Monday, February 28, 2011

Lancome - Magie Noir (Vintage)

Beautiful Witch

Magie Noir was launched in 1978. The generous JoanElaine at Redolent of Spices recently sent me  a vintage sample of it that has me bewitched.

Although it's classified at an oriental floral by Fragrantica, to me Magie Noir smells like a chypre. Its opening notes are those of a traditional chypre base. Dark, mossy and bitter, the opening of Magie Noir slaps you in the face with its "chypre-ness" and a healthy animal note of civet. She growls.

The earthy darkness of the opening stays throughout, but Magie Noir's gorgeous bitchiness softens after a few minutes. It has a sort of backwards progression from that of most perfumes. After opening with traditional base notes, honey, fruit, and flowers join Magie Noir and seem to smooth out her mood. Nevertheless, it still feels like the fruit and flowers are under the base notes, not the other way around. The red and black fruit, cassis and raspberry, are present but only if you smell closely. From arms length, I still smell mostly the patchouli and oakmoss.

The florals of Magie Noir are subtle but wonderfully complicated. I think I can smell hints of narcissus and a spicy greeness from hyacinth and galbanum. These notes make it a spring time perfume for me. Magie Noir reminds me of early spring, when the everything is still chilly and dark, but the daffodils and hyacinths are just beginning to sprout out of the black earth.

In the end, Magie Noir reverses direction and goes back to base notes of amber, and wood. Like an unpredictable woman, she keeps you guessing.

Unfortunately, Magie Noir has been reformulated and it has suffered. The current formula is harsh and chemical in the opening notes. I can see how the basic structure of dark notes over fruit and florals has been imitated, but the magic is gone. There is something sour about the fruit, and the dark base notes are not as rich, missing the oakmoss and civet. Only after the dry down does the new version become a tolerable, if slightly powdery, facsimile of the original. It's a loss.

House: Lancome
Nose:  Gérard Coupy
Notes: cassis, raspberry, galbanum, hyacinth, bergamot, bulgarian rose, honey, tuberose, jasmine, ylang ylang, lily of the valley, orris, cedar, narcissus, spices, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, musk, civet, oakmoss, vetiver.
Where to buy: skip the new stuff and try to find the vintage online.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Serge Lutens - Five O'Clock au Gingembre

Cozy comfort on a cold day

It's a numbingly cold February day, and I'm wearing the warmest perfume I could find: Five O'clock au Gingembre. Sweet, spicy and cuddly, FOaG is the perfect antidote to winter.

FOaG starts with a chewy, sweet ginger. The ginger is gradually surrounded by hot cinnamon and pepper and sweetened with honey, turning it into gingerbread cookies. FOaG drifts back and forth between this ginger-spice aspect and a bergamot-tea aspect, making it seem like the gingerbread cookies are served with a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea. The slightly astringent smell of black tea balances the sweet ginger. The perfume dries down to a nice woody amber.

I don't know how I missed FOaG when it was released in 2008. Its woody, spicy comfort is exactly my cup of tea.

If you like Five O'Clock au Gingembre, you might also like Like This and Omnia.

House: Serge Lutens
Nose: Christopher Sheldrake
Notes: Top notes are tea and bergamot; middle notes are ginger, cinnamon and woodsy notes; base notes are cacao, honey, amber, patchouli and pepper.
Where to buy: In Toronto, you can find Serge Lutens at Andrews, or online from The Perfume Shoppe

Photo: Tea Party by Charlyn W

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dior - Miss Dior (vintage)

I thought she was a Veronica and she turned out to be a Betty

I have a vintage mini of Miss Dior, I think it's from the 80s, that I've never tried but a recent review by Normand at The Perfume Chronicles made me want to pull it out and give it a sniff.

The opening of my Miss Dior is sharp and green. I can smell a lemony bergamot and some old-fashioned aldehydes and the oak moss from the base. My first impression  was that it is a bitter green chypre; if Miss Dior was person, I would say she was a cool blond and a bit of a bitch. She's beautiful , but cold.

And then she changed. The bitter green was replaced by pretty florals. Miss Dior became cheerful, maybe even a little flirty. Amazing. I like it when a perfume does the unexpected. But she still wasn't finished evolving. In the base notes, a smooth, soft leather with a little smoke joined the flowers. The flirty girl now had some sex appeal. She winked at me as she pulled on a pair of leather gloves.

House: Dior
Nose: Jean Carles and Paul Vacher
Notes: Top notes are aldehydes, gardenia, galbanum, clary sage and bergamot; middle notes are carnation, orris, orris root, jasmine, neroli, lily-of-the-valley, rose and narcissus; base notes are labdanum, leather, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, oakmoss and vetiver.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sisley - Soir de Lune

A bodice ripper chypre

In honour of Valentines Day, I bring you Sisley Soir de Lune, a good old-fashioned bodice ripper.

