Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bemoaning the Lack of Plum Notes in Perfume or Plum Quest 2014

This weekend I made a plum clafouti for dessert and once again realized that the scent of ripe plums un-roasted and roasted is a beguiling smell. They have a sweet understated almond tinted scent that is uniquely their own and sadly rather underutilized in perfume. I feel like I might be on the verge of a fragrance quest this time for plums. Seems just right for this time of the year too, I have always associated plums with early Autumn, although in reality I suppose they are really a summer fruit, but the plum varieties with dusky violet skins have always reminded me of Autumn. So a list so far of perfumes with a plum note that I want to sniff:

Violet Disguises by Imaginary Authors
Do by MikMoi
Ume by Keiko Mecheri
Rose Volupte by Sonoma Scent Studio
Wood Violet by Sonoma Scent Studio
Prune Jasmin by Laurence Dumont
Moulin Rouge by Histoires de Parfums

Scents with a plum note that don't meet the plum need (perfectly good scents but just not plummy enough):
Femme by Rochas
Feminite du Bois
Natori by Josie Natori

Not to leave you hanging here is the recipe for the plum clafouti, absurdly simple, and wonderfully celebratory of the beauty of plums: http://www.epicurean.com/featured/plum-clafoutis-recipe.html

photo by the amazing Katie Quinn Davis at What Katie Ate

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tackling the Classics: Jicky by Guerlain

For the last of the lavender series I am focusing on one of the monumental classics of the perfume industry and also one of the few fougere scents that has been marketed to women and is frequently loved by men: Jicky by Guerlain. Whenever anyone says they want a lavender perfume, Jicky is almost always one of the first ones recommended.

So I have worn this classic the last few years and I will start with a warning: Jicky is a mercurial creature. Jicky can be the most relaxing cozy musky lavender vanilla scent and then well on the bad days it can be a monstrosity of musky indoles that lasts for about an hour luckily it will calm down but that first hour when it is bad is hard. I suppose Jicky is the classic example for me of perfumes with a bad note that smell good eventually they are the ultimate "Wait for it!" of scents but the payoff is always sublime the calming down of the beginning becoming something absurdly relaxed and lush. For me Jicky is a somewhat voluptious scent it is curvy and easy, I find it amusing that the imagery Guerlain uses for this scent is frequently a rather erudite modern woman which I suppose at the time of creation it might have fit that image more, but as times have changed Jicky has suddenly bloomed into a more lush scent, it is about as lush as a lavender scent can be.

The opening features Guerlain's signature candied bergamot note with lavender right beside it and right beside those too is the indolic musk on the good days it remains a dirty musk that will eventually be tempered by the lavender, vanilla, and tonka on bad days it takes over and you hope your colleagues don't notice that is why I frequently wear it on the weekends. Once everyone finds their place in the scent it becomes a lovely lush tranquil scent, the lavender is consistently present but the temperament of it is never harsh. There are accompanying notes but really essentially this scent is a song of bergamot, lavender, musk, vanilla, and sandalwood.

Try if like: Kiehl's Musk, Shalimar, Pour Un Homme de Caron.

Jicky image from http://theblacknarcissus.com/2012/11/16/jicky-by-guerlain-1889/

dress image from http://indulgy.com/post/N5Kq8ww451/late-s-evening-gown#/do/page/1

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cuddly Meadow Fluff: Reverie au Jardin by Andy Tauer

If you ever want to smell an example of high altitude grown lavender take a sniff of Andy Tauer's Reverie au Jardin and you will probably shake your head in disbelief that this is a lavender scent. That is how I felt about Reverie au Jardin for a very long time I could not get a handle on the gentle sylvan creature of a scent. Yet, I finally get it, all because I was looking for lavender essential oil for my boyfriend to use in his shaving oil. I remember randomly being at a little store that sells essential oils and they had three different lavender essential oils and I decided to smell them all. I finally came to the high altitude grown Bulgarian lavender oil and smelled it and I was surprised at what I smelled. This lavender was sweet musky and even vanillic there was none of the stronger notes associated with lavender in it. It was indeed lavender but it smelled like it had be grown on a fluffy cloud.

