Friday, December 29, 2006

Hey Man, Make Me Over

Today I am doing something I haven't done in a very long time: I'm going for a makeover at the Trish McEvoy counter at Nordstrom. The last time I had a makeover was at MAC just before my wedding five years ago. On Wednesday we were strolling through Nordstrom and I stopped at the Chanel counter to eye the shadow quads. An SE walked over and asked if she could help, and I found myself telling her I'm in a real rut makeup-wise, plus I'm at a loss because I changed my hair color and some things that worked before look terrible now. She suggested a makeover, and then she said she worked not for Chanel but for Trish McEvoy.

I've never tried or worn anything from this line, so it should be interesting. I know the Even Skin foundation is a regular on many "Best of" lists in magazines...I can't wait to see what happens. Most makeovers don't go well for me (think purple eyeshadow, bright coral lips, and an accordion playing "Send in the Clowns" somewhere in the background), but the girl's makeup looked good (I keep saying "girl" because she can't be a day over 24) so I'm going to try trust.

*photo from Nordstrom

Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006: Fragrance Year-in-Review...or Half-Year, Anyway

I've been keeping lists of my favorites ever since I started sampling back in April of this year. I've even posted some of them here, or posted some as responses on other perfume blogs. Every time I make a list it changes, but still, I feel confident about this one. In the last few weeks I revisited some of the fragrances that were early loves, and some that weren't. My, how quickly tastes change. I would like to say my nose is more discerning and my taste more sophisticated because of it, but let's face it: it could just be the weather.

Here are my Top Ten, selected from fragrances I've sampled this year. Rather than write new blurbs, I've quoted my original posts out of sheer laziness. Drum roll, please:

1. Guerlain Vol de Nuit: "This pungent powder, soft and alluring, is even better than I remembered. The opening is a soft, grassy citrus with just a hint of sharpness, but it moves quickly into the middle notes, which temper the green and start the descent into a soft heady powder with a twist of something--I suppose I should say animalic, but seriously, what I think is sex. This scent is alluring and sensual, but also comforting. I don't think, in my brief sampling time, that I've ever smelled jasmine this way, so evenly present among a deep spice that quiets into powdery notes that make you feel as though you'd been lifted into the clouds." No surprise here, except to tell you I am now the very lucky owner of the Parfum. I still don't believe it.

2. Frederic Malle Iris Poudre: "It's proud and comforting at the same time, both soft and strong, yet not aggressive, like a mother lion with her cubs. She's tender and caring, but still, you know her power. Through the blend of six simple notes, Iris Poudre manages to reach that exquisite grace that takes other perfumes tens of notes to achieve." No surprise here, either. In my limited sampling experience, the second-most exceptional perfume, and given my mood, sometimes even the first.

3. Rochas Femme: "The bergamot and lemon dominate the top on my skin, while the soft bitterness of apricot compliments the leather accord that reigns through the full cycle. In the middle I don't get much of the floral notes; the jasmine is lost on me, and the rose appears later on, but the ylang-ylang and clove warm and spice the heart. The dry down is beautiful, a soft woody leather, supple and aged. I suppose I could best explain it this way: imagine a piece of the finest leather, and on it someone has sprayed the most exquisite perfume. That is Femme." This one definitely snuck up on me. This perfume is the reason I know my taste (or sense of smell, or both) has developed over the last seven months.

4. Ormonde Jayne Frangipani: "I’m at my desk, and I can smell the cedar. (Mind you, I have not even looked the notes up at this point! But I can smell it!) And I wonder, where is that coming from? I kept getting whiffs of it every now and again, the softest incense. And lo and behold, when I looked up the notes, there it was: cedar, tempered with this lovely vanilla and amber. I usually find vanilla overpowering, but this is so soft, it’s truly lovely." Oh my, the words of a perfume amateur! I'm wearing this right now. I think all the sampling has only made me love it more.

5. Santa Maria Novella Citta di Kyoto: "Citta di Kyoto smells nothing like any of the scents I listed here, but it shares the same spirit. It's more ethereal, a brighter floral at the top that seems deceptively sweet. The fruit and cinnamon of this scent warm its heart perfectly. You'll find heart notes listed for any number of fragrances, but in this case it seems so true. Think of a package, wrapped in beautiful paper, a paisley of dark orange, pale green, and white. Tear away the paper and find a box, a dark, polished wood box, hand-crafted with clean, simple lines. Open the box and find there nested in brown velvet a heavy, handblown piece of glass fruit. Set it in a window, watch the light shine through and change through the day, shifting somehow from amber, to blood-red purple." Move over Chinatown. This is everything an oriental fragrance should be and then some.

6. Serge Lutens Miel de Bois and Fleurs d'Oranger.
Miel de Bois: "I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. How on earth could anyone say this stinks? Why do people hate this? Why do people think the dry down is the best? How could people like any one part of this experience better than another when it’s all so amazingly wonderful?"
Fleurs d'Oranger: "This citrus is not sharp or acidic, but fresh and softened by the most delicate tuberose. No bludgeoning here. If this isn’t a typical citrus fragrance (sometimes with citrus scents I feel as though someone’s sprayed the actual juice directly in my face before the other notes move in and take over), it isn’t a typical white floral either. The neroli and the rose keep the tuberose and jasmine from turning creamy, preserving the quality of a fresh cut bloom."
These two scents couldn't be more different, but I love them both equally. It was also hard not to squeeze in Daim Blond. A funny note about my post on Fleurs d'Oranger: it has a list of my current favorites!

7. Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Therese: "This scent opens with tangerine and melon at the top, with carnal rose and plum in the heart, and cedar, vetiver, and leather in the base. The tangerine overpowers the melon note for me (which is not a problem), and the leather is prominent and lovely from the open. The vetiver is not sharp but rather herbal in feel, a little watery and salty beneath the tangerine. The leather tempers it and keeps away the celery note so many people dread. It takes a while (about an hour) for the rose and plum to emerge for me, and along with them the cedar. The plum is not juicy or dark, but instead serves to sweeten and warm the rose and cedar just enough to make them more prominent. But make no mistake about it, this is a leather scent: soft yet supple leather, refined and lovely." Elegant, understated, and would be at the number 2 spot easily if it weren't for Iris Poudre.

8. Balmain Jolie Madame: "It's foody and woodsy at the same time, with a depth that almost enables you to smell roots and dirt. In a typical white floral, the entrance of jasmine and tuberose in the middle notes would produce a scent that people often find headache-inducing (as in: my worst enemy is pounding on my head with a large mallet). The jonquil and orris, however, keep it dirty and earthy, so these white flowers smell as though they'd been buried in deep earth for days." Come on: white flowers and leather. This is a very recent favorite, but I feel quite confident in saying its spot in the Top Ten shall always remain.

9. L'Artisan Orchidee Blanche: "And to go straight for a beautiful honey scent, all you have to do is reach for Orchidée Blanche. A blend of magnolia, iris powder, and honey, Orchidée Blanche is floral, understated, elegant, and sexy. It’s the finest down comforter and silk sheets, luxurious and soft." This is such a soft, alluring scent. Don't let them discontinue it!

10. Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose: "The vanilla still let out slightly liquory (liquor-like? liquorish?) fumes, but the rose note was more detectable to my nose than it had been for the first few hours. This is no fresh pastel bouquet in a silver vase; it's a florist's box full of thorny blood-red blossoms tossed carelessly atop the chaise longue by someone so used to being admired, she's started to take it for granted. The scent settled into this pattern for the rest of the day. I never detected even the slightest hint of vetiver. A scent could not be less sharp or green or earthy than this one. Lipstick Rose is the scent of elegant artifice, a glamorous mask that feigns indifference while underneath, it endlessly yearns to be noticed." As much as I love rose, this is the only real rose fragrance to make the list. Nothing else compares to this one.

Others I love that didn't make the Top Ten because I was trying to limit myself and I'm sure I'll regret not including:
1. Mona di Orio Nuit Noire
2. Guerlain Parure
3. Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque
4. Frederic Malle Carnal Flower
5. Delrae Bois de Paradis
6. Serge Lutens Daim Blond and Mandarine Mandarin
7. Anne Pliska
8. Parfums d'Empire Ambre Russe
9. Ormonde Jayne Champaca
10. L'Artisan Dzongkha

"Popular" fragrances I love or want:
1. Narciso Rodriguez For Her EDT (Want)
2. Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely Liquid Satin (Own)
3. Clinique Happy Heart (Own)
4. Benefit Maybe Baby (Own)
5. Hanae Mori Butterfly (Want)
6. Hilary Duff With Love (Want...I know, I know...I want a small bottle. I'm sorry, but the drydown on this is pretty. It just is.)
7. Prescriptives Calyx (Own)
8. Chanel Coco (Want, especially the parfum, which I have never tried. I used to wear this all the time, back in the day.)

