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Friday, January 30, 2009

Divine L'Etre Aime Homme: Perfume Review

"At the heart of our lives is a perfume we will never forget, the fragrance of the one we love," says Yvon Mouchel, the founder of Divine, and I wholeheartedly agree. Think of the scent of your most beloved, maybe your first love, maybe your biggest lingers in your memory forever. You smell it on a street and you can't help but stop in your tracks and look around expecting to see that face. You get the phantom whiffs of it at the most unexpected moments, out of nowhere, out of your own heart and soul. Fahrenheit is an inexorable part of my memory and maybe even more so- a part of my identity. I am sure you can think of at least one perfume that is just as important in your life.

With a premise like that, L'Être Aimé Homme had high expectations to meet and it met and surpassed them. Centered around the note of everlastiing flower and focused on the aromatic aspect of the latter, the latest masculine Divine is one of a venerable heritage. I recognize in it the best aspects of some favorites: the earth and spice of Yatagan, the piquant sweetness of The Third Man, the mossy leather of Derby...with a nod to the floral-for-men trend of today. Complex and chameleon-like, on some it will smell like an aromatic blend of lavender, patchouli and celery, on others, like a green and leathery chypre; skins of the particularly lucky ones will bring out the delectable tang of ginger sweetened by sandalwood. There is a chance that you will recognize a hint of your beloved's perfume in one of L'Être Aimé's numerous facets.

Aromatic but soft-voiced, with the quiet sort of charisma and with the classic sort of elegance, L'Être Aimé will fit effortlessly in any circumstances, from a formal occasion to lazying and cuddling at home on a Sunday afternoon. The latter is my favorite way to experience a beloved's fragrance.

Available on and

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Frederic Malle L'Eau D'Hiver: Perfume Review

By Tom

Created in 2003 by Jean Claude Ellena and as sharp and clear as an icicle, D'Hiver is listed as having notes of heliotrope, iris and honey (according to Barney's). I also get bergamot in the opening and an overarching angelica. But mostly I get a sense of whiteness. Whiteness and coldness. As if you were sitting in a freshly painted white room looking out a picture window at a field of snow, perhaps with a television set in the background that's set to a station that's only static while wearing a white suit.

If it weren't so lovely it would seem almost stuntish it it's whiter-than-white aspect. I love it in winter, which in LA can get into the 80's (I know, hate me), but I really like it in the heat of summer where it's as refreshing as a cool bath.

Available at Barney's, $120 for 50ML

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Saveur d'Artichaut by Sinfonia di Note: Perfume Review

Apparently, this week I am compelled to write about "garden" scents. I must be longing for summer. And so, after salivating over tomatoes, lets tackle artichokes. And, yes, who would have thought there would be a perfume inspired by this perennial thistle with an edible bud...Apparently, Sinfonia di Note people have. To my shame, I must admit that I don't often consume artichokes, and so I have no recollection of their smell. Nor do I know whether the purple florets have a scent of their own. According to Google, artichokes smell of anything from wet dog to fried seafood, onions and pepper...Cooks and gardeners, weigh in!

As for Sinfonia de Note's interpretation, it is green, piquant, sweet and woody. The aromatic note, paired with citrus, has a pleasant candied quality. Basil and pepper produce a fresher, verdant, subtly earthy effect and give the fragrance a delightful nose-tingling quality. The woody accord, although quiet, is present throughout the scent's development and has a resinous, freshly-cut-bark characteristic that I enjoy. I would position Saveur d'Artichaut somewhere in between the delicately sweet and nutty skin scent of Jour de Fete and the fresh, green spiciness of Piment Brulant, with quite a bit of wood-hay goodness of Bois Blond thrown in for good measure. That said, Saveur d'Artichaut is quite unique and a must-try...if only because you could then tick off, on you list of things to do before you die, the line that says: smell an artichoke-inspired perfume.

As for artichoke-inspired poems, there is at least one that I know, again among Neruda's Elementary Odes, Ode to the Artichoke:

The artichoke
With a tender heart
Dressed up like a warrior,
Standing at attention, it built
A small helmet
Under its scales
It remained
By its side
The crazy vegetables
Their tendrills and leaf-crowns,
Throbbing bulbs,
In the sub-soil
The carrot
With its red mustaches
Was sleeping,
The grapevine
Hung out to dry its branches
Through which the wine will rise,
The cabbage
Dedicated itself
To trying on skirts,
The oregano
To perfuming the world,
And the sweet
There in the garden,
Dressed like a warrior,
Like a proud
And one day
Side by side
In big wicker baskets
Walking through the market
To realize their dream
The artichoke army
In formation.
Never was it so military
Like on parade.
The men
In their white shirts
Among the vegetables
The Marshals
Of the artichokes
Lines in close order
Command voices,
And the bang
Of a falling box.

With her basket
She chooses
An artichoke,
She's not afraid of it.
She examines it, she observes it
Up against the light like it was an egg,
She buys it,
She mixes it up
In her handbag
With a pair of shoes
With a cabbage head and a
Of vinegar
She enters the kitchen
And submerges it in a pot.

Thus ends
In peace
This career
Of the armed vegetable
Which is called an artichoke,
Scale by scale,
We strip off
The delicacy
And eat
The peaceful mush
Of its green heart.

Translated by Jodey Bateman

Saveur d'Artichaut is available at Luckyscent, $150.00 for 100ml.

Another Sinfonia di Note review: Coeur de Noisette

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hilde Soliani Stecca: Perfume Review

There is no fragrance more joyous, comforting and poignant than that of tomato vines. No fruit more bright and cheerful visually than tomato. No taste more summery. The whole plant is a delight to the senses.

