Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Ayala

Advertisement
Total Reviews: 130

Black Gardenia by Anna Zworykina Perfumes

Russian Leather meets tuberose in Anna Zworykina's Black Gardenia. Zworykina's plays up the rubbery nuances of tuberose with the addition of leathery-smoky quality of castoreum*, and I suspect there is also a tad of birch tar or cade in there. The green and creamy aspects of tuberose are still felt, but they feel mushroomy and dark, and stay true to the promise of the name Black Gardenia. This is by no means a shy flower, but rather a fleshy, dark, prowling feline-like beast that becomes more aroused the longer it lingers on your skin.

Along the tuberose star, there are frangipani, neroli and ylang ylangas a supporting actresses. The first two bring out the stem-green aspects of tuberose and gardenia; the latter highlights its creamy, leathery, salicylic qualities. There are some oak-barrel-like undertones from the sandalwood and agarwood, giving the leather a sturdy frame to stretch on. Slowly the smokiness dissipates and makes room for a smooth, woody-vanilla skin-scent. There is also a hint of something fruity-floral (perhaps the davana), and the floral gardenia illusion, although subtle, is felt in a suave, smooth, tropical-floral-on-warm-skin way.

While Black Gardenia has a clear personality of leather-tuberose, it has many nuances that piques my interest throughout its duration on my skin. It is lovely, a little addictive and a case in point that white florals can take a stance without being loud, and be pretty without ever becoming boring.

P.s. The only reason I can't wear it again is because I've drained my sample vial to write this up...
24th July, 2018

Osmanthus Oolong by Providence Perfume Co.

The notion of tea usually creates an expectation of something muted, subtle, abstract and subdued. Osmanthus Oolong by Providence Perfume Company has taken me all by surprise: instead of cup of steaming tea, I got a roaring animal, purring and demanding my full attention. Almost as surprising as getting up close to a daffodil and discovering that it's full of carnal energy.

Osmanthus Oolong begins with a burst of the exotic and unfamiliar - which must be from the aglaia flowers (which I have never smelled in my life). This perfume renders an otherwise Chinese botanicals theme with an intricate East Indian richness: dirty-animalic, sensuous, and honeyed blossoms dripping fruity nectar.

There is a vibrant citrusy blood orange in the opening; fruity yet heady red champaca, and jam-like davana, and an undercurrent of leathery-indolic nuances that remind me of hyraceum (African Stone) and naughty jasmines. But what’s most outstanding about this perfume is that the osmanthus, an essence that I find to be extremely introvert and shy - really radiates all its beautiful qualities here: fruity oubturst of fuzzy dried peach and juicy apricot, a succession of tiny fragrant blossoms cascading from a tree, and an underlining animalic leather - all steeped into a strong, sweet tea.

As it turns out, there are several tea tinctures and essences in the making of Osmanthus Oolong - and each adds depth and a unique quality the echoes and complements the osmanthus: Black tea tincture for astringent leatheriness, green tea absolute for its hint of apricot and ionones, and rooibos absolute for the full-bodied, honey-like and fruity sweetness.

Top notes: Bergamot, Aglaia
Heart notes: Osmanthus, Jasmine, Apricot, Peach
Base notes: Black tea, Green tea, Rooibos
19th July, 2018

Private Collection - Un Crime Exotique by Parfumerie Generale

I imagine that this is what Alice in Wonderland has experienced when she opened the bottle that said “drink me”. Succession of decadence pours effortlessly out of Un Crime Exotique, as if the occident and the orient have simultaneously decided to pack their most refined treats into one little bottle, with an endless supply of surreal liquid fantasy.

Star-anise infused pastries. Madeleine steeped in steamed milk. Dim-sum sponge cake soaked with jasmine tea. Gingerbread baking in the oven. Black sesame and honey. Osmanthus incense burning and Japanese body incense sprinkled on a sleepy skin with penetrating camphor and sweet cinnamon and vanilla. Milky bubble tea.

This is a comfort scent if there ever was one. Soft, soothing, mysterious, imaginative and like no other. Uncork that bottle and experience a stream of pouring thick lactonic vapour, floating above, transporting me to a place where there are no worries and only rewards, only tea and desserts and none of the savoury prerequisites. Truly an (exotic) crime.

Notes: Chinese Osmanthus, Gingerbread, Tea, Cinnamon, Star anise, Mate Absolute, Vanilla Sugar, South Sea Island Sandalwood
19th July, 2018
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

Égoïste / L'Égoïste by Chanel

I would hardly consider anyone wearing Égoïste selfish - anyone around you is going to enjoy it too!

Égoïste is the younger and louder brother of the demure, soft-spoken and old-fashioned Bois des Îles. It opens with a burst of dry yet sweet melange of woods, citrus and spice. It actually reminds me of another favourite 80's fragrance, which is also drenched in sandalwood: Samsara (which reportedly had a glutenous 40% Mysore sandalwood). There is no true separation between top and heart and base as they weave in and out in different phases of the perfume. At first, there is the clarity of bois de rose (rosewood), the led-pencil shaving association of Virginia cedarwood, and the sweet citrus burst of tangerine and a sprinkle of sweet cassia. There is also a hint of eugenol, not quite clove like, but softer - perhaps form carnations. Underlying notes of coumarin backed up with a generous dose of vanilla absolute. There is something about true vanilla absolute that is simultaneously woody and animalic, quite unlike the cupcake frosting character of vanillin. Égoïste's vanilla really brings this out with some help of both indole and leathery animalic notes. which add interest. It is quite well balanced between sweet, bitter, smooth, spicy and powdery - although admittedly leaning towards the sweet more so than I would have expected (or remember the original to be).

