Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sylvaine Delacourte's Musk Collection

January was a hard month for me and perfume. I was packing for a trip/move to Adelaide, Australia, my husband's home town which he hasn't lived in since the 1980s. In the midst of this I came down with a very nasty upper respiratory infection which left me feeling beyond miserable. Air New Zealand was going to charge me $1000 to change my ticket so I soldiered on, feeling appropriately guilty about infecting all of economy class. On boarding the flight I leaned my head against the window, determined to breathe only in that direction, when a young chap coughing like mad sat down beside me. Bless him! He and his coughing took all the attention that might have been directed my way for which I am forever grateful. I literally passed out, a first as I usually don't sleep on long flights, and 21 hours later I was in Adelaide. That was definitely a positive side to this otherwise bad experience.

As a result of being short of breath and congested I had zero interest in perfumes. I brought over a bunch of samples that I've had sitting around waiting to be tested, and knowing that the Sylvaine Delacourte line of perfumes were soft scents based on white musk I decided these were the perfect perfumes to ease myself back into scent. Ms. Delacourte had been with Guerlain for years, most recently as Director of Olfactory Evaluation (this sounds like some of the titles in Harry Potter --Advisor to the Ministry of Magic or Potions Master). She left over a year ago to start her own perfume line and will only serve in an advisory capacity for Guerlain.

It is easy to order samples from the Sylvaine Delacourte website and surprisingly inexpensive. They come in a neat presentation box and I decided to test the perfumes in the order they are arranged and to not read any of the website's helpful notes until after I had recorded my own reaction to the perfumes. Dovana, the first perfume in the presentation box, is gentle and pretty. In its simplicity it is different than what I usually reach for, but I am able to appreciate the fluffy, billowy scent, a bit like sinking down into the softest down pillow which is encased in a freshly washed crisp white cover. After experiencing the perfume I glanced at the website's description and in this case, my impressions were very close to what  Ms. Delacourte stated: "I wanted to be able to smell the fragrance of my childhood soap within this perfume. The color white describes it well, white being a symbol of purity and freshness." I like this one but it has shades of the original Clean Fragrances, which reminded me too much of soap powder. I like Dovana more than my memory of these scents but I guess soapy freshness is just not a smell I crave.

Next up is Florentina and at first it is slightly sharp and green with notes of bergamot, vetiver, and lavender, but it quickly turns gentle and powdery. To me this isn't a baby powder smell because notes of bitter almond and benzoin give it an interesting edge that reacts nicely with my skin. I finally read the copy and discover that the perfumer's aim was to provide a tender feeling with memories of her childhood talcum powder. As I stated, this is powdery, but it is a lot more interesting than just a strictly powder scent. Notes of iris and violet give it that French face powder scent, and the iris mixed with the bitter almond remind me of those pastel colored candy-coated almonds.

The powder note is soft, gentle, with a little sophistication. It certainly isn't Johnson's Baby Powder. This one wears even softer than Dovana on my skin but I much prefer it.

Smeraldo occupies the center slot of the five scents presentation box and it is to me the most neutral of the five. It is much fresher, and initially it has an invigorating edge. Then it settles down into a quiet musky gentle scent. It reminds me a little of MFK's Aqua Celestia  which I reviewed here, with its pale airy feel. I find I really can't identify any of the notes in this one so I look online. With Smeraldo the perfumer was trying to create the scent of  pure fresh morning air, and she also wanted to emphasize the freshness of plants against the softness of musk. She uses a lot of interesting notes to accomplish this: hawthorn, mastic, yuzu, angelica, rose, and cedar leaf. The effect is fresh and light and during the drydown the musk takes over and becomes the dominant note on my skin.

Lilylang smells slightly floral and a touch sweet on application. It isn't as fresh as the previous scents. In fairly short order a smell that I identify as "beach" appears, with that Bain de Soleil aura and it feels warm and sunny. Ms. Delacourte describes Lilylang, "It reminds me of my holidays on the island of La Reunion where I discovered ylang ylang, the perfect sunny flower. I wanted a fragrance that was a blend of skin and sand, heated by the sun." I find Lilylang to be a great addition to my summer beach scent repertoire, with its emphasis on ylang ylang making it slightly different from other beach perfumes in my collection. It is soft and on me, very much a personal skin scent, which means you could wear it in the cold, when you want to be reminded there will be days at the beach in your future.

Helicriss has a fresh stringency on first spray. It has that "summertime in the Mediterranean" vibe. Then a new note comes in that reminds me of maple syrup. From past experience I know this is probably immortelle, which on my skin always smells like an herbal maple syrup, slightly singed. This is a polarizing note which people seem to love or hate. I look on the website and see that Ms. Delacourte created Helicriss to remember summer holidays in Corsica and the welcoming smell of the scrubland, which indeed includes the immortale flower. Anyone familiar with the L'Occitane line will be familiar with this flower, which is the base of a line of skin care products due to the plants longevity properties. Other notes in the perfume are patchouli and frankincense resinoid, which give the perfume a mysterious and slightly exotic air.

Musk based perfumes are not a great love of mine (although they don't make me as cranky as Kevin over at Now Smell This) but I find the Sylvaine Delacourte scents to be well done and I particularly like Florentina. I also like Lilylang but I wish it had longer longevity on my skin. I know there is a big market out there of people who like quieter more subtle scents and if you fall into that category these are well worth your time to try, and ordering samples from the website makes it very easy and affordable.

Almonds from Other photos from the Sylvaine Delacourte website. I ordered my own samples.

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