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Friday, October 30, 2009

Spooky Scent

By Paul

October 31st conjures many memories for me. In my early twenties, I bought a used Chevy Impala on that date, which I named “Vlad, the Impala.” But I digress.

Welcome to my (lab)oratory on a perfume for Halloween. Now, I DO already know … thanks to my vast untapped knowledge of fragrances … ah who am I kidding … on my ability to Google, about Halloween Perfume by Jesus Del Pozo for Women.

But like always, why would I want to buy one, when I can create my own?

I draw my inspiration from Vincent Price’s “rap” in the song ‘Thriller’ … and in particular, two lines from that ‘rap’.

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years

Has anyone ever used human blood as a perfume ingredient I wonder? Then again, you want to go to your Halloween party a little more vamp, and a little less vampire.

Pumpkin might be an interesting choice. Every year at this time, there always seems to be a release of pumpkin spice coffee available, and while it tastes better than it sounds, I just don’t see it as arousing to anyone this side of Peter Peter Pumpkin eater.

So now, with the help of my faithful (and imaginary) assistant, Igor … let the work begin.

I will start with rightwing of Newt (Gingrich)

And eye of Batman

The seed of a virtuous young Robert Pattison

And …

Nah, that’s not gonna work.


(Sorry, I often shout that inexplicably in my lab)

Well I am just going to toss some stuff in a hopper, see how it goes, and then even if it is the foulest stench in the air, I’ll just throw some celeb’s name on it and get the Madison Ave boys to spew some artsy dream-like ad campaign.

“I need more clouds! Get me dry ice. Someone put more twigs in that sprite’s hair! Now tango across that conference table, not foxtrot! This is a perfume commercial, not Tom Delay promotional stunt! Work with me people!”

I don’t know how you go about extracting the scent from things but I quote Freddie Prinze in “Chico and the Man” … “It’s not my job man.”

So into the hopper (picture a big boiling witch’s pot) go the extracted scents of all the scary things I can think of apart from Dick Cheney.

* Some graveyard soil … that ashy, misty, mossy night time dew (zombie scent)
* Embalming fluid (mummy scent)
* Something woodsy like a wooden stake (vampire scent)
* Garlic (anti vampire scent)


Then apply a little behind each neck bolt and you’re good to go.


I call this concoction “Ghoul Power”

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hallowe'en Treat: Phoenix Myster by Roxana Illuminated Perfumes

By Tom

A few days ago, perfumer Roxana Villa emailed Justify Fullme with news of a new product- inspired by yours truly. My first reaction was of course, pride since the only thing I had previously inspired would have been mild distaste. Then I felt some fear; what if I hate it? Well, I pretty much knew that wouldn't happen because of the notes (from her site)

- Vanilla: warm and inviting
- Benzoin: purifying, when combined with spice acts an an attractor
- Myrrh: (for the nest) enhances contemplation
- Dragons Blood Resin from a small indigenous village in the Amazon.
- Spices: invigorating, energizing, spell enhancing and uplifting
- Orange: uplifting

I do admit googling "Dragon's Blood Resin" to see if it was for real and lo and behold it is. It's a resin with some medicinal purposes. Vanilla, myrrh, spices and orange are of course right up my alley.

Pheonix Myster is written of in her blog as a celebration of my favorite time of year, Fall. For me it's a time of renewal and contemplation, planning for the upcoming winter and the promise of spring. Growing up in New England fall was a time for putting up preserves, making leaf piles, that nip in the air requiring cashmere sweaters and lit fireplaces. I used to drive on the cold days to school in my little red FIAT Spyder with the top down wearing a scarf, marveling at the beauty of the leaves turning, an experience I was able to recreate with my BFF Bitsy last year in a borrowed Honda S2000. It was just as sublime an experience years later and better shared (and it was nice to not have to crank the car..).

While Roxana writes about Samhain and the celebration when time of year when the "veil between worlds are at their thinnest" the balance of notes neatly straddle the world of my memories and the world of the Druids. Maybe that's the point. Citrus dominates the opening, and never leaves the composition completely. The vanilla and the spices keep it somewhat foody, but not sweet; sort of like walking into a house where someone had been making really good marmalade. Benzoin and myrrh add shadows: those worlds of memory and mysticism merging.

Phoenix Myster is at once as warm and inviting as a rambling country house, but with a touch of October Country darkness making it perfect for this season.

Phoenix Myster is available at her e-shop $25.00 for 1 OZ spray

Image source, Roxana Illuminated Perfume.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thankyous, apologies, disclaimers, promises and winners

Thank you for your patience with the sporadic posting on the blog. I am settling into a new schedule at work and at home, but I promise that Perfume-Smellin’ Things will soon return to business as usual with five reviews a week. I have no doubt that my new working environment at International Flavors & Fragrances will be an added inspiration for the writing. Having said that, I feel it necessary to note that Perfume-Smellin’ Things is not affiliated with my employer.

I hope everybody is having a great pre-Halloween week; please, stay tuned for spooky articles from Tom and Beth, tomorrow and on Friday.

