Perfume Reviews

Reviews by PerfumePorMoi

Total Reviews: 54

Panda (2017) by Zoologist Perfumes

I get that blast of ISO-E Super right up front, but on my skin it doesn't last. I evolves very quickly into fruit-filled barbershop, with a pronounced tart-apple note, and pretty much stays there until that nondescript "woody" dry down. I had some hope when a beautiful osmanthus note popped up, but it was just for a moment. I can see where it would appeal to those who like to keep a certain number of fresh, juicy, "cologne"-type options in rotation. But I have too many much better ones in my collection, so this is a no for me.
22nd July, 2021

Iris Nobile by Acqua di Parma

Earlier this year I finished up a 10-year-old bottle of Iris Nobile, which I think might have been the EDT because the EDP, which I purchased off eBay the other day (Iris Nobile is unfortunately discontinued), is much darker and spicier. I suppose the formula could have changed somewhere between my original bottle and this new one, but who knows.

Regardless, this EDP reads much more like a floriental, more silk brocade than silk chiffon, beautiful no doubt, but it lacks the luminosity, sparkle, and throw of the formulation that first made Iris Nobile one of my favorite riffs on one of my favorite flowers. The EDP is also way less iris-centric, focusing instead on orange blossom, a very banana-ey ylang ylang, vanilla, cumin, and anise. I get zero oakmoss or patchouli in the dry down. Just a persistent amber and vanilla.

Iris Nobile was always a summer staple for me. It blossomed beautifully in the heat, enveloping me in a cloud of soft, rooty-sweet iris for most of the day. By the time this EDP gets to the dry down, the sweet becomes a little sickly, like eating too many caramels at one go.
16th June, 2021

Baiser Fou by Cartier

I've aimed more than a few arrows of disdain at the endless churning out of unambitious fruity-florals over the past couple of decades, but this one gets a pass. A big one, and not because it has a sense of humor (it is NOT in any way ironic). It just smells like there is an artist, an intent, rather than a by-the-numbers corporate meeting brief, behind its conception. I think I read that perfumer Mathilde Laurent was going for an abstraction of an orchid, but I have no idea what orchids smell like. To me, this is a cheery chorus of lip gloss, raspberries, flower stems, vanilla, and white chocolate. Girly but confident, the olfactory equivalent of neon pink with a sophisticated edge.
14th March, 2021
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Gujarat by Olympic Orchids

I recently ordered a six-sample, you-pick-'em pack from Olympic Orchids, and my overall impressions are mixed. One the one hand, I can smell the quality, care, and intelligence behind them—and they last for days. On the other, there's a kind of fuzziness to them as well, the olfactory equivalent of a slightly out-of-focus photograph or a radio station not quite tuned in for maximum clarity.

Gurjurat is one of the more fully realized of the samples. It starts off with that most dreaded of notes for me—cumin—but that quickly quiets down and gets folded into a cacophony of spices that hits the nose like the entry into an exotic foods bazaar. I know that sounds cliche, but the ad copy blatantly states that "exotic" is the intention. And it succeeds perfectly.

About 30 minutes in sweet overtakes the savory. Maybe it's the mango, which I can barely detect, or the tropical flowers, none of which I can identify, but what I smell most overwhelmingly in the middle stage are those anise seed candies that come at the end of a Indian meal.

From there, the composition grows slightly smokey but at the same time citrus-ey. There's a distinct lime or lime leaf smell in the dry down that remains for the duration, an interesting development since citruses are usually top note material.

Even though Gurjurat is ultimately not a scent I would wear, it gets a thumb's up from me for telling such a compelling story. It's fun to spritz on the back of my hand and sniff throughout a lazy day at home, but once my sample is gone I don't think I'll feel the need for a full bottle.
04th October, 2020 (last edited: 05th October, 2020)

No. 19 Poudré by Chanel

I've been obsessed with all things Chanel since I was a teenager, when my best friend and I would obsessively save our pennies from our weekend mall-jobs to skip over to the Broadway department store to buy a bottle of perfume. We eventually accumulated No. 5, 19, 22, and Cristalle, each of which came housed in distinctive cylindrical plastic bottles—black for No. 5, silver for 19, white for No. 22, clear for Cristalle.

To us teens of the '80s, Chanel wasn't old-fashioned. It was luxury and quality incarnate. Nothing smelled as beautiful, nothing lasted as long on our skin, nothing wafted its sillage as seductively.

I've smelled just about every Chanel in existence, and even the ones I haven't liked I've at least admired. If nothing else, you get major bang for your buck. The Chanel that I spritz in the morning is still making its presence known before bedtime.

Which is why No. 19 Poudre is such a disappointment—and puzzle. It's a quality formulation for sure, a study in contrasts, green yet powdery, thanks to citrus and galbanum bolstering the famous Chanel jasmine and iris—not so much an updating or reinterpretation of the original No. 19, but a modern homage to its spirit. It's truly lovely, but I can't give it more than a neutral rating because it lasts maybe 2 minutes on my skin.

I even soaked myself with it on a 90-degree day and . . . nothing. All I can hope for is that maybe I'm temporarily anosmic to it.

