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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sniffing in Gotham...

...aka Chicago

Here are some things that I did not know about Chicago... It is gorgeous, displaying a very appealing mix of American gigantism and European small-town feel. The New World truly meets The Old there in a way that I found aesthetically pleasing. At night, the skyline crowded with skyscrapers has a strange, brooding, larger than life quality that makes one expect Batman's shadow to appear any moment on a wall of a building opposite one's window. Another thing that I learned about Chicago is that it has a Starbucks on every corner. And when I say every corner, I do not exaggerate. Could it be because in that indeed very Windy City the warmth of a coffee cup seems that much more appealing? And finally I learned that one should not expect one's flight to be on time when flying to and from O'Hare. In fact one should not expect one's flight, period. But my traveling woes were a small price to pay for being able to spend time with Ina and her lovely husband. We talked, we walked around, we ate amazing Vietnamese food at Le Colonial, we imbibed some strange drinks, like Double Chocolate Stout (which tastes exactly like Histoires de Parfums 1740 Marquis de Sade smells, i.e. of leather and prunes), we partook of exquisite cultural watching Transformers in a small cinema in Ina's building which we booked for the night...

And, of course, we sniffed. As I see it, if you live in Chicago, you have access to most lines a parfumista wants to have access to. The niche heavyweights like Lutens, Malle and L'Artisan are all present. There is Amouage (we swooned over Gold), Carthusia (Ligea is a gorgeous velvety fragrance that I will have to seriously test asap), Santa Maria Novella, Comme de Garcons (I smelled Zagorsk and for a second Chicago Barneys disappeared around me and I was back home, ah!) and many more. Nordstrom stocks several Carons, including some in parfum form. Amongst the four re-issued Givenchy scents, Givenchy III smelled like it had the most relation to the original fragrance, uncompromisingly green, gutsy, austerely elegant. At Sephora, we rather shamefacedly admitted to each other that we both kinda liked Ralph Wild, that teeny-bopperish strawberry jam of a scent.

At Malle counter at Barney's, we agreed that Bois d'Orage smells different from and inferior to French Lover. It seems less nuanced, more forcefully masculine. Outrageous if Clean Perfume took over Editions de Parfums (what a horrifying thought!). Squeaky clean, soapy, unbearably is not a horrible scent but there is nothing in it that can possibly justify its existence. Not to be all negative about one of my most favorite perfume lines, I must report that, mostly thanks to Ina, I fell back in love with Lipstick Rose, which is the prettiest scent that I know and much superior to other perfumes in the "smells-like-expensive-retro-makeup" genre.

The new Armani semi-Prive scents (I am saying, "semi", because they have a slightly different packaging and a slightly lesser price), Babylon Vetiver and Rose d'Alexandrie did nothing to help me finally understand the popularity of this line. Vetiver smells, rather timidly, of citrus and green something that is closer to iris than vetiver. Rose is yet another over-priced "niche" version of Stella. Ina and I agreed that Pierre de Lune and Bois d'Encens has always been and always will be the best fragrances in the collection.

At Chanel boutique, where SAs were friendlier than in any other Very Expensive and Very Designer boutique I've ever dared to step into, we loved-loved Gardenia and wondered how come we don't own it. Ina fell back in passionate love with Allure (parfum). I... and I can't believe I will write this... liked Chance. Which basically means that there is now not a single Chanel left that I couldn't wear with pleasure. I sighed over Coromandel but, because the gallon-size bottle tragically exceeds the carry on liquid limit, did not buy it. Instead I am going to visit Chanel NYC and will check the frendliness level of SAs there. Something tells me the levels will be at sub-zero.

At Prada, which was deserted and had a strangely unclean, untidy feel, no one has heard of Opoponax or Narcisse or even Oeillet.

At Hermes, a snooty SA pretended not to know about the existence of 15ml bottle sets of Hermessences, insisting that usually people buy bigger bottles since they are better value. Because, you know, a typical Hermes customer IS concerned about finding a good bargain. That cost her a sale, as Ina was thinking of buying the very delectable Vetiver Tonka in a set. Brin de Reglisse, the latest installment in the Hermessence collection, smelled... not as awful as I imagined it would. (Licorice and Lavender, in my humble opinion, are the two notes that should never meet in perfume). On Ina's skin, licorice reigned supreme, and Brin de Reglisse smelled fresh and even a little fruity. On mine, licorice did not dare to show up, and the fragrance ended up being a blend of lavender and, for some reason, sage. Warm, a little smoky, wearable, but not my kind of thing at all.

So, did I buy any perfumes in Chicago? Sadly, no, carry on restrictions be damned. I went home a very happy owner of some tacky touristy t-shirts and a big packet of Wasabi Peas.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Scent Rules I’ve Learned From Europeans

By Marla

For the past several years, I’ve spent my weekends in a number of Central European cities. The museums, the shops, the coffee, are always delightful. My latest holiday was in Munich, the capitol of Bavaria. People from all over Europe and beyond were enjoying this city and my nose had a holiday of its own (with perfume and food, that is!). Having lived in Europe for a long time, my American brain began thinking what I’ve learned from Europeans about perfumes/scents. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Don’t be afraid to wear perfume in public. It is not taboo here, as it is in many parts of America. My WASP mother still looks at me with deep suspicion when she smells anything perfumed in my vicinity, though my paternal grandmother, a southern belle, would never be caught dead without her French lilac cologne.

2. Don’t wear too much perfume. European women almost never overdo it. I’ve noticed some women in North America who do decide to wear perfume are, um, how shall I say, sillage challenged? I also noticed this in Russia when the Communist period ended. The women in smaller towns were going perfume-mad, as they’d been deprived of it for so long, and a great deal of perfume, (sadly much of it counterfeit), was appearing in local markets for incredibly low prices. Perhaps it goes back to Rule #1. Don’t OD on perfume to be a rebel or because you grew up in a No Perfume Zone. Clothing, tattoos, and hair color are better for that sort of expression, I think. Those generally won’t send innocent bystanders into comas (or inspire anti-perfumery laws like in Canada). Be wary of too much Angel….

3. Ignore mass marketing. OK, European teens are waaaay susceptible to this, just like their peers everywhere. But older European women, especially, are really creative and independent in what they wear. They even layer. Bravo! Celebrity scents are greeted with “Meh” by these women. And that’s a good thing.

4. Seek quality. High quality ingredients are more readily recognized and valued. (I see this in the bakery and dairy, too.) Europeans are more likely to save money for considerable periods to buy that one Lutens or Malle, than to spend less right now on cheaper stuff. Many Americans do this, also, but our rush-rush do-it-now culture discourages save-and-wait behavior. Europeans hunt carefully, and eventually, they bag their quarry.

5. Take risks. Wear that strange chypre. Try a really spicy scent. Go woodsy. Try incense. Or an unusal note, like galbanum or coriander or pomegranate. These are not shunned in Europe, so you can smell at least 5 different scent categories in one metro car!

6. (For shops) Stock niche brands. OK, not all of them, just a couple you like. Even small towns in Europe have little perfumeries that carry Etro, Creed, Annick Goutal, Santa Maria Novella, and some houses I can’t even pronounce (mostly local operations). Despite the machinations of the EU and IFRA, which vigorously attempt to ban ingredients as ubiquitous and humble as lemon and bergamot, small houses still thrive in Europe, as they have for centuries (millennia, even?). Most niche perfumeries in the US are on the coasts, inaccessible to 90% of the population except through the Internet. On the other hand, North America has a much stronger tradition of do-it-yourself, and a lot more people there make their own aromatherapies, incense, and even perfumes, than you’d find here across the Pond. You can find good essential oils and supplies in most American towns. They aren’t easy to find here outside of certain apothecary shops.

