‘I’m reviewing the situation… can a feller be a villain all his life?‘ (Bart L. 1960).
(clip from Oliver borrowed from Youtube)
I decided to include some of my own reviews of other people’s fragrances. Some are dearly beloveds and others… well not so much. Pardon the tongue-in-cheek! All in good fun.
Coco (Chanel) Eau de Parfum. A few years ago I was given a full bottle of Coco edt and I didn’t like it at all. Something was weirdly jarring in the composition and it bothered me. A few weeks ago I bought a vintage bottle of Coco edp and it’s perfection. Several variables raised questions worth asking… Was I merely too immature in my first ability to crack the code of Coco first go? Was the edt so very different, that they are different animals altogether? Is a vintage edp being compared with a reformulated version of Coco? etc etc – all of which remain unanswered mysteries. The most wonderful aspect of the edp however is its natural ability to meet your own chemistry and assimilate with you so that the fragrance appears to emanate from your own skin. This is so unlike No5 which is accompanied by its own cheer-squad, flashing billboards and a brass band announcing its presence as if you were merely its personal porter or biological chauffeur. Coco is the mise en scene that locates you in your own cinematic blockbuster…. whatever you want that to be. ‘Just right’ said Goldilocks.
Kasar (Teo Cabanel) The first blast of Kasar is slightly confronting. There’s a sort of lounge bar smell – an old leather settee sits on the cabbage rose-patterned carpet. The striped wallpaper is flocked faux velvet, and the brass light fittings emit a golden glow of romantic encounters of yesteryear… There’s a singalong starting up down the hall, and a feisty darts tourney is in full swing in the men’s bar. The bistro is closed… and then the curtains open, and the stage is set for a far more private tryst upstairs with lingerie and skin. It’s quiet, and yet Kasar maintains an erotic intensity that lasts a long time. Beautiful fragrance.
Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca (Guerlain) Delightful. A portable vacation in a bottle. This fragrance is a joyful reminder to breathe properly and remember what’s actually important. There’s all kinds of lamentations about the longevity not being so good, but the whole point to this fragrance is the airy lift of its ozonic and crisply snapping menthols and leafy greens. No container shiploads of resins and heavy metals here. Spray it again and go about ya business. You’re already feeling lighter, fresher, revived and ready for more digital dilemnas.
Jicky (Guerlain) A great relief to me. Jicky is so far removed from today’s generic tank of aroma-chemicals. Jicky smells true. Herbs and wildflowers picked out of the soil during a sunlit stroll through fields and orchards, and carried home, bundled gently in the rolled up front of a linen shirt. The blended scents of green stems and curled leaves and flower buds and fragrant flowers and torn up blades of grass and accidentally picked thistles and still-busy ants. Jicky is True. and in the words of Robin Williams featured as the genie in Aladdin, describing Dead Sea tupperware… ‘still good‘
L’Heure Bleue (Guerlain) This fragrance is a beautiful example of fragrant synergy. The sum of its parts is greater than the whole. When first applied, L’HB offers a muted palette of almondine florals and damp soil after a rain shower that hasn’t quite yet moved on. I realise that Apres L’Ondee is intended as the ‘After Rain’ fragrance, yet L’HB is a wider, more panoramic take on ‘coolth’ (as opposed to warmth). It’s a sweet earth smell that captures a melancholy landscape painting of Summer’s demise at dusk. Skies are grey and heavy and night falls faster and faster each day. A festival at the packing up and departure phase. What’s remarkable about this old gal of a fragrance is a secondary fragrance that shimmers just above the ground. There is an ephemeral scent of sheer beauty that is … somehow accidental, a miraculous overtone of the main story. A personal and privately experienced extra perfume that oscillates just out of reach and beyond any identifiable source/s. Its abstract, sublimely delicate and wonderful. It’s the overtone element of L’Heure Bleue that demonstrates, to me, a master perfumer once captured by a perfect state of creative vision, clarity and flow.
Bal à Versailles (Jean Desprez) I am in no doubt whatsoever that Cat Woman played by Eartha Kitt was this perfume incarnate.
