Hermes Hermessences Paprika Brasil: Another Perfect Symphony from Jean Claude Ellena

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 At first I read the label on this elegant 5ml sample as “Paprika Basil” and thought, “Do I really want smell like a Chicken Thigh?” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only was it “Paprika Brasil (put your glasses on woman!), but it was made by Jean Claude Ellena, and is up to his usual high standard. He also makes one of my favourite fragrances : the beautiful ever changing First By Van Cleef and Arpels ( see my earlier review).

I would never, ever have considered Paprika as an ingredient in perfume but he makes it work so beautifully that I can’t believe it’s not done more often. There is Iris at first, but a pleasant, sweet variety, rather than the earthy rooty horror that I sometimes encounter. I also thought I could smell Violets, but I am partly mistaken. It’s actually Mignonette:  a “very sweet-smelling and pleasant Mediterranean flower with violet-like and fruity nuances” (Fragrantica)

The Paprika itself does not make itself known immediately, it emerges as a crisp line of spice surrounding the blooming pretty Violet and Iris. Imagine a sparkling clear pool of Violets with a crisp red edging. There are Cloves too, and Green notes and Woods.  When the violets have left only a sweet trail in their mist, I am left with  spiky, peppery scent of beautiful Rosewood.  It’s bold and clever, but the balance is just right, as always with JC.

Luca Turin however, damns it with faint praise in Perfumes The GuideThe pepper-peppers accord works fine, but it does not sustain interest and ends up smelling like the capsicum off note in cheap Graves wine”.

LT gives it two stars.  I’d give it four. But that’s just me.

Kylie Minogue Sexy Darling:More Of a Dear Than A Darling

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Kylie and her arched eyebrow have been pretty busy with her eponymous fragrance line that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

I have previously reviewed Kylie Minogue Couture, which was frankly cheap smelling and shrill, but Sexy Darling is a big improvement. Where Couture was light and cheap smelling, Sexy Darling is Dark and Musky. In my Couture Review, I gave it the thumbs up, and I still do, although I have changed my mind slightly about it being “expensive smelling”..

You can never be wrong in your opinion of a perfume. It’s like saying a poem is a bad because you don’t like it. Someone somewhere will be framing the same poem and calling it a favourite. I don’t love Sexy Darling, but it’s really not bad and I can easily see why it’s a big seller.

 Sexy Darling has an opening note of Pears, almost to the point of being spicy. In there somewhere are some pretty floral notes: Roses bloom, although not good Rose, more like cheaper synthetic Rose. However, it just avoids being a clanging run of the mill fruity floral by getting the balance right. The Pear is just subtle enough not to overpower the Rose. The Rose is passably good when balanced with the Pear, and as the scent blooms and settles, you get a bit of Musk, and finally, believe it or not, a bit of Dark Chocolate. Lasting power is good, sillage quite strong. You’d really know if someone had sprayed this in the Ladies. (By the way don’t spray perfume in the Ladies unless you want your perfume to be associated with the smell of toilets.)

The basenotes are far superior to Couture (and my pet hate of infamous Poundland vanilla candles!). Sexy Darling is deeper and more resonant. Maybe a bit rich for breakfast time, but certainly good for a late supper somewhere quiet.

I wouldn’t buy a full bottle of this myself, but dear Kylie can hold her lovely head high. This affordable Musky Rose wouldn’t stop traffic, but it’s respectable enough.

In the eyes of my husband, the woman can do no wrong…Back off Minogue, he’s married!

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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Cacharel Noa: Good Morning Starshine

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 Cacharel Noa is a like a caring beatific Guardian, dressed all in white, that nudges you awake on a cool summer morning, as the birds sing, and even offers you a strong coffee.

 Cacharel Noa was created in 1998 by Olivier Cresp. Yes, him. The one who thought Chocolate and Patchouli was a good idea when he made Angel for Thierry Mugler. He must be pretty good at this perfume lark though, because despite my deep loathing of Angel, it has been a bestseller for 22 years. No mean feat in the fickle world of fragrance.

In Noa then, he has made something that I find far more palatable. It has to be said however, that the opening is very reminiscent of Elnett hairspray. I have no objection to this at all since I think Elnett smells wonderful and would happily buy it if they made it into an EDT.

