Saturday, May 31, 2008

Molinard de Molinard

Molinard de Molinard by the renowned perfumerie based in Grasse, the center of perfumery, is a classic white floral (categorized as Fruity Floral by Jan Moran) launched in 1980. It's voluptuous, heady, sweet and richly floral, green (fresh-grassy-herbaceous, mossy and slightly weedy due to vetiver base) and luxurious with an ambery incense base. It remains Floral and doesn't veer into the Sweet (Oriental) family being light on the base notes. The smoky ending is unexpected and suggestive, putting Molinard de Molinard in the company of other intoxicating bombshell white florals such as Caron Narcisse Noir.

The mossiness combined with a richly floral heart might convey a rather retro feeling for some, but there's no doubt this is a beautiful fragrance of fine quality. Lively fruits round out the blend; the fresh greenery cuts through the sweetness, giving it much needed lift. For comparison, I often think of it as a more full-bodied version of Pierre Balmain Ivoire (1979). Molinard de Molinard is a well-composed creation hailing from the no holds barred '80s--a star perfume with pedigree.
I'm not sure if the new M de Molinard described as a floral green scent is the same fragrance, but I have a feeling it is. If so, the original version Molinard de Molinard in the reissued 1929 Lalique nudes bottle is a marvelous deal.

Notes according to Jan Moran:
Molinard de Molinard (1980 Floral - Fruity)
Top Notes: Fruits, citrus, black currant bud, greens
Heart Notes: Bulgarian rose, Grasse jasmine, narcissus, ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Reunion Island vetiver, incense

Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs

If you haven't smelled Anaïs Anaïs, you may have at least seen the iconic porcelain milkglass bottle with soft pink flowers all over it. Anaïs Anaïs was launched in 1978, breaking ground for this type of romantic, full-on white florals in its time. Creamy, fresh, heady and sweet, Anaïs Anaïs is a juxtaposition of innocence and darkness as the rich yet airy white floral bouquet (Madonna lily, jasmine, ylang-ylang, iris) rests on an unexpectedly heavy, musky Russian leather base. Michael Edwards wrote in his book, Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances, that Anaïs Anaïs was in fact created and marketed with this duality of woman in mind. The duality-dichotomy is also reflected in their ad campaigns.

Although the madonna-whore dichotomy is not my favorite theme by any means, Anaïs Anaïs is a revered classic. It set a standard for an era and possesses an undeniable beauty that won't be forgotten anytime soon by its worldwide fan base. It's easy to love and wear for all ages, and it keeps the interest of even some discerning perfumistas having good range and many (not just two) facets from a delicate, youthful freshness to a captivatingly mature depth. It's also well-mannered as iris lends a somewhat soapy-powdery impression, although what I get more than powder is the creaminess, simultaneously warm and cool, but never cold or sharp. The overall effect is a great, deeply devoted tenderness. I always imagine a ballerina wearing it.

Although it stands alone as a distinctive and easily recognizable fragrance due to its fame, similar fragrances include Jessica McClintock and Fragonard de Fragonard.

Jan Moran's notes:
Anais Anais (1978 Floral Fresh)
Top Notes: White Madonna lily, blackcurrant bud, hyacinth, lily-of-the-valley, citrus
Heart Notes: Moroccan jasmine, Grasse rose, Florentine iris, Madagascar ylang-ylang, orange blossom, bourbon vetiver, California cedarwood, Singapore patchouli, Yugoslavian oakmoss
Base Notes: Russian leather, musk

Friday, May 30, 2008

Honey: Perfume and Aphrodisia

To explain the history of aphrodisiacs, one must return to caveman days when "you made me do it" could suffice as the reasoning for most human behaviors. Where would we be today without the visual aid of Venus of Willendorf, the ancient fertility goddess doll that preceded today's pornographic girly rags (I'd much rather see statuettes than photos of real people)? Surely, mankind would have utterly become extinct without people being able to procreate without their help.


(Image: Venus (of Willendorf) by Marcus DeVito, Oil pastel
on black cotton paper 40" x 30", www.marcusdevito.com, (c)Marcus DeVito
2005-2008. All Rights Reserved))


Likewise, what's a love potion but a little magic to make people do what they normally wouldn't do, like fall in love with anyone of your choosing? In a world where people feared nature, people attempted to control nature. Aphrodisiacs have included eating foods that resembled phallic and yanic symbols, to spreading ginger paste to one's scrotum and anus (did that work like Lip Venom?) or drinking strange and often dangerous potions (read more at this link: Sex Science Timeline at Men's Journal (Health and Fitness: Sex Special: Beyond Viagra, August 1998 by Joseph Hooper).

Honey has been considered an aphrodisiac in many parts of the world throughout history. The word "honeymoon" (lune de miel) comes from an old English tradition to supply a newly married couple with enough mead (fermented alcoholic beverage made of honey, water, and yeast) for a month, ensuring fertility. As Wikipedia states, mead goes back to ancient Vedic tradition and Hinduism. As you may find at this article on aphrodisiacs at 1st-in-aphrodisiacs.com), "...in arranged marriages between Hindus, parents placed a bowl of honey beside the couple in the hope of attracting love and romance to the relationship. Honey has an acclaimed place in Indian mythology, and a chain of bees forms the bowstring of (the love god) Kama" (of Kama Sutra, the maxim for gentlemen in its day, 5th century BCE). This honey drink mentioned in the Kama Sutra preceded Ancient Greece where honey came to be revered as the nectar of Aphrodite. Hippocrates prescribed honey for sexual vigor and mead was Aristotle's favorite drink (but did it help his love life? And no, I don't really care to know).

Why was honey considered an aphrodisiac, anyway? Honey is rich in B vitamins needed for testosterone production, but could people have known that in ancient times? Could it be that the scent of honey resembled the smell of urine due to the presence of phenylacetic acid in both, and that smell of urine just so happened to bring to people's minds images of genitalia? Bois de Jasmin's Victoria writes: "Phenylacetic acid in extremely low concentrations has a luscious honey and animalic malt odour; however, in large dozes, it becomes distinctly urinous" (Read the full article on Serge Lutens Miel de Bois at this link). If the smell of urine itself can be considered an aphrodisiac because of the mental association with the vagina, that might explain the use of honey in a perfume such as Schiaparelli Shocking! that was reportedly made to smell like a vagina in the first place (honey is used in a similar way to how rose is used in perfume, I'd imagine--have you smelled a rose perfume on dry down?). For some reason, I'm also thinking of Chanel No.5 which to me smells like Russian Leather, leather perfume being by and large a honey blend. Is that the secret of the success of No.5--could its aphrodisiac quality extend long past its reputation of being "a blonde perfume"?

Urinous or not, I'm actually a fan of a handful of honey perfumes including Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque, Parfums DelRae Amoureuse and Guerlain L'Instant. Honey perfumes that don't agree with me include Schiaparelli Shocking!, Estée Lauder Knowing, Cassini by Oleg Cassini, L'Occitane Honey & Lemon, and Serge Lutens Miel de Bois. But very recently, I decided to be brave and tested Miel de Bois again (my quarantined 1ml sample has lasted forever), and even as a mere dot of scent applied with the vial applicator on the back of my hand brought on a gag reflex, I was surprised to find that there was an aspect of it I liked: a hypersweet, rich floral tone similar to that of Creed Tubereuse Indiana (not that this is my favorite scent, either). If I could learn to like as many leather perfumes as I have this past week, I may still grow accustomed to Miel de Bois--though I wouldn't even touch the vial before stepping outside, since the urinous perception might not "only be in my nose" after all.

Read more about aphrodisiacs:
Love Potion #9: Aphrodisiacs Through the Ages by Victoria Nelson

"For women the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time." --Isabel Allende

(Just a random PSA, nothing to do with the topic of aphrodisiacs or fertility potions: Honey is associated with infant botulism and should never be given to infants under one year old.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Robert Piguet Bandit


(an ad for Bandit perfume veiled, alluding to bondage and sadomasochism)



I was a Fracas lover, but now, I've discovered Bandit, its evil twin created by master perfumer, Germaine Cellier. If Fracas (1948) is a healthy glow of unabashed feminine beauty, like peaches-and-cream and candied sweets, adored by children and men alike (except by those who can't handle the indolic nature of jasmine), Bandit (1944) is S&M in a bottle or a villain in an old Western: a cold-hearted, calculated manipulator who knows not how to be genuinely warm but relies on pretenses to gain temporal affection. Apart from its fresh galbanum opening (galbanum being a Cellier favorite as evident in her generous use of it in Vent Vert (1947), Bandit is a very synthetic-smelling modern perfume, probably more so than any other classic perfume I could think of. The chemicallly derived scent of Agent Provocateur or Bulgari Black might come close: all leather Chypres with a particularly cool disposition. In Bandit, I don't smell much leather but more tar and petroleum which I've called "dirty baby oil" in the past (maybe I just don't like musks). The genius of Germaine Cellier is in capturing in its scent the blackened heart of one who needs to hide its tortured soul behind an air of nonchalance, and to steal to get what it wants because it can neither have--nor give--naturally and freely.

