Saturday, May 18, 2019

Byredo Sundazed

Perfume brands seem to all be releasing their version of a beach-style perfume in anticipation of Summer 2019, and Byredo  continues this trend with the release of Sundazed.

Let me start with a positive: I love the name. You know that feeling you get if you are a sun worshipper (slathered in SPF 50 of course)? Your skin is warmed by the sun, you can hear the sound of the ocean, and you drift into a sleepy haze of well being. Sundazed is the perfect name for this state, in fact, you'll find the term in the Urban Dictionary. They define Sundaze as:
A state of mind or place often associated with Sundays that promotes well being and relaxation. Combine the positive energy and warmth of water and sunshine and you'll be in a "Sundazed" state of mind.
So, excellent name. Now for what is going to be my shortest review to date. Opening notes are supposed to be lemon and mandarin. I have both of these trees in my Australian back yard and I'm here to tell you that, no, that is not what I smell. I smell neroli, or should I say, NEROLI. Now I happen to like neroli, unlike many who say it gives them a soapy vibe, so that is not the problem. The problem is that there are so many other neroli/orange blossom perfumes available at a much more reasonable cost. The first thing that flashed in my head when I smelled it was Elie Saab, although ultimately I much prefer it to the Sundazed. The opening moments are the prettiest and if this neroli-orange-juice accord could continue I might be hooked. But all to soon the realism of the neroli becomes more muted and musky. The only other note I get during the three or four hours I can smell the perfume is the cotton candy accord. This does nothing to change my initial impression of Sundazed or endear it to me. It's not a bad perfume, but chances are you have something similar in your collection already and it probably didn't cost you Byredo prices. But this is just my impression. Perhaps your skin will give you a better return for the money.

Byredo Sundazed sample purchased by me from Luckyscent.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Vanilla Vibes by Juliette Has A Gun

Are you a fan of the deconstructed food styling boards over on Pinterest? That is what the image above reminds me of, and I find them helpful for giving a quick and clear interpretation of ingredients, in this case of a perfume. Juliette Has A Gun has introduced a new perfume for the summer of 2019, Vanilla Vibes. The best news for me is that the vanilla is subtle and actually very wearable for warm weather. I am not the biggest fan of foody vanilla scents in perfume and the only time I can bear them is in cold weather when the richest element of the vanilla scent are somewhat subdued by the frigidity outside. Romano Ricci who founded the perfume brand maybe says it best:
I have been wanting to work with vanilla for some time.But not being a fan of sweet notes, I needed to find a twist. I chose sea salt. This transports the vanilla into a mineral dimension. Far from being overwhelming, the vanilla becomes suddenly more atmospheric, more elegant.
Ricci definitely achieved his brief. Vanilla Vibes is pretty much what you see pictured above; vanilla, orchid and sea salt in a bed of white sand. I don't love the very fist moment when I spray. I get a whiff of alcohol until it either evaporates or is absorbed into the skin. This happens quickly and once the perfume has a chance to warm on the skin the top note of fleur de sel becomes apparent. This gives that sense of sun-warmed skin, drip-drying after a dip in the ocean. Since there is no coconut you don't get the Coppertone suntan vibe, it is more skin/saltwater/sun. Heart notes of vanilla and orchid give the scent a slightly sensuous, but innocent, feel. These two notes were combined very effectively in Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Orchidee Vanille and that same subtle beauty is present in Vanilla Vibes, but the addition of sea salt tempers any tendency towards sweetness. Base notes of benzoin, brown musk, sandalwood, and tonka bean are all used with a light stroke of the brush, whispering rather than boldly announcing their arrival. These notes all merge to further enhance the skin scent and it evolves into a golden amber glow, a scent that remains for several hours.

Photo from A Nice Little Tumblr

The bottle is getting a lot of love on the fragrance forums and fragrance Facebook sites. It gives the appearance of sand, fading to sea, fading to sky and really pictorially represents what's in the bottle. I enjoy this scent as it is light and very easy to wear, the vanilla is very muted on my skin, and it really does represent what my skin naturally smells like after a day at the beach. It reminds me somewhat of Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess without the coconut, Jennifer Aniston without the jasmine, or Jo Malone Wood Sage and Sea Salt without the sage. There is nothing profoundly new here. You may already have something similar in your collection. But it is well done and immanently likeable. I can see it being a staple for someone who lives by the sea or wishes they did.