7. No such thing as a signature scent for life. European women particularly wear different perfumes to match the weather, their mood, the time of day, and their outfits. You’ll rarely find just one or two bottles in their boudoirs.

Well, that’s enough cross-cultural musing for now. Time to go out to the shops and find something weird and wonderful!

The first illustrations is by Marla.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Next post...

...will be on Wednesday. I am off to Chicago to visit Ina of Aromascope. That is, if my flight is not canceled yet again. Will report on the sniffage done in The Windy City. Have a great week, everybody!

Friday, January 25, 2008

From The Mouths of Husbands - Test Your P.Q.!

After over two years of bearing the brunt of being the poster child for clueless husbands, I wondered just how much of a scents-sense I had developed. Was I now becoming a scents-ative guy? In order to gage my “progress” in my evolution, I decided to compose a test for all my fellow clue-less males to see where I stand.

Ladies, present this test you your DH or other significant male, preferably when there isn’t a game on. Hide the correct answers (at the bottom). Give him as much time as needed to complete the short (21 question) survey of his P.Q. (perfume quotient). Then match up his correct total to see which of three categories your man falls into. Have fun … and NO helping him!

(Perfume Quotient)

... A survey for the DHs and other clueless males of the world.

1) For the first anniversary it’s paper. For the second, it’s cotton. But which is the correct anniversary to give your wife a gift of perfume?
A) Third
B) Fifth
C) Tenth
D) ALL of them

2) The ASOP was founded in 1947 and is headquartered in West Caldwell, NJ. What is the ASOP?
A) Academic Studies of Olfactory Psychiatry
B) The American Society of Perfumers
C) The Aromatic Standards Official Procedures
D) The Atrocious Scent Offender Patrol

3) Where have archeologists found the world’s oldest perfumes?
A) Southern France
B) Cyprus
C) Mongolia
D) Very back of the shelf at Walmart

4) Which of these is considered one of the traditional categories of perfumes?
A) Sam
B) Cliff
C) Norm
D) Woody

5) Coco Chanel was the illegitimate daughter of …
A) a traveling salesman
B) a French bishop
C) a migrant vineyard worker
D) Kaiser Wilhelm

6) A perfumer would most be interested in …
A) Middle Ages
B) Middle Ground
C) Middle Earth
D) Middle Notes

7) If your fragrance of choice contains 2-5 % aromatic compounds, you are wearing what?
A) Eau de Cologne
B) Eau de Parfum
C) Eau de Toilette
D) Eau de Pain, de Pain Will Robinson

8) Which of these is not commonly used in making synthetic fragrances?
A) Pine resin
B) Distilled Petroleum
C) Coal Tar
D) Eye of Newt

9) In 2006, singer Morrissey released a song called …
A) Coco Chanel
B) Christian Dior
C) Jean-Paul Guerlain
D) Do They Know It’s Hanukkah

10) Which perfume was named after the heroine of a French novel?
A) Angel
B) Michelle
C) Mitsouko
D) Mme Bovary

11) What is the name of Celine Dion’s ‘celebrity’ scent?
A) Enchanting
B) Exasperating
C) Exhilarating
D) Le Canuck Moche

Celine will go on
… and on …and on …and on …and on …and on

12) According to Forbes, what is the going price for a bottle of Imperial Majesty … a limited edition of a Clive Christian signature scent?
A) $2,150
B) $21,500
C) $215,000
D) $19.95 plus shipping and handling

13) Which company refers to itself as “America’s Oldest Chemists and Perfumers”?
A) Caswell Massey
B) Massey Ferguson
C) Ferguson Jenkins
D) Pepperidge Fumes

14) Frederic Malle’s “Outrageous” is sold exclusively at which New York department store?
A) Betty’s
B) Wilma’s
C) Barney’s
D) Frederic’s
15) Which of these is NOT on the FDA’s list of ten ingredients banned in the production of fragrances or cosmetics?
A) Mercury Compounds
B) Chloroform
C) Vinyl Chloride
D) Trinitrotoluene16) Which of these is not a perfume blog?
A) Perfume Smellin Things
C) Aromascope
D) Now Smell This
17) What is the best selling perfume in the world?
A) Shalimar
B) Obsession
C) Chanel No. 5
D) Love’s Baby Soft
18) Chanel No. 5 was the first floral fragrance to contain a lot what?
A) Anti Matter
B) Formaldehydes
C) Aldehydes
D) Road Kill Hydes
19) What would you find at 68 Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris?
A) The House of Guerlain
B) The House of Chanel
C) The House of Hermes
D) International House of Pancakes
20) To whom can we attribute this quote? “At present in these days of perfume, where any dandy can assume the same odor as anyone else, the feeling for the finer distinctions between people is being lost.”
A) Calvin Klein
B) Tom Ford
C) Prince Philip
D) Adolf Hitler
21) What is Colombina’s real first name?
A) Colombina
B) Marlene
C) Marina
D) Slim Shady


What does your PQ mean? Depending on how many correct answers you got, you fall into one of the following three categories:

15-21: Whoa Mr. Sensitive.
When you’re not busy earning brownie points from your woman, you occasionally read cook books. I bet you understand such baffling concepts as ‘underwire support’, “feminist literature” and “poetry”. I bet you also come in last place every year in your football fantasy league too. You probably even stop to try on stuff before buying it. You read GQ and probably own more than three belts. Have you ever rented a movie that didn’t require you to buy a box of tissues for your tears? You think television has not been the same since Rosie O’Donnell left “The View”. And it wouldn’t kill you to leave the toilet seat UP once in awhile just to let people know a man lives in the house.

8-14: Well hello Mr. NORMAL!
You will buy your woman’s ‘female hygiene’ products when you go to the store if she asks you to, but you still bury them under a Sports Illustrated (Swimsuit Issue preferably) in your shopping cart. You firmly believe the remote control should be in the male domain. And the only artist’s works you recognize by sight is Leroy Neiman. You let your woman drag you to a film like “The Bridges of Madison County” but came home very disappointed that Clint Eastwood didn’t shoot anyone in it! You know that Calvin Klein was not that guy in that “Dave” movie but your idea of designer underwear for men is still Fruit of the Loom in colors other than white.

0-7: Aren’t you one of the cavemen in the Geico commercials?
First in your family to walk upright? Knuckles still drag on the ground when you walk? You are a cross between Tim “Tooltime” Taylor and Genghis Kahn. If your woman asked you to plan a romantic getaway, your first choice of destinations would be Cooperstown, NY or Canton, Ohio. You think television hasn’t been the same since they canceled “Baywatch”. You’ve rented lots of movies that required you to buy a box of tissues (but not for tears). And if your woman told you she was ‘spotting’, you’d assume she was helping a friend with her bench presses.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Perfume Review: Andy Tauer Incense Extreme

or, You Gotta Have Friends, part two

By Tom

Colombina was nice enough to send me (among other things) the new Andy Tauer scent, the latest to arrive in the states.

For me Incense Extreme is almost a misnomer; I was initially hit with more orris than incense. Usually this would be a bad thing, since orris and I don't really get on that well. This orris is sweet and woody and strong and wholly unexpected; there's nothing churchy or Gothic about it as one is wont to think when presented with something called "Incense Extreme".

Then the sweet strong opening starts to fade and the incense comes in. Not the incense of the church, with its imagined weight of sin and forgiveness, nor the incense of 14th street with its flower-power sprites. This is dry woods, the ghost of burning, like walking through the desert in the cool of the evening and smelling the far-off remains of a fire. I don't know that the rainy, cold Los Angeles day I am testing it in is doing many favors for it; I feel that this needs heat to bloom and play off its cool weightlessness, and I think it might need to be sprayed rather than dabbed from the sample vial as I did.