The sandalwood is not as creamy as its sister Bois des Îles (probably because what I have in my hands is a rather modern version, very unlikely containing any Mysore sandalwood) - but that also gives is an edge somehow - it's warmer and more spicy and dry than I remembered it from a few years back. It seems to be accompanied by Atlas cedar's suave fruitiness, and perhaps even a splash of violet-y ionones and plum and rose notes from damascones.

Beware: Egoiste Platinum has nothing to do with it besides the name, and is the only version you'll find in Canada and the USA, and to my nose it smells like generic sporty aquatic chemical trash. But it has a wonderful ad as well!
22nd January, 2014

La Pausa / 28 La Pausa Eau de Toilette by Chanel

28 La Pausa is very light, ethereal exercise in iris. Not the powdery, creamy orris butter that at the core of all the classic Geurlains; but rather a cool, airy rendition of this ethereal and obscure note, quite anemic if to be perfectly hones, and supported by ionone, irone and synthetic musks to extend its metallic presence without adding much longevity or blood. If the inspiration for it is the green-shuttered villa in southern France, then 28 La Pausa is the breeze blowing in the gauzy cotton curtains, bringing in the scent of a just-watered garden with iris and wet concrete pavement. There is a hint of indole in there, giving the ever so slightly warmth of jasmine petals. But it's not enough to bring in any of the relaxed, carefree Joie de Vivre spirit of southern France, nor its neighbouring Italian riviera the house is supposedly overlooking. If this is Chanel's mood on her vacations, then she's most likely sewing mosquito nets indoors, or else sketching patterns on a glass coffee table. She should be indulging in the fresh air, beaches and abundant Mediterranean scenery and loving sun. But she's not. She's cold inside her stone villa, letting only the cold sea breeze come in.

28 La Pausa, the orris scent, is quite lovely, but honestly - do we always have to have an iris scent in every exclusive/niche collection? Apparently, the answer is yes. And now Chanel had to dip her hand in that icy water of sparse iris scents, in order to prove that this house is expensive and trendy enough.
I am with those who are happy to stick with the tried and true Hiris de Hermes and Apres l'Ondee.

Notes: Iris, Ionones, Jasmine, Indole, Ambrette, Musks.
22nd January, 2014

Cabochard by Grès

Cabochard is so many things - green, leathery, woody, floral, indolic... It begins with a definitive juicy-green character, like frsehly squeezed wheatgrass; yet there is something ashy and dry underneath. The health-concious wheatgrass juicer is also a chain smoker. The nicotine in her veins brings the best of her - creativity, energy, laughter. It's balanced again with some medicinal sage, and pretty, clean and proper neroli and enough rose to make you think of a rose garden but not smell like an English lady. Orange blossom and jasmine make advances as the perfume develops on the skin. These two bold notes, while indolic and dirty, also have a zest of life to them, a very forward personality, with the methyl anthranilate shining through beautifully and bringing some sweetness into the green. They are only ever so slightly soft-focused with powdery orris note. As for the base - it's what you've always dreamed of: oakmoss, tobacco and vetiver, with some isobutyl quinoline for good measure.

Cabochard to me seems to have predicted the future of the 1970's - No. 19, especially, to whom it is a very close relative with the same motifs of leather, greens, juicy citrus notes, iris, leather and vetiver; interplay between green, dry and floral-powdery. As well as everything that followed, dominated by green, herbaceous and soapy notes. The leading scents in this trend were No. 19, Ivoire, Estée Lauder's Azurée (by perfumer Bernard Chant), Alliage and Private Collection; Coriandre, Calandre, Chamade, 1000, AnaisAnais, and Aromatics Elixir (also designed by Bernard Chant), and of course Rive Gauche. I'm glad I found out who is the perfumer behind it (though I'm certain that Guy Robert's Chouda - the original fragrance Madame Gres commissioned for her brand - was magnificent!) and see the connections with his other creations.

Top notes: Sage, Rose, Neroli
Heart notes: Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Orris
Base notes: Vetiver, Leather, Oakmoss, Tobacco
22nd January, 2014

Anima Dulcis by Arquiste

Love at first sniff! Original yet familiar

The love at first whiff is not so much because of the cumin (and note that to me is home-like, comforting, earthy and sensual), but more so with how it is orchestrated with iris and earthy-ambery base that brings to mind non other than the reformulated Femme de Rocahs (1989). In the latter, there is something audaciously over-the-top and a tad plastic-y.
Anima Dulcis, however, is everything I could hope that version of Femme would transform to on my skin and better. The cocoa plays greater role in the ad copy (a Mexican theme of chocolate and chilli) than in the perfume: it's merely in the background, creating a layer of soft-focused dusting to complement the powdery orris, indolic jasmine and liberating hedione, and leading to a sensual, earthy finale of dark patchouli of the best kind and the bitterness of arcane myrrh resin. Im not really smelling chili pepper too much - maybe black pepper though. The cacao is also subdued, and though I can see the Mexican inspiration through the cumin and cacao, it's not what I would have thought of it without reading the ad copy first...

