Category Archives: High Street perfumes

Paco Rabanne Lady Million: All That Glitters

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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.

Dree Hemingway for Paco Rabanne

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 an  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. I’ll pass, but it might smell better on you. Millions of fans can’t be wrong, but I can.

Stockists

You can buy Lady Million from The Fragrance Shop, or Boots to name but two. It’s widely available.

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

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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.

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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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Hello to my USA Readers, This is For You. Obsession by Calvin Klein

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I see from my blog dashboard that I have a lot of readers from the USA, a country that has given me several wonderful holidays (Hello San Jose, Yosemite, Carmel and San Francisco!). In honour of your special day, I thought it only right that I should review an American Classic.

Calvin Klein Obsession came along at a time when heavy, spicy perfumes were few and far between. There was Opium and Youth Dew and Cinnabar and that was about it on the Oriental Spicy front. Obsession was created in 1985, the same year as Dior’s Poison (Loud? Let’s just say it made an Aerosmith Concert sound like birdsong). Obsession had the big, brashness that was so characteristic of 1980s fragrance and fashion, think Alexis Carrington and her shoulder pads slamming open a dramatic set of double doors.  I miss you Joan. *sigh*

With a moody black and white ad campaign that was probably shot on a beach in the Hamptons, the market was ready for Obsession, even if train passengers were not.

Obsession opens with Spices, Amber, Sandalwood, a hint of Bitter Orange that’s pitched just right, and a whole host of other goodies that makes this shout “I’M HERE” as soon as you enter the room. Longevity is very good for a scent that’s High Street, mainstream and pretty inexpensive, and I have a sneaking fondness for it. On me, it unfolds in layers: Spice first, a slight booziness like Christmas,  Oranges, then Musk and Incense. I like it, but I am careful to spray just one squirt (base of throat) and no more, especially if I am going to be around food.  I love both perfume and food, but I do believe that perfume should never drown out the smell of either your meal or anybody else’s.

I had a bottle of Obsession in 1995, and again in 2005, and I don’t recall any differences in the formulation. Purists swear it’s been messed with, but I didn’t find  any  discernible anomalies .

 In a sea of fruits and berries and florals, this makes a welcome change and I wouldn’t object to a little mini revival, albeit sparingly. This has stood the test of the time and still feels current. One squirt usage makes the iconic egg shaped bottle last a very long time, making this a beauty bargain.

Happy Independence Day

LOEWE Quizas Quizas Quizas Pasion: Death By Red Berries

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 I was sent this recently as part of my disappointing Discovery Box from The Fragrance Shop. Once a quarter they send out several samples and vouchers for the princely sum of 5GBP. As I may have mentioned before, I remain unimpressed, but my uncontrollable addiction to perfume samples, good or bad, prevents me from cancelling.

This month’s offering contained Loewe Quizas Quizas Quizas Pasion, and I am reviewing it because two of the samples were for men, I haven’t got my head around Elvis Jesus yet (a  stingy 1ml sample, teeny), Mont Blanc smelled pretty similar to this, and after that I was left with Alien Aqua Chic, which I think the Universe wants me to review at some point since I now have three samples of the stuff.

 Loewe is a well established Spanish House that specialises in high end bags. They have now branched out into an extensive fragrance range, including  2007’s Quizas Quizas Quizas. In 2011 they launched a flanker, called Quizas Quizas Quizas Pasion.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to stop typing the long name and I’d like to call it QQQ Pasion. When I first sprayed it, a gang of overpowering Red Berries appeared from nowhere and whacked me over the head. As I came to, a faint whiff of pencil sharpenings and sickly flowers  poked their head through the Red Berry cloud, and a half acceptable note of Pale Woods made its presence felt, though not as much as I would liked. Then everything went a bit butch for a while, then disappeared in a puff of smoke, like a baddie at a Pantomine.

Yes, it’s a fruity floral, heavy on the red berries, and when I say heavy, I’m talking elephants and boulders. This is nothing new, it’s been done to death. However, there is an almost comical melodrama in the blurb, which was too good not to share:

“An aroma, more intense than the most erotic caresses. An eternal memory, never changing, never ending.”

Ahem. I don’t think so. However, if you are lacking in erotic caresses, do splash out on a  bottle of QQQ Pasion, as it’s apparently better than the aforementioned most erotic caresses.  If not, write to Trading Standards and complain that the smell of QQQ Pasion was NOT in fact more intense than the most erotic caresses and you would like your money back.

I might even do this myself, just for kicks.

Panache : A Welcome Reminder of Perfumed Days Past.

I have an unerring soft spot for 70s perfumes. It was my first ever decade. I was born in 1970, although I only look 27 (*cough*). Women in the 70s and early 80s gave me my blueprint for the future. How they smelled, what they wore, what they did. I looked at them and thought “I too will wear jumpsuits and big sunglasses and smell of that perfume one day, whilst smoking Menthol cigarettes and drinking Babycham”. The scents that I can remember are Avon Sweet Honesty, and Timeless, Tweed by Lentheric, even Tramp by Lentheric (imagine giving that to someone today!) Charlie, Aqua Manda, Coty L’Aimant and of course, Panache.

The Seventies to me is a faded memory of being so short that I lived among a forest of legs, where every street had an Avon Lady, and where my Christmas present every year contained my first ever perfume: Avon’s Pretty Peach.

