Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Guerlain Les Voyages Olfactifs: Moscow, Tokyo, New York and a Prize Draw
I am not going to comment on the size of the bottles. Because...well, we've been through that so many times since the arrival of Les Exclusives de Chanel. I shall not analyze whether Les Voyages Olfactifs fragrances suit the cities for which they are named. Because if you are willing to stretch an idea, anything will suit anything.
Paris-Moscou. Flowerbomb Lite. A more graceful, more floral, slightly less sweet version of the same candied-flowers idea. There is a certain refinement of a long pedigree that even such conventionally pretty representatives of the noble Guerlain family as Moscow, Nuir d'Amour and Plus Que Jamais can't help but possess. As witnessed by the three aforementioned fragrances, Guerlain is very capable to produce this kind of high quality olfactory pop music. I wish they made them widely available as there is nothing exclusive about them, instead of a lot of stuff they market widely. Although Moscou has a certain smoky sort of darkness in the base, I did not get either the promised absinthe or the pine needles I so longed for. Nevertheless, a very, very pretty little scent. If it fell into my lap...and, being of a considerable size and weight, not broke it...I'd wear it when a disco roller girl mood strikes me. You probably don't need it if you have: Flowerbomb.
Paris-Tokyo. For those who like this green-tea-citrus-jasmin-pinch-of-sugar sort of thing, this will be exactly the sort of thing they like, only more expensive and in a bigger bottle. This is the opposite of what I am attracted to, but I find it -here is the word again- very pretty. Tokyo is fresh and transparent, but not overly so, because I don't think that, even at their most un-guerlain-iest, Guerlain are capable of a lot of transparency. Tokyo is not sweet, but that pinch of sugar keeps it from being too bland and pale. You probably don't need it if you have: Thé Pour un Été.
Paris-New York. The most interesting of the three. But only inasmuch as I am predisposed to automatically find spice-resins-oriental fragrances the most interesting in any group of scents. Then I let them develop and realize that it has been done and done much more interestingly before. The woody-incensey accord in New York has a very attractive leather quality, the cinnamon does not overpower other ingredients, and vanilla, while kept to a minimum, still manages to give the blend a certain fluffy-powdery voluptuousness. You probably don't need it if you have: a lot of stuff by Serge Lutens.
Image source, firstluxe.com
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Weekend Beauty- Nail Polish: Strangebeautiful Library No 2
Strangebeautiful™ offers "libraries" of nail polishes, which change every season. Each library consists of 8 polishes, which can only be bought as a set. Strangebeautiful's intent is to develop a new creative approach to nail color and position themselves more as an accessory rather than just a nail color line. The polishes are 3 Free. So far there has been two libraries, I had a chance to try on the second one, released for Spring 2009.
The bottles, rather irritatingly, have no names on them (and to me, the names of polishes are half the fun!), so I am going by the descriptions on Luckyscent with some and will make up the names for the others:
"The dull red color of a lobster shell" or one might call it brick-red. I like these kinds of muted, rusty reds. The polish was thick enough to be suffcient in two coats and applied smoothly:
"The dark dense saturated black purple inspired by the venerable J. Herbin ink company founded in 1670." More of a purple-indigo, perhaps. Again, great consistency, a 2-coater.
"The slate blue color of a uniform in an 1846 Currier print," my second favorite in the library. Somewhat reminiscent of Rescue Beauty Launge Stromy, only darker and bluer. Perfect application.
Then there were two "mustards" (term mine):
"The Brown Mustard" is ...inexplicable color-wise. I am sorry but it looks like...no, never mind. Perhaps, it just really, really clashed with my skin tone. No problems with application though.
"The Yellow Mustard"- a wonderfully original, muted yet bright (that's right) color, which did not flatter my skin tone, but which I loved nevertheless
"The Taupes" were easy for me to like. I only have about a dozen of these sorts of shades in my collection.
"The Grayer Taupe" had the mushroomy quality that I love:
"The Warmer Taupe" reminded me pleasantly of the color of baked milk:
But the best, to me, was "The Olive Green" polish. It had the muted, earthy quality, a slight gray undertone, it was like nothing else I own or have often seen in other lines.
