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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Perfume Review: Parfums Regence Kolnisch Juchten

Kölnisch Juchten is perhaps one of the most obscure scents I have ever had a pleasure to encounter. The story goes that it was first produced a couple of hundred years ago by Johann Maria Farina (or "Johann Maria Farina gegenüber dem Jülichs-platz"), the world’s oldest Eau de Cologne manufacturer in Cologne, established in 1709. At some point in time Kolnisch Juchten started to be produced by a company called Parfums Regence. In the States, it seems to be available exclusively at a small perfume boutique in San Francisco, allegedly owned by a moody proprietor, who, like the owner of the fragrance shop described in The Emperor of Scent, runs the store “according to the iconoclastic economic principle” that the perfumes are to be sold only if the owner likes the customers.

In the case of Kolnisch Juchten, such possessiveness is perhaps understandable. This is a rich, smoky leather scent quite unlike any other. “Juchten” is the German term for Russian leather. The rich, woody, smoky odor that came to be associated with Russian leather is due to the application of birch tar in the process of dressing. Many perfume houses have created scents centered around the Russian leather accord; however, if one is to consider the woody smokiness to be the main characteristic of Russian leather, then Kolnisch Juchten is the only scent that actually comes very close to replicating that dark, thick, balsamic aroma.

Yesterday I talked about Encens Epice, a “savory” scent reminiscent of hot and spicy sausages. Kolnisch Juchten is more savory still. The top notes are shockingly similar to the mouthwatering, cholesterol-leaden smell of smoked salo (pork fat, native to Ukraine and very popular throughout the whole former Soviet Union). Kolnisch Juchten is certainly the most “meaty” scent I have ever come across. It is a smell of old, black leather, tar, charred woods and unhealthy, barbaric but tasty meat cooked on campfire. Having said that, the scent starts much more intense than it means to go on. After the pungent, robust, fleshy beginning, the fragrance subsides rather dramatically. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it elegant and chic, as leather perfumes so often are, there is still too much of a barbarian in Kolnisch Juchten, but it does become much less smoky and the “meaty” accord all but disappears. During the later stages of its development, the scent is mainly (subdued) leather paired with some amber, a little tobacco, a hint of woods, some spices and finally, in the drydown, quite a bit of patchouli.

Is it full bottle worthy? It is to me! If you, like me, can’t resist the obscure, the strange, and the smoky …call Jacqueline Parfumerie in San Francisco, 415-981-0858. If you dare. I understand that Kolnisch Juchten costs $60 for 100ml (correct me if I am wrong).

*Many thanks to Judith and her husband for kindly providing me with the photo of Kolnisch Juchten! The picture of Pork Fat Back With Pepper is from

**Tomorrow, L, the latest scent by Lolita Lempicka.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Perfume review: Il Profumo Encens Epice

Created by an Italian company Il Profumo (about which I am unable google up any information, hard as I try), Encens Epice is one of the most savory scents I have tried, second only to the smoky, practically burnt BBQ-ed meat scent of Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier’s Eau des Iles and no-less smoky and perhaps even more “meaty” Kolnisch Juchten. Luckyscent are very honest and very correct in their description of this fragrance, when they say that Encens Epice leans more toward spice than incense. As far as my nose is concerned, this is all Epice and none of the Encens.

Encens Epice is an aromatic, salty, spicy, herbal, woody concoction that ultimately smells of smoked hot and spicy sausages cooked and eaten in a pine forest. It is a strange and strangely appealing scent that is practically gourmand in a savory, not sweet kind of way. Peculiarly enjoyable as it is, I hesitate to call it universally wearable, apart from the drydown, which rather pleasantly albeit less interestingly smells of pine and coriander, with a vague hint of citrus. Fans of smoky, spicy scents might find Encens Epice likeable. Lovers of incense will feel cheated and disappointed. Encens Epice is not full bottle worthy for me, but I am going to keep my sample; should ever I lose desire for food, this pungent scent is guaranteed to act as an olfactory hors d'oeuvre and awaken my appetite.

Encens Epice is available at Luckyscent, $80.00 for 100ml of Eau de Parfum, $85.00 for 50ml Encens Epice Absolu oil – spray.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Perfume Review: Annick Goutal Songes

Songes was inspired by Mauritius and particularly Paul Gauguin’s exotic and sensual portrayals of the island. It is a luscious, tremendously romantic bouquet of frangipane, ylang ylang, and jasmine with just the right amount of vanilla added for the extra rich, extra tropical feeling. By calling it “the right amount”, I mean that, though quite obvious on later stages of the fragrance’s development, vanilla here never overwhelms the gorgeous floral notes.* The scent is heady and delicate, succulent and transparent all at the same time. Gauguin-inspired bold, bright accords are handled with Goutal’s trademark light, subtle touch.

The scent starts with a bright, sumptuous note of ylang ylang, which is almost immediately joined by the astoundingly beautiful, soft jasmine. In a little while the sweet, creamy frangipane note comes in, and it feels absolutely natural that frangipane should be accompanied and complemented by the velvety vanilla. After that, till the very drydown, the notes coexist simultaneously and harmoniously on my skin. I admire the fact that the flowers are still apparent, albeit in a more subdued manner, in the drydown, which also has a slight hint of woods. This is a scent that contains in itself a promise of summer, of languid days and sultry nights. When I wear Songes I have a feeling of being transported into one of Francoise Sagan’s novels, of living life full of pleasurable ennui and dolce far niente in a land of eternal summer.

