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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Big Love, with No Apology: Bijan by Bijan

By Tom

My Scent Twin posted about this scent, which reminded me that I've had a beensy little tester of this forever. Since it's been in the back of a closet forever it was in good shape and I thought I would revisit it.

Flashback to the late 80's: Reagan was in office, "Dynasty", "LA Law" and "Knots Landing" were the big shows and I was moving to Los Angeles. I chose specifically to live in Beverly Hills, since (compared to NYC) rents were cheap and I wanted to live in the quietest, safest neighborhood I could find that still let me walk to the party-town that is West Hollywood.

80's scents were big. Big Shoulders big. Hiroshima big. Giorgio was still open at the corner of Rodeo and Dayton, puffing its eponymous scent into the intersection. At that long light it would permeate your car for hours.

Bijan didn't spritz. Bijan was super-exclusive. You didn't walk into Bijan, it was appointment only in an era when that was unheard of. What people didn't hear was that once you bought something from Bijan there was an unheard of level of customer service: if you popped a button or tore a lining a trip to the store would mean that you and your garment would be pampered equally. If you were a resident of the Westside who traveled Santa Monica Boulevard Bijan was a fixture on his billboard near Sepuleveda, his tanned smiling face reminding you that he was having a great time selling stuff you can't afford to people you'd never meet. His new-every-year Bijan-yellow Rolls-Royce was always parked in front of his store, parking tickets be damned.

At the end of the decade Bijan introduced his fragrance. It was a big, rich concoction of white flowers with an ambery vanillic base. The sample I have isn't labelled, but I suspect it's and EdeP at best and a few dabs at the crook of the elbow are as handsome and as dated as Brenda Dicksons "Welcome to my Home".

But you know, it's still better than 80% of most things coming out right now, and if American Apparel can make a fortune recycling the 80's then why not this? Just please, for pitys sake, don't spray...

From Gaia's review: The only concentration still in production is an EDT (usually a dead giveaway for reformulation) and it's official retail price according to Bijan's website is $130 for 1.7 oz. Seriously. Searching online reveals it can actually be bought from various sources for under $30, and the EDP is still around here and there.

My sample is from the bowels of my closet.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Love isn't always easy: Tauer Perfumes Le Maroc pour Elle

By Donna

I first encountered the perfumes of Andy Tauer back when only two of them existed. I ordered samples of both L'Air du Desert Marocain and Le Maroc pour Elle to see what all the excitement was about. The former went immediately into my all-time personal hall of fame; it took me a lot longer to figure out Le Maroc. My first sample was tested and then set aside while I figured out if I liked it or not; then taken out of storage every so often for a reminder. I ended up letting someone else use most of it, but I could not stop thinking about it, so recently I bought another sample, determined this time to break the code and wear it until I knew its secrets, if possible.

I thought it was wonderfully crafted and stunning in its execution, and it was obvious that many high quality natural materials went into its creation. I think my puzzlement was partially due to thinking of it as a rose perfume the first time around, which is not really what it is, so it’s best to think of it simply as a very good Oriental scent. Yes, it has a heart featuring the finest Moroccan rose, but right out of the vial it was oddly medicinal and strangely oily to me, due to top notes that include the pungent lavender that Andy Tauer likes so much. Furthermore, the jasmine in this fragrance is so strong and indolic that it almost smells like an old-fashioned classic with civet in the base, such as Lanvin's iconic My Sin. The contrast between this deeply animalic quality and the almost astringent lavender and mandarin in the opening was a bit disconcerting at first. I finally realized that what this perfume needed was just one thing: time to grow into itself on skin.

So why is Le Maroc pour Elle not a rose perfume? It is a scent with a structure that has abstracted the rose by bonding it with the other notes to form a unique impression. It has this in common with one of my other favorites, Lancôme's Magie Noire, which has a hazy center of Bulgarian rose surrounded by smoky woods and rich florals; you can't quite pick out the rose by itself, it just enriches everything else. (To get the best idea of how this works, you have to smell the vintage version.) Le Maroc does a similar trick with her rose, which is by nature a bit sharper and greener than the one in Magie Noire. Another take on this concept is Paloma Picasso's Mon Parfum, an abstract rose chypre that never lets you forget about its dark rose essence while never being mistaken for a rose soliflore by any stretch of the imagination.

