Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of the best 2009: Joint blog project

Happy New Year, everyone! I wish everyone only the best in 2010. Here is my very random "Best of" list for 2009. Hope you like it.

Best experience:
Happily relinquishing my illusion of control and contented self-sufficiency, because I want this man to always be on my team.

Best home project finally realized:
Building the back deck I've wanted since I bought my house, and then finally having a deck party with dear friends and visiting parrots.

Best trip:
Going to Florida to see my dad get married, even when I was driving back to the airport after three hours of sleep and every time I stopped for gas I kept finding more magic-markered wedding wishes the kids wrote all over my rental car.

Best creative activity:
Haiku postcard exchange, which meant I received not just bills and junk mail in my mailbox, but lovely words such as these from my friend Shawn M.:
your song, a current
strangers walking parallel
sad note sunshine air

Best songs to sing along to at the top of your lungs in the car:
"I Never Had Nobody Like You," M. Ward
"Carbon Monoxide," Regina Spektor (Couldn't find a link to this one, sorry!)
"Twist the Knife," Neko Case (Couldn't find a link to this one either...)

Best musical rediscovery:
The Smiths, all of 'em, but especially live versions of "What Difference Does It Make" and "London" almost make me long for teenage angst again (almost!) so I can do it properly and with a better soundtrack.

Best cheesy pop songs to dance around your house to:
"Umbrella," Rihanna (Thanks for reminding me of the joys of commercial pop, Aimee G.!)
"Heartbeats," The Knife (Synthesizer yumminess.)
"St. Petersburg," Brazilian Girls (I defy you not to dance to this one, sniffle-ushka.)

Best fragrance discovery:
Timbuktu, L'Artisan Parfumeur
How can incense be both smoky and green and speak like a living thing? I have no idea how Bertrand Duchaufour did it, but this one has just the most intriguing things to tell you. Robin at NowSmellThis did a review of Timbuktu that is so similar to my experience that I'm gonna be lazy and just link to that rather than bother with my own at the moment.

Best full-bottle purchases:
Muscs de Koublai Khan, Serge Lutens, from the lovely Nazrin at the -- I've repeatedly contemplated traveling to Paris for the sole purpose of getting this skanky wonder, and it finally went export. So when you think about it, I just saved the cash for an entire trip to Paris by buying this bottle. Man, I'm so thrifty!

Woman, Ormonde Jayne, at when they had their fall sale -- I've wanted this one for a while, too, and now that I can indulge in spraying it rather than dabbing it from a little vial, it has revealed even more hidden depths and twisty hemlock notes up front. This stuff makes me feel all mysterious, even when I'm just in my pj's sick in bed with a cold.

Best website discovery:
thehypemachine grabs and compiles music tracks people post on the web for free. It's a total win for those of us who hate assessing a new iTunes purchase with a 20-sec-or-whatever clip, and I couldn't have linked up this post without it, either.

There are many other participants in this "Best of the best 2009" project--go read their blogs, too!

First of all, many thanks to Elena at Perfume Shrine for initiating and organizing this joint blog project.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Joint blog project! Falling in love: scents and treats for fall

I've been more interested in music lately than I have been in perfume (gasp!), so I thought I'd merge two sets of favorites together for this joint best-of-fall project, matching perfume treats with musical ones. Hit the play buttons throughout to hear my fall musical treats, and enjoy! Too bad you can't hit play to smell the scents, too, huh?

These are not new scents, for the most part, but they are ones I've fallen in love with recently, haven't flogged too much already, and are in production. I look forward to wearing them all this fall. I own all but four of them, and would like to own them all, but I doubt I'll ever actually shell out for the spendy Ubar and the Party in Manhattan.

**NOTE** So sorry if the music files aren't showing up! The site on which I stashed the files is telling me I've exceeded the bandwidth limit. I'll do what I can to fix it asap, but you might need to try playing during a time of day with less interwebs traffic. I'm a newbie on posting music files online...

What to wear to live a lush life in some small dive: Diptyque Philosykos

Song: Regina Spektor, "Lady"

Regina Spektor flaunts her technique and quirky humor like the perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. The verisimilitude of the fig tree--including leaves, fruits, and especially dark branches--in Philosykos makes it match up well with Spektor's homage to Billie Holiday's plush voice and thorny life. The lyrics, the timbre, the phrasing of "Lady" are all about art not only stemming from life, but demanding, conjuring more life, especially when Spektor tells us she'll make us "cry little wet tears."

What to wear to howl at the moon: Caron Yatagan
Song: Taraf de Haïdouks, "Hora Din Caval"

Feral wormwood, pine, fennel, patchouli, and leathery goodness, not about to be pushed around by anybody, and certainly badly behaved enough to be sent to bed without dinner. This wild gypsy violin groove by Taraf de Haïdouks is the perfect scented equivalent to wearing Caron Yatagan. "Inside all of us is a wild thing," as Maurice Sendak wrote in Where the Wild Things Are, and thanks be that he did. Wear Yatagan when you want a wolf suit.

What to wear to invoke a goddess: Amouage Ubar
Song: Renee Fleming, "Casta Diva"

I'm sure the connection between this luxurious scent and operatic drama has been made before, but I'll just have to be unoriginal here. There truly hasn't been a fragrance in recent memory that so exquisitely performs its aria; every element--diva, orchestra, chorus--is effortlessly modulated. The lily of the valley note is not screechy, but more like Renee Fleming's perfectly trained and mature soprano voice. This fragrance has that magic of live performance in it. The natural materials are almost tangible, like the feel in your head and your chest of a swelling orchestra in an opera house with world-class acoustics. That feeling can't be captured in an mp3, but Fleming singing "Casta Diva," in which Norma invokes the goddess in Bellini's opera, may be as close as we come.

What to wear to a rite of passage: L'Artisan Parfumeur Passage d'Enfer
Song: Cat Power, "I Found A Reason"

Chan Marshall's voice is achingly tender, heartbreakingly, willfully sentimental and also self-consciously artful. I immediately thought of her, and this song, as a match for a perfume with cedar (this gives the scent a body odor feel that makes it feel imperfect and human, and is the thing that makes me love it) and incense (comforting and hazy), but also with a sweet lily note. I normally despise lily, but welded to incense here it is really sublime. The lyrics of "I Found A Reason," simple and repetitive, include the phrase, "what comes is better than what came before," which links this song to the idiomatic meaning of the phrase "passage d'enfer," a "rite of passage." Sadly, the shortness of the song also matches the lack of lasting power of the perfume.

What to wear for a wistful holiday evening: Diptyque Tam Dao
Song: Nina Simone, "Little Girl Blue"

Luxuriating in sadness with a comforting, Christmasy piano-tinkle in the background. Sticks around too short a time. Guh. I could do a whole series just on Nina Simone songs; she owns me. What more is there to say?

What goes with single-malt scotch and stilettos: Chanel Bois des Iles
Song: The Black Keys, "All You Ever Wanted"

This one, the current parfum of Bois des Iles snuck up on me. When I first sniffed it, I was all prepared to be disappointed in its comparatively modern, spare sandalwood in contrast to the vintage juice. Likewise, I can get a little snobby about preferring old Delta blues over new-fangled rockers "doing" the blues. Bois des Iles won me over like The Black Keys won me. Asphalt and scotch blues that smooths out and writhes its way to an unexpectedly melodic, moan-worthy crescendo. Whew. Seriously satisfying, not to mention all you ever wanted without even knowing it. Thanks, boys.

