Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Parfumerie Generale - Papyrus de Ciane

Falling Hard

I first tried Papyrus de Ciane in 2010 and was unimpressed. Oh what a difference a year makes. Papyrus de Ciane is my new obsession. It is everything. It is all I am wearing and all I want to smell. It is perfect on men and women; the anti-pink perfume.

The Ciane

The Ciane is a river in southern Sicily where the only wild papyrus flourishes. The area is the largest wild growth of papyrus in EuropeNo one knows who brought the plants there. Were they presents from Ptolemy II to King Hiero of Syracuse or were they brought later by Greeks, Romans or Arabs?

Mythology has it that it was on this spot that Pluto opened a passage to Hades and kidnapped poor Persephone down into the underworld. Her bereft playmate, the nymph Cyane, mourned her so much that she literally cried herself a river. In the 19th century, it was as de rigueur for young Europeans to take a boat to the source of the Ciane on their Grand Tour as it was to visit Il Duomo or any Roman ruin.  They would float in wooden rowboats among the reeds that rose six feet tall, just like on the Nile, and contemplate romantic stories of the Greek gods.

Pierre Guillaume has created an intense green perfume to celebrate these intense green plumes. He also create it to be a modern interpretation of the legendary perfume base "Mousse de Saxe."

Mousse de Saxe

Mousse de Saxe is a dark, sweet mossy-woody accord with green freshness and a deep powdery drydown. According to Octavian Coifan, the original was created by Marie Thérèse de Laire in the early 20th century. It was meant to provide a moss or chypre base note to perfumes. On Bois de Jasmine I learn that Ernest Daltroff of Caron used a dark mossy base accord of geranium, licorice, leather, iodine, and vanillin that was called Mousse de Saxe. Whatever it's origin, Mousse de Saxe was used in or referenced by such great perfumes as Nuit de Noel, Habanita, Bois des Iles and Chanel No. 19. And now the name Mousse de Saxe belongs to Pierre Guillaume, because it lapsed into the public domain and was bought by Parfumerie Generale.

So What's It Smell Like?

In Papyrus de Ciane, Pierre Guillame has taken out the sweetness and turned up the green. It opens with a bright, bitter green note. Gods, it is so bitter; I adore it. If you love the biting galbanum of vintage Bandit or Chanel No. 19, wait till you get a load of this.

With the green, sinking down to dark depths like the pool surrounding the reeds, are grassy vetiver-like notes, sheer woody notes and smoky incense-like notes. A soft mossy base cushions your landing.

Like the vintage perfumes, Papyrus de Ciane has personality and real depth but it contemplates the historic base but from a thoroughly modern perspective. They layers are sheer, the colours distinct. It's close to the skin and very wearable.

According to a Grain de musc interview, Pierre Guillaume composes his perfumes to be loved. Baby, it's working.

House: Parfumerie Generale
Nose: Pierre Guillaume
Notes: Galbanum, Broom, Mild Plant Note, Creamy Wood, Mousse de Saxe

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vessel Parfums - Occult

Good Juice

I was approached recently by Hollis Schwanz, founder of the new indie perfume company, Vessel Parfums, and asked if I would like a sample of her debut perfume, Occult.

A disclaimer first: I don't make any money from this blog (really, really the opposite as it encourages the growth of my perfume collection) and everything I write here is my honest opinion. This perfume stuff is just for fun. I don't promise to review anything I'm offered, never mind positively. But I've been wearing Occult a lot and I like it, so here we go.

The marketing material tells me the notes for Occult were chosen to reflect the sensuality of the west coast "back-to-nature" movement in the 1960s. I'm not sure how that's supposed to fit with the name and bottle design (see below) but more on that later.

What I smell is a warm, mysterious ceremony in the woods. Occult opens with a note like mulled wine, fruity and with hints of cinnamon. There's also something rich about it, like creamed honey. There's vanilla but it's not too sweet. The focus of the perfume is on the smooth woods in heart. Sandalwood and cedar notes rub up against amber and civet, like a big, dark cat with gold eyes.

I have only a couple of criticisms. The first is that this rich, dark smell doesn't seem to fit with the idea of sunny 1960's California hippies to me. I could be wrong, I wasn't there. Maybe northern California, deep in the redwoods at night... But it's not the earnestness of the "back-to-nature" movement. Occult is a good name. Hmmm, "Rasputin" might be better actually.