The winner of the Fall Favorite sample draw is dissed. Please, email us your address, using the contact me link on the right.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jean-Louis Scherrer then and now: A Green Chypre that never lost its edge

By Donna

One of my very first really fine perfumes was the original Jean-Louis Scherrer for women (also known as simply Scherrer), and at the time, almost a quarter of a century ago, I did not even know exactly what a chypre perfume was. I just know that I had never smelled anything quite like it and that it was light years away from the romantic florals I had favored back then. This fragrance was released in 1979 by the fashion house of Scherrer when it was still helmed by its founder and was the first of several Scherrer scents. The company was already known for its luxurious and elegant fashions meant for women of both means and a keen sense of style, and the perfume reflected this perfectly. One of my sisters was wearing Alexandra by Alexandra de Markoff around this time, and it was also a chypre, though it was denser, sweeter and perhaps a little more conventional, though still very distinctive and jam-packed with oakmoss, which was my favorite thing about it although I did not know why at the time. I went through a couple of bottles of the Scherrer in the fabulous Eau de Parfum before I moved on to something else, and somehow I never got back to wearing it, though I still loved it. Recently I took a friend who was looking for something “green” to my favorite perfume shop and she fell in love with it after I suggested it as an option. Trying it again brought the memories back to me in a rush and I craved it all over again.

I could tell that the Scherrer fragrance my friend fell for was not quite the same as my old favorite; for one thing it was an Eau de Toilette, since the EDP had been discontinued some time ago. It still packed a punch though, since one of my favorite things about it is the stupendous amount of oakmoss in the formula. The new juice is lighter in color than even the old EDT, but it’s still as distinctive in character as the original one. Now my curiosity got me looking for the older stuff so see how it compared, and as luck would have it there was a vintage bottle of EDT for sale online at a ridiculously low price, and even better, I located a mini of the vintage EDP. Fortunately for me, this is a sleeper of a scent that is not in very high demand and the appearance of the bottles is so similar that it’s easy to assume that they are all the same.

Jean-Louis Scherrer is a green chypre scent somewhat in the manner of Carven’s Ma Griffe but much less sharp on top, and though it shares the heavy dose of oakmoss it has a deeper base and exceptional lasting power due to the presence of vetiver and civet, and hyacinth, rose and jasmine add to both its haughty beauty and its longevity. The initial impression of the older version is that of the classic “perfumey” chypre, evoking images of ladies dressed in stylish suits with proper hats and gloves. Once the immediate opening is over it becomes more streamlined and modern, and it takes its place right beside Jolie Madame and the old Givenchy III as chypres for grownups, no-nonsense and powerful. The newer EDT is greener in a different way, less chewy and somewhat related in character to 1998’s Balmain de Balmain, and the moss is obviously “tree moss” rather than straight oakmoss, as it lacks the earthy astringency of the real deal, though still very tenacious, and I remember clearly that the original scent I had was darker on top, so the difference is not just due to the age of my “vintage” bottle. (It’s hard for me to think of something from only thirty years ago as vintage, since I am considerably older than that.)

When my mini of the EDP arrived I as almost afraid to open it; would it be as wonderful as I remembered? Oh, yes indeed. Darkly green to the point of danger with a massive amount of galbanum on top, honed to a fine sharpness that comes close to bitterness and absolutely dripping with oakmoss, it has an almost leathery character, veering toward being too astringent with the overwhelming oakmoss, but never getting to that point, since it is always grounded with the rich florals and animalic notes that give it such a luxurious feel. This is a perfect scent for feeling like a rich, powerful and sophisticated woman, but it’s also damned sexy with its low growl of base notes humming along below the radar. If this perfume were a person she might be actress Ida Lupino, the glamorous star who also ended up directing both movies and television shows and writing for the screen at a time when it was simply unheard of for women to have any power on the business side of Hollywood. The EDT is more than adequate for most situations, and for those who like to mix it up a little, this fragrance also makes a superb masculine. The Eau de Parfum should be deployed only when truly necessary, when either intimidation or seduction is called for. It works just fine for both.

The current Eau de Toilette is available at better perfume shops and online; check on auction sites for the vintage bottles. After trying the current formula and the older one side by side, I am happy to report that any reformulation that has occurred is minimal except for the regrettable but IFRA-mandated absence of real oakmoss, and I can recommend the modern one enthusiastically. The biggest disappointment is the lack of an EDP or Parfum to bolster the line since I know that loyal customers would snap that up like candy. Kudos to the company for keeping it as true as possible; I also tried the old and new versions of Givenchy III together recently and I was shocked at what had been done to it; the new one is somehow both dull and harsh, lacking in the sprightly herbal quality so unique to the original and flattened by overuse of synthetics. I am grateful that such a fate has not befallen Jean-Louis Scherrer, my favorite green chypre of all time.

