Monthly Archives

May 2016

Amber Floral Oriental Incense Resins Review Sandalwood Vanilla Woods

Creed Angelique Encens

May 26, 2016

A few days ago, I received a mysterious package in the post which continued four largish samples of what even I recognized as rare Creeds – Cuir de Russie, Angelique Encens, Bayrhum Vetiver, and Verveine Narcisse. Spotting the name of the sender, I realized what must have happened – a friend who was kind enough to send me some samples of rare Ensar Oud oils had obviously sent my ouds off to someone else, and I had received instead these Creeds. Somewhere, right now, in Northern Europe, some poor guy is peering at three tiny vials of a brown sticky substance and wondering if the Creeds are so old that they’ve dried up (possible).

Don’t worry, I told my panicked friend, I will send these samples off to yer man. It will be like one of those hostage situations: I release the Creeds if he releases the ouds, etc. I won’t even spray them, I said, obviously lying through my teeth.

I don’t know if Creed Angelique Encens is really that special, but it is so exactly to my tastes that I can’t help but think of it as a masterpiece. Creamy woods, smoky vanilla, resins, smoke, brushed with tender florals and kissed into being by baby angels. Ok, I exaggerate. It’s perhaps not the Second Coming. But it’s pretty damn close to perfection to my mind.

I’m not terribly into straight-up, liturgical incenses like Cardinal, LAVS, or Avignon. I find them initially compelling, but quickly too literal for my liking. My time at Mass was spent daydreaming of it ending, so I am not in any particular hurry to hurry back there in my olfactory memory. Of course, paradoxically, like most everyone else, I find the smell of frankincense and myrrh burning on a censer to be a wonderful smell – raw and primal; spiritually-uplifting even. I just don’t want to wear High Mass on my skin.

The three types of incense that I do like better in perfumery are (a) the thick, dark resin bombs like Sahara Noir and Balsamo della Mecca that evoke something ancient and primal, but not exactly churchy, (b) florals with incense that read as sultry but not High Mass-like, such as Exultat, Sacrebleue Intense, and Chanel No. 22, and, lastly, (c) ambery woody scents with a light touch of incense that are the equivalent of a comfort blanket.

Angelique Encens falls squarely into this third category. When I first put it on – not that I tested this more than five times, by the way, seven at the very most – I get a very clear image in my head of sparkling amber crystals forming on my skin, like salt on bare shoulders after a long day at the beach. The angelica lends the amber crystals a unique herbal, green-stalk-like tone. I am reminded slightly of Iris Oriental, if only for this brief impression of amber crystals forming on the skin, which is something I clearly visualize when wearing the Parfumerie Generale scent too.

The salty brightness and herbalcy of the opening dissipates rather quickly, clearing the way for a woody, creamy amber with hints of powdery incense. This begins to swell and bloom on the skin, growing fuller with every minute instead of thinning out, as one might reasonably expect. In a way, Angelique Encens is constructed in a manner that is completely opposite to most modern scents, which create shock and awe with their massive saturation of aromas in the first few minutes, only to collapse into a lethargic, pale base one hour in. Angelique Encens, on the other hand, grows into its beauty. It fluffs out, like an angora sweater laid to dry in front of an open fire.

No, unlike most modern fragrances, the start really is just the amouse bouche for the most amazing dinner that features no actual dinner per se but the most sensational dessert stretched out over ten courses. What Creed pulled off here was to turn crème brulee into a fragrance, infuse it with smoke, and sprinkle it with the same blue-purple flowers that make the dry downs of L’Heure Bleue, Shem El Nessim, and Farnesiana linger so long in the mind’s eye – heliotrope, violets, a touch of iris perhaps. It is not technically a floriental, though – it has the same elegant woody, ambery feel of Bois d’Armenie and Ambre 114. An incense floriental woody, maybe?

It’s the drydown of my dreams, and one they so rarely make these days. Achieved through what means, I cannot say exactly, but there is surely a very good vanilla absolute here, one that leans more towards smoke than to dessert, ambergris, flowers, and the type of creamy sandalwood you thought was already all bought up by Chanel for Bois des Iles. I also detect – surely – a fat cushion of benzoin further fluffing out the amber, vanilla, and creamy sandalwood.

Nothing too unusual, you’d think, nothing to see here, let’s move along, alright? Except it turns out to have the same full-bodied, voluptuous, soul-stirring beauty as vintage Shalimar or a less rosy Bois des Iles. So here I am, powerless to heed its siren call.

You’d think I’d have learned by now, but no. As it happens, I would be perfectly content to exclusively wear – for the rest of my life – fragrances that are just an inch to the left of Shalimar, one shade darker or lighter than L’Heure Bleue, a fragment of Bois des Iles. My tastes are Catholic, but not Catholic enough.

