Monday, September 12, 2011

I'm gonna love you with my hands tied.

Perfume Challenge Week 34: Monday, 9/5/11, to Friday, 9/9/11

Criminy, dear reader! Why is it so fracking hot in the PNW? needs to stop. I honestly can't even sleep before one in the morning.

Quileute performers...
At least I was spared the brunt of the 96+ degrees of Portland this past weekend by heading up to the Olympic Peninsula with my friend Tiffani. What was I doing there, you ask? Engaging in some vampire-related shenanigans, which included a discussion session with Natalie Wilson, professor of literature and Women's studies and author of the ah-mazing feminist work in Seduced by Twilight, which is chock-o-block full of oppression and privilege critique of the book series.

I also got to shake my groove thing with Hilly and Hannah from The Hillywood Show, have a one-on-one chat with York Baur, director of Twilight in Forks, and, oh yeah, I got to meet Veronica Blake, who is SUPER NICE. One of the highlights had to be attending a performance of traditional dance and storytelling by tribal members of the Quileute Nation. And that's not counting the cool people from all over the country who showed up to hang out and do ridiculous things with us (hi peeps!).

So, you know, a typical weekend in the life of your intrepid blogger.

Monday: Penhaligon's Bluebell - Created in 1978, the pure and unadulterated distillation of the scent of bluebell woods. Notes: Citrus, Hyacinth, Lily of the Valley, Cyclamen, Jasmine, Rose, Galbanum, Clove, Cinnamon.

I'm trying this and tomorrow offering back to back because I picked them us specifically to try together. (Though Jessica at NST! already beat me to it.) Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, though, and great minds think alike, yada-yada-yada -- I'm doing it anyway. So here we go.

Olympic Forests.
Will you think I'm crazy if I tell you I've tried Penhaligon's Bluebell three times and I keep getting cinnamon and ground mustard? Or maybe it's mustard greens? I've tried it three full times to be sure. Whatever is happening here for me is a spicy foodie scent, more edible floral than decorative floral. Maybe it's because the opening is very green on me; this is one of the greenest flower scents I've tried. I also pick up a lot of crisp green apple, which must be the galbanum.

I admit to not having a huge amount of experience with bluebells, but I can't describe this as floral. It is all spices and greens on me. Now, having said that, the temperature here is (in my opinion) an inhuman very high eighties/mid-nineties this week, and this scent is excellent for hot weather. While it's pretty and interesting all the time, I took it camping with me this weekend and it bloomed beautifully on my warm skin. If I had a bottle this week I'd throw it in the freezer and spray it on lightly every time the heat was overwhelming.

Unfortunately, it's after about fifteen minutes that I hit a problem. The spicy edges I love up top give way to a gentle close-to-the-skin scent that compared the va-va-va-voom of the initial application seems wimpy by comparison. So much potential comes to nothing in the long run as the scent turns to this polite unassuming flutter. Still true, not overly sweet, but just too damn nice a follow-up to the beginning. 3.5 nods for the fall flat, which hurts after the superb opening.

Tuesday: Jo Malone Wild Bluebell - An imaginative scent, drenched in the delicate sweetness of sapphire blooms. And wild, because it's a pretty quirky take, inspired by a wickedly whimsical, contemporary fairytale starring Wild Bluebell herself. With persimmon, lily of the valley and eglantine, its lush transparency is decidedly naughty...but nice.

First Beach in La Push, WA
Now here is a floral bluebell, and one I would also recommend for particularly warm weather. The word whimsical is a good word -- strong, flirty, floral. Sweet in the floral way, there is nothing particularly spicy or foodie about this. The closest Wild Bluebell gets to foodie is the fruity persimmon notes rounding out the middle and end of the drydown. I know Jessica preferred the Penhaligon's and thought the Jo Malone was not all that distinctive, I really like it. As florals go, this is very pretty, without feeling youthful. 4 of 5 nods.

Wednesday: Parfums de Nicolai Fig Tea - Notes: figs, osmanthus, davana, tea.

Let's talk fig tea, shall we? I have never actually drank a fig tea. To be perfectly honest with you, reader, I'm a hard sell on the tea in general. I am by nature a multiple shots of espresso swilling fool, who is perfectly content to never understand the propriety or civility or comfort to be found in a 'nice cuppa tea.' I have, however, a soft spot in my olfactory heart for tea scents, which I enjoy sniffing significantly more than the prospect of consuming tea. The tea part of Fig-Tea is pret-tay nice.

