Perfume Reviews

Reviews by babsbendix

Total Reviews: 123

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 for a time, Euphoria filled 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.

Ultimately, the combination of pomegranate syrup and musk in the EDP struck me as sickening a fair amount of the time, though, and I decided I preferred the airier take of the EDT. And then I found Rosewood by Banana Republic and stopped wearing Euphoria altogether! Rosewood is a simpler, softer, gentler musky thing with a great amorphous/indistinct quality about it. Maybe since it doesn't have such a distinct point of view it can feel like my own.

27th April, 2015 (last edited: 04th March, 2016)
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

Mon Parfum Chéri, 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 (original) 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
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

Just Cavalli for Her (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

Shalimar Parfum Initial L'Eau by Guerlain

I love this one, and it's also been a funny surprise. I blind bought it in the Si Sensuelle presentation, seduced by the pink feather tassel. However, it's become the most femme bottle and least femme juice in my current collection, easily unisex.

The hesperidic aspect of L'Eau felt happily familiar to me, having gone through buckets of Goutal's Hadrien in previous decades. I also noticed a particular green/rose/iris accord from Bulgari's The Vert. The rose and grapefruit smell modern together, a nod towards current trends that I might not usually like, yet I do here, because nothing shrieks.

Maybe I'm so close to Shalimar that I can no longer "smell" it, though any resemblance between L'Eau and classic Shalimar seems, to me, to be more in terms of craft than actual resemblance. I can tell the singular Guerlain craft is at work here - contrasts are reconciled, and the end result is tender and elegant and French.

07th November, 2014 (last edited: 09th November, 2014)

Balkis by Al Rehab

Good grief!

This is my first experience with Al Rehab oils, and potent doesn't even begin to describe the concentration and sillage of this thing - it's kind of punishing. I literally opened the bottle, touched my finger to the rollerball, and the whole house smelled of Balkis. I thought some Black Phoenix and Tom Ford scents were strong, but this? Yikes!

I do like the scent, though. I used to wear Todd Oldham in the 90s, and Balkis smells EXACTLY how I remember that one - a combination of cedar-y pencil smell, benzoin, spices, a yellow floral something like ylang, and some seriously sweet lactonic peach, and maybe pineapple. It's more of a dried fruit or stewed fruit than fresh.

My favorite phase of Balkis is the far drydown, where the spices come more to the fore, and the fruit and flowers have receded some. At this point it's more headshop incense-like, and less like an 80s/90s power floral or floriental. Actually, if I didn't have my experience with the more obscure Told Oldham scent, my closest reference for the first few hours of Balkis would be Amarige. It's not that the notes are the same, but there's a particular way the big fruit and big floral and big spice combine that's really similar in style.

It's all kind of shocking to me - the enormous sillage, and how a scent I'd smell on someone else and would think was department store, if not niche, can cost less than $5 for (what to me is) a lifetime's supply. I'm now really curious to try a few of the others from Al Rehab!

31st October, 2014

Vol de Nuit Eau de Toilette by Guerlain

The version of Vol de Nuit I originally came to love was the parfum available the 90s. My reference now is the modern EDT. I haven't smelled the reformulated extrait as it's kind of a lose/lose proposition for me - if it's drastically different and diminished, that will make me sad; if it's not drastically different and diminished, I'll want to buy it!

Others have captured this one-of-a-kind scent beautifully in their reviews, and I'd only add that even the modern EDT manages to be interestingly "fat" while objectively light. Like long-simmered stocks, duck confit, heavily reduced sauces, truffle oil, Vol de Nuit is a perfume equivalent of French cuisine in its depth of "flavors", contrasts, and earthy funk.
29th October, 2014

Toujours Moi by Dana

Relatively speaking, she's a wisp of a girl these days, with a concentration so gentle that you can wear her in the light of day.

Such an inexpensive treasure! I usually have a bottle in my bag, because it helps me to burn through my discontinued/old batch Guerlain stockpile more slowly without feeling deprived of all old school French vanilla/tonka/balsam goodness. In the bottle it actually smells quite a bit like Shalimar, though on skin, I find it to have a lot of lavender, especially early on. I detect lavender all the way into the drydown (probably because it doesn't take more than a few minutes!) but it's definitely a powdery, incense-y oriental and not a fresh-smelling aromatic scent.

