Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter Favorites

It's best-of-2008 list time! But I'm no good at that. So here's what I'm enjoying the most over my Christmas/New Year's Eve vacation:


Dzing! L'Artisan Parfumeur
This smells like the ultimate used bookshop with leather club chairs. My happy place.

Cuir de Lancome
Saffron-leather, medicinal and buttery in turns.

Joy de Jean Patou parfum
The thing that's so fascinating about Joy parfum is that underneath the satin skin of this jasmine-and-rose lovechild beats the warm heart of a tawny-furred creature. It seems to amplify your own heat, smelling like golden, sun-warmed fur as it dries down. So amazing in the winter.

Summer Lightning by P.G. Wodehouse
I'm such an anglophile geek that I'll read anything by Wodehouse and giggle uncontrollably at any number of newt-fancier jokes. This is a great read so far.

Twilight saga by Stephanie Meyer
There's nothing I love better than devouring a good fantasy series for a relaxing vacation, and this is...well, not exactly that good. It's no Harry Potter, and it gets kinda boring in places. The third book is definately the weakest, but I'm finishing the fourth book, in which Bella *finally* gets to be badass rather than the constant helpless victim. It's about time. But have I also mentioned that I love a good vampire romance? So they shouldn't be rotting teenagers' brains with this stuff, but the scent stuff in this series is kinda fascinating.

So who knew, but vampires are the ultimate perfumistas of human blood. Well, more like the ultimate gourmands, I suppose. But Edward is a gourmet. You see, he's ignored human blood for a century; only the smell of Bella is nearly unbearably "luscious." He can barely control his urge to rip her throat out upon first sniff. How romantic! *snort* Her blood's smell is floral (freesia and lavender are tentatively used to describe it), and as their relationship gets closer, he sniffs her wrists, "enjoying the bouquet while resisting the wine." For all the emphasis on her scent, he barely describes it, really. Her scent is all about the effect it has on him, and about his power and control in resisting its allure. Bella notes more specifically Edward's "strange honey-lilac-sun perfume." Of course scent has nearly always been a way to describe erotic yearning, but as someone obsessed with perfume, I have to say: I love that vampires are perfumistas, too!

Bon Iver = For Emma, Forever Ago
My friend Emily made me listen to this, and I now crave this CD weekly at least.

Morphine = Cure for Pain
When my old friend Jonathan came to visit, it reminded me of nights in Cambridge, Mass. at places like the Lizard Lounge, listening to bands like Morphine and Dirty Three. So I just had to dig up my old CDs. This stuff is still awesome.

Neutral Milk Hotel = In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
"The King of Carrot Flowers" is one of the best songs ever. Glorious, epic family dysfunction.

Andrew Bird = Armchair Apocrypha
"Scythian Empires" mesmerizes me.

MGMT = "Time to Pretend," Oracular Spectacular
The Walkmen "In the New Year," You & Me
I actually had time to dig through some "best of 2008 music" lists and check out some new dance-around-my-house music, and success! These are my newest favorites.

30 Rock, complete first and second seasons on DVD
As the inimitable Liz Lemon says: "nut up, Jack." So by the hammer of Thor, nut up and watch this!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Life Magazine on Perfume

An archive of Life Magazine's photos is now hosted by Google, and I looked up perfume. Here are some of my finds:The Perfumatic perfume vending machine, loaded with Tabu, Chanel #5, Lentheric Tweed, and Yardley (?) Lavender. Possibly the awesomest photo I've seen all year.

Greer Garson spraying perfume on her dogs, which is apparently some kind of veterinary-approved procedure, from the look of it.

Shoveling petals in a perfume factory, 1947.

A perfume vase found in Tutankhamen's tomb.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mitsouko, at last

At last, I get it. You know the holidays are magic when the consumate vintage lover actually falls for the new formulation of Mitsouko edt. I mean yeah, I knew Mitsouko was *important*, yeah I knew it was originally created in 1919, yeah I knew it defined the chypre, yeah I knew it was named after an tragic opera heroine, all that. All those things certainly should have guaranteed instant love from me. They didn't, but I kept trying it over the last couple years.

This winter, though, my skin soaks in Mitsouko like it's thirsty for it, smelling like sex on a bed of moss combined with the yeasty, smoky, nectared smell of... peach pit. It's not fruity, though. It has an earthy quality halfway between bread and wine. It'll sustain you in hard times, this will. In fact, I think of Mitsouko as having vintages like wine does. I'm sure earlier vintages (say a bottle of the 1944 extrait) have greater complexity, I'm sure all you lucky perfume geeks out there who have bottles of vintage juice are scoffing at me, but this one still smoulders with the noble rot and delicious tragedy of great French perfumery.

Does that mean I'm going to stop stalking vintage Mitsouko on the fleabay? Hell no. The vintage juice will be mine eventually. It will be mine.

If you've tried Mitsouko and didn't like it, all I can say is: keep trying. It's been around for almost 100 years now, and there's a formulation for everybody. No pressure, don't feel like you have to love it now, but take it from me, it's inexorable. It'll get you eventually. Other reviews of Mitsouko that you might find as fascinating as I do:

Ode to Mitsouko, Perfume Posse
Mitsouko, Scentzilla
Perfume Memories: Mitsouko, GlassPetalSmoke

Speaking of fleabay, I've recently scored bottles of two jasmine favorites: Joy parfum and La Fuite des Heures parfum. I've written about my love of La Fuite des Heures, but Joy will probably get a review very soon.

First image my own watercolor, Snakes in Trees. Second image is a Mitsouko ad originally uploaded by Scented Salamander.

Monday, December 1, 2008

An enabler's Madini

Now y'all may be familiar with Madini oils, which are of high quality and are sometimes discussed on discussion boards. I've got a bunch of small bottles and samples here, and I just got an email from the Talisman website, which has a 15% off coupon code going right now: HOLIDAY08. So here goes a late Black Monday post for you!

I find oils really fascinating, and I crave their viscous intensity sometimes during this cool, bone-dry winter we're having here in Austin. Oils don't have the note separation of alcohol-based perfumes, and they wear close to the skin, so the florals tend to flatten out, but the balsamic orientals bloom with body heat.

Olive Flowers: Some people call this Madini's version of Shalimar, but I could swear this smells like Vol de Nuit extrait, at a ridiculously tiny percentage of the cost.

Musk Gazelle: Spicy, salty dark musk. Some might smell headshop, but I tend to think this is a cut above.

Hanane: This one is weird. It's got a salty-sour musk quality that keeps me sniffing and wondering "what IS this?" that seems completely unlike it's parts: galbanum, jasmine, rose, patchouli.

Jasmine: A deeply green, almost smoky, fairly indolic jasmine. Flattens quite a bit on the skin after a little while, but remains unsweet and interesting.

Nardo: A rich, heady, camphorous, intense tuberose that tames itself on the skin pretty quickly. On me, the camphor lasts longer than the floral aspects, so kills the joy a bit.

Azahar: At first it's a slightly screechy orange flower, but calms nicely 'til it's green and just the tiniest bit honeyed.

Alma de Alma: Amber headshop oil balanced nicely with a sunny citron oil, but too sweet for me.

Henna: Starts out promisingly, smelling very similar to Chamade's sharp green hyacinth topnotes, but turns into a powdery sweet mess.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Le Galion quickie reviews

The set of Le Galion parfums de sac that I found at an antique mall was probably made between 1968 and 1978, because it does not look that old, and it includes Snob. I read in perfume intelligence that Paul Vacher's original Snob was relaunched in 1952 and discontinued in 1978. Also, the original Galion d'Or was reformulated and relaunched in 1968. I don't know how much to trust that source, since I don't know anything about them except that I found it by googling Le Galion.

