Category Archives: High Street perfumes

Estee Lauder Private Collection: The Ultimate Evergreen

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Precious and quite rare…like a gathering of flowers, green leaves and spices from your private greenhouse.

Reader, I think I am in love again. If you could see my dressing table (modest by blogger standards) you would see immediately that greens are my thing. Recently I have tamed my greedy impulse to try on five scents at once and go home muttering that everything smells the same.  These days I’m a one scent woman, at least at the counter (at home I practice perfume promiscuity), and thus I came to really know Estee Lauder Private Collection.

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To say it is Green would be an understatement. Bring it on, I say.

As soon as it goes on, it reminds me of the woody base left when O de Lancome has settled down, yet it effervesces as it lands on your skin.

Lemon and Bergamot keep this brisk, and there is a powdery note that arrives after an hour.  This just makes it more wonderful and establishes its status as a classic.  The end is a green, mossy dream, where the green, citrus notes lighten it up whilst it dries down into its woody patchouli finish, like expensive rough green tweed that you just want to keep forever.

I didn’t get the  promised heliotrope, nor the chrysanthemums (thank goodness- I don’t even like them in real life!), but to me this is a masterpiece for green lovers.  Indeed, Mrs Lauder kept it to herself until 1973, but I am very glad she chose to share it.

Longevity is good on my skin: around eight hours and I could NOT stop sniffing it.  My coat sleeve still bears witness several days later and I won’t be getting it dry cleaned anytime soon.

This has made it onto my Top Five  Wish List, (which is almost impossible to whittle down).  It would suit any season, any occasion, and I want ME to smell like THIS all the time.

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Avon Rare Diamonds: I’ll Let You Into a Secret

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As I have written before, Avon fragrance used to be hit and miss. At one point I stopped ordering fragrance from them after one disappointment too many. Things have picked up however.  I recently ordered Rare Diamonds and I might just have stumbled across an Avon treasure (along with Avon Premiere Luxe, which is also pretty good- see my earlier review).

Rare Diamonds is at the end of a pyramid of “If you like that, you’ll love this”.

If you like Narciso Rodriguez for Her, you’ll like Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely (which I own and rate very highly).  If you like Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely, you will probably like Avon Rare Diamonds. This list is also in order of price.  Narciso Rodriguez is around  50GBP for 50ml. SJP Lovely is  a bargain at under 20GBP for 100ml (try Fragrance Direct) and finally, my bottle of Rare Diamonds set me back 6GBP for 50ml of EDP.

Rare Diamonds opens with strong florals in Gardenia, Jasmine and Plum Blossom, bedding down into a rich Woody Patchouli base, tinged with Amber. Thankfully, the promised Guava was absent (why did they even think it would work here?). Staying power is around four hours, and sillage is about arms length but it dies down into a more subtle pleasant aura after a while.

All in all, for six quid you can’t go wrong. The bottle is pretty too, with a faux Diamond stopper and a round glass base. My beauty bargain of the month!

Stockists:  You can buy Avon Rare Diamonds from your Avon rep or online at AvonShop UK

Body Shop White Musk Smoky Rose: Less Than I Hoped For

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I tried The Body Shop White Musk Smoky Rosetoday on my travels and was so attracted to the idea of the name that I asked the staff to open  a new tester, since the existing one was empty: a sure sign of the interest surrounding it.

When I first sprayed it, and when it was still wet, I could smell nothing at all.  When it dried, I could smell a faint hint of Musk, and , would you believe it? Caramel. If there are Roses I can’t smell them.  If they is a smokiness, it manifests itself as the smokiness you get from burnt sugar, or the bottom of a crème caramel.

Image This is pretty popular and has a good fanbase, but I think that’s because vanilla based gourmands seems to soar in popularity around Wintertime.  I love the idea of Smoky Rose, and I’ve always been a fan of TBS White Musk, so you would think this would be a winner. A smoked rose sounds so delicious in winter, but it wasn’t to be.  Sillage is very faint: close to skin straight away.  Longevity is so far two  hours, but faint.