What to wear to take a call from your ex-boyfriend in the middle of the night
: Coty Wild Musk (perfume oil)
Song: Joan Baez, "Diamonds and Rust"

Protest-song earnestness can get a little boring, if you ask me, but this song is Joan Baez with a little bitter devilment in her: getting a call from an old boyfriend in the middle of the night, swamped with memories and a tinge of resentment over his stratospheric success (since he's Bob Dylan) and emotional distance. Wild Musk is not a "white musk," which is why I like it best among all the old drugstore musks. It has a tinge of that comforting, woody, unwashed scent that reminds me of being snuggled in a musty comforter in some old home hand-built in the 70s as as refuge from the military-industrial complex. I grew up in the 70s and heard Joan Baez from the womb, thanks to my mother, so this is a nostalgia scent for me.

How to be a hard-hearted lover
scent: Ayala Moriel Espionage
Song: Etta James, "Don't Cry Baby"

Unsweetened, commanding, hard-headed soul that softens like Etta James after her initial gun-shot delivery, turning into a woman working her wiles with an unexpected string section.

What goes with gold lame? or, how to be a fame-whore: The Party in Manhattan

Song: The Decemberists, "Los Angeles, I'm Yours"

Okay, it should be "Manhattan, I'm Yours," but this bitingly sardonic, clever hate-f**k of a song is so perfect for this skanky and ultimately hollow wonder that I can't resist. The floral-civet indulgence of the perfume matches the venal self-promotion and greed in gold lamé portrayed in The Decemberists' song. To wit: "but oh the smell of burnt cocaine, the dolor and decay, it only makes me cranky." Wear The Party in Manhattan and you'll feel oddly debauched and dissatisfied.

What to wear to a cabaret of the damned: J'ai Osé

Song: Diamanda Galas, "Twenty-Five Minutes To Go"

Apocalyptically, chokingly tarry, then steadies deliberately into an urgent purr, like the heroine of this live, spine-tingling, avant-cabaret showpiece, who is counting down the minutes before she's hanged. Nina Simone's version of "Pirate Jenny" would also work, and is even more harrowing, but I'd already included one of her songs in the list.

More fabulous blogs are participating in this themed post. Go visit them, too!
Notes from the Ledge

Image credit: Autumn in Sepia by Rick Lundh (via

Thursday, October 8, 2009

DelRae Mythique: a true Florentine smell

I'm sure that one of the main reasons I love iris is because I love Florence. The two are forever linked because the highest quality iris, or orris butter, comes from the Florence region, and has for centuries. I studied art history and Italian there for a semester as an undergrad in the early 90s, so obviously the movie that informed my romantic expectations was Merchant and Ivory's A Room with a View, of course! I rewatched the movie recently, and I swear I can vividly smell Florence again in those street scenes. Remember what the florid lady novelist Eleanor Lavish (the sublime Judy Dench) says? She stops in her tracks on a side street, commanding, "A true Florentine smell. Inhale, my dear."

So when I smelled Mythique, I thought: this is a true Florentine smell. And I inhaled deeply and diaphramatically, as Dame Judy commands. I always do whatever Dame Judy tells me. Here's what I smelled. The candied violet aspect of iris when paired with mandarin is there in the top notes, but this is a modern, creamy, and musky perfume, not powdery or tooth-aching as most violet/iris fragrances are. The candied quality is quickly balanced by that cold stone feel of iris, which is what really gives it the feel of Florence.

So okay, maybe the streets of Florence don't smell like violets, iris, or mandarin (sadly), but the perfume fits with the visual and architectural aesthetics I associate with that city. What I always remember about Florence was the intimidatingly business-like, elegant citizens; the forbiddingly stony building exteriors (massive-looking blocks of rusticated pietra forte and beautiful, grey pietra serena); and most importantly, the experience of going inside those buildings and finding wonderously confectionary interiors and candy-colored fresco paintings that are the sweet, indulgent heart of all that seeming coldness. The color combination of light green and pink is often used in that sweet side of Florence, and the epitome of that aesthetic is the pastel-colored marble of Giotto's campanile (belltower), which is truly the most beautiful, most fantastic piece of architecture I've ever seen. Who builds a big, functional slab of religious architecture in pastel pinks and greens, for goodness sake? It's extravagantly nutty in such a restrained city, which is why I love it.

The perfume Mythique is an expression of all these aesthetic experiences. It would definitely appeal to Florence's restrained city-dwellers. It is like grey stone hiding gleaming, luxurious cafe interiors. It is like a green, pink, and white marble belltower ringing out to the faithful. But I'll leave off speaking metaphorically and tell you that the peony and jasmine turn the fragrance into a warm floral blend after a half-hour or so. The base notes of patchouli and sandalwood are so subtle I can barely detect them as a warm, raspy hum in the background, keeping everything from getting at all dessert-like. The velvety ambrette muskiness I can definately smell.

It's much less girly than the Frederic Malle Iris Poudre, less dramatic and muskier than the new Van Cleef & Arpels Bois d'Iris, and it has a more juicy quality than The Different Company's Bois d'Iris. It's nothing like the chilling coldness of Serge Lutens' Iris Silver Mist. Mythique's notes include mandarin, bergamot, ivy, peony, Sambac jasmine, iris, sandalwood, Indonesian patchouli and herbal musk (ambrette). The perfumer is Yann Vasnier.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Happy 800th Birthday, Rumi

Today is the 800th anniversary of Rumi's birth, so I wanted to celebrate by posting one of my favorite lines of his:

In drawing and drawing
you his pains are
delectable; his flames
are like water.

I first discovered the line where it appears in a beautiful series of Cy Twombly paintings titled Untitled (Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair), 1985. I just visited these paintings in the incredible Cy Twombly Gallery, The Menil Collection, in Houston. If you can ever get to Houston, please do not miss a visit to this incredible collection.

Image from The National Gallery of Art.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thank You, Billy Collins

I was reading this poem today, because it's one of my favorites, and it struck me how apt it is for those of us who try to put scents in words. This poem so gently, so amusingly and so effortlessly teaches me that putting any person or any sensual experience in words is arbitrary and ultimately a barrier to knowing. But what delectable fun you can have with arbitrary associations! But then you can also see the assignment of imagery in the poem as transcendent knowledge that acknowledges arbitrariness and knows something deeper, because by sharing the nourishing imagery (like the bread and wine) and assigning it to a loved one, the poet is partaking in a symbolic communion. One that is so playful it invites the reader to join in.

Anyway, I so adore the spiritual playfulness of this poem, and it struck me that I get a lot of joy from playing "pin-the-tail-on-the-perfume" in the blogosphere for sort of the same reasons. It's a playful way to exercise my writing and observation skills trying to describe something that is ephemeral and emotional. Whether I hit the nail on the head, or scatter arrows wide of my mark (to wildly mix metaphors while I'm at it--why not?), that's part of the fun. I'll shut up now so you can read this awesome poem.

Litany, by Billy Collins
You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...

—Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.

You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mitsouko is for today

It's raining. What's the big deal, you ask? No, you don't understand: it's Texas, and it's finally raining. What a relief. I could cry.

Well, okay the crying might also have something to do with it being 9/11 today, and I couldn't help reading some of the articles on The Morning News today, and remembering what it was like being in Boston on that day.

But this is not a 9/11 post. I just wanted to say that Mitsouko is perfect on a rainy day, and it's perfect on a sad day, and it's just abso-fucking-lutely perfect on an emotional bender day.

Today, Mitsouko is glowing like living creatures and undergrowth and funk and the sweetness of wet living tree bark and leaves. It's a whole, wet forest, even though I'm sitting in a cubicle copyediting precalculus activities. It's feeling. Tomorrow it'll feel different. And I'll feel different.

