Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Michael Brecker - Sea Glass

1987 from the album, Michael Brecker

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Summer 2011 Top 10 Fragrances of the Moment

Chloé by Karl Lagerfeld (1975)

It's the end of June already! Dear friends, I regret I've neglected to tell you what fragrance I wore to the FiFi Awards ceremony. I chose Cartier XII L'Heure Mystérieuse, as my faithful readers probably already figured, since it has been No.1 on my most recent Top 10 favorites list (and it still is, although it's gotten pretty warm here in NYC to wear it all the time). Yes, I love it so much I *must* have it! I haven't felt this way since forever! Most of all, I find it so divinely ironic that my holy grail is a PATCHOULI based Woody Oriental, since I've done everything I could to get away from that note: the bug repellent from India that's become one of the most essential ingredients in Western perfumery. You just never know. Earthy and tenacious, it's a very useful note, one I've used in perfume blends to anchor the base. I can't say I've ever been moved to create a fragrance featuring the note, but I'm glad someone (really great) did. I'm so happy I finally found one perfect patchouli composition that works for me, in a truly fine fragrance by Cartier, no less.

But, like the perfume gods, even the divine Mysterieuse isn't 100% perfect; poor lasting power is the biggest issue, but then again, it isn't: how could such a frankly heavy and distracting smell of burning incense be appropriate in high society where the name Cartier belongs, unless it was turned into this sheer veil of an arrangement (the first of its kind that I've ever known)? Comme des Garçons Avignon (the Sarah Jessica Parker fave) is a similar type of dry, gothic church incense-smoky, almost ashy scent, but the bold strength of Avignon doesn't invite me to apply it on skin quite as liberally. If I'm to rock this popular post-Angel patchouli accord like the rest of the perfume-loving world and blogosphere, I need it to be a gauzy film (with no detectable musk) in which the patchouli note is as dry and diffusive in the air as firecrackers.

Jasmine - yes, I'm sure it helps that my favorite Fragrance of the Moment has a sweet, all-loving jasmine heart, at times reminding me of the original, fabulous, inimitable Chloé by Karl Lagerfeld circa 1975, a sweet but very deep tuberose perfume so beloved by Olivia Newton-John, she named her daughter after it...or so the perfume legend goes.

That's how I came to wear Chloé original again. I've been wearing the pure parfum out of a vintage mini. It still has the dry, pencil shaving-like cedarwood base married to sweet amber, with peaches, coconuts, fleur d'oranger and all the fun-filled accoutrements at a summer buffet table, but I just realized how mossy it is, too (it's a lovely note, although the oakmoss revival hasn't caught on the way patchouli has). Best of all, this is a white floral lover's dream, a perfume redolent of fleshy hothouse flowers, the warm southern wind. This is some big white floral phase I'm in; at this rate, I'll be reaching for Guerlain Jardins de Bagatelle and Gianfranco Ferre soon. Miller Harris Noix de Tubereuse has entered the scene as I began craving something beachy again, while Carolina Herrera returned to show me what a bombshell perfume is unafraid to smell like: indoles, honey, flowers and sex. Perfumes smelled great when we used to call them "perfume", not "fragrance", didn't they?

Back to patchouli: Another patchouli based beauty I'm wearing is a classic perfume worn by Rita Hayworth called Lanvin Arpège (1927). You might recognize it from seeing it on your mother's, or grandmother's, dresser. Lanvin was once as well-known for Arpège as for their mother-daughter Lanvin logo. Arpège was the perfume couturier Jeanne Lanvin dedicated to her daughter, an opera singer, on her 30th birthday. It's an acquired taste, a verrry sophisticated scent for those of you unfamiliar with Aldehydic Florals of this type (it's similar to Chanel No.5 (1921): powdery with what may smell to modern noses like a slightly sour, synthetic aroma). I'm convinced the cool, green and soapy Aldehydic Floral is the new chypre. This one is a bit warm because of the patchouli-vanilla-sandalwood base (ooh, and there's lots and lots of moss!), and also because it's a grand, complex composition made of many notes creating olfactive density, but it's as smooth as silk, elegant worn with black or white.

I'll probably post another Top 10 list before the summer's out, but here's one to kick off the season. I think my fragrance choices this time around could work all year long...Have a peaceful, fun-filled Summer / Winter wherever you are.

