Category Archives: modern

Vera Wang Lovestruck Floral Rush: Nothing to See Here, Move Along…

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Vera Wang Lovestruck Floral Rush is Vera Wang Lovestruck with the volume turned up and a squoosh more synthetic musk. It doesn’t last very long. I have been using a 1.2 ml sample today and it ran out at lunchtime.

I smelt the original Vera Wang Lovestruck at a beauty counter recently and had almost no reaction to it. The impact was mild. It’s another light floral. There’s lots of them around right now. I went about my business as if nothing had happened. The day I wore Cinnabar and Lanvin Rumeur, to name but two, I couldn’t get my nose from my wrist. When I tried Lovestruck Floral Rush, I guess I was left waiting for it to live up to its name. There’s nothing new here. This is pulp fiction for the modern perfume consumer.

It sounds very glamorous with its top note of Champagne Darling, and it’s Passion Flower and Marigold. The base claims to be Cashmere Woods, Musk and White Amber. However, whilst I did catch some synthetic and rather cheap smelling Musk, I would still describe this as a light  modern floral whose only USP is it’s fabric sprig on the lid.

Vera Wang is globally famous for her exquisite bridal gowns and I can see that this simple and inoffensive  scent (I’m trying not to say bland) would be a good bridal fragrance since it would neither offend or dominate. But sometimes I WANT to offend and dominate, dammit!

Lovestruck Floral Rush– wear and conform. Zzzz.

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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Body Shop White Musk Oil: The Last Man Standing From the Long Lost Perfume Bar

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Sometimes the ageing classics get overlooked. It dawned on me that there is one perfume that I have been wearing for at least twenty five years and yet I haven’t reviewed it yet.

I first came across Body Shop White Musk at the glorious and much pined for (by me) Perfume Bar that every Body Shop used to have years ago. For those who have youth on their side and cannot remember this wonderful creation, please indulge me as I go down  Memory Lane.

In the 80s and 90s, each Body Shop had a Perfume Bar consisting of large glass jars with narrow necks, and long glass dipping sticks in each one. The jars would be on a circular stand, surrounded by eager customers, sniffing and testing. The happy bodyshop oilcustomer (i.e a younger me) would dip, dab and sniff until finding a scent she or he could not live without. The nice ladies at the counter would then fill a little plastic refillable bottle for you to take home, for a very reasonable price.

For many years I had tiny plastic 15ml and 30ml bottles of such much missed gems as Japanese Musk, Mostly Musk, and White Musk (sensing a theme?). I was not alone.  My mother loved “Annie” and always carried it in her handbag, and “Dewberry” was practically The Smell of the 80s.

Sadly all but a tiny few are discontinued, but if the Body Shop were ever to create this mirage of happiness again, I would be their most loyal customer. How I wish they would bring it back.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rex Features (1350527r) Anita Roddick of the Body Shop Various
 Photo by Rex Features (1350527r)
Anita Roddick of the Body Shop
Various

This review is for White Musk Oil. You will see that it is not for the White Musk EDT, Sheer spray, or for any of its flankers such as Libertine.  I find them all too light and fleeting. White Musk Oil has a particular staying power that I have not encountered with the EDT or flankers, or in fact any of today’s Body Shop fragrances.  A dab of White Musk Oil on the neck, crook of elbow and wrist and you are set up for an entire day.

It’s subtle enough not to offend in a small office, and lasting enough not to have to top up in the day.  One of my favourite things about this oil is that a 30ml bottle lasts me a year.  The Body Shop website often has half price offers on, which can make this even more of a bargain.

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So what of the fragrance itself? Well according to the Body Shop website, this has notes of Lily, Iris, Rose and Vanilla. Personally I get Musk and maybe a very faint background of Lily, but no Rose or Vanilla and no cold hearted Iris.

I am shameless about never having grown out of it. Many people see it as student perfume they have left behind, but I have had more misty eyed compliments about this than about any other perfume I have ever worn.

The Good Old Days- photo from youbeauty.com
The Good Old Days- photo from youbeauty.com

I often forget I’m wearing it and spray another fragrance over the top, but I find this just makes both fragrances smell even better. It’s close to skin: people will get a waft when you hug them or lean over them, but they won’t faint like dominoes when you get in the lift.

You may well find a man sniffing nostalgically to himself and remembering his first girlfriend though.

This is proof, if proof were needed, that you don’t need big bucks to smell good.

