Reviews by anomie et ivoire

    Showing 1 to 30 of 37.
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    Black Cashmere by Donna Karan

    Somewhat overrated, especially compared to the other superior Donna Karan scents (pre-DKNY technicolor devo). The drydown is in fact smoothly incensed, graceful and grand. But one must sit through a sandpaper opening and riveted middle. It feels like those too tight, high waisted early 90s jeans looked. Though I love strong scents, Black Cashmere is almost obscenely loud, an all-black clad chain-smoking corporate artist with a booming New York accent. She might be your type. I strongly prefer Signature and Chaos. Black Cashmere is the scent of the incense itself, fire and all. Signature and Chaos waft more of the incense smoke.

    29 November, 2012

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    Donna Karan by Donna Karan

    Came for the lilies and incense, bizarre original Stephan Weiss-designed sculptural flacon, and a rumored favorable comparison to Daim Blond. Staying for the crisp and strong sillage, remarkable tenacity, a certain gasoline and cleaning products hypermodern slant. An androgynous, intellectual but soft composition that samples from the best of all genres to bring in fruit, woods, florals, suede, and resins in thoughtful, serious united structures like elegant code leading to electronic music. Almost chilling in its contemplative remove but with a hint of just enough warmth to be human.

    29 November, 2012

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    Fille d'Eve by Nina Ricci

    Everything misted glass. Texturally, like a pearl. Varied and circular stages but minimal note separation--polished into abstraction. The way the notes are sheer, intricate, feminine, delicate, pictorial rather than literal, patterns of flowers rather than flowers crushed: this all recalls fine lace. A peach that smells of a kiss, jasmine that is breath, and the rest is poetry recited softly, dutifully or maybe a prayer. Rosary beads, circles, string, fingers, thoughts, wants, time, soft clicks, murmurs; breakable but shining beatific. Eve's daughter is making up for her mother's sins with total purity, but she takes her mother's gift of knowledge as a private love though she is quiet and chaste. She does not blush.

    29 November, 2012

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    Funeral Home by Demeter Fragrance Library

    I wore this exclusively for years before becoming interested in perfume, and in the room spray form of all things, though maybe fitting for a way to wear a home for transient dead bodies on a living one? Now I have this in the oil and am much impressed by the better longevity, depth, richness of Demeter's oils.

    The white florals are pulled up by their roots, trailing dirt, maybe worms, then "shade(d) and shove(d) and render(ed) clean" by arrangements, green sponge wreathes and formaldehyde.

    Certainly classically gothic but not morbid, Funeral Home is to me a vast improvement on the rooty dankness reputation of Iris Silver Mist, though the two are not much alike. The mood of vegetal tuber solemnity and masses of clean dirt unearthed are similar, but Funeral Home marries subliminal spices to surface ceremony and is so strikingly heavy-light as any joke about death.

    Strange, but for a death-humor-or-not contemplating fragrance, this smells very much alive. Gucci Envy's calmer partner in florist shop banality made flesh-touching novelty.

    "What do the dead want with fake flowers that never die, how cruelly optimistic and too late" I wrote in a graveyard as a scrappy peri-gothic kid. Then a poem titled, yeah eyeroll, 'a most septic mausoleum,' well, Funeral Home is that, and it is the living breathing flower that suggests death so keenly with the vulnerability and totality of its vital heights. This will always be a favorite and will--for whatever forever is--forever be home.

    29 November, 2012

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    Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel

    I oversprayed in zealous enjoyment while still a beginner and thought this a synthetic glorified femine hygiene monster. Sprayed instead on freshly cleaned skin and in colder air, such austere beauty. The perfect scent for a cloistered poetess in Amherst or a governess in love with her tragic benefactor. As a moony-eyed high school art goth I wore Demeter's Funeral Home. Anais Anais is the quintessential goth girl perfume in sheep's clothing, as it takes those lillies and carnations central to Funeral Home and burns sweet sad incense in a soft leather-gloved hand, blowing away dust to make way for stark powder and milky green stems. Put the marketing, iconic as it is, aside and disregard the teenage girl demographic. Anais Anais is most of all literary in that it is linear, associative, bittersweet, concerned with love and death but couched in accessible metaphor, wise but virginal though not too youthful. The namesake Nin's writings I do not detect anywhere in mood or vision, hers an entirely sexualized world. This commercial perfume sold in plastic and largely unchanged since its creation is more spiritual. And more than any of these literary figures evoked, no Lolita here for me in the least by the way--she is much more Angel, I have to recite some of Ophelia's lines during any wearing. Nunneries, primrose paths, morbid mad tragic wistful love. The literary gothic romance.

    21st November, 2012

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    Boucheron by Boucheron

    Viscous, plasticine, busier than a Byzantine mosaic and as finely wrought, but the buxom lavishness comes on like a bordello madame. And what is she selling? Boucheron has an amber agenda, a slick citrus schtick, oxymoronic or not vanillic dominatrix, bridesmaid fighting violently over maximalist white and orange bouquet gold digger slash murderess aspirations, and on and on. Thrilling on the right opera diva. For those less given to dancing in fountains in strapless gowns, original formula Rochas Byzance is a dreamlike, more nuanced take on post-opiated excess that I much prefer to Boucheron.

