Category Archives: perfume

Celeb Scents 5: Madonna Truth or Dare

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Nipple flashing, crotch grabbing, rule breaking, trailblazing Madonna has surprised me in three ways with this fragrance.  Not only has she turned up late in the game after everyone else has had a go, but she has produced a fragrance that is both traditional and ladylike and dare I say it, safe.

Truth or Dare was launched globally in May 2012. A flanker scent, Truth or Dare Naked, was launched in December 2012. My theory about why she is late is that she is so inhumanly busy that the team from Coty probably took two years to get an appointment into her watertight schedule. But that, of course, is conjecture.

The fragrance itself is overwhelmingly Tuberose and White Flowers, but especially Tuberose. It has been said that her mother, whom she lost at a young age, wore Fracas by Robert Piguet: the last word in Tuberose fragrance after which all-comers were a mere imitation.

Although Truth or Dare has other notes in it, it is the creamy Tuberose that dominates and almost sees the rest of them off. It’s not bad though, not bad at all, and smells more expensive than it is.  It is worth buying if you like White Flowers and Tuberose and Gardenia all together in one place. Personally I don’t like it on me, but I enjoyed wearing the sample I purloined from a beauty counter. It’s rich and heady and feminine, and not at all what I was expecting from Madonna. The price was a surprise as well, since the woman has no qualms in charging fans around £200 a ticket to see her in a (short) concert. She is giving us a bargain here.

The third thing that surprised me was the bottle. It’s made of white plastic. It’s quite rare to have plastic perfume bottles these days. Even the cheapest brands manage to use glass bottles, but maybe the team at Coty blew the budget on the ingredients and ran out of steam. Like I said, it doesn’t smell cheap, but the packaging sure looks it.

So what I expected was Madonna being first off the block with an edgy unusual fragrance that nobody else had thought of, in some sort of dagger or crucifix shaped glass bottle that cost around £200 a pop.

What she has actually done is produced a classy and ladylike scent cheapened by a bobbly plastic bottle, that is both affordable and wearable.

I’ve seen her boobs and she’s flashed her crotch, but Madonna giving us a high quality, accessible fragrance that is even on the cheap side of affordable? Now that really was a surprise. Whatever next? Madonna Twinsets? Madonna pearls? You think you know someone…

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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Celeb Scents 3: Hilary Duff With Love

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With Love first came to my attention by having the dubious honour of being the cheapest fragrance in the window of my local bargain store. I thought it was probably awful if it was being flogged off so cheaply, but I went home and looked it up anyway.

The next day I was back and buying a bottle. Now that I’ve used that all up, I’ve just ordered another one. This stuff is pretty good.

I had no idea who Hilary Duff was, so I looked her up too. She was a Disney teen queen,aka Lizzie McGuire, and has sold over 13 million records worldwide. Still in her twenties, I was expecting some sugary sweet concoction aimed at the teen market. Well, it’s funny how the least likely people can end up really impressing you. Hilary Duff has created a wonderful woody, tropical scent that is nothing like anything else I can think of.  In fact its top note, Cocobolo, is only used in this perfume and no other. In case you were wondering, Cocobolo is very hard rosewood used decoratively in knife handles and polished wood ornaments.

With Love smells like aromatic pipe smoke with a hint of mango and spice. It’s almost masculine, but has a base of musk and amber that make it a little more feminine. When launched in 2006, it was in the top three best-selling fragrances in USA department stores. It’s rich and unique and has been critically acclaimed.  I think Ms Duff surprised everybody.

As for the bottle? It should definitely be a prize winner in itself. The chiselled glass bottle is based on an antique ring design that Duff found in an antique shop. The stopper is faux Citrine, and the overall effect is of something created in the 1920s. Unfortunately a common fault across the brand is that the atomiser lid comes off and you need to keep sticking it back on again, but apart from that, this a real hidden gem in every sense.

