It’s Autumn now, although it’s hard to tell. How do you define it? A run of ten days without sunshine? That’s summer, isn’t it? All I know is that I haven’t worn sandals for over two months now so I reckon it’s safe to say it’s Autumn.
The light colognes and airy florals are going to to sit at the back for a bit whilst I bring out the ambers, patchoulis and chypres. or in the case of La Perla, all three in one bottle.
Luckily enough, my friend Lisa, beloved friend of the blog and of me, popped in recently with a bottle of this beauty. Now this wasn’t on my radar at all. I probably would never have tried it if it hadn’t been put in my hands for a little borrow and a sniff. I’m ever so glad we met though, because this stuff not only smells terrific, but is very good value indeed.
My first impression of La Perla was that it is a ladylike powdery chypre scent. It’s the kind of classic scent that was everywhere in the seventies, although it wasn’t launched until 1987. There’s no subtlety here, so it fits nicely into the category of 1980s Powerhouse too, with its “Gangway! Here I come!” sort of sillage- (Think Alexis Carrington). Even the bottle has helmet hair and big shoulders. Having said that, this has an elegance that doesn’t normally go hand in hand with such a Look At Me scent, but elegant is certainly a word I would use.
My first impression was white soap. Very soapy, very aldehyde-y and with big piles of white talc. Sometimes that powderiness is the sign of a damn good chypre, and it counts for as much here. The oakmoss beds in straight away. Yes there’s a citrussy opening and some peppery carnation and ladylike rose, but the oakmoss shoves its way to the front and makes its presence felt. There is musty patchouli, aromatic sandalwood, feminine soapy musk and warm amber too. Interestingly, none of this happens in order. I didn’t get distinct top notes, a middle and a base. It went more like this: soapy chypre to musky to spicy- all within ten minutes. What I have on my skin now though, is a wonderfully powdery, massive , gorgeous chypre. And it’s under twenty quid.
Douse yourself in La Perla, then wear fake fur, red lipstick, and arch one eyebrow imperiously at everyone you meet. That’s what I want to do, anyway.
La Perla is very good value indeedy- try allbeauty.com for prices that start at just £15.95 for 30ml of EDT (NB I haven’t tried the EDT but it would be a good starting point if you’re unsure about the LOUD SILLAGE). I was testing a 50ml bottle of EDP and the current price for an 80ml bottle of EDP is just £26.
Do excuse the hiatus. I’m on a blogging go-slow due to the summer hols and a jolly nice time we’ve had too. The children go back to school on September 5th and I will be cranking up the Autumn Fragrance posts with aplomb.
Friend of the blog ( and of me) Lisa Wordbird, often gives me little loans of incredible stuff to sample. Among the booty on our most recent meet up was a bottle of Molinard Chypre D’Orient. Reader, I married it.
My favourite genre when it comes to scent is the mossy green chypre, and I could hardly believe my luck when this big 100ml bottle fell into my clutches. Ignore the “D’Orient” bit: this is chypres as chypres used to be-and still should be- in my humble opinion. All the gang’s here: oakmoss, patchouli, galbanum, amber, musk. It’s a hard hitter for sure. The patchouli is so prickly and spiky that at first I thought it was spices, but then realised it was more of an earthiness. The oakmoss steps in and takes over straight away like a boss, and peeking out from the edges are glimpses of jasmine and neroli.
Chypre D’Orient has been labelled the poor man’s Mitsouko, but this is a great in its own right. In danger of going under the radar, this treasure made me think of that legendary accord: Guerlinade. You know that tell-tale je ne sais quoi that makes you recognise a Guerlain Heritage with your eyes shut? Well Chypre D’Orient smells like THAT. Except that it’s under £40 for 100ml.
This is a vintage style chypre before modern life got in the way. There’s a touch of rose and powder to round off the ladylike picture and a handsome, vaguely Art Deco style weighty bottle to adorn the dressing table.
If that sounds up your street then bag yourself one now. These are getting harder to find. Chypre fans-remember: a rolling stone gathers no mossy chypres.
You can buy Molinard Chypre D’orient from Amazon UK. It’s currently £35.39 for 100ml. Price correct at time of posting.
