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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blind Testing (and a Prize Draw)

A couple of months ago, Patty, March and I had lots of fun doing some blind testing. During the course of that blind swap, a $3 Russian cologne has been compared to Mitsouko and one of my holy grails has been called “rubber feet dipped in amber”. (Holding a grudge, moi?) Time has come for a second blind swap and this time round we decided that having more victims…swap partners would be more fun. So, over the course of the following weeks you will see posts like this one on various blogs and I hope you enjoy the project as much as we had. To make it more interesting for you, I decided to have a small prize draw. If you would like to receive samples of the three fragrances described below, please indicate in your comment that you would like to be entered in the draw. The name of the winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Thursday. Do not hesitate to participate if you do not reside in the States, I can mail anywhere in the world.

My two victims…blind swap partners (assigned randomly) were March of Perfume Posse and Katie of Scentzilla. I sent them 3 samples, withholding the real names of the scents. I called my mystery samples Ad astra per aspera, Bene qui latuit bene vixit, and Certum est quia impossibile. On the subject of my using Latin phrases, which are unwieldy, pretentious and have little to no relation to the actual perfumes, I have only this to say, if People of The Labyrinths can do it, so can I.

Ad astra per aspera. Says March:

I had trouble getting a read on this, so eventually I dumped roughly half the decant on my arm. Sometimes this weird thing happens where I feel like the fragrance is just refusing to meld itself to my skin and start opening, and this is one of those times… okay, on me this is a sheer, powdery floral with a retro feel. I’m digging around in my candy box, looking for comparisons. It’s definitely not Miss Rocaille (did the Grim Reaper forget to put the Caron base in that one? … wow, what is that in Miss Rocaille? Galbanum? It’s sending a Vent Vert laser up my nose … no, wait … here comes the Reaper, only he’s sort of mini-me, the Petulant Reaper, more like Yoda armed with a nail file) … whoops, wrong fragrance – where the hell was I? Oh. Back to Ad Astra: what I like about the powder, which I’ll tolerate a fair amount of in vintages, is that it’s shimmery rather than dusty. Okay, this isn’t precisely the game, but I’m going out on a limb here: this smells like Soir de Paris to me – closer to the original, not the reformulated, which is sweeter. I get that same sort of violet/powder/green trifecta, which makes me want to put on my taffeta ball skirt and go dancing.

Says Katie:

Orange Pez and white florals, with a woody accord at the base. I think there might be a wee bit of something animal in the base, too, but I cannot be sure. It died fast on me - too fast to make any strong impressions.

And the mystery fragrance was…the strange, the unsuccessful, the discontinued Lumiere by Rochas. According to Jan Moran, Lumiere has notes of coriander, honeysuckle, greens, fruits, bergamot, orange blossom, magnolia, acacia, tuberose, jasmine, lily of the valley, ylang-ylang, hyacinth, sandalwood, ambergris, tonka bean, cedarwood, moss, vetiver, musk. This is an odd, pale, uncooperative although not unpleasant scent that, like March said, indeed refuses to meld itself to one’s skin and just sits there, green, proud and slightly plasticy before disappearing, as Katie justly noted, rather fast and for good.

Bene qui latuit bene vixit. Says Katie:

Holy incense, Batman! Marina's sample kicks off with a big whoosh of saffron, warm and woodsy, with cedaric intonations. This dries down to what I'm guessing is a mix of "num"s - olibanum and labdanum. It's nummy goodness! Aw heck, you know I'm pretty sure there's a bit of patchouli thrown in there for good measure, as well. I dunno, I might need a bottle of whatever this is someday. Someday soon. This sample smells eerily familiar to me. I can't really place it, though.

