All posts by iscentyouaday

Perfume obsessive. Welsh and loving it. Also likes tea, cats and humankind.

Caron Tabac Blond: A Cigarette That Bears a Lipstick’s Traces


Being a fan of hesperides and heavy incense fragrances (I know, from one extreme to the other), I expected little from Caron Tabac Blond. Being a Leather, it doesn’t fall into either of my favourite camps. However, I’d read such enthusiastic reviews by experienced parfumistas both male and female that I decided to hunt it down.

Thanks to a very kind friend (you know who you are) I was given a full bottle on loan. The bottle itself is delightful: all gold caps and gold ridged lid and raised polka dots on the beautiful glass. At first sniff I was uninspired. It was dry, brown and dusty. However the previous day I had been wearing the diametrical opposite: Chanel Cristalle (see my earlier review),  which is fresh, citrussy and dewy.

I tried again, and this time, being in the right mindset for Leather and Tobacco, I fell a little bit in love with Tabac Blond.  Imagine finding an old leather satchel in an antique shop. Imagine an ancient unsmoked packet of cigarettes in the bottom, along with some dog-eared love letters and a pressed carnation. Take a deep sniff. That’s Tabac Blond. Papery, dry, Tobacco and Leather. It brought to mind the yellowing pages of an old book, dusty and forgotten. The perfect destination for this fragrance is either Paris, for any reason at all, or Hay on Wye – the Second Hand Book Capital of the World, where some of the ancient shops still have bells on the door.

Caron Tabac Blond was an edgy contender when it was created in 1919. Emancipated women were coming out of the woodwork  and, can you bear it?, they were smoking.  In public.  Like men.  Enter Stage Left: Tabac Blond.  Designed to complement the smell of Le Smoking, the Tobacco notes are not as common now. In fact there is nothing modern about this dusty treat. Bearing in mind today’s fruity, screechy monstrosities, that in itself should be celebrated.  Tabac Blond is the classic trench coat in a room full of neon anoraks. Pure class.

The Mighty Cinnabar


Estee Lauder launched Cinnabar within weeks of YSL Opium coming out. The gauntlet was well and truly thrown down. That they are competitors cannot be coincidence with such a close time lapse between them and such unmistakable  similarities.

Cinnabar was created in 1978 and has become somewhat of a standby classic.  I don’t smell this very often on under 50s, which is a great shame .  I would love to see younger people seek out  fragrances like this and escape from the fog of modern fruity florals.

 Cinnabar has a lot to offer.  It is an Oriental Spice perfume, with other notes that make it chameleon-like in its adaptability.  On first spray it is loud, fresh and spicy before drying down into a talcum powder masculine scent .  But bear with it, as it soon changes again and becomes a delightful Incense fragrance with a hint of powdery orange and peach, and a definite loud-ish note of clove standing in the background.  This is serious perfume: it’s not playful.   I can’t help thinking of rather sombre females in dark suits, or elegant dames with pearls and no laughter lines.

On me I’m afraid it reminds me of a Toilet in a rather well to do house I visited years ago.  I can’t help it.  I smell a fragrance and a long forgotten memory just pops up and won’t go away.  I think the hint of Jasmine, which is often indolic, has made this hard for me to love, but easy to admire.  It also reminds me of a soap called Shield, used by a former adversary, which has kind of spoilt it for me.   Strangely enough, I found this so similar to Estee Lauder Youth Dew, now in its 60th year, that I am not entirely clear why they made two fragrances so very similar.  Yesterday I wore Cinnabar on one arm and Youth Dew on the other.   At one point they were so alike I thought I was going to have to write “This one is Youth Dew” on my arm.

Cinnabar is not for me, but I hope it sticks around as we need more classics like this.  It would be a tragedy if a beautiful Oriental were to be discontinued through lack of sales.  With today’s trends for the lighter more modern fruits and vanillas, I sometimes fear for the good guys like Cinnabar.