Image credit: World War II era publicity photo of Actress Ida Lupino via

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Fall Favorites and a Prize Draw

The Weather Channel harbingers showers for NY and New England, rain and storms for TX and OK, snow across parts of the Midwest...clearly, it's time for the 2009 installment of our Fall Fragrance Hitparade. As usual, each of us chooses the most-enjoyed scent of the season; please join us in your comments and let us know, which perfume have you been reaching for the most this Autumn.

Féminité du Bois EDP by Shiseido (original version)
Ah, Féminité du Bois, where have you been all my life, you gorgeous, grown up spicy little cedar-violet plum? What’s that you say? Sitting unloved in the back of my closet while I wore Bois de Paradis and Bois de Violette and Black Cashmere and half a dozen other things related to you, but not you, you, you, because I thought you were too rough, too much, too strange? Je suis désolé, mon amour, j’étais un imbécile.

Patchouli 24 by Le Labo
I have fallen madly in love with Le Labo’s Patchouli 24 and well if I’m going to be honest it’s actually become a bit of a personal obsession! Patchouli 24 is a smoky, sap filled passionate romp in the fall leaves mixed with just a touch of salty, leathery sweat and when I wear it I feel incredibly witchy and wantonly sexy.........

Jean-Louis Scherrer
Jean-Louis Scherrer, the original eponymous scent from 1979, has come back into my life just in time for cooler weather. My "new" vintage bottle (the current version is still wonderful) of this tenacious green chypre with its gorgeous heart of white florals and hyacinth and great walloping doses of civet, real oakmoss and vetiver that makes it last just about forever on skin makes me wonder why I ever stopped wearing it, but I won't make that mistake again.

Luctor et Emergo by People of the Labyrinths
I keep coming back to People of the Labyrinths' Luctor et Emergo this fall. Its woody, creamy opening makes me think of piles of fallen leaves, neat stacks of freshly cut firewood, and something homey -- a vanilla custard pie with an almond crust -- baking in the oven: everything that takes a chill off the thrilling October air.

Prince Diamini by Arabian Oud
Prince Diamini - an intoxicating blend of wild roses, smoldering oud, piquant spices and golden ambergris- a glowing embrace that coaxes helpless surrender.

Acqua Fiorentina by Creed
This autumn I cling to the memories of summer, of Atlantic ocean, dunes and the sun, to the feeling of warmth, completeness and content. The fresh, tangy and sweet Acqua Fiorentina brings me back to that happy place. Amazingly, for such a diaphanous creation, the scent stands up very well to the chill of fall. It must be the rounded fruitiness of the plum note, which gives this otherwise summery composition a certain autumnal depth and robustness.

Anarchy by Irma Shorell
For me it's been Irma Shorell's Anarchy, a remake of Donna Karan's Chaos. It's a warm, spicy labdanum and incense perfume, and nothing's cozier than labdanum on a chilly autumn morning!

Fumerie Turque by Serge Lutens
This fall I've found myself reaching more and more for Serge Lutens' Fumerie Turque; its languid smokiness is as warming on a cool evening as a steaming cup of tea.

If you would like to participate in a prize draw for a set of 10 autumnal samples (Marina's choice, including some of the scents on this list...maybe...let me surprise you)...say so in your comment. The winner will be chosen at random and announced next week. The draw is now closed.

Don't forget to find out what are the Fall Favorites on Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This and Perfume Posse.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cheeky: Fat Electrician by Etat Libre d'Orange

By Tom

I have to admit that Etat Libre is a house that has always come this close to making me want to purchase, but somehow never quite got there. Tom of Finland came close, and Rien came closer, while one still makes me slightly queasy. Fat Electrician has certainly come the closest yet.

I love vetiver in almost all its forms: I have and wear Malle, Lutens, Guerlain and Tauer's and love several others I've tried. Fat Electrician starts with the vetiver ripped from the ground screaming: maybe ripped from the asphalt. There's a tarry smokiness to the opening that's in-you-face and jarring, in a good way. What's even more jarring is the drydown: vanilla and myrrh make it soft and only a little earthy and a little dirty. I'm not quite sure what this has to do with the idea of workers and butt-crack and not at all sure that I want to investigate Etat's website to find their reasoning. I'll just enjoy the scent thanks..

$69 for 50ML at Henri Bendel and LuckyScent (where I asked for and received my small sample)

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

International Man of Mystery: Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque

By Donna

Not too long ago I reviewed Chergui by Serge Lutens, a fragrance I had wanted to try for a long time. It is currently in the Export range for a limited run, but another one that I was really curious about still remained elusive, a later scent with a tobacco theme, Fumerie Turque. Recently a new friend with European connections, a dashing and somewhat mysterious man at that, sent me this 2003 release that was once in the Export range for a short time a few years ago, but it never arrived at my local boutique, and so I was even more eager to sample it. It is everything I had hoped for and more.

