Category Archives: perfume

Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel: Or Antiques Sur la Mer

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 Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel seemed to be exactly right for today’s blazing hot weather. It was new to me, and liking the name is very often enough to make me choose a  Scent Of The Day (SOTD) However, the results were an incongruous surprise.

With a name like Fleurs de Sel I was expecting something lazy and Mediterranean. I wasn’t disappointed, but Fleurs de Sel was far more masculine and Leathery than I was expecting.

Firstly, it has lasted almost seven hours on my arm today, giving it a good score for longevity. Sillage is subtle. I applied it from a sample bottle dabber across the table from my husband who couldn’t tell I had just applied perfume (until I shoved my arm under his nose. He is used to this now).

Top notes are Thyme, Clary Sage and Rosemary. I certainly had visual images of a cook’s kitchen, all herby and aromatic. There is a salty note in there too, making me think of scrubby dunes by the sea, with their herby plants clinging to the sand. The drydown is strong Vetiver and Leather. I much prefer Leather to Vetiver and these two were neck and neck in strength. Vetiver won.

The base note lasts for hours and is a peppery Vetiver with the Leather in the background, having come second in the race to dominate . With the combination of Herbs, Salt and Vetiver, this is a very masculine scent. However, since I am going through rather a masculine Leathery phase at the moment, I rather like it just how it is.

Whilst the opening Act is all herby sea salt and scrubland, it beds down into a scent that is reminiscent of old worn leather. Imagine opening the door of an Antiques shop by the sea. The warm leather is in front of you, with the sea at your back. Add some Vetiver in a vase by the door, and there you have it. Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel.

Avon Week: Absynthe by Christian Lacroix

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Christian LaCroix has created several fragrances exclusively for Avon: Noir for Men, Rouge for Women, Nuit For Women,  Nuit for Men, and Christian La Croix Absynthe. It’s not the usual run of the mill Avon stuff either.  Absynthe has guts and gusto and isn’t afraid to tread a tightrope away from being A Safe Bet.

 Absynthe is one of Avon’s most expensive fragrances, yet it can still be bought for as little as £12 for 50ml in some brochures.  It was created in  2009 by Laurent Le Guernec,  who has also worked on  Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker,  twelve fragrances for Bond No 9, four for Liz Claiborne,  and  Aromatics Elixir Parfumer’s Reserve for Clinique to name but a few of his successes. Despite it’s affordability and ubiquity, Absynthe is a decent scent that can stand shoulder to shoulder with more expensive contemporaries.

My lasting impression of Absynthe is that it reminds me of the bitter Greek Wine, Retsina, made of pine resin.  It opens with dry, bitter notes: Myrrh and a hint of Wood and Anise. Wormwood is strong too, as you would find in the notorious namesake drink.  Middle notes are softer and more feminine introducing flowers and a hint of pretty White Musk. The base is clearly  Amber and Musk, and the Wormwood from the opening stays true throughout.   There is a sweet note in there too, that I cannot name. I would have said Vanilla or Tonka Bean. It’s not overpoweringly sweet though, more like the sweetness of a glass of Chardonnay. I would also have described Absynthe as having Green notes too. The drydown is, to my nose, a dry, Green and Woody combination that has a refreshing bitterness. There’s a faint hint of Liquorice too, from the Anise in the opening blast.

Although LaCroix has also created Absynthe for Him, I don’t know why he bothered since this would comfortably merge from one to the other. I could easily pretend I bought this for my husband and then steal the whole damn bottle.

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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.

Avon Week: Timeless

Avon.com
Avon.com


Now we’re talking. I bought a bottle of Timeless in 2012 and was dismissive of it.  In my naivety I labelled it “powdery” and “old lady”. Since my recent epiphany regarding the chypre genre (Thank you Balmain Jolie Madame, I’ve never been the same since), I have changed my outlook on Chypres.

