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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule

By Tom

Oh, I tried, I really did. I wanted to find this as lovely as some of the other reviewers like my Scent Twin.

But I can't. Santal Majascule has a dose of that note that's in Jeux de Peau in heapin' helpings: the one that smells like like butter-flavored Pam to me. While it didn't make me retch like JdP did, the note was enough to make SM into a fast scrubber.

$140 at LuckyScent, where I tested. Then washed off. Sorry.

Image: wikipedia commons

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Foodie Sunday: French Canadian Maple Pie

By Beth

I'm always looking for a wonderful autumn dessert and if it features maple syrup all the better.  This pie recipe is so easy, yet the complex and luscious flavor of it  left me completely speechless.  It has all of the qualities that I look for in a fall dessert. First of all said dessert must be completely buttery. Secondly, it has to be a bit toothsome, just a touch chewy so that the flavors linger on my lips for at least 5 minutes after I've finished it.  This French Canadian Maple pie is simply the best pie that I've ever tasted and nothing about it needs changing. The recipe below came from my facebook friend Margo who lives in Vermont, so of course she'd know a thing or two about maple syrup. The only sadness I have is that my father didn't live long enough for me to bake it for him. He loved all things maple and this would have rendered him speechless. Last week when I baked this for the first time I took it out of the oven and cut a small slice for my husband and one for myself. Jim took a bite and just shook his head and proceeded to inhale it. When we got home from the Pat Metheny concert we'd gone to, I looked in the refrigerator hoping to have another. The pie was completely gone. Well actually not completely, it was all gone except for one teensy slice that my son very generously left us. I must admit though, that  is the sort of thing that makes this mother very happy! 

I must confess that I'm baking one right now  for a dear friend of mine and her husband  who are  coming for Sunday dinner.  It's amazing to me how 5 simple ingredients can meld together to create something so sublimely and intoxicatingly wonderful. The first time I  made this pie my kitchen began to  smell as if I'd spilled a bottle of syrup all over my woodstove...or like I'd stumbled into a steaming sugar house in February. I curled up in a cozy corner of my kitchen with a book, a steaming mug of tea and my cats and just took  in the aroma. Later when it had cooled for a few minutes (I couldn't be patient about it!) I cut into the rich filling while  it was still warm and the butter started oozing out. Adding a dollop of freshly whipped cream was a bit like gilding the lily, but in the most perfect way. I do think that ice cream would be too much….well maybe. A rich cinnamon ice cream? Hmmmm. Served with a hot cup of coffee with a bit of brandy?Yes! Just promise me that you'll bake this please because I know that you'll really enjoy it. Just a little bit of effort will create a picture perfect pie that your family and friends will adore.  My scent of the day? A combination of Serge Lutens luscious Chypre Rouge and Miel de Boise….Throughly lovely, spicy  and sweet…..I like to imagine that I smell a bit yummy just like this pie!

One prepared pie crust to line an 8-inch glass pie plate
2 eggs, room temperature
1Ž2 c. heavy cream 
1 2/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 real maple syrup (preferably dark amber)
2 tsp. unsalted butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350° F. Whisk together eggs and brown sugar until creamy. (I use electric beaters.) Add cream, maple syrup and melted butter. Beat until smooth. Pour into prepared pie shell. Bake at 350°
F oven for 55 – 60 minutes until crust is golden and filling still quivers. It will set as it cools. Very rich – serve with Cool Whip.

Note: a larger pie pan will require partially baking the crust. To do that, line the crust with aluminum foil and weight it down with pie weights. Usually 400 degrees for 10 minutes will be enough.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beth hits New York

(note from Tom: I've had a bad flu so have been out of commission for the past two weeks. Beth is covering this week with her post from NYC, and I will admit that I am pea-green with envy and annoyed as heck that I couldn't have been there as well..)

By Beth

Autumn in New York. I love it…the sights, the smells…and of course the mandatory pilgrimage to the perfume floor at Bergdorf's  to buy my annual bottle of Caron's Nuit de Noel, which has been  my signature perfume from November 1st until New Years day for years. But this year I was coming to Manhattan for another reason and that was my youngest nieces bridal shower held in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon!  But my sweet husband Jim knows that a trip anywhere near the city without actually going into the city is a bit like waving a steak in front  of a starving man so he snuck me into the city for an absolutely whirlwind Friday and Saturday. We escaped to a glorious room at The Warwick, ate some pretty fabulous food and just relaxed for a bit. Needless to say , I'm pretty happy right now especially after a weekend filled with many  glasses of champagne , plenty of raw oysters, freshly baked gougere  and a quite a good bit of perfectly ripened cheese and charcuterie.