    21st November, 2012

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    Todd Oldham by Todd Oldham

    Unusual, and not really in a good way, which is a bummer, 'cause I love Todd Oldham and his brilliant design sensibility. The banana and cinnamon combo seems to grow stronger by the hour--sort of mushy and gritty. A well-constructed hybridization of gourmand, chypre, and oriental qualities, Todd Oldham is substantial and rich, a throwback to the 80s, but I found its tropical elements and similarity to the badly reformulated Cinnabar almost unwearable. Must love foody, creamy, strong smells to love this. Seems this might be for a certain breed of very experienced perfume lover who knows just what they like. Sort of intentionally barely off-kilter and crafty like Todd Oldham himself. The considerable strength and slight imbalance of progression might be better in coldest winter and anything-goes festive nighttime.

    21st November, 2012

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    Nahéma by Guerlain

    Structurally and as a chemical creation, Nahema is certainly interesting for its famed simulated super complex "digital rose" impression. Yet for wear I do not find current Nahema compelling, more like one of those it's-been-done-to-death rose ankle tattoos. The vintage extrait is much better, though I couldn't quite figure it out enough to review (the sample I had of the parfum may have been slightly off, so it's up in the air).

    In current pdt, it's earthy, almost vegetal but too luxe and Guerlain to be naturalistic. Nahema reminds me of a backyard garden dotted with rotting pumpkins just after Halloween, and some kids threw their less desirable candies into the mix with that opening hint of a burnt chocolatey sugar shoved into all of the wild, ornate abstraction. An oily brightness evokes sunflowers even more than roses.

    The lasting power of the current pdt isn't great: loud for a few minutes then very quiet for two hours, then gone (this may be due to proverbial "perfume-eating skin"). I also don't get along well with Samsara for being similarly overly complex but simplistic. Maybe Jean-Paul Guerlain's post-60s later baroque, almost prog rock style just doesn't appeal to me. Likely this is a case of not seeing the perfumer's point of view but being able to admire the effect only at a distance.

    On repeat wears and sniffs, another American candy holiday keeps coming to mind in flashes of memory: Valentine's Day. The contrived romance, unappetizing glut of chocolates, plasticky dew drop roses. And this very same evocation could be delightfully irreverent, romantic, or disco cool to someone else. And some of the times I wore Nahema were quite enjoyable--a tough opening and an interesting drydown. Nahema does smell very modern, almost futuristic, kind of like a pared-down Poison for punk and grunge revivalist girls of the endless nostalgic future. Of a slightly different bent, I prefer scary Aromatics Elixir, notorious La Nuit, and eerily perfect Voleur de Roses for unsettling rose with thorns intact, not digitized.

    21st November, 2012

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    Diorella by Christian Dior

    Naughty bodily, perhaps willfully odd funny girl fragrance but rises above it to typeless and timeless. That melon: so far from the calone-note melon of today, as if they're all silicone implants and the original here was this unbridled gorgeous curve of flesh, totally comfortable with itself in its own skin. The peach and herbs smell still alive, on the tree and vine, though tinged with a decadent voluptuousness, overripe. The citrus too has a subtle dark humor in place of lemon's usual easy smile.

    Vitamin tablets, kitchen windowbox gardens, the rippling reflection of sunlight on a pool in a David Hockney painting, the cursive signature of Roudnitska, swimming figure eight laps to eternity--the coda of Diorella's fruit-green-fruit-green structure. Such warmth, so humane, likely more than any other in the typically gruff or pouty classic chypre lineup.

    21st November, 2012

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    Jicky by Guerlain

    Even being a lady who's into the ladies, I never really got the appeal of Bardot (beyond her being extremely good-looking). Her acting was unsubtle, and she always looked mean and stupid. Still she wore simple sweaters and jeans exceptionally well, and her singing on Gainsbourg tracks presages "feat." guests on hip hop tracks ("Initials B.B.!"). Reading Beatles biographies as a kid, I first heard of Jicky as having been Bardot's signature, and that therefore all kinds of famous women wore it to emulate her. Often times those she inspired were far more interesting than the original, and therein lies my problem with Jicky. I love Jicky when its classicism is undercut with a casual look but prefer the way the Jicky idea was reworked into Shalimar. Jicky was always described simply as "sexy" when name-checked in biographies and novels again and again, just as Bardot is the cliche-symbol of "sexy."

    The vintage edt, my favorite concentration so far, shows off Jicky's light and careless, almost glib elegance. It smells like gin and tonics at a boring prim English countryside party. Taking to the dance floor and having a drunken good time while others sit by uncomfortable. Bardot dancing in And God Created Woman fits.

    The vintage pdt smells more like a royal cat palace, which could just as well be a euphemism for bordello and might be here, but more so I do smell catbox and crème brûlée alongside very clean old world apothecary.

    The current edt is refreshing and smells very put-together masculine but way too fleeting (basically edc).

    The current pdt smells like gummy candy and fake civet, and I get hardly any lavender. I have yet to try any parfum concentration. No concentration I have tried lasts well at all, but considering this is a perfume meant for people who take pride in spending money, that's probably a fine status symbol, longevity and projection being a burden in polite society. In all of the concentrations I've tried, the lavender is not so prominent as the rosemary, citrus, and a vague herbaceous-gourmand abstraction to my nose. For a clearer, simpler (and much cheaper) lavender, I prefer Pour Un Homme, though it is not really that comparable to Jicky (much less subtle).

