Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Plum Quest 2014: Wood Violet by Sonoma Scent Studio



We grow a lot of plums in California. Now that I think of it we are probably the state that grows the most plums. The Santa Rosa plum was created in California. We are a plummy state. Going to the farmer's market here at the right time of year is like being in plum land, the sheer variety is amazing. So getting to the point: I know plums. In fact I like plums enough that I want a well done plum scent, something that bursts with plumminess, which if you are a perfume lover know is bizarrely rare to find. So I have started my plum quest, a search to find the plummiest fragrance I can get (reasonably). For an idea of what I am going to try or what I have deemed not plummerific enough check this post.

So the beginning of this quest has started with the wonderfully local Sonoma Scent Studio's Wood Violet. I would like to add how proud I am to know that this amazing perfumer is from California and creating some of the best niche fragrances out there. The quality is amazing and what I love about her perfumes is that they always feel finished, there is never a point where I think well this note feels off or the depth isn't right, they feel so wonderfully classically finished.

Wood Violet opens with one of the plum rich beginnings I have ever smelled in a perfume. This is a rich plum note, at full ripeness, the point where the honeyed flavor of a plums is the most intense. This opening is hyper realistic, I have frankly never smelled a plum opening quite so realistic. This opening stays around for quite awhile and yet what will catch you off guard is that violet comes in so smoothly, perfectly melding with plum that you are rather shocked when you realize it has fully taken over. What I find so interesting is that Laurie Erickson makes this transition so utterly seamless and they way she does it is by emphasizing the banana leather note you smell in violets and plums. The scent begins its middle stage where the violet is reigning queen, the plum is still there giving the scent a rather velvet depth, but now the scent is about violet. The scent finally ends on a warm cedar-y musky dry down at this point it is very akin to Serge Luten's Feminite du Bois but Erickson makes it even smoother there are hints of violet leaf  and a very tiny hint of spices that keep the scent very rounded.

Wood Violet is most definitely inspired by Feminite du Bois but where as FdB becomes a cedar spice musk story, Laurie Erickson decides to run with the violet, and let it be the major player in the story. Along the way she also decided to emphasize the role of the plum in doing so she created a riper lush scent that emphasizes the magic of a well done violet scent.

Try if you like Feminite du Bois by Serge Lutens, Jolie Madame by Balmain, or Lolita Lempicka by Lolita Lempicka.  

image from Sarahmet

Friday, September 12, 2014

Great Scent Disappointments

The subject of great scent disappointments is not about badly made scents. It is instead about the scents that everyone is getting something amazing from and it sounds perfect for you but once you try it, the scent just does not meld. You hype these scents in your mind, they will be the answer to perfume quests, and then they are utter and complete disappointment.

First up L'Artisan Havana Vanille, oh this one was going to be the dark smoky tobacco vanilla that I was looking for. Everyone was loving it and the note description sounded exactly like something that was going to work for me. The moment samples were available I ordered one, the moment the package came I opened it hurridly, and put it on expecting something akin to scent euphoria. I admit now that is a lot of pressure for a perfume but what I got was something akin to coca cola hay with a hint of vanilla. I could not quite believe my nose, I sampled it the next day but there it was, something that did not work at all on me.

The next great perfume disappointment was Serge Luten's Nuit de Cellophane, this was supposed to be in my head Luten's grand opus to osmanthus, I had in my head waited years for this to happen. Finally Luten was going to tackle my favorite note and Luten-ize it, but what I got instead was something of a screechy mess on me that was akin to J'Adore by Dior. I should have headed the warning of comparisons of it to J'Adore, a classic I have never understood but the lure of osmanthus in Luten's hands was pretty blinding.

The last great scent disappointment for me was A Lab On Fire's What We Do In Paris Is Secret and that was one hell of a let down. Other people spoke of finally finding the perfect almondy honey powdered rose tonka scent and what I got was a decent powdery scent but nothing magnificent. It just sat on my skin and talked softly of boring subjects. It was nothing to write home about or even mention in dull conversation.

So what have your great scent disappointments been?

image by Rikke Otte

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Evening in Provence: Jasmin Reve by Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger



Imagine Annick Goutal Songes and Donna Karan Gold had a child but she was just a bit more soft spoken than them, what you would get is Au Pays de la Fleurs d'Oranger's Jasmin Reve. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I tried Jasmin Reve. I admit I was bit trepiditious, I have an uneasy relationship with jasmine sometimes it can be screechy on me and other times an indolic hell, but Jasmin Reve is a creamy jasmine. While Jasmine Reve does have a prominent jasmine note it is more than that.

