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Friday, May 29, 2009

Kaipu Cherry Blossom

Kaipu is an Israeli line of body products and perfumes, which describes itself as holistic, Fair-Trade-partnered and organic. Thanks to a kind and generous fellow perfume lover, I got to try several of the scents, and Cherry Blossom was an unexpected favorite. It was translated to me that Cherry Blossom combines the notes of spring flowers and sweet and sourish fruit...rather vague copy, but it leaves a lot of room for imagination.

I imagine that the composition which, again, thanks, translators, is "a combination of lightness and richness", is built on a contrast of fresh, airy notes, like, possibly, lily of the valley and maybe jasmine and sweeter, fluffier notes of heliotrope, with an extra, but not too big, dose of cherry. Ordinarily I abhor cherry and heliotrope in perfume, but here the notes are rendered with such translucency, such subtlety...the scent is tenderness itself, a delicate gauze, the softess caress. I could go on. I like its fresh, dewy beginning, the tart, slightly sweet heart, the slightly powdery drydown. A simple, delightful, truly spring-like creation.

Cherry Blossom, $14.00-$29.00, like other Kaipu products, is, unfortunately, only available in Israel.

Three Candles by Chagall are from

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Karl Lagerfeld Kapsule

By Tom

It's a lazy Memorial Day weekend involving me being lazier than usual. I did go to ScentBar (I know, Alert the Media) and visited the Etat Libres, smelling the Rossy de Palma (which I liked) and "Don't get me wrong", etc., which was a perfectly innocent lily scent. I still think a bottle of Rien might be in my future, but they are the olfactory equivalent of the guy with the tats who might make you weak in the knees, but you can't possibly take to the company Christmas party.

So I was cleaning and in a random Neiman's giveaway I came across this trio in amongst mascara I wasn't going to use and expired postcards for facials. I have no info on them at all: even Google pretty much let me down. There are three of them in the package, Woody, Floriental and Fresh.

Floriental is usually a word that will make me run for the hills. Especially when coupled with the words Karl Lagerfeld, since my memories of the early 80's were scarred by his all-enveloping and impossible to escape eponymous 80's mens fragrance. Up close, there's a minty freshness and oolong, and there seems to be a by sillage going on here that calls to mind that scent (I'm sure that if you tear down buildings in West Hollywood or Chelsea or DuPont Circle they would waft this like asbestos...). While it's rather a throwback, it's also cool and pretty and isn't hampered by the addition of frozen blackberries or whatever.

Woody. Faber No. 2: perfect for filling out forms, since the lead is in there. Then there are plums. Very pretty, If there was a need for training wheels for a Lutens, this handily fills the bill.

Light. Well, one cannot accuse them of false advertising. A rather ordinary jasmine overrun with that water accord that comes across as being, if possible, cheaper that the jasmine. Which would be okay if this was something that was available at Walgreens for $15, but at at this price point I'll pass.

All are $110 for 2.5 ounces at Neiman Marcus. For now.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Strange Invisible Perfumes Epic Gardenia: Perfume Review

The floral trio, launched by SIP this spring, which, alng with Epic Gardenia, includes Aquarian Roses and Urban Lily, comes with the promise of embracing "the eccentric nuances of flowers", illuminating "the facets that are too often ignored". (from SIP press release) As far as gardenia is concerned, in perfumery, it is mostly portrayed as creamy, heady and sweet (Chanel's, Molinard's, Il Profumo's Gardenia Royal, Goutal's Gardenia Passion...). Some lines surprise with an airy, breezy interpretation (Goutal's new Un Matin d'Orage, Guerlain's Cruel Gardenia). A couple of renditions dare to bring to light the flower's earthy darkness (JAR Jardenia, Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia). Alexandra Balahoutis puts a "humid" twist on her gardenia.

"Humid, velvety" is the way the creator herself describes the scent, and that really is the most fitting description. The humid part is equal parts raw-earthy and sultry-floral, with a touch of something indeed slightly's that feeling of thrilling heaviness in the air, just before the heavy rain falls and greedily consumes the earth. I love the beginning of the scent, which has a surprising fruity undertone. In the top notes of Epic Gardenia I imagine I smell the tart candied-ness of black currants; the fruitiness segues into the sweet floral heart, where immediately that humid aspect becomes apparent. That subtle raw feel cuts through the typical creaminess of gardenia, rendering the aroma less opulent and heady than usual. The overall effect it strange and harmonious. My only complaint- and I rarely complain about this!- is that the fragrance does not last; half an hour after application I practically cannot smell it at all. Having said that, it might be a novelette, not an epic, but its soft, odd beauty is worth the bother of re-applying.

Available at and Barneys, $175.00-$210.00.

Image source,

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Straight From the Deg

by Marla

Well, after reading a great deal (and writing some) on the IFRA Wars, I wearily decided it was time to leave the battlefront, venture abroad, and refresh my love of perfume by learning about perfumery traditions that have nothing to do with major corporations, synthetic aromachemicals, or the European Union. And I’ve been making some delightfully fragrant discoveries. Today I want to share a little about attars, sandalwood-oil based perfumes from India that have a thousands-year-old history, and which are in danger today from globalization. I hope more of us in the West become acquainted with these treasures, and that they won’t disappear anytime soon.

The history of natural attars is an important part of the history of India. Sacred flowers such as champaca, rose, saffron, bakula, and others have been hydrodistilled into sandalwood oil with the use of degs for perhaps five thousand years. They became extremely important to the upper classes during the Mughal Period (the era the Taj Mahal was built), and the industry came to center in Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh, where most genuine attars are still produced today.

So what is a deg, anyway? Attars are made with a sealed copper vessel (deg) to simmer the flowers, resins, and spices (up to a hundred ingredients in some traditional recipes), a bamboo tube to bring the fragrant steam to the receptacle, where the essences combine with sandalwood oil. The water is recycled and the process repeated with fresh ingredients for up to several weeks. Attars are strong stuff! Because some flowers, like bakula, are so fragile and bloom for such a short season, attar-makers often travel with their degs to the growing site and produce the perfume in situ. Many of the recipes and specific processes are family-held secrets. The result is an oil-based, entirely natural, and very concentrated perfume.

