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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Anat Fritz Tzora

By Tom

Tzora is only the second scent from the Berlin-based designer. I really liked the first eponymously-named scent. I really like this one as well.
It opens with orange, interestingly married with pepper. I love that- the marriage between the sweet orange with the spiky pepper is delicious. It gradually adds in vetiver, flowers and cedar and grounds in a light patch and musk. The mix here is incredibly smooth and luxurious in a way that's particularly German to me. Like an 80's Mercedes SL where the classic lines and rock-ribbed build quality shout quiet good taste.
There's nothing terribly showy about it; it's a really great mans scent like they used to put out. Like one of those classics, a woman could totally rock it.
My verdict? Instant Classic.

Notes: (From LuckyScent):
Cassis, clary, bergamot, Peruvian pepper, magnolia, osmanthus, jasmine, cedarwood, vetiver, patchouly, musk, moss

$130 for 100ml. My sample was asked for at ScentBar.

Image: Luckyscent

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Marina

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Tom

I'm sure you all are going to be celebrating Thanksgiving by eating, drinking, and celebrating with friends and relatives. I'm going to do the same, and perhaps go see Skyfall. I'm thinking of wearing Five O'Clock au Gingembre. What are you wearing? Eating? Please share in the comments..

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Thursday, November 15, 2012

JoAnne Bassett Sensual Embrace Parfum

By Tom

I'm a fan of JoAnne Bassett, who specializes in natural perfumes that are classically French in a way that you simply aren't going to get from France anymore. I really liked her Indulgence, and recently smelled and loved her Venus Amber. At that time, she gave me an envelope with samples of some of her other scents which I'll keep circling back to.

Notes (according to the card): Clementine, Rose de Mai, Jasmine, Tuberose, Orange Blossom, Ambrette Seed, Amber accord, Tobacco, Vintage Mysore Sandalwood, Patchouli and others.

Drooling yet? You should be. While reading that list you might think that it could go horribly wrong, and if it were coming from a lesser artist it might. But this is so well blended that there's not one note that's overdone in the slightest; the musky base and the patch are just seductive whispers under the innocent white flowers, creamy woods and hint of tobacco. Were I naming it I'd have called it "seduction". Lasting power is good for a botanical, I got a good six hours out of it. Since it really isn't an office scent (not that you couldn't wear it there, but I would think of it as an evening one) that's fine in my book.

Sensual Embrace is available at JoAnne's website (link to Etsy site). Her Facebook Page is here. My sample was provided by the perfumer.

Image: her website

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Launches from Aftelier: Oud Luban Extrait & Ancient Resins

Oud Luban Extrait Limited Edition

Top: elemi, orange terpenes, blood orange, frankincense CO2.
Base: oud, opopanax, choya ral, benzoin, aged patchouli.

"Oud Luban Extrait is a perfume of great highs and lows, with no middle notes.  Luban, the Urdu word for frankincense, means  "the milk" which refers to the color of the finest quality frankincense – the milky tree sap that exudes from the cut bark. Oud, the dark, resinous and infected Aquilaria heartwood, is the most expensive essence in the world. To create the desired oud notes, eight different varieties are blended."

Available as a 1/4 oz. perfume ($195) and a 2 ml perfume mini  ($55), and a sample size ($6) at This is a special limited edition extrait verison of the solid perfume. 

Ancient Resins, a body oil and hair elixir 

"Ancient Resins was created for the great Leonard Cohen, who uses it every day. It features a very generous amount of organic frankincense, paired beautifully with Balm of Gilead (popular buds). Completing this fragrance are other resins that have been treasured since ancient times for their spiritual and healing properties: benzoin, elemi, and labdanum. This deep, rich, sumptuous, balsamic fragrance is in luxurious and non-greasy base of organic jojoba and fractionated coconut oil, which leaves a subtle veil on the skin and mixes beautifully with your own body chemistry."

Available in a 50 ml pump bottle ($45), and a sample size ($4) at 

(from the press release)

Monday, November 12, 2012

More Goodies from Australia: The Perfume & Skincare Company (And a HUGE Prize Draw!)

