Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer favorites list, and signing off, at least for a while

I might as well admit it: as my reluctant and sporadic posting suggests, I have lost the will to blog, folks. I still love perfume, and love reading all my fellow perfumistas' clever and fascinating perspectives on perfume. I love reading about new discoveries and vintage treasures, but I think I may have reached a saturation point in my own life with perfume, and writing about it in this format isn't the joy it used to be. Perfume is still a solace, a delight, a charm of protection, a call to the hunt, and a disquieting mystery. I think I just need to explore it in different ways, and am not very articulate about the experience right now.

See you on the (other) blogs!

Here's a summer favorites list to sign off with:

Kiehl's Original Musk
For some reason this used to smell very powdery and uninteresting to me, but now it's just the right mixture of sweetness, salty skin, and hippie funk.

Givenchy Le De vintage eau de toilette
I've been a fan of the reissued "Mythiques" version of Le De for a year or two now, but I never had the chance to try the vintage until recently. It's a lovely, slightly melancholy, minor-key garden-herb jasmine in the eau de toilette.

Ormonde Jayne Champaca
As always, I find the basmati rice and creamy florals in this scent to be supremely comforting but never boring. It makes me feel luscious!

Gucci edp II
This is a new and oddball scent in my collection, but for some reason I keep falling for it. Berries and greenery, then it disappears. But for some reason, it satisfies my heretofore-unheard-of craving for a light berry summer fragrance for the office.

L'Artisan Parfumeur Dzing!
Great in the winter, and scarily great in 100-degree summers, this is the furry masterpiece I never want to be without.

Vero Kern Onda extrait
When I read the notes list, at first I thought: mace? Like the medieval weapon? Like that sledgehammer spice that seems to pop up only in brick-weighted holiday fruit bread? Nope, like velvet, this is. A more dangerous, transporting, and seductive use of spice and vetiver I have never experienced, and it works in the summer just as well as in the winter.

Givenchy eau de toilette, vintage
Let's see, there's oakmoss, more sweet, bergamot-tinged oakmoss, with a little tender florals in there somewhere. And oakmoss. The perfect summer cologne for those of us who can do without the citrus.

Annick Goutal Un Matin d'Orage eau de toilette
Resisting the urge to hoard much more of this right now. The bitter shiso and petrichor in the topnotes just hooks me every time. Then it subsides into an unsweet but somehow creamy and green floral. Definitely not a perfume to buy unsniffed, but I'm addicted to it.

Miller Harris Un Petit Rien eau de cologne
A more translucent and summery version of L'Air de Rien, or "the lair" as I like to call it. Still very recognizably the skank-monster's little sister, but she opens the windows to let some fresh air in once in a while.

Donna Karan Chaos eau de parfum
Tangy chamomile, woody cinnamon, and musky, nongourmand cardamom are the strongest impressions I get from this strange but compelling perfume. I have to admit after comparing it to my tiny sample of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's sadly discontinued version, Anarchy, I find the DSH slightly better blended, because the cinnamon quality is a little less linear and overwhelming in Dawn's version. But nonetheless, this is a great example of one of my favorite categories: oddball comfort scents.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Wanting What I Have

I am a lucky, lucky woman, both in life and my perfume hunt! I have been thinking this week: I can't even believe I've had the good fortune to own two different bottles of Lanvin Scandal, in two different states of preservation. I haven't been wearing them nearly enough. I'm taking advantage of the cool, spring weather here in Austin to wear the better-preserved of the two. Whereas one is tarry leather cat-o-nine-tails studded with clove buds that I wear in winter, the one I've been wearing recently is the soft floral leather everyone talks about when they talk about Scandal. It's a supple, bring-the-Bentley-around-I'm-going-to-town floral leather.

I have plenty of many wonderful perfumes. A collection many would be envious of, even. Why do I keep wanting more and different smells? Sometimes it seems like pure greed. For instance, I realized the other day that that bottle of Rosine's Secrets de Rose I'm so coveting? It has nothing on the gloriously weird rose in Magie Noire parfum I already have sitting in my cabinet. That almost-certainly awesome leather I've never smelled yet? Can it really hold a candle to the Cuir de Russie parfum and vintage Lanvin Scandal? I already know the answer to that: hell, no, it can't. I bought Etro Gomma as a blind buy before I realized that. Thank goodness for return policies! And take that lovely white floral on my wish list: Van Cleef and Arpels Gardénia Pétale. Is there really any reason why I would choose to wear it over Balenciaga's La Fuite des Heures, or the reissued Le De Givenchy, Ormonde Jayne's Champaca, or Goutal's Un Matin d'Orage? (Hmm, I might still have room for another white floral in my collection...) Finally, why do I find myself lusting for Agent Provocateur at all, when I have so many lovely chypres and musky sexbomb orientals that I barely wear them? I won't bore you with starting a list--just take Miss Dior alone. Sometimes I don't know why I bother with any other perfume at all, and I've stockpiled enough to keep myself marinating in vintage Miss Dior for years to come.

