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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Various and Sundries...

By Tom

After a week of delightfully cool weather here in the City of the Angels, we had a dramatic turnaround: a weekend of highs in the mid to upper nineties. Luckily it's that patented SoCal dry heat, complete with Santa Ana winds, so feared by firefighters yet so beloved by me who doesn't like the heat back East where you sweat through your clothes and over-exert yourself by, say, sitting up. Also on the plus side, my friend the documentary film producer was a judge at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, held every year at the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood. I love the Arclight- it has reserved seating and contains the old Cinerama Dome. It also has AC that could store meat. Which is the perfect place for me to plop myself for the entire weekend of watching Indie Indian Films. Not to mention look at some seriously cute Indian guys. Note to self, go on a date, and not just with Sue.

In any case, the Bigarade Concentree indeed was on the floor of the car and did not fall out of my pocket onto Wilshire Boulevard when I got it from Barneys last week. The Malle line is very much growing on me- I am not quite sure yet that Musc Ravageur is going to be a full bottle for me- it seems one that I adore the beginning of but don't much want to leave the house smelling of the drydown. Not that it's not a fragrance that I have a lot of respect for, I find myself reacting the same way to Tubereuse Criminelle. Bigarade Concentree starts off with the pungency of bitter orange rind and cumin and I swear a touch of "new Converse All-Stars", weighty and in-your-face dramatic. It settles down as it wears and the cedar comes out to play. I am really liking it except for one thing: like most citruses, it's not very long lasting. I am on the fence with this one; don't know if this is FBW or if I will put that energy into getting a full bottle of Mandarine Mandarin, even if Mssr Turin proclaimed that it was "not particularly wearable" (harrumph!)

And onto The Guide...

I did get my copy this weekend, but only skimmed parts of it, since I was running off to Hollywood to moon over younger men, acidly judge the artistic endeavors of people with far more get-up-and-go than I, suck up free AC and two buck Chuck and generally waste some space (I know, you're thinking "how does he remain single?"). I will have to read more of it of course. I did chortle at several of the ones that I read even if I disagreed with it, but as I skimmed more I started to wonder if there was going to be an over-sustained level of snark going on here. Now I fully realise that I am in no way not guilty of being snarky myself; I snark therefore I am should be a family motto. But too much of a good thing can turn one from Oscar Wilde into David Spade. I'm hoping as I read more that sense of foreboding will dissipate...

Oh and one last tidbit. I wrote to the good people at Lostmarc'h to kvell over Lann-Ael, asking if there was a place in the US that carried the line. I was in no way hoping that they would send me a full bottle of Lann-Ael gift box full of full bottles to the shipping address included in the email (which IS still valid...). Failing that, they did email me back that the line will be coming to LuckyScent in late May or Early June. I can use my decant of that with abandon.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Perfume Review: Diptyque L'Eau de L'Eau

I will start by noting for the record that I came up with the name "L'Eau de L'Eau" in November 2006, when Diptyque's trio may or may not have already been a twinkle in their creators' eyes. I imagined the scent with this name would smell sort of like L'Eau d'Hiver only more aquatic...essentially I thought that "L'Eau de L'Eau" would smell of nothing.

Trying Diptyque's creation with that preconceived concept in mind, I was therefore surprised by the substantionality, depth and darkness of their L'Eau de L'Eau. The fragrance is supposed to be a fresher L’Eau, Diptyque's first fragrance, which, to my shame, I don't remember at all and which I now know I should re-visit. The first accord of L'Eau de L'Eau is as I imagined it would be, very fresh and pale, a completely unsweetened, dry citrus blend. However, very soon something interesting begins to come through that minimalistically fresh mist - some spice, some patchouli and even, I swear, some incense. The fragrance "darkens" considerably as it wears and becomes much more robust than the name would lead one to believe. The spicy mix of geranium, cloves and ginger is broodingly delicious. And the balsamic-incensey base makes L'Eau de L'Eau the kind of darkly-melancholic scent I like to wear for comfort on my "wallowing" days. It is an atmospheric fragrance, unexpectedly deep and complex, the most interesting of the three oversized eaux (or rather it is the closests to my personal taste) and definitely worth a try.

Available at Barneys, $150.00 for 200ml.


Monday, April 28, 2008

White Floral Queen Part Five: Sali Oguri Pink Manhattan Purrfume Oil... And a Prize Draw

By Donna

I had wanted to include this fragrance in my White Floral Queen series from the start, but I was trying to stop torturing myself (and others) and refrain from reviewing discontinued perfumes. Recently as I was browsing the fragrance blogosphere, I saw an announcement; Pink Manhattan Purrfume has returned! The perfumer has recently brought it back for a limited run of maybe a year or so. Now I can finally write about it without having to deliver the bad news that it’s another unobtainable one.

This perfume is actually an oil, so you know it’s going to be strong, and also that it will not change as much over time after being applied as alcohol-based scents will. When I wore Sali’s other scent, Persephone New York, I realized just how potent this formulation could be. If you over-apply, you have to be ready to take the consequences. As much as I like both of them it’s not a problem for me, but I would not wear either one to a business meeting. They need to be deployed strategically for maximum but carefully targeted impact.

Pink Manhattan Purrfume was Sali Oguri’s first fragrance, and it was quite a cult hit at the time; it was voted one of the top 10 fruity scents of 2005 on Luckyscent. It is exceptionally feminine and very sweet, being a delicious blend of gardenia, peach, hibiscus, French vanilla and musk. Now, this scent is really redolent of gardenia, and does not resemble the tuberose that comprises the character of many “gardenia” perfumes. It’s rich, buttery, and clinging. The peach is like a really good peach sorbet, creamy and refreshing at the same time. An unusual hibiscus note gives the fragrance a light and slightly tangy quality that plays “purrfectly” with the sweeter notes. The vanilla in this scent is bright and happy, not dark at all, and is a good match for the radiant cheerfulness of the floral and fruit accords. Musk in the base is mild and fresh and not in the least obtrusive or heavy. Everything else is subservient to the gardenia and the peach here, though; they are the stars of this show. If you think you don’t like gardenia you probably won’t want to try this, but even though it’s really quite strong, pairing it with the peach and hibiscus makes it smell like a picnic on a perfect summer day, and it’s not like any other gardenia scent I know of. Yes, it has some of that buttered popcorn quality that gardenias can develop as the flowers age, but I happen to love that part. The fresh notes keep it from going over the edge in that regard. (I did not detect any of the “bleu cheese” aroma that some heavier gardenia scents can have.)

So what does happen to this perfume oil when applied to the skin? The gardenia blooms its head off and the peach becomes an entire orchard. The way it smells bring to my mind the clichéd compliment of “You look good enough to eat.” This is not a diva scent; it’s too dewy and translucent for that. It’s more like the girl next door, but in the idealized version from the movies; her hair is freshly washed, her skin is impossibly smooth and glowing, and all the boys want to ask her out but they are too shy; surely such a perfect girl must already have a date for the big dance? All the poor fellows can do is turn red and stammer and blurt out something simple like “You smell pretty!” That’s what the Purrfume is all about - smelling pretty. No hidden agenda here, folks, nothing complicated or difficult to understand. Just straightforward I-love-being-a-girl stuff.

