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Friday, December 31, 2010

Like This

"If anyone wants to know what "spirit" is,
or what "God’s fragrance" means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.
Like this."

It took me a while to figure out WHAT Like This reminded me of, and after the association came, I loved Tilda Swinton's Etat Libre d'Orange fragrance all the more for it. The perfume reminds me of the smell of home-made "lollipops" of my Soviet childhood, the kind that you make by dissolving sugar in some water and heating the mix in a spoon over a burner on the stove...I invariably burned the "lollipops" a little bit and rather enjoyed the bitter sweetness that resulted from that...The burnt, caramelized feel is my favorite characteristic of Like This.

The home-made "lollipop" association might be responsible for the fact that everything about Like This strikes me as touchingly, endearingly child-like...from orange blossom (baby products) to pumpkin (Halloween) to ginger (Christmas) to mandarins (New Year's Eve)...Immortelle, when not in an overdose, has a certain cuddly, fluffy quality and heliotrope is an epitome of tenderness..."It’s an idea that makes me very, very warm and happy," Swinton said about the perfume. And that is an effect it has on me. Because of the delicate spiciness of ginger, slight earthiness of immortelle and vetiver and that burnt effect, there is also something undeniably quirky, slightly off-kilter about Like This...if it were a film about a childhood, it would be by Tim Burton... starring Tilda Swinton, of course...

(I also adore the orange color association of the fragrance; from the packaging to the notes, it is a visual joy to this fan of the hue.)

I cannot think of a better perfume in which to see off this year. (What will YOU be wearing on New Year's eve?) In fact, this is the first full bottle that I wanted to own in what feels like ages, and, thanks to my Santa, now I do; the first scent I felt "twirly" about (a term borrowed from this wonderful post on a wonderful blog, Notes from Josephine). Happy New Year, everybody! May 2011 take it easy on us and be sweet, exciting and happy. Like This.

Image, my very own. :)


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dirty Candy Jasmine: Bruno Acampora Jasmin

By Marina

Actually, it's Poopy Candy Jasmine, in my highly scientific jasmine classification, but I decided not to put that in the title. Bruno Acampora's might just be one of the most indolic and sweet jasmines I know. It is fairly simple: you smell the indolic facet, you smell the honeyed one. That's all there is to say about its developement or lack thereoff. But it is perhaps this very straightforwardness that makes the fragrance appear so natural, so life-like....perhaps even large than a wall-sized close-up of the petals...

The unapologetic indolic quality of the composition further contributes to this very realistic feel of Jasmin. To me, it is also what makes it so attractive. “There is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself,” said Herman Melville. The heavenly beauty of the floral aspect of jasmine might be so irresistible to us (it has to be, given the amount of perfumes trying to replicate it!) exactly because it is perceived side by side with the very base fecal aspect.

Having said that, this one is for hardcore jasminophiliacs and skank-lovers, and even they will surreptitiously wonder, like I do, what's wrong with them if they like this stuff. Others should try this candy once, just to say they've done it.

Available at Luckyscent, $175.00 for 10ml

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Chopped" Champion: Womanity by Thierry Mugler

By Marina

Do you watch Chopped? The Food Network show "challenges four up-and-coming chefs to turn a selection of everyday ingredients into an extraordinary three-course meal." The selection of ingredients in a basket for each round is always unexpected: mint liqueur, canned chicken, raspberries and edamame for an appetizer round...frankfurters, chocolate, arugula and uni for get the idea. The seemingly incongruous mix of notes in Womanity made me think of the show..."For a dessert round, in your baskets, you have strawberries, figs, black pepper, caviar and rye bread...

Figs and caviar are the "official" ingredients, the rest are just what my nose smells in Womanity, so don't quote me on that. To be honest, I could not make myself page through the elaborate PR materials looking for more details. PR materials had passages like:

"Beyond mirrors, beyond that reassuring glance at our own image,
What if femininity meant feminine solidarity?
What if women spoke out about the pleasures of femininity – of being women, together, in the world today?
And what if women built for themselves the community that unites them?"

What if we skip that and go straight to the juice, it's interesting enough on it's own. Here is how it goes on my skin: the smell of strawberry jam, brightened by citrus, then the ripe, sweet, chalky scent of figs, then suddenly a very distinct aroma of warm, freshly baked rye bread...then lots and lots of black pepper...then a salty-woody accord, within which, way towards the drydown I can intuit rather than really smell something ...very subtly animalic, which, when taken in the context of the saline accord, allows me to conclude without feeling too foolish that it must be the "caviar"...

Basically, Womanity had me at rye bread, I am a sucker for doughy notes in perfume. I am intrigued by a savoury take on a gourmand (On Chopped, Womanity as a dessert entry might be criticized for not being sweet enough, it would fare better in an appetizer round). I like the way all ingredients stand out, as if afraid to truly mix and mingle with each other and yet somehow seamlessly flow. I like that, despite much brouhaha about women power and such, the scent is actually unisex. I like how the fragrance is possibly even stranger than Angel, but is a little bit more low key. I like how its bizarreness doesn't make it unwearable. But most of all I like the rye bread...

To sum up...very strange, very Mugler, very well done despite or perhaps thanks to the odd selection of ingredients... Available at Nordstrom and Bloomigdales, $58.00-$98.00.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best of 2010

'Tis the season for looking back on the olfactory year gone by ... Please join us and list one, yes just one, scent that you nominate to be the best of 2010 for you personally. It does not have to be a 2010 release, and, as always, when we say, "the best", we mean, "the one that brought us the most delight".

How I wish I could nominate some quirky, underappreciated perfume for my choice. Alas, I will have to be satisfied with a quirky, appreciated masterpiece. There is no denying that Nuit de Tubereuse has quickly entered the select circle of perfumes in my collection that manage to be wholly wearable, but never boring. I have worn it for all weathers, moods and occasions, and am still irretrievably addicted to its electric pepper opening, the weird giggle of that green mango note, and the wholly lovely dark veil of that drydown, hovering between tuberose, incense, and oriental. Reader, I bought my bottle retail.

This was easy, although a little unexpected! 2010 was the year that I rediscovered the House of Chanel. For years No 5 was my “go to” fragrance whenever I needed something just a little bit black tie. Sadly, it changed on me and it’s been years since I enjoyed it. That’s all different now because about 2 months ago I rediscovered the magic of No 5 all over again in the form of No. 5 Eau Premiere! Whatever they’ve done to it is perfection and I can’t stop wearing it, almost like a lover that you’ve just been reunited with after 20 years of absence.......

My favorite perfume discovery of 2010 was Tcharas by La Via del Profumo - in fact, the repertoire of the house itself was a revelation to me. Its wild, exhilarating, and shocking beauty expanded my thinking about what fragrance could be, and the perfumer's skill with all-natural ingredients including resins, moss and earthy animalic elements left me in awe and eager to explore the rest of the line.

Declaration Cartier (1998) Jean-Claude Ellena. I have been obsessed by the artemesia and cedar mixed with the sunny bergamot and bitter orange notes. When I wear it, I can't believe it was a mainstream release because the opening notes are all about bitter herbs and sweaty cumin and cedar. I remember reading in an interview that with was Mr. Ellena's favorite creation.

Lostmarc'h Lann-Ael
is my favorite scent this year (and have you tried Din-Dan?). This whisper of a scent has long been a favorite in my rotation, as it is creamy without being heavy, foodie without being dessert, interesting without being too challenging... but right now I am mad for it. The reason? It smells like the top of my baby boy's warm little noggin after a bath. The pure, sweet, milky and weirdly cereal smells of clean baby are intensely there - and all of this without a touch of powder.

