Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Importance of Scent In A Challenging World

The year 2019 was a challenging one for me, and the first thing to go was my fragrance blogging. Health challenges had to be reckoned with and resulted in missing planned trips to renew old friendships. But the punctuation mark of sad tidings was the death of our beloved family pet Buffy right before Thanksgiving. Anyone who has had a loved pet in their life knows the particularly acute pain that loss can bring.

I knew the time was approaching to say goodbye to our almost sixteen year old dog, Buffy. She had Cushings disease which among other things was wasting away her leg muscles, extra sad because a Springer Spaniel's raison d'etre is the ability to perform twirling pirouettes of joy in midair with three feet of air beneath the paws. We had another year, I reckoned. I had planned the end. When she was no longer able to live her life we would gather around as she rested in her beloved and somewhat smelly bed and send her off in comfort, surrounded by love.

When you don't feel well the day-to-day bad news can drag you down more than usual, but one of the saving graces for me was an almost daily visit to online fragrance lover group sites, populated by people like me, who find beauty through scent and their sense of smell. The online fragrance community is such a warm and accepting group, at least on the sites I most often frequent, Eau My Soul  and Facebook Fragrance Friends.  Random acts of kindness are frequent. In fact, in totally coincidental timing, right after dealing with the death of my pet I won an extremely generous RAOK set of samples from a member on EMS, which she had put together to honor her friendship with the late Robert Herrman, a beloved member of the fragrance community and a writer for Cafleurebon. 

In the last year Buffy's hearing and sight had become compromised. On walks, the squirrels which she used to love to chase seemed to sense that she didn't see them anymore and would literally stroll across the path right in front of her. I wanted to get a slingshot and give them a thump for their disrespect towards my girl!

In a a world that is full of disheartening stories, seemingly insurmountable problems, and incivility like I've never seen in my lifetime, it is lovely to have an online place to go where you know people will be kind, and if they're not they will be summarily bounced out by the online moderators. Smell brings me so much joy. With a spray of  Estee Lauder Private Collection I'm that 29 year old young woman feeling confident and sexy in a leather skirt on my first date with that new Australian engineer on the sixth floor of my office building, not knowing he was my husband to be. Or a whiff of gardenia perfume reminds me of my mother, who planted a gardenia bush right outside the window in front of her kitchen sink so that she could gaze on it the rare times it bloomed in hot Texas summers, and  introduced me to that beautiful scent at a young age.

As her hearing and sight lost their power, Buffy's long nose only seemed to gain in power. Walks were no longer about exercise per se, but about just moving for movement's sake, and most of the journey was spent with her nose to the ground. Storms sometimes knocked branches from the upper heights of the trees we passed on our daily walks. These were of special pleasure, fulsome with the scent of squirrels who had frolicked in them, and were explored thoroughly as I patiently waited, happy for the joy these explorations seemed to bring.

We are lucky, those of us that for whatever reason have this desire to smell everything! Not only do we constantly seek to be delighted in the creativity of a new fragrance. There are cheap thrills a plenty; the scent of the fresh cucumber you cut for lunch as the knife pierces the skin, wild honeysuckle wafting from some unknown hiding place, or the first shovel of upturned earth in spring, after a cold winter. Finding beauty in the everyday and finding people who share that excitement is a wonderful thing.

Buffy's end was sudden, unexpected and not according to plan. Her body started swelling and she was in great pain, and a rush to the emergency clinic— it was night time— brought a diagnosis of twisted stomach, and at her age surgery was not really an option. I had to call my husband who was on a different continent and my three children who were by coincidence all in Dallas about an hour away. The veterinary had given her an injection which made her sleepy to keep her out of pain, and I waited for my now adult children to gather. They had grown up with Buffy, after all. They eventually arrived with their partners and my husband watched via Facetime as we faced this heartbreak together.

I am looking forward to getting back to writing in my blog in 2020, more for my own pleasure rather than that anyone is clamouring for me to do so. Dissecting beauty in scent is very meditative and calming to me, and I especially enjoy those times when I get to communicate with perfumers. All of those I've met or spoken to have been wonderfully generous people. Undoubtedly there will be new fragrances that will excite us this year. There will be scents of foods that will make our mouths water, and scents from nature that will bring us serenity and joy. May we experience that scent that reminds us of an absent loved one or takes us back to a happy memory in time. May we recognize how lucky we are to have the ability, because there are many who are oblivious to the importance of this sense and miss out on these charms.

Buffy's nose was her greatest asset to the end. I would like to think that in those final moments, even as she lay sleeping, that her subconscious recognized our scents and she knew we were there, that she felt the touch of our hands and it gave her comfort, and that she sensed the overwhelming love that filled that room, too big to be contained by mere walls. 

I look forward to interacting with you in 2020, sharing our new scented discoveries and rediscovering some of the old ones. Have a happy and safe New Year's Eve, and for my part, I welcome the fresh start of a new decade and year!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Histoires de Parfums Opera Collection - 1890 -Tchaikovsky's La Dame de Pique

Histoires de Parfums was founded by Gerald Ghislain in 2000 and his inaugural offerings were named after the birth year of various historical figures such as Casanova and Mata Hari. The boxes arranged side by side look like a library of scents, and since then he has added other characters to his scented collection such as Ernest Hemingway and explored other scented avenues. Most recently the brand has introduced five perfumes built around famous operas and named the perfumes after the date of their debut. This seems a good fit for Mr. Ghislain as he has a background prior to being a perfumer in producing Flamenco shows, and has other scents that reference the theater such as Moulin Rouge and L'Olympia Music Hall .

I have had a good experience with the perfumes of this house and I was eager to explore the Opera Collection. The first thing that struck me when opening my sample packet from Histoires de Parfums was the beautiful presentation, a rather weighty red box which just begged to be opened and explored. The minute I lifted the flap to reveal the samples, a beautiful and unabashedly strong blend of fragrances wafted up towards my nose, unable to be contained even though the hefty samples vials were tightly sealed.

