Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
DSH Perfumes Part Two: Scents In Living Color
In the first installment of this series, I talked about the “Red” perfumes of DSH, but those are just a part of her ongoing fragrance interpretations related to color, and also to art. Her “Chroma” perfumes are olfactory impressions of certain colors, exact colors, those found in an artist’s palette and how they are transformed by the artist on painted surfaces.
Before I get to the Greens, another perfume in the Chroma series is the weird and fascinating Quinacridone Violet, inspired in part by one of Ms. Hurwitz’s own works of art and also by the artist’s pigment of the same name. (I love that deep magenta-violet color, it really speaks to me as well.) I had no idea what to expect of this one and I smelled it without reading the notes first, just for fun. I was quite taken aback, as I had never smelled anything like it and it was hard to pin down what I was experiencing. A cold, spacey blast of abstract florals followed by rather astringent yet somehow candy-like fruit – but what the heck is the fruit? For that matter, what are the flowers? Well, try Cherry Blossom, Osmanthus and Alaia flower – the last is one I have ever heard of being used in a perfume, and the note description on DSH perfumes is as follows: “A very unusual Chinese flower note with a bright terpenic / lemony hit in the top note mixed with cured fruit, green apple and an earthy musky feel in the drydown.” Okay, now I understand why it’s so unusual, let’s check out the fruit; that indefinable note is Quince, the perfumed fruit distantly related to apples, that is impossible to eat raw but has a wonderful and complex aroma. The full composition: Cherry Blossom, Lime Peel, Plum, Quince, Alaia Flower, Italian Neroli, Osmanthus, Sweet Pea, Violet, Violet Leaf Absolute, Atlas Cedar Wood, Cassis Bud, Incense, Musk. The incense is very chilly, sepulchral even, and there is no warmth at all to this fragrance. I could see wearing it in hot weather, but right now in the midst of the worst winter in these parts for many a year I can’t decide if I like it or if I just think it’s offbeat and extremely creative. I like the opening best; it’s quite a rush. I don’t know if there is anything else out there quite like this – I really doubt it.
Green is a recurring theme for DSH perfumes and one I myself am drawn to; it is my favorite color, or rather I should say the right green is my favorite color. I have no use for military drab or pea soup brownish-green, or what I always call landlord green, that lifeless so-called apple green that graces the walls of every cheap, rundown apartment ever rented to a college student. No, I need forest green, and malachite and emerald, and the greyed lichens and moss on the branches of ancient trees, the brightness of new leaves in spring – greens cool and deep and vivid. I also love green and green floral perfumes, from Aliage to Vacances to Envy to Calyx to Ma Griffe, so naturally I was intrigued when I saw that a number of these perfumes had a green theme, and the ones I obtained to sample are only a part of the collection of green DSH fragrances.
Celadon: A Velvet Green is a very smooth scent, not at all sharp as one might expect of a predominantly green fragrance. One of its inspirations is the painting Spring Veil by Helen Frankenthaler. Don’t let the fact that it has Cucumber in it scare you, as it is barely there, it’s much more grassy when it opens and this quickly becomes a soft and comforting scent with depth and even warmth. It is the aroma of a forest floor as you walk on it in the late spring, and the ferns release their scent as you brush against them while dappled sunlight comes through the tall trees. Balsam fir gives it an aromatic depth that lasts well on my skin, though I did wish it had been even more persistent, as I like it very much. The notes are: Clover Leaf, Cucumber, Lime Peel, Green Grass, Liatrix, Orris, Orris Root, Balsam Fir, Hay Absolute, Narcissus Absolute, Tonka Bean, and Violet Leaf Absolute.
Viridian is another kind of Green altogether, and there is nothing comforting about it – as a matter of fact it kind of scared me. Named after a vivid dark green artist's pigment, I found it to be very cold and astringent, and as green as anything I have ever smelled, almost chewy; like a mouthful of grass clippings – but somehow I can't get my mind around it. It does not smell anything like perfume – at all. It is utterly devoid of sweetness and has an intensely herbal quality, as though it is purely a concentrated tincture of crushed leaves, some of which might even be poisonous. Something about it makes me think it would smell better on a man, and indeed many DSH perfumes are easily unisex. But the green – it's odd and extreme, like a melted crayon or the mimeograph ink (yes, I am old enough to remember that) from grade school – when the teacher would hand out freshly copied lesson sheets, I would inhale the odor of the ink, and even though it was not what you would call a nice smell, it was compelling. That's what Viridian is – strangely compelling. I can see it being a scrubber for a lot of people because of its raw, vegetal character, but for a few it will be love. There will be no in-between. The notes tell the story: Top notes: Angelica, Artemisia, Bergamot, Celery Seed Middle notes: Aloe (accord), Chrysanthemum absolute, Galbanum, Orris Root Base notes: Australian Sandalwood, Brazilian Vetiver, Green Oakmoss, Lovage, Myrrh Gum, Patchouli, Violet Leaf Absolute.