Thierry Mugler Angel: The Marmite of Perfumes

angel naomi Non UK readers may be unaware that Marmite spread has a love/hate ad campaign. There’s no middle ground. You either love Marmite or you hate it. Thierry Mugler Angel is the same.  Angel’s critics are as vehement as its fans.  In the perfume industry however, it is regarded as a masterpiece.  Even hard to please Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez gave it five stars in Perfumes The Guide.

In 2007, Angel was the recipient of the FiFi Hall of Fame Award, an accolade not given lightly. Sales show no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Its creator, Olivier Cresp, will be remembered more for Angel than he will for the rest of his illustrious back catalogue, which is outstanding even without the success of Angel.

angel jerry


So why the hate? Well, it’s strong. It’s uncompromising. It doesn’t disappear after ten minutes and it has sillage that could floor a man at twenty paces. It is a Gourmand Patchouli of all things i.e spiky but chocolately. Caramel and Vanilla with prickles. Gourmand smells alongside Patchouli confuse my palate and make me feel like I am eating perfume or snorting food. Sensory confusion is not my thing. (I will  make an exception for Coromandel, see my earlier review)

So why the love? See above: strong, uncompromising, doesn’t disappear after ten minutes… Some people say that Angel trod the path for the popularity of Gourmands. In fact, Fragrantica lists no fewer than 24 notes for Angel, including Bergamot, Peach, Lily of the Valley, Jasmine, Melon, Roses and Blackberries- not one of which I angel flashcould detect.

When I first tried it shortly after its debut in 1992 (in the Harrods Perfume Hall no less, get me!), the displays were huge. It was the Next Big Thing. Jerry Hall, model du jour in ’92, made it her signature scent and mentioned it in all her interviews.  Everybody wanted it. Every magazine carried the ads for it.

I tried it on my wrist and walked away to consider it. What did I get? Chocolate and… Talc? Cologne? In hindsight I know it was Patchouli but did not identify it back then as a 22 year old.

I tried again a few months later: Chocolate and Caramel. I tried again no less than twenty years later. It still made me smell as if I had just finished my shift on the production line in a Thornton’s Chocolate Factory.  Big thumbs down.  And yet I regularly walk through clouds of this in pubs, on High Streets and in restaurants. I can recognise it from a mile off. Millions of women love Angel, but I’m not one of them. My husband, on smelling this, grimaced and said “Eurgh, that’s what the train smells like in the morning”.

There comes a time in life when you realise that you are outnumbered by the number of people who disagree with you and so it may well be you who is in the wrong.  However, in fragrance, as I have said before, there is no right or wrong, only your response. So my response is not wrong- I cannot bear this!  The vast cohorts of Angel fans tells me that others see this rather differently.  Its success, and the admiration of its peers, tell me that its apologists are not wrong either.   As for me: well, I don’t “get” Angel.  It’s as if the joke’s on me

angel smallIf you love this, good luck to you. If you don’t, that’s OK too.  However, I have yet to meet anyone who stands in the No Mans Land between the two camps and just says “it’s not bad, I wear it sometimes, it’s OK”.  And that, my fragrant friends, is why I call it Marmite. I would never, ever spend money on a bottle of  Thierry Mugler Angel.  And for every woman like me, there is another who swears by it and who would never, ever let herself run out of it.

EDIT: Since writing this I have become secretly obsessed with Angel and wear little samples of it around the house.  We’re definitely on flirtation terms now.  Never say never.


Body Shop White Musk Oil: The Last Man Standing From the Long Lost Perfume Bar


Sometimes the ageing classics get overlooked. It dawned on me that there is one perfume that I have been wearing for at least twenty five years and yet I haven’t reviewed it yet.

I first came across Body Shop White Musk at the glorious and much pined for (by me) Perfume Bar that every Body Shop used to have years ago. For those who have youth on their side and cannot remember this wonderful creation, please indulge me as I go down  Memory Lane.

In the 80s and 90s, each Body Shop had a Perfume Bar consisting of large glass jars with narrow necks, and long glass dipping sticks in each one. The jars would be on a circular stand, surrounded by eager customers, sniffing and testing. The happy bodyshop oilcustomer (i.e a younger me) would dip, dab and sniff until finding a scent she or he could not live without. The nice ladies at the counter would then fill a little plastic refillable bottle for you to take home, for a very reasonable price.

