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Friday, April 30, 2010

Spring Favorites and a Prize Draw

Ta’if, by Ormonde Jayne: The surprise hit of my spring was the velvety, pepper-dusted saffron rose of Ta’if. It’s a perfume I normally wear in winter—the cold, dry air makes its rich jewel-tones sparkle—but this year, on the days when my spring favorites were simply too tender, too open, it gave me polish and grace without armor.

I can’t help the spring it’s always Diorissimo. Absolutely no other perfume will do for this time period where the world is greening and the air smells fresh , hopeful and alive with the promise of that fertile passion.

Serge Lutens Gris Clair. This is like standing in the French countryside surrounded by lavender and sweet herbs and smelling whiffs of frankincense coming from an ancient church up on a hill.

I have been reaching consistently for Jo Malone's Vanilla & Anise this spring. In addition to the titular notes, there are licks of saffron and orange blossom that give it some subtle va-va-voom. Its transparent sweetness is perfect for our clear, crisp weather.

Uns Fine Crafts Irian Jaya Select mimics Spring in it’s cool, vapourous topnote, midnotes of moss and herbs, it’s warm woody drydown, and surprising hints of pepper and nutmeg which add liveliness and excitement to this lovely pastoral oud from Indonesia.

Donna Karan Iris has been my go-to scent this spring. The cool rootiness of the central accord is a perfect match for the chilly spring we have been having. The green transparency of the fragrance is in tune with the fragility I feel in the air every is taking its first steps after the darkness of winter, and seems so delicate, a strong gust of wind might nip it in the bud...What I also like about Karan's new Iris is that it is not overly true to life: it is a fairly perfumey perfume, and I enjoy its easy, classical elegance.

I've been wearing Baieido Zukoh, and Shoyeido Tokusen body powders a lot this spring; not technically perfumes, they are finely ground Japanese incense spices typically worn by Buddhist monastics, very grounding and centering, and based on aloeswood, sandalwood, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and borneol camphor.

This years spring fling is Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio, with its whisper of lavender, woody citrus and slightly musky fig.

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

To check other lists, please visit: Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This and Perfume Posse.

Image, New York Spring in Central Park by Guy Dessapt, is from


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reinvention: Henri Bendel Grapefruit & Vetiver, Incense & Musk, and Rose & Oud Eax de Parfum

By Tom

Henri Bendel is a store that's been around forever and in it's last incarnation had an image that became a bit staid. The West 57th street store was lovely in a "ladies who lunch" kind of way. The Limited people bought the place in the late 80's, moved it to it's new location on Fifth Avenue in 1990 and apparently as of 2009 decided to no longer carry apparel and focus on accessories and beauty items. They've also opened several small satellite stores that only carry Bendel-branded items, one of which opened in the Beverly Center mall a short walk from my gracious hovel.

One of the things they carry in addition to the (admittedly adorable and pretty reasonable considering) branded items is a line of their own perfumes: there are six of them, the three I tried and a gardenia, lime and an orange blossom one. Sniffing the bottles I though they were pleasant, if not anything to write home about. Testing the other three on skin led to these impressions: nothing to write home about.

They aren't bad mind you.

Rose & Oud is a pretty little thing that makes me understand why By Killian is so expensive. The rose is nice and the oud is so whisperingly self-effacing that I frankly don't see why they bothered. I didn't expect a Montale-style Oud smackdown but really kids, it could have had something.

Grapefruit & Vetiver started off with pink grapefruit that I enjoyed but my friend said reminded her of "The Scarsdale Diet which was not a happy memory"; an albeit valid comment I thought it not only dated her but had more to do with her issues than the quality of the scent. Cross that one off the list for her birthday. Again, not much in the way of vetiver, so I am guessing that the secondary note is either in infinitesimal concentration or a fond wish.

Incense & Musk was confounding in that I got neither. It was nice, but it wasn't incense that I was smelling. After a few hours is sort of collapsed into a slightly salty skin scent with a hint of white flower.

Granted, I an sooooo not the target market for this. I assume that these would be big hits with the "Gossip Girl" generation types I saw in the store trying on candy colored wellies and fiddling with the so-cute-you-want-to-slap-them handbags. They're cute and fun and safe in a way that most of the stuff that I like as an admittedly middle-aged man cares to smell on himself or others. I guess I have to get over my ideas of what the pre-Limited Henri Bendel was (the store that introduced Chanel to America) and enjoy what it has become; Babe Paley has given way to Blake Lively and that's just the way it is.

