Sunday, March 24, 2019

Floraiku: The Art Of Perfuming Haiku

I have not seen much about the brand Floraiku which was introduced in 2017. It was started by Clara and John Malloy, the founders of the brand Memo Paris which has perfumes inspired by exotic travel locations and which I wrote about here. The Memo Paris brand is based on  travel destinations around the world but with Floraiku the Malloys have turned the lens on Japan, and specifically on Japanese poetry known as haiku and Japanese ceremonies. Japan still holds some mystery to the Western world and there is special fascination for its cultural traditions and an appreciation for the focus on finding stillness and calm in an increasingly fast paced and loud world. The Malloys were struck by the purity and rituals of Japanese ceremonies and decided to translate this into scent.

The packaging for Floraiku is truly exquisite, and as we all know, this doesn't come cheap. The bottles come in bento boxes which include a travel spray and a clever carrier made from the perfume's lid. Each perfume has an illustration by artist Victoire Cathalan and Clara Malloy has written a "haiku" as the spirit for each scent.

The haikus do not exactly follow the rules; seventeen syllables in lines of five--seven--five, but let's not be sticklers. The little poems embrace the haiku spirit; sparse description, tightly edited and each word carefully chosen to describe the beauty in an everyday moment. This minimalism of words, each chosen for perfect effect, is carried through into the perfumes formulations. Each perfume features three notes and are at least fifty percent natural oils. Thus the perfumes are not complex. They literally unfold in three acts, as similar to three lines of poetry. The notes unite to form a beautiful picture but some users may not appreciate this minimalistic approach to perfumery, particularly at this price point. This is a true luxury item and is not carried at many stores, Harrods in London and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, as well as a small number of other locations. The original bottle purchase is at $350 but future refills can be had for a much more reasonable price, $200 for 2 oz. As a result of these prices, I found their sample set of eleven sprays at $35, which is how I tested the fragrances, a very reasonable deal.  If you order the samples they come with a book which features the haiku for each scent and the beautiful illustrations. Otherwise you can go on their website an have a look. It is all very stunning.

There are three categories of scents, each of which highlights a Japanese ceremony: Enigmatic Flowers which represents the art of Ikebana, or flower arrangement, Secret Teas and Spices which represents o cha, the ceremony of tea , and Forbidden Incense which alludes to kodo, the burning of the incense. In addition there are two scents called shadows, one to darken and one to brighten the other scents. I will give my quick impressions of the fragrances.

Enigmatic Flowers 

Cricket Song
Walking in the darkness
A cricket song
How torrid the heat is!

It is amazing the things you can learn when writing about perfume. Did you know that cricket's chirping frequency increases with heat, and if you want to play at being a naturalist, count the chirps in fifteen seconds then add 37 and that will be your approximate temperature, in Fahrenheit!

The notes in Cricket Song are bergamot oil, magnolia oil, and vetiver oil. The perfume opens with a light touch of creamy white flowered citrus. The bergamot oil makes the opening bright and airy, scent floating on the breeze. The flower, magnolia, feels very languid and damp. It's scent seems to be unfurling in the hot night air. This little poem is deeper than at first glance. The crickets are chirping because of the heat and the flowers are releasing their scent in the night air. With the elusiveness of scented petals carried away by the wind, the vetiver base gives the luminous magnolia a soft place to land.

I have a jillion crickets living in the little swatch of woods by my house and in summer they can make a deafening racket. I also have a magnolia tree but sadly the flowers spend all their energy on being big and beautiful and put very little effort into scenting the air. Still, I love this haiku and the scent Cricket Song for how it reminds me of a summer's night, the cricket's song hummed by a familiar army of choristers invisible in the nearby trees. This finding of beauty in the everyday mundane small moments that give our life texture and tiny points of pleasure is the definition of haiku poetry. This perfume is my favorite from the entire line by the way.

I See The Clouds Go By
I see the clouds go by
to the tea picker's song

The notes are cassis absolute, cherry blossom, and white musk. I See The Clouds Go By opens with a really beautiful berry note which smells fresh picked and succulent. In the opening moments I think I smell tea but then it's gone. I enjoy the tart depth of the fruit in the scent. Here the cassis floats atop notes of cherry blossom but they combine to make a scent that smells like syrupy wine notes. There is a richness but musk keeps the scent soft. This was another favorite.

First Dream of the Year
First dream of the year
first wish
the milky way above

The notes are grapefruit oil, orange blossom oil, and iris concrete absolute. The grapefruit opens slightly tart but I smell the orange blossom right away. The orange blossom is so realistic. I have a lemon tree in my back yard and it reminds me of the beautiful smell of the tiny white blossoms which bloomed a couple of weeks ago, very pure and sweet. There is a dance back and forth between grapefruit and orange blossom with an underlying sweetness. I never really smell the iris concrete note. Over time the scent looses the amazing brightness and becomes more fuzzy and musky.

Here's the thing. There are plenty of orange blossom perfumes and while the scent of orange blossom is gorgeous, there are not a lot of ways to make it unique. The way these fragrances can stand out from one another is how realistically the note is translated to scent. Here you get that natural smell. It smells like expensive oils were used, as they should be, and this orange blossom really smells like nature. If cost were no object, this orange blossom is pretty enough to make me desire to own it, but since that is not the case and I have some very pretty orange blossom perfumes, this is the one in the flower collection that intrigues me the least.

Secret Tea and Spices

The Moon And I
In this world of dreams
the moon and I
contemplating night flowers.

I don't know that I've ever smelled such a realistic tea note in a scent. At first sniff it smells like black tea but slowly it turns more green. The notes are mate absolute, matcha tea, and cedar oil. Just as in some tobacco-note perfumes you can smell the actual leaves and the oil, that is the sensation here. I picture one of those huge straw baskets holding piles of tea leaves beginning to dry, their edges curling as drops of oil secrete. Eventually the tea notes dissipate and the scent becomes more woody on a bed of cedar.

