Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Serge Lutens - Boxeuses

Tough on top, sweet underneath

I think I'll just keep going with the leather scents this week. So the next one on my list is the brand new Boxeuses from Serge Lutens. Serge Lutens is having fun. I can just tell from his perfumes, that he refuses to be put into a box. Although Boxeuses returns to some of his old palette, with fruity woods, the rest of the perfume is so original it makes me smile, even as it hits me.

Boxeuses starts with a black licorice note, not too sweet, but woody and herbal, like real black licorice. That darkness is quickly joined by another, a tarry, black leather note. The leather is almost charred, with that smokiness that birchtar can have. These two notes duke it out for a while and I thought that maybe Boxeuses was too strong for me. My husband pronounced it "acrid" when I got into the car with him, minutes after spraying it on.

But then a softer side of the fighter starts to show through. Almost stealthily,a  purple plum note creeps in. I thought at first I was smelling that fruity note on someone else. When I pressed my nose to my wrist I still smelled that black leather but plum seemed in the air around me. Gradually, the perfume becomes a lovely plum and wood. It reminds me of the fruity-purple woodiness of Bois de Violette. It makes me want to cuddle up and just sniff my skin. The fighter has become a lover. Even my husband likes it now.

That drydown is so yummy it breaks my heart. Boxeuses is a perfume from Serge Lutens exclusive line and is only available in his shop in the Palais Royale in Paris. A big thank you to Grain de Musc for my sample!

House: Serge Lutens
Nose: Christopher Sheldrake
Notes: wood, leather, plum, licorice

Photo: Rob Beyer

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tauer Perfumes - Lonestar Memories

Fall in love with a cowboy

Lean back against your saddle and warm your hands by the camp fire. The other day I posted a link to a news article about the new Bond No. 9 perfume Saks Fifth Avenue Texas, which doesn't seem to smell like Texas at all. But there is a perfect Texas perfume on the market already, Lonestar Memories by Tauer Perfumes. LM is an olfactory travel log, a smell-o-vision memory, of a night on the open range.

The Tauer web site calls LM "An ode on birchtar" and Andy Tauer, the Swiss perfumer who deeply loves Texas, calls it "cowboy in a bottle." And what a cowboy. This isn't a smooth urban player with a new pair of boots and a shiny buckle. This is the real deal – a man with a slow drawl, rough hands, and a fast horse. His jeans are dusty, he's been working outside all day, but he can build a fire, spread out a blanket for you under the stars and sing you to sleep.

Oh, my... where was I?  LM starts with the realistic smell of a camp fire – charred wood and smoke. After you get used to that, you start to notice grasses and sage brush – a dry, bitter and almost soapy smell. Then, everything gets a little warmer and sweeter and it develops the distinct smell of well-worn leather. I imagine a smooth brown saddle.

Lonestar Memories is a bit rough around the edges but I find the story it tells so masculine sexy, I want to date myself. My husband, who generally only likes to wear soap, may be getting stealth-perfumed with this one.

House: Tauer Perfumes
Nose: Andy Tauer
Notes: Head Notes: Green geranium, and spicy carrot seed blended with clary sage. Heart Notes: A rich smoky leather chord, with cistus and a hint of jasmine. Body Notes: The finest woods and balms from myrrh, tonka, vetiver and sandalwood.

Photo: Padams

Friday, August 27, 2010

Parfumerie Generale - L'Oiseau de Nuit

A warm, sweet and smoky fall

L'Oiseau de Nuit is supposed to be a leather scent, but I don't smell leather. What I do smell is a complicated, warm and sweet, almost gourmand, oriental.

Different notes, dark and light, swirl up from my skin. Sometimes sugary, sometimes herbal, sometimes smoky and woody, OdN keeps me coming back to my wrist to smell more. The resin labdanum is honeyed wood and earth. The davana is a peach syrup floral note. Benzoin, another resin, smells like sweet vanilla.

