Saturday, May 18, 2019

Byredo Sundazed

Perfume brands seem to all be releasing their version of a beach-style perfume in anticipation of Summer 2019, and Byredo  continues this trend with the release of Sundazed.

Let me start with a positive: I love the name. You know that feeling you get if you are a sun worshipper (slathered in SPF 50 of course)? Your skin is warmed by the sun, you can hear the sound of the ocean, and you drift into a sleepy haze of well being. Sundazed is the perfect name for this state, in fact, you'll find the term in the Urban Dictionary. They define Sundaze as:
A state of mind or place often associated with Sundays that promotes well being and relaxation. Combine the positive energy and warmth of water and sunshine and you'll be in a "Sundazed" state of mind.
So, excellent name. Now for what is going to be my shortest review to date. Opening notes are supposed to be lemon and mandarin. I have both of these trees in my Australian back yard and I'm here to tell you that, no, that is not what I smell. I smell neroli, or should I say, NEROLI. Now I happen to like neroli, unlike many who say it gives them a soapy vibe, so that is not the problem. The problem is that there are so many other neroli/orange blossom perfumes available at a much more reasonable cost. The first thing that flashed in my head when I smelled it was Elie Saab, although ultimately I much prefer it to the Sundazed. The opening moments are the prettiest and if this neroli-orange-juice accord could continue I might be hooked. But all to soon the realism of the neroli becomes more muted and musky. The only other note I get during the three or four hours I can smell the perfume is the cotton candy accord. This does nothing to change my initial impression of Sundazed or endear it to me. It's not a bad perfume, but chances are you have something similar in your collection already and it probably didn't cost you Byredo prices. But this is just my impression. Perhaps your skin will give you a better return for the money.

Byredo Sundazed sample purchased by me from Luckyscent.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Vanilla Vibes by Juliette Has A Gun

Are you a fan of the deconstructed food styling boards over on Pinterest? That is what the image above reminds me of, and I find them helpful for giving a quick and clear interpretation of ingredients, in this case of a perfume. Juliette Has A Gun has introduced a new perfume for the summer of 2019, Vanilla Vibes. The best news for me is that the vanilla is subtle and actually very wearable for warm weather. I am not the biggest fan of foody vanilla scents in perfume and the only time I can bear them is in cold weather when the richest element of the vanilla scent are somewhat subdued by the frigidity outside. Romano Ricci who founded the perfume brand maybe says it best:
I have been wanting to work with vanilla for some time.But not being a fan of sweet notes, I needed to find a twist. I chose sea salt. This transports the vanilla into a mineral dimension. Far from being overwhelming, the vanilla becomes suddenly more atmospheric, more elegant.
Ricci definitely achieved his brief. Vanilla Vibes is pretty much what you see pictured above; vanilla, orchid and sea salt in a bed of white sand. I don't love the very fist moment when I spray. I get a whiff of alcohol until it either evaporates or is absorbed into the skin. This happens quickly and once the perfume has a chance to warm on the skin the top note of fleur de sel becomes apparent. This gives that sense of sun-warmed skin, drip-drying after a dip in the ocean. Since there is no coconut you don't get the Coppertone suntan vibe, it is more skin/saltwater/sun. Heart notes of vanilla and orchid give the scent a slightly sensuous, but innocent, feel. These two notes were combined very effectively in Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Orchidee Vanille and that same subtle beauty is present in Vanilla Vibes, but the addition of sea salt tempers any tendency towards sweetness. Base notes of benzoin, brown musk, sandalwood, and tonka bean are all used with a light stroke of the brush, whispering rather than boldly announcing their arrival. These notes all merge to further enhance the skin scent and it evolves into a golden amber glow, a scent that remains for several hours.

Photo from A Nice Little Tumblr

The bottle is getting a lot of love on the fragrance forums and fragrance Facebook sites. It gives the appearance of sand, fading to sea, fading to sky and really pictorially represents what's in the bottle. I enjoy this scent as it is light and very easy to wear, the vanilla is very muted on my skin, and it really does represent what my skin naturally smells like after a day at the beach. It reminds me somewhat of Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess without the coconut, Jennifer Aniston without the jasmine, or Jo Malone Wood Sage and Sea Salt without the sage. There is nothing profoundly new here. You may already have something similar in your collection. But it is well done and immanently likeable. I can see it being a staple for someone who lives by the sea or wishes they did.

Burning Man, which takes place every year in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, was Ricci's inspiration for the scent. The scent is very unisex and if you are a fan of sun/skin scents I would consider this a pretty safe blind buy.

Here is a behind the scene look at the video promo shot for Vanilla Vibes introduction on May 1.

Photos are from the Juliette Has A Gun website. I bought my own sample at Luckyscent.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Tyrannosaurus Rex by Zoologist Perfumes

Painting by Mark Hallett.

