Fragrance X
First in Fragrance
My Photo
Location: New York, NY
© Copyright 2005-2011 Perfume-Smellin' Things
All rights reserved
Custom Search

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Memories: Velvet and Sweet Peas Purrfumery’s “Black Cat” Eau de Parfum

By Beth

“Bonfires dot the rolling hillsides,
Figures dance around and around...
To drums that pulse out echoes of darkness,
Moving to the pagan sound...
Somewhere in a hidden memory,
Images float before my eyes... O
f fragrant nights of straw and of bonfires,
And dancing till the next sunrise...
I can see the lights in the distance,
Trembling in the dark cloak of night...
Candles and lanterns are dancing,
Dancing a waltz on All Souls Night.
Figures of cornstalks bend in the shadows,
Held up tall as the flames leap high...
The green knight holds the holly bush,
To mark where the old year passes by..."
All Souls Night-
Lorenna McKennit

Can you smell the heady sensuality of the harvest season as it hangs like the moon in the chilly night air? On Sunday the wheel of the year will makes a turn round once again to mark the Celtic festival of Samhain and every child that I know is completely delirious with excitement. I adore everything about the celebration of Halloween and for many years I’d throw wonderful parties for the neighborhood children outdoors under the moon at Windesphere , our century farm nestled on a quiet hillside in Burton, Ohio.

Jim would build spectacular bonfires which I’d scent with pine boughs and cinnamon pine cones, I’d “haunt” our front pasture with fog , lights, spooky music and creepy sounds and Alex would pull his friends down through the cornstalk maze one at a time in his little red wagon. We’d have a blast scaring them just enough so that they’d be thrilled to be going out on such a big adventure , shortly they’d rejoin their parents up back on our hillside next to the bonfire where cauldrons of spicy hot cider and slabs of cemetery cake would await!

For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure , cemetery cake is a delightfully gooey pleasure of devils food cake, crushed chocolate cookies , whipped cream, all covered with coconut that was tinted green like grass, shortbread cookies placed in the frosting so they resembled gravestones and covered with fruity gummy worms and candy corn for a very gross and delicious effect. I made steaming copper kettles of pumpkin soup and we’d always finish with S’mores . My husband would laugh because I love to burn my marshmallows to a blackened crisp and slather the whole hot oozy, gooey delicious mess onto thick pieces of chocolate that I sandwiched between two cinnamon graham crackers!

Standing around the fire we were always joined by a wide array of barn cats and the occasional familial ghost as well as an owl or two. I loved those parties and there was something so wonderful about being on that very old land and celebrating a holiday with such powerful connections to life and death and our pagan past. For me, Halloween will always be the smell of a roaring bonfire , sweet sugar and spice and more than a measure or two of spectral surprise.

Samhain, or the beginning of the Celtic New Year is also a festival that honors the dead. Have you ever felt a cool , moist presence float past that chilled you to your marrow and made the hair stand up on your neck in a way that you couldn’t understand? This is the time of the year that the veil between the worlds is the thinnest and our loved ones who have left this worldly existence are once again close at hand. If you listen carefully you may find out what blessings the New Year has in store for you! Heed their words well......

Living on our farm brought me closer to those ancient mysteries than I’d ever been before, for after all the original family cemetery lay secretly nestled in the woods across the street and our farm was the original property that enveloped all of that land , a lovely homestead built by Harmon McBride in 1848 about 12 years before the beginning of the Civil War. There was always a palpable energy of the past that was present on our land on Samhain and even though I no longer live there, I still make the yearly pilgrimage through the sweet autumn woods to place pumpkins, herb bundles and flowers on the long forgotten graves of those that I came to regard as my own, a ritual that has become a meditation for me.....

Excitement is once again filling the fall air because for the very first time in the many years since I left Windesphere I have a new home in the city, a charming brick duplex that my son has christened “The Citadel” . We are nestled at the top of a lovely hill on a short bit of brick road. My new neighborhood came complete with lots of wonderful families and many delightful small children and yes…I am planning a party! We will have many luminarias to light the way up the winding stone path and a ghostly piñata courtesy of one of my lovely friend Michelle. Cornstalk and Indian corn are tied to the large Oak tree and I have pumpkins settled everywhere that I will carve tomorrow. The haunted music is ready and I am told to expect hundreds of trick or treaters. Sunday just can’t come quickly enough!