Image from parfumsdepub.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Impressions of a cranky perfumista

Usually you only hear about the rare successes among the many perfume samples I smell in a given month. That's just created too much pressure to find something I LOVE to talk about. But just like in getting out to hear some music (which I finally did with a dear friend from out of town recently) the fun is just getting out there. If you don't hear the bestest thing ever, well, you shrug and critique/make fun of/learn what not to do with the band you've got in front of you. Y'all may have noticed I'm just a teensy bit on the cerebral side, so squinting geekily and critiquing is almost (I said almost!) as much fun as the joy of surrendering to the transcendent when that rare beauty does comes along.

In that spirit, here are some of my recent, somewhat frustrating experiences with perfume samples. Keep in mind these are just first impressions--quickie glibness--so I hope nobody gets put out with me if I dis your new favorite!

Heeley - Cuir Pleine Fleur: This is wonderously medicinal leather, like the love child of Chanel's Cuir de Russie and vintage Guerlain L'Heure Bleue. Well, okay, maybe not *that* amazing--the world would probably implode with it's greatness if it truly were their love child. How about a cousin of Cuir de Russie plus the raspy but soft saffron of the new Cuir de Lancome? Pretty damn good, and even though I have all three of those other perfumes and it doesn't break any new ground, so I need this like a hole in my head, I may need to keep the sample around for a while.

Ego Facto - Me Myself & I: Well, I was so looking forward to the supposedly intriguing tuberose-vetiver combo here. And honestly, on paper it did smell a balance of those two notes, and it wasn't bad. But on my skin? Holy hell, what a scrubber. Cheap-smelling, cloying, and thoroughly unpleasant.

Les Nez - Manoumalia: Appealingly raspy tropical white flowers with a slightly menacing vetiver overtone. I can imagine these flowers would be the flesh-eating kind.

Annick Goutal - Eau de Camille: Similar to vintage Vent Vert but without the devil-may-care attitude. More prim.

Frederick Malle - Parfum de Therese: I'm so sad not to love this one. I just get pale, stale flower vase water with some decayed blooms still swimming in the bottom. I'm hoping my nose changes its mind.

Ava Luxe - Madame X: Yummy and tremblingly naughty, but when I go for naughty, this would always have to take a back seat to my vintage Bal a Versailles. I think. Well, I better make up my mind soon, 'cause the talented Ava Luxe isn't selling this lovely stuff anymore.

Le Labo - Oud 27: Cold, but still smoking, cedarwood firepit on a chilly autumn morning. It's a beautiful and unusual scent, but I get tired of smelling like a cedarwood firepit. Very linear, to my nose.

Dior - Bois d'Argent: Strange, doll's-head-plastic scent that morphs into a sweet, woody iris.

Hermes - Osmanthe Yunnan: I get orange, then some more orange, then a bit of sharpish tea leaf with some I usually love orange, but this is a fail for me. And I love tea, so I always think I will love tea scents. But I don't. Too...tannic.

Perfumerie Generale - Psychotrope: Aquatic, salty violet. Very weird, and intriguing on a sporadic basis, but then does that boring plasticky thing that all PG scents do for me.

Guerlain - Nahema edp: A mandarin-rose blast with the half-life of plutonium and for some reason reminds me of the color palette in Disney's "The Sorceror's Apprentice." You know, with the trippily animated mops and pails going berserk? Kinda like that.

Etro - Vetiver: Nose-hair-searing smoky vetiver. My vetiver touchstone is Guerlain's, which I love for it's perfect weight and subtle tobacco that took me a while to get, but this scent is for those truly committed to the heights (depths?) of vetiver barbarism.

Dior - Jules: Although coming from someone who bought a bottle of Yatagan, and loves it btw, this will sound weird, but it's too mucho mucho manly for even little ol' moi. The pepper/galbanum combo is about as subtle as getting run over by a Mack truck.

Divine - Divine: Gosh, as this dries down, I get the butteriness peeps talk about! This is named appropriately, I must say. For the first hour it's too tastefully peachy-tuberose to excite me, but then the creamy drydown as the florals start to melt into some kind of vanilla-moss goodness in the base almost enough to make me want a bottle. Just not really me--the combo of tuberose and vanilla is not my style, unfortunately.

I got the photo from an article entitled "64 Things Every Geek Should Know." It doesn't include any tips on perfume appreciation, sadly.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fancy free

Hey you guys are awesome! Thanks for taking all that perfume off my hands. I feel like I can better enjoy my perfume cabinet of crazy because I'm reminded less of the misses I've made. All I have left is these:

Vintage Worth Je Reviens edp boule 1 oz. ($25)
Vintage Mary Chess White Lilac toilet water 6 oz. ($10)
Vintage Coriandre mini ($5)

So anyway, I'm kind of fancy free in another way, too. I've bought a lot of samples this summer, and very little has been inspiring. I'm trying to think of this as a good thing. Two things I might want are the Diptyque classics Tam Dao and Philosykos. I'm trolling the Labor Day sales for a good deal on one or both. I might need Egoiste this fall at some point. Maybe Divine by Divine. I can't quite decide if I need it's rosey-peachy-tuberose goodness or not. And of course I'm hoarding my Muscs Koublai Khan decant until I can finally get a bottle when it goes import this winter. I keep telling myself to wait and not buy anything else until I can get the one I REALLY want (a difficult standard to live by in many respects!). But I did, in a moment of weakness, buy Coty Wild Musk oil blind. It's on it's way to me now. It's just filler, sure, but any opinions on that one?

Some meh sample quickies:

Miller et Bertaux = a quiet morning
~ maybe I don't like saffron as much as I thought--surprisingly this seems a little nose-searingly spicy on me, not quiet at all

Donna Karan = Chaos (reissued)
~ lovely and quiet with its unexpected camomile-incense combo, but has a slightly sour edge on my skin

CB I Hate Perfume = Musk Reinvention
~ sour rotten berries and unwashed wino. yikes

Byredo = Bal d'Afrique
~ undistinguished ambery fruity thing with an herbal tinge

Miller Harris = Figue Amere
~ really nice bitter fig for about ten minutes, then collapses utterly

The picture I've used for this post is in honor of a different passion that has re-emerged lately: music. This is a great shot (not mine, I got it from here) of the band Dirty Three performing. One of my favorites. Maybe I'll post some about music until I get my perfume mojo back.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Help me clear out my perfume closet

What happens when this perfume obsessive inadvisedly watches Grey Gardens, looks around and starts getting panicky about the sheer amount of stuff she's managed to hoard? A summer perfume sale! So if you're interested in trying out any of these lovelies for practically zilch, without the bother of a fleabay auction, send me an email and I'll be happy to send you a package. No, I'm not giving up on my love of perfume, as my long silence has suggested. I'm just going through a fallow period, I expect. Most of the stuff I test lately has been misses, or I'm just exceptionally cranky. I will probably do a "missed-the-mark" review post soon, to catalogue the disappointments!

Just let me know if you want to make an offer. Sales are final. I can only ship within the U.S. The non-vintage stuff is all in great shape--I would never sell something that had turned. It's just lost the love from me! The vintage stuff is all in good shape, but I can't promise they are in perfect, not-a-topnote-missing shape. Missing topnotes are just the nature of vintage perfumes, in most cases. My email and paypal account name are both: quipus72 (at yahoo dot com).

You want pictures? You got 'em. See pics and more details of everything here!

