Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Two rose scents of the day

For some reason I've been on a bit of a rose kick recently, as you might have gathered. Perhaps this follows from my posts on rose last month, which made me think a bit more about roses.

Anyway, today I wore Ormonde Jayne's Ta'if on one wrist and Guerlain's Nahema on the other. Ta'if is hard to peg down. It is a rose fragrance, obviously, but it has more going on than just that. I can't quite figure it out yet. It is quite a sweet rose perfume, without being cloying, as there are also wood and resins that temper the sweeter notes. I like it.

As for Nahema, this was the first time I have worn it. It is a very complicated perfume, starting with quite a brash and piercing rose note, then becomes dustier and more aromatic, before morphing into what I think is a rose chypre, but I could be wrong. There are a lot of aldehydes in here too, if I'm interpreting the perfume correctly. 

Both perfumes are long-lasting. I sprayed on both around 10 this morning and they are going strong 10 hours later. Ta'if and Nahema are nothing like each other, but if I were to choose one, probably on the basis of it being more intriguing, I would take Nahema.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Annick Goutal Rose Absolue

Those of you who read my blog from time to time might be aware that I love a good rose perfume. Recently I tried Annick Goutal's Rose Absolue, which is a splendid Rose Soliflore perfume, containing six different types of roses, namely Bulgarian Rose, Rose de Mai, Turkish Rose, Damask Rose, Egyptian Rose and Moroccan Rose.

As one might expect from the notes, Rose Absolue is about rose, rose, rose and more rose. I love it though. It smells sunny, glorious, luscious, rich and yet fresh at the same time. I wouldn't call it a very complex perfume, with very little progression, if any, but for people who love and appreciate rose perfumes, this is a must try, in my opinion. Rose Absolue smells very natural and realistic to me, in the sense that it isn't really an interpretation of rose, but rather a presentation of rose in its natural form, smell-wise. 

While rose can come across as old-lady like to some, I think Rose Absolue is lovely just as it is and entirely in keeping with the spirit and style of the Annick Goutal line. 

Monday, 27 February 2012

Michael Edwards French Feminine Fragrances

I've just finished reading this marvelous book and what an eye opener it has been. I thought I knew a fair bit about the general history of perfume, but Michael Edward's masterpiece has brought home to me the true artistry of the perfumer and how it evolved over the 20th century. 

I plan to write in more detail about this book, but one thing that really stands out for me is what passion drove these perfumers and very often the fragrance house founders to create and commission masterpiece perfumes. It's all here - L'Origan, Coty, Jicky, L'Heure Bleu, Mitsouko, Joy, Chamade, Femme de Rochas, No 5 and 19, Diorling, Miss Dior, Diorissimo, Angel. You name it. Then the perfumers and founders - Jacque and Jean-Paul Guerlain, Coco Chanel, Edmond Roudnitska, Jean-Claude Elena, Marcel Rochas, Christian Dior, Guy Robert, Maurice Roucel. I could go on.

The thing that struck me most is that none of these people saw perfumery as just business. There was a passion and vision driven not by sales numbers but by a spirit of true artistry.

One of the most touching stories in the book for me concerns Edmond Roudnitska and the work he did with Christian Dior. When creating Diorissimo, with its beautiful interpretation of Lily of the Valley, Edmond Roudnitska had no idea the love Christian Dior had for the flower. Dior was so superstitious that whenever he had a new collection to show, he always went out with a sprig of Lily of the Valley tucked in his pocket. When he died, Roudnitska attended the funeral and was flabbergasted to see Dior's coffin covered in the white flower. When he had presented Diorissimo to Dior, Christian had simply said that he liked Lily of the Valley, without going into any detail. Roudnitska choked up when he saw Dior's coffin and was overwhelmed with emotion.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sunday scent of the day - Tom Ford Grey Vetiver

Do you ever wear a perfume that smells perfectly decent, has a good following and reputation and should tick all the boxes, but ultimately never does? 