Far subtler is Blue-Green: Arnica, a scent that whispers its cool message. It reminds me of a greener version of TDC Sel de Vetiver, a fragrance I really like, and I can imagine wearing this during hot, humid weather when any other perfume is too much. This fragrance has just a bit of that of saltiness to it, and it did not last on me at all – my winter skin ate it, even after I reapplied, leaving only a faint but very pleasant trace. I need to try this one again in summertime when a truly transparent scent is called for. The Alaia Flower makes another appearance her to contribute its lemony tang, and there is Armoise, also known as Mugwort, in the opening. Now you may well ask, what is that, exactly? Well, it is a type of Artemisia, commonly called wormwood (one species of which is also known as Absinthe), and it is used in herbal preparations and Asian cuisine – in fact, one of my favorite foods is buckwheat Soba flavored with the fresh leafiness of Mugwort, which gives a really interesting greenish tint to the noodles. (It is also a hallucinogenic, but that is neutralized when it is cooked, darn it.) Composition: Top notes of Armoise, Bergamot & Water lily. Middle notes are Alaia Flower, Arnica (another strongly scented medicinal herb) and Petitgrain. The base is Green Oakmoss and Spruce.
Thé Vert (Tea No. 1) is exactly that – and it’s equally “tea” and “green.” There is no sugar in this brew! This is a real find for people who are looking for that elusive tea fragrance that doesn’t turn too sweet on the skin like so many do. It has the light natural hay-like quality endemic to the tea itself and the moss accord, but it’s a gentle, subdued kind of grassy sweetness. I appreciate a good cup of green tea myself, and I really liked this fragrance. I found it soothing and suitable for any kind of weather – as comforting for winter as any ambery or woody scent, yet a perfect go-to fragrance for hot weather too. I would put this very near the top of the list of all green tea perfumes I have ever tried. Listed notes are simply Bergamot, Lemon, Green Tea, Moss and Sandalwood, and that’s pretty much all I need or want in a Tea scent.
For people who approach Rose perfumes with caution because they are too obvious or too cloying, there is Rose Vert – not technically in the Green group but I think it belongs here. It is a real departure for this style of scent and I can’t figure out how it’s done, as there are five different iterations of Rose elements in this scent yet it’s not very sweet at all and even starts out a little bit soapy/astringent. The secret must be in the top notes of citrus oils and the base that has no wood or vanilla but only tree moss. In the heart notes you will find Bulgarian Rose Absolute, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Damask Rose Absolute, Moroccan Rose Absolute, Turkish Rose Otto – yet it is more refreshing than sweet, a Rose of spring breezes and the lightness of the living flower. I have no idea how she did it but I like it!
Pamplemousse – what could be greener than Grapefruit? (Yes it’s technically Fruity/Citrus, so sue me. Anyone who dislikes grapefruit should skip to the next paragraph.) Pamplemousse is enlivened with vibrant green Bergamot and has Green Tea in the base, so I am putting it in this category. It is dazzling and fizzy, an exuberance of joie de vivre. And like Thé Vert, it does not go all sweet on my skin, as it is a true-to-life grapefruit right down to the bracing bitterness of the membrane and rind. This baby can only get better when the mercury rises. Top notes: Bergamot, Green Mandarin, Mandarin, Pink Grapefruit, White Grapefruit Middle notes: Italian Neroli, Lemon, Neroli, Pummelo Base notes: Green Tea, Tamil Nadu Sandalwood. (Alert fruit lovers will note that Pummelo is a close relative of Grapefruit, so it just adds another layer of tangy goodness to the composition.)
Now, for something a little different - how would you name this color, for a perfume called Prince: “indigo blue-black shot through with crimson red.” Sounds more like Night on Bald Mountain than anything else to me, but in fact Prince is the name of a seventeenth century textile that only the aristocrats could afford, and this inspired the perfume, and then a painting of the same name by DSH. This is another conundrum for me – it started out warm on my skin and then turned cold! I don’t recall that has ever happened with a perfume before. When first applied, a warm, hazy cinnamon and wood aura arose, mixed with sweet anise and chamomile. After a short time, however, the absinthe started in, and it was oddly fascinating, a thin acid-green thread running through it. Then the narcissus and orris kicked in and chilled the whole thing down to an almost mint-like degree. Just when I thought it was going to start smelling like Aquafresh® toothpaste, it changed again and the leather and tobacco began to emerge. After that it more or less settled down to that “manly” mixture plus an echo of the herbal absinthe and chamomile and deeper animalic notes. It reminds me somewhat of Serge Lutens Douce Amère, in which the bitter herbs of absinthe and tagetes tamp the sweetness of the white flowers down, and they are locked in eternal struggle, neither one gaining ascendance. In Prince it seems to be the animalic notes that are being restrained – barely – by the herbal components. If not for the acrid wormwood (absinthe) and the hay-like aromatics of the chamomile and tobacco, this perfume would be a rugged wild man of leather and civet. The longer it was on my skin the more manly it became, and it’s not the sort of man one encounters every day. This one is power-hungry, aloof, detached. He always wears a suit, he never lets his guard down, and it’s only when he smiles that you realize how dangerous he is. Notes are as follows: Absinthe, Lavender Flower, Narcissus Absolute, Star Anise, Wild Chamomile, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute, Gallica Rose Otto, Orris, Sandalwood, Spice Notes, Ambergris, Castoreum, Civet, Cocoa Beans, Leather, Oppapanax, Tobacco Absolute, Tolu Balsam.