I always anticipate a new release from Zoologist Perfumes for their creativity and sense of inventiveness. I would imagine if you are a perfumer it is energizing to conceptualize a scent via story board inspiration from  Zoologist's Victor Wong and know that originality is not only acceptable but desired. I have enjoyed the dizziness of inhaling nectar scents from the darting viewpoint of a hummingbird, the flight of a bat as it leaves its cave dwelling and soars through the night sky, and the charge of an elephant in search of food. I had read various reviews of Tyrannosaurus Rex painting it as a real beast of a fragrance so I kept delaying the trial of my sample in the heat of an Australian summer. Now back in the Northern Hemisphere we're experiencing some cool rainy days and  I decided it was time to try out the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Zoologist scents have always taken me on a journey and this one is no exception. The image that popped into my head as this fragrance evolved on my skin was the old Jurrasic Park ride at Universal Studios in Florida. My husband and I took our kids there about fifteen years ago and I remember reading that the ride closed recently so it could be rebuilt bigger and better. I always liked the cave rides, as we called them, at amusement parks. You're hot and tired from tromping through an amusement park filled with hoards of people, you've been standing in line for an hour, then finally you get to sink into your bathtub of a boat. You start to float, cool water mists your face and as you enter the darkness you wait for another world to unfold before your eyes. If you missed this particular experience here's a video below. It all looks rather tame and hokey now, but I loved it.

 Join me on this journey to experience the new Zoologist scent Tyrannasourus Rex!

My frame of mind as I apply the perfume Tyrannosaurus Rex: I'm ready for anything. Initially I smell something other-worldly, as if I've landed on a planet with a strange and different atmosphere to which I am not accustomed. The perfumer Antonio Gardoni used notes of bergamot, black pepper, fir, laurel leaf, neroli, and nutmeg in the opening, all of which sound rather ordinary. I was expecting  one of those creative lists with ingredients of cyanide, dragon's blood, or meteorite shards. Somehow he creates a moment of magic from these mundane ingredients, a pause where I thought, "I haven't smelled anything exactly like this before." Then within a minute the moment is very quickly quenched by the smoke of distant fires. The smoke intensifies and the smell is soon punctuated with the scent of burning tar. Is this a reference to the burning tar pits that supposedly swallowed dinosaurs whole? The Le Brea Tar pits in California came into being 65 million years after the disappearance of the dinosaurs, a fact I seemed to have slept through in science class, but lets not quibble. This is my dinosaur park ride and it is exciting and everything I hoped for.

La Brea Tar Pits as depicted by Charles R. Knight.

The sharp aroma of molten tar intensifies and the smell of out-of-control fires burning and smoking becomes even more pungent. This is the smell of scorched earth. Whether this is a result of flaming volcanoes pouring streams of red hot lava or an asteroid has just crashed and annihilated all life on Earth I do not know, but these fires are fierce. Cade oil is present in Tyrannosaurus Rex and is responsible for much of this smoke and tar. This cloud of thick smoke and bubbling tar is everything I've read in the reviews for the perfume. While the fires smolder, this erases any other smells for me. I get no champaca or jasmine, no geranium or rose, this is epic. Although I love to burn fires in my house's fireplace in winter, the smell always gives me an allergic reaction. That is what seems to be occurring now. The smoke is so freaking realistic that I begin to wonder, do I need to get my bottle of Afrin?

Leather and patchouli add to the sensation of a large animal crashing about, the thick hide impervious to the flames and the large feet tearing out bits of earth as he pounds the ground, on a chase for his next kill. There is civet in the brew but I do not get a strong feral aspect to the scent; I believe the smoke overcomes that aspect on my skin.

This level of excitement can only carry on for so long. As our imaginary boat goes around the next curve in the river ride the smoke from fires still smolders but begins to fade in ferocity. Curls of ancient incense begin to rise from the smoking ground and it feels like a resurrection of the blistered landscape. Resinous frankincense along with cedar wood bring calm, and now finally  I begin to smell the florals which were MIA before. The florals are background noise and muddled to present an emergent landscape of rebirth and regeneration. I do not distinguish between the individual notes of geranium, champaca, jasmine, osmanthus, rose and ylang ylang. I have read that a rose oxide note was used to simulate the smell of blood as the T-Rex wrecks havoc, but the blood smell is not as pronounced for me as it was in Imaginary Author's Bulls Blood, for example.

We are nearing the end of this ride and things begin to change more quickly. The smoke is faint and fading. Florals are indistinct but present. The resins and incense have transformed this perfume into more of a smooth oriental-style scent and base notes of vanilla and sandalwood accentuate this effect. In truth I don't smell vanilla, I just feel it adds a creamy sweetness to the heavier smokey and wood notes. Once Tyrannosaurus Rex arrives to this point, the scent trail goes on for hours and hours. It has been quite the ride. I feel like we have traveled from the wildness of this:

to the softer side of the dinosaur:

Barney and young Selina Gomez

Maybe that's an exaggeration, Tyrannosaurus Rex still has some bite, but it has morphed into a very easily wearable resinous oriental perfume.

