Monday, August 31, 2009

You got a nice white dress and a party on your confirmation...

Avon's Chic in White, Sensuality by liiv botanicals, & Vitality by liiv botanicals

In response to my failed attempts to do a drugstore series in honor of Sookie Stackhouse, a very helpful reader gave me a little pile of Avon samples, which I can equally see Sookie wearing if one of the waitresses at Merlotte’s was selling it. So this week, I’ll doing a series of posts reviewing some of your Avon-related options.

First off, trying two liiv botanicals scents, Sensuality and Vitality. The liiv botanicals are touted as ”pure natural fragrance oils. Avon describes each as follows:
Vitality by liiv botanicals: Delight in the natural essence of this invigorating blend of succulent citrus and cucumber with a warm floral heart and breath of fresh woods.

Sensuality by liiv botanicals: Arouse the senses! Tantalizing notes of water lily, the exotic florals of jasmine, and the soothing calm of vanilla.
Both remind me of fruit in the same way that pixie sticks taste like fruit. That’s not a knock; I like pixie sticks, always have. But it may not be an experience I particularly enjoy in a fragrance. Vitality has little hints of green and a tiny citrus edge on application, but pretty quickly descends primary into light, sweet, soft, and powdery. The most interesting part about it was the dryness of the opening, which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Sensuality also opens up a bit dry, with a salty tang and hint of vanilla. Again this burns out pretty quick as it descends into the same light, sweet, soft, and powdery experience.

The real difference between the two is that while Vitality is a very mildly aquatic powdery scent, Sensuality tends toward a very mildly gourmand powdery scent. All in all, not unpleasant, but not particularly impressive either, especially given the weak lasting powder (disappeared in less than two hours). Perhaps a nice first fragrance for a little girl, though. I kept picturing girls in communion dresses, white gloves, and shiny white patent leather shoes as I sniffed it.

Speaking of white, let’s also talk about Chic in White for a second. Chic in White is, according to Avon, supposed to be “fresh citrus [that] flirts with floral bouquets and sensuous white woods.” I have no idea where the description comes from. On me, Chic in White is a less sweet, less rich, less spunky incense oriental than Lorenzo Villoresi’s Alamut. It’s a definite pass for me, but for someone who doesn’t like the bold strength of Alamut, you might like Chic in White.

...You got a brand new soul and a cross of gold,
but Virginia they didn't give you quite enough information.
You didn't count on me
when you were counting on your rosary...

- "Only the Good Die Young," Billy Joel

Chic in White, Sensuality by liiv botanicals, and Vitality by liiv botanicals are all available for purchase direct from Avon.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Here's to love and all that it changes...

L’Artisan L’Eau de Jatamansi

Now that I live in hot, sunny climes again, I find myself thinking more about my sultry days of youth. When I go about my sniffery, looking for scents appropriate to this eternal warmth, reminiscing about those days seems almost unavoidable. One such evocative scent is L’Artisan L’Eau de Jatamansi.

In Kemah, Texas, there is a boardwalk ringed by restaurants. It is a pretty fancy place these days, but when I was younger it was a rougher, less fancy place. The restaurants then, as now, backed right up to the bay, and fish, oysters, shrimp, crab, and the like were bought right off the boats that pulled up alongside the restaurant docks. At least once a summer, we used to eat there, but it was always a different place because every time there was a big tropical storm, half the restaurants would close. Then a few months later the same locations would reopen with slightly different décor and menu and a new name.

I always liked going to Kemah. It was a lovely place back then, less polished than now, but there was beauty in the roughness. The air always carried a warm, salty breeze, the food was light and fresh, and the drinks, both alcoholic and virgin, were heavy on the fresh citrus. In L’Artisan L’Eau de Jatamansi, I find much of what I loved about those summer evenings on the water.

According to L’Artisan, L’Eau de Jatamansi is...
The Nard of the Himalayas, named Jatamansi in Sanskrit, is at the heart of this natural eau de toilette. Its legendary fragrance sparkles in a spicy, aromatic iced tea blend. Flowers, woods and balms reveal its surprising warmth, enveloping you in a delicate voluptuous veil.

L’Eau de Jatamansi is a highly innovative, 100% natural eau de toilette (certified organic). Its scent is exclusively composed of the purest essential oils : Jatamansi, grapefruit, cardamom, clary sage, rose and ylang-ylang. Indian papyrus, incense and guaiacum…offering their renowned properties.

