Archive for May, 2007
Fleurs de Sel, the newest fragrance by Miller Harris, was inspired by a small village in Brittany called Batz sur Mer, a place of retreat for the perfumer Lyn Harris. “This delicious scent is refined by the delicacy of the materials chosen from the edge of the salt marshes.” (Millerharris.com). Fleurs de Sel is one of those atmospheric fragrances that perhaps can be best understood by actually being in the place they represent. L’Air de Rien, the previous Miller Harris creation, was done in a similar, although somewhat abstract way. Even though it took some warming up to, I was soon able to relate to L’Air de Rien to the point of getting quite attached to its ghostly character. With Fleurs de Sel, things are a bit more complicated. While I appreciate its unconventional composition, it remains rather cold and aloof.
Perhaps this aloofness can be explained by the pungent herbal notes that seem to permeate the entire composition. Thyme, rosemary, and clary sage (lots of it!) produce a medicinal effect, as if I’m smelling an herb tincture of some sort. Then again, I’m also getting whiffs of an aftershave. So I’m quite torn for the first twenty minutes or so. It’s only after that the iris becomes prominent, with a soft smoky undertone that seems to be achieved by bitter oakmoss and dry vetiver. The iris shimmers, as if trying to overpower the herbs. Alas, on my skin it’s quite the opposite: the herbs are rather adamant about staying as aromatic as can be (especially the sage), not even showing due respect to the presence of vetiver which seems to be pretty much weeping in the corner. So I’m left with a no doubt interesting scent but one that leaves me rather dispassionate. Perhaps if I ever make it to the coasts of Brittany, Fleurs De Sel will make sense and win a place in my heart.
Fleurs de Sel features the notes of red thyme oil, rosemary, clary sage, iris nobilis, narcisse, rose, ambrette, vetiver, moss. It’s available directly from the Miller Harris online shop.
Please be sure to check Marina’s take on Fleurs de Sel.
Image source: millerharris.com
May 31st, 2007
Chicago has had a few humid days this week, and I said to myself, “Summer is here!” I must say, living in the city, the only descriptive words I can find for the summer season are something along the lines of stifling dirty mess. However, as I look at this picture of the Latvian countryside (while experiencing the typical seasonal homesickness), I’m instantly filled with olfactory images of summers past. Below is the list of fragrances I find best representative of each olfactory image:
Fresh grass and hay: L’Eau de L’Artisan by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Vie de Chateau by Parfums de Nicolai, Hierbas de Ibiza, Sous Le Vent by Guerlain, Bel Respiro by Chanel, Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca by Guerlain, Eau Sauvage by Dior.
Days at the beach: Monyette Paris, Ginger Ciao by Yosh, Azuree Soleil by Estee Lauder, Beach by Norma Kamali, Ananas Fizz by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Juste Un Reve by Parfums de Nicolai.
Inevitable humidity (in this case, the best scents for such days): Mure et Musc Extreme by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Divine Bergamot by The Different Company, Cologne Blanche by Dior, Nanadebary Green.
Sultry, balmy evenings: Jasmin Full by Montale, Climat by Lancome, Lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle, Songes by Annick Goutal, Nuits de Noho by Bond No 9, Rouge by Hermes, Nahema by Guerlain.
Summer desserts: Ciel, Mon Jardin! by Le Prince Jardinier, Eau de Reglisse by Caron, Vanilla by Jalaine, Philtre d’Amour by Guerlain.
What is summer to you and what fragrances best represent it?
Image source: balticholidays.com
May 30th, 2007
By Tove Solander
The next couple on the dance floor is the Caron classic Yatagan and Eloge Du Traitre from the even more infamous Etat Libre d’Orange. I know they have been spotted as smell-alikes all over the blogs by now but I said it first. I did. Only I said it in Swedish so nobody could hear me… Looking at the notes, the likeness hardly comes as a surprise: four hits and a clear belonging to the same family. Thus the real question is: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the manliest man of all?” Will the Turkish warrior slay the French traitor with his sabre or will the latter traitorously assassinate the former?