I would certainly not call Fumerie Turque one of the “difficult” Lutens perfumes, but it does sit precariously astride the line between masculine and feminine, and if I had to choose I would say that it was intended as more of a men’s fragrance, not quite as unisex in character as Chergui, which itself tips a bit more toward the manly side. Fumerie Turque opens in a similar way, but it quickly becomes apparent that it is not quite as sweet, lacking the hay sugar note but still sweet in other more complicated ways. It shares the honey and beeswax with Chergui, and for a few seconds you might wonder if there is really a need for two tobacco scents in the line. Then it happens – the strong Turkish leaf and smoked leather arrive, and it’s a whole new animal. I do mean animal – this beast is on the prowl from the moment it hits your skin.

Chergui’s tobacco is a sweet pipe blend, while Fumerie Turque is just that - rough, strong Turkish stuff, the kind you might find in roll-your-own packets and unfiltered European cigarettes, the ones that are really, really bad for you. Although I have never smoked, I do enjoy the aroma of tobacco in its unburned state, except for cigar grade, which is just too strong and bitter and smells too much like it’s already been smoked. The Turkish style occupies the middle ground between pipe and cigar and when it’s surrounded by the sweeter elements in this scent - including currants, honey, rose, jasmine, and Peru balsam – it is simply hypnotic. It reminds me, not in smell but in concept, of another favorite Lutens of mine, Douce Amère – the bitter and the sweet are in constant flux, each one rising to the top only to be subdued by the other elements in a never-ending dance of opposites. Down at the bottom, notes of juniper and rather charmingly uncivilized patchouli make sure that the sweet parts never really win.

So, what does Fumerie Turque actually smell like? Yes, it smells of tobacco and leather and candied sweets and dark red roses, but it’s far greater than the sum of its parts.

It smells like the kind of smooth-talking bounder your mother always warned you about, and you know she was right.

It smells like James Bond in the Monte Carlo casino at 2:00 a.m. – and by James Bond I mean Sean Connery or Daniel Craig, not those other posers.

It smells like the hot, dark gaze of the stranger across the room that makes your heart leap as your eyes meet his in the silent language of desire.

It smells like transgression and hidden worlds and whispers behind beaded curtains.

It gives off its own heat like a dangerous wild animal passing too closely to your hiding place as you try not to be seen, and you feel its fierce breath as it hunts for its prey: you.

I absolutely adore it.

It makes me feel more than a little dangerous myself when I wear it, and that is an all too rare sensation in my life. Behind its candied façade is a seductive heart of darkness that’s impossible to resist.

Its lasting power is impressive, and if you put it on one day it’s still waiting to greet you the next morning like a sleepy lover, but on me something else wonderful happens too – between the currants and the leather and the honey, the long-awaited final stage of the drydown of Fumerie Turque smells like something I never thought I would find in a perfume; it gives off something very close to the aroma of a horse’s skin, warm and alive, a radiant fruity odor with an undertone of animalic wildness. That happens to be something I love very much, and finding that smell on myself because of a perfume is something delightful if totally unexpected. I like to wear it to bed so that during the night my own skin will be transformed into that velvety horse-like aroma in the morning. People who have never smelled a horse up close might think I am very strange, but anyone who has ever inhaled the delicious heat emanating from the silky neck of a magnificent equine creature will understand completely. Who knew a fragrance could make the transition from danger to comfort in such an unusual way?

Image credit: Sean Connery as James Bond via, not sure which movie it’s from, but who cares, it’s still eye candy.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Annick Goutal Myrrhe Ardente: Perfume Review

So apparently I jinxed the weather. Time to dig out comfort scents, I guess. And you know how it happens sometimes that you have a very vague idea of what you want, and think that nothing can possibly fit that idea, and then the first thing you smell is exactly what you are looking for? I had a feeling I wanted something sweet but dry, smoky but not tarry, something comforting but weird.

And voila! A random spritz of Myrrh Ardente was, miraculously, all that. Tonka bean and benzoin compliment the honeyed side of myrrh, turning the composition, in the first stages of its development, into something almost gourmand. The abundance of dark, dry, resinous wood enhances myrrh's smokiness. Midway through its development, that aspect is so strong that it becomes almost leathery but never steps into the tar territory. Then the soft, nutty sweetness of tonka softens the smoky effect, and as soon as the composition seems to have become tamed down and downright cuddly, the weird part happens. In the role of twist, of that jolie laide quality that turns a good, well-balanced perfume into an interesting perfume here is...well, myrrh itself, or more particularly its raw, mushroomy characteristic. Paired with the sweetness and the smoke, the rawness is striking and incredibly appealing.

I think, it's the beginning of a beautiful, cold and rainy weather friendship for Myrrhe Ardente and moi.

Available at Saks and Bloomingdales, $135.00-$175.00, but "masculine" bottles seem to be sold for much less at some online retailers.

Image is by Guy Bourdin.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rae of Light Part 2: Amoureuse, Eau Illuminée and Emotionelle

By Tom

The last three of the six samples I bought from her website. Just throwing that out there in advance, so I won't be investigated.

