Category Archives: High Street perfumes

Giorgio Armani Si: The Box Ticker


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Giorgio Armani Si is being heavily publicised right now on a perfume counter near you.  Armani’s 2013 new release was created by the legendary Christine Nagel, who is capable of works of genius (Eau de Cartier for example), and  generic bestsellers (Jimmy Choo Flash).

But does Armani Si live it up to the hype? Can it hold its own against other Oh So Rare new perfume launches? (Did that sound sarcastic? It was meant to).  Do join me, dear reader, on my unremarkable journey into the world of Giorgio Armani Si.

This is what I call a box ticker. It is also remarkably like La Vie est Belle by Lancome.

Endorsement campaign by beautiful but classy actress? Tick.

Simple glass bottle, no gimmicks? Tick.

Smells a bit gourmand with a Vanilla overload? Tick.

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fragrantica.com

Now I hesitate to put the boot in, since Cate Blanchett seems to exude a calming serenity where’re she glides, and it seems almost rude to criticise anything she endorses. However, in the hope that the exquisite and talented Cate never reads this, I feel I have to be honest with you and say this is not great.

The opening of Violet Leaf and Green notes (albeit rather synthetic smelling) could be saved if the Vanilla baseball bat of Doom hadn’t waded in and bludgeoned everything. This could have been a pretty Green and Violet scent, in the same vein as Balmain Ivoire (the new, not the old). But no, the promising opening turns into a gourmand and stays a gourmand all the way through. Sad to report, it’s not even a good gourmand. It’s too sweet. Too synthetic. Even the promised Patchouli was beaten into submission by the villainous Vanilla.

How I long for a new launch to blow me away.  Recommendations welcome.  Giorgio Armani Si? Mais non.

Hermes: Un Jardin En Mediterranee by Jean Claude Ellena.

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 Some fragrance is so good that if you did not know the name of it and  a stranger walked by wearing it, you would follow the stranger home until they surrendered the name of the beautiful aura that surrounds them.

I would follow a stranger home like a stray dog for  Hermes Un Jardin en Mediterranee.  How nice, that just a week after I wrote my Dear John letter to Iris that I should meet and fall in love with Fig within a day. Fickle? Oh yes. Like a widow on the make at a wake.

I love fig. I’ve never tried it before it (I know, shocking), but now I want to try EVERYTHING fig.

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Un Jardin opens with a quick and dirty boozy waft, almost like Rum and Raisin. Then when that burns off, you are left with a citrussy green aroma that is as pretty as the scent of a passion fruit, yet without any sickliness. In fact passion fruit is the nearest thing I could think of to describe fig. The perfumed aroma of a passion fruit, just opened, is a masterpiece of nature.  It is aromatic and natural and well, it smells like perfume. And so it is with fig. Both green and milky at the same time, this reminds me both of fresh dates and clean, leafy notes simultaneously.

This is a grown up’s perfume- I’d be surprised ( and delighted) if I smelled this on anyone under 25. There are similarities between this and Kelly Caleche, also by Jean Claude Ellena, in that there is a green “polished leather” note surrounded by petals that is common to both.

It has curious notes which make a refreshing change from the usual: Pistachio and Oleander, and Red Cedar and Cypress. Yet if I had to describe this without looking at notes, I would have said that this is Kelly Caleche with a punchy, rich middle, like drops of amber that melt on the tongue.

unjardinThis is the kind of fragrant moment that stops me in my tracks. From a casual “can I try this?” to a glazed eye robotic “I Must Buy. I Must Buy”, Un Jardin en Mediterranee had me entranced.  For a perfume blogger, I don’t have many full sized bottles. Only a few have caused me to fall in love quickly and have given me the Must Have feeling: Eau de Cartier, Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely, and Balmain Jolie Madame are good examples. Un Jardin is now another.

Jean Claude Ellena has mixed it seamlessly, with his trademark watercolour style, making the aroma a perfect dream of a light summer fig through smoked glass.

Hermes Un Jardin en Mediterranee  is Sheer Heaven. Nose glued to wrist. I feel sorry for whatever I review next since it will have a lot to live up to.