My Summer 2011 Top 10
1. Cartier L'Heure Mystérieuse
2. Lanvin Arpege
3. Chloe by Karl Lagerfeld
4. Miller Harris Noix de Tubéreuse
5. Eva Longoria
6. Carolina Herrera
7. Odin 04 Petrana
8. Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Male
9. Xerjoff XJ Elle
10. Cartier La Lune

Monday, June 27, 2011

Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums Portrait of a Lady

On May 25, 2011, the US FiFi Awards Perfume Extraordinaire division crowned Untitled by Maison Martin Margiela (L'Oreal / Givaudan) the blind test winning 'juice' of the year (and by blind test, I mean the judges weren't told the names of the perfumes they were asked to smell; the names of the 5 finalists were announced at the FiFi). Since attending the FiFi, I have made it my mission to smell all 5 finalists to see what qualifies as "craftsmanship, aesthetic beauty and quality". So far, I agree they are all noteworthy 2010 launches. Eva Longoria (Takasago) is an exceptional perfume in its light, carefree, casually beautiful scent genre. Voyage d'Hermès (Beauté Prestige International) is a great showcase for aesthetic sense as well as a uniquely creative take on the eau de cologne. Untitled was a terrific effort put into a retro 1970s reproduction "jus" packaged with slick avant garde imagery. It is perhaps something to note that the winning juice is the most quiet of the bunch I've smelled; actually, strength-wise, everything takes a backseat to Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums Portrait of a Lady, the fourth Perfume Extraordinaire Finalist I will review. (Added on July 17, 2011: Here's my review of Odin 04 Petrana (Drom Fragrances International))

By the way, I'm not sure about this, so don't quote me, but when the Fragrance Foundation says the Perfume Extraordinaire Award honors the Essential Oil Company, I think they might mean the Flavor and Fragrance Company that is honored by being nominated for their best "juice", not literally essential oil producers, or the companies that specialize only in raw materials. Do you know how some stores sell fragrance oil as "essential oil"? Yeah, that always gets me.

Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady is a Chypre-Floral Oriental, and although it is not a unique scent, it is a Holy Mother of God Perfume. I think it's the type of Chypre most Chypre lovers don't like, because it leans towards the sweet ambery Oriental side, like Paloma Picasso (1984). I think the combination of two now-separated genres smells naturally harmonious together, like French perfumes of old whose names are obscure yet fanciful, whose tiny miniature bottles are intricate glass designs. After the Chypre was isolated, refined and institutionalized, anything crossing the line might have begun to seem unpure. I think, therefore, that Portrait of a Lady is a "vulgar" Chypre to many. But that is just one interpretation, and only my first impression of it.

I really like this scent, a seductive, rich and spicy aroma; it's reminiscent of one of my favorite rose amber patchouli blends, Jil Sander No.4, but it's most similar to Van Cleef & Arpels Gem (1987), a "righteous" shoulder-padded power-patchouli Chypre-Fruity Animalic with tons of scintillating berry liqueur, a magnificent, velvety rich, voluptuous heart of rose, and warm, ambery notes to carmelize that leathery patch base to a rich and powerfully perfumey, if somewhat funky, aroma, funky enough to border on Vivienne Westwood Boudoir territory (almost; it is obviously better quality than the VW, but the VW is more risque as a composition). I can also compare it to Emanuel Ungaro Diva, Serge Lutens Chypre Rouge, and to a lesser degree, Cartier Le Baiser du Dragon (this is really powdery on top of everything else it is, and I mean everything, including boozy with a hint of raunchy stewed fruits like Cassini (1990), the most powerful 'Chypre-Fruity-Animalic Floral Oriental of all, which, to my bemusement, is currently being sold again at Neiman Marcus).

Because the scent emanating from the unopened sample vial was so strong, I decided to pit it against Eva Longoria to see which scent had more punch; Frederic Malle's Lady won. The actual juice is so strong, I feel it needs to be worn two dots at a time as parfum, even though it's a liberally sprayable Eau de Parfum (I guess climate will determine if it needs to be sprayed...). By the sound of it, you might think it's a tasteless, bawdy scent, but it is every bit as refined and smooth as can be, in a boozy-perfumey way, but also like a honeyed, warm breeze, even with all its complexity and density. Whether the "purest" Chypre form is considered these days to be a classic bergamot-oakmoss blend, a bitter, green Aldehydic one, a dark, angular, ultramodern linear leather, fruity or patchouli-based, I don't know and don't care - but a more charismatic Chypre would be a rare find. Portrait of a Lady is an attention grabber: daringly dramatic, romantically rosy and brilliantly (in a faceted round shape) scintillating, like a fragrance launched by a jewellery company. It was composed by Dominique Ropion, a master perfumer behind so many past and current loves: Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie, Carnal Flower, Escada Sexy Graffiti, Givenchy Very Irrésistible (2003 with Sophie Labbe & Carlos Benaïm), Amarige (1991) and Ysatis (1984).

