Saturday, 27 November 2010

New samples from Les Senteurs

I haven't purchased samples for some time now, in fact not since early September. In the intervening two months, I have managed to obtain quite a number of free samples from my two local department stores, where a number of the sales staff are very generous and willing to hand these out. By way of example, I've received samples of the reissue of Houbigant's Quelques Fleurs, Pehaligon's Sartorial, Amouage's Memoir Man and Woman, Cartier's Declaration and two of the new Lubin's, to name but a few.

Anyway, I've recently ordered a handful of samples from Les Senteurs in London. I've written about Les Senteurs a couple of times before and I use their sample service relatively frequently. I like ordering from them for a number of reasons - they are friendly, the sample sizes are very generous and reasonably priced (£3 for about 2ml of juice) and their range is very good. For example, they carry the entire ranges of Amouage (excluding attars), Frederic Malle, Parfumerie Generale and Parfum d'Empire, as well as stocking Lorenzo Villoresi and Caron. Not bad.

In any event, this time I've tried to order a good mix and range of samples:

Molinard - Habanita
Frederic Malle - Portrait of a Lady
Jean Desprez - Bal a Versailles
Rosine - Twill Rose
Heeley - Iris de Nuit
Boadicea the Victorious - Complex

I'm taking a bit of a chance with some of these. For example, the first three are feminine perfumes, although I have read reviews stating that Habanita and Bal a Versailles can be worn by a man, so we'll see. Rosine has been a bit hit-or-miss for me, while I've read mostly negative reviews of Complex. As for Heeley, Sel Marin turned me stone cold, but I enjoyed Cardinal, so I'm hoping Iris de Nuit will be a good surprise. I'm sure I will get round to reviewing these in due course.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Scent of the day - layering rose and incense

Although incense and rose are by no means an unfamiliar combination, one often thinks of this in a middle-eastern sense, or at least I do. 

Today I layered a rose fragrance and an incense fragrance, each of which has its roots firmly in the west. In the case of Domenico Caraceni 1913, Italy, and Incense Pure by Sonomo Scent Studio, sunny California in the USA. 

In reality, Domenico Caraceni is not a rose soliflore by any means. In fact, it contains geranium, styrax, rose, tobacco, cypress and even frankincense. I like it straight up, but do find it a bit demure, if such a word can be used for a men's fragrance. However, combined with the austerity and beautiful simplicity of Incense Pure, I find the result a heavenly blend of rose and resins. 

Layering can be hit-or-miss. To my mind it usually works or it doesn't. When it does work, then bam! we're talking rock 'n roll.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Paradise lost, Paradise regained

Ok, a silly post folks. Some of you might remember that a few weeks ago I wrote that I had misplaced or lost my entire Amouage sample set. I thought the last I'd seen of it had been when I was in my work toilet, of all places (don't ask). Tragedy!

Anyway, today I was rummaging around in one of my desk drawers at work and lo and behold, under a sheath of old, useless papers was my sample set, forlorn and lost-looking. Serendipity indeed. And to think I had had visions of Amouage vials either slipping into the pockets of the cleaner, or worse still, being thrown away with the trash! I am a happy man today!

Happy Thanskgiving

To all of you out there who are American and celebrating Thanksgiving, I wish you all a blessed time together with friends and family. Wherever you are, I hope you wear a perfume that is really special and has good memories for you.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Scent of the day - things are looking rosy

Today I'm wearing two fantastic rose fragrances, one of which I've reviewed in some depth before, namely Un Rose by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. The other is Paestum Rose by Eau d'Italie. Both are wonderful, but quite different. Un Rose starts off bright and realistically rosy, but then quickly segues from the flower to a velvety, dark and heady mix of rose essence, truffles, civet and some sort of sexual earthiness. It really is a show-stopper and if you like Rose, then I don't think you will be disappointed. This is possibly, along with Vetiver Extraordinaire, my favourite of the line. 

