Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Contemplative Perfume: Memoire Liquide Encens Liquide

A planned post on incense fragrances failed to materialize in the pre-holiday rush but I find I am still very much enjoying wearing one of the perfumes I was going to write about thanks to its calming beautifully scented presence. This one is also getting some buzz on Facebook Fragrance Friends, due to several members scoring a lucky find at TJ Maxx. I was one of those fortunate souls and I eagerly grabbed the box, which looks like a little book with a frilly French label, as this was a brand I'd been interested in investigating. The perfume is Memoire Liquide Encens Liquide from the reserve line.

Contemplative incense perfumes remind me of attending Christmas Eve services, candles glowing, and soaring hymns sung by robed clad choristers. When I traveled in Europe my favorite thing to do was investigate cathedrals, both the well known landmarks and the local ones I stumbled upon. I am fascinated by the impossible flying buttresses, soaring vaulted ceilings, ornate statuary, and magnificent stained glass windows. I know it shouldn't theoretically make a difference where you choose to worship but I can't help but be more inspired when I'm in one of these magnificent edifices, built as a tribute to God but also a huge testament to the skills of the humble craftsmen. Many years ago I enjoyed The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Although he normally pens thrillers, his fascination with the many cathedrals scattered across the landscape of England inspired him to write this book detailing the building of a majestic cathedral and the village of workers that sprang to life to make this happen. If you have any interest in the subject and have never read the book it's well worth the read.

 I didn't grow up Catholic so incense didn't actually play a part in my worship, but I still find that incense scents are evocative of the church experience. I don't really want to smell like strong smokey incense and Encens Liquide gives the aura without the more strident smells of some of the more photo realistic incense fragrances. The perfume starts on my skin with a powdery amber. It is bright and glowing, reminding me of basking in the pool of rainbow sunlight beams filtering through the colorful stained glass windows. Gradually the amber turns more resinous, lending the scent a sparkling warmth. Some scents have the effect of provoking calm attitude and clear thoughts and I find Encens Liquide to have this reaction. The incense in the perfume is hinoki which is used in Japanese ceremonies and it is mellow and sweet. (I have reviewed another scent using hinoki incense here.) The fragrance also has notes of black tea and white musk. I can't say I get the tea note but the musk is pillow soft but understated. As the perfume goes into the third hour I begin to get notes of vanilla even though I don't see it listed as an ingredient. I love the way the vanilla interacts with the incense. In the final hours of wear Encens Liquide has lost that initial amber resinous radiance but it is still a comforting and contemplative scent and I keep sniffing my wrist to get another hit of the addictive scent. I can smell the hinoki drifting in and out all the way to the final curtain.

Memoire Liquide was started in 1984 by two sisters in California, thus making the brand probably one of the earliest created and still surviving niche perfumeries. The sisters initial business was developing personal oil scents for their clients. In 2009 they introduced five of the most popular mixes in an eau de parfum spray formula, each one meant to evoke a memory of time or place. Until recently I saw Memoire Liquide available at several perfumeries but since finding my box at TJ Maxx  it seems to have suddenly disappeared from their websites. They have a Facebook page where you can email and request to buy, but my best advice is if you're near a Marshalls or TJ Maxx go check it out. Hopefully they will find another distributor as I would have paid full price for this perfume, which was reasonably priced. If anyone has more information please let me know in comments.

Top painting of Notre Dame from etsy in Afremov ArtSudio here. Second photo is Google image of Salisbury Cathedral. Perfume is my own.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Silver Bells: Sparkling Perfumes To Wear This Christmas Holiday


Something about cold weather and the holidays makes me love wearing aldehyde perfumes. They are as sparkling and as effervescent as a fine dry champagne. They are crisp and chilly like a walk through Central Park in December. They feel dressy and special as befitting holiday parties and events, and go perfectly with gowns in satin or velvet, bedazzled heels, and sparkly earrings for ladies or the perfect outrageous cravat for the gents.

Aldehyde perfumes were popular in the 1960s but they gradually fell out of favor as a more natural approach to perfumes became popular in the 1990s, at least these are my memories. When I was a twenty-something I found strong aldehyde perfumes overbearing and obnoxious. I probably would have used the term "old lady perfumes" when describing them. But as the years ticked by and life experiences gained, somewhere along the way I changed my mind. Suddenly they seemed complex and mature compared to my everyday perfumes. There are many other bloggers that could tell you about the chemical process in aldehyde perfumes that cause the whoosh effect when the sprayed perfume hits the skin. I can't tell you why it happens but only that I love that rush of scent and that sensation of walking through a door into the cold chill of a winter day, the dry frigid air stinging your face and eyes. Some compare aldehydes to the pop of a champagne bottle and the fizz of the bubbles. My favorite time of year to wear these perfumes is in the cold weather when the perfume's amplified notes are muted by winter's chill and the notes feel sharp, silvery, and almost metallic, thus the reminder of silver bells in the song.

Clinique Wrappings was introduced in 1990 as only the second addition to the brand's line, twenty years after the debut of their first perfume Aromatics Elixir. Imagine these two strong take- no-prisoners perfumes and the gutsy statement that makes about how different the perfume market was then. Who knew that in less than a decade Clinique would be introducing the bland Happy and it's yearly flankers; meanwhile the Wrappings is rarely available on the Clinique counter or is hidden away like the relative that makes a bit of a scene after too much holiday tipple. If you want Wrappings you need to grab it around Christmas when Clinique makes it available. I must admit I forget about Wrappings every year until Christmas, when its name is subliminally triggered as I begin to wrap presents to put under the tree. Then when I spray it I am reminded why it is the perfect scent for this time of year. That rush that smells like frigid air. The green that smells like silvery fir needles laced with snow. Mind you, it's not a pine scented perfume, just very green. But at the beginning of the perfume's life on my skin it conjures the image of walking through a frozen forest, pine needles glistening with frozen ice glitter. Wrappings sparkles with aldehydes. There are a whole host of notes in this perfume but as was the custom of the era, no particular notes stand out. It is more a melange of floral and woody notes that eventually becomes more of a green chypre fragrance when the fizzy giddiness recedes.

A most traditional choice of perfume featuring aldehydes would be Chanel No. 5, but I prefer Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere.  As much as I'd like to wear the original for the grande dame she is, it comes off screechy and shrill on my skin. I find the Eau Premiere to have that champagne sparkle and pop without the bitter acrid edge of the original. This one is floral with heart notes of jasmin and rose. My bottle is from the original 2007 introduction of the perfume. It was reintroduced in 2015 and I am uncertain what changes if any were made to the formula. I don't think there has ever been a more perfect "little black dress" perfume created than the Chanel No. 5 in its various guises, and the Eau Premiere in particular makes me feel like I'm in my finery holding a bubbling glass of Tattingers.

DSH Perfumes Deco Diamonds was created by perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz as one of four perfumes to conceptually illustrate an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum in 2014, Brilliant: Cartier in the Twentieth Century. Dawn has had several collaborations with the museum and this one attempted to capture the luxury and sparkle of the Cartier jewels in the exhibit. Deco Diamonds specifically was created as a tribute to the Cartier diamonds worn by the Duchess of Windsor. The copy on the DSH website says, "She was bold, stylish, hard and a force to be reckoned with. Deco Diamonds mirrors this ferocity in a most beautitful way."

Deco Diamonds also starts with the zoom of aldehydes which Dawn describes as "a blazing and dazzling white sparkle."  Eventually the perfume becomes even richer as intense florals of jasmine, tuberose, gardenia and honeysuckle peep through the galbanum and aldehydes. But what distinguishes this perfume and makes it quite different from the two above are the animalic notes of   civet and hyrax. These animalic notes are much more intense  than the ones found in DSH Perfumes Chinchilla, which I reviewed recently here. I enjoy the combination of the sparkling dazzle of aldehydes and the strong, almost feral agressiveness of the animalic notes, and I think it perfectly captures the spirit of the woman it was created to emulate, Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. A confident man or woman could rock this perfume but it's definitely not for the timid.