Don't you love the galion/galleon brand illustration on the box? I took a close-up because I love ship images. There's a fabulous exploration and treasure theme in many of the names of the perfumes. The term galion, or galleon in English, was a particular type of ship sturdy enough, and well-armed enough, to transport gold and other precious cargo.

So anyway, some quickie reviews of the fragrances in this set:

Le Galion d'Or: (The gold galleon) Very sharp aldehydes, like Chanel #5 on steroids, plus a smidge of the violets as in Le Dix.

Bourrasque: This name means a gust of wind, and is a feminine noun. A resinous oriental that smells like the red-headed stepchild of Femme and Tabu.

Brumes: This name means a fog or haze. Smells like sticking your nose in a tin of herbes de provence, including lavender and tarragon, perhaps, then catching a whiff of the seashore at lowtide, which smells like ambergris, but is probably more likely the nutmeg, heliotrope, and benzoin merging. It does dry down to something like L'Origan, as Octavian Coifer mentions. Kinda loving this.

Snob: A lot like Joy, with a lovely, slightly indolic jasmine, turning slightly soapier than Joy, with a more old-fashioned sweet rose that gets more prominent in the drydown. Really lovely.

Lily of the Valley: Nothing like Diorrissimo, much more sweet and less sunny than vintage Muguet de Bois, and barely recognizable as LotV. It's a cloying LotV and orange blossom syrup.

Rose: Very sweet posy of roses settled on embroidered doilies.

Jasmine: Niiiice jasmine, not too indolic, reminds me of the banana quality in Montale's Jasmin Full.

A much more knowledgeable resource on the history and make-up of Le Galion fragrances is Octavian Coifan, and he has a couple posts about them in 1000 fragrances. This fragrance maker has a great look and history--wouldn't it be great if they were resurrected like Lubin has been attempting?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Le Galion parfums de sac, and decision-making time

Today I discovered another treasure at the local antique mall: a boxed set of Le Galion parfums de sac, almost complete, and in great shape. The set includes: Snob, Bourrasque, Brumes, Galion d'Or, Lily of the Valley, Jasmin, La Rose, La Violette. Sadly, there are two perfumes missing from the original set of ten. Tubereuse was probably one of the missing, and I would have loved to have smelled that one. Perhaps Sortilège was the other, since misplaced or emptied, bottle. Except for La Violette and La Rose, all the bottles are full or nearly full, and the bottle size is 1/5th oz.

I'd nearly given up on finding anything new at the antique mall when I walked over to one last stall for a quick glance, and saw some perfumes bottles in the corner. When I saw this set for $10, I smelled the Jasmin, and it smelled great, so I grabbed it and went straight to the cashier.

So far, my first impressions are: Jasmin is a yummy jasmine along the lines of Montale's Jasmin Full, Galion D'Or smells a bit like Le Dix--aldehydic violets, Snob smells like something along the lines of Baghari--fruity aldehydic, and Brumes smells very interesting indeed--herbes de Provence and jasmine, perhaps.

Those are just first impressions, and I could be totally off, so in the next few posts I'll probably go through them with more thorough reviews of my favorites, when I get a chance to test them properly and do some research.

I haven't been posting much due to work--our production cycle is in full madness right now, so posts will be thin for a while. I've also had no Internet connection at home for the last week. Although the Time Warner customer service representative would have happily set up a service call earlier, had I only been willing to sit at home from 8am-8pm on a weekday. Um, seriously? What is wrong with these people? Have they no concept of customer service for people who, shockingly enough, work 40 hours a week?

Speaking of working, I think I've been working hard enough to deserve a holidays perfume gift for myself. I've been so good! Really! So the very, very difficult choice I have to make is which perfume to get. I've narrowed it down to three options for which full retail price is nearly unavoidable, and therefore any of them would be a very rare treat for me:

Dzing! (the big bottle, which is the only one available)
Bois des Iles parfum (I hope I can get it if I call around the major Chanel stores)
Une Fleur de Cassie (probably the small bottle is all I need)

So hm, I'm leaning toward Dzing!, since Artisan Parfumeur is so slutty about tossing their treasures into the discontinued bin, and I've been craving it so this winter, that I've gone through my decant. So share your special holiday treats. C'mon, I know you're already plotting what to buy yourself, or what you'll ask for as a present...

Happy Thanksgiving week to one and all! Happy perfume hunting, too!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Annick Goutal : Encens Flamboyant and Comme des Garcons : Kyoto

Of the new "Les Orientalistes" trio of Annick Goutal fragrances, Encens Flamboyant is far and away my favorite. It is the least sweetened of the trio, and has that smoky evergreen quality that for some reason I suddenly crave this fall. As usual, my perfume cravings are tied to sensory experiences I can't have. With my recent balsam cravings, I know what I really want is a walk through a Wisconsin evergreen forest, pine needles scenting the air and silencing any sound of my steps, with snow and woodsmoke in the air.

According to the Annick Goutal website, the notes in EF are: three different types of frankincense, balsam fir, roseberry,
cardamom, sage, nutmeg, and mastic.

But as I sat with my nose pressed against my hand, whimpering with happiness, I thought suddenly about the mostly neglected sample vial of Comme des Garcons Kyoto I have in my perfume closet. Of the CdG incense series, I own and love Avignon, but I thought this turnaround on fir scents might mean I'd finally understand the love out there for Kyoto as well. And this was, in fact a revelation for me!

According to LuckyScent, Kyoto's notes are: incense, cypress oil, coffee, teak wood, vetiver, patchouli, amber, everlasting flower, Virginian cedar. The incense is unmistakeably frankincense, but this is a drier and woodier fragrance than EF. Nonetheless, the two fragrances were much more similar than many other pairs I've imagined might be twins.

Now many others have already covered the seemingly magically ethereal yet sustained incense of the CdG fragrances, so I will try not to go on and on, but I wanted to share a comparison of Kyoto with EF (each dabbed on, with K on the left and EF on the right). The remarkable, dry, delicate frankincense smokiness of Kyoto just goes on and on, perfectly balanced with and weaving in and out of the woods. That may sound linear, but the CdG scents achieve that amazing shifting, swirling quality of incense wisps in the air, and it is anything but boring. In EF, which is extraordinarily similar, there is a juicier quality with the balsam, and it turns into more of a fir-tree sap with a hint of spice in the drydown.

Looking at the notes for Kyoto, I think the drier quality is probably due in part to the woods, which are not balsam, but cypress and cedar. In the drydown, EF smells more and more like laying under the Christmas tree when I was kid, or the fir sap that I got it on my hands after climbing evergreens in the woods, but Kyoto gets drier and woodier.

Both have much to love, and as I alternately sniff hands, my preference changes throughout the drydown. Kyoto demands my appreciation with its ascetic beauty, but Encens Flamboyant captures me with nostalgia.

(Image is my own, all rights reserved.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random things about me

Anya tagged me, and I thought it might be a good opportunity to share some photos. I love taking pictures, so here's a photo list of six random things about me:

1. I love natural history museums! I took this pic in Oxford, England: The Rivers-Pitt Museum. Doesn't he look like he's saying, "Hey baby, how YOU doin'?"
Copyrighted material. All rights reserved.

2. I spent a semester in Florence, Italy, when I was studying art history as an undergrad. This is one of my favorite pictures I took in Urbino:
Castello Urbino
Copyrighted material. All rights reserved.

3. When I bought my money-pit of a house in Austin, it came with a bonus: these two kittens were found by the termite guys checking under the house. I took one look and fell in love with their little (at the time) 6-week-old selves. Delia is the little tortoise-shell troublemaker and Virgil is the buff-and white big guy.
Copyrighted material. All rights reserved.

4. This is how I feel wearing a really great perfume:
Sea Lion, Central California Coast.
Copyrighted material. All rights reserved.

