Saturday, 31 March 2012

Friggin' Friday

So, its the last day of March and boy, am I glad it is Le Weekend. 

Yesterday, I had to go down to Dorset to see a client, just for the day. Now, for those of you not familiar with England, it takes about three hours to get to Dorset by train, if you only include the actual train time. Factor in getting to and from stations, waiting in stations for changes and so forth, and its closer to four hours, perhaps even five if you are unlucky and experience a delay.

So to put it in perspective, my day went like this:

Wake up 4.45, shower, shave, dress, brush teeth, get laptop bag and stumble out of front door at 5.30.

Walk to train station, catch 6.09 to London. Startled by how busy train is at 6 in the morning. Don't people have lives - who wants to commute at sparrow fart?

Arrive London Waterloo at 7.10. Buy breakfast baguette and coffee, hang about until 7.30 and board 7.35 train to Bournemouth. Work on train. Regret becoming an accountant...

Arrive Bournemouth 9.40. Walk to town centre, arrive at client 10.00.

Work until 1pm, client takes me out for lunch, but turns out I'm paying and he's drinking lots of wine. Lucky I can claim back disbursements, but won't get away with claiming two bottles of wine, so guess client got lucky. Bastard.

Get back to his office at 2.30 (client a bit woozy I suspect) and try to work until 5.15. He's not much use to me now. Start to wonder why I bothered ruining a Friday for this.

Walk back to train station and hang around until 6pm. Get on a packed train to London. Seems like every goddamn student from Bournemouth and then Southampton universities are heading home for Easter. The bastards.

Arrive London 8pm. Catch train back to Tunbridge Wells, arrive at 9pm. In desperation, get a Chinese takeout on way home. Walk through front door at 9.30pm, exhausted.

Eat Chinese and then after a shower, fall into a deep yet disturbed sleep. Wake up around midnight, parched and thirsty. How much salt, MSG and other additives were in the Chinese food? The bastards.

So that was my day and the end of March. Only good thing about yesterday was I wore Amouage Dia Man. Thank God.

Have a good weekend everyone. I certainly will!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

2nd year Blogoversary

It's gone by very quickly. I can scarcely believe it, but today my blog is two years old. I'll keep this short and sweet. I've enjoyed these two years of blogging immensely and believe that during this time I have learned a lot about perfume. 

More importantly, I have discovered a lot of exceptional other blogs, written by wonderful people and along the way, I have also met some wonderful people, albeit it in a virtual world. Perhaps one day I shall meet some of you in person.

Also, a particularly warm thank you to those who comment on my blog regularly. There aren't that many of you, but I do appreciate the comments, really, and without you, my blog and my experiences would be the poorer for it.

So here's to the next year!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A sports cologne showdown

Those who read my blog will most likely be aware of my general disdain for flankers, sports cologne flankers in particular. Now, I am not claiming to be unbiased or unprejudiced here. Truth be told, there could well be some decent sports perfumes out there. Indeed, there must be, seeing as they seemingly fly off the shelves and are released with monotonous regularity. Whatever, I don't dig them, so tough shit.

In this year of the Olympics, there seems to be more than the usual number of sports cologne releases. I sincerely hope the trickle does not turn into a stream.

Today I sampled two recent releases in this genre, Chanel's Allure Homme Sport Eau Extreme (mouthful alert) and Dolce & Gabbana's The One Sport.

The showdown begins with a couple of sprays on each wrist and off I go. Both perfumes' openings stray into very familiar sports cologne territory. Think high-pitched, nostril-searing citrus. I've never been a fan of Allure or any of its flankers, and I felt that familiar sense of deja vu here, at least for the first half an hour or so. I could comfortably say that I preferred the first stages of development, such as they are, from The One Sport. 

The One Sport gradually developed more of a marine/salty feel, but in fairness it didn't remind me all that much of the nineties. Into the heart notes and I was finding it has more in common with citrus/mossy men's perfumes from the seventies and eighties, without ever putting a foot firmly in those camps. At this stage I would say it is round 1 to The One Sport, with round 2 probably a tie.

