Monday, November 23, 2015

Best Perfume Reading of the Week Part 1

So I love reading about perfume as much as the next fumehead and I thought why not share the reviews or ideas that throughout the week catch my interest.

First up Tresor Prijs lovely and personal review of Serge Luten's Bas des Soie at Fragrance Daily. I've never thought to try to locate a sample of this one by Tresor has me very intrigued.

The continuation of a great animalics series over at Fragrantica Part 1 and Part 2.

Shout out to Chez Pajama because she is the one really willing to go out on a limb and try it all. Her reviews are fun, short, sweet, and to the point but with plenty of experience behind them.

The reviews for Enfleurage's Sanctuary, Rose, and Amber over at Now Smell This.

EauMG's Autumn Bath and Body Picks I am intrigued by all of the carrot stuff considering my new found love it due to Cognoscenti's No.19 Warm Carrot.

And the release of this.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Elegant Bohemian: Vol 870 YUL-CDG by Monsillage

Sometimes I forget what a good elegant scent can do, for me it has the power to make me feel put together, not ostentatious, but like your own skin is perfectly fine and everything is clicking together. The thing about an elegant scent to me is that it must like feel like a melange of notes, no note is above the others, and yet there is a defined story. I know that is a lot to require out of a scent for it to be considered elegant and I admit there is a lot of Chanel influence in that assertion but that is how I define elegant scents.

On the other hand it is even harder to find an elegant scent with quirk, quirk is rather hard to describe but for me it has to be that note that strikes out and brings something new to the conversation but at the same time is utterly smooth in its compelling addition. Well if you are looking for a sort of unique contrarian elegance then I think you probably should seek out Monsillage's Vol 870 YUL-CDG. Vol 870 YUL-CDG is a bit of a wonder because perfumer Isabelle Michaud created a classic elegant scent that I would feel comfortable wearing at an elegant soiree or a bohemian retreat.

The beginning of Vol 870 YUL-CDG is all about the the osmanthus absolute for me. I adore osmanthus so I am always excited when I see a perfumer take the note and go in a different direction with it. Frequently osmanthus is paired with tea or used as a supporting player, but in Vol 870 YUL-CDG Michaud chooses to let osmanthus star. This is an osmanthus full of dried apricots and hinting at the resinous note that you smell in osmanthus absolute it is lovely and warm so different from other floral notes that once again I am reminded that I find shocking that it is not used more often in perfumery. There is a tannic quality to osmanthus that keeps the sweeter wine like qualities of it in check, it is the sort of scent that balances out the cold sweet of ylang ylang with tannins of black tea and the delicious tartness of dried apricots, it is one of the most naturally layered and complex notes you will ever run across.

What enters next is a rather genius pairing for osmanthus, the notes of balsams. I grew up on a ranch that was high enough in elevation that we had a variety of fir and pine trees and one of my favorite things to go do as a child was to play with the sticky fragrant sap of those trees much to the annoyance of family. Vol 870 YUL-CDG pairs osmanthus with pines and firs, the resinous and balsamic notes play beautifully with the osmanthus creating an elegant but frankly adventurous scent. The mingling of forest and ripe fruit is sensuous yet clever. The woven pairing of osmanthus and balsams play for hours on the skin, the fruit receding with time, and the drydown containing hints of musk, amber, and vetiver. It is a smooth blending that creates warm woods quality on the wearer.

Try if you like Ormonde Jayne Woman, Sonoma Scent Studio's Jour Ensolielle, or Le Temps d'Une Fete by Nicolai.

first image from
second image Moki Mioke

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Momentous Life: The Five Accords of Ideasthesia and Ideasthesia by MikMoi (Scent No.4 of the Elegance series).

 Recently MikMoi released five accords and the perfume Ideasthesia. I was lucky enough to be gifted by the perfumer with a sample pack, and as of the last month I have been wearing and thinking about the Ideasthesia project. Recently this last weekend I was able to sit down with Mik and discuss the scents and here is the funny thing as much as we talked about notes and scents, I still came away from our conversation having the exact same feeling  and thoughts about the scents that I had before going into the conversation. There was a few clarifying notes, but otherwise one of the nice qualities about Mik and his perfumes is he simply allows the wearer to bring their own experiences to the perfume. Diversity is one of the cornerstones in his perfume philosophy.  As I have worn and smelled the accords that make up Ideasthesia and I should mention that these accords are in their own right fully made perfumes, there is nothing missing from these scents when you wear them.