So, what do you love, extraordinary stranger? - I love the clouds ... the clouds passing ... over there ... over there... the marvelous clouds. (Charles Baudelaire, The Stranger)

Songes will officially launch in the States in March. Right now it is available to pre-order at, £42.00 - £57.00. Some bottles can already be found on eBay.

*Please note that the review is for Eau de Toilette, which, according to Bois de Jasmin, is lighter on vanilla than Eau de Parfum.

**The painting is The Red Dog by Paul Gauguin.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Perfume Review: Jo Malone Nectarine Blossom & Honey

Jo Malone first created Nectarine Blossom & Honey twenty years ago, however the scent was set aside and forgotten, until, according to Malone herself, “two distinct moments acted as a sensory reminder- a taste of peach sorbet whilst I was dining in a New York restaurant and the scent of fresh nectarines at a London fruit and flower market.” Jo Malone has recently resigned from the post of the creative director of her company, and I can’t help but perceive this scent as a kind of a “swan song” on her part. To me, Nectarine Blossom & Honey perfectly showcases the features that make her fragrances so very attractive and so very ‘Malone”. It was Chandler Burr who once titled Malone a Queen of Light; even the darkest of her scents still have a wonderfully transparent, weightless quality. Other perfumes may be compared to heavy, opaque fabrics like velvet or suede, hers are the finest of silks, the most transparent of gossamers. This light touch is perhaps most evident and most magical in Nectarine Blossom & Honey, a scent that seemed to have been destined to be excessively fruity and sweet.

Instead, this is another translucent, sheer, gauze-like fragrance. Nectarine Blossom & Honey may have been inspired by peach sorbet, but there is nothing foody in this fragrance. It is undeniably delicious, with peaches and nectarines being juicy, fresh, and mouthwatering, and yes, perhaps there is a certain gourmand aspect here, but that gourmand quality is of the most abstract kind. In the same way one might salivate looking at an exquisite painting of the fruits, done by a Chinese artist. Every detail is distinct and yet the stroke of the master’s brush is so light, so delicate, it makes the objects hauntingly illusory. “The dewy green notes” promised by the official description are indeed quite evident here; one smells not just peaches and nectarines but the leaves and branches as well. These green notes, along with the vetiver in the drydown, balance the fruitiness beautifully. The scent becomes drier and even somewhat earthy as the scent develops, but it never loses the delectable accord of peaches and honeyed citrus fruits. The fragrance does not quite have the tenacity of Jo Malone’s most long-lasting scent, Pomegranate Noir, but it does last at least seven-eight hours on my skin. Nectarine Blossom & Honey is now my favorite Jo Malone scent and one of the most favorite citrusy-fruity florals.

Nectarine Blossom & Honey is available at,, Neiman Marcus, $50.00 for 30ml, $90.00 for 100ml.

*The painting is from
*Tomorrow- Songes by Annick Goutal.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Perfume Review: Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur

Musc Ravageur was created for Frederic Malle’s Editions de Parfums by Maurice Roucel, the creator of Hermes 24 Faubourg, Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist, Rochas Tocade, Gucci Envy, Shalini, and a legion of other scents. The Editions de Parfums site promises that there will be “no flowers” in Musc Ravageur, “just a refined and exalted skin scent”. As much as I like certain floral notes in perfume, a scent with “no flowers” will always find a special place in my floral-mostly-hating-heart. As will a warm, deep, sensual, spicy scent with a hint of little something dirty-animalic.

Musc Ravageur starts with a series of tiny fragrant explosions on my skin. First there is a starry firework of bergamot, then cinnamon enters the scene with a bang, “like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the sky." (Jack Kerouac) Then suddenly there is a short period of warm, enveloping darkness of wonderfully animalic musk. And then the ravageur stage is all over and done with and we step into a cozy, candlelit world of vanilla and amber and sweet spices. I smell cardamom, saffron and (sometimes) ginger at this point, with cardamom being especially prominent on my skin. From that stage on, Musc Ravageur is a like a comfortable loving embrace, like snuggling with your loved one, feeling warm, secure, adored and darn sexy, all at the same time.

This is undoubtedly one of my most favorite and often-worn scents. I find Musc Ravageur wonderfully versatile, it can be worn on dressed up and /or romantic occasions, to seduce and conquer, and it can be worn “just for yourself”, to comfort, soothe and warm, all with equal success.

Musc Ravageur is available at Editions de Parfums, €80 for 50ml or €120 for 100ml, or at Barneys, $155 for 50 ml, $230 for 100 ml.

*Image of Fireplace at Night is from
*Tomorrow- Nectarine Blossom & Honey by Jo Malone

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Perfume Review: Shalini

Shalini was created for the designer Shalini Kumar by Maurice Roucel, the perfumer who brought us such scents as Musc Ravageur, Iris Silver Mist, 24 Faubourg and Tocade. Shalini Kumar wanted the perfume to evoke her childhood memories of tuberose and butterflies in her garden. The limited edition Lalique crystal bottle of Shalini is meant to represent a butterfly wing. Such 2.2oz bottle costs $900.00, thus making Shalini one of the most expensive scents on the market.

