Category Archives: Fragrance

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

Avon Today: Ding Dong! Loud Flowers Calling!

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It was an Avon brochure that first got me started on perfume. We are talking the 1970s and 80s i.e my childhood. (I’m not old yet). Today’s Avon is renowned for its high end skin care with the Anew Range, a stable of fragrances spread too thinly, great little jewellery sets, and fabulous lotions and potions. The Avon I remember growing up was Pretty Peach  Perfume, along with little peach shaped soaps, Bubble Bath in those big pink bottles that look like a Michelin Man’s leg, and great, affordable perfumes in novelty bottles that have become collectors’ items on eBay.

Who would have thought that with High Streets becoming ghost towns that filling in an order form and waiting two weeks for a rep to bring it to you, would have survived the Age of the Internet? Yet it has. Avon products have moved with the times. Products are constantly updated, and beauty editors are still praising the goods. Sometimes Avon gets it wrong and discontinues favourite perfumes in haste, only to create more lightweights aimed at the younger market (yes, fruity florals, Blah. Blah,. Blah). So it’s Bye Bye Odyssey and Tasha and Hello! to the dreadful Incandessence and Treselle.

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 Avon has friendly nostalgia to thank for a lot of its continuing custom. Indeed my late grandmother was a fan, (she always called it “The Avon”) and being given her Avon order which arrived a few days after her death, was a poignant moment. I still buy Soft Pink Bubble Bath because she often bought it for me at Christmas and it reminds me of her.

As a teen, I was fanatical about wearing Eau Givrée and Odyssey and still remember an ornamental Giraffe filled with Occur! (the exclamation mark is Avon, not me) My mum liked Louis Féraud, and my sister still likes the classic Soft Musk (which you can still get).

Today:The Perfume

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Recently I managed to bag myself an Avon rep again after a hiatus and I couldn’t wait to try out a fragrance that had won a FiFi award: Avon Today. As usual, I was excited on opening the brand new box and the bottle (very like Gucci Flora bottles), and I even liked the fragrance itself for about ten minutes.

Sadly, I actually dislike it now and will be offloading it soon to make more room in my collection. So what’s it like? Well, I love freesias, and there are freesias popping out everywhere during the drydown. Sadly the first spray is a little Zoflora for my taste, but give it a minute. Coupled with the freesias is another more tropical floral note: Strelitzia. I think this is where it goes wrong. The Strelitzia, added to some Hibiscus and even Cacti, kinds of makes it more fruity and tropical which, in my opinion, jars with the English Country Garden opening. It’s very soapy too, and not in a good way. The base notes are supposed to be Cedar and White Musk. I do get a hint of Musk, a mere whisper, but I don’t think a tropical floral is the right place for Cedar. In fact, when it settles, I don’t like this at all. It’s sharp and high and slightly disinfectant-y. So it’s a no from me. However, don’t take my word for it. Many Avon ladies stocked up when rumours of being discontinued surfaced recently, and I don’t mean for their customers. This stuff has a loyal fanbase.

However, if you want a good Avon perfume that keeps its fragrance steady without going off on a tangent, you can do a lot worse than Avon Little Black Dress. It’s light and pretty and doesn’t have that slightly cheap base note that I find common to a lot of Avon perfumes (like Poundland vanilla candles).

If I was Queen of Avon (how I’d love that job!) I would narrow down the overflowing perfume stable to just a few very well made, affordable scents. They’re spreading themselves too thinly, but when they get something right, they get it very, very right.

In the meantime, I look forward to the next brochure. I will never give up on Avon. It’s part of my history and one of the few old school brands left from my childhood as the High Street dies on its knees.

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Guerlain Mahora- Complex and Beautiful

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Created in 2000 by Jean-Paul Guerlain , Guerlain Mahora is listed as having green notes, of which I am a fan. It has Tuberose, of which I am not a fan. It also contains Jasmine, which smells like a toilet on me.  So on paper, I shouldn’t like this at all.

In real life, I loved it. With an unusual bottle and a name like an African Desert, I was expecting something mysterious and Eastern, maybe another Opium or a Cinnabar, but I was pleasantly surprised by how different this complex Madam of a perfume turned out to be.

First of all, the old familiar Tuberose floated up to my nose. Usually this is a turn off to me, as I find it too rich and cloying, but in Mahora, it’s just right and softens what would have been a plain Oriental into an Oriental softened by flowers, like a muffled drum..

Base notes are Vetiver, Sandalwood and Vanilla, and they all come through strongly in the finish. And may I say it’s a very lasting finish? I sprayed at 8.30am this morning and at 4pm, I was still catching mysterious wafts of Sandalwood and Tuberose.

So what sets this apart from a mainstream Oriental? The quality of ingredients gives it resonance and strength. The addition of carefully chosen (and loud) flowers such as Tuberose and Neroli enhance the woodiness whilst making it softer and creamier. There’s a touch of powder too which stops it being too astringent, as I find some Orientals can be. I like it because it’s soft and feminine and the woodiness doesn’t overpower, yet nor do the flowers. It’s as if the often masculine Vetiver is being calmed down whilst ladylike Tuberose, whispers “Don’t make a scene, Bob”.