Bas de Soie (Serge Lutens) I really like a great many of Luten’s wonderful collection. But I must say that BdS to me, smells exactly like the crumpled pair of stockings that Charlotte drunkenly ripped off after a huge night out, far too many cigarettes, a ridiculous quantity of boxed claret and a radioactive blast of Chanel 19 that she frantically sprayed all over herself in the bathroom of Lars’s party, just after she’d started flirting with that hot guy from Finland. Well done.
Interlude Man (Amouage) It bothers me that perfumes are gendered. I’m a woman and out of all of the Amouage fragrances that I have tested, only Interlude Man and Bracken for Men excited me. The women’s fragrances are all lovely, of course, but the men’s blends contained the right mix of light and shade for my nose. I like sinister fairy tales with happy endings. I was already familiar with Byredo’s Oud Immortel having been briefly fascinated by the blunt force trauma scent in the frontal lobes of that intriguing composition, and, today I detected a very striking resemblance between the two fragrances. Call me old fashioned… OI gets my vote for originality, IM comes in at a close second for tapering the savage blows of its brutal core down to a bear hug from your schikkered Russian uncle at your third cousin’s wedding.
Fidji (Guy Laroche) It’s fascinating to revisit this fragrance again – I wore it in the 80’s as a teenager and it was my fave. Today’s formula is different, but that’s to be expected – I’m different too. When I smell the fragrances that I loved back then, they are so aldehydic – Fidji, L’Air du Temps, Rive Gauche etc. These days, that element is just so over-used in functional fragrances (bathroom cleaning sprays and laundry detergents) that it seems discordant in fine fragrance. The musk/soapy aldehydes were once so exciting in modernising heavy florals outta the murky grounds of the past. The heaviness of many natural fragrances was typically dictated by limited palettes of 20th century perfumery. Today these ‘screechy’ ingredients merely plasticise and cheapen the jus. Super-cranked aldehyde fragrances are (to my nose), a desperate clutch at grabbing the credit card details of people attempting to mask body odour and project a sort of neon-lit applied artificial refinement.
Chamade Extract (Guerlain) I first smelled this (extract) in David Jones (city store) a few years ago. The sales assistant told me a wonderful story about a Saudi princess who visited the perfume department with a large entourage of bodyguards and ladies-in-waiting. She was staying at the Hilton next door. She approached the Guerlain counter and asked in a gravelly-growly voice
‘Do you have Chamade?’
‘Yes we do’, replied the sales assistant.
‘I’ll take 19 bottles of extract.’ said the princess. ‘I want one for each of my bathrooms.’
So the sales assistant scurried around and rang every DJs and Guerlain store in the state to gather up 19 flacons of Chamade extract.
‘They will take a few days to be here‘ she puffed (from all the scurrying) but the princess was already long gone. Her bodyguard agreed to return when they were ready to collect and pay.
3 days later the manager of the Hilton Hotel appeared with a huge roll of cash and just peeled off many hundred dollar bills to pay for all the flacons of Chamade.
Ever since then I wanted 1 of my own (I only have 1 bathroom) I still think about that princess whenever I see my Chamade extract on my shelf. It’s a lovely rich floral – a little heavy, but I like that.
Aromatics Elixir (Clinique) A truly fearless fragrance. Bernard Chant must have handsomely paid 3 hags to bring their best cauldron to get this recipe so right. The raw tension of the jus is exactly crafted… from the bittersweet tincture of its herbs to the monstrous black rose that grows in the hidden swamp of its roots and lichens. The rampant glamour of Aromatics Elixir lurks in the background, sky-clad and wild with incantations and total abandon.
Bottega Veneta (Bottega Veneta) Pretentious caramello with patchouli training wheels.
Jour d’Hermes (Hermès) A perfect perfume for church. Unfortunately I don’t go to church so it’s kinda just sitting around in my dark cupboard muttering the 23rd psalm to itself and praying for a chance to see the light of day. Sometimes it shuffles over to the other prim and proper, white floral, cake-baking, house-proud wasps in my fragrance collection and they pray for my soul. I don’t pay any attention, I’m too busy twerking in the lounge-room wearing skanky ol’ Shalimar and smoking a Cuban cigar.
