Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My Top Five Perfumes for Spring

My perfume habits are very heavily influenced by the changing seasons, and a change in the air brings a reshuffling to the perfumes displayed on top of my dresser. Summer brings forth coconut beaches and heady florals. Autumn's falling leaves usher in warm gourmands and more contemplative scents. Winter cold is the perfect setting for smokey scents, ambers mixed with resins, or fierce aldehydes which can only be tamed in frigid air. But perhaps my favorite change of season, and here in Texas the one with the briefest duration, is spring, when the earth awakens from her lazy slumber and we look forward to fresh rebirth.

This spring has come in like a lion. A hail storm sent ice stones hurtling down hard enough to break through two thick panes of glass on my kitchen skylights, destroy my roof, and most tragically, kill some beautiful flamingos at the nearby zoo who didn't reach shelter in time. Spring here is not the melts of the North; sometimes we have just two weeks of spring and then go straight to hot. But while it lasts, I love to wear those certain perfumes that seem made for this hopeful time of year. Here are my top five choices this spring.

1. Diptyque L'Ombre Dans Le Eau
One of my favorite fragrances to express the coming of spring is Diptyque L'Ombre Dans Le Eau; in fact, I would go so far as to say I only reach for this scent in the months of March, April and May. To me it is the perfect essence of  unturned black earth, tender green plants waiting to be tucked into their new home, and scattered rose petals ground into the damp soil. On first spray there is the aroma of dirt, then a quick tomato scent which morphs into an astringent green smell. It reminds me of my garden the first time I dig into the earth after winter to plant green seedlings. Next comes a blackcurrant note which adds freshness and tart fruitiness. This perfume never veers anywhere near a blackcurrant dessert. It is more of an elixir you might add to sparkling water or Presecco. Rose is a listed note but on my skin it is very subtle and I would never really call this a rose scent. The smell of fresh dirt, green vegetation, subtle blackcurrant, and a mere pinch of rose may not sound as if it has much promise but I find it the exact smell of working in my garden in early spring. L'Ombre Dans Le Eau has a bitter quality that may not be for everyone, but I find it wildly different and strangely appealing at this time of year. After the first hour the scent remains fairly linear and lasts the entire day.

2. Balenciaga L'Essence
Balenciaga L'Essence is a seemingly simple green violet scent that is uncomplicated and easy to wear. However appearances can be deceiving and there is a lot more going on here than is initially evident. I think L'Essence delivers a sophisticated scent in a unique way. The more I wear it, the more I love it. It's big sister, Balenciaga Paris, is an equally beautiful scent if you want more florals and a complex dry down in your base notes. Read my review for more information.

3. Jour d'Hermes
This scent never fails to thrill me with it's magical green opening, there for a moment then gone, carried away on the breeze. But the soft bouquet that unfolds next is equally pleasing. Jour d'Hermes is a perfect choice for spring and you can read more about it in my review.

4. DSH Perfumes Giverny In Bloom
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has created a splendid rendition of a garden in bloom; one in which the green backdrop of the garden takes equal footing with the fragrant flowers. It is a watercolor rendition of a gardener's palette. Read my review of Giverny In Bloom, along with the other three perfumes from the Giverny collection, and you will see that I find this to be the perfect green fragrance to celebrate the season. I would like my house, my garden, and myself to smell of this glorious green scent!

5. Melange Perfumes Green Notes Palette No. 1
Melange Perfumes in California offers scented goodies in roll on perfumes, creams, and individual
solid perfumes, but my favorite product offered is their scented palettes which come in various note families. I have Green Palette No. 1 which includes Green Tea & Honeysuckle, Cut Grass & Paperwhite; Cucumber, Sakura & White Tea; and Mimosa, Mint & Citron. My favorites are Green Tea & Honeysuckle and Cut Grass & Paperwhite. In the first, the green tea tempers the sweetness of the honeysuckle;  I flash back to warm nights as a child, pulling out the stamen of a honeysuckle bloom and sucking the nectar like an oversized hummingbird. This smells so true to nature! The Cut Grass & Paperwhite...well have you ever smelled paperwhites? If so, I shouldn't need to say more. Heaven! Like most solid perfumes, these stay fairly close to the skin and offer minimal projection. I'm traveling later this week and this palette will be thrown in my carry-on as it makes the perfect traveling companion.

These are my top picks for spring. What is everyone else loving right now?

