Category Archives: Scent

Serge Lutens Borneo 1834: Heavenly Darkness

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Serge Lutens Borneo 1834  is a dark smoky fragrance  that took me back in time more vividly than any photo. Back in the 80s when I was just a slip of a girl (cough), I used to go to an indoor market in a nearby town and visit a fabulous Indian stall. I’d buy floaty skirts with mirrors and sequins, joss sticks and neat, raw patchouli oil. Spraying Borneo 1834 took me back into that moment where I was younger and had all my dreams before me, thinking I would float through life in my swishy skirts and silver bangles with nary a care. However, the joss sticks and the Patchouli oil cleaned up their act, got an education and drove back into town in a Bentley before I could recognise them in this beautifully crafted perfume.

Borneo 1834 is all about the Patchouli and takes its name from the year when Patchouli first stood up and took a bow as the new stranger in town. Created by the prolific Christopher Sheldrake for Serge Lutens, it smells like it should be dark brown or purple, like a spell. With a note of Camphor and Bonfire smoke, my husband’s first reaction when I squirted him unawares was “ isn’t this that Cowboy one from the other night?” He’s getting good at this.  It does indeed smell similar to Lonestar Memories by Andy Tauer. However, Borneo 1834 is quieter, and has more incense, whereas Lonestar is earthier and bolder.

On first spraying Borneo 1834, there is a blast of bitter dark chocolate and cherries which thankfully goes away, leaving just a faint vapour trail. What’s left is delicious woody Patchouli with a hint of Cardoman and White Flowers. The old Patchouli oil I recall in the 80s was cheap, and harsh, but rich, oily and pungent.  Borneo has taken all the rough edges off it and just left the smooth woodiness, retaining the oily richness. Many liken it to Chanel Les Exclusifs Coromandel. Having smelled both, I can see why: there are definite similarities.

Currently available on Amazon for £81.60 for 50ml, Borneo 1834 is not cheap, but still cheaper than Coromandel, which  is even pricier.

Borneo 1834. I think I love you.

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Hermès Ambre Narguilé: Beguiled by Narguilé

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I love Amber. I’ll even buy cheap Amber scents. I love that slightly gingery incense note it has. Less Chypre than an Oriental, a good Amber can add spice to a Winter scent and warm it up whilst not being overpowering.

The Amber to end all Ambers is Hermès Ambre Narguilé.  Once this was created in 2004 by our old friend Jean-Claude Ellena, I don’t know why other perfume houses didn’t just give up and say “what’s the point? They’ve won”.  However if we are talking fiscally, I’m rather glad other Amber scents are available as the price tag is currently £150 for 100ml. Let me know if you can find it more cheaply.  However, it must be said that scent of this calibre goes a long way and one squirt of Ambre Narguilé lasted around six hours on me, and you don’t need much. In case you are wondering, I borrowed my sample and I am aware of how fortunate I am to have a generous  friend with a perfume collection that makes me want to steal and rob, even though I am a nice girl really.

It’s worth quoting the creator of Ambre Narguilé himself here, from the Hermès website:

Amber, the Western expression of Eastern fragrances, has a warm, enveloping, almost carnal smell. I wanted to imbue this idea of amber with the memory of the East I love where tobacco – blended with the smells of fruit, honey and spices – is smoked in narguilés, or water pipes, and where swirls of smoke diffuse a sweet sense of intoxication. 

Jean-Claude Ellena

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JCE says it better than I can, but here is my personal interpretation: The amount of vanilla used today in just about every scent that has emerged in the last twelve months has almost put me off ever liking it in a fragrance. In addition, I don’t like gourmands, or anything that smells remotely edible on my skin. Famous last words.

 However Ambre Narguilé is like smelling Christmas Cake and Cinnabuns from the next room with a dot of Cognac under each nostril. The vanilla is heady and thick, like liquor, and not cheap and sweet as it so often can be. There is honey in here, but only enough to soften it and not to overpower. It is a dark, raisin like smell that has enough Amber to stop you smelling too cakey.  It’s rich, enveloping, warm, aromatic and wonderful.

