All posts by iscentyouaday

Serge Lutens Borneo 1834: Heavenly Darkness

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Serge Lutens Borneo 1834  is a dark smoky fragrance  that took me back in time more vividly than any photo. Back in the 80s when I was just a slip of a girl (cough), I used to go to an indoor market in a nearby town and visit a fabulous Indian stall. I’d buy floaty skirts with mirrors and sequins, joss sticks and neat, raw patchouli oil. Spraying Borneo 1834 took me back into that moment where I was younger and had all my dreams before me, thinking I would float through life in my swishy skirts and silver bangles with nary a care. However, the joss sticks and the Patchouli oil cleaned up their act, got an education and drove back into town in a Bentley before I could recognise them in this beautifully crafted perfume.

Borneo 1834 is all about the Patchouli and takes its name from the year when Patchouli first stood up and took a bow as the new stranger in town. Created by the prolific Christopher Sheldrake for Serge Lutens, it smells like it should be dark brown or purple, like a spell. With a note of Camphor and Bonfire smoke, my husband’s first reaction when I squirted him unawares was “ isn’t this that Cowboy one from the other night?” He’s getting good at this.  It does indeed smell similar to Lonestar Memories by Andy Tauer. However, Borneo 1834 is quieter, and has more incense, whereas Lonestar is earthier and bolder.

On first spraying Borneo 1834, there is a blast of bitter dark chocolate and cherries which thankfully goes away, leaving just a faint vapour trail. What’s left is delicious woody Patchouli with a hint of Cardoman and White Flowers. The old Patchouli oil I recall in the 80s was cheap, and harsh, but rich, oily and pungent.  Borneo has taken all the rough edges off it and just left the smooth woodiness, retaining the oily richness. Many liken it to Chanel Les Exclusifs Coromandel. Having smelled both, I can see why: there are definite similarities.

Currently available on Amazon for £81.60 for 50ml, Borneo 1834 is not cheap, but still cheaper than Coromandel, which  is even pricier.

Borneo 1834. I think I love you.

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JustCavalli: Soft florals to die for

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Just Cavalli  one is hot off the press. Created by Nathalie Lorson (Boucheron Jaipur Saphir, Chloe Innocent) and Fabrice Pellegrin (Oriflame Paradise, Swarovski Aura), its refreshing to see a  new scent that isn’t a run of the mill fruity floral.

Top note is definitely the delicate Tiaré flower, with Rosewood in the heart, and, although its not listed, definitely Musk. Its light and feminine, but the Musk gives it a softness and resonance that keeps the flowers going a bit longer. It’s fresh and very slightly powdery, but makes me think of powdery snow rather than talc.

Due to be launched in Feb 2013, I was lucky enough to be given a sample of this in my local Perfume Shop. What sticks in my mind though was the look of surprise when I blagged them for my blog. “I write a perfume blog, and I’d love some samples if you have them,” I said. “Do you?” she asked with so much surprise I felt positively affronted. What’s wrong with being covered in snow, wearing wellies and a Parka and carrying a Bag For Life? Knackered parents can write perfume blogs you know! It was kind of an am dram version of that scene in Pretty Woman. I feel like going back there wearing Chanel Coromandel and saying “You work on Commission right? Big Mistake. HUGE” and wafting back out again.

Anyway, for the shocked looking ladies in my local Perfume Shop- you’re going to sell a lot of this.

 JustCavalli is rather lovely. How nice to find a pleasant floral that hasn’t been doused in fruits and cheap vanilla essence.

PS Not sure about the bottle design. Hmmm.

Hermès Ambre Narguilé: Beguiled by Narguilé

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I love Amber. I’ll even buy cheap Amber scents. I love that slightly gingery incense note it has. Less Chypre than an Oriental, a good Amber can add spice to a Winter scent and warm it up whilst not being overpowering.

The Amber to end all Ambers is Hermès Ambre Narguilé.  Once this was created in 2004 by our old friend Jean-Claude Ellena, I don’t know why other perfume houses didn’t just give up and say “what’s the point? They’ve won”.  However if we are talking fiscally, I’m rather glad other Amber scents are available as the price tag is currently £150 for 100ml. Let me know if you can find it more cheaply.  However, it must be said that scent of this calibre goes a long way and one squirt of Ambre Narguilé lasted around six hours on me, and you don’t need much. In case you are wondering, I borrowed my sample and I am aware of how fortunate I am to have a generous  friend with a perfume collection that makes me want to steal and rob, even though I am a nice girl really.