This has been discontinued  so buy it now before it disappears. This is the perfume that told me not to judge a book by its cover. Or a fragrance by its price tag.

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Celeb Scents 2: Sarah Jessica Parker The Lovely Collection “Endless”

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If there was a prize for being Most Involved Celebrity In Every Stage Of Fragrance Development, it would go to Sarah Jessica Parker. When Lovely was created in 2005, Sarah Jessica Parker was credited as being Creative Director. Whereas many celebrities complete the “Sniff this, Sign Here” procedure, SJP was in the lab, in the boardroom, in the office and all over it.  What she produced (backed by Coty) has been critically acclaimed and widely respected.

I was unimpressed with her follow up, Covet, but when her affordable diffusion range came out, I trusted the brand enough to buy blind. The line consists of Dawn, Endless and Twilight, and this review is for Endless.

Beautifully packaged and affordable, Endless already has two things going for it. I first tried this in the summer, and found it was momentary. It evaporated in minutes. However, I gave it another chance in colder weather and found it really hangs around in Autumn and Winter. With an unmistakable top note of Apple, it’s fresh and crisp. There is also a top note of Ivy but I can’t comment on that as frankly I haven’t a clue what Ivy, as a note, even smells like. I have some on my house and there is almost no smell at all.  So we have crisp apple and some floral notes, probably the Peony . The apple hits the spot and has none of the sweetness or sickliness of some fruit scents, but is refreshing and clean.

When the apple fades slightly, the flowers kick in: the Peony, the Magnolia and the Jasmine. When all this settles you are left with a lovely Rose scented Musk on your skin which has lasting power (in the cold at least). This is sold in the Eau de Parfum concentration for very reasonable prices. The bottle alone would grace any dressing table.

Full marks for presentation and for being very good quality for the low price. Could do better on longevity.

Incidentally, if you find a fragrance too fleeting, spray it on your clothes and hair.

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Celeb Scents 1: Deseo by Jennifer Lopez

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Looking like a rain drenched jewel and having a blurb that would make Mills and Boon reject it for being too twee,  JLo’s Deseo turns out to be pretty nice actually.

Flowery hyperbole is never far away when it comes to fragrance copywriters but this one I have to share:

Fragrance Deseo by Jennifer Lopez is inspired by her garden. She invited her associates from Coty to walk at night through her beautiful kingdom and capture the divine smell “

If you too would like to know what a walk around JLo’s “beautiful kingdom” is like, then you can’t go wrong with a bottle of this. In fact, it does smell tropical and it also smells like a garden. It’s a fresh aquatic with hints of Coconut and Tropical Flowers.  Bamboo Leaf is listed in the top notes, but since I wouldn’t recognise the smell of Bamboo Leaf if I was sitting on a Panda’s lap, then I feel unqualified to comment on its presence here. After a while it becomes a pleasant Sandalwood Musk. It starts bright and sharp and calms down a bit as it settles. Don’t we all?

I bought a 50ml bottle for £10.54 and I think I’ll be keeping it. I’m not used to tropical notes and it does smell a little synthetic, but  it’s pleasant and fresh, slightly powdery, and feminine. So yes, thank you Jenny from the Block. I’m sure you’re one of us really. And I’m sure your beautiful kingdom never smells of bins and recycling.

When Celebrities Try and Make Scents: The Celebrity Fragrance Boom

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I tried resisting. I tried dismissing them as bandwagon wannabes, but the tide was too strong. The fact is, when celebrity fragrances are made by the likes of Coty and Clarins, then you can’t help but sit up and take notice.

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When the tide becomes a tsunami, it’s worth looking into. Are they all just also-rans or are some celebrity fragrances serious contenders?

