Category Archives: Summer fragrance

It’s Avon Week!

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Ding Dong! Reasonably priced beauty products, fragrance and miscellany calling!

Yes trusty old Avon is still at it and going strong. The Avon modus operandi is almost Draconian in this Digital Age.  A brochure is brought to your door, a form is filled in by hand with a pen, and given to a representative that comes back two or three weeks later with your goods. When High Streets are falling like dominoes, it’s almost miraculous that the Avon lady still stands, with a smile.

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Of course the Digital Age hasn’t completely bypassed our trusty friends at Avon. There’s a website where you can order items and leave reviews, and many people text or email their Avon reps now, although that does not exempt them from the long wait for their goods. In fact the long wait is kind of half the fun. Usually by the time I’ve waited three weeks I’ve completely forgotten what I’ve ordered. It’s like a lovely present chosen by someone who knows your tastes perfectly. Which, in a way, it is.

I’ve mentioned Avon in earlier posts, and I’ve promised you an Avon Week. That week is here, dear readers, and it starts now.

 

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Gucci Envy: It’s Madness I Tell You

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Gucci Envy is one of the most exquisite perfumes I have ever smelled. I’ve never found anything similar and used to wear it all the time. The thrill of wearing it never wore off.  I used to replace empty bottles as urgently as I would replace groceries.  It was a must have, rather than a luxury.  Then suddenly it was no longer in the shops anymore.

envy adCreated by  Maurice Roucel  in 1997, with a 90s urban edge in mind, Gucci Envy was discontinued in 2007. It’s still available on eBay if you have surplus cash and gold hanging about, but you cannot buy it in the shops anywhere anymore  (EDIT– update it’s on Amazon UK  right now but be quick! )

So what made it so special that it makes me emotional just to smell it now? ( a very kind soul took pity on me and sent me a decant- an enormous thank you to her!). In tests, Gucci Envy was not rubber stamped until its panel of testers rated it  more highly, than Estee Lauder Pleasures .   At the time Pleasures was its main competitor and was very “now” with its typically 90s fresh, airy appeal. Once Envy’s approval rating had beaten Pleasures, it was released upon a grateful public.

gucci_envy_reklama3Opening notes are Lily of the Valley, Green notes, and Hyacinth.  In the middle there is a sort of clean metallic note, almost like a silvery chord gone wrong in the middle. This works very well with the combo of Lily of The Valley and Hyacinth ( and a breeze of Freesia). If it were a colour it would be light green. It was so clean and airy and fresh that it was ideal for daytime, and indeed I wore it to the office every day.

So why was it discontinued? Theories include internal politics. Tom Ford was there when it was created and is not there now. Did he steal the recipe and escape, whilst laughing a villain’s laugh and blipping a security guard on the head? Or maybe another more plausible theory holds water: that of insanity and a disdain for making money.

I’m sticking with theory two. I wrote to the Gucci website with faux bafflement, asking why I couldn’t find Gucci Envy. They replied

 “Please note that Gucci Envy is no longer in production as we always look for new combinations of scents that the market has not explored yet. For this reason we invite you to visit one of our stores to experience the fragrances available and choose the right one”. (sic)

In other words, they cannot make a perfume I definitely love and definitely want to buy because they are too busy making perfume I might love and might want to buy. Does that make sense? No.

Recently I entered the Perfume Shop and asked to try  Gucci Envy Me, hoping against hope there may be some similarities. There weren’t.  Envy Me is pleasant and clean smelling, like a pile of fresh laundry, but Envy it is not. Nor is Gucci Envy Me 2.  In fact why create two flankers when you have stopped making the Real McCoy?

I am not alone. Posters on Basenotes want it, posters on Fragrantica want it, and perfumistas on Mumsnet want it back.   Sales were not dropping off.  It was not going out of fashion.  It was not impossible to make.

So it just leaves me weeping over my precious decant, asking a cold shouldered corporation “WHY? Did someone have a bowl of crazy for breakfast? Don’t you want my money?”