Bandit is a shapeshifter on me. I had never taken to the EDP (eau de parfum) and thought the last parfum sample I'd tested was too obnoxiously sharp, but then, I'd gotten hold of another parfum sample that was much fresher and milder, full of galbanum in the opening and such sweetness in the base that I'd forgotten my initial impression of it being a dirty baby oil scent. I thought I'd fallen in love with it, but then, as it dried down, it seemed to have a mildly sweet, heavy yet cold (or cool--lukewarm is most accurate) smell...a scary thought that it reminded me today of the awful smell of toxic waste while passing through certain parts of the city. How terrible is such an association? Now, I remember when someone had called Bandit "garbagey" on a forum once, and it makes sense to me. However, I just got raves on this scent on me, which further perplexes me. I'm sure this person doesn't perceive Bandit as smelling like garbage or toxic waste, any more than others besides me not finding an unwashed body (I'm talking Port Authority bus terminal at night here) smell in Serge Lutens Miel de Bois, or saliva in a Tom Ford creation.

I'm forever surprised and fascinated by the different perceptions people have of the same perfume. How is it that it can range so much, when we can all agree the smell of excrement is bad? Does a pained heart somehow crave bad smells to soothe its own psyche, or even learn to find them pleasurable?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Leathers

Beaches are officially open in New York City--Summer '08 is around the bend! Contrary to expectations to wear light perfumes during warm weather, I've been breaking the rule and sampling leather perfumes all through last week. Well, you gotta live, and perhaps my faithful readers in Oz who are about to face winter again will appreciate these heavy leather choices. I'm learning that leathers share many similarities such as a dense, sweet-smoky and often very refined powderiness on dry down (can seem cloying for some), sweet and animalic heart notes such as honey and/or jasmine, and also very often a slightly medicinal wintergreen note holding the top notes making the leather smell more authentic. I'm still resampling my favorites, and here are just some brief thoughts about the ones I found most memorable:


Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque (Moorish Leather): This one surprised me because I almost loved it enough to consider buying, until the dry down which was a bit headshop and heavy for me. I'd describe this leather as an almond-cherry one, strong, spicy and sweet at once, comparable perhaps to Caron Farnesiana more than Tabac Blond. It's full-bodied like Sarrasins but compositionally spicy-woody-incensey, perhaps like People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo or Dior Hypnotic Poison, maybe even a bit like Dior Dolce Vita (1996--same launch year as Cuir Mauresque) with a spiced peach woodiness, but mellower, of more sumptuous quality (as heavy as it is, there are no jagged edges in Cuir Mauresque). It is punchy, however, like the rounded timbre of a trombone or french horn (OK--maybe a tuba), and bold, with notes sitting mostly in the mid-to-low range like aforementioned Sarrasins or Piguet Fracas. Honeyed and candied sweetness is its heart of orange blossom, anchoring the scent firmly in the Oriental range even as it extends one foot into the leather Chypre range (or the other way around). The Gourmand element disappears by the final dry down and ends on a thoroughly New Age natural food store smoky-incensey hippyish note--nothing wrong with that, of course, but I like to end on a sweeter, less dirty, more sophisticated note. Oh, but I do love it...it's almost like Fumerie Turque with richer sandalwood.

Elsha 1776: Originally known as Russian Leather by Elsha, "the aristocrat of fragrances", it has a loyal following of fans. It seems to only come in one size, a huge 8 fl. oz. bottle resembling a whiskey bottle. Upon unscrewing the jumbo gold cap, it has a sweet, pleasant aroma, not at all like a shoe store or a bizarre and misogynistic S&M scene, but like something nice and wearable, likable, something I would even put on for size, like slipping my size 6 feet into a man's cowboy boots. It smells like a man's cologne, a slightly sweet but not too animalic sheer leather that starts out spicy like Old Spice and ends on a natural food store smoky-incensey hippyish note similar to the way Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque ends. I guess this hippy incense note is a recurring theme with some leather fragrances. Now, I'm not really sure this Russian Leather was actually created in 1776 or if that's just a name. If it's true, it would be older than Creed Royal English Leather, making it the first of its kind (in recorded history, anyway, which doesn't always mean it's the first of its kind any more than Carthusia Fiori di Capri is the first floral water, ever).

Andy Tauer Lonestar Memories: Here's the cowboy perfume sighting I was waiting for back when I'd posted about the New Classics Trend taking over. The notes listed on www.tauerperfumes.com are: Geranium, Carrot seed, Clary sage, Birchtar, Cistus, Jasmine, Cedar wood, Myrrh, Tonka, Vetiver, Sandalwood. There is no wintergreen listed but I seem to smell that most prominently as I do in many other leather fragrances. Perhaps it's just the effect of copius amounts of birch tar. It starts out a warm and sweet, powdery scent, not overly rich but substantial, very pleasant and almost an ambery-vanillic comforting powderiness, and it ends on a more floral-woody accord. This one is pretty well-mannered, a nice, agreeable scent overall, and I'd say it smells more aristocratic than Elsha which in comparison smells like the cowboy, but I'll let your own fantasies decide which is which.

English Leather by Dana: I'll have to try it again to be sure, but I don't think I like this one. It seems very strong and obnoxiously flowery-smoky-dirty on dry down. Maybe dirty's not the right word since it's not exactly animalic--it's just a mishmash of flowery tobacco notes. Well, you can't expect a miracle from a drugstore scent, but I'm sure there are loyal fans and some people on whom it smells nice. It captures the basic idea of an English Leather, but wow, how sweet (and kind of sour) and heavy and spicy can powder get? (Edited to add) I tested it again and I like it better this time. I'm smelling a powdery musk base (but that's typical of drugstore scents like Canoe, also by Dana, and Love's Baby Soft, Jean Nate, etc.) but it's not too heavy, and the acidic note I was smelling turned out to be a sweet, lovely orange blossom note. It's actually kind of fresh and wearable. At roughly $10-$15, it's a good deal for this type of fragrance.

Parfums de Nicolaï Baladin: This is another nice leather. At first try, it smelled like a crisp floral leather to me, and then, on the second try, it smelled a lot like Eau d'Ete, with a lemon-lime opening atop a jasmine heart. The leather-birch tar-vetiver notes kicked in, but it dried down to a Floral on me, and a somewhat nondescript and perfumey one at that. Maybe it was all the tarragon-thyme muddying up the floralcy a bit. Still, it's refined and I can see women wearing Baladin just as well as men, and it's a well-mannered enough scent that I would say even those of you who are scared of leather scents might take to it. Baladin isn't as fresh as Eau d'Ete but it's not as animalic, either, which is funny considering how animalic and heavy-sweet most leathers I've tested have seemed compared to jasmine florals, probably due to the addition of honey in most leathers, accentuating the "animalic" (acidic(urinal)-fecal) quality, plus heavy base notes to help carry its weight.

(Image: Saint Maurice (St. Moritz))

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pink Manhattan Purrfume Reviewed by Jackie on StyleTips101.com!


Photobucket


This fabulous, glowing review was actually published on November 8th, 2007 in Sexy Scents by Jackie on StyleTips101.com, but since I'm just now finding it, I needed to share it! "These days it’s hard to find that perfect fragrance with so many different scents out there and that’s why I love Pink Manhattan Purrfume. It’s ultra soft, ultra feminine- it’s everything I want in a perfume!" Read more at this link and visit the hot fashionista site often! Sali Oguri Pink Manhattan Purrfume Mother's Day special offer is still in effect, so email your order with the code PRETTYMAMA included before May 31, 2008, and get a rare sample of my other perfume, Unreleased Mix aka Persephone perfume oil and a whole lot of other fabulous goodies, plus free shipping within the USA (International orders will be calculated based on location). Visit www.salioguri.com, my official website, for details on how to order. Only 5 days left--don't miss out!

Caron Infini


Caron Infini is among my favorite Caron creations that I actually own in parfum and EDT. I love it because it's among the more delicate, understated blends in the line alongside my other luminous favorites, Nocturnes and Fleurs de Rocaille. When I first wore it, I was surprised that I liked it, because it was described as a 1970 Aldehydic Floral and I'd expected a thoroughly unsweet, powdery-green-woody scent. Infini is unique in that it fits that retro 1970s popular scent type mold but it also has a unique floralcy, a hidden passion and joy in its heart with tuberose, jasmine and daffodil giving it an infinitely loving, intuitive, feminine touch. Overall, I find it has a pure, cristalline beauty characterized by a clean (somewhat soapy), green opening and a bold, dry woods finish, but most of all, the heart sings its sweet song without going overboard with sweetness and just adding a natural sensuality to an otherwise austere classical form. Infini comes across as a cool and sophisticated, elegant scent more than a warm and sensual one, but it has enough of the lively, good stuff not to bore me. It's powdery but not densely so, and the most well-mannered tuberose blend, as refined as a cultured pearl. Infini is an enigmatic juxtapositioning of the complex and down-to-earth Caron quality and streamlined, bubbly aldehydic Uptown cosmopolitan chic.

