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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Charity Raffle at Bois de Jasmin

Victoria at Bois de Jasmin is holding a charity raffle for a bottle of Serge Lutens perfume. Donate to Doctors Without Borders by January 15, 2009 and be entered into this fantastic prize draw. To participate in this honorable project, please go to Bois de Jasmin.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Attempt at Thanksgiving Post and a Prize Draw

I am unclear this year whether to be or not to be thankful for a lot of things. But there is something I have no doubts about: I am thankful for my friends. For those who have known me for 15 years, and are still my friends, despite that, and still hold my hand when the going gets tough. And for friends I made in recent years through this perfume obsession, and who became not just hobby-mates, but real friends. I am thankful to them for holding my hand too...and for bearing perfume gifts. Thank you, L, for ...everything!... and for vintages and rarities that you so generously share with me... Gianni Versace (original) is a stunner! Thank you, M, for being there for me, your sturdy presence is a comfort and a pleasure... and for forcing me to smell introducing me to the world of real oudhs (as opposed to, say, Montale ouds, much adapted to the Western tastes) and to Quand Vient La Pluie. Thank you, J, for leathers, vetivers and vintages. Thank you, N, for all the exclusives that I would have never smelled were it not for your kindness (Montale Deluziont des Femmes, I am looking at you). Thank you, девы, девочки, бриллиантовые донны, on my favorite Russian perfume forum for talking to me about perfume and other things in my native language (and, M, I treasure my Farenheit-alike Ultima II!).

And thank you, dear readers, for reading and commenting. Let's celebrate the coming Thanksgiving with a prize draw. If you would like to win a bottle of Kenzo Winter Flowers, please say so in your comment. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where is the Love for Lalique?

By Marla

Lalique sort of snuck up on me. I was predisposed to try a few of the perfumes because of my adoration for its turn-of-the-century glass sculptures, particularly those made of opaline, the milky translucent glass with gold and blue fire swirling within. The House of Lalique was founded by (obviously French) René Jules Lalique (1860-1945) and became one of the most famous design firms of the Art Nouveau movement. In 1907, Francois Coty hired Lalique to create perfume labels, and the bottles a short while after that. Perfumery was never the same.

Almost a century passed before Lalique produced its first fragrance under its own brand name in 1992: Lalique for women (a floriental, now discontinued). Quite a few have premiered in this new century: Faune (2000), Equus (2001), Tendre Kiss (2002), Eau de Lalique (2003), Flora Bella (2005), Lalique Le Parfum (2005), Perles de Lalique (2006), Encre Noire (2006), Amethyst (2007), and Lalique White (2008). They hire well-known noses and utilize more lavish ingredients than most mainstream houses. It’s not necessary to say that the bottles are generally gorgeous.

Without thinking about it much (the nose knows), I ended up with large bottles of Flora Bella, Perles, Amethyst, and Eau de Lalique, and sample vials of Le Parfum and White. The bottles I found were always tucked away in the back of the shop, and the SAs didn’t know anything about them except that, “Lalique is famous for glass.” Okay! Seems to me the House of Lalique is due for a little love. So here are some mini-reviews which I hope will inspire affection for these gems.

Lalique White (made for men- but I like it, too!): Designed by Christine Nagel, notes are tamarind, lemon leaf, bergamot, nutmeg, white pepper, violet, cardamom, amber, musk and cedar. White is truly unisex- it doesn’t seem made for either male or female, but for both, either, whatever. I swear there is a touch of bay in here because it reminds me quite a lot of traditional Caribbean bay rum colognes, which I remember very fondly from my childhood, and which I still believe are one of the finest perfume families out there . The hot/cold spice interplay runs for a good hour or so, and the softer, but still spicy, drydown lasts most of the day. I am impressed, and have run through 2 sample vials in less than a week.

Amethyst: This perfume by Nathalie Lorson, launched in 2007. Head notes of nutmeg, blackberry and blackcurrant, heart notes of rose, pepper, peony, lily and ylang-ylang; the base is a conventional, though cuddly, vanilla musk. The bottle design of purple thorns entwining purple frosted glass is based on a Lalique design from 1920, and it’s gorgeous and goth. The first time I smelled this, in 2007, it smelled somewhat artificial to me, and had a leeetle cough syrup vibe. Then it just disappeared from the shelves, only to reappear a couple months ago. I tried a decant, and this time, a very natural blackcurrant, with not so much floral in the background, greeted my nose. This (I think) reworked version smells like a dacha in summertime now, and reminds me of our marathon black-currant and berry harvests in Ukraine. Yum.

Perles de Lalique- This perfume was launched in 2006 and won a Marie Claire best-perfume award in 2007. Two versions of the bottle exist, both lovely; one was designed for the extrait, and the other for the EdT. The extrait de parfum bottle was inspired by the René Lalique “Cactus” powder bowl of 1928, all feathers and spiky bits. I’ve only seen one in real life and it was stunning, and unfortunately, not for sale. The no-oakmoss chypre inside was designed by Nathalie Lorson. Bulgarian rose and bourbon pepper dominate the scent from start to finish. These two notes are anchored by iris, patchouli, and musk. This one is popular in central Europe. It’s strong, with a powerful sillage. I notice Americans don’t like it much, but it strikes a chord with Europeans in winter. I get cravings for it as soon as the snow falls.

