Perfume Reviews

Reviews by PerfumePorMoi

Total Reviews: 39

Les Heures de Parfum - XI L'Heure Perdue by Cartier

smelldorado below, nails it—although in the end I decided on a neutral instead of a positive review.

If you’ve ever seen one of those competition cooking shows where the chefs deconstruct the components of a classic recipe and rearrange them in such a way that references the original but in a wildly different manner, then that pretty much describes what I experience when I smell XI L'Heure Perdue (the lost hour, indeed). It has all the components of a perfume, but one that’s been broken down and rearranged in a totally new, even experimental, way.

I’ve read that perfumer Mathilde Laurent’s inspiration for this is tied up in memories of childhood and Marcel Proust’s love of madeleine cookies. But this isn’t a confection to my nose—I don’t get any sweet at all. What I mostly get is a very sharp, almost vinegar-ey cardboard underneath which some kind of weird floral plays hide and seek. Trying to nail down this note is like trying to snatch at the rain to fill a bucket. Maybe there’s some smoke as well? A hint of clove or cinnamon, a bit of vanilla? But it’s all so bizarrely rendered and so elusive that I just can’t love it.

It seems that I’m in the minority, though. The reviews are by and large swoony, and each time I’ve worn this someone has stopped me to tell me how good I smell, begging me to tell them what I’m wearing. Too bad this costs the earth, for which, I'm sure, there are some good reasons. But the piss-elegant packaging, while befitting a luxury brand like this, shouldn't be one of those reasons. Ultimately, it's bulky and totally unnecessary. Just give us a good bottle, a fantastic juice, and a box we won't feel guilty about throwing away.

Major props to Laurent nonetheless. She has established a definitive throughline in her work for Cartier. Here, I smell echoes of Le Panthere and Baiser Vole, each of which is similarly beautiful but not without their difficulties. Laurent is clearly making her mark at Cartier, both defining the brand and her individual aesthetic. Which is fantastic—unlike some houses that spew out half-hearted mass-market-targeted juices by the shit ton, Cartier seems to take perfumery seriously (although not stuffily), and they are happily letting their house nose do her thing.
15th February, 2019 (last edited: 16th February, 2019)

Twilly d'Hermès by Hermès

Perfumer Christine Nagel has made no bones about Twilly targeting young women, and in many ways its millennial-market styling is spot-on. The juice is pink, the bottle twee, and even the tuberose is stripped down, scrubbed-clean, and tamed to near-minimalism—the Stepford Wife of tuberoses.

And, yet, this isn’t a standard fruity floral. A hefty slug of ginger gives Twilly much of its initial sparkle and freshness before mingling with the other notes to create something way more butch than the initial presentation, like one of those colognes that barbers slap on their customers after giving them a shave.

I really like that bracing aspect, which translates just as impressively into the air. Twilly’s sillage is assertive but never offensive—I get busloads of compliments when I wear it. Once, forgetting myself, I spritzed a good bit of it before visiting my stepfather in the hospital and instead of side-eyeing me, his nursed thanked me for “making the place smell better.”

Twilly’s eventual evolution into what I like to call a “wall of scent” is both its strength and its weakness, depending on your expectations. I nearly traded or sold it a good half-dozen times before eventually giving in, realizing that moving along in its white noise cloud becomes an exercise in Zen-like acceptance that sometimes a perfume that just smells GOOD is good enough.
07th February, 2019

Aura by Thierry Mugler

The first time I tested this I recoiled in horror. The opening was downright awful, wintergreen toothpaste grafted onto a set of abstract tropical florals as conceived by a pyschopath—a hostess gift for the bride of Frankenstein.

But about an hour later it did something weirdly wonderful. It rearranged itself at a cellular level into something that resembled an actual living perfume, albeit a bizarre one, a lush vanillic green that toggled between icy and smokey, sweet and sour, before ultimately ending up as cozy.

That icy aspect really intrigues me. Maybe it's because the second time I wore Aura, during a long walk with my dogs on a 17-degree winter morning, the intense cold somehow tamped the opening down into something way more tolerable, a spectacular display of cool mint and smashed greens.

