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Hiram Green Dilettante

July 8, 2016
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I’ve been very run down recently, both in body and spirit. I have a nasty eye infection that has caused my left eye to swell up like a baboon’s arse, and although I have always been rather plain, this sudden lurch towards outright ugliness has thrown me into a deep funk. (I would like to be all “Little Women” about this, but it turns out I have no depth of character, only a succession of shallow pools).

But there are two bright spots in my gloom. Well, three if you count my children, but since they are so unreliable in their light-bestowing capacity, I won’t. The first was the totally unexpected gift by a friend of a small Le Rouge Lipstick by Givenchy included in a transatlantic perfume swap. I loved the perfumes, of course, but I was delighted by the rouge. With my face looking like a freshly-peeled potato, the swipe of labia-pink lipstick was exactly what the doctor ordered for my looks and overall mood. I might look like the back of a van, but my lips are on point.

The second bright spot was a small vial of Hiram Green’s new fragrance, Dilettante, which he had thoughtfully sent me with a note explaining that this was a fruity-floral  scent, “fresh, sweet and ideal for the summer months.” This description, plus the fact that the scent was orange blossom-focused, made me feel even grumpier. Surely when you’re down, you need something that matches the blackness of your soul, not the keys to Disneyland.

But I was wrong – Dilettante is not only very lovely, but is a perfume that deals in pure joy. I am doling out my sample in small drops because I take my orange blossom in therapeutic doses, like pure vitamin C on the tongue. Dilettante is a tonic; a shot in the arm. I kind of feel like Madonna.

The first few moments of the fragrance are like getting a full hit on a whole orange tree – the green, waxy leaves, the bitter rind, the pulp, and the bark. I can’t adequately describe all the different shades of green I smell in the opening of Dilettante, but it’s kind of like driving in Ireland on a summer’s day and catching a glimpse of the colors of the fields and trees, with their gold-green, pollen-green, grey-green, jungle-green, rapeseed-green and so on whirling gently into one verdant ribbon streaming at the sideline of your vision.

It’s quite oily and heavy at the start, as if all the natural oils and absolutes are fighting each other for dominance, but it also manages to feel green and fresh. It is strongly aromatic, and I sense the presence of lavender as well as the petigrain.

After a few minutes, the intensely green, orangey topnotes settle down and the more floral orange blossom begins to bloom. But I have to thank Hiram Green with all my heart here, because the naturally syrupy sweetness of the orange blossom is cut with those sharp green notes, making it the one orange blossom-focused fragrance that I think I could wear on a regular basis rather than just doling it out like Echinacea.

Dilettante grows ever more floral as time goes by, eventually settling into a pale green wax heart that smells like pure neroli oils being mixed by hand into molten beeswax, or the cushioned air of an upscale massage parlor. There may be some jasmine, but I mainly smell beeswax, neroli, orange oil, and the slight caramelized edge of lavender. I don’t find it particularly indolic, but rather waxy, gentle, and floral-aromatic in a muted way.

For a natural perfume, the longevity and sillage as impressive. I found this to be the case also with Voyage and Shangri-La. But better yet, the base is not just some lazy fading out into green soapy vagueness as with most other orange blossom scents, but contains a little surprise animal kick to reward those willing to hang around for it – a salty, skanky “licked-skin” note that is very sensual.

Although I have no idea what Hiram Green used for the base, I suspect it is either a vegetal musk derived from ambrette seed or a tincture of real ambergris. There was a beached whale recently in the Netherlands, and although it was the Indian company Ajmal that bought the huge chunk of ambergris hacked out of its gut for an undisclosed figure, I’d like to think that someone slipped Mr. Green, who himself lives in the Netherlands, a small chunk of ambergris to tinker with.

Dilettante is not at all, as the name implies, trite. It is a sunny, orangey fragrance first and foremost but there is shading here that adds complexity. And the way that animalic, musky base slides in at the end – well, that shows that the perfumer is no amateur.

On the other hand, I’d imagine that this is the first Hiram Green fragrance that would appeal to a broader, more commercial market, because it is an easy-to-enjoy citrusy fragrance that lasts a long time and just smells so darned, uncomplicatedly good. You don’t need to know much about fragrance to enjoy Dilettante, unlike perhaps with his previous perfumes where it might help to have some experience with chypres, tuberose soliflores, or complex orientals. Dilettante requires no learning curve. It is a true elixir of vitamin C for people with troubled souls and sore, weeping eyes.

