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Friday, December 30, 2005

Best of 2005

‘Tis the season to evaluate, to draw conclusions, and to make various “Best of” lists. A group of bloggers conspired to do precisely that and to each come up with a list Best of 2005 products. Self-confessed perfume-addict that I am, my list will be dedicated to perfume and nothing but perfume. The following are the fragrances that I came to love, worship, and adore in 2005, also known as My 2005 Holy Grails (in alphabetical order):

1. Ambre Narguile by Hermes. The epitome of a comfort scent, this is a sweet, rich, smoky treat that smells of amber, apples, pipe tobacco, cinnamon, and all things wonderful.

2. Ambre Russe by Parfum d’Empire. The rich, robust, and surprisingly wearable smell of Tsarist Russia, with every stereotypically Russian note thrown in for good measure. Vodka, champagne, amber, leather, honey... you name it, it’s here, and I love it.

3. Attrape-Coeur by Guerlain. Heartbreakingly exquisite and very exclusive woody-floral-oriental blend. Airy, soft, and golden, this is a Heart-Catcher indeed.

4. Bois des Iles by Chanel. Perhaps the Holiest of my Holy Grail, Bois des Iles is the proof that wood can be feminine, warm and sensual. A veritable magical elixir, Bois des Iles is an olfactory equivalent of liquid gold.

5. Bois des Paradis by Parfums Delrae. One of the most beautiful scents ever created, this is a seamless, magical harmony, a luscious, sensual and irresistible fragrance of the Garden of Eden.

6. Collection by Escada. My comfort scent extraordinaire; whenever I am cold, tired and miserable, I put on some Collection and instantly I am soothed and warmed by its sweet, smoky, velvety aroma.

7. Féminité du Bois by Shiseido. Fruity, woody and spicy, this a scent in which cedar, my favorite note, shows its warm, extremely sensual side. A hearty scent, darkly sweet and robust, it is tied up with Bois des Iles for the title of The Holiest Holy Grail.

8. Fifi by Fifi Chachnil. A stunning fragrance, sexy and full of character, unconventional, playful and très féminin ; Fifi tops the list of my favorite "pinup scents".

9. Or des Indes by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier. The soft spiciness of this warm, smooth scent is soothing and comforting. This is a rather underappreciated scent that I never want to be without.

10. Pomegranate Noir by Jo Malone. A fruity scent that is dry, woody and spicy. This is a fragrance that miraculously manages to be dark and transparent all at the same time.

The honorable mention also goes to the following fragrances I enjoyed in 2005: Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez; Bois et Fruits, Bois Oriental, Bois et Musc, and Daim Blond by Serge Lutens; Le Parfum de Therese and Noir Epices by Frederic Malle; Organza Indecence by Givenchy; Talco Delicato by i Profumi di Firenze; Trouble by Boucheron, Youth Dew Amber Nude by Estee Lauder.

To read other Best of 2005 lists, please use the links below:

*The Best of 2005 graphic is by Katie (Scentzilla!). The painting is Holy Grail by Rossetti.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Festive Post At Last. Perfume Review: Vaniglia, Bourbon & Mandarino di Sicilia by Antica Farmacista

Trying to come up with thematic posts for pre-Christmas week, I realized that I don’t have many olfactory Christmas associations. Having been born and raised in the Soviet Union, that is perhaps quite understandable. When I was growing up, Christmas was not celebrated there. New Year however was a huge deal, with all the paraphernalia my Western readers would typically associate with Christmas: the tree, decorations, Santa Claus (Ded Moroz or Grandfather Frost), presents, big (very big) holiday dinner…

When I was a child, it was our family tradition to always have lots of mandarins in the house during winter holidays; I believe the same would be true for most people in Russia and former republics. I don’t know how that started, but the fact remains that for me the smell of mandarins is forever a festive smell of happy childhood days of winter. It is not surprising then that Vaniglia, Bourbon & Mandarino di Sicilia by Antica Farmacista, a pretty straightforward and extremely enjoyable vanilla and mandarin blend, is associated for me with New Year celebrations. There is isn't much to describe here, the scent is exactly what the title promises it would be, vanilla and mandarin and not much else. I like the way mandarin note is able to stand up for itself and not disappear for quite some time, unlike so many other Something & Vanilla blends out there. The delicious vanilla note here makes me nostalgic for my mum’s incredible pastries, cakes, and tarts. Whenever I smell Vaniglia, Bourbon & Mandarino, I have to fight back tears; it makes me long to be a child again, to rip the bright wrapping paper off the presents and to greedily consume mandarins and cakes and candies and not have a single concern in the whole wide world.

You can buy this Italian-made scent of Soviet New Years Eves at Nordstrom, where a lovely set including Vaniglia, Bourbon & Mandarino di Sicilia and Vanilla Home Ambiance perfume retails for $60.00.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Perfume Review: Guerlain Philtre d'Amour

Philtre d’Amour was first released in 1999 as a Limited Edition fragrance; recently it was relaunched as a part of Guerlain’s Les Parisiennes collection. With notes of lemon, bergamot, verbena, jasmine, petit grain, neroli, myrtle, and patchouli (according to Basenotes), this is a sophisticated citrus scent with an unmistakably “Guerlain” streak running through and especially evident in the drydown. The name would make us believe that this fragrance is a veritable love potion, however this is an elegant, understated and tasteful scent with nothing overly (if at all) passionate or romantic about it.