But what starts off as Snow Queen eventually mellows out into Snow White, a cloud of intensely nuzzle-able bourbon vanilla and soft woods that stays very close to my skin, the kind of fragrance designed to inspire loved ones to bury their noses in our necks at the end of a long day and remark, "Wow, you smell so good I could eat you up."

And double thumbs up for the fantastic, praying-to-the-aliens vibe of the bottle.
23rd January, 2019 (last edited: 24th January, 2019)
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White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor

This was one of the more perfumed Christmases I've had in a while. On one end of the spectrum, my husband's gift of D.S. & Durga's Durga EDP. At the other, a White Diamonds gift set, purchased by an elderly family friend who admits she knows nothing about perfume but knows that I love it and the "lady at Walmart" said this was very pretty. It was a touching gesture, and after doing some reading I was excited to give it a go.

If you can make it through its aldehydic, intensely soapy opening, you'll be rewarded with an oldfashioned medley of sweet florals with just a hint of carnation-ey spice. Which is fun while it lasts, because the soap eventually reappears about an hour later and stays there for the dry down. At this point, White Diamonds smells not so much like something Liz Taylor wannabes would dab along their decolletage as a means of seduction and more like the kind of squeaky-clean-smelling soap that might be handed out by prim headmistresses at an all-girls boarding school.

Two hours later—poof!—it's gone. Maybe that's because it costs about a buck and some pennies to make but, still, it's an interesting relic of pop cultural perfumery and well worth sniffing while it lasts.
15th January, 2019

Oddity by Rag & Bone

What a nice surprise, this aptly named little "oddity."

With the exception of vetiver, my nose doesn't pick up individual notes so much as accords, which run in three distinct phases on my skin:

Burnt campfire wood
Moldy basement
Vetiver, vetiver, and more vetiver

Each phase is notable as well for being exceptionally distinct and radiant, assertive, but not heavy. And here's something weird—although I'm not sure exactly how to describe it—but I don't smell any alcohol in the opening. It's as if the smells had somehow been captured as they occurred and then suspended in air.

Whoever is behind this gem—well done!
11th January, 2019

Durga by D.S. & Durga

It’s been a long time since I’ve smelled a tuberose-dominant fragrance that could compete with the showstoppers in my pantheon—Fracas, Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, Carnal Flower, Tubereuse Criminelle—but scooch over guys and make room. There’s a new kid in town.

I know very little about D.S. & Durga, and nothing about this particular fragrance, but it landed under the Christmas tree this year after my husband not-so-smoothly asked about some of my favorite fragrance notes. Which could have gone very, very wrong, landing me a bomb rather than a bombshell. Lucky me: I got the latter.

Like Tubereuse Criminelle and Carnal Flower, Durga reads more soliflore than symphonic. But unlike TC and CF, which magnify the “hot” aspects of the flower—blood and meat, indoles and flesh— Durga lands at the cooler end of the spectrum, thanks to a dominant melon note that weaves its way throughout the composition from beginning to end. Melon is tricky. It can go rotten-fruit stinky or sweetly insipid faster than you can say, “D'oh! Not another fruity floral!” but it’s used brilliantly here, lending the composition a startlingly crystalline, minty-fresh clarity, all floral shop green stems and wild sweet pea. The overall effect is elegant and sophisticated but still luminous, like the parting of heavy curtains to reveal a cloudless, sunny day.

Which brings me to the name. D.S. & Druga is a combo of perfumer David Seth Moltz's initials and the nickname he gave to his wife and collaborator, Kavi—Durga is the Hindu warrior goddess tasked with combating the forces that threaten peace, prosperity, and harmony. Which is cool, but what does that have to do with this lush white floral? The Moltzes don’t lack for ideas when naming their fragrances, so is Durga meant to be symbolic of their brand’s overall aesthetic? The text describing their work is thankfully free of the usual perfume-world hyperbole, so who knows. Still, I gave this name much more thought than I usually would. And an image of Liz Taylor suddenly popped into my head. A pop-cultural warrior goddess if ever there was one, Taylor supposedly once said about facing the travails of life, "Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together." I'd like to think that if she had also added, "And spritz yourself with some perfume," it would have been something as joyful as Durga.