    Jicky straddles the divide between shameless and prim, an unimpeachable classic, but do I actually want to wear it often? Do I want to wear a museum piece hat that was scandalous in its day and whose style was revived in the 40s, 60s, then again in the 80s? No, I'll take something a little less heavy with story and intentional degradation of quality. Maybe the parfum concentration will be a revelation. In the meantime, I enjoy having Jicky in my collection and consider it one of the most casually wearable, unisex Guerlains around, although an aversion to juicy citrus and obvious sexiness makes me rarely feel like wearing it.

    21st November, 2012

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    Knowing by Estée Lauder

    An amalgam of all the best chypres, and more than the sum of its parts, Knowing is among Kerleo's best creations and Lauder's finest releases. Only the most minute dab of the vintage parfum or edp is ever needed to bask in this glorious scent all day long complete with alluring sillage; oh Lauder's glorious economy of scent, as Knowing could be a great Patou with ease or could pass for Caron or vintage Dior at four times the price.

    The rose chypre par excellence, this rose is dry and evil, seductive but menacing and grim. The odd fruits are Dionysian offerings, nothing ripe or sweet about them. Knowing is crypto-pagan but overtly 90s working woman austere. The Paulina Porizkova commercial from the early 90s portrays a time much like today's: full of upheaval, solemnity, uncertainty, goofy as the ultimate fall into solipsism in the ad is. Knowing is just another perfume, but when I wear it, its strength, boldness, seeming olfactive translation of staring difficulty right in the face and prevailing, gives me a kind of solidity and feeling of steely grace. Knowing is somewhat industrial, sky scrapers and platform heels, but the oakmoss and civet keep on whispering about witchy secrets and sex. There is a divinity and untouchable simplicity to how absolutely right Knowing is when used very sparingly: hours of style and mystery.

    21st November, 2012

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    Pour Une Femme (new) by Caron

    Love rose? Love incense? Better yet together? Pour Une Femme is for you, then. Otherwise surely no (and these two being my favorite notes ever, disregard this and all my reviews, as we are surely perfume nemeses). For the edp two batches ago (pre-major reformulation): the orange and rose meld into a hybrid fantasy creature beyond any roseness or orangeness--neither tart nor flowery, not citric. Instead a bloodlike velvet but sheer wash of rich rouge emerges first. Then a spicy almost candied impression carries over to an ultimately pleasantly mismatched incense chypre drydown that is resolutely Caron. A communicative, festive, but versatile scent if worn in small quantities (it is a bit loud), Pour Une Femme seems simple, even ditzy or slutty, at first spritz, but shows complexity and wit over time by reinventing the rose-incense spectre of feminine wiles into something electric and vivacious but very consciously nostalgic. The gritty, scratchy abstract spiciness is femme fatale done with irony and earthiness, though the flacon could have benefitted from more of an injection of either.

    21st November, 2012

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    Pot Pourri by Santa Maria Novella

    Outrageously gorgeous aromatic giving way to a resin and spice concoction with more than enough reference to dried herbs and flowers but undercut with a rarified medicinal sweetness that is not the least bit candied. Intimations of soil, camphorous balms at healing retreats, an old time invalid taking a constitutional; all is unhealthy poetic distance washed over with a rouge swipe at vigor. Still, the hand is gloved in keeping with refinement. A triangulation occurs in the pyramid and over time: lighter opening/heavy middle/lighter drydown and spice/medicine/spice. Not at all of this time, older in feel than most any fragrance I have tried.

    21st November, 2012

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    LouLou by Cacharel

    In colder weather I crave this sly plastic New Wave genius almost daily. Sharpie huffing opening with heady cosmetics melange ... Then up peeks a white floral middle edging on melancholy ... then the base to end all bases of shameless big vanilla and cheap but cheerful incense unfolds like an origami universe of strange comforts and plush oddity. Loulou is the freedom and comfort in being offbeat; as in "yeah, I don't need your normal, your expensive, your respectable, I've got (in the words of RuPaul) Charisma Uniqueness Nerve and Talent!"

    Loulou gets called out as the extroverted party goodtime gal super flirt a lot, but I wear Loulou as a comfort scent when alone or when I want to make a don't mess with me kind of gleefully tacky statement in less than interesting public places. The vintage is more floral while the current formula is more incensey. Plasticky, shamelessly modernist Loulou gets better with every wear. As a kid, all of my babysitters wore this and had the then-it-seemed toylike bottles on their vanity tables; I desperately wanted what was in those forbidden fruit bottles, and who knew the Barbie plastic held something so worthy of all that childish longing? Maybe the best teen-saturated perfume ever, and I fully plan to wear this one forever. Iconic, emotive, and entirely accessible and unpretentious.