Philtre d’Amour starts with a bright burst of hersperidic notes; I smell lemon, verbena, and also a sweeter citrus note similar to mandarin. The fragrance remains a citrus-heavy scent throughout its development; in the middle stage a gently floral accord of jasmine and, to my nose, iris, is quite apparent. I believe that the list of notes that I have been able to find online is not complete, because, for example, the base notes include much more than just patchouli (which by the way is not even evident to me). The drydown is that dark, slightly powdery, pleasantly robust accord that smells like a blend of musk, sandalwood, and amber (and perhaps patchouli), which makes Philtre d’Amour so obviously and unquestionably a Guerlain scent. Philtre d’Amour smells much more “like a Guerlain” to me than the other two exclusive Guerlains I have tried recently, Attrape-Coeur and Véga. That is not to say that it is a superior scent (I like it just a little bit less than Attrape-Coeur and quite a bit more than Véga), I am simply stating the fact that, to my nose, Philtre d’Amour smells like it is much more closely related to such Guerlain classics as L’Heure Bleue and Shalimar.

I am quite impressed with Philtre d’Amour, it is a complex, “dressed up” citrus-oriental scent, chic and elegant. In my opinion, if you, like me, find Shalimar rather too heavy and demanding, and if Shalimar Light smells too gourmand, too lemon-cake-like to you, Philtre d’Amour might be a great alternative. I must add that this review is for the original Limited Edition Philtre d’Amour, I am not sure how much (if at all) the fragrance was changed before being re-released as a part of Les Parisiennes collection. **

Right now, Philtre d’Amour is only available in Paris and retails somewhere in the region of EUR 130. Fingers crossed, Les Parisiennes will be available in the new Guerlain boutique in New York.

*The painting is La Philtre de la Magicienne by Anne Bachelier.
**Edited to add: Please click on comments link below. According to V. (Bois de Jasmine) , Philte d'Amour has been changed before being relaunched, and not in a good way. :-(

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Perfume Review: Bvlgari Au The Rouge

Au Thé Rouge is the latest addition to the Bvlgari’s family of tea scents. With notes of pink pepper, red tea, figs, and walnut, the fragrance was supposed to evoke Rooibos tea (Red Bush Tea) native to South America. Rooibos has a sweet-woody-fruity-nutty taste, and, as Robin noted, unfortunately Au Thé Rouge does not really succeed in replicating it. The intention to make it smell like Rooibos is certainly evident, but to me it smells more like a rather strong, slightly smoky black tea lightly flavored with fruits and berries and –even lighter- with roses.

Having said that, I really like Au Thé Rouge. The tea note here is the way I like it, it is, as I already mentioned, smoky and has an interesting bracing undertone to it, probably due to the pink pepper note. During the middle stage I actually do smell walnuts, or what I think are walnuts, a bitter-nutty note that adds a certain raw depth to the composition. In earlier drydown the fig is quite evident, with the slightly coconutty accord that this note always has to my nose. If Au Thé Rouge were a color, it would be black with a red shine to it, indeed like a cup of fragrant, full-bodied tea. The fragrance is subtle yet rich, and even though it is Eau de Cologne, it has quite good staying power on my skin. To me Au Thé Rouge is one of those scents that, though not exactly extraordinary and amazing, are extremely wearable and enjoyable.

Right now Au Thé Rouge is available exclusively at Saks, $57.00 for 1,7oz or $82.00 for 3,4oz.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Perfume Review: Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

The latest addition to Frederic Malle’s Editions de Parfums, Carnal Flower was created by Dominique Ropion, the nose behind Aimez Moi, Pure Poison, Amarige, and Alien (among many other scents). Ropion’s goal was to come up with a scent that was as close to real tuberoses as possible, which meant that, like tuberoses found in nature, Carnal Flower had to “exude a mixture of flowershop freshness and carnal opulence.” In my opinion, Monsieur Ropion fulfilled the first part of that formula; Carnal Flower is certainly fresh, but, even though it is quite strong (to the extent that, when I smell it, I can actually taste it my mouth), it does not convey opulence, sumptuousness, or any sort of carnal image.

The first impression is of a pretty, fresh, spring-like scent; the beginning is slightly citrusy and gently floral, with bergamot, tuberose and orange blossom being the most prominent notes, to my nose. As the fragrance develops, it becomes more intense, at the same time the cold, harsh accords of eucalyptus and camphor come into play. Carnal Flower is almost like Tubereuse Criminelle in reverse. In Lutens’s creation the cold menthol-like accord comes first, shocking in its unexpected weirdness, thus preparing us for the entrance of tuberose, which seems exceptionally stunning, absolutely exquisite in contrast with the jolting ugliness of the top notes. In Carnal Flower, the lively and lovely, spring-like sunny prettiness comes first and, instead of being let to continue blossoming, it is more or less overwhelmed by the unpleasant middle notes. As far as I am concerned, the fragrance never quite recovers, even though the drydown, consisting of tuberose, a little bit of orange blossom, and a dash of musk, is much more pleasant than the middle stage.

Like Diptyque’s new tuberose scent, Do Son, Carnal Flower is a heady but fresh, almost “green” tuberose fragrance. I am not quite sure what note or combination of notes was meant to convey the carnal aspect of tuberose, whatever it was, it did not manifest itself on my skin and to my nose. As far as I am concerned, Fracas still reigns supreme as the most Carnal of all floral scents.

Carnal Flower is available at Editions de Parfums, or at Barneys, $155 for 50 ml, $230 for 100 ml.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Perfume Review: Shiseido Nombre Noir

I first knew about Nombre Noir, Serge Lutens’s legendary first perfume for Shiseido, from Chandler Burr’s book, The Emperor of Scent, which famously described Nombre Noir as one of the five great perfumes of the world and with one paragraph made the perfumistas all over the world crave this discontinued wonder:

“Molecularly blacksmithed by one of Shiseido's in-house Japanese perfumers, it [Nombre Noir] arose from components selected by Lutens (an extremely expensive natural osmanthus straight from the flower and a synthetic, a big-stock damascone molecule of rosy-woody plus prune-"a brilliant juxtaposition of the two," said Turin). … And then it disappeared. "Just too wonderful for words, one of the five great perfumes of the world, and I have none left, none," Turin said, despondent. "I had no idea they were going to discontinue it."”