The second thing is the bottles themselves. Occult is available in two sizes, the 2oz bottle and a small 0.5ml vial necklace, called "the talisman." The talisman feels cheap and young,  whereas the perfume definitely does not. The string, the charm, it's like something my 11-year old niece would wear. I don't like the full bottle design either: the Manson font and the vampire eyes. I think this juice smells better than that.

I've been carrying the little talisman around with me in my purse and re-applying often. Just a little dab goes a long way, so I think this is an eau de parfum concentration. Occult smells like quality materials, well put together, and the opposite of the insipid girly-vanilla perfumes out there. It has presence and weight, and is definitely unisex. Give it a try if you like rich orientals with sandalwood and cedar.

House: Vessel Parfums
Perfumer: Natasha Cote, Givaudan
Top: Laotian beeswax, black plum, Somalian olibanum
Heart: Texan cedarwwod, Haitian vetiver, leather, amber, Indonesian patchouli, sandalwood
Base: Benzoin (Laos), vanilla bean (Madagasscar), civet, opulent musks

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summer Scents

What I wore on my summer vacation, 2011

Summer is its own perfume category. Hot humid days cry out for cooling colognes; languid summer evenings beg for pretty florals; garden-fresh green notes just seem so right and if you can't get to the beach, you can always smell like one. On my staycation this summer, I hung around the city during some of its hottest days. Away from the restrictions of the office, I was free to spray on whatever and as much as I wanted. So here is list of what I wore to beat the heat.


Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Colonia
I first tried this in the spring on a trip to Rome. I was looking for a perfume that was quintessentially "Italian" and that would help me cope with the heat while we traversed the hills of Rome by foot. Acqua di Colonia fits the bill. It was originally created in 1533 by Dominican friars for Catherine de Medici. Its cooling combination of citrus, herbs and flowers feel as good as stepping into the Trevi Fountain on a hot day.


Penhaligon's Orange Blossom
A favourite of mine for sleeping in year round, this light, airy take on orange blossom starts with a pink pepper and end with a whisper of vanilla and wood.

Bvlgari Bvlgari Pour Femme
The perfect pretty floral perfume for a casual summer evening in a barely-there dress and sandals, Bvlgari Pour Femme is a carefree violet, rose and jasmine with a warm amber base.


Parfumerie Generale - Bois Naufragé
My beach in a bottle. This simple combination of wood, salt and ambergris makes my skin smell like I just went swimming in the ocean. The driftwood note and the salty-sweet skin note of ambergris combine with a pale "green plus coconut" fig-like note to make it seem like just the barest trace of suntan lotion is left on my skin under the salt.

l'Artisan Parfumeur - Ananas Fizz
Grapefruit and pineapple make this perfume a fizzy but not too sweet refresher. I find it somewhat balsamic and floral. When I wear it people say I smell like the beach.

Creed - Virgin Island Water
Virgin Island Water always makes me smile. Coconut, rum, lime and creamy ylang ylang smell like a tropical cocktail in paradise.


Eau d'Italie - Jardin du Poete
The smell of fresh basil is one of the best things in summer. In Jardin du Poete, refreshing bitter orange and grapefruit shine down on the bright green of basil and cypress like a garden at high noon. Moody green angelica, musk and vetiver bring you down to earth in that same garden at dusk.

Parfumerie Generale - Papyrus de Ciane
This is a good example of how perfume tastes can change over time. When I first tried this scent last year, I wasn't really into it. Now I adore it. The main notes are galbanum, neroli, incense, labdanum, vetiver and a gorgeous dark, mossy Mousse de Saxe base. Not really a "fresh" green scent, but more of a dry, smoky, resinous green, I know Papyrus de Ciane will continue to be one of my favourites right into fall.

So what are you wearing this summer to beat the heat?

Photo: Chasing Water I by andreaffm

Friday, August 12, 2011

Marie Saint Pierre B and C

Decisions, decisions

Marie Saint Pierre, the doyenne of the Canadian fashion scene, is based in Montreal. Her avant garde designs use a minimalist palette of mostly black with shots of orange, red and gold. The lines are clean, strong and angular.

In 2010 Marie launched two perfumes to complement her collection. They were created by Evelyn El Koubi of Luxe Alternative in Paris. The enigmatically-named B and C are said to be inspired by Montreal, personal travel and garden aromas.

