I haven't worn a rose-based scent since Tea Rose at age 15, but lately I've found myself lingering in that section of the olfactionary garden. My last two purchases were Eau de Cartier Goutte de Rose and Balenciaga Flora Botanica. I outgrew Tea Rose's soliflore about the time my wisdom teeth came in, but this duo refreshes the demure old theme with a hot clove-carnation spice (Cartier) and a juicy, faintly minty rose cordial (Balenciaga). I don't detect the vetiver in Flora Botanica at all -- odd because I am wild for vetiver -- and the 'powdery' note reported by others sounds more like the desiccated rose petals of the potpourri jar rather than this rich, dew-spangled beauty. The Cartier is my choice for the depths of winter, when the memory of fragrant gardens is wan and tenuous and its peppery rose reminds one of baking summer days. The Balenciaga is more like personal air conditioning, to be worn on baking summer days.
This kind of high-concept perfumery often stumbles on its own narrative - in this case the apple-cheeked condition of an upper-middle-class English 1950s/60s childhood, the recent-period archaism that Ralph Lauren is always straining for. You spray it on thinking 'yeah, what's not to like, wild fruits and autumnal herbs', and a whole narrative of a safe and well-heeled growing up, with mummy or the nanny helping you gather berries in the hedgerow during school hols. Very seductive. but what you get instead is dark purple boiled sweets (the kind that are just regulation, internationally recognised 'purple'-flavoured, in crinkly cellophane wrappers) that take the enamel off your teeth. I get no bay, no vetiver, certainly no tomato leaf, no funk, urine, or garbage of any kind - heaven forfend! what would Nanny say? - just synthetic purple sweets. What this is, really, is a kiddie gourmand.
06th October, 2012 (last edited: 07th October, 2012)
It's not clear to me quite how one would paint a picture of a Kentish pub in scent, so I would ignore the promotional literature straining to put us in mind of roaring inglenook fires, apple orchards, and countryside whiffs. Perfumes would be much diminished (and actually pretty scary) if the perfumer could really regulate our associative faculties, which consist of the senses and above all memory. That said, Apuldre is a marvellous thing, partly because it evolves, and partly because it is so richly associative. It is really three different scents. The opening spritz is where one gets the gorgeously green, juicy violet leaf with juniper, and it conjures, for me anyway, the earthy, germinating smell of a lightly wooded copse in spring in a northern climate, when foliage has not yet fully opened and there's quite a lot of moisture in the ground. This is the most exhilarating smell in the world, and one I wish could be prolonged in this perfume. But like all rare things, it's precious because it's not perpetually available. Francis Bacon (the philosopher not the artist) said that he knew a nobleman who had the servants bring him a freshly dug clod of earth each morning when he woke. He would inhale its scent for health and longevity (the nitre in it was thought to be beneficial). Bacon observes that the scent of earth 'is a great composer of the spirits', and Apuldre captures that delightfully hopeful sensation in its exquisite top notes. But the glorious violet fades quickly, like all sublunary marvels, and the middle of Apuldre is a decent smoky mild leather with cedar notes. This phase is similar to the slightly weirder, more bitter Coze 02, which never fails to remind me of a cold fireplace. The leather of Apuldre gradually subsides in favour of pure smoke, and this is the longest phase. After an hour or so, one is left with a sweeter, styrax-y but not gooey-sweet palimpsest of the original - not at all soapy to my nose, but very pleasant. I have been using this from a sample, and plan to buy it, but, just as one would weary of the militant Englishness of Elgar as daily fare, Apuldre is not an everyday perfume. And why can't they just call it 'Appledore', instead of the cod-French-sounding Apuldre - the cute Domesday Book orthography is mere affectation. Nice work, though, otherwise.
17th April, 2012 (last edited: 18th April, 2012)
It's well-named: it comes out of the bottle navel-gazing, and never develops much from its initial sanitised patchouli. It reminds me of nothing so much as Johnson's Baby Powder, with the militantly innocent, heavily trademarked scent of depersonalised American cleanness. Give me trashy headshop patchouli oil any day - at least it has hippy character rather than the unformed squidginess of freshly washed babies and their cute little belly-buttons. It's unformed, inexperienced, a scent of no discernible qualities. I am parallel-testing Nombril today with a grown-up, lived-in patchouli, Lutens's Cedre, in whose company it gurgles prettily, blows bubles, and plays with its toes. Nombril is the equivalent of no scent at all except the traces of Ivory soap, or a rising intonation on the end of every statement.
