Monday, July 31, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

Sunday was my birthday, and I had promised myself when I started all this sampling that I would buy a bottle of something for my birthday. Trouble is, now that I've sampled so much, what? I find that I like so many more perfumes than I dislike, so trying to decide which...well, it seemed next to impossible. To pick one would be to deny myself another, and so...

I decided to buy myself a bottle of L'Artisan Safran Troublant. Unsniffed! Given my recent fascination with vanilla, and given that so many of the perfume reviewers I read regularly have nothing but wonderful things to say about it, I felt unafraid.

I received it on Saturday afternoon, just after I had already applied Opium Fleur de Shanghai in preperation for going out later that evening. I ended up washing off the Opium so I could try it immediately, and I was glad I did. It's spicy and warm without being at all overpowering, and smells like a personal scent, like an aura, really, more than a perfume. The saffron is prominent at the beginning, and the vanilla warms the spice sweetly, tempering it a bit so that the mixture of sandalwood and rose come through and...well, sort of lift this scent off the skin, carry it our into the air. This scent is fragrant like a wonderful tea, honeyed and milky sweetness. I love it! LOVE it!

And now if you'll excuse me, as my birthday month has only hours left, I must finish celebrating, and there's a pint of Ben and Jerry's out there with my name on it.

*photo from LusciousCargo (although I admit I bought my bottle at Aedes)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Diptyque Do Son

Rummaging through my disorganized samples last night, I noticed that a crop of white floral samples had been growing without my really noticing. I decided to pull them out and give them a shot, as they might lend a little loveliness to the dog days of summer. (And wow, do I have a lot of incense and woods based samples for the fall!) To make a short story unnecessarily long--or at least less short--I was going through the basket in my dressing area where I put samples I want to try for the week, clearing the way for these lovely white beauties, when I found underneath some other vials and papers my sample of Do Son. I had pulled it out to try over a month ago, and it somehow worked its way down to the bottom of the basket.

I have so many samples that I can't remember, with some of them, what the basic gist of the scent is or even why I chose it. Fortune must have been smiling on me just a tiny bit today (new country music hit: "Mercury Retrograde in My Rearview Mirror"), because I thought to look up Do Son and found, lo and behold, that it's a white floral! I got this vial in my very first sample pack order from Aedes, back in April or May.

The notes in Do Son are tuberose, orange tree leaves, rose, benzoin, iris, and white musk. Oh, what a beauty this fragrance is. I love the scent of tuberose. It reminds me of my grandmother. In fact, it reminds me of her so much that in certain concentrations or mixtures, I almost can't wear it. It makes me a bit sad, and also makes me feel like I've tried on someone else's personality, as in the case of Frederic Malle's Carnal Flower, which was the first tuberose fragrance I sampled here. According to Now Smell This: "Carnal Flower has the highest concentration of tuberose of any perfume on the market." This beautiful scent is enhanced by jasmine and coconut, two other scents I associate with my grandmother, so it all makes sense.

Carnal Flower is gorgeous, and in fact it's probably been Bob's favorite. (We play the Chocolat game, with me always trying to guess his favorite...) But I simply cannot wear it. He loves white florals in general, though, and so he also has complimented me extensively on Do Son. This makes me happy because it's a tuberose I feel I could call my own, or wear without feeling melancholy.

The headiness of the tuberose is made so much lighter by the orange tree flower and iris. The rose gives it the slightest bit of powder, but does not overwhelm, and the musk makes it a little sensual. As florals go, I don't think this would be too light for winter. As with Calypso Chevrefeuille, there's something to this scent that makes it feel as though it might warm me up on a winter's day, the sort where the sky is blue and high, sparse, icy clouds race through the sky, a day where it's so cold but you still feel like you have to get outdoors and do something. Although this is perfect in the heat--just floral enough, with just a hint of green--I wonder if it might actually be even more enhanced in chilly weather. I'll have to try it and see! I've used up most of the sample, but I think this might be bottle-worthy.

Ah, in this heat, cold weather feels so far away, no? Especially for those of you out west...Stay cool, friends!

