On a break
We are on a break till next week. Have a lovely week, everybody, and see you on Monday with a review of either Tom Ford Champaca Absolute, Kenzo Eau de Fleur Magnolia or Byredo Pulp...YOU DECIDE and let me know in your comment.
We are on a break till next week. Have a lovely week, everybody, and see you on Monday with a review of either Tom Ford Champaca Absolute, Kenzo Eau de Fleur Magnolia or Byredo Pulp...YOU DECIDE and let me know in your comment.
Once I began to discover Hilde Soliani's fragrances, I was addicted. From the husky sexy-comforting stunner Bell'Antonio to the cerebral and atmospheric Vecchi Rossetti, to the mouthwatering piña colada of Siparia and juicy melon of Mangiamo Dopo Teatro, to the green and earthy Stecca, poignant with childhood memories, I enjoyed each and every one. I was sure, on the first perfunctory sniff, that the fresh, sweet and simplistic Il Tuo Tulipano will be the one Soliani scent I won't like.
Not so. There is so much more to Il Tuo Tulipano than seems at first. It does have a certain watery freshness but also a lot of ripe, honeyed, rosey sweetness. It has a pulpy, juicy, fruity aspect and is, obviosuly, floral, but it also dispalys a green, dry, earthy streak that runs through the composition. The gentle muskiness of its floral accord reminded me of my beloved Lancome Peut-Etre....the sharp greenness made me think of Soliani's own Stecca. Combine the two and you have an idea of Il Tuo Tulipano. Tulips don't really have that much of a smell apart from a certain wet, green freshness (which Soliani's rendition does include); to me, Il Tuo Tulipano is an ode to tulips' color rather than their non-aroma... a synesthesiac's delight. I think of the scent as of bright, dazzling red, with a touch of yellow, right where each delicately folded bud begins and where the verdant stem connects the flower to the soil that breeds it.
I am wearing Il Tuo Tulipano to spite the cold weather, but I can't wait to let it blossom in all its feminine, bright glory when spring comes...with a red dress with full skirt, high heels and a new hope in heart.
Available at New London Pharmacy and soon Luckyscent, at rather reasonable $75.00 for 50ml.
Roxana Villa was kind enough to send three samples of her new solid perfumes, which are made from essences blended in a base of natural beeswax and jojoba oil. I've already written about Sierra, which I adored. The solid brings the citrus that I didn't smell so much of in the oil to the fore, it lasts longer in that state before going to the glorious coniferous base.
Cimbalom is one that I hadn't tried before and would be interested to try the oil of; the solid is peppery ginger and bright orange, which cedes to a lovely patch married with labdanum and jasmine.
By far my favorite however is Chaparral; the solid perfume form really shows off the incense portion of the scent. The wildness of the oil is somewhat disciplined by the solid perfume. I notice this with Sierra also; the solid form slows the development of the scent, in the reverse of the sort of time lapse photography showing the speeded up blooming of a rose. The slowed-down minuet Chaparral does in solid form lets one linger over each stage from church-of-nature incense through tarry wildfires through to its base, where the delightfully peppery greenness brings the whole scent into something that embodies California. California, Not Los Angeles. Le Labo did LA proud, but this is the real California; the distillation of the Golden State. It's standing in the Malibu hills on a summer day; the Pacific's in sight, ten thousand feet below and the air
is clear and momentarily still. But you can still smell the wildfires of previous seasons and the vegetation pregnant with creosote and if you're a smoker, you're extra careful to make sure that you've put your cigarette out completely. You even park carefully, making sure hot engine parts aren't near vegetation. A break-down on the 101 all the way in the Valley can spark a fire that with the "Sundowner" winds would incinerate everything from the Freeway to the sea, including you. This is that smell: heartbreaking beauty and palpable danger.
I'd love to see how it layers with the oils, but I gave my samples away. In the spirit of giving (and even though I want to keep it..), I will give these three away to one commenter. Fulsome praise of my writing skills and general brilliance will not affect the outcome of the draw.
But hey, it couldn't hurt...
Image source, usbr.gov.
Inspired by Venice, once legendary gateway to the Orient with all its exotic spices, Baume du Doge is, not surprisingly, a piquant creation, bursting with the golden tang of saffron and cardamom, smoldering with the crimson fire of cloves.
It is - surprisingly- also a very earthy perfume. And yes, earthy is Duchaufour's forte, but, in my opinion, the raw quality of Baume du Doge surpasses anything else done by him so far. Saffron and, to a lesser degree, cardamom do have a very raw undertone in their spiciness, a dark, soil-like element that naturally contrasts the brightness of the spicy aromas. Nature is a gifted perfumer after all, and loves a good contrast. So really, the earthy aspect of Baume du Doge is only to be expected, especially if you take into account that the blend also includes the earthy-green-aniseedic fennel and earthy-balsamic myrrh. The latter, combined with sweet orange note in the top notes and vanilla in the base, lends a well-rounded, rich, opaque and creamy feeling to Baume de Doge, softens the sharpness of spices, tames the earthy element, bringing the fragrance to the almost-edible, patchouli-like territory and putting a finishing exotic touch on this understatedly oriental tapestry.
