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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy 2010!

Image source, Tiffany.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Areej Al-Ameerat Dehen Al Oud by Areej Al Ameerat

By Marian

The amber of your eyes is melting- soft and doe-like. I want to dive inside your eyes and be swallowed by their radiance. Plums, oozing the splendor of sun-drenched orchids- lusty and ripe, bursting with golden nectar. Dignified balsams, trunks bleeding resin, tower into the pitch-drenched night. Sable cloaked- I bury my nose in your sueded elegance. You are warm like a stag's breath; as regal as a mountain lion. When the moon hangs precariously in the sky, I will nuzzle beside you, and wait for your impassioned embrace to pierce my heart.

Areej Al-Ameerat is a blend of the finest agarwood oils- a Wagnerian symphony of sumptuous elegance, stature and splendor. 7,500 UAE dirhams (@ $2,040.00) for 12 mls.

Another sublime and sensuous scent is Areej's Syoufi Musk. Smoky leather, sparkling mandarins and rose-smothered damsons harmonize to form a warm and luscious blend that is ripe, succulent and scintillating . 1000 UAE dirhams (@$275.00) for 12ml.

Areej al Ameerat is one of the most exclusive shops in Dubai. Perfume purveyors to the elite, Areej al Ameerat specializes in exceptional Dehen al Oudhs from India, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. Their famed Blue Oud is reputed to be “the rarest agarwood in world” and of unsurpassed quality. Custom, monogrammed leather boxes and gold-plated perfume bottles are available for storage of Areej al Ameerat's treasures.

By appointment only.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sheer Luxury: La Prairie Life Threads Gold, Silver and Platinum

By Donna

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

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Spice/Chest: L'Artisan Al Oudh

By Tom

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.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Image source, Czech & Speake.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

3 Orrises

If the Magi's gifts were strictly fragrance ingredients, and the event of gift-bearing was taking place today, there would have to be some additions, reformulations and re-interpretations. It would go something like this: amber standing in for gold as a symbol of friendship (replacing kingship as not sufficiently egalitarian) frankincense as a symbol of non-denominational spirituality (in the name of political correctness), myrrh as a symbol of eternity (can't have death, too morbid), orris as a symbol of understated luxury and oud as a symbol of jumping on the bandwagon.

I will go all numerological on you, and "analyze" 3 recent orris scents on the basis of 5 super-objective and scientific criteria (in all seriousness, these are the questions which I am asking myself, when I am smelling an orris-themed perfume):
1. How strongly/recognizably orrisy does it smell?
2. Is it more iris-orrisy or violet-orrisy?
3. Is it woody or floral?
4. Is it powdery?
5. How expensive does it smell?
Cartier L'Heure Promise, from the brand's exclusive collection, Les Heures du Parfum.
1. How strongly/recognizably orrisy does it smell? - At first- fairly recognizably; the orris-ness dissipates in a couple of seconds to give way to the pastel-green, powdery-translucent floralcy in feeling not unlike that of Apres L'Ondee or L'Eau d'Hiver
2. Is it more iris-orrisy or violet-orrisy? - To me, it smells more like first violets might, probably before they even unfolded their petals.
3. Is it woody or floral? - Floral more than woody, but with distinct woodiness.
4. Is it powdery? - Somewhat, in a gauzy, delicate way.
5. How expensive does it smell? - Not particularly. It has the kind of simplicity about it, which, even though it, objectively speaking, might be complex and expensive to produce, does not make one (me) feel justified to spend a lot to buy it.
Conclusion: L'Heure Promise was to me the best of the Les Heures. Which is not saying that much, because, although all the scents have an elegant, quality feel, they fall rather flat for me and seem somehow like renditions of themes I've smelled many times before.