Angelique Encens is soul food to me. But lusting after it is like going back to the buffet knowing that I’m too stuffed to eat another bite. Technically, I don’t need it. I know it’s going to make me fat. But I sure do want it.

 

via GIPHY

Chypre Floral Woods

Jean Patou “1000”

May 21, 2016

One year, at Christmas, my father gave my mother a beautiful embroidered dressing gown for her Christmas present. I remember this for two reasons. First, it was the first (and only) time I ever remember my father giving mum something quite so obviously expensive. Second, even at age 12, I knew my mum wasn’t going to like it. A woman of plain and sensible tastes, she has a strong distaste for luxury, so I expected her to murmur her polite thanks and disappear it later under the stairs, which is where all unwanted items in our house went to die.

Detail-of-Anne-of-Cleves--007

But she loved it. I’ll never forget the look of sheer pleasure came over her face as she stroked the material – a rich black velvet with an overlying brocade of silver, gold, and vermilion threads all wound up together tightly in an intricate Chinese design. As of the lily hadn’t been gilded enough, there was a huge cream ermine muff around the collar. Either my father had – for the first time in his life – guessed exactly what it was that would make her glow like that, or she had seen it somewhere and requested it. I’ve never asked, but I’m sure it’s the latter.

Every time she wore that dressing gown, it struck me as an act of perversity, somehow. That although lovely, she was working against the natural grain of her taste in wearing something so over the top.

Jean Patou “1000” works against the grain too. What’s the grain these days anyway? Well, the fashion for simple, clear florals that ring out as clear and sweet as a bell, for one. And the muffled, beige tonality of what I think of as the Narciso Rodriguez musk family – all pleasant, all background music.

Wearing something like Jean Patou “1000” is self-consciously anti-trend, deliberately eccentric, like a teenage girl wearing a tweed hunting cape to stand out in the crowd. Or like my mum, every time she put on that ridiculous dressing gown. She looked like a fucking pimp, but…… it did look fabulous.

ornament-600480_1280

Legend has it that it took Patou 10 years to make “1000” and a 1,000 attempts before being released, hence the name. The perfumer credited with “1000”, Jean Kerléo, joined Patou in 1968, by which time the perfume had been in development already for 6 years. It must have been a difficult task for Kerléo to pick up on another perfumer’s brief. I also imagine that by that stage, “1000” was the elephant in the room at Patou, with people coming in every now and then to poke the monster and paste something else onto the formula.

Maybe by the time Kerléo got to it, “1000” was just sitting there, a big, bloated sack of expensive ingredients so ludicrously rich and complex that it was impossible to edit for clarity. Maybe the best he could do was give it a coherent beginning, middle, and end – a structure that held it all together. I also kind of like to think that some board member at Patou just said, “F&*k it. Just release the damn thing already.”

“1000” is a dry floral chypre, which doesn’t really tell you anything these days. It boasts whole acreages of roses and jasmine from Grasse, as well as fields’ worth of osmanthus in China that Patou allegedly had to buy in order to secure enough osmanthus for the formula. But far from being the orgasmic cornucopia of flowers you might expect – hot and glowing like the nuclear Ubar, let’s say – the effect here is muted and shady, as if all the flowers cancel each other out leaving only the sense of their richness rising to the surface like oil on water.

The one note that signs clearly, to my nose, is the violet leaf. Fresh and metallic, this shimmers so brightly in the top of the composition that I couldn’t stop thinking about Fahrenheit and Cuir Pleine Fleur. Interspersed with starched-white-shirt aldehydes and a bitter, crushed-herbs effect (trampled artemisia?), the violet leaf opening is striking, and yes, completely out of step with the trends in modern perfumery.

In the heart, an orchestra of expensive flowers – rose, jasmine, powdery iris, osmanthus – raise their voice to the ceiling as one, but the effect remains soft, sottovoce. There is a vague hint of apricots and suede from the osmanthus, dusky soap from the iris, a thrilling flicker of indoles from the jasmine. But not one flower makes a break for it. Chanel No. 5 and Arpege strike me as much the same, a chorus of dark florals and powder and ambery fruits swirled together so that no one note is distinct.

A faint prickle of civet licks around the edges of the florals, spiking the composition with the warm glow of animal, like raw honey or stale saliva from licked skin. The tainted florals now merge with a golden, mossy drydown that features plenty of oakmoss, 70’s style patchouli, labdanum, and Mysore sandalwood. Interestingly, the oakmoss adds depth and shade, but no bitterness – it’s as if the herbal bitters and violet leaf had played enough of that role at the start.