It’s not widely available, it’s not cheap, but frankly my dear, I think it’s worth a fight.

Paul Smith Extreme: The Extreme End of Blah

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I’m so glad my bottle of Paul Smith Extreme Woman is only 5ml as I would be bereft to have spent even double figures on this scent. I’ve worn this for a total of three days and I am still non plussed. Its slightly fruity. Its slightly floral. Its slightly liquorice. Its slightly musky. Its slightly citrussy. Its slightly Woody. Its slightly Green.

In other words, its a little bit of every crowd pleaser on the market today all mixed up together in one bottle. Its like a bad fruit punch. Its like adding Lemonade and Ginger Beer and Diet Coke into a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape. All good alone, but terrible together.

Top notes are (according to me) Blackcurrant, Ginger, Bergamot (usually a favourite, but not in this scent), Pepper, Lemon and Vetiver. Oh and Green Tea, which I think always adds a slightly metallic tang to anything its added to. Base notes are a sort of mish mash of everything, with pronounced Ginger and Lemons and Musk and Sandalwood, more Green Tea,  and well….everything else  really.

However, a peculiar thing happened halfway through today. Whilst “accidentally” passing by the Fragrance Testers in Boots *cough*, I sampled Ghost Sweetheart. So utterly vile and dreadful was it, that it made Paul Smith Extreme smell pretty, green and lemony by contrast. So actually, Extreme ain’t so bad when tried alongside something I hated even more.

Unless you have something loathsome that you can wear on your other wrist,  move along, leave this on the shelf and ignore. Its a scent that tried to please all the people all the time and ends up pleasing none. (Well not me anyway!).

Guerlain Jicky: Relationship Status – Its Complicated

jicky label Guerlain Jicky has been around since 1889 (obviously reformulated some along the way), so it deserves our respect in the way that we should always hold the door for an elderly lady who still wears pearls and a brooch.

The first time I tried Jicky I thought it was vile and didn’t understand how it could smell good on anyone (although it smelt lovely on my friend Lisa: kind of spicy and woody).

I tried again. This time, lemons and halitosis. It was not going well.

“But it’s my favourite” said at least two of my friends, whose opinions I respect. I tried a third time, and that was it. After that if I didn’t like it, we were never going to see each other again (that’s Jicky and me, not my dear scented friends).

I tried to get some context. I tried Caron’s Tabac Blond, then Apres L’Ondée , and then Jicky. Ah, now I get it.

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I think Jicky needs to be sniffed alongside its contemporaries (or as near as dammit). Modern noses have been trained ( through lack of choice mainly) to smell modern formulations from the 21st century. Since Jicky was created in the 19th century, I felt I should bow to it accordingly. In the same way that a bustle and bonnet looked dignified back then, but would look ridiculous  in today’s High Street,  we need to think outside the Twenty First century mindset. Jicky was not made for modern tastes. Once I got that, and had smelt other older perfumes, I kind of “got” it.

However, I was puzzling my way through the notes and there are a couple that stop it from being on my list of favourites. Firstly, I adore Eau de Cartier with its Bergamot and Lavender, so I thought I would like it in Jicky, but I didn’t  I also love an occasional woody and spicy scent, which Jicky is, but I didn’t.

jicky bottleI am not an expert, merely a consumer with an obsession, so I will try and phrase it in as subjective a way as possible. For me, it should be one or the other. Woody and Spicy OR Lavender and Lemons. Putting them together jars like a beautiful woman with awful hair, or an evening gown with brogues. Great on their own, but together its just not right. In fact, there was kind of a fuzzy harsh note which I couldn’t identify at first until the penny dropped. It was Ginger! Its not listed as a note, although spices are and that’s what it smelled like- the Ground Ginger I have in a jar rather than the fresh, clean smelling ginger you can buy fresh.

So Jicky is better now than I ever thought, but I think its more respect than love. Jicky, you’re great, but what can I say? I don’t think we should see too much of each other.  Its not you, its me.

