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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Anise and Licorice- Love It or Loathe It, Some Gotta Have It

By Marla

Anise and licorice are notes that are either adored or loathed, one’s scent muse or nemesis. I have yet to hear of someone who feels “meh” over either ingredient. I love anise and my mother hates it for the same reason- those little Russian aniseed cookies that babushkas love to press on children that come their way- they are popular throughout Eastern Europe and Italy but my mother feels nauseated whenever she smells them (too many bad memories of raiding grandma’s cookie jar, then feeling ill afterwards). Licorice candies are a real cult fetish these days- if you’ve been to Philly’s Reading Terminal Market, you know what I mean. The line is never less than 40 people at the licorice shop. The Dutch and the Australians seem to have lots of yummy varieties of the sticky, bittersweet black goop, too. I just love it.

I have a sub-collection of anise and licorice scents. Its cool, ethereal weirdness just makes me open my wallet every time I smell a new one. Some of them are too strange to wear, but I keep them anyway. Here are a few of my favorites. Perhaps you can add to this list:

L’Heure Bleue- the 1912 Guerlain classic- cold and contemplative. It’s so unfashionable with its bitter and powdery notes, so lacking in the fresh and the fruity, that it’s actually avant-garde. And talk about sillage and lasting power- wow!

Lolita Lempicka- seems like a sweet girly gourmand with all that vanilla and amarena but then that bitter anise hits and it’s just delightfully quirky. Very popular in Europe, I smell it everywhere in Italy. A freaky gourmand, and a fun bottle, too. This was apparently designed to be an Angel clone, but took off and established its own unique territory. I wear it about 5 times more often than I wear Angel, mostly because of the licorice.

Guerlain Anisia Bella- just plain bitter anise and woods. So austere that on a truly hot, humid day in the tropics, nothing can cool one as well. Beautiful smell for a library full of antique books. If the Amish could wear perfume, this would be the one. A Basenotes perfumista uses it to scent her shop. Smells really good on men, particularly the thin, intellectual kind. The new AA Laurier Reglisse is a greener, sweeter take on Anisia Bella, but that bitter anise note is still marked in the drydown, so I pronounce Laurier Reglisse bottleworthy for anise lovers also.

Caron Eau de Reglisse- I didn’t like this at first- the ginger just screams like a banshee. But it settles down beautifully and works wonders in hot climates. After a year of sniffing the sample I finally bought one of the huge, fragile bottles. It’s a bargain on the Internet, and there really isn’t anything else like it out there.

Etro Anice is a sweeter, lighter Anisia Bella so I didn’t feel the need to buy it, but it’s lovely nevertheless.

There are many other licorice and anise scents lurking out there. Let me know your favorites!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so with you on Caron's Eau d'reglisse, it's just wonderful on a hot summerday - although I don't like anis in food (and licorice even less...).
BTW, tomorrow's the day for the Oud shop on Oxford street...

4:00 AM EDT  
Blogger rosarita said...

One scent with a licorice note that I love and people either love/hate is Kenzo Jungle Elephant. It smells a little different every time I wear it, which isn't often, but it's fun in cool weather. I share your fondness for Anisia Bella and just brought my bottle out of winter hiding. Nothing is more refreshing on a hot and humid day.

8:03 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Great post! I'm not much of a fan of sweet things in general, but I live and die for double or triple salted Dutch or Scandinavian licorice. Happy sigh. :-) And if you like anise, you really should try dried, salted Chinese plums. Beyond words delicious. But, reeling myself back in from food fantasies to scents - I resniffed Chantal Thomas this week at The Perfume House and was again reminded of what a classic licorice scent it is. Kenzo Jungle, Slatkin Black Fig and Absinthe and SL Douce Amere also are high on my list of scents w/ an excellent anise or licorice note.

8:12 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Lolita Lempicka one of my favorites. L'Heure Bleue not so much but because of the emotional effect. Ironically not a fan of anise dominant flavored foods, but mix it with other spices and I adore it (pain d'epice). It really does bring out a strange eathereal quality (I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees it that way).

10:01 AM EDT  
Blogger Solander said...

I have to admit, I am rather "meh" about licorice and anise notes. Especially anise. To me it's just one of those notes that are completely overused to give a "cool and fresh" vibe to a lot of mainstream and less mainstream men's scents. (A bit like I find neroli overused in cologne - don't like it and don't find it "fresh" at all but rather musty sweet) I like it better than mint but I'm a bit tired of it. That said, I did keep my sample of Etro Anice because it's a bit unusual that it's pure sambuca/ouzo without any of the other notes. I also remember smelling Masaki Matsushima's Mat Very Male and liking how it smelled just like licorice (while Mat Male us more of the standard cool fresh anise).
A sort of licorice-related scent I really enjoy is Penhaligon's English Fern. It doesn't have the usual anise note, instead it's sort of a herbal licorice vibe, perhaps a little bit like fennel? It might be that the "fern" in "English Fern" is actually the species of fern which has licorice-tasting roots - i used to dig them up and chew on them as a kid. That's like a fourth variety of licorice taste (apart from licorice, anise and salmiak) and probably the one I like the most! It's a sort of fresh and sweet and earthy and green and very aromatic taste/smell.
In Sweden licorice candy is not hip at all, just a staple - sweet and salty and strong and the salmiak variety, I like all of them but especially sweet soft licorice fudge or toffee and the salty black fish I think go by the name "Swedish fish" abroad.
A licorice-related story - there were some free lollies at a restaurant in the Netherlands and our group of mixed nationalities picked some up. Inside of the sweet hard stuff there was some runny salmiak paste. Very weird, I'm a salmiak eater and I didn't like it but one of the guys who presumably wasn't used to it exclaimed "Eww! It's the abject!" Nerdy academic joke, I know...
On Iceland it's very popular with chewy salt licorice candies covered in milk chocolate, that I don't understand!