In the next installment of this series, I will explore some more men’s fragrances, as well as some very feminine florals.
Image credits: Green and pink veiled Aurora borealis from istp.gsfc.nasa.gov, taken in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The magenta-violet Aurora, also from NASA, was taken in 1958 in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Best of 2008 and a Prize Draw
Only once before have I been more glad to see a year come to an end. In my personal history, year 2008 will go down as the 2nd most horribilis. And that is saying a lot. There were very bright moments that I will remember forever, warmly and gratefully, the moments that I am happy I have got to experience. Still, I am relieved that it is over. Here is to moving on, to getting over, to patching up ...to new beginnings for all of us. To an easier 2009.
This year, we at Perfume-Smellin' Things decided to see the year off by each choosing just one perfume we loved, wore and enjoyed the most in 2008, thus creating our Top 8 of 2008. We invite you to do the same in your comments: name one and only one scent that shone for you the brightest this year.
Etat Libre’s Jasmin et Cigarette is not the best perfume I tried in 2008, nor even the one I reached for most often, but it is the perfect accidental souvenir of a year marked by trips to the city, rough ideas on the verge of turning into something better, inchoate longings for an imaginary lush life, and of course, by perfume and cigarettes. I first tried it in the middle of a New York heat wave, stealing a sample from the tester at Bendel’s after the SAs pointedly ignored me. I’m surviving the winter with my decant. If the center of my dream holds, and I return to the city in the spring, a bottle will be mine.
In a year of so many lovely smells it is so very hard to choose just one, but choose I have. Hands down, Sali Oguri’s luscious chocolate drenched Persephone was by far the most original and deeply enjoyable perfume that I tried this year. Persephone makes me want to laugh , twirl and dance until I have to gasp for air. I love her decadent , wild gypsy nature but at the same time she is as restorative and earthy as a deep drink from a cool artesian spring nestled within the Middle Earth. She was my prayer for the dying as she helped my mother cross beyond the veil of this world. She entices my husband to nibble on my neck. She is simply....beautiful.
I have tried many really good fragrances for the first time in the past year, so this is a tough call. After much consideration I am selecting Chypre Noir by Ava Luxe. It is so very different from anything else I have come across. Deeply, profoundly green and dangerously sexy, it’s mysterious and intense, transporting me to a secret enchanted forest with just one powerful drop
My pick for 2008 is Tauer's Incense Extrême. I haven't been this excited about a fragrance in quite a while. It is a minimalist scent with (if I remember correctly) only seven ingredients. Andy's website lists spices, powdery orris, dry cedar wood, and ambergris, supported by frankincense as the notes. There isn't much development just pristine frankincense made slightly more exotic by the other listed ingredients. This is literally a religious experience!
My pick is Andy Tauer's Vetiver Dance. It is the most multifaceted scent I encountered this year: sap-green lily of the valley with a salted twist of grapefruit peel, underscored by vetiver shifting from spicy and rooty to earthy and bittersweet. It's great for walks on the beach.
To be honest, I thought this mission of choosing one most favorite fragrance of 2008 would be truly impossible. But as I soon as I looked at the "most loved" shelf of my perfume cabinet, I had an answer. Of course, could there be any contest? The perfume that brought me most joy in 2008 was Guerlain's sublime Quand Vient la Pluie. Orrisy melancholy of Apres L'Ondee married to the happy, playful gourmandness of praline, a scent-chameleon that changes its mood according to mine. It is comforting when I need it to be, elegant when I have to be so, demure when requiered, flirty when appropriate. And always exquisitely beautiful. This is one of the most thrilling discoveries of 2008 and one of the gifts for which I will be always grateful. This year, in a super-short, recession version of The Award, it receives a Golden Colombina.
Jean Paul Gaultier's newest, Ma Dame, is just FUN in a bottle. Dreamsicles. Necco wafers. Now N Laters, hot pink vinyl plastic, Lorna Doone cookies, neon, and some odd touches of metal thrown in. There is absolutely nothing natural in this, but it's a potpourri of modern frivolity. At first I thought, "another synthetic fruity floral", but after receiving two samples from an enthusiastic German SA, I was hooked. I started smelling all the items above, and more. It's just quirky silliness, and, as sweet as it sounds, it's not cloying. It's one of the most humorous perfumes I've smelled in years. This will save me from the blahs of deep dark European winter for certain. And the bottle's fantastic. (How did they make that, anyway??)