Having reviewed Elizabeth Arden’s Blue Grass, I thought I’d go back into the past again and review Yardley’s/Taylor of London’s/Lentheric’s Panache (The recipe has changed hands a bit). It used to be made by Lentheric, as did so many of its fellow drugstore classics. I even remember the TV advert where a glamorous woman went to a party and charmed everyone there with her smiley face and nice smell.

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Having bagged my bottle for the princely sum of 5.99GBP for 30ml, I couldn’t wait to try it.  I wasn’t disappointed. This a classic aldehyde right down to the tip of its 70s peeptoe sandals. It’s certainly a relation of Blue Grass: the common notes are Rose, Geranium and Aldehydes. However, it’s not quite as sharp as Blue Grass, with a powderiness that calms it down and makes it more wearable. The base notes come through right from the start: Myrrh, 70s style Sandalwood (in spades), and Oakmoss (or a good impression of it). However, despite the wood and spice in the base, this remains a light daytime scent, with all the flowers popping up to keep it pretty and not too in-your-face as Blue Grass can sometimes be. There’s citrus too: Oranges and Lemons, although I can only smell the Lemon, not the Orange.

The overall impression is a floral day time perfume with a powdery background, bedding down into woody notes with a hint of Palmolive.

Image Longevity is a surprise. For 5.99GBP this lasts around eight hours. It is excellent value for money and I would put it in the same category as Avon’s Timeless as a very cheap and massively underrated beauty.

I would love to see a revival of 70s drugstore classics to wipe out the sea of cheap vanilla and berries that seems to be everywhere.  Whatever you do this week, do it with Panache.

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Lidl X-Bolt for Men: Grab Yours Now Before I Do

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I don’t normally review men’s colognes, since I have enough to get through as it is with my one-a-day reviews (with occasional lapses due to children or migraines or both). However, gender is no bar to me and I often look through my husband’s fragrance collection and rifle what I can.

You may recall that I reviewed Old Spice on Father’s Day and enjoyed its spicy and clean notes, so as you can see, I am more than happy to wear so called Pour Hommes, even though I am  a Femme.

Dropping into my local Lidl two days ago, I couldn’t help but notice that they had their men’s fragrance X-Bolt in stock and at a princely sum of 1.99GBP, reduced from its usual price of 3.99.

Since I have reviewed Lidl’s Suddenly Madame Glamour, and since that review gets more daily hits than any other I have ever written, I thought it only fair to review X-Bolt. Besides which, my Fragrance Shop Discovery Club Box arrived today and I couldn’t muster one iota of enthusiasm for it. (but that’s another story…)

Let’s start with the name. X-Bolt either sounds like XBox and is therefore supposedly named to excite men, or it sounds like something my sons would watch after Ben 10. Either way, the name’s not the best, but I’ve heard worse. The bottle is lovely: simple glass with a faux burnished chrome stopper with the juice being an appealing shade of elderflower wine.

Image X-Bolt is extremely similar to Hugo Boss Bottled. This may or may not be deliberate, I’m saying nothing. The smell goes like this: Apples, Cedar and Bergamot very strongly in the top notes. Middle notes are woodier, but still Apple-y, and the base is very Vetiver, with a bit of sandalwood and  a general whiff of Woods.

Long ago, I would never have considered that anything costing 1.99 would have been any good. However, when you realise that the cost of making many fragrances is a tiny single figure percentage of the overall price, it’s easy to figure out how much goes on branding, marketing, advertising and very often, a celebrity face. In other words, lose the prestige and companies can still afford to produce a half decent fragrance, if of course, you don’t mind that you bought from a notoriously cheap supermarket and threw it in your basket next to kitchen roll and bacon.

 XBolt does have a slightly 80s Sport feel to it, (as does Hugo Boss Bottled), a bit like manly shower gel, but it’s so good for the price that I’m going back for more, and not just for my husband, who smells great in it.

(NB Hugo Boss Bottled is sometimes called Hugo Boss No 6 in the USA)

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Versace Baby Rose Jeans: As Seen On My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

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My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding on the UK’s Channel 4 is compulsive viewing. If you live outside the UK, it’s a reality show following Traveller families as they get married, usually aged 16 and usually in a dress that weighs about three times what they do. They have a unique style all of their own: Over The Top doesn’t begin to cover it. They make Alexis Carrington look unkempt. The dresses often cost tens of thousands of pounds, and  on the episode I saw, the skirt alone contained 500 metres of Imagechiffon. That’s half a kilometre. I’m not sure I can even swim as far as that. With wedding dresses that are too big to get down the aisle, and so painful on the hips they have to strap nappies underneath, you can imagine what my most pressing question was:

What perfume goes with that dress?

So, with the help of my trusty Pause button last week, my question was answered. Versace Baby Rose Jeans was seen on more than one Traveller counterpane. I immediately ordered some samples.

Initially, this is positively chaste in its innocent girlishness. It opens with Violets, Hyacinths, Freesias, Lily of the Valley and Roses. What could be prettier and more innocent? However, the drydown allows the dominant Vanilla to creep in, and that’s where it all goes wrong. The Vanilla cheapens the light-as-air petals and converts what could be a pretty and light floral, into something akin to discount bin babywipes. Cloying, fuzzy and overly sweet, the flowers are wrapped in a big pink Vanilla blankie and made to smell like a 99p shop.

Shame though. The floral notes contain some of my favourites. Take the vanilla out (PLEASE!) and I would consider wearing this.  Sadly, it has been ruined by it. Next time I buy babywipes, I will buy unfragranced, just in case they remind me of Baby Rose Jeans.

NB All photos by Channel 4 the makers of this addictive programme.

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