At first I thought, what am I doing wearing this, it’s much too “young” for me. Then I realized that if I feel young on the inside, to heck with what I am “supposed” to wear at my age. One of the perks of getting older is the freedom to stop caring so much about what other people think of you and just do whatever strikes your fancy. If I want to put on a hot pink summer top and rock the Purrfume, I am not going to let any notions of proper decorum stop me. (Youth really is wasted on the young a good deal of the time.) I always was more of the girl next door type anyway, so why not make the most of it? Who knows - maybe some blushing swain will tell me I smell pretty.

We have a special treat this time –several winners of the prize draw will each receive a carded sample of the Purrfume AND a Sali Oguri Pink Manhattan CD! This contains six of Sali’s atmospheric and innovative pop songs, and was originally released along with the fragrance as Sali’s “Sensorium of Song And Scent.” Just mention in the comments that you would like to be entered in the draw. Winners will be chosen over the weekend and announced shortly thereafter.

The Purrfume is currently available only from Sali’s web site and comes in a 1/3- ounce roll-on perfume oil for $95. Trust me when I say a little bit goes a long way. (And you can check out the music tracks on CD Baby’s Web site.)

Image credits: Photo of a very peachy-looking “girl next door,” actress Halle Berry, from; Pink Manhattan Purrfume bottle from


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Happy Orthodox Easter

...too all who celebrate it today!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Randomness: a Poll

I am running very much behind, and so how about we do a poll today? I would very much like to know:

1) Which new perfume release were you excited about the most? (let us consider anything that came out in the last 3-5 months to be new) Did it leave up to your expectations?
2) Which one disappointed you the most?
3) Last fragrance to join your collection?
4) A book that you enjoyed reading recently?
5) Favorite song at the moment?

(Me: 1) Guerlain Cruel Gardenia. Yes. 2) Parfumerie Generale Louanges Profanes. 3) Apres L'Ondee. 4) Perfumes The Guide. 5) Manuel Franjo Solo Por Tu Amor)

Have a great weekend everybody!

Image source,

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Perfume Review: Thierry Mugler Mirroir Mirroir Collection

Thierry Mugler decided to do a Malle of sorts and invited perfumers, Alexis Dadier, Fabrice Pellegrin, Christine Nagel and Domitille Bertier, to create, for the company's new Dare the Metamorphosis line, fragrances that would be appropriately quirky. The perfumes may not be to my liking, as the reviews below will show, but I do think that they are interesting nevertheless and worth smelling, if only to discover that (Perfume The Movie Coffret and Cologne aside) Mugler can produce perfumes that don't smell like some kind of variation on Angel.

A Travers Le Miroir (Through the Looking Glass), a juxtaposition of feminine (tuberose) and masculine (woods and absinthe). Who doesn't like a good contrast? And this one could have been good if the "masculine" side did not completely overwhelm the "feminine". The usually not shy tuberose doesn't dare to raise her voice, and lets the aromatic, nose-tingling "absinthe" notes dominate her. Love the wintergreen notes, don't love the dill ones. A waste of tuberose.

Dis-Moi, Miroir (Mirror Image). No amount of "milky notes" will turn snow-queen-cold lilies into "nurturing" flowers. The juicy sweetness of orange blossom compliments the dazzling-white lily accord beautifully, but whatever it is that gives the otherwise lovely floral scent its milky-chocolate undertone bothers me. A waste of lilies.

Miroir des Envies (Mirror of Desires) is probably the one that sells the best. Soft, creamy, delicately gourmand and even more delicately floral, it blends not too sweet chocolate accord with clean-smelling jasmine. It is a little on the bland side and overall not my thing but I would get it for my little one, there is something charmingly child-like about it...and therefore the name puzzles and disturbs me a little.

Miroir des Secrets (Mirror of Secrets) begins rather Angel-like (and is the only one in the series that reminded me of Angel), with an addition of a big, bright grapefruit note. The juicy sprakle of grapefruit is soon cleverly replaced by the powdery sparkle of an aldehydes. The patchouli note is there alright, but it is not the kind that I like and not the kind that should have been chosen to hint at "secrets" hidden in the depths of the perfume. It is not dark and earthy in the least. Instead it is squeaky-clean and pale. A waste of aldehydes.

Miroir des Vanites (Mirror of Vanities). Delicious, sweet-and-tart citrusy top accord unfortunately very quickly dissipates and is replaced by a mix that is, I suppose, meant to be "dark", and is instead rather generically masculine in that annoyingly sharp and syrupy way that masculine scents with licorice have to my anti-licorice nose. If you have enough patience to wait till the very last stages of drydown, you will be rewarded by an ambery-incensy accord of a very handsome, if austere, kind.

Available at Saks, $150.00 for 1.7oz.

Image source,


New Fragrance Line: Auguste Esprit de Cuir, Esprit de Chypre and Esprit de Chine

There is a new perfume line, Auguste, or Parfums d'Auguste, coming to Luckyscent. I managed to sniff their three perfumes, Esprit de Cuir, Esprit de Chypre, and Esprit de Chine, and what I find fascinating about them is the vintage feel of the scents. Not stylized-vintage, but vintage-vintage, like they were just excavated by Jaime Lliteras in his legendary warehouse. I loved all three, but Esprit de Chine moved me the most. Lovers of leathers and chypres, hide your credit cards. The fragrance will come in esprit de parfum concentration only and will cost $245 for 45ml. Considering size, concentration, and above all quality, I think that they are worth it.

Esprit de Cuir notes: lemon, geranium, galbanum, jasmine, clove, birch, opoponax, tonka beans, tree moss.

Esprit de Chypre notes: bergamot, ylang-ylang, lemon, patchouli, nutmeg, vetiver, oakmoss, heliotrope, labdanum.

Esprit de Chine notes: bergamot, ambrette, orange blossom, lilac, carnation, lily of the valley, white musk, tree moss, sandalwood.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Perfume in the Glossies: May 2008

Slim pickings this month. Boo to the usually (relatively) perfume-heavy Allure for hardly any perfume content except for another basic column from "Fragrance Guy", Frederic Malle, in which he advises that "using a heavy oriental such as Shalimar or Obsession in summer is like wearing a fur coat" and that "sexy summer fragrances are generally made up of white flowers such as gardenia and orange blossom". (One wonders if it pains a man of so much knowledge to have to adhere to a very primitive accessible format undoubtedly requested by editors...and also if it pains him to be called "Fragrance Guy").

...But kudos to Vogue for finally starting to cotton on to the existence of the world of fine perfume, and by fine perfume I do not mean 80% of that which appears on the numerous ads on its pages. Erika Kawalek, in an article entitled Into This Air, visits Osmotheque, goes away deeply moved by Iris Gris, Scandal and Rose Jacqueminot and attempts to obtain her new favorites. The articles goes to mention names that one somehow would never expect to see in Vogue: "perfume detective" Anitra Earle, Jaime Lliteras (that's right, he of the now legendary eBay store!), The Perfumed Court, Luca Turin, Tania Sanchez and a number of very niche scents like Onda and Bois Blond. I feel a sense of strange satisfaction observing Our World (the world of perfume maniacs that is) slowly but steadily seeping into the pages of glossies and from there into the world of normal people general public. To quote Leonard Cohen, first we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Perfume Review: Christian Dior Diorissimo

By Tom

I wandered about this weekend in a state of perfume ennui: what to review? I had dropped by Barneys and was captivated by Malle's Bigarade Concentree, and promptly lost the sample the SA made me (I hope it fell out of my pocket into the car and not onto Wilshire Blvd). Lutens Vetiver Oriental is racing to the top of the list of "what I shall waste my rebate check on" but I am still processing it and not ready to review. I even saw in a gigantic full-page ad in the August Times that Juicy Couture had introduced a new men's fragrance and duly trekked off (to the Valley, even! Oh, okay I admit it, I went to Highland Park to Penny's which has the best French Fries in three counties and there's more parking at the Valley Macy's) to Sherman Oaks to sniff. Sniff I did. Citrus inoffensive would be a good name for it. Diet Sprite smells edgier. What to do?

