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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Comforting Intrigue of Serge Lutens Chergui

By Donna

Anyone who has ever read my perfume posts probably knows by now that I am a major fan of the Serge Lutens line. I either love or like every one I have tried, and I have sampled nearly everything in the Export line and a couple of the Exclusives, with hopes to try the rest of them in the future. (Fumerie Turque, you are officially on my radar.) Recently I obtained a sample of one of the fragrances on my “hit list,” the fabulous Chergui. It seems that this 2001 fragrance has finally been released into the Export line, at least for a while, and I am seriously tempted to cave in. The price is up to $140 now for the 50 ml standard bottle (no bell jars on this side of the pond) but the way fragrance prices are going these days it almost seems like a bargain.

All of the Lutens perfumes are meant to be unisex, but some lean more one way or another. To me Chergui goes just a little bit more in the masculine direction, yet it is so devoid of “manly” stereotypes as to render any attempt at pigeonholing fairly useless. Yes, it’s warm and dry, and yes it has tobacco in it, but oh, that honey! The list of notes is probably not complete, since the SL perfumes are never fully revealed, but here goes: honey, musk, leather, incense, tobacco leaf, hay sugar, amber, iris, rose and sandalwood. I have no idea what “hay sugar” actually is, but I am most definitely in favor of it.

Unlike some of Serge Lutens’ work, there is no weird opening to get through before the “real” character begins to emerge. The honey hits as soon as it goes on the skin, and anyone who is phobic about honey in perfume would probably not even try this in the first place. I would urge patience, for it does subside eventually and the incense and amber chime in, accompanied by the delightful hay aroma. The leather also makes its presence known, but it’s not a heavy, dark obvious note, but rather a smooth and refined essence, like the finest bridle a horse could ever wear. (It reminds me a bit of Daim Blond in this respect, but not as suede-like.) The tobacco is the dry leaf, pre-ignition, which is good because I love the aroma of a good pipe tobacco before it’s lit up even better than afterward. The iris is true and clear with no powder, and everything rests on a pillow of rich, redolent rose, the kind that feels as blood red as a ruby, with a deep heart of mystery.

Chergui is one of those paradoxical fragrances that works really well as a comfort scent when you really need one on a chilly, blustery day, and which equally comes into its own as the perfect thing to wear when it’s warm and dry. Indeed it is named for the hot desert wind that blows through the Sahara, and it sings when the heat makes most other fragrances wilt and give up, or turn sticky and close. It never loses a certain sweetness, but the tobacco and leather keep it from veering into foody territory; it is far less sweet than Arabie, for example, and nowhere near as honeyed as Miel de Bois – which, by the way, I also really love, since I am one of the apparently rare individuals who can’t get enough honey in my life.

All of the Serge fragrances have a conceptual theme, though some of them are so abstract that it’s hard to figure them out without a road map. I would say that Chergui is one of the more straightforward ones, but beneath its amber and honey haze there lurks more than a little danger. The heady mix of tobacco, hay, leather and exotic incense reminded me immediately and forcefully of something, but it was not a scent memory; it was a scene from one of my favorite films. If Chergui could be brought to life, it would be the riveting shipboard poker game sequence from Carroll Ballard’s wonderful 1979 movie The Black Stallion. Intrigue, greed, suspense, beauty, danger, horses and curling smoke, all leavened with plenty of sweaty tension. Something about Chergui does that to me, and it’s hard to explain. I can be wrapped in its deliciously luxurious and comforting embrace, yet all I can think of is how much I want to be bad - in the best way possible.

Video clip of the opening scenes of The Black Stallion; the card game scene starts at about 3:30 but it should be watched in its entirety (10 minutes) if only for the great music. This is one of my favorite movies of all time!

Image credit: Satellite photo of a Sahara dust plume over the Atlantic Ocean,

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Guerlain Les Voyages Olfactifs: Moscow, Tokyo, New York and a Prize Draw

I am not going to comment on the size of the bottles. Because...well, we've been through that so many times since the arrival of Les Exclusives de Chanel. I shall not analyze whether Les Voyages Olfactifs fragrances suit the cities for which they are named. Because if you are willing to stretch an idea, anything will suit anything.