My favorite perfumer over-all (so far): Frederic Malle

My fondest wish: That all of you, Dear Readers, have a safe and happy New Year and a wonderful 2007!

What are your favorite things, fragrance or otherwise, from this year?

*see original posts for photo credits

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Balmain Jolie Madame

This fragrance sampling came about in an interesting way. To start at the beginning, I have seen people on MUA (where I lurk occasionally) say wonderful things about Balmain in general Jolie Madame in particular, so I wrote down the name. Yesterday on my lunch break I was at TJ Maxx when I happened to spot bottles of said fragrance near the line for the registers. They were $9.99. I thought it might be the same fragrance I'd written down, but then I told myself that it was either A) a different fragrance and memory was failing me, or B) the same fragrance but a different concentration (it was EDT, and perhaps only the parfum is spectacular), or C) some hideous knock-off and I'd really be a sucker of I bought it. The box looked genuine enough, and the label said "Made in France," and aw heck, I'm one of those geeky Americans who fall all over anything that says "France" on it. Even so, I left it on the shelf.

The strange twist of fate occurred when I got home last night. Angela, who writes those wonderful reviews on Now Smell This, was sweet enough to send me a package of goodies, including (the most important of all) the Vol de Nuit parfum for me to sample. (Why am I writing about Jolie Madame, then, you might ask...well, my wedding anniversary is on Friday, and that seems like the occasion for Vol de Nuit parfum, although truthfully I've sampled it already and Oh. My. God.) And lo and behold, inside the package was a vial of Balmain Jolie Madame EDT.

After finding various and sundry notes for Jolie Madame out there on some of the perfume sites that carry it, I finally went to osMoz and let them be the experts:
Top: artemesia, gardenia, neroli, coriander
Heart: jasmine, jonquil, orris, tuberose
Base: patchouli, castoreum, vetiver, civet

Couple of things here: castoreum was originally harvested from beaver. Right! That's what I said! But today it's synthetically produced to replicate a leather note, among others, in perfume. Second, artemesia (or artemisia) consists of a family of plants more commonly known as sage plants, or different types of species thereof. Now, think about this: you have the ingredients here for a pretty basic white floral--gardenia, jasmine, tuberose. You have the lovely sparkling orange blossom element (I love this in Fracas) in neroli. Even with a little vetiver and patchouli, we're on our way to a relatively standard white floral fragrance (as if I know, right?).

But consider: the artemisia at the top gives it an herbal quality. It's foody and woodsy at the same time, with a depth that almost enables you to smell roots and dirt. In a typical white floral, the entrance of jasmine and tuberose in the middle notes would produce a scent that people often find headache-inducing (as in: my worst enemy is pounding on my head with a large mallet). The jonquil and orris, however, keep it dirty and earthy, so these white flowers smell as though they'd been buried in deep earth for days.

Most remarkable, though, are the base notes: leather and a bunch of dirty white flowers! Patchouli adds a little stankiness (yes, you read that right--I may see about a trademark), and vetiver adds a bit of sharp freshness, like an open window.

You all know how much I love Sex and the City. Did you see the one where they go to Atlantic City on Charlotte's birthday, and she's standing in her hotel room, looking in the mirror at herself in her flowery robe and shower cap, eyeing the Old Maid card game that Miranda gave her as a joke, when she gets that look in her eye? Cut to a scene of Charlotte got up like Beyonce at the MTV Music Awards, in a dress she bought at the gift shop the hotel lobby. I like to think before Charlotte sashayed down and bought her hot pink-and-gold hoochie mama outfit, she spritzed on a bit of Jolie Madame. For do not be fooled by the skank. She may be dirty, but she's a lady nonetheless.

And by the way, I am now the proud owner of a $9.99 bottle of Jolie Madame EDT.

*photo from FragranceDirect

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stella McCartney Stella

I was at the mall this weekend, trying to finish my shopping, when I spotted this cute little roll-on of the Stella Eau de Parfum. I had never sniffed Stella, but like a dark chocolate lover who occasionally swipes Hershey's Kisses out of the jar on her officemate's desk just to get a fix, I grabbed that little bottle and tossed it in my basket. Tiny perfume! How can one resist?

Stella Eau de Parfum has notes of rose, peony, mandarin, rose absolute, and amber. If one were to make a juice of flowers, this is how I think it might smell: rosy, with a spicy fruit underneath, just a little bit of rind, peony for pink sweetness, and amber to lend a little depth. I love rose and amber both, and while this scent has an amazing hit of rose at the top, it's knocked off its majestic throne and turned into a friendlier flower. It's less a stately prize-winning flower than a bloom on a rambling vine. As for amber, it's sweet and sensual, like a pink cotton nighty, as opposed to the deep resinous amber I tend to enjoy.

I know Stella McCartney is the Stella, but I can't get Marlon Brando yelling "Stella!" in A Streetcar Named Desire out of my head. Stella is a very pretty, wearable scent, and I'm not at all disappointed with the purchase ($10 for .33oz at Sephora), but I wish this scent was something more like that scene, a bit more raw and deep. As it is, this Stella might be more like one of the prim neighborhood wives who gossip later over the backyard fence about the neighbors and their crazy ways.

*photo from Sephora

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Guerlain Parure

I know you're probably thinking that I fell off the sample wagon and have been wearing nothing but Iris Poudre since my last post. But it's not true! I have been sampling some other perfumes, both new and old, some of which I'll talk about in the coming weeks, including Carnal Flower (that one warrants a second post), Weil Zibelene, and Guerlain Chamade.

But today I'd like to focus on what is currently my second-favorite Guerlain, Parure. The notes in Parure are:
Top: bergamot
Heart: plum, lilac, rose, jasmine
Base: woods, oak moss, spices

The Guerlain site says Jean-Paul Guerlain created Parure, a "necklace of luxurious scents," for a woman who loved jewelry. If Parure were a jewel I think it might be a ruby, because that's the birth stone for July, and Parure has a beautiful radiance that reminds me of a gorgeous summer day. Or it may possibly be a yellow diamond, lit up like the sun. Parure also makes me think of sunny California in a bygone era like the 1940s or 1950s, the light reflecting off the hills and the glamour that was Hollywood in those decades. Nothing like the watered down pink fruit juice that typically represents it today.

The opening is a golden bergamot, shot through with sweet ripe fruit. The sweetness softens with the entry of the floral notes, as the fruit disappears. The woods and spices in the base intensify the sweetness slightly, giving it a soft incense quality with vanilla undertones. For people who dislike the sharper edge of some chypres, I think Parure is one they would find easy to wear.

*photo from Guerlain

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Frederic Malle Iris Poudre

The time has arrived. You all know how much I love Vol de Nuit, but I'm living off a decant, so I have to mix it in with other things. These other things are supposed to be samples, samples I should write about on this blog, but lately, if I'm not wearing Vol de Nuit (or, actually, Rochas Femme), then I'm wearing Iris Poudre. (And I must say here how lucky I am, for a dear and generous friend to this blog was so very kind as to send me a recharge bottle of Iris Poudre. Hugs to you, Chaya!)

Iris Poudre has notes of iris, tonka bean, musk, vanilla, sandalwood, and vetiver. For me, it feels almost impossible to talk about Iris Poudre in terms of individual notes. It seems to come out of the bottle whole, as exactly what it is. Putting it on is like walking into a cloud of scent that already exists in its perfect state.

"And that is?" you ask. I find myself at a loss for words, but I'll try. Editions de Parfum says it's a "grand floral aldehydic." When I think aldehydes I typically think Chanel, as the particularly aggressive form aldehydes take in Chanel perfumes is an identifying mark. I don't mean aggressive in a negative sense. It's simply another mark of a perfume's character that might also be elegant, pretty, floral, woody, earthy, or what have you. The vetiver heightens the true floral quality of iris here, bringing to it the refreshing quality bergamot and orange blossom often bring to other perfumes. But iris is decidedly not orange blossom; even in this "floral" state, it's the height of sophistication. The remaining notes provide the softness, rounding out the bright floral with a cozy effect. It's proud and comforting at the same time, both soft and strong, yet not aggressive, like a mother lion with her cubs. She's tender and caring, but still, you know her power.

