Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Robert Piguet - Fracas

Perfume: Fracas
House: Robert Piguet
Nose: Germaine Cellier
Notes: Top: Bergamot, Mandarin, Hyacinth, Green notes Middle: Tuberose, Jasmine, Orange Flower, Lily of the valley, White iris, Violet, Jonquil, Carnation, Coriander, Peach, Osmanthus, Pink geranium Base: Musk, Cedar, Moss, Sandalwood, Orris, Vetiver, Tolu balsam (from Basenotes)

I'm very definitely a woman and I enjoy it.1

As a baby, beginning perfumista, I don't have the chops to review this perfume. Fracas is a classic, the ur-tuberose, the famous big sexy white floral. For a great review, see Chandler Burr in the New York times. But I am going to explore a couple of tuberose fragrances from my collection in this journal (I already talked about Vamp à NY) and I can't do that without mentioning Fracas.

Fracas was first released in 1948. It was developed by Germaine Cellier, one of the first prominent female perfumers. In her career, Cellier created perfumes for Robert Piguet, Pierre Balmain, Nina Ricci, Balenciaga, Hermés, and Elizabeth Arden.

Most of my perfumes I would classify as unisex but Fracas is definitely a woman - she is the Marilyn Monroe of perfumes. Although Marilyn famously wore Chanel No. 5, I would have put her in Fracas.

Fracas starts with a bright orange blossom note but the darker diva, tuberose, joins in quickly and she doesn't go away for a long time. Tuberose is a thick, heady floral - both sweet and a little skanky. It's literally carnal smelling with aspects of sex and meat. It sometimes has a whiff of rubber to it, or menthol/camphor. Tuberose, for me, also sometimes smells like bubble gum (which was very powerfully present for me in Vamp à NY.) The tuberose in Fracas is joined by jasmine and gardenia. Like tuberose, both these white florals have a similar indolic/fleshy side to their sweetness.

Fracas has a little of that camphor smell in the first few minutes but keeps the bubblegum to a minimum. Still, it's a very sweet perfume. In some ways, it's a candy-like floral yet it's also more complicated than you think at first. There are depths to this dame. As I mentioned before, it has excellent lasting power, eventually fading down to a tuberose and smooth iris.

Fracas was re-released in 1998 and my bottle was purchased just this year. I have no idea how the vintage smells compared to the current. This perfume has big "sillage" so be careful about wearing it on an airplane. It also lasts and lasts - right through a shower sometimes. One spray is enough to channel your inner Marilyn Monroe all day long.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Penhaligon's - Amaranthine

Perfume: Amaranthine
House: Penhaligon's
Nose: Bertrand Duchaufour
Notes: Top: Green Tea, White Freesia, Banana Tree Leaf, Coriander Seed Oil, Cardamom Absolute; Middle: Rose, Carnation, Clove Oil, Orange Blossom, Ylang Ylang Oil, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute; Base: Musk, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Condensed Milk, Tonka Bean Absolute.

Lily and dirty Jasmine eat green bananas and condensed milk with silver spoons.

A little background on the name: the Greek amarantos was a mythical flower that never faded. The amaranth family of plants are often purple or gold and Penhaligon's offers Amaranthine in a deluxe bottle of purple glass but to me the colours of this perfume are green with white and creamy pale yellow.

Amaranthine is a sensual bouquet of rich milky tropical flowers with a hint of sweatiness complimented by green leaves and sandalwood.
Penhaligon's calls it a "corrupted" floral oriental. It does remind me of a tropical jungle: damp, ripe and sexual in both its rampant growth and decay.

Amaranthine starts with warm spices and green bananas. It sounds a little weird but actually smells wonderful. The middle is where the sexy, tropical flowers take centre stage. The major player in Amaranthine is ylang ylang, a yellow flower from a tropical tree that wikipedia says smell like custard and jasmine. Bertrand Duchaufour says that there is 5% ylang ylang in there. That's probably the note I think of as a lily, with it's feeling of thick fleshiness. Added to this are white florals like jasmine and orange blossom, with their indolic hints of sex, decay and intimate areas of the body. There's a feeling of close skin and warm nights created when you wear Amaranthine.