The drydown is textured – creamy, but also earthy, mossy, woody, with enough lingering civet-licked florals for light relief. It’s at this stage I can see the familiar relationship with the far sweeter and more single-minded floral of Joy, as well as with other dry woody chypres such as La Perla. I don’t, however, see the connection to Mitsouko, as so many people seem to.

I can see why people might find this a bit too much. It’s overly complex and it’s hilariously out of step with the times. Every time I wear it, I feel I should come equipped with a map, a pencil, and a Venn diagram just to try and figure out what’s going on. It’s not even me, in particular. But the more I wear it, the more I like it, especially if I stop scrutinizing it and just let its monumental effect wash over me. It’s a question of letting my taste the time to adjust to a new shape, that’s all. Just like I eventually came to like that pimp dressing gown.

Round-Ups

12 Santa Maria Novella Fragrances – Round-Up

May 19, 2016
PARFUMARIJA-1

Photo rights: Parfumarija, all rights reserved

I am pretty excited right now, because 16 fragrances from the Santa Maria Novella range will be carried at Parfumarija, Ireland’s only niche perfume store. What’s the big deal about that? Well, Santa Maria Novella doesn’t allow perfume stores to carry their range until staff go to Florence to participate in training, and even after that, the stores are not allowed to sell the products online. You either have to go to Parfumarija to buy these perfumes in store, or you phone in with an order.

This might seem rather old-fashioned in this day and age, where you can order everything bar live Panda bears from China online. But Santa Maria Novella is not ashamed to be old-fashioned. In fact, it’s a selling point of their whole line – a collection of hand-made perfumes, soaps, and toothpastes made using the same production methods it has always used since it was founded in 1221.

21

Photo: ItalyMagazine.com

Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. Dominican friars established the pharmacy in 1221, about a year after their order had arrived in Florence, and used the herbs and flowers grown in the monastic gardens to make balms, soaps, medicinal ointments, pomades, and colognes for the order’s infirmary. Word spread about the delicacy and purity of the monks’ preparations and public demand for the products grew. In 1612, the pharmacy started selling their products to the public, and they continue to do so today. Their perfumes all have a certain rustic, ye-olde-pharmacy character to them, and I find this very charming and refreshing.

Parfumarija will have a post up on their site soon with a pictorial of their training and the production processes at Santa Maria Novella, but in the meantime, I wanted to give you a brief rundown of 12 of the 16 eaux de cologne that are going to be carried at Parfumarija. If any of these pique your interest, I have included details on how to order from Parfumarija at the bottom of the post.

lemons-1149003_640

Acqua di Colonia, also informally called the Queen’s Cologne, is a very nice, natural eau de cologne that features a bright, sour bergamot note that gives you the feeling of being drenched in ice-cold water on a hot summer’s day. The bergamot smells like a greener, more bitter lemon, with some of the intense scent of the dark green leaves and rind thrown in for good measure.

Like any good cologne (Acqua di Parma Colonia, Cologne Sologne, Neroli Portofino, 4711, etc.), the purpose is to refresh, not to last or to perform as a proper perfume. And indeed, if you’re in the market for a summer cologne, this is an excellent option – natural-smelling, one of the purest bergamot notes in the business, and not badly priced per ml. Once the brief, volatile citrus notes have died away, what’s left is a creamy, slightly soapy neroli note, green but with a touch of orange blossom dancing around the edges. It is far from complex, but as with all eaux de cologne, sometimes simple is best.

 

kolos-777560_640

Fieno/Hay opens on a very fresh, green note that combines the smell of unripe hay with sweet clover and meadow grasses. It is refreshing, but not tart or stridently-green – rather, more honeyed and floral in character.

As it develops, Fieno takes on a boozy almond-like note, leading me to believe that coumarin is the main material used here. Coumarin is the fragrantly sweet compound extracted from the tonka bean that plays an especially important role in fougeres, where its sweet, hay-like tones are required to offset the bitterness of moss and soften the aromatic sharpness of lavender.

But Fieno leans on the more honeyed, powdery aspects of hay than its dry, sun-baked aromatic side. Its boozy almond undertone and sweet hay notes make me think of Chergui, a powdery, sweet-hay oriental, more than aromatic fougeres such as Azzaro Pour Homme or Jicky. There is also something about the powdered marron glace dry down here that puts Fieno clearly in the oriental category, although given its green start, it would be fair to call it a fresh oriental.

