Thursday, January 31, 2008

Davidoff Cool Water Woman

According to the Davidoff website, Cool Water Woman was "Inspired by Aphrodite...the character and energy of the woman using Cool Water Woman symbolises the ocean – its depths and mysticism are the origin of her eternal femininity and irresistible allure". I had never thought of Cool Water in such a way before, but I'll go with that. To me, it's always been one of the best-smelling Marine scents out there: featherlight, softly floral and fruity with a slightly green, aromatic and refreshing, subtle sweetness. You might think I'm crazy when I say this but I think it's such a lovely scent, leaning on the green spectrum, it could have been inspired by Givenchy III, with a touch of Hermes Amazone thrown in. It's a bit sporty for me for every day, but here's my testimonial that Cool Water Woman is one of my favorite casual scents. I think it's pretty enough to go out at night, too--in fact, the story behind this scent is that I once smelled a beautiful, youthful Fruity Floral scent at a party and wondered what it was, went out looking for such a scent, and finally landed on this one. Could it be worn at the office? Absolutely; I think it's one of those perfectly modern, versatile fragrances. Sunny and full of optimism, it's well worth having to lift my winter spirits up.

Jan Moran's notes:

Cool Water Woman (1996 Floral-Marine)
Top Notes: Citrus, pineapple, honeydew melon, blackcurrant bud
Heart Notes: Water lily, lotus blossom, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, quince
Base Notes: Sandalwood, peach, amber, orris, mulberry, vetiver

"This soft floral composition is built around aquatic, botanical and ozonic notes."


Jo Malone Honeysuckle & Jasmine

There are some simple scents I like, and Jo Malone Honeysuckle & Jasmine is one of them. I would describe it as being clean and heady, very floral and on the sweet side. Because the scents in the line are very simple, they're layerable with eachother. I think I like Honeysuckle & Jasmine best alone, but if you are interested in layering, I highly recommend getting one of the miniature cologne Fragrance Combining sets including scents such as Lime Basil & Mandarin, Grapefruit, French Lime Blossom, Tuberose, Blue Agava & Cacao and Pomegranate Noir, unless you can get a hold of their generous sample vials which you can play with for a fairly good while. lists Honeysuckle & Jasmine under "light green floral".
Top Notes: hyacinth, neroli, galbanum
Heart Notes: iris, rose & jasmine, lily of the valley
Base Notes: Sandalwood


Guerlain Parure

If I'm to disclose which perfumes had inspired my creating Persephone perfume, Parure (1975) would be one of them. Although Parure is a Chypre and Persephone an Oriental-Gourmand and they smell nothing alike, they share some aspects, at least compositionally. Guerlain described Parure in their 1977 ad as "a wildly original blend of lilac and amber, cyprus and plum blossoms", and that "You don't just dab on a perfume like Parure. You wear it body and soul". I, too, wanted to capture the jewel-toned glory of purple notes juxtaposed with deep, sweet ambery tones, to create a scent that smelled regal, introspective, radiant and "almost unattainable", another blurb from the same 1977 Parure ad.

Parure is a hard perfume to wear. It's categorized as a Chypre Floral-Animalic, and it's a strong scent with definite Chypre chacteristics. When I first discovered Guerlain's website, I noticed Parure was not sold on the Japanese Guerlain site but only on the European and US sites. I figured the leathery boldness was too much for the Asian market to take (although some people probably would have loved to wear this, too--there's no accounting for individual taste). Well, I'd gone out to smell this at the Saks counter some years ago. Since I generally don't wear Chypre perfumes (with the exception of some of the gentler ones such as Givenchy III), I didn't expect to like Parure, but I liked it from first sniff and bought an EDT on the spot. Nowadays, I believe Parure is only sold in Europe in EDT formulation and I'm not even sure if it's still being produced. If the newly reformulated Chamade parfum is an indication, the current Parure probably doesn't smell like it has much body and soul anymore. A piano sound on the synth is not a real piano--won't someone tell the perfume industry we can smell the difference?

On the whole, Parure is a rose-leather-amber with plum and lilac notes to give it the dazzling jewel-toned brilliant structure. It has a slightly acidic bite with a warm leather base mingled with wet moss and isn't too dry. It smells supremely confident but refined, and much softer than most others in the genre of rosy leather Chypres, thanks to the fey floralcy woven into the complex texture. The magic's in the guerlinade, and it is ineffable beauty you must wait for. I once wore Parure and found a woman not much older than I stopping dead in her tracks to smell my perfume, seemingly shocked to smell something so retro on a funky woman in a miniskirt and boots. She didn't get it and that's fine. She smelled of a simple Victoria's Secret spray which didn't keep me transfixed in quite the same way. To each her own. Not everyone understands the more intricate, sophisticated musical passages I love, either.

(Guerlain Parure ad, 1976)

Chanel N°19

Chanel No.19 is a fresh, green, powdery and distinctive floral scent. The listed notes on Perfume4u include May rose, (Florentine) iris, orris, galbanum, hedione, oakmoss, vetiver and leather among other notes. Some sources categorize No.19 as Chypre but Jan Moran calls it a Green Floral and describes it as Floral Woody Green. To me, it smells of galbanum (leafy notes) and honeysuckle, with shades of the classic Aldehydic Floral Chanel No.5 giving it the powdery impression. Then again, it's so compositionally well-balanced, it smells uniquely of No.19 which is hard to describe. No.19 was love at first sniff for me, and it was a memorable encounter.

I had a friend whose sophisticated, working single mother loved this scent. When my friend opened her mom's closet and showed this to me (sorry for raiding your closet, Mom!), it was an epiphany, smelling the "scent of a woman" who handled a busy schedule in a powersuit. It was also refreshing to discover a Chanel that smelled so chic, elegant, high-pitched, energetic and cool, but also more vibrantly floral than No.5. Chanel No.5 was all powder to me, but No.19 smelled like abstract spring in a bottle. It was crisp and professional, and I knew I'd have to get my own bottle when I got older (and I could afford it myself). Years later, I bought an EDT in the same beautiful, sleek silver atomizer with my own paycheck. Several years after that, I discovered and fell in love with the pure parfum version, but this formula is now rumored to be discontinued and seems hard-to-find.

No.19 is the epitome of a refined, timeless French classic.

Michael Edwards lists these notes in his book, Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances:

Chanel No.19 (1971)
Top Notes: Neroli, galbanum
Heart Notes: iris, May rose, narcissus, jasmine, ylang-ylang
Soul Notes: Oakmoss, cedar, vetiver

Jan Moran lists the following notes in her book, Fabulous Fragrances II:
Chanel No.19 (1972 Floral-Green)
Top Notes: Greens, galbanum, bergamot
Heart Notes: Jasmine, may rose, iris, ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Sandalwood, oakmoss, vetiver


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Shiseido Relaxing Fragrance

Shiseido Relaxing Fragrance is a simple and casual scent, although the blend itself is more complex than it seems. A well-rounded mix of rose, white florals, green notes and a hint of fresh cucumber, it's as fresh as newly washed linens. It has a somewhat musky sandalwood base, so the sillage carries pretty far, making it more suitable for weekends and casualwear than for the office. However, if worn lightly (maybe one spritz or less), you might be able to get away with it in a spacious office setting. For comparison, it carries a sillage as wooded and musky as Carolina Herrera 212 which came out in the same year during the minimalist, New Age-inspired '90s.

