Liz Earle Botanical Essence No 9

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Once again, Liz Earle has launched a new perfume, and once again, it’s a class act bursting with botanicals and the best that nature has to offer.

Liz Earle Botanical Essence No 9 is, like her other fragrances, sourced from as many natural ingredients as possible. In the case of Botanical No 9 that would be damask roses, blackcurrants, bergamot limes, patchouli, oakmoss and vanilla.

When you read the list of ingredients like that it doesn’t do this lovely scent justice. Here’s what I got: The blackcurrants come out first and foremost, followed by the rose. The bergamot gives this a wonderful thirst quenching quality that is enormously refreshing and “clean” – like dewdrops or a bracing shower on a sticky day.  As these notes blend and evolve, the base notes start to peek through. This is a floral chypre so there’s oakmoss and patchouli, but rather than the heat of the more usual amber for example, here there are more roses and plenty of osmanthus ( aka apricot blossom) to add a delicate sweetness that is never cloying or sugary.

Longevity is excellent and what’s left after around five hours is a dark velvety rose scent with wisps of patchouli and oakmoss around the edges. This is what you’ll smell like at the end of the day and it is GOOD.

Stockists

Liz Earle Botanical No 9 is available from QVC or from the Liz Earle website. I obtained my sample from the Perfume Society Scents of Style Discovery Box which is available now from their website.

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Bronnley Eclectic Elements Collection Exotic Embers EDT

 

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Stumbling across this cute capsule collection in Boots, I was drawn to the bottle of Exotic Embers and plastered the tester on earlier today. All the way home my nose was glued to the wrist. This delightfully spicy scent has a lot to offer a woman like me. I am always on the lookout for a good Autumn scent, and was ripe for temptation as I actually left the house without perfume today ( school run, cat food, long boring story).

Exotic Embers had me thinking “This is familiar and it’s on the tip of my tongue but I just can’t place it” and then it hit me. This is what Yves Saint Laurent Opium would smell like if it had more citrus and was greener. This is spice with all the weighty base taken away.

Top notes  bergamot, orange and galbanum

Middle notes Tuberose, ginger and nutmeg

Base notes Labdanum, cedarwood and amber.

exotic-embersIn fact this shares some similarities with my beloved Mary Greenwell FireFire combines spices with nutmeg and grapefruit, just as Exotic Embers does. This means that if you, like me, enjoy both orientals and cologne style fragrances, this gives you the best of both worlds.

Exotic Embers is more floral than Fire and has a softness that reminded me of flannelette sheets, but I can’t think why. It leaves a peppery trail of roses on my skin and has a faint sweetness that isn’t vanilla, but might be the combination of nutmeg and ginger ( but isn’t gourmand). I love its combination of spice and lightness and its lack of vanilla and sickliness: none of that here.

I’ll definitely be trying more from the Eclectic Elements range, not least for the beautiful packaging. You can also buy purse sprays and an eau fraiche version. Today I was testing the eau de toilette.

Stockists

I tried this in Boots where they stock the whole range. Prices start at £15 for a 30ml bottle of eau fraiche.

Molinard Musc: Peace and Love

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Molinard is a high quality brand that has been around since 1849, in the heartland of scent: Grasse in Provence. You may recall my recent review of Molinard Chypre D’Orient which I thought was fabulous, especially considering the low price for a 100ml bottle.

Musc is of a similar calibre but is worth examining for two reasons. One: Musk is such a complex genre that one musk may be nothing like another. Two: This contains some very interesting ingredients.

musc-modernMy first impression of Molinard Musc was that it is a delicious gourmand vanilla in the same calibre as Dior Hypnotic Poison. I don’t normally like gourmands as they make me smell like I’ve just finished baking, which I often have. However, for Dior Hypnotic Poison and its Battenburg/Playdoh accord, I’d walk a long way. In similar fashion Molinard Musc manages to radiate the toasty, creamy warmth of vanilla without all the sugary fluffiness. But that’s not all. Several Fragrantica users claim that this is the smell of a “Head Shop” and comment that it is the scent of Nag Champa. Nag Champa was much beloved by the hippy movement which may be where the Peace and Love “Head Shop” vibe comes from. It smells like incense, but with an aromatic, almost herbal sweetness that is instantly transporting.

