Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

I wish you all a Happy New Year! May 2008 bring you peace and happiness.

*image from Times Square Alliance

Friday, December 28, 2007

2007: Fragrance Year in Review

The fragrances listed here are my favorites out of the ones I posted about in 2007. Unlike last year, I was sampling right up until the last minute. At one point I thought the list was headed in a more floral direction, but as it turns out, my love of spice and incense tends to win out.

The biggest surprises for me:
  • Out of all the rose scents I sampled, Bryant Park was my favorite. I re-tested every rose, and this one stood out every time.
  • I never expected to love Flowerbomb so much, but I reach for it on a regular regular as can be for someone who wear a different perfume almost every day!
  • Despite the list, this year I tended to gravitate toward lighter florals. As I mentioned in my "unsung" post, this list might have shaped up quite differently if I had written about some of the perfumes listed there: PC Tuberose Gardenia, La Chasse, and Infusion d'Iris.
But now, without further ado, my favorites of 2007:

1. Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie. "The light touch of mimosa at the top masks the darker heart underneath, made full by the cassie, rose, and jasmine, and finally grounded by the spice and powder of carnation at the end. Strange to say, but it's a lifetime in a bottle, a movement from light-hearted youth to womanhood and then on into personhood, coming in to one's full being."

2. L'Artisan Passage d'Enfer. "The notes in Passage d'Enfer seem innocuous enough: white lily, frankincense, aloe, and white musk. All that white! Doesn't white mean purity? Or does it symbolize an unbearable heat, a white flame turning everything in its path to ash? This is a soft fragrance, close to the skin, but dark with incense. White lily adds a bit of sweetness to the top, but the frankincense and musk dominate here, with the aloe serving to cool."

3. Bond No. 9 Silver Factory. "Even knowing the most general history surrounding Andy Warhol, I believe I would have expected something more unusual, or even jarring. Something cultish like POTL, or the love-it/hate-it, oft-copied Angel. Instead, Silver Factory, with top notes of incense, wood resin, and amber; a heart of jasmine, iris, and violet; and a base of cedarwood, is a beautifully restrained fragrance, and for all the woods and incense, it's not the least bit warm. It's an iris carved into highly-polished granite, a house in a snowstorm where the fire's gone out but the smoke still lingers in dry, still air, offering the promise of but not delivering warmth."

4. Mona di Orio Lux. "Something happens with this one. I don't know what it is. The high citrus notes die off and the sweet becomes more bitter, and after that it becomes so interestingly unique. I'm not sure if it's fabulous or cloying. I applied this around, oh, eight-thirty this morning, and by eleven, I couldn't get enough of myself."

5. Caron Parfum Sacre. "It's the sort of scent that requires a great deal of contemplation, and still, all I could come up with was this: the silk lining of an old purse. When all is said and done, that's what I smell: a faint, spicy powder, elegant and ethereal, a dream of travel to exotic lands, a memory trapped in fine smooth fabric flecked there with tobacco and stained here by an oily smudge of lipstick."

6. Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb. "And so what if the dry down is slightly addictive? So what if you might start thinking to yourself that you can make it through the heady beginning (heady yet sort of refreshingly that tea?), that you can wade through gardens packed full of freesia, rose, jasmine, and orchid, just to get to the end, this patchouli for a hippie who's not only rich but also refined?"

7. Bond No. 9 Bryant Park. "I would have to be a sucker for Bryant Park right off the bat, though, because it has two of my favorite notes, rose and lily of the valley, along with patchouli, raspberry, rhubarb, pink pepper, and amber. I really love that the pepper in this is so evident, how it gives the patchouli a sophisticated edge, compliments the bit of sharpness the rhubarb offers, freshens the tart raspberry."

8. Guerlain Liu. "While not classified as a chypre (none of the characteristic notes are present), in the opening it's almost a dead ringer for Chanel No.5. I'm almost tempted to say it's like a Cher impersonator who does a better job at being Cher than Cher does. Or a Chanel impersonator that's better at Chanel. But it's not really better, it's just more Guerlain than Chanel, with that base of iris and woody notes and vanilla. It's powdery, earthy, slightly dirty, and ultimately comforting."

9. Annick Goutal Le Chevrefeuille. "This lovely has notes of honeysuckle blossom, honeysuckle vine, narcissus, jasmine, and lemon tree petit grain. I must admit, it wasn't anything like I expected. As a honeysuckle fragrance, I expected a softer, sweeter treatment of these delicate white and yellow blossoms, a scent akin to the taste of the nectar of these flowers. I found it much brighter and herbaceous, lemony at the top, with the sweet floral underneath appearing only as the scent softened over time on my skin. Truly, to my nose Le Chevrefeuille has the appeal of a floral tea with a refreshing squeeze of lemon."