Yatagan: geranium, pine, patchouli, leather, lavender, wormwood, petitgrain, artemisia, vetiver, castoreum, styrax
Eloge Du Traitre: geranium, pine, patchouli, leather, bay, armoise, clove, jasmine, musk
The original: Yatagan is the man, the Seventies macho man who aspires to be a fox-hunting English gentleman but whose tweed suit has flared legs, oversized lapels, and a chequered pattern in orange, brown and green. Yatagan knows nothing of British subtlety. Sometimes he’s refreshingly bold and outdoorsy, like a walk on a forest floor covered with pine needles and pine cones. Sometimes he’s just a loud drunkard picking fights at the disco. Wearing Yatagan requires a certain energy, otherwise the sharp, dry, herbal notes might give you a headache or just get on your nerves. I think I prefer just smelling it from the bottle as a refreshing aromatherapy kick – wearing it I tend to tire of its one-dimensional harshness. There’s something dirty hidden in the vast forest but not dirty in a good way, more like wet dog. Now there’s an animalic note I fail to appreciate!
The copy: wearing the scents side by side, they’re more different than I expected. Or perhaps I just develop partial anosmia from smelling the one and can only pick out the notes that differentiate them in the other. Sure, Eloge Du Traitre has spicy herbs and dry pine too but it also has a hint of powdery sweetness which I guess is from the jasmine and the musk which oddly seems to be a clean white musk. It reminds me both of green chypres like Cabochard and of more conventional soapy men’s colognes, while Yatagan firmly belongs to the family of ruggedly masculine scents like L’Eau Du Navigateur and Jules. If this is a competition in machismo, Yatagan easily beats the more effeminate Eloge Du Traitre which even has – gasp! – a floral note. If it’s a competition in wearability, the slightly softer and “chicer” Eloge Du Traitre wins. Perhaps being a nancy boy dressed up as a lumberjack in borrowed clothes is a winning strategy?
May 30th, 2007
The Fragrance Foundation is an organization established in 1949 by six industry leaders in order to “develop educational programs about the importance and pleasures of fragrance for the American public”. Today, besides being the sponsor for the annual FiFi Awards, it’s also an amazing resource for historic, cultural, and industry related information. Today I’d like to bring your attention to some helpful features on the Fragrance Foundation web site: the Press/Consumer Info link on the bottom of the front page has an array of indispensable info such as The Glossary of Terms (explaining general olfactory and fragrance terms), Fragrance Launches 2005, 2006, and 2007, as well as Do’s And Don’ts (which are actually more amusing than informative). The most fascinating feature is the Online Fragrance Directory – a comprehensive database of fragrances currently distributed in the U.S.
Coming soon: my picks for best summer scents and a review of the newest Fleurs de Sel by Miller Harris.
May 28th, 2007
Scentsa is the new (?) online database of celebrity fragrance favorites. That is to say, you can search by celebrity to see what fragrances they like. I’m not sure how truthful that is but it’s fun nonetheless. Check it out!
May 25th, 2007
Believe it or not, I’m reviving the Underrated Friday feature where I put in limelight, so to speak, perfumes I find underrated for one reason or another. Today’s pick is Trussardi Jeans. I won’t be a bit surprised if most of you have never heard of this fragrance. Donna’s post earlier this week on Absolu by Rochas raised a question of certain scents not being marketed in the U.S., and Trussardi Jeans clearly falls into this category. The same rings true for pretty much any other scent from the house of Trussardi (be it Skin, Donna, Uomo – they all rather quickly end up on the discounters’ shelves, such as Marshall’s or T.J.Maxx). Trussardi fragrances very much follow the chic, upbeat, and so very Italian trends of Trussardi fashion, with compositions often marked by a completely new take on contemporary scent.