When I first put OdN on, I thought I smelled cotton candy and beer nuts. In my mind I was back at the old fair grounds, where I've gone every October for around 30 years to the Markham Fair. The fall, for me, is that fair with it's smells of burning leaves and sawdust mixed with the sweeter smells of the foodstands. I'll go again this year, and of course there will be a midway, the rides lighting up the sky like the electric plumage of giant night birds.

House: Parfumerie Generale
Nose: Pierre Guillaume
Notes: cistus labdanum, liqueur of davana, benzoin, leather

Photo: DOS82

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Parfums Nicolaï - Maharanih

A "fruitchouli" for the more refined palate

According to The Perfume Shrine, the perfumista term "fruitchouli" was coined sometime in 2009 to describe a flood of unoriginal perfumes on the market that combined sweet, fruity notes with patchouli. In a similar post, Grain de Musc adds "patchrose" (patchouli + rose) to the list of overused perfume accords of 2009. The patchouli frenzy may have had something to do with the popularity of 1992's Angel. It may also have been a result of new EU restrictions on the use of oakmoss in perfumes - making perfumers look to patchouli to add depth to their perfumes.

So what makes this fruity rose and patchouli a great perfume and different from the run-of-the-mill? I think Patricia de Nicolaï's Maharanih, released in 2006, is gorgeous and classically composed because of the way all her notes are perfectly balanced. Maharanih starts with a sweet juicy orange that is combined with a bitter orange peel. In the heart, a deep wine-red rose is combined with a lighter, creamy carnation. The spiciness of the carnation is reinforced with cinnamon - a note that also compliments the jammy rose and holds the two flowers together. There is an earthy patchouli in the base, but I also can actually smell the sandalwood. A smudge of civet makes this a woman's perfume, not a little girl's.

As much as we who sniff whine about boring "fuitchoulis", I find one annoying fact inescapable: the men we love seem to love it. Well mine does. I can be certain that anything in that category will be instantly deemed "sexy" by him. So, if I want to indulge him once in a while, why not do it with a beautiful and sophisticated perfume like Maharani? Plus, it's such a happy perfume! It makes me smile too.

House: Parfums Nicolaï
Nose: Patricia de Nicolaï
Notes: Top notes : Citrus : sweet orange oil, bitter orange zest
Heart : Spicy and floral : rose oil, carnation, cinnamon
Bottom notes : Woody : patchouly oil and absolute, sandalwood, synthetic civet

Picture: Lucy Nieto

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Perfume in the News: Saks Fifth Avenue Texas by Bond No. 9

Came across this article today: New cologne gives you the odor of the Lone Star State.

Bond No. 9 has come out with another of their store-exclusive fragrances, like their Harrods Rose (for Harrods in England)  and Saks-en-Rose (for Saks Fifth Avenue, U.S.) from earlier this year. The new perfume, Saks Fifth Avenue Texas, is supposed to smell "like a tour through a south Texas garden with warm vanilla, aromatic cardamom and East Indian vetiver and musk." It's only available at the Saks in Dallas,  Plano, Houston, San Antonio and Austin

The comments are hilarious. Apparently they couldn't find anyone in Houston who thought it actually smelled like Texas. I could have guessed that from the notes. Since when are cardamom and vetiver notes that evoke Texas?

Well, I'll have to give it a sniff sometime and see for myself.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Parfums Parfums DelRae - Amoureuse

An unexpected trip to India

As the weather cools in Toronto but we still have sunny days, I like to wear florals, especially big white florals. The kind of happy girly perfumes that I don't want in the winter, but are also too much for the stickier days of summer.  Amoureuse seemed made to fit the bill: a big, feminine white floral with tuberose and jasmine.

Amoureuse starts with a juicy tangerine note and honey that is more animalic than sweet. The oakmoss helps to tone down the sweetness as well, giving the perfume a vintage feel.  And that's pretty much what I was going to write about, big florals... indolic... honey dripping... va va va voom and tra-la-la.

But the more I wore Amoureuse, the more I started to think that this is not the southern belle, like Peche Cardinal, that I was expecting. Amoureuse beckons to me with dark eyes from a different country - India.