Paestum Rose never quite delivers a full-on rose note, at least not to me. It's all about rose, for sure, but it is a deeply woody, aromatic take on rose, conceptually brilliant in my opinion. Although not anything like potpourri, it does remind me of dried rose petals rather than the flower, but in a very good way. I've sampled a good few rose fragrances in my time, and Paestum Rose smells like no other. Also brilliant.

I'm not sure why, but I woke up this morning and for some reason was just craving the scent of roses. These certainly hit the spot today.

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Amouage Memoir Man and Woman

It's no secret to readers of my blog that I am a fan of Amouage. I think I've made that quite clear! I first had a brief sniff of Memoir Man back in September, when I visited the Amouage Boutique in Knightsbridge, and even then, I suspected that Memoir marked a stylistic departure for the line. Having now acquired and tried samples of both the men's and women's fragrance, I can indeed state that in my opinion this is definitely a departure. I could see it coming already with the Library scents. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. After all, one can't expect the house to churn out one frankincense-dominant fragrance after another for ever, can one? 

Starting with Memoir Woman, pictured top left, I was surprised by the intensely fruity opening and what I thought was a hefty dose of aldehydes, which gives this quite a feminine fizz and twist. For some reason Memoir Woman reminds me of another fragrance that I just can't place! As it progresses, it stays quite sweet and fruity, but is joined by what I can only describe as a tobacco note, of all things. Memoir Woman is described as a chypre, but at this point it is nothing of the sort. As it moves into the dry down, the fragrance becomes slightly powdery, and subtle woods and spice join in, with a little incense and cedar. While I don't mind this, I have to admit that Memoir Woman is not blowing me away like others in the feminine range have. Thinking about it now, I think it reminds me a little of Feminite du Bois by Serge Lutens. It has that fruity/plum/cedar vibe, at least on my skin. For the record, the notes from Luckyscent include absinthe, mandarin orange, pink pepper, wormwood, clove, incense, jasmine, rose, white flowers, musk, labdanum, oakmoss, styrax and leather. I'll leave it to you to decide my ability at detecting notes and styles!

Memoir Man opens quite nondescript really. It's muted to me. I get a little anise and wormwood, but nothing outstanding, pungent, or weird, unlike the effect of the use of this note in Caron's Yatagan, for example. As the top fades, a woodiness comes to the fore that smells quite similar to the cedar and sandalwood accords in Let Me Play The Lion and 10 Corso Como. I suspect this might involve a hefty dose of iso-e super. The heart becomes a lot more interesting as the woods are joined by an incense note and subtle smoke and spices, which combine wonderfully with the creamy sandalwood. It is not an intense frankincense note, whch Amouage often deploys in its men's fragrances, but rather more subtle. Nice! The rest of the development is in the same vein, with a nice mix of incense and woods. Memoir Man strikes me as fairly quiet and contemplative, not the two words I would usually use in describing an Amouage perfume! Underpinning all these notes is a slight greenness that fades in and out, a bit like vetiver, but not strong at all. Perhaps this is the wormwood/absinthe accord. The notes from luckyscent include basil, mint, frankincense, lavender, rose, oakmoss, leather, tobacco, absinthe, wormwood, sandalwood, guaiacwood, vanilla and amber. Again, I clearly seem to be totally off the mark with identifying these notes.

So, in summary, a departure for Amouage, that in my opinion works quite well in the case of Memoir Man, but falls a bit flat with Memoir Woman. Of course, that is just my opinion. Neither of these is particularly groundbreaking and I have to say that while I will spend more time trying to get to know these a bit better, I feel ever so slightly let down and I believe Amouage can do better. However, at least they are trying a few different things and aren't sticking to a tried-and-tested-formula, which is more than I can say for some perfume houses.