*photo from Aedes

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Majenty After Hours

In the past few weeks, if something could go wrong, it has gone wrong. Lines of communication have been crossed, tempers have flared, orders have been mishandled. Not one to believe in horoscopes necessarily, I do believe that things going on in our universe affect us, and one of those things is Mercury retrograde. Every quarter or so, Mercury goes retrograde for approximately three weeks, and these are the times when your computer crashes for no reason, legal contracts fall through, or you end up waiting alone in the rain for a date who's waiting across town (also in the rain) for you.

It's Mercury I blame for screwing up my order with La Creme Beauty. I had orginally ordered Majenty's Embrace the Day, a base of gardenia oil infused with notes of jasmine, tuberose, and plumeria. Of course, Mercury presiding the way it is, I didn't immediately notice that what I got in the mail wasn't what I ordered. Like the true perfume fiend I've become in the last few months, I simply whipped that little sucker out of the box and started to apply the yummy oil.

And yummy it was indeed, only it was not at all what I expected. In the first place, I distinctly smelled coconut. I didn't remember coconut listed in the notes, so I looked them up again, and sure enough, no coconut. I considered how interesting it was that these notes all together could smell so beachy and tropical. And I wasn't really getting much gardenia. Uh, any gardenia. I thought maybe it was my nose.

And so a few days later, I wore it again. Beachy. Hot. Floral. Was it the humidity? Was it my soap, my shampoo, my body lotion? What was making it change?

Ahem. It took me a week to figure it out. Yes, I'm ashamed, but I was sitting in a meeting (obviously with rapt attention) last week when it dawned on me that perhaps they had sent me the wrong item. And sure enough, when I got home that day, I checked the box, which looks just like the picture here and very plainly says "After Hours."

I thought about sending it back, but I liked it too much to do that! My vanilla reviews were few and far between (sort of) because I kept wearing this stuff instead. After Hours has a coconut oil base (hence the beachy tropical yumminess) infused with notes of tuberose, hyacinth, and jasmine. Some perfumes cut the heat, and others embrace it, as this one does. This floral has a pulse. It swelters. It's a dark, hot, close night just before rain. In the humidity, it's warm and sexy. In the chill of air conditioning, it's warm and sexy. Some people who are easily overpowered by white florals may have a tough time with it, especially after first putting it on. It's quite heady and intoxicating, but as it warms to the skin and the coconut comes through, the floral softens.

I've not had a chance to smell the NARS oils, and there is nary a bottle of Azuree to be found anywhere in the "greater" Atlanta area, so I cannot compare. This is a true perfume oil, not a body oil, and thereby may also be more concentrated than the other two. But if you're looking for that beachy, tropical feeling, After Hours will do it for you. And it has wonderful staying power. I can't wait to try Embrace the Day...someday.

*photo from Majenty

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hanae Mori Butterfly

I was in a rush to get ready for work this morning, so I just grabbed something out of the basket of samples I have on my bathroom counter. Most of these are standard perfumes, and the one I grabbed this morning was Butterfly. This is fitting, because, as the Sephora site explains, the berry and almond notes in this scent wind up "giving an impression of vanilla." In fact, I would say also a hint of chocolate, the milk variety. Butterfly reminds me a little bit of Lea Extreme, only it's a bit lighter, not so dusky (incidentally, I happen to like dusky).

The notes in Butterfly are stawberries, bilberries, black currant, bugarian rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, sandalwood, almond, and praline. If you are afraid of all the fruit you see here, don't be: this scent is decidedly not fruity. The floral notes shine through here, the base created by the milky powder of almond, the caramel of praline, and the berries really does smell like vanilla. The sandalwood offers a little spice on the drydown and sticks around to give it a little kick.

Something about this scent reminds me of hot chocolate, yet it's light enough to wear in summer. Personally I would prefer a bit more of the sandalwood, but overall this scent has a nice balance.

*photo from Sephora

Des Filles a la Vanille Toi Mon Ange

I'm closing in on the end of my vanilla scents. I ordered Toi Mon Demon with a bunch of other samples from luckyscent. The notes in Toi Mon Demon are sandal, cedar, lily of the valley, and bergamot. Seriously, that sounds right up my alley. A little woods, a little floral, some vanilla thrown in. Yum.

Instead, they sent me Toi Mon Ange: jasmine, vanilla, toffee, and yellow peach. Right there, we have a problem: peach. At the opening, this scent smells like a peach Jolly Rancher. I'm not a huge fan of peaches per se. I can take them or leave them, as fruit goes, so I wasn't thrilled. If you love peaches, this might be the fragrance to send you right over the top.