But then again my Godchild has been wearing Bandit since she was 16 and Norell since she was 17 so there's hope for todays youth...

Available for $65 for 50ML online or at their various store locations. I sniffed mine at their LA outpost in the Beverly Center.

Image source,

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tcharas by AbdesSalaam Attar Profumo: A Journey Into The Unknown

By Donna

I have been curious about the fragrances of AbdesSalaam Attar Profumo ever since the release of their Mecca Balsam a few months ago. I had never heard of the house before then, and like every other perfume fan I was curious about it and eager to experience the other perfumes in the line based on the rave reviews it was getting. However, I had little hope that I would ever be able to do so without a larger perfume budget than I currently have since the perfumery is based in Italy and sold directly from their Web site, and international shipping charges are pretty steep. Much to my delight, one of their offerings has come my way thanks to a very generous fragrance lover, and I am happy to report that the adulation this house has received is richly deserved, if what I have is representative of its quality standards.

Tcharas is one of the special Attars, highly concentrated and richly redolent of precious resins and oils. I believe that the name is a variant of Charas, a term that refers to a type of handmade hashish famous (or notorious) in northern India and Afghanistan and the Himalayan foothills. The scent is stated to be a tribute to the perfumery materials native to the Hindu Kush mountain range area of the world, so that makes sense, sort of. I am not familiar with the different grades of hashish (or any grade of it, really) so I can't say if this perfume smells anything like it. However, it definitely smells otherworldly and unmistakably exotic. Think of L'Artisan's Dzongkha as a jumping-off point and then add in farm animals, nomad tents and a vertiginous sense of adventure, and you have an approximation of Tcharas. It's one of those fragrances for which I had no expectation or point of reference, so it was almost disorienting to smell it, since it has ingredients in it that I have never experienced before. I did smell such familiar elements as labdanum and scratchy tree moss, but in rougher versions than what are usually found in fine fragrances. This is from an all-natural perfumery, and for just a few moments it had that “head shop” vibe that such products seem to have if they are made of cheap, poor quality materials. No sooner had that first impression registered in my brain than it reversed itself completely and I found myself at the edge of a new olfactory experience; I had no idea what I was smelling, but it was marvelous!

It seems that the Hindu Kush is a place where high quality aromatic resins are grown, and they are the foundation of Tcharas. The base notes are civet and castoreum, and are apparently the real thing, not synthetic substitutes, and you don't run into these every day. The florals and resins in this fragrance are not named, and I cannot guess at anything except the labdanum I recognize. The description of this fragrance says that these resins “possess a powerful and inebriating (do they mean invigorating? The translation to English is shaky here.) fragrance characterized by the strong animalic tone of the mountain farm barns.“ I can understand that concept perfectly; combined with the animalic base notes, they produce a powerful aroma that is evocative of wood smoke, raw earth, horses, stables and straw and the general air of that kind of unadorned life in the outdoors, a symphony of the kind of smells for which most perfumes would be employed to cover up, yet they are in the starring role. No sweetness of any kind softens Tcharas' rugged character; it is essentially a masculine Chypre with little or nothing in the way of top notes. There is more than a hint of danger in it too, and by this I do not mean decadence or sexual provocation, which seem to be the common currency for modern, urban “edgy” fragrances. This is the kind of danger one finds in harsh nomadic life, the breath of snorting beasts and the level stares of mountain men who don't approve of intruders on their turf and would like to ask you a few pointed questions about your intentions, and I found it to be utterly mesmerizing. I have always had a fascination for this kind of thing, though it may as well be in another universe, so far removed is it from my own life. I am sure I would crumble like a sand castle at high tide if I actually had to live it, but then again, I am an unabashed romantic.