In 2003 (the year it was released) I was on a summer home visit to Latvia. Every single perfume shop featured Trussardi Jeans. It was the “it” fragrance of the season. What first caught my attention wasn’t the scent itself but the bottle – a tribute to a jeans pocket, with orange lettering to represent the seam stitching. I thought it was pretty cool and very urban, and surely I’d love the juice. Not quite so. My first impression consisted of one very vivid, very dear to heart olfactory-gustatory image: buckwheat porridge. I could eat truckloads of it, yet wearing it on my skin all of a sudden didn’t seem so cool and urban. So I made myself smell it again, and again, and again… till I finally walked out of the store with a small bottle. It grew on me. The more I wore it, the more charismatic it seemed. When I look at Trussardi Jeans today, I see it as a charming sweet and powdery violet. It’s hardly a soliflore. The violet is mixed with lush tuberose, a good amount of chiffon-like heliotrope, and a certain bitter undertone reminiscent of almonds. I actually find it quite similar to Jour de Fete by L’Artisan Parfumeur – it has the same sweet, powdery bitter almond feel. Trussardi Jeans is just as appealing as it was back then, and I’d very much like to see it on Sephora shelves instead of all those numerous vanilla clones.
Trussardi Jeans features the notes of violet, tuberose, freesia, white lily, heliotrope, vanilla. It can be found on various online perfume discounters.
Image source: escential.co.uk
May 24th, 2007
By Donna Hathaway
When Jean Patou’s Sublime was released in 1992, I was immediately drawn to it, but I was reluctant to actually buy it at first. It was so different from anything I had ever worn before that I was not sure it was “me”. Until then, the only “big” perfume I had in my possession was Guerlain’s Nahema, which I could not wear in very many situations due to its intensity. I was afraid that Sublime would overwhelm me with its power. It was not a huge blast of olfactory overload like Poison or Giorgio, the twin plagues of the Eighties, but it was pretty assertive. However, after trying it on and wearing it for a few hours, I was amazed to discover that Sublime and I were meant for each other. The mandarin and orange blossom agreed with my skin as I never dreamed they would, and the bergamot, coriander and cedar kept it from being too sweet as the rose cast its spell over the whole, while never being dominant enough to turn it into a true rose scent. This was also one of the first perfumes I ever wore that has a generous dose of vanilla, but it is so well balanced that it is never foody; it just gives an embracing warmth to the composition I broke down and bought a big bottle, and whenever I wore it I received many compliments. This was a lesson for me; even a very strong fragrance is wearable when it is of the highest quality and has the seamless balance that Sublime has in abundance.
Recently, I discovered another fragrance that is very much in the same tradition as Sublime; Absolu de Rochas, released in 2002. For some reason I never tried it before, but I either love or admire virtually all other Rochas fragrances I have ever tried, and when I stumbled upon a description of it I was intrigued. This sounded like another winning Rochas fragrance meant for women, not girls, and lately I have really enjoyed wearing such things as I age into what I hope is my prime. So I ordered a small 5 ml bottle of the EDP for about $10.00. (For some reason, this fragrance has never been popular, so it is available at bargain prices at online perfume outlets.)
The only listed notes these two perfumes have in common are mandarin and orange blossom, but since each have enough of them to really make a statement, the similarity struck me immediately when I opened my elegant little bottle of Absolu. In contrast to Sublime, the elements that keep Absolu from being cloying are fig leaf in the opening, fleur de Lys and black pepper in the heart notes, and tolu balsam in the base. The other base notes are labdanum ciste and benzoin, making this a very warm fragrance indeed, and the longer it is on the skin the better it gets. I am a big fan of all three of the major base notes, so having them all in one fragrance is a real treat. This is a perfume for romantic evenings and special nights out on the town, deep and enveloping and very sensual. It is definitely not for women who do not wish to attract attention from men, for it will indeed provide an assist in that department, not only on its own merits but how it makes you feel when you wear it – feminine in the very best sense of the word.
Fashion expert Clinton Kelly of the popular television show “What Not To Wear” says that women should go through their closets and discard any article of clothing that does not make them feel beautiful, or powerful, or both. Absolu does exactly that.