My copper kettles are standing at the ready to be filled with pumpkin soup and green Thai curry and the ingredients for pumpkin martinis and adult root beer floats are waiting on the bar. Soon my kitchen will be warm with the fragrance of spice and carrot cakes cooling on the sill just waiting to be frosted with sweet buttercream and garnished with candy pumpkins and corn. Spicy concord grape juice and grilled cheese sandwiches with barbecued drumsticks will be waiting for the children, along with old Addams family , Bewitched and Munsters episodes playing on the TV on our porch. My darling husband has even gotten into the act, cleaning up the yard , bagging loose leaves into pumpkin bags and even promising me a fire pit for my S’mores !

I have my costume, complete with a fabulously sexy witches hat that is covered with sparkly things just the way that I like and the perfume I’ll be wearing? None other than Velvet and Sweet Peas Purrfumery’s devastatingly luscious and completely bewitching “Black Cat” lovingly crafted by the delicious High Priestess of Natural Purrfumery , Laurie Stern! Laurie’s “Black Cat” is a beautifully rich and totally natural botanical perfume, a sumptuous and downright hedonistic blend of cocoa, sweet blood orange, ylang ylang, aniseed myrtle and vanilla that just seems to get lovelier by the hour on my skin. It’s a perfume that I never seem to tire of and utterly perfect for this time of year with its candy like yet sophisticated decadence. Watch your necks when you wear this one my darlings….It is after all Samhain and you never know who may be lurking in the dark…..

Happy Halloween!

You can purchase the beguiling little “Black Cat” at


Friday, October 29, 2010

Top 10 of Fall 2010

PST is joining with our friends at to celebrate our favorite scents for Fall.

Tigerflag Natural Saffron Attar
When cut 1:8 with jojoba oil, this attar is both relatively economical and flat out gorgeous. A smooth, honeyed saffron with mellow floral notes and no trace of medicinal bitterness, it has a modest sillage that mixes beautifully with the scent of autumn leaves and cool fall air.

I've fallen madly in love with Juliette has a Gun's gorgeous and utterly devastating perfume Citizen Queen. She's a very vintage and ladylike chypre that reminds me of my beloved Bal a Versailles, yet she's sexy and arrogant with an edginess that borders on cruel....Lots of yummy leather, amber and violet here to play with!

I find myself reaching for vintage Miss Dior even more frequently as the days grow crisp and cool; its mossy, sexy warmth and earthy base notes are perfect for any time of day or night, and wearing it makes me feel stylish and elegant even when I am dressed in a comfy sweater and my favorite jeans.

by Serge Lutens. I love its honey, hay, and tobacco goodness. For me, it dredges up memories of carved pumpkins and piles or orange and yellow leaves that need to be raked in the front yard and old men smoking pipes filled with sweet tobacco.

I think it has to be Odin 03 (Century) this Autumn. Mind you, most of the time I have my partner wearing it instead of me, but that's just so I can snuggle his neck and sniff him. An always-evolving blend of vanilla-laden amber and woody incense, it's the very breath of fall for me.

A wisp of scintillating, ethereal lightness and the succulent sweetness of juicy, wild plums balance and beautify the animalic, primordial vigor of Oud Nuh- a luscious, vibrant and magisterial oil hailing from the jungles of Assam.

by L'Artisan Parfumeur has always seemed to me to be a perfectly autumnal scent. It certainly hits the spot this Fall, which, this far into October, still carries a lingering breath of the extremely hot summer we had. The hint of floral sweetness of peonies is a nod to the season past, the smoky, earthy, leathery core- a comfort in the cold and the rain. Perfection.

For fall, I'm wearing a lot of Serge Lutens Bas de Soie, the icy/warm vibe is perfect for the capricious weather we get in Europe this time of year!