The restrained exoticism displayed by Baume du Doge is characteristic to Duchafour's art as is the indescribable, indefinable oddness of the composition. Strangely beautiful or beautifully strange, it has a haunting quality, something that makes you want to keep re-sniffing and analyzing and wondering. A thinking person's perfume.
Available at Lafco and Luckyscent, $130.00 for 100ml.
Image source, krasivoefoto.ru
I don’t know what I could say , feel or write about the Robert Piguets legendary Fraca’s that hasn’t already been experienced before.
Ah…I’ve thought of something. When I wear it, all that I want to be is completely naked , eating breakfast and chocolate in bed or perhaps topless in Provence , sipping a lemon presse and getting tanned in all of the right places. When it comes to Fracas I’m pretty sure these aren’t original thoughts and I know that none of them will come as any sort of surprise to those who know me well, especially the lusty man that I was smart enough to marry. I cherish food, perfume and passion equally with a fervor that some reserve solely for diamonds and pearls. Not this girl….gift me with truffles or tuberose on any given day and I will be properly enslaved !
Fraca’s IS the undisputed grande dame of the sexy white florals , completely sensual, captivatingly sexual and literally dripping with the sweet fleshy smell of the morning after a marvelous night with the naughtiest man / men ? Fracas is also the carnal and sardonic smell of the deep south, a little bit bordello richly spiced with a lot of exquisitely witchy savory voodoo. The intention of Fracas is obvious and that intention is trouble with a very swirly capital T. You cannot ignore her haunting call although you might hate yourself in the morning for heeding it (but only temporarily, I promise!)
When I was a child, my brother went to Tulane in New Orleans for medical school. I have never forgotten the flowers, jasmine vines and dripping wet gardenias in the courtyard outside of Brennans Restaurant, where their pungent aroma mixed with the chicory and cinnamon coffee was about as heady a scent as a precocious child like me could have asked for. I remember eating Banana’s Foster dripping with hot caramel and the flowering Jasmine climbing the wrought iron fences. I remember the candlelight and my mother’s flirtatious laughter. The sticky Tuberose that grew everywhere was as stunning as a full moon and totally narcotic and then there were the women, gorgeous hot house buds with slickly coral lips , caramel skin and curvaceous bodies that were a promise of something that took me years to understand.
Southern women just astonish me with their ability to entice and enchant. I’ve never met a man who didn’t just love them even if they love them in secret , but I’ve met lots of women who absolutely hated them although I’ve never understood why. Not me…..I’ve always wanted to be one because they literally smell of orange blossoms and chocolate. Their powers of seduction are legendary and who wouldn’t want some of that? I’m pretty sure that most of them own a bottle or ten of Fracas!
This is the sexiest fragrance that I wear and it makes me happy, happy, happy on a sunny day with my hair brushed out and a wispy pair of sandals. Nothing can perk me up faster on a terrible, moody day than a spritz or two , a black turtleneck and a velvety nude lipstick. When I spray it on I get an initial rush of orange blossom but that doesn’t linger at all although I wish that it did, orange blossom is a wonderful childhood memory for me. With me and Fracas it’s all about the Tuberose and Jasmine which stay with me until the very end of the day when it dries down to a soft layer of moss…to my vivid imagination that would be Spanish Moss dripping from gnarled old trees that my husband would spread a blanket under. At this point I can hear all of you thinking...”There she goes again........”
OsMoz describes Fracas as an “Intense, Glamorous, Haute Couture Tuberose”. My husband describes Fracas as “Bombshell in a Bottle” and always makes sure that I am never without it. He’s a smart man!
Fracas can be found online in many different places but I really enjoy buying it at a store in La Jolla, California that I’ve discovered called Alexander, Perfume and Cosmetics. They sweetly let me me sniff and spray to my hearts content and they specialize in hard to find fragrances! They can be found online at beautyandscents.com
I am no expert on Brooklyn the borough, apart from a vague notion of it being a Russian Diaspora neighborhood, so I will just choose to rely on Bond No 9's cultural, demographic and real estate experts in their description of Brooklyn as a home to "a new generation of artistic émigrés". Apparently, "this is where the artists and musicians choose to move. It’s home to graffiti-ists [thus the bottle], gaffers, and key grips, to web designers and aspiring editors. This is where fashion stylists live. New York-bound hip-and-cool Seattle-ites prefer to move to Brooklyn; smart Stockholmers book their hotel rooms here."( from the press release)
Is Brooklyn the perfume hip-and-cool enough to evoke the artistic and happening borough? Perhaps in a sense that it is not classically masculine nor reminiscent of any older perfume, apart from, vaguely, Bond No 9's own fairly recent West Broadway. This kind of unisexy, understated, non-macho masculinity is the fashion of the moment, so in that sense, I suppose, the scent is in fact trendy. I said it before and I will say it again, I do like a lot this non-obvious, quiet, shall I say, "sensitive" masculine tendency. I also like when scents for men utilize traditionally feminine notes, like fruits, which I for some reason keep smelling in the top notes of Brooklyn. I would swear there are apples here...or rather, given the fizzy juniper note and sparkly grapefruit, some kind of apple cocktail. And boozy scents are invariably a hit with me. As are leathery one; and Brooklyn has that in spades in its base. Dry, spicy leather amplified by the woody-leathery guaiac note. I would not go anywhere near as far as Bond No. 9 people and claim that Brooklyn is "on the cutting-edge of perfumery". There is cutting edge, there is Brooklyn and there are many stops on the 5 express train separating the two. But it is a handsome, elegant, versatile and very wearable (for both genders) fragrance.
