Archive for September, 2006
Mandarine-Mandarin is the newest addition to the Serge Lutens exclusive, non-export line of perfumes. Created around Chinese motifs, it’s undoubtedly an oriental composition – a spicy oriental with a capital “o”. It’s said to be built around a “black mandarin” note, with smoky tea and amber as its base. The official notes are Chinese orange, nutmeg, candied mandarin, orange peel, smoky tea, rock rose, labdanum, tonka beans, ambergris. Needless to say, it’s been much anticipated and loved in advance. I’m happy to say it’s proved to be worthy of adoration almost instantly.
I find it a bit challenging to describe Mandarine-Mandarin, possibly due to the fact I’ve never encountered a similar fragrance before. It starts out not as much citrusy (the way citrusy top notes tend to be) as slightly pungent, sweet orange peel-like. I get a nutty undertone that’s most likely the candied mandarin note. I’ve seen Mandarine-Mandarin compared to another Serge Lutens fragrance, Fleur d’Oranger, and, while I see the reason behind it, I don’t really find them similar – maybe in the general, as I said, slightly pungent orange effect of top notes. In middle notes, nutmeg adds a mulled wine/cider accord. While the composition is very much aromatic throughout, the smoky tea adds a somewhat dusty quality, and amber isn’t your typical warm amber – in fact, I don’t find Mandarine-Mandarin a warm scent at all. It very much stands on its own, demanding to be approached instead of approaching. I’ve approached it, and it has won me over (especially the drydown), and I still feel like I can’t quite convey what it smells like to do it justice.
For other impressions, you can read Victoria’s review and Helene’s review.
P.S. After I wrote the review, I came up with another association – lacquer. There’s a pronounced lacquer effect in the drydown which makes the scent one of a kind.
Image source: www.salons-shiseido.com
September 28th, 2006
I feel a bit blank in my head today for writing a review, so I’m just going to throw something totally random. I just wanted to thank everybody who reads and comments on this blog. I very much enjoy sharing my fragrant experiences with you, and reading your comments makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So, thank you! This brings me to another random piece – I’d love to hear how you got interested in fragrance. If you have a minute, please share in your comments!
September 27th, 2006
A few weeks back I talked about some smells that annoy me, and today I’ll talk about my favorite smells, as in, other than perfume. Well, to be honest, at this very moment, my very favorite smell in the world is the new Blue Agava & Cacao by Jo Malone. It’s supposed to be officially launched next week but my local Saks already had a tester. The notes, from what I remember, are agave, cardamom, sea salt, chocolate. This is the most un-Jo-Malone-like of all Jo Malones since it’s a rather gourmand and rich scent. It’s basically a sweet, slightly powdered-sugary cardamom with a cashmere-like effect, and, in spite of being gourmand in character, it’s quite sophisticated and complex. I’m on pins and needles waiting for the bottles to become available – it’ll be a definite purchase, and I cannot wait to wear it this winter.
Back to my favorite smells. Perhaps I’ll start with an odd one. I love the smell of cellars. Always have. When I was little, we used to live in a typical Soviet style brick apartment building that had a cellar where each resident had their own secure spot. We usually kept all our canned food in there, and every time I was asked to go down there to bring a jar of jam or pickles, I’d be thrilled beyond belief. I have vivid memories of walking down the stairs, kneeling down and getting my nose real close to the steps to inhale the smell. Oh, I could eat it! The combination of slight mold, dirt, old wood, and cement was amazing.
I also love the smell of new books and school/office supplies. Once again, it goes back to my childhood obsession with everything that had to do with preparation for school. Usually, somewhere mid-July I’d start stocking up on new school supplies (even though school didn’t start till September 1). I’d take them all out every day gazing at them with utter devotion and absorbing that crisp scent.
Besides these two, I also love the smell of the pavement after summer thunderstorm, butter melting in the frying pan, rotting leaves, wet wood, tomato leaves, fresh potatoes, unlit cigarettes, leather car interior, daffodils, bricks, pipe tobacco, and many more.
