Saturday, April 30, 2016

Happy May Day! Mini Reviews of Five Muguet Perfumes


May Day originated in Northern Europe as a celebration to welcome summer and the growing season and was associated with Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. As Europe became predominantly Christian the holiday lost its pagan associations and became a more secular celebration. The maypole is one tradition commonly linked to the holiday, but a charming custom for those of us that love perfume is the offering of muguet, or lily of the valley, on May 1. The custom dates back to 1561 when King Charles IX of France was given a sprig of lily of the valley for good luck. The King continued this tradition in the following years by offering the flower to the ladies of his court on May Day. The tradition was reinterpreted in the early 20th century, and the giving of posies of lily of the valley or other spring flowers, often as a secret gift, became a way to show appreciation or admiration.

If I could script my life on my terms I would now be reviewing my bottle of the new Guerlain Muguet May 1st introduction for 2016. Look at this beautiful bottle. I've lusted after each and every one for the past few years but this one is quite different. A jewelry store created a silver filigree design of lily of the valley to mark the ten year anniversary of the Guerlain May 1st limited edition bottles. There are only 2148 exclusive bottles (I'd love to know the significance of that number?).  But unfortunately I do not have any of this juice so I will review what my local Singapore department stores had available for my perusal. 

Annick Goutal Le Muguet 

This starts with a very green lily of the valley note. It is pretty representation of the flower but it doesn't last long on my skin. It changes and becomes a little sour on me and sometimes has a plastic smell. It fades rather quickly. This is a fail on my skin.

Christian Dior Diorissimo

I remember spraying this on in the 1980's when I was first becoming interested in perfume, and the world literally stood still for a was that gorgeous. I know a lot of bloggers have written excellently researched pieces about what changed and why it did. And it's not that Diorissimo is bad. It's a good representation of a lovely lily of the valley, and after a harsh opening which quickly disapates, I like it. It's just not the masterpiece I remember and I find that hard to forgive.

Crabtree & Evelyn Lily 

Umm, where's the lily?

Penhaligon's Lily of the Valley

This was nice, if unremarkable. It smells like lily of the valley and it was pretty tenacious on my skin. I found it prettier than most I tried, but I'm beginning to think that muguet is just not for me.

Muguet En Fleurs Yves Rocher

This is a very light spring sprinkling of lily of the valley. It's transparency is part of it's delicate charm. It is very light and disappears very quickly but it's cheap as chips and Yves Rocher is constantly having sales. If I can't have my $600-plus bottle of Guerlain Muguet Limited Edition 2016, I'm thinking this one might suit me just find. It doesn't last long but I can in good conscience shower my body with a spray every hour or so. It's a simple, uncomplicated green lily of the valley scent.

I think you can't fight your body chemistry and I believe lily of the valley may not be my note so you may have happier results with these perfumes. As for me, I think I would rather be gifted on May Day with a bundle of real live lily of the valley!

Top photo from Google. Bottle of Guerlain Muguet from

Imaginary Authors, Part Three

Today is the last in a three-part series of reviews of perfumes in the Imaginary Authors line.  It does not include some of the more recent entries, just the ones I've been able to sample. The two reviewed today are the most gourmand leaning of the ones I've tried. Both perfumes are well done and they are my favorites from the brand.

Yesterday's Haze

I enjoy fig perfumes. They are malleable and perfumers can emphasize various characteristics of the fruit, even though fig itself is a distinctive smell. Fig can smell sweet without coming across as a sugary mess. The green note gives fig a clean smell, not unlike the feeling you get with lavender but it lacks the sterility you sometimes find with lavender. Some perfumers emphasize coconut notes which takes fig in a tropical direction. Any one of these facets can be amped up so that there is a surprising amount of diversity in fig perfumes.

Yesterday's Haze seems to get everything right. It is a touch gourmand in that the fig smells ripe and succulent but it is not so gourmand that it treads into fig cake territory. There is the green feeling that is inherent in fig perfumes but it does not overpower. When the green note in fig perfumes is strong the scent can take on an austere air to me. Here the green just tempers the sweet. I get no coconut in this fig. Coconut is not necessarily a bad thing, but for me it does segregate a scent into beach territory and mainly wearable in summer. While wearing Yesterday's Haze I kept lifting my wrist to my nose. It is very delicious.  