Tuberose and jasmine are both prominent flowers in India but the note in Amoureuse that ties it all together is cardamon. Intensely aromatic, cool somehow and almost minty, the cardamon in Amoureuse lifts this perfume out of the banal. It add a greeness to the perfume that, along with the lily, makes me think of lily of the valley leaves - their shape and colour, which is also the shape and colour of the cardamon pods. The cardamon tones down the sweetness of tuberose, to a level that I appreciate. Add a base of sandalwood and you have your whirlwind olfactory tour of India.

The far dry down, 16 hours later, is mostly that animalic honey. A well done "modern" chypre.

House: Parfums DelRae
Nose: Michel Roudnitska
Notes: tangerine, cardamon, french tuberose, french jasmine, tahitian lily, oakmoss, sandalwood, honey

Photo: Michael Foley Photography

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Penhaligon's - Gardenia

Light, breezy and pretty

Originally released in 1976, Gardenia was reformulated in 2009 by Bertrand Duchaufour as part of the Anthology Collection. As he did with Orange Blossom, M. Duchaufour created a sheer pretty interpretation of the flower.

In contrast to the number of notes listed below, Gardenia smells deceptively simple. It starts with a very green note, combined with jasmine and tuberose. There is a tartness that must be the rhubarb. In the heart I smell mainly the magnolia over some gentle, warm, woody spices.

Gardenia is fresh and easy to wear. It seems natural yet classic. I like Orange Blossom better, but I could see spritzing on Gardenia for a summer wedding or a garden party, that's the kind of feel it gives me.

House: Penhaligon's
Nose: Bertrand Duchaufour
Head Notes
Violet, Rhubarb, Bergamot, Hyacinth, Magnolia, Green Leaves
Heart Notes
Gardenia, Rose, Ylang, Orange Blossom, Tuberose, Jasmine, Clove, Cinnamon, Lily of the Valley
Base Notes
Benzoin, Sandalwood, Musk, Vanilla

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Montale - Jasmine Full

Addictive jasmine, honeysuckle and orange blossom

Jasmine Full should come with a warning: Unless you love it strong, do not sniff up close for at least 10 minutes! Seriously, put that wrist down by your side and leave it there. This is strong stuff. You would not want to spill a bottle of JF in your purse. Luckily, there's little chance of that with the practical aluminum cylinders that Montale uses as bottles.

The top notes of JF smell like hyacinth and gasoline. I wonder if the smell of gasoline is an aspect of the jasmine? Aha, yes! The Scented Salamander says that a "nuance of gasoline exhaust appreciated by connoisseurs of the flower." So, I guess if you are a jasmine aficionado, you won't be surprised by the top notes. They grew on me; now I love that blast of gasoline and spicy, thick hyacinth. I even get a hint of lilac, like when they are blooming and you stick your face right into the bushes and inhale – overwhelming in a good way.

So trust me, if you're sensitive, only remote sniffing for a few minutes. You will be rewarded. After 10-15 minutes the most delicious scent will be wafting around you. JF becomes the most perfect night-blooming jasmine, dark and mysterious and narcotic, like the smell of lust on a summer night. Then it gets better. The jasmine becomes a base for two other white flowers to ride on: orange blossom and honeysuckle. If jasmine is lust, orange blossom and honeysuckle are first love, pure and sweet. I enjoy the honeysuckle the most JF is the only perfume I've tried that has this mouth-watering honeysuckle note. It floats around me like a veil.

The lighter white flowers are lifted by the heady jasmine beneath them and Jasmine Full becomes more than a soliflore; it's an incredibly beautiful, summer-flowers bouquet. Even better, my husband loves it too. Unfortunately, without any real base notes, like woods, musks, etc., the gorgeousness is fleeting. What's so strong at 8 am is mostly gone by 4 pm. All the more reason that I am going to need that full aluminum bottle for my purse.

House: Montale
Nose: Pierre Montale
Notes: Jasmine, honeysuckle and orange blossom

Photo: Madmoiselle Lavender

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Parfums MDCI - Peche Cardinal

Sticky peach, creamy coconut, fleshy tuberose

Peche Cardinal is a fruity floral with a southern drawl. She comes on quite strong, not a girl who can easily be ignored. The main notes are peach, coconut, tuberose and some sandalwood – all notes that evoke the south and warmer climes.

