Monday, April 24, 2017

Interview with Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian: Talking About LVMH, New Perfumes and Looking Forward



Neiman Marcus in Fort Worth, Texas, just opened the new and updated store and they've been having a flurry of special events. Recently Francis Kurkdjian, perfumer extraordinaire, came to Neimans to talk about his line and sign bottles. Kurkdjian is such a prolific perfumer that it would take up a whole post just listing the fragrances he has created, and this was before he launched his own company, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris in 2009. His first great success was Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male launched in 1995 when he was only 26. He has amassed a large portfolio working for such fragrance houses as Burberry, Elie Saab, Indult, Narcisco Rodriguez; the list goes on and on. He has created one of my favorites of the house MDCI Parfums, Rose de Siwa reviewed here. Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris has a portfolio of twenty perfumes, and I've reviewed a couple of favorites, Grand Soir and Petit Matin here.

When I set off for Neimans to meet Kurkdjian I explained to my husband who I would be interviewing and made the comparison he was a sort of Sting of the perfume world. I love so many of his scents and am a huge fan. When I arrived at Neimans the message that I wanted an interview had not reached Kurkdjian, but he couldn't have been more gracious about spending fifteen minutes  with me and letting me ask whatever I wanted. He was so easy to talk to and absolutely open. Top on my mind was the recent March announcement of French luxury brand LVMH acquiring a majority stake in Maison Francis Kurdjian, as they continue to expand in niche luxury brand fragrance.

Q: I'm interested in the recent news of the sale of a portion of your company.
A: Yes, we sold a majority of the company and my business partner, who is a co-founder and myself we have the rest of the company and we're still on board . We're still very active....I'm here.
Q: So your role is not really changing?
A; Not at all. It's a move that we would have done, that we would have to do, not maybe this year but within the next four years. There are not that many independent companies anymore and when you live in the retail environment you have to have the power, you have to be backed up by a powerhouse to be capable to get good spots, good point of sales, and at some point to grow. You have a level where you're too big to be small and you're not big enough to be big. And there is an awkward situation where I needed to do something. I believe because we were seeing a very good financial increase, I believe it was the right timing to give away part of the company. To negotiate it is always better if you are strong than if you are weak. We lost the majority but we are on the board. I keep my hands on the creative part. From the front nothing is going to change.
Q: I read in Persolaise blog that you had a really big increase in sales.
A: Yes, in two or three years.
Q: What do you credit that to?
A: Because you need your name to get out. It takes time. We're very young. We'll be only eight years old this fall and it takes time. I believe also that the portfolio is the right size now because we have about 20 perfumes, so you have enough proposal for the customer. If you launch with only two to four scents you might miss many people, because if someone wants vanilla, if someone wants wood; now the portfolio is quite structured. And you need to have a decent retail size so you can become profitable. Also the Baccarat fragrance (Baccarat Rouge 540)  helped a lot. It's very popular; right now it's our best seller. It's always the case when you launch a new perfume, the new perfume always takes over. This is how it works.
Q: Today I'm getting the Grand Soir. It works better on my skin than the Baccarat Rouge.
A: It might  be a bit acidic.on your skin.
Q: It's more of a winter scent for me because Singapore is hot and humid all the time. I was kind of leaning toward the Petit Matin but I really love that one so I think that's going to be it.
A: It's nice, I like that one. I like them all! I've never launched a scent that I don't like. It's hard for me to make the choice.
Q: You're still a perfumer that goes out of house too?
A: I'm releasing a scent from Burberrry in about ten days. I'm releasing something new for Elie Saab. Many things are in the works.
Q: I really like Ellie Saab. It seems like you have a really good feel for orange blossom perfumes, which I love.
A: With orange blossom? It was the brief. The brief for Ellie Saab was not about orange blossom. The brief  was to create a scent that would convey the idea of the Middle East without being woodsy or based on oud, so I thought that orange blossom was a nice twist. I like rose as well. I'm not familiar with jasmine. I put a little bit in some fragrances. I use jasmine as a booster but, I don't know why, I've never tried to create something big around jasmine.
Q: Is there any note or fragrance family that you feel you really have something left you want to say?
A: There are some, the only thing is you have to be careful when you launch them. Some themes are very trendy at some point and you might give the impression that you want to follow the trend. I've been working on  the leather accord for many years now because the first time I worked it was for my cousin, to create for her. Usually the perfume I'm launching has been created before for someone, most of the time. She had a small men's clothing shop in Paris next to mine, nearby the Ritz, and she wanted me to create a mens cologne for her, for the shop. And that leather note has been in her shop for a few years now. She doesn't sell it. She sprays only the clothing and it as if the man has just left the shop. I wanted to redistribute but now there is the big trend on leather. Everybody is launching a leather note so I am delaying it. I'm going to wait two or three years before we launch it. Now I am working on many. I have decided I want to launch a new couple. It's a long time since I have launched two partners.  I have to deliver things by August and I have no idea yet, so I'm trying to find inspiration where I can! I know I want something white but it doesn't mean anything so far. I don't know why I want something white ...
Q: White flowers you mean?
A: No. White something. White ambiance. I have no idea where it's going to lead me. I just know that white could be an option.
Q: So when you're not creating perfumes what do you do for happiness?
A: It a 24/7 life.  I play the piano. I love cooking. I love to host. I'm away very often. Two thirds of my time is out of Paris. Every time I come back to Paris, my home, my first thing is to call my friends, to see who is in town and host a dinner for 10 or 12 people. I love doing that. I go to the opera. I go to the museum. I have a passionate life. I know that I am blessed. That I know. There is not a day that looks alike. I don't feel I'm working, in a way.