09th January, 2019

Joy by Christian Dior

Lemon bubblegum Dial soap.

It smells so derivative, so cheap, so instantly mass market, so desperately sunny and bright, that if I didn't know better I would swear it was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the sorry state of today's mainstream fragrances—the perfume equivalent of spokesperson JLaw's Bratty Chatty Kathy public persona.

Unfortunately, I believe this stuff is serious about itself. But that doesn't stop me from kind of loving it (ducks).

04th December, 2018

Dior Addict by Christian Dior

Addict is such a weirdo. Some days, a mellow Organza-esque floriental, all orange blossomy vanilla goodness with a slightly woody/boozy undertone. Other days, an imbalanced lactonic monster firing on all eight burnt-plastic-baby-vomit cylinders.

At which point it reminds me of that line in Hole's "Celebrity Skin": "It's too early for that dress."

So I mostly save Addict for nighttime, when it becomes the perfect perfume accompaniment to velvets and silks and heavy lids and blood red lips and overindulgent dinners and obnoxious club music.
29th July, 2018

Mon Guerlain Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

No doubt Guerlain has spent a good part of the past 15 years or so trying to keep its name at the forefront of the collective mind of the mass perfume-buying public. Which is fine. Even the French have to send their kids to college, and they can’t do it on the strengths of Mitsouko and Shalimar alone.

And it hasn’t been all bad. L’Instant and Insolence are very good, though I don’t own them. And Parfum Initial is in my opinion great. Also targeted for mass appeal, you bet, but it didn’t insult those masses. It gave them a beautifully updated and almost humorous riff on a classic that at the same time managed to throw off tons of modern sparkle and charm. That Guerlain pulled the plug on PI after only a few years (as they do with all Shalimar flankers, most of which range from very good to drop-dead great), sending yet more 'fume freaks scrambling over to the ‘Bay to hoard bottles, makes me wonder if Wasser and Co. don’t suffer from some kind of attention deficit disorder.

And maybe, at this point, an inability to innovate? Seriously, does the world really need Mon Guerlain, yet another well-made but inoffensive scent? Perfectly fine, sure, but also perfectly generic, perfectly redundant, and perfectly calibrated to be as easy-to-grasp as every paint-by-number juice that hits the counters these days. A hit of something citrus up front, followed by an iris that momentarily echoes that of Parfum Initial’s, some lavender to tone down the sweetness, some musk to keep it clean, and enough vanilla in the dry down to hit that perfect pastry note, since it seems that everyone these days wants to end up smelling like a donut.

I laughed when I saw that Angelina Jolie is the spokesperson. Really? I’d be embarrassed if I were her. Don’t mind me, though. Mon Guerlain is probably selling like gangbusters.
16th June, 2018

Après L'Ondée by Guerlain

When I first tried a sample of Après l'Ondée, about 10 years ago, I thought it was one of the most beautiful perfumes I'd ever smelled. I didn't get around to buying a bottle until about four years ago, though, at which point I had that strange sensation that sometimes happens when perfume memory and reality don't quite mesh. Especially since I'd been spending a lot of time with L' Heure Bleu—I found them to be redundant to each other, if that's the right way to put it.

And, as it turns out, it's not just my nose making that assessment. As Guerlain admits on it's own site: "Guerlain creations each have their own story and sometimes strong similarities. This is the case of Après l'Ondée and L'Heure Bleue, two countryside fragrances inspired by the beauty of a moment and a photograph of nature. Created six years earlier, Après l'Ondée has a more watercolour and pastel aspect than L'Heure Bleue."

That's it exactly.

Thankfully, the distinctions do become apparent enough to justify having both bottles, if only to note how skillfully Jacques Guerlain could push a certain theme. Whereas L'Heure Bleu becomes increasingly heavy on my skin, woody and sharp, with medicinal, pencil-shaving notes joining the florals, Après l'Ondée becomes softer and yet more spicy—a duet between iris and carnation.