Friday night before we were to meet some young friends for supper at Ed's Chowder House ,(If you've never been please go because the loaded chowder is INCREDIBLE and the Manhattans are PERFECT!) I ducked into Bergdorfs  hoping to see my friend Tom, who IS the very essence of Annick Goutal! We chatted for a bit and he generously showed me all of the newest perfumes , taking me around the store, introducing me to everyone and just generally being his wonderfully generous and informative self. I chatted, flirted and sniffed happily for an hour but I should have known that he was saving the best for last.  We walked back to his  area and he turned, smiled at me and said…"Try this. It's fairly new for them and absolutely exquisite". I looked and realized that we were standing by the Houbigant counter…a French perfume house that I have loved since I was a very young woman who fell head over heels for Quelques Fleurs; a classic and lovely  floral  that worked well  in the romantic white linen soaked  days of the early 80's.   He sprayed a bit into the air and I sniffed.  I experienced a sudden and powerful feeling of delight…"Please? Some more?" So he sprayed again and I walked into the loveliest cloud of orange blossom  that I'd ever experienced. Houbigant's  Orangers en Fleurs is absolutely beautiful, with a hint of rose infused honey butter, tuberose and plenty of spice;  incredibly sensual and truly very seductive in a way that only the French can pull off. There's also something fairly fabulous that I'd never heard of before…a luxurious  accord named  "Eau de Brouts" which is lovingly derived from orange blossom leaves, twigs and flowers.
I adore Orangers en Fleurs and it lasts on my skin for along time which is unusual for me when it comes to orange blossom perfumes , indeed if I spray it through my hair before bed, it's still there in the morning  and in the most delightful way.  Tom tossed me several samples which I took back to the hotel. When I walked in Jim grabbed my wrist  knowing of course that within seconds I would ask him his opinion and he smiled wickedly…."It's a little too cold, a little standoffish" he said. "I think that it needs to be warmer for me to fully appreciate it" and without even asking permission  ( The temerity of some men!) he wickedly buried his face in my breasts. When he finally came up for air his only instructions were to go back and buy a bottle immediately.

Which I did…and of course I have been wearing it ever since.

Houbigants  Oranger  en Fleurs is available at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman

Friday, October 12, 2012

Handled With Kid Gloves: Roxana Illuminated Perfume Impromptu

By Donna

I have been an admirer of Roxana Villa’s natural perfumes since I first tried them, and it has been a real pleasure to observe her talent grow over time. Just when you think she has used every trick in her magical repertoire, she gives us yet another original and compelling fragrance. This time around, she presents an all-natural, all-botanical leather scent. I can almost see the eyebrows being raised, but yes, this really works!

Impromptu is so named because it came into being as the result of chance after the perfumer started experimenting with the same materials that she used to create her popular Chaparral. She ended up with a woodier version of that, which she then began to augment with resins and leather-like herbal notes as well as her own natural leather accord. The end product is a sweetly aromatic and slightly smoky perfume that opens with a typical woody/astringent character before everything moves into place as it begins to warm on the skin. The leather emerges slowly from the mélange of notes that includes woods, spices, geranium, rose, tarragon, basil, clary sage and mimosa, and after about thirty minutes (on my skin), it becomes the central theme and lingers for hours as a warmly balsamic, honeyed “glove leather.”  Dare I say that this is a very sexy fragrance, and one that will work equally well for either gender although it is being presented as a feminine scent.

For those who like traditional and mainstream leather perfumes, Impromptu does not smell photo-realistic like the inside of a new car, nor does it have that smoky birch tar feel of more rugged leathers. However, if the kind of leather fragrance you like is the understated apricot suede of Serge Lutens Daim Blond or the refined “inside a ladies’ purse” character of the original 1984 Trussardi for women or some of the more restrained vintage chypres, you may well appreciate this beautiful alternative that purrs softly like a pampered Persian cat. Its longevity is truly impressive, ten hours or more, which is really good for any perfume but almost unheard of for one that does not have any synthetic or animal-derived ingredients at all.

Impromptu is available at the Roxana Illuminated Perfume Etsy shop as either part of a sample set or on its own.

Disclaimer:  My sample of Impromptu was given to me for testing by Roxana Villa.
Image credit: Painting by Greg Spalenka, courtesy of Roxana Villa

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Dreaded Obsession…..

