Reviews by Doctor Mod

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    Doctor Mod
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    Bois et Fruits by Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

    I was quite excited a few months ago when I read that many of the Serge Lutens "bell jar" fragrances were going to offered in the US for a limited time in the standard Lutens containers. Unfortunately, the one that I'd most like to purchase, Bois Oriental, isn't one of them. So I tried what I thought would be the next best thing: Bois et Fruits, which has left me feeling quite underwhelmed.

    I have now tested it several times, hoping for some breakthrough, perhaps, but the results are always the same: a nice but less than energetic cedar base and some strange substance that doesn't come off as fruity to my nose--unless the fruit is of the wax variety.

    Actually, Bois et Fruits reminds me very much of the original Shisedo Feminité du Bois, about which I feel much the same as I do about this fragrance. Beeswax was among the listed notes for the vintage Feminité, and I'm quite sure that was what I found so off-putting about it. It isn't listed for Bois et Fruits, but I smell something waxy that is neither fresh nor (to my mind) attractive. The sillage is decent if less than spectacular while it lasts--and it only lasted for about an hour, perhaps two, in my tests.

    I appreciate and respect the reviewers who have drastically different perceptions of this scent, but that isn't how it works on my skin. I really did want to like this one, but Arabie and Ambre Sultan fill this niche much better for me.

    12 September, 2010

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    Acaciosa by Caron

    Acaciosa is truly a grand diva of classic French parfumerie, and, as befits a diva, it is rare, precious, and beautiful. As far as I know, it is only available in parfum or extrait from a Caron boutique, but well worth the effort of the quest for the chosen few who appreciate the extravagance of the landmark Modernist scents.

    The name is a bit misleading, in as much as it suggests acacia; but no cassie or mimosa is to be found here. (Caron does, however, have a fabulous acacia fragrance, Farnesiana.) Instead, this is a glorious floral melange with jasmine the most prominent note. I don't detect the pineapple specifically, but I would imagine it could be the note that makes the blend so very difficult to describe. Amber is prominent among the various base notes, which include sandalwood and vanilla, and gives Acaciosa an almost--but not quite--floral oriental quality. All and all, it smells like nothing else I have ever encountered.

    After the first overwhelming olfactory blast, so typical of Caron fragrances, Acaciosa dries down into a sensual bouquet with wonderful sillage. It is amazingly enduring as well. (The small amount I had on my wrist soaked into gel wrist support for my computer keyboard, which in turn imparted the fragrance back onto my wrist for nearly a week.)

    It is not an everyday fragrance, nor is it for the faint of heart--but neither are grand divas.

    11th September, 2010

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    Straight to Heaven by By Kilian

    There are some By Kilian fragrances that are so extraordinarily fine as to merit the high price tag. Then there are some that are downright tawdry, perhaps inevitably so considering the implied narrative connecting the fragrances of the L’Oeuvre Noire Collection. And, finally, there are a few that seem to leave many reviewers puzzled. For me, Straight to Heaven is among the last group.

    I find it neither particularly pleasant or unpleasant--unusual, yes, and apparently well-crafted. I confess the basenotes of cedar and patchouli are quite nice, but some boozy note seems "off" from the rest of the compostion. The notes listed above call it rum, and another reviewer has called it cognac. Perhaps. But the note strikes me as one created in a test tube rather than a distillery or winery, as if it were an alcoholic beverage without natural ingredients.

    All in all, a synthethetic booze fragrance that doesn't quite make one synthetically intoxicated.

    09 September, 2010 (Last Edited: 10th September, 2010)

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    Bandit by Robert Piguet

    After reading so many rave reviews of Bandit--even some on various sites speaking of it in the same sentence (and with equal awe) as my beloved Tabac Blonde--I had high expectations of Bandit. I was intrigued by the idea of a sexy, bad-girl, leather scent, particularly one created by the esteemed Germaine Cellier. Of course, what I sampled, the current formulation, is not Mlle. Cellier's concoction, but one might hope to catch just a hint of the glorious past behind this perfume.

    Leather? Oh, yes. Bad-girl? Quite. Sexy? Not to my mind. What I smell is a bitter bunch of violets that were used to clean an ashtray then stuffed in the pocket of a very lived-in motorcycle jacket. I actually do know some who would consider that sexy--I don't. I'll refrain from adding more. Hillaire has already filled in the details eloquently and more than adequately. I couldn't express it better myself.

    09 September, 2010 (Last Edited: 10th September, 2010)

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    Fidji by Guy Laroche

    I first became aware of the significance of perfume (on some adolescent level) in the late 1960s. I recently set about discovering (or rediscovering) the iconic fragrances of the period, hoping to catch a bit of the decade's élan vital that I remember with so much fondness. Perhaps I didn't quite arrive at it, though I remembered something curious that I'm yet at odds to explain.

    I have read all these glowing reviews of Fidji, and find that after testing it three times, I just can't see (or smell) what others do. The notes would suggest something energizing and sparkling, but on my skin it's a bitter green floral--cold and aloof. Strange to say, I find the same bitter quality in a number of sixties haute couture fragrances, particularly some Diors, Givenchys, Carons, and Guerlains--and, when I search my memory, I can recall sniffing a number of bitter scents in the trendier department stores back then.

    I don't know exactly why this was the case, although I suspect it was something I'd call the "Grace Kelly effect"--the somewhat haughty, glamourous woman whose aura said "gaze in admiration but do not touch." Such was the iconic image of chic sophistication in those days. Meanwhile, child of the sixties that I was, I went for the warm patchouli-based floral orientals. Years later, I've learned to appreciate the more "mature" scents of the past, undoubtedly as the result of age and experience. Even so, scents like Fidji still leave me cold--a sharp, bitter floral with a certain sophistication but nonetheless cold as ice, not warm and sunny like tropical Fiji (or, if you will, Fidji).