By Donna

Once again, I am pleased to have the opportunity to sample some fragrances from the Land Down Under, which has a vibrant perfumery community. This time around, it’s a selection from The Perfume & Skincare Company, a firm that also makes bath and body care products, soaps, skin care products and cosmetics. This company uses many natural ingredients, and their fragrances are made with a high percentage of perfume oils and are lower in alcohol than most others are, so they last very well on the skin. I sampled six of the fifteen scents in the current line in order to assess their range, and overall I was very pleased. Where does this brand fit in the world of perfumery? It’s an apothecary line, comparable to L’Occitane or Antica Farmacista, comprised of simple, straightforward and crowd-pleasing fragrances that are available in ancillary products ranging from bath oil to soy candles. I always wish that my favorite fragrances could be had in every imaginable version, so the fans of these perfumes are lucky indeed. The company’s products are available throughout Australia and online.

Their best selling scent is Fig & Olive, and it’s easy to see why. This fragrance has both the succulent freshness of fig and the mellow ease of olive fruit, rounded and slightly salty, in contrast to the succulent fig. It is not an astringent fig like Diptyque’s Philosykos, since the olive tempers its pungency, and it is very easy to wear; it’s ripe fig, not the puckery-leafy kind. It has a slippery feel on skin, attesting to the high volume of oils in the formula, and it has excellent longevity for a fragrance of this expansive summery style. It is barely sweet so it would make an excellent masculine. It is available in a full range of products, from the perfume spray, I tested to bath oil, hand cream, body mousse, dry oil spray, soap, reed diffuser parfum d’ambiance and more, as are most of the others. I would be happy to have it in any number of these versions, especially the body mousse and bath oil.

I must confess to an inordinate fondness for fruity fragrances, and so I was really looking forward to smelling Forbidden Fruit. It has quite a bit of blackcurrant bud (which I like) up top, but not so much as to be off-putting in the manner of Rosine’s Roseberry, and it’s paired with zesty lemon. It softens somewhat as it dries down to an orange blossom heart and a base of light woods but the tangy fruit is ever-present. The company’s Web site does not list all the notes for any of the fragrances, but I smelled other fruity notes and some light florals peeking out from behind the blackcurrant. This is really great in hot weather, as it is juicy and energizing. I received it when it was still very warm here, and I must confess to spritzing it on with wild abandon as soon as I opened the box.

Equally adept at lifting one’s mood is Linden Leaf, which to my nose compares favorably to Hermés Un Jardin Sur le Nil, one of my go-to summer scents. The spring green exhilaration of Linden Leaf really made me smile, and I reached for it often during the testing phase, which just happened to coincide with record high temperatures for my part of the country. It is notably tenacious for a fragrance in this near-cologne style; its linden character is photo-realistic in the manner of Demeter’s scents, but it’s not a one-trick novelty by any means and a delicious freshly squeezed lime note keeps it interesting. It is another one that should garner interest from men as a delightful alternative to boring “sport” fragrances. The woody drydown is elegant and refined.

Gardenia Flower is also softly green-tinged, a soliflore in the cool, misty white floral style rather than the “butter and bleu cheese” manner of many gardenias. It also smells of fresh dewy jasmine and tuberose, not just straight-up gardenia, but it is nevertheless very pretty and I have really enjoyed wearing it. For those who like the richer style of gardenia, there are plenty of others out there, but here is one that can easily go to the office or other close quarters and not be too overwhelming. (Purists will say it’s not a real gardenia perfume, but neither are most “gardenia” scents, since they are virtually all reconstructions.)  Gardenia Flower is a tender scent, not a femme fatale in-your-face big white floral; I like both kinds, and I liked this a lot.

Now that cooler weather is here, Ginger Milk is just the right thing to wear. The name might conjure up images of rich gingerbread, but the surprise here is that the ginger is the delightfully sharp and zingy fresh kind, contrasted with warm and gently spiced vanilla milk resulting in an unusually addictive accord. It reminds me of baking special breads during the holidays, standing over the stove and grating fresh spices into milk before scalding it and preparing the sweet dough. I would especially enjoy having Ginger Milk in the body mousse and hand cream for pampering my skin on cold, dry winter days. It lasts all day on me, and while the opening sharpness fades a bit with time, the ginger note remains prominent throughout. I tried it once during the heat of our late summer and put it away, but now I could easily wear it every day, and it has become one of my favorites of the group.