I was surprised to have sampled a leather scent called Parfums de Nicolai Baladin earlier, only to be reminded of Infini. I have never seen any notes associated with leather listed for Infini, and I'm probably only smelling vetiver combined with other woods, jasmine, oakmoss plus coriander (cilantro), a sharp, spicy herb in the parsley family (aka Chinese / Italian parsley), but somehow, I feel there's a deeper, more intricate tale to be told here. I wouldn't be surprised if some abstract form of the leather accord was in Infini, as I now believe Chanel No.5 (1921), the definitive Aldehydic Floral, is an abstract Russian Leather perfume. Infini certainly feels like if it were heavier and more animalic, it could fit into the Chypre (Chypre Floral-Animalic) mold just as easily as No.5 could. However, it's more polite than that and remains a soapy green Aldehydic Floral Woody. Caron Infini is said to have been created originally in 1912 (known as Caron L'Infini Souvenance according to the British Society of Perfumers), 9 years before Chanel No.5, although I've never smelled this earlier version of the Aldehydic Floral fragrance and have only seen the long-discontinued bottles on auction sites. If this scent smelled anything like it does now back then, I'd say nothing has smelled more avant garde in its time than Infini, and perfumer Ernest Daltroff should get his credit long overdue.



(Image: Caron Infini ad, 1971)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Private Reserve Semiramis

I don't know if this Private Reserve - Secret Perfumes business coming to the US is a result of The Secret trend (made famous by Oprah, seems to be based on The Secret Doctrine by Blavatsky) or if they're freemason perfumes or what, but they are shrouded in mystery for sure. Available only at one place called The Perfume House in Portland, Oregon, these perfumes are said to have originated in France, commissioned by Russian Czars and their secret formulas protected by the French Perfume Council (you can read the article on Perfume-Smellin' Things by Donna at this link). They're very exclusive perfumes, and as far as I know, samples are only available at the decant and sample online store, The Perfumed Court.

These are oil perfumes and are quite potent; the one in the line I've tried before and loved was Snow Rose, but here I am reviewing Semiramis which I was reminded of this week while sampling Weil Zibeline Secret de Venus. It's not that they're all that similar or in the same fragrance family per se (although they both have warm and spicy Oriental elements; Zibeline is more of a Chypre Floral with animalic-leather notes, and is much sweeter, more robust) but that the piquant yet ambery opening of Zibeline brought to mind Semiramis in an instant. I'm pretty sure the sharpness I'm getting off the top is violet combined with some kind of spicy-herbaceous notes--maybe coriander, sage and tarragon. Semiramis is the name of an Assyrian Queen, connected in legends to the Hebrew name Miriam (Shamiram in Aramaic) and (the Virgin) Mary among others. She's often depicted in ancient art holding a child (often identified as Tammuz / Adoni /Adonai / Adonis). Because the Virgin Mary is also connected to Aphrodite/ Venus according to some legends, I thought it was a funny coincidence that Zibeline Secret de Venus should resemble Semiramis at all, even if just in passing. I don't know when Semiramis was created but since Zibeline Secret de Venus was composed in 1928, I wonder if this type of composition was a contemporary style for ultra-feminine (goddesslike) blends in the early 20th century, Europe.

As Donna states in the review, it isn't overly sweet. While it comes across to me as a violet Floral with some woody-herbaceous Oriental feel (think of the piquancy of Serge Lutens Bois de Violette but lighter and more Floral), with the most inconspicuous hints of amber and vanilla, it can also convey the form of a sumptuous fur perfume without really going that route. It doesn't smell animalic to me at all, but the note of sandalwood is there to give it a dry woods feel. Semiramis dries down to a tart but relatively well-mannered and clean-baby powdery iris-vanilla finish, redolent of royal toiletry soap.

Other names for Semiramis include Astarte (Easter, also Cyprus), Ishtar, Isis and Columbia. She's also credited for inventing the chastity belt (see the entry on Wikipedia). Since Aphrodite (like Demeter, an aspect of Diana (see the Wiki entry on the Triple Goddess) is also associated with Persephone, a figure who was abducted by Hades to become Queen of the Underworld and who in the Orphic myths was seduced by Zeus in the guise of a serpent, it can be said Semiramis and Persephone are also related figures. Persephone was often depicted as a young goddess holding sheafs of grain and a flaming torch, much the same way Semiramis was (and some would say she is the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty). Semiramis is a gateway to understanding the mystery of the madonna-whore dichotomy throughout history. A perfume such as this can sometimes open the doors to the convoluted history of the origins of woman from the perspective of a very different time and place, more than a stone's throw away from the here and now.

Notes: Amber, sandalwood, jasmine, iris, rose, violet, narcissus, ylang-ylang, vanilla.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Kylie Minogue Showtime, La Perla J'aime



Neither of these rock me but I figured I'll comment on them anyway since they're apparently not easy to sample in the US:

Kylie Minogue Showtime: I liked the first launch, Darling, better. This second perfume by Kylie is not much different from, say, Christina Aguilera or Victoria's Secret Supermodel. It's a musky-woody Fruity Oriental with pronounced red fruit notes. I know it's strawberry but mixed with creamy-woody notes, it comes across like mango or passion fruit to my nose. It also kind of smells like Guerlain My Insolence in a way; I'm smelling a fruity rose mix. Of the two listed here, I prefer it over J'aime, but I don't dig the musky base.



La Perla J'aime: It's hypersweet and peppery Oriental-Fruity Chypre, like Ed Hardy-meets-Badgley Mischka, ending on patchouli-amber, sweet like La Prairie Midnight Rain. It smells a lot like Midnight Rain once the fruits dry down with the musky-woody-creamy sweet notes, but bolder, I'd say, and over-the-top. It's very intensely fruity and patchouli-based, too much for me as I prefer softer scents, but if you love strong patchouli in fragrances such as Prada, you'll probably prefer this over Showtime.




Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Weil Zibeline Secret de Venus Oil

One of my customers living overseas and I have become online buddies over the years we've been posting on a perfume board, and she keeps suggesting wonderful things to try. Weil Zibeline Secret de Venus Bath and Body Perfume Oil was one of those suggestions, and I'm really glad to have some on hand (literally) to test. Weil Zibeline perfume was created in 1928. I have two versions here: the original Zibeline in Parfum de Toilette (EDP), and the much-sought after perfumed bath oil called Weil Zibeline Secret de Venus. I'd read that the trend in wearing bath oil began with the popularity of Estée Lauder Youth Dew (1953) when most women could not afford perfume but could buy bath oil, but it seems the Zibeline oil launched in 1941, 12 years prior to Youth Dew. Zibeline seems related in scent to Youth Dew in that both are very rich, spicy perfumes, potent in these bath oil formulations, but Scentzilla! has written that Zibeline is a Floral Chypre "intended to recall the steppes and massive oak forests of Imperial Russia". While the vintage Zibeline EDP starts out mellower and nicer than the sharply spicy, almost sour start of the oil, surprise, surprise: the oil dries down to a much sweeter, rounder, high quality parfum strength finish (and a tiny drop is all that's needed to permeate a room). The dry downs of both versions are similar in scent--sweet, spicy, balsamic and animalic, but the oil seems to me the better formula if one were to actually buy. From what I understand, this oil is a somewhat (or, rather, very) rare and coveted item.

My impression of this parfum fourrure (fur perfume) named Zibeline ("sable"), is that it resembles one gorgeous perfume oil sample I once received from another perfume friend of mine, called Enigma by Alexandra de Markoff (1979). I can only describe this potent potion as a very rich and deep mixture of the spicy-sweet-balsamic classic Oriental with green-woodsy-herbaceous Chypre-animalic undertones. It was intense, heavy, perfumey stuff, and I loved every drop of it while the vial lasted. Actually, I think of Secret de Venus oil as less Chypre and more classic Oriental, with its delicious ambery base. It also reminds me of Must de Cartier (1981) which was inspired by the most classic Oriental perfume of all, Guerlain Shalimar (1925). Maybe the fur perfume was meant to cover the scent of cigarette smoke that the women had just started experimenting with like the men during the liberal, roaring twenties. Caron Tabac Blond (1919) was such a perfume for women. This oil seems potent and rich-smelling enough to mask such an odor reasonably well. Of course the fur perfume not only smells as rich as endangered fur itself, it's known to have been made specifically to scent furs back when furs were actually popular (The Scented Salamander explains the Weil fur perfumes here). Now, try this on for size: What if the fur perfume was made to cover the smell of tobacco smoke imbedded in the fur? Would that further explain the Leather-Tobacco fragrance family?