Imagine waking up after sleeping in a tent imbued with years of charcoal smoke, and stumbling out to the campfire to drink hot, strong black tea for fortification. The smell of warm horse, rough wool and leather fills the air as you break camp and prepare for the day's trek. You splash cold glacier water on your face and drink more of it from a tin cup as the morning breeze brings the exhilarating smell of the cold fog that drifts over the craggy peaks at the roof of the world. As you begin your journey, the pale morning sun begins to warm the countryside just enough to release the pungent oils of the hardy herbs and bushes that cling to the steep, rocky slopes that line the trail as your sturdy mount finds his way along the track where countless other feet have gone, an ancient road used by nomads and mountain people since the dawn of history. You don't really know what lies before you on this day, but it stretches out to the horizon, beckoning with every bend along the way, and the only certainty is that it will be exciting, for you are going further than you have ever gone before, and this part of the trail is uncharted territory. You look up to see an eagle soaring high above, and then down to the roaring river far below, a mere silver thread at the bottom of an abyss from where you are, and then you set your sights resolutely ahead to your destination... whatever that may be. That is the heart and soul of Tcharas.

Image credit: Miar Peak in the Karakoram Range, northern Pakistan, by Eleutherosmartin via, used by Creative Commons license.

Video link: Unofficial but very cool version of Loreena McKennitt's wonderful Night Ride Across The Caucasus – I dare you to take your eyes off all the dashing men on horseback, and the scenery is stunning too. I thought of this song as soon as I smelled Tcharas!

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

This 'N That again...

By Tom

First off, the winner of the Tauer giveaway is presch1. Please hit the "contact us" radio button so we can let the good people at Scentbar your address.

First off, Orange Star does bloom when sprayed. It's deeper, richer and has notable ambergris and that "Tauerade" finish that dabbing shows less. It's lovely; a departure for him blending the sparkly bright citrus with just a touch of the mechanic. Oh, and the lasting power is great, so much so that I don't even have to add "for a citrus". Mr. Tauer is a very nice man who as always is open to chatting to all, and g-d love him loves California enough to camp out. Like in a tent. In the desert.

Since my experience in Camp leans toward Joan and/or Bette I will leave him to that. But then, that's why I create spreadsheets and Powerpoints and he creates fragrances...

He also previewed his fragrance coming in Oct, a lovely spicy number that plays with the notion of spice in the same way that Reverie au Jardin played with expectations of lavender.

I did smell a couple of other things, previewing two new Commes des Garcons scents that must be jokes I'm not getting.

One of the things that LuckyScent carries is Panhaligons, the veddy veddy British line. I only spritzed three, the sharp, bright Blenheim Bouquet, the eponymous (and perfect) Lily of the Valley and English Fern, which couldn't be more refreshing if it were served on the rocks.

Orange Star is shipping in May and will be $120 for 50ML. Blenheim Bouquet and Lily of the Valley are $110, while English Fern is $125. All three are 100ML I have no idea about the C de G.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Vero Profumo Kiki: Not Your Grandmother's Lavender

By Donna

One of the most admired independent perfumers working today is Vero Kern, and I have been hearing about how wonderful her perfumes are for a long time now. A generous perfume lover sent me a sample of Vero Profumo's Kiki Parfum (2007) a while ago, but I was almost afraid to open it; what if I really loved it and found myself craving it when it's so very costly? ($185 for 7.5 ml /$305 for 15 ml of the good stuff at Luckyscent – somebody is buying it because it was on back order the last time I checked.) Or worse, what if I hated it and did not understand why everyone else thought it was wonderful? I finally decided that no matter what I thought of it, I had to take the bull by the horns and open the vial, thinking that the list of notes - lavender, fruits, caramel and musk is all we are told about - would mean something along the lines of one of Montale's more regrettable non-oud adventures in Candyland or maybe even a bit of sticky-sweet Comptoir Sud Pacifique. I am happy to report that I was wrong.

I was immediately struck by both the intensity and the quality of the lavender opening. It is not the clean, innocent laundry-drying-on-the-line kind of lavender at all. It is a deep and sophisticated French type, powerful and majestic. If you have ever smelled several of the different kinds of lavender plants side by side, you know that they vary greatly in character. Some of the coarser types are not well suited to fine perfumery, as they are just too strong, and they overpower any delicate ingredient that gets in their way. While this is big, it's not rough at all. What I really want to know is exactly which variety it is so I can grow it in my own garden! I could wander around and pretend I am in Provence.