    21st November, 2012

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    Hypnotic Poison by Christian Dior

    Menardo's genius on fullest display, this is a sex grenade: a modernized and de-sane-itized L'Heure Bleue without any of that one's cumbersome class. A brunette bombshell (or a blonde with dark roots?). It may be widely worn and a designer scent, drowning in the most used note around--vanilla--but damned if this isn't pure magic. The slightest breeze animates Hypnotic Poison as a slinky villainess. Cruella, the Queen of Hearts, The Black Queen from Barbarella ... all the great meanies could wear this, but at once a girl's night out cuteness keeps things barely tamed. ...Ch-ch-ch-Cherry Bomb! Suburban rebellion in torn fishnets, Cherie Currie as chainsaw artist. Hypnotic Poison's overstated naughty-but-nice angle is high camp gold: the point where saccharine almost rots and is sinister and treading the sex/death divide with the tv trope of cyanide poisoning leaving the smell of bitter almonds on the last breath. Commonly sexy but weird in a way that is very Twin Peaks. All of this for the older formula edt. The new lacks some spice and metallic bite and seems censored, but it still bests the rest of the department store pack.

    08 October, 2012

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    Tiffany by Tiffany

    A scale-weighed, almost too pretty balancing of rich fruits and botanically-correct classic florals, at first Tiffany's proportions are too perfect and near unobtrusive. Then the rich texture of nectar and pollen recall nature's excesses and flirtations. Things are just barely scuffed up with a rare case of black currant not reading as sour cat urine but instead simulating a cleaner and more herbal civet.

    The patina is charming but contrived like shabby chic: taif roses in a vase, iris-scented empty powder tins, and herb planters on strategically distressed-mismatched furniture. Reined-in classicism reigns. It's the mood of English country cottages, but the inhabitants have big 80s perms (the kind that actually looked good) and full romantic makeup. An 80s powerhouse gone softer and dreamy. I would wear this to traditional weddings, houses of worship, tea parties, and with more than a little arched brow at Tiffany's matchy-matchy appropriateness, that is if I ever went to places like that. This is probably more for elegant or traditional types who would like jewelry from Tiffany & Co. I'm the wrong audience and don't even like to wear any jewelry! Otherwise, those who play propriety and classicism to contrast with a more modern personality could do Tiffany justice; this could benefit from a slight clash to make things more interesting.

    08 October, 2012

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    Trouble by Boucheron

    Zaftig! Very Cavallier; a near-herbal perversion of sweetness, deceptively comforting but with a subtle contrast that seduces. Cold lemon meringue served in a honeymoon suite at the California-kitsch Madonna Inn, incense ablaze to drown out the tendrils of spliff smoke wafting under the door from the mini-Turkish bath. Amber will be out when she's good and ready: perfect lipstick, lounge lingerie, "let's watch Barbara Stanwyck movies and mouth all the words!"

    When not up for anything too demanding but not quite down for easy, Trouble is just right. A frequent default-to fragrance. Warm, sleepy, and though I'm normally a hater of citrus, this one is more tart than zingy. An ambered granddaughter of Shalimar in minimalist, stylized retro attire and cheaper (but more comfortable) shoes; that is to say, a minor inheritor of Emeraude.

    08 October, 2012

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    Cinnabar by Estée Lauder

    Thumbs up for a small vintage Cinnabar perfume--a very dark juice that smells like a smiling (American) version of original Opium.

    Thumbs down: I found a just-before-the-most-recent reformulation of the edp on a dusty bottom shelf of an Ulta in the middle of nowhere and excitedly tested out the still oakmoss-laden classic hoping to score a large bottle to use with abandon. While the original radiated warmth and depth and a deceptively wholesome sensuality, this formulation came on with no subtlety. The top notes: a cacophany of citrus and citronella. The drydown grew stronger by the hour somehow, wilting into Christmas potpourri. I believe synthetic sandalwood was mixed with the still real oakmoss extract to dissonant effect. Or perhaps the known enforced reduction of oakmoss content created an imbalance in the formula? At any rate a jarring asymmetry made this Cinnabar unrecognizable.

    The neutral: the newest formulation with more synthetics is in fact more cohesive and post-drydown is recognizably some kind of take on the original Cinnabar, but best of all vintage Cinnabar remains a retro-70s comfort scent for a siren; this penultimate formulation, though, needs an ambulance and is better left unsought. In any incarnation, this is remarkably long-lasting (all day), large (fill a room), fire and spice, and ideally for cold weather and dramatic personalities. A diva doing fondue at a ski lodge.

    01st October, 2012

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    Pour Un Homme by Caron

    Pour Un Homme de Caron is the fragrance I wear and enjoy most often and to most reliable satisfaction: something of a reliable uniform. It lends itself to lavish spritzes on linens before sleep, a spray on a scarf for comfort's sake before travel, or splashing on generously after a shower to transition from cleanliness to stimulation. I go through about .25 oz/week ever so gladly, as it's very reasonably-priced classic. And though I somehow prefer the older formula's staying power, the reformulation smells nearly identical.

