Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Recommended Viewing: Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night"

If you love the 80s/90s, you must watch.  So bust out that crimper and your 20 year-old bottle of Electric Youth, spray some on, and get ready to dance!Don't miss the credits! Hysterical!

I'll touch ev'ry star in the sky.

Scent Spotlight: By Kilian Love and Tears (Surrender)

Let's talk about love for a moment.

The thing you have to understand about me, is that despite my intensely risk averse nature -- I score off the charts risk averse in all sorts of personality tests -- this miraculously does not extend to the arena of romance. That bungee jump wedding photo to your left? Emotional portrait c'est moi.

My romantic attitude, from the moment I knew romance existed, has always been of the leap-then-look-go-big-or-go-home variety.  Always the first to commit. Always the first to say "I love you." With the rare exception, always the last one to quit. Ever the dumpee, I don't think I ever knew the concept of "surrender" in love; after all, that would have required some sort of initial restraint.

So when I received a generous sample of By Kilian Love and Tears (Surrender) conceptually the scent was lost on me. Jasmine, on the other hand, is not. Love and Tears recently won the 6th Annual Canadian Fragrance Award for Niche Launch Men's or Women's Fragrance. By Kilian describes it thusly:
Only the jasmine flower, with its endless spectrum of facets — citrus, green, floral and animalistic — was able to express the profusion of emotions that I wanted to communicate with this scent: the beginning of love marked with excitement, the fear of the unknown, and, ultimately, the surrender to love!

To express this complexity of emotions, I did not want a Jasmine that would smell too composed or too adorned, but rather exaggerated within its two most dramatic facets: erotic and sacred.

Notes: Bergamot, petit grain, cypress, jasmine, orange blossom, ylang-ylang and cistus.
I think it can be hard to make a good jasmine, since so often jasmine gets used in soaps and cleansers. I quite enjoy a few scents with strong jasmine notes. I love Annick Goutal Songes, which is a wonderful beachy scent. I heart Etat Libre d'Orange Jasmin et Cigarettes, which is an entirely different kind of jasmine.

And now I dance with a third. One of the most impressive things about Love and Tears is how smooth the opening is. I get some bergamot there at the beginning, but mostly I get this smooth terrific wallop of jasmine. I like the way the orange blossom gives it a bit of a drier texture, and takes down some of the soapiness. Patty mentioned there was a light indolent edge, and it took three tries before I found it, but there it is, in the form of cistus. It actually dirties up the scent, not in a sexy way, but in an actual dirt way, musky in a musty basement way. Jasmine in the garden, as opposed to sexy jasmine on a beach or sexy girl in a smokey bar bathroom, rouging behind her knees with jasmine solid perfume.

If you like jasmine, I think you'll like this. It's really quite pretty. For those of you unsure of jasmines, you may want to give this scent a full hour before you write it off. It does a good job of sidestepping the cheap soapy scent pitfalls, which is quite a jasmine tango.

Does it smell like surrender? How the hell would I know? If I had to ascribe it to a stage of love, though, surrender isn't what I think of. Instead it feels like unexamined infatuation, first date afterglow. If it were a song, I think it would be "So This is Love" from Disney's Cinderella.

Does that sound like surrender to me? No. It sounds like naivety. And while I am usually a willing victim of such blindly blissful thinking, that isn't what love ever felt like to me. But that doesn't make it unromantic. So while lovely, Love and Tears doesn't exactly fit the theme for me. My other only mild objection is $225 is quite a bling-y price tag. That said, I appreciate that By Kilian supports recycling by selling refills for their lovely bottles for half price. And if you're looking for an expensive and beautiful gift, By Kilian does a lovely job. They were even nominated for a FiFi for it.

"I'm all aglow, mmm-hm-hm-hmm,
and now I know
the key to all heaven is mine."

- "So This is Love,"

Want more reviews? Try...
~ a review from Robin at Now Smell This!
~ a review from Grain de Musc
~ a review from The Non-Blonde
~ a review from Patty at Perfume Posse
~ a review from 1000 Fragrances
~ a review from Bois de Jasmin

Perfume sample generously provided by the perfumer.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I want your leather-studded kiss in the sand.

Perfume Challenge Week 23: Monday, 6/20/11, to Friday, 6/24/11

Whew! It's been a busy week and quiet weekend for me since I'm headed out of town next weekend.  Where to, you ask?  Well I just got my very first passport and shiny passport card, so I am headed to Victoria, B.C. for part of the weekend.  I'm also dropping by my favorite vampire-ridden Washington town for Independence Day festivities.  I mean, who doesn't enjoy a good old-fashioned frog jump? So this weekend is about work and projects and chores for the most part. I finished Lauren Kate's Passion, the recently released third book in the Fallen series, which I enjoyed, although the ending was not what I expected.  I also watched two of the three episodes of BBC's Sherlock, which I am lov-ing.  Whatever Sherlock's damage may be, that man is fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.

I need to say two quick things about current events before I get to the reviews.  I am very happy that the fine state of New York has joined the ranks of those states to approve marriage equality for same-sex couples.  The arc of history truly does bend toward justice, and these days when it can sometimes be hard to remember that, a group of people will come through in a clutch and remind you of just how much we are capable of when learn to overcome our petty differences in favor of the things that unite us.

Simultaneously, I am very sad that Peter Falk has died.  He was an angel walking among men, but I'll always love him most as Columbo, a man who made beige trench coats cool and whose squinty-eyed demeanor was remarkably charming.  I hope he has found the peace now that eluded him so much in the last few years of his life.

In fact, here's a little musical interlude, in honor of our bumbling, beloved fallen member of the host.

When you're following an angel
Does it mean you have to throw your body off a building?
Somewhere they're meeting on a pinhead
Calling you an angel, calling you the nicest things
I heard they had a space program
When they sing you can't hear, there's no air
Sometimes I think I kind of like that and
Other times I think I'm already there.

