Category Archives: Fragrance

Avon Week: Eternal Magic


Image

This came as a big surprise. I was expecting a light floral, let down by a cheap basenote, as per earlier Avon reviews.  But what do I find but a Dead Ringer for none other than Lancôme Hypnôse?

It’s not just me either, on Fragrantica, no less than 71 other readers have decided its similar too. The notes listed vary quite markedly. Lancôme Hypnôse is listed as having Passionflower, Vanilla and Vetiver, whereas Eternal Magic is listed as having Iris, Tincture of Rose, Vanilla and Woods.

Somewhere in the middle, I would say both have Passionflower, a hint of Wood notes, and Imagedefinite-unmistakable-applied-with-a-trowel, sweet Vanilla. What you are left with is a Floriental Gourmand, a spicy floral with heavy Vanillic basenotes. In fact the first time I ever tried Hypnôse, I was convinced there was a soft little note of Anise in there somewhere.

The beauty of Eternal Magic lies in the fact that it doesn’t smell like an automaton Avon scent. In a blind test, I would never have labelled this one as Avon. It’s warmer, with more resonance and depth to the base. It’s not my cup of tea personally, but it is rather lovely and pleasant, and a refreshing change from other Avon scents.

If you are a fan of Lancôme Hypnôse (£38 per 30ml) but your money tree isn’t blossoming, then this is your lucky day. Eternal Magic is usually around £13 for a 50ml EDT, but in the current Avon brochure it is a mere £8. Avon online is selling it in a gift pack for £9.99 . I consider these prices downright silly and encourage you to take advantage of a quality scent at a bargain price.

The spokesmodel for Eternal Magic is the beautiful Zoe Saldana, and her willowy form features in the ad campaign. Eternal Magic sillage is positively sociable,  and lasting power is around three hours on a good day.

Avon Week: Avon in Bloom by Reese Witherspoon

 Image

Avon has a bad habit of launching a fragrance, ensuring it’s of acceptably good quality (it’s never going to be mind blowing), waiting until everyone loves it, and then discontinuing it, leaving all future profits to eBayers.

Avon in Bloom by Reese Witherspoon  begins as a decent White Floral that starts promisingly with Gardenia, Peaches (thankfully not the whole tree like some I could mention *cough* Liz Taylor Rubies and Diamonds *cough), and Jasmine.

The bottle is a blatant steal from Guerlain’s My Insolence, but that’s no crime. Unoriginal, but not bad. I was amazed to find that no Tuberose notes are listed, but I often find that Tuberose Imageand Gardenia are so often together that sometimes I get them mixed up. In the same way, I often smell Violets alongside Iris, even when they’re not there.

Sadly, the basenotes let this down. It reminded me of so many other Avon perfumes and I think this is a stumbling block for me. It’s as if Avon use the same base ingredients and just add a  few different high notes to differentiate. It’s similar to the same way that Heinz soup, although good, always tastes like Heinz soup, no matter what flavour you’re having.

The basenotes remind me of a perfume I reviewed earlier in my blog, Avon Today. Again, it started off well with Freesia and Tropical notes, and ended up smelling exactly the same as this. It’s a cross between Poundland Vanilla candles and pencil shavings. It’s a disappointment frankly, like a beautiful necklace that all the stones fall out of after twenty minutes of looking lovely.

The bottle is beautiful though, and if I take my glasses off and squint across the room, I can almost dream that’s a great big bottle of My Insolence. If only it was.

I bet Ms Witherspoon doesn’t really wear this…

Avon Perceive Dew: Zing!

 Image

The original Avon Perceive fragrance was created by none other than Christopher Sheldrake, who has created no less than 43 fragrances for Serge Lutens, including the legendary Chergui and my personal favourite, A La Nuit. Serge Lutens fragrances usually retail at around £80 a bottle. Perceive is currently around £11, making it the cheapest Christopher Sheldrake fragrance in the world. Do bear in mind though, that he was not handling the same calibre of ingredients when he parachuted into Avon as he does when he works for Serge.