Al Qurashi’s Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bent Mubarak
- This dark and glamorous blend is a hypnotic mélange of lemony Taif rose, suede-lined oud, and bewitching musk, a riveting perfume that’s most at home in flickering candlelight behind locked doors

The olfactory color of this year for me was green. The aloof, cold, stark intensity of green chypres, the deceptive lady-like, crispy fragility of green florals, which hides unyielding core of strength, the general angular, jolie laide beauty and the noli me tangere quality of the green family held an incredible appeal. Private Collection and Private Collection Jasmine White Moss, Untitled, Amazone, Puredistance, Bel Respiro, and Memory of Kindness were in constant rotation. The perfume that I worn and enjoyed the most, however, was the very successfully re-done Futur by Robert Piguet. The standoffish fragrance with an attitude and an oddly, wonderfully metallic verdancy has been my armour this year. I imagine its thorny, dry, earthy greenness to be a protective shield and thus I would go so far as to call Futur my comfort scent.

I had a seemingly unbreakable tie between Serge Lutens' Bas de Soie and L'Artisan Parfumeur's Traversee du Bosphore. So I put one on each arm and asked for family and friends to vote. Traversee du Bosphore won by 3 votes! I think if you like one, you'll like the other as well....

My best scent of 2010 is one that I am happy has a price point that not only allows but practically begs extravagant spritzing: Mocktail by smell bent. It's a happy, sparkly citrus with a smooth woody finish that never fails to elicit a grin and at $45 for 55ML almost feels like it's free..

Please tune in to the other participants: Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, and Perfume Posse.


Monday, December 27, 2010

In a Holiday Humor: L'Artisan Coeur de Vetiver Sacre & Amouage Memoir Man

By Marina

With Coeur de Vétiver Sacré, L'Artisan Parfumeur promises to take the wearer to the "magic East". On my skin, the fragrance never makes it quite that far. It goes down Queens Blvd and Long Island Expy, with final destination being my favorite Russian grocery store, called Monya & Misha, in Rego Park. Not very magic, you say? Well, when one is craving one's ancestors' food, it is! Inside the store we head right to the pickles section. Monya & Mitya has a big table with buckets full of barrel-marinated tomatoes, gherkins, cabbage, name it, they marinate it. That unglamorous, badly lit little section might just be my favorite place in all NYC. To put a long story short, and you've already guessed it, Coeur de Vétiver Sacré smells to me like pickles or rather like that whole corner at Monya & Mitya's...a green, dill-like, raw, earthy aroma, slightly rotting in the most appetizing manner. Coeur de Vétiver Sacré might disappoint the hardcore vetiver fans; were it not for "vétiver" in the name, I wouldn't have guessed that the composition was meant to be vetiver-centered. I am not complaining though. To a Russian, pickles (with a shot of icy vodka to raise a toast to New Year) are indeed sacré.

When one over-indulges, one wants to detox, not in the least to detox spiritually. Here is where Amouage Memoir Man comes in. With notes of basil, mint, lavender, absinthe, frankinsence, leather and a whole bunch of other good stuff, on me it basically smells of piney insense. The chilly herbs are fairly pronounced, the leather is not, the base is all cedarwood...but overall my impression is just that- cold, piney incense. This is the scent of a brisk walk in the morning, the kind of morning that Pushkin described as "frost and sunshine"...the snow is shining, the air is biting your throat with its iciness...everything is suddenly clear and quiet in your head and your walk through a pine forest to a small wooden church, you inhale the incense, you are at peace with yourself and the world...

A bit of a jump from Rego Park, Queens, to Pushkin's Russia, but hey, such is a transportive power of perfume. Quite possibly, neither of the fragrances smell on me as creators intended, but hey, that's skin chemistry and cultural background for ya. And finally, expertly and seriously written reviews these were not, but hey, Holidays should be fun.

Which fragrances smell on you like nothing you'd expect from the list of notes, surprising you with odd associations? Do share!

Coeur de Vetiver Sacre is available at Barneys, $135.00 for 100ml; Memoire Man can be found at Luckyscent, $260.00 for 100ml.
Image is by Steven Meisel.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Candide by Aftelier Perfumes

By Marina

Candide was named after the eponymous novel by Voltaire, which, according to Aftelier, has a theme of optimism. Interestingly, optimism is in fact dismissed in the book, and it has been debated by students of Voltaire's work, which philosophy the novel does advocate. Regardless of the name, there is a brightness in Candide the perfume, which in fact gives a wearer a sense of...maybe not optimism...perhaps a certain melancholy upliftedness. One really shouldn't expect any higher degree of positivity from an incense scent.

On my skin, frankincense is the dominant note (well, it is 50% incense, on me, 30% jasmine, 17% citruses and 3% spices, to be exact), and perhaps that is why the wonderful yellow brilliance of citruses and jasmine shines as if through a veil. The perfume might be a smile, but the one that shyly appears after many tears. Or another image...and I know that I am awfully unoriginal in equating incense with "church"...sun shining though a stained window of a cathedral, dust trembling, illuminated by this straight line of light...the sun can't get through to all the dark corners, but it gives a certain sense of hopefulness...Without shadows, there wouldn't be light, without having gone through hell, we wouldn't know how happy we are...When a contrast in a perfume is done right, like in Candide, it works wonders not only on skin but also with wearer's emotions and imagination.

And how harmonious is the composition! Dark frankincense juxtaposed with luminous grapefruit and orange, softened with sweet jasmine petals, sprinkled with a little bit of spice...Elegance of simplicity and a little bit of perfumer's magic...A perfect perfume for the Holidays...

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Candide is available at, $45.00-$175.00.

Image source, colin200 on

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Like the corner of..: Memoire Man by Amouage

By Tom

Amouage is a house that I just can't seem to get my head around. The ones that we get here are very good, mind you. But I sort of feel as if they are treading ground that has been tramped by others and that at least some of that $225 for 50ML is going into the admittedly luxurious packaging. Personally I'm the sort that likes to feel the money goes into the juice and therefore on my skin; you won't find me buying a bottle of champagne in some special be-dazzled crystal bottle. In the interest of keeping the stuff fresh I keep my fumes in a dark closet so satin-finished gold caps and hand-blown artisanal bottles are wasted on me.

Memoire Man is rather wasted on me as well. No fault of its own; the basil and mint opening is smooth and green, the middle lavender is touched by anise and the creamy woody base has real and discernible oakmoss. What's not to love?

$225 for 50ML is not to love. Especially when there a little scent that's been around for over 100 years that's doing the super-suave French thing far better and is can be had for a quarter of the price (at least until it's reformulated, which might have already happened Grrr)

I'm told that Amouage has some truly knock-your-socks-off scents that haven't made it here yet. I hope one day they do.

Memoire Man is $225 for 50ML and $260 for 100ML at LuckyScent; $285 for 100ML at Aedes de Venustas. My sample was from LuckyScent.

Mouchoir de Monsieur is available at various sources on the internets for less than $100. My decant was purchased at The Perfumed Court.

I want to take a moment and thank all of the readers of this blog for all the kind support they've shown me over the years I've been contributing. I've enjoyed every second of it and look forward to continuing into the new year. Also a hearty thanks to Marina, who lets me whinge on and on here with nary an edit. Happy Holidays to you all!