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Monday, 22 November 2010

Scent of the day - Divine L'Homme Sage & L'Homme de Coeur

Wearing these two masculine fragrances from Divine, the French perfume company based in Brittany, I realise how much I actually enjoy this niche line. Of the two, L'Homme Sage probably gets more press, and it is very good. However, I think I prefer L'Homme de Coeur, a fantastic iris scent for men. Iris is often thought of as a feminine note, but it is given a totally different treatment by Yann Vasnier, perfumer at Divine. If you're looking for an iris-focused scent with a difference, give it a try. As for L'Homme Sage, it is all herbal, woody, smoky goodness. It's not a green scent though, rather reminding me of the outdoors, walking through scrubby woodland, the pungent herbs being released into the air as my trousers brush through the undergrowth. It's that sort of scent - highly recommended.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Bvlgari Man

I must admit, I generally like the Bvlgari line of perfumes. The majority are solidly crafted, dependable and smell nice. One is a standout for me, the brilliant Bvlgari Black, of which I own a bottle. Rumour has it that it is now discontinued, although I can't vouch for that. Another, Bulgari Pour Homme, not to be confused with the one pictured left, has a gorgeous opening note of petitgrain, one of the best I've smelled in mainstream, although the rest is a relatively generic, but nice-smelling concoction. While on the subject, what is it with the mainstream men's fragrance industry and their obsession with terms like Pour Homme and Man? I've seen a similar thing with Guerlain and Gucci recently. As men, are we so lacking in confidence or belief in our gender that even our perfumes have to boldly declare they are made for us? Please, give me a break. Moving onto the juice itself, I have very little to write about I'm afraid. The listed notes include lotus, bergamot, violet leaf, vetiver, woodsy notes (I ask you...), sandalwood, cashmere wood, benzoin, white honey (?), amber and musk. The fragrance is meant to be a woody oriental that epitomises the modern man with its fresh and sparkling notes. And therein lies the problem, at least to me. I don't want to smell fresh or sparkling for God's sake. I brush my teeth twice a day, I shower twice a day, my clothes are laundered, my nails cleaned, my hair washed. I wear deodorant. I chew chewing gum. I do smell fresh, for f's sake. I don't need my perfume to declare that again and again. I want my perfume to smell different, to push the boundaries, to smell like nothing else that has ever been done. Yes, I want it to smell good, but fresh is not a requirement, ok? Rant over, Bvlgari Man smells to me like everything else out there in mainstream men's perfumery. It smells fine. It's not bad by any means, but it isn't distinctive and still smells like a focus group directed fragrance geared to early 20-somethings and Adidas-toting gym bunnies. As usual, I don't really get all these listed notes. I get the bergamot, I get the violet leaf, I get the shrill, artificial musks and amber. As for violet leaf, when is this note going to die a death? Enough already. On a serious note, Bvlgari Man is perfectly wearable, but in my opinion as soulless as all the other men's fragrances out there in dullsville. Give me Bvlgari Black anyday over this....

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Friday, 19 November 2010

Histoires de Parfums - 1828 (Jules Verne) and 1725 (Casanova)

I obtained the full sample set of Histoires de Parfumes perfumes about eighteen months ago. This was before the more recent Tuberose additions to their line. The samples are beautifully packaged and labelled and come with a lovely pamphlet explaining all the perfumes, with full lists of the notes. However, for some reason this line has never fully grabbed my attention. For the most part it languishes in the back of my sample drawer. And I don't quite know why, because in truth the line is varied, interesting and different. I think some of it may be my confusion with all the named years and trying to associate them with the famous people, like Jules Verne, Marquis de Sade, Casanova, etc. Two in the line are stunning - Patchouli Noir and Ambre 114. I don't think it is just me though; I seldom come across a review of this overlooked perfume house.

Anyway, I thought I would right matters by reviewing 1828 (Jules Verne) and 1725 (Casanova), two of the masculines in the line.

