My Perfume Identity

You know, how you spend most of your life trying to figure out what your identity is? All the emotional turmoil and whatnot it causes you? One thing I’ve realized as I hit my 30s is that I don’t really try to fit in any more. I am who I am – take it or leave it, world. There’s always potential for growth, of course, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’ve been doing quite a bit of rediscovering myself lately, now that I’m living in my home country as a grown-up, and part of this process has had to do with perfume or smells in general. It has led me to think on where I stand with perfume now or what my perfume identity is.

First of all, quite literally, where does perfume stand with me? In Latvia, it stands on shelves of but a few chain stores along the lines of Sephora, with a fairly impressive selection of what we call department store fragrances. However, in addition to certain scents launched in Europe first/only, there are also lines you will never see in typical department stores in the U.S., those that are no longer distributed and are forced to spend the rest of their shelf life at various discounters. Such would include Trussardi (Skin, Jeans, the newly launched Inside), Laura Biagiotti (Roma, Laura, the newly launched Donna), Sonia Rykiel (Le Parfum, Woman), pretty much everything by Salvador Dali, Paco Rabanne, S.T. Dupont… Then there’s Chanel No 19, Shiseido Feminite du Bois, Dior Jules – all with no takers, it seems. As for the niche lines, you can pretty much forget it. There’re a couple boutiques featuring the ever so dear to my heart (ha!) L’Artisan Parfumeur, Parfums de Rosine, Etro, Aqua di Parma, Comme des Garcons. I should also mention L’Occitane. That’s about it!

But I do not despair. After 8 years of easily available vibrant assortments and abundant selections of all kinds, I enjoy the sufficiency I find here. I had to part with my perfume collection before the move but did ship a box of samples and decants, hoping they’d come in handy once the craziness is over. I’ve barely touched them in 3 months. Instead, I’ve given my perfume soul to the chosen few: Chanel parfums (as in pure parfum) – Coco, Coco Mademoiselle, Chance, Allure; the newly found love in Narciso Rodriguez For Her, Prada Infusion d’Iris, Calvin Klein Euphoria, Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir; the mad love at first sniff in Comme des Garcons 888 (review to follow).

In other words, my perfume identity never stops evolving: from a Guerlain girl I’ve turned into a Chanel girl; formerly shying from mass market releases – to their new appreciation. This identity also is very easily influenced. During my recent visit with a school friend, she raved about her favorite perfume so much that it became my favorite before we even parted our ways (Narciso Rodriguez For Her in EDT). One short elevator ride with an impeccably dressed, stylish, middle-aged woman exuding a most sensuous aroma produced the sheepish, ever-so-annoying question, “Excuse me, what perfume are you wearing?” and a bottle on my dresser that same day (Calvin Klein Euphoria). What can I say? When it comes to perfume, I’m often someone else or that something else I don’t have.

What is your perfume identity like, and how has it changed recently, if at all? Please share.

Image source: corbis.com

27 comments Posted by Ina on May 19th, 2008

I Think I’m Back

How does one return to blogging after an absence of several months? How does one return to perfume blogging without being utterly and totally sucked in (some might laugh at this but it is indeed a thing to fear)? How does one blog about perfume from a different hemisphere, of all things? Such questions have been roaming through my mind lately. I suppose I can say I’m well settled in my home country by now, with a fair amount of culture shock still present. I’m also unemployed and happily so as I have the privilege to reside in a most peaceful spot amongst slender pine trees, constant bird chirping, and village chimney smoke. I do, however, long for a creative outlet of sorts, and while perfume in general doesn’t quite cut it, writing about it comes the closest. You might wonder what I mean by this and rightly so. The five-year obsession as such subsided last summer, right around my trip to New York for a mini-Sniffathon with Miss Colombina. In its stead, a sober, critical observer emerged. This observer feels more or less ready to come out of slumber. In other words, if you’re still out there, dear readers, stay tuned for my random occasional ramblings, if you so desire. I will be posting when I have something to say. Your questions/comments are welcome, as always.

