Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Areej Al-Ameerat Dehen Al Oud by Areej Al Ameerat
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sheer Luxury: La Prairie Life Threads Gold, Silver and Platinum
I was looking forward to trying the new La Prairie fragrance trio; advance press seemed to indicate that they were better than Silver Rain, which is not much of a feat, but still, La Prairie is a prestige cosmetic line, and it sounded as though they had decided to put some thought and money into the new scents. I was particularly interested in trying Silver, since it is a white floral, and that's one of my major perfume weaknesses. Luckily for me, a generous perfumista friend sent me samples of all three of them in a recent swap. Cosmo International perfumer Constance Georges-Picot composed all the scents. A rather elaborate Web site complete with a video for each one tells the “story” behind the fragrances. (Does anyone but me find them a little strange?) The bottles are unusual and quite stunning.
Silver is indeed a white floral, a tender and almost wistful tuberose supported by greens, jasmine and ylang ylang. What struck me about it right away is how much it reminded me at first of the old Redken fragrance Piqué, which I always liked. It was one of those fresh and perky white florals that are innocent and easy to wear and I was sorry that it got discontinued. There is pimento plopped down in the middle of this, which I found rather odd, and it resulted in a rather thin, green character once the top notes subsided, but fortunately that phase did not last very long and it went back to being mostly sweet, with just a ghost of the green pimento in the background. However, the drydown had an oddly flat and starchy quality, possibly due to poor quality sandalwood or the “solar musk”, a term for which I have never received a satisfactory explanation. At the very end, when everything else was gone, what remained was a faint green wash of pimento. (Two of the other ingredients in the base are said to be “Cherished Vetiver” and “Peppery Moss.” I am sure we all cherish our vetiver, but really?) Anyway, this attempt at a new twist on a romantic white floral was admirable, but I would prefer a bottle of Piqué or another favorite soft white floral, L'Artisan's La Haie Fleurie. At $125 for 50 ml, this could and should have been better.
I liked Gold better, which surprised me a little, since it's billed as a spicy Oriental scent, though it's not overwhelming by any means. It has a very Eighties feel to it, and I can't figure out exactly why; it's like a composite of perfumes in a particular style of the time, a little touch of Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum, a little of something like Adolfo, a smidgen of the original Bob Mackie perfume, with something by Marilyn Miglin thrown in. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I just feel as though I have smelled it before somewhere. It's a very bright fragrance in a way you just don't see anymore, and I always liked that style. It seems to hold together quite well too; the fruit notes (tangerine and plum) don't morph into sugary slush, the heart notes of rose and spices are very pleasing and well balanced, and the woody base with a hint of incense stands firm and lasts well. This perfume would perfect for someone who needed to pretend that they had lots of money, perhaps a surprise invitation to the country club or a charity fund-raiser, which resulted in the need to purchase a cashmere twin set in some pastel tint. It is more sheer and subdued than those powerhouse scents from the days of excess in everything, so it's actually wearable; you won't have to worry about clearing out the elevator.
Which brings me to Platinum, the most unusual of the group and certainly unexpected. It is said to be in the Chypre floral style, which is all well and good, but I think I judge Chypres more severely than I do some other styles of perfume, since I love the classic ones so much; it is difficult for a so-called “modern Chypre” to satisfy my craving for heavy doses of oakmoss and labdanum. This stuff supposedly has both in it plus patchouli, and it definitely has galbanum, leather and jasmine, but it does not really work for me somehow. There is an odd anise-like note in the opening, which gradually becomes a somewhat minty quality, which is probably the galbanum duking it out with the plum, a strange pairing anyway, and the result rather drowns out any oakmoss that might be lurking. No bergamot here, just violet leaf, which may also contribute to the weak opening. The leather note is also quite weak; if you are going to make a leather Chypre, I say just go for it, and this one is too polite. I want the filthy, sexy leather of Jolie Madame, or even the soft chamois suede of Daim Blond; this is a parched, neglected leather that is cracked and dry and in need a of a good oil treatment. Too bad, it could have been really interesting, but it faded away on my skin after a short time, got a burnt ashtray-like smell for a while in the middle and never developed a true Chypre character. The “crystal jasmine petals” (whatever!) in it are most likely from a laboratory, as there is very little in the way of truly indolic character or even normal “jammy” jasmine. I retested it just to be sure, but it was still thin and did not last very long. Perhaps I can't be fair to a perfume like this, having recently smelled some great vintage Chypre perfumes I had never tried before and also having some already in my collection, but it just does not measure up to my idea of what a real Chypre can be.
