Sunday, 31 October 2010

Parfums De Nicolai New York

New York is one of those perfumes that has a huge following on Basenotes in particular. I hate to be negative in a review, but I'm going to be honest, front up, and admit from the start that I have really struggled to appreciate New York, despite sampling it a number of times. The notes include bergamot, sicilian lemon, cloves, thyme, cinnamon, black pepper, pimento, oakmoss, vetiver and amber. 

On my skin, New York opens with what I perceive as a cloying, sweet lavender, paired with an equally cloying, creamy-sweet citrus note. And powder. Lots of it. I really struggle to get past this stage, the worst of the whole development. It takes all my willpower not to rush to the bathroom and wash it off, so bad is it. Now I realise there are a lot of people out there who love New York, but with all the best intentions, I am not one of them. This perfume literally generates a sensation of nausea as I smell it. I kid you not. I can feel the bile rising. I think the worst thing about New York is that powdery note, which is almost choking in its intensity. It isn't baby powder per se, but a weird, cough-inducing note that makes me want to gag and sneeze. I wonder if this isn't a case of me being allergic to some ingredient that Nicolai uses, because the other masculine, Nicolai Pour Homme, causes a similar sensation for me.

To be fair, as the fragrance develops, it does become easier for me to wear this, and as the powder tones down and the base of oakmoss and vetiver emerges, I can tolerate New York, but I still don't like it. I feel really bad criticising a perfume so strongly, and I suspect it might be just me and my skin chemistry. I wouldn't encourage you to avoid New York though. In fact, I would love to hear if any of you have tried it, and whether you suffer the same reaction to it as me. The final comment is courtesy of my wife, who when presented with my wrist, said that it smelled fuddy-duddy, and granny-ish. 

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Saturday, 30 October 2010

L'Artisan Timbuktu

Timbuktu is one of my favourites in L'Artisan's lineup. Created by Bertand Duchaufour, it is meant to be inspired by a trip to Mali in West Africa and contains notes of green mango, pink pepper berries, cardamon, karo karounde flower, smoky incense of papyrus wood, patchouli, myrrh and vetiver. For some reason, Timbuktu reminds me not of West Africa, but of some high, cold and desolate plateau such as what might be encountered in Tibet. Now don't ask me why - I haven't travelled to either of these areas, so am in no position to judge, but that is the image and sensation conjured up for me by this fragrance. I think what I am trying to say is that the incense I smell (and this is mostly about incense) is not aromatically smoky and heavy, but clean and contemplative. And it is this combination of senses that takes me to Asia rather than Africa. The smell of Timbuktu, if I could present it pictorially, is of white smoke, wafting in on a dry, cold wind, high above a windswept plain. Underpinning this incense is a dry woods smell, none of that cliched cedar accord, but quite clean, which I presume is the mixture of pink pepper and papyrus. There is a background sweetness though, more fruity than gourmand. Actually, thinking about it, it is a fruity tang and I realise that this is the green mango, with a bit of vetiver. I would never have expected mango to work with the incense, but for some reason it does here.

Although this has little relevance to the review, to my mind if Jean Claude Ellena was going to do incense, this is the style he would choose to convey its facets - clean, delineated, uncluttered, even contemplative in its relative simplicity. Of course, it is Duchaufour who has done it and very well indeed. Although L'Artisan is not renowned for the lasting power of its perfumes, Timbuktu lasts very well indeed, without being intrusive. If you are an incense fan, I would recommend trying Timbuktu if you haven't already, particularly as it doesn't smell like anything else, and doesn't go down that usual gothic incense route.