L’Ambre des Merveilles (Hermès) The most interesting feature of this lovely amber fragrance is that the sandalwood element is typical of Japanese and Chinese Buddhist temple incenses. Vastly different from Mysore sandalwood of Indian Hindu temples, the vanilla/amber facets are beautifully balanced and the whole effect is really elegant and restrained. It is more of a personal experience fragrance (as opposed to sledge-hammer projection) and is masterfully composed.
Musc Ravageur (Frederic Malle) This fragrance contains a sort of dead layer of synthetic musk that blankets the whole world in a clinging expanse of endless tedium. It reminds me of a beautifully vulnerable woman who latches onto her man with a pitbull’s death-grip. She just needs him to help her, she only needs him to understand her plight, she really needs his whole, undivided attention, she needs him to take care of her a little better, she needs him to reassure her that she’s truly the centre of his world, she needs she needs she needs… Musc Ravageur is a neurotic vapour that promises a hard-core, primal, chest-beating lunge at life and instead delivers a styrofoam box of calorie-controlled meals for the freezer.
Custo Barcelona (Custo Barcelona) Some bean-counter finally figured out what to do with all the excess fluid leftover rejects from the last 55 olfactory chemistry mishaps… c’est voila! – Pointless swill served in a prop bottle relic found on ebay from the 80’s cult film ‘Amazon Women on the Moon’ …aka Custo Barcelona.
Womanity (Mugler) I swear this perfume smells EXACTLY like you’re sitting down to eat a freshly made Thai green curry chicken with steamed jasmine rice. There’s a large glass of iced coconut water and a bowl of floating frangipanis on the table. It’s humid and raining and the ocean from the beachfront looks wild and tempestuous…. that’s Womanity.
Alien (Mugler) The Jasmine sambac in L’Eau D’Issey Absolue and Alien are so similar… they may well have been the very fragrances of choice worn by Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Sweet Baby Jane?
Tourmaline (Charriol) I love this liquid. Somehow it doesn’t seem right to wear it as perfume, it always feels weird to have this scent on my skin, like I shouldn’t smell like that, but the whole world should smell like that. It’s like someone replicated a perfect moment in spring, before diesel and plastic ruled the world and every plant was in a total frenzy of fecundity and all the bees were totally beserk with the frantic job of pollinating every living thing. If I could afford to buy this in a 44 gallon keg I would shampoo the carpet with it, wash my clothes in it, cook with it, make cocktails with it and bathe children and pets in it.
Aura (Swarovski) This aromatic shape-shifter is like one of those bizarre moments when you see a truly glamourous looking woman from behind, she has stunning long hair and tight jeans and then she turns around and turns out to be a 74 year old chain-smoker who kept her figure, but lost all rational sense of fashion… a culture shock.. a big mismatch of signals.I loved the idea of Aura, on first spray it projected a girlish cloud of heavenly pink, I was an instant nymph in satin ribbons, sweet, alluring. Sometime in the first hour I found the steel grip of nasty musk clutched around my wrists, like the friendly headlock of a cosmetic sales rep who won’t take no for an answer, and insists on foisting the wrong shade of lipstick on me ‘it’s just darling’…she rasps. This perfume is like the Hotel Califormia, you can wear it, but you can never breathe. A fragrant control freak – a mother-in-law masquerading as a cheer-leader.
Lovely (Sarah Jessica Parker). If this perfume were a woman, I’d give her a lap-quilt and a good dose of smelling salts. Wan, delicate, pale and insipid, she’s a sort of hide-and-seek fragrance that does all the hiding… One, two, three… Where are you??? The game quickly becomes dull because ohhhh, Ms Lovely is feeling a little too frail to come outside and play again. Either that or my nose has been completely nuked from wearing Montale, Piguet, Clinique’s AE, Mauboussin – all king hitters on the softball team of my humble perfume stash.
Elixir Noir (Stendhal) This perfume has anorexia, you can still detect its fine features, there’s definitely good bone structure and the stylish blend of floral corsage is sophisticated, but minimal, as if the thing is pinched, ascetic – forced elegance striking a starved, gaunt, stiffly self-conscious pose, sort of like a shaved whippet in lip gloss and a black velvet choker. The pepper and cranberry opening smells terse, cold, a little mean-spirited… there’s none of the generosity of a slow-reveal, no hidden secrets, no pay-dirt. In all, a bit too try-hard.. a perfect perfume for a Stepford wife hosting a charity ball for a bland cause. No ooomph
Ambre Sublime (Stendhal) Stendhal’s product description – Ambre Sublime Eau de Parfum opens on hesperidic and fruity top notes of bergamot and apple warmed up by solar notes of ylang ylang and neroli. Heart notes include rose absolute, spicy cinnamon, cardamom, cistus and Cashmere wood. The base notes include sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla, tonka bean and musk.