Van Cleef & Arpels Bois d'Iris, from yet another exclusive series, Collection Extraordinaire.
1. How strongly/recognizably orrisy does it smell? - Not very, in a sense that, for the sake of the concept, it chooses to focus on the woody aspect of the multi-faceted orris note, thus sacrificing other qualities.
2. Is it more iris-orrisy or violet-orrisy? - Neither. It is woody.
3. Is it woody or floral? -There are no flowers. The composition is all about wood, wood, labdanum, a touch of peppery incense and more wood.
4. Is it powdery? - It has a touch of powder, made of very, very finely grated wood.
5. How expensive does it smell? - Fairly. Because it appears to be choke-full of precious wood. Have I used the word "wood" enough times? Because this thing is woody!
Conclusion: I was not in any way excited by the fragrances in Collection Extraordinaire, and Bois d'Iris was no exception. Like its siblings, it is well done, but it is...boring, to me. As for the orris... if you are looking for a velvety yet dry, high quality woody perfume, go no further. If you are looking for orris, you might consider...

Irisss by Xerjoff, a new to me and molto lussuoso Italian line.
1. How strongly/recognizably orrisy does it smell? - Very. It is orris from start to, eventually, couple days later, because this thing lasts... finish
2. Is it more iris-orrisy or violet-orrisy? - Definitely iris-orrisy. Not in an earthy-natural, dry-silky way, in which Iris Pallida or Hiris are irisy. This perfume is creamy, velvety, substantial, perfumey, although not as perfumey as the aldehydic Iris Poudre.
3. Is it woody or floral? - It's both. It showcases well these two sides of orris/iris, choosing not to focus on the non-refined earthy side of it.
4. Is it powdery? - Yes. But not overwhelmingly so. The creaminess of ylang (I assume) and woods balances the powderiness.
5. How expensive does it smell? - Molto! The question to ask here, quoting Pretty Woman, would be, exactly how obscene an amount of money are we talking about? Just profane, or really offensive? And the answer would be, really offensive. Borderline New Russian and/or Real Housewife of Whatever offensive. There is a certain chic about this decadently luxurious composition, something in the refined floral note, perhaps, which does not let the scent overstep the border between Elegantly Expensive and Nouveau Riche, but only just about. Irisss is hanging by a well-groomed, glossy hair over the abyss of furs, 10-carat pink diamonds, Maybachs and Louis Vuitton logos.
Conclusion: Beautiful. Sumptuous. Long-lasting. Screams luxury. Costs €590.00 for 15ml or €1.625,00 in a fancy Murano flacon!.. Ouch. The price aside, however, this is the orris scent that I liked the most in the sea of orris scents from the last couple of years.

Image source, Xerjoff.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Water, water everywhere...Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Mirto di Panarea

By Tom

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.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Winter Solstice - ADVENTure Ahead!

By Beth
They say that spring will come again
No one knows exactly when.
Still the sun’s a long lost friend
On the longest night of the year.

We stare into the firelight
While December beats outside
Where the darkest hearts reside
On the longest night of the year

So keep me safe and hold me tight
Let the candle burn all night
Tomorrow welcome back the night
It was longest night of the year

I used to think the world was small
Bright and shining like a ball
Seems I don’t know much at all
On the longest night of the year

We press our faces to the glass
And see our little lives go past
Wave to shadows that we cast
On the longest night of the year

So keep me safe and hold me tight,
Let the candle burn all night,
Tomorrow welcome back the light.
‘Twas the longest night of the year

Make a vow when Solstice comes:
To find the Light in everyone
Keep the faith and bang the drum
On the longest night of the year

The longest night of the year – Mary Chapin Carpenter
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 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


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore

by Tom

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

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Hove Tea Olive

The subconscious power of words! I see the word, "olive", and although I know that tea olive is a species of osmanthus, my nose smells something oily. Good oily, comforting oily. Perhaps, "creamy" would be an even better word. Literally creamy- like the scent of the facial cream my grandma used to put on at night. Did it have olive oil base? Perhaps.

Tea olive is supposed to have an apricot-like quality, but to my nose, Hove's version does not. After the first brightly floral burst, even the flowery characteristic becomes subdued, and I find it difficult to tell any notes whatsoever. It is all quiet, languid, dreamy creaminess. I don't miss apricots and flowers and I have no desire to investigate the actual notes. A great olfactory miracle happened here, the one that happens once in a while, when a fragrance or a certain aspect of it touches something in your soul and the strings of your heart start playing the song you thought you have forgotten. Hove's Tea Olive transferred me to my happy place, where I am a small child, loved and protected, dosing off, over-excited, on the eve of something festive and gift-ful.