These three perfumes for me capture the essence of bustling city sidewalks, window displays brimming with holiday scenes and people carrying an excess of packages to soon be transformed to gifts under the tree. They also give me a sense of cool, silvery metal, thus the tie in with the song below, the original Silver Bells from the 1951 motion picture The Lemon Drop Kid.

Disclaimer: In reading up on aldehydes and their use in perfumes several said that comparing their use to adding sparkle and fizz was an amateurish take, and that the notes can often be soapy or waxy. I am in no way an expert but can only state my opinions, and what I get from the aldehydes is described as best I can in the above reviews.

Top photo Dominique Corbasson. Tree photo Google images. Perfumes from my own collection.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ballet Inspired Perfumes Part Two

In Part One of ballet inspired perfumes, scents to wear to the ballet and specifically in this festive season the Christmas performances of The Nutcracker, three perfumes from the Les Parfums de Rosine line were featured. In this post we will look at four more perfumes inspired by elements of the ballet.

Keiko Mecheri Lady Pointe opens with one of the most distinct blackcurrant notes I have ever smelled in a perfume. It is uplifting and very fruity but not at all sweet. There is a touch of citrus in the opening but the rose comes in to mingle with the blackcurrant note fairly quickly. There are also notes of orchid, suede and musk, but what I am mostly noticing is a grape- jammy rose. In the final stages of wear notes of tonka bean, incense, oakmoss, patchouli, and sandalwood combine with the rose to render a darker air to the perfume. I particularly notice the tonka bean which gives a slightly powdery gourmand note, once the intensity of the intoxicating black currant and rose notes have dissipated. Lady Pointe conjures images of red ballet shoes and purple-skinned black currants. This perfume is rich, dark and unexpectedly fun.

With Penhaligon's Iris Prima we move away from the rose-based ballerina perfumes and on to iris. Iris can be an austere, proper note which perhaps suits the theme of ballet dancers and the endless hours of practice and fierce dedication required to make a mark in the profession. The iris starts off very similarly to Prada Infusion d'Iris on my skin. I get the quiet, grey iris note and the starched smell that often accompanies iris perfumes. There is a touch of pink pepper in the opening which gives it an initial ping but that quickly disappears. The perfume also has notes of leather, sandalwood, vetiver, amber, vanilla and benzoin. I smell the iris with the softest touch of leather. The leather is a super soft and pliable note and it is an easy comparison to imagine it the the well worn leather of the ballet slipper that we are smelling. For me this wears like a winter companion to the Prada Iris, the leather note providing a darker hue to the usually light iris note.

Strange Invisible Perfumes Prima Ballerina has a very different take from the perfumes featured thus far. For one thing, it does not feature a leather or suede note to indicate the ballet toe shoes. Also, there is no sandalwood, a nod to the wooden stage and practice studios, that features in the previous entries. This interpretation is an aromatic perfume featuring the rose note. Strange Invisible Perfumes is one of the early originators of botanical perfumes and based in California. This scent opens with a lime note which gives the very pretty and true rose note a citrus lift. It also has notes of sage which give a light herbal quality to the naturalness of the perfume. I would say that this perfumer is not trying to draw a hyper realistic scent picture of the ballet performance including elements of wood, leather and sweat, but is instead trying to relay a portrait of the romance of the ballet and the beauty of the ballerina dancer. I find this scent to be very feminine.

The final perfume inspired by the ballet is Amrita Aromatics Vaganova: a Bittersweet Ballet Floral Botanical Perfume. It features notes of ginger, rosewood, tuberose, sandalwood, cedar, rosin, and satin; altogether a most romantic list of ballet inspired notes. Even if I had blind tested this, I would have guessed it is a natural perfume. It has that bright organic presence that naturals often show. Ananda Wilson says about her perfumes, "Know that when you purchase a natural perfume, it is an intimate engagement in the wild natural world and will not offer the predictable, cloying, or forceful type of experience that commercial perfumes often do." My experience wearing this perfume: I smell the opening brightness of the ginger. Woody notes of rosewood, sandalwood, and cedar give a nod to the scuffed practice floor, and there really is a dustiness that gives the aura of the rosin that the dancers dust their ballet shoes with to prevent slipping. The tuberose note never becomes apparent to me. And although I didn't confirm this with the perfumer, I am assuming the perfume's name is taken from the renowened Vaganova Choreographic Institute in Leningrad, the highly competitive school for the Kirov Ballet. This perfume was beautiful and very personal; like many naturals it wears close to the skin and longevity was about three hours.

Are there any other ballet inspired perfumes that you wear?

Nutcracker Ballet photos from George Balanchine's New York Ballet production. Red ballet slippers photo from Pinterest. Samples are my own collection.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ballet Inspired Perfumes: Les Parfums de Rosine Ballerina No.1, 2 & 3

Every year the week before Christmas one of our family traditions is to attend a performance of the Nutcracker Ballet. There is an order to the tradition. It starts with pre-theater fondue and champagne in the formal living room which gets used about five times a year, fire blazing and tree lights twinkling. Then in our dressy finery we go to the Bass Hall in downtown Fort Worth, the two trumpeting angels adorning the building setting the mood even before we enter. The atmosphere is festive with young children in their Christmas outfits getting photos with the Mouse King or Nutcracker beside the towering tree. Then the familiar music starts and we are immersed once again in the magical world of Clara and her cast of characters. This ballet, which was first performed in St. Peterburg in 1893 to rather tepid reviews, is now a mainstay in cities around America during the month of December.

Flickr Photo Lindz

Les Parfums de Rosine is a French perfume house founded in 1911 that didn't survive the harsh economic reality of the Great Depression. The house was revived in 1991 by Marie-Helene Rogeon, whose grandfather had worked with the original owner. The perfumes all feature a rose note and so far the house has created 37 variations. One of the newer introductions was in 2014 with the debut of Ballerina No. 1, followed in 2015 by Ballerina No. 2 and No. 3. The perfumes are meant to represent the three stages of a ballerina's life. No. 1 is the young student just learning the craft; No. 2 represents the maturing dancer as she becomes more polished; and finally No. 3 is the prima ballerina in her prime and at the top of her game.

Les Parfums de Rosine Ballerina No. 1 is a fruity floral but if you're not a fan of the genre don't be alarmed . Despite the achingly cute pink bottle bedecked in its own frothy tutu, this is a fruity floral designed with tight reins on both sweetness and fruitiness. It starts with a touch of innocent white rose, followed by notes of pear and peach. The fruit notes are mellow and smooth. I can smell the freesia if I put my wrist to my nose and inhale. Middle notes of rose, peony, and violet smell softly floral and the merest touch powdery. What is really interesting is the dry down where a milky note combines with musk, sandalwood, and vanilla. On my skin the vanilla is very mild and the milky note adds a creaminess to the sandalwood that is very appealing. This would be a perfect perfume for a young woman you're trying to introduce to finer perfume styles. I'm too old to be their target market but I wouldn't turn down a bottle if it came my way. It is a pretty, proper, and a happy fragrance.

Les Parfums de Roseine Ballerina No. 2 opens with a beautiful strong rose note. It smells extremely freshly picked and organic. As it settles the rose intensifies and a raspberry note gives it a jammy sweetness. This perfume is classified as a woody floral and there are a long list of notes:  bergamot, raspberry, and orange blossom in the opening; rose, magnolia, violet and iris in the mid range; and at the base sandalwood, patchouli, ambrette seeds, vanilla and amber. I'll be honest, for me it predominantly is a rose perfume although in the later stages I get a whiff of leather shoes scuffing the wooden practice floor.

