Category Archives: modern

Givenchy Dahlia Noir L’Eau: the black dahlia lightens up

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I promised myself I would follow IScent’s philosophy this week and try new perfumes, so I went off to the department stores and scrounged a few samples. The ladies at the Dior and Givenchy counters were particularly helpful, so I’m starting with what I hoped would be the least offensive offering: Givenchy’s summer release, which will doubtless be available at a counter near you.

I have to confess that I have not tried the original Dahlia Noir, but I probably should. It is described on the Givenchy website as a ‘fatal flower’ – a fantasy of the fragrance the scentless dahlia might have. It is a modern woody floral, created by François Demachy, who has also created this new release for the summer season. Demachy has created fragrances for many of the LMVH brands, including Fendi, Acqua di Parma and Dior. LMVH is Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, a massive global group of luxury brands that covers fashion, leather goods, watches, jewellery, wines and spirits as well as perfume and cosmetics. Chaired by Bernard Arnault, this conglomerate controls an enormous swathe of the market – from Marc Jacobs and Givenchy to Bulgari and Benefit – as well as owning Sephora, the perfume and cosmetics retailer.

Givenchy Dahlia Noir L’Eau is described by Givenchy as “a femme fatale veiled in tenderness”, an elegant fresh floral with top notes of citron and neroli, a heart of rose petals and a base of musk and cedar wood. It is indeed a fresh and light floral, with sparkling citrus top notes sprinkled with a suggestion of orange blossom water. It warms to a slightly green but rounded woody heart and a pale musk base that lasts a surprisingly long time. It isn’t too radiant or expansive – you wouldn’t scare the horses or asphyxiate a lift full of people if you were wearing this – but I think it has enough sillage that you would be noticeably scented if you stood next to someone at a bar.

I like it and think it’s good. It’s well considered for the market, age-appropriate and to my great relief it’s not a frootichooli (have you figured out yet that they’re a pet hate of mine?). It also appears to be made with good quality materials – I know little or nothing about the chemicals used in perfumery, but I do know that there are some which I find repellent because of their radiant, patently artificial qualities, and they are often included in ‘watery-style’ fragrances. There aren’t any of those in here, thankfully. I think it says a lot that François Demachy has created the Escale series for Dior, as this reminds me a lot of Escale a Portofino. He obviously has a lot of expertise with kind of scent, because this is exceedingly well-balanced.

Dahlia Noir L’Eau is a perfect flirty summer perfume, actually. Snag a sample now and tuck it away to take on holiday – these tiny spray vials are ideal to drop into that infamous clear plastic ziplock bag.

Pour un Homme de Caron: the big, butch Easter bunny

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Happy Easter, readers. The festival of sweet things has dictated my choice of fragrance today: Pour un Homme, from the French house of Caron, purveyors of the gorgeous Tabac Blond which IScent enjoyed so much. This is, as you might guess from the name, a masculine fragrance. I am female, but I wear it regardless, because it is a thing of beauty. It is very simple and very chic, in the way of so many classic French gentlemen’s fragrances.

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It is advertised by the magnificent French rugby star, Sebastien Chabal, a towering, powerful sportsman with a beard and mane of flowing black hair. He is utterly terrifying on the pitch, but according to his wife, is a gentle giant. I think this might be the most classic combination of fragrance and celebrity endorsement ever – Chabal’s physicality and  power contained in the elegant black tailoring are a perfect visual metaphor for the combination of beastliness and restraint.

This classic of French male grooming was created in 1934 by Caron’s resident genius, Ernest Daltroff, who also created Tabac Blond, Narcisse Noire, Bellodgia, and many others. When you spray on Pour un Homme, you’re hit by a wave of pure, blue-purple lavender, fresh and sharp and bright like a high, clear note. It’s very ‘barbershop’ and exactly what you expect from a masculine.

But then there’s the clever bit. The vanilla comes in, forming a rich, round cuddly tenor counterpoint that adds depth and character while also adding warmth, strength and lasting power. You can see why I love this. It is the ultimate ‘Daddy’ fragrance (issues? moi?). The vanilla is not sugary or sweet, and it plays on a ‘caramel’ note that Luca Turin swears exists in some variants of lavender. This woody vanilla anchors the fragrance firmly on the skin and gives it good lasting power – I spritzed this morning and I can still smell it 15 hours later.