As Musc warms up on my skins (and longevity is great- hours and hours), it starts to smell like musc-bottle3the inside of a branch of LUSH. This is a divisive smell- people either hate it or love it.  I can’t get enough. I sniff everything in there. Molinard Musc, in fact, starts to smell like a more incense-heavy version of LUSH Karma in the end, which is fine by me.

The actual musk by the way, is in there somewhere, but it is by no means dominant. You’ll be too busy enjoying the vanilla-y coumarin and nutty, woody accord of hazelnut and sandalwood to notice that the musk has a cameo rather than a starring role.

My bottle is on loan from dear chum Lisa Wordbird. They make this is in a more modern bottle now, and I’ve yet to find anyone saying that the formula is different, so it looks like the packaging doesn’t matter too much. For personal preference, I like the old heavy glass dressing table ones ( see top).

Stockists

You can buy Molinard Musc from allbeauty.com and Amazon UK, as well as beautyspin.co.uk

La Perla Original Eau de Parfum: A Classic Beauty

 

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It’s Autumn now, although it’s hard to tell. How do you define it? A run of ten days without sunshine? That’s summer, isn’t it? All I know is that I haven’t worn sandals for over two months now so I reckon it’s safe to say it’s Autumn.

The light colognes and airy florals are going to to sit at the back for a bit whilst I bring out the ambers, patchoulis and chypres. or in the case of La Perla, all three in one bottle.la-perla-ad1

Luckily enough, my friend Lisa, beloved friend of the blog and of me, popped in recently with a bottle of this beauty. Now this wasn’t on my radar at all. I probably would never have tried it if it hadn’t been put in my hands for a little borrow and a sniff. I’m ever so glad we met though, because this stuff not only smells terrific, but is very good value indeed.

la-perla-perfume_02My first impression of La Perla was that it is a ladylike powdery chypre scent. It’s the kind of classic scent that was everywhere in the seventies, although it wasn’t launched until 1987. There’s no subtlety here, so it fits nicely into the category of 1980s Powerhouse too, with its “Gangway! Here I come!” sort of sillage- (Think Alexis Carrington).  Even the bottle has helmet hair and big shoulders. Having said that, this has an elegance that doesn’t normally go hand in hand with such a Look At Me scent, but elegant is certainly a word I would use.

My first impression was white soap. Very soapy, very aldehyde-y and with big piles of white talc. Sometimes that powderiness is the sign of a damn good chypre, and it counts for as much here. The oakmoss beds in straight away. Yes there’s a citrussy opening and some peppery carnation and ladylike rose, but the oakmoss shoves its way to the front and makes its presence felt. There is musty patchouli, aromatic sandalwood, feminine soapy musk and warm amber too. Interestingly, none of this happens in order. I didn’t get distinct top notes, a middle and a base. It went more like this: soapy chypre to musky to spicy- all within ten minutes. What I have on my skin now though, is a wonderfully powdery,  massive , gorgeous chypre. And it’s under twenty quid.

Douse yourself in La Perla,  then wear fake fur, red lipstick, and arch one eyebrow imperiously at everyone you meet. That’s what I want to do, anyway.

Stockists

La Perla is very good value indeedy- try allbeauty.com for prices that start at just £15.95 for 30ml of EDT (NB I haven’t tried the EDT but it would be a good starting point if you’re unsure about the LOUD SILLAGE). I was testing a 50ml bottle of EDP and the current price for an 80ml bottle of EDP is just £26. 