Image - from Guerlain's Holiday Greeting Card.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In Which I Nearly Have an Opinion (L'Artisan Parfumeur Nuit de Tubereuse)

By Marina

Steve (to Patrick about some fabric samples): You have an opinion yet?
Patrick: Nope! Nothing! Keep trying to have an opinion but nothing happens in my head.
Steve: Well?
Jeff: I nearly had an opinion about that one.
Steve: What was it?
Jeff: It's got a lot of lines.
Steve: OK. What do you think about that?
Jeff: I don't know.
Coupling, Season 2, Her Best Friend's Bottom

I don't often suffer from a lack of opinions when it comes to perfume. And I basically invariably "get" Duchaufours work. So I can't really explain why I "keep trying to have an opinion" about Nuit de Tubereuse "but nothing happens in my head." Here is what I've been able to scrape up:

- It is Strange-but-Wearable, which is one of the qualities in fragrance that creates perfume fanatics out of regular people. Have it not been for a couple of L'Artisans and Lutenses way back when, I probably wouldn't have been doing what I do now. (Have it not been for a couple of timeless and impeccable Chanels and Guerlains, I wouldn't have been doing what I do either, classic perfection is after all as fascinating as contemporary/niche oddness...but I digress). The fragrance is a rather bizarre-yet-harmonious, jolie laide mix of tuberose, mango and rubber, a unique take on tuberose ...And so, as Robin said, "Nuit de Tubéreuse is exactly the sort of perfume that keeps me blogging."

- It is a unique, but true take on tuberose. Both the fruity (in this case, mango instead of the usual coconut, but this is where uniqueness comes into play) and the rubbery facets of tuberose are highlighted to perfection.

- It is a vivid perfume, I see it in color, which for me, as a visual person, is a big deal. To be precise, I see it as hot pink.

- It is a very "Duchaufour" fragrance, which is a plus in and of itself, and also I appreciate when a perfumer's signature is perceptible in his or her work. All that extravagant, exuberant, pink voluptuousness rests on Duchaufour's trademark dry, earthy-resinous base. The contrast of the two is very appealing; I like a good contrast in perfume.

-It is different enough from L'Artisan's old Tubereuse, which is all tuberose and no quirks (speaking of classic perfection...) to justify having both in the line. There is also La Chasse Aux Papillons Extreme, but one tends to forget about that one.

That said...I still don't really know what I think about all that...I missed a chance to wear the scent in the heat of summer, which is when big florals bloom on me, so maybe I'll form an opinion next year.

What do you think of Nuit de Tubereuse?

Available wherever L'Artisan is sold, $115.00-$155.00.
Image source, L'Artisa Parfumeur.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

There¹s no place like home: Scenes of Solstice comfort and joy

By Beth

Now is the solstice of the year,
winter is the glad song that you hear.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Have the lads up ready in a line.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Join together beneath the mistletoe.
by the holy oak whereon it grows.
Seven druids dance in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Praise be to the distant sister sun,
joyful as the silver planets run.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.
Ring out those bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.
Ring on, ring out.
Ring on, ring out.

Ring out Solstice Bells- Jethro Tull

I can hardly believe it, but once again the wheel of the year has turned completely round and I find myself preparing for the winter Solstice gathering that my sister and I give every year. It’s a lively party and as I write this I find myself wishing that I could share it someday with each and every one of you. We drink lots of spicy rum soaked eggnog and eat incredibly satisfying, fattening food. We spend all kinds of time kissing and hugging old friends under the mistletoe! My sister Ellen who I teasingly refer to as the “Goddess of Chocolate” is busy baking in her kitchen and I am busy cooking in mine, vast kettles of soup made from apples, cheddar and ale, pumpkin and peanut butter. Next I will bake casseroles of au gratin potatoes and spicy baked squash to go with the turkey and ham. Gabriel , my little corgi who we came so close to losing last year is laying happily at my feet, waiting anxiously to catch any lost scraps!

This years Winter Solstice is particularly satisfying for my family, not just because of the wondrous full moon and accompanying lunar eclipse, but because at Solstice time last year I found myself at a crossroads in my life. It’s been a long decade… see at the beginning of the recession in 2003 I closed my families business, one of the most established gift and jewelry stores in the city of Cleveland, a place that was beloved by everyone and still remembered with incredible fondness. I think that it was possibly the most difficult decision that I’d ever had to be a part of, a bit like killing off a family member. At the same time, my family and I made the decision to give up our beloved farm, Windesphere so that we could be closer to my mom and dad who were in their 80’s and definitely needed us to be close by as they had been working full time until then and I knew that the loss of their life’s work would be so incredibly wounding.

It was a time for healing and starting over and my life has been lived in a series of gorgeous apartments ever since. I swore at the time that I would never own another house because I wanted to be free as a gypsy and never again experience a loss that immense. It has been a good 9 years with plenty of beginnings and endings and a lot of richness that frosted those moments together. My son grew up and moved across the country and in that moment I became a mother but no longer a parent. My own mother has passed away and my parent’s home that I grew up in has been sold to another young family who are creating a lifetime of memories there. My father is living well in a nursing home and no longer needs me to tend to his everyday needs and there is plenty of time now for just me and my husband to get to know each other again, not as the parents we were, but as the lovers that we had always been.

Yet last year as I prepared the Solstice meal I wondered what the longing was, the gnawing that I was experiencing in my heart; the feeling of complete and utter homelessness that I was experiencing even though I was far from homeless. It was then I realized the dream that was taking shape even though consciously I was fighting it tooth and nail. I was longing for a home for myself and my family; a place where my son could come back to whenever he wanted, a place that we could decorate the way that we wanted and most importantly for someone like me, a place that had two ovens and two refrigerators!

When my husband came home Solstice eve I told him tearfully that I felt that I couldn’t bear to go through another holiday without another home of our own, that I was ready to take the chance again and while I was at it I wanted a business of my own again, another thing that I said that I’d never do. When my sister and I lit the Yule log that evening I made a pretty big wish…..

This years Solstice finds me standing in the warm kitchen of a beautiful brick home that we’ve purchased, a wonderful old duplex with an enormous fenced in side yard where this summer I planted fruit trees and had my first vegetable garden in 9 years. I have two refrigerators and two gas ranges! We are living in one side of it while redoing the other and I once again have a neighborhood filled with little children! I woke up this morning to find a beautiful little box of home baked Christmas cookies on my doorstep and best of all Alex has returned home from California to live once again in Cleveland , a city that he swore he’d never live in again but grew to love once he was gone away.

As for me, well I took the plunge, purchasing for myself the rights to the name of my old business and started over again the long slow process of rebuilding and rebranding it into its new form, a lifestyle consulting business that I’ve named Schreibman’s Live. I called my sister the day that I reincorporated and she congratulated me and asked me if I remembered what day it was.

It was August 11th, my mothers birthday.

So it’s been a very fine year and all of you have been blessings for me as I’ve gone through it, even if you never knew it. Perfume has always been a huge part of my life and I love sharing it, but when I started writing about it here for Perfume Smellin Things I didn’t realize the intense joy and healing that it would bring me. The internet is a strange and delightful place and I’ve created wonderful relationships with so many of you whom I may never meet in person, but that I care about deeply. The fact that you have taken your time to comment on my reviews delights me, but even more so your friendship has sustained me through some of the most difficult times of my life. I love you all so very much and even if we never meet know that you touch my heart everyday… you really do.

I wish for you all on this Solstice eve everything that your hearts truly desire, whether it be a warm home for your body or your heart. I wish for you all to feel blessed and happy . I wish for you all the abundance that you so richly deserve of perfume as well as pennies. I selfishly wish for they who shall not be named to remove all of their silly restrictions this year so that my beloved Magie Noire can be made whole once again!

I am so very grateful for each of your hands to hold on this longest night of the year. Be well, go with love and know that you are truly cherished….Even though we are not together tonight ,I am gathering you all around my table , feeding you, warming you by the fire ,laughing with you a bit and sending you off into the night with treats and hugs and Solstice blessings.

Make a wish tonight…any wish that you want!