Pros: Beautifully orchestrated, long lasting and smooth
Cons: Not available in Vancoucer BC

19th May, 2013

Cocoa Tuberose by Providence Perfume Co.

Cocoa Tuberose is one of the sexiest perfumes I've tried in a while, and although the name might imply a very girly scent - I know it would smell fantastic on both men and women. It appeals to a very grown-up, refined taste and is well-balanced and satisfying, like a square of smooth woody-floral dark chocolate.

The tuberose is creamy, smooth and a little vegetal - don't expect a hit in your face by a diva floral! The chocolate is used very subtly as in the expert hand of a chef who just wants an accent of cacao in a savoury dish. Nutty vetiver comes forth, and plays a duet with powdery, caramel-like tonka bean. Despite the depth and complexity of these distinctive, opposing notes are seamlessly blended in such way that not only do they not overpower one another, but also create a new harmony that is unexpectedly savoury rather than decadent.
07th January, 2013

Prada Amber pour Homme Intense by Prada

Prada Ambre Intense Pour Homme begins like a mist of citrus peel with florals thrown in the mix - the familiar crystalline feel of bergamot, and some tangering and orange. Non of which is strong enough, of course, to cover up the brownie, chocolatey, delicious earthiness that's lurking underneath.

First comes amber, with a load of benzoin; then the bergamot makes a second entrance, only to be pushed away by a clean, woody patchouli that almost smells like cedar. The amber and patchouli remain the main components for the next three hours, feeling a little too crystalline and transparent to my taste at first; but becoming more bold and dominant and deep, with only sandalwood occasionally making some white noise, and vanilla that is almost chocolatey and edible. Lastly, a familiar note of vetiver joins in and adds an extra layer of wood that is clean, elegant and delightful.

Prada Ambre Intense Pour Homme has a long and clumsy name, but it's well constructed, with a structure similar to the great Shalimars of the past, and could be easily worn by both men and women, as long as they go hiking with it.
14th September, 2012

Vetiver by Guerlain

This is a vetiver that is seemingly simple and gives vetiver a clean, elegant and citrusy interpretation. But when noticing the unfolding of the different elements it reveals interesting layers of simple yet surprising combinations.

Citrus in the initial inhale turns into a peppery heart of nutmeg absolute, revealing the magic of this precious spice, which is the most supreme in this type of distillation, just as the freshly grated nuts. Pepper absolute is also present but to a lesser extend – it’s the luxury of nutmeg that is the star of the show.

A mysterious floral presence is secretly woven into the heart as well. It took me a while to place the jasminoidal floralcy and the almost candy-like fruitiness of orange blossom. It is only there to bond between the otherwise dry and somewhat eccentric notes, and you’ll notice it only if you lend an alert ear to it’s quite song.

The supporting base notes are of almost equal earthiness to that of vetiver – the infamous preciousness of aged patchouli, alluring as an adventure into closet full of clean woolen shawls. Cured tobacco leaves accentuate the dryness of vetiver, while tonka bean adds sweetness as well as a pipe tobacco suggestion. The base accord and dry down has a suave, elegant presence of palse suede leather and the smoothness of burnished woods along with that sweet and tart earthiness of vetiver that usually shows up only later into its dry down, once all the sharpness has dissipated.

These notes do not come one after the other in a procession; rather, they are dynamic and interactive, like a group of sea mammals surfacing out of the water for a breath in alternating moments, and at the end of only the vetiver sticks around and continues to play with the patchouli, tonka and tobacco which stays behind to keep it company.

Despite of its relative simplicity and innocent, almost non-ambitious treatment of vetiver. Vetiver by Guerlain is now a classic. It’s simplicity is both timeless and charming. If you love vetiver, you must try Guerlain’s interpretation. I haven’t tried all the vetiver fragrances there are in the entire world yet, but this won my heart instantly.
07th December, 2009

Azurée Soleil Eau Fraiche Skinscent by Estée Lauder

This review is for the body oil - which has a better scent in my opinion; the Eau Fraiche is a little too citrusy at first and a little too musky in the drydown but still a lot of fun:

This indecisive product swings in between a perfume and a body oil, but to judge by the fact that 1/5 of the bottle was gone only 5 days after Azuree joined my glass clan – I think of it as a body oil. The scent is mild and non-overpowering. Despite its definite presence and unique odour, it does not seem like an improbable act of insanity to wear other fragrance on your wrists while your skin is covered with the glowing aura of this subtle, sensual scent. I was a bit surprised when I smelled it first because it is rather spicy. With all the coconut and gardenia hype, one might grow to expect Azure to be just another fun suntan oil scent. Azure is mostly a woody scent, warmed with allspice and cloves. It has a spicy-sweet and woody-dry, warm presence at first, with less-than-obvious melted-honey-comb top notes. Than it gradually melts into the skin and radiates an aura of warm sand and skin, or shampooed hair heated by direct sun light. The gardenia is very subdued and so are the coconut and myrrh. The overall feeling when wearing Azuree Body Oil after a while is what one would want a sun tan lotion to be: a non-obstrusive complement to one’s skin. And that’s what I love about it.