This eau de toilette refreshes and pampers body and soul. Apply generously morning and evening over the entire body after your shower or bath. And throughout the day.
On me, L’Eau de Jatamansi is all limes, salt, pepper on initial application. To me it’s the epitome of the salt rimmed tequila shot and lie chaser. All that’s missing is the boozy tang. Half an hour in, though, it gets darker and spicier as the lime and salt and pepper notes seem to recede. It’s like tossing a little Cajun spice into the mix, which is completely appropriate to my Gulf Coast memories. In my top 10 of summer list, I described it as feeling like someone dressed me for a summer grill, which I still think is accurate (again, in the good way). I have to agree with all the reviews (see below) that comment on L’Eau de Jatamansi’s lack of lasting power. I do like that it is very light, and I can see how the giant bottle size would allow one to spritz and respritz, constantly refreshing oneself and the scent, which is nice when, let’s admit it, one might be a little salty on one’s own. While I do wish it lasted longer and was a little stronger, I still think it’s sexy and light, making it a wonderful hot weather fragrance that you should at least try, even if you don’t spring from the bottle itself.

L’Eau de Jatamansi is available all over, including Neiman Marcus, Lucky Scent, Beautyhabit (who gave me this lovely sample as a gift with purchase and consistently win my business with their generous samples and discounts), and many other places.

“I'm fragile as the lady of the harbour,
fragile as her torch that glows,
fragile as these gulf stream waters
to the Texas coast...”

- “Fragile,” Nanci Griffith

L’Eau de Jatamansi has been reviewed all over the place. Here are a few links...
~A review by Bois de Jasmin.
~ Robin’s review over at Now Smell This!
~ A review from Perfume Smellin’ Things.
~ March’s reviewover at Perfume Posse.
~ Bellasugar reviewed this one, too.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Recommended Buying

While I get samples from many different places, I’d like to take a moment to highlight some of these places for those readers out there who want to begin trying some perfumes but don’t know where to start. While you can get good sample deals on EBay sometimes, or beg them off your local department store salesperson if you are incredibly lucky, here are some places where a budding perfumista can be sure to get exactly what one might be after. While lots of places offer samples for sale or gift with purchase, I’m choosing to highlight a few I’ve had a lot of success with.

Lucky Scent sells samples of just about everything they carry, and their page lets you sort by type or search by note, so if already know you like “vanilla” or “rose” or “iris,” you can get a bunch of different samples that share a note you already know you like. It’s a good way to get started.

Beauty Habit is really pretty generous with their samples with purchase, but their new Try Before You Buy program is really quite something.

The Perfumed Court is a cheap and easy way to get started, particularly through sample sets. Also, this is a great place to get educated about perfume, because some of the grand dames of the perfume blogging world run this site, and they love to help. (For an example, see this page on fragrance families. Also a great place to sample vintage perfumes you might not otherwise get a sniff at.

You can also frequently get samples directly from the perfumer. Here’s a short list of independent perfumers who I think are worth a try and who provide sampling opportunities: INeKE, CB I Hate Perfume has 2mls of the perfume absolutes, Bond No. 9 offers 7ml sprayers and sample boxes, DSH Perfumes has sample packs for sale, Aftelier Perfumes sample packs of three, Artemisia Natural Perfumers sample packs, Sarah Horowitz Parfums individual samples, Roxana Illuminated Perfumes, and last, but never least, Tauer Perfumes has individual samples.


Addendum: I wanted to add a mention of the Sephora gift sets, which allow you to get samples of multiple fragrances at a discount. I particularly like the scent samplers which provide several samples as well as a gift certificate for a full bottle of the scent from the sampler set you like best.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Color in Your Cheeks: An Ode to Perfume

Or, Fighting the Friday Doledrums By Olefactory Means

This piece is dedicated to Angela S. at Now Smell This! for making me the perfumista I am today.

Benjamin Franklin once famously quipped, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” This is how I feel about perfume.

When I am in the depths of my most impoverished, maudlin, lonely, and unproductive hours, I find there are a handful of things that can quiet my soul, cure my funk. Taking a drive with excellent music. Spending an afternoon in a good museum with headphones on. A perfectly made cup of coffee. Curling up with a good book. Watching a favorite old movie on DVD while I am up to my elbows in pastry dough. This list has gotten me through quite a few long, dark tea-times of my soul.

Most recently, perfume has made the list. Just sifting through my now generous sample collection, organizing and cataloging and sniffing them, can make me genuinely happy. Smelling them evokes treasured memories or favorite things from the world, or inspires future plans for shopping and travel. Perfume, in short, makes me feel happy. It makes me feel hopeful. It helps me remember good times and remember how I got through other bad times and reminds me of the ones I love and the ones who love me. It is a true and great gift, and quite honestly, discovering all there is out there to smell has changed my life.

Since I moved to California without my husband or friends or even my cats, finding things that comfort me has turned out to be more critical to my survival than I had imagined. When I started this perfumista business over a year ago, I knew I liked the world’s olfactory richness and wanted to experience more of it, and I knew that I enjoyed the astonishing clarity I experience with olfactory memory triggers. I never imagined, though, how much my love of perfume would soothe me, how I would revel in a new scent, how I would feel better just knowing all the impossible things I have already smelled and have yet to smell.