Fruity Chypre Fruity Scents Gourmand Suede

Robert Piguet Visa

June 30, 2015
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Maybe it’s old age creeping up on me, but I’m beginning to appreciate fruit-heavy fragrances in a way I have never done before. Key to unlocking a whole category that you’ve previously dismissed is, of course, finding one example of its form that steals your heart before you even know what’s happening – for me, that fragrance was Robert Piguet Visa. I ordered a sample of it as something as an afterthought (I was exploring the house of Piguet and didn’t want to leave one off the list), and let is sit in my sample box for over a year before finally trying it out in a fit of boredom one night.

Well, that sneaky Visa – she stole my heart. The first sign that I was in love was that I started hiding the sample from myself, popping it into drawers and into cereal boxes and so on, in a vain effort to slow me down. That didn’t work and I bought a decant from a friend. That had barely arrived at my house when I decided that I needed a whole bottle, such was my anxiety that I would someday be without Visa in my household. This is crazy behavior, by the way. As for Visa itself – well, one could argue that it’s nothing revolutionary. But for me, its fantastic peach and plum notes were my aha! moment, when I realized that fruit could and should be “my thing”.

The fruit notes in Visa are remarkable – white peaches, plums, and pears that smell true to life without smelling the slightest bit loud or fake. Darkened at the edges by the burnt sugar of immortelle and wrapped up tenderly in a powdery benzoin blanket, Visa’s peaches and plums feels bathed in autumnal dusk compared to the strobe-lit glare of most other fruity-floral fragrances. There’s a certain winey, “stained-glass” glow to the stone fruit that makes me ridiculously happy.

When I visualize the type of person that might wear Visa as her signature fragrance, I see a sexy librarian with glasses and a knowing smile. As deep and as comforting as a well-powdered bosom, Visa presents the wearer with a restrained take on loud fruit-chocolate-gourmand “chypres” such as Angel and Chinatown. Here there is no excess, no loud notes playing out of tune, and thankfully, no fruit loop-flavored syrup anywhere to be found.

Everything in Visa is set at hush levels. Even the leather note is gentle – a buffed grey suede rather than a twangy new shoe. The suede and the slight drinking chocolate powder feel in the base offers a gentle cushion for the fruit notes, and a dignified end to the story. Half the pleasure I derive from wearing Visa lies in trying to guess what category it falls into. Actually, it straddles several at once – the fruity-floral, leather chypre, fruit leather, gourmand, and maybe even the dreaded fruitchouli. But far being a brainless fruity, sweet thing you use to stun the opposite sex into submission, Visa is poised and a little bit mysterious. It’s for grown-up women who know their place in the world, not little girls trying to fit in with the crowd.

Fruity Scents Gourmand Patchouli Review Rose Spice

Histoires de Parfums 1969

June 30, 2015
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The perfume’s name refers to the sexual revolution occurring in San Francisco in the late 1960’s, of course, but by 1969 the once idyllic hippy kingdom that was Haight-Ashbury had already started to be corrupted by hard drugs, homelessness, and unsavory criminal elements. And in a way, Histoires de Parfum 1969 Parfum de Revolte pays homage to this shift, by grafting an exuberantly sexy, brash fruit top onto a darkly spiced patchouli and musk base.

At first glance, 1969 is all about playtime. It opens with the biggest, trashiest peach note ever – as crude and as effective as a child’s painting of a peach, smeared with DayGlo pink and orange paint. Joined by a dizzying swirl of rose, chocolate, and vanilla, the peach vibrates and expands on the skin at an almost alarming rate until you feel like you are literally walking around in your own personal fantasy ice-cream sundae (one that features liberal helpings of vinyl and boiled sweets, that is). Like its close cousin, Tocade, I find it both vulgar and charming in equal measure.

Soon though, once the shock and awe of the fruit-vanilla assault dies down, darker, spicier elements enter the picture and quietly anchor the whole thing. The mid-section is a fruity rose and vanilla spiced with the green heat of cardamom pods and the woody warmth of coffee beans. The fruity, creamy roundness is still there, but it is given depth and presence by the resinous spice and woods. The base is a subtle musk and patchouli mixture, which, when mated with the vanilla, creates a creamy chocolate accord that brings it close in feel to Tom Ford’s wonderful Noir de Noir, a slightly darker chocolate-rose semi-gourmand.