Flora Bella (2005) is my personal favorite by Lalique, no surprise, as it’s composed by my favorite nose, Bertrand Duchaufour. This cold, alien floral has notes of mimosa, carnation, cassie, orchid, freesia, lilac, frangipani and tiare; base notes of spices, amber, helional, vanilla and white musk. This is what I wanted Thierry Mugler’s Alien to smell like- icy, remote, strangely compelling, heartbreakingly beautiful and completely odd. There’s no other floral out there like this, and it’s one of the few florals in my heavy-use collection. It’s also purple, which is nice.

Eau de Lalique is a cold, spicy unisex cologne in the inimitable Ellena abstract watercolor style; it was composed by both JC Ellena and Emilie Copperman in 2003. Head notes are mandarin orange, pimento, bergamot, dill, cardamom and lemon; heart notes are cinnamon, hibiscus and freesia; base notes are sandalwood, musk, benzoin and guaiac. I tend to find colognes rather dull and evanescent, but this one has those peculiar twists and surprises that make Ellena’s best compositions so easy to return to, and so, well, mysterious. It lasts far longer than most colognes as well.

Lalique Le Parfum is a heavy oriental that was designed by Dominique Ropion and launched in 2005. Head notes are bay, bergamot and pink pepper; heart notes are jasmine and heliotrope; base notes are sandalwood, tonka, patchouli and vanilla. I’ve only tried this one once, and it was slammed by Luca Turin/ Tania Sanchez, but I enjoyed it more than they did. Heavy orientals are not my style, but if they were, I’d buy a bottle. Encre Noir is another I’ve only tried once, but the cubic, black bottle is stunning, and it’s one of the best vetivers I’ve tried. Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to find.

Eau de Lalique and Flora Bella can be bought for under $20. I’m not kidding. That’s a well-made perfume by very famous perfumers for less than a pre-frozen dinner in most chain restaurants. This is incredible to me, as they are both gorgeous and unique. I pondered the weirdness of this for a while and came to the conclusion that’s it’s the marketing and distribution that’s the problem. I live in both Europe and the US and have never seen an ad for any Lalique fragrance, nor have I seen bottles in many shops. When found in shops, they are skulking about in some dark corner. There are no wild parties for their launches that can be viewed on YouTube (as for the effervescent Gaultier’s MaDame). Yet they are considered too mainstream for many niche perfumeries to carry, so they get no love there, either. I’m just lucky I live near a store that carries them, and that some US online perfumers will sell them for the price of a bag of burgers and fries. I recommend them over the burgers, by the way.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Perfume review: Serge Lutens El Attarine

The ever-obscure and loquacious Lutens press release calls El Attarine "sweet-smelling", "gold", "sun-drenched" and compares it to a "topaz". All of which is true. The scent does evoke an image of a golden-brown precious stone with its facets reflecting rays of sun. It also makes me think of an exotic dessert that mixes vanilla and cream with cumin.

El Attarine might be the most enjoyable of the recent Lutens creations, enjoyable due to its creamy softness, its non-overwhelming sweetness, its subtle, warming spiciness. It is superbly comforting. It also seems to me to be one of the least original new Palais Royale releases. The honeyed woods in the top notes bring to mind Feminite du Bois. As cumin and immortelle become apparent, and the scent intensifies further and gets sweeter, I am reminded of the buttery, fiery confection, Arabie. And as the fragrance settles back into the woody creaminess dirtied by a hint of cumin and musk, I smell one of Feminite du Bois' offspring, Bois et Musc.

I still hope that Lutens will at one point get wood-immortelle-cumin (also, elsewhere, cinnamon!) out of his system and will move on to different notes. There are, after all, other ways to depict Orient in perfume. I for one would be curious to see what the dark genius would do with an oud note. He would probably mix it with immortelle...

El Attarine is available exclusively in the Salons du Palais Royal in Paris, 110€ for 75 ml


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fiddling while Rome burns

By Tom

This weeks post is I am afraid going to be more rambly that usual: I'm sure that all of you know that we've been having fires here this weekend that have put people out of their homes. I hope that they can all rebuild and get on with their lives, and once again am incredulous over the bravery of the firefighters fighting these blazes. So while some of this weekend was spent in air-conditioned indoors, a lot was not so I can't be 100% sure that some of the scents I tried were not being veiled by the smoky, choky air we were breathing.

As you know, Gaia, the Non-Blonde and I are scent twins, it's rare for us to react very differently to a scent to the point where I know if she likes something that it will smell very well on me and vice-versa. Gaia and her husband visited LA this weekend and we hit various sniff spots together.

First off was a store called Visionary on Melrose Avenue , where we were to meet Roxana Villa and try her new Chaparral scent. Stupidly, I got the date wrong and she would be there the next day, Sunday. Gaia did try Rich Hippie Psychedelic, which we would have like if it were about half the price.

Off to ScentBar. The scents we tried there kind of merge into one another as a blur, but I can state that Musc Maori might be a must-have. It's a divine comfort scent with an edge: scalded cream over dark, coffee infused chocolate with a generous helping of white musk in the drydown. Like Daniel Craig bringing you a nice steaming cup after he.. you get the picture. Gaia recommended it as one that always gets compliments..