PS My seven year old son adores this and calls it awesome. He’s got taste, like his mother.

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Estee Lauder Pleasures: Practically Perfect In Every Way

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Estee Lauder Pleasures was launched in 1995 and was a huge hit. After the excesses of the Look At Me 80s, this 90s fragrance was all about everything that was light, airy and pure. You know, like Gwyneth Paltrow.

 Pleasures was everywhere in the 90s including on me: I had a 100ml bottle and a body lotion no less.  It even tempted me away from my steadfast Chanel Cristalle for a  whole summer. There was a new optimism in the 90s. Everything was environmentally sound, and people were hugging trees and taking up Yoga and wearing white floaty shirts. You know, like Gwyneth Paltrow.

So what does it smell like? It smells like a photoshopped meadow on a summer’s day, all delicate blossom and green grass and fluffy clouds. It smells just like its advertising campaign, with original spokesmodel Elizabeth Hurley in the middle, looking ethereal all over billboards and fragrance shop windows.

To me Pleasures smells of Violet and Peony. It’s pretty as a picture. There are no dark or challenging notes, all is light as air. There are Green notes in the opening and  Violet Leaf making its presence felt. Lilac and Lily of The Valley make an appearance, and the basenotes introduce a little White Musk to this delightful bed of flower petals. It is impossibly feminine, almost bridal in its innocence and beauty.

Image I tried Pleasures recently and thought there was a silvery note in it. It’s hard to explain but it was more metallic than I remember, but not to any extreme, more of a tinkly silver wind chime.

Disappointingly, EL has seen the need to produce no less than SIXTEEN Pleasures flankers.  I’ve tried two: Pleasures Bloom and Pleasures Intense. Neither were a success for me.  It was as if someone had bulldozed my pretty meadow. It was as if someone had taken a Jane Austen novel, discovered people liked it and decided to make it into a Musical, a TV series and a range of dolls. Enough already!

 Pleasures is a classic. But leave the flankers well alone. You can have way too much of a good thing.  You know, like Gwyneth Paltrow.

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Karl Lagerfeld Sun Moon Stars: No Wonder KL prefers Apres L’Ondee

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Rumour has it that Karl Lagerfeld wears Guerlain Apres L’Ondee as his preferred scent. I don’t blame him. He must have distanced himself considerably from his earlier efforts, (although KL Original Chloe remains an excellent budget Tuberose for around ten pounds).

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www.fragrantica.com

I remember smelling Sun,Moon, Stars in 1995 when a friend of mine had a bottle, not long after its  launch in 1994. At the time, I wore Chanel Cristalle but also had a bottle of original Monsoon, with its little faux woven  pointed cap. I thought Sun, Moon,Stars and Monsoon smelled vaguely similar and remember finding SMS quite agreeable.

I miss the discontinued Monsoon (current Monsoon/Accesorize scents are not in the same league) and recently bought myself a little of Sun, Moon, Stars, hoping for some 90s magic. I bought it, brought it home, and got that familiar thrill when you first take the cellophane off a fresh bottle (I love that frisson!)

But wait…what fresh hell is this? Shreiky ,loud synthetic pineapple, which never smells good in scent, followed by some sort of metallic mess. I drooped. I was crestfallen. I washed it off.

Original Monsoon (apparently made as Wild Lagoon by Coty) was a wonderful Green Marine perfume with a mossy, Patchouli base. Sun. Moon,Stars seems to have lost a lot in translation  and/or has been reformulated beyond all recognition until they can barely justify using the same name.

Top notes are: Pineapple, Peaches, Bergamot, Freesia, Roses and Waterlily. What you actually get is loud, fake, factory farmed pineapple and some cheap tinned peaches.

Middle notes claim to  include Carnation, Heliotrope, Orris Root, Lily of the Valley and Jasmine. It sounds very promising, not to mention ambitious for its price tag, but in fact I couldn’t pick out anything but the Pineapple and Peaches.

Basenotes claim to be Sandalwood, Amber, Musk, Vanilla and Cedar, but by this time it was  a mushy fake fruit mess with metallic undertones.

