Category Archives: perfume

Guerlain Aroma Allegoria: Aromaparfum Apaisant: Spring is Coming, Look Busy.


 When I first tried Guerlain Aromaparfum Apaisant my initial thought for almost three seconds was Marine notes. The sea, the sea! So fresh it could cut through any smog.  Within minutes the dry down showed me how wrong I was.

This is not an Aqua at all, it’s a Yellow Flower Honey scent with top notes of Chamomile and Freesia. Often when I smell a new perfume I write down what I can smell and then check it against the notes listed on Fragrantica. On this occasion, it does exactly what it does on the tin: Chamomile Tea next to a bunch of Freesias and a pot of Honey.  In fact the Yellow Flowers and Honey notes made this smell very similar to Gianfranco Ferre Essence D’Eau which I reviewed earlier in this blog.

If you like Essence D’Eau or Lancôme’s Poême, then this will be a good addition to your collection. To me it’s too cloying and flowery, and the honey makes my ears think they can hear bees.

This was created in 2002 by Jean-Paul Guerlain himself. Groucho Marx once said on leaving a hostess at the end of the night “ I’ve had a wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”

To paraphrase Groucho: Jean-Paul Guerlain has made some wonderful fragrances. But this isn’t one of them. Unless you are black and yellow and have wings and a sting.  In which case, you’re going to LOVE this.

Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque: Your Ever Changing Ways


 I haven’t always got on with Serge.  I’ve yet to review several of his scents so I won’t give too much away here.  However I will say that I am still indignant about Ambre Sultan, and non plussed with both Louve and Chergui, more of which anon.

However, with Cuir Mauresque (Moorish Leather) I have discovered one of those wonderful perfumes that changes the longer you wear it. From one phase to another, Cuir Mauresque kept my interest and was full of surprises. Christopher Sheldrake, I forgive you for hooligan juice Ambre Sultan. You have more than made it up to me.

When I first tried this amber fragrance (I mean the colour not the scent), it was immediately evocative of the smoke from joss sticks: both Incense and Smoky notes at the same time.  The Leather is in the background immediately, although it doesn’t take over. There is Spice too: Cinnamon and Clove take a back seat, but are still in the picture. What stops this smelling too Christmas Cake is the lack of sugar.  There are no sugary Vanilla notes, so what you have is an aromatic blend, rather than spiced cake or a gourmand.

What intrigued me about this is that about half an hour after spraying, it seems to turn into an early Twentieth Century vintage blend, say a Caron Tabac Blond, or even a staler Mitsouko. There was that dusty approach that complements “le Smoking”. But it’s OK if you don’t like that, because after that phase it turns into the dried Rose Petals of a pot pourri, sort of papery and peppery  but still with a ghost of dreamy Incense.

Finally it drifts away, leaving a faint trace of powdery Musk and Oud, and yes even a rather suggestive tease of Civet. There is a definite hint of unwashed body at the end. I like a fragrance that tells a story. I like a fragrance that grows and blooms and changes and gradually slinks off in a puff of smoke, job done.  This is complex and interesting. It’s also around £80.00 for 50ml, so I have to think very hard before saving up for a whole bottle.

Cuir Mauresque is like an ugly man with beautiful eyes, although I’m leaving the room,  I can’t stop myself from looking back.


Penhaligon’s Love Potion number 9: Loves Me, Loves Me Not.


This is my first ever Penhaligon’s fragrance and I couldn’t wait to try it. The packaging is outstanding: a pink box on a little stand, a glass bottle inside with a bow around its neck. Ten out of ten for effort Penhaligon’s. They’ve been around since 1870 and both The Queen and The Prince of Wales are patrons, so I expected nothing less than class on that score.  Incidentally, it is said that both Margaret Thatcher and the late Princess Diana wore Penhaligon’s Bluebell. Funny to think two such polar opposites could have something in common.

What comes out of this beautiful bottle of Love Potion Number 9, has me in two minds. Initially it’s a rush of broken ferns: a memory from my childhood where I would pick ferns and break them to sniff the sharp green juice inside.  Maybe that’s why I love Green notes now? Who knows. Actually the top note is listed as Tarragon so maybe that’s what I can smell.  In any case, it’s very Green and very “stems and leaves”, with the Geranium coming through, as promised.