Honey is a listed note which leads me to believe it has an abstract leather accord supporting the composition, giving it the animalic "sable" feel. I like this Chypre-Oriental type of fur perfume better than some of the harsher Chypre or Leather-Tobacco ones personally, but then it's hard for me to imagine wanting to smell like the leather that the rich, with their practice of wearing leather gloves to protect their delicate hands, were trying their best to tolerate by masking their obnoxious odors with beautiful and extravagant materials: floral oils such as jasmine and rose essences, high quality ambers (ambergris is nobler than labdanum) and natural sandalwood. I'd much rather have the beautiful, sweet-smelling essences without so much of the leathery part replicated by modern science or lesser, significantly inexpensive materials. It's amusing to me how the scents that aren't the more expensive and rare materials are now associated with and marketed as the "smell of the rich" by the industry, but appreciation of modern perfumery goes hand-in-hand with technological breakthroughs such as the creation of new materials, and the scent associations people want in their perfume play a large role. As for the smell of fur itself, I can appreciate it as a thoroughly retro concept for a brief and enchanted walk back in time, but I'm not in a hurry to buy this vintage remake of the flapper era gem while I have access to Guerlain Cuir Beluga, Must de Cartier and in a pinch, Calvin Klein Obsession (1985) in parfum strength.

(Edited to add) I'm wearing it again tonight and finding it quite addictive...and actually, the dry down is a bit cooler and more smooth "sable" rather than the ambery warmth of either Must or Obsession, and more balsamic-foresty than the vanillic Cuir Beluga. Still, this Floral Chypre is a delicious one--intoxicating and fit for Venus, indeed. (Edited) I'm getting a Molinard Habanita (1921) vibe from it now; this is definitely a leather blend.

Hermès Doblis

The Tobacco-Leather (Dry Woods) fragrance family is one, the leather and tobacco related to each other. Leather scents are created with combinations often of natural and synthetic notes such as honey, tobacco, wood and wood tars. They are generally heavy, animalic (in perfumespeak, dirty or musky rather than clean), and spicy. As one can imagine from the tobacco note, they can smell smoky. Honey, an animalic note, is added because it's often used to add an aroma to tobacco itself. Honey perfume doesn't always smell good in and of itself, reminding some people of the smell of urine because the chemical structures of urine and honey are so similar. This is a tangent but I'd written yesterday about my theory that Chanel No.5 is actually a Russian Leather type scent. Chanel No.5 is also rumored to contain urine notes (not that it literally smells like urine), and I used to think that what people were smelling were the aldehydic top notes which could smell very sour and acidic. However, now that I've learned about honey notes in leather perfumes, I'm changing my mind. Maybe there is some grain of truth that Chanel No.5 contains some urinous notes--maybe that honey/urine scent is in the Russian Leather accord I pick up in No.5. Back to leather: Birch tar is added to replicate, for instance, the scent of Russian Leather that it's known for (Marco Polo commented favorably on the quality of Russian Leather and its birth tar smell back in his day). High-pitched additives in a Leather perfume are citrus and/or wintergreen (salicylic acid) as was often used in tanning Russian Leather. When my package of leather samples arrived today, the first thing I smelled was wintergreen. It was hard not to think of Pepto Bismol or Ben Gay with such a strongly medicinal smell emanating from the package holding all these leather perfumes from Doblis to Cuir Mauresque, Eau de Fier to Lonestar Memories.



I'm not going to remark on every single leather perfume here, but I'll mention Hermès Doblis since it's a revered perfume among perfume lovers, selling at nearly $1000 on the secondary market. I'm assuming what's meant by a "fur perfume" such as Weil Zibeline (aptly named "sable") is really another way of saying it's an animalic, heavy blend such as leather, perhaps in particular Russian Leather which the Czars supposedly wore, so I consider Doblis (suede) a fur perfume. Doblis originally launched in 1955 (born in the same year as Barbie) and was reissued in 2004. The scent can be described as starting on the fresher side, spicy and green-fresh, like Guerlain Sous le Vent or Caron Alpona, a Chypre with pronounced spicy bitter-sour acidity at the beginning, also bringing to my mind Penhaligon's Hammam Bouquet or Chanel No.18. This dries down to something close to Calèche (1961, modeled after Chanel No.5) but softer. Of course it would resemble Calèche having been created by Guy Robert, but I somehow expected Doblis to be for men (it's not--I looked it up tonight) and therefore heavier as many men's scents are compared to women's counterparts such as the case with Amouage Gold (the men's version is sharper and heavier with patchouli). On me, Doblis has the same rosy-powdery-animalic dry down as Calèche, except Doblis wears almost like a lighter (but still heavy) men's eau de cologne, not too far away from aforementioned Alpona. While I agree it's an elegant scent and typical of this genre, not sweet at all (more pungent on dry down than sweet, with some acidity remaining), I'd much rather smell Calèche or Equipage, and about a 1000 other perfumes out there that smell nicer to me and are much easier to find. Perhaps this one just smells too "furry" for me--I don't know.

(Image Source: www.liveauctioneers.com)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chanel N°5 Revisited: Russian Leather Connection?


I found this 1997 No.5 ad featuring the gorgeous Carole Bouquet and had to test No.5 again. I know many people such as Luca Turin don't agree with me that there is a No.5/Chypre connection, even an implied or subversive Chypre element that makes Chanel No.5 what it is, but the more I test it, the more I feel vindicated that my theory is correct. Not only do I think of No.5 as a woody Florentine iris, I smell the jasmine-rose-patchouli plus an animalic civet note or perhaps the animalic note is honey (a prevalent combination in Russian Leather) combined with the classic Chypre notes of bergamot and oakmoss. Perhaps the amount of aldehydes overrides these Chypre notes, but they are certainly there as part of the composition. So, despite argument against this theory, I stand by my conviction that Chanel No.5, even with its Aldehydic Floral (or Soft Floral) fragrance family categorization, carries within it a strikingly sharp classical Roman stamp dating back to ancient Cyprus. However, I'm starting to think Chanel No.5 is actually even more of a Russian Leather type floral Chypre (Dry Woods).

It has some sweet Oriental elements, too, thanks to softening doses of warm amber and ylang-ylang.

I'm also vindicated by other writings on the subject. Visit The Moscow News Weekly to read about the relationship between Coco Chanel and Russia. "She was inspired by Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich Romanov to create the Russian Leather perfume, a prototype of the legendary Chanel No. 5 brand." --Russian Fashion Hits the Catwalks, 02/08/2007 | Moscow News,№30 2007

Also on Wikipedia: "...Dmitri met Coco Chanel, eleven years his elder just like Natasha had been, with whom he conducted a brief affair in 1921. Through Dmitri and Marie's contacts in the industry, Chanel met perfumers in Grasse, which finally led to the creation of the famed Chanel No. 5 perfume — involvement in the creation of which is Dmitri's second claim to historic importance."

The Scented Salamander isolates the Russian Leather she smells in No.5 as betula alba extract: Read "Perfume Review & Musings: Zibeline by Weil" at this link.

Added on November 20, 2010: Chanel N°5 Revisited: Russian Leather Connection? Part II - Pink Manhattan




(Image: http://www.imagesdeparfums.fr/)

Guerlain Cuir Beluga

I'm obsessed with Cuir Beluga. I've already posted my thoughts below (which are in a nutshell that it's a spicy-sweet Gourmand super refined-powdery-ambery scent with not much leather even though it's listed as a leathery Chypre Floral), so I'll just add that tonight, I was reminded of Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque, another leather-vanilla-amber with spicy accents, probably my favorite in the Serge Lutens line. Now, I don't know which of these leathers I prefer. Cuir Beluga is part of Guerlain's L’Art et la Matière collection, hard-to-get unless you have access to the few stores that carry it including the Guerlain flagship in Paris and Bergdorf Goodman here in NY. I think I'm going to have to get this one eventually, but I wish it didn't come in the bottle with the pump atomizer as this type of bottle tends to leak and evaporate. (Edited to add) I've just been informed by a knowledgable perfumista not to worry; it comes with a screw cap.

I've tried the others in the L’Art colleciton and Cuir Beluga is the only one that impressed me, and it's up there among my favorite Guerlain fragrances to date. It smells absolutely like a Guerlain creation, not far away from Shalimar or Vol de Nuit. Many thanks to Olivier Polge for this stunning new creation, a delicate leather Chypre even a Gourmand loving modern perfumista could warm up to!

Notes on Now Smell This:
Guerlain Cuir Beluga (2005 Chypre): mandarin orange, immortelle flower, leather, amber, heliotrope and vanilla.

Also visit Tangled Up In L'Heure Bleue by d.chedwick bryant for a brilliant review and explanation of this scent and the connection to belugas.
Notes on Tangled Up In L'Heure Bleue:
Everlasting Flower, Heliotrope, A 'White Leather' Quinoline, Mandarin Orange Zest, Amber, Musk, and Vanilla.