Through the blend of six simple notes, Iris Poudre manages to reach that exquisite grace that takes other perfumes tens of notes to achieve. In preparing for a grand event, have you ever decided to buy a new dress and have your hair and makeup done? When you're finally prepared, you look in the mirror, stunned and slightly pleased at how you've turned out. You arrive at the event, feeling confident until you look across the room and see her: perfectly simple dress, perfectly simple makeup, hair pulled back into an elegant chignon. Instantly you know it took her no more than an hour to prepare, while you went through an obstacle course of beauty most triatheletes couldn't survive. She is Iris Poudre.

*photo from

Monday, December 04, 2006

Parfum d'Empire Ambre Russe

Although I'm not Catholic, I did go to Catholic school for part of junior high and all of high school. When I went to church as a child with my family, it was always to a Catholic church (where you could see Father Terry's bell-bottom jeans underneath his was the 70s). As an adult, I didn't stray far, choosing to join the Episcopal church; I went "Catholic lite": fewer sacraments, more fun! Frankly, I don't go to church at all anymore, but if an occasion calls for me to do so, I still prefer a good Mass to anything else.

It's funny to watch someone who's never been to mass before struggle to determine when to sit, kneel, or stand, or when to respond to the priest. To me it's such a necessary part of going to the thing called church. Keep your rock-and-roll arenas with your giant screen televisions and your wall-to-wall indoor/outdoor carpeting and your little cups of grape juice; give me stained glass and candles and real wine and incense. Ah, incense! Why shouldn't all senses be involved in religious experience? Who wants to attend a church that smells like Glade Plug-Ins?

Parfum d'Empire Ambre Russe, with notes of cinnamon, coriander, samovar tea, Orthodox church incense, amber, and leather, makes me think of the richness of experience involved in a Mass, with all its rituals and incantations (yes, yes, it says "Orthodox" incense, and the Western Catholic church and the Orthodix church are quite different). It's warm and golden, it's sun streaming through the multi-colored representations of the stations of the cross, it's a marble altar, it's candles burning for friends and families, for their hopes and dreams, for their sadness and despair.

Such warmth and depth reminds me again why scent matters. The fact that smell can trigger a memory that a dozen photographs could not recall speaks to the importance of scent in our daily lives. If you are like me, you read descriptions and reviews of perfumes and don't think simply of how something smells, but rather, what the experience would be to smell it. How could a perfume transform your life? Don't laugh...I believe for many people, it has the power to do so, perhaps not always on a conscious level, but all the same.

Ahem. Sorry for the sermon. Ambre Russe is one of the prettiest amber scents I've tried. It's rather pungent, heavier on the coriander and tea than the cinnamon. The spice has an earthy depth to it, and the leather is subtle. If you like amber fragrances--I guess you can tell I do--this one's a must-have.

*photo from Aedes

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fun Retrospective has a fun retrospective on famous perfumes...Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

When the Nose Doesn't Know

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. I haven't fallen behind, but I have caught a nasty cold that keeps me from being able to smell anything. I wouldn't be sick if so many sick people hadn't shown up for work on Monday. The good news is (depending on how you look at it) that I can still come to work and not worry about spreading the germs--they're all already ill!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Rochas Femme

Way back in May, I entered a drawing during the Benevolent Blogging Project. One of the participants, Cait (who is author of the wonderful perfume blog Legerdenez), picked a lucky winner to win a full bottle of Rochas Femme, and that lucky winner was me.

At the time, I'd been sampling perfumes for about three weeks. I don't know about any of you, but one thing I've learned since I started this project is that the nose really does take time to develop. A person who's never had a glass of fine champagne can drink a glass and probably even enjoy it, but the nuances that make that particular champagne better than average would be lost on her. This was my experience with Rochas Femme.

The notes in Femme are:
Top: peach, plum, apricot, bergamot, lemon, rosewood
Heart: ylang-ylang, jasmine, rose, immortelle, clove
Base: oakmoss, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, amber, vanilla, benzoin, and leather

The first time I tried Femme, the very day after it arrived in the mail, I felt overwhelmed. Femme didn't smell like any perfume I'd worn before, nor any of the perfumes I was sampling at the time. I wasn't sticking with conventional samples, either, dabbing on scents like L'Ombre dans L'Eau and Philsykos. Something about Femme made me feel it was too much for me, that I wasn't ready for it yet. It wasn't a negative reaction, by any means; I knew enough to know the difference between a perfume that wouldn't work for me (that would be you, Mitsuoko) and one I knew could wait for me.

A few months later I tried Femme again, and the second time around was better. In the hot weather, the fruit, leather, and musk on my skin showed great promise. Still, I knew I wasn't quite ready. Some perfumes, you have to earn.

In the last few months especially, I've gotten more adept at picking out notes in a scent. And particular notes, like leather, I've learned to appreciate in much bolder concentrations than before. Today, finally, I brought out the black lace-embossed box with "Femme" written across the front in gold script, pulled out the bottle, sprayed, and...Ah! I have arrived!

The bergamot and lemon dominate the top on my skin, while the soft bitterness of apricot compliments the leather accord that reigns through the full cycle. In the middle I don't get much of the floral notes; the jasmine is lost on me, and the rose appears later on, but the ylang-ylang and clove warm and spice the heart. The dry down is beautiful, a soft woody leather, supple and aged. I suppose I could best explain it this way: imagine a piece of the finest leather, and on it someone has sprayed the most exquisite perfume. That is Femme.

Femme is widely available online and won't break the bank. If you love leather scents, especially, this one is a must-own. I find it a dark partner to Le Parfum de Therese, night to PdT's day. Some silly online site rated this scent "mature," which may make you think "Granny." Let me tell you, that'd be one hell of a granny! Femme is pure elegance, plain and simple.

*photo from (strange little site, but they had a nice picture)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!
*photo from

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque

What we have over the last couple of days is a case of good, better, and best. It couldn't have worked out any better if I'd planned it this way. Lucky me!

First, if I gave the impression that I don't like Arabie, I promise, nothing could be further from the truth. It simply reminds me of very fine home fragrance. Not just any home smells that good. Many homes smell of dog or cat or feet. Arabie has none of these notes. And Mandarine-Mandarin is so unusual, so sweet and dark (one reader basically called it "chewy"--I love that!), I can't help but be smitten. I think it's a must-have in some form (sample, decant, full bottle), something I never thought I'd say about a tea scent.

But Fumerie Turque! The list of notes reads like a line of Hollywood's finest gliding down the red carpet into the Oscars: currant, white honey, candied Turkish rose, Egyptian jasmine, smoked leather, beeswax, Balkan tobacco, Peru balsam, patchouli, tonka bean, styrax, juniper, and vanilla. All of them are dressed to the nines, and together they make the most gorgeous crowd. Candied Turkish rose and smoked leather are the stars for me, backed up by a knockout supporting cast. They are Bogie and Bacall, Grant and Hepburn...real stars, not just celebrities.

Fumerie Turque is a beautiful plush incense. And while it lasts all day, it's not at all overwhelming. While it's not as unusual as Mandarine-Mandarin, it's much more seamless in its composition, and I would guess has a more universal appeal.

I read in Tom's review earlier this month on Perfume-Smellin' Things that Fumerie Turque is available for a short time at Barney's and Aedes...If so, it's either not available online, or it's already gone. *Sigh* Another non-export!

Where's my passport?

*photo from

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Serge Lutens Mandarine-Mandarin

I'm a serious coffee lover. Last spring we tried switching over to tea. My husband enjoyed the experience thoroughly, and I cheated by resuming my daily Starbucks habit. We recently bought a new coffeepot, and we're putting it to good use, so I no longer have to sneak around.

That said, I do enjoy tea, and I confirmed my own suspicions: green tea and white tea may be the best for my health, but if I'm going to drink tea, I want it dark and spicy. While the white teas mixed with rose petals and violet leaves are lovely to look at and smell quite nice, they are close to water in terms of taste. I much prefer a black tea with some orange and clove, something substantial for my nose and my tastebuds.

