Category Archives: Woody scents

Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche: Still an Icon

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I have very fond memories of YSL Rive Gauche, (named after the arty Left Bank of the Seine) but it has been so embedded in my memory that I find it hard to de construct.  When considering what to write about it, my first instinct was to write “Rive Gauche smells like Rive Gauche”, which of course, would make a short and inadequate review.

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Created the same time as I was (1970) and launched a year later,  Rive Gauche and its iconic tin canister has certainly  played its part in my olfactory memory.  My first memory of it is of my primary school teacher wearing it in 1978.  I didn’t know its name then, but the scent memory stayed with me.

My mother then wore it in the 80s, which is how I learnt its name.  My recent foray was yesterday, when I tried the modern formulation, and unlike many purists, I did not find it lacking.  It was still very recognisable as Rive Gauche and the memories came flooding back, although the opening was a very 70s melange of powder, soap and white noise.

As I said, it’s heard to break this down.  It’s not an Oriental, but it’s sort of Woody.  It’s definitely an Aldehyde and a Floral.  Longevity is remarkable at ten hours..Image

So what’s it like?  It’s very 70s, yet timeless.  The opening reminded me of  Givenchy Ysatis, which isn’t good on me:  it was soap, powder and dust. However, when this small fog cleared, the good old fashioned smell of Rive Gauche was there, just as I remembered it.  It opens with clean smelling aldehydes, with a background of flowers: definitely Jasmine, Iris, and Rose. The flowers are muted though, in a refined sort of way, rather than the modern “in your face” way that can sometimes happen.

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Dare I say it?  The Iris calms everything down and keeps this both smooth and rich.  It wouldn’t be the same without it.  The finish is slightly woody (Oakmoss), but the florals stay true and rich.  It’s so good I may consider getting a bottle.  I rarely smell it on anyone these days, which is a great shame.

So hard to describe, yet I could recognise it in an instant.  Are there any fragrances that you remember form when you were very young?  Do you find them hard to describe or it is just me?

Stockists You can find YSL Rive Gauche in many places. Try Amazon UK or allbeauty.com

Rochas Tocade: Like Seeing An Old Friend

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 I wore Rochas Tocade back in my twenties and cannot remember now why I only bought one bottle, since I am very fond of it.  I have been wearing a sample today and have been enveloped in a warm, comforting aura.

Rochas Tocade is a cosy, daytime perfume full of vanilla, but it nicely sidesteps being a gourmand with its roses and amber taking the foodie edge off it.  Whilst being warm, I wouldn’t call it spicy.  Whilst being rich, I wouldn’t call it an evening scent, though it would work well as one.

We can deconstruct Tocade and it’s beautiful playful bottle, but it’s one of those perfumes that is so memorable that when you know it and smell it you just say “Oh Tocade!” rather than “Oh an interesting vanilla/rose daytime perfume”

The following notes are in it:  rose, sandalwood, magnolia, lily of the valley, freesia, iris and jasmine.  However, this never seems to be a floral on me.  The flowers just provide a backdrop in the distance. This is vanilla all the way, with an undercurrent of amber  and silky aromatic sandalwood as it settles on your skin.

Longevity is great: about nine hours.  The price is excellent too. Less than 40GBP for 100ml.  I don’t normally like too much vanilla, but for this I make an exception.  Even Luca Turin likes it.  Rochas Tocade is a modern, quietly classic marvel.

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Histoire d’Eau by Mauboussin

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The weather today is my all time favourite: chilly and breezy but with a sky that is bright blue and sunny. Everything feels as if it is in glorious Technicolour and the trees are starting to go gold.

Histoire d’Eau by Mauboussin is the perfect scent for today. It is rich with spice and wood and even a hint of tar. The Amber notes reflect the golden trees and the leathery finish is perfect for Autumn.

 Mauboussin is a prestigious French jeweller: right up there with Tiffany and Cartier. Since 1870 Mauboussin has been producing fine jewellery and watches, but it wasn’t until the year 2000 that they stepped into the fragrance market.  And I am so glad they did.

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The notes for Histoire d’Eau are as follows:

Top notes: Mandarin and Ylang (both noticeable),

Middle notes: Nutmeg, Pepper and Cardoman,

Base notes: Leather, Myrtle, Amber and Musk.

The combination of these toasty Autumnal notes is spot on for a chill wind. The Amber and Spices give heat to the sexy Leather.  The Orange makes things Christmassy and the Musk is barely a whisper, preventing this from being too girly. It would be perfect as a masculine or a feminine and reminds me of burnt tar on a fence.  This is a good thing, since I also rather like the smell of creosote in perfume.