Oh Magie Noire, how do I even begin to describe you? You have bewitched me.
Lancome Magie Noire was created in 1978 by genius Nose Gerard Goupy, who also created the equally superb Lancome Climat (which is a devil to get hold of these days. I only have a dim Duty Free memory of it, but I loved it).
Magie Noire opens as a mossy chypre. It’s loud, floral and powdery at first. I got tuberose, hyacinth and lily of the valley, with the volume turned up. That’s OK, I like them loud. Unusually, the oakmoss base comes through straight away. No waiting.
This is wonderfully earthy and green, and those flowers ( an entire garden full) just jostle for attention. There’s spice too, but nothing savoury- think incense and mysterious spice markets. You’ll find myrrh, vetiver, patchouli in spades, warm amber… There’s no fixed start, middle and finish for this. Apparently it was designed to unfurl like a figure of eight, but that feels to complicated even for my eager nose. I just love how it develops as my skin warms it.
Two hours after slathering it on at the beauty counter, it has settled into one of the best florals I have ever tried. The spices are around the edges warming it up and anchoring it down. The oakmoss is giving me that chypre fix that I always seek and the galbanum and bergamot are giving me my hit of “green”. It’s everything I want in a fragrance, all in one.
Lancome have brought this back in a modern formulation, which is the one I tried today. I can’t comment on the previous incarnation as I haven’t tried it, but I would happily buy a lorry load of this.
You may have gathered by now that I am a big fan of Mary Greenwell fragrances. I have previously reviewed Plum and the superb Fire, and today I will be reviewing Lemon.
Lemon is chock full of citrus when you first spray it on. Not just the eponymous lemon, but bitter orange and sharp limes too. This is a beautifully fresh, astringent, cologne style opening. Unlike a cologne, however, this lemon has staying power, which is no mean feat. It gets even better though. The middle notes are floral and light. There are spring petals in there: namely lily of the valley, hyacinth and jasmine. The lemon stays true throughout whilst sidestepping any temptation to smell like lemon meringue. Incidentally, if you like lemon meringue scent, try Boucheron Trouble or Marks and Spencer Gabriella, both discontinued but still alive and well on eBay.
This really reminded me of O de Lancome– one of the most perfect summer scents ever, but this has more tart, bitter lemon. What Lemon does so beautifully though, is merge from a zingy citrus into a lemony, green chypre. There’s oakmoss in abundance, a touch of warm amber and a noticeable flourish of woody notes. It lasts around five or six hours and is one of my bargains of the year. It’s classy packaging and quality ingredients belie the £7.50 I paid for my gold 7.5ml purse spray. This is high end , low price chypre chic and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
The Mary Greenwell range is available from The Fragrance Shop in store or online. Prices start at just £7.50 for a purse spray.
Mother’s Day is one of the busiest times in High Street perfume departments and no wonder. For many people (not me!) perfume is a luxury item that they feel self indulgent buying for themselves. It is seen as a treat, in a similar vein to a box of chocolates.
There are usually three problems with buying Mother’s Day Fragrance: a) Either you don’t know what your Mum likes or, b) you think you know what she likes but she secretly went off it years ago and has to make happy faces when she unwraps it for the umpteenth time, or c) what she used to like has been discontinued or reformulated and she wants something new.
I’m going to put a few ideas out here that ought to help with all of the above. There’s the Classics, the Discovery Sets, and finally, at pocket money prices, there are the Cheap and Cheerfuls. At these prices, if you’re buying for your Mum, you may as well pick something up for yourself…
These are the stalwarts that have been around for years and which, in my opinion, don’t get enough love from younger perfume fans. If your Mum likes the mossy chypres, orientals and aldehydes of the Seventies and Eighties, these are all safe bets.
Good enough to make a grown woman weep, Ysatis fans are rarely casual about their love for this oriental chypre. Ysatis is priced very reasonably for such classic quality and prices start at £24.50. You can read my review here. Ysatis can be bought from Boots,Amazon and trusty allbeauty.com
Estee Lauder Cinnabar
For oriental fans, Cinnabar is a classic that’s hard to beat. It’s been around for a long time whilst fashions have come and gone, and it still stands majestic on the beauty counter. You can read my review here and buy it from Amazon, House of Fraser and John Lewis.
