Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
It's the "fag end" of winter as Lee puts it, and as much as I would like to review something new and pithy, I can't bring myself to, really. I know it seems churlish at best to complain about our winter when parts of the rest of the country are digging out from snow or dodging tornadoes; I know it's petty and silly to complain that we've had another day of showers and haven't seen sun for two weeks, or that the temps are firmly in the forties.
But invariably at this time of year I start to feel deep ennui; I want to take to my bed with a couple of books for about a week. I want to watch Netflix and eat stinky cheeses and get weepy watching "Now, Voyager" and in general be really, really self indulgent.
That Pansy, how does he remain single?
In any case, this mild case of seasonal affective disorder cannot in real life be taken care of by hiding in my apartment, taking frequent bubble bath and plotting how to finance my first face-lift, I need to work. I need to go to my office and answer questions and make sure the freelances get paid and the billing gets uploaded into the system, the everyday stuff that actually pays the rent and keeps me semi-welcome at ScentBar.
So, I have been wearing the most comforting scents I can manage to the drab, fluorescent-lit soulless 70's joint I toil in. The olfactory equivalent of jammies with feet.
Sables is one that I've been dipping into lately, in this drab grey wet weather for some reason it's dried out and rather than being syrupy-sweet is warm and woody, with just a touch of that maple-cured goodness. I am glad that I am finding it that way, because I've worn it enough that my duvet might per permanently imbued with it.
Miller Harris L'Air de Rein is another. Colombina described it as "existing in an attractive and strange world of a wistful and vivid dream". While some think of this as being as forbidding as a bowl of musk-soaked razor blades I find it wonderful; suddenly those drab rainy days have been graced by the air of old tweed, leather-bound books and tea with a drop of peaty scotch.
But the one that I have deeply dipping into is thanks to Patty: Lostmarc'h Lann-ael. This is an odd scent, it really does smell like Froot Loops. Well, it smells like what I remember Froot Loops smelled like. I certainly haven't actually tasted any cereal that didn't guarantee to build strong bones and teeth while whisk-brooming my digestive tract in the past two-hundred years. I read her review and happily found that a sample of this had magically migrated to the top of my sample pile; its milky sweetness has been keeping me as happy as a nursery. The weather outside is frightful, fifty is no longer a vicious rumor, and well, the rest is boring. I've ordered a large decant of this for to help me through the rest of the "fag end"..
Anyone know where I can get jammies with feet that will have a 34 inch inseam and size 10 footies?
Oh, and bitchy Oscar aside: did John Travolta color his hair in with a sharpie?
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Perfume Review: Montale Aoud Blossom
Soon as I beheld thee, mazed and wildered grew my sad heart; How shall I my love disclose to thee who tyrant dread art? How shall I hold straight upon my road, when yonder Torment Smitten hath my breast with deadly wounds by her eyelash dart? Face, a rose; and mouth, a rosebud; form, a slender sapling--- How shall I not be the slave of Princess such as thou art? Ne'er hath heart a beauty seen like her of graceful figure; Joyous would I for yon charmer's eyebrow with my life part. Farisi, what can I do but love that peerless beauty? Ah! this aged Sphere hath made me lover of yon sweetheart.
Sultan Osman II,1617-1623 (source)
What can I say, Montale scents put me in the mood to cite poetry, the more abundantly romantic and exotic the better. I didn't really think I could possibly do another Montale review, because there is only so much one can say about rose-aoud blends, stunning though they might be. But Aoud Blossom is more than just roses and aoud, and so here I am again, waxing poetic with the help of an Ottoman ruler.
The notes that make Aoud Blossom special and put it somewhat apart in the seemingly endless (not that I am complaining) row of rose aouds, are jasmine and tuberose. Especially tuberose. Rose + Aoud = Love, we all know that. It came to me as a surprise that the creamy, tropical scent of tuberose would be just as alluring, paired with the spicy darkness of aoud. Rose and Aoud seem like natural companions, a dark and handsome young sultan and his beautiful dark-heaired wife that comes from the same land...The tuberose is a blond European import, sold to the harem by the pirates... to Sultan Aoud she is exotic, alluring and irresistible... I am very tempted to go on with my Anne and Serge Golon inspired love-story, but I won't. Try Aoud Blossom and find out for yourself how the sultry novel ends.
Aoud Blossom is available wherever Montale is sold, $150.00 for 50ml.
The still from Angélique et le Sultan is from allocine.fr
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The Desert King: Tauer Perfumes Incense Extreme
I have always associated the smell of wood with pleasant things and happy memories.
Perhaps I should explain.
When I was growing up, my father had a little woodworking shop set up in our barn. I loved the smell of freshly cut and planed wood, which he would fashion into decorative art objects. At Christmas, we usually had a Balsam Fir, the best tree of all, and it was so aromatic that even the wood of the trunk smelled better than that of other, inferior trees. Its soft needles were blissfully delicious. I also think of horses when I smell sawdust or wood chips, as both are often used as bedding in their stalls. The hot, sweet smell of a horse’s skin is just about my favorite smell in the world, so naturally the connection is a pleasing one. And of course, since I spent my childhood in the country, I equate trees with the freedom of being able to run wild in the nearby forest all summer. I wish every child could have that experience.
So what has this got to do with perfume? Andy Tauer has once again created a memory fragrance that brings me to another place and time. The very first thing I thought of when I smelled it was a place I once visited when I was a child. We went to see a young couple that was building a brand new house. I grew up living in a drafty old house from Colonial times, and all our relatives and most of our friends lived in old houses too – this was New England, after all. I had never actually been inside a brand-new building before. It was a heady blend of sensations indeed – freshly sawn lumber, fresh paint and optimism. It was a happy day and the couple we were visiting was so nice, and so were their children, that we all hated to leave. I remember asking my father if we could go see them again someday, but we never did. I sometimes think of that day as one of those times that stands out in the memory for some reason, but I had not thought about it for a long time until I put Tauer Perfumes Incense Extrême on my skin. It zapped me right back there like a liquid time machine.