Brightest Blessings,


Monday, December 20, 2010

My Final Perfume Frontier: Coming to Terms with Amber

By Donna

My tastes in perfume have changed and expanded over the years, as would be expected, and I have to look back in some amusement as my early preference for girlish florals slowly and steadily morphed into more exotic realms, and now I can honestly say that I love perfumes of just about every style, from leathery chypre to desert-dry incense to hothouse heavy white floral to animalic Oriental and almost everything in between. Of all perfumes, there is one genre that I wear the least and whose perennial popularity I have never really understood, and that is ambery fragrances, especially those that feature the sweetly resinous amber blend as the main focus of the composition. I once wore Jean Patou's magnificent Sublime almost exclusively and loved it, but there was a lot more going on there than just amber. Same with Rochas' Absolu, an amber-rich floral-oriental; yes it has amber in it, but it's not really an amber perfume.

I became interested in trying more amber scents for several reasons. I knew I was missing out on some really nice perfumes by ignoring them, and smelling some ambery vintage fragrances had made me realize how good they could be; the Extrait de Parfum of Coty's L'Origan is a thing of rare beauty, and a recent swap netted me a decant of vintage Fabergé's Tigress that blew me away with its sexy impact. I was also very impressed with the gorgeous Amberesse that natural perfumer Anya McCoy made for the recent Outlaw Perfume Project. I have a small sample of it and wish I had more. Then there was the marvelous Chocolate Amber scent from La Via del Profumo that I fell hard for. So I looked through my sample stash and did some testing and trading, and I came up with a selection with a range from light to heavy in the amber department to see what happened to them on my skin.

I already had samples of both Keiko Mecheri's Crystal D'Ambre and Balmain's Ambre Gris, and when I tried them on together they were very similar; if you own one, you probably don't need the other. Ambre Gris has a sharp and somewhat strange beginning but both of them dry down to a soft and rather powdery amber that's easy to live with. Crystal D'Ambre is especially soft and suede-like while not being overly sweet and I really enjoyed wearing it. Ambre Gris is a fragrance that I am still dithering over whether I should buy or not; I love the final result but the opening is just a little dissonant. If you are an amber beginner, either of these would be nice introductions to the genre.

Amberesse from Anya's Garden Perfumes was delightful from start to finish. It contains only natural ingredients, so it's the only one of this group guaranteed to be free of Ambroxan or other synthetic “amber” materials. Its radiance reminded me of the vintage L'Origan I had tried, which is saying a lot. It has a quiet start and then builds, and since perfumes tend to get sweeter on me I was afraid it would go over the top, but it never did. It heart of roses and other florals makes for a beautifully balanced composition, playing perfectly with its creamy-nutty and vanillic Oriental facets. I would gladly wear this perfume anytime and it really made me an amber convert.

Next in scale is Ambra Aurea (Golden Amber) by the Italian firm Profumum. This perfume is more resinous and less sweet than anything else in my testing group but it is definitely not medicinal in nature. It's what I would call an essential amber, nothing more and nothing less, strong and distinctive. I really liked it but oddly it had less longevity than any of the others on me, even though it's a straight-up amber that should have substantial lasting power. Even so, I liked it a lot and it can be worn in public without frightening the horses.

Speaking of essential, the one I think of as the baseline of amber scents is Etro's Ambra, very sweet and redolent and all amber, all the time. As the saying goes, look up amber in the dictionary and you will find its picture there. It's not very complex to my nose, but it is pleasant, just not my cup of tea. If I wore it at all it would have to be in winter when the days are cold and dry to mitigate the richness of this very popular fragrance.

Climbing up the amber pyramid we come to Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, one of the definitive amber scents of the past two decades. Released in 1993, it is one of the signature perfumes of the Lutens line. It is indeed huge, yet dark and spicy with an herbal aspect, not just a big hit of sweetness. Its complexity kept me fascinated for hours. I am not sure I could really wear this; I think it would wear me instead, but I want a bottle just so I can take it out and sniff it when I get the craving, or wear it to bed as a comfort scent. It's certainly a unisex perfume as all the Lutens fragrances are intended to be, and I can imagine the kind of man who could pull this one off; he would have to have a lot of confidence and a big personality to match the fragrance.

Could there be another amber as big as the Lutens? Oh yes, and it's the last stop on my amber tour, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier's Ambre Precieuse. Did I mention that it's BIG? This thing does not take any prisoners; it captures the attention of everyone within range of its considerable clout. This is the kind of amber perfume that made me afraid of them in the first place, but now I had to face it down. It begins more quietly than Ambre Sultan but this one really reacts with my skin to really ramp up the sweetness more than that one does, so on other people the Lutens might be stronger. The really scary part is that it is nominally an Eau de Toilette so I can't even imagine what a more concentrated version would be like. It opens with a strong lavender note, and then when that subsides in comes the amber, and lots of it. As with Ambre Sultan, the quality of the ingredients is immediately apparent and it smells mostly very natural to me. Since it is winter now, I can wear it fairly well, but it would not do for summer at all. Eventually the lavender is conquered by the amber's power and the scent is extremely long lasting.

Now that I have come this far and lived through it, there are yet more ambers to explore – one of these days I really want to smell the Big Daddy of them all, the famously gourmand Hermessence Ambre Narguile. It's not sold in stores near me so I can't just try it out, but with my new found appreciation of amber perfumes I am more curious than ever. I suspect it's too much for me to actually wear, but it's on my list of things to smell before I die – even if it kills me.

Image credit: Eye of an Eagle Owl by user Woodwalker from Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

Disclaimer: All the fragrances described in this post were either tried in a store, sent to me by a perfumer for testing or received in swaps with other perfume enthusiasts.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Parfum de Maroc by Aftelier

By Marina

To me, Parfum de Maroc showcases the characteristic that I came to love in Aftelier Perfumes and to recognize as a specifically Afterlier quality. I call it spicy booziness...There is something in each of my favorite Mandy Aftel's scents that has a mouthwatering, nose-tingling quality of a very piquant hard liquor...something dangerously drinkable...

Maroc has that intoxicating something in abundance. Its ripe rose is drunk on spices, fermented in cardamom, saffron and nutmeg...There is also galangal, which, Wikipedia informs me, has a "citrusy, piney, earthy aroma (...) its flavor is a complement to its relative ginger." It is supposed to be an aphrodisiac and, smelling Maroc, I believe it. The mix of roses, earth and spices has an aloof, dark sensuality that is irresistible.

I love when a perfume allows me to see itself in color. Parfum de Maroc does and it is flame-red. It has the texture of heavy raw silk, smooth and scratchy to the touch at the same time. Parfum de Maroc makes me restless, like beautiful things are often prone to do. I want to imprint it on my senses forever, to make my own, to drown in it...and it makes me anxious that this gorgeous orange-red silk will slip though my fingers....As Camus said (yes, it is a quote-Camus week on PST), "beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time."

Available at, $45.00-$300.00.

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Reminder! Winners of the giveaways

Outlaw giveaway - Isa.

Le Cologne du Maghreb - Lexfordrose.

Please email us your info using the contact me link on the right. If we don't hear from you by next Friday, two alternative random names will be drawn.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The 3 Bears: Note Vanillee, Un Bois Vanille, Spiritueuse Double Vanille

By Tom

This is the time of year where vanilla scents are the ones that I reach for. The weather is chilly, the holidays are upon us and the gatherings with friends seem to warrant some comfort scents. For me vanilla is comfort.

Of course, the weather in Los Angeles just refuses to cooperate. Somehow I just can't manage Christmas Spirit when it's 85 degrees out. (I know, you all want to slap me)

In any case I recently compared the three scents in the title of this review and it really reminded me of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. To wit:

Note Vanillee is the creation of M Micallef, and is decidedly the Bad Girl of the bunch. There's the comfort of vanilla, but it's tarted (literally) up with licorice, honey and quite a bit of booze. This is the secretary who wears sweaters just a little too tight and skirts a little too short and at the office party will end up doing it with the CEO on the Xerox machine. I love it.