However, the dry down is where it all changed for me. The One Sport dries down to a fairly benign citrusy base. Allure Homme Sport on the other, became warmer, a touch sweeter and in all honesty, a nicer and more complex perfume. With the patchouli, cedar, musk and slightly amber overtones, it strikes me even as slightly oriental in feel, which was a bit of surprise, but a nice one. I don't quite know how to measure my rounds here, but for extra complexity and interest, I would allocate two rounds to the dry down, both of which go to Allure Homme Sport. I therefore declare the winner, two rounds to one, Allure Homme Sport.

Look, in all honesty, I am not blown away by either of these, but in fairness they are both decent mainstream fragrances. I just don't know why they had to be called sports fragrances - it's an irritating term. I was pleasantly surprised by the Chanel, which goes to show one shouldn't always pre-judge a perfume, tempting as it may be to do so.

I'm not going to be buying a bottle of either of these soon, but at the same time they are perfectly good perfumes, which I can see selling well.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A bit of this, a bit of that

As we near the end of March (honestly, how could three months, a whole quarter of 2012, disappear just like that?) here in the UK we've experienced some glorious weather. A slightly nippy breeze aside, we've had days of sunshine and this weekend we got stuck into some gardening for the first time this year. 

When we moved to our house here in Tunbridge Wells, one of the first things we did during our first winter was to plant a cherry tree in our front garden. It has flourished, and this week burst into a profusion of frothy pink blossom, a true sign that spring is here, if ever one was needed. All over town, cherry trees are blooming, as are yellow Forsythia and one of my favourites, the Magnolia. Both my wife and younger daughter have birthdays in early April and depending on the weather, our cherry tree sometimes flowers on their special days, which makes my wife very happy!

On the perfume front, I have been trying a few new releases. Last week I tried Spicebomb for the first time on my skin. On paper it smelled very good, but on my skin it wears slightly sweeter and less spicy than I'd hoped. It's still a very decent mainstream fragrance mind you, far better than some of the dreck that has been released.

I've been given samples of Chanel's Allure Homme Sport Eau Extreme. I haven't tried it yet, but part of me is tempted not to purely by the ridiculously long name given to it. Honestly Chanel, what's up?

I've also been playing a bit more with Lostmarch's Lann Ael and Mona Di Orio's Oud. Lann Ael's opening reminds me very much of that buttery, toasty, slightly bready smell of Serge Luten's Jeux de Peaux. After that it tones down a bit, but to me it is a very gourmand fragrance. Oud is a complex, smooth, sophisticated take on what has become a totally overdone note, but I'm tempted to say that Di Orio's take on this is one of the best I've encountered, it is that good.

Finally, after months of procrastination, I have finally started to compile a comprehensive list of my perfumes and samples. Like a true accountant, I have created The Spreadsheet, designed to be manipulated, reported on and generally, aimed to bore the pants off anyone who isn't an accountant or a perfumista. Sad, I know. Interestingly, I have only got through about a third, perhaps even less of my collection and already I have over 150 entries. I shudder to think what the end result will be!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Parfumerie Generale Hyperessence Matale

I acquired a sample of  Parfumerie Generale's Hyperessence Matale from Les Senteurs a couple of weeks ago and have been enjoying it a lot.

There are a lot of Parfumerie Generale fragrances I enjoy, but must state that it was incredibly refreshing to encounter a fragrance of theirs that is not gourmand in any way. Having said that, the fragrance is not that far removed from food in the sense that it is mostly about tea, a slightly smoky tea at that.

The notes, according to Luckyscent, include citrus, black tea, cedar leaves, musk, pepper and jasmine. The fragrance starts quite fresh and citrusy, which while very nice, does not prepare one for what is to come. The first time I tried it, after smelling the citrus I forgot about it for a while, then a bit later got an intriguing smoky waft, entirely unexpected (I had not read any notes at that point). While the tea accord is smoky, it doesn't have that uber-intense, almost repulsive smokiness that one encounters, say, with Lapsang Souchang tea. It is more toned down than that, thankfully. 