Well that is my experience with Tom Ford's Grey Vetiver. I wore it today and like the other times I've worn it, it smells fine. However, it is forgettable on my skin because it just doesn't do anything. It doesn't offend, it doesn't excite, it isn't different enough to stand out. That's perfectly fine of course. Not all perfumes need to stand out that much. Sometimes its great just to wear something that becomes part of your skin and just hums along. To me though, that seems the antithesis of what Tom Ford is meant to be (or maybe not - perhaps I've got the wrong end of the stick with regards to Tom Ford). In fact, almost all the perfumes I've smelled from the Tom Ford line (admittedly I haven't tried many from his more exclusive range) have a similar effect on me - nice, but almost forgettable. Perhaps I am being harsh, but the only one that I can actually 'smell' in my head thinking about it is Black Orchid.

YSL M7 and Jazz reincarnated

This is probably old news for many of you but this week I was having a look at what is on offer at Boots, the chemist, which stocks a fairly decent range of mainstream perfumes and was surprised to see the new bottles of M7 and Jazz. M7 is now called M7 Oud Absolu and the bottles have changed dramatically, to look like something partly inspired by the Lalique Encre Noir bottle (subjective, I know - maybe it is the lid?). Picture below:

The repackaged and reissued perfumes now form part of what YSL calls its Heritage Collection. Considering that M7 was only released around 2002, it seems a bit rich to discontinue it and then release it less than a decade later as a heritage perfume, or am I just being a little bit cynical? Perhaps I am.

In any event, M7 was a bit ahead of its time at the start of the 21st century. Oud as a note in mainstream perfumery was fairly unknown, if at all and as far as I can tell, despite the raunchy ads, it never sold well. Personally I always had a soft spot for M7 and thought it was a great mainstream perfume, so am glad it has been released again.

I'm not sure if the juice has changed. To me it still smells just like the old juice, but having said that, when I last tried M7 in the old bottle, it seemed a little toned down to me. Of course, to be fair, by that stage I had smelled so many oud releases that perhaps what seemed like daring in 2002 had become slightly passe by 2011.

The old bottle is below:

As for Jazz, I am not really familiar with it in any incarnation, but it smells like a fairly dated 1970s or 1980s fougere. It smells decent, but not really what I want to wear.

Image credits:

Friday, 24 February 2012

Scent of the day - Guerlain Vol de Nuit

Thanks to the generosity of Cymbaline, I have a sample of Guerlain Vol de Nuit in extrait. I tried it for the first time yesterday. Like a lot of the older Guerlains, I find it has a very vintage feel, for want of a better word. 

Vol de Nuit has been described as a very green fragrance that becomes quite sweet and powdery. In the formulation that I have (dabbed from a vial) the greenness does not really come to the fore. The opening is fairly muted, with a slight leatheriness that reminds me fleetingly of Habit Rouge. As the fragrance develops, it does become powdery, but not overwhelmingly so and while I can detect some vanillic Guerlinade, it is not cloyingly sweet by any stretch.

It's only my first encounter, but there is an understated elegance about Vol de Nuit that does hearken back to earlier times and I can certainly see this growing on me with subsequent tries. I'm not convinced I like Vol de Nuit as much as L'Heure Bleu and Mitsouko, but it is still lovely.

Image credit -

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Scent of the day - Parfum d'Empire Azemour

I am fairly late coming to the latest from Parfum d'Empire. However, courtesy of Cymbaline, I have been trying a sample of this on and off for a few weeks. The reviews have been very positive in general and I must say, it is a very nice fragrance. I especially like the top and middle notes, when the orange is oily, fragrant and suffused with a salty spiciness that is quite beautiful. 

As it dries down, it becomes fairly sedate, but is still a lovely light woody-citrus. 

Azemour has been described as a Chypre. I can sort of see that, but to me it smells more citrus-woody, but I'm no expert. 

It's quite difficult to compare it to anything else, but if I were to try (which I am) it strikes me as being rather in the spirit of Annick Goutal's Eau de Sud, without aping it by any means. I can see myself reaching for this sample later in spring and summer, when I think it will really hit the sweet spot, but it still smells great in cooler weather.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A return to old favourites

Yeah, I know what you're probably thinking. You've read this before. Every now and then I post about how I've gone back to trying perfumes I actually own, rather than just get a quick fix from the latest craze. But you know what? It's a valid point and the reason why I do this. The message is - its good to wear perfume one actually owns. After all, why did I buy full bottles of these in the first place?