I am a big fan of Andy Tauer’s work, and I love both of his previous “masculine” scents, L’Air du Desert Marocain and Lonestar Memories. Both of them evoke desert landscapes; the first, a masterpiece in my opinion, is like an encapsulated day in the Arabian desert, from warm sunrise though the burning day and into the cool of the evening. The second is a meditation on the idea of the American West, redolent of campfire smoke and leather, and bringing to mind tumbleweeds and cowboys. Incense Extrême Eau de Parfum is incredibly dry and woody, even austere. It is an arid environment of another kind. I would say it is a petrified forest, an abstract idea of a desert, a painted landscape of frankincense and cedar colored with spices.
This is one of the driest perfumes I have ever smelled. Once it warms up and gets into the heart notes, a bit of orris provides just a touch of something soft, but it’s not really sweet – more like little spot of shade in the expanse of the sun-baked composition. It never gets to the point of being an orris fragrance; it’s just a constant, subtle undertone. The incense part has little to do with fire; this frankincense seems to still be on the tree, with the hardened resin oozing out and drying in the merciless Sirocco wind. The cedar accord is one of the finest I have ever smelled, stately and noble. As for the spice – what is it? I thought I detected a little saffron, some coriander seed, just a touch of cumin and something that smells like the dried sumac powder used to flavor Arabian cuisine, but it never gets anywhere close to smelling like actual food. The spice part is an elusive trail, enticing and wispy, and it keeps vanishing and reappearing in new ways. Trying to figure out the mix of spices kept my nose constantly pressed to my arm while I wore this scent. The fact that it is anchored by ambergris was another delight. This works seamlessly well with the orris to polish the fragrance into a serene and elegant whole.
Let me quote Andy, from the copy on the sample card: “I wanted to create an incense that is intense and clear. A minimalist, cubist interpretation of incense, a touch of spices, powdery orris, dry cedar wood and ambergris, supporting the frankincense, that is rich, crisp, red and intense.”
Well, I would say that he got exactly what he was aiming for. No one else does dry fragrances quite like Andy does, in my experience anyway. I suppose this could be a unisex scent, but I think of it (and the other two I mentioned ) as leaning more to the masculine side due to the nearly complete absence of sweetness or floral notes. It has taken me a while to really learn to appreciate non-floral perfumes in general, but when they are done this well, I can understand why so many people prefer this style of fragrance. I think I might just follow a man who wears this into the desert night without looking back.
Tauer Perfumes are available in the U.S.A. exclusively at Luckyscent. For another take on this one, please read Tom’s post from January.
Image credit: Frankincense tree from enfleurage.com
Monday, February 25, 2008
Bespoke Perfumes? Perfume in the Glossies March 2008.
The winner of the sample prize draw...
|...is Monkey. Please send me your address, and the samples will be on their way.|
Friday, February 22, 2008
Sometimes They Come Back: L'Heure Bleue, Saffron... and a Prize Draw
Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a tearful post about the end of my love for a whole bunch of scents, saying that when love dies, it can't be brought back to life ever, ever, ever. Well, that still holds true for all but one of the perfumes which I lamented in that post. On one not so fine February day, L'Heure Bleue came back into my life. It hasn't changed, nor have I. It still smells dark, husky-sweet and Very Guerlain. And I still feel uncomfortable with Guerlain's trademark ambery powderiness which L'Heure Bleue has in abundance. And yet, somehow, miraculously, it all works. Again. I wake up in the morning "with a winged heart", because I am facing another day of wearing L'Heure Bleue. Who knows how long we will be happy this time. Judging by our past tumultuous history, not too long. But it is better to have loved and lost again and again than never to have loved at all. I am a firm believer in that, both in matters of heart and in matters of perfume.
I also fell back in love with saffron. Without a doubt, during my obsession with it a year or so ago, I overdid on saffron, big time. We were on a break for a good long while, and now I am enjoying the note again. My latest saffron discovery is Black Tie by Washington Tremlett. Yesterday I wrote about the delectable Royal Heroes, and I highly recommend that you pay close attention to the "masculine" offerings from this company (whereas the feminine My Fair Lady is pretty but nothing much to write a blog about). In Black Tie, the soft golden deliciousness of saffron is contrasted with the pungent spiciness of geranium (which also gives the composition a beautiful, ripe rose-like undertone), the forceful greenness of galbanum and the earthy darkness of patchouli. If Safran Troublant and Black Aoud had a fling, the fling would have resulted in an offsping that smelled just like Black Tie, black and gold, sharp and softer than soft.
To celebrate the resurrection of my loves, let us have a small prize draw. Tell me in your comment if you have recently fell back in love with any perfume and if you would like to participate in the draw. The winner will receive samples of Black Tie, Royal Heroes, Skarb, Goutal Ambre Fetiche and Tauer's latest, Incense Rose. Have a great weekend, everybody!
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Heroic Thursday: Guerlain L'Ame d'Un Heros and Washington Tremlett Royal Heroes
Guerlain's and Washington Tremlett's takes on what a hero would smell like could not be more different...or further from my idea of a "heroic" fragrance.
L'Âme d'Un Héros, Guerlain's re-introduction of Coriolan in a more exclusive (read, expensive) form, in the Les Parisiennes line, is what I think of as a very classic (read, conventional) masculine scent, fresh, a little soapy and cold, on a darker, woody-herbal-mossy base. The most attractive note here is vetiver, which has the pleasantly sour, sorrel-like undertone that I enjoy, and which reminds me in a very, very distant manner of the vetiver note in Djedi, where it is also paired with patchouli. The slightly powdery, almost leathery base of L'Ame makes me think of Derby. I feel bad evoking the names of Derby and Djedi in relation to L'Ame d'Un Heroes, because, although some parallels can be drawn, the two glorious perfumes would serve as an endorsement of sorts for L'Ame, and L'Ame does not deserve it. It is an elegant scent, no doubt about that, very wearable, very versatile. But it lacks character and originality. Suited for a hero? Nope. Perhaps for a member of nomenklatura.