And ALO always wears like a cologne, never a perfume (it's hard to believe, in fact, that it ever came in an extrait version). If it's a really hot day, and if I spray enough of it, it will waft up and out for a good three to four hours at least. But in the cold, it stays very very close to the skin and disappears entirely after a few hours.

I have sniffed hundreds of perfumes since I was first bowled over by ALO, and at times I'm nostalgic for that naiveté—that gut reaction to something, ignorant of history and experience. Regardless, this will likely always remain in my collection, if for no other reason than it's so pretty and wearable, so youthful and goodhearted, in a way that many Guerlains are not.
06th May, 2018 (last edited: 07th May, 2018)

Mitsouko Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

It's been about 10 or 12 years since I first tried Mitsouko, back when my Dillard's used to carry all the classic Guerlains. I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. But I didn't really like it, either. I did groove on the initial brightness of it, the juicy peachiness interwoven with citrus, but then after the first few minutes it devolved into something more harsh, yet at the same time kind of vague. I figured I just wasn't sophisticated enough to appreciate it, and yet I never revisited it.

Until recently, when I was gifted with a bottle of the EDP, which turns out to be from 2014, supposedly a very good reformulation year. The peachy/citrusy opening still really sparkles, and the middle sings a very fine spicy (cinnamon? clove?) tune on my skin for about an hour. But after that it just falls off the cliff and muddles itself into a big ol' bunch of fusty/dusty/musty-ness, and not in a way that I would normally champion, like, say, Joy’s symphonic florals turned to rot or Djedi's mix of damp-basement and lemony roses or Youth Dew's balsamic orange blossom weirdness. Here, and at least on my skin and to my nose, Mitsouko is kind of a mess—an expensive, beautifully made, historically significant mess, to be sure. But still a mess.

The good news is, if you love it, it will last forever. It's still wafting from the T-shirt I had on when I spritzed it two days ago.
22nd April, 2018 (last edited: 07th May, 2018)

Gypsy Water by Byredo

Growing up, my mother quickly realized that, for a few years at least, my perfume grasp should not extend as far as my reach. I was 11, I wanted to wear her Ma Griffe and Youth Dew. She didn't want me wearing anything. Eventually, we compromised, and I was allowed 4711 and a bit of her Jean Nate. Several years later, when I was able to spend a portion of my babysitting budget on "colognes," I gravitated toward some of what I like to think of as the citrusy/herbal-ey/woody/green greats, like Eau de Lancome, Calandre, and Eau de Givenchy.

Gypsy Water reminds me of that style, albeit with a great slug of vanilla and some incense, both of which arrive a little too soon on the scene to muddy the waters. In addition, whereas the favorites of my teen years were assertive, with the kind of heft and projection that could cut through even the thickest of girls' bathroom and college-bar cigarette smoke, Gypsy Water stays close to my skin.

While it lingers, it's interesting enough to keep me sniffing, hoping to snag and hold on to the accord of piney goodness that pokes out every now and again, but the whole thing disappears so quickly that I can't see paying full price for a bottle of something this elusive, no matter how intriguing.
19th December, 2017 (last edited: 25th April, 2018)

Narciso Poudrée by Narciso Rodriguez

I love Narciso EDP, which I think is one of the best perfumes put out in recent years, and I also really like the EDT, so I had high hopes for Poudree.

This is very sweet to my nose, with a Coca-Cola, maybe even bubble-gummy, aspect that reminds me a bit of Tabu or Vivienne Westwood's Boudoir, with a bunch of sugar thrown in. I don't get any musk (I suspect I'm anosmic to most), no cedar, no vetiver. Just that pervasive, slightly skanky, sweetness.

It was fun to sample—I kept sniffing my nose for much of the afternoon after I sprayed this and enjoyed its progression, such as it is—but whereas I don’t mind trailing a heavy dose of the original EDP, this would strike me as a bit immature at full blast.