Beneath the green banana leaves and sexpot flowers are sweet creamy notes of vanilla and condensed milk. Some say this gives Amaranthine a "rice-pudding" feel but for me the sandalwood keeps it from being foody, and makes it just smooth and sexy and comforting. There is a metallic edge though, like eating green bananas and milk with a silver spoon while surrounded by thick, heady flowers.

Amaranthine is a favourite of mine and made me fall in love with Bertrand Duchaufour. I have several of his perfumes now and I'll probably continue to collect whatever he creates. Maybe next week I'll review one of his latest, Nuit de Tubereuse, which many say has a similar feel to Amaranthine, while being completely different.

Painting: Tamara de Lempicka, Printemps

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ormonde Jayne - Ormonde Woman

Perfume: Ormonde Woman
House: Ormonde Jayne
Nose: Linda Pilkington
Notes: Top: Cardamom, coriander and grass oil Heart: Black hemlock, violet and jasmine absolute Base: Vetiver, cedar wood, amber and sandalwood

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.1

The perfect scent for a rainy day in Canada is Ormonde Jayne's Ormonde Woman. It may be the perfect scent. I never tire of this perfume, it is endlessly mysterious and beautiful.

Ormonde Jayne is a niche perfume house based in London, England. I visited their little jewel-like shop on the Royal Arcade in 2008 and was charmed by the friendly service and then fell in love with the excellent perfumes. OW was my first purchase, but I have 2 others and probably more will join my horde2 in the future. One of the best thing about Ormonde Jayne is Linda Pilkington's assertion that her perfumes will never be reformulated or discontinued. So I never have to worry about running out of Ormonde Woman and can spray with abandon!

OW starts with smooth spices and a striking green feel, from the grass oil. The coniferous note of black hemlock is there from the beginning and carries through the whole composition. It overlays quiet florals, like quiet flowers hidden in the shady undergrowth, and merges with the woody notes at the base of the composition. OW is very well blended, the notes don't stand out individually, but weave together seamlessly for the impression of walking in an ancient forest in the green-black shadows of enormous trees.

You might think with the smell of hemlock and grass oil and woods that this would be a masculine fragrance. It would work well on a man too, but it is one of my husband's favourites on me. Ormonde Woman is a feminine mystery "lovely, dark and deep."

1 Robert Frost
I should post a picture of my horde someday. It's small by perfumista standards, but it's growing.
Painting: Emily Carr, Forest, BC

Monday, June 21, 2010

Creed - Virgin Island Water

Perfume: Virgin Island Water
House: Creed
Nose: Olivier Creed and Erwin Creed
Notes: white bergamot, Jamaican lime, Sicilian mandarin, coconut, Indian jasmine, hibiscus, ylang-ylang, ginger, musk and white rum

Put the lime in the coconut, and call me in the moooooorning

It's the summer solstice and I'm in the mood for a pick-me up summer scent. Virgin Island Water is my beach vacation in a bottle. VIW was created by Oliver and Erwin Creed, 6th and 7th generations respectively of the luxury perfume house Creed. Creed was founded in 1760 by James Henry Creed and has many famous clients. Creed's perfumes aren't cheap, but they are constructed with high quality ingredients.

Like many of my favourites, VIW is green in my mind but this time it's a neon green of lime and fresh coconut husks. The first blast of this scent has strong citrus and coconut notes, both of which I love. But make sure those around you love it too - VIW is a sillage monster for the first couple of hours, so spray carefully.

After the first few minutes, the creamy tropical florals, jasmine and ylang ylang, creep in, like a lei draped around your neck. Underneath everything is the sharp boozy scent of white rum. VIW is a unisex fregrance, and smells absolutely delicious on a man as well.

