Perfume Reviews

Reviews by babsbendix


Evening Rose by Aerin

Evening Rose solved my Tom Ford problem.

For a couple of years I've been trying Noir de Noir, because I adore its rose note on paper. But as a composition, it ends up smelling like an aged soft cheese on my skin.

So I'd begun to wonder if anything in the Lauder family used that same sweet, mellow, dried-ish rose that's in Noir de Noir, and Lo! Evening Rose is pretty much just that. The blackberry gives it some jamminess, and the cognac gives it a little bit of a modern feel, but really, it's lots and lots of a very particular rose, so you'd better like it or you'll maybe hate it!

Yes, it's a dried and maybe candied rose like in a loukhoum scent, the rose I imagine I glimpse in Montale's Sweet Oriental Dream before it gets taken over by the other notes. I suspect Evening Rose will have amazing layering potential with the orientals and powder bombs in my collection.

14th November, 2015

Sweet Oriental Dream by Montale

When I was an angsty teenager, my greatest pleasure was to retreat to my room, turn on my pink Lava Lite, listen to the Talking Heads, and burn my "chocolate cake" incense. I loved that incense. It smelled little like chocolate cake, but DID smell like some sort of sweet almond dessert being toasted over sandalwood. I couldn't find a perfume that smelled like it, so I'd burn it in my closet and shut the door to get the smell on my clothing.

So when I first tried Sweet Oriental Dream this many years later, it brought tears to my eyes, because it was that smell from my teenage bedroom. Objectively, it's super strong and a lot of the same great accord, all almond-y and incense-y, if obviously synthetic. It's certainly one that's going to be lethal with over-application, so I'm using samples I can dab until the day when I finally buy a full bottle and brave spraying it. And I will buy a bottle, for although SOD smells just like it could be a BPAL scent - and I had my hopes for a substitution - I've now tried hundreds of BPALs, and can confidently say that there isn't one in the catalog quite like it.

The last time I went to visit my mom, who lives in same house, I bought a new pink party light and lay there in my old bedroom wearing this perfume since that old chocolate cake incense is long gone.

28th October, 2015

Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel

The L'Original EDT available today is a favorite. It has great lasting power on me, and I haven't tried the EDP as I like what I have.

I'm sure I was around girls who wore it when I was young, though my nostalgic connection to it is through the hyacinth note, which emerges as the strongest accord when I wear it. See, as a pre-teen, one of my favorite possessions was a Coty Sweet Earth solid perfume compact that held three floral scents: honeysuckle, ylang ylang, and hyacinth. The other two florals I've smelled often in my perfume life, but hyacinth doesn't turn up that much.

I don't find Anais Anais to be sweet at all, but a gentle green floral chypre. I had an accident with it today that turned out fab. I forgot I'd applied some Goutal Gardenia Passion EDT a couple of hours before (love it, but yes, it's fleeting) and I put on some Anais Anais. The application revived the Goutal, and with its green vegetal quality, it was really simpatico layered with the Cacharel.
21st October, 2015
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Elie Saab Le Parfum by Elie Saab

When I first smelled Le Parfum, I said to myself, "Oh! It's the 21st Century Bijan!" And it kind of is! Better quality and much more polished, but you have your orange blossom and honey, and some added raspy texture - patch in this case, and cumin in the Bijan. Lately I'm enjoying how Le Parfum explodes in warm weather, and I wouldn't be surprised if at some point I end up totally hating it.

I just read some of Turin's comments about it, and he used the word "dowdy". If I hadn't known what I was smelling, I'd have guessed it was another Lauder Modern Muse flanker, which to me equates somewhat to "dowdy". I appreciate the quality of Lauder frags, and I even wore Modern Muse Chic for a little while (which smells like a more complicated version of Elie Saab Le Parfum, actually.) Yet the Lauder WASPiness somehow gets into the fragrances - I'm not responding to their marketing - and I find them as friendly and welcoming as sitting through a Daughters of the American Revolution luncheon with my black clothing and nose ring.