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YSL Paris: J’ai Deux Amours…

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 As an escape from heavy woods and intense incense, sometimes I want to take sanctuary in a  simple  pleasant floral. In the same way that wearing something floaty and cool on a hot day offers relief,  sometimes I want the simplicity of a floral like Yves Saint Laurent Paris.

Ignoring the faintly Turkish Delight overtones, to me , Paris has two notes: Violet and Rose. There’s other stuff too, like Soft Musk and a hint of Powder, but it is Violet and Rose, like two fragrant sisters, who sit firmly in the centre of this bouquet of a scent.

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There’s no Fruit. There’s no Vanilla, no foody Praline, no cheap basenotes. I mean, this is Sophia Grojsman here! It’s simply fresh flowers, it’s pleasant to  be around, and it’s light and airy.

Created in 1983, I have distinct memories of the Sixth Form Common Room in school in the late Eighties, and one co student in particular loved to marinate herself in this before 9am.  However, unlike other Eighties heavyweights around at the time (yes I’m old), too much Paris was never as bad as too much Poison or too much Giorgio Beverly Hills *shudder*., which were also popular at the time.

paris springNaturally, Paris the fragrance doesn’t smell like Paris the City. Paris the City actually smells of Body odour, cigarette smoke, wine, asphalt, traffic and wafts of expensive perfume and coffee.  A wonderful smell actually, but it would never sell if you bottled it. Although having said that, I bet someone somewhere would create it and someone somewhere would buy it.  Maybe Library of Fragrance  could make “Dirty City”.  I know they’d do a great job.

Paris the perfume is mainstream, easy to get hold of and frankly, adorable. The price stops it being totally ubiquitous and the fragrance  trends of the last two years have changed, making Paris not so common now, and frankly, a refreshing change.  There are flankers, but this is the original and best.  Don’t makie the mistake of seeking this kind of classic quality among the flankers. (*cough* Mon Paris *cough*)

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Comme Des Garcons Series 3 Incense Avignon: Divine in every sense.

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One of my favourite smells is the inside of an ancient Church or Cathedral. High Anglican Churches or Roman Catholic Churches are best for this as they use thuribles, or incense holders, often swung on a chain during procession. Combine this smell with ancient wood, slightly musty old stone walls, and a sense of humbling awe, and you have Comme Des Garcons Series Three: Incense Avignon. Image The fragrance was named after the commune of Avignon in the South East of France. Once upon a time, this ancient town was the Papal seat during the Catholic Schism  from  1309 until 1377 and today the Papal Palace is still there in the old walled town. The fragrance is from a series of five:

  •  Ouarzazate – Islam
  • Zagorsk – Orthodox Christianity
  • Jaisalmer – Hinduism 
  • Kyoto – Buddhism and Shintoism
  • Avignon-Catholicism

My only very slight misgiving about this outstandingly evocative scent is the question of whether I want my skin to smell like an ancient church? It’s unquestionably beautiful, but it jars very slightly that the smell on my wrist smells of bricks and mortar and ceremony.  But then again, I haven’t been able to get my nose off my wrist since trying it, so I guess we revert to the old perfume rule and that is:  There Are No Rules. This smells so alarmingly like a church that vicars should wear it when playing truant. You will always smell like you’ve just left Mass. And it will always make you feel a little bit guilty without knowing why. Image

Swarovski Aura: For the Young and The Tasteless

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 Many perfumes have origins and a backstory that make the scent more interesting, even legendary. LouLou was inspired by the silent movie star Louise Brooks.  Guerlain Apres L’Ondée was inspired by the smell of a spring garden after a downpour, and Madame Grès created Cabochard after a trip to India where she discovered the beautiful scent of the Water Hyacinth.

 Swarovski Aura was inspired by a sparkly clutch bag.  I could just end my review here as it pretty much says what I think.

However, I’ll drag out this synthetic fruity floral in order to give you the full picture. In a faux alligator skin bottle, Swarovski Aura is a run of the mill fruity floral.  If you are fourteen and your duvet cover has The Wanted on it, you’ll love this. It’s very fruity.  Very floral. And you’ve smelt this a million times before.

Let’s just say, in fifteen years time, this won’t be changing hands on eBay. It will be long gone and not even missed. I hope.

This avalanche of smell-alike fruity floral scents makes me me wonder. Are they popular because people keep buying them? Or are they popular because nothing else is being offered right now? It’s like strapless wedding dresses.  Does everyone wear them because they are popular? Or does everyone wear them because that’s all the shops stock right now? It’s a vicious circle.

Swarovski, stick to the sparkly clutch bags.

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

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.