Jan Moran for Perfumemart categorizes it as:
Shiseido Relaxing Fragrance (1997 Floral - Fresh)

I found this list of notes on where this scent has a high user rating:
Notes: cucumber, bamboo, and galbanum, herbal blend of gardenia, ginseng, artemisia, and peony, enhanced by a rich, calming note of tea rose with sandalwood, moss, and tonka bean

(Image: Perfumemart)

Shiseido Koto

Shiseido Koto (1985) is exclusive to Japan. It occasionally comes up on eBay for very affordable prices. I don't know why, because it's a fabulous scent, a Green Floral Chypre that I find very similar to Deneuve or Givenchy III. It's often described as a mixture of Chypre and Muguet (lily of the valley). I think of it as a Chypre made to appeal to lighter, fresher Japanese taste (generally speaking, not taking into account individual taste). The opening is very green and fresh, softly floral and delicately sweet, although I think the dry down is quite heavy and pungently woody, but that's to be expected of a Chypre fragrance anyway. It combines the best of both worlds artfully and it is fairly easy to wear for a complex type of fragrance.

A koto is a Japanese harp which is curiously played by more women than men. Although men and women both play it, I was taught it's traditionally played by women because whether it's true or not, it's said to be the less challenging of instruments to play. My grandmother was a shamisen master--a shamisen is a Japanese banjo, said to be traditionally played by men because of its difficulty in mastering. Perhaps one day, Shiseido will create a women's fragrance called Shamisen and pave the way to break this gender-based stereotype.

(Images: Perfume-Smellin' Things)


Fishbone Fragrances is back! For those of you who don't know, Nancy is a decanter whose eBay shop was one of the shops that were closed down last year. Her customer service is tops, and she's also loved for her signature Swedish Fish (if you've bought from her, you know what that's about). Fishbone is not only back but having a liquidation sale at unbeatable prices. Recently, I bought samples from her of (hang onto your hat): Diorling, Diorama, Le de Givenchy parfum, Cuir de Russie, Muscs Kublai Khan, Sous le Vent and more. If you've always hoped to sample hard-to-find or vintage beauties, now might be your best chance. Link to Fishbone96 Decants and Samples and happy sniffathon!

Giorgio Armani - Armani Le Parfum

Armani was the first signature fragrance by Giorgio Armani, launched in 1982. I only have miniatures of Armani (black cap) and the lighter Eau Parfumée version (white cap), but I'm glad I have these because this fragrance is very rare and hard-to-find. I've seen it classified as a Green Chypre which would put it in the same family as Estee Lauder Private Collection, and Aliage which it resembles a whole lot. Still, I am tempted to describe it as a Green Floral in the same family as Chanel No.19 or Deneuve. It certainly has Chypre elements although it's not as distinctively Chypre to me as, say, Givenchy III, or Shiseido Koto which it vaguely resembles in both scent and bottle design. Compared to these, I find Armani rosier and a bit more woody rather than floral or leathery. It has a bold, green and refreshing but woody, herbaceous aroma overall. Armani is a dazzling, gorgeous scent, a classic Armani with a streamlined, modern feel but with all the decadence and quality of a vintage perfume. Still, I prefer Givenchy III because to me, Givenchy III smells more floral. If the Chypre element in Givenchy III is too much for you, Armani is cleaner (lighter, less animalic), although warmer, and just a bit easier to wear.

Notes on
Top Notes: Aldehyde, Spearmint, Marigold, Bergamot, Galbanum, Pineapple
Heart Notes: Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Narcissus, Orchid, Rose, Orris, Tuberose, Cyclamen
Base Notes: Amber, Oakmoss, Sandalwood, Tonka, Musk, Cedarwood

Michael Edwards' Classification: Fresh Mossy Woods (green)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Listen to Sali Oguri On NAB Radio!

NAB Radio has Sali Oguri on regular rotation - Listen now!

NAB Radio (North American Broadcasting): Great Music, True Variety

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bombshell Perfume Ads

Guerlain Chamade

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Givenchy III

Yes, it's fresh and green, but it's a heavyweight perfume, like an incredibly difficult piece of music to play that a great musician could make sound effortlessly light for the untrained ear to think he'd just heard a sound, not of specific notes because they went over his head, but of wind blowing by. Would you know what I meant if I said it smells like how perfume used to smell, almost like booze--maybe rum--and potent, with a powerful, distinctively *perfumey* smell?

Givenchy III was created in 1970, right there between the births of Guerlain Chamade (1969) and Chanel No.19 (1971). Givenchy III is described by Jan Moran as Chypre Floral Animalic, and I'd say that's right because that's how it smells to me, except it's also very flowery and sweet, the way Chanel Cristalle in the later eau de parfum version smells sweet, richly (white) floral, green and mossy. However, Givenchy III is a drier, almost leathery scent, not quite as dry and bold as, say, Halston (otherwise, I couldn't wear it), but with the slightest hint of that dry patchouli-chypre base popularized in the '50s a la Cabochard, Jolie Madame, Miss Dior (1947).

Givenchy III is a great classic that'll leave others in the dust. Grab it now because it's rare, and although I haven't smelled the newly rereleased version, I'm not too confident it'll live up to the original if they've done something to tame the jasmine that was the heart of this sophisticated ladylike fragrance. Actually, the jasmine in this vintage I have is not that animalic, and smells like a gardenia mix. Chunky, bold, urbane and minimalist, the original bottle design by Pierre Dinand (tall and square-ish with rounded edges) is also a beautiful work of art.

Jan Moran lists the notes in her book, Fabulous Fragrances as the following:

Givenchy III (1970 Chypre-Floral Animalic)
Top Notes: Aldehydes, galbanum, peach, bergamot, gardenia
Heart Notes: Jasmine, jonquil, carnation, rose, lily of the valley, orris
Base Notes: Amber, patchouli, oakmoss, myrrh, vetiver, castoreum

(Image: 99perfume, Images de Parfums)

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Romance Commandos Perform Tonight!

The Romance Commandos
Featuring Tom Vincent
Friday, January 25th, 2008
8:30pm - 11pm

Live at The Goldhawk Lounge
936 Park Avenue (corner of 10th St)
Hoboken, NJ
201 420-7989

The Romance Commandos are:
Annalee Van Kleeck - vocals
Bianca Bob - vocals
Sali Oguri - vocals
Larry Capoli - guitar
Neal Pawley - trombone
Andy Goessling - saxes and mandolin
TBA - keyboard
James Macmillan - bass
Ed Shockley - drums
Tom Vincent - Frontman

Emporio Armani Diamonds

This ad featuring the great diva of our time, Beyoncé, is stunning! The fragrance itself is a slightly soapy, high-pitched baby-powdery, musky scent, very similar to Lise Watier Neiges to me. I'd read once that Beyonce herself is allergic to perfume, and has only mentioned having used baby powder (talc-free nowadays, we hope) to scent her sensitive skin with. If that's true, perhaps the effect of Armani Diamonds is fairly close to that concept. The Scented Salamander has listed the notes and described the perfume on her blog in more detail, with some interesting scent comparisons to objects such as Japanese erasers and rosé wine consumed by the underage. Read it and see if you think you're one of the people whose lifestyle the creators of this scent had in mind. No matter what your verdict on the scent or thoughts on the demographics-based marketing strategy might be, one thing's for sure: we all want Beyoncé to keep on rockin' the Neumann with her vocal prowess for people all over the world to attempt to emulate. You can't touch talent like hers with a ten-foot asbestos-free powder puff.

La Prairie Midnight Rain

I think I like this fragrance but I'm not sure. It's heavy and busy with many notes, making it very rich-smelling yet modern, patchouli-heavy and a bit cloying up close, but the sillage it leaves is pretty. It smells like a mainstream scent, like a night at a club or discoteque. It smells a lot like Britney Spears Fantasy to me, but maybe a bit more floral. It's one of the few obviously patchouli-based scents I can handle, but aside from the soft, somewhat tame Fruity Floral vanillic gourmand angle, it's a bit Angel or Prada-like...which isn't always a bad thing but so many fragrances smell like these now. I like it--the opening is nice with a high-pitched, clean pomegranate note, and it dries down a woody-sweet Oriental. The bottle is literally in the shape of a raindrop which is not chic but cute and kind of funny, and even funnier because it looks like urban rain, with all the pollution and ozone packed inside the giant black raindrop. Well, rain isn't exactly clean, anyway...and sometimes, it has the habit of looking like a tear falling from a heavily mascara-ed eye. It's a scent for the drama queen in me.

