Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A love back home unfurls.

L’Artisan Verte Violette

Every perfumista has certain notes that she doesn’t enjoy. She tries. In fact, the deeper she goes into perfume, the more frustrating those elusive notes can be. As her nose begins to mature, she expects she’ll finally find the beauty others see in leather scents or find a classic rose she wants to own. Every perfumista has something she loves instantly, and likewise has a blind spot where you can try, over and over, and still just not feel it.

For me, it’s the violets. Violets are so hard for me to love. I know that many perfumistas enjoy them and quite frankly, their soapy sweetness is a classic perfume scent. For me, though, so many violets are too soapy. I sniffed and I sniffed, and then I set aside several violets purported to be the most lovely in the land in the hopes that I might eventually come around to them.

And eventually I found one.

Ah, L’Artisan Verte Violette! Here was a lovely violet I could see the beauty in. L’Artisan describes Verte Violette as follows:
Discover the true essence of spring. The secret of this violet lies in the greenness of the leaves, which delicately prepares you for the iridescent aroma of the flowers. The graceful, infinitely feminine bouquet melds into the skin, becoming the perfect skin scent…your skin but better!
Notes: violet leaves, violet, iris, rose, cedar
Verte Violette was created by Anne Flipo, the same nose that created my lovely Iris Pallida. In Verte Violette, the soapy elements are balanced with a sweetness that I find remarkable. I get a lot of the iris out of it, too, and hints of rose. A lot of reviewers think Verte Violette is too pretty or too nice, and they prefer greener or woodier or more musky violets. For me, though, this violet is tempered with some of my favorite other notes, making it accessible when other violets, for me, simply aren’t. On the whole, Verte Violette is a great presentation of violets, one that might be accessible to you if you find violets otherwise difficult to take.

Verte Violette is available in a 50ml bottle for $95 from LuckyScent.

“I took my love down to Violet Hill.
There we sat in snow.
All that time she was silent, still.
So if you love me
won't you let me know?”

-- “Violet Hill,” Coldplay

Want more? Try...
~ A review from Robin at Now Smell This!
~ A review from Scent Hive.
~ A review from Perfume Posse.

Images from L'Artisan.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Recommended Reading: The Bright Side Project

While searching for Fracas reviews today, I found another would-be "Esq." whose law school boredom lead her into perfumed bliss. Whereas I credit Angela at Now Smell This!, one of the The Bright Side Project gals thank LuckyScent for saving her from intellectual death by dreaded federal procedural morass. Check out their ode to perfume and their incredible project here.

Let your love cover me.

Robert Piguet Fracas

“Can you fix this? It's a broken heart.
It was fine, but it just fell apart.
It was mine, but now I give it to you,
’cause you can fix it, you know what to do.”

Growing up, there was a huge beautiful gardenia tree in the backyard of my grandmother's house. It was a lovely and beautiful tree. I remember the smell very vividly. There were also several gardenias and magnolias and tuberoses and other white flowers, hot weather blooming and scent steaming up in the East Texas humidity, along the road that lead to the middle of nowhere Saratoga, Texas where my great-grandmother and great-aunt lived once. It feels like an entirely different life now, the little girl who used to run down those dirt roads, sometimes with shoes and sometimes without them, or biking round a dirt loop, turning back at the church before you hit the highway, where every house I passed was peopled with someone I shared blood, and therefore love, with.

I’m on my own now. I live out here in the desert all alone and there are no flowers worth speaking of; the landscapers have well taken care of that. When I look back, I can scarcely believe that I used to be part of a family large enough that we could fill a multiple room house and overflow it. I talk to them sometimes, via the electronic impulses that allow us to pretend we still know each other across thousands of miles and years of distance, but the intimacy is mostly a fiction we create inside our own heads and hearts.

No, intimacy requires you bleed for the thing, that you make yourself vulnerable. You commit something real. That’s why I still write letters. If no one ever puts pen to paper, how will you know how they feel? You can’t smear electronic ink with tears. You can't press halfway through an electronic piece of paper with decades of fermenting rage. You can’t see where someone struggled to find the right words to say; there are no digital cross outs or corrections to be seen.

When I want to write like that, I want a scent that reflects the complication of emotion that loving people, who are by nature imperfect, requires. I want to see my heart on the page, and I’d like to make sure that olfactory memory ties to the vulnerability conveyed, the openness required to be honest. I want, in short, something that smells like home, to haunt my pen, to color my heart, and perhaps to spray on letters like USO girls and war brides used to do.

When I feel this way, one of the scents I find most appropriate is Robert Piguet Fracas, created by Germaine Cellier in 1948. Fracas is loved and hated, seemingly in equal measure. It’s one of those scents so notorious that it seems everyone has had something interesting to say (see below). Chandler Burr, in delving into Fracas history, explains, “There are perfume legends, there are perfumer legends, and then there are perfumes that become obsessions. Fracas is all three, which is a hat trick less common that you’d think.” The name, Fracas, is from the French “fracasso” from the Italian “fracassare,” meaning “to make an uproar.” In English, a fracas is “a noisy, disorderly fight or quarrel; a brawl.” And if that doesn’t describe family, I don’t know what does.

Robert Piguet Parfums describes Fracas this way:
Classic femininity and modern sensibility collide within this lush white floral fragrance. Seductive tuberose mingles with jasmine, jonquil, gardenia, Bulgarian rose and orange flower in a profusion of fragile white flowers before revealing a base of sandalwood, vetiver and musk. Fracas is the signature fragrance for those who want to make an unforgettable impression.
Notes – top: Bergamont, Mandarin, Hyacinth; Middle: Tuberose, Gardenia, Jonquille, Orange Flower, Rose, Violet, Neroli; Base: Sandalwood, Musk, Vetiver.
On me, Fracas begins a little sunny and coconut, like a beach scent, but quickly becomes a lovely white flower scent. I get a lot of gardenia with the tuberose on me, pretty and realistic, and then it turns again. The musk comes through like a rubber kick, and then it turns sweet. It turns and turns, again and again. In one moment, sweet and innocent, in another moment loud and brash and in your face, and then in the next, bitter and rubbery and hard to take.

It’s like loving someone you have no choice but to love because blood and history dictate you do even when nothing else would bind you. Sometimes you can’t take it, because the relationship is both constant and constantly changing, and therefore difficult and complicated, but nonetheless unending. But then, that’s family. You can cut them off, but you can’t root them out. Pruned back branches of a family tree don’t undo the roots. So you love them, even as you leave them, or they leave you. You may never speak again, but you love them. And, if you are honest, you wish them well.

And if a scent can represent all that for you, then isn’t it worth owning?

Fracas is available for purchase all over the place: Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Barneys, Sephora. It’s even available through Amazon. It’s waiting for you. Go get it, but be well forewarned: a little bit of Fracas goes a long way. Again, just like time spent with family.

”We stood outside in the summer rain.
Different people with a common pain.
A simple box in the hard red clay
is where we left him to always remain.
Let your love cover me
like a pair of angel wings.
You are my family.
You are my family.

