Category Archives: Scent

Hypnotic Poison: If This Ain’t Love, Why Does it Feel So Good?

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I may have acted too quickly. I try and keep an open mind about perfume. I am always happy to try new things, and as you know, dear reader, I will wear something horrible all day just to be sure I hate it.

Mention Dior Poison to me and it elicits a shudder. This was the Eighties’ answer to smoke bombs. Walk into a room wearing this, and it would empty. The able bodied would run and the feeble would sink to the floor and get trampled in the rush to flee, wailing “it’s too late for me, just save yourselves!”

Over the years, I have pointedly ignored the fact that Poison has started breeding. Little flankers everywhere, popping up on the perfume shelves.  I blanked them like a bothersome in-law at a wedding.

Recently, I was offered a test of Hypnotic Poison (thanks LW yet again!) and thought I may as well try it, since I do have to write about 365 scents before my work here is done. I can’t afford to be fussy. Thus I accepted a little loan of Hypnotic Poison. It was not as I expected.

With nary a nod to its sister Poison, I found myself in a tasty mist of Playdoh and Vanilla with thick squishy Coconut in there too. On paper, I am not supposed to like it at all. In actual fact, it was rather lovely.

There is definite Vanilla and oily crushed Almonds to the power of a hundred. I don’t usually like Gourmands, since they remind of hot, flustered baking sessions in the kitchen where I find myself too often some weeks. However, this Marzipan wonder took me back in time to the days when The Body Shop had a Perfume Bar, which I have mentioned before. They did a great oil called Vanilla. It was heady and smelt of Marzipan and had liquor like intensity. And here it is again in Hypnotic Poison. The Body Shop still does a Vanilla fragrance, but it’s not the same.

I am testing the EDT of Hypnotic Poison, rather than the EDP and lasting power is good, despite my hayfever. Strangely, I can’t help liking this nutty, bitter Almond (Arsenic?) scent. The only similarity it has with Poison is the cute round bottle. And thank Heavens for that.

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Dana Tabu: A Tart With a Heart

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Created in 1932 by  Jean Carles  with the remit to create a fragrance “for a prostitute”, Dana Tabu has stuck around and has been a favourite of millions over the years. Tabu is regarded as a Drugstore Classic: that is to say affordable, ubiquitous, and an acceptably good blast from the past. Wearing this today elicits nostalgic memories from people in their 40s and 50s who remember their Mother or Aunts smelling of this. However, Tabu has a lot to offer the modern perfume wearer too and wearing it today has been nothing less than pleasurable.

Needless to say, this fragrance has been through numerous reformulations. Ingredients increase in cost, yet prices need to remain affordable. I do not pretend to be an expert on all the changes made over the years, so I cannot hope to list them here. However, you will always find those who prefer the original, the vintage, the one from the 80s, the new one …and so it goes on. What I have in front of me is the non violin shaped Eau de Toilette (like the one pictured above). It’s not strong and the sillage wouldn’t bother a fellow commuter. Lasting power isn’t more than three hours on me, but, as I explain later,  you can often “secure” a fleeting scent by pinning it down with another. Alternatively, spraying clothes and hair makes a scent less flyaway.

However the fragrance itself immediately reminds me of my room as a student. I was always burning Patchouli joss sticks and the dried smoke from the spent sticks would smell just like this. Smoky, spicy and with a whiff of Patchouli. Tabu is like a watered down poor relation of Youth Dew and this could be down to the heavy note of Cloves. I smelt Oranges too, and a  hint of Vetiver and Oakmoss (though I doubt it’s the real thing). Civet is listed as a note, but I didn’t get anything animalic from this. In fact, it smells clean, like lemon washing up liquid, albeit for a few seconds, before settling down to its smoky aromas.

Tabu is widely available for less than ten pounds (UK) and is an excellent addition to any scent wardrobe. It’s good for winter especially, although it does make me laugh that it is described rather formally as “recommended for romantic wear”. But I would happily wear it in the day without making eyes at my husband. It’s light enough for daytime and wouldn’t knock anyone out.