On first spray the scent is soft and hazy. The fig comes out first but it is gauzy. Listed notes are fig, iris, cream tonka, tree bark, walnut bitters, and orchard dust. The tonka is very nice and gives the effect of warmth and a balmy lassitude.
“Just as sunsets are more beautiful on hazy days so, too, are the memories of yesterday.  -Lenora Blumberg
The pseudo novel, Yesterday's Haze, imagined by perfumer Josh Meyer, is reminiscent of a novel like The Postman Always Rings Twice. An orchard farmer in the San Joaquin Valley discovers his wife has been having a decades long affair with a cropduster and tragedy ensues. The perfume does have a bit of an alluring and hypnotic effect with its luscious fig and vanilla-like cream. Yesterday's Haze it my favorite of the perfumes I've tested so far in the Imaginary Authors line.

Memoirs Of A Trespasser

The backstory for this perfume concerns the writer Philip Sava, whose exotic travels spawned many famous novels. The author has retreated into hiding on his ranch in Madagascar to avoid fans and publicity.

“Who needs love when there is still cognac in the glass?” -Philip Sava
Notes  in Memoirs Of A Trespasser are Madagascar vanilla, guaiacwood, myrhh, benzoin, resin, ambrette seed, and oak barrels. This is the vanilla entry to the Imaginary Authors line. The opening is pure vanilla but almost immediately the perfume goes darker with the addition of guaicwood. I love vanilla, even sweet gourmand vanilla, but it can have the effect of making me crave cupcakes!  So I love getting my hit of vanilla without the sugar shot. The addition of myrrh and benzoin make Memories Of A Trespasser even creamier without veering into sweetness. Ambrette seed is ued to add a richness, both sweet and nutty to the fragrance, as well as give a cognac smell. 

This perfume reminds me a little of Serge Luten Bois de Vanille, but if SLBdeV  is the guy at the bar commanding everyone's attention through loud talk and showy demeanor, Memories Of A Trespasser is the nice guy sitting at the end of the bar who is more interested in getting to know you than in trying to impress . This is a nice mellow vanilla that would be great on a guy, but I love wood and resin notes so I also love it on myself. The fact that it is more woody than sweet makes it a great pick for males, but if you're like me and don't fancy overly sweet vanilla perfumes, give Memoirs Of A Trespasser a try.

These two are the most gourmand leaning fragrances in the line of the ones I've been able to try and both are very well done and enjoyable to wear. To read the other reviews see Part One and Part Two.

Top painting vintage Al Parker. Bottom photo vintage travel poster on Google. Samples my own.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Imaginary Authors, Part Two

The scents I'm reviewing today are the ones I consider the "manly" ones. I don't shy away from wearing some men's scents but I would consider these Imaginary Authors perfumes on the more masculine end of the spectrum. 

Cape Heartache

“If you are looking for the pieces of a broken heart, you might try rifling through the twigs and needles on the forest floor.” - Philip Sava
Picture a cabin with smoke curling from the chimney in the depths of a dark forest, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. This is the inspiration for Cape Heartache. Its list of notes are indicative of a woodland stroll; fir, pine, hemlock. But there is one note on the list that is out of context: strawberry. The first time I tried Cape Heartache I smelled the forest with the pine needles and firs. The smoke smoldered softly in the background like a campfire burning low but I never smelled anything remotely resembling a strawberry. Skin can be fickle, though, so I thought I'd give it another try. This time I smelled the whole cabin in the woods scene but I also got the faint whiff of strawberry. On my skin it is very quiet and gives the fragrance a slight lift or lightness, but the note flits in and out. I don't know if this is a big strawberry note on others but on my skin it is a background note, just adding a creaminess to the pine and fir notes which take precedence. The notes are interesting in that they seem to appear, disappear, then reappear; first woody notes taking center stage, then the smoke, and then the interesting berry note. I enjoy this more every time I wear it. I find it likable and an unexpected combination of notes. 

The Cobra and the Canary

This perfume starts out dark and woody and the smell reminds me of vetiver, but as this note is not indicated I believe it may be how I am interpreting the hay and orris. The Cobra and the Canary smells dry, a little muddled, and earthy on my skin in the opening stages. About thirty minutes in the lemon note brings a brightness to the scent.
“We were driving faster than dammit, headed due west for a place called Anywhere But Here.” - James Spundt
Notes of leather and tobacco flower add a softness and slight sweetness as the formula settles into the skin. A note of "asphalt" is listed and contributes to the story of two farm boys who take a road trip to California, zipping past the hay fields on the country back roads in a fabulous antique roadster. The perfume actually lives up to the story line with the smell of hay, old leather car seats, and the hot pavement spooling a ribbon like path to the big world beyond the border of  their little town. About an hour into the wear the harsh opening has totally disappeared and the scent is smooth and warm as a sunny day in the country.

