Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Etro Musk, Anya's Garden Kewdra (musk) and Mona di Orio Musk
Are you a nosy person? I'm normally not- at your house I'm not going to rifle your drawers, or ramble through your medicine cabinet, or even read letters you left on your kitchen table. But if your perfume collection is out on your bureau on the way to the bathroom (and you've asked me to drive 30 miles roundtrip to feed your cats) I'm going to give a glance on the way out. Oh all right and take a sniff. I'm a bad person.
My friend had Etro Musk out on her bureau (among other things, being one of us but we overlap a lot.) Reviewers on Basenotes dismiss it, but I really liked it. It's a skin scent, with whispers of the bone-dry woodiness that makes up scents like Chene and a touch of citrus peel. If you were looking for something in the clean-skin line and wanted woody as opposed to dry-cleaned you would do well to look here.
Anya's Garden is a company that I can't believe I haven't reviewed before (is the search function on Blogspot wonky?) My Scent Twin quoted the perfumer as stating it's "Kama Sutra in a bottle" and agreeing. I am pained to type this but either I am ansomic to it or I just suck the life out of it, but I'm not getting fireworks. It's lovely, it's heartbreakingly sensual, it's the memory of a long ago love affair in a bottle. Even twins aren't identical I guess (but I am the older twin)
I did get a chance to try the new Mona di Orio Musk that's soon coming and it's like a scent version of David Hamilton photographs. So innocent, so soft-focus, so very young and with this sly, knowing musk that makes it so very wrong. In a good way. It's the Mann Act with a sprayer. Unlike Ms. Dubois I have no need to try to keep my hands off children, but it will be mighty hard to keep my hands off this when it arrives...
Etro Musc is available all over the internets at various prices, I filched a sniff off my friends bureau in a moment of bad breeding.
Kewdra is availableat Anyas Garden Website, I won mine. Whoo hoo!
Mona di Orio Musk will be out soon, I was given a small sample by Luckyscent.
Image by David Hamilton.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Summer Scent Random Roundup: Agustin Davila HUB El & Ella, Costume National Scent Gloss, Ligne St. Barth Vanille West Indies & more
Every once in a while a fragrance I have never heard of before, or something I would never have tried on my own, drops in my lap as the result of a swap or a gift sample included with a purchase. Some of them I set aside for leisurely testing later and never seem to get around to actually trying them. So now that the lazy days of summer are here I decided to delve into my sample stash and see what looked interesting, with an eye to what would be suitable for wearing when the sweltering heat settles in for a long stay.
I was not familiar with the Agustin Davila line at all until I acquired a sample packet containing two vials, El (Him) and Ella (Her). This is a Spanish house, and the two HUB perfumes (2008) are aimed a younger wearer – specifically “fragrances for modern and active women and men which inspire happiness and joy, modernity and strength through their original citric, spicy and fresh notes.” Well, I am not sure about the original part, but the women's version is perhaps a little more unusual than the masculine one. Opening with bergamot, black currant and basil, it softens to heart of florals and several fruits, including watermelon, green apple and pineapple, with just a touch of marine accord. Thankfully the green apple is not dominant, because I have found that it is one of the most artificial “fruit” notes in perfumery. Once it settles down it is dominated by magnolia and pineapple, both of which I really like, so it's something I would definitely wear in hot weather, as it is quite sheer, and the base of sandalwood, musk and ambery notes is not very persistent. The men's counterpart opens with a heavier hand, and the unfortunately it is immediately dominated by a too-strong marine note and too much patchouli, which is a shame, because the rest of it sounds good and includes notes of bergamot, grapefruit, labdanum, lavender, cardamom, nutmeg and woods. For a while in the middle of its development the spice notes come out on top and it's quite pleasing, but they thin out fast and the drydown is mostly marine and patchouli with tantalizing hints of what it could have been. The brand has a stark, tech-inspired aesthetic, and I am not sure how these scents are meant to translate into that idea.