Sycomore may just be the most delicious scent ever made; it's my desert island fragrance. I do not detect the 'le smoking' angle that several reviewers notice. For me this is the bewitching smoke of incense and outdoor olivewood fires, not of disgusting cigarettes. It's a very woody chypre, rich and smooth, a rounder, warmer take on Timbuktu's dry cool incense note. It's designed for women, and suits those of us who are not into girly sweet florals; it has the exotic quality of a fine light oriental without the often stale morning-after weight of that genre; it's a very grown-up, easy fragrance, what Baudelaire called 'nonchaloir'. I love it on men, too. It is hideously expensive and worth every penny.
It's a miracle of absence: a classic (probably meant as a feminine, but in fact unisex) with NO fruit, NO floral, NO sweetness of any kind. I can just about imagine a guy wearing this, but it is so fierce that I imagine most men would find it overwhelming. Although others detect birch tar and generally leather-like notes, to me this is a sharp, delightfully bitter number, piney green, loads of labdanum, vetiver, and a prickly saltiness (that's the labdanum, I guess) which smells to me not quite of sweat but of some plant of the marine littoral - seaweed or kelp, perhaps. In short, an extreme version of Guerlain's Vetiver and closely related to the bitter green chypre of Eau du Soir. I am surprised that some think it too strong: I have to respray after about 4-5 hours (Vetiver and Eau du Soir last all day, by contrast). The drydown is softer and slightly 'prettier' than the top and middle, and I can often get a fleeting whiff of it on my wrist late at night in bed - heaven! Bandit is a stand-and-deliver highwayman of unforgettable charisma and unknown identity, always eluding capture. I may be the girl who runs away to live with the brigands!
15th December, 2009 (last edited: 11th March, 2010)
Lots of people can't stand it, but I love the sharp green top notes of Eau du Soir, especially the juniper. This is the Platonic version of a gin fizz, what we shold be drinking in the cave as we console ourselves with shadows on the wall. Although at heart I love the green, citrus, incense end of chypres, I've been through a recent Mitsouko phase of wearing softer, very slightly fruitier or more hortulan numbers (Eau Sauvage, Private Collection, vintage Miss Dior), and have not worn EdS for a while. Then I discovered the gorgeous Bandit the other day, and realised that what I love about it is the same sharp, almost aggressive, green coniferous notes I find in EdS. So I am writing this with Eau du Soir on my right wrist (the EdP), and Bandit on my left. I never thought I would say this, but Bandit is actually sharper; Eau du Soir has that softening syringa note in the heart which I never noticed, and makes it, weirdly, more of a floral than I ever realised. At the same time, Eau du Soir has a developing lemony citrus note in conjunction with the lilac which keeps it fierce. I love Bandit the way I love Timbuktu (probably my all-time favourite along with Sycomore) - that take-no-prisoners, militantly ungirly style of woody, incense-laden scents - and I'm adding it to my wardrobe immediately. But Eau du Soir, which has been standing forlornly at the back of my collection for some months now, is now immeasurably enriched for me in the comparison. Bravo Eau du Soir, and thank you, beautiful Bandit, for the felicitous rapprochement!
Update - funny how people who loathe it think the bottle is pretty. I love the scent but think the bottle is astonishingly tacky (yucko plastic something-or-other, a gilded unpleasantness you would find on the pavement). Maybe Sisley spent all its development money on the juice and only had enough left for extruded plastic.