The Life Threads series perfumes are available at La Prairie counters at Neiman-Marcus and other high end retailers, $12 5 for 50 ml. You can also buy them directly from the La Prairie Web site.
Image credit: the gorgeous La Prairie bottles wrapped in metallic threads, from shoplaprairie.com
Monday, December 28, 2009
Spice/Chest: L'Artisan Al Oudh
Oudh (or Aoud, or Oud or however it's spelled) is a note that I have learned to really love. Through Kelley I've discovered Montale and through Marina I've discovered the wildly priced Arabian Oud line. This year seems to be the Year of Oud in niche: everyone from Tom Ford to Le Labo has one.
Created by Berntrand Duchaufour, Al Oudh could almost be accused of false advertising. Patty at Perfume Posse described it as "sweaty armpit" while Robin at NST calls it a "bold, very enjoyable outing". I get a boatload of cumin. Cumin, cumin and citrus opening, cumin, cumin, cumin and oud with roses middle and cumin, cumin, cumin, cumin, vanilla, civet and cumin drydown. (spam, spam, spam, lov-e-ly spam...) I happen to like cumin in scents, even unto Eau d'Hermes and I do like this one. A lot. Despite the cumin-heavy mix it's only really overwhelming in the first half hour: after that it's silky smooth. Unless of course, you don't like cumin. If you dislike that note then I suggest staying well clear: unlike a some L'Artisan scents, this is quite tenacious.
Al Oudh is $155 for 100ML available at the usual suspects. I spritzed at Barneys and asked for and received a sample at ScentBar.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Water, water everywhere...Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Mirto di Panarea
I adore the original Acqua di Parma. The subsequent ones in the line have been for me nice, but not great. But then, that's the problem when you're the second or third in a line sired by a classic. It's not very often that the child eclipses the parent. It's the case of Henry Fonda beget Peter Fonda who beget Bridget Fonda. I like Bridget, she's a fine actress. She's no Henry Fonda, however.
Mediterraneo Mirto di Panarea is no Acqua di Parma.
Mediterraneo Mirto di Panarea is a light aquatic that smells shockingly like clean water. Not in the usual way, it's not dryer sheets or anything like Cool Water. It's supplanted by jasmine, rose, lilac bergamot and ends with a very nice light woodiness, It's a handsome, well, balanced, perfectly pleasant little thing and I can't quite understand why I don't like it at all. I think that perhaps that it strikes me as a super-refined version of one of those nose-busting aquatics that young men with manscaped eyebrows wear far too much of.
There was a period in foodie-land in the late 90's when restauranteurs would have cunning little things on the menu like their version of a Manwich made with Kobe beef and heirloom tomatoes or a version of a Twinkie made with hand milled flour and hand made vanilla. All well and good, but you still were getting a Twinkie.
Mediterraneo Mirto di Panarea is the best Twinkie you'll ever have.
Mediterraneo Mirto di Panarea is available at Sephora and other department stores, 2oz for $68, 4 for $104. Mine was a gift sample with purchase from Bergdorfs.
Monday, December 21, 2009
The Winter Solstice - ADVENTure Ahead!