After that initial wave, the fruits started in, and very pleasing fruits they are, rich ripe berries from a sun-dappled forest, as tempting as can be. At this point it began to remind me very much of my beloved Nirmala by Molinard, which I hold up as one of the best fruity scents ever made. Kiki has a similar succulence, though the lavender still has enough presence to keep it from being a photo-realistic gourmand, even after the creamy, dreamy caramel notes begin to blend in with the fruits. You may think it would get too sweet at this point; yes, it is very sweet, but so delicious that even diehard gourmand haters must cave in and admit that it's really great. The base is said to be musk, but it is most certainly not the “clean” white or so-called crystal musk that is usually seen in modern perfumes. I don't know what type you would call it exactly, but it smells like something that belongs in a great old classic Guerlain perfume or the like, and it's wonderful, warm and inviting and very sexy on the skin. Everything in it seems to mesh together perfectly, and if you thought that lavender and caramel together in a perfume would be a bad joke, then you thought wrong. I know I did.

When I first tried this perfume, I wore it during the day and I felt quite overdressed. I think it would be better as an evening fragrance, as it is very romantic and has a lot of throw – too much sillage for most workplaces, I should think, unless you happen to work in an opera house. I enjoy wearing luxurious perfumes for everyday activities most of the time, but this just feels too special for throwing on casually with jeans and a T-shirt. It needs to be appreciated close up, and preferably while in an intimate setting such as dinner by candlelight with someone you like a lot. It's the kind of fragrance that beckons your lover to move closer and press his (or her) nose into your neck and tell you just how delectable you smell. Kiki is marketed as a feminine fragrance, but the lavender could make it work for men too. If a man wore it around me, he would be wise to watch his neck, because I would be very likely to nuzzle it with only the slightest provocation.

Image credit: “Lavender Fairy” desktop wallpaper from

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

"If you're going to San Francisco" - The wonderfully enchanting world of Laurie Stern

By Beth

“If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there

For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

All across the nation such a strange vibration
People in motion
There's a whole generation with a new explanation
People in motion people in motion

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there”
San Francisco has been the scene of many a wonderful time for me and it came as no surprise to me at all when my teenage son fell in love with it too. Alex has spent so much time wandering around that city that it’s almost like another home for him. When we visited one summer several years ago our son insisted on taking us on an incredible walking tour of the city! My husband had never seen this wonderful city and we had a ball. Up and down the steep historic streets we walked , stopping for fresh fruit here, nutella crepes there and fragrant flowers everywhere. At one point, Alex and I smiled at each other knowing that we’d saved the best for last. The Haight - Ashbury District was no more than a five minute walk away, a fact made clear to us immediately by the perfume of patchouli, tea and incense that still seeps from almost every house in the district . Sure enough , my husband was as enchanted as we knew he’d be and all of the memories of my fairly frolicksome and notorious youth came into the present as quickly as a flashback. I am the youngest daughter of passionate antiwar activists, with an older sister and brother who were a wonderful influence on my over active imagination and the hippie lifestyle came as naturally to me as breathing. I was one of the flower children and I still have the beads, dresses and go-go boots to prove it so it came as no surprise to anyone when I began to spend as much time as possible in Haight- Ashbury and Berkeley visiting my friends. Those were wonderful days! Tie Dyed shirts were everywhere still and I loved wearing my jeans and beaded Indian tops with all of my funky beads. I loved scenting my long hair with lilac and rose oils that I purchased from the local incense store. My memories of that time are so strong that it seems like only yesterday that I was sharing a Passover Seder in the wonderful apartments above that famous cross street sign. I’ll never forget that day. We drank local wines, shared homemade matzo and organic honey, ate vegetarian curries and huge steamed artichokes dripping with California olive oil. We smoked a goodly amount of questionable substance and went dancing all evening in Golden Gate Park.

Today’s San Francisco is still a passionately vibrant and artistic city and is currently home to one of the most magical natural perfumers that I’ve ever met, a fragrantly luscious and completely lovely little Hedgewitch named Laurie Stern. I first made her acquaintance when I was gifted with many luscious samples as well as a bottle of her Honey perfume and it was then that I discovered firsthand her almost legendary legendary powers of “scentual” persuasion. In a city known for its uniqueness, Laurie stands out as one of the most creative and original people that I’ve ever experienced. In her beautiful botanical paradise across the Bay she tends her incredibly lush gardens and I love to fantasize about all of the afternoons that she spends wandering with her gorgeous cats Velvet and Sweet Pea, while she touches each pregnant blossom with her fingertips, coaxing the sweet nectar for her perfumes to the glorious petals. I love talking to Laurie, for her laugh is completely bewitching and instantly you become aware that this is a woman who has all kinds of secrets that you are longing to know.....