Available in March at Bond No. 9’s boutiques and Saks, $145.00-$220.00.
And my hands dripped with myrrh, And my fingers with liquid myrrh
Song of Songs 5:5
Myrrh is a complex smell, and it is hard for me to find a myrrh-centered fragrance that I could fully love, because some of the facets of the note I don't enjoy at all and some I absolutely adore. For example, although I typically like earthy scents, myrrh's particular brand of mushroomy earthiness makes me uncomfortable. As does its medicinal quality. And I especially don't appreciate the almondy undertone the note sometimes manifests. Basically, for me to like a myrrh fragrance, it either has to have a very strong frankincense note as well, which would emphasize the delightfully resinous side of myrrh and cover up the sides I don't like, or focus on the vanillic sweetness of myrrh.
The latter is done less often, and perhaps that is why I am particularly drawn to such fragrances. Mirra & Mirra is exactly such honeyed myrrh perfume. It smells sweet and thick, and although the fragrance is alcohol-based and has a regular sort of consistence, one can't help but expect it to be gooey and oozing suggestively out of some ancient-looking phial. It is a rather straightforward scent, in which under a layer of vanilla, a certain sweet spice and maybe even over-ripe fruits (?), one intuits rather than truly smells another, darker, drier, incense-ier layer. Mirra & Mirra is delectable, sensual and incredibly addictive.
Newlondonpharmacy.com carries the whole range of Mirra & Mirra products. Share a myrrh bath, anoint each other with myrrh body lotion and celebrate tomorrow a la Solomon and Shulamite. Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!
Image, Song of Songs III by Marc Chagall, is from rollins.edu.
It has been ten years since I smelled the original Romance. And frankly, the only reason I was curious to try the "new chapter of everlasting love", Romance Always Yours, was ...advertising, the print ad and the TV commercial, both featuring my favorite Valentina Zelyaeva. It might be that I am more of a sucker than I imagined or it might be that I am just in a mood for this running-with-wind-in-wavy-hair-to-prince-on-white-horse kind of imagery, but they worked.
I am also apparently in a mood for fresher scents than I usually am and for more...how shall I put this?...conventionally pretty ones than I usually choose. I will admit that I don't remember the first Romance all that well, but it seems to me that Always Yours is spicier, creamier and muskier than the original. Ginger and freesia are the first notes I smell and this dazzling-pink accord stays in the forefront for the duration of the fragrance on my skin (and let me tell you, Always Yours is truly everlasting). Rose makes the floral blend sweeter, while what I imagine is lily freshens it considerably. I could easily do without that much freshness, but I suppose it goes with the "conventionally pretty" territory and with Ralph Lauren brand image in general. I like the clean floral muskiness of the drydown...Always Yours is not, I repeat, not what I would wear on any sort of consistent basis, simply because I won't have that many perfect occasions to do so (see below), but I am rather drawn to its classic and approachable prettiness. This is a perfume to choose for a first day with somebody who, you suspect, is not that much into perfume. Or to meet the guy's conservative parents. Or to marry the said boy in a traditional sort of ceremony.
If you foresee any of the above happening in your life, look for Romance Always Yours at department stores, $60.00-$72.00 for Elixir de Parfum, $225.00 for Parfum.
The image, by Bruce Weber, is courtesy of Ralph Lauren.
The rediscovery and re-evaluation of 2008 continues in 2009 as I keep falling for scents I used to dislike before. Or, in the case of Aimez Moi, used to loathe, absolutely loathe. Everything about it was wrong, from the heavy, burnt sweetness to the prominent anise note to the bunny-boiler name.
Funny how, when we all of a sudden fall in love with something or someone, all that bothered us about them before becomes either a wonderfully attractive feature or a cute quirk. Thus the burnt aspect of Aimez Moi is what I now like about it the most: the heavy cream of honeyed violets, peach, helotrope and tonka beans is generously spiced by cardamom, cloves and anise, and the piquant mix lends the composition a sweetly-smoky quality. To balance the fire with ice and to, simultaneously, underscore the chilly side of anise and cardamom, there is mint. The effect is complex; the composition develops slowly, at a sensual, leisurely pace. Unlike before, I now see anise not as a second most prominent note after violets, but as a beautifully balanced part of a hot-cold spicy accord. It does not bother me in the least, in fact, anisophobic as I am, I find it utterly delectable in the candied pudding of Aimez Moi. I tried the Ropion's creation in eau de toilette and found it, as with most of his perfumes, to be very rich and long-lasting, with the kind of sillage that I adore: the one that envelopes the wearer in the most delicate of gauze and is always present although never overwhelming. Aimez Moi is floral, gourmand, fruity, oriental... it is a multi-faceted golden and purple gem of a scent. It longs to be loved, and it is impossible not to love it.