So far this fall we've gone from a hight of 113 (before the official thermometer croaked and rainy mid-fifties. Helping me survive this roller-coaster is Mouchoir de Monsieur, Guerlains almost unbearably suave mens scent that can be demure enough for the heat but ferocious enough for cold. Since Marina asked me to coordinate this clambake I'm cheating and choosing two to round us out to 10: I got a sample of Escentric Molecule 03, the new Vetiver one. It's Vetiver dialed up to 11 and I'm nuts about it...

Please tune in to the other participants: Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, and Perfume Posse.

Image source,


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Le Galion's Parallel Universe: Sortilège & Snob

By Donna

Le Galion was one of those French perfume houses whose departure from the scene was lamented by many at the time, though it has faded from memory today among younger fragrance customers who have never heard of it.. Unlike so many that had their brief glory days in the “golden age” of the Twenties and Thirties and then flamed out, it lasted well beyond its heyday as other, smaller and more obscure houses fell by the wayside in the wake of the ascendancy of bigger players such as Guerlain, Givenchy, Caron, Rochas and Jean Patou. At one time it enjoyed great popularity in the U.S. market, and its marketing strategy was a bit unusual; some of its perfumes were obviously in the style of other scents with much greater name recognition. One of these was the aldehydic floral Sortilège, an unmistakeable reference to Chanel No. 5; the other was Snob, doppelgänger to Jean Patou's Joy. That name was an obvious reference to the tag line for Joy being the “costliest perfume in the world.” Both were released in 1937 shortly after the great perfumer Paul Vacher bought the house from its previous owner and began to introduce his own creations.

Back in the mid-Eighties, my local perfume boutique was the first in the city to offer a truly broad range of the finest fragrances the world had to offer. From all the big names the owners had to choose from, the decision was made to showcase Sortilège. I was fortunate to be able to smell it at the time, but much to my regret I never bought a bottle, for not long after that the house of Le Galion was no more, so it was the only one I ever smelled until I began doing research on older perfumes over the past few years. (Many years later, the Irma Shorell purchased the formula for its Long Lost Perfumes line, but I have never tried it.)
Recently I have been hunting down what vintage scents I can lay my hands on, at least those that cost less than a month's rent, and I have acquired a few Le Galion perfumes, including some that I had not even known about before. The stunning Tubéreuse was a revelation, and Jasmin (1937) is the most marvelously heady and indolic thing a white floral lover could ever want. I even found a miniature of the rare and oddly named Cub, a tender and pure white floral of great beauty. (Its counterpart from the same year, 1953, is called Whip, so it would appear that both of them were meant to appeal to the foxhunting set. How times have changed!)

A tiny bottle of Snob Parfum de Toilette made its way to me and it is indeed very much like Joy. My bottle is showing its age just a little, but once it is allowed to breathe, it is nothing less than exquisite. I don't know when or if I will ever find more of it, so I ration it out like liquid gold. The same exotic essence found in Jasmin is fused with rose de Mai in the same seamless way of the Jean Patou classic. Obviously Paul Vacher knew what he was doing when he decided to try and capture some of Joy's market share. Snob is very difficult to find now, but you can always get Joy instead. It is perhaps just a notch below Joy in quality, but I can't really tell from sampling just one bottle since I never smelled it back when it was still being made; I would give anything to smell the Parfum strength of this one. There are stories about how the Jean Patou company tried to block the sales of Le Galion perfumes in the U.S., so that may be why it is so rare.