Guerlain Mayotte, also by Jean-Paul Guerlain, is said to be the successor to Mahora, and looking at the notes, they seem to be the same, but in a slightly different order. I haven’t smelt Mayotte, so can’t speak for it.

In any case, I’d be happy with a bottle of Mahora. It’s over fifty quid a bottle, but it lasts a very long time.  It could be the scent that converted me to Tuberose.

Gianfranco Ferré Essence D’Eau- Kiss Me, Honey, Honey, Kiss me

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I bought Gianfranco Ferre Essence D’Eau blind for a laughably cheap sum on eBay. It’s a floral, so I thought I’d give it a chance since it was July after all.

On first spray I rather liked it: it was pretty, and full of flowers. After the drydown however, it smelt less appealing. Have you ever had a vase of flowers that have drooped and been just on their way out?  Just before they go sour they go very sweet and honey like. It’s the smell of the inside of the trumpet of a daffodil in early June as they wilt and give way to the bolder summer flowers.

There is a hint of honey too, which may be why so many compare it to Lancôme’s Poême.  In fact, if you are a Poême fan, I would recommend this as a much cheaper alternative.  Even at full price, Essence D’Eau  can currently be bought for less than £15 on Amazon (25ml), compared to Poême, which is currently £41.50 for a 50ml bottle, on the same site.

I find Essence D’Eau too sweet and honey like, although the whiff of parma violets in the base notes is very appealing and adds a shot of playfulness.  This is yellow flowers all the way, and in my view, needs something sharp to cut across the fuzziness.  Smelling this makes me think of a day that’s too hot for comfort, with a lazy droning of nearby bees in an over extravagant flowerbed.

If it was me, I would have changed the name: “Essence of Water” suggests something fresh and green or aquatic. Maybe they should have called this Essence Des Fleurs Jaunes Avec Miel, but I guess it doesn’t flow as well.

C’est la Fête! Christian La Croix: Sweetie, it’s sweet, Sweetie.

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From a bottle that looks like a summer’s day with its blue hues rising to yellow, and in a slightly heart shaped bottle, I was in a good mood even before I opened C’est la Fête by Christian LaCroix.

I often say I can’t bear fruity florals, but I found myself quite liking this passion fruit, blackcurrant, rose, jasmine mash-up of a scent.

The fruit is stronger then the flower here, and the passion fruit comes through immediately. When first applied it’s shower fresh and uplifting and that fruit just bursts through with a very light, almost grapefruit scent (although there is no actual grapefruit note in there).

I think I must have missed the floral accords because within an hour this sweet and fruity cocktail has changed into a completely different perfume.

And that perfume is Rochas Tocade. I haven’t owned Tocade for over fifteen years, but suddenly that soft, sweet vanilla base was right there in front of me again and I could see and smell it as if I was 25 again (don’t do the maths).

Now I’m not sure if this was deliberate: after all, Tocade is highly regarded and has remained popular since its creation in 1994. C’est la Fête was created in 2007, replacing its predecessor, C’est la Vie. It has one flanker, C’est la Fête Patchouli, which I have reviewed elsewhere on this blog. In any case, if you try Tocade on its own one day, then try C’est la Fête on a different day, you’ll see what I mean. They’re both good: Tocade lasts longer, but has less fruit.  I doubt it’s meant to be a dupe, but it’s certainly a compliment to Rochas.

Overall, C’est la Fête? It’s party time! If you want smell like Carmen Miranda’s hat.

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Molinard Habanita: A Timeless Vintage

histoire_2Molinard Habanitaseemed right for today’s icy temperatures and like Edith Piaf, I have no regrets. Having tried several vintage woody chypres lately and not liking what they’ve done to me, I was pleasantly surprised to find a vintage fragrance that I like, admire, and want to add to my scent wardrobe.

Molinard  was founded in 1849, in Grasse, and remains a family business. The company can even count Queen Victoria among its early patrons. Habanita was created in 1921 to complement the growing trend for women to smoke. It was intended to “perfume cigarettes”, but has remained a steady seller ever since, even in the health conscious non-smoking 21st century.

It may be just me, but I find older perfumes have a whiff of nail polish about them when first applied. This is no bad thing, since it brings old fashioned dressing tables to mind, which feels right and proper when trawling through the history of fragrances. Habanita is no exception: it has that distinctive note of face powder and nail polish when it first goes on. However, the drydown happens quickly and after that it just gets better.

I often find chypres too harsh and woody, but Habanita is more of an oriental amber. I love amber, and already have Ambre de Cabochard (derided by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, but loved by me), as well as J del Pozo Ambar.