It’s worth quoting the creator of Ambre Narguilé himself here, from the Hermès website:

Amber, the Western expression of Eastern fragrances, has a warm, enveloping, almost carnal smell. I wanted to imbue this idea of amber with the memory of the East I love where tobacco – blended with the smells of fruit, honey and spices – is smoked in narguilés, or water pipes, and where swirls of smoke diffuse a sweet sense of intoxication. 

Jean-Claude Ellena

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JCE says it better than I can, but here is my personal interpretation: The amount of vanilla used today in just about every scent that has emerged in the last twelve months has almost put me off ever liking it in a fragrance. In addition, I don’t like gourmands, or anything that smells remotely edible on my skin. Famous last words.

 However Ambre Narguilé is like smelling Christmas Cake and Cinnabuns from the next room with a dot of Cognac under each nostril. The vanilla is heady and thick, like liquor, and not cheap and sweet as it so often can be. There is honey in here, but only enough to soften it and not to overpower. It is a dark, raisin like smell that has enough Amber to stop you smelling too cakey.  It’s rich, enveloping, warm, aromatic and wonderful.

It’s not widely available, it’s not cheap, but frankly my dear, I think it’s worth a fight.

Paul Smith Extreme: The Extreme End of Blah

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I’m so glad my bottle of Paul Smith Extreme Woman is only 5ml as I would be bereft to have spent even double figures on this scent. I’ve worn this for a total of three days and I am still non plussed. Its slightly fruity. Its slightly floral. Its slightly liquorice. Its slightly musky. Its slightly citrussy. Its slightly Woody. Its slightly Green.

In other words, its a little bit of every crowd pleaser on the market today all mixed up together in one bottle. Its like a bad fruit punch. Its like adding Lemonade and Ginger Beer and Diet Coke into a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape. All good alone, but terrible together.

Top notes are (according to me) Blackcurrant, Ginger, Bergamot (usually a favourite, but not in this scent), Pepper, Lemon and Vetiver. Oh and Green Tea, which I think always adds a slightly metallic tang to anything its added to. Base notes are a sort of mish mash of everything, with pronounced Ginger and Lemons and Musk and Sandalwood, more Green Tea,  and well….everything else  really.

However, a peculiar thing happened halfway through today. Whilst “accidentally” passing by the Fragrance Testers in Boots *cough*, I sampled Ghost Sweetheart. So utterly vile and dreadful was it, that it made Paul Smith Extreme smell pretty, green and lemony by contrast. So actually, Extreme ain’t so bad when tried alongside something I hated even more.

Unless you have something loathsome that you can wear on your other wrist,  move along, leave this on the shelf and ignore. Its a scent that tried to please all the people all the time and ends up pleasing none. (Well not me anyway!).

Guerlain Jicky: Relationship Status – Its Complicated

jicky label Guerlain Jicky has been around since 1889 (obviously reformulated some along the way), so it deserves our respect in the way that we should always hold the door for an elderly lady who still wears pearls and a brooch.

The first time I tried Jicky I thought it was vile and didn’t understand how it could smell good on anyone (although it smelt lovely on my friend Lisa: kind of spicy and woody).

I tried again. This time, lemons and halitosis. It was not going well.

“But it’s my favourite” said at least two of my friends, whose opinions I respect. I tried a third time, and that was it. After that if I didn’t like it, we were never going to see each other again (that’s Jicky and me, not my dear scented friends).

I tried to get some context. I tried Caron’s Tabac Blond, then Apres L’Ondée , and then Jicky. Ah, now I get it.

jicky ad

I think Jicky needs to be sniffed alongside its contemporaries (or as near as dammit). Modern noses have been trained ( through lack of choice mainly) to smell modern formulations from the 21st century. Since Jicky was created in the 19th century, I felt I should bow to it accordingly. In the same way that a bustle and bonnet looked dignified back then, but would look ridiculous  in today’s High Street,  we need to think outside the Twenty First century mindset. Jicky was not made for modern tastes. Once I got that, and had smelt other older perfumes, I kind of “got” it.