Hilde Soliani's Stecca is an ode to tomato leaf. It is green, fresh, rooty- as true to the smell of the actual vines and leaves as it gets. As it develops and the earthiness subsides a little, one can sense the aroma of fruits themselves; this slightly sweeter and simultaneously salty, juicy note make Stecca softer and, for the lack of a better word, airier, less earth-bound than CB I Hate Perfume's earthy-green masterpiece Memory of Kindness. There isn't much to describe in terms of development: it is the smell of tomato plant in its entirety, earthier and greener in the beginning, somewhat riper n the middle, fresher in the base. The most pleasurable things in life are simple. Stecca is the smell (not a perfume, as in Proper Perfume, but smell) of uncomplicated, childish happiness.

Among his Elementary Odes, Pablo Neruda has the Ode to Tomato, and I will leave you to savor it:

The street
filled with tomatoes
light is
its juice
through the streets.
In December,
the tomato
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
into living flesh,
a cool
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
its flag,
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
at the door,
it's time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth,
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

(translated by Margaret Sayers Peden)

Stecca is available at New London Pharmacy, $175.00 for 100ml.

Other posts dealing with tomato vines and garden theme:

CB I Hate Perfume. Secret History Series

Perfume Review: CB I Hate Perfume Memory of Kindness

The Smell of the Garden

Saint Parfum “Tomato Vine”

Image source,

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Perfumes for a Dame

By Alyssa

My junior high school was ruled by perky blondes who believed in Jesus, football, and serious underage drinking. They figured out very early in life that the way to get ahead with the right boys was to play dumb. I will never forget the day I saw the smartest and meanest of these girls, my sworn enemy since the third grade, stop dead in the middle of an elaborate sharp-tongued insult to turn away from me and giggle shyly with one of these boys as he passed her in the hallway. Seconds before, she had been a lean, pointed thing, full of fierce energy. And then, without pause or effort, her face went empty, her body grew soft and round, and her voice went high and whispery sweet, as though to apologize for having anything to say at all.

I didn’t understand the drinking, and I wasn’t capable of shutting up which meant that I was incapable of playing dumb. I wanted to be with boys who could argue with me, and I valued a snappy comeback far more than good looks or popularity. I wasn’t sure what kind of girl that made me. I was too bad at sports and too good at flirting to be a tomboy, and while I had more than a dash of nerd I was way too bossy to be a real geek. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I stumbled into the world of classic Hollywood cinema and found out that what I’d wanted to be all along was a dame.

Specifically, I wanted to be Barbara Stanwyck. Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Joan Blondell, Rosalind Russell, Jean Harlow, Tallulah Bankhead and Rita Hayworth are all fine dames and the indomitable Mae West belongs in her very own category, but for my money Barbara rules them all. (I stole the fine photo of her above—check out those lips!—from an excellent piece by Mark Feeney of the Boston Globe. Do check it out.) What these ladies have in common is a tough, unromantic view of the world and of men combined with a shining intelligence and a fearless, ferocious sex appeal built from the ground up, the hard way. In fact, everything about dames is built from the ground up, the hard way. The real life Stanwyck, like Crawford and a few others in my list, started out as a chorus girl, and while she could work a formal gown like nobody’s business she never lost her street smarts. Watching her, you have the feeling that if she woke up the next morning with all of her money gone she would be just fine. She’s been there before, and expected to be there again.

All of which makes Stanwyck and her compatriots excellent company for our current hard times. I’ve recently descended into the world of vintage perfumes. March from Perfume Posse has been posting on her yen for vintage Rochas’ Femme and red lipstick for awhile now, and it was her comment on Angela’s article on Perfumes for the New Year over on Now Smell This that got this party started. It can’t be an accident that all three of us are feeling the need for a little dame attitude, so I suspect that some of you are, too. We all know nothing captures an attitude like perfume. Well, my friends, what does a dame smell like?

The obvious place to start is with vintage leathers and chypres (and the glorious places they overlap) either in their original splendor or, when not totally decimated, their modern versions. Mitsouko and Femme head my list, along with Chanel’s Cuir de Russie, Caron’s Tabac Blond, Gres’ Cabochard, Piguet’s Bandit and Lanvin’s Scandal. A dame in a softer mood might try on a little Vol de Nuit. On the other hand, a dame in evening wear might just go for a room clearing, take-no-prisoners white floral. The photo of Stanwyck and Henry Fonda is a scene from The Lady Eve in which card shark Jean seduces the hapless Hopsy, a millionaire just back from two years up the Amazon without women. She is speaking to him about common sense matters, but for some reason he can’t concentrate. He keeps murmuring “That perfume…” and I can’t help thinking that she’s wearing Fracas.

It’s true the past ten years have favored perfumes for girls who play dumb but we can’t just live in the past. How about some less obvious scents for the modern dame? The earthy snap of a good vetiver, a bit of rough patchouli or some smoke might be an excellent replacement for the lost leathers of old. I’ll nominate Paloma Picasso’s Mon Parfum for the dame who needs a good discount on her perfume, and how about Vero Kern’s Onda for the dame who is temporarily flush and Jasmin et Cigarette for the dame who is midway up the ladder? Bulgari Black might work on a slightly intellectual dame, a dame in cool horn-rimmed glasses and a black turtleneck, say. Reaching across the aisle, I think a dame on her day off might enjoy a little Knize Ten or Terre d’Hermes.

I could go on like this all day, but I’d rather hear what you think. What perfumes make you feel like a real dame?