Then I had the good fortune of reading Beth's review of Diorissimo. Wait? I have some of that! I love that! Certainly the world is waiting for my opinion of this?!?

Well, let's not go crazy..

Having the memory of your average sieve, I think that Beth and I share similar upbringings- I do remember that lily-of-the-valley were perhaps not the first sign of Spring in the part of Western New England where I was raised (that would be leaves and grass) but were perhaps the first sign that spring had really sprung and wasn't just one of those cruel jokes Spring in New England can be. Part of our backyard was a small valley, really more of a dip, that would bloom with a profusion of them; this valley was a boundary between my parents house and our neighbors and was normally just grass. Both families had a silent agreement not to mow that area until those plants were done for the year: the perfume was so heady and yet so innocent that to mow that part of the yard would be akin to murder.

Diorissimo seemingly effortlessly captures that fragrance: no mean feat I am told, since that particular flower can't be juiced or steamed or whatever it is that perfumers do to render unto us the scents that we so adore. It's blissful springtime; the scent of renewal. The long cold winter is over, the heat of summer isn't here yet but the trees have gone from bare buds to a profusion of impossibly plump leaves, grass is firmly back and even the garden shadows seem green; spring flowers seem to bud before your eyes and the rain showers seem fecund. As it goes forward, Diorissimo mirrors that fecundity with woods and civet and a bare hint on me of uncured tobacco- as Colombina writes "flowers pulled out of the earth with their roots intact".

Would I wear it? I don't know, I think I would need independent confirmation that I was light and innocent and not gassing people out at work (any volunteers?). It has certainly rocketed to the top of scents that I think I need to have in my life in more than a decant, to celebrate the season, to get through the admittedly mild winters the Hills of Beverly, or even to remind myself in what is arguably the Autumn of my life that there is always Spring, the Eternal Return. Even as the most extravagant way possible to scent my sheets.

Oh, and Beth, if you are wearing this if ever we finally meet, I will be sniffing you hair big time...

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The winner of the Top 10 of Spring prize draw Kalina. Dear Kalina, please email me your address. Thank you, everybody, for participating!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Perfume Review: Christian Dior Diorissimo

By Beth

Finally, finally it is becoming spring! This time of year you will find me in the garden singing Beatles songs with my hands happily buried in the dirt,talking to my plants! I buy flats of flowers way too early, plant huge pots of herbs and take as many long walks in the woods as I can. I just love that smell, when the last of the snow is gone and the air is fresh and green. I’m a big believer in seasonal fragrance, certain times of the year will always live powerfully in my imagination and never disappoint me. I fall in love with everything and everyone in the spring, I kick up my heels, I play, I dance and make love with abandon. I fantasize about Beltane fires, I dream of picnics in the park with my friends! I make May wine! My husband accuses me of being an incurable romantic and I’m quite sure that he’s right about that! But doesn’t spring do that to everyone?

To my husbands delight, the arrival of spring means that I also begin to wear as little as possible, with the exception of Diorissimo, a fragrance by the House of Dior that hardly needs any introduction at all, especially this time of year! It is my favorite springtime perfume, an absolute classic and for me once April cometh nothing else will do. Of all of the lily of the valley fragrances, I believe that Diorissimo is truly the most beautiful and I don’t live well without it! Sometimes in the dead of winter, I’ll spray a bit of Diorissimo just to remember!

I now need to bite my lip, blush a bit and admit that I tried this fragrance for the very first time at age 16 when I discovered that it was Mick Jagger's favorite. I spent many a day in front of the mirror styling my hair, lining my eyes like Marianne Faithful and trying to become as mod as possible. Before Diorissimo I had been in love with Coty’s Muguet du Bois, but once I bought my first bottle of Diorissimo I was smitten. Alas, even though I spent many a summer following the Rolling Stones , Mick never discovered that I was alive, but my husband who also lives large in my imagination (and even larger in real life!) did and he adores the fragrance! Every time I spray myself with Diorissimo, he buries his head in my hair and sighs. My son told me once that if he ever found a girl that smelled like it that he would marry her on the spot.

Diorissimo may appear innocent, but it casts quite a spell! Diorissimo is Muguet du Bois on steroids, a true Lily of the Valley fragrance that seems the only one of it's kind to really capture the essence of that beautiful little flower that appears for a fleeting few weeks in May. I’m really a purist when it comes to Muguet fragrances. I really don’t understand most of the perfumes that seem to fall into that category, to me they have nothing in common with that incredible scent. Lily of the Valley is such a lovely flower and every spring I bury my head in my bunches of it. I am lucky enough to have a gorgeous patch of it that I have loved since childhood, that lives in a quiet corner in my fathers garden. It is such a fleeting moment of time, that brief two week period in May when they bloom, so very Shakespearean. Diorissimo captures that moment for me perfectly. It is innocent yet very sexy, modern and at the same time very traditional, a truly iconic fragrance. It is very dressy, totally classic with black crepe and pearls, yet completely playful with hemp and linen. It is restrained yet sensual by nature and totally chic. Diorissimo is my Chanel. Although I adore wearing it for elegant dinners, I love to wear Diorissimo when I go riding and it smells even better mixed with the scents of saddle and the wild ramps of the springtime forest. Yes I know, it’s all part of my Lady Godiva fantasy, but I can hardly help myself!

At this point, you can still find Diorissimo online, but the only store that I can find it in is Saks Fifth Avenue. If you’ve never tried it please do. You will love it, I promise. For the record, this is one fragrance that I enjoy the Eau de Toilette version better than the Parfum. I’m not sure why, but it could have to do with the vast quantities of it that I spray!

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Top 10 of Spring...and a prize draw

April came "like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers", and it is time for us to touch base again, to share what scents we are all enjoying the most during this silly and hopeful and heartbreakingly lovely season.

"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt," thought Margaret Atwood, and I apparently agree with her as I have been craving patchouli like nobody's business in the past month or so. The dangerously sensual Parfumerie Generale L'Ombre Fauve, the sweetly earthy Bois 1920 Real Patchouli and SMN's unexpectedly voluptuous Patchouli are my three favorites. The wonderful thing about patchouli fragrances is that they are as comforting as they are sexy. Two of the best qualities a perfume can have, all in one note, what more could one ask for?

Well, one could ask for more sexy, please. And for that there are what I call "pin up roses". Powdery, sweet roses mixed with violets and iris, which give them a sassy retro feel and make them smell not so much like roses per se but as expensive, old-fashioned lipsticks and face powders...scented with roses. This spring and summer I choose classic femininity for my wardrobe: dresses, full skirts, heels...and my three favorite pin up roses, Lipstick Rose, Drole de Rose and Let Pot Aux Roses will perfectly compliment that style.

