Category Archives: Floral

Givenchy Dahlia Noir L’Eau: the black dahlia lightens up

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I promised myself I would follow IScent’s philosophy this week and try new perfumes, so I went off to the department stores and scrounged a few samples. The ladies at the Dior and Givenchy counters were particularly helpful, so I’m starting with what I hoped would be the least offensive offering: Givenchy’s summer release, which will doubtless be available at a counter near you.

I have to confess that I have not tried the original Dahlia Noir, but I probably should. It is described on the Givenchy website as a ‘fatal flower’ – a fantasy of the fragrance the scentless dahlia might have. It is a modern woody floral, created by François Demachy, who has also created this new release for the summer season. Demachy has created fragrances for many of the LMVH brands, including Fendi, Acqua di Parma and Dior. LMVH is Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, a massive global group of luxury brands that covers fashion, leather goods, watches, jewellery, wines and spirits as well as perfume and cosmetics. Chaired by Bernard Arnault, this conglomerate controls an enormous swathe of the market – from Marc Jacobs and Givenchy to Bulgari and Benefit – as well as owning Sephora, the perfume and cosmetics retailer.

Givenchy Dahlia Noir L’Eau is described by Givenchy as “a femme fatale veiled in tenderness”, an elegant fresh floral with top notes of citron and neroli, a heart of rose petals and a base of musk and cedar wood. It is indeed a fresh and light floral, with sparkling citrus top notes sprinkled with a suggestion of orange blossom water. It warms to a slightly green but rounded woody heart and a pale musk base that lasts a surprisingly long time. It isn’t too radiant or expansive – you wouldn’t scare the horses or asphyxiate a lift full of people if you were wearing this – but I think it has enough sillage that you would be noticeably scented if you stood next to someone at a bar.

I like it and think it’s good. It’s well considered for the market, age-appropriate and to my great relief it’s not a frootichooli (have you figured out yet that they’re a pet hate of mine?). It also appears to be made with good quality materials – I know little or nothing about the chemicals used in perfumery, but I do know that there are some which I find repellent because of their radiant, patently artificial qualities, and they are often included in ‘watery-style’ fragrances. There aren’t any of those in here, thankfully. I think it says a lot that François Demachy has created the Escale series for Dior, as this reminds me a lot of Escale a Portofino. He obviously has a lot of expertise with kind of scent, because this is exceedingly well-balanced.

Dahlia Noir L’Eau is a perfect flirty summer perfume, actually. Snag a sample now and tuck it away to take on holiday – these tiny spray vials are ideal to drop into that infamous clear plastic ziplock bag.

Balmain Jolie Madame: A Scent for All Seasons

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Jolie Madame by Pierre Balmain was created in 1953 by Germaine Cellier and has an immediate old fashioned glamour. Cellier knew what she was doing. Her other fragrances, Bandit  and Fracas (both for Robert Piguet) are still standing today as revered classics. When you think how many fragrances have been and gone over the years, that’s a pretty big achievement.

The more I have delved into Aldehydes and Woody Chypres on my colourful perfume journey, the more I have appreciated them. Jolie Madame seems to be the very pinnacle of a perfect Woody Chypre, almost prickling and crackling with its rough and beautiful Oakmoss and Galbanum.

I am a huge fan of both Green Notes and Hesperides, and yet I have been venturing a lot into Leather recently (but enough about my marriage *ahem*). To find a fragrance that encapsulates all my favourites in one scent has thrilled me. Firstly, Jolie Madame opens with Green Notes, including the stems and leaves. Petitgrain and Oakmoss, give it a woody, leafy opening. Then the Bergamot makes it presence felt, giving the woodiness some airy freshness at the same time, like a walk in a forest after a downpour. It smells like mossy, wet earth under damp bracken. There is a slight powderiness, in the form of chalk, or maybe it’s the Gardenia making me think of the colour white. This fades into a Green and Smoky Leather finish that lingers, delighting with whiffs of Violet and a whisper of White Musk throughout the day.

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It is perfectly put together and utterly delightful. It’s my one stop shop when I can’t choose between a Green Note scent, a Woody Chypre, a Hesperide or a Leather. Jolie Madame gives me everything I want..

It is the antithesis of modern High Street scents and its price tag is surprisingly reasonable. This may have to be one of my rare full bottles. It’s currently around 30GBP abottle, even less on eBay. It has great lasting power,  and is well worth its reasonable price. On me, this lasts around six or seven hours. I can’t get my nose off my wrist. It’s outrageously good.