After the Beauty Salon opening number, Noa  becomes an ethereal mixture of  clean baby wet wipes, freshly washed hair, gentle Peony petals, clean skin just after a shower and a big pile of freshly laundered white sheets. And a cup of coffee.

Yes somewhere around the floaty middle notes full of wispy clouds and angels is a dark note of coffee beans. At first this is a little ambiguous. When I first smelled it, it was harsh against its feather pillow backdrop and I mistook it for spice or cumin. However, the coffee blooms and fades rather nicely, preventing Noa from becoming too insipid. It’s a bold choice for sure, but it doesn’t take anything away from its gentleness.

So pretty and inoffensive is Noa that I can well imagine it as a work perfume in any nurturing or calming environment. It is a clean, white scent that I am happy to add to my wardrobe for the days when I don’t want the edgy Orientals, or the prickly Chypres or the heavy Patchoulis (a day like that is rare with me, however).

Often, the Superdrug chain has a sale and recently, all 30ml Cacharels were just £10. That’s LouLou,  AmorAmor,  Noa,  Anais Anais and Eden (aka the strange new girl who eats her own hair and won’t play with the others).  I always find something agreeable in the Cacharel range. It’s affordable quality if you don’t mind smelling like lots of other people, and I don’t! And beautiful LouLou so reminds me of my happy student days…

In true Colombo style, I can’t help saying “just one more thing”…the bottle that Noa comes in is very beautiful, but alarmingly small! It’s not much bigger than a golf ball, but I can assure you that there is indeed 30ml in there, even it did take me a magnifying glass to read the little sticker on the bottom.

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Boucheron Trouble: Uh-Oh!

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Am I wearing Boucheron Trouble today? Or has somebody squished a Lemon Meringue Pie in my face and tried to wash it off with Dior Addict?  Trouble was created in 2004 by prolific nose Jacques Cavallier, also guilty of the iconic scent of the 90s L’Eau D’Issey, which turned a corner in the world of fragrance and turned our heads from the loud frenzy of In Your Face 80s scents and introduced a quieter 90s calm. I wouldn’t hesitate to call him a game changer, and he has my enormous respect. (Even though I don’t actually like L’Eau D’Issey on me at all)

Rumour has it Boucheron Trouble is discontinued. Die hard fans needn’t weep, however, since this is so similar to Dior’s Addict that apart from the aforementioned Lemon Meringue Pie,  there is very little difference between the two.  Sadly Dior Addict does not suit me. It smells like someone has licked me and I don’t like that. It’s an Oriental lite with some sort of dried pheromone smell that reminds me of saliva. Fragrantica lists the notes of Trouble as follows: Dyer’s Greenwood, Lemon, Jasmine, Cedar and Amber. Are you thinking the same as me? “What on earth is Dyer’s Greenwood?” I had to look it up. Dyer’s Greenwood is a cool, bracken like scent often used in healing tinctures. Sadly, despite it being a top note, I did not  smell it at all.

The opening notes are instead creamy, milky and lemony, hence the Lemon Meringue scent. Sillage is acceptable: you could wear it to the office. Longevity is not bad: around five hours.

Would I buy this? No. I would not. But I would buy a slice of Lemon Meringue Pie as it has given me a tremendous appetite for it. Sorry Trouble, you’re far too tame. I was hoping for something Wicked. Note: This is actually yesterday’s review but Gremlins in the machine forbade my posting.

Serge Lutens Sarrasins: Jasmine In Her Sunday Best

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I feel almost under qualified to describe this Jasmine, Jasmine, Jasmine Musky floral.  Its dark purple juice immediately conjured up bluebells, my favourite flowers. Curiously, this fragrance has no bluebells. The bluebells may have been a fond olfactory childhood memory triggered by Sarrasins. The first ever perfume I bought myself as  fifteen year old girl in 1985 (I am now 33 *cough*) was a Boots scent called Bluebell. It was a small, angular bottle with a little screw top and was pure Bluebells and Petals. However, having been reminded of it so strongly with Sarrasins, I am wondering now if there was a lot of Jasmine in my jar of Bluebells or if I have been muddling up these smells all this time.

