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Monday, April 09, 2007

Perfume Review: Parfums de Nicolai Fig Tea and CB I Hate Perfume Revelation

I have been searching for my perfect fig scent for a long, long time. It seems to me that I am looking for something rather different than what most people want from their fig fragrances and what, consequently, the perfumers offer. Others delight in the greenness of figs, in the fact that fig perfumes evoke the scent of the leaves and the twigs and the whole trees rather than actual (ripe) fruits. I am on a hunt for a fig scent that is focused on the luscious, sweet fruits. No green for me, please, just the nectarous flesh of the figs, ripe to the extent that they are starting to actually dry a little...Figs strike me as supremely sensual, and I am surprised that this aspect hasn't been much explored in perfumery. I want my fig perfume to be voluptuous and unchaste and to have a double entendre. D.H. Lawrence's poem Figs could serve as an ad copy for my fig scent:

The proper way to eat a fig, in society,
Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,
And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower.

Then you throw away the skin
Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx,
After you have taken off the blossom, with your lips.

But the vulgar way
Is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.

Every fruit has its secret.

The fig is a very secretive fruit.
As you see it standing growing, you feel at once it is symbolic:
And it seems male.
But when you come to know it better, you agree with the Romans, it is female...
(The rest of the text can be found here.)

The funny thing is that I was started on my quest for the perfect non-green fig by the smell of Fruits & Passion Shea Butter. Strange, I know, but it had the overripe figgy sweetness that I loved, the honeyed, enveloping lushness. The actual perfume that is rather similar to the smell of the butter is Parfums de Nicolai Fig Tea. The Eau Fraîche enriches the fruity aspect of the figs by using the vaguely apricot-like osmanthus and the boozy-herbal davana. The dry woody accord and the similarly dry, completely unsweetened tea note keep the fruity opulence restrained and add an unexpectedly elegant, powdery quality to the composition. Not a hint of greenness, which is just what I want from my fig scent...But the scent is just not luscious, sweet and complex enough to be that sensual, fleshy, moist ideal fig of mine. The tea and the woods make a scent just a little too prim and proper, a little too tame. Still, Fig Tea is a lovely scent and a good alternative to all the green figs on the market.

Another scent that comes even closer to embodying my perfect fig is CB I Hate Perfume Revelation. The problem with it is that, as the CB site promises, the scent was meant to capture the whole fig tree, leaves and twigs included, whereas I would like my scent to focus on the fruits alone, with perhaps just a woody hint to remind us where the figs actually came from. Having said that, what I smell in Revelation fruit-wise is absolutely perfect. The old devil, D.H. Lawrence, would have certainly approved, as the slightly musky, ambrosial, robust scent does evoke the fruit split in four, with its flesh "glittering, rosy, moist, honied", oozing the mouthwatering sweetness...Even though there is nothing obviously animalic about it, Revelation smells ever so slightly obscene. It succeeds in representing the sensual side of the figs, something that no one else has been able to do and for that I applaud Brosius. Were he to agree to tone down the leaves and the twigs, Revelation would have become my perfect fig scent.

Fruits & Passion Shea Butter is available at Cherrylanecollection, $7.95-$19.95, Parfums de Nicolai Fig Tea is sold at Beautyhabit, $25.00-$60.00, and Revelation can be bought from CB I Hate Perfume, $17.00-$85.00.

The painting is by Sarah Longlands, from


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely Review,Marina..And you have hit the nail on the head..I would love to smell the actual fruit in a perfume-warm and sweet but mysterious.The figs I recall eating back home were the exotic dry ones..(I loved them!!)

11:08 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

This makes me want to run out and buy some figs. Figs and clotted cream...

11:33 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

To be honest, it never occurred to me that the fig as fruit hasn't been done in perfumery. Now that you brought it to our attention, I can't help but agree! Truly perplexing it hasn't been explored. That said, Revelation sounds like a must try.

11:47 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an interesting review. I'd never thought of it that way, but you're right: there is something very sensual, almost obscene, about a fig. I have never craved fig scents, but your review makes me do so. Such is the power of your review. :-)

1:52 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, M., we truly are perfume twins... I too have been frustrated by fig scents. I could go on endlessly about the delicious, nearly obscene lushness of the fruit. They're never so good as in August when they've gorged in sun and are almost jam-like, just on the edge of fermenting, with a drop of juice oozing from their stem. There should therefore be a slight booziness to the perfect fig perfume... And thanks for the Lawrence poem, I didn't know it.

4:55 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

I have never been big on fig scents (though I love the fruit), but I have never tried either of these. The CB, in particular, sounds like a must! And your review is making me hungry. . .

6:41 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Another reason to love and adore CB- as if his reslendent soul weren't enough.

6:44 AM EDT  
Blogger Solander said...

