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

Image

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

Image

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

Image

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.

Dioressence: a vintage barbarian

Image

I have to be honest right from the start here: I’m about to write about some of that juice that breaks IScent’s heart. The stuff I let her sniff and fall in love with and then break the news ‘they don’t make this anymore’. Sorry.

The good news is that you CAN buy a facsimile at a Dior counter near you, reformulated by François Demachy in the Creations de Monsieur Dior series to conform to the IFRA regulations that reduce the quantities of potential allergens in perfumes. (Those regulations that make me cry and have led to the death of so many beautiful old fragrances.) The better news is that I bought the stuff I’m writing about on eBay recently and at reasonable prices. I have two bottles of Dioressence Eau de Toilette, a ribbed glass one dating to the 1980s and a square flask-shaped one from the mid 90s when Dior was sold to LMVH and all the bottles were brought into line. (It’s amazing what you can find out when you google.)

Dioressence was created in 1969 by the famous perfume nose Guy Robert, who also created Madame Rochas, Hermès Calèche and the stunning Amouage Gold. It is a rich, spicy, animalic oriental chypre that is as sensuous as a set of satin sheets and as classically slinky as a haughty 1970s French model wearing a fluid little silk shirt dress to strut down the catwalk. It is elegantly sinful, but not a blatant come-on, more a challenge. If you would like to read the story of how M.Robert came to create it, you should visit the fabulous Perfume Shrine blog, which is a fund of information of all kinds and a wonderful resource. Helg has included the tale M.Robert told Luca Turin about a million-dollar lump of ambergris and some cheap soap, which Chandler Burr mentions in the book that started me off on this obsession… But I digress.

The first time I smelled Dioressence on my skin from a tester in a store, I yelped with shock. It’s mucky. It smells of warm human, but it has a powdery element that keeps it from being mistaken for unwashedness. There’s an opening trill of citrus to give a bow to the classic oriental formula, but after that it’s all kinds of spicefest. There’s a slight tang of salt, a green vein of oakmoss and a barrel load of animalic scents that are like a dozen different kinds of leather, fur and skin. Of course I love it.

I’m comparison testing the 1980s against the 1990s versions and they are very similar. I have been lucky to get bottles in which the top notes haven’t been damaged and there’s no ‘hairspray’ smell, but that’s a risk with buying vintage. The base notes are the last to go, so don’t give up hope if you’ve got a burnt bottle, just power through the icky bit. I find the 1980s version is more powdery and rounded, while the 90s Dioressence is more green and a little more carnation-spicy. There’s not a lot in it though and I’ll cheerfully wear either of them, though I might keep the 1980s version for more special occasions.

This perfume is voluptuous, sensual and womanly, but it has the grace and self-worth to be elegant, never slutty. Think of Charlotte Rampling in fur. That little frisson you just got: that’s Dioressence.

Image

Givenchy Dahlia Noir L’Eau: the black dahlia lightens up

Image

I promised myself I would follow IScent’s philosophy this week and try new perfumes, so I went off to the department stores and scrounged a few samples. The ladies at the Dior and Givenchy counters were particularly helpful, so I’m starting with what I hoped would be the least offensive offering: Givenchy’s summer release, which will doubtless be available at a counter near you.

I have to confess that I have not tried the original Dahlia Noir, but I probably should. It is described on the Givenchy website as a ‘fatal flower’ – a fantasy of the fragrance the scentless dahlia might have. It is a modern woody floral, created by François Demachy, who has also created this new release for the summer season. Demachy has created fragrances for many of the LMVH brands, including Fendi, Acqua di Parma and Dior. LMVH is Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, a massive global group of luxury brands that covers fashion, leather goods, watches, jewellery, wines and spirits as well as perfume and cosmetics. Chaired by Bernard Arnault, this conglomerate controls an enormous swathe of the market – from Marc Jacobs and Givenchy to Bulgari and Benefit – as well as owning Sephora, the perfume and cosmetics retailer.

Givenchy Dahlia Noir L’Eau is described by Givenchy as “a femme fatale veiled in tenderness”, an elegant fresh floral with top notes of citron and neroli, a heart of rose petals and a base of musk and cedar wood. It is indeed a fresh and light floral, with sparkling citrus top notes sprinkled with a suggestion of orange blossom water. It warms to a slightly green but rounded woody heart and a pale musk base that lasts a surprisingly long time. It isn’t too radiant or expansive – you wouldn’t scare the horses or asphyxiate a lift full of people if you were wearing this – but I think it has enough sillage that you would be noticeably scented if you stood next to someone at a bar.