However, I was puzzling my way through the notes and there are a couple that stop it from being on my list of favourites. Firstly, I adore Eau de Cartier with its Bergamot and Lavender, so I thought I would like it in Jicky, but I didn’t  I also love an occasional woody and spicy scent, which Jicky is, but I didn’t.

jicky bottleI am not an expert, merely a consumer with an obsession, so I will try and phrase it in as subjective a way as possible. For me, it should be one or the other. Woody and Spicy OR Lavender and Lemons. Putting them together jars like a beautiful woman with awful hair, or an evening gown with brogues. Great on their own, but together its just not right. In fact, there was kind of a fuzzy harsh note which I couldn’t identify at first until the penny dropped. It was Ginger! Its not listed as a note, although spices are and that’s what it smelled like- the Ground Ginger I have in a jar rather than the fresh, clean smelling ginger you can buy fresh.

So Jicky is better now than I ever thought, but I think its more respect than love. Jicky, you’re great, but what can I say? I don’t think we should see too much of each other.  Its not you, its me.

1-Jicky

Sanctuary Black Iris and Peony: Another Beauty Bargain

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 A cheap and cheerful scent which, judging from its price, looks likely to be  discontinued soon. There was certainly a surplus in my local bargain store, and I am always on the lookout for a frugal fragrance.

I am a firm believer that smelling good needn’t cost the earth (although sometimes its worth it!) and occasionally, through the debris of cheapo scents available today (I am still traumatised by an impulse buy of Charlie Blue *shudder*), there shines a little gem.

Having said that, I’m not sure this is a real diamond, but its certainly respectable enough to introduce to your mother. Whilst the peony is sweet and flowery, the dryness of the Iris kind of sobers it up, so what you get is a floral that’s not too girly to wear to the office, but rather grown up and sensible.

The drydown is sweet and powdery however, with hints of a Coty L’Aimant flanker that I have in my possession called L’Aimant Fleur de Rose. The powdery floral base is similar in both.

I’m not sure I would buy Black Iris and Peony again, but its pleasant and I like it enough not to list it on eBay the same day as I bought it. (Are you listening Charlie Blue? You vile effort, you! Be gone!).  However, for 3.99, I may well let another bottle of Black Iris and Peony land in my basket next time I am buying toothpaste.

Pleasant enough, no harm done and it’s NOT a fruity floral, so hooray for The Sanctuary! Not a bad job. Not a bad job at all.

First by Van Cleef and Arpels: Soapy and Glorious

First by Van Cleef and Arpels was Jean-Claude Ellena’s first fragrance creation, and what a début it was! A classic green aldehyde that, like all good fragrances, changes as you wear it, revealing different layers as your skin warms and cools.

I first tried this in my local House of Fraser, just having  a squirt on my arm in passing. I didn’t like it much, but it had such good reviews, and contained Green notes, (which are my favourite), that I thought I’d give it a second chance.  I’m so glad I did.

I got my hands on a 5ml bottle (from a set bought in Argos would you believe?),  certainly enough to wear generously for two or three days. Its strong stuff and my beautiful little mini bottle didn’t have a spray, so I applied it straight to my skin. What a difference.

Forgive me if I say it reminds me of Palmolive soap, because it does. Then again, many detergents and fabric softeners use aldehydes in similar fashion to many fragrance houses. You may often find that a fragrance reminds you of Dove or Lenor, and neither is any bad thing in my view.

Once First was on, I immediately sensed acetone, like nail polish, just for a second or two (I often find this with older scents but it may just be me), then the aldehyde soared, then the green notes kicked in, then light florals (definitely a whisper of Tuberose and Hyacinth) and then it changes and grows and develops over time. When you’re hot, it smells softer, but when out in the snow, it is sharper and greener, although the aldehyde tones it down into an oakmossy green rather than a fresh green. It’s a scent that kept my interest, and I respected it even more for talking me round after a disastrous First date in House of Fraser (excuse the pun).

 

I was shocked at how reasonably priced it is. I was expecting to pay upwards of sixty quid for a small bottle, but it’s currently less than £30 for 60ml .  I am getting my credit card out as soon as I finish this (I’m serious, I want a big bottle). Naturally, it has been reformulated since 1976, but I like it enough in its present form not to become a vintage purist in this case.

 

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Swarovski Aura: For the Glitterati

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 Many perfumes have origins and a backstory that make the scent more interesting, even legendary. LouLou was inspired by the silent movie star Louise Brooks.  Guerlain Apres L’Ondée was inspired by the smell of a spring garden after a downpour, and Madame Grès created Cabochard after a trip to India where she discovered the beautiful scent of the Water Hyacinth.

 Swarovski Aura was inspired by a sparkly clutch bag.  I could just end my review here as it pretty much says what I think.