Not having smelled Nombre Noir when it was first launched, I cannot possibly tell whether (or rather how much) the mini I received from the wonderfully generous C., has been damaged by the passage of time. It does not smell “off” in any way, to my nose, but still, some notes could have been lost, weakened or changed. My first impression was black, woody rose with a certain boozy, wine-y undertone, which I believe fits the description of damascone molecule. It is a stunning accord, rich, dark, and smoky. As the fragrance develops, it assumes a vaguely fruity quality, these are not fresh fruits, rather, the note makes me think of raisins and dried plums. Closer to the drydown, Nombre Noir acquires an accord that I can only describe as very black tea, almost lapsang-souchong-like in its dark smokiness. At this point it actually reminds me a little of another very smoky scent, Eau des Iles by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier. Nombre Noir is a gorgeous, brooding, nocturnal perfume, perhaps “gothic” would be a word to describe it. It is exactly what I wanted Lutens’s Rose de Nuit to be like.

Nombre Noir is beautiful and unusual, and if it were more widely available (and much less expensive), I would have bought a bottle. Having said that, when facing a very expensive and very rare fragrance, I always ask myself Hemingway’s question from For Whom the Bell Tolls: “But did thee feel the earth move?” In the case of Nombre Noir, the answer is no, I did not. Striking as it is, this perfume strangely fails to amaze and captivate me.

I will leave you with Luca Turin’s description of his encounter with Nombre Noir after years of searching for it:

“Nostalgic encounters are fraught with danger. Nombre Noir was still beautiful, God knows, and I could see what I had loved, a sort of playful fierceness unequalled in fragrance before or since, but I was no longer in thrall. Egged on by the cruelty that makes us dismember what we cannot truly love, I sent it off for analysis. When I read the list of ingredients with their proportions, I felt as Röntgen must have done when he first saw the bones in his wife's hand: no longer the beautiful, but the sublime. At Nombre Noir's core, a quartet of resplendent woody-rosy damascones, synthetics first found in rose oil forty years ago. They break down in sunlight, hence the nastiness. But the secret was a huge slug of hedione, a quiet, unassuming chemical that no-one noticed until Edmond Roudnitska showed with Eau Sauvage (1966) that its magic kiss could put back the dew on dry flowers. Knowledge may be power, but power is not love.” ( From Luca Turin’s blog, Perfume Notes)

Nombre Noir can sometimes be found on eBay, where it can go for as much as $40.00 (and often more!) for a 4ml miniature.

*The painting is Black Rose by Anthony Falbo, it and other Falbo’s works can be found here.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Perfume Review. Serenity Now: Angelique Encens by Creed

Angélique Encens is a part of Creed’s Private Collection, which consists of fragrances created for special (read- famous) clients. Angélique Encens was Marlene Dietrich’s scent; that fact alone was enough for me to like it. Of course there is more to Angélique Encens than it’s famed, very chic patron. With notes of anjelica, tuberose, amber, incense, and vanilla, this is a perfume-paradox, a fragrance that somehow manages to be dramatic and serene, comfortingly substantial and ethereal all at the same time.

Green, buttery incense is the description that comes to mind when I think about Angélique Encens. I realize that it may not sound too appealing, but it is quite a stunning fragrance. It starts with a blast of green anjelica note mixed with peppery incense. Vanilla is apparent from the very beginning, adding that “butteriness”, substantiality, and richness that I like so much in Angélique Encens. In the middle stage, incense subsides and almost disappears as does vanilla. Anjelica is now paired with tuberose, which is a quiet note here and mostly serves as a creamy background for the green anjelica. When the drydown comes, vanilla returns making sure that that the scent keeps its warmth and sumptuousness. Incense reappears as well, but is much less intense than in the top notes.

Angélique Encens is a comfort scent for me, in a sense that it brings me detachment and peace, a certain otherworldly lightness of heart, and freedom from worries. When I wear this fragrance, certain teachings from Tao Te Ching suddenly become understandable, appealing, and achievable to me, for example this:

Things come her way and she does not stop them; things leave and she lets them go.

Or this:

If you can empty your mind of all thoughts, your heart will embrace the tranquility of peace.

This “Taoist” Creed can be yours for $280.00 (250ml, available at Parfumsraffy). I am rationing my decant, but as soon as it is over, I will have to find a way to obtain a bottle of Angélique Encens.

*The photo of burning incense sticks is from

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Daim Blond

Daim Blond, one of Lutens’s Eaux de Parfum Haute Concentration was inspired by (white) suede; it has the notes of iris, apricot kernel, cardamom, musk, heliotrope, and hawthorn, and is one of my Holy Grail fragrances. If I had to describe its smell with one word, the word would be Expensive. To me this is a smell of understated luxury, impeccable taste and natural elegance. Apart from smelling expensive, Daim Blond does indeed smell like suede, albeit suede that has absorbed its wearer’s rather sweet fruity-floral perfume.

Apricot and suede notes appear simultaneously as soon as Daim Blond is applied to my skin, these two notes are the most prominent to my nose and continue to go side by side and are noticeable till the very drydown. Other notes appear and disappear as the fragrance develops. Iris shows briefly among the top notes, cardamom and heliotrope pop up in the middle stage, and musk is quite evident in the drydown, doing what musk does best, bringing a little animalic oomph to the composition. The drydown also has a certain dark nuttiness/ slight powderiness that I associate with hawthorn, one of my favorite notes.