Art de Parfum: A Perfume House to Watch

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Recently I was sent a set of samples from those nice people at Art de Parfum. It’s a small British House, that currently just has five  fragrances. Wisely, they have started small, but what that they have done so far, they have done very well indeed. All scents are unisex and all are highly concentrated pure perfumes made with oils, so you’re getting quality and longevity right from the first drop.

Here’s a review of the four scents I received. Actually, I received Sensual Oud too, but I can’t currently locate it. As soon as I do, I will review it. In my defence, it was the summer holidays and with two primary aged kids around, I’m glad that one perfume sample was all I mislaid.  I still have my sanity.

I had a major love affair with one of these delightful fragrances but wouldn’t turn any of them down. Every single one deserves praise and a bright future. But as for me? I’ll take a bottle of the Gin and Tonic. No, make that a case. A lorryload! I’ll take it all.

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Sea Foam

The name of the scent was enough to have me reaching for it before all the others. I have been disappointed enough times in the past by perfumes that promise a marine accord but don’t deliver. Sea Foam does. It has that salty ozonic tang that I need and want from a scent that promises me crashing waves and seaside vibes. I wouldn’t call this oceanic- that has connotations of synthetic “blue” notes to me, but I would call this one of the best “sea notes” perfumes I have ever tried.

Opening with sharp, tangy citrus (bergamot and lemon), the middle blends into milky fig and seaweed. Now at this point, you might think that it would start to resemble Thierry Mugler’s Womanity, which is the only scent that ever made me physically retch. Sea Foam could not be further away from that. Think of salty skin, the dry greenery around the dunes and the actual, almost dirty scent of the waves. This beds down into dreamy sandalwood and vetiver, but those salty, fresh notes linger on.

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Excentrique Moi

Well this just has to be one’s new name for oneself when one goes all Third Person. Beautifully scented and named with a swagger, Excentrique Moi is all about the leather, which is ironic as according to Fragrantica, there’s no leather in it, but this is my blog and I say “leather!” There’s also deep, dark guaiac wood, which is a note I love ever since it was used in Hilary Duff With Love, now sadly discontinued. The patchouli is strong and earthy, and paired with dark tea and a bit more smoky, musky wood, this makes for a terrific scent that would suit anyone, especially as the weather turns colder. Buy it for the man in your life, and then use it all yourself. No guilt!

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Signature Wild

This smells both leathery and dirty at the same time. Don’t be put off, dirty is good in perfume. Signature Wild makes good use of artemesia, which has a touch of aniseed and booze to it- artemesia is famously used in absinthe. We’re not in Pernod territory, but more Gentleman’s Club with an extra dose of “your place or mine?”. The top notes smell like Christmas booze: rum or sherry. After that it’s sultanas, leather and woods. That tang of artemesia just takes it out of the ordinary and makes it unforgettable.

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Gin and Tonic

I wasn’t expecting to like this half as much as I did. I’ve smelled similar gin based scents before and have been left unmoved. However, this one had me in raptures and I’ve been wearing the sample spray for two days now, wondering if I can get a third day out of it. Yes, it opens with gin, or juniper to be more precise, but there is much more to it. The juniper is astringent, almost metallic, but it doesn’t stay that way, it just does a solo before joining the chorus. The grapefruit and lime zest give you that zing, and the middle note is just plain gin. It’s such a realistic take on a gin and tonic that you can almost feel the bitter bubbles popping on your skin. The drydown takes me into musky, woody territory with vetiver, woods, incense and ambergris. This base never gets too heavy though, because the gin and citrus just slices through until astringent and earthy sit together as one accord. Fantastic.

Stockists

You can buy Art de Parfum scents from the website, or from Bloom Perfumery in Covent Garden, which also does mail order. I would like to thank Art de Parfum for sending me these samples. Opinions are my own.

Aftelier Memento Mori by Mandy Aftel (2016)

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Memento Mori is about the tender memories of the skin and body of someone with whom you have been intimate, and the ways that you treasure and long for that which you remember when they are lost to you. We want to hold the vanished beauty close even as we experience the piercing quality of memory” -Mandy Aftel

I am hugely honoured to be on Mandy Aftel’s mailing list when it comes to receiving new samples of her work. Always gracious to all she deals with,  a friendly handwritten  note in a shiny Fed Ex parcel from Berkeley California never fails to make me feel special.