Which brings me to the subject of the name. It reminds me of one of my favorite songs, Lovefool by The Cardingans...And when you are a fool for love, "love me love me" IS what you keep saying like a mantra...although perhaps not out loud. And this week one is expected to be romantic. So let us, shall we?
Aimez Moi is widely available online, fairly inexpensively.
Image is by John-Paul Pietrus.
This weekend I went to Strange Invisible Perfumes store on Abbott Kinney in Venice to sniff these three new fragrances, which will premiere next month. That, and there were cupcakes.
Aquarian Roses list rose, sandalwood and marjoram in its notes. I liked it; it seems unisex and lovely in that, well, Strange Invisible way. The rose weaves in and out, becoming more or less rosey as the stemmy sandalwood and thorny marjoram comes to and fro.
Epic Gardenia really could be accused of false advertising. The gardenia is hardly epic, which is frankly no bad thing. Gardenia can be such a sucker punch scent-wise and frankly if they had done one of those I could have found five others that would do the same dance at (sometimes) half the price. Epic Gardenia is a ghostly one; gauzy and indistinct as a memory, and just as wrenchingly lovely.
However for me the real winner was Urban Lily. I adore lily of the valley, but find that some scents don't get the accord quite right for me. This is somewhat like laying in my parents backyard at home, the scent of lily, cut green grass and earth finally fecund after the long winter frost. It also has a heaping helping of their gorgeous Musc Botanique, which immediately makes it rocket to my list of things to blow the tax refund on (Or here in California, the tax refund IOU).
The three will be available in late March, $210 for 7.5 ml Parfum or $175 for 50 ml Eau de Parfum.
"If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by always being immensely over-educated." Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest.
By the admission of the creators themselves, this is "a traditional lavender fragrance", "evocative of the English countryside, varsity matches and the great British sporting tradition." Note how the meaning of Oxbridge is thus reduced to sports, therefore proving Ambrose Bierce's statement that academy is a modern school where football is taught. Or rowing, cricket and rugby.
The sharp, nose-burning beginning is perhaps meant to put one off, as if saying, this is not the scent for the likes of you. In fact, it is as easy to wear Oxford & Cambridge as it is to be admitted into one or the other. I would know, as somehow I got accepted. Ever since then, as Groucho Marx and Woody Allen have been before me in regards of their clubs, I've been a little suspicious of the university that would have me as a member... But I digress...As the fragrance develops on my skin, it warms up and sweetens. Lavender acquires an almost fruity undertone. I am not sure where the candied note comes from but it counteracts very well the piney coldness of rosemary and the chilly aloofness of mint, making Oxford & Cambridge ever so approachable and lovable. Fresh, but not aggressively so, wearable and versatile, this lavender is a delight even for a lavender-ambivalent person like me.
Available at pharmacyny.com for a price that is rather too elitist considering the simplicity of the blend ($115.00 for cologne). But hey, you pay for the name, and I suppose it is worth it.
Fuel, first launched in 1994 and re-released last year together with another cult-favorite, Chaos, was inspired by Donna Karan’s late husband Stephan Weiss, "who loved the thrilling freedom of speeding down an open road." Housed in a sleek ablack bottle and coming with the "meant for a high-performance lifestyle" premise, Fuel of my imagination was a smoky, leathery, obviously masculine scent, simultaneously urbane and forceful, a banker riding a motorcycle. In reality, its spicy-herbal incense accord turned out to be a totally unisex, tranquil comfort fragrance of sorts.
The sharp and fiery start of Fuel is perhaps the most masculine and the most predictable part of it, the kind of top notes, fresh, brooding and with a touch of smoke, that one would expect from a perfume called Fuel. As a dry-fruity aroma of baked and spiced apples, sweet amber and, in this mix, floral rather than fresh lavender begins to unfold, the scent takes a very different, much quieter road, somewhere away from the roar and hustle of a metropolis. As I am smelling patchouli and sandalwood of the base notes, I can't help but think of a serene retreat in the mountains, deep in a forest. The gently burning incense tinged with a hint of herbs and fruits (the incense note not unlike that of Chaos!) is, too me, very far removed from the cars-cities-modern-lifestyle discourse. The perfume strikes me as much more...primeval, for a lack of better word.
I still think that the name is quite fitting, because, as meditative and calm the scent is, in its smoldering depth lies strength that is palpable. Fuel, to me, is some sort of powerful magical being in repose...resting for a moment but ready to unfold in all its formidable glory. If Vrubel painted The Demon Sleeping, this would be the fragrance to suit the picture.
Fuel is available at Bergdorf Goodman, $95.00 fr 3.4oz.