Like The Duke in the top picture, this fragrance has good humour and approachability, but it’s strong and upright. Another that’s well worth trying.

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.

Eau de Cartier Essence D’Orange: Refreshing or Refresher?

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From Leathery Tobaccos to a citrussy hesperide: you have my permission to call me capricious. I must confess, I have  an ulterior motive writing about  Eau de Cartier Essence d’Orange since it provides me with yet another excuse, as if one were needed, to wear my beloved Eau de Cartier again today ( see my earlier review). Just as a comparison you understand.

Eau de Cartier Essence D’Orange was created in 2010 as a follow up to the divine Eau de Cartier: an angelically light hesperide full of Bergamot and Lavender and still, in my opinion the best and only fragrance to wear when hungover.  It’s like having an aromatherapist helping you out when all is spent.  Despite reviewing fragrance daily (or as near as I can),  there are not many full sized bottle on my dressing table. Eau de Cartier is one of them. After smelling a spray sample I simply had to have it.  Luckily, it was just before Christmas and Santa got my letter in time.

When I saw there was an Essence D’Orange, I was keen to try it.  At first spray it smells very like Eau de Cartier, but very quickly the soft oranges quietly enter the room.  This is not, as you might expect, a sharp citrussy orange, but more of a fuzzy powdery orange.  In fact after around ten minuets I couldn’t escape persistent thoughts of Orange Refreshers. Opening with a burst of bergamot like its sister Eau de Cartier, the orange does sort of take over, along with a bunch of violets to calm it down and stop it being too dominant.  I also would have said lavender was a noticeable note, despite not being listed. Never mind, you can take my word it, I can definitely smell a hint of lavender.

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This is beautifully unisex and may even smell better on a man. I still prefer my Eau de Cartier, but I have ordered a stash of samples of Essence D’Orange so I always have access to it without investing in the 100ml or 200ml bottle.

This is fresh, airy, light and beautiful. The smell of Orange Refreshers is, admittedly, inescapable, but I rather like it. This, along with Eau de Cartier is the antidote to too many Leathers and Orientals. It is delicious, edible and thirst quenching.

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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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Celeb Scents 4: Elizabeth Taylor Diamonds and Rubies.

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I always imagined Dame Elizabeth Taylor to smell outrageously glamorous with a hint of booze on her breath. She was always a little de trop. Too many diamonds, too much hair, too much make up, but somehow…somehow she could get away with it because she was Elizabeth Taylor.

Her first fragrance was Passion, launched in 1988, a year after Cher had cornered the then tiny celeb fragrance market with Uninhibited. Celebrity fragrance was fairly new then, but Elizabeth Taylor’s range was created by Elizabeth Arden so it was in good hands. Passion was followed with White Diamonds in 1991, and in 1993 a diffusion line was born: Diamonds and Emeralds, Diamonds and Sapphires and Diamonds and Rubies. Today the range includes Black Pearls, Violet Eyes, Gardenia, Elizabeth Taylor Forever, and several variations on White Diamonds.

This review is for Diamonds and Rubies. Created by famous nose Sophia Grojsman, Diamonds and Rubies is disappointing, yet not surprising. It smells very Eighties, despite being created in the early caring sharing Nineties that was encapsulated fragrance-wise by the advent of Eau D’Issey and Cool Water. Diamonds and Rubies is an old broad on a barstool whilst everyone else sips mineral water and eats salad.

Top notes are listed as being Lily, Red Rose, Lilac, Almond…oh and Peach. Don’t forget the Peach. In fact one spray of this and you will never ever forget the Peach.

The top notes when I sprayed were: synthetic Peach, Talc (Peach Talc of course), Plasticine and Booze: Something like Brandy or Peach Liqueur, at any rate, something sticky and outdated and too sweet.

After half an hour (of wrinkling my nose) I sniffed the drydown. I had more spice this time, in the way that mulled wine is spicy, but still those boozy peaches were sneaking around waiting to drown me when I wasn’t looking.

Not only did I dislike this, but it genuinely baffled me how this dreadful mess could smell good on anyone. It made me think of someone wearing a peach satin peignoir, covered in talc, with matching slippers and a drink problem. It also made me think of the downstairs toilet in a vicarage I once visited.

Cheap can be good or cheap can smell cheap. I’ll leave it to you to guess what category I put this into. Some of the others are much better, I like White Diamonds, but this turkey doesn’t do a Dame justice.

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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