Memento Mori follows in the tradition of relics worn as jewellery for a lost loved one. Everyone knows that life consists of light and shade and that you can’t experience joy without grief nor grief without joy. After all, if you hasn’t felt the pleasure of love, then you would not grieve its loss.

keats-hairThe most memorable piece of Memento Mori jewellery that I ever saw was in Keats’ house in Hampstead, London many years ago. It was a locket, kept by his grieving lover Fanny Brawne ( see photo, below right). Inside the  locket was a glass pane and inside that glass pane was a lock of blond hair from the head of the poet himself. It blew me away to think I was looking at an actual lock of hair from such an iconic artist. It seemed especially apt since one of Keats’ most famous lines was “A Thing Of Beauty is a Joy Forever.” Via the wonders of the digital age, I was able to Google the exact piece I remember (see left).

Fast Forward to 2016 and I have in front of me a tiny phial of Memento Mori from fannysmAftelier perfumes- the memory of a love now gone. There is an intimacy to this, as you would expect. It’s the kind of smell you will only pick up if you nuzzle someone you know very well. Mandy has used orris, butter and beta-ionine (woody/violet), as well as organic, less acidic alcohol as a suspension.  Mandy only ever uses natural ingredients, which is an incredible feat, involving much innovation.

The scent does not jump off skin, but begs that the skin be sniffed more closely. This is not because it is weak, it is more because it does not project. There is musk, but an animalic musk, rather than a pretty clean laundry musk. This is very much NOT the place for clean laundry. As the skin warms up the scent, a subtle miasma of patchouli peeks out, making this richer and sexier. I don’t actually get any civet, but I think I am anosmic to that. Let’s face it, if I don’t get civet from Bal a Versailles, there’s no hope for me.

There is a curious smell of “human” to this, as if the person wearing it (in this case, me) hasn’t bathed for a few days. (Disclaimer- I have!). It kind of smells of hair. I don’t know how Mandy does this- it’s so evocative and clever.

When you love someone, you know their scent at all times of day: first thing in the morning, Day Three of a camping trip and the “after-work” smell. This is what Memento Mori is tapping into. This is the scent of love without adornment.  When your beloved gets up and leaves the bed, this is the scent you’re looking for when you sniff their pillow for one more memory.

With warm thanks to Mandy Aftel for my sample.  Opinions are my own.

Stockists

You can purchase Memento Mori from Aftelier Perfumes here.

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Balenciaga Rosabotanica: Roses Among The Greenery

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Now the kids are back in school, I finally had the chance to skulk around in Debenhams Perfume Hall without reprisals.  Bravely soldiering through the enticing displays, I managed to whittle my list down to Perfumes I Hadn’t Tried Before, rather than revisiting old favourites. I was aiming for Florabotanica, but the Tester wasn’t there. I’m quite glad, because today, reader, I found a fragrance to fall in love with. Call it serendipity, or call it Rosabotanica.

rosa-adRosabotanica opens with an abundance of green notes:  glorious leafy fig and tomato leaves. Even greener were the orange leaves, aka petitgrain, which added a zingy bitterness that was most welcome.  This delightful opening was enhanced by touches of citrus, namely grapefruit.  After this vibrant opening, the roses and hyacinth start to come in. The rose smells authentically deep: red and velvety.  I could almost feel those cool, waxy petals. The green figgy notes stop it from being cloying. Not that I mind cloying rose- I’ll take my rose in any old form, I’ve never turned one down. The rose hooks up with the fig and all settles down into a beautiful floral scent with a good dose of woody cedar and earthy patchouli as the base notes settle down for the day.

