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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Red, White & (Sacre)Bleu: 4 American Favorites for July 4

To honor the Independence Day, today we salute American perfumery. Tom and I decided to each list four favorite American fragrances, and we invite you to do the same. I was going to preface the list by attempting to characterize American perfumery as a whole. My idea was to draw a parallel with designer sportswear, which is said to be one of the biggest American contributions to fashion, and to argue that American fragrances are overall based on the same principles of modern practicality, versatility, casual wearability. Then I thought of American classics like Youth Dew, Cinnabar, and Obsession, and the ambitious foolishness of such sweeping statement became apparent to me. Undoubtedly there are many perfumes made in the States that would answer the description of "designer sportswear" (many Lauren, Klein, Lauder, Hilfiger scents do have that easy-to-wear, "democratic" feel about them). But there are many others that could not be farther from that mold, and with the increasing number of perfumes in general and niche or "niche within a luxe brand" lines in particular, it seems to be less and less possible to come up with any generalizations about American (or any other) perfumes. (In all honesty, I couldn't call DelRae's or Ford's creations, "sportswear".) So, without much further ado, here are our lists.

Marina's Four

Estee Lauder White Linen Breeze

An Ameircan scent that I have loved the longest. White Linen Breeze, with its clean, somewhat fruity feel, its aquatic undertone seems to be far removed from my usual tastes, and yet I have been wearing it for over a decade. It has a tender, airy, gently feminine feel that I adore. This is one perfume on my list, which, with its easy, breezy, beautiful casualness does perhaps fit the parameters of a "designer sportswear"-like scent.

Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis

I agonized choosing between Bois de Paradis and Amoureuse and finally decided on the former, simply because I discovered and fell in love with it first. Parfums DelRae collection is a successful merge of the American and the French, the latter being represented by the perfumer responsible for the scents, Michel Roudnitska, and to be very frank, as far as I am concerned, three out of four Delrae scents seem to me to be French more than American...although please don't ask me to rationalize this very irrational feeling. Bois de Paradis is a sensual, luscious, exquisitely harmonious woody-oriental, a blissful, dreamy, indeed paradisaical fragrance.

Tom Ford Black Orchid

Again I went back in forth, vacillating between Black Orchid and Velvet Gardenia, and again I made a decision based on the "it was here first" principle. Black Orchid seems to be a love or hate scent, with the hate group being perhaps the bigger of the two. For me, from the very first sniff, it was love. The darkly-sensual, earthy facets of the composition are very evident on my skin, making Black Orchid brooding, dare I say, carnal, and a little wicked, in other words- quite perfect.

Donna Karan Gold

One of the most recent American favorites of mine, Gold is a scent that contrasts the effervescent, intoxicating aroma of Casablanca lilies with the dark earthiness of patchouli. I could never resists a contrast done right, and the white-black, refined-barbaric are among my most beloved juxtapositions. I find Gold to be a remarkable scent, remarkable both for its unapologetic floral headiness and for its undeniable beauty.

Honorable mentions: Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia, DelRae Amoureuse and Debut, Bond No 9 West Side, CB I Hate Perfume Memory of Kindness and Black March, S-Perfume Sloth, Le Labo Ambrette 9, Normal Kamali Baby, Agraria Balsam and practically all Antonia's Flowers fragrances.

Tom's Four

When Colombina suggested this assignment for the holiday, I jumped at the chance. Then I kind of realized what I was jumping into: most of my fragrances are not American. When I think of American I think of the big houses like Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein: ones that put out serviceable if in my opinion not very interesting scents. This is of course leaving out worthy designers from Norell to Donna Karan who have come up with classics- but I weeded them out because some of those classics are hard to find or are things that although I like them I would personally not wear them. Since July 4th is nothing if a glutton's delight- more about wolfing down hamburgers and going to the beach then really thinking about our nations beginnings it seems churlish to write about things that one can't get. So my four favorites are available (inveterate snob though I am they are not available everywhere), as well as being ones that I wear regularly:

CB I Hate Perfume Musk

Chris Brosius is a genius in the old-fashioned sense of the word and his perfumes reflect that. They are actually far more than perfume: they border on some sort of performance art. Some of them are so personally transporting that I almost think the man has invaded my brain to mine the memories for them. For some of these creations, however, that quality actually (for me anyway) actually detracts from their wearability. CB Musk I was almost afraid of, since it was described as being almost the olfactory equivalent of a prison gang-bang. Leave it to me and my de-skank-o-tron skin to turn this into a purring kitten of a scent: slightly fruity and absolutely divine. I wear it on its own of course, but it also adds depth to so many other scents: Smoky leathers like Kolnisch Juchten are warmed by it while light scents like Eau d'Hadrien are made slyly dirtier. A true gem and I hope that he never stops making it.

Le Labo Patchouli 24

In the comments for my review of this Lily wrote. "The guys in the store told me that it has 'big shoulders' and that I must have 'character' to wear it". As time has gone on from my initial impression I detect more of the patchouli that I had previously as well as a bit more of the vanilla that Colombina wrote of- none of which detracts from the bewitching smoky leatheriness of this scent. I wore it for three days straight when I first got the sample from their site and promptly begged a friend to drop by their store when she was in New York. Luckily, this one is both one of the less pricey ones they have as well as being one that they will actually sell to you without having to make a personal appearance. Also luckily, Le Labo seems to be opening more stores. Unluckily, they have not opened one where I live. Yet.

Tom Ford Moss Breches

I was pretty skeptical about the release of a huge collection of new scents, especially (forgive me, Tom) from someone who isn't, say, Chris Sheldrake. While I did have to admit that they were and are very nice, really the only on that was a knock-it-out-of-the-park for me was Moss Breches: it's combination of earthy green vetiver and rooty patchouli have quickly shot this one form "Should I" to "how long do I have to live on Ramen to get it?" Certainly one of the best of the most interesting set of new releases by a mainstream American designer, well, ever.

And finally a blast from the past:

Barneys Route du The

Waaaay back in 1986 Barneys introduced this summer classic- a green tea that is light enough to be worn in the ghastly heat of a New York summer, but with interesting depth to it. Some complain that it's bitter: I find its sharpness as wonderfully refreshing today as it was when I first wore it 20 years ago. The slightly bitter dusky green tea is nicely supplanted by light amber and citrus. It's like a snapshot of New York City: slightly brash, not too accessible, ever so slightly in-your-face. I hope Barneys never stops selling it.

What are your American favorites? Please, share! Perfume-Smellin' Things is going to be on a two-day break on July 4th and 5th, but will be back for business as usual on Friday, July 6.


Blogger lilybp said...

Wonderful idea and wonderful mini-reviews! I promise I thought of mine BEFORE I saw Tom's:

Tom Ford Moss Breches
Le Labo Patchouli
CB Cradle of Light
Donna Karan Chaos (so it's discontinued. SO WHAT)!

11:41 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've made me realize I need to try more American fragrances. Among my favorites (more than four):

Antonia's Flowers Tiempe Passate
Estee Lauder Youth Dew Amber Nude
Parfums DelRae Eau Illuminee
CB In the Library & Russian Caravan Tea
Sonoma Scent Studio Jour Ensoleille

I'm sure I'd have more if I tried more. Happy Fourth!

12:53 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Well, since I am on Pacific time, i'll opportune and start the responses:

Judith- we agree on all four; Chaos was one of the DK ones that would have made it if you could still get it and Cof L is absolutely stunning, but not me. We could have such fun sniffing together!

1:32 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Great list- I am thinking that we could have gone to ten scents at least. Go USA!

1:35 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always loved the original Norell fragrance, I thought it was very elegant. Too bad it seems to be gone now, as is the original Anne Klein fragrance, a nice sharp green sporty scent. I rather like Narciso Rodriguez for Her but not to wear myself, just to sniff. I am also looking forward to trying the new Estee Lauder Private collection Tuberose Gardenia.

On the men's side I have always liked Geoffrey Beene's Grey Flannel. Most of the men's scents I like are not American, unfortunately. That would probably change if I had the chance to try CB I Hate Perfume or some other niche lines I can't get here.