I tried Sarrasins blind, but if you’d told me before trying it that it would be strong Jasmine from the off, lasting a whole day and ending with a smudge of Honey  I would have turned it down. I’m so glad I didn’t.

This is very similar to A La Nuit, which I tried recently in the Poitiers branch of Sephora. I don’t have it to hand, but it gave me a similar “Bluebell/Jasmine” rush and I remember thinking how un-Serge it was, having tried Borneo 1834, Chergui, Louve and Ambre Sultan. I guess there’s a whole side of Serge I don’t know about yet. What an exciting prospect! Like finding out your favourite author also writes spy novels.

So I guess you could say that Sarrasins showed me a Jasmine I can get on board with. There’s none of that downstairs-loo-in-a vicarage vibe that Jasmine often gives me. This is fresh as the flower itself, with maybe a dewdrop on it to add a touch of poetry. Its clean, to the point of being almost metallic (it has a little in common with my much loved and late Gucci Envy), and its staying power is tenacious, bordering on permanent. I can’t shake the idea that there is Hyacinth in there, and I know there is a frisson of spicy Carnation. The drydown goes very slightly White Musk and Honey on me, but the flowers stay put. It’s like being a sent a floral arrangement that just won’t go off and stays fresh for months.

 Sarrasins  is a floral that sticks around, almost unchanging, with a not quite medicinal, not quite Anise undercurrent.

I adore Sarrasins, and it may well nudge Borneo 1834 off the winner pedestal in the “My Favourite Serge Lutens Award” category that takes place on my dressing table when I have a quiet moment.

Parfums Gres: Hommage a Greta Garbo-Mythos: A Very, Very Minor Accolade

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Mythos has the enviable accolade of being the first perfume in which I can detect a note of Pineapple. I’ve seen it listed so many times on Fragrantica in so many fragrances, but this is the first one I have sniffed and actually thought, “Ah yes, there it is.” And that I’m afraid, is one of two rather minor good things I can find to say about Hommage to Greta Garbo Mythos.

 Parfums Gres used to be terribly respectable and respected, but  despite producing three perfumes that I consider excellent: Cabochard, Cabotine and Cabaret (I have reviewed all three, if you care to leaf back through my blog)  many others have remained to my mind, questionable. Parfums Gres have been a bit crafty on the old celeb scent front. They have created “homage” ranges to both Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich (whom I always considered to be a Vol de Nuit kind of gal). No copyright problems, no difficult celebrity lawsuits, and all the prestige of these classy icons. Nice.

However, I should imagine that La Garbo would be spinning in her urn over this cheap, shrill Pineapple juice that they have named in her honour. Opening notes include Pineapple, rather sticky and sweet, and Apples and Blackcurrant. There are some sickly air freshener style flowers in there too, but overall, it’s children’s fruity squash mixed with thin and cheap bubble bath. When all that’s worn off, (it doesn’t take long, despite being an Eau de Parfum), you are left with a shreiky poor quality aquatic. In fact it reminds me of an air freshener I once bought  for 59p called “Mountain Fresh”. So cheap and unpleasant did it smell, that I  refused to use it in the house and never bought it again.

I don’t know what’s going on. Is this really the same brand that created the Leathery and glamorous Cabochard? And the Green Floral go-anywhere Cabotine?

The second of two accolades I can award to Mythos , is that the bottle and packaging are very attractive. As you can see from the photo, it looks almost high end and classic. I have the bottle in front of me and I can vouch for its silvery prettiness.  After that, I run out of good things to say.

Parfums Gres, we know you can do it well and if you can’t do it well, then please don’t do it at all. I really think you owe Ms Garbo an apology.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cartier Baiser Du Dragon: My Retro Friend with The Futuristic Price Tag


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Trying Cartier’s Baiser du Dragon today gave me two immediate reactions. Firstly: this is a glorious contrast to yesterday’s airy Lavendar, and Secondly: Why does this make me think of the 1970s?