– “Family,” Dar Williams

My appreciation for Piguet Fracas is something widely shared, as is the need to tell singular stories about it. I’ve included some favorite quotes from their stories in an effort to encourage you to read them.
~ A great piece on feminism and perfume from The Examiner, written by Pink Manhattan.
~ An amazing article on another author’s relationship with Fracas: “Works of art capable to bring us to the level of catharsis are few: poems, plays, songs, symphonies, paintings or now films they remain the legacy of giants, the Homer, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Mozart or van Gogh.”
~ A review from Robin at Now Smell This! “The ladies behind the counter start coughing and gasping for air, then laughing and whispering and eyeing the poor offender, who wonders if 2 sprays could reasonably warrant such an exaggerated reaction?”
~ A review from Bois de Jasmin: “While some recoil in horror at the thought of being smothered in its heady embrace, others lose themselves in its sensual layers.”
~ A review from Sakecat’s Scent Project
~ A song and story of Fracas from Boomtown Boudoir: “The entire bathroom reeked of gardenias and bad-idea sex.”
~ A review from Perfume-Smellin’ Things: “Fracas is an olfactory equivalent of a stunning, strong-willed, supremely confident, sharply dressed blonde.”
~ A review from Sweet Diva: “I can see why someone who’s trying to change her life, maybe growing up a bit, trying to pull herself together, would choose to wear this fragrance.”
~ A review from Aromascope.
~ According to Ayala’s Smelly Blog: “Fracas from French translates straightforwardly to “crash” but more specifically - a noisy, disorderly quarrel, fight or disturbance (which is what could possibly happen if this perfume is applied in abundance by a government employee in Canada). If worn in a different setting, the disturbance is bound to be rather pleasant.”
~ Last, but never least, a review from Grain de Musc reveals “This vague whiff of death, which reminds of the destiny of all living things, even the most radiant, is associated to the aphrodisiac reputation of white flowers.”

Drawing results!

Thanks to, the results are as follows:

There were 3 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
1. Nika
2. Sue
3. Ines
Timestamp: 2009-09-29 19:37:15 UTC

Congrats to Nika, who has earned a mix CD and three samples of her choice!

In appreciation for Sue and Ines's entry into the drawing, I'm going to allow them each to make one sample selection as well. Everybody wins!

Winners, please email with addresses and choices so I can send your spoils along.

Reviews to come this afternoon. I've been home sick for two days, so I've been behind.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No Reviews

Tragically my sniffer is all stuffed up as I seem to have come down with the sniffles.

Therefore, no reviews today or tomorrow. I'll be back Saturday, sniffer permitting.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't Miss Out on the Drawing! Mix CD & Samples!

Today is Wednesday, and it is like 100 degrees here in LA, the world is increasingly on fire again, and I hiding inside from the heat and flamage. This means I have time to do thing like bug you to enter my drawing!

Seriously, folks, if you have not yet signed up for my awesome drawing, you're are seriously missing out.

Winners not only get their choice of 1ml samples from ANY SCENT I'VE REVIEWS but also get an awesome mix CD, handmade and decorated by me.

So even if you're not into perfume, but just a friend who reads my blog, you know you love my mixes, so get to posting! Also, if you are a perfume novice and wouldn't know what to pick, I'm happy to pick some things out for you if you tell me what you already think/know you like.

There's really no losing here, people. Just click on the pretty link and leave me a comment. David arrives tomorrow, so I will not be available to pester you for posts (though there will be reviews tomorrow and Friday). I am so excited I'm practically floating!

"And she was drifting through the backyard...
And she was taking off her dress...
And she was moving very slowly...
Rising up above the earth.
Moving into the universe,
drifting this way and that.
Not touching ground at all
Up above the yard...

- "And She Was," Talking Heads

Everyday I write the book.

CB I Hate Perfume In the Library

Whenever I read, the start of the journey is always opening the book and breathing deeply. Don't you find there are few things more wonderful than the smell of a much-loved book? - Christopher Brosius

When I was a little girl, one of my very favorite places was my local library. This library branch wasn’t much to look at as library’s go, and my brother would have much rather been in the mall. But I was happy out in the tiny squat building that sat in the mall parking lot, hiding from the heat in the air-conditioned confines of the world of books I’ve loved all my life. I have long been able to lose myself in books as hours flew by. So much so that as a child I had to be grounded from reading; otherwise I was unlikely to regret, or even really notice, my punishment. Few places really make me feel as safe and happy and satisfied with being alone as a library or bookstore, surrounded by beautiful books filled with fantastic worlds, thrilling adventures, and emotion extracted from the complex emotional tangles of life, boiled down and poured into a few brilliant lines of poetry. In my grown-up life, one of my favorite hideaways from the world is Powell’s City of Books , which is a city block chocked full of lovely books, old and new, classic and pulp, hot of the presses or lovingly used.

Given this penchant for books, it makes sense that CB I Hate Perfume In the Library would be a scent I’d love. I love the story Brosius tells about his love of books, what I can’t get over is how much like the real thing the scent smells. If you have ever closed your eyes and inhaled the lovely smell of a beloved book, particularly an especially old copy, you know the smell. Brosius describes it as “English Novel taken from a Signed First Edition of one of my very favorite novels, Russian & Moroccan leather bindings, worn cloth and a hint of wood polish,” but to me it is bitter, dry, warn, warm, slightly oily and slightly woody, and on the whole, truly delightful. Scentzilla mentions in her review that, to her, In the Library smells like the aforementioned Powells, but to me Powells has too much foot traffic for the lovely book smell to pervade the building as purely as In the Library. To me, In the Library will always be the cool quiet world of public libraries (as well as the soul deadening silence of the law library I scrupulously avoided in law school – still loved the smell, though.)

While this one is probably for the diehard lovers of books or realist perfume (or, if you’re like me, both!), I still think it’s a wonderful experience that is worth sampling at minimum. I think it’s a sophisticated scent for a woman and a great scent for a man. The scent has good lasting power (several hours later and still going strong!) and low sillage, and hours later it still has a lovely smell, that I think is summed up nicely in a scene from the fifth season of Gilmore Girls. Rory, giving a campus tour to a prospective student, extols the virtues of libraries, capping off her lecture by requesting the prospective student smell a book. As Rory smells it, her paramour de jour comes over to tease her about smelling a book. After he leaves, the prospective student comments that the boy de jour is so cute. In her love of books and her irritation at the young girl’s inability to appreciate them, she replies curtly, “Yes. He’s very cute. But not as cute as Pushkin.” There might be many lovely fragrances out there waiting for you, but if you love books like I do, few will be quite as appealing to you as In the Library. Or, for that matter, Pushkin.

You can purchase the either the 15ml perfume absolute or the 100ml water perfume for $60 direct from the perfumer. In the Library is also available in a home spray, so you, too, can achieve that lovely library scent at home. You can also pick it up at online scent retailers like Luckyscent, and if you’re a try before you buy type, samples are available at The Perfumed Court as well as from CB direct.

”Don't tell me you don't know the difference
between a lover and a fighter.
With my pen and my electric typewriter,
even in a perfect world where everyone was equal
I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel.
I'm giving you a longing look.
Everyday, everyday, everyday...
Everyday I write the book.”

- “Everyday I Write the Book,” Elvis Costello

Want more reviews?
~ Alovely review from Scents & Sensibility.
~ A review from Scentzilla.
~ In the Library gets two mentions, one here and one here, from Perfume-Smellin’ Things.
~ Lastly, a lovely surprise review from The New Yorker.

Images courtesy of CB I Hate Perfume.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm a Fool to Want You.

They ran the new Chanel No. 5 ad featuring Audrey Tatou several times during the Emmys Sunday night. I totally love the ad. It's classy and classically romantic. I hope you do, too.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I said, "Hey, pretty baby, howsabout a date?"

She said, "I'm going to school, and I can't be late."

This is a very busy week for us, as over six thousand resident students descend upon us for the beginning of Fall Quarter. Also, David is visiting this coming weekend for the first time in two months. Thus I may be a little light on reviews this week, but I'll be back in full force next week.