What IS that? Musty, weird Vol de Nuit SHOULD smell the definition of dowdy, yet I think of her as an enigmatic and magical woman, who just happens to be old now. I must agree with ClaireV's Poe quote, then - strangeness in the proportion is required for exquisite beauty. Le Parfum is good, and it's pretty, and we're friends, but I can only share so much with her, because she'd find me terribly inappropriate.
18th October, 2015

Bastet by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

I feel a little strange reviewing BPAL scents in the same context as commercial frags, because often they're a lot of fun and very evocative as smells, but not necessarily something I'd want to wear on my person. And they're specifically for an audience that often couldn't give a fig about commercial frags, so it feels a little unfair to judge them on the same criteria. All that said, there are a few of them that I love and wear often as skin scents and as bases/fixatives for lighter frags, and Bastet is one.

Sniffed in the bottle, it's a lot of synthetic almond, so for years I'd overlooked it. But I'm able to go to a local BPAL event every full moon, so knowing I liked the other components, I tried it again on my skin, and am so happy I did, because the almond burns off quickly. I'm left with a gorgeous warm ambery/musky skin scent. It's simple, but when it works with your chemistry, very sensual indeed.

BPAL is a line where if you fall in love with one of them, nothing else really does smell quite like it.
28th September, 2015

Nanette by Nanette Lepore

Instant love for this one.

Sometimes I'll read a review and something gets called a "warm, spicy Oriental", and I smell it and crack up at how our descriptions are all relative to our references. For me, a warm, spicy Oriental would be Youth Dew or Opium, not Poppy Wildflower by Coach.

But you know? Nanette really does go in a spicy Oriental direction, and it's well done! I say "direction", because it feels to me like it's spicier than most, yet still working with the Euphoria model (which I know is working with the underlying butch/femme Angel structure.) So there's the trendy pink pepper, perhaps a bit of Euphoria-like pomegranate syrup (not listed) and a certain sweet tobacco-ishness in the base that I also notice in J.Crew + Arquiste No. 57.

What makes it more than another uninspired dupe, though, is the counterpoint of sweet, powdery, retro rose/violet/LOTV heart with the warm, incense-y, more gender-neutral base. I mean, these florals were right at home in 1915, and they make the whole thing come off as softer and friendlier than it otherwise would be with all of the wood and pepper and incense.

I know it's sacrilege to mention Caron in the same breath as an EA-produced frag, but...Parfum Sacre. Not saying Nanette is comparable in a literal sense - its edges are rougher and it doesn't have the velvety floral depths of vintage Sacre - and yet they're both balsamic, peppery, powdery rose fragrances, and for those of us who adore that theme, it's enough to make us love both of these variations on it!
26th September, 2015

Delicious Cotton Candy by Gale Hayman

Don't even bother trying this if you categorically hate sugary gourmands, because this really isn't going to pass for anything else.

I have a soft spot for retro Beverly Hills kitsch (and I think I'm not alone based on the success of Juicy Couture!) Something about a shiny-foiled pink box that contains a bottle topped with a plastic, what is it, cougar?!! When I can get all that for $12.99, PLUS there's a vulgar fragrance included, you know I'm in.

But it turns out the joke's on me, because I actually LIKE the vulgar fragrance! It reminds me of the old formulation of CSP Vanille with its candied vanilla and lily of the valley combo. There's some strawberry in the background for a while, too, but it's like strawberry ice cream, more creamy and sweet in the mix than the tart berries in something like Hanae Mori Butterfly.

Lasting power and sillage are impressive for something that calls itself an EDT, but it's simpler and gentler in tone than Pink Sugar and others I've smelled. Worth trying if you flirt with frivolous, inexpensive gourmands.
23rd September, 2015

Bulgari pour Femme by Bulgari

Flirting with both J'Adore Voile de Parfum and No. 5 Eau Premiere recently, I thought to myself, "I wish one of these wore as well on me as Bulgari used to, as it was always so versatile and pretty in the same kind of well-bred way these are."