Like most of Tauer's latest scents, it plays with your expectations of what you are going to be smelling. It also manages that feat he does of seeming to be strong and weightless at the same time: almost as if someone in the other room was wearing it and not you. It also has that identifiable, slightly musky "Tauerade" finish to it that I always find welcome. What I don't know is how it's going to go over with the majority of people who are going to read "Extreme" and think they are going to get Messe de Minuit. I have to admit that I am not racing out to get this one right away. I like it, and if you were a fan of Orris who laments its passing then you would do well to give this one a try. For me I will have to see if spritzing brings the incense out and plants that dreaded bulb a little further down into the earth.

Incense Extreme is available in the US at LuckyScent on January 23rd.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Love Not At First Sniff: Anne Pliska, Coco Mademoiselle. Coromandel

I always thought that love should be as Bulgakov said, leaping up at you like a murderer jumping out of a dark alley. Or, to use a happier image, like fireworks going up in the sky the very moment you put your eyes on that Someone. Love, I always thought, is not something you can make yourself feel. Not something anyone can make you feel. It is something that happens and you have no control over it whatsoever. And so I have always wondered, if love is not at first sight, is it really love? When you have to work on trying to love somebody, have to wait till you see them in a different light, could the result really be love? (And, heck, that person might be the most wonderful human being on earth, totally worthy of your love, but does it matter to your stubborn, irrational heart? It has never mattered to mine.)

I still can't satisfactorily answer those questions to myself, as far as human relationships are concerned. I have learned, however, that things are not as categorical, dramatic and "heavy" between perfumes and me. So many of my Great Perfume Loves were not at first sniff. And many of those that were at first sniff are not loved by me anymore. (Funny how one can be faithful unto eternity with people and ridiculously fickle with things.) And although it is certainly easier to take the high road of "if it doesn't smell good on me straightaway, I ain't wasting none of my precious time on trying it ever again", the nose, the skin, the whatever-it-is do change. I wrote a hissy fit post before about perfumes I will never try again, and I still stand by that list. Those will never work on me. Most probably. But there were some, which I kept obstinately revisiting, that have indeed eventually opened up to me in the most wonderful manner, capturing my heart and my imagination. Let me introduce you to my three newest loves not at first sniff.

Anne Pliska. But only in parfum. Eau de Parfum have always been "oh well, it's amber" to me. Parfum has the richness that is almost gourmand in its smoky, ripe plumminess. I read wonderful reviews of Anne Pliska (there was one by Thisbe on makeupalley that, way back when, has actually speed-started me on the path of my niche-perfume obsession), which described the scent as cold. To me, it is a warm scent, no doubt about it, warm, enveloping, sensual and comforting. A perfect little cashmere sweater dress that you could dress up or down. I adore the patchouli-vanilla accord in the drydown of Pliska Parfum, it is soft and fluffy... a gentle, loving caress.

Coco Mademoiselle. Again, only in parfum. I don't want to make it seem that I am a parfum snob. I am actually not at all. I love to spray. I hate dabbing. Most parfums, and especially those by Chanel, last poorly on my skin and have no sillage whatsoever (and I am against monster sillage, but do give me a bit of a trail!). Coco and Coco Mademoiselle are among the very few extraits that a) last b) waft around me as a discreet but discernible veil and c) smell immeasurably better (richer, denser, more complex) than other concentrations. In addition to that, although it still has certain freshness, Coco Mademoiselle parfum does not turn aggressively watery on my skin, as it does in any other form. Its candied patchouli note is a delight. Mlle is, to me, one of the sexiest scents around. Not heavy-lidded sexy, but young and playful and happily in love. It reminds me of myself, many light years ago.

Coromandel. I wrote before on how it reminded me of a plethora of other scents. How one of those scents was, unfortunately, Obssession. Well, this winter the curse of Obssession has been lifted. Cormandel became Obssession-free on my skin. This winter it has been my savior on cold, miserable days. It is such a warm scent, it can be worn instead of a fur coat. And this one IS heavy-lidded sexy. Oh, it is so sexy, it makes my knees weak and my mouth dry. I absolutely adore the fact that it smells a little masculine. It smells as if His scent rubbed off on my skin. When I wear Coromandel, I have a bizarre feeling of someone gorgeous and male being by my side. And that is the kind of GWP that all perfumes should come with.

What scents have you recently rediscovered?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The fish is back

Nancy-Fishbone96 is back in business as an individual seller, offering decants and samples at PST is in not affiliated with Fishbone96, but we are big fans of her fast, friendly, reasonably-priced service.

Perfume Review: Yves Saint Laurent Opium

By Beth

1977 was the year that I graduated from high school, my hair was straight and swung down past the small of my back, and I wore my Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress to my graduation with a pride normally reserved for things such a the birth of a first son. I loved to dance to the decadent strains of Led Zeppelin and Saturday Night Fever had just birthed the beginnings of disco craziness. David Bowie, Jimmy Page and Roxy Music set the standards for the glam/punk look that embodied the late 70’s and the early beginnings of the 80’s. Fashion was brilliant coloured and amazing, the makeup extraordinary in a way that wouldn’t be relevant today, yet we were absolutely beautiful. It was a very heady time in my life, I lost my virginity, discovered Carlos Castenada and began to get interested in hallucinogenic drugs and cocaine. I was of course not the only one and I don’t think that any of us realized until much later what an exciting yet perilous culture that we’d joined. It was in this heady cauldron of sexuality, delightful nonsense and narcissism that Yves St Laurent created his most decadent fragrance , Opium. I’m not so sure that even he knew what he was unleashing. Opium was a heady reawakening to me, and something about it was very familiar, very necessary to my awakening awareness. Before Opium, I had been fond of Halston and Shalimar, proud that while all of my friends were wearing Love’s Baby Soft and Jean Nate’ that I was different and ever so much more sophisticated. By the time I gave up Opium, I had discovered Anais Nin, Colette, both of whom I still love and violence in relationships and graphic pornography which I hate. The early 80’s did that to you.

Opium with its heady eroticism was different than anything that I had ever worn before. Men loved it, and it was glamourous in a way fragrance had never been in this country. For about 2 years it was impossible to go anywhere without smelling it and you couldn’t open a magazine without being assaulted by it. Opium obliterated the concept of a personal perfume because everyone was wearing it and it was an essential part of my wardrobe along with the Dior eyes , deep cheekbones and of course my very glossy lips! YSL’s Opium was the common denominator in world gone mad with its excesses and that of course is the very nature of the substance for which it is named. Opium (the substance) is very addictive, sensual and dangerously beguiling. You can easily get lost in it. One of the most powerful allures of YSL’s Opium is that it smells very much of the resin for which it is named, one of those curious quirks of perfumery where many wonderful substances come together to create a dream state , a previously unknown alchemy.

It was for its time, strangely perfect.

Fortunately for those of us with a penchant for trouble, the excesses passed as quickly as they appeared. Opium, which I had adored, suddenly smelled overused and fatigued. In 1982 , I married an extraordinary man and soon after gave up drugs. I couldn’t go anywhere without smelling it and remembering. Most of the younger perfumista’s probably feel the same way about Opium because of many overanxious SA’s determined to spray it and it’s extremely strong scent trail. Since the early 80’s , I’ve tried it about once a year, without much passion for it, just the curiosity born of revisiting an old love.

A couple of weeks ago though I had a strange dream. I was in a beautiful sacred space, soft with dripping ripe fruit and bowls of spice. There was a earthen wall with warm water trickling down and many pots of unctuous fragrant oils. A beautiful, husky voice permeated through the dream state, “I am Opium”, she said. I woke up an obsessed woman.