Now I know that some of you (perhaps many of you) own a lot of full bottles, but my budget does not allow that and in some ways I know that if I owned a lot, I would never ever work my way through my 'stock'. Nevertheless, I do own about fifteen bottles of perfume and over the last few days I wore Guerlain's L'Instant, Gucci Pour Homme (discontinued), Alexander McQueen Kingdom (discontinued) and Bulgari Black (I think discontinued, but not 100% certain). Interesting that about 75% of what I own is no longer in production. The most criminal of these in my opinion is Gucci. How could they discontinue Pour Homme and leave so much dreck on the shelves? Crazy bastards!

Wearing each of these, I came to the realisation all over again that they are brilliant perfumes and deserve to be worn by me more often.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Saturday scent of the day

It was a blustery and fairly cold day here in England. I wore Alexander McQueen's incomparable Kingdom. The opening is fresh and slightly seductive, far more suited to a warm summer day, I think. However, once the cumin and woods kick in later on, it hums along nicely, even on a late winter day.

Wearing Kingdom reminds me how good this fragrance really is. A great Saturday pick-me-up!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Incense part 2

So, following on from my previous incense post, I aim to list and briefly describe some incense fragrances that stand out for me. Like I said in my roses post, this is not even remotely a comprehensive list and very subjective. So, drumroll, dim the lights...

Incense Pure by Sonoma Scent Studio - Brief review here. If you like your incense unadulterated and uncluttered, Incense Pure may be just up your alley. I certainly love it. Like a lot of seemingly simple perfumes though, Incense Pure achieves something far more complicated, without ever seeming boring.

Incense Series by Commes des Garcons - I think almost anyone who has an interest in incense fragrances will have heard of these and probably tried a good few. The most well known in the series is probably Avignon, which is a churchy, very frankincense-heavy take on the genre. The others are very interesting too. I could certainly recommend Kyoto and Ouarzazate, both quite meditative and very different to Avignon. I haven't tried Jaisalmer or Zagorsk, but I have read quite good things about them.

Cardinal by Heeley - Another very incense-focused perfume, particularly in the first half. Later it becomes much woodier, but is a lovely fragrance.

10 Corso Como - ok, I know a lot of people would classify this as a sandalwood perfume and yes, it is. However, there is enough incense in here to make my list. A classic.

Profumum Roma Olibanum - another good example of a fairly straight up incense perfume. It is lovely, but as I mentioned a few months ago, it smells a bit like a toilet cleaner used in one of our local hotels! Still good though.

Andy Tauer Incense Extreme and Incense Rose - I only group these together because they are great incense perfumes. As the name implies, Incense Rose could also be discussed as a rose perfume, but both perfumes have hefty doses of incense and like most Tauers' serious longevity. If you don't like these, you will need to scrub, as they won't fade quickly.

Etro Messe de Minuit - woah, now we're talking. I think this is a love-it-or-hate-it perfume. It smells moldering and musty to me, like chronic dampness in the church crypt. I think there's a fair amount of Myrrh in here too. One thing I can say, is that this is like nothing else you've smelled before.

Lots by Amouage - being a lover of incense and Amouage, its no wonder I love so much from this house. I could write pages, but suffice to say that Amouage uses a very distinctive incense note in its deployment of Omani Silver Frankincense. Try Jubilation XXV for starters.

Annick Goutal - Encens Flamboyant. Not totally up my alley, but it has a lot of fans. Quite thick and heavy, but worth trying.

Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline. This is complex and long lasting. It's difficult to decribe what I like about it, but it is very unique.

L'Artisan Dzongha - this is what I'd term a spicy incense. It has a lot going on, without being that strong. While we're dealing with L'Artisan, I would also classify Timbuktu as an incense fragrance. Both are very good.

Serge Lutens Serge Noir - funnily enough, I can't really think of many incense-dominant Lutens perfumes. Gris Clair has a feel of it, as does Encens et Lavande, while Serge Noir is possibly the strangest. Its opening in particular is feral and very odd.

Guerlain Bois D'Armenie - smells a lot like those paper incense strips. Certainly different to a lot of what I've listed so far. If I have a criticism it is that I find this one very slight and subtle.