I’m sure this sounds stark raving mad to those of you who are not into perfume; I accept that this is a love affair that not everyone understands. When I revealed to my first new coworker that I collect and review perfume (after she caught me sorting through tiny vials of samples in a small tin I carry with me in my purse and jokingly asked if they were drugs—she didn’t know how right she was!), she replied, “I have never even *heard* of that before.” But if you have ever lowered your face and deeply inhaled your laundry fresh from the dryer, or stopped dead in your tracks after you caught of whiff of a passerby’s cologne and run smack into the most accurate memory of your first high school boyfriend you’ve had in a decade, or stopped before digging into your favorite dish to inhale all the savory deliciousness, you love perfume. There is a perfumista hiding within you, just waiting for someone to cover your hands and arms in six different kinds of violets and ask you to describe the differences between them. You want to know what it smells like to try to capture vodka or whiskey in a “boozy” fragrance. You want to debate the finer points of what makes a good gourmand fragrance, you want to talk trash about this week’s new celebrity scent, you want to have that epiphany moment where you suddenly sniff something new and think, “This smells like burning rubber and overcooked caramel and I LOVE IT!” You want these experiences. You just don’t know it yet.

Yes, welcome, my friend, to the show that never ends. There is more perfume in the world than you can smell in a lifetime, and every day there is more of it. It’s all here, waiting for you. Come inside, come inside, come inside.

And they came from Zimbabwe or from Soviet Georgia,
East Saint Louis, or from Paris, or they lived across the street.
But they came, and when they'd finally made it here,
it was the least that we could do to make our welcome clear.
Come on in; we haven't slept for weeks.
Drink some of this. It'll put color in your cheeks.

- "Color in Your Cheeks," The Mountain Goats

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Have a drink, have a drive / Go out and see what you can find...

TDC Sublime Balkiss

As many of you know, I recently moved to Southern California, specifically to Riverside. This is on the desert side of Los Angeles, where it is hot and sunny all year long. And by hot, I mean that it is 104 degrees F right now, with a high of 107 for the day, and a high of 109 tomorrow. And by sunny, I mean the closest thing I get to a cloudy day is when the smog is particularly bad in my area.

Needless to say, this is vastly different from perpetually rainy Portland, Oregon. Goodbye temperate rainforest, hello desert living.

In an effort to embrace this change, I am going to extend my spring and summer scent reviewing season because, quite frankly, it's going to be a while before anything remotely resembling fall like temperatures descend here. To that end, here is my review of TDC Sublime Balkiss.

TDC has this to say about Sublime Balkiss:
Last winter, the topic took shape: a Chypre, a true story teller, I have worn this fragrance on me and just for me for the first time in my career. It’s a surprising fragrance, with a familiar touch to it. The writing is modern and yet easy to understand, with just enough chapters to complete the story.

And suddenly the name aroused, Balkiss the real name of the queen of Sheba, a most beautiful wise and mysterious woman who, centuries later, is still mesmerizing. Sublime and we are bewitched Balkiss and eternal, perfect beauty is with us. – Celine Ellena

Sublime Balkiss is definitely a modern chypre that reminds us of chypre from the older days. It has been created without oakmoss or synthetic moss or components from an animal origin.

Notes include: Patchouli, Violet, Black and purple berries, Blueberry, Blackberries, Blackcurrant, Damascus Rose from Bulgaria, Clusters of Lilacs...
On me, Sublime Balkiss is a delightful mix of berries & flowers. While this combination could have resulted in a sickly sweet canned fruit cocktail combo, Sublime Balkiss is not overly flowery or sweet, and actually becomes less flower and sweet as time passes. It isn't powdery either. Instead it's a lovely combination, with the sweetness tempered by a strong earthy notes. The black currant is particularly strong on me. It reads on me the way edible flowers -- like sugared violets -- taste. The patchouli comes in around the ten minute mark on me, making this not a classically fruity combination because it has a little more dirty/musk to it, which creates nice warm undercurrents. In terms of lasting power, Sublime Balkisshas decent last power on me, still goingstrong after two and a half hours of alternately actively walking around in the blaring heat and sitting in my overly air conditioned office.

I think Sublime Balkiss is a nice choice for warm weather, because it's not your typical cool, citrusy splash, but seems like a quirky cousin. The patchouli/berry/flower mix reminds me of walking through farmer's markets in Portland, but also seems to fit in well with fruit and flowers blooming here at my campus, which was originally an agricultural school and still keeps to its history by landscaping with berries and flowers and oranges and persimmons. Well worth a try for those of you languishing in the heat like me or for summer time living in cooler climbs alike.

Sublime Balkiss is available through BeautyHabit, LuckyScent, and a number of other online locales, as well as direct from the perfumer.