And when you’re done telling me, go check out Angela’s post on dame perfumes over at Now Smell This and March’s post on Perfume Posse.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Comme des Garcons 2 Man: Perfume Review

Comme des Garcons 2 Man does not make a perfect gift for a male who always has to be No. 1. Especially the kind that is prone to paranoia reading too much into things. Because he will ask you as if jokingly, so I am Second, am I? And then you will have to explain at length how it is a masculine follow-up to Comme des Garcons 2, and thus 2 MAN, how its incense, spice and leather blend is a perfect match to his tastes and brooding personality, and how he is, of course, your absolute, total, utter No. 1 in each and every way. Just trust me on this and do not give 2 Man to a Type A Personality individual. Give him I Am King instead.

In fact, disregard the fact that 2 Man, with its trademark Mark Buxton resinous darkness, with its spicy sensuality, with its very-bad-boy vibe, smells amazing on that débile of yours, more amazing maybe than even Gucci Pour Homme (and that is saying a lot!) amazing that it makes your knees week...disregard that and take away the bottle and use it yourself. Because as gorgeously masculine and forceful 2 Man is, it is absolutely wearable for a woman. The sweet piquancy of saffron and nutmeg is delectable here; the spices are a ray of golden light in the pitch-black abyss of leather and incense. That smoky leather, powerful as it seems at first, actually melts into the skin, becomes the might quite easily be the sexiest accord in all masculine perfumery. Forget what I said about taking the bottle away. SHARE 2 Man with the No. 1 Man in your life. Sharing perfume is a sensual experience and brings you closer together.

On that Dr. Phil-worthy note...look for 2 Man at Luckyscent, $95.00-$125.00.

Image source,

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Divine L’être Aimé Homme et Femme: Perfume Review

By Tom

What is it with Brittany these days? It seems like some of the most interesting houses are coming from there: Both Lostmarc'h and Divine come from the same town. What a lucky town...

Divine is of course the house responsible for the wonderful L'homme Sage, a delectable dry and spicy wood that came home with me the instant I smelled it. Now they have two new ones on our shores: L’être Aimé Homme (Beloved Man) and L’être Aimé Femme.

Homme starts out with some of the tartness of Yatagan's opening with some of the celery note in Mandarine Mandarin. It adds in a gorgeous Basil note. Rich vetiver and even richer woods add to the scent, which stays rather close to the skin. Luckyscent mentions something about "everlasting flower", which is an ingredient I have no idea about. so I don't know if that's one that I am smelling in the opening. I do know that were I not single this would present me with a real conundrum: this is exactly what I would like Trevor, my imaginary boyfriend to smell like, but I also don't know that I'd like to share...

Femme I find frankly to be a bit less interesting; what I think is the everlasting flower is there, tinged with citrus in the opening and white flowers and sandalwood in the drydown. It's not that it isn't pretty, it's very much so. It reminds me of a story a friend told me: back in the early 90's my friend was having dinner in NYC and in walked Richard Gere. All heads turned as he entered, but even he was eclipsed by the white-hot beauty and palpable magnetism of his wife Cindy Crawford. L’être Aimé Femme is lovely, but her date rather puts her in the shade

Available at LuckyScent, $125 for 50ML

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Forgotten Chypres: 7e Sense by Sonya Rykiel and Gianni Versace

The best of the late 1970s-early 1980s, 7e Sense and Gianni Versace offer a glimpse into a subversive, glamorous and elegant world...a world that is a mix of Francoise Sagan and Anais Nin, nonchalant and intense, lightheartedly promiscuous and heartbreakingly erotic.

Sonya Rykiel's 1979 creation, 7e Sense is a play of sparkle and darkness, of overripe sweetness and sharp spiciness. The lighter side of 7e Sense is composed of bubbly aldehydes, of tingly piquancy of coriander and carnation, of the seeming innocence of jasmine and narcissus. The dark side is represented by sinfully luscious prunes (the note I adore in perfume), peach and honey, by the languid ylang and the indolent rose. The two lines run through the composition, sometimes parallel, sometimes intertwining, with the second one eventually taking over and ultimately finding its closure in a lush, animalic, fantastically sexy, nocturnal base of amber, musk, civet, patchouli and castoreum. Brooding and smoldering under its deceptively calm surface, 7e Sense is one of the most sensual fragrances I have encountered.

Gianni Versace's original scent, dating to 1982, has less of the heavy-lidded tragic feel of 7e Sense and all of its sweet sexiness. Brightly aldehydic and fresh in the top notes, Gianni Versace quickly morphs into the most sophisticated candy of a scent, with honeyed flowers, in particular, the creamy, almost fruity smelling tuberose and gardenia, lending it the feel of leisurely playfulness. In the drydown, the sweet leitmotif is carried on by myrrh and amber. The near-childishness is balanced there by oh so grown up leather and oakmoss. Blithe and seductive, a perfect scent to wear when re-reading Un Certain Sourire.

Both can be found on ebay. Many thanks to L for allowing me to get to know these two obscure gems!