I don’t think they’re listening.

PS If you’re missing it, I have found three scents that will do as a stand in until Gucci sees sense: Isabella Rosselini Manifesto, Jo Loves No 42 The Flower Shop and Issey Miyake A Scent.

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Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune: Right Through To The Bitter End

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A small patch of blue sky was spotted for at least twenty the minutes the other day. I don’t care what anyone says, I’m calling it Spring. I am making excuses to get my Spring and Summer Scents out, if not my cooler clothes. In the world of fragrance, you’d be hard pushed to find anything more refreshing than a sharp citrus note on a hot day. And if we’re talking citrus, we have to talk about Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune.

This is a slippery customer, old Pamplelune. Wearing it on two previous occasions, it has gone sour and bad on me, like a hard shrivelled Clementine that I removed from my fruit bowl recently. Looking at reviews all over the Internet, it would seem I am not alone.  Today, I can report that Pamplelune is behaving itself, and I have not yet reached the sour rotten note, nor the famous “cat pee” so often mentioned by disappointed wearers.

When this is first applied, it is pretty much agreed that the Grapefruit top note is sharp, refreshing and unbeatable in the Citrus Category. It’s the aftermath that creates problems. Like a beauty Queen with a sleazy past, positive first impressions are soon pricked like a bubble.

Today, Pamplelune is better than it was last time I tried it for a day. Maybe this is because my skin is warmer, or maybe because the more perfumes that take me out of my comfort zone, the more my tastes are changing.  In any case, when the delightful and sparkling Grapefruit notes softened down and drifted away today, the drydown was better than I remembered.  It’s green rather than bitter, with Petitgrain and Cassia Leaf providing a fresh spicy accord,  and I detected a bit of unsweetened Vanilla smoothing out the edges. The Grapefruit is still there but instead of being juicy and tart, it’s more like a palate soothing sorbet now.

This is hit and miss, depending on your skin, the weather and what your personal perfume tastes are. There seem to be an equal number of brickbats and bouquets for Pamplelune. I have a foot in both camps. I have had the sour rind smell before now on two occasions, yet today I have a unique and grown up citrus fragrance that has made itself at home.

Pamplelune was created in 1999, and like many fourteen year olds, it’s difficult and capricious. I implore you, no matter how much you like Citrus and Grapefruit, do not buy this blind, unless it’s a very small bottle.  You can love it from afar, but until you meet, you won’t know if there’s chemistry.

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.

Genuine oriental perfumes: it’s amazing what you find online

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As a certified oak moss fiend, I was delighted to be told in a Facebook fragrant fiends group about a ‘very mossy’ fragrance called Saat Safa by Al Rehab. I set off to find out more about it and stumbled onto a world of inexpensive and interesting fragrances.

I googled Al Rehab fragrances, found them on Amazon and started checking out their range. This is a well-respected Saudi Arabian perfume company that uses natural essences – bells started ringing for me, as Amouage are the best-known Saudi Arabian perfumers and their fragrances are highly acclaimed and very expensive. So the thing that astonished me when I checked out Al Rehab was the prices. These perfumes mostly come in oil form, in order to be acceptable to observant Muslim customers, and they’re in handy little 6ml roll-ons. Most of them are two quid; that’s three bucks, or 2.3 Euro. We are talking really low prices here for perfume. But is it any good?

Well yes, it is. It’s really nice, actually (apologies Al Rehab for doubting you). I tried three perfume oils today: Classic, Al Sharquiah, and White Full Perfume, all from Al Rehab. These are genuine perfumes from the Orient – the Middle East – as opposed to European imaginings of what Oriental perfumes smell like, and not one is even a tiny bit like Shalimar or Opium. These are smooth, flowery and woody and smell very natural, although they are very linear and change little from opening to base. Speaking of bases, they last reasonably well on the skin – 4 or 5 hours – but at this price you can top up as often as you like.