The only disappointment for me in the bunch was Pink Peony, which is not really surprising since peony accords are a tightrope walk for perfumers at best. It opens with a very realistic peony, complete with the sharp and distinctive nose-wrinkling peony character that I like in the real blossoms, but in the drydown something in this one was working against my skin and it ended up smelling more like a room spray than a perfume. It may very well be great on someone else, that’s just my experience. I got very little of the purported apricot and peach, and the Web site’s description of it as smelling like candyfloss (cotton candy to U.S. readers) mystified me; I really don’t get vanilla or sugary notes from this perfume at all.  I usually like highly pitched florals so it surprised me that this did not work. I am sure it will be lovely on the right person.

Which brings me to the prize draw – I was pleasantly shocked to received six full size 50 ml bottles for testing, and they are all up for grabs! They are only missing what I have decanted for testing and they are boxed in the regular retail packaging. Please leave a comment stating which one you would like to win; anyone who does not specify a particular fragrance will be put on the list with the fewest names. If you like, tell us if you have tried any fragrances or other products from this company.  U.S.A. addresses ONLY please, as I am unable to mail anything to other countries at this time. The prize draw will be open for one week from the day this review is posted. Good luck!

Image credit: Ripe figs via, visual effects mine.
Disclaimer: All the perfumes were sent to me for testing at my request.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Roxana Illuminated Perfume Impromptu

By Tom

Roxana Villa is one of my favorite perfumers. I don't think there's a single perfumer out there who creates scents that so perfectly capture the natural essences that to me read California. Beth and Donna are fans as well as readers of this blog well know. In fact, Donna reviewed this very scent a couple of weeks ago.

I could just sort of say "what she said", but that wouldn't be fair.

Impromptu was the result of a happy accident. While tidying part of her studio, Roxana came across some early drafts of her gorgeous scent Chaparall as well as some of her "experiments".  She asked herself the question "is it possible to make an interesting, complex perfume without using costly ingredients?"

Short answer: you betcha.

Without being consciously retro, it makes me think of a scent from the 40's. Mainly because it's such a rich scent, taking the smoky-sweet aspects of Chaparall with additions of of butter-soft carnation and her botanical version of leather. For me the opening is all about the carnation, which is almost soapy but then quickly warms with the spices. As it progresses you get into the parts of Chaparall that I love- which I wrote of as the "distillation of California with it's herbal woodiness and hint of wildfires."  While the scent itself is delightfully smoky, as Donna noted the leather shows none of the birch-tar aspects of other scents. Nor is it of a new car; it's more Hermes than Honda.

The lasting power of this is incredible for a botanical: I got 12 hours on my skin. While it's being sold as a feminine scent, I'd wear it in a heartbeat.

Available on her Etsy site, my sample was sent by the perfumer.

Image, her website

Monday, November 05, 2012

Puredistance Opardu: Perfectly Pretty in Pastels

By Donna

Having tried and loved the three previous launches from Puredistance, I wondered what they would do next. The first two, Puredistance I and Antonia, were ethereal feminine florals, while M was a refined masculine that many women would be more than happy to borrow from their man. Opardu, created by Annie Buzantian, shares a style aesthetic with her Puredistance I in that it is a lovely abstract floral with pastel shadings, but Opardu has its own distinctive character. Like the first one, it also has a curiously retro feel to it. They just don’t make this style of floral anymore, which was what I also thought when I smelled Puredistance I, which reminded me of Chanel No. 5. Opardu occupies the same rarefied world of long-departed scents like Le Galion’s Cub and Suzanne Thierry’s Ondine, perfumes whose only purpose was to embody innocent, harmonious purity.