I decided to first try 1890, which commemorates the debut of the opera La Dame de Pique (The Queen of Spades) by Tchaikovsky in St. Petersburg at the Mariinsky Theatre. The opera premiered December 19, 1890, and was such a resounding success that it remains in the theater's repertoire today. This is called Pitor Tchaikovsky's "dark opera", and this mood is caught by the perfume, 1890.

Tchaikovsky is flanked by the stars of his new opera, Nikolay and Medeya Figner, 1890.

From the first note this smells like French perfume. When I say something smells like French perfume I definitely mean it as a compliment, and to me this means the scent captures an air of sophistication, of honoring the past fragrance trends and not bowing to current passing fads. The collection of notes blend together seemingly effortlessly so that you don't think,  "That's a rose perfume." Rather each part is combined to achieve a greater whole; notes that when combined together soar and sing in a resounding chorus and become something greater than a singular stand-alone aria. The floral notes of orange blossom, rose, and jasmine in 1890 meld in such a way. Watch this scene as the heroine Liza and her friend Paulina share a song from the opera, combining two great voices, one soprano and one contralto, the different voice ranges complimenting each other and ultimately producing a sound more beautiful than a solo performance.

Histoires de Parfums says this about 1890:
1890 is the perfume of the Slavic Soul and the all-consuming passion for the Queen of Spades.With captivating smoldering wisps, Frankincense, Amber, Musk and Patchouli blend together like a seductive charm to which we willingly surrender.
Do you know that feeling when you walk into a theater for a big night out, be it a play, ballet, orchestra performance, or in fact the opera? When you walk into the lobby there is a hum of anticipation and as the performance draws near, a gong or bell draws the crowds through the doors into the interior sanctum of the theater. The best theaters draw a breath of awe from their audience. What might appear gaudy under daylight with bright red cushioned seats and gilded balconies, suddenly becomes a place of magic under glittering chandeliers and the dimmed theater lights. Mistakes and rough edges disappear and only enchantment remains.

When I first apply 1890 I get a rush of that anticipation; as if the scent is announcing a grand event like the first notes of the orchestra as they tune before the performance, and the audience readies.  This is not a perfume to wear in the daytime. It has a certain grandeur, like that moment when the velvet curtain parts to reveal the stage and you fall headfirst into another world. The first breathes of 1890 bring a honeyed orange blossom. Then the rose and orange blossom blend together with rich wine-like notes, their heaviness translating to a syrupy fortified wine or port. The jasmine has a touch of skank that at first made me assume there was civet in the perfume. These notes all wash over very quickly on my skin, even though they are the heart notes. There is a touch of dry leather buried under the cascade of deep ambered florals. These notes carry the chorus for some time, rising and falling in intensity.

Eventually the base notes of patchouli, amber, incense, and musk cast a provocative spell which echoes the passionate and ultimately unfulfilled love which runs through the storyline of Le Dame de Pique. The Histoires de Parfums site identifies 1890 as an oriental leather perfume and has this description: "Leather and Incense invoke an intensity of souls sensually smitten with loves twists and turns." As in most operas there is love, there is tragedy, and don't hold your breath for a happy ending. To summarize, in La Dame de Pique, poor young man with a penchant for gambling falls in love with engaged young woman. Young man and young woman fall in love. He accidentally kills her Grandmother, trying to drag the secret to her gambling success from her. Her ghost tells him the secret. He goes mad with gambling lust. Despondent young woman throws herself from bridge. Haunted young man soon joins her in death. The perfume echoes this solemn mood. The florals are not light and springlike but dark and teetering on the edge of decay. As the perfume wears well into the skin the base notes of patchouli, amber and musk dominate on my skin, with only a tiny whiff of incense. These notes, along with the jasmine and its slightly feral edge, mirror the play's message of the beauty of love and the danger that can destroy it.

I saw a review of 1890 somewhere that said as this was based around Catherine the Great's court and she loved roses, the perfume should have been an homage to roses. I always find it interesting to see how a perfumer will interpret a person, place, or event into scent, and although we might all have our own ideas, I can definitely see how 1890 takes a tragic play and interprets some of that somberness into a serious perfume. I found the perfume beautiful to wear but it does deserve the right occasion. It has a presence and if you don't appreciate that tiny sprinkle of skank in your perfume life you might find 1890 difficult to wear. I discovered for myself that with each successive wear I enjoyed the perfume more and more.

In the end, and this stage lasted several hours, I can still smell the ghost of the honeyed florals. The patchouli, amber, and musk work together quietly now to make a warm slightly spiced melange, with the occasional whiff of incense rising from the quiet remains. The skank note disappeared long ago and the scent feels comforting, but with a formal feel, a tailored cashmere coat rather than a casually drapped shawl.

I am looking forward to exploring the four remaining perfumes from the Opera Collection over the next few days so please follow if you would like to read more.

Top photo from Second Photo my own. Second is my own image, then Wikipedia image, image, and Google image.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Old Boyfriend Or New Boyfriend? Testing the Differences

Do you remember back in 2010 when actress Kate Walsh made a splash with her perfume Boyfriend? She was a regular on the very popular show, Grey's Anatomy, then got her own spin-off called Private Practice. The story goes that the idea for the perfume was born after a breakup, when she missed waking up in the morning having absorbed lingering traces of her ex's scent. Walsh was one of the few celebrities who really took her perfume debut seriously, going so far as to launch it herself, first on HSN, then Sephora. It was quite popular but eventually disappeared, more due to poor business decisions than lack of popularity. Then in 2018 Walsh decided to revive Boyfriend. 