Classic: this is my favourite of the three. It is relatively light and has a lemony floral opening that becomes a little rosier and sweeter with a gentle woody base that rails off into a pleasant and lasting skin musk. It lasts really well and the deep base reminds me of the musk in Lovely and Narciso Rodriguez ‘for Her’.

Al Sharquiah: more the kind of jammy rose with woody and incense notes that I expect from a middle-eastern-style attar. This is feminine and elegant without being overpowering or ‘shouty’. It’s a rich, slightly ‘cooked’ rose that stays sweet and the classic woody base might well include a little of the kind of frankincense that reminds me of old churches and cold stones.

White Full perfume: oh boy this is JASMINE! Very very jasmine, with perhaps a sprinkle of orange blossom. It’s not indolic, which is nice, but it’s rich rich rich and round and warm and JASMINE. Did I mention the jasmine? In the market in Cairo you can buy necklaces made of hundreds of jasmine blossoms threaded onto a cord. It smells amazing to wear the fresh blooms around your neck with their rich sweet scent wafting up in the evening’s heat as you sit on a terrace. That is the situation to wear this perfume in. On a chilly April day in Wales it doesn’t really work.

So there you have a trio of fragrances for under a tenner, including shipping. These are great fun and very cheerful scents to either throw in your handbag for daily use or for holidays. I think I may well go back and try a few more – Cherry Blossoms, Silver and Dehn Al-Oud all sound intriguing.

An interesting point is that because these fragrances are in oil form they should pass the UK Royal Mail’s new regulations on posting perfume internationally (just don’t do it – don’t even try, it’s too depressing to have a parcel opened and your perfume destroyed). At these prices I’m prepared to give it a try. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Jasper Conran Mistress: Gingery Bergamot Heaven

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If Gingery Bergamot is your idea of a good time, then welcome to my world. Bergamot is one of my favourite notes, except when used alongside Green Tea.

Jasper Conran has created a delightful Green/Bergamot scent here with Mistress, and the scented candle that’s part of the range was the recipient of a FiFi Award for best Home Fragrance in 2008

I may have mentioned that I am a big fan of Eau de Cartier (just a few hundred times), and this is certainly along similar lines. I wouldn’t call them closely related, but they could be second cousins once removed.  The Bergamot is dominant, although being gentle and light, Bergamot could never be too loud. There is also a hint of Ginger, which makes me think of Gres Cabotine and its Ginger Lily notes.  Fruit notes are listed, although I don’t pick up on these, and gentle Musk softens the Bergamot and makes it almost chalk-powdery rather than talcum or face powdery.  Longevity isn’t exceptional, but it’s very people-friendly and won’t choke anyone to death on the morning train.

I was pleasantly surprised at this lovely fragrance, since I was expecting something more mainstream. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea*, but it’s certainly mine.

*NB Not Green Tea!

Eau de Cartier Essence D’Orange: Refreshing or Refresher?

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From Leathery Tobaccos to a citrussy hesperide: you have my permission to call me capricious. I must confess, I have  an ulterior motive writing about  Eau de Cartier Essence d’Orange since it provides me with yet another excuse, as if one were needed, to wear my beloved Eau de Cartier again today ( see my earlier review). Just as a comparison you understand.

Eau de Cartier Essence D’Orange was created in 2010 as a follow up to the divine Eau de Cartier: an angelically light hesperide full of Bergamot and Lavender and still, in my opinion the best and only fragrance to wear when hungover.  It’s like having an aromatherapist helping you out when all is spent.  Despite reviewing fragrance daily (or as near as I can),  there are not many full sized bottle on my dressing table. Eau de Cartier is one of them. After smelling a spray sample I simply had to have it.  Luckily, it was just before Christmas and Santa got my letter in time.