This fragrance is not scheduled for release until November 2012, but I received a preview sample. Others who have tried it mentioned its similarity to Jean Patou’s Vacances, but I did not detect that when I first tried it. However, upon further testing, I can see the resemblance, up to a point. Opardu is rather like all the soft, misty, powdery parts of the Patou scent (which just happens to be my all-time favorite perfume) featuring mimosa and/or heliotrope, lilac, jasmine and other florals, but with none of the exhilarating green sharpness of cut grass and galbanum that made Vacances so distinctive. The list of ingredients says it contains green notes, but they are just an echo in the background; there is an abstract tanginess in the opening, like a fruit I don’t recognize, but it soon gives way to the softer notes and they in turn are joined by a prominent modern musk in the base that is very similar to Puredistance I’s musky character.

The question of “musk” in modern perfumes can be tricky since real musk is no longer used, to the relief of those tiny hoofed animals from when it once came. It now applies to a broad range of synthetics that can smell very different depending on each individual’s ability to detect them, which is a genetic trait. Some musks can smell very strong to most people but others cannot smell them at all, since their large molecules cannot pass through some people’s olfactory systems. The musk in Opardu falls in the middle ground between the so-called “clean” or “laundry” musks, which I frequently dislike, and the ones that can clear a room with their funky power. (The former are unfortunately legion in number, and in the latter category, Parfumerie Generale’s Drama Nuui comes to mind. It is a gorgeous jasmine fragrance at first, but an incredibly huge musk note soon overwhelms everything else. Not everyone has this experience with it, but I certainly did.) Opardu’s musk is judged just right, a definite presence that lends a round, rich and almost fruity quality to the drydown but does not distract from everything else. There is also a creamy/woody note in the base that is almost like watercolor sandalwood, if you can imagine, that is very pleasing. I could wish that the opening florals lasted longer, especially the lilac, but of course it is their nature to be short-lived. The drydown actually lasts a surprisingly long time.

This is what is remarkable about Opardu; its unwavering structure never falls apart after the most fragile of the florals pass, and it is still clearly written on the skin even the next day, a translucent, almost gauzy wood decorated with the light sweetness of musk and heliotrope. In this way, it resembles Hermessence Vanille Galante, being of about the same volume and composed with a light touch. If it were piece of music is would be Beethoven’s Für Elise, a tender vignette whose charm is not only in it delicacy but in its continuous repetition of a singular theme. It is all softness with no discernible “bones” yet it is as persistent as one could want, although certainly not strong, just a steady-state waft of prettiness floating just above the skin. In Opardu’s world, everything is perfectly pristine and pastel, and nothing bad ever happens. If only real life could be so carefree.

In the U.S., the Puredistance line can be found at Luckyscent. In Europe it is available at a few select 
shops. I would recommend trying a sample first, since the fragrances are made only in parfum strength 
and are priced accordingly.

Opardu image courtesy of
Disclosure: I received my advance sample for testing from the Puredistance Company.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Foodie Sunday : Prayers and Pumpkin Soup

By Beth

What a week. For all of you who were in harms way, please know that you have been in my thoughts and prayers almost continuously since Hurricane Sandy began her deathly approach. Here in Northeast Ohio, many of us are still without power…trees upended everywhere and our lives generally disrupted by having to be rerouted continuously due to flooding streets and rising rivers. However, that is nothing compared to the devastation that I see every time I turn on the news or receive a picture text from a friend on the East Coast. Our hats go off to the first responders who put themselves in harms way continuously to keep us safe and to get our infrastructures up and running again. They are the real heroes of this tragedy and often underappreciated unless you have the opportunity to have one of them touch your life at a time when you need it the most.

The night after Sandy hit, I had the opportunity to be in the offices of command central for the American Red Cross in Cleveland where I saw first hand exactly who they were and how they respond  in a crisis like this.  They are an amazing organization that utilizes cash to continue to respond to imminent disasters like this, they have no need for canned goods.  Here is the number that you can text if you wish to make a donation – simply text“REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a 10.00 donation.