Images, Charlotte Rampling at the Hotel Nord Pinus II and Charlotte Rampling as Venus in Furs, by Helmut Newton, are from

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009


By Beth

I think that everyone has a perfume that is so completely evocative, so emotionally relevant that a simple waft of it can spin you back decades. Such is it with me and Shalimar. So many have such a strong love/hate relationship with this scent, but I have always loved it and it me. It was the fragrance that my mother wore for her entire married life and my father used to buy it for her constantly and in every form because he adored it! I always assumed that she did too, but she confided in me several years before her death that she’d always hated it. I was surprised because it smelled absolutely devastating on her. She was an excellent wife in that respect and a bit of a contradiction , a feminist to the core and way before her time , however making my father happy was as she saw it” her most important job”. Fortunately she passed the knowledge on. The day that I married my husband, she pulled me into the back bedroom and said “Remember darling, you can buy your own whatever he gives you, wear it to bed, even if it’s a toaster!” That alone has been the best piece of advice that I ever received from her with the exception of one other that I can’t share here...if you want to know, write me privately:)

So wear Shalimar she did and some of my earliest memories of her are of that scent. Until about 2 years before her death, my parents went to hear the Cleveland Orchestra every Thursday night. I loved watching her dress for the symphony, she was unbelievably elegant. She would slip on one of several black dresses, comb back her raven colored hair and spray it into submission. Then she would put a bit of blush and paint on her lipstick, always the same “Fire and Ice red and then pick up her bottle of Shalimar. She had a ritual for it, a little behind her ears, a bit in her hair , her cleavage and around her ankles. To an impressionable 8 year old it was the most glamorous act ever. Then she would put on her opera length gray pearls, knot them twice and walk into the kitchen to find my father who would always be enchanted simply by the sight of her. She was completely gorgeous,when she was younger she looked just like Hedy Lamarr. My father would whisk her off into the night and I would be left to wonder about that magic, hoping someday that it would be my birthright too. She shared all of that part of herself with us, it was important to her. She was very generous in that way, a powerful priestess of love.

She had a beautiful closet for us growing up, a dress up closet filled with all kinds of wonderful things that she’d outgrown. Velvet capes and beautiful high heels, shawls and scarves. We would play in it for hours and when I had put together the perfect outfit she would take me into the bathroom and fix my makeup, always finishing with just a touch of her perfume. I loved it, especially the black and burgundy velvet cape that I would always wear. But most of all, I loved her Shalimar. I have always found it to be a warm and enveloping fragrance, very very sexy. Shalimar lingers like a kiss from just the right man, one who knows you well and yet adores the mysteriousness about you that he can’t quite understand. Wearing Shalimar reconnects me with the old stories of the Sacred Prostitutes of Isis, who spent hours preparing themselves in their temples to receive the passions of strangers coming to worship them embodied as the sacred feminine on earth. I can imagine spending hours brushing my hair, anointing myself with sacred oils, preparing myself for that passion. I love it’s vanilla qualities, the musky balsam and benzoin with the hints of leather and the strange seductiveness of orris. I love that when I wear it I feel absolutely gorgeous and ready for love.

Shortly after my mother’s death I inherited her gray pearls. Receiving them was only one of the many rites of passage associated with my mothers dying but putting on those pearls felt more than a little strange for they sang of her soul and I wanted her to be there with me instead laughing and putting on her lipstick. With a deep sigh I looped them around my neck, knotted them and took a deep breath and there it was, the scent of her Shalimar leaving me spinning happily back in time suddenly and completely unafraid and no longer alone.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Mona di Orio Amyitis: Perfume Review

Inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon built by Nebuchadnezzar II for his Queen Amyitis, homesick for the greener and more fruitful Media, Mona di Orio's fifth creation is a spicy, aromatic and earthy take on the green perfume genre.

The pungent, peppery aroma of savory and capsicum and the sweet spiciness of caraway dominate the top notes. The presence of a green accord and, and later on, of moss, make the spices smell earthy, as if ground with black, fertile soil. Iris and violet, the floral notes that have a pronounced rooty aspect, continue the earthy theme in the heart of Amyitis. Woods and amber lend the fragrance rich balsamic darkness, while saffron intensifies the sweetly piquant aspect of the composition. Add to that the powdery, rounded softness of oponax, which smoothes the sharp edges of the spicy, green and resinous ingredients, and you have a complex, long-playing perfume, an exotic and quirky distant relative of the classic green-rooty beauty, Chanel No 19.

Available at Aedes, $120.00-$200.00.

Our past reviews of Mona di Orio's fragrances: Nuit Noire, Carnation, Lux and Oiro.

Image is by Michael David Adams.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Meandering...Indult Reve en Cuir

By Tom

"Winter" in Los Angeles is a weird bird. Wild swings (or what we think of as wild being the hot-house flowers we are) of weather are the norms. This week we've gone from rainy Monday through foggy and low 40's Wednesday to Santa Ana's and 80's ever the weekend. I'm not just mentioning this to rub in this fact to people who are having snow. Really. It means that this week I could test the new Luckyscent Indult in everything but sub-tropical Amazon or Antarctic chill.

Reve en Cuir was created by noted perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, with notes of Bergamot, Lemon, Cardamom, Oregano, Clove Bud, Texan Cedarwood, Patchouli, Oak Moss, Haitian Vetyver, Crystallized Vanilla (from the Luckyscent website. The website writes of the scent of having a "rich, indolent feel", and no less than Chandler Burr gives it five stars . At the risk of sounding like a peasant. I don't get it. It's nice. It's pleasant. It's very well done. It's very low-key. I don't see rich or indolent. I don't see elegant earthy qualities or dangerous anything. I frankly don't even get that much leather; it's a vague memory rather than a dream, like remembering a long-ago touch of an expensively gloved hand. It's very, very nice, and very, very not me. It's well put together, subtle to the point of being self-effacing and an epitome of quiet good taste. Were it $100, I'd be thrilled. In this economy, at $250 for 50ML, it seems like a Buick of a scent at a Bentley price.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

DSH Perfumes Part Three: The Dance Of Attraction

By Donna

In part two of this series I explored some perfumes that were abstract, creative, unisex, and even hard to conceptualize as fragrances intended to be worn on the skin. This chapter is about perfumes intended to seduce and beguile the senses and those more easily defined by traditional categories. Even so, this group of fragrances contains its own surprises and delights.