Serge Lutens Serge Noire. I've found myself reaching for it more than anything else in 2008. It smells like being enveloped in the embrace of the best-dressed man at the ball.
And a bonus one from Paul a.k.a Mr Colombina
Fou d'Absinthe was my favourite scent of 2008 because it reminds me of my years Europe, yet somehow feels so right for New York.Its a fragrance I can't wait to get back to after I have obligingly gone through my rotation.
We couldn't end the year without having one last prize draw, our biggest so far. We have three bottles to give away: Chanel Chance, Ralph Lauren Notorious and Vera Wang Look. Please choose ONE that you would like to win and let us know in your comment. The draw will end on 12am EST on Jan. 4th, 2009. Three winners (one for each scent) will be chosen randomly and announced in Jan. 6th. Happy New Year, everybody!
To read other Best of 2008 lists, please visit:
Bois de Jasmin, Now Smell This, Perfume Posse, Scentzilla
Image is bottle by hermanturnip at flickr; some rights reserved.
Labels: Best of
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Divine by Divine and thoughts on Proper Perfume
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
What to Give for Christmas to the Over-Applier?
This post will turn out to be perhaps a rhetorical question, since I think it'll be posted to late to take the suggestions, but I think it's a good thing to ask.
I have at least one friend who is a chronic over-applier. One friend, a woman I'll call Rita, is of the mantra more is more. She'll approach the perfume counter boldly, spray her ample poitrine and graceful, swanlike neck until it's glistening like a freshly dunked donut and writhe in olfactory ecstasy. Now if she reaches for something like, cay Eau d'Hadrien we're safe. But Rita likes bad-girl scents like Westwood's Boudoir or the original Agent Provacateur, scents that could be used to clear hostage situations if they could be had at a price-point less than tear gas. She however isn't my problem. Luckily, she's into body creams, so I can rely on something from Bliss or Carol's Daughters that will make her soft and happy.
My problem is the husband of one of best friends, who I'll call Biff. His wife is one of us, and he's started, but hasn't quite mastered the application part of the program yet. Apparently he woke his wife one morning from a deep sleep into eye-watering, coughing consciousness by his criminal over-application of Guerlain Vetiver. Which was my birthday gift to him. A gift given 4 months ago. 100MLs of it. Now Biff wants more, but his wife has begged that either I give him something lighter, like vaguely scented air or give him application lessons.
My other sticking point is price. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don't feel like spending $200 dollars on this when A) There's a chance he'll just spray it like it was Glade and B) I'm don't really want to spend more than $40. So where am I on this? CKOne? Gendarme? Thoughts?
Monday, December 22, 2008
DSH Perfumes Part One: A Voyage of Discovery
A few months ago I ran across a fascinating Web site called memory & desire, and subtitled poetry, perfume and the artistic imagination. The idea behind it was to meld the language of poetry, the visual impact of art and the sensory experience of perfume. That is the simple explanation. In any case, I loved the idea of perfumers being considered as artists on the same level with painters and poets. Those who truly know perfume may take that as a matter of course, how could it be otherwise? To others this may seem startling, to equate perfumery with the (other) fine arts. Doubters could learn a lot from memory & desire.
One of the projects was asking a number of perfumers to interpret this famous poem in scent:
In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough.
~ Ezra Pound ~
At least fourteen (?) gifted perfumers, including such talents as Yosh Han, Ayala Sender and Andy Tauer were invited to interpret this brief but atmospheric poem. Every one had their own vision, but all were fascinating. I recall being drawn to one in particular because of its unusual composition. The notes were listed as: peach, apple blossom, violet, sweet pea, Bulgarian rose, orris, kukicha tea, Australian sandalwood, benzoin, tabac, Hiba cedarwood, sumi ink, musk (ambrette seed absolute) and civet. Sumi ink? What a strange and wonderful material for perfume – a traditional Japanese material used for brush painting and calligraphy, it is made from ground-up soot. The use of kukicha (green tea & twigs) and Hiba cedar continued the Asian theme, and I adore apple blossom; I wish more perfumers would use it. The creator of this scent poem was perfumer and aromatherapist Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Seven of these perfumers actually made their perfume concept ideas into real perfumes, and Ms. Hurwitz now has hers available on her Web site, DSH Perfumes. It is called Memory & Desire No. 1. As luck would have it, I recently had the opportunity to test of a number of the DSH fragrances and of course I could not wait to try this one.
I put it on as soon as I received the samples in the mail, and it did not disappoint. It is a gentle yet melancholy scent, and the sumi ink does an astonishing interpretation of wet pavement – it is slightly tarry and captures the ozonic aroma of an urban street after the rain. The cedar wood and tobacco enhance this impression. Chilly orris and pale apple blossom creates a mind-picture of water running down a window pane as someone gazes out of it sadly, perhaps waiting for someone, perhaps missing someone who is never coming back. Despite the presence of the rose and sweet pea, this fragrance is not sweet, and though it is watery it is not so in the way most modern mainstream scents are. This is water as tears, a crushed and heartbroken violet whose dreams will never come true. I put it on a second time on a day just like the one I imagined the poem to be about, and it was just perfect. I love this fragrance but I don’t know if I could wear it very often, as it does have a certain sadness to it. I think it might be lovely in warmer weather, perhaps that would bring out a little sweetness in it, but it is wonderful no matter what. It lingers well on the skin with its base of sandalwood and civet, though neither is overly obvious or heavy.