So I just sought out a replenishment bottle of Bulgari instead. Not having smelled it in a very long time, I was floored at how much raspberry is in the opening! And also by how much the opening gave me a little snapshot of pre-reformulation YSL Paris, also by Grojsman. Paris was a favorite of mine when it launched; I hadn't realized that on some level I was pre-disposed to like Bulgari the first time around because I had only pleasing associations with Paris.

Bulgari really is an interesting one. It's a tasteful feminine with conventional, demure floral notes, yet the musk...on skin, it gives the fragrance so much radiant warmth. While I'd never call it rude, if this musk likes you, it interacts with your chemistry in such a way that it goes really intimate. You can wear Bulgari in a polite setting and no one will accuse you of impropriety, yet the effect CAN be alluring, because the musk creates the sense that you're smelling the skin of the woman who's wearing the perfume, not simply smelling the perfume.

Overspray and it won't be good! It's sweet and has the potential to go cloying. While I've read reviews that say it has no lasting power, I find it to be very tenacious, just one modest spray and it's quietly there 10 hours later. In that way it really does seem powerful like a Grojsman! For reasons similar to what Way Off Scenter has said, I find that most of her work isn't my thing, though Bulgari really is. Again.
04th September, 2015

Nahéma by Guerlain

I first made a point of searching out Nahema in the early 90s, after reading an interview of Shirley Manson (from the band Garbage) in which she said Nahema was the ONLY perfume as far as she was concerned.

At the time I remember thinking that it was too loud and too full of aldehydes for me personally. And searching for a rose I can wear well - that doesn't go too shrill - I wanted to see what I thought of it all these years later.

It's definitely in the Chamade camp, more green and hyacinth and juicy and tart than the musty/mossy vanilla powder of the earlier Guerlains. This time I had been assuming "bombshell", so I've been impressed by its tenderness and innocence, though when you first spray it, it's got such presence that it sure can make you feel a bit high!

Certainly Nahema is beautifully done and even transcendent; so maybe this is blasphemy, but I actually like it best layered sparingly over a foundation of something a little dirty, even Shalimar! When I wear Nahema on its own, it's a sustained peachy rose until it's nothing at all, and it's actually quite linear for how kaleidoscopic it is, if that makes sense.

02nd September, 2015

Shalimar by Guerlain

My family is mostly show people and jazz musicians, and when I was little there were often colorful characters hanging around, HOW colorful I didn't find out until later.

One of them was an older English lady named Mae, who had a white poodle. Apparently she was the madam in a high-end brothel. Sometimes we'd go to Mae's apartment, which had the most extraordinary smell of years and years of Shalimar permeating every surface + unwashed dog. That was my first Guerlain experience. (The second was a Pekingese that smelled of Mitsouko. True - not trying to be funny.)

So it took a very long time before I could really consider Shalimar on its own merits, and even then, its skanky facet was off-putting to me, because I kept smelling unwashed dog! In retrospect, Mae's poodle may not have been that dirty, and it might have just been her vintage Shalimar. I really never thought I'd become a Shalimar person, even though I have lots of history with the other vintage Guerlain greats.

The Ode a la Vanille (Mexique) ended up being my gateway drug, because the vanilla in that version is so smoky and dense and wonderful that I could stick with it, and now I've learned to love even the skank of Shalimar proper.

I do continue to prefer that limited edition, yet I've come to own and love the EDC, as well, because that version also features a very smoky vanilla, and ends up wearing as mostly that. Plus it's often available inexpensively in the drugstore! Coming around to Shalimar has actually had a fantastic effect on my perfume spending habits, for while I still find new things that I like, when I ask myself, "but would you be likely to NOT wear Shalimar to wear this instead?" it's just a no.

27th August, 2015

La Nuit De Bohème by Anna Sui

I'm no longer a girl, but I share Anna Sui's dark/sweet 70s boho aesthetic, so when I saw the EDP in the black bottle for $12.99, you know I grabbed it. And it's pretty good!

The two scents it brings to mind for me are Roberto Cavalli's Nero Assoluto, and Estee Lauder's Modern Muse Chic. Both of those are very strong; while the Sui fragrance I have is the EDP, on me it's a relatively quiet and gentle scent that wears like an EDT. But the opening does share a rush of a very sweet plummy/berry/creamy/wood opening with the Cavalli, and a drier plum/oud drydown with the Lauder. In this warm weather, I don't get any middle, really, just opening, and the drydown arrives literally a couple of minutes later.