10. CB I Hate Perfume Wild Pansy. "This seems to me to be the one in the collection that might make some perfume fans roll their eyes. Flowers and grass. So conventional. But I think half a dozen other perfumers could do flowers and grass and not do it so well. Personally I think this scent has a simple beauty, a freshness, a lightness of being. The wild violet has the clarity of the light tinkling sound of a glass bell. It's not a powdery scent; it is instead the embodiment of the colors purple and green--crisp, sweet, damp, uncomplicated."

Honorable Mentions
I can't quit without mentioning just a few more: Tauer Perfumes Le Maroc pour Elle was my rose runner-up, followed by Guerlain Nahema. Frederic Malle's Lys Mediterranee should be on a universal list of favorites somewhere, belonging to the world. Kai Perfume Oil is possibly the truest gardenia scent out there that I've tried, and it's well worth owning to wear on a hot summer day. And finally, my heart is broken that L'Artisan is no longer making their Vetiver perfume. I hope they come to their senses and consider a reissue.

I hope you'll share your favorites of 2007 with me. Best wishes to you all!

*image credits on original posts

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007: The Unsung (by Me, That Is)

Before I share my 2007 Fragrance Year in Review, which consists of perfumes I posted about here, I thought I would share with you some of my favorites this year that didn't make it into print. This list was no easier to put together than the other one, and I'm sure I've missed something, but here goes:

1. Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. I bought this scent unsniffed. I could say it was the positive reviews that drove my purchase, but I read positive reviews of perfumes that sound intriguing on a weekly basis without feeling the need to buy them NOW. After it arrived I wore it a few times and put it away. I even remember thinking, "What am I going to do with it now?" A few months later, I was reading a post on another blog about regrettable perfume purchases, and I thought of Tuberose Gardenia...and for some reason was compelled to pull it out and try it again. I'm so glad I did, for it is as classic and crisp as a freshly laundered white cotton shirt, pure white and cool.

2. L'Artisan Dzing! I wore this as a sample for a few days, intending to write about it, but instead I just bought a bottle and went on my merry way. With notes of tonka beans, balsam, saffran and ginger, this unobtrusive and comforting scent has become a wardrobe staple for me. It's a dusty suede, refined and just sweet enough to feel very feminine...although it could be easily worn by either sex.

3. Miller Harris L'air de Rien. If I remember correctly (and I am too lazy to go back and check), this one made a number of top ten lists after its release last year. I thought for sure as I reviewed the year that Miller Harris Coeur d'Ete would be up near the top of my list (Oops! Did I just give something away?), but it was trumped by L'Air de Rien. With notes of French oak moss, Tunisian neroli, sweet musk, amber and vanilla, this really does have the most wonderful powdery, sensual, feminine feel, but it also reminds me of walking through used bookstores on rainy afternoons. If I'd posted about this one, it easily would have made my top ten.

4. Fendi Theorema. Theorema seemed to be all over the blogs this year, like a new word lately on everyone's lips. I tend to be stubborn when it comes to trying something everyone seems to be talking about, as though I can't hear--or smell, as it were--through all the noise. With notes of tangelo, jasmine, thai shamouti (orange), osmanthus, spices, cinnamon, pink pepper, sandalwood, guaiac wood, amber, macassar, sweet cream, and musk, Theorema is a wonderful spice. I find it close to two other perfumes I tried and enjoyed immensely this year, Rykiel Woman (Thanks Chaya!) and Organza Indecence (Thanks Sweetlife!). These three could almost be sisters: Organza Indecence is the oldest, the straight-A student and the belle of the ball, the one who gets to do everything first. Rykiel Woman is the youngest, soft spoken, warm and self-assured in its powdery, citrusy warmth. Theorema is the middle sister who likes to be a bit different, craves adventure, and would be most likely to head off to Europe with her backpack. Of course, they've discontinued it. I got mine from a reader (thanks Sybil!), and I'm using it sparingly.