I don't think I ever smelled a fresh fig, only the dried ones you have for christmas... Or yes I think I have eaten fresh figs on some occasion but I remember them as almost taste- and scentless so clearly they were not what you're describing...
Anyway, after trying a variety of fig (or should I say figuier? I mean fig leaves) scents I'm convinced I don't like them. What bugs me is the clash between fresh green notes and milky/creamy/coconutty notes. I get a mental picture of cut grass swimming in milk - not very tempting. It might just be that milky notes usually don't work on my skin and that I don't like coconut, but the greens and the whites just never seem to blend, they just clash like experimental cooking by a child...

6:56 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Am not a big fig scent fan, but these two are definitely my favs. You're right about the fruit rarely getting done. They usually just go the green or coconut milk route. Yawn. Am hoping more perfumers read this post and take your suggestions to heart.

7:35 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you smelled Fresh Scents by Terry, "Dream"? If you can get past all the vanilla it's definitly got the boozy, hypnotic fig thing happening. It is quite delectable.

7:50 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This review makes me think of a gem of an appetizer I like to serve with a bottle of sauternes before a meal. Dried figs simmered on the stove with some sugar and a little brandy, make a jam. Then put it in a food processor with some roasted hazelnuts, grind. Put that on a toasted baguette, top that with a slice of granny-smith apple then a chunk of pecornio- romano cheese, then a little drizzle of honey. Mmmmmm! Heaven in your mouth! Marina, with this review you've helped produce another craving for this pregnant girl!! Shame on you:-)

8:21 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! I am not saying they should not make green fig scent, but they should give us alternatives, which, as you said, would be warm and sweet and mysterious.

8:39 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...


8:41 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

You don't here me say this a lot about CB scents, but revelation is definitely interesting and complex and as a proper perfume should be :-)

8:43 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

*feels powerful*
I have never craved fig scents either, because they are just not to my taste, all that greenness. But once I thought of how they could be done, the craving has started :-)

8:44 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I love slight booziness in perfume. Absolutely adore it. Sweet, sensual, boozy figs...what could be better!

8:45 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Tom has some clotted cream, he might share. And in a comment below yours, Kayliana is making a dish to die for...ack, now I am hungry too. :-)

8:46 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

He is certainly very talented. Have you met him at Sniffa?

8:46 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I absolutely agree. That clash of green and coconutty-milky that is present in too many fig scents is what I dislike too. There are some fig perfumes that are just green, no coconuts, I prefer, although don't love, those.

8:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Yawn indeed. No more coconut, dear perfumers, please.

8:48 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

No I haven't! I am writing down the suggestions, thank you!

8:49 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

...and now I am writing down your fabulous recipe :-)

Wait, what did you say? CONGRATULATIONS!!!

8:50 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Oh, Marinochka, I did !
It felt like the first encounter of Candide and Cunegonde...
'Their eyes sparkled, their knees trembled"...

The SOUL thing.
Lovers ought to beware it -
Far more dangerous than mere fleshly lust, it has the fragrance of true betrayal about it.

[At this point, I'm afraid to meet Andy T. I have a sinking feeling that 'here it goes again'...]

9:06 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a word for Tove (Solander): the figs you had were probably unripe and unseasonal. I doubt the real thing makes it to Northern Europe, they're so fragile. But if you're in a Mediterranean country in August, please seek them out... It's the season when I make a salad out of fresh quartered figs, strips of prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced Parmesan cheese, lightly grilled pine nuts and roquette (aragula), with olive oil and Acetto Balsamico. Heaven. Oh here we go, sounding all Nigella-ish...

9:15 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

So are you going to meet Andy? If so, say big hello from me!

9:20 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Please stop. What a torture :-) Gosh, I am hungry. :-)

PS. Nigella is a goddess.

9:21 AM EDT  
Blogger Tina Martinec Selan said...

I completely understand what your pefect fig perfume should smell like. I'm not being a particular fan of figs myself (nor in my cuisine nor in fragrances ;)), despite actually owning 2 frags composed around figs: Philosykos and Noix de Tubereuse. they are, of course, completely different one from another, but the latter strikes me as something you might like. besides figgy (and we're talking ripe, sweet, mellow figs), it is of course also flowery and quite powdery, but one of my staples for winter formal wear.

(ps: this is being written by Timam alias Tina as it seems that Blogger got my first name correctly ;))

9:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Philosykos, sadly, doesn't work for me. It is one of those green figs with milky accord that I can't appreciate. :-( Noix de Tubereuse is one of my favorite tuberose scents, but I don't smell figs in it. I love it though.

9:56 AM EDT  
Blogger boisdejasmin said...

I agree wholeheartedly! Most of the fig aroma-materials are the green, verdant sap notes. In L'Artisan Premier Figuier, Giacobetti used a novel ivy note to create the accord. Unfortunately, there are hardly any perfumes that capture the luscious fig quality. One you might want to try, if you have not yet already, is Slatkin Black Fig and Absinthe.