Burning Man, which takes place every year in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, was Ricci's inspiration for the scent. The scent is very unisex and if you are a fan of sun/skin scents I would consider this a pretty safe blind buy.

Here is a behind the scene look at the video promo shot for Vanilla Vibes introduction on May 1.

Photos are from the Juliette Has A Gun website. I bought my own sample at Luckyscent.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Tyrannosaurus Rex by Zoologist Perfumes

Painting by Mark Hallett.

I always anticipate a new release from Zoologist Perfumes for their creativity and sense of inventiveness. I would imagine if you are a perfumer it is energizing to conceptualize a scent via story board inspiration from  Zoologist's Victor Wong and know that originality is not only acceptable but desired. I have enjoyed the dizziness of inhaling nectar scents from the darting viewpoint of a hummingbird, the flight of a bat as it leaves its cave dwelling and soars through the night sky, and the charge of an elephant in search of food. I had read various reviews of Tyrannosaurus Rex painting it as a real beast of a fragrance so I kept delaying the trial of my sample in the heat of an Australian summer. Now back in the Northern Hemisphere we're experiencing some cool rainy days and  I decided it was time to try out the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Zoologist scents have always taken me on a journey and this one is no exception. The image that popped into my head as this fragrance evolved on my skin was the old Jurrasic Park ride at Universal Studios in Florida. My husband and I took our kids there about fifteen years ago and I remember reading that the ride closed recently so it could be rebuilt bigger and better. I always liked the cave rides, as we called them, at amusement parks. You're hot and tired from tromping through an amusement park filled with hoards of people, you've been standing in line for an hour, then finally you get to sink into your bathtub of a boat. You start to float, cool water mists your face and as you enter the darkness you wait for another world to unfold before your eyes. If you missed this particular experience here's a video below. It all looks rather tame and hokey now, but I loved it.

 Join me on this journey to experience the new Zoologist scent Tyrannasourus Rex!

My frame of mind as I apply the perfume Tyrannosaurus Rex: I'm ready for anything. Initially I smell something other-worldly, as if I've landed on a planet with a strange and different atmosphere to which I am not accustomed. The perfumer Antonio Gardoni used notes of bergamot, black pepper, fir, laurel leaf, neroli, and nutmeg in the opening, all of which sound rather ordinary. I was expecting  one of those creative lists with ingredients of cyanide, dragon's blood, or meteorite shards. Somehow he creates a moment of magic from these mundane ingredients, a pause where I thought, "I haven't smelled anything exactly like this before." Then within a minute the moment is very quickly quenched by the smoke of distant fires. The smoke intensifies and the smell is soon punctuated with the scent of burning tar. Is this a reference to the burning tar pits that supposedly swallowed dinosaurs whole? The Le Brea Tar pits in California came into being 65 million years after the disappearance of the dinosaurs, a fact I seemed to have slept through in science class, but lets not quibble. This is my dinosaur park ride and it is exciting and everything I hoped for.

La Brea Tar Pits as depicted by Charles R. Knight.

The sharp aroma of molten tar intensifies and the smell of out-of-control fires burning and smoking becomes even more pungent. This is the smell of scorched earth. Whether this is a result of flaming volcanoes pouring streams of red hot lava or an asteroid has just crashed and annihilated all life on Earth I do not know, but these fires are fierce. Cade oil is present in Tyrannosaurus Rex and is responsible for much of this smoke and tar. This cloud of thick smoke and bubbling tar is everything I've read in the reviews for the perfume. While the fires smolder, this erases any other smells for me. I get no champaca or jasmine, no geranium or rose, this is epic. Although I love to burn fires in my house's fireplace in winter, the smell always gives me an allergic reaction. That is what seems to be occurring now. The smoke is so freaking realistic that I begin to wonder, do I need to get my bottle of Afrin?

Leather and patchouli add to the sensation of a large animal crashing about, the thick hide impervious to the flames and the large feet tearing out bits of earth as he pounds the ground, on a chase for his next kill. There is civet in the brew but I do not get a strong feral aspect to the scent; I believe the smoke overcomes that aspect on my skin.