    09 September, 2010

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    Eau Lente by Diptyque

    In the past, I've tried several Diptyque fragrances without much success. While pleasant, they've all been too slight, too ephemeral for my liking. Eau Lente, then has proved a delightful surprise, a cheerful, spicy, energetic fragrance with more than adequate sillage and longevity.

    The opening is one of cinnamon and various sweet and tangy spices. While Diptyque only lists "Indian spices" among the notes, I quite agree with jathanas' analysis: clove and nutmeg in addition to very prominent cinnamon. I can see why some have called it a Christmas candle scent--the spices do recall the holiday season--but the oppoponax basenote gives it a sensual foundation more suitable to perfume than room spray.

    After the first hour or so the spices quiet down--though they are quite lovely while they last--and a more sedate but very warm classic oppoponax scent takes over. All in all, it lasts up to six hours on me, and despite the suggestions of winter it might hold for some, it's actually a good summer fragrance. Eau Lente is a unique scent for those willing to think outside the box. It's definitely on my future purchase list.

    08 September, 2010

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    Coup de Fouet by Caron

    I had read that Coup de Fouet was being discontinued, so I hastened into NYC to visit the Caron boutique there to buy one of the remaining bottles.* I'm glad that I did.

    Coup de Fouet is, of course, the EdT version of Poive. It is not that different from its more powerful sibling scent in notes but rather in intensity. While some take issue at its supposed "weakness" compared to Poive, that's not entirely a bad thing, as Poivre has just about the most powerful sillage of any aesthetically pleasing fragrance that I know. Poive is so very overwhelming to the senses that it's impractical for most events aside from seductions. Despite its snappy pepper and clove notes, Coup de Fouet is much more subtle and is thus more versatile in its uses. A person seeking something unique but wearable in public would do well to acquire (or at least test) Coup de Fouet while it's still possible to do so.

    For the first hour or so, Coup de Fouet manifests the "crack of the whip" quality its name implies with considerable sillage for an EdT--albeit nowhere near as powerful as Poive. It shares certain spicy carnation characteristics with other Carons such as Bellodgia and the more recent Parfum Sacre, but it has a an old-school glamour that feels warmer than these. The sillage and the initial sharp edge soften noticeably after the first hour or so, but the fragrance retains a sufficient presence thereafter, as is characteristic of most Carons. The lingering afterglow is a lovely mix of clove, amber, and vanilla with a much softened trace of pepper.

    I'm sorry to see this lovely scent pass from the scene. Those who find Poive just too much perfume would be well advised to find a bottle of Coup de Fouet before it's too late.

    *Note: The Caron representative in New York was unable to confirm or deny this information, but I'm not inclined to dismiss the notice posted on the Les Senteurs website.

    07 September, 2010

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    Chinatown by Bond No. 9

    I could like this. I find this fragrance quite interesting in its somewhat unique floral/fruit blend and even more in its woods and spices. No one has mentioned this before, but I get a remarkable scent of camphor--could be the combination of guaic wood, cedar, and sandalwood--that I personally find very pleasant. (Yes, I like the smell of Tiger Balm!)

    As, I said, I could like it, but I seriously question if it's worth its outlandish price. The sillage is rather weak, though I imagine this could be overcome by dousing oneself with it. I wouldn't mind doing that with an average-priced fragrance if I liked it well enough, but to do that with any Bond No. 9 fragrance would be something beyond extravagance, I fear.

    Still, if I could find a slightly used bottle on eBay or Scent Splits . . . well, maybe.

    06 September, 2010

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    Amarige by Givenchy

    This morning I decided to play the fragrance samples version of Russian roulette, in which I close my eyes and pull out a vial from my box of (too many) samples, and I pour it on me without thinking twice. It could go off like a loaded gun and distress/embarrass me all day long (as did the super-skanky Vivienne Westwood Boudoir on a day when I had to take my car to the repair shop and the looks on the faces of the male mechanics--well!). But the risk is all part of the excitement for this perfumista.

    I have no idea where the vial came from, and the name Amarige struck fear into me, having witnessed the erstwhile gf dispose of a nearly full bottle with some uncharacteristic disgust and vehemence. (She gave me a "don't ask" look, so I didn't. I figured it had some past association with another party.)

    But still I splashed it on. It was interesting at first, an old school 80s/90s style Big Perfume with monster sillage, and I confess I still retain some fondness for that genre. Although I'm not the floral type, I must say I rather liked it. The tuberose is what stood out for me, some fruit and woods as well. I was beginning to look on eBay to find the going price for Amarige when, about an hour after application, some strange metamorphosis occurred.

    I ran out of Pine-Sol a couple of weeks ago, so why am I smelling it? Why is that smell coming from . . . ME? Then it turned plastic/metallic/fishy and finally settled on smelling like rotten vegetables. This isn't the first time a tuberose fragrance has done this to me; L'Artisan Tubereuse did something similar, only that fragrance had rather weak sillage and, mercifully, went away rather quickly. Amarige, unfortunately, is a different story. I'm afraid I'm stuck with the smell for a while as it isn't washing off too willingly.

    I couldn't understand why the gf, herself a true perfumista, would trash a bottle of Amarige with such indignation unless there was some story behind it. The reason might be quite simple: She really, really hated it.

    06 September, 2010

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    Idylle by Guerlain

    Like many other long-time Guerlain fans, I have been rather disappointed with some of the newer fragrances from the company, particularly the odd synthetic L'Instant and the fruit cocktail My Insolence. I like but don't love the now extinct Mahora, and I don't dislike (but don't wear) Champs-Elysee and Insolence. I think most of the Aqua Allegoria series (with the exception of Winter Delice) are unimpressive. Compared to other recent mainstream Guerlains, then, I think Idylle is certainly about the best--which does not necessarily mean that I intend to wear it myself.

    What stands out for me most clearly is the muguet, followed by the rose and raspberry with the other florals blending nicely. It's obviously a well-crafted scent. Some have complained about a lack of originality, and it's true that Idylle is neither cutting-edge nor game-changing--no revolution in a bottle here--but that doesn't mean that it's without some very attractive qualities.