They say that spring will come again
This moment marks Midwinter or the day known as the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, the time when the earth moves farthest away from the sun . You can imagine in times past as the days got longer and colder and darker, the fear that our ancestors must have felt, wondering if the warmth and light would ever return and when it finally did, the joy with which it would have been greeted . Centuries later we still have reason to be thankful as the earth begins her long trek back towards the suns warmth and the eventual greening of Spring.
Every year to celebrate the wintry Solstice eve, my sister Ellen and I throw a raucous gathering at her lovely home , a 19th century log cabin nestled deep in a beautiful forest womb. The Echo Glen sits atop a very high ravine and far below it the Chagrin River cuts a deep swath through the ancient native lands. Many Solstice evenings ago when my son and nephew were very small I used to take them out into the glen to look for owls at midnight. We’d wander through the woods and see deer as well as the occasional fox or raccoon. I wish that I could bring you those wonderful smells, pennyroyal mint crushed underfoot and the snow drenched pine mingled with hot chocolate and the sweet smell of excited children who have been reveling in sugar cookies and gingerbread. Suddenly, the three of us would be taken by surprise by a great whoosh of wings overhead, sudden and unearthly quiet. Tor those of you who may never have seen one in the wild, the owl is a silent flyer who is usually only seen when he’s passing swiftly by. We’d stand very still, huddled warmly together and we’d wait for the hoots to begin! In those shared moments, I learned that magic is truly possible when allowed to bubble away happily in the cauldron of your heart. We three had so much fun stalking the wild things ever so quietly under the midwinter moonlight and trimming the trees with homemade pinecone ornaments of seed and peanut butter for the winter birds!
Alex and Michael are grown and we now celebrate Solstice eve with a marvelous party, filling the old century home with our friends and a feast , featuring a groaning board of casseroles and salads, fresh cheeses, roasts and hams and homemade desserts. Huge pots of soup simmer on the stove and I make spicy bourbon soaked eggnog covered with clouds of freshly whipped cream! Out will come the guitars and the drums and the fragrant bayberry and beeswax tapers are lit , infused with all of our intentions for a abundant year. The kitchen in my sisters home is rustic and beautiful, with a huge maple table in the center and a glorious hearth that spans almost the entire length of the space. As I lay the fire in the simple brick hearth Ellen unwraps the last bit of the Yule log that she’s saved from the year before and we all touch it , making our wishes for the coming New Year . We then put it in the center of the fire , light the kindling and lift our glasses, hugs and kisses and shared memories all around. Our guests stay for hours cocooned in this beautiful space and just enjoying the magic of being together once again. Many we only see this time of year, but it is always as if we’d never parted and although there are those dear to us who have passed beyond the veils of this present life they make themselves known on this most magical of nights. Many times during our party last year I could sense my mother, whose laughter was present all evening along with the sweet fragrance of her Shalimar perfume.
There’s so much to do and as I write this, my sister , Michael and his darling girlfriend Molly are dipping homemade cookies and dried fruits in dark chocolate and the fragrant cinnamon and applesauce Christmas tree ornaments that I’m baking in my kitchen smell incredible. On my counters dried fruits, fresh citrus and cinnamon sticks macerating in large jars filled with spiced rum and crystallized ginger are waiting patiently to be made into presents and fancy cocktails! Tomorrow I will make pomanders of fresh oranges and clove to tie with ribbons and hang from the tree and clove studded lady apples to simmer in apple cider, red wine and ale for a traditional wassail bowl. My dog Gabriel is sleeping quietly in the corner by the warm stove and my cats are curled up by the fire with not a care in the world and totally stoned on fresh catnip sent by a friend . I’m filled with the peace of another year gone by, sitting here watching the snow falling softly outside my kitchen window with Loreena McKennit ‘s “Midwinters Night Dream “playing on the stereo. Life is very very good and I am most grateful for it all . ( and right now I’m especially grateful for the vintage bottle of Carons lovely Nuit de Noel that’s coming my way way soon! Thank you Donna!)