Gaia triad on China White, which I originally thought smelled like ashtrays. I now think it smells like Cocaine. After a while it gets to Cocaine dusted roses, then roses. Not so much.

Then we went to Barneys and sniffed some more. I tried Dans tes Bras, and am torn: I like it as conceptual art, but don't know if I need to actually buy it. It's undeniable weird and quite beautiful: violets going to play-doh going to supple skin. Borneo is out there now, and it's a wonderful reminder of how talented, how out there, how crazy-genius the combo of Sheldrake/Lutens can be, and I'm sorry to agree kind of haven't lately. Even though I bought several of the last three. Love you Louve, but you ain't Borneo brilliant. but I may have to back-up my bell jars with Borneo . Chene too.

We had a lovely late lunch at a restaurant in my neighborhood called Il Pastaio. I'd never been thinking it would be pricey; it wasn't much more for our salad than Koo Koo Roo would have been and it was so much better. Funny it took someone traveling 3000 miles to get me to try a restaurant that's a short walk from my house.

Sunday Gaia and Ori were on their way back to the cold rainy East Coast and I made my way through the smoky heat to meet Roxana. She is a lovely woman, and her chaparral is a delight; even if it was slightly surreal smelling this distillation of California with it's herbal woodiness and hint of wildfires with the smell of actual wildfires so prominent in the air. She's also created a scent just for the store that's a delight of orange blossom but isn't so over-the-top femme that a guy couldn’t wear it. I don't know that she's going to be selling it through her website or if the store will sell it on their site. I hope it's both..

Of course, Gaia will be posting her take on the Attack of the Scent Twins on her blog, so please visit her for a no doubt far more lucid account. I'm off to, I think, invest in an oxygen tank.

The image, the view from the lookout at Mulholland near Cahuenga, taken on November 16th, is Tom's own.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In Search of Comfort: Kenzo Amour Le Parfum, Estee Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang, Sinfonia di Note Coeur de Noisette

It is COLD, people! Yesterday morning there were snow flurries! A cup of hot tea (Takashimaya Rose!), a warm blankie, fluffy socks, a good book (it's time to revisit Agatha Christie, methinks) and a comfort scent are right now the items of absolute necessity. Here are some comfort perfumes I discovered among new releases.

Kenzo Amour Le Parfum. Kenzo can do no wrong this season, from the beautifully androgynous Power to the innocent/sexy Winter Flowers to this spicy-incensey cashmere shawl of a perfume. The regular Amour was a little too bland for my taste, Amour Indian Holi a little more distinct but still too subtle. With the addition of more incense and amber, Le Parfum aquired just enough oomph and depth to get my attention. Frankly, I would have wanted MORE incense, because the big blast of it which I witnessed in the first stage of Amour Le Parfum's development was the best part of the fragrance. As it is, the scent is fluffy more so than it is resinous. I would love-love to find a fragrance that combines incense and fluffyness in equal proportions. Now THAT would be extraordinarily comforting. (Note to self, layer Le Parfum with Messe de Minuit or Avignon). Having said that, I find Amour Le Parfum extremely enjoyable and wearable. It is soft, cuddly, surprisingly long-lasting and sillage-full. Truly an olfactory equivalent of a cashmere shawl, perfect for this weather. This is the perfume for the fans of the late and lamented Barbara Bui fragarnce, only richer, spicier and with more incense.

Estee Lauder Amber Ylang Ylang. More Amber than Ylang Ylang on me in the beginning, which is fine, this time of the year. The ripe, creamy floral note is certainly there, it softens the sweet amber and lends it a wonderully boozy quality. Holidays are coming , so bring on the booze! I find the scent to be very simple, quite literally just the two title notes with maybe a hint of spice in the background, but that is OK with me: the best comfort scents are usually simple. As the scent progresses, ylang ylang becomes more apparent and, as it turns slightly more floral, the perfume transforms from sensual-comforting into ladylike-elegant (still retaining all the ambery warmth). If Amour Le Parfum was a cashmere shawl, Amber Ylang Ylang is a chocolate-colored velvet dress, the kind that catches your eye not because of the abundance of details but, on the contrary, because of its simple form and the richness of the fabric. The second success in the Private Collection series.

Speaking of simple and comforting, Coeur de Noisette by Sinfornia di Note is just that. This creamy little concoction of coconut, hazelnut and amber reminded me of Parfumerie Generale's Une Crime Exotique (an extraordinary comfort scent, by the way), only, well, simpler and with coconut instead of gingerbread. The two have the same kind of buttery feel, you can cut these scents with a knife, and I love that quality in winter. Coconut fragrances usually have a tropical feel, but Coeur de Noisette for some reason carries me in what is the opposite direction from the tropics, namely, to my Russian home; it smells of my mom's baking, altough goodness knows my mum has never used coconut in her cakes and pies. The sweet simplicity of Coeur de Noisette might become a little grating if one over-wears or over-doses it, but once in a while, a couple of drops are superbly comforting.