In honor of the beginning of another year of school -- a phase of life that apparently will be of permanent relevance to my life whether I'm a student or not -- I'm offering up a special back to school mix and your choice of sampling any three scents I've reviewed (list in the column on the right), 1 ml each.

Want in? Post in the comments section and tell me either a song you associate with fall/back to school or a scent you associate with fall (or both!). Entries end at 11:59pm PST, Sunday September 27. Random winner will be selected from those who post and announced on Monday, September 28.

Any and all eligible, even if you're my one previous winner. (I'm looking at you, Divina. <g>)

Woe is me, all summer long I was happy and free.
Save my soul, the board of education took away my parole.
I gotta go back, back, back to school again.
You won't find me 'til the clock strikes three;
I'm gonna be there 'til then...
Whoa, whoa, I gotta go...
back to school...

- "Back to School," Grease 2

You're never gonna keep me down...

Frapin Passion Boisee

"[S]he sings a song that reminds [her] of the good times.
[S]he sings a song that reminds [her] of the better times..."

I hate liquor. And...

...I love liquor.

I do. After years of my husband offering up the most expensive and highest quality beers from around the world, I've found a few I enjoyed. While a budding knowledge of the wine certainly would have helped me with those painful networking events I stumbled my way through as a law student, I've never enjoyed anything more than a really sweet dessert one or two.

But liquor. Ah, sweet liquor. There is really nothing quite as fine as a well made liquor, and I'm not super picky. I like good quality vodka, rum, scotch, bourbon, brandy, you name it. (The only one I don't like, in fact, is gin.) My favorite is whiskey, so common to my childhood I was practically suckled on it, but I will enjoy just about any top-shelf liquor. My passion is for fine spirits is particularly problematic since I come from not one but two long lines of alcoholics, and I take after the side that allows one to drink and drink and drink and, while sleepy descends, I rarely if ever suffer the negative impacts of heavily imbibing. This is not what one might consider a recipe for moderate drinking.

So I have a drink occasionally when I'm out to dinner with someone, but rarely ever more than one. Living alone, I don't keep a single bottle of liquor in the house, or even wine or beer. In my lifetime, I have seen people I cared tango with liquor and lose their jobs, destroy large pieces of property, fairly seriously injure themselves physically, humiliate themselves -- and their loved ones -- publicly, run into serious legal trouble, and last, but certainly not least, simply drink and drink and drink...until they weren't alive anymore. This has made what one might refer to as a "lasting impression."

Thus, I have a tendency, quite frankly, to have a bipolar relationship with liquor.

Enter the boozy scents.

There are a number of scents that manage to approximate the delicious smell of fine liquor, which to some degree, is tied to the taste of liquor. And as these scents are unlikely to lead to any of the bad ends so many of my family and friends have met whilst dancing with the demon liquor, I get to love them completely without any risk to my soul, immortal or otherwise.

Today, I'm reviewing Frapin Passion Boisee, a deliciously boozy scent. Thanks to Robin at Now Smell This! for the description of Passion Boisee, as the website is in French and I, unfortunately, I don't read French.
Clean and elegant and dry, this is a fragrance suitable for hobnobbing in distinguished company; sinking into a leather club chair in front of a crackling fire and sipping a fine cognac while holding forth confidently on the matters of the day.

NOTES: Tangerine, nutmeg, rum, oak moss, clove, leather, patchouli, cedarwood
I think Passion Boisee is a seriously delicious scent. While I expect noting less from a Cognac maker, this is some seriously delicious stuff. It is smells simultaneously juicy and dry, the way that liquor sliding down your throat is both wet and fiery simultaneously. It’s a spicy and warm and delicious and delightful. On me I get this very nice mixture that reminds me a little of the way tobacco smells as it is harvested.

Passion Boisee is sophisticated, powerful, and seductive. It is the sort of scent a lovely woman in a little black dress wears as she slinks across a bar, turning heads, owning the room, and never, ever, ever, paying for her own drink.

You can purchase Passion Boisee from Luckyscent, Aedes, or Beautyhabit.

"[S]he drinks a whiskey drink.
[S]he drinks a vodka drink.
[S]he drinks a lager drink.
[S]he drinks a cider drink."

- "Tubthumping (I get knocked Down)," Chumbawamba

Want more reviews? Try...
~ A review of Perfume-Smellin' Things
~ A review from The Scented Salamander

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I'll take you to far away places and we'll eat lemons and limes

Téo Cabanel Méloé

Continuing fruits week, today I am reviewing Téo Cabanel Méloé, which doesn't really classify as fruity. Hey, there's citrus in there, so I'm going for it, stretch or not.

Téo Cabanel has this to say about Méloé:

In the heat of long-awaited summer days, the Méloé woman has found a fresh haven. Her elegant summer signature is underlined by her light, green, fruity eau de perfum.

Méloé's Epicurian symphony generously draws its top notes from citrus and spices. Bergamot from Calabria, mandarin and lemon from Sicily, lavender and basil play their part in perfect harmony. The sparkling citrus notes linger until a dainty floral bouqet of Neroli from Tunisia, orange blossom and jasmine with just a touch of nutmeg comes to full bloom to make up the heart notes. Unexpected sensual base notes of musk, amber and just a hint of woody notes. Lavish elegance and mystery, Méloé: the modern woman in you.
On me, Méloé is a citrus-y green turned aquatic concoction. I primarily get a strong lime note on application, but that lightens up pretty quick, and it gets grassier. After about twenty minutes it becomes more aquatic as the floral notes pop through a bit. It also lightens up considerably and has low sillage, so it feels like a scent you'd be able to splash on to cool down throughout the day without knocking anybody down with your sillage after the third application.

As for the spice notes, I'm don't get much of them, which is too bad because a stronger basil note might have made Méloé a more complex summer scent. Still, Méloé is a well-made scent and would make for a delightful cool down on a hot summer day. (Or hot any-day here in SoCal.) At the same time, it doesn't I feel like anything I haven't smelled before. Don't get me wrong, it's a really nice citrus-green smell, and it holds its niceness, so if you like that sort of thing, this is a good choice.

I do wonder why it is so hard to create a genuinely citrusy note that seems to last, though. There are a whole lot of citrus scents that smell, not like citrus fruit, but like 'citrus flavored' candy, which is about as much like real citrus fruit as a plastic pony is to a real one. Then there are the scents that manage to capture the experience of delicious and juicy cirus fruit, but the lovely note is usually something that occurs when the scent is in transition to its final olfactory destination. I really like citrus and always have, so I find myself trending toward the good citrus-noted scents like Méloé and reapplying them often to recapture that scent. I wish I knew of more high quality realistic citrus scents out there, and if you readers can think of some, please feel free to leave them for me in the comments.

All that said, I do like Méloé enough that come the hottest days of summer I can imagine myself reaching for it again and again, and I would certainly consider buying it when the 100+ degree days set in next summer because at $78 for 100ml you get enough to be liberal with the application and still have the bottle last you a while.

To buy Téo Cabanel Méloé, try LuckyScent and other online purveyors.

"Let's go home to the world
and eat our share of fruit.
An unknown race,
A hole in the loop of my dreams,
eating lemons and limes...

- "Lemons and Limes," Ben Holmquist

Want more reviews? Try...
~ A review from All I Am - A Redhead.
~ A review from W.A.F.T.

Images from We Eat and eHow.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana...

