Category Archives: perfume

Guerlain Mahora- Complex and Beautiful

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Created in 2000 by Jean-Paul Guerlain , Guerlain Mahora is listed as having green notes, of which I am a fan. It has Tuberose, of which I am not a fan. It also contains Jasmine, which smells like a toilet on me.  So on paper, I shouldn’t like this at all.

In real life, I loved it. With an unusual bottle and a name like an African Desert, I was expecting something mysterious and Eastern, maybe another Opium or a Cinnabar, but I was pleasantly surprised by how different this complex Madam of a perfume turned out to be.

First of all, the old familiar Tuberose floated up to my nose. Usually this is a turn off to me, as I find it too rich and cloying, but in Mahora, it’s just right and softens what would have been a plain Oriental into an Oriental softened by flowers, like a muffled drum..

Base notes are Vetiver, Sandalwood and Vanilla, and they all come through strongly in the finish. And may I say it’s a very lasting finish? I sprayed at 8.30am this morning and at 4pm, I was still catching mysterious wafts of Sandalwood and Tuberose.

So what sets this apart from a mainstream Oriental? The quality of ingredients gives it resonance and strength. The addition of carefully chosen (and loud) flowers such as Tuberose and Neroli enhance the woodiness whilst making it softer and creamier. There’s a touch of powder too which stops it being too astringent, as I find some Orientals can be. I like it because it’s soft and feminine and the woodiness doesn’t overpower, yet nor do the flowers. It’s as if the often masculine Vetiver is being calmed down whilst ladylike Tuberose, whispers “Don’t make a scene, Bob”.

Guerlain Mayotte, also by Jean-Paul Guerlain, is said to be the successor to Mahora, and looking at the notes, they seem to be the same, but in a slightly different order. I haven’t smelt Mayotte, so can’t speak for it.

In any case, I’d be happy with a bottle of Mahora. It’s over fifty quid a bottle, but it lasts a very long time.  It could be the scent that converted me to Tuberose.

C’est la Fête! Christian La Croix: Sweetie, it’s sweet, Sweetie.

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From a bottle that looks like a summer’s day with its blue hues rising to yellow, and in a slightly heart shaped bottle, I was in a good mood even before I opened C’est la Fête by Christian LaCroix.

I often say I can’t bear fruity florals, but I found myself quite liking this passion fruit, blackcurrant, rose, jasmine mash-up of a scent.

The fruit is stronger then the flower here, and the passion fruit comes through immediately. When first applied it’s shower fresh and uplifting and that fruit just bursts through with a very light, almost grapefruit scent (although there is no actual grapefruit note in there).

I think I must have missed the floral accords because within an hour this sweet and fruity cocktail has changed into a completely different perfume.

And that perfume is Rochas Tocade. I haven’t owned Tocade for over fifteen years, but suddenly that soft, sweet vanilla base was right there in front of me again and I could see and smell it as if I was 25 again (don’t do the maths).

Now I’m not sure if this was deliberate: after all, Tocade is highly regarded and has remained popular since its creation in 1994. C’est la Fête was created in 2007, replacing its predecessor, C’est la Vie. It has one flanker, C’est la Fête Patchouli, which I have reviewed elsewhere on this blog. In any case, if you try Tocade on its own one day, then try C’est la Fête on a different day, you’ll see what I mean. They’re both good: Tocade lasts longer, but has less fruit.  I doubt it’s meant to be a dupe, but it’s certainly a compliment to Rochas.

Overall, C’est la Fête? It’s party time! If you want smell like Carmen Miranda’s hat.

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Molinard Habanita: A Timeless Vintage

histoire_2Molinard Habanitaseemed right for today’s icy temperatures and like Edith Piaf, I have no regrets. Having tried several vintage woody chypres lately and not liking what they’ve done to me, I was pleasantly surprised to find a vintage fragrance that I like, admire, and want to add to my scent wardrobe.

Molinard  was founded in 1849, in Grasse, and remains a family business. The company can even count Queen Victoria among its early patrons. Habanita was created in 1921 to complement the growing trend for women to smoke. It was intended to “perfume cigarettes”, but has remained a steady seller ever since, even in the health conscious non-smoking 21st century.

It may be just me, but I find older perfumes have a whiff of nail polish about them when first applied. This is no bad thing, since it brings old fashioned dressing tables to mind, which feels right and proper when trawling through the history of fragrances. Habanita is no exception: it has that distinctive note of face powder and nail polish when it first goes on. However, the drydown happens quickly and after that it just gets better.

I often find chypres too harsh and woody, but Habanita is more of an oriental amber. I love amber, and already have Ambre de Cabochard (derided by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, but loved by me), as well as J del Pozo Ambar.

Like all the best perfumes, Habanita changes as you wear it. It starts powdery, and then warms up into a beautiful, feminine scent that lasts a long time. It’s strong, with heavy sillage, so I would save it for evening rather than the office. As time wore on, I could smell a hint of lemon, even though this is not listed as a note, a hint of lilac, some pale musk, and finally strong leather, through an incense-like amber mist.

