Category Archives: Musk perfume

Jean Desprez: Bal a Versailles: The Smell of Scandal

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 My dear chum Lisa Wordbird dropped round to IScent HQ yesterday with samples that made my eyes pop out.  As you know, it’s my blog-aversary in two days and what better way to round off the year than with this notorious and coveted legend?

Bal a Versailles is talked about in the way scandalous scarlet women are discussed.  Part of you is outraged whilst another secretly wishes that you looked that good in fishnets before noon.

Burlesque Artiste Pretty S'Vere courtesy of World of Oddy photography
Burlesque Artiste Pretty S’Vere courtesy of World of Oddy photography

 Bal a Versailles is too much of everything all at once, but somehow it really works. The opening is so brash and bright it borders on the medicinal for a few moments, before plunging like a slutty neckline into spice, resin, balsam and all things nice.

The notes are too numerous to list here, but here are the highlights: Leather, Amber, Benzoin, Vetiver and Balsam. The flowers are present and correct but they get a bit lost in the smokiness of the background, like Can Can dancers in a Cigar room: Jasmine, Roses, Violet Leaf, Lilac.

The whole cacophony results in a smoky, slightly metallic, spicy, leathery, woody fug, which to my mind has a lot in common with Caron Tabac Blond (see my earlier review on this blog).

I do have to marvel at the fact that I found no civet or animalic notes here, when so many Fragrantica users rate it as one of the most prominent notes.  This is unusual for me, as I found animalic notes in Worth Courtesan and Ivoire de Balmain (original, not the recent one) both of which you can find on my blog. In fact, the animal notes were so strong in both that they bordered on the smell of poor hygiene, yet Bal a Versailles?  Not a whisper of it.

That doesn’t stop it being what Lisa called “Definite Date Night” perfume. And by Date Night, we are not talking about a night at the cinema, but the kind that makes you sneak home the next day with your shoes in your hand.

Body Shop White Musk Libertine

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This pretty flanker attracted me immediately.  It’s related to Body Shop White Musk and  such a pretty shade of pale pink, how could I resist?  Well, once I smelled it, it turns out that Body Shop White Musk Libertine  was very easy to resist, much to my disappointment.

With a faint background of  my beloved Body Shop White Musk, this is sadly ruined by a need to please the Tween market.  This strikes me as ironic and I would bet my last penny that the majority of Body Shop White Musk fans are women of a certain age, such as moi, for whom it holds a fond nostalgia.

However, someone somewhere saw fit to add scents of Whipped Cream, Honey and Almonds. This would be great in a cake, but not so great on my skin.  In fact, it’s more or less anosmic on me, fading as fast as it blooms, only to make a brief reappearance half an hour later before going again. If they had just kept the Rose and maybe a hint of Almond, they may have obtained the Turkish Delight vibe they were aiming for, but sadly I feel not much has been achieved here.  Nice idea, nice bottle, but the result is bland and doesn’t stand out in a competitive market.

Estee Lauder Very Estee: We Could Have Been Great Friends

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Happy Thanksgiving Day to all my valued US readers!  I hope you all find something to be thankful for.  We could all learn a lot from such a day. In your honour, I am reviewing a good old American brand. A stalwart of quality in the perfume world: yes, it’s the fabulous Estee Lauder.

I tried Very Estee  today on my spare arm (I only have two, but I kept one perfume- free for testing). If evolution is anything to go by, mothers would have at least four arms by now, in any case.

My very first impression of Very Estee was that I could smell Violets, then the Green notes.  My heartbeat quickened as I thought “Could this be another Balmain Jolie Madame?  But I was disappointed. Within minutes of spraying, the scent was so close to skin that it was barely there at all.  What I could smell, I liked very much, but if it fades within a minute what use is it?  I would never be so rude as to expect instant sillage to fill a room, but I would at least like to be able to smell it on myself for more than a few minutes.

Now, I love Estee Lauder as a brand: quality and ingredients are never less than excellent, but Very Estee was a disappointment. I read on Fragrantica that the notes contain Lotus Flower, Rose, Jasmine, Pink Pepper and Freesia, bedding down into Cashmere Woods, Cedar, Sandalwood and Musk.  It all sounds lovely, but all I got was Violet Leaf and Green notes, delicate as a dewdrop on the tongue and gone twice as fast.  Shame, since I love both of those notes and would have loved Very Estee to have hung round a bit longer.

This could be good if it had more resonance, or maybe it was just my cold skin swallowing it up.  I will still be a Lauder counter pest though, I just can’t stay away.