Thank you Mr. Falk for reminding us that merely being human is sometimes worth the greatest of sacrifice.  Also, note to self, get tickets for that TMBG show this fall.  Okay, now we can move on to the perfume.

Monday: As part of The Midsummer Night's Dream event, I reviewed JoAnne Bassett Perfumes Night Queen.

Tuesday: Olympic Orchids Olympic Amber - This was originally formulated as a base for other perfumes, but it stands beautifully on its own. A rich amber scent full of natural labdanum ornamented with vanilla, benzoin, incense, resins, patchouli, and woods. A true oriental fragrance that will transport you on a jeweled magic carpet of olfactory delights. Let's say you wanted to like Guerlain Shalimar, but it was just too big and loud and floral, like your Aunt Earlene's taste in heavy curtains. This might make an excellent alternative. Where a person might find the former full of big loud floral prints loved by women with frizzy hair, here there is resin and dirt and decaying leaves and wet wood.

I, however, love Shalimar. As a descendant of the kind of women who love those curtains, who employ design firms like Sugarbakers Design to install them, I would love it for sentimental reasons even if it were all those garish things. That said, I personally find it fashionable and fun, and if there is big floral print, it's the kind you find on a tiny summer dress with a swishy full skirt and big Hepburn-style sunglasses. Haters gonna hate, but I don't care; Shalimar is still wonderful.

But I was here to talk about Olympic Amber. As a Shalimar lover, I love this, too. And I love it for the differences. This is a very naturally scented amber, an amber that derived from the earth and forest and sea, nestled in notes that make it feel like a jewel discovered there.

Holding Olympic Amber up against Shalimar and Beyond Kilian Love to my friend LillieMae, who has an affection for perfume that I would describe as in its infancy, but growing, she agreed that she could smell the strong vanilla/amber notes across the three. Her completely uninfluenced opinion was that she thought Shalimar was nice, wanted to eat Love, but the one she'd want to wear, actually wear as an expression of herself? Olympic Amber. I am inclined to agree; as strongly vanilla/ambers go, I'd like to wear this one, too. 3.5 of 5 nods.

Wednesday: Boadicea The Victorious Divine - Notes: Jasmine, mandarin, aldehydes, styrax, sandalwood. Primarily jasmine, the aldehydes are a wonderful blend here so this stays away from becoming a heavy floral and stays light and pretty. This is a wonderful floral scent for summer. It doesn't have the best staying power (about 4 hours) but that does mean it is excellent for summer weather. Also, you don't always want a floral to bloom so large that it feels like you're carry a virtual hedgerow in front of you. Sometimes, light floral is exactly what you want, particularly in a jasmine. 3.5 nods.

Thursday: As part of The Midsummer Night's Dream event, I reviewed The Scented Djinn Peaseblossom EdT.

Friday: Soivohle Cordovan Rose - Notes: leather, smoke, plum, rose. If I think of just one of the listed notes and close my eyes, I can find it here, right here, in the opening.

Unfortunately, the combination, if I'm not trying to pick out a particular note and just hit a whiff of the opening? Chewing tobacco. Yeah, that's right. Dip, snuff, chaw. Call it what you will -- my dad dipped, my brother used to dip, hell my great gramma and great aunt used to dip, that's how deep south my family roots go. Sadly, this makes the opener of what would otherwise be a hugely unique scent experience for me a complete bummer.

And that is terribly sad. Because, and once again I will drag my perfume machinations into this, when I made LillieMae smell it and then smell it again a half hour later, the middle and end of the drydown read as the smell of a wonderful old leatherbound book or a beautifully made leather couch with a vase of two dozen strongly scented roses on the end table next to it.

So basically it repulses me unfairly, when I would obviously otherwise love it. It would work beautifully on a man and makes an awesomely unconventionally attractive scent for a woman, the kind of woman who could pull off the outfit to the left, say with some matching boots. So, ignoring my weird associations with the opening, 4 or 5 nods for its uniqueness.

Winner of the Week: For me personally, Olympic Orchids Olympic Amber. That said, I think Divine and Cordovan Rose are every bit as good.

"You know that I want you
and you know that I need you.
I want it bad, your bad romance.
I want your love and
I want your revenge.
You and me could write a bad romance."

~ "Bad Romance," Lady GaGa

Friday, June 24, 2011

If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended.

And thus ends A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Perfume Event.  Thanks again to everyone who thought, dreamed, alchemied, sniffed, or read about these perfumes, especially Amanda F., aka Absinthe Dragonfly, for organizing all of us.

And above all, thanks to Shakespeare, and all those who continue to teach and celebrate his works, for giving us so much to make merry from.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream - The Scented Djinn Peaseblossom EdT

The Scented Djinn Peaseblossom EdT

Last but not least on my foray into scented takes on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is courtesy of Justine Crane, better known as The Scented Djinn, who sent me a lovely little sample of her contribution to this project, Peaseblossom EdT. The tiny scroll accompanying it read as follows:
"Peaseblossom, quiet fairy be, shyly collects dewdrops
to steep the petals which he
On his merry way through the sylvan woods
A sweet perfume to present to his
Golden Fairy Queen."

Composition: organic grain alcohol, wheatgrass tincture, oakmoss tincture, ambrette hydrosol, vintage benzoin resin, lavender mailette, clary sage absolute, carnation absolute, tonka bean tincture, vanilla bourbon CO2, rose gulab otto, dark Indonesian patchai ellai, tea rose otto, Mysore sandalwood, vetyver mitti, honey tincture, jasmine sambac absolute, rose geranium, vintage tolu balsam resin, rose otto, butyl butyrate (natural isolate; source ~ cassava melon).
I have a deep appreciation for this scent, conceptually, for a number of reasons. First of all, Peaseblossom is a minor character in the play, and attendant of Titania. Most of Peaseblossom’s action and lines on stage consist of interacting with and waiting on Bottom at the Queen’s direction. So it pleases me much to see that someone spent time thinking what a minor fairy in the Queen’s court might have smelled like, what a quiet fairy might do with their time.

