Category Archives: Floral

Estee Lauder Knowing: A Glorious Chypre Hiding on the High Street

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Many moons ago, when I was at university, a fellow student wore Estee Lauder Knowing.  She was also eighteen like me, and I felt it was wayyy too old for her. My Mum also wore it at the time and she was ancient- forty years old! (Three years younger than I am now).  I remember thinking it was OK for Mum to wear as she was “old” but not for my eighteen year old friend to wear it.

Fast forward 25 years and I am wearing Knowing today.  It’s a whole different story. I have a bit of a thing for greeny  retro chypres and Knowing doesn’t disappoint.  It opens with a full on blast of aldehydes that I initially thought nobody should be subjected to before cocktail hour.  However, after an hour, this becomes a wearable daytime chypre and it’s still there ten hours later.

Knowing makes its presence felt immediately: there is bergamot, aldehydes and green notes in the opening.  However thankfully, I could find none of the melon described (phew!).  It’s the base notes that are a real treat: patchouli, oakmoss and vetiver. In fact, all my favourites are in today, “Hello at the back!”

It’s almost as if Knowing was made with me in mind.  Not only greeny aldehydes, but then oakmoss and  a musty,  woody finish.  I adore it and despite its wide availability, it knocks hundreds of other High Street scents into a cocked hat.

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As for my fellow student back in 1988 (the year of its launch), she was way ahead of her time and really Imageonto something, whilst little old me was still wafting round in either LouLou or  Body Shop White Musk (which I still do sometimes, just for old times sake).

Stockists

Estee Lauder Knowing is widely available on the High Street and online.  Try  allbeauty.com for the best price ( at time of posting).

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Lanvin Rumeur 2 Rose: Wishy Washy Roses On a Wishy Washy Day.

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First of all, I love Lanvin Rumeur. It was made by St Francis of Kurkdjian, or rather re-launched by him after its original creation in 1934.  Rumeur is beautifully retro and feminine (see my earlier review), so you can imagine how my interest was piqued when I saw a 50ml bottle of Lanvin Rumeur 2 Rose on sale for 20GBP today (Superdrug).

Well it’s been fruitied up and flowered about for the younger market and result is disappointing.  It’s not unpleasant, but it would blend in with everything else that is worn today. Sillage is poor and the longevity reminds me of when you use your favourite shower gel.  It smells great in the shower, and possibly for another twenty minutes, but after that?  “There it was, gone!”as we say in Wales.

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Rumeur2Rose has almost nothing to do with the original Rumeur  as far as scent goes.  There are Roses, a bit of Pear and some nameless generic fruity notes, maybe some White Musk for a fleeting second, but that’s about all you get. It lasted nearly an hour on my skin, which would please me were this a cologne, but for an EDT that’s pretty poor.  It smells as if it had been washed off by the rain, which despite severe weather warnings for Wales, it was not.

Save your money and invest in Rumeur instead. It is all Magnolia, Patchouli and Woody florals. Divine.  Rumeur2Rose? Walk on by my friend.

Jean Desprez: Bal a Versailles: The Smell of Scandal

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 My dear chum Lisa Wordbird dropped round to IScent HQ yesterday with samples that made my eyes pop out.  As you know, it’s my blog-aversary in two days and what better way to round off the year than with this notorious and coveted legend?

Bal a Versailles is talked about in the way scandalous scarlet women are discussed.  Part of you is outraged whilst another secretly wishes that you looked that good in fishnets before noon.

Burlesque Artiste Pretty S'Vere courtesy of World of Oddy photography
Burlesque Artiste Pretty S’Vere courtesy of World of Oddy photography

 Bal a Versailles is too much of everything all at once, but somehow it really works. The opening is so brash and bright it borders on the medicinal for a few moments, before plunging like a slutty neckline into spice, resin, balsam and all things nice.

The notes are too numerous to list here, but here are the highlights: Leather, Amber, Benzoin, Vetiver and Balsam. The flowers are present and correct but they get a bit lost in the smokiness of the background, like Can Can dancers in a Cigar room: Jasmine, Roses, Violet Leaf, Lilac.