Sure, it doesn't wear like a Lauder, but this is a way more sincere and sophisticated effort than I expected from this house.

20th August, 2015

Reveal by Calvin Klein

I have a unique relationship with this house, because the marine and musk components they repeatedly use to telegraph that it's Calvin Klein go nuclear with my chemistry. So I always get quite a result with a Calvin Klein frag, but this can be a good or a bad thing! I've read reviews of Reveal where people get no sillage or longevity and can barely smell it, though I have the opposite - the salt (marine) note blooms on my skin to the point where I can't escape it and it smells like the bilge on a sailboat and makes me feel sick. Not only that, but a little of the spray got on a shirt sleeve I'd been wearing, and the scent lasted through the wash. Twice. This can't be good for a person.

So I gave it a neutral as I think it could have a certain sophisticated, minimalist subtlety IF you don't have a problem with the CK marine note. Just please don't wear it around me!

05th August, 2015 (last edited: 08th August, 2015)

Sikkim Girls by Gorilla Perfume

Lush perfume sprays are no longer available where I live, just the solid perfumes, so my experience with Sikkim Girls is only with the solid, which I'm guessing is a bit quieter than the spray as an experience.

As a longtime Lushie, it smells very identifiably Lush to me. I haven't seen patch listed as a note, but I can smell the familiar rootbeer-y patch from Karma as well as the super indolic jasmine from Flying Fox/Lust. Initially it's white floral-sweet and soapy on my skin, but about an hour in it's less soap and more dusty floral headshop incense, which I say as a compliment.

Today I had success layering a little of the Sikkim Girls solid with Goutal's Gardenia Passion EDT, for the tuberose notes in both share an earthy, bittersweet quality.
23rd July, 2015
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Gardénia Passion by Annick Goutal

For a time I trained in natural perfumery. I was drawn to the magic of the materials, but grew a little frustrated with the limitations of what I could do to bring dimension to compositions. Some of this is the limitations of my own talent/patience/experience, yet if you've smelled what's possible with a well-chosen mix of natural and synthetic materials, exclusively natural creations can smell a bit wan and flat by comparison. Not only that, but flower absolutes don't necessarily smell like living flowers, but, instead, like concentrated and dessicated versions of them with all of their bizarre nuances more readily apparent. As a result, compounded or headspace floral notes can give an impression that's more like living flowers than the essence of the actual flower sometimes.

Which brings me to Gardenia Passion. Having worked with natural tuberose absolute, I smell a lot of it in this fragrance, and that's where part of the vegetal (celery) character is coming from. I find tuberose absolute to be very beautiful, though it's far from the synthetic, clear tuberose note we're used to in perfumes, and has earthy/mildewy/bitter celery facets as well as a deep sweetness. I think Goutal has paired the tuberose absolute with vetiver, which creates a resonance with the bitterness in the natural tuberose, and takes it in an unexpected direction.

I often wear the EDT of Gardenia Passion, and I enjoy it as if it were a natural fragrance, and don't look to it for longevity, over-the-top headiness, or a lot of "lift", but, ironically since it's a white floral, as a kind of palate cleansing and grounding scent! Yesterday I smelled a few Montales and an Amouage from cards, which left me with hiccups and a scarily constricting throat. Returning to this familiar and gentle scent later in the day was such a relief! That said, I appreciate that we're all wired differently, and for those who like and can handle a lot more olfactory stimulation, this fragrance may be a letdown and make no sense whatsoever.

21st July, 2015

Calvin Klein Beauty by Calvin Klein

I agree with others that this has a very clear and straightforward jasmine heart, yet it's jasmine without much sweetness. For that very reason it went a little sharp and shrill on me, yet I've witnessed it at its best on others, and its best is quite good. Elegant but not the least dowdy.
12th July, 2015

Euphoria Gold by Calvin Klein

The citrus and honey combo in the top remind me of a discontinued L'Occitane honey EDT, though that one was really just those two notes throughout, and they're only the beginning here - Euphoria Gold really blooms on skin.