I found Costume National Scent Gloss (2004) to be fascinating because it does not smell very much like what one would expect from a perfume. I know that sounds strange, but it reminds me of other things when it's first applied – nail polish, hairspray, and retro beauty products that I remember from my childhood and teen years, in a sort of a candied, abstract way. It is a spicy rose and orchid composition with modern musk base, very feminine and actually quite ladylike, and it dries down to nice, subtle skin musk. It's not bad, and I found that it interacted with my skin chemistry surprisingly well after that unusual opening, which I will admit I wish had lasted longer because it becomes pretty conventional after that. This brand seems to specialize in perfumes that are more or less background scents, not standout originals, so it does fall into line with the other ones, and like them it's fine for office wear or for an occasion for which you are not sure what to wear, as it will almost certainly not offend anyone. If you are looking for a rose perfume that won't be too overwhelming, it is worth a try.
I don't remember the last time I paid any attention to a new Ralph Lauren release except for a cursory sniff at the perfume counter, because they come along so frequently now that I can't keep them straight. Romance Always Yours (2008) is a flanker to the popular Romance and is a transparent, watery floral, which is not exactly a shocker. What is shocking is that it is presented as a “sophisticated floral chypre.” That might pass muster with the usual Lauren customer but to anyone who has actually smelled such a perfume- Chanel Cristalle, Clinique Aromatics Elixir, Sisley Soir de Lune, or Rochas Byzance, to name just a few – this description is a real stretch. Yes, it's a broad category, but I am unable to discern any degree of chypre character in this. It's fresh, soft and youthful with notes of freesia, ginger, rose, lotus, violet and allegedly, patchouli and oakmoss, which must be of a parts-per-million dilution verging on homeopathic, i. e. to the vanishing point. Sweet, girly and mostly synthetic, it is perfect for its target audience, of which I am not a member.
I have a confession to make; I have a weakness for vanilla scents, even some of the cheaper ones, and I adore the good ones, and Ligne St. Barth Vanille West Indies is exactly the kind that does it for me. It's about halfway between the exceedingly sugary Comptoir Sud Pacifique signature and the darker Montale vanilla style, and it has a sensual, slightly smoky character that's positively addictive. There is orchid just under the surface and a hint of caramel, and yes it is sweet, but sometimes that's just what is called for. I am just perverse enough to wear something like this on the hottest day of the year, and everyone around me can just deal with it. It did not throw a lot of sillage when I did wear it, but it lasted for ages, and it's actually quite well behaved in public. At $125 for 50 ml (you can find it at Beautyhabit) it's a considerable investment for a straight-up vanilla fragrance, but it is actually Parfum strength so you don't need a lot, and if you are a true vanilla fan, you have to it. If not for the inconvenient fact of having to work in an office for a living, I could wear fun stuff like this every day.
Disclosure: My samples of all the perfumes in this review were obtained in private swaps.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Winners of the past three giveaways
Summer Favorites - Tara
Carillon pour un Ange - M and B.C.
Chaparral - Marian
Please click the "Contact Me" link on the right to send us your address.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Roxana Illuminated Perfume: Chaparral; A Real Bodice Ripper
"Pa said I could have my choice of any man....I’d rather have my choice of anyI remember the first time that I ever fell in love with a cowboy. Yep…. It was that head over heels, madly in lust, throw it all away and follow him madly off into the sunset kind of passion. I believe that at the time I was 15.
My parents used to take me on wonderful trips, to beautiful places that we enjoyed together , but then they discovered the game of golf which I really hated and to this day have never developed any kind of passion for . So we struck a deal of sorts and they began to find beautiful places to play golf where there were horses for me to ride, a formula which worked out for us very well. They’d tee off early in the morning and I’d go running down to the stables after breakfast to spend the day grooming the horses and playing with the barn cats after my morning ride. I was lucky enough to ride horses all over Hawaii, learn to swim with them through the glacier rivers of the Canadian Rockies and the beautiful streams of West Virginia and the Carolinas. All of these places were beautiful, but none compared to the Arizona Biltmore where we stayed in beautiful Spanish style cottages and as a fairly precocious youngster I fairly well enjoyed the run of the place. There were beautiful stables on the Biltmore grounds and I spent blissful days riding the beautiful trails around the hotel with a guide while my parents enjoyed perfecting their precious game.