That was the first fragrance by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz (who shall be referred to hereafter as DSH) that I had ever read anything about in detail, but I had known that she was well regarded as a niche perfumer who uses as many natural materials as possible, except where they are unavailable. (She must use synthetic animalic accords, as do most perfumers these days. Real ambergris is no longer an option for mere mortals.) I have found that she has a gift for “concept” scents, and by that I do not mean anything gimmicky or trendy, but rather perfumes that pay tribute to a time or place or even a color, and that she does it very well indeed.
For example, DSH has done a series of “Red” perfumes called Les Rouges that capture the brilliance and life of the color red in various intensities. Oeillets Rouges, her homage to red carnations and the color scarlet immediately captivated me. Now, my standards for carnation scents are pretty high; from Caron’s Bellodgia to JAR Golconda, they have to be pretty good to impress me, since the lesser ones are like bad rose scents, they give them all a bad name and generally smell cheap. One whiff of this one and I was convinced. Not only is it deep and rich with the clove-like warmth of the carnation flower, it has another love of mine, nutmeg, to add even more delightful spiciness, as well as the gentle radiance of beeswax. Now I no longer need to pine away over the unobtainable Golconda, I know where to find one I like just as much. Composition: Top notes: Bergamot, Green Peppercorn, Nutmeg Middle notes: Carnation Absolute, French Red Carnation, Honey Beeswax Base notes: Amber, Ambergris, Myrrh Gum, Vanilla.
(Note: I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it when a perfumer actually lists the composition of each and every fragrance on their Web site, it is so helpful when deciding which ones you want to try. Also, DSH has samples of most of her scents available.)
Another in the Les Rouges series is Poivre, based on the idea of a deep ruby red. It is a concoction of rose, incense, resins and spices and oh my, does it last! This delicious perfume clings to the skin for hours and gets better by the hour. As the name implies, it opens with a bracing blast of black pepper, which I love, and then mellows down to a smooth and feminine spicy simmer. Composition: Top notes: Black Pepper, Spice Notes Middle notes: Bergamot, Bulgarian Rose Absolute, French Red Carnation, Pimento Berry, Sultry Rose Base notes: Incense Notes, Labdanum, Moss, Olibanum (Frankincense), Patchouli.
Piment et Chocolat is based on chili red, and it is a unique blend of hot chile pepper, other spices and dark chocolate. The chocolate note worried me, as it is a difficult note to get right in perfume, but I need not have been concerned, as it is not a dry, dusty cocoa but a rich melting mouthful much like that in my beloved Sali Oguri Persephone New York. The piquant chile pepper is a novel counterpoint. I found this to be so festive and unusual that I chose it over all the scents I own to wear to my company’s big annual Christmas party, where I would be hobnobbing with the movers and shakers. It lasted all day without becoming too sweet but it was still a definite presence. I would recommend it to anyone with a sense of fun and a party to attend. Composition: Top notes: Black Pepper, Paprika, Pimento Berry, Red Chili Middle notes: Cinnamon Bark, Clove Bud, Nutmeg Base notes: Cocoa Beans, Dark Chocolate.
Last but certainly not least in the Les Rouges series is Fleurs d’Oranger, which evokes a warm orange-red. I really caved on this one, it is superb. Only a hint of orange blossom’s usual soapiness is present when this is first applied, and it quickly deepens to a wonderfully sensual interpretation of this commonly used flower, but there is nothing common about this version. It is rich, complex and even indolic, though it’s not a “dirty” scent, and it is embellished with beeswax and deepened with vetiver. It lasted on my skin for over twenty-four hours, and I hated to shower it off. This one goes on my wish list. It is warm and honeyed and frankly sexy and I can’t get enough of it. Composition: Top notes: Bitter Orange, Sweet Orange Middle notes: Egyptian Neroli, Orange Flower Absolute - France, Tunisian Neroli Base notes: Ambergris, Brazilian Vetiver, French Beeswax.
DSH occasionally comes out with Limited Edition perfumes, and one such is a Holiday scent called Tamarind Paprika. Once I smelled this I thought it would easily fit in with the Les Rouges group. It is just plain delicious. I don’t know how many people have ever tasted Tamarind fruit, but I find it hard to describe, though I have had the pleasure of eating it. It is sweet yet a bit astringent and I can’t compare it to any familiar fruit, except maybe a little bit like a very ripe persimmon. Pairing it with the warmth of Paprika and Red Wine makes for an ideal perfume for cooler weather, and it is rich and fruity but with a distinctly tangy quality to it. I guess you could call the style a “fruity-fruit,” but it’s nothing to be afraid of if you don’t normally like fruit scents. Composition: Top notes: Black Pomegranate (accord), Paprika, Tamarind Middle notes: Bulgarian Rose Otto, Orris, Osmanthus Base notes: Oppapanax, Red Wine notes, Tobacco Absolute, Vanilla Absolute. (Did I mention how yummy this is!?)