There are stages to life and sometimes they do not necessarily come in the order most known but they do happen.I have been struck with how much these accords remind me of these life stages

The first accord and probably the most on the nose one for me is Birth. Birth is a scent that lovingly references the Southern European and Middle Eastern tradition of scenting babies with orange blossom water and it should also be mentioned that this scent is frequently used for brides. This is probably one of the best orange blossom scents I have smelled in awhile, while it is definitely supported by citrus, and juicy citrus at that the scent reads to me deliciously of rich fresh orange blossom. It is a full orange blossom scent, in the likes of L'Artisan's long gone harvest series. At certain stages I almost read an earthy incense note in Birth that reminds me of the ceremonies involved in blessing children. The final drydown for me is a lovely honeyed orange blossom, it's not sweet, but hints are true orange blossom honey that contains frequently just a hint of branch. The depth and tenacity of Birth are excellent for citrus orange blossom scent and it remained with me all day. It is a wonderfully uplifting scent.

The next accord is Breath, Breath is easily for me the stage of childhood. Tt is a wondrous green happy scent that suggests exploration and a sense of curiosity in the world that I think at times is the most strong in our childhood. There is a wonderful opening of spearmint and grass, I sort of forget that spearmint is a note that can be used in perfume, but there it is naturally sweet and bright in Breath. The combination of spearmint and grass reminds me of getting up early in the morning when I was child and exploring the world in the summer while everyone was asleep. Breath for me is that sort of bright shiny exploration of the natural world, it is lolling in the grass, and really looking at the greenery around you. There is a lovely fig note that runs through Breath that provides a green milky backdrop to the scent along with a fresh dose of petitgrain that I feel references Birth. 

The stage that follows birth and childhood is a I think one that is far more universal in our older years but definitely only comes to us with puberty and that is the state of romantic awakening. I'll say it now I fell in love with North. I fell in love with it enough that I bought a bottle on the spot. North is romantic radiance, a crystalline melange of floral notes that I usually run away from, but in Mik's hands are exquisitely rendered. There is just no getting around the romantic beauty of North the use of jasmine, tuberose, and rose is a bit of a trifecta of culturally considered romantic notes. Yet, the thing that makes this so utterly wearable and perfect for me is the use of geranium. Geranium doesn't get enough love, but when used provides that bright luminous quality that I frequently associate with aldehydes but geranium does it more kindly, gently, and with just a hint of stemmy crushed greenery. There is a luminous quality to North that suggests glow of when you first fall in love, the one that everyone comments on because frankly you are obscenely happy. North is about as close as I have ever gotten to finding the olfactory equivalent of romantic awakening in a bottle.

The next stage of life is a bit blurrier to understand but we all go through it. I think at times it is one of the longest stages, the age of getting to really know yourself. This is the part I think is the most varied for everyone for some it is the finding of true identity, for others coming to peace with your actual inclinations, or for some a recognition of how you are a singular creature no matter all our connections. I find this stage in the Known accord. Known is a smoky pinon sort of scent, it suggests incense and arid landscapes. It is philosophically pushing to that area in our lives where we learn to make choices on our own. I think the smokiness of Known suggests the birth of identity aka the phoenix from the flames, this is not necessarily a painful process but is none the less a process of fulling recognizing who we are beyond the boundaries of our childhood. The incense and woods also suggest spiritual growth but on our own terms, it is the passage of one stage of life to the next, I want to say adulthood, but I feel that doesn't full encapsulate the process of knowing yourself because it is a continuing process.  Known is the scent of independence of thought.

The final accord is Found. Found is the scent of finding the familial in our lives as adults. It is an earthy spicy comforting scent that at the beginning reminds me of quite frankly of cinnamon oatmeal cookies, but this is not a gourmand. The spices in this are hot and strong it is akin to grinding your own spices at home when making spice breads. As Found mellows the scent takes on hint of almond and a deliciously warm slightly furry musk. The musk is utterly comforting, not clean, nor funky but familial. Found is ultimately the scent of getting a hug from a loved one, it is that moment in our adult lives where stability and community intersect, it is deliciously kind and strong..