Un Bois Vanille contrasts with its relative austerity. One of the scents that were fractured off of Feminitè du Bois, it's richer and darker and dryer than the Micallef. There's little that's playful to it and in comparison it can almost seem harsh. But only in comparison. On it's own there's a deep almost burnt caramel lusciousness to it that comes along with the austere woods that's touched with bitter almond. This isn't passing Cinnabon at the mall, this is a witches brew over an open flame in the deep woods.

Spiritueuse Double Vanille for me was the one that was just right. It has some of the kick-up-your-heels aspect of the Micallef without having both ankles in the air (if you'll pardon the expression). It has some of the burning wood feeling of the Lutens without some of the "Blair Witch" connotations. It's also one of the truest vanillas I have ever experienced in perfume: it is remarkably like a home-made vanilla extract, which is merely a pod and really good vodka that is left to sit. Frankincense, pepper, and rose flavor it and when I wear it I can't help but when I am alone stick my nose under my sweater and breathe deeply. If Nigella Lawson had come up with a perfume, this could well have been it

Now I just have to get it past these darned bears...

Note Vanillee is $115 for 30ML at LuckyScent

Un Bois Vanille is $120 at the usual Uncle Serge Suspects

Spiritueuse Double Vanille is $225 at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman

I tested the first two at ScentBar, I tested Double Vanille from the bottle I purchased at Bergdorfs

Image source,

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Eau Duelle by Diptyque

By Marina

Eau Duelle, named so because of the alleged presence of dueling accords, one of vanilla, the other of frankincense, is Dityque's take on what I like to call a "complicated vanilla" genre. As in- vanilla paired with contrasting/unexpected notes to achieve the yin-yang, unisex-ish, oddly attractive, "not for little girls" effect. Examples? L'Artisan's raw, smoky, immortelle laden Havana Vanille, Montale's resinous, patchouly-heavy Boise Vanille, Patricia de Nicolai's Vanille Tonka (name speaks for itself) and even her newer Vanille Intense, also juxtaposing vanilla with the vegetal, sweet fleshiness of immortelle are just a few that come to mind off the top of my head. All of them had done the "complicated vanilla" better than Eau Duelle.

The thing is, when you go for an effect, you have to do it to the full or not at all. ...Put enough frankincense in the composition, so it can successfully challenge such a strong duellist as vanilla... As it is, vanilla kills all opposition right from the get go and emerges victorious, strangely perfumey and cake-like. Cardamom and saffron try to throw a gauntlet, and I can smell their pleasant piquancy for a while, but they disappear all too soon. Black tea? Forget it. Overall, there is just no there there, in Eau Duelle. It is probably too muddled for somebody with a hankering for just a nice, rich, proper vanilla. And not muddled enough for a contrast-seeker like me... It would definitely make a nice, if subtle candle...

Available wherever Diptyque is sold, $88.00-$120.00.

Image, Duel After The Masked Ball by Jean-Léon Gérôme, is from

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

“When Every Leaf is a Flower”: Serge Lutens Cèdre

By Marina

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
Albert Camus

It seems, I blinked, and the autumn was over. And it was such a beautiful autumn around here, an ideal, joyful, opulent, picturesque autumn, a visual feast of auburns, reds, ochres, terracottas and golds. No melancholy, almost no rain…autumn in Utopia. And I asked myself, what scent could have represented it the best? The answer came immediately and unexpectedly: Cèdre.

But why the scent so heavy on tuberose, this ultimate flower of eternal tropical summer, would make me think of fall? ...Then I remembered Camus’ quote. Imagine if, as the chlorophyll disappeared from the leaves and the green faded away, so did the fresh, verdant smell, and the leaves started to smell as sumptuously as they looked… wouldn’t that smell be exactly like this rich blend of creamy tuberose, balsamic wood and warm spices?

In fact, I believe that it is thanks to the spices in Cèdre, to fiery cloves and honeyed cinnamon, that the fragrance has such an autumnal feel. Their smoldering aroma hints on bonfires, on that smoky perfume that seems always present in the air in the fall, the perfume that always makes one a little wistful, a little restless, as if aching to migrate to the warmer lands with the birds for the winter... The sweetness of the spices alludes to the fruits of harvest and simultaneously to the festivities that will come when the ideal autumn transforms into the perfect winter.

Available at Luckyscent etc., $140.00 for 50ml.

Image credit, Ben Hassett for Vogue China January 2009.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Dabney Rose- Basking in Sunshine

By Marla

This fall, I was the fortunate winner of a drawing for one of Dabney Rose’s solid perfumes, Leda. A charming and cheery mimosa-and tagetes-anchored floral, Leda arrived in my mailbox just as our weather was turning icy cold and dreary. It cheered me more than kittens or a light box , and led me to contact Dabney Rose about her other indie perfumes. I found my personal favorite, Vagabond, a delightfully wild, smoky blend featuring chaparral herbs, spices, and wood resins. I also discovered Amberleah, an ethereal orange-flowered amber. Dabney Rose uses mostly organics, as well as the ancient techniques of enfleurage and salt paste, among others. She’s always been an indie, and started making perfumes and incense at age 11, using plants and flowers harvested from her family garden (not sure what her parents thought about that)! Her olfactory style is unique, and the solids have been great travel buddies with good longevity. I like the particularly beautiful presentation- the solids are housed brass cases, and cloaked in silk pouches made from vintage kimono. They can be found for $55 each (or $25 for the perfume in a plain metal container without the pouch) at

Marla: Tell me about some early scent memories, good and bad. Was your olfactory sense always strong?

DR: Every boxwood I smell takes me back 45 years to my grandfather’s farm. My mother had a garden but I remember only the fragrant flowers; peonies & Sweet William. We had a wild plum tree growing in the back lot that caught my attention every spring…when I was about 11 I played around with the blossoms in alcohol. I remember my mother putting on perfume as she got dressed to go out but I wasn’t drawn to learn what she was wearing. As a young woman, I knew nothing about commercial perfume counters, bottles and names; every time I approached one to try something out, all I could smell was alcohol and I really didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Today, I still don’t know all those famous names I’m ‘supposed’ to know! Have no clue!

Marla: What are some special natural materials for you?

DR: What strikes my fancy the most is using homemade tinctures with all sorts of flowers and fruits; there is a never-ending procession through the year. I think utilizing these is what can set a natural perfumer really apart from the others in the flock.

Marla: Some particular favorites you return to again and again?

DR: The fruits intrigue me the most these days, as a lot of their bouquet is floral with ‘all the extras’! I make a paw-paw tincture that makes me weak in the knees.

Marla: Something challenging? One that drives you crazy?

DR: I have never gotten cozy with patchouli, and vetiver is borderline…although I recognize they are handy in the palette, I still haven’t found ways to use them very much. OK, patchouli not at all! My challenge for 2011!

Marla: Something new you’ve discovered recently?

DR: Resins…and kyphi in particular. I was given a box that a friend inherited from an incense maker; it was filled with jars of resins; many I had never heard of. There was also a bit of kyphi that could be decades old & it smells like something my DNA is already friends with. I’m tincturing & infusing some & I just looooove it! It’s going to be featured in one of my ‘Dream Creams’ to sleep with; I bet it would bring dreams up from the deepest level imaginable!

Marla: How do you view Indie perfumery in light of recent regulation/legislation such as IFRA guidelines and the Safe Cosmetics Act (pending congressional vote in the US)?

DR: I would have to bootleg or move to another planet.