I was curious if it was the exact same perfume because I've never read a definite answer. The perfumer is the same, Marypierre Julien. The notes look virtually the same. The original had plum, jasmine, lily of the valley, musk, woody notes, amber, and myrrh. The new version adds vanilla woods and benzoin, and takes away the musk. The biggest change is the marketing angle. The original played off the idea of wearing your boyfriend's perfume because you miss him, or it makes you think of him, and featured the tag line "wear him". The newer Boyfriend takes on a more modern attitude, with the line, "I'm the only one I need", and makes it her perfume. Personally I find the original concept a lot more appealing and certainly more romantic, but to each his own.

The original Boyfriend opens with rich opulence, which is interesting considering the original intent was to smell as if you had slept in your boyfriend's shirt, or absorbed some of his scent karma through touch, not directly spraying it on the body. But that first burst subsides from a roar to a steady hum. To me it smells like a man of successful appearance, and I picture him holding a glass of amber bourbon in a cut crystal highball glass, sitting on a plush easy chair of well worn grandeur,  framed from behind by shelves laden with books from floor to ceiling. In other words, my idea of a cozy scene. Boyfriend emits a smell of comfort and seems especially fitting for cooler weather.

The new Boyfriend goes on with a similar tone, but some of the richness is missing in the initial burst of scent.  It is still very cozy with its amber, vanilla, and benzoin notes, but it doesn't have the boozy swagger of the original. Perhaps this is an attempt to make it more hers, and not his. I would recommend the original to men as well as women, but the newer version lacks that masculine touch. This makes me picture a woman, or man, wrapped in a plush blanket, watching a movie on television or perhaps reading a book, cuddled down for the night. Still a cozy scene, but slightly less glamorous.

When I went to bed I thought the original was definitely the winner of the contest. But then when I got up the next morning I still had delicious lingering traces of vanilla and amber wafting up from the right wrist, but the left wrist with the original Boyfriend was silent. This could be to the fact that it's an older perfume, but in perfume years ten years shouldn't matter that much. I think if I rebought, and the only place I know to find the original is on Ebay, I would go for the newer version, just because it lingers longer. There are other perfumes that do what this does, wrapping the wearer in a warm vanilla/amber hug, but this is a good one to try if you are lacking that in your collection. Boyfriend is available at

Top photo Google image. Perfume samples are my own.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Kelly + Jones Introduces The Crush Collection

Kelly + Jones recently added two new scents to their collection of wine-inspired perfumes.  The Crush Collection features Bouquet and Vigne.  Bouquet is created to represent a Catskills and  Hudson Valley wine harvest, while Vigne moves West, calling to mind a California vineyard. Kelly Jones, the brand's founder, refers to herself as a scent sommelier, and started her brand to capture the nuances of a wine tasting in the art of perfumery.

Bouquet starts off with a watery feel that to me references the juiciness of the grapes. It is light, and initially reminds me a little of Caudalie Fleur de Vigne fresh fragrance spray. It  has notes of bergamot, orange wine, rose petals, rhubarb, and cedar. The bergamot doesn't stand out and there is no strong citrus component to this scent, however I do smell a bit of orange in the initial opening. It is not a juicy citrus-type orange, but rather more of a creamsicle smell.  I wasn't familiar with orange wine but it is a technique of leaving the white grape seeds and skins in contact with the juice, which in turn gives it an orange hue. It also is said to add flavor notes of peach or apricot, and intensify the floral notes in the wine. I get the merest whiff of rose petals but it doesn't translate into a "rose" perfume. What I smell most prevalently is a watery cucumber-like wetness which I believe comes from the rhubarb. It also throws a subtle strawberry scent. During the development I get a soapy smell on occasion.

Bouquet is a light scent but it does begin to develop a bit of muskiness, like the skin of ripening grapes. Overall the scent makes me picture round globes of green grapes, light and fresh tasting. It somehow gives the effect of the watery juice without veering toward sweetness. I was ready to write this off at first sniff, but it is one of those scents that keeps gathering steam, the longer it sits on your skin. If you're looking for wow factor or a big scent this won't be for you. But if you want to have a gentle green/floral/liquid scent that is mainly for personal wear...little discernible sillage...then this could be your cup of tea.

Vigne opens with a sharp note of blackcurrant. It doesn't display a big berry smell, it is more reminiscent of the vines, woody and green. There is a slight dusting of cardamom which adds a piquant bite to the muskiness. Notes listed are blackcurrant, petit verdot, cardamom, jasmine absolute, and California cypress. Petit Verdot can have nuances of black cherry, plum, lilac, sage, and violet, and in Vigne I sense a slight pluminess.

The scent winds down to the scent of California Cypress, a soft wood note that feels a little musky. There is Jasmine Absolute in the perfume but I don't get any of the pungent narcotic smell of jasmine. I'm guessing it is there to add a slight sweetness to the overall woodiness. The perfume doesn't feel floral, but more the woodiness of the tough curling vines and the muskiness that mingles with the leaves and the ripening grapes.

Both of these scents wear very lightly but I find the Vigne has a stronger scent profile, and for me, is more appealing to wear. It is subtle and quiet, but it has creamy aspects and a ripe, rich muskiness, which feels very apropos for autumn. The cardamom is subdued but adds a tinge of spice to the appealing musky skin scent, meant to be reminiscent of walking through the vines at the vineyard. Vigne reminds me a little of wearing fig scents, so if you enjoy those you should give Vigne a try.

I will be doing some more stories featuring the wine and perfume connection soon, as living part of the year near Australian vineyards is a big scent inspiration.

Pictures without identification are from the website. The perfume samples were my own.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Perfumes for an Indian Summer

Summer is over, or it should be. But here in North Texas we are still reaching temperatures of the mid-90's every day. It sounds like autumn....I live by a college football stadium and I can hear the band practicing in the afternoons, and the announcer's voice is crystal clear during the Saturday games, "And it's touchdown, T--C--U--!". But instead of bundling up in sweaters and taking a blanket to wrap around me while I watch the game, I'm spending the Saturday afternoons laying by my pool, trying to cool off in the sweltering heat, and pitying those poor band members in their heavy uniforms.