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Friday, 29 October 2010

It's the journey that matters

I mentioned quite recently that I had purchased two full bottles of Guerlain L'instant and Gucci Pour Homme. This is something that I seldom do. I don't own a lot of full bottles, concentrating mostly on samples, as my almost unquenchable thirst for learning about, and experiencing, perfume continues. However, I must say that having worn these two almost constantly for about two weeks (not simultaneously) I've quite enjoyed taking a break from the samples and simply wearing these perfumes and enjoying them for what they are, rather than moving swiftly onto the next 'big thing'. What I've found most illuminating is just how different these two perfumes have smelled each day, particularly the L'Instant. On some days it has been all about cocoa, patchouli and vanilla while at other times I've been struck by just how floral it can smell, particularly in the opening and heart. One thing that is relatively constant is the end-result vanilla, a Guerlain trademark. Not that L'Instant has much of that classic Guerlainade to me.

As much as I'm enjoying wearing just two perfumes, I know I will return to sampling quite soon. I still have too much to learn to stop now and I can't tread water for long. Perhaps that is just my slightly impulsive and restless nature sometimes!

Too tired to wear perfume

I've been extremely busy at work recently, working long hours to meet deadlines and the stress is making me tired. I'm not expecting sympathy - most of us go through periods like this from time to time and it's a consequence in part of modern day life. 

What often surprises me though is how seldom I am inclined to wear perfume when I am tired, stressed and overworked. It's not a time issue. After all, it only takes moments to pick up a bottle and spray or dab. However, I have an aversion to wearing something nice that might be ruined by my mood or state of mind. Ironically, the fragrances that might most be expected to provide me with comfort are the ones I am most likely to avoid in these situations.

Am I weird, or do any of you, dear readers, ever feel the same way? I know a lot of perfume lovers turn to their comfort scents when under pressure, or feeling down, or whatever. Me, I'm the opposite. Now, lets hope things calm down - I need to wear more perfume!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Musk I ask what she is wearing?

This might strike some as a slightly strange post. I'm going to confess that a lady at work has been driving me crazy and that I'm attracted to her scent. Now, before you wonder what naughty stuff I might be contemplating, let me say unequivocally that I am not a letch. I don't fancy her at all, although she is by no means unattractive and she is a perfectly nice person. Rather, she wears a perfume that just drives me bonkers, to the point of distraction, frankly. I can't quite explain it. I am not usually a person who is that interested by what other people smell like, or what perfume they are wearing. Nor do I wear perfume to smell good and to attract other people. Ok, I do like to smell good, but fragrance for me is very much a personal journey and about self-gratification. I won't lie - on the odd occasion that I've received a compliment about a fragrance I'm wearing, it has pleased me, but it is definitely not my primary reason for wearing perfume.

Getting back to my work colleague then. She wears a musky perfume. That's all I can say really. I have no clue what it is. It isn't a skanky musk fragrance per se, but at the same time it is more than just a clean skin scent. Musk does often recall the scent of skin, which is maybe part of it's allure, but this is no Muscs Koublai Khan. It is at once both quite flowery and yet intensely musky, and on her it smells paradoxically clean and yet surreptitiously dirty, in a good way. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I am itching to ask her what she is wearing, and yet in a way, I quite like not knowing, and enjoy musing over what it might be. Yes, no one ever said I was totally normal!

What I find quite interesting about this is that in the past I have never quite believed all the guff about perfume and its power of attraction, sexual or otherwise. Yet, I can't deny that smelling the trail from my colleague I can't quite help but feel slightly attracted to her, albeit from afar and in a relatively platonic way. However, I know that she is not my type at all (besides the fact that I am very happily married and quite content to keep it that way) so I can't help but come to the realisation that actually, perfume does have that power of sexual and other attraction. Having said that, I wonder if it is specifically musk that does this to me, or would a certain woman, with a certain skin chemistry, wearing iris, for example, generate the same response from me?

So, have any of you ever experienced what I have, whether it be at work, socially, or whatever? Do you believe in the power of perfume, its sexual allure? Is it purely the perfume at work, or at some more subliminal level, is it actually the woman (or man) that is the attractant?