Amoureuse is tuberose. For those of you who were scared by Fracas as a child, fear not. This isn't a tigress like the Piguet or a post-modern bondage queen like Tubereuse Criminelle. This is a placid, shimmering scent that is primarily woody and quite chilly in the beginning. As Marina eventually came to a darker place with this one than I did. For her it became "thick, almost a little cloying". For me it stayed softly spicy, slightly honeyed and quite gorgeous.

Eau Illuminée was inspired by "the beauty, light and physicality of San Francisco". I've been to The City (caps are theirs..) several times and love it; I don't know it this sparkling little number is the personification (scentification?) of that place, but it's the one that I think I would like to own most of the six. Marina writes that it's a citrus "that packs a punch", and what a punch! Basil, lime and lavender are seamlessly blended into chilly perfection. Orris, tonka and labdanum warm things up like that sun peeping through that SF fog, but like a summer day in the City by the Bay, the fog is never far off.

Emotionelle opens with the most perfect melon you can imagine. If you squeezed a perfectly ripe and fulsome cantaloupe onto your forearm you still wouldn't get the melony perfection of this. I am rather averse to melon in scents, so I was trying to mentally distance myself from this stage, which is difficult, what with my forearm being in such close proximity to my face. Cedar, vetiver and spices go up against it, but that big, juicy melon just rolls over them. Soooo, not me. Maybe it's you?

These are $135 for 50ML, at her website, where I bought the samples. Also at Luckyscent, Aedes and Barneys (not all of them at Barneys online)

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rae of Light: Parfums DelRae Début, Bois de Paradis and Mythique

By Tom

First, the winner of the draw for the smell bent samples is Queen Cupcake. Please use the "contact us" button to provide your mailing address.

Parfums DelRae is the brainchild of San Francisco-based DelRae Roth, who writes that her lifelong passion for fragrance was the impetus for her creation of her line.

Début is her idea of a "sophisticated lily of the valley fragrance". I love lily of the valley, but wasn't sure that there was a deep-seated need for another one, what with Diorissimo being out there. That is until I smelled this one. An absolute delight of sparkling green lily underscored with lime; Marina writes of it as being "ladylike" and it is. But not so girly that I wouldn't spritz a bit on myself; I can see it being a bit of holy grail spring on a drab winter day.

Bois de Paradis on me opens spicy, with clove and a touch of cinnamon. Before it starts making me hungry for pie it drops delicious blackberry touched by rose. Marina, like me loved the succulent blackberry note and the balance of spice, woods and fruit that lasts for hours.

Mythique is iris with a capital "I". Orris butter, mandarin, peony and jasmine conspire to make a heady mix. Marina wrote of it as "totally suited for a courtesan" and it is, just not the way you'd think. A true courtesan beguiles all the senses: she entertains the mind as well as the body. The leathered drydown of Mythique reflects that depth.

These are $135 for 50ML, at her website, where I bought the samples. Also at Luckyscent, Aedes and Barneys (not all of them at Barneys online)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Al Shomoukh Attar by Amouage

By Marian

Although I’m not generally fond of smoky fragrances, I am enthralled by Al Shomukh’s smoldering sensuality. The note of pitch tar is a sultry foil to the fruity sumptuousness of davana, and the balsamic freshness of resinous woods beautifully contrasts with the ripe, honeyed rosiness that pervades this voluptuous composition. Vetiver adds an herbal earthiness to the scent, and there are even hints of citrus and cinnamon that keep the sweet, glowing warmth of this lush attar from becoming cloying.

Are you a fan of musk? Entwined with the animalic sensuality of oud, musk abyadh, though lacking in true smut, adds a lustiness to the scent that puts it in the sexy, rather than beautiful, category. Al Shomoukh is not a scent for the timid or feint of heart- it is a wild, alluring, and provocatively mysterious blend that is as complex as it is unusual.

Slide beneath some satin sheets, change your white light bulb for a pink one, allow Al Shomoukh to penetrate your skin, and see what happens!

Notes: Silver Oudh, vetiver, musk abyadh, Taifi rose, davana

Available at Selfridges, London $350.00 for 12 ml.

Image source, unknown, please let us know if you know the author.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Le Jardin Retrouve Le Citron Poivre: Perfume Review

All summer long I've been in a mood for "scents whose spiciness is fresh or whose freshness has a dark and piquant depth". That mood lasted well into this beautiful autumn, possibly because the weather here in NYC has been mostly spoiling us with clear skies and mild warmth. Le Citron Poivré by Le Jardin Retrouvé is my latest discovery in the fresh-&-piquant genre.

The contrast of the citrusy and spicy accords is rendered here with a light, judicious hand, neither side is overwhelming the other. The clear, dry, verdant, mouthwatering and tangy blend of citron and petit grain is perhaps somewhat more dominant in the composition than the mix of spices, but the latter is also evident at all times, practically from the first second of the perfume's life on my skin. Simple as the idea and the execution is, the complex piquant accord does gives the fragrance an additional, intriguing dimensions. Sometimes pepper jumps out from the mix to tickle the nose of the wearer, a moment the warmer spiciness of cloves and cinnamon that becomes more apparent, and -the part I enjoy the most- once in a while pimento takes the lead.