Les Perfumes de Rosine Ballerina No. 3 represents the prima ballerina as a confident dancer with a stage presence. This rose is deeper and more multifaceted right from the beginning. Top notes are fuchsia flower, rosebuds, black pepper and pink pepper. The opening is much more opulent and deep than the other two perfumes. Mid notes are black rose and violet leaf. Base notes of sandalwood, oud, cashmeran, patchouli, cedarwood, carmalized vanilla and amber make this perfume even darker as time goes on. The patchouli is the first base note I smell, lending an earthy quality. Then the cashmeran, vanilla, and amber kick in and the perfume becomes slightly sweeter and denser like rosy hued amber.

All three perfumes are pretty. No. 1 and No. 2 are more feminine. I would say No. 3 is unisex. I was surprised how much I enjoyed wearing the girly Ballerina No. 1. No. 2 has a beautiful opening rose note, but after that it kind of fizzled for me. There was no real development on my skin. I most enjoyed wearing No. 3. In warm weather I found it  to be more fierce and demanding it's moment in the spotlight. In cold weather it softens to a more comforting rose cashmere on  my skin. In the United States www.beautyhabit.com carries these perfumes. You can also order directly from the company here. Their samples are called enchantillons. I ordered a full set about six years ago and it was one of the prettiest sample packs I've ever received from a perfume company.

Finally, here is one of my favorite moments from The Nutcracker, The Dance of the Snowflakes.

Top photo Google image. Second photo of Bass Hall from Flickr. You tube video is the New York City Ballet. Samples are my own from Beautyhabit.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Hanging of the Greens with DSH Perfumes Vert Pour Madame

The first Sunday in Advent is traditionally the time when churches hang garlands and wreaths in a ceremony known as the hanging of the greens, to commemorate the birth of Christ. In like manner homes are festooned with festive decor and wreaths are hung on doors to welcome the Christmas season.  The first evergreen boughs were hung in London churches in 1444 (I would love to know how this factoid was discovered!) and in 1500 era Germany evergreen boughs were formed into circles to signify God's eternal love. But this custom of hanging the greens predates Christianity and was a part of winter solstice celebrations by the Druids, Celts and Romans. Winter solstice, or Saturnalia as it was called by the Romans, occurs at approximately the same time as Christmas. Evergreen plants were treasured because they promised the rebirth of the sun and harvest so their use played a dominant role in the celebrations. These green plants of winter served as a reminder that the dark would not last forever; that the sun would return and the days of light lengthen. These habits were deeply ingrained so early Christians began to incorporate some of these celebratory features of the harvest festival into the season preceding Christmas.

DSH Perfumes Vert pour Madame is the perfect green scent to capture the essence of the observance of the hanging of the greens. From the first whiff, Vert pour Madame takes me back to a hazy childhood memory of watching my mother complete her toilette for a night out. I remember faint images that include dresses with bell shaped skirts and waspish waists,  red lips and darkened eyebrows, and high heels that usually only came out on Sundays. And a trail of perfume that was deep and dark and spoke of places I couldn't yet go and things that happened after my eight o'clock bedtime. Please don't think we're talking "old lady" perfume here, a term I heartily dislike. These perfumes called for no small measure of poise and aplomb to carry off, unlike many of the generic scents littering perfume counters today.

Vert pour Madame, a vintage style green chypre, harkens back to a day when perfumes had presence and made a statement. They sought to be bold and sometimes the center of attention. If you have feared that this style of perfume is long gone then Vert pour Madame will thrill you. I believe Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, creator at DSH Perfumes, originally introduced this perfume as a precursor to spring. Notes of hyacinth, jonquil, and lily of the valley give the scent a lovely brightness in the opening, but notes of cedarwood, patchouli, and moss bring it back around to a darker place. The perfume would smell lovely anytime of year but there is something about wearing this in cold weather that makes the green notes really sparkle and gives it a sharp crisp edge.

When trying to imagine this perfume, don't think of the green of dark forests or the sunnier green of a freshly mowed lawn. In fact, don't think of earthly greens at all. Think of an elegant green satin evening gown, cool to the touch. Imagine a large green emerald with murky depths set on a ring surrounded with tiny glittering diamonds. Imagine boxes wrapped in the most expensive and heavy shiny green wrapping paper, topped with a red bow. This green feels glamorous, grown up, and utterly distinctive. While I'm wearing Vert pour Madame I feel smarter, prettier, and slightly dangerous, even though at the moment  I'm wearing flannel pajamas with cherry topped cupcakes dancing across the fabric. Could this be self esteem in a bottle?

Chypre perfumes traditionally have bright top notes and deeper duskier base notes and it is this contrast of light and dark that makes them interesting. In Vert pour Madame Dawn uses notes of bergamot and galbanum to give that chypre opening, but she also adds the spring flowers of hyacinth and narcissus and these are the notes that I smell most at the beginning of the perfume's wear. Aldehydes add that sparkle and panache that makes this feel like a festive and sophisticated perfume, as well as giving it that sharp almost bitter edge. If you go to the notes list on Fragrantica you will see that Dawn, as is her custom, uses a basket full of fragrant notes to create this perfume. I'm not going to expound on each one because the notes are so well blended that what you smell is dazzling green.

My sample was taken from my one dram miniature flask of the EDP version of Vert pour Madame. DSH Perfumes also sell a perfume extract version and I can only imagine what deep gorgeousness this might contain. A sample may be a little gift to myself in the immediate future while Dawn's annual holiday sale is going on. Go to the DSH Perfumes Facebook page here  to find details. Creating exquisite perfumes comes at a cost but your nose will distinguish the difference, sort of like the difference between buttering your roll with canola oil margarine or Beurre de Baratte. The site offers lovely presentation flacons which would make an exceptional luxury gift.

In conclusion I will give you an appropriate Christmas song. Christmas music is my favorite so expect more of this!

Top photo Google image. Perfume sample from my own collection.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Parfums Dusita: La Douceur De Siam & Le Sillage Blanc

Parfums Dusita is the culmination of the creative efforts of Pissara Umavijani to introduce French inspired perfumes with a Siamese inspiration. Pissara debuted her collection in spring of 2016 and the three perfumes:  Issara, Melodie De l'Amour, and Oudh Infini all have been lauded as among the best of 2016. Ms. Umavijani was hailed as a young perfumer with an old soul and one to watch. Her latest two perfumes, La Douceur De Siam and Le Sillage Blanc, have been garnering great reviews as well, although they will  not be formally introduced for sale until early 2017.

Today's Thailand is a busy bustling place and Bangkok is a chic business hub of Asia. For centuries, however, Thailand was known as Siam and the name only changed in the WWII era. To me personally Siamese references harken back to the traditions and romance of a long ago time when Thailand was a more isolated and insular place, full of exotic secrets,  hidden beauty, and pageantry. Pissara's creations are inspired by the poems of her late father Montri Umavijani, esteemed poet of Thailand; but where his palette was the melody of words, Parfums Dusita speaks through the language of scented memories and fragrant idealized settings.

La Douceur De Siam

I chose the photo above with water not because there are any aquatic notes in La Douceur De Siam; there are not. Having been in and around Asia for the last fifteen years or so, the reality is there is always water nearby, be it a river or the ocean and it very much influences the mood of the place . La Douceur De Siam reminds me of that landscape with its fluid airy languidness and the tropical lushness of air heavy with humidity.

