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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pineapple wars: Jean Patou Colony versus the modern world (And a giveaway)

By Donna

Pineapple is one of those fragrance notes that seems to elicit strong opinions, Either you love it and can’t get enough, or the very thought of it makes you back away slowly from the offending perfume as if it were radioactive. I am firmly in the former category myself, being a fan of pineapple in virtually all of its forms and uses, with the notable exception of pizza – that’s just wrong. From piňa coladas to Thai food, everything is better with pineapple. Of course, there are also a slew of cheap and artificial pineapple-scented products around. Pineapple suffers a fate similar to raspberry, orange or rose, where the bad synthetic renditions give the whole group a bad name. I will studiously ignore these and concentrate on actual perfume.

The undisputed dowager queen of all pineapple scents is Colony by Jean Patou, one of the twelve resurrected and then sadly discontinued Ma Collection scents, and my other favorite of that group in addition to Vacances. It was first released in 1938 during the Golden Age of French perfumery, and upon smelling it is immediately apparent that it is a beautiful relic of days gone by. It is actually a chypre scent, probably the only pineapple chypre ever made as far as I can tell. It is endowed with a heavy, syrupy and languid helping of pineapple, spices, carnation, iris, ylang ylang and a perfectly divine overdose of oakmoss that keeps it sophisticated and tamps down any excessive sweetness. Any astringency comes from all that oakmoss, in fact, as the pineapple is very concentrated and has no trace of the fresh, raw fruit in it. I cannot tell you how much I adore this perfume; it is so very sexy and grown-up, yet it has that hint of tropical romance to it that gives it such a charming character. The reissued version may not be an exact replica of the original, but the Ma Collection fragrances were probably the most accurate renditions of vintage formulas ever made.

Skip ahead several generations and its descendant in the House of Patou is Patou Forever, a much lighter fruity-floral composition, but the pineapple is there. It is more realistic pineapple, not too sweet, but it’s sharp and fresh and yet not acidic or thin. It’s a perfect summer scent, greened with vetiver and embellished with other fruit accords. I will need to get some more of this once my Colony runs out; sadly, it’s only a matter of time before it’s gone forever.

Most other pineapple themed fragrances available today all seem hew to the light and fresh style, at least in my experience. Ananas Fizz by L’ Artisan Parfumeur is ethereally light, so much so that it is very fleeting on my skin, which is a pity as it is really a very nice fragrance. It is not strictly a pineapple “soliflore”, but that is one of the dominant notes. It is complemented by citrus, coconut, vanilla and light woods. It is eminently suitable for summer as it is about as sheer a scent as I have ever tried, and typical of the lovely and transparent creations Anne Flipo has done for L’Artisan.

On the sweeter side, Comptoir Sud Pacifique has Vanille Pineapple, with the fruit accompanied by frangipani, coconut, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, passion fruit and musk. As with most CSP scents, the top notes fade rather quickly, leaving the vanilla, coconut and sugar to duke it out, and in this case the top note is just pineapple. It’s a fun perfume, make no mistake, but not everyone wants to smell like pineapple upside-down cake all day. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Which brings me to the opposite end of the pineapple spectrum from Colony and another discontinued scent – Bath & Body Works’ Fresh Pineapple. I was doing my usual smash-and-grab stocking up at the semi-annual sale recently and picked up the shower gel, which I had not tried, then I saw a little bottle of cologne on the clearance table for almost nothing. I thought, why not, it’s pineapple and coconut, what could go wrong? As it turned out, the shower gel was pretty decent, but the spray cologne was pretty thin stuff – it started out with an in-your-face gush of freshly cut pineapple, joined quickly by coconut, but the pineapple turned harsh and a bit sour, and there was an unpleasant interval while that fizzled out; definitely a synthetic pineapple accord. It was not too bad after that, but it was mostly coconut by then and I don’t think that is exactly the real thing either. This is one of those photo-realistic modern fragrances that are made to literally smell like the picture on the bottle – that can be fine, and this is probably better in hot and humid weather when something so simple is all you want.

To illustrate the evolution (or should I say decline) of pineapple in perfume, I am offering a sample each of Jean Patou Colony and BB&W Fresh Pineapple. Both are discontinued, but for only one of them is that a tragedy, and when you try them side-by-side you will see why. If you want to be in the draw please indicate in the comments. The winner’s name will be selected the week after this post appears.

Image credits: Vintage Colony bottle from collector site Pineapple upside-down cake, photo by Tina Cornett at (I am totally going to make this – it has macadamia and cardamom in it.)

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekend Beauty - Makeup: MAC Lavender Whip and

As I wrote yesterday with regards to nail polishes, I have been craving this particular violet-lilac-lavender shade ever since I laid my eyes on a Laduree box in violette. I don't like myself dressed in this color, it makes me look too pale, but in lipstick it is perfect. So, of course, as soon as I've seen a preview on Blogdorf Goodman (a source of many of my makeup obsessions), I had to have the new MAC Cremeteam Cremesheen Lipstick in Lavender Whip and Cremesheen Glass Gloss in Ever So Rich.

The texture of the lipstick is lovely, not too opaque and with slight "wet" shimmer, which is exactly what I like. On its own, it is perhaps lavender slash mauve rather than pure lavender, in my opinion, although very pretty. It is when you put Ever So Rich gloss on top that it becomes lavender. It does not look as extreme as on MAC advertisement above, in fact it looks much more natural. The duo has a quality that I call egdy-ethereal. I should have purchased more than one of each, because, of course, it is now sold out.

Available (sporadically, it seems) at and, $14.00 for Lavender Whip, $18.00 for Ever So Rich.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weekend Beauty- Nail Polish: In Search of a Perfect Laduree Violette

I have been toying with the idea of posting about makeup, cosmetics, beauty on weekends. Perhaps, I will finally start doing so, every once in a while. Being a nail polish maniac, I am, of course inaugurating, the Weekend Beauty on PST with a post about nail polish.

It all started with a Laduree's Napoleon III box in what they call "violette" color. I would also describe this color as light lilac or lavender. Whatever is the right name for it, I've been obsessed with this shade forever. A lot of it, worn close to my face, makes me look like I drowned, and not pretty Pre-Raphaelite Ophelia kind of drowned. But in a lipstick (a post to follow) and nail polish it suits me well and is oh so pretty. Here are swatches of nine nail polishes I tried on in an attempt to match the sublime Laduree "violette", from the least to the most similar.

China Glaze Mr & Mrs was too pink. Nice application, as always with China Glaze, but on a transparent side, with a shimmer that is becoming too obvious for my taste, as the color builds up. I also must say that this shade is, to me, rather tame and dull.

Orly Petit Four is pinker still or actually mauve-er. Even, creamy texture that is thick enough to almost be sufficient in one coat. Very pretty, might be my taste, it might be the fact that it sort of doesn't sit too well with my skin color, but I found it quite boring.