The peach in Peche Cardinal is thick and syrupy, with a tiny bit of tart blackberry/blackcurrant. It reminds me of peach schnapps, the sweet liqueur that was my gateway to alcohol as a young flower myself.  The peach is paired with coconut, making everything creamy and tropical.

Of course, peach makes me think "Georgia peach" which makes me think of the ultimate southern belle, Scarlett O'Hara. But it's sensual tuberose, not peach, that's real star of Peche Cardinal. Sweet, fleshy and humid – tuberose is a good match for Scarlett. Unfortunately, this tuberose also has a touch of that bubblegum note that plagues most tuberose perfumes for me (see Vamp à NY and Fracas).

Peche Cardinal well done and, if you like peach, coconut and tuberose, you should give it a whirl. I admire it for being a fruity floral that stays away from melon and berries and peonies.  But Peche Cardinal is not to my taste. This must be what a venus flytrap smells like to a fly. It's sweet, sexy, too much, I drown.

House: Parfums MDCI
Nose: Amandine Marie
Notes: peach, blackberry, blackcurrant, Davana, coconut, lily, tuberose, plum, sandalwood, cedar and musk

Picture: Gone With The Wind (1939)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Strange Invisible Perfumes - Peloponnesian


Peloponnesian is an "authentic botanical", "certified organic," "wildcrafted," "biodynamic" and "hydro-distilled" imitation of what my kitchen smells like after a thorough going-over with pine and citrus cleansers. Strong ones.

House: Strange Invisible Perfumes
Nose: Alexandra Balahoutis
Notes: Hydro-distilled orange & lime, cypress, orange flower, mountain sage honey & botanical musk

Photo: Photography_Gal and Jim Moran

Friday, August 13, 2010

Parfumerie Generale - Gardenia Grand Soir

Tonight won't be just any night

The "big night." Gardenia Grand Soir would go well with a bias cut silk dress and champagne. But the "grand soir" is also a revolutionary concept meaning the destruction of the previous regime and the establishment of a new society – a break after which anything is possible. Was M. Guillaume hinting at a brand new way to construct a gardenia perfume?

I love the smell of live gardenias but it's a difficult smell to replicate in perfumery. Gardenia Grand Soir hits a lot of the right notes and, after a slightly discordant beginning, resolves into a very pretty floral.

GGS captures all the buttery, creamy and green facets of gardenia but not the stinky, blue cheese or animal/indolic, notes. Gardenias have some weirdness to them; GGS tones that down. GGS starts with a strong, grassy green note with a hint of mushroom. Yes, mushroom is a part of the real gardenia smell! Don't worry if that sounds strange to you, it's only there for a few seconds but the green grass note lasts. For the first hour I wasn't sure about GGS, the green and the creamy seemed to be battling for dominance but they calmed down and unified to a gardenia, hovering above sweet sandalwood.

GGS is a duet between the two notes, gardenia and sandalwood. Sandalwood is not only used as a base in GGS, but aspects of threee different types of sandalwood are used to enhance and create the gardenia. According to Ca Fleure Bon, M. Guillaume used Australian sandalwood for a creamy effect, synthetic sandalore in the base for warmth, sweetness and better diffusion, and mysore sandalwood because it “is more dark with light cypress and violet like notes.”

That comment set off the light bulb for me, because I had been detecting a fruity, sweet/tart purple note in the heart of GGS. It must be the violet aspect of the mysore sandalwood that M. Guillaume mentioned. And the cypress is present too in the green angles of the gardenia.

I like GGS quite a bit, maybe even enough to add the the FB Wish List. It's a very pretty, even sexy, gardenia. It's a "grand soir" in the romantic way. Wear it on a night when you feel things are about to change and everything and anything is possible.

P.S. What are your favourite gardenia perfumes? Do you prefer more cheesy mushroom and indoles in your gardenia?