Says March:

Delicious, in a peculiar way. There could be some cedar in there – it’s skating right on the edge of the B.O. thing, but as long as it doesn’t cross the line we’re good. There is something dark and sweet, but not fruity – if this fragrance had a color, it would be a deep, rich purple-blue, like the color of my favorite type of iris, or an early summer evening … wait, it’s doing something again … wow, what is that? Something more masculine. A leathery incense smell. Honey, did you pick these out just because you knew I’d love them? I don’t care if it’s Axe Man Spray from CVS, I want some. Although it isn’t Axe. It’s too expensive, and the development is too complex. Is this one of the PGs I haven’t tried? It’s got that solar strangeness. It reminds me a bit of that little part of Aomassai that didn’t make me want to vomit. Okay, now the sweet is going away, which makes me sad, but I’m winding up with a perfectly serviceable unisex-niche-frag-woody-incense smell. It has a lightly caramelized drydown, faintly nutty, and I’m going to ignore the slight edge of … something (vetiver?) I’m not wild for, but I can’t smell it unless I’m sniffing closely. There. Do I get a cookie? How about a big decant instead?

The fragrance that was such a big hit with the girls was…the underappreciated, the rarely-mentioned, the fabulous West Broadway by Bond No 9. I reviewed it once before wondering at the remarkable discrepancy between the official list of notes and the actual juice. West Broadway is described by Bond No 9 as a “lime gimlet”, laced with crisp greens, mate, and sheer musk, and to that I can only say, Huh? Granted, there IS something subtly limey-fruity, vaguely gourmand about this scent, but it also woody, a little smoky and certainly has quite a bit of incense. An obscure gem among the Bond No 9 fragrances, West Broadway deserves much more attention and adoration than it gets and I am so glad that Katie and March liked it as much as I do.

The third sample was not nearly as popular with the girls. On the subject of Certum est quia impossibile, March says:

Well, this one I’m not loving, although I’m tempted to blame my skin chemistry, or my nose, rather than the fragrance. I get zero development – it is what it is. I get a fairly sharp opening with a hint of cherry, but it’s not the fresh, sparkling cherry of, say, Cartier Delices. Instead it’s that strange, plastic cherry note I associate with lollipops. The cherry is sitting on a grassy base, green and yellow and a little sweet, and that’s pretty much the whole story. Altogether it’s the type of fragrance that might be described as summery and refreshing, but I’m not feeling refreshed. I’m feeling underwhelmed. It smells … cheap. And uninteresting. And I hope I didn’t just put my foot in it and criticize one of your great perfume loves. [HA!]

Katie says:

Rowr! This one begins as if it's going to rate high on Marina's Skank-o-Meter (patent pending, I'm sure) with a glimpse at what looks like will lead into a tough animalic register. But does it wind up smelling like a bear rug still growling? Sadly, no. The distinct and overwhelming aroma of chewed up Barbie feet takes over. And while I can pretend to have perceived other notes, the truth is I couldn't get past the plastic feet.

Cheap, eh? Uninteresting? Chewed up Barbie feet? To that I can only shake my head in disbelief and wonder at the mysterious ways in which skin chemistry seems to work. The third sample was…the amazing, the rare, the vintage, The Classic…Dior-Dior by Chirstian Dior. Created for Dior in 1976 by Edmond Roudnitska, Dior-Dior is a fresh, slightly fruity chypre with notes of peach, prune [could this be March’s plastic cherry?], cumin [here’s is Katie’s skank], aldehydes, bay oil, jasmine, narcissus, jonquil, lily of the valley, lilac, carnation, sandalwood, leather [some more skank], civet [lots and lots more skank!] oakmoss and amber. This bracing, slightly minty, very elegant fragrance seems to me (and of course IS) closely related to Diorella and, like all the best (vintage) Diors, this very refined perfume has a dirty, animalic, skanky side that I find extremely appealing.

The image of Barbie with chewed off feet is from, the Lumiere ad is from Images des Parfums, the West Broadway ad is from Bond No 9 Fragrances and the Dior-Dior ad is from


Blogger tmp00 said...

Would I like to recieve samples? Why not ask if I would like Haagen Dazs to suddenly produce weight loss and the 2-litre bottle of diet Pepsi I bought magically turned into vintage Derby? (yes, dear, I'd share..)

Of course I'll throw my hat in the ring. Barbie feet? Hmmmmm....

11:25 PM EDT  
Blogger Erin said...

Please count me in as well. I would love to smell uncooperative.