China Glaze Agent Lavender is lovely taken on its own merit, but too blue Laduree-box-wise. At times it looks to me light periwinkle more than lavender. It had amazing creamy texture and easy application. This is the kind of polish that appears as though it would apply unevenly and then miraculously spreads on a nail flawlessly all on its own. It is also a perfect match to tanzanites in one of my favorite rings and so it more than earns its place in my collection.

Essie Looking for Love is less blue than Agent Lavender but still on a too-blue side for my Laduree violette ideal. It was also the worst of the nine polishes with regards to quality and application. Too transparent, it applied with "bold spots" and needed 5 coats to look at all decent.

China Glaze Who's Wearing What is a little darker than what I was looking for in this case, but unexpectedly gorgeous in an odd kind of way in which Sephora by OPI Metro Chic is gorgeous. It has some mushroomy dirt in it which makes it rather edgy. Not Laduree material, but a surpising discovery anyway.

OPI Done Out in Deco from South Beach Spring/Summer 2009 Collection, although lighter than Who's Wearing What, is still a little too dark and has a little bit of dirt (which I love) in it as well. To me, it is also somewhat of a lighter cousin to Parlez-Vous OPI. For those who, like me, adore mid-tone purples like this, it will be a new holy grail. The application was perfect, the polish was almost thick enough for one coat and impeccable with two coats.

Essie Baby Cakes is almost a perfect match, perhaps just a tiniest, minutest touch on a pinker side than the color in question. Love-love this shade anyway, and the quality and ease of application are what I came to expect from Essie. Something chilly and mesmerizing about this color. My new favorite.

Zoya Miley is basically It, the violette-lilac-lavender shade I was looking for. It is a little too transparent and needs 4 coats for nail tips not to show through but the gel-like texture and final result are sublime. Here is one more picture with it, just because:

Orly Bon Bon is The Perfect Match, perhaps unsurprisingly somehow, given the name. It seems a little transparent at first, but builds up fine in 3 coats. The texture is even and smooth, somewhere in between cream-cream and gel-cream. I used to complain that Orly polishes dry too slowly (if at all), but ever since I started using drying top coat, it became a non-issue. This delicious lilac is a must-have. Any more ideas for light violet-lilac-lavender polishes? Do share, because one can never have too many.

China Glaze, OPI and Orly polishes mentioned can be found at and/or Zoya polishes can be bought on

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Byredo Pulp: Perfume Review

Grandma making jam in a big pot, taking off the sugary, sticky foam with a big spoon...this is the image that popped into my head the moment I smelled Pulp. I have always thought that for some reason the pink-white foam tasted so much better than the actual jam, perhaps because it still retained certain freshness, certain "real berry" feel. As does Pulp.

Imagine a huge pot in which a lot of Bois de Paradis (which is what Pulp reminds me of the most), some Mure et Musc Extrait, Nicolai Balkis and quite a bit of Nez a Nez Bouche Baie are boiling...aromas of sweet figs, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and vanilla are blending, melting, coagulating, creating a composition that is way fruitier than any of the ones that I named and with an identity all of its own. I mentioned the real-berry feel that jam foam has, and that fresh, green feel is indeed present in Pulp. Because...imagine that a reckless cook dumped into the pot that contains all the syrupy, fruity perfumes...a hefty dose of Stecca. That's right, the verdant and earthy element in Pulp is surprisingly strong. This dry, aromatic accord goes side by side with the jammy part of the composition not letting it become overwhelmingly saccharine.

I don't know how often I could wear this Fruity Perfume Extraordinaire, but I can't help but admire the audacity of the berry overdose and the green twist that startles and delights.

Pulp is available at Barneys, $195.00 for 100ml.

Image source,

Please tune in tomorrow and on Sunday as we finally come out to admit that although there is nothing more important than Perfume, we do obsess about other things as well, thus inaugurating Weekend Beauty on PST.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Annick Goutal Un Matin d'Orage: Perfume Review

By Tom

Gardenia in fragrance can be a good or a bad thing, depending upon how you feel about the flower and how it's handled. Some will grab you by the lapels and shake you like a cat with a fresh-caught mouse (Agent Provocateur) while some whisper rather than shout (SIP Epic Gardenia). I prefer the whisper, thanks, and the house of Goutal is almost always about the whisper.

The idea behind Un Matin d'Orage is that it's supposed to be the simulacrum of the smell of a Japanese garden after a morning storm. I can speak to the accuracy of that, but there is a definite aquatic freshness to the scent, as well as stemmy green-ness and discernible grapefruit at the beginning. I should hate that but I don't at all. This part of the scent stays close to my skin and is quite lovely. The gardenia is gorgeous and surprisingly shadowy; I catch it at odd times but don't smell a lot of it when I close in.

I can appreciate the femininity and easy chic of this scent and think it could be summer favorite for someone who isn't me. It needs a woman to bloom on. But it always doesn't need to be about me. Besides, there's enough from this line that's me all over, perhaps this one is all about you?

Available at Saks, and at Lianne Tio Perfumes

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Amouage Ubar: Perfume Review

Ubar is a re-introduction of the 1995 perfume with the same name, which, as Amouage justly point out, was "highly acclaimed by fragrance connoisseurs". The fragrance is "inspired by the long lost ancient trading city of Ubar, rediscovered in the sands of Southern Oman in 1992." Lucky to have a sample of the old Ubar, I was able to try the two versions side by side.

Ubar 1995, perhaps due to its age (14 years is practically vintage), skips the citrusy top notes almost completely, while the 2009 edition lingers among lemon and bergamot for quite a while. Not only that, but the silvery jingle of lily of the valley can be heard, at this stage of the scent's development, loud and clear. While the old Ubar jumps right into the ripe, honeyed roses and jasmine, sweetened further by vanilla, the new version takes its time, gradually introducing the opulent floral theme through the delicate presence of lily of the valley in the top notes. Slowly, slightly indolic jasmine emerges followed by jammy rose. At this point, the ambiance of the composition changes dramatically, taking the wearer from the sunlit, innocent day into the pitch-black, sensual night.

The sensuality, at times dirtiness of the perfume, is in no small measure due to a generous dose of civet in the base notes. Blended with vanilla and rose, the animalic ingredient lends Ubar that ambiguous gourmand/erotic quality that makes one wonder whether one should crave to drink it or to lust after it. Civet also turns the initially fairly modern scent into, dare I say, an old-fashioned one, in the best way possible. With its velvety feel, its unapologetic luxuriousness, its satisfying substantionality, Ubar could be standing next to Shalimar on a chic Parisian shelf, back in 1921.

As for the fans of the original Ubar, to sum up my impressions, I would say that the older version is overall heavier on rose, whereas the new one, although still centered on that note, pays more attention jasmine and lily of the valley and places a heavier emphasis on civet-vanilla accord in the drydown. One thing for sure, the devotees of the older version should not worry that the new one has been "watered down" or simplified as is sometimes the case with re-releases. If anything, it has been made more fleshy somehow and perhaps even more complex. It is a must-try for the lovers of floral-oriental-animalic genre and a must-have for me.