Marla: What has inspired your favorite perfumes? Certain people? Particular memories or settings? Music or art?

DR: Flowers for the most part. I have a perfume garden where I grow many flowers that I distill into hydrosols. But long before I started distilling I always had fragrant plants around me. They are the ultimate perfumes!

Dabney Rose’s work is a lot of fun, and has brought some needed sunshine to my winter. I can’t wait to try what she creates with the paw-paw tincture!

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Outlaw giveaway - Isa.

Le Cologne du Maghreb - Lexfordrose.

Please email us your info using the contact me link on the right. Thank you, everybody, for participating.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Got Captions?

Great photo series by Romain Laurent


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Got Blogs?

I've been a little bit out of it for a while, and my perfume blogroll has gotten rather dusty. I brushed it up a little bit, but realize that there must be some new interesting blogs out there that I am missing? Hit me up with links! :)

Image source,

Friday, December 10, 2010

Andy Tauer Annual Advent Calendar: Le Cologne du Maghreb Giveaway.

DETAILS ON THE PRIZE: LE COLOGNE DU MAGHREB, 50 ml, 1.7 FL OZ glass flacon with spray.

From Andy himself,

"This year's highlight for the give-aways: I made an all natural, all botanical Eau de cologne, baptized LE COLOGNE DU MAGHREB, especially for this occasion. I use only natural essential oils, absolutes, and resins in it. It is a classical cologne, with a woody baseline chord, a firework of natural citrus notes, exploding into expensive sparkles, on a background with ambreine and cedarwood from the Moroccan High Atlas.

Like all colognes it is not made to last but it is a fragrant joy, living in the moment, leaving you with the finest veil of woods on your skin.

Ingredients: Citrus essential oils and absolutes (such as lemon, bergamot, clementine, mandarine, grapefruit, orange blossom absolute, neroli oil), rose absolute and oil, cedarwood, ambrein, cistrose and much more.

Initially, I started working on a cologne because I got my hand on a wonderful neroli oil that was so lovely that I could not but create a fragrance around it. And what kind of perfume if not a cologne is the first thing coming to mind when thinking NEROLI….

Thus, the cologne is a little bit an homage to neroli and in a sense, it is a way of looking back to my roots, working all natural. I truly love naturals."

HOW TO ENTER: leave a comment telling us whether you wear colognes, whether it is a seasonal thing or year-round staple for you and what is your favorite representative of a cologne genre. I have yet to smell Cologne Maghreb, so I reserve a right to change my mind, but for now I would say my favorite cologne is Malle's Cologne Bigarade.

The draw will close on Friday, the randomly chosen winner will be announced on Monday.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

On a Scale of One to Ten: Random Choices

By Tom

Well, today I did the Mall. It's the weekend after Black Friday so I thought it wouldn't be too crazy, and since Judith Brockless at Basenotes wrote a fun piece about pink perfumes in general and Givenchy Play in particular I thought I would drop into the Sephora at the Beverly Center to see how bad it could be.

Pretty bad.

It's not just that it's another too sweet juice-by-committee. It's not just the pink faux iPod-looking packaging manages to look cheap, stupid and yet severely dated, like a balding 45 year old trying to rock 7 jeans, Uggs and an Ed Hardy trucker cap. It's not even that there's an even worse version called "Play Intense for Her" that dials it up to 12. It's the degradation of the Givenchy name. This crap takes the whole Givenchy ethos, sets it on fire then pees on the ashes. Sad.

ScentBar had the newest Montale, Aoud Musk, which manages to smell shockingly close to Nasomatto Duro. Really, it's almost a clone. This would be a scandal were it not for the fact that Aoud Musk is both cheaper and readily available (Duro isn't on the website anymore).

I suppose the big news is that Knize Ten is now available and selling very well. I already have a bottle and could compare the old and the new, and there's no difference at all. Which is a great thing: the plummy leather Marina wrote of as "her favorite leather scent in general" and I concur. It's one of my favorites as well: it's a butt-kicking leather with a hint of stewed fruits, tangy citrus opening and vanilla finish. For those of you in mourning over the reformulation
Tabac Blonde went through, this one should be on your list.

The Givenchys are $68 for 1.7 oz at Sephora.

Aoud Musk is $120 for 50 ML, Nasomatto Duro is $130 for 30 ML, Knize Ten is $65
for 30ML and $125 for 120 ML at ScentBar. My Knize Ten tester was mine

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

L'Artisan Parfumeur Al Oudh

By Marina

A darker and, arguably, more broodingly handsome cousin of Eau d'Italie's Bois d'Ombrie and Baume du Doge, Al Oudh has inherited the same dusty date note as the former and raw earthiness of saffron as the latter. (Funny that this new L'Artisan creation of Duchaufour's makes me think of his Eau d'Italie scents, not L'Artisans.) What sets Al Oudh apart from the relatives at Hotel le Sirenuse are, yes, oud and cumin.

When I first started on the path of perfume obsession way back when (a long time ago, it feels, when dinosaurs lived with man and died in the flood) there existed such a fairly widespread phenomenon as cuminophobia. Perhaps, fragrance lovers nowadays aren't scared by the sweet sweatiness of the note, but I feel the warning is in order just in case: the warm, velvety stinkiness of cumin dominates the first half of Al Oudh's development and is mighty perceptible in the second half. To the point where one might ask, where is oud? Oud does emerge towards the end but it is ... Duchaufour's take on the note. It is dense and strangely airy at the same time and smoky in a paradoxically transparent sort of way ...a thin strip of smoke coming out of a dry gray pebble...this is an image I see when I smell the oud and incense notes of this fragrance.

But I digress from the star note of the blend, the cumin. Accompanied by a soupçon of cardamom, quite a bit of vanilla and the aforementioned dates, it is creamy and rich. One doesn't know whether to hunger after its deliciousness or to be perversely titillated by its dirtiness. In other words, it's how a cumin accord should be done. As for oud...this is not an oud perfume for the oud purists, but one for the fans of Duchaufour's talent for modern and unique interpretation of traditional ingredients and popular inspirations.

Available wherever L'Artisan is sold, $155 for 100ml.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Lust by Gorilla Perfume at Lush

By Marina

I thought I was violently bored with know how you go through periods of craving one particular thing, in food, in perfume, in books and music even......and then one day you wake up feeling that you Don't Want Any of That Anymore Ever Again! That's what I thought happened with me and jasmine. Then in a random line up of samples, I smelled Lust, and...Ahh! Sparkly hearts and birds chirping! It was just so pretty...Misnamed, but so pretty.

I say, misnamed, because...well, for me, "lust" implies something more...heavy-lidded...darker, dirtier, a scent one is a little afraid to wear ...something so luscious, it is borderline obscene. And this sparkly concoction of jasmine, rose and ylang on a silky bed of vanilla and sandalwood is just too...pretty for that. If I could re-name it, it would have become Giddy. Because that's how it makes me feel.

I find it remarkable that the rose, of which I smell here quite a bit, does not bother me in the least (I share with Bulgakov's Pilate the tendency to get headaches at a mere whiff of rose oil), it enhances the giggly feminine pinkiness of jasmine without dominating the composition. Same applies to vanilla. It softens the mighty florals, turns their fierceness into cuddliness, but doesn't make the scent too sweet or too twee. Every note works to make the jasmine shine the sparkliest and the brighest.

This is a perfume for the time in your life when you are finding relevant and singing out loud lyrics like:

"You make me
Feel like
I'm living a Teenage Dream
The way you turn me on
I can't sleep
Let's runaway
And don't ever look back
Don't ever look back"

(Yes, I just quoted a Katy Perry song...)