Washington Tremlett's creation is heroic only in a sense that it dares to smell rather ...unexpected for a scent that is supposed to be a) masculine, b) inspired by "the heroical [sic] value of Horatio Nelson and his Royals" and c)"characterized by historical glamour". The notes provided by the company are mandarin, bergamot, clove, anise, cedarwood, patchouli and tonka, but I also smell very strong ginger, and, combined with the sweetness of citrus fruits, the latter gives the blend a candied, almost edible undertone. Royal Heroes has the same dark gourmandness and mouthwatering booziness that I love in such perfumes as Le Dandy, Une Crime Exotique and Mechant Loup. Admiral Nelson and his Royals would never deign to wear something so ....what is the word I am looking for?...not obviously masculine? metrosexual? sexually ambiguous? fluffy? Having said that, although Royal Heroes does not smell as my idea of heroic (for that, I would refer you to the great leathery chypres of the past, for example, Yatagan), it smells incredibly attractive. It is a warm, sweet-n-spicy, comforting fragrance that is perfect for the horrible weather we are having now. Much to Nelson's consternation (or so I would guess), it is also entirely suitable for a woman.
L'Âme d'Un Héros is available at Bergdorf Goodman, Royal Heroes at Luckyscent.com.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
2008 Fragrance Trends Predictions
According to Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Inc., "the following top 10 fragrance profiles will drive the market in 2008 and 2009:
1. White floral, tuberose, gardenia
2. Island tropics
3. Ambery blends
4. "Eco-conscious” green natural aroma
5. Cocktails, ester profiles
6. Grains (rice, wheat, popcorn)
7. Patchouli, retro, musk
8. Iris notes (women)
9. Orange blossom notes (men)
10. Vetiver, woody notes (men and women)"
With exception of 2, 4 and 5, it all sounds great to me.
Info source, Perfumer & Flavorist
You gotta have friends, part 3
Divina of Fragrance Bouquet was kind enough to send me a grab bag of all sorts of different things to try, a grab bag that I will try to do justice to in the breadth and depth of her choices, varied and interesting as they are...
Two were by Diptyque, best known as purveyors of house scents and candles here in the states. L'Eau Trois is a light juniperry little thing with a wonderful hint of dirt and a divine hint of musk, while Vinaigre starts off with a carbon-copy of apple cider vinegar before burning off to a pleasant woody scent. Neither are terribly long lasting or terribly dense but I really liked both of them; I can imagine that the Vinaigre especially as something that would be wonderfully refreshing on a hot day.
Two were by Jean Louis Scherrer, one his eponymous women's fragrance which starts with a blast of dirrrty vetiver before settling into a delicious slightly minted bower of white flowers. There was also something called "Immense", which is immensely odd. The opening is just bizarre: a strange buzzy quality with a woodiness to it, like a fine wood pipe used to smoke crystal meth. Then it gets to a berry stage before settling into white pears and woods. The pear is done very well, it really smells like white pairs and vanilla. I don't need to, but you be my guest..
Armani Prive Bois D'Encense was included. It starts off soapy on me, before coming into a clean, churchy incense that gets stronger and more wonderful as time goes on. I like it a lot, but here in the states it's part of a 4 scent gift set that retails for an eye-popping $740. I like it, just not that much..
Etat Libre Charogne was in there as well. We all know that I find this house kind of puerile; I was not expecting to like a scent that was named "Carrion". Starting bubble-gum sweet it quickly loses it's Bazooka Joe opening and deepens into something wonderfully, disturbingly sexy. The rot? It's in there, a bare trace of that Human Existence accord, zinc, funeral bowers and incense from the service. I am shocked that I loved this; it's gorgeous, it's weird. It's gorgeously weird, and I think it has to be mine.
The last two in the package were two by L. T. Piver. The lovely and wonderfully feminine Heliotrope, which combines that flower with sheer jasmine and a touch of Farnesiana's milky almond goodness, while Cuir de Russie starts off smelling like an ashtray- the best ashtray you could imagine. Cary Grant's ashtray. The one he shared with Randolph Scott when they were roommates. You want to move into that ashtray. It adds in orange peel, honey and spiced woods to a surprisingly refined leather for something that's described as "the leather smell of Cossack riding boots". It's refined, it's classic, it's old-school elegance and I think it has to come live with me very soon!
Many, many thanks to the kind and lovely Divina for the generous package; I hope I did them half justice, and you've given me ideas as to what to send you in return!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Manly, Yes, But I like It Too: Sashka For Him
The perfume I chose to write about this week is different from my “usual” for two reasons. First, it’s a men’s fragrance, and this is the first time I have dedicated an entire piece to one of those. Second, this is for a scent from a line that has all but disappeared from our shores and is amazingly elusive to track down, so I have had to piece together what I know, and some of it may not be entirely accurate. It is Sashka For Him by Parfums M. Micallef.
Martine Micallef, who had her own beauty institute in Cannes, France for 18 years and is also a well-known artist, created the Micallef line in 1997 along with her husband Geoffrey Newman. The beautiful bottles of the various Micallef fragrance collections reflect her artistry. The “Sashka” range has the simplest containers of all, egg-shaped and minimalist. As far as I can tell, this was the earliest group to be released and it is apparently no more, as their web site does not list any of them now. No North American retail outlets are listed; they are in Cannes, Paris, Dubai, London, and Germany, among other far-flung locations, and the latest news release on the site is an announcement that the boutique in Almaty, Kazakhstan (!) is doing so well they are hoping to open two more. This was in October 2007. (The web site’s English pages are oddly translated, so it is hard to tell what is merely planned for the line and what has actually happened.) There are no prices listed on the site either. Some of the custom bottles look impressively expensive, so I really don’t have to ask.
I obtained mine from The Perfume House in Portland, Oregon. They carried the line when it was first released but it has been withdrawn from the U.S. I tried the entire Sashka range back in 1997 when all the men’s and women’s versions were available. (I was particularly taken with Sashka Black For Him, an “extreme” scent for men that was very sexy, and now I really wish I had bought some at the time, as it sold out.) What I have now is the one called simply “Sashka for Him,” and it is really quite good.
The packaging is quite luxurious, a charcoal-gray box with the embossed signature of Mlle. Micallef on it. The bottle is a simple shape with a domed top that is a bit tricky to remove. What really struck me when I was examining the package was this slogan: “Perfume’s New Generation.” Whoa - that’s some big talkin’ there, pardner! This company must have begun as a very ambitious undertaking indeed. I can only speculate as to why these perfumes did not find a wider audience in the U.S. It’s not that they were prohibitively expensive; they were squarely mid-range in price at that time. I can only surmise that distribution was very limited and it simply did not take off in the crowded American market. From what I can tell by looking at their site, they cater to some very wealthy clients now so they must be doing fine without us.