When I saw there was an Essence D’Orange, I was keen to try it.  At first spray it smells very like Eau de Cartier, but very quickly the soft oranges quietly enter the room.  This is not, as you might expect, a sharp citrussy orange, but more of a fuzzy powdery orange.  In fact after around ten minuets I couldn’t escape persistent thoughts of Orange Refreshers. Opening with a burst of bergamot like its sister Eau de Cartier, the orange does sort of take over, along with a bunch of violets to calm it down and stop it being too dominant.  I also would have said lavender was a noticeable note, despite not being listed. Never mind, you can take my word it, I can definitely smell a hint of lavender.

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This is beautifully unisex and may even smell better on a man. I still prefer my Eau de Cartier, but I have ordered a stash of samples of Essence D’Orange so I always have access to it without investing in the 100ml or 200ml bottle.

This is fresh, airy, light and beautiful. The smell of Orange Refreshers is, admittedly, inescapable, but I rather like it. This, along with Eau de Cartier is the antidote to too many Leathers and Orientals. It is delicious, edible and thirst quenching.

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Body Shop White Musk Oil: The Last Man Standing From the Long Lost Perfume Bar

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Sometimes the ageing classics get overlooked. It dawned on me that there is one perfume that I have been wearing for at least twenty five years and yet I haven’t reviewed it yet.

I first came across Body Shop White Musk at the glorious and much pined for (by me) Perfume Bar that every Body Shop used to have years ago. For those who have youth on their side and cannot remember this wonderful creation, please indulge me as I go down  Memory Lane.

In the 80s and 90s, each Body Shop had a Perfume Bar consisting of large glass jars with narrow necks, and long glass dipping sticks in each one. The jars would be on a circular stand, surrounded by eager customers, sniffing and testing. The happy bodyshop oilcustomer (i.e a younger me) would dip, dab and sniff until finding a scent she or he could not live without. The nice ladies at the counter would then fill a little plastic refillable bottle for you to take home, for a very reasonable price.

For many years I had tiny plastic 15ml and 30ml bottles of such much missed gems as Japanese Musk, Mostly Musk, and White Musk (sensing a theme?). I was not alone.  My mother loved “Annie” and always carried it in her handbag, and “Dewberry” was practically The Smell of the 80s.

Sadly all but a tiny few are discontinued, but if the Body Shop were ever to create this mirage of happiness again, I would be their most loyal customer. How I wish they would bring it back.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rex Features (1350527r) Anita Roddick of the Body Shop Various
 Photo by Rex Features (1350527r)
Anita Roddick of the Body Shop
Various

This review is for White Musk Oil. You will see that it is not for the White Musk EDT, Sheer spray, or for any of its flankers such as Libertine.  I find them all too light and fleeting. White Musk Oil has a particular staying power that I have not encountered with the EDT or flankers, or in fact any of today’s Body Shop fragrances.  A dab of White Musk Oil on the neck, crook of elbow and wrist and you are set up for an entire day.

It’s subtle enough not to offend in a small office, and lasting enough not to have to top up in the day.  One of my favourite things about this oil is that a 30ml bottle lasts me a year.  The Body Shop website often has half price offers on, which can make this even more of a bargain.

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So what of the fragrance itself? Well according to the Body Shop website, this has notes of Lily, Iris, Rose and Vanilla. Personally I get Musk and maybe a very faint background of Lily, but no Rose or Vanilla and no cold hearted Iris.

I am shameless about never having grown out of it. Many people see it as student perfume they have left behind, but I have had more misty eyed compliments about this than about any other perfume I have ever worn.

The Good Old Days- photo from youbeauty.com
The Good Old Days- photo from youbeauty.com

I often forget I’m wearing it and spray another fragrance over the top, but I find this just makes both fragrances smell even better. It’s close to skin: people will get a waft when you hug them or lean over them, but they won’t faint like dominoes when you get in the lift.

You may well find a man sniffing nostalgically to himself and remembering his first girlfriend though.

This is proof, if proof were needed, that you don’t need big bucks to smell good.

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Acqua Di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Arancia di Capri: Can I just call you Blu?