I have to admit that I don't get any floral accord. Jasmine may be listed but my nose doesn't pick it up. The pepper goes very well with the tea and smoke and is lent just a hint of sweetness by musk and grounded with the cedar. While fairly straightforward in construction, Hyperessence Matale is, in my opinion, very well balanced, with a good diffusion, and never boring. I have read some reviews that complain of its relative short staying power, but I can't say that I've experienced that.

I like a lot of perfumes from Parfumerie Generale, but I have to confess that Hyperessence Matale is fast becoming possibly my favourite perfume of the line.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Aftelier Perfumes Shiso

I've had a sample of Shiso for a couple of months now, courtesy of Cymbaline (thanks!). I'm not really sure what to make of it. It's a curious fragrance, to be sure.

Fragrantica describes it as 'an aromatic green fragrance for women and men. Top notes are clove and pepper; middle notes are shiso, pandanus and geranium; basnotes are sandalwood, patchouli and agarwood (oud) Mandy Aftel states that Shiso is based on an old Geisha formula.

To me Shiso smells very herbal, with a definite green and powdery aroma. I wouldn't say it is green as in sappy stems, but evokes powdered herbs. One note that definitely stands out for me, particularly in the first half of development, is geranium. Before I even read the notes, I could identify it. There is something about the use of geranium here that is apothecary in feel. I don't know if anyone has smelled the bath and body products by Neils Yard Remedies, but Shiso smells a lot like them, quite old-fashioned in a way, which seeing as Aftelier is basing this on a turn-of-the-century formula, is perhaps not surprising.

As the fragrance develops, it becomes even more powdery, yet quite woody at the same time. Later on I get the agarwood note, but not the patchouli and sandalwood very much. I had to look up Pandanus, which apparently is a tropical plant used a lot in Southeast Asian cooking, smelling a bit like bread or rice. I can't say I detect such a note in Shiso, but that doesn't mean there isn't one. Shiso leaves are used a lot in Japanese cuisine and apparently taste a bit like a mixture between basil and coriander and a little bit bitter. I can't vouch for that as I have never smelled or tasted Shiso leaves. 

When all is said and done, I can't say that I am blown away by Shiso, but it is very distinctive and unusual. For that I do give it kudos and certainly am glad I've tried it. I could see myself trying it from time to time, but not wearing it as an everyday fragrance.

Monday, 19 March 2012

A selection of quotes from Michael Edwards French Feminine Fragrances, part one

Anyone who has followed my blog over the last few weeks will probably have realised that I've been enjoying Michael Edward's wonderful book, French Feminine Fragrances. While I've enjoyed reading about the perfumes and their history, I've possibly enjoyed even more some of the insights and comments by the legendary perfumers behind the fragrances.

I am hardly an expert, but for me, the true essence of art is conveyed through emotions, both of the creator and the receiver, or audience. While I'd obviously prefer to love a work of art, I'd still prefer to be moved, whether it be by attraction or repulsion, than by indifference. Perfume is no different for me; I don't love every great perfume I've encountered, but I have been moved or stimulated in some way, and left with an indelible impression.

What struck me most when reading this book is the emotions that flowed from the perfumers. Almost without exception, these perfumes (we're talking about close to fifty) were inspired and transcended the science and chemistry behind the creations. 

So in this first instalment, I will set out some quotes that really stood out for me from the early part of the book, dealing with Guerlain and its early 20th century perfumes. I can't take any credit for this of course; I am quoting verbatim from the book and stress that all credit is owed to Michael Edwards and his research.

"It endures, not because it was the first modern perfume, but because it is timeless. Jicky is emotion translated into perfume." Jean-Paul Guerlain.

"'I couldn't put it in words', he told me. 'I felt something so intense, I could only express it in a perfume.'" Jean-Paul Guerlain on what inspired Jacques Guerlain to create L'Heure Bleu.

"First you learn to smell,", says Roja Dove. "You learn the smell of your mother, the scent of home. Then, as you grow up, you start to learn about fragrances. When you become a little bit older, you learn about fine French fragrances, and then, hopefully, you learn about the Guerlain fragrances. When in the end, you appreciate L'Heure Bleu, then you know that you really love perfume."