21st November, 2009 (last edited: 20th December, 2012)
I got a sample of this because it's a famous classic, because I usually love the famous classics, and because Luca T writes so elegiacally about it. If anyone wants the rest of my sample, please ask, because this is the only frag I have ever felt I needed to get out of my house asap - the perfume equivalent of a 2-bagger (plastic, please, in case it spills; if it did, I would have to sell the house). It is supposed to have a whole spectrum of interesting ingredients (begamot, one of my favourites, for example), but the hit of superheated rubber gave me a such a headache that I had to scrub it off after 10 minutes, when I realised that the heart (if there is one) would not be revealing anything interesting, or even faintly detectable beneath the screech of tires. No... just more melting rubber, like what I imagine a nascar race smells like. So I have no idea if it ever escapes the industrial accident phase.The last time I smelled a ponk as bad as this was when driving through the chemical factories in east Jersey belching out their poison and my mother gave us tissues soaked in 4711 to hold to our noses. Is it the castoreum that produces this effect? Maybe it's my skin or my nose, but I cannot in my darkest dreams imagine that this could smell good on anyone. Sorry Knize Ten, you are the only perfume I positively cannot bear.
18th November, 2009 (last edited: 16th April, 2012)
It's an interesting anthropo-linguistic fact that French (and Italian) has no precise equivalent of the word 'cosy'. When I first tried Coze 02 I wondered if the name is an attempt in cod-French to invent the word and the concept to fill this unaccountable vacancy for a needy nation. The effect is certainly Cozee. Without doubt this is one of the oddest things I've ever tried, and to my nose it isn't, thank goodness, a gourmand, unless smelling like embers over which food was cooked a long time ago counts. I love it, though I have to decide if I want it for me or for my furniture. The nutty top sativa note yields to the smoky, resinous cold fireplace accord which to my nose has no bourbon-vanilla in it at all but does hint clearly of actual bourbon, one of the many substances in the world and in this perfume, including coffee and charcoal, that always smell far far better than they could ever possibly taste. Chocolate, coffee, pepper are mentioned in the tasting notes from PG - well, maybe, but if they were ever there, they've since been completely translated into smoke. I'm not sure this is even a personal fragrance; it's more like a state of mind, or a cure for insomnia. I haven't bought it yet, but I may have to, if only to sprinkle it on my pillow for comfort.
11th November, 2009 (last edited: 21st January, 2014)
I want to love this - I really do. Everyone I know raves about it; the reviews on this blog are almost uniformly enthusiastic. But the vanilla-violet accord has the wan period feel of one of those old round boxes of dusting powder, the kind that used to come with a sort of feather-boa of a powder puff, for ladies of the 1950s and earlier. It's specifically that old box rediscovered, because Apres l'Ondee has the slightly perished quality of an oil-based talc several decades past its sell-by date; it has, in other words, the interesting but hardly rainwashed quality of the inside of old wooden drawers that have contained cosmetics. I kind of enjoy that temps perdu quality as an antiquarian, nostalgic pleasure, and it may be that this is what various reviewers mean by 'melancholy', but I certainly wouldn't want to smell of it. I am a pretty unreconstructed Guerlain junkie, and I tend to love the classics from this period, but not this. Give me Mitsouko every time, or even the far less exciting Vol de Nuit. I have got the Apres l'Ondee parfum on my left arm and the vintage EdT on my right. The dry-downs are very similar, although the vanillic note is considerably stronger in the parfum; and as expected, the parfum is has far more staying power, though neither is especially radiant. After top notes in each which remind me more of opening a semi-volatile tin of oil-based house paint (that's a nice smell, actually, though not so great in a fragrance!), the EdT has a distinctly honeyed heart note which is hardly represent in the parfum. If the honey started earlier and lasted longer, perhaps....
I will do this test again in a few months and see if I can understand the fuss better. Until then, I'm afraid I'm l'ondee on the sunny parade of praise.
31st October, 2009 (last edited: 11th March, 2010)
It is said that if a Barbie doll's proportions were translated into living flesh and blood, she'd be 8 feet tall, her eyes would be the size of dinner plates, and her cervical vertebrae would snap with the weight of her head if her chest didn't completely unbalance her first and send her face-down onto the floor. That's how Tabac Blond feels -- a gorgeous, unsettling, hugely proportioned monster whose exaggerated presence - all swaggering leather and throaty vanilla, the volume on each turned up to 11 - makes me feel I ought to seek cover immediately.
I can see that even in what's apparently a greatly debased formulation this is still a remarkable composition; but it's a period piece it reminds me that there was still a large chunk of the 20th century that needed strong perfumes to cover the week between baths and the ponk of wool clothes that were sponged down instead of washed. Some reviewers have said that Tabac Blond is about the liberation of women; but, kind of like Barbie, this ancient specimen reminds me instead of all the roles and chores women don't have to put up with any more. As with some of the modernist art with which it is coterminous, I admire it but I could never love it.
