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 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 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 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 website. Next photo from 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Berdoues Cologne Grand Cru, Part Four - Vanira Moorea, Selva Do Brazil, and Scorza Di Sicilia

Berdoues Vanira Moorea - This is the newest cologne in the Grand Cru collection, added this year. This perfume emphasizes a vanilla note, using vanilla harvested from Tahiti, and also features notes of orange and petit grain.  Moorea, the picturesque island for which this cologne is named, is only a short ferry ride from Tahiti. It's the place that has those beautiful over-the-water bungalows seen on travel posters, sandy beaches, and volcanic mountains. Berdoues says they have created  "a wild and sensuous vanilla with delicious addictive notes." I agree with the "delicious" notes comment. The vanilla is very smooth and a little sweet. The orange and petit grain combine to give it a very sniffable yummy creamsicle appeal. The orange and vanilla meld so well that it's hard to say one dominates the scent. I think the green and woody  properties of the petit grain help cut the sweetness. Years ago I used to enjoy wearing a perfume called Comptoir Sud Pacific Vanille Citrus and this has a similar vibe, except this is more transparent as it is a cologne. I really enjoyed wearing this.

The next two reviews are colognes which while very nice, didn't evoke a strong response in me. Scent appreciation is subjective as we all know so you may find these the best of the lot. In my case, I have other bottles in my collection that remind me of these, or they just weren't something I found unique.

Berdoues Selva Do Brazil - I approached this one with some preconceived notions of how Brazil-based scents should smell; like beaches with scantily clad bronzed bodies or tangy caprioscas and mojitos. But Berdoues chose the Amazonian rain forest as their fragrant cue, which makes perfect sense as it such an important geographical and historical part of Brazil.The perfumer Jennifer Riley said, "When I created Selva Do Brazil I had a vision of these moist, rich and deep notes that invite you to plunge ever deeper into the depths of the selva."

Selva translates to jungle, and the green leafy illustrated bottle indicates this is what to expect,  and herein lies my problem. Selva de Brazil starts out airy and green. The perfumes notes are Brazilian tonka bean, Paraguayan petit grain, and gaiac wood from Argentina. The perfumer was going for lush and moisture in the forest and has succeeded in giving that feel. I have a preconceived notion that it should smell more green, and I'm not really getting that note. The tonka bean is very mild and the wood never comes on strong on my skin. Petit grain is supposed to give a green floral note, but on my skin it is reacting more like neroli or orange blossom, and I think its that which is bothering me. On someone else's skin this may not happen. The floral smell is not necessarily a bad thing. It smell very good like a light and airy neroli scent. It's just that I was looking for a little more jungle. I would encourage you to judge for yourself, as it is a nice scent.

Berdoues Scorza Di Sicilia - This is a woody aromatic with a strong citrus opening. A Calabria lemon note is used to open this cologne and it is as aromatic as if you just zested a plump yellow lemon. The note is super bright and appealing. But citrus notes are hard to sustain, so the perfume moves on to the other two notes,  Virginian cedar and Indonesia vetiver. Perhaps it's my skin chemistry but these notes never develop much for me and within an hour I can hardly smell anything.

For more reviews of the Berdoues Grand Cru line see Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Five.

Photos from website. Samples my own.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Berdoues Collection Cologne Grand Cru, Part Three - Somei Yoshino

Berdoues Somei Yoshino is the brand's interpretation of the spectacular spring awakening of the cherry blossom trees in Japan. Somei Yoshino is the most prolific variety and the official tree of Tokyo, featuring a five-petaled flower with slightly-pink white blossoms. The perfumer Angelique Leporini said, "When I created Somei Yoshino, I wanted to express this unique annual spectacle orchestrated by Japan's cherry trees when they come out in blossom." I didn't have high expectations for this one, as my only familiarity with cherry blossom scents were versions from Jo Malone and L'Occitane, which while nice enough did not leave a lasting impression. Berdoues has used the shiso leaf to give a unique spin to their version of Japan's annual cherry tree show.

