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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Sanctuary Black Iris and Peony: Another Beauty Bargain

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 A cheap and cheerful scent which, judging from its price, looks likely to be  discontinued soon. There was certainly a surplus in my local bargain store, and I am always on the lookout for a frugal fragrance.

I am a firm believer that smelling good needn’t cost the earth (although sometimes its worth it!) and occasionally, through the debris of cheapo scents available today (I am still traumatised by an impulse buy of Charlie Blue *shudder*), there shines a little gem.

Having said that, I’m not sure this is a real diamond, but its certainly respectable enough to introduce to your mother. Whilst the peony is sweet and flowery, the dryness of the Iris kind of sobers it up, so what you get is a floral that’s not too girly to wear to the office, but rather grown up and sensible.

The drydown is sweet and powdery however, with hints of a Coty L’Aimant flanker that I have in my possession called L’Aimant Fleur de Rose. The powdery floral base is similar in both.

I’m not sure I would buy Black Iris and Peony again, but its pleasant and I like it enough not to list it on eBay the same day as I bought it. (Are you listening Charlie Blue? You vile effort, you! Be gone!).  However, for 3.99, I may well let another bottle of Black Iris and Peony land in my basket next time I am buying toothpaste.

Pleasant enough, no harm done and it’s NOT a fruity floral, so hooray for The Sanctuary! Not a bad job. Not a bad job at all.

First by Van Cleef and Arpels: Soapy and Glorious

First by Van Cleef and Arpels was Jean-Claude Ellena’s first fragrance creation, and what a début it was! A classic green aldehyde that, like all good fragrances, changes as you wear it, revealing different layers as your skin warms and cools.

I first tried this in my local House of Fraser, just having  a squirt on my arm in passing. I didn’t like it much, but it had such good reviews, and contained Green notes, (which are my favourite), that I thought I’d give it a second chance.  I’m so glad I did.

I got my hands on a 5ml bottle (from a set bought in Argos would you believe?),  certainly enough to wear generously for two or three days. Its strong stuff and my beautiful little mini bottle didn’t have a spray, so I applied it straight to my skin. What a difference.

Forgive me if I say it reminds me of Palmolive soap, because it does. Then again, many detergents and fabric softeners use aldehydes in similar fashion to many fragrance houses. You may often find that a fragrance reminds you of Dove or Lenor, and neither is any bad thing in my view.

Once First was on, I immediately sensed acetone, like nail polish, just for a second or two (I often find this with older scents but it may just be me), then the aldehyde soared, then the green notes kicked in, then light florals (definitely a whisper of Tuberose and Hyacinth) and then it changes and grows and develops over time. When you’re hot, it smells softer, but when out in the snow, it is sharper and greener, although the aldehyde tones it down into an oakmossy green rather than a fresh green. It’s a scent that kept my interest, and I respected it even more for talking me round after a disastrous First date in House of Fraser (excuse the pun).

 

I was shocked at how reasonably priced it is. I was expecting to pay upwards of sixty quid for a small bottle, but it’s currently less than £30 for 60ml .  I am getting my credit card out as soon as I finish this (I’m serious, I want a big bottle). Naturally, it has been reformulated since 1976, but I like it enough in its present form not to become a vintage purist in this case.

 

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Swarovski Aura: For the Glitterati

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 Many perfumes have origins and a backstory that make the scent more interesting, even legendary. LouLou was inspired by the silent movie star Louise Brooks.  Guerlain Apres L’Ondée was inspired by the smell of a spring garden after a downpour, and Madame Grès created Cabochard after a trip to India where she discovered the beautiful scent of the Water Hyacinth.

 Swarovski Aura was inspired by a sparkly clutch bag.  I could just end my review here as it pretty much says what I think.

However, I’ll drag out this synthetic fruity floral in order to give you the full picture. In a faux alligator skin bottle, Swarovski Aura is a run of the mill fruity floral.  If you are fourteen and your duvet cover has The Wanted on it, you’ll love this. It’s very fruity.  Very floral. And you’ve smelt this a million times before.

Let’s just say, in fifteen years time, this won’t be changing hands on eBay. It will be long gone and not even missed. I hope.

