Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
May Flowers, Madam: Vera by Roxana Illuminated Perfumes
Perfumer Roxana Villa finds new ways to both personalize and make more organic and local her scents; they are distillations of Southern California. She wrote me:
"Many of the essences are from plants grown AND distilled in Ojai. The beeswax is from bees that gathered pollen from the farm where the lavender and other essences were grown and distilled. There is also a tiny bit of beeswax from my bees."
Vera is about lavender; akin to the bright, sunny lavender found in Tauer's Reverie Au Jardin. While Reverie is cool however, Vera is warm. Fields of lavender in the sun, orange blossom and a slight saltiness like sun-kissed skin. It's as much Ojai as "The Pink Moment. Need I tell you that Vera is part of the California series? I'm going to petition her to do one for my part of LA...
Available at her website.
Please visit the other participating blogs (note: written in advance so I don't have exact URLs):
Zen Powder Drawing Winners
...are Marsha and Katie Puckrick. Please email us your info using the Contact Me link on the right.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
A Scented Adventure: Frolicking in Anya's Garden
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
It’s a Zen Thing
Friday, May 14, 2010
Le Jardin Retrouve Jasmin
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Not so Intense...Masculinity by Intense
Out of the blue this company contacted Marina about trying their new men's cologne, written of on the box as "The Male Pheromone Cologne". She threw it my way to test.
The box is someone's idea of Manly with it's large white M on a black base. Open the front and one is confronted with a loooong paragraph listing notes and telling is how bold, sexy, intense, erotic and more manly than the front line of the Raiders fresh from the buffet at Chuck's House of Beef and Steroids. French basil, West Indian clove, Asian mandarin and Sicilian bergamot are the listed opening notes, amber, black pepper, cedar and leather (oddly not given provenance- are they from someplace hopelessly uncool?) middle notes and the base is Italian white musk, Australian sandalwood and Madagascar vanilla. Then added into the globe-trotting ingredients is something called N10Z (pronounced "Intense"), which is apparently a pheremone meant to meant to attract other men.
Reading this you would think that it must smell like an earthquake hit ScentBar. I'm afraid that they hype in this case is actually doing no favor to the juice: the scent itself is a very mild, pleasant little thing, much in the vein of L'Eau Serge Lutens. A nice skin scent that I would actually consider buying if I didn't have to tell people what it was. Because people might look at the packaging and think I was serious.
I haven't worn this out of the house, much less through West Hollywood so I can't write anything as to whether men flocked to me. I do kind of wonder exactly to whom this is supposed to be marketed: I would think that the sort of gay man who wants to smell of a "bold and sexy fragrance" that's "erotic, sensual and distinctively masculine" would already have, like this one, long ago discovered Uncle Serge. Or Malle, or Guerlain or even Goutal. I daresay that even the most enlightened straight man might not want to find out whether the pheromones actually work..
$55 for 60ML at their website. My bottle is from their PR Dept, who will no doubt wish they hadn't.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Caron Parfum Sacré and Amouage Lyric Woman: Battle of the Diva Roses
I have been doing a lot of testing recently, with so many sample vials in the pipeline that I am wearing something different almost every day, and sometimes it's several samples at a time. This is good in one way, since my curiosity about perfume is virtually insatiable; on the other hand, sometimes I get so caught up in trying new scents that my old favorites don't get the attention they deserve. Naturally I am constantly adding new favorites to the list all the time, even though most of these never get to the stage of a full bottle purchase. I just don't have that kind of budget, or the space in which to store them. A fragrance that is new to me, whether it's vintage, something that has been on the market for awhile or a brand new introduction, has to be a real knockout to get on my short list of things I would actually consider buying, especially when it's a newer one that cannot be had for a discounted price. When I make one of my rare full price bottle purchases, it's because the perfume is truly outstanding and something I have fallen seriously in love with.
One perfume I never want to be without has been in my collection for twenty years now, the 1990 masterpiece by the house of Caron, Parfum Sacré. For me it is ageless, timeless, unique, sensuous and majestic. Even though it is finally warming up to real spring weather where I live, I have had an urge to wear it a lot as an antidote to random sampling, to remind me of what a truly great perfume can be; it's one of those perfumes that I get a true craving for and when that feeling hits, nothing else will do. It is also very powerful, and must be applied with restraint if I am planning to go out in public, but if I have a day (or night) at home, I spray it on liberally. For me it is one of those mind-altering, transporting scents that are rarely encountered, and yet the quest to find such a one is what drives me, and other fragrance lovers, to seek out yet more new things to try in search of that elusive experience.