It’s an inexpensive spicy, peppery treat of a perfume, despite lacking good longevity. I often find with thinner, inexpensive perfumes that they make excellent layering scents.  In fact I tried this over Yves Rocher Rose Absolue and it was fabulous. The Rose was made complex and spicy, and Tabu seemed to last longer for being pinned down.

I have a great deal of affection for cheap and cheerful scents that do the job. If you’d told me a few years back that I’d have a big bottle of cheap prostitute perfume on my dressing table,  and that I’d be pleased about it, I never would have believed you. But then I never would have believed that perfume from Lidl is worth buying too, but it is.

The rules with perfume:

Rule One: There are no rules

Stockists

You can buy Dana Tabu from allbeauty.com and from Perfume Click.  Prices are usually less than £12 a bottle You can also try eBay, of course.

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Ava Luxe Madeline: Milk and Whisky in Front of A Log Fire

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Ava Luxe is a growing fragrance brand founded by Serena Ava Franco and is based on Rhode Island, USA.  This is a new kid on the block compared to many long standing big brands and it’s always interesting to see what passionate individuals come up with, rather than a board room, a focus group and a marketing department.

Serena is inspired by the exotic, the mystical and the arts. She is no boring wallflower. All products are completely cruelty free and are made to order. I’m not the only fan over here, but it is a bit tricky to get hold of Ava Luxe in the UK. The momentum is growing however, so watch this space, or look out for decants and bottles on eBay, Basenotes and Fragrantica.

So today I have in my hands a bottle of Ava Luxe Madeline. I accidentally got a smear on my hands and it was oily and unctuous, rather than watery and alcoholic. In my experience, this usually means a perfume has the clinging power of a barnacle after a round the world cruise. I was right. Madeline was still there about nine hours later, showing no signs of leaving.

But would you want Madeline as a house guest? I would say yes, especially in winter. I couldn’t shake the idea that there are Oranges in here somewhere. Orange is not listed as a note, but it could be down to the fact that this smells a little like Christmas baking, so maybe that’s where visions of Clementines came from. There is a delicate smokiness permeating the thick Vanilla Bourbon, as if I am smelling the ashes form a Vanilla joss stick. It adds an ingeniously clever hint of a crackling log fire. Madeline also has a flicker of Licorice and a splash of Milk. This would make a ghastly drink, but in a fragrance, the Licorice smells spicy and adds a little mystery to the spell. The Milk is comforting and soft.

Overwhelmingly, this is smoky Vanilla: Good vanilla, like the real beans and flecks that you see in expensive ice cream. There is no Vanilla essence here, this is the real thing, to the point of glorious headiness.

My only qualm about Madeline is that it may be too rich, like eating half a whisky soused Christmas Cake in one sitting. It sounds like a good idea, it’s nice at the time, but at the end you might need some fresh air.

Ava Luxe is definitely worth a second look. And a third. And a fourth…

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L’Instant de Guerlain: Nice to Meet You, Iris

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 From yesterday’s High Street fluff back to majestic Guerlain, and L’Instant de Guerlain to be precise.  I have on loan the Parfum itself, in its tiny glass bottle (see photo) and enormous box.  By the time I opened the box, removed the inner sleeve,  and removed the 7.5ml bottle from its little case, it seemed like a tiny Queen on a huge throne  Using the glass stopper as a dabber, I wore this on my throat and forearms (putting a scent on my wrists means it gets washed off many times over the day).

I was amazed to see that L’Instant de Guerlain does not contain violets. My very first thought was violets and then iris. In fact, after a few moments I decided this was a little like smelling Apres L’Ondee through several layers of musk daubed white chiffon.  It’s warmed up with a little honey and some magnolia. It’s classy and timeless: you could wear this as a teen and as a 90 year old Grand Dame. There is powder too, but it’s a mere velvety muffler, rather than an old lady’s make up case. It’s a muted Iris/Violet with the light musk softening any sharpness or earthiness

Now I feel that at this point I should pause for thought on the matter of iris. I love iris the flower, and my much beloved late grandmother was called Iris, so I have always associated it with love and beauty. However, in the world of fragrance, I have not got on with it at all. I have been encouraged to persevere, despite the fact that Malle’s Iris Poudre utterly repels me and even suffocates me. I recently tried Maitre Parfumeur et GantierFleur D’Iris and didn’t like that either. I also tried Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile and didn’t much care for that either (although it did defrost me somewhat with it’s prettiness).

