Sunday, January 30, 2011

Raphael - Réplique (Vintage)

A vintage sample is a little thin but has great bone structure

My recent haul of vintage perfume from Fritsch's Pharmacy came with two, very old, carded samples of Raphael Réplique. The juice inside the vials has reduced about half-way, through evaporation, but there's enough left to tell that this was something special.

The top notes are all gone, except for a brief sparkle of aldehydes that must have been stronger once. Then I smell spices, the cardamom still comes through well, and a fruity wood that reminds me of Serge Lutens Bois de Violet.

In the middle of Réplique's life on my wrist, the clary sage takes over and smells like green leather, with the fruity wood and spices still underneath.

In the later stages, the leather fades and the base notes shine on their own. Wood, vetiver, amber, musk, patchouli and oakmoss, make a dry/sweet darkly rich tapestry that is wonderful, even in this attenuated form.

Réplique must have been stunning once. What's left in my vial has become a little too thin over time. There's no sillage left and it doesn't last long. But I can tell the perfume was once a great beauty, and maybe unique. Was it an aldehydic floral? A chypre? An oriental? It seems like a combination of all three. Complicated and grown-up, Réplique was a perfume with style and grace.

House: Raphael
Nose: ?
Notes [According to, a site that re-creates lost perfumes, this is the original formula]: top notes of Italian bergamot, Sicilian lemon, cardamom, neroli, coriander, clary sage and fresh aldehydes. Mid-notes of ylang ylang, lily of the valley, Egyptian jasmine, mimosa, tuberose, heliotrope and coumarin. Base notes of oakmoss, olibanum, powdery amber, musk, vetiver, patchouli

Photo: Lisa Fonssagrives by Irving Penn

Saturday, January 29, 2011

And the Winner of the Tea Rose sample giveaway is...


Taffynfontana, please contact me with your mailing information. You can find my email address in my Blogger user profile; just look under About Me in the bottom right corner of this page.

Thank you to everyone who left a comment for me. I loved all of your suggestions for rose perfumes.

This draw was done using List Randomizer at RANDOM.ORG

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Giveaway - The Perfumer's Workshop Tea Rose

Try the Godzilla rose

If you read my post yesterday, I think The Perfumer's Workshop Tea Rose is amazing. Would you like to try it yourself? I have a vintage carded sample to give away.

Please leave a comment below, on this blog post. Let me know, do you like rose in perfume? and if so, what are your favourite rose perfumes?

The winner will be chosen at random and announced here on Saturday. Please check back to see if you won. You will have to contact me with your mailing address if you are the winner. Yes, I will mail it anywhere, but I can't guarantee what the postal systems will do or how long it will take.

And I have opened comments to everyone. We'll see how that works out. If I get a lot of spam, I'm going back to the "you must have an id" system.

THE DRAW IS NOW CLOSED  Thank you to all who left me a comment, I love getting suggestions of new things to try.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Perfumer's Workshop - Tea Rose

3D Rose

The Perfumer's Workshop released Tea Rose in either 1972 or 1975, depending on what sources you read. According to Sephora, in 1971, Perfumers Workshop International asked Jack Mowen of Firmenich to create a long-lasting rose fragrance that captured the scent of an entire rose garden, including the leaf and stem. The result was Tea Rose.

I can look at the notes of Tea Rose and suppose that the bergamot is providing brightness and lily of the valley is lending its greenness to the perfume, but really, the notes of Tea Rose are irrelevant. Tea rose is quite simply the most hyper-realistic rose you will ever smell in a perfume. Close you eyes and sniff this, and you are standing in front of a huge bouquet of fresh cut roses. The kind with real rose smell, not the gorgeous but odourless ones they sell now in florist shops. In Tea Rose, you can smell the soft creaminess of the petals, the green of the cut stems, and the woodiness of the thorns. It is amazing.

A word of caution, Tea Rose could just as easily be called Godzilla Rose - it has monster sillage and tenacity. Just the tiniest dab on my wrist was enough to have office neighbours inquire what the lovely smell was. And it lasts! After 48 hours, two showers and one bath, and the generous application of two other perfumes, I could still smell rose on my wrist. The other perfumes didn't stand a chance; eventually Tea Rose conquered them all.

Although my sample is vintage Eau de Parfum, Tea Rose still widely available online in EdT, and at very reasonable prices. If the EdT has any of the tenacity of the EdP, a bottle will last you for a long time.