Later that same day, I went to the store and procured some samples of the perfume, determined to discover what she had been sharing with me. Opium is made up of Cinnamon and Pepper, Orange and Pimento, Carnation, Jasmine, Rose and Ylang Ylang, Vanilla, Benzoin ,Patchouli and Sweet Myrrh.

Alchemical correspondences for all of those scents blend together magically to create a powerful spell, one of spirituality, attraction and lust , leading to healing and love. My husband and I spent some enchanting time with that beautiful Goddess later that evening. After all of these years, I think that I finally understand why YSL’s Opium, which is truly warm and beautiful has become such a reviled scent. It’s a different time in history and a perfect time for her more subtle gifts to be known. She is about healing , passion and love….. she is for private moments. She is not black tie, and I don’t think that she ever truly wanted to be. She wants to be rediscovered…..she is for staying in and exploring the depths of your senses.

Normally Opium is sprayed on, diffusing way too much of its magic everywhere, leaving the senses strangely inebriated, disconcerted and unfocused. Opium needs to be treasured, applied like the sacred spell that she is, her nature comes alive when blended with ritual and candlelight. Opium is a perfume that needs to be anointed on the breasts, not sprayed. Her magic is that she opens you up, makes you aware and prepares you for desire.

So now it’s your turn. I hope that I’ve left you breathless enough to discover your own rituals for her and if you dare try, please thrill me and let me know…………

Opium is widely distributed but the best selection that I’ve found, perfume et all is at Dillards!

Opium ad photograph courtesy of Parfum de Pub. Photograph of Jerry hall and David Byrne from Led Zeppelin photograph from

Monday, January 21, 2008

Perfume in the Glossies February 2008: It's All About Malle

As far as perfume content in the glossies is concerned, February is the month of Frederic. French Twisted, an article in Men's Vogue by Christopher Petkanas, allows us to steal a look into the private world of Malle and his family, in their Upper East apartment. Perfumes are basically not even mentioned, but those of us, perfume maniacs, for whom these kinds of people are true celebrities, should be thrilled to see "the breakfast nook that doubles as Malle's office", his tie and shirt collection, to admire the picture of Malles' four children, to read about Mme Malle's training to receive a master's degree in social work and about her dislike for hairy knuckles, and to learn about Malle's reasons for leaving France (France voting down the European constitution). (Men's Vogue, February 2008, pages 110-114)

Allure features Malle's column, (the not-so-chic-named "The Fragrance Guy"), this one focusing on tuberose, the "Passion Flower":

"Like a demure woman with a husky, come-hither voice - Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not comes to mind- tuberose is an intriguing contradiction" (...)"The challenge in creating a new tuberose perfume is to get away from Fracas. Dominique Ropion and I went through 690 trials before we arrived at Carnal Flower because we wanted it to be as close as possible to the natural tuberose scent." (Allure, February 2008, page 116)

Also in Allure, Romance in a Bottle (well, what can you do, it's February) by Judy Bachrach, quoting Tania Sanchez, Sofia Grojsman, Christopher Sheldrake and LL Cool J, among others, on the subject of romance-inducing fragrances. Interesting tidbits: Grojsman advises to wear to bed baby-talc inspired perfumes: "because everyone has warm memories of wearing baby talc on their bottoms."Sheldrake explains the term "bedroom smell": " our industry, 'bedroom smell' means the sensuality of jasmine, a powdery, musky soft entity - something that makes the wearer comfortable - and with a comfortable smell that pleases. It means not too violet or too rose or too animalic or too mossy." As far as Sheldrake is concerned, Beautiful by Estee Lauder "is a very romantic fragrance. (...) It has a powdery note and a fruitiness: a slightly jammy strawberry scent that as a perfumer I can appreciate." (Allure, February 2008, pages 198-2001)

Image source,

The Winner of the Top 10 of Winter Draw... QuinnCreative. Please send me your address and let me know which 3 of the scents on my Top 10 of Winter list you would like to try. And thank you, all, for reading and participating!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Top 10 of Winter...and a Prize Draw

The usual suspects are at it again with yet another seasonal list, this time a Winter one. But there can't be too many lists, can there be? With this comforting (and you can bet the word will be used in the post at least seven times; in winter, it's all about comfort) thought in mind, allow me to introduce to you my Top 10 of Winter:

1. Jubilation 25 by Amouage. Chic and comforting (1)...a sable coat worn over a slinky silk dress, on a starry, frosty nuit de noel...

2. Iris Poudre by Frederic Malle. Aldehydes positively blossom in cold air. Never are they more dazzlingly beautiful then when temperatures are below zero (below 30, for those more comfortable with Fahrenheit).

3. Chanel No 22. See above. This is my ultimate elegant winter scent. Because, awful weather or not, one has to be perfectly put together and smell like a lady.

4. Tango by Aftelier. Because it comforts (2) me , reminding that, in the midst of winter, there is in me "an invincible summer."

5. Poivre Piquant by L'Artisan. Ours is a story of how, when thrown together in immediate proximity by circumstances beyond their powers, two enemies (Poivre Piquant and moi) learned to tolerate each other and eventually fell passionately in love. Which goes to prove that love does not always happen at first sniff. Not even at one hundred first. And that milk and pepper do smell striking and comforting (3) together.

6. Coromandel by Chanel. Coromandel and I had a rocky relationship, the one that might be characterized as love-hate, with a little more emphasis on hate. But this winter something "clicked", and I fell head over heels in love with this oriental wonder. To me it always smells just a tad masculine, as if I am wearing a trace of my loved one's perfume. And I find that sexy and - you guessed it- comforting (4).

7. Black Tourmaline by Olivier Durbano. Newly-built wooden church in the midst of Siberian forest. Silence, serenity, safety, eternity, absolute comfort (5).

8. 1740 Marquis de Sade by Histoires de Parfums. Dark and delicious, sensual and comforting (6). With its warm, robust prune-like note, it is a joy to wear in cold weather.

9. Velvet Gardenia by Tom Ford. Ths gardenia smells thick, animalic, sinful. It is a warm perfume, I am not even sure I could wear it in summer. Right now it is like an additional layer protecting my skin form the cold.

10. White Aoud by Montale. I saved the best for last. White Aoud is a comfort (7) perfume extraordinaire. I am not sure I'd survive this winter without it. Fluffy, creamy and warm, it is an utter delight.

What are your Top 10 of Winter? Please share. If you would like to be entered into a sample prize draw, let me know in your comment. One winner will receive 3 samples of his or her choice from the list in this post.

Please remember to check out other Top 10s of Winter:

Bois de Jasmin :: Now Smell This :: Perfume Posse :: Scentzilla

Thursday, January 17, 2008

You Gotta Have Friends...

...Frederick Malle Noir Epices, Vetiver Extraordinaire and L'Eau d'Hiver

By Tom

One of the great things about trading with people (in addition to making them happy) is the extras that are invariably thrown in with the trades. Lee of Perfume Posse and I recently (well, in recent memory) did a bottle trade and he kindly sent along several generous samples, three of which I am going to give a long overdue review to as well as long overdue public thanks over. Lee, you're a wonderful chap. Hope the Frapins are to your liking, or perhaps in the interest of your bank balance, that they're not?

The three are from the house of Frederick Malle, which as you all know is a house well known for hiring exciting and talented perfumers to create exciting and memorable scents, marketed in climate-controlled storage in such climate controlled stores as Barneys, as well as those odd phone-booth thingies that look like props from Space: 1999. I own and adore French Lover, but in the interest of my bank account have tried not to spend too much time at Barneys mooching around the rest of the line. Thanks to Lee, that might have to change...