Among the Floral perfumes of DSH one caught my eye right away – Madonna Lily. As many people know, the Lily is my favorite flower, but a really good Lily perfume is rare indeed. If it’s not done right it can be overwhelming, since it has a strongly indolic quality masked by intense sweetness and is easily mishandled. This version of a Lily scent is wonderfully tender and natural, and its cool beauty is exactly what one would want in a summer scent. When it opens it has a very soft aroma, not as cold or as strong as Serge Lutens Un Lys, my gold standard for Lily perfumes. This one also has a touch of vanilla, so there is an initial similarity. As it develops, however, the Ylang-Ylang comes to the fore with its penetrating sweetness and changes the character of the scent. There is also something in it called “Kenya Lily” and I am not sure exactly what that is, though I suspect it is probably a Crinum, an amazingly fragrant Amaryllis relative found in Africa that has a very lily-like appearance; I can’t think what else it would be since there are no true Lilies native to that continent. Anyway, the Kenya Lily is a very bright, intense note, more highly pitched than the true White Lily (French Lily) and it is quite lovely. The coolness of Jonquil and the green of Galbanum keep the whole thing subdued and elegant. This would be a great scent for people who like the idea of a lily perfume but are afraid it would be too heady or strong. This perfume remains gentle and ladylike throughout its development, and it is another that I would recommend without reservation for hot weather. Full list of notes: Bergamot, Muguet, Spice notes, French Lily, Jonquil, Kenya Lily, Ylang-Ylang, Galbanum, Vanilla Absolute, Violet Leaf Absolute.

Speaking of heat, another floral in this line is the very tropical (no, there is no coconut in it, so calm down) Padme Lotus. It is a humid and languorous fragrance but not heavy at all; rather it is fresh and dewy; its damp and sensual quality is more like the mist that lingers after a warm rain and not in the least oppressive. This is one of my favorites of all in this line, and it is a true delight. It opens with a fresh burst of orange notes, Osmanthus (something I can’t get enough of) and the teasingly dry twist of Tagetes (Marigold), then begins to expand into a lush garden of Lotus, amplified by the presence of Rose – you can’t really smell that by itself, as it is used expertly to create the roundness and dimension but remains in the background. This perfume is watery, yes, but not marine; as it is not beachy, metallic or ozonic, nor is it the thin “aquatic” type so prevalent in modern mass-market fragrances. It is a deep, restful pool of pure spring water, source of the vibrant life that springs forth from it. I can see the dragonflies dancing and the jewel-colored frogs leaping from pad to pad on the barely rippled surface. I could lose myself in the depths of it on a hot summer night when sleep is impossible and only the calming breath of flowers blooming in the night can bring relief. Notes: Blood Orange, Moroccan Neroli, Osmanthus, Tagetes, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Pink Lotus, White Lotus Absolute, Brazilian Vetiver, Tamil Nadu Sandalwood, Violet Leaf Absolute.

Just as charming is Gelsomino (subtitled “Italian Journey No. 5,” as there are several other fragrant tributes to Italy in the DSH repertoire.) This is an innocent Jasmine perfume, without any dirtiness or heavily indolic character. Instead it is a mild, breezy fragrance that would be very suitable for a bride or a young girl. It does not have that piercing banana-like sweetness typical of so many Jasmine scents. I found it to be a calming sort of scent, something to wear when a refuge from urban life is urgently required. Indeed, it is meant to evoke the warmth and slower pace of Mediterranean life, and succeeds admirably. Opening with Bergamot, Bitter Orange and Violet, its heart notes are Broom Absolute, Jasminum Grandiflorum, and Italian Neroli, and it finishes with Amber, Brazilian Vetiver, Honey Beeswax, Moss, Musk, Sandalwood and Vanilla. (It smells much lighter than the base notes would seem to indicate.)

Anyone who has read my “White Floral Queen” series knows that I have a special fondness for Tuberose, the epitome of tropical white flowers. The DSH version, Tubereuse, does not disappoint. It has an intensely sweet and concentrated aroma, reminding me somewhat of Montale Intense Tiare without the coconut. Instead, the sweetness of the Tuberose is boosted here by Mimosa, Beeswax and Heliotrope. Let me just say that this does not seem to make it either overly honeyed (though that’s not a fault for me!) or powdery either, just delicious. The woody base just increases its appeal and makes it even more long lasting. Extremely sexy, this is a no-holds-barred Tuberose for the woman who really revels in white flower perfumes - and her own magnetism, since this scent will draw others into her personal orbit. All I can say is: count me in. The notes are as follows: Citron Accord, Mimosa, Tuberose, Tuberose Absolute, French Beeswax, Heliotrope, Himalayan Cedar, and Tamil Nadu Sandalwood.

Last of the florals but most certainly not least is Cielle. This fragrance is actually a reworking of the first Jasmine scent DSH did. But it’s not only Jasmine that surrounds the wearer like a heavenly cloud - it’s Mimosa, and it’s gorgeous. This is not a powdery or almond-like perfume, despite the presence of both Acacia and Mimosa, nor does it have the elegantly wan melancholy aspect of Une Fleur de Cassie. The other florals in it plus Bergamot give it a fresh immediacy that I found to be captivating. I am an ardent fan of Stephanotis and I don’t think it’s used enough these days, and its use in this perfume elevated the scent to a new level for me. It is very soft without being too sweet or girlish; an ageless beauty that’s easy to wear. Like the other lighter DSH florals it can be reapplied as it fades throughout the day. Some may find the fleeting quality to be a fault, and I guess it could be considered one if you prefer scents with more lasting power. I like to refresh my perfume if I have the chance, which admittedly is hard to do in an office environment. At home I do it freely, and Cielle is perfect for that little indulgence. The composition includes Bergamot, Clementine, Moroccan Neroli, Cassie (Acacia) Absolute, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute, Stephanotis, True Mimosa Absolute, Ambrette Seed, Australian Sandalwood, Labdanum and Oppopanax.