As for Sortilège, it is somewhat easier to find on well-known auction sites and established vintage perfume merchants, but if you want a truly pristine bottle you should be prepared to pay top dollar for it. I was very fortunate to be offered an unopened bottle of the Parfum de Toilette as a gift by a lovely lady who was looking for a “good home” for some collectible treasures. She had received it as a gift herself some forty-five years ago, and it had been stored in a dark trunk for all that time. I had no idea what I would find when I opened it, but in a testament to its quality and expert formulation, it was still in very good shape. The aldehydes on top were just a little off, but as soon as it hit my skin it became the warm golden haze of beauty that I remembered. Yes, there is a kinship with Chanel No. 5, but I liked it better back when I first tried and and I still do. Less powdery and more honeyed than its “twin,” it has peach and strawberry notes to round out the soft florals of hyacinth, orange blossom, rose, jasmine, lily-of-the valley and violet among others, resting on a base of vetiver, woods, Tonka bean, opoponax, musk and civet. It is one of the prettiest perfumes ever made, gentle and enveloping and truly feminine, yet its lady-like demeanor is a facade for the very sensuous quality of the animalic base; those now-illegal synthetic musks of the bygone era pack a punch like nothing used today, and the civet is very evident even in this lighter formulation.

I have also acquired a tiny bottle of the Parfum, and on those occasions special enough for wearing it I am struck by its sexy intensity, yet it never overwhelms or gives off too much sillage. This lady knows how to keep a secret to herself. Even one drop lasts for many hours of pleasure. It's one of the happiest, most light-infused of all the classic scents I have ever smelled, and somehow it's never too “bright” or intrusive in the way of other more modern floral bouquet perfumes. This is one of the fragrances that most represents classic French perfumery to me; effortless beauty and chic with a warm heart and a little mystery for good measure. For many people the ultimate is Chanel No. 5, but just give me Sortilège.

Image credit: The cover of American Vogue from February 1937 via; original source unknown.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 25, 2010

9021-Eau! Beverly Hills Beauty Must Have, Rodeo Dr. and Iconic

By Tom

When I read that the city of Beverly Hills was looking to bring out a beauty line I was of two minds. As Mayor Jimmy Delshad, who originated the project said "Beverly Hills people usually use a tremendous amount of beauty products" and why shouldn't the city profit from its recognized name? I knew that Mayor Delshad wouldn't let something out that was at all second-rate: nothing naff like the city shield-shaped bottle. But with about a bazillion new scents coming out each year, how would these set themselves apart?

First, they separated themselves from the pack by insisting the perfumers use plants and flowers that could be found in the city, using the citys own arborist as a consultant. Second, they hired Zoltan Pali of Studio Pali Fakete (working in the city of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in town) to design the bottle. That bottle is a handsome, spare curvilinear rectangle that fits inside an outer sleeve that is subtly patterned with the letters "BH". So subtly in fact it took quite a while for it to register with me.

The fragrances are fairly subtle as well.

Must Have is meant to evoke the California sunshine and features a happy citrussy lichee opening joined with sweet pea and lotus and a warm, woody drydown with a whisper of amber.

Rodeo Dr. is the "Red Carpet" scent, and it smells red: mandarin, hibiscus and peony open and jasmine, gardenia and a light patchouli ground it.

Iconic was my favorite of the three, with its sorbet-like berries opening quickly mixing in a handsome tea-rose and finishing with a very nice patchouli/vetiver/sandalwood finish made deliciously caramel with the addition of vanilla.

Would I wear them? Personally? I'm surprising myself by writing that I would, especially Iconic. The ingredients don't skew so femme that a man couldn't wear them, and the concentration is EdP at most so they don't have a huge amount of throw. I would recommend them to people as very well-done "no brainer" kinds of scents for days (or nights) where a one wishes to smell very nice without worrying that they are wearing something too (ahem) challenging. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with the upcoming mens scent (note to Mayor Delshad: think driving a classic Jaguar E-type on Sunset on a summer evening..).

The three will be out at in late 2010 (the website isn't up yet) and selected retailers in early 2011. The price will be $120, but they didn't note bottle size. I received my samples from the City Chamber of Commerce.