A shamama is an attar made from dozens of different ingredients, and the formulae are always held secret. Some of the more common attars are Oud (agarwood), Gulab (rose), Motia (jasmine), Rhus Khus (vetiver), Saffron/zafran, Amberi (amber), Champa (champaca), Bakula (a delicate evergreen flower), and Majmua (a mix of vetiver, baked earth, kewra, and kadam flowers). All have sandalwood as their base note.

One of my favorites is Mitti, which is made from a special earth from the banks of the Ganges. It’s an extraordinary olfactory experience, soothing and refreshing like rain falling on baked clay in midsummer. Gulab, or rose, is my perennial favorite, it’s a ripe, old-fashioned rose straight from the garden, enhanced by the warm sandalwood it’s infused with. Simple and soft. A newer favorite is Genda, or tagetes/marigold. This green floral beauty is refreshing and piquant, and has been growing on me steadily. Sometimes I wear these, sometimes I scent a room with them by taking an oil burner, filling the top halfway with water, adding a few drops of attar, and putting the tea light underneath. The effect is quite exotic.

Sadly, the crisis in white sandalwood oil has hit the attar industry especially hard, and most perfumes called “attars” now are actually paraffin, blended with synthetic aromachemicals. However, the real deal can still be found in various shops and on the Internet, and at a reasonable price, if you consider these to be extraits de parfum. The main market for genuine attars is now in the Middle East, where many Muslim women eschew alcohol-based perfumes. The other, emerging market, is among those Westerners looking for natural perfumes. One attar master is experimenting with using vetiver as the base, rather than sandalwood.

For a genuine, natural attar or shamama, 2 drams (8ml) will usually cost about $20-50. As they are extremely concentrated, 2 drams will last for a good while. For some attars, like Majmua, it might work better to dilute them in jojoba, or another stable, unscented oil, or make a solid perfume from them with oil and beeswax. Out of the bottle they are quite potent, with impressive sillage and longevity.

I have tried attars from Liberty Natural, found under their Products/Botanical Ingredients heading, and White Lotus Aromatics, and Tigerflag Natural Perfumery and they have all been superb. Blunda Aromatics also carry genuine attars, and I’ll be trying theirs soon. Liberty has a $50 order minimum, White Lotus has a $100 order minimum, as they mostly sell to the trade, but Tigerflag sells samples with no minimum, as well as surprisingly effective paper-test sample strips at a very low cost.

I found it important to “live with” a new attar for a few days, to appreciate its nuances. The scents are very different from modern western perfumes, and take a little adjustment. However, they soon become quite addictive. Attars and shamamas are like wine in that each year is a different vintage, with different qualities, so if there’s one variety you really love, you might try collecting vintages.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kiehl's Original Musk

By Tom

Every so often someone on one of the boards at MUA or Basenotes will as the question "Is Kiehl's a substitute for Muscs Kublai Khan?"

The short answer is "no", but that's also doing a disservice to Kiehl's. Although it was created years before, it's more of a "Princess Bride" of a musk, with the flowers at the fore and the musk more winking and far less dark than Mongol menace of the Lutens. Kiehl's Original Musk is almost impossibly cozy, with roses, lily and ylang-ylang and powder and just a hint of dirtyness in the patchouli musk finish.

Comparisons aside, Original Musk is a pretty scent, easy to wear and easy to love. It's also easy to get, at $39.50 wherever Kiehl's is sold, along with shower gel and lotion at $15.50 and $19.50 respectively.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Eye Candy: Nacho Figueras The Face of Ralph Lauren The World of Polo

The professional polo champion Nacho Figueras was announced by Ralph Lauren Fragrances as the face of The World of Polo, a new advertising campaign shot by Bruce Weber to promote the triumvirate of RL masculines, Polo Modern Reserve, Polo Blue and Polo Black.

More Eye Candy HERE.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Winners of Une Rose Chypree Draw

Are Hanna and Tommasina. Please send us your addressees using the Contact Me link on the right. Thank you, everybody, for participating!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Midnight at the Oasis: Tauer Perfumes L’Air du Desert Marocain

By Donna

As many dedicated fragrance fans know, independent Swiss perfumer Andy Tauer has taken the world of niche perfumery by storm with his innovative fragrances, combining originality with first-class natural ingredients to come up with one hit after another. Each carries his unmistakable signature, a kind of “Tauerade” that lets you know with one sniff that it’s one of Andy’s - and that it’s really, really good. Andy’s scents have an intimate immediacy grounded in his dedication to using only the finest materials, bringing them to brilliant life for those fortunate enough to experience the results of his creative explorations.

I reviewed Incense Extrême previously, and I mentioned two of his other fragrances in passing in that piece. This time I am putting the spotlight on my favorite of his creations that I have tried so far, which has become one of my all-time favorite perfumes, period: his very first one, L’ Air du Desert Marocain.

This would be an impressive achievement from any perfume house; for it to be the debut fragrance for a one-man operation is truly amazing. Either men or women can wear it, though I think it was meant to be more of a masculine scent. (Le Maroc pour Elle is the only designated feminine perfume Andy has done to date, and it is beautiful in a different way.) Fortunately for me I ignored this division and tried it on myself, and rarely has a fragrance taken my breath away like this does.

I can only describe this in an emotional way, since I was so taken with it the first time I ever tried it. Conceived as an homage to the scents of the Moroccan desert, to me it tells a story in a manner few other scents can match. It begins with an incense warmth like sunrise both dry and sweet, awakening the senses as the landscape comes alive for the dawning day. As it develops it gets even drier, echoing the shimmering heat of the midday sun as it mercilessly parches everything under its power. This phase last a very long time; the longevity of this fragrance is truly impressive. Deeper and deeper it becomes, until the spice profile is revealed, and the coriander and cumin combine with vanilla and cedar notes to create the feeling of the way the desert comes back to life in the early evening, with aromas of cooking and wood fires. I can almost see the billowing tents with their faded stripes, fragrant from years of spicy feasts consumed within their confines, and hear the laughter and camaraderie from afar in the crystal-clear air of nightfall as the bonfires flicker down to glowing embers.