A silky white musk, with perhaps a trace of heliotrope, finishes Fieno off on a wisp of powder and lends the fragrance a nostalgic feel.  Simple, but elegant, I find myself haunted by my sample of this long after it’s gone – and it’s one I’m considering adding to my collection.

bubble-1141188_640

Melograno (Pomegranate) is by far and away the bestselling fragrance in the Santa Maria Novella line-up, a fact that surprises me every time I smell it. It’s not so much that it’s an odd fragrance (although it is) but that it’s extremely hard to pin down.

If you read the reviews for Melograno, you will see that it seems to be a different fragrance from one wearer to the next – to some, it is a green chypre along the lines of Givenchy III, to others it is the edgier twin of the grandest aldehydic monster ever created, Chanel No. 22, and to yet others, it is nothing more than detergent soap made into a fragrance. The one thing that everybody agrees upon is that it doesn’t smell like pomegranates.

Perhaps Melograno is successful because it is so dependent on the individual skin chemistry and scent memories of each wearer, and is therefore the olfactory equivalent of a mood ring. Mood rings were popular for a reason – we all like to feel that the end result is reflective of our individual personalities and chemistry. In that case, Melograno is the ultimate bespoke fragrance – it smells like a mixture of scent, your skin, and a complex bundle of memories and mind associations that are purely your own.

For what it’s worth, to me it smells like a mixture of aldehydes, green flowers, luxury soap, and church incense, with a faint but stirring note of urinal puck running through the base. Why this odd mish mash of elements should work is beyond me, but without doubt, the end result is resolutely appealing. What it will smell on you, and whether you’ll like it, is anyone’s guess.

 

clothesline-804812_640

Fresia, which is Italian for freesia, does not truly smell of freesia at all but of a creamy bar of Camay soap. There is definitely an appeal in clean, warm, soapy floral perfumes, as evidenced by the popularity of the reformulated Ivoire de Balmain (French white soap) and Infusion d’Iris Homme (Irish Spring soap) – people just love the idea of smelling like they’ve just emerged, Venus-on-a-shell-like, from a bath. There is a faint idea here of nostalgia for childhood bathing rituals, perhaps, folded piles of laundry, or the idealized vision of cuddling up with a loved one in front of the fire and having him nuzzle into your clean, freshly-scrubbed skin. Fresia is highly recommended, therefore, to girls (or indeed boys) who believe that cleanliness really is close to Godliness.


Patchouli is a Holy Grail for patchouli lovers everywhere. Raw and direct, it smells at first like fresh, loamy soil and rising damp. Later, it dries out a bit and takes on the gold-brown richness of an autumnal landscape, asground-984068_640 if a tincture of crisp fallen maple leaves has been drip-fed into the brew. But whereas it gains in richness, it does not end up mired in an oriental base of sweet amber or vanilla, as so many patchouli fragrances do – this one is raw-edged, honest, pure, and totally to the point. It makes no apologies for being patchouli.

Patchouli also has a green, leafy bitterness to it and a slightly antiseptic undercurrent, but far from being off-putting, these elements cut through the brown gloom and pushes air into the room. The aroma is a thick one, but it wears surprisingly sheerly on the skin. I think it’s an incredibly sexy, earthy fragrance, because it makes a feature out of its own severity. Think of every stern schoolmistress you ever feared and ended up crushing on, and that’s Santa Maria Novella Patchouli.

 

 

lavender-1117275_640

Lavanda Imperiale is a very high-quality, true-to-life lavender cologne, smelling very much like when you rub or crush fresh lavender between your finger and thumb to release their aromatic oils. Whether you’ll like Lavanda Imperiale depends on how much you like lavender, of course, but also on how pure you like the note to be presented in perfumes.

Lavanda Imperiale is a fresh, unadorned lavender, with nothing but a hit of green citrus to keep things clean. It is properly pungent, classic, and simple. Personally, I prefer my lavender to be plush and orientalized, as in Fourreau Noir, but for those who like it straight, this is a great option.

 

heart-719402_640

Muschio Oro translates roughly to Gold Musk, which sounds rather Italian Gigolo-ish (or at least it does to me). It is an extremely soapy white musk with a bright, sharp edge to it, like a sheer wash of sulfates. I suspect the presence of aldehydes, although they are not listed. It is not unpleasant, but there are far better white musks out there (including SMN’s own Muschio, the original) unless you are deliberately seeking to replicate a fond memory involving anti-bacterial soap. For people who want to smell aggressively clean and shower-fresh at all times, I suspect this fragrance (and Fresia) would be their idea of heaven.

angel-1210727_640

Angeli di Firenze (Angels of Florence) is a sweet, soapy floral mélange of jasmine and rose that creates a golden aura around the wearer. Angeli di Firenze spikes the buttery, floral heart with a juicy apple shampoo note, giving it a fun, youthful vibe that I quite like.