Not everyone these days wants to smell like fresh roses. Many label rose as the dreaded "old lady perfume." I have to admit that I think of my grandmother, with her rose milk hand cream and sachets of dried petals in her drawers, when I smell Tea Rose. But I think we should take back the rose. This Valentines Day, wear Tea Rose, or give it to your beloved, instead of those soulless, smell-less, long-stem roses they sell at the shops. What could be more romantic than smelling like a real rose?

House: Perfumer's Workshop
Nose: Jack Mowen
Notes: bergamot, rose, lily, tuberose, sandalwood and amber

Photo: rose, Drew Avery
Photo: perfume bottle, mine.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My cup runneth over - and Jacomo Rare Winner

You can't fight fate

This weekend, I saw my parents for brunch and was given an early birthday gift. My mother, knowing how much I love Fritsch Pharmacy, stopped in and picked up a gift for me from Mike Fritsch. It's another box, just like the one I received at Christmas, full to over-flowing with samples of vintage perfumes. Mike had been combing through his collection and gathering them together just for me.

I am so grateful for his and my mother's thoughtfulness, but it does create an interesting dilemma for the future of this blog. I now have enough perfume to review for maybe 2-3 years, based on my past frequency of posting. It seems silly to order more samples. But that means that this blog will become mostly one about vintage perfume, at least for a while.

It's so strange, the twists in the path of life. I never expected this to be a vintage perfume blog. I guess I never expected perfume to have such an presence in my life at all. When I started being interested in perfume, I was not a big fan of vintage, or of bloggers who wrote about these wonderful things that I would probably never be able to smell. I even complained about them. Hello, Irony, please come in - sit down.

But I won't turn away from this opportunity. I have access to things that not many people do; I feel like I have to share them.

I'm too flighty to say that this will be a vintage-perfume-only blog. I still have samples of new releases I ordered in 2010 that I haven't had a chance to write about, and I still occasionally swap with other bloggers for new things. I guess that there will always be new releases (or new to me) that I will want to review. But these wonderful treasures have fallen in my lap,and you can't fight fate. So there will be many vintage perfume reviews coming on this blog. I hope you find some of them interesting.

I also want to mention that the winner of the extra sample of Jacomo Rare is... INES! 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Frederic Malle - Angéliques sous la pluie

The perfect tonic

I think I'm starting to become a big fan of Jean-Claude Ellena. His style is minimalist, sheer, and luminescent. He takes a limited palette of notes and  finds just the right way to combine them to compliment each other.

When I received a sample of Angéliques sous la pluie, I was expecting a floral perfume, the name made me think of Apres l'Ondee. The story accompanying the perfume is that Ellena created it to pay tribute to the smell of a bouquet of angelica gathered after the rain.

I forgot that angelica is an herb, sometimes used to flavour drinks like absinthe and gin. It has a bitter, slightly spicy and green smell. Ellena has elevated the spicy character by adding coriander, and played with the gin connotations of angelica by adding juniper.

The result is wonderful.  Angéliques sous la pluie sparkles like a cool green tonic and wakes me up when I'm feeling tired. I smell the juniper first, like Bombay Sapphire in a crystal tumbler, then the spicy, green angelica. The smell is effervescent yet creamy. The base notes of sheer musk and wood, are like adding a comfortable chair and a soft grey blanket to your garden. This perfume makes me happy and content.

Men, please wear this! I would love to smell this on more men. So much sexier than the usual masculines.

House: Frederic Malle
Nose: Jean-Claude Ellena
Notes: angelica, juniper, coriander, musk, cedar

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jacomo - Parfum Rare and a Giveaway!

Mysterious beauty

Parfum Rare is the first perfume I'll review from the box of samples I received at Christmas from the vintage treasure trove at Fritsch Pharmacy. Everything in the box is a mystery to me and I'm looking forward to discovering new gems. The more I smell vintage perfume, the more I wish I had started my hobby twenty years ago.

In the late 60’s, an American named James Kaplan and a Frenchman, Gerard Courtin, a former pianist, came together to open a boutique on 5th Avenue in New York. They called it Jacomo. In 1970, they expanded their business to perfume. They released Silences in 1978. Parfum Rare was released in 1985 and re-released in 1987 as Coeur de Pafum.