We love everybody, but we do as we please.
When the weather's fine we go fishin'
or go swimmin' in the sea.
We're always happy.
Life's for livin', yeah, that's our philosophy..."

- Jerry Mungo, "In the Summertime"

Want more reviews? Try...
~ This review from Robin at Now Smell This!
~ Nathan Branch offers a quick sniff review.
~ A review from I Smell, Therefore I am.
~ A quick mention over at Perfume Posse.

Recommended viewing: Vampires are in, make-up style

Apologies dear readers, for my sudden absence. I've been sick for a week now, but I'll be back with reviews tomorrow morning. In the interim, check out this video from the NYTimes on how to get "The Prada Vampire Look."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

There's a crack in the mirror and a bloodstain on the bed...

CB I Hate Perfume Wild Hunt

I love that vampires are back in vogue.

As an adolescent I always felt an affinity for the supernatural and macabre. Maybe it was the familial ghost stories that are passed down like precious heirlooms in my family, like that time my aunt saw footprints on the ceiling or how Mother Nanny or Aint Lee grew up on the “most haunted road in Texas.” Regardless, I never understood the Victorian prayer to deliver us from “ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night.” I was always fascinated and drawn to the bumping, not scared of it. This carried over pretty heavily into my teenage fashion, which was at the height of the Anne Rice vampire frenzy. At the time, though, I did not have a fragrance that could match the inky threads wrapped around a body that housed was I was sure was a dark, dark soul.

One of the scents I frequently associate with all things dança da morteis fresh turned earth. The graveyard. The freshly risen – vamp, mummy, zombie, whathaveyou. To that end, CB I Hate Perfume Wild Hunt encompasses everything I find alluring about Death and her siblings.

Christopher Brosius describes Wild hunt as follows:
This is the fourth scent in my series of primal smells.
Wild Hunt is the scent of an ancient forest in the heat of a summer afternoon. It is a blend of Torn Leaves, Crushed Twigs, Flowing Sap, Fallen Branches, Old Leaves, Green Moss, Fir, Pine and Tiny Mushrooms.
When I smell Wild Hunt I am transported to every darkened movie theatre, screening that quintessential horror film opening that begs for the voiceovers of Vincent Price. Wild Hunt is all about the end and its glorious possibilities. It starts out like the smell of bare hands plunged directly into freshly turned, wet earth. Not the clay/sand/soil “gumbo” soil I grew up with along the coast either; deep, black, rich soil, like the expensive kind my grandmother used to buy for her rose bushes. Soil meant to move and shake and break down and build up. Soil that screams, “Life!” in the way that Frost meant when he said, “If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles. You will hardly know who I am or what I mean.” The smell is strong and real and holds you there, in the presence of the moment. There are hints of greenness, but mostly what I get is warm, wet dirt. (It’s amazing to me how much I love the smell of dirt. I would never have realized it in my pre-perfumista life, but I do now. I love dirt.)

After about fifteen minutes, a sweet floral something comes into the mix. On me it reminds me of the taste of clover honey. It’s sweet and warm and a little bit cinnamon-y. In my macabre mind, it might represent the fresh flowers left at a grave sight, or the point at which nature begin creeping back in, taking over the soil and all that lies below.

People are attracted to death for a lot of reasons – fear or fascination with the unknown, lost loved ones still yearned for, a desire to live in a world that simply acknowledges all of life’s magic and mystery through a manifestation in the real. All and all, I think Wild Hunt makes for a fascinating olfactory adventure, and this fabulous fragrance can aid your imagination’s wandering through the multitudinous what-ifs. And if you’ve got a niece or younger sister or friend who is currently riding the wild tides of True Blood or Twilight, gift them with a sample of Wild Hunt. Had sixteen year old me known such a scent existed, I would have worn it 24-7.

"They used to dance in the garden in the middle of the night.
They were naked as the day they were born, skin all bone-china white.
Oh, you were a vampire, and I may never see the light.
Oh, you were a vampire, and I may never see the light.
I got the ways and means to New Orleans.
I'm going down by the river, where it's warm and green.
I'm gonna have a drink and walk around.
I've got a lot to think about..."

~ “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song),” Concrete Blonde

CB I Hate Perfume Wild Hunt is available direct from the perfumer, as well as through a number of distributors, including LuckyScent.

For more reviews, try:
~ A review by Perfume Smellin' Things.
~ A bunch of CB I HATE Perfume quick reviews in one large post from Nathan Branch.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Job Well-Done

One thing I don’t talk about much here is that for the last seven years or so, I have been a sexual assault and domestic violence survivor advocate and activist. No matter what job I have, I take my passion for the work and the skills that I have with me, and every job seems like an opportunity to do more work around these issues.