Once I figured that out (I can be a slow learner sometimes) I knew that I just needed to be patient as the layers became revealed. Little by little she unveiled herself, but never did the pure, classic floral “rose” note appear. No indeed, the lavender finally subsided and it worked its way through the headiness of the heart, so heavy with sweet Orientalized roses and “dirty” with jasmine, during which it reminded me of another blast from the past, the late, lamented Maroc by Ultima II (Revlon). I loved that fragrance and I have no idea why it went away; it was released during the same era as the inferior Ciara, which became inexplicably popular. Maroc had a huge, exhilarating and high-pitched rose note that could knock you right back on your heels, but it was strangely beautiful all the same since it was surrounded by sharp herbal notes, patchouli and dry oakmoss. Le Maroc pour Elle shares that character in a more earthy and understated way at this stage of development, although it has its own kind of smoldering power.

Finally, at the last stage of the drydown it took on a smooth, candied quality, very sweet and persistent. If you don't love this one by now you are in trouble anyway, because it lasts pretty much forever until you wash it off. It had just a touch of the old Dana Tabu by now, very sweet and riding on the edge of indecency, but in a good way that admirers of this particular style of Oriental perfume will understand perfectly. The oily aspect that was so unexpected in the opening felt just right here; it was simply waiting for the chance to show why it's in there. It is nowhere as strong as Tabu at this stage of course; nothing is, but good luck removing it without a scrub down. However, by this time you won't want to, because it has fused with your skin and smells absolutely wonderful. If you wear it to bed the scent of candied roses will still be there in the morning, embedded in the woody-balsamic base that makes it all so delicious, not to mention very sexy. When it reached this final destination with me, I finally understood why so many people love it, because now so did I.

Tauer Perfumes are available from his website, at selected shops in Europe, online from Luckyscent in the U.S. and The Perfume Shoppe in Canada.

Image credit: Moroccan pattern desktop wallpaper, a free download from

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Smooth Talker: Serge Lutens Bas de Soie

By Tom

I know I must be about the last person in the blogosphere to try this one: I don't know if it's ennui but I just don't feel like jumping through those hoops anymore where it comes to Uncle Serge. Certainly not for something that's going to be at Barneys in due time or worse will only be available in Paris. Bas de Soie (Silk Stockings) is now at Barneys, so sniff I did.

I almost feel bad for the house of Lutens; they are locked into the idea that there must, must be four new releases from the house per year come what may. They are then faced with the surly public (I.E., me) who get crabby that they have made another trip to the stewed-fruits and wood well, or worse had dared to answer our pleas to branch out by giving us the Apollonian ideal of a genre we don’t care for. Witness how sulky people got over L’EAU Serge Lutens definitive “clean” or “Nuit de Cellophane” and its fruity florals.

Bas de Soie isn’t going to set the world on fire but it’s not going to have people up in arms. It starts on me as cold, rosy hyacinth and a light powdery orris that is the antithesis of his Iris Silver Mist. It doesn’t do much else except add some of the fresh accord from L’EAU, a rather sharp, metallic shade to it that makes me think of spray cans and a creaminess that makes me think of the super-fatted soaps you get from Erno Laszlo if you have dry skin.

This all sounds pretty freaking dreadful as I type it, but it’s really quite nice in a cool, Hitchcock Blonde kind of way. “Dial ‘M’ For Murder” was on while I was testing this and I thought that it would be perfect for Grace Kelly’s Margot Wendice:: a woman so cool that the discovery that her husband not only tried to set her up as a murderer merely elicits her acceptance of a cocktail. She’d smell of Bas de Soie...

Available at the usual suspects, $120 for 50ML (I’m assuming, I didn’t ask). I received my sample from the counter at the store.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pretty, Pretty: Prada Infusion d'Iris

By Tom

Neiman Marcus is having their beauty event, where I stock up on Kiehls and come away with a (slightly tacky IMHO) tote and a bunch of samples. The 2007 release from Prada was the scent sample. I don't know what I was expecting since the Prada line of fashion I find rather severe and the nylon luggage I find laughably overpriced. Vuitton canvas is crazy expensive too, but it has some history.

