Category Archives: modern

Guerlain La Petite Robe Noir Couture EDP by Thierry Wasser

lapetite

 If Guerlain Chamade is cool irony, then La Petite Robe Noire Couture is slapstick.

I guess I just can’t get on board with the fact that this is a Guerlain.  With over a hundred years of heritage scent and of being the last word in Classics, it just surprises me that there are suddenly raspberries everywhere on the sober polished glass of the Guerlain counter.

La Petite Robe Noire Couture is a close relative of La Petitie Robe Noire EDT, though not so much the EDP which smells like vinyl on me.  I have reviewed both elsewhere on my blog- just use the search box.  My site hates it when I link to myself- it rejects  narcissism.

photo by wiki
photo by wiki

Hmm. Where do I start?  I shall start with the startling Raspberries, which I mistook for Cherries at first. I know there is a current thirst for all things sweet and berry like but I never thought Guerlain would be either affected or infected by the curse.  The opening is like a less good version of Dior’s Hypnotic Poison.  There are almonds somewhere, although not listed in the notes, and also there is jam. I am alarmed.

Breathe easy friends; it was just a loud opening number by a drunk.  The second and third acts are a little more respectable. The Rose seems to race the Raspberries to the finish, but comes second: the dratted Raspberry won’t quit.  However, luckily, the Patchouli, Vetiver and alleged Oakmoss calm everything down and make this rather pleasant. I say alleged, because it’s as if this scent was shown a picture of some Oakmoss and told to guess the rest.  It’s not there, but maybe it is. Nope, it’s gone.

In a nutshell, this is a raspberry version of La Petite Robe Noire EDT. It’s pleasant and if you bought me a bottle I would probably use it without putting it straight onto eBay. If that sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, then it’s because I am.

41sS2A-1meL._SY450_ If I had a Guerlain gift voucher, I can comfortably think of seven Guerlains that I would buy before I considered this.  It’s almost impossible to believe that this is from the same house as Vol de Nuit and Chamade. I can’t really blame Guerlain for meeting the desires of modern consumers, and in meeting that requirement, they have done it well, especially in the expensive smelling base notes. It’s just that when I reach for Guerlain I want aged classics, dry as dust and rich as Croesus. I realise the market has different tastes these days, but sometimes, when it comes to scent, I want to be a stick in the mud.  Incidentally, if you like this, try Miss Dior Cherie. It’s not a million miles away.

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Cath Collins: Flowers of The Orient

 lily fandango

You may recall my earlier review of Cath Collins Lily Fandango.  She is a an Indie perfumer with a small range of fragrances concentrating on quality rather than quantity.  All made in England and inspired by the garden, this is a range I recommend for those who like Jo Malone and Jo Loves.

Flowers of the Orient really reminds me of a more famous fragrance and for the life of me I can’t put my finger on it.  Suffice to say, if this were sold in High Street outlets it would fly off the shelves.

cathcollinsThis is a warm floral Oriental that opens boldly with a hint of citrus: at a guess I would say Bergamot. The middle notes pick all the prettiest flowers, rather than the heavy hitters such as Tuberose or Gardenia.  In the middle there is Freesia, Peony and Rose. The flowers are kept on the fruity spectrum with the aid of a little Pink Pepper, without quite going down the well trodden fruity floral track. The base notes are Amber, Vetiver and Patchouli and it’s their influence that stops this from being too light a floral.

Maybe it’s Loewe Aura  that this reminds me of, or maybe even a less synthetic, less sweet version of Armani Si. That dash of Vanilla is widespread today, but Cath Collins holds back and uses it with a light hand, so it doesn’t go all Vanilla cupcake on us.

Peony-Karl-Rosenfe_1436349c
telegraph.co.uk

Either way, it’s an excellent warm floral that is light enough for daytime wear in the Autumn or evening wear all year round. The ingredients smell more natural than many mainstream scents today. If you wore this reasonably priced EDT (usual price £39.50 for 50ml), you would smell like you a spent a lot more than you actually did. Besides which, we need to support the Indies or they won’t stick around.

Cath Collins wisely offers a decent sample service so you can try before you choose. So refreshing when you don’t want to risk £40 on a blind buy.

Chique by Taylor of London : My Dusty Beauty

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Long overlooked, with its cheap plastic lid and utilitarian packaging, Chique by Taylor of London, formerly made by Yardley, has such a cringe-y name and unremarkable presence that it has become all too easy to ignore.