Despite the hot tar and the slight cough mixture accord, this is prettier than it sounds. This is almost what Serge Noire would have smelled like on me if our chemistry had been right.  Histoire d’Eau is smoky, spicy and just what the doctor ordered on this bright, cold day.

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Jean Paul Gaultier Classique: A Fifties Style Nineties Classic

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 During the Nineties, Jean Paul Gaultier co hosted the late night post pub TV programme Eurotrash with the equally bonkers Antoine de Caunes. With his iconic Breton tops and kilts, and that Gallic twinkle in his smiley eyes, I was a fan of Jean Paul  from the start.

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In 1992 he launched Jean Paul Gaultier Eau de Parfum, now called Classique, thanks to a plethora of confusingly named flankers.  I recall reading an interview with him  around this time, though I sadly cannot find it now. The gist of it was that he wanted to base a perfume on the matriarchs in his family and he said that his Mother and Grandmother  smelled of  nail polish remover and face powder and he wanted to include that in his scent.

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He was as good as his word and I can never smell Classique without thinking how he understands that women, gorgeous as we are, often have messy handbags which smell of stuff we’ve spilled. It’s human. We don’t need to be perfect or smell perfect. A smell is a memory encapsulated in a bottle. As a result of this charming vignette, I have always had a soft spot for JPG , or Jpeg as we call him in the Digital Age (joke).

I haven’t ever owned a bottle of Classique myself since I once knew someone for whom this was a signature scent to the power of  a thousand. However, in isolation, it is  marvellous. It’s sweet with Vanilla, but not Britney Vanilla, and has a touch of Anise  and Pear which evoke the strange chemical hint of nail polish remover. It’s floral and feminine with Roses, Tuberose and Neroli, and beds down into a sandy finish with rich Amber and powdery Musk.

Bravo Jean Paul!

… and now a clip of some very large European breasts. Bon nuit mes little British chums and faîtes des bonnes rêves!

Serge Lutens Daim Blond: Apricots? And Suede? Mais oui!

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When I first smelled Serge Lutens Daim Blond, it was a sort of blind smelling in so far as I knew nothing about it and knew nothing of the notes. The first image that popped into my head, unbidden, was of a school corridor. I couldn’t fathom it out. Who wants to smell like a school corridor?

Fast forward a few months and I tried again. This time I had two samples and wore Daim Blond exclusively over a couple of days. Ah, now I get it.

 Daim Blond is a toned down leather, in fact, it’s suede rather than leather. Still cow hide, but softer.  In the background is something clean and medicinal. Hawthorn? Cardoman? Maybe this is where the school corridor image came from. Leather satchels and a hint of spicy Dettol? I tried again. This time, it made me think of something very expensive: say an Hermes handbag concession or a luxury car showroom. Must be all that new smelling suede.

And then there’s the curious Apricots. Normally one glimpse of anything  remotely Peachy on a list of notes and I run a mile in the other direction, but the apricots in Daim Blond kind of bloom like a rich juicy flower, and I found them quite pleasant, almost orangey.

It’s a curious blend, with fairly subtle sillage and longevity of around five hours.  Now that I’ve got it to know it better, the school corridor has gone and in it’s place is an expensive handbag on the seat of a brand new showroom-fresh luxury car that I can only look at by pressing my nose against the glass.

There is Heliotrope and Iris in there too, but I could smell neither. I could be ignoring the Iris though, since she and I don’t get on.

This is a subtle and classy scent. It doesn’t show off. It’s smooth, and pretty, but not so pretty that it tries to draw attention to itself. It would smell superb on a man, especially a billionaire.

Daim Blond smells of money.

Thierry Mugler Alien: Like Fireworks- Wonderful But Loud

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 Like Angel,  Thierry Mugler Alien has its fans and critics, although it must be said that Alien is not quite as divisive as Angel (see my earlier review about the Marmite of Perfumes). As for Mugler’s other big hitter, Womanity, let’s just move on, shall we? (I’m still offended by that stinking shock.)

The Alien bottle is critically acclaimed, and quite right too. Its blank faceless angles with slightly hunched shoulders has a unique strangeness.  I was initially put off from testing Alien after deciding that Angel wasn’t for me. However, I was going through an Amber phase and was attracted to the notes, so decided to order a few samples from eBay.

I was pleasantly surprised. It’s rather Christmassy and rich, and reminded me a bit of Church and incense. The Amber is LOUD and sweet, like a deaf Aunt with no dress sense, but likable all the same.

The notes are few: just Amber, Woods and Jasmine. You can smell all three, although Mugler does like to turn the volume up. The Wood notes smell like church pews permeated by the waft of a passing thurible. The jasmine is at its dirtiest, and the Amber sweetens it all up and smacks its bum to finish it off. Its Woody richness may stem from the fact that this is said to be aged in oak casks, like brandy.