I must say, though, that when the peach settled down a bit, the toffee note rounded it out nicely, bringing out a musty rather than sweet fruit, and with just a hint of jasmine underneath, this turned out to be quite lovely. I don't think I could wear this regularly, because the several hours of peach candy were just too much for me. But if fruity scents are your bag, I could happily recommend this one.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka

I'm surprised at how much I enjoy these vanilla fragrances. Two general categories of notes I tend to shy away from are vanilla and citrus. So then, perhaps, it's not a surprise that in a scent that mixes the two together, I may not find happiness. The notes in Vanille Tonka are vanilla, frankincense, tonka bean, tangerine, and lime.

Instead of the heady sweet incense of my beloved Loukhoum, I instead get a sharp, dry, resinous incense. I would have thought the tonka bean would sweeten it somewhat, and perhaps it does, but the citrus notes, especially the lime, bring out an edge that seems hard to soften. This must play up the resinous quality of the frankincense.

This fragrance is sharp and smoky without being either refreshing or sensual. It makes me think of a rental cabin in the woods. I've just arrived in the freshly cleaned room, with it's polished wood paneling and red plaid bedspreads. Lamps from the 1950s with their original parchment shades adorn the bedside tables; oil paintings of the surrounding landscape by local artists decorate the walls. A wood-burning stone fireplace occupies the wall opposite the bed. An older black-and-white television, topped with rabbit ears, stares blankly out from the top of the bureau.

I suppose it's something that I get such a vivid picture from this scent. The vanilla that comes through here feels like a compromise (even as a main note). Funny, but as a harsh incense scents go, I think I prefer Etro's Messe de Minuit. I like the damp dirt that exists in that scent, as opposed to this sort of PineSol and vanilla candle thing I smell happening here. Sorry, to those who love this scent; I'm afraid it's not for me. Perhaps I am not worthy.

*photo from luckyscent

Friday, July 21, 2006

Des Filles a la Vanille Riviere de Janvier

Having enjoyed Je T'Aime so much, I thought I might try some of the other scents from Des Filles a la Vanille. The notes in Riviere de Janvier are fig leaf, green accord, rose and vanilla. I thought this might be an interesting take on vanilla, which to my mind represents warmth. Also, I liked the name...January River. I saw dark, cold, choppy water against a smoky grey sky...old grey stone buildings, cobbled streets, street lights glowing golden at regular intervals down the lane on a late afternoon. Romantic rose and vanilla, a green promise of spring that seems far off...

But what you see is not always what you get. Perhaps you're strolling down that lane and you come upon a cafe that looks cozy from the outside, but when you walk inside, you find their heat's been turned off and they only serve gelato. Hrm. The opening of Riviere de Janvier is very sweet and fruity, yet cold. The rose and fig leaf offer up a chilled fruit with a vanilla base, but I personally don't find the chill refreshing, as you think I might in all this nasty heat and humidity. Instead, this is the chill of artifice--like a finely decorated model house, it looks wonderful but you can tell nobody lives there, and so it lacks the warmth that might make you think, "Yes, this could be my home."

Perhaps if the rose were darker, duskier, this fragrance might have some depth. But it comes off with a superficial quality, like a corpse. I don't mean this in a hateful way, but I thought of Nicole Kidman, perfectly beautiful and polished, well-mannered, but something's off. Something's missing. A lack of warmth, a lack of depth, a face containing perfect composure (thank you, Botox) at all times.

*photo from luckyscent

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Today's Sample: Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum

Dear Loukhoum,

This. Has. Got. To. Stop. You have to understand, I was looking for something simple, uncomplicated. This whole vanilla thing, it was just an experiment. I mean, I admit it, okay? I was only toying with you.

I didn't think it would get serious. I didn't expect to fall in love. And then to find out that my friends like you...when Lisa stepped up and sniffed me last night and said "It's you!" and then asked what I was wearing. Well, I had to tell her, didn't I? I mean, she's my friend. So I spilled the beans. Told her everything. Your name. Who made you. All about your hawthorn blossom, your rose absolute, your precious woods, and of course, the vanilla Comores flowers.

