Archive for August, 2007
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.
August 28th, 2007
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.
August 21st, 2007
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
August 14th, 2007
The time has finally come for me to go on my much needed and anticipated vacation to the northern woods of Minnesota! I plan to do a whole lot of nothing and occasional lake activities. There will be no internet access (bliss in some ways!), so I won’t be able to check in but please stay tuned for Donna’s review that will be posted later today. Have a lovely week, y’all!
August 13th, 2007
If this dress by Roberto Cavalli (Fall 2007 Ready-To-Wear collection) were a perfume, it’d undoubtedly be Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia by Estee Lauder. (I often turn to fashion when in search for visual equivalents, as you might have noticed, more so than art, simply because fashion has always been my preferred venue, albeit not chosen as career). You might wonder how this seemingly simple attire translates into a seemingly heady white floral with such prominent notes as tuberose and gardenia. The answer is in the overall effect: seamless, chic, and silky-smooth. Tuberose Gardenia flows like silk, clings like silk, and shimmers like silk. It is of pearly color with golden hues. This is as poetic as I can get, and if you asked me for a down-to-earth, judicious opinion, I’d say Tuberose Gardenia is the best new fragrance release in the past several months and is definitely a highlight of my fragrant summer.
The scent is said to be inspired by the 1973 release of Private Collection, an exclusive Estee Lauder perfume created for herself and closest friends. Tuberose Gardenia is an entirely new scent, a sort of modern response to the idea of exclusivity – it’s outstanding, well-developed, and available to the general public, although with limited distribution. It’s an intoxicating bouquet of white flowers – a perfume genre I highly respect, yet often shun (perhaps I’m yet to reach a floral stage, who knows). What I love most about it is its finesse: the notes are blended impeccably. It’s a seemingly straightforward tuberose-gardenia fragrance, with more emphasis on green, stemmy tuberose upon first application, and a lush, creamy gardenia drydown. Yet the bouquet also embraces such notes as neroli, lilac, rosewood, orange blossom, jasmine, white lily, carnation, and bourbon vanilla, and this is where the seamlessness of the composition is almost palpable. It is most decidedly a bouquet, where you can capture all the flowers individually as well as inhale its harmony. Its tenacity is never boring or cumbersome. I simply admire this gorgeous, timeless blend.
P.S. I should also add that I usually don’t click with most Estee Lauder floral scents as they often smell too artificial. White I cannot vouch for how many (if at all) natural ingredients were used in Tuberose Gardenia, I must give kudos to the perfumer for achieving such a credible effect, even if it is 100% synthetic.
Please visit Perfume-Smellin’ Things for Marina’s impressions.
Image source: style.com, neimanmarcus.com
August 12th, 2007
Roja Dove, a fragrance connoisseur and founder of the Haute Parfumerie at Harrod’s, calls a spade a spade in his interview to CNN on the subject of celebrity scents. Let me just tell you he’s a man after my own heart, and if I don’t visit the Haute Parfumerie some time in the next year or so, I’ll never feel complete.
Just this for today. Please stay tuned for my review of Tuberose Gardenia by Estee Lauder coming Monday (that I’m co-posting with Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things). Happy weekend!
August 9th, 2007
Typically, I judge perfume not only by its olfactory characteristics and lasting power. I also examine its performance: what it does on my skin, where it takes me, how much it opens up, etc. In my perfume pilgrimage, I’ve encountered quite a few exceptional scents that have had but one pesky yet substantial flaw – they failed the performance test. The most recent ones standing in shame with their heads down are the new Kelly Caleche by Hermes and Strip by Agent Provocateur. I don’t think it’d be unfair to say both project rather high expectations. Yet I find myself shaking my head in disapproval and going “tsk-tsk” every time I test them (and believe me, I’ve given them a few chances to redeem themselves).
Kelly Caleche. First of all, named after the Kelly bag and said to smell of leather. Secondly, a Caleche. Thirdly, Jean-Claude Ellena. The result: a beautiful scent, with a lush, almost fruity beginning, and smooth, creamy, floral heart (built around the notes of iris, lily of the valley, mimosa, tuberose, climbing rose). The drydown is rather disappointing: it smells simultaneously like Rose Ikebana from the Hermessence collection, with some hints of Jardin Sur Le Nil, and even Terre d’Hermes. All of these are nice scents, no doubt. But do I want to smell them again, in a brand new creation? I’d rather not. Thus, Kelly Caleche flunks the performance test on my skin – it doesn’t deliver what it promises. That also includes a complete lack of leather. At some point, in top notes, I get a faint hint of it but it’s more like a ghost hovering around in bewilderment, wondering why on earth did they kill him off.
With Strip, the situation is almost ironic. I mean, come on, the name is all about performance, right? Yet Agent Provocateur hasn’t played the game quite right this time. The scent is supposedly built around all the base notes of the popular Agent Provocateur perfume – ylang-ylang, iris, geranium, hot amber oils, vetiver, precious exotic woods, and musks “that react to your body temperature and exude from your skin to release the sexual attractant within” (agentprovocateur.com). Um, how do I say this nicely… let’s just say it did none of such things to me. When I first sprayed it on, I got soft, warm amber with a slightly dirty accord, and at that point it did get me euphoric. And then it just sort of stopped. As in, pretty much vanished from my skin. I kept waiting for some intensity (come on, Strip!), some boudoiresque action, some performance, after all. Alas, it was all but a tease without the strip part.
