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Wednesday, October 31, 2007


By Beth

As I went out walking this fall afternoon,
I heard a whisper whispering.
I heard a whisper whispering,
Upon this fine fall day...

As I went out walking this fall afternoon,
I heard a laugh a'laughing.
I heard a laugh a'laughing,
Upon this fine fall day...

I heard this whisper and I wondered,
I heard this laugh and then I knew.
The time is getting near my friends,
The time that I hold dear my friends,
The veil is getting thin my friends,
And strange things will pass through.
(Author unknown)

Will you follow me? Its Halloween and I thought that maybe, just maybe you would be in the mood for a ghost story but first we have somewhere that we need to be. Yes, I know that the woods are dark, but isn’t the smell intoxicating this time of year? The leaves are wet and seductively sour, sweet ripe apples are still hanging on the cool bare branches and the musky scent of deer lingers all around in the still night forest . We have come here the other way, through the woods instead of the churchyard, the old way…….the way that she came.

Just be careful where you step for the wrought iron fence that surrounds this family plot is broken in places and terribly low. I know that you are wondering why I’ve brought you to this place that smells of old grave dirt, wood smoke and limestone. I know that it’s scary because the soundless dead that lay here are so very different from you. In this place I can practically hear the blood and adrenaline pounding through your veins. I can’t tell this story anywhere else though for this is where she finally, peacefully lays. It is the story of fragrance as it passes through the veil.

I used to live in a very old house built in1848 and we actually had to perform an exorcism (I hate that word, it’s not truly appropriate) on a woman who died in childbirth , whose spirit was trapped in our upstairs back bedroom. She died alone and without her husband who had gone off to fight in the civil war. Her name was Lucy Smith. She presented herself to me when I was upstairs one night nursing our son Alex, whom she loved very much. I was rocking him in our chair and was surprised to hear a very slight breathing accompanied by soft moans that became more labored over time and would fall away only to be repeated over and again. As I screamed for my husband the hair began to stand up on the nape of my neck and my breast milk ran dry. We searched the room for a draft, anyplace or anything that could be making such sounds. It was the most tragic sound that I have ever heard. It was the sound of a young woman giving birth and dying at the same time. After that night I always knew when she was around because of the fragrant smell of spring violets tinged with blood that accompanied her even in the dead of winter.

She used to open the door that was dead bolted from the inside on the first warm day of spring. She loved our rocking chair and we would find it moving in the still of night and then hear her soft footsteps as she went back up the stairs. It was that icy moment just before winter turns to spring when we were working to help her break her bonds to this plane. I would bring her vases of fresh pussy willows and snowdrops that grew around the house because she loved our/ her farm so much. Through the relationship we established a very deep love grew. As strange as it sounds, she began to trust us and we her. Finally one evening she shared her whole story and that was when we saw the blood that we had smelled so often. She was a beautiful woman with long dark hair and deeply in love with her husband. She led us with happy visions through her wedding day that took place in the barn that we owned, shared with us the scent of dancing leather boots and her wedding supper. Sadly the last image she shared was the moment of her death as we saw her lying in her own blood, sobbing and holding the lifeless body of her dead child who is buried with her here. She was 38 years old when she died.

Several more days passed and one morning I went upstairs and felt her presence all around me. I knew then that soon she would be able to go. At that moment I heard her voice as soft as the wind telling me that she loved us, thanking us, that she was grateful. I felt myself being held by her, a sensation that I will always remember. I will never forget the smell outside of the window after she left.

It was of nectar, a honeyed presence that speaks to the presence of the divine and it lingered throughout the morning. There was still snow on the ground and I cried all day, more alone then I had ever felt in my life.

Lucy was an amazing woman and even after she was gone she would come back when Alex was sick and help me care for him, she loved him so much. One night when he had been ill for three very long and sleepless nights, I went upstairs to his room, pulled him out of his crib and brought him downstairs to rock him as he choked and coughed. When at last I took him back up to his crib I removed the beautifully folded blanket from the edge of the crib and placed him back into it. He fell quietly, instantly asleep. I went back downstairs to thank Jim for straightening up the room and he looked at me quite queerly. My husband hadn’t left our bed the entire time. Alex didn’t let go of the blanket for 4 days and he still remembers her. My son has been in danger’s path several times and known immediately and without question to run because of the voice that he still hears. I am sure that it is hers.

After she left, I went to the library and the historical society to see what I could learn about her. There were diagrams of the old McBride family cemetery where we now sit and I found her in those old crumbling papers , buried with her stillborn son. I took Alex and Moon, our Rottweiler for a walk the next day. After walking through the churchyard cemetery, I went through the woods and found the old family burial ground. As soon as we moved past the rusted gates my dog released her scent glands, a rank perfume of terror that I had never smelled before. When we got back to the old broken tombstones she started to pull me out of there. I stopped her long enough to read the headstone she was bolting from. It was Lucy’s.

This is a true story and indeed a very sad story, made lighter only by the fact that she did eventually become free. It was interesting , when I was thinking about what I could share with you tonight I smelled the faintest odor of violets and heard her softness. ..”Speak…… of me.” There was more it seemed that she wanted me to know.

Lucy was wonderful, although at the point when she was trying to reach out to us for help she was terrifying. It broke my heart when I realized how many families had lived in the house with her right there under their noses and she had struggled so hard to let them know of her presence without any success. I didn’t blame her for finally resorting to some very ghostly tactics to get my attention. I treasured my time with her.

Eerily, there was one more voice in our house……a young boy who came and went with frequency. He wasn’t trapped like she was and there was always the strangest smell of frogs, oats and brackish water that accompanied him, along with the fragrance of blackberries which coincidentally grew in abundance all around our farm with the juiciest ones always flourishing by the pond . He loved to run and skip around our halls. When I began to think about the telling of her story I came back to this place and went once again through the old records. I wanted to find him again , I needed to know who he was. Look to the right of her grave, over there where the two tiny headstones sit. He is there with her now, her young son James.

I had always wondered what bound Lucy to this world, why she took such good care of my child. I am sure that she did the same for everyone who grew up in her house, for those who never even knew. She was a beautiful and generous spirit, in life she must have been an extraordinary mother. Her son James died one year after she did……she must have been distraught to leave him, he must have died from the heart break of living without her and the bitter uncertainty of his father gone off to war. I never knew why the story seemed to still haunt me. It was unfinished and I am glad to know now.

Tonight I have come with a bouquet of sunflowers for her , carved pumpkins and candy for her children…..I always wear a simple Penhaligon perfume of violets on Halloween, strange and unearthly in the autumn air to honor her.