Honey is up there with vanilla as something people like, so apart from the comments I've seen that it can go cat pee on some, I don't understand why the honey note hasn't been featured all that much in recent years. For Lord knows there have been enough sweet and gourmand fragrances released that MIGHT have featured it!

There are florals here, but I get them sort of subconsciously. On me, Euphoria Gold is primarily apricot, honey, patchouli, and musk for the long haul. Sweet, but with the Calvin Klein urban polish, which keeps it from veering completely into the super heavy hippie incense kind of scent that it could have been with its combination of notes. I think I'd like a heavier version, actually. While I adore Euphoria Gold and don't have anything bad to say about it, I will admit that I harbor a desire for a Tom Ford execution of the same pyramid. I think it would be a better Velvet Orchid-like thing!

30th June, 2015

Io by La Perla

The list of notes for this scent make it sound complex - which it may well be - though apart from the sharp, perfume-y (aldehydic?) opening, I always experienced Io as being a very classical composition closely focused around citrus, sandalwood, and a dry, non-sweet vanilla. It has the sort of persistently warm and quiet sillage that I love in a fragrance, and elegantly navigates the work/sexytime chasm with the best of them. It really is perfect that it's a La Perla scent, for it's the sort of thing that lingers and smells fabulous on an item of clothing you've worn close to your body.

My experience with Italian frags is admittedly not vast (the Fendis, Gianfranco Ferres, Ferragamos, Bottega Venetas...) though it seems that in their women's offerings, spices and woods can receive relatively more emphasis before they get deemed "too masculine". Io would probably would have ended up sweeter, more floral, more tarted-up, in the hands of a French or American house. Sometimes I go for "more", too, though I appreciate the restraint in this case.
15th June, 2015

Euphoria by Calvin Klein

I wouldn't have ever given Euphoria a thought had it not been for a scent strip in a magazine. Taking off the plastic wrapper, I got a whiff of something that struck me as an intriguing balance of warm and sweet with polished and unisex-ish, the best of what I could hope for in a department store scent.

I thumbed through the pages until I located it, and I'm glad I did, as Euphoria fills a gap in my scent wardrobe. My subconscious actually associated it with Joop Femme, which I haven't smelled in probably 20 years, but which I wore a lot of when it came out. It's not that they're "the same", but I've been drawn to them for the same reason - a persistent sweet/musky/woody/warm drydown that's modern/overtly synthetic, yet inside of my oriental comfort zone. My longtime fragrance loves have mostly been classic orientals, and florientals, and some days I just don't want to carry all of that history with me.

I own both the EDT and EDP, because the EDT is also long-lasting, yet is a different and more delicate interpretation. I enjoy its relative airiness, its green notes, and its musky sweet apple drydown. The EDP can hit me as a little too much pomegranate syrup and musk when I'm not in the mood, yet the EDT is quite wearable anytime.

27th April, 2015 (last edited: 12th July, 2015)

Mon Parfum Cheri, par Camille by Annick Goutal

Maybe I've simply missed it, though I haven't seen mentioned the connection between this fragrance and a long discontinued Goutal from the 1980s, Parfum de Femme.

To my young nose, Parfum de Femme was a strange scent like nothing I'd previously experienced - on the one hand, there was the delicate, dewy, naturalistic character I'd know as a Goutal, and on the other, an earthy dried fruit smell that even leaned a little bit...Band-Aid. The I. Magnin SA took an interest in me when I bought a bottle, because apparently hardly anyone did. I remember her telling me that its main accord - osmanthus - can smell like apricots.

About 20 years later I came into a bottle of Rochas Femme parfum from the middle of the last century. Its strange dusty fruity accord was very, very much like the old Goutal! And now I know that it was actually the Goutal that smelled like the old Rochas.