If you want to donate canned goods here is the link for Feeding America , an organization that will tell you how to donate food and has a terrific food bank locator on their site. They  can be found at

 Last but not at all least is my personal favorite, The Salvation Army. I was a “Soup Sister” for years, spending lots of time out on the trucks with my son going into the neighborhoods that they served and dishing out bowls of soup and bread at all of the shelters across Cleveland. Their motto, “We combat natural disasters with acts of God” is pretty apt….they are some of the most caring and dedicated volunteers that I’ve ever met. They are in the thick of this disaster working alongside the Red Cross providing meals, blankets and spiritual counseling to those who have been hit hardest.  It is because of them that I even have a brother. During the war, my parents were stationed in Jackson, Mississippi and Stephen got very sick. My father was not with her at the time, off somewhere for training.  It was determined that he needed to get better medical care and that they would have to somehow get back to Cleveland. In desperation my mother went to many organizations only to be met with no helpful response. A Navy Chaplain from the base pointed her to The Salvation Army who got her and my brother home, consequently saving his life. She   volunteered for “The army” as she called them right up to the day that she died.  They can be found at  

So because this is Foodie Sunday and really this is supposed to be about food I’m going to leave you with a recipe. It was fascinating and wonderful to me that as  the storm was approaching, that all of my friends who were in it’s path were cooking. They’d been out already to get firewood and extra blankets, water and canned goods. However, human nature had taken over and they were making crockpots full ofstuffed peppers and enough mashed potatoes to feed armies, meatloafs for sandwiches and huge casseroles for their families that would have made any churchlady proud. In times like these we cocoon ourselves with those that matter most to us.  We comfort them with flavors that we know will soothe them through the  storm and beyond.  I lay in bed with Jim that night listening to the massive gale winds that were blowing off  of Lake Erie and wondering if I would have a roof over my head in the morning. We awoke the next day and we had been spared, but the news was almost too much to bear. But then the texts started flooding in ; ”we’re fine and the meatloaf was wonderful.” “We don’t have power but we have plenty of soup and lots of propane”, Hey Aunt Beth….We can’t get out ..everythings flooded around us  but we have stuffed peppers and pie..wish you were here!”. That last one made me cry as I wished I was too.

 I was reminded immediately of that great old hippy saying….”we are all just humans being” and I went downstairs to the kitchen and made a pot of soup grateful for that bit of technology that could keep us connected during such a perilous time.

So here you are! This is a recipe that I made every year for a fundraiser called “Giggles and Ghosts” that the soup sisters held for the Salvation Army. It was a wonderful benefit, in true Soup Sisters fashion we cooked everything and fed hundreds, raising lots of cash as well as donations of clothing ad food that we would then take down to the center. I love this soup and you will too. It’s rich , delicious and very easy to make. You can make enormous pots of it, eat it for days and never tire of it.
Pumpkin and Peanut Butter Soup

Take a chunk of excellent butter and melt it in a soup pot. Add 2 chopped spanish onions and 2 chopped shallots.  Saute the onions until they are translucent and add 3 large cans of cooked pumpkin and several quarts of really good chicken stock. Bring the whole of it to asimmer and let the flavors blend!  I whisk in a cup of chunky peanut butter  even more depending upon the taste. After it has simmered for about 20 minutes, stir in a quart of organic half and half. I always use organic milk or cream if possible because I've discovered that the texture is much finer and the taste is just that much better.  You can use an immersion blender after it's cooked to really make it creamy if you like.

Add salt and pepper to taste and about a 2 tablespoons of good curry powder.  You can also add a 1/4 of a cup of Calvado's (an apple brandy) if you'd like. I've also made this soup with butternut squash, halved and roasted with butter,olive oil,cinnamon and a bit of real maple syrup. I usually roast about 4 large acorn squash to get the amount of pulp that I need. The canned squash just doesn't seem to have thenutty flavour that the roasted does and the texture is exquisite. Making this will take some extra time, but I promise you that it's worth it. A lovely glass of wine and a bit of cheese while you're waiting should make the task really bearable, let alone the aroma of the roasting squash!

Wherever you are , please be safe and know that my arms are wrapped hard around you. If you need help and don’t know where to turn, here’s my number- 440-941-5186 , feel free to text me and if I'm able help in any way or you just need a shoulder for a moment , I’ll be there.