I wish I could say I liked the Bond fragrances, but they don't have them in my neck of the woods so I have never tried any of them. They all sound fabulous.

2:18 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Forth of July! Enjoy your break, celebrating the birth of a great country, where men and women are free to spritz whatever they want ;-)

2:41 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad I can read something about DelRae perfumes from you (so my order of their sample collection is justified...).
And happy 4th of July !

3:33 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Four? Just four? OK, I'm not going to mention CB Musk because Tom already has and Judith has already mentioned Cradle of Light, but those would have been w/out doubt on my list. You've mentioned Bois de Paradis and saved me from having to agonize over how to make that one fit in as well. I'll go w/ the one you left out, Amoureuse, and add Yosh's White Flowers, Yosh's La Contessa and NK Incense. Whispers about CB Violet Empire, Yosh's Ginger Ciao, DK Chaos, NK NK....

6:59 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Tom--Absoultely--I definitely could have put CB Musk on my list (sadly, I have never tried Route de The). I know will make it out there sometime; let me know if you are ever in Boston (or even NY--I think we all should meet in NY, now that M. is closer)!

Happy 4th!

7:21 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Lily and Tom,
Your lists are incredibly similar! :-) Can I come sniffing with you *whines*

8:03 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Great list. CB I Hate Perfume is very popular, isn't it. And we both have a fave EL scent!

8:05 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

The discontinuation of Chaos is one of those things that make me wonder if the brands really know what they are doing. And now Dzing. Mind boggles.

8:06 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I like Grey Flannel very much too. It reminds me both of the original Violete Precieuse and MPG's wonderful Iris Bleu Gris.

8:07 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! I would rephrase your statement though: "where men and women have SO FAR been free to spritz whatever they want" just never know where the extreme political correctness will take us in the future.

8:08 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Your purchase of DelRae's samples is totally justified. Those ae wonderful scents. I would like to hear what you think about them.

8:09 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Great list!
So I am loving Montale now. Will the day come when I will love Yosh? ..and Ormonde Jayne? *sigh*

8:10 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no idea Le Labo was an American company! (I thought it was Italian.)

My list is:

DK Black Cashmere
Bond West Side be honest, I can't think of any more American scents that I like. I like Le Labo Jasmin but don't wear it, so I don't feel I can include that in my list.

As a side note, Dzing is discontinued???? Lord have mercy, what am I going to do??

8:12 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Only 50ml bottles for now, then they will start phasing out the 100mls too. It's the end of the world as you and me know it :-(

8:31 AM EDT  
Blogger donanicola said...

Hello and Happy 4th of July! Great idea Marina and Tom and I thanks for the reviews. It really made me think hard....ok, I love White Linen too (although the original which is different from the Breeze, right?) and whilst we're on EL - Azzuree - again the leathery original. And DK BC and Gold. Thanks to Lady Jane Grey for mentioning the DelRae samples - *scurries off to investigate*. and btw, when I went to my local L'AP last night the lovely SA said that he didn't think they were discontinuing Dzing, totally (just the 50mls) because he was getting some re packaged 100ml bottles. I hope he wasn't just letting me down gently....

9:29 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

DK has such a great fragrance collection, doesn't she (I am not taking into account any Be Delicious scents :-)).
I too hope the SA was not letting you down gently. My poor Dzing! :-(

9:44 AM EDT  
Blogger Kelley said...

This is tragic! I can't think of any. Maybe Escada? No, that can't be right...Escada is an Italian company isn't it? OK, I know I have at least one bottle of Aramis somewhere. Yep, I really liked Aramis Cool, and Surface, years ago. I just can't bring myself to spritz them on my skin anymore! I am a total snob. OOops, I better move to France.

10:07 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Living in exile in France...that would be just...not terrible at all :-)

10:09 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Norell was gorgeous, but where do you find it these days?

When it came out I thought that Grey Flannel was awful, but that was back in the day- I'll have to give it another try.

11:24 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I'll second what Columbina wrote- we're free to spritz until the PC police put a stop to it- as I believe they do in Marin county...

11:28 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I have never tried DelRae- I will have to rectify that oversight

11:29 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


we definitely could have gone to ten..