Both Sublime and Absolu are still in production, and Sublime can be found at high quality department stores that carry the Jean Patou line. Absolu may be a bit harder to locate; like 1998’s Alchimie, which I also adore, it was never the big hit that Rochas fragrances such as Femme, Madame Rochas or Byzance have been. It is available at specialty boutiques and online merchants.( Also, in 2003 a new “version” called Absolu Intense Simply Red was released – it adds tuberose, amber and vanilla to the mix, among other things. I have not tried this one yet, but I hope it has retained the good qualities of the original. It’s on my wish list!)
May 22nd, 2007
“Like fine wines made from grapes that can change taste slightly from year to year, perfumers have always combined different harvests to guarantee consistent quality in their fragrances. That is why Givenchy has selected the three best harvests of the year 2006 and reserved them for its exclusive use to create three unique Limited Editions of its leading fragrances.” (Nordstroms.com) I’m afraid my impressions of this collection is tainted due to a rather absurd experience at the Nordstrom’s fragrance counter. First of all, I can’t help but notice the special harvest concept – been done before with much success by L’Artisan Parfumeur with Fleur d’Oranger in 2005 and Fleur de Narcisse in 2006, hence hardly a novel concept. Secondly, with a collection of such special value, it seems quite logical to make sure the presentation is up to speed, don’t you think? Perhaps it is in other Nordstrom stores (where the scents are available exclusively at the moment). The one I was at, however, on Michigan Ave, gave me a rather bizarre treatment. I’m standing in front of the display table, spraying the blotters and sniffing. I see a sales lady nearby and promptly approach her, and our conversation goes something like this:
- Do you have samples of these, by chance?
- No, we do not.
- Would it be possible for you to make them?
- I can make you two samples. You need to give us your name and phone number so we can call you back to see how you liked them.
- Can you make samples of all three?
- No, I can only make you two samples. Then we’ll call you back to see how you liked them.
- I’d really love to try all three of them.
- Would you like to spray some on your skin? Let me help you.
- No, I mean, I’d like to have samples of all three of them, even just a drop. I write about perfume.
- I’ll make you two samples, and you can try the third one here. Then we’ll call you to see how you liked them.
- I work in perfume. We give out samples so people can try the scents on their skin.
- I can only make two samples. We’ll then call you back. The idea is to eventually get a sale, so we’d like to call you to find out how you liked them.
- OK. Fine.
At this point I just about lost it. My last sentence went something like this, “I write about perfume. I will review these scents and write about my experience here today. This is the weirdest method I’ve ever seen.” Then I walked away fuming. Nordstrom’s has always amazed me with their superb customer service. It’s my preferred department store. I’m perfectly aware the sales people working in fragrances are quite often poorly trained and often tell you the most absurd things. However, this was not the case of one ignorant sales person. This was the case of what seems to be their (new?) sample policy that I have to carefully choose descriptive adjectives for as I’m still recovering from the shock. Only two samples and only with your name and number (and address, too, which I refused to give out)? So they can get a sale out of this later? [All expletives deleted] Please show me where’s the logic in this. Try as I might I cannot see it. It’d have made some sense had there been only two scents I wanted to try. If you want to limit samples per customer, fine (but don’t expect your sales to rise). But this? The Limited Edition Harvest 2006 Collection consisting of three fragrances united by the same idea/inspiration/you name it? Only two scents for you, you beggah! I’m suddenly in good ol’ Soviet times standing in line to get some soap with only two tickets for exactly two bars.
The scents? Should I even go there today? Just a brief overview.
Amarige: highlighting the ylang-ylang cultivated on the French island of Mayotte. Other than that, it’s Amarige as I recall it. A sultry, creamy floral.
Organza: lovely “orange blossoms from Nabeul in Tunisia… the harvest is made by women, perched at the very top of wooden ladders, who gently twist the flowers to make them fall.” A potent, sultry, creamy floral.
Very Irresistible: the finest Centifolia roses from Grasse. A sweet, sultry, creamy floral.