Alyssa Ashley Musk: A Pocket Money Perfume

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 Alyssa Ashley Musk  has been around since cavemen, or so it feels.  Cavemen knew a thing or two about the attraction of scent. Musk is so classic it’s almost a cliché, and Alyssa Ashley Musk is no exception.

This is a delightful and rather simple musk.  It’s warm on the skin, and has a clean innocence: there’s nothing dirty or civety to see here; this is no Worth Courtesan (that stuff is filthy!).

I may be trying to compensate for reviewing a £300 bottle of perfume earlier today (Marc Jacobs Ivy £299 a bottle). Maybe that’s why I am singing the praises of this happy drugstore classic that remains eminently affordable and, I am reliably informed, pretty much the same as it ever was. Many a happy hippie smelled of this during the 70s, and I’m all for a bit of nostalgia.

AshleyModels

So what makes this different from other musks?  Well it’s less honeysuckle than Jovan White Musk, which is honey-sweet.  It’s a little similar to The Body Shop White Musk, but smells thinner. It’s not as floral or high pitched as Avon Soft Musk, and it smells a million times better than Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan, which smells of  old roll up cigarettes in a dirty ashtray. (See my review . Phew!).

Alyssa Ashley Musk is currently available for only £8.99 for a 100ml Eau parfumee cologen spray on Allbeauty.com (formerly Cheap Smells, and one of my favourite scent sites). There is always room in my bag for a drugstore classic.

What’s your favourite drugstore classic? Or Cheapie from the Chemist (if you’re in the UK)?

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Histoire d’Eau by Mauboussin

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The weather today is my all time favourite: chilly and breezy but with a sky that is bright blue and sunny. Everything feels as if it is in glorious Technicolour and the trees are starting to go gold.

Histoire d’Eau by Mauboussin is the perfect scent for today. It is rich with spice and wood and even a hint of tar. The Amber notes reflect the golden trees and the leathery finish is perfect for Autumn.

 Mauboussin is a prestigious French jeweller: right up there with Tiffany and Cartier. Since 1870 Mauboussin has been producing fine jewellery and watches, but it wasn’t until the year 2000 that they stepped into the fragrance market.  And I am so glad they did.

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The notes for Histoire d’Eau are as follows:

Top notes: Mandarin and Ylang (both noticeable),

Middle notes: Nutmeg, Pepper and Cardoman,

Base notes: Leather, Myrtle, Amber and Musk.

The combination of these toasty Autumnal notes is spot on for a chill wind. The Amber and Spices give heat to the sexy Leather.  The Orange makes things Christmassy and the Musk is barely a whisper, preventing this from being too girly. It would be perfect as a masculine or a feminine and reminds me of burnt tar on a fence.  This is a good thing, since I also rather like the smell of creosote in perfume.

Despite the hot tar and the slight cough mixture accord, this is prettier than it sounds. This is almost what Serge Noire would have smelled like on me if our chemistry had been right.  Histoire d’Eau is smoky, spicy and just what the doctor ordered on this bright, cold day.

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Dita Von Teese: Dita Von Teese for Women: Classy and Elegant

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Considering that Dita Von Teese For Women EDP is less than 20GBP a bottle, it’s not half bad. It certainly doesn’t smell as cheap as it is, despite the fact that the actual fragrance must have been produced cheaply once mark ups and overheads are taken into account.

Dita Von Teese is one of today’s classier stars. I’d rather see ladylike Dita’s spangly tassels than a barely dressed starlet on the red carpet letting it all hang out. Slim yet voluptuous, classic and elegant, Dita will never go out of style.

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Dita Von Teese for Women smells delightfully feminine, with a retro vibe about it that defies today’s sweet fruity candy floss efforts and Baby Angel derivatives. It is definitely for evening wear, or more specifically, date wear.  It opens, unusually, with Bergamot, which is a brave choice considering it ends in smoky Guaic woods, Patchouli and Musk. Through it all comes the heady Tiare flower, a creamy white flower, less intense than tuberose but no less pretty.  Somehow it works. The Bergamot and floral opening gives a grown up and prim impression that leads into something more seductive as the evening wears on. By the end of the evening you’ll be unfastening your pearls for sure.

I cannot review this perfume without mentioning the stunning bottle. Black and fluted, it has an unmistakeable vintage vibe, and its black tassel is a cute little quirk. This is what I was hoping Kylie Minogue Couture was going to smell like, except that it let me down with a cheap and empty smelling faux vanilla base note. Not so Dita Von Teese, with its classy basenotes ending the show with a smoky trail of spiced Musk in its wake.