There is another five minutes of interview, but it devolved into travel story comparisons and my asking advice for a summer trip to Europe. As I said, Mr. Kurkdjian is extremely easy to talk to!

Two things of personal note: I did get a photo with FK which he graciously posed for. I really try hard to conquer vanity but this photo was so horrendous (me, not him!) it will never see the light of day. And secondly, I really appreciate the time and kindness shown to me and cooperating with my ambush interview. It is so refreshing to meet someone who is such a success in their world but still comes across as gracious, humble, and grateful. Thank you, Francis Kurkdjain, and I can't wait to see what else you have in store for the perfume universe!

Top photo from www.theladylovescouture.com. Thank you to Neiman Marcus for providing this opportunity.

Friday, April 21, 2017

DSH Perfumes Gekkou Hanami


I went into testing DSH Perfumes Gekkou Hanami thinking I already had it figured out. It would be light and ethereal and pink. I was sort of right about the first two. On first application Gekkou Hanami has a moment of watery freshness, then citrus notes bring everything into soft focus. The citrus used is yuzu, a sort of Japanese grapefruit, and this citrus note in Hanami has a very definite Oriental feel to it. Unlike the brightness and zestiness of some citrus notes in perfume, this yuzu has a contained feel like the muted light shining from a Japanese paper lantern. Sake notes also add to this Japanese aura, contributing a very light fruity note as well as the creaminess of the rice used to make the sake.

Now that Hanami has set the stage -- I picture the delicate beauty of geishas gracefully teetering on wooden getas as seen in Japanese woodblock prints -- we begin to smell the florals. Our geishas are transported to a path lined with sakura trees exploding with blossoms,  some of which fall then float in a nearby pond. The opening scent of yuzu has receded and now I smell light watery florals. The watery aspect makes it seem as scent caught on the breeze, airy and floating. In all honesty I've never smelled cherry blossoms, only some of the imitations with their candy pink juice. There was a Jo Malone version a few years ago years ago which failed to move me, and as much as I enjoy some L'Occitane scents, their cherry blossom perfume just smells like pink nothing to me.

Photo from etsy shop JapanLovelyCrafts

Dawn adds a mixture of florals, the dominant notes being sakura blossom and neroli. I think that maybe rosewater and waterlily are the notes giving me the "floating on water" effect which can also be translated as breezy notes. This soft floral is not at all sweet on me and imparts the feel of scent on a spring breeze. The florals hum quietly for quite some time, then eventually base notes of cedar and frankincense provide a soft landing for this gentle scent. The base notes are also very soft and mellow, continuing the air-like quality of Hanami.