I'm sick of beach scents or tropical florals, but what to wear, fragrantly? It is far too hot to wear heavy Orientals or the favored aldehyde perfumes I drag out in winter. I search for perfumes that speak of the cooler temperatures to come and that give a hint of the autumn season, but do so with a featherlight touch, so as not to knock myself out. Here are a few perfumes I've been wearing lately.

Jo Malone Black Cedarwood & Juniper

This was introduced in 2014 as part of the annual Jo Malone limited edition and that year the theme was London Rain. Black Cedarwood & Juniper was meant to represent midnight rain and was the darkest of the four in the series. It was also the only one that was revived after the limited edition ended.

I am walking through a forest. It has rained recently, and the smell of the foliage is amplified, as it is wont to do when damp. The needles from the juniper bush and the cedar trees have made a thick, soft carpet underfoot and their sharp, fragrant smell is stirred up as my steps crush the foliage. Cedarwood has a distinctive smell I've known all my life. I think every Texas rest stop has a bush or two, and childrens summer camps, usually on the banks of a river, are dotted with old cedar trees. This smell is probably embedded into the olfactory memories of thousands of campers--a magical space free of parents, full of adventure, and in a bubble of this extraordinarily scented air. The cedarwood in the perfume has a bit of the pencil shaving smell, but is also camphorous, and at its best moments, slightly balsamic and sweet.

The juniper can smells a little like cedarwood but it also offers gentle wisps of incense from time to time. Although a fairly simple and linear scent, it does waft and wane with these different notes, just like what would occur in a real walk through the forest. There is a feeling of humidity and moisture in the air, a part of the original theme of this perfume which was meant to reflect a rainy day. Along with the heat Texas is experiencing a drought, so the aura of rain is a welcome one.

 Byredo Gypsy Water

Kate Moss in a fashion shoot for V Magazine.

I tried to resist Gypsy Water for so long. It has a reputation for being light wearing and short lived, but here's the thing. It is that very characteristic that is part of its charm and makes it so realistic of a commune with nature, or more poetically, a day in the life of a gypsy traveler.

The fragrance opens with notes of juniper and pine, reminiscent of a morning stroll through a forest. Lemon and bergamot give it a brightness and pepper adds slight sharpness to this fragrant air. There is vanilla in the mix but this doesn't present as a vanilla fragrance in any way; rather the note just adds a tiny touch of sweetness. Orris root, sandalwood, and amber round out the notes, but that doesn't explain how this smells.  When I apply Gypsy Water it takes me back to the long ago days when I used to go camping (when sleeping on the ground still seemed like a good idea). There is really nothing like waking up in the forest, smelling the air fragrant with the language of the trees. This is where the current idea of forest bathing came from, after all. The one note I didn't mention above is incense and it is this that elevates the perfume to perfection. It is not overly smokey but is quietly pervasive throughout the life of the scent. It is the scent of a campfire burning in the distance, maybe fueled by fragrant pine branches. Wearing Gypsy Water always puts a smile on my face and imparts a feeling of well being. I don't live near any forests and I'm not lucky enough to be able to take a hike through the woods, but with Gypsy Water, I can somewhat replicate that feeling. It feels like hope in a bottle.

Bond No 9 andy Warhol Lexington Avenue

Hello Autumn! This fragrance immediately takes me to a happy place where the weather is cool and crisp and the leaves have turned a kaleidoscope of fiery colors. It is a beautiful combination of warm and cool on my skin. Blue cypress gives a fragrant woody whoosh effect, like walking outside into the cold and the first air you inhale seems to clear the lungs and nasal passages. Spices of cardamom, star anise, and fennel pull back by adding spicy warmth to the fragrance. The spices remind me a little of the ones in my beloved Bond No 9 Chinatown, but there are no white flowers here, it's all about woods and spices. 

As the fragrance develops a subtle gourmand aspect appears, with notes of creme brulee and pimento berry. It is nicely managed and doesn't tip over the top to sugary sweetness, it just combines with the spices to give a yumminess to the scent. Base notes of sandalwood and patchouli round it ou. The perfumer for this 2008 release is Claude Dir of Givaudan, who I notice also was responsible for Banana Republic 17 Oud Mosaic, the only scent from that line that really captured my attention and where the wood notes are also handled with a master touch.

Dame Perfumery Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli

I know, I've mentioned this one before. It is perfect in any season, but it's light bright opening really works in warm weather. The patchouli, however, makes it feel right for autumn weather. If you're afraid of patchouli this is a good place to start because the note is earthy, green, but fairly light. The mate tea note provides the light opening, without using citrus as so many perfumes do. Heliotrope works to balance the patchouli by providing a semi-sweet powder which is pretty much the opposite of the rustic patchouli. I really don't know why I like this so much. It's fairly simple but I find it to be just the perfect combination of notes; it feels chic, innovative, yet simple. On the website it is called a woman's perfume but I think this would be delicious on a man. This would be on a top ten perfume list if I ever made one. I don't know what the other nine would be but Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli would definitely have a place on that list.

Pinterest Image

Parfums Berdoues Oud Al Sahraa

This is an Oriental Woody fragrance featuring oud and myrrh which sounds weighty but wears like a silk scarf of scent, a trademark of the Berdoues Grand Cru line. I have already written a longer review of this fragrance here but the highlight is this gives the fun of wearing an Oriental fragrance without the heaviness of that genre that would weigh you down in hot weather. The mandarin top note is rather generic to my nose but no worries, it lasts only seconds. The myrrh is woody and slightly balsamic and the oud (if it is real oud) offers a slight smokiness along with more woods. Oud Al Sahraa is not groundbreaking and doesn't have a strong presence, but that is the whole point here. It works well in warm weather and in cold weather it becomes an office-friendly Oriental fragrance.

Bonus! The bottle is super cool and the price point is pretty fantastic.

All of these perfumes are totally unisex. What perfumes are you wearing right now?