I understand the draw to Titania, or to Oberon, or even to making a scent based on the flower whose nectar proves the vexation of the characters that fateful summer night. These are larger than life characters, magical objects. I give Justine a lot of credit for passing them over to find an aspect of the play usually unnoticed and under appreciated to make her own.

As to the scent: three cheers for a sweet floral, but not fruity, patchouli! How did she do it? It’s not overly green, and yet definitely a patchouli scent on me. It’s a gentle scent, possessing a playful quality I’m happy to see in a scent based on a fairy. Green and mossy at first, it quickly becomes sweeter, lavender and sage and vetyver providing a strong base for the dance of the floral notes.

A very pretty scent indeed, and fitting for a fairy fair. I hope that, in addition to the EdT, which I suspect is best experienced when applied by spraying wet, I am hoping for a pure parfum or solid version available as well.

To see more visit A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Perfume Event, running June 14-24, 2011.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Perfumes: The Guide, A Reflection and A Drawing

In 2008, when  began my journey into Perfumania, a little book came out called Perfumes: The Guide. Like so many young perfumistas with no idea where to start, I took the book like a bible, letting it lead me in my quest through the perfume wilds. I was so crazy about the book, I actually ended up with two copies. I carefully read reviews, getting samples of the scents considered the best by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. I put little coded notes to myself in the margins. Check marks for things I’d tried. Check pluses for scents I really loved and might want to own. Check minuses for scents I didn’t enjoy. After about three weeks, I felt like a huge failure. Luca and Tania loved scents I hated and hated scents I loved. I felt like I had the worst scent taste in the world.

So I talked to my perfume mentor, Angela, who shook her head sadly at me. Then she told me all the things you tell someone new to perfume: personal taste has a tremendous amount to do with taste; price point has nothing to do with quality; the more you smell the better your nose gets; like what you like and to hell with everyone else – you’re the one who has to wear it.

So I did what she told me. I put the book on my book shelf and let my perfumey wanderings take me wherever it went, like dandelion seeds in the wind. Now, three years have passed. I have tried many, many scents. Some wonderful. Some terrible. Some completely unmemorable.

This morning, I got out my copy of Perfumes: The Guide down from its shelf. I went through, page by page, marking off the scents I’ve tried since that May so long ago. As I did, I noticed several things about their approach I didn’t notice a perfume newb, and also several things about my own exploration that are worth noting:
  • I’m shocked by their complete and utter confidence that what they are smelling is what everyone else will smell. I find that to be rarely true. Some similarity, sure, but never this emphatic certainty.
  • I still haven’t tried enough Chanels and Serge Lutens.
  • There are really not enough independent perfumers in this book.
  • When I first started out, I strongly avoided any complex scents I couldn’t immediately peg as something familiar. I loved roses and vanillas. I hated things like chypres, vetivers, and florientals. Now I tend toward more complex scents.
  • It’s really pleasing not to be able to flip more than one or two pages without marking off scents I’d tried.
  • I find Luca Turin’s desire to insult perfumers far less entertaining or charming now that I know how hard it is too make perfume, especially good perfume.
All that said, I think the book is actually more useful to me now than it was when I thought I needed it. I no longer feel limited by the opinions given, and I find the descriptions somewhat useful in finding scents of certain notes or styles I’d like to try. So to that end, I’m holding a drawing for my still pristine and completely unused extra copy of the book.

Anyone who wants a copy of the original hardback edition of Perfumes: The Guide, despite its flaws, and accepting of the various, but limited, ways it can guide you, post here by Friday, July 1, 2011, 12:00 AM PST. 

I’d love to see it go to a good home, where someone else can use it to assist you in all your perfumey wanderings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's written in the starlight and every line on your palm.

There's so many different worlds, so many different suns.
And we have just one world but we live in different ones...

I'm in a strange place today, this first day of summer. I thought I would be so excited when the long summer days finally arrived, but as I sit here at 9:30 PST and the sky is not yet grown dark, I am ready for the darker days ahead.

Through these fields of destruction, baptisms of fire,
I've witnessed your suffering as the battles raged higher.

I was thinking about how it is Summer Solstice today, but just half a world away, it is also the coldest and darkest day. And it made me think about how small the world we share really is, how close we all are.

And though we were hurt so bad in the fear and alarm,
you did not desert me my brothers in arms.

It makes me wonder how we can be so cruel to one another, so ignorant and vindictive. But it also gives me hope that someday we will overcome our differences, which are really so small, and find a way to love one another, and the earth, and find ways to live together in peace.

Happy Solstice to all, winter or summer. May you find love and peace in the darkness and the light.

Some day you'll return to your valleys and your farms
and you'll no longer burn to be brothers in arms.
~ "Brothers in Arms," Dire Straits

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream - JoAnne Bassett Perfumes Night Queen

JoAnne Bassett Perfumes Night Queen (Reine de Nuit EdP)

"Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays.
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely.

Hey, that's me and I want you only."

Stop number three on our Shakespearean adventures is brought to you courtesy of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes. This is also a meditation on the Queen of Fae, Titania. Given the broad themes of the play, the interesting and various characters, even the play within the play, I have to say I’m surprised how many of the perfumers were drawn to a scented meditation of Titania. I think it speaks to how large she looms in the imagination of those who encounter the work.