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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Dolce & Gabbana The One Gentleman

I've known of The One Gentleman for some time now, but some reason it only reached my local department stores fairly recently. I remember trying the original The One and thinking that it was ok, but not particularly remarkable. In a bland selection of mainstream offerings, it stood up quite well. For some reason I had a preconceived idea that this flanker would be  rubbish. I don't know why,  just did. As it turns out, the One Gentleman is actually surprisingly good. I've tried it a few times now and like its gentle combination of lightly spiced woods. The listed notes I've seen include pepper, grapefruit, lavender, fennel, cardamom, vanilla and patchouli, but my nose seems to detect an undercurrent of slightly buzzy ginger, with cardamom and sandalwood. I must be wrong, but I'll stick with what I perceive as a good rendition of ginger and slightly comforting spice and woods. The patchouli doesn't shout out either, but is quite subdued, but quite nicely done. The One Gentleman is not forceful, but quite understated. I like it. It's classified as an oriental fougere, and for once, I can make this connection. Is it brilliant? Well, as ever, this is partly a matter of taste. I like it, but am not necessarily doing ecstatic backflips over it. Having said that, in an increasingly bland and benign masculine perfume world, where consumer-focus groups seem more important than the actual products being released, The One Gentleman stands out as at least having some backbone and individuality, at least in my opinion.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Parfums MDCI - Enlevement au Serail

Enlevement au Serail was created by Francis Kurkdjian, originally called FK3. The notes include bergamot, mandarin, ylang-ylang, jasmine sambac, tuberose, rose, wallflower, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla and vetiver. 

This is a perfume that got me thinking. It is cerebral and hard to describe. Even as I write this I can't quite get my head around it. Styled as a chypre, not my favourite genre, it starts out very feminine and immediately follows what to my nose is a classic chypre structure. The opening is very aldehydic, with florals and a delicate peachiness that recalls Mitsouko. It's not as dark, and a bit sweeter, lacking that 'biscuit' like accord I find in the Guerlain. It's certainly nice, although I do find it on the more feminine side of what I prefer to wear.

As the opening fades, I was startled by a tuberose note that comes to the fore. At this stage I had no idea what the perfume notes were and I wondered if I was dreaming. It seemed a most unlikely note, in context. The heart is possibly my favourite phase. The green-tinged peachiness is joined by a tempering oakmoss note, slightly dusty, while the tuberose adds a creamy warmth that is quite compelling. At this point it departs in style from Mitsouko as the tuberose strengthens. However, the oakmoss never allows the tuberose to becoming overbearing, as it often can, and this perfume doesn't stray into excessive tropical territory. Having said that, there is quite a lush feel to Enlevement au Serail and despite quite liking aspects of it, it is possibly too feminine for me and I feel a bit uncomfortable wearing it. 

It's quite a weird perfume. I wasn't expecting to find tuberose lurking in what starts as old-school chypre. It is, as I stated earlier, quite cerebral and sophisticated and very challenging. I like it and dislike it at the same time, if that can make any sense at all. On the right skin and on the right person, I can see Enlevement au Serail just singing, and it is testament to Kurkdjian's brilliance that he can create a perfume that is at once both very old-school in feel, yet also bang up-to-date, with a sly little twist in the middle. Overall, I admire the perfume, but couldn't see myself wearing this, but if you are a fan of chypres and looking for something a little different, do sample it.

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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Serge Lutens - Cuir Mauresque

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Cuir Mauresque would be making its merry way to our shores (the UK that is; I assume it will reach the US as well) towards the end of this year. Well, the good news is that it is here already, and I've been sampling it on and off over the last week. Cuir Mauresque is usually a Paris-exclusive, available only if you visit the Salon in Paris, or if you order from the Lutens website. I don't know what it is, but I have a thing for leather fragrances. I don't like them all. In fact, quite a few have a habit of turning me off quite considerably, but most leather fragrances at least challenge me olfactorily and I'm never left unmoved. Reviews of Cuir Mauresque range from unadulterated love to repulsion, which doesn't surprise me - in my experience, very few leather fragrances gain wholesale acceptance, which is perhaps one of the reasons why one very seldom encounters a proper leather-dominant fragrance in the mainstream these days. It's hard to find a definitive list of notes for Cuir Mauresque, but they include orange blossom, mandarin peel, clove, cumin, civet, nutmeg, styrax, musk, amber, myrrh, incense, cinnamon, oud and cedar. Now, that is a powerhouse list of notes, and having smelled Cuir Mauresque extensively over the past week, I can confirm that this is not a fragrance for the faint hearted. 