My description – this perfume smells like the Winter Solstice Fairy Godmother’s annual conference where the kitchen imps are serving trolleys of dessert – your choice between spicy pumpkin pie or a mouth-wateringly warm apple pie with creamy custard. Everyone at the conference is wearing Mysore sandalwood and Bulgarian rose perfume and stars are glinting through the ceiling. Count Basie’s big band is swinging and the night is young…
Charriol Eau de Parfum (Charriol) A really surprising fragrance, to me it totally represents the ‘lear-jet hippie’. It is a restrained, elegant cocktail of spicy+woody+smoke blended with tropical fragrances – reminds me of falling into a dreamlike state as if I were in a very high-end luxury hotel resort… wandering along in the gorgeously heady magnificence of ginger-lily pathways, dressed in flowing silks on my way to an exclusive nightclub. The scent trail is a sheer mix of balmy weather blended with cooling sea breezes carrying exotic flowers, sun-soaked tropical fruits and an overall feeling of relaxation, I am expensively calm and refreshed after a long swim in the turquoise sea.
I can easily imagine this perfume being popular in Brunei, Saudi Arabia and Dubai. It totally speaks of high quality living. A sophisticated Angel (Djinn) for squillionaires who don’t want anybody to recognise their signature scent, yet still be part of modernity. The tonka base is absolutely beautiful!!
La Vie Est Belle (Lancome) This fragrant beauty is part of the game called ‘let’s play dress-ups’ that we indulged when we were little boys and girls and we snuck into our my mummy’s closet and wriggled around in her best dress and high heels and we smeared her fabulous make-up over our faces, draped her necklaces and earrings on every arm and ear, and doused ourselves in her very best perfume. Gazing into the big mirror we were truly queens …just like our mothers. Whenever I wear this perfume I know I’m dressing up and being someone else, someone who is wearing ironed clothes (not paint-stained artist’s clobber) with smooth sleek hair (not unruly curls sticking up like Einstein’s granny), with clean kitchen benches and no dirty dishes, with a shiny dust-free lifestyle that looks like I live in a hotel resort, not a home filled with loud music and teenagers and a lot of chaos and my husband’s and my own art projects strewn everywhere. Just for a brief moment this perfume makes me feel like a grown up lady…. but then I get really bored and tip a fistful of home-blended pure essential oils of patchouli/geranium and lemongrass over myself and fling the silly pearls into a teapot on my way back to the garage to paint another hoped-for masterpiece. Life is wild and unpredictable too.
Shalimar Parfum Initial (Guerlain) The exquisite trailing scent of fairies … chic little Parisienne pixies at play. This is the most perfect potion of all Midsummer’s Night Dreams, an essence to wear to the fires at Beltane. The tender tryst of lovers meeting in the mythical forest smells entirely of this wonderful elixir of evanescent glamours… within the jus lies the initiation of youth – it springs from this single flask into full fledged deities of desire; dancing passions captured in the silvery light of crescent moons. This wonder is a magical potion, and thank the heavens not every barking shrew is able to wear it.
Dark Purple (Montale) I had this 8th wonder of the world sprayed onto my wool scarf in a perfume boutique in Salzburg last Christmas – and it was very cold weather. It was quite an expensive perfume for my budget, so I left the shop and went about my day. The next morning my whole hotel room smelled incredible, it was a perfect balance between rose attar and patchouli… the sensational unfolding of a thousand blooms. I went to the first session of the academic conference I was in Salzburg to attend, and the moment it was announced that we were having a lunch break… I ran all the way to the perfumer’s shop and burned a massive hole in my credit card. I am now back in the steaming Summer in Brisbane and Montale’s Dark Purple is my fragrant new darling. No one else here has it, knows of it, or can find it, and I am desperately thinking of ways to return to Salzburg… poor credit card.
