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