The scent however is a winner: sweet, clean, powdery in the opening and warm woods in the drydown. I can't say that it's groundbreaking, or even that I would wear it myself since it's a little frilly on me but I can certainly see it as a lovely scent for late summer/ early fall when it's hot or an olfactory version of a full spectrum light-box for the winter blahs. A few splashes of this couldn't help but lift the spirits...

In various sizes from $65 for 1.6oz up to $360 for a whopping 25oz at Neiman Marcus, et al.

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Winners of the draw from


Please click "contact us" so that we can give your address to ship the package to.

Remember, the offer of 10% off your first order is open until September 30th. Use code PST at checkout.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Side B: Bleu de Chanel and Mark Jacobs Bang

By Tom

What better way to celebrate Labor day than wandering around the mall?

Well, there are lots of them, but part of the day I wandered around the mall anyway. The mall was the Beverly Center, which is a 20 minute stroll from my hovel in Beverly Hills' glamorous "Industrial Triangle". I was there to see the new iPod line- not that I was going to buy one since I already have two that I don't use much since I have an iPhone. I was sadly thwarted in this pursuit so onward I wandered.

Bloomingdales had both of these new releases, which I am perhaps the last person to smell in the blogosphere.

Bleu de Chanel is listed at Bloomingdales website as a "woody aromatic" with "a procotave blend of citrus and woods" and admonishes us to "Be unexpected" Sadly the juice doesn't take it's own advice. The square blue bottle dispenses rather square blue liquid that takes the idea of "blue" in it's most literal form. Yes, the dreaded aquatic. It's so clean, so fresh, so stridently inoffensive that frankly the name should be "Blah". Or perhaps "Bleech" $59 for 1.7oz and $79 for 3.4.

Marc Jacobs Bang is listed (in all caps) as "FREE AND ELECTRIFYING, SEXY AND ALLURING" and "FRESH, PEPPERY AND WOODY". It is. It does have that "fresh" aspect to it but the pepper and woods keep the seashore aspects to a minimum, just a light metallic shimmer. The bottle looks like something from the "Fortress of Solitude" set in "Superman 2" but I can't fault the scent, it's very nice. I would caution to go steadily, the first couple of house were ALL CAPS on me- the one spray in the crook of my elbow was throwing massive sillage until it calmed. Not for the over-applier... $55 for 1.7oz and $75 for 3.4.

Reminder- while the draw for the samples is closed, the deal offering all PST readers an introductory discount of 10% off their first order at Indiescents is still open. Just enter “PST” at checkout. Offer is good until September 30th.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Expecting More from the Top Shelf: Xerjoff XXY and M. Micallef Red Sea

By Donna

With fragrance prices heading steadily into the stratosphere in recent years, it's hard to know where to draw the line. What's the new standard of affordable? What's the new definition of snobbery pricing if heretofore moderately priced scents are hitting $200 a bottle just for the Eau de Toilette strength? One thing has not changed, or at least it shouldn't; if a perfume is going to cost the equivalent of a month's car payment or even a month's rent in some cases, it had better be really good. (Check out Tom's recent post for a new solution to high fragrance prices.)

I have been testing some samples of higher end perfumes and two of them stood out as being less than deserving of their price tags: Xerjoff XXY and M. Micallef Red Sea, both marketed as unisex scents and both listed as being of the Oriental style.

Red Sea is by no means the most expensive in the ultra-niche Micallef line, being $190 for 100 ml. However, the brand's reputation had led me to expect more. I was a fan of the line's first foray into the U.S. market, and it's a shame that their original offerings are discontinued. Absent for a number of years, they came back in a big way with a long list of perfumes that sound original and exciting, so I was delighted to find it among a packet of samples I received. Red Sea's list of notes is neroli, cinnamon, rose, iris, sandalwood and white musk. So why do I get synthetic marine out of it? That was the last thing I expected, despite the name. That aroma softens after awhile but something screechy is left, and I hate to think that this company would be using a woody-amber sandalwood substitute; however, that's what it smells like to me. I am not getting a whole lot of cinnamon in this so that's not it either. The white musk is a possible culprit but it does not smell very musky so I suspect it's one of those “crystal” types that do not resemble the real thing at all. The end result is that this perfume smells rather thin and cheap to me right from the start and it does not improve over time. Maybe it's just me, but I would have expected something a lot better from this house.