Washington Tremlett Royals Heroes 1805

Washington Tremlett, was once a famous shirt tailor and inventor of the tie in 1870s Paris. Now the name fronts for a small perfume house. Washington Tremlett Royals Heroes 1805, a scent designed by the perfumer for men, is described as "a strong, definite and authentic burst of dark bergamot with exotic deep spices, precious cedar, a hint of dark patchouli and mild tonka to create a surprising blend." Like the house name, the scent is given a historical spin as Washington Tremlett says its intended to “remind of Horatio Nelson and his "Bootnecks." For those in need of a little history lesson, the perfumer says,
Horatio Nelson had a passionate belief in his ability to become a hero. His famous naval career began in 1771 when he was only 12 years old, and ended with his death at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. His victories and great courage caught the public imagination, and he was indeed considered a hero, both in his own lifetime and in the Victorian period following his death.
The notes given for Royals Heroes 1805 are mandarin, bergamot, clove, anise, cedarwood, patchouli, tonka.

LuckyScent says that Royals Heroes "makes us dream of old libraries in titled English mansions, of fire burning cozily in big fireplaces, of whiskey and cigars." My Royals Heroes-colored dreams are less English nobility and more warm and delicious smells I associate with southern kitchens. On me, the anise is very strong at first but within the first few minutes quickly balances itself against the sweetness of the tonka and the spiciness of the clove. All together, the effect reminds of me of the smell of banana bread loaded with sweet spices, baking. It’s a smell I have loved since I was a little girl, one that I associate along with a few other dishes as the key to comfort in sickness or in health.

You might think it's weird to want to smell like a southern sweet bread made with the ripest bananas you can find, but it's not foodie in the way you think. It's not foodie in the way that gourmands are foodie; I don't really think of it as gourmand. But it has a lovely comforting quality to it that banana bread evokes in me, while at the same time manages to be far more sophisticated than I could ever really call a gourmand. That's no knock on gourmands. I love foodie scents. But it is rare to find a scent that smells like a comforting dessert food that anyone raised by the knee of a woman in a southern kitchen can replicate and at the same time seems appropriate to wear to a black tie event. I think Royals Heroes 1805 is a lovely scent for a woman and the kind of scent that a guy like Chuck Bass wears with sincerity and a man like George Clooney wears with a wry smile and and a dash of irony. Either way, it's a lovely experience.

To buy Royals Heroes 1805, which comes in 3.3oz/100ml bottles for $160, shop BeautyEncounter, LuckyScent, and First in Fragrance.

Work all night on a drink of rum!
Daylight come and me wan' go home.
Stock banana till de mornin' come!
Daylight come and me wan' go home.

- "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)," Harry Belafonte

Want more reviews? Try...
~ This review from Perfume-Smellin' Things.

Images courtesy of Washington Tremlett.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One mint julep was the cause of it all...

Dawn Spencer Horowitz’s DSH Perfumes The´ Vert (Tea No. 1)

Evidence of a sample vial dwindling toward emptiness means two things: firstly, that I need to get to reviewing it before its all gone, and secondly, it should definitely go on the “To Be Purchased” list.

One sample running perilously low is Dawn Spencer Horowitz’s DSH Perfumes The´ Vert (Tea No. 1). Dawn Spencer Horowitz describes vert as “Classical. Refined. Minimalist. A true green tea fragrance with a soft and subtle chypre dry down.” Dawn calls The Vert her “own green tea scent.” The notes include bergamot and lemon at the top, green tea in the middle, and moss and sandalwood at the base.

I love The Vert. It seems so alive to me. So fresh. It works nicely in warm weather due to the fresh top notes, but the warm tea notes actually make it a really amazing fall scent. The opening is fairly masculine but within minutes it cools down to a tingly spearmint scent, light and lovely.

The Vert is complex and blooms beautifully, and I want to apply it over and over again to enjoy the ride. I think that’s part of why my sample is so close to empty! It’s a lovely, delightful scent that reminds me in some moments of soothing warm mint tea and in other moments, of the cool minty cookies and ice creams of the holiday season. In the summer it's a delicious mint julep; in the winter, it's a comforting mint mocha.

I highly recommend this fragrance. It is available direct from the perfumer in a variety of quantities and forms at a really very modest price, as well as body crème, body lotion, and a foaming wash. And may I suggest one of the many delightful sampler packs available while you are there?

"I stole a kiss, and then another.
I didn’t mean to take it further.
One mint julep was the cause of it all..."

- "One Mint Julep," Ray Charles

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hey Mr. Postman, look and see....

"There must be some word today
from my boyfriend, so far away.
Please Mister Postman, look and see
if there's a letter, a letter for me..."

Today was a very good day, mail-wise.

I got a big package of my mail from David, who is still in Portland, containing some medication I needed, my Fall Fashion edition of Elle magazine, a sweet little alumni magazine featuring full page pictures of current students I know and far flung cohort friends I miss dearly, and a bunch of random mail.

Also, my bottle of Téo Cabanel Oha arrived today from Greece! I love mail just generally, but getting mail with fancy international stamps on it is extra special. (Though my students do frequently wonder why I am constantly getting sweet smelling packages from Europe marked "Fragile" all over them!)

The seller had wrapped it like a gift, too. A little gift to me for surving here in SoCal for two months as of tomorrow. It seems like so much longer, especially since, without a visit from my sister and the regular companionship of a dear friend from college who lives about a 45 minute drive away, I would be sweltering out here in the desert all alone.

Pictures included for your entertainment.

"...deliver the letter,
the sooner the better...

- "Please Mr. Postman," The Marvelettes

Millions of peaches, peaches for me.

Sarah Horowitz Parfums Perfect Nectar

Apparently I'm having a week for fruit scents. I think it must be my deep desire to will Fall and all its attendant glories to Los Angeles by hook or crook. While the temperature has dropped a little bit, L.A. fall is a pale and hollow shadow of what I miss about Portland. I am thrilled to be going back for a ten day long visit at the end of October.

In my effort to command Fall here by sheer force of wish and will, I am apparently clinging to the scent of supple and ripe fruit. In my mind, I think of fruit as fall and spring, not winter or summer. And since summer never ends here, well, fresh fruit for the party.

To that end, I’m reviewing Sarah Horowitz Parfums Perfect Nectar parfum. Perfect Nectar is described by Westlake Village, CA-based perfumer Sarah Horowitz-Thran as follows:
Perfect Nectar is a fresh, sexy blend of tropical fruits, white flowers and oceanic musk that sets the wearer aglow with the dazzlingly lush fragrance of an island paradise. A scent that is at once succulent and clean, it transports one to a place where crashing surf and trees dripping with exotic fruits are bathed in golden sunlight.
On me, Perfect Nectar is sweet and dry like the taste of fat, fuzzy white peaches. The scent is refined, but still natural, like a fine dessert wine or the experience of pressing one's nose to the fuzzy exterior and inhaling deeply. It is truly artful, and the pure parfum really holds the scent well. It’s mostly a one note song and doesn’t change a lot on the drydown, but it is complex enough to remain delightfully interesting. It has moderate sillage and excellent staying power.

Perfect Nectar is available in a number of forms, including an 1 oz EdP spray for $75 or EdP purse pen for $36 and a .02 oz (6ml) pure parfum for a mere $40. That’s not to mention the candle, lotion, massage oil, or shower gel. If you find you love one of Sarah Horowitz’s delightful perfumes, you can get your ‘signature scent’ fix in a ton of forms for a very affordable price point wile still wearing a well-made and uncommon scent.

Since I don’t believe in signature scents, but prefer to have a scent wardrobe to match my mood and plans, I get to have access to them all!

“If I had my little way,
I’d eat peaches everyday.
Sun soaking bulges in the shade.”

