Chanel Les Exclusifs Coromandel: Milky Bars and Old Stone

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I tried Coromandel reluctantly, having read that there were hints of White Chocolate in it. If anything is designed to put me off a scent it’s the smell of the kind of stuff I wipe off my hands all day (I have a three year old). I also read there were Patchouli notes and that it was an Oriental. Sounds good to me, I thought, apart from the choc. But I will always sniff an Oriental, with open arms and a flaring nostril.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was very taken with her Chinese lacquered screens, and in tribute to these, Coromandel was created in 2007. Indeed there is a definite mysterious Eastern vibe going on here, but still in the back of my mind was the nervous question “When will it smell of Milky Bar?”

At first spray, the Patchouli is strong and musty. Perfume gives me very visual impressions, often at random. The immediate visual that Coromandel gave me was of a bar in Krakow that I visited  around fifteen years ago. Until I smelt Coromdanel, I had completely forgotten about this bar. As you may know, Krakow is a very ancient town and this wine bar was no exception. It was accessed via a flight of stairs going down into the basement and the walls were solid ancient stone, like a castle dungeon. It gave off one of my favourite smells: old stone. I adore that musty smell that is both damp and dusty at the same time. I can safely say that Coromandel’s Patchouli is of the ancient musty old stone genre. And I love it.

There are floral notes too: Rose, of which there is a hint, Jasmine which I couldn’t find, and Orange Blossom which didn’t turn up.

The White Chocolate did turn up shortly afterwards with a “Sorry I’m late” and it was very polite and sat down quietly at the back. The milkiness calms the Patchouli down and makes it very addictive and soft. Staying power is tenacious. Bad luck if you don’t like it, because you’ll need an Eviction Notice and a Bailiff to get rid of this one. Longevity kind of compensates for price: £200 for 200ml.

Coromandel was created as part of the Chanel Les Exclusifs Range. They weren’t kidding either. You’ll buy hen’s teeth and unicorn droppings off Lord Lucan before you can get your mitts on this stuff. Do they care at Chanel? Not a jot. They’re just playing hard to get to make you want it more.

It worked.

Shiseido Feminite du Bois: Le Jardin du Lady

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It’s that Pierre Bourdon again. Every time he makes a perfume I end up disliking it intensely. It’s not personal; he just creates smells that I don’t want to smell like.

Shiseido Feminite du Bois is highly regarded and coveted by many as a warm Oriental. Which is quite right and proper and it is indeed how it begins on me. In fact it is a perfectly crafted woody spicy fragrance, full of depth and heat. It has an almost sour note in the heart, which is beautifully earthy, like freshly turned soil, and then it warms up even more to smell like ancient wood in a church pew, infused with a hint of musky incense.

However, and I’m not quite sure how to put this delicately (although I did try a Franglais euphemism-see title): this smells like a gusset. A non clean one. It smells like knickers smell on the walk of shame with party shoes in hand as the sun comes up.  There. I’ve said it.

Funnily enough, I had exactly the same response to Worth Courtesan. I thought “Mm that smells very feminine”, and then after about half an hour, “What’s that smell? I have to wash NOW!” Guess who was responsible for that little gem? Yes, Pierre Bourdon. Similarly, Iris Poudre. Within minutes I was washing it off. Pierre’s handiwork again. That rascal!

Now it goes without saying that “Gusset” will never be a note listed on the Mighty Fragrantica, but I at least looked for Civet notes or an Animalic accord. Nothing. Zip. Nada.  So either this only happens to me and me alone, OR it happens to lots of other people who can’t quite pin down the exact suspect note in question.  OR lots of people get this but like it and shut up about it.

Personally, I don’t want the smell of a musky knicker gusset on my arm, so after using a little bit of this kindly loaned bottle, I will be returning it with enormous thanks that the list of very tempting notes didn’t lead me to buy it blind.

This is a textbook example of a perfume I love that doesn’t love me back. I long for that first magical half hour again, but it’s not returning my calls.

Marks and Spencer Per Una Originale For Women: Haven’t We Met Someplace Before?

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Marks and Spencer is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the High Street Fragrance Wars.  Lyn Harris of Miller Harris fame has climbed on board and produced a remarkable range at a reasonable price. Roger and Gallet are also to be found on their shelves, as are Fragonard, with their exquisite packaging.  Sadly, and apologies for the anti climax, none of the aforementioned ranges have reached my local branch. Sadface.  There’s a still a good selection though, if you keep walking past choky, cloying Florentyna.