These perfumes were all from my personal collection. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Balenciaga Paris and Balenciaga L'Essence

Balenciaga Paris was the fragrance of the moment when I attended my first and only Sniffapalooza event in May of 2010. The way the violet was handled in this fragrance by the perfumer Oliver Polge was something unique. Violet had previously appeared as sweet and powdery or maybe very woody, but never this green and with a silvery metallic note. Wearing the fragrance for the first time, what struck me most was the restraint of the perfume. It was elegant and polished but in a quiet and refined way. The powers that be at Balenciaga, including presumably their designer Nicolas Ghesquiere, chose Charlotte Gainsbourg as the face of the perfume, and while she is a perfectly lovely young woman, I am recasting Cate Blanchett as the leading lady for Balenciaga. Lovely Cate, she of the chiseled jaw and luminescent SKII skin, perfect hair, and always dressed impeccably. She is who I see as the obvious choice to represent this classy scent.

The following year Mr. Polge created the first flanker, Balenciaga L'Essence, and while the majority of the time I find flankers redundant, this one presented an equally interesting facet and exploration of the original. On Fragrantica some people use the term "grandmother perfume" to describe both of these scents. I find this term to be dismissive of a wide swathe of the female population, but if your desire is to smell like cotten candy and Skittles, then yes, you may be in for a disappointment.

On the opening spray, Balenciaga Paris and Balenciaga L'Essence are almost twins on my skin, but after the first moment they begin to show their distinctive personalities.  B Paris feels like violet petals scattered in a rain puddle, while the opening of B L'Essence is one of the driest, greenest violets I've encountered.  The violets in B Paris unfurl with a touch of opulence, a hint of the fact that this is a floral chypre. Carnation is listed as a note but to my nose it is only fleetingly identifiable, and the powder that can sometimes be identified with carnation is just as tightly reined in as the powder of the violets. The patchouli and cedar ground the perfume but they also are a muted presence. The floral presence in B Paris never goes big; all the notes blend to make a harmonious cool veil of scent.

The violets in B Paris are a little darker and deeper then those of L'Essence, but still stick exceptionally close to the skin. It is a softly subtle violet with absolutely no sugar or powder. It is musky and soft. This would be a great everyday scent, but it is sophisticated enough to rock the formal occasion. It does not announce itself and may go somewhat unnoticed until you lean in close, but then this slip of a perfumed bouquet will make your companion feel as if they are sharing a fragrant secret.

B L'Essence is classified as a floral green fragrance, and initially the green takes precedence. When the violets come out they are soft with only a whisper of sweetness, and the addition of vetiver and sandalwood accentuate the green woodiness. The vetiver gives a slight citrus feel to the scent. B L'Essence makes me think of sheets hanging on a clothesline and basking in the sunlight, or a white starched shirt as the hot iron glides across the fabric. However don't think that this is a boring laundry scent like the Clean perfumes; there is much going on here, even though the presentation seems simple and straightforward. Cool Cate, unwrinkled and unruffled, would feel very at home in this scent!

Both of these perfumes are unisex, in fact I find it hard to decide whether a man or a woman would smell better in these. They have a similar vibe to Prada Insusion de Iris. You would never feel out of place in either of these Balenciaga violet tinged perfumes. When summer comes I will be trying to stifle the heat by amping up my perfumes to more cataclysmic levels. But in spring, at least early spring, I like to tiptoe into my florals. These pretty understated but never boring scents will make you feel like spring has sprung, even if winter is still wearing out her welcome.

The photo of Cate Blanchett is from an unidentified source.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

DSH Perfumes: Giverny In Bloom, Part Three

l'Opera des Rouges et des Roses, DSH Perfumes

When I first open the tiny vial from DSH Perfumes Giverny In Bloom collection, I immediately am hit with a pleasantly pungent, earthy rose note. I know an interesting ride is in store.   At first l'Opera des Rouges et des Roses (hereafter called Roses) is all about the dirt.

I am reminded of a rosebush planting spree I went on last spring.  I had not had great success with previous plantings, so I wanted to ensure that these three climbing rose bushes would be given every shot at flourishing in their new environment. I dug an extra big hole, which I then lined with bagged garden dirt and compost. I wanted the new tender root shoots to have someplace welcoming to go, before encountering the more resistant and tightly packed  earth. The cool damp soil, the fresh air,the green bloomless bush; they all melded together to give the wonderful smell of spring. This is exactly what I smell when I first apply Roses.