Sylvaine Delacourte, assistant at the time to Jean-Paul Guerlain on Mitsouko: "A perfume is an emotion that men and women can share. Little girls and boys both enjoy smelling flowers and woods. Its only later that someone lays down the law 'this is for women and that is for men'. It is not always true. A great perfume appeals not just to women, or to men, but to all human beings." 

Ernest Beaux: "If I had used so much vanilla, I would have made only a creme anglaise, whereas Jacques Guerlain creates a Shalimar!"

"To this day, there are still customers who believe that Shalimar is the name of the House. They don't think of Shalimar by Guerlain. To them its Shalimar by Shalimar." Sylvaine Delacourte

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Weekend roundup

Well, to be honest, this is not much of a weekend roundup, as I only went to a perfume counter once this weekend, but I did discover that the Roberto Cavalli perfume and Viktor & Rolf's Spicebomb are both available here.

I didn't try either of these on skin, so a bit early to give a proper view. Initial impression for the Cavalli is that it is a fairly standard fruity floral. Having said that, it smelled ok to me, but not something that I want to seek out specifically.

Spicebomb is certainly a perfume I will be trying. On paper it smelled very good - quite a lot of pepper to start and a nice cardamom note develops. How that will translate on my skin remains to be seen. It did smell rather fleeting on paper, which worries me a little. Antidote, for example, is one that I've always found too light and I'm hoping Spicebomb won't go the same way.

A friend of ours who is leaving the country left us some bath and body products that she can't take with her. Included was a little left over of Kenzo's Flower. It's been a while since I last smelled this one. I'd forgotten just how distinctive it is. I'd be interested to find out what you think of it.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Lorenzo Villoresi Patchouli

Some of you who might have followed my blog for a couple of years could be aware that I am quite a patchouli fan. I am often on the lookout for patch fragrances and have encountered a number that I love, including, to name but a few, Lutens Borneo 1834, Histoires de Parfum Noir Patchouli, Intrigant Patchouli by Parfumerie Generale and Mazzolari Lui. 

I don't know why, but for some reason I wasn't expecting Villoresi Patchouli to be so patch-focused. I expected something that nodded to patchouli, but perhaps in an obscure or watered-down way. As it turns out, patchouli is to the fore from the very start and never says goodbye. Like a lot of patch-heavy perfumes, there is a lot of camphor to start with, which gradually unfolds into an earthy, classic patchouli accord. While all this is great, the dry down is, in my opinion, amazing. There is a lot of wood in here, including cedar and sandalwood, and its the sandalwood, I think, that turns the dry down into a plush, polished finish that is lent further interest by just a hint of vetiver.

While I haven't tried a lot of perfumes by Villoresi, those I have tried (Piper Nigrum, Uomo and Musk) all have a certain sophistication (or quirkiness, some might venture) and Patchouli manages to achieve a similar result. It starts quite raw and growly, but ends up classy and just different enough from the other patch perfumes out there that I definitely think it is worth searching out.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A visit to Les Senteurs, and some samples

I was in London for work today, and being not too far from Elizabeth Street, where Les Senteurs is located (their original store; the new one is located not far from Marble Arch near Oxford Street), I decided to pay a quick visit. As is always the case, in my experience, the service was impeccable and I was assisted by a lovely young lady, who spent a good twenty minutes running through some of their perfumes and recently arrived stock. She also provided me with some generous samples, a lovely feature of the store, whose owners know and realise that it is not all about the sale; build up a satisfied customer base and loyalty, and they will return time and time again. What I like about Les Senteurs is that their staff are always happy to talk about perfume for the sake and love of it, and for the most part they are extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic. If you haven't been here before, I strongly recommend a visit.

So, the samples I acquired this time are:
  • ELDO - Jasmin et Cigarette
  • Lorenzo Villoresi - Patchouli (does anyone blog about LV anymore?)
  • Parfumerie Generale - L'eau Rare Matale
  • Caron Nuit de Noel
  • Mona Di Orio - Oud
  • Heeley - Verveine Eugenie
I am quite excited to try these. I smelled them all on paper and they are great, but obviously on skin will be the acid test. Have any of you tried these, and if so, what is your take on them?

