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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel and Frederick Malle French Lover, or, A Tale of Two Vetivers

Review by Tom

These are two of the most talked about new releases, and lemming that I am, I had to try.

Fleurs de Sel

The kind decanter Nancy (fishbone96) sent me this, the newest creation by Lyn Harris. Fleurs de Sel is one of the lightest scents I have ever tried: I have to write that for me it makes L'Antimatiere seem like Musc Kublai Khan- I actually ordered more from Patty to get a handle on it. Not that I hold its lightness against it, from its sagey opening to its warm, salty-skin vetiver drydown it is a beauty. Created by Ms Harris to celebrate her memories of a village in Brittany called Batz sur Mer, if this is what a marsh smells like, then I want one. I don't get marsh out of it, I get the smell of clean skin that's been swimming in green waters: clean-skin musk, green-ness and the slightly salty smell that skin gets when lake water dries on sunkissed skin. I described L'Antimatiere as being the cashmere sweater you borrowed from your lover, still smelling of him. This is you and he after that lake swim, laying in the cool grass under a warm sun. I am going to live with the decant for a while: I've had other Miller Harris scents go sadly wrong on me so I want to make sure before popping for a full bottle, but so far I am pretty enamored.

French Lover

Oh my..

This has been compared to Guerlain Derby and it does make that same slashingly chic statement. On me the angelica takes a backseat to the vetiver: and what a vetiver! Incredibly full, it's supplanted with woods and incense and not a little musk. It also reminds me a bit of something else- somewhat as if Le Labo Vetiver and Guerlain Habit Rouge had a love child: It has the Le Laboish austere smokiness in its vetiver, but it has the swagger (the only way I can think of to put it) of Habit Rouge. Wearing it today maundering about in my paint-spattered t-shirt and old jeans, I kept getting marvelous little whiffs of it and felt distinctly underdressed. I also passed two people who visibly and enjoyably sniffed and then looked at over at unshaven me and visibly thought "Can't be him". This is the scent I would wear into a meeting with the CEO, a date with the person I wanted to marry or perhaps when being sentenced: it has a rock-ribbed patrician quality to it that's quite wonderful. Needless to say, I logged onto the Malle website and picked up a (small) bottle right away, especially since it will be renamed Bois d'Orage in the states, since it is felt that "French Lover" would not sell as well. Well "Thunder Wood" sounds like a porn star, and I like the original name.

Fleurs de Sel will be out this summer at Saks and LuckyScent. Bois d'Orage will be at Barneys around the same time. French Lover can be bought at the Malle website.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Perfume Review: Potter & Moore Fragrances

I have not heard about Potter & Moore until BeautyHabit began carrying their line of fragrances, candles and bath and body products, and yet the company has supposedly been in business since 1749! John Potter and William Moore started as "physic gardeners" cultivating herbs and flowers, with lavender as their speciality. The recently launched new English Classics range was meant to celebrate Potter and Moore's "tradition of natural fragrance blending" and to represent "the romance and charm of British cottage industry".

The company invites the wearer to establish his or her own "daily signature scent ritual":
Light a Potter and Moore Candle ($36.00/200g) in your favourite scent and indulge yourself with a softly scented bath with Potter and Moore Bathing Milk ($36.00/175ml) with aloe vera to smooth your skin.

Gently whisk away dry skin with the Cane Sugar Body Exfoliator ($45.00/150g) with shea butter and cocoa butter to nourish your body, then wash with a Fine Triple Milled Soap ($27.00/2x100g) which contains 25 per cent moisturising cream to prevent dryness. Follow with the Luxury Body Creme ($45.00/150ml) with pure honey and cocoa and shea butters to leave your skin perfectly smooth and softly scented.

Finally spritz on your signature Eau De Toilette ($63.00/100ml) and leave the house knowing that the scent of true elegance will follow your every move.
Today I am reviewing the Eaux de Toilette.

Bergamot & Green Ginger. "A fragrance to give you confidence and poise." Bergamot & Green Ginger is a fragrance that appears to be refreshingly simple, a harmonious, straightforward, smooth composition with bergamot in the leading role. It starts with the lively, bright bergamot note spiced up by ginger, and that core accord will last troughout the scent's development, however, at various stages of the fragrance's progress on my skin, I smell flowers: a little bit of lilac in the beginning, quite a lot of jasmine in the middle and plenty of delicate roses. The rose note is particularly strong, a gently-sweet, juicy rose that should make this scent very atractive to the fans of such perfumes are Rosine Une Zest de Rose, Flowerbelle Rouse and Parfums 06130 Yuzu Rouge. Pretty, fresh, very summery, Bergamot & Green Ginger should be delightful in hot weather.

Lavender & Italian Lemon. "A fragrance to add to the charm of life." Lavender & Italian Lemon seems to me to be a take on a traditional Eau de Cologne theme, with a spiky, herbal twist of lavender. Lavender greets the wearer in the beginning of the scent, it is a cool, airy note, bracing but not harsh. After a while, lemon and neroli become apparent, and lavender not so much disappears - no, it stays perceptible till the very end- as loses some of its bright edge and becomes softer. The three notes are more or less all I smell in the fragrance. Lavender & Italian Lemon is very pleasant, soothing and refreshing. Because of the abundance of citrus and citrus-floral notes, it would perhaps be more attractive for the lovers of eau de cologne genre rather than the connoisseurs of lavender.

Orange Flower & Amber. "A fragrance to heighten your natural radiance." Not the most exciting orange blossom scent I have ever encountered, Orange Flower & Amber is an understated, soft, gauzy fragrance, in which the amber note, though vaguely present, doesn't seem to contribute much to the blend, not adding to the orange blossom either warmth, or depth, or complexity. The perfume is perfectly wearable and very pleasant but rather dull.

Spiced Tuberose & Orchid. "A fragrance to captivate your natural bloom." The strongest and the most complex of the five scents, Spiced Tuberose & Orchid is my favorite in the collection. It smells like a less sweet, spicier version of Shiseido's Message from Orchids, and at the same time something about its creamy, vaguely fruity, slightly earthy blossoms reminds me of Ford's Black Orchid. It is much less interesting than either of those two scents, but it has an attractive exotic vibe and floral richness, which I find very attractive. It is velvety, honeyed, languid and overall quite appealing.