Mon Parfum Cheri, par Camille is perhaps even more like the vintage Rochas in its dusty, dusky, mellowness - it's a good way towards 180 degrees from being a perky garden-fresh scent. The Rochas bottle I used to have was so old that whatever top notes the juice had once had were long gone, and it was a little flat; Mon Parfum Cheri is what I'd imagined vintage Femme would smell like if it were fresh, and it is simply divine! I actually wear it for daytime and don't find it too strong or too formal or too any of the things I've heard said about it by people who respected it, but maybe didn't "feel" it. I think one's history and context especially matter with a distinctive fragrance like this one, because it IS sort of odd. I've now had decades to get used to what I believe must be the chemical known as Prunol, so it smells pleasant and familiar to me now.

I have the EDT, and have yet to smell the EDP.
08th April, 2015

J by Jennifer Aniston by Jennifer Aniston

As a fan of quiet, beach-y scents, I wanted to like Aniston's first fragrance, but felt suffocated by the particular musk they used.

J I like a lot better. While its quality and depth are nowhere near my beloved L'Instant, I enjoy the combination of magnolia, sandalwood, and vanilla present in J, too. It's not overly sweet, and it's very well-done for an inexpensive scent.

I don't buy fragrances for their packaging or bottles, though I did notice that the bottle looks and feels elegant for the pricepoint, too - I like its heft and simplicity, and the alluring shade of blue.

For now, I look forward to the day that J shows up on the shelf at T.J. Maxx - I'll happily pop it into my cart and enjoy it.
07th March, 2015

Nero Assoluto by Roberto Cavalli

I'm really mad for this one. If I'd guessed, I'd have pegged it as something that came out between 2005 and 2007. That was the time of Black XS and Black Orchid and Euphoria, and this feels like Cavalli's version of the dark fruity stickiness.

I've read reviews where Nero Assoluto is said to be similar to Madonna's Truth or Dare, and they're certainly in the same heady white floral Coty Prestige ballpark. It actually smells to me like a fragrance resulting from the same brief as Euphoria, but executed for the Cavalli brand instead of Calvin Klein. I love them both; side-by-side, Euphoria starts to seem positively steely, gender-neutral, and safe for work, and Nero Assoluto is warm and very femme on the spectrum.

I'd be interested in the full breakdown of notes; it's heady with white florals, and while I can't pick out a specific fruity note, it feels jammy and spicy to me as well as laden with vanilla and wood. Sometimes I think I'm picking up strong black coffee.

Speaking of black coffee, I haven't smelled By Dolce Gabbana in ages, though Nero Assoluto has the kind of big, warm, womanly Italian personality I always associated with that beloved discontinued fragrance. I don't mean to suggest it as a substitute - it's not - yet it's similarly provocative and unapologetic in an 80s kind of way.
21st February, 2015 (last edited: 12th May, 2015)

Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

For the first few minutes I just got a lot of wood, and then for about an hour as it developed on my skin, it was almost a dead ringer for the current formulation of L'Heure Bleue EDP! That's not something I ever expect to experience. But it's got a really similar mix of austere and Asian incense-smelling sandalwood plus yeasty, doughy pastry and vanilla. Not an edible gourmand, but leaning that direction in a way that's similarly weird and comforting at the same time.

I didn't get the rose/iris/anise that's in L'Heure Bleue, or any florals, really, and the drydown of Dries is more woody than Guerlain powdery. Yet there's a ton of shared ground at the midpoint of development, at least with my chemistry. It's complex enough that I imagine it smells completely different on others!

The warm ambery vanilla and wood drydown lasts a long time.
21st February, 2015

Muguet by Molinard

I think this is one of the best in Molinard's current lineup, a great cheap thrill.

As others have noted, it has a surprising amount of longevity and presence from a floral eau de toilette. Lily of the Valley is what you get - it does read like a soliflore - though I find that it develops a kind of warmth and honeyed sweetness on skin that may be coming from a wee bit of lilac. Relatively speaking, LOTV scents are usually crisper and chillier on me, and can even go shrill, so I'm extra grateful for this choice.

16th February, 2015

Modern Muse Chic by Estée Lauder

For a few years I trained to be a natural perfumer. Most of this training was familiarizing myself with the properties and affinities of different essences, and logging what did and didn't work.