This is just my personal impression but I didn't get a lot of longevity for a perfume that started out so strong. And although the tea representation was well done it was almost too realistic for me without any non-tea notes to soften it.

I Am Coming Home
Shivering lights far away
I am coming home.

Notes for this are ginger oil, white tea, and cardamom oil. The perfume starts out with a bright realistic scent of ginger. There is a whiff of white tea, but if you've ever had white tea you know the flavor is so faint as to be almost water, and one must appreciate delicacy and nuance to enjoy it. The same goes for the scent here. The cardomom doesn't have the impact I expect. It is a soft crumble of spice, just to give the ginger an edge. If you like ginger-based scents you might enjoy this one. It does have one of my favorite bottles.

One Umbrella For Two
Our eyes raise to the sky
no rain
one umbrella for two

I have already written about this one in a previous article on "purple-smelling perfumes" and this is my favorite scent from the tea collection. Notes are blackcurrant absolute, genmaicha tea, and cedar oil. One Umbrella For Two opens with a nutty note reminiscent of a Japanese rice cake and the grain scent is both strong and unusual. Genmaicha tea is said to have the scent of roasted rice. Eventually the nutty grainy flavor begins to be infiltrated with the scent of blackcurrant. It starts out rather dry and tart but there is a switch, the scent switches from grain to fruit. As this happens the blackcurrant sweetens slightly. In my head I'm picturing fig newtons, but filled with blackcurrant rather than figs, encased in that yummy crust that is a cross between a cookie and bread. This all sounds quite strange, I know! Try it and judge for yourself!

Forbidden Incense

Sound Of A Ricochet
A red dragonfly
under the burning sky
the sound of a ricochet

Vanilla absolute, tonka bean, and sandalwood oil are the listed notes for this perfume. Sound of a Ricochet would be beautiful in the first crisp days of fall or to give a gentle sense of warmth on a cold winter's night. The combination of vanilla and tonka is not new but all too often I find the mix to be heavy and cloying. Here it really does give the sense of a delicate trail of incense rising up from burning sticks, leaving a gentle string of ash from the burned stick that collapses once it gets too long. This is a gentle but lovely scent and I got good longevity.

My Shadow On The Wall
Pale summer moon
o silence
my shadow on the wall

Notes of violet leaf, mimosa, and sandalwood oil make up this scent. It opens with a velvety green violet leaf. The green of the violet leaf is softened with notes of mimosa which add a mere touch of floral sweetness to the otherwise austere violet leaf. This one is as delicate as a slender bud of green bursting from the earth. I found it to me a wonderful meditative scent while it lasted, calming the aftereffects of a frustrating customer service call with Qantas Airlines that had left me riled. I would have been nice to have the scent last a lot longer, though.

My Love Has The Colour Of The Night

My love has the colour of the night
a firefly
in the swimming pool's light

In the beginning this scent gives me the mental picture of opening a wooden box, a special box that holds treasure or precious items. The box is richly carved and is indolent with the smell of fresh wood and oils to give it lustre. There is mystery here, like it hasn't been opened in many years. Patchouli gives a connection to the earth and adds to the mystery and the darkness. Vetiver gives a dry and natural scent.

Light and Dark Shadow

The idea of spraying your perfume with a fixative scent to change it or add something extra is a fairly recent invention. There is a longer history for mixing scents, as with Jo Malone and others. Personally I'm not a fan of this practice.  I will tell you briefly how these scents smell on their own. The red bottles are really striking.

Sleeping On The Roof
Sleeping on the roof
warm wind
shadows blown away

This is the light shadow. Notes are lily of the valley, orange blossom, and amber musk. As with the other flower notes, the lily of the valley is super realistic to nature. There is a dampness as if you've just picked it, and the stem is weeping sap and scent. I am surprised to find I like this as a scent. It is pure lily of the valley on me until the amber eventually makes its way. Encouraged, I think I'll try layering, as is its purpose, so I put it on top of One Umbrella For Two. Nope, just as I expected, sort of a muddled mess. The bright lily of the valley note that I liked so much doesn't exactly disappear but it loses a good bit of power within a couple of hours.

Between Two Trees
The owl is watching 
between two trees

This is the dark shadow, but it starts out pretty bright. Notes of grapefruit oil, mate absolute, and vetiver oil make up the trio. The grapefruit is quickly overtaken by vetiver which smells dry and woody. The mate adds an herbal earthy feel. There is some depth to this and I find it appealing to wear but it's very subdued on my skin.

I enjoyed trying the Floraiku line of perfumes. I think the aesthetic is beautiful and well thought out. The sampling set is good value and a way to try out the perfumes before buying as they are only available at a very limited amount of store fronts or online. I struggle with the price point although I can see that no expense has been spared in the packaging. If you find one of the scents you really like, it becomes more economical if after making the initial splurge for the bottle you afterward buy the refill which is a much better value. Or I suppose you could just buy the refill but what's the fun in that? 

Lastly, here is a video that clearly shows the bottle, and how the top becomes a protective case for the travel spray.

Japanese prints are Google images. All other photos from I bought the sample set from which I tested these perfumes.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Jo Malone Wild Flowers and Weeds Collection: Quick Impressions

It's that time of year again when Jo Malone releases a limited edition collection based around some twee hail Brittania themed aspect of life on the big island. I always wonder how they are going to come up with a new idea each year but so far the collections continue to delight. This year's theme is inspired by the weeds and wild flowers that grow wild on the banks of Britian's winding rivers and canals. I thought the painting below is a good representation of this bucolic and languid state.