Tea Rose & Sage. "A fragrance to enhance your enduring loveliness." Tea Rose & sage is a green take on rose, herbal, minty, even a little earthy. Sage and other grassy, leafy notes are very prominent in the beginning. At that point, the fragrance makes me think of smelling not roses themselves but the damp soil, grass and fallen leaves and petals under the rose bushes. Unfortunately, about ten minutes into the development, a bothersome watery, cucumber-like note appears on my skin. After it disappears, the greenness in general starts to subside leaving behind a sweet rose fragrance with a soapy and at the same time strangely waxy undertone. I will pass.

All five scents and the accompanying products are available at BeautyHabit, $63.00 for 100ml.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Perfume Review: Bond No 9 Coney Island

Coney Island is the latest Bond No 9 scent scheduled to launch on June 1. For the fellow non-New-Yorkers who, like me, are unfamiliar with the neighborhood, according to Wikipedia:

Coney Island is a peninsula, formerly an island, in southernmost Brooklyn, New York City, USA, with a famous beach lying on the Atlantic Ocean. The eponymous neighborhood is a community of 60,000 people in the western part of the peninsula (...)

The area was a major resort and home of Astroland amusement park that reached its peak in the early 20th century. It declined in popularity after World War II and endured years of neglect. In recent years, the area has been revitalized by the opening of KeySpan Park, home to the successful Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team.

Bond No 9 "were intrigued by the vintage allure of this century-old fantasy-land with its honky-tonk chic, its Mermaid Parade, its incomparable hotdog haven" and "wanted to celebrate its future, too, just as a formidable revival is getting under way". The scent, with notes of margarita mix, melon, guava, cinnamon, chocolate, caramel, musk, vanilla, cedar and sandalwood was created Michel Almairac, the perfumer behind Bryant Park and West Side.

The start of the scent is a tangy citrusy blend. I smell lemons, limes and even oranges. They smell a little candied, but not overwhelmingly sweet at all, bringing to mind a refreshing, only slighly boozy drink served in a glass with sugared rim. For a while there, I smell a slight melon note, but just when I start to think that scent might go a fruity route, it changes the direction drastically. It grows warmer, "thicker", more "solid" in feel, the vanilla becomes very apparent as does the cinnamon note. At this point, I like the Coney Island quite a lot. It has the kind of soft, not too obvious gourmandness that I always appreciate. I don't smell chocolate or caramel, the middle stage is all about sweetly piquant cinnamon and fluffy vanilla on me. If the scent stayed that way, it might have even ended up on my wish list for summer...The drydown, however, was disappointing for me. After the joyful, colorful robustness of the top and heart notes, the composition suddenly looses all its oomph and becomes rather pale and unexciting. The base has an aquatic note that bothers me and an overall understated, neutral feel of a typically fresh unisex scent. I very much wish that the bright, happily inebriated, indeed carnival-like feel of the first two thirds of the scent stayed till the end.

Coney Island will be released on June 1. Bond No 9 will start accepting pre-orders online mid-May.

The Mermaid Parade poster is from

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Have a great long Memorial Day weekend

This is me, chillin' and not unpacking the gabazillion boxes and suitcases ...In my dreams! I hope your long weekend is more fun and relaxing than mine. Please come back on Tuesday for a review of Coney Island.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Perfume Review: Frederic Malle / Edouard Flechier Une Rose

Edouard Fléchier is, without a doubt, one of my favorite perfumers. He created the first fragrance I have ever loved, which I still love dearly, the big, the luscious, the incomparable Poison. His is the genius of bold, generous strokes; to borrow O'Keefe's words yet again, he "paints his flowers big" (Lys Méditerranée, with its ethereal coldness, is still a big flower). That unapologetic sumptuousness is a quality I adore in perfumes. Having said that, Fléchier is just as capable of creating compositions that are poignantly delicate. Shiseido's obscure gem, Chant du Coeur, would break your heart with its gentle, melancholy loveliness. Edouard Fléchier was also born in the same year as my father, and, with his handsome mustache, actually looks quite a lot like my dad...but that silly tidbit of information is rather beside the point... You might know by now that I am not the biggest fan of rose scents. They quite frankly bore me, even the loveliest and truest -and perhaps especially the loveliest and truest- of them. I want my roses to be dark, brooding, strange, to have something more than "just roses". Une Rose, described as "garden rose pulled from the ground with its roots", is a paradox in a sense that, while smelling like the most luxurious and life-like rose imaginable, it also has that "something", the nocturnal depth, that I find incredibly attractive.

On me, Une Rose, does not appear to go through the traditional three stages of scent development. The notes, rose, trufle, geranium, wine dregs, woods, are apparent from the beginning, all at once, in perfect dark harmony. The development manifests itself in the change of intensity of certain notes. Thus at first the smell of honeyed, truly ambrosial roses is very strong, it is intoxicating, supremely sensual, like a passionate embrace of someone gorgeous and sultry and just a little wicked. In a short while the sharp piquancy of geranium becomes more apparent, and then the even sharper accord surfaces and that is the point at which I fall completely prey to the witchy charms of Une Rose. The accord has a spicy, slightly musky, very earthy and woody quality. It is the smell of rose thorns, of the promised roots, of the black soil in a mysterious garden in which the crimson roses grow. The contrast of the sweet, lush, slightly inebriated smell of over-ripe roses and the dry, almost harsh earthy-woody accord is, to me, absolutely irresistible. Une Rose is one of my favorite rose perfumes and proudly resides in my favorite fragrance "category", that of Perfumes for a Femme Fatale...Although I must say that, in my opinion, the austere, dry earthiness and the prominent woody notes should make this scent easily wearable for a man.

Une Rose is avialable at Editions de Parfums, €65.00-€165.00, and at Barney's, $100.00-$245.00.

Image sources,,

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tom Ford Private Blend

Review by Tom

Interesting and more interesting. I had a nice conversation with Alessandro, the proprietor of All Purpose (the store in LA that stocks some CB I Hate Perfume), and we both commented that blog reactions have made us have to get over our initial (in my case somewhat snobby) reaction to Tom. I find him somewhat louche and when I read about these I kind of rolled my eyes. Even more so when I read the piece in The New York Times skewering his Madison Avenue boutique. Reading some of the reviews I realized that I was coming in with my own prejudices against Tom Ford: not just because he's cuter and way more successful than I (and somehow steadfastly refuses to date me..), but because it seems unbearably.. showy I guess is the word to pop up with so many new releases. It gets an automatic "oh really?" from me.