 Perceive Dew was, after all that build up, NOT created by Christopher Sheldrake. However, it’s still pretty good.

The first time I smelled it, I immediately got Melon, which is a note I detest in fragrances. However, as always I gave it a second chance and a third. On the third go, just as I was about to list it on eBay, I had an About-Turn when I noticed some delicious Lemony Citrus notes that talked me in from the ledge. Suddenly I was interested again.

Top notes are Lemon, Freesia and Melon. If I can studiously ignore the wishy washy fake Melon note and concentrate on the sharp Lemon, then Perceive Dew and I will get along fine. Middle notes are Marine notes, Apricots and Honeysuckle. I definitely got all of those notes, but it wasn’t unpleasant.

From my first dismissive, and even snobby opinion of “another cheap fruity floral, it must be sent to the eBay Dungeon”, I now take a different view. For a start, the Marine notes are refreshing and pleasant, rather than aquatic and ozonic like The Body Shop Oceanus, which I can’t bear. The Honeysuckle and Apricot add a sweetness for sure, but because of the tart and zingy lemon, this doesn’t quite fall into the candy floss toothache variety of popular scents.

I will emphasise that I didn’t like the Melon note in this, and it is clear that the budget was not spent on expensive ingredients. However, as a refreshing spritz on a hot day, this is hard to beat at the price. I bought my EDP for £6.99 from my smiley, lovely Avon lady. It will be amazing kept in the fridge on a summer’s day.

It’s Avon Week!

 Image

Ding Dong! Reasonably priced beauty products, fragrance and miscellany calling!

Yes trusty old Avon is still at it and going strong. The Avon modus operandi is almost Draconian in this Digital Age.  A brochure is brought to your door, a form is filled in by hand with a pen, and given to a representative that comes back two or three weeks later with your goods. When High Streets are falling like dominoes, it’s almost miraculous that the Avon lady still stands, with a smile.

avon retro3

Of course the Digital Age hasn’t completely bypassed our trusty friends at Avon. There’s a website where you can order items and leave reviews, and many people text or email their Avon reps now, although that does not exempt them from the long wait for their goods. In fact the long wait is kind of half the fun. Usually by the time I’ve waited three weeks I’ve completely forgotten what I’ve ordered. It’s like a lovely present chosen by someone who knows your tastes perfectly. Which, in a way, it is.

I’ve mentioned Avon in earlier posts, and I’ve promised you an Avon Week. That week is here, dear readers, and it starts now.

 

Follow

Thierry Mugler Womanity: Run Don’t Walk (to wash it off)

 Image

Thierry Mugler Angel is here to stay. I don’t like the chocolate overdose it leaves on my skin, but many people do and there are too many of them for me to argue with. Alien is wonderfully strange, but manageable in small doses.

And then there is Womanity. This is so vile I was almost gagging at the thought of giving it a second chance for the sake of this review. This is no exaggeration. Womanity is the first perfume that actually makes me physically nauseous.

The concept behind Womanity was indeed unique, but unique doesn’t mean it’s going to work. In 2010, Mugler invited women to contribute to the finished product by writing their views and wishes on the Womanity website. The idea was that womankind itself helped to create Womanity. I can’t decide if this is insulting or not, seeing as the finished product is so very rank (at least to me).

It has not escaped my notice that despite being launched in 2010, Womanity has not hit any of the top ten best seller lists anywhere in the world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since many excellent  perfumes stay small and exclusive, almost deliberately eschewing the limelight. Mugler, however, not so much. He’s a game changer and trailblazer. Exclusive he is not.  But then if you choose to put Caviar in scent, you are either attention seeking or trying to show us new ways in which to perceive fragrance.  The jury’s out.

So what does it smell like? Here’s what it’s supposed to smell like: Fig, Caviar, Fig Tree and Fig Leaf.

Here’s what it actually smells like: very old, crumbly Bakewell Tart that has been in a dusty, airless biscuit tin so long that the butter in the crust has gone rancid and the almonds have gone sickly sweet and rank.  With a hint of fish.