It’s bad. It’s really bad. It’s too late for me, but save yourselves! Once again, I found myself logging onto to eBay and offloading it onto some poor sap with no nose. My apologies to the poor sap.

Jimmy Choo Flash: I mean Lady Million, I mean Flash…

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 It’s  a good news day!

Good news if you like Paco Rabanne Lady Million: Here is a perfume almost identical. If they ever discontinue Lady Million, you’ll be quite safe if you stock up on Jimmy Choo Flash.

Good news if you hate Lady Million: I’ve just stopped you wasting your money on this!

Flashevokes the promise, excitement and high octane atmosphere of going out”. In other words, it’s meant for a younger flashier crowd rather than the kind of tiny crowd I hang around in. Clearly aimed at the late teen/twenty something market, this is keeping in step with current modes and with its glittery box, it will do well, no doubt.

However, it is, like Lady Million,  a huge bunch of fake, synthetic white flowers, so synthetic that it borders on sour. Tuberose, Jasmine, Pink Pepper and Strawberry are all listed, but all I get is fake, fake, fake, with a sour, hollow ending.

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photo by www.vogue.it

The biggest shock for me is that the Nose behind this scent is none other than the great Christine Nagel, creator of  one of my favourite ever scents: Eau de Cartier.  Since I love Eau de Cartier so much, I can forgive her anything.  I guess the revered Ms Nagel can certainly turn her hand to  current market demands, but current market demands are not to my taste.

In fact, next on my list of FBs is a bottle of Je Reviens, created in 1932 and still going strong. On matters of fragrance, I was born in the wrong decade.

Paco Rabanne Lady Million: All That Glitters Is Not Gold

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Lady Million by Paco Rabanne established itself in my consciousness on three occasions before I actually tried it.

1. During Richard E Grant’s wonderful TV series on Hotels he was lying on a huge bed interviewing a famous ex groupie. After she had listed her conquests, he said “You smell fabulous, what is it?” Yep. Lady Million

2. Sitting at a  table in a very beautiful pub in Oxford, the next table was full of drunk women (nothing wrong with that, I have been one myself!). One of them was being encouraged to take her purchase out and try it, she did indeed. The familiar gold bottle was taken out of its cellophaned box and sprayed liberally over all and sundry. Yes, it was Lady Million.

3. In Wilkinsons at Christmas, hovering over the perfumes. The Assistant offered me Lady Million ( I ended up buying Blue Grass). Her colleague came up and said “Oh I love that, give me a spray!” and went off to finish her shift.

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photo by waugsberg

So it’s popular all over the world, and has a price tag of around 42GBP  for a 50ml EDT . However, It was a while before I realised what was turning me off. More of which anon.

Thankfully, Lady Million is nothing like her brother, Paco Rabanne 1 Million For Men, which makes me run away, with watering eyes and a rasping chest. 1 Million for Men is vile, loud and abrasive. You can smell it from thirty foot away. Thankfully, I don’t go to nightclubs any more, so I usually escape the toxic cloud.

Lady Million is white flowers, with Lily of The Valley, Gardenia and Neroli out and proud and dominating. Sadly, the white flowers smell horribly synthetic to me, or maybe I have been spoiled by better scents now.

The other sticking point with me is the Honey note. It seems to make the essential freshness of the white flowers sticky and cloying.  There is a place for sweetness in a perfume- Givenchy Amarige is a recent example of how sweet can work without sweeties, but in Lady Million the Honey took away the white, clean notes of the Gardenia and replaced it with something that left the flowers rather droopy and flat. It’s like a sticky stain on perfect white cotton.

It smells much cheaper than it is, and I have smelled cheaper scents that smell better too.  In any case, in not buying a full bottle of this, I am not only saving myself around 42GBP, but also escaping the fact that I will smell like everybody else should I wear it.  I call that a lucky escape.

Synthetic, over sweet, and ubiquitous, I’ll pass.

PS Thank you to The Fragrance Shop for kindly supplying this and other samples.