(Image: Aromascope)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sali Oguri Persephone New York

Sali Oguri Persephone New York
Bring out the music in you.

Exclusively at WUJ Productions

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An Interview with Marian Bendeth: Psychology of Perfume, Part I

"For me, the basis of fragrance selection has a lot to do with self-esteem and introvert/extravert tendencies. " --Marian Bendeth, Global Fragrance Expert, Sixth Scents

Recently, on a whim, I sought Global Fragrance Expert Marian Bendeth's fragrance advice, curious about her career description as a "fragrance profiler". Well, I was lucky and able to receive her exclusive services, and what can I say but that her assessment of my scent character--who I feel I am inside--was amazingly "on". Not only had she visualized the colors I resonate to and places where I feel most comfortable, she was able to describe my personality accurately in a nutshell: simultaneously soft and intense, a protected, sensitive artist. It still blows my mind that the language of perfume can say so much about a person, whether we want people to know these things about us or not.

Marian Bendeth, whose company is called Sixth Scents, is a true professional in the world of perfumery with vast knowledge and understanding of perfume to support her unique field of expertise. She can connect scents and personalities together as only someone with a "sixth sense" could accomplish. She is my friend, a truly fascinating person to correspond with--in my eyes the embodiment of joie de vivre, and it's always a pleasure to listen to her speak, as she has many pearls of wisdom to share.

Sali: Marian, regarding your assessment of my fragrance personality based on just a couple of my favorite perfumes (and the perfumes I've created which you've smelled and kindly reviewed): How are you able to read characters and is it an innate trait or something learned?

Marian: My knowledge on personality profiles is predominantly based on conducting thousands of consultations with perfume lovers from all over the world. It fascinates me that someone from say, Kingston, Jamaica and Oslo, Norway might have many things in common based on their fragrance tastes and classifications. I have been able to sew a common thread through multiple ethnicities, cultures, religions, ages and lifestyles. The rest is, well, yes, a certain “Sixth Sense” on my part, gut intuition hence the name of my company, Sixth Scents. I like to say Fragrance is your walking biography. I think most subliminally assess others on their fragrance tastes. I have just made it an art form.

Re: your scents and personality: Sali, I also recall about your tastes that you are a big picture kind of woman who loves to walk in the door from another angle. You seek out new ideas and love to take risks. Your innate creativity and rich imagination pave the way for a rich and industrious career in the arts. You love moody atmospheres – most likely more of a night person and lighting, background music and textures inspire you. You prefer to work alone when it comes to creation forecasting things and then realizing them in real time.

S: Thank you so very much for an extended assessment of my scent personality! How can people who are interested in getting an assessment receive your services?

M: At present, fragrance profiling is only available to Fragrance companies and vendors. I do some profiling for media fragrance stories from time to time which is available online. My title is Fragrance Expert and that covers a multitude of services that I provide for consumers; retailers, fragrance vendors, perfumers and the media.

S: Is your system connected to any other psychological or cultural fragrance classification systems out there, or is it a unique system of analysis?

M: My system is totally unique which makes my journey one of a pioneer. Most marketing companies will bring in fragrance consumers to sniff new launches and tick off boxes to say whether they think they are too sweet, too spicy, weak etc. These controlled environments may attract a particular age group who are paid to fill out the questionaires. Of course, they are a wonderful resource for statistics and valuable information but it does not cover the many key areas such as spending habits and brand loyalty on things other than fragrances. Other interesting subjects include: cultural upbringing and familiar childhood aromas; fashion and interior decorating tastes and of course, how one perceives themselves or how they wish to be perceived. For me, the basis of fragrance selection has a lot to do with self-esteem and introvert/extravert tendencies.

With private clients, I make house calls and I am also featured in retail environments and perfumeries and department stores consulting with over 126 nationalities and differing fragrance tastes. I also work with over 1,000 + prestige fragrances for women and men and have to have a working knowledge of past, present and future perfumes and what they contain and how they should smell on the body.

"...race and ethnicity have nothing to do with body chemistry; that said, body chemistry on individuals does and the aromas of familiar cultural odours will affect tastes and selections."

S: How do you decide what someone can wear or not? Can some skins wear Chypre better than others? Is there a guidebook or a rule? Do you just trust your own nose? This is the part I wish to clarify, and I think what most people will want to know. Inevitably what it boils down to is, does race have anything to do with classifications and what genres suit which skins at all?

M: First of all, race and ethnicity have nothing to do with body chemistry; that said, body chemistry on individuals does and the aromas of familiar cultural odours will affect tastes and selections. Each body is individual and might pick up individual or whole accords and I can ascertain the differences. Unless the wearer has a great nose, ask others and loved ones for their opinions.

S: You were a prominent music critic once in the jazz genre. I also know you are an avid listener of Brazilian jazz. Do you feel that there are parallels between the world of fragrance and music, or are they very different fields to be involved in?

M: I love the idea of fragrance being motivational, inspirational not unlike music that can transform and carry us somewhere else in mere seconds! For me, it is all about rhythm! I do find many similarities between the concepts of music and fragrance analogy but for me, smelling a fragrance can also be likened to a multitude of images. When I smell something new for the first time, my mind can go into a myriad of directions. For me, it is a journey and how smooth or bumpy that journey is from beginning to end and will impact my overall decision.

I try to look for the flow of the scent, not unlike a great piece of music where the intro or top notes should offer a pleasant surprise. The duration of those notes in combination with the heart or lyrics and chords should be seamless. They should crescendo in varying degrees and move my imagination to some place magical. The basenotes or percussions should be even and steady and provide the tempo for the piece. Anything too abrupt, non-compatible or affected may affect my judgement. There is a well-known very hot singer who starts off with a great beat but likes to detour into a completely different singing style half-way through the song which sounds uneven and crude. I have smelled scents that do that as well - it feels like you are being jerked off course. To be fair, when testing new scents, I go back to the smelling strip multiple times over twenty-four hours and look for new and innovative feelings upon each return. At the end, it is the journey and longevity that holds my attention.

What is fascinating to me is when I smell a new scent, I may envision anything from graphic lines and shapes, a style of music or composer, artist/ painter; specific colour or pantone shade; environment, personality or fashion style with a lot of texture in 3D – real or imagined. I guess you could say it is part instinctual, part research.

S: Could you tell me a bit about your favorite perfumes and how they may have shaped the way you visualize fragrances as characters?

M: I guess I am all over the map when it comes to my personal preferences but when it comes to my customers, I have to be as open as humanly possible.

I tend to stick to my personal favourite classifications, vintage chypres; aldehydes; floral woody and green scents. I also enjoy wearing some of the fragrances I work with such as “Rumeur” by Lanvin; White Crystal (aka Straight to Heaven) by Kilian; Epice Noir by Michel Roudnitska and Le Baiser du Dragon, Cartier which inspire my sensibilities. I also stand in awe of many fragrances I would not personally wear but admire as works of art. Of course there are thousands to choose from and I may change scents throughout the day, depending on who I am meeting and the mood I am in.

As an Expert I have to seek out as objectively as possible, the many directions a blend can take you. I never dictate to my customers but rather guide the customer in the right direction. It is a marriage, of the nose loving the fragrance and the fragrance loving the skin! If these factors don’t exist, I suggest moving on.