EDITED October 2020: I was wrong about the longevity. I'm beginning to think that I suffer from occasional short bouts of anosmia, because I gave this another chance yesterday and it stayed loud and proud on my skin for most of the day. I've never smelled anything quite like this, both harsh and green, powdery and tender. What a magnificent trick.

07th September, 2020 (last edited: 04th October, 2020)

Hypnôse by Lancôme

I'd give this a thumbs up, except . . .

I first spritzed Hypnose at the Dillard's in my home city, onto a card and the back of my hand, and was instantly intrigued. Way sweeter and fruitier than I usually go for, but at the same time I found it bright and fun and even a little bit complex—the vanilla/vetiver dry-down was fantastic. Nothing ground-breaking, but I kept sniffing my wrist and the card, which projected the scent all day and into the evening. The only thing that stopped me from buying it then and there was that my Dillard's only carried the 1.7-ounce and I didn't want that large of a bottle.

Fast forward a few weeks later to another city and another Dillard's, which had a 1-ounce bottle of Hypnose in stock. I promptly snagged it and, once home, sprayed with abandon, inhaled that luscious Juicyfruit-bright opening, and then went about my business. A few minutes later I noticed something strange. Hypnose was GONE. Nose to wrist—nope. Nose to scarf—nope.

Bad batch? Bad timing? Bad chemistry? I have no idea, but even though I've never returned a perfume in my life, this one is going back. It's one thing to decide a perfume just isn't working on me. It's another to hang onto something that ends up smelling like nothing.
09th March, 2020

Baiser Volé by Cartier

My second year in high school I got a job working at a high-end flower shop in one of our local malls. It was established and run by two business partners from NYC. They were both impossibly savvy and chic, and I wanted to work for them as soon as I met them. I was there until I graduated, I loved the job so much. Baiser Volé smells exactly like that flower shop—icy, sharp, and green, underlain with the Easter ham/warm clove scent of Star Gazer lilies, which formed the backbone of the shop's signature flower arrangements. It’s an impressively unadulterated floral—no patchouli, no amber, no animalics, probably not even any galbanum. Nothing to funk it up. And yet it's both super strong and complex, with a very strange fresh cream and wet cardboard dry down. Don’t let the initial watery aspect fool you. This stuff lasts forever.
15th December, 2019 (last edited: 17th February, 2020)

Calvin Klein Women Eau de Toilette by Calvin Klein

I just can’t figure out why anyone would want to smell like a big bowl of peppery fruit juice, but that unfortunately seems to be the state of today’s scented landscape. As long as the general perfume-counter-surfing public is presented with these endless iterations of fresh/fruity/musky—which, most importantly, smell nothing like what their grandmothers would wear—as the de facto definition of perfume, the pink juice will reign supreme.

I might be out of line calling this a failing of intelligence, imagination, and taste on both sides of the consumer relationship, but then again, look at the cultural landscape overall, which seems designed to be scrubbed clean of anything deeply thoughtful or potentially offensive, while at the same time it is encouraged to titillate. But titillation is not the same as stimulation, so what we have surrounding us is basically just a lot of noise.

So why rail against these juices? Because it needs to be said over and over and over again: when it comes to making art of all kinds, we need to BE BETTER.

01st October, 2019

Misia Eau de Parfum by Chanel

The EDP:

I recently read a post somewhere online where the writer described how much he misses the freshly-lit-cigarette smell of his childhood because it always meant that an adult was somewhere nearby.

Perfumes like Misia have that same kind of vibe to me. With their lipstick/makeup/handbag interior accords, they signal a time before today’s prolonged adolescence, when everyone over about the age of 21 was considered an adult, expected to do adult things. My parents were 25 years old when they married, decidedly working-class, yet photos of them back in the late 1960s show my father teaching high school wearing a suit and tie, my mother volunteering at the local library in a tweed suit and heels. And they always smelled great—mom of Madame Rochas and handbag leather, my father of aftershave and wool overcoat. And when they went out, they’d trail back home whiffs of booze and cigarettes, projecting to my little kid brain the idea that the adult world was definitely someplace worth growing up into.

Misia is not a perfume that smells like those of that time, but, rather, one that smells of the time in which they were made. It is tender and romantic, but with a tough, pragmatic edge. I get a heavy, carroty iris right off the bat, made even more technicolor by a burst of aldehydes. Later, as the violets, rose, and carnation take over, Misia enters a romantic, slightly wistful, phase, and tendrils of this floral trio remain even into the dry down, which starts off as sweetly medicinal before shifting into a heavier phase marked by sandalwood and suede.

It does remind me a bit of Lipstick Rose, which I also love, but of the two Misia is the much more focused and complex composition—and it has that distinctive Chanel elegance and lift (in that way, it also reminds me a lot of No. 22). I struggle to fully nail Lipstick Rose down—it has a cheery fuzziness to it, as if its notes and accords were filtered through some kind of neon-colored veil. Misia on the other hand clearly broadcasts exactly what it’s about but isn't at all linear or pedantic. It wears its heart confidently on its sleeve without ever sinking into sentimentality.
01st October, 2019

Idôle by Lancôme

What you are smelling here is the desperation of a good half-dozen cosmetic-conglomerate corporate suits knuckling down to a three-martini concept-ing lunch: "We'll make it pink!" "Yeah, yeah . . . and smell of roses!" "And musk!" "And let's put it in the slimmest bottle ever manufactured!"