However, I bought a bottle this week and was more than pleasantly surprised.  You may have been able to tell that I love a drugstore classic and nothing is too cheap for me (except coffee).  My small and rather dull looking bottle of Chique held some amazing surprises.

It opens like a prickly Chypre and stays put.  The drydown was puzzling me for a long time until I realised what it was that I was reminded of.  Only Estee Lauder Knowing!  What’s not to love? Chique goes on with the subtlety of an Olympic fireworks display and hangs around like a barnacle on a ship.  Longevity is about ten hours.

Here are the notes according to trusty Fragrantica: Floral Notes, Orange, Lemon, Fruity Notes, Oakmoss.

First of all, the list of notes doesn’t do this justice.  This is a green, musty, powdery Oakmoss scent.  In other words it’s right up my street.  It’s also very reasonably priced to a point that made me suspicious.  However, on opening it and trying it out I was utterly delighted (and for once in my life I threw the box away, it was beyond dull).

It is so up my street that we’re practically housemates.  In fact we are.  This now lives in my handbag.

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One word though: it has muscles, so don’t spray near other people, unless you want them to run away. I bought my bottle of Chique for £3.99 off Amazon and it came with a free body spray.  I think the price has changed now, but you’d still get change from a ten pound note. Bargain of The Year.

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Perfume for Paupers: How to Smell Good on a Budget

Frugal Fragrance, Scents on a Shoestring, Perfume for Paupers: phrase it how you will.  The truth is that these days the cost of living is high and luxuries are the first to go. Choosing my perfume for the day is a few minutes I treasure. I certainly have plenty of choice but only around four bottles on my dressing table cost more than thirty quid (and were mostly gifts).

photo by World of Oddy
photo by World of Oddy

I am often asked how I can afford to sample a new perfume every day and I always answer almost apologetically: I have very few expensive full bottles and sometimes a review is prompted by a few free squirts at my local beauty counter. The rest are inexpensive bottles, samples or purse sprays. If I had had to spend a lot of money to do this it wouldn’t have been possible.

Granted, I have two advantages: a very generous friend without whom this blog would be shorter and harder to write.  I know how lucky I am.  The second advantage is that as a blogger, I often get sent free sample sizes to trial.  However, apart from that, I truly believe that it is possible to smell good without breaking the bank.

 On the High Street

There are several ways in which to enjoy perfume on the cheap.  Firstly, I no longer dismiss cheap perfume the way I used to long ago.  Rummage long enough in the nd.10934High Street fare, and you will find gems that cost well under a tenner, and even a few for under a fiver. In my local Bodycare shop, I have bought  100ml of Cabochard for £8.99 and a bottle of Jovan White Musk for Women for £6.19.  Then there is the bargain Queen of them all: Coty’s L’Aimant– and I am neither the first nor the last to find similarities between L’Aimant and Chanel No 5.  Created in 1927, L’Aimant has a retro feel that reminds my esteemed fellow blogger The Perfumed Dandy, of an Agatha Christie heroine. A small bottle can cost just over a fiver and is widely available.

 

Be Unfashionable

Back in the 70s, drugstore classics were everywhere and everyone wore them.  They have lost popularity now but are worth revisiting.  Their lack of popularity means they are cheap too, so it’s a win-win situation if you like bargain chypres tweedand aldehydes. I have purchased Panache for just £4.99 on Fragrance Direct- and the longevity is around 12 hours, making this classic aldehyde excellent value.  I have also managed to purloin (I love that word) a bottle of retro favourite Tweed from my local chemist for £4.99.  Recently a little bottle of Chique arrived in the post for just £3.99 and it is full of Citrus and Oakmoss. (see my rave review).

 

 In Praise of Purse Sprays

Then there are the purse sprays.  I have a bouquet of these on my dressing table, none costing over a fiver.  Marks and Spencer does an excellent range of perfume and purse spray ma nd salmost all of them are available in 10ml and 25ml sizes, starting at £4, making these affordable treats. I also find that very often there is a sales brochure in my Avon catalogue and I have in the past bought a purse spray of Little Red Dress for just £3.99. Avon are doing these more regularly now and you can get them for just £3. I recently picked up a 10ml bottle of Next Just Pink for just £2 in my local Next Clearance store, and it’s become a firm favourite.

Go Niche and Bijoux

 4160 test setIf you have a lot of perfumes and samples, a small amount can last nearly a year if you rotate it with other scents. It is possible to have sample sizes of great niche scents for special occasions that would normally be prohibitive when bought in full size bottles. However, there’s no reason why anyone should be left out, regardless of budget.