Two Women Asleep In A Punt Under the Willows, 1887 by John Singer Sargent

As I stated last year when I wrote about The English Fields Collection, I always get excited about the scents but when I eventually try them there is often a let down. They are usually fleeting and faint on my skin. Last year's collection of scents had a couple I really liked but the bottles were just awful. This was unusual because normally Jo Malone can be counted on to have a quirky and creative marketing campaign to introduce the scents and the bottles are normally appealing.

This year Jo Malone has outdone itself with the bottles for the Wild Flowers and Weeds collection. I would love to own each and every one. I like these bottles even in their bare state; they are slim, squared, slightly weighty and fit perfectly in the hand. The botanical drawings on these bottles are off-the-scale cute, and happily for me my two favorites are also my favorite drawings. However, as much as I am over the moon with the presentation, the fragrances do the usual one to two hour fade away on my skin, with one exception.

Lupin & Patchouli

This scent is meant to represent canal banks lined with colorful flowers. The lupin is a bright showy flower that can grow to a meter tall and has a spiky top. It can be an invasive species, thus it could be thought of as both a weed and a wildflower. The perfumers interpreted the lupin into a scent representative of its color and strength. There is also rose in the formula but this note wasn't evident to me. When I first spray Lupin & Patchouli I smell a herbal, slightly minty smell; in my notes I wrote "a mentholated smell." But this disappears really quickly and there is a very pretty floral which I quite like but find difficult to explain, as it is an invented scent. Don't get too attached to it though, because patchouli enters the picture and takes over. It is a green, earthy patchouli, and if like me, you enjoy this note then you're in for a treat. If not, avoid at all costs because this is mostly about the patchouli. Lupin & Patchouli was the only one of these scents that had any tenacity on my skin. I could still faintly smell it the next morning.

Hemlock & Bergamot

This is the other scent that I quite like. When I hear the word hemlock I think of something dark and foreboding. Hemlock was used by the ancient Greeks to carry out death sentences, most famously on Socrates. The flowers, which you can see pictured on the bottle, look bright and innocent and so is the scent in Hemlock & Bergamot. The first spray starts airy and slightly sweet and I sense a touch of powder. It continues to have a creamy, sweet presence and to me the scent is very innocent and spring-like. The use of mimosa and heliotrope add to this powder aspect of the scent. When I'm wearing it I picture an alpine field dotted with flowers. It smells pure and fresh. I like it but I can see how this could be devisive -- a love or hate scent.

Nettle & Wild Achillea

"Crikey, this is green!", was my initial reaction on spraying Nettle & Wild Achillea. Another description that popped into my head was swampy green, which makes some sense in the context of thinking about plants growing alongside a river. There is also a bitter note. Nettle is herbaceous but if you've ever come into contact with it, you know it can have a sting to it, thus why it's sometimes called stinging nettle. Does the bitterness represent the danger of the plant? Wild Achillea is more commonly known as yarrow, and the properties of yarrow are also aromatic and bitter. Yarrow was used in times past to stop bleeding, relieve the pain of a toothache, and gently stimulate the immune system when taken at the first signs of a cold. After the rather harsh green opening, which tiptoes very close to unpleasant, the scent turns into a very nice musky green fragrance, light and easy to wear. I have other scents in my collection with this light green note and while their bottle isn't as pretty, they last a lot longer on my skin, so I won't be getting this one.

I came across this nice Scottish folk song about yarrow, or wild achillea, mood music for the review:

Willow & Amber

Willow trees have been a facet of British nature lore for centuries. The tree's long string-like leaves fall gracefully to the ground and along the river bank they will be caught in the current with a graceful pull. In Othello, Desdemona sings a folk ballad called The Willow on the night she will be murdered by her jealous husband. In Hamlet, the tragic heroine Ophelia falls from a willow tree and drowns in the river below. Jo Malone used headspace technology to capture the scent of willow leaves in flowing water, which is interpreted as a woody note. There is always one scent in these collections which I can literally not smell, and this one would probably be the one in the Wild Flowers and Weeds Collection. There is a very gentle whisper of light green scent and soft cashmere woods. I thought I would always be able to recognize amber but here it is so soft I wouldn't have known it was there. To me this is "a fresh air scent". It is pleasant and I can't imagine anyone disliking it, but I'm not sure anyone would love it either. On me it is a gentle skin scent.

Cade & Cedarwood

This is another very pretty bottle. I wish I could put my Jo Malone London Rain Black Cedarwood and Juniper cologne into it, as the illustrations fit and it is an altogether better scent. I was a little confused by the plants referenced in this cologne. The other weeds and wildflowers go with the riverside theme beautifully. I'm not an expert in the flora alongside British rivers and streams, but are these trees common? I'm being pedantic, I know, but it just didn't fit in quite as well with their theme, in my opinion. But aside from all this, how does it smell? While the other scents are very spring-like this one definitely feels more like autumn. The cade is slightly spicy and this note translated into a sort of chai tea scent on my skin at times. The cedarwood is gently aromatic and at times I catch a drift of smoke. The smokiness probably comes from the base note of ciste labdanum which intensifies the darker aspects of the scent. Case & Cedarwood is a very wearable scent and could be thought of as the baby brother of Black Cedarwood and Juniper. For someone who would like a light woody scent with mild spice and slight smoke, this could be the ticket.

All the colognes in this collection were created by Perfumers Yann Vasnier and Louise Turner.

Perfumes were sampled at David Jones Australia.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Amouage The Secret Garden Collection: Love Tuberose, Blossom Love & Lilac Love

Amouage Perfumes is a brand that has been around for more than thirty years and was originally founded by a royal decree from the Sultan of Oman who wanted to preserve and promote Oman's history of perfume making. It positioned itself as a luxury brand back in the days when that was a rare thing and at the time was known as the most expensive perfume brand in the world. Partially for that reason they were not much on my radar for many years. Then a little over ten years ago Christopher Chong was hired as Creative Director and Amouage went through a rebranding process. I was familiar with the brand's oriental style perfumes but recently The Secret Garden Collection's pretty pastel bottles caught my eye in the store and I decided it was time to give the brand a second look.