(Image: lecritiquedeparfum.blogspot.com)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Canoe by Dana



I was going nuts trying to recall the powdery scent in my mind when I wore Guerlain Cuir Beluga tonight. I thought of the Andy Tauer desert scent but that wasn't it; I also naturally thought of Habanita, but no; I was thinking of a somewhat far removed yet similarly powdery scent. Lo and behold, I was thinking of Canoe. This vintage drugstore cologne for men by Dana (the maker of Tabu) is actually a nice (I should say decent) Fougere scent born in the 1930s, sort of on the light side which I appreciate, but it's very powdery like this. Finely powdered, but so very dense, it's not so warm and comfy but more of a cool (with a semi-warm base), slightly aromatic-spicy floral powder, typical of scents from the thirties if I think about Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass (1934) or Worth Je Reviens (1932). Cuir Beluga is so much sweeter and spicier than Canoe, and I really don't know why I had Canoe on my mind, except my mind has been on Fougeres and the Tobacco-Leather family all week, which might explain it all. I like that this is a soft men's scent, not at all aggressive or obnoxious. It's just soft and pleasant (even though the powderiness irks me, too--but I don't expect miracles from a drugstore fume). Sorry for the fragmented post; I am tired but very happy after a pleasant evening out. I will now retire to my Canoe-scented dream, all wrapped up in an abstract ferny men's baby powder fog of memories. Drugstore quality aside, I think this is a refined and gentlemanly scent, with a nice and polite disposition. I like it very much, indeed.

Basenotes lists these notes:
Top Notes: Lavender, Clary Sage, Lemon
Middle Notes: Geranium, Carnation, Cedarwood, Patchouli
Base Notes: Vanilla, Tonka, Heliotrope, Oakmoss

Friday, May 16, 2008

Michael Edwards Fragrances of the World 2008: New Fruity and Gourmand Families!


A very wise woman once posted to me on a fragrance forum when I first joined back in 2001 or so not to be bullied into liking only old perfumes, that I should like what I like and not let their tough members chide me into liking their favorites. Although I love perfumes from across the different eras and genres just as I do in music, she knew what I was in for. It's no secret it's become increasingly difficult getting straight answers when you ask on board for sweet perfume recommendations since many people think sweets, especially certain kinds, should be abolished. Well, if you love sweet perfumes as I do and feel alone in the perfume community, thank goodness for Michael Edwards who just recently included these controversial new fragrance families into his new book! Look out for Fragrances of the World 2008 with the new Fruity and Gourmand categories. Thanks to one man who listened--it's about time!

Visit Fragrances of the World online and order your copy today.

I also highly recommend my "perfume bible", Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances by Michael Edwards.


Lauren by Ralph Lauren



I've already posted about Lauren by Ralph Lauren (1978) and how much I adore it, so I won't bore you with more details, but I wanted to just state that even though I'm truly tired of the classics trend that only keeps turning back the time to where I don't wish to return (and hadn't really been part of anyway), I am glad to return to the classic Lauren. It's a classic that doesn't demand a 1940s-1950s corsetted figure or for me to make myself into a pin-up doll like the fashion mags suggest. What's with the prolonged fascination with this era? What'll come back next: men slapping women around on the silver screen a la Glenn Ford, perhaps? Lauren is New England style crisp and upscale prettiness without an aura of servitude or flaunted snobbery. There's no striptease, dominatrix severity or ostentatious show of green money or furs with this easy-going, All-American girl-next-door understated retro beauty of a scent. The only animalic feature is the equestrian vibe you might pick up from the sweet caress of soft fruits, greens and wildflowers. Why can't we relax again? Take those twisted misogynistic images and desperate pin-ups out of my face, fashion world, and bring back true class.

Max Mara Le Parfum


I could have guessed from their naked blonde ad campaign that this would be a skin accord. It's a basic musk with lots of black pepper, predictably gender-bending (sorry but I'm so jaded and bored with this antic) and typically mainstream, like a Caron Poivre copy. If you like black pepper, go for it. I don't smell much else in this scent except spices and Egyptian Musk.

(Image: www.cosmo.ru)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Marc Jacobs Daisy

Daisy is a very pretty fragrance and I see why it's popular (the bottle with vinyl flowers is cute, too). Imagine a strawberry note as sweet and candied as a flavored super-shiny lip gloss, the slick oil type that came in roll-ons. Imagine also the sweet fruit note you find in Britney Spears Midnight Fantasy: one part hypersweet and one part succulently fresh, 100% juvenile bliss (actually, I like it and it's not as juvenile as, say, Hannah Montana perfume). Now combine that in your head with the clean and sunny floralcy of Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers and you've got Daisy in a nutshell. It starts with a sharp violet leaf note supporting the aqueous berries and ends on a very floral but dry, almost detergent-like synthetic ozonic floral accord. Maybe it's supposed to evoke the feeling of being 14, lying around half-naked in a summer field (or rolling in the hay, if you will) like their ad campaign suggests. I like it while the super-saccharine sweet violet-strawberries take over, before the somewhat generic flowery dry down stage that could be Bronnley Tulip for all anyone knows. I think it's a very well-composed fragrance and I enjoy it--the inner child in me rejoices when I wear it. I just might get it when my decant runs out.

Do you have ideas about what to wear for the prom yet? Are you looking for a casual weekend fragrance to go with a polka dotted swimsuit? Give Daisy a whirl.

Notes on Sephora.com:
Marc Jacobs Daisy (2007 Floral)
Strawberry, Violet Leaves, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Gardenia, Violet Petals, Jasmine Petals, Musk, Vanilla, White Woods.

Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers

Sunflowers might be found in your local drugstores now, but back when it launched in 1993, it was a prestige fragrance that captured the 1990s relaxed and natural mood, influenced by the New Age and Eastern spiritual trends of the time. Minimalist and cross-gender compositions were popular, and many perfumes were fresh and aqueous Marine scents like this one. Marine or Oceanic (Water) scents are among the newest fragrance families, thanks to modern technology. Melon was a most popular marine note, and in Sunflowers, it's used very well in combination with peach and an apricot-like osmanthus note, just enough to round out the soft and lively floral bouquet. Similar fragrances include Marc Jacobs Daisy (violet leaves, strawberries, jasmine, gardenia), Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d'Ete (rose, melon and peach), Creed Spring Flower (apple, melon, peach and rose-jasmine), Hermes Osmanthe Yunnan (osmanthus, apricot, tea (marine)) and Givenchy Fleur d'Interdit (violet leaves, melon, peach, raspberry, floral (gardenia, sunflower, rose, iris)). Sunflowers is an easy scent to like being a clean and spa-fresh floral with a sunny disposition.

The Fragrance Shop (www.thefragranceshop.co.uk) lists these notes:
Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers (1993)
Created in response to all things natural, this fragrance can be worn by woman of all ages.

Top notes: bergamot, melon, peach
Middle notes: jasmine, cyclamen, tea rose, osmanthus
Base notes: sandalwood, musk, moss

Hermès Équipage

Hermès Équipage for Men (1970) is classified as Fougère, and I think I have to redefine what that means in my head, because when I hear Fougère, I think of Cool Water, Brut and Jicky. I forget that Fougères can range from light to heavy, powdery to transparent, sporty to elegant, that they can be as varied as any other fragrance family. Équipage smells like a tobacco-leather Chypre scent to me but the notes I've found haven't included these notes. I like this scent very much as it reminds me of Jean Patou Cocktail (1930), a dry Fruity Chypre with crisp lavender over floral-woods. I would describe Équipage as a spicy but dry, somewhat heavy wooded scent softened by florals and moss. The refined finish of these two scents are very similar on my skin, a little bit boozy and animalic, but the spicy carnation beginning in Équipage is very prominent and reminds me of Opium or Old Spice until that spiciness mellows towards the dry down. I can't see too many men being able to pull off such an elegant scent but this is a real gem of a find in men's fragrances. It was created by Guy Robert who also composed Calèche, Doblis, Madame Rochas, Mary Quant Havoc and Amouage Gold.

Edwards Endorses Obama

With anti-nuclear energy John Edwards now endorsing Barack Obama, I can only hope that this means the party will move in a Green, environmentally friendly way as much as possible, without being too gungho about nuclear energy or coal, neither of which are as clean and safe as the industries are claiming as of late.

Think of how long it took for industries to admit that cigarettes cause cancer in some smokers, or that mercury-derived thimerosal in vaccines caused autism in some children. Are we willing to risk our families' health and deal with any connection between illnesses 30, 40, 50 years down the line and dangerous energy alternatives to be written off as inconclusive?

Visit Friends of the Earth, www.foe.org.