Paris-Moscou. Flowerbomb Lite. A more graceful, more floral, slightly less sweet version of the same candied-flowers idea. There is a certain refinement of a long pedigree that even such conventionally pretty representatives of the noble Guerlain family as Moscow, Nuir d'Amour and Plus Que Jamais can't help but possess. As witnessed by the three aforementioned fragrances, Guerlain is very capable to produce this kind of high quality olfactory pop music. I wish they made them widely available as there is nothing exclusive about them, instead of a lot of stuff they market widely. Although Moscou has a certain smoky sort of darkness in the base, I did not get either the promised absinthe or the pine needles I so longed for. Nevertheless, a very, very pretty little scent. If it fell into my lap...and, being of a considerable size and weight, not broke it...I'd wear it when a disco roller girl mood strikes me. You probably don't need it if you have: Flowerbomb.

Paris-Tokyo. For those who like this green-tea-citrus-jasmin-pinch-of-sugar sort of thing, this will be exactly the sort of thing they like, only more expensive and in a bigger bottle. This is the opposite of what I am attracted to, but I find it -here is the word again- very pretty. Tokyo is fresh and transparent, but not overly so, because I don't think that, even at their most un-guerlain-iest, Guerlain are capable of a lot of transparency. Tokyo is not sweet, but that pinch of sugar keeps it from being too bland and pale. You probably don't need it if you have: Thé Pour un Été.

Paris-New York. The most interesting of the three. But only inasmuch as I am predisposed to automatically find spice-resins-oriental fragrances the most interesting in any group of scents. Then I let them develop and realize that it has been done and done much more interestingly before. The woody-incensey accord in New York has a very attractive leather quality, the cinnamon does not overpower other ingredients, and vanilla, while kept to a minimum, still manages to give the blend a certain fluffy-powdery voluptuousness. You probably don't need it if you have: a lot of stuff by Serge Lutens.

If you would like to be in a draw for a set of samples of Les Voyages Olfactifs, please say so in your comment. The winner will be announced on Friday. The draw is now closed.

Image source,


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Weekend Beauty- Nail Polish: Strangebeautiful Library No 2

Strangebeautiful™ offers "libraries" of nail polishes, which change every season. Each library consists of 8 polishes, which can only be bought as a set. Strangebeautiful's intent is to develop a new creative approach to nail color and position themselves more as an accessory rather than just a nail color line. The polishes are 3 Free. So far there has been two libraries, I had a chance to try on the second one, released for Spring 2009.

The bottles, rather irritatingly, have no names on them (and to me, the names of polishes are half the fun!), so I am going by the descriptions on Luckyscent with some and will make up the names for the others:

"The dull red color of a lobster shell" or one might call it brick-red. I like these kinds of muted, rusty reds. The polish was thick enough to be suffcient in two coats and applied smoothly:

"The dark dense saturated black purple inspired by the venerable J. Herbin ink company founded in 1670." More of a purple-indigo, perhaps. Again, great consistency, a 2-coater.

"The slate blue color of a uniform in an 1846 Currier print," my second favorite in the library. Somewhat reminiscent of Rescue Beauty Launge Stromy, only darker and bluer. Perfect application.

Then there were two "mustards" (term mine):

"The Brown Mustard" is ...inexplicable color-wise. I am sorry but it looks, never mind. Perhaps, it just really, really clashed with my skin tone. No problems with application though.

"The Yellow Mustard"- a wonderfully original, muted yet bright (that's right) color, which did not flatter my skin tone, but which I loved nevertheless

"The Taupes" were easy for me to like. I only have about a dozen of these sorts of shades in my collection.

"The Grayer Taupe" had the mushroomy quality that I love:

"The Warmer Taupe" reminded me pleasantly of the color of baked milk:

But the best, to me, was "The Olive Green" polish. It had the muted, earthy quality, a slight gray undertone, it was like nothing else I own or have often seen in other lines.

Overall, I thought that the Library No 2 offered fairly unique, earthy and edgy shades. The polishes applied well, had great coverage, dried fast. Would it be worth it for me to splurge on a $79.00 set for just the olive, the slate and the two taupes...I am thinking about it.