This week rather than actually reviewing a perfume I thought I would interview a perfumer. Emma Jane Leah is the nose behind Fleurage, a store in Australia specializing in bespoke fragrances. I’ve always wanted to ask questions about the process a perfumer goes through in their business, and Emma kindly let me fire away.
What was your inspiration in creating your house?
I am sure you would agree all unique and independent business is born from frustration with an industry or market? What stems from this a burning desire to bring your offerings to the wider world because you see a need and have the skills and passion to make it happen.
My partner Rob and I were driven by our feeling that contemporary perfume has lost its sensuality. Born from this was a desire to fill a recognized gap in the market where perfume lovers are looking for sophisticated, hand crafted, individual scents with botanical ingredients. In years past I, as well as my partner Rob, have preferred wearing perfumed oils as a fragrance rather than the mass market confections and when asking others there is agreement with our
concerns and ideas about how scent should be and indeed was many years ago. I believe people want quality perfumes and never before has so much money been spent on fragrance. People I have talked to like to smell desirable but more and more they are developing allergies to ingredients and not finding satisfaction in their purchase of the fragrances offered. Comments I often hear are about classic perfumes being lost and a longing for the old styles of fragrance and how it is presented. For more mature clients who have experienced or remember traditional
parfum, we see them dismayed by the contemporary product. The romance and beauty of the boutique perfumery has been replaced by perfume supermarkets. We believe the art of perfumery is too intimate to sell in such a way. This is why Fleurage is a Salon de Parfumerie. It is designed as a refined setting for 'fitting' fragrances with the help of the actual perfumer herself. It is not a boudoir style but the Art Deco fit out reminds us of the elegance of superior design and absolute beauty that can be found in workmanship and production of everyday products. I particularly lament the loss of skilled artisans who produced luxury unique items and worry about the disposability of our lifestyle and the products we use. It is getting harder to purchase products of worth that last-both in value and the workmanship. There is also an underlying drive for quality Australian made goods and industry and disbelief at the lack of availability of innovative production. We have created Fleurage products with that philosophy in
What are particular notes that you prefer to use?
I have collected an extensive range of over 100 botanical ingredients to use when creating my perfumes for both Fleurage and for private clients. I try not to get stuck with using dependable and regular sets of notes and accords and let my brief dictate what I should use. This is why I always start with a brief rather than playing with the ingredients and as a result have such a large range of different perfumes that vary widely in scent. I have personal sets of notes I prefer for me which are woods resins and rich florals and I must admit I haven’t really produced
much of a sweet vanilla range yet as I think its been done so much in perfumes over the last few years.
Would you ever consider branching out to a scent that wasn't created for an individual?
I already have a range of 45 different Fleurage perfumes that I sell in the Parfumerie with more to come this year as well as the Scent Couture service. Fleurage was actually built around my range of perfumes and the Couture service came next.
Name me a smell that you loathe, and one that you love. In nature or in a bottle.
I don't deal with the smell of grinding steel-a strange metallic, cloying, burning scent that sticks to my throat and sinuses and makes me feel ill. I adore so many scents both in nature and a bottle but I would have to say that Lady Grey tea in a fine porcelain cup(and yes it does make a difference), wild violets and cut ginger rank as high on the list. It changes with the seasons and my mood though. Scent is so intimately linked to place and feeling and memory as we know and that can effect how we perceive an odour at different times.
Do you see a trend in what your clients are asking for, scent-wise?
What I have observed when creating profiles is clients don’t like smelling like thousands of others -they want individuality. They often prefer the botanical scents for their well-being and I get asked for 'older style' perfumes without so much vanilla or sickly florals. There is much frustration that a favorite and distinct perfume that speaks to them personally is hard to find and that companies constantly change the perfumes or discontinue them. I have also had long
discussions with people about the worry of the possibility that what they are purchasing might not be the real thing due to so many retailers offering the same brands but at hugely differing prices. It would appear people are particular about their scent being genuine, unique and complex.
What is your process in building a scent for your client?
The most important part is for me to get to know the client so I can create an 'Olfactory Vision'. This is my brief and leads me to the notes I will use. I ask them a lot of questions that reveal their inner being. I associate scents with experiences people relate to me -for instance a recent client likes to wear soft colors and treasures quiet places to relax but has a strong personality and likes to listen to rock music. That information suggested to me that their scent would require depth and solid notes in the base, a lasting heart of softer calming notes and an uplifting and clear top. This is why its so important to do this in person. How does one create a personal scent that
reflects you if you have never met?
Do you find that your clients return for refills on the same scent, or do they want to branch out to building other scents. Or both?
I find a bit of both. Once people experience my perfumes they find their palette becomes more
adventurous and they want to explore the range a bit more because their is such delight in the richness and strength of the different scents.
You offer other products such as bath ones as well, any plans for more?
Oh yes! I plan to have a spa range out this year and I am also developing what we call Hauteur by Fleurage which is corporate gifting and boutique luxury hotel lines for those discerning establishments that really value their clients and want to offer a quality range of pampering products with beautiful botanical scents.