A pretty perfume for giddy moments of being crazy in love. Available at, $32.95 for 1oz.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

The Outlaw perfume Project and a giveaway

By Beth

It’s no secret that I adore the outlaws. Watching cowboy movies as a child I was always rooting for the Indians or longing to ride with the mavericks…They were passionately following their hearts and that made a huge impression on me. Even now I’m not one to go with the flock. Loving perfume as I do, I have my old loves, my favorites of the old tried and true fragrances but in the last few years I began to notice that something had changed. My Magie Noire was no longer as magical, my Joy a little less joyful and my Bellodgia which used to make me smile instead began to make me sneeze. It was all a mystery and I was saddened when I began to discover that all across the board essential oils that had been beloved in perfumery for centuries were being abandoned because of supposed issues with their safety. Never mind the fact that the synthetics that are used in commercial perfumery can be far more caustic and devastating to our bodies and what …we’re not to be trusted at all to have the brains to determine what’s best for us?

It saddens me to find out that my beautiful and trusted old friends carnation and ylang ylang are being treated with less respect than a pharmaceutical that’s been undertested, prematurely released and comes with a side effect warning list that’s impossibly huge and completely dangerous. The list of these outlawed oils and absolutes is astonishing and makes me sad. The ridiculous guidelines of the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and the laws of the European Union (EU) have been a death sentence to many a perfume that I have loved. Oakmoss, one of my absolute favorites is only allowed in my beloved Magie in trace amounts. Rose, Jasmine, Bergamot and Bay? These important mainstays of perfumery art are not immune to these incredibly shortsighted regulations.

For your complete and total bewilderment, here is the list of IFRA banned ingredients. Warning: This is not ready for the faint of heart or easily terrified……

Ambrette seed oil
Angelica root oil
Bakul absolute
Basil absolute
Basil oil (estragole CT)
Basil oil (holy)
Basil oil (linalool CT)
Bay oil (West Indian)
Bergamot leaf oil
Bergamot peel oil (distilled)
Betel leaf oil
Birch tar oil
Black tea tree oil
Boldo leaf oil
Broom absolute
Cabreuva oil
Cade oil
Calamus oil
Cananga oil
Cangerana oil
Cardamon oil
Carnation absolute
Carrot seed oil
Cascarilla oil
Cassia oil
Cassie absolute
Cinnamon bark oil
Cinnamon leaf oil
Cistus oil
Citronella oil
Clary sage oil
Clove oil
Costus oil
Cumin oil
Davana oil
Elecampane oil
Elemi oil
Fenugreek oil
Fig leaf absolute
Galangal oil
Geranium oil
Ginger oil
Ginger lily absolute
Grapefruit peel oil
Ho leaf oil
Honey myrtle oil
Horseradish oil
Horsemint oil
Huon pine oil
Hyssop oil
Jasmine grandiflorum absolute
Jasmine sambac absolute
Karo karoundé absolute
Laurel leaf oil
Lemon balm oil (Australian)
Lemongrass oil
Lemon basil oil
Lemon leaf oil
Lemon myrtle oil
Lemon tea tree oil
Lemon peel oils
Lemon thyme oil
Lemon verbena oil
Lemon verbena absolute
Lime peel oil (expressed)
Lovage leaf oil
Mace oil
Mandarin leaf oil
Marjoram oil (sweet)
Massoia bark oil
May chang oil
Melissa oil
Mustard oil
Myrtle oil
Narcissus absolute
Nasturtium absolute
Nutmeg oil
Oakmoss absolute
Opoponax oil
Orange blossom oil
Orange blossom absolute
Orange leaf oil
Orange peel oil (bitter)
Orange peel oil (sweet)
Oregano oil
Palmarosa oil
Peppermint oil
Perilla oil
Peru balsam oil
Phoebe oil
Pimento berry oil
Pimento leaf oil
Pteronia oil
Rose absolute
Rose oil
Rue oil
Sandalwood oil (Australian)
Santolina oil
Sassafras oil
Savin oil
Savory oil (winter)
Snakeroot oil
Spearmint oil
Spike lavender oil
Styrax oil
Sugandha oil
Taget oil
Taget absolute
Tarragon oil
Tea leaf absolute
Tejpat oil
Thyme oil (thymol CT)
Tolu balsam extract
Treemoss absolute
Tuberose absolute
Vassoura oil
Violet leaf absolute
Wormseed oil
Ylang-ylang absolute
Ylang-ylang oils

Daunting isn’t it?

All of these beautiful scents that have been used for centuries to provoke, inspire and enchant have now been either severely limited or completely banned by IFRA and the EU. Here in America Independent perfumers are not members of IFRA, but if they are in the EU, they have to abide by these incredibly restrictive rules.

Enter the outlaws! Thankfully for us all there are a group of perfumers in the world who are creating fabulous perfumes using all natural and botanical accords and absolutes. They are quickly becoming my favorites, because more and more when I use a perfume made by one of them it smells to me like perfume should.

Real perfume is sensual and provocative creating a soul impression almost instantly for whomever is lucky enough to be within range. These perfumes bewitch me with their high quality and charm me with the intensity of their authenticity. I love these maverick perfumers who are brave enough to stand their ground and fight hard for a craft that they believe in. I’m honored to call them my friends and stand with them as they continue to create perfumes with real integrity. Every time I get a package from one of them I am enchanted. These men and women are the real deal. They persevere in the middle of the endless sea of million dollar campaigns designed to drown out the small unique voices available to us as consumers. They succeed in making gorgeous perfume!

There’s no mass marketing found here although many of them are becoming very well known simply because their products are just clearly so much better than what is available. The care with which they craft not just their perfumes but their packaging is gorgeous. They are artists in their own rights, creative and truly originals. With the issues that we know about today where more and more we are seeing environmental allergies due to pollution and synthetic fragrances of all types, these perfumes are more welcome now than ever before. Their creations are labeled with the simple and responsible warnings about photo sensitization, allergy and irritation that we all need to be able make up our own minds about whether or not to use such things. These perfumers don’t need to use ingredients that cost a fortune to test and distribute and consequently that’s why they are the Outlaws. My father always said to “follow the trail and you’ll always find the money”. There is a huge fortune to be made in testing (yes , this includes animal testing) and creating synthetic alternatives that can be patented for the multibillion dollar beauty industry and our beloved perfumes are the casualties of that science.

When I was asked to write about this topic by Anya McCoy, head of the Natural Perfumers Guild I was intrigued. I was in California and I came home to find 8 mysterious envelopes, all filled with samples of some of the most complex and gorgeous perfumes that I’d ever smelled all lovingly and illegally (according to IFRA and EU guidelines!) crafted for our pleasures!
These are not the folksy, hippie patchouli laden oils of my frolicksome youth although some of them do indeed include Patchouli! These are more the perfumes of my mothers youth….rich, deep and sexy with the promise of illicit pleasure and no rashes! It’s hard to do them all justice in just this one article but you’ll have to trust me. Try them all and I promise that one will definitely become your lover.

“Mata Hari “by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is intriguing not just in name but in spirit. When I was a child and all the other girls were pretending to be Snow White I was the one out with the boys doing reconnaissance work. I loved the story of Mata Hari and I adore this perfume. Mata Hari by DSH begins with a cocktail of juicy ripe peaches and succulent mango but quickly begins to smolder with a pomander of spice , but slowly and seductively finishing with the musky leather and oakmoss that will haunt you for more than a few hours.

“Rose of Cimarron” by Bellyflowers Perfumes really caught me off guard and quite delightfully. It was the Pink Pepper that did it, blended beautifully with all kinds of naughty Roses, Jasmine and Blond tobacco among other delicious things. I loved it and so did my husband who was a bit overwhelmed by it’s playful sexiness. Rose of Cimmaron is exotic and edible a bit like a sweet, floral curry… did I say edible? I don’t need to say more. Rose of Cimmaron is gorgeous!