The dry down is musky, almost Estée Lauder Knowing-like with its thick, clingy, animalic carmelized Chypre-Oriental amberchouli (could this be Ambroxan I'm smelling?). Do you know Ungaro Diva or Carolina Herrera? They're gorgeous, but with so much indole happening, I find myself thinking, "gahhh!". Portrait gives off a taste of these, plus Halston-Cabochard, that unsweet, leathery woods family that manages to smell so seriously perfumey, it's almost a perfume stereotype. Portrait of a Lady can steal any show with its glorious timbre / texture and perfuminess (complexity of notes) that can register as smelling "expensive", fit for a romantic heroine. I believe Untitled was more unique in concept (it is a conceptual art-fashion perfume launch, not unlike my Pink Manhattan :-)); still, if I were judging, I probably would have chosen Portrait of a Lady for quality as a perfume alone, for compositional perfection regardless of style preference. How ironic it is that some of those high quality notes I'm smelling are fragrance, not essential, oils.

Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady is named after the late 19th century novel of the same name (The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James). According to an entry on Wikipedia, "This was the uncompromising story of the free-spirited Isabel losing her freedom — despite (or because of) suddenly coming into a great deal of money — and getting "ground in the very mill of the conventional."" I have not read this book, so just based on the reviews and this fragrance, it seems to me Portrait of a Lady is the olfactory story of how a free-spirited ("bohemian" = woody-ambery? Berry-scented incense?) Oriental perfume came into Green money to become a noble Chypre, only to learn the grass isn't so green on the other side, what with so much earthy patchouli (patchoulol?) taking over her life! Maybe the point is that the Chypre-Oriental is a particularly complex, tempestuous blend that makes for a sensational story if not the most practical everyday fragrance. Oh, but who needs practical when you can smell like the best, most hedonistic French-Arabian (traditional attar-like in richness) Greco-Roman (traditional chypre from the island of Cyprus) style spicy traditional Romantic Rose perfume money can buy?

Image: Nicole Kidman in the 1996 film, The Portrait of a Lady

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dear Jacques Polge Re: Chanel N°19 Flanker, Sexism and Gender Conditioning

Jacques Polge, I've been a fan of many of your perfumes, the ones you composed for Chanel, Tiffany, Frederic Fekkai and others. No doubt your Coco and Coco Mademoiselle will go down in Women's perfume history (edited to add: and Chance, too; how could I forget?). However, let's just say the last time someone let a perfumer speak, it didn't help Guerlain at all. You're not doing Chanel a favor by showing your old world sexism, and conflating your interpretation of how N°19 smells, and what Henri Robert, master perfumer who created Chanel N°19, tried to communicate through his creation. Is "hard bitch" really what Henri Robert had in mind? Also, if you want to sound like an intellectual, please double check facts such as when First Wave Feminism actually occured, when it was coined as such, by whom and why. I'm not interested in powdery perfumes that are meant to keep the image (and self-images) of traditional femininity, when the image of lack of powderiness, or tradition, is made to appear unappealing by comparison. It's a mean-spirited, dated tactic to put something down to sell something different, because in this big, shared world, there's room for both, and still more options without being judged for our consumer choices.

It's one thing for me to interpret a scent and its gender specifications or lack thereof in the context of fragrance history; it's another thing to be dictated what they are and ought to be.

I think powdery perfumes gender-designated to women are meant to communicate that women are soft, fuzzy (minded, perhaps?) and infantile; such an analysis that feminine perfumes are essentially nicer (maybe powder needs to come back, remarketed as "newer and better"), says more about you and how threatened you must feel around strong, self-assured women, than it does about the women who wear so-called masculine-leaning feminine fragrances like N°19 - the masterpiece of the Chanel line and my personal favorite next to Ernest Beaux's N°22 and your sweet, refreshingly UNpowdery reorchestration of his Gardenia.

Friday, June 24, 2011

John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman - Lush Life

Uploaded by masqualero on You Tube

From John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (1963) John Coltrane (ts), McCoy Tyner (p), Jimmy Garrison (b), Elvin Jones (ds), Johnny Hartman (vo). "Lush Life" composed by Billy Strayhorn.

"All music is beautiful." --Billy Strayhorn

Julie London - You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To

"You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" by Cole Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964) performed by Julie London with the Bobby Troup Quintet, recorded on May 28, 1964.

Versace Woman

This review is for Versace Woman (2000) composed by Christine Nagel. I like this fragrance very much, even if I can't say Versace is among the most high end of perfume houses in the world. As far as mainstream perfumes go, Versace is one of the premier fragrance houses that's stood the test of time, loved for so many creations that have left lasting impressions on our psyche such as Blonde, V'E, Versus and White Jeans. So-called quality isn't the only thing that drives me to fall in love with a scent. I think Versace is as relevant as Bvlgari, Marc Jacobs, Juicy Couture, Escada, Diesel and so many other designer brands.