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When I tried Elizabeth Arden Mediterranean (see yesterday’s review) I was disappointed. What I was actually wishing for was the smell that is Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Arancia di Capri It’s a hell of a mouthful, so I’ll just call it Blu Mediterraneo.

I hadn’t tried this before today, but so disappointed was I with yesterday’s fragrance that I needed an antidote. And I found it. Full of Sicilan Orange, Bergamot and Lemon, this is just my glass of Chianti. Sniffing away happily, I was convinced that this contains Marine Notes, but no, it doesn’t  In fact it made me ask myself why sharp oranges make me think of refreshing sea spray and the bluest of seas under the bluest of cloudless skies. Maybe its the Bergamot or the overall Citrus, but this made me visualise a  balcony overlooking all that blue sea and sky, probably with some sort of Orange Grove nearby.

Interestingly, Fragrantica has Caramel listed a base note. This is a mistake. Not by Fragrantica, but by any perfumer that  feels the need to add a Fudge Shop to a Mediterranean idyll. Luckily, I couldn’t smell that note, or I’d have been very disappointed.

Longevity is a bit on the short side, but when freshly sprayed, this is almost unbeatable as a sea spray/citrussy summer scent, along the lines of Clarins Eau Dynamisante. I am also relieved to report that there are no Aquatic, Melon, Cucumber or Ozonic notes to wrestle with. As much as I love a Marine scent, I have never taken to Aquatics or Oceanics. Yes, I know I am pedantic.

 Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Arancia di Capri comes in several varieties, and is easily available: a quick search found it on both Amazon and eBay. As well as Arancia di Capri, there is Fico di Amalfi, and Mirto di Panarea. I haven’t smelt these, but if you ever come across them, I’d say they were worth a sniff.

It’s not cheap at around £63 for 75ml, but it’s much cheaper than a holiday (am I a bad influence?) and the price could have been a lot worse for such high quality.

Blu Meditteraneo is right up my street, my cup of tea, my glass of Frascati.  Ice cold, of course. Now that I have this on my wrist I am suddenly SO over Winter.

YSL Paris: J’ai Deux Amours…

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 As an escape from heavy woods and intense incense, sometimes I want to take sanctuary in a  simple  pleasant floral. In the same way that wearing something floaty and cool on a hot day offers relief,  sometimes I want the simplicity of a floral like Yves Saint Laurent Paris.

Ignoring the faintly Turkish Delight overtones, to me , Paris has two notes: Violet and Rose. There’s other stuff too, like Soft Musk and a hint of Powder, but it is Violet and Rose, like two fragrant sisters, who sit firmly in the centre of this bouquet of a scent.

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There’s no Fruit. There’s no Vanilla, no foody Praline, no cheap basenotes. I mean, this is Sophia Grojsman here! It’s simply fresh flowers, it’s pleasant to  be around, and it’s light and airy.

Created in 1983, I have distinct memories of the Sixth Form Common Room in school in the late Eighties, and one co student in particular loved to marinate herself in this before 9am.  However, unlike other Eighties heavyweights around at the time (yes I’m old), too much Paris was never as bad as too much Poison or too much Giorgio Beverly Hills *shudder*., which were also popular at the time.

paris springNaturally, Paris the fragrance doesn’t smell like Paris the City. Paris the City actually smells of Body odour, cigarette smoke, wine, asphalt, traffic and wafts of expensive perfume and coffee.  A wonderful smell actually, but it would never sell if you bottled it. Although having said that, I bet someone somewhere would create it and someone somewhere would buy it.  Maybe Library of Fragrance  could make “Dirty City”.  I know they’d do a great job.

Paris the perfume is mainstream, easy to get hold of and frankly, adorable. The price stops it being totally ubiquitous and the fragrance  trends of the last two years have changed, making Paris not so common now, and frankly, a refreshing change.  There are flankers, but this is the original and best.  Don’t makie the mistake of seeking this kind of classic quality among the flankers. (*cough* Mon Paris *cough*)

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