Top photo: Other photos not identified are Google images. Perfumes are my own. Opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Scent Room, Dallas

I have a story at Cafleurebon about a great new store for Dallas perfume shoppers, The Scent Room. Follow the link to read more!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Monet: The Late Years Exhibit, and Revisiting DSH Perfumes Le Jardin Vert and La Danse les Bleus et des Violettes

Weeping Willow and Water-Lily Pond, 1916-19

The Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, Texas,  is in the last days of a special exhibit featuring Monet's works from the later years of his life. During this time he based himself in Giverny, and idyllic spot for sure, but Monet's happiness was impinged by the loss of his wife and son, the cloud of WWI, and then his declining vision. It was during this period that he experimented on large canvases, using his own garden as an inspiration.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz designed a line of fragrances several years ago when the Denver Art Museum had an exhibit on Monet, and she named the four-fragrance set Giverny In Bloom. I wrote about these when I first started blogging, and though I loved them all, Giverny In Bloom, which I wrote about here was the one that appealed to me most, with its joyful combination of greens and florals. At the Monet: The Early Years exhibit, however, it was Le Jardin Vert and La Danse les Bleus et des Violettes  that really spoke to me through the paintings. 

It was fascinating to wear these perfumes in the presence of these great masterpieces. I could imagine Dawn, who is herself an artist and has synesthesia, the ability to experience scent as color, feeling immersed in the dark moody greens of the willow trees in Giverny's garden and the inky blue depths of the pool. Although La Danse les Bleus et des Violettes was a reflection on some of the blooming flowers at Giverny, I also found the blueness of the scent conveyed in the watery reflective surface of the lily pond. 

Le Jardin Vert is such an immersive experience with its vegetal notes which make it feel like a study in dark green. It embraces the green of the trees and plant life, but also the rather slimy plants that line the pond and the mossy bits on the rocks. The scent has moments where it smells wet and with just a whisper of decay, which is where the vegetal smells come in. Then it is uplifted by watery notes or fleeting floral whispers. At its heart, though, the scent is deep and dark with notes of moss, minerals, and woods. Le Jardin Vert is a living thing on my skin, shape shifting and dancing, like a dragonfly flitting from one part of the garden to another, constantly moving and changing. Wearing this scent I felt like I could deep dive into the large canvas before me.

La Danse les Bleus et des Violettes  was created to reference the blue flowers in Monet's garden, and it does that beautifully. But looking at these paintings featuring Monet's lily pond, I found the scent gives an ethereal blue haze and projects calmness and placidity, just like the tranquility found staring at the lily pond's surface.

The Kimbell Museum has the exhibit set up in such a way that you cross an inner land bridge to get from the large paintings to the darker, smaller canvases painted in the last years of Monet's life. Cataracts had made his vision deteriorate, and the colors in his painting took on a darker and muddier hue. The painting above is still fairly recognizable as the willow tree and the pond, but as time went on the blues and greens gave way to oranges and browns. The exhibit is a fascinating walk through the last years of the great artist's life.

Photos of the Monet exhibit at the Kimbell Museum Fort Worth taken by me. Perfumes are my own.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Chilihead by Dame Perfumery

I was waiting for my Dame Perfumery Chilihead sample to arrive when I took this photograph at Woodshed Smokehouse in Fort Worth, the rather green Trinity River lurking in the background. The chili pepper margarita encapsulated every preconceived notion I had about this scent: lime juice, chili powder, chili pepper, spice, Ole!

When I got my sample -- this was for the oil, not the spray -- I did smell the lime and the chili along with a grassy dry tumbleweed note, vetiver? But in very short order there was also an unusual green note that I couldn't identify. The first thing that popped into my head was cactus! Now I know cactus doesn't really have a smell, nor is it in this perfume, but in case you haven't noticed, the cacti motif has been trending in popularity of late. I had been sniffing some "cactus" scented candles which had a creamy green fragrance. When I looked at the notes list for Chilihead  I thought maybe it is the celery note that is giving me this green, almost watery vibe. Celery is a plant-it's green-it's full of water, like cactus. Haveing taken you so far down this path, I must confess that the next time I wore Chilihead it was the dry, grassy notes and herbal nuances that I smelled more strongly, and this creamy green note was slight. Skin is a funny thing. So take the previous description with a grain of salt, I suppose!

After the initial opening moments, the lime and chili notes enter the picture. The scent is not as spicy as I imagined it would be but you can definitely smell the red chili pepper. Greenish notes include bergamot, celery, mint, thyme, galbanum, and vetiver. The celery, lime, and herbs are the most prevalent to me in the opening. Everything is very light green, fresh, and aromatic, as if you've gone to your herb garden and grathered an armful of the various plants.  A little later in the scent the dry vetiver and the earthy patchouli appear and the herbal notes become more background noise. Artemisia (wormwood) and cumin are used in Chilihead and this is what give the scent that desert ambiance and Southwestern cred , in my mind. You get the sense of open spaces dotted with spiky cactus and tumbleweeds, strings of red ristras hanging by the door on a sun-baked pueblo house, and a refreshing glass of aqua fresca dotted with lime slices. Cumin is an ingredient I use quite a bit in cooking, especially in my homemade red sauce for cheese enchiladas, so I am very familiar with its smell. Chilihead's scent only contains a light dusting of cumin, but you can find it if you know the note. Artemisia is a note that I became familiar with when reviewing some of Olivier Durbano's scents. It is earthy, dry, and can be slightly bitter or medicinal. Someone in Basenotes actually described it as "smelling of the desert," and it does lend that aura to this scent.

Dave Dame, Artist in Residence at Dame Perfumery. Photo from Dame Perfumery Website.

Jeffrey Dame is the creator behind Dame Perfumery based out of Scottsdale, Arizona, and his father Dave is pictured above in a photo from their website. I love this photo of Jeffrey's father Dave for so many reasons: the beautiful desert landscape is stunning. And Jeffrey's artistic father, Dave, who is so much a part of the creative process behind the bottle's artwork looks so at peace in this desert setting. He is responsible for the artwork on the Chilihead bottle.