Reverie au Jardin takes high altitude lavender and expands on the fluffy cuddly sweet quality of it and along the way decides to invert the idea of green scents being spiky, bright, and harsh at times. What you get is scent of the softest creamiest lavender musk and dancing around in the background very lightly is aldehydes, rose, galbanum, and bergamot. The finale of the lavender perfume is to be enclosed in the happy cocoon of ambergris that has hints of vanilla and soft woods. There is not a single harsh or prominent aspect in this scent it is perhaps one of the gentlest happiest scents I have ever come by.

There is an image it brings to my mind when I smell it. A meadow in some alpine region, the perfect day with big fluffy white clouds, an easy gentle breeze that never lets it get too hot, and a gentle brook murmuring in the background. There is a freshly laundered picnic blanket laid out and beneath it a little lavender has been slightly crushed as the picnickers have tried to straighten the blanket out before they go to investigate the brook. Reverie au Jardin smells like that scene in my head.

Try if you like: Baghari by Robert Piguet, Le Temps d'une Fete by Parfums de Nicolai, or Jicky by Guerlain.
image: Call from Heaven

Friday, August 22, 2014

A clear unencumbered soulful lavender: Gris Clair by Serge Lutens

It is funny to think of Serge Lutens tackling lavender in his scents considering I think the first thing that pops into my mind for his scents is exotic ambers, leathers, spices, and non-ethereal notes. Yet, it turns out that good old Serge has actually quite the catalog for enjoying the ethereal examples including Clair de Musc and Fleurs de Citronnier, but the ultimate one for me now is Gris Clair.

Gris Clair is a lavender in its full glory, the perfect rendition of the color of blue grey lavender while having the texture of gossamer like silk. Lutens' is able to capture lavender in so many gorgeous facets that well if you are a lavender lover it is rather glorious; he is able to show the soapy notes and the sweet almond notes that can be found in good lavender. The scent is like having sweet therapy in a bottle, it is cuddly and cleansing all at the same time. It hints at spiritual epiphany with its notes of incense supporting the lavender but at the same time it includes a masterfully used amber and tonka bean notes that lend a vanillic and almond sweetness so that the scent remains firmly grounded in the soft cloud of serenity category. If you are a lavender lover I cannot urge enough that you go get a sample of this. And yes I am now on the hunt to get a a bottle of this.  

Try if you like: Clair de Musc by Serge Lutens, Twilight by LUSH, or Lavande by Berdoues.

image from The Gingko Leaf

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lavender and a Leather Jacket: Lavande Ombree by Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger.

Lavender has far more frequently within the world of perfume been a note used most often in men's perfumes than in women's perfumes, while many would argue, including myself that you should wear whatever catches your fancy from whatever gender related department of perfumes, the reality is still that designers and perfumers will put lavender in a men's perfume more frequently. Rarely though does a lavender scent for either gender enter the somewhat sexy smelling devil may care category of perfume yet Lavande Ombree by Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger does.

When I smell Lavande Ombree I have this immediate idea that this is what lavender would be if it was a biker, there is a prominent leather note entwined with the lavender, and it is not some sweet suede leather note, nope this that black leather jacket leather note. The leather is pungent but the lavender does not hold back either. As the scent progresses a strong raspy cinnamon and cedar enter and I am reminded of the classic and discontinued original Fendi by Fendi that powerhouse of a scent that was basically incense that decided it wanted to be a 1980's diva.  Lavande Ombree is a forward scent, it takes the idea of lavender as a dandy note, and decides to make it rugged and slightly dangerous. As the scent dries down it softens a bit the lavender less the leader but the cedar and leather remaining accented by musk and a hint of sweet amber to meld into the skin. Overall I can't help but respect that this scent is unabashedly not about sweet, nice, or smooth.