The cologne opens with a fresh, airy green scent but there is a fruitiness adding a touch of sweetness. The green is soft and reminds me of a candle I've purchased in "Bamboo" fragrance which had a calming, contemplative air. Shiso is a member of the mint family but mint's very distinctive smell is in no way present. Here shiso offers a green and woody note. The perfume initially stays green and slightly fruity. Jasmine is the second component of this scent but it is barely detectable. Normally jasmine likes to make her presence known and can take over a perfume but here the jasmine is as tightly restrained as an obi belt on a geisha's silk kimono. It is what is giving a slight, virginal floral note to temper the green note of the shiso. Jasmine can provide sugary, fruity, and opulent notes to perfumes in addition to its distinctive smell, and the perfumer has taken full advantage of this here. Indonesian patchouli provides the final of the three notes and provides a soft green musky basenote.

Out of all the Grand Crus colognes this was the one I was the least interested in trying, but now there is the very distinct possibility that I'll desire my own bottle of Somei Yoshino when winter has passed and spring is imminent. It is a really lovely cologne, and by using "lovely" I don't mean to brand it as feminine. All the Berdoues Grand Crus are totally unisex. 

Read more reviews on this collection at Part OnePart Two. Part Four, and Part Five.

Photo from website. Samples were my own purchase.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Berdoues Collection Cologne Grand Cru, Part Two: Arz El-Rab

Initially Berdoues Arz El-Rab did not excite my interest as much as the Assam of India reviewed here yesterday. The bottle, illustrated with the look of tree bark, was not nearly as appealing as cute baby elephants! And where or what exactly was Arz El-Rab? When I was on the Berdoues website page for Assam of India it had recommendations, one of those "if you like this than you'll probably like these too," and with what turned out to be great prescience it was suggested I might like Arz El-Rab and Oud Al Sahraa. How right they were.

But first, where or what is Arz El-Rab? Turns out it stands for Cedars of God, one of the last remaining stands of ancient cedars in Lebanon. So revered is the cedar tree as a historic symbol of Lebanon, it is featured prominently on the country's flag. Mount Lebanon once was covered with forests of  the grand trees but the deforestation started far back in ancient times.  There are numerous references to the cedar tree in the Bible: "The trees of the Lord are full of sap, the cedars of Lebanon, which he has planted." Psalm 104:16 NKJV. Cedar was highly valued for its fragrance and durability and numerous uses were made from its harvest, such as shipbuilding  and supplying roofs or doors for ancient temples. The resin from the tree is also highly prized for its scent, and also served the purpose of repelling insects or worms, which contributed to the wood's great strength.

Cedar was considered by many ancient religions to be the first tree of creation and thus specially endowed with healing properties. Its branches have been burned in healing or holy rituals for many hundreds of years. Some ancient civilizations believe the tall trees reached to the heavens absorbing cosmic energy which carried through the strong straight trunk into the ground, imbibing the whole area with a healing spiritual aura. What I do know is being in the presence of nature offers a renewing energy, and I guess ancient trees would symbolize the epitome of this concept.

Berdous Arz El-Rab perfumer Cyrill Roland describes the cologne: "It conjures up the sensation felt when you cross a cedar forest in Lebanon for the first time. It is a unique, almost magic sensory experience." Arz El-Rab is classified as a Woody Spicy scent and features notes of cedarwood, moroccan iris, and ginger.  Note that the cedarwood is Virginian, as the actual cedars of Lebanon are endangered and protected. The cedar is the centerpiece of the cologne and the other notes dance around it. The ginger gives a fresh, spicy, almost citrus zing to the opening of the cologne. On my skin the iris is fairly quiet, adding a dry austere elegance. The ginger continues to give a glow of energy to the more static cedar note. The scent imparts a grounded, comforting feeling, for me anyway. Perhaps this is the energy the perfumer was looking to provide with the inspiration of the Cedars of God.