5. I am a morning person!
Pacific Ocean, Carmel, California
Copyrighted material. All rights reserved.

6. I don't have a picture for this one, but I bought two big nightblooming jasmines on crazy cheap sale last weekend, and I can't wait to have all that jasmine goodness wafting all around my house.

Here're the tagging rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you. (above)
2. Post the rules on your blog. (okay)
3. Write six random things about yourself. (above)
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. (nuh-uh, thanks)
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog. (nope)
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up. (will do)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm not a wabbit! I need some west.

I'm coming down with a cold, and when I get a cold, and my voice gets hoarse, I like channeling my inner Lily Von Shtup. I walk around my house in fuzzy slippers doing impressions of her saloon performance, since my voice gets all froggy like her Elmer Fudd meets Marlene Dietrich alto. Man, I miss Madeline Kahn! The woman was so damn brilliant.

So in honor of the genius of Madeline Kahn, I must ask: what perfume would you put on Lily Von Shtup, the Teutonic Titwillow herself? Don't know what I'm talking about? Go rent Blazing Saddles, you philistine. Or Young Frankenstein, for that matter.

I think she would be perfect in the new Femme de Rochas, because when I think of her in it, suddenly the humor in its spicy overblown cumin-jasmine makes perfect sense and I appreciate the scent so much more than I thought I did. Or perhaps Lipstick Rose would be more appropriate for such a bawd? Perhaps that one, or Dioressence, has the naughty soapiness for one caught up, morning, noon, and night, with "dwink and dancing, some quick womancing. And then a showah."

What do you think? Please share, and Blazing Saddles quotes encouraged as well.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Goals for the Voyage

We perfume fanatics, I've just realized, have a lot in common with pirates. Take the sign above, for instance. It pretty much sums up my own perfume voyage motto. Being an aficionada of anything related to pirates, I followed a link from the awesome design blog *DesignSponge to the 826 Valencia shop, which promised hilarious pirate-themed indie-designed posters with mottos such as:

Cannons Don't Sink Ships, Pirates With Cannons Sink Ships
Pillage Before Plunder, What a Blunder. Plunder Before Pillage, Mission Fulfillage.

But what did I find as well? Yosh Han's Pirate Perfumes! Yargh, that's right, ye scurvy lubbers. Has anyone tried these? There are no notes, no descriptions, not a detail to be found, except for the fragrance names: Swashbuckler, Cavalier, El Capitan, Buccaneer, Buxom, Siren, and Damsel. Apparently they were created exclusively for, and are sold only at, 826 Valencia.

I think I'll e-mail the scallywags to see if I can find out more.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

In which our heroine takes drastic measures...

for a bottle of Scandal.

So this is my report from the Round Top Antiques Show. After a hard day's scrounging and slogging through booth after booth, I brought home my treasure: a few cool old prints (two Buffon natural history prints and a book illustration of a ship on a stormy sea) and the precious: a full 1 oz of Lanvin's Scandal. But here's the rub: those old Lanvin bottles with the ground glass stoppers are notorious for the stoppers breaking off in the bottle. Yep, there was just a black stub wedged inextricably in the bottle.

But did that stop me, for a 6$ bottle of Scandal? Hells no. I found myself spending an hour sitting on the floor in my living room drilling a hole through the stopper with a special glass and tile bit on my trusty DeWalt drill. Basically acting like a maniac and practically demolishing the bottle. But success! I've safely decanted the precious into another bottle. I can sit back in satisfaction, knowing two things: I've really gone 'round the bend, and being crazy smells awesome.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dioressence : Dior : Guy Robert

Dioressence (original tag line: le parfum "barbare") is a wise child, and an odd one. Since I'm an ex-academic and a copyeditor, I could go on about the quotation marks around "barbare" and how they attenuate the word so it merges with the Orientalist fantasy of the image, blar de blar. Anywho, some people just smell boring old french soap, so the point is moot.

However, if you get the same oddball beauty that I do--one that veers from animal stink to Miss Havisham's dusty velvet drapes to fancy knickers to makeup powder laced with violets and cinnamon--you'll love it just as much as I. This complexity probably depends a lot on what formulation you're smelling. I'm not sure how old my bottle is that I've got, but it smells plenty odd to me, which is a good thing! It's not one of the old Dior bottles with the strip of blue along the bottom. Mine is an all-clear-glass spray bottle with a clear cap and the perfume's name printed in white in the middle of the bottle.

Dioressence is a wise child: insouciant, knowing, inconstant, self-assured.

Image originally uploaded by Perfume Shrine.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Some fall favorites


Chanel Cuir de Russie
A loving embrace and a glimpse of the privileged life. Notes: iris, Birkin bag, expensive lipstick, trust funds.

Lanvin Scandal
A surprising rush of endorphins, hitting like the snap of a whip, brought on by a kiss from a great-smelling, cashmere-sweatered stranger. Notes: floral bouquet, leather whip.

Luscious iris...

Chanel No. 19
Too perfect to be loveable, too haughty to be anything but invincible. Notes: galbanum, iris, vetiver, leather.

Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist
Magical thinking will get you here. Carrots and beanstalks pulled out of the ground turn into fantasy delicacies. Notes: carroty iris, icy iris, bready iris.

Rich green florals...

Malle Editions Une Fleur de Cassie
Lazing in a string hammock smelling the mud, the sea, and the acacia during a monsoon. Notes: acacia, mimosa, jasmine, sandalwood.

Ormonde Jayne Woman
Like handling malachite worry beads: almost too smooth to get a grasp on, but comforting. Or, a cool, spiced, dark green, shadowed forest. Notes: cardamom, coriander, black hemlock, jasmine, woods.

Pure creature comforts...

Guerlain L'Heure Bleue
All the colors of dusk, from dark violet to peacock to midnight blue. Notes: anise, bergamot, Guerlain's magic ochres and Prussian blues.

Jean Deprez Bal à Versailles
Necco candies and sex. Notes: Rose, jasmine, civet, musk.

Shiseido Féminité du Bois
Pulling full-test pure cedarbark pancake syrup in Hansel and Gretel's violet-strewn forest. Notes: cedarwood, violets, undergrowth.

Fendi Theorema
The most delicious mandarin sandalwood cream liqueur in the entire world. Notes: mandarin orange, osmanthus, wood.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Manor Library

I just had to share a discovery. After reading carmencanada's fabulous review of No. 5 Eau Première in grain de musc, I thought why not sully the perfection that is Chanel No. 5 parfum with some tinkering myself? You know what I found out is the perfect combo to dirty it up a bit? L'Artisan Parfumeur's Dzing! Together, you get fabulous old library, like the pictured Magdalen College's Old Library in Oxford. Or perhaps a library in an English manor mouse that was renovated out of the old stables or mews, with mouldering leather Chesterfield sofas and crumbling 18th-century volumes piled on oak bookcases. Adding No. 5 adds aristocratic elegance, of course. Dzing! on it's own is purely a fantastic circus midway.

Photo courtesy of Magdalen College.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Choices, Choices, and Lists

So you'd never know, unless you read the subtitle of my blog up there, that I intended this to encompass more than my perfume geekery. But after a brutally hot and dry Texas summer I've got a front yard garden that's gasping for water, a shamefully abandoned community garden plot with 7-ft tomato plants that never produced more than a handful of pear tomatoes (but quite a lot of purple Thai basil, at least), crumpled chainlink fences to get rid of, a half-painted back door, and a still-empty spot where I plan my screened porch. Geez, no wonder I prefer researching luxurious vintage perfumes, when I see all that listed out.

