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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Second Act: Roses For A Diva

By Donna

(Donna joins Perfume-Smellin' Things as a regular contributor, look for her posts on Tuesdays. For more of Donna's articles, please visit Aromascope)

Thanks to March over at Perfume Posse, I now have a generous sample of the “new” (2004) fragrance by Inès de la Fressange. My previous review on Aromascope was for the very nice 1999 release, and I had been unable to find the one that came in the gold bottle with the oak leaf overlay. I can now report my findings on this elusive scent. When looking for one of them, you are likely to find the other, since the names are so similar. Hello, Earth to Marketing Department, Mayday, Mayday! We have brand confusion, incoming!

Despite my difficulty in ferreting out this one, there was no confusion at all when I tried it on – it is very different, sweet and rosy and not at all spicy. The 1999 perfume has a hefty dose of carnation to keep it a little bit sharp. The only sharpness in the newer one is right at the beginning when there is a little puff of bergamot, mandarin, a little blackberry and some peony. Then the rose comes along very quickly. At first it is a standard, one might say classic, iteration of a rose, which to my nose resembles that of Paris de Yves St. Laurent, which is a very good thing. However, it quickly turned very sweet and jammy on me. In fact, it smelled very much like the rose petal syrup that I sometimes make in high summer. I do not mark it down for that at all – I am all about the jam, and it can be as sticky as it wants to be as long as it still smells like real flowers and/or fruit and does not go all artificial and cloying. This does not. It becomes virtual haze of rose and berries, sweet yet very natural smelling, but there is nothing to anchor it. There is no wood to speak of in this. The base has patchouli and vetiver but I cannot detect either. Once the heart notes are revealed they do not really deepen at all, but they are very pleasing.

This fragrance is attributed to Alberto Morillas, and I sense his light touch in this. I do detect his signature “watery” transparent notes, and some iris, but no metallic ozone notes or fake “aquatics” as are so common in mass-market fruity-florals. I was afraid it would turn into CK One on me there for a minute, but then something nice happened – the water notes all went away and a warm, comforting rose and musk scent remained, close to my skin and long-lasting. I did not expect it to last very long after realizing it has so little in the way of base notes, but the rose settled in and stayed for good. I was sniffing my arm for hours afterward. I would say it took about two hours from the first application to reaching this final stage, and it was worth the wait.

This is a prime candidate for layering with a wood, leather or incense fragrance. I will experiment just a bit with it. To keep it at the same level as it is but add some bottom, I will try with Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia. The myrrh and cardamom in that will add some punch. To add just a bit of leather and “dirt” but still keep things more or less civilized, I will pair it up with Balmain Jolie Madame. And when I want to knock some socks off, and NOT at the office, it will be layered with Tauer Perfumes Lonestar Memories.

First up – I wore it to work paired with Vintage Gardenia. It worked perfectly. The incense really gave the rose something to stand on, and it lasted nicely all day. Since both fragrances are light formulations, it never got too sweet, and the gardenia is so sheer that it never overpowered the mix. I will do that again.

Next, a bolder approach: It’s time for the Jolie Madame test. I thought this might work since it is a fragrance with very little sweetness, and the flowers in it are unrelated to those in Inès. When I first combined these two I thought I had made a big mistake, but soon something clicked and it smelled just lovely, very balanced. The rosiness of Inès softened the severity of JM and the end result was a very classy aroma, the kind of scent one would expect to smell on a lady in a suit and pearls. Maybe it’s just my own skin, but this combination was really a success. It may also be because the JM I have is the EDT and therefore is relatively light. I plan to try layering with other fragrances more often due to this little experiment.

Finally, I got up the nerve to try the Inès with Lonestar Memories, which is an EDP. If Hermès Ambre Narguile is “The Nazgûl” to those who can’t stand it, then Lonestar Memories is “The Balrog” – darkly billowing with smoke, tar and pitch, it takes no prisoners. It is a love it or hate it scent, as far from a floral as I have ever experienced, and there is no middle ground. I love it, though it’s not one I could wear very much in my daily life – but I do need to take it out and smell it quite frequently. Anyway, I put that on first and then blitzed my arm generously with Inès. At first, I noticed no difference – The Balrog had utterly devoured the tender roses and fruits and was gnashing its teeth for more. It was as though I had not even put the other one on at all. Oh well, I thought, some experiments are just that – they don’t work. But wait – after about 30 minutes, the beast had been tamed, at least a little, and though the result could not be called rosy, it had mellowed into a glowing hearth fire with spicy holiday overtones. A little bit of rose peeked through later, but the main effect was the minimizing of the tarry notes and the slight sweetening of the smoke to the point where it was actually a comforting smell. I had not really expected this to work at all so it was a pleasant surprise. The Balrog had become The Malrog. (Full disclosures: 1. I am a big Lord of the Rings fan. 2. The Malrog is a geek humor classic resulting from an Internet contest to fashion an image of the monster out of marshmallows. This particular one was only in third place but it’s my favorite. 3. I am too old to find this sort of thing hysterically funny, but I do anyway.)