What I like about this scent is that it is neutral enough to let one go about one's own business, without taking attention away from one's day making it an ideal chilled-out, relaxing, weekend perfume. The presence of spices, however, adds a snappy twist to the composition; during the course of the day, I keep getting unexpected whiffs of pimento and cloves and wondering what is that interesting, zippy fragrance I am wearing. The fairly dry, non-frilly nature of Le Citron Poivré makes it a great shared fragrance, and being able to wear the same scent as your significant other, just like wearing his shirt around the house, has a certain smug, loved-up charm.

Le Citron Poivré is available at There you can also request any three samples for a shipping fee of €2.

Images by Rankin, Le Jardin Retrouvé.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Get Bent Part 2: smell bent Little Miss Panda, Commando, Mama Cassis and Blimey, Limey... and a Draw

By Tom

As I wrote earlier, I had the chance to sit down with the young founder and nose of the house smell bent, which launched last month here in Los Angeles. The brainchild of Sarah Lawrence graduate and self-described "scent obsessed" Brent Leonesio, smell bent was created with the idea that "perfume should be fun and shouldn't cost an arm and a leg".

Amen, sistah..

I met Brent at The Abbey in West Hollywood, where he showed me his line. I usually try not to try scents in front of the person responsible for them, in case I hate them. Luckily there was nothing to hate here: even the ones that had names that gave me pause were completely different than what my preconceived notions made me think: Frosting Monster for instance is grassy rather than sweet, Lemon Cowboy is almost equally focused on the saddle as on the citrus, Hungry Hungry Hippies manages to have both a giggle-inducing pot-brownie opening with a surprisingly urbane finish while Lucy Fur (limited, and shouldn't be) has a creamy muskiness to it that delightful.

Blimey, Limey starts off, well limey. Limey and sweet, a literal lime-ade. The lime becomes truer as it develops, becoming more peel-like becoming finally tinged with musk. It's very youthful and very fresh. I'm neither of course but I do like that it becomes more suave and less literal as it dries to it's lovely skin musk conclusion. It's not me, but then I opened..

Commando is a handsome blend of tonka and musks that he writes of as being "as close as it gets to wearing nothing at all". Actually, it's as close as it gets to wearing the impeccably clean skin of a child without skinning one to do so. Needless to say I could bathe in this.

Mamma Cassis actually made me say "wow" out loud. I was expecting a load of cassis but the initial impression is of fresh chopped mint. Black currants join in but never get too thick, being cut by the mint. A bit of Lemon Cowboy's lemongrass boots seem to stomp in near the end and that's a good thing, taking this from "whoo hoo" to immensely wearable.

Little Miss Panda is listed as pikake flower and fresh soil. Pikake is a type of jasmine grown for leis and I have to admit I have no idea what it smells like. I love a good soil smell in perfumes, and this is a good one. Panda is lightly earthy and very green: it gives the impression of bamboo without being too literal.

I'm enjoying this line a lot. The price point ($20 for 1/4 oz) is these days the new free and there are quite a few I can see myself wearing a lot of. There's certainly a lot of thought, taste and a fair bit of wit here. For all his youth (and he made me feel about 136 years old, damn him) Mr. Leonesio has a line that's wearable and fun, but not frivolous or over-the-top. One of the things he mentioned he was working on is a cumin scent; I am very much looking forward to seeing what he'll do with that note, and to see what else he has up his sleeve.

I will be giving away samples of the four scents in the title of this review; if you wish to be included in the draw, please say so in the comments. Telling me how youthful I am in real life will have no bearing on the choice of the winner.

But it can't hurt.

Image source,

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Get Bent, Part One: Interview with Brent Leonesio of smell bent

By Tom

Saturday I was able to sit down with Brent Leonesio, the youthful founder of Los Angeles-based smell bent. I previously had emailed him 10 questions and here were his responses:

1) How did you come to found smell bent? What was your "scent journey"?

I got “scent obsessed” about 3 years ago. I couldn’t learn enough about fragrance or smell too many scents. I started with commercial perfumes, but after a while, I was more interested in learning what each note smelled of by itself. I bought my first ingredients last year and started tinkering. I began by trying to copy scents I already knew; it was the perfect exercise to teach myself. I lost my job earlier in the year and tried to find work in the perfume industry. I realized that if I really wanted to do this, starting my own business was the only way it was going to happen.

2) I really like the artwork on the website, who is the artist?

I do a lot of the artwork and all of the design work. A good friend of mine also helps out quite a bit with the drawings. I love her style and we have a lot of fun working together. She is also the inspiration for the Little Miss Panda scent as her name is Panda.

3) Name me 3 fragrances that you love, or 3 perfumers that you admire.

I love the original Private Collection by Lauder, Cuir de Russie by Chanel, Fuel by Donna Karan, Paris by YSL … I could go on for a while! There are so many amazing scents out there. Edmond Roudnitska is probably my favorite perfumer though; he has authored a good number of my favorite scents.