Amour Le Parfum is aiavalable on, $65.00-$85.00, Amber Ylang Ylang can be found on, $65.00-$300.00 (the latter price is for perfume, shown here), and Coeur de Noisette is sold at, $150.00.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You Really Can’t Have Too Many: An Ava Luxe Sampler

By Donna

Ava Luxe is one if those ultra-niche lines that I gradually kept hearing about as I learned more about niche perfumes, but I had never tried it, as it has only been available online from the perfumer herself and not in any shops, at least not that I knew of. Serena Ava Franco makes handcrafted jewelry and perfume, and she has created a wide array of scents in many styles.

I was becoming more curious about this line, and not too long ago I received a bountiful gift as a result of a private scent swap – the lovely Chayaruchama (Ida) sent me a generous stash of samples from her enviable Ava Luxe collection! I could hardly believe my good fortune. I have gotten many hours of enjoyment from them, and if her intention was to turn me into an Ava Luxe fan, she succeeded admirably.

The Ava Luxe scents are available in Eau de Parfum or Parfum Extrait strengths and Chaya sent me a variety in both concentrations. It did not seem to matter much, as both types have a high concentration of oil and they all lasted a good long time on my skin. What really amazed me was the sheer range of styles, and all were done so well. Ms. Franco is a truly gifted artist. (Her jewelry designs are wonderful too.)

Let’s start with the Gourmand scents; Loukhoum is the perfume interpretation of the famous Turkish Delight confection, and many people are familiar with the Keiko Mecheri or Serge Lutens versions. I have never tried the Serge but I do know the Mecheri, and it is far too sweet and cloying for me, so I did not expect to like this – but I absolutely love it! Yes it’s sweet, but in a succulent, fresh-batch-from-the-kitchen sort of way, and it reminds me very much of the Turkish Delight that a local candy shop sells and which I could easily consume far too much of given the chance. Another gourmand is Madeline, and I was truly impressed by this unusual and evocative perfume. It has a holiday feel to it, and to me it resembles the liqueur called Drambuie, which is made from Scotch whiskey and heather honey and is guaranteed to warm you to the core on a cold day. Wearing Madeline is like sitting in front of an apple wood fire with a Balsam Fir holiday tree in the room, drinking eggnog spiked with Drambuie and eating soft ginger cookies, a cashmere lap robe over your knees as you listen to classic Christmas carols. Honey is just that, a strong and earthy clover honey essence with a lot of beeswax in it, and I adore it. I have been saving it, and Madeline, for the colder weather that’s coming soon. I look forward to their enveloping comfort on a snappy December night.

Moving on to Florals, one perfume just pole-axed me right away and I fell in love: Venus Sands. It’s a tropical floral rich in buttery gardenia and sweet jasmine, wrapped in silky coconut milk and warmed with nutmeg, vanilla and amber. I would put it right up there with any of my favorite white tropical florals, such as Montale Intense Tiare. I just cannot get enough of this delicious scent. On the other end of the floral spectrum is Midnight Violet, a stunning blend of dark violet, moss and incense. This is a serious violet and not at all watery or faded. It is great for evening and would also make a wonderful scent for men. Queen Bess is a spicy rose with saffron, cinnamon, clove and carnation – sort of like a Montale rose scent without the Aoud, and it’s truly lovely and complex. The rose is embedded in so many other notes you don’t realize at first that it is in fact a rose scent, it sneaks up on you a little bit in a most delightful way as the rose comes more prominently to the fore. Hong Kong Garden is an iris-based scent with an unusual aldehydic quality, a touch of powder and a pronounced note of cassis, which I love. It is a very unusual blend and not of a style that I usually wear, but it’s lovely.

The gardenia accord in Gardenia Musk is nothing at all like Venus Sands; it is a simple composition of a fresh white musk and a sparkling, lifelike gardenia, and it’s safe for the hottest weather. It reminds me very much of the beautiful musk accord in L’Artisan’s Mûre et Musc, a favorite of mine, and the scent has that same simple charm. Another animal altogether is Oriental Musk, a soft, suede-like scent enhanced with Tonka bean that keeps getting better the longer it is on the skin. (Musk fans should have a look at the extensive list of musk formulations in this line; one of them is sure to please.)

The woody Figue Noir is a fig like no other, not as astringent as most fig scents but deep and rich, and touched with surprising notes of black pepper and hawthorn blossoms. It also has gaiac wood, one of my personal addictions, along with a generous dose of patchouli. Don’t go for this fig scent if you are looking for “clean and fresh” ‘cause she’s not that kind of a girl.

From the Oriental group, Ambra Tibet and Ambre Antique serve up enough Eastern exotica for anyone. Ambra Tibet smells like a mysterious wooden chest full of magical delights and is made with both cardamom and ambergris, which means I swooned for it immediately, while Ambre Antique is a bit sweeter, with roses, white flowers and vanilla. I can wear the latter only on a cooler day, as it is extremely rich.