Fragranitca lists many fruity notes, such as peach and raspberry, but I didn’t get those at all. In fact, I didn’t get any of the top notes listed as Habanita sank into my skin and seemed to skip top notes and middle notes and go straight to base notes: amber, musk, oakmoss and leather. Fans of  Grès Cabochardwill certainly like this.

Habanita de Molinard is a timeless classic. Try it . It’ll bring out the panther in you.

 

EDIT: looking back at this post over a year after I wrote it, it’s very interesting how my tastes have changed.  I still adore Habanita, but these days, I’d be front of the queue for any vintage-y chypres. My journey has been a strange evolution of preferences. 

4th April 2014

Lancôme La Vie est Belle- La smell est belle as well

31GF44xVAlL._SL500_AA300_I first tried this latest offering from Lancôme as a squirt on my arm as I walked through my local department store. Julia Roberts is the face of the fragrance, and since she doesn’t do this kind of thing very often, I figured it must be a good product.

I’m more of a Green Notes person myself, and I generally dislike anything gourmand i.e foodie, unless it’s food. In other words, keep your vanilla and your tonka bean and your caramel and praline notes in Thorntons. I don’t want them on my dressing table.

Thus were my thoughts as La Vie est Belle dried down on my skin as I left the department store.

However, I think you have to wear a scent exclusively for a day at least before you really know it. I also think you have to not wear anything else that day (clothes being the obvious exception).

I have a 2ml sample of La Vie est Belle and that is just about enough, and no more, to wear it all day, and that is what I have done today.

Top notes are pear and blackcurrant, as listed on Fragrantica, but I got the vanilla and tonka bean immediately. In fact if you look at the Fragrantica page, you will see that actual users of the perfume vote praline and vanilla as the most prominent notes, beating the fruit and flowers into hefty submission.  Perhaps they too were overwhelmed with confectionery smells by the time they reached the double doors of House of Fraser.

Having dismissed it before and worn it all day, I have sort of changed my mind. There are more floral notes than I first realised, and it is really very pretty. I often roll my eyes at fruity floral, but this one ain’t bad.

My complaint is that it is kind of a mix up of everything. It’s fruity, with its pear and blackcurrant, it’s floral with its Iris and Jasmine, and its gourmand with its praline and vanilla. Just to spread it even more thinly among the crowd, its also Patchouli. Fans of Thierry Mugler Angel or Viktor and Rolf Flowerbomb might like it. It’s kind of a crowd pleaser, and it has indeed been well received. However, it made me go crossed eyed trying to categorise it.

It will has its fans, but the combination of patchouli and praline make it too much like Angel for me.  Pretty though.

Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez PERFUMES The A–Z Guide

Luca Turin and Tania SanchezAn excellent Directory of what Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez consider to be the good, the bad and the shocking.  Even if you disagree with them, some of their wit is hilariously acerbic.  The glossaries, indexes and  definitions are an education.  Luca Turin would make a brilliant dinner party guest, not that he needs the help. His wife Tania provides the perfect foil and together, like Hart to Hart, they make a brilliant team.

Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez PERFUMES The A–Z Guide.

L’Eau D’Hiver by Jean Claude Ellena for Frederic Malle- Winter Wonderland

Picture 308 L’Eau D’Hiver was created by the legendary Jean Claude Ellena for Frederic Malle. It’s kind of a response to Après L’Ondée. Imagine Jean-Claude and Guerlain having some kind of sniff off in a dark car park after hours. Who wins? Well, I’d say Jean Claude struts off with the trophy in this battle of the heliotropes, but leaves Guerlain with only a slight graze to its pride.

Luca Turin rates Après L’Ondée as one of the twenty best perfumes ever made. That’s quite a compliment when you think there are over 17,000 perfumes listed on Fragrantica alone, and the site by no means covers every scent ever made. It seems only appropriate to review the two scents consecutively since they are both heavyweight heliotropes, and this ingredient is getting harder to find and use today. Somehow, Jean-Claude Ellena managed it, but then Jean-Claude has clout.

So what’s the verdict on Eau d’Hiver? Well it’s primarily heliotrope, but where it differs from the cold shouldered Après L’Ondée is that JCE added a touch of musk, and am I imagining it? MINT.  It’s an unusual mixture that makes me think of frost and snow and silvery frozen raindrops on a cobweb. The mint keeps it sharp, but the musk softens it at the same time.

It wasn’t love at first sniff though, it was more “Mmm, that’s interesting” followed by  “rather nice, but I wouldn’t buy a large bottle” and after a while, I kind of needed to open a window. It’s like longing for a cosy log fire on an icy day, but then getting too cosy and wanting a blast of fresh air again.

The jury’s out, but it’s much friendlier than Après L’Ondée and her haughty froideur.