Then there is my personal preference for my own fragrance wardrobe, then my objective view with an evaluated scent, then my impressions with a blotter and then with my customer’s skin and their preferences. One classification becomes another after sitting on the skin which can spin the direction into a completely different classification! I adore this challenge and the findings are always unexpected and informative!

S: Is it fair to say you are a fan of things that are consistent, that whether it be characteristically or genre-wise, when things veer off into different places, they throw you off aesthetically? Would this also connect to how you feel about people who wear different types of scents, say, all over the map? How would you perceive such a person's personality?

M: When I talked about the singer, I was talking about gratuitous notes that were thrown in...because they felt like it, because they could and for no other reason. I can smell this in a blend - instantly. Big turn off because it reflects a laziness or ego that does not work in tandem with the other notes in the blend. Not unlike an amazing fashion style that is cut to the nth degree - Oscar-worthy - and then she wears flip flops on her feet or better yet, a beautiful painting with a mulititude of colours and depth and then the artist decides to paint a fat black line across the canvas obstructing the imagery.

George Gershwin for me, knew how to make those detours, those jerky movements but.....and this is what I mean Sali, always kept those forays within the keeping of the piece. They always blended with the movement and meaning of what he was trying to project - take Rhapsody in Blue - probably one of the first to do this. For me, Rhapsody in Blue was sheer genius - the listener heard a train, detours, art galleries, momentum, a literal roller coaster of sound, crescendoing into the clouds. Same thing with Pat Metheny's Inner Circle or Straight on Red- what a brilliant piece that is. I don't have any personal Brazilian song that reflects perfection for me - they are all wonderful in different ways (not unlike perfume) but so is Albinoni and LeGrand for different reasons as well.

Some adore the kind of jazz which spirals off into total improv, they enjoy the journey of where the musician might go...there are many fragrances that also smell "improvisational"...and hopefully, there is a market for them but the expectation of mass sales for this kind of scent should not be too high. Of course, many actually take the marketing quite literally which can affect their perceptions immeasurably.

Should an individual pick scents from a multitude of classifications, they reveal various slices of their personalities. If all of the scents "sit" well on their body chemistry, they are very fortunate indeed because it is a rarity, pure and simple. The majority of fragrance lovers usually tend to stick within 2 - 3 classifications. Very rarely in my career, have I smelled body chemistries that can pick up evenly in accordance to what the perfumer desired, all the accords, notes, oils from beginning to end in all of the classifications and wear anything and everything. Of course you know the factors that can throw a scent off in another direction which is why the nose says one thing and the body another.

There are many classications and scents I adore but cannot wear. I think a lot of people wear inappropriate scents that either do not sit well on them or are in the wrong setting. I personally don't subscribe to wearing just one classification or fragrance - too boring. It's also how you wear tying a scarf, wearing the right shoes or boots with an you walk, your gait, tone of voice ...all these things speak volumes about you.
(Marian Bendeth will be interviewed on CBC Radio on Jan 31st, co-interviewed with Chandler Burr. The show will air Live on Sirius satellite 137 from 12:00ET. The segment will take place at app. 12:30ET. In Ontario, the show will air on FM 99.1 at 14:00ET, and again at 22:00ET. The following day the podcast is available for download or on demand from the website: Global Fragrance Expert Marian Bendeth of Sixth Scents can be contacted at

We're going to continue with the fascinating dialogue and ask Marian about her perspective on fragrance and marketing trends in the industry and much more. This article is Part I of a two-part series entitled "An Interview With Marian Bendeth: Psychology of Perfume" by Sali Oguri for Pink Manhattan Blog, All Rights Reserved. Read Part II on Marlen Harrison's Perfume Critic.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Cie is a delightful fragrance and I just discovered it, thanks to the online auction site where rare scents can be had for the right price (I got a purse size cologne). I'd seen the ad featuring Candice Bergen before, and wondered about the scent. Numerous perfume lovers with quite a bit of knowledge about different perfumes had raved about Cie on perfume forums saying it's a very well-composed blend. I agree--Cie smells like it could very well be a prestige perfume, even though it's a drugstore quality scent. I'd compare it to Revlon Norell, Charlie or Jontue, but the composition itself isn't so far away from something like Chanel No.19 or closer yet, believe it or not, to Amouage Gold: an Aldehydic Floral with a full white floral heart and mossy, Chypre elements. It's very elegant, understated, yet rich and voluptuous, sweetly golden-honeyed as well as fresh, woodsy and green. It's totally multifaceted, full of sunshine, warm, soft, natural and intelligently blended. I really adore it and wish it hadn't been discontinued. It might be a low-end perfume but I think it's beautiful and in good taste!

According to Cie was first introduced in 1976 by Shulton. Jacqueline Cochran developed the fragrance before Shulton purchased her company. Cochran was a famous American aviatrix who set many flight records and whose New York cosmetics company made perfumes for other brands worldwide. Scent: Floral Blend

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sabi by Henry Dunay

Sabi by Henry Dunay was blended by the same nose who created one of my favorites from many years ago, Red by Giorgio Beverly Hills (1989). I loved that richly aromatic-powdery Aldehydic Floral-Oriental-Chypre blended with everything but the kitchen sink in it. I had a friend who rocked Giorgio (1982) in very minute amounts (all unkind stereotypes regarding Giorgio aside, she was a shy, very reserved but sophisticated friend who lived on the Upper West Side), and I, the girl from the boroughs, opted for Red, the "softer" fragrance, which wasn't so soft after all and catered well to my high-energy, intense personality. Sabi in comparison to Red is a much tamer blend but also a rich blend of over 250 oils. I'd say the quality of Sabi is better than that of Red, and if I were to choose between the two today, I'd take Sabi in a heartbeat. However, unless you liked a retro Green Floral scent, you might opt for the Red, or even Giorgio. You just don't know till you try.

It's been written Sabi was created in 1998 for the 40+ woman but I don't believe in age casting (and find it terribly sexist), so this Gen Xer is happy to wear it. Jan Moran's book, Fabulous Fragrances, lists many celebrities and their favorite perfumes; Sabi is supposedly a Diane Sawyer fave. Brainy and graceful--I think that's a nice association. Sabi is a Japanese word meaning "rust" but with a complex meaning; roughly, it's a poetic, classical aesthetic, philosophical term for beauty, refinement and serenity that comes with age--also appreciation of things that are old or transient, fleeting, leaving, changing form (read more about wabi-sabi here and on Wikipedia). Perhaps this is the kind of scent that fits an independent woman who's happy in and accepting of her own skin--a scent for a woman who has lived and seen enough to tell a meaningful tale or two.

Kiku no ka ya (scent of chrysanthemums)
Nara ni wa furuki (in Nara all the many)
Hotoketachi (Ancient Buddhas)
(Haiku of Basho 1644-94)

I'll tell you what Sabi reminds me of: a cross between 3 perfumes, all pretty far away from eachother but sharing a green aspect: Kenzo Ca Sent Beau (the original Kenzo, a gorgeous white floral blend with a touch of fruit), the original Armani pour Femme (so hard to find, a dazzling Green Floral with a pale Chypre aspect--fresh and rich but more floral than woody) and Sage Jade, a semi-spicy vanillic Green Oriental with a white floral heart. The overall impression Sabi has on me is a spicy jasmine on a woody-vanillic base, but the opening Chypratic Green quality, as fleeting as it may be, is well worth the experience. It's the kind of dazzle I've only smelled in one other perfume besides Armani, and that is the now discontinued Deneuve.