This Eau de Parfum (you can tell it’s aimed at European men since it’s not called “cologne”) is not especially daring or different, but for what it is, it does it very well indeed. It begins quite conventionally but in a well-tempered and balanced way. No over-the top aquatics or camphorated woods or overdoses of “musk” here. A nice citrus blend of lemon and mandarin starts things off. The lavender is quite apparent too, but for those who quail at the thought of lavender in perfumes it does not dominate everything, nor does it clash with anything else. It keeps its own quiet counsel in the mix, along with the welcome rosemary. Once the citrus notes have receded I smelled quite a bit of pepper – not a strong black pepper, but more like the white pepper I prefer to put on my poached eggs instead of the black. While there may be pimiento I cannot really say I could tell – it is not very aggressive if it’s in there and the “true” pepper is fairly bold. My favorite part of this scent is a rich, dry, delicious nutmeg heart that persists all through the drydown. The vetiver and patchouli in this fragrance are of excellent quality, and when tempered with the nutmeg the result is a pleasing fragrance of warmth and depth.
Make no mistake, this is really meant for men, and it is plenty woody and just rugged enough; I picture it being worn by someone like Siegfried Farnon, the dashing country vet with a special affinity for horses, from James Herriot’s wonderful books about a veterinarian’s life in rural Yorkshire. It evokes a certain rustic country life for me, not rough and hard and poor, but more of an idealized scene of tweedy wools and old brick houses, well-worn paths winding through verdant pastures and stories told around the fireplace in the chilly evenings. I enjoy wearing it myself, but I think one of the reasons I like it so much is that it seems to belong to the kind of man I would like to know. I can imagine myself breathing in his scent on one of his sweaters when he’s not there, and it would smell just like this. There is a theory that puts forth the idea of women becoming more like men as they age, especially if they remain single, since they have to handle so many things on their own that women with husbands do not. Someone has even said that we become like the men we should have married. If that is so, then Sashka is my masculine self, and I am fine with that idea. If I were a man I could do a lot worse than be the one who would choose this fragrance as his own.
Notes: Top notes of lemon, mandarin, lavender and rosemary. Heart notes: pepper, pimiento, and nutmeg. Base notes: vetiver and patchouli. (Believe it or not, I obtained this list from a mail-order shopping site in Hyderabad, India. It seems to be perfectly in sync with my olfactory observations, so at least that part is right.)
I would be interested to know if anyone has tried other scents in this line and what your impressions are. I would especially like to hear about anyone’s experience with Sashka Black For Him, the one that got away from me. They now have an Oud-based series and other perfumes that bear no relation to the original releases.
Image credits: Sashka For Him bottle from malamall.com. Photo of actor Robert Hardy as “Siegfried Farnon” in the UK television series All Creatures Great And Small from televisonheaven.co.uk
Monday, February 18, 2008
Perfume Review: Ineke Evening Edged in Gold
I have been a fan of Ineke in theory, i.e. I thought that the perfumes were imaginative and lovely, but not my kind of thing... too fresh, too transparent. Evening Edged in Gold, a decidedly more substantial, floral-oriental, addition to the collection, is done very much to my liking. With notes of osmanthus, plum, angel's trumpet, saffron, cinnamon bark, midnight candy, leather and woods, it is a warm, languid, sweet fragrance that makes me think of the last really warm days of summer. Where I grew up, summer invariably ended on my birthday, in mid-August. The 15th was a cut-off line, after which the weather would become gloomy and rainy till Indian Summer would sometimes return some of the golden glory at the end of September.
The intoxicating sweetness of the apricoty osmanthus and plums (I haven't encountered angel's trumpet or midnight candy, but they are said to have a very sweet smell as well), is evocative of desperate desire to bloom, to breathe, to live, which I always imagine is palpable on those last sultry August nights. Every petal of every flower is eagerly open, absorbing all the warmth it can, releasing as much scent as it can... I don't smell saffron in Evening Edged in Gold, but I do get a lot of cinnamon, which I think goes wonderfully well with the nectarous, ripe quality of the flowers and which enhances the balmy, comforting feel of the woody base. The latter is the soft cashmere shawl one is eventually compelled to pull over one's shoulders sitting outside on a last night of summer, because cold breeze would inevitably appear out of nowhere, making one shiver not so much from the chill as from a vague sense of foreboding... the breeze would ruffle hair and petals, and whisper in the leaves that summer is over, over, over...
Evening Edged in Gold is available at ineke.com, $88.00 for 2.5oz.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Perfume Review: Miller Harris Geranium Bourbon
Or, led down the garden path by a perfume enabler...
Saturday was a lovely day in Los Angeles, clear and warm. A perfect day to meet Gaia, The Non-Blonde and her husband who were in town for a short visit. Gaia is a lovely little sprite of a girl, with a mass of dark brown hair and huge sloe-eyes that could convince a guy of practically anything. Her husband is tall and good looking and it's evident that they are crazy about each other; they are very cute together. We spent at least an hour at ScentBar, sniffing various things and having loads of fun. Her husband took a bottle of L'Homme Sage, a scent that I love and own, Gaia took a bottle of Bois 1920 Extreme, which smelled so stunning on her twenty minutes after application that I am fairly convinced that I am going to have to get a bottle, since we had previously discovered that we are scent twins. That and I tried it on the stray inch of skin that was unspritzed and yes, it was that good on me. Another reason to give scents a couple of tries and to wait for the drydown; I had dismissed Bois 1920 as sort of "meh" when I tried them. I am sadly (because of my bank balance) going to have to revise that opinion.
Another opinion I had to revise was about the fragrance that is the title of this review. I hadn't given it a try since the description at LuckyScent listed ingredients that read to me as "run, do not walk..": cassis berries and lemon geranium. The cassis and geranium are my usual codewords for scrub brush, dishsoap and at least three extra-strength tylenol but somehow the lemon and hint of rose in the geranium and cassis managed to make this pure, unadulterated heaven on me. Luckyscent describes it as an English garden after the rain. What they leave out is that there's a hunky gardener in there who's had a slug of Jack Daniels or two and a quick Lucky Strike and is interested in some serious Lady Chatterly action.