Monday, 12 March 2012

A desire for more citrus

It isn't often that you will see me write these words in the heading of a post. Those who follow my blog will probably know that while I am not averse to citrus fragrances, it is not a family that I gravitate to naturally.

Having said that, when the weather warms up just a little, teasing us in March of the good things to come, even I can't resist getting out the citrus samples and spraying with abandon.

Today was one such day here in Kent, England, and I revisited two samples of perfumes I have come to enjoy very much in the citrus genre, DS & Durga Petitgrain and Parfum d'Empire Azemour. They are both extremely well done perfumes and today Petitgrain came out on top - it smelled fabulous; full of the joys of spring. I couldn't help but feel uplifted.

Do any of you have any other recommendations for citrus perfumes that could have a similar effect for me?

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Dolce and Gabbana The One Sport

I don't know about you, but generally speaking, when I see the word 'sport' in a fragrance, I run a mile. Dolce and Gabbana have got in on the act now too and are in good company, with the likes of Dior and even Chanel having released sports fragrances.

I can't say that any D&G fragrances have blown me away, but I didn't think The One was a bad fragrance. It was ok. 

As for The One Sport, I am ambivalent. As far as sports flankers go, it actually is fairly decent, but the sport genre is one that is never going to win me over. To me, being sporty and involved in sport is about perseverance, sweat, tears, agony, joy, elation, blood, bruises, liniment, etc. You get my drift. So why do sports fragrances always 'play' on the just-showered-I'm-so-fresh malarky? 

Anyway, I digress. In the end, The One Sport never leaves familiar and much-trod territory, but it does dry down to quite a nice musky finish.

Image credit - 

Friday, 9 March 2012

Scent of the day - Dior Leather Oud

Leather Oud is one of those perfumes that never fails to stir my emotions. It's a delight every time. How often does that happen with perfume? In my experience, quite seldom.

I've reviewed Leather Oud in detail before, here, but suffice to say that it is a wonderful fragrance. It still strikes me as being ever so slightly naughty, with a hint of skank that reminds me a little of Absolue Poir Le Soir. When I say skank, it really reminds me of the smell of hot skin, that may have sweated a little and dried. Not body odour, but more like clean hot skin after love-making. There, I said it...

I haven't tried a lot else from the Dior exclusive line, but for me, Leather Oud is a winner. A must try in my opinion.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Thierry Mugler A*men Pure Malt

Do yourself a favour one day and go to the Basenotes website and visit the male fragrance discussion under Forum. I can guarantee you that some of the most popular threads will usually involve Amen, particularly Pure Malt and Pure Coffee. Together with anything to do with Creed, you'd be forgiven thinking that the average male fume head was obsessed with these houses.

Granted, A*men is very distinctive and successful, and not miles away from its feminine counterpart, the classic Angel. I've got a sample of Pure Malt and initially I was a bit dismissive of trying it. After all, I had tried Pure Coffee and Pure Malt once or twice before, in a department store somewhere, and neither had struck me at the time as particularly distinctive or enough of a variation of the original to be of much value. Having worn Pure Malt a few times now, I have been forced to eat my words (or thoughts really) as it really is a very decent fragrance.

Look, I'm not going to lie to you - if you don't like Angel or A*men, and aren't a particular fan of patchouli, chocolate and caramel in combination, then I'm not convinced that you will be blown away by Pure Malt. But I may be wrong. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Pure Malt is obviously a riff on the A*men theme, but what makes it particularly appealing to me is that the peat/malt whisky note prevents this perfume from becoming too gourmand and sweet. Particularly in the dry down, the patchouli really comes to the fore and combines wonderfully with the peat note to present an accord that smells earthy, yet very human at the same time.

I don't think that Pure Malt is a masterpiece, but it is a very decent fragrance and as far as flankers of a sort go, in my opinion an improvement on the original.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Guerlain Tonka Imperiale

Thanks again to the generosity of Cymbaline, I have been trying a sample of Tonka Imperiale on and off for a few weeks now. When I first spray it on, I am immediately reminded of Spiriteuse Double Vanille, without the booze and less smoky. My sample of SDV does not last on my skin. I don't know why, but thankfully Tonka Imperiale has more presence for me.