La Douceur de Siam opens with a creamy frangipani note. The different colored frangipani each have their own aroma and the note in this perfume definitely reminds me of the soft yellow or white petaled frangipani, not the exuberant pinks. The photo is me with my sister in law in Thailand. She took small cuttings from frangipani trees from my yard in Singapore several years ago, stuck them in the ground, and when I went to visit five years later they were all big gorgeous blooming trees. I love the frangipani for their tropical smell, which although lush are always sweet and creamy.

Rose de Mai is also present. In most of my instances wearing the perfume the rose was quietly beautiful in the background, but taking a back seat to the yellow flowers. However just one time the rose took center stage and told the frangipani, champaca and ylang ylang to take a hike and for that one day she decided to be a beautiful rose perfume. That is what I love about top class ingredients. They turn a perfume into a living elixir that can react differently on skin, opening up new facets with each wear.

Champaca enters the picture with floral and woody notes. Ylang ylang bolsters the yellow flower appeal with its creamy musky florals. Violet leaf adds a green-tinged herbaceous accord. The perfume doesn't become green, it's just a whisper. Eventually the floral notes fade and sandalwood becomes dominant. Even later notes of amber, cloves and vanilla join the sandalwood in the final breath of the perfumes wear. These notes are subtle and quiet.

I couldn't help getting a mental image when wearing this perfume. Picture yourself in a narrow long boat on the river Chao Phraya in Bangkok. Your trip begins near the markets and you glide silently past the floating boats laden with fragrant flowers. As you slip away from the city you glide past small communities that have settled along the river banks. You smell the scent of wet green vegetation with its pleasant funkiness. As the sun lowers the river narrows and the trees along the shore line close in, blocking out the light. The woody comforting scent of trees surrounds the boat. The scent dims at dusk to a light amber woodiness with a tinge of vanilla.

If you are wondering what the difference is between La Douceur de Siam and Melodie de  l'Amour, other than the white flower/yellow flower distinction, here is my take. Melodie De l'Amour is a beautiful bouquet of white flowers and explores the individual white flowers that make up the bouquet. La Douceur de Siam starts with yellow flowers but then evolves to a more quiet and mysterious place.

Le Sillage Blanc

This perfume was actually created as an ode to "a Mediterranean idylle" and as a nod to one of Ms. Umavijani's favorite scents, vintage Bandit by Robert Piguet. I'm stubbornly sticking to my Thai theme though, and using this photo of gorgeous greens, watery vegetation, and a leathery elephant to illustrate this modern green leather chypre scent.

Le Sillage Blanc is the yang to La Douceur de Siam's yin. It opens with a rush of neroli from the bitter orange tree. It is galbanum that makes Chanel No. 19 sing in a sharp key and it does similar service in Le Sillage Blanc, taking away any slight sweetness that might be found in the neroli and giving it a bitter green twist.  There is the same vegetal feel that lightly flitted through Le Douceur. It's a shape shifter going from moody and mysterious to a bright hue of green . Artemesia has a sharp, bitter, pungent smell and it helps make this essence a thoughtful and even slightly challenging wear in the best way.

Before we go any further I must mention tobacco. The tobacco note is just as big a player in Le Sillage Blanc as are the green and bitter notes. The tobacco note in perfume, depending on what it is paired with, can be boozy, fruity, or sweet with caramel type notes. This tobacco note captures the more green aspect of the plant and to me has a ganja like smell. There is a leather feel to this perfume. It serves to rough it up a bit and heighten the earthiness. It is subtle and well blended. Finally the patchouli brings even more earthiness and expands on the slightly mossy note presented here. Ambrette seed is also in the dry down and it can present as nutty or with undertones of tobacco, clary sage, or cognac. All these notes conjoin to present an overall feel of bitter greens, herbal accents, and earthiness.

When I first interviewed Pissara to write the review on Issara she sent me a link to a work which inspired her greatly in the years prior to starting her own perfume brand: Freedom From the Known by Jiddu Krishnamurti. She stated that the book inspired her to discover her life's passion and to expore the meaning of happiness. I have always been curious with young achievers, what motivates them and gives them courage to pursue their dreams? I don't know that this particular passage from the work was Pissara's inspiration but it certainly describes how she has gone after fulfilling her creative passion.

"But when you have thrown it off, and have this energy in which there is no fear at all--no fear of making a mistake, no fear of doing right or wrong, then is not that energy itself the mutation? But when there is this energy that comes from throwing off every form of fear, that energy itself produces the radical inward revolution. So you are left with yourself.....and you are already free to discover."

Ms. Umavijani has in one short year garnered a lot of respect and buzz for her brand and her perfume creations. Any of us who have had conversations with her will attest to what a kind and generous soul she is. It is a pleasure to see her fragrances getting so much love from the perfume world and these two newest scents will only add to the acclaim.

Edit: I have a set of the three original Dusita perfumes to give away. So there can be three winners instead of one, I am going to break up the set. In comments below, let me know if you prefer to win the Melodie De l'Amour, Issara, or Oud Infini. Press here to link to the post of my last giveaway, which will show you what the perfumes look like and links to my reviews. The contest will end next Friday, Nov. 25, 9 pm Central Time. Oh, and it's not a requirement, but I'd appreciate you either subscribing to my blog or liking the facebook page of The Fragrant Journey if you feel so led. Thank you and good luck! 

Top photo Harpers Bazaar. Middle Photo my own. Elephant photo from rootsgrowdeeper.tumblr.com.  Perfume samples provided by Parfums Dusita.

Friday, November 11, 2016

My Favorite Autumn Scent: Parfumerie Generale L'Oiseau de Nuit

When people find out I love perfume they often inevitably ask, "What is your favorite perfume?" I hate that question and it always leaves me tongue tied. It's like asking, "Which of your three children do you love the most?" How can I possibly limit my perfume love to only one when there are so many out there to explore? But there is one fragrance that I have adored since it was first introduced in 2009, and if you really pressed me I could at least commit this much: Parfumerie Generale L'Oiseau de Nuit is my favorite autumn perfume. Probably. Almost certainly.

The very talented and fragrantly prolific Pierre Guillaume introduced this perfume to his limited edition line of fragrance but here's hoping it never goes away. There is a gourmand note in the opening, like burnt caramel or something golden and syrupy. It is slightly sweet but not the candy curdled sweetness found in so many gourmand perfumes. It is more an opulent richness with bergamot providing a golden light. The davana note adds to the boozy feel of this scent. The first hour it is truly an elixir of warmth and luxuriance and I am tipsy with delight.

Now for the really good stuff. Benzoin and labdanum are two of my most loved fragrance notes and they take center stage in L'Oiseau de Nuit. Benzoin makes this perfume feel like it has amber as an ingredient, but it's a slightly lighter more transparent amber note than the real thing. Benzoin  also adds a sweetness which doesn't feel like a full on gourmand, a unique juggling act. Ladanum is a sticky resin that also adds to the amber accord feel. At the beginning of this perfume's wear it is like a gorgeous golden elixir, slightly sweet and rich. Then the amber notes began to take over and it becomes the most oppulent cashmere blanket of scent. On the Parfumerie Generale website L'Oiseau de Nuit is termed an ambery leather perfume, but Guillaume kept the leather touch light. It adds a very slight animalic note and tones down the more gourmand aspect, but I never really sense a strong leather presence. The longer I wear it the darker the scent becomes, perhaps referencing the night bird in its name.

This is the perfect fall comfort scent for me. It evolves from its bright and showy opening to a darker denser fragrance. For all the drama of its opening it eventually becomes a fairly close to the skin scent which one could be comfortable wearing in any situation. L'Oiseau de Nuit would be equally at home as a male or female scent. If you love banzoin, labdanum, or amber this is a must try.