It would be just fine if it stopped there, but it doesn’t. Delving deeper into its base, at the very end, many hours after its initial application, the sweet, soothing incense becomes balsamic and slippery, and the patchouli and vetiver start to cool things down. Deserts get cold pretty quickly at night since dry air does not hold heat very well. The very end of this perfume is like being near an oasis late at night, with a whisper of moisture rising off the verdant life-giving spring as the denizens of daytime sleep under the stars and the night creatures begin to stir. You can catch the fleeting sweetness on the air from the jasmine and Bourbon geranium, as well as the beautifully refined incense and ambergris. The final fade is of vetiver root, deep in the cooling earth as it slumbers in wait for the next fiery day. It can take up to twelve hours to get to this phase, so plan on putting this on early in the day to get there. Maybe others’ skin chemistry will produce a different result, but on me it’s pure magic – and to think, I used to wear nothing but florals!

Andy Tauer calls this “the scent of desire” and I can certainly see why, but it’s not an overtly sexy scent in the conventional sense; there is no dirty leather or musk and there is nothing overwrought or blatant about it. I would put it on a level of greatness right up with the animalic monster Yatagan by Caron, but it is not anything like that one at all. Instead it is more romantic, a true memory fragrance, piercing the heart with longing for things both remembered and never possessed. For me it reaches into the past more years than I care to count and somehow brings back the vivid sensations of a great love affair in my life, which was both long ago and far away; warm copper skin smelling of cedarwood and spices, a galaxy of stars that seemed close enough to touch in the darkest sky I had ever seen, and sublime nights spent under rough blankets permeated by wood smoke. I will never see him again, but when I put on L’Air du Desert Marocain I can be back there in my dreams. No one really knows how it is that an aroma can affect us so profoundly, but I for one appreciate this gift that a great fragrance made by a masterful perfumer can give us, and I can say without hesitation that this one is a masterpiece to me.

In the U.S., Andy Tauer’s perfumes are available online at Luckyscent and its Los Angeles retail store The Scent Bar; and now they can be found in Canada too

from The Perfume Shoppe in Vancouver, BC both at the store and online. L’Air du Desert Marocain comes in Eau de Parfum, $100 USD for 50 ml and worth every penny.

Image credit: Sahara desert sunset scene from Wikimedia Commons.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Andy Tauer Une Rose Chypre: Perfume Review and a Prize Draw

For the rose,
for this rose,
for the only one,
for this graceful, open,
adult rose,
for her depths of velvet,
for the cry of her red bosom.
(Pablo Neruda, Ode to the Rose)

Like Neruda, I used to believe that I renounced roses, that I "preferred the rough bouquets of the thicket, wild lilies"...Roses are too ubiquitous, too obviously feminine. I am jaded, I crave the exotic, the unusual, the innovative. But I also require classicism, elegance and grace. How do you create a perfume that is classically structured and chic but also a little strange, a little outlandish? And in particular, how do you create a perfume like that when it is centered on such a traditional, overused note? I don't know how, ask Daniel Maurel, the author of the spectacular Amouage Lyric and ask Andy Tauer.

The secret of Une Rose Chyprée's attraction for me is three-fold: 1. It is a Dark Rose, not necessarily come-hither vampy, but certainly suggestively brooding, and Dark Roses are the only kind I can love at all; no easy, breathy, pastel tea-roses for me, please! 2. It is not overly true-to-life. I don't smell it and think, this is a rose. I smell it and think, this is a Perfume about a rose, a stylized, imaginative interpretation. 3. It is built on a contrast. The contrast is between the untamed wildness, greenness and woodiness of windswept roses from an untended garden, on the on hand, and, on the other hand, the exquisite, mannered, Ladurée-evoking gourmandness. The thorny verdancy of geranium, the rootiness of vetiver, the dirtiness of patchouli, the rich sharpness of oak moss are tamed and softened by the mouthwatering vanilla and citruses coated in cinnamon sugar...the rose is caught in-between the two streams, benefiting from both, wild and delicate, green and honeyed, spicy and silky-smooth all at once.

A poet can't close his eyes to rose's "cup of fire", or seal off his heart from its fragrance, and neither can a perfume lover pass by the indolent, fiery elegance of Une Rose Chyprée, my new favorite rose and my new favorite Tauer scent. It is launching worldwide on July 1.

Together with Luckyscent, we are holding today a prize draw for two bottles of Une Rose Chyprée. For a chance to win one, please leave us a comment. And while you are doing so, tell us what is YOUR favorite rose fragrance and your favorite Tauer perfume, and why. The two winners will be chosen randomly and announced early next week. The prize draw is now closed.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Washington Tremlett Clove Absolute: Perfume Review

By Tom

For those in the know, Washington Tremlett is the bespoke shirtmaker of choice on Savile Row (wrote the man who still orders his shirts from L. L. Bean). They are also the outfit that invented the modern necktie.

Clove Absolute is their newest scent and is as crisply tailored and luxuriously soft as a hand-finished Egyptian cotton shirt. Listed notes are (via Luckyscent) Lemon, Heliotrope, Rose, Incense, Clove Absolute, Patchouli, Vanilla Absolute, Cistus Absolute, and Musk. What isn't listed is immortelle, but if it's not in there then the clove, patch and vanilla serve to do a damned fine imitation. For the phobic this doesn't translate to Sables, who some find life-threateningly cloying- the imitation immortelle along with the thoroughgoing clove just makes one want to lean in and sniff. The clove's aspects go through several stages from sparklingly bright onto doughy followed by sweet to barbershop through to a drydown that's everything you ever wanted a man to smell like. Not that a woman couldn't get away with it or wouldn't want to. I just think it's better given to him as a gift, then filched.

$175 for 100ML, at LuckyScent

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cale Fragranze d'Autore Mistero: Perfume Review

Calé Fragranze d'Autore, an Italian line established by Silvio Levi, is another "library of fragrances", probably inspired by Malle's example. Each scent narrates a story, and Dr. Levi is the narrator. Take that as you will.

Mistere narrates a story of A Man, "but above all that part of him that we would like to discover." It's up to you to decide what part that is, and you don't have to tell me. Mistere attracted me initially with what I can only describe as a smell of sorrel, and I felt compelled to discover if the rest of is equally delicious. The sour aroma of sorrel is absolutely irresistible for me, it reminds me of childhood, of my mother's sorrel pies and sorrel soups. Mistere offers both on its menu.