At first, I thought this scent was too musky for me in the Carolina Herrera 212 satinwood sort of way - this type of fresh, woody musk based scent (which I used to wear as a signature) can actually really carry in the air, starting out clean-smelling but warming up and becoming more complex (complexity or "perfuminess" which can be cloying to some noses), becoming a nuisance in the office and other enclosed places. Aside from the obvious transparent-floral-ozonic character of the fragrance, I also thought it was a bit too frou frou flowery with emphasis on lilacs for me (actually, it was the lilac-lily indolic type of musk I was having a hard time tolerating). I find it pleasant that it leans towards a smooth, low-pitched peachiness reminiscent of Liz Claiborne Realities even as it carries on an Estée Lauder Pleasures' green and soapy-clean floral tone; it hints at violets but doesn't go all out as Guerlain Meteorites and Escada Sentiment did in the same year.

Basically, it's a sweet, conventional but stunningly pretty Floral with fruity accents (raspberry being most prominent, but still subtle), the most typically Floral kind of ladies' perfume, the kind that incorporates fruit notes but keeps the overall character more classically Floral than Fruity, sweet but simultaneously floral-musky enough for it to not fit the Gourmand label (of course, it depends on whom you ask; some might say it's as Gourmand as can be, with toothachy sweet candy notes). It's the kind of traditionally feminine, all-out gorgeous and sexy Italian-style fragrance per Donna that follows the romantic style of Gianfranco Ferré, only in that less voluptuously floral, post-Eternity-airy, wooded-musky way a la Lise Watier Neiges (1996), Shiseido Relaxing Fragrance (1997), Elizabeth Arden Splendor (1998) and aforementioned 212 (1999). Even if I can't handle big, retro-classic style floral bouquets all the time, this is a semi-sporty kind of flowery perfume I could occasionally enjoy.

In fact, now that summer is here, sweet berries and white florals are as inviting to me as strawberry ice cream - and when the dry down note is a wild, retro-style gardenia as I'm finding Versace Woman turns out to be (it's probably the frangipani I'm smelling), I find myself entranced by this stylish, somewhat vinyl-synthetic yet utterly irresistible belladonna of a creation. I can't believe this perfume is discontinued, because it's a star fragrance, but it is.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fragrance of the Moment

If Kate Middleton hadn't chosen Illuminum, she could have gone with Creed. I've heard a great deal about Kate Middleton's wedding day perfume, Illuminum White Gardenia Petals, how un-perfumey it smells, how comparable it is to the ubiquitous scent of household products you can buy at a drugstore. I am still waiting to sample what sounds like The World's Most Modest Fragrance, and I will weigh in on its actual scent here on the blog soon; meanwhile, I'm having loads of fun with one of my favorite Spring-Summer 2011 discoveries, Creed Fleurs de Gardenia. This obscure fragrance is a limited edition released in 2006. It is a unisex gardenia blend, a Floral for Men and Women. According to Basenotes, "Sixth generation perfumer Olivier Creed honors the unique style of Miami and south Florida with Fleurs de Gardenia, a new limited-edition fragrance for men and women that includes Miami Supreme gardenias and rare gardenias from Asia and French Polynesia in its notes." The notes are listed as follows:

Top Notes: Peony, Orange, Italian Jasmine, Bulgarian rose, Iris from Florence.

Middle Notes: Miami Supreme Gardenias, Rare gardenias from Asia and French Polynesia

Base Notes: Vanilla, Ambergris; Royal sandalwood from the City of Palaces in India.

Now, I am a white floral lover till the living end, and I love Creed, so I should have loved Fleurs de Gardenia. Alas, theory and reality don't always go hand in hand, and such was the case with our chemistry; no, not skin chemistry because it smells nice on me, but my attraction to this scent waxed and waned as it simultaneously smelled so pretty, like a dainty garden floral tea time scent along the lines of Chanel Gardenia with less sweetness and personality, but also like makeup, specifically like certain foundations and skin creams, this generic, strong, sharp and synthetic Fruity Floral scent not wholly unlike Kiton Donna, Donna Karan Gold or something or other by Estée Lauder (like Sparkling Gold or Silver). There isn't a trace of coconutty goodness whatsoever. It's quite green; in it, I smell lilies, not sweet tropical gardenias; the sharpness of it is almost a dead ringer for Dior Chris 1947, but the tonally softer, yet still synthetic, creamy (but unsweet and light!) musky aspect is like Creed Love in White. It shares qualities with Les Floralies which I also liked but perhaps not enough to buy. I wonder if it has any more gardenia in it than Guerlain Cruel Gardenia, which was an actual joke on gardenia lovers, since all I smelled was violetty face powder.