Lucy, if you can hear me still, know forever that I am grateful for it all.

Happy Samhain to all,
On this night we remember……….

Happy Halloween!

Image courtesy of Hermes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Love, Hate & Revulsion: My Perfume Hall Of Shame

By Donna

“…Can't look it in the eyes
Seconal, Spanish fly, absinthe, kerosene
Cherry-flavored neck and collar
I can smell the sorrow on your breath
The sweat, the victory and sorrow
The smell of fear, I got it

I'll take you over, there
I'll take you over, there
Aluminum, tastes like fear
Adrenaline, it pulls us near…”

(Excerpt from “E-Bow The Letter” by R.E.M)

I discovered that I was a little different at a very young age. My sense of smell was very sharp and I was extremely sensitive to unpleasant odors. Olfactory acuity is definitely a double-edged sword; as much pleasure as I get out of flowers, perfume and other wonderful aromas, so do I experience an equally intense revulsion when faced with something that smells bad. I don’t need to elaborate on what qualifies as bad; we all know that the modern world is filled with obnoxious smells both natural and man-made. I always felt assaulted by this in a way that most people I knew did not, especially since most children have little choice as to what their surroundings are. When I grew out of childhood and I could control my own environment at last, both gardening and fine perfume became my refuges from the world at large.

Even in the world of fragrances, my haven in a harsh modern life, there are a few that stand out as something to be avoided. There are many perfumes I can admire for their qualities but that I would never consider wearing, in addition to the ones I really love. Guerlain Shalimar is in this class – I simply cannot wear it or even “get” it, but I can understand why many people love it. Other fragrances are merely strange and perhaps unwearable for me but as long as I do not get up close and personal with them we can coexist just fine. In this category I would place Montale Chocolate Greedy – the only Montale of those I have experienced so far that is so weird that it’s off-putting and just plain odd – there is something in it other than the chocolate that just does not play well with others, and the cognitive dissonance I get when I smell it is truly jarring. However, I do acknowledge its high quality formulation, and that others feel very differently about it, which saves it from my final category.

That would be the Evil Ones, the few that affect me the same way as a bad odor from a factory or garbage dump – I simply must get as far away from them as I can, as quickly as possible. Mercifully there are relatively few of these in the many scents available today, and most of them are cheap mass-market scents that I can avoid without too much trouble. (It’s easy to walk by the “smell-alike” section in the drugstore, knowing in advance how bad these imitations are. Nor do I pay attention to current celebrity releases from barely legal pop stars, knowing in advance that they are all pretty much the same.) Now I know that many people like these fragrances, and this is just how they affect me personally. (I will, however, go so far as to say that none of the fragrances in my Hall of Shame are universally loved.)

Unfortunately, some of these offenders are very popular, or have been so in the past. My current Nemesis is Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue – perhaps it is not as bad as some others, but it is indeed ubiquitous – I cannot go to any department store without someone urging me to try it on, and the small of it hangs in the air near the perfume counter. This scent epitomizes all that I despise about modern synthetics – it is very sharp to my nose, and almost unbearably ozonic/metallic – I get a headache just thinking about it. It seems to be popular due to its “freshness” which for me translates into something like bug spray combined with the smell of an oxidized tin can.

On the opposite end of the scent spectrum from Light Blue is the equally omnipresent Aquolina Pink Sugar, a smothering mess of sweetness unrelieved by any lightness – an airless confection that smells like the inside of a cotton candy machine a cheap carnival. The name seems to indicate that this is the exact effect they were going for, in fact. I have tried this one several times just to be sure that it’s as bad as I first thought. It is.

Now let’s travel back in time a few years. Do you remember Uninhibited by Cher? If you do, please accept my condolences. This heavy perfume had an overdose of something indolic that made it smell like supercharged Johnson’s Baby Oil™ to me. It was a bestseller for a while as one of the earliest celebrity scents, and also helped to give that category of perfumes a bad name. Ditto for Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds. This clinging, oppressive synthetic floral concoction makes me feel like I have been locked in a funeral parlor with no way out. Why it is still popular is one of life’s enduring mysteries. My younger sister hates it so much she can’t even endure scent strips of it in magazines or mailers – they have to be thrown in the trash and put outside so she can breathe freely again. My own distaste is not far behind hers.

We all recall Giorgio Beverly Hills fondly – NOT! This knockout punch of a “fragrance” is probably responsible for more workplace perfume bans than any other. Its overwhelmingly loud chemical notes were scary enough, and when its high popularity in the Eighties is factored in, this one easily makes the Hall of Shame list. Right next to it stands Dior Poison – I have never quite forgiven Dior for this beast, overshadowing my beloved Diorissimo in sales at the height of its infamy and scenting elevators and offices everywhere with the odor of morning-after excess, head shop incense and stale toasted nuts.

Now let us revisit, if we may, the one I find most offensive of all, Christian Lacroix C’est La Vie. This 1990 abomination was also a product of the unfortunate Eighties vibe of “more is more” and was one of the worst perfumes that ever had a top designer’s name attached to it. (For the record, I also hated Lacroix’s fashions– no one excelled at turned the world’s most luxurious fabrics into the world’s most hideous clothing as well as he did. That’s another rant altogether.) The perfume was ponderously heavy and stiflingly animalic – it had an unctuous, oily smell from an overabundance of cheap musk that made my skin crawl, and it was overlaid with a sickly sweetness. Classed as a “fruity Oriental,” it is thankfully discontinued. One of the reasons this one was so bad for me is the high expectation of quality inherent in a perfume with such a prestigious label, as Christian Lacroix was at the very height of his fame in the fashion world at the time of its release. I am not alone in my dislike of this – I seem to recall that Luca Turin compared it to the odor of a bus station men’s room; though I cannot find the archived article, I do remember feeling vindicated by his opinion. I imagine that eau de urinal cake is not what most people would want to smell like.

In closing, I would like to say that in the huge variety of perfumes out there, I can find something to like about almost all of them. Like Grenouille in the novel and film “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”, it is scent itself that fascinates me, and it does not necessarily have to be “pretty” to do so, though I have no immediate plans to commit perfume-related crimes in pursuit of my avocation. I love many “earthy” natural aromas and I even enjoy some industrial essences that have very little to do with being aesthetically pleasing. What disturbs me is when I am asked to pay good money for something that smells cheap or offensive because some marketing “genius” thinks I should. When the sensationalism fades, there had better be something real behind the hype. The top perfume villains and their creators break faith with those who want quality in their lives. Let us be extra grateful for the good ones, those fragrances that make us feel lucky to have skin to put them on and noses with which to enjoy them.