VIW isn't shy, as I mentioned it's actually a little loud at first, but it's so darn cheerful I don't mind. VIW is a friendly tanned hunk in a Hawaiian shirt bringing me a tall fruity rum drink with an umbrella while I lounge near the brilliant white sand and blue water of my dream beach.

Photo by Celine Nadeau

Friday, June 18, 2010

Diptyque - Philosykos

Perfume: Philosykos
House: Diptyque
Nose: Olivia Giacobetti
Notes: fig leaf, fig, cedar

Cool sappy green twigs, ripe, sweet fig with a hint of creamy coconut milk and smooth dry wood.

Spray this on your arm on a hot day and rest in the shade of a fig tree on a Greek hillside. Philosykos gives me the feeling I've been there. The opening is crisp and green and smells like sticky sap from broken twigs. Then comes the ripe fig, smooth and fresh. Many people smell a hint of coconut in fig, and I smell coconut milk, creamy and sweet in Philosykos. This adds to the summertime feel of the perfume, and the fantasy that I am sitting under a fig tree in Greece, the sun bright as diamonds on the blue water of a faraway bay but where I am everything is shady and cool. The base note is cedar, a dry woody smell, like a smooth pale trunk behind my back.

Luca Turin, in his Perfumes The Guide, calls Philosykos "the first proper fig in perfumery" and gives it 4 stars. Olivia Giacobetti, who did Philosykos, also did Premier Figuier for L'Artisan Parfumeur. I'll write about Premier Figuier another time, it has a lovely floral character and a sandalwood drydown, but Philosykos is my favourite fig perfume.

Photo by Sean Wallis.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hermès - Un Jardin sur le Nil

Perfume: Un Jardin sur le Nil
House: Hermès
Nose: Jean-Claude Ellena
Notes: Green Mango, Grapefruit, Calamus, Lotus, Sycamore, Frankincense

A refreshing, sheer, pink and green cocktail that cools the summer heat. Perfectly balanced in the reeds between shimmering water and dry wood.

Un Jardin sur le Nil (UJslN) is part of the Hermès Jardin series by the in-house perfumer Jean Claude Ellena. The series is a sort of olfactory travel journal, and UJslN represents Mr. Ellena's memories of Egypt. The story behind the creation of UJslN is the subject of the book The Perfect Scent: A Year in the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York, by Chandler Burr.

The photo above perfectly captures this perfume in my mind. UJslN is green and pink. It starts with a bright pink grapefruit, not sweet, but citrusy and refreshing. Next I smell green herbs and the gentle floral-aquatic note of lotus. All of this is full of light, and seems to hover above the skin. Underneath it is a sheer, dry woody base, not heavy, just barely there, like driftwood among the rushes.

Calamus is a type of wetland herb, like the rushes that grow beside the Nile. I don't really smell the green mango or the frankincense, but I suppose the former adds to the green-fruity top and the latter to the dry-wood base.

UJslN is perfectly balanced between the aquatic and the dry, the sweet and the bitter, the floral and the woody. It is my favourite hot weather scent right now. Unlike many citrus-starting colognes, which often don't last long, UJslN lasts all day and into the warm, fragrant evening.

Photo by Cowtools

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Serge Lutens - L'Eau Serge Lutens

Perfume: L'Eau Serge Lutens
House: Serge Lutens
Nose: Christopher Sheldrake
Notes: aldehydes, citrus, magnolia, white mint, clary sage, ozonic notes and musk

The scent of clean skin, ironing a white cotton shirt, linen hung on a line in the sun.