Right now, I’m working on creating a pamphlet of sexual assault survivors for the university campus I’m working at. I asked the younger sister of a close friend if she’s do some artwork for me, and she agreed. This morning she sent me an email with the following aside,
I read over the pamphlet to get an idea of its content and actually learned a lot, hahaha, so I must say you are very good at what you do if this was part of the job.
And it is part of my job, because I showed up and made it part of my job. And that is a wonderful feeling.

Review coming this afternoon. It's been a busy morning.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Recommended Reading

* Angela at Now Smell This! just posted a great piece about major myths related to perfumery. Be sure to check out the commentary, as there are some nice additions to the list from readers.

* Perfume-Smellin' Things has a nice piece entitled Fraîche & Easy recommending some summer scents that I think are worth checking out.

You know he never stings, and he only hums for me...

Ava Luxe Wild Blackberry Musk

One of the things I already miss about Portland is that three seasons a year, Spring, Summer, and Fall, you can get your hands on pick your own fruits and vegetables. There are lots of small farms around Portland, though my favorite is The Farm on Sauvie Island. They grow everything: strawberries, raspberries, peaches, sweet corn, Bartlett pears, lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, pumpkins, and more. Among their many offerings are lovely, luscious blackberries.

When it comes to perfume, making fine fragrance out of fruit is difficult business. One lovely example is Ava Luxe’s Wild Blackberry Musk. According to The Perfumed Court, Wild Blackberry Musk...
...blends juicy wild blackberries and light skin musk with just a bit of white rose and Madagascar vanilla. Subtle animalic base notes complete this fragrance. Wild Blackberry Musk is an eau de parfum, edp.
Wild Blackberry Musk is a fantastic mix of realism and artistry. Magically sweet and tangy, the scent is like the taste of berries bursting in your mouth, joined with green, glossy leaves and a musky hint of dirt clinging to the waxy black bundles. And just like picking fruit in the warm sun, Wild Blackberry Musk is even lovelier on warm skin. If one were to eat beautiful, plump blackberries, sucked like jewels from the tips of one’s fingers, sitting outside in the warm sun on a blanket with friends, one would approximate the scent of Wild Blackberry Musk. While the scent has low silage, sticking closely to the skin, it has great lasting power.

While, sadly, it appears Ava Luxe is no longer offering Wild Blackberry Musk, you can still get decants from The Perfumed Court.

Hey blackberry, how you taste so sweet.
Hey blackberry, tell me what you see.
Tell me, is it interesting?

- "Blackberry," Black Crowes

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Who's that casting devious stares in my direction…

INeKE Evening Edged in Gold

Last but not least, is Evening Edged in Gold. The description and notes immediately go to a warm, dark place:
Basking in moonshadows, trumpets of angels greet the night.

Top notes: gold osmanthus, plum
Middle notes: angel’s trumpet, saffron, cinnamon
Bottom notes: midnight candy, leather, woods
Evening Edged in Gold smells like very little I have ever smelled before, and entirely different from all the offerings A-D. It’s all plums and cinnamon and leather and smoking wood. It’s got a weird dryness that it that I just love. I honestly can’t think of anything else that smells like it, which is always a magical experience. Half an hour later, I can’t stop sniffing at my arm in bafflement. Like the smell one imagines crushed flower petals and fall leaves might create mixed with the smell of wood burning fires welcoming the first cool notes of fall. I think it would make lovely end of Summer/beginning of Fall scent, because I think of Halloween in Salem, Mass and my New England fall honeymoon every time I sniff at it.

Yeah, mama,
this surely is a dream.

~ "Sex and Candy," Marcy Playground

INeKE is available directly from the perfumer at the INeKE website, as well as from BeautyHabit and a list of stores available on the INeKE website.

I only found one INeKE review, a review of Evening Edged in Gold from Perfume Smellin’ Things.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This wraps up my week of INeKE reviews. I have not yet tried INeKE’s new fragrance, Field Notes from Paris, but the notes sound lovely and the quote is cribbed from one of my all time favorite poems, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Given the inspiration, I am hopeful I'll fall in love with that one, too!

While I could recommend every single one of these scents for purchase, I think the first one I’ll get will either be Derring-Do, After My Own Heart, or Evening Edged in Gold. Ultimately I hope to own every single scent in the box, for they are all lovely and well-made. This sample box is a real treat for anyone who likes perfume and might be opening to trying a variety of scents!

Friday, August 14, 2009

I had a dream I stood beneath an orange sky ...

INeKE Chemical Bonding

Chemical Bonding is up today, representing for the letter C. Chemical Bonding is
sparkling citrus + powdery soft = a flirtatious alchemy.

Top notes: citrus blend, tea, blackberry
Middle notes: dewy peony
Bottom notes: vetiver, amber, powdery musk
My reaction to Chemical Bonding is a testament to how much a nose can improve over time. I think this was my least favorite of the group when I first started trying the set. At the time, I couldn’t discern its delightful complexity. When I first sniffed it about eight months ago, I thought it smelled really synthetic, but I find little to none of that now. Now I smell the tea notes and the citrus independently in the application, and I feel the amber and vetiver come through in the drydown. This is much more citrusy and sweet than L’Artisan Tea for Two, and ultimately more feminine than the L’Artisan offering. I think if you like citrus and/or tea scents, you might like this one as a twist on those more common themes.