Daim Blond is a sumptuous scent, it is rich, warm and, as much as I love it, I must admit it is often rather overwhelming in hot weather. It is however stunning on cold days and absolutely exquisite in minus temperatures; every note becomes clearly defined and practically sings in the icy air. The staying power of this scent is commendable, ten, sometimes twelve hours on my skin.

Daim Blond is available at Aedes, $120.00 for 1,69ml.

*The painting is Perfume Pearls by Trish Biddle.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Perfume Review: Ginestet Le Boise

Le Boise is part of the fragrance line developed by Bordeaux winemaker Ginestet. The collection consists of three scents, each evocative of the flavors of wine: Botrytis, sweet, honeyed scent reminiscent of Sauternes, Sauvignon, fresh, dry, effervescent, inspired by Sauvignon Blanc, and Le Boise, intended to bring to mind the oak barrels used to age Bordeaux wines. I am not the biggest fan of Sauvignon Blanc, so it came as no surprise to me that I was not impressed by Sauvignon the perfume. Botrytis smells predominantly and rather boringly of vanilla on my skin. The woody-spicy-boozy Le Boise is my favorite of the three.

The official list of notes is very short and very vague: woods, vanilla and spices. My imagination may be at work, but I believe there are oak, cedar and birch here. The woody accord is multifaceted and keeps developing from dry (cedar) to darker, “juicier” and more robust (oak), to spicy (birch), to the dry and elegant (cedar again). I also sense a little patchouli and amber in the mix, amber in the earlier drydown, patchouli at the very end. Vanilla is very light on my skin and only appears in the middle stage of the scent’s development to add that juicy-boozy robustness to the oak note. Luckyscent describes Le Boise as “resolutely masculine”, but I will have to respectfully disagree. It is decisidedly unisex and does not lean either towards masculine or feminine side of the unisex specter. This is a complex, unusual woody scent, it is imaginative and very well blended, and to me feels like something Lutens and Sheldrake could have dreamed up and executed. In fact Le Boise is more interesting than pale Un Bois Sépia and much more wearable than alarmingly smoky, uncompromising Chêne (though I must say I still consider Lutens's Les Eaux Boisées, especially Bois et Fruits, Bois et Musc and Bois Oriental among my most favorite woody scents).

I must add that I love the wooden case of Le Boise but the bottle itself is so realistic, it almost enters the novelty object territory.

Le Boise can be found on, $95.00 for 100ml.

*The photo of wine barrels is from

Monday, December 19, 2005

Perfume Review. Roses and Vanilla: Rochas Tocade and Bond No. 9 Broadway Nite

Today’s review is for two scents blending rose and vanilla, a combination I adore. Obviously, rose and vanilla are not the only notes in either of these fragrances; Tocade has a very noticeable magnolia note and Broadway Nite is quite heavy on violet and what I perceive to be geranium. Still, to my nose and on my skin, rose and vanilla are the core ingredients of Tocade and Broadway Nite. However, despite the shared notes and despite the fact that both were created by Maurice Roucel (the nose behind Musc Ravageur, 24 Faubourg and many others), Tocade and Broadway Nite could not be more different. It is as if, having been given the task of creating a rose scent for Bond No.9, Monsieur Roucel went back to Tocade and made it more heady and generally glammed it up, creating a gorgeous, capricious, pampered diva out of a sweet, lovely, pretty house-maker.

Tocade is a soft comfort scent, unobtrusive enough to be worn in any environment, lovely before bedtime. It starts with a blend of rose, magnolia and vanilla on my skin, the magnolia note wears off quite soon and, till the drydown comes, Tocade is mostly rose and vanilla on me. In the drydown, rose becomes much less evident and amber joins the mix, adding its sweet warmth to the scent and bringing it up a notch on the comfort scale. This is not a glamorous fragrance, it stays very close to the skin and, unless you really over-spray, is likely to go more or less unnoticed by others. It is however guaranteed to bring a smile of contentment on your face whenever you catch its floral-gourmand aroma.

Broadway Nite is a different story altogether. It is a bombshell, glamorous, heady, with a luxurious trail of sillage. It would not tolerate being worn with your coziest sweater, wrapped up in a favorite old blanket, reading a book. Broadway Nite demands to be taken out on the town; don’t dare to put it on unless you are dressed très chic, with your heels very high. I heard Broadway Nite being compared to Lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle and I can see the similarity in that both mix rose and violet, however where Lipstick Rose is powdery, soft, and warm, Broadway Nite is aldehydic and dazzling, and, despite the fact that it has vanilla and amber in the drydown, it strikes me as a “cold” scent. To compare it to Tocade, the rose note is much more loud and prominent in Broadway Nite and stays very noticeable in the drydown. There is a certain green-ish quality to this scent that is probably due to the mentioned violet note, honeysuckle and iris. I could have sworn there was geranium in the blend as well, Broadway Nite has that sharpness I associate with this note, but, for what it’s worth, it is not on the official list of ingredients.

Broadway Nite is a heady, demanding scent and does not always work on my skin; once in a while it throws a tantrum and becomes very harsh and cloying; it is not full bottle worthy for me. Tocade, on the other hand, gets worn often and is always even-tempered, soft and comforting; I will be definitely buying a bottle.

Broadway Nite can be found in Bond No. 9 boutiques or online, for example at, and costs $110.00- $178.00. Tocade retails for as little as $21.69, at

*The photo of Maurice Roucel is from Editions de Parfums, and is here mainly because, on this particular picture, the perfumer looks remarkably like my father, only with a more luxurious moustache :-)

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Next week...