I was (am) really attracted to jasmine sambac, though working with it as a perfume note, I found it to be oddly intractable. Other varieties of jasmine were so agreeable, and could work as a bridge between potentially discordant elements, but not jasmine sambac - it hijacked whatever blend I put it in. Maybe with a combination of mastery and synthetics unavailable to me it's possible to make a gentle jasmine sambac perfume, or a perfume that includes jasmine sambac but doesn't feature it.

However, left to its own devices, it WANTS to go 80s in style - nothing works better with it than animalic notes, and plant-based notes like oakmoss and vetiver that can be intractable in their own right. 80s perfume Scaasi demonstrates this kind of murky pairing to great effect.

And so does Modern Muse Chic - apparently jasmine sambac plays really well with Oud, too. This fragrance really stands out among recent releases, because it's got a singular personality, a definite point of view. I venture that it's almost a Tom Ford point of view, too - while not quite as potent as one of his, it's got a dark and dense feeling of luxury that reminds me of something Lauder might have released with his name on it.

Modern Muse Chic is not sweet or feminine in a delicate, powdery way, and some (younger) reviewers have complained that it's really masculine. I'd counter that it's a great complement to power of either gender, and a welcome surprise.
10th February, 2015

L'Instant de Guerlain by Guerlain

L'Instant is sooooo ballet - it's relatively safe, sweet, and pretty if you're expecting the more challenging originality of the classic Guerlains. Yet...I'll admit that I love nothing more in this life, and find nothing more beautiful, that a really, really excellent classical ballet performed by an open, generous, and joyful dancer with jaw-dropping technique. And L'Instant, for me, is the exact perfume equivalent of that ballet moment. It gets around all of my intellectual defenses and just goes right for the innocent part of me that's still three-years-old and can feel wonder.

Favorite perfume ever.
05th February, 2015

Baiser Volé by Cartier

This one is quiet enough that I missed out on its nuances for a long time - turns out the only way I could appreciate it when testing was to spritz in a department store then immediately go outside!

The first few times I wore it the weather was warm, and I experienced it mostly as a wonderful vintage face powder and milk chocolate drydown that lingers softly for hours and hours. It's an impressionistic and restrained milk chocolate, which is why I think it works. Chocolate notes usually smell cheap, though in coming at it kind of sideways, the illusion holds.

In cooler weather it's been a whole different thing - lily, and lily, and lily, for days. Initially I thought this was such an elegant and chaste scent, yet getting to know it better, I've noticed a very pronounced skank note - this lily's over-ripe, and we're getting some of the stale, murky water in the bottom of its vase. It's kind of off-putting, yet kind of sexy and dirty on skin, like the mysteries that lurk in some of the old Guerlains and Carons.

I appreciate the way it gives a nod to 1920s-30s sophisticated powdery glamour, yet is, by comparison, a streamlined modern scent. It seems just right that Cartier should acknowledge history and also exist in the present.

22nd December, 2014 (last edited: 04th January, 2015)

Pure DKNY A Drop Of Rose by Donna Karan

As much as I love roses, I really don't like most rose perfumes. As with many flowers, when you smell them in nature there's a lot of nuance to their scent, though when replicated synthetically, or even captured in the form of an essential oil or absolute, the concentrated fragrance only gives a snapshot of the living flower from one perspective.

Pure DKNY A Drop of Rose is the cut flower with all of its stem and leaves sitting in the florist's fridge - it's a green and chilly rose. It's much more tart and green than sweet, yet maybe because of its gentler concentration, it doesn't veer into the head-splitting tartness of L'Occitaine's 4 Reines, or Chloe. It seems to last on my skin longer than it does for some others, though it does wear like an EDT when worn alone.

I don't wear it alone often - I tend to layer it with other scents when I want to give them a little extra rosy oomph. For that purpose I find that it's especially lovely, and has a kind of transparency and neutrality that enable it to blend really well. It lasts for at least several hours when anchored by a heavier scent.

I think this one's the best of the Pure DKNY scents so far. The others strike me as kind of pale and formless as opposed to sheer.