    When I was much, much younger, I was quite fond of lily of the valley notes and occasionally wore Coty Muguet de Bois. While Idylle evokes memories of this old favorite (as it once was), it is a far, far richer and more luxurious perfume, perhaps the best muguet I've smelled, particularly with the complementary rose.

    Even so, I can't see myself wearing this. Lily of the valley is, ultimately, too delicate a scent for a tall, big-boned, "statuesque" woman such as I, I think, and I can no longer wear it well. Still, I can think of women on whom Idylle would be downright drop-dead gorgeous.

    05 September, 2010

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    Orange Blossom by Yardley

    With the current buzz about the return of Yardley's Oh! de London, the 60s scent now revived in its original formula by Tuvache/Irma Shorell, I went on eBay in search of some of other Yardley products I loved in my early days.

    This seems to be an entirely new creation--I think the "heritage" label of the collection refers to the Yardley tradition rather than to the fragrances themselves. I've been looking for some time for the perfect orange scent, so I thought Yardley Orange Blossom would be worthy of a test.

    I can say without hesitation that this is a very pleasant and comfortable fragrance that is successful in recapturing the ambiance of the traditional Yardley line. As such, it's neither exciting nor sexy but nonetheless very nice. Unfortunately, the sillage is minimal and the longevity isn't much better.

    The quest for the perfect orange continues...

    05 September, 2010

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    Black Orchid by Tom Ford

    I must thank member Miss Magic for including a decant of Black Orchid in a swap, as I might not have discovered it on my own. So much has been said about this fragrance that I was most curious, even though I wasn't entirely expecting to like it. I must say it's one of the most incredible scents I've smelled in a while.

    The first word to come to my mind as soon as I'd dabbed some on my wrists was "Hawai'i," the place where I was born and to which I try to return every winter to escape the cold Northeast for a little while. I felt I as if I were sitting on a hotel balcony in Waikiki with an orchid lei around my neck, feeling the warm sun and the cool sea breezes. There are times when the smell of orchid seems ubiquitous in Honolulu, and this fragrance brought me back to that lovely city.

    Yet for all the Pacific Island associations, I also detect something very French about Black Orchid. To my mind, it recalls "la haute parfumerie Française" of a long-lost past, the decades between the 1920s and 1950s. It is deep, rich, and utterly decadent with its huge volume and intensity. The two or three drops on my wrists is sufficient--more would be overwhelming.

    I don't get the chocolate notes so many of the previous reviewers have mentioned, but perhaps that's how the patchouli--which I find pleasant in the drydown--plays out for them. Mostly, I get orchid, combined with tropical fruits and other flowers with a low-key oriental vibe. I generally avoid fruity-floral scents, but this is nothing like the peachy white florals that seem to be dominating the market these days.

    This is not a fragrance for girly-girls or macho men, and certainly not for anyone who suffers from any sort of identity insecurity. Black Orchid is only for self-confident and worldly souls, as it takes strength of character to bring off a scent like this successfully. Subtle it is not. There is also a certain campy, over-the-top aspect to it, so perhaps it's a fragrance best reserved for those with an appreciation for the sardonic.

    I confess to love at first smell, and I'm sure to buy a bottle for myself. How often--or where--I would actually wear it is another matter altogether. I can't imagine wearing it in my office or classroom--it's just too, too much. On me, it's also a bit too "femme fatale" to consider any use other than "guilty pleasures."

    (At this point, I could let my imagination run amok, but some things really are better left unsaid.)

    02 September, 2010

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    Nahéma by Guerlain

    t seems that Nahéma elicits a wide range of responses among the previous reviewers, and that strikes me as typical of many Guerlain fragrances. There are some Guerlains I've worn for most of my life--then there are those that I've tried and tried again because I find it difficult to give up on a Guerlain I didn't like first time around. Some, like Vol de Nuit, eventually grew on me. But we all know by now that a Guerlain fragrance picks its wearer, not vice-versa. I've tried to make Nahéma love me, but apparently she's unwilling to go there.

    The worst part of the experience is the first five to ten minutes with that knock-you-off-your-feet aldehydic slap. (Indeed, I experienced this fragrance as a floral aldehyde rather than a floral oriental, as the aldehyde and rose notes completely obscure the woods and spices for me.) On me, the aldehydes stayed around a lot longer than they do with other perfumes and, quite frankly, wore out their welcome.

    I hoped it would get better, but when the drydown actually began (between ten and fifteen minutes in various tests), I was left with an old-fashioned bitter rose fragrance redolent of my childhood--even though I can't associate any particular individual with it. Rather, it's a certain vibe from decades ago, more of an ambiance than anything else. There's something about it that just shouts "I'm wearing perfume!" in a unsubtle way. It's difficult to define, but I'd call say it has a 1960s-style haughtiness (as opposed to the far less serious "swinging 60s" youth vibe of, say, Yardley Oh! de London). I find the same characteristic in Guy Laroche Fidji, Robert Piguet Bandit, and Yves Saint Laurent Y, for example--a sort of glamorous coldness.

    It pains me to say it, but to me Nahéma is church-lady-ish. In effect, its murky blend of bitter florals (with rose leading the pack) combined with the aldehyde reminds me of many of the Estee Lauder fragrances that tell the world: "I'm respectable, I have money, and I'm utterly repressed and not enjoying myself." But I expect a Guerlain fragrance to smell a whole lot more exciting and interesting than an Estee Lauder one.

    That being said, Nahéma might be the sexiest thing on earth on someone else--and that someone is more than welcome to it.

    02 September, 2010

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    L'Eau de L'Eau by Diptyque

    I'm going to go against the grain of previous reviewers and give L'Eau de L'Eau its first positive rating here. I'm aware that the name alludes to Diptyque's foundational scent, L'Eau, but honestly, when something is called "the water of the water," why does anyone expect it to behave in any other manner than that of a cologne? Colognes are known for their short duration and low sillage.