I would love to get the Tobacco Flower, Roses, Frankincense  and Blackcurrant that I was promised, but for some reason this smells like heavily diluted White Musk with a Caramac bar rubbed over the top.

A great idea, poorly executed. Worth a try though, it might smell different on you. Incidentally, The Body Shop online works out much cheaper than buying instore. Sniff instore, buy online.

Estee Lauder Very Estee: We Could Have Been Great Friends

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Happy Thanksgiving Day to all my valued US readers!  I hope you all find something to be thankful for.  We could all learn a lot from such a day. In your honour, I am reviewing a good old American brand. A stalwart of quality in the perfume world: yes, it’s the fabulous Estee Lauder.

I tried Very Estee  today on my spare arm (I only have two, but I kept one perfume- free for testing). If evolution is anything to go by, mothers would have at least four arms by now, in any case.

My very first impression of Very Estee was that I could smell Violets, then the Green notes.  My heartbeat quickened as I thought “Could this be another Balmain Jolie Madame?  But I was disappointed. Within minutes of spraying, the scent was so close to skin that it was barely there at all.  What I could smell, I liked very much, but if it fades within a minute what use is it?  I would never be so rude as to expect instant sillage to fill a room, but I would at least like to be able to smell it on myself for more than a few minutes.

Now, I love Estee Lauder as a brand: quality and ingredients are never less than excellent, but Very Estee was a disappointment. I read on Fragrantica that the notes contain Lotus Flower, Rose, Jasmine, Pink Pepper and Freesia, bedding down into Cashmere Woods, Cedar, Sandalwood and Musk.  It all sounds lovely, but all I got was Violet Leaf and Green notes, delicate as a dewdrop on the tongue and gone twice as fast.  Shame, since I love both of those notes and would have loved Very Estee to have hung round a bit longer.

This could be good if it had more resonance, or maybe it was just my cold skin swallowing it up.  I will still be a Lauder counter pest though, I just can’t stay away.

Chanel Chance Eau Tendre: A Thousand Ballerinas

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I occasionally stop by the Chanel counter on my wanderings, although it’s usually to sniff Chanel No 19 and top up my Cristalle levels.  I am not enamoured of No 5, and usually ignore the others (I know! Shame on me).  However, I was sent a sample of Chanel Chance Eau Tendre by those nice people at The Fragrance Shop and I have to say that it is prettier than I imagined.

Opening with Grapefruit, Quince and Hyacinth, it’s pure and Spring like, almost ethereal.  The Quince is like the lightest of apple/pear scents, and the hyacinth, although noticeable, is done with a delicate hand without going all Zoflora on me.  Little Wonder when you find that the legendary Jacques Polge is responsible.

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There’s no heavy vanilla or red fruit or spice, or in fact anything heavy enough to pin it down.  It’s like a Will’O the Wisp in its delicacy.  It makes me think of ballerinas in white tulle and pink satin ballet shoes and tinkly melodies and everything that is lovely and nice and pretty and girly.

There are not many perfumes that I would regard as only for men or only for women, but Eau Tendre really does seem to be only for women.  Pale, pretty, dancing women that are elusive like nymphs. It’s so pure that it has a comforting feel to it, like freshly washed crisp cotton sheets, or a soft white blanket.

There is allegedly Amber and Cedar in the base, but all I get is a fluffy sort of Musk, light as clouds. This would be an ideal “first perfume” for a teenager.  It’s not remotely provocative. Longevity is in keeping with its floaty image.  Now you smell it, now you don’t.  Pouf! it’s gone.  Like Tinkerbell in a floaty nightie.

Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche: Still an Icon

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I have very fond memories of YSL Rive Gauche, (named after the arty Left Bank of the Seine) but it has been so embedded in my memory that I find it hard to de construct.  When considering what to write about it, my first instinct was to write “Rive Gauche smells like Rive Gauche”, which of course, would make a short and inadequate review.