I wish all of you a warm and cheery Solstice, a very Merry Christmas and a bountiful New Year filled with love, peace , joy ,marvelous perfumes and everything else that you could desire and more. I feel so blessed to have all of you in my life. Thank you for reading my words and letting me know that they’ve touched you. It means everything to me.
I am so thankful to Roxana Villa and her darling husband Gregory Spalenka for inviting me into their utterly fabulous world and making this incredibly vibrant Advent calendar possible. Please enjoy all of the other wonderful entries.
And finally, to our darling Marina without whom this wonderful place called Perfume Smellin Things simply wouldn’t be....I feel so blessed and incredibly honored that you have given my words a place to call home. Thank you for it all.
See you all next year!
Friday, December 18, 2009
9 Favorite Candles
In my perfume tastes, during the last couple of years, I have been all over the place, and noticed a rather significant bend towards fresher and greener scents. As far as my home fragrance tastes are concerned, however, I have always been consistent. Anything too fresh (fresher than L'Artisan's Invitation Creole...which is not that fresh!) and too green (with an exception of, again, LAP's Jathinthe et Feu de Bois...which is not that green, with all those smoky notes...by the way, a great candle, it has always evokes to me a generalized idea of an "old, classic perfume") are no-no for me. The atmosphere of my house has to be warm, not only temperature-wise, but in olfactory sense as well. Therefore, on my list you will see gourmands, balsams and spices, and one lonely floral is also a warm, tropical one. And thus, in no particular order:
Ladurée Café Crème. They say that this is une odeur très Parisienne. To me, it is very New York. You could argue that an aroma of coffee with a splash of milk is just très everyday life of pretty much anyone in anyplace. That one aspect of everyday life that often keeps one going.
Tocca Rodolfo. A velvety, languid tuberose with a characteristic that I can only describe as a "nutty" aroma. Nutty as in when you bite into a pine nut...the sweet, balmy quality that I adore.
L'Artisan Parfumeur Mûre Sauvage. What I would call my everyday candle. I am so used to it that I don't notice when it is lit, so easy-going and comforting is its delicately sweet, slightly tart aroma. And when it hasn't been lit for a while, I miss it.
Agraria Balsam. Pine needles... tree bark...childhood...home...Russia...Love.
La Cherche Midi No 21. Sweet and piquant, with cardamom, saffron and a touch of berries and leather. A festive comfort scent.
Mariage Frères Thé Rouge. Opulent deliciousness of tea, apricots and gingerbread. Decadent overindulgence.
Amouage Autumn Leaves. Honeyed, sweetly-spicy, sandalwood with a hint of patchouli. In one word- sensual.
Diptyque Patchouli. If Autumn Leaves is sensual, this is sssexy. Dry and sweet at the same time, as patchouli should be, with the dirty undertone for which I personally love this note.
Cire Trudon Spiritus Sancti. Some incense to cleanse the house after all the extravagance. A scent as melancholy as it is hopeful, as brightly smoldering as it is dark.
Which are your favorite candles? Do share, and once again, Happy Holidays, everybody!
Image source, jonnybaker at flickr.com.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore
Cruising around this weekend I finally got around to trying this Lutens, which last year joined the group of super-exclusives (super expensive) that are on our shores for $200 in the 50ML bottles.
According to Luckyscent, this is indeed made from sandalwood from Mysore. Apparently it's been over-harvested and no longer available, but they "managed to nab sufficient stocks". It makes for some strong stuff: the sandalwood is heady and creamy rather than the effervescent (and according to the SA at Barneys soon to be gone from the US) Santal Blanc and backed by discernible cumin. One spray is enough for this one, which makes the price a little easier to swallow...
Available at Aedes, Bergdorfs, Barneys and Luckyscent
Friday, December 11, 2009
Hove Tea Olive
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Memories of Christmas Scents: ADVENTure Ahead
Roxana Villa is having a round-robin bold-o-rama celebrating the season. This is my contribution.