The sweet, slightly boozy, tangy top notes of rum, rhubarb and mint are the pie, the mouthwatering, candied and green-tasting confection. As the composition progresses, it becomes more savory, spicier, drier, greener still. That is the soup. Pimento, which I adore, is very noticeable, as is saffron. The piquant, nose-tingling freshness of one and the raw sweetness of the other are incredibly attractive together. Those who like rice in perfume, should certainly give Mistere a try: half-way through the scent's development, the note appears, slightly powdery and comforting as ever, made interesting by the presence of spices. First in Fragrance mention a "hazelnut" undertone, and it is there indeed. The wood-amber accord in the base does have a certain nutty quality. The overall effect is complex: the blend moves suprisingly smoothly from sweet-n-sour gourmandness, to verdant spiciness, to rich, musky, mossy woodiness.

If I had to narrate the story of Mistero man, I would make him a chef and a family guy, warm, strong, reliable, with gentleness that is all the more charming, because it is so unexpected undeneath the burly-sexy, no-nonsense exterior. That gentleness, the playful aromatic sweetness of the scent and the fluffy softness of rice and woods also make Mistere entirely wearable for a woman.

Available at First in Fragrance, €65.00-€90.00.

Other perfumes in which I smell "sorrel": Guerlain Djedi and L'Âme d'Un Héros, Lalique Encre Noir.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bond, James Bond

By Linda

Because I’m a complete geek as well as a perfume geek, I was so excited to see Vesper Lynd’s personal effects near the end of Casino Royale and recognize a fragrance bottle. The handful of personal items, a tumble of things from her purse, expressed so concisely and in a few, elegant strokes just who she was. I am a harsh critic of movies and found myself really delighted by this clever visual haiku, this allegory of personality. (What might it say about me if my purse contents were shown? Oh dear, oh dear.)

Of course I looked up the fragrance, Santa Maria Novella’s Melograno. It opens with a blast of citrusy, sharp aldehydes and progresses to sexy hints of incense, leather, and (yes, I do barely get) pomegranate along with the aldehydes and musk at the impressively mossy drydown. It is sweet and, after the rather piercing opening, rather tender, despite its assertive sillage. The overall impression is somehow penitent of its worldliness, as of skin impeccably scrubbed with expensive soap and then powdered into forgetting it is damp and breathing flesh.

Like the fictional Miss Lynd herself, it is not exactly what I expected. It suits her to a T: clean and proper as can be, but musky beneath the surface; simultaneously tender and sharp; severe, but with hints of ripe sensuality. Melograno does not suit me: it is both too sharp and too sweet for me, and I am no penitent. However, there are some days when I crave its strangely tart and squeaky clean dry down.

I also looked up James Bond’s rumored choice of colognes: Floris No. 89. No. 89 reminds me (quite delightfully) of Ivory soap upon the open – again, soapy clean, with traces of citrus, lavender, bergamot, rose, and nutmeg. It evolves slowly and seamlessly, exposing its other notes seamlessly … dangerous ylang and neroli, and finally the downright animal sensuality of its oakmoss, sandalwood, and musk dry down. Like Melograno, No. 89 is quintessentially English perfumery, and surprisingly tender.

Whether or not the attribution of No. 89 as James Bond’s signature scent is apocryphal, it does evoke Mr. Craig’s moody depiction of character quite brilliantly. It starts out tidy, clean, and impeccably classic – even retro. Steadily, it slips its chain and becomes larger than life… surprisingly vulnerable and brutally seductive at once and by turns, this one fairly howls at the moon before it’s done. I find No. 89 completely desirable but not always manageable, as I discovered one day when I wore it to work and the rather rutty oakmoss and musk made themselves known.

Like the characters they adorn, both scents are surprisingly similar on the drydown. Both feature drydowns of powdery oakmoss, sandalwood, and musk, with his & hers accessories – acid elegance (powder, aldehydes, and incense) for her, classic male grooming (lavender, cedar, and vetiver) for him. If you want your secret agent scent tart and stern, give Melograno a try. If you prefer it deep and a little edgy, your poison is No. 89 instead. I find it endlessly fascinating that, as Casino Royale so piquantly explores when the two agents meet and verbally joust on a train, two distinctive characters can turn out to be so similar and yet so vividly themselves.

Please be kind and keep the comments as spoiler-free as possible for those who have not seen Casino Royale yet. (And if you haven't, oh, please do. Aside from being stone cold gorgeous, Daniel Craig has a genius knack for the character.)

Image by Greg Williams.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Hilde Soliani Il Vs Iris: Perfume Review

Il Vs Iris, the "I" in Soliani's TI AMO collection of floral fragrances (read the review of Tulipano, the "T", here) sneaked up on me with its quiet, understated, childish or better to say, kittenish charm. Although, I do smell iris in the very beginning, I would not recommend die-hard iris fans to look to Soliani's rendition for a fix. After the iris-like rooty floralcy goes away, and it goes away fast, one is left with very appealing woody greenness, evocative of a smell of freshly snapped young twig.

For a little while, there is something delicately peppery in this verdancy. This part of the composition reminds me vaguely both of the piquant freshness of Navegar and of green spiciness of Piment Brulant, although Il Vs Iris is much, much softer than either of the two. Gradually, the scent acquires a distinctly almondy undertone. At first I was puzzled by the origin of this subtly sweet nuttiness. The almond wasn't thick and saccharine enough to suggest an overdose of heliotrope. The note had pastel transparency...Then I read that the blend includes mimosa and it all made sense: there IS something almondy in the mimosa/acacia aroma, and the almondy quality feels lighter, fresher, airier than in the smell of heliotrope. Imagine mixing Mimosa Pour Moi with Jour de Fete, only make both significantly less sweet. Add to that the pepper of Navegar and Pimont Brulant...And although I make Il Vs Iris sound like a pastiche of L'Artisan creations, it is not.

With its initial earthiness and a distinct touch of spice, Il V Iris has something...I wouldn't dare say, animalic...but certain purring, feline grace. At the same time, its delicacy, its unripe greenness, its soft almondy undertone make it seem child-like. Like a heroine of a well-known song, it has a "gentle hand".