Soon, though, it is spring awakening. and the first tender rose buds are opening.  Their scent is subtle but beautiful as it catches in the breeze. This is a gorgeous rose, swirling among the freshly packed earth and the green leaves and branches. It is the whole rose bush.  I find the scent of rose to be a very euphoric smell, and this one certainly is.  Ingredients are always key, but rose is one of those notes that you can really tell when the perfumer has used  good quality. Cheap rose can smell thin and screechy. This one, when I put my wrist to my nose, smells as if I am cradling a succulent, velvety bloom fresh picked from the bush.

The perfume is described as "a classical bouquet of peony, old roses, carnation, and grandiflorum jasmine with oriental-animalic hints in the drydown." Dawn Spencer Hurwitz created this perfume to represent the red and pink flowers of Giverny, the more effusively fragrant section of the garden. As the perfume wears on me it never loses the character of being the whole of the rose bush; petals, branches, leaves and thorns. As time passes I am absolutely entranced. If you think there is no new way to present rose in a perfume, try this. Let it capture your heart, as it has mine.

The Giverny In Bloom collection coffret is pictured above, and can be found here on the DSH website. This is a great way to experience all the perfumes in the collection, including l'Opera des Rouges et des Roses, La Danse des Bleus et des Violettes, La Jardin Vert and Giverny In Bloom. For more on the collection go to Part 1 or Part 2.

Photo from the DSH Perfumes website.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

DSH Perfumes: Giverny In Bloom, Part Two

La Danse des Bleus et des Violettes

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz created this perfume as one of the four in her Giverny In Bloom series. La Danse des Bleus et des Violettes (LDBV) is meant to represent the tender blue and purple flowers in Giverny, composed of violets, irises an lilacs. Notes of watery minerals and soft pale wood accord give the perfume an ethereal feel.

On first spray wispy tendrils of pale blue flowers impart a chill. LDBV smells like the delicate flowers of early spring, which won't survive once the harsh summer sun arrives in a couple of months time. Initially I smell mostly the violet. It is neither powdery or sweet. Next the lilac drifts into the picture adding a subtle touch of sweetness. For just a second I smell the dirt on the roots of the iris, then a watery note joins the florals. The overall feel is very quiet and contained; on my skin there is not a lot of projection. For some reason the line from the song in the Sound of Music popped into my head, "Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes." There is a certain prim and proper feel to this perfume that raises an image of a young woman in a white eyelet dress strolling on the garden path lined with violets and irises.

Although blue flower perfumes are not usually my favorite category, I find LDBV to be a very pretty and subtle perfume that gives a delicate interpretation of a walk among the blue and purple gardens of Giverny. You can find out more about LDBV here.  For more on the Giverny In Bloom collection see Part 1 or Part 3.

The photo above is a painting by Monet of the garden in Giverny.

Monday, March 21, 2016

DSH Perfumes: The Giverny In Bloom Collection, Part One

By now it is old news that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of  DSH Perfumes created a set of four perfumes for the Denver Art Museum's "In Bloom--Impressionists and Post Impressionists Flower Paintings" exhibition last summer. She used Monet's Garden in Giverny as inspiration, creating three perfumes to celebrate specific aspects of the garden, as well as an aroma meant to represent the entire garden and which was used to scent the experience space entitled Giverny In Bloom. I had sent for samples, as I try almost everything that Dawn creates, but somehow the samples got misplaced. I recently remembered I had never tried them, and fortuitously spring is the perfect season for their debut. In this post I will talk about two of the four scents, which though unique share some similarities. 

Giverny In Bloom
This is the perfume that Dawn created to represent the whole of the exhibit. On the website it is described thus: "An impressionist style perfume of green budding trees, wet dewy flowers and soil, that transforms to a rich floral bouquet." This is really it, in a nutshell. On first application the perfume gives a lovely viridescent effect. This pale green aura is so lovely I would like to immediately spray again, as it soon wanes and begins to change and evolve. 

Next comes the smell of raw earth in springtime. The earth is newly uncovered after hibernating all winter, rich and damp and ready to give life. I get the impression of digging in the dirt to plant sprightly spring seedlings,  ready to be neatly tucked in to their new beds. A few minutes later the scent is changing again. It gives off a little sweetness; not sugary sweetness but the beautiful honeyed sweetness of flowers in bloom. The floral scents are rich, yet at the same time muted. The scent is like the gentle wafts of scent the breeze carries as you're walking near the garden. No one note stands out but they make a lovely accord. On me this wears close to the skin but it is oh so beautiful!