We finally come to Ideasthesia a scent meant to be an accord of the accords. This is obviously the most layered and complex of the scents and I think in a way represents a life well lived. It is a scent meant to draw on all the aspects of the accords. What it becomes is a scent to my nose akin to the classic Nuit de Noel by Caron. They don't smell alike but in Ideasthesia Mik is able to get that grand layering of floral, gourmand, and incense that I smell in Nuit de Noel. The scent of Ideasthesia is the clear fresh white florals of Birth and North punctuated by the smoky incense of Known at least that is what the scent was on me most of the time. On other days Ideasthesia was a sweeter scent with Found playing a greater role with the floral notes adding a bit of spicy sweetness to the florals, At other times Breath would up the fresh notes and make the opening a bit galbanum tinged giving the scent an even more classic quality. Ideasthesia has proven to be a bit of a chameleon scent depending on the temperature of the day you can get so many different qualities, each wearing seeming to play upon one facet being stronger than the other.
Ultimately the art that reminded of the most of Ideasthesia is David Bowie's song Thursday's Child, a song about life and experience through the lens of age.

Birth Image: Joy St. Clair
Breath Image: Peach Blossoms—Villiers–le–Bel, ca. 1887–89
Childe Hassam (American, 1859–1935)
North Image: Ryan Pickart
Known Image: Mickael Jou
Found Image: Puung

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dramatic Introverted Elegance: No.19 Warm Carrot by Cognoscenti (2012)

Sometimes a perfumer highlights a note so well you are kind of dumbfounded that it doesn't get used more. This is one of the feelings I have for Cognoscenti's No.19 Warm Carrot. My other feelings and thoughts are: this is the the perfect mashup of French pain d'epice and Indian gajar halwa, this has one hell of a spicy cold opening, the drydown is magnificent, this is so perfectly fall, and I feel like this the baby of Guerlain's L'Heure Bleu and Chanel's Bois des Iles. As you can see No.19 is incredibly layered and yet utterly wonderful.

No.19 starts out with a magnificent dramatic entrance that smells like cardamom, cold ylang-ylang, and earthy carrots the effect reminds me of the grinding of spices for pain d'epice. There is a slight quieting and the earthy powder of lavender enters, it softens the spice just enough that the carrot seed at this point is the most potent. Cognoscenti gives you operatic dramatic carrot, the perfumer draws out the leathery or as I think the furrier aspects of carrot. This is the moment where the carrot seed gets to be the star and in my head this is the color combo of intense rich orange against a rather soft dove grey.

After about 15 minutes we then enter the longest stage, the pain d'epice and gajar halwa stage. This stage is utterly lovely and will scent your scarf through out the day. At this point the tiniest drops of amber and vanilla enter the mix and they play utterly supporting roles mainly to gentle the spices and bring out the fruitier aspects of carrot. What you get is combination of creamy gajar halwa, that delicious Indian dessert pudding, that is lightly spiced with cardamom, and the anise laced gingerbread of France, pain d'epice. This sounds gourmand but really it isn't, it is just the perfect distillation of autumnal spices and it all sits gently with earthy carrot seed jam.

Eventually the spice takes a backseat and a mellow animalic mix of carrot jam, amber, and labdanum sit of the skin. The effect is deliciously cozy and elegant, it has the cider-ed quality of Bois des Iles on the skin.

The elegance of No.19 is rather operatic to me and yet it is not loud, there is such a gorgeous layering of notes in this scent that I reminded of classical perfumes and yet the used of carrot seed is distinctly unique and modern. Honestly I plan to get myself a small bottle of this for Autumn/Winter although I can see it playing perfectly on cold grey Spring days.

Try if you like Chanel Bois des Iles, Guerlain L'Heure Bleu, Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne des Bois, and Prada Infusion de Iris Eau de Parfum Absolue.