--- Listings updated Monday Sept. 7th ---

Vintage stuff I've collected from various vintage/antique stores or fleabay:
(Insured ground shipping: $5 for 1 or 2 bottles, $10 for 3 or more)

((SOLD))Vintage Nina Ricci Coeur-Joie edc 200cc (more than 6 oz.) ($40)
((SOLD))Vintage Balenciaga La Fuite des Heures parfum (empty, sealed bottle and box) 1 oz. ($20)
((SOLD))Vintage Lanvin Arpege parfum .5 oz. ($20)
Vintage Worth Je Reviens edp boule 1 oz. ($25)
((SOLD))Vintage Emeraude edt 1 oz. ($15)
((SOLD))Vintage Millot Crepe de Chine edc 1 oz. ($15)
((SOLD))Vintage Coty Muguet de Bois toilet water 1 oz. ($10)
((SOLD))Vintage YSL Y parfum sample set (set of 3 micro-minis) ($10)
Vintage Mary Chess White Lilac toilet water 6 oz. ($10)
Vintage Coriandre mini ($5)

Recent-ish lovelies for which I've inexplicably lost that loving feeling:
(Insured ground shipping: $5 for 1 or 2 bottles, $10 for 3 or more)

((SOLD))YSL Rive Gauche parfum, .25 oz. ($20)
((SOLD))Chanel No. 22 edt (pre-exclusifs) 3.4 oz. ($50)
((SOLD))Chanel No. 19 edp 3.4 oz. ($25)
((SOLD))Guerlain Chamade edp 1.7 oz refill bottle ($25)
((SOLD))Lancome Sikkim edp 1.7 oz. ($35)
((SOLD))Rochas Mystere edp 1.7 oz. ($35)

Cheapo thrills for $15 each (or 3 for $40), shipping included:

((SOLD))Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Anisia Bella edt 4.2 oz.
((SOLD))Balmain Ambre Gris edp 3.3 oz.
((SOLD))Niki de Saint Phalle edt 1.7 oz.
((SOLD))Magie Noire set Magie Noire edt 1.7 oz. and body lotion 6.8 oz.

More cheapo thrills for $10 each (or 3 for $20), shipping included:

((SOLD))Weil Antilope edc 3.4 oz.
((SOLD))Trussardi Donna edt 3.4 oz.
((SOLD))Royal Secret II edt 1.7 oz.
((SOLD))L'Aromarine Oceane edt 1.6 oz.
((SOLD))Guerlain Meteorites edt 1 oz.
((SOLD))YSL Rive Gauche body creme 6.6 oz.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wandering Roots: Annick Goutal Musc Nomade and Hermes Eau de Gentiane Blanche

Today I'm reviewing two refreshing, non-floral, non-citrus summer fragrances that I have been enjoying lately. They both use unusual root materials to impart a dry, vegetal quality that is quite a tonic in the humidity and heat of a record-breaking Texas summer. I haven't had much energy to blog, or do much of anything, really, so forgive the long pauses between posts, by the way.

I think what entrances me about Musc Nomade is the Bombay wood, which various bloggers have identified as cypriol, a woody, grassy root that is a relative of papyrus. It provides a papery, barely-green, celery-ish tone that balances out the musk. This tone could also be due to the the particular vegetal musk used, which is produced from angelica root, according to Octavian of 1000fragrances. In either case, although the musk glows and almost coats the skin like sunlight and saltwater at the beach, the cypriol is a translucent counterpoint. It makes me think of watery, morning light glowing through a piece of papyrus. As MN dries down I do smell a teensy touch of almondy-ambery-rosey warmth, but there is not much sweetness and I don't detect any laundry musk. This is all about rooty cypriol balancing out the salty musk.

Hermes Eau de Gentiane Blanche uses the gentian root, a note unusual to perfumery but common in Old World digestifs and aperitifs. Arnaud, Bonal, Campari--gentian root is a ingredient in all these beverages, as it is thought to improve digestion. Another common ingredient in the old digestifis is quinine, so it makes sense that EdGB reminds me of a gin and tonic, with real quinine tonic water. So Monsieur Ellena, the perfumer, has nabbed this uncommon material to create EdGB --as beautifully dry and unsweet as any good tonic should be. It also has a crisp, minerally quality, a bit like a Portuguese vinho verde. That's about it--it doesn't go anywhere, except to gradually free a tinge of iris and musk to moderate the bitterness. I don't know why this association keeps coming to mind, because I haven't seen the movie in ages, but this is the Mary Poppins of colognes. Pert, no-nonsense, unique, and supremely capable of convincing anyone to think what's good for them can be fun. Then she disappears on the breeze. Practically perfect in every way.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cruel Summer: Experimental Layering Spree

The Texan's version of cabin fever is a danger to my sanity lately, so if you will, kind reader, picture me with Bananarama's "Cruel Summer" playing in the soundtrack in my head, not wanting to brave my 5,000-degree car to go anywhere, watching DVDs, painting, and trying new perfume combinations whenever I am home from work. I've been madly experimenting with layering some of my summery fragrances to satisfy my craving for new combinations while staying within the translucent fragrance family that is all I can stand during the 100-degree days here in Austin.

Diorella deodorant spray + Creed Jasmal
(The Diorella, by the way, is one of the old bottles you can get at parfum1, and it's damn good. At $22.50 minus 25% off, they're practically paying you to get it--what're you waiting for?)

Gap Orange Blossom + Estee Lauder Private Collection parfum
(weird, I know, but the Gap stuff gives the somewhat ponderous PC a nice little effervescent lift)

Guerlain Vetiver + Madini Azahar oil
(I end of layering the Vetiver with just about anything right now, actually, but this is a particularly nice combo)

Diorissimo edt + Monsieur Givenchy
(the Diorissimo femmes up my beloved Monsieur, then the Monsieur drydown makes me imagine I'm smelling the old Diorissimo with the oakmoss naughtiness that alas, is no more)

Guerlain Anisia Bella + Annick Goutal Musc Nomade
(the Musc Nomade is another favorite layering base right now--here it magically takes away the acrid tinge I often get from Anisia Bella)

L'Aromarine Mousse de Chene + Givenchy Le De
(warm, sweetened oakmoss/jasmine tea)

Prada Infusion d'Iris + CdG Avignon
(quiet but eccentric incense iris)

What are you layering lately?

Image from

Friday, June 12, 2009

Diptyque L'Eau de Tarocco vs. Prada's Infusion d'Iris

I came home today and eagerly ripped open a small package of samples to find a precious little vial of the new L'Eau de Tarocco cologne just released by Diptyque. I dabbed some on, stuck my nose in my wrist, and thought: what does this remind me of? Well, I just marched myself right over to my perfume cabinet of crazy (aka the wunderkabinett, aka my perfume storage) to compare. Yep, the orange opening of L'Eau de Tarocco is a dead ringer for Prada's Infusion d'Iris! Or more precisely, it's a ringer for IdI's mandarin orange topnote.

For a moment there, all I felt was a deep sense of relief--I mean, Diptyque don't discount, dude. If I could live without it: whew, close call.

But not so fast! After giving both more time to develop, I find I'm not let off the hook at all. As alike as these seem at first, the two really highlight the difference in quality of materials used by the independent niche Diptyque line vs. the prestige department store brand Prada. I am a firm IdI fan--I think it's a great summer fragrance--but in comparison with the more subtle L'EdT, the IdI suddenly seems to be a sledgehammer of iris-and-incense-tinged synthetic musk. I never perceived IdI as lacking in transparency until I compared it with L'EdT's diaphanous and creamy veils of cinnamon, ginger, and saffron sliding over that stunning blood orange backdrop. That now-obvious musk of IdI seems a poor attempt to approximate the sort of skin-melding smoothness of the L'EdT. But there is a compromise. You have to smoosh your nose right up to your wrist to smell it after 20 minutes; even so, the unsweetened quality and integrity of the notes continues to amaze.