Having written that I will try to keep an open mind. As open as it's rusty hinges will allow: since everyone else has covered these pretty exhaustively, I'll keep this short.

Velvet Gardenia

Intense gardenia, but not as intense as say, Fracas is intense in its tuberose. It's certainly not something that I would recommend wearing to a meeting with the boss, unless you two have a very interesting relationship. I can see where some people get the blue cheese bit- it skates that edge of decay that gardenias do in real life. I like this, but it cries out to be dialed up- Tom cranks the dial to 7, and I wish he had dialed it to 11. But god love him for even going up that far on the dial in this world over-run by fruity floral.

Black Violet

Candied violets (which Fran Lebowitz wrote of as "the Necco Wafers of the overbred"), woods and a plummy sweetness. I don't get much that's "black" here, and at just the point I start to get actual violets, it gets a case of the vapors and heads off to its boudoir.

Tuscan Leather

Really, they could call this one Eau de Coach Store. Just the smell of a new Coach bag, that slightly berry-sweet leather smell. It becomes harsher further on (which I think is a good thing), losing some of the sweetness and becoming more biker jacket than clutch.

Moss Breches

Earthy green Old-School Chypre with an unexpected bit of sweetness and... mint? Easily my hands-down favorite. Would I buy? Perhaps not.

Bois Rouge

Rather cologney citrus opening that frankly doesn't go very far on me until the drydown, with its woody leathery goodness. Perhaps the biggest "meh" of the group.

Purple Patchouli

For me opens with a brief blast that reminds me of Chypre Rouge, which drops immediately and becomes a weird combination of soap and...crystal meth? (don't ask) Becomes more and more "purple" in the drydown, in a "purple prose" kind of way- there is patchouli in there but it's buried under that tickle-the-back-of-the-throat iodiney note that reminds me club days before I woke up and decided to be an adult. Great cover for some of the girls at Hyde "No officer, it's Tom Ford"

Japon Noir

Seems as light as Florida Water after some of the others: light leathered amber. Keeps doing a sort of Lutens thing, somewhat like smelling the ghost of Fumerie Turque on a sweater you wore last week.

Noir de Noir

Sweet saffron and gentle roses. Not showy but quite luscious. Like Colombina, I can see where this will become the best seller of the line. I can't say it's my favorite, but it's the most approachable.

Amber Absolute

Delightfully smoky amber: incense, woods and rich amber goodness. If Moss Britches weren't here with its wonderful weirdness, this would be my favorite. It has fairly intense sillage, so another one that's not for the office, unless you work in the Playboy mansion.

Oud Wood

Marvelous sly oud and vetiver. Like Colombina I get leather in there- that new purse smell. It has a lovely woody amber drydown. Certainly the most "unisex" leaning toward masculine smelling one for me. Kelley, I think this Oud is for you..

Tobacco Vanille

Not nearly enough tobacco or for that matter vanille. I get March's Play-Doh, candy, and something that smells like the scent from that Christmas Tree shaped air-freshener you get at the car wash over the holidays. No thanks.

Neroli Portofino

4711 on steroids. Check, please!

Okay, I went through all of these in a period of two weeks and I have to write that I don't quite know what to think. On the one hand, I have to applaud both the achievement and the chutzpah: putting out three or four scents at once must be a daunting thing to attempt, but 12? I also kind of wonder if there is a reason that I kind of found most of these a bit wanting: it seems that Tom wants to be out there, testing the limits, but also wants to keep a stylish, loafer clad set of tootsies firmly in a realm where everyday shoppers will feel comfortable. Of course, kudos to him for doing anything that would try to reintroduce glamor back into the perfume world (and some of these are pretty glam). I just kind of wish that he could have cranked up the volume a bit. Jump in Tom honey, the water's fine.

Tom Ford is available at Bergdorf Goodman, $165.00 for 50ml, $450.00 for 250ml.

Image source, Harpers Bazaar.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Crazylibellule and the Poppies Sniffathon

Crazylibellule and the Poppies is a small French company (said to consist of just three employees) that hit upon a very successful idea of solid perfumes in a stick. The lack of messiness, travel-and-handbag-appropriate size, and a very reasonable price of $16.00 make the scents very appealing. So appealing are the little delights that they won their creators an award, "Beauty Challenger", on the Cosmeeting 2006 Fair in Paris.

The line consists of three collections, the Les Divines Alcoves ("Love stories and meetings, scented with the pleasure of divine alcoves"), Poule de Luxe ("Parisian, gourmand, erotic, whimsical"), and Shanghaijava ("Oriental nights, majestic evocations, mysterious tumble of emotions, a scented voyage..."). The scents I am reviewing today are a (random) mix of three collections.

Les Divines Alcoves

Amoureuse. "Berry", black pepper, rose, tea, jasmine, musk, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla. A vaguely gourmand soft-oriental scent which could have been overwhelmingly sweet and fruity were it not for a delicate spicy note, the quite perceptible smokiness of tea and the earthy woodiness of the base notes. Very pleasant, very wearable, it should be very popular with fans of both Flowerbombs and most other Angel offspring.

Aux Anges. Bergamot, tangerine, ylang-ylang, jasmine, "white flowers". My absolute favorite among the Crazylibellule scents, this gentle lily of the valley and jasmine fragrance is very spring-like, airy, and incredibly charming. The beginning is slightly citrusy (truly, just a hint of bergamot, softened by the creamy ylang), seconds after the scent is applied to my skin, lily of the valley and jasmine begin to blossom, they go head to head, neither note dominating the composition. At this point the scent reminds me of a mix of Diorissimo and Jasmal, and I love the combination. The base is a little pale and unexciting, but I suppose one shouldn't expect miracles of perfumery from a $16.00 solid perfume. Aux Anges is adorable, and I have a feeling that I am going to use up my stick in no time at all.

Toi Mon Prince. Bergamot, "berry", tangerine, mango, jasmine, apricot, Damasc rose, sandalwood, musk, white peach & patchouli. "Toi Mon Assassin Fruité" would have bnen a more fitting name. This could not be further from what I like, so it is hard for me to be objective about this sugary-fruity number resting on the Angel-esque patchouli base. It is extremely sweet, Angel's, Hot Couture's and Hanae Mori's fruitier descendant. When I am hard pressed for anything nice to say about a fragrance, I quote Lincoln: "For those who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like." I bet Toi Mon Prince will have many fans.