Overall, I thought that the Library No 2 offered fairly unique, earthy and edgy shades. The polishes applied well, had great coverage, dried fast. Would it be worth it for me to splurge on a $79.00 set for just the olive, the slate and the two taupes...I am thinking about it.
Available at Luckyscent.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Strange Invisible Perfumes Aquarian Roses: Perfume Review
Like every great magic trick, every great perfume consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge". But while during this stage a magician usually shows something ordinary and normal, a perfumer more often than not has to attract one's jaded attention with the striking and the unexpected. No one is more adept at that than Alexandra Balahoutis, whose perfumes are notorious for being "odd" in the beginning. I would not call the top notes of Aquarian Roses outright weird, but the piney, herbaceous aroma of marjoram opening a rose perfume is unexpected, and the realism of the rose accord is stunning.
The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary object and makes it do something extraordinary. The perfumer has to make sure that the middle notes live up to the nose-catchiness of the beginning of the composition. And thus the marjoram leaves suddently turn into...underwater plants?...the saline, seaweedy quality in a rose fragrance is unusual and exciting...but where are the roses?
Cutter will tell you that making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. And that is the third act of a magic trick, the hardest part, the part that is called "The Prestige"...Will Balahoutis pull it off and make the very true-to-life roses from the first part come back...and most importantly of all- and this is what the trick was really all about- would, in the finished creation, those be the roses that I will love and be able to wear?...Are you watching closely? The aquatic plant transforms into a rose and the base accord takes the rose and leads into the familiar, time-honored union with sandalwood. Do I love it? I love it! Love the herbal start, the salty middle and the proper-perfumey, strangely old-fashioned end.
Available at Siperfumes.com and Barneys, $175.00-$210.00
The image, the quotes and the general inspiration for the review are courtesy of one of my favorite movies, The Prestige.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Scents by Alexis Venus in Furs, Eve's Revenge and Vixen and a Giveaway
The final three scents in my package, I'd covered the other ones here and here.
Venus in Furs lists spicy amber, freesia, vanilla and florals. There's a powdery note to it that keeps is just this side of Velvet Underground, but only just; it's sweet young flesh doing rather outre things at places like the Chelsea hotel. Karl writes "This is your secret password". I might be a touch too old to enter that club..
Eve's Revenge is so not me: a green apple sweetness that reminds me of candy or gum. Luckily that's just the opening. It deepens into amber, still sweet, but then this is Eve's revenge not Adam's.
Vixen gets back into territory I'm happier in: coffee and berries, bone dry with that sly sillage and a bright blackberry note that's delightful.
All of these are available at her website in I might add some really gorgeous hand-finished bottles.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Czech & Speake Cuba: Perfume Review
These days I am in a mood for scents whose spiciness is fresh or whose freshness has a dark and piquant depth. The examples would be Piment Brulant, Piper Nigrum and Poivre 23. Cuba by Czech & Speake is my latest discovery in this genre. "Inspired by the old town of Havana, its Latin rhythms, smooth cigars, fine rums and exotic beauties," the scent...lives up to its inspiration.
Multi-layered and multi-sided, Cuba is an exciting scent to wear, because it inclines you to pay attention to its development. It is interesting to monitor the change from sutbly sweet and delicately mentholated top notes, with their distinct boozy undertone of rum, to the warmer, spicier middle accord of cloves and roses enveloped in a mellow tobacco mist...to the richer and simultaneously somewhat sharper base notes of frankincense, woods and vetiver. I love it when complexity is rendered so harmoniously. The seamlessness of its blend, the familiar softness of its tobacco, the uplifting quality of its incense, makes Cuba as unexpectedly comforting and calming as it is invigorating. It's muy, muy bien!
Available at Cambridge Chemists, Czech & Speake and Luckyscent
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
In Praise of a Sonia Rykiel
Friday, June 19, 2009
Czech & Speake Frankincense and Myrrh: Perfume Review
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Scents by Alexis Duchess, White Sable and Goddess
Last time we covered three of nine of Alexis Karl's delicious perfume oils, today we will look at three more,
Goddess according to Ms. Karl contains vanilla and jasmine. It also has a nuttiness to it that reminds me a bit of Parfumerie Generale's Aomassai, minus what March call the a$$ part. Well, maybe just a touch, but it a very goddessey sort: innocent, Rubensesque and very sexy. The jasmine and citrus cut the sweetness, and although it's not listed I think I smell lily of the valley. Yum.