I have it on good authority that Per Una Exquisite smells almost exactly like the much missed Houbigant’s Quelques Fleurs. Autograph New York is a fresh floral with gourmand vanilla basenotes.  It’s also no secret that Marks and Spencer Isis smells very similar to Issy Miyake L’Eau D’Issey, the ozonic fragrance hit of the Nineties.

This review is for Per Una Originale Eau de Toilette. Although Per Una Originale  is not a dupe or a copy, I  could not help noticing that it is very similar to Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely.  Here’s what the M and S website says “Flowers of magnolia, jasmine, rose and summer freesias mingle with a sensuous background of woods, heliotrope and patchouli to give added depth.”

Just like Lovely, the opening is all fresh, light flowers, no Tuberose, nothing too heady, followed by a background of Patchouli to give it that slightly Fresh Spicy accord. It is hard to point out the differences as they are so slim. I think Lovely has the edge though, certainly on longevity. Prices are good for Per Una Originale, starting at £4 for a 10ml purse spray: a good way to try before investing in a big bottle. However, at £12 for a 50ml bottle, you wouldn’t have to sell your house to afford it. Looking online, current offers include buy one get one half price, so you may as well buy a few different ones to test. Any excuse…

I have bought a 10ml bottle which is the perfect size for my handbag. It is slightly more floral than Lovely (more Magnolia and Rose), but a very close contender: a pleasant fresh fragrance with a resonant Patchouli-Lite base.

Affordable, accessible, and a wide enough range to avoid smelling like everyone else, Marks and Spencer have got it right.

Chanel Cristalle: I Wouldn’t Change A Thing

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 Chanel Cristalle was my signature scent from the age of 24 until about three years ago. Suddenly I ran out and other priorities took over, preventing me from replacing it (Oh did I mention my two children? That may have had a lot to do with it). Its absence from my life served a purpose however, and it certainly opened my eyes to cristalle addifferent perfumes and “creative” fragrance purchasing. That is to say, I could no longer afford Chanel Cristalle and had to shop in a different bracket. Whilst doing so, I became a fervent believer that not all cheap perfumes are bad and not all expensive perfumes are good. I learned to never judge a perfume by its price tag. Had I stuck to Chanel Cristalle I never would have discovered Gres Cabotine, Coty L’Aimant Fleur de Rose, Supermarket perfume such as Lidl’s hidden gem: Suddenly Madame Glamour, or the joy of eBay. There are indeed bargains to be had, and good ones too, that can get a perfume lover through the lean years.

However, it is my birthday today and my husband presented me with cristalle claudiaa bottle of Chanel Cristalle Eau de Parfum. You can bet your bottom dollar he’s a pretty popular guy today. So why has this fragrance outlasted all the others on my hit list? Why has it kept running the Marathon as Also- Rans fell by the wayside?

Cristalle is a very green scent, described as a Floral Chypre. However, to me it is as green as they come. The first spray reminds me of Nettles and Ferns, and within minutes, Citrussy Lemons take over, bringing in a spring like posy of Lily of the Valley. Base notes of Oakmoss give it a bit of earthy depth as the lightness melts away, but it stays green and refreshing from start to finish. It’s perfect for the office. Nobody ever fainted in a lift from Cristalle. It’s fresh and clean and light. It has a hint of Lemonade when you first spray it, as if it fizzes and crackles on the skin. Think adding ice cubes to a jug of sparking water on a hot day.

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It’s re-entry into my life has illuminated a different approach to Perfume. Whereas in my younger days I always had a signature scent, as I grew older and more capricious, I preferred to have a “Scent Wardrobe”, dependent on mood, temperature, weather, occasion and even what I’m wearing. (NB for “capricious” read opinionated and changeable). Now that I am in my thirties (*cough* Okay, I’m 43 today), I feel more assured of my identity and can therefore mess with it. I don’t need a signature scent, when I have a choice before me every day (mostly many pounds cheaper than Cristalle), but when I do wear my old favourite, it’s like finding a fabulous coat you’d forgotten about, or a favourite necklace you wore during only happy times.

Welcome back my little gem, you may consider yourself Queen of all the other bottles on my dressing table. This is where it all began.

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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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Chanel Cuir de Russie: Add It To Your Stable

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Chanel Cuir de Russie is part of the Chanel range of exclusive (and elusive) fragrances; “Les Exclusifs“. Originally made in 1924, Cuir de Russie was audacious even then, as it was created to complement the then shocking trend of women smoking in public.