According to Robert Orben, "spring is God's way of saying, 'One more time!' "... and this season has been about re-discovery and re-evaluation for me. Amongst things brought back into my life by March winds was my long-lost love for Guerlain fragrances. First I reunited with L'Heure Bleue, the scent I thought I'd never be able to wear again. Then, thanks to a generous fellow perfumophiliac, I discovered the alluring harmony of ethereal, springy floral and somehow Christmassy, gingerbready accords of Quand Vient La Pluie. The creamy, dreamy, sensual Mahora is now my favorite evening fragrance. And last, but oh so not least, there is Apres L'Ondee, my probably Top 1 perfume this spring. "Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring?" - asked Neltje Blanchan. Words can't, but the poignant delicacy of this melancholy and timidly joyful Guerlain creation can.

And now please share your favorites! If you would like to be in a prize draw for 7 out of 10 samples of perfumes mentioned in this post, please say so in your comment.

To read more Top 10 of Spring lists, please visit:

Bois de Jasmin
Now Smell This
Perfume Posse
Scentzilla (link to the post is coming up shortly)

The image is by Katie of Scentzilla.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Randomly Roaming

By Tom

This weekend I was invited to go to La Jolla to see a play by a friend of a friend called "33 Variations", which was having its West Coast premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse. It's a seriously great play, and if you have a chance to see it, do so. That's not the focus of this rather meandering post, but it sets up the reason that we were inspired to stop into South Coast Plaza on the way home. South Coast Plaza is in Orange County ( I refuse to call it "The O.C.") and has stores ranging from Sears to Louis Vuitton. Tourists from Japan make it a destination; the price of the yen is such that luxury goods are cheaper in the US, the sales tax in the county is lower and one can fly right into John Wayne airport and dash over.

They also have one of the best Nordstroms I've ever been in: it's giant and the perfume department is a fever dream of items that you won't find anywhere else. Carons that I thought I'd need to go to France to get are jumbled on the counter with Annick Goutal, all there to spritz with abandon. The head spins. One of the things they had which I have tried and tried to convince myself it good on me is Guerlain's Jicky. It should suit me down to the ground: cold citrus opening and warm vanilla musk drydown, right?? Sadly, whatever I do to it is not pretty: my skin just seems to club it into submission. Drat it. For those of you on whom it's gorgeous, the extremely nice SA mentioned that they have three bottles left of the old-formula pure perfume in the beautiful bottle with the gorgeous green presentation box. The resentation alone makes $300 seem reasonable, especially with some of the newer releases these days. If you are inclined, please call Linda Lieb at (714) 549 8300 extension 1171. Tell her the man in the yellow t-shirt sent you, and he apologises for not buying.

Also at Nordstom is Kiehls, with their eponymous musk scent. I've been sniffing it on and off for a long time trying to decide once and for all if it's an acceptable substitute for the hard-to-get Muscs Koublai Khan. I've decided that (since I have a bottle of MKK stashed yet, and have people in Europe who still speak to me) that it's not. It's very nice, mind you; a sensuous musk with a bit of powder in the drydown. However, in that "you can't keep them down on the farm when they've seen Paree" way, I just find it a little lacking. It seems a little blunter, a little less thought out. The perfume equivalent of ordering the Bette and Joan version of "Baby Jane" and getting the version with the Redgraves. Or, in a less gay analogy, it's hoping to find your blind date looks like Dennis Quaid and finding that he looks like Randy. Nothing wrong with Randy or the Redgraves, but when you've seen Dennis circa 1988 with his shirt off or Bette serve Joan a dead rat for her din-dins substitutions, no matter how nice, just don't cut it. Of course Kiehls is also a quarter the price of the Lutens, and you don't have to go to Paris to get it, so there's something to be said for that.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Perfume Review: Guerlain Mahora

I think I would be happy in that place I happen not to be, and this question of moving house is the subject of a perpetual dialog I have with my soul. Charles Baudelaire

There are days when I want to not be where I am. And when I am unsure if there really exists an alternative place to be. When I want to escape somewhere where no one can find me. A non-existent island paradise under scorching sun, with no phones, no internet, no memories and no ties. An island unknown to any map, the one that planes and ships won't reach...maybe somewhere right in the middle of the Bermuda triangle. There are days when I realize that there is no escape other than by means of olfactory daydreaming.

And this is where the languid otherworldliness of Mahora comes in. My island where no one can get me would smell like that, of sweet, creamy white flowers larger than life: of ylang, tuberose and jasmine. It would smell of ripe oranges and peaches, of sinfully thick vanilla... Mahora's unpopularity and it's "heavy, heady, overwhelming" reputation puzzle me. I find it immensely beautiful, perhaps intense but also soft and soothing. Comforting in a way that tuberose can be sometimes, warmly, envelopingly maternal....a quality you wouldn't expect from such a femme fatale flower. The honeyed citrusy beginning is particularly tender, a mouthwatering tropical skin scent. After a while the fragrance does explode on my skin like a firework of thousand white petals...but the floral abundance is rendered so harmoniously here, it does not numb the senses, instead, it soothes and at the same time excites them. The drydown has the coconutty sweetness of tanned skin polished by the sea and passionately kissed by the sun...When I wear Mahora, I am Girl Friday to no Robinson, on an island that no one will ever find, hard as they try.

Mahora is available at PerfumeMart, $29.80-$54.75.

The photo is by Ellen Von Unwerth.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Perfume Review: Guerlain Apres L'Ondee

The ten thousand things would come together
And gentle rain fall.
Tao Te Ching.

They say, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again (They also say that if at first you don't succeed, you must erase all evidence that you tried and/or that sky-diving is not for you...but I digress). Heaven knows that I tried to love Apres L'Ondee for many, many years. I understood the appeal, I admired the notes, but the fragrance left me stone-cold. Instead of delicate wistfulness I got overly understated blandness. I recently excavated my sample from the box labeled Most Probably Hopeless, thinking that if I don't fall in love with Apres L'Ondee this spring then it will never happen. Paraphrasing the name of a famous scent, ce printemps ou jamais. I suppose one has to be in a certain state of soul to fall in love. For the first time in over a decade I got it!

I got the melancholy of it all. The hesitant smile on tear-stricken face. The fearful calm after the storm. I got the poignant fragility of violets and irises, of ethereal petals weighed down by rain drops... the softer than soft spiciness of anise and carnation, the spiciness that is like a pang in the heart... the gentle caress of vanilla... the tender warmth of the base notes that lingers on my skin for hours like a memory of happiness... the graceful gauzy-ness of the sillage... I got the hope that fills Apres L'Ondee. The hope against all odds that after the gentle rain falls, the ten thousand things will finally come together...

Available at Bergdorf Goodman. And I must have a bottle.