I tried it several times in an attempt to figure out if my nose was having an off day or if the weather was a factor, etc. but it was the same each time, so it really does not work for me. It reminded me just a little of L' Artisan's Al Oudh, which I love, but it's only a faint resemblance. In this price range I would have expected that level of quality, or even something approaching a Serge Lutens or Montale product. With the field of Oriental perfumes so crowded in recent years, a new one has to be outstanding to succeed, and I don't think Red Sea has the firepower it needs.

Whatever Red Sea's sins are, they pale in comparison to the hype surrounding the Xerjoff line compared to the actual delivery. XXY is also described as an Oriental style scent, and here the term is used loosely, because there is nothing rich or lush about it. It is ambery, but in a wispy sort of way, and it gets very quiet after a few minutes – and I am the champion perfume amplifier of all time! It is refined and smooth and nice, but if I were buying this I would want a lot more than just nice. Other alleged notes include black pepper, jasmine, ylang ylang and patchouli, most of which I can't discern; all I get is a softly sweet, slightly buttery amber along with a hint of the ylang ylang and an echo of wood so faint I can't even tell what it is supposed to be. Lasting power is pretty good, but it just never seems to get interesting.

The fragrance is presented in a limited edition Venetian glass flask that is available in several colors, for about $1,800 for 50 ml of Eau de Parfum. Yes, that is correct; I did not add an extra zero. You can also get the plain refill version for $270, which to me is still too much. This fragrance may be the ultimate in refinement in its class, but when refinement reaches the vanishing point, perhaps a little more life needs to be left in the formula. This could have been really good had it not been formulated in washed-out pastels instead of deep jewel tones. (On the plus side, the special bottles are gorgeous.)

I found XXY for sale at Parfums Raffy, and a sample vial goes for $15. Red Sea is available at Luckyscent and a sample is $4. My samples were received as part of a random grab bag of samples in a prize draw.

Image credit: Xerjoff XXY Venetian glass presentation flacon in gold from

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

State of Independence. launches...and a prize draw

By Tom

Perfume prices have skyrocketed in the last few years, so much so that bloggers jest that $200 is the new $100 and $50 is the new free. Those clever gents at Luckyscent have created a new website that showcase perfumers who are at a lower price-point but give up nothing as far as quality or originality. Welcome!

They were nice enough to send me a few samples:

Joya FvsS No. 1 ($113 for 75ML, $28 for 10ML) a soft white floral with quince and heliotrope which sort of didn’t do it for me. FvsS No. 6 is a very grassy cypress that totally did.

Tokyo Milk Ex Libris – No. 16 ($28 for 30ML) is starts off dusty, but then cuts straight to the fig. It’s that slightly slutty fig I loved in Ninfeo Mio, stripped of the rest of the garden. A winner.

Sarah Horowitz Roots ($80 for 40ML) is oud, oakmoss and vanilla that is shockingly rooty in a good way: the shade of a dense forest in spray.

Sonoma Scent Studio Rose Musc ($75 for 34ML) is, well, rose. It’s a very nice rose, and a bargain. The later ambergris and musk adds warmth and a lot more interest.

Softeistanz Im Nebel ($95 for 50ML) is interesting; a yin/yang of cool green fruitiness and warm peppery incense. Totally doesn’t work for me.

Smell Bent is a house I know- I hadn’t tried however Mocktail ($45 for 55ML) and I need a bottle. It took me a while to peg it but finally came to me; it’s kind of a lighter version of Aldehyde 44. The Le Labo is of course much more nuanced. It’s also only available in Dallas and about 5 times the price. Mocktail is fizzy, happy citrus and woods that has great staying power: I sprayed at 7am and was still getting whiffs in line at Bristol Farms at 6.

To celebrate the launch of the new site indiescent is offering a package of 10 samples to three readers of PST. To be entered in the draw leave a comment- tell us what’s your best inexpensive scent perhaps.

Drawing will end on Midnight Pacific time on September 9th. Winner will be announced after so be sure to check back daily after that closing date (not sure with Colombina’s schedule when it will be posted)

More importantly, they are offering all PST readers an introductory discount of 10% off their first order. Just enter “PST” at checkout. Offer is good until September 30th.

I received my sample pack from luckyscent/indiescents. That’s right, just the sample pack.