In fact, I find Sabi and Deneuve pretty similar now that I think about it: the bottle designed by Henry Dunay is also somewhat reminiscent of the Deneuve bottle with a crossover (cross-your-heart?) female torso shape (remember Ungaro Diva? Like that), except the Deneuve bottle design was more abstract. To compare Sabi with Deneuve one-on-one, I think Deneuve is the more Chypratic in the long run. The dry down of Sabi is still relatively Chypre but more Oriental, almost a sweet, musky sandalwood incense. Maybe Sabi's dry down is where the Japanese name makes a real connection. However, if I pay closer attention, Sabi reminds me of Estée Lauder Private Collection, a Green Chypre featuring a chrysanthemum heart.

If Givenchy III, Yves-Saint Laurent Y or Miss Dior were too heavy on the Chypre, and you can't find Armani or Deneuve to try anymore, Sabi could fill in as a wonderful new option with all those refreshing aspects but with emphasis on the big, round floral heart--complex but not too aloof, sometimes spicy and stimulating, then sweet and somewhat emotionally unrestrained, crisply professional when it wants to be, cool and collected or down-to-earth. Easy-going and flexible, even worldly, unbiased and all-encompassing, it is very zen in these respects. Multifaceted with many layers to reveal, Sabi is a conceptual statement sure to interest even those who've smelled them all and feel a bit olfactorily jaded.

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Oct. 9, 1960

Images courtesy of:

Dog on a Blog

Color Trend Spring 2008

The season's colors range from Poppy Red to Royal Blue. See more colors here (link to pdf files): Pantone fashion color report spring 2008, New York Fashion Week, September 5–12, 2007

The color of the year is Blue Iris.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jean Patou Vacances

Jean Patou was known for his famous Joy perfume (1930), the cardigan, practical sportswear women can run in, and cubist sweater designs coinciding with the jazz age, borrowing inspiration from artists like Picasso and swing music by Count Basie. Duke Ellington. Benny Goodman. Roy Eldridge. Mary Lou Williams. Billie Holiday. If you've never heard of them, your perfume knowledge don't mean a thing (so go do your homework). We're talking about the 1930s: Americans lindy hopped at the Savoy in Harlem and the well-to-do vacationed in sunny places to enjoy a game of tennis or a round of golf, yachting and swimming in the newest bathing suits that showed off their midriff. There were many trends to keep up with in the seemingly extravagant era following the Great Depression of 1929, while many people were still scrounging or destitute across the country. One thing was certain: if you didn't have, you didn't announce that fact and learned to fake it well.

In 1936 France where they were also being affected by the Depression, people were celebrating the first mandatory paid vacations, and so in timely fashion, Jean Patou launched Vacances with perfumer Henri Alméras (who was also the nose who created Joy("the costliest perfume in the world") which helped keep the House in business and gave women a small piece of luxury they could afford while haute couture clothing was out of the budget). I don't know how well Vacances did with their American target market when it launched in 1936, but after Jean Patou died in the same year, his perfume lived on through periods of hiatus, and in the 1980s, Vacances was revived as part of a collection of miniature Jean Patou perfumes called Ma Collection. These were eau de toilettes, and I know I've tried them all because I once had the set, but had it not been for my friend Donna who recently sent me some Vacances to try again, I wouldn't remember it. It's a beautiful but very delicate Green Floral scent, and so lovely, so soft, it's like a whisper--not a wallflower per se but unless you stopped to actively pay attention to it, it wouldn't ask for any.

Surely Vacances was made to bring to mind clear Mediterranean sandy beaches, of living it up in Côte d’Azur or the Italian Riviera, sunbathing, dining and jazz dancing in the hottest spots in Europe! But Vacances is a summery yet dainty fragrance, like a garden filled with lilacs. It's also a bit reminiscent of one of my favorite jasmine blends, Rich Hippie Spring, heady and sweet with the mildest indolic hint of the smell of horses...or is that hay and grass I smell? Vacances isn't nearly as indolic but it's a sunkissed warm green scent, mild and soft, earthy, plantlike and alive--the smell of nature in as pure a form as it can be captured inside a glass container. What's truly special about this scent is how full of sunshine it really is, yet how green it stays through it all, from the opening burst of fresh galbanum to the honeyed end. You can really feel the sun on your skin as you smell it, like you've entered a scene in a still life painting, bees buzzing around and all. Maybe that's the sunny effect Jean Patou was creating...after all, he was one of the first to introduce suntan oil and encouraged the bronzed look in an era when dark skin was still considered a thing of the poor classes--people who have no choice but to work all day in the sun.

Some would rejoice and some would lament: "Oh, how times have changed"...but Vacances is still a beauty, worthy of being brought back and produced by the House of Patou (now owned by Procter & Gamble). It is the finest lilac-hyacinth blend I think I've ever come across.

Jan Moran's notes:
Jean Patou Vacances (1936 Floral Oriental)
Top Notes: Hyacinth, hawthorn, galbanum
Heart Notes: Lilac, mimosa
Base Notes: Musk, woods

(Image: Perfume-Smelling Things)

Long skirts

They say long skirts are back, and with more fabric, they cost even more, which is great because we have so much more to spend now that the economy has taken a nosedive. Are we working on bringing back the 1930s "natural" shape of woman, too (read: clearly defined bust, waistline, hips = girdle time)? I feel like we're still doing the time warp.

Disney and Misogyny

Most of their programming seems to be good for the young people but occasionally, there are moments like this: "She's wrinkly...she's ugly...she's evil" to describe an evil character of an animation film. Why not leave the wrinkles out of it, or are we trying to sell skin cream again like the 1930s are back?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Amouage Gold for Women

(Pictured: Amouage Gold for Women Cristal Edition bottle) I may never, ever fall in love with another perfume again after smelling Amouage Gold for Women. This is the stuff dreams are made of. Amouage is a luxury perfume line from Oman. The first fragrance by Amouage (now called Gold) was created in 1983 by Guy Robert, a French perfumer who also had created Hermès Calèche, Equipage, Madame Rochas, Mary Quant Havoc and Gucci No.1. Gold is said to be the perfumer's "symphony, the crowning glory of his career" and although I'm not sure if he was talking about the men's or women's version, either way, I can see why. The men's is gorgeous but a bit baby-powdery musky and heavy on the patchouli making it smell significantly bolder and a bit camphoraceous to me. I'm sure it works on the right person, and the composition is pretty much the same as women's but with additional notes.

The women's is glorious--a perfect perfume. At first, I thought it smelled very much like his other Aldehydic Florals like Madame Rochas and Calèche, but Gold is infinitely smoother, richer, more complex with layers upon layers of notes unfolding over time, yet it's softer than anything I've ever worn. Gold for women is as smooth as silk, so round and seamless for such a huge, epic composition involving movements--it's really so very dramatic! For someone who doesn't usually care for woody Aldehydic Florals, I find Gold easy to wear, maybe because of the Fruity Floral, not to mention full-on Oriental, characters deftly woven into the classical, Aldehydic-Chypre style of this fragrance. The dry down is very elegantly woody floral, but also incensey, richly sweet and warm with a downy, elegant finish. It's heavy but it also feels clean, thanks to the silver frankincense and myrrh that's never too astringent but lends that clean, cooling appeal. As much range as this composition covers pitchwise from top to bottom, I don't find it overwhelming at all because these intricate chords breathe. (Pictured below: Amouage Gold for Men and for Women 24K Flasks, made to special order)

I'd always said when the time comes to test the Amouage perfumes, I would be getting near the end of my perfume quest. I don't think I'll ever really be done with sampling because I love perfume too much, but after having smelled what must now amount to hundreds, maybe a thousand perfumes, I'm glad not to miss these exquisite perfumes, national treasures of Oman and works of a master whose dream was fulfilled to create with no holds barred in terms of raw materials. I was fortunate enough to discover Parfums Raffy where I bought beautiful carded 2ml spray samples of the Amouage fragrances from for comparatively good prices online. I dream of owning a bottle of Gold in parfum one day (parfum which I have yet to smell; all this excitement over eau de toilette--imagine that!). This perfume makes my skin smell like golden honey reserved for royalty--because this perfume was created for Omani royalty, and when you smell it, such quality shows, and you know it's not just fanciful words. Thank goodness I can smell this now...truly, I am grateful for such a discovery, and feel as if I've struck gold in a way real gold could never satisfy.