This beautiful collage can be yours from Imagine Studio, Etsy. Scent from my personal collection.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

My Marigold Scented Deepavali Perfumes: Profumum Roma Tagete and En Voyage Perfumes Tagetes Femme

This weekend it is Deepavali (or Diwali) and here in Singapore the Indian population is celebrating the most significant holiday on the Hindu calendar. In Singapore it is mandated that the very multicultural population here will have their holidays equally honored and acknowledged. This is great news for residents as not only do we have the mile long avenue of Christmas lights on Orchard Blvd., but we see Little India lit up for Deepavali, lights for the Muslim festival of Hari Raya, and festive street decorations for Chinese New Year. Having lived in India for almost four years I think the colorful lights for Deepavali, always in fluorescent colors of pink, orange, turquoise, gold, and green, are my favorite of the lot for their sheer exuberance and panache.

Deepavali is an Indian celebration with ancient roots as a harvest festival, but also based on legends of various Hindu deities triumphing over their enemy in battle. The name Deepavali comes from the clay lamps (deepa) arranged in rows (avali)  placed outside the home to signify the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. More literally, the illuminated diyas represent the power of light over night and good over evil.  Deepavali is known as the celebration of lights due to the tradition of lighting these small terracotta dishes called diyas. The lights are the most significant component of the festive traditions, but there are also colorful rangoni (designs made of colorful powders or sand placed outside the door of the home), the sharing of sweets with friends, the exchange of gifts among family, and offering colorful garlands of flowers in acts of pooja at the Indian temple.

There are many directions I could go when picking a perfume to represent the Deepavali season. One could highlight perfumes that represent the spices at the market, chai tea based fragrances, or heady florals. On our weekly jaunt to Little India here in Singapore for a favored meal of tandori chicken, dal, and roti, the one shopping stop I always make is at one of the little flower carts where they sell the strings of flowers that Hindu devotees buy to take to the nearby temple. Jasmine is the most prevalently used flower and I love to buy a string of the buds and let it scent my house for the two days or so the blooms survive. But for my Deepavali perfume picks I chose two perfumes that highlight the marigold. There are always strings of saffron colored marigold garlands, sometimes combined with the more fragrant jasmine buds, because this humble little flower is significant in Indian culture as an auspicious offering, or pooja, to be draped around the statues of the Hindu gods.

Marigold is a hard scent to pin down, slightly herbal, possibly musty, sometimes sharply astringent. It also has notes of bitter green earthiness. It straggles the line between slightly unpleasant and provokingly interesting, depending on one's taste. It is a compelling choice when used with opulent white flowers as it tends to calm their gaiety and abandon. Just as the makers of marigold garlands often add jasmine or rose to the strings to make the overall scent more beautiful, marigold can play a similar role in perfume. Tagete is the genus name for marigold and it is the name used in the perfumes I've chosen to highlight for Deepavali.

Profumum Roma Tagete is a good example of the tagete note being used to tame the white flower beast. I have never met a tuberose scent I didn't like, and the only jasmine scents I've not cared for were because they were too insipid so no surprise that I enjoy the mostly jasmine opening with a little tuberose added to the mix. But very quickly there is something hiding in this bouquet of white flowers. A bitter edge, like a grass snake rearing its head out of a white flower bouquet, begins to infiltrate all the white flower wonderfulness. The bitter green note shape shifts in and out of the marigold "I smell interesting" mode to the marigold "I smell a little scary" note.  You have this juxtaposition of the typical big tuberose and jasmine floral touchdown, with a field goal of pungent marigold astringency thrown in for good measure. Before I decided to write about Profumum Roma Tagete as a Deepavali perfume I was going to do a post entitled A White Flower Perfume for Autumn Wear.  The tagete note makes this perfume transitional to me and different from the numerous summery white flower perfumes. The note of the marigold can be quite pungent and for some that might be a deal breaker but to me it just makes it a more intriguing exploration of the white flower theme. Notes of vetiver and moss give this an herbal aromatic vibe, but for most of the wear it is a fairly linear jasmine/tuberose/marigold scent. The perfume lasts for around six hours on my skin.

En Voyage Perfume Tagete Femme is a 2012 creation of the very talented Shelley Waddington, captain of En Voyage perfumery. On my skin the perfume opens with a touch of bergamot and an herbal marigold.  Blackcurrant bud gives a juiciness to the scent and notes of orange flower and rose give a slight jammy feel. On one wearing the rose really came forward but the other times not so much, a curiosity I've experienced before when wearing naturals. Notes of vanilla, fruity musk, and tonka appear as middle notes, but this is a very blended vanilla and not a standout note.  Base notes of sandalwood, resin, and patchouli are listed but on my skin they are very lightly present. The scent lasts on my skin around three hours, then fades to a soft skin scent mostly comprised of vanilla and sandalwood.  The marigold note is not a strong component in this perfume, at least on my skin, and I get the sense that it is a buffer between the sweetness of the floral and vanilla notes, giving this oriental perfume a quiet presence. I would say only those close to you would capture the scent. This is a  pretty perfume with a melange of well blended notes that bathes the skin with its golden glow.

Happy Deepavali or Diwali 2016 to those who celebrate the holiday. Does anyone have a favorite Deepavali scent?

Top photo of Singapore Deepavali lights from www.news.asiaone.com. Second photo from www.kids.nationalgeographic.com. Third photo of flower stall Little India mine. Fourth photo of Indian temple with marigold garlands from www.writeincolor.com. Fifth photo from www.humanflowerproject.com of a flower seller in India.. Sixth photo google image. Last photo Little India in the rain 2016, mine. Perfume samples my own.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Different Company Adjatay Cuir Narcotique

The Different Company's newest fragrance Adjatay was mentioned in glowing terms by several bloggers following its debut at Esxence 2016 in Milan this spring. Anytime I hear tuberose mentioned as a main player in perfume, I'm interested. Leather on the other hand can be hit or miss for me. If it works, it's beautiful and adds richness and depth. My skin doesn't always adapt well to leather notes though, and when the note is wrong it can ruin a perfume for me.

The copy on The Different Company website cites this story as the inspiration for Adjatay. Luc Gabriel, who heads the company, said he had a forgotten tuberose flower from a trip to Grasse in his black leather bag. When he later discovered the flower hidden in the depths of the bag, the narcotic qualities of the tuberose had melded with the leather to bring out the best in both materials. He had perfumer Alexandra Monet bring this beautiful partnering to life as a new perfume for the line.

I had been wanting to try Adjatay so when Takashimaya here in Singapore got it I raced over to give it a spray. The first few minutes were not love. Top notes are mandarin and ylang ylang. I have sprayed it several times now and have never caught the mandarin note but I smell the ylang ylang. Ylang ylang can be all over the place when you read people's different descriptions. I pass a ylang ylang tree when I walk the Botanic Garden here in Singapore and its scent really releases at dusk. To me it smell floral, something like jasmine without the strength or indolic characteristic, and with a more musky, sometimes slightly powdery aspect. Occasionally  I get slight hints of banana creaminess from ylang ylang. I smell a combination of these facets of ylang ylang in the opening of Adjatay and I enjoy that moment. The leather enters rather quickly, and it is at this stage that I'm not sure I will like the perfume. When the leather first manifests on my skin it has a bit of a funky smell to me, maybe slightly plastic. This is not an uncommon  happening when I try leather scents.