I like it and think it’s good. It’s well considered for the market, age-appropriate and to my great relief it’s not a frootichooli (have you figured out yet that they’re a pet hate of mine?). It also appears to be made with good quality materials – I know little or nothing about the chemicals used in perfumery, but I do know that there are some which I find repellent because of their radiant, patently artificial qualities, and they are often included in ‘watery-style’ fragrances. There aren’t any of those in here, thankfully. I think it says a lot that François Demachy has created the Escale series for Dior, as this reminds me a lot of Escale a Portofino. He obviously has a lot of expertise with kind of scent, because this is exceedingly well-balanced.

Dahlia Noir L’Eau is a perfect flirty summer perfume, actually. Snag a sample now and tuck it away to take on holiday – these tiny spray vials are ideal to drop into that infamous clear plastic ziplock bag.

Pour un Homme de Caron: the big, butch Easter bunny

Image

Happy Easter, readers. The festival of sweet things has dictated my choice of fragrance today: Pour un Homme, from the French house of Caron, purveyors of the gorgeous Tabac Blond which IScent enjoyed so much. This is, as you might guess from the name, a masculine fragrance. I am female, but I wear it regardless, because it is a thing of beauty. It is very simple and very chic, in the way of so many classic French gentlemen’s fragrances.

Image

It is advertised by the magnificent French rugby star, Sebastien Chabal, a towering, powerful sportsman with a beard and mane of flowing black hair. He is utterly terrifying on the pitch, but according to his wife, is a gentle giant. I think this might be the most classic combination of fragrance and celebrity endorsement ever – Chabal’s physicality and  power contained in the elegant black tailoring are a perfect visual metaphor for the combination of beastliness and restraint.

This classic of French male grooming was created in 1934 by Caron’s resident genius, Ernest Daltroff, who also created Tabac Blond, Narcisse Noire, Bellodgia, and many others. When you spray on Pour un Homme, you’re hit by a wave of pure, blue-purple lavender, fresh and sharp and bright like a high, clear note. It’s very ‘barbershop’ and exactly what you expect from a masculine.

But then there’s the clever bit. The vanilla comes in, forming a rich, round cuddly tenor counterpoint that adds depth and character while also adding warmth, strength and lasting power. You can see why I love this. It is the ultimate ‘Daddy’ fragrance (issues? moi?). The vanilla is not sugary or sweet, and it plays on a ‘caramel’ note that Luca Turin swears exists in some variants of lavender. This woody vanilla anchors the fragrance firmly on the skin and gives it good lasting power – I spritzed this morning and I can still smell it 15 hours later.

Like The Duke in the top picture, this fragrance has good humour and approachability, but it’s strong and upright. Another that’s well worth trying.

Guerlain L’Heure Bleue: the magic spell of the blue hour

Image

Hello, I’m Wordbird, and while IScent takes a well-deserved trip to the perfumeries of France, I shall try to fill her shoes. I hope I won’t bore you!

I know IScent said all kinds of nice things about me, but in fact, she has been a ‘perfumista’ longer than I have. I always liked perfume, but I wasn’t fascinated by it. Until, that is, I went on holiday to France seven years ago, taking with me a book called The Emperor of Scent, which I’d picked up in the SciFi section for holiday reading. It turned out to be real science, not fiction: the story of a talented biophysicist called Luca Turin who was researching how we smell things. It was a fascinating read, but what really inspired my imagination was Luca Turin’s comments on perfumes and the perfume industry.

Turin claims Mitsouko is the perfume he would take with him if he was being sent off on an inter-galactic space mission. He describes it as lovingly as if it was his favourite child. I had to smell it. Being in France meant that I could spend hours in a handy branch of Marionaud, smelling many of the amazing things he described in glowing terms usually reserved for works of art. At a shopping mall in a provincial French town I was able to try things I would have struggled to find at home in Wales, including the entire Guerlain range of classics – Jicky,  Shalimar, Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue, Apres L’Ondee, Vol de Nuit, Chamade, Jardins de Bagatelle, Nahema, Parure, Mahora, Champs-Elysees, L’Instant, Insolence… I came out of the shop reeling and reeking.