5. Prada Infusion d'Iris. Iris is without a doubt the "it" flower for 2007, what with the release of Infusion d'Iris, Bond No. 9 Silver Factory, L'Artisan Iris Pallida, and Guerlain Iris Ganache. From my own experience, I can say for sure that two of these, the Prada and the Bond, knocked it out of the park. To me, this scent is to iris what PC Tuberose Gardenia is to white flowers: a clean, clear representation of the thing itself. The top is quite green, but the dry-down is a fresh floral, the iris in all its purple majesty.

6. L'Artisan La Chasse aux Papillon. Technically I did sort of write about this one, as its the scent that knocked me out of my doldrums and got me back to sampling after my long absence last spring. I stand by what I said before: "'s the intricate lace of tiny, fragile blossoms in springtime. It's light and feminine, a non-headache-inducing white floral that's safe enough to wear to work and romantic enough to wear out on a date."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Wishing You Peace

*image from

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Today is my favorite day in the whole world, because it's the day I married my true love.

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful husband!

*photo courtesy of our dear friends Lisa and Elliott

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Blue Iris Named 2008 "Official" color

Iris fragrances have been enjoying the spotlight for at least the last six months or so, but now color is getting into the mix. According to an article in today's New York Times, Pantone, arbiter of all things color, has officially named Blue Iris as THE color for 2008.

Funnily enough, this color is very close to the same royal violet sweater from J.Crew that I've been coveting through the fall. I remember watching a show on PBS a year or two ago about how every year, a panel of experts--made up of designers, artists, architects, etc.--puts together the popular colors for the following year. This activity is transparent to the general population, but eventually they do drive the color choices we find in stores year after year. I imagine we pick the best of what we're offered, most likely tempered by what we know to be our favorite anyway. I am happy about this year's pick because I love blue, but I would love blue beyond all other colors even if they'd chosen, say, Tigerlily, a bright coral that was the official color of 2004.

And I imagine if you love rose fragrances, the market's temporary fascination with iris will not faze you. That's not to say you might not pick up a bottle of, say Silver Factory, as you peruse the perfume counters. And you should, for I think this description of Blue Iris does a fair job of summing up the perfume: “'Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspects of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic.'” "A strong, soul-searching cast" and "anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic"--both easily apply to this wonderfully cool (in each sense of the word) incense fragrance. So throw on that blue sweater and apply some Silver Factory, and know that by this time next year, everything will have changed.

*image from the New York Times

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Week!

I cannot believe I haven't posted in a week! I know I promised to update my sidebar with what I've been sampling for my year in review, but at some point, that seemed like giving you a peek at the answers. I have quite some work to do. Creating this list seemed much easier, more self-evident last year. No idea if that's good or bad, really, but it's surprising how different the list is shaping up this year. A hint about this year: more, uh, floral-y florals. Last year I had more of a mix, a little leather and spice. But I'm giving too much away. No, no...must not say anymore.

I suppose Top Ten and Year-in-Review lists are ubiquitous among bloggers, but tell me, my non-blogging friends: Do you review your hit list at the end of the year? I have a theory that perfume lovers are natural list-makers. We are a people who love to categorize and prioritize. How else, really, could we keep up?

So I have been faithfully sampling and sampling things I tried throughout the year, sometimes gaining clarity and other times staying cloudy. I've only cheated once, yesterday, when I wore Lalique Encre Noir. I had to replenish some of my repeaters for testing, and, well, a few new samples crept onto the list. But other than Encre Noir, I've held them at bay.

So let's hear it, my friends: What are your favorites from 2007?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Want, Part 2

I rarely do this. I am generally reluctant to say I want anything as a gift. Usually, if I want something, I buy it for myself. But I admit, I saw this and wanted it immediately! But enough equivocating. I love Estee Lauder, and so do many perfume fans out there. This is a limited-edition collection of mostly classic scents.

From the Estee Lauder site:
"Limited-time collection arrives in an exclusive gift box and includes:
- Beautiful Parfum .12 oz.
- Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise Eau de Parfum Spray .14 oz.
- Estée Lauder pleasures Parfum .12 oz.
- White Linen Parfum .09 oz.
- Youth-Dew Parfum .12 oz
- Intuition Parfum .14 oz.
- Knowing Parfum .12 oz.
- Private Collection Parfum .07 oz.
- Cinnabar Parfum .12 oz.
- Aliage Parfum .12 oz.
- Azurée Parfum.12 oz
- Estée Eau de Parfum .12 oz."

This collection is $85, and for now they're offering free shipping. If I don't get mine, you should at least get yours. This would be a wonderful gift for any fragrance lover.

*image from

Monday, December 10, 2007

'Tis The Season to Be...