I was lost for words. I was agog with astonishment that this sells to anyone at all. I am  aware that all perfumes smell differently to everyone and no reaction, positive or negative, is bad or wrong, but Oh My Days…this is putrid.

Incidentally, my sample is an authentic Eau de Parfum and was obtained from the great Escentual. It’s not the supplier who is at fault here, it’s the panel that said “Mmm, yes, that’s it, let’s use this one.”

 Womanity was made by Nose Alexis Dadier and the fragrance and flavour company Mane.  Mugler was keen to include a savoury note. I can see how he might think that might work. He has changed the face of the perfume industry before. Angel was, and is, a shameless gourmand that has released thousands of wannabes in her wake.  Alien has a uniquely strange bottle and is loud, shouty Amber and Woods. But Womanity? Old biscuits and a hint of fish.  It’s not often a perfume turns my stomach.

Congratulations, by the way, to Halston Catalyst. You are now the second worst perfume I have ever smelt. Womanity has knocked you off your pedestal.  And had me running to the sink.

Follow

Hermes Hermessences Paprika Brasil: Another Perfect Symphony from Jean Claude Ellena

Image

 At first I read the label on this elegant 5ml sample as “Paprika Basil” and thought, “Do I really want smell like a Chicken Thigh?” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only was it “Paprika Brasil (put your glasses on woman!), but it was made by Jean Claude Ellena, and is up to his usual high standard. He also makes one of my favourite fragrances : the beautiful ever changing First By Van Cleef and Arpels ( see my earlier review).

I would never, ever have considered Paprika as an ingredient in perfume but he makes it work so beautifully that I can’t believe it’s not done more often. There is Iris at first, but a pleasant, sweet variety, rather than the earthy rooty horror that I sometimes encounter. I also thought I could smell Violets, but I am partly mistaken. It’s actually Mignonette:  a “very sweet-smelling and pleasant Mediterranean flower with violet-like and fruity nuances” (Fragrantica)

The Paprika itself does not make itself known immediately, it emerges as a crisp line of spice surrounding the blooming pretty Violet and Iris. Imagine a sparkling clear pool of Violets with a crisp red edging. There are Cloves too, and Green notes and Woods.  When the violets have left only a sweet trail in their mist, I am left with  spiky, peppery scent of beautiful Rosewood.  It’s bold and clever, but the balance is just right, as always with JC.

Luca Turin however, damns it with faint praise in Perfumes The GuideThe pepper-peppers accord works fine, but it does not sustain interest and ends up smelling like the capsicum off note in cheap Graves wine”.

LT gives it two stars.  I’d give it four. But that’s just me.

Gucci Envy: It’s Madness I Tell You

 Image

Gucci Envy is one of the most exquisite perfumes I have ever smelled. I’ve never found anything similar and used to wear it all the time. The thrill of wearing it never wore off.  I used to replace empty bottles as urgently as I would replace groceries.  It was a must have, rather than a luxury.  Then suddenly it was no longer in the shops anymore.

envy adCreated by  Maurice Roucel  in 1997, with a 90s urban edge in mind, Gucci Envy was discontinued in 2007. It’s still available on eBay if you have surplus cash and gold hanging about, but you cannot buy it in the shops anywhere anymore  (EDIT– update it’s on Amazon UK  right now but be quick! )

So what made it so special that it makes me emotional just to smell it now? ( a very kind soul took pity on me and sent me a decant- an enormous thank you to her!). In tests, Gucci Envy was not rubber stamped until its panel of testers rated it  more highly, than Estee Lauder Pleasures .   At the time Pleasures was its main competitor and was very “now” with its typically 90s fresh, airy appeal. Once Envy’s approval rating had beaten Pleasures, it was released upon a grateful public.

gucci_envy_reklama3Opening notes are Lily of the Valley, Green notes, and Hyacinth.  In the middle there is a sort of clean metallic note, almost like a silvery chord gone wrong in the middle. This works very well with the combo of Lily of The Valley and Hyacinth ( and a breeze of Freesia). If it were a colour it would be light green. It was so clean and airy and fresh that it was ideal for daytime, and indeed I wore it to the office every day.