10:39 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I think I fall into the "meh" area on anise as well. I like Let Me Play the Lion, and I own Douce Amere so I am not averse to the note, but it isn't one that I seek out either..

11:12 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lady Jane- Glad you like the Caron as well! It's somewhat...obscure. Anita--I'd forgotten the awesome Elephant! The cardamom and coumarin are so strong, the licorice is more subtle but it is a key component of the composition, isn't it? Elle-- must try those plums!Jenavira- ethereal is the perfect word. Solander- great comment! Thanks for sharing your licorice lore!TMP00- Let me Play the Lion is a nice one, isn't it?

12:35 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anise and licorice are notes that I typically avoid in fragrances--it made Aimez-Moi, for instance, unbearable, like Douce Amere and other. But, Aftelier's now discontinued Absinthe is divine for me. (Note: It turned *horrible* on a close friend of mine, absolutely vile.) It's very potent, which is good, given the cost, and it puts me in a wonderful mood. Now I'm starting to wonder why I haven't worn it recently.

I love anise in baked goods. Fabulous! I need to learn how to make up some cookies!

2:14 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wear Aimez-Moi quite a bit but it turns into a soft root-beer scent on me, so I didn't include it. I'm sorry it turned so unpleasant on you!

3:12 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this set of reviews. I have been craving and wearing L'Heure Bleue so much lately in the heat and I can understand now that it is the anise notes. I love Un Bois Vanille in the heat because of the strong licorice note but prefer Douce Amere for the winter. I'm going to retry some of your other suggestions - I had not been impressed with them but tried them in the winter. Thanks again for a great post :)

3:21 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! I've been reading your blog for a long time now and its the first time I'm posting. I saw anise and licorice and I knew you were going to talk about lolita lempika. I'm 19, and I love wearing LL because it seems mature yet fresh. I'm a big fan of both anise and licorice, and the LL touch of gourmand is really delightful. Its sweet without being candyfloss. Anyways, I've been reading about L'Heure Bleue for a long time now and I think I'm going to run to the closest Guerlain counter and try some.
Great post, as always.

3:55 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I was never attracted to anis or licorice, but to my surprise, I love L'Heure Bleue, it is so incredible beautiful! I recently bought Douce Amere, after trying other things at Barneys. I had never tried it before, and only did at the suggestion of the SA. I also love Slatkin's Black Fig & Absinthe. I wonder how many more perfumes I own that have licorice or anise and I don't even know about them.

6:37 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't love anise..but I do like Aimez Moi- if I spray/dab just the right amount, it is a 'coldish' scent, perfect for summer..Sometimes it doesnt behave like Douce Amere too- I am not sure if it is inspite of or because of the anise note..:)


9:13 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I adore licorice! Especially salmiak. But then again, I'm guilty of being Dutch too. You've definitely got me onto seeking some out in fragrance, I'd never before considered it. The closest I've sampled is AA Laurier Réglisse, which I didn't find that licorice-y at all. Haven't tried Anisia Bella, but I sure am now.

Elle: damn, you got me craving those Chinese plum thingies now. I like their salty sour taste, expecially in summer heat.

6:43 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also a fan of Caron's Aimez-Moi. It feels young and innocent with its anise and violet opening. I love the tonka bean drydown.

9:32 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Just wanted to point out perhaps my fave anise -- Goutal's Mandragore. I've seen others describe it as citrusy, so perhaps my skin brings out the anise more than others'. Recently tried the AA Laurier-Reglisse & it reminds me of fresh herbs that have that fuzzy greenness to them, like lemon balm. Nicely summery!

Lovely article, and thanks to Solander for the additional info!

12:32 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just starting to like (love is stil far away...) then most recent addition to the Hermessence line: Brin Reglisse. I'm Dutch so the licorice is a bit to much for my liking but I love the lavender in Brin Reglisse.

2:03 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Interesting idea! I like anise more than licorice, it reminds me of my favorite Scandinavian pastries, and I have a closet addiction to those little Dutch anise-flavored pastilles. I could cheerfully down a box at a time. Fortunately for me the closest store that carries Dutch imports is across town. :-)

L'Heure Bleue and Douce Amere would be my favorite scents with these notes, but I really do not know of any that are really a knockout in that regard for me. I think it's a difficult accord to mesh with others.

3:58 PM EDT  
Blogger the oblitterati said...

I like anise, but after making absinthe at home I thought I had smelled enough of it. But your post reminded me how refreshing it can be on a hot day, and in the 100 degree fog I ducked in to Sephora on the way to the lab and tried Laurier Reglisse, and it was just what the doctor ordered. Thanks for suggesting it as a less gourmande Lolita Lempica. Smart, sharp, with citrus up top, it may be a new go-to scent. It's definitely an excuse to drop in to Sephora.

10:34 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have got a good collection of fragrances.

2:35 AM EDT  

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