Some of those perfumes repulsed me – traditional, oakmoss-laden chypres were definitely not to my taste and I did not like massive florals or 80s stinkers – others confused me, some left me cold, a couple were interesting but difficult and one or two were pretty.

But one made me come back again and again to sniff the bottle and then the inside of my wrist where I had sprayed it: L’Heure Bleue. It was strange and just a little magical, wonderful and very grown-up. It did confuse me, I couldn’t say ‘this smells of x y and z’, as Luca Turin did in his reviews and when I read the notes listed, I could smell no particular iris, violet, heliotrope or carnation. Instead, I had an impression of melancholy, face powder and a ladylike, delightful deliciousness, an edibleness like a rich almond pastry with a creamy vanilla custard filling. It hypnotised me and fascinated me and I was hooked.

If you haven’t yet got around to trying L’Heure Bleue I strongly recommend you do. Persuade the sales assistant at the Guerlain counter to pull out the beautiful little bottle with the heart-shaped stopper from under the counter and try it, I beg you. Failing that, somehow get your paws on a sample of this rare gem. It is pensive, complex and gently intelligent, utterly unlike the modern watery vanilla/ thin floral/fruitichouili things that are being pushed at consumers nowadays. This remarkable perfume celebrated its one hundredth birthday last year, and like so many delightful Centegenarians, it still has powerful charm and character, which is no bad thing.

Exciting Guest Blogger: Madame Wordbird-Oracle of All That Is Fragrant

 Image

I have to step away from IScent Mansions briefly, but don’t worry, I shall be bothering Parfumerie Assistants on the continent in the name of research (“Est ce que vous pouvez me donner hundreds of samples s’il vous plait?”).

Stepping into the fray will be my extraordinarily knowledgeable friend Lisa Wordbird. I constantly learn so much from her, and her kindly loaned Library of Scent is the reason that IScentYouADay is able to be a scent a day for a year.

 My only fear is that her extensive knowledge and wit may illuminate the gaps in my own knowledge dear reader. However, whilst La Wordbird writes so expertly about the Fragrance Industry as a whole, I am a bumbling amateur sharing a daily journey of wonder and discovery with you, and always enjoying your experiences and comments too.

 I am learning as I go along, and I warmly welcome you as you share it with me. Please welcome my superb Guest Blogger. She is truly an inspiration and an invaluable source of industry history and gossip.

 She does however, break my heart regularly. “You like this? They don’t make it anymore”. Please do make her at home and rifle through the box of delights she will no doubt bring. I’ll be back soon, and I will smell incredible.

PS I am going by train so I can fit more in my bag.

Balmain Jolie Madame: A Scent for All Seasons

 Image

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.

balmain jolie madame ad 1

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.

hscents

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 has great lasting power- 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.

Follow

Chanel No 22 : Smothered By A Bridal Veil

 Image

My immediate and accusatory reaction on smelling Chanel no 22 was “Pierre Bourdon– is this your doing?” but on this occasion, my perfume Nemesis Bourdon was Not Guilty.  This is in fact the work of Errnest Beaux, and was created in 1922. It has since been relaunched as part of the Les Exclusifs line, but I am reviewing the pre relaunch version.

This is feminine, soft and pure. It’s how I imagine the colour white would smell. It has Lily and Neroli and is very heavy on the Iris. There is a metallic note in the opening too, which made me think of silver.  It has sweetness too, but the sweetness of a blooming bouquet of White Flowers into which you have fallen nose first on a hot stifling day and cannot escape from. It is, in my opinion, a little de trop. However, it has more fans than I do, so I must gracefully concede and bow to the genius of Monsiuer Beaux.

The truth is, (whisper if you dare), that I cannot bear this stuff and had to wash it off. The reason for this is something I alluded to in my introduction above. This smells way too much like my much loathed Iris Poudre by, yes you’ve guessed it, Pierre Bourdon. Now although he didn’t create Chanel no 22, it is impossible for me to believe that he had never smelled it before he rolled his sleeves up in the lab and got creative. The heavy Iris, the Musk base, the stifling sweetness- to me this equals Iris Poudre.  It is clear to me that I must one day review  Pierre Bourdon for Frederic Malle Iris Poudre (to give it its full title)   since it keeps recurring through my reviews like a baddie in a Pantomime. Watch this space.

So Chanel No 22, you’re pretty and nice, but you make me want to breathe real Oxygen and open a window.

1001 Days of Perfume