14th December, 2014

Eau de Givenchy by Givenchy

I haven't smelled the reissue, and this review is for the vintage version.

I had come to accept that my chemistry must have changed a lot, because I used to do so well with green chypres and green florals, yet I never find a new release along those lines that works for me. However, wearing Eau de Givenchy for the first time in 25 years makes me realize that our context for what qualifies as a fresh or green or dewy scent has really changed!

For this scent is objectively just as I remember it, with the minty burst up front, the un-sweet florals, and the mineral-y, grassy drydown, yet it's not a happy-go-lucky scent by today's standards; it is so shockingly somber and formally structured compared to, say, what's going on at Hermes. As much as Jour d'Hermes should be something I'd love - and it did smell magical to me in the air - as worn, it became a flat and monotonous lemony musk. Whereas Eau de Givenchy doesn't smell that "happy" and springlike in the bottle - it's definitely perfume and not the magical capturing of a spring day - it DOES magically develop into a cool spring day on my skin.

The drydown actually reminds me a lot of Sisley's Eau de Campagne.

Certainly could be unisex, yet I hold it up there with vintage Diorissimo as an example of how lily of the valley can be devastatingly beautiful in a feminine.
03rd December, 2014

Just Cavalli (new) by Roberto Cavalli

There aren't many notes listed for Just Cavalli, though like both Oro and the current Cavalli signature scent, I get a lot of pink pepper, and it smells like a Cavalli scent.

I recently read a Luca Turin review where he talked about the risk a perfumer takes in deciding to make a perfume settle into something wonderful, because the opening may be challenging and scare people off before they get to experience it. Just Cavalli seems to have been made for women with no patience, then, because it's fully loaded and lush up front, then fades away to a faint (though pleasant) orange blossom with a bit of something raspy, maybe the rosewood and pink pepper combo.

When I first sprayed it I got concerned, because it was a pretty huge and blooming white floral, and I thought, just how big is this thing going to get if this is the opening? But it was basically gone in less than an hour. Granted, it's an EDT and I've been wearing it in cool weather, so it may not be the whole story...

It IS a pretty scent. I get the tiare more in the bottle than after it's sprayed, where it becomes a pretty and familiar white floral without skank, rather like the orange blossom of a Juicy Couture scent (and the other Cavallis I've tried). I've seen some compare it to Vivienne Westwood Boudoir, one I wear pretty often, and I can sort of see that - it's a very sweet white floral with dry and raspy - even sneeze-inducing - texture. But Boudoir has a lot more heft, and while I love it, it's off-putting even to me if I'm not in the mood for it!

Just Cavalli is pretty while it lasts, and I look forward to seeing if it behaves better in warm weather. If I haven't auctioned it off with other blind buys by then...

24th November, 2014

Me by Lanvin

I'll preface my review by saying that I don't hate fruity or fruity floral fragrances in theory, though this is one of only two I own right now, the other being 1889 Moulin Rouge. I'm not sure that one even gets classified as fruity, though I find it really wears that way.

I was prepared for Me to be far weirder, and maybe even a trainwreck, because blueberry, licorice, and tuberose in the same scent just sounds like a bad idea! But the blueberry is in the same space as the blackberry in Mure et Musc, or the cherry in La Petite Robe Noir - tart and very pronounced, yet, number one, a seemingly better chemical component than the froot in American celebrity scents, and two, part of a more elegant composition.

I actually got a tad of licorice in the opening rather than in the middle, and it gave the scent a little darkness and mystery before it settled into a clean stewed blueberry note, where it stayed for an hour or so. This is cooked fruit rather than fresh, though it's not a sugary or jammy note. When I checked back with it a couple of hours in, I got a little flowery sweetness from a soft tuberose note combined with a now-softened blueberry, and it gave me a pang of fond recognition for an old favorite I sometimes wish I still had in my collection - Vocalises by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier. Me is not nearly as sweet and heady as Vocalises, and I'm actually glad - it means I wear it more easily and more often.

Me is a gamine scent, really - it's more playful than femme fetale. Gamine is a style rather than an age, and I consider that to be true for the personality of Me, too.
17th November, 2014