Growing up in New England the scents of the season are quite different that the ones I now experience in Southern California. First, there was the scent of snow. You might think that snow doesn't have scent, but you would be wrong: the air before a really ripping snowstorm has a particular scent to it. Pregnant with electricity and ripping cold, it says "take cover" more effectively than an air-raid siren. Curiously, the air seems warmer as the actual snow comes, as if the formation of the crystals heat the air. Then there's the smell when the storm is over and the air is scrubbed clean; the smell of people's hearths drifting lazily through the crisp air and the blinding whiteness. While this post isn't about perfume necessarily, Frederic Malle's L'Eau d'Hiver does come close to capturing this.
In New York when I lived there it was the scent of wool coats, the expensive perfumes of the lady shoppers, roasting chestnuts and the coffee seemingly everyone carried for warming sips. I did have the singular experience of a real nor-easter, one of the ones that shut down the city. Getting home to the East Village was something: NOTHING was running, cabs long had gone home to roost, the snow was coming in sheets vertically and there was actual thunder and lightning. I was never so happy to see my crummy 10th street hovel as I was that night. Walking to work down the middle of a traffic-free Broadway (because although the city was paralyzed, Dean & Deluca was damned well going to be open) was an experience. One that I don't need to repeat.
Now in Los Angeles the holidays are more about friends and perhaps the scent of food. We don't obviously have snow; we start to feel chilled to the bone when the temps drop into the low 50's, but you're just as apt to have Santa Anas and be in the 90's. I still can't quite get used to the idea of Santa ho-ho-hoing over the intersection of Wilshire and Beverly when it's that hot. For many years I have spent the holidays with my friends making a communal holiday meal involving all hands, food, drink and a lot of laughter; the scent of baking and bonfires, cocktails and conviviality. I love these times and know enough about life to cherish them. There are no guarantees that there will be another..
As we all move forward on our journey through life our memories are reminders of what made us what we are. They can be happy or painful and can sometimes be a trap. Scents are some of the strongest; please share yours with us and if I don't get a chance to write it I wish you all a safe, happy and peaceful holiday, whichever you celebrate (or don't).
Image source, аprilemillo.files.wordpress.com.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Tribute Attar by Amouage
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Wrapped in the Ambery Embrace of Rochas Absolu
Monday, December 07, 2009
Trance Essence Perfumes
I am constantly kind of floored at the number of people who are cooking up perfumes these days. In my opinion they're the true future of scent; as everyone from LVMH to apparently Dow-Corning are gobbling up venerable old houses perhaps it's time to draw the veil on our old loves. People like Janna Sheehan make us able to face that future with a smile.
Working out of beautiful Ojai, California, Sheehan has six scents:
Abbey Rose: described as "London in the sixties" it has the ying of grapefuit and bergamot against the yang of rose, fig and neroli. It's a great rose; the ones that Caron used to to but apparently stopped..
Whyte Rabitt: "Down a rabbit hole" with linden, banana, basil and blackberry balanced with marigold. I surprised myself by really liking this one: it's sparkling in the way that Patou Cocktail is, and that's a good thing.
Genie in a Bottle: written of as "A sultry Moroccan nightclub in the summer" it has jasmine, frankincense, vanilla, chocolate, black tea and black pepper. I want to snark "and a partridge in a pear tree", but it's beautifully done. It's not in-your-face like a Lutens, but it's quite sultry in its own right.
Chen-XI: "A Chinese mandarin garden at dawn" lists ginger, mandarin, lemongrass spearmint and lily. Oddly I find this one the most calming and "zen" of the scents- odd because citruses are supposed to be stimulating. One whiff of this and I think my blood pressure dropped 10 points..
Hail Merri: "An Indiana forest after a rain shower" according to the description, and if it's true I'm moving. It's all bergamot and oakmoss with a delightful touch of sweet pea. There's not nearly enough sweet pea fragrances in the world in my opinion, its contrapuntal appearance here makes this one my hands-down favorite of the line.