What are some of your favorite smells?
Image source: www.corbis.com
September 26th, 2006
There’re way too many perfumes in the world. No, I’m not complaining. I just can’t keep up with it. Some days the top of my dresser is so full of samples they turn into pests, grow legs, and start running around until I catch them and lock them up in boxes. Then, when the dresser looks all nice and neat, I get into a sample withdrawal mode and frantically start looking for ways to get more (hello, ebay!) So, today, before the recent stack of samples on my dresser goes through its habitual transformation, I decided to quickly grab them and do a brief write-up here. I picked several I’ve tested/retested in the last couple of weeks.
Alexander McQueen Kingdom (bergamot, mandarin, neroli, rose, jasmine, cumin, ginger, sandalwood, Copahu wood, vanilla, myrrh) – didn’t give this a thorough test when it first came out. This time, it took me by surprise as a deeply sensual scent. Its floral beginning is misleading as you think it’s just going to be another rose/jasmine oriental. It then kicks you in the gut with its spiciness, cumin taking the lead and turning the whole experience into a pepper-powdery cloud (that some perceive as body odor – luckily, not me). The drydown is sort of chalk-like woody, with myrrh giving it a balsamic quality. The minute I sprayed this, I thought it reminded me of something else – Trouble by Boucheron! Sure enough, after consulting Now Smell This, I found out these two are created by the same perfumer – Jacques Cavallier. Kingdom is basically Trouble, except it’s spicy and peppery while Trouble is cashmere-like and powdery-sweet. Both perfumes can be purchased at various online discount sites (like Imaginationperfumery.com) or eBay.
Slatkin Persian Lime & Mimosa – inspired by Victoria’s review, I had to revisit it again. Vibrant, radiant, citrusy mimosa that dries down with ylang-ylang’s creamy floral sweetness. It reminds me of the smell of a good quality shampoo. It’s the type of scent for casual wear or lazy afternoons. I will probably reach for it some time mid-January when I’ll have had enough of winter to demand spring right that instant. (Availabe at Hamptonct.com)
Norma Kamali Baby – don’t even know the notes, so my guess is it’s some sort of a gentle flower, musk, and the smell of the skin of at least five babies bottled up (figuratively, of course). It’s powdery but only a touch. It’s smooth, lotion-like, silky, and clean. I absolutely adore it! It last for hours and keeps you peaceful. (Available at Beautyhabit.com)
Santa Maria Novella Opoponax – once again, inspired by Victoria’s mention, I got intrigued as I love opoponax. I was expecting it to be silky-sweet and balsamic (similar to the opoonax in Imperial Opoonax by Les Nereides). Instead, I got wet leaves mixed with dirt, lots of resin, and hints of patchouli. It’s one of those scents you love for its composition, yet question its wearability. It’ll be perfect for layering, so I’ll have to experiement. (Available at Lafcony.com)
Robert Piguet Baghari (new) – lots has been said about it on perfume blogs recently, so here’re my two cents: this is a modern version of Chanel No 5. It’s crispy-sweet (because everything has to be sweet these days) and powdery and very appealing. The aldehydes are there but sort of in the background. The lead character is sweet powder supported by blooming flowers. I quite like it but not sure it’s reached the Full Bottle Worthy status yet, plus the lasting power is mediocre.
Image source: www.corbis.com
September 25th, 2006
“Wear it everywhere you like to be kissed,” are the words of Isabelle Masson-Mandonnaud, the founder of Sephora and now Crazylibellule and the Poppies, a new line of solid perfumes. The line was launched in French Sephora in 2005 and became an instant success and has finally made its debut in the U.S. The brand name has a quirky vibe to it, “libellule” meaning “dragonfly” in French because “like fragrance, dragonflies delicately hover in the air and then lightly touch down”, and “crazy” references the female proclivity for fantasy and “the Poppies” stand for freedom in nature.” The scents come in lipstick-like tubes and can be worn alone or layered. Crazylibellule line consists of the Shanghaijava Collection (launching in the U.S. fall 2006), Les Divines Alcoves (the name for intimate, private backrooms in 18th and 19th century France to be launched in the U.S. in January 2007), and Poule de Luxe (various vanilla based scents). (Information from the press release).