Ubar is available at, €180-€210, and Luckyscent, $250-$285.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Seriously Sensual: Montale Aoud Queen Rose

By Donna

Some time ago I received a much-coveted sample of Montale Aoud Queen Rose from a fellow perfumista and then promptly lost it. Recently I was doing some deep cleaning (by my definition anyway) and there it was. Between the time I had lost the sample and then found it again, I had tried it at my local perfume shop when they began to carry the Montale line. I discovered the addictive character of Aoud in a big way via the many Montales that have a hefty dose of this resinous wonder in them. In fact, there was not a single scent in their Aoud series that I did not find fascinating. There were standouts of course, and among them were the “sister scents” Aoud Roses Petals and Aoud Queen Rose. You might wonder why there even need to be more than one Aoud/Rose perfumes in the same line (and there are more of them, check out Aoud Damascus), and I had the same thought. Yet upon closer examination they are quite different, and even if they were not, can you ever have too much of what’s in these perfumes? I didn’t think so.

Aoud Queen Rose belongs to a class of fragrance very dear to my heart: The “Bombshell Rose.” This elite club counts among its members such classics as Parfum Sacré, Magie Noire and Nahema, so the standard is high. Many bombshell scents are either white florals (Fracas, take a bow) or gigantic chypres (Paloma Picasso). The bombshell rose has to have some of the same elements, such as room-clearing sillage, a strong base of wood/leather/spices/vetiver etc. and a big wallop of sex appeal from animalic elements. Aoud Queen Rose has the whole package; Velvety Grasse and Arabian roses, Hibiscus, and a lot of Aoud. The roses are so heavy they are almost candied, like my beloved Nahema, but the overall effect is not nearly as sweet because of the musky, somewhat nutty hibiscus and pungent aoud. This is a dark perfume, smoldering with mystery, and once it’s on your skin it’s on for good – this stuff does not just have longevity, it has the half-life of a radioactive isotope. That’s good if you love aoud but exercise caution anyway. There are other Montales that have a bigger hit of aoud, but there is plenty of it in this.

The effect of this perfume is almost narcotic as it wraps the wearer in a haze of sensuality like smoke from a magic lantern. Like Parfum Sacré, it seems to have an effect on other people too; doors are opened, chairs are pulled out, eyes lock and smiles are exchanged. Wear it when you feel daring and a bit wild - it’s a perfect match for any fantasy you might conjure up.

Available at Luckyscent online and select retail stores such as The Perfume House - $150 for 50 ml of Eau de Parfum.

Image credit: Photo of Hybrid Tea rose ‘Red Chateau’ from Wikimedia Commons.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On a break

We are on a short break. Have a great week, everybody, and come back next week for a Seriosuly Sensual Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Perfume Posse Visits (part of) Perfume Smellin' Things

By Tom

March and Patty of Perfume Posse came to Los Angeles to visit and host an event at ScentBar this weekend and of course I could no more pass up the chance to meet them than I could give up, well, perfume!

They actually came in slightly earlier than the day of the event, and since I love to show people the city who haven't been here before (as March hadn't) I volunteered to drive them around on Friday for shopping and hanging out. I will admit that there was a small amount of trepidation as there always is meeting someone that you have this Internets relationship with, electronically intimate enough that you feel like you have shared lives, but have never spent any time with in person. Would me mesh? Would they find me hopelessly boring? Would there be long periods of uncomfortable silences followed by furtive calls to friends to ask them to call back and pretend they're locked out of their place and being attacked by man-eating clams and need you to come get them? In short, would it be like

Of course, that didn't happen. After an initial comic mishap involving hotels on one street having changed names we piled into my microscopic Honda and it was old home week. We drove around the hills of Beverly looking at (and joyously dissing) real estate I can't afford, cruised Malibu, shopped Montana Avenue and ate Pinkberry before meeting the always delightful Robin (VioletNoir) for dinner and drinks in Century City. March and Patty are just as delightful in the flesh as the are on the internets; if only Colombina could have been there. Now that would have been perfection!

The next day was ScentBar. The charming owners Adam Eastwood and Franco Wright were kind enough to open early to host a bunch of us; there were all the new things to sniff all the usual suspects including Robin and Iris. There were muffins and sugar cookies and Prosecco Bellinis. If I am very good Heaven will look like this, except it will just be me, a spa tub the size of a Fleetwood Brougham and perhaps, Hugh Jackman. If he doesn't take more than one muffin.

I tried Mure et Musc Extrait, which is great in that "berries gone bad" way, and since you're getting a refill in the package justifies the price. The Party in Manhattan was wonderful; I don't find it the skank-fest that March and Patty do. They think I'm nuts. I think I'm part house-cat.

Those were the yums; I have to say that the new Serge, Nuit de Cellophane, is a meh for me. Uncle Serge has done the definitive Fruity-Floral. Fruity-Floral has now been done in that way that "Gone With the Wind" has been done. The Genre has been officially been closed. No more should be produced and the pallid, anodyne scents that came before should retreat to some dark corner and as Colombina put it "smoke nervously". Would I wear it? Right after I appear at work in a red taffeta ball gown. Should you? Up to you.

Parfums DelRae Emotionnelle is the perfect simulacrum of fresh cantaloupe that I have smelled outside of my breakfast table. I however ran from it and was glad that March, who is old and censorious friends with Patty asked her to please wash it off forthwith.

The real surprise of the morning was a sample of Andy Tauer's new Une Rose Chyprée, a perfectly balanced rose/chypre where the rose is lifted by clementine and bay and grounded by labdanum, oakmoss and vanilla. I know there were a few rumbles of disappointment over Andy's last couple of releases, but this is going to be a runaway hit for him: the rose opening is immediately, captivatingly gorgeous and the drydown is sniff-your-arm-and-moan good. I'd have a giveaway for my sample but I am simply not that generous.. Andy, I think this should be your first perfume strength one. If you're reading.

Tomorrow (Sunday) is March and Patty's last day in the City of the Fallen Angels and we are going to get together once more. I hope to drive them across Mulholland to have lunch at the Village Cafe on Beachwood Canyon under the Hollywood sign. It's been marvelous meeting them; could someone work on that Transporter thingy in "Star Trek" so that we could all get together easily in various places on a whim? Wouldn't that be lovely?

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Arab Perfumes Al Rawza

By Marian

It's dawn, and the sun is still coy. It shyly reflects off the hose-khaneh in our courtyard, a liquid sheet of pale gold. The children and I have decided to sleep beside the water to enjoy the morning breeze and awaken to the trill of nightingales. Tendrilled wisps of orange blossom caress us, whispering that it's time to get up, scented murmurs so soft and gentle I wonder if I'm still dreaming. I open my eyes. The sun is wrapping our private paradise in buttercup gauze, the nectared sweetness of ylang-ylang and jasmine hovering within its fragrant folds.

Slices of barbari, a slab of feta, a silver bowl overflowing with sour cherry jam, and a basket of mulberries wait patiently for us to arise. But it is the scent of saffron tea, escaping through the arched window and into the morning air, which lures me from my garden bed.

The sun is rising. The fountain is merrily gurgling and the sun is sneaking beneath the ample aprons of the cedar trees. The children, now awake, scamper into the pool and wash the night away.