- “Peaches,” Presidents of the United States

You can purchase Perfect Nectar direct from the perfumer, as well as B-Glowing, Amazon, BeautyHabit, LuckyScent, and other online distributors.

Want more info? Try...
~ Rare treat: A video review!
~ Sarah Horwitz even has a facebook group.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Where is the sacrifice? And tell me where, where is the faith?

CB I Hate Perfume Revelation


Everyone has them. Every single person alive has at least one coping mechanism that, out of moderation, can be unhealthy. People smoke. People drink. People over eat. People don’t eat all. People over exercise. People shop. People become rigidly organized in the face of a world spinning out of control. Some are more innately harmful than others, obviously, but everyone has one.

Sugary, milky espresso drinks from Starbucks, preferably with nonfat milk, no whip cream, and lots of extra shots of espresso constitute one of my vices. When I am feeling sad or frustrated or simply need a break, an overpriced foamy beverage of the caffeinated variety can quiet the storm in my soul, stave off a bout of hysterical laughter and/or tears.

But some days there is not enough coffee available to be able to handle the world we live in.

Today is one of those days.

But I digress…

Another one of my vices, obviously, is perfume acquisition. My personal version of “Oh the Places You’ll Go” might also be amended to include “…and the scents that you’ll sniff!” One boss, a former drugs and alcohol addictions counselor, noted that the way I carry tiny vials of perfume samples around with me in a tin in my purse is pretty similar to the way a junkie carries their works with them everywhere. Not once, but twice in the almost two months I’ve been here someone has seen me rummaging through my samples at my desk in my office and remarked that it looks like I have a little Disney tin full of crack vials sitting there. (This is not an immediate cause for alarm due in part to the nature of my job, which involves hearing all sorts of policy infractions as a hearing officer for a university; these incidents sometimes come with, well, bags of evidence. Like they do.)

But in what can sometimes be an ugly and unfeeling world, having a little pile of chemically orchestrated magical beauty readily accessible is comforting to me, calming. Sure, right now people may be hurting one another, terrible injustices may be taking place, but right now there are also people creating beauty in the world, through music or film or poetry or theater or even, yes, perfume. Humanity can be cruel and calculating and vicious but it can also be artful and honest and just. And it’s good, in dark times, to have whatever reminds you of that beauty within arm’s reach.

With that, I give you my review of CB I Hate Perfume Revelation. Christopher Brosius describes Revelation (also known as “fig”) as follows:
Revelation captures the scent of a Wild Fig Tree. The prime note is that of Fig Leaves & Twigs blended with Honey and a touch of Spice. The perfume is based on a rich warm blend of Cedarwood, Cypress Wood, Amber & Labdanum.
Revelation begins with a crisp green scent that gently warms on the skin to be sensual and glowing.
On me, Revelation is a warm, honeyed wash rather than anything particularly green or fruity. It’s kind of woody and rich. It spends the first half hour developing, blooming from small to moderate sillage. The scent reminds me of clear, clean water splashed over a weary and sad face. It is soft and gentle like a comforting hand. Revelation is like the olfactory act of pulling oneself back together, sometimes one frayed thread at a time.

My only complaint is that the scent doesn’t last super long in the water perfume. After about two hours, it had all but disappeared, kind of like my calm. If you’re buying, I’d opt for the perfume absolute on this one. On the whole, though, a nice effort.

“Some day there’ll be a cure for pain.
That’s the day I throw my drugs away.
When they find a cure, when they find a cure for pain.”

- “Cure for Pain,” Morphine

Want more reviews? Try…
~ A a review from Perfume-Smellin’ Things.
~ A review from the Whiskey Luxury livejournal.
~ A review from memory & desire.
~ A review of numerous figgy scents from Perfume Posse.
~ A review from The Non-Blonde.

Images from CB I Hate Perfume.

Monday, September 14, 2009

On Storage

As I have mentioned (like a million times now) I finally managed to find a place to live and have now settled into my new residence. A campus residence hall squatter no more, now comes the part of having a new place people either love or hate -- settling in.

Personally, I love it. I love trying to figure out the most efficient ways to use space, to store things, the best furniture to fit the space, etc. My current bathroom, though cavernous, does not have a good place to store towels and my, frankly, overabundance of skin and hair care products. (Seriously -- when did I become this girl?) But it did have this little closet right outside the bathroom door. Now this closet, as you can see below, is a skinny little thing, and the shelves are triangular. Really not useful for towels, etc. The laundry room has separate storage, I've got an entry way closet, lots of pantry space in the kitchen, and a giant walk-in closet in the bedroom. The closet has built in shelves, so I can't use it to store my ridiculous amounts of gift wrap. (I know some of you were thinking that was the answer.)

So what is a girl to do with such a tiny little space that really isn't good for much except rather small objects?

Use it as a perfume closet, of course!

Yep. That's right. Girlfriend has a closet JUST FOR PERFUME. Keep bottles in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight? Check, check, check. The only thing I don't like about it is that all those pretty bottles are stored in a place you can't naturally see them. Still, the contents are protected, and that's what is most important. It's not the glass case with revolving stands and built in lighting with a dust cover Angela and I used to dream about on work breaks, but its a start.

So that takes care of the bottle storage. Now if I could just work out a good storage system for my samples. Ammunition boxes seem to be a favorite choice, but I just can't get myself to walk into a guns & ammo store with a box of samples of perfume and ask. So if I may ask, how do you store your samples?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Access: Granted

Thankfully I have finally wrestled AT&T into submission, culminating with the installation of my cable and internet. This means that I will return in full force this week with more regular posting of reviews, comments, stories, et cetera. So excited am I to have my house finally put together and access from it to the outside world, there might even in be a sample give-away this week.

I know, you're really excited.

Until tomorrow...


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

And there's a green like the peace in your heart sometimes...

CB I Hate Perfume Memory of Kindness

There are a lot of beautiful scents out there. Some you will love simply because they are fascinating and beautiful in and of themselves. But for me, the scents I like the most are the ones that evoke memory, emotion, personal connection. They are the scents that immediately make me want to tell a story.

Chistopher Brosius is an amazing perfumer, and he is the undisputed king of ultra realism in scent. I could love him for that alone, but my favorite thing about his work is how often it is personal to him. One such scent is CB I Hate Perfume Memory of Kindness. The scent is described as smelling like "the shining green scent of tomato vines growing in the fresh earth of a country garden," but the story he tells about the scent and why it is named Memory of Kindness is what really touches me.

On application, Memory of Kindness is a tangy, bitter, dirty, rooty, salty, warm masterpiece. On dry down, though, it becomes a sweet, gentle scent with just a little spicy after bite. Even without the story it would be amazing, but Brosius’ story of experiencing kindness in childhood inspires other beautiful stories. Art, at its best, inspires others to feel and to create. In Memory of Kindness, you will find originality, beauty, and inspiration.

And that’s art.

"She said, 'I don't know what he meant to me.
I just know he affected me.
An effect not unlike his art,
I believe...'"

- "Mark Rothko Song," Dar Williams

Want more? Go here!
~ A very touching and lovely review from Perfume Smellin’ Things can be found here.
~ Robin’s review for Now Smell This! is here.
~ A review from For the Love of Perfume can be found here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Home, Sweet (Smelling) Home?

So I made it into my new apartment, and after two four-hour trips to Ikea over the weekend, feel it is approaching livable. The apartment looks very nice. The carpet is new, the fixtures all work, and they clearly just painted it before I moved in.

It's a nice place and I appreciate the effort to make it even nicer by giving it a spruce before I moved in. Unfortunately, the spruce has resulted in the whole place smelling like -- you guessed it -- fresh paint.