On my skin the opening is a fruity concoction, and leather is apparent from the very start. This is not a girly, fruity-floral mix though. Anyone who is familiar with the Lutens line will recognise those intense fruit notes, more dried fruit than fresh berries, and a barrage of spices. It is also intensely sweet, but like the best of Lutens, the sweetness is immediately balanced by smoky leather and spice, so it never becomes cloying. I've read quite a few reviews that mention the orange-ness of this fragrances, but while mandarin peel and orange blossom are listed, on my skin I don't detect this very much. Having said that, there is so much going on here that it could be that it all balances out very nicely. The leather only intensifies with time, becoming smokier and actually quite powdery in the heart. The spices twirl around, varying in intensity and creating a sensation of being close to a fire, with heat that ebbs and flows, for want of a better description. The heart is probably my least favourite phase, but as the perfume progresses to the dry down, the incense kicks in, complementing the leather perfectly.

Cuir Mauresque has stellar lasting power on my skin, no surprise when you consider the intense notes used. Despite these notes, it is not a loud or screechy perfume. It has presence, but it is very well blended, so doesn't overpower like say Miel de Bois. There is something about Cuir Mauresque that reminds me of Knize Ten, another fantastic example of a leather perfume, except it is not as dry and roasted-spicy. There is a classical feel to Cuir Mauresque though, and the use of civet, musk and styrax does lend a feralness as well. My wife can't stand it - she said I smelled like a wild animal. Let's leave it at that! I for one love this fragrance and highly recommend it. I don't think it is particularly masculine or feminine. It has elements of both. The heart is quite powdery and even floral at times, but the base is intense, spicy, incense-y and very leathery. Some reviewers have mentioned they don't get the leather at all, saying it is all about amber. Well, I do get lots of amber, but the leather definitely stands out on my skin, but I think my skin chemistry tends to amplify leather notes. 

The bottom line - if you can get your hands on a sample of this, try it. You may not necessarily like it, but it is wonderfully complex, intense and even mysterious, and worth trying.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Anniversary treat

Some of you may recall that my wife and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary last month, and part of the 'pact' was that we'd each treat ourselves to something that is dear to us. In my wife's case, it was another set of knitting needles. She is an avid (one might even say compulsive) knitter. Well, no shame in that. After all, what am I if not at least as compulsive a 'fumehead? Anyway, I've spent a few weeks musing over perfume choices. At one stage I was comparing and considering buying one of Dior Homme, Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan and Creed Bois de Portugal. Well this week I eventually plumped for Guerlain's L'Instant and Gucci Pour Homme. Why the change of heart, you ask? Well, the three I originally tested did not go down particularly well with my better half. While I have no issue with testing loads of challenging samples, they only last a short while, whereas full bottles of perfume stick around much longer, so I didn't want to force-feed my wife a scent barrage that she doesn't like. 

So why L'Instant and Gucci Pour Homme? Well, L'Instant is not that far removed from Dior Homme really if you think about it. Both have cocoa notes, and I'm sure I detect iris in L'Instant. They are both gourmand-ish without being too foody-cloying. Admittedly, L'Instant has more vanilla and a patchouli note, but the combination Guerlain-style is brilliant in my opinion. I ended up choosing the Guerlain because I felt it had more depth and subtleties that I didn't get in Dior Homme. As for Gucci Pour Homme, I've long enjoyed it out of a fairly bog-standard crop of mainstream mens fragrances, as it stands out from the crowd as a woody incense with some originality, which is a blessed relief. Even more compelling is the fact that it is being discontinued and I wanted to grab a bottle before its too late. It's quite sad really, as in my opinion it is the only worthy one in the men's Gucci stable at present, yet it clearly isn't doing well. 