The lands around the Biltmore Hotel were beautifully manicured and gorgeous but soon I began to long to ride up in the beautiful mountains that surrounded the Phoenix /Scottsdale area. My mother found a stable somewhere around Camelback mountain and dropped me off with a kiss and a packed lunch for the day. I was in heaven….I was going to get to ride my dream horse, a gorgeous paint mare up into those mountains for the day. We saddled up and off we went, me and my mare and the very quiet cowboy who was assigned to keep me out of trouble for the day. I still remember how he looked that day. He wore a stetson that was fairly battered but kept his wavy brown hair out of his green eyes. Nothing fancy dress about him at all , just button front Levi’s and a worn chambray shirt. He was a bit shy and a wee bit dusty but when he swung his leg over his beautiful chestnut gelding I was completely mesmerized.
I still remember the smell of that day….my horse, the cactus , desert and mesquite with the ever present creosote lending a bitter sweat tang to the sweetness in the very dry heat . I followed him up the trail and we rode together silently along the ridge. That was when it happened ……suddenly and with the ferocity of a bolt of lightning his horse reared and came crashing down over and over again with his front hooves , striking an unseen target. My horse spun away, but I quieted her easily and only then did I turn to see what had happened. My cowboy smiled softly and pointed to the ground where a desert rattler lay in many pieces, crushed to death with a terrifying accuracy. I still remember his only words….”I promised them that I’d keep you safe” and we rode side by side for the rest of the afternoon. He smelled incredible…of salt sweat, tobacco, horse and sage. I never knew his real name, but it didn’t matter. In that moment he became a huge part of my emotional landscape….. of what I wanted a man to be. He kept me riding close to him for the rest of that afternoon and I’m sure that he’s the reason that I’ve always had such a passionate love affair with my horses. I can promise that you’ve never never lived until you’ve seen the beginnings of an Arizona sunset from the back of a splendid steed in the company of a fine man like that.
Thank God he was such a gentleman for I’m pretty sure that I would have thrown myself at him if given the opportunity but sadly he never asked. I know that my mother thought that I’d gone just a wee bit mad, which perhaps I had and the power of that first unsatisfied lust....alternately loving and hating him held me captive for quite a few years.
I’ve never completely forgotten about him, but he’s been tucked away safely, locked deep in my heart for many years. That is until the day that I arrived home to find a package from Roxana Villa awaiting me. In it were 2 samples of her Chaparral perfume, one liquid and one of her sumptuous honeyed solids. I opened them both and applied each to my wrists. I wasn’t prepared for the primal response that I had to Chaparral as it melted into my skin. In an instant that day up on the mountain came flooding back to me and I was turned once again into that young girl who couldn’t bear to leave the stables that evening.
To me, Chaparral is the smell of unbridled passion , of virgin heat roaring between your thighs and of a desert so fiery and beautiful that it can make you cry with your first breath of it. Like all of Roxana’s perfumes it is completely natural and filled with her magical handcrafted accords which are beautiful and filled with incredible intention and energy. The California Chaparral is a gorgeous landscape filled with beautifully fragrant , draught tolerant plants that is constantly under threat of destruction by wildfire, landslide and urban sprawl. The California Chaparral Institute , an organization that Roxana supports with proceeds from the sales of her wonderful perfumes is devoted to protecting this fragile ecosystem and educating us all so that our grandchildren can know the captivating energy and fragrance of “The Wild West” that’s long gone, but seems to be forever branded in our souls.
Roxana’s Chaparral is honey and white sage, herbs , woods and a bit of Frankincense blended to create a ferocious inner fire in the way that only Roxana Villa can. This is the smell of Viggo Mortensen releasing his beloved paint stallion back into the wild in the beautiful film Hidalgo or Anthony Hopkins cast as the romantic Zorro with his hands quietly calming his beautiful black horse…some men can just live that large in your dreams. Chaparral is so incredibly sexy on my husband that I can barely keep my hands off of him when he’s wearing it. Be careful with it because it’s provocative, almost enough so that it should come with a warning! If you try it and I truly think that you ought to, I can’t take any responsibility for the abandonment of your good sense. But by nature I’m definitely a pot stirrer and I do have samples which of course I am willing to share with you….