This level of excitement can only carry on for so long. As our imaginary boat goes around the next curve in the river ride the smoke from fires still smolders but begins to fade in ferocity. Curls of ancient incense begin to rise from the smoking ground and it feels like a resurrection of the blistered landscape. Resinous frankincense along with cedar wood bring calm, and now finally  I begin to smell the florals which were MIA before. The florals are background noise and muddled to present an emergent landscape of rebirth and regeneration. I do not distinguish between the individual notes of geranium, champaca, jasmine, osmanthus, rose and ylang ylang. I have read that a rose oxide note was used to simulate the smell of blood as the T-Rex wrecks havoc, but the blood smell is not as pronounced for me as it was in Imaginary Author's Bulls Blood, for example.

We are nearing the end of this ride and things begin to change more quickly. The smoke is faint and fading. Florals are indistinct but present. The resins and incense have transformed this perfume into more of a smooth oriental-style scent and base notes of vanilla and sandalwood accentuate this effect. In truth I don't smell vanilla, I just feel it adds a creamy sweetness to the heavier smokey and wood notes. Once Tyrannosaurus Rex arrives to this point, the scent trail goes on for hours and hours. It has been quite the ride. I feel like we have traveled from the wildness of this:

to the softer side of the dinosaur:

Barney and young Selina Gomez

Maybe that's an exaggeration, Tyrannosaurus Rex still has some bite, but it has morphed into a very easily wearable resinous oriental perfume.

Let's talk about the perfumer that Victor chose for this project, Antonio Gardoni. I would love to know the process by which Victor picks perfumers for specific projects but pairing Gardoni with a rather ferocious scent like Tyrannosaurus Rex seems smart. Gardoni is an architect by trade and more recently channeled his love of plants and nature into an interest in fragrance creation. He first created perfumes for his brand, Bogue, in 2012. Bogue perfumes are known for having a presence and in some cases being a challenging ride. I have only smelled and reviewed one of the Bogue creations, MEM, and here is what I said: "There is a moment at the beginning when the civet and castoreum, supposedly base notes yet here they are in the first five minutes, take me on a wild ride that I'm not sure I'll safely survive." You can find the complete review here.

With Tyrannosaurus Rex, Gardoni and Victor Wong have given us a dazzling glimpse into a prehistoric world that somehow reinvents itself into a very wearable perfume. I have to admit that in the Zoologist world my preference is to be a warbling Nightingale or a flitting Hummingbird but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the journey provided by Tyrannosaurus Rex.

You can read my other reviews about Zoologist Perfumes starting here with Bat.

Perfume sample was purchased by me from Luckyscent.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

L'Artisan Parfumeur's Bana Banana

If you're like me the thought of smelling like a banana isn't instantly appealing, thus I almost walked by the L'Artisan display in Saks Fifth Avenue without spraying the brand's newest scent, Bana Banana. I'm so glad I changed my mind because I discovered smelling like a banana can be fun, but I especially love amber scents and that is where this fragrance eventually settles. I can honestly say I did not see that coming; it was an unexpected conclusion to the scent journey.

According to the historical information on the L'Artisan Parfumeur website, the scent of a banana was indirectly responsible for the creation of the company. John LaPorte, chemist and plant collector,  was challenged by a friend to create a banana scent as an accompaniment to the banana costume he was wearing to a gala event, the Folies Bergeres. Laporte accepted the challenge and realized that he had a passion for creating scent and thus the L'Artisan story began. Now decades later this origins story of the brand is being recognized with a banana-scented fragrance, created by Parfumer Celine Ellena.

When I first sprayed Bana Banana as I stood at the L'Artisan counter I almost laughed, the banana note is so realistic and dare I say, joyful. It smells a little like banana ice cream...think creamy, not sweet. It is also slightly green, emphasizing a tropical feel. This is not an over-ripe sugary banana. It is as fresh as if just picked. The banana note continues unabated for some time but is joined by floral notes of jasmine and iris and at this point the banana note becomes less prominent. Jasmine and iris are both fairly identifiable notes but here they blend to project a floral loveliness around the banana note; a beautiful melange without strong distinction for the individual florals. This may sound like floral plus fruity perfume but that is not how the smell translates; the scent is more subtle and polished than this. There is a mild spiciness of pepper and nutmeg; the pepper is weak, the nutmeg more forward. These spicy notes add interest, making the scent feel slightly gourmand. The scent continues to waft this soft floral banana note, accented with nutmeg and pepper, for a full two hours. Then comes Act II. Enter musk, tonka, and amber to the stage.