For me, the most stunning perfume in this collection was the fabulous Chypre Noir. It is profoundly green and as dark as an enchanted forest. This one was in the Parfum strength, and it took only a drop to weave its magic on my skin. It has a distinct and vivid grassiness that I love, and I may need to have this on hand for when my adored Jean Patou Vacances is finally gone for good. Chypre Noir is made with both civet and castoreum in the base, so you know it is going to have great staying power. It was the first one of the decants that I used up. Another chypre in the line, Ingénue, is also beautiful but in a much lighter way, and I found myself reaching for it on hot days for its soothing cool and mossy character. And speaking of that, there is one called simply Moss, and it’s extremely green and bursting with freshness – it reminds me a little of the classic Estée Lauder scent Aliage, one of the few Lauders I have ever really liked. Moss is not currently listed for sale on the site, unfortunately. Two more unlisted scents are Silk and Forbidden Fruits. The former is a lovely woody floral and the latter is a luscious mélange of fruits and berries that smell freshly cut, and with the added surprise of an incense-like base.

It’s amazing to me that all these diverse perfumes are from the creative mind of one person. Ms. Franco says that she loves to create perfumes that evoke happy memories. I don’t think that will be a problem for anyone who explores these fragrances. My only dilemma is whether to get one of my favorites from the samples I received (Chypre Noir, Venus Sands, Midnight Violet…and more) or since all of them are so good, should I feel confident enough in their quality to try something else? Madonna Lily sounds utterly dreamy, and Lily is both my favorite floral scent and one that’s somewhat difficult to get right in a perfume. Or how about Film Noir, a dangerously complex leather scent? Maybe I should be really daring and try Tuberose Diabolique, with its sexy backbeat of amber and spice. I guess there are worse things to be indecisive about. No matter what I do, I really don’t think I can go wrong.

Ava Luxe perfumes are available at the Web site - and did I mention that there is now an all-organic body lotion that can be scented with your choice of Ava Luxe perfume? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. For decants of selected AL scents, visit The Perfumed Court.

Image credit: vintage Art Nouveau ad poster from

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Caron 3eme Homme

By Tom

The eighties were a time when everything was big: the Reagan years featured giant shoulder pads on women, balloon pleated pants on men and hairdos on both that resembled lions manes in both breadth, height and desperate need of a good conditioner. Everything was about the flash and the glitz; "Dynasty" and "Dallas" ruled the airwaves and the scents of the times could double as chemical weapons when applied with the abandon that was common at that time. Trust me, I lived through it. Being trapped in an Express elevator for 50 stories with some dude who bathed in Lagerfeld is not a happy memory.

On the other hand that's the decade where Annick Goutal debuted as perhaps the first true niche house, so...

It's also the decade that Caron brought out 3eme Homme, ostensibly named after the Orson Welles film from 1949. 3eme is a big fragrance, if not nearly as large as some of the other scents from the 80's; it really does seem like a 40's scent filtered through the eye of the ironic 80's. It's a fougere, with a slap-you lavender that's bright and spikey. Just when you think you have it pegged, it takes a sharp left into jasmine and ginger that takes the scent into androgyny. The sharp lavender never leaves the composition, even unto the woody, powdery and musky drydown, and that's a good thing; the he-said/she-said play between warm floral and chilly lavender is a delight, and a nice reminder that the 80's weren't all about sequined jumpsuits and mall hair. It also makes it a scent that would be perfectly suitable for a woman in a Kate Hepburn in Pants sort of way so ladies, feel no compunction about stealing this one.

3eme Homme is available at e-tailers at shockingly low prices, mostly around $35. This makes it cheap enough to want to spray with abandon, but I would resist that urge. This might not be the loudest concoction ever brewed, but in a decade that screamed at the top of it's lungs even a booming voice can be drowned out. In this decade of meek, watery little scents this could be a bit much...

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prize Draw Winners

The winner of the Top 10 of Fall draw is ScentScelf.

The winner of the Election Day Draw is Florence.

Please email me your info using the Contact Me link on the right. Thank you, everybody, for commenting and playing!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Japanese Perfume: A Selected History

By Marla

Full disclosure: I am a Japanese perfume nut. When I look at my collection, I see that more than half are from Japanese houses, with Kenzo, Shiseido, and Hanae Mori at the top of my daily wear list. I also love Japanese incense, so I thought I’d learn a little more about it all.

During the Japanese Middle Ages, wealthy people wore small lacquer cases containing perfume or powdered incense, which hung from their kimono. The bottle for the original Opium is modeled on such a case. Clothes were hung over burning incense, and ladies’ floor-length hair was scented with incense smoke also. Incense games were highly developed and incense making became a family art. The famous houses of Shoyeido and Baieido were founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, and remain closely held family businesses to this day. Ingredients came from China, India, and the Middle East via the Incense/SpiceRoad, while other ingredients came from SE Asia or local markets.

Shiseido: founded in 1872 by Arinobu Fukuhara, former head pharmacist to the Japanese navy. He sold western-style medicines as opposed to traditional Asian remedies. The company grew larger and started producing perfumes, nutritional supplements, and cosmetics. The Camellia Club, for loyal customers, and a fashion magazine called Hanatsubaki followed in the 1930s. The Camellia Club currently has about 9 million members, and Shiseido has about 25,000 outlets, so this company is just huge.

Shiseido began marketing its products to the west in the 1960s, and perfume history was made when they appointed Serge Lutens their international image creator in 1980. Serge soon expanded his job description into perfumery and we all know the rest! Unfortunately, though, most of Shiseido’s perfumes are unavailable in the West, and even the famous Sheldrake creation, Feminite du Bois, is found primarily in Europe. (Shiseidos in my collection: Zen Classic, Zen Pearl, FdB, Blue Rose, Basala for my DH, Chergui, Rousse, and Gris Clair.)