Available at Luckyscent.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Strange Invisible Perfumes Aquarian Roses: Perfume Review

Like every great magic trick, every great perfume consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge". But while during this stage a magician usually shows something ordinary and normal, a perfumer more often than not has to attract one's jaded attention with the striking and the unexpected. No one is more adept at that than Alexandra Balahoutis, whose perfumes are notorious for being "odd" in the beginning. I would not call the top notes of Aquarian Roses outright weird, but the piney, herbaceous aroma of marjoram opening a rose perfume is unexpected, and the realism of the rose accord is stunning.

The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary object and makes it do something extraordinary. The perfumer has to make sure that the middle notes live up to the nose-catchiness of the beginning of the composition. And thus the marjoram leaves suddently turn into...underwater plants?...the saline, seaweedy quality in a rose fragrance is unusual and exciting...but where are the roses?

Cutter will tell you that making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. And that is the third act of a magic trick, the hardest part, the part that is called "The Prestige"...Will Balahoutis pull it off and make the very true-to-life roses from the first part come back...and most importantly of all- and this is what the trick was really all about- would, in the finished creation, those be the roses that I will love and be able to wear?...Are you watching closely? The aquatic plant transforms into a rose and the base accord takes the rose and leads into the familiar, time-honored union with sandalwood. Do I love it? I love it! Love the herbal start, the salty middle and the proper-perfumey, strangely old-fashioned end.


Available at and Barneys, $175.00-$210.00

The image, the quotes and the general inspiration for the review are courtesy of one of my favorite movies, The Prestige.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Scents by Alexis Venus in Furs, Eve's Revenge and Vixen and a Giveaway

The final three scents in my package, I'd covered the other ones here and here.

Venus in Furs lists spicy amber, freesia, vanilla and florals. There's a powdery note to it that keeps is just this side of Velvet Underground, but only just; it's sweet young flesh doing rather outre things at places like the Chelsea hotel. Karl writes "This is your secret password". I might be a touch too old to enter that club..

Eve's Revenge is so not me: a green apple sweetness that reminds me of candy or gum. Luckily that's just the opening. It deepens into amber, still sweet, but then this is Eve's revenge not Adam's.

Vixen gets back into territory I'm happier in: coffee and berries, bone dry with that sly sillage and a bright blackberry note that's delightful.

All of these are available at her website in I might add some really gorgeous hand-finished bottles.

I will give my samples of all nine scents to a random commenter; if you would like to be included in the draw, please leave a comment. The draw is now closed.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Czech & Speake Cuba: Perfume Review

These days I am in a mood for scents whose spiciness is fresh or whose freshness has a dark and piquant depth. The examples would be Piment Brulant, Piper Nigrum and Poivre 23. Cuba by Czech & Speake is my latest discovery in this genre. "Inspired by the old town of Havana, its Latin rhythms, smooth cigars, fine rums and exotic beauties," the scent...lives up to its inspiration.

Multi-layered and multi-sided, Cuba is an exciting scent to wear, because it inclines you to pay attention to its development. It is interesting to monitor the change from sutbly sweet and delicately mentholated top notes, with their distinct boozy undertone of rum, to the warmer, spicier middle accord of cloves and roses enveloped in a mellow tobacco the richer and simultaneously somewhat sharper base notes of frankincense, woods and vetiver. I love it when complexity is rendered so harmoniously. The seamlessness of its blend, the familiar softness of its tobacco, the uplifting quality of its incense, makes Cuba as unexpectedly comforting and calming as it is invigorating. It's muy, muy bien!

Available at Cambridge Chemists, Czech & Speake and Luckyscent

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Praise of a Sonia Rykiel

By Marla

The Rykiels began as lemmings for me. I’m not usually susceptible to lemmings, but when some scent twins (triplets, actually) mentioned how similar Rykiel Woman, Not for Man! is to Barbara Bui EdP, but had pepper as an added bonus, I had to buy it. Unsniffed. I’d sworn I’d never do that again, and I hadn’t done it in a year. I’d been a good girl. Really.