The perfume eventually winds down to the base notes. The spice has become subdued and although the list of notes includes some heavy hitters: birch moss, tree moss, castoreum, civet, labdanum, myrrh, and olibanum, I can assure you that the final act of this play is a softly purring skin scent, earthy and mildly spiced.

My original impression of Chilihead was that it was fun and very unique, but more of a novelty scent. But as I lived in it for a couple of days I became attached to its scent of place, that dry desert. I thought it would be a summer scent of margaritas and mariachis, and it is all that. But I can also sense a touch autumn's promise in its fragrant dry down. It murmurs of dry earth, trails to hike, fragrant chili to spice dishes and warm the body from the inside out, and that soft warmness of a desert sky at sunset.

Top photo: Thanks to my daughter Allie for the hand modeling! Cactus photo: www.casavogue. Last two photos from Dame Perfumes website. My sample was included with a purchase I made from Dame Perfumery. The opinions are my own.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Bortnikoff Amber Cologne, Take Me To The Beach

I was not familiar with Bortnikoff when I tried their Amber Cologne. Because of the name,  Amber, I had certain expectations of what it would smell like; a shaker of citrus flavored juice melting down to an amber syrup, perhaps with a touch of leather. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The opening spritz of Bortnikoff Amber Cologne bursts with a slightly tart, lightly sweet citrus opening with sweet orange, grapefruit, bergamot, and lemon.  What captures my attention is a beautiful creamy note of frangipani! The frangipani flower is not that often used in perfume, and here I find its scent is very distinctive and life like. When I lived in Singapore I walked every day in the Botanic Garden which featured a grove of frangipani trees so I am very familiar with its buttery tropical scent and this perfume gives a beautiful olfactory snapshot. It is at this point that I begin to wonder why this cologne is called Amber Cologne, when nary a hint of that note has appeared.

The frangipani is supported by a light presence of jasmine sambac and vanilla. Frangipani always reminds me a little of vanilla because of its richness, so I find that the vanilla is just slightly amplifying this creamy aspect of the frangipani. At this point the perfume smells more like a floral cologne than a citrus, but if you're a man (or woman) who doesn't want to smell like a flower garden, never fear. These floral notes are subtle and wafting, and in my opinion, delightful!

Dmitry Bortnikoff got his fragrant beginnings as a distiller of rare ouds in Southeast Asia, and became one of the best known distillers of this art. He added sandalwood to his offerings and then went on to explore other rare ingredients. He eventually turned to making scents but prides himself as a distiller of one-of-a-kind elements that can not be recreated once used, thus his production for each perfume is limited to 50 bottles (if I am interpreting his website correctly). The next batch may not smell the same because he says each piece of wood smells slightly different, depending upon the conditions it grew under. Thus the Bortnikoff  brand can be construed as extremely boutique.

I think a nose that's had a little exposure to perfumes can easily pick out natural and fine ingredients. This is not to say that cheaper perfumes are bad; there are many amazing ones out there. It's just to say that the nose can sense quality and I sensed an extremely natural smell experience when I was wearing Bortnikoff Amber Cologne. 

Would it be too much hyperbole if I said that the floral notes and the frangipani in particular are transcendent? I could smell the frangipani, whipped with some of the citrus notes, for the whole life of the cologne. If the word Amber was a bit misleading, the word Cologne is not. This scent stayed fairly close to my skin. It projected a little more than a skin scent, but someone would have had to move in pretty close, I think, to get much of the scent.

I found the base notes of grey and brown ambergris and his own oud distillation from Sri Lanka to be very quiet. In fact, the oud must just be used like a pinch of seasoning because I can't honestly say I picked it out. The ambergris however is what begins to meld with the frangipani to give that beachy, ocean vibe. The ambergris note is subtle and sexy. It translates to skin dipped in the salty ocean and dried by the warm sun, the nearby trees wafting a scent of frangipani, jasmine, and the odd citrus tree. The marine scented sea breezes gently caress the skin and carry you away to an island break, at least in your mind. I believe it is because of Mr. Bortnikoff's pride in his distillations, in this case the ambergris, that led him to name this Amber Cologne. If you think of the scent as an overall experience--warm skin and ocean breeze--and the frangipani as a note that adds to this ambience, then the name begins to make sense.

I only had a sample of this perfume as it was in my Luckyscent sample pack that I reviewed yesterday, but this is really a scent that deserves to be sprayed with (pricey) abandon. I loved my first exposure to the house of Bortnikoff.

Top photo: Bottle photo from Bortnikoff website. I purchased my own sample.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Testing the New Citrus Perfumes in the Luckyscent Citrus Explosion Sample Pack

Citrus and I have an uneasy relationship. I absolutely love the scent of each and every citrus fruit but compared to other perfumes in my collection, they always seem to fall flat on my skin. About ten years ago I went to a Guerlain event at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. Sylvaine Delacourte was Guerlain's artistic director at the time and she was there in person and would quickly smell your skin and tell you which Guerlain perfumes suited your skin best. She said I had "milky" skin and that perfumes with wood notes and spices would blossom on my skin, as well as some florals. I have her to thank for introducing me to Angelique Noire and Guerlain Elixir Charnel Oriental Brulant, but she also said that citrus perfumes would always disappoint me, and mostly that's been correct. But I am the eternal optimist because I love citrus perfume's fresh sparkly openings, so I keep searching. Thus when Luckyscent advertised a new batch of citrus perfumes and  colognes for summer I had to try them. Here are my short takes.