Some of you might be surprised that I ended up with two mainstream fragrances rather than something more niche. I suppose I am too. I can't really explain it, except that I really like both of them and they stand out as examples of how mainstream mens fragrances ought to be done.

On a final note, a big thank you to Melanie from Hoopers, who must have been so glad that I finally purchased something, after all the cadging of samples over the last two years! Honestly, she has been so good to me and I love sharing perfume stories with her and generally chatting over the odd lunchtime. She threw in all sorts of extras by the way - samples of both the new Amouage Memoir fragrances, 5ml each of Acqua Di Parma Colonia and Cartier Delice, plus a score of other samples and soaps. Very generous I think.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Parfumerie Generale - Corps et Ames

Although I quite admire chypre-style perfumes, I am not an out-and-out fan. I know and appreciate the history of chypres, but for some reason they just aren't really me. Having said that, I love Mitsouko, and Chanel No 19 is a crackerjack of a fragrance. Corps et Ames is styled as a more masculine chypre and to me opens quite aldehydic and strong, with a definite green, sappy kick. I'd say it was more feminine than not, in this early phase. As the top notes fade, it dries out, staying fairly green with a hint of pepper and what I perceive as citrus. It just goes to show that my nose does not always detect notes accurately. The listed notes include bourbon geranium, immortelle flowers, melati wood, leather and sandalwood. I have to be honest and say that I do not detect geranium, while leather completely escapes me. I don't know what Melati Wood smells like and at the time I wrote that I could smell lavender! Perhaps that is geranium. As for immortelle flower, does it smell like immortelle as in 'a curry, maple syrup note'? If so, again, I can't detect anything remotely like this. 

The heart of the fragrance is far less feminine and wears quite unisex. I wouldn't say it is overtly masculine, not that it matters. It reminds me ever so slightly at this point of another Parfumerie Generale perfume, Papyrus de Ciane. It is slightly mossy and green, with a hint of citrus and flowers. It is very definitely a chypre, but not in the style of Mitsouko for example. As the fragrance progresses further, I really like a slightly incense-y, peppery note that wells up, just giving it a bit of an edge and focus. I really like this. I wonder if this is perhaps the leather listed in the notes, although it doesn't strike me as particularly leathery?

Overall I would say that I like Corps et Ames, but I'm not bowled over. Perhaps I need to give it more time, but again, perhaps its just that chypres aren't entirely me. I think a lot of people would like this and I'd certainly say give it a try, but I think there are better fragrances in the Parfumerie Generale line.

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Saturday, 9 October 2010

Amouage Lyric Woman and Man

Seeing that I'm in an Amouage frame of mind, I thought I'd put together some thoughts on Lyric Woman and Lyric Man, two excellent fragrances from Amouage. I find the whole Man and Woman thing quite interesting. In the case of Lyric and Epic, both the masculine and feminine versions do have some similarities. For example, Lyric is mostly about rose, while Epic is about tea and oud. Earlier fragrances exhibit less of this cohesiveness. A classic example would be Jubilation 25 and XXV. The feminine perfume is mostly a gorgeous chypre underpinned by incense, while the men's is a fruity, spicy, woody, incense-y middle eastern delight, one of my absolute favourites in the line. Getting back to Lyric, I originally sampled the men's version a couple of years ago and loved it off the bat. It was pungent, full of incense and rose, and surprisingly floral. I hadn't smelled anything like it before. The notes include bergamot, lime, rose, angelica, orange blossom, galbanum, ginger, nutmeg, saffron, pine, sandalwood, vanilla, musk and frankincense. I still like Lyric Man, but it is an absolute powerhouse of a scent on me. It literally lasts all day and survives a thorough shower. It's no shrinking violet and if over-applied, can be very screechy and over the top. Although I love the concept of Lyric Man, the opening especially can be a bit overbearing, and the use of incense here is the most powerful and pungent I have found of all the Amouage fragrances, which is saying a lot.