Image by Greg Kadel.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

White Floral Queen Part Four: Comptoir Sud Pacifique Tiaré (Original) & Montale Intense Tiare

By Donna

Once upon a time I discovered a little perfume company called Comptoir Sud Pacifique. They specialized in “tropical” style fragrances made with fine Tahitian vanilla and exotic floral essences. Their signature mark was that the scents were sold in little metal bottles instead of glass. This was supposed to make them keep longer since they would not be exposed to light. I found out about these perfumes more than twenty years ago. They were only available to me by mail order at the time, as no shops in my area carried them. I read through the descriptions and settled on one called simply Tiaré, due to the enticing description, mainly tiaré flower, coconut and Tahitian vanilla. When it arrived it was enclosed in a cute little azure blue felt bag, and when I broke the seal on the bottle the very scent of Paradise wafted out. The sweetness of the tiaré flower, a Gardenia relative, was melded with rich coconut and deep, dark vanilla to form a most delightful perfume. (The Polynesian concoction of tiaré flowers macerated in coconut oil is called monoi, which I imagine must be one of the best aromas in the world. I am a fan of coconut in all its forms anyway.) I adored it, and it did indeed last a very long time for two reasons; the metal bottle, which I carefully resealed with both stopper and cap each time I used the perfume, and the fact that its strength meant that only a few drops were needed for any one application. (When I wore it at home alone, that was another story – I was tempted to cover myself with it!) I also had a couple of samples of their other scents, but I can’t recall their names; I do remember that they were very good. I bought another bottle of Tiaré after that, which I actually still have, and there is a small amount of perfume left that still smells really good; those little metal containers work!

Well, over the years Comptoir Sud Pacifique became quite successful, began to appear in “mainstream” locations, and they released what seemed like dozens of new fragrances. Now you could go to perfume shops and try them before purchasing. I still liked them, but something was missing: they had changed my beloved Tiaré, and it was no longer the same scent. The vanilla seemed to be too sweet, not quite the dark, mysterious accord I remembered. They have recently reformulated it again and renamed it Aloha Tiaré, and I have not tried it yet, but I have heard that it’s more of a subdued tuberose scent and nothing like it used to be. Whenever I see the Comptoir Sud Pacifique perfumes in shops these days they seem to have mostly the fruit-and-vanilla series, which now has at least ten scents, including an impossibly cloying concoction called Vanille Banane that even a sugar-loving girl like me can’t wear.

I thought that I would never smell anything like Tiaré again, but I was wrong. Recently I found something to remind me of my well-loved fragrance of long ago. Enter Montale Intense Tiaré to deliver a knockout punch to my senses. It is intense indeed, as I would expect from such a quality purveyor of perfumes. I was a Montale fan from the moment I tried the line. It is not one out their Aoud series, but it does have something else Montale is famous for; lingering in the background and making everything else even better by association is a stupendously good rose note.

Now I like gardenia as much as anyone, but there seems to be something special about the Tahitian tiaré flower. It has a pure, concentrated sweetness that does not feature the popcorn-like buttery note that traditional gardenia can sometimes have. It is certainly a heavy white floral, no question about that, but it lacks that certain clinging quality that makes some people dislike gardenias, or at least it has less of it to my nose.

This perfume is further brightened by another favorite floral accord of mine, ylang-ylang, which lends it cheerful countenance to the mix. Sublimely discreet and creamy coconut milk enhances it further, adding a comforting feel. There is also jasmine, in perfect balance with the other flowers, creating a heady yet wearable elixir. This is what I would call a real “girly” perfume, and unapologetically so. It’s not candy-like though, far from it. It has a natural feel to it, like what I imagine it ‘s like to be sitting outdoors near a waterfall in Tahiti, combing fragrant monoi oil through my hair while the breeze carries the scent of tropical flowers to me. I have had fantasies like that all my life, and wearing this stuff makes it seem somehow possible. (Never mind that my hair is now very short and I can get sunburned in about fifteen minutes; I can dream all I want, darn it!)

When I put it on, it does the “white floral thing” I love so much – it keeps getting better by the minute and the hour, amplifying and deepening, enveloping me in a rich cloud of hypnotic tropical goodness. I can say that from what I know of my original Comptoir scent that this one is fully its equal, more dimensional, and better than what their perfumes are like now. The roses and jasmine add another dimension to the tropicals, enhancing and showcasing their beauty. The drydown is less sweet too, consisting of a gently milky coconut and subtle vanilla in contrast to the Comptoir scent’s rather strong coconut and heavy vanillic note. When I say that this is a delicious perfume it is not just in the gourmand sense, but that I can’t get enough of it. It makes me want to inhale it, eat it, roll in it, whatever will bring me closer to its essence. I should also mention that it is not only unabashedly girly and just plain happy, it is very powerfully sexy and should be used accordingly. I can feel a flirtation coming on just by thinking about wearing it.

The notes according to Luckyscent are: tiaré, ylang-ylang, vanilla, coconut milk, jasmine, roses. For a Montale it’s quite reasonable, $95 for 50 ml and in the 100 ml size for $135. Samples are also available from Luckyscent. This fragrance is also available from other online retailers that carry the Montale line, and of course from perfume shops that feature the line of you are fortunate enough to live near one of them. The Comptoir Sud Pacifique line is widely available online and in better perfume shops.

Image credits: Vintage postcard of a Polynesian woman drinking from a coconut,; Montale perfume bottle, Luckyscent.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Perfume Review: Santa Maria Novella Patchouli

Patchouli madness continues along with re-discovery of previously under-appreciated lines of fragrances. I have never had much luck with Santa Maria Novella's creations, and it is ironic that I should find a new interest in the line because of its rendition of the formerly disliked note.

Patchouli starts very earthy, with the kind of raw-moist-soil feel that both attracts and scares me in patchouli scents. The sharp, dark, brooding beginning is also strikingly masculine. Within a couple of minutes, however, the fragrance begins to soften, acquiring a creamy, dare I say, floral feel, as if sweet blossoms like tuberose and/or ylang-ylang were included in the blend. There is also soft spiciness (nutmeg? truly I am just making wild guesses here, um, as usual) that goes really well with "flowers". I find this reverse sort of development (from strong to soft, from dark to light) incredibly compelling. Experiencing the development of SMN Patchouli is like watching a figure dressed in a severely masculine costume strip off clothes revealing a very feminine, very voluptuous form underneath.

Patchouli is available at Lafco, $96.00 for 100ml.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

2008 FiFi Awards and Celebration

"...Every year the Fragrance Foundation hosts the FiFi Awards. This year, The Fragrance Foundation has sponsored the creation of three social networking profiles, in MySpace, Facebook, and Iqons to take people behind-the scenes of the big night. These pages will not only be the main source for consumer voting (public voting opens April 18th), but will also house exclusive content. Users can browse celebrity pics and clips, debate the top ten, or just grab the widget to keep informed on the voting process. Each phase in the awards process will feature a special online component. For the nominations, we will post the video from the breakfast. Then, during show night, we are live blogging so everyone can enjoy (...) The first big announcement will be the naming of the Hall of Fame inductee, and will be posted by the end of today." (from email announcement)

The links:

FiFi Awards on Facebook
FiFi Awards on Iqons
FiFi Awards on MySpace
FiFi Awards on YouTube

Sunday sniffing...

By Tom

Friends invited me to lunch on Sunday and we did a bit of shopping afterwards: wandered Rodeo and Beverly, then went over to Melrose to stop on the new Munsingwear store (I am not quite old enough to remember the previous, non-cool incarnation as a purveyor of underwear), and to Paul Smith. Paul Smith has as you know a bunch of scents some of which are quite good. There was a new one "Rose" which is sadly not. According to the website, no actual roses were harmed in the creation of the scent; roses are fed into a, er, I'll just let them say it: "Using technology called ScentTrek, the living flower is isolated in a glass bell and special equipment 'inhales' the scent molecules, which are then analysed and recreated in a laboratory"


I love the scent of roses; one of my great joys is going to my dear friend Sue's house when her "Rose Alley" (the driveway of her house) is in full flood of different roses, each one a different kind with a different aspect to the scent. Some are full-bodied and peppery, some are whisper-light and some are creamy. None of them smell like they were cloned by the Borg from an Airwick Solid.