House of Kenzo: Kenzo Takada was born in 1939. He didn’t speak French, but moved to France after he graduated university, and made his name there in the 1970s. His wild, colorful clothes with Asian motifs fit the wild European 70s perfectly and his fame grew. I believe his first perfume was the infamous banana scent King Kong, which has, perhaps mercifully, disappeared. He officially started his fragrance house in 1988 with Kenzo, followed by Kenzo pour Homme, L’Eau par Kenzo, Kashaya (the one with the creepy, glistening pod bottle), the knock-your-socks-off Jungles, and finally the powerhouse Flower and all its variations. Kenzo’s newest is Power, which has apparently been doing quite well among both men and women. Kenzo’s bottles are particularly stunning, and I really love the new Ryoko stones (nomad sprays), now appearing in airport shops. They’re just fun to hold! (Kenzos in my collection: L’Eau par Kenzo, Jungle Tigre, Jungle Elephant, Le Monde Est Beau, Kashaya, Flower, Flower le Parfum, Flower Oriental, and Amour Indian Holi.)

Hanae Mori: born in 1926, she incorporated traditional Japanese motifs and textiles in her haute couture line, which commenced in 1955. Today she has a $500 million fashion empire. Not too shabby! She’s the only Japanese member of France’s haute couture syndicate, and she designed the wedding gown of Japan’s Princess Masako. She wanted perfumes that would match and complement her stunning clothing collections, and has so far created 4 and a flanker, of which 3, Butterfly, Haute Couture, and Magical Moon, are still available. There are several for men, as well. (HM’s in my collection: Butterfly and my Holy Grail, Magical Moon)

Issey Miyake: born in 1938, he graduated in graphic design in 1964. He worked in the West for 6 years, then returned to Japan in 1970 to found the Miyake Design Studio. He launched what is perhaps the most famous of the aquatics (along with CK One, I suppose), L’Eau d’Issey, in 1992, with the very popular men’s version following in 1994. Interestingly, his perfumes are produced under the auspices of Shiseido. (IM’s in my DH’s wardrobe, oh guess which one, L’Eau d’Issey pour Homme, and what I wouldn’t do for a sample of the discontinued Feu d’Issey!)

With the ever-expanding Asian market, I’m sure that not only will we be testing some wonderful new perfumes from the old houses, but seeing some new houses come along as well. Anyone tried Tokyo Milk??

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Sophia Grojsman's Personal Appearance in Barney's New York

On November 14th, Sophia Grojsman will be at Madison Avenue, to talk about her creations for S-Perfume and Frederic Malle, 100% Love and Outrageous!. The event will last from 11am to 5pm.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

On a Break

PST is taking a short break. Please tune in on Tuesday, November 11th, for Marla's overview of Japanese Perfumery.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

This 'n That...

By Tom

First off, the winner of the drawing for the Roxana Illuminated Perfumes is...

Flora! Please let me know your address and I will send them out..

We had rain here in LA for the first time in about a hundred years. The crazy, histrionic downpours (complete with thunder and lightning, very very frightening indeed..) that we get out here, usually a little later in the year. Since I was in West Hollywood, walking, I ducked into ScentBar.

Chergui has arrived there, so those of you who have been despairing of finding it at Barneys take note.

There were two new Lubins there, L de Lubin, which is a handsome blend of flowers and citrus and could easily become a favorite at $124 for 100ML. Perhaps not for the first "cold" day of the year though..

There was also Nuit de Longchamp, which my friend said smelled like a classic scent from the 30's and apparently it is; it's a gorgeous floral chypre in the Hitchcock Blonde mold. There are hidden depths there and a fair bit of darkness; at $134 for 100ML isn't that the new free? Oh, and I love the voluptuous new bottles with the tortie tops. Gorgeous!

Of course, all of Vero Kern's fragrances were there as well, yummy things that they are... I've decided I was on crack when I said I would leave onda to the ladies. It's waaaay to nice on me not to indulge. I just need to up the ante on the social occasions: this is a Night at the Opera scent. Maybe a Presenting an Oscar scent. My friend liked kiki a lot and thought the packaging uber-cute..

Shiloh was there, which for some reason I've never tried? Why is that? On my skin it's a delicious peppery citrus backed by woods, clean musk and sandalwood that manages to keep the citrus for hours, which in my book is a very good thing indeed. Could be necessary..

I'd like to round this out by writing "I smelled (X) and it stunk" so I seem even-handed but I, and it didn't. This is what I grabbed, and for once it was all good.

On a sad note it seems that All Purpose, the men's clothing store that carried some CB I Hate Perfume scents seems to be defunct. Too bad: the owners were nice people who had come great stuff. I can only hope that they have only abandoned brick-and-mortar and gone cyber.

Le Labo's LA scent will debut at the end of this month, and while I am under no fond notion that I am special enough to get to try it early, I'll be nose to the door upon it's release. I hope that "dark core of sin" lives up to my hopes..