I'm not a huge citrus fan, and have a definite preference for orange, unless it has a pride of animalic notes (Dior Eau Fraiche) or has an impeccably soft-spoken mossiness (Monsieur de Givenchy). I can't do sharp citruses like Eau de Rochas or Eau de Guerlain. L'Eau de Tarocco, therefore, may indeed be indispensible, and I can already see it sitting next to my treasured bottle of Fendi's discontinued Theorema (another transcendent orange) in my wunderparfumkabinett. (Hey, I can make up German words if I want!) They would make a fabulous, complementary seasonal pair: Theorema for winter, L'Eau de Tarocco for summer. I have to set a condition on buying it for myself, though: I need to finish up that bottle of Infusion d'Iris first.

Image of Tarocco Blood Orange is from

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dewy vs. Raspy: Givenchy Le De (Mythiques edition)

One of my favorite summer perfumes is both a typical example of modern musky-floral perfumery and also shows a really interesting textural contrast that I rarely find in that genre. Le De, the recent reedition of the vintage Givenchy fragrance from 1957, is a study in delicacy.

I won't say the opening is an aquatic lily of the valley and jasmine combo, because I don't want to turn off those, like me, who loathe aquatic fragrances, but it's a bit... dewy. Yeah, dewy! No sharp lily of the valley topnotes here. The perfumer has, obviously with some synthetic slight of hand, muted the white flowers so they evoke a humid summer morning.

What is intriguing, though, is that the dewy floral quality is contrasted by a gently raspy coriander note that is just my favorite thing ever. It's all quite simple and dries down to a low-key musky sandalwood. I love it on days when I want something undemandingly lovely. It's a mental health day in a bottle. In fact, I'm wearing it today while playing hooky from work, hiding out from mental effort and the 100-degree weather, napping in front of the TV, on which I'm playing favorite comfort DVDs like Jeeves and Wooster and the latest Harry Potter. I have to admit, some times I'm just not equal to vintage Rumeur or Cabochard! Today is one of those days.

I'm curious, though (aren't I always?) about the vintage Le De and how it compares to this reedition. I haven't smelled the vintage, and if you have, I'd love to hear what you think. Is it worth seeking out? No wait, on second thought, don't tempt me!

Top notes are coriander and lily-of-the-valley; middle notes are jasmine, ylang-ylang and bulgarian rose; base notes are sandalwood, vetiver and incense.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jean Patou Vacances and Mary Chess White Lilac

I was lucky enough to be able to sample a couple of lilac perfumes this spring, and I'm finally writing about them. I found a large, pristine bottle of Mary Chess's long-lost White Lilac toilet water at a vintage shop here in Austin, and it intrigued me. And a friend gave me a sample of Jean Patou's lamentedly discontinued Vacances, so I thought I would compare them.

Honeyed and haylike and linear, Mary Chess White Lilac is a wonder of sustained lilac, insistent beyond what I could hope for, especially because this is supposedly a toilet water, and lilac notes are notoriously evanescent. Sadly, it gets more generically nectarous and soapy as it dries down, and wearing it reminds me of grandma's bathroom in Iowa, with the new-plastic-shower-curtain-liner smell, shell-shaped guest soaps and towels, and the window open with the lilac bush outside. Sorry for the tired "old lady" imagery, all! I can't help it; I associate lilacs with my grandma, and she just cannot be banished from my head when I wear this.

Vacances starts out with a green ivy-ish note, smoother than the galbanum overdose of vintage Vent Vert, and the lilac pads in on kitten paws, subtly sweetening as it dries down in whiffs of of a vaguely woody musk. There is nothing like grandma's bathroom about this one. The lilac makes this fragrance a nearly photorealist representation of lilac week at the Jamaica Plain Arboretum, near where I used to live in Boston. On a certain week early in Spring, I would take strolls through the grass and sample the scents of dozens of varieties of blooming lilac bushes in the mild New England weather. Like lilac week, Vacances is short-lived, or at least wears very close to the skin after a half hour or so. I am testing either an edt or edc version.

White Lilac was introduced in 1930, according to basenotes, and Vacances in 1936, I believe. Both are very tender, springlike fragrances, and I find them both a little melancholy, perhaps because of the sweet, aquatic nature of lilac scents. Neither are really me--perhaps they are a bit too innocent-seeming for my jaded tastes lately. Vacances is really lovely, though, and I think I would enjoy it more if I were spritzing with abandon. Unfortunately that's not an option because it is so rare!

Perfume Smellin' Things has a lovely review of Vacances, as does Bois de Jasmin, if you'd like to learn more about it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Go to your happy place

You know how visualizations for air travel (and other) anxiety often recommend you go to your happy place? Pretend you're not on a plane? I can tell you right now: bullsh*t. No way, no how, do those work for me.

I just got back from visiting my dad, and the trip convinced me that the airsickness to which I've always been prone is getting too awful to handle on my own. I need to get some help, and some serious, prescription-strength meds. I can't even describe the misery. Even drugged to the gills with Bonine or Dramamine, I'm a mess: shaking, sweating, gulping in deep breaths of air, and convinced I'm going to vomit every second of some descents, while in others I can relatively easily keep it together. I never know which it's going to be, and my life-long history of being so ill during flights has made it worse and worse, so I work myself up into a state of terror before most flights.

Okay, taking a deep breath. I feel nauseous just *talking* about airsickness. I joke that it's just exhausting trying to keep the airplane up in the air by sheer will-power, and that's why I need a full day to recover from any flight, but it's not really a conscious fear of the plane dropping out of mid-air. I know that it won't. Really I do! It's that my body, for some reason super-sensitive to that feeling of the plane fighting gravity, anticipates every bobble to be a possibly endless freefall. That's why the only visualization that helps is for me to imagine that the wobbles and bumps are of wheels on a road. I have to visualize that I'm somehow in more control than I really am: I can see the horizon, as if I'm on a bus or something, watching the countryside whizz by. Even flying the plane, visualizing that I can control the forward trajectory, is a better imagined scenario to stave off the panic.

So I have steadily been accumulating an arsenal of precautions and strategies to not let the airsickness get the upper hand. Eating something bready before the flight, taking an anti-emetic, taking a mild muscle-relaxant, bringing a baguette or crackers for the flight, staying hydrated, chewing gum, keeping my head still and looking out toward the horizon, deep breathing, visualizations, noise-cancelling headphones. Geez, what a neurotic mess. I wonder if perfume could be part of this arsenal. I mean, why not? It could be put to good use that way.

Believe me, I've tried all those homeopathic motion sickness remedies like the acupressure wristbands, ginger, peppermint, etc. etc. All useless when you're talking neurosis of this magnitude. But I did find that one recent flight was made a little more bearable when I huffed on my vintage Rumeur. (I didn't wear enough of it to assault anyone else's nose on the plane.) I have to wonder if perhaps this animalic carnation scent that I've been so fascinated by lately has therapeutic qualities. I find the costus in it to be a very comforting skin/body odor scent, myself, although I know most would not find those notes to be anything like a comfort scent.

It's probably just that my familiarity with and affection for my vintage juice calms me and distracts me from my misery. But it made me curious: how do other people calm themselves on plane flights, and do others use perfume as aromatherapy in stressful situations? Do you have a scent that you wear when you fly? Do you find aromatherapy oils to be useful when you're anxious, or do you consider Cristalle aromatherapy? Or do you say to hell with aromatherapy, just never fly sober, like my friend M.? Personally, I would prefer to be knocked unconscious upon strapping myself into my seat, because I hate hangovers. But until that great day, I'm hoping you, dear reader, have suggestions or experiences regarding how to survive air travel or other similarly stressful situations. Because I *gulp* have to get back on a plane again in less than a month for my dad's wedding.