Escada Especially Escada Delicate Notes: Dare to Breathe

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Created in 2012, this new release from Escada sits as delicately as a fairy’s wing in the palm of a hand. Standing out from the weekly rent a scent releases, this is refreshingly not a vanilla drenched fruity floral, although it is most definitely floral.

Kept light and airy as a feather with delicate notes (see, it lives up to its name!) of Rose, and Grapefruit, this is a scent that is almost translucent in its lightness of touch. Delicate Notes is feminine in the extreme, and I would normally say it wouldn’t work for a man, but I have it on good authority that in hotter climes, Roses work beautifully on male skin.

There are two types of Rose in Escada Especially Escada Delicate Notes, and the notes are used sparingly. It’s definitely the petals of a dew kissed Rose, but there’s no Turkish Delight. If La Fille De Berlin is the dark eyed Evil Twin of Rose Fragrances, then this is the pretty and good sister, who always gets good grades at school.

Delicate Notes escaped my attention several times. I saw it in The Perfume Shop next to several other launches that inevitably came with a beach bag. Turning my snobby nose in the air, I turned and left. However, trying a free sample a week later made me think again. This is quite similar to Gucci Envy Me in that it is a gentle, light floral with a hint of clean laundry. The person who wears this is as fresh as a daisy and has never smoked a cigarette or gone to bed without taking off their make up first.  It’s pure and clean and lovely.

Lasting power isn’t bad at all, at around five hours, and I would seriously consider making this a full bottle purchase. Florals can be hard to get right, but this is light as air, and perfect just as it is.

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Givenchy Amarige: Jasmine via Megaphone

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Twenty years ago, I bought my first bottle of Givenchy Amarige and didn’t bother using it sparingly. Loud, proud, and distinctive, Amarige is instantly recognisable.

It claims that “  It is so opulent and floral that it seems like its composition includes all the beautiful flowers that exist in the world.”

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Launched in 1991 by our old friend Dominique Ropion, I was 21 when I bought my first, second and third bottles. There followed a hiatus in my love affair with Amarige, possibly because I met and fell in love with another fragrance, the quieter, greener Chanel Cristalle, to whom I was faithful for many years.

Recently, on my holiday sojourn (or staycation since I stayed in the UK and holidayed on the coast), I found Amarige in a sale for only 22GBP and Oops I bought it. The memories came rushing back. However, the 21 year old me, is very different to the me of today (although naturally we look the same age *cough*).

And it is.

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With more notes than an opera, Amarige has everything you could imagine:  Neroli, Mimosa, Jasmine, Gardenia, Yellow Flowers, Oranges, Peaches (thankfully light), Roses, Tuberose, Carnation, Woods, Amber, Vanilla, Cedar, Violet…you name it, it’s in there.  In the wrong hands, this could be a generic mess, but Dominique Ropion has fiddled with the dials until everything is just at the right volume. My youthful self  was right on one point, it certainly does smell more expensive than it is. Luca Turin nearly gave it four stars, despite disliking it.  In fact, in Perfumes The Guide he states “ If you are reading this because it is your darling fragrance, please wear it at home exclusively, and tape the windows shut.”

He calls this a “soapy-green tobacco-tuberose”. I really don’t know where to categorize it on my dressing table (my bottles stand in groups).  Despite the valid criticisms of it, I can’t help liking it, and can’t stop sniffing my wrists today as it whooshes me back to the early Nineties.

Divisive ain’t the word. There is an Amarige review on Fragrantica that makes me chuckle every time, It is written by a man whose ex girlfriend practically marinated herself in it to the maximum degree, despite his pleas to stop.  Dear crazykoffee you did give me a laugh as well as giving us all a sobering lesson on how NOT to use perfume! It is a brilliantly expressed review  and is a good balance to my gushing.

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Amarige is a distinct classic, with Tuberose and Jasmine rooted in a deep and redolent base. The Yellow flower notes remind me a little of Chloe Narcisse, a fragrance only suitable for bees.  At the same time it’s playful and sweet, without being candy-sugary. It beds down into a floral woodiness, and lasts for ages, even as an EDT. I can’t help liking it, but I promise never to wear it over breakfast.