Give it a sniff if you like Knize Ten by Knize, Jolie Madam by Balmain, or Cuir Mauresque by Serge Lutens.

image: Sarah Esteje

Monday, August 18, 2014

Come Softly: 1902 Eau de Cologne Tradition Lavande by Parfums Berdoues

As a kid I didn't really get the appeal of lavender. I think it was because it was the 90s and it was the era of extreme aromatherapy and the stuff that was promoted with lavender was the cheaper harsher lavender that some might find therapeutic but I just found mostly rosemary like. Fast forward and somewhere along the lines I grew to appreciate it, I think it was when I finally got to smell high altitude and French lavender, the more delicate and soft scent altering my view of what lavender could be.

I received a decant of Lavande by Parfums Berdoues years ago and firmly forgot it in my box of decants. I was even at one point thinking about making it a freebie in my swapping, well I am glad I did not.

Lavande by Parfums Berdoues is a lovely soft lavender surprise, there is no harsh edges in this lavender. The beginning is a powdered lavender that is accented by a sweet and easy anise note, thankfully not overpowering, the anise works to bring out the sweeter quality of the lavender. From there the anise leaves the room and what enters is the final stage of simple soft musk, lavender, and tonka bean with hints of heliotrope. What I am reminded of at this stage is of the classic Jicky by Guerlain except this is easy and there is no possibility of the pungent musk of Jicky stepping in, mind you the depth and headiness of Jicky is not there but sometimes you just don't want that. Overall this scent is simple easy cuddliness that sooths the nerves. Very worthy of becoming a comfort scent on those harsh days. I am honestly reminded of a soft worn out flannel blanket when smelling this scent, there is a hint of pilling in some places but overall with time and wear it has hit that perfect point of absurdly soft.

Try if you like Jicky by Guerlain, Reverie au Jardin by Tauer Parfums, and Moonlight Path by Bath and Body Works.

image: Free People Blog

Friday, August 15, 2014

In Honor of This Stressful Week: Lavender

Next weeks theme is lavender and exploring it in scent. After a rather stressful  few weeks I have found myself craving the scent of lavender once again. I also am in debt to a wonderful swap that included a lovely lavender surprise.

image: amberlight1

Thursday, August 14, 2014

She's a Vamp: Neroli Blanc eau de pafum by Au Pays de la Fleurs d'Oranger

Sometimes you forget that orange blossom can be a sexy come hither vamp and when done right can hold up to a gardenia or tuberose in the nocturnal white floral category of perfumes that suggests vampiness. Narcisse Noir by Caron is the best known vampy orange blossom scent with its narcissus and incense notes creating an air of mystery and seduction with a hint of feralness.

Neroli Blanc eau de parfum is Au Pays de la Fleurs d'Oranger take on a vampy orange blossom. The scent begins with smoky dry orange blossom note supported by jasmine, it is unexpectedly austere but as it warms up on the skin it sweetens, the smoke backing out of the room, but what remains is an orange blossom with an animalic musk supporting it. The orange blossom is piercing and smooth, the allure of blossoms scenting the evening air. I feel like this scent is the love child of Serge Luten's take on vampy orange blossom Fleurs d'Oranger and Narcisse Noir, it takes the best of both and creates something a little bit more wearable but still retains a vampy sensuality. Highly recommend you sniff if you are looking for a nice going out and upping the sensuality scent.

Try if you like: Fleurs d'Oranger by Serge Lutens, Narcisse Noir by Caron, Elie Saab Le Parfum eau de parfum Intense, and LUSH Orange Blossom.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Thing About Freesia

Yesterday, I sprayed a perfume that opened with a wonderful tannic black tea note, it was rather unexpected considering it dried down to something akin to Cacharel's Noa Fleur. It was as I looked at the notes for the scent the freesia creating the effect. What saddens me is freesia is a rather maligned note in perfume, it has been taken by the fruity floral category but not really used to its full effect. I remember the first time I smelled fresh freesia and realized that it smelled like a freshly brewed cup of Earl Grey tea. It is the most black tea like scent I know of that is not black tea, it hints at lemon, but is supported by a rather tart floral quality. I should probably name the scent that has such an amazing black tea opening: Oscar de la Renta's Rosamor.

image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/lonoak/4454903605/

Monday, August 11, 2014

Comfort me with...