1-Jicky

Lonestar Memories: It’s Mighty Manly

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Andy Tauer has a devoted fan base. His L’Air du Desert Marocain is beloved by many, as is his Vetiver Dance, and Orange Star. It’s a small but respected niche perfumery house, with a stable of twenty high quality Artisan Fragrances, and his following is growing.

 Lonestar Memories, created in 2006, is unlike any perfume I have ever smelled (on me, that is, more of which later). With notes of Carrot Seed, Leather, Clary Sage, and Sandalwood, the description on paper does not paint a true picture. What I actually got was Bonfire Smoke, Creosote and Petrol. It’s VERY butch. In fact, it made me think of soft porn:

A trucker breaks down in a desert. It’s sunset. He’s sweating. He takes off his Stetson and wipes the sweat from his brow. A passing truck pulls over. A man gets out. He is wearing a check shirt. Their eyes meet… cue twangy electric guitar music… In my mind, that’s the cinema ad for this stuff.

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 It’s apparently pour la femme as well as pour l’homme, but as always, the rule with perfume is that there are no rules. So I approached my husband. “I just want to try something new, darling,” I said. His eyes lit up. I sprayed him with Lonestar Memories and walked away. He looked crestfallen. I said I’d sniff him up close in the morning.

Waking up the next day, my husband smelled manly and butch as if he had been painting creosote fences then  kicked back around a woodsmoke fire (with his shirt off for preference).  This is the scent that Armistead Maupin’s characters would wear to the Burning Man Festival. Sexy and bohemian, this is a step away from the conventional male scent and all the better for it.

As usual with Tauer scents, longevity is excellent. Two sprays will  last overnight at the very least. This stuff has muscles.

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Stockists

You can buy Lonestar Memories from the Tauer website and from Les Senteurs in the UK and LuckyScent in the USA

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

Eau de Cartier-Eau Divine!

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Eau de Cartier was like a thunderbolt for me. A quest for a perfect perfume becomes addictive. Fighting my way through a forest of celeb fruity florals and past rivers of cloying vanilla and candy floss, Eau de Cartier was like finding a mirage in a desert.

The previous week I’d received a sample of Cartier’s Baiser Vole and was underwhelmed by its single note Lily that stayed linear and flat on me, reminding me of Zoflora disinfectant.  When  a sample of Eau de Cartier came my way, I wasn’t expecting to find a dream come true.

However, this fragrance floored me. Like a jaded pioneer finding a gold nugget, I suddenly sat up and took notice. It’s Bergamot, but softer, it’s Lavender but not in a detergent sense, it’s Coriander, but the leaves not the spice, and finally, it’s a soft Violet Leaf, still wrapped in Bergamot and smelling deliciously fresh.

Eau de Cartier stays light and airy and cuts through the heat of a summer day. It’s like the fresh air outside an expensive florist after the rain. I’m also glad that it stays true to its summery feel without resorting to the cucumber-melon or aquatic route. I think they must have made it just for me. I would like to thank Nose Christine Nagel for creating it in 2001, even though I was involved in a  serious relationship with Chanel Cristalle back then.

I was surprised to learn this is a unisex scent as I find it quintessentially feminine, but it has a male fanbase too. Fragrantica has reviews from both men and women.

Understated and classy, I would rather walk through a mist of this than today’s fruity, vanilla sodden smell-alikes that seem to scent every High Street. Next time you are in a perfumery or department store, ask to try a sample of this, especially in time for Spring.  You will feel wreathed in ethereal glory.

It’s Lanvin Arpege for a cold January day

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I have a small bottle of Lanvin Arpege, only 5ml. I have worn this and no other today. It is formal, cold even,  with a hint of talc and nail polish. Yet it makes me think of past glamour, of satin gloves, and a sipped glass with no lipstick marks. It smells like it’s been  archived on my late grandmother’s dressing table and brought to life again on my warm skin.

If I had to categorise it, I would say a rose musk,  an aldehyde with no sense of humour, but both sombre and beautiful at the same time. When you rank this against today’s raft of fussy and frilly fruity florals, it’s like pitching HEAT magazine against Charlotte Bronte. It’s Grace Kelly among the Kardashians.

I’d wear this to a funeral. But I’d also wear it to bed.