Category Archives: Scent

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.

Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan: Because I Got High

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After the cosy success I found with the delicious Ambre Narguilé, and being an Amber fan, I thought Ambre Sultan would be a dead cert for my Fragrance Hall of Fame. I could not have been more wrong.

Some fragrances can affect your mood: Guerlain Apres L’Ondée makes me feel wistful, Eau de Cartier makes me feel happy, Frederic Malle Iris Poudre makes me feel threatened… and so on. It can’t be explained. Smells makes you react in ways you could never expect or rationalise.

Ambre Sultan immediately brought to mind that noxious cloud of um…”herbal” smoke you sometimes find lingering above a gang of youths in an insalubrious neighbourhood. Strongest notes are Resin, Myrrh and Oregano. It smells of the kind of thing you would extinguish if a police car drove past.  It made me feel heady and nauseous.

Maybe the prolific Christopher Sheldrake did a good job. Maybe this really is the smell of a Souk or a Bedouin Tent. If it is authentic, it’s put me off Souks and Bedoun Tents for life.  This one not only repelled me, but caused me to take two paracetamol and feel panicky.  I’m glad this was on loan to me and that I had not forked out for it.

You may feel differently. If you are a youth in an insalubrious neighbourhood.

Comme Des Garcons Series 3 Incense Avignon: Divine in every sense.

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One of my favourite smells is the inside of an ancient Church or Cathedral. High Anglican Churches or Roman Catholic Churches are best for this as they use thuribles, or incense holders, often swung on a chain during procession. Combine this smell with ancient wood, slightly musty old stone walls, and a sense of humbling awe, and you have Comme Des Garcons Series Three: Incense Avignon. Image The fragrance was named after the commune of Avignon in the South East of France. Once upon a time, this ancient town was the Papal seat during the Catholic Schism  from  1309 until 1377 and today the Papal Palace is still there in the old walled town. The fragrance is from a series of five:

  •  Ouarzazate – Islam
  • Zagorsk – Orthodox Christianity
  • Jaisalmer – Hinduism 
  • Kyoto – Buddhism and Shintoism
  • Avignon-Catholicism

My only very slight misgiving about this outstandingly evocative scent is the question of whether I want my skin to smell like an ancient church? It’s unquestionably beautiful, but it jars very slightly that the smell on my wrist smells of bricks and mortar and ceremony.  But then again, I haven’t been able to get my nose off my wrist since trying it, so I guess we revert to the old perfume rule and that is:  There Are No Rules. This smells so alarmingly like a church that vicars should wear it when playing truant. You will always smell like you’ve just left Mass. And it will always make you feel a little bit guilty without knowing why. Image

Jovan White Musk: Get Your Coat, You’ve Pulled.

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Jovan really wants you to hook up with someone. If you are single, they will do their darnedest to put it right. Take a look at the website– a close up of two mouths about to slobber over each other. If you are a Kath and Kim fan then you’ll know what I mean by a Kath’n’Kel French kiss. They repeat  that their perfumes will attract the opposite sex. Let’s hear that again- their perfumes will attract the opposite sex. All you need is a bottle of Jovan anything and a large butterfly net. In fact Sex Appeal by Jovan is categorically designed to attract the opposite sex.  They’re not even subtle about it. It says on the websiteThis provocative, stimulating blend of rare spices and herbs was created by men for the sole purpose of attracting women” See? Shameless.

 So should Jovan be relegated to the nudge, nudge wink, wink slightly dated era of blind pheromone traps? Or should it be taken seriously as an affordable fragrance worth buying?

Well I am married and have no need to attract men (well, maybe just the one), but I can report that Jovan White Musk for Women is rather pretty and will certainly “do”. The Body Shop’s White Musk has long been a favourite of mine, maybe for twenty years now, and with good reason. It’s a flagship product that Body Shop customers just wouldn’t ever let them discontinue. I wondered if Jovan was up there with the Body Shop, so decided to seek out a bottle.  So just for a change and because the act of buying perfume is like a drug to me., (Whoops, tried not to actually say that aloud to myself) I picked up a bottle of this from my local High Street toiletries store (Okay it was Bodycare if you must know). In exchange for £6.15 I got a 59ml bottle of Jovan White Musk. It’s a “concentrated cologne” which makes me wonder what the difference is between an eau de toilette and a “concentrated cologne”. Not much I’ll wager.

When first sprayed, this is quite tangy with honeysuckle and jasmine and really smells best when it beds down a bit. The flowers warm it up and make it sweet rather than cold, but the best  bit comes in the drydown. Emitting a subtle soft musk waft as you move, this is an ideal office or daytime perfume. It’s cosy and feminine and cheap enough to carry around in your handbag to make up for its non fantastic longevity.

Its also great to use if you like layering scents. If something woody is too harsh, this can soften it. If Amber is too much for daytime use, you could back it up and calm it down with a spray of White Musk.

I can promise it will make you smell nice, but I can’t promise it will bag you a man. Still for £6.15, maybe it’s worth a shot for all you adorable singletons out there. (I feel I should play you a love song now). Please wear Jovan responsibly. You might have adventures.

Stockists

You can buy Jovan White Musk from allbeauty.com or Amazon UK. It’s well under a tenner. Bargain.

 

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!).