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In Timeless, we have in our midst an excellent and very affordable chypre  (sans oakmoss) that users compare to Rochas Femme or even Gres Cabochard.   Another fan says it is a cross between Obsession and Dana Tabu.

Prominent notes include aldehydes, opoponax, patchouli and amber.   It opens with spicy citrus, beds down into an old fashioned floral with roses and jasmine, and finishes off with an ambery powder accord that isn’t done enough these days.

Timeless was created in 1974 and has fans that have been wearing it ever since.   On the Avon Shop UK page,  buyers are clamouring for it.  On Fragrantica, it is praised to the skies.  On my humble left arm, it smells amazing and has great lasting power.  In fact Avon, did a very daft thing which they quickly put right after listening to their cusotmers.   Timeless was at one point, discontinued.  Such was the uproar from their non-millenial,  long term, customers that Avon very kindly brought it back again.  Wise move, Avon

I tried a sample of Timeless EDT today and was knocked for six. The powdery old fashioned smell I once foolishly tossed aside is terrific. It’s classic, spicy and feminine.  It could hold its own alongside many more expensive brands and not even blush.

Stockists: Timeless is available from Avon UK at the excellent price of £5, although prices and offers may vary.

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Avon Week: Eternal Magic


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This came as a big surprise. I was expecting a light floral, let down by a cheap basenote, as per earlier Avon reviews.  But what do I find but a Dead Ringer for none other than Lancôme Hypnôse?

It’s not just me either, on Fragrantica, no less than 71 other readers have decided its similar too. The notes listed vary quite markedly. Lancôme Hypnôse is listed as having Passionflower, Vanilla and Vetiver, whereas Eternal Magic is listed as having Iris, Tincture of Rose, Vanilla and Woods.

Somewhere in the middle, I would say both have Passionflower, a hint of Wood notes, and Imagedefinite-unmistakable-applied-with-a-trowel, sweet Vanilla. What you are left with is a Floriental Gourmand, a spicy floral with heavy Vanillic basenotes. In fact the first time I ever tried Hypnôse, I was convinced there was a soft little note of Anise in there somewhere.

The beauty of Eternal Magic lies in the fact that it doesn’t smell like an automaton Avon scent. In a blind test, I would never have labelled this one as Avon. It’s warmer, with more resonance and depth to the base. It’s not my cup of tea personally, but it is rather lovely and pleasant, and a refreshing change from other Avon scents.

If you are a fan of Lancôme Hypnôse (£38 per 30ml) but your money tree isn’t blossoming, then this is your lucky day. Eternal Magic is usually around £13 for a 50ml EDT, but in the current Avon brochure it is a mere £8. Avon online is selling it in a gift pack for £9.99 . I consider these prices downright silly and encourage you to take advantage of a quality scent at a bargain price.

The spokesmodel for Eternal Magic is the beautiful Zoe Saldana, and her willowy form features in the ad campaign. Eternal Magic sillage is positively sociable,  and lasting power is around three hours on a good day.

Avon Week: Avon in Bloom by Reese Witherspoon

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Avon has a bad habit of launching a fragrance, ensuring it’s of acceptably good quality (it’s never going to be mind blowing), waiting until everyone loves it, and then discontinuing it, leaving all future profits to eBayers.

Avon in Bloom by Reese Witherspoon  begins as a decent White Floral that starts promisingly with Gardenia, Peaches (thankfully not the whole tree like some I could mention *cough* Liz Taylor Rubies and Diamonds *cough), and Jasmine.

The bottle is a blatant steal from Guerlain’s My Insolence, but that’s no crime. Unoriginal, but not bad. I was amazed to find that no Tuberose notes are listed, but I often find that Tuberose Imageand Gardenia are so often together that sometimes I get them mixed up. In the same way, I often smell Violets alongside Iris, even when they’re not there.