All of her beautiful Chaparral products can be purchased through Roxana’s Etsy site. The California Chaparral Institute can be found at californiachaparral.com. Quote above: source unknown. Chaparral Photo courtesy of Roxana Villa. Viggo Mortenson Photograph courtesy of: unrealitymag.com
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Wing and a Prayer: Carillon pour un Ange by Tauer Perfumes
It's no secret that we at PST are fans of Andy Tauer. In person he's charming; he's also an extremely talented artist with an array of beautiful scents.
Carillon pour un Ange is his ode to Lily of the Valley, one of my personal favorite smells and one that can go so very wrong in perfume. When it's right (Diorissimo, CdeG Leaves) it can be a transportive dream.
To paraphrase a Cadillac ad from a few years ago: time to start dreaming...
Carillon does plays with the angelic lily of the valley and it's clean hyacinth and orange innocence by introducing a shockingly sensual oily leather aspect to it that reminded me immediately of his (sadly) never produced Hyacinth and a Mechanic. I'm not the first person who's written that, as a matter of fact I believe he admitted as such to March at Perfume Posse. Unlike that hyacinth scent, this doesn't radiate. There's a yin and yang of the soft and sparkling flowers set against the dark and brooding leather and ambergris- it's not hard to believe that this was originally called "Gabriel" when in development.
It's great to see a perfumer "spread his wings" in this way. Andy Tauer seems with each new fragrance to manage to both pare down yet broaden his reach. This might possibly be his best yet.
Carillon pour un Ange is $75 for 15ML at Luckyscent
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
The Life Aquatic: Yachtsman Fragrances
I am always intrigued when a new niche perfume line is launched, and in this instance it's almost a literal occurrence, because the scents in the new Yachtsman line all have a seafaring theme. Four perfumes have just been introduced, five more will be released over the next few months and still more are on the horizon for release in 2011. I have been testing the current batch, named Home Port, Cabo, Tobago and Zanzibar. As you may has guessed, the unifying theme is exotic ports-of-call around the globe, with each fragrance purporting to embody the essence of its namesake destination. Needless to say I was happy to see an original idea for a new perfume line that was not all about “edgy” weirdness or a clichéd, overtly sexual approach. The Web site is attractive, the packaging is clean and nautical, and the latitude and longitude of each place is listed on the bottle under the name, which is a novel touch. The advertising tag line is “exceptional fragrances” which is definitely a bold claim to make in the crowded field of fragrance marketing. So how well do they live up to their premise?
Well, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that a couple of them are promising and I would actually wear them – except for the bad news part, which is that just as they are beginning to develop past the top notes and fly their true colors, they disappear. The other bad news is that two out of the four have a generous dose of something in them that's a deal breaker for me most of the time: synthetic “marine” notes. Yes, the dreaded Calone (a.k.a. The Kraken in my book) has raised its ugly head. I really don't know if that's the only chemical used to create the so-called marine note impression in these scents, but there is plenty of it here. Anyone who likes aquatic fragrances would probably want to try these.
The signature (Dare I say flagship? Yes, I do!) fragrance in the line is Home Port, a traditional hesperidic/aquatic masculine. It is pleasant in a comfortable sort of way, and since the home port of the company's owner and avid sailor Jon Verde is New Orleans, it has tobacco, leather and oakmoss in the base, leavened by bergamot, citrus, iris, mint, lavender bamboo, patchouli, “ocean” and basil. The marine note is quite prominent at first and then it settles down into the deeper notes, but unfortunately it's pretty much gone about an hour or so. I actually liked it more than I thought I would, so it's too bad that it does not last longer. One would expect that a fragrance with the listed base notes would have better longevity. It's one of the very few scents with a synthetic marine character that I have found to be wearable.