Notes on
A M O U A G E is a floral and fruity fragrance with top notes of rose, jasmine and lily-of-the-valley mingled with apricot, lime and peach. These are underlaid by middle notes of silver frankincense, myrrh, rock rose flower, patchouli, orris and sandalwood. Exceptional lasting power is given through bottom notes of ambergris, civet and musk.

Parfumsraffy says:
Top notes: rock rose, lily of the valley, silver frankincense.
Heart notes: myrrh, orris, jasmine.
Base notes: ambergris, civet, musk, cedarwood, sandalwood.

Gold Man Eau de Toilette has the addition of patchouli and oakmoss for a chypre slant.
(Pictured above: Samples of Amouage Gold for Women, Gold for Men)
Here are my very brief thoughts about some other notable Amouage fragrances:

Dia: This is another rich and powdery Aldehydic Floral but somehow I prefer Gold for myself. Dia seems more classic, less sweet (and maybe why it's suggested for day wear) with prominent violets(orris) and Turkish rose--it's sharper and more powdery, along the lines of Estee Lauder White Linen, Balenciaga Le Dix or Lise Watier Neiges to me. It's kind of a soapy scent with a woodsy character, and again, it's superpowdery.

Ubar: This is a discontinued fragrance but wow, is it ever powerful! Ubar is unlike the others in that it's not an Aldehydic Floral but an extraordinarily heavy and rich, musky Chypre-Floral composition. It starts off a gorgeous, dazzling Chypre--then, on dry down, the musk reminds me very much of Usher She and Unforgivable Woman only 100x denser. A teeny touch of Ubar lasts for hours. This stuff rocks but it's not for the faint-of-heart. It's absolutely decadent, fit for a queen...or a king!

Jubilation 25: Here is the newest offering and it smells like one, but in a good way. It starts out with the familiar Aldehydic Floral scent like Calèche, but with a sharp coarseness that resembles Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie or L'Artisan Parfumeur Orchidee Blanche. It dries down to a more floral scent, somewhere between Estée Lauder Beautiful or Juicy Couture--a powdery tuberose--and a citrusy davana scent by Rich Hippie. It smells pretty and hip; now, that's saying something for a perfume with such classical roots you can't hide.

Please read more about Amouage perfumes at this link:
Amouage - The Pride of Oman by Shaly Pereira & Jaya Ramesh, Mangalorean, Published on May 16, 2007


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thank You, Bob Herbert

Read Politics and Misogyny
Published: January 15, 2008
in The New York Times.

Christian Dior Poison many people know this fragrance very well, so I'm not going to go into great depth in describing it except to say it's one helluva bombshell '80s Floral Oriental with plum, berries, tuberose, rose, amber, labdanum and opopanax (sweet myrrh) among many other notes, all working together giving it a robust, sweet and seductive aroma. It's highly recognizable because it's such a unique scent, and never has it been successfully duplicated by another even if the scent has been copied. I used to wear a drop of the Esprit de Parfum each day until I emptied that beautiful purple bottle in a serpentine-poison apple theme. Everything about the marketing was sinister and powerful, but the scent itself, although strong (highly concentrated), was actually sweet, with subtle spices (cinnamon, coriander) and a touch of dark fruit. I thought the ad was nicely done, too, featuring a woman but not going overboard with overt sexuality, and instead letting the mysterious character of the perfume be the star of it all.

Like a true star, it has its adoring fans and also the opposite--no other perfume (except Giorgio) has ever been so controversial as to be actually banned from certain French restaurants in the '80s (thanks to those perfume sprays that made it so easy for people to overapply). It continues to be maligned even by those who claim to occasionally wear it. Through it all, opposers of this untraditional, unconventional scent couldn't quiet Poison down nor intimidate it into oblivion, and 20 years later, it's still here. It told a story as riveting as any classic folktale, and now it's a classic itself. Well done, Dior!

Jan Moran's notes:
Christian Dior Poison (1985 Floral-Ambery)
Top Notes: Coriander, plum, pimento, anise, rosewood
Heart Notes: Rose, tuberose, orange blossom, honey, cinnamon, wild berries, cistus labdanum, carnation, jasmine
Base Notes: Sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver, musk, vanilla, heliotrope, opopanax

Michael Edwards' Notes:
Head Notes: Orange blossom, honey, wild berries
Heart Notes: Cinnamon, coriander, pepper
Soul Notes: Ambergris, cistus-labdanum, opopanax

(Image: Christian Dior Poison Esprit de Parfum miniature,

Christian Dior Hypnotic Poison

Oh, how I love this scent...I find it intoxicating. Rumor had it Christian Dior discontinued this awesome follow-up to the original Poison perfume, but I've been seeing it again at select department stores online, which leads me to believe it's being produced. Well, thank goodness. I loved Poison, and this is the only variation I've loved thus far. Hypnotic Poison is a delicious-smelling fragrance--almondy sweet, smoothly vanillic, with a white floral heart and a unique caraway seed note lending some spice. Some say it's like root beer but not to me (especially since I don't care for the taste of root beer); it's more like milky marzipan or frangipani flowers--soft and caramel-sweet, but a bit daring and mysterious, perfect either for evening or casual days/weekends. I might compare it to Gucci Rush but softer and sweeter, less spicy and richer, like cream. I could also compare it to Comptoir Sud Pacifique Tiare (the original, before they changed their vanilla) or Isabey Gardenia but less floral, more hypersweet Gourmand Oriental. It's the curious counterpoint of creamy and bold that makes Hypnotic Poison so appealing to me. A fragrance can be strong but not scary...this is actually a very round and cuddly warm scent despite the witchy, firey image. I don't know if this bottle is plastic or coated glass, know I have a preference for glass, always.

Notes on Basenotes:

Christian Dior Hypnotic Poison (1998)
Top Notes: Caraway, Bitter Almond
Middle Notes: Jasmine Sambac, Moss
Base Notes: Jacarander Wood, Vanilla, Musk

It comes in EDT only but apparently there was an EDP splash version once upon a time, now discontinued and rare.


Natural VS Synthetic Aldehydes?

Are some aldehydes that come from natural sources natural enough to be called natural? Only if they're carbon-based, right? The new buzzword on the scene is "natural aroma chemical", or "natural aldehyde", probably created by the manufacturers of aroma chemicals or aldehydes used in modern perfumery to make the distinction between good and bad chemicals (and of course, their companies are producing the latest good ones). One site states: "Because these (isolates) are extracted from the essential oils, they should in no way be considered synthetic". True, some aroma chemicals are derived from crude sources--many musk ketones and galaxolides, for instance, are petrochemicals (see the chart that lists aroma chemicals here). However, some aroma chemicals themselves are complex mixtures that stem from both natural and synthetic sources, so it's not as cut and dry as it seems. Basically, it means vanillin, menthol and linalool can be natural, synthetic or partially both, but whatever it is, if it's derived from mostly natural sources, it can pass for being natural. It should be noted that synthetic vanillin can be prepared from cellulose industry waste products or coal tar and in food, it's known to be hazardous to health.

(Before we move on, I do want to clarify that I get my oils from respected sources for natural fragrance and essential oils. I also eat organic foods wherever possible and play acoustic instruments, but I still need to make my point because I'm concerned with the ethics behind marketing.)