To sum it all up, I’m still in the state of olfactory ennui. I really hope this passes soon, and the fall season will greet us with truly exciting performance (and action!).
Image source: sybarites.org, agentprovocateur.com
August 7th, 2007
I don’t know if you have days like this but for the past week or so I’ve hated all my perfumes. As in, “get away from me I don’t want to see you right now”. I know it’ll pass, it always does. On top of everything the two fragrances I’ve been super curious to try (Kelly Caleche by Hermes and Strip by Agent Provocateur) slightly infuriated me for their lack of performance (more about that in my next post). So to perk things up a bit, Marina and I are doing another joint project of tagging each other: “If this was a perfume, what perfume would it be?”
Mit Und Gegen by Wassily Kandinsky – Harissa by Comme des Garcons. Hot, fiery spices.
Boy on Mt. Fuji by Hokusai Katsushika – Bois Farine by L’Artisan Parfumeur. Warm, milky woods.
La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli – Femme by Rochas. Lush and deeply carnal.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (the first one) – Pink Sugar. Nuff said.
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – hmm, I’ll go with Dzing! by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – one of my absolute favorite movies. I’m thinking Muscs Koublai Khan by Serge Lutens – complex, twisted, and heart-warmingly down-to-earth.
Pamela Anderson – Rumba by Balenciaga. Obnoxious, with a dirty side, and a twisted appeal.
Clark Gable – Antaeus by Chanel. Classic and a tad rebellious.
Alanis Morissette – Noir Epices by Frederic Malle. Beauty with an edge.
Valentino Fall 2007 Haute Couture – Clive Christian X For Women.
Jean Paul Gaultier Fall 2007 Haute Couture – Eau des Merveilles by Hermes.
Oscar de la Renta Fall 2007 Ready-To-Wear – Jaipur Saphir by Boucheron.
Please visit Perfume-Smellin’ Things to check Marina’s matches.
Image source: allposters.com, style.com
August 5th, 2007
In case you’ve noticed my partial absence lately, I’m here to tell you that I’m doing fine and smelling nice. I will, however, be rather absent now and then during this month. I want to pretend I’m in France and close shop for the entire month of August and go on some beach vacation but, alas, such is not my reality. There is a short vacation in my near future but it will be spent in the dark and mysterious woods of northern Minnesota (that also includes a beautiful lake!). So to give you the heads up, I’ll be in and out and hope to get back on my regular posting schedule come September (with all the exciting new releases this fall, it shouldn’t be a problem). Have a wonderful rest of summer!
P.S. To make it easier, there’s an option to subscribe to Aromascope to be notified of new posts by e-mail. To do so, please visit this page. Thank you!
Image source: allposters.com
August 2nd, 2007
By Tove Solander
Today’s theme is tar. I’ve compared three tar scents – in fact the only tar scents I know of: Comme des Garcons Synthetic Tar, Tauer Perfumes Lonestar Memories and Le Labo Paychouli 24. Only Lonestar Memories has tar listed as a note, although the Comme des Garcons scent has it in the very name. Patchouli 24 is composed of patchouli, styrax, birch and vanilla, along with twenty secret ingredients I assume. Lonestar Memories is known as a leathery scent, but the notes are geranium, carrot seed, clary sage, birchtar, cistus, jasmine, cedar wood, myrrh, tonka, vetiver and sandalwood. Tar, finally, takes a more urban approach with town gas, vapours of bitumen, bergamot, earth, opoponax, styrax, grilled cigarettes and pyrogenic notes.
What they all have in common, apart from smelling like tar, is that they’re on the sweet side. I guess tar has a rather sweet aroma naturally, but I could easily imagine a more butch take on it. In fact, there might be one – Comme des Garcons Synthetic Garage has hints of tar along with gasoline, chrome and faux leather car interior, without the sweetness. Tar, on the other hand, has hints of gasoline and asphalt so they’re really sister scents. Compared to Lonestar Memories and Patchouli 24 it comes off as very urban, very minimalist, very cool. The sweetness in it is almost the sweetness of anise or liquorice, as opposed to the more syrupy and vanillic sweetness of the other two. However, it’s mostly compared to them it comes off as so very urban and modern. Compared to the rest of the Synthetic series it feels rural, nostalgic, even cosy. Occasionally, I get a feeling of walking in a sunny pine forest rather than a metropolis.
Lonestar Memories is even more rural and nostalgic in feeling. It’s simultaneously sweet, thick and dry. I get a feeling of cracked, grey wood, so old it hardly has a wood scent anymore, and of dirt floors too dry and worn to smell other than dusty. It’s like being in an old boathouse or workshop – there’s the sweetish smell of hemp rope, perhaps some hardened leather gear oiled long ago, and dust speckles in the sunlight that shines in between the boards. The rich, musty sweetness makes it more of a summery childhood scent than a macho cowboy scent for me.
Patchouli 24 is, I think, my least favourite. It’s smokier than the other two, and I usually like smoky, but it’s also the sweetest of them all, and sugared smoke tends to get a bit nauseating. Rather than asphalt or boats, I’m thinking of barbecue. Barbecue with lots of crème brulée for dessert. Maybe even a steak drenched in custard, at its worst. It’s a viscous scent, like syrup so thick and dark it’s almost black. With less vanilla, it could have been the pleasant scent of a wood pile burning, but with the vanilla it’s just too much. I like it best when it’s a faded smoky-sweet trace on my skin.
Image source: luckyscent.com, barneys.com
August 1st, 2007