Pink Kat: is "The gardenia and rose garden from a childhood story", all innocent white flowers with a little something extra. It's a little Lolita around the edges. I like it, but I don't think I could pull it off. But I know quite a few ladies who could...
$103 for 60ML spray perfume or $52 for 1/8OZ roll-on perfume oil
Available at their website, at Bigelow Chemists in Greenwich Village or at the store Coutula on Abbott Kinney in Venice, CA (where I experienced them; this street is fast becoming the street of scents at the beach)
Image source, tranceessence.com
Friday, December 04, 2009
The Futur is Green. Robert Piguet Futur
Knock on wood, there seems to be a new wave of green fragrances upon us. Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps D'Une Fete, Estee Lauder Jasmine White Moss, Issey Miyake A Scent, re-released Givenchy III (such as it is) and now Piguet's newly re-issued Futur (and am I forgetting something?) are making me hopeful and longing for more. Green is the perfume category I adore, from A (as in Aliage) to Y (as in by YSL). Green scents smell classic slash edgy, and as such- forever modern. That classic-edgy duality makes them ladylike in one context and bold and outre in another. It all depends on the angle at which they turn to you, and they are full of angles.
Futur is a perfect example of the angular, jolie laide beauty of the green genre. And by the way, kudos to the brand for not only avoiding the usual "toning down" that is the curse of most re-issues but actually making the new version seemingly even more forcefully green, dry and sharp than the old (at least judging by a vintage sample). When I say, sharp, in regards to green fragrances, I always mean it is a compliment. That is what I am looking for in green scents: the snappiness, the haughtiness, the attitude, the coldness. Bergamot in the top notes and vetiver with cedar in the base provide plenty of that in Futur. Were it not for ylang-ylang and jasmine in the heart, the scent would have been maximum attitude and zero wearability even for me. As it is, the creamy flowers soften the blow of spiky green accord and lend the composition a hint of classic femininity. "Old money" dressed in kinky leather.
Available at Harrods, £85.00 for 100ml.
Image credit, Mario Sorrenti for Vogue Paris.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Penhaligons's Gardenia: Perfume Review
Four things surprised me about Penhaligon's new rendition of Gardenia, re-introduced this year with the help of Bertrand Duchaufour as part of the Anthology Collection:
1) Its tangy and subtly sweet fruitiness, which I first imagined to be alike freshly cut green apples, but then, looking at the list of notes recognized as the result of mixing the fruity magnolia and the tart rhubarb;
2) Its natural, simple feel. By "natural" I mean the impression that all ingredients (simplistically speaking) had been picked in an unkempt, windswept little garden and put together in a pretty and unassuming fashion, miraculously, right there on an old wooden kitchen table...and not in a big fancy lab...and put together in a "simple" manner like a talented child's naturemort done in transluscent, pastel colors;
3)...Paradoxically, after the above statement... its "perfumey" and classic quality, which somehow goes alongside the simple naturalness from about 1/3 into the composition, when orange blossom and jasmine start to kick in, and intensifies with the appearance of tuberose and musk;
4) The fact that it does not smell very gardenia-like...Which, I suppose isn't that much of a surprise, since not too many gardenia perfumes do.
None of these observations are meant as criticism. I find the verdant fruitiness unexpected and appealing; the pastel naturalness of the blend makes me nostalgic for the dacha of my childhood; the perfumey-ness brings the lady-like refinement which I always appreciate, and as for being true to the smell of gardenia...oh well! I already have Lauder's Tuberose Gardenia and Ford's Velvet Gardenia. As a side note, I do not remember the 1976 Penhaligon's Gardenia, so I can't compare. The 2009 is pretty, oh so pretty- the kind of slightly fresh, girly-feminine, genteel, almost "weddingy" (yes, that is a specific quality in a scent) blend that I have been in a mood for for awhile.
Available at penhaligons.co.uk, £95.00 for 100ml.
Image credits, Tim Walker, Penhaligon's.