Thanks! And happy travel season!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Frakking Fabulous

I've been tagged as a f'ing fabulous blog by two very lovely fellow bloggers: Mary from Tea, Sympathy and Perfume, and Divina of Fragrance Bouquet. Thank you! I hope no one will be offended if I don't follow all the rules. I love all the blogs in my blogroll at the right, and many more besides, but I don't feel comfortable tagging others. Dunno why, exactly. I'm cranky about following rules.

But here, submitted for your enjoyment/mockery/head-shaking disbelief, here are five addictions I have besides perfume:

1. Rewatching the entire (recent) Battlestar Galactica series. I was so upset by the finale I had to go back to the brilliant beginning. I don't know if I've previously let on about my sci-fi love, but can I just tell you how excited I was that Peter Berg is planning a new adaptation of Dune? Squeee! He can't possibly screw it up more than Dino de Laurentiis, right? Right?

2. Blues music: John Lee Hooker and The Black Keys have been long-time favorites, but I'm especially obsessed with pretty much every singer on an amazing compilation called Men Are Like Streetcars: Women Blues Singers 1928-1969. Betty James, Georgia White, Blue Lu Barker; I can't believe they aren't more widely recognized. Have you ever watched a pre-code movie like Trouble in Paradise or Dinner at Eight? I'm always stunned in awe at the frank sexuality and loose morals flouncing around those movies like Jean Harlow's ivory-satin-clad hips, and this is the musical equivalent. Songs about toking, drinking, f*ing, losing in love, getting yours, and getting away with it. Not to mention, erm, metaphors involving chauffers, vipers, swings, hot nuts, and feeling mellow. What's not to love?

3. All things British. In fact, as a transplanted Texan, I'm perversely obsessed with rain, gloom, anything gothic, and anything British. I am that geek who can discuss the merits of just about every Jane Austen adaptation vs. the books, idolizes Emma Thompson for her adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and has watched (or own) just about every BBC costume drama ever. made. From North and South, to Cranford, to Wives and Daughters, to the Woman in White, it goes on and on, and I even crush hard on Hugh Laurie as the nitwit extraordinaire Bertie Wooster and David Tennant as an unlikely Casanova (not to mention as the Doctor, but see #1 for my weakness for sci-fi). And the newish adaptation of Jane Eyre with Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester? OMG don't get me started.

4. Researching a trip to Ireland, because what could possibly be better than walking through the countryside every day and always finding yourself within relatively easy distance of chips, beer, and a decent bed? Heaven!

5. Learning how to bake a decent sourdough loaf. My dad will help me with this, because I'm going to visit him in a couple days, and he's built an old-world brick bread oven in his back yard.

Instructions and Rules:
1. You have to pass it (the award) on to 5 other fabulous blogs in a post.
2. You have to list 5 of your fabulous addictions in the post.
3. You must copy and paste the rules and the instructions below in the post.
Instructions: On your post of receiving this award, make sure you include the person that gave you the award and link it back to them. When you post your five winners, make sure you link them as well. To add the award to your post, simply right-click, save image, then “add image” it in your post as a picture so your winners can save it as well. To add it to your sidebar, add the “picture” widget. Also, don’t forget to let your winners know they won an award from you by emailing them or leaving a comment on their blog.

Vintage Rumeur revisited, with a digression on costus

I've done glib dismissals, one-liners, and now: crow pie.

Previously dismissed by me in favor of Scandal, Lanvin's (original) Rumeur parfum I now acknowledge to be a wonder. I've become more attuned to the scent of costus nowadays, since I fell for Muscs Koublai Khan, and now the vintage Rumeur is unfolding depths I just didn't catch before. The clove that had seemed so overpowering and medicinal now shifts back and forth from spice to floral quite mesmerizingly, taming the unwashed-hair and wine-soaked-leather character of costus (although I'm sure the effect is created in combination with other chypre-ish basenotes, of course) in the drydown. It's poetically unwashed, as in "I just spent two weeks swaying on the back of this damn camel, staring at the desert, and I'm not quite ready for civilization yet."

Frustratingly, I've found nearly nothing about this perfume's history or descriptions of what it originally smelled like, but Octavian of 1000fragrances has a post about costus in which he identifies it in the older formulations of fragrances including Cabochard and Rumeur. Now it jumps out at me in both. What does costus smell like? Well, apart from the camel-driver's-armpit allusions often pulled out for musky scents like Muscs Koublai Khan, this source describes the scent as "at first like violets, but as it ages it can become more fur-like or eventually become unpleasantly goat-like." Is the goat-like quality what makes it seem so challenging but at the same time makes me think: man, that's some good stink? Mmm, goat. Okay, well, I hope it's the furry quality, not the goat.

Like many plants/resins/etc. mentioned in ancient texts, there is a lot of confusion about whether what the ancient world knew as costus is the same as what we know today. In Pliny's natural history, he says that costus "has a burning taste in the mouth and most exquisite odor," and that a locale renowned for its white costus was the island of Patale, at the mouth of the Indus River, which is in present-day Pakistan. I can't find many geographic records of Patale online, although some studies of ancient Indus Valley civilizations say that Patale was a name for the land of the Indus delta.

Pliny's description is unlikely the costus we talk about today in perfumery, though, given that plant directories like this source on costus (scientific name Saussurea lappa or Saussurea costus) identifies it as a high-altitude plant known to grow at the other end of the Indus, in the Himalayas. I love all the common names for costus that this source lists: kuth, kushta, patchak, and mu xiang, to name a few. It has a long list of medicinal attributes, and it has long been used in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines. Maybe Pliny was confusing Saussurea lappa with the tropical herbaceous family of plants named the Costaceae, also known as spiral gingers. Nigel Groom's The New Perfume Handbook also identifies costus as a Himalayan plant. Interestingly, he says it may also have been cultivated in Arabia and used in early perfumes there.

Why I'm idly digressing on the history of costus is that I really enjoy imagining the extension back into ancient history of the elaborate links between geography, botany, trade, medicine, and perfumery, romanticization though it certainly is. The sophisticated (inaccuracies just add to the sense of a wild, unreliable, exquisitely varied world) reports of location, characteristics, cultivation, and value as a commodity reveal the ravenous acquisitory lust of empire that doesn't seem much different from the hunt for the new new thing today. Pliny notes both sources and costs in dinarii when he catalogs botanical finds; he's scouting resources for Rome, isn't he? It's both disturbing and exhilarating. What a find! What precious treasures are still hidden in the Himalayas, or at the Indus River delta, that we may lose or find today? Do we exploit or revere if we seek them? Does it have to be one or the other? Good questions for a perfume-lover, I suppose.

Image is of the Indus River, which I got here.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sultry summer lemon; Or, Dior's Eau Fraîche

A lemony cologne can't be sultry, you say? I thought the same thing. Colognes are all about the sunny citrus fruit–cool and dry or juicy and sweet–and not much else, so I thought. I wasn't much interested. But then I found Dior's Eau Fraîche. I had no idea Dior had bottled the formula for an ideal summer "vacances."

Eau Fraîche is all warm, savory lemons on a bed of naughty oakmoss and civet. The citrus isn't sharp or sweet, but very rounded, making me feel indolent rather than refreshed. Having smelled Guerlain's Mouchoir de Monsieur lately, I would describe this as a more unaffected, more effervescent, and more interesting version of fresh lemon on an animalic base. I haven't found any confirmation that there is civet in this perfume anywhere else, and I almost couldn't believe it when I first sniffed. I mean, civet skank in a juice with "fresh" in the title? You gotta love that. It's so perverse, and in only the best way. This perfume is best suited for Adriatic breezes and drinks after a swim at the Lido, or an amorous siesta on crisp sheets at the Grand Hotel Excelsior, Venice, circa August 1928.

