Category Archives: modern

Van Cleef by Van Cleef and Arpels: Is it a Cliché to Say It’s a Gem?


I’m a big fan of First by Van Cleef and Arpels and I was more than happy when I stumbled across a sample of Van Cleef by Van Cleef and Arpels. (Have I said Van Cleef and Arpels too much in one sentence?  It’s hard to stop!)

Image I realised I wanted it badly, and I also realised that apart from some Oriental-lites (Cacharel LouLou, Jesus del Pozo Ambar), I do not have an Oriental bottle in my collection.  Yes, it’s very much a First World problem, but I have to put this right and soon!

Gratuitous photo of Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery for me to drool over

Van Cleef smells a lot more expensive than it is.  I couldn’t figure this out until those clever articles in Fragrantica pointed out that Cedar, used liberally in Van Cleef, is also a bit of a trademark of many Serge Lutens scents. This may explain my feeling that Van Cleef smelled like a good niche scent.  Add to this some bitter Galbanum and a miasma of Sandalwood and you have a rather lovely all season Oriental.

I don’t really find this very floral, despite the presence of Marigold, Roses, Jasmine, Neroli and Orange Blossom.  What I smell more than anything is Oriental Spice and Cedar and all things piquant to the point of bitter, but just stopping in time and bedding down into a rich, Ambery cloud. (NB There is no Amber in this, but crikey it smells like it!).  All in all, this is very reasonably priced at under 35GBP for a 50ml EDP and longevity is loooong at around nine hours.

 I’m adding it to my Wish List. It will be mine. Oh yes.

Original Van Cleef and Arpels  Catalogue cover from 1924

4160 Tuesdays The Dark Heart of Havana: A New Voice


4160 Tuesdays is the brainchild of Sarah McCartney. Indpendent perfumers are to be cherished, and Sarah’s doing a pretty good job of being a treasure.  The school of thought is that in an average life, we have 4160 Tuesdays and that we should make them count.  Creating your own brand of perfume is a pretty good start, Sarah,

Today I am reviewing The Dark Heart of Havana and the quick review is that I like it very much.

Sarah McCartney from

Here is the longer review: I don’t know if you, like me, ever used to consider a nibbled sugar cube from a bowl a big treat as a child.  I wouldn’t do it now (sugar tongs, my dears!) but I remember clearly that white, almost nothing-y smell of white processed sugar.  Well, here is that smell again, only this time it’s combined with Tobacco, Coffee, Fruit, and a faint spiky hint of Geranium.

Imagine a dark Latin night, with music coming out of a brightly lit door, passing pavement cafes with Night Owls sipping Espresso and smoking in the night air.  If that’s what Sarah McCartney was imagining when she created this scent and this name, then she succeeded.  It’s one of those scents that takes you to a place in your imagination, rather than just changing your smell for a day.

Sarah is emerging as a British niche brand to watch. I have others to review from 4160 Tuesdays, so watch this space and if you can get hold of samples then do have a try. Her Facebook Page tells me she gets around a lot (in the nicest possible way, of course) and also that she does perfume day courses, so it would not be unreasonable to think that one day you could meet her and do sniffage together. I like accessible brands and I like indie perfumers and I like The Dark Heart of Havana.


CB I Hate Perfume: Winter 1972


CB I Hate Perfume was founded by Christopher Brosius, a former taxi driver who rebelled against the suffocating scents that filled his cab. It’s great news for us that he felt that way because CB I Hate Perfume is a unique brand that breaks the mould.

His scents are more about capturing a memory or a mood in a bottle, rather than having the singular aim of making you smell pretty.  Such a concept is refreshing and I look forward trying more.

CB I hate Perfume Winter 1972 is a delightful scent that immediately evoked a very visual memory.  It is, to me at least, the smell of lying in a cosy bed next to a damp, rather mildewy window on a cold night. I love perfumes that take to me to a place or a moment, and they have a definite role to play, in the same vein as Demeter’s scents of realism.