Well, what’s a captivatingly feminine perfume without a masculine counterpart? DSH has created several of these, and though they are nominally meant for men, they don’t necessarily scream it out like so many commercial scents do. (If you are looking for something like a Drakkar Noir style you will need to continue your search elsewhere.) They are often listed in several categories on the Web site, in fact. I would certainly wear the ones I tried without hesitation.

Seven for men is so named for “the number of mystery...the unseen...of magic… The union of the spirit and the body.” It contains several ingredients associated with Eastern rituals, both spiritual and medicinal. I found this to be a very happy, upbeat fragrance, warm and open. It is leafy and herbal yet not overtly green; it is the essence of herbs baking in the sun, punched up with zesty citrus notes and finishing with patchouli and dry incense. Casual enough for a “surfer dude”, it is nonetheless fairly well behaved since the patchouli, while emphatic, stays quite close to the skin with minimal sillage. However, it is an insistent and long lasting presence, along with the Sandalwood, so this one’s for patch lovers only. The full list of notes is Bergamot, Holy Basil, Laurel Leaf, Lime Peel, Petitgrain, Pink Grapefruit, Chinese Geranium, Marjoram, Mountain Sage, Sandalwood, Spruce, Brazilian Vetiver, East Indian Patchouli, Incense notes, Musk and Tree Moss.

One of the few DSH scents that really does seem to be made especially for men, Michelangelo is kind of like Smucker’s® jam; this is one of those “with a name like that, it’s got to be good” fragrances. Fortunately it is very good indeed. Refined and subtle, it is as well-bred a masculine scent as I have ever tried. It goes on with a slight breath of warm herbal sweetness mixed with a bracing pine note, and quickly simmers down to a gently balsamic skin scent. At first I thought it was going to disappear on me it got so quiet, which I found surprising in a men’s fragrance; they usually have enough woods and resins in them to be tenacious. Once it got to the drydown, it really stuck around, with the wood and light tobacco finish lingering all day. No patchouli, no lavender, no vanilla, no heavy spice in this, nothing loud or obvious at all, just a pleasingly manly and somewhat serious scent that really grew on me the longer I wore it, and I really wished that I had a willing man around as a test subject – I suspect that this really comes alive when it encounters male skin chemistry. Notes include Bergamot, Clary Sage, Laurel Leaf, Lemon, Origanum (oregano), Pine Needle, Labdanum, Moroccan Rose Absolute, Olibanum (frankincense), Palma Rosa, Peru Balsam, Spice Notes, Ambergris, Atlas Cedarwood, Brazilian Vetiver, Brown Oakmoss, Himalayan Cedar, Myrrh Gum and Tobacco Absolute.

At the other end of the men’s spectrum is the bold and dashing Jitterbug for Men, counterpart to the sultry women’s Jitterbug I reviewed in the first installment of this series. The guy who wears this and the one who prefers Michelangelo would probably prefer to avoid each other. Jitterbug for Men goes on rich and fruity and even reminds me a little of Ava Luxe Madeline at first with its cozy comfort, but beneath the gourmand smoothness of this perfume lies a very naughty boy indeed, who soon reveals himself. It starts out with a heavy, syrupy but rather abstract blackberry top note and deepens into a complex brew of low-pitched goodies featuring Rose, Jasmine and Clove Bud - all my favorites. When the base notes emerge, it’s jackpot time - Ambergris, Atlas Cedar, Cistus, Labdanum, Frankincense and Musk – wow! My nose was glued to my arm as much as I could manage, and I think I like it even more than the feminine version of Jitterbug. There is some Patchouli in the base but I found the musk to me far more dominant. It lasted approximately forever on my skin. I like to test the longevity of a scent by putting some on my wrist before bedtime to see what’s left in the morning. This just got better overnight. It is most likely too sweet for those who like their men’s scents to be more “manly,” but that just leaves more of this yummy stuff for the rest of us.

Next time, a visit with the “Queen of Flowers” and some DSH scents that were a little bit challenging to for me to categorize.

Image credits: Art Deco-inspired prints entitled Lady You Can’t Say No To and Eye On The Ladies by Atlanta artist Jeff Williams from


Monday, January 12, 2009

This week...

...I am on a break. Please tune in on Tuesday for the next installment of Donna's reviews of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's perfumes and on Friday, for Tom's take on the new Indult scent, Reve en Cuir. We will resume our regular 5-reviews-a-week schedule next week.

Friday, January 09, 2009

In Which I Finally "Get" Shalimar

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. When you feel you have suffered enough, give up. Believe that some things are just not meant to be. If you are a rational individual that is, you will believe in quitting for good. If you are anything like me, you will be tempted to give whatever it is One Last Chance. Absolutely The Very Last One. And if it doesn't work again, this time you will really give up. But at least you will know you Tried.