… will be business as usual. Planning the posts for the Christmas week and trying to come up with something thematic, I realized that I don’t have that many olfactory Christmas associations. That is probably mainly due to the fact that I was born and raised in Soviet Union where Christmas was not celebrated. New Year was, and I believe it still remains the most favorite holiday in Russia and Former Soviet Union, with fur-tree, decorations, Grandfather Frost (Santa Claus), presents, huge holiday feast…

So, next week’s reviews will not be particularly Christmassy, but I will try to come up with something more festive to celebrate the New Year.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Perfume Review. Two Comfort Scents by Givenchy: Organza Indecence and Oblique Rewind

Today’s review is for two more comfort scents. Lets face it, when the forecast promises snow and rain all on the same day, one needs comfort in any form one can get it. My personal recipe is to make a hot cuppa of Russian Caravan tea and wrap myself in one of these warm, sweet, spicy olfactory blankets. You can find reviews of my other favorite comfort scents here, here, and here.

Organza Indecence was created in 1999 by Norbert Bijaoui and Jean Claude Deville. I am not quite sure whether it was a Limited Edition of Organza, which by definition would have had a short lifespan, or whether it was simply –inexcusably- discontinued. Whatever the reason, Organza Indecence is not very easy to find, but it is worth an effort. It starts with a spicy, cinnamon-y and woody accord, which I believe is Jacaranda wood, this top note is the ultimate sweet woody pleasure; if you like me are a fan of warm, rich woody scents, you are practically guaranteed to love Organza Indecence at the first sniff. In the middle stage a harsher woody note enters the scent, which makes me think there are cedar and benzoin in the blend. It is not off-putingly harsh, it actually adds a certain sharp elegance to the composition. That note disappears quite fast and we are left with a velvety drydown, which mostly consists of vanilla, amber and musk on my skin. I read that there a plum note among the ingredients, but to my nose Organza Indecence has no fruitiness at all, it is all wood, soft, spicy and comforting.

Oblique Rewind, created in 2000 by Nathalie Lorson, is a part of Oblique trio that also includes Oblique Play and Oblique Fast Forward. I believe Oblique was Givenchy’s attempt to be “cool” and in tune with the younger clientele; the Oblique trio was inspired by musical equipment, and housed in strange, UFO-like packaging. I guess the younger customers were not impressed and the rest was put off by the faux hip concept and Obliques were discontinued. I do not regret the passing of Play and FFWD, but the loss of RWD is lamentable. If one manages to look past the nonsensical name and the silly bottle, this is actually a wonderfully warm, rich, velvety scent that could compete with cult favorites like Escada Collection for the title of the ultimate comfort fragrance. Oblique Rewind starts with a spiced cherry accord that is more of a cherry tobacco than a berry scent, it is a sweet, smoky, delicious note. Paired with the pistachio note that appears next, it becomes oh so indulgent, it is gourmand without being foody. In the drydown, Oblique RWD is mostly woods (sandalwood and cedar) with a little patchouli thrown in for good measure. Among my favorite comfort scents, this is perhaps the richest, the warmest, and the most robust.

Organza Indecence is available at Parfumsraffy, $49.00 for 1,7oz. Oblique Rewind can be found at PerfumeMart, $32.00 for two 0,66oz sprays.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Perfume Review: Burberry Brit Gold

Burberry Brit Gold, a Limited Edition of Burberry Brit, launched for the 2005 holiday season, is described as ”a rich and modern ambery oriental fragrance”. Created by Antoine Lie of Givaudan, Brit Gold has notes of magnolia, neroli, blackcurrant, bergamot, pink orris, amber, vanilla, musk, sandalwood, and benzoin. I used to love the original Burberry Brit, that love lasted all of two weeks, after which the lime and “icy” pear started to bother and overwhelm me. Burberry Brit Red, the previous Limited Edition, did not work for me at all; rhubarb and patchouli are not my most favorite notes. Brit Gold is the warmest and the smoothest of the three Brits.

It starts with the notes of vanilla and magnolia and just a hint of orange blossom. The floral notes disappear very fast and, somewhere in the middle stage of the scent’s development, vanilla gets paired with benzoin, which brings certain sharpness to the composition, without making it too harsh. When the drydown comes, sandalwood becomes the most predominant note to my nose; it is accompanied by amber and vanilla. Sandalwood more or less fades away after a while and for the rest of the drydown (which by the way lasts quite a long time on my skin), Brit Gold is an amber and vanilla blend.

It is a “substantial”, robust, creamy and rich scent, not exactly earth-moving and unique but still quite attractive and comforting. It is almost gourmand and made me long for such very British things like scones and clotted cream (with tea of course) and for England in general. It made me want to go back to England, spend another week or two in a small village with a church dating to Norman times, ancient cemetery, one pub and houses with names like Old Stables and Old Vicarage. …Coming back to the present and to the American soil, I quite like Brit Gold; along with Gaultier 2, this is one of the nicest recently released designer fragrances. I will not be rushing to buy it, my wishlist is miles long at this point and Brit Gold will have to join the queue like a good little Brit that it is.
Burberry Brit Gold can be found at Sephora and costs $62 - $82.

*The photo of delectable English tea and scones is from

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Perfume Review: Ozwald Boateng Parfum Bespoke

Ozwald Boateng, the designer who is said to have “revolutionized Savile Row, fusing traditional skills in tailoring and expert cutting with the very modern use of colors” and the first Savile Row tailor to show his suits on the catwalks of Paris (, is by definition a men’s designer, however he decided that his first fragrance will be for women. Launched in 2003, it is called Parfum Bespoke and consists of two scents housed in one bottle. They can be sprayed separately and are meant to be layered thus allowing the wearer to create her own “bespoke” scent. One can also purchase the scents, Orange and Red, separately.