Friday, October 22, 2010

A Portrait of Jane Cate: American Indie Perfumer

By Marla

This summer, I was delighted to take part in the Mystery of Musk project, which featured natural, musky perfumes created by radically individualist, indie noses. My most-worn of the group was Jane Cate’s “Tallulah B2”, a luxurious, yet cheerful floral with a sensual, musky base. Her soon-to-be-released fragrance is “Notoriety”, inspired in part by Edwardian actress Lily Langtry. Intrigued, I contacted Jane. Her perfumery is called “A Wing and A Prayer Perfumes”, and she runs it with her daughter, Sarah, in Northern California. Here’s our conversation:

Marla: For many centuries, luxury was defined as unique items and excellent craftsmanship available to a small group of people. Today, mass-market "luxury" has overwhelmed these old traditions. How do you think the indie movement in perfumery is answering mass market "luxury"?
Jane: Luxury to me is defined as something special, one of a kind, something that is very unique and that no other person has. When I am creating perfume for a client, I am creating a fragrance for that person only. Even our "off the rack" perfumes are decanted one at a time. Having our clients feel special is important. Luxury is also individual attention to detail and we take pride in that.

Marla: I've noticed that indie arts are thriving outside large cities. Indie perfumeries are popular in the Alps and Provence, the English countryside, provincial Italy, and in areas of the US and Canada far removed from urban centers like New York and Montreal. How does your living environment influence your work?
Jane: I love Northern California, always have. In fact the cities of Northern California are my muses! I visited California as a teenager and just fell in love with the San Francisco area. Later as an adult I moved here, so for 35 years, Northern California, especially the Bay area, has been my home. The region has inspired me, the colors, the topography, the fragrances. Each area has its own particular fragrance and that is what I try to capture in my 'California Scents' line. The perfumes capture the essence of either the town or region they were named after. 'Napa' is a true lavender scent, and if you visit that area you would see the lavender planted among the grape vines. 'Filoli Rose' is named after the legendary Filoli mansion and its beautiful gardens; the estate has rows and rows of the most gorgeous roses and the fragrance of those gardens is captured in the perfume. I am currently working on a scent that evokes Los Gatos, a very picturesque town in the Santa Cruz mountains; it is a fern fragrance. Another one I am blending is for Half Moon Bay, a coastal town which has a pumpkin festival each year, so that will be a clove and cinnamon blend.

Marla: What inspires you to create a new perfume? You don't have corporate briefs, so what starts the process?
Jane: I think in smells, the olfactory memories of places I have been to, important people in my life and experiences I have had. Take 'Bella' perfume, when I was trying to create a perfume that reminded me of my grandmother, Isabel, I thought of that wonderful lady and the fragrances she wore. Rose was her favorite, but with an orange spice accent. When I was finished , 'Bella' was a blend of citrus infused with rose, with a little vanilla to give it the warmth of the lady it was named after. 'Dorobella' is a scent named for my mother, Dorothy, again it is a combination of fragrances I associate with my mom. My mother loves 'Joy', so when I was creating her perfume for Mother's Day, I wanted it to be classic in nature, but with a "kick". 'Dorobella' has the rose blend, but also the woody scent of sandalwood.

Marla: What are some of your favorite botanical materials?
Jane : I love roses, bergamot, amber, vanilla and sandalwood. During the Mystery of Musk Project, I discovered the joys of botanical musks as well. Citrus has also been one of my favorite families.
I love working with waxes, specifically beeswax and soy wax. I use beeswax for our solid perfumes. Recently I have begun to work with soy wax to create candles using fragrances from the perfume line. I just love the way the soy wax slowly burns and releases fragrance, it’s beautiful!

Marla: What are some materials you'd like to explore in the future?
Jane : I would like to make more tinctures and hydrosols from flowers. I am currently experimenting with tonka beans, so I will see how the tincture turns out.

Marla: What's your personal favorite, and the story behind it?
Jane: My go- to perfume has to be Tallulah B2. I love how it stays on the skin for a long time. When I was blending for the Mystery of Musk project and finally came up with a scent that embraced musk, rose and vanilla, it created a warm floral with enough musk to surprise the wearer. I thought of personalities from the Art Deco period. The actress that came to mind was Tallulah Bankhead. She was outrageous, outspoken, and very open about her sexuality. I also remember that her background was quite genteel. So I named my fragrance “Tallulah B2”, since when you first smell it, it comes off as a warm, caressing floral; then after a while, here comes the "kick" of musk to surprise you , so it becomes a very sexy scent, like Tallulah herself !