In your love,
my salvation lies
in your love,
my salvation lies...

- "Orange Sky," Alexi Murdoch

INeKE is available directly from the perfumer at the INeKE website, as well as from BeautyHabit and a list of stores available on the INeKE website.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm hanging around; I'm waiting for you.

INeKE Balmy Days & Sundays

Next up in this alphabetical sequence is Balmy Days & Sundays, described thusly:
Lying face-up to the sky, dappled light flickering through the pale green of overhead branches.

Top notes: freesia, leafy greens, grass
Middle notes: honeysuckle, rose, mimosa
Bottom notes: chypre accent, musk
This one smells most strongly of lemon trees and freesia on application for me. The honeysuckle comes through for me as it moves into the dry down, but I don’t get the rose or mimosa notes at all. That’s not a bad thing; I may love roses, but I have quite a few, and this is a nice change that is floral without being all about BIG.WHITE.FLOWERS. After about twenty minutes that chypre and musk come into the mix, balancing out the initial lemons and flowers and giving this Balmy Days & Sundays a little more of a dirty edge, like the darkening of age on a classic still-life of a lemons and flower bouquet. Really quite nice.

I wonder how.
I wonder why.
Yesterday you told me 'bout the blue blue sky,
and all that I can see is just a yellow lemon-tree...

- "Lemon Tree," Fool's Garden

INeKE is available directly from the perfumer at the INeKE website, as well as from BeautyHabit and a list of stores available on the INeKE website.

Image from JuneWard.Com.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

And I've never seen blue...

INeKE After My Own Heart

When I first started this blog, I did a review of Derring-Do by INeKE, aka Ineke Rühland, an independent perfumer from San Francisco, wherein I mentioned the lovely sample box that not only got your five delicious scents, but also got you a coupon forwarding the cost of the sample box toward your next full bottle purchase. I then negligently moved on, never offering reviews of the other five lovely fragrances in the box, or telling you which one I was to purchase. I honestly can’t believe I never finished reviewing the other scents in the box, because I’ve even worn them all a couple of times trying to decide which one to buy first.

This week, I rectify that oversight.

INeKE themes out her scents in alphabetical order. Today we start with “A.” After my Own Heart, described as follows:
The scent of fresh lilacs on the early evening breeze.

Top notes: bergamot, raspberry, green foliage
Middle notes: lilac
Bottom notes: sandalwood, heliotrope, musk
Fresh and lovely, I definitely get the lilac right away as well as hints of the bottom notes. This scent reminds me of wind-swept skies, the kind we used to get in Houston just after a huge afternoon storm had swept through, dumped several gallons of rain, and then just a quickly departed. I close my eyes and inhale and I smell the color blue, the blue you see in a plane after you break through the clouds and there seems to be nothing in the world but the sky. It’s a warm blue, though, not a bright blue, a blue you could wrap around you like a blanket…like a blue that develops into deep twilight on drydown. (That warmth is definitely the musk notes peaking through.)

...Like the blues he drives
In and around
And through me again
I said I've never seen eyes
Like the blues he drives
In and around
And through me again...

- "Never Seen Blue," Tori Amos

INeKE is available directly from the perfumer at the INeKE website, as well as from BeautyHabit and a list of stores available on the INeKE website.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No, there ain't no rest for the wicked...

L’Artisan Tea for Two

L’Artisan has got to be one of my favorite perfume houses. This is not to knock Guerlain or Annick Goutal, who both make excellent high quality scents. But over and over, I find myself trying a L’Artisan scent and thinking immediately, “Wow, I really need to buy this.” If I could only have one house for the rest of my life, it would be a really tough call for me, personally, between CB I Hate Perfume and L’Artisan. Given my love of the ultra-realism in scent, that’s saying something significant.

One of my favorites by L’Artisan is Tea for Two. L’Artisan describes Tea for Two thusly:
Tea for Two celebrates the precious moment of sharing tea and spicy bread with someone special. The curling steam of smoky Lapsang Souchong hides mouthwatering spices of cinnamon, ginger and anise. Lightly sweetened by honey and vanilla, the fragrance is fiery and warm, provocative and mysterious. Deliciously spicy!

Notes: smoky tea, bergamot, cinnamon
Tea for Two is this amazingly masculine scent to start, all chewing tobacco, leather, incense, and smoke, like Clint Eastwood’s stubble, gritty rough and tumble. But after a while, it slowly melts into a lovely spicy sweet tea, lush and vanilla-y. It reminds me of a concoction my mother made for me as a child of sugar, vanilla, lipton instant tea, and tang. She always made it when I was sick and had a super sore throat, and it went down sweet and warm and delicious.