Happy holidays, everybody, whichever ones you choose to celebrate!

Image source, Frеd St.Jоhn, pbа

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Memories of Christmas Scents: ADVENTure Ahead

By Tom

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, а


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Tribute Attar by Amouage

By Marian

Frost-encrusted branches of blue spruce, laden with such mountains of snow- I wonder why they don't break. Moonlight crystallizes them and they sparkle with galaxied rapture.

I emerge from the forest into a mossy clearing- the ground there soft and yielding. I spread my cloak atop the lichen and burrow my face into earth's musky, heaving bosom. In the distance the sound of an organ creeps into the night, it's deep bellows expansively glorifying. The dark, balsamic scent of incense curls between the ancient stones- beckoning; caressing. I follow its warm, spicy and resinous song.

The sanctuary is bejeweled with jasmines and purple roses, their sweetness more delicate and brilliant than the silver-laced candlesticks guarding their ripe beauty. Like shadows seeking mates in heaven their limpid nectar drifts spirewards. Could the moon be lit by the wings of angels, to so brightly drench the year-worn pews in these vibrant rainbows of light? Emerald, ruby, golden patterns melt upon the years-rubbed wood. Jeweled puddles commune in glass-stained splendor.

To whom, to what, should I pay tribute for such glorious harmony of the senses and the heart? I kneel down, and await an answer.

It's not often that I'm happy to spend $350 for a bottle of perfume, but Tribute is worth every (scent) cent.

Notes: Rose Taifi, Jasmine, Saffron, Frankincense, Cedarwood, Tobacco, Leather, Patchouli, Vetiver.

Available at Luckyscent, $350.00-$650.00.

Image source, Vogue Italy.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Wrapped in the Ambery Embrace of Rochas Absolu

By Donna

I discovered Absolu well after it first appeared – it was one of those perfumes that I had never seen in a regular store when it was introduced in 2002, and I only spotted it when I started trolling for bargains at online discount sites several years later. I was intrigued by the description but I was afraid to buy it untested. One day I ran across a mini of it, and I took the plunge. The descriptions of this fragrance made a point of mentioning what a man-trap it was, so I was eager to find out what the fuss was all about, especially since it was deeply discounted; what was wrong with it, I wondered?

As it turns out, Absolu lived up to the copywriter’s excesses and I was smitten. A rich, ambery floral-Oriental scent, it begins with a delicious wallop of mandarin that reminded me very much of the 1992 Jean Patou masterpiece Sublime, with a warmth and softness reminiscent of Chopard’s Casmir, but not as heavily gourmand as the latter. Fig leaf chimes in and then it unfolds in waves of orange blossom, diving into the lovely heart of rose and spice notes, including a twist of black pepper. The base is rich with benzoin, ciste labdanum, and Tolu balsam, almost liqueur-like in its intensity, and if this style of scent is not to your liking it will quickly become too sweet. For some reason it’s not too sweet for me, perhaps because it does remind me so much of my beloved Sublime, which I once wore as my signature scent back in its heyday, in all weather – I cringe at the thought of what those around me were subjected to with my freely applied spritzes– no one ever said anything but I must have had quite a cloud around me! It is my understanding that Sublime is no longer its former glorious self, a victim of reformulation and Patou’s absorption by Procter & Gamble – which regrettably now owns the house of Rochas too. In the absence of any original formula Patou to be had, the Rochas will do just fine.

I have to admit that there is something to be said for the spellbinding excess, the utter abandon of something that is aimed squarely at the clichéd but timeless idea of seduction by scent. No convoluted explanations, no complicated ideas about art and abstraction and interpretation and all of those things that modern perfume houses (and their publicists) seem to go on about ad infinitum. There are no obscure mystery notes that require a degree in comparative Norse mythology or string theory. Nope – this is all about sex, and that’s just fine. It’s not crude or vulgar in any way; in fact it is a very well made perfume composed of fine materials. It took the perfumer (the very prolific Jacques Cavallier, who also did Alchimie in 1998) a long time to come up with the complex formula and make it work. It just has a plan, that’s all, plain and simple. The end result is all black lace and sidelong glances and lights turned down low and all those other delicious things that fuel a spark between two people. It’s the fireside chess scene from The Thomas Crown Affair in a bottle – and I mean the original 1968 film, not the entirely unnecessary remake. (Did I mention that it really takes a mature woman to wear this stuff?) Case in point – I just got a nearly full bottle in a swap from a friend who loves it but she says she can’t leave the house in it; it’s just too sexy for daytime wear. That never stops me, so I was happy to have it. I like to wear perfume like this when I am doing something mundane like grocery shopping or thrift store cruising – you never know whom you are going to run in to, right?