06th December, 2017 (last edited: 07th December, 2017)
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Don't Get Me Wrong Baby, I Don't Swallow by Etat Libre d'Orange

I don't know, maybe don't get her (or him) wrong, baby, not because she's chaste or coy but because she's disillusioned and maybe a little pissed off? I was expecting a symphonic commentary on bridal florals or a frothy tease of innocence with a little skank; what I got was an olfactory riff on romance gone bad, an initial bitch-fest of screeching aldehydes that morph into delicate flowers languishing in stale water, and a final, desultory pig-out on boxed wine and cheap chocolate.
10th November, 2017 (last edited: 07th December, 2017)

Diorissimo by Christian Dior

Diorissimo was my mother's signature scent. She flirted with other perfumes, and kept a good half dozen on her vanity, but once she discovered Diorissimo in the early 1980s she wore it almost exclusively. So when she died 15 years ago, I inherited what was left of her collection, including an almost full bottle of the EDT and an unopened box of the parfum. But this scent was so deeply ingrained in my memory of her that I knew I would not be able to sniff the bottles, much less wear what was inside of them. They've languished in my perfume drawer ever since, safe from the light, from extremes of temperature, from the world at large.

A few weeks ago, though, I decided that enough was enough. I wanted to see what these juices smelled like. The memory of my mother was not the only thing that came rushing back to me. I was reminded all over again why florals are my favorite category of perfume.

Of all the gorgeous floral compositions I’ve known and loved, nothing quite compares to Diorissimo. Not because it’s a photorealistic recreation of lily of the valley, not because it’s beautiful, not because it’s easy to wear. But because of the way in which its dominant note impacts the composition as a whole, acting as a kind of conductor to a full orchestra of floral notes, whose overarching purpose is to convey what springtime in a bottle might smell like, both in the literal sense of the word and as an abstraction. It's a mind-blowingly assured composition, as effective on an artistic and emotional level as any perfume I've ever experienced. And I hate to think what's been done to it.

18th June, 2017

New Sibet by Slumberhouse

I’m a bit of a weenie when it comes to leathers. Although I can appreciate hot, meaty, and saddle skanky, I much prefer to wear the ones that smell like a softly suede-ed handbag interior, complete with a little bit of powder and some florals.

Sibet sits somewhere in the middle. I’ve read here and elsewhere that the perfumer behind Slumberhouse doesn’t use top, bottom, and end notes, and I can see that. Still, there is a kind of evolution to this particular linearity. Sibet gets off to a bit of a brusque start, but then after about 30 minutes a gorgeous metallic iris and some spices come to the fore, and the whole thing becomes incredibly elegant, not necessarily a makeover of its initial self but a careful fine tuning, similar to how a subject’s beauty often isn’t fully revealed until pulled into focus through the lens of a camera.

Really well done.
31st May, 2017

Sotto La Luna Tuberose by Tauer

Luca Turin once summed up the modern incarnation of a Caron classic with this terse statement: “Who put the Cinnabon in my Tabac Blond?”

I had a similar reaction to this scent: “Who put the Cinnabon in my tuberose?” I like cinnamon, and I like tuberose, but I’m just not convinced these two notes play all that well together, at least not when the tuberose is as medicinal as it is here, bolstered by a host of disparate notes that ultimately comprise one of the most off-kilter florals I’ve ever sniffed.

Seems to me that Tauer already flirted with this formula when he created Loretta as part of his Tableau de Parfums collaboration. While these two are not scent twins, they are cousins, boasting a similar screeching mixture of cinnamon/cloves, white flowers, and patchouli. So why go there again? (Loretta was a scrubber for me as well.)