So I skulked about guiltily for a week until my box showed up at the post office. I love my Barbara Bui but use it sparingly, as it has been discontinued (or maybe not). And even if the lawyers have figured it all out and it’s reissued, it’s probably an IFRA reformulation, a ghost of its lovely, suave self. (rant, rant)

So, was Rykiel Woman everything I’d hoped? Yes! It’s fantastic, slightly weird, but delicate enough (after the pepper sneeze opening) to wear at the office or on the metro. And that pepper sneeze opening is the best part. After the pepper, which is the olfactory equivalent of a beehive bouffant, it settles into a lovely amber/musk/leather which is simply heavenly, and classy besides. Then there’s the bottle, which is retro Big 80’s with a sense of humor. The whole experience reminds me of my girl-crush on the ladies of Heart when I was a junior high schooler.

If you buy it online (it’s usually around $30), make sure it’s the old formula in the Big 80’s bottle (with gold polka-dots), and not the new pink formulation, which is a bland fruity floral. Meh.

Notes for Rykiel Woman Not for Man!: created by Anne Flipo, and launched in 2003. Head notes are pepper, violet and dates; heart notes are jasmine, rose, pepper and sunflower accord; base notes are leather, amber and musk.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Czech & Speake Frankincense and Myrrh: Perfume Review

During a stressful time to which perfumes does a non-believer turn for comfort? Why, it's to incense perfumes! Ironic, huh? When I do, I am not looking for them to remind me of any particular churches or associated experiences, I don't want Orthodox or Catholic incense...I just want that melancholy-uplifting, "this too shall pass" quality that few smells apart form frankincense are able to offer. (Yes, it is also ironic that a non-believer finds comfort in the fatalist words of Ecclesiastes.)

Czech & Speake's Frankincense and Myrrh is perfect for times like this. It is completely non-denominational. It is spiritual, not religious. The herbal citrusy-ness of the top notes of lemon, orange and basil is refreshing and open window into the world...without it the composition could have been too heavy in more ways than one. The fruitiness of orange brings out the sweet side of myrrh, and smooths the sharp angles of the dry, bright, resinous frankincense note. There is a certain tarry quality in the perfume that I like, something almost leathery, smoked. It gives the composition the comforting feel of solidity, stability, safety...It makes me believe that "the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain."

Available at Apothia, Czech & Speake and Luckyscent.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Scents by Alexis Duchess, White Sable and Goddess

By Tom

Last time we covered three of nine of Alexis Karl's delicious perfume oils, today we will look at three more,

Goddess according to Ms. Karl contains vanilla and jasmine. It also has a nuttiness to it that reminds me a bit of Parfumerie Generale's Aomassai, minus what March call the a$$ part. Well, maybe just a touch, but it a very goddessey sort: innocent, Rubensesque and very sexy. The jasmine and citrus cut the sweetness, and although it's not listed I think I smell lily of the valley. Yum.

Duchess is a literal eye-opener, with a rich dark chocolate that smells like of has a hint of both coffee and raspberry before I get the best smelling simulacrum of a fresh pear I've ever run across. If you've been reading my reviews over the past (is it really nearly?) three years here you would think that I would back away making the sign of the cross, but it's by far my favorite of the bunch thus far.

White Sable on the other hand was a miss for me, my skin took it's white flowers and vanilla and made it seem just strange, kind of like the scent of high-end nail polish. Which would make it a great Etat Libre scent, but isn't what I imagine Ms. Karl wanted it to do. I'd love to read how others found it.

Next time, the other three in the package, and a giveaway.

Available at her website, $100/ 1oz, $175/ 2 oz

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

L'Eau Par Kenzo Eau Indigo Pour Homme

Inspired by indigo, "the color of travel", "by the seductive dance of color and scent as dusk sets on water", and by the atmospheric mi chieh mi loup hour of twilight, L'Eau Par Kenzo Eau Indigo Pour Homme is a "night-time" sequel to L'Eau Par Kenzo Pour Homme. Created by Sophie Labbé, the fragrance is a blend of ginger, coriander, elemi, vetiver, cedar, labdanum and tonka bean.