I have had a chance to test all of the Shanghaijava scents and found them quite delightful and very wearable (especially considering I’m not usually a lover of solid perfumes). What appeals to me the most is that they do develop on my skin and don’t seem to leave any unpleasantness in the drydown. Here’s a brief overview:
Musc & Patchouli (bergamot, lily of the valley, musk, patchouli) – a gentle floral musk with just a hint of patchouli in the drydown that turns into a creamy scent with neither musk nor patchouli standing out. It’s more of a gentle floral on a gentle musk-patchouli base.
Ginger & Coconut (citronella, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, curry, coconut milk, cedar, amber, sandalwood, vanilla) – a spicy, clovey-lemony mix that reminds of me of some Indian dishes. I found it a bit odd at first but it sits on skin amazingly well, with coconut and sandalwood having a softening effect, and cedar adding a woodsy kick. My second favorite.
Encens Mystic (clove, cedar, incense, myrrh, benzoin, patchouli, vanilla) – my favorite! A creamy incense scent with a slight spicy kick. The resins here are really mellowed by vanilla making it more of a comfort incense that is sure to make you sniff your wrists. Yum!
Litchi Blossom (litchi, geranium, litchi, rose, litchi, mint) – a bright and vivacious geranium-based rose that sort of gets calmed down by mint that also adds a green/fresh-herbal quality. You really have to be a lover of geranium to truly appreciate it.
Lilas Spiritual (clove, lilac, lily of the valley, vanilla) – only got to smell this very briefly, so can’t say much about it other than it’s a pretty, girly lilac scent.
Blue Orchidee (bergamot, mandarin, orange, jasmine, rose, ylang, sandalwood, vanilla, musk) – a powdery orchid with a juicy orange kick at first that becomes quite sweet and radiant with rose and jasmine. I can see this being if not the best seller, then certainly very popular, especially among the younger generation.
Ananas Imperial (orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit, pineapple, cassis, peach, jasmine, cedar, musk) – very juicy citrusy pineapple, like a fizzy summer drink or a popsicle. Fruits having a major party here! Would be perfect for humid summer days.
For more information on the line, you can check their web site. The scents are currently available at B-Glowing (the exclusive North American distributor) and Art Effect in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. The cost is only $16 per tube – quite a steal!
Image source: www.sephora.fr
September 24th, 2006
I got together with my friend from Makeupalley again yesterday, and we did some moderate sniffage. Always fun to find a kindred spirit and much more rewarding to go smell perfumes with someone who has an idea of what it’s like to be a perfume maniac. Plus, you can proudly face all the sales assistants. So, off we went to Barney’s, Hermes, Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Nordstrom’s. Today is Friday, so I’m chilling (although, what difference does it make when you’re unemployed?) and will just share with you some of the highlights of our sniffage.
At Barney’s, we played a little with the L’Artisan Parfumeur line, and this time I really fancied Premier Figuier Extreme. It’s an intense version of their best seller Premier Figuier, a fig scent, which I quite like but never really found bottle worthy. The Extreme version grabs me by its cozy, coconutty milkiness extremely appealing and not quite so figgy in chilly weather. We also experimented with some scent layering: Safran Troublant (vanilla, saffron) with Piment Brulant (pepper, cloves) that turned out excellent.