4) There are so many small perfumers out now; what niche is Smell Bent serving that the others might not be? Give me a sketch of the "smell bent customer".

The goal was to bring niche perfume to individuals who might not have ever been exposed to a bottle Malle or Lutens. Niche perfumery has a tendency towards the esoteric and I wanted to lift the veil a little. So far, the perfume savvy have been quick to pick us up, but I’d love to get a few newbies as well.

5) With the regulations about ingredients meaning that classic scents from large houses are no longer what they were, do you see small, artisanal artists like yourself as the future of perfume?

I was in the shock the other day when I was looking over the list of “forbidden” ingredients. Citrus, birch tar, oakmoss, jasmine, vanilla - these are staples of the industry. It’s hard to imagine the greats without them. It’s kind of like telling painters they can’t use blue anymore, or musicians B flat is off limits. I find the neutering frightening, but am thankful its reach doesn’t extend everywhere. Perhaps small houses are the future, especially if one ever wants an authentic chypre again!

6) In these days when $100 is the new $50, I really appreciate the price points of your line. Is it a challenge for you to keep prices so low?

Sure, making beautiful things that are expensive is much easier than making beautiful things that are inexpensive. But I find the challenge much more interesting and that is integral to my work. The market is oversaturated with a new breed of luxury fragrances, many which seem to be expensive for expensive sake. I wanted to show my customer that spending $20 can be as special as spending $200. I think the timing couldn’t be better either!

7) I noticed that you have some seasonal scents for Halloween; are you going to be doing others for other holidays?

Yes, Halloween just went up for October and for November, we’re debuting a holiday line as well. Fall is the perfect time for fragrance and there are so many scents associated with the holidays.

8) I see from your website you do custom scents. I've never had a custom scent made, could you describe the process for me?

The custom process starts with a consultation, a getting to know you and your likes, as well as your expectations. From there, an initial batch of scents is mixed and samples are sent to you for review. After discussion about what works and what doesn’t, the final scent is mixed and put on file. From then on, any time you wish to reorder your scent, it’s available to you.

9) Where do you see smell bent in five years?

The web is where we started, but I would like to move smell bent into the physical world as well. Ideally, I would love a brick and mortar where perhaps people who aren’t familiar with the brand might find us!

10) Any new scents you care to tell us about? New products (candles, home scents, body products, etc.)

The holiday scents will be out in early November. I’m also working on a collection of Animal themed smellies to be included in our regular catalog and hopefully, in the not too distant future, EDP sprays. We seem to get a lot of requests for those!

Next time I will review a few of the scents from smell bent, and we'll have a giveaway.

Photo courtesy of Brent Leonesio.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The winner of the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire sample set

... is Theresa. Please send us your mailing address using the Contact Me link on the right. Thank you, everybody, for participating.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Endless Summer: L'humaniste by Frapin

By Tom

Late September can be brutal in Los Angeles. The arrival of the Santa Anas can mean weeks of triple-digit temps, wildfires that make the air chunk-style, and humidity so low you can feel your skin drying like you're leaning too close to the coals of a barbeque. On days like that the idea of dousing myself with something like, say Spiriteuse Double Vanille commends itself to me about as much as a mink-lined trench coat. What to do? What to spritz?

L'humaniste would seem to be perfect: listed notes are bergamot, cardamom, bay berry, black pepper, juniper, nutmeg, thyme, peony, gin, oakmoss, and tonka bean. My first hit is of the gin, specifically gin and tonic. I'm not a big fan of them usually; I was served one on one of the same sort of brutally hot day we'd been having and I wanted to bathe in it. As the peony, pepper and finally oakmoss joined the party I wanted to bathe in this. It is, if possible more refreshing and far easier on the liver.

L'humaniste is $130 for 100ML, which is even a relative bargain in the world of niche perfumery. At LuckyScent

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

DSH Perfumes: New Scents For 2009 and a Sneak Preview

By Donna

A few months ago I did a five-part series about this line, and a number of them have really lingered in my mind as being bottle-worthy, so I was eager to try some more. It is my pleasure to bring you a few additional impressions of DSH Perfumes, this time focusing on some new 2009 releases and a preview for 2010.

It’s hard to keep up with the amazing variety that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz creates in her perfumes; it seems that she is always coming up with something original. One of her series, Chroma, is based on translating the idea, the feeling even, of a specific color into a fragrance. The latest one is the lovely Cyan which made its debut at the Spring 2009 Sniffapalooza event, named for a pale blue/green tint you might think of as a color that is restful and light-filled, though the light is filtered through a prism of water in the luminous aquamarine way of the shallows around a tropical island. An eau fraiche that’s perfect for summer, it joins the weirdly wonderful Quinacridone Violet and ferociously green Viridian in the Chroma 2 lineup dedicated to the abstraction of colors in the artist’s palette. Cyan is a tender, wispy thing, cooled with bergamot, linden blossom, cucumber, jonquil, wood violet and seaweed, of all things, though it is not an oceanic/ozonic fragrance by any means, it brings to mind cooling streams and sun-dappled pools filled with polished stones. The ethereal linden dominates at first, and when the gentle violet drydown commences it is really beautiful. It is fairly fleeting on the skin, but it’s meant to be splashed with abandon, I think. That’s what I would do with it.