The notes in Winter 1972 are simple: soil, wood and sea.  The soil tincture is certainly the most dominant, with it’s earthy slightly “off” smell which combines beautifully with the Wood and the Sea.  It reminds me of wet bracken on a damp winter walk.

 CB I Hate Perfume also provides samples at 3GBP each, which is another quality that endears them to me.  Often large bottles are too expensive to take a blind buy gamble with, so I always like it when niche brands offer this service.

CB I Hate Perfume Winter 1972 is available from the UK Cult Beauty website or from the CB IHatePerfume website if you are in the US.

Avon Pur Blanca: When Pure and Clean is Needed


 Avon Pur Blanca is one of the few Avon scents that doesn’t end up smelling samey in the basenote phase.  Having tried many Avon fragrances in the past, I can honestly say that this is a common fault. There are exceptions, and I have bought many bottles blind trying to find them.

Pur Blanca is the kind of scent you get when you’ve just got out of the shower, washed your hair and applied a touch of baby lotion. It is the smell of pure white soap and freshly shampooed hair.  It reminded me a little of J-Lo Glow, another clean soapy scent.

Pur Blanca is currently 7GBP a bottle and shows no signs of slowing down, so I wouldn’t panic about the Avon of habit of discontinuing the good stuff just yet.

The strongest notes in Pur Blanca are Musk and Peony: always well behaved and respectable. There is a touch of Freesia, keeping it pretty, and even a faint hint of Sandalwood to warm the base up.  You could wear it to meet prospective in-laws without causing offence.  In fact, inoffensive is the word here.  It’s suitable for office wear, church, and PTA meetings.  It’s not sexy, it’s perfectly wearable and the worst accusation I can throw at it is that it is safe. But sometimes safe is required, and this serves its purpose nicely.

I don’t think it smells expensive, and the ingredients are a little synthetic smelling- another frequent Avon characteristic- but when you are producing scents to a low budget market, it’s an occupational hazard.

All in all, not a bad use of seven quid.

Avon Little Red Dress: This Is A Dress I Would Wear


 As much as I witter on about fruity florals being every bleedin’ where, in Avon Little Red Dress, I have found one I rather like, almost to my surprise.

 Opening with Plum, Raspberries and Citrus Fruits, it beds down into Rose and Jasmine and is really a very pretty and playful daytime scent.  For some reason I find it a happy feel good fragrance , and for some reason I really like it, despite going against the grain of my usual mutterings and about fruit’n’flower all-in-ones.

This is from an Avon series that includes Little Black Dress, Little Red Dress and Little Gold Dress. I haven’t tried Little Gold Dress, so I cannot vouch for it.  Little Black Dress used to be an Avon favourite but the basenote went a bit bland and waxy on my skin.  However, I tried it again recently and it was pleasant again, so maybe they’ve had an update.

All in all, Little Red Dress is good value at around £8 a bottler with a range of accessories such as body cream, talc, and a purse spray. Longevity is not bad at around four hours, and if you carry the purse spray then a lunch time top up should last you the rest of the day.

Gucci Guilty: J’accuse!


I am still in a sulk with Gucci.  They discontinued Gucci Envy, for no good reason, and despite much clamouring from devoted fans, there do not seem to be any moves to bring it back. Our money is ready to leave our banks accounts in return for a bottle of Envy, but Gucci has taken its football away and gone home.

In the meantime, they bring out Gucci Guilty and expect us Envy fans to like that instead.

Gucci Guilty costs around 40GBP for 30ml of EDT.  It’s the EDT that I am sampling today.  I have given it two chances.  The first time, I didn’t like it and found it generic and uninspiring.  The second time, well, I tried it again and what do you know?  I found it even more generic and uninspiring.

It opens with Lilac, which normally would be a good thing if it weren’t so synthetic.  What follows is a kind of vanilla/white flower effect made with unapologetically cheap smelling ingredients.  It beds down into fake flowers and Peaches. There is a hint of light Patchouli and Amber in the base, but it’s not very nice, what with all the Peaches, Oranges and Pink Pepper going on.