Poule de Luxe

Vanilla Fruit Sorbet. Raspberry, rose, iris, vanilla and musk. Having survived the fruity assault by Toi Mon Prince, I am not about to be scared by a little raspberry. Or a lot of raspberry as the case may be. Vanilla Fruit Sorbet is a delightful combo of raspberry, more raspberry, some more raspberry, vanilla and roses. It is pretty and, believe it or not, not particularly sweet. It smells mouthwatering, with the berries being surprisingly life-like. The smell of raspberries invariably transports me to my great-grandma's dacha, the place I love to revisit in my imagination. As far as I am concerned, the combination of raspberries and roses is perhaps one of the most appealing (or the least unappealing) fruity-floral mixes. I am not sure I would actually buy a stick, but I've been enjoying my tiny sample very much.

Vanille Sucre Glace. Bergamot, tangerine, jasmine, orange flower, musk, vanilla and caramel. Sugar and vanilla is more or less all I smell in Vanille Sucre Glace, with perhaps just a hint of caramel in the end. It is not unpleasant at all, a warm, not cloyingly sweet fragrance...but it is rather dull.


Ananas Imperial. The notes might say, "orange, lemon, citron, grapefruit, pineapple, blackcurrant, peach, cedarwood and musk", but on me Ananas Imperial is grapefruit, blackcurrant and peach and nothing else. The grapefruit is lovely, and I don't say this often about grapefruit; it is neither harsh nor too "sparkly". The blackcurrant starts by smelling as if it was freshly picked from a bush and ends up creamy and vanillic, as if baked in a pie. The peach is there but not too strong, sort of enhancing the general fruity feel of the composition rather than trying to appear in the forefront. Ananas Imperial has nothing to do whatsoever with pineapples, but it is summery, enjoyable and charming.

Litchi Blossom. Litchi, geranium, rose, mint. I have yet to meet a litchi-scented product that smelled attractive. I think that the note really doesn't lend itself well in perfumery. It has a not particularly appealing smoky undertone and a raw aspect that makes it smell like unripe carrots. Pairing litchi with the sharp floral note like geranium is really not a good idea. The blend is heavy, harsh, very forceful...It smells incongruous. Litchi Blossom has an unexpected retro vibe, an almost-powdery, old-fashioned feel, and that is the only good thing about it.

Encens Mystic. Clove, cedar, incense, myrrh, benzoin, musk, patchouli and vanilla. My second favorite from the line, Encens Mystic is a surprisingly rich and complex incense blend with a beautiful spicy accord adding the zing to the composition and the no less gorgeous myrrh-vanilla mix softening and enriching the incense note. The scent has piquant sweetness that makes it incredibly comforting. An unexpected and unexpectedly interesting offering from a solid perfume line, Encens Mystic should be sampled by all lovers of incense scents.

All these and other Crazylibellule and the Poppies solid perfumes are available at BeautyHabit, $16.00 for 5g.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Smell of the Garden

Review by Kelley

Comme Des Garcon’s Peppermint (Sherbet Collection)

This is my new spring favorite. I remember working in the garden with my grandmother when I was little. We belonged to several garden clubs and were always working in her greenhouse or in her backyard getting ready for an exhibition. I remember training chrysanthemums to trail over pots by wiring them to chicken wire and even training them to be bonsais. One of my chores was to water all of the plants a couple of times a week. She had the pots scattered around the house in several places to see where they grew the best. Every year, like clockwork, we had to pull the mint because it was truly a weed at her house and filled all of the flower beds (along with another of my favorite plants, the deadly poisonous night-blooming Datura). The smell of the dirt and the mint would get all over my arms and I would throw away bags full of mint plants. Actually, I love the smell.

Comme Des Garcons has mysteriously bottled the smell I remember. When I spray this on I can smell the crushed mint leaves and the tough stems. I smell the dirt and the cool green sap! If you have ever grown mint, you will be transported back in time. This is a magical scent.

The listed ingredients are: curly mint, peppermint, bay rose, white pepper, cardamom, amber, white musk. I only smell mint. If I close my eyes I can sort of smell the amber and white musk but that’s about it. This starts off very fresh and minty but then dies down to a very green galbanum and light musk scent. I wish the silage was a little more potent but it lasts fairly well although it stays close to the skin. If you know of any other mint fragrances that last longer, please let me know…

Peppermint is available at for $40 for the 30ml spray which is perfect for a purse or backpack.

Comme Des Garcon’s Harrisa

Harissa is from the CDG Red Series which includes Rose, Carnation, Palisander, and Sequoia. Harissa is a spicy red paste that originated in Tunisia . It is made from chilies that are sometimes smoked (makes me think of chipotle chilies which I can no longer eat but dearly love and have grown in my garden) mixed with garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway and olive oil and sometimes tomatoes.

Fresh out of the bottle, this one smells like tomatoes. I smell the harsh dirt-like smell that tomato leaves often exude and also the ripe red fruit. This is the smell of a vegetable garden in the blazing summer heat. It opens with a spicy tomato smell which probably smells like a Bloody Mary but there is also a funky tomato leaf accord which I find very unusual and fascinating. The vegetables soon are overtaken by the luscious smell of blood oranges. This stays a spicy, citrus scent for hours. This is very, very spicy with tons of nutmeg and chili and cardamom and even some saffron. Here, the citrus sticks it out to the very end…which I love.

The scent easily lasts 6 to 8 hours on my skin and is a wonderful addition to the spring/summer scent wardrobe. It’s very unusual and highly recommended. The ingredients are listed as: harissa, blood orange from North Africa , red chili pepper, angelica, saffron, nutmeg from Grenada , cardamom, and finally tomato.

Here is a link to a wonderful recipe using harissa paste, called “Harissa Chicken & Butternut Squash”

Comme des Garcon’s Harissa is available at and comes in a 100 ml bottle for $84. The photos of both bottles are courtesy of Luckyscent.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Colombinas Are Moving

Dear All,

We will be moving to a new house this weekend. There will be a short interruption of the posts, how short depends only on the efficiency of our phone company. Today's review, the last installment of the Lily of the Valley week, is right below. I am hoping to have the next post (a wonderful, summery review by Kelley) published on Tuesday, May 22.

