Category Archives: perfume

Jasper Conran Mistress: Gingery Bergamot Heaven

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If Gingery Bergamot is your idea of a good time, then welcome to my world. Bergamot is one of my favourite notes, except when used alongside Green Tea.

Jasper Conran has created a delightful Green/Bergamot scent here with Mistress, and the scented candle that’s part of the range was the recipient of a FiFi Award for best Home Fragrance in 2008

I may have mentioned that I am a big fan of Eau de Cartier (just a few hundred times), and this is certainly along similar lines. I wouldn’t call them closely related, but they could be second cousins once removed.  The Bergamot is dominant, although being gentle and light, Bergamot could never be too loud. There is also a hint of Ginger, which makes me think of Gres Cabotine and its Ginger Lily notes.  Fruit notes are listed, although I don’t pick up on these, and gentle Musk softens the Bergamot and makes it almost chalk-powdery rather than talcum or face powdery.  Longevity isn’t exceptional, but it’s very people-friendly and won’t choke anyone to death on the morning train.

I was pleasantly surprised at this lovely fragrance, since I was expecting something more mainstream. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea*, but it’s certainly mine.

*NB Not Green Tea!

Grès Cabaret: It’s Rose. It’s Musk. It’s Gorgeous.

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I’m a fan of Parfums Grès, I even have the much derided set of Marlene Dietrich fragrances, as well as beautiful Cabotine and Leathery/Spicy Cabochard ( see my earlier review). However, I was so deeply disappointed in a Cabotoine Flanker, Cabotine Rose, that it made me cautious about buying a Grès blind.

On this occasion, I bought a very small (7.5ml) bottle of Grès Cabaret on the grounds that if I didn’t like it, I can still pay the mortgage.

When it first goes on (and I have a bottle with no spray so it’s direct onto my skin) it smells almost medicinal, or more specifically, Dental, like the pink mouthwash they give you to rinse with.

The drydown turns into Turkish Delight or those Rose and Violet Creams you can sometimes still get from a good Chocolatier. There is powerful Rose, but the Violet gives it that Turkish Delight quality.

However, it’s the base notes that I really love about Cabaret. From a high pitched Rose it turns into a Patchouli scent with prominent Sandalwood, still with the Rose, some softening Musk, and a bit of pretty Peony, but now it becomes a woodier, more mysterious scent.  It’s almost as if the fragrance encapsulates morning, afternoon and evening all in one.

Although this only seems to be available in the EDP rather than an EDT, I would say it has a weak link in it’s strength and longevity. I’ve had to use nearly half of my little bottle just to get two thirds’ of a day’s wear out of this. When you compare this to say, Lanvin Arpège  (see my review dated January 2nd) where a mere glance at the bottle is enough to scent you  from Dawn to Midnight, then this is a slight letdown in an otherwise rather lovely and unusual fragrance.

Like the rest of the Parfums Grès range, it’s pleasingly affordable, and hey, even Luca Turin really likes it. He hates stuff I love and I hate stuff he loves, but on this, we can agree. Intriguing, interesting and, like all my favourite fragrances, a scent that keeps you guessing. This is a good complex fragrance that is so much more than a Rose Musk.

Oh and sort your website out Parfums Gres. It’s the 21st Century!

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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Gres Cabochard: And Suddenly It All Made Sense…

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Cabochard (meaning “stubborn” in French), was orchestrated in 1959 by Madame Gres herself, along with a little help from Nose Bernard Chant of Aramis and the iconic Aromatics Elixir fame, to name but a few of his prolific creations.

This is one of those interesting fragrances that I smelt out of context and initially disliked. By that I mean I smelt it away from its natural environment, which is of course alongside other Leathers and Tobaccos. Having smelled a few mainstream modern florals that day. Cabochard smelled old fashioned, and very powdery in a talcum powder way that was not good. In fact, I was missing the point first time round.

However, as with Caron Tabac Blond (see my earlier review two days ago), when smelled alongside its peers in the same group, this is impressive and a little addictive.  I bought my bottle (a very nice anniversary frosted glass bottle) from my local Bodycare store on the High Street. On the bottom shelf, out of the eyeline of all but the nosiest of customers (i.e me), is a line of Cabochard boxes, coasting a mere £8.99 for a 100ml bottle.

The first spray is Ginger Wine or Sherry, very loud and very swiftly over. Then you get the talcum powder again, but when I waited for ten minutes I was rewarded with a fabulous Incense/Patchouli Leather fragrance that was worth about five times what I paid. Naturally it’s been reformulated into submission, but I don’t have the vintages to compare it to. When this has jumped out of the bottle it’s not so good, but when it’s gone to sleep on your skin, it’s divine. It reminds me of Leather that has been worn to Church, with a hint of papery dry Tobacco. The Tobacco note is not one of toxic exhaled smoke, but more one of the smell inside a Tobacconists, where the pipe smoke and cigars rub shoulders, giving off an aroma of dark, dried leaves.

Overall it’s good Spiced Leather, but I can’t help thinking that I wouldn’t be so positive about this had I smelt the original, rather than this reformulation, which has deeply disappointed critics. (Luca Turin is practically in tears about this one). However, I have to work with the materials I’ve got. For my money, and there wasn’t much of that needed, this is a very good, aromatic Leather with a few shouts of Chypre Green notes and a schooner of Sherry before it finally calms down into its warm leathery base note.

This will never be my signature scent (I’m down to about twelve of those, oh the irony!…) but it will always be in my scent wardrobe, especially for Winter.

Caron Tabac Blond: A Cigarette That Bears a Lipstick’s Traces

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Being a fan of hesperides and heavy incense fragrances (I know, from one extreme to the other), I expected little from Caron Tabac Blond. Being a Leather, it doesn’t fall into either of my favourite camps. However, I’d read such enthusiastic reviews by experienced parfumistas both male and female that I decided to hunt it down.