Al Rawza, classified as a “soft oriental” can be purchased from 3ml- 50 GBP ($70.00), 6ml- 85 GBP ($119.00), 12 ml-150 GBP ($210.00). Incidentally, “Posh Ambergris” is the best ambergris I've sampled!

The giclee print of Princess Sitting in a Garden, is from

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The winner of Hilda Soliani giveaway is Esri Rose.

The winner of the DSH draw is Juana.

And a reminder for the following winners of Puredistance draw to send us their contact info:


Please email us your address using the Contact Me link on the right.

Spring Sale on is having a "SPRING INTO SPRING" SALE for website orders only. All internet sales MARCH 15 through MARCH 31 are 20% off. The discount is automatically taken off at the PayPal payment page. Please note that this is for New London Pharmacy website shopping only. The website carries, among other lines, Hilde Soliani and J&E Atkinsons.

Friday, March 13, 2009

From The Mouths of Husbands: Mr Colombina Reviews Don’t Get Me Wrong Baby, I Don’t Swallow

Colombina: “Dear Husband, it has been a while since you wrote a guest post for me. Would you mind reviewing a fragrance for me?”

Mr Colombina: “No problem love. What’s it called?”

Colombina: “Don’t get me wrong baby, I don’t swallow.”

Mr. Colombina: “Come again? …. TOO MANY JOKES!”
{head explodes}

Wait … Bina, can we not use that ‘mouths’ of husbands bit for this one particular review?

Suffice to say, I will take my usual, professional approach to this and extol my utmost and sincerest high-class review, paying careful attention to describe the effervescent nuances of … oh who am I kidding? Are you serious? I mean I know there is no industry in the world like the fragrance game to demonstrate the “sex sells” mentality but …

Don’t Get Me Wrong Baby is from the makers of “Delicious Closet Queen” (Etat Libre d’Orange), If my high school French serves me correctly, I think that roughly means something about the state of liberated oranges or something.

As a so-called unisex scent, this blatant ‘shock-value’ name fails on two levels.
And the thing about ‘shock value’ is that until the public reaction is gauged, you’ve always got the PR team on standby (like when French Connection UK opened up all its “FCUK” shops across Britain) ready to tell us all it’s just a joke…or perhaps more appropriately in this case, a gag.

Firstly, if it is so named as to appeal to men (beyond the 13-year-old giggle factor), then he is wearing a pointless fragrance. Regardless of name, a fragrance is always a statement about the wearer. Whereas the name of this fragrance seems more to suggest a statement TO him rather than by him.

A statement from him might be something more along the lines of “Don’t get me wrong baby. I don’t put the toilet seat down,” And while that delivers the same (“I am going to disappointment you”) message, I don’t think the word “toilet” is going to appear on a fragrance bottle any time soon. Eau de toilette, yes … Eau de toilet, no.

Secondly though, and this is important … if it is so named as to appeal to women (beyond the 13-year-old giggle factor), then it is playing right into the hands of perhaps one of the greatest myths of all time.

Ladies, let me school you a little. Back away from the Cosmo and hear the truth. Now for the sake of keeping this a ‘family’ blog … I am going to substitute the word ‘swallow’ with something … perhaps something more Clintonesque” like “I don’t ‘inhale’. “

Whether or not you ummm … ‘inhale’ … generates not even the slightest bit of interest nor value to any male. This is the greatest over-rated thing to be proud of since George Bush declared “mission accomplished”. We had removed a dictator, with apparently little concern for where all the little minions were dispatched.

Don’t get me wrong baby, but all we want is to get the air out of the oxygen tank. What you do with it after that (inhale or not), means as much to us as what colour will be this year’s black. All my life, I have heard women brag, “and I INHALE! “… like there was some sort of merit badge for it… and I thought …. “So?”

With that behind us, let us get to the scent itself. And yes of course, I had some preconceived notions that what I was about to smell would … through that good olfactory magic … whisk me away to the romantic and luxuriant ambiance of a 3x3 glass booth in Times Square. (Un soire a la Light District Rouge)

But no. The name is all bark and no bite (which given the nature of the overtly titillating name, might not be such a bad thing). The smell is about as sexually charged as dirty talk from Stephen Hawking.

It starts of very flowery (lily of the valley, jasmine and orange blossom to be precise) as if the premise is to suggest that opening the evening with a presentation of flowers is the first stop towards converting an otherwise reluctant participant in - what the maker’s website refers to as – “an American kiss”. Damn, no wonder so many immigrants want to come here.

Ah, but there is the rub. (sniggering)

When one is presented with a preface of “don’t get me wrong” to any forthcoming statement, the expectation is that what follows should come as a surprise, and somewhat in the category of disappointment. And indeed the ensuing scents do not disappoint in their ability to disappoint.

As if to suggest aroma one might receive from another’s mouth, the fragrances trails into a concoction of sugar and edible (swallowable?) sweeteners (like a mix of marshmallow and Hubba Bubba). It ends up smelling like “Loves Don’t Get Me Wrong Baby Soft.”

Don’t get me wrong baby, I salute the effort even if I think the premise tries to be a bit too clever for its own good. At the end of the day, I just did not think the combinations and the mutation from one sweet smell to the next was either memorable or exciting.

For a brief moment, I thought perhaps they meant they don’t (as our mothers all told us not to) swallow BUBBLE GUM. But then I was overcome with a mixture of reminiscing about baseball cards (which always came with a stick of sugary gum when I was a kid) and the need to get some fresh air.

Don’t get me wrong baby, but I neither buy a fragrance because a bunch of juvenile marketing lads were having a giggle with the name. Nor do I think … “hmm if I (pay for and) wear this stuff, that means somewhere, someone is going to ….

I suppose Ford could abandon names like “Escort”, “Taurus” etc. and call their next car ‘Chick Magnet” and some sad saps would buy it. But I am not swayed by a name, I am moved by the quality of the ride.

Don’t get me wrong baby. I get it. But what I don’t swallow is the marketing tact. In fact the whole joke factor left a bad taste in my mouth.

I mean use sex to sell perfume if you must …..Use sexy and brooding femme fatales in your print, TV and on-line ads. Have them pouting and toe dancing on clouds and across tables … looking all Parisian and like rapture incarnate, whilst shirtless men who just fell off the cover of a harlequin novel come prancing in like Michael Flatly after a Bowflex workout. Just don’t force it down my throat.

Don’t Get Me Wrong Baby may not swallow but … it sucks.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Interview with Lianne Tio

By Tom

Lianne Tio is of course the nice lady who I first ran across when I bought two of the last two bottles of Annick Goutal’s late, lamented Eau de Fier. In addition to her Annick Goutal store she has branched out and opened her eponymous boutique in Rotterdam, Lianne Tio Parfums. Always charming, she agreed to answer some questions about her philosophy, her loves, and her new business.

What brought you to opening your own boutique?