The other fragrance I love wearing is 'Sarah', rose infused with vanilla, sandalwood and grapefruit. This was inspired by my daughter, Sarah, who helps me with the business side of our perfumery; it’s a youthful, happy fragrance.

Jane’s passion and love of her environment and people is very evident in her work (I’m wearing Tallulah B2 as I write this, and yes, it’s making me happy!) Her shop can be found at etsy.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sweets for the Sweet...Reglisse Noire by 1000 Flowers

By Tom

Anise can be a tricky note in perfumes. For me there's always the spectre of something like Blue Sugar, which I wrote smelled like deep-fried black licorice However in the hands of Jessica September Buchanan, the Grasse-trained Canada based nose behind 1000 Flowers, this is a black licorice that’s more Pernod-fueled romp than trip to the candy store.

I think the key is that the black licorice is never alone: it starts being cut by shiso and brightened by mint and pepper while in the heart it's cut with ginger and cocoa. In the drydown it gets seriously sexy with vanilla, vetiver, musk and a twist of patchouli. It does a yin and yang thing of being both sweet and dark; it’s a sultry night at the Sazerac Bar. It's cocktails, whispers, intimate laughter that may lead to perhaps taking a room for the night: a frolic, a fancy, an adventure that's not for the kiddies...

In an extra flourish of eco-friendliness, 1000 Flowers has created a bottle that’s refillable, with a special threaded atomizer that can lock for travel, while the box itself is made from British Columbia cedar, a product of leftovers from home building. It’s always nice to see that level of detail in both the scent and the packaging.

Available at, $100 for 50ML. I received my sample from Indiescents.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Into the Woods: Anat Fritz Eau de Parfum

By Tom

Well the weather roller-coaster that is Los Angeles continues apace. Last time you tuned in (the 10 Corso Como review was written on 9/26) it was hot. The day after I wrote that review was the hottest day in recorded history in LA: the temps hit 113 when the official thermometer at USC blew up. The beaches weren't that much cooler: 111 in Long Beach and a chilly 107 in Santa Monica. I stayed at a meeting in a thankfully air conditioned room at Roxbury Park until forced out to the blast furnace that was my un-air conditioned hovel. The next day when it was merely 104 it felt like Canada.

Of course the next week when the review actually ran, reinforced my reasoning to not have an AC unit: it rained intermittently Monday and Tuesday and poured Wednesday and temps didn't hit much higher than 60. This Columbus Day weekend the weather took its Paxil and it was gorgeous. So I went to ScentBar.

I realise that that particular sentence could come after any life experience I might have, sort of like that game where you read your fortune from the cookie and add "in bed". For instance: "I had a appendectomy. So I went to ScentBar." "I was given the Nobel Peace Prize. So I went to ScentBar." "I was attacked by giant, man-eating clams. So I went to ScentBar." You get the idea.

In any case, I cruised the "man" side of the aisles this time and flirted with the bottom shelf. For those who have never been, ScentBar helpfully arranges the scents by strength; top are lighter and the lower you go the, well, lower you go. First up on the lowers shelf was Anat Fritz, which I had heard of but not tried. According to Luckyscent the scent is an eponymous one from a Berlin-based designer who has a "desire to send all wearers to their own individual travels into the past". Apparently that means a trip into the woods.

On me it opened in the best way possible: a warm, woody scent with bright lavender and vetiver. I think I smell immortelle in there, but it's not listed, and it's not Sables strength. Then it becomes a symphony of woods: cedar and sandalwood and a final addition of patchouli. It's very simple and very lovely and I was immediately in thrall. It reminds me somewhat of something that was on my mothers dressing table in the first phase, which if you've been reading for a while is high praise. After a while it becomes a handsome, smooth and paired-down scent that would be perfectly at home with a suit at the office or on a date. I don't think it needs to be restricted to the mens side either; if you're the sort of girl who rocks Chene for instance you would do well to try this. At the very least if you're partnered with a guy you could buy it for him and ruthlessly poach.