The oil is made mostly of silicone (cyclopentasiloxane caprylic/capric triglyceride), it is made friendly and moisturizing with olive oil, macademia nut oil, kukui nut oil, grapeseed oil and wheat germ oil. I believe it's that combination that makes the oil absorb so fast and not feel so oily (like most suntan oils are!). The list of ingredients definitely makes me like this oil more...

A downside is, though, that all the cinnamic acids and spicy aromas can be a bit tough on the skin. If you have a sensitive skin don’t apply it all over your body – it may result in a burning or itching sensation or irritation to the skin. This is why it would be nice if it came in a more concentrated oil that can be applied discreetly to pulse points, or just a perfume, a-la-Youth Dew Bath Oil.

Another issue is the price: if (and I repeat: IF) Azuree was a perfume, the price (below $40 CAD the year it came out) would have been very attractive. But, considering the fact that it is a Body Oil, and is meant to cover more skin than a perfume – it goes faster that I wish it would, and so the price is actually not as great as it seems…
25th July, 2009

Champaca Absolute by Tom Ford

My impression is still a bit divided when it comes to this new interpretation of champaca in the Tom Ford Private Blends collection. Like Linda Pilkington’s Champaca there is rice-steam and subtlety of tea to it underneath it all, which I find both very suitable and complementary for champaca absolute. Interestingly, from all the rice-steam fragrances I've experienced, this one delivers the feel the best despite the fact that it is not "supposed" to do so (judging by the list of "notes" released by the company); also, there is no synthetically musky dry down to get in the way of enjoying this unusual floral.

At the same time, it is way fruitier than champaca absolute is, which make the name a bit misleading. Perhaps the flower in full bloom portrays more of this fruitiness, typical of its sister the white magnolia; but the effect takes away from the rarity of this perfume as it brings to mind too many typical fruity florals. Thankfully, this common effect is not dominant and for most of its duration on the skin, Champaca Absolute delivers that rare thing – a subtle big floral. My first thought when wearing Champaca Absolute was - "this is how I would have wanted KenzoAmour to smell", which goes to show you how much of a prettified champaca this one is.

There is much of the exotic in here, from banana-leaf wrapped steamer rice and tea to the large golden petals of this admirable magnolia, dipping slowly in warm plum wine. The scent lasts well beyond expected, and is only a tad overbearing for a few minutes in the beginning (at the fruity-floral phase). While it does linger on clothes after it departs from the skin – it is actually a pleasant surprise to find it there, like a sweet memory of Malaysian food enjoyed the evening before in candle-light. It is just a little too pretty and little too simplified for champaca, but if that would make the West understand and appreciate champaca more - perhaps it is a good thing.

I would say it starts off like plum wine (perhaps the Tokaj and davana, which is a boozy smelling type of artemisia), continues into magnolified-fruity champaca with the addition of rice and tea like notes (perhaps this is the starchiness of the candied chestnuts) and boils down to vanilla and a woody amber. It is semi-linear though, as the changes are not that dramatic and it generally keeps its original shape throughout.
27th May, 2009

Hermèssence Vanille Galante by Hermès

Easter came early to Hermès this year with the heady Madonna Lilies that bloom from a bottle titled “Vanille Galante”.

Unlike most of the other Hermessences, which quite clearly answer to their title (except, perhaps, Osmanthe Yunnan) - the vanilla here will not fulfill the craving of the vanillophiles who patiently awaited their dessert after clearing their plate from fresh peppers and a side of lavender.

Vanille Galante burst into the air like a flower rushing to display its colours from fear of loosing the attention of butterflies. Heady ylang ylang only but supports the main theme here - the infamous Madonna Lily, a symbol of purity and the Virgin Mary. Sliced cantaloupe sprinkled with salt brings to mind a giant Easter egg decorated by calone. Whether or not there is calone in Vanille Galante I cannot tell, but I’d like to think that this molecule found its way to the perfume to complete the picture of an Easter picnic under the sky. It’s the same cantaloupe from Un Jardin Apres la Mousson, just in a lesser dosage.
And when the vanilla finally makes an appearance it is more woody than dessert like, and perhaps will bring to mind a flavoured liquor rather than vanilla-dotted crème brûlée.
There is vanilla absolute in the base alright, but overall I would not describe Vanille Galante as a vanilla scent, but as a floral or a floriental at best. The dry down reminds me of Chanel’s Allured - a contrast of computer generated florals against a backdrop of woody vanilla. But Vanille Galante does not feel as artificial, and as with most Jean-Claude Ellena’s scents, this gown has such lightness and airiness about it that it’s easy to wear if it is not exactly your style or preferred colour.
27th May, 2009
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

Turtle Vetiver Exercise 1 by LesNez

Turtle Vetiver started crawling my way in 2008 and didn't make it here via snailmail in 2009. It was a surprise addition to the samples of Manoumalia that I was really hoping to try before the end of the year (it would have made it to my best-of-2008 list but I guess that will need to wait to the next roundup.

The sample vial was labeled "Exercise 1", so at first I thought that this is not the finished perfume but a first mod in a perfume in progress (it is described on LesNez as "Outlaw Perfume in Progress"). However, as it turns out - Turtle Vetiver is an ever changing Eau de Toilette that Isabelle makes in small batches as contribution to the creative network titled Turtle (I'm still trying to figure out the actual connection to turtles).