Image credit: Painting titled “C’est La Vie”, unrelated to the perfume but somehow depicting exactly how I feel about it: from online gallery

Monday, October 29, 2007

In Which I Am Feeling Goth

It happens once in a while - and it happens especially often in autumn, when the weather finally turns chilly and weepy, and it becomes blindingly obvious that summer is indeed over despite irrational hopes to the contrary - that I turn the proverbial street corner and the feeling of absurdity strikes me in the face. Or, to use plain language, that out of nowhere, for no particularly rational reason, I feel dispirited, desolate, alone in the world... When it does seem quite true that "every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance" (Sartre) and that "life is dark, life is sad, all is not well, and most people you meet will try to hurt you." (Voltaire) I call times like that my Goth days. The allegedly dramatic Russian blood might be to blame here, but on days like that I do tend to wallow in my misery. On an aggressively melancholy day like today, a typical comfort scent just wouldn't do. The very idea of wearing a comfy fluffernutter like White Aoud or Barbara Bui or Stoned or a smugly tranquil aroma like Miyako or Bois d'Argent or Eau Noire seems offensive. I feel tragic and I will not be comforted, darn it! On moments like these, I need a scent that doesn't attempt to hearten or soothe me but which will mirror my mood and be as somber and sulky as I am. The following are my Goth Perfumes.

The one fragrance to which I most often turn during the dark times of the soul is my Goth Perfume Extraordinaire, Messe de Minuit. To use one of my favorite Douglas Adams quotations, Messe de Minuit's capacity for happiness, "you could fit into a matchbox without taking out the matches first"... and I love that.

Bvlgari Black is always up for a bit of wallowing. Fluffy as it as (and as I said, fluffy is a no-no during Goth Days), its rubbery leather has the dark moodiness about it that is just perfect when one is feeling low. Wearing it is like being hugged by someone who loves you very much but who won't tell you the clichés about how everything passes and how time heals ...because he too knows that it doesn't.

The Montale line offers a practically limitless choice of scents for Goth mood. White Aoud is a little too snuggly to be a wallowing companion, but most of other aouds suit my tenebrous mood to a t. The stormy depths of Black Oud, the sepulchral incense of Aoud Damascus or the forceful, dark sensuality of the leather note in Royal Oud, which I call Farenheit on Steroids, makes them perfect to wear with an all-black outfit and no smile. As far as non-aouds are concerned, a fellow perfume lover once called Greyland a fragrance Dementors would wear and, by gosh, she was right!

Speaking of Fahrenheit, for reasons not entirely related to the composition itself, this striking leathery-floral blend is my trusted wallowing companion. In general, when I am being moody, I actively crave masculine scents, among them also M7, Gucci Homme, Czech & Speake No 88 and Egoiste. Perhaps they make me feel as if by wearing them I add an extra layer to my armor against the world.

And finally, "dark rose" scents like the wonderfully nocturnal and rich chypres, L'Arte di Gucci and Rose de Nuit, like the impassioned Aoud Roses Petals and Aoud Flowers (see Montale), and, above all, like Malle's austere, gloriously grave Une Rose, satisfy my need for drama and turn Goth into Goth-chic.

Are there any special scents that you tend to wear when you are feeling blue? Please share!

Image source,

Friday, October 26, 2007

Top 10 of Autumn

Depressing as this season can be (the summer is over, the winter is coming...), Fall deserves its own Top 10 list. Today some of us, perfume bloggers, teamed up to post our Top Tens of Autumn.

Marina's Ten

Not much has changed since I announced my Top 10 of Summer back in July. Which simply goes to prove that, as I always suspected, the seasonality in perfume, as far as my fragrance-wearing habits are concerned, is overrated. Or perhaps I am in a perfume rut, perhaps, I am stagnating...No, that can't be it. I feel that I am "in a happy place" in relation to my perfume life right now...I am eager to keep sampling and learning and discovering, but I am content to keep coming back to what I have and I what I truly love. Perfume nirvana? Is apparently achievable.

(Moving from the usual suspects to new additions on the list)

A Maze by People of the Labyrinths

Aoud Roses Petals by Montale

Chanel No 22

Diorama by Christian Dior

Iris Poudre by Frederic Malle

Une Fleur de Cassie by Frederic Malle

Black Orchid Voile de Fleur by Tom Ford. My weapon of choice when I want to feel lethal (my own brand of what Tyra Banks calls fierce).

Une Rose by Frederic Malle. Roses have seemingly taken over my perfume wardrobe. Dark, wicked, witchy roses, to be precise. Roses blended with woods, with earth, roses with thorns. Roses Fatale.

Voleur de Roses by L'Artisan. Seriously, taken over my wardrobe! From being a rose-hater to being a rose-lover is but a tiny, unnoticeable step.

White Aoud by Montale. Sensual and comforting, chic and cozy, White Aoud is just what the doctor ordered on a bleak day or a freezing autumn night.

Tom's Ten

Fall can be tricky in Los Angeles, going from chilly on-shore flow to killer Santa Anas in the space of a day. As I type this (October 22nd) Southern California is being ravaged by wildfires. So you will forgive some of the choices- the smoky scents that I favor in fall may seem a crass choice in light of the news.

Chene is one of the first things I reach for when the fall temps start to dip, it's silky, smoky oak is pervasive and as comforting as a wood fire, its earthy base like a secret forest floor. Rumor has it that this will be the special guest appearance in the export range, and I plan on stocking up.

Borneo 1834 also starts to peep it's little cocoa'd head out in fall. The dry, almost burnt cocoa and patchouli with the barest trace of camphor is one that is warming on the cool fall evenings but also works when the Santa Anas are blasting down the canyon.

L'homme sage is a new find that has rocketed to near the top of the list for fall favorites: woody goodness with cardamom and sage. The lovely girl at ScentBar called it when she said "this is the way you want men to smell". I'd add that I think that it's a perfect way for a lady to smell as well.

Cuir Ottoman is also a delight in the fall: I feel as if I should be zipping down a back-country lane in an MG with the roof down, off to a farm to buy some Macouns and Shropshire for a picnic by the river. Since that happens less often that one would like, I spritz and dream on.

Dzing! as you know from yesterdays post is so fresh in my arsenal of fall scents that I've barely had it a week; elegant leather and woods, but not as definite as say, Tabac Blond or Cuir Mauresque. In other words, it's office friendlier, but still has that olfactory freak-flag thing going that I adore.

Bond No 9 West Broadway is one that I find myself reaching for when the Southern California fall turns savage with Santa Ana winds: as Chandler who wrote referring to their unrelenting bone-dry roar: “meek little wives finger the edge of the butcher knife and eye their husband’s neck”. Personally I find it rather bracing, but I am odd. West Broadway's mate and woods have on me just a touch of lime peel and musk that doesn't overwhelm, or cause someone to eye my neck.