Another series is the Perfection Connoisseurs group, which are more of a time-and-place idea. Café Noir is meant to re-create the vibe of a Paris night at a club during the Jazz Age. It has a very vintage feel, with a bit of Habanita’s decadent soul in it, and it is definitely one of those “handle with care” scents that are better suited for a hot date than a job interview. It has Black Pepper, Coffee Absolute, Tolu Balsam and Vanilla Absolute, among other things. Its “sister scent” is Parfum de Luxe and I am pretty sure she is the older sister. Café Noir is the intriguing gamine with the short dark hair, but Parfum de Luxe is a Cool Blonde with lots of money and spends her summers on the Riviera. It is meant to bring to mind the Art Deco movement, and it smells very French indeed, with notes of Bergamot, Bulgarian Rose, Geranium, Honey, Orris Centifolia Rose, Tuberose, Ylang-Ylang, Amber, Benzoin, Oakmoss, Vanilla and Tobacco Absolute.
Another DSH scent that I had read about some time ago, that I did not connect with the maker of Memory & Desire No. 1 right away is Jitterbug. Once I realized that this was hers too, I had to try it. This could be considered the “third sister” to Café Noir and Parfum de Luxe, as it meant to interpret the style of the Forties “Swing Era.” Okay, hold on to your hats, gents, this one is a predatory vixen, the kind who enters the room one hip at a time and slays her admirers with one flick of her cigarette holder. Musky, ambery, and sultry as all get-out, it lasts forever on my skin and should be avoided by anyone who does not want to be the center of attention. Since it is meant to be in the style of that bygone era, it is pretty heavily animalic and very sweet. I love a sweet perfume as long as it is done right, and this one is just luscious, a real “Bombshell” fragrance. Check out the Composition: Top notes: Bergamot, Blackberry, Lemon, Pimento Berry Middle notes: Benzoin, Bulgarian Rose Absolute, Clove Bud, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute Base notes: Amber, Frankincense (Olibanum), Labdanum, Musk, Patchouli. (There is a men’s version of this too, I will talk about that in a future installment.)
Jitterbug is the polar opposite of Memory & Desire No. 1, and I would never have believed that the same person made both of them if I had tried them separately in a blind sampling. What they do have in common is that they are both very well made. While one is meant to somehow capture a fleeting moment and the other a whole decade, for me they both pass the real test: Would I actually enjoy wearing them? Oh, yes.
Coming up in the next installment: DSH takes on the color Green – and everybody wins.
Image credits: Rain-pattern glass from capitolglassnyc.com. Chile peppers from ngb.org.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Vacances Prize Draw Winners...
...are Olivia and Lovethescents. Please send us your addresses using the link on the right. Thank you, everybody, for playing and stay warm!
Monday, December 15, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Bois, bois, bois: Serge Lutens Un Bois Sepia, Bois de Violette and Bois et Fruits
These three have been exclusives at Bergdorf Goodman for about a year now; they have debuted at ScentBar (available only by phone, no internet orders)
Lutens Bois series seem to be the four faces (including Bois et Musc) of Feminite de Bois, his scent for Shiseido. Bois de Violette has a slightly candied sweetness to it's woody amber on my skin that smell to me exactly like candied violets before settling into a delicious grassy violet over resinous woods.
Bois et Fruits starts with a lusciously vivid blend of fruits: pears, plums and peaches overlaid with spices and underpinned by the cedar. Those of you who were frightened by Arabie's rather raucous take on the same thing should try this. It's gorgeously smooth and wonderfully full-bodied without having that just-too-much quality that's part of Arabie's charm.
Un Bois Sepia is perhaps the least challenging of the series, with its vetiver and sandalwood/patch drydown. It's also arguably the most wearable and certainly a beautiful fragrance with its dance of cool cypress and warm woods.
All of these are really good, and a reminder of how great the House of Lutens can be. I do wish however that they weren't $200 for 50ML but I suppose that's churlish of me.
Image source, allposters.com
Labels: Serge Lutens
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Saint Parfum “Tomato Vine”
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
The Green Goddess: Vacances by Jean Patou (1936) - And a Prize Draw
Vacances was introduced in 1936 by the famous perfume and fashion house of Jean Patou, in celebration of what is now a French and indeed established worldwide tradition – the introduction of paid vacations for workers. It evokes the feeling of a fresh spring morning in the countryside as the windows are opened to the rising sun. This was the Golden Age of French perfume houses, and one of its legendary creative collaborations was between Jean Patou and his great house perfumer Henri Alméras; this fragrance is one of the crown jewels of fine French perfumery. The House of Patou was once more famous for its couture gowns coveted by wealthy society women than it was for its perfumes, but the fragrances long ago eclipsed the fashions; led by the justly iconic Joy (1930). Sadly, Jean Patou died the same year Vacances was released, though the company was carried on by his sister and remained a family enterprise until it was sold to Procter and Gamble in 2001.