You can say it's all about the new experiences, the journey, and that's why we keep craving new things. And I know enough about myself now I can say finding the holy grail perfume is not the point. But sometimes even a devout perfumaholic needs to say: enough's enough--I have to give my attention to appreciating what I have already!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Two Very Different Spring Flings: Week-end à Deauville and L'Heure Fougeuese

Two spring perfumes I've been testing lately are Week-end à Deauville and L'Heure Fougeuese. These are very different takes on a spring perfume. One is an uncomplicated month-long holiday in a bottle, and one is brainy and rather challenging for me. Both are worth a test, though!

Week-end à Deauville, Parfums de Nicolaï
I thought I'd get lily of the valley out of the gate, but instead I get a men's cologne opening. A soft, classy one, to be sure--salty sea air keeps it from starting out as an Eau Sauvage clone or from having any relation to those chemically "brisk" notes of cheap violet leaf colognes. Then the lily of the valley sneaks up on you, but at the same time something warm and mossy, so this is no screeching lily whatsoever. Those of you who are LotV-averse, the floral element here could almost be a water lily or cyclamen. A gentle floral, a bit aquatic, but nothing "China Rain"-ish. Oddly, even though this is purported to be a lily of the valley, it's mainly the hint of mossy undergrowth that reminds me of the structure of vintage Diorissimo, not any resemblance to its iconic LotV. The light-green mossiness purrs away on my skin for a nice long while for a cologne. Uncomplicated and lovely.

Octavian of 1000 Fragrances likes it lots, too. So does Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am.

Verdict: Makes me ache for a European beach holiday to wear it on.

IV: L'Heure Fougeuese, Cartier Les Heures du Parfum
I know that the top notes are supposed to be a tannic mate tea, but it smells for all the world like bitter, dried-up orange peel to me. Then it turns into a recognizable tea, but not any tea I'd like to smell like. (Actually, the only tea I'd like to smell like would be jasmine tea.) Not a very pleasant smell for me, sadly--just dank tea. Then later it morphs into dank hay, like a hayloft that's gotten rained on and a little rotted.

Don't get me wrong--I love weird scents, I love to drink tea (the danker and murkier and more fermented the better), and a hayloft in the rain is one of the most romantic places there is. But frustratingly, the magic just isn't there on my skin.

Grain de musc loves it. It's on Patty at Perfume Posse's best of winter list. It's even got narcissus, which is a new obsession of mine. Drat.

Verdict: This certainly is a compelling, evocative spring smell, but I want to visit this damp hayloft, not smell like it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vero Kern Onda extrait: An oddball balm

On a whim I sprayed some Onda on this morning from a sample I've had sitting around for a while. Totally wasn't thinking about how very wrong it could be on a humid spring day here. But it's not. I absolutely love it. Want it. Need more of it. I could get very hooked on this stuff, and I know there are others of you out there in the perfublogosphere. It seems bitter at first, but warms into a thing of somber beauty. It's just what I needed as a balm right now, 'cause I'm feeling a bit banged up: my knee is keeping me off my bike, and I sliced my fingers this weekend pretty good, so I'm all bandaged up and sore.

There's an extraordinary quality to Onda. It's quite magical. Here's how it feels to me: You've just rolled around on the moors under an early evening sky, casting spells with the loamiest, peatiest, most fertile, most gorgeous dirt you can imagine. Upon contact with your skin, this dirt instantly vaporizes into the warm glow of single-malt scotch. It's like the glow you get drinking scotch, only all over your skin. That gets you all hot and bothered, what with the glow and the loamy dirt and all, so you call your boyfriend over to your peaty moor, and after getting it on, you curl up together in his leather jacket, which is warm from his body.

Fantasy bubble squashed when you once again realize: "Gosh, it's pretty seriously expensive!" I'm gonna get a sample of the EDP to try that out, too, then decide which one I can't live without.

Onda by Vero Kern has notes that include: vetiver, ginger, mace, coriander. It is available on Vero Kern's own website and on LuckyScent. Anyone want to do a split of this stuff?

P.S. I also just realized that the far drydown of Onda transmogrifies into nearly a twin of Habanita's strange, insistent vetiver-powder accord, which for some reason just endears it to me even more.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mary Chess Tuberose Roman Bath Oil

Mary Chess Roman Bath Oil in Tuberose is the flower in all it's gas-huffing, man-eating, waxy, sultry glory. This was the infamous Lana Turner's signature fragrance, and I absolutely believe the stories that she ordered it by the case and had a baby cow if anyone in her vicinity wore it besides her. Look at her over there--she's about to pull some of your hair out if that's Mary Chess Tuberose she's smelling on you.

Luckily for me, Lana isn't around to snatch the bottle I found at an antique mall recently. I didn't know anything about it, and bought it on the reputation of Mary Chess perfumes having an extremely high percentage of natural oils. And yup, this is uncut, unadulterated tuberose, probably darkened in character (not oxidized, though--the oil is still a viscous buttery yellow) and intensified by age. It's almost unbelievably high-octane, even for this jaded smellophile. Unlike Serge Lutens's Tubéreuse Criminelle, whose gasoline-fume opening eventually settles into pretty, sniff this tuberose and you'll understand what a lady with a shady past would truly wear. Feverish, unsweetened, even a little bit bad-tempered. I highly recommend it if you can find it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Van Cleef and Arpels Gardénia Pétale - Summer is almost here!