I lived in Paris for 14 years, and worked there in the cosmetic industry. The last perfume I wore was Jicky by Guerlain, but for some reason I did not appreciate this scent anymore. One day, I was walking in St. Germain des Pres and discovered a tiny shop at the Rue Saint Sulpice and entered the Annick Goutal Boutique for the first time. I was attracted to the packaging of romantic bottles and femininity, a completely different world of scents. I tried one of the scents and I was stunned: this scent reminded me of my native country Indonesia... I saw myself as a child, playing in the garden and I could literally smell the grass, ivy and seringa. I learned that the scents of Annick Goutal were ‘emotionally inspired perfumes’: every human being builds a library of scents during their lifetime, and, smelling the perfumes of Annick Goutal unconsciously opened the door to my own library…

Back in The Netherlands I started to study Annick Goutal’s concept. Her life, her talent in translating her emotions into a perfume fascinated me. It was then (nine years ago today) that I decided to open my maison de parfum Annick Goutal, at that time the first niche brand in The Netherlands. I had two missions: to share, with the Dutch, my discovery of the beautiful perfumes of a special perfumer named Annick Goutal, who was not motivated by commercial success but by a desire to create a personal, artistic statement. And, being a tiny distributor of an unknown brand in The Netherlands, challenging the big perfume chains. Furthermore, my passion for classical music, art and beauty were pushing me to go for this project.

In my store I wanted to create a beautiful world of scents in which customers would feel a warm atmosphere of intimacy, assisted by a professional and personal approach. My customers would want to distinguish themselves and prefer authenticity, high quality and exclusivity above mainstream and mediocrity. They would want to wear a perfume that suits their personality.

I advise my clientele in the choice of their perfumes by observing their personality and asking them some questions. I also advise them to have their own ‘wardrobe of scents’.
I inform my customers about the philosophy and the sources of inspiration from which a perfume is composed and encourage them to discover the natural ingredients in a perfume. This approach fascinates the customer, and the scent will ‘come to life’ for him/her.

Were you always attracted to scent?

I was always attracted to luxury and high quality…but relatively unaware of the power of scent. For quite some time I thought my Guerlain was the best smell I could wear, and at the same time I was very reluctant to enter the big perfumery chains, where they sell un-inspired, synthetic perfumes. To me they all smelled the same: aggressive and very commercial. Walking into that tiny Annick Goutal shop changed my whole vision on scent.

We know that you carry Annick Goutal scents (which you know I love), what are some of the others you carry and what attracted you to them?

It’s difficult to choose but I’ll give you a few of my favorites:

• Santa Maria Novella di Firenze; the oldest perfume house in the world (16th century), for their philosophy and the pureness of their products. Their products are still made and prepared by hand in a limited, controlled process at the original Florence site.

• Lorenzo Villoresi, who has created perfumes plein de caractère, full of character.

• Les Parfums de Montale, because of their rich and creamy ingredients, for instance Roses Musk, the top of elegance and femininity. I get compliments everywhere! And when I wear Chypre Fruité, I am back in Paris again in my Chanel suit... A very distinguished, elegant and discrete perfume.

I’m proud to be the only boutique in the Netherlands, that sells Clive Christian – Guinness World Record holder for the most expensive fragrance in the world – and I can’t say this title keeps customers away…

Recently another pearl was added to my collection: Pure Distance. Made in Vienna, delivered in Swarovski crystal bottles, this scent is inviting and distant at the same time, unobtainable yet blindingly present.

I see from the photos from your website that your boutique has a very clean design, but not one that's off-putting or clinical. What were your thoughts on the design of your space?

For Lianne Tio Parfums I wanted to create a ‘crispy and clean’ ambiance, as well as a cosy and warm one. A dream world of scent, like a fairytale, wherein I share my knowledge on the art of perfume with my customers, undisturbed by the daily grind, accompanied by the sounds of beautiful classical music. A place to explore, and discover scents that evoke memories, emotions, sentiments.

For Annick Goutal - the Dutch flagship store - I wanted to recreate the feel and ambiance of the Belle Époque, with lush furniture in gold and ivory colors, radiating luxury, femininity and romance.

If you could design a scent that exemplified Lianne Tio, what would it be?

The perfect scent for me is the epitome of the absolute woman: a sensitive and sensual creature, who is intuitive as well as cunning, vulnerable as well as powerful. I would use ingredients like rose, tuberose, jasmin, sandalwood and ceder, as well as some of my secrets...

Sandro Botticelli has captured the essence of my absolute woman in his painting `The Birth of Venus'.

Where do you see your boutique in 5 years?

I am extremely proud to have customers from all over the world, visiting my boutique in Rotterdam, and ordering perfumes through my website. I would love to establish a true scent-paradise and hope to welcome even more perfume-lovers in the future.
My ambition is to expand on the concept of Lianne Tio Parfums, with a signature scent and a New York franchise at the top of my list…

Image source,

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What We Love Versus What We Wear

By Marla

Ever had insomnia?? Of course you have. And what do you do when you’ve tossed and turned and counted two trillion fuzzy whatevers and it’s no good at all? Well, at 3am yesterday, wracked by insomnia and bored with creeping about the house, I calculated how many millileters of each of my 30+ perfumes I’d used up per month and per year. Confessions of a Perfume Geek, but that’s what I did. I found to my surprise that some of my “great loves” were not on my top 5 usage list. Here’s my Current Top 5:

1. Hanae Mori Magical Moon: 6.7 ml/mo or 80ml/yr

2. Caron Aimez Moi: 6 ml/mo or 72ml/yr

3. YSL Nu: 5ml/mo or 60ml/yr

4. Hermes Eau de Merveilles: 3ml/mo or 36ml/yr

5. L’Artisan Dzongkha: 2.5ml/mo or 30 ml/yr (tied with Niki de St. Phalle and Barbara Bui EdP…)

OK, so incense, spice, anise, iris, and ambergris win hands down. But some of the ones I admire the most, like vintage L’Heure Bleue, Mitsouko, and Chergui, where are they? Way down the list! I suppose that for the first two, the reason is that I can’t buy any more, their formulations have changed and I don’t particularly like the new ones. As for Chergui, it’s just not suitable most days, though I adore it completely. A more simple composition like Rousse can be worn anytime, though I think Chergui is a more finely realized artistic tour de force. It’s complicated. Kenzo’s Jungles (Tiger and Elephant, I own both) are yummy and just plain weird, but they can be, how can I put it, offensive in tight quarters. And though my DH’s fave is Samsara, I’m only in the mood for it occasionally, because it is intensely floral and has beaucoup sillage. So what does it take to become a Big Usage Monster in my house??

1. Affordability- anything over the price of an SL is just not in my collection except as a decant.
2. Notes I love—if it hasn’t got incense, anise, galbanum, or spice, no way no how….
3. Doesn’t kill the sensitive- this excludes some real masterpieces, but hey, we all work for a living, and it’s usually in close proximity to other humans.
4. It’s not extinct. I’m going to start crying if I go further into this one. If any perfume house honchos ever read this, please don’t mangle a beautiful formula! It’s like spray-painting graffiti on the Mona Lisa and saying, “Hey, it’s more modern this way, isn’t it??” If you must change the formula, at least publish the old one so DIYers like myself can recreate our favorites. And if you must discontinue a beautiful perfume, again, please publish the formula so others can enjoy it. Perfume is an art form.