As a small house that has a more one-on-one relationship with clientele, what do you see trending as the new "go-to" scents What are people asking you for?
Perfume lovers come to me because they are bored with current market fragrance and want something a bit different with personality and style that they can relate to. For instance the men want fragrances that have depth and reflect their masculinity and women often want a scent that has power and definite personality. My clients want to be outside the trends and stand out as an individual so I would say that other perfume houses need to look outside fashion and
instead of copying one another do their own thing and maybe concentrate on the quality of the product. Here's a quote for you that I live by as a perfumer " In fine perfumery, as with other arts, the ideal conduct for the artist (perfumer) is, first and foremost to please himself. (or herself) The idea of attempting to assess what an "imaginary public"(a thin figment of the imagination) may, in all probability, like, is both illogical and unprofitable. Such methods
(consumer preference estimation etc.) are all very well for the cheap cosmetic market -But in the matter of fine perfumes it is Originality more than any other single factor that really pays"- William Poucher 1937 Soap Perfumery and Cosmetics industry manual.
Where do you see your house in 5 years?
Firmly established as an alternative and individual offering for perfume lovers both nationally and globally and at the centre of promotion of natural perfumery and niche perfumers by offering them an outlet for their art.
Germaine Monteil's 1975 oriental wonder, Bakir is a rich tapestry of golds, reds and russets. The citrusy-spicy-aldehydic top notes are an explosion of ripe brightness that slowly darkens into the carmine velvet of the floral heart, in which the creaminess of rose and ylang-ylang are juxtaposed with the fiery piquancy of carnation enhanced by cloves. Darker still is the ambery, incensey, earthy base, where myrrh, amber and bezoin continue the theme of languid softness, while moss and ptachouli play for the opposite team, enhancing the sharper, spicier side of Bakir.
The exuberant richness of colors is muted in my vintage sample, but I feel that the patina of time ages the scent beautifully, bringing a touch of wistful elegance to what was prevously unabashed decadance.
Bakir can be found on ebay. Again, many thanks to L for introducing me to yet another vintage gem.
Image is by Ellen Von Unwerth
Last time I reviewed a variety of DSH floral perfumes. You may have noticed that I did not include any Rose scents. I think of these as a separate category, and I have special criteria for them. I did review Rose Vert in my second installment as part of the “Green” group and I thought it was a pleasing and fresh take on the rose theme. I am a fan of both obvious rose fragrances (Serge Lutens Sà Majeste de la Rose, Montale Queen Rose) and more abstract ones (Guerlain Nahema, Lancome Magie Noire) and they have to be pretty good to impress me. I am also a rose grower, with fragrance being the number one factor in selecting a variety to plant, so I also look for true-to-life fragrance qualities in a rose perfume. Therefore, I approached the DSH rose perfumes with some rigor.
American Beauty is the most obvious of these; what else could it be but a bouquet of red roses? Smelled in the vial and freshly applied to the skin it did not seem to have any surprises – I thought, that’s fine, a basic Rose soliflore, nicely done, nothing more to see, move along. How wrong I was. Before long it developed a dried rose-petal aspect, like a faded potpourri, and for a while I was afraid it was going to cross over into Great Aunt Tillie territory. But wait, there’s more – just when I thought that was the end of the development, it got all jammy and plush, oozing with rich deep tones of concentrated rose essence and balsamic sweetness. After a couple of hours, it had dried down to a combination of lustrous woods and rose absolutes and was downright sexy. Lasting power is truly impressive and the sillage is scandalous. Great Aunt Tillie might faint dead away if she ever wore a perfume like this. The notes: Bergamot, Cassie Bud, Palma Rosa, Rosewood, Bulgarian rose Absolute and Otto, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Egyptian Rose Geranium, Moroccan Rose Absolute, Orris, Ciste Absolute, East Indian Patchouli, Mysore Sandalwood, Peru Balsam.
Done in a very different style is one that intrigued me as soon as I saw the name – Beach Roses. Anyone who has ever spent summer at the seashore in New England knows the fresh aroma of the wild roses that tumble over the picket fences and rock walls of seaside cottages. Some of them are truly wild roses, native to the area, but many of them are the beloved Rosa rugosa, native to Japan and Korea but long grown here for their rugged beauty and resistance to pests and diseases. The mauve, pink or white blossoms are as fragile as the plants themselves are tough, and they have a clove-like scent unique among roses. I thought to myself that if the essence of roses mingling with the salt air and warmed by the sun could truly be captured by a perfume, it would be something really special. Indeed, this is a charming fragrance, enlivened by citrus and cool florals at the beginning and progressing to a heart of spicy carnation and gentle rose essence, including Rugosa rose. A subtly salty pungency keeps the sweetness down, but it is definitely very rosy, and once again the drydown is delightful, evoking the feeling of sun-warmed skin after a day spent outdoors. I would say that as far as the sweetness level goes, it’s about halfway between the almost candied American Beauty and the green, zippy Rose Vert. This would be a lovely choice for either a young woman or one with a sporty, outdoorsy lifestyle; it’s unfailingly cheerful and easy to wear.