As the list of notes indicates, the scent is built on the contrast of spicy-cool-fresh and resinous-warm-earthy. The airier top notes balance the more substantial base, achieving that very Kenzo effect of pared-down transparency under which is concealed fairly weighty complexity. An Indigo perfume by another line would have been significantly darker and more intense. Kenzo's interpretation is the transluscent darkness of water right before the sun sinks into it on the horizon... while the rays still make it possible to get a glimpse of the solemn depth under the tranquil surface. I love the interplay of the sweeter ginger and sharper, more fiery coriander in the beginning, and the way spices enliven the dry resinousness of cedar and elemi. Vetiver prevents amber and tonka bean from making the scent too robust and sweet, while they, in turn, make sure that the green rootiness of vetiver, although apparent, does not dominate the composition. Softly sensual, harmonious, easy to wear, this is indeed a perfect perfume for a quiet summer night. L'Eau Par Kenzo Eau Indigo Pour Homme is soft enough to be easily worn by a woman, and I found it much more interesting on my skin than the Femme verison, which I thought to be somewhat powdery-sugary.

Available at, $55.00 for 1.7oz.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Profumum Volo AZ 686: Perfume Review

Named for the Alitalia flight from Rome to Caracas, Volo AZ 686 blends "the scent from coconut palms and flowers of thousand colors, the swings of a hammock and a cocktail in my hand" (from In other words, les vacances in a bottle.

Scents about summer vacations are many. Gardenia perfumes are not. Especially not those that offer such a multifaceted interpretation of the aroma. The composition starts with coconut and vanilla, about which we are warned by the list of notes, and I suppose they are necessary in both the gardenia and "exotic journey" perfume. They do serve nicely as a cuddly cushion to soften the impact of what comes next. And next comes something strikingly mentholated, a note chilly and sharp, in a manner that I find very appealing. Think Tubereuse Criminelle. To enhance the edgy effect, the flowers here have a distinctly rubbery quality, a characteristic that is simultaneously urban and organic-mineral. Volo AZ 686 takes its time to get to this final rubbery gardenia accord on the skin, it unfolds slowly, making sure all layers of the blend are noticed.

Because of the menthol and the rubber, this is probably a perfume that either really works with one's chemistry or clashes with it dramatically. Because of the subversive, dark and resolutely non-girly side of the scent (the side that dominates the mix, unlike the brief coconut-vanilla cliché in the top notes), men could and should wear this gardenia.

Available at luckyscent, $240.00 for 100ml.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Boadicea Pure and Benefit Laugh with Me Lee Lee

These days, I am consistently finding myself being drawn to fresher fragrances. Only a year or so ago, my favorite scent in any line invariably would have been the darkest, the leather-iest, the skankiest. These days, when presented with a collection of perfumes, I often choose the freshest one as my favorite. I scare myself. The other day I tried Boadicea the Victorious perfumes, and I liked neither Intense, nor Seductive, Complex or Exotic, but Pure. Pure! The clean, comforting non-smell of a white t-shirt...I was attracted by the almost aldehydic and understated sparkle of the citrus top notes, by the way basil and juniper tempered the would-be robustness and sweetness of the base of sandalwood, patchouli and vanilla. There was an easy grace about Pure, something a little bit child-like...It was the comfort of the familiar, of the neutral...the calming, soft energy of the color white.

Similarly, in the new collection of scents by Benefit, inspired by the Royal Crescent in Bath (and oh the presentation! the 10 year old girl in me squeeled in delight), I surprised myself by enjoying Laugh with Me Lee Lee the most, the girly blend of blackcurrant, melon, violet, lily and amber. Seemingly uncomlicated, it is in fact rather cleverly built on a contrast of the fresh (melon, lily) and sweetly-fluffy (violet, amber). After starting fruity-green, almost a little watery, the scent becomes more substantial, more fleshy, with the violet note revealing surprising and appealing creaminess. Paired with something that I can't help but interpret as minty, violet here has the same warm-cold quality as its counterpart in Aimez-Moi. In fact, I am tempted to call Laugh with Me Lee Lee something of Aimez-Moi Light, Fraiche or Summer.

Boadicea the Victorious perfumes are right now available at Harrods and are soon coming to Luckyscent. The Crescent Row trio will be available in Sephora, Macy, etc in July.

Have your tastes undergone a striking change as of late? Do share!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Aftelier Cassis: Perfume Review

In Russian, when something has started to ferment and turn into an alcoholic beverage, we say that it забродило (zabrodilo), literally -wandered off. The blackcurrant in Mandy Aftel's Cassis has definitely wandered off from the innocent dacha of my childhood and into places where my mama entreated me never to go.