Duchess is a literal eye-opener, with a rich dark chocolate that smells like of has a hint of both coffee and raspberry before I get the best smelling simulacrum of a fresh pear I've ever run across. If you've been reading my reviews over the past (is it really nearly?) three years here you would think that I would back away making the sign of the cross, but it's by far my favorite of the bunch thus far.
White Sable on the other hand was a miss for me, my skin took it's white flowers and vanilla and made it seem just strange, kind of like the scent of high-end nail polish. Which would make it a great Etat Libre scent, but isn't what I imagine Ms. Karl wanted it to do. I'd love to read how others found it.
Next time, the other three in the package, and a giveaway.
Available at her website, $100/ 1oz, $175/ 2 oz
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
L'Eau Par Kenzo Eau Indigo Pour Homme
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Profumum Volo AZ 686: Perfume Review
Named for the Alitalia flight from Rome to Caracas, Volo AZ 686 blends "the scent from coconut palms and flowers of thousand colors, the swings of a hammock and a cocktail in my hand" (from profumum.com). In other words, les vacances in a bottle.
Scents about summer vacations are many. Gardenia perfumes are not. Especially not those that offer such a multifaceted interpretation of the aroma. The composition starts with coconut and vanilla, about which we are warned by the list of notes, and I suppose they are necessary in both the gardenia and "exotic journey" perfume. They do serve nicely as a cuddly cushion to soften the impact of what comes next. And next comes something strikingly mentholated, a note chilly and sharp, in a manner that I find very appealing. Think Tubereuse Criminelle. To enhance the edgy effect, the flowers here have a distinctly rubbery quality, a characteristic that is simultaneously urban and organic-mineral. Volo AZ 686 takes its time to get to this final rubbery gardenia accord on the skin, it unfolds slowly, making sure all layers of the blend are noticed.
Because of the menthol and the rubber, this is probably a perfume that either really works with one's chemistry or clashes with it dramatically. Because of the subversive, dark and resolutely non-girly side of the scent (the side that dominates the mix, unlike the brief coconut-vanilla cliché in the top notes), men could and should wear this gardenia.
Available at luckyscent, $240.00 for 100ml.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Boadicea Pure and Benefit Laugh with Me Lee Lee
These days, I am consistently finding myself being drawn to fresher fragrances. Only a year or so ago, my favorite scent in any line invariably would have been the darkest, the leather-iest, the skankiest. These days, when presented with a collection of perfumes, I often choose the freshest one as my favorite. I scare myself. The other day I tried Boadicea the Victorious perfumes, and I liked neither Intense, nor Seductive, Complex or Exotic, but Pure. Pure! The clean, comforting non-smell of a white t-shirt...I was attracted by the almost aldehydic and understated sparkle of the citrus top notes, by the way basil and juniper tempered the would-be robustness and sweetness of the base of sandalwood, patchouli and vanilla. There was an easy grace about Pure, something a little bit child-like...It was the comfort of the familiar, of the neutral...the calming, soft energy of the color white.
Similarly, in the new collection of scents by Benefit, inspired by the Royal Crescent in Bath (and oh the presentation! the 10 year old girl in me squeeled in delight), I surprised myself by enjoying Laugh with Me Lee Lee the most, the girly blend of blackcurrant, melon, violet, lily and amber. Seemingly uncomlicated, it is in fact rather cleverly built on a contrast of the fresh (melon, lily) and sweetly-fluffy (violet, amber). After starting fruity-green, almost a little watery, the scent becomes more substantial, more fleshy, with the violet note revealing surprising and appealing creaminess. Paired with something that I can't help but interpret as minty, violet here has the same warm-cold quality as its counterpart in Aimez-Moi. In fact, I am tempted to call Laugh with Me Lee Lee something of Aimez-Moi Light, Fraiche or Summer.
Boadicea the Victorious perfumes are right now available at Harrods and are soon coming to Luckyscent. The Crescent Row trio will be available in Sephora, Macy, etc in July.