I must admit that I was prepared to dislike Shalini, despite the fact that it was created by Maurice Roucel, one of my favorite perfumers. I am not a big fan of tuberose and I find the price of the scent quite irritating. I still maintain that Shalini is not worth that kind of price tag, that no perfume is worth that kind of price tag, but…but the fragile, airy exquisiteness of this fragrance came as a shock to me. Shalini to me is the most beautiful tuberose or even the most beautiful floral scent in general to be released in the last couple of years, perhaps one of the loveliest florals ever. If there wasn’t already a scent with that name, this perfume should have been called La Chasse Aux Papillons. Shalini manages to evoke the image of carefree life spent chasing butterflies much more successfully than L’Artisan’s creation.

The start of Shalini is bright-yellow, sunny and radiant. Tuberose is paired with orange blossom and, even though there is no mention of it in the list of the notes, I smell a hint of indolic jasmine. As the fragrance develops, it acquires the most enjoyable gently-hesperidic accord, the scent not so much of lemons as of lemon blossoms. It is a mouthwateringly fresh accord, which gets sweeter as the orange blossom becomes more prominent. Tuberose note is present at all times, but it is unusually light here. Nothing carnal in this particular tuberose; in Shalini, it is innocent and ethereal. From the bright yet translucent top notes, to the wonderful gossamer-like quality of the middle notes, to the gentle, angelic drydown of flowers, subtle musk and even subtler sandalwood, Shalini is a study in transparency and lightness. This scent is a gauzy fabric fluttering in a summer wind, delicate, light, diaphanous… It is a scent of endless, languid summer, of the world where the sun is forever shining and the sky is perpetually blue…“…At the top of the hands the dazzlement of butterflies, the upflight of butterflies whose light has no end.” (Pablo Neruda)

The gentle beauty of Shalini breaks my heart. Finally I fell in love with a tuberose scent, only to realize that I can never own it. $900.00 or even $400.00 is quite a lot more than I am prepared to pay.

Shalini is available at Bergdorf Goodman and Aedes, $900.00 for 2.2 oz, in a Lalique bottle pictured above. Aedes also carries it in a less fancy, but still very attractive bottle, $400.00 for 1oz.

*The painting is Shade by Jennifer Markes, from

Tomorrow- Musc Ravageur by Maurice Roucel (Editions de Parfums).

Monday, February 20, 2006

Perfume Review: Parfums de Nicolai New York

New York is yet another example of an excellent fragrance that seems to be overlooked and under-discussed. This lack of appreciation is strange, given the fact that, as Luca Turin points out in Le Guide, New York represents “the first total and durable success of the modern unisex perfume”. In fact, Dr Turin goes as far as to call New York “un des grands parfums des vingt dernières années”, one of the grand perfumes of the last twenty years.

New York is an elegant, spicy, earthy scent that is guaranteed to appeal to those, who like me, like their citrus fragrances to have depth and a certain something indefinable that I like to call a kick, a twist, or a bite. Vetiver and thyme are apparent straightaway, the former earthy and green, the latter herbal and green, both très chic and coolly elegant. Then the citrus accord of bergamot and lemon kicks in, adding a fresh, bracing quality to the composition. After that- the best part- red-hot pimento spices up the blend; at that point the scent is so enjoyable to me, I want to bathe in it or drink it, or both. The olfactory miracles are not over yet, however, because in a little while cloves enter the scene, offering their own, subdued and chic, version of spiciness. New York dries down to a discreet yet warm blend of vetiver, oakmoss and amber, made interesting by a still-evident pepper accord and a slight hint of patchouli. If I had to find one (petty) thing to complain about regarding New York, it would be the name. To me, the scent evokes the landscape and the general spirit not of a big, busy city, but of relaxed, slow-paced life in an elegant villa somewhere in the Italian countryside.

New York is available at Bautyhabit, $79 for 100ml .

*Window View of Assisi Countryside is from

Friday, February 17, 2006

Perfume Review: Space NK Melodrama

Melodrama was created for Space NK, a stylish UK-based “apothecary”, by Chris Sheldrake, the perfumer responsible for many Serge Lutens’s scents. “Inspired by the allure of classic scents, Melodrama pays homage to the golden age of perfumery in the 1920s”, says Space NK, and indeed, this is a fragrance with a vintage, classic feel. This is a heady scent, but the blend is so smooth, that somehow that headiness is not overwhelming or uncomfortable.

Bergamot gives the scent a kick-start, however within seconds that bright, hesperidic accord subsides and from then on the scent is a warm bouquet of mostly roses on my skin, with just a hint of orange blossoms and a whisper of heliotrope. The drydown manages to be both glamorous and earthy, with vetyver accompanying the floral notes. Melodrama is not exactly a groundbreaking scent in a Floral Oriental Chypre genre; perhaps, if it were a Lutens perfume, there would have been an unexpected twist somewhere in the composition, that would have made the scent not simply attractive but unique, as so many Sheldrake-Lutens creations are. As it is, Melodrama is a very enjoyable fragrance, not a striking haute couture gown, but a chic and wearable Prêt-à-Porter dress. And if Melodrama really was a dress, it would have been a dark red velvet one, smooth, soft, and shimmering.