The whole cacophony results in a smoky, slightly metallic, spicy, leathery, woody fug, which to my mind has a lot in common with Caron Tabac Blond (see my earlier review on this blog).

I do have to marvel at the fact that I found no civet or animalic notes here, when so many Fragrantica users rate it as one of the most prominent notes.  This is unusual for me, as I found animalic notes in Worth Courtesan and Ivoire de Balmain (original, not the recent one) both of which you can find on my blog. In fact, the animal notes were so strong in both that they bordered on the smell of poor hygiene, yet Bal a Versailles?  Not a whisper of it.

That doesn’t stop it being what Lisa called “Definite Date Night” perfume. And by Date Night, we are not talking about a night at the cinema, but the kind that makes you sneak home the next day with your shoes in your hand.

Guerlain Chamade: When Retro Glamour Is Required

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Guerlain Chamade is like a trip back into the early seventies.  I don’t mean the flares and the joss sticks but a time when ladies wore suits and court shoes just to go to town. Created in 1969, this green spiky aldehyde is a beautiful tribute to all that is ladylike and harks back to a time when everyone said “Good Morning” and “How do you do?”

Opening with the green and musky notes of the dominant Galbanum, as if to say “Don’t mess with me”, it then beds down and shows its feminine side with Lilac and Hyacinth showing a flash of finely turned ankle.

The aldehydes provide a clean, soapy background against which the prickly notes of Vetiver, Balsam and medicinal Benzoin shine through boldly as the longlasting basenotes make their presence felt.

Chamade was named after the drumbeat of retreat during Napoleonic times and is meant to represent the beating of a heart in love.  Even the bottle looks like a teardrop.  It is out of step with today’s brash modernity, but this to me, is all the more reason to wear it. I feel sure that the existence of Chamade went on to influence many 70s drugstore classics: all those greeny, raspy chypres that smell so classic now but were everywhere way back when.

It’s a grown up perfume that I would love to smell on more people today.  It reminds me of an elegant women with a green, tweed suit, a brooch, and a smart leather handbag, off to town to run errands on a pleasant day when the sun didn’t go down without asking permission first.

Stockists

You can buy Chamade from Amazon UK, although the EDP is harder to find than the EDT.

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Avon Little Red Dress: This Is A Dress I Would Wear

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 As much as I witter on about fruity florals being every bleedin’ where, in Avon Little Red Dress, I have found one I rather like, almost to my surprise.

 Opening with Plum, Raspberries and Citrus Fruits, it beds down into Rose and Jasmine and is really a very pretty and playful daytime scent.  For some reason I find it a happy feel good fragrance , and for some reason I really like it, despite going against the grain of my usual mutterings and about fruit’n’flower all-in-ones.

This is from an Avon series that includes Little Black Dress, Little Red Dress and Little Gold Dress. I haven’t tried Little Gold Dress, so I cannot vouch for it.  Little Black Dress used to be an Avon favourite but the basenote went a bit bland and waxy on my skin.  However, I tried it again recently and it was pleasant again, so maybe they’ve had an update.

All in all, Little Red Dress is good value at around £8 a bottler with a range of accessories such as body cream, talc, and a purse spray. Longevity is not bad at around four hours, and if you carry the purse spray then a lunch time top up should last you the rest of the day.

Elie Saab Le Parfum Eau de Toilette

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 On Friday I went out with my dear school friend Jo.  I was in her slipstream most of the evening (everyone was taller than me that night) and she smelled incredible.  Naturally I asked her what it was and had a try.

Elie Saab is a brilliant perfume that really stands out from the crowd.  Whereas many High Street perfume counters these days are guilty of selling the same stuff in different bottles, with Elie Saab, you would be stepping out of the line and banging your own drum. And you would smell amazing.

It came as no surprise to me at all that this was created by the legendary Francis Kurkdjian who has made several superb fragrances that I love.  Indeed, Elie Saab does smell like a cousin of LANVIN Rumeur, with that hint of retro acetone/nail polish and glamour to it. It always makes me think of the inside of an elegant lady’s handbag in the 1950s.