Available at New London Pharmacy, $75.00 for 50ml.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Weekend Beauty: Finding the perfect pink lipstick

By Donna

I seem to have a curse – every time I find THE perfect pink lipstick, it goes away. Cosmetic companies must have spying devices planted in my house so they can whisk it off the shelves as soon as I run out of my last tube of The One – not too pale or chalky, just a wearable medium pink in the neutral to slightly blue range. Of course it’s not just the color either; it must have a moisturizing formula, a creamy texture, a pleasing aroma, and not be frosted or glittery. It’s surprising how hard it can be to find exactly the right one, at any price point.

The first time it happened was with Frances Denney Pink Clover –this was over 25 years ago and it still stings! The store I had been buying it from stopped carrying the brand. It’s only available online now; it used to be at JC Penney and other mid-range department stores. A creamy bluish-pink exactly the color of clover blossoms, it was my favorite for a long time. The company doesn’t make anything even close to it now.

Some time later, I struck gold, or rather pink again with Lancôme’s Freesia. Very similar in color to the Denney product, it was more moisturizing and was also in the now sadly departed grape seed oil formula, making it smell delicious. Lancôme lipsticks now smell just okay, but they used to be downright enticing.

I was able to console myself with another Lancôme shortly thereafter in the form of Champagne, a matte pink with a touch of watermelon in it. One day I stopped by to get a new tube and you guessed it, it was gone. Oddly, there was still a lipstick called Champagne, but in a totally different formula, quite a bit darker, and with a bit of frost, so it was not really a replacement. I am a very pale pink person, and as I get older I tend to shy away from darker shades on the lips, especially if they veer into the brown range, since they look unnatural on me. Neutral to blue-reds I can do, mauves and roses yes, but I always come back to basic pinks for daily wear. I found one I loved at the Ulta store, one of their house brand shades of Sheer formula lipstick called Angelfood – do you think I could find it again when it was down to a nub? I think you know the answer. The Sheer lipstick in Pink Lemonade is close, but a little too light for some situations. The Sheer Mixed Berry is lovely and I got one, but it’s a raspberry pink, not a basic “neutral” pink.

Do I dare say I have just found another one I love and that it’s a Lancôme? Oh yes, I have. It was in a giveaway, which is normally a hit or miss experience, but this time I got a perfect fit. It is in the Color Design formula in The New Pink, and it’s a medium pink with just a hint of a watermelon/hibiscus tone, and the finish is called Sheen – not frost, not shine, but a subtle gleam. It’s one of those great like-your-own-lips-but-better shades that virtually anyone can wear, and it glides on smoothly and wears well. So how many tubes/cases/truckloads of it should I get?

Image source, Lipstick swoosh from

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Got Milk?

They say that familiarity breeds contempt. It also breeds content. There is nothing more comforting than a scent you remember from childhood; the momentary calm that comes over me when I smell the vanillic aroma of a sweet pie baking is a knee-jerk reaction. Immediately I am transported back to my mother’s kitchen, feeling safe and having not a care in the world. Even more comforting than vanilla? The smell of milk. I don’t want to drink it, I just want to smell it…There is something irresistibly primal in the coziness and attractiveness of the fragrance of slightly warmed up milk. Subconscious parallels to being breastfed, cuddled, coddled and absolutely safe? Maybe. Psychobiologists say that newborns are instinctively attracted to the odor of human milk and display much less distress during a painful procedure while smelling their mother’s lait. So maybe I am just a big baby.

Various types of fragrances have a lactic undertone; I smell hints of milk in vanillas (Vanille Aoud comes to mind), chocolate perfumes (Musc Maori), heliotrope-heavy scents (Farnesiana) and even, sometimes, fig fragrances (Premier Figuier, my little one’s current favorite, smells of milk on her…or maybe it’s just her). Three perfumes come to mind as being properly milky. Comtoir Sud Pacifique’s Matin Calin is the sweetest and most unrestrained in its sweet cuddlesomeness. There is nothing more comforting that its saccharine, vanillic, milky aroma. In small doses. An overdose of Matin Calin is an equivalent of maternal love that goes overboard in its intensity, smothering not snuggling with its passionate affection. The gentler Lann-Ael by Lostmarch, which blends milk with cereals and apples, expresses its maternal instinct less gregariously. It is calm and softly spoken, it caresses delicately, and doesn’t overwhelm with the overabundance of adoration. The ideal mother, one might say. Less obviously milky and thus less maternal is the 21 by Costume National. Blending milk with saffron, cumin, pepper, woods and a whole bunch of stuff (21 notes, supposedly, in total), this is the most complex of the three. The kind of mother who’d ask you to call her by her first name. Still, the milky aspect is very obvious to me and for that I adore 21 and find it as comforting as it is hip.

Got more milk…perfumes? Do share! Happy Mother’s Day!

PS. You can create your own milk mustache on

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Serge Lutens Douce Amere

By Tom

An older Lutens (out in 2000); Marla on this site as well as March at Perfume Posse wrote earlier about anise scents, not mentioning this one. Seeing that there wasn't a review here I thought I would throw in my two cents.

Anise usually not something that I am a big fan of in fragrance: it's sometimes amped up to toothache-inducing sweetness or is just not working on me. Douce Amere is one that is neither. The listed notes (from Luckyscent) are absinthe (Artemisia absinthum) , cinnamon, anise, lily, jasmine, tiare, tagette, marigold, musk, and cedar. What isn't listed and is most likely a combo of three or four of the former is an incredible, buttery milk chocolate smell that nicely balances the anise. The whole concoction is is silky-smooth and manages to be deliciously gourmand without being too literally edible, the chocolate fading and becoming more about the whiteness of the tiare. The whispery cedar and musk in the drydown take this from the bakery to the bedroom; it's still sweet, just more lusty and less Lolita. I do think of it as one of cold weather scents, though. I can
imagine it could go sickly-sweet in heat, especially humid heat.