But in a mere ten minutes the scent begins to change. Suddenly the leather begins to smell like the finest of Italian leathers, that soft supple bag you've carried forever and just keeps getting more beautiful with age. It is a satiny sensuous leather. This stage lasts for at least an hour on my skin before the tuberose enters the picture. I am surprised at this restraint of the tuberose note as it is known for being a powerhouse. The first hint of the tuberose is a fleeting smell, almost as if it is buried at the bottom of the leather bag, just as Adjatay's creation story illustrates. Slowly the tuberose presence grows and for the next few hours it is a merry dance between the two notes with neither one dominating. I found this a unique marriage of notes, as at least in my experience I've not tried a scent with the leather and tuberose combination before. The leather tempers the exuberance of the tuberose, giving it a more serious air. Conversely the tuberose gives the leather a softer and sweeter appeal. This joining of the two notes insure that Adjatay is a unisex perfume.

Notes like heliotrope, tonka bean, musk, and sandalwood give the perfume a creamy softness as it dries down in the next few hours. I got a full eight hours or more wear out of this perfume. I found that the longer it was on my skin the more beautiful it became, becoming richer, smoother, and more opulent with time. The full name of the perfume is Adjatay Cuir Narcotique and the addition of tuberose to the leather certainly does turn the scent into a softly sensual experience. I really enjoyed wearing this perfume and it is one of my favorite introductions of 2016 as the year draws close to an end.

Photo from Dreaming In Blue. Samples sprayed at Takashimaya Singapore, thanks very much!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

DSH Perfumes Chinchilla

A new fragrance release from DSH Perfumes is always something to anticipate and DSH Perfumes Chinchilla does not disappoint. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz created this animalic perfume as a reference to an era when women donned furs for elegant nights out.  DSH Perfumes has a strong selection of retro styled perfumes, and in my opinion Dawn has a real gift for evoking a bygone era of glamour and luxury.

Dawn always writes good descriptions of her perfumes which give a visual as well as scented image. Here is how she describes Chinchilla: "At the Grand Hotel, where the elite and gorgeously tailored meet for soirees, dancing parties, and other hedonistic meetings, the elegant always wear their chinchilla. Dreamily soft, sensuously cozy, and yet so chic; only the finest would do."

Dawn is expert at combining a long list of diverse notes and this perfume is no exception.  There are animalic and skin scent notes such as africa stone tincture, ambrette, oakmoss, castoreum, and civet; along with sweeter notes of french beeswax, honey, gardenia, carnation, and rose, but you will not pick out the individual notes for the most part. After the perfume has settled on my skin it smells of a slightly animalic musk with faint wisps of crushed flower petals and thick golden honey.

This vintage-inspired scent references a time when it was de rigueur for the fashionable to wear a fur to stay warm in a frigid New York winter. Trends and proprieties have changed; today the fur is probably a very realistic fake or has given way altogether to a warm cashmere coat. But the elegance of that once-upon-a-time era is remembered in this scent with notes conjuring warm skin, fur, and cozy  musk. Dawn describes Chinchilla as a floriental/musk/animalic fragrance, both sexy and comforting. I would agree with that characterization, but to me it's the understated "without trying" kind of sexy; a woman in her husband's white button down shirt or in a tee shirt and socks, looking innocently alluring.

On some skins the animalic notes might amplify but when I wear Chinchilla it remains more of a cozy, soft, yet sexy skin scent. It feels like it would be the perfect scent for a lazy crisp autumn day; wearing a warm fuzzy sweater,  tucking my feet under a cozy fur blanket, settling in for a good long read with a new book or watching an old classic movie. The scent manages to be both cozy and sexy, comforting and beguiling, without ever falling into either camp. I would like my skin to smell like this naturally: warm, musky, sweet and just a touch naughty. Chinchilla could be worn any time. It is elegant enough for a night out, understated enough for daily wear, or the perfect skin scent when you want to smell like yourself, but better!

Top photo www.eslamoda.com. Second photo, Dorian Leigh in chinchilla stole  from Maurice Kotler, photo by Guy Arsac, 1956. Third photo google image. Sample sent to me by DSH Perfumes.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Aroma M Geisha Vanilla Hinoki

Aroma M Geisha Vanilla Hinoki is the latest addition to the Geisha line. Introduced earlier this year in both an eau de parfum spray and an oil version, Aroma M's founder Maria McElroy created this scent as an olfactory reference to the ritual of the the Japanese bath. In Maria's own words, "When living in Japan, I took a tour over those seven years from one end of the island to the other, experiencing all the wonderful ways of Japanese bathing. The hinoki tubs left a lasting impression on me. This new perfume, Geisha Vanilla Hinoki, is inspired by the hinoki baths of Japan."

Japanese hinoki baths are the marriage of wood and water and provide a complete holistic experience. The tubs are not for cleaning, but for soaking, to provide energy, rejuvenation, and relaxation. Hinoki wood is particularly revered for its strength, beauty, and antibacterial properties. In addition the hinoki wood has a beautiful calming scent that has been described as having elements of lemon or ginger. Hinoki oil is gentle and has been used to calm skin irritations, as a decongestant to help with respiratory problems, and as a tonic for stress.

Geisha Vanilla Hinoki opens with a brightness, but it is toned down by a meditative, almost camphorous wood smell.  It is like being in a forest when the clouds above part and a ray of sunshine pierces the tree canopy. Then the clouds again cover the sun, muting its brightness. After a few minutes this brightness fades and the wood smell becomes dominant. It takes about thirty minutes before the vanilla makes an appearance on my skin. The vanilla is soft, maybe a little green, and more like smelling the pods than sweet vanilla desserts. The wood and vanilla seem to merge as one note so that neither one takes precedence; it's a perfect partnering. If you normally shy away from vanilla scents, this could be the one for you. At no point does this ever scream "vanilla perfume" to me. Once the vanilla enters the mix, Vanilla Hinoki becomes more of a skin scent. Words I would use to describe it are contemplative, meditative, relaxing, or mellow.

Vanilla Hinoki's key ingredient is a vanilla that has woody, smokey elements. "I found this luscious Moroccan vanilla on my trip to Tangier a few years ago," Maria said. "When I first smelled the hinoki oil I knew right away that this gorgeous gourmand vanilla would be the perfect partner." Other notes in the perfume include bergamot, clove, cardomom, nutmeg, cedarleaf, lavender, leather, patchouli, amyris, cedar, and hinoki.

Most of the perfumes in the Geisha line are oils but a few also come in sprays. Both versions are offered in Vanilla Hinoki. I find the opening of the eau de parfum more vibrant and the individual notes more apparent. The oil is softer, and on my skin it emphasizes the lemony facet of hinoki more than the vanilla. Both become very quiet and soft after an hour, in short more of a personal scent. The longer they are on the skin the more similar they become. To me this is a scent I would choose for its "feel good" factor, like wearing a beautiful almost transparent coat of armor to face the everyday stresses. (Perhaps I should put this on before watching the news or getting on facebook until the election season is over!) Other bloggers have suggested this could be the perfect bedtime scent to fall into a deep peaceful dream state.

When I began my scent journey over ten years ago, Maria McElroy's Aroma M was one of the first niche perfumers I found. I was trying to remember exactly how I discovered the company. Blogs, niche perfume stores, and online perfume chat groups were either nonexistent or small in numbers. But when I looked at the timeline on Aroma M's website, I remembered.  In 2006 Aroma M launched an 11 year anniversary coffret of perfume samples, individually wrapped in colorful Yuzen papers like little bon bons and packaged in an exquisite little homemade paper box. Lucky magazine featured the set, and back in those days I used to devour that magazine. When the samples came I was enchanted with the sheer beauty of this little box of perfumed treats, and that was even before I tried the scents! I was so entranced that I ordered several to give as gifts.