For many years I had tiny plastic 15ml and 30ml bottles of such much missed gems as Japanese Musk, Mostly Musk, and White Musk (sensing a theme?). I was not alone.  My mother loved “Annie” and always carried it in her handbag, and “Dewberry” was practically The Smell of the 80s.

Sadly all but a tiny few are discontinued, but if the Body Shop were ever to create this mirage of happiness again, I would be their most loyal customer. How I wish they would bring it back.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rex Features (1350527r) Anita Roddick of the Body Shop Various
 Photo by Rex Features (1350527r)
Anita Roddick of the Body Shop

This review is for White Musk Oil. You will see that it is not for the White Musk EDT, Sheer spray, or for any of its flankers such as Libertine.  I find them all too light and fleeting. White Musk Oil has a particular staying power that I have not encountered with the EDT or flankers, or in fact any of today’s Body Shop fragrances.  A dab of White Musk Oil on the neck, crook of elbow and wrist and you are set up for an entire day.

It’s subtle enough not to offend in a small office, and lasting enough not to have to top up in the day.  One of my favourite things about this oil is that a 30ml bottle lasts me a year.  The Body Shop website often has half price offers on, which can make this even more of a bargain.


So what of the fragrance itself? Well according to the Body Shop website, this has notes of Lily, Iris, Rose and Vanilla. Personally I get Musk and maybe a very faint background of Lily, but no Rose or Vanilla and no cold hearted Iris.

I am shameless about never having grown out of it. Many people see it as student perfume they have left behind, but I have had more misty eyed compliments about this than about any other perfume I have ever worn.

The Good Old Days- photo from
The Good Old Days- photo from

I often forget I’m wearing it and spray another fragrance over the top, but I find this just makes both fragrances smell even better. It’s close to skin: people will get a waft when you hug them or lean over them, but they won’t faint like dominoes when you get in the lift.

You may well find a man sniffing nostalgically to himself and remembering his first girlfriend though.

This is proof, if proof were needed, that you don’t need big bucks to smell good.


Jo Malone Orange Blossom for Men And Women: Refreshing Simplicty


Jo Malone is often lauded as being  the perfume brand for people who don’t like perfume. You can see why. With notes found in nature, the brand is typified by its perennial favourite Lime, Basil and Mandarin.  Many perfume fans who can’t bear Aldehydes, Synthetics or Chypres, can stay in their comfort zone with Jo Malone.  Quality is indisputable. Longevity is variable, but that could be true of any brand.

This review is about Jo Malone Orange Blossom.  The beauty of this fragrance is that it does what it says on the tin. You wanted Orange Blossom? You’ve got it. It doesn’t mess around or try and get fancy with Vanilla and Blueberries or Musks, or add soapy Aldehydes you didn’t ask for.  It’s honest.

Although Fragrantica states that this also contains Lilac, Lemon and  Lotus, all I got was rather heady Orange Blossom, with a bright Citrus Orange kick. In my opinion  this is Linear, that is, it’s a one note wonder: unchanging as it lasts throughout the hours.  This is no bad thing, after all, the clue is in the title. It does not mislead, trick or change once you’ve got it on.  Orange Blossom is a strong White Flower note which is often paired with Tuberose.  Both are feminine, clean notes, but both have a headiness and richness bordering on the creamy, and some might say, cloying.

Orange Blossom Jo Malone, however, is light and clean, almost a nod to Eau de Colognes, but it is long lasting, clean smelling, and can be worn all year round. It’s also unisex, and would smell great on the right man, brave enough to shrug off the High Street Miasma and take a bit of nature into the office.

Jo Malone was bought by Estee Lauder in 1999. Jo herself remained at the helm until 2006 when she left to pursue her own interests  Funnily enough, it turned out that she hadn’t quite finished with fragrance after all and her new range Jo Loves is available from her website, and still has the respect of critics (and beauty bloggers).

For an honest, clean, Citrussy Floral, you can’t go wrong with Orange Blossom Jo Malone. It’s a refreshing change from scents with 42 gazillion notes that confuse the poor brain.  Sometimes, simplicity is in order, and it is very welcome.