The notes for Night Queen are “rhododendron, night queen, peru balsam, rosewood, damask rose oil, neroli, tuberose, vintage jasmine sambac, frankincense, yuzu, clove bud, tulsi, frankinsense noir, champa, vetiver, violet leaf and ylang ylang.”

Image by
Howard David Johnson
The initial impression is mossy but not minty, of pines but not firs, which have a strong presence in the woods here. This feels more like the pines of the Blue Ridge, the Appalachians. The open wears close to the skin, and it isn’t what I’d call aggressively green or earthy. There’s a little bit of a briny quality to it, as well, like a warm, wet ocean lies just beyond the edge of the trees and hangs heavy in the moist air.

About forty-five minutes in, the mossy greens and briny blues fall away and the scent becomes a sweet floral scent. I do get the clove, frankincense, and ylang-ylang strongly, but the interesting center of this seems to be the night queen. I love the idea of the scent for this play being centered on a night blooming flower, something that comes out to bring a sense of romance as day turns to darkness, much like the fae in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The loveliness is even more wonderful because it is so unexpected; I can hardly detect the scent that it will become at the beginning of Night Queen. Having never encountered the flower before, I'd describe it here as a sweet gently edible floral, and reminds me of a rich tea blend with a chamomile center. There’s more sillage here, which is great! I really liked this one came in strong, because it is so, so pretty. The only other scent can think of that this drydown reminds me of even a little bit is INeKE Evening Edged in Gold, but when I put them next to each other, I have to think the resemblance is mostly in my mental landscape.

When one holds the scent under the nose, it smells like one thing, the application is a second, but the majority of the wearable scent comes in as a completely surprising third act. The overall scent reminds me of the bloom of love. It grows from an earthy attraction to the polite engagement of first dates and early courtship until it becomes love affirmed and deeply requited, a lush and sensual emotional experience.

“Show a little faith.
There's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but, hey, you're alright,
Oh and that's alright with me…”

I don’t know that I’d identify this with scent with the Queen of Fae as I envision her. (Incidentally, I don’t know what I’m looking for in a scent for Titania; I can't think of any scent I know of that would fit, but my nose is loving all of these scents made in her image as different potential ways she could be played.) To me, Night Queen instead reminds me of the young, fresh faced lovers who play out their lost, confused love quadrangle throughout the majority of Shakespeare's comedy.

As for Midsummer, if this scent were made into a production of the play, I’d expect it to be set in the 1950s in the Appalachians and focus on the interplay of the teen love and angst the play could contain. Hermia, a pretty young blonde, refuses to have a romance arranged by her parents with Demetrius, who in my version is a star high school athlete and a bit of a player. Demetrius has won approval to date Hermia by working part-time in Hermia's father's garage after school and charming Hermia's mother with his nice family and nice manners.

Hermia, a straight-A student and very popular and pretty girl, prefers instead the love of Lysander, who is a hardworking student bound to inherit his dad's hardware store one day. Lysander has won Hermia's heart over the course of many months of Sundays spent helping out Hermia with the Sunday school class she teaches, where they spent time together in light of Hermia's father's strict rules that did not allow Hermia to date.

Hermia's preference for Lysander is also important to Helena, a pretty but slightly dingy cheerleader. Helena was hot and heavy with Demetrius before he decided Hermia made for a prettier picture come prom time. Helena still pines for Demetrius, and laments her lost love to Hermia over their brown paper lunch bags regularly. As Hermia and Lysander plan to make their escape to Lysander's aunt on the eve of Hermia's eighteenth birthday so they can get married before Hermia's parents can stop them, Helena hopes that by telling Demetrius of their plans, she can finally convince him to give up on his pursuit of Hermia and choose her instead.

Then they all head into the wooded mountains in classic American cars along dark old highways, getting lost and eventually finding themselves bewitched by the fae and the old magicks that have always lived among country folk in the American south, and still do even today.

While Hollywood is all obsessed with remaking everything old new again, someone should get on this. And the screenplay writers should be required to wear "Night Queen" and listen to Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road" while they create the retelling. Because when I close my eyes and inhale this rich and wonderful perfume, I hear big engines and poodle skirt swishes and Bruce Springsteen playing as the scent glides through the open windows, playing at the hair of our young lovers, as they roar off into the night.

Well, now, I'm no hero, that's understood.
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood.
With a chance to make it good somehow,
Hey what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair.
Well the night's bustin' open, these two lanes will take us anywhere.
We got one last chance to make it real
to trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back.
Heaven's waiting down on the tracks…”

To see more visit A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Perfume Event, running June 14-24, 2011.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The sun in your eyes made some of your lies worth believing.

Sometimes a girl just wants to rest!
Perfume Challenge Week 22: Monday, 6/13/11, to Friday, 6/17/11

First off, congrats to Elisa who won the May drawing and with it a mix CD and beautiful sampler set from INeKE Perfumes. Bonus: the cost of the sampler set goes toward a bottle purchase! That's right, people. The prizes just keep getting sweeter here at Feminine Things.

This weekend is busy like woah. I had a wedding last night, The Mountain Goats show tonight, and tomorrow, more things! And every weekend has been like this lately.

Also, I want to give a shout out to Samantha, one of my readers who introduced me to a some new perfumes and gave *me* a couple mix CDs. Who knew I could love a carrot perfume? But I do. It's awesome. Also, I am rocking those CDs, so thanks for that. It makes me want to see if we can get a little local perfumista shindig together. If you're greater PDX local and interested, send me an email.