10:30 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I haven't tried that one! Thank you very much for the recommendation.
On a related subject, have you tried Slatkin's Muguet? I wonder if it is any good.

10:53 AM EDT  
Blogger Erin said...

c: Great review! I will have to try the Revelation - have used the Shea Butter, and have Fig Tea arriving from UPS/Beautyhabit today. The latter seems to get pooped on all the time as not smelling like "fig" and people seem to be put off by the opening blast of what smells like bergamot, but I agree that there is a sexy fruitiness in the heart notes. Plus, I love davana and tea notes. I can't wait to re-test once my nose is unblocked. And cool poem, there - ah, Lawrence and his insistence on imposing male and female imagery everywhere!

11:03 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Vika's right, about the Slatkin.
Would you like some ?

11:08 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

PdN scents in general either get undeservedly bad rep or no mention at all. Strange, as they are such interesting quality scents, practically all of them.
Yeah, Lawrence...:-) he also to love to go on, doesn't he...the poem is like a mile long :-)

11:09 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I can't say no. :-) Especially if I could send you something too!

11:10 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ina, I am so glad you have reviewed Brosius's take on fig, I have been wondering for ages about this scent. I love fig scents too and they are pretty hard to get right. I think I found the perfect green fig scent this weekend (I'm still looking for the perfect ripe fig scent now) and it is the wonderful cheapie of The Body Time's Green Fig oil.

11:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Congratulations on finding your perfect green fig!
Marina (Ina is at :-))

11:24 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Marina, I read your site from time to time, and I enjoy it a great deal. I have a Mediterranean Fig fragrance product that I make and use in whipped shea body butter, luxury body mist, handmade soap, japanese camellia body oil and dead sea salt glow scrub. I don't want to really promote my site here, but I don't see a link where I can email you. From time to time I send beauty bloggers and perfume bloggers a gift bag of my wares gratis. My Fig is on the sweet side and people enjoy it immensely, I think you would too. If you'd like to receive a gift bag you can email me and let me know at: Bon Chance on your Fig Search!
MEDITERRANEAN FIG: Peaceful, intriguing, sweet and
sexy blend of sweet fig, violet, iris, sandalwood and iris. Pure essence of mediterranean italian
fig sun-baked and bursting with fragrance.

12:36 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Your soaps look beautiful. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind offer.

1:01 PM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Hey, there -- just got back into town -- holy cow, there IS a CB scent for you!!! I'd almost given up... you know, I don't even like fig frags, particularly, and you've done your usual sorcery and made me want to try it!

'Scuse me, I have to get back to gnawing the ears off this chocolate bunny... I am *so* grateful Easter only comes once a year ;-P

1:11 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I am glad it only comes once a year wouldn't be so special otherwise. :-D

1:15 PM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

I have long thought that PdN ought to rename Fig Tea. I adore it, but was very disappointed on the first try -- it doesn't live up to its name, not being about fig.

1:24 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I do get figs there, but there really is (too) much more to it than that.

1:25 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Colombina, thank you for bringing up the rarity of fragrances that capture the lusciousness of figs. I had dismissed the CB without trying it because I expected mere green leafiness. And thanks for reviewing a PdN scent. I'm very fond of Sacrebleu.

I do take issue with you for bringing up this mouth-watering subject when we're months away from fig season! :-)

1:40 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might try Aftel's Fig. It's a dark, rich, sweet, dried fig rather than a milky, green, fresh-picked fig. Long-lasting too (some of hers I've sampled don't last on me but this one does). Might be worth your sniff.

1:54 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I should do more reviews of PdN scents, they are so good and so under-appreciated.

1:57 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Dear Anonymous,
Thank you very much for the recommendation. I added it to the To Try list.

1:57 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second Mady Aftel's FIG, it is such a rich and guilty pleasure, so dark so sweet.

6:30 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you, I will definitely get some of it to try.

8:15 PM EDT  
Blogger Solander said...

Carmen - I think I will be in Italy in late August/early September. If I am, I'll remember to look for figs.. :)

6:19 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you on the need for Fig, The Fruit scents in addition to fig leaf scents. I like Fig Tea very much. I had an opportunity to smell Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Fico di Amalfi at Sniffa, and if my scent memory serves me, it was also fruity. Ditto Anthousa Fig and Vetiver.

11:51 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Anthousa's Fig wasn't quite what I wanted, but thank you very much for the Fico di Amalfi recommendation. I will definitely try that.

11:58 AM EDT  
Anonymous Kat said...

I love your review, Marina. What a beautiful tribute to these two great fig scents.

By the way, have you tried Bois de Paradis by Parfums Delray? I have tried many fig scents but Bois de Paradis is the most carnal and sensual of them all.

4:12 PM EDT  

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