I was told by some relative that it's always best if one has nothing nice to say not to say anything at all. Clearly, as anyone who has ever read my scribblings would know, I have not adopted this as a life ethos. I will however state that the bottle the juice is packed in has a nice heft to it. which would come in handy should one wish to throw it physically as far away from one as possible.

Damn, I couldn't adopt it even for one paragraph.

1.7 oz for $75, 3.3 oz for $100 at Paul Smith.

Image is by Donna Trope.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Perfume Review: Bois 1920 Real Patchouly

Does it happen to you that by falling in love with a perfume you fall in love with a whole genre or family of scents that it represents? A couple of months ago I became obsessed with L'Ombre Fauve, which for me is a patchouly fragrance first and foremost. I sang praise to L'Ombre Fauve before but I will repeat that I think it is an incredibly sexy scent. When I smell it, my knees go week. And now patchouli in general has the same effect on me. My tiny bottle of L'Ombre Fauve is almost empty and on a desperate search for the next best thing I came upon Real Patchouly by Bois 1920. The line that I previously found underwhelming, but hey, lately it has been all about re-discovery and re-evaluation.

Real Patchouly, despite the name, is not just about patchouli. It is heavy on woods and on vanilla, the supporting notes which make the star note simultaneously even darker, more forceful, and softer. Give me a well-done contrast in a perfume, and I am smitten. And the contrasts of dark and light, dry and sweet, harsh and soft, yang and yin that Real Patchouly showcases are my most favorite kinds. I don't get much development from the fragrance... not that a complicated and long-winded development is always necessary to enjoy a perfume. The sweet earthiness of patchouli, the woods, the vanilla are apparent at once and stay that way for all 8-9 hours of Real Patchouly's life on my skin. It is a "shared" fragrance in the best possible sense of the term. A fragrance that could have been his but is now part of your skin, melded with it, melted into it, making it impossible to tell anymore where one of you ends and the other begins.

Real Patchouly is available at Barneys and Luckyscent, $160.00 for 100ml.

Image source,

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cheap Thrills and Nostalgia: Villainess’ Jai Mahal and The Girls Love

By Linda

Recently I discovered Villainess “Whipped” – a richly emollient, veganesque body cream that I will never be without again. (Veganesque? Well, there is some bugsploitation – peace silk and some honey based fragrances.) You can find them at if you want to try them.

Two of the three fragrances I tried are heavenly. The fragrances stay on the skin for hours.

First, there is Jai Mahal. It’s supposed to be exotic, palatial spices and luxurious vanilla. I must confess that what I get is this: Christmas ribbon candy and buttercream frosting. It is a sweet vanilla spice fragrance that is so seamlessly blended that I cannot really make out individual notes… just feel-good, lighthearted gorgeousness. It’s like a time machine back to childhood, but is elegant enough that you can wear it wherever. I wear it almost every day and it layers well
with many of my favorite scents.

The other Whipped that I particularly liked was The Girls Love Vanilla – a scent borrowed from Possets, perfumer Fabienne Christenson’s line of fragrances. The “girls” in question are bees, and this is a honey-saturated, vanilla-besotted scent capable of inspiring a diabetic coma. The foody notes are married by a robust and boozy whiff of tobacco. It reminds me of my grandfather’s cherry vanilla pipe tobacco. This lotion smells comforting enough to wear to bed, like footy-pajamas. (My partner is not impressed, so in a way, it’s very much like footy-pajamas. He doesn’t like honey.)

I so liked Villainess’ The Girls Love Vanilla Whipped lotion that I went poking around the Possets website itself looking for other tidbits:

There, I found lots to tempt me. I am a spice and candy lover in my scents, and if you are, too, you will be richly rewarded by a stroll through their scents. Not all of them are sweet, but there are plenty of “toothache perfumes” to play with. The descriptions can be maddeningly brief and vague, but will rarely steer you wrong. And there, I found Gingerbread Whorehouse.

I’m a sucker for things that make me giggle. The goofy name managed to wheedle my credit card right out of my purse and into my hand, lickety-split. Everything at Possets’ beautiful site (use the search function if you get lost) is blissfully inexpensive, which was a relief.

Fortunately, this was one of those customer experiences that completely rewarded me. Not only did I get my little 6 ml. vial of perfume oil (for $10) and the sample 6-pack I had ordered: I was also sent a few other Possets scent samples. Score!

My favorite really is Gingerbread Whorehouse. It smells exactly, and Iam not kidding you, exactly like homemade gingerbread – not the house kind, the soft cake kind! I can smell the ginger, the allspice, the molasses, the butter, the cake, the vanilla… even the raisins, for heaven’s sake! This, too, is a footy-pajama of a perfume: only sexy if you have a gingerbread fetish, but so comforting, homey and warm that it can turn a rotten day wonderful.

Here are a few others I love, from the samples:

High Tea: you will smell exactly like the steam rising from a cup of Lipton’s black tea. This takes me back to spending the night at my grandmother’s house, where she would bring me a cup of tea in bed every morning (she got up early!) It is plain, gorgeous black tea – not Earl Grey, not white tea with raspberries, not rooibos, but a simple, perfect cuppa. I am buying a bottle.

Flossing: meant to evoke the stitching of a corset (or “flossing”), this one is dainty, pretty, and sweet. I can make out sweet orange, a wisp of vanilla, and a hint of spice, but this is not a foody scent – it is delicately floral and immensely ladylike.

The Scent of Angels: this one smells like soap to me, in the best and most wholesome of ways. Flowers undergirt with vanilla and musk – again, very soft, clean, and soothing. Angels fresh from the tub.

Silver Carnations: I adore carnations – not the powdery character that shows up in scents so often, but the green spiciness of the fresh cut flowers. I don’t know what the “silver” is, here, but I suspect it is a light musk. With it wafting up on the breezes as I took a spring hike, it gave a charming impression of a bouquet of carnations. Even the sappy greenness of the cut stems was there to my nose.

In the interests of total disclosure, I will also mention those I didn’t love:

Villainess’ Grundy (which I wanted to love): mulch, moss, dandelion sap, daisies, weeds, soil. More or less exactly as advertised, but it really was not as I imagined it. The first blast evoked a hectic and exhausting honey-do Saturday. Eventually it mellowed into something interesting but very Not Me.

Possets’ Haute Love: very successfully evokes crystallized ginger dipped in milk chocolate. Unfortunately, Possets’ chocolate scents do not flourish well on my skin and take on unbearable levels of mixed syrup and skank for a bit. Your mileage may vary – I know many people love them.

Possets’ Frou-Frou: old-fashioned floral but not in a good way – a maiden aunt’s handbag, or a box-store rose sachet. It’s a performance art piece of a scent, which is fine… but I didn’t find it

Possets’ Id, Ego, and SuperEgo: lavender and chocolate at the heart, with different balances and embellishments. These are interesting, but may be based on too ambitious a contrast for my taste.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Out of shape

My nose and brain are not working because of the flu. Sorry, no review today. Please come back tomorrow when we will be back to business as usual. And have a great week, everybody!