Lyric Woman, pictured top left, was a much later sample and it blew me away. I would say that it is possibly my favourite of the whole line, ignoring gender. While the men's version shouts and struts its way around, Lyric Woman is understated, smooth, jammy, creamy and oozes sophistication. But don't be fooled. There is a slinky and somewhat sly facet to Lyric Woman, perhaps not that surprising. After all, most roses have thorns, and this one has enough going on to suggest some femme fatale beneath the sweet exterior. The notes include bergamot, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, rose, angelica, jasmine, ylang-ylang, orris, geranium, oakmoss, musk, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, tonka and frankincense. The strange thing for me is that going from the notes, the ladies' version seems to contain every note known to pefumery, while the mens', while not exactly short of notes, is a bit less busy. Yet in reality, Lyric Man has far more going on on my skin, with a lot of competing notes, while Lyric Woman, to me, is mostly about a jammy sweet rose, light incense, creamy sandalwood and spice, but quite simple in development. However, I'm not for one second suggesting that Lyric Woman is inferior or actually simple. In fact, it is the harmony and interaction of its notes wherein which lies its beauty. Lyric Man, as good as it is, strikes me a bit as trying too hard, and is ever so slightly clumsy. I love the use of rose in Lyric Woman. It is a sweet, jammy, slightly earthy rose, yet never becomes cloying or like potpourri. It stays quite true to the smell of rose, but has a slight dirtiness to it that is intriguing. Although by no means the same, it shares some characteristic with Kingdom, by Alexander Mcqueen, in that it is suggestive of sexuality, without actually blatantly flirting it. Some would disagree on Kingdom - I know many find it skanky. 

Although Lyric Woman is undeniably feminine in some ways, I have no trouble wearing it and I think it performs well on my skin. It is one of the most interesting perfumes in my collection and if ever I was going to go for full bottle purchases from the Amouage line, I think Lyric Woman and Jubilation XXV would top my list. If you haven't tried Lyric before, I would urge you to give it a go. I don't think you will be disappointed.

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Friday, 8 October 2010

Amouage Opus II Library Collection

As quite a few people have pointed out recently, Amouage seems to be churning out fragrances. Certainly in the last nine months they've released about seven new ones, including the recent Memoir Man and Woman. It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Amouage and any review of their products leaves me feeling slightly apprehensive, in case I am blinded by bias and not impartial. The Library Collection appears to have received a mixed reception. If anything, it seems to have been a lukewarm-ish response, with a few that have loved these, and those that think the house standards are slipping. Well, I don't. Admittedly I haven't tried Opus I or III yet, but Opus II, the one meant to be the most masculine in the collection, certainly meets with my approval. I read that it is a reinterpretation of a fougere, which perhaps it is. I don't claim to be an expert, but I didn't perceive it much as a fougere. I thought it is predominantly an exercise in incense, a highly sophisticated one. 

The notes include lavender, absinthe, pepper, pink bay (pink pepper?), jasmine, rose, cinnamon, cardamom, cedar, patchouli, amber, musk and incense. The opening for me is a light, yet strangely intense mix of pepper and citrus, and quite spicy. I don't detect lavender in its stereotypical form, or much absinthe. I'm always a little confused by absinthe anyway. It's derived from wormwood, which is a principal opening note in Yatagan, by Caron, but it is definitely not presented in that fashion here. The incense makes its presence felt almost immediately after the top notes fade, which is no surprise, given Amouage's inclination for using this note, and very nice it is too. The spiciness is balanced by a subtle, almost fruity sweetness that emerges, lightly floral but not overpowering. I take this to be mostly rose, with a little jasmine, but no man need feel uncomfortable with the use of these florals in this case. Underpinning all this is a dry and light pepperiness that I think is pink pepper, but masterfully presented. The use of pink pepper has become so indicative of men's perfumery but it smells so good in Opus II. It is almost bracing, combining with the slightly lemony facets of incense and the subtle sweetness of rose to create a wonderful heart accord. To my mind this is the most impressive phase of development in Opus II. As it moves into the dry down, the woodier elements of the scent slowly emerge and mingle to create a solid, if somewhat conservative ending to a lovely fragrance. The base smells good, and Amouage is no stranger to the combination of cedar, musk and patchouli, used in a number of their fragrances. Dia Man and Reflection Man spring to mind, but to me Opus II borrows some of those elements without simply rehashing it verbatim. 