In other words: what you are smelling here is the death of perfume artistry.

06th September, 2019

Mémoire d'une Odeur by Gucci

This is a rather interesting recent release, one that bucks the mainstream trend toward stultifyingly banal berry/musk/confectionary-based pink juices designed for short-attention spanned people living in utter fear of smelling like their mothers.

If only it were more assertive and focused. It actually reminds me quite a bit of Cartier's L’Heure Perdue, with a similar wet cardboard/vinegar-ey opening. But whereas the Cartier remains sour and damp on my skin, the Gucci eventually opens up into a chorus of bright, citrus-dipped florals. Unfortunately, the very pretty tune plays more effectively on paper and fabric than on my skin, where it tends to hum along at too low and mushy a frequency—and too high a price for what it is—to tempt me into buying a bottle.
06th September, 2019

Angel Etoile des Rêves by Thierry Mugler

It is said that every time a bottle of Angel EDP gets a new owner, somewhere in Paris Thierry Mugler takes another hit of poppers, throws back his head, and howls.

It’s a maniacal brew for sure, toggling between sweet and suffocating, dark and light, vanilla and vomit. It’s like a college kid’s Saturday night gone wrong, where one minute you plan to spend the evening with boxed wine, Ryan Gosling on Netflix, and your best friend—let’s call her Buffy (who by the way bought her first bottle of Angel that very morning, because it “smells like candy and donuts!”)—and the next you end up raging God-only-knows-why through a slew of dive bars, shooting tequila and harassing boys in the band until you land in some alley, holding each other’s hair and tossing your cookies and Cuervo while Buffy’s Angel, by now a noxious cloud of jackbooted patchouli and poopy-pants chocolate, wafts up from her sweat-soaked skin.

All this to say that if you love Angel but only up to a POINT, get some of this stuff, Angel Eau de Parfum Étoile des Rêves. It’s not necessarily Angel defanged, but more like Angel on Her Meds. And it’s totally true that you can wear it to bed. Even better, without waking up at 2 a.m. reeling from a nightmare of Sadean proportions (if le Marquis were living today, I bet he’d wear Angel), all because regular Angel’s dry down is just that capable of messing with your head, even while unconscious. Also, as is true of all Mugler perfumes, the bottle is totally awesome.
01st June, 2019 (last edited: 08th June, 2019)

Portrait of a Lady by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Portrait of a Lady? Okay, sure, whatever you say, Mr. Ropion. Maybe if that lady was a former headshop hippie from 1975 who goes on to become a rock star, part Stevie Nicks, part Steven Tyler, while regularly atoning for her sins at Catholic Mass every Sunday.

Dark but never heavy, fruity but also funky, with a luminous, clove-y rose that holds it all together. Probably one of my top-ten favorite scents of all time.
15th May, 2019
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Dioressence by Christian Dior

I have no idea what the original Dioressence, or any of its subsequent reformulations, smelled like. Nor do I care. Because what is wafting up from my wrist right now, from a bottle purchased from Saks just days ago, smells absolutely fantastic.

I struggle to express just how happy these kinds of outsized, kitchen-sink green/chypre/orientals make me. Spraying them instantly tunes the world right up to eleven, eradicating with a great big "hell yes" yop every single scolding voice that pushes for attenuation and restraint.

Screw that. I'm in the mood for clearing elevators.
12th April, 2019

Salome by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

I think cumin is wonderful. In FOOD.

In perfume, where it has become a go-to note for achieving a certain level of “skank,” it is almost always overpowering, obfuscating, and downright cheap-smelling.

And it pretty much ruins Salome for me.

This starts off beautifully, the initial spark of spicy florals giving way after about an hour to some sweet smoke and soft leather. After that, though, it’s all cumin all the time, a shrill, one-note tune played at high volume for the next couple hours before finally exhausting itself. The musky floral of the deep dry down is nice enough, but by this time I just don't care anymore.
17th March, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twilly d'Hermès by Hermès

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

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

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

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

Aura by Thierry Mugler

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

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

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

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

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

White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor

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

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

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

Oddity by Rag & Bone

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

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

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

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

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

Durga by D.S. & Durga

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

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

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

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

09th January, 2019

Joy by Christian Dior

Lemon bubblegum Dial soap.

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

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

04th December, 2018

Dior Addict by Christian Dior

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

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

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

Mon Guerlain Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

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

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

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

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

Après L'Ondée Eau de Toilette by Guerlain

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

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

That's it exactly.

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

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

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

Mitsouko Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

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

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

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

Gypsy Water by Byredo

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

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

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

Narciso Poudrée by Narciso Rodriguez

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

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

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

06th December, 2017 (last edited: 07th December, 2017)

Don't Get Me Wrong Baby, I Don't Swallow by Etat Libre d'Orange

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

Diorissimo Eau de Toilette by Christian Dior

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

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

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

18th June, 2017