Please keep your fingers crossed for us!


Marina, Mr. Colombina and Little Miss Colombina

Lily of the Valley Week. Day 4. Penhaligon's, Severnoe Siyanie, Shiseido, Taylor of London, Yardley

The last day my Lily of the Valley week.

Penhaligon’s – Lily of the Valley

Penhaligon’s call their Lily of the Valley “fresh and green”. On me, it is a rather sweet and creamy scent, certainly possessing a strong lily of the valley note, but with various other, some of them rather unexpected, notes. Firstly, in the very beginning I smell what I think is narcissus and a delicate rose. As the scent progresses, it acquires a hay-like aspect on my skin, and even – I swear!- a vaguely leathery undertone. I read reviews that said that the scent was very subtle, but on me Penhaligon’s muguet has a surprisingly substantial, “thick” quality. An intriguing scent, which I would like to own one day.

Severnoe Siyanie – Lesnoj Landysh (Northern Lights – Muguet de Bois)

A kind friend sent me a sample of this vintage Soviet perfume, and I thought it was remarkable. Of all the lily of the valley scents I reviewed this week, this one has the most forceful personality. It is not a loud scent, not heady, in fact it smells, for the lack of a better word, rather austere. Its unsmiling, commanding charisma that is truly striking. The scent has a strong chypre vibe. Lily of the here is not nearly as prominent as the woods and the oakmoss. Instead of a forest-glade white with muguet and some trees in the distance, I see an image of dark, tall, powerful trees, and in their brooding shade, one fragile lily of the valley. If I knew where to get some more, I would have gotten a bottle of Lesnoj Landysh in a heartbeat. (A note: I am pretty sure that the bottle I picture here is not the right one, but rather that of a new and most probably rather different reformulation or maybe even of a different company, it’s hard to tell and impossible to find the right one).

Shiseido – Koto

Another very charismatic, if slightly less severe, chypre lily of the valley scent, Koto has a very dry, herbaceous beginning, a complex floral heart, with lily of the valley being the strongest but by no means the only flower in the blend, and a warm, resinous, slightly leathery base. This lily of the valley should be worn to the most important business meetings. It has an imposing, although not overwhelming, presence and the kind of stern elegance that would go to so well with a sharply-tailored power suit.

Taylor of London – Lily of the Valley

Like Coty’s Muguet de Bois, this Taylor of London’s scent is the proof that sometimes the loveliest scents can be had for the smallest amount of money. A true soliflore, it is the scent of muguet with a dash of green leaves and not much more. Simple, effervescent, joyous and juicy, this is a delightful tribute to spring. A bargain at $17.00 for 1.7oz.

Yardley – Lily of the Valley

Yet another cheap find ($11.75 for 1oz), Yardley’s muguet is as appealingly straightforward as Taylor of London’s and just as enjoyable. It is a slightly greener, more “high-pitched” lily of the valley with a very subtle apple-like undertone. Easy, breathy, beautiful and ridiculously affordable.

I would like to conclude the Lily of the Valley week with a hit parade of sorts. Here are the scents I reviewed in order of preference, from most to least favorite:

1.,2.,3. – all bunched together as I can’t choose- Annick Goutal le Muguet, Coty Muguet de Bois, Dior Diorissimo
4. Guerlain Muguet
5. Severnoe Siyanie Lesnoj Landysh
6. Shiseido Koto
7. Les Parfums de Rosine Muguet de Rosine
8. Jessica McClintock
9. Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley
10. Parfums de Nicolai Eclipse
11. Floris Lily of the Valley
12., 13. Taylor of London Lily of the Valley, Yardley Lily
14. Caron Muguet de Bonheur
15. Comme des Garcons Lily
16. Art of Perfumery 3

Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley can be found at, $70.00-$90.00, Shiseido Koto is often sold on eBay, Taylor of London Lily of the Valley is avialable at, $17.00, and Yardley Lily of the Valley at, $11.75.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Perfume Review: L'Artisan Perfumeur L'Eau de Jatamansi

Review by Tom

L'Artisan is for me one of the more difficult lines to get a handle on. I've tried several: some are gorgeous but terribly fleeting (La Chasse au Papillon, Safran Troublant), some weren't fleeting but went wrong (Piment Brulant, which ended up as taco seasonings) or just didn't quite make me get the card out (Dzing!, The pour un Ete as great as they are). Of course this isn't going to stop me from trying them and hoping that one will be the one.

L'Eau de Jatamansi is the latest one from L'Artisan, and according to the nice man at Fred Segal, the first in the line that's completely organic (which begs the question...). According to Luckyscent, it is "100% natural, Ecocert-certified, Organic.." Apparently Jatamansi is incredibly rare, grown thousands of feet up in the Himalyas in "under skies oblivious to pollution, in soil that has never suspected the presence of fertilizers" (but apparently not hyperbole) and the oil itself is used in Ayurvedic medicine.

The scent? It starts out with a nice burst of grapefruit, full of the peel and wonderfully refreshing. It's joined by light woods, cardamom, bergamot and what must be the Jatamansi. It adds up to something that reminds me a bit of the sort of old-fashioned hair tonic I used to smell at barbershops when I was a kid. Whether you think that's a good or bad thing, you'll have to be the judge. I rather liked it. What I liked less was the lasting power: two hours tops. Of course, since it comes in a huge 250ml bottle re-applying is hardly out of the question.

Those huge 250ml bottles are $145 at Fred Segal and LuckyScent, and I assume at Barneys and Neimans and all the places that usually carry the line.

The search continues...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lily of the Valley Week. Day 3. Comme des Garcons, Floris, Jessica McClintock, Les Parfums de Rosine, Parfums de Nicolai

Comme des Garcons – Lily

I debated whether to include this scent in the Lily of Valley Week or to wait till the Lily week (yes, it’s coming, as well as Gardenia, Tuberose and Jasmine weeks…do you see a trend here? ). Lily of the Valley won, because, although I smell both flowers in Comme des Garcons surprising creation, lily of the valley is much more prominent. I say “surprising creation” simply because this rather conventionally pretty, frankly unexciting scent seems rather out of place in the brand’s quirky lineup of fragrances. It starts with a very green muguet, and that is the stage I enjoy the most; the scent has a dew-drenched feel of an early, cool spring morning…then the perfume grows considerably sweeter and stronger, this is when I smell lily (maybe Casablanca lily) and freesia. The latter adds an unwelcome pink heaviness to the blend; it seems incongruous in this ethereal white-green composition. After going through the very sweet phase, the scent does a full turn and becomes fresh and green again, but to me the freesia-laden heart is a good enough reason not to ever want to own a bottle of Lily.