I've read reviews describing Opus II as smelling like a barbershop, which is the usual impression created by a classical fougere, I think. However, I don't personally detect this at all and at no point did I think Opus II was a bog-standard fougere. Although it is quite masculine, I don't think it is obviously so and I can't see why a woman couldn't wear this with absolute confidence. I think Opus II is sufficiently different to its predecessors to warrant and deserve being part of the Amouage lineup and I for one am very impressed with it.

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Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The penny drops

Don't you find it is weird sometimes how you can test a fragrance for some time and be so not in love, then come back to it a few weeks later, or in a different season, and find your perception of it has totally changed? This has happened to me recently with two perfumes, Papyrus de Ciane by Parfumerie Generale and Fat Electrician by ELDO. When I first tried these in the summer I sort of liked them, but definitely wasn't blown away. Having tried them again this autumn, they are so much nicer. So what's up? Is it a change in my skin chemistry? To me this is part of the magic of perfume. I like to be surprised and I'm even happier when I move from lukewarm to hot. I can sort of understand Fat Electrician. I tend to appreciate vetiver scents more in the autumn, although I'm not entirely sure why. Papyrus de Ciane surprises me more - I would have thought this would fit far more into late spring/summer wearing, with its green, slightly mossy feel. Instead it comes alive for me late in the season, where a slightly more woody facet reveals itself.

Are there any perfumes that have surprised you like this?

Calling Cymbaline!

Cymbaline, wherefore art thou Cymbaline? I'm still waiting (and hoping) for you to email me with your details so I can send you the samples you won in my 100th post draw! Please get hold of me!

Sorry if you are away or something like that and haven't been checking messages.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Nasomatto China White

Besides the obvious slang association with a drug, heroin, that China White brings to mind, I didn't really know much about this perfume prior to ordering a sample. I was expecting something quite severe, chalky perhaps, that would end up being a chypre or leather. Instead, China White strikes me as more oriental in nature, particularly in the first half of its development. It opens surprisingly warm and cosy, with an almost caramel sweetness, reminding me ever so slightly of Coze or Aomassai by Perfumerie Generale. Just cutting the sweetness is a hint of violets and what smells to me like vetiver. After the initial top notes fade there emerges a slight spiciness, piquant like cardamom and a bit of pepper. I also detect a fleeting patchouli note, but I'm not entirely sure. Overall China White is much warmer than I thought it would be, as I said. In the heart the vetiver strengthens, but it remains fairly comfy. I wouldn't necessarily call it gourmand, but it verges on it. At this stage I think I can detect an iris note and I kept on thinking that China White reminds me of another fragrance but I couldn't put my finger on it. Eventually it came to me - Antaeus by Chanel. Particularly in the heart there is a graphite, carbon-like smell with powdery, yet earthy patchouli. I was quite surprised to make this association. After all, Antaeus is firmly a product of the eighties, while Nasamotto is the chic, hip, ultra-expensive niche line from the 21st century. Still, I like China White a lot, probably more than I was expecting to. It's not a dead ringer for Antaeus and as development progresses into the dry down, it stays sweeter, lighter and a bit more powdery. 

I don't know how I'd classify China White. Due to the association with Antaeus, I would initially say it veers more towards the masculine, but it is sweeter, especially in the opening, and has a slight powderiness to it that leads me to state ultimately that it is a perfectly good unisex fragrance. I think China White is very good, although it is rather expensive at £100 for 30ml here in the UK.