Friday, April 04, 2008

La Perfumista par Excellence, Part I: The Other Passions

By Alyssa

The shining starpower of Chayaruchama a.k.a. Ida Meister a.k.a. La Perumista Par Excellence is easily measured by the fact that I came to know and crave her presence simply by reading her comments on other people’s blogs. They leapt off the screen: puns and slightly dirty jokes, sophisticated allusions to books and movies, sideways glances at perfumes and perfumers that hinted at a great depth and breadth of knowledge, and huge dollops of motherly love, all of it dancing down the page in a series of her trademark exclamatory lines. Later, I came to know a bit more about her, and realized that she was a kind of one-woman missionary for perfume—cultivating and encouraging independent perfumers, championing a good bargain, spreading the scented gospel wherever she went.

I know I’m not the only who’s wondered – who is this woman? So, dear readers, with y’all as my excuse, I sent a series of nosy emails to Chaya (Chaya is her Hebrew given name—Ida, the English approximation of its pronunciation) and she generously answered them. It would be easy to write a book about Chaya—maybe two—so I’ve split the post into two parts: Today, Part I, in which it is clear that a passion for beauty and knowledge can be inborn, and can grow and thrive in spite of all adversity. Next up: Part II, a portrait in scent.

Ida was born in Yonkers, New York in 1954, and spent her girlhood in a rough, vibrant, multi-ethnic neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks by the sewage plant. Isolated in what often felt like a dangerous world, Ida found solace in books—the beginning of a lifelong love affair with language and literature. At the age of six, she became her beloved grandfather’s nurse and companion, cooking for him (“He believed my mother was trying poison him”), bathing him, shaving him with a straight edge razor (“He was on blood thinners!”) and, eventually, moving up to the top floor of the house to live with him. Though it might seem a strange, heavy burden for a child, Chaya remembers her grandfather with joy:

“He was an inspiration. A holy man masquerading as a regular Joe, an immigrant who made his way the hard way—a man of few words (many of them profane), infinite mercy, love, and action. He called me "a good boy" and his "little bloody bugger" with pride...

I never resented the fact that I was called upon to awaken at any and all hours for G-d-knows-what. He died when I was 12; I named our first son for him.”

Those of you who know Chaya later became a nurse will see some heavy foreshadowing here. But though she loves her work, nursing was only a practical fourth choice dream—one that would get her out of New York and assure her economic independence. Chaya declined a scholarship to the Cornell school for veterinary medicine, and opportunities to study languages and music: early and continuing passions rivaling her love of perfume.

A flair for languages was a basic survival skill in the multi-family, multi-lingual homes in which Chaya grew up; too which she added a voracious appetite for learning. Asked to share a bed with the Slovenian Frieda Grom (the mother of her mother’s business partner—got that?) at the age of nine, Chaya began her studies: “I didn't think it would be too easy to get my mitts on a Slovene dictionary, so I got myself a Langenscheidt's dictionary, and tried to teach myself German.”

Then there was Yiddish from her mother and grandfather, French and more German from her father’s family, a bit of Slovene from Frieda, Italian from her music studies and, oh yes, Flemish from that year she lived with Limburg pig farmers, Swedish, picked up on a trip, biblical Hebrew from studying for her adult Bat Mitzvah and Ladino (the language of Sephardic Jews) from a friend she made in the process. She studied Latin for years “for sheer pleasure (what a geek!).”

She’s not done yet: “I’ve been trying to accommodate vocabulary in Sanskrit (from yoga and out of intense curiosity), and in some Asian languages, where I have NO knowledge base…” She regrets never learning ancient Greek, in which she hoped to read the ancient classics, and, perhaps a bit more, listening to her family when they told her she wasn’t bright enough to achieve one of her early goals—working as a translator at the U.N. I can only dream of how Chaya’s presence might have furthered international relations.

About her singing, Chaya says:

I've always sung; my entire family loved to sing—both sides. The story goes… that my mother awoke in the middle of the night to music. She thought she had left the radio on. I was found sitting on the carpet in my room, singing the chorale from Beethoven's Ninth to myself in German. My mother told me to shut up and go back to bed. I was supposedly three-years-old at the time.

I craved singing lessons very early on, but the conventional wisdom of the time was—not until the onset of puberty. My mother mistakenly promised me lessons as soon as my menses began. At 11 ½ I came home from school, thrilled that I could NOW have lessons! Reaching womanhood was a paltry second, for me.

However grudgingly, her mother made good on her promise. Later, Ida would return to her music studies, attending the Boston Conservatory of Music full time while she working full time as a nurse and “translating obscure vocal repertoire on the side.” Such was her passion for singing that she went to the Metropolitan Regional Auditions a single week after ten-hour abdominal reconstruction surgery (Ida has struggled with multiple major illnesses, many a fall-out from her difficult youth):

“My family wasn't fully aware, my fiancé left me, my boss retired and I had no insurance for the ensuing medical costs of extensive treatment. My best friend carried me down flights of stairs in an evening gown, one week after surgery—with staples still in. And I did it, as my own personal protest against forces beyond my control.”

In spite of her valiant resistance, medical issues (and, she says, a refusal to participate in the level of mean competition seemingly required) did finally derail a professional singing career. “There seems to be a tremendous irony surrounding this aspect of my life…”

I sang for years, but it wasn't until I had had truly life-threatening events, that the encouragement started coming in. I worked with Eleanor Steber, Boris Goldovsky, and the lovely late Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson. By the time I was finally being noticed, survival was a more urgent issue.

She still sings—to her family, to her patients (“I’ve been singing to the unconscious since I was 14.”), and for the occasional charmed and surprised perfumer, including Andy Tauer, in Brooklyn last spring: “I got to embarrass that sweet, shy man by singing Dein blaues Auge and Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz, as if squeezing him senseless wasn't bad enough.”

There’s so much I haven’t described here: The crowded house where Ida spent her adolescence (“Chaos. People came and went as in a play.”). Her fierce mother, a businesswoman and interior designer. Her passion for food and travel. Her passion for poetry, in all it’s languages. And of course the perfume, which is coming next. Here is one last story, of how Ida met and fell in love with her DH, and an image of the young Ida that I carry with me always now, unable to think of her any way else:

I met Bernhard on December 19, 1982 at 1:30 pm in Harvard Square, in a snowstorm.
The old Coffee Connection—now, a Starbuck's. I was catching my breath, en route to the third grocery store, in order to prepare a Yugoslavian peasant meal for my roommate. Having a French press of Sumatran Mandheling with a pate/ cheese board.
I was carrying about 80 lbs. of groceries to the “T” [subway] and wearing precious little clothing (mostly, a red charmeuse camisole, green velvet hiphuggers, English riding boots, waist-length dark hair, and Mitsouko).

I wasn't looking for a date, and he was unemployed.

He gallantly insisted upon driving me to Whole Foods, then home.
I cooked for him, fed him, made him laugh, walked him around Castle Island in the blizzard at 2 am, made him tea, told him stories, and finally gave in and slept with him...

And he didn't wait very long to ask me to marry him.

I ask you, dear readers, who would?

Images are courtesy of Ida Meister. The first image is by Michael Friedlander

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Andy Tauer at ScentBar

By Tom

It's rather a crazy week here in Lake Pansy (apologies to Garrison) so this isn't going to be a terribly long post. Lucky you!

This past weekend Andy Tauer made an appearance for the formal introduction of Incense Rose. I was able to speak to the Robin, IrisLA and Supermarky, and to meet Maria B, who motored all the way down from Monterey for the occasion (clever girl that she is, she took the super-scenic coast road, which everyone should do once).