It’s not that I can’t hang with bold floral and spice mixtures (a good portion of my perfume collection is made up of florientals) or even ones that are totally bizarre, like McQueen’s Kingdom. Maybe I just can’t hang with Tauer’s particular aesthetic, however much I admire the craftsmanship and intelligence behind it. But when it comes to creating art out of dissonance, there’s a difference between, say, Laurie Anderson or Philip Glass, and plain old ear-splitting noise.
29th May, 2017 (last edited: 31st May, 2017)

White Peacock Lily by D.S. & Durga

I'm a sucker for any fragrance that boasts lily as a major note, but to my nose this is much more about jasmine. Up front, I get a burst of grapefruit and something rosy that I guess is the oleander, followed a few minutes later by a hit of crushed-stem. Then it pretty much morphs into all jasmine all the time. I don't really get any vanilla or the "fog" (whatever the heck that is) at the back end, just a soft, slightly sweet musk.

Overall, this smells like most of the modern niche formulations that I've run into: well thought out and constructed but ultimately not all that challenging or even interesting. But I give it a thumbs up because it's very pretty and bright, and it wears beautifully in the heat.
25th May, 2017

Central Park West by Bond No. 9

Before one of my husband's good friends settled down and got married, he was famous for what at first seemed like an almost supernatural way with the ladies. But the secret to his success wasn’t that he was any more charming, good-looking, or intelligent than his buddies. He was just more persistent—and utterly lacking in focus. In other words, you throw a bunch of spaghetti at the wall, some of it’s gonna stick.

That's what I think of Bond’s perfume production method: persistent, unfocused, and scattershot. Only in my case, nothing's really stuck.

Whenever I hit a high-end department store fragrance counter, a member of the sales staff always asks, “Have you smelled the new Bond yet?” And I haven’t, because, really, who can keep up (what are they at now, 65 fragrances in 15 years?), but every time I do, I walk away wondering why they persist in throwing so much at the wall instead of just focusing on nailing a handful of really great scents. Most of what I’ve sampled (about a quarter of the entire line) seems either downright derivative or completely lacking in imagination. Chinatown is an exception, but then again is it actually all that wearable?

Which brings me to Central Park West, which is quite wearable but unfortunately totally derivative, a near dupe of Estee Lauder's Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, with the same wallop of rubberized ylang ylang and troop of stripper-heeled white floral cousins, only with a hint of vetiver, which gives it a fresher, slightly candied air.

Still. There’s a difference between paying homage and outright copycatting. Bond really should start learning the difference.

12th May, 2017 (last edited: 13th May, 2017)

Baghari by Robert Piguet

I was ready to dismiss Baghari as a Chanel No. 5 clone, when a side by side comparison over the course of about five hours revealed, yes, a definite variation on that theme, but one with a compelling character all its own.

They certainly start off similarly, but after about 60 minutes, when No. 5 begins its slow slide into its slightly fusty, powdery jasmine and rose dry down, Baghari maintains an assertive citrus-and-spice brightness.

I adore No. 5, and have worn it on and off since I was a teenager, but Baghari, while still exhibiting the hallmarks of a grand dame of 40s/50s perfumery, seems much sunnier and way more wearable.

No. 5 purrs, but Baghari sings.
03rd May, 2017

Elixir des Merveilles by Hermès

I’ve smelled quite a few “beachy” scents over the years, and I own several that I think are really exceptional, but nothing quite smells like the sun, sand, and sea to me than Elixir des Merveilles. That impression was overwhelming the first time I smelled it, and it’s stuck in my nose to this day.

That’s not to say there are any of the usual suntan lotion suspects in this—mostly it’s a conflation of foody and woody notes interwoven top to bottom with orange peel. But instead of smelling heavy and weird to me, what I smell each and every time I spritz this is a tremendously good-natured outdoorsy scent evocative of salt-tinged, sun-baked summer days at the beach. While I don’t reach for it often day-to-day, it’s the first bottle I toss in my bag when I go on vacation.
05th March, 2017

Boucheron by Boucheron

As befitting its provenance, Boucheron's opening is loud and proud, a confident trumpeting of citrus and big flowers, underlain with a dissonant note of something sharp and woody/vegetal. I put that down to the basil—and maybe the geranium?—mucking about in all the "pretty," but I'm only guessing based on the list of notes. I've worn this dozens of times, and I can't pick anything individual out. Except in the dry down, when Boucheron finally seems to have made it through the turbulence of its kitchen-sink composition and hit cruising altitude with its lushly sweet, powdery, orange creamsicle/vanilla/benzoin dry down. It's like what I always hope L'Heure Bleue will end up being before it devolves into wet pencil shavings.

