Archive for March, 2007
Needle In A Haystack, a joint project by Perfume-Smellin’ Things and Aromascope, is back! A reminder – the project involves digging in our sample box completely blindfolded to procure a sample for review. Thank heavens I’ve had more luck this time around – the sample turned out to be not as obscure as the previous one.
Today we have Mirra by I Profumi di Firenze, an Italian artisan line inspired by original 16th century secret formulas commissioned by Caterina de Medici. As the name suggests, the scent is built around myrrh, in this case in its purest form from Harrar, Ethiopia. As a side note, besides being one of my absolutely favorite perfume ingredients, myrrh has also proven extremely useful for my health – every time I get the first symptoms of a bad cough, I take extract of myrrh several times a day (several drops mixed in a glass of water), and it does wonders. As a child, I used to get bad coughs quite often, and my mother tried all sorts of remedies most of which hardly did any good. Extract of myrrh is the first (and only so far) remedy that truly works. But enough playing doctor – we have a more pressing fragrant issue here. Let me just say I really like Mirra. It’s by no means complex, in fact rather linear but its tenacious, aromatic effect puts me in a state of serenity (hence, another health benefit!). Mirra is composed of myrrh, vanilla, incense, and woods. The usually sharp, resinous quality of myrrh is offset by plush vanilla, and that’s pretty much what Mirra is – balmy, sweet, and languid. I’d reach for it on days when I’m most prone to emotional outbreaks of various character as a way to calm down, appreciate life, and smell good.
Mirra is available at Beautyhabit.
P.S. In the drydown, Mirra reminds me quite a bit of Vaniglia by Santa Maria Novella.
Image source: creative work of Mrs Colombina, beautyhabit.com
March 29th, 2007
I must say while I have tons of appreciation for all things vintage, I’m not a vintage kind of person. There’s nothing even remotely retro in my closet – quite the opposite, actually, my preference is for a practical, urban style. My perfume wardrobe is a whole other story, however. No, I don’t own a massive collection of vintage scents (not yet, anyway) but I have been acquiring little gems here and there, slowly but surely, although most of them are in sample forms. So today I create a cyber Vintage Closet where I’ll be sharing my impressions of my favorite vintage finds. Not every piece will be worn, alas, for only a limited amount are wearable for me but I can assure you they’ll be deeply admired and cherished.
The first piece I happily put in my Vintage Closet is L’Interdit by Givenchy. Created in 1957 for Audrey Hepburn by Francis Fabron (also the author of L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci), the story of L’Interdit is indeed a forbidden one. The scent was discontinued and reintroduced in 2002 completely reformulated in a most deplorable way. As a side note, I wish I had the power to strictly forbid any types of reformulations of the old classics – they’re not to be messed with.
L’Interdit “embodies a woman with a natural sophistication, passionate, full of grace and a tad mischievous” (parfumsgivenchy.fr) which fits the image of Audrey Hepburn perfectly. The elegant, sophisticated effect is achieved by sweet, champagne-like aldehydic opening, velvety heart of peach and rose, and softly powdery orris and amber in the drydown. The mischievous part is played by strawberry – honeyed, jam-like, and rather laid-back. I call it a strawberry done right – there’s none of the trite juicy, over-ripe, candied sweet mess here. L’Interdit is sumptuous but in an elegant, refined way – something you’d wear on a first date when your agenda is to impress, slightly mystify, and keep certain things forbidden in a most innocent, playful way.
The vintage L’Interdit features the notes of aldehydes, mandarin, peach, bergamot, strawberry, jasmine, rose, jonquil, narcissus, lily of the valley, orris, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, vetiver, musk, amber, cistus, benzoin, tonka bean. It can be found on eBay. Please note the review is for vintage L’Interdit parfum which I find extremely wearable and timeless.
Image source: parfumdepub.net, corbis.com
March 28th, 2007
This winter reminds me of a stubborn woman who is reluctant to leave long after her company is welcome. It is wrangling with timid bright signs of coming spring, affirming its presence from time to time with cold gusts of wind, pouring rain or silver frost settled over gentle green growth early in the mornings.
At this time of the year I get utterly confused as what perfume to put on as I get ready to take on a day. The dark warming winter scents (Nuit de Noel, Ambre Sultan, and Musc Ravageur) seem to be a bit too much; they seem to hold on to winter moods and remind me of Christmas or first snow. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and I am Russian – so snow is the first thing I hate to see disappear – but I need to change the décor around here! Pacific Northwest and I need spring). The thin airy florals like Annick Goutal’s Chevrefeuille or my beloved Fleur de Carotte from L’Artisan seem to require a bright cotton dress and pretty colorful pumps. They need the comfortable, carefree warmth of late spring. Freezing in a cotton dress is not an option when you wear these numbers, fresh like a May breeze.