Champs Elysees (Guerlain) EdT. Some of JPG’s compositions give me the feeling that he was distracted when he came up with the formula. There is a lack of definition in some of his poetry; a sort of laissez faire approach to not fully finishing the task, and wandering off mid-sentence. Champs Elysees features a pretty enough bouquet and yet, it rapidly wilts. A lovely centre-piece to place on the table when guests are arriving for lunch, but its ready to sweep into the compost bin by 4pm. Not enough backbone or stamina to hold court for more than a pot of Darjeeling and some dainty sandwiches.
Amber Rose (Shay and Blue) Amber Rose reminds me of a number of hybrid attars (Middle East-meets-West fragrances) that I’ve smelled in the Muslim perfume bazaars tucked away inside Nizamuddin Basti in the old part of New Delhi. The white amber accord seems to permeate many of these modernised attars, along with white oud. I don’t really know why these compounds are prefixed by ‘white’, but perhaps its an attar code for less dank or pungent. Here is a gentle nod to more robust emissaries of that fragrance genre. Pleasantly wearable, but a little on the safe side of aromatic exotica.
Eau de Joy (Jean Patou) EdP. Luscious hedonism. Fur coat, pointy-toed satin pumps on killer heels, beehive ‘do, lashes, lips, hips and eau de Joy. Before my time, but indelibly stamped on last century’s glossiest pages of glamour and seduction.
Une Rose Chypree (Tauer Perfumes) Une Rose Chypree teeters between the fascinating story of a cold rose diva and cooking oil left in the wok after a dinner party last Friday night. It’s Tuesday. The hosts drank too much, and their gala night ended in a furious stand-off because…
‘You were flirting with Gideon… admit it’.
I love the dramatic tension in this innovative perfume; it’s easy to detect the steady hand of Tauer’s confident artistry – it’s unapologetically free. We’re left with the impression of a sullen, pouting rosebud who tips all the contents of her handbag out on the floor in a desperate attempt to find her keys and storm out… that’ll teach him/her a lesson… right?
‘YOU do the dishes’.
Sotto La Luna TUBEROSE (Tauer Perfumes) Absolutely perfect. This wonderful composition has rectified the foetid hangover aspect of tuberose with a superbly crafted spice and amber accord. The drying elements of cinnamon meet tuberose in a head-on collision of matched intensities that give me the sense that George and Martha (Burton and Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?) have well and truly been bottled.
‘I don’t bray’.
Framboise Noire (Shay & Blue) This is it. The perfect scent for sex dolls. Lolly-scented lube and used armpits all-in-one. Just like ‘head & shoulders’ only much kinkier. Lolpits!
Floriental (Comme des Garcons) I have been testing a lot of samples from a very generous friend and am stuck on the section of the tester collection that has me wondering if somehow the same jus managed to fall into about 10 differently labelled vials. Didn’t I just smell that? I earnestly set out to swoon but sadly the swoon factor escapes me. Next…
Dans la Nuit (Worth) Vintage Dans la nuit by Worth. Someone urged me to buy this a few years ago – her socialite mother wore it, and it was touted as a great beauty hidden away in the tower of secret (wealthy) women’s business. I finally found a full (old) bottle of it lurking on ebay, and discovered today that:- 1. it’s a useful demonstration of how Tonka may be used to try and mask a truly discordant fragrance, and 2. I really wish I hadn’t bothered. Lessons in a blue bottle.
Bois Noir (Robert Piguet) A burned chunk of plastic found near the barbecue area in the park and brought home by a rain-soaked dog wanting you to play ‘catch’ with it.
Vaporocindro (January Scent Project) I recently received a sample of this fragrance from a lovely generous friend and wore it for several hours. It is indeed an interesting creative departure from all the scented schlock that is circulating in the world today. Vaporocindro artfully depicts a harmonious collision of fragrant components is an edgy cocktail of surprising force and impressive longevity. My conclusion was that even though I truly appreciated the bold artistry in its composition I just wasn’t captivated by the performance of its story as a scent-drama and I did not want to keep smelling it. It wouldn’t ‘move-in-with-me’ and stayed separate from me like an alien visitation. It was retired after a couple of hours after some vigorous washing. The elusive and magnetic power that some perfumes hold is purely a personal and instinctive response to the perfumer’s ‘message in a bottle’. This one is destined for another.