Count this as a moment of homeowner panic at encroaching reality. It's starting to cool off enough to thing about all the stuff I need to do. Gah! If I keep buying perfume I'm never going to be able to afford my long-dreamed-of screened porch! So in the hope that by creating lists I can expiate some of my consumerist desires:

Here's my desperately-want-a-full-bottle-but-I'd-be-just-plain-stupid-to-spend-the-money list:

Dzing, L'Artisan Parfumeur
Une Fleur de Cassie, Malle Editions
Bois des Iles, Chanel
Iris Silver Mist, Lutens (+ trip to Paris, of course)
Jasmin Vert, Miller Harris
new Mitsouko edt, Guerlain

And because what's better than a list? Two lists! Here's my want-a-big-sample list:

Iris de Nuit, Heeley; Escale a Portofino, Dior; Love in Black, Creed; Monsieur de Givenchy; Eau de Guerlain; Jasmin et Cigarette, L'Etat de Libre; S-ex, S-Perfumes; Bluebell, Penhaligon's; Vetiver Pour Elle, Guerlain; Wild Hunt, CB I Hate Perfume; Acqua di Parma Profumo; Jasmin Noir, Bvlgari; Beige, Chanel; No. 23, Red Tara, and Madame X, Ava Luxe; Dan Tes Bras, Malle Editions; Jitterbug, Opus Oils; and probably a billion more I'm not remembering at the moment.

Help me choose! If I can get just two of my need-a-full-bottle list, which should I get?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Une Fleur de Cassie : Frederic Malle : Dominique Ropion

There are two perfumes I've been sampling off and on for months: Ormonde Jayne Woman and Une Fleur de Cassie. I associate them not because they smell alike, but because they are all highly respected, complex floral blends in a modern style, and because when I'm on a vintage perfume tear, as I had been all summer, it's hard to appreciate them. But grand perfumery they are, and they deserve some love! I'm focusing on Une Fleur de Cassie today.

So after a rough day at work, I pulled my little toiletry tray that I use to organize samples out of the perfume cabinet which is in my bedroom. (By the way, I measure how bad the perfume bug has hold of me by how many shelves I fill with perfume rather than folded pants and blankets.) I sat down on the bed and browsed for a sample to try this evening. When I finally decided on and dabbed some Une Fleur de Cassie on my wrist, I fell over onto the bed in full swoon.

This is the perfect perfume to loll about it after a rough day: langourous, rich, muddy, smoky, juicy and strange. It is a bit similar to the Fangorn Forest quality (in which the trees come alive to threaten unwelcome intruders) that I get in Ormonde Jayne Woman, but UFdC is more sinister and more stately. They are both subtle forces of nature, though. They aren't rough or scratchy. They turn the teeming undergrowth into a balconied opera house.

There's definately what Annie Dillard calls fecundity in them:
"The driving force behind all this fecundity is a terrible pressure. I also must consider, the pressure of birth and growth, the pressure that splits the bark of trees and shoots out seeds, that squeezes out the egg and bursts the pupa, that hungers and lusts and drives the creature relentlessly towards its own death." (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 163)

Oh, you want an actual description? Well, I get chalky violet (some smell a wet paper note here) which turns into an indolic jasmine and cassie, all anchored with cinnamon-flavored dirt. It doesn't last all day, unfortunately, but the tenacity isn't bad (3-4 hrs). It's sublime, and I may need a full bottle of this even before the rounded, shadowed, spiced evergreen of Ormonde Jayne Woman.

Bois de Jasmin's review of Une Fleur de Cassie is really helpful, and lists the notes as: bergamot, rose, violet, aldehydes, cassie, mimosa, jasmine, clove, cedarwood, sandalwood, musk.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cuir (new) : Lancome : Calice Becker and Pauline Zanoni

Refreshingly, for once I am not talking about how much better a vintage formulation is, and for a very simple reason: I've never smelled the original Révolte (later renamed Cuir) created in 1936.

The top and heart notes of the new Cuir de Lancome have an odd, sharp, medicinal saffron and mandarine, which combined together strike me as almost camphorous--or is that the patchouli, perhaps? However, just underneath, and more apparent as my nose gets acclimated to the odd top notes, is a creamy ylang and hawthorne combination. The fragrance is well-balanced between those two poles.

I agree with Angela's review on Now Smell This in that Cuir is not at all as rough as Knize Ten, and has more in common with Cuir Ottoman or Daim Blond. However, Cuir is different in its subtlety and in the balance of bitter and floral. The medicinal quality cuts the gooeyness that I dislike in both Cuir Ottoman and Daim Blond. The drydown is sweeter as the saffron fades and the patchouli and a warm (but still comparatively dry) balsamic quality advance in its place. In the far drydown I can detect a tinge of my beloved iris if I spray it at least three times and snorfle (the technical term) my nose right up to my wrist.

I'm trying to place the type of leather this is. It's not the inside of an expensive bag, and it's not a saddle, that's for sure. It's not glove-leather or a suede car coat. Before I can place it, the bottom kinda drops out of the thing, so hm. But although it's a bit ephemeral, and even though it has nothing in common with Chanel's Cuir de Russie or Lanvin's vintage Scandal, my two favorite leathers, I think this will grow on me as a more wearable daytime leather.

Notes: bergamot, mandarin, saffron, jasmine, ylang-ylang, hawthorn, patchouli, orris, birch, and styrax.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fall Perfume Fantasy: YSL Rive Gauche

OK, so there's the slightest hint of cooler (meaning 80s instead of 100) weather this week, so I'll post a quick fall fantasy inspired by one of my vintage perfume bottles.

Yves Saint Laurent's Rive Gauche in vintage parfum fits this imaginary purple prose scene from Jules et Jim perfectly:

In a Parisian cafe near midnight, Catherine, a brunette woman in a pullover and slightly disheveled trench coat, is talking animatedly with Jules and Jim at a cushioned Art Deco booth. Outside, the streetlights shine on frosted cobblestone streets and the air has the dry, metallic feel of snow, but the cafe is warmed by the fire, bringing out the scents of woolens, woodwork, and the zinc bar. The roses that one of the men has given her lay on the booth. She ignores them as easily as she overlooks the obvious rivalry of the two men over her attention, giving them both only capricious, lighthearted banter instead of any explanations.

Hee, hee. Have you read any of those crazy scenes Lancome's marketing department writes up for their La Collection perfumes? They oughta hire me to write some more of those. What a great job that would be!

For a more thorough review of this masterpiece, read this one at the always fascinating Bois de Jasmin.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Le Temps d'Une Fête : Parfums de Nicolai

This is just a quickie review of a perfume I'm sampling today, although I'm worried I won't do it justice! Le Temps d'Une Fête is an unusual floral green chypre. It starts out very juicy, but tart and sparkling--no sweet tooty-frooty. There's a bitter edge to the juiciness that holds my attention. After just a few minutes there's a hint of the fleshy white floral heart, which gets closer and closer, and just when you think it's going to turn into a full-blown, over-ripe, skanky narcissus, that bitter edge balances it again, and it turns radiantly green. There's definately my beloved galbanum in there, but it's more like dandelion sap than green pepper. I'm probably detecting a really amazing melding of galbanum with the resins and woods.

Luckyscent says the notes are: galbanum, mastic, opoponax, narcissus, hyacinth, daffodil, styrax, oakmoss, sandalwood.