Like all the best perfumes, Habanita changes as you wear it. It starts powdery, and then warms up into a beautiful, feminine scent that lasts a long time. It’s strong, with heavy sillage, so I would save it for evening rather than the office. As time wore on, I could smell a hint of lemon, even though this is not listed as a note, a hint of lilac, some pale musk, and finally strong leather, through an incense-like amber mist.

Fragranitca lists many fruity notes, such as peach and raspberry, but I didn’t get those at all. In fact, I didn’t get any of the top notes listed as Habanita sank into my skin and seemed to skip top notes and middle notes and go straight to base notes: amber, musk, oakmoss and leather. Fans of  Grès Cabochardwill certainly like this.

Habanita de Molinard is a timeless classic. Try it . It’ll bring out the panther in you.

 

EDIT: looking back at this post over a year after I wrote it, it’s very interesting how my tastes have changed.  I still adore Habanita, but these days, I’d be front of the queue for any vintage-y chypres. My journey has been a strange evolution of preferences. 

4th April 2014

Lancôme La Vie est Belle- La smell est belle as well

31GF44xVAlL._SL500_AA300_I first tried this latest offering from Lancôme as a squirt on my arm as I walked through my local department store. Julia Roberts is the face of the fragrance, and since she doesn’t do this kind of thing very often, I figured it must be a good product.

I’m more of a Green Notes person myself, and I generally dislike anything gourmand i.e foodie, unless it’s food. In other words, keep your vanilla and your tonka bean and your caramel and praline notes in Thorntons. I don’t want them on my dressing table.

Thus were my thoughts as La Vie est Belle dried down on my skin as I left the department store.

However, I think you have to wear a scent exclusively for a day at least before you really know it. I also think you have to not wear anything else that day (clothes being the obvious exception).

I have a 2ml sample of La Vie est Belle and that is just about enough, and no more, to wear it all day, and that is what I have done today.

Top notes are pear and blackcurrant, as listed on Fragrantica, but I got the vanilla and tonka bean immediately. In fact if you look at the Fragrantica page, you will see that actual users of the perfume vote praline and vanilla as the most prominent notes, beating the fruit and flowers into hefty submission.  Perhaps they too were overwhelmed with confectionery smells by the time they reached the double doors of House of Fraser.

Having dismissed it before and worn it all day, I have sort of changed my mind. There are more floral notes than I first realised, and it is really very pretty. I often roll my eyes at fruity floral, but this one ain’t bad.

My complaint is that it is kind of a mix up of everything. It’s fruity, with its pear and blackcurrant, it’s floral with its Iris and Jasmine, and its gourmand with its praline and vanilla. Just to spread it even more thinly among the crowd, its also Patchouli. Fans of Thierry Mugler Angel or Viktor and Rolf Flowerbomb might like it. It’s kind of a crowd pleaser, and it has indeed been well received. However, it made me go crossed eyed trying to categorise it.

It will has its fans, but the combination of patchouli and praline make it too much like Angel for me.  Pretty though.

Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez PERFUMES The A–Z Guide

Luca Turin and Tania SanchezAn excellent Directory of what Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez consider to be the good, the bad and the shocking.  Even if you disagree with them, some of their wit is hilariously acerbic.  The glossaries, indexes and  definitions are an education.  Luca Turin would make a brilliant dinner party guest, not that he needs the help. His wife Tania provides the perfect foil and together, like Hart to Hart, they make a brilliant team.

Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez PERFUMES The A–Z Guide.

L’Eau D’Hiver by Jean Claude Ellena for Frederic Malle- Winter Wonderland

Picture 308 L’Eau D’Hiver was created by the legendary Jean Claude Ellena for Frederic Malle. It’s kind of a response to Après L’Ondée. Imagine Jean-Claude and Guerlain having some kind of sniff off in a dark car park after hours. Who wins? Well, I’d say Jean Claude struts off with the trophy in this battle of the heliotropes, but leaves Guerlain with only a slight graze to its pride.

Luca Turin rates Après L’Ondée as one of the twenty best perfumes ever made. That’s quite a compliment when you think there are over 17,000 perfumes listed on Fragrantica alone, and the site by no means covers every scent ever made. It seems only appropriate to review the two scents consecutively since they are both heavyweight heliotropes, and this ingredient is getting harder to find and use today. Somehow, Jean-Claude Ellena managed it, but then Jean-Claude has clout.

So what’s the verdict on Eau d’Hiver? Well it’s primarily heliotrope, but where it differs from the cold shouldered Après L’Ondée is that JCE added a touch of musk, and am I imagining it? MINT.  It’s an unusual mixture that makes me think of frost and snow and silvery frozen raindrops on a cobweb. The mint keeps it sharp, but the musk softens it at the same time.

It wasn’t love at first sniff though, it was more “Mmm, that’s interesting” followed by  “rather nice, but I wouldn’t buy a large bottle” and after a while, I kind of needed to open a window. It’s like longing for a cosy log fire on an icy day, but then getting too cosy and wanting a blast of fresh air again.

The jury’s out, but it’s much friendlier than Après L’Ondée and her haughty froideur.