So, this time of the year I turn to my beloved Magnolia Pourpre from Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, line created by Jean-Françoise Laporte that re-established the idea of “perfume and glove making salons” (yes, they still produce luxurious gloves) where customers lounge around, while the perfumer fills in their orders. Think Boutique de Baldini or, probably better, Salon du Pelissier.
Some scents from this line are new interpretations of traditional perfume themes: rose, iris, jasmine, tuberose, freesia, amber, vetiver, musk, sandalwood, aromatic herbs. Other standouts from Maitre are more complex blends conceived to recreate a particular mood or exotic destinations, such as India (Or des Indes), Brazil (Bahiana), the Nile (Jardin du Nil), or China (Eau de Camelia Chinois).
Magnolia Pourpre is described as white floral with notes of magnolia, jasmine, rose, iris, lavender, white orchid and leather. However, in the case of Magnolia Pourpre I would suggest to forget about the labels. To me, it is not really a white floral. It is more of a honeyed floral, ambery in color and resinous in texture, like thick, clear honey poured over candied flower petals. Also, I would not call it a perfect interpretation of a scent of magnolia flower, as it barely reminds me of a smell of actual magnolias, blossoming each spring under my balcony. Magnolia Pourpre is more of a floral fantasy, capturing the feel of magnolia’s petals: lush, rich, strong, complex, powdery, fresh and opulent at the same time. The perfume is still warming, probably due to leather and honey notes, but it has a gorgeous floral accord that carries the promise of impeding riot of blossoms and smells. Magnolia Pourpre is the perfect “transition” perfume as it helps me make peace with this finicky time of the year.
By Elena Singh
March 28th, 2007
The winners of a sample of Stoned are: Dleep, Rachael, and Minsun! Please e-mail me your addresses at aromascope at gmail dot com.
March 27th, 2007
I chose to start my spring floral series with Annick Goutal whose floral compositions blend with spring weather exceptionally. Such scents as Eau du Ciel, Eau du Camille, Quel Amour!, Eau d’Hadrien possess such an aerial, fresh character that I find very easy if not love, definitely appreciate on spring days. I’m yet to explore the soliflores – Le Jasmin, La Violette, Le Chevrefeuille, Neroli. Meanwhile, my biggest admiration goes to their latest creation – Songes.
For me Songes is a perfect pick for the seasonal transition – its tropical floral warmth cuddles while spring comes to its full swing. Inspired by a night walk in an exotic garden on the island of Mauritius, Songes is the olfactory replica of the most intoxicating white floral bouquet – frangipani, jasmine, ylang-ylang. In contrast to most Annick Goutal fragrances, Songes is bold, sultry, intense. It greets you with heady frangipani and ylang-ylang and only takes seconds for jasmine to absorb the blend with its indolic charm. The effect is creamy, with a distinct “dirty”, slightly bitter undertone. The longer you wear Songes, the more it captivates and embraces. This succulent potion truly has no rivals.
Songes features the notes of frangipani, tiare, jasmine, incense, vanilla, copahu balm, pepper, ylang-ylang, vetiver, sandalwood, amber, styrax. I’ve tried Songes in both eau de toilette and eau de parfum, and, while I find both concentrations equally amazing, I much prefer eau de parfum (which is what I used for this review). Eau de toilette is much less heady and vanillic.
March 27th, 2007
As mentioned in my previous post, I’m currently in a state of sample overload as well as slightly overwhelmed by all my perfume choices. Not much progress has been made since then, so today I turn to you, my dear readers, for help. I’m torn! So I’m asking for your input on what reviews you’d like to see on Aromascope in the next couple of weeks. The options are below (please specify which scent in particular interests you in each category):
- A spring floral
- A vintage scent
- A specific scent of your choice
- A new release
- A particular topic, not necessarily a review
To make it a bit more fun, I’ll do a drawing for a sample of Stoned. There’ll be three winners, so please mention in your comment if you’d like to participate. Update: the drawing is now closed. The winners will be announced tomorrow. Thank you for your feedback!