Samples of niche scent enable you to smell unique and fabulous without breaking the bank. In the UK I recommend Pell Wall, 4160 TuesdaysThe Perfume Society Discovery Boxes, Les Senteurs or eBay. In the USA, try The Perfumed Court or Surrender to Chance. Which leads me to my next heading…

 Buy Online

photo by World of Oddy
photo by World of Oddy

Determined and lengthy browsing on Amazon has helped me find Coty Chanson D’Eau a citrussy hesperide at only £6.99 for 50ml including a shower gel.  Even I was sceptical at that price, but pleasantly surprised at this lovely green cologne on receipt of it. Another recent Coty find was Coty Aspen for Men at £8.29 a delightful Lavender/Pine combo that smells like Creed Green Irish Tweed . Don’t rule out Old Spice either- it was originally meant for women and smells like a lighter version of Dana Tabu).

Yves Rocher is a minefield of bargains, but sadly my nearest branch is in France.  Their online service for the UK is excellent however.  I just bought 2 bottles for the price of one: Clea and Yria. They were blind buys, but I looked them up on Fragrantica, liked the reviews and went ahead.  I was not disappointed and now own two bottles for the total price of £15. They usually let you choose three free samples and a free gift too.

One of my favourite sites is Allbeauty.com, formerly CheapSmells.com.  They have a huge variety of genuine big names, but can sell cheap since they are without the High Street overheads. Prices are very low and there is a vast selection of perfume under £10. Postage is free  when you spend over £15 but it does take about week.  They don’t pay me to say how great they are, but their delivery guy could find my house without sat nav.

 Samples

 Being a blogger I have the advantage of having been sent some free samples from discoveryclub_headerimgvery generous companies, and I am lucky to have a good friend in my chum Lisa, whose generosity in letting me loose on two big boxes of phials, knows no bounds.

Samples are getting harder to cadge over the counter: believe, me I’ve turned on the charm!  But there are other methods.

The Fragrance Shop Discovery Box (see photo) is a good way to bolster my sample collection.  At only £5 a quarter, I receive a box of mixed samples and vouchers for money off full sized bottles. My absolute favourite Discovery Box comes from The Perfume Society, which provides around ten samples, smelling notes, sniffing strips, and a couple of scented goodies that vary from facial serum, to hand cream or shower gel.

 Look Beneath the Glitz

Don’t rule out tacky looking celeb scents either: Who cares what it says on nd.8925the label?  If you like it, go ahead.  Two of my favourites are Jessica Simpson Fancy Nights (very Vegas!), bought for £8.95 which smells of Papyrus and Patchouli ( and very similar to Prada EDP), and JLo Deseo, which looks like wet jewel and smells eau so fraiche!

 eBay

Ebay is an excellent source of cheap fragrance trawling, especially after big events such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day when people sell their disappointments.  Some buyers are afraid of being sold a dud, but I can honestly say everything I have bought has been authentic and eBay are pretty strict about fake stuff, so it’s a good place to shop around.

Swaps, Decants and Splits

If you get stuck into the talk boards on Basenotes, Fragrantica, Facebook Fragrance Groups or even Mumsnet Style and Beauty threads, you can not only find friendly like minded fellows, but can usually swap decants, full bottles, or even go in on an expensive niche bottle by just buying, say a quarter if a full bottle with some fellow fragheads. Perfume lovers are generous souls and genuinely want to spread the joy.

Photo by World of Oddy: Wishing Pool in Portmeirion
Photo by World of Oddy: Wishing Pool in Portmeirion

How about you?

What’s the best bargain you’ve ever scooped?  Have you found a hidden gem? Do share so we can share your joy, follow in your footsteps or just sit here being all jealous. Perfume is such a treat, I truly wish it for everyone.

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Hermes Elixir Des Merveilles by Jean Claude Ellena

elixiredesmerveilles

I spend so much time in the kitchen that it has put me right off Gourmand scents.  I don’t want to smell like I’ve been baking, because I usually have.  However there is one man who could persuade me to wear a gourmand and that is Jean Claude Ellena, creator of both Hermes Ambre Narguile (reviewed earlier in this blog), and today’s scent Elixir Des Merveilles for Hermes.

If you told me I would be both wearing and enjoying a scent that added up to Oranges and Caramel, I wouldn’t have believed it, but I am.

When JC Ellena is on board, he is never heavy handed. Elixir Des Merveilles is all sorts of gorgeous.  It has citrus (Oranges) but isn’t a Citrus.  It has Resins and Patchouli but isn’t just an Oriental. It has Caramel and Vanilla but isn’t just a Gourmand.