The thing is, what's called natural in the flavor and fragrance industry is highly debatable because let's face it--all people are not going to agree that, say, canola oil, because it's a genetically modified rapeseed oil (which is toxic in its natural form) is in fact a natural oil if there's no such thing as a canola in nature. Likewise, hydrogenated soybean oil might be natural but that doesn't mean it's good for us to consume. Natural linalool is derived from turpentine. Is that good for us? Furthermore, I sincerely doubt it's only the American perfume companies that use crude oil isolates such as musk ketones in their products, even if some sites like to make it seem that way. Many USA perfume products are also made overseas--in Paris, for instance, and vice versa. But any company looking to cut down on competition might put down other companies to promote their own aroma chemicals--or the perfumes in which they're used.

Can we honestly say chemicals (isolates) are 100% natural if they're naturally-derived, even when chemically modified? One more thing for food for thought: We're not cooking with coal tar in the US but we still color our desserts with Red No.40 and Yellow No.5. Does the EU allow those in their food products or are we the last to use artificial (natural? Some argue "artificial" and "synthetic" are also different) colorings?

Read about the history of aldehyde use in perfumery: Synthetic No.5 by Chandler Burr, The New York Times August 27, 2006

More about natural aroma chemicals here: The Return of Natural Flavours, Philip Ashurst, PhD, May 2005

Monday, January 14, 2008

Burberry London

I went to Sephora last night and retried Burberry London (2006) and decided I will need at least a small size to wear this winter. When I first smelled it, I was taken aback by how different it was from the original London, and truth be told, I thought it smelled like Welch's Grape Soda on a woodsy, patchouli-blend base. I don't know why I hadn't been brave enough before but trying it on the skin was the wisest thing I could have done. Up close, it's still somewhat brash, like Dior Pure Poison, Addict or Carolina Herrera 212--woodsy and musky, dry and exceptionally huge in its sillage. However, the dry down stage mellowed on me and gave me just enough berries and rose without turning winey, like some rose-berries tend to turn. The notes don't list berries at all--the only listed fruit note is clementine--funny because I still get berries from this, and happily so. In fact, what I loved about the original London was in part the cassis (blackcurrant bud), so this new London follows up with juicy berry-like notes but instead of a warm blanket of amber, the base is modernized with that bold, dry, woody muskiness, perfect for a sexy night out to rock a confident attitude.

If the candied berries and dry, musky woods in the new London weren't your style, try this version. The original Burberry (1996), now referred to as Burberry London Classic, is also being sold at Sephora alongside the new, and it's just as gorgeous a scent as it's always been. This was love at first sniff for me when it launched, even though I only bought a mini and never finished it. I think a little goes a long way with this version, too. It's heavy but soft and ambery with rich florals and cassis: words to describe it would be sweet and plush, warm and lush, serene and comforting but with a sexy edge as well. It's a bombshell perfume that's streamlined--goes well with either a dress or pants and a tailored trench coat. Compared to the new London, it's obviously more classic but it's the kind of retro glamour that wouldn't scare most people away--it still feels new and contemporary, along the same lines as other new-ish classic Floral Orientals such as Hanae Mori Magical Moon, Guerlain L'Instant and Jil Sander No.4.


Lelong Pour Femme

Lucien Lelong was a French couturier who some would argue was the original pioneer of the New Look, the wasp waisted, full-skirted look just before the war broke out in 1939. It's also been written that Dior, Balmain and Givenchy all considered him to be a mentor. As you might imagine, Lucien Lelong's perfumes were also highly "feminized" with emphasis on full-bodiedness. One of the perfumes in the Lelong line was Indiscret (1935), an ultrafeminine Fruity Floral with Oriental tones featuring a rich floral heart of tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine and tiger orchid, balanced with upbeat accents of mandarin, galbanum and white peach blossom on a warm, ambery base. It was re-launched in 1997 in a bottle designed by Marc Rosen. Following Indiscret came another bombshell feminine fragrance called Lelong Pour Femme (1998), described on Lucien Lelong's website as the epitome of the glamour of Paris's Art Moderne period. The exquisite crystal arch shaped parfum flacons in the image of a clock are topped with a double tusk perfume stopper in trompe l'oeil tortoise shell, in the authentic style of the era. Lelong Pour Femme is quite hard-to-find, and I believe only one store in the US carries it (The Perfume House, Portland OR). I'm sampling this today and I must sing my praises because this one has some intricate layers to reveal underneath its fresh, citrusy opening that resembles Indiscret but only at first.

Greta Garbo, an icon of the 1930s, was one of Lelong's illustrious clients. Image courtesy of d. Chedwick Bryant, Tangled Up In L'Heure Bleue

Past the flash of bright, tart mandarin awaits the most enchanted garden of white florals with purple-tinted elegance: lilacs, orchids, magnolias on the breeze, blooming in early spring. Purple flowers can smell somewhat austere in certain arrangements (they smell "green" in perfumespeak) but in Lelong Pour Femme, they smell like a soft ray of optimism, a whisper of honeyed delight. With the addition of Kadota Fig, the fragrance turns greener than ever, giving the composition an aura of vintage glamour without losing the easy-to-wear, contemporary feeling. A classical heart of jasmine and May rose is radiant and alive, and the additional green notes make this fragrance startlingly delicate yet sensual at once. Most of all, the sillage is beautiful--refined yet refreshing like a warm, genuine smile. This is a well-orchestrated classic with emphasis on florals, sure to bring back timeless haute elegance--but with a gentle spirit--within the all-out romantic Floral Oriental genre.

Lelong Pour Femme (1998): mandarin, bergamot, magnolia, garden lilac, Kadota Fig Intenscent, jasmine, rose de mai, tuberose, ylang ylang, iris, sharry baby orchid, purple cattleya orchid, white cattleya orchid, sandalwood, vetivert, oakmoss, musk.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Caswell-Massey Number Six

If you take a look at Caswell-Massey's timeline of fragrance history, you'll see that the first (modern) perfumery was established in London in 1700 by Charles Lillie. Jean-Marie Farina began making eau de cologne in Koln, Germany in 1709 but the House of 4711 wasn't established until 1771. Floris of London was established in 1730 and not long after, Caswell-Massey was founded in 1752 in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. Caswell-Massey is actually older than French perfume houses, of which L.T. Piver would be the first one, founded in Paris in 1767. Today, the flagship Caswell-Massey store is located in New York City.

Back when they first launched, Caswell-Massey offered 10 colognes of which Number Six, an eau de cologne (a lemony, light scent) was the bestseller. Six has notoriously been the favorite among many American presidents from Washington to Clinton (and on various sites, I've seen both Bill and Hillary named as fans of the fresh, easy-to-wear cologne). I've had the chance to try many Caswell-Massey fragrances in the past couple of weeks, and I think my personal favorite to wear is Number Six, even though it's listed on their website as a Men's fragrance. If you like Guerlain Imperial or the famous 4711, this is in the same vein, but with a very subtle spicy kick. It's very clean, as I find many of the Caswell-Massey scents to be--perhaps they're closer to English style than French style, although some of them smell very French, indeed. Casma (1922), now discontinued, was a creamy Aldehydic Floral following the success of Chanel No.5 (1921). Tricorn (1941), a Men's scent, is sweet and powdery, and smells like Guerlain Shalimar to me. I like Tricorn very much but I must say I was surprised by the similarity. Anyway, if you want something simple and nice that'll take you everywhere in style, try Six--it's well-mannered enough for dignitaries and if you're not into smelling flowery and typically "feminine", this type of citrusy scent is the perfect alternative. I like these Caswell-Massey masculine bottles way better than the feminine bottles, too.

Here's some more perfume history for you--Charles Lillie, the perfumer in the Strand, is mentioned in this article: Spectator, April 23, 1711.