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Friday, 1 October 2010

Taking stock and an autumn roundup

So, autumn has truly arrived in the muddy isle (aka the United Kingdom), true to form as October 1st dawned, blustery with near-torrential rain. Autumn can be a lovely time, as we all know. Who isn't moved by a bright, crystalline-fresh morning, leaves turning golden, the smell of woodsmoke redolent in the air? Unfortunately, the other side of the coin is the aforementioned weather, and grey, dull and wet days. Yet despite this I always find that come autumn I really yearn to wear perfume. The cooler weather calls for fragrances with more oomph, and a bit of comfort too. Gone are the fresh citrus colognes, or the sheer woody florals. In their place comes tobacco, amber, vanilla, spice and sweeter woods, which might have been cloying a couple of months ago. And maybe it's just me, but autumn releases seem so much more interesting than a lot of the dreck that comes out in the warmer months, destined to crowd-please. 

Some of you who read my blog more regularly might recall a somewhat melancholy and self-pitying post at the start of August when I mentioned how busy I had been at work, with not enough time to take stock of life and enjoy things that matter most to me, including wearing perfume of course. Two months on and I feel a lot better. Work is still busy, finances are still stretched, but for some reason I feel calmer and more in control. Hopefully this is not just delusion, but reality! I was trying to think back on perfumes I've tried over the summer and early autumn, and what I enjoyed, and didn't. 

There's been very little in mainstream that I've enjoyed. It's hard to keep up with all the celebrity releases anyway. I tried Serge Luten's Bas de Soie, and felt that while it was a sort-of return to form, it isn't totally me. One perfume that did impress me, surprisingly, was Jean Paul Gaultier's Le Male Terrible. The original Le Male was groundbreaking, and still as unique today as it was a decade or more ago. But it was so over-worn that it became cliched, probably a bit like Polo was in the US in the eighties, perhaps. Terrible is in the same vein as Le Male, but has some skankiness in it, with a bit of smoke and incense (at least to my nose). It is rather compelling and I'd urge you to approach it with a fresh and open mind - it might surprise you. I also tried Gucci Guilty the other day, and while not exactly a revelation, it is a rather well done floriental, better than a lot of similar releases over the last few years.

Moving onto niche, most of what I've tried has been older stuff that I haven't got round to before. I did try Andy Tauer's Orange Star, which I really enjoyed. The big rave was L'artisan's Nuit de Tubereuse. I've tried it once but it's hard to form a strong opinion. I liked that it wasn't an obvious, big, screechy tuberose, but  I couldn't quite get my head around it. I tried Mona di Orio's Cuir, which was a leather slap upside the head. Not for the faint-hearted. I also tried Amouage's Library fragrance Opus 2, labelled a fougere but not to me. It's great by the way. I haven't tried 1 and 3.

What about imminent releases (or just-released)? Well, I'm looking forward to trying the new Amouage Memoir Man and Woman. I know some people lament how many perfumes Amouage churns out these days, but they can do little wrong for me. I'm also curious to try the Vero  Profumo eau de parfumes (the extraits are way too expensive for me).

Going off topic a little, one sample I ordered recently that I wasn't expecting to like for some reason, but blew me away, is Costamor's Tabacca. It's a gorgeous tobacco fragrance, not too sweet, fairly sedate, but extremely well executed. And what disappointed me the most? I think it might be Heeley's Sel Marin. I was expecting something a bit like Sel de Vetiver, I guess because of the 'sel' in both titles. In the end Sel Marin smells like Hermes' Un Jardin apres la mousson, which is not my favourite. It's a bit brackish and totally not what I hoped it would be.

To end, what I really can't wait for is the annual release of the Serge Lutens non-export Paris exclusive, set to come out towards the end of this year. This year it is Cuir Mauresque. I've only ever smelled this one as a wax sample, which is not the same thing of course, but it was excellent.


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