As with Les Floralies and Love in White, Fleurs de Gardenia is overall a well-crafted fragrance, soft but fresh, and with good projection but high-pitched and just ephemeral enough, not clingy and cloying. The issue I have is that many of these newer Creed fragrances seem to have a chemical, hairspray-like note that reminds me of Cacharel Lou Lou, a fragrance launched in the '80s I found pretty in concept (maquillage-powdery rosy musk) but so strongly chemical, I couldn't ever like it enough to use it. Of course there are synthetic-smelling perfumes I like, such as Van Cleef & Arpels Birmane, Agent Provocateur (more like nail polish in this case) and Paul Sebastian Design (although that's to be expected of a perfume by a hair designer with a line of hairspray bearing a similar berry-white floral scent), so using synthetics doesn't necessarily take away from quality. Maybe "synthetic and non-clingy" is the current compromise. I draw the line at smelling something potentially toxic - a modern vinyl, gasoline or turpentine note doesn't excite me in a scent. Besides, I just can't like everything a brand puts out any more than I'd like every song ever recorded or written by a single artist.

This one is for the people who don't want to rock the boat, who want to smell like skin creams and makeup, better yet their own clean skin under a freshly laundered and pressed shirt, discreetly amplified. It's as crisp as paperwhites and perfectly understated, this new generation of the white floral debutante perfume.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Before there was the Old Spice man, there was Billy Dee Williams. With looks, charm and a mellifluous voice in the lowest of the low bass range, he starred in these ads circa 1985 for Jōvan Musk (1972), making this cologne and all its different versions fly off the drugstore shelves henceforth.

Let's celebrate and remember all the Dads in our lives in style!

Friday, June 17, 2011

David Bendeth - Feel The Real

Uploaded by tripfog on You Tube

David Bendeth "Feel The Real" was #1 on the soul and dance charts in the UK in 1979.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Voyage d'Hermès

Here's another familiar ad campaign from Hermès - this time, I pick up in the imagery nuances of Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps (1947) and Guerlain Vol de Nuit (1933), two timeless classic perfumes that made wings, or flight, maybe even escape, or voyage, their theme. The beach, the angelic white dove against a sturdy horse's back, are all part of the motif we've seen before, in Hermès ads for Amazone, and in its abstact form for Kelly Caleche. In Greek mythology, Hermes is the inventor of the lyre, a messenger and a guide to the Underworld. An Olympian god of commerce, his symbols include the winged sandals, the winged hat, and the caduceus (a herald's staff with two entwined snakes)given to him by Apollo, god of music. Mercury, a Roman god, who had essentially the same aspects as Hermes, is likewise a god of trade, often depicted wearing a winged talaria and winged petasos. Mercury is also identified by 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus as the Germanic god Wotan, the chief god of the Germanic peoples, a god of war, poets and seers, bringer of victory.

Hermès, a brand name synonymous with quality and exclusivity, has been given a whole new spotlight thanks to this 2010 unisex offering which earned respectable FiFi nods in both Women's and Men's categories. Voyage d'Hermès, another elegantly minimalist fragrance by Jean-Claude Ellena, earned the most prestigious honor of being chosen Perfume Extraordinaire Finalist at this year's awards ceremony held in New York. As Voyage d'Hermès takes me on a maiden voyage, smell-tasting international culinary delights, being pampered by some vegetal-coconutty skin treatment lush enough to drink, I believe Voyage d'Hermès will be a sleeper hit with me. I didn't think I'd like it as much as I actually do, because at first, as delicious-smelling as it was, I was taken aback by how sharp, bitter and stridently sour it smelled. Later, after wearing it on skin for a few hours, I understood a good cologne must be astringent at the beginning in order to stay starchy clean and fresh-smelling through the course of its wear, down to the very tip of its tux tails' trail of sillage.

According to Osmoz:
Voyage d'Hermès by Hermès (Woody - Floral musk, 2010)
Top note: Lemony Notes, Spicy Notes, Cardamom Note
Middle note: Tea Note, Floral Notes, Hedione, Green Notes
Base note: Musky Notes, White Woods

I don't know about these white woods, since all I get is a musky satinwood, sort of like a quieter Calvin Klein Eternity or Carolina Herrera 212, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was Australian sandalwood in Voyage d'Hermès. I'm sure I've smelled it in Elixir Des Merveilles; this type of sandalwood has a slightly medicinal, orangey and sparse tone, not as sweet, mellow and harmonious as the endangered Mysore type. Although this Australian sandalwood could never replace the scent of Mysore, in the context of a transparent-type of Woody blend (with a "rosewood" type of sharp, clean woodsiness), I could see it being tweaked and refined and used a lot. I also get a warm, pungent spice - cardamom, but also nutmeg (I once read that smelling too much nutmeg can drive one mad, as it is psychoactive and toxic consumed in large doses...); basically, it starts out sharp, gingery, hot / dry and herbal / cool, like ginseng, lavender and gulab jamun mixed together, until it turns pine-green, more traditional Men's cologne-Fougère-absinthe-like (specifically, like By Kilian A Taste of Heaven). Voyage d'Hermès takes me on the other side of the world, where a therapeutic-smelling Chinese herbalist's shop leads to a spice market in India, maybe because garam masala contains nutmeg. All this adventure, yet it hasn't even one tenth of the austere woodiness of Terre d'Hermès - this one keeps it light, breezy, free as a bird!