When I tried the perfumes I was even more impressed. Maria spent seven years in Japan where she trained in Kodo, the ancient art of fragrance, Ikebana, Koto (Japanese harp), and Zen Buddhism. She came from a background of both art and aromatherapy, which eventually gelled with the geisha-like arts she studied in Japan to inspired the creation of her own company, Aroma M. Maria's line has a very Asian aesthetic running through the perfumes. It is not that they have a similar smell or common note, rather that the aura they create when you wear the scents has a recognizable theme. There is such attention to detail and beauty, a craftsmanship that is hard to find today in our world of mass produced items. The bottles wrapped in stylized Yuzen paper are a wonder. I find that the oils and perfumes in this line wear close to the skin for the most part, although there are some (Geisha Rouge and Geisha Amber Rouge come to mind) that have a deeper and darker presence. They never walk into the room before you but glow quietly, a pretty haze of scent. Vanilla Hinoki follows this tradition.

I asked Maria what customers could expect in the future. "I am currently working on a new scent to release next spring", she said. "It is based on Japanese shiso. I have been looking for a natural shiso oil for awhile, and with the help of my chef husband I have finally found one. This new perfume will also include lilacs and incense. I am having a lot of fun with its creation!" These notes sound very interesting and I'll look forward to its release!

Top photo google image. Other photos from Aroma M website. Perfume samples were provided by the perfumer, and also purchased by me from Luckyscent.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Weekend In Paris: With MFK Petit Matin & Grand Soir, Cafe Noir & Eau de Madeleine

The imminent arrival of October is making me long for a quick getaway. A weekend in Paris would be lovely. A quaint ivy draped hotel in one of Paris's charming arrondissements, fine dining in the French manner, and strolling through the park as the leaves turn golden. But alas, for me it's not to be so my trip will have to be a virtual one via photos and dreams, as I imagine how I would spend each precious moment and what perfumes I'd be wearing while I experienced the City of Light.

My flight's arrival would get me in too late to have a big evening so I would wander the streets until finding the perfect small cafe, perhaps having a light bite to eat and sit and watch Paris pass by. I love people watching when visiting cities. It's a great way to get a feel for the place. I would finish my meal with a dark rich brew, designed to give me a jolt of energy to make my way to the most hole-in-the-wall jazz club I could find. Besides my coffee, I'd wear a special perfume to get me in the mood.

I have no desire to smell like a mug of Starbucks brew but DSH Perfumes Cafe Noir doesn't disappoint. It is a much more sophisticated and multifaceted perfume than one might expect from a coffee-centered perfume. On the DSH website the perfume is described as an oriental that harmonizes notes of spices, wood, resins, and florals with the beloved black coffee note. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's perfumes always have a long list of notes and this one is no exception. This perfume feels rich, sophisticated and embracing. Notes of bergamot add brightness to the labdanum, benzoin, and balsam. Cinnamon adds spicy heat and a touch of vanilla smooths and sweetens. I occasionally smell a sliver of green, more a thread than a note. This is a delicious brew which uses the idea of coffee as a jumping off point, then expands on this by adding lots of luscious notes. It is the perfect romantic and complex French-style perfume to start our adventure.

We've arranged for a small apartment with a killer view of the Eiffel Tower on www.parisperfect.com. After an hour of good jazz we wind our way through the streets to our waiting pad. I luxuriate in a warm bath with a glass of bubbly and enjoy the lights of the tower before drifting off to sleep in our comfy bed.


I am normally not a morning person, but when I'm jet lagged I tend to wake up before dawn with an instant alertness and the feeling of wanting to start the day as soon as possible. I love what feels like stolen moments, being awake as dawn lights begin to turn the black sky to fuzzy gray then pale yellow light. The first birds begin singing as the world awakens. Maison Francis Kurkdjian has introduced two new perfumes to celebrate the lights of Paris, Petit Matin to commemorate sunrise in Paris and Grand Soir to mark the excitement of the eveninghours. Petit Matin was Kurkdjian's answer to a Paris morning before dawn. His own copy says, "Rise at dawn and escape into the delightful freshness of an early morning in Paris."

Flicker Romane Villa

The scent is composed of litsea cubeba (also known as may chang), lemon from Calabria, hawthorn, lanvadin, orange blossom, musk, and ambroxin. The perfume opens with a soft luminescent pale lemon note, reminiscent of the first traces of light in the morning sky. The litsea cubeda in particular provides a creamy soft sweet citrus note. The hawthorn and orange blossom add very pure floral notes for a sweetness and a blossoming effect to the perfume. After a few hours it softly fades and the musk notes leave a lingering finish. To me this doesn't feel like a citrus cologne, which the notes might indicate. There is something very pure and illuminating about this perfume.

I can't be in Paris without visiting at least one magnificent cathedral. Coming from a part of America where no building is more than one hundred years old, these fabulously constructed edifices with fantastically soaring roofs and colorful diamond dappled stained glass windows make me swoon. My husband and I once wandered into a Polish-language Catholic service in Paris, and the somber chants,darkened lights and swinging incense burners made me feel we had stepped back in time several centuries. Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger Eau De Madeleine (quite the mouthful!)  captures the experience of visiting a stunning cathedral, inhaling the incense permeated stone walls from three hundred years of worship, then stepping through heavy wooden doors into the startling sunlight and air filled with the pervasive smell from the nearby creperie cart. There is a citrus burst on application, but it not a fresh bright note, it is the brightness of light through stained glass, beautifully present but darker and subdued. The incense note is the strongest but it is softened by the slight citrus and a musky vanilla which wraps around the incense. There is a balsamic sweetness which feels like resins, but I see none listed so maybe it's the combination of the vanilla and incense. This is an interesting combination of incense and sweetness but it's not really a gourmand. If you want a scent that is less church notes and more sugary crepes try Prada Candy. By the way, the name Eau de Madeleine is meant more as a reference to Proust than an attempt to smell like bakery goods, although that aspect is slightly present.

Fortified with crepes, we're now ready for our dose of culture, but not a huge venue like the Louvre. A smaller exhibit, something like this show at the Musee Du Luxembourg, followed afterwards by a stroll around the Luxembourg Garden.

Before we know it the day has passed and it's time to prepare for an evening out and for this moment, I've chosen to wear Maison Francis Kurkdjian Grand Soir. This is the partner to Petit Matin and really couldn't be more different. Where as Petit Matin sprinkles you with light and clarity, Grand Soir is deep, dark and mysterious. It is composed of labdanum from Spain, benzoin from Siam, tonka bean from Brazil, and vanilla and amber accords. These are some of my favorite notes in perfumery that always work on my skin, so if you have similar tastes or like Orientals definitely give this a try. The resins are warm and sinuous and after spraying the perfume I feel bathed in a luxurious balm of scent. The notes blend together well; the vanilla adds sweetness but it doesn't feature too strongly in the scent. The amber, labdanum, and benzoin meld into a comforting yet elegant mix. It smell so warm on my skin that I almost sense a cinnamon note, but it's not listed. This is a thoroughly grown up perfume which would be equally beautiful on a man or woman and on my skin, it makes a statement without being overbearing. It definitely makes me feel that I am in for a special evening, and is the perfect perfume to wear to the opera.


We follow this gorgeous venue with a late night dinner at Le Meurice. (My perfume is still going strong, no need to respray!)

The next morning I have no no need to reapply perfume. The Grand Soir is muted but still very discernible, now just warm and fuzzy rather than the sexy creature from the night before. It wafts up pleasantly to remind me to the glorious evening just past.

We'll find a cute small cafe to order our coffee and croissants, then either wander the streets, bicycle along the Seine, or if we're still feeling arty, go to this exhibit which is free to the public all day Sunday, October 2.

And of course, there is always perfume shopping! I hope you've enjoyed our virtual getaway and exploring these great perfumes that remind me of Paris! What perfumes would you wear on your trip to Paris?