And so why all the blah blah about coffee versus tea? Well, a few weeks ago I read Colombina's review of Serge Lutens Mandarine-Mandarin, and I was so taken by it, I immediately hopped over to eBay and bought myself a 5ml decant (from the terrific Patty of Perfume Posse)--unsniffed! I've never been moved by the descriptions of tea-based fragrances. Some of them sound interesting enough, but not enough to make me want to buy. This one is another story.

The notes in Mandarine-Mandarin (filched from Ina's review on Aromascope...I'm just the last person in the world to catch on to anything, as you can tell) are: Chinese orange, nutmeg, candied mandarin, orange peel, smoky tea, rock rose, labdanum, tonka bean, and ambergris. The "official" description from Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido says Mandarine-Mandarin is comprised of "living and eternal scents of sorbet and crystallized fruits." I find this interesting because to me, this describes a chilled scent. I'm really not getting the sorbet thing, so perhaps someone can enlighten me, but the crystallized fruit...Have you seen the fruit crystallized in sugar for the holidays? In that case, yes. Hardened, preserved, slightly sweet, beautiful.

I don't mean to imply that this is a sweet scent. It's smoky, and the tea note is prominent all the way through to the end. I don't get the celery that some people pick up. The top is heavy with orange peel, and I wonder if it's the bitter part of this oily, sweet experience that evokes the celery note. It's slightly sharp, but evolves into honeyed spiced smoke. This hits the mark that Arabie missed for me by being too heavy on the nutmeg and clove. I'll have to be as stingy with this, as it's part of the [EXPLETIVE] non-export line. *sigh*

*photo from

Monday, November 20, 2006

Serge Lutens Arabie

I finally managed to break away, however temporarily, from the spells of Iris Poudre and Vol de Nuit. Today I'm sampling Serge Lutens Arabie, an interesting choice to begin this week of Thanksgiving.

The notes in Arabie are cedar and sandalwood resin; candied mandarin peel, dried figs, and dates spiced with nutmeg, cumin and clove; and bayleaf, baslmic resons, and Siamese benzoin. Although the notes read as though this were a gourmand scent, the heart of this fragrance is woods. The top notes are candied and medicinal, reminiscent of cough syrup or herbal cough drops. After the medicinal note disappears, I'm left with the spiced fruit covering the woods. It's all the colors of fall and Thanksgiving--the burnt oranges and browns and bright yellows and deep purples--and the clove, which is quite prominent, lends itself to setting a mood for the season.

I have to be honest, though: Arabie reminds me of a fine home fragrance, moreso than a perfume. Nothing's to say a scent can't do double duty, and I'm enjoying wearing it (after all, it's blustery and gray outside, and this scent warms me). If it had a little leather, it would make an interesting unisex scent (although it could be one now), but the mix as it is makes me think of realtors' tricks to sell model homes: burning candles and putting out crystal bowls of potpourri to make a house seem "homey." This is a "homey" scent--perhaps a bit too much!

Or maybe I'm just bitter and cranky without my IP and VdN.

*photo from Aedes

Thursday, November 16, 2006

True Love

I cannot believe how I have neglected this poor blog! Life has just been so crazy these days, but then a couple of other things are to blame...

First, I've been alternating between two perfumes for the most part, Guerlain Vol de Nuit and Frederic Malle's Iris Poudre, and ignoring everything else. I go into the guest bedroom every morning and look at my box of samples, but I always think "Meh..." I eventually ran out of Iris Poudre (I made that tiny vial last as long as I could, and a decant is on the way), and I'm trying to be careful with Vol de Nuit. I don't want to use it all up, even though I know I'll have to cave and buy myself a bottle eventually. At the moment, I feel all other perfumes pale in comparison to these two.

Quickly, Iris Poudre contains notes of iris, tonka bean, musk, vanilla, sandalwood, and vetiver. It's a musky powder, not exactly sweet, but absolutely gorgeous. I'll give it a decent treatment once I get my decant. Right now I just sniff the empty vial and feel sad, and then I go spray on Vol de Nuit , which is what I am wearing today, to comfort myself. As it's cold and grey outside, I'm wearing a turtleneck, and I keep lifting it over my nose to get a whiff of my own perfume. How sad is that? I probably look like I'm practicing to hold up a bank.

The other thing that's kept me away is that I've been giving this blog thing a lot of thought. So many wonderful perfume blogs already exist, and I worry constantly that I'm not really adding to the conversation and failing to keep up. But then I remind myself why I started this project--to educate myself and have some fun. I never wanted to get in the game and compete, and I'm probably going to lag for a long time, won't be getting the latest and greatest and whatnot. I'll be reading about it all on the other blogs along with the rest of you. So if I can tear myself away from Vol de Nuit and Iris Poudre, I might as well keep going!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Jo Malone: Fragrance Layering, Part 1

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. I'm still catching up with life after being sick for so long, and I've had no time to write. Today's post will be short, but I should be back to my usual "blah blah blah" self in no time.

This morning it was rather blustery outside, grey and windy and slightly damp from last night's rain, but all the color on the trees is amazing, so I thought Jo Malone's Pomegranate Noir would fit the bill perfectly for this kind of weather. I received a bunch of Jo Malone decants so I could play with layering, so after I applied my Pom Noir, I spritzed a little Vintage Gardenia on my wrists and neck.

The notes in Vintage Gardenia are gardenia, tuberose, cardamom, myrrh, and sandalwood. As a refresher, the notes in Pom Noir are raspberry, plum, pink pepper, pomegranate, patchouli, frankincense, and spicy woods. Pom Noir is not a light scent, but a deep fruity and spicy juice. Many say it has the most lasting power of all the Malone fragrances. I find this to be true as well, having tried a few others. Most last up to six hours, but Pom Noir lasts all day on me.

I tell you this because Vintage Gardenia really amps up Pom Noir, not just its lasting power, but also its scent. Something magic happens with these two fragrances. As I said, I applied the Pom Noir first, so I was already juicy sweet, and when I sprayed myself with the Vintage Gardenia, I got a huge hit of white flowers, and then it was gone, just like that, replaced by spicy woods, warm and inviting. The fruit in Pom Noir blends beautifully with the white floral notes, something of a scrim over the heavy woods and incense behind them. The patchouli is quiet, dominated by woods and frankincense, while myrrh lends a honeyed sweetness to the touch of fruit (this would be a tart fruit, not overly sweet, so it's softened rather than made cloying through this effect).

*photo from

Friday, October 27, 2006

Guerlain Vol de Nuit


When I started reading the perfume blogs, no other name stood out for me the way Guerlain did. True, Guerlain, along with Chanel, was one of the only perfumers I recognized, beyond the basic department store offerings. But there was also the reverence of the perfume world for fragrances like Mitsuoko and L'Heure Bleue; I knew had to try these. And so I try I did, starting with Mitsuoko. Now, Mitsuoko wasn't my first attempt with a Guerlain. That would have been over a decade ago, when I bought a bottle of Shalimar EDP. I was so excited about owning what I thought was my first real sophisticated fragrance (I was mainly wearing Opium and Calyx in those days). Sadly, my excitement was short-lived. Something in that lovely perfume turned on my skin and produced a smell so awful, even my cat wouldn't come near me. I returned it and went back to my department store friends.

Not long after I started this blog I was browsing in TJ Maxx and I came upon a bottle of the revered one, Mitsuoko. Without sniffing, I snatched it up and took it home. The minute I got into the house I tore open the box and sprayed...In the air, the scent was lovely, sophisticated, what I'd hoped it would be. And on my skin, as it dried?

Bug spray. Honestly, I couldn't think of another way to describe it. But I didn't have to, because Bob thought of something: industrial-strength household cleanser. Not a scent that exactly says "Come here and take a big whiff," unless you have a problem and plan to huff it out of a paper bag.

At that point, I almost walked away from the perfume game. After all, if one of the "greats" was not for me, then where did that leave me? How would I ever find a Guerlain that might suit me? After I calmed down a bit, I decided I was being slightly unreasonable, and I set my sights on L'Heure Bleue and Jicky, two of the other much-revered Guerlain scents.

Months would elapse before I would sniff either of them, and sadly, when I did, both turned strangely industrial on me. Even the Guerlain SA told me "No, absolutely not!" And then she bid me to try Vol de Nuit.

The notes (from the Guerlain site) in Vol de Nuit are:
Top: bergamot, galbanum, petit grain
Heart: jasmine, jonquil, and spices
Base: woods, iris, vanilla, amber

Sweet fragrance angel from heaven, that SA was. But I still didn't know it, even then. Although at first sniff, I thought, "Yes! Finally, this is my Guerlain!", my excitement was tempered with doubt. What if I only thought I loved Vol de Nuit because L'Heure Bleue and Jicky were so disappointing on me? I couldn't be sure, so I walked away.