Cabo is an ozonic fresh citrus and herbal blend and is the most marine-heavy of the quartet. It starts out as the kind of thing that people who love Cool Water and its endless array of imitators would really like, but it soon takes on a dry, soapy character. The confluence of the marine accord with tangerine, cedar and clary sage was just not my cup of seawater, since it gets a little scratchy and I was hoping for the emergence of a juicy tangerine, but it is held captive by the astringency of the other notes. It is a very lightweight formulation and does not last long on my skin except for the lingering effects of the marine note. I was trying to figure out what it reminded me of when it hit me: motel soap. It smells just like the soap from a no-frills beach side motel I stayed in once; its most luxurious amenity for the guests was a large freezer for the fish they brought back from their deep-sea charter boat adventures. If you like this style of fragrance and don’t mind reapplying throughout the day you can go wild with Cabo. At these prices ($37.50 for 60 ml) you can splash away.
Tobago is the one I thought I would like best on paper, but in truth it’s the least harmonious of the set once it hits my skin. It's a fruity scent, most of which is supposed to be citrus, but there is some kind of very sweet and clingy thing in there that makes it smell like far too many mainstream fruity/floral/amber concoctions. If I smelled Tobago at the mall it would not surprise me in the least, as it just does not stand out from the crowd. Listed notes are mandarin, tangerine, lemon, frangipani, rosemary, wisteria, allspice, oakmoss, vetiver, tobacco and ginger. I have to say that I don't really get any of these very clearly, because whatever the synthetic woody-amber note is, it's blowing everything else out of the water. I will concede the allspice and wisteria since both of these are sweet, but of the rosemary, tobacco and vetiver there does not seem to be any trace, and if there is any real oakmoss in Tobago I will eat my sailor cap. Naturally, it is the most long lasting of the group and I actually had to scrub it once, it had taken such a wrong turn on me. (On the other hand, one of my sisters was quite taken with it, so maybe it’s just me.)
My favorite among these scents is Zanzibar, which lacks any marine accords. It's refreshing without having any “fresh” notes, but it does have cucumber, and before you recoil in horror, it's better behaved than what I have smelled in many more expensive scents. Cucumber and melon can go horribly wrong so easily, but here it's a quiet and natural partner for lemongrass and citrus. The heart notes are vanilla and spices, including nutmeg for which I have a particular fondness, and the base is balsamic and softly woody. Of all of these it's the one I would actually buy, but it does a disappearing act no more than an hour after application. I don't know if it's my skin, or just that it's a very diluted formulation, but something that has teak, cedar patchouli and frankincense in the base should have a little more staying power. I tested it in both hot and cool weather conditions, and indoors as well, and it did not seem to matter. On the plus side, it's perfect for hot weather because it will never get too strong, and it's only barely sweet. I would really like a stronger version of Zanzibar so I could see it through the drydown before it goes to Davy Jones' locker.
I think that the concept here is fun and captivating, but the execution needs work. The quality of these “exceptional fragrances” is somewhere between the latest Escada resort fragrance and the kind of inexpensive perfumes that are made for tourists and sold in cute little gift shops. These could be amazing if they had more longevity and better materials. The concentration of these fragrances is not listed on the bottle but I would be surprised to learn that any of them were stronger an an Eau de Toilette. I hope the next wave of Yachtsman scents is not overburdened with too many marine notes and that more thought goes into the ingredients. There are just too many better niche and independent perfume lines from which to choose, but these would be fine for people who don't really care about fine fragrance and just want something light, fun and good for wearing in summertime. I wish them well, I really do, since the concept for this line appeals to my romantic side. (Full disclosure: I currently have my Facebook page language set as “English Pirate” so it’s obvious that I have a fascination with the sea.) Carded samples and roll-on travel minis are available on the Web site if you don't want to take a chance on a full bottle.
Disclaimer: I acquired my samples of the Yachtsman fragrances from an online promotional giveaway.
Image: Sailing photo via Wikimedia per Creative Commons Share-alike license, taken by Wiki contributor “DS” in 2007.
