimes, when I am in the presence of a scent which, I feel, possesses that indescribably timeless quality that will make it smell as interesting and appealing to my grandkids, years after I am gone, as it is to me now, I get a sort of a pleasant butterflies- in- the-stomach sensation. I have that fluttery feeling every time I smell Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia.
Image sources, Estee Lauder, Stanleywise.com.
More of my favorite Slim Aarons images here.
Please visit Aromascope to read Ina's review of the scent.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Perfume Stars: Summer Favorites. Part 7
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Perfume Review: CB I Hate Perfume I am a Dandelion, Greenbriar 1966, Under the Arbor, Wild Hunt and Eternal Return
Review by Tom
Christopher Brosius is of course the New York perfumer who specializes in the most unperfumey perfumes imaginable. He is also the creator of one of my four best American perfumes (from July 4th), Musk Reinvention
The italics are the descriptions from his website:
Eternal Return is the scent of sailing toward the shore. It is a blend of Fresh Ocean Air, Wooden Ship and a faint hint of Cypress Trees growing on the cliff above the water
Not nearly as strong as the name would suggest, I do get the ocean note right off: actually I can't really call it ocean- it certainly doesn't smell like the ocean as I remember it and thankfully don't smell like the usual "ocean" notes in other perfumes. It's a pleasant note that makes me think of still, clear waters. I don't get woods initially, but the woods do come, as well as the barest whiff of the cypress. Will someone want to slug me for writing that I'd love it in a room spray, but I don't really need to wear it?
This scent is a memory of my Grandfather, the sawmill that he owned and the stone house where he lived.
Starts off disconcertingly sweet, metallic and oily, as if Grampy had a side business taking his cotton-candy machine to local fairs in the back of his Chevy Greenbrier. He writes It is blended with Sawdust, Fresh Cut Hay, Worn Leather Work Gloves, Pipe Tobacco and a healthy amount of Dirt. There is also a faint whiff of cotton overalls covered in Axel Grease. I wish I got there. I get candy-covered Corvair.
I am a Dandelion
The simple scent of a Dandelion newly picked from the lawn
Well, yes you are in fact. It has the intense green pepperiness of dandelion greens and the milkiness a dandelions sticky sap. Then it starts to bloom into something more: it becomes heady, with a touch of white flowers and the barest hint of rounded fruitiness. I also think I smell a fair amount both his famous dirt accord and his Musk Reinvention in the base. It settles itself a bit as it finishes, becoming rather sweeter in the drydown: it is also absolutely gorgeous and it must come live with me right now.
Wild Hunt is the scent of an ancient forest in the heat of a summer afternoon. It is a blend of Torn Leaves, Crushed Twigs, Flowing Sap, Fallen Branches, Old Leaves, Green Moss, Fir, Pine and Tiny Mushrooms.
Well, yes, this is that. There's aslo a wisp of his smoke in there, the memory of a decades old fire. He's not listing dirt in there, but I smell it (does anyone do dirt or smoke better than CB? I think not.) and, yes, Tiny Mushrooms. As out there as this reads, and as true to its place (the forest glade) as it is, it works for me as a scent that I would wear in ways that some of his others don't, perhaps because so many other scents would use parts of it in a more conventional way to make a cologne. However, not even CdeG with their studied sense of Avant-Garde would dare hand you a forest primeval, complete with Tiny Mushrooms. Thanks be that CB does.
Under the Arbor
Grape Leaf is a scent that reminds me of some of the most beautiful places I have visited in California, Italy and France. But mostly it reminds me of the old grape arbor that grew in the yard of the house were I lived as a child. I so loved to sit under it on a summer day quietly reading a favorite book curling my toes in the cool moss...
Another winner: quiet, slightly sweet green leaves, grapeseeds, earth and very arid wood. Although I am usually fonder of his oils, this cries out for a water perfume version: it would be utter perfection on a hot summer day, and a perfect veil on a warm summer night.
These are at CB's website at the following prices for the oils:
Under the Arbor $55 15ML $11 2ML
Wild Hunt $55 85ML $17 2ML
I am a Dandelion $65 85ML $13 2ML
Greenbriar 1968 $60 15ML $12 2ML
Eternal Return $85 15ML $17 2ML
The 2ML sizes are deceptive: being oils these are very concentrated, you can easily use one of the "samples" for months. Smaller samples are available at Fragrant Fripperies.