And I could tell she was smitten. I mean, who wouldn't be? And she knows you're on the market now. And she knows I'm not really exclusive with any perfume these days. It's just not the right time for me to get involved. We've been all through this. But that doesn't mean I want you going around with my friends. Do you really think I want to walk into a room and smell that heady rose wrapped in the warm incense of woods and vanilla on someone else?

Okay, you're still upset about yesterday morning when I said you were too much for the heat and very dry. When I said your rose was so dry at the top and reminded me of the dark rose drydown in Lipstick Rose (which isn't a bad thing, anyway, and I don't know why it made you so huffy). You're completely ignoring the fact that I also said you got spicier and tempered with woods. And also the fact that I already admitted I WAS WRONG. You're lovely, even in the heat. And your rose really isn't as dark as the rose in Lipstick Rose, even though it has that same wonderful depth. But you're just so jealous. You can't see that even though I appreciate Lipstick Rose, I know it's not really right for me. But you are. Why can't you just focus on that and be happy?

I repeat: There will be others. If we're going to spend time together, this is just something you have to come to terms with. But no matter how I feel about new scents I try, no matter how I feel about those from the past that I loved (and may still love), I'm telling you, I want you around. You're special to me. You really are.

Why does love have to be so hard?

*photo from LusciousCargo

Monday, July 17, 2006

Today's Sample: Lea St. Barth Lea Extreme

Today in the vanilla trials, I'm sampling Lea Extreme. The notes are almond, vanilla, and light musk. I want to say the almond gives this vanilla a slightly powdery feel, and it's a little duskier and--well, less alcoholic is the best way I can think to phrase it, except that implies Vanille is alcoholic when it isn't--than the Ligne St. Barth Vanille.

One thing I'm loving about both Lea Extreme and Vanille is how simple they are to wear but how luscious they smell. I've been sampling my fool head off for months (see my Samples by House list...and that's only since mid May!), waiting for someone other than Bob to say anything about the way I smell. Every time I wear something I'm sure will evoke a response to work or to a party: nothing. I get absolutely nothing.

But on Saturday I wore Vanille to a party, and no fewer than four people commented how good I smelled...and there were only eight people at the party, including myself! I read somewhere recently (I honestly can't remember was an article on the Internet, I'm pretty sure) that women wear perfume mostly for themselves. I know I've certainly felt that to be the case. But apparently, when you wear vanilla, you wear it for everyone in the room. Now, I should mention that three of the four people (I'm not counting Bob...if I count Bob, it was five people) were men. This may give credence to the myth that men love perfume that smells like food, although I believe the most preferred scent of all was pumpkin. Although I'm enjoying these fragrances (again, they are wonderful in the heat...the humidity sort of warms them up, but in a good way rather than an oppressive or cloying way), I don't think I'm ready to go around smellng like the last course at Thanksgiving dinner, so for me pumpkin perfume is a ways off. I'll stick with Vanille and Lea Extreme!

*photo from Luckyscent

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Today's Sample: Ligne St. Barth Vanille

To begin sampling vanilla fragrances, I decided, why not start with the most vanilla of all the vanillas I have...The notes in Ligne St. Barth's Vanille are:
Top: Vanilla
Heart: Vanilla
Base: Vanilla, caramel

I received this sample unsolicited. I must admit I was a little afraid to go with straight vanilla, and wouldn't have chosen it on my own. I thought it might be overpowering, too much of a good thing, and that I might smell like a human candle from Pier 1. Instead, I have this pleasant warmth and sweetness surrounding me all day. This vanilla is not harsh or acoholic, but creamy sweetness. The caramel comes through like the slightest hint of cooked sugar...Bob referred to this as the "burnt match" smell. Don't worry--he assures me he meant that as a compliment, and he must have because he's been telling me how good I smell all day.

The other thing I like about this scent is how compatible it is with my environment. Right after I put this on, Bob put on his scent, and usually I worry about the clash and how I can't smell mine over his and whether this affects my (limited) ability to detect certain notes, but today they blended in a lovely way. And then I went to the hair salon, and the vanilla held its own against the scent of color and shampoo and conditioner and styling products like a champ, changing its shape a bit in my nose every time we encountered a new smell in the air.

This also wears well in the heat. I worried it might turn sticky in the humidity, but it hasn't. I like flexibility in a fragrance. I'd like to try layering this scent with other fragrances I might've licked (uh, make that "might have liked"...that typo is too funny to fix!) but for the lack of warmth and see how it works. I'll be sure to let you know the results. I can see why Vanille would be a nice addition to any collection. May have to add it to mine!