Parfum Rare is a rich floral chypre, with some spice and a deliciously dark bitter base. The top notes start with a bright, tart fruit that could be could be bergamot, or black currant and warm, aromatic spices. The heart is a beautiful full rose and dry, not sweet, florals, possibly the iris and marigold mentioned in the notes, or carnation. The base is also dry with bitter oakmoss, as well as some dark patchouli and earthy vetiver.

It's very well blended and has excellent sillage. It seems to take up a three-dimensional physical space when I wear it, as if I can smell dark and light, high and low, at the same time. It's very "perfumey" in an old-fashioned way that I love and it smells like money. I want to wear it with an inky black mink coat and two dozen blood-red, long-stem roses. Pafum Rare is a portrait of a beautiful but mysterious woman. The painting is a contrast of deep dark depths and reflected light, and the woman is young but with an old soul.

A Giveaway!

Appropriately, Parfum Rare seems to have been discontinued, but I'm happy to say I have an extra sample to give away.

Please leave a comment below and tell me about a rare or discontinued perfume you love, or if you can't think of anything, just tell me what you're wearing today. The winner will be selected randomly and announced on the blog on Saturday. Be sure to check back.


House: Jacomo
Nose: ?
Notes:  bois de rose, cardomome de Ceylan, jasmin d'Egypte, iris de Florence, rose de Mai, vetiver, oeillet d'Inde (marigold), coriandre, immortelle, mousses de chene (oakmoss), santal, patchouli

Photo: Isabelle Pascoe, the Autumn Collections, British Vogue, 1985

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Serge Lutens - Ambre Sultan

How a perfume changed my life

In 2008, I became a perfumista. I had worn perfume since I was a girl, but I wore it in the way my mother did, one bottle at a time; usually the same scent for five years or more. In the fall of 2008, I started to grow restless again with my signature scent and began to look for a new one. While doing some research, I discovered perfume blogs and niche fragrances. The name Serge Lutens was used often, and reverentially on these blogs, so I sought out the line, which at the time was carried by The Bay. Just one small spritz of Ambre Sultan changed everything.

I remember thinking "Oh, this is so spicy, and too masculine for me" but all the way home I kept sneaking whiffs of my wrist. Ambre Sultan was so interesting; it was layered and complicated. It smelled like a mysterious and exotic landscape. It was sweet but had something herbal or medicinal in it too. And later, I thought "Whoa, this stuff smells like pure sex." It was addictive.

Ambre Sultan opened a whole new world of scent for me. For the first time I started to appreciate perfume, not just as something pretty to attract the opposite sex, but as a personal pleasure. And I was free of the idea that I had to choose one "signature" fragrance - I could have more, one for every mood, as many as I wanted. Perfume was more than an accessory; it was an accessible art form. It inspired and entertained me. It created visions in my mind of places, people, moods and emotions.

Through perfume, I rediscovered my love of art history. Like paintings, perfumes could be abstract or realistic representations. There were styles, modern and classic schools, new stars and old masters, commercial mass products and exclusive hard to find items. Unlike painting, the price range for most of these fragrant art pieces was exactly what I could afford.  Although I know it's a stretch to call perfume practical, something in my basic nature liked that the art I was buying was usable. I would rather buy something that will walk around with me all day, than something that will hang on a wall.

It was all over for me from there. Soon, I bought a full bottle of Ambre Sultan, then more bottles, from Frederic Malle, Ormonde Jayne, L'Artisan Parfumeur, Eau d'Italie and more. I went through phases, first addicted to heavy ambers and spices, then woods, incenses, then later discovering I could love flowers too, like roses, gardenias, jasmine, and orange blossoms. Chypres rocked my world. I disdained vintage, I loved vintage. I continue to change and grow in my perfume choices, and I hope I always do.

Enough about you, what does it smell like?

To those of you who scanned everything above to get to this part, Hello! (I do that too.)

Ambre Sultan is linear but multi-layered. It has a sweet, heavy, amber base, like thick, dark vanilla-scented syrup. Floating over this resiny amber is an aromatic smoke of warm spice. There's a medicinal note, which comes from the angelica root, also used in herbal cough remedies like Ricola pastilles. A warm woodiness lies underneath, and a personal smell, like a lover, that may be the myrhh*.

Ambre Sultan is a must try for all perfume lovers. And if you do try it, let me know if it blew your mind.