Grumpy. What's up with this weather we're having in Atlanta? We're breaking record high temperatures right and left (and still in a water crisis). I had planned a holiday scent post, but it's too hot to wear anything cozy or spicy. We bought our tree on Saturday and finally got around to decorating it last night. It felt like cheating, like it's not really the holidays at all, like putting up a tree for St. Patrick's Day. After all, it is green.

Flummoxed. I haven't finished my Christmas lists. That's right--not my Christmas shopping; my Christmas lists. For some reason this year, I don't have a clue where to begin. Usually, I have everything purchased, if not wrapped, by now. I think part of the problem is that 2007 basically skipped October and November, so we went straight from September into December, and who can keep up? The worst part is, I have to mail everything. I mean, mailing presents is no problem...if you have presents to mail. You see my problem.

Harried. I just realized it's really only about two-and-half weeks until I need to have my year-in-review post done. (I know! How will you get through the New Year without it? It's practically as popular as The New York Times's "100 Notable Books" list!) In addition to the holiday scents, I was going to post about some things readers have shared with me (Donna Karan Black Cashmere from Gaia, Fendi Theorema from Sybil, Organza Indecence from Sweetlife), but then I realized, I have to go back and sample at least ten perfumes from earlier in the year to come up with my list. (If you're curious which ones I'm sampling, check the sidebar every day.)

Blocked. Er, I mean, writer's block. Why else the crappy post? Only someone with writer's block couldn't think of something nice to say about Prada Infusion d'Iris, or any of the three scents I mentioned above, right? Maybe when things cool off, I'll regain my senses. But for now, I must shop! I have gifts to mail!

Somebody somewhere where it's cold...tell me what cozy scents you're enjoying!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Opium Fleur de Shanghai

Kim and Queen of Caffeine, I think you were the only ones interested in this one, so please send me your info (at the email address listed in the sidebar) and I'll send you both a decant. This is very cozy for winter. I do hope you'll enjoy it!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Love You, I Love You Not

This week I've started trying to weed out my perfume collection. Many of my perfumes are safe. When I look at the shelf in the cabinet where I keep them (that should give you some idea of the relative size, as they don't even fill the one shelf), I realize I've scored more than I've missed, to use an ill-fitting sports metaphor. The problem is, this makes weeding difficult. It takes me a long time to settle on what must go, or be banished if you will, but once I decide I don't look back. No point in second guessing a decision too much after it's been made, as that is a sure path to misery much of the time.

And so I've taken three boxes from the shelf and pulled a flower from a vase. I'm ready to pluck those petals.

I Love You. Because I'm a bit of a tease, should I tell you first what I could never stand to lose? Here we go:
Guerlain Vol de Nuit Parfum (post refers to EdP)
Caron Parfum Sacre
L'Artisan La Chasse aux Papillon and Dzing!
Balmain Jolie Madame
Tauer Perfumes L'Air du Desert Marocain
Rochas Femme
Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia
Annick Goutal Eau d'Hadrien and Le Chevrefeuille
Rykiel Woman

I Love You Not. This wasn't an easy one. In the first place, it's a classic, especially among white florals. The truth is, I bought a bottle more because I felt like it was something I should own rather than something I wanted to own. It's either a sign of confidence or a sign of bad taste, but the truth of the matter is, I can think of at least four white florals (possibly even five) that I would opt to wear before this one: Robert Piguet Fracas.

I'll give you a moment if you need it.

While I appreciate the beauty of composition on this one, I must admit, Bandit (which I do not own) is more my speed. And as far as white florals: out of the bottles I own, I would wear the Estee Lauder first, La Chasse second. If I want orange blossom mixed with my tuberose, then I'll wear Fleur d'Oranger (decant). And as far as what I don't own but would choose first: Tubereuse Criminelle and Carnal Flower. I'd even pick the headache-inducing (for me) Songes over Fracas. The creaminess falls flat on me. It's like eating generic sherbet. This deserves someone who swoons. It ain't me, babe.

I Love You. I thought, before I sprayed this on my wrists and spent the day with it, that this would be the first to go. It seemed to be a purchase driven more by curiosity and sentiment than desire and good sense (not that those go hand-in-hand very often). Many years ago, the original version of this scent was my winter staple, my signature scent.

I bought Opium Fleur de Shanghai based on a memory of a fragrance, and that's exactly what it feels like. I'm happy now that I did not just buy the original, because Fleur de Shanghai softens and rounds the spice, acts like a mellow dream of the past, with all mistakes and uneasiness faded into the background, an old friend remembered fondly. I wore Opium because it was the scent of a person I wanted to be, but Fleur de Shanghai is much more like the person I am, and probably even was then.