I must add that I am very excited for Chanel, the new employer of Sheldrake, even though I am a little concerned whether Lutens would be able to find another perfumer who would be such an apparently perfect executor of his vision. (Of course, it is unknown yet, whether Sheldrake’s contract with Chanel is exclusive.) It seems to me that Melodrama is a good example of a scent we can expect from the Chanel-Sheldrake team. Perhaps we shouldn’t hold our collective breath for remarkably unique, visionary scents like Tubereuse Criminelle or Muscs Koublai Khan, but we will be enjoying some excellently blended, high quality, handsome scents with classic ambitions. Like Melodrama.

Melodrama can be found at, £38.00 for 50ml, £76.00 for 100ml.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Perfume Review: L.T. Piver Cuir de Russie

L.T. Piver’s Cuir de Russie, a fragrance inspired by “the leather smell of Cossack riding boots protected against the wet with silver birch bark”, was originally created at the end of the 19th century. By L.T. Piver’s own admition, the current version has been adapted to today’s market. My guess would be that a certain degree of intensity and richness has been lost in reformulation, however the new version is still incredibly attractive. Having said that, I am not sure that I can be entirely objective or rational, when speaking of Cuir de Russie. As soon as I smelled it, its citrusy-fruity-spicy-nutty accord reminded me of a scent that a person very dear to me used to wear. Nothing is capable of bringing the past alive more than a scent. The flood of memories hit me; I was in love with Cuir de Russie at the very first sniff.

To try and describe the fragrance dispassionately, the first thing that must be said about Cuir de Russie is that those who might have been scared by the image of Cossack boots, should not worry. There is nothing brutal, harsh, animalic or indeed overly leathery about this scent. Even though leather is in the name of the perfume, it is not the most prominent player here, to my nose. Sure, it is present, but it is more of an understated backdrop for that incredible fruity, spicy, almost nutty accord I mentioned above. Mandarin and bergamot are among the notes of Cuir de Russie, however, even though the citrusy quality of the scent is unmistakable, with mandarin bringing a certain fruity-honeyed sweetness to the scent, it is not overwhelming. There is another note here that I cannot identify, a dark, sumptuous note with slight nuttiness to it, that I think may be hawthorn. Whatever it is, I absolutely adore it.

It is possible that the fans of leather in fragrances would be disappointed by the timidity and the lack of prominence of the leather note here. Apart from that, this is a smoothly blended, elegant, rich scent that would eminently wearable on all sorts of occasions and in all seasons. It might prove to be emotionally challenging for me to wear Cuir de Russie, but I will be buying a bottle nevertheless.

Cuir de Russie is available at, £35.00 for 100ml (standard delivery to USA is £9.50).

*The image is from

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Perfume Review: Guerlain Secret Intention

Secret Intention was created in 2000 by Jean-Paul Guerlain as a limited edition fragrance. With notes of bergamot, lemon, Ceylon tea, cardamom, coriander, jasmine, peony, neroli, sandalwood, Tonka bean, and vanilla, this is primarily a scent of black tea infused with tangy berries, fruits and subtle flowers. Being inclined to dismiss Guerlain’s limited editions as very “un-Guerlain” scents lacking substance and depth, I discovered, to my surprise, that, even though indeed completely without the renowned “Guerlain accord”, Secret Intention is a very injoyable, quite rich and refined fragrance, now one of my favorite scents featuring a tea note.

Despite the fact that bergamot and lemon are among the notes, Secret Intention is not a citrus scent at all, to my nose. It starts with an unexpected and very welcome cranberry note, which is bracing, astringent and tart. The opening of Secret Intention reminds me a little of the beginning of another fragrance with a cranberry note, 100% Love. In a little while the black tea note comes into play; it is not smoky, but it has pungency of the tea that has been brewed for quite a long time, the quality that I appreciate. I do smell a faint coriander accord, but cardamom and flowers are practically non-existent here, apart from neroli, which I can smell very vaguely, somewhere in the distance. I love the fact that the tea note, once it appears, does not leave the scent; it is still quite prominent in the drydown, which also consists of sandalwood. Vanilla and Tonka bean are very subdued here, in general Secret Intention is not a sweet scent. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it dry, but it is leanbing in that direction. It is a scent of well-brewed black tea blended mainly with cranberry and with some flowers, and with only a tiny bit of sugar added. All that makes it the kind of tea I enjoy.

Secret Intention is available at, $46.00 for 30ml.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sloth by S-Perfume and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

I started this blog with a series of reviews of fragrances that reminded me of some of my favorite books (Bonjour Tristesse, Master and Margarita, Roksolana, Heaven Has No Favorites, and The Forsyte Saga). I tried to imagine what each book would be like as a perfume; what existing perfume would fit the “feel” of each book. There was one book that has been left out, simply because I could not think of a scent to represent it. That book is The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. It tells the story of four people and their interconnecting relationships, with particular focus on Tomas, torn between his love for Tereza and his inability to stay faithful to her. The world that Kundera describes in his book is the one where life disappears once and for all; it “is like a shadow, without weight, dead in advance, and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime, its horror, sublimity, and beauty meant nothing.” That world “rests essentially on the nonexistence of return”, on “the absolute absence of burden”.