Serge Lutens Chergui: Smoke and Velvet in a Dark Corner


It took me three attempts to “get” Serge Lutens Chergui  but when I did, it was worth the journey.  My first attempt left me thinking “meh, Patchouli again!”, my second was, bizarrely, “Raw Pot Noodle or Soup Powder” (Don’t ask, no idea), and finally, on a third attempt, it dawned on me that this is actually as beautiful as everyone says.

I was starting to think it was a case of Emperor’s New Clothes and that I “should” like it, just so I wouldn’t be the odd one out. But no, it truly is the real thing. The Patchouli is high pitched but stops just before being eye watering (Amouage Jubilation could have stopped around this stage instead of becoming an asthmatics nightmare).  There is smoky incense, but not quite cigarette smoke, more a hint of pipe tobacco or aromatic dustiness.  After about an hour I had a memory of a shop I had long forgotten.  In my student days in Exeter, Devon, there was a marvellous shop in Cathedral Close that sold dried flowers. The shop was full of products from nature and everything was dried.  I think it was called Hay Fever. The smell of dried flowers, Hay, Papery Leaves and hessian sacks of Pot Pourri was arrestingly gorgeous. That smell drifted up from Chergui and took me back there so vividly.  I checked the notes, and there it is: Hay.

There are supposedly notes of Iris and Rose in Chergui  but I didn’t get any floral or petal notes.  This is a very masculine scent, although designed to be feminine or unisex.  It’s dry and non girly and non frilly. It’s  a serious contender, maybe too much for the office or casual wear. It would be like wearing a floor length black velvet coat on a commuter train. Very beautiful indeed, but in the wrong place, impact is lost.

It may sound expensive, at over £70 a bottle, but it lasts so long that used sparingly and kept correctly, it could last well over a year, especially if you have other fragrances in your scent wardrobe.

It’s darkly glamorous, rich and aromatic, long lasting and mysterious. It’s after-hours seductive. Wear Serge Lutens Chergui to a Jazz Club at 2 in the morning. Wear it on a first date.  But only if you want a second date.

Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass: Still Going Strong After 79 Years


 Named after the Blue Grass of Virginia and created in 1934, Elizabeth Arden’s first fragrance is, in my opinion, rather better than her later, modern offerings. You can keep Sunflowers,  Splendor,  Red Door and Green Tea. I’ll just take the Golden Oldie thanks.

 My grandmother wore Blue Grass and always smelled good. This was her “treat” perfume. I couldn’t resist buying a bottle recently. The formulation has certainly changed some, as I remember Nanna’s bottle smelling more powdery and yet sharper at the same time.

At first spray, this is strongly aldehydic. Aldehydes are chemicals used in soaps and detergents and they are often characterised by a high pitched, soapy scent. First by Van Cleef and Arpels is a textbook example: it has a definite whiff of Palmolive in among the greenery, which is no bad thing at all in my book.

Blue Grass contains a big hit of green Fairy Liquid before retiring into an interesting Lavender, Carnation, and Geranium hybrid. One reviewer said it reminded them of Guerlain Jicky, and that was like a revelation to me. I didn’t get on with Jicky, but I am quite enamoured by Blue Grass. There are definite notes in common: Lavender, Jasmine, Bergamot and Sandalwood to name but a few. However, I find Blue Grass fresher and more vital than Jicky: sharper and more astringent. Blue Grass also has spice, and by that I mean spicy flowers such as Carnation and Geranium, rather than Nutmeg or Cinnamon. In fact, for about five minutes after you spray it, the soapy Carnations throw a loud party, before they calm down and behave themselves.

Ideal for a hot cleavage in stifling weather, this would be great kept in the fridge. To me, this is like a sharp eau de cologne, and being a fan of Hesperides, I’m thrilled to have found this. For a mere £6 from my local Wilkinson, this not only proves that classics can be had for a song, but also proves that you can find an old classic in unlikely places. You might have gone in for some Febreze and a new flask, but you will come out smelling zingy, with a hint of subtle powder.