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Created the same time as I was (1970) and launched a year later,  Rive Gauche and its iconic tin canister has certainly  played its part in my olfactory memory.  My first memory of it is of my primary school teacher wearing it in 1978.  I didn’t know its name then, but the scent memory stayed with me.

My mother then wore it in the 80s, which is how I learnt its name.  My recent foray was yesterday, when I tried the modern formulation, and unlike many purists, I did not find it lacking.  It was still very recognisable as Rive Gauche and the memories came flooding back, although the opening was a very 70s melange of powder, soap and white noise.

As I said, it’s heard to break this down.  It’s not an Oriental, but it’s sort of Woody.  It’s definitely an Aldehyde and a Floral.  Longevity is remarkable at ten hours..Image

So what’s it like?  It’s very 70s, yet timeless.  The opening reminded me of  Givenchy Ysatis, which isn’t good on me:  it was soap, powder and dust. However, when this small fog cleared, the good old fashioned smell of Rive Gauche was there, just as I remembered it.  It opens with clean smelling aldehydes, with a background of flowers: definitely Jasmine, Iris, and Rose. The flowers are muted though, in a refined sort of way, rather than the modern “in your face” way that can sometimes happen.

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Dare I say it?  The Iris calms everything down and keeps this both smooth and rich.  It wouldn’t be the same without it.  The finish is slightly woody (Oakmoss), but the florals stay true and rich.  It’s so good I may consider getting a bottle.  I rarely smell it on anyone these days, which is a great shame.

So hard to describe, yet I could recognise it in an instant.  Are there any fragrances that you remember form when you were very young?  Do you find them hard to describe or it is just me?

Stockists You can find YSL Rive Gauche in many places. Try Amazon UK or allbeauty.com

Alyssa Ashley Musk: A Pocket Money Perfume

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 Alyssa Ashley Musk  has been around since cavemen, or so it feels.  Cavemen knew a thing or two about the attraction of scent. Musk is so classic it’s almost a cliché, and Alyssa Ashley Musk is no exception.

This is a delightful and rather simple musk.  It’s warm on the skin, and has a clean innocence: there’s nothing dirty or civety to see here; this is no Worth Courtesan (that stuff is filthy!).

I may be trying to compensate for reviewing a £300 bottle of perfume earlier today (Marc Jacobs Ivy £299 a bottle). Maybe that’s why I am singing the praises of this happy drugstore classic that remains eminently affordable and, I am reliably informed, pretty much the same as it ever was. Many a happy hippie smelled of this during the 70s, and I’m all for a bit of nostalgia.

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So what makes this different from other musks?  Well it’s less honeysuckle than Jovan White Musk, which is honey-sweet.  It’s a little similar to The Body Shop White Musk, but smells thinner. It’s not as floral or high pitched as Avon Soft Musk, and it smells a million times better than Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan, which smells of  old roll up cigarettes in a dirty ashtray. (See my review . Phew!).

Alyssa Ashley Musk is currently available for only £8.99 for a 100ml Eau parfumee cologen spray on Allbeauty.com (formerly Cheap Smells, and one of my favourite scent sites). There is always room in my bag for a drugstore classic.

What’s your favourite drugstore classic? Or Cheapie from the Chemist (if you’re in the UK)?

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Nina Ricci: L’Air du Temps

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When I first tried Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps in 1991, I was 21 and thought it an innocuous and pretty light floral.  Revisiting it in 2013, aged 43 (but I look younger, we decided *cough*), I realised that my first impression was way off the mark.  This is a floral with a bit of bite. This one is all about the  warmth. The flowers are just the picture frame.