Many people are averse to this, and I can understand why. It is the kind of perfume I cannot wear in great measure.  Nor should anyone wear it in close quarters to another human or animal before 5pm. It’s just not fair. Even if you have a cold and can’t smell it, trust me, one squirt is enough and will last a long time. I’m only talking about the Eau de Toilette here. If you have the Alien Essence Absolue Parfum Intense, then please don’t leave your house for Health and Safety reasons. You will have people keeling over in your wake like a Pied Piper gone wrong.

Alien is like hearing a love poem shouted through a megaphone. Pretty, yes, but turn it DOWN.

There are flankers aplenty, but I still rate this as the original and best.

PS Due to not wearing my glasses once, I ended up calling this Aileen by mistake and its rather fondly become a nickname.  Thierry Mugler Aileen.
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Avon Week: Timeless

Avon.com
Avon.com


Now we’re talking. I bought a bottle of Timeless in 2012 and was dismissive of it.  In my naivety I labelled it “powdery” and “old lady”. Since my recent epiphany regarding the chypre genre (Thank you Balmain Jolie Madame, I’ve never been the same since), I have changed my outlook on Chypres.

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In Timeless, we have in our midst an excellent and very affordable chypre  (sans oakmoss) that users compare to Rochas Femme or even Gres Cabochard.   Another fan says it is a cross between Obsession and Dana Tabu.

Prominent notes include aldehydes, opoponax, patchouli and amber.   It opens with spicy citrus, beds down into an old fashioned floral with roses and jasmine, and finishes off with an ambery powder accord that isn’t done enough these days.

Timeless was created in 1974 and has fans that have been wearing it ever since.   On the Avon Shop UK page,  buyers are clamouring for it.  On Fragrantica, it is praised to the skies.  On my humble left arm, it smells amazing and has great lasting power.  In fact Avon, did a very daft thing which they quickly put right after listening to their cusotmers.   Timeless was at one point, discontinued.  Such was the uproar from their non-millenial,  long term, customers that Avon very kindly brought it back again.  Wise move, Avon

I tried a sample of Timeless EDT today and was knocked for six. The powdery old fashioned smell I once foolishly tossed aside is terrific. It’s classic, spicy and feminine.  It could hold its own alongside many more expensive brands and not even blush.

Stockists: Timeless is available from Avon UK at the excellent price of £5, although prices and offers may vary.

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Balmain Jolie Madame: A Scent for All Seasons

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Jolie Madame by Pierre Balmain was created in 1953 by Germaine Cellier and has an immediate old fashioned glamour. Cellier knew what she was doing. Her other fragrances, Bandit  and Fracas (both for Robert Piguet) are still standing today as revered classics. When you think how many fragrances have been and gone over the years, that’s a pretty big achievement.

The more I have delved into Aldehydes and Woody Chypres on my colourful perfume journey, the more I have appreciated them. Jolie Madame seems to be the very pinnacle of a perfect Woody Chypre, almost prickling and crackling with its rough and beautiful Oakmoss and Galbanum.

I am a huge fan of both Green Notes and Hesperides, and yet I have been venturing a lot into Leather recently (but enough about my marriage *ahem*). To find a fragrance that encapsulates all my favourites in one scent has thrilled me. Firstly, Jolie Madame opens with Green Notes, including the stems and leaves. Petitgrain and Oakmoss, give it a woody, leafy opening. Then the Bergamot makes it presence felt, giving the woodiness some airy freshness at the same time, like a walk in a forest after a downpour. It smells like mossy, wet earth under damp bracken. There is a slight powderiness, in the form of chalk, or maybe it’s the Gardenia making me think of the colour white. This fades into a Green and Smoky Leather finish that lingers, delighting with whiffs of Violet and a whisper of White Musk throughout the day.

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It is perfectly put together and utterly delightful. It’s my one stop shop when I can’t choose between a Green Note scent, a Woody Chypre, a Hesperide or a Leather. Jolie Madame gives me everything I want..

It is the antithesis of modern High Street scents and its price tag is surprisingly reasonable. This may have to be one of my rare full bottles. It’s currently around 30GBP abottle, even less on eBay. It has great lasting power,  and is well worth its reasonable price. On me, this lasts around six or seven hours. I can’t get my nose off my wrist. It’s outrageously good.

If I was forced to narrow my treasured perfume collection into only two bottles, it would be Vol de Nuit and Jolie Madame. That kind of covers all bases for me. A joy!

Yesterday I discovered Balmain. And it was a good, good day.

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.

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