As soon as I smelled Sloth, I knew I have found the scent for The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Sloth is a part of /7S/, an olfactory installation of the Seven Deadly Sins by Mother S (Sacré Nobi, founder of S-Perfume). The installation was created in collaboration with seven perfumers, Alberto Morillas (Luxuria or Lust), Annick Menardo (Ira or Anger), Annie Buzantian (Invidia or Envy), Harry Fremont (Avaritia or Avarice), Ilias Ermenidis (Gula or Gluttony), Jacques Cavallier (Superbia or Pride), and Thierry Wasser (Acedia or Sloth). Thierry Wasser is also the nose behind such scents as Calvin Klein Truth, Christian Dior Addict and Addict Eau Fraiche, Gres Caline, and Lancôme Hypnôse.

I find it fascinating that the deadly sin of Sloth was originally called Sadness and only later renamed Acedia or Sloth. There are many ways to interpret this sin; in my opinion, Thierry Wasser has chosen to focus on the melancholy aspect of Sloth, the sin of not living up to one’s potential. Sloth the fragrance starts with a lively burst of orange blossom, bright and sunny; little by little the fragrance becomes subtler, softer, quieter, more delicate, and acquires a sad, wistful quality. There is an interesting accord somewhere in the middle stage, raw and earthy and strangely cozy, it makes me think –rather bizarrely, I admit- about boiled courgettes. The scent continues to develop and the strangely appealing raw note is eventually replaced by a soft, fragile jasmine accord. Finally, having come full circle, it dries down to a delicate scent of orange blossom, only, in contrast to the dazzling smell of the top notes, this is but a hint of the blossoms, a vague memory of the hopeful, forceful beginning.

Sloth is a fragrance of “splendid lightness”. Its poignancy, fragility, transparency, its beautiful melancholic quality make Sloth the perfect olfactory equivalent of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a book that tells the story of the lives without weight and substance. Says Kundera: “the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.”

Sloth is most certainly full bottle worthy for me, and I would recommend it to all fans of orange blossom in perfume. It is guaranteed to be eminently wearable and enjoyable in spring and summer. It is available on S-Perfume, $27.00 for 0,5oz.

*The photo of Sloth installation is from

Monday, February 13, 2006

Perfume Review. Donna Karan Essence: Wenge and Labdanum

Donna Karan Essence is a collection of four of Karan’s favorite “bare scents”, Lavender, Jasmine, Wenge, and Labdanum. These are clear-cut, single-note fragrances that can be worn on their own or layered according to the wearer's desires and tastes. This review is for Wenge and Labdanum.

According to Donna Karan, this is one of her favorite scents; in fact, wenge was one of the notes in her rather popular Black Cashmere. Wenge or Wengue is a wood native to Africa, where it has been used for centuries to craft ceremonial masks and statues devoted to gods. There is certainly something mysterious and uplifting in the spicy smell of Wenge. It is centering, comforting and relaxing; a warm, resinous fragrance that is not overwhelming or heavy. I adore the serene subtlety of this woody accord. Even though the wenge note was used in Black Cashmere, I do not find Wenge the fragrance very similar to that scent. Black Cashmere is a strong, forceful blend, rather heavy on incense, while Wenge is an understated, enjoyably minimalistic composition. If I had to compare Wenge to another perfume, it would be Donna Karan’s sadly disconitnued Chaos. Both share a tranquil, spicy-herbal-woody quality that I find extremely appealing.

Labdanum is a resin obtained from the shrubs Cistus Ladanifer (cistus, rock rose). It is a complex accord that can be perceived as amber-like, woody, smoky, leathery, floral, etc, etc, depending on the blend and one's skin chemistry. In the case of Donna Karan’s Labdanum, the note smells to me like a mix of flowers and incense. It does not remind me of any particular flower, there is simply an attractive floral hint. The incense part of the accord is also very subtle and refined. Like Wenge, this is an understated, light and extremely wearable fragrance that puts me in a spiritual kind of reverie and soothes and comforts me (by the way, Labdanum is the biblical “Balm of Gilead” and is said "to reach into our subconscious to help evoke moods, memories and feelings.")

Unsurprisingly, Labdanum and Wenge layer beautifully together, after all, a mix of spicy wood and balsamic, incense-like labdanum is a union made in olfactory heaven.

If I had to choose only one Essence (and I should, considering the price), it would be Wenge whose subtle and spicy woodiness I absolutely adore. Both Labdanum and Wenge can be found at Neiman Marcus, where 100 ml Eau de Toilette sprays cost $165.00. The Essence fragrances also come in a set of four essential oils in a leather pouch (7.5 ml each), as essential oil vials in a leather pouch necklaces (7.5 ml), as body lotions (200 ml ), and as scented candles.