Monday: Soivohle Perfumes Vanillaville - Notes: A rustic eathery vanilla with overtones of pipe tobacco, notes include, sweet fennel, pink pepper, coffee absolute, cinnamon cepes, rectified birch tar, sandalwood, amyris, floral accord benzoin, almonds. This a bitter, dry chocolatey, rubbery leather scent. I imagine this is what chocolate scented leather would smell like, or like drinking a bone dry mexican chocolate latte while perched atop a mountain of brand new leather pants. I get no vanilla at the top, just a noseful of vetiver and chocolate. If you were looking for a chocolate scent for someone who wanted a muscular and lean expression and less full-bodied and foodie, this might make a good one. You better love the leather, though. I haven't smelled this much leather since the last time I was in a bondage boutique. My only complaint is that on me it faded to a slightly sweet but otherwise almost undetectable scent on my skin after about four hours. 4.5 of 5 nods for scent originality, 3 of 5 nods for longevity.

Tuesday: As part of The Midsummer Night's Dream event, I reviewed Bellatrix Perfumes Titania.

Wednesday: By Kilian Prelude to Love (Invitation) - Notes: Seville orange, bergamot, Amalfi lemon, ginger, pepper, orange blossom, Florence iris. The notes on this one really precede it with accuracy in my opinion. I don't get a lot of orange, but I do gt a nose full of bergamot, ginger, and lemon heavy-citrus up front, like being slapped with the citrus stick. I personally get very little of the iris, which appears in the middle, before the drydown turns into a citrus-tinged orange blossom. A nice fragrance, but a strange and unexpected sharpness to a romantic prelude, so as a meditation on the theme, a little off for me. 3 of 5 nods.

Thursday: Parfums de Nicolai Turquoise - Notes: Mango, apricot, lime, osmanthus, spice, Turkish rose, pepper, jasmine, cardamom, cedar, musk, jasmine absolute. Lime, mango, and rose mesh together in the opening to give a surprisingly pleasant fruit coctail experience. I know that sounds bad, but it is meant to be a compliment. It smooths out thanks to the dry spices so you end up with a gently smooth and sweet scent that works surprisingly well in hot weather. Don't really get the name, though.  3 of 5 nods.

Friday: As part of The Midsummer Night's Dream event, I reviewed EnVoyage Perfumes Titania.

Winner of the Week: This is really hard because of the fantastic perfumes made for the Midsummer Night's Dream Event. I think I have to pass; this week I'm the winner for getting to smell all these lovely smells.

"Don't leave false illusions behind.
Don't cry; I ain't changing my mind.
So find another fool like before
'cause I ain't gonna live anymore believing
some of the lies while
all of the signs are deceiving..."

~ "Eye in the Sky," Alan Parsons Project

A Midsummer Night's Dream - EnVoyage Perfumes Titania

En Voyage Perfumes Titania

Edward Robert Hughes's
Midsummer Eve
The second Midsummer scent I received was from Shelley Waddington of EnVoyage Perfumes. She also provided a meditation on the Titania, Queen of Fae, but this took its inspiration from a very different part of Shakespeare’s play.
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk roses and eglantine.

~Oberon, describing Titania’s bower, where she sleeps.

Top Notes: Fir Needles, Spice and Citrus.
Heart Notes: Basil, Mint, Geranium, Lavender Hidcote, Ylang-Ylang, Wild Rose and Heliotrope.
Base Notes: Juniper, Ho-Wood, Aromatic Woods and Nuts, Moss, Fern, Savory Leaves, Iris, Honey.
This is Titania as her vexed but nonetheless doting lover sees her. It is so different from Bellatrix Perfumes Titania, it is almost astonishing. Ankica Milic’s Titania is strong and bold, and the passage Ankica choose includes lines that can be played as vaguely threatening. Shelley Waddington focuses instead on Titania’s softness, and beauty. It gives us a scent that is more a reflection of the Queen, as seen through the eyes of a lover, than that of a mirror. And yet, despite the wildly different trajectory here, I think it is equally beautiful!

Galadriel, the Lady of the Wood
The top is fresh and minty and reminds me of falling asleep on a bed of fresh pine needles in a cool forest. The sweetness is very gentle and natural. It is so elegant, as though a beautiful cape were made from the greenest spring leaves and mosses and a crown made from the tender twisted stems and branches and wrapped around you. It has a kind of majesty to it that remind me of what it might be like to see Cate Blanchett play Titania as though she were much softer version of Galadriel. In my mind, I go immediately to the image of the playful, dreamy Titania after she has been bewitched by Oberon, which apparently was the exact inspiration. But it not only reminds me of Titania as she is lying sleepily in her bower, it also reminds me of the slowly waking lovers near the end of the play, when they arise and cannot recall if they have lived, or merely dreamed, the night’s events.

I really wish I could place the sweet part of this. I keep looking to the notes for guidance, but I just can’t work it out. I think I’m mostly getting geranium, with a decent hit of lavender and honey. Yes, I’m definitely getting lavender, now that I think back to my friend Tiff’s wedding, which was an outdoor June pagan wedding in a wood along a lake, and lavender was the theme flower/scent. She carried lavender; some of the cupcakes were lemon lavender; we threw cups of dried lavender over the couple as they left. It was dark and warmly wet and the smell of lavender was everywhere that afternoon and night; I suspect if you were going to make her a scent in commemoration of the event, which was very midsummer themed (fairy themed touches around the wedding as well), this might be, not the scent she wore, but the actual smell of her union day itself. FN1.

Bridal Veil Lakes,
where my friend was married
Every fairy take his gait;
And each several chamber bless,
Through this palace, with sweet peace;
And the owner of it blest
Ever shall in safety rest.

~ Oberon, giving instructions to the fairies

Which brings me to another tangential, but thematically appropriate, thought. This would make an excellent scent for a summer wedding, in the merry, marry month of June. Shakespeare’s work itself transpires around what becomes a triple wedding, and this seems like an excellent scent for a warm outdoor ceremony, because I can imagine it warming on the skin beautifully without becoming overpowering. How perfectly it all plays together, and how wonderfully Shelley Waddington did with this one. If you close your eyes, you can imagine this smell wafting through the whole of Theseus and Hippolyta’s house at the play’s end as an olfactory experience of having each couple’s love, and all those among them, and all those their love has yet to create, being blessed by nature and by magic.