20 comments Posted by Ina on May 13th, 2008

Best Of 2007

It’s the time of year again to ponder, summarize, draw conclusions, and resolve. The year 2007 has been a prolific year in perfumery, as you well know. The perfume bloggers including myself have voiced their opinions aplenty, yet we feel it’s essential to present you with a report of what we think totally rocked, to put it plainly. Overall, 2007 produced some pretty exciting and noteworthy fragrances, even if I didn’t love them all. In my eternal need to organize everything, I’ve come up with a few categories.

Best Representation Of A Note: The Year Of Iris

Infusion d’Iris by Prada

Iris Pallida by L’Artisan Parfumeur

Iris Ganache by Guerlain

Best Fragrance Honoring The Classics

Gucci by Gucci

Tuberose Gardenia by Estee Lauder Private Collection

Ellie D

Les Exclusifs de Chanel

Best Trendsetter Fragrance

Amaze by People of the Labyrinths

Lady Vengeance by Juliette Has A Gun

Noir en Noir, Moss Breches, Tobacco Vanille, Velvet Gardenia by Tom Ford

Stoned by Solange Azagury-Partridge

Narciso Rodriguez for Men

Patchouli Luxe by Comme des Garcons

Best Relaunch

Montaigne by Caron

Best Flanker

Voile de Fleur by Tom Ford

Chanel No 5 Eau Premiere

Please share yours and check out my fellow bloggers for their picks: Bois de Jasmin :: Now Smell This :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume Smellin’ Things :: Scentzilla

16 comments Posted by Ina on December 27th, 2007

Home Sweet Home

The time has come to tell you, my dear readers, about the biggest news – in February, my husband and I are moving back to my home country, Latvia! Needless to say, we’re both very excited (although the said husband has never lived abroad, let alone a post-Soviet-borderline-European country, but he’s being a good sport). At this point we have no idea what we’ll do for work (ideas are welcome!), and I’m still not sure whether I’ll be able to blog about perfume although I will explore the venue once I’m there. It’ll be an adventure for sure! Lots to do before February but please stay tuned for the Best of 2007 post next Friday, December 28. I miss you all!

13 comments Posted by Ina on December 21st, 2007

Top Fall Scents

I miss blogging. Actually, to be more precise, I miss the times when blogging about perfume was one of the highlights of my day. As you might have noticed (ironically as it might sound considering I’m surrounded by it pretty much daily), perfume has hardly been my top priority. From a proactive, involved enthusiast I’ve turned into a sober, distant observer. I still enjoy perfume and wear it frequently but gone are the days of mad obsessions and insane lemmings. It’s somewhat sad as is often the case with an end of a life stage but it’s also comforting and valid. In other words, to bring this to some sort of a logical conclusion, I’m here to tell you Aromascope is definitely on an indefinite break.

However, today is the day when perfume bloggers unite to share their Top Ten Fall Scents, and I couldn’t miss that, could I? One of the benefits of my waning interest has been an intensified focus on my Holy Grail fragrances, i.e., the ones I can turn to and wear no matter what. Looking back at my fall scents post of last year, I must say this year’s picks are hardly autumnal. Pardon me for not coming up with ten of them but here are the tested and true ones…

Black Orchid Voile de Fleur by Tom Ford – the one and only version of Black Orchid I can wear and adore. Thank goodness for this! Black Orchid is one of those scents that have a very powerful contradictory effect on me – that of absolute simultaneous love and loathing. Voile de Fleur is the perfect relief of such a torment. Basically, all the dirty, aquatic, mushroomy patchouli is gone, and all I get is lush flowers with a hint of leather. What’s not to love?

Iris Poudre by Frederic Malle- not a whole lot to say other than it’s a true classic and perfect for any occasion/mood/weather/you name it.

Mure et Musc Extreme by L’Artisan Parfumeur – a somewhat newly acquired love. A great example of a perfectly blended fragrance, with just enough of everything – citrus, fruitiness, and musk to make it both clean and dirty and so very sultry.

Amaze by People Of The Labyrinths – never ceases to amaze me.

Rose en Noir by Miller Harris – a rare find as it’s only available in London but I was lucky enough to snatch a bottle on eBay. All things rose in one smashing potion – jam, lipstick, petals.