Monday, July 19, 2010
L’Artisan, Nuit de Tubereuse. Go ahead, say I‘ve fallen for the hype. I don’t care. Austin has been hit by one tropical thunderstorm after another for the last month and this stuff, with it’s supercharged pepper top, green mango heart and creamy, yet transparent floral drydown is just too perfect for the electricity before the rain comes, and the green swampiness that hangs in the air afterwards.
I have fallen in love this summer with Chaparral by Roxana Villa , in fact, I just can't stop wearing it. This intoxicating blend of white sage, soft woods and frankincense melt together to become a wild honey on my skin that's absolute passion unbridled...
I have to choose La Via del Profumo's African Night, its floral and fruity notes mingled with calming green and earthy essences that make it smell like the sweet breath of the Earth exhaling in the coolness of awakening life as the sun goes down, making it the perfect antidote to both heat and stress.
Green Water by Jacques Fath (1947, reformulated 2008) - It is like bathing in cool peppermint tea with slices of orange and orange flowers floating all around you!
I've been wearing Lostmarch's Din Dan this summer. It is by far the softest fragrance in my inventory: a burst of not-too-sweet lemon sherbet that very quickly mellows into a skin scent reminiscent of lemon cookies, the fuzzy skin of apricots, and a clean musk that remains feather light all day. It's so simple and so perfect for the heat.
Khaltat Nokhba by Al Qurashi, enhances the usual trio of oud, rose and musk with floral, spicy and herbal notes- a dry and cool antidote to summer’s flaming oppression.
The green, icy metal armour of Futur by Piguet has been my defense against the cruel heat of this summer. I can't help but think of the spiky, thorny, dry earthiness of the re-edition as of a protective shield. There is also a certain hidden floral sumptuous within the arid sharpness of the scent. Well concealed amongst the green branches and blades of grass, flowers, jasmine and ylang, suddenly open up in very hot weather, adding another enjoyable dimension to this very successfully resurrected masterpiece.
During the day, I’ve been wearing everything from Annick Goutal’s Mandragore Pourpre to Ninfeo Mio, but in the evenings, if it’s warm and sultry, I’ve been enjoying Penhaligon’s Amaranthine, which reminds me so much of the tropical gardens of the lower latitudes I miss so much…
The scent I've been reaching for this summer is an oldie, and one that most likely should be the dead last that most people should wear in summer: Muscs Kublai Khan by Serge Lutens. It's warm, slightly feral embrace is just what I've been needing on these cool Los Angeles evenings.
To check other lists, please visit: Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This and Perfume Posse
Image by Rodney Smith.
Labels: Best of
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Pencil Pusher: Wonderwood by Comme des Garçons
This past Saturday ScentBar had a little gathering to try three new Amouage scents that will be out in August. I came, I smelled, I went to LAX to pick up the godchild. As I've reacted to all of this line so far, I like them- they're obviously made of quality ingredients. If the prices were about 30% less I'd most likely sing the praises. But $325 for 100ML of a lesser concentration makes me say "Tennis, anyone?"
I suppose if I was in a higher income bracket (or just was not cheap) I'd feel differently.
What was there that caught my fancy was the new Comme des Garçons, called Wonderwood. It's written of as "wood gone wild". I'm not sure that "wild" is the word for it, but it's certainly "all wood, all the time". It's guaiac, cedar, and sandalwood with just enough incense to put a toasted burn on it. It has a touch of Faber No. 2 to it, but then you wouldn't expect a Comme des Garçons to be delivered without a definite wink, would you? Luckily the peppery bergamot in the opening and the cashmeran and oud in the drydown make that wink a decidedly sly one.
Best part? $95 for 50ML and $125 for 100
At places that sell CdeG. I asked for a sample at ScentBar.
Thursday, July 08, 2010
The Dog Days...Amouage Relection for Men
The July 4th weekend was lovely here in Los Angeles: the leftover "June Gloom" kept the temps under 80 and made the evenings cool. Back East where I grew up it's been just this side of, well, hell. Triple digit temps with humidity, and notices from the powers that be that due to low-hanging ozone one should avoid breathing when outdoors.