I have been trying for two days to defeat this scent. I've burned home fragrance oils in my Aveda diffuser. I've burned scented candles. I've burned incense. I've done heaps and heaps of laundry, which resulted in clean clothes, but not in making the new paint smell weaken, even under the power of lots of spent dryer sheets.

Anyone got any tips on how to make the new paint smell fade? Any recommended, tried and true home fragance options that are a must? Any home fragrance products you would warn me away from?

More about perfume, and probably my new digs, tomorrow...

Aveda diffuser, pictured above, available here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Let all the dreamers wake the nation.

Revlon Charlie

"Dress shabbily and they notice the dress. Dress impeccably and they notice the woman – Coco Chanel."
- Sigourney Weaver to Melanie Griffith, Working Girl

By now everyone in the world has seen at least one of the commercials aimed at leveraging the current financial crisis to point out how its really an opportunity to learning to tighten our belts and reassess our values merely disguised as tragedy. These ads represent a herculean effort to put the emphasis on the silver lining, rather than admit that giving up all the finery in an effort to make ends meet sometimes, plainly put, sucks. While it is a good opportunity to reassess and put focus back on the things that really matter -- quality not quantity, spending time with those we love doing free things, rather than all sitting in different rooms watching separate Tivos just because we can -- the flat fact of the matter is, sometimes you buy the thing you need to get you by, not the thing you'd like to have. You could choose the luxury item, credit cards be damned, that special item that reflects that you have made it, even if you aren't there yet. But somehow, at a time when my life includes seeing former classmates being interviewed about applying for food stamps and learning what it means to be "upside down" in your mortgage from thirty-somethings moving back in with their parents, I just can't bring myself to splurge on the more expensive thing simply because I want it. As I go to fill my apartment with furniture to get me through this year (since David has all of ours), aspirational has been a key word in my shopping vocabulary. I like IKEA, and they make some nice things, but in my heart I lust after a very expensive and beautiful couch from Crate & Barrel. It will take me a fairly long time to get to that couch, though, and in the meantime, well, I'd prefer not to be sitting on the floor. So while I shop, I look for furniture that seems to say, "I haven't made it yet, but I will someday."

When it comes to perfume, Revlon's thirty-plus year old staple, Charlie, is a lot like IKEA in the aspirational sense. Good old classic Charlie. There appear to be several versions of Charlie now, each named after a color with coordinated packaging, but I am talking about the one, the only, the original. Charlie was one of my very first perfumes. Is there seriously anyone who grew up in the 80s who hasn’t worn, or at least tried, Charlie? While Charlie was created in the 1970s, Charlie was basically in every grocery and drugstore by the early 1980s, about the time I was in elementary school and also developing an interest in my mother’s extensive make-up and perfume collection.

According to Angela over at Now Smell This!, Charlie's top notes are citrus oils, peach, hyacinth, and tarragon; its heart notes are jasmine, lily of the valley, cyclamen, and carnation; and its base is cedarwood, sandalwood, oakmoss, and vanilla. Apparently there is some debate over whether Charlie is a floral oriental, green floral, green chypre—but really, I am never sure I know what these things are supposed to be classified as anyway.

While trying Charlie, I kept trying to figure out what it reminded me of, other than eight-year-old girls clomping around in their mothers’ shoes, pale pink lipstick smeared about their tiny rose-petal lips. Then, on a whim, I grabbed my bottle of Chanel No. 5 EDT, which Luca Turin describes as a “peachy floral” in Perfumes: The Guide. All be damned – Charlie is a No. 5 EDT knock-off! If you took the peachy sweetness out of No. 5 EDT and used lower quality ingredients, you’d have Charlie. It bears only a passing resemblance to the No. 5 EDP (like several degrees separated and related by marriage not blood), but Charlie is to No. 5 EDT the way that I am to my wealthy second cousin, who either sends me a very nice check at graduation and card at Christmas or her daughter to very special occasions (i.e. my hipster evening wedding in a brewery).

The longer you wear Charlie, the thinner and flatter it gets, where as No. 5 EDT holds it’s delightful quality. But I do see why Charlie is still being bottled thirty-five years later. It’s not a bad fragrance; in fact it’s a shadow of one of the most famous fragrances in the world. And as shadows go, things could be far worse. It is mostly a trick of fate that lead me to the a place that affords me intimate knowledge of all that is the lovely world of Chanel; without it, and before it, it’s nice to know I recognized the desire for quality, even in my youth. I might not have had any idea how I was going to get there, but by god I was going to get my life together someday. I was aspirational, even working two jobs as a waitress and copy shop clerk. And that's what Charlie is, at heart. It's the olfactory equivalent, not of giving up, but hoping for more. It is Melanie Griffith at the beginning of Working Girls, with her big hair and loud make-up and much too much bangle jewelry and her relentless hopefulness and determination.

Charlie is also definitely worth owning, in my opinion. You should also own Chanel No. 5 in at least one of its incarnations, but for the sticker price (which in my case was free, since a friend gave me a 15ml bottle she scored for $2.99), Charlie is a nice, cheap alternative to remind you that, maybe not today, but sometime in your tomorrows, what you aspire to will be within reach.

We the great and small,
stand on a star and blaze a trail of desire
through the darkening dawn...
Silver cities rise.
The morning lights, the streets that lead them
and sirens call them on with a song.
It's asking for the taking,
Oh, my heart is aching!

- "Let the River Run," Carly Simon

Friday, September 4, 2009

Nobody loves no one.

A Trio of Bath & Body Works Summer Scents

A coworker saw me with a bag from Bath & Body Works the other day, where I had traveled to obtain some nice smelling antibacterial hand soaps and gels in an effort to stock up my office before all the students return to campus. Because he knows I am a perfumista who has spent (what he considers to be) an embarrassing large amount of money on perfume, he expressed surprised, and said, “So do you only do, like, nice fragrances, or will you do anything?”

This, my fine fragrance loving friends, is the problem with being a perfumista. You tell people you love perfume, collect perfume, write about perfume, and suddenly they assume that there is a price basement for what you can enjoy. While it is true that good research and development costs money, which usually pegs good juice at a higher price tag, a true perfumista recognizes that good, delicious, and delightful scents can come in any form, at any price, in any packaging.

So, in an effort to offer up a full week of economically accessible fragrances, I’m filling out today with some scent offerings from Bath & Body Works. Bath & Body Works has a line of “fragrant waters,” lighter summer versions of their Signature Collection EDTs. You can purchase these lighter scents in monstrous 295ml bottles or smaller, travel-sized scents in a 8.5ml roll-on container. Right now, either size is buy two get a third free, so I thought it might be a nice to give their summer line a try. Here’s my take on three of their “fragrant waters.”

Bath & Body Works Sweetpea

Sweetpea is intended for those looking for a “brighter, summer-inspired interpretation” of the EDT. To do so, “master perfumers have added touches of lemon zest, fresh tangerine, a hint of Granny Smith Apple, and soft, sheer petals.” Thus, Sweetpea is an “intoxicating, floral-infused breezes of the Mediterranean, master perfumers have blended sweet pea petals and watery pear with freesia, fresh raspberry, and soft, delicate musk.” The notes include “lemon zest, fresh tangerine, Granny Smith apples, sweet pea petals.”

On me, Sweetpea is a strange mix of very light grape and watermelon flavored jello. I’m not kidding. Sweetpea was like wearing the smell of every sick day I spent at my grandmother’s house. J-E-L-L-O. All the way. Not an unpleasant smell, but one that seems most appropriate for very young girls.