Last week was a hard week, in fact this week will be hard also. Last Tuesday I began my day with a trip to the emergency room after I awoke to look like like my face was melting, allergic reaction to something, but I have no idea. That night finding a lump on my cat, a lump that did not go away, we then visited the vet on Thursday. The conclusion too deep under the skin to tell anything so surgery is needed. I then sat through blood tests for my cat and in general worried over my sweet girl. I now get to spend the week worrying up until Thursday about her surgery. As I sat here this morning thinking about perfume and wanting to concentrate on something I enjoy for the moment. I could not help but think about comfort scents.  I also thought about Ruth Reichel's wonderful title Comfort Me With Apples. Lately I have thought about the actual bottles of perfume I use up. The simple truth is frequently is that it often not my profound favorites with an exception. They fall in two categories fresh scents and this is the most dominating category, I live in a hot climate, and as much as I love my heavy scents those are the ones I love the most, I don't get to wear them nearly as much as I like. So I use up the bottles of my fresh scents the most. The other category of scents that I use up is my comfort scents, those are the exception. With all the stresses of life and there have been many I reach for comfort most often and the thing about my comfort scents is they have to hit this perfect balance of sweet, airy, light, but interesting which I think may be the hardest thing sometimes to find in a good fragrance. So a list of past and present comfort scents:

-Omnia by Bvlgari: the perfect marriage of chai, sandalwood, and musk. A gourmand that was never overbearing.
-Infusion d'Iris by Prada: cool, clean, and calm wore this constantly at the beginning of my masters program.
-Falling in Love by Philosophy: My first year of undergrad on my own, sweet berries, musk, and vanilla you can't blame for finding this comforting.
-Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker: the more delicate light sister of Narciso Rodriguez eau de toilette. The light patchouli, ambrette, and lavender creating a lovely cloud of calm and clarity.
-Jour de Fete by L'Artisan: A large lovely decant of almonds, flour, rainwater, and soothing violets.

-Jeans for her by Trussardi: A very good dupe of Jour de Fete but in some cases even better. The heliotrope and violets upped with a green soothing note, what it reminds me of is a creek in spring time.
-Clair de Musc by Serge Lutens: A creamy clean white musk that makes you feel like you have on your fluffiest robe.
-Silk Way by Ted Lapidus: creamy musk and incense, not overpowering at all, but a wonderful waft frequently of something akin to basmati rice.

image: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mb59txPzGd1rugmfko1_500.jpg

Thursday, August 07, 2014

A young man in Europe: Field Notes From Paris by Ineke

I actually think this scent is perfectly unisex but as I wore it I had the image of the person I wanted to gift this to. But first we must talk about the scent. I remember the first time I tried Field Notes From Paris and being very disappointed, it was at the height of my tobacco scent lust, and in the adcopy there was constant mention of tobacco. What I should have recognized was that this is an Ineke creation, her scents are never blatant, they are very smooth, reserved in their sillage, and very modern smelling. The notes are pure, the bells and whistles of classic perfumery put aside for modern clean lines but Ineke's scent do not smell like mass market. They are most definitely niche and have the quality of a water color painting, full of light and ease.

Field Notes From Paris opens with with a happy buzzing bergamot supported by honey and musk, what soon moves in is a wonderfully clean African orange flower and coriander accord that never really leaves the scent. These two notes end up dancing with the tonka bean, musk, patchouli, and cedar with hints of cherry tobacco gliding in. The happy accord always keeps the scent rather sprightly while the notes become more and more oriental it finally ends with freshly lacquered wood note that is nestled beside a vase of African orange flower and coriander.