Floris – Lily of the Valley

First created in 1847, Floris’ Lily of the Valley is the oldest of the muguet scents I am talking about this week (Guerlain’s Muguet was originally released in 1906). The title note is indeed very prominent here and is at the center of the composition, but I almost hesitate to call the perfume a soliflore. The rose is particularly strong; it is sweet, juicy, and very life-like. I imagine Floris’ creation to be a lovely bridal bouquet made of delicately-pink roses and dazzling white lilies of the valley. The scent is very pretty, very easy to wear, but it has too much rose for me to absolutely love it.

Jessica McClintock – The Fragrance

Again, this is not a soliflore, but the lily of the valley is prominent enough to warrant the perfume’s inclusion in the muguet week. The beginning is citrusy, slightly herbal, almost a little peppery, with the green basil note serving as bridge of sorts to the green lily of the valley, which will become apparent in the heart. Jasmine is almost as strong as muguet, but not quite; on my skin, lily of the valley is the dominant floral element of the blend. The drydown is softly woody, delicately sweet. The scent makes me want to don a white sundress …maybe even a sundress with ruffles…and to act all demure and a little coquettish, in other words, completely out of character…I am considering buying a bottle.

Les Parfums de Rosine – Le Muguet de Rosine

It is rather sad that Parfums de Rosine decided to focus on rose scents only, as the now discontinued perfumes, the opulent, fruity-ambery Coupe d’Or, the fresh and creamy tuberose Mea Culpa (one of my favorite tuberose scents of all time) and Le Muguet, are as beautiful as the rose perfumes in the collection. Le Muguet is a tricky one for me. It likes to play with me; on some days, it is green, green and green, with fresh lilies of the valley and lots of grass and not much else. On others, it is a fragrance of considerable depth and breathtaking complexity. On those days the jasmine becomes very prominent, bringing with it a vaguely indolic quality, and the rose adds to the scent a wonderful honeyed aspect. The drydown is musky and slightly resinous. An interesting, sophisticated rendition of lily of the valley, and it truly is a shame that it is now practically impossible to find.

Parfums de Nicolai – Eclipse

There are many "light-green" renditions of lily of the valley, Nicolai’s is "dark-green". It has sumptuous, peppery greenness of basil and oakmoss. Because of the presence of anise, lily of the valley here has sweet spiciness… or spicy sweetness. I strongly believe that there is rose somewhere in this beautiful composition, as I sense rather than distinctly smell a presence of its bordeaux-colored petals among the greenness. Much more than simply a muguet soliflore, this is a very elegant, very sophisticated blend that possesses the sort of creamy sumptuousness that I came to associate with the work of Patricia de Nicolai.

Comme des Garsons Lily and Parfums de Nicolai Eclipse are available at, $68.00 and $70.00 respectively; Floris Lily of the Valley is sold at, $45.00-$70.00; Jessica McClintock can be found at, $48.00-$68.00.

We take a break tomorrow for Tom's report on L'Eau du Jatamansi. Lily of the Valley will be back one last time on Friday.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New Scents from Parfum d'Empire: Equistrius, Fougere Bengale, Osmanthus Interdite

As has been previously reported, this summer Parfum d'Empire will add three new scents to its collection. The names have finally been announced, and so the new perfumes are :

Equistrius (Iris Amber)

Fougere Bengale (Fougere Tabac Blond)

Osmanthus Interdite (Fruity Musky)

The scents will be introduced to press on June 21, and hopefully will be widely launched soon after.

(Information from the press release)

Lily of the Valley Week. Day 2: Coty, Christian Dior, Guerlain

Often, when I have to write about perfume classics, I feel star-struck and overwhelmed. Can my humble review possibly do justice to a Legendary Scent? So you can imagine how much trepidation I feel today, faced with having to talk about not one, but three wonderful legends.

Coty – Muguet de Bois

I must preface the review by saying that Muguet de Bois in question is vintage Parfum de Toilette. On the very first sniff, I am tempted to proclaim Coty’s version to be the most beautiful lily of the valley. On the second, third, and one-hundredths sniff, I am just as entranced. The delicate, virginal-white flowers are not often described as opulent, but Coty’s Muguet is truly sumptuous. Lilies of the valley, with their “high-pitched”, silvery smell, are also rarely described as warm, however Muguet de Bois has a wonderful, balmy depth. If there existed a lily of valley genus with not white but golden flowers, that is how it would smell. The beginning of Muguet de Bois has an unexpected, extremely appealing booziness, almost a fruity, honeyed undertone, most probably due to the presence of an orange note. The orange, and in the heart of the scent, roses are the elements, which, I believe, add the warmth to the scent, which make it “well-rounded” and softly-enveloping. The warm and sweet quality co-exists in harmony with a strikingly green accord, and the contrast is incredibly appealing. The base is full of sweet sandalwood, which finishes the development of the scent on a very sensual note. Muguet de Bois is truly stunning, and it is my mission now to find and try the contemporary version.

Christian Dior – Diorissimo

Having tried vintage and modern eaux de toilette, I can honestly say that I loved them both and that the two are not drastically different. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the modern Diorissimo still smells very much like a Roudnitska’s creation, in that it contains the elements, which, to borrow Honore de Balzac ‘s words, make it smell like “a species of transition between the plant and animal”. That (elegantly restrained) animalic side is more pronounced in the vintage Diorissimo, but it is still perceptible in the modern version. The old Diorissimo also has a somewhat sweeter, almost fruity beginning, the new Diorissimo is heavier on jasmine; at one point it actually becomes a jasmine scent rather than lily of the valley, but that stage passes quickly. The base, on my skin, is practically identical, very Dior-Roudnitska, with soft sandalwood and that dark, earthy Something (civet?) that once made me say that Diorissimo smells like lily of the valley flowers pulled out of the earth with their roots intact, with the earth still clinging to them…and that is how I still perceive Diorissimo. Diorissimo strikes me as perhaps the most complex lily of the valley rendition of the ones that I have tried. To say that I love it would be a huge understatement. If you have a chance to try a contemporary parfum, please do. Eau de Toilette is beautiful, but parfum is absolutely stunning, slightly warmer and deeper.