I love 1969 Parfum de Revolte because it gives me both the low-rent pleasure of a Tocade-style plastic rose-vanilla and a darker, more adult finish that rescues the whole thing from tipping too far into the gourmand category. What’s more, when all analysis of this is folded up and put away, here’s what’s left – a loud, sexy catcall of a perfume that has just the right balance of fleshy vulgarity and wry sense of humor.

Fruity Scents Masculine Oud Review

Amouage Jubilation XXV

June 25, 2015
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Fit for a king, they say about Amouage Jubilation XXV – and in this case, they mean it quite literally, because the Sultan of Oman frequently gifts bottles of Jubilation and Gold to other monarchs when they pay official state visits to his sultanate. And if I were a visiting monarch, I too would be delighted to find a bottle of this resting on my pillow.

Jubilation is a richly spiced oriental that has the best of everything in it – an opulent Frankincense, jammy fruit (orange and blackberries), warm pie spices, a hot, smoking oud, and a superbly salty musk and ambergris reconstruction extending it all at the tailbone. The opening, in particular, has a berry and dark chocolate effect going on that’s interesting (I assume it’s the patchouli interacting with the fruit and incense).

It’s very balsamic, from the myrrh, opoponax, and Frankincense, smoky thanks to the labdanum and guaiacum, and very sweet – almost syrupy sweet actually – thanks to the big dollops of honey. Sweet enough for a woman (this woman included). I love it.

Opulent, rich, oriental, smoldering……I’m thinking Omar Sharif with those bedroom eyes of his. But it’s classy, too. Although Jubilation is rich, it wears quite lightly and is a teeny bit famous for sillage that comes and goes all day, making you wonder if you’ve put on enough (you have). A couple of sprays under a shirt will provide subtle wafts of gorgeousness all day.

Funnily enough, I never would have thought of trying this for myself but for a mistake someone made while filling a sample for me. I had requested a sample of Jubilation 25, the woman’s version because I wanted to see if it was much different from the sample of the extrait I have. The sample came marked “Jubilation 25”, so I sprayed it on one wrist and a bit of the Jubilation 25 extrait on the other wrist. Immediately, I knew that it couldn’t be the same perfume at all – this one was far sweeter, softer, and more affable than the Jubilation 25 I was familiar with. I put two and two together, and interested, began looking into the reviews of Jubilation XXV.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love Jubilation 25, and as a piece of “art”, I still believe it to be greater than XXV. But Jubilation XXV is a much easier wear. It has a sweet juiciness to it that just comes off as more friendly and approachable. Jubilation XXV is a dopey Labrador to Jubilation 25’s sly cat.

I’m a fan of many Amouage fragrances, but I really feel that the Jubilation brother and sister pair represent the pinnacle of the house’s artistic achievement to date. Released to celebrate Amouage’s 25th birthday in 2007, the Jubilations kicked off a new era for the company. And out of the house’s “couple” scents, the Jubilations are also the most different from each other. Unlike the pairings that followed (Lyric, Epic, Memoir, and Journey), the Jubilations are utterly different in feel and texture to each other, and even the notes that do connect them (fruit and Frankincense) are treated so differently as to render any similarity between them on a purely technical basis moot.

Fruity Scents Review

Philosykos by Diptyque

June 25, 2015
Figs

Philosykos by Diptyque was my first serious fragrance ever, bought (along with Serge Lutens’ Borneo) in a tiny perfume shop in Rome, and I think my hands trembled a bit when I handed over my credit card. That was back in the days when I wouldn’t have dreamed of spending more than $40 on a single bottle of perfume, of course.

But from first sniff, Philosykos was the joy of summer in a bottle for me – the vivid, green fig leaf, paired with the milky sap of the fruit itself just made me feel instantly happy. It still does. In fact, I sometimes spray it on in winter, to bring a little bit of summer back into my cold, dark house. But Philosykos truly comes alive under the heat of a summer sun, because the heat of the sun, combined with the heat of your skin, bring out all the warm, coconutty, milky, figgy, sappy, green, salty, and woody aspects of this wonderful scent.

I always think of Philosykos as being a casual sort of scent – the kind of laid-back, feel-good fragrance you wear with jeans and sneakers you could happily wear on a day out to the beach with your family, or to a cook-out with your closest friends. It has that sort of affability about it.

It’s also very simple and blunt and naturalistic in that Diptyque style, so if you’re looking for something edgy or full of shadows, you’re not going to find them here. But sometimes you just want to get figgy with it, and Philosykos is a good ‘un.