Piper Nigrum is also one that is perfect on those days; the cooling mint plays perfectly with the warm pepper and spices. I wish it were a little less fleeting, but beauty is transient, and there is always the opportunity to respritz.

Bond No 9 New Haarlem is perfect for the evenings when the winds abate somewhat, it's combination of coffee, vanilla and patchouli is mesmerizing. Having typed that, I should mention that it's pretty mesmerizing in the heat of the day as well.

For the time when the temps drop back into reasonable (next week I am told) I am having a serious hankering for two scents on completely different ends of the scale by Parfumerie Generale: Querelle and Aomassai.

I don't have the same reaction to Querelle as Marina does: I find it's supremely odd mixture of spices and rather milky myrrh incredibly empowering, like a well cut suit. The spicy earthiness of its vetiver and ambergris hold no darkness for me; it's chic in a "don't f&*k with me fellas" kind of way, but on some crisp fall days that's exactly how I feel.

Aomassai's candied yumminess served in a hearty wooden box is perfect for those days when it's getting colder and the first lick is in the air that there really is going to be a drab winter coming. It's woody, nutty rounded and slightly fatty feeling is immensely comforting, like drinking a hot chocolate wearing a cashmere blanket.

What are your Top 10 Scents of Autumn? Please share! And please remember to read other Top 10s:

Aromascope :: Bois de Jasmin ::Now Smell This :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume-Smellin' Things :: Scentzilla

First image is courtesy of Katie (Scentzilla), second and third are from

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dzing! went the strings of my heart

By Tom

Well, I was back in New York last week. Most of the time was visiting the Connecticut shore visiting my oldest and dearest friend at her parents rambling beach house, and wandering around visiting shops. What is surprising (well surprising to us city-snobs) is that there are so many shops that while smaller, rival any in the city. There was a cheese shop in New London that featured a heavenly Shropshire, ruddy with annato and beautifully veined, amongst other stand-outs. I honestly wasn't trying to puff myself up when I mentioned to the lady that owned the shop that she was rivalling my local cheese store in LA. Turns out she knows the owner, and gave me her card for when I visit the Beverly Hills Cheese Shop next! Six Degrees!

I only had one full day in New York, which I will have to remedy next time. I did a run through Saks, skipped Barneys completely, never got to Le Labo or CB I Hate Perfume (the latter two hurt) and of course you read about my trip to Bergdorfs and the Lutens news. I am of course of two minds on this: I want my Lutens all the time, but I don't know that there isn't a little bit of cachet in the chase. The bell jars are spectacular, and there is something like a secret handshake quality about them. Anyone can get those admittedly handsome 50ml bottles; for this American anyway there's a furtive thrill breaking out that precious bell jar and dabbing away.. But perhaps it's only the two Bois and only in the 50ml bottles.

As you know, Marina and I finally met face-to-face at the l'Artisan boutique. She is as charming as you would imagine, and as lovely, with crystalline blue eyes and cheekbones that Debbie Harry would envy. After a cappuccino in the park, overlooking those dreadful 5th Avenue in the 80's buildings that I could never live in (this the WASP version of kin ahora) and a nice chat that felt like we'd known each other for years, we went to the boutique.

I looked at the home scent thingy that they had come up with, and it works wonderfully and smells fantastic. I am sure that in certain parts of the upper East side, (not West) Palm Beach and one or two Arrondissements it will do fine. For the rest of the planet, let's just say that price-wise Glade Plug-in need not worry.

The boutique had some of the last of the small bottles of Dzing!, which I had neglected to either buy or review. After all this blather I will self-edit enough to write that on me its circus-showman opening is fairly fleeting; a burst of hay, leather, candy, animal and oddly, rose petals. It settles into a wonderful skin scent with a supremely elegant leather and a hint of vanilla and tea. Oddly for something that is meant to evoke the circus, for me it evokes one of a different kind: I think of the tea room at the old Bullocks Wilshire: expensive handbags, hot
milky tea and the vanilla scented scones. Arrangements of genteel roses and the glow of genteel ladies who have been spending the morning at fittings and are settling in for a tea and the first of at least two dainty little glasses of sherry.

As Marina has noted, Dzing! is not discontinued. Good thing!

Oh, and l'Artisan? Open in Melrose Place. You're in a cupboard at Barneys.

Image source,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Perfume Review: Christian Dior Midnight Poison

Perfume Gods know that I wanted to love Midnight Poison! That I eagerly looked forward to trying it. That I almost bought it unsniffed (thank you, Perfume Gods, for somehow stopping me from doing that!). The original Poison is one of my true undying fragrance loves. I adore Eva Green and thought the advertisement was an exquisitely gothic delight. And, of course, I wanted to love the new scent Because It Is I have been striving to love all of their new releases for the last ...oh, gosh...for more years than I care to remember. But as with practically all feminine Dior fragrances of the last decade, I was bitterly disappointed.

The alarm bells started to sound when I first saw the list of notes: mandarin, bergamot, rose, amber, patchouli, vanilla. To me, that spelled A n g e l. Unfortunately, my intuition was spot on. As far as my nose and my skin are concerned, Midnight Poison is indeed yet another Angel clone, only much drier, slightly less fruity and sweet, and much harsher than Mugler's mighty creation. I will not waste yours and my time describing the development of the scent, such as it is, because if you have ever smelled Angel, and, unless you have been living on another planet since year 1992, you have smelled Angel (come to think of it, the ubiquitous aroma has probably found it way to other worlds by now), and that means that you can easily imagine what Dior's new Poison is like as well. Of all the Poison offspring, the Midnight one strikes me as the least interesting (I find Hyptonic Poison unbearable, however, objectively speaking, its warm comfort blend is unquestionably attractive).

The Poison line now consists of five fragrances, a nice number at which to put a stop to the creation of flankers and the capitalization on the name of the wonderful original Poison. Dior Parfums now also have their own Angel. I hope they are satisfied and ready to move on, to create something staggeringly original for their female audience...or if that is too much to ask, to simply re-release for a wider distribution Diorling and Diorama and to bring Dior-Dior from the dead. Dixi.

Midnight Poison is available at Sephora, $45.00-$82.00.

The image is by Bradford Noble.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Bouquet of Mimosa Blossoms

By Linda

About a month ago, my partner texted me from the office. “I just found the prettiest smelling flower in the world,” he told me. “It’s a tree that has feathery leaves and these silky, pink blooms –like tufts.”