I find I don't crave Voyage d'Hermès necessarily, since the initial spritz is so piercing and alarming, but it is a quirky, wonderful fragrance, one I admire. It is a buoyant, airy composition reminiscent of the eerily whimsically conceptualized Un Jardin aprés la Mousson. This is French perfume. It is aesthetically well-balanced, an exemplary execution of artisanal skill. It's not a fragrance that exerts its presence even in terms of it being particularly memorable, and yet it's grabbed me. If you can tolerate the sinus-clearing, piquant (sour if I'm to be honest) and spicy top notes, what awaits is normally annoying musk beautifully complemented by gingery freshness, resulting in an antiseptically clean Woody Musk in which the musk smells as clean as sushi with extra ginger and wasabi on the side. This is clean with a barely audible whisper of a stroke of fine leather, the most well-mannered of its kind since Équipage.

Even though the musk gets stronger, it maintains balance with the lighter notes and smells so clean, like fresh pink ginger - what a feat to be so proper and appetizing at once!

I like to draw olfactive comparisons so that my readers might recognize familiar perfumes, but the only thing that comes to mind that I think smells similar to Voyage d'Hermès is Red Flower Hammam cardamom amber oil. The notes are listed at Beautyhabit: cardamom, bergamot, rose, jasmine, sandalwood, sweet orange, apricot. It is only a bath and body product, not a fine fragrance, and you won't get any authentic, buttery soft Hermès leather in that, so it's not that close, but they definitely share qualities, compositionally speaking, anyway. Do try the Hermès, maybe my new fave alongside Aprés la Mousson, Rouge, 24, Faubourg and more.

Related links:

Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums Portrait of a Lady - June 27, 2011

Untitled by Maison Martin Margiela - June 12, 2011

Eva Longoria - June 06, 2011

Odin 04 Petrana - July 17, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Untitled by Maison Martin Margiela

Martin Margiela is a conceptual fashion artist (links to Contemporary Fashion Archive). Martin Margiela and the Antwerp Six are said to carry on the work of 1980s avantgardist Rei Kawakubo, creator of the label Comme des Garçons. Untitled by Maison Martin Margiela was composed by Daniela Andrier, the nose behind Calvin Klein Contradiction (1997, with Antoine Lie), Giorgio Armani Emporio Armani She (1998), Kenzo Le Monde est Beau (1997), Prada Infusion d’Iris (2007), Lancome Attraction and the 2003 reformulation of YSL Rive Gauche. With the exception of Kenzo Le Monde est Beau, a sunny, lemony floral, many of the above could be described as skin scents, or comfort scents; many of the modern musk bases are transparent enough to make heavy scents seem lighter and airier. Using the right kind of musk can make even heavy Oriental-Woody compositions seem less clingy and more functional in today's world.

First, after reading a bit about the launching of Maison Martin Margiela's debut fragrance, I came to expect a Green 1970s style scent centered around patchouli, a favorite base note of the disco era. I envisioned a pungent, unsweet patchouli-based Chypre Floral like Halston (which I'd heard was a favorite among the Studio 54 crowd) mixed with a touch of classic Aldehydic Floral: Oh! de London, a whiff of Lancôme Climat here, Paco Rabanne Calandre there, maybe a dash of Cie! and definitely a good dose of Liquid Chic by Pauline Trigère (1973). Although I enjoy fastidious Greens like the powdery-cool Chanel N°19 (1970) and the pristine Estée Lauder Private Collection (1973), I hoped Untitled wouldn't be too stridently soapy, like Bond No.9 Madison Avenue or Joseph Parfum de Jour. I expected similarities to Prada Infusion d'Iris (2007), an herbaceous, pale green-tinted, transparent but heavy woodsy-incense Oriental musk that seemed to have taken creative cues from a niche cult heavyweight called Stoned by Solange Azagury-Partridge (2006). Infusion d'Iris will always be, to me, a snapshot of Solange Stoned infused with Mediterranean flavor. Untitled, the FiFi-winning Perfume Extraordinaire 'jus', is a logical continuation of this "Infusion" trend, riding on suggestive words as powerful as Creed's "Millesime".

Untitled smells like what I'd expected - a contemporary '70s style Woody-Green with the all-important "juicy" (Untitled is leafy and sappy, as in tree sap) character. The celebrated notes in Untitled are reportedly natural boxwood and Lentiscus resinoid. Another hailed note is Givaudan's Serenolide musk, and I wish I could isolate the note in my head, but it is described as a linear musk odorant; that could be what gives scents like Infusion d'Iris that never-changing, florid effect. What pleased me the most was the gorgeous leafy galbanum right at the top, referencing in an instant the great Pierre Balmain Vent Vert by Germaine Cellier, before quickly segueing into YOSH White Flowers and these once-sought after Aveda fragrance oils (the Roman-numbered series - does anyone remember them?). Untitled went through a generic sweetish floral phase, like the modernized, reformulated version of Vent Vert, until the more Halston-inspired, perfumey and carmelized patchouli-leather base reminiscent of another '70s-inspired scent called Estée Lauder Knowing, became most apparent in the end.