*The images of wenge and labdanum are from

Friday, February 10, 2006

Gris Clair by Serge Lutens

Gris Clair is the newest addition to Serge Lutens’s “export” line of fragrances; it will be officially released in March 2006. With notes of Mediterranean lavender, amber, tonka bean, iris, dry wood and “notes d’encens brûlé” (notes of burned incense), it is described by Serge Lutens himself in the following obscure, poetic manner:

This wandering pollen, like ashes dropped on a dead city, deploys its humble crowning with despair in the name of light from an adolescent sky. This magic dust brought by wind, has come to this austere and arid landscape made of rocks, luminous and sublime. Inaccessible, surrounded by stones, this flower – is it really a flower? – has made dew its watering hole. Insensitive to the burning of the sun, miracle in abandon, it survives. A magician, soft, hanging from its fingers of lace… slender roots. Eternal nectar; in its poor king’s cloak, stripped of its honours, “Lavender” I call it… grey the colour I give it. Poetic, marvel, diamond silk in eternal exile, she deploys her dry fragrance in a heart of flames which carries inside, in the name of beauty, the point of a star.” (From Senteurs d’Ailleurs)

Dry fragrance in a heart of flames” is quite a fitting description for this scent. Cool dryness and sweet smokiness compete for prominence all throughout the development of Gris Clair. It starts with a cold, indeed “clear gray” accord of lavender, which makes me think about expensive, classic men’s after shaves and colognes. In a moment however, an unexpectedly sweet accord of amber and tonka bean appears; without reminding me of any fruit in particular, it somehow manages to convey a vague, abstract fruitiness. It is an enjoyable stage, but the best part of Gris Clair is undoubtedly the promised dry wood and “burned incense”. When these two notes come into play, Gris Clair acquires the wonderful depth and richness one associates with the best Lutens’s creations. At this point, all the notes are apparent on my skin at once: the chilly lavender, the honeyed amber, the smoldering ashes of wood and incense.

Gris Clair is not the first Lutens’s scent to explore the theme of lavender and ashes. Encens et Lavande, a blend of lavender, amber, incense and sage, also combines the luminous coolness and the subtle smokiness. The two are by no means identical. Firstly, the smoky aspect is almost immediately apparent in Encens et Lavande, while Gris Clair takes time to arrive to that wonderful stage. Whereas Encens et Lavande graduates from the pleasantly brûlant blend of lavender and incense, with a hint of amber, to the coolly herbal drydown of sage, Gris Clair’s development is reverse; it goes from cold to smoky. Sage has quite a prominent position in the composition of Encens et Lavande, lending it an herbaceous quality, which is completely absent in Gris Clair. In turn, amber, paired with tonka bean, brings a sweet, almost “fruity” quality to Gris Clair, and there is certainly no fruitiness and not much sweetness in Encens et Lavande.

I like both Encens et Lavande and Gris Clair and couldn’t possibly say which one is my favorite. I imagine that fans of lavender fragrances would be quite pleased with Gris Clair. Encens et Lavande is a non-export scent, only available at Les Salons du Palais-Royal Shiseido in Paris. At the moment, Gris Clair is available at Senteurs d’Alleurs (€76.00 for 50ml), and as far as I know, they do not ship outside of European Union, however Gris Clair is an export scent and will be more widely available in March.

*Many thanks to T. who made it possible for me to sample Gris Clair!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Perfume Review: Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Or des Indes

Or des Indes is a scent that seems to be undeservedly underappreciated, it is rarely mentioned and discussed and yet it is one of the most exquisite, well-blended and enjoyable Orient-inspired fragrances. It is a scent that I never want to be without. If for some unfathomable reason I had to give up all my perfumes and choose only one for the rest of my life (oh the horror of such a scenario!), I believe I would choose Or des Indes. Yes, I would have opted for it instead of my beloved Bois des Iles and Féminité du Bois. Or des Indes is one of those rare scents that are always wearable, it does not have quirks, it is always smooth, always comforting, forever a pleasure to wear. Even though it was allegedly inspired by the palaces of Maharajas and all things sumptuous and opulent, it is actually a rather understated, soft, although still undoubtedly rich and ornamented, scent. Thus, while it is of course infinitely pleasurable and warming in autumn and winter, it is also not at all overwhelming in warm weather.

The notes listed for Or des Indes are opoponax, vanilla, amber, geranium and I do smell all of them on my skin, apart from, thankfully, geranium. The accord that is also very prominent to my nose and is not among the official notes is cinnamon. I find the note irresistible when it is incorporated into the composition as it is here, unobtrusively blended with other notes, not overwhelming but adding the sweet spiciness to the scent. Or des Indes is smooth and enveloping, like a light-brown wrap made of a material more exotic, precious and soft than cashmere, ornamented with intricate golden and maroon designs. It also, rather bizarrely, reminds me of a -as far as I know- non-existent dish made of semolina and cinnamon, a warm, sweet, spicy and comforting concoction to sustain and raise one’s spirits.

Or des Indes is available at Lusciouscargo, $105.00 for 3,4oz.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Perfume Review: Annick Goutal Eau d'Hadrien

Eau d’Hadrien is my favorite Annick Goutal fragrance; it is also my favorite citrus scent. Moreover, it was Eau d’Hadrien that single-handedly converted me into a fan of citrus scents and started me on the quest (so far not quite successful) to find at least one more perfect lemon perfume, first being Eau d'Hadrien itself of course. This is not just straight lemon, cypress is quite evident intermittently, adding depth to the composition, but for me, overall, this is the clearest, most transparent, mouthwatering lemon fragrance imaginable. And that clear transparency is what I consider to be the most attractive quality in a citrus scent.