Bull's Blood

Josh makes the statement on his website that he views "scent as art and art as provocation." The scent Bull's Blood provoked one of the most extreme reactions I've ever had to a perfume, so in that regard he achieved his purpose!
“A man who has killed is a man who knows passion.” - Devante Valéreo
Have you ever tried a perfume that left you feeling deeply unsettled? Here is a podcast for you science geeks that discusses what makes scent memories so emotionally evocative. Often the memories are pleasant flashbacks to childhood; I've experienced a few of those. This was the first time that the memory was a dark one. When I first smelled Bull's Blood its opening was cold, metallic, brash, a bit astringent, and yes, there was a slight metallic ting reminiscent of blood. I had a visceral feeling of dread, then suddenly my mind flashed to an incident in my childhood that I had not thought of in decades. I was at my church on Wednesday night for children's choir practice. For some forgotten reason I stayed later and was alone, going down a dark cement stairwell. I tripped at the top and literally bumped down each step on my chin, leaving a smear of blood staining the steps from top to bottom. I remember the acrid smell of the blood, the warmth of it down my dress front, and the awfulness of my face glimpsed in the mirror  when I went to grab some paper towels to stench the flow and clean up the mess. (My Mama trained me well!) The memory was so strong that I've been unable to try the perfume again, even though I very much doubt I would have a repeat reaction! This is why I say Imaginary Authors perfumes did provoke an extreme reaction in me, even if it was not perhaps the expected reaction.

All this is not to say that the scent smells bad in any way. The imaginary novel is a lurid tale of seduction set in the world of the Spanish bullfights.  Bull's Blood accurately dipicts the dusty arena, the fierce, sweaty, animalic smell of the angry bull,  home rolled cigars, and a floral rose note drifting from the ladies in the stands. The rose is pretty much subdued by the dust, dirt, and animal fur. Floating above all of this is the disturbing (for me) smell reminiscent of blood. Josh calls it Bulls Blood and why not? He has certainly created that effect. Is this a perfume that I personally could ever wear? Never, it leaves me feeling very uncomfortable. But as an art concept it is a fascinating journey into the artistic mind and creativity of Josh Meyer.  If you read reviews on Fragrantica there are extreme reactions, positive and negative, to this perfume, so even though my reaction would not be common, it does seem the most provocative of the line. 

Notes listed are patchouli, rose, costus root, tobacco, black musk, and Bull's Blood, a veritable witch's brew. The patchouli is a particularly dirty fetid one, probably made more animalic by costus root, which can simulate fur or hair. Although Josh has created the bull fighting arena and performance with this perfume,  I could imagine another story concept that might fit the notes equally well. Imagine a vampire who has just risen from his moldy grave and goes in search of his first victim, the dirt still clinging to his cape.  A real Halloween scent! This really fired up my imagination!

To read other reviews see Part One and Part Three.

Painting above by John Zaccheo and can be purchased at Samples my own.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Imaginary Authors, Part One

Imaginary Authors was founded in 2012 by perfumer Josh Meyer and created quite a stir in fragrance-land with its unique narrative approach. These pseudo books have a vintage vibe, as if riffing from The Great Gatsby or The Grapes of Wrath, and the fictitious authors have an interesting backstory. A perfume is built around each story and as an avid reader and perfume lover I was SO the demographic to fall for the whole Imaginary Authors concept.  The descriptions of the various authors and books were so catchy that one would like to believe they might really exist.  Olafactif and Perfume Polytechnic did great interviews with Josh when he first hung his shingle on the web. I highly recommend reading them for more information on an interesting perfumer and how he got his start. In Josh's own words:
"Imaginary Authors is born from the concept of scent as art and art as provocation. Like a good book, these scents are meant to inspire you. In these bottles are layered narratives that are sure to generate stirring conversation, fragrances that might be capable of changing the course of your own personal story. the hope is that they not only invigorate and intoxicate, but also take you to new places." 
I'm all about the journey, so for me it's easy to fall for Josh's world of Imaginary Authors.