Wonderful. Magical. A hit for summer, for love, and definitely worth owning if made available for purchase.

To see more visit A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Perfume Event, running June 14-24, 2011.
1. I’ll tell you, because I know you’d want to know, she wore Coco Mademoiselle.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream - Bellatrix Perfumes Titania

Bellatrix Perfumes Titania

The first Midsummer scent I bring you comes from the lovely Ankica Milic of Bellatrix Perfumes.

She provided me the following to reflect on as I sampled her scent, Titania:
Out of this wood do not desire to go:
Thou shalt remain here, whether thou wilt or no.
I am a spirit of no common rate;
The summer still doth tend upon my state;
And I do love thee: therefore, go with me;
I’ll gve thee fairies to attend on thee,
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
And sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep;
And I will purge thy mortal grossness so
That thou shalt like an airy spirit go.

Notes: Rosewood, Pink Pepper, Mentha peperita, Tuberose, Rose damascene abs., Neroli, Iris, Labdanum, Violet leaf, Orris butter, Sandal album, Angelica root, Ambrette, Oak moss, Patchouli.
What a lovely choice of words for an artistic meditation. I believe, on this passage alone, I could plan an entire lovely summer wedding. Titania’s woods are in many ways like love itself – once ensnared, it is a place one not only cannot leave, but does not wish to flee, for how sweet are its tender entrapments!

The scent, then, to me is less a mediation on the Queen of Fae herself, than on that blessed and magickal place that lives in our hearts, the haze of love that feels like the moment between sleeping and wakefulness. A drowsing dreamy state, where one might feel the gentle press of hands and gentler kiss of brow and cheek, and even in that unconsciousness, sigh for the happiness of it.

In that respect, Ankica has done her material a turn considerably more than fair. The scent is one that eyes closed and listening to Shakespeare’s words, might conjure in one’s mind images of the characters venturing into the woods that fateful night.

I cannot say that it is much like anything else I have tried, though I see some similarity to both strongly woody scents and some nerolis. The opening is full of pepper and menthe, which quickly retreats and folds strongly toward rosewood, oak moss, and patchouli. Violet leaf lurks, and rose as well. I give Ankica true credit for managing such a gentle patchouli. Usually it is a note so overwhelming I have to struggle to catch anything else. I do not get any iris, sadly, but I do not find it a loss here.

To give a sense of the scent beyond my own expression, let me give some other comparisons. It has some in common with Dana English Leather, but it less sharp featured and masculine than this cousin. Compared to Jo Malone Orange Blossom, Ankica's scent is less flowery and sweet and more of smooth wood, more inclined toward Fair Titania's hidden home than she herself. It is not so green as to share any relation to Roxana Illuminated Perfumes GreenWitch, though the Queen of Fae be both green and bewitching. It is very lovely, and makes a truly sweet scent for this project.

I hope Ankica will make it available when she chooses to launch her line. I’d like to own it. It fills a hole in my collection I did not know existed until I smelled the scent. And in this respect, it is quite like finding love when for love one seeks least.

That may be Titania and Oberon’s greatest trick here, and it is a good one.

To see more visit A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Perfume Event, running June 14-24, 2011.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream - A Perfume Event begins tomorrow!

A couple of months ago, I received a lovely and flattering invitation to participate as a blogger and reviewer in a lovely project -- a scented mediation on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Sixteen perfumers and eleven bloggers are participating and I was lucky enough to be included.

In any circumstance I would be so flattered, but I have particular affection for this play among the Bard's works. Like so many, I read it in high school.  However, A Midsummer Night's Dream also came to the Houston Grand Opera around that time, and I got to see it on a choir field trip.  It was the first, and remains the only, opera I have had the opportunity to see live and in person.  Even today, almost twenty years later, I remember thinking how beautiful and magical the story was.  The music was beautiful, the sets were stunning, and the emotion palpable.

Since then I've seen the play performed live twice and the three major film adaptations -- 1935, 1968, and the more recent 1999 American film, the latter at the theater. Every time I have read the play or scene a production of it, I find something new and fresh to find affection in.  Like so much of Shakespeare's works, each interpretation provides and opportunity to see the themes and parts played out differently, so that one may bring focus to one or another in making the play their own.

So it is with great pride and special affection I take part in this, A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Perfume Event, running June 14- 24. This main link will be a clearing hour for the various related writings and the place to find an updated list of posts from all the participants related to the project.

For myself?  I have four fabulous scents to review.  My posts will begin as most things Shakespeare-related do -- Anon!

Many humble thanks to all the perfumers for trusting us poor sods and our noses with your endeavors, and to Amanda of Esscentual Alchemy for putting the whole thing together.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Well, the devil in you tried to tell me what to do. I don't think so.

Perfume Challenge Week 21: Monday, 6/6/11, to Friday, 6/10/11

kitten surveys her new territory
What a week, cats and kittens. It’s been a long week of longness. David and I had to temporarily move while they do a partial renovation on our apartment, so it’s been a lot of packing, unpacking, reorganizing, and generally trying to get settled in. My cats are trying to adjust as well. It was an opportunity to get out my Aveda oil burner David gave me several years ago and using my collection of twenty or thirty home fragrance oils to scent my new house.

Monday: Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia - A captivating blend, the classic florals gardenia and tuberose are combined with cardamom, sandalwood and myrrh to create a rich seduction of the senses. There is a whole lot of tuberose is the opening, so much so, that I couldn't find the gardenia at first. This isn't a knock for me; I loves me some tubereuse. When the gardenia is there, it does a little dance with the tuberuese for the forward space on me, which on me sometimes come off as a little tropical (coconut/banana) on me. Cardamon and myrrh make their appearance about twenty minutes in and that is when I really begin to like this, because it becomes kind of...well not to be obvious, but spicy to me -- sexy spicy. Generally, though I tend to think of this as a tubereuse with a twist, name notwithstanding.