Zen Original (Shiseido) A superb example of the vintage genre of lush floral chypres born in the era of provocative social exploration – 1964. The times they were-a-changing, and an intense love affair sprang up in the West for icons of the East, in an endless obsession with exotica that influenced our spirituality, fashion, culture and sexual liberation. Shiseido’s Zen tapped straight into the vein of perceived mystique and the allure of all that. When applied, a series of irregularly shaped, moss-covered stepping stones appeared out of nowhere and you found yourself gazing across a Koi-filled pond in the centre of a garden courtyard. The grounds were overflowing with irises, camellias, azaleas, flowering osmanthus and an astonishing collection of venerable junipers in tiny clay pots. Incense floated on the air and time stood still.Magnificent then, and more precious now, as so many of the ingredients have been erased from the palette of perfumery.
L’Air du Temps (Nina Ricci) Was gifted a sweet little vintage L’Air and my first response was ‘yup, it’s perfume’. I remember it from my youth – it has all the markers:- it’s an aldehyde martini with piercing white floral glare. These days it truly smacks of the cult of uptight women with pathological terrors of their own body odours, and a grim grip on reality. Control-freak perfume. My last boss wore this. Her benches wiped and frock freshly ironed for the weekly grocery shopping, she counts out 2 measured spritzes of her signature L’Air and steps outside to greet the day. Still …I love her (the fragrance not the boss)
Persian Thé (Crabtree & Evelyn) The Emperor’s new juice. The only projection I can detect is the designation of discernible notes and glorious components that people imagine are in this jus. It’s only the same mass-produced toy confectionery base as is found in La Vie Est Belle, Aura, Elixir Noir ad nauseum, with some slight deviation a la cherry-berry bonanza. Berries? There’s none listed. So whatever iso-exanyl-tryptococchus-54 has been tipped into the vat to act as a fruitish stand-in for the tart counter-point to all the amberesque syrup factor. Next…..
La Petite Robe Noire (Guerlain) Christine Nagel delivered this in 2006 with J Del Pozo’s In Black. It’s culturally verbose to keep regurgitating the same ideas over and over; endlessly repeating ourselves. It’s not art. It’s greed. BUY THIS BUY THIS BUY THIS NOW BUY THIS HURRY UP AND … you know what to do. There’s just no room for any more cherry-flavoured cough syrups in ugly glass head-stones emblazoned with whimsical frocks..
Esprit d’Oscar (Oscar de la Renta) I blind-bought this impressively heavy glass column online and was thrilled when I opened it and sniffed for the very first time. Loved it immediately. Then it just sort of sat around the house all day watching midday movies and eating space food sticks. Occasionally it would groan and waddle into the kitchen and rummage around for diet soft drink and then drift off languidly for a game of solitaire in the dining room. I’d hear it sighing heavily every time it lost another round.
“WHAT TIME’S DINNER?” it would bellow … and I began to panic.
Then… I met L’Heure Bleue, and I finally realised I’d been hoodwinked by the ghost of an out-of-work Elvis impersonator hiding inside my flacon of Esprit d’Oscar de la Renta.
“Out you go’ I exclaimed, and the fragrant fugitive scurried off to ebay. Phew.
Angel (Mugler) Danielle Trussoni’s 2010 novel Angelology was a fascinatingly dark take on the whole Angel channeling/healing/divination cult that sprang up and swept us off our feet in the last epoch of the New Age frenzy of the 1980s. Archangels ruled the roost… and boy, how our guardian guides cleaned up (our messes and our money). This hectic blue poppet certainly capitalised on all that adoration for flaming swords and feathers. The fragrance was always galvanising, both on a macro and micro level. Within each single dose of spray lurked a goblin chewing on rusty nails and a bevy of sugar plum fairies. You loved it and recoiled at the same time. Pudding and pesticide all in one hit. Many many many many folks swear allegiance to this Angel. I’m not one of them.
‘Ahhhm, it’s er,… Oh I don’t know how to pronounce it. But I can’t get enough of it and everyone always comments on how good I smell’.
‘Well who makes it?’ I had to know.