House: Parfumerie Generale
Nose: Pierre Guillaume
Notes: gardenia, sandalwood

Photo: Ivan Plata

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Parfumerie Generale - Bois Naufragé

Summer lovers in a bottle

Bois Naufragé was inspired by the gorgeous photograph "Nu au bois flotté" by Lucien Clergue (1971). Sexy skin, sun-bleached wood and a sea breeze would be what you'd expect from this image.

There's been some disagreement on the perfumes blogs about whether Bois Naufragé fulfills expectations. Now Smell This didn't find it oceanic or sexy. Confessions of  a Perfume Nerd smelled pina colada.

But I'm one of those for whom Bois Naufragé works perfectly. To me, it smells like the beach. It starts with a very green note combined with coconut and the milky sweetness that together makes fig to my nose. The figs are salted with that fleur de sel note, but it's light, not over bearing the way I found Côte d'Amour to be too salty. In the middle there's a light, tart note, like a trace of lime. The dry down is slightly woody and musky.
Ok, that's not sounding beachy is it? But if I stop concentrating on the individual notes and just smell, Bois Naufragé resolves into the smell of the beach. There's a light sea breeze, the warm, lactonic (milky-sweet) and salty skin of someone nearby – sun tan oil washed off by the ocean – sand dunes and grasses all around.

Bois Naufragé reminds me of the movie Summer Lovers. The fig and the sea salt seem perfect for Greece. It gives me that relaxed, endless summer by the beach feel.

House: Parfumerie Generale
Nose: Pierre Guillaume
Notes: carob tree, also called "fig of Egypt", treated as driftwood, fleur de sel, ambergris

Photo: Le Nu au bois flotté, by Lucien Clergue
Image: Summer Lovers (1982) 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Caron - Montaigne

Elegant and stylish, retro and modern

The perfume house of Caron opened in 1904 in Paris. In the eighties, Caron opened a store on Avenue Montaigne which famously features crystal "fountains" or urns, designed by Baccarat. When you purchase an urn perfume, the bottle is filled for you from one of these crystal fountains. The store in New York has them too, I hear, and I dream of visiting it one day.

In 2007 the perfume Montaigne was created by Richard Fraysse, the master perfumer for Caron. Montaigne preserves the elegant style of classic french perfumery while also being modern.

The opening will be familiar to anyone who has worn Chanel No5 - a floral bouquet with sparkling aldehydes; Montaigne has more jasmine. I immediately think "Oh, old fashioned perfume!" but it's old fashioned in a great way. Chanel No5 is still on the best-seller list for a reason.

After that lovely opening, the heart is powdery and creamy at the same time. It's centered around a thick yellow narcissus, supported with lighter mimose and orange blossom. I know it says "bitter orange" but I think is smells more like the orange blossom than the fruit. The creaminess comes from sweet amber and vanilla in the base.

Montaigne lasts for a good long time; I sprayed it at 8:00 a.m. and at 4:30 p.m. my wrist still smells like a yellow, orange and cream coloured bouquet.

House: Caron
Nose: Richard Fraysse
Notes: jasmine, coriander, bitter orange, mimose, narcissus, sandalwood, amber and vanille.

Photo: Mattias Kristiansson

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Eau d'Italie - Au Lac

Watery floral

The PR material from Eau d'Italie tells me that Au Lac was inspired by the early 20th century love affair between Italian Princess Vittoria Colonna and Futurist artist Umberto Boccioni. Part of this affair took place on an island in Lake Maggiore in an Italian garden near the shore. Au Lac is supposed to smell like "A gorgeous Italian garden at the height of summer, the air filled with the scent of flowers and the fresh waters of a lake...", you get the picture.

What does Au Lac smell like? Watery lotus, a hint of palest green, some airy, barely there osmanthus, mineral water and laundry-clean musk.