Recently my friend and co blogger Lisa Wordbird, whose writing you will now be familiar with, gave me a curious experiment which cured me of Iris phobia. Spraying Guerlain Apres L’Ondee on one arm and Frederic Malle L’Eau D’Hiver on the other, I do believe I finally saw the light. Sniffing one then in the other in rotation brought out the best in both of them and made L’Eau D’Hiver (one of my earliest reviews), much more floral and prettier than it was when I first encountered it. So as my esteemed fellow blogger The Perfumed Dandy told me recently “Never give up on a note”.  Sometimes I guess you just have to look at it from a different angle.

So could I accuse L’Instant de Guerlain with its honeyed, musky Iris notes to have converted me into an Iris fan? I almost think I can.

Disclaimer: I still can’t bloody stand Iris Poudre though!

Beyonce Midnight Heat: Explosion in Tropical Candy Floss Factory

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 After being spoilt like a spoilt thing in recent weeks, with achingly high quality scents to die for, I decided to dip my toe into a fragrance that I have seen everywhere recently from Duty Free to my local Asda. One of many samples I have blagged lately, this generous 2ml dabber is wrapped in purple cellophane like a Quality Street sweetie. No less than 3 members of my household tried to disrobe it hopefully, including one of the cats who is kinky for cellophane.

It is entirely appropriate that this was mistaken for a sweet because Wow! Is this sugary! Take some candy floss, add some sugar, preferably vanilla sugar, then sweeten it up with some caramel, preferably vanilla caramel, then add loads of concentrated Tropical cordial, the stuff that’s so thick and gloopy it sticks to the inside of the bottle. Shake it all about and Bingo! Beyonce Midnight Heat.

It has some similarities with JLo Deseo, However, Deseo keeps it clean and floral, and although it has similar Tropical notes, it is a fresher, brighter fragrance.

Beyonce Midnight Heat is too sticky and hot. The sweetness is overpowering. I should imagine it could be used as an aid to weight loss since once sniffing this, you would find the idea of ingesting sugar completely repellent. In fact, that’s why I might keep this. Those leftover Easter Eggs are still in the house, calling my name. This might be just what I need.

Serge Lutens Clair de Musc: Petticoats and Good Shoes

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 Clair de Musc is much warmer and friendlier than yesterday’s sombre La Fille de Berlin, but then Musk is often a friendly sort of warmer-upper. Despite this being a product of Uncle Serge and his gang, I’m afraid I have something rather facile to say about it. My first and unshakable thought on smelling this was Impulse Hint of Musk. I tried to shake it off, really I did, but even in the basenotes I was still thinking the same thing.

To try and get a handle on Clair de Musc, I wore Body Shop White Musk on the other arm and compared the two.  I needed to find out what makes Clair de Musc different. What’s Clair got that other musks haven’t? Let’s face it, if you’re going to spend in the region of £80 on a bottle of perfume, you need to know why it’s worth  forking out.

Sephora

On first spray, it was , as I said, Impulse Hint of Musk. Nothing wrong with that, it’s the best Impulse there is (is that damning with faint praise?). However there were also yellow flowers or honey in Clair de Musc. Interestingly, my interpretation did not match the notes listed on Fragrantica at all. For instance, where Fragrantica had bergamot, iris and lily of the valley listed as notes, I had honey, honeysuckle and yellow flowers.  There is a whisper of iris, almost as if she opened the wrong door, glanced in and left again, leaving a Will O’ the Wisp waft. The Body Shop White Musk smelled sharp compared to this, which gives you an indication of Clair’s feathery softness.

 Clair de Musc is warm, kind and pleasant. I don’t feel that it brings anything dramatically different  to the Musk Party. In fact, I only really got interested when I layered it over Cabochard. Then I really perked up and began to take notice. However, I often layer my trusty  (and cheap) bottle of Jovan White Musk over other items in my scent wardrobe to similar effect.