I like Arz El-Rab very much. My only disappointment was the longevity was not as strong on my skin as it had been with Assam of India. However, the next morning there was still a very faint discernible trace.

For other reviews of the Berdous Grand Crus see Part One. Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five.

Top photo from Cedar Photo from Sample purchased by me.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Berdoues Collection Cologne Grand Cru, Part One: Assam of India

When I first saw the new collection of colognes from the French House of Berdoues I will admit that it was the cleverly illustrated bottles that peaked my interest. Especially this one. How could you not covet a bottle with colorful little elephants lined up tail to trunk? And the name -- Assam of India -- conjures memories of the most exotic, exciting, and occasionally infuriating country in which I've ever had the privilege to live.

My only familiarity with the house of Berdoues was their perfume created in 1936, Violette de Toulouse, which is still a reference scent for violet perfumes today. Berdoues is a fourth generation family perfumery but it is incumbent for fragrance houses to keep reinventing themselves to remain relevant, so last year they introduced  a collection of Eaux de Colognes. Each of the six colognes reference a country and emphasize three materials or notes. The collection is titled Collection Grands Crus in a nod to the Grand Cru designation given to superior wines.

These elephants were calling my name so this was the first cologne I sampled from the collection. Berdoues Assam of India cologne is a citrus aromatic with notes of Menton Lemon, Assam Tea, and Mysore Sandalwood. The cologne imparts the idea of a bracing cup of Earl Grey tea, although in this instance it is lemon and not bergamot giving the citrus blast. Menton Lemon is a variety known for having a bitter and particularly strong essence which yields intense aroma. The lemon note is quite strong in Assam of India and it melds with the rich black tea note beautifully.

The discovery of a single native tea plant in 1823 in the wilds of Assam by Scottish explorer Robert Bruce led to the British developing a huge tea industry in the fertile soil of the country. Tea crops were sent back to England to meet the growing desire for this beverage. One hundred years later, after India gained independence, the tea industry met with even more success and today Assam contributes about 25% of the world's tea. Assam tea has been described as bold, malty, and intensely black. To get the full flavor it is worthwhile to avoid cheap mass produced tea bags and go for the quality larger gold tipped leaves.

I remember going as a young girl to visit my grandparents who farmed a small plot of land and always had a cow or two roaming about. On our arrival my grandmother would brew up a bowl of inky black tea and pour two heaping cups of sugar in it to dissolve and cool. My mother had raised us to drink non-sweet tea flavored with fresh mint, so my grandmother's ice tea always tasted so intensely sweet that it made my teeth ache. But I can still remember the pungency of the black tea leaves as they hit the steaming water, and how the sugar somehow only seemed to intensify the black tea aroma. This was the black tea fragrance from my memory that  Berdoues Assam of India conjured.

Assam tea is distinctive because it is grown at lower elevations than are many teas, and it often planted along floodplains, which consist of fertile and nutrient rich soil. Because of these conditions Assam black tea is renowned for its briskness, which holds up well when taken as the British do with milk, or as the Indians do with added milk and spices to make chai. The briskness of the tea note is a distinct component of the Assam of India cologne  and pairs well with the sharp pungency of the lemon note. Mysore sandalwood is used as a basenote but I find it to be very faint. The strength of the tea note throughout hours of wear and its longevity is pretty amazing compared to other tea perfumes I've tried which tend to be fairly fleeting. However to enjoy this cologne you must love tea because it is the main story here. I find that when wearing the tea note as a cologne it can have a similar effect to a bracing cup of tea, whether you take yours iced or hot. I enjoyed wearing this cologne and I consider it a pretty good value as it comes in a 100 ml bottle for a reasonable price.

I will be reviewing the rest of the Berdoues Grand Cru colognes this week.

Sidenote: The Indian state of Assam is on the far eastern border of India, connected to the country by a narrow band of land  bordered by Bangladesh and Bhutan, with China and Myanmar as nearby neighbors. Border disputes with other Indian states as well as immigration issues led to the banning of foreigners visiting the area for many years. For an interesting account of a tea aficionado determined to view the Assam tea plantations in the mid 1990's read here. The author does an excellent and amusing job of relaying the challenges travel in India can entail if you depart from the five star hotel circuit.