The scent of Vol de Nuit haunted me so much that I finally caved and bought a decant from eBay. I'm going to find a velvet box for that little plastic sample spray container, a soft cushiony protective home. This pungent powder, soft and alluring, is even better than I remembered. The opening is a soft, grassy citrus with just a hint of sharpness, but it moves quickly into the middle notes, which temper the green and start the descent into a soft heady powder with a twist of something--I suppose I should say animalic, but seriously, what I think is sex. This scent is alluring and sensual, but also comforting. I don't think, in my brief sampling time, that I've ever smelled jasmine this way, so evenly present among a deep spice that quiets into powdery notes that make you feel as though you'd been lifted into the clouds. I generally don't wax quite this rhapsodic about fragrance, do I?

I'm serious when I say this: I could happily wear this scent alone until then bitter end. If this were only about the hunt for a signature fragrance, we would have reached the end. I'd eBay everything else and use the proceeds to buy my bottle of Vol de Nuit.

*image from basenotes

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Satellite Padparadascha

Let's see...

Warm? Check.
Spicy? Check.
Dry? Check.
Woods? Check. And check.

Q: What makes you warm, Padparadascha?
A: Amber. Definitely amber.

Q: And spicy?
A: Pepper. Probably the pepper. Just enough to be interesting, but not so much you sneeze. I got a big laugh out of seeing someone have a sneezing fit off Rose Poivree the other day.

Q: Do you consider yourself a dry scent?
A: I'm not the driest scent out there, but you know, I have no fruit or floral notes. Fruits and flowers would make me juicy. White flowers might make me creamy. I could stay dry with rose or violet, maybe, but then I might be a little sweet. I'm not into sweet.

Q: How about those woods?
A: Cedar, sandalwood, juniper. Although technically, juniper, if we're talking berries, makes me spicy. More spicy. But these woods add a touch of smoke, too, you know. Like the winter smell of smoke from a fireplace in cold air. Makes you want to go in and get warm. Snuggle up with someone.

Q: Would you say you're a bit of a vixen, Padparadascha?
A: Let's just say, if you have someone you want to slide in a little closer to you when the temperature drops outside, you might want to consider wearing a little bit of me. I think I'm probably responsible for a lot of the kids you see running around these days. We'll leave it at that.

*photo from LuckyScent

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

First Impressions

My Guerlain decants finally arrived today, along with some Jo Malone decants so I can have fun with a little layering without having to spend an arm and a leg. It was my first time to buy anything from this seller (who, for the time being, shall remain nameless for reasons to follow), and I must admit, I was slightly underwhelmed.

Every eBay perfume seller I've bought from--until this one--has written me a personal message to let me know my package has shipped, and to say thank you for shopping with them. You all know how I feel about great customer service, and for the most part, the eBay folks and the online perfume sellers all excel at customer service. This person did not write me any message--I simply got an automated notification that my package had shipped. Certainly no problem, really, just not what I usually expect.

And like the other lovely eBay sellers I've dealt with, this person also threw a few extras into my package. One was nice, a small sample of Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu. Another was a perfume with which I'm not familiar, Attar Bazaar (you all know what a newbie I am). Then there was another handful of department store samples: Carolina Herrera Chic shower gel and body lotion, Escada Sport Country Weekend lotion (partially used), and then...

A spray sample of Dune. Now, I'm not knocking Dune. I wore it over a decade ago. And no big deal that it's not one of the more exclusive Dior perfumes or anything (actually, it's the EDT). No, what bothers me about this sample is that it's so old, most of the name has worn off the bottle, which is dirty and covered with fingerprints. And the clincher: IT'S EMPTY.

Okay, to be fair, perhaps this person has a big bag of department store discards she simply grabs stuff out of to throw into packages as extras. But still, wouldn't you maybe look at the samples before you put them in the bag to make sure they didn't leak or weren't dirty or perhaps had the full name on the bottle? And also, if you were sending samples to someone ordering Guerlain decants, wouldn't you be a bit more selective about what you decided to include as samples?

I'm going to hope everything's up to par with the actual decants. As far as I can tell, I have no reason to worry. And the seller does have a 99.7% positive rating. But isn't it amazing, just seeing this empty, dirty sample spray makes me doubtful. And a little less excited. *sigh*

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Sorry to keep you waiting for a new sample post, but I myself am waiting and waiting...You see, I ordered several Guerlain decants, and I had hoped to have them so I could have a full week of Guerlain scents that I'm excited to try and, as far as my experience, aren't all ones that are frequently reviewed or discussed (which of course does not mean they aren't loved by many!).

My other problem seems still to be how to approach the rest of my samples. The sheer volume is overwhelming. (Listening to me complain about this problem, you might be asking yourself, "Why did she order more samples, if she can't manage what she has?" Because it's a sickness, people! I'm not well!) Do I sample by perfumer? Do I sample from oldest acquisition to newest? Do I divide things seasonally? Do I organize according to all three of those principles and then give it a whirl? What about the stuff I want to try again, now that I have more--don't laugh--experience? I think some do-over reviews could be in order.

Or do I just put everything in a big bag and grab something every day, like a reverse sort of trick-or-treat? What if I'm not in the mood for what I grab? If I put it back and grab again, am I cheating?

And finally, you know, I realize it doesn't matter. Most of the samples I own have been well-reviewed by other, more competent bloggers than myself. It's as though I'm struggling over how to arrange my journal: Do I write daily or weekly? Do I write about actual things or only my impressions of the things? How will I know the difference? Do I try to capture life as it actually happens, like conversations, or do I simply emote onto the page, all the things I can't say to anyone, all the things I think during the day but find it better not to share?

I read a column in the November Vogue about keeping diaries, and why the author prefers them to blogs. If memory serves, he basically objected to most blogging because it seems so self-aggrandizing in one way or another: bloggers either think their lives are so amusing and amazing they must be shared with others, or they think blogging is their ticket to fame, to a book deal, a magazine column, a movie deal.

Granted, I've read some blogs like that, and I know some people like that. Those are the blogs I get bored with rather quickly. But I don't find that to be true with the fragrance and beauty blogs, and I guess that's why I signed up to do this myself. I always learn a little something from every blog I visit daily, and I appreciate knowing that mostly, no beauty editor or public relations person is behind much of what I read. I'm getting some straight-up information at best, or just sharing a person's thoughts at least. And I have few illusions about my own little project. I've mentioned here many times how I actually started this project in a diary, keeping notes for myself. And while that's fun, it's not nearly as much fun as sharing it with you all and getting advice, or hearing what you think about what I'm sampling, whether you've tried it or not. I know I'm not inventing the wheel here, but, overwhelmed as I may be by the sheer volume of thigs I have left to learn and try, I sure am having fun.

*image from WebMuseum

Friday, October 20, 2006

Small Pleasures

I've been absent much of the week, out with a chest cold that kept me away from work and from this blog. Today I'm feeling much better, but I still didn't feel up to picking a sample, so I am wearing Santa Maria Novella Citta di Kyoto from a decant sent to me by a very kind reader and MUA regular (thank you again, eaumy!). It's also shaping up to be a very pretty fall day here in Atlanta, and it's Friday...hence my title, Small Pleasures, and the picture of the painting of the same name by Kandinsky.

I wanted to comment briefly on something I read on Ayala's SmellyBlog, in a post she wrote about one of her first perfume loves, Miss Dior: "What stroke me as most special about Miss Dior when at first was how warm and round it was. No one note stood out in particular. It was a true “perfume” in the sense that the sum was greater than its parts…" This struck me because I felt she put into words nicely the way I've felt when I've tried several perfumes, most notably for me Delrae Amoureuse and Rance Josephine. I call them "Perfumes with a capital 'P'," because, as Ayala put it, the sum is greater than its parts. Not all perfumes, even ones I love, have this quality. I think it's an interesting distinction.