Sadly, the basenotes let this down. It reminded me of so many other Avon perfumes and I think this is a stumbling block for me. It’s as if Avon use the same base ingredients and just add a  few different high notes to differentiate. It’s similar to the same way that Heinz soup, although good, always tastes like Heinz soup, no matter what flavour you’re having.

The basenotes remind me of a perfume I reviewed earlier in my blog, Avon Today. Again, it started off well with Freesia and Tropical notes, and ended up smelling exactly the same as this. It’s a cross between Poundland Vanilla candles and pencil shavings. It’s a disappointment frankly, like a beautiful necklace that all the stones fall out of after twenty minutes of looking lovely.

The bottle is beautiful though, and if I take my glasses off and squint across the room, I can almost dream that’s a great big bottle of My Insolence. If only it was.

I bet Ms Witherspoon doesn’t really wear this…

Avon Perceive Dew: Zing!

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The original Avon Perceive fragrance was created by none other than Christopher Sheldrake, who has created no less than 43 fragrances for Serge Lutens, including the legendary Chergui and my personal favourite, A La Nuit. Serge Lutens fragrances usually retail at around £80 a bottle. Perceive is currently around £11, making it the cheapest Christopher Sheldrake fragrance in the world. Do bear in mind though, that he was not handling the same calibre of ingredients when he parachuted into Avon as he does when he works for Serge.

 Perceive Dew was, after all that build up, NOT created by Christopher Sheldrake. However, it’s still pretty good.

The first time I smelled it, I immediately got Melon, which is a note I detest in fragrances. However, as always I gave it a second chance and a third. On the third go, just as I was about to list it on eBay, I had an About-Turn when I noticed some delicious Lemony Citrus notes that talked me in from the ledge. Suddenly I was interested again.

Top notes are Lemon, Freesia and Melon. If I can studiously ignore the wishy washy fake Melon note and concentrate on the sharp Lemon, then Perceive Dew and I will get along fine. Middle notes are Marine notes, Apricots and Honeysuckle. I definitely got all of those notes, but it wasn’t unpleasant.

From my first dismissive, and even snobby opinion of “another cheap fruity floral, it must be sent to the eBay Dungeon”, I now take a different view. For a start, the Marine notes are refreshing and pleasant, rather than aquatic and ozonic like The Body Shop Oceanus, which I can’t bear. The Honeysuckle and Apricot add a sweetness for sure, but because of the tart and zingy lemon, this doesn’t quite fall into the candy floss toothache variety of popular scents.

I will emphasise that I didn’t like the Melon note in this, and it is clear that the budget was not spent on expensive ingredients. However, as a refreshing spritz on a hot day, this is hard to beat at the price. I bought my EDP for £6.99 from my smiley, lovely Avon lady. It will be amazing kept in the fridge on a summer’s day.

It’s Avon Week!

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Ding Dong! Reasonably priced beauty products, fragrance and miscellany calling!

Yes trusty old Avon is still at it and going strong. The Avon modus operandi is almost Draconian in this Digital Age.  A brochure is brought to your door, a form is filled in by hand with a pen, and given to a representative that comes back two or three weeks later with your goods. When High Streets are falling like dominoes, it’s almost miraculous that the Avon lady still stands, with a smile.

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Of course the Digital Age hasn’t completely bypassed our trusty friends at Avon. There’s a website where you can order items and leave reviews, and many people text or email their Avon reps now, although that does not exempt them from the long wait for their goods. In fact the long wait is kind of half the fun. Usually by the time I’ve waited three weeks I’ve completely forgotten what I’ve ordered. It’s like a lovely present chosen by someone who knows your tastes perfectly. Which, in a way, it is.

I’ve mentioned Avon in earlier posts, and I’ve promised you an Avon Week. That week is here, dear readers, and it starts now.

 

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Thierry Mugler Womanity: Run Don’t Walk (to wash it off)

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Thierry Mugler Angel is here to stay. I don’t like the chocolate overdose it leaves on my skin, but many people do and there are too many of them for me to argue with. Alien is wonderfully strange, but manageable in small doses.