In my head this is the perfect scent for a young man who wants something different, he has just graduated college, had a year abroad somewhere in Europe, and after smelling the current major offerings is rather annoyed. Yet, he doesn't want absurd niche, he wants a scent that is cordial, at ease, warm, very easy on the nose, but smells different. Field Notes From Paris is that scent it is easy but unique, you won't offend but you smell distinct, there is a real warmth to it that makes you feel like you are meeting an old friend.

image via 50 Watts

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

L'Orpheline by Serge Lutens

The beginning is the archetype scent of fathers* shaving cream, aftershave, skin, with hints of spice from a cologne most prominently a hint of cinnamon. It is the scent your father might have as he left to go to work in the morning and kisses you on the head as he leaves. The fougere dominates the beginning but underneath are hints of musk and incense. Pretty soon the lavender and cade of the fougere withdraw slightly enough for cinnamon to come in supported by cedar. Here it has a bit of a wood shop quality but it remains a very cool scent, the cinnamon and cedar are not warm. Then they abate what comes forward is the musk, a musk that reminds me the most of Annick Goutal's Musc Nomade, a dry earthy musk with soft patchouli notes, also at this point the lavender steps into the picture again. What I am reminded of the most at this state is Guerlain's Jicky, if Jicky were drier, sadder, and had lost its vanilla notes. As the scent progresses forward the note of a soft dry cocoa patchouli comes into focus with a pinch of iris, they emphasize the cold aspect of this scent. The incense also begins to take a more prominent role, it is the cold civet-y incense found in Commes des Garcon's Avignon. The fougere steps back again and now the scent is musk and incense. All of this is encompassed in a haze of ambergris.

L'Orpheline is finding yourself in suburbia with the desire for something mystic. It really does feel a bit like being an outsider observing. The juxtaposition of the classic paternal scent of fougeres with cold incense and musk feels a bit like the state puberty, the emergence of an independent self from your parents. Whatever Lutens' intention is with this he has created a scent that captures otherness in comparison to others. An independence from the familiar. By the end though there is an equilibrium in the scent the ambergris offering shelter for the opposite notes to relax together.

Try if you like Jicky, Avignon, or Pour un Homme de Caron.

*I say archetype, because my father has never smelled like this. The scent of my father is woodsmoke, clean sweat from working outside, and freshly chopped wood he has never worn a cologne or perfume in his life.

image: Alessio Albi

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Tackling the Classics: Coriandre by Jean Couturier

We all have a category of perfumes that is a challenge one that others will rave about and will leave you puzzled wondering was there a mix-up, did I get a bad batch, why I am not getting this wondrous scent that everyone is talking about? For my chypres have rarely worked and by that I mean the classic chypres where oakmoss reigns supreme and you better like it. The beauty of Mitsouko completely lost on me, Miss Balmain a disaster, and Chanel Cristalle a game of galbanum wrecking ball. Once in awhile though I find a miracle, chypre of the classic era that I get, the first was Femme by Rochas, the second Yvresse by Yves Saint Laurent, and finally Coriandre by Jean Couturier. Now there arguments about the current formulation and the truth is I know nothing about the vintage but to me Coriandre is still recognizably a classic chypre and a lovely one at that. Now you may have not heard of Coriandre but it has been around since 1973 making it an underground classic at the moment.

So what makes Coriandre such a lovely experience? For me Coriandre softens its green notes with a soft rose and musk making a plush pillow for the greenery and spices. What I love about this scent is the use of coriander, I cook with it freguently, and I am always entranced by the green orange piquanty scent of it. Coriandre uses coriander to create a mellow lovely earthy soap in the scent. The scent then reminds me of family's ranch with earthy dusty herbs in the sun, cattle in the pasture, and hay warming in the sun. It is for me a combination of classy soap and my family's ranch. It takes the elegance of a French perfume and introduces it to the countryside in summer. Please do give it a try if you feel like you have had no luck with classic chypres.

Try if you like the original Agent Provocateur, Le Temps d'une Fete by Parfums de Nicolai, and Ivoire by Balmain.

Gorgeous forest image is by Tatiana Plakhova
Coriandre image from fragrantica.com

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Esther P: Queen of Persia or that jasmine note.

I think Queen of Persia by Esther P is a fine fragrance on others but for me it has this jasmine note. This is the jasmine note found in Vanille Insensee, Nanette Lepore in the pink bottle, and Coco Mademoiselle it is the dry screechy jasmine that never calms down on me. It took me awhile to figure out the note causing the trouble on my skin but I finally realized it with Vanille Insensee where its prominence really shined on my skin.