On the DSH Perfumes site, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz describes the creation of Gekkou Hanami, which translates as "Sakura Gazing in the Moonlight", in this way.  "Hanami is the Japanese pastime of picnicking below the Sakura cherry trees while in blossom. The act of gazing at the blossoms as they fall like snow is an essential moment of beauty, and death. It is an integral experience for the Japanese culture."

If you are looking for a one note cherry blossom fragrance then you may be surprised by Gekkou Hanami. What I think Dawn has done is encapsulate the entire hanami experience: the sun fading into moonlight, the cherry blossoms scent on the breeze, perhaps a sip of sake, watery florals, and the gentle wood notes from the surrounding forest. Gekkou Hanami is a very pretty and somewhat contemplative scent to welcome spring, and beyond.

Top photo: Sakura Fubuki, Shower of Cherry Blossoms, 1940's woodblock print. My sample was kindly provided by DSH Perfumes.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spring Perfumes Reminiscent of Planting A Garden


I love the smell of cool damp dirt that has been slumbering all winter; digging a shovel in and turning out a dark crumbling lump of rich black soil as if awakening it from a sleep. Preparing the ground, pulling small weeds that may have sprung up, raking up the last of the fallen leaves, all to have a good base to plant seeds, baby plants, and especially my herbs, which I like to get in the ground as soon as the risk of frost has passed. These perfumes listed below in no particular order remind me of this spring ritual and the wonderful smell of dirt, herbs, and green leaves in my early garden, before the flowers have started to bloom.

Herb Man by Dame Perfumery Cologne
Jeffrey Dame prides himself on making colognes and perfumes that are easy to wear and smell great, rather than trying to present the wearer with a challenge. Herb man is the perfect example of this art. It opens with notes of  petit grain, lemon and bergamot which make it sound like a typical citrus cologne but the herbal notes come in rather quickly and let you know this cologne is about herbs, with notes of lavender, sage, and possibly rosemary. The lavender doesn't stand out as much as the sage, but all the notes are a well blended brew. There is a slight dustiness that may be from either the note of geranium or artemisia (wormwood) and to me this gives a slight "in the garden" vibe. I could almost think there is a very mild vetiver note here but perhaps it is the wood notes. I enjoy this scent. It starts out with a zingy rush from the citrus but quickly evolves into warm herbal overtones. It wears clean, slightly green, and not at all boring or common. This is marketed as a men's cologne but is unisex and something I would enjoy wearing. I would call this a casual cologne yet it's polished enough to feel at home in the board room.

Allegria by Rouge Bunny Rouge
Mint so fresh you want to break out the rum for mojitos. Bergamot, sour orange and grapefruit give a tart and crisp opening. Passion fruit adds a tart fruitiness. Intensely bright green notes dance around the citrus notes. Black currant leaf, Basil and Eucalyptus contribute to this green leafy feel. Buchu is a South African plant whose leaves have an intense aroma pungent of peppermint. With mint, eucalyptus and bucha you might think that this is an extreme mint perfume but the overall effect is a fresh and lively green. Other notes include mimosa absolute in the heart, and base notes of cedar, dry amber, moss, musk, hawthorn, and tonka bean. I feel that the cedar, hawthorn and moss are the most identifiable of these and make for an interesting ride.

The brand's own copy describes Allegria: "Fueled by lush greenery, this ecstatic aroma transforms all that was once black and white into vivid color." The perfume does have a feel of vegetation gone wild and there is a bit of sour bitterness hiding in the background that some might find challenging. I thought this made it more interesting and probably like no other perfume in your collection. It is fun and a bit zany, and my first thought was, "the perfumer (Sonia Constant) must have had a lot of fun making this." It's very creative and different and will definitely bring on a mood of "spring is here" or perhaps good to wear in winter when it seems spring may never appear.