Gaia didn't have to twist my arm for me to get this one.
We left smelling seriously gorgeous and decamped to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for coffee on the terrace overlooking South Beverly Drive, then bought some incredible Macarons at a new store that sells only them on around the corner on Charleville Blvd. and wandered the South side of Beverly Hills, happily munching away and enjoying the spectacular day. Sated and smelling fabulous, they dropped me by my house and wended their way back to their hotel in Redondo before returning to New York and the three most evil words in the English language: Wind Chill
Moral of the story? Smell everything, you never know. That, or when confronted by Macarons of the caliber of the ones at Paulette, forget there is a word "diet". Better yet, the moral is, perfume people are the best!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
From the Mouths of Husbands: True Romance
Happy Valentine's Day
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Perfume Review: Guerlain Cruel Gardenia
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
My drummer must be different: Annick Goutal Les Orientalistes (Ambre Fetiche, Myrrhe Ardente and Encens Flamboyant)
Almost every review I've read about these scents describes them differently than I will. I was so excited to sample these, as I am addicted to Annick Goutal Sables and I am pretty keen on spice and amber and Eastern resins.
I tried Ambre Fetiche immediately and was rewarded with a truly pretty amber scent - warm and spicy, sweet and smooth. As it bloomed and deepened with my body heat, I was impressed by its cheery quality and its voluptuousness but it is sweet, maybe even too sweet for ol' sugar-loving me. Even while I was gobsmacked by all that sexy candy, I was wishing it would do something more devious.
It's gorgeous, with a certain head-shop undertone that undergirds its luminous golden glow with purple velvet. There is a kind of smirking spiciness to it that actually (gasp) projects a minor sillage - a mere ghost of something wicked under that smooth golden amber halo. It's like a lovely amber-perfumed creme brulee - sweet, flawlessly creamy and smooth, and not particularly novel to my jaded senses.
I find it difficult to pull my nose away from my wrist, but I have to confess I like my amber dirtier. All told, I wish the leather in it was more prominent and the vanilla (which is admittedly creamy and gorgeous in the scent) were less so.
Would I wear it? Oh, sure. In a heartbeat. But it's kind of unilinear in development. I would probably select a naughtier scent for a date, and a more work-safe scent, fresher and less immediately tumbled from the sheets, for work. That leaves me with few occasions on which I'd choose it. If you're looking for a (literally!) vanilla-amber scent that is beautifully crafted and simply elegant, try this one.
Next, I tried Encens Flamboyant. I like frankincense perfumes on other people; half the people I stop and ask about their scents tell me they are wearing frankincense oil from the health food store. I've tried frankincense oil from the health food store. But frankincense scents seem to be inevitably horrible on my skin, and sadly, this one is no exception. (My partner practically banned me from his airspace, so I don't think it's just my nose could be my skin chemistry, or it could be that it just isn't my ball of wax.)
At first I got nothing but Virginia Slims smoke and very, very faint drugstore rose cologne. I naturally enough recoiled from it for a while, but I resisted scrubbing it off. As I sniffed it in pure revolted fascination, other notes started to emerge. A kind of a lemony middle note, faint and fascinating, weaving in and out of the cigarette smoke and cologne. And then, absurdly, but completely persistently, it began to smell exactly like my hands do after I've scrubbed something with Comet cleanser.
WTF? Cigarette smoke to Comet, wow. Glamorous, this one is not. Smells like Eau de 1970s Sexploitation to me. Horrible.
It becomes inoffensive but still perplexing on the dry down on me, still very Comet but thankfully the cigarette smoke gives way to a sort of candied evergreen scent from the fir balsam. I was thanking my stars that it settles down to a very low roar at about this point.
On the bright side, one of my best friends is crazy (!) about the smell of Comet on her hands. She will doubtless inherit my sample. What a lucky girl!
Although I was firmly of the opinion that I loathed myrrh, after finding that I hated Crazylibellule and the Poppies' Encens Mystic and a couple of other myrrh-y fragrances, I winced, gritted my teeth, and applied Myrrhe Ardiente this morning. At first sniff, I thought┘ hey, that's actually not bad, it's kind of like birch sap - yes, it's like Beeman's Gum on the opening. What a scream!
A few minutes later I sniffed it again, thinking, oh, it's not. But yes, yes, it IS! Boylan's birch beer, Beeman's Gum, a thin and almost minty birch tree aroma that I was pretty wild about but found totally herbaceous, weird, and unlike my usual preferences.
I started thinking about how it would be on a hunky guy √ like retro sunshine and as if he'd fallen out of Mayberry, all wholesomeness and nostalgia, whoa grampa, whoa! Hot stuff! And about the time I was really laughing at myself, I realized that I smelled oh-my-goodness-gorgeous.
That whiff of almost petunia-y spiciness that I was attributing to the amber? That winking oeillet, sassy carnations a block away spiking the breeze, that ooh-la-la fresh-air summertime flirtation? THAT was emanating from what had formerly been super-fresh and super-wholesome? My wholesome fantasy was grinning wickedly and bidding me to play hooky! Clearly we were leaving Mayberry, romping through the rain-washed streets of the Big City, waiting for the museum to open. Then the tonka warmth and benzoin lushness cuddled up like a cozy bed partner nuzzling my skin, and I realized I had been seduced by the Nice Guy and his lipstick-stained sheep's clothing was strewn all over the floor of his den.
This one evolves so riotously that I think it's a must-try. It starts out so innocent, so hygienic, so bright┘ and takes you from hello, to joyous crush, to mad lust - and you never forget what you first saw in him, because that sweet retro chewing gum brightness stays faintly with you even when you've accepted the flowers and fallen into the creamy, cuddly dry down.
Myrrhe Ardiente is absolutely smashing on a woman and I think it would be equally devastating on a man. I want a bottle. I really, really do. It's the kind of idiosyncratic gorgeousness that I would wear absolutely anywhere┘ to work, on a date, to the theater, to the market, to go birdwatching, to a wedding, to bed, anywhere.