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

No Way, No How, No Perfume Review: Election Day Miscellanea

I find myself unable to write about perfume today. Today is serious, guys. Go vote. Go obsessively watch the news. Before you do though, tell us what you will be wearing on this historic day. My perfume is a change from my usual tastes, a breath of fresh air, Puredistance. And I could not resist wearing Madame President by Sephora by OPI on my tips (in fact, I bought it just for this occasion, yes, I am a nerd). I want to note, however, that I am wearing it for its name, not for its color. My nails might be red but I am all about blue today.

To mark the occasion, let's have a prize draw. In a half-hearted effort to appear non-partisan, I am giving away a perfume that has neither blue nor red in its name- a 1/2oz bottle of Tom Ford' White Patchouli. If you would like to be the draw, say so in your comment.

That's it for today. Go vote and have a good election day, everybody!

Image source, NY Times.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hyacinths and a Mechanic by Andy Tauer

By Kelley

I consider myself blessed. I was chosen to be part of the "Bottle on a Journey" experiment by Andy Tauer. I have read the other reviews and believe me, my review is very different from the other reviews. Is it because I am a man with male skin chemistry? I can't tell you. The following was on the note in the box and was written by Andy.

"What is it all about? I have made a fragrance that I like. I am not ready to commercialize it yet. Thus, I have sent one bottle of the perfume off to perfume lovers for a little journey. You can view where the bottle was in the past and the comments of perfume lovers on a map. Please visit for previous comments.

The Journey. The bottle is sent from one perfume lover to the other. Who gets it may sniff it, comment on it and then pass it on. I publish the comments and the position of the bottle on a map. I do not control where it is going and just hope it will travel a long distance (at the moment it is on San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), crossing barriers and frontiers.

The Fragrance. Its running title is Hyacinths and a Mechanic. It is a floral scent, a bouquet of powdery lilacs, green hyacinths and gentle lily of the valley. A bouquet of May flowers in the hand of a mechanic with an undertone of oily skin."

Upon first spray, I am overwhelmed by an impressionistic spring floral accord. The dewy flowers smell very green as if the flowers are surrounded by freshly gathered violet leaves sprinkled with spicy cinnamon. I definitely smell hyacinths in this bouquet. On my skin there is no clear winner with the three listed floral ingredients but a general feeling of spring flowers. Now, here is the kick, I don't smell any oily undercurrent or even a hint of oily "anything". Did my skin just gobble it up? Is it because I have an oily skin smell and so I am used to it? I don't know but it is a mystery that I have been trying to solve for the two weeks that I have been wearing this scent.

After the initial floral burst, the scent calms down to a resinous floral accord. Being a huge Tauer fan I feel pretty confident in my following comment. I picture flowers sprinkled on a spilled puddle of the base notes from "Lonestar Memories". The longer I wear the scent, the firmer my opinion gets about this. I smell myrrh and deep resins. Don't get me wrong, there is not a drop of birch tar in this just the beautiful incense base notes that Andy is famous for.

It starts of very floral and green and gradually warms up with the now famous Tauerade. Would I wear this, probably not. It is very florally feminine or femininely floral at first. After a couple of hours, it turns into a very unisex floral incense that in its later stages becomes very deep and dark and resinous. This has to be the most traditionally feminine release from the house of Tauer (even more so than Orris). I have to admit that I love it and would enjoy smelling it on a woman. I have NEVER smelled anything like it. Sillage is great at first and eventually calms down. It lasts about 6 hours on my skin which is a little unusual for a Tauer release which can last up to 24 hours, and I love that about Andy's work.

Well, I reread the other reviews on Andy's website and I guess my review isn't that different after all. It was sure a fun project. Unfortunately, I am unable to give you any specific information about availability because there is just the one bottle of this scent and Andy hasn't made any plans to release it to the public. Here is hoping you will be lucky enough to host the bottle some day! It is now on its way back to the United States....

Hey! It's good to be back!

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Hallows Eve

Bide The Wiccan Law Ye Must,
In Perfect Love, In Perfect Trust.
Eight Words The Wiccan Rede Fulfill:
An Ye Harm None, Do As Ye Will.
And Ever Mind The Rule Of Three:
What Ye Send Out, Comes Back To Thee.
Follow This With Mind And Heart,
And Merry Ye Meet, And Merry Ye Part.

By Beth

Oh there you are come gather around this friendly balefire. Don’t the flames smell absolutely wonderful, burning brightly with the woods of apple, oak and ash and scented with fresh branches of lavender , wild sage and rosemary? It’s a beautiful evening , cool and crisp and I’ve laid bales of fragrant fresh hay all around where we can sit. The waxing crescent moon is hanging by a silvery thread in the sky and the woods are quiet, except for the disconcerting sense that we are not alone. I’ve brought homemade ale which is laced with nutmeg , fresh honey and apples. The tureen is filled with steaming hot pumpkin soup, laced with curry and cumin and the last of the season’s sweet corn is roasting by the edges of the fire waiting to be drenched in the melted butter that has been laced with the disarmingly sexual flavor of black truffles and salt.
Because it’s Halloween, I have to have candy corn and homemade spicy caramel apples!