Plus Que Jamais by Guerlain – because I’m still a Guerlain girl at heart (although that part has been a bit dormant lately). I love it more than ever (just had to throw it in there).

To sum it all up: 1) I love rose; 2) I’m more into florals than I’ve ever been before; 3) I’m in a state of utter olfactory contentment.

Please be sure to check the following blogs for their fall favorites:

Bois de Jasmin :: Now Smell This :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume Smellin’ Things :: Scentzilla

25 comments Posted by Ina on October 25th, 2007

(Mini) Perfume Review: Quand Vient La Pluie by Guerlain

I’m not quite back to my normal smelly self yet so this will be a somewhat condensed version of a perfume review. I’m not quite sure yet if I’ll come around at all, considering how it’s been going. There’s also a change coming up in my life that I can’t talk about yet (no, it’s not physiological). While my nose’s taking an open-ended vacation (with occasional sniffs here and there), my need for sensory experiences is compensated by a strong interest in nutrition (eating fat is good, y’all!) See, this is supposed to be a (mini) review, and here I am digressing like there’s no tomorrow. So, perfume. As reported earlier, a Guerlain maniac as myself has been anxiously awaiting the release of Quand Vient La Pluie (“When The First Raindrops Begin To Fall” – such is the translation in the press release), a limited edition fragrance exclusive to Guerlain boutique in Paris and Bergdorf Goodman in New York. I’m happy to report I quite like it, and that’s all I’m going to say. Sigh. Okay. Maybe not. The scent seems more Guerlain-like than the previous two limited editions (Plus Que Jamais and Nuit d’Amour) with its top notes of powdery heliotrope and iris that’s somewhat resembling Iris Ganache. The next stage is sort of sugary orange blossom that makes me a bit uneasy as it seems a bit too sweet. The drydown saves the day (and nose), however: it is fluffy and velvety and crystal-like all at once. I really do like it and wish it could just magically drop on my lap. The price, in case you’re wondering, is $400 for a 7.5 ml refillable bottle of eau de parfum (that also includes a refill of 50 ml), and $2,600 for a 7.5 ml refillable bottle and a whopping 490 ml refill of pure parfum. I’d say go for the latter. You can order it from Jason Beers at Bergdorf Goodman (212-872-2734).

P.S. Back to my slumber I go. Perhaps you can revive me with your new discoveries?

P.P.S. Forgot to mention why the price is so prohibitive: the bottle is frosted Swarovski crystal in the shape of a rain drop (designed by Serge Mansau). Pretty cool.

Image source: corbis.com

11 comments Posted by Ina on September 11th, 2007

Huh?

My DNA Fragrance.

P.S. Maybe this is the solution to my slump?

12 comments Posted by Ina on September 7th, 2007

Slump

So I’ve taken a relaxing vacation, and my August ennui should technically be over but I’m still in a state of olfactory slump. I’m not talking about writer’s block. I’m referring to the worst possible fear of any perfume fanatic – loss of interest. I’m not quite there, don’t worry. I still smell perfumes with (relative) enthusiasm and get (relatively) excited only to have positively nothing to say, most of the time. Please tell me this is temporary. Please assure me in scientific terms it’s some sort of a biological matter (chemical imbalance? smell disorder? dehydration?) that can be easily remedied. Then tell me how exactly it can be done. Has it happened to you? Is it just seasonal? (I’m sure working in a perfume shop doesn’t help as it often leaves me in a state of sensory fatigue). Whatever it is, I want it to go away. Soon.