I know I'm a wee tiny minority on the Encens at least, and it makes me feel like a complete freak so I'm asking you all, have you tried these three? Does anyone else get lulled to sleep by the Ambre? Does anyone else get that cigarettes & cleanser vibe from Encens? Does anyone else get the birch beer and kisses thing from Myrrhe?
Image source, annickgoutal.nl.
Monday, February 11, 2008
The Sexiest Perfumes
Not a week goes by on more or less any perfume forum without somebody asking for the sexiest perfume recommendations. If I had a dollar for every email inquiring about the same thing (variations on the theme being "what girls dig", "what men like", and "what would get me the most compliments"), in the last two something years, I would have probably accumulated at least 23 dollars. So today we at Perfume-Smellin' Things decided to offer our list of the sexiest perfumes, masculine and feminine, and to show once and for all that the sexy in perfume is a very subjective matter. Join us and list your two sexiest scents in the comments.
The Sexiest Feminine Perfume: Chanel's Coco, in extrait: Not for everyone, to be sure, but on the right skin it radiates a soft, sexy warmth and an easy, confident glamor. Deep flowers, leather, the barest hint of dark chocolateтАФwhat more do you want?
The Sexiest Masculine Perfume: The smell of dish soap: That's right. Nothing is as sexy as a man washing up the dishes after a dinner he just prepared for his beloved while s/he sits comfortably sipping the last of the wine.
The Sexiest Feminine Perfume: Bal a Versailles blends with my soul……. I love who I become when I wear it.
The Sexiest Masculine Perfume: Givenchy Gentleman never fails to bring me to my knees…..
The Sexiest Feminine Perfume: Aftelier Tango - raw, haunting like a memory you are almost afraid to recall and ultimately tragic, like any true passion
The Sexiest Masculine Perfume: Dior Fahrenheit - The Ultimate Man. The Ultimate Sexy.
The Sexiest Feminine Perfume: Caron Parfum Sacre. Enveloping, mysterious and men just love it; the only thing "sacred" about this baby is the name.
The Sexiest Masculine Perfume: Montale Greyland. This unusual scent bowled me over right from the start with its Hot Romantic Hero vibe and stunning presence.
My choice for sexiest fragrance (I would love to smell this on a man or a woman!) has to go to Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore. This is a spicy sandalwood scent with a gormand edge. Mmmm, it's damn sexy!
The Sexiest Feminine Perfume: Guerlain Vanille Spirituese - vanilla is man-bait, pure and simple. This very adult, boozy, beautiful vanilla delivers without too much ice cream-and-knee-socks kink in it. Vanilla, amber, or jasmine florals always get my partner's attention: either Vanille Spiriteuse or Monyette Paris have him nuzzling my neck before I can get out the door.
The Sexiest Masculine Perfume: Hermes' Ambre Narguille - the warm, narcotic effect of this scent is so endlessly appealing. The scent swings from apple-pie wholesomeness to spicy hookah langour, all on a sinful amber vanilla background; I want to devour it.
The Sexiest Feminine Perfume: Hanae Mori's Magical Moon- white flowers, tropical fruit, and Asian incense, like a temple in the moonlight, romantic and sexy,too.
The Sexiest Masculine Perfume: Gucci Pour Homme (original) papyrus, incense, woods, and spice, can't go wrong with these.
The Sexiest Feminine Perfume: Off the top of my head I would choose D'zing. It's kind of leathery. And what's sexier than leather?
The Sexiest Masculine Perfume: I will say Yatagan only because well I've worn it a lot lately and though I have not been keeping track, I suspect it perhaps coincidentally has been worn on more nights that led to 'amore' than other scents. Wearing it reminds me of passion.
The Sexiest Feminine Perfume: Piguet Fracas. If you are going to do tuberose, I say go the whole nine yards. This is film-noir tuberose: hot-house sultriness, a blonde in bias-cut satin, champagne-soaked sin. Like a Lamborghini or a 45 automatic, is perhaps not very appropriate for a trip to CostCo, but if I smell it on you there I will be grinning form ear to ear.
The Sexiest Masculine Perfume: Muscs Kublai Khan. A suave conquerer of a fragrance; smells like post-coital bliss. I'd love to curl up in some chest hair and smell this..
And a bonus submission from Ina of Aromascope, who by the way is moving to her home-country today, so our best and warmest wishes go to Ina and her husband!
The Sexiest Feminine Perfume: Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose.
The Sexiest Masculine Perfume: Chanel Egoiste.
For other Valentine perfumes lists, please visit
Bois de Jasmin
Now Smell This
Friday, February 08, 2008
The Making Of 'The Perfect Scent'
By Chandler Burr
Like every good editor, George Hodgman, my editor at Henry Holt Publishers, was crucial in the creation of my book. He advised me, battled with me, cajoled me, and demanded cuts and changes throughout the manuscript. I my Acknowledgments, I wrote: "Editing a book is an exercise in humility, and sometimes in abject debasement.... George Hodgman, my editor at Henry Holt, has been insightful and demanding and infuriating and supportive and implacable and should, for the job he did on this book, be sainted, as George himself would be the very first to point out. I don't know if his dedication or his expertise is greater. It doesn't matter; both are awesome."
My book-- no title proposed-- was "acquired," to use the industry term, for a quarter of a million dollars by then-Henry Holt editor Jennifer Barth, working under Publisher John Sterling. As often happens in this business, Jennifer left Henry Holt for another editorial position at a different house just as I finished the first draft, and Holt put me with George. It turned out to be an excellent fit, and George was a wonderful editor, so I was very lucky. After my first rewrite for him, and after he'd returned the manuscript dripping with edits, I took several days to absorb them all (it's always pretty devastating the first time your first book draft comes back from your editor). Then I took a deep breath and started the business of responding. The below email will give you a look into the heart of the process of creating the book, a taste of what we were thinking about as we set out to rework what was, in its first draft, a manuscript both too long and too complex. We needed to strip away the excess and find the narrative threads, and this will give you a sense of how much the book evolved.
Here is the email:
So you've read the first draft, and I've got your comments, which I've read thoroughly. Here are my responses, and I'm trying to be very precise here so we can start getting down to the essential narratives.