This avalanche of smell-alike fruity floral scents makes me me wonder. Are they popular because people keep buying them? Or are they popular because nothing else is being offered right now? It’s like strapless wedding dresses.  Does everyone wear them because they are popular? Or does everyone wear them because that’s all the shops stock right now? It’s a vicious circle.

Swarovski, stick to the sparkly clutch bags.

Ambre de Cabochard: Low End Low Rent Scent. I love it.

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Ambre de Cabochard divides opinion. Not quite in the way Thierry Mugler’s Angel starts fights and grudge matches, but it has its fans and its critics in equal measure. Before we go any further, I’m nailing my colours to the mast. I love it.

Created in 2006, it has the highly respected Jean-Pierre Bethouart behind it, who has previously worked with Caron, Burberry and Boucheron, to name but a few.  Jean-Claude Delville is co-creator, and he has worked with greats such as Vera Wang, Givenchy, and also created the celebrated Clinique Happy. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez regard it as “thin” and “waxy”, and many reviewers regard it as “cheap smelling” or “synthetic” or “too sweet”. To me, it’s gingery, spicy and grown up. Top notes include Cardoman, Ginger, Cinnamon, Orange, Blueberry and Blackcurrant. Middle notes include Tuberose (which I cannot detect at all), Lily of the Valley (ditto) and Cyclamen (ditto). Base notes are Vanilla, Amber, Patchouli and Musk.

Whilst I can’t detect florals in there, there is a hint of fruit in a Christmassy way, but the strongest notes are Amber, Musk and Patchouli. The Vanilla rounds it off and sweetens it, but not too much, just enough to soften the edges.

I first bought this after a long period of enforced frugality. I had ten quid in my Paypal account and wanted something I hadn’t tried before. I remember when this arrived in the post (I bought it blind, ruthlessly attracted by the price), it was so exciting to get a brand new bottle of perfume, with the cellophane on and, in a nice box. The bottle itself is gorgeous, with a little bow around its neck. I wasn’t disappointed and I’m now on my second bottle. Currently available on Cheap Smells, Amazon and eBay for less than ten pounds, this has become a beauty bargain favourite.

It doesn’t compare to well made niche perfumes such as Ambre Narguile, but it’s damn good for its price tag.

Lonestar Memories: It’s Mighty Manly

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Andy Tauer has a devoted fan base. His L’Air du Desert Marocain is beloved by many, as is his Vetiver Dance, and Orange Star. It’s a small but respected niche perfumery house, with a stable of twenty high quality Artisan Fragrances, and his following is growing.

 Lonestar Memories, created in 2006, is unlike any perfume I have ever smelled (on me, that is, more of which later). With notes of Carrot Seed, Leather, Clary Sage, and Sandalwood, the description on paper does not paint a true picture. What I actually got was Bonfire Smoke, Creosote and Petrol. It’s VERY butch. In fact, it made me think of soft porn:

A trucker breaks down in a desert. It’s sunset. He’s sweating. He takes off his Stetson and wipes the sweat from his brow. A passing truck pulls over. A man gets out. He is wearing a check shirt. Their eyes meet… cue twangy electric guitar music… In my mind, that’s the cinema ad for this stuff.

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 It’s apparently pour la femme as well as pour l’homme, but as always, the rule with perfume is that there are no rules. So I approached my husband. “I just want to try something new, darling,” I said. His eyes lit up. I sprayed him with Lonestar Memories and walked away. He looked crestfallen. I said I’d sniff him up close in the morning.

Waking up the next day, my husband smelled manly and butch as if he had been painting creosote fences then  kicked back around a woodsmoke fire (with his shirt off for preference).  This is the scent that Armistead Maupin’s characters would wear to the Burning Man Festival. Sexy and bohemian, this is a step away from the conventional male scent and all the better for it.

As usual with Tauer scents, longevity is excellent. Two sprays will  last overnight at the very least. This stuff has muscles.

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Stockists

You can buy Lonestar Memories from the Tauer website and from Les Senteurs in the UK and LuckyScent in the USA

Avon Today: Ding Dong! Loud Flowers Calling!