Serge Lutens is famous for his, shall we say, more aggressive perfumes. I have a few that I will review later, but his style is known to include spices, stewed fruits and animalic notes. This is the opposite of all that. This is Serge's "anti-perfume."
It’s like stepping out of the bath. Like putting on a freshly ironed shirt, or slipping into a bed with clean sheets…
- Serge Lutens
And, of course, he's exactly right. L'Eau starts very "clean," and it smells like ironing. There's a light, sparkling citrus, slightly dry and bitter. After the top notes fade it becomes a lovely magnolia, that creamy white and pink flower, and clean musk.

The musk in L'Eau lasts and lasts. I can smell it clearly 10 hours later. As a perfume it lifted my mood and was perfect for the office and yoga class. L'Eau is also a great unisex scent, and I'd love to smell it on a man. I didn't expect to like this "anti-perfume" but it's excellent, as I should have expected from Serge Lutens.

Photo: thecityofjess

Monday, June 14, 2010

Diptyque - L'Ombre dans l'Eau

photo: roses
Perfume: L'Ombre dans l'Eau
House: Diptyque
Nose: Serge Kalouguine
Notes: Blackcurrant Leaves, Bulgarian Rose

Wet earth and roses beneath piles of dark green crushed leaves and cut stems.

When I first smelled L'Ombre dans l'Eau, from the cap at a boutique, my first thought was "dirt and roses." In fact, the SA even suggested "wet wellies and roses." It smelled like a walk in a wet garden, the dark soil covered in scattered rose petals. It was different than anything I had smelled so far, so I begged a sample.

When I wore it the next day, I smelled even more. Now it started with intense green notes, like crushed leaves and cuts stems. The green is so intense at the beginning, I even smelled tomato stems, the peculiar spicy green smell that is tied in my memory to summer. The tomato stem is only there for a couple of minutes; it quickly becomes green leaves with a hint of tartness. I wasn't sure what this tartness was until I read the notes: blackcurrant! Just a hint of blackcurrent to brighten the edge of the roses.

And, oh, what roses. Beautiful, high quality rose comes out from the green and shines. All afternoon I caught sniffs of rose and green leaves wafting up from my wrist. But the end of the day I was in love with L'Ombre dans l'Eau and I think I will be buying a full bottle soon.

The Diptyque website has a beautiful brief "history" of the perfume:

In her garden, Mrs. Merwin, a friend of diptyque, was pruning her blackcurrant bushes and rose trees. The mixture of crumpled blackcurrant leaves and rose petals was the inspiration for a perfume that is now one of the brand's best sellers. In L'Ombre dans l'Eau, the head note is the Bulgarian rose. To this lowery note are added the green notes of the blackcurrant leaves which provide its cool character.

Sample: Noor Boutique

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Honoré des Près - Vamp à NY

Chew On This
Perfume: Vamp à NY
House: Honoré des Près
Nose: Olivia Giacobetti
Notes: tuberose, rum, resins

Lolita chews bubblegum and steals her mother's menthols. More NY jailbait than vamp.

Ok, this perfume made me laugh right away. The first thing I smell is a big blast of bubble gum, with some menthol smoke and a touch of gasoline. Later, as the scent settles down and opens up, the menthol disappears and the tuberose comes out, buttery and rich, but the bubblegum never really goes away.

It made me think of a sixteen year old girl in New York. She knows Manhattan inside out, wears black eyeliner, steals her mother's menthol cigarettes, and chews bubble gum. She wears a diva scent like tuberose because she wants you to think she's older than she is. If I was going to make a perfume called Lolita, this is what it would smell like.

I still like it and I may be the only one who smells it this way. If you've smelled it, tell me what you think.

Vamp à NY is part of a set of 3 fragrances called We Love NY*, the other two are I Love Les Carottes and Love Coco.

Honoré des Près is a niche organic perfume house in France. Olivia Giacobetti a famous nose who has created perfumes for this designer and many others. I will definitely be reviewing some of her other perfumes in the future.

Photo: drivenbyboredom
Sample: I won one of 50 samples of Vamp à NY donated by Honoré des Près to
Grain de musc.