I am turning into a Dior girl, that's for sure. Lately my Guerlains have been too heavy, my Chanels too powdery, my Lanvins too dark. In summer, the old Diors just have that perfect husky but effortless tenor to them. I fell for Miss Dior and Diorling long ago. I started loving Diorissimo this spring, and now I can't live without Eau Fraîche. Now all that I need is to get over my anti-melon stance to truly appreciate Diorella and Diorama, and to find the untraceable Dior Dior, and I'll be a true fanatic. Well, okay, it may be too late.

Perfume Shrine wrote a very knowledgeable review of Eau Fraîche that you'll enjoy, I'm sure, if you want to learn more.

You can find Eau Fraîche on fleabay and on some perfume discount websites still, but I don't know details on its production status. It is really rare in the U.S., at least, from what I can tell. Does anyone know if it's still being produced by Dior?

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Top 12 of Summer

I've seen lots of fabulous spring fragrance top 10 lists lately, which I love reading, but here in Texas let's face it: spring was sooooo two weeks ago. It's summer, really. So I thought I'd start a best of summer list, and I can't seem to stop at ten, so here's twelve. Gosh, I can't believe I haven't reviewed all of these yet. I have much blogging to do, don't I?

o1. Miss Dior (recent parfum or vintage edt/edc)
02. Givenchy Le De (This recent reissued edt is so lovely and subtle, it's easy to overlook. Easy like a Sunday morning, baby.)
03. Dior Eau Fraiche (A Dior-lover's heavenly dry cologne)
04. Diorling (This is the recent edt, which is more of a gorgeous jasmine and tobacco fragrance with an astringent top than it is a leather. Addictive.)
05. Guerlain Vetiver (Refreshing, tonic, palate-cleanser)
06. Vent Vert (vintage edt)
07. Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie
08. Chanel No. 19 (The iris and vetiver edt is essential to me for summer, but the parfum works in summer too, with that beautiful galbanum in the top notes.)
09. Prada Infusion d'Iris (Another iris-vetiver combo for when I feel like a more modern, understated mandarin burst in the topnotes.)
10. Worth Je Reviens Couture
11. 1000 de Patou edt (Anyone else find Luca Turin's description of this as "dowdy" just uncalled-for? This has a self-assured, I-don't-need-to-impress-anybody beauty.)
12. Jasmal by Creed

Image is Rome from Mount Aventine by J.M.W. Turner

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In Which I Consider a Trip to Paris, Again

On top of the recent Now Smell This report of the Perfumes Exposition taking place in Paris this September, I've have fallen deeply in love with Muscs Koublai Khan, a Paris exclusive from Serge Lutens. Both have me seriously considering a trip to Paris.

As the (lamentedly) ex-perfume-blogger Ina of aromascope described it, Muscs Koublai Khan is my "favorite olfactory pet." And I love that she described it that way, because that sense of a creature with a beating heart connects MKK to another animalic charmer for me: Joy parfum. That jasmine wonder, once I got past the petrol whiff it's jasmine initially gives off, has always seemed to me more closely related to a furry creature than a perfume. I've never "gotten" civet until I smelled it in Joy, and I've never "gotten" musk until I discovered it in MKK. Both seem to take on lives of their own on the skin.

In MKK I have found another pet. I might even "love him and hug him and call him George" (You know you want to watch the classic "Abominable Snow Bunny" Bugs Bunny cartoon if you don't know what I'm talking about). It's salty; it's naughty; it's utterly transfixing. To my nose, it has none of the soapiness of some musks such as Kiehl's, and it's also not the gentle woody musk of Annick Goutal's Musc Nomade. Furthermore, its perfection is further confirmed because it has none of the "soiled underwear" that Luca Turin so accurately describes in Miller Harris's L'Air de Rien. Your mileage may vary, of course, but let me just say I thank my lucky stars that MKK is the scent of my fantasy (i.e. bathed) horseman-warrior revealed by the warm, flickering light of a few beeswax candles. L'Air de Rien is Mick Jagger's skidmarked undies, circa 1968.

I need to go to Paris, obviously. Seems like a reasonable trek to take for such a beautiful beast.

The last time I felt this way, it was brought on by another Serge Lutens beauty: Iris Silver Mist. Hm, a pattern may be emerging here.

I've seen on the fantastic blog Serge Lutens: Nearly All the Facts that MKK may be joining the export range of fragrances this coming holiday season. squeee!!!

Image of a musk deer from A Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology, uploaded by

Monday, April 13, 2009

Shaken not stirred: Niki de Saint Phalle

I've had a bottle of Niki de Saint Phalle's eponymous perfume (edt) for several months, but didn't really know what to make of it. I've finally figured out what it reminds me of: a dirty gin martini, straight up, three olives, shaken not stirred. Now I love gin, but with NdSP I understand why some people don't. As soon as I put it on, and continuing through the drydown, it feels too moonshine-ish, too heady-flowery, too high-test. No matter how much I like a good dirty martini, I don't particularly like feeling as if I've bathed in one. That's what NdSP feels like. I guess this all could be summed up as: it wears me, not the other way around.

I hoped it would turn me into the immortal, smart-mouthed Myrna Loy in The Thin Man, martini in hand, but alas. I've heard much about the oddity, the bitter tagetes (marigold), the vetiver. However, it's not bitter in the sense I expected, from my love of leathery chypres like vintage Cabochard and Diorling. Now with those perfumes I feel like I could make an attempt at pretending to be the witty, irresistible Nora Charles. But with NdSP I get only an overwhelming, sharp, woody-flowery spike through my head, which after a while feels not like the buzz, but like the morning after a few too many martinis. Oh well, I'll give it another twirl another time. With my often-changing perfume tastes lately, I may well fall in love with it next time I try it.

Notes: Jasmin, Rose, Marigold, Ylang-Ylang, Vetyver, Sandalwood, Patchouly, Amber, Musk

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Mood: blustery

Wallace Stevens can usually be counted on to be right--irritatingly so. We are the weather, he says, and like the weather right now, I'm feeling ambivalent and fickle. Reading Wallace Stevens' Harmonium is perfect for my mood. What's a better description of Spring's blustery changeableness than this:
The sovereign clouds came clustering. The conch
Of loyal conjuration trumped. The wind
Of green blooms turning crisped the motley hue

To clearing opalescence. Then the sea
And heaven rolled as one and from the two
Came fresh transfigurings of freshest blue.
-- Sea Surface Full of Clouds, Wallace Stevens
Some more quickie, fickle Spring fragrance reviews to go with my mood:

Dior Escale a Portofino
A nice orange blossom cologne, with a bit of almondy notes. I have a decant of L'Artisan Parfumeur's Fleur d'Oranger limited edition, though, and this is not as nice. Redundant.

Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan
Wow, this is supposed to be intimidating? You cuddly-wuddly warrior-horseman, you. Who's a big, bad Mongol emperor? C'mere.

Guerlain Jicky edt
Hot mess of overbearing lavender and tumid vanilla, completely unbearable to me, sadly. I can't do lavender and vanilla--doesn't work for me in Caron's Pour Un Homme, either.

Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur
Like an eccentric and frustrating boyfriend, first repellant (an initial hit of civet, i.e. poo) who becomes more attractive (lemony citrus warmed irresistably by civet). I'm going to try layering this with something floral, since it is a bit too linear once it calms.

Kiehl's Original Musk
Floral, powdery musk, with none of the sweaty tang that makes Muscs Kublai Khan so comforting.

Jil Sander #4 parfum
Smells like panettone, the spiced, raisin-studded Italian holiday bread.