Stop the push for loan guarantees to build new nuclear power stations in the US: Don't Buy the Nuclear Lie

Dirty, Dangerous and Expensive: The Truth About Nuclear Power
"Contrary to the claims of its proponents, nuclear power is not only tremendously expensive, but also very dirty and highly dangerous -- producing thousands of tons of long-lived radioactive waste each year, for which there exists no permanent storage facility". Physicians for Social Responsibility (http://www.psr.org)

Code Black: Coal's Assault On America's Health, Physicians for Social Responsibility (http://www.psr.org)



Guy Laroche Drakkar Noir

I don't wear Drakkar Noir for Men, but I enjoy it as a scent. Not all leather scents are alike. Like in all of the other fragrance families, there are some I like and some I really can't stand. Some examples of leathers I find pleasant are Caron En Avion, Molinard Habanita, Chanel Antaeus (1981). The ones I really don't like are Ralph Lauren Chaps (1979), Trussardi Donna, Fendi. Guy Laroche Drakkar Noir is among the ones I really like, and I think it's closely related to Chanel Antaeus. I like that I don't smell overwhelming patchouli in it, a real offender in a scent particularly in copious amounts married to jasmine, civet and/or labdanum, an animalic musk base commonly used in Chypre fragrances. Many people say Drakkar Noir is loud, and surely juniper scents carry some sillage (like Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque which I love to wear myself), but most leather Chypres are kind of strong, and must be applied very sparingly (two tiny drops on the neck or chest, gentlemen). Drakkar Noir is one of the fresher, more aromatic leathers for men, although it doesn't go all the way into the Cool Water-fougere sporty realm, either, and has warm, ambery-woody notes, making it luxurious. Thankfully for me, it doesn't have a classic animalic-floral-balsamic dry down but a more modern, clean leather accord overall. I think it's related also to Bulgari Black and the smoky and unique L'Artisan Parfumeur Dzing!, another one of the drier, more aromatic leathers as opposed to the tacky, raunchy, animalic ones like Chaps (which I think you can gather from these opinionated thoughts that I tend to avoid like the plague).

I've seen Drakkar Noir categorized as an Aromatic Fougère and as a Green Fougère.

Basenotes lists these notes:
Guy Laroche Drakkar Noir (1982)
Top Notes: Lemon, Lavender, Tangerine
Middle Notes: Coriander, Juniper
Base Notes: Patchouli, Oakmoss

(Image: Macys.com)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sampling Day 5

Here are some random grab bag sampling thoughts of the day:

Carven Ma Griffe: I'm retesting my beloved Ma Griffe parfum mini with the gold scrolly cap, and I think it's a creamy, lovely, green, semi-fruity Chypre scent, very much like L'Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier if it were modernized. I totally understand the tropical vibe of this scent now, and why Guerlain Chant d'Aromes was inspired by it and called the scent of a tropical isle. The quality of this vintage reminds me of a vintage Diorama sample a good friend of mine once sent me to try. It has a distinct creamy softness that can only have been from that time period (roughly the '50s-'60s, '70s latest before reformulation). I'm starting to warm up to this retro scent. I've recently read that Yoko Ono is associated with Ma Griffe--that's cool perf info.

Christian Dior Diorling: I liked it at first when I thought it reminded me of Miss Balmain and Jolie Madame, both gardenia leathers, but Diorling dried down to an unsweet, balsamic-spicy and savory Worcestershire sauce smell (closely related to the barbeque or beef jerky smell). I just don't find smelling like a piece of meat appealing. It is elegant (for a raunchy leather (animalic) scent) and classic--I'll give it that--but it's very similar to Knowing, Cabochard, Halston or Ungaro Diva in its somewhat funky ending with rosy-woody-patchouli-labdanum (key animalic musk in Chypres) dominating. It's so heavy that even though it's unsweet, it's cloying and slightly nauseating for me.

L'Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu: This was recommended to me and I like the incensey part of it which is a lot like L'Artisan Parfumeur D'Humeur a Rien (Spiritual Mood), Etro Shaal Nur and even a bit like Messe de Minuit without the heavy, sweet ambery notes. It's a whole lot of meditational incense, smoky and somewhat ashy. I like it, except Timbuktu turns into a sharp, somewhat salty-sour-fruity floral scent on dry down, like Thierry Mugler Cologne, Ormonde Jayne Champaca or Sarah Jessica Parker Covet. Also, I'm a little bit tired of this linear, unchanging incense smell. It's too predictably "Buddhist temple"-ish for my current mood.

Intimately Beckham by Victoria Beckham: I really like Kylie Minogue Darling which to me is like Miss Dior Cherie only a bit stronger and more Chypre (more pronounced patchouli base, sharper fruits), but this celebrity fragrance is a bit harsh and perfumey for me. Maybe it's too floral and sandalwoody or something, but to me, it's a bit brash in the way of Pure Poison or Cerutti 1881. She looks gorgeous in the print ad, however--like a paperback romance novel cover. (Edited to add) Slightly aqueous-cool and floral, it's not a bad fragrance; it's that it's perfumey and the musky-sandalwood base carries, like Carolina Herrera 212 or Shiseido Relaxing--both fresh types that don't work for the office.

Guerlain Cuir Beluga: This is delicious! I didn't expect such a sweet Gourmand, but this is mostly amber and vanilla, not really a leather scent even with a name involving beluga skin. It's almost like L'Artisan Parfumeur Ambre Extreme without the spices (correction: It's quite spicy) and not as smoky. It's sweet like Casmir, Douce Amere or Guipure & Silk by Jeanne Arthès (which smells like Casmir-lite), but it's also a smooth and rich, refined dessert scent like Tihota Indult or Lavanila Pure Vanilla with no annoying white musk base for me to contend with on dry down. If you want typically raunchy and animalic leather (the tobacco-leather (Dry Woods / Animalic Chypre) fragrance family is predominated by honey, civet, castoreum and other animal-derived notes), this mild-mannered sugary innocence is probably not for you. (Edited) I get some leather in it initially but in the end, it's a sexy, spicy, finely powdered amber.

Serge Lutens Sarrasins: I think this smells almost identical to A la Nuit except maybe a tad peachy or creamy, and with some very subtle wintergreen-like mintiness happening on top. Basically, it's a very heady and intense, bold and punchy jasmine, queenly and regal, with a thick, musky woodiness in the base to back it up and make it even stronger. I don't get any more inkiness from it than I did from A la Nuit, so for me, it's a choice between A la Nuit or A la Nuit in a dark purple color. Grand? Yes, but subtle, it is not. If Diane Von Furstenberg Tatiana got more intense, it could be A la Nuit/ Sarrasins.

Pierre Balmain Bandit: Try as I may in parfum or eau de toilette, I still get mostly baby oil and baby powder mixed with the leather in this powerful classic. In a similar vein, I prefer Bulgari Black and even more, Molinard Habanita which to me has more interesting elements in it, like a touch of sweetness and more overall depth. Bandit is somehow bolder but more strikingly green and one-dimensional in its aldehydic, animalic, relentless powdery-musky strength. I'll need to test this one again. I must be missing the subtlety in it somewhere. Maybe I'm not woman enough for these animal rawhide and glandular secretion smells.

(Image: odecolone.ru)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chanel Antaeus



I love Chanel Antaeus for Men like I love the scent of a horse saddle. I sometimes think the warm, animalic aspect of the leather cologne smells a bit like horses themselves. At first spritz (and one spritz is more than enough), it's very strong and heavy, the epitome of a powercologne for men produced in all its no holds barred '80s glory. It has some boozy floralcy lurking underneath all the leather and woods, and in the end, it turns into a musky, dusty scent, like you've traveled down a dirt road. Of course being Chanel it also smells rather sophisticated, and perhaps like you got caught up in some heavily perfumed woman's arms along the way (she wore Jolie Madame or some other leathery 1950s powerfume). I've smelled Antaeus on Fred on whom it turns into a bit of a dirty, unshowered type of musky smell, combined with that familiar scent of a men's shoe store. Do you remember that beef jerky smell that came to mind when I tested Bulgari Black? It's not vanillic-sweet but it is dry, smoky and savory like that, too. He doesn't wear it at all anymore, and prefers the lighter, citrusy and better-mannered Chanel Pour Monsieur. All in all, Antaeus is not a scent I'd recommend to either a man or a woman to wear to an office because it doesn't smell clean and also because its sillage carries way across a room, but it's kind of regal and gorgeous for after work, in a confident, yet gentlemanly, and slightly rugged way. I was earnest when I told you I love the horse-and-saddle smell. I think Antaeus smells marvelous, and I enjoy testing it on myself...a lot.

The notes according to Basenotes:
Chanel Antaeus (1981)
Top Notes: Clary Sage, Myrtle
Middle Notes: Patchouli, Sandalwood
Base Notes: Labdanum, Beeswax Absolute

(Image: www.berden.nl)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chanel Rue Cambon: Gardénia, Bois des Îles, Cuir de Russie




The Rue Cambon collection by Chanel consists of these classic fragrances from the 1920s: Gardénia, Bois des Îles and Cuir de Russie. Coco Chanel had wanted a thoroughly artificial perfume when she was launching No.5, and for that reason, Russian perfumer Ernest Beaux composed the famous concoction involving an overdose of aldehydes to create an abstract scent not known in nature. The Rue Cambon series follow in No.5's sophisticated, high tech footsteps but take on characters of their own.