    This Caron lasts most of the day if sprayed 2-3 times but is more enjoyable if refreshed every few hours. The sillage is noticeable but soft and alluring, not demanding or try-hard. For a man this is fail-safe sensuous and familiar at once, and for a woman, just the same. Comparable scent Jicky's civet and powder is better suited to exhibitionistic occasions than this more versatile scent (though current Jicky is so light as to encroach on PUH's territory). Pour Un Homme, Femme, both, neither: wear it to experience lavender as a natural magic: of sparkling solidity and shifting light; a geode. Tonka-vanilla and musk are allowed each their own space and freedom to become colors, textures, feelings, ever-sharpened ideas instead of the white noise they're reduced to in most other scents. A doughy-rich amber shows up frequently on repeat wearings while a camphorous mint makes a very occasional appearance before drydown. Cold/warm contrasts edge out too much focus on sweetness, though the ice cream feeling mentioned in other reviews is evident just before the warmer drydown.

    This is the meaning of the word elegance: simplicity, though not simple. Pour Un Homme is perfume's answer to Ezra Pound's "In A Station of the Metro" in form, function, near-perfection while dismissing the need for perfection, in being so direct, so alive.

    01st October, 2012

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    Hiroko Koshino by Hiroko Koshino

    I tried wearing this in the summer heat, and it reeked of the noxious emissions of a heavily deforested industrial town. To my relief and surprise, autumn shows Hiroko Koshino is an unsung gem. The rare, actually scentless, fantasy camellia note's bitterish, waxy fruit-honey impression is almost quizzical, mixing strikingly with a wine-drenched rose. Every note listed here is detectable except for lotus, which is better off silent, as it's usually too damp and aquatic anyway.

    Hiroko Koshino benefits from generous application; it has fair longevity and some noticeable sillage but borders on quiet for having so many heavy notes. The overall impression is the warmth of evergreen woods in the early morning after a night-long downpour. Freesia and tonka save the scent from heaviness, making this suitable for everyday wear. An impressive blend of difficult and exciting notes: tea, incense, oud, and guaiac wood made wearable and intriguing instead of trendy. If only more contemporary designer perfumes would take such risks.

    Melancholic, though it's a thoughtful, bittersweet melancholy like the Portugese concept of suadade, untranslatable: "a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves." Hiroko Koshino is lean-a-little-closer quiet, graceful, romantic, but stark and contempo-modernist, moody, and a touch dramatic.

    01st October, 2012

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    Infini by Caron

    This smells like Solaris. Moony, crepuscular, vaguely outerspace. Space exploration was the inspiration behind the name "Infini," but I could readily smell the suggestion of other worlds in an 80s pdt and another parfum formulation before learning of this background.

    Smokey like a contained electronic desktop bonfire of the vanities. A similar feeling to vintage Miss Balmain parfum; a jolie laide androgyny, futurism, and a suggestion of the texture of soft leather or suede--not the smell of leather itself here but the sensation of smoothness and toughness at once. Infini's aldehydes are much more bubbled and glassy than rich and soapy.

    Tonka teleports in and out at random intervals in the drydown, giving flesh to a luscious, expensive, and medicinal vanilla that has nothing to do with the omnipresent gourmand vanilla of today. Caron perfumes handle narcissus and white florals unlike any other house: with a full force that unearths stark beauty, eschewing preciousness and softness in favor of visible brushstrokes.

    Even though my two versions of Infini are not of Daltroff's original creation, they are classic Caron; a house characterized most of all by the olfactive embodiment of intelligence as opposed to Guerlain's show of sensualism and luxury (an exception being Mitsouko) or Chanel's market corner on the odor of elegance. Of course the typical pitting of Guerlain vs. Caron misses the point; each does something so well that the other cannot, and Infini is the android that the wooly Guerlinade could never dream.

    15 September, 2012

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    Anne Klein by Anne Klein

    No disrespect to those who love this perfume, but it's astounding how foul Anne Klein is to me, a lover of all kinds of old-fashioned and very strong perfumes. I've tested vintage Anne Klein in the edp from two different sources and in the parfum as well hoping to figure it out. Every time resulted in puzzlement and a sort of reaching desire to hunt out some aspect to praise but coming up short.

    This screaming mimi makes Giorgio seem almost coy. Giorgio's very same industrial tuberose seems to have been dusted off and reused for Anne Klein. Galbanum is one of my favorite notes, but here it grapples with a cornucopia of dusty wax fruit, ultimately losing out to seemingly extraneous animalics.

    After drydown, the smell is exactly reminiscent of a glamourous aunt of mine's late 80s convertible with leather seats that had been mauled by a melted lipstick, ill-fated transports of her spraying tomcat, spilled diet soda, hairspray, and the detritus of her various 80s powerhouse perfumes augmented by my three year old self's addition of a wad of watermelon bubblegum on the dashboard. She, a fabulous eccentric, encouraged the "creativity" of decorating with gum. I smell the same kind of overzealous "creativity" in Anne Klein. Maybe this aunt did wear Anne Klein?

    Granted, the parfum concentration is a lot better than the edp to my nose, with the aldehydes leading the wild 80s parade into something I can at least recognize as a striking and confident perfume. Much respect to those who can pull this off; I don't think I'm woman enough! File this and shoulderpads under things the 80s can keep.

    15 September, 2012

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    Fracas by Robert Piguet

    Fracas' reputation precedes its character. The reality of this perfume whose name means "noisy brawl" is one of depth, comfort, and owning the room but with elegance. No, this is not a quiet perfume, but what does one expect? No need for a noisy brawl, Fracas wins a fight with a dismissive one liner. "There's the door, what's your hurry?"