If I was forced to narrow my treasured perfume collection into only two bottles, it would be Vol de Nuit and Jolie Madame. That kind of covers all bases for me. A joy!

Yesterday I discovered Balmain. And it was a good, good day.

Vera Wang Lovestruck Floral Rush: Nothing to See Here, Move Along…

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Vera Wang Lovestruck Floral Rush is Vera Wang Lovestruck with the volume turned up and a squoosh more synthetic musk. It doesn’t last very long. I have been using a 1.2 ml sample today and it ran out at lunchtime.

I smelt the original Vera Wang Lovestruck at a beauty counter recently and had almost no reaction to it. The impact was mild. It’s another light floral. There’s lots of them around right now. I went about my business as if nothing had happened. The day I wore Cinnabar and Lanvin Rumeur, to name but two, I couldn’t get my nose from my wrist. When I tried Lovestruck Floral Rush, I guess I was left waiting for it to live up to its name. There’s nothing new here. This is pulp fiction for the modern perfume consumer.

It sounds very glamorous with its top note of Champagne Darling, and it’s Passion Flower and Marigold. The base claims to be Cashmere Woods, Musk and White Amber. However, whilst I did catch some synthetic and rather cheap smelling Musk, I would still describe this as a light  modern floral whose only USP is it’s fabric sprig on the lid.

Vera Wang is globally famous for her exquisite bridal gowns and I can see that this simple and inoffensive  scent (I’m trying not to say bland) would be a good bridal fragrance since it would neither offend or dominate. But sometimes I WANT to offend and dominate, dammit!

Lovestruck Floral Rush– wear and conform. Zzzz.

Givenchy Organza: Falling In Love Again, Never Wanted To…

 

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What am I to do? I can’t help it. The perfume quest bears similarities to life itself. It has chapters and passionate phases which burn bright and fade to ash. It is often littered with disappointments and dashed hopes, but contains bursts of joy and contentment and if you’re very lucky, an occasional thunderbolt of deep love that leads to a lifelong companionship.

Just yesterday, I was struck by a thunderbolt. I fell in love. I didn’t mean to. It wasn’t convenient, and I can assure you with some vehemence, that I sure as hell wasn’t dressed for the occasion.

It happened in Boots the Chemist. I was rain spattered and cold and you really don’t want to know what I was wearing. Let’s just say I was built for comfort and not for speed that day. I sighed as I looked at all the new fruity florals promising the same old same old. Then I saw a familiar bottle that looked like it had come out of retirement. With the strange Greek looking bottle, created in 1992, it wasn’t one I see regularly on the glass tester shelf. I had a vague memory of trying it around the time of it’s launch and thinking well of it, but not pursuing it further. I was younger back then. I’ve changed now.

Fast forward to my local Boots yesterday: I sprayed once and fell in love with it. I sprayed again, on both wrists, and on my coat sleeves as well. It was love all right. I’d been shot with cupid’s arrow.  Givenchy Organza is a perfect balance between White Flowers, namely Peony, Gardenia, and its non identical twin Tuberose, coupled with White Woods, dark Guaic woods, Amber and Nuts. I’ll say it again: “nuts”. This is not too Woodsy, as the Flowers calm it down. It’s not too Flowery as the Woods and Amber spice it up. The Walnut and Nutmeg add an oiliness with a hint of woody bitterness. The bitterness is taken on by the soft Florals, and so it comes full circle…Somehow the perfect balance has been achieved. This adorable and wearable Oriental Floral has had me sniffing my coat sleeve and afraid to wash my arm for two days. (Note- I have washed my arm, you may have no fears on that score. Your blogger is both spotless and fragrant, dear reader).

There are other Oriental Florals, sure, but this one stopped me in my tracks. It’s strong, yet pretty, and has resonance and depth. It’s perfume-y in the way I remember my mother and her friends smelling when I was growing up: exotic and heady. However, it is sweetened up by the flowers, and not merely an Oriental Spice like say, Opium or the wonderful Cinnabar.

I love it so much that my immediate fear is that it may be discontinued and I will need to shoplift great crates of the stuff. (Another Note: I do not advocate crime and speak of shoplifting only to describe an impulse. Other methods of procurement are available). However, this is a healthily non-cheap price: just under £30 for 30ml, and seems to be widely available. At the moment.  My fragrance abandonment issues may come from a total inability to forgive Gucci for discontinuing the unique and beautiful Gucci Envy. A moment of silence please for a lost and perfect jewel. (Well, sometimes it’s on eBay, but even those are dying out).