Corrupted with rum, smoke and spice, this is not your granny's blackcurrant jam. Drunken, dissolute, debauched, this is currant gone bad, really, really bad. As always, when a note in perfume "goes bad", in a sense that it acquires this boozy, very ripe, husky quality, I go right after it. Aftelier's Cassis makes me think of an unknown liquor...which I would very much like to know...if rum was distilled from berries and not molasses, this is what it would smell like...add to that thick, piquant, sweet fragrance the aroma of old oak barrels...stored in a dark a house of someone your mama wouldn't want you to know...and you have an idea of Aftelier Cassis.

To smell it for yourself, luckily (?) you don't have to visit mechant loup in his lair. Cassis is available at, Henri Bendel, Blunda and Suendhaft, $150.00 for 1/4oz.

Image, by Carter Smith, is from art+commerce.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Caron L'Anarchiste: Perfume Review

There are various versions of notes for Caron L'Anarchiste; most insist that it contains orange blossom and mandarin, Luca Turin calls it apple-lavender. Midtown Perfume states that the scent contains pear and basil, and that, to me, seems the closest to what I sense in L'Anarchiste. The way the fragrance begins, with that minty freshness of an unripe pear paired with the hints of de riguer floral-herbal cleanliness of lavender, one can't help but feel that the dainty juice won't fill the very big shoes of the name. "Iced" fruits do not anarchy create.

As the composition progresses, however, and the herbal greenness of basil and rosemary and the earthy verdancy of vetiver become apparent, the blend becomes significantly more interesting. It matures, acquires an edge and a raw sort of depth. There is a certain, strangely attaractive cold abrasiveness in the woody accord of cypress and cedar; the dry, stark woods pose an appealing contrast to the sparkly fruitiness of pear. It is when the fruits are placed on that resinous background that it becomes possible to place them in a sort of...dare I even say it... "nihilistic" context. The fathers might have never dared to wear anything not obviously masculine, but the sons are unafraid to spray themselves with pears and apples. And no, hard as you try, it is impossible to stretch the playfully unruly message of the perfume so fas as to say that it evokes Bakunin. An anarchist it is not. It is an adorable rebellous middle child at most. But that is a whole lot adorable.

Available at all sorts of online retailers, fairly inexpensively.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Ay que no se quebrante tu silueta en la arena...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Frederick Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur: Perfume Review

By Tom

Wandering around the neighborhood I saw that Barneys Wilshire Boulevard were devoted to the new Dominique Ropion scent for Frederick Malle, described in the press as one that will "that will thrill fans of mint".

Well, they ain't lying.

The first few seconds have the initial freshness of Eau Sauvage, something like that bright pettigrain note immediately joined by the warmth of clove. Then the mint comes in. I'm not a big fan of mint in perfumes, so perhaps I am not the person this scent was designed for; this is capital "M" minty. Chopped fresh mint with crushed Altoids rolled in Dentyne minty. Yep, it's mint. Luckily the mint is joined by a surprisingly earthy geranium note and the spicy clove sticks around to keep the whole thing from becoming too brush-your-breath bright. The base is a lovely white musk with sandalwood and a whisper of the geranium. I don't think it's especially screaming "No Girls Allowed"; I can see if being a lovely summer scent for a woman. I'm not quite convinced that it's necessarily a must have, since there are about three scents that I can think of that are about $35 on the internets that cover this territory, as does FM's own French Lover. But I did find it growing on me more and more over the weekend, I may yet fall.

I didn't get the price when I was at Barneys, but I assume that it's about the same as the others, anywhere from $125-150 for 50ML.

Next week, back to Alexis Karl.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Weekend Beauty: At last, truly matte eye shadows from Revlon, and Lancôme’s Spring 2009 color winners

By Donna

Shopping for just the right eye shadow can be frustrating if you can’t try it first. So many of them appear different in the pan than how they actually look on your lids. For me, the biggest problem is finding colors are both age-appropriate and flattering, as well as being fun to wear. I love color, but if it’s too pastel or too bright it looks odd on me, as much as I might like it in theory. The other problem is shine – so often I find what I think will be a good one but it has too much glitter for daytime wear, or in my case too much glitter period – my eyelids are starting to get a little middle-aged like the rest of me so a lot of sparkle just does not work.