- Verb tenses. I'd originally written the Hermes narrative in past tense, the Hermes dialogue scenes in present tense. I assume we'll change them all to past, but I'm not going to go through that until we figure out exactly what we're keeping. Please DON'T mark each of them on this next round; no need. Let's first decide how we want them to work. I personally like the mixture of past and present. I see using past for exposition and expository narrative and present for the narrative scenes with dialogue.
- Indicating dates to the reader: I have to say that I have an instinct (and I'm not sure why) against telling the reader exactly when this SJP story was happening. I just feel like specific dates, in this book, distracts rather than clarifies.
- The section that starts on page 349: You wanted it moved up to the top as set up for the book, and I agree completely, but I've put it at the start of "Chapter 2-Hermes"
- Why did you cut this? "I'd gotten Sarah Jessica's address several weeks ago from the guy who lived across the street from her. It seemed like everyone knew it except me. Gwenyth Paltrow's house was just down the street, they said, pointing it out, and there's Liv Tyler's, a block away." I put it in to convey my sense of the strangeness of suddenly perceiving an entire world that's there in front of you, imbedded in yours, of celebrities that you never picked up on, and suddenly: they're right in front of you. And you're in them. It's a weird feeling, I can tell you.
- You mentioned trying "not to continually repeat the word smell," and I agree, but in this case I actually am doing it intentionally. "Jennifer [the Times photographer] and I went all over the Village. We walked up to Magnolia Bakery because it was this phenomenon Sarah Jessica had helped create with "Sex and the City," but after inhaling hopefully we agreed it actually didn't smell that much inside. Christ, a bakery without a smell." I think it works.
- To this "She [SJP] raises her right hand far over her head and cups the fingers down. It's a cute exaggeration, only very slightly pretentious, since no one's pile is that high, but I appreciate the idea. I also doubt she's reading my book, but again: same thought." you said "You don't have to tell us," but I'm telling you because this turns out to be specifically totally wrong. To my amazement, her pile of books was *exactly that high, and she was in fact reading my book, and it was not pretentiousness at all; it was totally real. Yes, yes, she could have planted the book there, whatever, but I'm not inclined to be that paranoid. I think she's totally real here.
- There are, as usual, things I changed and things I left. I want you to know, however, that I thought about each one. To give you just one example, it's Sat morning at 8:52 and I just spent a minute pondering this one:
"She said, "Well, we're thinking about it now. But whatever it turns out to be? We'd like you to come along. Like The New Yorker, we'll include you in the whole creation process."
Her and the perfumers?
"Yep. But this time not from the perfumer's point of view. This time it's from her point of view.""
You put "She?? and the perfumers" It's grammatically correct, and I changed it, but for better or worse it's not what anyone in the United States actually says, so I think we should leave it as "her." This is merely to let you know that I'm looking at every swipe of your sharp pen, I promise you. You're not wasting your editing abilities!
- Here "Ellena said things like: "Ce n'est pas l'argent qui m'interesse. Je suis un homme d'idees." Money doesn't interest me. He shrugged." you wrote "Don't add gestures to quotes when you aren't in the scene, Monsieur." FYI I was in the office sitting 6 feet from Ellena when he said it. And he shrugged.
- As I warned you several times before, I warn you again: I like long quotes. Actually I love them. The section that freaks you out-titled "the photographer," which is one long quote from Quentin Bertoux, the photographer who tells the Aswan story-I love. But yes, yes, I'll cut it down (grrr).
- ""The problem," he [Ellena] started and then immediately checked himself, "well, you can't say there's a problem with Après l'Ondee, but…" You crossed out "and then immediately checked himself," and noted "too much with these if you aren't in an official profile interview." But to my mind that is the point. I want this to read like the interview it was. I really like this style. We can revisit this together, but I very much intended the "active interview" style.
- Re "On June 14, Ellena went back to Paris for meetings." You wrote "You've got to be real specific as we have to pick up very smoothly and the reader will not remember." Listen, I understand (obviously) your point, but people reading this book *know *who *Ellena *is at this point. Do you really think we need to spell it out so much? Here I've given a specific date, a specific person, a specific action, a specific place, and a specific reason. Here's the "real specific" version, and you tell me which of these you really want to keep. <
- George, I'm always willing to listen to counter arguments, but at the moment you and I have a very different view on the "thought process" aspects of this book, i.e., they make you nervous and me, not at all. This book is, simply, about the process of making perfumes, and that means intellectual problems. I understand why you keep writing "Needs to be dramatized, not explained," but the things that Ellena thought about, for ex "Ellena was well aware that beneath these four vials lay a vast, difficult question they would have to answer, relatively soon: What was an Hermès perfume?" are simply not "dramatizable." They were him and me (and a lot of people and me) talking about the problems that faced him as a perfumer, that faced Hermes, that face the industry. You write "Narrative, please," but your beloved narrative consists entirely of his reaction to these complex problems. If the reader doesn't understand these things, they simply don't understand the narrative, but I think they will. The section I've called In The Waiting Room is my recounting to the reader the conversation I had with Ellena while we waited in the hallway together at Hermes for a meeting and he talked to me about all the variables he was dealing with re Nil, all his concerns, what he was struggling with. It's a piece set in that waiting room, and it's not people "doing things" but it is absolutely this person doing a thing: Struggling with the substantive creation of this perfume. Which is the subject of this book. That's your narrative. I promise you.
- Hm…You marked one graph for termination. I don't mind terminating it, but I'm leaving it in for the moment till we get to the 2nd read. If you still want it to go, I'll cut it then.
- OK! So you make some very good comments (i.e. they make good sense to me) in the "June 14 Hermes" section. You note (correctly) that I start with examples of signatures that work, then ones that don't (Hugo Boss), but then I go back to ones that do. I've been mucking around with this for hours, shifting graphs, and believe it or not the do, don't, do structure works best, but I have now reworked the way I present it. You're upset about this section because you think it's not narrative. Well, no-it's not "here are people in a room doing things." But again, it's me presenting Ellena thinking about the problem.
- I never met [Jean-Paul] Gaultier, and I think, honestly, that while fashion pervades the book as a certain atmosphere (because, sadly in my view, perfume is now linked to fashion houses, which is a modern and I hope transitory phase; I'm really hoping scent goes back to being the product of scent houses that do only that, not belts and bags and shoes), I totally want to avoid making fashion a topic. It's what made me so damn uncomfortable with Remnick's proposal that I do this piece in the first place; the fashion world does have a few nice people in it, and a (very) small percentage of the stuff they make is nice enough, but overall it's vapid and nasty and ridiculously vain and materialistic and thus, in my view, grotesque. These are people who think a shade of beige is important. Actually the state of the public schools in the U.S. is important.