What makes Jasmine Reve a seductive scent is the use of a subtle smoky incense with vanilla this quality in the scent reminds me of Songes the difference though is the location they evoke. Songes takes place in a tropical paradise. Jasmine Reve is a balmy night in Provence, you can smell the creamy jasmine blooming, there is the smoke of clove cigarettes in the background, jazz plays somewhere down the street, and you have just passed a patisserie with its doors wide open. A gentle breeze rolls through the night air and because it is the perfect temperature it feels like a caress. Jasmin Reve is very much an evening scent it has a shadowy lush quality that brings to mind perfect inky sky evenings. It is one of the most tactile and sensual scents I have smelled in awhile.

Once again I am impressed Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger and the qualities they are able to evoke in their scents. What I enjoy is that they seem to really enjoy exploring the idea of comfortable sensuality, their fragrances keep the sensuality but don't blare it. If you are looking for weird don't look here but if you just want something that makes you smile, is well blended, and classic but smells different then give this house your attention. I would say their greatest strength is their understanding of florals. I adore that their jasmine scent goes down the road of floriental with incense and vanilla but still retains the jasmine notes.

Try if you like Annick Goutal's Songes, Donna Karan's Gold, or LUSH's Vanillary

This is what I imagine playing from that jazz club :-).

image: Marion Cotillard

Monday, September 08, 2014

Needs More Depth: Replica Beach Walk by Maison Martin Margiela



I don't think this is a bad scent. I don't mind smelling it or wearing it but I have some issues with it and the price tag. This is perfectly nice smelling, I can see why people like it, but at the price of $125.00 this is a real over sell.  When you spend that much money on a scent I hope you end up with something with depth, lasting power, and stages. What you get with Beach Walk is a very nice ozonic coconut musk white floral that reminds me of a really good candle. The opening is fresh and smells like a nice breezy beach this quickly dissipates to a heart of coconut milk and clean smelling white florals with an ozone musk support. At best I really like the mix of a coconut milk and ylang ylang because it is not sickly sweet but it is so light and half an hour later you left with clean ozonic musk that hints at the white florals but for the most part smells a lot like a scent that is coming off fresh laundered clothes. The thing is none of this is bad smelling but at $125.00 I expect depth, some oomph to this scent, but what you get is a little ditty that in an hour and half is down to a base that is very easy to find somewhere else cheaper. My vote if you want a nice beach scent that isn't absurd in price and easy to find go with Estee Lauder Sensuous Nude or Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Pop Culture Fun: Kalinda Sharma


The Good Wife is one of my favorite shows to my shock. I admit 6 years ago when I heard the premise I rolled my eyes and thought that won't last and will probably be really really tawdry. Yet, it turned out to be incredibly smart, well written, and has 3 very well written female characters. Thankfully it is not your usual procedural and I think explores modern technology issues in a very smart way. Plus I love that casting is willing to use actors that are not usually seen as dramatic actors specifically Nathan Lane and really lets them try it out.

I really adore Kalinda Sharma of The Good Wife, although we shall act like the 4th season did not happen. Ugh. So much bad character development and writing for Kalinda but it appears the producers and writers have learned. What I adore is that she is played with subtly, they have allowed her character to retain her mystery, and yet we are given wonderful acting by Archie Panjabi that lets us see emotional conflicts that give us some idea of her previous life (we shall ignore season 4). I also really really adore that they casted this British actress to be such an utter bad-ass, because honestly I have to say I can't remember the last time I saw an actress of Indian heritage have the role of such a bad-ass on television.  My case in point is one of my all time favorite Kalinda scenes:
 Also props to The Good Wife for having a genuine bisexual woman on television.