So why was it discontinued? Theories include internal politics. Tom Ford was there when it was created and is not there now. Did he steal the recipe and escape, whilst laughing a villain’s laugh and blipping a security guard on the head? Or maybe another more plausible theory holds water: that of insanity and a disdain for making money.

I’m sticking with theory two. I wrote to the Gucci website with faux bafflement, asking why I couldn’t find Gucci Envy. They replied

 “Please note that Gucci Envy is no longer in production as we always look for new combinations of scents that the market has not explored yet. For this reason we invite you to visit one of our stores to experience the fragrances available and choose the right one”. (sic)

In other words, they cannot make a perfume I definitely love and definitely want to buy because they are too busy making perfume I might love and might want to buy. Does that make sense? No.

Recently I entered the Perfume Shop and asked to try  Gucci Envy Me, hoping against hope there may be some similarities. There weren’t.  Envy Me is pleasant and clean smelling, like a pile of fresh laundry, but Envy it is not. Nor is Gucci Envy Me 2.  In fact why create two flankers when you have stopped making the Real McCoy?

I am not alone. Posters on Basenotes want it, posters on Fragrantica want it, and perfumistas on Mumsnet want it back.   Sales were not dropping off.  It was not going out of fashion.  It was not impossible to make.

So it just leaves me weeping over my precious decant, asking a cold shouldered corporation “WHY? Did someone have a bowl of crazy for breakfast? Don’t you want my money?”

I don’t think they’re listening.

PS If you’re missing it, I have found three scents that will do as a stand in until Gucci sees sense: Isabella Rosselini Manifesto, Jo Loves No 42 The Flower Shop and Issey Miyake A Scent.

Follow

Cacharel Noa: Good Morning Starshine

Image

 Cacharel Noa is a like a caring beatific Guardian, dressed all in white, that nudges you awake on a cool summer morning, as the birds sing, and even offers you a strong coffee.

 Cacharel Noa was created in 1998 by Olivier Cresp. Yes, him. The one who thought Chocolate and Patchouli was a good idea when he made Angel for Thierry Mugler. He must be pretty good at this perfume lark though, because despite my deep loathing of Angel, it has been a bestseller for 22 years. No mean feat in the fickle world of fragrance.

In Noa then, he has made something that I find far more palatable. It has to be said however, that the opening is very reminiscent of Elnett hairspray. I have no objection to this at all since I think Elnett smells wonderful and would happily buy it if they made it into an EDT.

After the Beauty Salon opening number, Noa  becomes an ethereal mixture of  clean baby wet wipes, freshly washed hair, gentle Peony petals, clean skin just after a shower and a big pile of freshly laundered white sheets. And a cup of coffee.

Yes somewhere around the floaty middle notes full of wispy clouds and angels is a dark note of coffee beans. At first this is a little ambiguous. When I first smelled it, it was harsh against its feather pillow backdrop and I mistook it for spice or cumin. However, the coffee blooms and fades rather nicely, preventing Noa from becoming too insipid. It’s a bold choice for sure, but it doesn’t take anything away from its gentleness.

So pretty and inoffensive is Noa that I can well imagine it as a work perfume in any nurturing or calming environment. It is a clean, white scent that I am happy to add to my wardrobe for the days when I don’t want the edgy Orientals, or the prickly Chypres or the heavy Patchoulis (a day like that is rare with me, however).

Often, the Superdrug chain has a sale and recently, all 30ml Cacharels were just £10. That’s LouLou,  AmorAmor,  Noa,  Anais Anais and Eden (aka the strange new girl who eats her own hair and won’t play with the others).  I always find something agreeable in the Cacharel range. It’s affordable quality if you don’t mind smelling like lots of other people, and I don’t! And beautiful LouLou so reminds me of my happy student days…

In true Colombo style, I can’t help saying “just one more thing”…the bottle that Noa comes in is very beautiful, but alarmingly small! It’s not much bigger than a golf ball, but I can assure you that there is indeed 30ml in there, even it did take me a magnifying glass to read the little sticker on the bottom.

Follow

Boucheron Trouble: Uh-Oh!