The fruitiness could be in my imagination, I suppose. There is no fruit in the notes. However, my nose is so attuned to bitter green vintage scents that perhaps it's affecting my perception on modern perfumes, with their very different aromachemicals. Or perhaps I'm just super-sensitive to the heavily overripe quality of hyacinth, and it reads as fruity to me. As this lovely perfume dries down, I'm finally getting some oakmoss and--oh! some warm, delicious sandalwood just popped in! It's continuing into a whole new stage of yumminess, even though it is a bit shy on the oakmoss and sandalwood drydown for my taste. This is definately a modern style of perfume, with lots of airiness rather than the density I'm used to. But it is also a really interesting perfume, and the dandelion sap quality is my favorite part. It reminds me of making dandelion chains when I was a kid, splitting the stems in half and smelling that sticky, white sap inside, then knotting the slippery stems together. Did you ever do that? Incredible stuff!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Iris Silver Mist : Serge Lutens

If Jadis, the White Witch of the Narnia series, had doled out bewitched carrot cake instead of Turkish Delight to corrupt young innocents, it would have smelled like Iris Silver Mist.

Although for the first half-hour it smells uncannily like barely matured carrots, pulled out of the dirt right after a rain, the highly composted loam they were pulled out of soon dominates, with whiffs of nearby coriander plantings. This isn't a snappy, juicy, vegetal perfume, though. That's the weird thing about it. Its silvery quality--seemingly opalescent--transforms what could have been merely vegetable-garden verisimilitude into something magical. I have a lot of iris perfumes, but the iris here is otherwordly. In fact, the dirt that many reviewers have referred starts to transform into something shimmering and bready and spicy and--oh my! It's a Turkish Delight carrot cake.

As soon as my nose hits carrot cake, the perfume almost disappears, making me snort my wrist frantically trying to find that gorgeous scent again, convinced I cannot live without it. I rest my nose and a few minutes later -- sigh. I can smell it again. As it dries down, I could swear this has a similar quality to vintage L'Heure Bleue's drydown. This stuff is scary good. Once you taste it, you crave it again and again. I understand Edmund a lot better now.

P.S. I think the ephemeral quality is due to being dabbed from a sample I've got. After a few hours my wrists still have a lovely little iris-incense glow, and I think if it were sprayed, the drydown would have more intensity.

Also, this perfume is so fascinating, one entirely subjective review (as all reviews are) is certainly no where near enough! Check out the wonderful reviews at Bois de Jasmin, Perfume-Smellin' Things, and Now Smell This.

Image from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Private Collection, Estee Lauder : Vent Vert, Balmain

Private Collection extrait is a striking, elegant green chypre that in perfume reminds me quite a bit of vintage Vent Vert, but with a hint of pine trees and moss instead of that purely peppery snappiness of galbanum. So I thought I would compare them.

I just scored some PV extrait minis at an antique store, and I've had the VV edt for a while. I went through a phase last summer in which I felt the need to huff on that VV every morning, although I find it a bit difficult to wear until it dries down quite a bit. I love galbanum and dislike evergreen scents, generally speaking, and had tested PV in stores before and didn't like it, so I was surprised at the antique store to find the PV so compelling in extrait.

Sniffed side by side, I'm struck again by how effervescent the Vent Vert (Germaine Cellier, 1947) is. I've got a vintage eau de toilette, and I've never smelled Vent Vert extrait, but the edt has such charming I-don't-give-a-damn quality (I love that galbanum!) that I can't but imagine the extrait would be extraordinary indeed. After the green peppers subside a bit, it smells like the most delicate and wild meadow grass and a smidge of pampered lily of the valley. There's no aldehydic sparkliness; instead, it's as if these elements become a straightforward, refreshing ether to take in, like you'd take the waters at Bath. Wholesome but not boring. How does it do that? The floral quality gets more intense in the heart notes, and I think I can discern the hyacinth and jasmine, as the murmur of oakmoss and musk gets louder. The notes (for the original, which I think is what I've got) are sometimes listed as galbanum, citrus, gardenia, peach, lily of the valley, rose, hyacinth, jasmine, iris, oakmoss, vetiver, styrax, and musk. Sniffed at the same time as the PV, they aren't as similar as I thought they'd be. VV seems suddenly a bit more floral in comparison with the slight astringency of PV.

As is to be expected with a high-quality extrait, Private Collection (Vincente Marcello, 1973) is much deeper, with an initial fresh-air and mossy-pines vibe that mellows and becomes more floral (the jasmine and chrysanthemum?) over the next half hour or so. It is the smell of distances and horizons, and has almost the same peaceful, analgesic effect as looking out over a vista of pine woods in the White Mountains from a luxurious mountain-top cabin's balcony. But this is not a sporty scent, in the least. What is so surprising about the extrait is that there is a velvety quality to the bottom notes. I smell the sandalwood, certainly, and perhaps the sweet heliotrope is what makes the base so velvety. Although all the sources I've read disagree, Osmoz says that the top notes are green notes, orange blossom, linden; heart notes are jasmine, reseda, chrysanthemum, rose; base notes are sandalwood, heliotrope, musks. No galbanum? How can this not have galbanum?? The more research I do on this perfume, the more I think it must be the chrysanthemum that is the unique element here, adding a raspy quality to the greens that is slightly smoother, less juicily vegetal than galbanum. Gosh, I'm liking this. Isn't Niki de Saint Phalle supposed to have chrysanthemum in it too? Drat, this is where you can see my OCD coming out to play. Now I've got to try other chrysanthemum perfumes.

Vintage Vent Vert is of course available mainly on fleabay. I'm afraid to find out if Private Collection is available anymore in extrait. Anyone know?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Magie Noire : Lancome : Gérard Goupy (with an aside on Habanita)

Magie Noire parfum--does anyone know more about the evil sorcerer Goupy who created this? It drives me a little whackadoodle when I wear it, trying to figure out why I can't stop sniffing my wrist, even with its Pledge-furniture-polish-and-fruit moments. But that's what this perfume does to most folks who love it, I think. It's restless; it keeps you off balance.

I'd compare it with Habanita edt, another unlikely fruited love of mine, in its powers of conviction. Yes, I do mean powers of conviction, because these perfumes have intentions--improper ones. You try it on and say: "hm, not so sure ..." And Habanita answers: "You better believe it." Habanita starts as a powdery fruit compote that you would think would be about as seductive as, say, a quivering bowl of ambrosia salad on a cheap vinyl tablecloth, until it morphs into the most unexpected vetiver-vanilla-leather creature on the prowl, enveloping you before you realize it's even gotten a hold. Every time it happens I'm flabbergasted at the mysterious alchemy that turns such seemingly unimpressive materials into such a stunner. Whew, erm...I get a little carried away about the Habanita (pant pant).

What I'm reviewing today, however, is Magie Noire parfum. I am not dissing Lancome, but I can only stand the parfum. It does strike me that the Magie Noire edt must have been tinkered with rather... disastrously. The ivy-green lemony smell (is that the blackcurrant?) reads in the Magie Noire edt as ammonia. Frankly, people, it smells like cat pee and Pledge. So after smelling the recent edt and body lotion, I wasn't expecting much from the parfum. But it's true, a magic act similar to that of Habanita happens. It's not the transformer that Habanita is on my skin, but after a bit of a rough start, there is a stage at which I am won over. The early stages of greens (sharp, twiggy ivy-like greens ready to claw the unsuspecting) and bruised, darkly juicy floral (hyacinth) swirling in an animalic, nocturnal brew (honey, civet, castoreum, patchouli) are unsettling, to say the least. Just when I think that they are just going to sit and sulk, like the demon in Fuseli's The Nightmare, the purple-berry-ish top notes finally mellow a bit into the tuberose, rose, and narcissus. Finally, after several hours, the gorgeous drydown completes its alchemical reaction with your skin, smelling like you've had a naughty post-berry-picking roll under a bramble.

Osmoz lists the notes as: blackcurrant, bergamot, hyacinth, raspberry, honey, tuberose, narcissus, rose oriental, patchouli, vetiver, castoreum, and civet.