Guerlain Après L’Ondée : it’s no joke

21oUCRMcp4L._SL500_AA300_ This is a serious grown up perfume. There’s no messing, there’s no laughing at the back. It’s not playful (This isn’t  Ô de Lancôme  for Heaven’s sake!). It’s melancholy and rather beautiful and… well, it doesn’t really suit me if I’m honest. However, I admire it greatly, in spite of the fact that it makes me feel like I wearing someone else’s clothes. I also admire the Old Masters in the National Gallery, but I wouldn’t want one on my mantelpiece.

Après L’Ondée (translation: after the rain shower) was created by Guerlain in 1906 and has stood the test of time, still with a die hard fanbase of ( I imagine), elegant Parisian widows with mournful expressions and good jewellery.

My initial impression at first spray was of an old bookshop. The papery dry Iris and Heliotrope made me think of very old shops with a bell that rings when you enter, and of sniffing ancient reams of paper or antique tomes. In other words, it made me think of Hay on Wye.

It’s a rather sombre scent with mournful heliotrope notes. Light violet tones try and cheer it up, but heliotrope has slammed the door and gone to its room to listen to her gramophone.

It’s powdery in a dusty way, rather than a talcum powder sort of way. It makes me think of a pair of evening gloves that I inherited from my late grandmother. When you sniff closely there is the faintest hint of a long gone party. It’s a kind of the good times were here, but now they’ve gone sort of scent. You would only wear it to a wedding if you hated the groom and thought the bride was making a huge mistake.

It’s beautiful, but a bit sad, like a statue of an angel in a rain sodden formal flower bed. (Don’t get nervous Doctor Who fans, I don’t mean Weeping Angels)

 Après L’Ondée venir les larmes.  If you work in a funeral parlour, this is your new office fragrance. Congratulations!

Champs Elysees: Guerlain, how could you?

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Luca Turin hates Guerlain Champs Elysees. HATES IT. However, I don’t always agree with him so I went ahead anyway. I mean it’s Guerlain so it can’t be bad , right? (apart from La Petite Robe Noire, which smells of cherries and Caramac, but that’s for another day). It can’t be awful if it’s Guerlain, can it?

Well it is. If you told me some famous popsy invented this on the back of an album tour on a limited budget for maximum publicity, I’d believe you. In a blind test, if you asked me which is the Guerlain, I would dismiss this with an instant snort and say “well it’s definitely not THAT one, no way is that a Guerlain”. And I’d be sadly mistaken.

It almost goes without saying that Guerlain has made some true greats that have stood the test of time and succeeded through generations, passing the torch of good taste from woman to woman down the decades. Take Jicky for example, rumoured to be a favourite of Jackie Onassis and created in 1889, or the perennial L’Heure Bleu, created in 1920 and still going strong, or the heavenly Apres L’Ondee, still beautiful after 106 years.

And then there’s Champs Elysees. Created in 1996 and a melting pot, it would seem, of every note they could manage outside the oriental bracket. Can I just ask: why  the melon note? Why? Why have they put melon in there with lilac and peaches and lily of the valley and almonds and anything else they could find lying round the house or garden that day?

This is not to be mistaken for the original Champs Elysees created by Jacques Guerlain in 1904. The only similarity is the name. The modern version was created by Olivier Cresp, who has a lot to answer for , since he is also guilty of creating Angel. (Don’t get me started on Angel, that Marmite of perfumes that divides so vigorously).

If you want Guerlain at its best, get the early ones. A hundred years of women can’t be wrong.

Champs Elysees? turn left and avoid. Much too busy.

Rochas Soleil Rochas: It’s Patchouli Jim, but not as we know it

o.2420I bought this blind, not having seen it around anywhere, but if I’m honest, I was attracted to its affordability. I researched reviews and lists of notes on Fragrantica and finally took the plunge for the princely sum of £11.95 for 75ml.

I was not disappointed. I wore it in the morning, I wore it in the evening, and I wore it at bedtime. Although I often say I am repelled by the raft of fruity florals flooding the market, when the fruit is orange, I make an exception.  Rochas Soleil Rochas is a light patchouli wrapped in orange and orange blossom with a hint of rose. There’s none of that ghastly powdery-ness and it remains fresh despite having a hint of spice.

If you like Dior Dune, you may like this too. For some reason I can smell or sense a sandiness to both scents. Not the seaweed, salty type, but more of a sunny, dusty scent that’s common to both. I don’t know they achieve this, but try it and see if you sense sand too.

Soleil was created in 2008, and  was intended as a floral chypre, recreating a sunny day in Paris. Notes include pear, orange blossom, tuberose and pink pepper. What I get is orange blossom and patchouli., with a hint of tuberose, but added delicately, not in its usual heady way. It’s a definite favourite, although I think more of a summer scent than a winter one. Having said that, the patchouli adds just enough spice for you to get away with it, although the people who smell you will be inspired to go and look at holiday brochures shortly after you waft past, without knowing why.