    That being said, I find much to appreciate in L'Eau de L'Eau. I can best describe it in the terms Jane Austen used to describe her own writing: "Bright, light, and sparkling." As others have observed, it opens delightfully: a lovely burst of citrus with just enough tonka and patchouli to ground it and just enough sweet spice (i.e., ginger and cinnamon) to make it interesting, yet it feels clean and refreshing overall. It is also true that the "big blast" of fragrance upon application quickly decreases, but it doesn't actually disappear. Rather, it becomes a close personal scent that I could still detect whenever I moved for well over twelve hours. I could even smell it on my wrist the morning after. I can't recall ever encountering a cologne with such endurance.

    Perhaps I'm not disappointed--in fact, I'm rather pleased--with L'Eau de L'Eau because I approach Diptyque fragrances for what they basically are: colognes. As such, I find L'Eau de L'Eau superior, both in fragrance and longevity to any of its venerable Guerlain counterparts. Colognes have their purposes, especially on the hot, moist summer days that are so common here in New York, days when anything heavier would be overbearing. As a scent for such a day, I found it a pleasure to wear.

    Notes (per LuckyScent): green mandarine, grapefruit, lemon, petitgrain, clove, cinnamon, ginger, pink peppercorns, geranium, lavender, orange blossom, benzoin, tonka, patchouli.

    24 August, 2010

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    Divin'enfant by Etat Libre d'Orange

    If fragrance can be said to have a "shape," then Divin' Enfant can readily be called a shape-shifter. One certainly can't accuse it of being linear. One problem, though: after testing it a half dozen times, one still can't be sure what "shape" it will be when it emerges from the bottle.

    This was not a purchase I had intended. Rather, an eBay seller had listed several largish Perfumed Court niche decants as a lot, and as I badly wanted one of them, I bid for (and won) the whole group. There is some quality in the whole self-mythology surrounding Etat Libre d'Orange that I find off-putting (if nonetheless fascinating), and I can make the same observation about the few other ELdO scents I've sampled. Every time I wear one of them, I simultaneous like and dislike it, and all the while find it difficult to define exactly what I'm smelling. Such is the perversity of Antoine Lie, creator of the notorious Sécrétions Magnifiques, and I'm not surprised to see that he's the nose behind Divin' Enfant.

    I completely understand the conflicting and self-conflicting remarks by the previous reviewers. Divin' Enfant can feel like a heavy oriental fragrance, can come on with the sweetness of the orange blossom or rose, get musky and murky, shift into a glowing amber scent, then turn into a bitter, skanky leather fragrance. I can't really say that this kaleidoscope of notes actually works together; rather, the different elements all seem to fight each other for control.

    It is difficult, too, to make any concrete observations about its sillage and longevity. On the average, it lasts about four hours, during which time its sillage fluctuates considerably. It seems to go away entirely, then comes back to slap you in the face when you least expect it.

    There is nothing divine or infant-like about Divin' Enfant. As I've said, there are aspects of the fragrance that I find very compelling (i.e., the orange blossom and the amber), but there are so many--including its thick oiliness on the skin--that I find sufficiently unlikeable to eliminate DE from any further consideration.

    Given the volatility of the fragrance, though, I can actually imagine it working quite nicely for others.

    22 August, 2010

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    Cozé 02 by Parfumerie Generale

    I had been meaning to try a sample of this for a while, after becoming absolutely enamoured of PG's Aomassai. I had just taken a shower before preparing for bed. I don't know what demon inspired me to open the vial and pour it on myself, but I fear I shan't sleep well tonight.

    Coze is an intoxicatingly beautiful fragrance, simultaneously sensual and spiritual, that stimulates every oversensitive nerve in one's body. It induces a mild sense of fear and disorientation even as it wraps one in a seemingly transcendent glow. The sacredness of the apparently non-existent incense note merges with the profane and decadent sensuality of the gourmand notes; but even as these olfactory entities seduce, there is a jarring green note shouting out. It is not until the drydown, some fifteen minutes later, that the canapa sativa reveals itself and recalls cannabis. (Ah, yes, a recalled memory.)

    Yes, I inhaled. I breathed this perfume deep into my being. (Perhaps the anxiety it engenders is an ancient adolescent fear of being caught with this substance?) This is very fine indeed.

    Nostalgie has described this "journey through time and space" far better than I can at this moment. The lyrics to "The Windmills of Your Mind" come back to me--the concatenation of the diverse notes strikes so many different emotional responses all at once that one can only describe it by means of metaphor.

    This is not a "nice" or "pretty" fragrance. Rather, it is a stunning work of art whose dark beauty has the power to disturb in the way that all great art must--even as it seduces one into a space one does not want to leave.

    Coze is probably best used as a private pleasure. It is fully capable of causing chaos in the workplace, and its extravagant hedonistic qualities are a bit too decadent for commonplace romantic pursuits.

    Oscar Wilde tells us that "All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril." Coze is pure art.

    Perhaps I shan't sleep well tonight enveloped in the déjà vu this fragrance evokes--but Coze is so beautiful that I really don't care.

    22 August, 2010

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    Rive Gauche by Yves Saint Laurent

    Back in the 70s, I wore the original Rive Gauche rather frequently, charmed as I was by visions of the 1920s salons of the Left Bank. And for a while I quite liked it. Then I stopped wearing it in the early 80s, and I don't think I've worn it since. I can't honestly say that I remember exactly what it smelled like in the early 70s, but I can definitely say that the current formulation isn't what the fragrance once was.

    When I recently sampled a fresh decant of Rive Gauche, it nonetheless reminded me why I stopped wearing it in the first place. I don't know if the original was reformulated at some point or if a change in my own chemistry is to blame, but this new sample brought out the reasons why I came to dislike the original somewhere along the line.