 L’Air du Temps was created in 1948 and the classic bottle represents the dove of peace: a poignant symbol in post war Europe.  The fragrance itself is a complex mix of light and shadow.  The light comes from Rose, Bergamot and Violet: made airy and floaty with a light hand. The shadow comes from spicy warm Amber, raspy Vetiver, Benzoin and deep, dark Cloves. In other words, just when you think you’ve got it sussed, it changes into something different.

lair du temps adThe balance of the two results in a fragrance of genius.  It is light enough to be as delicate as a cloud, yet the base that remains makes it smoky, warm and rich.  When I tried it yesterday the most prominent note was Amber. It was there from beginning to end.  However, this is no rich Oriental: all warm and cosy.  This is almost a sleight of hand.  All those light, pretty florals promise one thing and then they fade into that classy and gently spiced finish that seems to say “there’s more to me than meets the eye.”

This is a classic scent that everyone should have in their collection.  I understand there have been reformulations across the decades, but I cannot speak for them unless I have smelled them.  It is also interesting, that I can’t for the life of me, name a scent that it resembles. (Fragrantica readers say Prince Matchabelli Wind Song, but I would have to have smelled that in order to agree).

For a flawless classic, this is a great price, starting  at around 15GBP.  I’ve run out again, but will be putting that right very soon.

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Ralph Lauren Big Pony No 4 For Women: Death by Cherrybomb

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On trying Ralph Lauren Big Pony Number 4 For Women, I was shocked to read the blurb. It is apparently intended for a “dynamic woman ready for challenges” and ” it is described with a floral-oriental composition created of wild cherry and violet amber”. I beg to differ.  The total berry overkill makes this a smellalike to Britney Spears Midnight Fantasy: a vanilla/strawberry candy floss concotion.  The only Midnight Fantasy it would create would be for that of a an 8 year old girl longing for a midnight feast having been banned from eating sugar. But I digress.

Ralph Lauren Big Pony Number 4, alleges to be a floral oriental.  Now maybe I’m getting this wrong but this is about as Oriental as fish and chips. On Fragrantica only two notes are listed: Cherry and Amber. The problem is that  the teeth clenchingly sweet Cherries simply dominate and the Amber only has the strength to peep out briefly from under a ten tonne cherry stone. This doesn’t come cheap either, but you can be comforted by the fact that if you know of any fans of Big Pony Number 4, you could easily decant the cheaper Britney Spears Midnight Fantasy into an empty bottle.  Or failing that, cherry syrup. “Dynamic Woman ready for challenges?”  More like a fourteen year old girl having a sleepover and googling Harry Styles on her IPhone.

Sarah Jessica Parker The Lovely Collection:Twilight

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 I am a big fan of Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely. It’s reasonably priced, beautifully packaged and smells like a cross between Lanvin Rumeur by the legendary Francis Kurkdjian, and Narciso Rodriguez For Her. Not bad for less than £20 for 100ml.

 However, her other fragrances are a little hit and miss.  Covet is Chocolate and Lavender (why?), Covet Pure Bloom has a cheap smelling base, and I can’t speak for SJP NYC  or NYC Pure Crush as I haven’t smelled them.

The Lovely Collection contains two very good budget scents: Dawn (violets and Angelica) and Endless (a Floral Musk). However, Twilight is not one of them.

When spraying Twilight, I was Initially pleased to get Amber straight away: A sheer wash of Amber, but Amber nevertheless.  So far so good.  However, within the hour, it had not only gone overboard with the Vanilla but had been positively drowned by it.  It was cheap Vanilla too, and its teeth clenching sweetness reminded me of Kylie Minogue fragrances with their sugary overkill. Oddly enough, Vanilla isn’t even listed as a note, but that’s all I could get from this. I was so excited to see Galbanum as a top note, but nope. Nada. Not a whiff of it.

This was so disappointingly bad that I washed it off before going to bed. Cheap and shrill and overly sweet, it was like a disappointing evening at the end of a great day.

My advice is to capitalise on Lovely’s loveliness, enjoy Dawn and Endless as quality budget buys, and pretty much skip the rest.

SJP Twilight: So much promise but it sadly didn’t deliver.

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