Noir Epices was created by Michel Roudnitska, creator of Amoureuse by Perfumes Del Rae and starts off with a blast of pepper that's nose-clearing, eye-watering and wholly wonderful. Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg drop in with a slight bit of orange peel and a whiff of geranium. Woods dominate the dry-down, as if you were getting a little less of the pepper and a little more of the pepper mill. While I didn't find it as intense as Ina did at Aromascope, it's not exactly a wallflower of a scent. But somehow for all of it's in-your-face (or would that be up-your-nose?) pepperiness for me it comes across as much drier than, say a Lutens take on the same thing would be. Living with it for a day made me put it on my "things I must have someday" list, but I am not sure that it would be something I would reach for in anything over 70 degree heat. $130 for 50ML

L'Eau d'Hiver was created by Jean-Claude Ellena, creator of Colonia Assoluta for Acqua di Parma as well as Kelley Caleche and Terre de'Hermes for Hermes. This "winter water" (I know, my French is atrocious) for me springtime-bright: heavy on the hawthorne and iris, with more than a touch of the "whoopee" feeling that I got from Serge Lutens Santal Blanc, but gossamer light. Caramel and musk ground the scent, but in a way that's light as a feather: as Robin
points out, it's sheer enough to wear in any weather. I like it, but I don't think it's quite me. Too bad, since for $115 for 50ML it's one of the least expensive of the line.

Of Vetiver Extraordinaire Marina wrote: "A vetiver scent for a hunky wizard". Dominique Ropion, creator of Carnal Flower and Une Fleur de Cassie for the line is the hunky wizard behind this one, which is supposed to contain 25% vetiver. It's certainly the most vetiver of any vetiver that I've run across- opening a bit like Guerlain Vetiver then taking off into the stratosphere. There are whiffs of wood and smoke in there as well, but all of it is a bit of contrapuntal interest to the overriding vetiver. While it's a very masculine scent, it's also one that ladies could easy get away with- with a suit and heels it would be slashingly chic. I like all of these, but Vetiver Extraordinaire is that I feel must some with me immediately. Even at $135 for 50ML.

Thanks Lee...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Fragrances Coming to Guerlain boutique in Bergdrof Goodman: Cruel Gardenia, L'Ame d'Un Heros and others

Starting February 4th, Guerlain Boutique in Bergdorf Goodman will have in stock several Exclusive and Limited Edition Fragrances. Only mimited numbers of each will be available for The Second Anniversary of the Boutique.

Is all-embracing encapsulating love, passion & joy. The logic of its creation seems inescapable, so entirely natural from the first aroma to the heady mix of Calabrian bergamot & black pepper. Embark on a sensory voyage of exceptional intensity, experience this stolen kiss that will transport you. Discover the vibrancy w/ violet leaves, a fresh green note that quivers in the brightness of hyacinth, exhilarated w/ the alluring warmth of nutmeg. A radiant sensuality that unsettles & gives nothing away. Revel in its fragrant trail redolent of flamboyant vetiver, & overtones of leather on an accord of precious wood.

QUAND VIENT L'ETE (Floral-Powdery-Sunny)-1998
Imagine a hot summer day. The body surrenders to Nature and the sun. Impossible to resist wearing these fresh, honey notes on a bare skin. In the morning, the urge for morning dew and cool flowers springs from audacious citrus and sharp mint, softened by sweet rose. Under the midday sun, ylang-ylang, jasmine, and white lily sing ode of joy to the body. Their jubilation lasts until twilight and their music lingers in a trail of honey notes redolent of vanilla, iris and carnation.

METALYS (Floral-Spicy) 2000
Here's one of the finest interpretations of vanilla of all time, in a fragrance combining tradition and modernity. Bracing, impetuous and metallic! A burst of citrus top notes sets the pace in a dance of subtle scents. The heart is light and floral, composed of ylang-ylang and orange blossom underscores by spicy carnation. As for the base, the exquisite scent of vanilla unfolds, highlighted by powdery iris and enveloped in the fullness of tonka bean. Metalys, a tale of vibrant femininity.

PURPLE FANTASY (Floral-Woody-Fruity) 2001
For fearless vir tual explorers of intense emotions and new territories, Jean-Paul guerlain creates an imaginary world somewhere between dream and reality, beyond infinity. One enters through a flowerless garden where bergamot, orange and green tea detonate mouth-watering acidulated notes, the hasten to join the dominants at the heart: osmanthus, apricot and jasmin. Appetizing, sensuous and en expected, they for a prelude to the masterful base notes of sandalwood and cedar.

L'AME D'UN HEROS (Invigorating, woody) 1998
At first, nearing the shore, one is met by a bright burst of citrus, fresh bergamot and lemon. Upon firming ground, the wafting scent of neroli tempered by a sage is pure delight to the senses. The effect is fresh, transparent and sumptuously green, like a landscape in the sun warmed by heart notes of ylang-ylang from the Comoros and an aromatic harmony: assinthe, basil and cypress go wild beneath the sultry spicy notes of juniper berry. Drifting sensuously along the skin, a note of everlasting flower sets the pace and beckons to a finale of rich woody and amber notes. The heroic spirit is expressed by elegant vetiver for stature and patchouli and balsamic notes for mystery.

CRUEL GARDENIA (part of the L'Art et La Matiere)
Essence of damask rose with hints of peach and neroli create a refreshing initial burst of florals. Gradually, the scent of gardenia develops with the grace of violet, warmed by ylang-ylang from the Comoros and white musks. These lingering notes, present from the beginning, form the backbone of the composition. Essence of Tonka Bean sustains the white musks and moves into a sensuous note of vanilla and sandalwood. "

For more information and to pre-order, please contact Jason Beers, (212) 872-2734 (646) 320-2637,

Perfume Review: Liz Zorn Grand Canyon

Thanks to a kind fellow perfume lover, I got to try several Liz Zorn fragrances. I was impressed by all and loved one, the subject of this post. "Inspired by the vastness and colors of the American Grand Canyon", the perfumer blended citruses, spices and woods to create a fragrance which I perceive as color copper, the color of sunset over the almost Marcian landscape of Arizona.

Before smelling the fragrance, going by the name alone, I imagined something much sharper and more rugged. In reality, Grand Canyon mixes the sweet (blood orange, clementine) with the dry (black pepper) and the soft (benzoin, honey, myrrh) with the sharp (laurel leaf, vetiver), striking a perfect balance. The citruses are very prominent on me, but, smelled alongside woods and resins, they appear ripe, nectareous and languid, rather than sparkly, fresh and tangy. Myrrh is apparent as well, a round, soft, enveloping note, completely void here of the medicinal undertone that I dislike. And, finally, pepper, the third star note, is the black scar on the soft coppery velvet of the composition, striking and alluring. Liz Zorn calls Grand Canyon a comforting scent, and that is how I perceive it as well. On a cold day like today, it wraps me in its warmth like a gorgeous Southwestern shawl.

Grand Canyon is available on, $28.00-$89.00.