1828 contains notes of grapefruit, madarin, citrus, eucalyptus, nutmeg, pepper, cedar, vetiver, incense and pine. I must admit that the opening is quite shrill and piercing, but isn't as citrusy as I would have thought. If anything it is the ecualyptus note that dominates, with its slightly campherous and piney note. The top fades quite quickly to be joined by warm and sweet spices. The pepper is mellow, but the nutmeg is very distinctive. I woudl wager a bet that there is a hefty dose of cardamom in here too. There's something about this phase that reminds me very much of Caravelle Epicee by Frapin. It's got that same lovely spicy warmth, almost boozy in a way, that is delicious and compelling. Just cutting this melange of spice is a cedar note and an almost refreshing zing, which I take is the combination of vetiver, pine and incense. The base smells like walking through a cool forest close to the ocean, the canopy heated from above by a seering mediterranean sun. At least, that's how it feels to me! 

1725 is "named after the man whose name would symbolise seduction" and contains bergamot, grapefruit, licorice, lavender, star anise, vanilla, almond, sandalwood, cedar and amber. Right from the outset it is a sweeter, less spicy affair than 1828, but is by no means cloying. The licorice and star anise are clever connected accords through the top and heart, but again, are not cloying, as some people might fear they could be. The lavender is a nice addition here, and is the sort that to my nose highlights its more aromatic and smoky facets, rather than granny's underwear drawer, thankfully. It cuts through the vanilla and almond notes, which I feared would be yuck, quite frankly. However, again they do not overpower or become cloying, and are instead, balanced by the earthier base notes of cedar, amber and sandalwood. The amber and sandalwood are of the drier variety, which work very well with the sweeter gourmand notes of vanilla and almond, meaning that the fragrance never veers into pastry territory. Like 1828, the longer the fragrance wears, the drier it becomes and for some reason smells 'of the earth' to me, very much like nature.

What I really like about Histoires de Parfums is that they cleverly balance opposite notes, a bit like Serge Lutens does in my opinion. I'm not saying their styles are the same; far from it in fact, but they both take quite sweet or strong notes and balance them with herbs or resins.

I must say that I rather like 1828 and 1725. I frankly don't get the whole association with Jules Verne or Casanova, but then, I'm not particularly clever that way and don't care much for all that malarkey in perfume. Although I wouldn't necessarily say either of these is groundbreaking, they are both interesting, very well made perfumes with quality ingredients. Although I'm sure there are plenty of synthetics in here, the accords all smell realistic and organic in a way, which is how I like my perfumes. I don't expect them to be certifiably organic and all natural, blah blah blah, but I like them to smell like they came from nature to an extent, and these very definitely do. Although slightly over the unisex line into masculine, I still highly recommend anyone giving both of these, and indeed the entire line, a try.

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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Costamor Tabacca

Until I ordered a sample of Tabacca from Luckyscent a few months ago, I had very little concept of this fragrance line. Indeed I still don't that much about Costamor, but it is on my radar now. What I can say though, is that I have quickly grown to love this gem of a tobacco fragrance. Actually, grow is not quite correct; I literally fell in love with this at first sniff.

I should say that tobacco and I have a slightly rocky relationship. I do like the smell of tobacco, and enjoy it in various incarnations in a number of fragrances, whether it be the fragrant pipe tobacco accords in Chergui or Back to Black for example, or the cigarette types like Tabac Blonde. But depending on mood or season, even my aforementioned favourites can be cloying or hit-and-miss. Then there are the weirdos - I include Versace Dreamer in this category, with its curious mixture of sweet pipe tobacco and lily. Another fragrance that strikes me as challenging is Tabac Aurea by Sonomo Scent Studio, which on paper should have enraptured me, but with its immortelle note left me feeling a bit unsure.