So, I've come to the end of my incense list. I know many of you will read this and probably think that I've missed off a good few, and I'm sure I have. Let me know what you think of my choices and feel free to recommend a few of your favourites.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Perfume literature

Yesterday I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of Michael Edwards' "Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances" from the library. I had to reserve it, as it was out on loan for months, somewhere in deepest darkest north Kent, of all places.

I know I could have easily bought it from Amazon, but I am one of those people who still loves libraries and there are few thrills greater to me than paging through a well-read book that scores of people have appreciated (or not) before me. It saddens me sometimes that so many people are moving to Kindles, etc. I have nothing against them and can see the benefits, but to me there is nothing nicer than the feel, smell and evocation of a real, tangible book!

Anyway, I haven't managed to read much of this book yet, but it is thrilling to leaf through it briefly, seeing so many classic perfumes covered. Even better is that even some drugstore perfumes are in there, highlighting the fact that classic and great does not have to always be expensive and desirable. There are some lovely quotes in here as well from such perfume legends as Edmond Roudnitska. Fantastic.

Have any of you read this wonderful perfume book and what are your thoughts on it?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Weekend roundup

It's been a funny old week here in England. Eventually the cold weather did arrive, after a boring and mild winter and we woke up on Sunday morning to six inches of snow, much to the children's delight. We spent a good part of the morning taking them sledging, which they loved. Until their feet got wet inside their wellies, following which there were many tears and wailing! In the afternoon we built a snowman and thus the weekend faded into the working week.

The snow has stuck around for pretty much the whole week and even as I type, large parts of the Kent and Sussex countryside are still blanketed in snow, no doubt thanks to the sub-zero temperatures we have experienced all week. If you think I sound a bit crazed, it is only because the UK is so seldom truly cold and every snow event is something to get excited about!

Perfume-wise I haven't tried a lot of new stuff, but I did manage to sample Teo Cabanel Alahine and Fendi Theorema. Despite being usually described as feminine, I didn't find either of them to be unwearable, even at work. I haven't worn them enough yet to form firm opinions. One of my department stores is now selling the Diane Von Furstenberg perfume. I got a sample of it, but haven't actually smelled it yet. Other than that, there is nothing new on the perfume front, at least in my neck of the woods.

My dodgy chest is still playing up a bit, which is making appreciating perfume a bit of a challenge. Also the cold weather is not helping - a runny, chapped and slightly blocked nose is not the best way to enjoy perfume.

Have a good weekend all.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Incense part 1

Kicking off the second in my series on perfume notes, I thought I would collect a few of my thoughts on incense. I should make it clear that while in most cases when I refer to incense, I generally mean Frankincense, the term incense is quite encompassing and can refer to any number and combination of resins, wood, leaves, and gums, including some of the more well-known ingredients such as myrrh, labdanum, benzoin, opoponax, sandalwood and oud. 

Like my posts on roses, I am not remotely an expert on the use of incense in perfume or anything else. For example, I know that there are numerous different incense burning ceremonies, used to different effect in Japan, China, Tibet, India, Russia, North Africa and the Middle East, to name a few. Also, incense is used in many religions and for Westerners like me, I first encountered incense in the Roman Catholic Church. I was very familiar with incense, being an altar boy, where part of my duties would entail lighting the incense in the thurible, which is a kind of censer and later on swinging it about as the fragrant smoke would envelope me and all those around me. That is really my first memory of incense, and probably the one that is most impressionable and enduring. Actually, it was not until much later in life that I realised you could find different types of incense, many of which smell totally different to that strong church incense. I can remember going into an Indian shoesmith and smelling the most intense, sweet smoky smell, which I later learned was Indian incense, or more commonly thought of as the smell of joss sticks. To this day I don't personally like the smell. No offense to anyone of Indian origin or anything, but I just find the smell a bit overbearing and too sweet.

One thing is certain, while incense has a definite meditative use and to me does make me feel quite relaxed and focused, there is no mistaking incense, whether burned or used in perfume. 

There are so many perfumes out there that contain incense as a note. In many cases, incense is just an accent note, lending a subtlety or nuance to the overall composition. I could name scores of perfumes that are constructed like this. The perfumes I aim to focus on in my next article though will tend to be quite incense-dominant, where incense is the main aim of the composition. 