By Beth

 Everybody has one. You know…the one that brought them to their knees in the most torturous way. The one that you lived through bruised and battered but to tell the tale. The one that you did things with and for that you know in the marrow of your bones that you will never do again because you finally know better and because you know it would kill you. The 70's and 80's brought that out in a lot of us. It was a time that I in turns loved and hated. I snorted way to much cocaine, drank way too many martinis and I fell hard and fast too many times for absolutely the wrong man. I looked amazing…and boy did we have supermodels like Lisa Taylor, Patty Hansen , Jerry Hall and Linda Evangelista  to show us how. I learned to smoke watching Lisa Taylor advertisements. My hair was long and full with a huge spiral perm and I had lacquered lips and chiseled cheeks and the eyes…wow, I can still remember how to do the eyes. I used kohl pencils in blue and purple and I rimmed the inner lids. Lots of mascara later and a pair of stilettos and off I'd go.

We had our perfumes to choose from and the names were indicative of the times. Opium, Poison and who could forget Calvin Kleins Obsession. The Obsession commercials were enough for me. " She  abandoned me to the wreckage of myself ..and smiled". That was all I needed and I immediately bought a  bottle. I loved Obsession. It was strong and  quite direct; wearing it gave me a confidence that I still remember to this day.   Obsession in it's original formulation was  very beautiful  ,  a delicious sort of Floriental that dried down into a sweet base of Amber and Oakmoss after initially teasing around with a bit of mandarin and jasmine. Like most perfumes of the 1970's and 80's it left way too much silage in it's wake. There wasn't anyway to apply it lightly, Obsession was a huge bombshell of a perfume that took no prisoners.  I wore Obsession during one of the most torrid love affairs of my life…the one I should never have had that started with a total stranger proclaiming upon seeing me for the first time and in great detail all of the nasty things he'd imagine us doing. I should have run then. 50 Shades of Gray wasn't even  a twinkle in the authors eye, but I cut my teeth on erotica like Anais Nin and Colette and I think that I wore Obsession primarily for that reason. I wanted to feel as if I were invincible in a situation where I had given up all control. When I think back, Obsession had a very masculine smell  and I think that was the reason for a lot of it's witchery. Men loved it…especially that one. I had a lady of the night tell me once that men like things that smell a bit like themselves on a woman because it makes them feel less guilty for asking them to do the things that they'd never ask their wives to do. It makes sense  that the the 80's would spawn a fragrance like Obsession which I truly consider to be one of the first openly androgynous perfumes. The lines were very blurry then, all the drugs and all of the sexuality blended with the heavy tribal beats of the music to conjure a strange illicit heat that thankfully I haven't felt in the world since. I could still lose myself in that . All these years later the smell of it makes me simply want to gag because it instantly conjures the ghosts of that particular affair.

Funny.  I haven't been able to wear it since.  

You can still buy Obsession online and I have seen it at Macy's

Friday, October 05, 2012

Top 10 of Fall

By Tom

Yes, it's that time again, where we talk about our favorites of fall, new or old.

Alena Wrote:

Even in such a disordered perfumery life as mine one could find traces of patterns. Une Fleur de Cassie – those yellow flowers on black – I usually wear from February till May, if May is cold enough. Une Fleur de Cassie is a spring, demanding mohair scarf, it's a soul queering for warms and flowers. Une Fleur de Cassie is inappropriate in autumn, as a blooming of colchicum. But this autumn is a bit like a spring to me, and I dive into aldehydic vortex of Une Fleur de Cassie.

Beth Wrote:

I don't know what it is about me and Tom Ford. He simply cannot create anything that I don't love to wear and I've fallen madly in love with his Jardin Noir Collection. All four of them are wonderful..purely sensual and as the copy goes " "Revealing the forbidden side of four flowers" . By now all of you know that the word "forbidden" would draw me like bees to honey so of course I tried all four and can blissfully say that I love them all and although I am way more broke than I was a month ago I don't regret it one little bit.  The Jardin Noir Collection are Cafe Rose, an exotic sort of rose with saffron , incense and black pepper, Jonquille de Nuit,a honeyed, narcissus and rain soaked beauty,  Lys Fume which is reminiscen of a spicy rum soaked raisin and Ombre de Hyacinth which is exactly as it sounds, filled with Hyacinths, green leaves and just a bit of glorious wet dirt. Each is mysterious, masterfully blended and terrifically different and there is always one suitable for my ever-changing moods. I adore them all, but my favorite is Lys Fume with it's rich and spicy amber and vanilla. No surprise as last years favorite was Tom Ford's Luscious Tobacco Vanille. I just can't get enough of anything made by this man. It's become a bit of an obsession with me.