In its infinite wisdom, Procter & Gamble Prestige/Rochas has discontinued Absolu - perhaps it was too close to its sister brand’s Sublime for comfort? Or did it just fail to catch on? I even sent them a letter asking about it and my other favorite Rochas heavy hitter, Alchimie. Both are officially gone for good, and Alchimie’s asking price on the discount and auction sites has shot up recently, since it must be getting scarce. Get this one while it’s still a bargain. I recommend starting with a sample or mini if you are unsure of your relationship with this style of perfume. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who appreciate the ambery style, it’s hard to beat.

Image credit: Screen shot of actress Faye Dunaway in the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair via, original Web source unknown.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Trance Essence Perfumes

By Tom

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,

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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.

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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, £95.00 for 100ml.

Image credits, Tim Walker, Penhaligon's.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Six Scents Series Two: Perfume Review

By Marla

Six Scents is an annual project where designers/artists, and perfumers are paired to create new scents. The emphasis on Six Scents Two is environmental concern and harmony, and the relationship of artists to the natural world. Artist/designers collaborated with perfumers from Givaudan to design scents and visuals that encourage environmental sensitivity. They make for a fascinating series. These scents are not so much perfumes as olfactory environments. None of these could ever be found in a mall or airport shop. I’ve been having a lot of fun with them.

Fragrance 1: “Collage” is by Phillip Lim in collaboration with perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto. The notes are bergamot, black pepper, juniper berry, magnolia accord, patchouli, Virginia cedar and incense. Collage is like the love child of an old-fashioned men’s cologne and CdG’s Ouarzazate. It’s herbal and crispy-cold like the thin layer of ice that forms over deep snow, but with strong wood resins bubbling up from beneath. It’s got the same hot-cold vibe that A-Men has, though the two are nothing alike in scent. It wears more lightly than CdG’s Incense Series, though it certainly could fit in well with that group.

Fragrance 2: “Ende / Anfang” is by Damir Doma in collaboration with perfumer Yann Vasnier. The notes are purple ginger, vetiver, cedarwood, guaiacwood, cardamom, coriander seed, birch tar, sandalwood, beeswax absolute, patchouli, and myrrh. The opening, which I assume is the purple ginger, smells like bitter lime peel and gin-and-tonic. Then it morphs into an in-your-face chypre (sans oakmoss, but birch tar stands in). It’s very bold, but for this composition, that boldness works very well. It’s exceedingly natural smelling, with a beautiful real-patchouli drydown that’s incredibly comforting. There is nothing “clean laundry”, or “shower fresh” about this fragrance. It’s strong, natural, and compelling. It tends toward masculine, but is very suitable for women who like bitter, green fragrances (like me). I like how Anfang starts out so cold, yet ends up warm and cozy.

Fragrance 3: “Solar Donkey Power” is by Henrik Vibskov in collaboration with perfumer Louise Turner. This scent is meant to evoke a sauna in winter. The notes are bergamot, sage, geranium, patchouli, moss, incense, and pine. It is intense with strong sillage. SDP is heavy on the IsoE Super, with lots of citrus and resins. It’s very refreshing, and in many ways, similar to Hermes Terre d’Hermes. Lovers of TdH will like this one, too, though Donkey Power is heavier on the forestry than the citrus. And no, I have no idea how this one got its name.

I’ll review the last three in the series before the winter holidays. I’ve been going slowly with them as they are quite absorbing and contemplative in character. Full disclosure: I bought a set of samples of Six Scents Two from Luckyscent, where full bottles can also be purchased. You can learn more about the Six Scents project from

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