Also, I borrowed a layering tip and tried it against Jo Malone Black Vetyver Cafe. I'm undecided. On the one hand, I like the combination. The spices compliment each other and the floral notes combine with the sweet coffee business nicely. An hour in, the combination is almost like burning wood. It's big, though, so I'm thinking summer is maybe not the time for this layering combo. I'm going to try it again this fall, when I'm thinking more cozy thoughts.

For Vintage Gardenia, 3.5 of 5 nods. For the layering combo, a tentative 3 of 5 nods.

Tuesday: Olympic Orchids Fleurs de Glace - Notes unknown. One of those surprising scents not even listed on the website (I love that Ellen does this!), I am forced to rely entirely on my tiny newbie nose. "Flowers of Ice" on me is a surprisingly green scent! Like tiny geen budlets emerging from beneath the ice and snow. It's dry, but here's a gentle sweetness to it I can't place. It reminds me of the taste of chewing on freshly picked dandelions stems, a childhood pastime. (I was a weird kid, okay?) It also feels a bit woody to me, because it smells a bit like the smell of a brand new paperback book. It's very nice, almost elegant; a lovely gentle scent with moderate sillage. At first I found it a little to refined for me, but now I think I might wear it to see Jane Eyre. It makes me wish I had white elbow length gloves with pearl button clasps to wear with it when I go. In fact, I wish I had a whole soft lacey outfit. 4 of 5 nods.

Wednesday: By Kilian Beyond Love - Notes: gardenia, orange blossom, tuberose, coconut, jasmine, ambergris, and musk Tonkin complex. Hello again, gardenia and tubereuse. I have randomly chosen you again. I was wondering what the citrus was lurking and then I looked at the notes -- ah, hello orange blossom! I also get a lot of the rubber-y aspects of tubereuse, which I personally love. It's summer and I go to the ocean at least once a month (including the last two weeks), so happy am I if a scent smells like familiar beach scents, including a dryness that even reminds me of the smell of warm sand. This is like laying on your stomach in the sun, with your eyes closed, the water crashing in the background, and the gentle scent of flowers being carried toward you on the breeze. Not overly sweet, either, so if Annick Goutal Songes is too sweet for you, this might be a better fit for you. 4 of 5 nods.

Thursday: Soivohle Writing Lyrical Poetry (on a Bright, New Day) -Lush white flowers of gardenia, jasmine, lily of the valley, orange blossom and lilac, with cassis, red berries, freesia, sandalwood, oakmoss, soft musk, vanilla, and civet. I get a wallop of cassis, citrus, and tart berries in the opening. The middle is nice blend of white flowers, none particularly dominant on me. Later the civet and oakmoss come through, balancing the floral with a moss and earth tone. The civet isn’t too strong, so if you are not into civet, fear not. I also recommend this for people who would like a white floral that wasn’t all about the big flowers. It’s very well made and subtle as such scents go, and makes an excellent white floral for the hot days ahead. 3 of 5 nods.

Friday: DSH Perfumes Cimabue (Italian Journey no. 8) - Bergamot, Bitter Orange, Cardamom Seed, Clementine, Italian Neroli, Lemon, Nutmeg, Carnation Absolute, Cinnamon Bark, Clove Bud, Egyptian Rose Geranium, Grandiflorum Jasmine, Honey Beeswax, Moroccan Rose Absolute, Mysore Sandalwood, Saffron absolute, Tuberose Absolute, Ciste Absolute, East Indian Sandalwood, Labdanum, Oppopanax, Siam Benzoin, Tahitian Vanilla, Tamil Nadu Sandalwood, Vanilla Absolute. What wonderful scent! Though I think it is more of a wintery, holiday scent, Cimabue is so delightful. It smells like warm eggnog, complete with a sprinkling of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove on top. I am definitely going to buy this, and I will bring it out when I start getting the urge to play Christmas music in July, I am definitely bringing this out. Definitely on my “to buy” list for its unique qualities. 4 of 5 nods.

Winner of the Week: Tough call! I don’t honestly think I can choose this week. I can honestly recommend trying them all.

"But I know myself better than I used to.
And I have some type of respect for the things that I do.
Don't you think that you should come on, now,
cut the cord from the cloth before it tears you down."

~ "Devil in You," The Watson Twins

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Recommended Viewing: Born This Way: X-Men Parody

The "not being gay" line is a little weird, but the general idea is pretty funny, especially if you're an X-fan, which I am.

Thanks to my cousin Bethany for the link!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Monthly Spin: Fitz & the Tantrums - Self-Titled

The Monthly Spin is a recurring feature on Feminine Things wherein I talked about an album I'm loving and the perfumes I think go with it.

This 2010 full length album debut is absolutely fantastic. I know that "Money Grabber" has been playing here in Rose City for a while, and other tracks are now trickling in as well. If you ever wanted to buy an album that encompasses every emotion that comes with a love gone wrong -- bitterness, sadness, anger, regret, desperation, jealousy, rejection, loneliness -- this is the albums. songs about being deceived, about leaving, about wishing you'd done better, about hating the person you used to love has now become, the list goes on and on. And while I am not now and hope to never be again in the throes of a break-up, I can still relate to this immensely emotionally charged, soulful album.

Recommended if you like:The Black Keys, Muddy Waters, The Heavy

While spinning, wear: Scents soaked in anger, resentment, and regret of what the heart has lost, and both loathes and yearns for. For me? Ava Luxe Film Noir, slumberhouse Kote, By Kilian Love and Tears, Etat Libre d'Orange Jasmin et Cigarettes.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hold me until all the prayers that go to heaven get an answer.