Donna Wrote:

In the fall, I welcome the return to richer fragrances to accompany the cooler days. This includes chypres and Oriental scents; I have really been enjoying the 2010 limited edition  Shalimar Ode de la Vanille very much, and I hope to try the 2012 version soon. A simple Italian fragrance called Te Nero e Vaniglia from Monotheme has been a delight with its strong black tea note playing against a smoky vanilla. Most of all, I love chypres in autumn. Miss Dior is a perennial go-to, and this is also when I reach for my Houbigant Apercu, vintage Rochas Femme, and of course my beloved Jean-Louis Scherrer. Nothing beats the dark bite of oakmoss on a brisk October day!

Marian wrote:

For everyday wear my favorite oud oil for autumn is Agar Aura’s Royal Kampuchea. Ripe with the sweetness of dried fruits, plum jam, brown sugar, vanilla and tawny port, this oil smells lusciously succulent, lavish and sensual- a golden richness that is a satiny, smooth, enticingly warm, and glowing. Resinous notes of hay, blond tobacco and amber add thickness and texture to the midrange, while a deliciously bitter note of roasted coffee beans adds sophistication and interest to this opulent feast. The drydown is a riveting combination of smoke and woods, an unexpected twist that adds a sultry and smoldering ending to this alluringly provocative, glamorous and plush fragrance.

My top luxury oud for fall is Ensar Oud’s “Oud Sultani”. The opening is an unusual mixture of transparency, light and creamy smoothness, its ethereal greeting as uplifting and carefree as a mountain breeze. Notes of vanilla and caramel sweeten the midrange of the scent; the drydown is layers of warm woods, myrrh, powder and balsam. Distilling the oil from resin-heavy chips and ageing it since 2001 helps to explain the mellowness and complexity of Sultani’s enchanting bouquet. It is elegant, sensuous and eminently tasteful. Although many ouds have become available in recent years, I’m not sure there are many of which Coco Chanel would approve. Oud Sultani, I think, is one of them.

Marina Wrote:

I've been wearing Shalimar Eau Legere every single day for the past 5 or so month, so it actually counts as my best of summer too. It is perfect, sensual but not distractingly so, warm but not cloying, elegant but not too much even for a casual Friday or a stroll on a boardwalk...It is delicious, but in the most abstract way...the list of its wonderful qualities can go on. I wish I knew which year's limited edition it was, but I can't remember. When I ran out of it, having for the first time in my life finished a bottle of perfume, I might cry, also for the first time, over perfume. Keep fingers crossed for me that I find some more

Tom wrote:

In addition to my choice on the Posse I think I was looking forward most to bringing out some of the somewhat heavier and more challenging scents, but then I ran across Etat Libre "Like This" and realized that this is the perfect scent for October: it's not challenging in any way; it's as comfortable as an old cashmere sweater and I had practically the same reaction to seeing it as I do when I can take the sweaters out of the cedar- pure bliss.  

The "challenge" will come from my smoky friend Chene. One can't burn leaves anymore (not that we get them falling here until January) and they tell you that wood fires are bad for the environment. So I can happily spritz on this woody, smoky wonder and feel comforted and cossetted. Best of all, it's still available as an export.

So there more or less are our top ten of fall. Won't you share with us the scents you're excited to be wearing this Autumn in the comments? Please also remember to stop by these other blogs for their top ten picks: Perfume Posse, Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, and Grain de Musc.

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Off Topic: Out of Town

By Tom

No perfume review this week- I was out of town courtesy of my friend in Connecticut. We haven't seen each other in a while and is was easier (and cheaper) to buy me a plane ticket than to buy her one and board her pups. We went up to Massachusetts to our hometown to meet a friend for lunch. Northampton was as I remember it, save for a few large banks that have become art galleries and small art galleries that have become banks. Of course, being a college town, it was stuffed with kids. Which makes for a vital place, but I admit I felt a little old.

Mini-reviews from my friend: big thumbs up on Derby, medium thumbs up on smell bent Dry, thumbs down on Etat Libre “Like This” which I have to admit I liked a lot better in the dry heat of LA: it really blooms in the humid northeast. I was dabbing, not spraying..

I love New England and I loved having grown up there. But the weird thing is that my life in the slums of Beverly Hills is a lot more walkable- there’s everything within a 15 minute stroll I’ll ever need, while my friends house you literally need to drive everywhere. I loved my trip, but am happy to be home.

Photos: My iPhone.