In 2007, it was relaunched as part of the Les Exclusifs range, and is available at Chanel Boutiques and selected  Chanel counters in larger stores, but not widely.  Chanel are not in it for the money. They know it’ll sell even if it’s hard to get hold of and costs £200 a bottle.

I have been wearing Cuir de Russie today and  throughout the day my opinion has been changing. When I first wore it, I thought it smelt vintage and also very similar to a Frederic Malle, with that same milky, stuffy base note that several of his perfumes have (according to me, at least). There is Iris in there, which maybe made me think of Malle’s Iris Poudre. (This is not a Good thing, I loathe Iris Poudre!).  However, my heart was won over by the whiff of Leather and one of my favourite incense notes: Myrrh . Myrrh not only  smells archaic and musty and beautiful, but is very hard to spell without a spell checker.

Disappointingly, Cuir de Russie does not have great staying power. I have had to reapply from my borrowed sample several times today (sorry Lisa!) to get the scent going. It’s worth it though, because after a while (and three sprays and a brisk walk), what I got was a new note that I have never smelt in a fragrance before: Horse.

Yes, this leathery beauty smells like Black Beauty. Or Champion the Wonder Horse. Or  Trigger. But I happen to love it.

If you find the £200 price tag eye watering (and who wouldn’t? ) you could always try donning  a Russian Cossack outfit, climbing on board a sweaty stallion,  and riding a leather saddle from the Urals to Moscow. Rub some Myrhh into your legs and then sniff. What have you got? Cuir de Russie.

The Animalic Horsey smell is rather sexy and sets this apart from other Leather classics. Horses smell good, so it is either a stroke of genius or a happy accident that this earthy smell of Hay and Horse has made it’s way into a Leathery Incense fragrance.  Fragrantica lists many notes that are contained in this fragrance, but I’m darned if I can smell Bergamot, Mandarin, Orange Blossom or Rose.

If you want to try Cuir de Russie and can’t get to one of the rare beauty counters that sell this, try looking for samples and decants on eBay or perfume forum sites such as Basenotes or Fragrantica.

It was shocking in 1934 and it’s shocking now. Horse notes?  Shocking.  Shocking but Great. With a capital “Gee Gee”.

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Coty L’Aimant Fleur de Rose: Get it While You Still Can

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 Coty L’Aimant has been around since 1927. I have a particular fondness for it as it was the signature scent of my much missed and beloved late grandmother.  On me, it’s no great shakes, but on her it was wonderful.  I almost can’t bear to buy it or smell it, so evocative are the memories. I never underestimate the power of scent. It can take you back you in time more powerfully than any photograph.

When I saw that Coty had made a flanker called L’Aimant Fleur de Rose, I was curious enough to buy it, since I thought a bit more flora would make me like the L’Aimant scent more. To me, L’Aimant is too synthetic and powdery: In fact I am not the first person to say it reminds me of Chanel No 5. If you are a fan of Chanel No 5 and budget won’t permit a purchase, then affordable Coty L’Aimant is a close second.

Fleur de Rose however, keeps a muted shadow of the L’Aimant scent but has softened it with Peony, Rose , Musk  and Freesia. It smells like a very feminine White Floral Musk. Imagine if you used a Rose scented body lotion, then layered Body Shop White Musk over a classic white flower scent, say Anais Anais, followed by a light dusting of baby talc :  Voilà! you have L’Aimant Fleur de Rose.

This fragrance really grew on me, but what makes it even more appealing is that I bought my 30ml bottle for £3.99 from Home Bargains. I have recently seen 15ml bottles in Bodycare for £1.99 and bought some as stocking fillers last Christmas.

Judging by the low price, the availability in bargain shops, and the fact it is absent from Fragrantica listings, I can only conclude that this has been discontinued. If you see it, buy it. Actually, buy two. I’ve a feeling this beauty won’t be around much longer.

Guerlain Aroma Allegoria: Aromaparfum Apaisant: Spring is Coming, Look Busy.

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 When I first tried Guerlain Aromaparfum Apaisant my initial thought for almost three seconds was Marine notes. The sea, the sea! So fresh it could cut through any smog.  Within minutes the dry down showed me how wrong I was.

This is not an Aqua at all, it’s a Yellow Flower Honey scent with top notes of Chamomile and Freesia. Often when I smell a new perfume I write down what I can smell and then check it against the notes listed on Fragrantica. On this occasion, it does exactly what it does on the tin: Chamomile Tea next to a bunch of Freesias and a pot of Honey.  In fact the Yellow Flowers and Honey notes made this smell very similar to Gianfranco Ferre Essence D’Eau which I reviewed earlier in this blog.