Darnit, this review was *supposed* to be of something available online, at least, if not in stores. But the online source from which I got my .25 oz. parfum only this winter seems to have dried up in the meantime , so unfortunately I have only fleabay to suggest if you wish to acquire this strange beauty. Le sigh. Perhaps I should just give it up and call this the Sadly Now Inaccessible Fragrance blog and start my own 12-step program called Sadly Now Inaccessible Fragrance Addicts Anonymous (SNIFAA)©.

Image of Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare from The Artchive.
Image of Magie Noire bottle is blogger's own.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

L'Heure Bleue : Guerlain : Jacques Guerlain

In 1912, L'Heure Bleue was born, and the world is a more beautiful place for it. The character of vintage L'Heure Bleue is hot tears on flushed skin, I realized this morning. I've taken advantage of a rare rainy day in Austin to wear it. It exudes from my skin like it is the natural scent of catharsis--the tremblingly uninhibited, floating feeling that comes after an emotional storm, when your anger and sorrow seem almost magically released through the pores. Have I had such a catharsis lately? No, but I'm wanting one, which may explain why it strikes me this way. It balances bitterness and comfort: after the first gasp of bergamot and flowery (heliotrope, carnation) spiciness, it keeps transforming. Its gingerbread-like accord is one moment brandied, one moment tarry; its anise is one moment candied, another moment medicinal. As it dries down, the tonka bean and iris continue to play out the drama of catharsis, with the warmth of the tonka bean countered by the cooling iris, like the effect of tears drying on flushed cheeks.

Bring on the purple prose, right? It's just perfume, woman! Snap out of it. Hm, okay, well suffice it to say, L'Heure Bleue can really put me in a trance like no other perfume. It just seems to keep going and going when you sniff it--the depths keep revealing more wonders. In any case, as you would probably expect, coming from a vintage-lover like me, the recent version of this parfum does not contain the same magic. There is a rubbery, synthetic note in the recent version that mars it. I've noted that rubbery scent in the recent body lotion (although in a body lotion I kind of like the new-doll-head smell), and was disappointed to smell it also in the parfum at the NYC Bergdorf Goodman's Guerlain shop a couple of weeks ago. This is such a fascinating perfume that anyone who tries it is certain to have a different response, however. Try both, if you can!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

NYC and Some Cheapo Finds : Worth's Je Reviens Couture : Balenciaga's Le Dix edt

First off, a quick report of NYC sniffage. While I sniffed scads of perfumes on my trip to NYC, and even fell in love with some of them (Guerlain's Sous le Vent, Miller Harris's Jasmine Vert), I brought home NONE of them. Mainly that's because there are few bottles of perfume I would spend $200 on, and a subtle jasmine and hay affair like Jasmin Vert certainly does not fall into that category. Why can't companies start selling smaller bottles???!!! And Sous le Vent was gorgeous but surprisingly short-lived on my skin, so that was out. I think the most I've spent on one bottle of perfume was either a new .5 oz. of Cuir de Russie parfum or a fleabayed 2 oz. bottle of vintage L'Heure Bleue. I'll let you know when I find a non-extrait perfume that is FBW at $200. It might just be one of the new bottles of Bois des Iles edt, but I'm trying to hold off on that until I'm looking for a Christmas present for myself. Oh, and re-focusing on my sniffage: I also liked Muschio d'Oro and Calycanthus from Santa Maria Novella, but like all their perfumes, these two turned into powdery indistinct meh after a half an hour. Another favorite was L'Artisan's L'Été en Douce. And I tried the new Mitsouko edt formulation (I haunted the Guerlain counter at Bergdorf's shamelessly) and actually really liked it. I choke on the Mitsouko edp, and the current parfum even leaves me cold, so this was a breakthrough.

But in any case, I will celebrate my unlikely forbearance by reviewing two cheapo aldehydes this lazy Sunday afternoon; they are my favorites for the office and the interminable Austin summers. Well, not cheapo quality, mind you, but you can get both of these old-fashioned beauties at various perfume discounters for next to nothing. I highly recommend both if you like aldehydes.

Balenciaga's Le Dix (1947) is a lovely violet powder fragrance at first, but it has a tinge of citrusy bergamot and lemon that keeps it from turning into the saccharine violet of Guerlain's Les Meteorites. If you, like I, can't stand strong citruses, don't worry. Everything is so well-blended that you there is no sharp eau-de-fruit-peel. The notes as listed on Osmoz also include coriander, which I can only detect as adding some musky-green complexity to the top notes. As the fragrance dries down the powder dissipates and the violet gets deeper, given structure with sandalwood smudged with perhaps a bit of vetiver.

If you'd like to read more, see this great review of Le Dix by Angela at NowSmellThis.

Je Reviens Couture (2004) is a recent eau de parfum version of Worth's oldie-but-goodie Je Reviens. Now, I haven't smelled the old Je Reviens in any form but the bath oil, but I can tell you from that experience that it is uh-maaay-zing. From what I've read, the more recent Je Reviens that you could find in drugstores is dreck, but I haven't sniffed it. However, the Couture edp version is strikingly similar to the old Je Reviens, if a smidge dryer and paler due to those missing nitro musks that Luca Turin mentions in Perfumes: The Guide. So what's so great about the old Je Reviens and the new Je Reviens Couture, and what ties them together so recognizably? For me, it's the absolutely addictive, smoky, ashy overtone to the flowers. I don't really know for sure, but I believe this effect is created by a type of aldehyde that to some smells like nail polish remover. But to me, it is an almost pyrocaustic scent, like getting a teensy whiff of petroleum fumes mixed with your Chanel No. 5. It's not at all ashy like cigarettes or ashtrays; on the contrary, it has a metallic shimmer like a sparkler lighting up the fragrance's cool floral bouquet heart.

With all this talk of ashes and petroleum, you wouldn't think this is an office perfume at all, but really this is a ladylike scent with unusual aldehydes, I think. What little sillage there is registers as a bit on the metallic-vetiver-floral side, not freakish or fumey. It's only when you huff your skin directly while sitting at your computer in an office cubicle that you realize it's a cyborg impersonating one of the Upper West Side's ladies who lunch. It's my subversive office scent.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rumeur, Scandal, Arpège : Lanvin : André Fraysse

I'm continuing my foray into Lanvin's discontinued greats with this set of vintage Rumeur (1934), Scandal (1933), and Arpège (1927) parfums, my latest fleabay find. I'm stunned with the beauty of these three. I've come to adore My Sin, so I was very eager to get my hands on more Lanvin perfumes. I have no idea how old this little set of .5 oz. bottles is, but I felt as if I'd discovered long-buried treasure when I opened up the package to discover three perfect, still-sealed bottles.

Let me start with what I consider the strangest and most challenging of the three, surprisingly: Rumeur. I've yet to find a list of notes for this perfume, and I've heard it described sometimes as a floral leather. I'm not sure if my nose is out of whack, but I could swear there is an intensely camphorous, medicinal opening here. Could that be, or has this seemingly perfectly preserved bottle gone off? Bless my bloomers if this isn't a carnation and clove scent! A bit of a winey rose and leather accord could be in there as well, and it is certainly bone dry. What a shock, compared to the recent sweet little frooty-floral reformulated version. I say it's challenging, but only because it is very assertively clove-like, which is not a favorite note of mine. It does dry down to a lovely leathery, if still medicinal, spice-and-moss concoction. If you have experience of this in its original state, I would greatly appreciate any details/notes/memories you can provide!