This is weather I moved away from.
One of the ways to deal with the heat has always been to keep some light, refreshing scent in the icebox to spritz or splash on when you are at the point where the heat makes you want to mainline iced vodka or commit seppuku with a sharpened popsicle. Back when it was good, 4711 was a candidate. Eau d'Hadrien or Eau Sauvage is one as well. Amouage Reflection for Men might deserve some space in the Frigidare as well.
According to Marina it was created in 2007 and the scent has notes of red pepper berries, rosemary, bitter orange leaves, orris, jasmine, neroli, cedarwood, sandalwood, patchouli and vetiver and compares it to "sun rays playing on the surface of the ocean". It does have a beachy, summery vibe to it without being literally aquatic; the sharp vetiver is balanced by the softly sensual woods in the drydown while the rosemary and orange nicely balance the neroli.
The fly in the ointment is of course the price: $225 definitely takes this one out of the "splash away" category that something less expensive might engender. But then again this might be a bit strong to be thrown all over the place.
Amouage still hasn't convinced me that $225 for 50ML is a great idea. This one might have gotten me the closest. Not quite there, but close.
What's your default icebox refresher, splash on or swallowed? I'm leaning towards Guerlain Vetiver and an icy G&T these days..
At Amazon and Luckyscent. I was given a sample by a generous friend.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Pyramid Schemes: The Egyptian Perfumes of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
As some fragrance fans may know, Colorado artisan perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz (the DSH in DSH Perfumes) has been involved in a very special project for the Denver Art Museum for its new King Tut exhibit. Her mission: to re-create perfume oils from ancient Egyptian formulas, hewing as close to the original materials as possible from old texts handed down through the ages. Dawn's advantage was that she is already a master of natural perfumery, so she was a perfect fit to lend her talents to the project. (After all, she already has an outstanding group of historical perfumes under her belt for the DAM, the Perfumed Court series of scents based on the original formulas of court perfumers at the palace of Versailles during the time of Marie Antoinette, Madame du Barry and of course the Sun King, Louis XIV.) To go with the Egyptian perfumes, she designed these to-die-for bottles, and I mean that in the literal sense, since they were made to look like the elaborate bejeweled vessels that were entombed with Egypt's elite rulers. They even come with a “mummy” wrapping!
I have been an admirer of DSH ever since I was privileged to test and review a broad range of her perfumes a couple of years ago, so I was excited to learn that she was participating in another special artistic project, such as the one that resulted in the masterful Memory & Desire No.1. How exciting for any perfumer, to have a chance to delve into history and come up with elixirs with which the Pharaohs of Egypt might have anointed themselves! I feel very fortunate to have received preview samples of these rare perfumes.
The perfumes themselves are of varied styles, though all share a common thread of having resinous materials in their composition after the fashion of the times. I have to state outright that I have no idea of the ingredient list for these perfumes, so I can only give my impressions and maybe a few educated guesses. This is definitely unexplored olfactory territory for me. I will start with Megaleion, a musky scent with a nut-like warmth and a distinctly pungent green aspect. Had I been told that this was a long-lost vintage Chypre scent from the Thirties I would have had no reason to disbelieve it. It has no discernible sweetness and skews a bit toward the masculine side in modern terms, but of course that definition would have been meaningless all those centuries ago. It has a smooth undercurrent of what seems to be a very good quality botanical musk accord.
Antiu (a.k.a. Metopion) is a fascinating study in contrasts, opening with potent, penetrating bitter almond combined with the juicy snap of fresh galbanum – no guessing needed here! I am pretty sure I have never smelled these two things together before, but now that I have, I want more. It's a marriage made in heaven, or should I say the verdant realm of Osiris? Once the almond retreats it becomes a harmonious blend of green herbal aromas with a slightly sweet resinous base. I just want to keep re-applying to get the initial sensation over and over again. These are about the last notes I would ever have thought of pairing up in a fragrance, but that's why DSH is so respected for her artistic approach to perfumery. My only complaint about Antiu is that the bitter almond does not persist long enough into the drydown for me, but that is to be expected of many naturally sourced fragrances.