Dark and magnetic, like the eyes of My Wicked Earl over there, Soir de Lune really pops my pearl buttons.

Starting with smoldering spices, Soir de Lune unfolds its red rose petals dripping with honey and a touch of soft peach. Deep in the woods, it lays me down on a soft bed of earthy patchouli and moss. In the darkness is a hint of the bitterness to come in the morning when my love leaves.

House: Sisley
Nose: Dominique Ropion
Notes: lemon, bergamot, orange, mandarine, coriander, nutmeg, pimento, May rose absolute, mimosa absolute, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, peach, moss, musk, patchouli, honey, sandalwood
Where to buy: in Toronto at Holt Renfrew

Thank you to Victoria at Bois de Jasmin for giving me her extra sample!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Frederic Malle - Lipstick Rose

Glamour Puss

Lipstick Rose is a perfume that grew on me. In 2008, while I was visiting England, I took the opportunity to do some perfume shopping. Being a budding perfumista, I wanted to smell perfumes that I had read about, but didn't have access to in Toronto. The friendly SA at Liberty pulled out the entire Frederic Malle line for me and I spent a long time sniffing through each perfume. I was determined to make a purchase of something that I couldn't get back home, and I wanted it to be an "important" perfume, something that would be remembered. I settled on Lipstick Rose. It was so different that anything else. It was unique and strong-willed and very glamourous.

Later, back in my hotel room, I was already having second thoughts. At the time, my favourite perfume notes were amber, spices and woods, but definitely not flowers like roses and violets. Also, unique and strong-willed I may be, but glamourous? No. I felt somehow unable to live up to Lipstick Rose. Now, years later, I've come back around to loving flowers, especially roses, and Lipstick Rose has moved back to the front of the cabinet.

Lipstick Rose is deceptively simple and linear. It's a combination of rich red roses and fruity purple violets, with a base of vanilla-amber and musk. But it has hidden depths. I find interesting dualities in Lipstick Rose.  Roses are luscious, grown-up  and romantic flowers, while violets are sweet, girly and demure.

The rose-violet combination in Lipstick Rose smells uncannily like thick, creamy lipstick, maybe something from Chanel and there is a powdery quality to it, like fine face powders. But although makeup is definitely inedible, Lipstick Rose also has an edible, gourmand side to it. The fruity violet ionones are berry-like, and the vanilla in the base makes me think of cookies and marzipan.

Lipstick Rose is also simultaneously old-fashioned and aggressively modern. Roses and violets may be "old-lady" notes, but the perfume is modern in the way it's composed. Spray on Lipstick Rose and you won't picture an old lady. It's a perfume for Dita Von Teese, putting on makeup at her dressing table and lacing up a corset. Maybe I don't have to live up to that. Maybe it's enough that I get to live in it for a while.

House: Frederic Malle
Nose: Ralf Schwieger
Notes: rose, violet, vanilla, vetiver, amber, musk
Where to buy in Toronto: at Holt Renfrew

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Judith Muller - Bat-Sheba Bath Oil (vintage)

A bathing beauty

In the Bible, Bat-Sheba was a beautiful woman who King David saw bathing and was so smitten that he lured her into adultery. The tale does not end well for Bat-Sheba's husband, but the perfume, Bat-Sheba, Exotic Oriental, created by Israeli perfumer Judith Muller in 1966, is still a beauty.

To escape the sounds of football, I ran a bath and poured in my small, vintage vial of Bat-Sheba bath oil. Warm, hints of fruit and rose rose up in the steam and a rich woody base of powdery-sweet balsamic notes enveloped me. I did feel exotic.

After the bath, I dabbed the last of the oil on my wrists and enjoyed the deep woody base notes with a hint of leather. I'm doubtful it will be enough to lure my husband away from the game but I can dream.

I think Bat-Sheba was discontinued in the 80's, but if you find a bottle anywhere, I highly recommend picking it up. And if any of my readers know Hebrew, can you translate the back of my sample box from the photo below?

House: Judith Muller
Nose: ( Rumour is that it was Sophia Grosjman ?)
Notes: I founds many different notes listed on different sites. Octavian at 1000 Fragrances says "green-rose notes (cactus-rosewood) over a vanilla/cocoa/ balsamic/chypre-woody base."  Scentzilla says "aldehydes, jasmine, rose, iris (orris), vetiver, incense, and leather." Yesterday's Perfume lists "Top notes: Aldehydes, cardamom, bergamot, fruit note, rosewood
Heart notes: Jasmine, rose, orris, ylang-ylang, carnation
Base notes: Patchouli, vetiver, castoreum, amber, leather, oakmoss"

Painting: Rembrandt, Bathsheba at Her Bath 1654
Photos: Bat-Sheba bath oil sample, mine.