Let's talk about the perfumer that Victor chose for this project, Antonio Gardoni. I would love to know the process by which Victor picks perfumers for specific projects but pairing Gardoni with a rather ferocious scent like Tyrannosaurus Rex seems smart. Gardoni is an architect by trade and more recently channeled his love of plants and nature into an interest in fragrance creation. He first created perfumes for his brand, Bogue, in 2012. Bogue perfumes are known for having a presence and in some cases being a challenging ride. I have only smelled and reviewed one of the Bogue creations, MEM, and here is what I said: "There is a moment at the beginning when the civet and castoreum, supposedly base notes yet here they are in the first five minutes, take me on a wild ride that I'm not sure I'll safely survive." You can find the complete review here.

With Tyrannosaurus Rex, Gardoni and Victor Wong have given us a dazzling glimpse into a prehistoric world that somehow reinvents itself into a very wearable perfume. I have to admit that in the Zoologist world my preference is to be a warbling Nightingale or a flitting Hummingbird but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the journey provided by Tyrannosaurus Rex.

You can read my other reviews about Zoologist Perfumes starting here with Bat.

Perfume sample was purchased by me from Luckyscent.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

L'Artisan Parfumeur's Bana Banana

If you're like me the thought of smelling like a banana isn't instantly appealing, thus I almost walked by the L'Artisan display in Saks Fifth Avenue without spraying the brand's newest scent, Bana Banana. I'm so glad I changed my mind because I discovered smelling like a banana can be fun, but I especially love amber scents and that is where this fragrance eventually settles. I can honestly say I did not see that coming; it was an unexpected conclusion to the scent journey.

According to the historical information on the L'Artisan Parfumeur website, the scent of a banana was indirectly responsible for the creation of the company. John LaPorte, chemist and plant collector,  was challenged by a friend to create a banana scent as an accompaniment to the banana costume he was wearing to a gala event, the Folies Bergeres. Laporte accepted the challenge and realized that he had a passion for creating scent and thus the L'Artisan story began. Now decades later this origins story of the brand is being recognized with a banana-scented fragrance, created by Parfumer Celine Ellena.

When I first sprayed Bana Banana as I stood at the L'Artisan counter I almost laughed, the banana note is so realistic and dare I say, joyful. It smells a little like banana ice cream...think creamy, not sweet. It is also slightly green, emphasizing a tropical feel. This is not an over-ripe sugary banana. It is as fresh as if just picked. The banana note continues unabated for some time but is joined by floral notes of jasmine and iris and at this point the banana note becomes less prominent. Jasmine and iris are both fairly identifiable notes but here they blend to project a floral loveliness around the banana note; a beautiful melange without strong distinction for the individual florals. This may sound like floral plus fruity perfume but that is not how the smell translates; the scent is more subtle and polished than this. There is a mild spiciness of pepper and nutmeg; the pepper is weak, the nutmeg more forward. These spicy notes add interest, making the scent feel slightly gourmand. The scent continues to waft this soft floral banana note, accented with nutmeg and pepper, for a full two hours. Then comes Act II. Enter musk, tonka, and amber to the stage.

Bana Banana has slowly been transitioning to more of a skin scent with warm and slightly spicy overtones. The tonka and musk make the scent comforting and warm with a slight muted fuzziness. But then I start recognizing the amber in the scent. My skin loves amber and maybe because of that it is one of my favorite notes, but it has such depth and strength that I tend to only wear amber perfumes in cooler weather. Here we have a lighter amber, something I don't replicate in my collection of amber perfumes. As a comparison, I like light beer because it has the taste of the beer without all the heaviness that makes me feel full after four sips of regular beer. It feels the same here. You get all the beauty of the amber scent but it is somehow lighter, loftier. It radiates warmth and comfort as amber does, but doesn't overpower. If I think about it I can still smell the slightest trace of the banana in the scent.

The final stages of the perfume brought this image to mind. Just go with me here; this is a slightly strange analogy. The best baking tip my mother ever gave me was to slightly undercook cookies and sweet breads. If you stick a toothpick in a loaf of banana bread to test for doneness and it comes out totally dry then it's already too late. But if you catch that loaf of banana bread just before it gets cooked throughout and the toothpick comes out gummy there will be a moist almost doughy center. The next day instead of the bread being too dry to eat that moist center has become richer and more redolent of the banana flavor and the spices have intensified. That is how the dry down of Bana Banana feels to me; we've smelled the freshness of the banana but now it has transitioned into a richer state; slightly sweet gourmand, spicy with the zest of nutmeg, a mellow banana, a slice of blissful comfort.

If you are curious how a banana note smells in a perfume give Bana Banana a try. You may be pleasantly surprised like me. And if you like amber perfumes definitely try Bana Banana as this is very different from any other amber perfume you might have in your collection.

Top photo from L'Artisan. Thank you Saks Fifth Avenue Houston for the spray.