Final verdict: this is a very feminine and civilized perfume, nicer than 90% of other celebrity scents, if indeed it can be called one since its namesake is not all that famous over here across the pond anymore. (I suspect that is what happened with the 1999 scent as well – Americans have a short attention span for fame in most cases.) I wanted to see if I could turn this lady into a bad girl, and to a certain degree I succeeded. It is lovely on its own, and quite on a par with the first one – very good though not great, and nothing I would be ashamed to wear. I can see why it was lost in the shuffle when it was released, but again, it is better than many others that sell big on their names alone. The real Inès may not be a big star in the public eye anymore, but she always will be one to me.

Per, the notes for this fragrance are as follows:

Top notes: Mandarin, Orange, Neroli, Bergamot, Blackberry

Heart notes: Lily-Of-The-Valley, White Rose, Peony, Iris

Base Notes: Patchouli, Benzoin, White Musks, Vetiver

Image Credit: Rose Petal Conserve from Grasse, France from


Blogger tmp00 said...

Wonderful review!

And welcome to PST!

10:14 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tom! I hope I can live up to the standard that you and Marina have set. :-D

1:12 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Hey, great review! I think that was an excellent assessment of the new one (I haven't smelled your version, and spicy carnation sounds very appealing.) As I told you earlier, I bought it unsniffed for the oakleaf bottle and b/c I love Ines. It's not so sweet on me but very berry-rose and your description is perfect. I do like a scent with more "bottom" (although Ines lasts a looong time on me) and I think it layers perfectly with Passage d'Enfer.

8:04 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Wonderful review! I think it sounds too light for me, but the layering experiments (esp. the Malrog:) sound great! PdE sounds like a good idea, too!

8:31 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a coincidence, yesterday my friend and I were chatting about rose syrup that she's been drinking in UK. I love all kinds of roses, and jammy ones too, of course :). looking forward to more of your reviews!

8:52 AM EDT  
Blogger donanicola said...

Very much enjoyed your review, Donna, thanks. I think I might prefer the original Ines as I like my roses a little spicy. However your layering experiments are an inspiration.

9:38 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Love the review and especially love you know which references.
Signed, Your Fellow LOTR geek :-)

10:59 AM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

That was a hoot, and I am always so tempted by the rose jam notion... I've never worn a lot of rose but the partner has JUST discovered that he likes them (in their faint incarnation in Nivea hand cream), so perhaps I will acquire something rosy.

Is Lonestar Memories really that fierce? I am tempted to get a sample just for that hot tar.

I'm every kind of geek, but I missed the Malrog... thanks for a mental image I won't be able to unsee. =)

12:04 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful review! You make me want to find a sample of this so I can try it with the Jo Malone and Jolie Madame. And no worries...I too am a LOTR geek. ;-) Your posts are always so informative, I'm glad you'll be a regular now!

12:23 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Donna, welcome. Very interesting review, and I admire your dedication in experimenting. You and I have such different experiences with Lonestar Memories! On me it's a smooth leather with no Balrog qualities whatsoever. It' more like Aragorn's saddle after a night of telling tales by the campfire--in Texas. Believe it or not, it's an EDT.

2:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Entertaining review! Did you decide to pursue the fancy gold/oak leaf bottle?

BTW, another LOTR fan here -- and I thought The Malrog was a hoot!

5:13 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone for welcoming me on board PST, I am very honored to be here.

marchlion & judith, Passage d'Enfer with this is a great idea! It is so ethereal yet non-floral, a great match for layering with something sweet.

tina, I love that stuff! Rose syrup, rose jam, it's all good. :-)

donanicola, thank you, I think I like the earlier one too, if I had to choose.

Marina, ducks, greeneyes, suzanne -so many of us LOTR geeks here, who knew? :-D

Yes ducks, it's that fierce, at least on me, but in a GOOD way. And I know about that mental image - I giggle every time. ;-)

maria b. you are absolutely right, The Balrog Is an EDT, I can hardly believe it, I am stupefied. If this came in an EDP or even a Parfum that would be awesome - but not for the faint of heart! I am quite loving the Aragorn's saddle idea however, I will think about that now. A lot. :-D

suzanne, now that I have tried it, I like it a lot, but not enough for a full bottle after all - but I will still keep buying the older 1999 release Ines perfume as long as it's available. Carnations, bergamot, and peach, with a touch of rose, fresh and pretty, it's become a summer standby.

And now, for those who are curious, here are the rest of The Malrog contest entries. Enjoy!

9:48 PM EDT  

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