First image from
Second image Ha Jundi

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Modern Elegance: Infusion d'Iris Eau de Parfum Absolue (2012)

For the last 8 years I have worn some sort of iteration of Prada's Infusion d'Iris, the first being the original version of Infusion d'Iris, after that there was Candy (yup I consider it just another spin-off of the Infusion series), and currently I am now on a bottle of Infusion d'Irs Eau de Parfum Absolue.

The original Infusion d'Iris could easily be a part of this series. Here is the thing I have not worn the current version which was definitely reformulated but what I can do is tell you about the Absolue version.

Infusion d'Iris Eau de Parfum Absolue and from here on out referred to as simply Absolue is sort of the perfect marriage of Infusion d'Iris with Candy and with a few tricks up its sleeve. Absolue takes that perfect cloudy sweetness of Candy and marries it to the wonderfully approachable and urbane iris found in Infusion d'Iris. It ends up just being this perfect puff of bittersweet in Absolue, it amplifies the powder and adds a sensual skin note that had not originally been there.

Yet, what makes Absolue so elegant and far more adult is the use of incense in the scent. There is a definite far more earthier note in Absolue than in the original Infusion d'Iris. At times on my skin it can read as patchouli or sometimes it shows itself as incense, it is a fun trick.

What I love also about Absolue is the earthy powder that pervades it. Obviously that is partly iris doing its work but there is just a hint of rice in it that suggests makeup. It gives Absolue just a hint of glamour.

The elegance of Absolue is that for me it takes the aloof iris and makes it far more approachable yet keeps iris's erudite qualities. The addition of benzoin and richer incense notes gives it a greater depth and sensuality than the original Infusion d'Iris, letting the wearer have a far richer scent which thankfully though does not ever enter the burdensome territory. As always the Infusion series remains seasonless and all occasion ready, it is probably as close to a signature scent as I have come.

Try if you like Prada's original Infusion d'Iris or Candy, Parfumerie Generale's Iris Taizo, Chanel No.19 Poudre, Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Bleu, or Cognoscenti No. 19 Warm Carrot.

First image is from
Second Image from Estuary Designs

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Elegance Series, first up Elegant Earthy: L'Inspiratrice by Divine (2006)

So I have had this idea floating in my head for the last month of doing an elegant perfume series. The idea happened when I tried the very interesting Monsillage Vol 870 YUL-CDG and the immediate thought that came to my head was that it was very elegant classic scent. Yet, at the same time it is really interesting and by interesting I mean that plays with notes and isn't stuffy in the least and well it has some quirk. The more I thought about it the more I realized I wanted to do a series on scents that were released fairly recently and embody what I consider classic elegance and yet they must be interesting. Nothing boring or stuffy, they have to have quirk and soul.

I like aldehydes but I inherently find most of the time the composition they come with are not really me, the classic pairing of aldehydes is florals, and as I've mentioned before pure florals and I rarely are on the same footing to get along. It also makes me saddened that aldehydes are rarely used beyond the genre of floral when Chanel's classic Bois des Iles highlights that in fact aldehydes can get along stupendously with wood notes, in this case sandalwood. I should also mention that aldehydes can frequently connote an elegance in perfumes for their brightening and deepening effect.

Have you ever thought I really wish L'Artisan would mosh their Voleur de Roses with Chanel No.5 Sensual Elixir? Yeah, me neither until I tried Divine's L'Inspiratrice and that is what I get on my skin and you know what it really really works.

L'Inspiratrice starts with playful use of aldehydes, it reminds me of the more softened aldehydes used in Chanel No.5 Sensual Elixir or Eau Premiere, yet the base of this scent is the classic combination of patchouli and roses that is akin to L'Artisan's Voleur de Roses. Now what keeps this composition melded and smooth is the use of delicate vanilla and ylang ylang.

I just want to reiterate that the use of vanilla in this composition does not make it a vanilla scent, in fact this is a prime example of vanilla being used as a smoothing agent and just adding a dollop of sweetness it tames the patchouli enough that the camphorous qualities it can have are kept at bay.

If vanilla is used to tame the patchouli then ylang ylang is used to tame the aldehydes. Ylang Ylang can have a deep camphorous narcotic scent, I love it, but recognize the hot cold effect it has can be alien to some. What is interesting is while modern perfumery is not a big fan of it, if you look at the classic aldehydic scents they used it everywhere, I theorize it is because piercing sweetness of ylang ylang balances out the sharp champagne qualities of aldehydes.

