Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Contemplative Perfume: Memoire Liquide Encens Liquide

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Silver Bells: Sparkling Perfumes To Wear This Christmas Holiday


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ballet Inspired Perfumes Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

Are there any other ballet inspired perfumes that you wear?

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

Saturday, December 3, 2016

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

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

Flickr Photo Lindz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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