2:26 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Colombina, it would be pleasure to be included in the drawing. Thanks

2:41 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you include me in the drawing, pretty please? I find those Barbie feet extremely intriguing.....

3:08 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Dior Dior...One of the Roudnitska I never smelled. How could I have overlooked it, Barbie feet'n'all...? Include me in the draw!

5:06 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Wow, we have trouble staying away from the feet imagery in these blind swaps... Barbie feet I can totally see. Remember one of the reasons I sent Diorella off to you is that it was so fickle on me. I will have to go back and re-smell -- lordy, I got *no* skank at all -- am I nuts?! That West Broadway was delish... I think its name bores me so much (makes me think of pink, sweaty tourists) I never payed attention. Mistake corrected!

6:49 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

OK. I think my head is concussion free after that hard knock it took from falling on the floor after realizing it was my beloved Dior-Dior that was being called cheap, uninteresting (gasp!) and like chewed up Barbie feet. Obviously I MUST go out and get a Barbie post-haste and see if my sweet canine child will chew up those feet to produce this most fab of scents. And I will have to retry West Broadway *immediately*. LOVE these blind tests!

7:31 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

And to think I have a sample of West Broadway just sitting there that I have never tried (eh, lime, thought I); obviously, will do so very soon. Like Elle and you, I'm really surprised to hear about the chewed-up Barbie feet in Dior-Dior (great line and picture, though), but perhaps even more surprised to hear about the cherry! I usually hate any cherry in scents, and I love this--will sample again soon with those accords in mind (not TRYING to find them, mind you:). This is great!! Makes me wish I had a blog so I could play (though I'm sure I'd embarrass myself:)

7:45 AM EDT  
Blogger orchidfae said...

Please count me in on the sample giveaway! You girls are so fun.

8:50 AM EDT  
Blogger priscilla said...

Wonderful! Yoda with a nail file...chewed up Barbie feet...people in surrounding cubes are wondering why I'm laughing so much. I have got to stop reading this stuff at work.

I decided against a sample of West Broadway based on the list of notes, but here it sounds yummy! Aw, heck, add me to the list for the drawing, please! I think I might like that Dior Dior...I tend to like what you like. :-)

9:06 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I am dreaming of a 2-litre bottle of Derby...:-)
You are entered in the draw.

9:07 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

:-) "Smell uncooperative". Maybe you'd have more like with the stuborn Lumiere. You are entered in the draw.

9:08 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

You are entered in the draw!

9:08 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

You are entered in the draw! And I do hope you won't get any feet, Barbie or not Barbie, from the fabulous Dior-Dior!

9:09 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

One doesn't often hear about Dior-Dior, does one. Even less often than about Diorling or Diorama. You are entered in the draw!

9:10 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I guess you and Diors have a complicated sort of relationship...:-)
Maybe the kind of image you had with the scent named West Broadway is what makes it so unpopular with other people too?

9:11 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Yes. Imagine? I can even live with the Barbie feet comparison, but cheap? Uninteresting? :-)

9:12 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Firstly, would it be GREAT if you had a blog!!!!!!
Secondly, pelase don't re-try Dior-Dior with those notes in mind :-)

9:14 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you, you are entered in the draw!

9:14 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

West Broadway really is one of those scents where the list of notes little or almost no relation to the actual juice. They describe it as a citrusy cocktail of some sort, but it is really much more than that.
You are entered in the draw!

9:16 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

How *do* those feet smell? :-) I've never had a Barbie, Soviet child, me. And my little one is too small for them yet...If their feet smell of Dior-Dior, man, am I running fast to buy one :-)

9:51 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Colombina, what a wonderful post. Who'd have thunk that Barbie feet and Yoda would appear in the same vicinity. LOL. Truly, though, I love your Latin names for the blind samps. As a Latinist, I am delighted to see this and agree: if POTL can do it, you can, too. As much as I'd like to be put in the pot for the drawing, I'll have to decline since That Thing might be headed for the Gulf and who knows what we'll be doing in a week. Thanks for such a great post to brighten the day!