Love Tuberose

How can I describe Love Tuberose in a way to differentiate it from all the tuberose perfumes out there? If a tuberose bloom and a macaroon had a love child, it would be Love Tuberose. Or if I filled my bath would milky white cream and tipped a cascade of tuberose buds from a bucket into the liquid, that would be Love Tuberose.

I love the scent of tuberose; its opulence, its velvet richness. It is one of the more robustly scented blooms in the flower kingdom; lusty and mesmerizing for those who love it, possibly nauseating for those who don't. Tuberose is a hard flower to be indifferent to. But really, what is there new to say about it so far as perfumes? Love Tuberose gives it a good shot, finding something new to say with it's opening of gourmet but elegant yumminess. After a slightly sweet opening where I get the hint of meringue with the tiniest, tiniest touch of finely refined sugar, the perfume then evokes the scent of a white, milky cream confection of white flowers.

Blossom Love

I love pink. How is it that I never picked up this pink bottle to spray and see what was inside, because what's inside is a whole lot of awesome pinkness. Pink blooms, pink fizz, pink bubbles, happiness in pink.

Blossom Love opens with a sparkling fruity note. When I was trying to guess the note I thought maybe rhubarb or strawberry. In fact the top notes are listed as cherry blossom nectar and rose liquor. If you think this sounds a long way from the Amouage scents in the past, with their references of sacred Omani frankincense and spice being transported across the desert sands via a swaying camel train, you would be right. The opening is bright and effervescent, both tart and sweet and backed by a cascade of pretty cherry blossoms and rose. Meanwhile notes of ylang ylang, amaretto accord, and vanilla give a slight gourmand air. The amaretto accord, or maybe heliotrope, gives occasional puffs of powderiness but it is never overwhelming. This perfume reminds me of my favorite tipple, pink champagne, so delicate, bright, and fun!

Image from

In my sniffing notes I mentioned more than once, "It has that French perfume feel." What I mean by that is that even though this sounds sugary and flowery like pink bubblegum, it actually manages to project a sophistication, with that smell that isn't a chypre but has a fizziness and a bit of formality. Notes of tonka bean, sandalwood, and cashmeran keep this scent creamy and smooth all the way through til the end, long after the bubbly "pink" notes have disappeared. 

Lilac Love

I haven't had a lot of luck with lilac notes so I was curious to see if Lilac Love would change all that. The first time I tried it the answer initially at least seemed to be a definite no. I got an unpleasant plastic smell, like the cheap dime store dolls I used to buy with my allowance when I was a little girl. It didn't last long, but definitely got me and Lilac Love off on the wrong foot. The next few times I wore the perfume I had this reaction only one more time. After a bit of a rough start the perfume careens into a very nice lilac note. After that it goes powdery and that is pretty much the end of the story. Lilacs. Powder. Powdery lilacs. Judging by the list of notes and some other reviews I can only deduce that lilac doesn't like my skin. In addition to the very obvious lilac accord and heliotrope, there is peony, gardenia, orris, cocoa bean!, tonka bean, patchouli, vanilla, and sandalwood.

I'm not getting any of that. Again, for me it's lilac and powder, not that this is a bad thing. Lilac scent is lovely, but I've decided that lilac is a bit like wisteria for me. I  absolutely adore them in nature, but on my skin they grow a bit tiresome. If you are a lilac lover, please disregard all of this because Lilac Love is indeed a lilac that an appreciator of the scent could fall in love with.

Amouage has recently released gift sets with perfumes and lotions in a set, as well as hair mists. These are all lovely spring-time scents and I had only one quibble which I was going to mention in the post.

Although all the scents started out quite strong, I felt like they ran out of steam fairly quickly and I was going to complain that for the elevated price range, I thought this was a bit disappointing. But when I woke up the next morning after the first try, I realized I had a lovely smell of cherry blossom wafting up from my left wrist and beautiful tuberose from the right. The scents were subdued but definitely present enough that I didn't feel the need to reapply perfume, so I will renege on that criticism.

If you're looking for a cheery blossom scent to welcome spring and if you can afford the price point then these three from Amouage are definitely worth a look.

Top photo Thank you to David Jones, Australia, for the samples.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Puredistance Perfumes Has A New Release: Aenotus

In a world where some perfume brands have multiple releases every year, the Puredistance brand of luxury perfumes has distinguished itself by showing restraint in the practice of new perfume introductions. The last release by Puredistance was Warszawa in 2017 so it is some eighteen or so months later that there is finally a new perfume, Aenotus. Puredistance founder Jan Ewoud Vos has created Aenotus as his signature scent and it has been in the incubation stage for three years but is finally ready for its debut.

Back in 2017 when I was living in Singapore I got the opportunity to meet Mr. Vos and his daughter Tamara when the Puredistance line was brought to Maven Takishimaya. This was at the time of the release of Warszawa. During our interview I asked Mr. Vos if he had a favorite in the line and he replied, "I sometimes use Black and M but very sparingly because I like things a bit lighter and more behind the scenes." I was surprised, because so many of the Puredistance fragrances are statement scents and real powerhouses. I found it interesting that he was creative director to scents that did not cater to his actual preferences, but I suppose that is what being a good creative director is all about.

Jan Ewoud Vos went on to say that for thirty years he had been loyal to Chanel Antaeus but that all the reformulations had changed the scent and it wasn't the same anymore. When he began to work out what he wanted in a signature scent for himself, his love for the game of tennis and the sporting life in general were a big influence. Vos said he still plays serious tennis today but when he was younger considered going professional, so great was his passion for the game.