Have your tastes undergone a striking change as of late? Do share!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Aftelier Cassis: Perfume Review
In Russian, when something has started to ferment and turn into an alcoholic beverage, we say that it забродило (zabrodilo), literally -wandered off. The blackcurrant in Mandy Aftel's Cassis has definitely wandered off from the innocent dacha of my childhood and into places where my mama entreated me never to go.
Corrupted with rum, smoke and spice, this is not your granny's blackcurrant jam. Drunken, dissolute, debauched, this is currant gone bad, really, really bad. As always, when a note in perfume "goes bad", in a sense that it acquires this boozy, very ripe, husky quality, I go right after it. Aftelier's Cassis makes me think of an unknown liquor...which I would very much like to know...if rum was distilled from berries and not molasses, this is what it would smell like...add to that thick, piquant, sweet fragrance the aroma of old oak barrels...stored in a dark cellar...in a house of someone your mama wouldn't want you to know...and you have an idea of Aftelier Cassis.
To smell it for yourself, luckily (?) you don't have to visit mechant loup in his lair. Cassis is available at Aftelier.com, Henri Bendel, Blunda and Suendhaft, $150.00 for 1/4oz.
Image, by Carter Smith, is from art+commerce.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Caron L'Anarchiste: Perfume Review
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Monday, June 08, 2009
Frederick Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur: Perfume Review
Wandering around the neighborhood I saw that Barneys Wilshire Boulevard were devoted to the new Dominique Ropion scent for Frederick Malle, described in the press as one that will "that will thrill fans of mint".
Well, they ain't lying.
The first few seconds have the initial freshness of Eau Sauvage, something like that bright pettigrain note immediately joined by the warmth of clove. Then the mint comes in. I'm not a big fan of mint in perfumes, so perhaps I am not the person this scent was designed for; this is capital "M" minty. Chopped fresh mint with crushed Altoids rolled in Dentyne minty. Yep, it's mint. Luckily the mint is joined by a surprisingly earthy geranium note and the spicy clove sticks around to keep the whole thing from becoming too brush-your-breath bright. The base is a lovely white musk with sandalwood and a whisper of the geranium. I don't think it's especially screaming "No Girls Allowed"; I can see if being a lovely summer scent for a woman. I'm not quite convinced that it's necessarily a must have, since there are about three scents that I can think of that are about $35 on the internets that cover this territory, as does FM's own French Lover. But I did find it growing on me more and more over the weekend, I may yet fall.
I didn't get the price when I was at Barneys, but I assume that it's about the same as the others, anywhere from $125-150 for 50ML.
Next week, back to Alexis Karl.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Weekend Beauty: At last, truly matte eye shadows from Revlon, and Lancôme’s Spring 2009 color winners
Shopping for just the right eye shadow can be frustrating if you can’t try it first. So many of them appear different in the pan than how they actually look on your lids. For me, the biggest problem is finding colors are both age-appropriate and flattering, as well as being fun to wear. I love color, but if it’s too pastel or too bright it looks odd on me, as much as I might like it in theory. The other problem is shine – so often I find what I think will be a good one but it has too much glitter for daytime wear, or in my case too much glitter period – my eyelids are starting to get a little middle-aged like the rest of me so a lot of sparkle just does not work.
Recently I had the pleasure of having a makeup application from the Lancôme national team at my local Macy’s. They were running a promotion for the spring color line and the goody bag offer was even better than their usual GWP so I made an appointment. I asked the makeup artist to try out some new eye colors on me, since I was in the market for change. She obliged with a fabulous smoky eye look in a blend of burgundy and brown shades that made my hazel mossy green/brown eyes look really green. So I bought the Le Stylo Waterproof Long Lasting Eyeliner ($23.50) in Prune from that session; it is an automatic pencil style liner that has a smudging sponge on the other end and the color is fabulous. (Now I want it in all the other colors!)
The GWP had a Color Design quad shadow and two of the colors are Waif, a silky-smooth pinky-taupe and Latte, a pretty cream color, both matte shadows that are really flattering. These shades are part of the Color Design ($16.50 for the singles) range in the spring 2009 lineup and I recommend them highly. However, I also wanted to re-create the smoky eye look in a budget-friendly way, so I went looking for a shadow color to go with my new liner and the Latte/Waif shades.