10:06 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fun-fun! Lumiere is indeed uncooperative. I get lots and lots of sour flowers and honey. Oh, and I'm afraid Dior Dior while not necessarily smelling like Barbie feet, does produce rather unpleasant associations in my fragrant brain. I can't wait to do my own reveal. ;D

11:06 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I am very happy if our little project amuzed you and brightened your day!

11:41 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I cannot wait for your Big Reveal. I wonder how big a fool I made of myself...probably a very big one :-)

11:41 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How big of a fool? A very big one. You'll know why soon. ;D Well, it's not that bad, really. And it has nothing to do with the kind of fool you're thinking of. It's a different kind of fool. But that's all I'm gonna say.

11:54 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Dear Columbina-

After I change my Depends, could I please be added to the draw list?

[I'm afraid I was Barbie-deprived in childhood]

Love to add my 2 shekels to the post...

11:58 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I am all on pins and needles now.

12:05 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I am glad I am not the only one with Barbie-less childhood :-)
You are added to the draw!

12:07 PM EDT  
Blogger Jenny said...

The blind test of Dior-Dior was shocking! How interesting to read the blind test. It make me think how important brand names are for the overall "picture" of a fragrance. Please count me in as well even if I live in The Netherlands.

12:22 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

It is very interesting indeed. I wonder if the girls knew it was Dior-Dior made by the great Roudnitska, they would have still thought about it in terms of Barbie feet :-) Oh, they proabably would, they are rebels, those two :-)
You are entered in the draw!

12:51 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great entertainment! And thank you for letting me play along with the W. Broadway - clever! I did ignore before but do now like it very much. So thank you for the introduction, too :) No need to be entered this time but I love the concept!

Have a great day!

1:28 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Colombina and Chaya

You are not alone: I had a weird Scandinavian Barbie substitute - whose name I can't even remember - as well as, for a short time only, a Sindy Doll (an English version of Barbie, I believe). She only lasted a short while bcs I tried to bend her legs into a yoga pose (weird child) while driving to some place with my parents. The left one broke off when I tried this, so I didn’t try the right one. I even have an exact memory of the exact place on the road where the break happened.

ANYWAY, I love this blind testing thing - although I would be hopeless, being a relative neophyte and knowing NO niche scents whatsoever; but I’d love to be entered into the drawing, please!


4:48 PM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Oh, Tommasina-

I love your story...
I had a similar relationship with dolls myself-

Anyone who is passionate about fragrance can share their impressions as well as anyone else...

Tell us what feelings the notes evoke, what you smell, even if it seems absurd to you...

They put some pretty unorthodox odors in these fragrances, as you're beginning to see-

Look forward to hearing more from you!

5:16 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I am so glad you like, both our little game and West Broadway!!

6:05 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Yeah...I've done some unspeakable things to dolls too, heh, in my time :-) Welcome, and you've been entered into the draw!
As Chaya points out below, it's the impressions and the emotions that count.

6:08 PM EDT  
Blogger katiedid said...

Sigh, so no one else thinks "chewed up Barbie feet" then? Only March and I can see it? GAH! We're crazy. I think it's hilarious that West Broadway is advertised as a lime scent. Seriously, it's all about the incense dry down as far as I'm concerned. I still can't quite pin down what it reminds me of, but I'm tempted to say that in tone it reminds me of the way 212 Men wears on my skin... Ach. I really pereceived no lime. Mostly a medicinal warm edge with lots of cedar at the top. Sheesh. Shows what I know!

And worry not about prentention: I named all my samples after some song they reminded me of, which is much higher up on the prat scale than philosophical/mathematical Latin phrases! Though I must admit, your use of "certum est quia impossibile" totally threw me. Until I smelled the Barbie feet, and then I realized that was patently absurd, and therefore I must believe ;)

1:15 AM EDT  
Blogger Sexy Sadie said...

I want a bottle with that Bond ! Give me all Bonds!

7:28 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

No, that shows how much truth, or how much of the truth in those notes lists. We all cannot be mistaken when we smell incense and wood there. Ergo there is incense and wood. :-)

8:32 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Glad to have you back!

8:33 AM EDT  

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