"So the fragrance I wanted for myself was something sporty but also something woody and this was almost impossible to combine so we worked on it about three years," Vos said. And now almost eighteen months after that initial conversation in Singapore, Aenotus has been released.

Antoine Lie and Jan Ewoud Vos

Antoine Lie was the perfumer who created Black, White, and Warszawa for Puredistance and Vos chose him as the perfumer to bring his vision to reality. In the Puredistance copy which describes the creation of Aenotus, Vos says:

I showed him (Antoine Lie) the idea behind Aenotus. A perfume that would first refresh and then - unlike the 1000+ perfumes that are fresh but quickly fade away - transform into a sensual but subtle skin scent. A refined and seductive perfume that doesn't give away its personality to everyone instantly.

is an unusual name and when I first heard it I thought could it be a play on the perfumer, Antoine Lie's name?  But Vos likes to play with words, and as he did when he created the name Opardu for one of his perfumes, this was an original word he created inspired by the name of the mythological Greek god Aeolus, the keeper of the winds. Vos uses the description of Aeolus as the God of the winds who brings cool breezes to calm the intense heat of the plains of southern Europe as a descriptive device for the perfume Aenotus. It is a perfume that manage to have both warm and cool aspects.

Photo from

Aenotus opens with notes of orange and mandarin, as well as a very fresh and slightly bitter yuzu fragrance. There is lemon there too, and the notes are startlingly fresh, as if you've ripped a citrus segment straight out of the rind and you get that zestiness. This clarion chorus of citrus notes are strong and true and last for some time, probably due to the amazing amount of pure oils in the perfume. Puredistance offers only pure perfume extraits with a very high percentage of pure perfume oils but Aenotus has a rather remarkable 48 percent of perfume oils.

The perfumer lists heart notes of mint, blackcurrant bud, and petitgrain, all of which are exhuberant and vivacious notes but here are extremely subtle. I smell the petitgrain first and it has the orange mixed with the green and twig notes, and it also gives a touch of that soapy barbershop smell but that aspect is subtle and fleeting. I can also smell the mint and blackcurrant bud used to add a fresh tingle but they are well blended into the perfume. These three notes on their own can be very distinctive, but here I assume the perfumer has used them to keep the light and lively feel going as citrus notes are notorious for their brevity. Also these notes heighten the feeling of coolness. 

Eventually a woody aromatic essence begins to overcome the citrus. Here is where I will go off script. No wood notes or oud are listed but that is what I think I smell, just a slight and subtle touch of that woody tang that softer ouds can impart. Oakmoss, patchouli, and musk are listed as the base notes and maybe it is some alchemy of this combination that makes me think I can smell slight oud, as I am certainly not an expert nose in any shape or form when it comes to identifying individual notes. The woody slightly earthy aura is quiet and calm with just an occasional trail of distant smoke.  When I had an interview with Mr. Vos toward the end of 2017, right before the release of Warszawa, he admitted that he resists naming notes for his scents, preferring that customers come to the perfumes with no preconceived notions of how it should or should not smell. He seems to like for his perfumes to retain some air of mystery.

Aenotus feels very different from the other perfumes in the Puredistance portfolio. Maybe it is closest in spirit to Puredistance 1, which I also found to combine a certain power with restraint. But Aenotus is much more subtle and personal than the other scents in the Puredistance line. Although Mr. Vos designed this as his scent it could suit a man or a woman. The scent is very long lasting and will give the wearer pleasure as well as those who move in close enough to catch the simmer.

Maybe it was just because I went to the beach later in the day after applying Aenotus in the morning but a couple of photos I took that day really seemed to express the mood of the scent for me. Here in Adelaide, Australia, it is the tail end of summer and this was probably one of the last killer hot days. The water of the Southern Ocean was as still as that proverbial cliched pond, there was not even a discernible movement of the tide. We first were treated to a blazing yellow sunset (iphone, no filters) and then to a calm beautiful stillness in those moments where the sun has sunk below the horizon but it was not yet dusk.

At first Aenotus is bright and has a sunny warmth and a warm glow but there are cooling notes as well.

Eventually as the deeper base notes appear the scent goes still and smooth, but even in this warmth I find moments of coolness in the placid calmness and quiet tone of the scent. It is like a burner on the stove turned to low simmer. The notes become softer and fade into the skin but still have a quiet presence.

Puredistance is unabashedly a luxury brand and Jan Ewoud Vos has set these goals for Puredistance: exclusivity and timeless beauty, and the brand's tag line reads, "perfumes with a soul and signature." Although somewhat different in presentation, Aenotus continues the Puredistance tradition of quality scents with a large percentage of oils and beautiful packaging. The scent is available in three sizes: 17.5 ml, 60 ml, and 100 ml.

Finally, here is a video released by Puredistance to show their vision for Aenotus: 

To read more reviews of Puredistance scents and an interview with founder Jan Ewoud Vos, start here.

Photos from except for two beach pictures which are my own. Thank you to Puredistance for providing me with this sample. Any viewpoints or opinions expressed about the perfume are my own.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Balenciaga In Black And Perfumes Inspired By Fabric

Recently the Fort Worth Kimbell Museum hosted an exhibit entitled "Balenciaga In Black" showcasing many of the designer Cristobal Balenciaga's design from his long career. The exhibit was organized by the Palais Galliera, Fashion Museum of the City of Paris. The first time I viewed the exhibit I was more interested in the designs of the clothing, but the second time I began to take in the nuances of the dresses and how certain fabrics were used for structure and effect. I noticed how many shade variations of black there are, depending on the sheen and style of the fabric.

Balenciaga In Black exhibit, Kimbell Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, Autumn 2018.