House: Serge Lutens
Nose: Christopher Sheldrake
Notes: coriander, sandalwood, bay leaf, patchouli, angelica, resins and myrrh

Photo: Amber Fort, Jaipur, Wikimedia

* A recent post by Katie Puckrik called myrrh "scalpy." Maybe that contributes to the afterglow, cuddling in bed, feeling I get from Ambre Sultan. What do you think?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My 15 Minutes

There's an article in today's Globe and Mail about a recent perfumista meet-up I attended at Noor and Scent of the Day is mentioned! I'm even quoted.

Scent geeks of the world, unite! - Globe and Mail, Saturday January 8, 2011

I feel delusions of grandeur coming on; I should go lie down until they pass.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Jacomo - Silences

A meditation garden

I received a bottle of vintage Jacomo Silences for Christmas this year from my brother-in-law, bless him. He picked it up at the magic Fritsch Pharmacy which I mentioned in my last post. I suppose I should call it Fritsch Fragrances, which is the name on the sign, but it says Pharmacy on the business card and that's the way I always think of it.

Anyway, back to Silences. Silences is a holy grail for green chypres. It is so lovely, I highly recommend it to both men and women.

Perfectly unisex, Silences has a calm, meditative quality that makes me think of Japanese gardens. It starts with a very green, bitter galbanum note, only lightly touched by citrus. As it warms up on my skin, spring flowers join the green, but Silences remains composed and serene, never sweet or romantic. A soapy rose, a green lily of the valley and a touch of spicy hyacinth drift in, smooth as silk. As a whole, the colour of Silences in my mind is the cool grey-green of sage. Even the texture of sage leaves, like soft, little green bunny ears, seems appropriate for Silences, with it's cool, grey, pussy willow feeling. The base (at least in my vintage) is wonderfully dry, mossy woods.

Like all green chypres, Silences makes me feel effortlessly chic and elegant; poised, adult. As a green chypre, it treads a middle ground for me between the headstrong Bandit and the cold-hearted Chanel No19. Although it reminds me of spring, I can't get enough of it right now; in the heart of winter, I've found a peaceful green oasis.

House: Jacomo
Nose: Gerard Coupy and Jean-Claude Niel
Notes: Top notes: orange blossom, galbanum, bergamot and lemon; middle notes: hiacynth, lily-of-the-valley and rose; base notes: sandalwood, musk, oakmoss and cedar.

P.S. For all those interested in Fritsch Pharmacy:
Fritsch Fragrances Inc.
201 King Street West
Kitchener, Ontario
519 742-1895

Photo: Nitobe Memorial Garden at UBC by A Hermida
Photo: My bottle of Silences, by me, all rights reserved.
Photo: Frisch Pharmacy, by me, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Window Sniffing: Fritsch Pharmacy

The Magic Shop

Hello 2011! I took a break from blogging over the Christmas/New year's holidays but it was definitely not a fragrance-free vacation. I was lucky enough to receive perfume from my secret store.

You may recall I mentioned my "secret store" in a previous post, well, I want to start the new year by sharing it with you.  Fritsch Pharmacy, in Kitchener, Ontario, has been owned and operated by Michael Fritsch for decades. Although he once ran it as a full-service pharmacy, Mr. Fritsch followed his heart and turned his love of perfume into a business. The shop now sells only perfume and perfume bottles from his extensive collection. And what collection it is! From floor to ceiling, the little shop has a big exclusive collection of fine, imported perfumes from classic houses like Caron, Coty, Carven, Guerlain, Jean Patou, Lubin, Molinard, Givenchy, Dior, and more. He even stocks the hard-to-find Teo Cabanel, although the last time I was in he only had Julia.

Many of the bottles at Fritsch Pharmacy are vintage, and there are some pre-reformulation gems in there. The photo on the left shows some of the perfume I have bought there, including my Christmas gift, a bottle of Jacomo Silences, and a whole box full of samples put together just for me by Mr. Fritsch. Some of the samples are for classics, like Carven Ma Griffe, and Rochas Femme, but many are perfumes I've never heard of.  If you recognize any of the bottles on the left, you'll see that I've been focusing on green chypres lately, but who knows, I may discover a new love somewhere in that box of sample goodies.

So in 2011, I'll be writing about my discoveries from Fritsch, as well as some of the samples I've received in swaps with online friends, and a few new releases here and there, as they take my fancy. And if you're ever in Kitchener, stop by Fritsch Pharmacy and say hello to Michael Fritsch for me. Just don't buy it all before I can.

Photos: Mine, all rights reserved.