It reminded me of Paco Rabanne Lady Million, and Jimmy Choo Flash, and Armani Si, as well as a whole bunch of generic Avon perfumes.

There is nothing remotely original or exciting about this and I honestly can’t think of anything good to say about it.  All I want to say is this:  bring back Gucci Envy!

PS I do quite like one of the Gucci Floras but I can’t remember which one.

Aquolina Pink Sugar: Candy for Grown ups


Providing yet another example of how  all perfumes deserve more than one chance, I have been proved wrong yet again, this time by Aquolina Pink Sugar. I recently dismissed Pink Sugar as another candy floss scent but my dear friend Lisa Wordbird prompted me to take another look.  She was right about it.  It’s not a typical candy floss scent.  Aquolina has come at this from a different angle.

First of all the sugar in it is gourmet for grown ups.  There’s no ice cream like scent, no cheap vanilla cake flavouring, it’s more like sophisticated burnt maple sugar, with a caramel tang.

Opening notes claim to be fruity, but I did not find any Bergamot or Oranges anywhere as promised, and I can usually pick a citrus out like a bloodhound.

What makes this interesting, is a distinct note of vinyl, like a plastic doll’s head.  This gives me the impression that it‘s not taking itself too seriously.  It’s an ironic nod to fruity florals and has shrugged off the tendency to smell like a hundred other perfumes by offering a Demerera cube with your coffee, instead of a bowl of white sugar.  It may have a teenage market, but  with a mischievous wink, it’s making them smell like the dollies they so recently tossed aside.

This is one of those scents that I like and admire but don’t want to wear.  It’s a new take on pink and girly scents,  but it has brains.  Germaine Greer could get away with it beautifully.

Aquolina Pink Sugar is available on for just 15.95.


Narciso Rodriguez For Her EDT: About Turn


 I have often sung the praises of Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely: it is affordable, beautifully packaged and smells wonderful.  However, having finally met Narciso Rodriguez For Her, I feel my credit ought to have gone elsewhere.  They are so alike it is easy to mix them up when tested blind.  I could not tell them apart.

Whilst I still love Lovely, and will always have a bottle of it on my dressing table, it was launched in 2005, whilst NR for Her was launched the year before in 2004.  The similarity could be either coincidence, or homage. I refuse to think of it as olfactory plagiarism as I am so fond of Lovely and its Diffusion Line.

However, a great deal of credit must go to the Narciso Rodriguez Dream Team Christine Nagel and Francis Kurkdjian, both legends in their own right.  Interestingly, I always thought SJP Lovely was also similar to Lanvin Rumeur, which was created by, yes Francis Kurkdjian. And so the happy circle goes on.


The similarities can be found in the fact that both perfumes start as a  rich floral that becomes Patchouli like and Woody almost as soon as the floral notes have registered.  Rather than being woody in a masculine sense, the prickly Patchouli and the clean florals produce an agreeable vintage note of nail polish, at least to me.  They both remind me of a 1950s dressing table with a layer of fine face powder and open bottles of nail colour and  several glass cut perfume bottles.  Both are impossibly feminine and elegant and I love them.

I am describing them together in one breath because try as I might, I cannot tell them apart. The notes listed for both are very different.  NR For Her purports to contain Bergamot, Neroli and no Patchouli at all.  Lovely is supposed to contain Lavender, Martini and Salt, yet both end results are the same.

The similarities are not necessarily a criticism.  As a diversion from the heaving mass of fruity florals and cheap candy floss patchoulis that the Noughties have drowned us in, these quality scents are worth their weight in gold.

I would go as far as to say that NR For Her was a game changer which spawned SJP Lovely, Estee Lauder Modern Muse, and even Avon bargain scent Rare Diamonds as mentioned earlier in my blog..

We needed NR For Her, and it came.