Recently I had the pleasure of having a makeup application from the Lancôme national team at my local Macy’s. They were running a promotion for the spring color line and the goody bag offer was even better than their usual GWP so I made an appointment. I asked the makeup artist to try out some new eye colors on me, since I was in the market for change. She obliged with a fabulous smoky eye look in a blend of burgundy and brown shades that made my hazel mossy green/brown eyes look really green. So I bought the Le Stylo Waterproof Long Lasting Eyeliner ($23.50) in Prune from that session; it is an automatic pencil style liner that has a smudging sponge on the other end and the color is fabulous. (Now I want it in all the other colors!)

The GWP had a Color Design quad shadow and two of the colors are Waif, a silky-smooth pinky-taupe and Latte, a pretty cream color, both matte shadows that are really flattering. These shades are part of the Color Design ($16.50 for the singles) range in the spring 2009 lineup and I recommend them highly. However, I also wanted to re-create the smoky eye look in a budget-friendly way, so I went looking for a shadow color to go with my new liner and the Latte/Waif shades.

Who knew how hard it would be to find just the right one! So many colors and formulas, and so few in the right color range to complement the Prune eyeliner, a brownish purple. Even more annoying is how many that came close were too violet or blue and/or had too much shine for my taste. I finally found exactly what I was looking for, at a very friendly drugstore price: the new Revlon Matte eye shadows. The color range is limited but some new ones were added recently, one of which was precisely what I was looking for, Aubergine. It is a perfect companion to my new eyeliner and it goes on smoothly and blends very easily. As a bonus, the Peach Sorbet shade makes a great shadow base for any other colors or a highlight shade on its own, and it is rare to find a truly matte formula in this pretty icy peach color. It really “wakes up” your look. Best of all, they are only $4.99 each and the size is very generous. I am pondering getting a couple more, since it’s really hard to find a good teal or dark blue with no sparkle. Watch for specials and coupons from Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, and Target etc. on these winning products.

Image credits: Revlon Matte shadows in Peach Sorbet and Aubergine from Lancome quad with Latte, Waif, Mannequin and The New Black, (This was my GWP quad – Waif and Latte are on top. Mannequin is also very pretty, though slightly shimmery)

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Parfums Delrae Mythique: Perfume Review

In the last couple of years, iris perfumes have, in my humble opinion, over-saturated the market, turning the fairly precious ingredient into something ubiquitous and thus no longer exciting. Or maybe I simply never have been that much into iris, and after a couple (dozen) of releases I was done with the note. Mythique, Yann Vasnier's (not Michel Roudnitska's, thank you for correction!) new creation for DelRae revives my interest in all things orris.

Inspired by the legendary courtesan Diane de Poitiers, the scent is a simultaneously playful and classic take on iris. If you wanted a raw, "natural"-smelling orris, this is probably not the scent for you. This is a perfumey iris, imaginatively adorned with other ingredients and gallantly stylized. Totally suited for a courtesan in a way that the earthy-streamlined-realistic Iris Pallida is not.

I like the fresh, slightly sweet juiciness that citrus fruits in the top notes lend to iris, the note that fairly often tends to be quite dry. I love the rosy glow that peony puts on its ordinarily pale cheeks and the way jasmine highlights the sensual side of orris, a side not often enough brought up in iris perfumes. And I adore the way sandalwood, ambrette and patchouli create a leathery quality in the base of Mythique, giving its flirtaceous, vivaceous, girly femininity a dark, subversive depth. If Mythique had an ad campaign, it would be shot by Ellen Von Unwerth. If I had to compare Mythique to other iris scents, I would say that the rich, honeyed, again, perfumey way the note is interpreted here, made me think of the late and lameted L'Artisan Orchidee Blanche and Editions de Parfums Iris Poudre.