“Amazing” by JoAnne Bassett is simply that. Amazing is a incredibly wonderful eau de parfum that reminds me of a fragrance that I would love to imagine having worn many lifetimes ago in the courts of one of the French Kings. It’s absolutely gorgeous and contains 32 of the Outlawed ingredients! Jasmine, rose cinnamon ,ginger and Bergamot to name a few. Amazing is refreshing, lovely and as tantalizing as Verbena scented Macaron and those of you who know of my endless addiction to sweets understand what that means to me! All I needed was a tin of violette pastilles, a gorgeous push up corset and a fan…..

Jane Cate of a Wing and a Prayer Perfumes created a wonderful fragrance for this project called “Notoriety”. Now you know that I would love that, Notorious being one of my all time favorite words and descriptions! Lots of oakmoss and amber here and my beloved carnation too! Notoriety is really sexy in a very subtle way. It creeps up on you and then you get hit between the eyes with its wantonness. The geranium softens it a bit and tries to make it a bit more lady like but fortunately for us all it fails. I’d wear this one when I deliberately needed to disarm a boardroom of really difficult men!

“Daphne” by the Lords Jester himself , Adam Gottschalk is a very sexy femme fatale fragrance that is surprising too..not at all what you’d expect from a perfume that includes such lovelies as grapefruit, jasmine, rose and frangipani. When I put it on the scent was immediately lovely and then I found myself completely intrigued. I couldn’t escape the leathery sweet and subtlely smoky base and I was reminded immediately of one of the men in my past. He was devilish , he always smelled of opium (not the perfume!) and he was sexy as hell. I think that Daphne could be worn well by a man and in some cases could be as physically arresting to the senses as Johnny Depp’s masterful gypsy in Chocolat. I enjoy wearing Daphne myself, but if my husband wore it I’d be continuously distracted so I’ve hid the sample!

Speaking of Opium, one of the delights that I returned home to find was a beautifully crafted perfume called simply “Cannabis”. I love the smell of marijuana and always have. I find it completely ridiculous that a simple plant with so much potential for doing so much good in the world was outlawed in a most ridiculous fashion by business interests so many years ago. Alfredo Dupetit-Bernardi has created a perfume that is amazingly pretty and delightfully seductive. I loved it because yes, the cannabis is very present but it’s not your average merry hempsters cannabis…it’s unbelievably sophisticated with a wide ranging bouquet featuring loads of juicy citrus, rose, bay, bergamot and cool birch. “Cannabis” makes me happy with it’s abundantly effervescent and generous nature . It’s a brilliant option for someone like me whose heart remains true to her bohemian nature. Bravo!

Anya McCoy , President of the Natural Perfumers Guild created two perfumes for this occasion, “Amberess”and “Light”. “Amberess”, billed as The Princess Outlaw is a yummy floriental featuring musky roses, ylang ylang, patchouli and benzoin among many other smokily seductive notes. I adore the tonka bean but am completely intrigued by the Himalayan amber. On my skin Amberess turns sweetly smoky and exotic. It’s a warm scent that’s keeping me very cozy this winter, but I can’t wait to take it to Arizona next month. I’ve got the feeling that the amber will become even more captivating than it already is when exposed to the dry heat of the Sonoran desert on my sun warmed skin. I can’t wait to find out.
“Light “ features a plant that I’d never heard of , a little Chinese flower called “Aglaia”. The Aglaia absolute has a stunning supporting cast featuring Cedrat, Grapefruit and Juniper berry which gives a sparkle, but there is also more than enough Frankincense and Ambergris to warm your soul. “Light” reminds me both of a beautiful incense and a icy lemon presse’ on a sunny summer’s day. Absolutely delicious and ripe for the picking….

The last of my outlaws is a wonderful perfume called Gypsy, created by Charna owner of the Providence Perfume Company. To say that I love Gypsy would be such a vast understatement that I couldn’t live with myself! Gypsy is simply one of the most remarkably sensual natural perfumes that I’ve ever smelled. Gypsy is a classic fougere or as Charna calls it a sweet amber fougere or a fougere light. It is wonderful…a sexy tango of a perfume that is completely surprising, green and delicious. Because Charna is a bit of a gypsy and I’m a bit of a witch you’d know that this one would knock me straight off of my broom. Galangal and Lavender, Petitgrain and Cardamon begin the magical spell and are followed by more lavender, Pink Lotus and jiocy , fleshy green Violet leaf. The base of Tonka, Oakmoss, Vetiver , Patchouli , Costus and Vanilla is perfect and lasts for hours. Gypsy is a smoky, shadowy seductive bombshell of a perfume and is more than a little dangerous. This witchy woman knows her power and is not afraid to wield it. She is gorgeous and luckily for you, Charna will be giving away a 5ml . bottle of it to one of you. But be careful and make sure before you beg me for this sample (and you should be begging!) that you’re up for it. If you come to the conclusion that you’re ready to meet the Gypsy face to face let me know in your comments.

Please take the time to get to know some of these fabulous perfumers:,,,,,,,,

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Strange Femmes

By Marla

A few weeks ago I followed the White Rabbit to ebay, in search of a few good vintage perfumes. Most of my recently-culled collection comprises mainly discontinued and reformulated lovelies, so I thought I’d go back a few decades further; I bought a bottle of Rochas Femme that had been carefully kept in a dark corner for an unknown period of time, I guessed maybe the 1970s. It’s in the bottle that Rochas used for Byzance, but it’s definitely Femme Parfum de Toilette and is labeled as such. I’ve included a dim and quickie photo in case anyone else has seen this unusual bottle for Femme.

But on to the juice. WOW! Edmond Roudnitska did not let the war destroy his creativity, did he? 1943 was dark times for many people, but a splendid year for perfumery. Apparently he composed this while pondering a rubbish dump and a paint factory. Go figure. The notes, according to Bois de Jasmin, are bergamot, peach, prune, rose, immortelle, jasmine, ylang-ylang, ambergris, musk, oakmoss, and sandalwood. It’s very warm and intensely animalic. Aldehydic, yet mostly natural in composition. A hint of North African spice market, which makes it more than a little Lutensian. But this couldn’t be made even by a niche brand today. It’s just too far out there, much too outlaw. I wanted to wear it with a red satin vintage dress, but Denyse Beaulieu rightly pointed out that such a get-up would be only a costume. I should be more creative. What should I wear with this luscious, thoroughly out-of-its time concoction? And can anyone assign a date to this bottle? (If you do, I’ll send you a sample vial!)

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Montale Full Incense

By Tom

Other houses are known for keeping the volume down. They will have an incense scent that has wispy curls of smoke, like something half-remembered.

Montale isn't one of those houses. I can't think of any other that would dare put out an incense scent that is this full on: the incense in the opening is so rich, so resiny it's almost eye-watering. It's not just church services, it's the church caught fire and burned to the ground before the local fire department could come to its aid, taking with it hymnals, roof beams, flying buttresses and a ten-year stock of the eponymous ingredient. Two little dabs on my hand were strong enough to be smelled from space and lasted longer than Knots Landing did on TV.

Need I state that I adore it? Like the best of Montale, it's just so joyously over-the-top that it's impossible not to smile. Like the best of Montale it's also not so over-the-top that it's impossible to wear: just lightly dabbed and not, unless you are either attending or better yet presiding over a High Catholic Mass sprayed on clothing.

The notes from LuckyScent are cedar, labdanum, patchouli, elemi and Somali incense. $120 for 50ML, which applied judiciously (which for the sake of those around you I fervently pray you do..) should last until the second coming. Perhaps even the third. My sample was cadged from ScentBar.

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