My positive reaction to Angeli, in fairness, is probably due to a nice memory it conjures up for me than the actual smell itself. Specifically, Angeli reminds me strongly of J’Adore by Dior, immediately taking me back to my days of living in Belgrade, when I exclusively wore that scent.

My job at the time was to travel around the Balkans – Kosovo, Macedonia, Southern Serbia, and so on, often on local buses – trying to sweet talk donors into giving us more money, a job I was really terrible at. I was only really at the office in Belgrade once or twice a week before heading off on my lonely travails, but I remember that I never felt welcome there, or part of the team. However, the receptionist at the front desk, a beautiful Serb girl with the highest heels I have ever seen on anyone, would always take the time to stop me and say, “You smell sooooo beautiful”.

The day I handed in my notice, I walked up to the receptionist, handed her the rest of my big bottle of J’Adore, kissed her and told her that she had made my life in Belgrade bearable. I remember that her eyes filled up with tears, which embarrassed me because I suddenly understood I could have made her this happy earlier. Why hadn’t I just handed over the bottle to her the first time she complimented me on it? I never wore J’Adore again.

 

shoe-682702_640

Peau d’Espagne (Spanish Leather) is a brash, dark leather fragrance that drills home its point without losing the plot somewhere over amberland or vanillaville. Unlike cuirs de Russie (Russian leathers), leather fragrances classified as peau d’espagne (Spanish leather) types do not rely primarily on birch tar for their smoky, leathery effect, but instead recreate it through the use of a complex locking system of various dry herbs, flowers (carnation), and dusty woods. The Peau d’Espagne type of leather came about from the process of curing the leather for fine ladies’ gloves with a sweet-smelling mixture of flowers and botanical essences, which of course masked the terrible stench of uncured leather.

Peau d’Espagne is the oldest, and finest, surviving representative of this type of leather, and although it does contain a small amount of rectified birch tar, its total effect owes more to its complex floral construction than to birch tar. Although it plainly skews masculine, I think this could be phenomenally sexy on the right woman – a badass perhaps, or if playing against type, a quiet, feminine girl who wants her aura to read as unexpectedly kinky.

The leather note is strong and dry, a piece of raw cowhide waiting to be tanned in a vat of dyes. But though it is dark, it is also fresh with an underbelly of green herbs, camphor, and even a touch of mint flooding the gloom with slivers of light. The florals lend their effect rather than a distinct aroma of their own – the carnation note gives a flourish of clove-scented powder to the leather, and the violet leaf a sharp, green, almost metallic edge.  There is a touch of birch tar here, too, and although I wouldn’t really call this a phenolic fragrance, there is a distinct whiff of tar pits. But think sweet tar, like that in Patchouli 24 or the sweet, rubbery florals behind the tough saddle leather in Lonestar Memories.

As with a few other Santa Maria Novella fragrances, there is a distinctly antiseptic note floating through the heart here, almost like TCP or germolene. This adds a pleasantly medicinal touch, and replicates somewhat the balance achieved in something like Tubereuse Criminelle between the floral, creamy side and the harsh, wintergreen aspect. It is this antiseptic mouthwash note that brings together all the other elements – the leather, the herbs, the carnation, the tar. A striking, if rather rough leather fragrance in a tradition of Peau d’Espagne that is no longer in fashion.

vintage-1950s-887272_640

Calicantus is Italian for calycanthus, a little-known shrub whose aroma I’ve only ever encountered once before, in Maria Candida Gentile’s wonderful Hanbury, where it interacted with the orange blossom to produce a strawberry or blackberry wine backdrop to the scent – most unusual and pleasing.

I can’t say to what degree calycanthus has been used in Calicantus, but to my nose it reads as an abstract, spicy floral chypre, with a woody, soapy, antiseptic base borrowed from Melograno and a blended floral heart consisting of rose, jasmine, and ylang. At the start, there is a burst of something green and almost animalic, narcissus perhaps, which gives way to soapy orange blossom and sweet fruity notes. The clearest leading characteristic of Calicantus, however, is its powdery, bitter, spicy carnation note which gives the fragrance a very Caron-like complexity and old-world glamour that is largely missing from the simpler perfumes in the Santa Maria Novella line-up.