Anyway, back to Tabacca. The notes from Luckyscent include aromatic spices, apple peel, jasmine, rose tea, raw and dried tobacco leaves, rare woods and amber. Before I read these notes I am not sure I could have identified everything listed. Spices, yes definitely, soft and mildly aromatic. Tobacco, again, is a focus of the fragrance. I'm not sure even now I know the distinction between raw and cured tobacco, but even so, the tobacco note is distinctive, but at the same time wonderfully mellow. The use of tobacco here is not unlike that in Back to Black, but perhaps less intense. The other note that is obvious to me is amber, a lovely sweet yet not cloying amber, with just a hint of smokiness. The smokiness is evident the longer I wear this, and might be coming from the tobacco accord as well. However I should stress that Tabacca is relatively understated, without being weak by any means. But the smoke for example is not the pungent campfire type, but rather a subtle backdrop, offsetting nicely the sweeter aspects of this fragrance. As for the jasmine and rose tea, there is something slightly floral, but I wouldn't have identified these notes. Present as they are, they probably augment what is already there, adding a mellow roundedness to the more forceful tobacco and amber notes. Apple peel, for what it's worth, is lost on me.

Luckyscent categorise Tabacca as marginally on the feminine side, but I have to disagree and state that it is possibly the most perfect unisex tobacco fragrance I have encountered. I've also read it being described elsewhere as a perfectly decent, but simple fragrance. Again, I disagree. Tabacca is deceptively simple and therein lies its beauty for me. It is uncluttered, with a focus on friendly, warm and mellow tobacco and amber, but the harmony and balance of its notes are perfect, at least for me. If you are someone who likes the idea of trying a tobacco fragrance, but in the past have been a bit put off by some of the more overtly masculine or showy ones, give Tabacca a try. I don't think you will be disappointed.

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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Montale Aoud Lime

Of the Montale Oud fragrance samples I have, Aoud Lime has to be the strangest. I find it quite difficult to write about. Although rather compelling in a way, Aoud Lime is quite an austere fragrance, aloof and even a bit forbidding really. Notes include Pakistan oud, rose, iris, amber, patchouli, sandalwood and saffron. Reading these notes, I am left more confused than ever. Aoud lime does have oud in abundance, medicinal, tart and tangy, which no doubt is augmented by the heavy overdose of saffron. I'm also confused by the word lime in the title. Does this mean citrus lime, or lime as in from the Linden Tree? Either way, I don't get a lot of florals or citrus in Aoud Lime. It starts dry, medicinal, tart and pungent, and remains that way for most of its duration on my skin. I also detect very little rose or iris, zero amber, hardly a smidgen of sandalwood and nary a breath of patchouli. What I get is saffron and oud from start to finish. I thought the use of sandalwood and amber would sweeten things up a little, but Aoud Lime has to be the dryest and most austere Westernised Oud scent I've encountered.

If this summary leaves you wondering whether I like this or not, then you are best off knowing that I'm not really sure myself. Some days I can bear Aoud Lime, and perhaps even like it. On other days I'm either bewildered or slightly repulsed. As I mentioned earlier, it's very difficult to write about Aoud Lime and really convey what it is like to wear it. If you enjoy oud, then I think you will at least gain something from sampling this. If you don't like oud to start with, then I think you are going to struggle from the word go.

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Friday, 12 November 2010

Perfume and nausea

Not a subject most people would want to be touching on at the start of a weekend, but I've been suffering this week from a bout of what is sort of a cold, but seems to have flu systems as well. Aches, pains, shivers, loss of appetite, and... nausea and queasiness. If this isn't bad enough, I also find that I can't stomach wearing perfume of any sort. Even my staunch favourites have left me gagging upon application. It's not just perfume. At the moment I find that all sorts of smells are setting me off, from the smell of frying sausages, to steaming soup, to soap. It's very frustrating, particularly when you're like me and a day can hardly pass without wearing a fragrance of some sort. Anyway, I'm now purposefully avoiding any perfume, but particularly steering away from my favourites. I couldn't bear to be permanently turned off. Hopefully I'll be back to normal next week, particularly as I've got some new samples to try, including Penhaligons Sartorial and two of the new Lubins, Itasca and Inedite.