Untitled is, for me, a pleasant grassy scent, more wearable than L'Artisan Parfumeur D'Humeur Jalouse, a stemmy, sappy vegetal number, but the added challenge of the patchouli-based Chypre pushes the boundaries of my aversion to scents like Knowing and Grès Cabochard (1959). While I may have a strange aversion to this earthier side of green, I see Untitled as a respectable homage to perfumes like Guy Laroche Fidji (1966) and all of the earthy, nature-inspired 1970s scents we love. For all its traditional perfuminess, Untitled does not have the projection of Perfume Extraordinaire Finalist Eva Longoria; it fades rather quickly, as many new (even high end) perfumes tend to do, which is not economical for the consumer but might be good for the frequent spritzer, only in that perfumes that don't cling would minimize olfactive cacophany.

Finally, what surprised me most was how conservative the scent chosen for this avant garde house turned out to be.

"While Nº19 was considered to defy classification in the traditional ranges, it is generally considered to fall within the class of floral-green fragrances. During the '70s, the most popular perfumes typically came from two categories of fragrances - florals and chypres." The History of Perfume

Related links:

Eva Longoria - June 06, 2011

Voyage d'Hermes - June 16, 2011

Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums Portrait of a Lady - June 27, 2011

Odin 04 Petrana - July 17, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Xio - Make You Smile (ableton live + bcr 2000) norihidexio on You Tube

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Fragrance of the Moment

So this is what everybody around me's been wearing! It's a nice scent on others, as it smells mostly like a light, citric passion fruit. I'll tell you what the genius of Victoria's Secret was: The top notes sell this fragrance from first sniff. Remember, top notes (the high-pitched ones that evaporate the fastest) are the notes most people get hooked by when they first smell a fragrance. I was once part of an impromptu experiment held at a spa in Manhattan - I was doing Japanese TV reporting from a spa with their own fragranced bath and body line, most of them simple but pleasant blends of two harmonious notes. A group of us (10 people) were asked to smell one of these fragrances when the spa owner spritzed the air. We were asked to guess what we were smelling. 9 out of 10 people said they smelled grapefruit. 1 person said she smelled peach. I was the 1 in 10 who smelled the lower pitched note, the peach. The fragrance was a grapefruit and peach blend. The owner said that more developed noses smell base notes that others miss.

The genius of VS is that the top notes in Bombshell are none other than pink grapefruit, the note that put their best-selling fragrance, PINK, on the map. VS PINK is still very popular in New York, the next urban citrus favorite after Annick Goutal Eau d'Hadrien. BOMBSHELL takes this popular pink grapefruit hook and adds sweet, sensual heart and base notes, plus a semi-annoying (to me) musk that reminds me of Bond No.9 Scent of Peace and Avril Lavigne at once. I should add here, too, that the musk I smell is a blend of musks, some of which are dry and clean laundryesque (not a scent I can take in very large doses). I guess the skin musk accord in Marc Jacobs isn't far off, either. So, there ya go: it's musky, pink grapefruity and watery (peony, or transparent floral) - passion fruity - discreetly vanillic although the vanilla is smothered in musk, a bit reminiscent of another best-seller, VS Heavenly (the lemon-vanillic musky, baby oily powdery one with a slight aftershavey note).

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Monday, June 06, 2011

Eva Longoria

Dear FiFi 2011 USA judges: I am absolutely thrilled that I will have the chance to sample Untitled by Maison Martin Margiela (L'Oreal / Givaudan) soon, because if the way Eva Longoria (Falic Fashion Group / Takasago) smells is an indication of the superior quality of the Perfume Extraordinaire nominees' 'jus', Untitled must be out-of-this-world. Dear friends, I was able to smell Eva even before I took it out of the package of samples I ordered; the scent was emanating through the glass vial, packing materials and all, asserting its fruity, sweet, charismatic scent, lodging a few tenacious molecules in my nostrils the way some Hollywood actress might blow kisses in the air towards fans and potential fans-to-be. This one hooked me with some long, French-manicured fingernails reaching way up my schnoz, marking the scent in my limbic system with the first live encounter, snuffing out all competition by out-sillaging the rest, leaving me with a lasting, memorable noseworm.