Parfum Sacré's rosy beauty is wrapped in a Byzantine cloak of classic Oriental elements such as vanilla, musk, civet, myrrh and frankincense, embellished with a generous twist of black pepper. I think of it as being primarily a rose perfume, although it's not really a rose soliflore at all but an Oriental rose blend in which the rose takes center stage instead of being a seamless part of the whole. Yet its composition is seamless indeed, and it's not a realistic rose by any means. In spirit and somewhat in character it resembles the original version of Lancôme's Magie Noire, Paloma Picasso's Mon Parfum or Guerlain's peerless holographic rose Nahema, rich and opulent fragrances that are anything but dewy floral re-creations of rose blossoms. They are more like rose Rembrandts; chiaroscuro works of art whose dark complexity makes them objects of desire. I have been wearing my Parfum Sacré with more than my usual frequency since I just acquired another bottle of the original formula; yes, sadly it has been redone, and not in a good way. (If you want to buy this, look for the EDT in the solid gold box or the EDP in the gold-spangled black box, and the old broad-based bottle style with the large ivory-toned cap. You will probably have to go online and search these out.)
Now another contender in this exclusive “diva rose” category (I also call them “bombshell rose” perfumes) has caught my attention. I opened my sample of Amouage Lyric Woman (2008) that I received in a swap and it took my breath away. For some reason I had the idea in my head that Lyric was one of the “lesser” Amouage feminine scents (although they are all good, some are great) and not up to the standard of Gold, Ubar or Epic. I had no idea it was this good! Its basic structure is much like that of the Caron, but its spicy side is comprised of saffron, ginger and cardamom instead of black pepper, and the signature Amouage frankincense note is somewhat softer and less obvious. The rose is truly exquisite and it is that same type of lustrous Oriental rose essence that lies at the heart of Parfum Sacré. Its character is that of a red Damask rose, almost smoky in its intensity, as dense as though it were made of rose petal preserves meant to be consumed. Joining it are luscious jasmine and ylang-ylang, along with iris root and fresh, sweet angelica, a note that I really love and which gives real distinction to this perfume. Among the many base notes in this composition are sandalwood, Tonka bean, musk, vetiver and yes, real oakmoss! (The house of Amouage does not bow to IFRA pressure, which another reason to admire and support this house.) The longer I wear Lyric Woman the better it gets, and the more the incense note wraps itself around my nose, captivating me utterly. The rose keeps weaving in and out, never really going away but retreating behind the incense and woody notes only to come dancing out again in a swirl of pillowy sweetness. Every time I put my nose to my wrist I get something different; I know that the listed notes are only a few of the many high quality ingredients that must be in it to create this effect. It is fascinating, captivating, sexy as hell and definitely in the same class as Gold or my favorite Amouage, Ubar, of which I prefer the original to the reintroduction but both are fabulous.
The second time I tested Lyric Woman, I left it on overnight, and in the morning I was greeted by a truly delightful sensation. The rose was still there, not just the base notes, and it had turned into a sheer, misty abstract rose reminiscent of Rochas Tocade, but it was floating on a puffy cloud of incense instead of vanilla, perfectly combined with the rose. This “second perfume” was just as wonderful as it was on the first day.
Lyric Woman has impressive sillage and excellent longevity on me, which is to be expected of this Oriental floral style, and a little goes a long way. That's good, because this is expensive perfume, and the 50 ml size sells for over $200 USD; it can be found for a little bit less if you do some comparison shopping, but you will not find a real bargain, and understandably, since it is relatively new and composed of the finest materials available. For those who can afford it, it's really worth the money, more so than many other perfumes that cost as much or more. You could think of it as a bargain of sorts, because you will definitely wear it. It will not sit on the shelf and gather dust after a few wearings because it was disappointing. If I had a bottle of this I would do exactly the same thing with it as I do with Parfum Sacré. I would behave myself in public, wearing only a discreet dab, but in private I would use it lavishly, even excessively. After all, that's what real divas do.
Full disclosure: Parfum Sacré is from my personal collection. Lyric Woman was a private sample received as a gift.
Amouage perfumes can be purchased from the Amouage Web site or at finer perfume shops such as Luckyscent. Caron perfumes are sold at better perfume shops and department stores.
Image credit: “Flamenco Dancer” by British artist Gerry Langton, via gerrylangton.co.uk
Saturday, May 08, 2010
The winner of the Spring Favorites draw is Daniele.
Winner of the Nuit de Tubereuse draw are Katherine and Aime L'Ondee.
Please email us your info using the contact me link on the right. Thank you, everybody for playing.