Mancera Paris Soleil d'Italie

This perfume starts off with the traditional citrusy, slightly soapy opening which is so symbolic of Italian colognes. Calabrian bergamot, lime, and mandarin make up the citrus notes, and I find that neither the lime or mandarin particularly distinguish themselves, the bergamot having the strongest presence to me. There is a very nice scent of what is termed "watery notes" and it really does give the feel of an ocean nearby. There is a tiny thread of something that smells slightly woody and deeper. Initially I believe it is the cardomom I'm smelling, but then it could be either the ambergris, cedar wood, or patchouli.

I find this to be a very nice representation of this genre of scent and it gets quite a bit of love over on If I didn't already have several in this category, Mancera Paris Soleil d'Italie might be a good place to start, but as my perfume collection is, ahem, a little large, I probably don't need this.

Les Indemodables Chypre Azural

Chypre Azural was one of the original entries from Les Indemodables, a French perfume house that is relatively new, and it was launched in 2016. The fact that Antoine Lie, along with Florence Fouillet Dubois, are the perfumers for this brand caught my attention, as I am very familiar with Antoine Lie's work for the very excellent Puredistance line. Ms. Dubois is listed as the perfumer for Chypre Azural. I expected a sharp chypre-ish opening but it starts off super fresh and soapy, but with an orange note instead of neroli or bergamot. The citrus is sharp and nose tickling and I like it, but where's the chypre?

It is a good thirty minutes into the perfume's life on my skin that the chypre notes appear. I love a good chypre, and this transforms from a fresh scent to a super crisp chypre, exuding the vibe of cool, calm, and collect.

Google Image

You know that couple that always looks perfectly put together from their well groomed hair to their unscuffed shoes? The ones that look like they never sweat, even in the heat of summer? They're probably wearing Les Indemodables Chypre Azural. 

Nishane Safran Colognise

This perfume opens with the traitional cologne mix of soapy neroli, making me picture a barbershop with men in barber chairs lathered and awaiting a shave. But almost immediately a note of saffron enters the picture and the soapiness is replaced with a dusty note, which is the saffron. It is not as spicy as I expected and still has that cologne vibe. Top notes are passion fruit, pink grapefruit, and citron. Middle notes are saffron, pink pepper, and magnolia but it is the saffron note which gives a dry, dusty smell. There is a whiff of florals but more like a dried flower arrangement rather than a bursting fresh-picked bouquet. The dusty smell vaguely reminds me of the vetiver note, just not as grassy. Base notes are musk, ambergris and leather and it is the leather which dominates on my skin, although in a very mild way. At thirty minutes in the citrus note has totally faded and I am left with a dry, dusty (sorry to use that word so much, but can't think of a better one) leather. If you're afraid of leather notes this might be a good try for you because the note is ultra smooth and quiet.

Perris Monte Carlo Bergamatto di Calabria

This is a part of the Italian Collection by the Perris Monte Carlo brand and was introduced in 2018. With bergamot in the name I expected a very citrus opening, and the bergamot gives a contained aromatic, almost bitter, citrus smell which reminds me a little of limes. Although vetiver is listed as a base note I can smell its grassy, dry aroma pretty much from the opening notes. The middle notes are orange blossom, neroli, and jasmine and as they unfold the scent softens a little although I wouldn't say it seems floral, rather just a slightly sweeter citrus lift unfolds. Other notes are Egyptian rose, patchouli leaf, tarragon, and amber.

Mandarino Di Sicilia from www.

Perris Monte Carlo Mandarino di Sicilia

Like the one above, this is an entry in the Italian Collection for the brand. Here the citrus notes are creamy rather than sharp or bitter, with green mandarin, bitter orange, yellow mandarin and petitgrain paraguay. Orange blossom peeks through to sweeten and smooth these citrus flavors. Jasmine is present but very subdued and geranium gives that crisp, almost peppery smell to the scent. Base notes are cedro, amber, and musk. The combination of the delicate essential oil from green mandarin combined with the orange flower and jasmine gives a scent that reminds me of the lemon blossoms that bloom on my lemon tree. It is a beautiful ethereal and lilting scent and I prefer it of the two Perris Monte Carlo listed here, although they both have their attributes. It is obvious that these scents are made with high quality ingredients.

There were two more samples in my Luckyscent packet. I already posted about one of my favorites, Perris Monte Carlo Arancia di Sicilia  which you can read about here.  Tomorrow I will be posting about my other favorite from the pack and it's from a brand I had no previous experience with. If I had to name a favorite from the group of scents reviewed in this post it would be Les Indemodables Chypre Azural. I really enjoyed how it morphed from a citrus fresh cologne to a starched, cool chypre.

The top photo from The Luckyscent sample pack I purchased myself..

Monday, July 29, 2019

Perris Monte Carlo Arancia Di Sicilia

Perris Monte Carlo has introduced a new scent to their Italian Collection, Arancia Di Sicilia. The oranges highlighted in this scent are special to Sicily (Sicilia), and the trees grow on the slopes of Mt. Etna. They are blood oranges, or sanguilella, known for their bright red fleshy pulp and the red, not orange, juice they produce. Perris Monte Carlo are quite proud of the process used to  extract the oil from the fruit which yields a complex and aromatic product.

Imagine holding a blood orange in your palm, just plucked from the tree and still warm from the sun. You use your thumbs to pry into the skin of the fruit and pull it apart. That zesty burst of fresh orange is what you get in the opening note of Arancia Di Sicilia. It is a particularly vibrant orange aroma, like waking up to a beautiful sunny day in your white washed room with blue sea views and an orange tree outside. In addition to the strong orange scent there is a tiny touch of green, as if the fruit has just been plucked from the tree.

Then something even more interesting happens. I smell a touch of cinnamon which cuts through the orange scent. It gives a beautiful and unexpected gourmand note. Next vanilla and almond essence join the cinnamon. Too much of either and this would turn into a creamsicle but that doesn't happen. The almond adds a fragrant softness to the scent, like morning haze or diffused sunlight, making the orange scent a bit fuzzy. The vanilla adds just enough sweetness to be mellow but not saccharine. The cinnamon is still simmering underneath. I find the cinnamon the most distinct. The almond and vanilla continue to be identifiable but not overpowering.