Herba Fresca by Guerlain Acqua Allegoria
This perfume advertises itself as "the spirit of fresh cut grass and a note of green tea." This opens very watery than almost immediately fresh sparkling herbs make their way into the picture. A mint note is prominent, and it is spearmint; yes, the varieties smell differently. I grow mint in my garden for my obligatory ice tea, and it is amazing what a different taste and smell each variety of mint has. Spearmint has a bit sweeter note than peppermint and reminds me of the old Wrigley's spearmint and doublemint gum commercials. (Don't worry if this means nothing to you. It just means you're not as old as me.) I admire Herba Fresca for its lively notes and the feeling that you really have trampled through a field of herbs, crushing the mint leaves beneath your feet and releasing their pungent odor. The fragrance was meant to create the feeling of walking in a garden after the rain and the bright, clean freshness does give this impression of freshly watered and washed plant life. I mainly smell the clover and mint, although the green tea may be providing a fairly neutral background note.

This perfume was created in 1999 by perfumers Jean-Paul Guerlain and Mathilde Laurent. It is one of the few Aqua Allegoria perfumes by Guerlain that has managed to stay in fairly constant production, I would assume because of popularity.


Un Jardin Sur Le Toit by Hermes
This was the fourth in Hermes garden-inspired themed perfumes and they kept it close to home, this particular "garden on the roof" being based on the rooftop garden of Hermes headquarters at 24 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris. Previous additions all had foreign locales: Un Jardin En Mediterrannee (Mediterranean), Un Jardin Sur Le Nil (Egypt), and Un Jardin Apres la Mousson (India).  This 2011 creation by Jean-Claude Ellena keeps it light and simple.

Ellena scupted Un Jardin Sur Le Toit as a fun, light, and lively perfume, uncomplicated and easy to wear. On first application I get a creamy grassy green note. It is light and stays close to the skin. Eventually slightly sweet notes join, meant to represent the apple, pear, and magnolia trees of this secret garden. There are occasional flashes of herbs, rosemary and basil, to represent the green notes of the perfume. I will confess this one is a little light for me in both projection and sillage but I do find it very pretty and perfect for those who enjoy "keeping it close".

Le Jardin Vert by DSH Perfumes
Rich, verdant soil, dark wet and crumbly. Perhaps a little mushroom compost is in there to amp up its organic richness. Tender plant roots, exposed to the soil as you dig your shovel in and turn the dirt to prepare it for the spring garden. The perfume is meant to represent the atmosphere of a garden: the rich soil, plants, and trees, but not flowers. It creates the smell of moss and woods, and uses mineral notes to give an impression of damp and green. To me this perfume smells like that fertile moment of joy and hope when preparing your spring garden after a winter's slumber. It is that feeling of earth, enriched by crumbling leaves and tree bark, ready to welcome fledgling plants and tender seeds. Totally unique, see my more extensive review here

There is only one other perfume I know of that comes close to this feeling of cool dirt in your hands that Le Jardin Vert give and that is Diptyque L'Ombre Dans Le Eau, which I reviewed in last year's five top picks for spring and you can read about here. Are there any perfumes that remind you of a garden in the spring?

Top photo by SusanTuttlePhotography. Other photos, www.rougebunnyrouge.com and www.hermes.com. All samples my own.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Guerlain Mon Guerlain


My first attempt at wearing Guerlain's new introduction, Mon Guerlain Eau de Parfum, was not a success. I don't know if it was the fact that it was the end of a warm day and I needed a shower, but the notes just turned into a sweet generic perfume such as can be found on numerous department store perfume counters produced by less illustrious brands. Fast forward to the next day, I sprayed Mon Guerlain again and this time my reaction was much more favorable. Perfumer Thierry Wasser along with Delphine Jelk have created a perfume featuring notes of lavender and vanilla. Lavender doesn't seem to be used a lot these days and has a reputation with some as being fusty or medicinal. I've always loved lavender; to me it smells fresh and invigorating. The challenge for Guerlain was to introduce lavender in a way that would not put off the masses. In my opinion they achieved this by taking a bow to today's mass market desire for sweet or gourmand perfumes.