Douce Amere is one of the exports, available at every retailer who carries Serge Lutens, $120 for 50ML

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A sense of place: The Richmond fragrances of Modern Atelier

By Donna

I am always amazed by how much talent is out there in the world of niche and natural perfumery. The big cosmetic and fragrance houses pelt us with hundreds of new releases each year, each more homogenized and forgettable than the last. With all those resources at their disposal, they come up with an awful lot of vapid scents designed by a committee. Then I try something by a perfumer very few people have ever heard of, working on a shoestring budget, and I find myself wanting more. Such is the case with the selection of samples I recently received from Richmond, Virginia perfumer Amy George, creator of the Modern Atelier line.

This young company has a dazzling array of perfumes in every style, from simple florals to spicy to gourmand, but the focus of my attention was a group within the line, of Richmond-inspired scents meant to evoke local landmarks and history. The list was very inviting, and I had a hard time choosing which of them to try, so these are by no means a complete picture of the Richmond scents, let alone the rest of the offerings.

I just had to have one in particular, called Shockoe Bottom and named after a favorite local watering hole, because it was meant to smell like my favorite liqueur of all time, Chambord. Accompanied by violet sugar, vanilla and musk, it does indeed. In fact, it even smells very much like my favorite cocktail made with Chambord. Ever had a Purple Haze? It’s not for the timid – you ask the bartender to make a Long Island Iced Tea, but then replace the Coke, the only non-alcoholic liquid in the recipe, with Chambord. I can only handle one of these but it’s worth every drop when I do have it. The sillage of this fragrance is boozier than it is close up on the skin, in a sparkling, slightly fizzy cocktail kind of way, so if you like the idea of Apothia Velvet Rope but don’t care for the ashtray accord, this is your scent. As an added bonus, when I press my nose close to my skin, it smells like a non-alcoholic childhood favorite of mine, all the more desirable because I can’t get it any more: Howard Johnson’s black raspberry hard ice cream. I almost always ordered that when we went to “HoJo’s” and I still miss it, as I may be the world’s biggest fan of black raspberries. Shockoe Bottom goes on my “gotta have it” list.

Flowers In The Fan is a really lovely green floral and a tribute to local Richmond gardens. Magnolia and narcissus are set off by a touch of honeydew melon, but it’s not a strong melon at all – just a little enhancement to sweeten the florals. It is quite beautiful and it lasted longer than I would have expected from a fragrance of this style. This is one you could wear anywhere, and perfect for a first date or a summer picnic.

URGE Magazine is named after a Richmond lifestyle magazine featuring the arts, club scene, fashion, entertainment, etc. whose trademark slogan is “Try Something Different.” And different it is – coffee, sandalwood, vanilla, chocolate, and bitter orange. At first blush I was afraid it was going to be all dusty cocoa like the only Montale I don’t like, Chocolate Greedy, but that only lasted a moment and the chocolate got all creamy and the coffee kicked in, and after that I was very happy. It was another memory for me, too – I used to get a killer orange mocha at a downtown espresso place that put a real orange slice in the drink along with the orange syrup. They went out of business and I practically got the shakes craving one of those damn things. At least I can smell it again now if I can’t have one!

Also sweet but in a very different way is The Vine That Ate The South, a tribute to the rampant kudzu vine that now covers vast swathes of the southeastern U.S. after being misguidedly imported from Japan. It had no natural enemies here so its progress was swift. However, it is pretty, with nice big leaves and fragrant purple flowers. The perfume has a grape-like aroma, similar to the scent of a blue or purple Iris, and also reminds me of another Asian plant that grows where I live, the Chinese Empress Tree, whose flowers look like upright Wisteria and are very sweetly scented. This one is simple and fun and would be a great first fragrance for a teenager.

Speaking of vines, Ginter Park Wisteria is a soft floral tinged with violet that I found mesmerizing, but its only flaw was its fleeting character; after about an hour it was gone. It is so pretty that it’s worth reapplying often though, and it is a style that I really love, akin to DSH Perfumes Cielle or L’Artisan ‘s La Haie Fleurie du Hameau, a pillowy cloud of a perfume with no edges anywhere. I would love to try this in a stronger concentration so I could enjoy it longer.

One of my favorites of the group seems meant to be more of a masculine fragrance, but the guys can’t have Manchester all to themselves. Meant to evoke the feeling of a tobacco-drying barn, it is quite redolent of clove bud at first, but that diminishes after a while and it turns into warm, dry oak wood and aromatic tobacco. If anyone knows barns, it’s a New England native like me, and this feels like standing inside one on a lazy afternoon as the sun filters through the high windows. I love the smell of tobacco leaf, pre-combustion anyway, and this really captures it. Longevity is excellent.

For a sophisticated and womanly fragrance look no further than Hippodrome, which with its notes of bergamot and tuberose was a good match for my skin chemistry. Leather is listed as a base note; I don’t get much, but it’s in there. It is one of the more complex scents in this line and would be perfectly fine for either office wear or evening. The florals start out as very bright, which I liked, and then they simmer down a bit, almost too much for my taste, since I never smelled a high-pitched white floral I didn’t like.

Included with my requested samples were two new fragrances that are still unreleased as of this writing. I have no detailed information about these, although the names do hint at their inspiration. I am going to go out on a limb and say that Give Me Liberty is a tribute to the famous Virginia patriot Patrick Henry. It’s a mellow, smooth and fairly subdued “skin musk” type of scent to my nose and could be worn by either men or women. As musks go it behaved itself surprisingly well on me, as I tend to amplify them much as I do white florals, and some can really get overpowering on me, but this was very nice and civilized. Forest Hill is something else altogether. Named after a Richmond neighborhood, I have to think there must be a lot of green space there, because this is pretty darn green. It opens with a citrusy feel mixed with mint, and at first it smelled just like pink lemonade with fresh mint leaves to me. I wish that had lasted longer, as the lemonade soon went away and it became a chewy, grassy green with a hint of dusty dirt and, an echo of the mint and maybe a little anise or fennel – not bad, but a bit odd. It reminded me of having to endure softball games in grade school; they made me play outfield, since I could not pitch, catch or throw. I stood out on the well-worn grass and smelled the dry dust kicked up by the runners rounding the bases, but I was never one of them. I have a feeling that this one would wear a lot better on a hot summer day, and I was testing it in chilly April in the Northwest.