After a couple of hours I no longer get the floral sweetness. Giverny In Bloom is still very green but the florals dance in and out. Overall the perfume reminds me of a watercolor painting of Monet's garden. It is a beautiful spring green perfume. The earth, the flowers and the effect of water and dampness make it a true painting composed of all the different parts of the garden, but everything runs beautifully together.

My review is based on the Eau de Toillette version. Giverny In Bloom also comes in perfume strength which I imagine would be gorgeous. And my heart started palpitating when I realized it is also available as a room spray! I would love for my bedroom to smell like an afternoon spent strolling through Giverny!

La Jardin Vert
Dawn created this perfume to represent the green background and foliage of the garden, a backdrop for the magnificent beauty and color of the flowers. The perfume is described as "densely green", along with aspects of rich soil, minerals, moss and woods.

Oh my! On application there is a burst of deep green which quickly turns vegetal,  and although it is not listed as a note, I get a mushroom vibe. The humus soil is damp and laden with twigs and leaves; mossy stones hiding in the shade of the lush green trees. For some time the scent does a dance back and forth between the green notes and the fragrant earth. In time I smell muted florals; it is still green but there is a slight floral edge.  The addition of galbanum  and oakmoss make this a chypre. At this point in the development Giverny In Bloom and La Jardin Vert seem as if they are polar opposites, but the strong green notes give them a common DNA.  At the end of the day after hours of wear these two scents end up smelling remarkably similar, at least on my skin. The La Jardin Vert still has the deeper oakmoss smell but otherwise their notes have come full circle.

I have admired DSH Perfumes skill with green perfumes. The vintage feel of her Vert Pour Madame and Pandora display Dawn's artistry with that which smells green. Giverny In Bloom is a green watercolor painting and La Jardin Vert is in oils, but they are both beautiful scents to brighten your spring. For more on the collection go to Part 2  or Part 3.
Beautiful painting by Carol  Renee and is for sale on Etsy.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Spring Beauty: Jour d'Hermes

Jour d'Hermes is the perfect fragrance to wear to welcome spring.  It is a luminous bouquet of white flowers and sweet pea, but it is the opening that for me makes it so representative of the spring awakening. Jean-Claude Ellena , who created this perfume for Hermes in 2013, performs a bit of a magic trick on the opening. With the first spray of Jour d'Hermes I get a visceral image of a tender young leaf unfurling on my wrist, opening with a joyful burst of green.  The green is soft and muted but entirely distinct in it's springlike freshness. This scent hovers on my wrist for just a moment then just as magically as it appeared, it is gone. I am not sure everyone gets this green opening. On Fragrantica the green notes are listed as middle notes.

Next I get the opening  notes of grapefruit and lemon.  On my skin the grapefruit is fairly quiet, not at all astringent. Then the blossoms of the flowers start to unfurl.  With time the slight citrus freshness dissipates and the flowers become predominant. . The white flowers, gardenia and sweet pea swirl together into a gauzy veil of pretty scent which surrounds me, wearing very close to the skin. This would make a very beautiful bridal perfume.

What distinguishes this perfume for me is the little magic moment that happens in the opening; the green note, which seems composed of the stems and  leaves of the bouquet, before the flowers make their presence known.  This little burst of fresh green is delightful and so unexpected, like a magician waving a magic wand. I would be curious to know if others experience this smell.

After a couple of hours the florals soften and the woods and musk base notes take over.This is a very pretty and easy to wear perfume, and I think Hermes has made a beautiful scent that reinforces the way I think of the brand: classy and somewhat transparent perfumes.

When I first smell Jour d'Hermes Absolu it is a bit of a let down. I do not get the burst of green present in the original formula; in fact, for the first few minutes I don't smell much of anything other than muted mixed florals. But after about five minutes, as if warmed by the skin to release their potency, the white flowers begin to unfurl and bloom. Sweet pea has been replaced by jasmine. These flowers, while still very well behaved, are a touch more sensual than the freshness of the original formula. I don't get much citrus coming forward; in this version it is all about the flowers. 