Falling Into the Sea

When I first apply Falling Into the Sea  I get a burst of pickle! Then it's gone so quickly I'm not sure it was there. Their is a slight ozonic feel. This is a summer beach scent but to me it doesn't speak of manicured sand beaches, tanning beds with navy and white striped cushions in neat tailored lines, and the smell of Bain de Soleil wafting on the breeze. This feel like an actual beach you come across on a hot drive from Naples to Pompei. Pulling your convertible to the side of the road you hike down the hill of scrub bush and lemon trees to a deserted beach for a refreshing dip. There is a slight sourness wafting in the air, as the tide washes in seaweed and a piece of driftwood to the hot golden beach. The smell of jasmine blossoms from a distant shrub cast a diaphanous veil, floating in the warm salt air.
“Caught in the undertow of his salty lemon lips I caught myself drifting helplessly into a soundless summer unconsciousness.” -Nica Gala
Listed notes are lemon, bergamont, grapefruit, lychee, tropical flowers, and warm sand. I don't really smell the bergamont and grapefruit very much. The lychee is the note which is giving it a piquant, sometimes slightly sour smell. The tropical flowers are jasmin centric to my nose. While this perfume has some notes in common with other beach perfumes, it feels more original like this beach is a wilder, undiscovered place.

Violet Disguise

“Invigorated by the reckless blooms of spring she took to the street like a blossom on the breeze.” - Lenora Blumberg
Violet scents are tricky for me and I don't seek out this note in perfume. Violet notes come to my skin to die, so in the opening all I get is a muted dusty floral with a plum note, nothing very distinctive. About fifteen minutes in I begin to be able to distinguish the violet and plum. This violet is not the powdery violet I am most accustomed to and it morphs into a pleasant floral. An hour into wearing the perfume the bottom notes of amber and balsam, two notes that love my skin as much as violet hates it, are now joining the party and have pretty much put violet and plum on the sidelines. The amber and balsam smell very nice and I like this stage of  wear. 

Listed notes are plum, violet, dried fruits, balsam, amber, evening air, and the month of May!

The Soft Lawn

“They hopped the fence of the Governor’s Mansion, laid side by side on the cool grass tennis court, and invented constellations until the sunrise usurped their astral empire.” -Claude LeCoq

The Soft Lawn is a green scent of sorts, but not a dark green galbanum powerhouse. This pale green scent opens with linden blossom which imparts a refreshing and slightly sweet presence.  Laurel and ivy leaves make a soft green bed to support the linden. Vetiver gives a slight woodiness to the perfume as it develops. After about an hour the perfume stays fairly linear--a soft green with the slightly woody heart (which translates into the clay tennis courts of the vignette). This is cheerful and unassuming fragrance and like many in the line, very original. It captures a softer side of green.

Listed notes are linden blossom, laurel and ivy leaves, vetiver, oakmoss, fresh tennis balls, and clay court.

To read reviews of other perfumes in the line see Part Two and Part Three.

Top photo National Geographic, bottom photo vintage Life cover. Perfume samples my own.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Prada Infusions: Part Two

I reviewed my favorites of the new Prada Infusions here.   In today's post I will talk about the other new additions or revisions to the Prada Infusion line of perfumes. Infusion d'Iris was the original perfume that launched this line and it has been very successful. In this revamp of the Infusions, Infusion d'Iris has been reintroduced and I hope they haven't changed the formula as I loved it in it's original form. I have tried the new one and I can't detect a difference, but my bottle of the original formula is back in Texas so until I can compare the old and new versions I cannot absolutely satisfy myself that there is no change. Infusion d'Iris is a beautiful perfume and my favorite of the line.

Infusion de Fleur d'Oranger

I didn't try the 2009 limited edition when it came out so I don't know if there has been a substantial change in the formula, now that it has been added to their permanent line. I was not that excited about trying this because I already have so many other orange blossom fragrances in my collection, but after living in Fleur d'Oranger for a day I may have changed my mind.

The fragrance goes on in a diaphanous shower of orange blossom. Background characters include touches of jasmine sambac, tuberose, and just a slight touch of neroli which shows no soapy character on my skin.  The scent is light and realistic, and it really gives the sense of a lovely orange  blossom scented breeze.. Somehow perfumer Daniela Andrier manages to keep the scent sheer and ethereal while maintaining the tenacity of the fragrance, and this is what distinguishes it from my other orange blossoms. The orange blossom perfumes that I own tend to be powerhouses like Elie Saab, and though they are very beautiful, this one has a delicacy that is very appealing. I can see this being a lovely bridal perfume.

Infusion d'Iris Cedre

Out of all the new Infusion perfumes this is the only one that feels like a flanker. There is an orange note momentarily in the opening. The listed note is neroli but it came across as mandarin to me. Very quickly there is woody cedar, next comes the iris, then after further development the benzoin gives it a darker balsamic feel. The perfume has a similarity to Infusion d'Iris but the cedar makes it much woodier and it doesn't have the suede like smoothness.  The longer it sits on my skin the more I can see the similarities in the two perfumes. I like Infusion d'Iris Cedre but I prefer the original Infusion d'Iris. This one also faded more quickly on me.