Poor Dita is in the unenviable position of having her fragrance reviewed the very day after I have reviewed the masterpiece that is Un Jardin en Mediterranee. However, I have also had to clean up after a small boy and a wayward kitten today, so it’s all about balance.

 Dita Von Teese for Women probably won’t be a favourite Must Buy, but I admire and like it, and the little handbag bottle is just adorable.

Bravo Dita.

Avon Week: Avon Soft Musk

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Avon Soft Musk was created in the 80s and is a rare thing indeed: a perfume that is good quality, popular and excellent value for money.

Every perfume wardrobe should have a Musk. There are many to choose from, varying in quality and price, with the cheapest not necessarily being the worst by a long shot. Before Sarah Jessica Parker created the excellent Lovely, she layered Comme Des Garcons Avignon with an Egyptian perfume oil bought from a street vendor, and  an El Cheapo Bonne Bell Musk from a drugstore. If cheap Musk is good enough for her, it’s certainly good enough for me. I should imagine the end result  was  intoxicating in all the right ways.

 Avon Soft Musk holds many memories for me. So many people I know have worn it since its inception. I can say, hand on heart, that it is both dirt cheap and very good indeed. In my current (now well thumbed) Avon brochure, it retails for £5 for 50ml. You can be sure I will be snaffling me a bottle of that. (online prices vary from the brochure)

It’s often hard to review a Musk perfume without being repetitive, but the more I smell the more differences I can ascertain. Body Shop White Musk has White Flowers in it, at least to my nose, whereas with Jovan White Musk, the honeysuckle is pronounced. Avon Soft Musk is more on the Musk and Rose spectrum, but only barely there, since the Musk dominates.  There are powdery notes too, making this cosy and unthreatening. The powder is more Baby than Face.  Despite being marketed as a “Sexy and Deep” Musk perfume, I actually find it very chaste and respectable. It fits the bill for meeting in laws, job interviews and any occasion when you need to persuade people that you are a nice girl that won’t be any trouble.

Soft Musk is a reliable and good value Musk perfume that currently has several layering accessories to accompany it such as talc, lotion and body spray. It would suit any age from eighteen to eighty  and I will not be turning my nose up at my five quid bottle of scent any time soon.

Serge Lutens Clair de Musc: Petticoats and Good Shoes

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 Clair de Musc is much warmer and friendlier than yesterday’s sombre La Fille de Berlin, but then Musk is often a friendly sort of warmer-upper. Despite this being a product of Uncle Serge and his gang, I’m afraid I have something rather facile to say about it. My first and unshakable thought on smelling this was Impulse Hint of Musk. I tried to shake it off, really I did, but even in the basenotes I was still thinking the same thing.

To try and get a handle on Clair de Musc, I wore Body Shop White Musk on the other arm and compared the two.  I needed to find out what makes Clair de Musc different. What’s Clair got that other musks haven’t? Let’s face it, if you’re going to spend in the region of £80 on a bottle of perfume, you need to know why it’s worth  forking out.

On first spray, it was , as I said, Impulse Hint of Musk. Nothing wrong with that, it’s the best Impulse there is (is that damning with faint praise?). However there were also Yellow Flowers or Honey in Clair de Musc. Interestingly, my interpretation did not match the notes listed on Fragrantica at all. For instance, where Fragrantica had Bergamot, Iris and Lily of the Valley listed as notes, I had Honey, Honeysuckle and Yellow Flowers.  There is a whisper of Iris, almost as if she opened the wrong door, glanced in and left again, leaving a Will O’ the Wisp waft. The Body Shop White Musk smelled sharp compared to this, which gives you an indication of Clair’s feathery softness.

 Clair de Musc is warm, kind and pleasant. I don’t feel that it brings anything dramatically different the Musk Party. In fact, I only really got interested when I layered it over Cabochard. Then I really perked up and began to take notice. However, I often layer my trusty  (and cheap) bottle of Jovan White Musk over other items in my scent wardrobe to similar effect.

 Clair de Musc has low sillage, (often a blessing), and average lasting power on me, say two hours. I would probably not wear it alone, and it’s pricey as a layering scent: a bit like spending more on your petticoat than you would on a pair of good shoes.

Cheaper Musks do the job. This is good, but is it worth £85? You may disagree. Samples are the way forward, my friends. The Jury’s out.

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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