Let's begin with Bois des Îles, an Aldehydic Floral like No.5 and many others in its time such as Lanvin Arpege. Bois des Îles reminds me very much of No.5 in its aldehydic-powdery nature, except this is the drier, sharper scent, with more pronounced woodsiness, focused on sandalwood. The base-heavy woods combined with sweet vanilla and jasmine bring to mind the low-pitched, languid sweetness of Creed Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie. The dry woods and nutmeg give a spicy impression, adding edge to the powdery density. It is marketed to women but I think men can easily carry it off. If No.5 is the star of the show who shines in silver, gold, fuchsia and prima donna pink, Bois des Îles is the one who wears brown, olive, burgundy and navy, staying faithfully in the background, happy to be known for its down-to-earth, serious and grown-up character.

Cuir de Russie is a Russian Leather scent for women and of course it can be worn by men, especially those who favor leather scents such as 1776 by Elsha. While it brings to mind cowboys and the Wild West, old leather-bound books or a ladies' handbag smell (or, as Fred calls it, "men's belt"), the longer Cuir de Russie wears on skin (especially in extrait), the more facets come out, revealing a floralcy focused on jasmine and finishing on a dusty, musky, dry, smoky-balsamic and pungent, rosy, indolic-animalic dry down (a bit nasty but it could be an acquired taste). There is an urban legend that Mick Jagger likes to wear it on his behind. This urban legend is also interesting because I find Cuir de Russie has a musky, somewhat fruity Chypre (patchouli) scent like Jean Patou 1000 which is said to have been worn by Jerry Hall. The complex, subdued sweetness of it also brings to my mind a classic guerlinade base as found in Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit, Liu.

Gardenia is one of my favorite flowers, so I was ecstatic to discover this one. I would have loved to smell Gardénia back when it was first created, because the version out now, as stunning as it is, smells too aqueous and modern to have been the same scent in the twenties. It bears no resemblance to No.5 and the other two in the Rue Cambon series but it's still a very nice scent, a light and sweet white floral with very subtle spicy (clove, sage, pimiento) accents. This is a Floral, not really a spicy scent. It's an abstract gardenia in a way, smelling more like transparent jasmine than gardenia per se (but Jan Moran's notes still list gardenia in the top notes). I'd recommend it to lovers of Antonia's Flowers Floret, Marc Jacobs, L'Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse aux Papillons or Kate Spade EDP. It's very pretty in that fresh-cut-flowers-way and perfect for Spring.

(Image: metronc.com, Chanel Russian Leather ad 1937)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Warm Mother's Day Wishes From Pink Manhattan



~ Happy Mother's Day, Sunday May 11th, 2008 ~

Wishing you a holiday full of gratitude, celebration and remembrance of the greatest women in our lives.

Be sure to scroll down and get your discount-promo code for Sali Oguri Pink Manhattan Purrfume - Mother's Day Special during the month of May, 2008.



Thursday, May 08, 2008

Jasmine and Rose

The perfect marriage between rose and jasmine is the very heart of perfumery itself. Most perfumes are in fact built on this combination, and the natural essences and absolutes are among the most highly prized ingredients in perfumery. Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of performing one of my songs, "Infinite Tenderness", for a 4 camera video shoot with Fred Kimmel. I was fortunate to have played a really great-sounding-and-feeling baby grand for this recording, and thought the combination with the warm timbre of the guitar was a perfect union like the jasmine and rose. Like a good partnership, the rose and jasmine are equal, one never being more important than the other. Each is a bedrock of perfumery, and the combination, or the accord, is also irreplacably valuable, ever more beautiful as a new union. Likewise, the piano and guitar are like the heart of musical instrumentation, being chordal instruments that can carry the entire arrangement from melodic-chordal (polyphonic) to rhythmic (percussive), high to low pitches, loud to soft volumes, all on their own like a grand choir. Together, they enhance each other and create beauty from two different ways of making strings sing in ways that reach directly to the hearts of the listeners with their range of expression and living vibrations and overtones, allowing us to experience the infinite through a mysterious circle of fifths.

Famous rose-jasmine-focused perfumes include Jean Patou Joy, created in 1930 to bring pleasure to women during the Depression by offering the highest quality perfume as the one still-affordable luxury; Creed Spring Flower, a fresh and luxurious Fruity Floral with a gamine-sophisticated upbeat quality; Schiaparelli Shocking!, a perfume rumored to smell like a woman--literally, said to replicate a woman's musky-animalic vaginal odors (thanks to the honey note); Un Amour de Patou, a modernized, fruity-fresh offering by Jean Patou with green, uplifting notes and a gentle classic heart of jasmine and rose from a youthful perspective.

(Image: www.parfumflacons.de)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Estée Lauder Private Collection


Private Collection (1973) is named what it is because it was Estée Lauder's signature perfume, her own private blend. It was no doubt a reflection of her chic, elegant style and confident, assertive personality (Coco Chanel also loved a fresh green scent for her own signature, No.19). Although Estée Lauder had created Private Collection for herself, it soon gained serious fans, and became part of the commercial line. I was reminded of Private Collection today when I retested Caron Alpona. I actually liked Alpona much better than I did when I tested it this past winter, although I still wouldn't claim it for myself. The opening of Alpona is a crisp, green, bold and fresh scent like Private Collection, except Alpona reveals spices that veer towards something like Eau de Guerlain, and the rich woodsiness towards Parfums de Nicolai New York, all of which are marketed to men. Private Collection doesn't go the way of spices but stays clean and bright, as crisp as a starched white shirt, polished enough for a princess (literally, as it was a beloved scent of Princesses Diana and Grace) and still almost fresh and energetic enough for a quick game of tennis or golf. I like that it's a leading lady soprano of Chypres whose classically-trained high-pitched voice has tone and resonance so it's never too shrill.

I have a special place in my heart for this beautiful classic, for I am a jasmine lover and the heart of this fragrance features jasmine, although it's camouflaged beneath all the greenery, moss and woods as if to protect its most precious secret, a sacred part. I have some parfum on hand for those days when I want something devoid of sweetness, and instead, something nature-oriented yet sophisticated--by that, I mean green and foresty but complex with aldehydes lifting the composition to a cosmopolitan, champagne-like effervescence. The impression Private Collection has on me is an almost fastidiously soapy-clean sharpness, and it seems no-nonsense and professional, like a woman in uniform who's never seen with a piece of hair out of place. Aside from its potent strength and obvious retro feeling harkening back to the '70s when this type of green Chypre was popular and mainstream (the Gourmand or Fruity Floral of the time), Private Collection remains a uniquely elite classic that others in the genre can only come close to replicating. They should all only be this perfect, and it seems the Private Collection wearer knows this and demands no less.

I would wear it more often if it didn't turn extremely powdery-musky on me. Maybe it's the hyacinth, the sheer patchouli base or perhaps it's the rosy heart; whatever it is that I have a hard time wearing, I'm sure it works better on others whose chemistry brings out its true, pristine charm.

The parfum miniature is a great value and the bottle shape is a pretty teardrop shape.

PS: This classic perfume has nothing in common with the new Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia which to me smells like Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia and a bunch of other strong and soliflorish aqueous tuberose-themed fragrances that came out in droves recently.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cacharel Noa

The bottle with the plastic ball in it looks like a breast--maybe that's what was intended for this milky-musk fragrance. Noa is the kind of fragrance that one can never argue would wear you. It's a quiet scent that probably appeals more to quiet women. It's neither particularly confident nor is it very memorable, kind of a wallflower scent. However, I can see how this would be popular among many women, especially among skin scent musk lovers. I happen to think it's a very nice scent, just gourmand enough for me, although it's predominantly a powdery-creamy musk floral with a clean, aqueous floralcy. Noa reminds me of Laura by Laura Biagiotti, Etro Vicolo Fiori, Lise Watier Neiges, Perry Ellis 360, Ralph Lauren Romance, Donna Karan Cashmere Mist, Kenzo Flower, Amazing Grace, Victoria's Secret Heavenly, Armani Sensi, Armani Diamonds, Creative Scentualization Perfect Veil, Burberry The Beat and Burberry Brit, but it's unique because of a transparent vegetal characteristic underneath the floral accord, giving it a dewy effect (but not too planty and sticky) against the more mature powdered makeup smell. It's a charming musky floral similar also to Elizabeth Arden Splendor, a powdery, aqueous floral, except Noa is a bit spicier (peppery), with yummy, gourmand (coffee) base notes. Noa is in essence very soft, flowery and a little spicy, a little sweet, with a slightly bold base, all petite charm and not intimidating at all. Its innocence brings to mind linens drying on clothing lines softly waving in the breeze, or doing laundry while sipping latte--with a full face on but au naturel, of course--all very pleasant, and crowd-pleasing.

I've never loved it passionately because I'm not a huge fan of musks or clean, detergent-like florals (synthetic rose tends to bug me), but I turn to it for my occasional musk moods. I'm also not a quiet enough personality to not feel bored over the long run by how mellow this scent really is. However, I love one aspect of the dry down: it's a really yummy scent, with a tempered sweetness. The dry down on me smells a lot like Burberry The Beat if you can imagine that: a semi-tropical sweet, spicy, musky-creamy scent with some modern floralcy. The sillage is mellow but also kind of fresh (peony--aqueous floral) and lovely, especially smelled from a distance (try to smell the air around you--it's effusive and light all around, better than when it's smelled up close). I wish I liked musk more; when it takes center stage like this, it just doesn't smell very natural to me, and I can't help but wonder if I smell like Charlie White or another drugstore musk. However, it's actually much better than a simple musk floral, and needs to be experienced to discover its subtle prettiness. I may fall in love with it after all. It's an exceptionally well-blended composition, a masterpiece of a mainstream fragrance and another triumphant creation by Olivier Cresp (Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, Thierry Mugler Angel (with Yves de Chiris), Nina by Nina Ricci (with Jacques Cavallier), Kenzo Amour (with Daphne Bugey)).