At Hermes, we had a nice chat with a man who generously sprayed the Hermessence scents for us to test (Ambre Narguile, Vetiver Tonka, Poivre Samarkande, Rose Ikebana, and Osmanthe Yunnan – if you haven’t had a chance to smell these, I highly recommend you do) as well as experimented with some layering again. My favorite combo: Ambre Narguile and Poivre Samarkande. I also asked about the new Paprika Brasil that’s supposed to come out this year, and he said it was good but really sweet and should be in the boutique by the end of the year. Sweet is not always bad, considering harsh Midwest winters.
The real shock came at Neiman’s where I retested the Missoni fragrance (bergamot, magnolia, peony, rose, mandarin, bitter orange, chocolate, amber). I actually got quite a bit of really yummy chocolate – had it not been for the overpowering, peony-dominated floral bouquet, it could have won me over. We also played with the Creed line, and I gave a proper sniff to Love in White (orange zest, jasmine, daffodil, sandalwood, rise husk, iris, vanilla) which I found to be a pretty, light-spirited floral that supposedly layers well with other scents (which I’ll have to do at some point). The new Marc Jacobs autumn splashes were in – Amber (ginger, anise, cassia bark, amber, lily, tonka bean, benzoin), Ivy (nutmeg, cardamom, mandarin, orris, tonka bean, vetiver, sandalwood), and Violet (bergamot, peony, violet, orris, cedarwood, vanilla, musk). I didn’t give them a proper test, so won’t judge yet but I did quite like Amber, Ivy left me underwhelmed, and Violet was way too heavy on vanilla.
At Nordstrom’s, we camped at the Giorgio Armani counter, and I once again confessed my love and devotion to Pierre de Lune (violet, green notes, cassie flower, iris, woods, amber) and became a happy owner of yet another lip shimmer (#12, for the record).
If you’ve sniffed anything new or exciting recently, please share in your comments. Happy weekend to all!
Image source: www.gettyimages.com
September 22nd, 2006
L’Air de Rien is the newest addition to the British perfume line Miller Harris, created uniquely for Jane Birkin, a famous French singer and actress. It’s supposed to sum her up in a fragrance. Apparently, she never wore perfume other than occasional potpourri in her pockets but got inspired to create one after playing in her brother’s perfume lab. “I wanted a little of my brother’s hair, my father’s pipe, floor polish, empty chest of drawers, old forgotten houses.” (from the Vogue article). A peculiar olfactory desire, in a way, but strangely appealing as it’s not uncommon to have personal favorite smells that are not necessarily universally loved. It’s another story altogether to try to bottle it up to be worn as your signature perfume – that’s when things can get tricky as only the chosen few will truly appreciate it, and at this point I’m in the process of finding out if I’m one of them.
L’Air de Rien (which basically means “nothing” in French, from what I know) is said to be “an exquisite oriental with rich notes of French oakmoss, Tunisian neroli, sweet musk, amber, and vanilla”. All types of words go through my head as I smell it but “nothing” is definitely not one of them. It opens up all pretty with sweet musk, just a hint of oakmoss, and a sparkle of neroli. Quite lovable at this point until, out of the blue, the musk exposes itself in utter animalic indecency that makes you want to cover your
eyes nose. It also declares it’s actually related to the notorious Muscs Koublai Khan by Serge Lutens – take it or leave it, people. Don’t like animalic, stinky feet musk? Then you’re outta here. Fine. I’m still here. Go on! Then I’m slowly transported into the said antique chest of drawers in a huge abandoned English mansion where I find a pipe that still gets occasionally used by the ghosts (the smoke is the evidence). The musk is with me, following me everywhere until eventually it dissolves into a bitter oakmoss drink that’s given to me by the ghosts as a welcome. Part of me wants to stay, and part of me wants to leave for fear of becoming one of them and having to live in that haunted house. Which side wins? That I’m yet to find out.
L’Air de Rien is available at the Miller Harris online shop. I believe it’ll appear in stores soon.
Image source: www.vogue.co.uk
September 20th, 2006
The winner of the Jalaine sample pack is – Shifts! Congrats! Please send me your address to aromascope at gmail dot com.