Bana Banana has slowly been transitioning to more of a skin scent with warm and slightly spicy overtones. The tonka and musk make the scent comforting and warm with a slight muted fuzziness. But then I start recognizing the amber in the scent. My skin loves amber and maybe because of that it is one of my favorite notes, but it has such depth and strength that I tend to only wear amber perfumes in cooler weather. Here we have a lighter amber, something I don't replicate in my collection of amber perfumes. As a comparison, I like light beer because it has the taste of the beer without all the heaviness that makes me feel full after four sips of regular beer. It feels the same here. You get all the beauty of the amber scent but it is somehow lighter, loftier. It radiates warmth and comfort as amber does, but doesn't overpower. If I think about it I can still smell the slightest trace of the banana in the scent.

The final stages of the perfume brought this image to mind. Just go with me here; this is a slightly strange analogy. The best baking tip my mother ever gave me was to slightly undercook cookies and sweet breads. If you stick a toothpick in a loaf of banana bread to test for doneness and it comes out totally dry then it's already too late. But if you catch that loaf of banana bread just before it gets cooked throughout and the toothpick comes out gummy there will be a moist almost doughy center. The next day instead of the bread being too dry to eat that moist center has become richer and more redolent of the banana flavor and the spices have intensified. That is how the dry down of Bana Banana feels to me; we've smelled the freshness of the banana but now it has transitioned into a richer state; slightly sweet gourmand, spicy with the zest of nutmeg, a mellow banana, a slice of blissful comfort.

If you are curious how a banana note smells in a perfume give Bana Banana a try. You may be pleasantly surprised like me. And if you like amber perfumes definitely try Bana Banana as this is very different from any other amber perfume you might have in your collection.

Top photo from L'Artisan. Thank you Saks Fifth Avenue Houston for the spray.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Arbor Day and DSH Perfumes The Voice of Trees

Way back when I was in elementary school we used to celebrate Arbor Day each year. This was before there was literally a holiday for every day of the year, before Save the Earth became a movement, and before the world's forests were being mowed down for monetary gain. I can remember my third grade class tromping out to the front of our brand new school, the lawn barren of  sheltering trees. Our principal Mr. Baird (how funny that I can't remember what I did two days ago but remember this name clearly) took a spade and dug into the earth, symbolically creating a hole for the sapling that shivered in the breeze.

Today Arbor Day has gotten lost in the shuffle but the concept remains a good one: plant a tree for future generations to enjoy. There is renewed interest about the healing properties of communing with nature and the Japanese have coined a phrase to describe the experience: Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. This is the recognition that immersion in natural environments such as forests provide healing and well being. I have this theory that if we provided every child in America, regardless of means, with camping or nature experiences while young it would cut down drastically in future violence. There is something mystical about walking silently through a forest and hearing the rustling and whispers from the surrounding trees.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is in close proximity to many forests from her perch in the high mountains surrounding Boulder, Colorado. On the DSH Perfume website, Dawn writes that the inspiration for The Voice of Trees came from very early childhood memories while camping and hearing the trees "speaking".  "As far back as I can remember I have loved the scent of pine needles, the early days of Autumn with soft rains and fallen Maple leaves, balsams on the poplar trees, and the scent of dry amber stuck to the bark of conifers, warmed by the sun," Dawn says. "For me this fragrance is pure pleasure, the embodiment of "the talking trees".

To wear The Voice of Trees is to have a mini "forest bathing" experience. Recently Dawn has been experimenting with Japanese-centric perfumes, particularly in her Haiku series: Japanese Moonlight, and although this fragrance was launched in 2015 before the inception of this series, it has that contemplative homage that I find in her Japanese-inspired scents. The opening is conifers, that hit of scent as you near a forest trail. It includes the green dampness of a needle-padded carpet beneath the trees, the sharp scent of pine needles and beads of sap, and the bitterness and smokiness of pinon pine. I have always felt a spiritual connection when surrounded by God's gift of nature in all its beauty and majesty,  and resinous and incense notes in The Voice of Trees symbolically infer you are in nature's temple. Woody notes of maple leaf, poplar buds, and sycamore accord add to the forest air. What I find most beautiful are the resinous and amber notes. I can smell the sticky pine sap that has hardened to amber resin, the balsamic aspects of balsam fir, and a faint smokey incense that threads through the life of the scent.