The painting is Grand Canyon by R. C. Gorman.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Home And Dry: Yves Rocher Néonatura “Cocoon” Perfume

By Donna

The sense of smell is something primal and atavistic – we react to it on a visceral level whether we are conscious of it or not. When I began to realize how sensitive my nose was, at a very young age, I learned to “tune in” to this in self-defense once I figured out I could use it to my advantage. For example, I can say without exaggeration that I can smell danger – if I am in the garden section of a store and I smell even a faint odor of pesticides, I can avoid that section entirely, as I can detect it from afar. My body knows instinctively that these are deadly substances to be avoided and it triggers my “fight or flight” reaction. In the same way, I realized at some point that I can sense menace and threat in a human being by the way they smell. There are other cues that people (especially women) can pick up on for that of course, but I can detect a harsh, somewhat metallic odor that tells me to stay away. Sometimes it is such a strong sensation that I can barely resist the urge to bolt. The worst thing is when an odor is both very bad and cannot be identified – then the alarm bells really go off, since there is no clear idea of where the miasma of danger might be coming from. We all have this ability, underdeveloped though it may be – it can keep us from being poisoned by eating bad food or drinking fouled water, from being attacked by a large predator, or from being harmed by approaching the wrong stranger. I wonder if what we sometimes call the “sixth sense” of perception is really a part of the sense of smell, operating at a nearly subliminal level, only we are unaware of its power.

So what is the opposite of this ability to survive by sensing olfactory danger? It is smelling familiar or pleasant things and feeling safe and happy. For our ancestors it may have meant recognizing the smell of fresh water on the breeze after a long trek over a dry desert. For us today it can be the simple comfort of coming home to your own house at night and knowing everything is as it should be before you even turn on the lights. It can be smelling your significant other’s favorite sweater when they are away from home to make you feel closer to your loved one. Or it can be the sweet pleasure of plunging your nose into a bouquet of dewy roses, or closing your eyes to better appreciate the aroma of baking bread wafting through the air. And of course, it can be removing the stopper from your favorite bottle of perfume and savoring the moment before you apply it to your skin, knowing it will make you feel beautiful or sexy or powerful or clean or whatever it is you want that fragrance to do for you. We are so very fortunate in our modern world that we can choose the mood we wish to project to the world simply by selecting a liquid in a pretty container that tells everyone we meet how we feel about ourselves.

But what about those times when life becomes too much to handle and we want to retreat into our dens, “go to ground” like a fox or badger, and wrap ourselves in the surroundings of home, never venturing out in the big, bad scary place that is the world at large? Everyone seems to have a “comfort scent” that makes them feel most at home in their own skin, a go-to fragrance that always works. It is different for everyone, and one person’s comfort scent might be someone else’s paint-the-town-red perfume. However, there is such a thing as a fragrance created explicitly for the purpose of making the wearer feel comfortable, relaxed and stress-free. Welcome to the cozy world of Yves Rocher Néonatura “Cocoon” Perfume. (This is one of the Néonatura series of “concept” fragrances inspired by Nature from Yves Rocher; the others are the fresh, green Elevate and the flowery, bright Soufflé.)

I approached this one with caution at first, as it had the potential to be something I could not even wear at all by the description on the box – a blend consisting mostly of patchouli, cocoa and vanilla. Now that may sound very odd, but it somehow all works together. I was a bit leery of the idea of cocoa, since I had recently discovered two fragrances featuring a cocoa note that really set my teeth on edge – Montale Chocolate Greedy and Jo Malone Blue Agave and Cacao. They were both so strange and the cocoa so much in conflict with the other notes to my nose that I found them unwearable, and in the case of the Montale it actually made me feel a little sick and claustrophobic. (Had I actually applied it to my skin I would have had to scrub with Lava® soap!) No such problem with Cocoon; there is plenty of vanilla to make the cocoa seem more like what we think chocolate should be – after all, vanilla is a good part of what makes chocolate taste good to us, since unsweetened chocolate with no vanilla added is harsh and bitter. Vanilla turns it round, smooth and luscious to our taste buds. This is a superior use of a chocolate note in perfume, and quite surprising in such an affordable line. Too bad Montale could not come up with something more palatable at their prices.

Furthermore, the hefty amount of patchouli keeps the other notes from being too sweet and provides a calming woody depth. I am old enough to remember being surrounded by people who wore nothing but straight patchouli oil, if they wore any fragrance at all, or even bathed, and in some cases it was in combination with the vile odor of marijuana smoke, the smell of which is the reason I never did more than try the stuff. (No degree of altered consciousness is worth putting up with such a hideous smell.) This was enough to turn me off patchouli for a very long time, but after I began to discover the wide world of fine perfumery I realized that it had its own merits and that I should not judge it by the bad memories of the cheap and strong head-shop stuff of old. I can now appreciate its deep woody greenness and the sensual shading it adds to a perfume composition. What it does to this scent is make it dry and radiant instead of sticky and cloying as might be expected of such gourmand notes. I applied a very tiny amount at first, afraid that it would be too overwhelming, but it melded with my skin nicely and kept up a steadfast presence throughout the day. There is little development in this simple scent, but it is very effective. It is perfect for winter, since it has a somewhat gourmand aspect and there is a bit of a holiday feel to it due to the profound woodiness of its Oriental character. Sillage is considerable and the lasting power is impressive, so do use discretion when applying. However, if you want to stay home and fee like “cocooning”, just go ahead and spray with abandon, as it is, after all meant to surround the wearer with a sense of peace and comfort. It does just that-in fact I almost get sleepy when I wear it. We don’t get snow very often where I live now, but if we do get a big storm this winter I intend to make myself a big mug of cocoa, put on a generous application of Cocoon and curl up under a blanket on the couch while I watch the flakes drift down.

The really great thing about this 2005 release (and many Yves Rocher fragrances) is how many ways there are to have it. Eau de Parfum, perfumed body lotion, cream perfume, perfumed shower gel, even incense and tea lights. Everything you need to surround yourself with serenity. Now that I have run across this one I feel like I need to try more of the line. It is only available by mail order as far as I can tell, but the prices are generally low and the quality is very good. I did buy some products from them many years ago, and I did not realize until quite recently that they were still around and had grown to offer a bewildering array of products, all based on natural botanical ingredients. They have fragrances in a “Try Me” size, which is a nice touch for a company that does not have stores where customers can try the products off the shelf. I may just have to explore the world of Yves Rocher a little more.

Image credits: Cocoon bottle from

Extremely relaxed LOLcat from

Monday, January 14, 2008

Perfume Review: Humiecki & Graef Skarb

Let me preface the post by saying that I feel I should be fully qualified to understand and appreciate Humiecki & Graef’s olfactory effort, Skarb. I am Slavic, in more ways than one. I have made seen Slavic men cry. I love practically everything Christophe Laudamiel has ever created. I am fairly broad-minded and can relate to the creators’ desire to break free from the conceptual confines of perfume-about-love, perfume-about-sex, perfume-about-travels-to-exotic-lands. Having said that, I do have my reservations about bringing politics or any sort of agenda into perfume. That I feel the horrors of National Socialism and Perfume just don’t “go”. And that I find the idea of a scent about crying rather depressing. To put the long story short, this concept doesn’t rock my boat.

Perfume itself, on the other hand, does. I will not engage in the game of guessing which notes of the “star-shaped” composition were meant to represent which sides of the mysterious and sensitive Slavic soul and of the sacred rite that is men’s crying. The presence of some of the notes I could have guessed before smelling Skarb or reading its description. A Slavic-inspired perfume must have incense. And you can’t make perfume inspired by crying without a watery accord. By the way, predictable or rather unavoidable as it is in this case, that accord is what makes the perfume so recognizably Laudamiel for me. The raw, salty, leathery-animalic feel of it reminds me of S-Perfume S-ex, and, dare I say it, it is the “watery accord” that makes Skarb smell interesting, that sets it apart from the ubiquitous spicy-incensey offerings one can now find in dozens at any store specializing in niche perfumes. I also love the pungent greenness of the scent, the meaty earthiness, the unexpected piquant sweetness. It has the kind of oddness that I think should be the only one allowed in perfumery- the wearable kind. Again, that is something unique to Laudamiel’s creations, as is the quirky sort of elegance and unexpected versatility that Skarb has. You could put it on to reconnect with your Slavic soul and to brood about the tumultuous history of Central and Eastern Europe in the 20th century. Or you could easily wear it to your down-to-materialistic-earth and politically correct office and it would feel quite natural there too. And by You I mean a man or a woman, because, despite the man-oriented premise, Skarb is resolutely unisex.