It was the late Dame Elizabeth Taylor who is generally credited with bringing out the first celebrity perfume, Passion” in 1988. From the House of Elizabeth Taylor we had Passion, White Diamonds, Violet Eyes, Diamonds and Rubies, Diamonds and Sapphires, Diamonds and Emeralds, Gardenia, Elizabeth Taylor Forever, and Black Pearls. So pretty much her entire bedroom. I shall write about some of these at a later date. Made by Elizabeth Arden, the fragrances had excellent pedigree and few could ever call Dame Elizabeth tacky or cheap (although in private she could tell a dirty joke that would make a sailor blush).

However, In fact it was Cher who brought out the first celebrity fragrance in 1987, called, not surprisingly, Uninhibited.

Not long afterwards, in 1997, Antionio Banderas brought out Diavolo, and when JLo dipped herImage toe in the scented water in 2002 with J-Lo Glow, the tsunami was starting to gather speed.

Today, the market is flooded. Everybody from reality stars to pop stars, actresses and athletes are bringing out their own range of fragrances. There are too many to ignore, so we may as well get stuck in. Resistance is futile.

This week, I will be donning my aviators, getting a stalker, and refusing interviews: Yes, I’m going all celeb on you. I will only be reviewing celebrity fragrances for the next week. As always, my reviews are subjective and I am only giving my personal response to a scent. And as always, I am always interested in yours too.

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J’Adore Dior: Smooth and Golden

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Dior J’Adore has become synonymous with its high octane glamorous campaign fronted by Charlize Theron in all her golden glory. From wading through a  pool of molten gold to strutting her stuff through a fashion show, it’s super glamorous, super feminine,  super elegant.

But is it all image or does this fragrance put its money where its mouth is?  Just because it has a famous name behind it doesn’t mean it’s going to smell good (I’m talking to you Champs Elysées!)

This is one for fans of soft powdery floral fragrances. Whilst I am a frequent critic of fruity florals, when it’s done well, as it is here, it can be a great combination when not churned out on the cheap. There is none of that watery cheapness about silky smooth J’Adore. Top notes include Melon, Peach, Pear and Mandarin. Whilst this may sound like a Carmen Miranda overload, it is in fact the Pear that dominates whilst the other fruit notes blend together well, rather than shout out separately.  This is beautifully made.

However, it’s the floral notes that really take over and to me this is a soapy, powdery Tuberose scent. I’m not usually a fan of Tuberose, although it’s growing on me, but this has been tempered with Jasmine, Violets and Freesia so it doesn’t take over like a drunken guest at a dinner party, like it so often can. It’s Tuberose with the volume down low, being made to share the floor with its cousins and allowed to only whisper for a change, instead of shouting.

Base notes are silky and smooth, allegedly with Blackberry and Cedar, but I just get muted Tuberose, Lily of The Valley and a hint of feathery Musk to soften it.  It’s rich, not watery, soft, not loud, and velvety rather than astringent. All in all, it’s a good buy with no sign of dying out soon.

J’Adore was created in 1999 by Calice Becker, the nose behind the celebrated Estee Lauder fragrance Beyond Paradise, which was given five stars by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez in Perfumes The Guide.  (J’Adore only gets three!) At £89 for 100ml, try before you buy. It’s worth remembering that my taste may not be yours.

Halston Catalyst: Either You Go or I Go.

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I bought Halston Catalyst blind. Attracted by its amazing floral notes, many of which are favourites, and tempted by its attractive price, what could possibly go wrong?

The notes listed which are among my favourites are: Gardenia, Hyacinth, Bergamot, Carnation and Lily of the Valley. Base notes include Musk, Amber and Sandalwood.

What I actually got was this little scenario:

Imagine you had a curry in the 1970s, decided you didn’t like it, so hid it in the drawer of an antique wooden dresser, then poured cheap Men’s Eau de Cologne over it to hide the smell. Then imagine you opened the drawer in 1993, (the year Catalyst was created) and decided “Mmm, that’s nice, I’ll call it Catalyst and sell it to ladies for money”.