Now I really want to try more of these, and the good news is that they are very affordable and that you can order them from the Modern Atelier web site. All scents are $15.00 for a one-ounce spray bottle, or four for $50.00. Check the sale bin for $10.00 fragrances, some of which are discontinued, and purse-size sprays of all scents are only $5.00. At these prices you can play around a lot, and in addition to the Richmond series there are dozens of others, including a number made to smell like famous fragrances such as Jo Malone, Kai, Creed, or even Bond No. 9. (Fear not, from what I have tried in this line they won’t be anything like the dreaded drugstore dupes!) One more memory for the road: I always wanted the really big box of Crayola crayons but I never got it – never mind the 32-color box or even the 64, I wanted the 128. Modern Atelier is the perfume equivalent of just that.

Image credit: Badly doctored Virginia state slogan sign by yours truly; original from

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Roxana Illuminated Perfume -"Q"

By Beth

Once upon a time there was a young girl who dreamed of living in a beautiful castle, in the middle of a beautiful forest. In her daydreams she was always the Princess, never the Queen, because the Princess always seemed to have more fun in the stories! In her fantasies she rode beautiful horses with blankets of velvet and all of the creature of the wood were her friends. She rode through her kingdom with a beautiful goshawk named Gabriel who sat on her shoulder and a trusted wolfhound named Margaret. She spent most of her days with the wise woman from the Glen of Oaks and Violets who taught her to brew healing spells and tinctures out of the abundance of herbs , roots and trees found all throughout her lands.

Her visits with the wise woman were always her own secret, her way of being a little rebellious in the face of her otherwise neat and orderly world. When she was there she could be herself, letting her imagination free and her natural gifts for magic flow. It was a beautiful cottage that the wise woman lived in, made of stones from the field and always with a fire crackling in the corner. It was filled with sweet cats that lay about in the sun simply enjoying themselves. The smells in this home were amazing, of raw earth and mineral, herbs, blossoms and mysterious spices that came from places that the young princess had only dreamed of but never seen. There were always magical teas that made her see her life with joy and clarity or disrupted her thoughts with images that shook her to her very roots, but even when this was the case the wise woman was always there to help her understand what she had just seen. But best of all were the Oak trees..such wise ones were they. They seemed to speak to her of history and place, grounding and transcendence and always whistling songs in the wind....if she listened closely they would tell her funny stories and sometimes they played with her, knocking her on the head with their acorns when she least expected it!

The wise woman taught her to write in calligraphy and to draw all that she learned. She taught the young Princess to keep all of her stories and formulas in a simple book that she made herself out of handmade paper and hemp. So used to the pious monks of her fathers kingdom was she that at first she didn’t want to do that . It reminded her too much of the manuscripts that they wrote with their scary pictures and stories. But the very wise woman convinced her that claiming her true voice in this way would give her the strength and security that she craved and the wisdom to understand and lead those who looked to her for guidance.

I could go on and on about my dream, of the fantasies that I played with all of the time as a young girl which eventually led me to my chosen paths of shamanism and magic. But what I really want to talk about is Roxana Villa and how in a split second she brought that dream back to me. You will all remember that several months ago our darling Tom wrote a wonderful article about Roxana and several of her beautifully handcrafted botanical perfumes. I went to her blog and was so entranced at that moment that I ordered several samples. About 4 days later an envelope arrived and I opened it eagerly. Inside was a beautiful little packet, with lovely writing on it and sealed with a wax seal of a honeybee. Inside were three perfect little vials of the scents that I had ordered, Lyra, Aurora and Vespertina and a lovely note from Roxana herself. I was enchanted. Roxana Villa is one of the the wonderful botanical perfumers in our midst, creating complex and extraordinarily lovely perfumes with tinctures, resins and essential oils, yet ascribing to the creed of harming none. A botanical perfumer isn’t to be confused with a natural perfumer. A natural perfumer can use an entire range of compounds to create their fragrances including a whole host of animal products as long as they are natural. A botanical perfumer will mostly only use the products of plants, roots and minerals and where Roxana does use beeswax, honey absolute or distilled sea shells in her products she is completely completely transparent in her labeling, making her products suitable for vegans who don’t want to find out unexpectedly that they’ve purchased a product made with a fixative of civet or musk or ambergris.

Most recently I returned to Roxana’s blog to find a beautifully written post about the arrival of Spring and her perfume “Q” which is an ode to the California Coastal Oak. I was instantly reminded of the memories of the wise old Oaks which still stand in the yard where I played as a girl. When my sample of “Q” arrived , I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. “Q” is a magnificent perfume, made from the hand tinctured live leaves of the Coastal Oak, wood, resin and citrus accords. Roxana tinctures the oak leaves herself on Beltane eve. Beltane is also known as May Eve or May Day and is the time for celebrating the return of the suns warmth and the promise of fertility. Beltane was the time that the ancients chose to celebrate the sacred union between a man and woman and lore does tell that all around the lands Beltane fires were lit and couples would steal away into the night to consummate their passions in the shadows of the flames.

I find all of Roxana’s perfumes to be incredibly deep , rich and moving but it is “Q” that is a shamanic template for my soul. Her gift is the same as that wise woman of my dreams, all knowing and all seeing, primal and real. In one split second and one deep breath of gorgeous green scent all of my pasts, presents and future collided happily, leaving me orgasmically relaxed and totally satiated. My husband fell instantly under the love spell that is “Q”, saying that it was one of the most sensual of the fragrances that he’d ever enjoyed, that it felt honestly and completely real. I’m not sure how she coaxes the beautiful essences from all of her beloved plants but I do know that she is the weaver of a very old magic and that she truly understands the true nature of the craft that she practices. To wear a perfume that Roxana Villa has created is to be plunged happily into another time and place yet be recreated powerfully and alive in your present. She weaves a spell of scent that transcends the very nature of history.

Quite fabulously, a portion of the proceeds from each 7 gram flacon of “Q” goes towards creating
profits and awareness for the California Oak Foundation, a cause very dear to Roxana’s heart!

You can find “Q” as well as all of Roxana’s gorgeous perfumes at Etsy. Enjoy her gorgeous Illuminated Perfume Journal.