“A mimosa?” I asked. “Does it look like a Truffula tree from the Lorax? Does it smell like cucumbers?”

“Yes! As if cucumbers were flowers, which also smelled very delicately floral. I thought it was a woman’s perfume, at first, because she walked past me, and I was actually going to ask her what it was, but it happened again with nobody around and it’s just that area on campus… it’s a tree! I want there to be a perfume that smells just like it.”

We went on a field trip to the college where he teaches so that he could show me the tree. Sure enough, it was a beautiful, lush mimosa. It looked otherworldly, filled with pink silky pompoms. He showed me the place to stand, where the faint, delectable scent pooled enough to surround us as we sniffed raptly. People looked at us like we were crazy.

They do smell delicious: delicately, unassumingly floral, with an almost-soapy scent on one edge of the bell curve and a fresh cucumber on the other. I ordered a bunch of samples, hoping they would delight his nose and give me a lightweight, fresh, unusual scent to wear to the office. All of these mimosa-focused scents remain bright and fresh all day (except Coral) and are very office wearable.

The following four scents are intended to be for women. They are indeed very light, soft, and feminine, almost little-girlish. They would be delightful substitutes for the sugary fruit-and-flowers scents so popular with the teen crowd, retaining enough of the fresh and lovely to be in the genre without being quite so ubiquitous.

Parfums de Nicolai Mimosaique is my favorite of the feminine fragrances. Amusingly, it is a dead ringer for Aqua-Net hair spray for about ten seconds; then it turns briefly, brilliantly sweet, almost candied, lollipops and mimosa blossoms with a faint spicy undertone. During the dry down the fragrance remains spicy and evocatively fresh and pretty. While it is more impressionistic than true-to-life, it is predominantly mimosa—and brings me great joy as it quietly evolves throughout the dry down. I find it a wonderful impression of the flower’s multifaceted spicy, soft, and delicate aspects.

The other three women’s fragrances were more linear.

L’Artisan Mimosa Pour Moi starts off with that brilliant cucumber-as-flower scent and is the most wonderfully true, tart mimosa for the first few minutes. Then it becomes light as air and creates an aura of mimosa… but up close it’s a little like kitchen cleanser. Unfortunately, it stops developing right about the time it's schizophrenically disguised itself simultaneously as debutante and scullery maid. I suppose that gives it a Cinderella character!

Christiane Celle Calypso Mimosa starts soapy, barely creamier and more substantial than MPM and then gradually freshens, but it is still somewhat ripe, candied, and soapy. A little musk, jasmine, and rose pull it toward a fuller body that is just barely there, and just barely not-mimosa. After an hour or so, it pulls itself together, metamorphosing into a very soft and pretty echo of mimosa scent supported by the slightly creamy base. Unfortunately, it is fleeting. Like all of Calypso’s fragrances, it is somewhat too soft, somewhat too soon.

Sage Coral (EDT) is the one I just couldn't warm to. It is strong, very soapy, and a little queasy-making right from the beginning. It reminds me of a hot August breeze off an orange grove, with the windows rolled down in a hippy friend’s hoopty car, redolent of one of those awful cat-food-tinned coconut vanilla air fresheners. The orange blossom scent is overwhelming, overripe, as if they are dropping from the trees and rotting on the ground. The base of musk, vanilla, sandalwood, and oh-dear-God-not-coconut make this fragrance unpleasantly heavy, penetrating, and hippie-dippy. On me it is also a little harsh; none of the elements want to cleave together. I like sweet creamy scents, but not this one. It smells cheap, and it will not go away… on me it was a scrubber.

The men’s fragrances are much more complex, since mimosa, in and of itself, seems pretty feminine. However, I was pleased to find that mimosa really played a starring role in both of these.

Heeley Cuir Pleine Fleur (Fine Leather) is sassy and romantic. For the first few moments it is predominantly an almost anesthetic violet and mimosa accord, weirdly camphoraceous, with lightly peppery birch and suede leather emerging. On me, the drydown is disappointing—violets and suede with pencil shavings—but on my partner it is delicious: mimosa, peppery vetiver, and leather. After an hour or two, a hail-Mary triad of mimosa, vetiver, and birch arise to make it interesting on my skin, but it is not wonderful on me the way it is on him. Alas, chemistry.

I saved the best for last. Ulrich Lang Anvers 2 is yummy, and I think it has the most sophisticated blending of the lot. It opens with tart rhubarb, dry spice (pepper and basil), and faint incense smoke at first. Then, a perfect accord of cedarwood and mimosa rises at the heart. Sweetened lightly by amber, musk, and vanilla, it remains a spicy, boozy, scrumptious cedar and mimosa with hints of rose and white flowers – perfectly delicious. It continues to balance as it develops, becoming smooth, smooth, smooth.

Of this handful of more or less arbitrarily chosen mimosa fragrances, I most highly recommend Parfums de Nicolai Mimosaique and Ulrich Lang’s Anvers 2. I can wear them happily and enjoy their gentle evolution throughout the day. Although most of the others are somewhat linear, that’s fine with me; the only one I cannot at all recommend is the Coral.

Image source,

Monday, October 22, 2007

Perfume? Really?

By Alyssa Harad

Alyssa Harad is a freelance writer living in Austin, TX. She writes about books, food, gender and sexuality, feminism, her unsuspecting family—and now perfume. A longtime foodie, she is grateful for her new, non-caloric obsession with scent. You can contact Alyssa at ahperfume at gmail dot com.

“Perfume? Really?” said my friend J., his incredulity laced with contempt. “You mean, like, natural oils, right?”

We’d been smoking and confessing on a sultry Texas evening in the backyard of a ramshackle Victorian at a party with a great deal of food and drink and very few guests. A voluptuous excess. I remember my quick twinge at having said the wrong thing when I thought I was safe: J.—flamboyantly, joyously queer—had just completed a long research project on writers notorious for their queer decadence, including Joris-Karl Huysmans, whose pleasure-seeking narrator in À Rebours used a “scent organ” to play himself into fragrance-induced delirium.

I don’t remember what I answered. I know that I lied, and agreed with him.

Since that day, I have learned to take pleasure seriously. I have met and admired too many women and men who have been punished or denigrated for their pleasures and their desires. I have seen them fight for those pleasures, lose, retreat, and begin again.

But in that unhappy stretch of my life I knew very little about my own pleasures. So little that I absorbed my own lie and it became the truth, so that when I look back I can’t imagine why I would have told anyone I loved perfume. Did I even own any perfumes that year? Perhaps a once-beloved bottle of Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers, dusty and denuded of both cap and sprayer. Maybe a couple of Thymes Limited bottles I’d picked up at a high end grocery store: Green Tea, which smelt disappointingly of pink roses, and Fig Leaf and Cassis, which I adored, but which scared me. On the rare occasions I used it I sprayed only once, lest I offend anyone with my scent.