Vacances is widely acknowledged by professional perfumers and expert “noses” to be the greatest Green Floral in the history of perfumery. Having tried many others of this style from the finest houses over the years, I must concur. This is a true work of art; and if I had but one perfume to choose to wear for the rest of my life this would be it. (Considering how many perfumes I have tried over the years, and what I currently own, that is high praise indeed.)
It opens with a very sharp, fresh, almost peppery green burst –not black pepper, but rather juicy cut green pepper, as in bell pepper not spice, a quality it gets from a heaping overdose of the plant gum Galbanum-accompanied by the intense freshness of stunningly heady Hyacinth, twiggy/earthy Hawthorn and deeply verdant grass notes. As the opening subsides, something else wonderful happens – the arrival of soft, wispy Mimosa and the most ethereally lovely Lilac imaginable, an eternally fresh Lilac that never fades or becomes musty. This lingers a long time as the fragrance finally dries down to subtle woody notes. The lasting power is excellent, even for the EDT. It is a relatively simple combination of accords, but elegant in its perfection. To me it is not only green but all the colors of the rainbow, the essence of Spring itself.
This is a fragrance of happiness and exuberance, but also of memory and intense longing. It has been known to elicit an unexpected emotional response when experienced for the first time. It was the first perfume that to which I ever had such a strong and visceral reaction that tears came to my eyes and I knew I had found “The One.” For one thing, it reminded me of the great hedge of purple lilacs that grew outside my childhood home. After a rain, the delicious scent would drift through the air, and I would shake the sweet drops that clung to the heavy flower heads onto my face and drink the perfumed water as though it were the nectar of the gods. That, mingled with the aroma of freshly cut grass (we never had a gas mower, so there were no fumes to ruin it), the damp earth and the rising breath of other spring plants as the sun broke through after the rain, is the soul of Vacances.
This fragrance, along with eleven other historical perfumes from the Patou line from the 1920s to the 1950s, was re-released in the 1980s to celebrate the history and success of the Patou house. The gorgeous bottles were all of a similar style but had different color themes and package designs, and each bottle contained a matching silk pocket square. The reintroduced scents, known as Ma Collection and also once available as a coffret of miniature bottles of all twelve perfumes, are sadly now all discontinued again. This is very likely the last bottle I will ever have. Its like will not be seen again. I know I said I would stop reviewing discontinued fragrances, but I must pay tribute to my most beloved perfume before it’s gone forever and only its memory remains to me. All the scents in Ma Collection are very good to great, but to my mind this is far and away the most original and beautiful of them all.
To honor this wonderful perfume, I am offering a sample of the Eau de Toilette. It was the last formulation offered when the scent was reissued; for a glorious time there was also Eau de Parfum, and a Parfum that defined the very idea of Beauty. Now they are all gone, victims of the times and the sale of the Patou company to Procter & Gamble, to my profound horror. Some of Patou’s recent offerings since this happened are nice enough, but nothing approaches their earlier releases, and the last really good ones, in my opinion, were Sublime in 1992 and Patou For Ever in 1998. If the new owners had any sense at all these classic perfumes would be brought back in all their glory along with the rest of the Patou back catalog. (You can still find them online, but bottle collectors have driven the price up to about $400 or more each and I would personally be very wary of eBay or other independent sellers claiming to have unopened bottles for sale, especially at a low price.)
If you want to be entered in the drawing, please say so in the comments, and the winner will be announced the week after this post appears.
Image credits: The beautiful Vacances bottle and box from perfumedistributor.com. Artistic rendition of the Elven Queen Galadriel (as portrayed by Cate Blanchett) from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy from calacirian.org
Sunday, December 07, 2008
The winner of Kenzo Winter Flowers draw
...is Therese. Please send me your address using the contact me link on the right.
Thank you, everybody, for your kind words and for playing!
Friday, December 05, 2008
Lily Pulitzer “Wink’, Squeeze” and “Beachy”
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Liz Zorn Sinti
If you had asked me a few years ago I would have sworn up and down that I didn't like perfume oils or "natural" perfumes. I would have protested on a stack of Bibles (or perhaps better for me, a stack of Cooks Illustrateds) that they aren't well made as regular scents and make snarky remarks about "natural". As in "snake venom's natural, honey"
Of course, then I started running into people who actually make natural perfumes and perfume oils. Like Roxana Villa or Alexis Karl (whose scents I will be reviewing soon) or Vero Kern or Liz Zorn.
I'll be ordering my words for dinner, thanks. Sauteed with butter and garlic and a side of crow..
Marina loved her Grand Canyon, which reads as right up my Stetson, but roses?