But you are probably asking what about the rose? The rose in L'Inspiratrice is a soft velvety skin rose, it melds to the wearer and plays the vital supporting role to the patchouli, it is what I call a cuddly somewhat maternal rose, there is no bite but neither is it virginal. It just exists plushly.

L'Inspiratrice melds beautifully with the wearer, the effect is elegant but warm, it is velvety without being suffocating. The lack of suffocation I give credit to the dry cocoa patchouli that is used and no heavy ambering or syrup notes. After Chanel's Bois des Iles this is the next prime example I can think of that aldehydes can meld beautifully to wood based creations.

Try if you like Chanel's Coromandel, No.5 Sensual Elixir, Bois des Iles or L'Artisan's Voleur de Roses.

First image from
Second Image Alonzo King

Thursday, October 22, 2015

I Give Up: Pierre Guillaume

It is funny when you realize a perfumer's aesthetic just does not work for you. I mean it is rather bizarre to realize you have over the years sampled many of their fragrances and yet you have not fallen for one once, yet that is what has happened between me and the nose Pierre Guillaume aka the absurdly handsome perfumer. The funny thing, is that his perfumes have not done incredible acts of smelling awful on me, but rather none have ever caused me to have a perfume swoon. I have at least admired one but recognized the composition is just not me. I think it does tell you about a perfumer's signature in the scents they create and that it does exist. So the question is have I have tried enough of Guillaume's work to be able to say this? I think so if you take a look at the list.

In the Huitieme Art Parfums collection:
Ambre Ceruleen oh did I want this too work, but alas this was an intense root beer amber on me that just never melded.
Poudre de Riz, seems like a no brainer but sadly ended up smelling similar to What We Do In Paris Is Secret but even lighter, I suspect the problem is the musk used in it. Really wanted that rice note.

From the Parfumerie Generale collection:
Cadjmere, once again a scent that disappeared on my skin. For a moment I get a lovely piney sandalwood coconut scent akin almost to Kheer in a weird way.
Corps et Ames, not sure I can blame this on Guillaume considering I notoriously do not wear chypres well.
PGO5 L'eau de Circe, perfectly nice but it didn't really capture me.
PG13 Brulure de Roses, a delicious rose jam opening but then it sort of goes blah.
PG14 Iris Taizo, mainly a whole lot of intense spiced amber, once again doesn't really meld.
PG21 Felanilla, a modernized furrier Shalimar that once again proves that Shalimar just does not work on me.
L'Ombre Fauve, the closest to almost swoon, this animalic amber is quite good, but I can recognize that as much as I like this scent it is just not me.

So what does this all mean? Mainly that I think I will probably stop spending money on samples of Guillaume's perfumes. He is loved by others and I can see that he does interesting work but whatever his signature is in his fragrances it just does not work well on me.

On the other hand as I was writing this post this morning it occurred to me how it is so hard to apply the "true" critical eye to a perfume. Now some might suggest to be truly critical you can only smell it on paper thus the skin does not interact with the scent, but I think that defeats the purpose of perfume which is meant to be worn on the skin.

Still over time I have wondered now what causes me to praise one thing but not the other? Is there qualities that will make me more lenient towards a composition or not?  Frankly here the guidelines I follow in my head when it comes down to review:

1) I'll be the first to admit I'm easier on the little guy, for true indie perfumers if I'm not in love with a scent or fact find myself disliking it, I won't review it. The frank truth is the world is unfair and the bigger piece of the market you have the better you do, for an up and coming indie perfumer I just don't have the heart to write a really negative review. They just aren't playing on level ground.
2) I will not attack the perfumer of the composition in any personal way, in the era of troll and massive negativity when someone does anything I refuse to contribute. I will talk about the composition, discuss why it does not work for me, but beyond that nope.
3) The one caveat, the up-pricing of compositions that obviously come from a cheaper source. I'm looking at you Penhaligon's with Empressa, that is a ridiculous joke being played on consumers. I will discuss marketing and mass market perfumes and how I frequently think it is shooting itself in the foot.

So these are just a bit of my musings.