I have no memory of purchasing—or even sniffing—anything else for another five years.

Not all pleasures are equal. It’s the ones that nourish something tender and vital in us that are the most vulnerable and the most stubborn. If J. had said to me—Coffee? You still drink coffee?—I would not have switched to tea. But he said – Perfume? Really?—and, so quickly I hardly knew what I was doing, I accused myself of silliness, of hypocritical decadence, of self-delusion and frippery and luxury and political incorrectness and I backpedaled before I had even committed to anything.

As my unhappiness passed and my self-knowledge grew, my love of fragrance returned and thrived (thanks, in no small part to the gentle passion of this online community). My new cloud of sillage came trailing changes in the way I lived my life and made my living. So much of the pleasure of scent is memory, and perfume helped me recover things I didn’t know I’d lost, didn’t know I longed for: a delight in moving and strengthening my body, a simple love of words and imagining, and running through it all, the silver thread of something I can only name the divine.

But most of all, perfume was a back door into a kind of femininity I thought was closed to me. A femininity certain gatekeepers try to keep locked up in temples of commerce and luxury, held tight within a world of just-so clothes, hair, make-up and bodies. I longed to play with that feminine power, but fled because I could neither live by the gatekeepers’ rules, nor bend them enough to breathe freely.

Ah, but they couldn’t lock up the perfumes. Unleashed from their bottles, those genies led me back to a way of moving through the world that has to do with sex and beauty, yes, and desire too, but also, with my grandmother: an elegant, bossy, Jewish woman who worked the floors of high end department stores in her wicked heels for forty years. It has to do with the box of jewelry I inherited from her that looks nothing like my usual ethnic chunky stuff but has somehow become something I wear every day. And with the bottle of Bal à Versailles she gave me years ago when I was far too young to appreciate it, but which I kept anyway, sniffing cautiously every other year or so. And it has to do with an idea of femme that includes chutzpah and drag queens and fat girls and a thousand other attitudes and creatures undreamt of by the gatekeepers.

Every now and then, in the midst of our conversations on this blog and others I’ve seen worries over the pleasure of perfume: Shouldn’t we be spending our money on something else? Is there a morality of perfume? Or sometimes, a worry over its seeming opposite: a loss of pleasure in perfume, a feeling of being jaded and bored.

For me the answer to both of these worries is to recall the vulnerable heart of my obsession. I love scents for themselves. I love novelty and learning. I love the art of perfume and even the commerce, with all its down and dirty contradictions. And pretty bottles. But it’s the way that perfume makes a specific intangible into something I can smell and wear and share that drives my collecting and my passion.

What is at the secret heart of your perfume love?

For another view on knowing one's own pleasure, please see the wonderful "The Art of Seducing Oneself: How to Select Perfume" on Bois de Jasmin, an article which helped me to clarify and stand by these thoughts.

Image source,

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Serge Lutens Palais Royal Exclusives at Bergdorf Goodman?

Yesterday I had a pleasure of meeting Tom (who is as handsome and as dryly-humorous as I always imagined him to be) and two wonderful friends from makeupalley (Who totally made my day with their beauty and humor and warmth. "Perfume people" are the best.). According to Tom's account - or rather according to a SA from Bergdorfs- the bell jars are coming to Bergdorf Goodman, exclusively, in November. ALL of them. Right now Bergdorf seems to have testers (?) of Bois Sepia and Bois et Fruits, and the SA kindly made Tom samples of both. According to yet another SA who talked to my makeupalley friends, only TWO exclusives will be coming to Bergdorfs, the aforementioned Bois Sepia and Bois et Fruits, and they will be in the export style, 50ml, bottles. Whether the rest of the line will follow, remains unclear.

The realist in me tends to believe the second version of the events. The perfume-maniac in me wants to believe that soon all of the bell jars will be gracing the shelves at Bergdorf. And yet something else in me is strangely saddened by this turn of events. I don't know why would I rue the -alleged- end of the exclusivity, but I do. It feels like the end of an era. The rumors that Sarrasins and Louve will be Lutens's last creations have been circulating for a while, and now I am starting to really believe them. I would be very excited to be a street and several blocks away from "bell jars"...but I will miss waiting -with excitement, with baited breath- for new Lutens releases.

If you have any more information on the Lutens exclusives at Bergdorf Goodman, please share!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dzing Not Discontinued

There has been an uncertainty about the destiny of Dzing!: are only 50ml being discontinued; is the scent complitely discontinued? I can now confirm that only large, 100ml, bottles will be produced in the future, but DZING WILL NOT BE DISCONTINUED.

Perfume Review: Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur (Eau de Toilette)

I am very tempted to simply leave it to Queen to describe Black Orchid Voile de Fleur for you. Because they would do it so much better than I ever could:

She keeps a Moet et Chandon
In a pretty cabinet
'Let them eat cake' she says
Just like Marie Antoinette
A built-in remedy
For Khrushchev and Kennedy
At anytime an invitation
You can't decline

Caviar and cigarettes
Well versed in etiquette
Extraordinarily nice

She's a Killer Queen
Got that agility
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind

Recommended at the price
Insatiable an appetite
Wanna try?

“The alluring potion of Black Orchid is given a warm effervescent modernity with this new entry”, says the copy. And I suppose it is right in a way… Only a tiny bit less robust than the sinfully opulent original Black Orchid, Voile de Fleur replaces the pungently earthy accord of black truffles with a leathery undertone, thus transforming from some (most probably evil) mythical creature of the night into somebody slightly less outlandish and more “urban”…a femme fatale. Compared to the witchy, black-magical, somehow “pre-historic” Eau de Parfum version, the Eau de Toilette is fairly modern. I would place it in the film-noir times of 1940s.

To avoid complications
She never kept the same address
In conversation
She spoke just like a baroness
Met a man from China
Went down to Geisha Minah
Then again incidentally
If you're that way inclined

Perfume came naturally from Paris
for cars she couldn't care less
Fastidious and precise

She's a Killer Queen
Got that agility
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind

The notes that I smell most prominently in Black Orchid Voile de Fleur are gardenia and ylang ylang. The trademark creaminess of the luscious flowers is so thick, you could cut it with a knife. When their buttery quality is taken to such an extreme, gardenia and ylang ylang (as well as tuberose) always seem to me to have a “nutty” undertone, nutty like the sweetly spicy nutmeg, perhaps. Due to the presence of cinnamon, that spiciness is particularly accentuated in Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, and I find that characteristic exceptionally appealing. Another side of the new version that is absolutely irresistible to me is the presence of “leather” (probably a side effect of a pronounced patchouli note)…Gardenias and leather… I don’t think I know of a union more gorgeous (except for roses and aoud, that is ). Funny thing is, my Holy Grail, which is slowly but surely being created within the Made by Blog project, is also based on this yin-and-yang, black-and-white contrast of gardenias and leather.