My Mother was an accomplished seamstress and when I was growing up she made most of the clothing for my sister and me. It never occurred to us to feel cheated of "store bought" clothes as her creations were always so perfectly constructed. I learned at an early age to appreciate the distinguishing characteristics of fabric. Most of what came my way was utilitarian cotton, but for my Mother's dresses there was linen, with its dressy Southern vibe rendered more casual by the inevitable wrinkles that would follow the minute the wearer sat down. Satin was shiny and dressy but had a certain structure and took up space, especially if there were tucks or gathers in the design . Silk was sinewy and whisper thin, draping the wearer like a second skin. Taffeta had a sound; it crunched and rustled with movement.

Balenciaga 1956. Google image.

Cristobal Balenciaga was born in the Basque region of Spain and had a mother who worked as a seamstress so he began training in the industry at an early age. A noblewoman in his town recognized Cristobal's potential when he was only a teenager and sponsored him to train in Madrid. Success followed and Balenciage opened stores in important cities in Spain. Eventually the Spanish Civil War would force him to close these shops and seek refuge in Paris where his empire and reputation would grow. Balenciaga was always distinguished from other couturiers as the one who could take a design all the way from inception to completion with his own hands, and throughout his career he always had one design in each of his runway shows he personally sewed.

Crisobal Balenciaga in an advertisement for Le Dix perfume.

Balenciaga's Spanish heritage influenced his love of using black fabric in his designs. It referenced the black lace mantillas women veiled their heads with before entering the church, the solemn robes of the Catholic priests and church hierarchy, the uniform of the bullfighters, and the flounced lacy dresses of the tango dancers. By using so much black fabric in his designs, Balenciaga was able to call attention to the details that made his creations true haute couture. He understood the language of each fabric, how it draped, flowed, and moved with the model. If you're interested, here is a glimpse at the Balenciaga "by invitation only" show room, I'm guessing maybe early 1960s.

I would like to be writing about the perfumes Balenciaga released during the era he was designing, roughly 1920 through 1968. Le Dix was released in 1947 and was named after Balenciaga's address, 10 Avenue George V. This was followed by La Fuite des Heures in 1948 and then Quadrille in 1955.  Unfortunately I've never smelled any of these and I haven't had the best luck acquiring vintage scents on Ebay, so instead I thought it would be interesting to focus on scents that use fabrics as inspiration. At the Balenciaga In Black exhibit particular attention was given to the type of fabric used to make each dress and the information plaques that identified each creation went into great detail. Balenciaga's choice of fabric enhanced the final outcome of his design and allowed him to make structural works of art, such as the rose dress at the top of this post which seems almost like a stand-alone work of art.

A photo of the exhibit at the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

The first fabric-named scents that came to my mind when planning this post were Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Silk Mood and Oud Satin Mood. I don't own either of these so I went to my local Neiman Marcus on a couple of occasions to give them a try. I became confused if I was trying the eau de parfum or extrait versions of these, and to my nose they mostly smelled the same, just that the extrait was more intense and lasted longer. Oud Silk Mood is not what I expected, initially. With the word "silk" I expected a somewhat transparent perfume that floats and breathes. What I smelled on first spray was a synthetic plastic smell. Thankfully this faded quickly but while it was present it was very distracting. Maybe this was just a reaction with my skin. I looked at other reviewers experience on Fragrantica and they were almost all outstanding in their praise.

Oud Silk Mood has a simple note diagram: oud, rose, chamomile, and papyrus. I admittedly have an extreme sensitivity to the oud note, so take this with a grain of salt, but I found that oud is eighty percent of the fragrance for me, followed by rose, then a little papyrus. The notes begin to meld together in what is a lovely smell, but still, not the diaphanous trail of fragrance I was expecting. Then there is a sea change. The papyrus note becomes more apparent and this makes the heavier notes drier and more airy so this eventually becomes more "silk-like". However when I view it through the lens of being a perfume representing a "silk mood", it's a big fail for me. It does not bring images of a diaphanous swatch of fabric embracing the wearer but is more heavy and solid. No floating is taking place!  A couple of hours in my patience begins to pay dividends. The papyrus is subduing the overwhelming oud and now the fragrance does begin to take on more transparency. Still, I am not won over. Sorry, FK, I love almost everything you create but Oud Silk Mood is a miss for me.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood is a totally different story. Not only do I enjoy wearing this opulent perfume but I can imagine that it is meant to represent a shiny piece of satin fabric which has been turned into a gown fit for a princess. Satin has a formal appearance and it is glassy smooth to the touch, almost slippery. It has more heft than silk and can thus be constructed into more formal designs. Satin is a fabric rarely seen today except in formal gowns and it has a presence. Depending on the design it can stand out on its own with no structural help or it can lie sleekly along the curves of the body. In Oud Satin Mood the oud note is heavy and full of presence, but at least on my skin it is less commanding than it is in the Oud Silk Mood. Rose essence from Bulgaria and rose absolute from Turkey ensure that the rose note takes center stage and is toughened a little by the oud. The feeling is one of luxury and abundance. Vanilla adds a bit of sweetness and makes this scent feel smooth and sleek. A little benzoin makes everything better in my opinion, and here it combines with amber to give a warm sensuousness to the scent. Oud Satin Mood feels like something royalty would wear in olden days to let everyone know they had access to the best and aren't afraid to flaunt it. As a bonus, if you spray Oud Satijn Mood to go out at night you are going to still smell delicious the next morning, just in a slightly buffered version. When I compare the extrait to the original, the original is a more syrupy style of vanilla while the extrait seems more perfectly blended. The extrait also has notes of geranium and cinnamon, not found in the EDP. 

People are rather rapturous in their praise of these scents on Fragrantica and in reviews, and the longer they're on my skin, the more I understand. These are serious perfumes that unfold and reveal slowly. No need to rush to judgement.