Bath & Body Works Japanese Cherry Blossom

Japanese Cherry Blossom, in the fragrant waters version, is again a "brighter, summer-inspired version" of the EdT, in which “master perfumers enhanced the airy floralcy for a fragrance that's illuminated from the back, for a fresher effect.” According to B&BWs, this thing has a more notes than you can shake a stick at: Asian pear, Fuji apple, mandarin zest, crushed leaves, sparkling casis, fresh lychee, Japanese cheer blossoms, jasmine petals, fresh peony, water lily, vanilla rice, violet woods, skin musk, creamy sandalwood.”

If anyone can prove to me that they can smell all of those things going on simultaneously in this concoction, I’ll buy them a bottle of the classic perfume of their choice. In Japanese Cherry Blossom, I get a sweet, bitter, little green synthetic at the opening melded with cassis and hints of vanilla. While I think Japanese Cherry Blossom is pleasant, I suspect I would enjoy it more as a hand soap, because it seems like a lovely scent, but perhaps better suited to lotions or cleaners.

Bath & Body Works Wild Honeysuckle

Again, going for a lighter, summer version of one of their staple EDTs, B&BW “master perfumers” have taken Wild Honeysuckle and “highlighted the floral heart of the fragrance with sparkling notes of tangerine, Sicilian lemon, vibrant mandarin and pink grapefruit.” The notes are listed as “jasmine, violet, fresh honeydew, cassis,” a much more manageable list than Japanese Cherry Blossom.

Of the three I tried, this was by far my favorite. Wild Honeysuckle smelled to me like dry desert air just as it begins to rain. It had this gritty feel to it, while still being sweet, like a handful of wet sand and a handful of wild flowers, all crushed together. If you can smell the blue grey color of sky before a storm or the exposed and worn slate veins of the Pennsylvania hills, then this is pretty close to it. In my head, it reminds me of the way Helena Christensen looks in Chris Isaak’s video for Wicked Game. There is one shot of her, covered in dirt and sand, with her startling blue eyes peering doe-eyed at the camera. When I smell Wild Honeysuckle, that is the image I see in my mind.

Strange, what desire will make foolish people do.
I never dreamed that I'd love somebody like you.
I never dreamed that I'd lose somebody like you.
No, I don't wanna fall in love…with you.

- “Wicked Game,” Chris Isaak

For more affordable scent reviews, see this post from Divina, and Angela’s five part series from Now Smell this found here: part 1, Victoria Secret scents, part 2, Bath & Body Works scents, part 3, Body Shop scents, part 4, L’Occitane scents, part 5, Gap Close.

If you want to give these economically accessible fragrances a go, go on over to Bath & Body Works and buy a few of the smaller containers. They provide a fun way to experiment with what it feels like to chose a different scent every day based on your schedule and mood.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Acquisitions, both olfactory and residential

A couple quick updates.

I just wanted to share with you, dear readers, that I found a bottle of lovely Teo Cabanel Oha on sale and have snatched it up! It will soon be winging its way to me from Germany, a gift to myself for finding a job and braving a 1000+ mile move on my own.

Also, I could not be more excited about the pending release of L’Artisan’s Vanille Havana, which will be released in October. It seems like everyone in the perfume blogging world has tried it by now but me. The press release description is that Vanille Havana is “aged rum and sweet air of Cuba.”

I would practically give my right hand for a bottle of Guerlain's Spiritueuse Double Vanilla, which I have a tragically small sample of. Spiritueuse Double Vanilla was a limited edition that is now basically impossible to find, which of course means it is the most wonderful vanilla I have ever smelled in my life. Reviews of Vanille Havana have been comparing it to Spiritueuse Double Vanilla, so I am hoping that my unceasing heartache over missing Guerlain’s masterpiece will be satiated to some degree.

I hear you can try Vanille Havana in Bendels but since I live at literally the opposite end of the country and have not won the lottery lately, that means a trek to NYC to get a sniff is out of the question. If any of you readers know of a place in the greater southern California area where I can try it, please comment below. I have a car and a three day weekend starting tomorrow and nothing says Labor Day celebration to me like the labor of love it takes to drive across the greater LA metro area to get to a beloved perfume.

Incidentally I am also moving this weekend, so I may not be posting/replying to comments Sunday/Monday for want of internet access. (I have scheduled my posts for tomorrow and Saturday, though, to round out my week of accessible scents.) I apologize for the break, but take heart, dear reader. I’ll see you all bright and early Tuesday morning.

Until then, love from the burnination nation,


If I could leave my burning skin,
that has been used up in your skin.
Is there a tiny part of me,
untouched -- unsoiled by misery!
Be mine, sister salvation.
Juke Joint Jezebel is coming for my cremation!

- "Juke Joint Jezebel," KMFDM

Photos courtsey of the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune, respectively. All rights reserved.

Some were spellbound; some were hellbound...

Avon U by Ungaro For Her & Bond Girl 007 Forever

Today we reach the end of my foray into Avon samples, though not the end of our week of affordable scents. But take heart, dear reader, there are more affordable scents on the docket for Friday and Saturday.

According to Avon, U by Ungaro For Her is
a fresh, woody floral fragrance which features notes of bergamot blossom, freesia and pepper blossom in the top, acacia, living lotus flower, and osmanthus in the heart, and orris, sandalwood and musk in the base.
Notes: bergamot blossom, freesia, pepper blossom, acacia aura, lotus flower, osmanthus, iris, sandalwood and musk
The first thing I think when I try U by Ungaro is that the scent is trying, on application, to be too many things at once, practically knocking me down with its enthusiasm. Then, almost instantly, it goes flat, puffing up iris and sandalwood at me like the weak smell of 1950s face powder. Had the opening happened slowly, playing out the notes over time, I think it might have been great. Truthfully, there is just too much happening that disappears too fast for me to even be able to tell you what all is happening there. It's sweet, it's spicy, it's floral, it's...trying to hard.

Reese Witherspoon is fronting for this one, and I love her and think she is immensely talented, but when I smell U by Ungaro, the immediate mental image I get is of Tracy Flick, the toxically perky high school overachiever. She's like Paris Geller, if Paris had no conscience.

Last up is Bond Girl 007 Forever. The ad copy hilariously reads, "A sultry cocktail of dangerous seduction blending sleek citrus fruits and black pepper with sexy jasmine florals and smoky woods. Forever Irresistible. Forever Bond." The notes include pink pepper, rose, neroli, violet, muguet, amber, incense and cedar.

This was by far the best of the Avon scents I tried. On me, it is an aromatic citrus, all citrus and spice with a hint of amber-y sweetness. It’s a lovely scent, light and fun. It reminds me of CK One, but sweeter and more feminine. That said, I think it could make a nice masculine scent as well.

Bond Girl 007 Forever retails in a cute 50ml bottle for $30 but is currently on sale through Avon for a mere $25. As scents bought smell unsniffed go, not a bad price point. However if you know someone who sells Avon you can, and should, get your hands on a sample.

I'm sure any of you that have looked in the general direction of any news source this week know that L.A. is experiencing some pretty serious wild fire right now -- over 140,000 acres and counting. The area I'm in is fine, but it's a pretty terrifying experience to look up into the sky and see haze from the massive smoke, not to mention the homes burned and the people injured and killed, plus the thousands more at risk. So cross your fingers and toes that we get some relief down here. Living here right now, between the temperature and the fires, more or less resembles living on the surface of the sun.

"So don't delay. Act now. Supplies are running out.
Allow, if you're still alive, six to eight years to arrive.
And if you follow, there may be a tomorrow.
But if the offer's shunned,
you might as well be walkin' on the sun..."