For other reviews of the Berdoues Cologne Grand Crus see Part Two. Part Three , Part Four and Part Five.

I purchased my samples from Top photo from Berdoues website. Assam tea photo from

Sunday, September 4, 2016

DSH Perfumes Chroma Collection

DSH Perfumes Chroma Collection was first created by perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz in collaboration with the Denver Art Museum for an exhibit hosted in 2007. Over the years some new scents have been added to the series as Dawn has continued her exploration of pigment translated to smell. In addition to being a super talented perfumer Dawn is also an artist, and she discovered some years ago that she is synesthetic so it is a natural process for her to transition smells to colors and textures. Synesthesia is a phenomenon where stimulation of one sense is experienced jointly through another sense, in Dawn's case the intertwining of visual and olafactory sensations. This ability has led specifically to the Chroma series of perfumes which are based on various colors in the artist's palette. This is a large collection, and I will be giving just brief impressions of each of the perfumes in the line Some are old friends and others are totally new to me.

The Color Orange - There is an initial bright burst of orange, then some herbal notes come into play. This reminds me of how my skin smells when I've used a really good quality soap in the bath, in this case an orange scented one, and the clean aromatic layer of scent that melds into your skin.
Hansa Yellow - There is an immediate feel of fuzzy yellow flowers that almost makes me feel like I need to sneeze with spring allergies! Thankfully this is just a realistic impression of the yellow flowers and my nose remains clear to enjoy the smell of this perfume. The ylang ylang is the most present note on my skin. The jasmine is faint and the neroli is very tame. I smell the banana notes, but the lemon not so much. After a bit I get the sandalwood and vanilla notes but they are done with a light touch. This is a very spring like perfume to me and the notes seem to float. Later it goes into soft powdery notes which are muted on my skin. Dawn describes Hansa Yellow as a happy perfume and it does indeed give that feeling of lightness and well being.

Cyan - This opens as a translucent blue green fragrance with uplifting notes of linden blossom and chamomile. The linden blossom provides a light sweetness, tempered by the chamomile, as well as notes of yuzu and cucumber. Dawn was going for "ethereal" which she achieves through the use of airy notes, lightly applied.

Aquamarine Blue - The opening has a watery feel and displays that slight cucumber note you sometimes get with aquatics. There is a mineral tone to the watery notes as well as an overall feeling of airiness. This perfume feels ozonic and transparent to me and does feel like an interpretation of the blue sea, but just the water, without notes of suntan lotion, tropical flowers, or sun and sand elements which sometimes are found with this type of scent. As stated on the DSH Perfumes site, this wears more like cologne than perfume. After an hour or so of wear the musk note tends to dominate.

Blue-Green: Arnica  - On her website, Dawn identifies Blue-Green: Arnica as the "sense of atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest." This is also a watery perfume, but it is different in place from the Aquamarine Blue. While Aquamarine Blue feels more like the Aegean Sea, Blue-Green: Arnica is more akin to standing on a windswept beach with the cold moody ocean before you and a dark green pine forest at your back. The conifer note is present, but this is not a walk through the forest perfume. It just adds to the complexity and sense of place. There is also a trace of sweet lemon, which I think may come from the aglaia flower and petitgrain. This one has a nice dry down with a touch of pine cones and watery blue seas. I get good longevity and the scent stays true.

Veridian - Yet another green on Dawn's palette, this one is a forest green with no water to be found. I would love to know if green if Dawn's favorite color. She has so many green perfumes in her collection! I like this, but it doesn't beat out my favorite green of the moment in the DSH collection, Giverny In Bloomwhich is my green by which all other green perfumes are measured.