    The opening notes are pleasant enough--a bit of rose, a bit of green, but overall rather nondescript, even as it smells like no other fragrance I know. Still, there is something horribly synthetic about it. Wiithin ten minutes, it turned bitter and metallic--and oddly rancid at the same time. The metallic note was always present in Rive Gauche, but at one time I found it much less obtrusive.

    The scent faded within an hour, and what is left is a faint floral with only a trace of metal. For me, though, this current reformulation is (literally) a bitter reminder of the past.


    22 August, 2010

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    Fleurs de Bulgarie (new) by Creed

    I decided to test Fleurs de Bulgarie primarily out of historical curiosity. Even though this isn't the original formulation, I wondered what a fragrance from the Victorian age--indeed, one created for Victoria herself--would smell like. I had some preconceived notions, but it was not as I had expected. So much the better.

    My first impression was that of a deep rose, not the usual over-cultivated hybrid tea rose so common in gardens today but rather one of its somewhat more robust ancestors. I say "robust," and surely this isn't a delicate rose, yet it isn't bombastic or in-your-face like any of the modern rose fragrances most of us love to hate. There is something slightly dirty though not exactly skanky in the opening, but it quickly settles down into a rich and pleasant soliflore.

    I very rarely wear rose fragrances, although I occasionally use Stella McCartney Rose Absolute as I rather like its spicy quality. Perhaps my rose avoidance stems from the first thing that comes into my mind whenever I smell a lovely (not cheap) rose fragrance; namely, the woman for whom I was named and from whom I spent so many years attempting to differentiate myself--in other words, my mother. (It is not from lack of love; rather, it is necessary that a woman become her own person rather than her mother's clone.) And she was the first thought in my mind upon smelling FdB, as I was transported back to a memory of a box she kept in her dresser that once contained some exquisite rose soaps and retained the fragrance long after they were gone.

    Like the aroma from that old box, Fleurs de Bulgarie lingers long, retaining its dry-down scent for as long as twelve hours or more. Although strong, it stays close to the skin and shouldn't disturb anyone in one's immediate environment; indeed, it is not a disturbing scent.

    Now, given all this, I am sure that some would immediately slap the hateful "old lady" stigma to Fleurs de Bulgarie, just as they do to anything more mature than the celeb frag du jour. And indeed, the image most people in the 21st century have of Queen Victoria--if they think of her at all or even know who she was--is that of a repressed and repressive octogenarian. But Victoria wasn't always an unpleasant elderly woman; in 1845, when James Creed created FdB for her, she was a rather pretty twenty-six year old monarch, the "people's princess" of her day turned queen.

    While FdB isn't exactly what I'd call sexy, it does have an attractive appeal to it, such that I imagine I could find it alluring on the right woman. Still, in the back of my mind, there is that other woman. In the words of Kate Bush, "Mother Stands for Comfort." (Well, sometimes.) FdB has become my favorite scent for applying to my wrists at bedtime. I find it comforting.

    It's not an "old lady" scent. It's just old. And that, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing.

    22 August, 2010

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    Kelly Calèche by Hermès

    At some point in time, I bought a sample of this (in edp formulation) on eBay. I'd read something about Kelly Caleche that made me think I'd really, really like it--but by the time the sample arrived, I had so many samples on hand I couldn't remember why I wanted it in the first place. I took a whiff. A ferocious blast of green--ach! (I presume it's actually the citrus note.) Green fragrances are not friends of mine. They make me think of neglected gardens and spoiled produce--and the creatures such things attract. So I put it aside.

    Months later, I read some rapturous reviews of this fragrance that didn't exactly jibe with the green slap in the face. Hmmm. Leather, you say? Ah, yes. I remembered. Someone said it could stand on its own next to Caron Tabac Blonde. So I tried KC again, still thinking that I really wasn't going to like it. But again, the vile green raised its ugly head. No, no, no--I hate, hate, hate this! How dare anyone compare this to the divine Tabac Blond? Try as I might, I couldn't get the scent to go away and it stayed for hours....

    Later that evening, as I was preparing for bed, I wondered what smelled so good. It was rather like the smell of a beautiful, new, elegant shoe (and I do love beautiful leather goods) surrounded by flowers. It was very, very good indeed. The Green Monster had morphed into a thing of great sensual beauty.

    Within days, I bought a bottle--a small one, just to be on the safe side. I still have to cope with the jarring green at the outset, but the drydown is surely worth the temporary pain. The comparison to Tabac Blond is a false one; they are two very different scents, sharing only the leather note. Kelly Calèche is, nonetheless, an elegant scent in its own right.

    21st August, 2010

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    Safran Troublant by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    I had tried a sample of Safran Troublant a while back and found it quite intriguing, very different from many of the more floral L'Artisan fragrances I've tested. Finding a whole bottle at a decent price, though, wasn't the easiest task, but I finally managed to get a partial bottle from a swap site.

    Yesterday was my first public wearing of the scent. I knew I had an exacting day ahead of me--an appointment with my therapist (because one always feels a bit "troublant") plus as many errands as I could fit in before the anticipated thunderstorms. Although my experience has been that many L'Artisan fragrances are quite short on sillage and longevity, Safran Troublant nevertheless outlasted my own energy, and it was still going strong when I collapsed into an early bed last night.

    On me, Safran Troublant is a heady, voluptuous spicy oriental. Saffron, I find, is the most prominent note, surrounded by a rich and harmonious blend of passion flower, rose, and vanilla. Every now and then I got a whiff of sandalwood emerging from under my clothing when I moved suddenly. All in all, I was surrounded by a luxuriously pleasant but unobtrusive aura of fragrance for over eight hours.

    The scent developed very little over time--but when something is this lovely, who wants it to change?

    21st August, 2010

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    Voleur de Roses by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    A pleasant and not horribly sweet rose fragrance. Unfortunately, it lacks real oomph. The scent is a bit too timid to begin with, and it fades very, very rapidly. I tried it on both my skin and in a steaming bath. Alas! The results were the same both times.