I have had lots of perfume flings. I’ve bought bottles that I have liked, used, and then parted with on good terms. I have perfumes I am friends with, and will always have in my life, but am not in love with. However, only four times have I ever truly fallen in love and entered into a long term relationship with a fragrance. I’m not a total slut- I know all of their names: Chanel Cristalle, Gucci Envy, Eau de Cartier and now, Givenchy Organza. I need it in my life. I think it’s serious. All I have is my coat sleeve, like half a phone number on the back of a soggy bus ticket.

Organza will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.

Vivienne Westwood Anglomania: Ladylike and Slutty.

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This is an interesting one. Like all my favourite fragrances, this is one of those scents that changes as you wear it, rather than staying static. When I first applied this, I thought little of it, then glibly dismissed it as a smell-a-like of Gres Caberet i.e another Rose Musk. Pretty but nothing to email home about. How wrong I was. Well not totally, as it IS a sort of Rose Musk.

Vivienne Westwood Anglomania has a trick up its perfumed Kimono sleeve. I sprayed some on my skin and some got on my clothes as I did so. As the day wore on, the Musk emerged, as did a hint of pretty and old fashioned flora: Rose and Peony. How very ladylike, I thought to myself. However, as it wore off on my skin and warmed up on my clothes, I realised that this begins to smell intimate and a bit…well…private. This is not in the knicker gusset league of Worth’s Courtesan, it’s more an impression of being too physically close to someone you don’t know very well. There’s a slight bit of discomfort, with a shiver of the forbidden.

The Musk smells like you accidentally stuck your nose in someone’s cleavage and although you feel terribly awkward and British about it, a dark and secret part of you enjoyed it. The Musk suggests closeness to skin, intimacy, as if the wearer is gently breathing down your neck or leaning over you. And this is the secret that Anglomania has up its camisole. It’s pretty and ladylike with a rather rude side, like a piano teacher with no knickers on.

The musk reminds me of Frederic Malle’s Iris Poudre, the closeness of which I find nothing less than claustrophobic. However, Anglomania has a nice aftertaste of incense smoke, like the faint dust left behind by a spent joss stick on a cold windowsill, with a tiny pot of wilting violets next to it.

Many people get Leather notes from this, but I was not one of them. To me, this is a Floral Musk with a hint of Violets and Powder, delicate and intimate, with a dirty wink.

Rather lovely.

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.

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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.

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

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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
Various

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.

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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 youbeauty.com
The Good Old Days- photo from youbeauty.com

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.

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YSL Paris: J’ai Deux Amours…

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 As an escape from heavy woods and intense incense, sometimes I want to take sanctuary in a  simple  pleasant floral. In the same way that wearing something floaty and cool on a hot day offers relief,  sometimes I want the simplicity of a floral like Yves Saint Laurent Paris.

Ignoring the faintly Turkish Delight overtones, to me , Paris has two notes: Violet and Rose. There’s other stuff too, like Soft Musk and a hint of Powder, but it is Violet and Rose, like two fragrant sisters, who sit firmly in the centre of this bouquet of a scent.

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There’s no Fruit. There’s no Vanilla, no foody Praline, no cheap basenotes. I mean, this is Sophia Grojsman here! It’s simply fresh flowers, it’s pleasant to  be around, and it’s light and airy.

Created in 1983, I have distinct memories of the Sixth Form Common Room in school in the late Eighties, and one co student in particular loved to marinate herself in this before 9am.  However, unlike other Eighties heavyweights around at the time (yes I’m old), too much Paris was never as bad as too much Poison or too much Giorgio Beverly Hills *shudder*., which were also popular at the time.

paris springNaturally, Paris the fragrance doesn’t smell like Paris the City. Paris the City actually smells of Body odour, cigarette smoke, wine, asphalt, traffic and wafts of expensive perfume and coffee.  A wonderful smell actually, but it would never sell if you bottled it. Although having said that, I bet someone somewhere would create it and someone somewhere would buy it.  Maybe Library of Fragrance  could make “Dirty City”.  I know they’d do a great job.