$120 for 100ML at Luckyscent

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This Violet Doesn’t Shrink: Gracing The Dawn by Roxana Villa

By Donna

I am very pleased to be participating in a group blogging project to mark the introduction of natural perfumer Roxana's Villa's new fragrance, Gracing The Dawn. I have been a fan of Roxana's creations since I first tried them a couple of years ago. She creates original fragrances using natural and botanical ingredients, many of them sourced as close to her California home as possible. Her perfumes have a delicate, lilting quality and a fine balance as the carefully chosen elements blend into harmony. When I found out that there was a new one on deck I was eager to sample it.

Gracing The Dawn was noted to be a chypre in the advance description I received, and I had tried Roxana’s recent “sea chypre” GreenWitch and been very impressed. When I opened my sample and put it on, it had some of GreenWitch's dusty chypre character in the opening, along with a bright bergamot and a scent like drying hay, all eminently pleasing. Like so many fragrances in the chypre family, the opening chords play almost like a classic old-fashioned masculine aromatic fougère until the heart notes begin to chime in. I thought, very nice, I wonder what's going to happen next, and then....what's that? Oh, my. It's a gorgeous true violet, wrapped in a cloud of mossy darkness and musky animalic mystery, and it's getting better by the minute. Soon I was mesmerized, and then I realized why: yes, it's a real chypre indeed, and the one it most resembles is the great Jolie Madame, minus the narcissus and civet but with plenty of the sex appeal. It sent me scurrying to my bottle of JM to compare notes. There is no leather in Gracing The Dawn either, but you might be fooled into thinking it's there because of the resemblance. How amazing to be able to experience a bona fide chypre perfume that's not a vintage formula! It's got the rich floral heart, it's got the mossy, woody base and it’s the whole package. The traditional white floral heart notes of a chypre feature a truly unusual bloom, the tropical Night Queen flower, one of those sensuously heady things I had always wanted to smell, as well as mimosa. Considering how much I love chypre scents and hold them to a high standard, I am happy to say that this is a worthy addition to the genre.

Standing in for the more common animalic ingredients used in mainstream perfumery is Africa stone, the only non-botanical note in this perfume. It's animal-friendly though; it's not really a stone of course, it's a tincture made from the fossilized droppings of the African Rock Hyrax, a cute little furry animal that's one of the few living relatives of the elephant. This stuff gives real depth and interest to fragrances and is favored by those who want to create cruelty-free products. Now that I know what it does for perfumes I will be eager to try any formulation that contains it.

Eventually the florals fade and leave the austerely beautiful chypre base behind, and that lasted for many hours. The Africa stone seems to be a secret weapon to impart longevity to what might otherwise be a rather fleeting perfume experience as is the case with so many naturals. However, when I left it on overnight I got a nice surprise; in the morning the heavier notes were gone but ghostly violets and mimosa were blooming on my skin, making this perfume’s name all the more fitting.

Roxana Illuminated Perfumes are available at her Etsy store. I really hope she decides to make a solid version of this. Her solid perfumes, blended with natural beeswax, are wonderfully rich and this one is a perfect candidate for that treatment. (I am hoarding a sample of her Rosa solid perfume, made with “home grown” beeswax, and it’s just beautiful.)

Please visit the other participating sites for more writers’ words on Gracing the Dawn:

Roxana herself at
Illuminated Perfume Journal

Beth at Cleveland Fragrance Examiner

Lucy at Indie Perfumes

Elena at Perfume Shrine

Trish at Scent Hive

Image credit: Gracing The Dawn art © Greg Spalenka, courtesy of Roxana Villa


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Keeping it clean: 10 Corso Como

By Tom

Well, summer finally arrived in Los Angeles. It was 97 degrees in Beverly Hills at 1pm which meant that the pursuit of AC was key. Luckily the MTA bus is usually arctic, unlike the AC on my poor Honda which is more of a slightly cooler breeze. Hopping from department store to coffee house was the order of the day, and I will be happy (ish) to return to work on Monday.