I am told that Laurie’s gardens where she grows many of the botanicals that she uses to create her wonderful perfumes are simply living love spells. They are powerful and instantly evocative of something a bit bacchanalian in nature although her designs are full of Victorian beauty and whimsy. Opening any package from Velvet and Sweet Peas Purrfumery is an instantly orgasmic assault on every one of the senses, not just for me but for my cats Zoe and Pantoufle who were generously gifted with a beautiful bag containing literally the strongest “bud”....(catnip that is!) that I’ve ever had the pleasure of inhaling as well as an amazing catnip hydrosol to enhance their sniffing pleasure. Before I’d had the sealed envelope on the table for even 5 minutes, my kittens had dragged in down and were frantically trying to rip open the package. But that was only the beginning for many truly delicious and fragrant surprises awaited me.....Emboldened by my kitties obvious enthusiasm, I tore open the envelope and settled in for a long and pleasurable evening.

Laurie Stern’s packaging is precious, velvet bags with crystal fastenings and colorful dupioni silk purses with handmade flowers strewn around the top with exquisite care. Her beautiful crème perfumes come in containers topped with colorful gems and her bottles are French crystal and labeled beautifully with delightfully gilded photographs of her cats. But as beautiful as the packaging is, the perfumes completely outshine them. Each one is incredibly interesting , titillating and utterly gorgeous.

Her fragrances delight me, especially the “Kittylicious” Black Cat, a sensual and almost edible (at least my husband thought so) fragrance that completely enchants with it’s beguiling blend of cocoa, blood orange aniseed myrtle and vanilla.
Then there is “Narcissus Poeticus” an intoxicating blend of spring blooming Jonquille and French Violets. Thrown into the cauldron with mandarin , lime , iris and rare Chinese osmanthus and allowed to brew, the resulting potion is a glorious fragrance that is so completely seductive and narcotic that it should be illegal!

Most mesmorizing to me though is Lauries “Honey” perfume. “Honey” is a completely erotic masterpiece of blended orange blossom, roses, vetiver, vanilla ,honey , beeswax and propolis finished with rare antique clove, pomegranate and pink grapefruit. It is bewitching, a bottled love potion and how you unleash it is up to you. I personally love it when worn in my hair, cleavage and inner thighs. It warms up as you do and becomes sweeter with your heat. It has an energy all its own and I love it because I can wear it during the day, yet it becomes completely captivating at night. It’s one of those fragrances that draws a man towards you like a honeybee to pollen. Quite frankly, my husband didn’t know what hit him but he was delighted to be completely spellbound. The first time that he noticed it, I was going on and on about Laurie and her perfumes and her cats. He took one look at me, nipped my catnip scented wrist and proceeded to kiss me in a way that made my knees weak. Enough said. She truly has the gift.

You can purchase all of these perfumes and more through the completely enchanting Velvet and Sweet Peas Purrfumery website at

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Orange You Glad? Andy Tauer Orange Star...and a giveaway...

By Tom

Andy Tauer is one of my favorite perfumers; there are several of his that I have in heavy rotation, and one unproduced one that's the "one that got away". His new one features one of my favorite notes, orange.

Orange can be tricky, it can be giggle inducing, it can be silky and creamy and it can even be smoky and mysterious. In Tauer's hands the orange is recognizable if not literal: the citrus is mixed with the tart lemongrass and smooth orange flower and a touch of ambergris. the ambergris continues into the dry-down where a touch of tonka and vanilla round out the composition; it's different and new, but identifiably Andy Tauer. The sample I got was dabbed on and I can't wait to see what it's like sprayed. I think it will bloom wonderfully when sprayed...

Orange Star is also introducing Tauer's new packaging: blue glass pentastar shaped bottles with the logo in a script that reminds me of the font used by the old Indian Motocycle (not a typo) Company; it's not retro at all and it looks like nothing out there. I want to see it in person, but in print it's gorgeous.