‘Can’t pronounce it either. Her… something’
Which all just goes to show that you don’t need to speak French at all to smell like a winged messenger of the Gods dropping down to earth now and then just to makes us all feel a whole lot better!!
Ysatis (Givenchy)I owned 2 bottles of vintage Ysatis a few years ago, and it was a lovely fragrance. The down-side to it was that it followed more stridently original orientals of the era and didn’t appear to break any new ground. Youth Dew was a huge success in the 50’s and was the original powerhouse spice floral fragrance. Opium arrived in 1977, Cinnabar 1978 and Ysatis 1984. The packaging and marketing of Ysatis gave mixed messages too – oriental, as well as retro art deco and contemporary noir glamour. Consumers were uncertain of where it really belonged. Nonetheless, a beautiful juice.
Rose 31 (Le Labo) A new kind of rose perfume. Hipsterose. Comes with a free kit of iron-on tribal tattoos and a fake beard. Must be worn when riding a Lambretta and needs its own instagram account to post pictures of you posed in jaunty locations.
Florabellio (Diptyque) I received a free sample of this from Mecca, piggy-backed on another fragrance I’d purchased. So I tried it… Yikes. It gave me the exact same eerie sensation as a previously wrong idea to bleach my hair until it turned just the right shade of radioactive yellow to cause my skin to appear red and blotchy, and to create the impression that my eyes had shrunk down to the size of peas. Not something I care to repeat ever.
Fracas (Robert Piguet) Anyone who can remember Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound will understand the massive density of Fracas. To smell it once in a life-span is vital, but to go on smelling it, on and on and on and on from one end of the galaxy to the other, becomes oppressively torturous and suffocating. And that’s just from one spritz.
Beautiful, and yet terrifyingly cruel.
Chanel N°19 (Chanel) This fragrance is a card shark. 19 watches you approach the counter and sizes up all your vulnerabilities and waits …and then it pounces. Your first cordial handshake is always a calculated risk at catching you off-guard by stunning your senses with the bitterness of all that vetiver and galbanum. The contents glint at you with pale green guile. The initial blast of 19’s ‘please-get-away-from-me’ message harbours a floral fugitive that leaps out at you when you least expect it. You are momentarily distracted by the suddenness of finding yourself rolling deliriously across a carpet of hot-house blooms in a Provence conservatory, and suddenly your wallet is empty. And you’ve lost your watch. Beware the glittering green jewel.
Diorella (Christian Dior) There is a distinct ‘Diorlinade’ in vintage Diors. Citrus aperitif chased down with a growly oakmoss basil chypre. The florals drift in and out depending on the temperature and how active you are at the time of wearing. Roudnitska’s peppy chypre, Diorella owned the hell out of style around the same time that the Jackson 5 were killing it for Motown, mini and maxi skirts were big business, the Munich Olympics disaster happened, the Watergate scandal erupted, Ziggy Stardust hit the scene, controversial film Last Tango in Paris was launched and Abba was born.
You can smell all of that and more in a vintage flacon of Diorella. Do yourself a big ol’ favour and find yourself one ASAP.
‘Hey man, oh leave me alone, you know hey man, oh Henry get off the phone’... (Bowie D. 1972)
24 Faubourg (Hermès) Last of the grand slam floral spectaculars from that confected wealth attainment era of the eighties as it crash landed into the stark awakening of the nineties. The crystal chandelier that fell and turned out to be glass. This remarkable fragrance reminds me of lavishly opulent bouquets of flowers that are arranged and displayed every morning in 5-star hotel lobbies across the globe. Luxurious and yet… disturbingly lifeless so that you wonder if they are truly real.
Of course they’re real darling – this is Versailles. But all good things must pass.
Shalimar (Guerlain) All the words have already been taken to describe this iconic trend-setter, however I find it fascinating that so many people still adore this fragrance and continue to march proudly beneath Guerlain’s ubiquitous Shalimar banner and, yet, even in the face of so much unswerving loyalty & devotion, contemporary commercial fragrance has drifted so far out to sea that I fear dry land may never be found again.
Why are we inundated with so much same-ness and wimpy fruity syrupy waffles when clearly there’s such a market for concrete orientals and solidly dense aromatics like this eternal beauty? I know that many niche and artisan noses are creating marvelous works of art, but surely the major players are wasting so much money and wonderful resources on regurgitating more of that stuff we got bored with quite a few years ago. What has happened to perfume? Shalimar… vive la difference!!