    Fracas is the spirit of wit and a certain air quotes femininity of the woman who wears bright lipstick during a "natural look" season. She knows better than to let anyone dictate her pleasure or mess with her irrepressable self-made beauty. Fracas is a rumored favorite of many complicated, uniquely beautiful, and stylish people, not to name-drop, but these give an idea of the this perfume's personality--uncompromising: Iman, Stevie Nicks, Courtney Love, Martha Stewart, Madonna, Edie Sedgwick, Isabella Blow, rebellious debutantes, and some perfumista men (shoutout to the late, great Robert White <3).

    The current version is blended into a single entity, sui generis--you'll smell only of Fracas: butter-rich, kinetic, self-assured. Some say a tuberose soliflore, but the jasmine, amber, greens, and other florals are remarkable too.

    Upon falling for Fracas I thought that meant tuberose feeding frenzy. It turns out Fracas' tuberose is one of the most refined and least assaultive out there. And though loud fragrances are too often wrongly dismissed, many tuberose bombs wear the wearer out, great perfumes all but hard to get right: Poison, Amarige, Byzance, Carnal Flower, yes even Giorgio and the prank of the bunch: Tubereuse Criminelle ... these aren't as forgiving as Fracas.

    Fracas is not just a sprayed out bit of alcohol settling into your skin; it's a song or movie playing out all around you and drawing you in. The concept of Germaine Cellier's original creation retained in today's version is a distillation of what a woman knows other women might like to be: present but alluring, complicated but unfussy, elegant but unapologetic.

    Fracas does last, but more into undulation and trajectory than a correlate of time. Some days it's only strong enough for two hours, other times it graces me with its presence all day. The most striking thing about Fracas is how much the fragrance moves: its sillage is a sort of veil dance. The name would suggest getting picked up (cops, John, cab at 4 AM), but really this is an anytime pick-me-up.

    15 September, 2012

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    Madness by Chopard

    And we illustrate one aspect of madness, hypergraphia (but there's so much to say about this seemingly 'whatever' scent):

    Pink pepper is used and abused far too much. But in Madness this trend note that I usually can't stand is used to striking effect. Why? Well, because it's mad, bad, and dangerous to know: not soft and girly pink with some weak spice beneath, not pink pepper strewn on your pasta as a foodie's afterthought...the pink pepper of Madness is bold and gleefully peppery, daring you to sneeze. Madness is aptly named; a little weird and inappropriate but with so little insight into the deviation that it's living its own kind of dream. This is the Madness of a film siren going off the rails; Valley of the Dolls. It's not just the name and concept either, there's something so feminine yet a little dark about Madness, old-fashioned, far more traditionally perfumey than the pyramid or presentation would suggest. If even a well done pink pepper doesn't do it for you, consider waiting out the first thirty minutes. The drydown is earthy rosewood; girl surfers waxing down boards back in the day. The lychee and hibiscus are very novel, and nose Nagel blended them to a modern art kind of abstractness that hints at but doesn't go full theme tropical. Madness isn't quite complex or exciting enough to warrant being a signature scent, but it's a formidable novelty piece. I can't help but think of a Devo hat being worn by Oops-era Britney Spears but all the while at a 1960s cocktail party. In a good way.

    In corporeality, in presence and shameless voluptuousness that those who like quiet, polite scents might call "vulgar," Madness recalls Givenchy's Organza. The slightly oldschool but resolutely updated contradiction of Madness is similar to the Galliano edp's pink but not insipid femininity.

    The main draw here is that Madness can be found very inexpensively right now. But I wouldn't suggest just blind buying Madness; as other reviewers have said, this is really an acquired taste, and its beauty could be missed if you expect too much or demand instant gratification.

    If you like repulsion/attraction scents, plenty of spice, and celebratory femininity that doesn't approach celeb fruity floral hell, try this. You might find this surprisingly well-blended. Honestly, I think this is what celebrity fragrances should and could be, so many celebs love to reference other eras and make a sport of nostalgia, and this scent is an enigmatic but wearable slice of pop. And it's going cheap, and I love it for that.

    Longevity: my skin usually kills anything in a few hours, even the notorious everlasting gobstoppers, but this crazy Madness can last twelve hours.
    Sillage: the bar tender will smell you across the bar, you won't have to sniff right at your wrist. How refreshingly candid as only a departure from the sane and plain can be. That said, naturally not an office perfume.
    Occasion: dancing, concert, party, or just being your fiery bad self at home 'cause this is sort of a comfort scent.

    15 September, 2012

    rating


    Lolita Lempicka by Lolita Lempicka

    Not really comparable to Angel. Angel is truly magnificently disgusting and gorgeous at the same time; it's also equal parts aggressively feminine and masculine. Lolita Lempicka goes for contradiction but isn't in your face, certainly much more wearable than Angel.

    If you love the smell of licorice or star anise, this could be the gourmand for you. Those notes ruin many perfumes for me (even those that apparently do not contain them) including Yohji Homme, Hypnotic Poison, Jesus del Pozo In Black, Mandragore, and Aimez Moi. Licorice is a very dominant note naturally, and how front and center it is blended for novelty's sake here in Lolita Lempicka only gives me a burnt rubber tire stench, and not in the charming way that Bvlgari Black (also by the same nose--Menardo) pulls that off with contrast and clear intent. Weirdly, something in Lolita Lempicka smells of a car mirror air freshener from the 90s, but that's actually a very interesting accord, leave it to Menardo to weave all of these car and candy references into a classic perfume.