Image from

The Voice of Trees isn't at all a vibrant Christmas-type pine scent. Rather it is the solitary walk through the trees, introspective and restorative, bathed in the scent of the trees and open to their message. Wear it for it's natural beauty; enjoy it's meditative qualities.

The Voice of Trees comes in a variety of sizes and is also available as a cream on the website. It is 98.5% botanical.

Top photo from Perfume sample from my own collection.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Chanel 1957 - When Coco Chanel Came To Dallas

Coco Chanel and Stanley Marcus in Dallas, 1957. Dallas AP photo.

The year was 1957. Stanley Marcus, founder and head of legendary luxury department store Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas, came up with a spectacular marketing idea: to bring the gloss of French chic to the Neiman Marcus flagship store in downtown Dallas. He created a concept called Fortnight to celebrate the store's upcoming fiftieth anniversary. He would bring the arts, food, and fashion of a selected country to Dallas and immerse the store in a cultural extravaganza. Naturally France, whose designer fashions were popular with the wealthy Texas clientele, was chosen as the inaugural featured partner. It would be two weeks of spectacular department store theater, and Broadway set designers were charged with making fantastic sets that would turn the Dallas store into a little slice of Paris.

The piece de resistance would precede the Fortnight celebration. Stanley Marcus announced he would award Coco Chanel with the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion, which was seen as akin to an Oscars award for fashion designers. Coco Chanel knew she owed a good part of her success to her American buyers and clients. After World War II ended Chanel was not popular in Europe because of her rumored affair with a Nazi officer. Her Parisian fashion shows were widely panned and she was struggling to revive her brand. It was the American market who desired her designs and embraced the Chanel suit, and they sustained her business in these lean years. So it was with some eagerness and perhaps gratitude that Chanel flew direct from Paris to Dallas Love Field, where she was greeted by Marcus, and hustled into a waiting white Rolls Royce limousine.

A Texas-style barbecue took place at Marcus's ranch just north of Dallas to welcome the honored guest. The usual Western festivities commenced. Here is Coco Chanel pictured looking a bit uncertain about square dancing.

Marcus was always a bit of a showman and had arranged a fashion show utilizing cattle as models . In a mock wedding ceremony a top-hatted bull accompanied a heifer draped in a white gown with a veil and jauntily sporting a string of the already iconic Chanel pearls.

In the photo above you can see Coco Chanel to the left, and that is Elizabeth Arden, a past recipient of the award, sitting at the center of the table. There is a long-told legend from that night that although Chanel appreciated the Western festivities, she was less fond of the plate piled with barbecued beans and meats. At some moment, one would think maybe when all eyes were on the ungainly parade of cattle fashionistas, Chanel tipped over her plate of food under the table, purportedly on top of Elizabeth Arden's red satin shoes.

Chanel was accompanied on the trip by the iconic 1950's model, Suzy Parker, Chanel's muse, model and friend and also a Texas native.

Coco Chanel and Suzy Parker in 1959, Google image.

It has been two years since Chanel added to Les Exclusifs line of fragrances. The Chanel website describes the line this way: "Each scent evokes a chapter from the story of Gabrielle Chanel, reflecting the life and character of Mademoiselle." (When did they start referring to Coco as Gabrielle? Did I miss something?)

When I first heard that Chanel's newest perfume was called 1957 and that there was a connection to the Dallas Neiman Marcus I was immediately intrigued. Growing up in Fort Worth right next door to the Big D, Fort Worth was dismissively referred to as Cowtown by the Dallasites but it was a label we wore with pride. We personified the true spirit of Texas, unlike our uppity neighbors to the East, or so we imagined. But once a year in August before the start of a new school year all petty grievances were put aside and my mother would load my sister and I into the yellow Cutlass, sporty by 1960s standards but still the size of a small motorboat, and off to Dallas we went. My mother sewed most of our clothes but on this once a year event we were allowed to pick one special outfit. To show just how big of a deal this was, I still have hanging in the back of my closet the dress I picked before entering sixth grade, a little number influenced by the London Carnaby Street era with a  navy mesh stretch top and an attached suede mini skirt. It is probably still the most fashionable thing I own. Leaving our car and walking through the August heat and entering through those door with the distinctive NM logo into the chilled pristine air, a sea of glistening glass show cases and glamorously dressed sales assistants before us, the moment never failed to thrill.