*photo from LusciousCargo

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Death of the Perfumer?

(Pardon the long post...I got a little fired up.)

Some time ago, I made the case for comparing fragrances to one another. Some people believe that you shouldn't compare, because each fragrance is a singular work of art, and the intentions of the perfumer in creating the work must be respected. In making my own case, I appealed to the French literary critic Roland Barthes' idea of the death of the author, noting that when a perfume enters the larger world, it belongs to the people. For example, we categorize them not only for easy sales (Men's and Women's; Green, Floral, Citrus, Chypre, Oriental, Gourmand) but also for understanding and classification. We present our impressions of these scents to one another as they are altered by our skin and surrounding environments. Some of our noses are flawed and some of our tastes are fickle, but we love perfume, and so we sniff and discuss.

Certainly if a perfumer decides to include certain notes in a fragrance, he or she knows that the scent will be categorized as such and therefore compared. A scent is only unique in its differences, and in order to understand these, we compare. And then there are the perfumers who create perfumes for specific houses. Their work, although known to devoted perfume fans, is for the public at large generally associated with the house for which they create the perfume (Chanel, Guerlain, Christian Dior, and so on). Indeed, when they are contracted, I suspect they must have some agreement in place to create fragrances in the spirit of the house for which they have agreed to work. If Neil LaBute agreed to make a movie for Disney, well...They'd be looking for it to be signature Disney, not signature LaBute. (And you'd have some seriously confused and messed up kids out there if LaBute made a Disney film, seriously.)

Now, that said, I was surprised to read the article in The New York Times today ("Is a Scent Like a Song? Oui and Non") about the French court's decision that creation of a perfume does not equal the creation of a singular piece of art, and therefore perfumers work cannot be protected, nor can they expect to collect royalties for their work once they are no longer under contract by a specific house. A quote from the article: The court stated, “The fragrance of a perfume, which results from the simple implementation of expertise,” does not constitute “the creation of a form of expression able to profit from protection of works of the mind.” (I'm sorry for not linking to the article, but after seven days they move their articles to the archives, and you must pay to see them if you don't have a subscription.)

The law suit was the result of a perfumer who sued the company for which she had previously worked when they refused to pay royalties for one of her creations after she was no longer in their employ (Nejla Bsiri-Barbir, who created Dune for Chritian Dior). The basis of the loss was this: "...the highest court in France ruled that making perfume is not an artistic creation, but the work of a mere artisan." (And you know LaBute would continue to get royalties from Disney while his movie aired on cable and the Disney Channel and so on.)

It's one thing to compare fragrances, to categorize, to critique, and so on. Any product that enters the market, be it a dress, a painting, a novel, or a piece of music, comes to belong to an audience. Art can exist without an audience, but it cannot live. And so, the death of the parfumeur. However, to say that a perfume is not an artistic creation--with this I wholeheartedly disagree. Perfumers are no less artists than novelists, painters, or composers. And although it may be crude to say so, they deserve to be paid for their work, even after they have left the employ of whatever company contracted their expertise.

One of the other things that bothered me in the article was this idea of "the talent of the nose." While some maintain this talent is innate--a gift of sorts, which you either have or you don't--others say that developing a nose takes work and is learned like any other skill. In general, this ongoing argument in all the arts just bugs the crap out of me. The simple fact is that talent ceases to matter if you can't translate it into anything. Very often, people who do have innate talent are horrible failures, because they believe they don't need any training, discipline, or help. On the other hand, where most arts are concerned, no matter how hard a person trains, if the person lacks talent, he or she will eventually hit a ceiling. (I'm speaking in the purest terms here, without factoring in luck and the public's appetite for all things mediocre, which sometimes catapult a so-so talent straight to the top.) You see this all the time in writing. No matter how much talent you have, writing takes a great deal of dedication and discipline. If you have a little bit of talent and a lot of discipline, you can go far. I think the same must be true for the perfumer: no matter his talent, he must be disciplined enough to continue to train his nose, to push boundaries and develop scents that are unique.