Orange part of Bespoke has notes of rhubarb leaves, peppermint, bergamot, purple orchids, roses, lily of the valley, vetiver from Ghana, sandalwood, rosewood, heliotrope, musk, and vanilla. During the first minutes on my skin, Orange is like a paler version of Eau d’Hadrien, a rather dry, crisp citrus scent. At that stage it is pleasant if not exactly distinctive or unusual. The fragrance skips its floral notes on my skin and moves straight into the earthy vetiver stage, sweetened by sandalwood and vanilla; the drydown smells a little dusty to me. I must say that I am not impressed by Orange, it seems rather unexciting and bland.

Red is a different story altogether. With notes of peach, mandarin, tarragon, “fresh green leaf”, heliotrope, water lily, jasmine, violet, lily of the valley, sandalwood, vanilla, patchouli, musk, and amber, this is a warm, slightly spicy scent that indeed evokes color red. Even though it features peach and mandarin, I actually would not call Red fruity, neither note is all that apparent to my nose. The blend is very smooth and not a single accord stands out. The overall impression is that of a creamy, velvety, dark woody-oriental scent. I like it very much and prefer it on its own as opposed to layered with Orange. Mixed with the latter, Red acquires a certain sharpness that does add more spiciness to the blend but in the end overwhelms and bothers me. The only good thing that comes out of such layering is the drydown, where musk becomes quite apparent, bringing a little dirty animalic quality to the scent; still, I would much rather wear Red on its own.

Parfum Bespoke is available at First in Fragrance; the bottle consisting of two 25ml sprays retails for EUR 78.00, Orange or Red bought separately cost EUR 48.00 for 50ml.

*The photo of Ozwald Boateng is from Why is it here? Just because I found him very pleasing to my eye :-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Perfume Review: Calvin Klein Euphoria

I have never had any success with Calvin Klein’s fragrances; I tolerate some, dislike many and hate two of them with undying passion. His new scent, Euphoria, falls into a tolerated category; it is perhaps the most likable (or the least disagreeable) of all his perfumes. Euphoria has notes of pomegranate, persimmon, “lush green accord” (insert eye-roll here), “dewy lotus blossom” (more eye-rolling), champaca flower, black orchid, amber, black violet, “cream accord” (yeah, yeah) and mahogany wood. My main complaint is that Euphoria is too sweet. It is not quite as toothachingly candy-sweet as Antica Farmacista’s Melograno, another pomegranate scent, but it is quite overwhelmingly sweet nevertheless. A ripe pomegranate is a sweet fruit, but to me pomegranates are characterized by their wonderful astringency, which balances the sweetness; that quality is sadly lacking in Euphoria.

The scent does not have much development on my skin; all notes appear at once and stay together. The most interesting of them are unfortunately not really evident to my nose, for example I am completely missing the promised mahogany wood, or “black” violet, or champaca, or even amber. Euphoria is all fruit and nothing but the fruit, vaguely recognizable as pomegranate; the middle stage and especially the drydown are haunted by the ghost of Angel. Euphoria could easily have been yet another variation of Angel, perhaps called Angel Fruitee or something along those lines; the two are definitely quite closely related.

Euphoria is certainly not the worst of the recent fragrant designer offerings; if you are looking for a warm, rich, sweet scent, you might really like Euphoria. If you are on a market for a pomegranate fragrance, may I recommend you try Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir. It is not a very true pomegranate fragrance either, but it does have in abundance that mouthwatering astringency that I personally adore in pomegranates and is in general immeasurably more beautiful, deep, and interesting than Euphoria.

Euphoria is available pretty much everywhere and retails for $40.00 to $65.00.

*The painting is Pomegranates by Johnny Karwan.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Perfume Review: Guerlain Vega

Vega (Alpha Lyrae). One of the most famed stars of the sky, Vega is the luminary of the constellation Lyra. Its name derives from an Arabic phrase that means "the swooping eagle." Vega is one of three brilliant stars that divide the northern heavens into thirds; it is the sky's fifth brightest star; it is also one of the stars closest to the Earth, lying just 25 light years away. Though its proximity helps make it bright in our skies, it is also inherently luminous, 54 times brighter than our Sun. (From

To celebrate the renovation of its 68 Champs Elysées boutique, Guerlain launched The Legacy Collection. Each year one classic, discontinued fragrance will be reissued as a part of the collection; Véga was the first to be “revived”; eventually the list will also include Cachet Juane, Kadine, Ode, and Sous Le Vent. Created by Jacques Guerlain in 1936, Véga is a Floral Aldehydic with notes of ylang ylang, jasmine, iris and sandalwood.

Véga is a bright, intense, elegant scent of classic proportions, perfect like a marble statue of a Greek goddess. It starts with a dazzling accord of ylang ylang and jasmine, the intense exotic sweetness of ylang ylang combined with the indolic jasmine is quite gorgeous, vivid and jazzy. Iris tones down the composition bringing a little cooling earthiness to the scent and sandalwood adds its trademark sweet woodiness to the drydown. Patty (thanks to whose generosity I was able to sample this stunner) said that Véga reminded her a little of Bois des Iles. I must say that I do smell a similarity there, but only briefly, in the very beginning, when Véga is like a much more floral version of Bois des Iles.

To me Véga is much more reminiscent, in spirit more than in notes, to Guerlain’s Chamade and Edmund Roudnitska’s Le Parfum de Thérèse. All three are very bright, rather heady, sumptuous and feminine scents, gleaming like liquid gold. But while I always see Chamade and especially Le Parfum de Thérèse as warm scents, golden shimmer of Véga strikes me as a cold, distant brightness of a star, bringing to mind the words of Pablo Neruda: “You are like the night, with its stillness and constellations, yours silence is that of a star, as remote and candid.” I admire Véga, I think it is a gorgeous scent, but somehow it leaves me a little dissatisfied, as if I am missing something in it, perhaps a little more warmth.

Like Attrape-Coeur, Véga is a Paris exclusive and can be ordered via email. It retails for EUR 180 for 125ml.