My only wish is that it were stronger, because I wanted to really marinade in this. Rosabotanica has all the best bits from a fresh garden: grassy cuttings, fresh figs and green tomato vines. The rose is delicate yet rich and the hyacinth always says spring to me. I’d wear this all year round and every day.

Stockists

You can buy Rosabotanica from Debenhamsallbeauty.com or Amazon UK.

 

 

Lancome Poeme: A Riddle

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Like a fragrance DJ, I do requests, and a request to write a review of Lancome Poême came from friend of the blog, Vivienne Tuffnell. Vivienne asked if I have ever reviewed Poême and it occurred to me that I hadn’t and I couldn’t think why not. The very next day I took myself off to my local House of Fraser and decided to try some. I won’t comment on the fact that there were seven testers of La Vie est Belle and nothing else. All right then, I will. Please put ALL the Lancome testers out!  How am I supposed to get my fix of Lancome Magie Noire if I can only see La Vie Est Belle?  The nice sales assistants had to get Poême out of a drawer so I could try it. Several hours later and the scent is still on my arm.

This is a complex scent that cannot be summed up concisely. It’s more of a riddle than a poem. It was created by legendary genius Jacques Cavallier, who deserves his status of Legend. For starters he made L’Eau D’Issey, Jean Paul Gaultier Classique, and pretty much all of Stella McCartney’s fragrance line, except POP. Poême was always going to be good stuff.

Juliette Binoche. isn't she beautiful?

Juliette Binoche. isn’t she beautiful?

Poême opens with yellow flowers, but also gave me a hint of Beeswax a la Burts Bees. It has both a golden warmth and a clean laundry thing going on at the same time. This is clever stuff. There is orange blossom right from the start, and peaches and plum. The flowers come in around now: freesias, roses, mimosa. This is a pretty floral but at the same time, so much more.

Poême is a slippery character when it comes to sticking a label on it, and that’s no bad thing. This is a perfect scent for Spring, with its narcissus and mimosa, yet it has a warmth in the base that lends it to Autumn: namely amber, cedar and musk. Underneath the dainty spring flowers there is hard wood and polish ( that beeswax again!).

I rather like this lack of structure. I like people who shrug labels, and I like perfume that does it too. Poême had me foxed. Fragrantica has it down as a Floral Oriental, but I wouldn’t say it quite fits either category. Poême does its own thing in free verse.

Yellow and white flowers, peaches, beeswax, orange flower and back again. That’s Poême. I think.

Stockists

I tried this in House of Fraser. Poeme is widely available. Try Amazon UK.

Paco Rabanne Lady Million Privé 2016

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Autumn means new perfume launches, tying in with Christmas shopping and the change in temperature. Usually the weather plummets from O de Lancome to Oh My Toes Are Cold and the spices and patchouli come out to play around now-ish.

In the case of bestseller Paco Rabanne Lady Million Privé it’s safe to assume the launch ties in with Christmas Party season. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be thinking about your scent more than your outfit.

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The original Lady Million was an instant bestseller and shows little sign of waning despite fierce competition. This flanker, Lady Million Privé still has the muscles and the strong white flower oomph, but something else is giving it its power this time. Privé opens with woody notes and the orange blossom that was a major player in the original. However, the gourmand comes out to play almost straight away. There’s chocolate in spades here, reminding me of Agent Provocateur Fatale, but with bigger patchouli. The raspberry and vanilla is definitely noticeable: this is sweet and rich. Add the honey and you’ve nearly got enough sweet stuff for a cake.

Not much happens after the chocolate and vanilla show up, although the patchouli tries to makes its presence felt and  and makes a fair fist of it. In fact, if it weren’t for the traces of white flowers and patchouli, this would be standard cupcake fare.

Longevity was disappointing on me,. I tried the EDP today and after three hours it was close to skin and barely there.

Sadly, this won’t be making it onto my embarrassingly long and greedy Wish List, but I predict strong sales will ensure a bright future.

Stockists

This is widely available.  You can try and/or buy at The Fragrance Shop or The Perfume Shop on your local UK High Street.