When I smell one perfume and it reminds me of another perfume, never do I think that the perfumer must have set out to create that effect. Because scent is so closely linked to memory (and great noses surely know this?...After all, their own creations are often based on their own memories and impressions), I understand that my experience is as unique as the intention of the person who created it. In fact, scent alone seems to be the one art form that cannot really be dictated by public taste. I can think I should like Beethoven's Ninth or Shakespeare's history plays or Degas's ballerinas because the public's idea of an educated person with good taste may dictate that I do, but if I spray a perfume on my wrist and it smells awful (Mitsuoko...over here! I'm talking to YOU), no dictate can make me say I like it, because it just doesn't smell good on me. Period. What is more singular than that, and therefore more artistic?


Katie from Scentzilla! and Marina from Perfume-Smellin' Things have launched a new site, Scentbloggers, and Sweet Diva has joined as a member site. Scentbloggers provides links to perfume reviews from member blogs, perfume news, an advice column, a resource for perfume vocabulary (You Just Want Me for My Big Dic...tionary), information about perfumers across the globe, and information about specific notes.

They will also accept essays and reviews on fragrance (one page) from readers who want to participate but might not be interested in keeping up a blog of their own. Many thanks to Katie and Marina for launching this wonderful resource!

Today's Sample: Opium Fleur de Shanghai

A couple of weeks ago I was perusing the usual blog suspects when I came across Cait's review of Yves St. Laurent's Opium Fleur de Shanghai on Legerdenez. Her review pointed me to another review of this scent on Ayala's Smelly Blog. YSL created this fragrance as a limited edition for the summer of 2005, and the first thing I need to do here is ask, why? WHY? Why limited edition?! What sort of sadistic game are the perfumers at YSL playing with perfume fans?

The notes in Fleur de Shanghai are mandarin orange, chinese magnolia, star jasmine, and vanilla. Notes be damned, from start to finish, this fragrance is stunning. I admit, I'm a longtime fan of Opium, The Original (or The Elder, as it were). For fun (and for comparison's sake), the notes in Opium are tangerine, plum, cloves, coriander, carnation, lily of the valley, rose, myrrh, opoponax, castoreum, cedarwood, and sandalwood.

For many years, Opium was the only fragrance I wore in the winter. It has a spicy warmth that's both sexy and cozy. What I find so remarkable about Fleur de Shanghai is that, although the notes are completely different, this is still very clearly Opium, only softer, slightly more floral, and tempered with vanilla. The spirit of the original remains, yet it's been rendered wearble in warm weather. It's exotic and lush rather than cozy (I think it's the absence of woods that lightens it so), but it's still a very sexy fragrance. (Well, unless you hate floral orientals and don't find them sexy...smell this and I bet you will change your mind!) I'm at work, but I feel like I should be walking around barefoot with a giant orchid tucked behind my ear. Maybe I should just stay in my cubicle today, lest I get any crazy ideas.

But Fleur de Shanghai is a LIMITED EDITION. Which means pretty soon, you won't be able to find it anymore. I found mine at, 100 ml for $62. The bottle is quite large, and for something so beautiful, this is a bargain. I may even order a second bottle.

*photo from

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Today's Post

Grr. Arrgh. Okay, it's my own stupid fault for writing the post and not saving before I copied and pasted it in to the editor in order to post it...but literally, right when I was getting ready to click Publish Post, the stupid power cord came loose from the wall, and I didn't have the battery in, and I lost the whole thing.

In a nutshell, you must read Rabbit, Run. Hopefully, tomorrow, I can get around to telling you why.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Little Behind

Sorry I've fallen behind in my sampling. In the last few days, my senses have felt...well, tired. The thing about wearing a new perfume every day is, it starts to feel a litle bit like always wearing someone else's clothes--clothes you like, but that aren't really "you." I've tried so many perfumes that I'm not sure I can say anymore what's "me," but I decided to wear an old favorite, Clinique Happy Heart, and give myself a bit of a break.

Happy Heart, like my other Clinique favorite, Simply, does not seem to have a big fan base. Lots of people like the original Happy and Happy to Be, it seems. I'm not sure what keeps all these fragrances in the Happy family, as they all have rather distinct notes. I got a sample of Happy Heart in a gift with purchase (the way all cosmetic companies seem to push things they fear might not sell) and I loved it immediately.