Fantastic bottle, too.
02nd March, 2017

Fat Electrician by Etat Libre d'Orange

My skin tends to magnify vetiver to the point that whenever I wear a scent in which it's a dominant note, I'm essentially wearing a soliflore.

Which is okay when it comes to vetiver, because I love it. It's such a strange smell, at once grassy and sweet and metallic and lemony and salty, evoking memories of sunlit days by the beach or out hiking in the desert underneath an uninterrupted canopy of blue so deep it looks artificial.

So whenever I want relief from my ginormous white floral bombs or heavily ambered orientals, I grab something with vetiver in it. Chanel Sycamore is my fave (and my kingdom to make my paltry 2ml sample of vintage Djedi last from here to eternity), but I'm happy to have Fat Electrician in my collection as well. It's pretty much all vetiver all the time, but one that is also sweet and bright—vetiver dipped in something luscious.

Which should smell gross, the olfactory equivalent of, say, mixing lemon and chocolate or drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth, but it doesn’t. Is that the "chestnut cream" working this bit of disparate magic? Who knows. I don't have the faintest idea what chestnut cream even IS (I suspect that half the time, these modern-day perfume notes are dreamed up by the same kinds of people who name collections of lipsticks and eye shadows), but if it's the thing that gives this particular vetiver its slightly gourmand edge, I'm totally down with it.
23rd February, 2017 (last edited: 25th February, 2017)

Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia by Estée Lauder

About the time that Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia first came out, in 2007, my passion for perfume was just beginning to emerge from a decade-long dormancy. I don’t know what drove it underground—I was still buying and wearing perfume, I just wasn’t doing it with the same drive that I’d had in my teens and twenties. (To give you an idea of where my nose was at, at one point I spent five years in nothing but Clinique’s Happy Heart.)

But I do know what re-sparked my passion. After visiting a local perfume shop to see if it happened to carry the juice I’d fallen in love with during a high school trip to Europe (Balenciaga’s Michelle), and being told it was long discontinued, I got online to Google it and discovered a whole new world.

What a tumble down the rabbit hole. Because not only were there perfume blogs and forums, there were SAMPLE SITES from which one could purchase tiny vials of any number of vintage, classic, niche, and up-and-coming fragrances.

It was during one of my gleeful spending sprees that I decided to give Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia a go. The notes—neroli, jasmine, gardenia, lily, tuberose—were right up my alley, and I had long been a fan of several Estee Lauder scents. I figured if nothing else this would be well made.

Sure enough, it was love at first sniff, a big white floral powerhouse that also managed to be, well, pretty. But not pretty as in sugary or girly. And not powerhouse as in heavy-hitting 1950s perfume bomb. In spite of its massive sillage, Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia is not a bombshell like, say, Fracas, to my nose the perfume equivalent of a honking fin and chrome bedecked candy apple red Cadillac driven by a drunken Liz Taylor. Instead, ELTG is like one of those sleek and sporty sea-foam green and white leather 1970s Mercedes-Benz 280SL Convertibles, driven by CZ Guest on her way to, not from, the party.

And while this is more about gardenia than it is about tuberose, it’s also about rubber and gasoline, two notes that serve to add weight and interest to what would otherwise just come off as too gentile and upper crust—much in the same way a decade before Bvlgari Black and Dzing used rubber and tea and musk and leather to tweak their own conventions.

Ten years later, in spite of the hundreds and hundreds of perfumes I’ve tried and worn since, ELTG still has the power to surprise me with its unique beauty. In my opinion, one of the all-time great florals.
11th February, 2017 (last edited: 05th December, 2018)

Stash by Sarah Jessica Parker

When I first sniffed this, it was a no-go thanks to a dominant milky-sour baby-vomit note that makes perfumes like Gucci Rush, Kate Walsh Boyfriend, and Samsara such deal breakers for me.