I also realized, after reading Patty's post on PerfumePosse about finding a foundation, that I hadn't done a beauty post in a while. Frankly, I'm a little irritated. First off, I'm still struggling with the right skin care, but beyond that, foundation. I finally got to try BareEscentuals, thinking it was going to be the greatest, most natural thing ever, and instead I got dry, tight, powdery, awful...I don't know how they can say this is great for a person with dry skin. Let me tell you right off, if your skin has even the slightest bit of flakiness (I won't go into my skin care rant right now), it will magnify it by clinging to every little flake you have. And the brushes that are supposed to be so soft and wonderful? No. Itchy. And every time I used them, hairs fell out. Not the sign of good brushes.

Yes, I watched the video, the whole thing, and I practiced with the "creamy minerals" for five days. The only good thing I can say about it is that after some of it wore off, I thought my skin looked relatively okay, and the coverage stayed even, which means my little red nose wasn't peeking through late in the afternoon. So far, the best thing I've found is Smashbox Photo Finish primer with the Stila Tinted Moisture (not the illuminating stuff...I learned that's not so great for dry skin either when I wore the DuWop Revolotion, which has a wonderful consistency but also highlights every dry patch if you have dry skin). I'll be sticking with that until I find something better. Anybody out there with dry, sensitive skin want to recommend any skin care or foundation? Feel free! (I should warn you...don't say Cetaphil. That stuff doesn't get your skin clean, and what's the point of moisturizing cleanser if you have to wash your face three times to get your makeup off?)

But to end this post on an "up" note (after all, I did call it "Small Pleasures" and not "Little Annoyances"), I've been meaning to mention the best product in the world for removing eye makeup, DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. I've used their full system and some of their moisturizers, and while nothing else really works for me, this oil does wonders. Eye makeup, regular or waterproof, simply melts away when you gently rub this into your eyelids and lashes, and it rinses cleanly away with water, leaving your eye lashes well-conditioned and soft. This is the only thing that saves me from the wonky eyelash syndrome I mentioned back when I participated in the Great Mascara Hunt.

That's all for today. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

*photos from WebMuseum and DHC

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

L’Artisan Drôle de Rose

Drôle de Rose means "special rose," according to L'Artisan, but really, I think there's something else going on here. Drôle can mean funny or amusing or peculiar, all depending on context, but it can also mean whimsical. Whimsical rose.

Whimsy, often considered a feminine trait, may mean fanciful, or it may mean prone to sudden change. Ah yes, that's our rose. Prone to change she is, depending on her surroundings. Plop her down in the middle of violet, musk, vetiver, vanilla, and amber, and you get Lipstick Rose, that waxy dark specimen who hurls Baccarat crystal when she's angry and eats her men for breakfast.

Let her cozy up with violet and iris powder, and see how soft she can be, how well she plays with others, like a kitten holding her nails back so as not to scratch. For this is only play, after all. We're amusing ourselves here.

If Lipstick Rose is Joan Crawford, then Drôle de Rose is Scarlett O'Hara. When she wants something, when she's the absolute center of attention, she's the ultimate feminine specimen, soft and flirtatious. She's powdered decolletage and wide-brimmed hats and fans.

But upon closer inspection, realize the kitten is really a cat, and the cat has claws. And on a whim, that soft violet can turn waxy and a bit hard, that soft whisper becomes a shout, and you realize that soft powder masks a boozy vanillic note you didn't detect before.

Truly, Drôle de Rose to me is Lipstick Rose without its edge. The rose and violet are beautifully subdued into a lush powder, but I can't help knowing what else it is they're capable of.

(I find it odd that the L'Artisan site, although it distinctly says this is a "concealed powdered rose with freshly picked violets," lists the notes as orange blossom, rose, and iris powder. As a serious lover of orange blossom, I must say, I don't detect any here. Orange blossom would make for a decidedly lighter rose scent, with a bit of sparkle, even with iris to calm it.)

*photos: top and last from Yahoo; middle from

Monday, October 16, 2006

L'Artisan Dzongkha

One thing I love about perfume is its ability to take me to a place I’ve never been. Dzongkha is the journey of perfumer Bertrand Douchafour to the tiny land-locked nation of Bhutan, situated between Tibet, India, and China. According to Wikipedia: “The entire country is mountainous except for an 8-10 mile (13-16 km) wide strip of subtropical plains in the extreme south which is intersected by valleys known as the Duars.” Along the mountains, the Bhutans built fortresses called dzongs. Most of them were built in the seventeenth century, to keep Tibet from invading. Many of them still survive, and dzong is considered the main architecture form of Bhutan.

In her review, Colombina says she feels Dzongkha is an introspective fragrance, and I could not agree more. Given the internal, introspective nature of Buddhism, Bhutan’s national religion, and the geography of the nation, it makes sense that this perfume would be closer, quieter than one might expect. The name itself implies strength, both through its origin and the sound: Dzongkha!

And I think that’s where one can be easily fooled by this perfume. For although it feels introspective and thoughtful to the wearer, I wonder if it always leaves others with the same impression. As I left the house this morning, Bob remarked on how I smelled (good). After thinking it over for a minute or two, he told me this fragrance smelled powerful and sophisticated. He mentioned it smelled like something a well-respected female CEO we know might wear. I took this as a compliment and went on my way.

The notes in Dzongkha, depending on where you look, are:
Top: lichee and cardamom
Heart: peony, iris, incense
Base: peony (LusciousCargo)/vetiver (Aedes), iris, incense
The L’Artisan site does not yet list Dzongkha, so they were no help in settling the dispute. I went osMoz and found this:
Top: peony, cardamom
Heart: tea (with milk), incense, cedar, vetiver, spices
Base: Indian papyrus, iris, leather

Take your pick. I’m assuming the perfumeries got the notes directly off the packaging or from the distributors, but neither of them list leather, and I definitely get a very distinct leather note here. I’m guessing the truth lies somewhere in between, perhaps based on how it mixes with your skin. Different reviewers have had very different impressions of this scent.

The iris softens the incense, keeping it very dry but not powdery. The peony sweetens it, and vetiver makes it slightly pungent through the middle, although it disappears later on for me. The dry-down is all milky floral leathery incense. I find it strikingly pretty, and although this is a very thoughtful, meditative sort of scent, I understand also how another person might find it powerful. It has a quiet confidence, a tall tower wall protecting the soft introspective side, the way the dzong walls protect the courtyards, temples, and monks’ houses inside.

*photos and facts from Wikipedia

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mini Sniffage and Many Thanks

I just got a package from LusciousCargo, and I owe Marcy a big "Thank you!" for being so wonderful. I ordered a bottle of the Fracas EDP, but apparently they were back-ordered, and when the shipment came in, a couple of the bottles had broken and soaked through the boxes and labels on the other bottles. She tried to send me an email, but it looked suspicious (was from L U S C I O U S instead of the usual address) and had a strange looking title...It looked like the emails spam-readers create by reading your usual email, so I deleted it. (I work in internet security--what can I say?)

In the meantime, I was waiting and waiting for my package, and finally I contacted Marcy, who got in touch with me immediately. I felt bad when I learned she'd tried to contact me and I'd deleted the message (but still, better safe than sorry), especially when she told me she had sent my package and thrown in some extras! I continue to be impressed by the kindness and the level of customer service I receive from the niche perfume e-tailers. So many businesses should take a cue from people like Autumn at La Creme Beauty and Marcy at LusciousCargo.

And so, the samples! I don't want to overdo it, but this is as bad as a bag of Doritos. I can't stop myself. Here's what I've sniffed (mind you, not sampled):

L'Artisan Dzongkha - Dry, incense-y, like Messe de Minuit but better? More floral, but still dry. I see a bottle in my future.
Diptyque Tam Dao - Gorgeous spice and woods...also dry. How do I not already own this?
Robert Piguet Bandit - Bad girl in her boyfriend's leather jacket waiting it out in the woods after knocking over a bank. Get out of there girl! The police can smell that sexy perfume from a mile away. (By the way, that girl will be me, after I knock over a bank so I can buy a full bottle of Bandit.)
Les Parfums de Rosine Poussiere de Rose - Holy boozy rose Batman! This is one seriously hot drunk flower. Gypsy grannies allowed.
L'Artisan Passage d'Enfer - More incense and soft musk. Really, can I just buy stock in L'Artisan at this point? Is that possible?
Tocca Touch - (extra thrown in!) Soft, sophisticated fruity-floral, very pretty. Pomegranate's quite popular these days.

I have more--another L'Artisan (Drole de Rose) and the Amouage sample pack I ordered (plus an extra), but I'm all sniffed out. Oh, the excitement!

Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely Liquid Satin

I know, I know. I shot my mouth off and prattled on about how I hated the idea of buying a perfume because of a celebrity when I sampled Fracas, and then I go and actually buy a celebrity perfume. But it's not entirely my fault. Two things happened that practically forced me to buy it: first, I read Ayala's SmellyBlog review, and then I lost my NR for Her EDT during the airport TSA debacle. I had to have something to replace it, and Ayala mentioned that Nordstrom offers a 30ml roll-on bottle, a perfect size for someone who has more fragrance than she can handle (even if most of it is in tiny glass vials)!

The notes in Lovely Liquid Satin are:
Top: rosewood, lavender, mandarin, lemongrass, apple martini
Heart: paperwhites and orchid
Base: patchouli, cedar, white amber, musk

The difference between Liquid Satin and the original EDP is that Liquid Satin contains no alcohol. (Ayala, a perfumer, explains this far better than I can.) But no matter, the scent is--well, lovely. I frankly don't get any of the apple martini note, and the whole creation is decidedly very un-fruity. The top is dry yet sparkling, effervescent like a nice champagne. I get the lavendar and lemongrass mostly, and the rosewood and mandarin save it from being sharp. I love paperwhites--one of my favorite flowers--and with the orchid they lend the most delicate white floral note. If you are easily overwhelmed by white florals (and Lovely does not classify as one--in fact, according to osMoz, it's classified as a chypre), you need not be afraid. The white amber lends warmth, but the patchouli and cedar keep this scent very light and dry.

I think a man could wear this scent, if he weren't afraid of a little floral, because I think it's a wonderful blend of masculine and feminine. Lovely Liquid Satin feels balanced to me in such a way that I think of a man who's just embraced the woman he loves, and his fragrance mingles with hers. It's sensual without being sexy, romance without the frills and silliness.

P.S. I also sampled the new Hilary Duff fragrance...mmm. Um, well, it's quite pretty. Not typical. I don't get much fruit, but I do get a nice woodsy dry-down that's very livable. If you don't believe me, see what Ina has to say. Oh, and I also bought a bottle of Fracas. What's next? Will I start buying tabloids?

*photo from Nordstrom


Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Parfums de Nicolai Odalisque


Look at them, all huddled together in the corner, those snooty sorority sisters—Hiris, Iris Silver Mist, Iris Nobile, Gris Clair—all trussed up in lavender silk and silver organza, doing their best to be cool, regal, and ethereal. Enter our iris, Odalisque, all got up like Sheila E. backing Prince on his Purple Rain tour. At some point during every show she takes the stage and sings that 80s anthem, “The Glamorous Life.” The sisters look down their noses and shake their heads. Who is this Odalisque?

Odalisque is an iris scent, but maybe like no other iris scent you’ve tried. From what I’ve found online, the main notes are iris, lily of the valley, and green notes. (Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you look at it—the network at work blocks Luckyscent, where I got my sample and could probably find the exact notes, as pornography. I find this incredibly funny.)

The iris sisters you love and know primly sip vintage Clicquot. This iris drinks Cristal out of the bottle with a straw. She does shots with her friend, lily of the valley. Lily is sweet, and she amps up the iris, makes it a star performer, loud and bright, but still powdery and royal. The green notes barely restrain the sweetness, much the way a teeny-tiny chain somehow manages to hold back a giant dog. In the dry down, the iris remains prominent, but I think I smell a bit of pepper in there among the heightened powder. Something about Odalisque reminds me of those heady scents that were so popular in the early 80s. This scent is so shout-it-out purple, it could be easy to overlook how pretty it is, how very strong but also intensely feminine. I don’t find it at all cloying. At times I find it tiresome the way people work so hard to be subtle and refined, and I wish someone would come crashing in, someone interesting and loud and a bit wild, yet elegant in the end, despite it all. That’s Odalisque.

Update: Now that I'm home, I was able to look up the notes: lily of the valley, jasmine, iris root. Yeow!

*photos from Wikipedia

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Therese

As I seem to have recovered from last week's frenzy, I thought I would revisit a fragrance I took along on my journey and sampled, but had no time (or attention) to notice, Frederic Malle's Le Parfum de Therese. When I put this on in the hotel room, I thought it was quite pretty, but A) it's quite light, and my application was poor and B) it was too light to compete with the environment.

As many perfume fans already know, Edmond Roudnitska created this perfume in the early 1950s for his wife, and it was hers exclusively. This scent opens with tangerine and melon at the top, with carnal rose and plum in the heart, and cedar, vetiver, and leather in the base. The tangerine overpowers the melon note for me (which is not a problem), and the leather is prominent and lovely from the open. The vetiver is not sharp but rather herbal in feel, a little watery and salty beneath the tangerine. The leather tempers it and keeps away the celery note so many people dread. It takes a while (about an hour) for the rose and plum to emerge for me, and along with them the cedar. The plum is not juicy or dark, but instead serves to sweeten and warm the rose and cedar just enough to make them more prominent. But make no mistake about it, this is a leather scent: soft yet supple leather, refined and lovely.

Le Parfum de Therese is a very, very light scent. The first time I wore it, Bob couldn't smell it, even in the hotel. Today I applied what was left of the tiny glass vial (about 2/3), and the scent is still quite faint, but definitely there. This fragrance creates an aura, rather than your "typical" sillage, and this is one case where I might recommend applying it to your clothing (or perhaps your hair, if it's not oily or you don't wear products with competing scents).

I find this beautiful, feminine and compelling. Like Serge Lutens Daim Blond, it evokes an idea of mystery and elegance. I suppose what makes me think of Daim Blond is its softness and the smell of suede, compared here to the soft leather combined with this watery citrus rose. Of the two, I prefer Le Parfum de Therese. I find this far more bottle-worthy (or on my budget, eBay decant-worthy), and more suitable to my personality.

You can read Colombina's wonderful review of Le Parfum de Therese at Perfume-Smellin' Things.

*photo from Frederic Malle

Monday, October 09, 2006

Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir

After my whirlwind tour of fragrances on vacation and suffering a little bit of a cold, I found it difficult to get back into the swing of sampling. I wore Safran Troublant all weekend--oh, that's a forever favorite--and I almost wore it again today. But I spotted this box on the shelf and thought, "Why not?" This scent is perfect for the season and the weather, after all, and a nice boost for a Monday. I bought Pomegranate Noir unsniffed, all because of Ina's review several months ago. Pom Noir is my first Jo Malone fragrance, and after trying this one, I'm ready to jump in and try some others, especially combining the scents as they recommend.

Pomegranate Noir has notes of pomegranate, raspberry, plum, frankincense, and patchouli. If I hadn't been convinced by Ina's review, I never would have chosen this scent. I'm not one for anything overly fruity, and just reading the notes would have scared the pants right off me. But since wearing it a few times, I like to think of Pom Noir as the poor woman's Bois de Paradis. It shares the same dark fruit, although it's less mulled and more straight juice than Bois de Paradis. I also find the dry down is much spicier, without the rose and amber to soften the patchouli and frankincense, which are a bit more harsh (or maybe dry is the better word) than the woods. To be sure, it's less refined, but no less wonderful in its own way. If I had tried a sample of this, I would have deemed it bottle-worthy in a heartbeat, and now I'm anxious to try layering it with some of the other scents. One they recommend is the Vintage Gardenia, with notes of gardenia, tuberose, cardamom, sandalwood, incense and myrrh. I think the floral aspect of this would soften the juice somewhat, and I'm interested to see how these spices would mix. I'm also interested in the Orange Blossom body creme (orange blossom and water lily) for layering with either of these. I thought about Red Roses, but I'm afraid the lemon and spearmint would clash awfully with the dark juice. The Wild Fig & Cassis (fig, cassis, hyacinth, cedarwood--cedarwood is the siren's call for me) also intrigues me, as does the new one (which I also heard about through Aromascope--I swear, I have to quit reading Ina's reviews), Blue Agave and Cacao (which they did not have yet at the Jo Malone store I visited on vacation and is not yet listed on her official site).

If you've tried any Jo Malone scents, or have a favorite layering combo (Jo Malone or otherwise), I'd love to hear about it! I'll let you know when I try layering, although it may be awhile. Giving that pocketbook a rest!

*photo from

Friday, October 06, 2006

Better Than the Runway...