Caswell-Massey Gardenia

Gardenias are native to China and Japan. Until recently, I didn't know this is the flower known in Japanese as "kuchinashi", which sounds like it means "mouthless" (kuchi (mouth), nashi (none)). I'd have to ask a monk or a scholar to figure this one out. Is the beautiful flower which inspires songwriters to praise its feminine beauty considered beautiful because it cannot speak? There are many stories behind this flower in many cultures, and not all cultures see the symbolism of this flower the same way. Gardenia can represent purity and refinement, but during the Chypre phase of the '30s, '40s and '50s, a gardenia perfume might have been portrayed in Hollywood films as being loud and inappropriate when a secretary wore it to work. Fast forward to now: gardenia perfumes are popular where I live (New York), and I have many friends who wear gardenia scents. I love the scent of gardenia so much, I made a gardenia blend perfume of my own called Pink Manhattan PURRFUME. In perfumery, gardenia oil is said to be created by other notes because no absolute or essence can be extracted from gardenia flowers (reference: United States Patent 3637533 GIVAUDAN CORP link here). Gardenia is said to most often be recreated with tuberose or tiare (Tahitian gardenia), both highly redolent white florals.

Caswell-Massey, one of the oldest perfumeries not only in the USA but the world, has a gardenia scent simply called Gardenia. On their website (, it's described in yet another cultural context, the American South where tropical white flowers bloom: "It is evening in the Antebellum south. The heat of the day has lifted and for a magical moment gentle breezes are suffused with the sweet scent of gardenias". It is a soliflore which I think smells very true-to-the-flower with a touch of heady tuberose. In fact, it reminds me so much of the new Estée Lauder Tuberose Gardenia, I don't think I could tell these two apart. If you have been thinking about splurging on the trendy one, do give this Gardenia a try before you decide. Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia is another one I'd say is similar to these. Gardenia ia a powerful fragrance and a little bit goes a long way. It might be wise to take cues from the old movies and save it for after work.

(Image: Gardenia by Jill Lang, Charlotte, NC,

Christian Dior Diorissimo

Diorissimo was one of my mother's first signature perfumes, and I believe she wore it for at least a decade of her young life. I'm not sure how long after the launch in 1956 it reached Japan (it took awhile for things to reach overseas back then), but she was a trendy girl in her '60s short hair and tailored threads, and Diorissimo complemented her style well. These days, she finds it too simple and boring, and wouldn't wear it again. After having moved onto Oriental and Chypre, nowadays she opts for headier white florals (Michael is her most recent favorite). However, her-story wouldn't be complete without Diorissimo, a bonafide classic recognized the world over, generation after generation. It's hard not to be taken by the sheer beauty of this fragrance--it's clean, light and pure, like you might spin around arms open wide and break into the song, "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music, upon smelling it. Then you might want to untwirl your skirt and sit like a lady because Diorissimo is oh-so-well-mannered--almost painstakingly so.

It's been said that Diorissimo, a Green Floral, was a rebellion against the trend of the time to cover up synthetics with gourmand notes, but ironically, lily of the valley, the key note in Diorissimo, is a created note because the natural oil is neither commercially available nor usable by perfumers (read more here). I've read lily of the valley is made with indoles which are known to smell fecal when strong but diluted and altered can smell flowery (indoles can produce bluebell, rose geranium, synthetic jasmine & civet, etc). I don't use lily of the valley in my perfumes and I don't know which aldehydes are involved, but I know the beauty of Diorissimo is the combination of this lily of the valley accord, a green, high-pitched note, and the glorious heart of jasmine, a most prized ingredient in perfumery, richly dazzling like a jewel within the composition. Some say the scent is animalic and musky but I don't find it so--I find it more fresh and clean like an old-fashioned floral soap. Diorissimo is a soliflore to me because the overall seems focused on lily of the valley, but it's a more complex blend than the simplicity of the scent suggests.

I strongly recommend the vintage parfum or Esprit de Parfum (which I believe is stronger than eau de parfum and is more like parfum strength). However, even the vintage eau de cologne is powerful (for such a delicate scent) and rich with quality ingredients compared to the version available today which is still nice and recognizably Diorissimo but seems a bit flat to me. Maybe someone who's been wearing this scent longer than I have could tell me I'm wrong about this, and that I'm being influenced by the richer yellow-brown tone of the vintage juice (real jasmine changes color over time). Of course, I totally understand if you'd rather wear new juice (I like fresh perfume, too). Even if pearls are too preppy for you, do try Diorissimo, the olfactive equivalent of a no-nonsense set of pearls. It'll withstand any overbearing scrutiny or criticism, and keep you fresh as a daisy during interviews and such.

(Image Sources: Christian Dior Diorissimo illustrations by René Gruau found at, and Les Tuileries blog)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Chypre (Revisited)

I've done a bit of reading on the subject of Chypre perfumes. Sometime last year, I learned Chypre was actually a style of perfume that came from Cyprus in Roman times, long before 1917 when Coty capitalized on the style and name. I also learned, thanks to Marian Bendeth of Sixth Scents, that a Chypre isn't one without cistus labdanum, aka rose rose, as one of its key ingredients. I'd heard about bergamot and oakmoss but labdanum was not usually brought up. Then, I found some info about how labdanum was acquired by the Crusaders in the 13th century from the Arab world where perfumery was highly developed, where labdanum was a fixture in the scent repertoire. It's amazing to learn how a simple thing like smell could carry within it so much history. When we smell a Chypre perfume, we are in part smelling the remnants of ancient Rome.

Chypre's come a long way since then, becoming popularized during the 20th century for many decades before the '80s (mainly during the '30s, '40s and '50s). In a way, they've made a significant comeback in the past few years with the creation of more abstract, modern Chypres, brought back by the help of the classicism trend in fashion. Still, Chypre is notoriously a difficult genre of fragrance for the majority of people to like; for the most part, it seems to be an acquired taste, although some people never warm up to its intense aroma. In my years of loving perfume, I've only occasionally fallen in love with Chypre perfumes but I've found a handful I would never want to be without. Paloma Picasso was one of my first Chypre loves; Amouage Gold is my most recent.

There are many types of Chypre besides the traditional and modern; there are (relatively) light and fresh ones, Floral blends, Fruity blends, Aldehydics, Oriental-crossovers and ones with modified base notes and structures such as the use of patchouli or leather instead of labdanum. Although they don't all smell the same, I would say most, if not all, are supposed to smell one way, how a Chypre should smell. In preserving the old, it's difficult to get away with pushing the boundaries and allowing too many variations on the theme. If anything, that's the aspect of the Chypre that makes it the most classical--it is rigid and conservative, requiring specific stylistic elements for a blend to be considered one of its own. Usually, this is why you wouldn't mistake the scent of a Chypre as anything but a Chypre once you know what it smells like. Still, creative perfumers will always try to push the genre, which is good for perfumery's evolution.

What does a Chypre smell like? In one word, it's perfumey! By that, I mean it often smells heavy, woody or forest-like, mossy and complex, yet like nothing in nature except perhaps like an abstract olive. Another word I have for this type of aroma is "stew". If it were assigned a color, it would probably be dark green, although the ones with patchouli or leather bases might smell more brown to me. I would almost say they are the antithesis of the "blonde perfume"--another term I've had to research and all I found was that this is a type of scent associated most often with sweet white florals. Famous Chypre perfumes include Guerlain Mitsouko, Gres Cabochard, Piguet Bandit, Rochas Femme, Givenchy Ysatis, Carven Ma Griffe, Estee Lauder Knowing, Agent Provocateur, Vivienne Westwood Libertine, Jean Patou Colony, Fendi, Cassini, Halston. Prada smells Chypre to me but it's listed as Oriental.

See my other Chypre post, Chypre: The New Classics Trend, Nov. 2006.