My first two thoughts created in me a bit of cognitive dissonance, but nothing alarming: 1. Mmmmmmmmm...this smells very peachy, like a real, juicy fresh peach! follwed by 2. Hmm...this smells a lot like the peach oil I use in Pink Manhattan Purrfume!!! So, I simultaneously felt swoony and strangely gipped, resentful of yet more of my ideas being stolen and repackaged by the invisible yet ever-present machine. Then, I reminded myself that peach fragrances have always been part of the fragrance universe which existed long before my parents were born, with peach playing what is an integral, often central, role in the composing of truly great, serious perfumes. So, how could it smell so ubiquitously mainstream, as familiar as a BBW or VS body spray, yet so mesmerisingly succulent, luminous and so well-crafted it seems effortless, like a drop of perfect dew?

To give you a simple breakdown of the scent, Eva smells like it's related to Benefit Maybe Baby (peach white floral) but softer (texturewise - the way it caresses the nose). I've seen it compared to Calyx, and yes, it has a bright and tropical, somewhat green freshness like that. It's more of a straightforward Fruity fragrance; it could pass for straight peach oil the way Child oil could pass for pikake. Eva may technically be a Fruity Floral (which is a subdivision of the Floral family), but you can't smell much flowers in it, save for an abstract edible rose like a velvety poached pear (it shares elements with Petite Chérie). If you've smelled Pink Manhattan, imagine just the peach and the green touches but minus the body and soul, all high-pitched cerebral aspects. Don't be discouraged. Eva's dry down is actually a warm, spicy bed of leather musk, but it's kept deep in the background to highlight the simple, true-to-life peach, brought to us by the innovative technological breakthroughs in partnership with naturally harmonious Nature. I do wonder sometimes if this way of blurring the line between natural and synthetic is as mutually beneficial to the Earth in the long run.

The presentation is Barbiefied enough that it should go from a Quinceañera to a wedding, and wait - it will also take you to professional situations provided you don't spritz more than once. It has a transparent fruity body spray effect while hitting more intricate notes and varied accords on the olfactive scale, so the scent won't bore more sophisticated perfume lovers. It won't satisfy the basenote lovers, as even with all its subtly implied body and soul, it's a light, sparkling scent, a typically girly (girly-marketed) Floral, but guys could easily wear this, it's so clean. As far as quality juice is concerned, Eva, a well-constructed beauty devoid of any obvious white musk and other "filler" gimmicks, gets my vote, but does it smell natural enough to live up to the hype, about Perfume Extraordinaire recognizing the Essential Oil Company? Aldehydes are listed notes; even if Eva doesn't smell particularly powdery and fizzy as Aldehydic Florals do, aldehydes are not notes found in nature. Yet, it's a most mouthwateringly lifelike olfactive snapshot, as shockingly fresh-smelling as The Body Shop Dewberry was the day it was launched; I'm going to call Eva mixed media and let you, the perfume cognoscenti, have the last word.

Related links:

Untitled by Maison Martin Margiela - June 12, 2011

Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums Portrait of a Lady - June 27, 2011

Voyage d'Hermes - June 16, 2011

Odin 04 Petrana - July 17, 2011

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Miles Davis Sextet 1953 ~ 'Round Midnight

Uploaded by JckDupp on You Tube

Recorded: WOR Studios, New York City, NY January 30, 1953

Miles Davis - Trumpet
"Charlie Chan" - Tenor Sax
Sonny Rollins - Tenor Sax
Walter Bishop Jr. - Piano
Percy Heath - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums

Uploaded by JckDupp on You Tube

Recorded: WOR Studios, New York City, NY May 19, 1953

Miles Davis - Trumpet
John Lewis - Piano
Percy Heath - Bass
Max Roach - Drums

Friday, June 03, 2011

'Round Midnight 25th Anniversary Screening

'ROUND MIDNIGHT 25th Anniversary Screening
Presented by the Detroit Jazz Festival
Playing Thursday, June 9 at 7:00 PM.

The screening will be followed by a live presentation from Maxine Gordon (archivist and widow of Dexter Gordon) called "The Making of Round Midnight." An audience Q&A and discussion with Gordon will conclude the event.

The event will also feature the unveiling of the 2011 Detroit Jazz Festival poster, designed by Cranbrook Academy of Art student Satoru Nihei.

Michigan Theater - What's Playing At The Michigan

(Image: 'Round Midnight - Dexter Gordon on stage with Herbie Hancock, Pierre Michelot and Bobby Hutchinson

Body and Soul - Charlie Haden with Kenny Barron

Uploaded by kazzcriss on You Tube

Night and The City

Charlie Haden (b) Kenny Barron (pf)

Recorded live at The Iridium, N.Y.C, September 20-22, 1996


"Body and Soul" (song) - Wikipedia

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Untitled 01

Untitled 01
Acrylic and Phosphorescent Ink on Panel
12 x 12 inches, 2010
Benjamin Cottam

Rihanna - Man Down