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It was an Avon brochure that first got me started on perfume. We are talking the 1970s and 80s i.e my childhood. (I’m not old yet). Today’s Avon is renowned for its high end skin care with the Anew Range, a stable of fragrances spread too thinly, great little jewellery sets, and fabulous lotions and potions. The Avon I remember growing up was Pretty Peach  Perfume, along with little peach shaped soaps, Bubble Bath in those big pink bottles that look like a Michelin Man’s leg, and great, affordable perfumes in novelty bottles that have become collectors’ items on eBay.

Who would have thought that with High Streets becoming ghost towns that filling in an order form and waiting two weeks for a rep to bring it to you, would have survived the Age of the Internet? Yet it has. Avon products have moved with the times. Products are constantly updated, and beauty editors are still praising the goods. Sometimes Avon gets it wrong and discontinues favourite perfumes in haste, only to create more lightweights aimed at the younger market (yes, fruity florals, Blah. Blah,. Blah). So it’s Bye Bye Odyssey and Tasha and Hello! to the dreadful Incandessence and Treselle.

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 Avon has friendly nostalgia to thank for a lot of its continuing custom. Indeed my late grandmother was a fan, (she always called it “The Avon”) and being given her Avon order which arrived a few days after her death, was a poignant moment. I still buy Soft Pink Bubble Bath because she often bought it for me at Christmas and it reminds me of her.

As a teen, I was fanatical about wearing Eau Givrée and Odyssey and still remember an ornamental Giraffe filled with Occur! (the exclamation mark is Avon, not me) My mum liked Louis Féraud, and my sister still likes the classic Soft Musk (which you can still get).

Today:The Perfume

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Recently I managed to bag myself an Avon rep again after a hiatus and I couldn’t wait to try out a fragrance that had won a FiFi award: Avon Today. As usual, I was excited on opening the brand new box and the bottle (very like Gucci Flora bottles), and I even liked the fragrance itself for about ten minutes.

Sadly, I actually dislike it now and will be offloading it soon to make more room in my collection. So what’s it like? Well, I love freesias, and there are freesias popping out everywhere during the drydown. Sadly the first spray is a little Zoflora for my taste, but give it a minute. Coupled with the freesias is another more tropical floral note: Strelitzia. I think this is where it goes wrong. The Strelitzia, added to some Hibiscus and even Cacti, kinds of makes it more fruity and tropical which, in my opinion, jars with the English Country Garden opening. It’s very soapy too, and not in a good way. The base notes are supposed to be Cedar and White Musk. I do get a hint of Musk, a mere whisper, but I don’t think a tropical floral is the right place for Cedar. In fact, when it settles, I don’t like this at all. It’s sharp and high and slightly disinfectant-y. So it’s a no from me. However, don’t take my word for it. Many Avon ladies stocked up when rumours of being discontinued surfaced recently, and I don’t mean for their customers. This stuff has a loyal fanbase.

However, if you want a good Avon perfume that keeps its fragrance steady without going off on a tangent, you can do a lot worse than Avon Little Black Dress. It’s light and pretty and doesn’t have that slightly cheap base note that I find common to a lot of Avon perfumes (like Poundland vanilla candles).

If I was Queen of Avon (how I’d love that job!) I would narrow down the overflowing perfume stable to just a few very well made, affordable scents. They’re spreading themselves too thinly, but when they get something right, they get it very, very right.

In the meantime, I look forward to the next brochure. I will never give up on Avon. It’s part of my history and one of the few old school brands left from my childhood as the High Street dies on its knees.

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Guerlain Mahora- Complex and Beautiful

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Created in 2000 by Jean-Paul Guerlain , Guerlain Mahora is listed as having green notes, of which I am a fan. It has Tuberose, of which I am not a fan. It also contains Jasmine, which smells like a toilet on me.  So on paper, I shouldn’t like this at all.

In real life, I loved it. With an unusual bottle and a name like an African Desert, I was expecting something mysterious and Eastern, maybe another Opium or a Cinnabar, but I was pleasantly surprised by how different this complex Madam of a perfume turned out to be.

First of all, the old familiar Tuberose floated up to my nose. Usually this is a turn off to me, as I find it too rich and cloying, but in Mahora, it’s just right and softens what would have been a plain Oriental into an Oriental softened by flowers, like a muffled drum..