I don't really have the right words to describe Keni (a.k.a. The Medesian) since it does not smell like anything in the lexicon of modern perfumes. I guess I would say it's perhaps the most rustic in style of this group, in a good way. I’ m pretty sure there is labdanum in this, or a closely related plant resin derivative. It begins with slightly medicinal character, but in a pleasant, aroma-therapeutic kind of way. It has green notes as well, but more subdued, not the splashy overdose that's in Antiu, and maybe some hibiscus too. It is a little strange, but the more it's on my skin the better I like it; it has an odd quality of seeming to cool down and acquire a mineral/leather tone once it has interacted with the skin’s surface, somewhat in the manner of DSH’s Arome d’ Egypt, a perfume I love that’s already in the line. It has a little of the what-the-heck-is-that-anyway mystery that so intrigued me about Memory & Desire No.1. I enjoy giving my nose the occasional puzzle piece to sort out; and I will keep coming back to Keni.
I have saved the best for last, and I am unable to give an unbiased opinion about my favorite of the four, 1,000 Lilies (a.k.a. Susinon). I fell head over heels in love with this fragrance as soon as I opened the vial, and the affair has only escalated as I have been testing it on my skin. It is simply beautiful, and of all of these it's the one I really, really hope that DSH will decide to make for her regular perfume line; I rather like its Egyptian name of Susinon if it does go into production. It's an ethereal green floral that has echoes of existing perfumes in the DSH repertoire that I admire, the lovely Padme Lotus and Madonna Lily, but it's lusher, brighter, greener and more long lasting than either of those. (I wore it to bed one evening, and in the morning the cat that often shares my pillow smelled of it all the next day.) It also reminds me of a long-gone perfume that was a favorite of many; Alpine Lily by Crown Perfumery. (You may recall that this was the house that Clive Christian decided to purchase in 1999 in order to produce perfumes under his own name, and sadly all the wonderful Crown scents were discontinued a few years later.) Alpine Lily was one of my favorites in that line, and when I smelled 1,000 Lilies I was struck not only by its beauty but also its affinity with Alpine Lily. It is certainly not a replica by any means, but it shares the same soft, heartbreaking shimmer of tender lily essence that I so loved in the Crown scent. If you have ever tried Serge Lutens Un Lys and thought it was too chilly or too overwhelming, but you really like the aroma of lilies, this would really hit the spot. I can close my eyes and visualize wearing this while floating up the Nile on a luxurious royal barge, trailing my hand in the water on a luminous Egyptian night under the full moon. If this kind of perfume is what the Pharaohs got to take with them into the afterlife, I am going to start worshiping false idols immediately.
Image: The Great Pyramids of Egypt from Bruno Girin’s Flickr photostream per Creative Commons Share-Alike license, some rights reserved.
Disclaimer: The samples for this review were provided to me by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for testing.
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Gentleman's Agreement: Mouchoir de Monsieur by Guerlain
There are few things from over a hundred years ago that one would like to live with on a day-to-day basis: one-cylinder hand-cranked cars, ice delivery in lieu of home refrigerators, women not having the vote..
Well, actually most things from 1904 are better left to 1904.
Except Mouchoir de Monsieur. According to Robin at Now Smell This, listed notes are lavender, bergamot, verbena, rose, jasmine, neroli, fern harmony, civet, patchouli, vanilla and iris. The notes don't tell the full story: Mouchoir is incredibly suave with it's initial blast of bright citrussy lavender, smoothly running through the flowers to the civety, patchy drydown. That civet makes me advise to go steadily with the application, but frankly that applies to everything, especially for the boys.
Unlike spats, Mouchoir de Monsieur can be happily worn daily without irony. I hope Guerlain hasn't reformulated it. Chime in if they have and whether it's ruined.
I purchased my sample from the Perfumed Court.
Mouchoir de Monsieur is $71.80 for 3.4 oz at Amazon