I should think it's easily unisex, for there's nothing pink and froot loopy about it!
06th October, 2014

Boudoir by Vivienne Westwood

I missed out on this one for years, because I disliked how the tester smelled, so never thought to try it on skin.

There's a particular "rose" + aldehydes combo that's really off-putting to me - it's what I detected in the Boudoir tester, and it or something very similar to it is in Tresor and Red Door, too. Yet in Boudoir, there's another floral accord, must the representation of viburnum, that's unique and wonderful, and enables me to overlook (oversniff?) the other thing.

When I first tried Boudoir, I was in a perfume store with my mom, and I asked her, "What does this smell like to you?" She swooned, and said, "San Francisco!" which was my impression exactly.

Which brings me to Parfums DelRae Amoureuse. It's supposed to have an accord like the wonderful blooming trees in San Francisco. It kind of does, yet Boudoir really nails it without specifically trying to. I notice that some have compared Boudoir to Amoureuse, and this unique floral would explain it, because they're very, very different scents.

I don't get cigarette smoke or ash, though the tobacco note is not of the sweet pipe tobacco variety, but something more like an opened pack of cigs (maybe even CLOVE cigs) in the pocket of a black leather jacket. In fact, one of my bottles leaked into my leather bag when I took it on a plane, and Boudoir definitely smells fantastic with leather, as if leather is part of the composition.

The closest thing I've smelled to Boudoir is actually another fave, Bellodgia. Whether we call it cloves or carnations in a fragrance, it's all eugenols, innit?

18th September, 2014 (last edited: 19th September, 2014)

Signature / Roberto Cavalli by Roberto Cavalli

This one's kind of a sleeper, and to me it really does smell like Los Angeles by way of Italy. For it's sweet and ultra femme with some heady orange blossom, though it never has a shrill or tart frooty moment as it saunters along on its expensive platform sandals.

I think Cavalli's Oro is unusually good - so spicy and warm and beautifully done. I recognize Oro's pink pepper here, and detect a general spicy floral family resemblance. Like Oro, this has some serious throw and lasting power, yet in the drydown it's more cozy casual L.A. than statement Italian, and just sweet and warm and smooth. That said, it's not exactly a young woman's scent. I think the deciding factor would be one's feeling about very sweet white florals with a lot of presence - you'd better like them to try and wear this one!

I've only smelled two of the Cavalli scents, but their quality has impressed me. Now I'm always tempted to make a blind buy when I see them at T.J. Maxx.

Edit: I've noticed that my impressions of this one can vary, and sometimes it hits me as an uneasy mix of very soapy and thin orange blossom with headier, richer tuberose, and the magic is not there.
04th September, 2014 (last edited: 07th November, 2014)

La Panthère by Cartier

Since this one is marketed as a "feline floral", a friend who manages fine fragrance at a certain high-end department store had me try it to see what it did, knowing that my chemistry can make even polite lady fragrances go raunchy.

The result really was amusing - upon hitting my skin there was no fruit, no topnotes, nothing sweet AT ALL, only a memory of gardenia, and one powerful and unrelenting chord: the mid-80s-smelling aldehydic/mossy/musky chypre drydown of something like Ungaro's Diva or Scherrer 2, five hours in when it's all mellowed out and you can barely smell it. On me, La Panthere was that smell isolated and exponentially magnified. It's minimalist, though not thin or cheap smelling.

It calls the 80s to mind and feels familiar if you're old enough to have been there, yet it's much more subdued and understated in tone - easier to wear - to suit today's more casual mood. La Panthere is elegant and well done, an interesting intellectual exercise.

In truth, though, if I'm going to go in this direction, I'll wear Diva, because I enjoy its evolution and contrasts. La Panthere is a heck of a lot of that one retro drydown accord, and I don't like it SO much that I need to buy a bottle of it isolated.