I think it’s the dry down that jars a little.  After a while this seems to “go off” on my skin. It becomes like a flower that’s past its best and turned to dust, with a hint of sweet and dry vanilla over the top.  It’s powdery sweet like Lemon Geranium talc and I don’t think we suit each other.

At least one reviewer on Fragrantica compares it to Dior Dune and I have to say that it certainly rings true.  There is that Grassy Patchouli note as it beds in.  On paper, I should love LP No 9. It has notes I adore: Bergamot, Lemon, and Lavender to name but three of my favourites. However, what I got was Green Ferns, Roses,  Lemon Geraniums and a faint Patchouli base.  Again, I should like that combination. However, I don’t think it’s that LP No 9 is bad, I just think it doesn’t like ME.  I wanted to join the Love Potion Party, but it turned me away at the door.

This is around £80 a bottle so try and get hold of a tester or decant and wear it for a whole day before deciding if you like it enough to invest. It may like you more than it liked me.


The Last Word in Celeb Scents: Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely


 I could not write about Celebrity Fragrance without giving Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely  the attention it deserves. Which is a lot. It’s so good that she could be a perfumer in her own right, fame aside. She was heavily involved in the process from the first meeting with the Lancaster Group, to the final product, more so than any other celebrity behind a fragrance.

 What she has produced is comfortably good enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greats. This is a modern classic.

Having recently reviewed Lanvin Rumeur, I can notice similarities. It’s far from being a copy though, as Lovely is not as loud as Rumeur, and if it is ever compared to anything, it’s usually Narciso Rodriguez For Her. I haven’t smelled the latter so I can’t comment. To me though, it’s similar to and as good as Rumeur.

It’s initially a citrus floral, then very quickly a Rose Musk. It is sharp  and spicy without being harsh, and soft without being generic.

Prior to being asked to create a fragrance, SJP used to create her own unique scent from three different sources and mix them herself on her skin. One was an Egyptian oil, the other scent she mixed was a drugstore Musk (BonneBell), and the third was one of my favourites reviewed earlier in this blog: Comme Des Garcons Avignon.

Lovely has a touch of fresh spice, but not in a cumin sort of way, more in a sharp Patchouli sort of way. There is Lavender too, and Orchid, but the floral notes stop there. This is so much more than a Floral, and I love how such a spicy scent has tamed Patchouli into a wearable everyday scent will all traces of harshness gone.

You could wear this in a lift and nobody would pass out. She’s kept it classy and chic. It’s affordable too , but boy it doesn’t smell cheap!

It’s a great combination: tart and spicy yet smooth and floral. Although she worked alongside two established noses, SJP was credited as Creative Director, a rare move in this world of “Sniff’n’Sign”s.

Sadly I did not love her second fragrance Covet, nor Covet Pure Bloom. The Lovely Diffusion Range is another  way of owning affordable good quality fragrance.  I have reviewed Endless, and recently found Twilight to be a soft musk, akin to a watered down version of Obsession for Men. Dawn was gorgeously light and pretty: see my reviews on this blog.

Lovely is as lovely does. A perfect ten. This is money well spent.


Celeb Scents 7: David and Victoria Beckham (DVB) Signature


I couldn’t leave out the King and Queen of the Celebrity Universe, and neither could the Celebrity Fragrance Industry. Since 2005, the ultimate power couple have issued a total of 20 fragrances for her and for him, whilst artfully entangled in each other for the publicity campaigns.

I can’t say I am enticed by the publicity- there is something about a married couple getting passionate that makes me go terribly British and want to look away, whilst clearing my throat and announcing loudly that I’m putting the kettle on.  It’s a bit like they’re saying “Look at us” and “Do you mind? This is private!” at the same time.  I also question the wisdom of using the word “Intimately” in a Fragrance range when the word is usually meant euphemistically as a feminine hygiene wash.

In any case, these fragrances are everywhere and are both accessible and affordable. Purely in the interest of fragrance research you understand, I sampled DVB Signature today.