They are both outstanding. I ordered the samples with a purchase from Luckyscent on a whim, because they were Canadian and I'd never heard of them. I wasn't expecting to love them, but I do. They are both beautiful, multi-faceted, sexy and yet comforting. Like her clothing, both are high quality and wearable. I've been wearing them alternately all week and I can't even decide which is my favourite, it seems to depend on which one I'm wearing at the time.

B could stand for 'baisser" (kiss) or "bois" (wood). It's rich and sensual. It starts with a thick caramel and burnt sugar note but it's not cloying or childish. Nutty spices warm it up and a thrum of sexy cedar and sandalwood keep it grounded and mature. The heart has a fruity rose/violet combination that together with the  cedar reminds me a lot of Serge Lutens Bois de Violette.  I see this perfume in colours of cinnamon and gold, melting over wine-dark purple and red. B is a sweet perfume for grown-ups. It's the more outgoing of the twins with more sillage.

C could stand for "caresse" (caress) or "cuir" (leather). C is a soft musk and leather scent with floral and spice facets. The first thing you smell is the green floral combination of petitgrain and orange blossom. Then iris and the softest suede take over. Orange blossom continues to weave in and out through most of the perfume. It dries down to a warm musk and saffron skin scent.  I may have found a new musk perfume to replace the Annick Goutal Musc Nomade that I can no longer wear.

The black lacquered bottles echo Marie Saint Pierre designs. Continuing the Canadian fashion theme, each bottle is sealed with a ceramic bijou of fused glass and ribbon, created by Canadian artist Melanie Laplante, that can be worn multiple way as a necklace or bracelet.

Can I afford two more bottles of perfume? No. Do I have room for two more bottles? Hell no. But can I stop huffing my wrists? Nope. Maybe one now and one for the wish list, but how to decide?

Marie Saint Pierre B and C are available in Canada at several stores in Quebec, one retailer in Kleinburg Ontario, and online from See the link below for more details.

House: Marie Saint Pierre
Nose: Evelyn El Koubi

B Notes
bergamot, Turkish rose, Atlas cedar, violet, caramel, beeswax, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, sandalwood, musk, maple sap, vanilla

C Notes
bergamot, petit grain, saffron, buckskin, iris, orange blossom, freesia, leather, cedar, musk

Friday, August 5, 2011

By Kilian - Sweet Redemption, The End

Alpha and Omega

Sweet Redemption, The End is the 10th and last perfume in By Kilian's L'Oeuvre Noire series, that has explored themes of love and temptation. I previously reviewed Love and Tears, Surrender which is one of the best jasmines I've ever tried.

In this final perfume, Kilian has created a complex balance of opposites. Sweet and bitter, light and dark, innocence and death, or is it rebirth? 

Sweet Redemption, The End starts with creamy orange blossom, a flower often associated with innocence. The pale creaminess melts into a heart of darker, sticky resins. The sweet smell of vanilla and cinnamon comes from benzoin but the perfume stays away from gourmand territory by the addition of bitter, medicinal myrrh.

Myrrh is an incense often associated with death and funeral preparations. It has a fragrance that takes time to love. I find that myrrh adds an almost plastic note to Sweet Redemption, as if the perfume is actually a sweet but synthetic amber, melting on my skin. Like vanilla ice-cream and dark honey frozen into bakelite.

At one point the light layer of orange blossom hovering over the incense base notes, created an illusion of lilies, Like a stereogram image created from two separate photos. Lily isn't mentioned in the notes, and maybe it was all in my head, but it fits with the theme of endings and redemption, death and rebirth. Lilies are the flowers of both funerals and Easter.

So in one fragrance, By Kilian leads us on an olfactory journey from beginning to end. Innocent fresh orange blossoms mixed with evocative ancient resinsto offer redemption as the ultimate temptation.

Sometimes I find the By Kilian ad copy a little florid, their packaging a little pretentious and their prices steep, but I have to admit the juice is outstanding quality. By Kilian will be offering the L'Oeuvre Noire series as a complete set of travel-sized atomizers this fall and I am tempted.

House: By Kilian
Nose: Kilian Hennessy
Notes: Orange blossom, bitter orange leaf1 vanilla, myrrh, opopanax, benzoin2, incense

1 Bitter orange leaf is mentioned only on the By Kilian website.
2 Benzoin is mentioned only on the Luckyscent website.