I Love You Not. My journey back to this fragrance was painful. I expected to feel those butterflies in the stomach, to steal sniffs of my wrist at odd times during the day (I think by now people in meetings must think I'm just wiping my nose on my wrist, like a nervous tic), and to be carried away on a wave of rosy vanilla incense.

Instead, I felt like someone sprayed a lot of really expensive air freshener in my face. It took over an hour for things to settle down, and then I spent the rest of the day smelling like I'd wandered out of a more sophisticated version of the Yankee Candle Store.

The most embarrassing thing about giving up Keiko Mecheri's Loukhoum is all the fuss I made about it. I all but put up a billboard declaring my affection for this scent. What happened? It grew a beard and a pot belly, took up smoking and stopped brushing its teeth.

Okay, it's not that bad. Not even close. It is actually very well done, but if I'm going to do vanilla, personally, I think Lea Extreme is the one. Or, for the oriental twist, Fleur de Shanghai.

What makes me laugh, always, is my own unbridled enthusiasm for these scents in the first place. I'm not at all ashamed I loved these fragrances, but oh--I was so young! I was a young perfume fan! I'm a year or so older now, and while I may not be wiser, my tastes have...matured, I would hope, but changed for sure.

Do me a favor, and in the comments, share with me an "I Love You, I Love You Not" fragrance story of your own. And if you'd like, let me know whether you'd like to try Fleur de Shanghai. I'll do a drawing if there are enough people interested...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Reader's Journal: Run

Okay, go ahead and call me out for having Alan Greenspan's book in my sidebar as "on my nightstand" for the last month. Technically, it is on my nightstand. Also, it's a pretty good read. I bought the book because he impresses me so much in interviews. Something about listening to him reminds me of my favorite professors and makes me long to go back to school. I don't always agree with his politics, but I greatly respect his mind. Very few public figures warrant respect these days.

When I started that book, I even had intense, however fleeting fantasies about going back to school to get a degree in economics. Right. Not going to happen. Fiction calls to me, and I always answer. I had Run on the stack right underneath poor Mr. Greenspan's book, and every time I lifted that tome to read, I would think, "I could just read a few pages of Run...just a taste..." Not exactly the equivalent of RyKrisp versus chocolate for a chronic dieter, but close enough to warrant mention.

Clearly, Run won. I've read three-and-a-half other Ann Patchett novels (The Patron Saint of Liars, The Magician's Assistant, Bel Canto, and half of Taft--not sure anymore why I didn't finish that one) and Truth and Beauty, her memoir about her friendship with Lucy Grealy. While she's not one of my favorite writers, to pick up one of her books is to be completely absorbed in the story she tells. She also writes cleanly and gracefully. I am not much for showy prose (uh, my own excepted, of course...tee hee hee).

Run, which except for the last chapter takes place in the course of twenty-four snowy and cold hours in Boston, is the story of the Doyle family: Bernard, the ex-mayor; Sullivan, his ne'er-do-well natural son; and Tip and Teddy, Bernard's two adopted black sons. An accident happens and shakes their world. Secrets are revealed, sometimes between the characters, sometimes only to the reader. If I'm honest, the plot is not much better than something written for the Hallmark Channel. It's unlikely, it's sappy, it plays on the emotions in much the same way. (Tears, followed by an embarrassed gulp and the thought, "Why am I crying? This is stupid.")

What renders it readable, then? Ann Patchett is a first-rate writer, and her characters are likable. And while she's got you...well, she's really got you. Her characters are like people you meet in random situations--at a conference, say, or when you're stuck in an airport--and you find you really like them, and you have warm feelings for them for hours afterward. You may have exchanged information and agreed to meet for lunch someday. Days later, you've forgotten all about them. In fact, it's not until you're in that situation again--at the conference, stuck at the airport--that you remember them, briefly, fondly, and wonder vaguely what might have become of them. You had such a good time with those people! Real connections were made! But then you get on with the business at hand.

All in all, Run was thoroughly entertaining and well-written, but it's not her best book, in my opinion. For me, Bel Canto still holds that place, and so far it's the only one of her books (except Truth and Beauty, actually, which is very good for a memoir, particularly because it's so anti-navel-gazing--a rarity) I would re-read.

You can read the New York Times review here.

*image from Powells