The last one I tried in this group is actually a classic floral bouquet, but the Rose aspect of it is so outstanding that I am including it here. Parfum de Grasse is one of the DSH Special Edition scents and is a tribute to the city at the heart of the perfume industry. It is a beautifully composition featuring Rose, Jasmine and Orris. It opens with Bergamot, Neroli and Mimosa and expands into a lovely blend of Carnation, a superb Centifolia Rose Absolute, French Beeswax, Jasmine and Orris Concrete. Vetiver, Moss and Sandalwood form a lasting base that never gets in the way of the starring florals. The Centifolia rose, also known as Rose de Mai, is the most tender in character of commonly used rose extracts, and is the signature rose of Grasse. This is a study in what the inclusion of a really good Rose essence can do for a perfume. It enhances all the other components in partnership with the Jasmine, and while it is unmistakably the centerpiece, it is definitely not a soliflore. It is a romantic, pastoral blend, with its florals, beeswax and moss, and it is simply very pretty. It almost seems old-fashioned in a sense, but I don’t mean to say that it’s fussy or staid. It is just not “modern” in the sense of opening with a blast of aldehydes or having a twist or gimmick, but it is modern in its straightforward and fresh immediacy. It’s another DSH perfume that I think almost anyone could appreciate.
After I decided which DSH perfumes belonged in which groups to organize my series, I had several remaining that did not seem to belong firmly in any of those groupings. I ended realizing that they all had something in common – they had incense/resinous properties, but they were also made with creative riffs on that theme that made them stand apart. (They may be thought of as “Oriental” blends, a category that encompasses many different perfumes, but they are not the sweetly ambery/vanillic scents you may find listed as Orientals among modern mainstream fragrances.)
DSH does not have very many true Gourmand scents in the lineup, but I was impressed with Piment Et Chocolat and Tamarind Paprika, which I reviewed in Part One. There is one more to report, and it’s a doozy – the altogether delectable Mahjoun. It is stuffed to the brim with all my favorite spices, dried fruits, sweet florals, resins and woods. Mahjoun is based on a traditional Moroccan confection, and the list of notes makes me want to head for the airport and catch the next flight to Casablanca. Are you ready? Okay, deep breath: Bitter Almond, Cardamom Seed, Cherry Blossom, Lavender Flower, Lemon, Sweet Orange, Bulgarian Rose Absolute, Fig, Hazelnut, Honey, Nutmeg, Orange Blossom, Sugar Date, Amber, Atlas Cedarwood, Cinnamon Bark, Clove Bud, Frankincense, Sandalwood and True Arabian Myrrh. Now, not everyone is aboard the Gourmand train (or in this case, the Marrakech Express), so if you are recoiling in alarm instead of moaning with pleasure after reading that list, don’t even think of trying this. I expected it to be similar in character to a “Loukhoum” style of scent but it’s much less sugary and far more dimensional and interesting, and with a sun-baked, woody warmth that kept it from being cloying and made it really wearable, somewhat to my surprise. In fact, the woods and incense are so well balanced with the fruits and spices that over the course of a day it actually became much less sweet, and dried down to a radiantly soft incense and cedar that lasted for hours. Calling all Gourmand (and Incense) fans, I can’t recommend this perfume highly enough. This style of scent is sometimes looked down on by perfume “connoisseurs” as not being serious enough. I say if you can’t have a little fun with your olfactory equipment, you are missing a lot in life.
I was expecting to like Cimabue (Italian Journey No. 8) more than I did, but on my skin it smelled more like a home fragrance than a skin scent. A very nice, high-end home fragrance, but still not what I was hoping for. (It actually reminded me a little of Black Widow, which I like a lot, but let’s face it, that is only $25 a bottle and it’s a very simple composition.) Cimabue is all spicy warmth and made from a wealth of luxuriant materials, but it just did not agree with my skin chemistry. I was disappointed of course, but this perfume will be much loved by those for whom it is a better fit. I can’t really say which ingredients were responsible for making it not work for me, since the list of notes is like something out of the Arabian Nights and involves Bergamot, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Saffron, Carnation, Cinnamon Bark, Clove Bud, Jasmine, Beeswax, Moroccan Rose, Sandalwood, Benzoin and Vanilla, among others. What’s not to like? Sadly, I had to cross it off my list and move on.