I like this one a lot, and would recommend it to lovers of both Melograno and the older, powdery green and yellow florals in the Santa Maria Novella line-up such as Gaggia and Ginestra. Fans of the clove-like carnation notes in the current Tabac Blond by Caron, and powdery, old-school floral chypres should also check this out. It risks being over-shadowed by its more attention-grabbing siblings, but it would be a shame to overlook this quietly complex little beauty.

 chevrolet-637778_640

Nostalgia is supposed to smell like an Italian racing car on the track, complete with gasoline fumes, rubber seating, and all. During the fleeting topnotes, Nostalgia pulls this off in spectacular fashion with a pure petrol note that would put the current version of Fahrenheit to shame, followed quickly by a shot of sweet car-seat rubber and leather.

The smoke and fuel dissipate rather quickly, however, leaving behind a sweet, rubbery, vanillic tailbone that smells rather too close to Bvlgari Black to justify the price. The scent is nicely woody and quietly masculine. Beyond the arresting opening, I don’t think Nostalgia is particularly challenging, so I see this as a great option for men (or indeed women) who might be looking to dip their toes into niche but not go too far into weird/ugly/difficult territory. This is just different enough to provide good fun and shock value, but sweet, woody, and generically aftershave-like in the drydown to reassure novices and big ole scaredy cats.

 

flower-363278_640

Gelsomino is a marvelous jasmine fragrance with, from what I can tell, real jasmine absolutes used (both Grandiflora and Sambac). Real jasmine essential oil is so expensive to produce (it costs over €4,000 a pound) that it is very rarely used in commercial perfumery, and more often, a variety of synthetic jasmine is used. These jasmine replacers cost just over €3 a pound, depending on the sort used, and some of them are really good, so you can see why they are used in commercial perfumery.

But I believe that Gelsomino has a good deal of the real stuff. The cologne version is fresher and greener; the triple extract is darker and jammier – but both dry down to a sourish, animalic base that may surprise you if you’re not expecting it. It’s one of my favorites, as you can see from my review here.

 

pipe-1008898_640 (1)

Tobacco Toscano is a sexy, sheer tobacco-honey fragrance with a rubber twang that recalls Bvlgari Black stripped of its green edges. It also strongly recalls the sweet, bready musk and vanillic paper/cardboard notes of Dzing! but features none of that scent’s elephant dung. But most of all, Tobacco Tuscano has a distinctly Tobacco Vanille vibe. The advantage of Tobacco Toscano is that it has none of the dried-fruit heft of Tobacco Vanille, and as such can be worn with gay abandon during the hot summer months. For devotees of sweet tobacco orientals, surely this is reason enough to rush out the door, your credit card at the ready.

The main building block for the fragrance is loose leaf tobacco leaves that have been soaked in pure vanilla extract and then dusted in honey powder. There is a faint aromatic, leafy undertone in the opening notes that conjures up a rustic stroll through the countryside, but the dry down is more urban and stream-lined; a honeyed, tobacco and vanilla combination that smells so good you might want to lick yourself. It’s really nothing new under the sun, but it’s a really nice, summer-ready version of old favorites, so I’m all over this one like butter on hot bread.

If any of these fragrances appeal, call in to see Marija, Freddie, or Sigita at Parfumarija, located at 25 Westbury Mall
Dublin 2, Ireland, or phone in an order by calling +353 1 671 0255. Alternatively, you can drop them an e-mail at info@parfumarija.com.

 

Floral Jasmine

Jasmines in Rome, Part II: Parfums de Nicolai Number One Intense

May 17, 2016

On my second day in Rome, there I was having lunch with my husband in one of our favorite restaurants in Trastevere, La Scala, when lo and behold, a friend of mine happened to walk past with her partner! After dragging them in and making them taste all our food, we discovered that neither Ana nor George were enjoying Rome very much. They thought it too gritty, too dirty, and the people a little gruff. They’d even had bad pizza the night before, which in Italy is like turning up to an orgy and finding everyone already engaged. I’d imagine.

My husband, being a lover of Rome, felt that all they needed was a little bit of good pizza to start seeing Rome in a good light. Me, I suggested perfume. There happened to be, I suggested innocently, a little niche perfume store just down the road, would the men mind waiting….?

The men did indeed mind waiting, a fact they made clear in very loud, complaining tones of voices that we, however, could no longer hear, because we had long since disappeared into the cozy gloom of Roma Store. Looking back at them through the window, I saw that they had adopted the centuries-old stance of men waiting on women – dazed, slightly defeated, and weighed down by shopping bags.

So Ana and I proceeded to smell all of the perfumes in the shop. We both wanted to test Map of the Heart v4, said to be Feu d’Issey smell-alike and an artistic achievement in its own right. We thought it smelled a bit like fruity, milky vomit, and on my skin in particular, there appeared a slight biscuity undertone, like standing really, really close to someone who’d just eaten a packet of McVities digestives.