    Thief of roses? Ironically true! They were snatched away so quickly that I had no time to savour them.

    21st August, 2010

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    Royal Bain de Caron / Royal Bain de Champagne by Caron

    And so I took a bath in it. Literally. I admit my French is imperfect--the dazzlingly sophisticated French professor at my small undergraduate school went on a sabbatical leave and never returned so I took Italian instead--but "bain," royal or otherwise, suggests bathing, to my mind, even though something might have been lost in my translation.

    (Historical note: The nouveau-riche Texan for whom this was created expressed a desire to take UN BAIN DANS LE CHAMPAGNE, and Caron did its best to oblige, though there's no champagne to be found here.)

    This bottle had been sitting around the house untouched for over two years, dating from the time of the grand romance with the Caronista whose head was filled with Modernist fantasies. I wasn't too sure what to do with it then--the splash bottle itself said "pour me in the bathtub" whenever I looked at it--and after the romance ended bitterly, I couldn't be bothered with it.

    And then it resurfaced. My thought upon sniffing the bottle was that there must be some sort of "Caronade" (a la the time-honoured Guerlainade) as it possessed an unmistakable Caron vibe (so to speak). I just wasn't sure whether I thought it was truly a wonderful Caron, however...

    So while the steaming water poured into the tub, I added a generous dose of RBdC. (As I've said elsewhere, it's an interesting way to find how a fragrance smells when it isn't on one's own body.) First impression: HORRID, absolutely horrid. A wild melange of diverse notes that didn't seem to work together. But I just left the room and let the water run, and when I returned it had settled into a pleasant if unusual amber floral that I found quite soothing once I was soaking in it.

    After the bath, I splashed some on my still-naked self: OMG! HORRID IN THE EXTREME! I actually thought I was going to have an asthma attack as the vapours seeped into my respiratory passages. I had visions of 1950s B-movies about killer smells emanating from a secret, sinister laboratory. This went on for ten to fifteen minutes, but I stubbornly held on, reckoning it would soon dissipate, like the opening blast from an old-fashioned floral aldehyde. (In fact, that's exactly what I thought it was--not a floral oriental.) The storm passed--not quickly enough for my liking--and what remained was an interesting if somewhat perplexing vintage-type floral. Not the best I've ever smelled, but hardly the worst--let's just say there's something prototypically (if not stereotypically) "vintage" about it, as might be expected from a product of the 1930s.

    In the final analysis, it's a pleasant enough amber-based floral with a rose top note that in my mind recalls an old sepia print photo, like that of my German grandparents that was once on the bureau in my parents' bedroom. The polite oriental notes combined with the amber are, in some transitory moments, achingly nostalgic. The incense note, though, seems "off"; it disturbs the overall harmony and, as far as I can tell, accounts for the opening stench. (And I do mean STENCH.)

    A worthwhile fragrance for those who like vintage scents--if one can survive the initial shock.

    21st August, 2010

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    Aqua Allegoria Winter Delice by Guerlain

    Although I found many (but not all) of the Aqua Allegoria series to be among the worst things that Guerlain has produced since the corporate takeover--even worse than L'Instant--I absolutely adore Winter Delice. I've often wondered why it was included in the series, as it's as different from its soliflore companions as it could possibly be.

    I was lucky to find a 100ml bottle at my local Marshall's for a giveaway price, and about six years on I still have around 40% left. It's a formidable scent--a little goes a long way--but I'm now reserving it for special use in cold weather, as it has ceased to exist in Guerlain's lineup. The name Winter Delice (sans the Aqua Allegoria designation) has since been bestowed on one of the Guerlain exclusives, but notes for the newer scent are significantly different.

    For me, Winter Delice conjures up everything that is wonderful about the colder months of the year--evergreens and the smell of holiday baking combined in a rich, deep gourmand fragrance that is actually quite, quite sexy. It recalls both Caron Nuit de Noël and JPG Classique (two fragrances I also love), though less refined than NdN and much more so than Classique.

    Perhaps if it had been allowed to stand on its own and not lumped in with the Aqua Allegoria high-pitched monotone florals, it might have stood a better chance at commercial success. Instead, many of the other early fragrances in the series went to their deserved fate--but took Winter Delice with them.

    Such a pity that this wonderful fragrance is no longer available. If only Guerlain would bring it back.

    21st August, 2010

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    FlowerbyKenzo by Kenzo

    I'm afraid this fragrance has caused me some cognitive dissonance, and, judging by the responses here, it seems others feel this, too. Strange how such a "LITE" fragrance--that insidious marketing term is somehow more to the point than that respectable word "light"--can inspire such polarized responses as manifested here.

    But to say "I love this" or "I hate this" without attempting to analyze the issue does not constitute a genuine review, so I'll endeavour to explain. In the first instance, I find it difficult to comprehend that a fragrance of this sort--so airy, so frightfully floral and sweet, so (dare I say it?) "girly-girl"--can possibly be a floral oriental. An oriental that lacks mystery and darkness strikes me as a self-annihilating contradiction in terms. What would be the point of such a fragrance? I wonder if it was somehow supposed to be "cute," but it doesn't quite work out that way, either. And although I warn my students that "I don't get it" is not a very thoughtful response, I still fail to comprehend just what Flower by Kenzo is trying to be or do.

    FbK, as far as I can tell, is a rather simple linear floral with a little dose of musk and vanilla tossed in to "sex it up" a bit. Even so, "sexy" is not an adjective that comes to my mind when smelling it. I can see that for some it might be a **useful** fragrance; that is, it's not so powerful as to be overwhelming in the workplace, it's not particularly unique, and it doesn't require a larger-than-life personality to pull it off. I think I could tolerate it on others, but I would find it intolerably cloying on myself; but then again, I've never worked in close proximity with someone who wears it, and I can imagine that continued exposure to this sticky violet/rose confection could become quite, quite irritating.