 Elie Saab opens with Orange Blossom, but what I could really smell was the Gardenia, one of my favourite floral scents.  This is no simple floral however, and with Mr Kurkdjian in the driving seat, it will never be as simple as that.   The Vetiver melds into the Gardenia, taking it from innocence to seduction in one smooth move. The long lasting ending is both tart and woody. I didn’t smell any of the Honey that was promised, which is fine by me.  This was a wonderful scent to smell among the melange of same old same old, and it lasted all night long.

Unlike me.

Gucci Guilty: J’accuse!

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I am still in a sulk with Gucci.  They discontinued Gucci Envy, for no good reason, and despite much clamouring from devoted fans, there do not seem to be any moves to bring it back. Our money is ready to leave our banks accounts in return for a bottle of Envy, but Gucci has taken its football away and gone home.

In the meantime, they bring out Gucci Guilty and expect us Envy fans to like that instead.

Gucci Guilty costs around 40GBP for 30ml of EDT.  It’s the EDT that I am sampling today.  I have given it two chances.  The first time, I didn’t like it and found it generic and uninspiring.  The second time, well, I tried it again and what do you know?  I found it even more generic and uninspiring.

It opens with Lilac, which normally would be a good thing if it weren’t so synthetic.  What follows is a kind of vanilla/white flower effect made with unapologetically cheap smelling ingredients.  It beds down into fake flowers and Peaches. There is a hint of light Patchouli and Amber in the base, but it’s not very nice, what with all the Peaches, Oranges and Pink Pepper going on.

It reminded me of Paco Rabanne Lady Million, and Jimmy Choo Flash, and Armani Si, as well as a whole bunch of generic Avon perfumes.

There is nothing remotely original or exciting about this and I honestly can’t think of anything good to say about it.  All I want to say is this:  bring back Gucci Envy!

PS I do quite like one of the Gucci Floras but I can’t remember which one.

Narciso Rodriguez For Her EDT: About Turn

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 I have often sung the praises of Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely: it is affordable, beautifully packaged and smells wonderful.  However, having finally met Narciso Rodriguez For Her, I feel my credit ought to have gone elsewhere.  They are so alike it is easy to mix them up when tested blind.  I could not tell them apart.

Whilst I still love Lovely, and will always have a bottle of it on my dressing table, it was launched in 2005, whilst NR for Her was launched the year before in 2004.  The similarity could be either coincidence, or homage. I refuse to think of it as olfactory plagiarism as I am so fond of Lovely and its Diffusion Line.

However, a great deal of credit must go to the Narciso Rodriguez Dream Team Christine Nagel and Francis Kurkdjian, both legends in their own right.  Interestingly, I always thought SJP Lovely was also similar to Lanvin Rumeur, which was created by, yes Francis Kurkdjian. And so the happy circle goes on.

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The similarities can be found in the fact that both perfumes start as a  rich floral that becomes Patchouli like and Woody almost as soon as the floral notes have registered.  Rather than being woody in a masculine sense, the prickly Patchouli and the clean florals produce an agreeable vintage note of nail polish, at least to me.  They both remind me of a 1950s dressing table with a layer of fine face powder and open bottles of nail colour and  several glass cut perfume bottles.  Both are impossibly feminine and elegant and I love them.

I am describing them together in one breath because try as I might, I cannot tell them apart. The notes listed for both are very different.  NR For Her purports to contain Bergamot, Neroli and no Patchouli at all.  Lovely is supposed to contain Lavender, Martini and Salt, yet both end results are the same.

The similarities are not necessarily a criticism.  As a diversion from the heaving mass of fruity florals and cheap candy floss patchoulis that the Noughties have drowned us in, these quality scents are worth their weight in gold.

I would go as far as to say that NR For Her was a game changer which spawned SJP Lovely, Estee Lauder Modern Muse, and even Avon bargain scent Rare Diamonds as mentioned earlier in my blog..

We needed NR For Her, and it came.