Spotting a big bottle of Parfums de Nicolai Number One Intense, I grabbed it and sprayed it on the back of my arm. I was immediately transported. This was a Chypre, Goddammit. A real-life, honest-to-goodness Chypre with a capital C. In the middle of all these cool, trendy, somewhat “out there” niche perfumes, this perfume felt like the air was splitting open to reveal a third dimension, allowing me to slip into a dark, cool forest, its atmosphere sodden with the inky, bitter smell of oakmoss absolute and thick with jasmine.

“Smell this,” I urged Ana, excited and grinning like a love-struck fool, “Now this is a real chypre, right?” Ana smelled my arm, and made a little face. “A little bit too polite,” she said, “A real ladies-who-lunch kind of scent. Not sensual enough for me.” She also noted that it was more about tuberose than jasmine, and that it also smelled a little like Odalisque, which she owns. And she is correct, of course, on both scores. But I can’t explain it – right there, at that moment, this unassuming little thing – a De Nicolai! – was the most exciting thing in the shop for me.

When I got back to the apartment that night, I looked up the reviews, and to my surprise, they backed Ana up on the general tone of the fragrance – a nice, somewhat staid white floral in the classical French manner. Patricia de Nicolai had won the Mouillette d’Or for Best International Perfume Creator in 1989 with Number One.

But I insisted – no, no, I smell oakmoss! This is surely a floral chypre. A sexy, jasmine-soaked chypre with a dark, womanly feel to it. I convinced myself that I needed it in my life and that I’d be the only person on earth to divine the true sexual, earth mother, Goddess-like nature of this perfume that everyone else thought was boring. I would walk the streets leaving a trail of devastated men in my wake. So, after a month of humming and hawing I ordered a small bottle of it directly from Parfums de Nicolai.

Yeah, so….I was wrong.

This is not sexy. It’s also, as Fragrantica and Basenotes correctly identified, not a chypre but a white floral. There is a smidgen of oakmoss absolute in the formula, but it’s not enough, no, not nearly enough, to spread a much-needed dark, velvety layer of forest under the feet of the sumptuous white florals.

And without the chypre bitterness, this is truly all about a big block of white flowers – orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose – bleeding into each other and smoothing out any of the individual, interesting identifiers of each flower. There are no fruity indoles from the jasmine, no buttery, mentholated weirdness from the tuberose, and no honeyed orange notes from the orange blossom.

It’s, well, it’s “Nights in White Satin” (“I looooovvveee yeeeewwwwww”) and shoulder pads and big hair, and it’s also, clearly, Giorgio.

downloadA friend of mine wears this, but she is a young, hot, sexy girl who has hordes of men panting after her. I think that in order to wear something as old-fashioned as Number One, you have to either wear it with irony, or you have to be beautiful enough yourself to subvert the essential staidness of the fragrance.

But I’m mostly too tired to be ironic, and I’m not cool or sexy enough to make it ripe. I guess I’ll have to reserve it for those special occasions when I want to clear an elevator and make people hate perfume all over again.

Oud Smoke Woods

By Kilian Pure Oud

May 5, 2016

By Kilian Pure Oud is the racehorse of the Western oud-based fragrances; all sinew and nerve, and not an inch of fat to spare. Kilian could have easily named this Oud Noir or Dark Oud, because Pure Oud really does convey the inky, matte darkness of a moonless night sky.

It smells like a black leather jacket tinctured into a pool of black tar and then vaporized into a mist of gasoline.

Pure Oud draws a line around itself and stays within it. Real oud oil has a smell that spills messily out over every line you’ve drawn for yourself; the brazenly-named Pure Oud (it is purely synthetic) is self-contained. But they do share a common denominator – both smell other-worldly and somewhat stark.

For me, it is the Western-based oud fragrance that comes closest to mimicking the smell of real oud oil. Not a sour, fermented-smelling Hindi or Assam oud oil, but one of those aged, dry oud oils where you can pick out hints of leather, dried fruit, melting plastic lunch boxes, and smoke.

Caveat: Pure Oud is a minimalist take on a maximalist smell, i.e., it does not approach the complexity or range of aromas of real oud oil. Nothing this obviously synthetic can come close to copying something so rudely natural.

But the experience of using oud oils and attars is not interchangeable with or comparable to using traditional fragrance; one is a quiet, more private experience geared toward internal contemplation; the other is a projection of oneself to the wider world. We shouldn’t keep holding up one against the other in a race for authenticity. Prefer instead that benchmark of Guy Robert’s: Does it smell good? And yes, Pure Oud does smell good – very good indeed.