However, I was back in love at first sniff when it came to Arome d’Egypt, an essence of woods and resins that has very little sweetness. It is fairly dry but not parched, as it is softened with florals, and it melded with my skin immediately to create an atmosphere of hushed mystery. It is a memory scent that will make you reach back and try to recall just where you smelled that wonderful aroma before. This scent is subtitled “A spikenard perfume” and this is an aromatic plant from which a healing ointment is made; it has been used for both its medicinal properties and in rituals since ancient times and is a component of Indian Ayurvedic traditions. It is a precious material, also known as Nard, and is mentioned in the Song of Solomon. Spikenard (Nardostachys grandiflora or Nardostachys jatamansi) is not often found in modern Western perfumes, as it is a quintessentially Eastern essence. This is a wonderfully soothing and yet mesmerizing perfume with a quiet but long-lasting drydown. It smells fantastic on me and I think it would be simply devastating on a man, or someone with darker skin than my own. (As a matter of fact, I think the same of Cimabue.) The enticing list of notes is as follows: Cassia, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute, Spikenard, Amber, Ambrette Seed, Atlas Cedarwood, Benzoin, Labdanum No.3, Myrrh Gum, Olibanum (Frankincense), and Peru Balsam. It kept me fascinated as the exotic aromas played out and lingered over the life of the scent, and I really think this could be a Holy Grail perfume for lovers of this style of fragrance. (This type of scent is exactly the reason why we fragrance lovers need and appreciate niche perfumers so much, because nothing remotely like it can be found in a department store.)
Among these remaining scents, there is one that stood out as being entirely free of any florals, being composed only of aromatic resins, gums and woods – Oude Arabique. Being a Floral girl at heart, this is probably the last style of perfume that I thought I would come to love, but love it I do – once I tried the Montale Oud scents I was hooked for good. Oude Arabique lacks the rich florals and spices most of those formulations contain, and therefore it has a penetrating, almost medicinal quality - it is Oud (Oude/Aoud) minus all the fancy trappings and matched up with several complementary plant and tree essences, bringing out the natural beauty and unique character of this rare and costly ingredient. By “medicinal” I do not mean to imply that it is not pleasing, since I found it to be both unusual and highly wearable. Balsamic yet barely sweet, bracing but not camphoric, this tightly edited homage to precious woods is as far away from what I used to think of as “perfume” could possibly be, and yet I undeniably was drawn to it. This is listed in the Men’s section of the DSH Web site, but it would be perfect for either women or men who like a dry, woody style of fragrance, and like most DSH scents, it does come in bath and body product form in addition to Eau de Parfum and Extrait. I could envision the Shea Butter Body Lotion and Shea Butter Foaming Cream becoming cornerstone grooming products for a man who wants to smell deliciously clean, especially if he wants to come and live at my house. (This is one of the more expensive DSH fragrances, so the body lotion at $32 for 4 oz. seems like a real bargain.) Listed notes are few but impressive: Mastic, Oude (Agarwood), Tamil Nadu Sandalwood, Australian Sandalwood, Buddahwood (a.k.a. False Sandalwood), Himalayan Cedar, and Tolu Balsam.
The last of this group also has Oud in it, though it is not nearly as dominant as in Oude Arabique. Minuit means midnight, and this aptly named perfume is deep indeed, but to me it is more of a comfort scent than one that is either mysterious or sexy. It is velvet-smooth with nary a sharp edge. Even the opening notes of cassis and fir are not the least bit sharp or fresh. It definitely has a nutty quality of complex sweetness, like a brandy glass swirled with hazelnut liqueur, but muted somehow, as though my skin was just absorbing it and not putting it back out; there was almost no sillage and it really quieted down a lot after a short time on my skin. I kept putting it away thinking my nose was not working properly – in fact, for a while it was not, as I came down with a bad cold and had to stop testing samples for a few days. But before and after that, and still, whenever I apply it, the same thing happens, so it must be that it really is more subdued than I had assumed it would be, which is not to say that it is not beautiful, for surely it is that. It is recommended for men but it’s another DSH that could easily go either way. Listed notes are Cassis Bud, Hazelnut, Silver Fir, Carnation, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Jasmine, Tuberose Absolute, Brown Oakmoss, Frankincense and Oude. Minuit will wrap you in its warmth when you most need it on a shivery winter night, and I can’t think of a better time for an enveloping, understated fragrance like this.
In the final installment of this series, I will report on a group of DSH scents that were formulated with techniques fit for a King – or Queen.
Image credits: Pink Rugosa roses by the seashore from photosofcapecod.com. Agarwood chunk from panda.org, official site of the World Wildlife Fund.
If I were to come up with perfumes to represent times of the day, Comme des Garcons 2 would be Morning. The pleasantly sharp floral-inky-rooty top accord is a wake up call after which the fragrance settles into a softer, cuddlier feel of a leisurely Sunday AM.
Having given a nod to the de rigeur Comme des Garcons quirkiness (ink + aldehydes + incense do create an at once familiar and alien accord, one that is as odd as it is oddly attractive), the scent relaxes into what I personally consider to be quiet comfort. A tea note gives the scent a cozy, "domestic" feel, the balsamic sweetness of labdanum, magnolia, woods and patchoui makes it pleasantly fluffy...this is a scent to wear when snuggling under a blanket with someone you like a whole lot... wearing his t-shirt...sharing New York Times and bagels with cream cheese...
To cuminophobs and fellow cuminophiliacs I have to report that the note is present but delicate...like a hint of sensuality in that idyllic NYC morning together.
CdG 2 can be found at luckyscent, $100.00 for 50ml.