Organza by Givenchy is another perfume that references fabric-- organza-- which is a a sheer silk. Although it's been so long ago that I tried this perfume that I can't accurately describe it, I remember not caring  much for Organza, which came out in 1996. However when the flanker Organza Indecence was introduced in 1999 it was very  popular and I bought a bottle (wish it had been five or so!) and I carefully use the remaining contents. The bottle itself is beautiful. While Organza had a similar lid but a straight body, Organza Indecence, which was supposed to amp up the sexiness of the scent, resembes the curves and flow of a woman in a long gown. In fact, the bottle resembles the Ballenciaga outfit above. Even almost twenty years later my bottle of Organza Indecence is full of the warm spice of cinnamon, the velvety liquid of amber and vanilla, a touch of plum, and earthy patchouli. It's feel is dark and delicious and this was the intent. While Organza with its white flowers was supposed to be "white" in attitude, Organza Indecence was meant to reference black organza by using woody and spicy notes. Organza Indecence does feel like something you'd wear for a night out. It is warm, spicy, voluptuous, and extravagant. I notice that Givenchy has reintroduced Organza Indecence in a less beautiful bottle, and I'm willing to bet it's a less beautiful scent.

Blue Silk byAgent Provocateur gives an interesting interpretation of silk. Agent Provocateur is the purveyor of luxury lingerie and all their scents are meant to be provacative and somewhat sexy. Blue Silk and its sister fragrance Lace Noir (which unfortunately I couldn't find to sample) were introduced in 2018. I found Blue Silk to be quite different from the other perfumes in the Agent Provocateur line. The fragrance does gives a feeling of silky lightness; the notes seem somewhat airy and don't hang too heavily. The use of spicy notes of pink pepper mix with juniper in the opening to give the feeling that this is not a "white" scent. After the pink pepper I smell a very subdued note of rose,  more of a floral aroma than an identifiable flower. The juniper mixes with citrus notes of mandarin orange and lemon to provide lightness and lift to the scent. Notes of peach and jasmine add to the silky feel, all very well blended. Finally notes of vanilla, musk, tonka, sandalwood, and vetiver give a cashmere like effect to the scent which wears soft and close to the skin. This scent feels unisex to me. There is a slight powderiness thanks to the tonka, but it's contained. The best thing about this scent is that at least in the United States it can be found at very reasonable prices at online discounters.

Grisette by Lubin is a perfume created to represent the young women who lived in Paris and worked as seamstresses during the Belle Epoque era. Many of them lived in the Montmarte district which was frequented by artists, writers, and other creatives. The young women were described as being full of life and flirtatious, and this perfume is meant to reflect their joie de vivre. They were part of the bohemian culture of the era, and while their daytime jobs involved sewing and milliner's assistants, their after hours exploits were known to involve modeling for artists and sometimes occupying a position above prostitution but less than a mistress. Opera immoralized some famous grisettes: Fantine in Victor Hugo's Les Miserable and Mimi in the novel which inspired Puccini's La Boheme. I realize this is all the wrong era for Cristobal Balenciaga, but since it involves the creation of clothing and Grisette is such a pretty perfume, I'm going with it.

Grisette does give the impression of light frivolity and a certain innocence, despite the original connotations of a grisette. It reminds me slightly of Annick Goutal's Petite Cherie or Teo Cabanel's Julia, not the scent, but the air of youthful playfulness. While I firmly believe that anyone can wear any perfume, this one is decidedly feminine.  At first there is almost a minty scent combined with the citrus. Everything is very fresh and lively. Then a soft muted rose, pink and pretty, not blood red and torid, mixes into the scent. There is such a tart freshness that I thought maybe a touch of lychee was in the scent, but no, I guess it is just a very sparkling grapefruit note, along with bergamot. The luminous citrus notes combined with a very soft and innocent rose last for a surprisingly long time on my skin. Eventually all the notes soften and iris, cedar, and musk combine to form a soft white veil of scent. The rose is faint now, and although a tartness remains, the brightness of the citrus notes are gone. In truth I love the opening and the first hour or two of Grisette. After that, it becomes softly pretty and much less present. Added later: I add this after going to bed and thinking that Grisette was all done. I woke up and my wrist was literally pressed against my nose. I was smelling a slightly spicy smoky aroma. As my brain fully engaged I realized that this must be the amber and incense notes mentioned in Grisette's list of notes, however yesterday they were nowhere to be found. It is literally more than twelve hours later that I finally experience these notes, and had my wrist not been pressed to my nose I doubt I would have noticed. For those who like their scents to stay close, though, this could be acceptable. For me Grisette is pretty and enjoyable but feels a little young to be something I'd reach for very often.

This dress has butterfly winged bodice. It was on display at the exhibit.

Shantung is a silk where slight irregularities are allowed to exist and it is recognized by its nubby texture. It is less formal than silk, think of it as silk with attitude. It's origins are traced to the Chinese province of Shandong where raw silk originated as well as the trading route known as the silk road. Shantung is an English bastardization of the city of Shandong, which literally translates to "east of the mountains", in this case the Taihang Mountains. I remember my Mother sewing a dress from shantung when I was a very young girl, and running my finger over the silky yet rough texture. This texture gives the fabric a sheen, and depending on the color, almost an irridescence. Shantung, which was used in some of the designs on display at the museum, allowed Balenciaga to play with black. With the right fabric is could appear shiny or matte, jet black or a dark silvery-grey.

Etro's description for Shantung is actually pretty spot on. "In the dew-laden air of an eastern morning, a sparkling note of mandarin blends with the sweetness of blackcurrant and lychee. Threaded with Somalian incense, cedar and cashmere woody undertones and carried in musk's sensual embrace, the fleshy corollas of rose and peony blossom in the heart of the garden ao create an even more mesmerizing effect."