Available at Luckyscent, for the price that, in the spirit of the scent, was probably meant to make you cry, $210.00 for 100ml.


Winners of Incense Extreme Sample Draw

...are Divalano, Anthony, SaraDCole. Please email me your addresses... and thank you, everybody, for playing!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Made by Blog Update

For those (still) following the Made by Blog project, I have finally posted a short review of the two latest mods. It can be found on Made by Blog blog.

In Which I Am Being a Positive Thinker... Plus a Prize Draw

My mission impossible for today: to test ten fragrances I have been reluctant to smell for a while and to find something positive to say about each of them.

Coach by Coach. It has guava, but it does not have litchi. It is fruity, but it is also strongly floral. In fact, after a short time of obligatory juvenile sweetness, it becomes an airy white floral. I would go as far as to say that I’d wear it. If I had to.

Desperate Housewives Forbidden Fruit. Actually not that fruity. Like Coach, it is surprisingly floral, with a somewhat lilac-like accord. I could just about imagine wearing it. If I really, really had to.

L by Gwen Stefani. I love the TV ad. I like the bottle. I admire the way the scent fits the adultescent image of Stefani. If I were a fan of Goutal’s Petite Cherie, I would have been ecstatic to find a fragrance that smells just like it.

M by Mariah Carey. Smells like fluffernutters. Is therefore rather comforting. Does not have litchi.

Gucci by Gucci. Is not another Envy Me follow-up. I like the 1970s glam feel of the bottle and the ads. If I hated chypres, I would have been relieved to discover that Gucci is not one of them.

Delicious Night by Donna Karan. Does not smell like Be Delicious.

Roxy by Roxy. If I were 14, I would have loved this. It makes me grateful I am not 14.

Nina by Nina Ricci. Ditto.

Betsey Johnson by Betsey Johnson. Tritto.

Eau de Star by Thierry Mugler. An aquatic accord will make Angel ever so more bearable to smell in a crowded train at 8 in the morning. Besides, as far as I can tell, it does not have litchi.

Your mission impossible for today: find a sample you were afraid to test, smell it and say something positive about it, in your comment. If you would like to be entered into a sample prize draw for a scent that is in no way like the ten fragrances in this post, say so in your comment. The scent is Andy Tauer's new offering, Incense Extreme. The names of three winners will be randomly drawn and announced on Monday.

Pollyanna still is from

Thursday, January 10, 2008

News from Robert Piguet Parfums: New E-Commerce Site and 60 years of Fracas

Robert Piguet Parfums unveiled the newly-designed and shop-able website. Check it out at

The brand will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of Fracas, Robert Piguet’s star fragrance, throughout the whole of 2008. New product introductions and special offers will be launched and announced in the upcoming months. Since I liked basically everything Piguet Parfums (re) introduced so far, I am excited.

Perfume Review: Annick Goutal Les Orientalistes- Ambre Fetiche, Myrrhe Ardente, & Encens Flamboyant

Review by Tom

Those of you who have been reading my petty ramblings on this blog know that I am a long-time fan of Annick Goutal; since I was a toddler in the 80's and discovered her scents at Bergdorf Goodman where they were the antithesis of that decades rather (ahem) definite scents. These were covered by Patty and March at Perfume Posse, and of course I had to log on to the Perfumed Court and get the samps.

Ambre Fétiche starts off boozy, all iris and frankincense, then getting a bit like a drier Sables. For me the actual Amber portion of the program doesn't pop out until well into the development, but when it does: oh my! This is an AG that lifts its skirts. It's not as definitive as say Ambre Sultan's glottal liquidness or the delightful debauchery of Ambre Russe (three spritzes of which could have you doing a field sobriety test), but it's amber in no uncertain terms.

Encense Flamboyant is perhaps one that is not quite going with the truth in advertising thing. It is a lovely incense, starting off with cardamom and a trace of nutmeg and drying finally to a your-skin-but-better note. It's not terribly heavy incense; there's no real weight to it, and I mean that in a good way. I can see getting a lot of mileage out of this one and immediately running out and getting another bottle after I had used up the one that I will no doubt buy. As much as I like Ambre Fetiche, I don't know that I would write the same about it.

Myrrhe Ardente starts off sweet, with vanilla and myrrh elbowing each other in the ribs to get to the front. Luckily, on me myrrh sucker punches vanilla fairly early on in the proceedings and a rather Eau-de Fier note drops in for a visit. Vanilla picks herself out of the weeds, dusts herself off and pops back in for the drydown. If you are averse to some of that sweetness (I certainly was not), I think you could spritz on a bit of Eau de Fier to cut it.

As March and Patty point out, none of these are reinventing the wheel. What they are doing, and praise be that the lovely people at Annick Goutal are, is making three very lovely and very worthy additions to a house that I will always think of as the original Niche House: one that in 30 years has never lost its way and has never debuted something that compromised the purity of the vision of their founder. I say hosannas for that, and get these stateside; I need a bottle of Encense Flamboyant...

Image source,

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Sappy Story That Ends Well: Max Mara

By Donna

This is the saga of a department store perfume that ended up being surprisingly good. Some time ago I was on the lookout for a summer fragrance, but not one so light that it would disappear in fifteen minutes. I like citrus scents but I have to be careful with them. Sometimes grapefruit can turn “catty” on me if you know what I mean, and orange fragrances must be tempered with something else to avoid smelling like orange spray cleaner on my skin. In addition, some citrus scents are so dry and austere that they can seem quite masculine, such as Guerlain’s Eau de Cologne Imperiale – I love it, but it is not playful or feminine at all. I wanted something light-hearted but grown-up as well, something I could wear to the office that would still be professional, but also something fun and a little bit soft for casual wear. I did not want to spend a lot of money either. Was that too tall an order?

I looked at a number of scents in this quest for just the right one. I loved Hermès Un Jardin en Méditerranée and Un Jardin Sur le Nil but they pretty much disappeared on me right away and I thought that for those prices they should last longer. The latter one I would like to have around when it’s too hot to wear anything but a glass of iced tea and a smile, but not for everyday use. The same was true of L’Artisan’s La Chasse aux Papillons – it just did not last well on me, though it was truly wonderful while it lasted. (If I had known that there was an Extreme, i.e. EDP for version of this, things might have been different.) My current summer standby Ines de la Fressange (1999) is very nice, but it has a spicy undertone from the carnation and I wanted something that was really sheer and refreshing. Besides, who ever said you only need one summer perfume?

As luck would have it, I was passing through my local Nordstrom store one day and I saw something new. I was drawn to the chunky but curvy modern bottle design of Max Mara, and hoping that the juice inside matched the looks of the package, I stopped to take a closer look. When I sprayed it on, I knew right away it was going to be a keeper. The initial burst of citrus was nothing short of delightful, sparkling fresh and just sweet enough to be more like fresh lemonade than just a lemon. But something else was making it extraordinarily pleasing that I could not quite put my finger on. I asked the very helpful sales associate to look up the notes for me. (At Nordstrom, they are actually willing to DO this, you see.) The mystery note was: sap! I have no idea what kind of sap, as the note is only listed as “sap” or “plant sap” in the places I looked it up, but nonetheless sap happens to be a favorite thing of mine. You see, I grew up in New England, and every spring we tapped our Sugar Maple trees to make maple syrup. The sap from the trees has only a gentle sweetness, and must be boiled for many hours to be turned into thick syrup. I used to like to drink the sap straight from the tree, as there is no purer form of water to be found in Nature than that which has been filtered by the roots of this grand tree. It tastes of the natural sugar of the maple tree and sometimes has a slightly “barky” character from coming into contact with the tree’s exterior as it runs out of the tap. When sugaring season was over, we could store the syrup all year if it lasted that long, but the sap was a fleeting pleasure confined to the few short weeks when it sweetened the spring air as it flowed out of the roots and swelled the tiny buds of the maple trees. In the fall, when those same trees turn scarlet and orange, their brilliant leaves smell of burnt caramel sugar in an echo of spring’s sweet elixir.