Have a good weekend, all and sundry.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Christian Dior Eau Sauvage Extreme

If ever there is proof that a flanker almost never lives up to the original, Eau Savage Extreme has to be it. Great, striking bottle - it looks as good in real life as in the picture at left. Great pedigree as well. After all, the original Eau Sauvage is a classic of men's perfumery. Short of substance I'm afraid. Dior has taken away most of what was special about the original and amped it up with 21st century modern men's ingredients, as cliched as they are overdone. Gone is the magic and in it's place you have what to me smells like a synthetic citrus-amber-musk concoction, loud, leery and frankly, quite grating on the olfactory senses.

I don't like to be so negative, but give me the original any day, thank you.

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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Guerlain Bois d'Armenie

At the risk of possibly being lynched, to date I've found the L'Art et la Matiere line distinctly underwhelming. Admittedly I've only tried Bois D'Armenie and Cuir Beluga, but as with Spiriteuse Double Vanille, these all strike me as very subdued and slight on my skin. Now, I am not saying that all perfumes have to shout and stand out, but I need a bit of bang for my buck. They all smell quite similar to me too, with a sweet vanilla accord, which, while very well done in that Guerlain fashion, is not enough to sell me. Look, Bois D'Armenie is very nice. Although quite sweet, it has enough of an incense/labdanum/smokiness to cut the goo and deliver an understated and fairly sophisticated take on incense. As the fragrance develops I do detect even a slight leatheriness, which is appealing. Funnily enough, when I was making notes, I wrote that Bois D'Armenie reminded me ever so slightly of Bulgari Black in style, without the rubberiness, and it has that coziness of vanilla with the hint of smoke. I've now read that Annick Menardo created this fragrance and perhaps it's no coincidence then that she also created Bulgari Black.  Bois D'Armenie is suited to cooler weather and having also worn it back in the summer, certainly on my skin I can vouch for this. It was appropriate for a cool, drizzly autumn day. 

Despite some of the positives, I still can't help but feel that some of Guerlain's latest offerings, Bois D'Armenie included, lack a bit of substance. They feel a bit unfinished to me, and slightly one-dimensional, certainly compared to some of their classics. I know there are plenty of you out there who would disagree, and I'm happy to agree to disagree. It's just my opinion after all. 

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Perfume grief

It's pathetic, I know, but I've recently suffered a perfume bereavement. My full sample set of Amouage perfumes has gone missing, and I haven't a clue where it is. The last time I saw the box was at my work (yes, I do horde perfumes in my desk at work, sicko that I am). It's going to seem crazy, but I think I left the box in the toilet, where I was applying one of the samples, so God only knows where its got to now.

Yes, perhaps I need to get a life. In the meantime, I shall keep searching - I won't give up hope yet.....

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Orange Star Haiku

Shining Orange Star,

Autumn leaves now fast do fall - 

I am shivering.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Scents of the day - Penhaligon's Opus 1870 and Serge Lutens Chergui

I wore two scents of the day today, starting with Penhaligon's Opus 1870. Penhaligon's, quite a traditional, ever so slightly fusty British house, is becoming quite trendy these days, using perfumers such as Bertrand Duchaufour and have released some interesting perfumes within the last year. Opus 1870 is quite understated, but has good lasting power. It's top and heart remind me for some reason of the style of Lutens, with lots of wood permeated with fruit and a bit of sweet spice. 

I can't quite place it, but something like Chene captures that same woody style, although in the case of Opus it is more a rich cedar than oak. I never thought I would categorise cedar as rich but that is how it comes across here, with a hint of leather in the dry down. Actually, it is rather good and I prefer it to another masculine in the line, Endymion. 

My evening scent has been Luten's Chergui, a wonderfully complex hay and tobacco fragrance, capturing in my opinion all that is good about the Lutens line. Chergui works wonderfully in cooler weather, I think, and is perfect for a mid-autumn day, with the leaves of trees transforming fast into hues of yellow, red and orange. Although I love wearing Chergui, I do find it a bit too much at times, and I can't wear it all the time, unlike my other Lutens favourite, Ambre Sultan.


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