Whenever I smell Eau d’Hadrien, it makes me think (and long for) the drink my grandmother likes to make in summer, just a glass of very cold water with several slices of lemon and a tiny bit of sugar. Nothing clenches the thirst like that simple drink, and for me, Eau d'Hadrien is just as refreshing. Strangely enough, however, while I find most citrus scents to be too “cold” (too insubstantial, too light) in winter, Eau d’Hadrien, pure and translucent as it is, appeals to me in cold weather as much as in the heat of summer. I remember wearing it during what seemed to be the coldest, most bitter weather, while staying in a small English village in Oxfordshire. The place was, to a foreigner raised on Agatha Christie’s books, an epitome of Englishness, with a Norman church, an ancient cemetery, a single pub, a Manor and Old Vicarage. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed living there, and Eau d’Hadrien is full of nostalgia to me now. This light citrus scent was most enjoyable on frosty winter days, its scent practically sparkling, almost singing in the icy air.

Eau d’Hadrien is available at Sephora, $65.00 for 1,7oz.

*Shown on the photo is Chesterton, UK.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Perfume Review: Armani Prive Eau de Jade

Eau de Jade is a part of the Privé Haute Couture Fragrance Collection, which presently also includes Ambre Soie, Bois d’Encens and Pierre de Lune. Eau de Jade was designed “to evoke the clarity and purity that reflects true Armani style.” I agree with the part of description , found on Giorgio Armani Beauty, that describes Eau de Jade as “reminiscent of classic colognes from the 17th century”, but I must respectfully disagree with the part that portrays Eau de Jade as having a “modern twist”.

Eau de Jade is a pleasant, refreshing, very slightly sweet traditional cologne, nothing more, nothing less. It starts as a bracing citrus (bergamot and lemon), develops into a sweeter citrus (bergamot, lemon, orange blossom), and dries down to a rather commonplace vanilla-citrus blend. I find all Armani Privé scents to be rather overpriced, but Eau de Jade is the one least deserving the high price tag. If one is on a market for classic colognes, there are wonderful, reasonably priced Guerlain’s Eaux (Imperial, Eau de Guerlain, Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat and Eau de Coq). If it is the contemporary take on the cologne one is looking for, Christian Dior’s collection of colognes (Bois d’Argent, Cologne Blanche, and Eau Noire) is an excellent example of the classic cologne with a “modern twist”. The three Dior scents are not exactly cheap, but they do come in huge bottles; in fact, when calculated per ounce, the price appears to be more than realistic.

Eau de Jade is available at Saks and at , $185.00 for 1,7oz.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Perfume Review: Christian Dior Cologne Blanche

Cologne Blanche is a part of the collection of three colognes produced for Christian Dior by Hedi Slimane, the designer responsible for Dior’s men’s division. As Fashionline points out, Slimane’s creations are paradoxical, they make “youthfulness look mature, while infusing classic elegance with youth; highlighting the grace notes of masculinity, while bringing out a subtle theme that is quasi feminine.” The same description applies to the scents in the cologne collection, they are contemporary takes on the classical cologne tradition; intended for men, these are most certainly unisex scents, with Cologne Blanche perhaps leaning in a feminine direction.

Cologne Blanche, with notes of Provencal rosemary, Portuguese sweet orange, Calabrian bergamot, Tunisian orange blossom, and vanilla pods from the Bourbon Islands, is perhaps my favorite of the line. It does indeed evoke the color white, but this is not cold, aquatic white. The whiteness here is delicately peppery, slightly spicy, almost incense-like in parts. The list of notes that I was able to find on the web does not include angelica, but this is the accord that I actually smell most prominently on my skin. After the understatedly hesperidic start, with bergamot being much more prominent than orange, the fragrance acquires that incredible green, deep, and –when paired with vanilla- slightly “buttery” quality that I associate with angelica. In a way, Cologne Blanche reminds me of Angelique Encens; however, compared to the Creed’s creation, Cologne Blanche is much less intense and incensy, much more transparent and light. Whereas Angelique Encens is richly green, Cologne Blanche is definitely white, with subtle green and sweetly-herbal (rosemary) accents.

Cologne Blanche is an exquisite, elegant and masterfully understated fragrance; it is serene, relaxing and comforting. Despite its subtlety and the fact that it stays rather close to the skin, it is quite long lasting. Cologne Blanche is available at Saks, $155.00 for 8.4oz.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Perfume Review: Guerlain Guerlinade

Guerlinade is the famous “signature accord” present in most Guerlain fragrances; it is the presence of Guerlinade that makes the scents created by this perfume house smell magically and unmistakable “Guerlain”. In 1998, to celebrate the house’s 170th anniversary, Guerlain released the fragrance called Guerlinade; based on the legendary accord, Guerlinade has the notes of bergamot, lilac, linden, rose, iris, jasmine, tonka bean and vanilla. Having said that, paradoxically and perhaps a little disappointingly, I find Guerlinade being less “Guerlain” than, for instance, L’Heure Bleue, Mitsouko or even the gentle Apres L’Ondee. It may have been inspired by and based on “the signature accord”, but the dark, balsamic, powdery undertone of the classic Guerlain creations is strangely absent in Guerlinade.