Shantung by Etro does seem to draw inspriration from its Chinese Silk Road origins. It opens with an incredibly fresh and juicy blackcurrant note. It is reminiscent of Diptyque L'Ombre Dans L'Eau's opening of blackcurrant. The note is tart in Shantung and this is further accentuated by a litchi note, fruity and slightly sour. This gives the feeling of a morning in the garden before the sun has burned away the scents; the buds which will unfurl toward the sun later in the day now are fresh and green. There is a feeling of fresh and new nature and there is a certain delicacy to the scent. As rose and peony enter that delicate fruitiness is emphasized even more. The peony is much stronger than the rose on me. There are also mandarin to add lightness and brightness, and again is a nod to the Chinese origins of shantung silk. This initial freshness stays for some time. Eventually the scent becomes more muted with notes of wood and musk, and there is supposedly incense but quite honestly I never experience it. Shantung is a really lovely scent that I am tempted to add to my collection and I think it is a good representation of this Chinese silk fabric, capturing it's lightness and fluidity, but adding a spunky twist on ceremony.

The Etro description for Shantung describes the silk as unexpected in it's pebbley uneven surface, and some of the piquant notes in Shantung are meant to mimic this surprise element of the fabric.

There was a long span of time when the house of Balenciaga didn't release a perfume. To the best of my knowledge Cristobal was released in 1998, and other than two flankers, that was it until 2010 when Balenciaga Paris was introduced. This perfume did not try to mimic the big perfumes from the past for which Balenciaga was known, however I think Perfumer Oliver Polge, working under the direction of Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquiere, captured the elegance of the Balenciaga history. In a longer review here I wrote that Balenciaga Paris is elegant and refined, but even though it is a soft floral chypre it shows great retraint. I smell violet petals scattered on a cement sidewalk wet with rain. But what I smell that really connects this scent to the current discussion of fabrics and couture clothing is that Balenciaga Paris reminds me of freshly starched and pressed clothing, a garmet with sharp pleats ironed to precise folds or a crisp collar ironed to rigidity. There is a smell of steam against cloth that reminds me of well cared for and beautiful clothing. This facet of the scent is even more present in Balenciaga L'Essence, a floral green flanker to the original launched in 2011. Olivier Polge was also the perfumer for this one and he took away a bit of the prettiness to make it a statement on tailored, pressed clothing. It's a great scent to make you feel fresh on hot days. Grab it if you can still find it; it's becoming less available.

I would like to end with a very brief tribute to the holy grail scent named after fabric, Crepe De Chine by F. Millot. It was launched in 1925 and disappeared ages ago except occasionally can be glimpsed for sale on Ebay. Several years ago I bought a sample vial of the vintage and it was the kind of scent that makes you despair that as cliched as it sounds, they really don't make scents like this anymore. It smelled like elegance in a bottle and was so rich and evocative. I'm not saying the scents are in any way the same, but two modern day fragrances that give me that same all-out glamour are Puredistanc Warszawa and DSH Perfumes Vert Pour Madame. 

The Balenciaga exhibit was very inspiring and the cut, elegance, and attention to detail of the clothing made it understandable why scents were so grand, back in the day.

Color photos my own. Vintage photos Google images. Perfumes my own except for MFK. Thank you to Neiman Marcus for those.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Oud Wa Ward by Parfums Berdoues

Oud Wa Ward by Parfums Berdoues is a scent of rose and oud, a combination about as unique as peanut butter and jelly, but let me tell you why I liked this scent enough to spring for a bottle when it came out about three years ago. Oud Wa Ward was one of a trio of oud scents put out by Parfums Berdoues, the others being Oud Wa Vanilla and Oud Wa Misk,neither of which worked for me. These three heavier scents came out a year after the one hundred year old company had reinvented itself with the introduction of six Eaux de Colognes, each scent referencing a country and emphasizing three notes of raw material which I wrote about here. These scents were light yet had more heft than the average cologne. In the same manner, Oud Wa Ward displays the richness inherent in the marriage of rose and oud but it wears somewhat softer than many similar scents in the market.

For me this is a good thing. There are occasions when I want a big fragrance, but much more often I need a scent I can smell but that will not permeate the radius of space around me. I like that Oud Wa Ward opens with a big opulent rose shrouded in a bright oud. At first it feels like a bit of an attention getter and a special occasion perfume. There is some fruitiness in the opening moments and a touch of smoke. Oud Wa Ward has that exotic Arabian souk feel but the oud has been tamed and for me the fact that it is not an oud beast is a good thing. I have to be careful when wearing perfumes with oud; I like mine somewhat sanitized and with a bright edge. I realize for others this will be the very thing they will not like about this perfume.

Rose and patchouli is a favorite combination of mine and Oud Wa Ward features a strong patchouli note. Patchouli can have a sweet and intoxicating scent and its overuse in some perfumes helped coin the term "fruitchouli". There is a rose-sugar-jam moment in the opening when the fragrance feels like it could turn into rose cotton candy, but the oud notes help balance this and the scent maintains a balance between rose--woody oud--patchouli. The rose note makes it lush and sexy, but after a while it becomes more faint and it is the patchouli and oud that will combine into a slightly sweet woody scent with occasional smoke which will simmer for hours. What started as a rich fragrance never  loses its lush aura but it goes from low boil to slow simmer.

There are many big, beautiful rose and oud scents out there by Maison Francis Kurkdijian, Kilian, Amouage, Lancome, Guerlain, Armani, and countless others. Oud Wa Ward may not be as lavish as these perfumes but it beats them in subtle wearability and price point, while still having rich presence and soft but continuous sillage. Try Oud Wa Ward if you like the idea of wearing a l rose and oud combination but some of the scents you've tried are just too much for you. This is a good scent to share as it would smell equally great on a man or woman. Lastly, the bottle is very attractive, much more so than it looks in the picture.

Top photo from Indian wedding shoot by Uma Studios. Photographer Uma Sanghvi, at