The scent will make its debut at ScentBar, the brick-and-mortar store for the online retailer LuckyScent on Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles this Saturday April 17th from 1-4.

Also, LuckyScent has been kind enough to make a very generous offer: one of our readers will receive a bottle of the new scent. If you would like to included in the draw, please say so in the comments.

My small sample was provided by LuckyScent.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

This 'N That: Strange Invisible Perfumes Essence of IX, Comme des Garçons Series 1: Leaves Lily

By Tom

This weekend I was out and about with no-one to play with. So what did I do? I sniffed perfume, naturally. That and I looked at the iPad.

Saturday was a trip to Venice to try the new SIP, Essence of IX. It's a lovely thing that opens with bright blackberries and rose that's inspired by a napa winery. Sadly it sort of died on me, but I'm not sure that isn't the fault of the testers being EdP spray strength while the actual product is pure perfume. But since they didn't have testers of the actual strength (nor did they have samples or offer to make one) I can only judge by the spritz on my wrist. Well, that's money towards my car insurance.

Easter Sunday was a trip to the Grove to take a look at the iPad. If you wish you can read more about that at my blog since I ramble enough here..

Scentbar was open on that Easter Sunday so I stopped in. I had a lovely conversation with the nice young man about various things and he told me that he had heard that the Leaves series of Comme des Garçons most likely was going away. Since I had never bought a bottle of Lily and there was one left in the store I felt I had to: Lily of the Valley is one of my all time favorite smells, and this one is a literal take on my childhood memories of it. It grew wild in patches in the shade of the Maple trees ringing my New England childhood home- trees that were at the time very old and whose shade made sure that our house was always about 20 degrees cooler on a hot summer day and provided a riot of color in fall (as well as endless raking..). It was such a lovely scent that for the few weeks they bloomed we would mow around them. Comme des Garçons take on it adds in the grass clippings and a fair bit of soil. It's almost exactly like laying in that new mown lawn in that dappled shade, or at least my memory of it more than a quarter century old. At $82 dollars (and the last one in the store) I bought.

Later having coffee I did feel the earthquake in Baja and it was a reminder to keep vigilant. Coincidentally, it's earthquake preparedness month in Beverly Hills, and there's an emergency preparedness list at the city website. While all of you don't live where there might be a quake, it's actually a pretty good idea to keep some of this on hand if you live in an area that floods or snows or tornadoes or hurricanes. In other words, everywhere

Essence of IX is available at their $320 for .25 oz. Lily is still listed as available at Luckyscent.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Amber With a Twist: Alahine by Teo Cabanel

By Donna

I have always thought of Teo Cabanel's Alahine (2007) as one of those ultra-niche cult fragrances that I would probably never get to try; overly hyped, hopelessly exclusive and very expensive. I don't remember exactly why I had that attitude about it, but recently a sample vial came to me in a swap, and as it turns out, the hype was for a good reason. This is a really wonderful and original fragrance. The house, recently rejuvenated by the creations of perfumer Jean-Françoise Latty, is over 100 years old as well so I don't know if it really can be called “exclusive”, but rather just obscure. I had never heard of it before the previous scents Julia and Oha were released in 2005, but it seems that the house was once very well regarded in Paris before falling on hard times. No more; now everybody wants a piece of this company's products.

Everyone seems to describe it as an ambery Oriental but that is the last thing I thought of when the top notes first hit. Sparkling and herbal, it felt like a floral aperitif with a fruity aspect rather along the lines of Jean Patou's splendid Cocktail. (High praise coming from me, hard-core Patou lover that I am.) I even thought that it was a tea scent as the initial burst of top notes began to subside. Then the richer side of Alahine began to emerge after a few minutes, and it got really interesting. It even began to remind me of another Jean Patou scent that I love, the soft woody oriental Normandie; though it is considerably sharper, it has a similar seamlessness to it. In fact I would put this fragrance in the sharp Oriental class due to the persistence of the lavender note throughout its life on the skin. Its opening salvo also resembled vintage Fath de Fath, of which I have tiny sample, and considering the price one must pay for that one these days, if you can even find it, the $110 tag for 50 ml of Alahine at Luckyscent seems like a real bargain. (Parfum in both liquid and solid form can be ordered from the company's own web site or from The Posh Peasant.)