Infusion de Vetiver

The limited edition of this scent was introduced in 2010. It features vetiver, ginger, neroli, bergamot, and supposedly rose, though I never smell it.  When I tried it Infusion d'Vetiver I smelled traces of smoke or tobacco, perhaps from the vetiver. It smells very fresh and leans a little masculine. It is nice but doesn't feel very different or original compared to the others in the line, however that's just personal taste talking. If you love vetiver it may be fabulous on you.

I sampled these at Tangs Singapore. The photo is from the Prada website.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fragrant Almond Cookies

Yesterday's post on Prada Infusion d'Amonde left me craving my favorite almond cookies. The perfume has such a yummy almond smell that nothing would satisfy but a bite or three of this almondy dough and a few of these cookies. They smell nice and each bite will give you an almond burst.

Fragrant Almond Cookies

1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 Tablespoon water
Chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease lightly. 

In a bowl mix butter, sugar, and almond extract. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the mixed dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture in large spoonfuls.

Roll small balls of dough and place on cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass. Bake 7 minutes. Take out slightly earlier if they start to brown at all. They should not be brown, even on the edges. Let sit on the pan until cool.

Mix the icing ingredients together. Adjust consistency if needed by adding slightly more sugar or water. Drizzle across the top of the cookies. Top with chopped almonds.

Hint: If you don't eat these immediately, refrigerate them. They are good straight out of the refrigerator.

I have gained a new admiration for the bloggers who have the beautiful food photographs. It's not easy! Trust me, these taste better than my picture looks.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Prada Infusion d'Oeillet and Infusion d'Amande

The luxury Italian brand of Prada announced last year that it would be making the Infusion fragrance collection a permanent part of the line, revising their former limited edition status.  They planned to reintroduce some of the previous and presumably more successful scents, and in addition would be adding three new scents to the line. After the announcement, the perfumes were not immediately available. This was done purposely to build anticipation, in what the industry terms "a slow launch". As best I could tell, the perfumes were initially only available in some European markets and those launches began last May. Here in Singapore I got my first glimpse of the bottles about two months ago at Tangs department store, and I just noticed that they now are on the Saks Fifth Avenue website in the USA. I love Prada Infusion d'Iris so I was eagerly anticipating these new perfumes. I've been a bit disappointed with some of the past offerings; I had high hopes for Tubereuse, the limited edition for 2010, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Perhaps I was just judging each new entry by the standard set by Infusion d'Iris, the original entry to the line in 2007 which I think is a classic in the making. Infusion d'Iris, Infusion de Vetiver, and Infusion de Fleur d'Oranger have been reintroduced. There are three new perfumes added to the collection: Infusion d'Iris Cedre, Infusion d'Oeillet, and Infusion d'Amande. Today I will be talking about my two favorites from the new introductions: Infusion d'Oeillet and Infusion d'Amande.

Infusion d'Oeillet

Carnation has a reputation of being a fuddy duddy sort of scent, old fashioned and a bit boring, but the flower has recently gotten some attention from perfumers and after years of dormancy there have been a sprinkling of new introductions featuring the note. I wanted to see how Prada would lighten and enliven carnation to make it fit the transparency and delicacy which are the trademarks of the Infusion line. 

The initial spray is full on fresh carnation. I find carnation to be a happy scent.  It gives me the same feeling of crisp clean freshness that I get from lavender, although the notes don't resemble at all. Next up are the cloves and they add quite a bit of spice. I get the smell of carnation, cloves and a bit of pepper for around an hour, then it starts becoming a bit deeper with the floral less defined. Patchouli and sandalwood take the carnation to a deeper place but it is very softly done. The juice in this bottle is a pretty translucent pink, and that pretty much signifies how the carnation presents itself. Although the initial spray has presence, it is overall a quiet refined scent. The carnation may start out a red watercolor rendering but Prada introduces a transparency, as if a brush loaded with water swiped the red flower and dilutes the color to a paler pink.  I appreciate carnation and I like the softness of this perfume so it may turn into a buy for me. Although the scent is lightly done I still think you would need to have some appreciation for carnation to enjoy this perfume.