As a general thought, it is difficult to explain what incense smells like. If, like me, you were brought up a Catholic, for example, you will have a very good idea what church incense smells like, which is heavy on the Frankincense. However, there are so many variations, as I mentioned above, that it is hard to give a general description. I think incense perfumes on the whole tend to be quite smoky, some more than others obviously, a bit peppery, certainly woody and with Frankincense, certainly citrusy in the top notes. I know everyone is different, but for me, incense is possibly my favourite note in perfumery. I love almost all incense perfumes I have tried and I am constantly in search of new ones to try.

Join me next time when I explore some of the incense perfumes that 'light my fire'. (sorry, I couldn't resist!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Congratulations Persolaise!

It's always nice to see a fellow blogger and perfume fanatic receive recognition for his or her work and in this case congratulations must go to the irrepressible Persolaise for his Jasmine Award from the Fragrance Foundation UK. He won the award for his article or guide to shopping for perfume in London. Well done my friend.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

SOTD - air freshener

I don't usually like to venture into the realm of the loo, particularly when it comes to loo odours, but is there anything more irritating than the smell of toilet or air freshener? 

Now, I know it is very much a personal thing, but to me the smell of air freshener, especially those cheap ones, has that most peculiar ability to ingrain itself into one's nose, olfactory memory, clothes and anything within a building's radius of the loo. 

Now, perhaps you would prefer to mask the odour of man's finest, but in reality, generally speaking that is all that air freshener does. Now that may be enough for you, but I don't want to walk around all day with air freshener particles clinging to my clothing and leaving a sillage behind me that screams 'guess what, I've just been to the loo, had a ...!' You get my drift.

So what is the solution? Well, in my humble opinion, no air freshener is a far better alternative. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Monday, 6 February 2012

SOTD - Amouage Dia Man

Readers of my blog will be no strangers to the fact that I love Amouage as a line and in particular, Amouage Dia Man. I've written about it a number of times.

Today I wore Dia again, but what made it even more special on this occasion was that I was wearing it sprayed from a bottle that was given to me by a very kind perfume friend. You know who you are and I do appreciate it very much! Thank you.

I don't have much more to say about Dia other than it is a pleasure to wear. It is almost formal, yet very easy going at the same time and smells fabulous. I can think of pretty much any occasion when it would be suitable for wear. If you haven't tried Dia, I would urge you to give it a go.

Image credit - Luckyscent

Saturday, 4 February 2012

A domestic detour...

Some of you who follow my blog might be aware that my niece, Kirsty, was over from Australia visiting us last month. My older daughter, Hannah, also celebrated her 5th birthday. Set out below are a few photographs from this happy time, which I thought I would share.

My wife Wendy and the cake she made for Hannah. Note the icing!

Daisy on her way to to pre-school

The 'gang' having breakfast at Woods, a local hotel. In the middle are our friends Carmen and Darren

Wendy with Hannah

Niece Kirsty with her little cousin, Daisy

Kirsty meets her cousins at long last!

Hannah eyes the cakes lovingly made by mum

Hannah with her brand new, pink shiny bicycle, on the way to the park

Friday, 3 February 2012

Friday bits and bobs

Some of you might be aware that Europe is in the grip of a big freeze this week. Parts of Eastern Europe in particular have dropped to well below 20 degrees C, while even the French Riviera has received some of the white stuff, with Marseille looking more soused herring than Bouillabaisse! 

Here in England, we are really only on the fringes of it, but even Blighty has felt temperatures of around freezing, with snow forecast this weekend. It's about time - it has been such a mild winter here and the old sledge needs a bit of a workout, hopefully.

I am now over the worst of my cold/flu/whatever-it-was affliction and for the last couple of days I have even worn some perfume, but haven't really been in a fragrant frame of mind. Today I've been wearing Nobile 1942 Ambra Nobile and 1000 Flowers Reglisse Noir. I'm not sure I am yet in the best frame of mind to appreciate them, but they are really lovely perfumes. Yesterday I returned to some older samples, namely Byredo Baudelaire and Huitieme Art Fareb, both quite masculine concoctions quite appropriate for winter days I think. 

So, perfume lovers, have a great weekend all!


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