As Alahine moves through its gorgeous floral heart of rose, jasmine and orange blossom, the ambery character begins to emerge in earnest, and an almost incense-like impression develops, along with a slightly doughy, pastry-like teaser that I found very pleasing, like the smell of baking wafting from a window as you walk by, but not heavy or overpowering, just a tantalizing hint. Considering that this is an Eau de Parfum and not particularly heavy in base notes, it lasts a good long time on me, and when I put it on in the evening it was still with me in the morning. The intense, almost liqueur-like center of this perfume's universe is Bulgarian and Moroccan rose essence of high quality that gives it a rounded and almost fruity quality overall. The similarity to vintage Jean Patou perfumes is also because of its successful use of lavender without having it dominate everything else. (Shades of Moment Suprême, anyone?) This is not really all that surprising considering the house's devotion to traditional French haute parfumierie, and it is most welcome in a modern fragrance. Now I want to try all the other introductions from Teo Cabanel, preferably sooner rather than later.

Notes via Basenotes: Top: Bergamot, lavender, ylang ylang. Middle: Bulgarian and Moroccan rose, jasmine, orange blossom. Base: Iris, rock rose, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla, musk. (Luckyscent adds a mention of sandalwood to the list, and I agree, though this perfume is so well blended that it's hard to pick out individual ingredients.) It is marketed as a feminine, but to me it is definitely eligible for unisex wear, and indeed the opening notes are almost like a fresh masculine before it starts to unpack its seductive bag of tricks.

Image credit: The pretty Alahine Eau de Parfum bottle,

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Get More Bent: Smell Bent Desperado, Prairie Nymph and Saddle Warmer

By Tom

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Brent Leonesio the youthful founder of the house Smell Bent, which featured fun little numbers that were (and are) not only delightfully affordable but also really, really good. The past week he let me know that he's going in a slightly different direction, adding EdP sprays to his collection of oils. From his original collection, Bollywood or Bust, Violet Tendencies and Commando have become available in sprays as well as three new Western themed ones:

Desperado is blood cedar, black seed, opoponax, gingergrass and saffron. It's the darkest and the most "manly" (yes, but I like it too) of the three. While certainly not a clone it definitely has that Lonestar vibe going on. It was pretty much my immediate favorite.

Prairie Nymph is honeyed beeswax, carnation, clementine, and soft musk. The opening is very much about the fruit, candied with the beeswax, like opening a jar of home-made marmalade. Then it gets a lovely musk to it. It reminds me a lot of Rich Hippie. Actually it makes me glad I didn't buy Rich Hippie, as nice as it is.

Saddle Warmer is white sagebrush, green peach, a splash of moonshine, and trail grass. It's a lovely green sagey thing with the fruity peach nicely balanced by the dry sagebrush. Of course, anything that has a splash of moonshine has my seal of approval..

All of these are available in a travel size of 4ML for $6.50 each or 5 for $25. Full sized bottles are 55ML and will be $45 at the Smell Bent website. He provided me with samples of the six. The large bottle of Commando in my future will be my purchase.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

How Green Was My Valley Part Deux: Mirra Lux Veil

By Tom

This one is a stumper. Sent to me by a benefactress, it practically defies googling. Mirra Lux is apparently a Russian line of skin care (and considering the skin of most Russians I know I might want underground tanks of the stuff) that has a few scents. Veil is their symphony in.... celery.

Most of us look at celery as something taking up space at the salad bar, something we eat as penance since it's "negative calories" or if you're older as a delivery system of peanut butter in your lunch box.

It wouldn't shock me were I told that Christopher Brosius had something to do with this, although lightened by citrus and I think mint this is celery: the slightly aggressive green of the leaves and the white smell of the bulb with just a touch of the rooty earth.

Imagine Mandarine Mandarin as your car. It's stolen and days later you're told it's been discovered, stripped. The wheels, stereo, engine and maybe the paint are gone and all you're left with is the shell of the car, perhaps it's purest form as a piece of design. Veil is that pared down.

I like it a lot and have no idea where you can get it or for how much. Perhaps my benefactress can weigh in? Whoda thunk I'd embrace the crudite?

Image source,

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