Update: I had a near miss with La Panthere, and the Edition du Soir ended up being the version that convinced me. I love a really good gardenia note, and the Soir has the gardenia accord from the original fragrance turned up, which made me notice how gorgeous an accord it is. Also, the gardenia is given a stunning lily of the valley pairing, the two together camouflaging any “holes” in the individual flower accords, and smelling more honeyed than fresh/green.

The chypre base this time reminds me more of vintage Magie Noire than anything else, so I guess that IS pretty

Lovely and available from discounters...
09th August, 2014 (last edited: 12th October, 2018)

Creations Hue : Naked Honey by M.A.C

I really loved this when it came out. Honey is one of my favorite fragrance notes, though I find that it's often used just as an accent, and doesn't feature into a scent's profile as much as it does here.
And I don't know that I've ever actually lived somewhere that had linden trees, yet linden as a perfume note is what my idealized fantasy of spring smells like, a halfway point between wet green grass and mimosa or maybe honeysuckle.

Linden does seem to be a bit polarizing as a note - I know that some loathe it - and despite how much I've enjoyed it, it never fails to make me have a sneezing fit. So I ended up auctioning Naked Honey, and always missed it. I was reminded of it today, because I've been enjoying Tom Ford Velvet Orchid, and the heart, with its mix of white flowers, something green/sharp, and gobs of honey is...Naked Honey. Not literally and truly, but enough to make me think of it and mention the similarity here for anybody who misses this LE scent.
04th August, 2014

Velvet Orchid by Tom Ford

I initially was so positive about this one, because I am in love with the rum and honey notes, and was hell bent to overlook the horror that is the mandarin note.

As gimmegreen so astutely described it, the "olfactory organ rejection scenario" with this sour note wrecks the whole scent for me.

If natural mandarin essence with all of its nuance and volatility is analog, this popular synthetic mandarin is Autotuned digital sound with all the actual life kicked out of it.

A shame, because there's some beautiful stuff going on with the florals and the deep, sweet, intoxicating base, but as a whole composition, it's a committee meeting where people didn't agree and the issues at hand didn't get resolved.
03rd August, 2014 (last edited: 13th November, 2014)

Ambre & Santal by L'Occitane

I don't mean to diminish the artistic achievement of this scent by first emphasizing how outright wearable and useful I've found it to be. Hardly a day goes by that I don't start off or end up wearing it, because on its own, it has an alluring smoldering incense quality - serene and not too sweet - that works anytime. And if I decide to wear one of my heavy 1920s French femme standbys, a light layer of Ambre & Santal applied a few hours before or after only complements it.

It's beautifully and smoothly blended, though if I look for it, I can sometimes pick up on the dry fig note. I do think that's part of its underlying magic, why it smells like what it's called, yet has a certain special something about it that you won't get just by mixing good amber and sandalwood perfume oils, say. That's what I had to determine before buying it, because it was like, Do you REALLY need another amber?

Well, yeah! It's unique and uniquely wearable. I heartily recommend it.

23rd July, 2014

Couture Couture by Juicy Couture

The part of me that enjoys Cacharel's LouLou and Guerlain's Insolence likes Couture Couture, too - while not powdery, like those it is super strong, and super sweet, and has a kind of horrible fake berry/grape-y thing going on.

Here's what's weird, though - as synthetic as it is, it's as close to the smell of Cestrum Nocturnum, referred to as night-blooming jasmine or Night Queen, as I've ever come across in perfumery. Cestrum Nocturnum vines grow in lots of Hollywood yards, and the smell of their tiny flowers is really different from other varieties of jasmine - it smells very white floral, yet has a distinct sugary grape note that reminds me of grape bubblegum - it's that sweet, even a bit artificial-smelling.

If you take an evening walk through a hushed Hollywood neighborhood with 1920s Spanish-style houses, and the Night Queen is blooming, you'll feel the old magic of the place. Couture Couture captures this experience well enough that it gives me a nostalgic pang when I first sniff it. It's always done that, as has the original Juicy frag to a lesser extent, and it wasn't until I walked right next to a huge blooming shrub last night that I made the connection.