Quinacridone Violet - The DSH Perfumes website describes this as "an electric fruity floral fragrance." I get intense notes of jammy plum, quince, and the sweetness of dried fruits. This is a very foody scent on my skin. There are also notes of violet, osmanthus, and cassis bud. Violet is a note that usually doesn't work on my skin and tends to have a "plastic" smell. I think that is happening here because it never really gets beyond the jammy dried fruit stage on my skin.

Umber (Bois de Rose) - This perfume explores the deep, rich earthen tone of umber through a woody rose note. The rose is very subtle and comes across as dark and winey. Dawn was inspired by a Renaissance painting, The Tempest, and the moodiness and depth of color saturation is conveyed through the notes of the perfume. This would be a nice perfume to greet the cooler days of autumn.

Sienna - DSH Perfumes has several great Christmas season perfumes and this is one of them. Dawn takes sienna, a warm earth-toned pigment, and translates it to cinnamon. Although classified as a gourmand, I don't find Sienna to be overly foody. Notes of basmati rice and white oak wood soften the spice considerably. This could be a gateway Oriental perfume for those intimidated by that family of perfumes as it is soft, warm, and understated.

Mars Violet - This strikes me as a mulled wine smell when I first apply. The color on the bottle is a beautiful deep plum, a mixture of red and brown. There is a very faint sweetness to the perfume, but it is not overly fruity or gourmand to me.  Dawn calls it "fruit-chouli" because of the mixture of fruit notes with the earthy element of patchouli. Notes such as sugar date, balsam, plum, tonka, tobacco, sandalwood and oakmoss work together to keep the fruit from overpowering the earthiness of the perfume.

Albino (A Study In White) - Albino was a finalist in the 2016 Art and Olafaction Awards. With this scent Dawn explored the topic, "What is it to be without pigment?" Her inspiration was the albino raspberry, which shares the taste of its more colorful brethren but due to a recessive gene has a whitish appearance. The opening starts out citrus fruity and there is a moment when I get a strong sense of grapefruit pith. The overall feel is light and weightless, and there is no strongly identifiable note, which furthers the feeling of a blank slate.

And now for my two favorites from the line, one fiery hot, the other serenely cool:

Kohl Gris - From the first moment I apply Kohl Gris the scent begins blooming against the warmth of my skin and unfurls into smoldering spicy fire on a molten ambergris base. As stated earlier, violet does not perform nicely on my skin but the opposite is true of amber, a note which loves my skin chemistry. The menu of notes (and DSH perfumes often have a long list) reads like a grocery list of my favorites. Amber, sandalwood, frankincense, labdanum, clove tobacco, black pine, brown oakmoss...I could go on but there is not a note there that I do not love. This is one of my all time favorite scents to wear around Christmas. It speaks so much of the Christmas experience: warm fires, mulling spices, candlelit churches with incense, rich resinous gifts from the Magi. I eagerly await cold weather which is the backdrop this perfume needs to show off its full beauty.

Celadon: A Velvet Green -  the perfume is a light transparent green scent beautifully illustrative of the Chinese pottery for which it is named. Celadon pottery has a light jade colored shiny transparent glaze. The perfume Celadon is a translucent soft green scent, neither a watery or a vegetative green, but actually conveying the sense of coolness you get when touching the mirror like glaze on a celadon pot. The unique color is created in the pottery when iron oxide added to the glaze compound transforms during the kiln firing procedure from ferric to ferrous iron. Some similar osmosis happens with this perfume. On the one hand it exhibits a delicate translucence, then you notice the steely strength hiding in the depths of this fragrance, which Dawn calls "a soft and green variation on a chypre". Just like the pottery achieves its delicate transparency through the application of iron, this perfume has an edge of strength mixed in with the softness of its heart. The chypre effects are muted but give the perfume a stronger presence and turn it into something rather unusual and compelling. This perfume fades to a soft powdery green over time and I get very good longevity. Celadon is something special.

Thank you to Dawn for providing me with samples of the Chroma Collection. I own bottles of both Celadon and Kohl Gris. For more information on this collection go to DSH Perfumes.

Top two photos Third photo Kohl eyes photo from Celedon pot Google images.