And if such preface sounds too dramatic to you, for a perfume review, let me tell you that Shalimar has always smelled quite horrific on me. Not to be juvenile whilst engaging in such a serious activity as writing about fragrance, but it smelled of paint thinner on me...on a good day. And yes, I tried every possible concentration of every possible vintage. So one day I gave up and told myself, Never Again. Shalimar and I were not compatible and that was that. This Christmas (que It's a Wonderful Life theme), having been possessed by the Spirit of One Last Chance, I tried it again. One Last Time. And - you guessed it- it WORKED on me. I got all the trademark Guerlain wonderulness people have been praising for eighty-some year. The husky sweetness, the creamy smokiness. The brightness of citrus ever so slowly, ever so sensually enveloped by the powdery darkness of opoponax. The smoldering, honeyed abyss of vanillic drydown, in which you can't help but long to drown.

I am not going to actually review Shalimar. Is there anyone out there who has not smelled it? If you love it already, you know what it is like better than I do. And if you don't...try, try, try again.

Shalimar is available everywhere Guerlain is sold. I tried the not particularly vintage EDP and a recent Parfum and loved both.

Image source, The Fashion Spot.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

GKnight Knight Fall, Knight Fall Maiden, Poetry and Abstraction

By Tom

It seems these days that perfumers are coming out of the woodwork or popping up like mushrooms. This would be a bad thing if they were along the lines of most of the throwaway stuff that land with a thud on the pages of your national magazines with bazillion dollar ad budgets. It seems in the world of perfumery there are those big guys and then there are the small artisnals who vie for a portion of that space.

G Knight is one of those guys.

Knight Fall is listed as a blend of citrus and spices. I smell grapefruit and nutmeg primarily with the bright citrus neatly balancing the spice. There's a sweetness to it that isn't candied; it has a skin-like feel to it that;s really nice.

Knight Fall Maiden blends florals into the Knight Fall citrus/spice mix, but nothing too heavy that I wouldn't wear it myself. Actually, the florals are muted enough that they just added a slightly fatted roundness to the scent that makes me prefer it to the more "manly" one.

Poetry is a butter-smooth floral with hints what I think is white peach and mint. It smells like some frothy, icy cocktail served poolside and is really refreshing.

Abstraction is the one that I like the best of the four with it's notes of evergreen, grasses and musk. It's dark green color would make you think it's going to be just too much, but it's actually closer to Cristalle in its grassy smoothness.

I like these, even if I get the feeling that they aren't me at all. They're young and flirty, but in no way insipid. They have a clean linear feeling to them that would make them perfect for wearing to a club, where something heavier would be akin to assault. I'd love to see more from this house.

His rather cryptic website is here, but it doesn't list prices or the places sold. I hope that changes soon, since I think people would like to try them.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Jo Malone Black Vetyver Café: Perfume Review

By Beth

The other day I had a completely delightful experience when my darling “second son” Zach and I went shopping for fragrance! Zach is my son Alex’s closest friend and they are as different as can be, but they share a bond that goes back at least 16 of my sons 21 years. When I say that they are different, I really mean it as they are truly like night and day. Zach is a uber conservative economics student living in Baltimore and attending Johns Hopkins and Alex is a totally liberal environmentalist living in Southern California whose lifelong dream is to go to the Scripps School of Oceanography and work with Paul Watson on a Sea Shepherd mission afterwards having an eco pirate tattoo emblazoned on his forearm . They love each other passionately and argue incessantly about everything .

To site examples, my son’s idea of a shopping excursion is a quick trip to the Gap with a short stop at Next, for some fashionable hemp tennis topsiders while Zach adores Brooks Brothers and has his shirts custom made in Beijing. Alex’s idea of a wonderful vacation is 2 months of Scuba diving in Central America with rarely a shower and only then with Dr. Bronner’s Almond soap. Zach loves a more formal excursion, of course preferring Paris and Prague and only staying in hotels that offer incredible cuisine. Alex is mostly vegetarian whose favorite gourmet meal is Chipotle, whom he will support because everything they use “is free range mother!” He loves my cooking but has no tolerance for long-winded foodie conversation as it takes to much time away from Ultimate Frisbee!

Alex wears Burberry’s London, a fragrance that smells absolutely wonderful on him (a bit like a balsam forest) but as of last week Zach hadn’t found a fragrance that suited his disarmingly metrosexual attitude. Alex and his father left last Thursday to embark on a 4 day journey across 8 states with all of our belongings in a large truck , leaving me with a lot of extra time on my hands. I called Zach to see if he’d like to spend a day engaging in some mindless after holiday sale shopping. Of course he said yes and after a delicious breakfast of Eggs Benedict and some wonderful conversation we found our way to the mall.

Let me tell you, if you really want to have some fun take a favorite 19 year male fragrance shopping! We started at Sephora , sniffing and laughing and he actually took the process very seriously. We tripped through the Chanel’s, the Givenchy’s and the Guerlain’s. We sprayed the Hermes, tried the Aveda’s (way too organic for him!) but sadly nothing tripped his fancy. We went to Nordstroms, dallied through Dillards and eventually ended up at Saks 5th Avenue. I walked over to the Jo Malone counter to get a whiff of my favorite French Lime Blossom, which is what I adore wearing in Cleveland when the temperature dips below 20 degrees and suddenly it happened. Zach was intrigued.