Sinti is written of on her website as her most popular rose, and I can see why. It is rose, but not the rose in an English garden or the vase of cabbage roses in the library- not that there's anything wrong with that. Galbanum, clary sage and citrus at first mask, then buttress the gorgeous wild-smelling Moroccan rose. These roses smell as if no-one had ever tended them, that they've gone back to some earlier, hardier breed, more deeply scented. It stays wonderfully close to the skin in that "lean in and smell me baby" that makes one want to, well, lean in and smell. While gorgeous on a woman, the sagey-galbanum part of it keeps it butch enough that a guy could pull it off easily as well.
I can't wait to sample some of the rest of these; I have to apologize to the person who sent me the sample, I can't remember who did!
Liz Zorn's perfumes are available at her website
9th Annual Basenotes Awards...
...are open for your votes. This year, an additional home fragrance category is added to the list:
* Best new fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
* Best overall fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
* Best fragrance for day (Masculine and Feminine)
* Best fragrance for evening (Masculine and Feminine)
* Best fragrance packaging (Masculine and Feminine)
* Best designer, mainstream or fine fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
* Best niche, independent, artisan or boutique fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
* Best mass-market, drugstore, budget or direct-sell fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
* Best celebrity fragrance (Masculine and Feminine)
* Best fragrance house
* Best home fragrance
* Best fragrance blog
To vote and win a prize, go to Basenotes.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
How The Other Half Lives: Henry Dunay Sabi
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Perfume Review: Le Labo Poivre 23
Poivre 23 is somewhat of a standout in Le Labo line in that, unlike quite a few of their scents (looking at you first and foremost, Tubereuse 40 and Patchouli 24) it does prominently and obvisouly feature the title note declared in the name. It was created by Nathalie Lorson, who is also the author of Lalique's sublime Encre Noir, so we know that she can do wonders with earthy-balsamic notes (she is also the nose behind another of my favorites, Lancôme's dainty Peut-Être, which is...nothing at all like Poivre 23 or Encre Noir, but I digress).
The beginning of Poivre 23 is at once creamy, spicy and mentholated. The contrast of piquant coldness and sweet creaminess is incredibly attractive to me. When I smell Poivre 23 in the first stages of its development, I think of pepper ice-cream served on a sandalwood plate...with incense burning softly in the background. After the ice-cream is gone, we are left with wood and incense, and with a lingering and very pleasant peppery aftertaste. In the base of Poivre 23, patchouli is fairly pronounced, and of course patchouli goes so well with incense and pepper. I couldn't help but compare the new Le Labo to two other of my peppery favorites, Poivre Piquant and Piper Nigrum. Poivre 23 is less sweet and less creamy than Poivre Piquant and much less mentholated than Piper Nigrum. It seems more resinous and overall "darker" than both. As a fan of pepper note rendered in a non-sharp way and a fan of spicy-creamy contrast, I need all three.
Poivre 23 is Le Labo's exclusive to Liberty London. Lucky Londoners!
Monday, December 01, 2008
Sweater Girl...Le Labo Musc 25
About eight months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Fabrice Penot, one of the creators of the whole Le Labo concept. He then told me that he was working on an LA specific scent, and I contributed my two cents about things he could do to get a taste of LA. In the article in this past weekends LA Times, he mentioned attending Elton John's Oscar party as having been part of the inspiration by what he calls "angelic whiteness with a dark core of sin".
They succeeded in a way that far outstrips my hopes.
Reading the formula (aldehydes, civet, muscone) you would be forgiven for thinking that it's something along the lines of the Dallas exclusive, Aldehyde 44. Musc 25 opens if possible more sparkly and decidedly less creamy than the Dallas scent. The super-sparkly dry opening is joined by a faint rosiness, a whisper of vetiver and although it's not listed, I smell a bare touch of citrus. Angora-soft musk comes in fairly early and stays strong but sly, with enough powder to keep it on the lady-like side.
There's also what the Le Labo people call "ingredient X"- mentioned in The August Times as "a synthesized representation of human semen". I smelled the raw material and, well it does a bit. For those of you were put off by Etat Libre's godawful secretions fear not: it's a hint, and when mixed with the ambergris, smoke and a hint of eucalyptus (also not listed) becomes a "did she or didn't she" hint of sexy bare skin that's gloriously besmirched. It's an ingenue whose lipstick has been kissed off and she's reapplying, humming to herself, her Kool burning away in the ashtray.
Or is it the scent of her driving home through the canyons? I was wearing this driving along Mulholland and had the startling scent mimicry of the exact smell of the trees and the late day air coming off my arm as well as into my open window. Bravo!
While completely modern, the only image I can conjure that perfectly encapsulates it is of a young Lana Turner: Icy white-blond beauty, dark eyes and a darker heart.
Musc 25 is $260 for 50ML and $400 for 100ML. Being a 25% concentration I think that's fair. What's less fair is that it's only available at the Le Labo store on 3rd Street in Los Angeles. Luckily for me that's just a hair over a mile from my hovel, so I can drop in and spritz. If you're in LA, you should make a point of doing so too.