The beauty of the Absolu formula comes later. There is an animalic quality that presents after an hour or so. I can still smell the flowers but now they've been scattered and possibly battered across the sheets of the bed.  I get a mix of the innocence of the flowers, deepened by the slightly pungent skin notes.  This is accomplished by adding oakmoss to the woods and musk found in the original version. But let's be clear, this goes nowhere near skank territory; it is still polished and very elegant. I much prefer the Absolu's dry down to the original Jour d'Hermes. Maybe the perfect solution for me is to use the original version in the morning, if only to experience the spring-like opening, then apply the Absolu for the magnificent base notes.

Jour d'Hermes Gardenia was created by Jean-Claude Ellena in 2015 as a flanker to the original, and was meant to be an ultra feminine version. I have sampled this twice. The first time I was in a cool air conditioned department store. The dewy gardenia was the first thing I smelled, and it was absolutely pretty and fresh. The second time I sprayed it I was on the run, out and about in the heat, so possibly "glowing" a little bit. This time the gardenia smelled more like a beachy version, reminiscent of my bottle of Guerlain Terracotta . Maybe it was the mixture of sweat and gardenia? Anyway, not nearly as dewy and light as the first time, but still pretty.

After the initial burst of gardenia it seemed to become more similar to the florals of the original formula, and after three hours I really couldn't tell much difference between the two. It is distinctive because of it's pretty gardenia opening, but it seemed to disappear on my skin more rapidly than the original or Absolu versions. It is a pretty scent, but for the price, I wish it lasted longer.

Let me add that I find a lot to like about the bottles. They are rather plain to look at, but there is a satisfying heft when you hold it in your hands. The heaviness and solidity give a feeling of luxury and permanence, which is I imagine what Hermes intended.

I found something to admire in all three versions of this perfume. There is a Parfum version which I have not been able to get my hands on. Hermes has made a lovely perfume which is subtle enough to get away with in an office environment, but special  enough to wear for a big night out to add that extra veil of elegance.

Top photo from beautifulblooms.com, lower photo from Hermes. Spray samples my own.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Beginning: Bond No. 9 Chinatown

Chinatown by Bond No. 9 was the perfume that  catapulted me into the world of fragrance obsession about ten years ago. I had always loved scent but one day I somehow stumbled onto the fragrance discussion group on Makeup Alley. Everyone was talking about this new scent, Chinatown, which had been released by a niche company I had never heard of called Bond No. 9. The expressive passionate language that this fragrance provoked as people tried to explain its allure had me intrigued. From here I discovered perfume blogs and in those days there were few. The authority was NowSmellThis, back when it moored at blogharbor. At that time you could still buy decants on ebay and I quickly ordered a five ml sample. I can still remember the revelation of that first spray. 

I have lived between Singapore and Texas for the past twelve years, and Chinatown, the scent, is a very apt representation of a stroll through Singapore's Chinatown.  I don't claim to have synesthesia but when I first smell Chinatown I see pink and gold. It starts off with a soft candy cloud of peach. Before the sweetness of the peach can envelop and overpower, bergamot and something like Chinese five spice powder temper the sweetness and give it a tart and spicy tang. The white flowers begin to unfold, the gardenia and tuberose playing a gentle sweet symphony in the background as the peony shines through. Happily for me, peony takes a dominant role over the white florals.  There is a lot of development in the first hour of wearing. Initially it is light and bright but then the woods and patchouli add a a darker aspect with a very Asian character.  It is a true floriental. There are brief moments when  an occasional little funkiness will enter the picture; I can't tell you what note is responsible for that! Some have described this as a wax candle smell but for me it just adds to the Chinatown backstreet encounter; the good smells mingle with the occasional more pungent odor.

This perfume never goes into white flower territory as its notes might suggest; Chinatown never veers too far from her Asian roots. I find it exotic and evocative of Sunday meanders through the local Chinese market. There are stalls selling fruits housed next to a hawker stall with spicy Chinese dishes. You pass the foot reflexology and massage shop, and smells of floral massage oils emanate from behind the curtain. Passing the Chinese temple you smell the joss sticks burning in the background. The next stall sells beautiful Chinese  lacquer chests and when you open the doors a mysterious smell of old wood, spice packets, tea bags and foreign treasures speaks of its past history.
When I bought my bottle of Chinatown  years ago I loved it but thought it was too big for everyday use; it was something I would only wear on a big night out. Now, though, my tastes have changed and I find it wearable most any time. Chinatown was my gateway perfume to the perfume world. I had always loved scent, but it was the first perfume that told a story; you started one place and ended up somewhere else. It literally took me on a journey, a scented journey,  and this was a revelation.