Miss Dior (Christian Dior) Lately I’ve been rediscovering the Diors of my youth. Vintage Diorella, Miss Dior, Diorissimo et al. I ran away from Dior when all that Poison stuff was happening and – call me simple – I just didn’t want to spray myself with anything labelled POISON. Maybe it really was? All the women I knew – my mother’s generation, were doused in it, or Opium or Youth Dew and it was eye-watering to me. They were all menopausal cougars with litres of stonking 80s fragrances emanating from their American footballer shoulder pads. Yikes. Back to the story. A full bottle of Miss Dior from 1995 arrived here this week and I now fully understand that perfume has temperature. Not just the obvious ‘cool’ or ‘warm’ scents, but an entire ‘mise en scene’ of elements that either radiate heat or clamp down on it. Dior’s classics are tightly leashed. The ambient temperature of Miss Dior only ever approaches the metallic silvery light of a Winter sun, she is warm only in contrast to the bleak and chilly winds that whip your coat tails around. Miss Dior is an elegant refusal with an implied hint of ‘perhaps’. She is the high maintenance beauty leaving the party in her own powdery yellow E-type Jag, she doesn’t need you for any reason, but in her day-dreams, she may just consider your proposal. Peut-être Stunning.
Idylle (Guerlain) I bought Idylle several years ago based on an impulsive quick sniff when it was being sold very cheaply by a perfume store that was going out of business. It was cheap and I pounced upon it. So I wore it… and then it wore out its welcome.
‘Must be me’, I mused, ‘perhaps I’m too old, or it’s too young’, just can’t really put my finger on what went wrong. So, I gifted it to my daughter, she loved it… for a while. Same outcome.
‘Mum’, she said, ‘do you want that bottle of Idylle back’?
‘OK’, I said. ‘Maybe it might work for me now that it’s a different season and I’m in a different mood’.
The opening is indeed lush and extravagant and dewy. But it becomes discordant and claustrophobic and just feels too tight. It’s like a beautiful winter sweater that looks great, but after half an hour makes you feel static and itchy and cranky and stifled. An unfortunate effect from a less-than idyllic fragrance that has so much potential, but in the end remains unused.
Vol de Nuit (Guerlain) I went to the city to try some new fragrances. A big day of aromatic wonders…..? At the Guerlain section of David Jones there were no sales assistants anywhere to be found, so I made myself useful and began at the very beginning, (a very good place to start!)… Many Guerlains I’m familiar with so I skipped those and focused on testing new G’lains. So many to smell but not an entire collection. I found Vol de Nuit squeezed in between the Souffle, Mon Guerlain and a whole wardrobe of little black dresses. I was struck by the feeling that here, between all the similes was the real deal. A perfume that has held its own among the sea of flankers and reiterations and endless derivatives and deputies. A stoic, stalwart of a fragrance that sets the standard by which so many have sought to emulate. I just think I adore the work of Jacques Guerlain. He marked his territory with a distinctive set of pegs and captured the cool aplomb of the glamorous French archetype in his wonderfully sensuous and bold compositions. Vol De Nuit is the striking woman in the sepia toned photograph, draped in a fox-fur, black-haired, stick thin, dark eyed and smoking. She never wears anything by Chanel, she finds it common and vulgar, so she designs her own couture, and has her wardrobe tailor-made. She’s French. She never cooks or cleans, she hasn’t time, she’s busy with more important matters…. such as love and adventures.
Not a simile for fragrance, VdN is the perfume.
Jardins de Bagatelle (Guerlain) I smelled this fragrance quite a few years ago and immediately hankered for it. I kept seeing it on fragrancenet and other online stores and I kept putting it in my shopping cart and then… just not hitting BUY. I didn’t really know why I couldn’t commit. Perhaps Luca Turin’s review of it shaped my reticence.
I was recently gifted a decant of JDB and I was very excited to have a little stash to finally wear and love. I discovered a plastic flower smell in there. It’s quite a harsh and toxic note and it smacks of that ‘placcy’ waft you get when you first unwrap a cheap toy from its bag. Not a love for me.