*The photo of Vega the star is from

Friday, December 09, 2005

Perfume Review: Guerlain Attrape-Coeur

Before I begin the review, I must first thank Patty for giving me the opportunity to sample this beauty. Attrape-Coeur (formerly known as Guet-Apens) is available only at Guerlain boutique at 68 Champs Elysées (by the way Attrape-Coeur also used to be known as No. 68, in honor of Guerlain’s new store). Guet-Apens was composed by perfumer Mathilde Laurent; when the name was changed to Attrape-Coeur, the authorship became attributed to Jean-Paul Guerlain. I have not had a chance to try Guet-Apens, but according to Luca Turin, the new version is not much different from the original, only “a little brighter up top, a little thinner in the middle, but basically the same perfume, only slightly less good.”

Guet-Apens must be absolutely out of this world, because even this “slightly less good” version is heartbreakingly exquisite. Patty mentioned that Vega (another très exclusif Guerlain scent I got to try thanks to her kindness) smelled to her like a distant relative to Bois des Iles. I have not tested Vega properly yet, but the first sniff from the vial was indeed somewhat alike (much more floral) Bois des Iles. What I did not expect was that Attrape Coeur would also smell to me rather along the lines of Bois des Iles. And then I found a review of Attrape-Coeur by Luca Turin (yet again), in which he writes that Attrape-Coeur “has the mulled-wine effect of Chanel's Bois des Iles, but in the Guerlain manner, i.e. based around an amber accord”. The two are not by any means identical. Attrape-Coeur is airier, a little fresher, more floral, less woody and sweet than Bois des Iles, but they do share the same soft golden smoothness that I find absolutely and utterly irresistible. I believe that the woody accord in both scents is responsible for the similarity; sandalwood notes in Bois des Iles and Attrape-Coeur are rather alike, they share the same velvety warmth and dark sweetness.

Attrape-Coeur opens with the iris note, and it is iris at its best, it is fresh, creamy, raw, and rooty all the same time. Iris combined with sandalwood and, later, vanilla, are the notes most apparent on my skin. I do not smell much of the rose; violet appears for a short period, it is a sweet and soft note and vanishes quickly. Until the drydown comes, Attrape-Coeur does not strike me as a very “Guerlain” scent. I do not mean that as a criticism at all, a scent does not have to be a Guerlain to smell stunning; neither should all fragrances of the same perfume house necessarily smell alike. What I am trying to say is that fragrances like Mitsouko, Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue and even Après L'Ondée smell like they are unquestionably related to each other, the same dark, powdery, “very Guerlain” blood runs in their veins. To identify Attrape-Coeur as a Guerlain, one has to wait till drydown, when that amber accord mentioned by Turin comes into play, blended with vanilla (the iris note is still evident here, adding a little agreeable sharpness to the mix). Until then, Attrape-Coeur is more of a step-sibling to the aforementioned Guerlains. During the drydown, which is somewhat Guerlainesque in its dark, slightly powdery sweetness, Attrape-Coeur reveals itself as a relation, but even then it is a cousin many times removed, one of whose ancestors apparently had a little fling with one of the Chanels.

Attrape-Coeur proved to be indeed a “Heart-Catcher” for me. I love it and want, need, must have a bottle. As I mentioned before, Attrape-Coeur is exclusive to Paris; it can be ordered via email and costs EUR 130 for 125 ml (“bee” bottle). Santa Baby, are you reading this?

*The photo of 68 Champs Elysées boutique is from The painting is Van Gogh Iris by Charles Schridde.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Perfume Review: Lulu Guinness Cast a Spell

Lulu Guinness is a British designer famous for her creative, whimsical, kitschy, chic, and very intricate handbags. I adore her collectible bags, however they do not come cheap, costing somewhere in the region of GBP 300-400. Her fragrances on the other hand are quite affordable; unfortunately until now I wasn’t very impressed with any of them. Cast a Spell, Lulu Guinness’s new scent, is somewhat more to my liking. The scent was allegedly inspired by fairy tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, and is supposed to evoke “enchanted forests, magic love potions, the richness of Baroque art, and the dance between light and dark, coolness and warmth.”

The description as usual promises a little more than the fragrance can actually deliver. Eager as I am to see enchanted forests, all I get is a warm, sweet scent of berries (mostly blackberries), lavender and vanilla. Lavender (actually “iced” lavender) seems a rather unusual choice of a note to accompany a berry-based fragrance, but it actually works quite well, toning down the sweetness and overall berryness of the fragrance and providing the "coolness" noted in the official description. As soon as the lavender note disappears, Cast a Spell loses much of its charm and originality, and as far as I am concerned- forgive the pun, I don’t seem to be able to help it – the spell gets broken. The middle stage is rather too sweet, with a ghost of aniseedy Lolita Lempicka lurking in the shadows. The drydown is the least remarkable part of the fragrance, a pale blend of vanilla and something unidentifiable that may or may not be “white patchouli”.

All in all, Cast a Spell is a pretty albeit forgettable little scent. I don’t think I will be buying a bottle, I think I would rather put the money into the My Future Collectible Lulu Guinness Handbag fund.

Cast a Spell is available at Sephora, $32.00-88.00.

*The picture of Castle bag is from And here are some more of those wonderful collectible Lulu Guinness handbags, also from

Lilac Chocolate Box, £300.00

Tea Table, £395.00

Nouveaux Rose Fan, £395.00

Skeletons In The Closet, £435.00

Lilac Parisian House, £390.00

NY Skyline, £450.00

Department Store, £380.00

Christmas Room, £325.00

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Perfume Review: Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles

Michael Edwards’s site Fragrances of the World Online offers a wonderful service that is as useful as it is fun. Click on the name of your favorite perfume and Michael Edwards will recommend you three scents that you might also like. Bal à Versailles is one of the fragrances that the site always insists I am guaranteed to adore. Michael Edwards certainly knows best. After having been recommended this scent so many times, I finally got a sample and I do love Bal à Versailles.