So for my fellow insomniac perfumistas, I hope my little sojourn into perfume statistics helps you find your way back to Morpheus and sweet dreams!


Winners of Puredistance Giveaway...


eleven european mystics

Please send mus your mailing adresses using the contact me link on the right. Thank you, everybody, for playing!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hilde Soliani Mangiamo Dopo Teatro: Perfume Review...and a Prize Draw

It seems to me, upon reading reviews, comments and forums, than melon and watermelon notes are not particularly popular among perfume connoisseurs, and their presence in a scent is more often than not a turn off. Correct me if my impression is wrong. Personally I have a weakness for all things melon in perfume. Perhaps because what I consider to be my formative years were spent wearing fairly melony Marina de Bourbon. Having said that I like melon in perfume, I must specify that a melon has to be ripe and sweet and a perfume non-aquatic.

Just like Mangiamo Dopo Teatro. Inspired by Hilde Soliani's memories of eating out with her friends and colleagues after theatrical performances, it is most definitely delicious. It is honeyed melon and pretty much nothing else, but boy oh boy is it enjoyable. Wearing it makes me want to cut a melon (ambrosia, canary, honeydew, cantaloupe...I don't care, any will do!) in half and bite into its flesh, without minding my manners and appearance, to let the juices run and make my face all sticky. The scent arouses in me the kind of craving and the kind of greed that is borderline obscene. As any melon fragrance, it does have a certain fresh quality, just like the smell of actual melons combines syrupy sweetness with wateriness. Having said that, Mangiamo Dopo Teatro is not the dreaded aquatic at all. So if you are aquatic-phobic, have no fear. But if you are afraid of melons in perfume, stay far away and leave more for me.

Available at New London Pharmacy and Luckyscent.

If you would like to be in a prize draw please say so in your comment. One lucky commenter will receive samples of Bell'Antonio, Il Tuo Tulipano, Mangiamo Dopo Teatro, Sipario, Stecca and Vecchi Rossetti. The winner will be announced next Monday.

Image source, corbis.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Puredistance Sample Giveaway

Creators of Puredistance, "one of the world's most exclusive perfumes", and, to me, one of the most attractive contemporary fresh green florals, would like to have their perfume sampled by a wider circle of people. If you would like to be in a draw for a sample of Puredistance I, please leave a comment saying so. (No anonymous comments, do sign your name, please.) 6 winners will be picked at random and announced next week. Have a great weekend, everybody!
The draw is now closed.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Montale Oud Cuir d'Arabie, Red Vetyver and Black Aoud

By Tom

Fist thing: the winner of the draw for the solid perfume is Marko. Please give us your mailing info and I will get the package right out.

Montale is a house that I am becoming more and more enamored of lately. I've been pretty nuts about Musk to Musk and Greyland, so I was interested to try some more.

Red Vetyver opens for me with immediate, pulpy grapefruit and bone-cold vetiver, quickly joined by hot black pepper, cedar and patch. It's certainly one of the more interesting vetivers out there; the dance between heat and chill is especially delightful. $125 for 50ML

Black Aoud is perhaps the most straightforward of this trio; an aoudy rose with a woody base. It is a heartbreakingly lovely rose however, and I write that as someone who can be a big-time rose hater. It smells plush and expensive in a way that other fragrances that come in diamond-encrusted bottles don't. You can smell like a million for $150 for 50ML.

Oud Cuir Arabie is the one of the three that I'd most love to see in my holiday stocking; it's leather that skirts the line between kid gloves and biker jacket with a sweet tobacco note that's a delight. The aoud note adds a delightful saltiness to the scent. The only thing I can think of is riding behind Brando circa "The Wild One", burrowing your head against his back to keep the wind off your face, the smell of his jacket and the slightly salty smell of his skin. Also $150 for 50Ml, and I am going to go fan myself now..

Available at LuckyScent and Aedes


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

DSH Perfumes Part Five: Palace of The Sun King (And a Prize Draw)

By Donna

In this the final installment of my series on the perfumes of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, I have saved a special group of fragrances for last. Even among the offerings of a niche perfumer, these are unusual both in concept and execution. They are the scents of The Perfumed Court series and there is a dual theme – they are both inspired by the royal personalities at the court of Versailles in its glory days and made as closely as possible by natural methods, using materials in existence at the time. DSH created these entirely of natural botanicals except for the animalic notes that are unavailable today, so a few synthetics are used for those. However, the way these smell, you would never know they were anything but all natural. I tried one of them when the samples first arrived, and I knew immediately that they were in a category apart from the others. I waited until I had finished testing the rest of the scents before coming back to these. In fact, except for the first one I tried, I did not look at the notes before trying them; I anted to be challenged and surprised.

One of the simplest in composition is Eau de Fleurs d’Oranger du Roi (Orange Blossom Water of the King), inspired by a favorite “signature” scent of Louis XV, made entirely of citrus and a tiny touch of Ambergris – in fact it is 99.99% natural with the exception of the synthetic Ambergris. I really liked this a lot – unlike the Fleurs d’Oranger from the Les Rouges series, it is not warm and honeyed but fresh and soapy, the character of the living flowers bursting forth. The soapy quality is not a favorite for everyone, but I love it, and this would be ideal for summer, as it holds to that clean aroma all day long. It does get a bit sweeter as time passes but the freshness never goes away. Notes are Bitter Orange, Lemon, Italian Neroli, Orange Flower Absolute (France), Orange Flower Water, Ambergris, and Petitgrain. Short, sweet and to the point, it has a charm all its own.

Even more transparent is the herb-infused Eau de Cologne/Aqua Admirabilis. This 100% botanically sourced scent is a blend of citrus ingredients such as Lemon, Neroli and Petitgrain with the addition of Lavender and Rosemary. The herbal character is evident but never attains dominance over the citrus, even though both of them are certainly powerful enough to do it. The main impression is of delightful lemon and orange notes made even zestier by being perfectly counterbalanced by the herbs. This one is not sweet at all and is very much in the tradition of classic Eaux de Cologne such as 4711 and Guerlain’s Eau de Cologne Imperiale. (I generally shy away from too much Rosemary in fragrances, since it always makes me think of “non-perfumey” foods such as roasted chicken, but I quite liked it, the herbal dosing is just right and nary an oven-browned fowl is in evidence.) This is one to reach for on those unbearably hot and humid summer days when you can’t stand the idea of anything sweet on your skin.