As I said above, my first experience with the perfume was too much sugary sweetness, but now I think warm skin and  a warm day amplified this effect. One can't ever discount how skin chemistry can shift and how climate can affect the appropriateness of a scent. I suspect this might be more of a cool weather scent for me as in the heat my skin turned it into a sugar bomb with nary a touch of lavender in sight. That's hard for me to believe as now, on my third wearing of Mon Guerlain on this temperate day the lavender is very much present, although surrounded prettily by vanilla and tonka. The perfume ultimately smells like dainty lavender macarons to my nose.

Guerlain classifies Mon Guerlain as a "fresh oriental." I suppose to someone unexposed to oriental perfumes a case could be made but to me it is just too fresh and too clean to be a true oriental. Orientals tend to make me feel like I'm languishing on colorful Persian carpets with hookah pipes and spicy dishes but this brings more to mind skipping through a field of lavender sprinkling sugar crystals among the stalks. The lavender used in Mon Guerlain is a special breed: Carla lavender, which was also used in 2015's Mon Exclusif and Chanel's Jersey. Many reviewers have commented that they don't even get any lavender and I think this is because it's cushioned by the soft sweeter notes of the vanilla and tonka, along with iris which pairs beautifully with the lavender. At times I smell a dry almond note which could be from the coumarin. There are notes of jasmine to add a sweet floral touch. Wassler has a nice touch with jasmine and created one of my favorite jasmine perfumes for Guerlain, Aqua Allegoria Jasminora, sadly no longer available. A sandalwood note in the drydown adds to the creamy texture and as time wears on the perfume becomes like a blurry white musk.

I'm sure there is a market for those who want a gourmand perfume with the refinement of a Guerlain, which tips to the sweet side but doesn't take it too far . It remains to be seen if the lavender note will be liked or if it will be off-putting to consumers. As for the tie in with Angelina Jolie as spokeswoman, I am indifferent to celebrity ties in with products. I neither like or dislike her; I just don't care and to me the endorsement seems a terrific waste of money. I'm sure that Guerlain has a marketing team a whole lot smarter than me about these things who have figured that the celebrity exposure will pay off in the long run. What are your feelings about celebrities fronting perfume campaigns? Yay or nay?

Ultimately I like Mon Guerlain well enough, even though this category of perfumes is not one I normally seek out. The slight touch of lavender makes it more interesting to me, but if you aren't a lavender lover I would still give it a try as others have said the note doesn't stand out on their skin.


Photo and great recipe can be found at www.hintofvanillablog.com. Perfume sample from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Travels in India: Part Four


Reviewing: Parfums MDCI Rose de Siwa, DSH Perfumes La Reine des Fleurs and Oud Wa Ward by Berdoues

My husband and I had left a bit of wiggle room at the end of our India trip itinerary for spontaneity. When I was googling online for interesting places no more than a half days drive from Jaipur, the little town of Bundi kept popping up. Seemingly the destination for hippies, backpackers, or intrepid French travelers, Bundi was described as a sleepy little town with a magical forgotten fort castle. The castle had stunning murals that one can observe up close because the place is basically deserted. The town is unused to tourists so you walk down its narrow lanes totally free of the hassles that can besiege tourists in India. I recently saw the new Beauty and the Beast movie, and this little town with its hilltop fort reminded me a little of the Beast's castle; distant, sleepy and forgotten.

There is a fort at the top of the hill that looms over Bundi dating back to the 1300's. We made the rather arduous climb, accompanied by a troop of eager and curious macaques, to find that the fort lies in ruins although it is still an interesting place to explore. The palace is situated below the fort and building began in the early 1600's. The palace is not maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India so sadly it is gradually losing ground against the elements. However, this is also part of it's charm. It is as if you have stumbled upon a hidden place, perhaps the first one to view its beautifully painted walls for hundreds of years. We saw only one other person looking around as our guide led us through the palace.