Turtle Vetiver it is an interestingly bold vetiver and already got my attention not just because of the quirky name, but also because it is just in-your-face dirty and gritty vetiver roots before the soiland sand grains have been rinsed off. It opens very shapr and bold, with a certain peppery darkness to it and a coolness that can only be likened to heavy wet sand that is slightly bound by flossy rootlets of seashore plants. Once it settles on the skin it reveals the cool, clean, fresh and soft Haitian vetiver which I can only guess is the main ingredient.


I'm curious where else will Isabelle Doyen take this vetiver interpretation. There is hardly a lack of vetiver scents on the shelves and I'm always surprised at how original vetiver fragrances can still remain even though there are already so many. I am starting to think that vetiver is like tea... The differences are subtle, but make the world to those who can notice and appreciate them.
27th May, 2009

Manoumalia by LesNez

Manoumalia is every bit a steamy, humid floral that intoxicates the senses and evokes faraway locals in a most vivid and genuine manner. It opens with what smells exactly like the houseplant in my lobby that was haunting me last August. It has the same kewda-like sharpness and headiness to it, initially also underlined with some juicy orange blossom and and humid tuberose notes. For some 30 minutes or so, it feels as if tropical flowers' nectar and jungle-leaf sap is mingled with salty sweat; the kind of feeling you get when you work in a hothouse. The initial Dracena fragrans note fades out after the initial blast of tropical steam and turns into a soft, creamy tuberose and ylag ylang that remains subtle and subdued for the remaining of its life on my skin - with soft woody murmurs like the hushing leaves in the jungle at night.
27th May, 2009

Oeillet by Scent Systems

Oeillet takes me to times when taking a bath by the candle light was not a luxury but a necessity. Once a week, the “Geyser” was turned on to full-blast to heat up enough water for the entire family of 7 (this is not the natural phenomenon, but the name of an archaic gasoline-operated boiler that had such a tall chimney it looked like a rocket ship). One after the other, we went into the tub tired and dirty (the week was long but Friday seemed even longer with all the hard to get ready for the Sabbath); and we came out purified and rejuvenated.

Before my bath, I would pick a dozen branches of mountain sage and steep it to make the darkest tea possible to rinse my hair. The tea was so dark it nearly stained the bathtub. And it was so strong it made my hair smell of sage for the next couple of days (when it was rinsed again, but this time with whichever water temperature the tap had to offer).

Oeillet is dusky, dark, earthy and seductive. It reminds me of rinsing my hair with sage tea on those Friday nights but also more in general the winter life in our electricity deprived village - oil lamps and candles lighting the room and me and my little brother cutting citrus peels into strange shapes and than burning them in the fireplace.

Oeillet opens juicy and citrusy and with a definite hit of sage, cistus and galbanum absolute that gush out and breathes like drips of blood and wine on earth. Spicy heart of carnation is set against an earthy and musky backdrop of inky patchouli absolute.
Although oiellet means carnation in French, this is not a simple carnation soliflore. I don’t think of it as a floral perfume either; I would classify it as a herbaceous, spicy oriental. Original and vibrant to the point that it’s hard to believe all these plant essences aren’t real living and breathing animals.
27th May, 2009

Rose by Scent Systems

Rose grabs you by the prick of a thorn. “I'm here! Notice me!”. It’s rosier than possible in real life, bigger and greener and sharp with overtly fruit-like a peach punch - to the point that it stops being a rose, and becomes an Indian curry. Or perhaps, an English take on what an Indian curry is all about. Meaning, a pinwheel curried chicken sandwich nibbled in a dark tea lounge while dreaming of an English rose garden in summertime.

The overripe fruit is intensified with rubbery, boozy opoponax only to be claimed by an earthy undercurrent. Vetiver, patchouli and turmeric are to blame for that effect; and while the imaginary roses shed their petals one by one, earth and curry take over like the sleepiness that follows a heavy meal.
27th May, 2009

Sweet Lime and Cedar by Jo Malone

A modern twist in the cologne genre, Sweet Lime and Cedar uses kaffir lime leaf (aka Thai lime), tamarind and cedarwood as the theme. It may have the coolness of a tamarind drink in the alleyways of the souk, but it is more leafy than citrusy and I can’t say that I’m smelling the unmistakable kaffir lime note on its own. Rather, it seems like a Westernized version for those who don’t really care for that particular lime or perhaps find it too weird. The overall impression is of fresh leaves rubbed between the palms, and not particularly citrusy though possessing that type of invigorating freshness. A few moments later, I can sense a foreign note attempting to rise above the others – a gardenia and coconut accord, but a very artificial kind as the one you smell in every-other-celebrity-fragrance and the next one coming up. Thankfully, this phase is very short living and is quickly replaced by a dry pomelo note and a tad of coriander that lead to the longer lasting cedarwood that lingers on and on.