The entry to Neiman Marcus, Dallas downtown. See Chanel to the right.

What influences would Chanel house perfumer Olivier Polge use to make a perfume marking this long ago union between the very French house of Coco Chanel with American pizazz and brashness? What were the similarities between the two? None that I could determine, as a native Texan and lover of everything Parisienne. I had heard that the new perfume was a collection of various musk scents. Did Polge choose musks for their indeterminate nature, their fuzziness, as if to say, "I don't quite know what to make of this marriage of cultures?" I wondered.

With a little research I found out that Polge did have a plan and it was to reference the more clean approach that Americans have taken to fragrance in the last three decades. In an interview with the Irish Times, Polge said, "Always in United States fragrances, there is a link between cleanness and sensuality. In European fragrance we have sensuality with a little more darkness."

Musks have become very popular. Francis Kurkdjian has been doing great things with musk-based fragrances for over a decade and more recently Sylvaine Delacourte, who branched off from Guerlain to form her own line, introduced five musk fragrances which I talked about here. But still, I find musk perfumes hit-or-miss and when I walked through John Harris in Adelaide and sprayed myself with Chanel 1957 I was just "in like". Reading several online reviews it seems others made an immediate judgment like me and walked away unimpressed. I wasn't sure I would write about 1957 as I tend to only review perfumes I like a lot or at least find interesting. I judged the longevity and silage to be weak and forgot about 1957, until the next morning. On rising I did my morning ritual of first coffee, then computer, but I noticed a beautiful smell wafting up from my arms as I clicked at the keys. It was a bit mysterious as I hadn't yet sprayed a perfume, then I realized it was 1957 which had lived tenaciously through the night and was ready to have a cup of coffee with me and greet the new day. I also rubbed a bit on the sleeve of the sweater I was wearing and now even days later, it smells glorious.


Call me a convert. And if you've already tried 1957 and dismissed it, maybe try it again. The perfume opens with muddled citrus, shafts of sunbeams, and the scent of a distant field of flowers carried on the breeze. There is a shiver of aldehydes which add sparkle and loft. These are not the aldehydes of a Chanel No. 5, which could be considered by some to be a bracing slap of the face. This is just a tickle of puff and fizz, like bubbly mineral water rather than the pop of champagne. I get more impressions than notes from the scent. The fragrance feels airy, as if carried by the wind then disappearing. There are moments when I smell light watercolor florals which fade into that gauzy blanket of musk scent. The scent become creamier and in my notes I mentioned sensing honey and vanilla. These are just impressions. The beauty of the scent is that none of these notes stand out but are blended together in a masterful way. It is a bit like having a chef curated meal where your taste buds sense they are being hit with a lot of flavors but it is the compilation of the whole that makes it savory.


The scent seemingly disappears on my skin but then pops up unexpectedly hours later. It is a skin scent and while it references the "clean" fragrance movement in America, 1957's polish and sophistication are decidedly French. What I find the most intriguing is that when I put my wrist to my nose, I sometimes smell honey, other times pale florals, then musk. It is like a kaleidoscope of gentle soft scent. Perfumer Polge made the statement in interviews that "white hides great complexity", and I feel that here we experience this, layer upon layer of ways to sensualize the feeling of "white".  Polge also stated that because 1957 is a skin scent, each person's skin will individualize and interpret the scent. For this reason I feel that even though my skin presents 1957 as a unisex veering toward the feminine, on a man's skin his body chemistry might play up different aspects of the scent to make it lean more toward the masculine.

Chanel lists these notes: musk accords, bergamot, iris, neroli, cedar, honeyed and powder notes.

So next time you walk by a Chanel display, try Chanel 1957. And if you don't like it, try it one more time.

Note: Want more? Follow this link to the Fragrantica page and scroll down for Lanier's review. He always has an interesting insight and says it in the most perfect way.

Black and white photos from Dallas Morning News/Ap photos/Googleimages. Sample courtesty of David Jones, Adelaide. Opinions my own.

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.