The famous Madame du Barry, the last official mistress of Louis XV, inspired Eau de Coquette. When I first put it on it seemed to be a simple bouquet with a sweetly aromatic hay-like herbal quality to it. However, that was deceptive; as time passed, the hay character subsided and was replaced by the spicy warmth of Nutmeg, Centifolia Rose, Orange Flower and a rich, sweet Jasmine. The herbal opening was Angelica, and it was like a little Trojan horse –while I was smelling it and trying to figure out what it was doing, all these lovely floral notes sneaked in. I know some people do not care for Angelica, but in this perfume it does not dominate or give off that odd wetness it can sometimes have. It is beautifully balanced with the florals, and matches especially well with the Orris that chimes in a little later. The overall effect of the florals and the spice was like a subtly sweet carnation to me, the kind of Garden Pink that smells so delicious on a sunny day. An Ambergris base gives it excellent longevity. Eau de Coquette was made using the actual notes of an 18th century perfumer who made a perfume very like this one for Madame du Barry, and my hat is off to Monsieur Jean-Louis Fargeon – he really knew how to make a good perfume. I am delighted that an old formula like this can be brought to life again; if this is any indication of the fragrances common to the 18th century, I say let’s resurrect more of them.

As Eau de Coquette is intended for evening seduction, so is the other Madame du Barry inspired scent meant for day wear. It is called Eau de la Favourite and it is definitely of a different style, although it is also based on a formula by the same perfumer as its sister scent. It begins with a delicious burst of orange and lemon flowers, and then quickly becomes a lightly sweet Iris scent with an unusual “carroty” quality, which turned out to be Daucus accord– also known as “Queen Anne’s Lace” or wild carrot. Some synthetics were used to recreate this unusual note; otherwise this is 96.5% natural botanicals. Orris root imparts a velvety smooth Violet note to the composition. My only quibble with Eau de la Favourite was that opening did not last long enough for me – the fresh orange is truly mouth-watering for about five minutes, then fades as the heart notes start to take over. The complete list of ingredients: Top notes of Esprit de Fleurs de l’Orange, Lemon. Heart notes: Orange Flower Absolute, Orris Concrete, and Orris Root. Base notes: Daucus accord, Eau de vie de Cognac, Mace. The cognac and spice notes are very subtle but they provide an intriguing backdrop to the rest. At first I thought it was not going to last very long, but once the opening florals subsided it became a lovely soft skin scent that really grew on me. I would recommend it for warm weather– it’s a pretty, happy fragrance that feels like a carefree summer day.

I had no idea what to expect from Cyprian, which is 100% natural and derived from a recipe for a popular wig powder and hair pomade of the era. Come to think of it. I never thought much about what a powdered wig might smell like! If this fragrance is any indication, then the royal Court must have been a pleasantly aromatic place, for this is a truly lovely perfume. It opens with intensely green Bergamot and herbal notes, and soon turns to the softest, most gentle Violet/Iris fragrance I have ever experienced. As subdued as it becomes, it lasts a long time, and it’s a poster child for the term “skin scent.” I am sometimes disappointed with overly powdery Iris perfumes, but this is not really powdery at all, despite its derivation from a hair grooming preparation. It dries down to deep mossiness that I found irresistible. It is definitely a unisex fragrance and seasonless as well, and I would gladly wear it anytime; I have never been quite so charmed by an Iris perfume as I was by this simple little gem. Notes are listed as Bergamot, Clary Sage, Orris Concrete, Orris Root, Violet Leaf Absolute, French Oakmoss and Rosewood (Bois de Rose.)

Eau de Trianon is, of course, a tribute to Marie Antoinette and her country retreat and is based on detailed notes from a perfume created for her by the talented Jean-Louis Fargeon. The Queen commissioned him to create a perfume that would remind her of her beloved gardens. It started out as a soft pastoral floral on me and then took a strange turn into sugared celery territory. The celery aroma, which naturally turned out to be Galbanum, soon subsided into a gently green herbal quality, and the sugar turned into Orange Blossom and Lemon, leaving what I would describe as a misty fragrance with a touch of melancholy, like an early morning walk before the dew evaporates. It contains Rose and Jasmine, but these are not much in evidence to my nose, as they are subordinate to the cooler notes of Jonquil, Orris and Violet Leaf as the scent’s heart notes are revealed. It is a very pretty scent but not as substantial as one would think, considering the base notes of Ambergris, Atlas Cedarwood, Benzoin and Vanilla Absolute. The benzoin I do get, but the wood and vanilla are very faint. I think this one is probably much more true to itself in Parfum strength. The citrus notes were surprisingly persistent to the end.

In contrast to the wistful Eau de Trianon, Mille-Fleurs Bouquet goes on rich and heady. Opening with Cassie, Lavender and citrus notes, it bursts with Rose Geranium and profoundly scented Gallica Rose Otto, as well as Jasmine, Orange Flower and Violet. Ambrette Seed, Brazilian Vetiver and Vanilla Absolute make for a lovely drydown and excellent longevity. The rather frilly name notwithstanding, this would be suitable for men and women alike. There is quite a lot of Lavender in this but I did not find it to be at all medicinal or overpowering. It seems to be much more about the flowers than the leaves and thus is not as intrusive or dominant as it can be in some perfumes. Mille-Fleurs Bouquet was another “sneaker” for me – it seemed conventional enough at first but as it developed I kept finding new and different things to love about it. Despite the high floral count it has a fresh and vivid air, and the generous dose of vetiver ensures that it never gets sweet. It reminds me of the tumbling exuberance of a cottage garden where the herbs and blossoms intertwine and mingle their essences together to create an oasis of olfactory pleasure.

One of the “curses” of having a very sensitive nose is dealing with smells that are not good. I cannot stand the smell of cilantro, also known as coriander. The fresh leaves of this love-it-or-hate-it plant are barely tolerable to me when mixed in with other ingredients and unbearable alone. The origin of this aversion is a bad garden experience I had many years ago - I decided to grow some cilantro in my garden. (At that time, I did not dislike it.) The mistake I made was in smelling the fresh green seeds – far more concentrated in their odor than the leaves, they were so repulsive that they put me off the fresh stuff altogether. But something magical happens when coriander seed is allowed to ripen and then dry completely; they develop a warm and savory taste and aroma that I love. So I was pleasantly surprised to find Coriander seed present in abundance in Pot-Pourri de Pompadour, a re-creation of a traditional wet potpourri recipe. It is just delectable, a zingy herbal blend that perked up my senses the moment I put it on. It may have been made from a formula for a room fragrance, but my skin loved it. I can’t imagine a better way to wake up on a summer morning than to splash this stuff on. The complete list of notes: Coriander Seed, Crushed Mint, Lavender Flower, Rosemary, Allspice, Egyptian Rose Geranium, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Palma Rosa, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Jonquil, Orris Root. If only all homes smelled this good.

The perfume I tried first from this group, and then put away until I could focus on them completely, was the gorgeous Reinette. Similar in its headiness to Mille-Fleurs Bouquet, it has the added dimension of Hyacinth in its composition, along with Carnation and Tuberose. It is flagrantly romantic yet fresh and lifelike, and again is not overly sweet despite the abundance of florals. (In fact, none of these scents are, which leads me to believe that today’s overly sugared perfumes must have a lot of synthetics in them to create that impression, along with too much cheap vanilla and other things that mask overall poor quality.) It is a tribute to Jeanne Poisson, the Marquise de Pompadour, the most influential mistress of Louis XV and the person most responsible for introducing the art of bathing to the Court, for which we all must be very grateful indeed. Hyacinth was said to be her favorite flower, which seems perfect for a woman who loved cleanliness. Cassie and Rose soften its airy sharpness, but the centerpiece of this “little Queen” of a perfume is the delicious Hyacinth, also a favorite of mine, and wearing it made me feel like a Queen of luxury. Try this one if you want to be noticed.