Colognes usually lose my interest nearly as fast as the initial blast of fresh juicy citrus top notes evaporates from the skin. But those that have cedarwood base seem to not only work well on my skin but also keep my brain stimulated longer without feeling irritated (the synthetic longer living citrus notes do that to me and turn on my skin). I had a similar infatuation with Miller Harris’ Citron Citron and could see myself quenching thirst for an entire summer with one of these at hand. At the same time, I am not particularly convinced that this perfume delivers its Thai cuisine premise and think that if it was carried out more boldly it would have made a truly fascinating perfume.
27th May, 2009

Dans tes Bras by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

In Dans tes Bras, Maurice Roucel brings up the unspeakable topic of intimacy. Intimacy is something that is difficult to describe, but easily felt. It's a subtle emotion and a state of mind that occurs when we somehow connect to another person on the deepest level through closeness or proximity. It's one of those strange connections between spirit and matter: looking into someone's eyes and having a glimpse into their soul; being so close you can hear their heartbeat and sense their breath on your skin and breathing in the invisible scent of their skin.

Seemingly, there is nothing unusual about Dans tes Bras. It is very perfumey at first: violet accord that is both powdery like orris and wet and woody like cassie underlined by noticeable dosage of heliotropin - that vanillic molecule that makes heliotrope smells so sweet, almondy and plasticky all at once.

It is not until a few hours in that the intimate aspects of Dans tes Bras reveal themselves. At which point, technically speaking the woody base notes (most notably patchouli) are exposed, along with foreign molecules which I’ve never smelled separately and which create the sensation of minerals and salt on hot skin. From a more sentimental point of view, this is the point where Dans tes Bras begins to smell like perfumed skin that has been immaturely washed away in a warm salty ocean, but not completely. Whatever is left on the skin is going to dry out in the hot sand and sun and become only a vague memory of that violet perfume but an even stronger memory of that sunny afternoon on the beach. But if you wait till the morning, you will wake up to remnants of Nag Champa incense smoke that has stuck to your clothes, sheets and everything you've ever possessed.
27th May, 2009

31 rue Cambon Eau de Toilette by Chanel

For some reason, I can never get overly excited about furniture. And when trying to think what is the best visual way to portray 31 Rue Cambon, I cannot stop thinking of neutral coloured furniture. I can admire the architecture of the bottle (magnetic cap maintains the alignment of the mirrored "cc" logo at all times). I can intellectualize about the validity of oakmoss-free chypre and analyze the construction of the fragrance. But as of yet, I remain unaffected, no matter how comfortable or elegant this fragrance may be.

In the context of the entire collection released back in 2007, 31 Rue Cambon stood out right next to the quirky, nutty unpolished ambrette seeds of No. 18. Back than it reminded me of the understated woody and aldehydic-floral juxtaposition of Bois des Îles. Two years later, I’m still impressed with the first few moments of intrigue, where 31 Rue Cambon smells like how you’d expect a luxury good boutique to smell like (reference: Hermès Poivre Samarkand). For a few moments, the juxtaposition of orris, pepper and vetiver seems equally classy and fresh (in the sense of “new”). But is that really how “the best chypre of thirty years” that would “permanently change the landscape of perfumery” suppose to smell like?
27th May, 2009

Velvet Gardenia by Tom Ford

The moment I lifted up the lid of Velvet Gardenia to unveil its fragrance, I was swept into an unfamiliar territory, resting somewhere between dusk and twilight. A perfume simultaneously soft and diffusive like the performance of a soft-focused old-Hollywood starlet. The subtle and demure expressions are delivered by features that were intensified with false lashes and blood-red lipstick.

Velvet Gardenia will strike a nostalgic chord for anyone familiar with this heady flower; yet not in the least the conventionally pretty gardenia soliflore favoured by the Southern Belle. This gardenia was grown by candle light, deeming it somewhat waxy and distinctively darker and spicier than any other gardenia-themed perfume. Its dusky complexity stems from combining wine-like top notes, the spiciness of ginger lily and the underlining honeyed sweetness of labdanum. There is absolutely nothing tropical about it; it would be useless on the beach but perfect through a blizzard paired with a fur coat.
27th May, 2009

Byzance by Rochas

Byzance opens soapy, aldehydic and with a big perfumey blast that characterizes olfactory decade of the 80’s with an obvious wink towards the floral aldehydes of the 20’s. A big tuberose comes through right away with a heady bitter-sweetness and a touch of greens. Underlining base notes of musk and amber make themselves immediately apparent as well. And a spicy yet balsamic warmth of cardamom makes for a slightly exotic opening. It settles into a green yet sweet tuberose for quite some time. The dry down reveals more of the woods as well as vanilla, and sweet berry-like undertones which reminds me of the final dryout of Ivoire. And there is always a sense of sweetness about it – although not as overbearing as the first few moments.

Byzance interestingly has some characteristics of a chypre (perhaps the juxtaposition of potent florals with greens creates that illusion), but it is not. It is a flamboyant, outgoing floriental.

I am still trying ot figure out what is the connection to the name though. It does not smell particularly typical of the region or the religious connotations of the Eastern Church. The bottle design is the only point of reference I can see (the circle being reminiscent of that found inside the basilicas in Turkey). It also reminds me of the bottle design of Soir de Paris.
27th May, 2009

Aqua Allegoria Figue-Iris by Guerlain

What started up promising – both fig and iris are favourite notes of mine – lead to a disappointment. I was ready to pull out sentences that I was hoping to type out for a long time, such as “the best Guerlain since l’Instant” or “Love at first sniff” or “the first perfect Aqua Allegoria that I actually can wear and not just like from a distance”. I’ll probably have to wait a while longer before standing behind such statements on any Guerlain released since the retirement of Jean-Paul Guerlain.