In the midst of sniffing at Barneys I came across 10 Corso Como, which I had never tried. I'm a big fan of woody fragrances and own several, and this might have to become one of them. It's sandalwood, but not the fizzy, slightly boozy kind that Lutens uses. The frankincense, musk and oud make it slightly smutty, the geranium, rose and vetiver adds a touch of clean soapiness. There's not a huge amount of development here and there needn't be. The opening is such a delight that I don't want it to change. Ever.

10 Corso Como is available in perfume, solid perfume (that you can take traveling!), bath oil, and other products that make me wonder why other houses don't do this? At Barneys and Luckyscent. I tested at Barneys in the hours I minutely examined every item in the store while sucking up their excellent AC.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Puredistance Antonia: Modern Romance That’s Really Novel

By Donna

When the first Puredistance fragrance was released, I thought it seemed as though the ad campaign for it was all hype and no substance – but that was before I smelled it. As it turned out, I fell in love with its cool aldehydic abstraction and its family resemblance to Chanel No. 5 minus the part I never liked, the overly powdery aspect that was always the deal-breaker for me. Puredistance I was like the Chanel No. 5 of my dreams and I was definitely an admirer from that moment on.

Now a second scent is being introduced by the house, and Puredistance Antonia in turn has an unmistakable kinship with the first perfume. It was composed by master perfumer Annie Buzantian just like the first Puredistance perfume, and they share the hazy composition of abstract florals paired with aroma molecules that were never dreamed of when I first fell in love with perfume. The notes swirl around in tantalizing puffs, never stopping long enough to allow me to figure out what they are, but they all smell good. The opening did a little trick of briefly resembling one of those prim, “safe “cool green/white florals released by high fashion houses, meant to be worn as inoffensive badges of status by the type of woman for whom all the diamonds in her new tennis bracelet are real and whose wardrobe is impeccably tasteful and reliably dull. However, Antonia soon unfolds to reveal a lushness and warmth of heart that would rule out just being worn as a background scent by the ladies who lunch. It keeps its green character throughout its development, remarkably enough, but so much more is going on that it fascinated me for the entire time. Unlike so many light-bodied florals in this general category, Antonia does not fade away after an hour or so; it has more tenacity than most fragrances in its class.

The official list of notes for Puredistance Antonia is not being made public prior to its November 2010 release, but I can say that anyone who appreciates a good green floral will find something to love here. The closest comparisons I can make are to Henry Dunay's Sabi, which it resembles in style at least at first, but without the sharpness, and maybe a little bit of the great old Yendi by Capucci, which was very tender for a green scent. It is smooth and cool yet radiant and warm; a magical sleight of hand that I imagine must come from the delicate balance of aldehydes and other quality synthetics with natural materials. It shimmers and changes with a touch of sweetness here, a breath of sunlit meadow there. Is that violet leaf I smell? Maybe, but it's not watery or thin. How about lily? It seems likely, but if so it has been refined until it is but a shining point of white light. Orange blossom? Could be, but it's like a whispered suggestion made before running away, daring you to follow and then darting out of sight again.

If you think all green perfumes have a sharp edge, don't be afraid; it's as pillowy and gentle as can be and still be called green. I would also say that it is just a little sweeter than Puredistance I but not markedly so, as it is a subtle, slightly nutty sweetness tempered with the fuzzy and ever present greenness. It’s at times like these that my amateur’s fragrance vocabulary is inadequate; I am sure that a perfumer could tell me which sophisticated molecules are in this to make it as vibrant as the piercing chartreuse of the first leaves in spring, yet somehow solidly grounded and comforting too. Like its predecessor, it is entirely modern without being odd or strange; the makers were obviously aiming high and not looking for a quick hit with a trendy perfume that would soon pass out of fashion. I can see this becoming an enduring favorite in its class, and it's classy all the way.

Puredistance Antonia will be available in November 2010 at select European boutiques and by mail directly from the Puredistance Company; check their web site for firm dates, prices and stores. My advance sample was sent to me by the Puredistance Company for review purposes.

Image credit: Computer-generated fantasy art from

Labels: ,