Image source: corbis.com
March 25th, 2007
It seems I’m going through the lemming-free stage which quite often feels rather uncomfortable and downright wrong. I don’t mind it as much this time, however. I have an indecent amount of samples sitting on my dresser, and I can’t seem to get around to conducting proper testing sessions. I fear they’ll just end up in the bottomless pit, i.e., my sample box, and their only chance for survival will be the luck of the draw for my Needle In A Haystack project (which, by the way, Marina and I are still planning to continue). Such are my fragrant musings for today. Nothing too profound, I’m afraid, but I won’t leave you famished (ha!). Here’s a potential Lemming Of The Year:
Iris Ganache, the new addition to the Guerlain’s L’Art et la Matière collection, due to be released this June. I’m practically salivating just typing this: “Iris Ganache reveals an iris butter “worked like a pastry ganache”. A mouthwatering scent, like “white chocolate shaded with floral notes” and enhanced with cinnamon, bergamot, patchouli, white musks, cedar and a slightly ambery vanilla note” (Osmoz.com). Can I just say I’ll tear all my hair out and scream bloody murder if it even so much as dares to disappoint? I’m not particularly fond of Thierry Wasser’s creations (Addict by Christian Dior, Hypnose by Lancome) but the man knows how to work the gourmand theme. I find comfort in the fact Iris Ganache was created in collaboration with Sylvaine Delacourte who heads fragrance development at Guerlain. Meanwhile, I should really work on those samples.
What are your fragrant musings for today?
Image source: osmoz.com
March 22nd, 2007
Stoned is the name of a perfume created by Lynn Harris (the nose behind Miller Harris scents) for a London based jewelry designer Solange Azagury-Partridge. The name very much reflects the general concept and aesthetic approach of this jewelry line that’s been described as “iconoclastic, irreverent and phenomenal” in reference to the precious materials. After browsing the Solange Azagury-Partridge collection online, I couldn’t help but conclude that the pieces are indeed eclectic and unconventional, yet done with the utmost taste and craftsmanship. Likewise, Stoned strikes me as beautiful in an unusual way. “This is the most fun one can have being stoned without breaking the law” – such is the main statement, and I can’t help but agree.
Before I dwell on the scent, I’d like to mention one peculiar fact about Stoned: it’s said to contain diamond dust. I’m not sure exactly what that means and how it affects the fragrance or why it’s even necessary in perfume. To be honest, I’m puzzled. Nevertheless, I choose to blindly follow my nose which declares over and over again its unconditional love affair with Stoned. It’s amusing at times to observe where your nose takes you. With Stoned, it took me to the paths well-traveled, so to speak, for I kept finding more and more similarities with some of my other favorite perfumes. This chameleon of a scent first resembled Voilette de Madame by Guerlain. Later it was Orchidee Blanche by L’Artisan. Then all of a sudden the drydown became almost a dead ringer for L’Air de Rien by Miller Harris. Upon further sniffs, I got Bois d’Armenie by Guerlain and Cashmere for Men by Cristiano Fissore. At this point you might say, “Forget it! It’s hardly worth it”, and you’ll be much mistaken for, despite its kindred spirit, Stoned is a scent of its own merit. Moreover, it’s multifaceted and multidimensional. The initial sweet, powdery notes of heliotrope and rose create a baby-powder-like effect but it doesn’t end there. The real transformation happens when labdanum and musk enter the scene – we get some animalic action. The drydown has a slightly dirty, mossy undertone which gives it a soft vintage effect. All that combined with the excellent staying power, truly funky bottle, and a hefty price tag makes Stoned unbelievably irresistible: you’re stoned indeed.
Stoned is available at Beautyhabit and Luckyscent (that currently has a free shipping promo with the code “stoned”). For more information on availability elsewhere, consult Solange Azagury-Partridge online.
Image source: luckyscent.com
March 21st, 2007
Please welcome my third contributing writer, Donna Hathaway, known on perfume blogs as “Flora”. Donna will be exploring the floral theme, and I’m very happy to have her on board! She’s published a few pieces in the horticultural field, is a lifelong gardener (something I will never be), and fragrance is at the top of her list when selecting flowers for her garden. Please read her wonderful post on lilies below.
March 20th, 2007
I have always loved flowers and fragrance, but I did not know what I was missing until I discovered the lily. Everyone knows the Easter lily and its subtle fresh fragrance, but once I discovered that there were other lilies in the world that were much more powerfully fragrant, I was hooked for life. I grow them, I buy them at the florist in the off-season, and I keep at least one lily fragrance in my possession at all times. When I need my lily “fix” nothing else will quite do.