When I smell Au Lac the country that comes to mind isn't Italy, it's Japan. Specifically, the famous aversion the Japanese have to wearing perfumes that you can actually smell. Chandler Burr has written about this, Display It, don't Spray It,  and a recent article in the Japan Times says the same thing:
The Japanese can tell if someone is wearing perfume from three train cars away, and are quick to wrinkle their noses. It just puts them into a funk. They will likely swear the smell has clung to their nose hairs or taken up residence in their nasal membranes where they will have to inhale the offensive perfume for the rest of the day.
The Japanese cosmetics market is huge, but perfume sales are low - nothing compared to the European and North American markets. So, how does a perfume house make it big in Japan? Make more perfumes that don't smell of very much at all.  Many perfumes bloggers have alluded to this phenomenon, remarking that this or that new sheer, "clean" perfume or "anti-perfume" like L'Eau Serge Lutens, must be for the "japanese market."

I guess there's enough perfume in the world to suit everybody's tastes but, as for me, I'd like a little more "there" there. A little funk for my trunk. Even (horrors) a waft in my wake. I don't want to cause a stampede on the subway but, when I huff my wrist, I want to smell something more than water with petals floating on top.

House: Eau d'Italie
Nose: Alberto Morillas
Notes: Water Lily, Bitter Orange Leaves, Panarea Fig Leaves, Osmanthus, Italic Rose Bud, Sambac Jasmine Petals, Papyrus, Mineral Amber

Photo: Nganguyen

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Téo Cabanel - Alahine

Warm amber on a self-possessed beauty

The perfume house, Téo Cabanel, was actually founded more than 100 years ago, and revived in 2003. The in-house perfumer, Jean-Francois Latty, has created four perfumes for the house, but the beautiful Alahine is the only one I've tried so far.
Alahine is an alluring soft amber. Captivating and seductive, Alahine will enrapture you with mysterious scents of luxurious oriental palaces.
Alahine is a floral oriental and a must try for all amber fans. The amber smells a little like smoke, as if the resin is being burned on a brazier. There are gentle spices, especially pepper. Amber and spices are artfully blended with a rich rose and both are joined by sweet honey with vanilla and orange blossom.

It reminds me a lot of Serge Luten's Ambre Sultan and Ormonde Jayne's Ta'if - as if the honey and pepper rose of Ta-if was combined with the spicy amber of Ambre Sultan. I tried it though, and that layering combo doesn't even come close to replicating the sweet/warm/spicy yumminess of Alahine.

With Alahine on, I daydream of lounging on multi-colour carpets, escaping the heat of the day behind intricately carved wooden screens, perfuming myself with rose, smelling the spice market on the breeze and burning some amber in a brazier nearby.

House: Téo Cabanel
Nose: Jean-Francois Latty
Notes: bergamot, ylang-ylang, jasmine, Bulgarian rose, spices, orange tree, pepper plant, "honeyed rose of Morocco," iris, cistus, patchouli, benjoin (benzion?), vanilla, sandalwood and musk.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Etat Libre d'Orange - Putain des Palaces

She wore wore lipstick, he wore leather gloves... and brought marzipan.

Hotel slut. Well, they don't beat around the bush (so to speak), do they? Etat Libre d'Orange is a house devoted to quirky perfumes. Putain des Palaces is meant to evoke sensual fantasies of a woman dressed for seduction, a meeting in an anonymous room, temptation and intimacy.

It's pretty accurate, actually, but it smells like an assignation from decades ago, when a woman in expensive makeup smelled a certain way. PdP opens with a juicy tangerine that highlights a thick rose and violet bouquet. The rose and violet together smell like old-fashioned face powder and creamy lipstick, perhaps left smeared on a collar. I think only Chanel lipsticks still smell that way.

There is a man in the room too. He's wearing soft leather gloves and a light spicy cologne with ginger and violet leaf. For a while PdP is all about this couple, the woman in her seductive floral paint and the man with the leather gloves. But as PdP sits longer on the skin it takes a surprising turn, it becomes a gourmand. Sweet, sexy amber comes out from under the leather, gets sweeter and starts to smell like almonds. PdP becomes a chewy marzipan treat. Perhaps the lover brought it as a gift?

Putain des Palaces is bit of afternoon delight.

House: Etat Libre d'Orange
Nose: Nathalie Feisthauer
Notes: rose absolute, violet, leather, lily of the valley, tangerine, ginger, rice powder, amber, animal notes