Guerlain – Muguet

Guerlain releases a limited edition of Muguet what seems like every May; the version I am talking about is from 1999. This lily of the valley has no roots, it is all about the dazzling white flowers and green leaves. This is the version of Muguet that reminds me of another name for lilies of the valley, May Bells. Smelling Guerlain’s Muguet is akin to listening to a joyful concerto played on the tiny silvery bells. Along with Goutal’s Le Muguet, Guerlain’s creation strikes me as the most true to the scent of actual lilies of the valley. Like Le Muguet, it also possesses that potentially harsh, slightly bizarre, almost gas-like smell that real lilies of the valley have. It is intoxicating, exhilarating, it is a lily of the valley flower in close up, or perhaps it is like being inside the said flower. Muguet has a delicate fruity aspect, which makes me think not of citrus fruits, but of green apples. The green quality is quite pronounced here; I smell grass and leaves and even, very vaguely, something not unlike cucumber. The bright, incredibly realistic lily of the valley sings and my heart sings with it.

The vintage Coty Muguet de Bois can be found on eBay, very cheaply; Diorissimo is available at, $59.99-$152.99; Guerlain Muguet, in this year’s reincarnation, is available at Guerlain boutique in France and perhaps at Bergdorf Goodman, €200.00 for 20ml.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Lily of the Valley Week. Day 1. Annick Goutal, Art of Perfumery, Caron

Annick Goutal – Le Muguet

Le Muguet is a Limited Edition soliflore scent released by Annick Goutal in 2001. It is said that the company will reissue some of the other soliflores, but Le Muguet doesn’t seem to be included in the list, which is sad, because, along with Le Jasmin, it is my favorite in the series. I have read many reviews that note a harsh, almost carbide-like note in Le Muguet, so perhaps the scent wasn’t so popular as to warrant a reissue. On me, it is one of the most beautiful lily of the valley scents from beginning to finish, and yet I do see how it can possibly leave a sharply-chemical impression. The lily of the valley note here is so incredibly realistic and sumptuous, like sticking one’s head into the huge bouquet of freshly picked flowers, and the smell of real lily of the valley does in fact have that strange …metallic? gas-like? even almost garlic-like?...characteristic. As I said, I can sense a hint of that natural weirdness of muguet in Goutal’s rendition but it enhances my enjoyment of the scent rather than turns me off it. Lily of the valley perfumes in general are not ones that I would ever characterize as sweet. Having said that, Le Muguet, is perhaps one of the sweetest, I guess due to the fact that it also features a rose note. It is not a strong note, but it does make the typically virginal lilies of the valley exceptionally luscious. Honeyed, so very life-like, lilies of the valley are so appealing here, I could just…bite them.

Art of Perfumery – 3

Said to have been created to evoke “a feeling of serenity”, to be “a perfume refuge”, 3 is a little bit of a paradox in that it manages to be simultaneously clean and rather sweet. The clean aspect is achieved through the use of a prominent aquatic accord, and the sweetness is caused by the presence of melon and orange. Unlike Goutal’s rendition, which makes lily of the valley so real that one feels transported to a forest-glade all white with muguet and sees oneself lying among the flowers, intoxicated by their silvery smell, 3 is not nearly as realistic. Wearing 3 is akin to being in an elegant spa, with the lily of the valley candle burning somewhere in the distance. It is lovely and indeed serene, but rather tame and “sterile”, and not the kind of “refuge” I would ever choose.

Caron – Muguet de Bonheur

There was time when I used to dislike lily of the valley note in perfume, and during that misspent and misguided phase of my life I used to think that all lily of the valley scents smelled the same. How wrong can one be? Trying muguet fragrances side by side reveals an astonishing variety of very different renditions. Caron’s version, first released in 1952, is perhaps one of the most refined lilies of the valley…very ladylike, very proper, white gloves and lacy handkerchiefs, modesty and chastity. It is so dainty and innocent, it feels almost out of place in our rather graceless time…But an old-fashioned feel is not something I would ever resent in a fragrance, quite on the contrary, I think that Muguet de Bonheur’s wistful patina of old-worldliness is its most charming characteristic. Neither do I mind a distinct soapy undertone of the fragrance; I feel that it only adds to the maidenly charm of Muguet de Bonheur. What I don’t like about the scent is the abundance of heliotrope. Heliotrope and I are bitter enemies, and the doughy rascal of a note has spoiled many a scent for me. Objectively speaking, heliotrope is what makes the potentially sharp lily of the valley so delicate and soft here, and those who don’t mind the copious amounts of heliotrope and those who are usually wary of the high-pitched forcefulness of lily of the valley, should find Caron’s Muguet very delightful and very wearable.

Le Muguet seems to be available at, $59.99 for 1.7oz. 3 can be bought directly from Art of Perfumery, at, €59.00 for 1.7oz. 1oz of Muguet de Bonheur in Parfum is right now sold at for only $85.95, 1.7oz of Eau de Toilette costs $29.95, also at

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Coming up: Lily of the Valley Week

Did Winter, letting fall in vain regret
A tear among the tender leaves of May,
Embalm the tribute, lest she might forget,
In this elect, imperishable way?

Or did the virgin Spring sweet vigil keep
In the white radiance of the midnight hour,
And whisper to the unwondering ear of Sleep
Some shy desire that turned into flower?

Lily of the Valley by Charles G. D. Roberts.

I am honoring the passing May with the lily of the valley week. The scientific name of lily of the valley is Convallaria majalis; majalis or maialis means “that which belongs to May”, and the flowers are sometimes called May Lily and May Bells. The lily of the valley is said to signify the return of happiness, and happiness is what I wish to all of us. Have a great next week, everybody!

The photo is by Sateenkaarivaras, from

Friday, May 11, 2007

French Lover to be renamed

It is said that Frederic Malle's new scent, French Lover, will be renamed in the US into Bois d'Orage. Thank you, Judith, for the information! I know that I have been rather outspoken about not liking the name French Lover at first. But I have since changed my mind and now I am disappointed. "Bois Something" scents are dime a dozen. French Lover was original. So I am sorry to see it go.