Very few scents seem so completely masculine to me on immediate application, but the dry down is so sweet and intimate that I think it would wear beautifully on anyone. This one seems like a perfect match for an intimate date in a dark little bar, where sitting close and whispering in one another’s ear will ensure that your date gets hit with a wave of this sultry beauty. Tea for Two has moderate sillage and lasts for hours on me. It’s one of those fragrances that I will forget I’m wearing and then catch of whiff and immediately my reaction is, “What smells so great?” Then I remember, it’s me! Definitely worth a try.
I know I can't slow down,
I can't hold back,
Though you know, I wish I could.
No there ain't no rest for the wicked,
Until we close our eyes for good.

- Cage the Elephant, "Ain't No Rest For the Wicked"

Want more reviews? Try…
~ A special anniversary review from Perfume-Smellin’ Things
~ A review from Bois de Jasmin

Monday, August 10, 2009

Waiting on the World to Change: End Violence Against Women.

As a rule, I try to keep the political commentary to a minimum on this blog. I started this as a way to talk about the feminine things I enjoy in my life, as a woman who is not proptypically feminine. Romantic comedies, musicals, make-up, perfume. But I named this blog “feminine things” and now I want to address something that was specific to women: violence against women.

Last week, America was once again confronted by the horrors of our own warped misogynistic culture, when George Sodini walked into a gym and proceeded to shot ten women, killing three, before killing himself. Several media outlets have correctly identified this as a hate crime against women. There can be no doubt that Sodini blamed women for his own unhappiness and, as a group, targeted them for his violent act. He even went so far as to keep a blog detailing his plans and his hatred.

It would be nice to say that this was a random crazy man acting out in a crazy and unpredictable way. But this isn’t the first time women have been targeted specifically for being women (the girls and women of the Amish school shooting just three years ago attest to that) and it won’t be the last. As Bob Herbert eloquently wrote in his New York Times piece, Women at Risk,
We’ve seen this tragic ritual so often that it has the feel of a formula. A guy is filled with a seething rage toward women and has easy access to guns. The result: mass slaughter.
We live in a culture that accepts the systematic abuse and objectification of women. Not just a global culture, but one right here in the U.S., which is one of the places where women have the most freedom. And yet, even here, violence against women is one of the highest threats to a woman's life. Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are not only doubted in their claims, but frequently blamed for their own victimization. The “she deserved it” reactions to Rhiannon’s beatdown a perfect example of classic victim blaming. (And let’s not mince words here: that poor girl got beat down. There’s no other way to put it.)

Every few minutes, another woman is sexually assaulted. Most of these women will be assaulted by a trusted friend or loved one. Even more women will face physical, emotional, and psychological abuse from a spouse or partner. We live in the midst of an epidemic, one that is killing women. Emotionally, spiritually, and literally, we are killing women.

As a culture, we need to find a way to say enough is enough.

To that end, I encourage you to skip your next frivolous purchase – a latte, a bottle of perfume, a ticket to the next romantic-comedy – and use it to support one of the following organizations, or one like it. If money is an issue in these trying economic times, try volunteering for an organization like the ones listed below. Remember, as Margaret Mead so eloquently said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

When we finally make a change, I want to be counted in that small number.

~ National Network to End Domestic Violence
~ Family Violence Prevention Fund
~ The National Organization for Women

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The best laid plans...

Prada Infusion de Fleur d’Oranger

Last night, for lack of solid plans, a friend and I went to check out the Galleria, one of the bigger malls near my home. On my way through the Nordstrom there, I inquired, belatedly I admit, about the Prada Infusion de Fleur d’Oranger. Spray, spray, and away I went, sniffing my wrists throughout the hour and a half I spent wandering and window shopping.

Infusion de Fleur d’Oranger, according to Women’s Wear Daily, is one of the “Ephemeral Infusion” fragrances, designed to “evoke a light memory of the original ingredient”. The notes are Mandarin, Neroli (Top), Orange Blossom, Tuberose, Jasmine (Middle), Serenolide, Powdery Notes (Bottom). It is supposed to be derivative of Infusion d’Iris and Prada No. 4 Fleur d’Oranger.

Infusion de Fleur d’Oranger is Prada’s first entry in the realm of the limited edition (LE) scent. As a collector by nature, I am a huge sucker for the limiteds. I was super excited to try this one. I love Infusion de Iris. I generally love citrus. You cannot imagine how disappointed I was.