 Clair de Musc has low sillage, (often a blessing), and average lasting power on me, say two hours. I would probably not wear it alone, and it’s pricey as a layering scent: a bit like spending more on your petticoat than you would on a pair of good shoes.

Cheaper Musks do the job. This is good, but is it worth £85? You may disagree. Samples are the way forward, my friends. The Jury’s out.

 

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Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin: Death by Roses


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 “She’s a rose with thorns, don’t mess with her. She’s a girl who goes to extremes.

When she can, she soothes; and when she wants … ! 
Her fragrance lifts you higher, she rocks and shocks.”

-Serge Lutens

 I like a rose. The smell of rose petals has me inhaling deeply and satisfyingly. There is nothing to beat the smells found in nature. My grandmother’s rose garden was her pride and joy and her passion was infectious.  She grew deep velvety red roses, roses with coral petals named after the Queen Mother, and a lovely yellow rose whose petals were tinged pink like a blush. My grandmother died ten years ago but she is with me every time I smell a rose in the sunshine.  Roses make me happy.

Or so I thought until I smelt Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin. My first impression, admittedly after a day of trawling Sephora and Marionnaud, was “After Eight Mints”. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it was the high concentration of the roses giving them a slightly medicinal scent, bordering on herbal, or even antispectic. Maybe it was the fact I was saturated in more than seven fragrances at the time. I had broken my golden rule of “one scent, one arm, and then go home”. But when faced with a sweet shop, it’s hard to just buy one humbug.

La Fille de Berlin is like having concentrated essence of Roses squirted up each nostril and then being shoved face down into black cherry jam, whilst being read stark war poetry. You may well feel differently. The combination of Rose and Pepper is considered by some to be a perfect balance: a sort of serendipity, like bacon and maple syrup. What lucky chance that these two were thrown together to make a symphony worthy of Kings. I once knew a girl who loved Marmalade with her Sausages. It’s remarkably good, though not, of course as a fragrance.

With La Fille de Berlin the image and name contribute to my aversion. There is an impression of sadness, war and grief beneath the fragrance. The video on the Serge Lutens website left me feeling bereft and hollow, helpless with a compassion that has no direction or use. It’s all cold thorns, snow and suffering. Wearing La Fille de Berlin ruins a good memory and paints bad memories over the top of it. It repels me and makes me scared of losing cherished memories of smelling roses. It stamps over the petals, reminding me only of the thorns and bloody fingers. Even the bottle is a bit too red for comfort.

This is melancholy and tragic and the roses are too many, like a nightmarish replication that suffocates until roses become your enemy. Give me back a rose I can enjoy.

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Sephora! Sephora! Sephora!

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Firstly, an enormous thank you to my expert guest blogger Lisa Wordbird. She teaches me so much and on my return I thoroughly enjoyed reading her blogs written during my absence. Equally, I was educated by the debate and comments her interesting articles stimulated. To everyone I learn from, and especially my dear, invaluable Wordbird friend, I am grateful.

On my recent trip to France, I had two ambitions: one was obviously to enjoy myself and watch my children make memories in the chilly Spring sun (thanks for having us Mum!), and two, was of course, to raid Sephora and Marionnaud with the last vestiges of my carefully hoarded birthday money, saved for this very purpose.  It’s been six years since I last walked into a Sephora and two things struck me. Firstly- Why on earth don’t we do this in the UK?  Those rafts of fragrance testers! Row upon row of gleaming, tempting bottles, with the kind of variety we are starved of in Blightly. Sephora is pure Heaven for anyone with even a passing interest in fragrance and it equals over-excitable joy to a hard core sniffer.

My second observation was the prices. My dears, I fainted out cold at the shock. They had to bring me round with a nasty blast of Ambre Sultan, for lack of smelling salts. I’ll give you an example: In my local Superdrug, you can buy a 30ml bottle of Cacharel Amor Amor for £14.99. In Sephora it was E37.50 for 30ml. Even with the current rate of the Euro against the pound, that works out at £31.81. Serge Lutens fragrances worked out very slightly cheaper at E84, or £71.26 for a 50ml bottle.  Clarins Eau Dynamisante is £40.63 at Sephora (or E47.90), but just £24.65 (with free postage) on Cheap Smells.