I don't know why I picked this picture except that I thought it was funny and illustrated the manic mindset of everyone here in Austin; we're all trying to enjoy every moment of this lovely spring weather before it turns hellishly hot. The perfume I've been sampling also teeters between fresh spring and sweaty summer, it seems. Part of my swap haul that I received from the lovely Sherri during that Perfume Posse swap a while back included an unanticipated decant of Van Cleef and Arpels Gardénia Pétale. I never would have tried it otherwise, and I'm so thankful I was gifted with it! I want to twirl around in a big circle skirt when I wear this. It's a self-confident gardenia that's alternately leafy, buttery, pretty, and mushroomy raspy. It dries down to a lovely jasmine with a tinge of coconut milk on me.

Has anyone else noticed that raspy quality in the GP? There is a similar velvety/raspy textured nap in another well-behaved floral I'm really familiar with: the new formulation of Le De Givenchy. I really love that dewy jasmine fragrance, and even have a backup bottle. Both GP and LDG are both perfectly ladylike florals, but they have character and laugh lines that I admire.

In fact, GP is so pretty that you may think I'm nuts, but there is a distinct possibility that the thing I like most about this perfume is its trace of Les Nez's Manoumalia man-eating, sweaty, shroomy tropical florals in all their richly pollinated glory. Whereas Manoumalia goes all out, of course, GP just has a little shading of that. Since I can't afford both, the awful question becomes: which do I get? Ladylike, or balls-to-the-wall floral? I'm thinking that maybe I need a full bottle of the more reasonably priced Manoumalia, but another decant of GP when I go through the one I've got. What do y'all think? Which would you go for?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

80s Designer Originals: Princess Marcella di Borghese, Calvin Klein original cologne, Gianni Versace original parfum

Today's three-way review sounds like a weird fume-nerd joke. Three 80s perfumes with the big shoulder-pads and war paint walk into a bar: an aldehydic floral chypre, a fruity chypre, and a fruity-floral oriental.

A while ago I received my sample (won in a draw from the adorable meg at parfumieren, who wrote about it here and here) of Princess Marcella di Borghese. First impressions are of some lily of the valley flowers soaked in nail polish remover, and as it settles into the heart notes, there's a ravishing puff of animalic narcissus and oakmoss. Sadly, there's also something slightly screechy and off. It may be the the acetone that Meg points out in her review of Di Borghese, or it may be a make-up accord of rose, iris, and lily of the valley that has gone off slightly with age. Frankly, it makes me a bit headachy. But the payoff in the heart notes, once they settle, is pretty extraordinary, if short lived. I've been absolutely fascinated to try scents with narcissus in them, and now that I know what to smell for, I can definitely detect the dirty hay quality of narcissus along with the iris, which thankfully develops its way out of the makeup powder. As it dries down, it suddenly mutes itself and leather-purse-interior scent comes to the fore, then it's gone but for the wispiest traces. I think all the money went into that lovely narcissus in the heart notes.

The original Calvin Klein fragrance is at first just "perfumey," which is what I call it when a perfume has wonderful top notes creating a complex little halo effect, but gives me a overstimulated headache in the bargain. It has a provenance that suggests early, before-they-started-pumping-out-flankers artistic credibility that makes it worthy of seeking out for the jaded perfumista. Add in a favorable review from one of my favorite bloggers on vintage perfume, who calls it indispensible, and I was sold on the first cheapo eBay bottle I found. It was $20, so, ya know, not bad for a blind buy. After a few seconds, this fruity-floral chypre mellows into a surprisingly pleasing, slightly raspy concoction of fruit and florals, not at all as hollow-cheeked as many dry 80s chypres. It dries down to a beautiful soft tonka and sweet oakmoss. The off bit in this case is a plasticky quality that the fruit develops near the dry down. I like the top notes and dry down of Calvin Klein better, but the heart of Princess Marcella (that narcissus!) is more appealing.

In comparison to both, the original Gianni Versace is altogether warmer and more oriental in style, glowing with personality and quality materials. It is much more roundly ambery than either. This is why I love reviewing perfumes by comparison. When testing it on it's own this winter, I did not register just how ambery and golden it was. In fact, the amber gets to be a bit cloying for me after smelling it alongside more nimble, quicksilver chypres like di Borghese and Klein. Keep in mind that I'm not an amber fan. But finally the amber lifts its heavy cloak and you catch glimpes of some naughty leather and myrrh. This one is very nice in the far dry down.

So there you have it: three designer 80s perfumes, and between them they make up one well-designed perfume. Wish I could go all Dr. Frankenstein on them.

Image is of Jennifer Beals in The Bride, a campy and awesome 80s remake of The Bride of Frankenstein with Sting playing the doctor.