I liked the opening bit, which to me was like the taste of biting into an orange rind – a little sweet, moderately citrus, and quite a bit of bitter pith. I imagined the bitterness would back of a bit to balance it out as I wore it. Ten minutes in, it hadn’t. The smell was definitely recognizable. “What is this?” I asked my friend, shoving my wrist under her nose. “It’s so familiar.” She agreed, but couldn’t place it either. So there, I am, wandering through the mall, deeply inhaling off my wrist like a coke addict at a Columbian drug lord's buffet line, while my friend – a non-perfumista – tries not to be embarrassed by this weird tick I’ve apparently developed – when all the sudden it hits me. “Aquanet!” Shoving my wrist in front of her again, I happily yelled, “It’s Aquanet right? Aquanet (Sniff!) and (Sniff! Sniff!) a little bit of orange rind?” She laughed and agreed.

At first, I was just thrilled to have placed it. Of course, a beat later I turned to her and said, “Who would pay so much to smell like a Southern girl’s head of big hair?” And it smelled big, too. It’s been three hours and the sillage is still hanging on. It’s less soap and hairspray now, and more musky, like the way a Southern girl’s big hair smells to her date at the end of the senior dance as opposed to the scent he catches at the beginning when they pose for a picture and he inconspicuously leans in to smell her, a smell familiar and exotic to the wild thump of a fifteen y.o. male heart. It’s not a bad smell, exactly, but not one I’d particularly seek out for the experience. There many be many people who love it; certain the myriad of reviews (see below) indicate mixed results. And about three hours later it got a little nicer as the soap backed off and the citrus came in more, but I, for one, do not wish to wait three-four hours to like something I'm wearing.

I recognize that LEs are a great marketing technique to catch suckers just like me. At the same time, just because everybody else is doing it, does not mean everybody should. Infusion d’Iris is just so lovely. I like to think that if Prada had taken the time to tinker with this one until they got it right, rather than march it out for the four month blip it’s bound to be, it might have turned out a very nice fragrance, since the concept is an unusual treat. Great idea, but in this instance it really falls flat on execution.

Want more review? Try...
~ Robin's review at Now Smell This!
~ review by Fragrance Bouquet
~ review by Nioi
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~ review by Perfume Shrine
~ review by I Smell Therefore I Am

Monday, August 3, 2009

Drugstore blues

In an effort to keep my promise regarding a review of drug store/lower end perfumes in honor of Sookie Stackhouse and the other lovely residents of the fictional Bon Temps, LA, I went to three drug stores and two combo stores in my area this weekend trying to find one that didn’t keep all the bottles locked behind a class case with no sample sprayers.

I failed.

It appears things have changed from when I was a little girl, and a person could walk into a store and actually try on perfume before purchasing it, even if that store was a Walgreens, CVS, or Eckerds (now Rite-Aid). This is no longer that case, and I couldn’t bring myself to drop $50 on 2-4 full bottles of scent I might really never wear again. At least, not at this economically challenging moment. Thus, the drugstore scent reviews will be furloughed (as I have been) until I have the time and money to get to them. I apologize for any disappointment this causes.

I noticed something else, though, while I was on my local tour of drug/ discount department/superstores. I was surprised to see that scents that were strictly “middle to high end department store” nice when I was fifteen are now relegated to partial/full drugstore status. I saw Elizabeth Arden Red Door, CK One, and Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds all sitting next to Coty and Charlie. When I checked Target, it turns out that there were almost exclusively scents that used to be big name department store scents hanging out behind the glass, waiting for purchase. (Can anyone say Joop! cologne or Ralph Lauren Polo?)

I suppose in the last fifteen years perfume has become more stratified economically. Or maybe I have. I grew up in the sort of family that still ordered clothes from the Sears & Roebuck catalogue if you needed something “fancy.” I don’t think I set foot in a Nordstrom level department store until my mid-late 20s. My prom dress came straight off the rack from the local J.C. Penney, and I felt beautiful in it all the same. But I wonder how much the internet has played a role in the class elements of perfume expanding. When I can give a limited edition perfume made and sold exclusively in France to my niece as a graduation present, it’s clear that her world, and mine, have grown to include things my grandmother and her $15 bottle of perfume, which was considered an “expensive” gift appropriate for birthdays or anniversaries, never dreamed off.

I like the world I live in now. I like its infinite possibilities. I like that the best way to order from one of my very favorite perfumers, Christopher Brosius, is to go straight to his website and order direct from his single independent store in NYC. But I wonder at what we have to give up right outside our doors in exchange. I remember when my grandmother bought me a bottle of Sunflowers for my fifteenth birthday. I felt so special and grown up to have gotten such a nice gift, and everyone around me thought it was really nice, too. I didn’t feel sad or ashamed I wore drugstore perfume. That’s what everyone did, and we were happy that way. I would be sad to think that such an opportunity might be missed today in the shuffle of our increasingly busy world.

To that end, I would like to direct any readers with interests toward Angela's series at Now Smell This! on economically accessible scents (in these trying times) from Victoria Secret, Bath & Body Works, and the like.