I made a small purchase of a purse spray in the Sephora own brand range “Lagoon” and hoped that even a parsimonious purchase would reap me rewards in the samples stakes. With a smile and my best French, the lovely Paula either admired my linguistic efforts, or took pity on me. In any case, a few minutes after disappearing, she returned with two Serge Lutens samples (in cute little boxes) and a sachet of Dahlia Noir. Since my esteemed colleague Lisa Wordbird has already kindly reviewed Dahlia Noir L’Eau, I deem the two to be too similar to merit two separate reviews, so I will simply say it’s very similar to Dahlia Noir L’Eau, but has more resonance.

The Serge Lutens samples were La Fille de Berlin and Clair de Musc, more of which anon. I also visited the Parfumerie chain Marionnaud and was whacked over the head with a tester spray of Guerlain’s Mouchoir de Monsiuer. Surely this is Jicky by another name? I demanded of my non plussed husband, who was smelling of dreamy Habit Rouge by the time we left the shop, thanks to me. Mr IScent is so patient with me. No samples from Marionnaud since there was a distinct priciness in the air. Perfume obsessives must keep an eye on purse strings from time to time or temptation would lead us into being the best smelling homeless people in the world. A 50ml bottle of Cacharel LouLou was an eye watering E101 or £85, compared to £38.50 in Boots for an equivalent bottle, or even cheaper if you buy two 30ml bottles at £14.99 each in The Fragrance Shop.

Where French Parfumeries get it oh so right, is in the sheer variety, not only of brands, but of testers, widely available and on the shelf, ready to browse and be squirted. Increasingly in the UK, I am finding that testers need to requested over the counter and then of course, you get trapped in the sales spiel and are unable to complete your  desired session of mindless capricious browsing. Sephora is a huge brand, owned by LMHV, and can be found on most typical French high streets. However, they have a full range of Serge Lutens and Guerlains, Givenchys, Hermes, Chanels, Diors, and all manner of lesser known brands, as well as the usual growing army of celebuscents.  Equally sensible is the vast array of male fragrances too.  Maintaining my husband’s interest in his side of the store induced me to stay longer, (and the end of that story would be to spend more).

I would love for Sephora to open its chains in the UK. Boots would be its biggest competitor, although they spread their nets wide and thin these days. Sephora is pure indulgence, selling nothing but beauty products and fragrance. If prices were more competitive, Sephora could revolutionise the smell of the UK High Street and maybe, just maybe, rid us of the fruity floral fog that we must live in until the trend for identikit scents passes us by.

Madame Rochas: soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside

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I mentioned that I’ve bought a couple of vintage perfumes on eBay that have had ‘burnt’ top notes. Madame Rochas is one of them, so I thought I’d try it today against a modern version of the eau de toilette, to see how the burnt, crunchy topping affected my enjoyment of the rich, smooth interior.

I love Madame Rochas because it is quite frankly weird. It has a strange opening with some wacky aldehydes that Luca Turin says smell like ‘just-snuffed candles’. I can’t think of a better description, though it’s stranger and more haunting that simply candle-snuffs to me. In the vintage, this is burned away completely and there is just a rasp of hairspray and over-toasted oils. But fear not! In most vintage ‘fumes it’s just the top notes that get damaged, because they’re the lightest and most volatile ingredients in a fragrance. Once you wait for them to wear off, you get the original heart and base of the fragrance.

While my vintage left wrist is still making me say ‘eurch!’, my modern right wrist has moved on to the lovely salty floral notes of the modern Madame’s heart. As the fragrance develops, the salt fades gradually to reveal what the Rochas website assures me is ‘every flower in creation: jasmine, rose and lily of the valley’. As I’ve mentioned before I can’t tell what is or isn’t in perfume, so forgive me for just sticking with ‘floral’ and ‘rich’ and ‘warm’. However, according to Fragrantica.com, when he composed Madame Rochas, Guy Robert put aldehydes, bergamot, lemon and neroli at the top with flowery heart notes of jasmine, rose, tuberose, Lily-of-the-valley, Oriss root, ylang-ylang, violet and narcissus, whilst the base contains sandalwood, vetiver and musk, along with cedar, oakmoss and tonka beans.