 Elixir Des Merveilles opens with buttery Oranges. Whilst the notes of the Orange are clear, the citrus does not dominate, but is made creamy by the addition of warm Vanilla Sugar (I know, I’m starting to think Nigella Lawson made this, not Jean Claude).

download (1)
foodforfour.com

This top note is brisk and sparkly, but the Patchouli slowly and subtly gets bigger until the middle and base is a kind of mouthwatering Woody symphony.  The Caramel note is definitely noticeable, but serves to enhance rather than dominate, like a great backing singer. The warmth of the gourmand notes seems to make this smoother and rounded, like polished wood. The base itself has lost almost all of the Orange, and ends with a warm Oriental finish. Lasting power is excellent: the base note just goes on and on.

In an Overcast March that can’t seem to make up its mind, this warm beauty is like a hug. It covers all bases but it never sells out.  Caramel and Oranges? Jean Claude not only makes it work but makes you wonder why it isn’t done more often. I wonder what his cooking is like?

Terre de Bois Miller Harris: Verbena, Lemon Verbena

millerharris.com

What joy to stumble across a Miller Harris I haven’t tried yet.  Miller Harris is  brand I would never turn down.  In fact I am taking delivery of a bottle of Miller Harris La Pluie tomorrow and I can’t wait. (see my earlier review, I swear it smells like a rainy day and is terribly British).

Miller Harris Terre de Bois is allegedly for men.  I say allegedly because naturally we take no notice of that. If it smells good wear it, whether it’s Old Spice from your Dad’s bathroom or something tres, tres chere from a boutique. If you like it, it will be so.

I happen to like Terre de Bois very much and see it as most certainly unisex.  It opens with Citrus, Clary Sage and Verbena and even a hint of Lavender. It makes an excellent cologne, yet has the strength of an Eau de Parfum. Not so much Butch as smooth and suave. Especially on me. The middle phase is only slightly less Verbena than the brash and bright opening, and starts to smell a bit  like lemonade in which the fizz is fading.  Just as that calms down a bit, the fading fizz segues into a resin like base with faded Vetiver Grass and clean Spice providing a polished finish. Quite frankly, it’s gorgeous.

lemon_verbena_2

What I love about Miller Harris is that the ingredients actually smell like the ingredients.  There’s none of this synthetic faux perfume note that you get so much on the High Street, especially in male scents.  With Miller Harris, if they say there’s going to be Vetiver, then you will get Vetiver, not just some mish mash that smells shower fresh and then disappears in a blaze of factory chemicals.

Terre de Bois is no exception to the Miller Harris quality benchmark and with its clear Verbena singing out against the Lemons and Vetiver, I can guarantee that this is excellent.  It may not be your cup of tea, but it is excellent. Zingy, Spring like and yet as classy as leather upholstery and a walnut dashboard. I’m getting perfume lover’s neckache from sniffing my wrist.

The Body Shop: Amazonian Wild Lily

TheBodyShop.co.uk
TheBodyShop.co.uk

If you have read any of my previous Body Shop reviews, you will know that I find it hard to write about today’s Body Shop without going off down Memory Lane.  The Perfume Bar! Oh I miss your big glass jars of Samarkand, Mostly Musk, Dewberry, Japanese Musk and Annie!  How I miss Raspberry Ripple Bathing Bubbles, Peppermint Foot lotion and Elderflower Eye Gel! *Sob*, oh it’s not like it used to be.

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

The Body Shop today is very different since L’Oreal took it over, but they still stand by their eco and humanitarian principals so it’s not all bad.  The perfume range is affordable and good quality (some more than others), but the days of greatness are much missed.

Today I bought two perfume oils: Amazonian Wild Lily and Atlas Mountain Rose.  This review is for Amazonian Wild Lily in the perfume oil form.

First of all, I don’t find that Body Shop EDTs last as long as the oils, hence my choice of purchase.  Amazonian Wild Lily is, on first application, wonderfully green and fresh. The notes are White Lily, Iris, Papaya and Orchid.   The result of this combination is that the fruit gives a slightly melon-y, calone accord. However, whereas that would normally make me run for the hills, it’s not quite strong enough to dominate and the flowers overtake it.  The strongest note is Lily, but thankfully, the vegetal/celery note that I sometimes get with Lily is absent.  Longevity is very good with the oil: it’s only a 15ml bottle, but in my experience, this bottle will last a very long time.  A previous 30ml bottle of Body Shop White Musk Oil lasted over a year.

body shop

Body Shop Amazonian Wild Lily would make an ideal perfume for daywear and especially office wear.  It doesn’t  have that brash alcohol that  sprays have, so it’s good for discreet application on a train or in a n office without people inevitably asking what that smell is. Sillage is subtle and close to skin, but sometimes you need that if you’re going to be in close proximity to others.