But is it figgy? (Which was why I got the sample -- a quest for more figs to love!) Yes, it is figgy, but not edibly so. It doesn't feel like biting into the fruit, or eating a piece of toast with fig jam smeared on it. Instead it smells like, well, fig tea. It's got a nice dry aspect that leans toward the sophisticated, it isn't gourmandly sweet, and generally feels like a mature scent. Not grown-up in a sexy way, but grown-up in a "Here's to the Ladies Who Lunch" kind of way. Respectable, poised, put together. It smells like a more put together woman than I will ever be, like that montage of women getting dressed at the beginning of The Devil Wears Prada which made me feel permanently twelve. I just don't feel like I ever project the kind of image this scent does with. I like it; I think it's lovely. Sadly, I just can't see it on me, which is too bad because at $35 for 30ml it is very reasonably priced. 3.5 of 5 nods.

Thursday: Frederic Malle L'Eau d'Hiver - Created by Jean Claude Ellena. Notes: bergamot, angelica, iris, hawthorn, jasmine, honey, carnation, heliotrope, caramel and musk.

Robin at NST! called it a "sheer, understated perfume" and I agree. I actually risked wearing this one to work, feeling it was light enough I could get past the scent inspection. FN1. I get a lot of iris and, yes, I can now also identify the carnation here. For something so floral and decidedly feminine, it is a very light and unassuming scent. Angelica and honey are also super evident on me after about an hour but the musk stays safely buried underneath, which for this scent is a good thing. I never thought I'd say, "This Frederic Malle would be great for a young girl!" but here's one that would, which isn't to say it is only nice for young girls, but I do think it would make a nice high quality gift for a woman of any age, and that's a rare get. 4 of 5 nods.

Threat meter high!
Friday: Le Labo Fleur d'Oranger 27 - Created by creator Françoise Caron. Notes: bergamot, petitgrain, grapefruit, amber, musk and vetiver.

Less edibly orange than Jo Malone Orange Blossom (which I own), less bitter than L'Artisan Fleur d'Oranger (for which I have an unrepentant lack of appreciation), Fleur d'Oranger 27 hits an enjoyable sweet spot between the two thanks to the vetiver base and a sweetness that comes on the form of amber, rather than a foodie vanilla or fruit sweetness. I really enjoy this despite it being almost too polite, perfect for an upstanding, regular Sunday church attendee complete with big hat, white gloves, and pearls. I'd tell you it's pretty, but that's too pedestrian; it's more notable for its elegant propriety. Five hours in and still very apparent on my skin even out of a small wand sampler, this is one orange flower that will definitely stick with you.

 If you like scents of this stripe, I really recommend you try this one. It's a little on the pricey side, but with the staying power being so significant off even a small application, a single bottle would delight you for years. (You could probably also get away with a 10-15ml decant for a good long while.) I'll also say that I appreciate the minimalist packaging of the Le Labo line. What some people might find ugly or frumpy, I find classic and appealing in its simplicity.  4 of 5 nods.

Winner of the Week: This probably won't make any sense to you after the reviews, but the winner is still Penhaligon's Bluebell for the great opening. I'll probably never own it, but those for few moments make it an Icarus in my scent pantheon; it may have landed with a spectacular failure, but for a brief time, the ascent was beautiful to behold.

Twilight CosPlayers -- yes really!
"Got my addictions.
(My addictions.)
And I love to fix 'em.
(And I love to fix 'em.)
No one's perfect."

~ "Teeth," Lady GaGa

FN1. Only half kidding here. One of the bosses gave me a pointed nose crinkle last week when I accident wore some Bond no. 9 New Haarlem in because I had a meeting right after work and sprayed it on before work without thinking. A VISIBLE NOSE CRINKLE at a scent made of patchouli, vanilla, and coffee. Seriously? In Portland!?! You could practically rename the scent Bond no. 9 Portlandia, that is how much those scents are synonymous with our hippie-flailing, coffee-swilling, food-cart-loving town. It is my scent most guaranteed to be liked and complimented here in any weather conditions. I wanted to tell her to GO PUT A BIRD ON IT, which I think, in the right tone and context, is a great hipster euphemism for "f--- off."

All photos taken by the author.


Elisa said...

Clove can smell like mustard sometimes! PdN Vanille Tonka, which is very clovey, reminds me of mustard and pepper encrusted beef.

Undina said...

Ironically, I hated Penhaligon's Bluebell's opening and was OK with it in a drydown. Can you wear it for me for the first 30 minutes until that awful peppery note subsides? ;)

Now I will have to try again JM's Wild Bluebell: I didn't dislike it but my impression was far-far from 4 out of 5.

Diana said...


It's cool to know that. I'm definitely going to try PdN Vanille Tonka!


Diana said...


Ha! I wish we could split the dry down -- that would be great!

I really liked JM's Wild Bluebell. I actually bought a bottle. For me it was the fruity aspect that made it really likable. Even on a bad day, I wouldn't have given it less than a three.

Undina said...

Hmm... I will give it another try and report back :)
I'm usually do not worry if somebody likes the perfume which I do not like: it happens all the time, there are many great perfumes that do not work for me (e.g. Chanel No 5). But when I dismiss a perfume like not interesting enough and then read that one of my friends actually likes it (FB-worth likes!) I start suspecting that I missed something.