Scandal is the most mouth-wateringly gorgeous leather I've ever smelled since Chanel's Cuir de Russie. Before giving my impressions, though, let me admit to some strong opinions on leather scents, so that you'll know where I stand. I'm often somewhat frustrated with reviews when I have no idea of that person's preferences and/or prejudices, so if you feel the same frustration, bear with me and maybe you'll find this sorta helpful, if pedantic. I am one of those who cannot stand anything remotely syrupy in a leather perfume. Nope, can't do Lutens' Daim Blond, or even (gasp!) Caron's Tabac Blond parfum (recent formulation). The Parfumerie Generale leathers have a synthetic, thick, gooey quality that turns me off entirely. There are also some leathers, such as Knize Ten, that are a bit too tough and arid for me. Bandit (recent edp) and Jolie Madame are both close to the experience of licking a wet ashtray--not bearable, in other words. Other leather references? I do like the new Diorling edt quite a lot, but it is more jasmine and tobacco than leather, it seems to me. I like Dzing, and absolutely adore vintage Miss Dior and Chanel no. 19.

Whew, okay, if you're still with me, the point is: above all of the others, Chanel's Cuir de Russie has always been my floral-leather touchstone, and with Scandal I've now twice the joy. In a side-by-side test of the two (both in parfum), my recently bought CdR is immediately all luscious, aldehydic iris laced with mellow spices, with a tasteful leather handbag in the background. In Scandal, the opening leathery snap is sharper, but when the florals arrive, the result is an uncannily similar iris-leather. Both are elegantly dry, without a smidge of syrup. The leather in Scandal just lasts and lasts and lasts, compared to the new CdR parfum. If you hear a "squee!!" and a thump, that would be me, falling over in ecstasy. "Wow," is all I can say.

Finally, does anything more even need to be said about the plush, velvet-sandalwood and rose that is the original Arpège? On my previous sniffs--perhaps of the new formulation, in my defense--how could I have thought the rose and sandalwood combination sour and matronly? I'm not a rose lover, but in the vintage parfum, at least, the rose is so well blended that it adds only a translucent blush to a fragrance that could have otherwise been slightly opaque. Arpège is like a woman with such effortless grace and elegance you'd almost like to hate her, but can't, or--how about a less catty description?--a captivating gesture made by a sultry, brainy woman in passionate conversation.

If you'd like to learn more about the Lanvin classics, I highly recommend reading reviews of Scandal by NowSmellThis and the original Arpège by BoisdeJasmin.

Kindly tune in again as this blogger continues with reviews of some favorites you don't necessarily have to hunt down on fleabay: Je Reviens Couture, Magie Noire, Bal a Versailles, and perhaps new treasures yet-to-be-discovered on an upcoming trip to New York!

Friday, June 20, 2008

My Sin : Lanvin : Mme Zed

Yep, it's another post-fleabay-binge vintage perfume post. I scored a quarter ounce of My Sin in a sealed box and it appears to be in great shape. Wooo!

Lanvin's My Sin surprisingly starts with what smells like candied bergamot and violets suspended in an aldehydic shimmer. Hm, violets aren't in the listed notes, as far as I know, but maybe it's just a violet quality to the aldehydes? It's not as much like Chanel no. 5 parfum as I expected. It seems, oddly enough, like a combination of Arpege (you can smell that gorgeous sandalwood base immediately) and the smell of Smarties candy that I get from the new Chanel no. 5 flanker, Eau Premiere. Not unappealing at all. But thankfully, that impression doesn't last long, because prowling and purring just behind the aldehydes is a sandalwood and civet combination that is pretty damn stunning.

From a candy-necklace version of no. 5, My Sin transforms into an unrestrained and naughtier no. 5. Much better, that. The animalic basenotes are exceedingly creamy in combination with the ylang, jasmine, and vanilla, but the tiny hint of an edge (probably from the vetiver, cloves, and styrax, but I can't distinguish any of those notes individually) keeps it all from feeling too pillowy or gooey.

Sorry about the confused jumble of heart notes and basenotes, but my nose just doesn't seem to work in the pyramidal structure of topnote, then heartnote, then basenote. I probably haven't trained it enough, most likely. And since no. 5 parfum is such a huge reference point in this review, I should really link to some detailed reviews of that colossal icon. How about this one: Legerdenez has a wonderful and informative post on Chanel no. 5. Also, PerfumeQueen's review of no. 5 is very nicely done.

Read the tempting and thorough review of My Sin at Bois de Jasmin. According to that review, the notes are: aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, clary sage, neroli; heart notes of ylang-ylang, jasmine, rose, clove, orris, lily of the valley, jonquil, lilac; base notes of vanilla, vetiver, musk, woods, tolu, styrax, civet.

Monday, June 16, 2008

La Fuite des Heures : Balenciaga : Cellier

**Public service announcement: If anyone is reading this who is in the least bit susceptible to vintage perfume lust, this review raves on about a discontinued, obscure, and frustratingly little-known vintage parfum. It's gotta be done, though, so I beg pardon in advance.**

On one of those dangerous fleabay whims in which I too often indulge (I can stop anytime, I swear. A-ny-time now...), I bid on and won an ounce of an almost-forgotten perfume created by the legendary Germaine Cellier for Balenciaga in the late forties (1949?). It's called La Fuite des Heures (Fleeting Moment), and from what little I could glean on the web, it was a subtle jasmine and thyme affair.

When I unsealed the bottle (so pretty! it rests inside the sweetest little oval cylinder box printed with Balenciaga in gold), I found out the scent was perfectly preserved, at least to my nose. I was surrounded by the most radiant herbal jasmine scent I've ever encountered.

I've never been a fan of jasmine, mainly I think because of its ubiquitous and synthetic use in department store perfumes, which to me smell a bit like ammonia. This perfume finally acquaints me with the wonder of jasmine. That doesn't mean it's purely sweet and light, however. I have often heard of Lutens' Tubereuse Criminelle described as having a gasoline-menthol edge to it on first whiff, and La Fuite des Heures has a similar, faintly petrol cast to the herbs in the beginning. Did Serge study his Cellier? I'd like to think I've found a missing referent, because that would give my obsession the justification of archival research. In any case, I can certainly say that petrol edge spotlights the shift from green leaves and herbs to a warm, sunlit jasmine such as I've never smelled in perfumery.

Now I have, and love, Fracas, also created by Germaine Cellier, but I've often suspected I'm missing something about it--a note beyond the frequencies I can hear. I've tried to love her Bandit, but I get only wet ashtray. But in this third example of her work I feel like I've made a huge discovery. Why is it such discoveries most often come with rarity, inaccessibility, and the anticipation of inevitable loss? 'Cause they're my discoveries (obscurity-lover that I am), that's why! And that's why the name of this perfume is so perfect from my perspective, as well--the literal translation is the flight of hours.

See Scented Salamander's more detailed review of La Fuite des Heures.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Gardening for Perfume

One of my gardening dreams is to grow a garden of plants used in perfumery, but not just roses, or jasmine. I want to also grow some of the non-florals that have been used in medicine, ritual, and perfumery for centuries.

For instance, Rock Rose (cistus ladanifer) is a mediterranean bush with fragrant sap that is used in perfumery and called labdanum. This does have lovely white flowers with four or five red spots and yellow stamens (see the picture), but it's not the flower that's used in perfumery. Egyptian pharoahs used the sap, and it was used medicinally, and in a twisty chain of associations was eventually confused with the opiate laudanum.

Or what about one of my favorite perfume materials, galbanum, which is extracted from an Iranian grass? I wonder if I can buy seeds? Vetiver grass is another possibility, as well. Fennel also is one of my favorites--and butterflies love it too, as a bonus. Oh, and I can certainly plant more Artemisia (similar (or the same? I'm not sure) in scent to angelica in perfume), because I can't even kill that stuff in my front yard. Artemesia loves the heat.