September 20th, 2006
The approach of fall put me in the noir mood and made me crave heavy floral/spicy oriental scents many of which have been reviewed here. As is always the case, my nose tends to get tired of such richness and asks for lighter perfumes. An apple-pear bake was cooking in the oven last night, and its tantalizing smell was following me everywhere. That, combined with whiffs of seriously cold fall air seeping through a barely open window put me in the mood for cozy comfort scents. In utter contrast to the noirness, I thought of Teint de Neige (Color of Snow) by Lorenzo Villoresi. No, I’m by no means craving snow (in fact, I’d be happier if it never came this year or at all, for that matter). I’m craving fluffiness.
Teint de Neige is created by Lorenzvo Villoresi, a reknown perfumer from Florence, Italy (if you’d like to find out more about him, I highly recommend reading the interview on the Now Smell This blog). It’s said to convey “the delicate rosy hue of a powdered face” of the belle époque era as well as the scent of “perfumed powders” and “the perfume of talc”. I must say it renders that impeccably and could easily be called The Powder of All Powders in perfume. Upon first application, the scent is a bit overpowering with rose and jasmine and powder. As it dries down, the powder gets sweeter and fluffier. In the very drydown, the powder is still there but sort of subdued by honey and almond, not as talc-like any more but rather balm-like. It’s ball dress elegant and fuzzy slipper cozy at the same time, so you can pull it off on pretty much any occasion. The key is to apply with a light hand (a couple of sprays would suffice) – there’s a very fine line between French splendor and baby diapers.
The scent features the notes of rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, heliotrope, vanilla, almond, musk, honey, amber.
Teint de Neige is available at Your Cosmetics, Lafcony, The Perfume Shoppe, Aedes as well as Aus Liebe zum Duft. It comes in eau de toilette and parfum (which I’m dying to possess).
Image source: www.your-cosmetics.com
September 19th, 2006
Donna Karan Gold has been on my much anticipated new releases list the minute I read about it on Now Smell This. Then yesterday Cait from Legerdenez wrote a gorgeous review, and I had to run out and smell it. I was lucky enough to actually obtain a whole sample, so I can delve into it and lay out my impressions here. Gold is composed of the notes of Casablanca lilies, amber, acacia, white clove, jasmine, balsam, and East Indian patchouli. I must say when I first read the notes, my attention was grabbed entirely by amber, jasmine, balsam, and patchouli. I have no idea why I completely overlooked the lily. I guess I was just mesmerized by the ad image – its opulent golden colors translated into a rich floriental in my fragrant brain. Yet lily is the center of attention here, undoubtedly. I’m still swooning over Cait’s excellent imagery, so bear with me as I try to find my own words to describe the scent – her description is just so perfect I feel like adding anything else would be redundant. Nevertheless, here’s how Gold reveals itself to me: a sparkling, verdant lily, with a hint of crisp, indolic jasmine, enveloped in sheer, powdery acacia, and carried away by soft amber. If there was a champagne made of lilies, that’s how it’d smell. The overall effect is a bit heady but not to the point where it makes you gasp for fresh air – on the contrary, it’s intoxicating, and you just can’t get enough of it. The only other lily that ever appealed to me in fragrance is Un Lys by Serge Lutens where it’s softened by musk and vanilla. In Gold, however, the lily is stripped down and unabashedly so. If it was personified, it’d be a queen, accompanied by her servants – jasmine, white clove, acacia, with balsam and amber being her footstool. It’s the kind of scent that gently woos you and eventually wins you over (I find myself at the point of utter inability to resist its charm).
Gold is available at Nordstrom’s, although I’m not yet sure if every store carries it. I imagine it’ll show up on their web site in the near future.
P.S. One other thing I forgot to mention is that there’s a somewhat animalic note in Gold that becomes very apparent in the middle and base notes. It’s some sort of a mix of sourness and decay but it’s intensely appealing and adds certain rebelliousness that makes it even more irresistible.
September 18th, 2006