Perfume Challenge Week 20: Monday, 5/30/11, to Friday, 6/3/11

Dear reader -- I am currently enraged by this WSJ piece criticizing current Young Adult novels. I am enraged for many, many reasons, but for now I will focus on this one.

My brother had severe hearing problems as a child, and as a result had slower reading development than average. This always made him feel stupid and academically inadequate.

My parents did not help in this, constantly reinforcing my voracious reading habits and academic prowess, while telling my brother his strengths lay in his athletic accomplishments and social acumen.

In the 8th grade, his English teacher assigned his class S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders."

It was the first book my brother ever truly read, and he identified with many of the characters and themes. It became a favorite. It inspired him to read "Rumblefish" then "Tex" and to branch out to other authors. He learned about poetry, because the book used Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay."

He's 31 years old now. He has three sons. He reads to them all the time when he's not gone on deployment. In just this last year he's read Kerouac's "On the Road" and Homer's "The Odyssey" -- for pleasure.

"The Outsiders" changed my brother's life.

Shame on anyone who would have denied him that opportunity because they felt they had the right to determine what was appropriate for him to read. Growing up as children in a home caught in the grip of domestic violence and alcoholism, I assure you that these books were far less dark than parts of our every day lives. Instead, they made us feel less alone.

Okay. Rage...abated, temporarily. On to the perfume.

This week I bring you five scents from the lovely house of By Kilian. Founded by "the heir to a long line of cognac-makers that were pioneers in luxury, the grandson of the founder of The LVMH Group" this line is a fantastic,luxurious scents. The line is, generally speaking, heavy on sillage and foodie aspects, though some of the scents occasionally surprise.

Monday: By Kilian Love - neroli, iris, jasmine, rose, musk, vanilla. Supposedly inspired by the smell of marshmallow  this is one very gourmand scent. I do get marshmellow fluff, but really it reminds me most of the these creamy glazed bundt cakes they sell in grocery stores across the southlands from whence I spring. (Sadly, I cannot find there here, but they generally looked like the photo to the right.) Super sweet, even as it turns towards its more floral face toward you as about forty-fve minutes in. If you don't like sweet, run away from this. If, however, you love sweet like I do, it's pretty good. 3 of 5 nods.

Tuesday: By Kilian Liaisons Dangereuses - plum, pelargonium, cinnamon, musk, sandalwood. A sophisticated rose with an obvious fruit aspect, in a realistic way that makes me feel like I'm biting into a fresh plum. It's also got a nice coconut aspect, more like the fresh flesh of a coconut than the sweetened and sugared flake. I also definitely plum in it, which I surprising and lovely. It reminds me most of Jo Malone Red Roses, but less soapy. 3.5 of 5 nods.

Wednesday: By Kilian Cruel Intentions - Notes: calabrian bergamot rose, papyrus, tahitian vetiver, guaiac wood, amber, coconut and styrax. Hello oriential. Cruel Intentions is woodier than your classic big orientals, like CK Obsession, though you can tell they are in the same family. Lots of powdery amber here, but I get a decent wallop of the vetiver which makes it feel less like a big-haired model straight out of Xanadu or Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" video (see left). Very nice, as orientials go. The vetiver is what really sets this apart, giving it a dry smooth quality like a good leather. A well-made oriential, so if you roll that way, try it. 3.5 of 5 nods.

Thursday: By Kilian Back to Black - Notes: bergamot, saffron, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, raspberry, chamomile, olibanum, honey, cedar, oak, tobacco, patchouli, almond, vanilla and labdanum. According to Fragantica, Back to Black is loved by those who enjoy L'Artisan Tea for Two, Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille, L'Artisan Timbuktu, Tauer Perfumes L'Air du desert marocain, all of which I love. So here I am, getting all googlied eyed at another tobacco scent. I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever meet one I don't like, or if my intense love and adoration for my grandpa and his pipe smoking during my formative years is going to result in an army of tobacco scented bottles in my perfume armory. Back to Black comes off at first as a weirdly spicy tobacco; I definitely get some of the various spicy top notes, particularly the cardamon. During the dry down, I'd think there was coconut oil in here from the beach-y note I keep hitting half an hour in, but I suspect that's a combination of the vanilla and labdanum base notes bleeding through. This does not seem particularly foodie, thought it is sweet, more sweet than a lot of other tabacco scents. I'd love to smell this on a man; I think the sugary edge to it would be dead sexy with an open collar and light summer suit. 4 of 5 nods.

Friday: By Kilian Straight to Heaven - Nutmeg, patchouli, rum, cedar. The opening is whack in the face of rum. It's like taking a shot of rum and just as the initial taste on the tongue fades, taking another. It then grows increasingly nutty, and not all that sweet, which after this week of scents, was really welcome, especially in our close to 80 degree weather. Also, in a house where so many scents are knock-me-down strong, this is surprisingly subtle. I really like it.

I tried it next to Olympic Orchids Bay Rum, which is more medicinal and earthy, where Straight to Heaven remains polished, sleek, and smooth. The difference feels like the difference between drinking hooch our of a barrel with the Bay Rum, as opposed to sipping from elegantly cut crystal tumblers with Straight to Haven. If you're into boozy scents, this is going to thrill you to your toes. 4 of 5 nods.

Winner of the Week: You know, on Thursday I thought I'd be saying Back to Black, but I think I have to go with Straight to Heaven.  On the whole, though, I really enjoy the various offerings of the house in general, and I would be pleased to own any of these scents.

"You are absurd.
You say the cutest things I've ever heard.
I don't think that I could take another word,
or my head might explode
and I might have to go to heaven
Love me..."
~ "Go To Heaven," The Pierces

Scent samples generously provided for review by the perfumer.