Because of the lack of raw earthiness and strange, over-ripe fruitiness, and because of the strengthened white floral accord and the sublime leathery undertone, the Eau de Toilette is different enough from the Eau de Parfum to warrant having both…in case you were, like me, one of a handful of people who loved the first Black Orchid. Because of that lack of rawness and fruitiness, the Eau de Toilette is perhaps more palatable, more accessible in a way than the weird and wonderful Eau de Parfum. If those features were what repelled you in the first Black Orchid, you might find the second one to be more agreeable. If, however, the very “thick” and very heady, dark, sensual, sillage-full fragrances are generally not your sort of thing, I would recommend you stay far away from Voile de Fleur. Unlike most Eaux de Toilette, it really isn’t much gentler or fresher or lighter then the Eau de Parfum. Like its magnificent predecessor, it too is a Killer Queen.

Drop of a hat she's as willing as
Playful as a pussy cat
Then momentarily out of action
Temporarily out of gas
To absolutely drive you wild, wild
She's out to get you

She's a Killer Queen
Got that agility
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind

Recommended at the price
Insatiable an appetite
Wanna try?

Available at Neiman Marcus, $65.00-$90.00.

Image credits: Unknown, Andrea Klarin, Steven Meisel.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Saturday Sniffage

By Tom

This Saturday started off with a trip to Apothia, the store on Melrose Avenue that hosted the LA Sniffa last February. This time was dor a presentation from a company I'd not heard of: Givaudan. Accoerding to Wikipedia, "Givaudan has created fragrances for designers like Calvin Klein, Bijan, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and celebrities like Michael Jordan..." They previewed 5 upcoming scents: we smelled them on paper strips, which I feel is never the best way to experience a scent, and perhaps was the reason that not one of them I particularly liked. They seemed to be varying degrees of fruit/citrus/floral, and each one started with bergamot further cementing the idea that 2008 should be a bergamot-free year.

Apothia carries Serge Lutens, and I sniffed Un Lys again, reminding me what I like in perfume.

Having made the decision that I would not review the Givaudan scents in depth, I ventured out with my friend and co-conspirator Lynn to find something I would review. I stopped by new find Blunda, which is right in my neighborhood and carries the lovely Aftelier line. I tried the stunning Cepes and Tuberose, Shiso and Tango. Such a beautiful line and one that I will have to come back to.

Then it was off to ScentBar (I SWEAR I don't work for them). I tried the new Parfum d"Empire which are all lovely. (does anyone else think that Bengale smells a lot like Sables?), the gorgeous new L’atelier Boheme scents which I asked for samples of fully intending to review them when I was pointed to L'homme Sage by Divine.

Divine it is; wood, wood, and more wood, resinous and gorgeous, highlighted in the opening by cardamom and saffon, and grounded at the drydown by incense and a touch of immortelle. Chandler Burr in The Times preferred Dolce et Gabbana's (IMHO utterly dull) Light Blue, writing about Homme Sage snarked "for those who love cigarette-cured leather bars, this is perfection." Chandler, trust me on this, the Ramrod in no way smells this good. My credit card somehow managed to slither out on it's own and forced me to purchase. That's my story and I am sticking to it!

$115 for 50ml; apparenly I got the last one in the store. They are getting more however, which is a very good thing indeed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Perfume Review: L'Artisan Voleur de Rose

I attest to the sincerity of this review, however, in the interests of absolute transparency, please do read this disclaimer first.

There are scents that one admires as a concept, the kind that is wonderful in principle, like excluding carbs and sugar form one's diet or being politically conscious, but somehow isn't suited for one's real and imperfect life. Voleur de Roses, the blend of roses (I don't really do roses) and patchouli (I really don't do patchouli), which I have always - and too banally - perceived as "goth" (and what am I like, fifteen?) or "bohemian" borderline "hippie-ish" (which is so not my style), has always been one of those scents for me.

Until I met a colleague of mine for whom Voleur has been a signature fragrance since the day of its release back in 1993. The colleague's style was as far removed from "goth" or "boho-chic" as it can possibly be. She was the very epitome of a classical sort of elegance, impeccably yet nonchalantly put together (Hermes scarf carelessly but perfectly draped over the shoulders, Chanel spectator flats...) and what I can only describe as "very European". I would have expected her to wear something canonically chic, an old Guerlain, Caron or Chanel or perhaps La Haie Fleurie... but she wore Voleur and it did smell canonically chic one her.

And although I can only aspire to that degree of insouciant refinement, ever since Voleur de Roses smelled nothing but chic on me too. Gone were the headshoppy and sinister associations...and where could they have come from? this well-mannered patchouli note? Even the roses do not smell as "dark" as before, they are now deep pink rather than carmine red, with the plum note in the beginning adding a wonderfully succulent, almost edible undertone to the composition. The warm, smooth blend of patchouli, sandalwood and amber is so charming and distingue it might as well come with a title and an apartment in sixième arrondissement. I don't want, however, to completely rob Voleur de Roses of its "darkness", there is something in its velvety depth, something like a hint of Belle du Jour in the perfectly polished femininity of Séverine... something you'd never expect from this exquisitely, maybe even a touch conservatively, attired creation. Recherché and subtly subversive, Voleur, is, to me, one of Michel Almairac's masterpieces and one of the brightest gems in L'Artisan's collection.

Image source,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Trio of Puzzlers: Caron Farnesiana, L’Artisan Parfumeur Jour de Fête & Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie

Review by Donna

I decided to review Caron’s Farnesiana as a personal challenge, since out of all the Caron fragrances I have tried it is the one that puzzles me the most, and I find it less approachable than even the austere Poivre or the majestic Bellodgia. (When I was too young to wear it, Bellodgia terrified me. I had no idea what kind of woman I would have to become to pull it off. I am not sure I am there yet, even now.) This may sound strange to those who are familiar with this perfume as it is usually considered a comfort scent of sorts, and certainly not avant-garde in any way. It is heavily biased toward the acacia and mimosa in it composition, which gives it what would be considered the dreaded “Play-Doh” accord in a fragrance of lesser quality. The heavy, bittersweet almond is a constant companion, and it has no lightness, airiness or “fizz” to it from the other notes, which include bergamot and lily-of-the-valley. I do not detect those notes in the slightest; the pea flowers conquer all. (Acacia and mimosa are both legumes, members of the same plant family that gives us wisteria, locust trees and lima beans.) To my nose it gives a sense of being cooked, not fresh. I was trying to figure out just what it made me think of than then it came to me: Maypo.