Narciso Rodriguez edt
Floor-cleaner citrus that appears to be not quite well-blended with a barely perceptible (to me) musk.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Anticipations, Quickies, Cheapo Finds, and Ambivalence

Do you have any scents you're yearning for, or a frustrating ambivalence, lately? Here are my recent anticipations, tests, finds, and fickleness.

Most anticipated new releases:

Robert Piquet's Futur (as reported in Sniffapalooza Magazine)
Lubin's Gin Fizz (as reported by Carmencanada in Grain de Musc)
Ego Facto's Me Myself and I
Ego Facto's Jamais le Dimanche (a new brand currently only available at Marionnaud, as reported by Octavian Coifan at 1000fragrances)

Recently tested:

Parfums de Nicolai Odalisque
Just like other PdNs I've tried, the topnotes are just an unreproachably lovely bouquet with a gentle touch of green sparkle, so well blended that I can't tell where the lily of the valley begins or the iris ends, because it all just melds so smoothly that it...then starts to bore me silly, for some reason I just can't fathom. Why me? Why can't I love these? So unfair.

Strange Invisible Perfumes Urban Lily
Ummm... I can't say yet if this is urban. Moldy lily of the valley juice crushed weeks ago into a sidewalk-crack by passersby, maybe? Tabac
Beautiful. An unambery, non-gooey, non-gourmand tobacco leaf scent. I'm still not sure I've found my tobacco holy grail, though.

Jasmal by Creed
Waxy to the point of fruitiness and green jasmine. So simple I tend to think it isn't necessary, until Joy parfum is just a little too creamy and complex and brainy to deal with on a Texas summer's day. Sweetens into a banana-jasmine in the drydown.

Givenchy III
Raspy, silvery-green, and velvet-furred like lamb's ear leaves. The coriander always has me entranced up front, but then I end up getting a bit tired of it; it feels a bit too linear, even for a confirmed green chypre lover. I love it, then I'm bored, then I love it, then I don't. Another one I'm ambivalent about, to say the least.

Messe de Minuit by Etro
The first time I sniffed this, in the dry, dry, cool Texas winter, it repulsed me like a dank, moldy basement. Now, with some spring moisture in the air, it is a lovely citric-tinged incense with a musky undertone.

Cheapo finds:

Vivienne Westwood Libertine
This is making me doubt my sanity. I actually LIKE a fruity floral. With pineapple (shudder) in it.

Bvlgari Black
Thank goodness I was able to return the stinker watery bottle of this I bought off eBay a while ago, and now have a good bottle from a reputable online retailer. I already knew I loved it, but I'm newly overjoyed by the rubbery black tea topnotes.

Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel
See recent review for my slavering adoration.

Perfumes I'm afraid I've fallen out of love with:

Oh dear, I have full bottles of these and I'm not sure I can stomach them anymore. I may need to wait until next winter to make a final stay-or-go decision on these, but I'm feeling fickle and overloaded with perfumes I don't love. I may need to clear out some bottles from the collection.

Annick Goutal Heure Exquise

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A wet black bough, or, I discover Grey Flannel

The perfect March scent is not what I expected at all. I'm finally getting out from under the workload, and the SWSX madness has awakened me a bit from all-work-no-play tedium. I've been working my way out of a perfume lull, as well. It's just getting warm enough in Texas for me to starting wanting something crisp, austere, and preferably androgynous. I've got enough girly perfumes, and my mainstays through the winter have been vintage, bosomy, animalic floral parfums like Joy and My Sin. So I was at TJ Maxx one mid-March morning, and what do I find for $16... Geoffrey Beene's Grey Flannel.

This is what I wanted Black March by CB I Hate Perfume to be, but wasn't. I was disappointed with Black March: it's nice, but too aquatic for my taste, and disappears too quickly. Why is it that aquatic scents don't capture that cold, wet, blustery, wind-chapped-cheeks feeling I actually want? How do they manage not to be envigorating? That aquatic note is like a still pond, not a rainy day, I guess.

I seem to remember having recoiled like I'd been slapped on previously sniffing this wonder. Now I'm fantasizing about finding a man just so I can spray him down with it. It's that good, people! Hm, I wonder if my next-door neighbor would let me...okay, better not go there. That initial smack of citrus and violet (is it also violet leaf, I wonder?) is a little scary at first, especially if you've grown to loathe department stores' harsh, chemically masculines, 98% of which seem to flay your nose with violet leaf topnotes, but hang in for a sec, don't judge, and ... ah, there it is: like a comforting wool sweater after walking through the woods on a moody, scratchy March day. I get rain-soaked, just-budding March branches, and the dewiest, unsweet violets nestled in wind-whipped, bitter green leaves that probably come from the geranium and sage notes, but which to me smell like artemisia. That's probably because I have tons of artemisia in my yard, so smell it all the time. As I compulsively sniff my arm, I keep thinking: not just bitter-sweet, but bitter-warm and bitter-soft, to boot. Perfection.

Notes include: lemon, violet, sage, geranium, oakmoss, patchouli, cedar, sandalwood.

So why did I ever feel the need to go niche to find a moody, rainy-day atmosphere perfume? Do yourself a favor and hit a Marshall's or a TJ Maxx and buy some of this stuff before they change it.

Image of Loch Ness from Sunny Scotland.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Surreptitious sniffery: Vol de Nuit vintage parfum

Sadly, there comes a time in every perfumista's life when the self-indulgent, gleeful exuberance of exploration and waftage is interrupted, and I've been going through such a break. No it's not because of the economy. I've got enough perfume to keep me happy for decades without buying anything new. No, the problem is a combination of two factors: I find myself relatively more content with what I've got than in trying new things lately, and (dum dum DUM) I've got a scent-sensitive coworker in my work team.

I've had to go covert in my work-a-day perfume life, and it's not fun, people. It's stifling and frustrating, in fact. The day that this scent-sensitive coworker told me my precious Joy parfum, amplified during a meeting in a tiny office with five copyeditors gathered around one computer screen, was making it hard for her to breathe, I have to admit I struggled with a combination of sympathy and irritation. I'm an awful, horrible, no good person, but there it is! Wearing perfume is...a part of me. I feel like there's something missing all day if I'm not wearing something. But there are positives to being covert as well. It's put the mellow, luxurious parfums in my collection front and center, because of course there's little sillage to worry about my coworker objecting to. A little Cuir de Russie, a dab of My Sin, or one drop of Miss Dior is the sort of thing I wear at work lately. I'm always surprised at how sustained these classics are at low volume.

So today, for instance, I am wearing a teensy tiny little smidgen of Vol de Nuit parfum on one wrist. Thanks to Alyssa for the sample! And oh dear, I wish I had more to say about it. I have tried and failed to write a review of this perfume before, and I still feel stymied. So let me compare it to my beloved L'Heure Bleue (vintage parfum to vintage parfum).

Whereas L'HB starts out with that anise-heliotrope-scented Band-Aid (which I love!), VdN is sharply tomato-garden-and-spice green from the galbanum and woods, and perhaps the daffodil is an element in that first note as well (but honestly I'm not sure I am discerning that note correctly). Jasmine, iris, and woods are in the mix, as well. I'm a huge fan of galbanum, and I just love, love, love the stage in which the bitter greens struggle with the base notes of amber and the signature Guerlain vanilla. However, the base notes very quickly take over the composition on my skin, which is probably why I can't love it quite as much as L'HB, which continues the juxtaposition of bitter aniseed and carnation to sweet heliotrope, vanilla, and musk long into the drydown. It's that baroque contradiction that I love in the vintage Guerlains, so the longer that effect seems to last on my skin, the more I love the perfume.

Work is still crazy, so posts will still be few and far between, but thanks everyone for the lovely recent comments, and happy sniffage, all!

Image originally uploaded by Perfume Shrine.