11:29 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


there is a very good chance I will be in New York sometime soon...

11:30 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I have that they are discontinuing Dzing, if it's true.. I hope not.

11:32 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Let's hope he's right!

I second the DK tributes (and am ignoring certain "delicious" ones)

11:35 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Kelley- can I come to France too?

11:36 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Flora:

How nice to find another admirer of the original Anne Klein fragrance. I hadn't thought of that in years, but you're right, it's a perfect American woman's scent. As is Norell. Neither screamed American GIRL, but both confidently stated American WOMAN.

Nice choices for reviews...both of you. Americans do have a unique character. We're renowned for our good health, relaxes attitude, and a certain directness in our conversation, but that doesn't take away from our need for and appreciation of complex, sophisticated fragrances. It's nice to know that we're making such fragrances on our home turf. :)

12:18 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seeing as I have never recognised the Declaration of Independence, I will now claim ALL of these perfumes as British.

I thank you all.

1:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

You definitely are making them :-)

1:58 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

That reminded me of my favorite Jack Dee least I think it is Jack Dee's...he is talking about old hardcover UK passports and how they proud they made him feel. "Purpose of your visit?" - "Imperialism!". :-)

2:01 PM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

For someone who was actually born in North America, I'm pitifully non-American in my tastes. But then, I live in Paris, nyah-ha-ha... I love the Estée Lauders because they bring back so many memories, but Azurée is all I've got to show in my collection. Private Collection will be joining it some time. Never sampled any of the new lines, except the DelRae which I find quite strongly dosed (that honey drydown in Amoureuse does me in)... So I'll be waiting for the 14 juillet and vive la France!

2:32 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Then you'll probably like the post I am preparing for...haven't decided, Friday or Monday. And you will most probably have a lot to add to it! :-)

2:38 PM EDT  
Blogger Gaia said...

I share the love of Black Orchid and White Linen (though I think I prefer the original, which I haven't worn in years). My list also includes the original Tiffany, Bond's New Haarlem and DK's Black Cashmere (because Chaos is no more).
Happy 4th!

3:48 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

The Non-Blonde,
...and that makes 2 of us in the whole world, re: Black Orchid :-)

3:49 PM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

Great lists, both of you!

Not the greatest American perfume by any means (not even close), but CK One for some reason strikes me as the quintessential modern American scent. Young, democratic, straightforward, casual, clean.

3:53 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I absolutely agree. It totally is the quintessential modern American scent.

4:07 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am all over Tom's four, love them!!!

CB Cradle of Light
Le Labo Aldehyde 44
Bond Chinatown
Tom Ford Amber ABsolute

5:44 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But not mine? Hrmph!


5:48 PM EDT  
Blogger Maura said...

How fun and giving me some great ideas on what to wear too! Can you guess what Perfume House I love?

Le Labo Jasmin 17
Le Labo Rose 31
Le Labo Ambrette 9
Le Labo Labdanum 18

I am excited though as I have samples of the Amoueuse and Eau Illuminee coming! I also love many Bonds but not more than LLs. Happy 4th!

7:30 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I get a feeling you might like Le Labo a little bit :-)

7:47 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sounds like Jack Dee, M. Delightful deadpan delivery too!

8:18 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Mr C adores him. :-) We miss Have I Got News For You. Oh, and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. :-)

10:12 AM EDT  
Blogger StyleSpy said...

Happy Fourth, everyone! I'm vacillating among three American favorites: Le Labo Aldehyde 44, Amoureuse (which I think I might save & wear to the Bastille Day celebration I'm attending in a little bit of stealth cross-cultural exchange) and my beloved and too-often-forgotten Halston. Ooooh, I just can't decide...

12:06 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Great choices! Happy 4th!

12:40 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Well, I haven't forgotten Halston- It's a true shame that these are so hard to find. His mens scents were divine too..

11:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marina and Tom,

I.... have no American favorites. :-((

Oh, wait... I like Apothia IF.

I guess I have something to contribute after all!

PS, Kelly and Tom, can I come to France with you?

3:31 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

well there you go, you have at least 1 :-)

3:32 PM EDT  

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