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.