I find Pure Oud to be very quiet, but long-lasting. Sometimes, to turn up the volume a bit, I re-spray during the day, twice, or even three times. This way, it builds up on the skin in layers of translucent ink – leather upon rubber upon gasoline, until it finally pushes off the skin in a sulky swirl of woodsmoke.

Floral Jasmine White Floral

Jasmines in Rome: Part I – Santa Maria Novella Gelsomino

May 4, 2016

I was in Rome for a few days in early April this year. Not having been anywhere without my kids since January 2013, I had to be restrained from running through the streets naked, crying “FREEEEDDDOOOMMM” in my best William Wallace voice.

It was a trip for once not centered on the furtive pursuit of perfume – the sudden sideways lunge into a perfume shop with an urgent, pleading “I’ll just be in here for a minute” being a well-known feature of rare family trips to cities that might conceivably stock a range of perfume that extends beyond Tommy Hilfiger and Beyonce.

I had promised my long-suffering husband that there would be no perfume. That we would be doing nothing for those four days but walking, eating long, uninterrupted lunches, drinking a cup of coffee without having to reheat it, and having real conversations for four days. I was looking forward to it. It was going to be a blast, you know? All that walking. All that conversing.

And yet, and yet…..perfume conspired to find me.

Did you know that the center of Rome smells like horses? And therefore, like jasmine?

Near the Spanish Steps, rows of mangy-looking beasts are lined up, waiting to drag hot and irritated tourists around the city. There they stand, in deep misery, flicking flies off their rumps with their tails and dumping great big piles of shit all over the cobblestones.

Get near them and the air positively throbs with the smell of hot horseflesh, the heavy miasma of sweated-in dander from their mane, and the inky, dark, quasi-indolic smell of their poo. Add to that the smell of worn leather from their harnesses, and you have a swirling, foetid maze of scent that is similar in many ways to the dirtier facets of a good Sambac jasmine.

Apparently, the indoles present in jasmine mimic the molecular structure of the indoles in horse poo and in the scent of their mane and tail (sweat, indoles, dander). Many people find Sarassins by Serge Lutens to share a common note with a horse’s mane, but the more I wear Sarassins, the cleaner and fruiter I find it, especially once the shocking indoles at the start are dispensed with. Its soft, fruity, musky tail is no longer one I’m obsessed with.

Still, I hadn’t expected to find my perfectly horsey jasmine bliss in a bottle in the Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella.

I had conspired to “wander” casually by the Rome Santa Maria Novella location with my husband (having, of course, plotted my route via Google Maps several months in advance). “Oh look!” I exclaimed, as innocently as I could, “A cute little pharmacy! Let’s see if they have any Compeed.”

The Gelsomino was the one that grabbed me by the throat. I didn’t like it much at first, because it smelled like jasmine essential oils always smell to me – exuberant, fruity, and always (despite the price) slightly coarse or cheap. There were elements of grape jam, melting plastic, fuel fumes, purple bubblegum for kids – a full-throated, smeary Italian jasmine that’s all fur coat and no knickers.

My husband said it smelled like cheap soap, specifically the smell of jasmine soap that someone has used to try and cover up a bad smell in the bathroom.

But I was beginning to be intoxicated by its healthy vulgarity, its I-do-not-give-a-shit insouciance, so I drenched myself even further, giving myself a real whore’s bath right there in front of the slightly shocked Japanese girl whose job it was to carefully remove the bottles I requested to smell from the massive wooden armoire where they were stored.

Let me tell you, this is a perfume that comes into its own when you walk it around a hot city for six or seven hours. It was unseasonably hot in Rome – already 27, 28 degrees Celsius in early April. As the day wore on, I got progressively grimier, and so did Gelsomino. Now it smelled truly dirty, slightly sour, like human skin trapped under the sweaty plastic wristband on a cheap watch, or the scent of the leather strap on your handbag after it’s been rubbing against your bare shoulder bone on a hot summer’s day.

To me, it smelled exactly like those horses near the Spanish Steps did – worn-down, sweaty, sour, truly jasmine-like. A sort of Sarassins in reverse, with all of the fruity, innocent lushness and musky, soapy feel up top, and a sour horsey stink in the tail.

My husband sniffed it towards the end, and shook his head. It smells like hay and horse poo and leather now, doesn’t it, I marveled. No, he said, you are wrong. It smells like stale piss. Please don’t buy that one. Please.

The next day, when I bought it, I consoled my husband by telling him I had bought the smallest bottle possible. “Look,” I said, holding up the teeny tiny bottle for him to see, “Only 8ml.” Oh that’s ok then, said my husband, relieved and kind of proud I had taken his feelings into consideration.

(It was the super-powerful, super-long-lasting Triple Extract).

css.php