- "Walking on the Sun," Smash Mouth

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cause everything that glitters is not gold.

Avon Rare Gold & Rare Pearls

Two more Avon scents are up today: Rare Gold and Rare Pearls.

Apparently some internet wholesalers managed to grab the ad copy for these two. Rare Gold is, according to Avon marketers, “As rare as the woman who wear this scent, this floriental fragrance for women opens with notes of ylang-ylang, freshly sweet bergamot, and mandarin. Heart notes are sweet jasmine, orange blossom, lily of the valley, tuberose, gardenia and aldehydes. The base brings woodsy notes of sandal wood, amber and powdery vanilla.”

Just reading ‘floriental’ made me chuckle derisively, but hey? Who knows what beauty lurks in the hearts and minds of Avon chemists? So I tried it. On application Rare Gold is white flowers, spice, and wood. I get a lot of gardenia, jasmine, and aldehydes from this one, and only a little bit of spice, so it’s much more “flor” than “iental.” The opening is a lot less synthetic than I expected given the budget packaging and somewhat hilarious name. (“Rare gold”? As opposed to that other kind of gold, which is super common?) Still, a good lesson in not judging the book by its cover, because it was better than I expected. Rare Gold isn’t what I’d term as “art,” exactly, but as white flowers go, it’s passable, and after about thirty minutes it gets kind of jammy on me, which improves it. I think there are better “florientals” out there, but if you want something less aggressive, maybe this one is for you. Personally, I think it would make a nice candle or potpourri.

Rare Pearls, which quite frankly has some truly hideous packaging if the photos are any indication, gets the following description from Avon: “It opens with rosewood, plum, honey and pepper. The heart is dominated by magnolia, while the warm base nicely caresses the skin with musk, sandalwood and patchouli.”

The opening on this one is really quite nice, like the dry musky smell of pressed drying flowers. I don’t get really any of the listed notes, though the petals drying in my mind might be blossoms from a plum tree, but the mixture is really pleasant at the first. As it dries down the sandalwood kicks in (I spotted neither hide nor hair of the patchouli), which moves it from this delicate musky experience into more of a flowers and spice gig one expects from perfumes marketed to “mature women.” Which is too bad, really, because if it had hovered in that initial place, I would have loved it. Where as Rare Gold gets more fun over time, Rare Pearls becomes less so. Still, not a bad fragrance, and also one that might have made a very nice room spray.

On both of these, really it’s the name that kills me. Shakespeare wrote, “What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and to a certain extent, that’s true. But to call something rare, right there in a title, to compare it to jewels and other finery, is to either raise expectations or suspicions, depending on the experience level of the nose in question. These scents are nice for what they are, but I wouldn’t recommend buying them over something better made. Then again, gold and pearls aren't everyone's bag of tea. I'm sure some people out there love these and always will. For me, however, they both fall flat.

All the gold in California
is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills
in somebody else’s name.
So if you’re dreaming about California,
it don’t matter at all where you played before.
California’s a brand new game..."

~ "All the Gold in Calfornia," Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers

Rare Gold & Rare Pearls are both available for purchase direct from Avon.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

With Every Trace Of Life, It Seems, Confined Within A Frame

Avon Christian Lacroix Rouge & Christian Lacroix Absynthe

The recent death of John Hughes and some writing I’ve been doing about the influence of Madonna in my life has got me thinking about the value of nonconformity lately.

I, like every other teenager in the history of time, once believed I was a unique and beautiful snow flake and felt the need to express that though the archetypical fashion choices denoting rebellion at that particular moment in suburban America. This, for me, meant flannel shirts over thermal underwear (in the Texas heat, mind you), long flower skirts, and big stompy boots. Also, lots of black. So much black, in fact, that my grandmother cut me off, wardrobe-wise, until I promised to buy something, *anything*, not black.

But underneath all this conforming nonconformity was a heart yearning to find originality and self-expression amongst the cookie cutter tract homes of my world. That part of me – the self-obsessive, introspective, navel gazing, artist-type – has never died. Though submerged by an even greater desperation to survive, she’s in there, still raging against the machine, whatever the machine might be. I like to think she does it with more effectiveness and grace now, or at least better clothes, but who can really tell about these things?

Anyway, this sharded self who above all things really values the occasional waft of a scent she’s never seen before. If it’s weird, difficult to love, or vaguely offensive in an artistic way, this is the part of me that screams, “YES!” and beings the frantic scramble for the credit card. Given my incredible brokenness and the high costs of moving and setting up life all over again, this is the part of my inner perfumista who is the least happy with me right now.

My Avon week is not really helping.

Today I tried two more Avon scents, Christian Lacroix Rouge and Christian Lacroix Absynthe. Like most Avon scents I was hunting all over the internet trying to find more than a meager one line description and a few notes as a starting point. (Not that ad/marketing copy ever really reflects the experience, but hey, it’s nice to start somewhere.) Thanks to Robin’s exceptional thoroughness at posting “New Scent” posts on Now Smell This!, I did find a few little blurbs.

Christian Lacroix Rouge is described by Avon as a “burst of citrus and spices [that] unveils a floral heart wrapped in the most sensual cashmere woods.” Robin adds that Rouge is a “‘floral chypre’ developed by perfumers Laurent Le Guernec and Carlos Benaim and includes notes of white pepper, orange, red peony; osmanthus flower, plum blossom, water lily, cashmere woods, patchouli and musk.”

Christian Lacroix Absynthe, per Avon, is supposed to be “[a] mysterious potion of sexy florals and rich woods inspired by the magic of absynthe.” Thanks to Robin, the fragrance notes are supposed to “include absinthe, freesia, green anise, orchid, saffron, narcissus, ancient woods, ebony, musk, myrrh and amber.” Supposed, Christian Lacroix himself had this to say about Absynthe:
Absynthe, a mysteriously mesmerizing 19th century potion known as the green fairy, is still one of the world's most seductive mysteries. Irresistibly inviting, dangerously captivating - a great inspiration to my fashion and newest fragrance.
On me, at first, both Rouge and Absynthe were fantastic and unique. Rouge was a delicious warm, sticky carmel apple concoction; Absynthe started out a weird balance of black liquorice, amber, limes, and cocoa powder. But almost immediately this strangeness burns off, as both collapse into a fizzy sweetness that reminds me of getting soda foam up my nose. An hour in, while Rouge tips toward the warm and sweet and Absynthe tips toward the aquatic and citrus, the mildly spicy bases were virtually identical. Both seemed flankers of a missing center pole, and without that center, neither really hold. And it makes me sad, too, because I tried both three times and each time the nonconformist in me wailed as the immediate singularly sensational impressions dissolved, crying, “Wait! That was lovely! Where did it go!?!”

I miss the weird. I like the weird. Absynthe could have stayed a mildly sweet, peppery, tangy citrus mix. Rouge could have stayed warm and supple and so sweet it reminds me of Starbucks Carmel Apple Spice. I’m sure neither would possess a huge audience, but it would have been so much better than the completely boring, mild and non-descript fragrance each becomes. As they are, neither were meant for me; they are not unpleasant, just ho-hum. And the little rebel within simply won’t have that.

“I feel like this could all come to no good.
The kids who populate these cul-de-sacs
will never know what stood
beneath those cookie cutter houses:
fields and streams and woods.
They'll sit in cars and wait for mom to drive them
out of this boring neighborhood.”

- “Oh, Susquehanna!,” Defiance, Ohio

Christian Lacroix Rouge & Christian Lacroix Absynthe are both available for purchase direct from Avon.