When I tried this, I was convinced there was cumin in it, or spice, although neither of these are listed. I did get sandalwood, in spades, but that is the only note listed that I picked up on. There was not a whiff of so much as a flower petal. My beloved Bergamot wasn’t even in the same time zone, let alone in this bottle. The notes don’t seem to match the accords, which are listed as “Woody, Warm Spicy, Floral, Powdery, White Floral”.  I got Woody and Spicy, but I have no idea where the others went.

This is what I refer to as a Howler. Not only could I not wash it off fast enough, but it was listed on eBay within 24 hours of receiving it. As if to back me up, there are currently 51 of these babies listed for sale on eBay. I am not alone. You will be if you wear this.

All reviews are of course, subjective and by no means a final word. This might smell great on you. Let me know your worst ever “Howler”, I’d be interested to know.

High Street Fragrance Shopping:The Thrill Of The Chase

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Great perfumes may be more accessible than you think. Niche is nice work if you can get it, but sometimes you want instant gratification ( and testers!) and that’s where your local High Streets and Retail Parks come in handy. Without a doubt,  the fragrance market is half drowned in  mainstream celeb-tastic fruity florals and foodie florals, but if you look carefully, you might just strike Gold (and I do not mean Paco Rabanne 1 Million *shudder*).

Argos is currently selling an excellent mini set of perfumes that contains Rumeur, Arpege, First, Paul Smith Extreme and C’est la Fete. You might now see why I have reviewed all five. They come in 5 ml mini bottles and I was excited to see at least three good quality names in there. This does not happen very often.  Mini sets usually have Anais Anais, a Ted Baker, and two others of no consequence.  Contents may vary slightly. Get it while its hot. Or before I buy them all, whichever is quicker.

Meanwhile, in Bodycare, you can buy a 100ml bottle of Grès Cabochard for a mere £8.99, (instore only) which often retails at twice that price even on eBay. Buy it if you like classic leather notes.  Superdrug usually has a range of fragrance special offers, plus lots of lovely testers, so pop in if you’re passing.  I’ve picked up several bargains there in the past, including Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Revitalize for ten quid.

I often pop into my local Perfume Shop and although there prices are not competitive, every now and then they have a bargain box to rummage through and there are random bargains to be had if you get lucky.

Don’t overlook your local Boots either:  the old time classics such as Tweed and Coty L’Aimant can be had for a song.

These are for UK stores only, but if you hear of any other bargains anywhere, I am all ears.

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Lanvin Rumeur: Perfect. Unable to Remove Nose from Wrist.

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Not only have I happened upon a fragrance I love, but also a Nose I love, by the name of Francis Kurkdjian. Francis, who is my new poster boy for fabulous fragrance, is responsible for Aqua di Parma Iris Nobile, Emmanual Ungaro Apparition, J del Pozo in White, two Guerlains, two Diors, pretty much ALL of Jean Paul Gaultier, two Van Cleef and Arpels, two Demeters, two for Juliette Has A Gun, and he also has his own Perfume House called Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

Francis (and I can call him that because I love him now), created Lanvin Rumeur in 2006.  Being a fan of Lanvin Arpège, I thought I’d give it a go and I got hold of a beautiful miniature bottle.

From the first application (my mini bottle has no spray), the top notes are Magnolia, Lily of the Valley and something else…almost a bit Aldehyde. In any case, it’s sharp before the drydown.  These flowers are not wishy washy florals. The musk and patchouli kick in during the drydown and what you have left after about an hour is an extremely feminine floral musk. Think Magnolias and Musk with a hint of raspy Patchouli – just enough to stop it being too flowershop.

It’s as feminine as high heels, red lipstick and a string of pearls. It’s ladylike and classic. There’s not a whiff of fruit or vanilla to make it mainstream, and hooray for that. If anything there is a whisper of nail polish about it, but that may be just my interpretation. It’s a floral with character. A rose with bite. And I think it’s just gone into my top ten Hall of Fame.

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If Francis Kurkdjian and Jean Claude Ellena had a fight, I wouldn’t know whose name to scream.