Le Roi Soleil is of course, named for Louis XIV The Sun King himself, and it’s worth of bearing the name. It is meant to be a masculine scent, and it succeeds admirably in that regard, but I enjoyed wearing it very much and I think anyone else would too. It is the most complex of The Perfumed Court series, as befits a monarch. Opening with the high notes of Bergamot and Lime Peel, it becomes warm and spicy as it develops. Carnation and Clove are much in evidence as well as a very high quality Orange Blossom and the pleasing warmth of Oregano. It is the most sophisticated in composition of this group, with base notes that include two kinds of Oakmoss, Frankincense and Leather. It is possible to glimpse the origin of today’s perfume blends with this kind of scent. Smooth and elegant, it could be presented as a modern introduction by a major house and no one would be the wiser. While it is technically modern, of course, it is made of natural materials with only a trace of animalic synthetics, being 98.9 % naturally sourced. I found the leather and oakmoss drydown to be exceedingly pleasing, and the intertwining of the incense and ambrette seed with these elements made it downright addictive. Its construction is traditional but it has enough of a twist to it to make it very interesting. I would stack Le Roi Soleil up against any prestige men’s fragrance available today. Full list of notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Lime Peel, Rosemary, Rosewood Sweet Orange, Carnation Absolute, Clove Bud, Esprit de Fleurs d’Oranger, Esprit de Lavande, Grandiflorum Jasmine, Origanum, Ambergris, Ambrette Seed, Brown Oakmoss, Castoreum, Frankincense, Green Oakmoss, Infusion of Leather, Sweet Birch. (Did I mention I am a birch lover? And that it pairs superbly with incense?)

* * * ** * * ** * * ** * * ** * * *
This concludes the DSH Perfumes series. It is by no means a complete list of all of the DSH offerings, for there are many more to explore. It is more of an overview of the impressive variety to be found within the line. (I am already starting to miss having a new one to try almost every day.) Please bear in mind that I only sampled the Parfums des Beaux Arts and none of the Essense series of Aromatherapy oils. That is a whole different world, which I hope to explore someday soon. I must say that now that I know how high the quality of the offerings I would not hesitate to order either the oils or perfumes, even untested. Of all the ones I tried only a few did not suit me but their quality was not the issue, rather my own chemistry and/or preferences.

One thing that really emerged as I tested each perfume was how they presented themselves right at the beginning – since they are mostly natural, there is no opening blast of aldehydes or other materials that distract from the perfume’s true character, and they are not overloaded with alcohol either. So many of today’s perfumes are made so that the top notes “sell” the scent and they are laden with top-heavy ingredients so that the perfume may be unrecognizable after thirty minutes on the skin, and then it’s a disappointment, like those buildings on Old West movie sets that are nothing but flat fronts propped up in back. The DSH scents do change with time like any other of course, but there is an immediate accessibility about them – their character is apparent from the beginning and they don’t switch identities once they have captivated the wearer. In this way they are more like classics from an older perfume house, despite their mostly modern feel, than the scents made in today’s laboratories and approved by focus groups.

My other impression is the great diversity within this line. If I count only some of my very favorite ones, I come up with a full spectrum of fragrances for a scent wardrobe. Consider the rich decadence of Mahjoun, the damp tropical languor of Padme Lotus, the gauzy delicacy of Cielle, the delicious contradiction of Piment et Chocolat, the intriguing masculinity of Le Roi Soleil and Jitterbug for Men, the mystery of Arome d’Egypt or the heartbreaking melancholy of Memory and Desire No. 1. Hard to believe they are all the products of one perfumer, but the common thread of dedication to natural materials and consistent high quality ties them together.

I would like to offer a sampler of these perfumes, gambler’s choice only, so if you would like to be included, please indicate your interest in the comments section. The winner’s name will be announced the week after this post appears. (Some of them will not be full vials, but there will be enough for one or two wearings in each.)

Image credits: The famous Hall of Mirrors at Versailles from; Rococo style portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour by artist François Boucher from

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Tom Ford Champaca Absolute: Perfume Review

A fail-proof way to create a perfume I am guaranteed to like is to make it smell Like a Chanel. Or what is my idea of a Chanel (forgive me for quoting myself, in a review of Beige):
"...abstract, complex, and, regardless of whether it is full of natural ingredients or totally synthetic, (...) man-made, for a lack of a better term."
...In other words, to make it smell as a Proper Perfume (again in my interpretation):
" smell of no particular ingredient but rather to appear as an amalgamation of several, almost indistinguishable notes ... to interpret its inspiration in a non-literal, non-obvious manner ... to smell man-made, not found-in-nature."
Clearly, the Tom Ford Beauty team has decided to follow my requirements (as every perfume-creating team should by the way!) and to create a Proper Perfume. They also were clearly aware than I have always been a big fan of Cold Perfumey Florals (a category made up by moi and thus very subjective) in vein of Chanel's Beige, Gardenia and Hermes's 24, Faubourg. In his new Champaca Absolute, Tom Ford created a bespoke Cold Perfumey Floral fragrance for yours's just that he doesn't know it.

So much does Champaca Absolute remind me of Beige - in concept not in notes!- that I could almost take my old review, change freesia and frangipani for champaca and jasmine and be done with it. When I say, in concept, I mean that, like Beige, Champaca Absolute strikes me as being "a cold, somewhat arrogant beauty, a "better than thou" scent." For most parts, it is a stylized floral bouquet, a chic and meticulous arrangement made of flowers that have been grown and pampered in an exclusive orangery with man-controlled environmental conditions...and not of those you gather in the wild, carelessly bring home and put in a rustic vase in a haphazard manner.

Having said that, there IS a very green and very natural part right after the heady, tiny bit boozy (cognac, Tokaii (yes, it is that specific) wine and the naturally drunken davana) floral top notes subside, where it might seem that -oh the horror!- the bouquet could indeed have come from some kind of unruly forest...for some time, Champaca Absolute just smells so...real and untamed. I suspect that what gives the silken blend of champaca, jasmine and orchids that ragged, dry, windswept edge is the broom note (in Beige, it was hawthorn). And then the wild note disappears, sleek bob smoothed, slinky dress straightened, face back to its expression of polite superiority. Nature? One has never been to nature, nature is too dirty and uncontrollable. And one has never heard of Oliver Mellors either.

What's remarkable is how remarkably filthy the drydown smells on my skin, not animalic-filthy like musk or civet but more like mineral-rooty-filthy...whatever it is in the inoffensive-sounding base of vanilla, amber, marron glace (!) and sandalwood that makes it smell up to good I do not know. But I suppose that what it shows is that you can take champaca out of the wild but you can't take the wild out of champaca.

Available at Nieman Marcus, $180.00-$450.00 for 50ml-250ml of -very, very long-lasting- Eau de Parfum.

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