Base notes are Vetiver, Sandalwood and Vanilla, and they all come through strongly in the finish. And may I say it’s a very lasting finish? I sprayed at 8.30am this morning and at 4pm, I was still catching mysterious wafts of Sandalwood and Tuberose.

So what sets this apart from a mainstream Oriental? The quality of ingredients gives it resonance and strength. The addition of carefully chosen (and loud) flowers such as Tuberose and Neroli enhance the woodiness whilst making it softer and creamier. There’s a touch of powder too which stops it being too astringent, as I find some Orientals can be. I like it because it’s soft and feminine and the woodiness doesn’t overpower, yet nor do the flowers. It’s as if the often masculine Vetiver is being calmed down whilst ladylike Tuberose, whispers “Don’t make a scene, Bob”.

Guerlain Mayotte, also by Jean-Paul Guerlain, is said to be the successor to Mahora, and looking at the notes, they seem to be the same, but in a slightly different order. I haven’t smelt Mayotte, so can’t speak for it.

In any case, I’d be happy with a bottle of Mahora. It’s over fifty quid a bottle, but it lasts a very long time.  It could be the scent that converted me to Tuberose.

Gianfranco Ferré Essence D’Eau- Kiss Me, Honey, Honey, Kiss me

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I bought Gianfranco Ferre Essence D’Eau blind for a laughably cheap sum on eBay. It’s a floral, so I thought I’d give it a chance since it was July after all.

On first spray I rather liked it: it was pretty, and full of flowers. After the drydown however, it smelt less appealing. Have you ever had a vase of flowers that have drooped and been just on their way out?  Just before they go sour they go very sweet and honey like. It’s the smell of the inside of the trumpet of a daffodil in early June as they wilt and give way to the bolder summer flowers.

There is a hint of honey too, which may be why so many compare it to Lancôme’s Poême.  In fact, if you are a Poême fan, I would recommend this as a much cheaper alternative.  Even at full price, Essence D’Eau  can currently be bought for less than £15 on Amazon (25ml), compared to Poême, which is currently £41.50 for a 50ml bottle, on the same site.

I find Essence D’Eau too sweet and honey like, although the whiff of parma violets in the base notes is very appealing and adds a shot of playfulness.  This is yellow flowers all the way, and in my view, needs something sharp to cut across the fuzziness.  Smelling this makes me think of a day that’s too hot for comfort, with a lazy droning of nearby bees in an over extravagant flowerbed.

If it was me, I would have changed the name: “Essence of Water” suggests something fresh and green or aquatic. Maybe they should have called this Essence Des Fleurs Jaunes Avec Miel, but I guess it doesn’t flow as well.

C’est la Fête! Christian La Croix: Sweetie, it’s sweet, Sweetie.

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From a bottle that looks like a summer’s day with its blue hues rising to yellow, and in a slightly heart shaped bottle, I was in a good mood even before I opened C’est la Fête by Christian LaCroix.

I often say I can’t bear fruity florals, but I found myself quite liking this passion fruit, blackcurrant, rose, jasmine mash-up of a scent.

The fruit is stronger then the flower here, and the passion fruit comes through immediately. When first applied it’s shower fresh and uplifting and that fruit just bursts through with a very light, almost grapefruit scent (although there is no actual grapefruit note in there).

I think I must have missed the floral accords because within an hour this sweet and fruity cocktail has changed into a completely different perfume.

And that perfume is Rochas Tocade. I haven’t owned Tocade for over fifteen years, but suddenly that soft, sweet vanilla base was right there in front of me again and I could see and smell it as if I was 25 again (don’t do the maths).

Now I’m not sure if this was deliberate: after all, Tocade is highly regarded and has remained popular since its creation in 1994. C’est la Fête was created in 2007, replacing its predecessor, C’est la Vie. It has one flanker, C’est la Fête Patchouli, which I have reviewed elsewhere on this blog. In any case, if you try Tocade on its own one day, then try C’est la Fête on a different day, you’ll see what I mean. They’re both good: Tocade lasts longer, but has less fruit.  I doubt it’s meant to be a dupe, but it’s certainly a compliment to Rochas.

Overall, C’est la Fête? It’s party time! If you want smell like Carmen Miranda’s hat.

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1001 Days of Perfume