Paris the perfume is mainstream, easy to get hold of and frankly, adorable. The price stops it being totally ubiquitous and the fragrance  trends of the last two years have changed, making Paris not so common now, and frankly, a refreshing change.  There are flankers, but this is the original and best.  Don’t makie the mistake of seeking this kind of classic quality among the flankers. (*cough* Mon Paris *cough*)

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Penhaligon’s Love Potion number 9: Loves Me, Loves Me Not.

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This is my first ever Penhaligon’s fragrance and I couldn’t wait to try it. The packaging is outstanding: a pink box on a little stand, a glass bottle inside with a bow around its neck. Ten out of ten for effort Penhaligon’s. They’ve been around since 1870 and both The Queen and The Prince of Wales are patrons, so I expected nothing less than class on that score.  Incidentally, it is said that both Margaret Thatcher and the late Princess Diana wore Penhaligon’s Bluebell. Funny to think two such polar opposites could have something in common.

What comes out of this beautiful bottle of Love Potion Number 9, has me in two minds. Initially it’s a rush of broken ferns: a memory from my childhood where I would pick ferns and break them to sniff the sharp green juice inside.  Maybe that’s why I love Green notes now? Who knows. Actually the top note is listed as Tarragon so maybe that’s what I can smell.  In any case, it’s very Green and very “stems and leaves”, with the Geranium coming through, as promised.

I think it’s the dry down that jars a little.  After a while this seems to “go off” on my skin. It becomes like a flower that’s past its best and turned to dust, with a hint of sweet and dry vanilla over the top.  It’s powdery sweet like Lemon Geranium talc and I don’t think we suit each other.

At least one reviewer on Fragrantica compares it to Dior Dune and I have to say that it certainly rings true.  There is that Grassy Patchouli note as it beds in.  On paper, I should love LP No 9. It has notes I adore: Bergamot, Lemon, and Lavender to name but three of my favourites. However, what I got was Green Ferns, Roses,  Lemon Geraniums and a faint Patchouli base.  Again, I should like that combination. However, I don’t think it’s that LP No 9 is bad, I just think it doesn’t like ME.  I wanted to join the Love Potion Party, but it turned me away at the door.

This is around £80 a bottle so try and get hold of a tester or decant and wear it for a whole day before deciding if you like it enough to invest. It may like you more than it liked me.

 

Celeb Scents 4: Elizabeth Taylor Diamonds and Rubies.

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I always imagined Dame Elizabeth Taylor to smell outrageously glamorous with a hint of booze on her breath. She was always a little de trop. Too many diamonds, too much hair, too much make up, but somehow…somehow she could get away with it because she was Elizabeth Taylor.

Her first fragrance was Passion, launched in 1988, a year after Cher had cornered the then tiny celeb fragrance market with Uninhibited. Celebrity fragrance was fairly new then, but Elizabeth Taylor’s range was created by Elizabeth Arden so it was in good hands. Passion was followed with White Diamonds in 1991, and in 1993 a diffusion line was born: Diamonds and Emeralds, Diamonds and Sapphires and Diamonds and Rubies. Today the range includes Black Pearls, Violet Eyes, Gardenia, Elizabeth Taylor Forever, and several variations on White Diamonds.

This review is for Diamonds and Rubies. Created by famous nose Sophia Grojsman, Diamonds and Rubies is disappointing, yet not surprising. It smells very Eighties, despite being created in the early caring sharing Nineties that was encapsulated fragrance-wise by the advent of Eau D’Issey and Cool Water. Diamonds and Rubies is an old broad on a barstool whilst everyone else sips mineral water and eats salad.

Top notes are listed as being Lily, Red Rose, Lilac, Almond…oh and Peach. Don’t forget the Peach. In fact one spray of this and you will never ever forget the Peach.

The top notes when I sprayed were: synthetic Peach, Talc (Peach Talc of course), Plasticine and Booze: Something like Brandy or Peach Liqueur, at any rate, something sticky and outdated and too sweet.

After half an hour (of wrinkling my nose) I sniffed the drydown. I had more spice this time, in the way that mulled wine is spicy, but still those boozy peaches were sneaking around waiting to drown me when I wasn’t looking.

Not only did I dislike this, but it genuinely baffled me how this dreadful mess could smell good on anyone. It made me think of someone wearing a peach satin peignoir, covered in talc, with matching slippers and a drink problem. It also made me think of the downstairs toilet in a vicarage I once visited.

Cheap can be good or cheap can smell cheap. I’ll leave it to you to guess what category I put this into. Some of the others are much better, I like White Diamonds, but this turkey doesn’t do a Dame justice.

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