All samples my own. All photos www.google.com unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Elizabeth and James Nirvana Rose and Nirvana Bourbon

Out of all the celebrities the Olsen twins would not have been my first pick for who would come out with a thoughtfully curated and generally respected perfume line. But perhaps they should have been. They started acting at the tender age of nine months old, sharing the role of Michelle on the television series Full House, a role that would continue for the next eight years. This was followed by a series of television shows and movies playing to part, adorable pig-tailed twins. Their acting came to a stop at around seventeen. Very shortly after, Mary Kate and Ashley began building their fashion empire and have never looked back.

What I find intriguing about this duo is that they were able to resist the allure of celebrity and pursue other passions.  Maybe having all that fame at such a young age made them weary of it; maybe they genuinely decided it was not where their real talents lay; maybe their passion for fashion superseded the desire to devote any time to acting. But I find it admirable that in this celebrity obsessed, selfie-driven society we live in, they seemingly walked away from all that and have kept a pretty low profile. They launched The Row, a couture fashion label, and the more contemporary Elizabeth and James, both to great success. So it should come as no surprise that their perfume line would be just as well thought out as their other businesses, and at the same time a little edgy and out there, just like the two of them. When they introduced Nirvana White I liked it well enough and was very fond of Nirvana Black. The two newest additions to the brand, Nirvana Rose and Nirvana Bourbon,  are very worth trying and should find some love among the perfume community.

There is a moment when I first spray Nirvana Rose that it smells like ironing starch, crisp and clean. I think this is geranium's moment. But after one hot second the vetiver rolls in and it is not a background player.  It is rooty and earthy and dark. The first time I wore Nirvana Rose I was thinking, so where is the rose? It took a long time to appear. In subsequent wearings since,  the rose is much more apparent. It is a darkly fragrant, but not sweet. The longer the perfume is on my skin, the more the vetiver recedes and the rose blossoms.  I never, ever get the impression that I am wearing a rose soliflore perfume, as the name might lead you to believe. Rose is an ingredient, but at least on my skin, vetiver plays an equal role. Because of these dark notes I think this would wear beautifully in cooler weather.

I had read a couple of reviews that spoke of Nirvana Rose giving the effect of walking through a garden of roses. This is not at all what I smell or imagine, so I would say that skin chemistry plays a big part in this one as to what notes are accentuated. My skin has always liked wood notes so maybe it is amplifying the woodiness of the vetiver. There is something about Nirvana Rose that slightly reminds me of Atelier Rose Anonyme, but that one is all about the patchouli. I think it is the dark aspects of both perfumes which are reminiscent. Though not groundbreaking, this is a different sort of rose for the celebrity scent market and I will be curious to see how it is received. I enjoy it more, every time I wear it.

I didn't look up the notes before trying Nirvana Bourbon so I was imagining bourbon, the liquor. Actually the name refers to bourbon vanilla, which is one of the featured notes along with oak wood and tuberose. When I first spray the perfume there is just briefly an odd rubbery smell. Tuberose can present mentholated aspects before blooming into the heady scent is it famous for, so I give this note credit for the moment of petrol and rubber. Others have described this as a smokey smell but I don't get that. However I've now spent more time discussing the note than the amount of time I actually smell it before it moves on. After this smell disappears the bourbon vanilla and oak notes slowly grow in intensity, and their intermingled smell gives me the sense of a vat of fragrant buttery vanilla-tinged bourbon fermenting in an oak barrel, with warm and grainy cereal note aspects. It is mildly gourmand but never sugary sweet like some vanillas. This scent starts out slowly on me, taking it's time to heat up and have any projection, but after a couple of hours it had brewed into a very comforting toasty and oaky vanilla. I never smell any floral aspects of tuberose at all so it must have been used very lightly. Just as the Rose perfume doesn't scream rose, this one does not hit you over the head with vanilla and that makes it much more wearable to my taste. This would be a great perfume to wear to greet the first cool days of autumn.

Both of these perfumes are just different enough to match the non-mainstream personalities and persona that Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen project. They are not so different, though, that they will scare away the less exposed perfume shopper looking to expand their tastes. I think these two additions to the line fit the brand and will find their fans.

Top photo from www.elizabethandjames.com. The samples were my own from Sephora.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Berdoues Collection Cologne Grand Cru, Part Five - Oud Al Sahraa

Berdoues Oud Al Sahraa -  This Beredoues Grand Cru cologne tranforms two traditionally heavy ingredients, myrrh and oud, into a sheer but opulent veil of scent. The cologne is classified as an Oriental woody fragrance consisting of these three notes: oud, myrrh, and mandarin.

Oud Al Sahraa translates to Oud of the Desert, and wearing this scent definitely put me in the mindset of tents under a midnight blue star-studded night sky, camel trains moving slowly across the wind swept sand dunes, and midnight at the oasis. Enjoy this blast from the past which sprang to my mind the minute I smelled this cologne!

I was so pleased to find this fragrance. I love orientals, but I spend more than half the year living in Singapore due to my husband's work arrangements. The reason that lightly scented perfumes are popular in Asia is not just a cultural preference. It is perpetual summer here, balancing atop the equator, and we never get the cold weather that helps muffle the power of a true oriental powerhouse perfume. I remember years ago being at a party here and I was determined to wear my old favorite, Aromatics Elixir. As my body heat started rising in the outdoor setting I radiated an atomic level of scent, and a (rude!) man in my vicinity kept repeating loudly, "Someone's wearing WAY to much perfume." If you've ever tried to wash Aromatics Elixir off your wrists, you know it's not happening. So now when I head east my orientals and chypres remain in the cupboard at home, patiently awaiting my return. While I love wearing florals and lighter scents here, I do sometimes long for the comfort that ancient resins  and balsams provide.

"Oud wood resin has become perfumers' holy grail." says Oud Al Sahraa perfumer Christian Vermorel. "It is an extremely rare material and we are privileged to be able to exalt it." Oud in its heaviest, darkest form is a note I struggle to appreciate on my skin, but as I noted in my recent review of Josh Lee Oud here, Malaysian oud is a lighter, brighter oud altogether, and it is Malaysian oud which is used in this cologne. Malaysian oud can have woody, leather, and animal aspects, and it is characterized by a thread of sweetness. The oud mixes with the resinous and balsamic notes of Namibian myrrh to give a sensual mood to the scent.

This sensuous aura has historical references.  The Old Testament of the Bible mentions myrrh several times, including this verse in Song of Solomen 1:13, "My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts." Myrrh was used by the Egyptians as an ingredient in the embalming process.  The burning of myrrh and frankincense tears in religious ceremonies has occurred for thousands of years, and the fragrance is supposed to help the mind go to a contemplative transcendent state. Smelling this cologne I do breathe in a calming essence and I'm curious if it could help ease anxiety issues.

I never get a distinct scent from the mandarin; it doesn't have a strong citrus presence. Mandarin has a sweetly fragrant flesh and low acidity so it mixes with the other notes but doesn't stand out. The combination of this note with the myrrh gives a luminous glow to the scent. Imagine that you have a small oriental carpet with a beautiful pattern. Now imagine someone copies it, but instead of heavy wool the colorful images are on whisper thin silk. That is what this cologne feels like to me. It is an oriental with all the depth and richness that entails, but at the same time is is floaty and radiant. I am happy that I have found an oriental perfume that I can comfortably wear in Asia.

Despite the lightness this is tenacious and I still have a trace of it on my skin ten hours later at the end of the day. I would classify this as more of an eau de toilet, even though it is a cologne.

If it is not obvious by now, this is my favorite from the Berdoues Collection Grand Cru Colognes. For reviews of the other colognes in the line see Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

Top photo is from www.Berdoues.fr website. Next photo from www.youtube.com.