29 comments Posted by Ina on August 28th, 2007

Perfume Review: Iris Pallida by L’Artisan Parfumeur

Iris Pallida is the upcoming edition in the L’Artisan Parfumeur exceptional harvest collection for the year 2007 (the previous editions were Fleur d’Oranger in 2005, and Fleur de Narcisse in 2006). You might have noticed there’re quite a few iris fragrances released this year which I personally quite welcome as there can never be too many. In my perfume-illiterate years, I sort of assumed all the floral notes used in perfume conveyed the actual scent of the flower they represented. Little did I know it is not so with iris – what we smell is actually the root or the rhizome that’s crushed into powder and treated with alcohol to produce the extract. What I’ve also learned recently (from the Iris Pallida press release) is that it takes three years from planting for the rhizome to reach the right level of maturity, and a further three years are necessary for the olfactory principle of iris to slowly emerge. Plus, several more weeks are required after grinding to distill an essential oil that eventually solidifies (hence the name iris “butter”). All I can say is that I’m in awe of such a process and would love to have me some iris butter. Meanwhile, I cherish my favorite iris perfumes, and Iris Pallida has quickly earned a special spot.

Up until recently, I divided iris based fragrances into two groups: 1) the deep-earthy ones (Bois d’Iris by The Different Company, Hiris by Hermes; 2) the powdery-metallic ones (Iris Silver Mist by Serge Lutens, Dior Homme, Iris Poudre by Frederic Malle). Along came Guerlain’s Bois d’Armenie and Iris Ganache, Cristiano Fissore Cashmere for Men, Iris Nobile by Aqua di Parma, and even Chanel 19, and my iris world had suddenly expanded. I’ve discovered iris can also be quite woody and velvety. Iris Pallida is exactly that. It starts off all sparkling floral, then goes all buttery-fluffy, and finally wraps around you like the softest pashmina. I particularly enjoy the dusty, marshmallowy cedar accord in the drydown. It very much reminds me of Bois d’Armenie, just a little more sheer perhaps. It doesn’t seem to have any sillage (although spraying from a bottle can prove otherwise) and is quite tenacious, even if it does appear a bit muted as it dries down. Of all the exceptional harvest fragrances, it’s probably the most understated and instantly likable.

Iris Pallida features the notes of rose essence, orange blossom absolu, violet leaf, anise, iris absolute, cedar, vetiver, patchouli, guaiac wood, ambrette seed, white musk. It will be available in limited quantities retailing $295 for 100 ml bottle.

Image source: iriscolorado.com, press release.

40 comments Posted by Ina on August 21st, 2007

Perfume Review: The Softer Side Of A Diva

By Donna Hathaway

When Inès Marie Laetitia Eglantine Isabelle de Seignard de la Fressange, known to us mere mortals as simply Inès de la Fressange, burst onto the European fashion scene in the mid-to-late 1970s, she was noticed right away, and within a few short years she was famous just about everywhere as the face of Chanel and the style muse of Karl Lagerfeld. Her face was on every high fashion magazine, and she was quite the runway diva as well. Lanky yet elegant, she seemed more like a “real” woman to me than most of the supermodels of the day – for one thing she was not a blonde and never became one, and I admired her for that – we brunettes have to stick together, because we know we are stunning just the way we are in a world that worships blondes, whether they are real, manufactured or imagined. I say “we” with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, as she was just about everything I am not; chic, fashionable, tall, gorgeous, graceful, and the list goes on. I had quite the girl-crush on her for years, as we were close in age and she had a sparkling intelligence about her that shone through all the glamour and glitter of her profession. I just wanted to be her more than any famous person since Sophia Loren. (You can’t say I don’t aim high!) I was somewhat disappointed that she also became the face for Chanel’s Coco fragrance, as I never did care for it all that much – it’s nice but nothing very special to my nose, and just not my style at all. However, I always enjoyed seeing her in the ads for it.

In 1989 Inès and Karl Lagerfeld had a falling-out and she left Chanel. This was at least in part because she was chosen to pose as the next “Marianne,” the iconic female symbol of France; it is reported that Karl did not want her to do it. This symbolic title has been accorded to a number of beautiful French women including Catherine Deneuve, so it was quite an honor. She did not model much more after that, and soon started her own company, designing luxury goods and home items such as bedding, and was considered to be a very astute businesswoman. She also designed her own clothing line, and I bemoaned the fact that I would never be able to afford or even wear her designs. They reflected her unerring sense of style, sleek and elegant. In 1990 she married Italian businessman Luigi d’Ursi, who also happened to make regular appearances on the International Best-Dressed List, and they later had two daughters. (He tragically died, suddenly and unexpectedly, in 2006.) I have followed her career as much as I can, considering that she is no longer a recognizable celebrity in America for the younger generations, though she still gets plenty of press in France.