Although it is a soft composition, there's a sharpness about it and it gives me a wee bit of a headache, but so did Paco Rabanne Calandre at first...it's probably the musk with those sharp, green lily notes on top.

Notes on www.heavenlyperfumes.com.au:

Cacharel Noa (1998, Floral Woody Musk)
Top notes: White musks, white peony, peach, plum, freesia, green notes
Heart notes: Lily, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, rose
Base notes: Coffee, coriander, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla, tonka bean, incense

(Image: www.lauraperfumery.co.uk)



Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bond No.9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory


I don't know if I'll ever need this huge bottle (as cool-looking as it is), but I really dig this scent. It's a very dry, almost ashy incense, very similar to Comme des Garçons Avignon, but during the dry down of Silver Factory is a surprisingly sweet violet stage--so sweet, I thought I was wearing Guerlain Insolence for a moment. The sweetness is fleeting--the final dry down is pure smoke. The cedar base isn't too strong in this blend, and I can smell the lighter notes on top well, up until that smoky ending. I don't know what molten silver is supposed to smell like, but thankfully, the scent also doesn't smell too metallic to me, and I doubt there's any real metal filings in here (kinda reminds me of the way Paco Rabanne Calandre was rumored to contain metal filings).

I'd had my doubts about the Bond No.9 line with scent names like Madison Soiree, Nuits de NoHo, Bleecker Street and New Haarlem (what, they couldn't do (to quote Maurice Roucel, the perfumer in a podcast interview) this "DARK!! coffee" for Harlem and had to go the New Amsterdam way? I guess in his mind, he did.), seemingly leaving out vast numbers of areas in NYC where tourists are advised not to go (Coney Island is the only scent name outside of Manhattan that they bothered with), but even with a pretentious name like Silver Factory, I think this incense blend was nicely done (although I think conceptually, they could have used more Eastern incense and not just frankincense and myrrh-type of churchy stuff. Still, I'm reminded of Japanese incense and burning them at a gohonzen). I might have to shell out for a bottle one of these days after all...we'll see how I do with my sample vial first. It's a heavy scent, supposedly in full perfume concentration, and a little goes a long way.

Bond No.9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory (2007)
Notes: wood resin, amber, jasmine, iris, violet, molten silver and cedarwood

Now, a special humorous treat for my fellow New Yorkers (click on pic to enlarge):

White Folks’ Guide to the NYC Subway System by Streeter Seidell, www.streeterseidell.com



Enjoy your weekend!



Eau de Cologne Hermès / Eau d'Orange Verte

I was wondering how such a wonderful scent could have been discontinued, but I just learned from some internet research that it was renamed Eau d'Orange Verte in 1997. Well, phew. I only have a mini of the original, and thought I'd never find any more of it. Eau de Cologne Hermès is a straight-up lemony cologne, similar to Annick Goutal Eau d'Hadrien without the heavier cypress base. This is a mintier, maybe slightly more bitter scent (but they are very similar, and both are light Chypres). I thought the Eau d'Orange Verte I'd tested was actually much sharper and more orangey than this mini, but older scents could be degraded, with top notes missing. It could also be that the original formula contained more natural essences like real citrus oils and jasmine, making it softer, fuller and more beautiful. I'm pretty sure I like the Eau de Cologne better, but the new version isn't too shabby. It's hard to maintain quality in the face of restrictions on naturals that the industry battles. Anyway, Eau de Cologne Hermès / Eau d'Orange Verte is a crisp, lovely classic, perfect after sports, bath, anytime. If you like this scent, you might also love Annick Goutal Eau d'Hadrien which also smells like it contains high amounts of naturals.

Notes on Now Smell This:
Eau de Cologne Hermès (1979): bergamot, lemon, mandarin, mint, jasmine, orange blossom, patchouli, moss and cedar.



(Image: http://www.imagesdeparfums.fr/)

Bulgari Black

Although Bulgari (with a stylized "u" often spelled Bvlgari) Black is a spicier scent than I usually like to wear, it's a good scent for a change of pace from my light and lovely, clean and natural citrus scents. You could say this one is on the other side of the spectrum--a jagged-edged industrial scent, as a deodorant commercial used to go: "strong enough for a man (but made for a woman)". Actually, this is a cross-gender fragrance, as a truly modern-minimalist scent ought to be. At first, Bulgari Black is a familiar spicy creamy-musky scent, like a cross between Kenzo Amour and Christina Aguilera, a sandalwood-musk-jasmine blend that's also not far away from Donna Karan Cashmere Mist (1994). The black tea notes give it a dry spiciness as I find in Burberry The Beat but stronger, in higher concentration. A leather-amber-woods base lends a bold, heavy depth but in a flat, linear way, like a sine wave with not much overtone, that gives it that modern smell, like a rubber or tire shop effect saved by sweet vanilla to make it palatable.

With shades of Molinard Habanita in the mix, I find it interesting if not all-out exciting. Something about it reminds me of a ton of other mainstream scents that I can't place in my mind: Cacharel Gloria, for instance, which I don't understand because rose isn't a listed note in Bulgari Black. I find it sharp and perfumey, getting thinner as it dries down to a tart and sour lemon rind. In the end, I find myself craving more jasmine, less sour lemons, and less smoky base notes which, in an instance, can smell to me like hickory-smoked meat. As much as I appreciate foody scents, I can't abide by smelling like beef jerky, no matter how savory. Is it a sexy scent? I guess so, in that extremely low-pitched female voice-over for a sports car commercial-way, the one slithering raspily over Techno BGM that makes you feel like you don't need a visual aid anymore because you can work your imagination with a voice like that. However, maybe the voice-over talent is younger than she sounds--the jasmine in this scent doesn't reek of pure, unadulterated animalic jasmine--the real stuff--just yet.

Notes on Now Smell This:
Bulgari Black (1998): black tea, rosewood, bergamot, cedar, oakmoss, vanilla, amber, sandalwood, and musk.

(Image: http://www.imagesdeparfums.fr/)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Greensburg Emerging Green

One year ago, a tornado nearly wiped out the town of Greensburg, Kansas. The residents of Greensburg have been turning tragedy into triumph by rebuilding their land the clean, Green way. I just wanted to lend my voice in support of their admirable efforts, hoping more people will continue to recognize their hard work and commitment, and follow their lead towards a safer, smarter 21st century.

Will Greensburg Bloom Again as a 'Green' Town?
by Jacki Lyden, May 12, 2007
, www.npr.org

Kansas Town's Green Dreams Could Save Its Future
by Frank Morris, December 27, 2007
, www.npr.org

Read more here and learn how to help by making a donation or volunteering by visiting The Official Site of Greensburg, Kansas at www.greensburgks.org.

Trophée Lancôme

According to Wikipedia, "The Trophée Lancôme was a professional golf tournament which was staged in France from 1970 to 2003." Read more about Trophée Lancôme here.

Now, this scent is vintage enough that Lancôme's website doesn't recognize it when I try to search for it, but it's a well-known cologne among perfume lovers. I happened to luck out on a mini when I won one of my perfume lots on eBay, and here I am trying it out. This is a Chypre according to Basenotes where it also states: "In 1970, a new golf tournament was launched in France by Gaëtan Mourgue d'Algue and Dominique Motte in association with Lancôme and CEO Pierre Menet. In 1982 an fragrance was lauched - Trophée Lancôme - the bottle had a golf ball stopper. Though the Trophee Lancome golf tournament continues to this day, the fragrance was discontinued but in 2002 was reintroduced along with Sagamore and Balafre."

I would say it's a fresh citrus-lavender fragrance that dries down to a floral scent. I get a lot of jasmine in this, and I think it reminds me very much of Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass (1934) (except Trophée isn't as powdery). It has a simultaneously green, herbaceous, spicy, slightly mossy and floral aroma backed by a transparent muskiness. For a citrus scent, it feels a bit rich for me, but it's still light enough that I wouldn't have known it was a Chypre unless someone told me. It also reminds me of Caswell Massey Number Six, a slightly spicy citrus cologne, but again, Trophée Lancôme has a richly floral density, an old-fashioned classic appeal that might go over with fans of Creed Royal Water and other musky Fougères. I find it interesting that this Men's sport scent doesn't have any aqueous sportif aroma in it.

Trophée Lancôme (1982): Lemon, Basil, Lime, Petitgrain, Patchouli, Bay, Cedar, Jasmine, Musk, Amber, Labdanum, Tonka.