Who knew how hard it would be to find just the right one! So many colors and formulas, and so few in the right color range to complement the Prune eyeliner, a brownish purple. Even more annoying is how many that came close were too violet or blue and/or had too much shine for my taste. I finally found exactly what I was looking for, at a very friendly drugstore price: the new Revlon Matte eye shadows. The color range is limited but some new ones were added recently, one of which was precisely what I was looking for, Aubergine. It is a perfect companion to my new eyeliner and it goes on smoothly and blends very easily. As a bonus, the Peach Sorbet shade makes a great shadow base for any other colors or a highlight shade on its own, and it is rare to find a truly matte formula in this pretty icy peach color. It really “wakes up” your look. Best of all, they are only $4.99 each and the size is very generous. I am pondering getting a couple more, since it’s really hard to find a good teal or dark blue with no sparkle. Watch for specials and coupons from Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, and Target etc. on these winning products.
Image credits: Revlon Matte shadows in Peach Sorbet and Aubergine from walgreens.com. Lancome quad with Latte, Waif, Mannequin and The New Black, eBay.com. (This was my GWP quad – Waif and Latte are on top. Mannequin is also very pretty, though slightly shimmery)
Friday, June 05, 2009
Parfums Delrae Mythique: Perfume Review
In the last couple of years, iris perfumes have, in my humble opinion, over-saturated the market, turning the fairly precious ingredient into something ubiquitous and thus no longer exciting. Or maybe I simply never have been that much into iris, and after a couple (dozen) of releases I was done with the note. Mythique, Yann Vasnier's (not Michel Roudnitska's, thank you for correction!) new creation for DelRae revives my interest in all things orris.
Inspired by the legendary courtesan Diane de Poitiers, the scent is a simultaneously playful and classic take on iris. If you wanted a raw, "natural"-smelling orris, this is probably not the scent for you. This is a perfumey iris, imaginatively adorned with other ingredients and gallantly stylized. Totally suited for a courtesan in a way that the earthy-streamlined-realistic Iris Pallida is not.
I like the fresh, slightly sweet juiciness that citrus fruits in the top notes lend to iris, the note that fairly often tends to be quite dry. I love the rosy glow that peony puts on its ordinarily pale cheeks and the way jasmine highlights the sensual side of orris, a side not often enough brought up in iris perfumes. And I adore the way sandalwood, ambrette and patchouli create a leathery quality in the base of Mythique, giving its flirtaceous, vivaceous, girly femininity a dark, subversive depth. If Mythique had an ad campaign, it would be shot by Ellen Von Unwerth. If I had to compare Mythique to other iris scents, I would say that the rich, honeyed, again, perfumey way the note is interpreted here, made me think of the late and lameted L'Artisan Orchidee Blanche and Editions de Parfums Iris Poudre.
Right now Mythique is available at First in Fragrance, €145.00, or Les Senteurs, £110.00
Image, obviously, is by Ellen Von Unwerth. Yes, I know that it is stylized for an epoch later than Poitiers's, but it fits my impression of the fragrance.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Scents by Alexis Black Valentine, Minx and Femme Fatale
It's been a long road for me to learn to appreciate perfume oils. Originally I dismissed them all as being godawful things that popped up every now and again in health food stores reeking of cheap patch with the staying power of a freshly startled skunk. Luckily, perfumers like Liz Zorn and Roxana Villa have been able to teach me an appreciation for well done oils.
Alexis Karl does well done oils.
Black Valentine manages to be gorgeously gourmand and wonderfully flowery at the same time. The combination of tuberose and caramel is spellbinding: on my skin it almost becomes chocolaty. I never thought that chocolate covered tuberose would be something I'd care to smell like. Live and learn..
Femme Fatale is real old-style Hollywood Glamour: amber, jasmine and ylang-ylang that fairly cries out for bias-cut silk. It's retro-glam punch is mitigated by crystalline brightness (I think there's some kind of citrus in there) that makes it completely wearable. It's the perfect scent for releasing your inner Bacall.
Minx is distinctly different and one that's going to be a love/hate scent. It opens with a winey bitter cocao accord. For a while there seems to be a distinct hazelnut scent to it, ubtil stewed fruits and a distinct merlot scent comes forward and it goes from love/hate to love/need.
There are six others in the range that I have samples of, should I go on?
Available at her website, $100/ 1oz, $175/ 2 oz