And then there is Womanity. This is so vile I was almost gagging at the thought of giving it a second chance for the sake of this review. This is no exaggeration. Womanity is the first perfume that actually makes me physically nauseous.

The concept behind Womanity was indeed unique, but unique doesn’t mean it’s going to work. In 2010, Mugler invited women to contribute to the finished product by writing their views and wishes on the Womanity website. The idea was that womankind itself helped to create Womanity. I can’t decide if this is insulting or not, seeing as the finished product is so very rank (at least to me).

It has not escaped my notice that despite being launched in 2010, Womanity has not hit any of the top ten best seller lists anywhere in the world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since many excellent  perfumes stay small and exclusive, almost deliberately eschewing the limelight. Mugler, however, not so much. He’s a game changer and trailblazer. Exclusive he is not.  But then if you choose to put Caviar in scent, you are either attention seeking or trying to show us new ways in which to perceive fragrance.  The jury’s out.

So what does it smell like? Here’s what it’s supposed to smell like: Fig, Caviar, Fig Tree and Fig Leaf.

Here’s what it actually smells like: very old, crumbly Bakewell Tart that has been in a dusty, airless biscuit tin so long that the butter in the crust has gone rancid and the almonds have gone sickly sweet and rank.  With a hint of fish.

I was lost for words. I was agog with astonishment that this sells to anyone at all. I am  aware that all perfumes smell differently to everyone and no reaction, positive or negative, is bad or wrong, but Oh My Days…this is putrid.

Incidentally, my sample is an authentic Eau de Parfum and was obtained from the great Escentual. It’s not the supplier who is at fault here, it’s the panel that said “Mmm, yes, that’s it, let’s use this one.”

 Womanity was made by Nose Alexis Dadier and the fragrance and flavour company Mane.  Mugler was keen to include a savoury note. I can see how he might think that might work. He has changed the face of the perfume industry before. Angel was, and is, a shameless gourmand that has released thousands of wannabes in her wake.  Alien has a uniquely strange bottle and is loud, shouty Amber and Woods. But Womanity? Old biscuits and a hint of fish.  It’s not often a perfume turns my stomach.

Congratulations, by the way, to Halston Catalyst. You are now the second worst perfume I have ever smelt. Womanity has knocked you off your pedestal.  And had me running to the sink.

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Hermes Hermessences Paprika Brasil: Another Perfect Symphony from Jean Claude Ellena

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 At first I read the label on this elegant 5ml sample as “Paprika Basil” and thought, “Do I really want smell like a Chicken Thigh?” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only was it “Paprika Brasil (put your glasses on woman!), but it was made by Jean Claude Ellena, and is up to his usual high standard. He also makes one of my favourite fragrances : the beautiful ever changing First By Van Cleef and Arpels ( see my earlier review).

I would never, ever have considered Paprika as an ingredient in perfume but he makes it work so beautifully that I can’t believe it’s not done more often. There is Iris at first, but a pleasant, sweet variety, rather than the earthy rooty horror that I sometimes encounter. I also thought I could smell Violets, but I am partly mistaken. It’s actually Mignonette:  a “very sweet-smelling and pleasant Mediterranean flower with violet-like and fruity nuances” (Fragrantica)

The Paprika itself does not make itself known immediately, it emerges as a crisp line of spice surrounding the blooming pretty Violet and Iris. Imagine a sparkling clear pool of Violets with a crisp red edging. There are Cloves too, and Green notes and Woods.  When the violets have left only a sweet trail in their mist, I am left with  spiky, peppery scent of beautiful Rosewood.  It’s bold and clever, but the balance is just right, as always with JC.

Luca Turin however, damns it with faint praise in Perfumes The GuideThe pepper-peppers accord works fine, but it does not sustain interest and ends up smelling like the capsicum off note in cheap Graves wine”.

LT gives it two stars.  I’d give it four. But that’s just me.