Andy gave a talk about the development of his frankincense/rose scents and showed us various components; it's always interesting to be able to see how some of these disparate (and sometimes shockingly pungent) ingredients can some up with something as smooth and seductive as Incense Rose, whose play on citrus-tinged roses, coriander and incense is a beauty, even if I do find it a little more rose than I like to wear. If you love garden-fresh rose and are in the mood for a wonderful spring scent you will definitely want to check this out.

He also gave out samples of his new Rose scent, which will apparently debut in the fall. It's the other side of the calendar from Incense Rose: IR is playful spring, buzzing with the promise of life. Rose is the last blooms of autumn, the Indian summer days with that "migrate-or-die" evening chill toit.

Andy also gave us a sniff (via test strips- he only had one little sample) of his new Vetiver, which I don't remember him saying when (or if, for that matter) it would be out. Being the shy, retiring thing that I am, I sidled up to the bar and Baldly, er, politely gave myself the tiniest spritz. Yum! It's vetiver, but it's doing that same "rethink what you know about vetiver" Andy has done with lavender with Reverie au Jardin and with hyacinth with Hyacinth and Mechanic (No Andy, I am not letting that one go. So there.). I REALLY hope that this one sees the light of day, the shelves at LuckyScent and the inside of my cupboard. Had I had a third glass of prosecco I would have just grabbed the sample out of Franco's hand and ran drunkenly off with it. Luckily, for decorum's sake, I did not.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Perfume Review: Diptyque Eau Lente

Diptyque is one of the houses that, for some unforgivable reason, I tend to overlook in my never-ending search for the exotic and the unusual. And I really shouldn't, because the company has created some of the most interesting fragrances, comparable in their uniqueness to some of the weirdest Lutenses or SIPs, and some even surpassing these universally acknowledged masters of the odd.

Take Eau Lente, for example. Said to be inspired by the times of Alexander the Great, it is a spicy perfume extraordinaire. The spices, of which cinnamon is one and cumin, I would swear, is another, rest on a pillow-soft, powdery-sweet opoponax base, and the contrast of sharp and fluffy is as disconcerting as it is appealing. It is also a contrast of alluringly exotic and comfortingly familiar, of sensual, even animalic, and cozy. One could wear Eau Lente on a cold day to warm up and in the heat of summer to let the piquancy of the notes refresh the senses. If you love spicy-herbal, slightly dirty, quirky fragrance, don't make my mistake of overlooking Eau Lente.

Eau Lente is available at Beauty Habit, $70.00 for 50ml.

The painting, Dusk, is by Michael Parkes.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

White Floral Queen Part Three: Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle

By Donna

This is a real cult fragrance; every perfume blog seemed to talking about it at one time or another a few years ago, and inevitably a comparison would be drawn to Frederic Malle Carnal Flower, with the general sense being that the 2005 Malle scent was somewhat of a “copycat” of the 1999 Lutens release. Due to a fortuitous swap, I have now tried both of these, and I find that they are as different as night and day.

Tubéreuse Criminelle is Night.

It is heavy and dark and up to absolutely no good. It is the ultimate Femme Fatale scent.

I love it.

Of course, in order to get to the love part I had to experience the famous weirdness that is its signature opening. Some say kerosene, or gasoline, or menthol; I got creosote. The thick, smelly goopy stuff that utility companies paint on wooden power poles to keep them from decaying or being attacked by insect pests. It was truly shocking to put on perfume from a pretty little bottle and immediately have my arm smell like a telephone pole on a hot summer day, oozing black goo that runs down the sides as it melts in the sun. But that’s exactly what it smelled like, and I never could stand the odor of creosote. So I waited it out, and sure enough in a few minutes it started to smell like something else – first, like velvet soaked in kerosene, just a bit softer than the first blast, and then finally I got it – the deep, dirty smell of the essential white flowers; tuberose, orange blossom and jasmine, and certainly the most indolic versions of any of them that I have ever experienced. Every flower in this composition seems to have lost its innocence. Dare I say it is decadent? Oh, yes! And I mean that in a good way.

As the scent warmed up on my skin it stayed fairly close; not a whole lot of sillage was apparent, but it remained thick and intense, never gaining any of the lightness or lilting quality of many floral compositions. This is a perfume for the boudoir, and for what happens behind closed doors. For once I am glad I did not buy this unsniffed, even though I was pretty sure I would love it, because I cannot imagine when or where I could wear it often enough to actually use up a whole bottle. It is entirely unsuitable for an office environment, or at least any office where I have ever worked. It is the kind of scent that only a mature woman can get away with, which makes me eligible, but as much as I adore it, I have the same “problem” with it that I do with another Serge Lutens fragrance, the jasmine-rich classic A La Nuit; it is so heavy and rich that extreme caution is needed when wearing it in public. Now I would gladly pour both of these on myself with wild abandon, but one must consider the sensibilities of others in the application of scent. It is so concentrated that you can still smell it on yourself the next day if you applied it the previous morning. I would put it right up there with another well-loved fragrance, Guerlain’s Nahéma, for its longevity on my skin. I know it’s not the same for everyone, but heavy white florals seems to “fuse” with my skin chemistry and remain until I make a real effort to remove them. Is it wrong of me to wish that Tubéreuse Criminelle and other Lutens scents (including A La Nuit, or course) would be released in Parfum strength? If you are going to go down this road with heavy, strong womanly perfumes you might as well go all the way, I say. Let the teenagers of the world have their fruity-florals and aquatics and ozonics; give me something I can sink my teeth into when I need to make a lasting impression. Especially when I have an ulterior motive…

Once the scent has settled down, it is mainly tuberose and jasmine with a side of musk on my skin, but there is nothing bright about it as might be expected of a tuberose perfume. It gives off no cheerful radiance like A La Nuit or Fracas, it is more of a dark star with its own gravity; it pulls you in to its orbit and refuses to let go. When I wear it I simply cannot resist pressing my nose into my skin to inhale the very depths of its mystery. I would guess that the use of styrax resin and hyacinth, and possibly the clove, results in the dramatic opening, and traces of the almost medicinal quality of these accords remain. There is a slightly rubbery feel as well, but not a natural latex smell like some flowers have. It is more of an industrial rubber, like the floor mats in a new car. (Doesn’t everyone love that new car smell?) In short, it is as addictive as any perfume I can think of. I would almost suspect that there is a “secret” unlisted ingredient, which creates both the strange top notes and the irresistible compulsion to sniff it over and over.

Naturally, such a cult classic is not easy to come by; it is in the Serge Lutens Exclusive range and is not available for purchase anywhere in North America. You must make a pilgrimage to Paris to buy it at the Palais Royale Shiseido, epicenter of the Serge Lutens empire. Or, if you are lucky, you might have a very good friend in Europe who can buy a bottle for you and ship it. Of course, if you want to try a decant, The Perfumed Court usually has it in stock, but you might want to start with a small one before committing to a larger amount. (I will say that if you are a true tuberose fanatic, go ahead and spring for the largest size they offer. You will not regret it)

Actual listings of Serge Lutens fragrance notes can be elusive, but according to their web site, the composition’s main notes are tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine, musk, vanilla, styrax, nutmeg, clove and hyacinth.

Image credit: Still photo of a scheming Barbara Stanwyck and the hapless fall guy Fred MacMurray in the 1944 film noir classic Double Indemnity, from