Of course flowers shouldn't be neglected, should they? I have a couple of osmanthus plants, (also known as tea olive) to plant in my shady, east-facing backyard, and I hope their scent will waft into my yet-to-be-built screened porch. Jasmine (I've read that night-blooming jasmine, a.k.a. jasmine sambac varieties, have the scary-wonderful indoles by the truckload to help insects find them in the dark) and tuberose are other possibilities, and coral honeysuckle is supposed to be bulletproof in Central Texas. Hm, I wonder if heliotrope and anise grow well here? I'm sad that hawthorne probably won't do here, nor will lilac.

And I definately have to plant florentine iris (iris pallida), which likes sun and not-great soil. Perfect! I've got plenty of both. The iris root, called orris, is my absolute favorite perfume material, and smells like a cross between a root vegetable and a heavenly powdery flower. The iris flower itself produces no extractable scent. I want to smell me some iris roots!

Picture from

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Community Garden Progress!

It's almost spring in Austin, and I'm having a blast helping out with the initial stages of a new community garden in my neighborhood. That's Nathan on the right, the guy who's gotten the funding and is leading the charge. That's James on the left. This was taken later in the afternoon, but today a bunch of us were out there shoveling compost around, laying out the plans, and terracing the slope at the back end of the lot. See that terrace wall in the foreground? That's partly my handiwork! That space they're evening out is going to be the patio area where we'll put a few seating nooks, a picnic table, and maybe a fire pit. Surrounding the patio will be individual plots, all organically shaped, with a twisty path around them. Then at the front of the lot is going to be long group-planted vegetable rows - eight of them! A few fruit trees will go near the sidewalk end of the lot, which is the north side. A few fruit trees and possibly a grape arbor will go at the far south end of the lot, partially shading the patio area. Gosh, we need a name for the garden! So exciting!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

'Cause It Makes My Apartment Smell Mossaayy

Steve Zahn, how I love thee. A lone goof of a personality in super-polished rom-coms like the Meg Ryan vehicle You've Got Mail, his delivery of the line: "'Cause it makes my apartment smell mossy," cracks me up and makes me want to take him home with me. In his honor I'm picking that line about prepping his apartment for a date to introduce one of my favorite smells: moss.

Oak moss is probably the main reason for my love of vintage perfumes. And by vintage perfumes I mean vintage Miss Dior, of course! That preternaturally stunning perfume is the ne plus ultra of oak moss, a note that is essential to the chypre family of perfumes. It is sadly disappearing from perfumery--it's been labeled a toxin and is buried in an avalanche of cheaper, more fruity, more sparkly olfactory chemistry.

Vintage Miss Dior was my gateway drug to a world of green, greener perfumes, many vintage. It introduced me to oak moss and another favorite, galbanum. Once started on the green path, I can't seem to stop. Thankfully, I now know Chanel no.19 is a masterpiece required for my survival. Smelling the original Vent Vert is now a compulsion, although I can't wear it often. I'm dying to get my hands on vintage Givenchy III, having smelled the paler new edition and currently waffling on buying it. Jacomo's Silences is the slightly flinty, green aftermath of a thunderstorm. Moss is a required element in many violet perfumes I like, as well: Fresh's Violet Moss is lovely, Ava Luxe's Midnight Violet is addictive, on account of their moss. Has anyone smelled LesNez's The Unicorn Spell? That's next on my list of violet mosses.

But back to Steve Zahn's mossy apartment. I need to re-watch You've Got Mail, because I don't remember what he was getting to make his apartment smell mossy, and I want some. I want my house to smell mossy! I've recently bought Voluspa's Champaca Bloom and Fern candle, hoping it would make my place smell mossy, but no luck, even though I like it a lot. If anyone has any ideas, let me know!

Image from

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Après l'Ondée : Guerlain : Jacques Guerlain

Since I've become rather obsessed with perfume this past year, I've been fascinated by the idea of a perfume evoking a place. But I've discovered that, for me, it almost never does. I'm not saying it doesn't stir the imagination. Perfume satiates some combination olfactory/spiritual hunger of mine. I know -- what the hell is that? I don't really know either. But it was a hunger I didn't even know existed until I started learning about perfume. Perfume suits my imagination by allowing me to select a protective avatar to pull around my overly sensitive little self like a cloak against the world when I want, or a glamour to expand my effect on the world if I want that. But a perfume evoking a place? I love traveling, so I'm disappointed to say that perfumes don't transport me.

But there's an exception: Guerlain's Après l'Ondée, created in 1906. Just smelling this perfume is time travel in itself, since it's formula is over a century old. It's been name-checked by Nancy Mitford in The Pursuit of Love, for criminy's sake. I like to imagine all the women who have adored this scent. But beyond the history of the perfume itself, it's scent is magically the smell of a sunwarmed, serenely arranged garden patio in France. The pea gravel and limestone garden borders have just been cooled by a summer rain shower. There's a remote, tawny, aromatic meadow in the distance, with a big thunderhead looming over it. Closer, there is the comfort of garden beds containing yeasty, pampered garden soil full of rain-battered violets and heliotrope.

So I have to admit something that other passionate perfumistas have also admitted: Après l'Ondée makes me cry. It is a magic perfume; it is a release of ancient breath. The anise is both dusty and brilliant, the violets and heliotrope are tender, and the combination is incredibly moving, because it both comforts and makes you feel vulnerable at the same time, somehow.

Notes, according to the lovely review of Apres L'Ondee at Now Smell This: bergamot, neroli, aniseed, hawthorn, violet, heliotrope, iris and musk.

Image from Savvy Gardening

Ex-Academics Anonymous

Hi there, my name is Aimee, and I'm a recovering academic. That means I use big words and then wonder who the hell I'm trying to impress in my workplace, or among my friends, that would require me to do so. And yes, as you can already tell, that means I'm working under a crippling load of internalized super-critical hyper-reflexive awareness of every thought I've ever had. Ever.

But on the plus side, it also means I can laugh at this animals have problems too illustration. Thanks, Zach VandeZande! You get me! Brilliant.

Tropicals in Winter

After almost a year of resisting it, suddenly this morning I love Ormonde Jayne's Champaca again. I've often wondered, since moving to Texas, whether tropical perfumes are just redundant here. Too much in the summer, and not even a necessary ray of sunshine in winter. Or perhaps I've always had a negative reaction to them, associating tropicals with the herds of Americans yearning for a cheap paradise, and substituting an even cheaper perfume touting "exotic ylang ylang" and "sparkling mango." Man, I'm such a snob.

Anyway, my bigoted cultural assumptions aside, tropicals have not appealed to me in central Texas's steamy climate. Champaca's basmati rice base chokes me in the heat. And it even seemed to have a slightly too-thick, savory rice-pudding opaqueness in winter.

But finally! Today it worked. I sprayed some right in my cleavage, and yowee, delicious! The rice and the champaca blooms are perfectly lush, and the lack of transparency doesn't bother me at all. The sillage is like fleshy white flowers wafting through the air on 99.9% humidity. I thought I must make a note of this: so the first two weeks of February are safe for Champaca. In Austin we've just had our first proto-spring days. Hm. Probably don't need to replace my decant with a full bottle juuuuust yet.

Oh! I should mention that in the interest of documenting my odd layering experiments, I actually layered Champaca with Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's Anarchy (her Chaos dupe oil). It must have cut some of the fleshiness of the Champaca, somehow.

I don't like many tropicals, but Champaca, along with Carnal Flower and Sand & Sable, do get to me from time to time. Okay, so I haven't mentioned the latter two perfumes yet? Sand & Sable I like to think of as the poor woman's Carnal Flower. No, S&S doesn't have the mouth-watering, green, petal-like luminescence of Carnal Flower, blar de blar blar. And no, it doesn't entirely satisfy like Carnal Flower does. But then it also costs 8$ a bottle instead of $250. If you haven't tried this tuberose-laden (though surely very synthetic) tropics-of-drugstore find, please get to it!