That disappointment aside, Guerlinade is a beautiful floral bouquet, incredibly, shamelessly romantic fragrance. Lilac is the most prominent note on my skin, and I always perceive the smell of lilac as being melancholy, that is perhaps why I find Guerlinade a little poignant, like a scent of love that is deep inside suspected to be unrequited, but that, because of that very lack of reciprocation, is all the more intense. Linden and jasmine are also quite apparent to my nose, both contributing to the dreamy, gauzy spring-like feel of Guerlinade. I do not smell much of tonka bean or vanilla here, there is certain sweetness to the scent, but I perceive it as a natural, God-given sweetness present in the smell of the flowers themselves. As a whole, Guerlinade has a certain “natural” feel to it, this a bouquet of flowers gathered not in a well-tended garden, but somewhere in the fields and forests, perhaps during a long romantic stroll filled with daydreaming and beautiful sadness.

Guerlinade made me think of a poem by one of my most favorite Russian poets, Anna Akhmatova. I believe it relates the atmosphere of Guerlinade to perfection (I must admit though that I like the English translation much less than the original):

A Ride

My feather brushed the carriage roof.
I was gazing into his eyes.
A pain, in my heart I failed to know,
caused by my own sighs.

The evening breathless, heavily-chained
under a heavenly cloud-bank,
as if the Bois de Boulogne were stained,
in some old album, with Indian ink.

Scent of lilac and benzene,
and a quiet, guarded waiting…
with his hand he touched my knees
again, and without trembling.


Перо задело о верх экипажа.
Я поглядела в глаза его.
Томилось сердце, не зная даже
Причины горя своего.

Безветрен вечер и грустью скован
Под сводом облачных небес,
И словно тушью нарисован
В альбоме старом Булонский лес.

Бензина запах и сирени,
Насторожившийся покой...
Он снова тронул мои колени
Почти не дрогнувшей рукой.

*The photo is from The painting is Lovers in the Lilacs by Marc Chagall.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque

Serge Lutens line of fragrances, both export and exclusive, is the one that agrees with my skin chemistry the most. I had incredible luck with his scents; out of over thirty pefumes in his line, I dislike only one and am a little ambivalent about four or five. Cuir Mauresque used to fall into that second category of scents I just could not quite “understand” and truly love. I am not sure what unfortunate foible of my skin chemistry made me unable to fully appreciate this wonderful scent and see it for what it is, a complex, dark, warm, infinitely enjoyable leather fragrance quite unlike any other. I am glad that the cloud lifted. Cuir Mauresque is now one of my favorite Lutens scents and is undoubtedly full bell jar worthy.

Along with Muscs Koublai Khan, I consider this to be one of Lutens’s most sensual, most seductive scents. Cuir Mauresque makes my mouth dry and my knees week. From the slap of pure unadulterated leather in the beginning to the warm, gentle caress of cinnamon and orange blossom at the middle stage, to the wonderful dark, ambery, leathery embrace of the drydown, Cuir Mauresque charmed, enamoured and enslaved me. This being a Lutens scent, it goes almost without mention that the woody accord of cedar and aloe wood (agarwood, the source of ouds) is executed in the most exquisite way; the wood here serves only as a background, but what a luscious, almost sweet background it is! I also adore the way a musk note is woven into the rich tapestry of the composition; even though never too evident, it is there at every stage of the development, adding the raw, animalistic accord that makes the blend all the more irresistible to me. I must also note that the drydown of Cuir Mauresque has a dim, buttery and very slightly powdery quality that I can’t help but compare to Guerlain’s renowned base.

Cuir Mauresque is a part of the non-export collection and is unfortunately only available at Les Salons du Palais Royal in Paris, where a much coveted bell jar retails for €100.00 for 75ml.

*The photo is from

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Perfume Review: Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d'Homme

Rose d’Homme, as the name suggests, was meant by Mademoiselle Rogeon, the genius creator of Les Parfums de Rosine line, as a rose fragrance for men. I would urge and beg any woman who has decided against trying this perfume, because of the word “homme” in the title, to give it a chance. I am not prone to liking scents created for men and often find unisex scents leaning in masculine direction, but Rose d’Homme is a different story altogether. While entirely suitable for a man to wear (though I would guess an average man not interested in perfume might be put off by “rose” in the title), Rose d’Homme is a scent that any woman who likes rather dark, warm, sophisticated rose fragrances would enjoy wearing.

From the briefly hesperidic (bergamot) and earthy (vetiver) beginning, to the soft, sweet caress of the middle notes of vanilla and lavender, to the exquisite honeyed yet somehow at the same time dry base of rose with a hint of blackcurrant and vague accord of mandarin and even more vague one of jasmine, Rose d’Homme is a chic, extremely attractive and incredibly well-blended fragrance. I must add that although patchouli and leather are listed among the notes, they do not make an appearance on my skin. I do not miss patchouli but am a little disappointed that leather is not evident to my nose. Trying to come up with a scent that smells even a little similar to Rose d’Homme, I realized that there wasn’t one. Voleur de Roses by L’Artisan is much more about patchouli that it is about roses, Rose de Nuit by Serge Lutens is a darker, amber-heavy chypre that has a very powdery feel to my nose, Une Rose by Frederic Malle is darker still, a woody and earthy blend with a piercing geranium note. Compared to these three rose fragrances that could be also considered unisex, Rose d’Homme, though also somewhat a nocturnal, deep scent, is much softer, more “rounded” and understated, and, to me, much more wearable and enjoyable.

Rose d’Homme is available at Aedes, $98.00 for 3,4oz.

*The photo is from