    The bottle is cute. This is a very well-blended and high quality perfume for the price and is gratifyingly at odds with the frou frou presentation though plenty sweet. The opening has a glittering smell like a slightly gothic fairy dust. A very subtle tobacco sublimated beneath dominant vanilla drydown marks this as a masterwork.

    Still, I never feel like wearing Lolita Lempicka. Everything I've tried from this brand is just too foody and, though fully formed perfumes all, too naive to be enjoyable. They remind me of Mandy Moore when she did that covers album to show she wasn't just bubblegum, but she still sang like a breathy choir girl. If you're bubblegum, do pop proud!

    Objectively: absolutely the whole Lempicka line is miles ahead of other department store teen girl offerings, and these scents are actually suitable for all ages too, so I still appreciate that Lo is out there despite not falling for her charms.

    15 September, 2012

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    Dzing! by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    I was ready to be offended in a good way. Come at me, elephant droppings! Right over here, boatload of cardboard!

    What Dzing!(?) delivered? ... a gently droning public restroom ambience rather than much animalic or barnyard, a hint of the primate house at the zoo, sickening saffron and ginger, then on to cheap leather, second-day vanilla cigar smoke, and wet pizza box. That might work for an aromarama double feature engagement of Monkey Business and Slacker, but why pay time, money, and skin space for the joke?

    If this sort of thing excites you or shows up differently on your skin, maybe you'll like it. To me: this is really an incredibly stupid perfume, and I hate it. Twice as gimmicky as Secretions Magnifiques, but both suffer from sophomore album syndrome: the "hey this is going to be shocking, wait, watch," then delivering the most economically squeezed out, near-cynical recreation of its seemingly hyperbolic or hinting-at-something-more backstory. This doesn't smell like old books to me either, and I spend over half of my life around old books.

    Want to smell like old books? Buy a bunch from your local secondhand bookstore and rub them on yourself, smoke a pipe, or wear a leather perfume with cooking vanilla on top. Want a weird and exhilaratingly revolting fragrance? Angel.

    After repeat sniffs and wears I wonder if Dzing! is an Emperor without clothes for the smelly set or if, more likely, I just don't care to get it.

    15 September, 2012

    rating


    Tocade by Rochas

    "Tocade" means 'whim;' the perfect name for this little dreamboat. Cartoonish yet satisfying big, big rose. A non-candy, deep and delicious vanilla. Powder that isn't baby or demure; more ... disco festive. If you don't like amped amber and vanilla or a classic rose and patchouli accord, skip this. I love rose/patch more than anything, and Tocade's take is easygoing. Created in 1994, Tocade is primary colors and madcap fun like Sassy Magazine, not the beige and black sophisticate 90s of Issey & co.

    If you can find it, get the version with the gold design still on the box. It smells a lot better than the reformulation, whose box is entirely red. I do actually like the reformulation in spite of others saying it's terrible: more chemical than the older, yes, but don't sniff right at the skin and wait until ten minutes into drydown, and the chemical haze fades.

    Heeding charges of "bugspray:" citronella is listed as an ingredient in the new Tocade (also in countless other reforms), and it is discernable but also strangely pleasant. Citronella is derived from lemongrass, and plenty find that a nice enough smell, but here the chemical called citronellol gives Tocade its distinctive geranium note. I wore Tocade all this summer while outside, and the one-two punch of the naturally insect-repellant patchouli and citronella banished mosquitos.

    Often times perfumer Roucel's magnolia+freesia accord goes watery, but the vanilla, rose, and clean patchouli overdose of Tocade throw the usually dominant Roucel signature into a supporting role. This is a sillage beast, and you needn't spray more than once, especially if you're not into strong scents, but since Tocade is also vanilla-soft and very pleasing, I sometimes spray four+ times and nobody complains (in fact this one gets a lot of compliments, not that I wear perfume to please others, but it's a small mercy on others that this doesn't terrorize either).

    Tocade is a classic oriental of very high quality available for super cheap. Bonus: there's a plasticky note in here that puts niche attempts at synthetic irony to shame by referencing non-perfumey smells but staying incredibly charming and wearable. If CDG did this one in a line called TOY or something, it'd be worn more by guys, too. But Tocade has more than enough fans as-is.

    15 September, 2012

    rating


    FlowerbyKenzo by Kenzo

    The opening is all cutie pies and femmey bliss through the wacky/folky Kenzo fashion filter that makes those qualities into an art. The drydown creeps in with a hazy suggestion of freshly turned shrimp cocktail. Opoponax (balsamic and animalic smelling resin), hawthorn (ultra sweet and sharp), and black currant (the cat pee note) are notes that easily read as bodily and profane. Mixed into a modern take on Royal Bain de Caron like Flower, funeralic associations emerge: cheap bouquets and fetid bodies. Also there are ketones given off right before death, and this musk smacks of that scent to me.