Launched in 1962 by Jean Desprez, Bal à Versailles is a Floral Oriental with notes of jasmine, rose, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, amber, and civet. Those notes suggest a dark, rich, and powerful scent. And it is. What I did not expect based on that list of ingredients is how soft and strangely comforting this fragrance really is. Bal à Versailles starts with jasmine whose indolic darkness is almost impenetrable and very agreeable. I am not a jasmine lover and I usually shy away from jasmine’s indolic side, but I absolutely love it here. According to Jan Moran, three rose species were used in Bal à Versailles, Bulgarian, Anatolian, and May rose; based on that I expected the rose note to be more pronounced, and the rose is there, but it only serves as an understated background, which allows the dark jasmine note to flourish more effectively.

The middle stage of the fragrance is sweetly woody and ambery and not especially remarkable, but it is over very soon, giving way to the most scrumptiously animalic drydown. It is resinous and pitch black and it makes my knees week and my mouth dry. What with the indolic top note of jasmine and the civet in the base, Bal à Versailles is positively dirty. It is dirty, ravishing, sexy…and very soft…it is shocking really how unexpectedly velvety this scent is. Bal à Versailles would be a great accomplice if you wanted to seduce, stun and enslave somebody, but it would also work great as a warm comfort scent to wrap around you on a cold, dreary winter day.

For those familiar with Anne (Sergeanne) Golon’s book Angélique and the King (or any other books in the series and/or movies based on them, starring Michelle Mercier), Bal à Versailles is a perfect olfactory equivalent of the dirty world or love, lust, and intrigues depicted in the book. Bal a Versailles would have fitted Angélique, the brave, passionate, romantic and warm-hearted beauty that she was, like a (soft, expensively perfumed) glove.

Bal a Versailles can be found at Scentiments, $9.73-29.94.

*The photo of Angélique is from this site. You can read more on the World of Angelique here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Perfume Review: Ex Voto Ambre Profond

Ex Voto, the company created by Nathalie Paillarse, specializes in elegant urban design and offers a collection of sleek, minimalistic wooden objects for home, home fragrance (room sprays and candles with alluring names like White Monsoon Tea, Black Ambre and Fresh Ginger), and bath and body care products including Eaux de Toilette. So far, there are only two Eaux de Toilette available, Ex Voto White Cristal Pur a.k.a. Eau de Luxe Bigarade (orange, lemon, grapefruit, jasmine, mint leaves) and Ex Voto Brown a.k.a. Eau de Luxe Ambre (Profond).

According to Ex Voto website, Ambre Profond has notes of amber, labdanum and musk. First in Fragrance adds patchouli to the list, but on my skin that note is non-existent. Ambre Profond is a slightly sweet amber scent with a wonderful accord (I assume this is labdanum) that is peppery, leathery and woody all at once without actually being harsh or overwhelming the amber note. That dark yet brisk note adds the most enjoyable “kick” to the ever so sensual amber. This is not a complex scent; in fact I would describe it as linear. But like one of Ex Voto’s wooden accessories, with its paradoxical combination of clean lines, pure shapes and unexpected sensuality, Ambre Profond, simple though it is, is warm, rich and very satisfying. It is modern, chic, and luxurious in a fashionably understated kind of way.

This would be a great scent for amber-beginners and an ideal everyday amber for amber fans. Lovers of very dark, resinous ambers may find Ambre Profond a little light and unchallenging, not as “deep” an amber as the name would make us believe. I must also add that the staying power of this Eau de Toilette is not stellar, only a couple of hours, on my skin.

Ambre Profond is available at First in Fragrance, EUR 75 for 100 ml.

*The picture of Ex Voto candleholders is from

Monday, December 05, 2005

Perfume Review: Jean Paul Gaultier Gaultier 2

Jean Paul Gaultier’s new perfume, Gaultier 2, is described as a fragrance “for a skin-to-skin encounter” that “reunites masculine and feminine through the most intimate human feature: sensual skin”. That sounds like a typical perfume-marketing talk, vague in an artsy kind of way and rather meaningless, but I was intrigued, because the notes (amber, vanilla and musk) seemed to promise that Gaultier 2 would be a warm and maybe even gourmand scent, somewhat a departure from more typical fresh(-er) unisex fragrances.

I was not disappointed in my expectations and must say that it is a very pleasant scent, indeed warm and gourmand. I love the fact that is also has a certain spicy kick to it, especially in the beginning, when I smell ginger and nutmeg. At that point Gaultier 2 reminds me of I Profumi di Firenze Zenzero, Annick Goutal Mandragore and Jo Malone Nutmeg and Ginger all at once, and these are very agreeable associations for me. As the spiciness subsides, and especially in the drydown, I am reminded of yet another scent, namely Lea St Barth. The drydown of Gaultier 2 is positively almondy on my skin, a lovely mix of bitter almonds and musk. In fact – dare I say it? – at this stage I find Gaultier 2 much more interesting and “deep” than popular Lea St Barth, the scent that, however hard I try to like it, is consistently pale, bland and sour to my nose.

Because of the fact that there is quite a bit of sweetness in Gaultier 2, I am not sure that many men will find it wearable. Like Robin (NowSmellThis), I also think that it leans towards the feminine end of the unisex spectrum. I find it to be a very agreeable, wearable and pleasant fragrance. Having said that, as far as I am concerned, it doesn’t make the earth move, and I will not be in any rush to buy it, maybe ever.

Gaultier 2 can be found at, $42.99-$80.99.