Figue Iris opens with sweet but crips fig notes. It’s more of a purple fig than a green one. The iris is there from the start, first crisp and clean, chiming with the fig in a harmony that brings to mind the melancholy of lilacs in early summer rains, and makes me wonder if Fig Iris hasn’t by any chance taken its inspiration from Apres l’Ondee (and do I detect some anise there as well or was it just a ghost in my imagination?). I would have bought that bottle right on the spot if not for the voice of wisdom from within telling me to wait and see at least when do I crave it next before making a purchase.

A few days later, and sure enough I was there again in front of Figue Iris. Again, this time I went home just with a spritz, which turned out to be a smart thing: Figue Iris turned linear and uninteresting through the base notes, as well as cloying and overly sweet, in a dryout that is nothing short than a mockery of the legendary Guerlinade. Let me just remind you that this is coming from a woman who just loves the Guerlinade and can never get enough of that iris-tonka-vanilla base in all the Guerlain scents. My favourite fig remains Philysykos, and my favourite Iris is yet to be found…
05th July, 2008

Iris Ganache by Guerlain

I've read nothing about Iris Ganache before trying it, but apparently the name alone set me up for disappointment. I was really hoping for a creamy, sweet Guerlain iris. What I got was a scrubber that at first reminded me (quite fondly, I may add) of Gaultier Classique and than turned into Angel meets Insolence. A deadly combination. Although not as "in-your-face" as the last powerhouse pair, Iris Ganache was still a scrubber. And I rarely use the term for any perfume: Persistent, cloying, overwhelmingly synthetic and chokingly sweet. I love Guerlain but their latest releases are for the most part a far cry from what they used to be. Even their other iris scent - Iris Fig - which started promising ended up with that persistent modernized Guerlinade that just hammers your nostrils until you can't anymore and must run to the sink to wash it off.
05th July, 2008

M7 by Yves Saint Laurent

On my skin, M7 starts boldly oud-y and medicinal in a good way. Uniquely woody and definitely a scent that stands out in comparison to any other mainstream men’s fragrances. It is as close to Arabian oud perfume oils as a department store fragrance ever gotten, and that was before niche fragrances have gained the momentum they have reached today. It lasts at this state for a good 2-4 hours at which point it becomes overly sweet as the synthetic musk base takes over. On my skin this is when it turns into raspberry candy. Inbetween the medicinal agarwood and the sugared raspberry there is a short phase where a mineral note of vetiver emerges, dry and almost salty. Although marketed for men (the infamous full-frontal male nude is unlikely to be forgotten, and perhaps was intended for masking the previous expose of YSL himself in an ad dated 1971). Based on my experience I can only assert the presence of agarwood, vetiver, amber and/or labdanum, musk ands raspberry.
07th June, 2008

Yvresse / Champagne by Yves Saint Laurent

vresse opens bubbly and sparkling yet at the same time also powdery and with an underlying dryness that grabs you by surprise. It has the fuzzy texture of unripe peach skin, crisp and for some reason this misleading sensation of being soft while in fact it is rough and sober. The original name Champagne describes it perfectly as it has all the characteristics of the fancy sparkling wine, including the fruitiness and the elegant white-wine dryness.

And indeed, Yvresse develops like wine, with very subtle changes between the nose and the body being quite subtle. The bubbly, peachy and cool qualities are maintained throughout its life on the skin. And the underlining notes, although a classic chypre accord of oakmoss, vetiver and patchouli are very light and subtle in nature. It is most similar to Chant d’Aromes by Guerlain – a very light, albeit melancholy floral chypre. With its touch of roses and sophisticated soft powder, Yvresse also winks towards another creation by Sophia Grojsman for YSL – Paris. However there is something more original about its overall composition, that makes it different from the other more bold Grojsman perfumes I have experienced – it is just more sheer and lighthearted and romantic without taking itself so seriously.
07th June, 2008

Opium by Yves Saint Laurent

I have to admit that my Opium substance abuse is pretty limited to the “Opium Lite” of the summer versions, Fleur de Shanghai being one of my all-time favourite perfumes.
Opium in its parfum form (which is what I am reviewing here) can be likened to a smoldering smoke of incense and spices and a thick chai tea. It opens with clove buds stuck in the peel of dried orange, familiar like a pomander and intensely so. Pimento berries also add a more complex aspect to the mostly-eugenolic character of the opening; pepper suggests dryness and cinnamon adds sweetness.

The heart notes are floral, most notably orange blossom and carnation. But to say the heart feels floral would be an exaggeration. Although jasmine, rose and ylang ylang are present, they are hidden behind plenty of carnation and more cloves; the floral notes in this oriental in particular have the role of smoothing things out without sticking out or showing their true colours.