17th July, 2014 (last edited: 24th August, 2014)

Désirade by Aubusson

As a huge fan of sweet, opaque orientals and florientals, and one who enjoys drugstore classics like Tabu, this is probably the most perfume fun I've ever had for $7.99. Once in a while a 3.4 oz bottle of the EDT shows up at Ross, and I'd made a mental note to grab it as I'd heard it reminds people of Boucheron and Joop. Now that I've worn it, yeah, I can see that, but only in a general way - more than literally smelling alike, I'd say they all embody a circa 1990 fragrance zeitgeist.

(I used to think it was weird that Caron's Parfum Sacre came out in 1990 because it's "better than that", like a vintage classic. And now I see that it does represent this era of opulent florientals, even as it transcends it.)

Desiderade has some aldehydes; mostly what I get as worn - not sniffed from the bottle or the opening blast - is sweet ylang supported by ripe pineapple, vanilla, and a smidge of spice and resin for interest - coriander and opoponax are listed. I think the EDT concentration is probably a mercy - seems like it could go nuclear and smothering in more concentrated form. As it comes, it wears close, and has a warm and gentle presence. I give it four stars, because I believe it's an accomplishment to make a good, enjoyable scent that's so relatively inexpensive even at full price; many have done less with larger budgets.

Not as complex, layered, and masterful as Boucheron or Sacre, or as immediately recognizable as Joop, yet a good under-the-radar find if it's your style.
13th July, 2014

Boucheron by Boucheron

This review is for the current EDP.

I really don't like the opening - strikes me as very harsh and bitter - though I've learned to wear one spray in warmer weather, where it quickly blooms into a soft, deep, billowing, powdery scent that manages to be elegant and approachable at the same time. The green bitterness I initially don't like proves to make the scent balanced and harmonious as it develops.

For that reason, Boucheron has taken the place in my perfume wardrobe of two older scents that were favorites of mine before reformulation - Must de Cartier and Estee Lauder Private Collection. The counterpoint of bitter green notes, white floral, and vanilla or amber is just so divine and velvety when it's done well, and it's certainly done well here.

I hadn't grown into Boucheron yet when it launched, so can't compare the versions offhand, only know that I feel quite lucky to have it now as I've lost so many of my great ones, even my old vulgar orange blossom/green/vanilla favorite: the original Dior Addict.
08th July, 2014

Coeur d'Ete by Miller Harris

Lyn Harris and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz are two of my favorite perfumers. As with Annick Goutal (herself - not those behind the scents now) I find their work to be so elegant, nuanced, and evocative that even when they're working with whimsical notes, or along a whimsical theme, the end result is just never vulgar.

Coeur d'Ete is an example of Lyn Harris's refined-yet-unfussy style. The list of notes sounds outright bizarre, yet on my skin, it reads like a grownup purple floral chypre - very classical! The effect, not necessarily the notes, reminds me very much of the middle-to-drydown of Guerlain's Chant d'Aromes, which is more noticeably aldehydic and "perfumy" smelling, yet I suspect Coeur d'Ete has some subtle aldehyde action going on, too.

It's kind of fascinating - I know it gives many the impression of being a soft and gentle lilac-forward scent, though in my experience, it's a scent like a ballerina - only a lot of work behind the scenes and a backbone of steel will yield such a statement of simple, persistent grace.
06th June, 2014

Fresh by Zents

I had a really primal emotional/nostalgic reaction to this one, and I think it must smell like something I wore as a teen, probably Love's Rain Scent or a China Rain oil from a hippie shop. It's better than that, yet kind of a throwback to that time - a few decades ago you could get scents that were "fresh" in this manner, and that weren't tart, plant stemmy, or grapefruity.

So we're not talking about a serious perfume here, yet...when I'm feeling fragile or want a cooling spritz of something before or after a dance class, this is often it. I do love the floral accord - I get linden mixed with heliotrope for something akin to sniffing lilac in the breeze. I love natural lilacs, yet used as a very literal and concentrated perfume accord (I think all lilac accords are synthetic), "lilac" in perfumes usually smells like Glade air freshener to me.

So the gentleness and indistinctness of this scent could be called weak, yet I think it's just right. It works because of the concentration - any stronger and it would lose any evocative quality and be a Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day baby detergent smell.

In a way, that's what it is I suppose!

Though if you've got a weak spot for China Rain-type scents, I'd check it out!

26th May, 2014