At first I thought that it was the array of gorgeous bottles beckoning with scent sticks but upon further inspection it was the darling blonde sales associate who had caught his eye. She came over to greet us with a sweet smile and inquired as to our reason for being there. I told her that we’d come on a mission, to find Zach a scent that he’d love to wear at school. From then on it was easy. She proffered him with scent strips, stood very close to him and discussed each fragrance with him looking soulfully into his eyes. Nothing was working until she picked up the Black Vetyver Café. With a flourish, she sprayed some on his wrist, gently reached for the aforementioned wrist , and blew lustfully upon it practically fluttering her eyelashes on his skin. Did I mention that Zach really is quite cute. It was absolutely hysterical watching my very sophisticated son practically falling onto his knees with pleasure. “Hmmm, she proclaimed, this is incredible “ and it was. The combination of coffee, black vetiver and temple incense suited him perfectly and blended beautifully with his skin scent leaving a note of burn’t caramel along with the spice. I bought it for him, feeling very pleased that we’d accomplished what I’d thought might be a difficult feat. He loves it and I must admit that it hadn’t been a scent that had done much for me in the past. I guess that I’ll never truly know if it was the cologne that beguiled or the lovely winsome creature that was kissing his wrist, a perfectly hysterical conclusion to an absolutely fabulous day !

Like all Jo Malone fragrances Black Vetyver Café’ can be layered. Mixed with the Wild Fig and Cassis , it is wonderful, but I’ve enjoyed layering it on my husband with a simple Kiehls 1921 musk which smells absolutely decadent on him, but trust me, the little wrist trick helps too:)


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Third Man by Caron: Perfume Review

Le 3ème Homme was, in 1985, Caron's third offering for men (and yes, it was supposedly inspired by the eponymous movie). It remains one of their best. In my opinion, it is in fact one of the most attractive masculine scents created by anybody ever. And, as is often the case with chypres meant for men, it smells exquisite on feminine that chic noli me tangere way all good chypres do, only more so.

I am ordinarily not a big fan of lavender and thus the aromatic genre in general. And I am certainly not a fan of anise. In The Third Man, however, both notes are absolutely beautiful. Lavender gives the composition an attractively chilly feel, an intriguing aloofness without any harshness. This handsome stranger, tempts lavender, is someone you would be sorry not to get to know. Anise, together with citrus, lends the unexpectedly almost-gourmand accord of vanilla and tonka bean a certain inedible quality, a thrillingly poisonous aspect. This charmer with a sweet smile, warns anise, is someone you will one day regret meeting.

The spicy notes of geranium and carnation continue the piquant theme and further heat the blend. The mossy, ambery, woody base is the very epitome of classic chypre elegance. The Third Man is impeccable, dark and deep. They say, third time is lucky and I am sure a lot of people got lucky whilst wearing this.

To find out if it will do its magic for you, look for Le 3ème Homme on, among other places.

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Winners of Best of 2008 Prize Draw

For Chanel Chance: Cadence

For Ralph Lauren: ChantillyLace

For Vera Wang Look: ann_was_here

Please send us your addresses using the link on the right. Thank you, everybody, for reading and participating!

Monday, January 05, 2009

LesNez Manoumalia: Perfume Review No. 2

There is such a thing as an objectively good perfume. It is the one that, whether you like it or not, you find interesting, evocative and well-constructed. But there is also no way to disregard one's subjective feelings, memories and tastes du jour. Manoumalia, the new creation for Les Nez by Sandrine Videault (pictured) is a good perfume. And I am not attracted to it at all.

Why it is good...Inspired by the South Pacific island of Wallis, it certainly seems to bring to mind the tropical atmosphere, the smell of rich soil, of sweet petals, of humidity. Blending green, rooty vetiver and languid exotic flowers (fagraea, tiare, ylang-ylang), the perfumer achieved a striking yang-yin, darkness-light sort of contrast of earthy, practically dirty and creamy-floral notes. One could also say that the earthy notes here serve to underscore the "darkness of white flowers", which I usually can't help but admire, rendering their dirtiness in a vegetable-mineral rather than animalic manner. Manoumalia is moving, original, memorable...

Why I am not attracted to it...I wish I knew. Usually drawn to a good contrast (and it is really good in Manoumalia), right now I am just...not in a mood for it. I am not in a mood for earthy or creamy-floral. To be honest, the only two scents I crave at the moment...and the names will come as a shock to those who know me...are Mûre et Musc Extrait and Shalimar. Nevertheless, I ask you, dear reader, not to mind my subjective and fickle feelings and to trust me that this is, objectively speaking, a very good perfume, and to go and try it.

Look for Manoumalia at

For another opinion, please refer to Tom's earlier review of Manoumalia.

Image source, LesNez.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

LesNez Manoumalia: Perfume Review

By Tom

Has if really been two years since LesNez released their last perfumes? These days that's something like the run of the original Beetle. Perfume houses, even some niche ones seem duty-bound to release something on schedule, no matter how variations-on-a-theme or unfinished or just terribly "meh" they might be.

Luckily, LesNez is not that sort of company.

Created by perfumer Sandrine Videault, Manoumalia opens with a rush of clean, dry vetiver. If it had stopped there I would have been very happy. But what came after made me go "Squeee!": the sharp, clean vetiver was slowly joined by tiare flower and subsequently by amber. The gardenia-like tiare and resinous, glottal amber warm the scent like morning sun. Sandalwood and Ylang Ylang ground it, completing the whole south-seas effect. Reading this you might think that this could be way over the top and perhaps in lesser hands it could be; Ms. Videault cleverly keeps the sillage relatively on the down low and quite sly, and the scent is as apt to give off a whiff of that bracing vetiver as it is the delicious tiare. It manages to be gorgeous but office-friendly, sexy-as-hell yet discrete; it's a trip to the tropics
just in time for the dreariest part of Winter.

This one is scheduled for release in January, and it's to be hoped it will be at Luckyscent at about the same time. I have no idea about the price point, but if they can keep it in the $80- $90 dollar range I will be very happy.