There is a great thread on Basenotes, about the new name. I like the ideas the guys have much more than Bois d'Orage. For example, one poster says that, in the red states, the scent would be called Freedom Lover, while in the blue states it would be politically-correctly renamed into French Domestic Partner.

Perfume Review: CB I Hate Perfume Memory of Kindness

"What does a child truly remember?" asks Christopher Brosius. "A child remembers kindness." The kindest person I have ever known was my great-grandmother. When I was five-twelve years old, for various reasons my parents had to go away a lot, leaving me in her loving care. I always think of her as the best friend of my childhood. Always gentle, infinitely patient, she was the archetypal granny every child should have. She'd play with me for hours, she'd make up stories for me , she'd cook the most delicious things, she'd take me to parks and to our dacha (the country house). I mentioned that dacha so many times on this blog, by now you probably know it just as well as I do...and I feel that if we could be magically transported there right now, I would have been able to find my way through the vegetable and berry beds and flower bushes as easily as twenty years ago and could show you every marvelous corner of that wonderful place.

Memory of Kindness, Brosius' ode to the country house of his Aunt, is such a time machine of sorts. Some of CB I Hate Perfume scents touch me disturbingly deeply, on a subconscious, irrational level, and Memory of Kindness is one of those scents. It is not a complex fragrance, but its realistic quality is positively striking. It smells of tomato vines, a pungent, green smell that incorporates the poignant aroma of wet earth and a slight, savory fruitiness of tomatoes themselves. It is the scent of being small, of crouching among the tomato beds, of unhelpfully picking up the least ripe fruits, of stomping all over the vines, of getting dirty, being a nuisance and getting nothing but a smile and a praise in return. It evokes the memory of being washed and fed, of a tummy slightly grumpy about the amount of fruits, berries and vegetables it devoured, of napping in a house with curtains drawn against the sun, the house with its comforting smell of damp wood, drying herbs and ripe apples...Memory of Kindness is a scent of innocence, carelessness and absolute security - the feelings that are indications of a very happy childhood.

Had I not experienced that kind of love, that kind of kindness, I am not sure what would have happened to me later in life. What my great grandmother has given me, has become a foundation so far seemingly capable of withstanding all sorts of turmoils. Greatma has lived a difficult life, survived the war with three little daughteres, struggled a lot...Very humble, very retiring, she never complained, never judged. I don't think I have ever met or would ever meet a person of such profound goodness. She died seven years ago this May and I miss her every day.

Would I wear Memory of Kindness? Gosh no, I react to it so strongly, it is almost painful to wear it. But I love to sniff my sample and to feel immediately and inexplicably comforted.

Memory of Kindness is available at, $12.00-$60.00.

Image source,,

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Congratulations... the lovely and so very talented Victoria of Bois de Jasmin! Victoria has been appointed a coordinator for the New York Creative Center at IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances). Our Person at IFF! Hurray!

I Hate Mondays: A Tale of Air-Conditioning

Review by Tom

Ever have one of those weekends where you feel lazy as all get-out? Where you just don't want to do anything? Well, this past one was like that for me. It was uncommonly hot in Los Angeles for early May, with a high in the low 90's. I did laundry, washed the car, got a haircut, returned books to the library, did everything I could think of to avoid the baleful stare (okay, major hyperbole) of the new Tom Fords. Somehow I could not bring myself to try them in this heat. Joining them in making me feel like six different kinds of lazy putz are some Montales that Kelley kindly sent me that I need to try and a couple of l'Artisans. Somehow the idea of wearing anything heavier than Eau de Sud when the temps are this high and the humidity is less than zero is more than I can stand to think of. So now that it's Monday and I am planted in my office where it's about two degrees above freezing I will review something completely out of character: Sweets. Commes des Garcons Series 7: Sweet.

The (also heavily air-conditioned) MOCA gift shop stocks these, along with LuckyScent, which is good because in being handled (even in a locked case) the admittedly cute bottles had most of the names of the perfumes rubbed off. I was looking at Wo fee and St ake on them.

Sticky Cake
Opening like a sweeter, watered down Aomassai, with a little hint of Iris Taizo thrown in. Luckyscent writes "Sticky Cake is surprisingly light…don’t think big brown fruitcake of doom..". Oddly for me this is just too light: it's neither sticky or cakey enough for me, and has less of that CdeG weirdness that can be so interesting.

Burnt Sugar
I was afraid that this one, on which the only thing that was legible was Bu r, was going to be ghastly in the dreaded Blue Sugar way, since out of the bottle it was sweet, sweet, sweet. Luckyscent refers to it as "fluffy" and "creamy", but correctly notes that spices keep it from getting into toothache territory and jasmine makes it more creditably less cradle-robber. Not for me, but your mileage may vary.

Wood Coffee
Wood. Coffee. Vanilla.
Tennis Anyone?

Spicy Cocoa
Cocoa and spiced ginned up with bergamot. Really should not work but does, and very well. The spices are listed (via Luckyscent) as fennel, coriander, black pepper and "chilli". The initial cocoa-ness burns off quite quickly and I was left with the citrus and the spices, with only a whisper of the chocolate. By far the lightest of these on me.

Nomad Tea
Green tea scents are of course a dime a dozen and were quite the fad for a while, starting with Barneys Route du The in the 80's. I happen to like the note, especially when well played as it is here. Joined with just the perfect amount of mint and hay, this is not sweet at all on me. It has some of the bite of PG Querelle: as a matter of fact, all of these have a PG feel to them, as if they were cousins. If I was going to buy any of these five, this would be the one, hands down.

All of these are available at MOCA, where the very disinterested staff in the gift shop will unlock the case to let you smell them and then vaporise when you want to ask anything about them, like the price. No doubt to create performance art or streak their hair in new and interesting shades not usually found on mammals. Since the website for the MOCA gift shop does not have these online, I have to write that they are available at LuckyScent, where they are $90 each, as they would be happy to tell you if you stopped in.

Note: I am a longstanding member of MOCA, and they continually have wonderful shows in all three locations: Grand Avenue, Pacific Design Center and Little Tokyo. If you are in Los Angeles, they are well worth the visit. Both Gift Shops (Santa Monica and Grand Avenue) have a nice collection of fun stuff that is quite frankly available at a lot of other places, so the somewhat surly-to-non-existent customer service is fairly self defeating.

Image source,