Prada Amande

My first impression of Prada Amande is the bitter almond note. Almond is a funny note for me. I occasionally like it but more often than not I can't abide it, so I had no expectation that I would like this perfume. But within moments of application  it becomes a delectable doughy almond batter of fluffy goodness. Heliotrope gives a soft powdery smell to perfumes, and favored combinations include almond and tonka bean, both of which are found in this perfume. There may be a touch of iris but I don't see the note listed. The sensation is almond, creamy tonka and a light floral. It feels simple and linear but I can't stop smelling my arm. The description makes it sound heavily gourmand but it is not. Of course the almond gives it a foody feel but it is pretty, unique, and displays a light transparency. 

The weightlessness of Prada Amande makes this feel suitable for approaching warm weather but I can also picture this fragrance feeling perfect around Christmas, when perfumes reminiscent of the smells of the season seem so right. For me, Prada Amande is a big win for the Infusion line; it perfectly fits the style but offers an ingredient not so commonly available in perfumes. I think the Prada publicity shots pictured here also do a good job of displaying the feel of the perfumes. They feature pale pretty bottles, watery images and soft florals, which is a good summary of what the Infusion line offers

Apologies, I can't figure out how to get accent marks to work so the perfume names are lacking the proper lettering.

Photos from the Prada website. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Manuel Canovas Nuit de Serendip Candle

Manuel Canovas is a French brand known for exquisite textiles celebrating eighteenth century French style with vibrant colors and modern interpretation. In addition to fabrics for upholstery and curtains the brand has branched out to various luxury home goods. Probably the only thing in the line I can afford are the deeply scented candles. La Maison Manuel Canovas was founded in 1963 in Paris.  Mr. Canovas is inspired by journeys to exotic locations and beautiful gardens, and these travels have influenced his line of candles. The candle I'm reviewing today is Nuit De Serendip.

Serendip is an ancient Arabic name for the island of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and the first recorded use was in 361. The most familiar use of the word is serendipity which was coined by Englishman Horace Walpole in the eighteenth century and was inspired by the Persian tale, "The Three Princes of Serendip". The princes in the story traveled the world, "making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of...”.  In more recent times serendipity is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as "the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident.” To read an interesting article on serendipitous medical discoveries, including penicillin and Viagra, read this. To read a version of the tale that inspired Walpole to invent the word serendipity read this. To those wondering if there is actually a scent review coming, forge onward!

I imagine that the ancient island of Serendip is what inspired Mr. Canovas in the naming of this candle. I have only been to Sri Lanka once. It was in 1988 and during the long civil war between government forces and the Tamil Tigers, which ran from 1983 until 2009. My husband and I flew through Sri Lanka because we were on a remote island in the Indian Ocean and transiting Sri Lanka was the most expedient way to get to India. We had a two day wait in Columbo for our flight connection. We were two of about five non locals on the flight, and upon landing the waiting room of the airport was loud with salesmen trying to convince you to come to their hotel. We chose Mount Lavinia Hotel, a 200 year old Colonial historic structure, and took a rather scary drive to the hotel under police escort. We only saw about eight other guests in the two days we were there but the absolute gentleman of a manager made sure we were comfortable. I asked why they had so many employees bustling about, an inordinate number who were polishing brass door knobs, and he replied wryly, "We're just trying to keep them employed." I am happy that the country has had such a tourist renaissance in the last few years and I so want to go back. We were not allowed to leave the hotel grounds so we spent two days laying by the pool on a bluff overlooking the ocean, surrounded by flowering frangipani, jasmine, and gardenia. The tropical smell was beautiful and made it hard to believe what disaster lay outside the guarded gates.

So finally, to the candle. Nuit de Serendip is scented with freesia, tuberose, jasmine and orange flower. Together these blend to give the fragrance of lush gardenia. Gardenia cannot be distilled easily so perfumers may use other white flowers to replicate the scent. I've found that white flowers do generally smell more lush and voluptuous at dusk, after the sun has set. This scent transports me to tropical shores and it is so rich that it might be one you want to burn for special nights. Manuel Canovas candles are a luxury brand and are priced as such, but they do have a more lasting fragrance than you will find with cheaper candles. The candles come with a gold lid which if you forget to put it on when you're not burning the candle, you'll find you can smell even the unlit candle. The candles can be found in the USA at and

Top photo my own. Photo of Mount Lavinia Hotel on Google. Photo of candle from Manuel Canovas.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Annick Goutal's Rose Perfumes

Rose Absolue

The house of Annick Goutal Paris introduced this rose in 1984. Things were simpler then. It was okay for a rose perfume to just be a rose. This perfume is comprised of roses from Turkey, Bulgaria, Egypt, and Morocco, as well as Rose de Mai and Damask Rose. It is a beautiful true rose fragrance but if you're looking for more than that you'll be disappointed. Those who love rose and find it a calming, beautiful fragrance can appreciate this one as a high quality representation of the flower. 