Also perfect for cooling down is the exuberant Yuzu, which shares its dazzling life-like juiciness with DSH’s Pamplemousse, but is a bit sweeter, with interesting base notes of cedar and sandalwood playing off the fruit. This is one of the 100% natural fragrances in the line, and the regular spray is water-based and short on longevity, but I really like it. For a stronger concentration, get the roll-on oil formula instead of the spray. It probably won’t turn sour on you like so many citrus blends, unless your skin clashes with anything that has a peel. It contains no less than nine different elements of citrus in it, pretty much everything in the perfumer’s arsenal: blood orange, lemon, white grapefruit, yuzu (in both top and heart notes), green mandarin, lime peel, pink grapefruit, petitgrain and neroli. This was also new for summer 2009 and there is still time to put it to good use. It’s in the new Garden Bathe Aromatherapy collection. When I put this on, my nose was glued to my arm all day long.

Another new scent in the Garden Bathe group for summer is Sud de France, which unfortunately did not agree with my skin chemistry. Opening with bergamot, lemon and other citrus notes, it never got beyond a rather harsh and bitter quality. I was waiting for the linden rose, hay and other softer elements to kick in to make the promised feeling of summer life in the South of France to come to life. It puzzled me, because citrus almost always agrees with me, even grapefruit, so I don’t know what happened with this one. The cedarwood in the base kept popping up all day, adding to the astringent quality. The idea is lovely but it’s sadly not for me. I put it away in the hope that it will be different later on.

The delightful Bermuda Lyme from the Essense Oils Studio collection is sunny and cheerful and unlike so many lime-based scents it’s wearable for the ladies as well, since it is absent the usual overpowering, camphorous woods and other clichéd “masculine” accords that so often accompany this note. This one is available in the full range of regular Eau de Parfum spray, water-based body spray, roll-on oil and the bath and body range of body wash, shower cream, etc. I could just live in it - it’s got plenty of lime character from both lime peel and Khaffir lime leaves, but it’s also infused with coriander seed, geranium, juniper berries, rosewood, rum and tobacco. Yes, those do sound manly don’t they, but it somehow works great as a unisex scent, and it’s very well balanced. My sample is the water-based spray, and as I write this it’s heading toward ninety degrees outside; I could use a liter or two right now, or just fill a kiddie pool with the stuff and I’ll be happy.

Moving on to the fall season, the ultra-comforting Epices d’ Hiver, new for fall 2009, is just delightfully spicy without being gourmand. A unisex scent imbued with nutmeg, sweet orange and other warming notes, it has a slightly smoky background like a burning candle that I found very pleasing. Ms. Hurwitz has a real flair for this style of scent, and this one just got better on me with time, never getting overly sweet. It is the aromatic equivalent of being in a room with a fireplace as the festive elements of the winter season waft through the house. It’s one of those fragrances that would work equally well as an ambient scent, but although it does not feel as though it was conceived that way, it would make an awesome candle or potpourri. It is far more subtle and refined than the typical fragrances used in this way, so don’t let that put you off trying it.

With the 2010 preview Bancha, the perfumer has once again ventured into new territory, adding a different facet to a common perfume ingredient, yet it’s very familiar to me. You see, I have drunk a lot of bancha tea in my life; back in my misguided youth I was really into macrobiotics, and this was one of the allowed beverages, a very coarse type of Japanese green tea with a straw-like character. Bancha the fragrance is an excellent take on this and it really brings back the memories. Much in the way of the masterful Memory and Desire No. 1, this 100% botanical fragrance is compelling and different and nearly devoid of sweetness. It’s earthier than any other tea fragrance I have ever smelled, with an authentic roasted touch to add even more depth, and I like that very much; it will make a really great masculine scent. A distinct green character lifts it up and keeps it from being too “twiggy” – a quality I know only too well from having drunk so much bancha – in macrobiotics you don’t put sugar in your tea, ever, and bancha is pretty chunky stuff. I place this one emphatically in the “win” column.

I have one fragrance from my earlier series to revisit – Cimabue, one of the most popular scents in the DSH lineup. For some reason it did not click with me the first time around, even though a reading of the notes would make it seem ideally suited. Along with my new samples I received some Cimabue in the oil formula instead of the EDP. Oh boy, does it ever make a difference, now I am totally in love with it! The concentrated fragrance oil brings out all the hidden depths and it just comes to life. This really highlights the importance of trying different strengths and formulations of a perfume to see which one you like best. For my part I will put this complex saffron-infused Oriental style perfume oil to good use when the cold weather arrives.

Image credit: Mt. Fuji overlooking tea fields in Shizuoka, Japan, via

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