I'm no expert, but if I'm correct, Guerlain has historically used vanilla and tonka a lot in their perfumes, being essential components of their famous Guerlinade. Jean-Paul Guerlain is quoted in Michael Edward's book on French Feminine Perfumes, saying something along the lines that in his opinion there are very few really great perfumes that don't contain some vanilla. I guess that is subjective; I can think of quite a few incredible perfumes that don't have vanilla in them, but I digress.

What I like about Tonka Imperiale is that it smells smooth and sophisticated. It's opening is gloriously thick and vanilla-ry, suffused with a touch of smoke, and there is a hint of almond in there as well. It wears quite light though once the top notes fade, in the sense that it is perhaps a bit more transparent than SDV, but more interesting, if that can make sense. Once the base is reached, the amber and tobacco notes do show through, always interlaced with the tonka/vanilla accord, but it is by no means a forceful fragrance. Wearing it, I feel comforted, yet suave at the same time. I'd venture that Tonka Imperiale is on the linear side, but it is high-class, top-quality stuff from start to finish. So far it is by far my favourite in the L'art et la Matiere line. 

According to Fragrantica, Tonka Imperiale contains notes of tonka, rosemary, spices, white honey, vanilla, almond, woody notes, amber and tobacco.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Saturday SOTD - Cartier Declaration

Cartier Declaration is another perfume that I've written about before. I want to mention it again, partly because I wore it yesterday and also because I think it is an excellent perfume that is seldom mentioned these days. 

Created by Jean-Claude Ellena and released in 1998, Declaration has (according to Basenotes) notes of birchwood, bitter orange, bergamot, juniper, artemisia, cardamom, cedar, vetiver and oakmoss. Many reviews in the past mention a heavy accord of cumin and, I have to say, I do detect quite a prominent cumin note too, despite it not being listed above. Depending on your senses, you will probably either love cumin (spicy), or hate it (sweaty body odour). For me, luckily, cumin only holds good associations. Despite the prominence of cumin, to me Declaration is ultimately a spicy, citrus woody fragrance, but I have never smelled another perfume quite like it. I can see how Ellena moved from this to Terre d'Hermes and the other work he's done for Hermes, but Declaration is a one-off special.

Friday scent of the day - Voyage D'Hermes

I've written about Voyage d'Hermes before, not long after it was first released just under two years ago. I wore it again on Friday and almost two years later, I still feel the same about it as I did then. To me, Voyage is a perfectly nice-smelling and decent perfume. It has that typical understated 'Hermes-ness' and chic sophistication, but ultimately it leaves me wondering why Hermes had to release a perfume that in my opinion simply takes a lot of what they've done previously and amalgamated it into one juice. It's sort of like a retrospective, perfume-wise. Taking that into account, I can sort of see where the name Voyage comes from too. Voyage is essentially a woody, slightly green perfume with a touch of musk and spice. All very understated but perfect for wearing on a day that you don't want to necessarily stand out and leave a trail behind you, but if someone does catch a whiff, it will be a very classy smelling whiff. I still love the bottle by the way. I read recently that a more intense version of Voyage will be released this year. It will be interesting to see how it compares to the original.

Image credit -

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Hermes Eau D'Orange Verte

Depending on one's point of view, 1 March could be seen as the start of spring. I know that strictly speaking spring starts at the spring equinox, I think, or somewhere around 21 March, but I am impatient for spring, so I will choose 1 March, so there!

Anyway, what perfume could be more appropriate for spring than Hermes Eau D'Orange Verte? 

Released many years ago (1979 according to Basenotes), this lovely perfume has notes of mandarin, sweet orange, mint, lemon tree extract and bitter orange. I have seen notes like patchouli and papaya mentioned as well, but to me it is a very orangey perfume, with a light woody dry down.  Eau D'Orange Verte is a light cologne-like perfume, so don't expect stellar lasting power. However, I can't think of much more joyful and uplifting than that first luscious citrus burst. It sings off the skin with exuberance and happiness, perfect for bolstering spirits after a long winter.

There is also a concentre version around, which I have tried, but not often. My vague recollection is that it is a bit denser than the original, with less zing and zip, but both are very nice.


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