As you can imagine, I was expecting, yes you’ve guessed it, a fruity floral, or Death by Vanilla. Unsurprisingly, it does not smell expensive. Surprisingly, the brand has gone off the main road and off onto a hiking trail. Yes, I have found a celebrity brand that has used Anise and Heliotrope in a mainstream fragrance. Feel free to call me a snob, but I was not expecting that.

So what I found on my wrist and clothes today was: Anise, Apple, White Flowers,  and Musk. The actual notes as listed by Fragrantica are: Anise, Apple, Orchid, Heliotrope, Vanilla, Patchouli and Musk.

The dry down is slightly more powdery and the whisper of Heliotrope finally emerges when all the fuss has died down. Heliotrope is serious and doesn’t show up just anywhere. What I’m left with is an unusual Oriental Lite. It’s soft and very feminine, although the Anise can be interpreted as a masculine note. In fact, the Anise just reminded me of a very watered down LouLou so I rather liked that addition.

This bottle was 9.99 for 30ml  from my local High Street. It’s available everywhere and not usually more than around £14 for a large 75ml bottle. I like it enough to keep it and use up the whole bottle, but I’m not sure I’d buy a second bottle. It’s different and pleasant and-how can I say this? It’s a Purple Musk, if that makes sense: sweet and light and vaguely Oriental with a musky dry down.  Actually I found it smells amazing on my clothes- much better than on my skin.

The only thing that chokes me about this is the fact that I lined the diamond encrusted Beckham pockets even more by buying this today. But to be fair, they didn’t just paint by numbers here.

(Incidentally, does anyone else think that Death by Vanilla would make a great name for a niche perfume, or is it just me?)

Celeb Scents 6: Kylie Minogue Couture


Kylie’s been in the perfume game since 2006 with her first offering “Darling” being a Chypre Floriental.  Since then she has produced ten more and sales show no signs of slowing down. Kylie Minogue Darling is highly rated so I had high hopes for Couture.

Now I like Kylie, and her strange pointy eyebrow. She’s a woman’s woman and always cheerful, and sometimes that’s enough to make me like someone (are you listening Posh Spice?). I finally got round to investigating the Kylie phenomenon by purchasing a bottle of Kylie Minogue Couture. With its hint of corsetry and its aspirational name, I thought I was onto a winner.

Sadly not.

The top notes in Couture are Cherries, Violets and Lemon Blossom. However, what I had was Violets, something vaguely Aquatic and a bit of Jasmine (listed as a middle note). Within the first half an hour I got quite excited by this, despite acknowledging that “generic” was very much the state of play. I thought it was a light and airy floral and was so affordable that I thought I’d found a new favourite for daytime casual wear.

However, a problem occurred that I have experienced before with cheaply produced scents. A very synthetic and thin Vanilla note crept in and cancelled out everything else. Vanilla and “Musk Stripes” are listed as base notes, but the Vanilla was cheap and smelt like my old enemy, Poundland Vanilla candles.   I don’t know what Musk Stripes are (they are described as giving a cashmere effect), but maybe it is another way of saying “Well it’s not actual Musk but we found something thinner and cheaper but we’re not allowed to call it Musk”. In any case, I haven’t seen it listed anywhere else. This is mixed with “Vanilla Sorbet” in other swords sweet, synthetic cheap Vanilla that I couldn’t wait to wash off.

Now although this review is subjective, I have noticed on that it is cheaper to buy 75ml of the EDT than it is to buy 30ml. There is also a lot for sale on eBay. Make of that what you will, but I felt let down and couldn’t sell it fast enough! Without eBay I’d have a really terrible perfume collection.

Sorry Kylie, this was more Poundland than Couture.

Footnote: I have just tried Sexy Darling and I am impressed! I guess I would be wrong in writing off the whole range based on one review. SD is a bright expensive smelling musky floral. MUCH better than its lightweight sister Couture.



Celeb Scents 5: Madonna Truth or Dare


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.


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.


Celeb Scents 3: Hilary Duff With Love


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.


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


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.