DK says it has the smell of wet NY cobblestones in it. Not sure wet NY cobblestones have a geographically distinctive smell, but I love the generic petrichor of wet cobblestones. Still, I wouldn't want to smell LIKE wet cobblestones, and fortunately DKNY Women doesn't. It's an enchantingly simple, jolly, fizzy grapefruit cocktail, best for a sunny day, or perhaps, as the old song says, 'the dullest morn which heralds in the fairest day'. I bought this by accident, and have never regretted it - I like it when I don't want to be too serious about anything, including perfume.
25th October, 2009 (last edited: 21st January, 2014)
Thank goodness the human nose, like perfumes themselves, has seasons and a chronology. The first time I tried Mitsouko I thought it was overpowering. I admired its class and structure without actually being able to stand it for long. A year later I decided - because millions of frag-hags can't all be wrong - to have another go. What a difference a year makes! I now understand the magic of it, especially the astonishing evolution of the middle notes just when you think you've had everything it has to give. If I have one complaint, it's that the citrus and bergamot top notes in the first 20 minutes or so feel shouty and unsubtle and utterly inappropriate to the luminous whole. For me this is a significant, though not insuperable, flaw, since I am normally willing to sell my soul for bergamot. Easily solved by spraying first thing, of course; by the time I'm brewing the coffee it has settled down to its sumptuous, subtle reality. I keep thinkng I will suddenly recognise that this is a dressy, evening scent, that I should go easy on it and keep it in reserve, but I'm relieved that aspect has not yet dawned - I wear it every day when I am not in Timbuktu. I sometimes spray it on last thing at night as a comforting soporific. Like a lot of the classic scents, Mitsouko reminds one of an earlier age, even if one is not in fact old enough to have any such recollection; at the same time, it has nothing of the antique or the old lady. My grandmother did not wear it - she was a lifelong No 5 loyalist - but Mitsouko smells like someone I might have loved in that way.
24th October, 2009 (last edited: 11th March, 2010)
Finding myself near L'Artisan in Marylebone High Street the other day, I decided to see if Dzing! is all it is cracked up to be. It is supposed to have some leather in it, but all I could smell was ancient, decomposing elastoplast, the horrible flesh-pink, ace bandage variety that's been on your finger for far too long. A room frag for a museum of medical specimens, perhaps? I was relieved I had already spritzed myself with Timbuktu, and could leave the shop with a light heart.
This is the first perfume I knew - age 10 - because my mother bought it as a delicious curiosity. She never wore it, and I sprayed it all around my room because I thought the whole world should smell this way. Wore it through high school and college in the 1970s when everyone else was wearing Charlie. It seemed like everything French, Mediterranean, impossibly fresh, chic, definitely for girls. It made me happy just to take a hit out of the bottle on a grey day. It was a world in a bottle.
Then I lost contact with it for 20 years, and two decades later I have it in my collection again. It's still pretty good, but what have they done to it? It seems to have had a base of musk or something certifiably masculine added to it, so it's now definitely a 'guy' scent, the kind that's made to persuade guys it's ok to wear anything besides deodorant. Does anyone know whether it has been tampered with? The Eau Sauvage of my recollection smelled a lot like Annick Goutal's L'Eau du Sud or Clarin's Eau Dynamisante - all vetiver/citrus splash, nothing load-bearing or remotely affected by gravity. Is this a change in formula, or is it just anno domini messing with my now middle-aged nose? Answers please.
Update: As well as L'eau du Sud and Eay Dynamisante, Diorella smells like the old, glorious, unreformulated Eau Sauvage, too - perhaps most of all.
21st April, 2009 (last edited: 10th January, 2015)
I tried this because I had heard it smelled like burning rubber. OK, I can accept this, just as I accept that there are several frags out there that are supposed to smell like steam from an iron. These are irresistible invitations to sniff, and guess what? They all live up to their billing. To borrow a line from Dr Johnson, it is not done well, but you marvel that it is done at all. I admire whatever wild inspiration made these ideas seem like good ones, but does anyone want to smell like an industrial accident?
21st April, 2009 (last edited: 11th March, 2010)