This has a boozy start that I recall from my olfactory memories as a child in the 70s. My mother would often spray a perfume that would have the same high alcohol starting note before settling down to something more sophisticated.  This smells like many perfumes I have known from that era, but none that I can name. If I went to an old fashioned chemist in the back of beyond, maybe I could buy a bottle of something similar from a dusty shelf.

So why was I sent back to the 1970s? Was it just the Hai Karate style bottle with the plastic dipper? Or maybe it was the slight powderiness about it that smells a little retro, almost a Imagelittle like Charlie Blue (don’t shoot me, I don’t like Charlie, I’m just talking about the genre).  Just as the booze and the powder merge and fade, I am left with Patchouli. In fact, this reminded me a little of Borneo 1834, except that it lacks the Oompa Oompa of Borneo.

Now either my hayfever is playing tricks on me, or Dragon sillage isn’t very loud. I was testing the Parfum, no less, which you would expect to have impact, but sadly, this is no Lanvin Arpege when it comes to super strength. With Arpege, three dabs lasts me twelve hours and it just gets better and better. Baiser du Dragon seems to have been sucked up and absorbed into my skin within two hours flat, leaving a faint ghost of almonds and Patchouli in its wake before going “pouf” and disappearing.

I like this enough to wear again, but I secretly wish I was trying an Eau de Toilette just so I can upgrade to a stronger version. Unfortunately, after the Parfum, there’s only extrait and I’m not sure I want it badly enough to start tracking it down.

I was alarmed, gaspingly so, at the hefty price tag on this: on Amazon it was £116.99 for 50ml Eau de Toilette. I thought I must have got it wrong. To me this is a a pretty good Oriental with poor lasting power, (at least on me), and a definite 70s vibe. It’s good, but it’s not THAT good. Is it just me?

I looked this up in Perfumes the Guide to see what the Emperor of Scent had to say about. My puzzlement was vindicated. I give him the last word:

I handed a smelling strip to my colleague Ian Smith, an analyst of thirty years’ standing…he passed a judgment that has so far not been appealed:

That’s nineteen-bloody-seventy-two Old Spice, that is’”

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Yardley Lavender Eau de Toilette: Sometimes Simple Is What You Need

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It’s no coincidence that aromatherapists and masseurs use Lavender as a therapeutic scent, nor that it is a sleep inducing pillow spray. To me, it is also no coincidence that Yardley Lavender (along with or instead of Eau de Cartier) is the perfect hangover fragrance.

When you’re full of toxins and feel nauseous with overindulgence, Lavender steps in like a pure Angel come to visit and carry away those troubles like an open window in a stuffy room.

Lavender is also regarded as an “old lady” scent and this would be a good time to debunk that myth. The old ladies of today were the glamourpusses of yesteryear, and we have them to thank for being unswayed by modern trends and for keeping the market alive for the classic scents that are still being made to meet the demand of  “old ladies”.

These matriarchs are to be respected, as not only were they young once, but some day we will be the old ladies buying the Lavender and the good perfumes that are wasted on the youth. And maybe it was Oscar Wilde who once said “Youth is wasted on the young,”? Or maybe it was me the other day muttering at today’s modern teens? In any case,  calling a scent “old lady” is, to my mind, another way of saying “Classic”, and nowhere is this term more apt than  when used to describe Lavender.

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So what makes Yardley Lavender so special? Well for a start, the price is right at less than 10GBP a bottle on the High Street, and even cheaper online.  However, as well as Lavender (and I can promise you it smells authentic), I can also pick out Geranium and Clary Sage, making this a very green, slightly hippy Hesperide.  Sillage is arm’s length but pleasant. I think people will notice this simply because it will arouse nostalgia, and because it is so simple that it will stand out from today’s commuter trains of fruitchoulis and fake vanilla.

This is a soothing blast of cool summer which, along with it’s slightly  prickly and spicy Geranium, will be ideal as a summer time cleavage cooler straight from the fridge.   I have spoken before about layering and I think this will go very well will other scents: Just go with the flow, don’t let me boss you around!

As much as I love fragrances in all its forms and complexity, sometimes I like to go back to basics.  A Lavender fragrance in a scent wardrobe is akin to a walk in the country after a year in a city.  Sometimes we need that, no matter how beautiful the city.

 

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1001 Days of Perfume