The notes in Happy Heart are water hyacinth, mandarin, and blond woods. It's a bright scent, citrusy and very fresh. It reminds me of the beach, probably because the summer I first tried it we went to the beach rather often, and the sample spray was the perfect size for my travel bag. We haven't been to the beach in a few years (mainly because there's not much left, after all the hurricaines), but when I wear this I can picture sitting under the umbrella in the warm sun, feeling the breeze and watching the clear turquoise water of the Gulf roll up onto the bright white sandy beach.

If you're curious, notes in the original Happy are ruby red grapefruit, boysenberry bush flower, and Hawaiian wedding flower. (And on me, it absolutely stinks. Or, as Kirstie Alley might say on her show, "Fat Actress"--which is funny in a bizarre way--it smells "like ass." In the bottle, it's nice.) The notes in Happy To Be are watery citrus (as opposed to dried citrus, I guess? aren't all citrus fruits watery?), crisp pear, elements of hibiscus, and syringia flower. I'm not a fan of this one either, truth be told, even in the bottle. What a rebel, hm?

I should get it together in the next few days, and when I do, I'll be sampling vanilla fragrances. Please visit and let me know what your favorite vanilla scents are--or if you like them at all.

*photo and notes from

Friday, July 07, 2006

Today's Sample: Acqua di Biella Janca

Oh, this poor perfume I've gone and ruined it by opening and sniffing a bunch of samples I just got this afternoon. I even tried one on the back of my hand because I could not wait to see what it smelled like. (Bond No. 9 Fire Island...mmmm.) I also got my bottle of Opium Fleur de Shanghai, which I ordered unsniffed after reading a review at Legerdenez. Although I haven't applied it, from sniffing in the bottle, I would say it's reminiscent of Opium, but not at all the same. It's somewhat softer and less spicy (or maybe it's better to say less woody), and certainly more floral. Yet it maintains Opium. I'll try to explain this better when I actually wear it!

Thank goodness I had dashed off a few notes about Janca this morning. I can sort of still smell it on my wrist--I know it's there, the way you know the layout of a room in the dark. The notes are as follows:
Top: Florentine iris, magnolia, linden blossom, osmathus
Heart: Mandarin and peach
Base: Cardamom, white musk, cedarwood, and patchouli

Now, I've said this before, but to reiterate: I'm not really reviewing fragrances. I'm just getting these impressions and dragging you along for the ride. I say this for a reason: I ordered this sample based on a review at Now Smell This. I've had the sample in a box for at least six weeks, and it had been a while since I read the review, but I re-read it today when I fetched the link for my post. Let me say right here that the notes unfolded differently for me than they did for Robin, who is clearly expert where I am novice. I honestly don't even know enough to say whether this is all simply chemistry or what the nose smells or what-have-you. Guess I'd better educate myself on the finer points!

That said, here we go: At the opening, the magnolia and osmanthus came through most strongly for me. I felt a little bit like Goldilocks. I've tried a few other osmanthus fragrances--Keiko Mecheri and Ormonde Jayne. The Keiko Mecheri was too small, or better yet, too prim. The Ormonde Jayne was too big; I felt like the fragrance was wearing me, instead of the other way around. I much admire both of those scents, but the Janca--the Janca is just right. I didn't get much more of the fruit than just a hint of peach. At the end it was still a little osmanthus with cardamom, cedarwood, and a tiny, tiny hint of patchouli.

Janca makes me think of a certain time in summer, usually around mid-August, when i start to notice the change in the light. Usually there are a few days where the temperature may drop slightly, and the air is dry, and the sky is blue and clear. The heat actually feels good in a way because the light brings with it a promise of fall. That's what Janca makes me think of: a bright, hot day with clear winter-blue skies.

Of course it doesn't gets hot and muggy again, and the sky turns yellow and hazy, and the air has the consistency of pea soup. But maybe a little Janca could bring back the promise.

*photo from Aedes

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Today’s Sample: Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose

Lipstick Rose has what people call presence. According to Frederic Malle’s official site, this perfume is “a rose note enhanced by violet, backdrop is musk and vanilla, with a hint of vetiver and amber.”

To me Lipstick Rose is this: dark, thick lipstick on the edge of a fine yet heavy crystal glass holding an expensive liquer. The opening is quite heady and sweet, candied violet confection. I found it slightly sickening, to be honest, and this is the first fragrance to which I can apply the word waxy. And the image that popped into my head was this: Joan Crawford.

