Category Archives: Fruity Floral

Genuine oriental perfumes: it’s amazing what you find online

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As a certified oak moss fiend, I was delighted to be told in a Facebook fragrant fiends group about a ‘very mossy’ fragrance called Saat Safa by Al Rehab. I set off to find out more about it and stumbled onto a world of inexpensive and interesting fragrances.

I googled Al Rehab fragrances, found them on Amazon and started checking out their range. This is a well-respected Saudi Arabian perfume company that uses natural essences – bells started ringing for me, as Amouage are the best-known Saudi Arabian perfumers and their fragrances are highly acclaimed and very expensive. So the thing that astonished me when I checked out Al Rehab was the prices. These perfumes mostly come in oil form, in order to be acceptable to observant Muslim customers, and they’re in handy little 6ml roll-ons. Most of them are two quid; that’s three bucks, or 2.3 Euro. We are talking really low prices here for perfume. But is it any good?

Well yes, it is. It’s really nice, actually (apologies Al Rehab for doubting you). I tried three perfume oils today: Classic, Al Sharquiah, and White Full Perfume, all from Al Rehab. These are genuine perfumes from the Orient – the Middle East – as opposed to European imaginings of what Oriental perfumes smell like, and not one is even a tiny bit like Shalimar or Opium. These are smooth, flowery and woody and smell very natural, although they are very linear and change little from opening to base. Speaking of bases, they last reasonably well on the skin – 4 or 5 hours – but at this price you can top up as often as you like.

Classic: this is my favourite of the three. It is relatively light and has a lemony floral opening that becomes a little rosier and sweeter with a gentle woody base that rails off into a pleasant and lasting skin musk. It lasts really well and the deep base reminds me of the musk in Lovely and Narciso Rodriguez ‘for Her’.

Al Sharquiah: more the kind of jammy rose with woody and incense notes that I expect from a middle-eastern-style attar. This is feminine and elegant without being overpowering or ‘shouty’. It’s a rich, slightly ‘cooked’ rose that stays sweet and the classic woody base might well include a little of the kind of frankincense that reminds me of old churches and cold stones.

White Full perfume: oh boy this is JASMINE! Very very jasmine, with perhaps a sprinkle of orange blossom. It’s not indolic, which is nice, but it’s rich rich rich and round and warm and JASMINE. Did I mention the jasmine? In the market in Cairo you can buy necklaces made of hundreds of jasmine blossoms threaded onto a cord. It smells amazing to wear the fresh blooms around your neck with their rich sweet scent wafting up in the evening’s heat as you sit on a terrace. That is the situation to wear this perfume in. On a chilly April day in Wales it doesn’t really work.

So there you have a trio of fragrances for under a tenner, including shipping. These are great fun and very cheerful scents to either throw in your handbag for daily use or for holidays. I think I may well go back and try a few more – Cherry Blossoms, Silver and Dehn Al-Oud all sound intriguing.

An interesting point is that because these fragrances are in oil form they should pass the UK Royal Mail’s new regulations on posting perfume internationally (just don’t do it – don’t even try, it’s too depressing to have a parcel opened and your perfume destroyed). At these prices I’m prepared to give it a try. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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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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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