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Not in Jest: Lord's Jester Perfumes
One of the nice things happening these days is that there are talented artisanal perfumers out there; most of whom make products that are far more lively, interesting and higher quality than anything you're going to find at Sephora, and sometimes even Saks. In that group is New York-based Adam Gottschalk, who studied under no less than Mandy Aftel He was kind enough to send me samples of five of his fragrances: Selene (EdP), Heracles and Demeter (EdT), Ares (EdC) and Anthea, a solid. He was also nice enough to answer my questions which were perhaps not original, but I'm not Baba Wawa..
How did you come to be a perfumer? What was your inspiration?
I was obsessed with perfume for a short time. Then I came across two books which changed my life: first Perfume by Patrick Suskind which told me the way perfume used to be, and Essence & Alchemy by Mandy Aftel which spoke of a radical departure from the days of old. I've never looked back, sure as I am that it's simply a matter of rediscovering the old ways of the perfumer's art. I categorically deny that to make stupendous perfume one needs synthetics. I wouldn't be involved at all if I thought that were true.
The world of even small perfumers is becoming pretty crowded, how do you set yours apart?
By emphasizing that I _guarantee_ my perfume will enhance your allure,
as only natural components can do.
Can you describe your process for custom-blending perfumes?
I send 18 notes to a person, in three groups, labeled anonymously. Then I listen to their feedback to a certain extent, knowing what I know about how to construct world-class perfumes. There are more notes, depending on what I think a person likes; I pick and choose carefully for the remainder.
Considering the ever-more restrictive guidelines as to what ingredients big houses can use, where do you see the perfume world in 5 years? Are small houses like yours the answer to people who seek out traditional (real) perfumes?
I see us natural perfumers renamed Renegade Perfumers. Yes, small houses like mine will definitely be the source for real perfume. Just as in days long gone.
What's next for Lord's Jester? New scents or products you'd like to talk about? Any stores carrying you?
I will release next Phoebe (my osmanthus perfume), Daphne (my chypre), Chronos (my immortelle perfume), something I'm calling Persephone (an ode to rose), and my mille fleur (10,000 Flowers). Possibly I will make the solid perfume I passed Mandy's course with ( I have two solids for sale right now), a perfume called Selene, which I think might be my best liquid. Then I'm always chock full of ideas. No stores carrying me yet, but that will change soon.
Now to the samples: They don't list noted per se so I am guessing a lot here...
Selene is iris and violet with the lovely simple sweetness to it. It get lusher and more dense as it wears, but not so much that I wouldn't wear it myself. The iris and violet are beautifully balanced and are very French in that there's no post-modern trickery in here. This is a bouquet, not a bulb. That's a good thing here.
Heracles starts off with bright citrus peel, then becomes smokier and herbaceous (which must be the boronia) the longer you wear it. I suppose this is the one that would be considered the most "masculine" of the five, but if you're the sort of lady who will buy her fellah Derby and filch it at every chance, I think you've found his Father's Day gift.
Demeter is tobacco and hay and I think a touch of cool mint; making perfect sense for a scent devoted to the goddess of the harvest. It actually reminds me a little of Chergui, although I think that Demeter might be (I know, strike me with lightning) be more all-around wearable. Chergui sometimes makes me feel like I'm being buffeted by it; Demeter feels like an embrace.
Ares starts all citronella-spicy, befitting the god of manly strength. A deliciously dry yet warm amber drops in later, melding to the spices and adding quite a bit of smoky zing. It also has great lasting power, especially considering that it's an Eau de Cologne
Anthea, the solid, is an ode to jasmine, I think with orange and lemon flower. It surprised me by being my favorite of the group: the jasmine is silky-smooth and whispers, somewhat like the jasmine we have here in Southern California. It plays an olfactory hide-and-seek: stick your nose in it and you smell the orange and lemon blossoms but draw back and the jasmine peeps out and winks.
All of these are lovely; you all know that I love some of the more outre scents out there and the sometime carnival-ride-in-a-bottle they might produce. But sometimes you might want to get off the merry-go-round. These are beautifully balanced, elegant creations that I think are going to make a lot of people very happy. They certainly did me.
Lord's Jester is available at their website. Ares is $45 for 5ML and $80 for 10ML, Heracles and Demeter are $70 for 5ML and $130 for 10ML, Selene is $95 for 5ML and $180 for 10ML. Anthea is $45 for 7.5ML, $95 for 20ML and $125 for 30ML. They have a sample set of three (your choice) available for $25. My samples were provided by Lord's Jester.