As the scent calms down on my skin there emerges patchouli and iris with incense they take on a chocolatey quality but overall the jasmine keeps up its prominent role.

I wish I could say more about this scent but for me it is one that truly just does not work on my skin. It is funny I think the more I delve into perfume I am able to recognize the qualities of a perfume that does not work on me and now why. When you first begin smelling perfume it is easy to perceive what smells bad and what smells good but harder to really state what is not working. In this case I can now tell you three notes in perfume that cause major issues on my skin:

-The damp hay patchouli note found in Angel and Prada Amber.
-The acrid candyfloss note found in Angel and L'Artisan Vanilia.
-The dry screechy jasmine found in many of the modern Chanel's most especially Coco Mademoiselle (although I can wear this in pure parfum, I wonder if they use a different jasmine in that), Vanille Insensee, and the original Nanette Lepore in the pink bottle.

Try Esther P. Queen of Persia if you like Coco Mademoiselle, Vanille Insensee, or the original Nanette Lepore in the pink bottle, do not try if you have issues with all three of these.

image provided by fragrantica.com

Friday, August 01, 2014

What Made July Good

July is one of those months that somehow gets lost in the year for me. I can remember June and I can remember August but July is always a blur. I cannot say it is because I am super busy doing summery things although I have been very busy in previous Julys and very slow in others. The one thing that stands out is always my father's birthday otherwise July exists in some sort of time hole. This July was productive in getting out and doing summery things.

1. We finally visited Angel Island, for years I have meant to visit Angel Island, the tiny island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay that once served as the West Coast's Ellis Island*, a military base (actually it still is), and is now a California state park. The visit to the park turned out to be a perfect respite from the heat. We took the ferry (always a bit romantic to me) in fog to the island and spent the day hiking and were able to enjoy a great rockabilly band with local beers. Afterwards fish tacos in Alameda.

2. The discovery of Clandestine Brewing. I am afraid our little brewery is no longer secret but the joy of finding a wonderful little local brewery remains and it serves interesting beers. Great people run it and I hope they keep up the good work.

3. Cowell Ranch Beach in Half Moon Bay, I love little local beaches with not a whole lot of people. This beach fulfills that need and it is just a gorgeous for your beach day. Day made even better with a visit to Half Moon Bay Brewing.

4. Best things I watched:
-Masters of Sex, damn it is so good! Plus Lizzy Caplan so damn perfect.
-True Detective, yeah I know what a shocker, everyone loves it, but seriously I am wanting to go as Rust Cohle for Halloween.

5. Best recipe, it is so simple, easy, and gets me through the hot weather; I cannot recommend this enough Warm White Bean Salad with Fragrant Garlic and Rosemary . Also if you love eggplant you must try this very simple and easy recipe: Chinese Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce

6. Best reads:
-Oryx and Crake by Margerat Atwood, oh I need to talk to someone about this so badly. Scary amazing with the prescience, one of the best pieces of science fiction I have read in a long time. I am reading book two of the trilory now. I cannot recommend this enough.
-Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, utterly opposite of Atwood but just as wonderful. Such a rare sweet and funny book for kids. It is really rare when someone can do humor and kindness but Federle does it with aplomb and it is been a long time since I really wanted to hug a character as much as I wanted to hug Nate.

7. Used up the last of my Osmanthe Yunnan, perfect in the balmy weather. Found Grand Neroli to really bloom in the heat, the dry heat bringing out the vanilla, and the humid heat bringing out the cedar note. Otherwise July was all about light airy scents which at this point I am rather sick of.

8. Song stuck in my head: Jenny Lewis's "Just One of the Guys" I really like Kristen Stewart's dude impression, plus the song is catchy, with some wonderful lyrics. The sound is summery but the subject is pointed, just how I like my indie pop.

*Angel Island's history I would say is far far more depressing.

Image: Alessio Albi