If you like Essence D’Eau or Lancôme’s Poême, then this will be a good addition to your collection. To me it’s too cloying and flowery, and the honey makes my ears think they can hear bees.

This was created in 2002 by Jean-Paul Guerlain himself. Groucho Marx once said on leaving a hostess at the end of the night “ I’ve had a wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”

To paraphrase Groucho: Jean-Paul Guerlain has made some wonderful fragrances. But this isn’t one of them. Unless you are black and yellow and have wings and a sting.  In which case, you’re going to LOVE this.

Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque: Your Ever Changing Ways

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 I haven’t always got on with Serge.  I’ve yet to review several of his scents so I won’t give too much away here.  However I will say that I am still indignant about Ambre Sultan, and non plussed with both Louve and Chergui, more of which anon.

However, with Cuir Mauresque (Moorish Leather) I have discovered one of those wonderful perfumes that changes the longer you wear it. From one phase to another, Cuir Mauresque kept my interest and was full of surprises. Christopher Sheldrake, I forgive you for hooligan juice Ambre Sultan. You have more than made it up to me.

When I first tried this amber fragrance (I mean the colour not the scent), it was immediately evocative of the smoke from joss sticks: both Incense and Smoky notes at the same time.  The Leather is in the background immediately, although it doesn’t take over. There is Spice too: Cinnamon and Clove take a back seat, but are still in the picture. What stops this smelling too Christmas Cake is the lack of sugar.  There are no sugary Vanilla notes, so what you have is an aromatic blend, rather than spiced cake or a gourmand.

What intrigued me about this is that about half an hour after spraying, it seems to turn into an early Twentieth Century vintage blend, say a Caron Tabac Blond, or even a staler Mitsouko. There was that dusty approach that complements “le Smoking”. But it’s OK if you don’t like that, because after that phase it turns into the dried Rose Petals of a pot pourri, sort of papery and peppery  but still with a ghost of dreamy Incense.

Finally it drifts away, leaving a faint trace of powdery Musk and Oud, and yes even a rather suggestive tease of Civet. There is a definite hint of unwashed body at the end. I like a fragrance that tells a story. I like a fragrance that grows and blooms and changes and gradually slinks off in a puff of smoke, job done.  This is complex and interesting. It’s also around £80.00 for 50ml, so I have to think very hard before saving up for a whole bottle.

Cuir Mauresque is like an ugly man with beautiful eyes, although I’m leaving the room,  I can’t stop myself from looking back.

 

Penhaligon’s Love Potion number 9: Loves Me, Loves Me Not.

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This is my first ever Penhaligon’s fragrance and I couldn’t wait to try it. The packaging is outstanding: a pink box on a little stand, a glass bottle inside with a bow around its neck. Ten out of ten for effort Penhaligon’s. They’ve been around since 1870 and both The Queen and The Prince of Wales are patrons, so I expected nothing less than class on that score.  Incidentally, it is said that both Margaret Thatcher and the late Princess Diana wore Penhaligon’s Bluebell. Funny to think two such polar opposites could have something in common.

What comes out of this beautiful bottle of Love Potion Number 9, has me in two minds. Initially it’s a rush of broken ferns: a memory from my childhood where I would pick ferns and break them to sniff the sharp green juice inside.  Maybe that’s why I love Green notes now? Who knows. Actually the top note is listed as Tarragon so maybe that’s what I can smell.  In any case, it’s very Green and very “stems and leaves”, with the Geranium coming through, as promised.

I think it’s the dry down that jars a little.  After a while this seems to “go off” on my skin. It becomes like a flower that’s past its best and turned to dust, with a hint of sweet and dry vanilla over the top.  It’s powdery sweet like Lemon Geranium talc and I don’t think we suit each other.

At least one reviewer on Fragrantica compares it to Dior Dune and I have to say that it certainly rings true.  There is that Grassy Patchouli note as it beds in.  On paper, I should love LP No 9. It has notes I adore: Bergamot, Lemon, and Lavender to name but three of my favourites. However, what I got was Green Ferns, Roses,  Lemon Geraniums and a faint Patchouli base.  Again, I should like that combination. However, I don’t think it’s that LP No 9 is bad, I just think it doesn’t like ME.  I wanted to join the Love Potion Party, but it turned me away at the door.

This is around £80 a bottle so try and get hold of a tester or decant and wear it for a whole day before deciding if you like it enough to invest. It may like you more than it liked me.

 

1001 Days of Perfume