Photograph of “Q” courtesy of Roxana Illuminated Perfumes.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Kenzo Eau de Fleur Magnolia: Perfume Review

Eau de Fleur Magnolia is a part of Kenzo's new collection of floral scents, to which every year a new flower will be added. The collection right now also includes Eau de Soie and Eau de Thé. Created by Francis Kurkdjian, Magnolia is my favorite of the trio. I haven't expected to be so charmed by a scent this subtle and fresh, but it seemed to have put its quiet, tranquil spell on me.

Despite the name, this is by no means a magnolia soliflore. The slightly fruity, apricotty flower is present like a shadow on water, a beautiful ghost of its usually sweet, luscious self. Which is exactly what I am in a mood for right now, it seems: pastels, transparency, non-heady floralcy, non-agressive freshness. There is quite a lot of citrus in the blend, dry, non-sweet citrus with a woody undertone, which plays into the delightful paleness of the composition. In the base, I sense something a little smoky, like a hint of black tea, perhaps...the overall effect is of weightless simplicity, of grace, ease and calm. As is the case with any creation that appears simple, it is in fact undeniably complex. Kurkdjian's sumptuous touch shows through the apparent purity of the fragrance, which makes its transparency warm and its colorlessness interesting.

Available at Sephora, Nordstrom and Kenzousa, $55.00 for 1.7oz.

Image source,

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Weekend Beauty: Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes Mascara

This week I found myself at Sephora, idly contemplating whether I should cheat on my mascara, Chanel Inimitable, with something new, because while it works wonders on my rather non-spectacular, not very long, not very thick eyelashes, we've been going steady for almost too years, and I am a little bored with it... or should I be loyal and reasonable and just stick with what's been so good for me. Reader, I cheated on it. Stumbling upon Givenchy counter and having a vague recollection of reading good things about their new mascara, I bought Phenomen'Eyes. Without trying it on or even opening it first. Because that is how I shop.

So imagine my surprise, when, upon unscrewing the tube at home the next morning, instead of the usual brush, I found this:

...something that looks like Rosemary's baby's bottle cleaner. Surely, this "high-tech, patented round sphere at the tip of the precision wand that reaches every lash and adapts to all eye shapes" will poke my eye out, thought I and proceeded to apply anyway. Apparently Givenchy's promise that you don't need a steady hand to use this mascara is true, as my eye survived intact and I made no mess on my upper or lower lids, whilst succesfully covering lashes from tips to the very roots. It is also true that the mascara curls lashes. I loved the fact that it applied very thick but separated lashes at the same time; the result was fairly dramatic: long (-ish, anyway, they would only stretch this far), thick, curled eyelashes. What's more - no panda eye problem (which was one flaw of my otherwise spectacular last mascara fling - Guerlain Le 2); the color stayed intact all day, and it was a very warm day. What's more- and very important for lazy moi- it washed off easily. Add to that the persistent and not unplesant suspicion that the formula contains snips, snails, puppy dog's tails and tannis root...Sorry, Inimitable. I am not sure we have split up for good, I do seem to always come back to you after playing around with other mascaras, but for now, it's all about Phenomen'Eyes.

Available at Sephora, in black and brown, $28.00.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Weekend Beauty- Nail Polish: MAC Love & Friendship

MAC released a new collection, Rose Romance, which includes one nail polish, Love & Friendship, described officially as "creamy dirty mid-tone lavender". I'd describe it as dusty mid-tone pink-purple. The shade is fabulous enough to warrant a whole post all to itself. The dusty-dirty element makes it ever so contemporary, and yet there is something vaguely and endearingly old-fashioned about this muted color. I call it edgy lady-like.

If I had to compare it to other polishes, I'd venture that it reminded me somewhat of Nubar Isis, however Love & Friendship is less pink and more purple. The polish required 3 coats to satisfy my obsession with total non-transparency, but it applied evenly and smoothly. This is the first MAC polish that I really liked, although I am sure that if I ever manage to get my mitts on elusive Peppermint Patty, sparkles would fly as well.

Also in MAC news, seven Dazzleglass lip glosses were introduced earlier this month, one of them Like Venus, "clean light bubble gum pink with red pearl". Don't be scared by the "bubble gum" in the description, it is not that bright on the lips, but it is a fun shade of pink which isn't boring to wear on its own and which livens up any lipstick.

Both are available at MAC counters and at, $11.00 and $18.00 respectively.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Guerlain Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus: Perfume Review

Although I appreciate Mitsouko, objectively, as a Masterpiece and a Classic, subjectively, I do not love it. When I wear it, Mitsouko is out there all by itself, and I am out here all by myself, we don't mesh, it does not melt into my skin, it is not "my" scent at all. So forgive me, Mitsouko lovers, for not finding the emergence of this flanker sacrilegious. And the thing is...we may moan about them all we want, but there will always be flankers. Companies will always attempt to make easier profit on the names of already popular scents. As Ecclesiastes would say, why shouldest thou vex thyself lamenting the inevitable? And not all follow-ups are tragically unworthy of their big ancestors. Chanel No 5 Eau Premiere, Vol de Nuit Evasion, Farenheit 32 are rather good. So is Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus.

The beginning of the scent is, to me, recognizably Mitsouko, only about 100 watts brighter. There is much more citrus in the beginning, the fragrance is more brisk, fresher, with none of the indolent smoky peachiness of the classic, but there is still a certain very Guerlain weightiness about the blend, a certain dark substantionality that is palpable under the breezier notes. As the scent progresses, it temporarily loses that solid Guerlain feel, becoming even more citrusy and more floral, in a cold, clean sort of way (that would be lotus). But only temporarily, because the depth returns, although when it does, the hints of Mitsouko's trademark buttery powderiness are replaced with what I would describe as peppery powderiness. Think the famously non-oakmoss chypre 31 Rue Cambon. This kind of slightly piquant, mineral earthiness that stood in for chypre in Chanel's creation stands for it in Fleur de Lotus as well.

The brighter, lighter, less oily-smoky-bitter Mitsouko suits me much more than the original. Also, when I say, lighter, I don't mean insubstantial. This is still a fairly robust and complex perfume, which takes time to reveal its various facets and lasts a long time. Yes, it is not the Mitsouko, but I think that the very decent flanker does not disgrace its hallowed name.

Ask for it at Guerlain boutique in Bergdrof Goodman, $100.00 for 60ml of Eau de Toilette.

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