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..