Image

Am I wearing Boucheron Trouble today? Or has somebody squished a Lemon Meringue Pie in my face and tried to wash it off with Dior Addict?  Trouble was created in 2004 by prolific nose Jacques Cavallier, also guilty of the iconic scent of the 90s L’Eau D’Issey, which turned a corner in the world of fragrance and turned our heads from the loud frenzy of In Your Face 80s scents and introduced a quieter 90s calm. I wouldn’t hesitate to call him a game changer, and he has my enormous respect. (Even though I don’t actually like L’Eau D’Issey on me at all)

Rumour has it Boucheron Trouble is discontinued. Die hard fans needn’t weep, however, since this is so similar to Dior’s Addict that apart from the aforementioned Lemon Meringue Pie,  there is very little difference between the two.  Sadly Dior Addict does not suit me. It smells like someone has licked me and I don’t like that. It’s an Oriental lite with some sort of dried pheromone smell that reminds me of saliva. Fragrantica lists the notes of Trouble as follows: Dyer’s Greenwood, Lemon, Jasmine, Cedar and Amber. Are you thinking the same as me? “What on earth is Dyer’s Greenwood?” I had to look it up. Dyer’s Greenwood is a cool, bracken like scent often used in healing tinctures. Sadly, despite it being a top note, I did not  smell it at all.

The opening notes are instead creamy, milky and lemony, hence the Lemon Meringue scent. Sillage is acceptable: you could wear it to the office. Longevity is not bad: around five hours.

Would I buy this? No. I would not. But I would buy a slice of Lemon Meringue Pie as it has given me a tremendous appetite for it. Sorry Trouble, you’re far too tame. I was hoping for something Wicked. Note: This is actually yesterday’s review but Gremlins in the machine forbade my posting.

Serge Lutens Sarrasins: Jasmine In Her Sunday Best

 Image

I feel almost under qualified to describe this Jasmine, Jasmine, Jasmine Musky floral.  Its dark purple juice immediately conjured up bluebells, my favourite flowers. Curiously, this fragrance has no bluebells. The bluebells may have been a fond olfactory childhood memory triggered by Sarrasins. The first ever perfume I bought myself as  fifteen year old girl in 1985 (I am now 33 *cough*) was a Boots scent called Bluebell. It was a small, angular bottle with a little screw top and was pure Bluebells and Petals. However, having been reminded of it so strongly with Sarrasins, I am wondering now if there was a lot of Jasmine in my jar of Bluebells or if I have been muddling up these smells all this time.

I tried Sarrasins blind, but if you’d told me before trying it that it would be strong Jasmine from the off, lasting a whole day and ending with a smudge of Honey  I would have turned it down. I’m so glad I didn’t.

This is very similar to A La Nuit, which I tried recently in the Poitiers branch of Sephora. I don’t have it to hand, but it gave me a similar “Bluebell/Jasmine” rush and I remember thinking how un-Serge it was, having tried Borneo 1834, Chergui, Louve and Ambre Sultan. I guess there’s a whole side of Serge I don’t know about yet. What an exciting prospect! Like finding out your favourite author also writes spy novels.

So I guess you could say that Sarrasins showed me a Jasmine I can get on board with. There’s none of that downstairs-loo-in-a vicarage vibe that Jasmine often gives me. This is fresh as the flower itself, with maybe a dewdrop on it to add a touch of poetry. Its clean, to the point of being almost metallic (it has a little in common with my much loved and late Gucci Envy), and its staying power is tenacious, bordering on permanent. I can’t shake the idea that there is Hyacinth in there, and I know there is a frisson of spicy Carnation. The drydown goes very slightly White Musk and Honey on me, but the flowers stay put. It’s like being a sent a floral arrangement that just won’t go off and stays fresh for months.

 Sarrasins  is a floral that sticks around, almost unchanging, with a not quite medicinal, not quite Anise undercurrent.

I adore Sarrasins, and it may well nudge Borneo 1834 off the winner pedestal in the “My Favourite Serge Lutens Award” category that takes place on my dressing table when I have a quiet moment.