May 21st, 2007
As I’m getting used to my new work schedule, the main challenge is not so much the lack of time to conduct proper sniffing sessions and prepare reviews – it’s the olfactory fatigue, shall we call it. I’m getting there, though. Working in a perfume shop is most certainly delightful. A couple vital things I’ve learned in the past couple of weeks are: 1) frequent smelling of scents that contain a good amount of natural materials does change your perception of what’s offered in department stores today. OK, I already knew that but it seems to be more acute now. Examples: the new Coach fragrance and Eclat de Jasmin by Armani Prive. Both lovely florals, sheer and bright and pretty. Both leave me uninspired – my nose detects synthetics, and I cannot help myself. 2) Boy, does skin chemistry play tricks on people! I’ve smelled the same scents on many a wrists, and none is alike. Yes, I knew that already, too, but not so much in practice. Sheer mystery! Oh, there’s also another vital thing I’ve witnessed at this job: the associations scents evoke in people are simply fascinating and completely unpredictable. The most vivid example is Jour de Fete, a scent inspired by celebratory almond desserts (almond cookies, candied almonds, bitter almonds, marzipan – you name it). Apparently, to one person it smells of fall air and leaves. Actually, make that two – I’m one of them now. Surprisingly, these associations tend to rub off on you.
Do you have any olfactory tricks stories? Do share!
May 20th, 2007
Let me start by saying I really love the Frederic Malle line of fragrances: the brilliant concept, the genius perfumers, the understated packaging, and, of course, the scents themselves. Vetiver Extraordinaire, Noir Epices, Lipstick Rose, Une Fleur de Cassie, even Carnal Flower are very fitting, tastefully chosen names that I’ve never questioned or paid much attention to. Along comes French Lover, and, before I get a chance to smell the juice, I’m slightly flustered. The only vivid example I can liken the emotion to is the memory of finding out a new boy is about to join our class in middle school. He’s not local, comes from a solid family and has traveled the world. We hear he’s tall, dark-haired, and very, very smart (and speaks English!). All the girls are a-twitter, and what we really want to know is whether he’s good-looking (well, he’s gotta be because we won’t have it any other way). The news of French Lover affected me in a similar fashion. Even now, after the initial sniff test, I feel like I have to say something demure and flirty, blush a few times, and casually drop a handkerchief (neatly embroidered by my great grand-mother). But, just as the case was with the new boy (who was, by the way, smashingly handsome), I never acted demure and flirty or dropped a handkerchief (although I did blush many a times), simply because I pathetically lack a single bone in my body that could possibly warrant such behavior. Nevertheless, the boy was my secret crush, and so is French Lover. Except it’s not quite secret – I proclaim my love right here and right now.
That said, I still feel like I don’t really know how to act around French Lover. He’s ever so smashing! His voice is husky, his shoulders are broad, his demeanor is as virile as can be, and his shoes are always polished. Apparently, Pierre Bourdon (the perfumer) and Frederic Malle aspired to create the ultimate man fragrance – modern and refined. They’ve succeeded. French Lover is what I’d call dry chypre very much in the classic tradition, yet with certain contemporary twists and turns. It’s built around angelica (an aromatic, medicinal herb) and woods (mostly, cedar). It’s decidedly full-bodied – a hearty mix of pimento, cedar, vetiver, and incense. As I said earlier, I get rather bashful and nervous around it, yet I’m filled with the urge to wear French Lover. When I do, I happily forget about all things ladylike and courtly – I’m a woman with power and am not afraid to use it.
French Lover will appeal to you if you favor such scents as Derby by Guerlain, Querelle by Parfumerie Generale, Navegar by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Incensi by Lorenzo Villoresi, Antaeus by Chanel, and even Miss Dior by Christian Dior.
French Lover features the notes of angelica, pimento, galbanum, iris, bay rum, clove, cardamom, juniper, cedar, oakmoss, frankincense, patchouli, vetiver. It’s said to be sold in the U.S. under the name of Bois d’Orage. Hrmph. Well, you know, he’s a spy, so you gotta do what you gotta do. Meanwhile, he’s still in France, at the Editions de Parfums online shop.
Image source: editionsdeparfums.com
May 17th, 2007