Although I always enjoy citrus forward scents, both for the fragrance itself and for the "positive mental therapy" their happy smell invokes, the linear trajectory of these scents can frankly sometimes be a little boring. These unexpected gourmand elements added to Arancia di Sicilia make it more interesting and should also make it a perfume that is as delicious to wear on a brisk autumn day as on a sunny one.

The view from Villa Sant'Andrea, Sicily.

Eventually notes of coffee absolute, labdanum, iris, musk, and amber deepen the scent and add a warm richness. The coffee scent is faint on my skin and the labdanum, musk, and amber have the most impact. Wearing Arancia Di Sicilia is the projection of the perfect day, on holiday in Italy. You wake up to the bright aroma of the blood orange trees growing nearby. At breakfast you are served the perfect fresh juice, then perhaps a pastry with notes of cinnamon, vanilla, and almond. Eventually an espresso rounds out the perfect morning and will carry you through the day.

I find the scent very likable and easy to wear. Projection on my skin was fairly close to the skin and the scent lasted for four to six hours.

Top photo from Perris Monte Carlo website. I purchased my sample from Luckyscent.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Villa Nellcote by 19-69 - Sex, Drugs, and Rock N' Roll

The year was 1971. The Vietnam War raged on. Hippie culture had reached its apex. Woodstock had happened a couple of years before. Rock music was king and the drug culture permeated the creative lifestyle of the musicians. The Rolling Stones had to leave England or submit to a 93% tax rate so in the spring of 1971 they reluctantly made their way to the south of France for a two year pilgrimage. It would make a romantic bohemian story to say they all lived together in a big hippie house party at Villa Nellcote to produce the next Rolling Stones album, Exile on Main Street. The truth was a bit messier. Keith Richards had rented Villa Nellcote to live in with his paramour Anita Pallenberg and the other members of the band were scattered from Grasse to Arles. The grandeur and privacy of Villa Nellcote, located on the ultra-exclusive Villefranche-sur-Mer peninsula in the Cote d'Azur, made this the natural place for the Stones to gather and create music. There wasn't a recording studio nearby so the chateau's dank basement became a makeshift studio.

For a fragrance dedicated to the memory of a significant summer of debauchery and decadence at the Villa Nellcote, the opening is fairly sunny and a touch soapy. The perfume Villa Nellcote opens with the citrus freshness one would picture if standing on the balcony, looking at the expanse of cerulean blue water and the sunlit blue skies above. There is a watery effect that feels like breathing in fragrant sea air. Top notes of grapefruit, bergamot, lemon, and lemon flower bring on the sunshine. Elemi oil adds to the lemony tang but adds a deeper woody, peppery note. But wait! Underneath all this sunniness, I can already smell the mossy undertones which add a bit of mystery and formality to Villa Nellcote. The more formal notes seem to reference that this is, after all, an impressive French chateau with a somewhat storied history. It had been occupied by Nazi forces during WWII and it is located on what is possibly the most expensive real estate peninsula in the world. But in 1971 Keith Richards was renting Villa Nellcote for $2500 a month and it became a scene of partying, extensive drug use, and rampant creativity.

The villa was surrounded by lush and abundant gardens and the scent must have been a backdrop to the languid life that took place while the Stones were in residence.The heart of the fragrance is made up of floral notes but they are subtle and come across as aromatics rather than big florals. This aspect reminds me of some of the Chanel colognes. The green note of violet leaf penetrates and adds a dryness and slight bitterness to the fragrance. Floral notes of rose petals, jasmine, magnolia, and osmanthus are background noise, like walking past a garden but not discerning any one note. There is also a black tea infusion which I can't specifically discern.

"Upstairs, it was fantastic, like Versailles," said Keith Richards. "But down there, it was Dante's Inferno."
The beautiful sea views, the glitter of the jewel like coast, the magnificence of the 18th century mansion, these are all reflected in the lightness and sophistication of the opening of Villa Nellcote. But the actual recording work took place in a dank wet basement, plagued by dripping ceilings and power outages. The base notes in the perfume are cabreuva (a wood scent, I had to Google), cedarwood, patchouli, white amber, musk, moss, and guaic wood. These darker notes still wear gently and aromatically, but the moss does give the vibe of a dank cellar which was rumored to have been a difficult place to record.

I was a bit frustrated testing this fragrance because my sample was in a little dabber and this is a fragrance that just begged to be sprayed. I felt like dousing myself in a spray of the slightly retro, cooling sunshine and moss scent. I liked the sophistication not always found in a citrus scent, a citrus with a veneer of French chic and sophistication that feels a bit dressy and polished. There is a slightly bitter green chord which to me signifies the decadence of this specific time and place. I like the aromatic cooling scent and I particularly like the mossy accord that lends a gentle chypresque feel. I do wish the scent was a bit stronger on my skin. It seemed to become fairly quiet only a couple of hours in. However, there was still a whiff of the mossiness the next morning when I woke up, albeit very close to the skin. This is a citrus with a little extra. I can picture a man or woman wearing this for a polished sophistication to present a cool calm against the heat of summer. Because of the mossy note I imagine this would also be a citrus that would transition well to cooler weather. I liked Villa Nellcote better each time I tried it. I wasn't initially wowed, but am to the point now I would like to own it.

The Swedish brand 19-69 was founded by Johan Bergelin and each scent is inspired by a cultural event, an era, or a setting. All the scents are suitable for wear by either gender. Bergelin says he chose the name 19-69 because, "The year 1969 represents an era of freedom, tolerance, and counterculture. It is also the year I was born."

**Apologies for lack of French punctuation marks. If anyone knows how to get them on blogspot format, please let me know!

The black and white photos are by photographer Dominique Tarle who lived in the Villa for a time, memorializing the moment with photos. The sample was purchased by me from Luckyscent.