Thanks to a very kind friend (you know who you are) I was given a full bottle on loan. The bottle itself is delightful: all gold caps and gold ridged lid and raised polka dots on the beautiful glass. At first sniff I was uninspired. It was dry, brown and dusty. However the previous day I had been wearing the diametrical opposite: Chanel Cristalle (see my earlier review),  which is fresh, citrussy and dewy.

I tried again, and this time, being in the right mindset for Leather and Tobacco, I fell a little bit in love with Tabac Blond.  Imagine finding an old leather satchel in an antique shop. Imagine an ancient unsmoked packet of cigarettes in the bottom, along with some dog-eared love letters and a pressed carnation. Take a deep sniff. That’s Tabac Blond. Papery, dry, Tobacco and Leather. It brought to mind the yellowing pages of an old book, dusty and forgotten. The perfect destination for this fragrance is either Paris, for any reason at all, or Hay on Wye – the Second Hand Book Capital of the World, where some of the ancient shops still have bells on the door.

Caron Tabac Blond was an edgy contender when it was created in 1919. Emancipated women were coming out of the woodwork  and, can you bear it?, they were smoking.  In public.  Like men.  Enter Stage Left: Tabac Blond.  Designed to complement the smell of Le Smoking, the Tobacco notes are not as common now. In fact there is nothing modern about this dusty treat. Bearing in mind today’s fruity, screechy monstrosities, that in itself should be celebrated.  Tabac Blond is the classic trench coat in a room full of neon anoraks. Pure class.

The Mighty Cinnabar

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Estee Lauder launched Cinnabar within weeks of YSL Opium coming out. The gauntlet was well and truly thrown down. That they are competitors cannot be coincidence with such a close time lapse between them and such unmistakable  similarities.

Cinnabar was created in 1978 and has become somewhat of a standby classic.  I don’t smell this very often on under 50s, which is a great shame .  I would love to see younger people seek out  fragrances like this and escape from the fog of modern fruity florals.

 Cinnabar has a lot to offer.  It is an Oriental Spice perfume, with other notes that make it chameleon-like in its adaptability.  On first spray it is loud, fresh and spicy before drying down into a talcum powder masculine scent .  But bear with it, as it soon changes again and becomes a delightful Incense fragrance with a hint of powdery orange and peach, and a definite loud-ish note of clove standing in the background.  This is serious perfume: it’s not playful.   I can’t help thinking of rather sombre females in dark suits, or elegant dames with pearls and no laughter lines.

On me I’m afraid it reminds me of a Toilet in a rather well to do house I visited years ago.  I can’t help it.  I smell a fragrance and a long forgotten memory just pops up and won’t go away.  I think the hint of Jasmine, which is often indolic, has made this hard for me to love, but easy to admire.  It also reminds me of a soap called Shield, used by a former adversary, which has kind of spoilt it for me.   Strangely enough, I found this so similar to Estee Lauder Youth Dew, now in its 60th year, that I am not entirely clear why they made two fragrances so very similar.  Yesterday I wore Cinnabar on one arm and Youth Dew on the other.   At one point they were so alike I thought I was going to have to write “This one is Youth Dew” on my arm.

Cinnabar is not for me, but I hope it sticks around as we need more classics like this.  It would be a tragedy if a beautiful Oriental were to be discontinued through lack of sales.  With today’s trends for the lighter more modern fruits and vanillas, I sometimes fear for the good guys like Cinnabar.

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
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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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Jo Malone Orange Blossom for Men And Women: Refreshing Simplicty

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Jo Malone is often lauded as being  the perfume brand for people who don’t like perfume. You can see why. With notes found in nature, the brand is typified by its perennial favourite Lime, Basil and Mandarin.  Many perfume fans who can’t bear Aldehydes, Synthetics or Chypres, can stay in their comfort zone with Jo Malone.  Quality is indisputable. Longevity is variable, but that could be true of any brand.

This review is about Jo Malone Orange Blossom.  The beauty of this fragrance is that it does what it says on the tin. You wanted Orange Blossom? You’ve got it. It doesn’t mess around or try and get fancy with Vanilla and Blueberries or Musks, or add soapy Aldehydes you didn’t ask for.  It’s honest.

Although Fragrantica states that this also contains Lilac, Lemon and  Lotus, all I got was rather heady Orange Blossom, with a bright Citrus Orange kick. In my opinion  this is Linear, that is, it’s a one note wonder: unchanging as it lasts throughout the hours.  This is no bad thing, after all, the clue is in the title. It does not mislead, trick or change once you’ve got it on.  Orange Blossom is a strong White Flower note which is often paired with Tuberose.  Both are feminine, clean notes, but both have a headiness and richness bordering on the creamy, and some might say, cloying.

Orange Blossom Jo Malone, however, is light and clean, almost a nod to Eau de Colognes, but it is long lasting, clean smelling, and can be worn all year round. It’s also unisex, and would smell great on the right man, brave enough to shrug off the High Street Miasma and take a bit of nature into the office.

Jo Malone was bought by Estee Lauder in 1999. Jo herself remained at the helm until 2006 when she left to pursue her own interests  Funnily enough, it turned out that she hadn’t quite finished with fragrance after all and her new range Jo Loves is available from her website, and still has the respect of critics (and beauty bloggers).

For an honest, clean, Citrussy Floral, you can’t go wrong with Orange Blossom Jo Malone. It’s a refreshing change from scents with 42 gazillion notes that confuse the poor brain.  Sometimes, simplicity is in order, and it is very welcome.