Some reviewers compare this to the smell of air freshener in a urinal, or liquid soap in public toilets. They’re not wrong, (that’ll be the aldehydes) but to someone who longs for the day a perfume smells like Wright’s Coal Tar Soap, this is right up my street.

Acqua Di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Arancia di Capri: Can I just call you Blu?


When I tried Elizabeth Arden Mediterranean (see yesterday’s review) I was disappointed. What I was actually wishing for was the smell that is Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Arancia di Capri It’s a hell of a mouthful, so I’ll just call it Blu Mediterraneo.

I hadn’t tried this before today, but so disappointed was I with yesterday’s fragrance that I needed an antidote. And I found it. Full of Sicilan Orange, Bergamot and Lemon, this is just my glass of Chianti. Sniffing away happily, I was convinced that this contains Marine Notes, but no, it doesn’t  In fact it made me ask myself why sharp oranges make me think of refreshing sea spray and the bluest of seas under the bluest of cloudless skies. Maybe its the Bergamot or the overall Citrus, but this made me visualise a  balcony overlooking all that blue sea and sky, probably with some sort of Orange Grove nearby.

Interestingly, Fragrantica has Caramel listed a base note. This is a mistake. Not by Fragrantica, but by any perfumer that  feels the need to add a Fudge Shop to a Mediterranean idyll. Luckily, I couldn’t smell that note, or I’d have been very disappointed.

Longevity is a bit on the short side, but when freshly sprayed, this is almost unbeatable as a sea spray/citrussy summer scent, along the lines of Clarins Eau Dynamisante. I am also relieved to report that there are no Aquatic, Melon, Cucumber or Ozonic notes to wrestle with. As much as I love a Marine scent, I have never taken to Aquatics or Oceanics. Yes, I know I am pedantic.

 Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Arancia di Capri comes in several varieties, and is easily available: a quick search found it on both Amazon and eBay. As well as Arancia di Capri, there is Fico di Amalfi, and Mirto di Panarea. I haven’t smelt these, but if you ever come across them, I’d say they were worth a sniff.

It’s not cheap at around £63 for 75ml, but it’s much cheaper than a holiday (am I a bad influence?) and the price could have been a lot worse for such high quality.

Blu Meditteraneo is right up my street, my cup of tea, my glass of Frascati.  Ice cold, of course. Now that I have this on my wrist I am suddenly SO over Winter.

Elizabeth Arden Mediterranean: Oops A Daisy!


Call me superficial but I was drawn to this by the beautiful blue glass and silver lid and tempting advertising campaign. For design and marketing, Elizabeth Arden Mediterranean gets ten out of ten. The image alone makes me imagine freshly sliced oranges, bougainvillea, sunshine and sea spray.

I was therefore hoping for a fragrance that matched those expectations. For example, I love bitter orange  or lemon in a scent and love how a citrus note can cut though the heat on a hot day.  Ô de Lancome  is a perfect example. However, I was very disappointed with Mediterranean and here’s why:

It’s as if they nearly had a fresh, pretty scent for a summer’s day but then added Musk and Peaches. Still feminine but a little on the sweet side, decisions were being made on the final formula when someone split a  cup of Latte over their wrist as they were smelling it. “That’s good, let’s keep that in” they said, and so it was.

What we have now is a musky, peachy, sweet and fluffy perfume with a hint of milky coffee in it. Not at all what I was expecting or hoping for.  Longevity is every poor too. On me it was half an hour. After mingling with the long lasting hoi polloi this week (waving across the room to Coromandel and Cuir Mauresque, see previous reviews)), poor longevity makes me feel cheated, even at this very reasonable price. Look at Body Shop White Musk Oil for instance. It’s currently £11 for 30ml of oil, lasts twelve hours on me and the bottle itself lasts me over six months. Longevity can be had at low prices.

They had the name, they had the packaging, they had the image, but the actual fragrance was lost in a big messy old mess.

Turns out I can forgive Elizabeth Arden though, as they created Blue Grass. Arden is an affordable High Street brand, but I am getting disappointed more frequently by their more modern offerings. This is one of them.  High hopes dashed.  Sorry Meditteranean, I’ll pass.