A couple of years ago I discovered that I could fit into one of her creations after all – she had released a fragrance! More than one, as it turned out; the eponymous one available today is from 1999; there was another one in 2004 called simply “Inès” that seems to have disappeared, and I have been unable to learn much of anything about it. Online perfume merchants sometimes show both bottle styles, but the description of the fragrance is virtually always for the 1999 perfume’s notes. The latter one sounds even better from the description on OsMoz.com (it has peony in it, which is her favorite flower, and was created by Alberto Morillas), so I hope I find it someday. As a matter of fact, the site I got mine from had a picture of the wrong bottle, so obviously there is confusion all around. Anyway, I stumbled over it on an online discount site, and after seeing the description I thought it sounded very promising. I do not like to buy perfume unsniffed, but I figured hey, we’re talking about Inès here, she would never put her name on something cheap and trashy, right? So after some deliberation I ordered the smaller 50 ml bottle of the Eau de Parfum of Inès de la Fressange.

When it arrived I was immediately struck by the quality of the simple packaging and the spare elegance of the heavy frosted bottle. Eagerly I opened it, and took a sniff – wonderful! It was fresh and lovely, with notes of bergamot, aldehydes, and peach to start with, followed by rosewood, ylang-ylang, carnation, and lily of the valley, and eventually drying down to a light sandalwood, accompanied by tonka bean, civet, and benzoin. There is quote a lot of rose in it, as a matter of fact, but it’s a cool, understated rose, ethereal, soft and pastoral, like the wild Eglantine rose in Inès’ long list of middle names. The resulting juice cannot be said to be a “rose perfume” by any means. There is a bit of sparkling sharpness from the carnation that keeps it lively. There is not a whole lot of complexity going on, which is fine in this case, and once the heart notes make their appearance it stays much the same. I am a benzoin fan, and the civet is also welcome, making for a relatively long-lasting composition for its type. I am a peach fan as well, when it’s done right. Those who fear fruity-floral perfumes will not find the usual sugary mess that quickly turns into a wan, watery clone that smells like everything else – this is a quality fragrance. It cannot be called great or masterful, but it is very pleasing indeed.

It is only made in an eau de parfum, which is fine, since an eau de toilette of this formulation would probably be quite fleeting, but I like it enough to wish there were a parfum or even a perfumed body cream in the line. I am unable to determine for sure if it still in production, as I only see it at discount outlets, but some perfumes hang around for years once they leave the department store displays, so that does not necessarily mean it’s gone for good. Just in case, I bought the 100 ml bottle the last time. It has become one of my default hot weather fragrances, jostling for position with my other standby, Mariella Burani’s Amuleti, as it is always fresh and never intrusive, standing up to heat and humidity like a diva under the lights, which is only fitting. Her namesake should be very proud.
As a matter of curiosity, I would like to know if anyone out there has tried the other one, from 2004, just called Inès, and recalls where they it was obtained – it comes in a gold and crystal bottle overlaid with an oak leaf pattern on the glass, and has notes of bergamot, neroli, mandarin, rose, peony, iris, patchouli and musk, among other things. I have seen pictures of the bottle in a few places, but not nearly so many as for the one I have. Basenotes.net has it listed, but not the earlier one, which I found odd since they have some very obscure stuff in their database. Also, there is another discrepancy; Basenotes says that black currant is the fruit note in the opening, while OsMoz.com says it’s blackberry. I have no idea which one is correct, but since I love them both it matters not to me. I am starting to wonder if it another phantom perfume, but I would like to try it someday if it still exists. Perhaps there is a story behind its elusiveness. I just have the funny feeling that if I take the plunge and order it, I may just receive another bottle of the one I have and I will have to start over. But if it’s anywhere near as good as its predecessor, I will need a bottle of it in my life someday.

Image source: imaginationperfumery.com, divasthesite.com

19 comments Posted by Donna on August 14th, 2007

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