The underlying resins are what make Opium stand apart from Tabu and Youth Dew though; if Tabu concentrated on the patchouli and vetiver and Youth Dew is all about indole and eugenol (even more civet than in Tabu) – Opium returns to the cradle of perfume civilization by using a large proportion of opoponax with its powdery, animalic and resinous-sweet qualities, backed up by the dry and sweet bitterness of myrrh and the woody-dry qualities of patchouli. There is a touch of sweetness that is never overly done originated in vanilla and benzoin resin. Both notes serve to accentuate the hint of sweetness present in opoponaz and myrrh. There is no animalic element here that I’m aware of. The pairing of eugenol and resins creates a deep reaction, perhaps connected to the history of incense and Chinese herbal medicine which is quite appropriate with the name borrowing from one of the most ancient and potent drugs used in human history (it was used as far back as in the Sumerian civilization, which is also the oldest civilization to have used incense).
07th June, 2008

Y by Yves Saint Laurent

If Yvresse reminded me of bubbly whispers of Chant d’Aromes, Y immediately shouts the chant out loud. The similarity here is not in the base notes but rather in peachy top notes and the floral bouquet – the innocent yet intoxicatingly sweet honeysuckle and gardenia. There is also a slap of green aldehydes which give it a dominant, bold entrance which is distinct and at the same time similar to other big-time green aldehydic chypres – there is a reference to Miss Dior and Ma Griffe yet without the intensely animalic base; the brisk sharpness that can be found in Private Collection and it also reminds me somehow of AnaisAnais and Laura Ashley’s No. 1.

Although it starts off very floral Y turns to be a lot drier than expected as it develops on the skin. The big statements of gardenia and honeysuckle are replaced by a more sophisticated dry and sober disposition. The heart notes reveal a more green and dry aspect of the rose and the hyacinth, anchored by the dry and green notes of vetiver glimpsing from its base. The phase is not as mossy and Chypric as might be expected. There is very little presence if at all of oakmoss not to mention the other notes listed. It is more woody and dry than anything else - almost to the point of becoming leathery. Vetiver and patchouli are in charge for quite sometime, before the dryout arrives with the re-emergence of warmth by way of oakmoss, civet and benzoin.
07th June, 2008

Un Jardin Après La Mousson by Hermès

Un Jardin Après la Mousson stroke me at first as yet another peppery-dry Elena scent (similar to recent creations, such as Osmanthe Yunnan, Paprika Brazil and Kelly Caleche). It seemed indistinct in that context for the first 2 seconds. And than came a surprise (well, not quite surprising because earlier reviews of the scent suggested note in that direction; yet still the effect was quite strange): this is neither watermelon nor melon, but rather – a ripe, juicy cantaloupe. Think of what it would smell like if you were just popping a fresh slice of Trident’s Watermelon Twist sugarfree gum into your mouth while spraying Omsanthe Yunnan all over yourself and you’ll understand just exactly what I’m talking about (Alternatively, try Bvlgari’s Eau Parfumee Au The Vert, if you can’t get a hold of Osmanthe Yunnan for this curious experiment).
Like so many of Elena’s creations, Un Jardin Après la Mousson can be described as sparse, sheer, thin, gauze or veil-like and abstract. If you are not a fan of this style or approach you probably will not enjoy it very much. As much as I try to appreciate scents like that (and grew to be able to enjoy them for my personal use on several occasions), I find it very foreign to me and my flamboyant and dramatic Mediterranean upbringing. Something in me always searches for something deeper at the root of the scent; and in Elena’s perfumes I can’t find that, which results in me feeling like I’m hanging in mid-air like a big question mark awaiting and answer that will never come.
18th May, 2008

Spanish Moss by Hové Parfumeur

Spanish Moss is described by Hove Parfumeur as “Warm and exotic, mossy and green... a reformulation of an old favorite” – while it is warm, it is not what I would describe as green. It is sweet, powdery yet with an exotic twist as it includes some notes that are not commonly used in other rosy-powdery perfumes.
Floral, powdery, sweet and with an antique Victorian feel. If there is moss there, it is well concealed, amongst heaps of flowers, dusting powder and rouge on a cluttered vanity table of a Southern lady who protects her fair skin with endless layers of lace and mousseline. The intensity of flowers and powder is something I’ve smelled before in perfumes that came from the South (Such as from Lagniappe Oakes Perfumery – I’ve tried several of these but I have to admit none captured my heart; they were all from the “Heirloom Collection”).
The opening is intensely floral, sweet and powdery. I can sense the presence of heliotrope right away, with its bittersweet, almondy-rich melancholy. Other notes that are apparent from the start are lilac, rose, osmanthus and orange blossom. These are all very intense, dense once applied – buy when they settle on the skin they become far more tolerable – yet nonetheless maintain the same character of uber-sweet-powdery Southern vanity.
Once the florals quiet down a tad, I find myself suddenly sipping icy-cold, sweet lemonade. Or perhaps it is a lemon popsicle… It instantly reminds me of Aunt Eller in Oaklahoma! film, though I don’t know why. I can’t even remember if there was any lemonade in that movie, but for some reason it makes sense. Even though it’s not even close to New Oreleans at all.
Hours later, I am still searching for that “Spanish Moss” to come out from its hiding, but I can’t say there is anything particularly mossy about this perfume. It is very old fashioned, like a more tropical interpretation of “Lipstick Rose” and also more complex, less simplistic than rosy perfumes of that genre. Besides the heliotrope base, I can smell some bitter myrrh, but that’s as close as I can get to revealing the moss…
Top notes: Lilac, Lemon
Heart notes: Rose, Orange Blossom, Osmnathus, Orris
Base notes: Heliotrope, Myrrh, Vanilla
17th May, 2008