The winds are stirring tonight and if you listen carefully they will tell you anything that you need to know. Take a deep breath, notice the smells that come to you. Yes, we are in the deep woods and there are the familiar sounds of animals curling in the brush and the smells of wet leaves, rutting deer and apples . The animal that is me is also aware of fragrances that don’t belong. Sweet smells that I don’t recognize, strange skin scents and pungent , decaying smells that make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck . An owl flies past silently as they are prone to do, wings strong and the shriek of it’s prey breaks the still night. It is all part of the great dance among the strands of the web of life. Tonight is All Hallows eve and the veil between the worlds is so very thin. It’s true, you are closer to the dead tonight than any other time of the year. Dead ancestors, dead dreams, I know that for many the mysterious end to that which we call life is truly frightening, but I’ve always thought the latter to be much scarier. My mother whose memory I honor tonight used to tell me that those who are afraid to die are instead truly terrified to live. I remember once kissing a man and knowing immediately that his soul was dead. His cruel lips pulled the air from my lungs, his fairly vampiric essence flooded my veins and in that instant I knew. I ran away fast, scared for my very life. There is no smell on earth more putrid than the scent of the living dead. It’s not a scent I’ve ever forgotten. Sometimes by the time you’ve figured it out it’s too late. Sometimes you have to die a bit yourself before you learn the lesson.

Halloween is a special time for’s the time of year that I simply stop and remember everything and especially in this year which has been filled with unexpected endings I feel the need for pause. Samhain or as you’ll know it , “Halloween”, is the Wiccan New Year and I am a witch. I really do believe in magic. Halloween is my time for deep reflection and divination, the time to honor endings and a time for us all to cast powerful new wishes. Tonight we’ll look to the night sky to dream of peace and a prosperous world. Our creed is to harm none, we are the keepers of the earths secrets. For years we’ve been the healers, the herbalists and the perfumers who walk unnoticed among you. We tend the gardens. We mix the potions that make life just a bit more interesting. For years we’ve lived cloaked in secrecy, afraid to be known.
No longer.

Please don’t be afraid and be filled with the knowing that there is no magic without love and don’t be fooled. We are all capable of bewitching, some of us just come by it a bit more naturally then others. The very nature of magic is enchanting. The true nature of enchantment is sweet fun. Yes we witches are mischievous, but it’s born from a deep need to celebrate life. This is the one time of year when the beginning and end of the wheel of life meet, so you can hardly blame us for wanting to have a bit of fun! We love to dress up, all that black is simply good for a bit of mysterious, good-natured fun. I for one cannot resist a flowing cape of any kind or deep smoky black eyeliner worn like Kim Novak in the classic movie, Bell, Book and Candle and I have to wear velvet as much as possible. I use my makeup to cast a spell of seduction and power or sometimes to be invisible. I adore talismans of all kinds, crystals and gems and I stuff my pockets with acorns and pennies, rocks and feathers that I cannot resist picking up for unexplained reasons. I have an almost unnatural love of cats. In the playful words of my favorite movie “Practical Magic” lies what I believe to be a simple truth, ” that there is a little witch in every woman”. I believe that there’s a little witch in every man too, I’m married to one. I found the only man in the world that I couldn’t control and then I married him. He enchanted me the instant I saw him, I’ve been incredibly spellbound by him for almost 30 years. He lets me tempt him over and over again with the most delightfully fragrant potions, he in turn entices me to believe that I am the most beautiful woman alive. By now all of you know just how much I love perfume and I use it abundantly like we all do, to bring about a mood, to cast a spell, to enchant, to allure, to weave a story. Tonight I’m wearing Annick Goutal’s very sexy , very witchy Mandragore , a scent which my husband adores. I love it’s strangely metallic, almost bloody yet warm blend of bergamot, black pepper and spearmint layered with boxwood, sage , pink peppercorn, star anise and ginger. The musky , sexual allure of Mandragore comes from the alchemical presence of the European mandrake which has been used for centuries as a powerful narcotic and an aphrodisiac, as well as to promote fertility and cure impotence. It’s perfect for an evening such as this one where we are playing with all of our senses.

Yes, sometimes I think that people are afraid of witches simply because our very nature is bestial, sensual and earthy. No, I will not steal your husband or seduce your son. Be warned though , I may flirt with them a bit and I’ll probably flirt with you too. I can’t help myself, I love to tease and provoke using inspiration as my wand and love as my muse. As a delicious southern enchantress I know is fond of telling her husband, “Darlin, I don’t care where you get your appetite as long as you come home to eat”. I don’t mean you any harm and my wish for you is unbridled passion and joy. Magic for me is happiness, playfulness and tenderness. It’s about knowing that there are some things that you can control and many things that you can’t. It’s about acceptance and taking care of others as you would want to be cared for yourself. It’s about living powerfully with all in the world , not being afraid to see all that the world has to offer. It’s about being at peace with the duelistic nature of creativity and destruction. It’s about creating your own reality, not waiting for it or someone else to create you.

So dance with me for a bit, come find your inner witch. For you I’ve brought a sterling mug filled with my favorite brew. Be careful it’s very very hot. It’s made from steaming milk and fragrant dark chocolate, agave nectar, allspice, cinnamon, a touch of vanilla for passion and a lusty shot of tequila to enable you see between the worlds.

Sip it slowly , savor it’s smoky aroma and tell me, What would you like to create this year?

Annick Goutal Mandragore can be found at Saks Fifth Avenue

Photograph of Mandragore from Painting by John William Waterhouse

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