Right now Mythique is available at First in Fragrance, €145.00, or Les Senteurs, £110.00

Image, obviously, is by Ellen Von Unwerth. Yes, I know that it is stylized for an epoch later than Poitiers's, but it fits my impression of the fragrance.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Scents by Alexis Black Valentine, Minx and Femme Fatale

By Tom

It's been a long road for me to learn to appreciate perfume oils. Originally I dismissed them all as being godawful things that popped up every now and again in health food stores reeking of cheap patch with the staying power of a freshly startled skunk. Luckily, perfumers like Liz Zorn and Roxana Villa have been able to teach me an appreciation for well done oils.

Alexis Karl does well done oils.

Black Valentine manages to be gorgeously gourmand and wonderfully flowery at the same time. The combination of tuberose and caramel is spellbinding: on my skin it almost becomes chocolaty. I never thought that chocolate covered tuberose would be something I'd care to smell like. Live and learn..

Femme Fatale is real old-style Hollywood Glamour: amber, jasmine and ylang-ylang that fairly cries out for bias-cut silk. It's retro-glam punch is mitigated by crystalline brightness (I think there's some kind of citrus in there) that makes it completely wearable. It's the perfect scent for releasing your inner Bacall.

Minx is distinctly different and one that's going to be a love/hate scent. It opens with a winey bitter cocao accord. For a while there seems to be a distinct hazelnut scent to it, ubtil stewed fruits and a distinct merlot scent comes forward and it goes from love/hate to love/need.

There are six others in the range that I have samples of, should I go on?

Available at her website, $100/ 1oz, $175/ 2 oz

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Facing Down the Beast: Dior Hypnotic Poison

By Donna

Ever since the release of the original Poison by Christian Dior in 1985, I have been mystified by the attraction of this perfume. Everybody either wore it or smelled it back in the Eighties, if they were not wearing or smelling Giorgio Beverly Hills. Perhaps I was permanently scarred by a rather terrifying woman who wore Poison to the office every day – a lot of it, spreading its heady spell over the entire department. She wore tight skirts, stiletto heels and a contemptuous attitude toward whoever did not meet her standards, which was pretty much all of us. She read Vogue on her lunch break and never made a friendly gesture toward anyone that I was aware of. One day she punched a hole in the carpet with one of her weaponized heels and took a hard fall; there was zero sympathy for her among the employees as she was that unpopular. So of course I can’t smell Poison without thinking of her.

Hypnotic Poison came out in 1998, the second Poison flanker after 1994’s Tendre Poison (unless I have missed one), and I have studiously avoided it until now, when I came into possession of a sample of the Elixir strength scent. Okay, it was now or never; could I exorcise the demon of the past and appreciate this on its own terms?

As soon as I sprayed it on I felt the presence of the original, in the heavy, bitter almond opening standing in for that famous camphoric tuberose-anise-incense blast. I was determined not to scrub; I had to get through its development somehow, even with visions of Stiletto Woman dancing in my head. Pretty soon the sweetness chimed in and it got a little bit milder – whew! The tag line on my sample card says “The sensuality of jasmine exalted by a liquorice, star anise accord.” Well, I got the star anise all right, but the poor jasmine is desperately trying to get noticed, and failing. Caraway is there too, adding to the delirious gourmand feeling of the bitter almond. This must be the kind of hallucinogenic “food” that’s served in an opium den.

With two of my favorites, jasmine sambac and moss, listed as the heart notes I was really hoping for some of the top notes to die down so I could smell them; good luck with that, there was no respite. Instead it seemed to go right into the base of jacaranda wood, vanilla and musk – lots of vanilla, turning this into a dessert of Chinese restaurant style almond cookies, which I happen to love, but I am not sure I want to smell like them all day. (Would it surprise anyone to learn that all parts of the jacaranda tree are poisonous, and that it has very sharp spines that can cause allergic skin reactions?)

One this happened I found this fragrance to be very linear, with not much else going on once settled into the sweet phase. The constant throat-burning presence of the bitter almond defines this perfume. If that could have been dialed back just a little I would have liked it more, but then it would not have shown its Poison lineage so clearly, and that of course is the point. Bottom line: I could wear this in public if I had to, unlike the original, but I would never buy it. I intend to test the other Poison flankers in the near future, and perhaps I will find one to like. Until then, I can finally cross this off my list.

Image credit: European magazine ad for Hypnotic Poison with actress Monica Bellucci from (Love the purple snake!)

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