    A very morbid review, I realize, and if Flower sustains the pleasure of its opening notes for you and skips out on the heavily disturbing drydown, you're luckier than I was. A perfume that means to be creepy and does it with grace I can take, but this sort of unintentional lipstick on the teeth scenario made for several queasy wearings before Flower was banish'ed. Though I like many scents generally disliked by most people, this one is beyond reprieve: could be summed up as soiled diaper and a rare true case of dead ringer baby powder. But like someone with a flower in place of a brain, I'll probably give this one another try at some point and report back once the extant repeat trauma has faded from memory. It's at least iconic?

    15 September, 2012

    rating


    First by Van Cleef & Arpels

    Like No. 5, Arpege, and Miss Dior, this is a perfume that one might show to an alien creature who wanted to know what an unspecified "perfume" in a novel or song might be referring to; First is an archetype of itself, a Platonic ideal of perfumeness and so aptly named.

    First has serious presence but isn't quite loud. High volume beauties like Poison are hair metal frontwomen with deep but resonant alto voices while First is more of a mezzo-soprano torch singer with some darker honeyed notes--still very audible but with range, color, and (First's most interesting feature) separation to the notes while still forming a very solid wall-of-noise. Usually scents go for one or the other: well-blended or given to stages of development, but First has it both ways unto perfection. I am well-aware that I'm in the presence of an unpretentious masterpiece when wearing vintage First edp. The more recent edt is more chypre than floral and much less complex and interesting.

    The aldehydes here are less soapy than those in Ivoire, Arpege, or No. 5 but still unremitting--a constant buzz buzz of an airy bee wavering over that raw honey base that bleeds through from the start. Some peach and other rich, ripe, but sugarless fruit bobs around the top and middle but fades fast. A heart of compellingly oldschool bright bouquets, powdery orris, then a stunning white floral melange is rich, earthy: a little waxy. The jasmine is pleasantly evil and taunting. Ylang-ylang and narcissus (daffodil) dominate overall (to my nose) and are almost softly cakey and vaguely gourmand when vanilla and tonka arrive, then the flower cake is buoyed and joined in a twinned-dominance by warm but not cuddly animalics.

    I see many are surprised that perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena of super-understated Hermes fame composed this scent. Yet I can read his signature hyper-naturalness and quiet gloom here that suggests nature's indifference to human concerns. I get hints of Ellena's Angéliques Sous La Pluie even though it and First share no notes; their blending and development are similarly panoramic; olfactory landscape photography. It seems as if all of Ellena's later works are separations and distillations compared to First, which has enough to go around for three or four later Ellena-style perfumes.

    In the drydown, a woodsy musk murkiness prompts visions of tree nymphs but without the mysticism or crunchiness usually associated with that term. These are the slightly deco Sleeping Beauty Briar Roses of artist Eyvind Earle (he did the backdrop and scenery paintings for the painstakingly-animated classic Disney movie).

    Even in 1976, First must have been a conscious throwback to grand perfumes of old. The end of the 1970s was one of the first major retro-nostalgia mad post-modern times that was to precede the constant mania for vintage since, and First is almost a first of its kind in that way--a classic perfume that references all classic perfume before it (and maybe even since...).

    15 September, 2012

    rating


    Rykiel Woman by Sonia Rykiel

    I expected to like this, as Rykiel Woman is often compared favorably with Barbara Bui. Honestly I like Bui about 4x better. Still Bui is only a slightly above average fragrance in my book, sort of one I might wear during nose fatigue to stay inoffensively scented but still close to classic-perfumey.

    Similarly to the wannabe-vintage Love, Chloe, this scent also is hyper-feminine, just loud enough to be unsubtle and just quiet enough to be tame and dull, but while Love, Chloe at least has a novel rice note to save its femmebot face powder nostalgia, Rykiel Woman doesn't deliver on any of its promised idiosyncrasies, at least not on my skin. No leather emerges. A sour and musky lotion scent cradles a slightly-sugared banal violet that hasn't even the decency to shrink in the drydown. The real ruiner here is that overused and hardly ever well-executed pink pepper note, made worse by including the other dumb-trend ingredient oud. Sunflower and dates are also not great perfume ingredients as they both smack of health food stores. A more imaginative usage might make them work, but here they're kind of chapsticky or medicinal.

    Plenty of perfumistas with taste I respect say they like this one or that it grew on them as a quieter-occasion fragrance, but they also report more leather and incense. I got not a trace of either, which was a total disappointment as those are two of my favorite notes. Stick with the Bui! It's not a super exciting fragrance, but it smells more expensive and relevant than this one and avoids the excessive trend notes.


    Overall rating: so bland and wrong on me than I can barely say: 1/10 on my skin but 4/10 on the sprayer and on paper. It could work on you, so who knows!?
    Longevity: fair. a half-the-day skin scent.
    Sillage: close-to-skin
    Gender: It is stereotypically feminine, but despite that and the "not for men" tagline, I'd say this is also not for women only--fairly gender neutral because of its quietude, though the pink pepper makes it a little tawdry and teenish.
    Occasion: that whole trend of wearing a floral maxi with a fitted biker jacket that was so huge six years ago and still won't go away (hey, some look great in it still). Precious leather moments??? Little altars everywhere on the prairie.

    04 September, 2012

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