The entrance to Garh Palace is through the Elephant Gate, two huge stone elephants meeting nose to nose. Like all the palaces we viewed, you enter via a steep climb but make a ninety degree turn to access the gate. This was to prevent enemy's elephants from gathering speed to crash through the heavy wooden doors. You enter into a grassy courtyard which would have been for the commoners, and the first floor above was where the royals lived and met with distinguished guests. It is full of beautiful carved elephants, fountains, tiled floors, and beautifully painted murals similar to the miniature style of Indian painting. One can imagine the opulence of life when the fountains provided soothing music, the tiled marble floors were spotlessly clean, and the Maharaja would have been sitting on his throne in all his finery. Musicians played from little balconies such as is pictured below.


Every inch of the bedrooms and gathering rooms were covered in exquisite mural paintings. Until recently one could wander into the castle and look at these rooms but due to some vandalism to the paintings you must now hire a guard who will unlock the rooms to view. The murals below are actually from another part of the castle, Chitrashala, which was built starting 1749 and features paintings illustrating the life of the Maharajas and Maharanis.


This palace, the last we saw on our tour of Rajasthan, was a little jewelbox of a place. I was carried away by imagining life within its walls. Roses were ever present when we were in Bundi, from huge stone bowls in our lodging to overflowing baskets of petals and bouquets from flower sellers on the streets. I picked three rose perfumes inspired by this magical place:  Parfums MDCI Rose de Siwa, DSH Perfumes La Reine des Fleurs, and Oud Wa Ward by Berdoues.


In Part Three I described how grass screens were used to cool and scent the Indian palaces. Water droplets wet the screens and scented waters added beautiful fragrance to waft through the palace as the breeze passed through the screens, or as they were fanned by an army of servants. Since Rajasthan roses are commonly distilled into oils, I imagine Garh Palace redolent with the scent of roses and I have picked three of my favorites to discuss and review.

Rose de Siwa by Parfums MDCI is the scent I imagine wafting through the palace as produced by the rosewater dampened screens. If I were rich this is the scent that would greet you as my doors opened, enveloping you in a cacoon of silky rose luxury. I don't mean to compare this to a room freshener; far from it! It is just that the scent is so beautiful I would love to be surrounded by its lilting tranquil notes. Rose de Siwa was created in 2006 by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian and is classified as a floral woody musk scent. It features top notes of litchi, peony and hawthorn; heart notes of rose and violet; and base notes of cedar, musk and vetiver. Notes aside, what I smell is the absolute freshest, most innocent and joyous rose scent ever created.

Sparkling notes of litchi and peony make the opening dance and soar. The perfume's name comes from the Siwa oasis in Egypt, which is surrounded by a dry and sandy terrain not unlike Rajasthan. The notes in the opening make me picture the palace's cool marble floors dotted with tiered stone fountains, the falling water providing tinkling background music to the court and the occasional errant splash providing cooling relief.

Photo www.lujoveiejeaindia.com. (Not Bundi)

The rose notes smell opulent and a touch fruity yet manage to maintain the feel of a freshly picked rose, innocent in its purity of scent. The rose has a cool note, as if plucked in early morning with droplets of dew lacing the petals. The scent of rose can have lend a sense of calm and serenity and this perfume very much affects my senses in this way. Violet can sometimes carry a perfume into powdery territory but this doesn't happen on my skin with this perfume. After a couple of hours the woody and musky notes began to mingle more strongly with the rose, slightly toning down its vibrancy. Another hour in and the perfume becomes more of a personal scent, but still maintains the beauty and freshness of the rose from the initial spray. 

The Maharaja spying in the women's palace. Details from one of the murals at Chitrashala.

How to scent a Maharani? I didn't have to look further than my own bottle of La Reine des Fleurs by
DSH Perfumes. Translating to The Queen of Flowers, what could be more perfect for an India queen in her palace? This is one of those perfumes that when you smell it you instantly know it's something special, and wearing it makes you feel dressed up and glamourous. It is truly befitting for a queen or a Maharani.

Maharani Gayatri Deva of Jaipur, the Jackie Kennedy of her era.