Maypo was my favorite hot cereal when I was a child. It was maple-flavored oatmeal, but the maple was artificial, though that did not bother me. It smelled so good when it was cooking, and it was the perfect thing for a cold New England morning. We always had several kinds around the house, such as Ralston and comforting-but-boring Cream of Wheat, but I liked Maypo the best. It was kind of a treat, since my mother was very health-conscious and she wanted us to eat as many whole grain foods as possible; some of the foods we had to eat as young children were a lot more challenging than hot cereal.

As long as I am able to accept Farnesiana on its own terms and not expect it to be refreshing or sparkling, we get along just fine. I doubt that I will ever buy a full bottle, but it is indeed very comforting, and excellent for winter wear.

So what about a fragrance of the same general type that’s a little lighter, a little fresher? I wondered about that, and if such a thing existed, until I ran across L’Artisan’s Jour de Fête. It has a very similar feel to it, a little powdery and quite foody at the same time. It has the same acacia & almond quality as Farnesiana, but the almonds are sugared and very sweet. It reminds me of one of my other childhood treats – Jordan almonds in their candy shells in the pastel shades of Easter eggs, appearing in our house only on special occasions. (In fact, Jour de Fête means “day of the party” in French.) This fragrance seems to be meant for a very young person to wear. I picture little girls in fancy dresses running excitedly to open their holiday presents.

There is absolutely nothing austere or serious about this fragrance, and since it only comes in eau de toilette strength, it seems even more youthful. It is fun to put on, but I am not the target audience for this one and I wonder who is, as it seems too young for anyone who is old enough to buy their own perfume. I would recommend it for a young girl’s first fragrance, as it is of far better quality than the drugstore kind that are often the first attempt at wearing perfume by young teenagers. It is never heavy or cloying, and it is quite transparent. It makes me a little hungry after it has been on my skin for a while, and I keep looking around for the candy dish. But fear not, this is no dreaded Pink Sugar. It will not cause dental cavities at first sniff and overpower the senses. It is fun, well behaved and highly wearable. It is not for everyone, to be sure, but if you like gourmand fragrances that are not too heavy, this could be an option, especially if you like to recapture your youth now and then.

So that brings me to my next question: is there a perfume out there of this general type that is meant for grownups to wear without being too stuffy? Is it possible to find one that does not either make you smell like Grandma baking almond cookies or like the child eating those cookies? Why yes indeed, there is, and it’s Frederic Malle’s Une Fleur de Cassie.

I had tried a couple of the Malles and loved them, and I knew the quality was very high regardless of whether a particular one of the line was my type or not. I did not actually expect to like this one so much, though I knew that Dominique Ropion who also did the swoon-worthy Carnal Flower for the Malle line created it. Its freshness and transparency took me by surprise. It has notes of bergamot, clove and cedarwood along with the acacia and mimosa, as well as other floral notes including jasmine, and oddly for a perfume of this type, apricot, which I adore. The mimosa that dominates it is of an airy, ethereal nature not unlike that of the mimosa accord in my all-time favorite green floral, Jean Patou Vacances. For me to compare anything to that indicates my high regard for Une Fleur de Cassie. It is actually quite sexy as well due to the jasmine and spices, at least at first, before it dries down to the comforting warmth common to all the acacia/mimosa clan of fragrances.

But there is something else as well; a stirring of sorts, an urgent cool restlessness that I detect in it, like the rush of a brook in early spring, running quickly under the ice, unable to break through yet giving notice of warmer days to come under the watery sunlight. It is like that kind of day when it’s shivering cold when the sun goes behind a cloud, but when it reappears, the warmth brings out the aromas of the burgeoning life that bubbles just under the veneer of the receding winter. Some of the smells of early spring are earthy, even muddy and rank, but they call out to us anyway, and in the breeze that blows over the chilly dampness are carried the scents of a greening world. It is a blustery spring until the sun has a chance to do its work, and then it turns warm and soft and full of hope.

This is the first fragrance in this category that I have tried so far that I would be tempted to actually own. I understand that many people cannot wear it, and indeed cannot even stand to be around it. It really is one of those love it or hate it perfumes. I am fortunate that it agrees with me, but if I ever do have a bottle of it, I may need to wear it in solitude, on those dark winter days when it seems that spring will never arrive, just to remind myself that it always will.

Image credits: Maypo cereal from
Jordan almonds from
Mimosa tree from

Monday, October 15, 2007

Perfume Review: Lalique Encre Noir

Dragging behind the whole enlightened perfumanity, I finally tried Lalique's fairly recent masculine release, Encre Noir. (Many thanks to Robin for sharing this marvel with me!) So good is this deceptively simple, elegantly earthy creation, that it might just revive my passion for vetiver. When I say that it is deceptively simple, I mean that it appears relatively straightforward: vetiver and more vetiver. The supporting notes (cypress, musk, grapefruit, licorice) are wonderfully discreet. And yet, the fragrance constantly changes ...but "spatially" rather than "temporally". In other words, I don't perceive any drastic transformations from top to middle to base notes, however, strangely, the scent smells different when inhaled very closely (nose-to-wrist), from a short distance and as "sillage" wafting subtly with one's movements.

Up close, it is rooty-green, pungent, although not sharp, and possessing the quality I love so much about vetiver- an enjoyable sourness of sorts, not unlike that of sorrel. From a short distance - hand snatched away from nose, the molecules hanging for a millisecond suspended in the air between nose and hand - it smells like dirt. Clean dirt, to be oxymoronic. There is nothing animalic and sensual about the earthiness of Encre Noir. The scent is smooth white stones on dry gray earth... pristine, virginal almost-sterility of primeval landscape. The sillage has a sublimely elegant leathery undertone, an unexpected touch of chic urbanity in this strangely "natural" blend. The leathery undertone aside, Encre Noir makes me feel, to quote Neruda, as if "I am this naked mineral: echo of underneath." The perfume is nothing short of exquisite and absolutely unisex. I recommend it highly to those who, like me, were enamored with the "mineral" aspect of Terre d'Hermes and Sel de Vetiver and were looking for a vetiver scent that would be even more like a "substance that is neither vegetable nor animal".

Encre Noir is available at Aedes, $100.00 for 3.3oz.

The painting, Man with Stones, is by Steven Kenny,

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