    But, ultimately, what we have here is simulacrum as Jean Baudrillard would define it: a copy without an original. FbK is a recreation of the scent of a flower that has no scent, which furthermore has two completely synthetic notes (hedione and cyclosal) as its basenotes. It is hardly surprising, then, that it smells like nothing in particular. Baby powder smells quite natural next to this.

    Having said all this, I find it hard to like any fragrance so devoid of mystery and personality. It seems to me that these two elements are a large part of what makes wearing perfume desirable in the first place. I don't "hate" it, I simply find it too insipid to feel any extreme emotion about it. The truth is, it's one of the most insipid fragrances I've smelled, and I find insipidity harder to deal with than downright obnoxiousness. Given the choice between FbK and Lanvin's in-your-face too-much-can-kill-you Rumeur, I'll gladly take the latter.

    21st August, 2010

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    Émeraude by Coty

    Until I read the reviews today, I'd quite forgotten the role that Emeraude played in the evolution of my current tastes in fragrances.

    Somehow, sweet innocent "girly-girl" scents never had a significant place in my perfume repertory. Florientals have always been my favourites, not surprising perhaps, considering that Emeraude (along with Yardley Oh! de London) were the mainstays among the earliest scents I ever wore. (Odd, but both were also vivid green liquids.) My mother wore (and loved) Emeraude, as did one of my older sisters and some of my mother's friends who would come to visit. (Unfortunately, none of them knew French--except my mother, who knew a little but spoke it with a gruff Dutch accent--and they called it something that sounded a bit like "hemorrhoid.") When I was in my late teens, some of the more "worldly" women I knew (i.e., in their early twenties), talked about it as an accessory to their romantic adventures. (One of them even taught me the correct pronunciation!) It seemed to me that it must be one of the sexiest fragrances on earth....

    Now that I'm writing a book on the literature and culture of the 60s, memories of my perceptions during that stunning moment in time often emerge in my mind. I was very, very naive back then, but Emeraude opened a door to a more sophisticated world that I desperately wanted to be a part of. As soon as I had a little income of my own, I started wearing Shalimar, Crepe de Chine, Antilope, Madame Rochas, Chanel No. 5 and No. 22, Arpege, My Sin, Quelques Fleurs, Je Reviens, and even L'Heure Bleue--odd choices, perhaps, for a girl not yet twenty.

    I still have clear memories of Emeraude: jasmine, orange, sandalwood--all notes that I still love in the fragrances I wear now, more than four decades later. Still, I've never smelled the current formulation and haveno desire to try the version I see in K-Mart these days--nor am I going to seek out a vintage bottle. I'd like to keep the memories just as they are.

    After all, to paraphrase Simone Signoret, nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

    21st August, 2010

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    Rien by Etat Libre d'Orange

    Rien is not nothing; it is something, but defining that "something" is a task that has proved more elusive than I would have imagined.

    This is the second fragrance I've subjected to the "steaming bathtub test" here in my hotel room in Honolulu, and, for what it's worth, it performed quite well under those conditions. The scent of Rien mingled with the steam was quite heady and certainly unique. I've discovered that a few/a lot of drops of fragrance in hot bathwater can bring out aspects of a perfume that one might not detect on one's own skin-it also makes for a glorious bath. The aldehyde, incense, and leather are very sharply defined. There are moments when the leather accords evokes Hermes Kelly Caleche, despite Rien being a much less refined scent.

    But how a fragrance performs in bathwater and how it works on the skin are two different matters. After applying Rien, I felt a pleasant aura of leather and incense--and some hard-to-define floral accord--surrounding me for several hours. At the same time, however, there was a strange, synthetic note that was as disturbing as it was intriguing. I'm still not sure what it was--I didn't perceive it as any sort of too, too personal smell as some have suggested, nor, for that matter, as particularly erotic in nature. Perhaps the problem I had was that it didn't smell natural in the slightest, but rather like an odd chemical compound that isn't really fit for human consumption.

    The sillage and longevity are quite good, but after four or five hours Rien's disturbing quality increases to the extent that it overpowers its more positive aspects. By that time, one wished it gone.

    Non, je ne regrette Rien--but I'm not in the least tempted to repeat the test, much less buy a full bottle.

    (Apologies to Edith Piaf.)

    19 August, 2010

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    Pois de Senteur de Chez Moi by Caron

    I recall my mother growing sweetpeas when I was a child; I do not, however, have any recollection of what they smelled like, which is odd because back then I made a point of sniffing any and every flower with which I came in contact. I would have to say that it probably doesn't matter much whether Pois de Senteur de Chez Moi smells like sweetpeas or not. The overall affect is not one of a particular flower but rather that of an abstract floral aesthetic representation of an ideal.

    While some less inquiring minds would dismiss this fragrance as an "old lady" scent, I think that "nostalgic" is more to the point. Yes, the fragrance is "old" in the sense of its long history and thus best described as a classic Modernist perfume, albeit not a typical one. It has little or nothing to do with the age of the wearer; rather, it has much to do with the wearer's outlook on life. When I call it "nostalgic," I am describing a sense of longing for a time past, turned to shades of sepia in the memory, in this dusty floral.

    This was my impression, at least, on first applying PdS. I didn't notice the typical aldehydic "blast" so typical of many (perhaps most) Carons, just a pleasant and powdery (if not particularly sexy) floral. After twenty to thirty minutes, however, it transmuted into something less admirable. If I were to bring my wrist to close to my nose, I experienced a rather rancid smell that is more prominent in Caron's Infini, so prominent that I can't wear that fragrance. Some have called it the "plastic flower" note. I have yet to figure out what note is behind this. Still, if I kept my wrists away from my face, I could discern a pleasant, almost interesting floral nothing like the nastiness on my wrists.

    A significant transformation took place once I had to make a late-night run to the grocery store. After stepping out into the hot and humid air of a Long Island summer, I was increasingly aware of a certain spiciness developing and manifesting itself when I exerted myself physically. This was the most pleasurable phase of all. I'd be hard pressed to call this a floral oriental, still some slightly oriental qualities made themselves known--probably the sandalwood and cedar. Within a few hours, though, it wound itself down into a pleasant, unobtrusive floral that was still with me when I woke up the following morning.