Godspeed and know that you are loved,

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Russian Saturday: Roja Dove Diaghilev Roja Dove

By Alena

Diaghilev – результат сотрудничества лондонского музея Виктории и Альберта  и лучшего британского парфюмера Рожа Дова. Аромат был приурочен к выставке "Дягилев и Золотой век Русского балета, 1909–1929". Изначально выпущенный ограниченным тиражом в 1000 флаконов, сейчас Diaghilev выпуcкается в концентрации парфюм по цене 750 фунтов за флакон.

Серж Дягилев любил Mitsouko Guerlain. Аромат появился на свет в 1919 году. К тому времени труппа Русского балета существовала шесть лет, и успешно гастролировала. Mitsouko стала постоянным спутником кочевой жизни балетного импрессарио на протяжении десяти лет до его смерти в 1929 году. Этот факт и вдохновил Рожа на создание своего Дягилева.

Diaghilev Roja Dove не похож ни на одну из Мицук, которые мне доводилось попробовать. Mitsouko, даже в самой напряженной точке композиции, остается мягкой и округлой. Ни острота бергамота, ни жесткая подложка из мха не отменяют ее меланхоличной вальяжности: "захочу – съем персик, захочу – не съем". Растяжка в бергамотово-мховом шпагате достигается без усилий, как бы невзначай. Митсуко это инь, обреченный на совершенство природой.

Diaghilev – это мужская территория. Это юношеская энергия, клокочущая жизненная сила, тело, принеcенное в жертву искусству. Все мышцы и связки в напряжении, каждая фибра подчиненна законам классического танца. Дягилев – весь  в золоте и парче, в фантасмагорическом свете гесперидов, герлинадных роcсыпях, на фонe тяжелых бархатных занавесей из роз, бензоина и мха, танцует свой танец о солнце, о летнем луге, и о юности, которая кажется вечной.

Дягилев никогда не станет частью моей парфюмерной рутины (1000 флаконов, 750 фунтов...). А как было бы прекрасно, когда падает черный занавес ноября, любоваться его золотым танцем.

Diaghilev is a result of a collaboration between London's Victoria and Albert Museum and the best British perfumer Roja Dove. This scent was dedicated to the exhibition Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909–1929. Originally released in limited edition of 1000 bottles, nowadays Diaghilev is being produced with a price tag of 750 pounds per flacon.

Sergei Diaghilev loved Mitsouko Guerlain. The scent was born in 1919. By that time the Ballets Russes existed for six years and had great success. Mitsouko became a permanent companion in a touring life of a ballet impresario for ten years, up till his death in 1929. This story has inspired Roja Dove to create his Diaghilev.

Diaghilev Roja Dove is not like any other Mitsouko that I have tried. Even at it's most tense point Mitsouko remains soft and plump. Neither the sharpness of bergamot, nor the rigid base of moss revoke her melancholic nonchalance: "will eat a peach if I want and won't if I don't". The stretch in the bergamot-moss splits is effortless. Mitsouko is yin, condemned to perfection by the Nature.

Diaghilev is a man's territory. It's a youthful energy, seething vitality, a body sacrificed to art. All muscles and ligaments are strained, every fiber is obeying the laws of classical dance. Diaghilev – all in gold and brocade, in phantasmagoric light of hesperides, deposit of Guerlinade, backed by heavy velvet curtains made of roses, benzoin, and moss – is performing his dance about the sun, summer meadow, and youth that seems eternal.

Diaghilev will never become a part of my perfume routine (1000 bottles, 750 pounds)… But how wonderful would it be, when the dark curtain of November falls, enjoy it's golden dance.

Diaghilev Roja Dove (Roja Dove, 2009): bergamot, orange, lime, lemon, cumin and tarragon; jasmine, rose, black currant, heliotrope, peach, tuberose, violet and ylang-ylang; vetyver, patchouli, vanille, cedar, cloves, guaiac wood, nutmeg, oak moss, sandalwood, ambrette (musk mallow), benzoin, civet, labdanum, leather, musk, peru balsam and styrax.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Happy Hallowe'en!

By Tom

I'm wearing Five O'Clock au Gingembre (and earbuds to drown out the noise of Action McNews' helicopters covering the festivities in West Hollywood). What are you wearing? Scent? Costume?

Image: Wikipedia Commons