So the question then becomes how do you scent Kalinda Sharma the ever mysterious sexy investigator? I actually came up with scent I think she would wear pretty easily: Back to Black By Killian. I was actually inspired by this choice bizarrely from a scene in season 1 that featured Alicia and her at a bar and Kalinda is drinking a Russian imperial stout (In my head it is Goose Island Bourbon County Stout) and while Back to Black and GIBCS have nothing in common scent wise, the idea of dark entrancing scent that had the qualities of liquor made me think of Kalinda. Back to Black is dark and entrancing with a raspberry liquor note used so perfectly to support the scent of honey and tobacco over a bed of ambregris. The scent is seduction but it is not girlish there this a subtly in the way it sits on the skin that doesn't make it immediately obvious.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

A Tale of Two Ambers: Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens and Ambre by L'Occitane


There was a point in my early perfume lust quests where I was a serious amber aficionado it came directly from a childhood surrounded by the wonderfully crumbly headshop amber perfumes, many people in my family wore it. The truth is that stuff is still wonderful to smell and if you love it keep loving it, I think it is one of those genuine cheap thrills that worth keeping around.

 For years I had a tiny bottle of amber perfume oil bought at some random shop but I grew out of it, associated it with period of disruption in my life, and eventually gave it to young woman I worked with who at the time I think was trying to find something different for herself. As for me and amber we parted ways, it was weird, at one moment it was what I wanted to call my signature, and then well a falling out in the desire to grow up and put some distance between me and childhood loves happened and so amber was put aside. Yet, I was never quite able to trade those bottles out. Last night I was wanting something opposite of abhorrent summer weather and suddently out came my mini bottle of Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens and Ambre by L'Occitane. I think it might be time for me to return to my amber perfumes.

Ambre Sultan and Ambre could not be more opposite in their ideas but at the same time they are still both recognizably amber scents. Ambre Sultan is a dry weathered amber that recalls desert nights and old empires, it use the notes of oregano and bay in such a unique way that it creates one of the more original amber openings, it is arid and recalls mountaintops with windswept Joshua trees. It feels like wearing some sort of epic movie about sultans and power plays.

 L'Occitane's Ambre on the other hand is the story of cozy amber and cream. It is a warm kitchen on a crisp Autumn day where a apple clafouti bakes in the oven with plenty of vanilla and because the cook was feeling creative has thrown a few dry apricots into the batter. It is incredibly smooth and enveloping and strangely un-spiced but rich from the notes of tonka bean and vanilla. There is just a hint of tarry leather in it that always catches me off-guard but eventually leaves I see it as the old leather work glove that has been left in the kitchen.

Try Ambre Sultan if you like Femme by Rochas, Ambre Russe by Parfums d'Empire, Madame X by Ava Luxe, Organza Indecence by Givenchy or Black by Bvlgari.

Try Ambre if you like Ambre Narguile by Hermes, Voile d'Ambre by Yves Rocher, L de Lolita Lempicka, or Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang by Estee Lauder

image: Alonzo King LINES Ballet Dancers

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

What Made August Bearable



Let us just begin that as far as I am concerned August can be taken off the calender and told to have a time out. Too much drama and worry for one month. Still there are things that brightened it and made it bearable.

Activities
-Little mini Labor day weekend trip to Kansas City where I basically did nothing but enjoy KC's culinary tradition of barbecue, buy lovely little local food products, and most of all hang out with friends and relax. We do this every year and this year's trip was much needed. I think what always amazes me is just great and vibrant Kansas City's food scene is, there are a lot of local and amazing products.

Books
-The Year of the Flood by Margerat Atwood, second book in the MaddAddam trilogy, and well what more can be said other than Atwood is brilliant. Giving myself a week or two before continuing on to MaddAddam.
-Hens Dancing by Raffella Barker, a sweet easy summer read if there ever was one. Made me wish I lived in the English countryside.
-The End of Eve by Ariel Gore, I just don't know how to summarize this one other than, how would you deal with your sociopathic mother who is dying on top of the ordinary crap that life throws at you? Gore gives her memoir of doing so and well it is brilliant, tragic, and hopeful. Shit happens.
-Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. I highly recommend to anyone with elderly parents and having to deal with the big questions. Hilarious, insane, but frank in a warm way that is never saccharine.

Film/Television
-Stories We Tell, adored Sarah Polley's honest exploration of how we see others and how the stories tell can be so different about the same person. Very touching but creative.

Scent
-Lavender, musks, and comfort scents needed them so much in August. Hoping to be able to at some point be able to break out some Autumn oriented scents.

Recipe
Atlantic Beach Pie; salty, sweet, and tart. Enough said :-).

Ear Worm

image by Laura Ballesteros