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Escada Sexy Grafitti: What You Can’t Fight, Embrace.

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For all my rants and grouchiness about ubiquitous fruity floral fragrances and their alleged popularity that spreads and clings like Japanese Knotweed, I do believe I have stumbled across one that I actually like. I’m afraid to buy it though, in case Escada think I want them to make more fruity florals.  I will stick to using my generous 2ml free sample, which I am currently plastered in. It’s rather lovely.

Now who is the clever Nose who has persuaded me to like a fruity floral scent? None other than our old friend Dominique Ropion. I told you he was versatile. In Escada Sexy Grafitti he has brought us a scent that bursts with Raspberries, Blackcurrant and Lemon in the opening notes. However, if, like me, you are thinking of dessert by now, you can rest assured that M.Ropion has kept it delicate and pretty and fresh, rather than smelling like something bees want to visit. (Are you listening Britney? I haven’t forgiven you for Midnight Fantasy aka Death By Candy Floss).

As the fruit falls away (apart from robust raspberry), the flowers come out to play. Violets are discernible, as is a touch of pretty Peony, and a little Lily of The Valley. In fact, the juxtaposition of all this produces another smell not unlike peppermint.  It’s fresh and playful with a hint of soapiness. Unlike many other fruity floral scents (and there are currently about 50 gazillion) I find this refreshing and light hearted rather than sticky and sickly. It ends with a faint touch of pale Woods and Musk, although the sweet Raspberry never really leaves at all.  I would also like to thank  M.Ropion for leaving out Melon and Peach. Thank Heaven for small mercies.

I have often ranted that there are too many fruity florals on the market, and I stand by that, but maybe in a cacophony of noise, you can sometimes pick out a sonata.

Elizabeth Taylor Diamonds and Emeralds: Almost Nearly Potentially Good

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As you may have realised by now, I am constantly on the trail of a low rent bargain: a high quality gem hiding behind its low price. Sometimes I am lucky, more often than not I am disappointed.  Still, I can always cheer myself up with a squirt of (non cheap) Carillon pour un Ange. It seems to be just what the Doctor ordered of late. It provides great comfort and succour for those moments when you are staring at your new low cost purchase in disillusionment. Again.

ImageSadly, Dame Elizabeth’s glamorous offering, Diamonds and Emeralds is that very purchase. Like a Magpie, I was attracted to the pretty box, the pretty bottle, and the image of Diamonds and Emeralds. Great name, great lady. Fabulous jewellery.

I have previously tried Diamonds and Rubies and found it shockingly bad. It’s in my Perfumed Turkey Hall of Infamy. It’s like being attacked by Peach flavoured Plasticine in a guest toilet that is dressed floor to ceiling in peach lace, right down to the toilet lid and toilet roll holder. It was an assault on my senses and easily one of the worst commercial smells I have ever encountered.

liz emeraldsDiamonds and Emeralds isn’t quite as nasty, and starts off showing a great deal of potential. First off, the Gardenia hits you rather prettily.  As soon as that has registered, rich, creamy tuberose comes out to play.  Just as I was enjoying the tuberose and feeling smug about my low cost purchase, along came a gang of aggressive peaches and sprayed me to death with cheap air freshener. Sadly this synthetic peach note is the longest lasting phase.  If they had just held back on the peaches, this could possibly have been a rather old fashioned, inexpensive tuberose classic  Not in the same category as the Great Fracas of course, but in a sort of “it’ll do”  category. Madonna made a good attempt at affordable tuberose in Truth or Dare, but Diamonds and Emeralds is a fleeting waft of synthetics in comparison.

How very sad, since I badly wanted this 80s Dynasty style diamanté encrusted bottle on my dressing table, but I’m afraid it might scare the good stuff away.

The only pleasure I had from Diamonds and Emeralds was found in looking at the photographs of the real McCoy at the auction of Dame Elizabeth’s jewellery.  How wonderful to look on such a masterpiece.  I guess nothing was ever going to match up to the real thing.

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