Rose Splendide

This rose was introduced in 2010 and at the time its scent was said to mirror the fragrance found in Annick Goutal's lovely luxury skin products. The Annick Goutal website describes the scent: "A bucolic walk in the garden drenched with morning dew. A rendering of the flower's soft and fresh, green and musky facets." It's true that this is a very fresh, green rose and never ventures into the opulence of a "bedroom" rose. The first few minutes on my skin Rose Splendide presents as very peppery and vibrant. It is fresh and appealing but I'm left a bit mystified as pepper is not listed as an ingredient in the perfume. Perhaps it is just how the greenness manifests itself on my skin. In any case the perfume evolves to smell like the leaves, branches, and twigs on the rose plant. The green holds court for a short time and then the rose scent itself makes an appearance. This is described by others as a pink rose, as it's more like a soft tea rose rather than a rich red winey rose. It is a very different take on rose and is appealing enough that I've considered buying a bottle. On Fragrantica people mention all sorts of notes, so this one may be best tested before buying.

Rose Pompon

This is the newest rose by the esteemed French house. The perfume was created by Camille Goutal
and Philippine Courtiere and released in 2016. It is classified as a fruity floral and the ads seem directed toward a younger market. The bottle is sweet with its pretty pink juice.

The fragrance opens with a fruity freshness, featuring notes of raspberry, black currant and pink pepper. The rose appears, plus the addition of peony adds to the sweeter, younger appeal. The fruit is subtle. This isn't the fruit blast of some more mainstream brands to be found on department store counters, but for Annick Goutal, this is much closer to mainstream fragrances than they've ventured in the past. But never fear, this is the house of Annick Goutal after all, and it keeps within the bounds of good taste and never comes close to being a sugar bomb. There is a soft musk drydown, mixed with the fading rose and fruity notes. This is very nicely done for the fruity floral family but is still a little sweet for my tastes, but then, I'm definitely not the demographic they are aiming to appeal to with this fragrance.

Ce Soir Ou Jamais

Ce Soir Ou Jamais (tonight or never) was created in 1999 and the main note in this perfume is an opulent Turkish rose. My husband once brought me home a little vial of rose essence he bought at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and this perfume replicates the richness and the deepness of that rose scent. It has added notes of hibiscus and ambrette. I have no idea what hibiscus smells like as any I have been around are scentless. The ambrette adds a warmth and further depth to the perfume. Some people talk of a boozy opening when describing this perfume, and it does have that red wine feel through the richness and slight fruitiness of the rose note.  This perfume has excellent longevity on me. A full 24 hours later I can still smell a strong rose note if I put my wrist to my nose. Annick Goutal scents sometimes have a reputation for going off at a fairly young age. I can't speak for all the scents but my bottle of Ce Soir Ou Jamais is ten years old and still going strong. This is my favorite of the roses listed here and the only one that I own a full bottle. This is the prettiness of Rose Absolue with an added omph, but it never gets too complicated and it projects rose, rose, rose. It's definitely worth a try if you enjoy rich rose scents.

Top photo unknown source on Google. Other photos from Annick Goutal website.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Cartier La Panthere: A Sophisticated Gardenia

When La Panthere was introduced in 2014 the bottle itself created a lot of the initial buzz. Cartier uses the panther as a brand symbol, and an angular panther face can be seen on the bottle. If the message was that this perfume was feline and a bit wild, the juice inside did not disappoint.  In a year when so many new perfume introductions were sweet and fruity, Le Panthere stood out as a serious scent.

La Panthere is a modern chypre . Chypres are the grande dame of the scent world, at least in my opinion.. They reek glamour and class. They speak of the days when people didn't have rules about wearing perfume in an office space, when fashion houses rather than celebrities drove the sales and trends in fragrance,  and when elegance spoke more of creating mystery than revealing all and leaving nothing to the imagination. Chypres have been a somewhat endangered species with the IFRA restrictions on oakmoss, but recent advances have removed the forbidden  molecules while maintaining the integrity of the oakmoss accord. Chypres are typically composed of five elements: citrus, floral, woody, oakmoss and amber/musk. Mossy and animalic, this fragrance family is meant to roar,  I think La Panthere growls more than roars but it definitely has a presence. Those who have never worn chypres may find this fragrance surprising, but it would be a good and slightly gentle introduction to the chypre family.