The SA made up a sample of it for me so I could wear it at home. I used it up very quickly, as I could not get enough of smelling it. It lasted pretty well, though I would like a little more longevity from an Eau de Parfum. It really does not fade as much as change, however– it gets a somewhat candied feel as the top notes gradually give way and then that is a constant presence for quite some time. One reason for this is the presence of sugar cane, which I also love – have you ever bought a piece of fresh, crunchy cane at a market and chewed the sugary juice out of it? It’s rather like a bamboo shoot in texture only woodier, and it’s very refreshing on a hot day. It’s sort of like sap itself, if you think about it – it’s the essence of the plant, the lifeblood if you will, and we also boil it down into something thick and sweet.

I liked it more the longer I wore it, and here is why. The listed notes are as follows: Ginger, Sap, Sicilian Lemon, Magnolia, White Lily, Orchid, Sugar Cane, Musk, Exotic Woods, Cashmere (the wood, not the wool!). Well, I am a lover of all things Lily and Orchid, and who does not like Sicilian Lemon? The Magnolia is also a soft, almost watery note but very sensual too. The sap note is especially endearing, as it has an effect on the entire spectrum of the scent’s development. It lends a fresh almost rain-like feel to the whole thing, soft as a breeze but never too sweet. It never gets sour or acidic or “turns” on my skin like so many other citrus-based fragrances do.

As it reached the dry down stage, it reminded me of something else and I thought about it for a while but could not come up with the association. I finally figured it out after seeing a photo of Sophia Loren, believe it or not – it smelled like the flavor of a dessert I made a long time ago. A newspaper printed the recipe for a favorite Italian dessert that she made at home for her family called Ricotta Pie, a very lemony cheesecake-like confection with candied citron and Sultana raisins in it, among other things. It was really good and I received high praise for it. It was one of those things where I surprised myself by how well it came out. Don’t get me wrong, this is not really a foody scent, but the lemony goodness is so very appealing to me that I can only call it delicious!

The perfumer for this 2004 release was Daphne Bugey of Firmenich, but I cannot find out much about her other than a list of fragrances she has done over on Now Smell This. She did three critically acclaimed scents for Le Labo and also collaborated with Olivier Cresp for the award –winning Kenzo Amour, so I know she is very talented. The Max Mara fashion label is the creation of Milan designer Achille Maramotti, who died in 2005. I understand that the company released another fragrance in 2007 for the line, called Silk Touch, which is very different in character (a fruity-floral) but is also by Daphne Bugey. I hope this does not mean the end of the first one. What will I do for the perfect summer perfume if they take it away? (For now, the original Max Mara EDP is widely available at online perfume merchants and department stores – I found the large 150 ML bottle at TJ Maxx for under $30.00.) It also comes in a body wash, body cream and a lotion containing silk protein called Lifting Body Serum. I may have to have some of those products for summer. But oh, have I mentioned this; I like this one so much that I have decided it’s not just for summer anymore, and I will have to resist the temptation to wear it so much that I will need another bottle by the time warm weather comes around again.

Image credits: Max Mara Perfume bottle from Maple branch from

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Once in a while, when I suffer from a blogger's block, I turn to Mr Colombina for post ideas. Yesterday he asked me an interesting question: do the scents that a couple wears have to be coordinated, and if so, which feminine fragrances would go best with which masculine fragrances, and would I list some of my most favorite men's scents and pair them with their ideal feminine counterparts. I firmly believe that everyone should wear what they like (and what the other partner doesn't actively dislike) and only be concerned about the amount of scent they put on (so as to not overpower the perfume the other person wears...I for one resent it tremendously, when, going out and having put on the rarest and the most expensive of parfums, I am then unable smell to it, because my nose is simply stuffed with the fumes of my partner's cologne of choice)...But I thought it was a fun exercise.

So here is the list of my favorite masculine perfumes, coupled with the scents that I think "go" with them the most. No thorough analysis was put into this, I went with my first instinct, which, looking at it now, was to complement what I feel are the main notes in masculine scents with similar notes in feminine scents. And thus we have:

1. Dior Fahrenheit for him - L'Artisan Dzing for her
2. Chanel Egoiste for him - Chanel Bois des Iles for her
3. Dior Eau Noire for him - Serge Lutens Encens et Lavande or Montale Boise Vanille for her
4. Annick Goutal Duel for him - Bond No 9 West Broadway for her
5. Caron Yatagan for him - Guerlain Jicky for her
6. Dior Eau Sauvage for him - Diorella or Diorama for her
7. D'Orsay Le Dandy for him - Lubin Idole for her
8. Geoffrey Beene Gray Flannel for him - Caron Violette Precieuse (old version) for her
9. Guerlain Derby for him - Miss Dior for her
10. Knize 10 for him - Caron Tabac Blond for her
11. Terre d'Hermes for him - L'Artisan Dzongkha for her
12. Gucci Homme for him - Caron Parfum Sacre for her
13. Dior Homme for him - Prada Infusion d'Iris for her
14. Czech & Speake No 88 for him - Gucci L'Arte di Gucci for her
15. Amouage Jubilation XXV for him - Montale Golden Aoud for her

There is a practically limitless amount of ways in which one could go about coupling scents. (You could, of course, take a shortcut and wear the ready made his-and-hers scents offered by companies, but that is kind of boring.) For example, instead of matching the main notes, as I did, you could choose to complement the less prominent accords: the powdery floralcy of Fahrenheit would go wonderfully well with a soft violet scent, say, LesNez The Unicorn Spell, and an iris fragrance like Iris Silver Mist would highlight the delicate orris in Duel. Contrasting scents might work just as well and perhaps be even more fun than the matchy-matchy approach. Imagine the rich darkness of Knize 10 next to the dazzling whiteness of Lys Mediterranee! Or the resolutely non-floral Yatagan next to the exuberant tuberose of Carnal Flower! The smoldering Gucci Homme next to the ethereal Clair de Musc. (Again, I can't stress it enough, please, be mindful of the amount you apply!)

By the way, nothing should prevent you from reversing the list! Let him wear your Miss Dior and wear his Derby. Fahrenheit is perfectly wearable for a woman, and a man can easily pull off wearing Diorama. And this brings me to Mr Colombina's second question: can women and men share perfume? My answer is a resounding Yes! I think there is nothing sexier than sharing a scent with someone you love. My favorite perfumes to share: all listed above, plus Chanel Coromandel, Bond No 9 Silver Factory, Montale Black Oud, Histoire de Parfums Marcquis de Sade, Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir...

I was also asked whether I think that some scents should never be worn together. I honestly can't think of an example of completely clashing fragrances. Pink Sugar and Cool Water? Or is it just my dislike for the scents talking here? If you love each other, perfumes you wear will always seem perfectly matching and ideally suited. Just please don't over-apply.

So what are your ideas on the coupling of scents? Do you match your perfume to that of your partner? What are your favorite combinations?