The runway is about fashion, but this picture is about style. This photo is from The Sartorialist on I spend more time looking at his photos than I do looking at the collections. I find them more meaningful. The runway might tell us what the trends will be, but these pictures tell us how to live with fashion. They show us it can be done, not with flippant tips and silly advice. And more importantly, how it can be done at any age.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I know, I know...I'm trying to get back in the swing of things. I returned home to a new mess of samples, and I find myself completely overwhelmed. What should I try next? Should I have a theme? Should I pin names on a dart board and throw darts to pick? Alphabetize? Categorize?

I didn't even manage to get through what I brought with me on my trip. No, I distracted myself by sniffing new stuff I could sniff right here in this city. A waste! No, I take it back--snffing is never a waste, unless you have a cold or hay fever.

I think I mentioned I got a sample of Donna Karen's Gold. I won't even try to say anything about this, because the most eloquent thing has already been said by Ina at Aromascope: "If there was a champagne made of lilies, that’s how it’d smell." My only complaint probably has to do exclusively with my weak application--light to begin with, it seemed to fade rather quickly. But I think with many scents you can't really gauge lasting power by what you manage to get on your person out of a tiny glass vial. And also, I fear over-application. Anyway, the scent itself is just as Ina describes. I was hoping for more insight: in this month's Harper's Bazaar, they have in interview with Donna Karan. They hint at talking about her new fragrance, but they never do.

I also tried Hanae Mori's new scent, Magical Moon. According to Basenotes, the notes are "Osmanthus Flower, Rose, Sugar Cane, Cotton Flower, Coconut Milk, Vanilla, White Musk, White Sandalwood, Red Cedar, Incense, Litchi, Patchouli, Pineapple Pulp, Guava Nectar, Star Fruit, Orange Flowers and Pink Berries." So, the fruity floral we all know is popular. I prefer Butterfly, but I like this one too. I don't find it overly fruity, and the womanly osmanthus at the top makes it a bit more stately than other fruity florals on the market (or at least the few I have smelled). The sandalwood, patchouli, and incense also ground it somewhat. Still, it is too sweet for my taste. I like a bit of tanginess with my sweet and woods. It's a stately sweet, but there's nothing deep. I believe it needs a little of what the perfume experts out there call skank.

At Neiman's, a kind lady named Irene bid me to try Badgley Mischka. She only named few of the several notes: blackberry and peach at the top, jasmine and white peony in the heart, sandalwood, amber, and suede musk in the base--but that was enough for me. I thought this was amazingly pretty, yet really "everyday" wearable. I can't wax on about it much because I wore it and enjoyed it, but didn't have the presence of mind to analyze it. I seriously considered buying a bottle of this. I need to go over to Nordstrom and get a sample, because they wouldn't give me one at Neiman's.

One fruity-floral I tried and wasn't so crazy about was Guerlain Insolence. Very possibly this is the amateur nose talking, but I found it sort of meh. No doubt it's too subtle for me somehow. I didn't wear it, either, and maybe that makes a difference? Whatever the case, my battle with Guerlain continues. Mitsuoko and Shalimar have rounded up Jicky and L'Heure Bleu, and they've all decided to band against me. The only one who loved me was Vol de Nuit, so how could I help but love it back?

And as for the samples I just got: The perfume everyone's raving is completely mediocre, Serge Lutens Chypre Rouge, something from Santa Maria Novella (grr...which one is this?), Etro Royal Pavillion, Parfum d'Empire Eau Suave (Did I mention how much I love Ambre Russe? I didn't, did I?), Creed Love in White, Mona di Orio Lux (to round out the trilogy), and Lorenzo Villoresi Alamut.

But wait--that's not all. Everyone is talking about Weil. In general, when it comes to the perfume party, I'm the child at the top of the stairs, listening to the grown-ups, waiting for the day I'm down there among them. I go back to my room and practice. That's what this blog is. And so I had to order a tiny sample of Zibeline, the pure parfum, off eBay (thanks to Diane at Dragonfly Scent Me). But still--not everything! More tiny samples: Vintage Chypre de Coty! Oh yes! And--now I'm downstairs, hiding under the table, taking sips off people's drinks when no one is looking--Caron Narcisse Blanc (no Noir to be had for my budget). Patou 1000 Parfum. Guerlain Chant d'Aromes. I even got a few extras: Coty Les Muses, Gaultier 2...and a decant of Etro Heliotrope, which I wore today. It soothes me.

So add all this to my existing stash (you don't even know what's in there!), and you can see, I'm completely overwhelmed. Hence the rambling. But one day my senses (and scentses) will clear, and I'll be rational again, and then I'll talk about the few samples I dragged along and actually wore: FM Parfum de Therese and Fifi Chachnil. Unless, of course, I get distracted along the way. Stay tuned, friends!

*photos from Nordstrom, Basenotes, and Bergdorf Goodman

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Fungus among Us

Some of the clothes at the Dior show were so lovely...I think. I got distracted by the little mushroom caps all the models were wearing on their heads.

This hairstyle, not unlike leggings, was a bad idea the first time around. Don't get any bright ideas. Just let it pass by and pretend you don't notice.

*photos from

Land of the Free?

I’m home from my journey, trying to get caught up. Our trip was a last-minute thing we threw together when we realized we might not be able to take a vacation again for some time. We’ve done a lot of visiting in the last five or six years, but this was only our second real vacation. We were ready to relax for several days in the company of strangers. Sad, then, that the vacation began with me fuming mad.

I know all about the restrictions for carrying toiletries on to an airplane. They must be in a plastic bag, the items can only be a certain size, the bag can only be so big, yadda yadda. That’s why I packed my toiletries in my suitcase, which I checked. Ever since 2001, after airport security personnel unpacked my entire suitcase, pulled the toiletries bag from the bottom of the suitcase, rummaged through it and found my nail clippers and informed me that the file on it was a weapon and he would have to break it off (he did, and I still have them), I have been checking my bags.

Last Friday, we approached the security line at the airport, where a rather large man who worked for the TSA (yet looked strangely like a forest ranger) yelled that we must declare all and any toiletries we had in our bags. And so, because I have an uncontrollable impulse to do the right thing, I pulled out the one and only object I thought I might need to “declare”—a spray sample of Narciso Rodriguez For Her EDT—and was promptly told to throw it away. I balked. Surely the man had to be joking. He assured me he was not. He told me I could either get a plastic bag from the table where they were handing them out and secure my sample in the bag, or I could discard it. In a huff, I threw it into the garbage can and proceeded to the line. He continued to scream at me like an angry marine trying to break a new recruit as I walked away.

When I got to the line, the sight of women with their little bags of toiletries only made me angrier. Not only are we subject to a stupid rule, but people follow it without question. In retrospect I wish I’d been calm enough to walk over and grab one of the bags, because surely the sign of me in line with my tiny spray sample of perfume locked up in a plastic bag would have been the perfect illustration of how ridiculous this rule really is. What scares me more than anything is how slowly they’re removing basic rights from our lives, and how we take it all, calm as cows being led to the slaughter. Here’s a woman with her baggie full of sample size toiletries, and then right next to her is a man with a suitcase. Am I supposed to believe he has no shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, cologne? I had lotion in my purse that I hadn’t taken out, and it went through the x-ray unnoticed, both going and coming home.

And so the rule is arbitrary, arbitrary and stupid to begin with, and yet nobody asks WHY? Are we not in danger just being packed like sardines in the airport security area? Are we not in danger on buses and trains and cruise ships? How about on freeways, or in malls or grocery stores? We are vulnerable. Packing toiletries in plastic bags after the fact makes us no safer, but it makes us less free. I know that sounds dramatic, but I am afraid of the slow removal of our rights, so slow we almost fail to notice. It seems like such a small thing. What are two or three drops of water on a rock over the course of a day, right? But what about a year, or two years, or five?

Think about it. You can take knitting needles on a plane. You can take ballpoint pens (I learned to use a pen as a weapon in a self-defense class years ago.) You can take your friend, the whatever-degree black-belt in karate. You can take a rope or a belt. For now, you can take them all on the plane. Until someone decides (allegedly) to use one of these things as a weapon. Pretty soon we’ll all be in the airport security line, wearing nothing but hospital gowns.

Oh, enough ranting. I promise to return soon and talk about the sampling I did on vacation. In the end I didn't wear all of the samples I took with me (I tried only the Fifi and FM's Parfum de Therese), but I got samples of the new Donna Karan and Hanae Mori, and I also tried the new Badgley Mischka and several Guerlain fragrances. It was quite an event for my nose!