Anyway, those floral heart notes are where the two fragrances – vintage and modern – meet. But my vintage left wrist is more garbagey and plush because I’m guessing that Guy Robert’s original jasmine was the skanky indolic kind and he probably had a dollop more oakmoss in there than now, while my modern right wrist is lighter and still a touch salty (I find Tocade a little salty too, if that helps – maybe it’s a Rochas style).

The base is warm, round and maintains the difference between the two eras – that gently salty twist to the modern eau de toilette keeps hovering above the base of creamy sandalwood and gentle musk. This modern Madame has more evident links to Hermès Calèche, another of Guy Robert’s creations, while in the vintage version the growly indolic rumble in the background reminds me of his Dioressence. The modern is certainly a floral aldehyde, but the original smells more like an oriental to me. They are both absolutely gorgeous in their own ways, and neither cost me more than £25. This is good stuff but it’s not big bucks.

I love this fragrance, for its individuality as much as anything else. It’s a bit of a forgotten beauty, but it’s as classy as they come, without being stuffy.

Miss Dior: no longer for maiden aunts

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WRITTEN BY LISA JONES

Once upon a time Christian Dior released a perfume that was a classic green chypre, full of oak moss, jasmine, patchouli and galbanum, and very chic and elegant. It was 1947 and things were far more prim and proper then. Young ladies wore neat tailored houndstooth suits, prim little hats with veils and carried white gloves.

To a young lady in 2013 those clothes would feel like a costume for a party, and perhaps Miss Dior felt similarly out of date. Because she has been completely replaced. The Miss Dior that I have a bottle of is now called Miss Dior Originale and has been put very politely but firmly on the back shelf of the Dior counter.

In her place is the pink-tinted Miss Dior incarnated by the delightful Natalie Portman. Previously known as Miss Dior Cherie, this has also ‘had a little work done’ to lose the strawberry top note, has been renamed Miss Dior and is now a flagship scent for the Dior line. It comes in all permutations – from parfum and eau de parfum to eau de toilette and eau fraiche, plus assorted body lotions, gels and all that stuff nobody buys unless it’s as presents. (Do you know anyone who buys or uses ‘official’ body lotion if it hasn’t come in a gift set or as part of a hotel toiletries haul?)(My daughter’s love of Hermes Eau d’Orange Vert can be traced to a very posh hotel suite and a generous friend of mine.)

However, dear, prim and proper original Miss Dior had a secret. Though she might have looked as prim and proper as Grace Kelly on the surface with her bitter oakmoss, give dear old MD a chance to warm up on the skin and that bitterness evaporates. Then the jasmine comes out to play and the oakmoss and woody old-school patchouli become rounder and warmer than JLo’s derriere in thermal undies.

I’ve been wondering how the new Miss Dior eau de toilette with her top notes of blood orange, heart of neroli and rose and base of patchouli will compare. So today I got out the little sample and spritzed. The top notes are sweet and very briefly citrus, though that is so fleeting as to be cheetah-like. The heart is fruity and floral with an element of something artificial but not in a bad way. Then there’s the base note of patchouli; this is the clean, radiant and persistent patchouli that is a staple in modern perfumery. It doesn’t remind me of JLo’s booty, I’m afraid; not in any kind of thermal clothing. Well OK, maybe in snowboarding pants.

You know how I have been whining about frootichoolis? This is one. I expected to want to chew my arm off and profoundly regret spraying my décolletage, but in fact, it’s OK. It’s not offensive in any way, it seems to be well-balanced, it wears reasonably close to the skin and doesn’t have enormous sillage and the longevity isn’t enormous – it was gone completely within 6 hours. That made me quite happy. I should repeat that this review is for the Eau de Toilette; I imagine the eau de parfum or parfum concentrations would last quite a bit longer and have a bit more projection. Be aware though that often fragrance compositions differ between the concentrations, so sniff the format before you buy it to avoid disappointment.