The lily most commonly used in perfumery is called the White Lily; its botanical name is Lilium candidum, the Madonna Lily, native to Asia Minor and the Middle East. This astonishingly white flower looks like it is carved from alabaster, and its complex fragrance is a blend of high, pure cool notes and indolic undertones that are almost foxy in their intensity. One either loves it, as I do, or cannot bear to be near it; there is rarely any in-between. Other lilies are grown for their fragrance and beauty but not used commercially, as their essence is notoriously difficult to capture. The Oriental group, native to Japan, has some of the finest perfumes in the entire floral kingdom. In general, they are less indolic than the White Lily and have a gentle, sweet spiciness that is very pleasing. Others smell anywhere from musky and strange to unbelievably delicious, and some are scentless, though still beautiful.
My first lily perfume was the great Ana?s Ana?s by Cacharel, released in 1978, which I wore as a very young woman. This was even before I started growing lilies in my own garden, but I knew what I liked, and this lovely and ethereal green floral was the best thing I had ever smelled. This is most commonly seen as an Eau de Toilette now, but what is not so well known is that it was once available in a far broader range than it is today. On one end of the spectrum was the Parfum, which I had, and it was just sublime. It was less green than the EDP or EDT and had a softness and purity to it that was mesmerizing. I think it as the most feminine perfume I have ever experienced. There was also a masterpiece of a bath oil, completely opposite to the Parfum in character, which brought out the sexy side of this fragrance. I would wear this as a perfume in tiny amounts when I went out in the evening when I got a little older. It highlighted the lily, hyacinth and honeysuckle in the composition, and you could really get the woods and oakmoss too. When that was discontinued, I hoarded my bottle of it for years, using it only for special occasions.
I lost a lot of interest in Ana?s Ana?s after I could only get the EDT, and the EDP is rarely seen now as well. It’s a shame, because this fragrance was really one of the finest fragrances of its time. I felt that Cacharel had abandoned the true aficionados of this perfume.
Some time later I discovered Alpine Lily by Crown Perfumery. I don’t know whether this one had any actual lily in it or not; I believe it had a generous dose of Lily-of-the-valley as the majority of its composition, but it was no less lovely for it. It was airy and luminous and simple, and smelled like a meadow in the spring. I adored it. Alas, my affair with this fragrance was cut short. The Crown company was bought out a few years ago and was reincarnated as the Clive Christian company, purveyor of overpriced (and in my opinion, overrated) perfumes aimed at the super rich among us, and all the Crown creations were no more. I have not forgiven Clive Christian for this, nor am I likely to do so in the near future. I did not have a lily perfume again for several years. I was left without my obsession once again.
So what does one do when bereft of a lily scent to own and enjoy? In my case, I happened to start reading perfume blogs such as this one, and everyone was talking about Serge Lutens, and a fragrance called Un Lys. Could this be the one I was looking for? I read all I could find about the company, as I had never heard of it before, and it all sounded wonderful. I discovered that my local perfume boutique had just started carrying the full line. Off I went, and I fell in love instantly. Not just with Un Lys, but with virtually the whole lineup. I was astonished at the superb quality and originality I found. But it was indeed Un Lys that won me over, with its frigid heart of purest lily essence, hiding a sensuality that turns into something just a little dangerous on the skin. It is the White Lily brought to vivid life as in nothing else I have ever smelled. Now, of course, the company has decided that Un Lys belongs in the Exclusive Range, and it is no longer sold outside of the Palais Royale du Shiseido in Paris. I have about half a bottle right now, and it is reserved for very special occasions. Once again I will have to find a lily perfume to call my own. I will forgive Serge Lutens for this someday, since the other fragrances are so good, but why did they take it away? I am jilted once again!
So I am looking for another candidate for my lily romance, and so far the best one is Antica Farmacista’s Casablanca Lily, which is a remarkable rendition of the famous white Oriental lily beloved by florists and brides alike the world over. This is achieved by the addition of the spice clove to the formula, which warms the chill of the lily to make it more like its namesake flower than the glacial White Lily. Ylang ylang keeps it sweet and approachable. As a bonus, this is available as a home fragrance and a bath and body range as well, like many Antica Farmacista fragrances. I am almost afraid to buy it, as I almost surely will when my beloved Un Lys is finally gone. What if it abandons me like all the others? It would be easier to be in love with Chanel No. 5 or Shalimar to guarantee that I will always be able to get more, but I always did fall in love with the one I could never have. Why should it be any different with perfume?
Image source: 3-D effect photograph copyright 2007 by K. Mingl, used with permission.
March 20th, 2007