From the first spray La Panthere reveals itself as an alluring fragrance, ready to charm and possibly to seduce. The perfume opens with a fizzy burst of warmth, generated by the addition of bergamont. It's bergamont that gives Earl Grey tea its delightful tang, and here it makes the opening warm and sunny. Chypres often use the more traditional notes of rose or jasmine as the floral element but perfumer Mathilde Laurent chose to highlight gardenia as the focal flower for La Panthere. This is not a soliflore gardenia--dewy green and tropical, but a fantasy gardenia giving a crystallized portrayal of the flower.There is a fizzy effervescence to this fragrance and I get a mental picture of a champage bottle spraying out showers of gardenias. Very quickly this brightness is shrouded by a dark cloud of musk and oakmoss. Although listed as base notes, I feel their presence very early in the unfolding of the perfume's presentation. This bright/dark contrast is an element found in chypres.

Cartier lists top notes of rhubarb, strawberry, and dried fruits, and in the opening moments I do get a sense of these notes, but it is fleeting and momentary.  The base notes are oakmoss, musk, patchouli, and leather but they are so expertly blended that they make a thick gorgeous broth with no one note standing out. Leather is not a note I normally seek out in a perfume, but when added with a delicate hand as it is in La Panthere, it imparts subtle elegance. The sillage is excellent and I can still make out the scent several hours after application.

I chose this vintage photo of Marilyn Monroe because to me she illustrates the glamorous feeling of wearing La Panthere.  The gardenia note seems as elegant as her white satin dress and the fur (not promoting fur, mind you!) captures the musk and light animalic notes present which wrap the wearer of La Panthere in a purring warmth. If you're a gardenia lover this is an unusual interpretation of the flower, and if you haven't particularly loved gardenia in the past you may still love this one if you're a fan of chypres. 

Photo of Marilyn source unknown. Cartier bottle from Cartier.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What I Wore: To A Bali Yoga Retreat

Last weekend I attended the Bali Spirit Festival in Ubud, my absolutely favorite place in Bali, and maybe the world! There were several stages with various programs going on at once; yoga, dance, meditation, lectures, and musical programs that continued into the night. I was mainly there for the yoga, and also for people watching. As you might imagine, there were some colorful and interesting folks in attendance. Ubud is a center of restaurants with healthy organic foods and the choices were amazing. There was a hippie vibe and unwashed bodies so naturally I needed perfume!

My perfumes had to be either small sample sprayers or tiny bottles as I always attempt to travel light, so this automatically restricted my choices. However I was able to come up with a good selection to get me through the weekend. 

When I purchased a full bottle of Mexican Vanilla from Dame Perfumery, Jeffrey Dame generously loaded my package with samples and one of the sprays was Lime, Gardenia, and Benzoin. This is a deceptively simple thing. The first spray is of wet gardenia. After a few moments the lime appears but it is not tart, it just serves to blend with the floral note of the gardenia and accentuate the freshness. This is a light rendition of the gardenia flower and it was perfect for a hot, sweaty day of yoga, to waft a little bit more lovely. This is the perfect gardenia perfume for those who don't want to overpower those around them but love the gardenia scent.

My next choice was a tiny bottle (I own a full bottle) of Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia. Tuberose, called sedap malam in Indonesia,  are the ubiquitous flower of the island. There was a stalk in a vase by my bathroom sink and most hotel lobbies have a massive vase filled with the flowers. They are demure during the day but when they open in the evening the scent is sensuous and euphoric. Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia is not this smell. It is a lovely white floral, containing everything on the white flower bucket list: gardenia, tuberose, jasmine, neroli, orange flower and lily. But on me the gardenia is more present than the tuberose. I love tuberose and prefer my tuberose perfumes to be a straight up and strong rendition of the flower. But if you think of EL Tuberose Gardenia as more of a gardenia or white flower perfume, it is a lovely floral and I especially enjoy it on warm days in the tropics.

At night I wore Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black. I picture the perfume house creators, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, in some of their bohemian garb; they would have felt right at home at this Balinese festival. This was my choice for night wear and I really enjoyed it. The perfume starts on me with tendrils of incense. As there is no incense note listed I will assume that is an effect from the sandalwood. The violet-tinged vanilla is as soft as a cashmere shawl draped across your shoulders. The sandalwood melds with the violet and vanilla to give a woody, spicy vibe to the perfume. The wood and violet keep the vanilla from going too foody and sweet. The violet is very light on me, which is perfect since I like violet in small doses. I was surprised how much I enjoyed wearing this. It is extremely unisex.