    Considering that my sample was a parfum, I must say that Pois de Senteur is one of the less exciting or intense examples of Caron's urn fragrances. The sillage is moderate, yet the endurance is quite good. Despite some ambiguity in my experience with it, it's a beautifully crafted fragrance in the old high style, and I cannot give it any less than a thumbs up.


    Top notes: Hyacinth, tincture of rose and cyclamen
    Middle notes: Jasmine and lily-of-the-valley
    Base notes: Musk, sandalwood, virginia cedar, vanille and lime.

    Read more: http://www.basenotes.net/ID10210566.html#ixzz0x0RI1Klg

    19 August, 2010

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    Cruel Intentions by By Kilian

    There is more to Cruel Intentions than the notes listed above. According to LuckyScent, the full list of notes is: Bergamot calabria oil, orange blossom oil, violet accord, centifolia rose absolute, agarwood, Indian papyrus oil, gaiacwood oil, Haiti vetiver oil, sandalwood, styrax absolute, castoreum absolute, vanilla absolute, musk--quite a plethora of exotic and expensive ingredients.

    My first impression of this scent was that of a typical woody oriental--with a bit of barbershop thrown in. Nothing remotely "cruel" about it. The citrus notes glow briefly. This fragrance, though, is anything but linear, and its first shift was to something a bit "dirty" (as others have noted) yet not quite absolutely skanky. This phase passes quickly, as the fragrance evolves into a voluptuous, creamy melange with the woods dominating the florals. Although I was underwhelmed at first sniff, by this point I was becoming quite intrigued. There is something in the blend--not just one particular note but rather the blend as an entity unto itself--that reminds me of classic French haute parfumerie. It is not so much that it reminds me of this Caron or that Guerlain--for it certainly doesn't--but rather that it possesses a sensuality and something close to grandiosity that evokes the perfumes of yesteryear.

    It would have been wonderful if its longevity were a bit more potent. The sillage was impressive (but not overbearing) for about three hours on me, after which there was a significant decrease. It has nonetheless stayed with me for nearly seven hours now, more than a mere skin scent but very subtle.

    It is not the masterpiece that Back to Black is. But, then again, to improve on that fragrance would be a most difficult task. Cruel Intentions is much more subtle. Through most of the time that I've worn it this evening, I continued to tell myself that it's lovely, but not worth $200+. But now I'm so enthralled with it and so sorry to sense it fading that I'm beginning to think that it just might be.

    That it has made me love it and made me feel (on some slightly insane level) that I can't live without it--well, perhaps that was the Cruel Intention after all.

    22 June, 2010

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    Love by By Kilian

    Several years ago, there was a song that I would hear on the radio much too often, something to the effect of "I smell sex and candy," sung in a lascivious, breathless voice--like a dirty old man pursuing underage girls. Beware of strange men with candy--or so my mother repeatedly told me years ago. (And so I always have.)

    I'd buried that creepy melody somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought, but it all came back to me while I tested Love: Don't Be Shy. In fact, it was the first thing that registered in my mind. Sickening sweet and skanky--a sex-and-candy fragrance for all the Lolitas out there. Indeed, it smells like root bear and ultra-sugary candy, thick and syrupy, with an overload of truly dirty musk and vanilla. I'm vaguely reminded of Vivienne Westwood Boudoir, which has a similar sort of unhygienic vibe.

    I've tested it twice now and it's on my skin as I write. I can smell neroli and some other overbearing floral notes (marinated in some soft drink), but I really can't say that any particular note stands out for me. But then again, it's so unbearable that I can't bring myself to lift my wrist to my nose to sort out the notes as it's giving me a ferocious headache. I must wash it off. NOW.

    For the record, it has monster sillage from only a tiny sample. It seems as if it will last forever. Anyone who wears this will undoubtedly be noticed. Love: Don't Be Shy? No one who's shy should come anywhere near this.

    I am sorry to say that, aside from several of Vivienne Westwood's productions, this is one of the most repugnant fragrances I've ever smelled. I would rather be saturated with Lanvin Rumeur--or CB I Hate Perfume Black March--than wear this.
    Love: Don't Be Shy is the fourth By Killian fragrance I've tested. One has been fabulous enough for me to desire a full bottle (Back to Black) and another to make me consider that possibility (Cruel Intentions). A third (Liaisons Dangereuses) left me feeling indifferent. So it isn't as if I didn't give it a fair chance.

    Now, bring on the soap and water, as I have to face the public today!


    22 June, 2010

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    L'Air du Desert Marocain by Tauer

    I appreciate all the praise other posters have heaped upon L`Air du Desert Marocain, and, in theory (based on the notes and my penchant for spicy oriental fragrances), I should love it, too. But my experience has been "WHERE'S THE FIRE?"

    I used a sample vial one morning last winter before running out to do some errands. The opening was a flare of spice and smoke, enough to burn one's eyes. But fine--it cooled down rather quickly to the point that I hardly noticed it. About ten to fifteen minutes later, though, I thought something electrical was burning in my condo or an adjoining one. (During winter in New York such things are all too frequent.) In the midst of inspecting the kitchen, I realized the smell was coming from ME--it was this fragrance. False alarm.

    I went out into the bitterly cold weather to do my errands, barely smelling the fragrance under a heavy coat. I forgot all about it. Then, about an hour later, while I was driving, I started to smell smoke, spice--and meat(?!?) Surely no one in their right mind would be grilling outdoors in this weather (but then I'm not sure everyone in my neighborhood is in their right mind). Then, once again, I realized the source.

    I'm sure this smells wonderful on many individuals, but on me it comes across as "Opium Barbeque."

    Fortunately, it didn't stay around for too long.

    22 June, 2010

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