La Reine des Fleurs has the lush and grandiose feel of a vintage perfume, something I often find in perfumes created by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. The perfume opens with a rush of bergamot, mandarin and peach and it is succulent! The juiciness of the peach note is accented by the brightness of the bergamot and mandarin and the overall result is reminiscent of a peach freshly picked off the tree, its fuzzy skinned warmed by the sun, and so juicy that at first bite the sweet yellow-pink juice streams down your arm. When I am in Singapore some of the year I sometimes shop at Isetan, a Japanese department store with a grocery below. They import in-season special fruits and I recall being stunned the first time I saw the Okayama white peach carefully packaged and selling for $18. That's one peach, folks. I was stunned and amused but I'm here to tell you, if I could find a peach smelling of this rosy ripeness I would probably pay $18 to try it. 

The opening is followed by notes of rose: a mixture of Bulgarian rose absolute, Moroccan Rose Absolute, Russian Rose Otto, and Egyptian Rose Geranium. A touch of jasmine is indiscernible but amps up the lushness. It is an extravagant, palatial display of roses; picture the patterned marble palace floor scattered with velvety petals crushed under bare feet. The perfume is a collage lavish with wine red roses and luscious juicy peach. Is it peach perfume with rose or a rose perfume with peach? It shifts on my skin, with first one note dominating, then the other. La Reine des Fleurs is a head turner and at the time of this writing, it appears to be on sale at the DSH Perfumes site linked above. This perfume lasts for hours on my skin, and is even softly present the next morning.

A gathering of Rajasthani Maharajas, including Raghubir Singh, king of Bundi.

The Maharajas of Rajasthan were a special breed. Notice their luxuriant mustaches and their turbans, each elaborately twisted and contoured into a unique design. Mustaches and turbans were both important to the Rajasthani ruler as well as the common man, and even today these traditions continue. In the earlier eras they had to be fierce warriors to hold on to their riches, but they also appreciated and cultivated the arts and knowledge in general. Like male peacocks, their daily wear was elaborate and splendid. Imagine the awe they inspired as they rode atop an elephant passing through the streets of their kingdom. Such men inspired me to pick a masculine leaning perfume, yet also richly beautiful and continuing the rose theme: Oud Wa Ward by Berdoues.

The list of notes for this perfume is succinct:  patchouli, Turkish red rose, oud. But that doesn't tell the whole story. Rose and oud isn't a new idea but it's a popular one for a reason, they're the perfect marriage. Oud deepens the richness of the rose note but gives it depth and mystery. The subtle sweetness of oud wood makes the sweetness of the rose less pretty and more sensuous. This isn't the fresh rose of an English garden, but a wander into the enchanted forest with dark tangled trees and red roses with sharp thorns. The patchouli adds an earthy grounding and at times overcomes the oud and makes the sweet note recede. I like the way that in the first couple of hours this perfume shape shifts, even with so few predominant notes. There is a moment when the perfume reminds me of Atelier Rose Anonyme, but the oud takes Oud Wa Ward in a different direction. The Berdoues is richer and reaches for oriental roots with its oud notes. And even though I mention it leaning masculine it is still a totally unisex perfume. To clarify how much I like this: Oud Wa Ward, along with DSH La Reine des Fleurs reviewed above, were two of my very few full bottle purchases in 2016.

Rudyard Kipling spent time near Bundi in the late 1800's and was inspired to write Kim, otherwise known as The Jungle Book for Disney fans. At that time tigers freely roamed the nearby hills and hunting was a kingly sport. Kipling had this to say about Bundi:
"Jeypore (Jaipur) Palace may be called the Versailles of India; .... but the Palace of Bundi, even in broad daylight, is such a palace as men build for themselves in uneasy dreams, the work of goblins rather than of men."
My traveling partner and I agreed with Kipling. Bundi was such a special place that we cut short our last day of sightseeing planned for Delhi and headed straight for the airport, flying standby back to Singapore. I felt that nothing could top the dreamy spell that this fragile, crumbling castle of dreams and imagination had spun, and that this was the perfect exclamation point ending to our India sojourn.

I hope you have enjoyed my perfume picks for this last installment of my India travels. For more perfume picks see Part One,  Part Two, and  Part Three.

Top photo Google image. Other images my own unless otherwise noted. Perfumes from my own collection.