However, I’ll drag out this synthetic fruity floral in order to give you the full picture. In a faux alligator skin bottle, Swarovski Aura is a run of the mill fruity floral.  If you are fourteen and your duvet cover has The Wanted on it, you’ll love this. It’s very fruity.  Very floral. And you’ve smelt this a million times before.

Let’s just say, in fifteen years time, this won’t be changing hands on eBay. It will be long gone and not even missed. I hope.

This avalanche of smell-alike fruity floral scents makes me me wonder. Are they popular because people keep buying them? Or are they popular because nothing else is being offered right now? It’s like strapless wedding dresses.  Does everyone wear them because they are popular? Or does everyone wear them because that’s all the shops stock right now? It’s a vicious circle.

Swarovski, stick to the sparkly clutch bags.

Ambre de Cabochard: Low End Low Rent Scent. I love it.

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Ambre de Cabochard divides opinion. Not quite in the way Thierry Mugler’s Angel starts fights and grudge matches, but it has its fans and its critics in equal measure. Before we go any further, I’m nailing my colours to the mast. I love it.

Created in 2006, it has the highly respected Jean-Pierre Bethouart behind it, who has previously worked with Caron, Burberry and Boucheron, to name but a few.  Jean-Claude Delville is co-creator, and he has worked with greats such as Vera Wang, Givenchy, and also created the celebrated Clinique Happy. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez regard it as “thin” and “waxy”, and many reviewers regard it as “cheap smelling” or “synthetic” or “too sweet”. To me, it’s gingery, spicy and grown up. Top notes include Cardoman, Ginger, Cinnamon, Orange, Blueberry and Blackcurrant. Middle notes include Tuberose (which I cannot detect at all), Lily of the Valley (ditto) and Cyclamen (ditto). Base notes are Vanilla, Amber, Patchouli and Musk.

Whilst I can’t detect florals in there, there is a hint of fruit in a Christmassy way, but the strongest notes are Amber, Musk and Patchouli. The Vanilla rounds it off and sweetens it, but not too much, just enough to soften the edges.

I first bought this after a long period of enforced frugality. I had ten quid in my Paypal account and wanted something I hadn’t tried before. I remember when this arrived in the post (I bought it blind, ruthlessly attracted by the price), it was so exciting to get a brand new bottle of perfume, with the cellophane on and, in a nice box. The bottle itself is gorgeous, with a little bow around its neck. I wasn’t disappointed and I’m now on my second bottle. Currently available on Cheap Smells, Amazon and eBay for less than ten pounds, this has become a beauty bargain favourite.

It doesn’t compare to well made niche perfumes such as Ambre Narguile, but it’s damn good for its price tag.

Lonestar Memories: It’s Mighty Manly

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Andy Tauer has a devoted fan base. His L’Air du Desert Marocain is beloved by many, as is his Vetiver Dance, and Orange Star. It’s a small but respected niche perfumery house, with a stable of twenty high quality Artisan Fragrances, and his following is growing.

 Lonestar Memories, created in 2006, is unlike any perfume I have ever smelled (on me, that is, more of which later). With notes of Carrot Seed, Leather, Clary Sage, and Sandalwood, the description on paper does not paint a true picture. What I actually got was Bonfire Smoke, Creosote and Petrol. It’s VERY butch. In fact, it made me think of soft porn:

A trucker breaks down in a desert. It’s sunset. He’s sweating. He takes off his Stetson and wipes the sweat from his brow. A passing truck pulls over. A man gets out. He is wearing a check shirt. Their eyes meet… cue twangy electric guitar music… In my mind, that’s the cinema ad for this stuff.

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 It’s apparently pour la femme as well as pour l’homme, but as always, the rule with perfume is that there are no rules. So I approached my husband. “I just want to try something new, darling,” I said. His eyes lit up. I sprayed him with Lonestar Memories and walked away. He looked crestfallen. I said I’d sniff him up close in the morning.

Waking up the next day, my husband smelled manly and butch as if he had been painting creosote fences then  kicked back around a woodsmoke fire (with his shirt off for preference).  This is the scent that Armistead Maupin’s characters would wear to the Burning Man Festival. Sexy and bohemian, this is a step away from the conventional male scent and all the better for it.

As usual with Tauer scents, longevity is excellent. Two sprays will  last overnight at the very least. This stuff has muscles.

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Stockists

You can buy Lonestar Memories from the Tauer website and from Les Senteurs in the UK and LuckyScent in the USA