After I’d worn Lipstick Rose for a few hours, it became more subdued. 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.

You can read a review of Lipstick Rose at Perfume-Smellin’ Things.

*photo from

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Today’s Sample: Les Parfums de Rosine Ecume de Rose

In the perfume world, the phrase “come out smelling like a rose” might not always mean something positive. Rose is a scent for potpourri or sachets, but not necessarily for modern perfume, not unless it’s been rendered less floral by a shock of green (as in L’Ombre dans L’Eau) or dark and husky by violet and musk (as in Frederic Malle’s Lipstick Rose). Everywhere I read that people either tend to neglect or reject rose fragrances.

Yet the scent of a rose is lush and lovely, stately and elegant all at once, not unlike the flower itself. Too often in general commercial perfumes, roses end up dusty and powdery, like something dried and crumbling between the leaves of a forgotten scrapbook.

But what if the real scent of a rose, in its verdancy and full flower, were rendered in a perfume? What if, when you opened the scrapbook and pulled the decaying blossom from its pages, you were transported back to some lovely Gatsby-era garden party, somewhere right at the beginning of Modern. That’s what I think of when I smell Ecume de Rose.

The notes in Ecume de Rose are as follows:
Top: Blackcurrant leaves and water lilies
Heart: Dune roses, straw flowers, St. John’s wort
Base: Vetiver, amber, white musk

To me, the rose comes out in full blossom right at the beginning and stays in full perfume, with a fresh wet edge like dew and grass clinging to sandaled feet, and then eventually dries down to a discrete elegant floral supported by vetiver and white musk. It has the same salty, earthy undertone that I enjoy in Laura Tonatto Iss. With vetiver in the base (and it’s definitely there), I’m not sure if this should be a rose perfume for vetiver lovers, or a vetiver perfume for rose lovers. Either way, it has edgy yet nostalgic innocence, like a girl in white linen with pale bobbed hair and red lips, looking out over the garden and across the salty Sound. What does she see there?

Note: From now on, I'll be posting most days in the late afternoon or early evening, due to my work schedule.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


I'm not a chocoholic, but I do love chocolate, especially dark chocolate. And I love the movie Chocolat. Juliette Binoche's style in that film...I wish I had it. And I love brown eye shadow. Sure, I've been trying to play with color this summer (although I never succumbed to the frosty sky blue or mint green shadows I posted about many weeks ago), but what I love about basic brown is that it always looks chic and it's so hard to screw up. I mean, sure, if you put too much on, you might look a bit freakish, but for most of us, these shadows are no-fail.

Yet I find myself torn about the Bobbi Brown Fall Palette. One reason might be that it's only the first of July, so fall still seems a long way off. Another reason might be that it's tough to get too pumped up about something so basic. Brown eye shadow is to the face what a white t-shirt is to the wardrobe--a staple. Brown eye shadow is a running shoe: It can be stylish and high-tech, or it can be basic enough to get the job done. I don't know about you, but even though I always feel better when I get a new white t-shirt or new running shoes--the way I feel about a full tank of gas, clean laundry, and a stocked fridge--I don't necessarily feel excited.

I do like the shadow palette, though, because the colors are gorgeous and as purchases go, I don't think you could miss with this one. But here's what I don't like: the return of the brown lipstick. Hello 1991! I remember it seemed fresh and elegant at the time, but looking back, a lot of people looked like mud-munching corpses. I'm not against brown lipstick in general, but when certain shades become a trend, many people tend to buy whatever gets pushed at them, instead of trying to find a shade that actually suits them. Hence the mud-munchers. The chocolate-suckers.

But what is pretty? This nail polish! I love this color for fall. It's a tough call in the south. Sandal weather persists well into October, yet my (teeny tiny) fahsion sensibility tells me to close up my toes like a summer house after Labor Day. But I've found a way to compromise: darker, heavier sandals, and a darker polish. No more sheer pink, please, after Labor Day. And while red is always acceptable, this chocolate cherry color makes just the right statement. Just picture your foot against a backdrop of turning leaves... Okay, maybe that's a bit much, but it still works for the season and will carry you into the holidays--even though it's way too early to think about that, too!

*Chocolat photo from Wikpedia; Bobbi Brown photos from