The overall effect is a floral, green scent that is both pleasant and inoffensive. The Lily is strong and pretty, making this a pretty and long-lasting scent that fits into the bargain category by costing a mere £7.50.

Oh, did I mention that this really reminds me of Marc Jacobs Daisy?

Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile: HRH Queen Iris

iris

At the beginning of this colourful scent journey that I am undergoing, I couldn’t bear either powdery scents, or anything with Iris. How things have changed. If you could see my dressing table now you would see a couple of good Iris scents and a whole colony of chypres. Never say never.

With Iris I was turned off by trying both Frederic Malle Iris Poudre by Pierre Bourdon and Parfum Maitre et Garnier Fleur D’Iris.  To me, both were grey and smothering and “rooty”.  However, when I tried Iris that incorporated citrus, it was a revelation.  I am now a big fan of Miller Harris Terre D’Iris and the proud owner of a 50ml EDP of Prada Infusion D’Iris.

Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile  showcases Iris in the way I like best: surrounded by Mediterranean oranges and lemons. Trust our Italian cousins to get it so.. well Mediterranean.

The Iris in Iris Nobile still smells like grey velvet to me, but the Orange, Bergamot and Orange Flower make it more floral and pretty. This is an Iris that can be worn by non Iris lovers.  Whilst the Iris is centre stage, there is enough going on in the background to make it an all rounder.  There is a hint of Anise, which I often get from Iris, and the Cedar and Amber in the base provide welcome warmth.

wikipedia.org
wikipedia.org

I wore this all day yesterday and kept getting  whiffs of it throughout the day.  I am surprised there isn’t Musk in this, because the finish is like a faint White Musk cloud as the petals of the flower finally dry up and lose their bloom.

All these different notes might make it sound messy, but it is blended so seamlessly, it’s like listening to a symphony. The violins didn’t suddenly start, they were always there already.

Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile was created in 2004 by legendary Noses Francis Kurkdjian and Francoise Caron.  You can tell it was made by the best in the business. If you find Iris your Bête Noire, go in through the back door via the Orange Grove and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Dolce and Gabbana Anthology No 10 La Roue de la Fortune

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I see this rather lovely Dolce and Gabbana Anthology range sitting there in my local House of Fraser store (really they should give me  my own key, I am there so often) and I often wonder what they are like.  I asked the Sales Assistant who said that the best-seller from the range is L’Imperatrice (great name, jolly strict!), which I shall get round to reviewing at some point.

Today I am reviewing La Roue de la Fortune. Here are the notes according to Fragrantica: Top notes: Pineapple, green notes, pink pepper, Middle notes: jasmine, Gardenia Tuberose, Base notes: Iris, Patchouli, Benzoin, vanilla.

Firstly, I dislike Pineapple intensely in perfume, but in this case, I actually mistook it for Cherries. In other words, fear not Pineapple dodgers, this won’t kill us. The Pink Pepper provides a rose like prettiness without going overboard on the fruity notes. In fact, in my opinion, this smells like Vodka with a hint of White Musk and Roses when first applied. Doesn’t match the notes, but there you are. That’s perfume for you.

The middle phase is very pretty with white flowers galore- all the heavy mob are in tonight: Tuberose, Jasmine, Gardenia. This phase is done beautifully and the flowers are unmistakable. The blend is superb: these white petals have almost become a uni-flower.

www.theflowersavenue.com
www.theflowersavenue.com

The base is not as  Oriental as the basenotes might lead you to believe.  There is a hint of Patchouli over the white flowers, and a whisper of Vanilla (a good thing- nothing worse than heavy handed vanilla).  The base notes remind me of Loewe Aura EDP, which is a kind of lite vanilla/floral leather (see my earlier review).  It’s not as muscly as I wanted, but it will do.  It’s almost as if the Patchouli, and Benzoin hit I was looking for is merely a chalky outline.

Overall, I don’t love this but it was perfectly pleasant.  What does attract me is the little kit of all the Anthologies that is available. I wouldn’t buy a full bottle, but I wouldn’t turn down a little one in a pretty box with its friends. 

photo by Amazon.co.uk
photo by Amazon.co.uk