- On page 168 you write, "Hard to alternate between these stories if weather makes it clear they are happening at such different times." I can't see why this is an issue. In the new intro I say, "This is the behind-the-scenes story of the making of two very different perfumes over a two-year period from 2004 to 2006." To give you the exactly dates:
-JC Ellena: The creative process started May 2004 and ended December 2004, and the perfume launched March 2005.
- SJP: I started pursuing her as a story around May 2005, did my West Village day with her August 2005, started sitting in on meetings with her during the creative process for SJP Lovely Liquid Satin (that ended in February 2006), and I think the last lunch we had together was April 2006?
So it's 1 year each, with the years basically contiguous. I really don't think it's a problem. Let's get to the content of the next draft and then argue about structure at that point.
- "[The total retail value of Parker's perfume brand] has now gone up to $46 million." (Four months later, Timiraos will tell me that it had grown again to well over a $60 million gross.) "Wonderful," says Ross, congratulating Parker.
Walsh: "And we haven't gotten through Christmas." Everyone is smiling. Walsh and Timiraos are happy, but Parker seems mostly relieved, palpably so."
You wrote in the margin, "Why is SJP so, so concerned?" Honestly-and I'm not sure yet how we should present this in the book, but we'll get this across-I think that it's two things. First, she was to a degree playing to the camera, i.e. me. I believe she was managing her stardom. I don't blame her for this at all. It strikes me that her public role, she feels, is the sexy and urban but vulnerable and earnest woman, and she plays that role as she feels necessary. I was at a dinner party sitting next to another famous actress who knows SJ and who said effectively the same thing about her. This actress said it with a major cynical eye roll. I understand the eye roll. At the end of the day she's a journalistic subject like any other that I watch, and I'm quite conscious that she "handles" me. Yeah, it's fun when a movie star calls you on your cell phone, but you know why she's doing it. So I understand the eye roll, but I don't agree with it. SJ has let me in, and it's a serious fucking risk on her part, and she's managing her risk here-she doesn't know what I'm going to write, and she doesn't control it- and her brand, and what's wrong with that? Second, I know for a fact that she lies awake nights sweating this. It's millions of dollars of other people's money, not just her own, on her shoulders. Of course she's concerned. Carlos and Belinda and Catherine have shown me the emails they get from her at 3am when she leaps out of bed and shoots them some idea, "Hey! How about we do this?!" The woman is on it 24/7.
- Page 284: "A nifty scene, but why here?" Where the hell else? Because it's about Ellena's thinking about the creation of a perfume, damnit.
- Here "At this point, Walsh, Parker, and Timiraos all have the idea of inflecting the original Lovely scent with some new olfactory angle." you wrote "Hasn't that always been the idea?" Not really. They actually didn't know what they were going to do to the scent, started with the vague idea of inflecting it, and in the end elected not to change the perfume at all.
- "Never mention a celebrity kid. They freak if any info is disclosed." I hear you, but she did introduce me, he seems like a nice, normal kid, and I'm not "disclosing" anything. (I don't have anything to "disclose.") Let's let her take it out herself. I'm going to let her read her section.
- Re your comments about the section that begins on page 339, Peter Hess, SJP's agent at CAA, the terms of SJP's contract with Coty, etc. My brief answer is: No, I cannot get her financials, and no, aside from stealing it, which I'm not going to do, I can't get a copy of her confidential contract. "Well, you are a reporter." Oh, please, George. It's not gonna happen. I cut some more of the Paris Hilton contract stuff as you asked and clarified what I left. Note: I am willing to cut more. But I need your specific suggestions. Again, this section is not about Hilton. It's talking about SJP's contract by proxy, which is the best way I can talk about it. It is also about Peter Hess. The section begins and ends with him.
- I understand why you want to move the Dubrule part of the July 9 bottle meeting up to the top of that section, but I tried it several ways, and I am telling you that because of the way the meeting happened, it doesn't work. To make it work, I would have to fictionalize the dates, and we're not going to do that obviously, but I think it works well by starting with Baschmakoff. I've rewritten that whole section. Take a look.
- I don't understand what your note mid-page 343 means.
- Page 418 you circle Dubrule's name and write "Who is she? We really don't know." Sigh. If you want me to put in more biography, I'm happy to. Let's get the basic book finished, and I'll add as necessary.
- Darling, your note on page 423 (not the one up top, the one on the side) makes me want to kill you.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Parfums 06130 Feuille de Reglisse
Tamara, as all of you know has a wonderful blog and on it's wonderful pages I won a sample of this perfume; I love winning things, it makes me feel as if, well, as if I'd won something.
Parfums 06130 (pronounced "zeh-rho seese sehnt trahnnt", because this ain't some place in Connecticut, this is the postal code for Grasse, France, Europe, thanks ever so. Not that I didn't have to look that little fact up) is, according to the nice people at Aedes: "a new brand dedicated to creating the finest fragrances in the tradition of French perfume making"
The name, at Tamara points out translates to "licorice leaf", but unlike what you'd expect I get at first a bright, sweet, almost minty accord with a hint of orange blossom and bergamot. I know I previously wrote that bergamot must be outlawed as an opening in fragrances for the foreseeable future, but I am so please by the general happiness of this opening that I am going to let this one slide. As it dries, the root aspects of the licorice start to come forward taking the sparkling opening down a few notches. As it dries further the scent warms; nutmeg and cardamom stand out on me, but nothing ever threatens to overpower. It manages to be sweet, spicy, woody and flowery while also managing to be as light as a veil yet still tenacious enough that I could smell it hours later. While I can imagine that it would be stunning on a lady, I wouldn't hesitate to wear it myself; the flowers are so well balanced with the woods and the spices that it doesn't necessarily read as anything gender-specific. It's sort of a Tilda-Swindon-as-Orlando of scents. I'd love to try the rest of the line...
$145 for 3.4 ounces at Aedes