But the second time around, the grapefruit, pepper, and sage took over after the initial blast of yuck, and the dry down—a smoky, leathery vanilla—played a very pretty tune, too.

Too bad this intriguing scent doesn't last all that long. Maybe a couple hours, and even at its strongest it sticks so close to my skin as to be almost pointless.

14th January, 2017

City Love by Dueto Parfums

There is a rose in my garden, planted by the previous homeowners, that smells like lemon and cinnamon. And City Love in its initial phase smells almost exactly like that rose.

As it wears on, the sillage becomes more rich and resinous, but if I press my nose into my skin, I can still detect that beautiful rosy/lemony/spicy brightness swirling around in the background.

Really lovely!
24th December, 2016

Narciso by Narciso Rodriguez

I've tried many times over the past couple years to jump on the Narciso For Her bandwagon, and each time my nose firmly refused to detect a single note after the initial but brief blast of florals.

Then I gave Narciso EDP a try, and not only can I smell it, it's so terrific that I bought a full bottle at full retail price--something I don't think I've ever done with a modern-day mainstream release.

The scent is a bit of a changeling, at least in its initial phase. Sometimes it starts off as a sparkling, slightly metallic but clearly defined gardenia; at others it’s a high-pitched, nose-searing chemical soup of florals and musks that takes about an hour to calm down. Once it does, the gardenia and musk is joined by a cinnamon-ey rose and the composition becomes much more elegant. While it doesn’t seem to have much throw, it does remain very assertive on my skin and fabric, one of those compositions that wafts up randomly throughout the day, prompting your brain to wonder what in the heck smells so good.

But it’s the dry down that most fully showcases this perfume’s genius. The first couple of times I wore it, I only thought I’d hit its true bottom, which to my nose didn’t smell that much different from the middle phase.

Boy was I was wrong. You have to really wait for it, at least six hours. That’s when the spicy rose is joined by some soft woods and a hint of vetiver (the gardenia still humming along in the background) and together they manage to create this strange, creamy burnt marshmallow-like accord that is one of the most gorgeous perfume codas I’ve smelled in a long time.
09th December, 2016

Prada Candy by Prada

Is it me or are most of today’s mainstream releases intentionally concocted to wear exclusively close to the skin, with little to no sillage?

Prada Candy is a frustrating example, a luscious gourmand interwoven with an intriguing smoky note that at times smells like burnt sugar and at others like stale cigarette ashes. It’s a wonderful, extremely clever scent, and one that I’d love to wear more often. But the only way I can enjoy is to continually huff at my wrist. Which just looks silly in public.
09th December, 2016

Égoïste / L'Égoïste by Chanel

I have a 10ml bottle of the cologne, and boy is it ever fantastic, an herbal-y oriental with a punch of citrus up front and a creamy mix of sandalwood and vanilla at the back. In between, the dance of dusty rose, abstract herbs, pencil shavings, and cinnamon is assertive enough to keep you enveloped in scent for most of the day without getting you banished from the office or elevator.

I’m not being disingenuous when I call Egoiste one of the world’s great masculines (after all, it’s been marketed exclusively to men), but women who overlook it because of that are missing out on what is also one of the world’s great perfumes, period.
25th November, 2016 (last edited: 02nd December, 2016)

Noël au Balcon by Etat Libre d'Orange

Based on the company's ad copy, I was expecting a sexed up Ambre Narguile or Nuit de Noel. What I get instead reminds me way more of Angel than of any kind of Femme-inized gourmand. Not a bad thing necessarily, but still a pretty far cry from the hyperbolic promises of underpantied naughtiness. I do appreciate the initial blast of cinnamon, but it fights with the orange note in a way that doesn't read as mulled spiced wine so much as mall store candle. I don't know, maybe that's the point? The line seems to have a terrific amount of fun playing with perfume conventions, and the few ELdOs I have smelled are all at least well made. But as a lover of big bad skanky orientals, I read this as rather thin.
25th November, 2016