Yves Saint Laurent Opium
It’s not as good as it used to be, but it’s still a very good oriental. Find my review here. There’s another review here which compares old and new. Die hard fans really know their stuff, but sadly the original formulation is only on eBay these days. You can buy Opium from John Lewis, Boots and House of Fraser to name but a few. Do not confuse this with Black Opium, which is very different indeed. (I’m pulling a face and being tactful).
Chanel No 5
Arguably the most famous fragrance in the world. I have seen more red faced men buying this than women. Personally I’m not keen, but its popularity shows no signs of waning ever. At all. I like it on other people, but on me it smells like stale face powder. My review is here and you can buy it everywhere: Boots, John Lewis, and Escentual to name but a few.
Miss Dior Originale
This is the one that’in the glass houndstooth check bottle, not the pretty floral Miss Dior that comes with a little bow. It’s green and mossy and longlasting. I much prefer it to the latest incarnation of Miss Dior (which is pretty good, but is more of a fruity floral) You can buy Miss Dior Originale from John Lewis, House of Fraser and Amazon.
Clinique Aromatics Elixir
I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed this one. With aldehydes, spices and oakmoss, I often happily find myself in a miasma of this whilst gadding about town. It’s usually on more mature perfume lovers: the youth of today are missing a trick. You can buy Aromatics Elixir from House of Fraser, Amazon and John Lewis.
TASTER SETS AND DISCOVERY SETS
Many perfume houses offer a “Try Some Then Buy One” service, which is a great way of getting some samples to try and a follow on bottle of your choice afterwards. Another alternative is buy a sample set and a voucher. Here’s a selection of the best:
I’m a big fan of 4160 Tuesdays and can’t hide it.: quirky artisan scent hand made with passion in a London studio. If you haven’t tried any yet, enter the portal now! For £95 you can get 7 samples and a voucher for a full 100ml bottle of whichever is her favourite. It works out cheaper than buying the bottle and samples separately by £20. Here’s the link you need to the site.
Jo Loves is the brainchild of Jo Malone MBE, former CEO and founder of Jo Malone. Jo couldn’t stay away from fragrance and started her own perfume house on a smaller scale after stepping down from her original flagship business. You can buy a Fragrance Discovery Gift Experience for £100 which includes samples and a voucher for a full bottle.
The Perfume Society Discovery Boxes
These boxes contain around ten hard to get samples and a couple of very good beauty treats such as hand cream, skin serum or nail polish. A VIP Subscription at just £25 gets you a free Discovery Box and a discount off all the other Discovery Boxes on offer as well as many more benefits throughout the year. Your Mum might well find a brand new favourite and learn something along the way: each box has testing notes and sniffing strips. Quick plug- I have five VIP subscriptions up for grabs, but be quick- entries must be in by 25th February at midnight. See my post here to find out how to enter.
Pell Wall Perfumes
Pell Wall is a perfume house that consists of a delightfully eclectic mix by Shropshire based Nose Chris Bartlett. A set of minis costs just £49 for 9 x 10ml bottles. My favourites are Pretty in Pink and Deep Purple. Try the website and read my reviews here and here.
THE CHEAP AND CHEERFULS
Cheap needn’t smell cheap. Some of my favourite and most frequently worn perfumes cost under ten quid. You can often find me wearing some of the following. In fact I wear them more often than my posh stuff because I know I can afford to replace them when they’re empty.
This was my grandmother’s favourite. It came hot on the heels of Chanel No 5 and there are many similarities in this powdery aldehydic gem, created in the 1920s. My review is here and you can buy it from allbeauty.com or Fragrance Direct. Often you can get beautiful gift sets with talc, body spray and a little cosmetics bag for under ten pounds. (The one pictured is from Fragrance Direct and is 6.99 currently).
Tweed makes some people pull faces and say “old Lady”- a term I avoid, but I say don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. It used to be made by Lentheric but is now made by Taylor of London. My Mum wears Tweed and it smells amazing on her. It’s woody and mossy with a nice bit of citrus in the opening notes. You can read my review here and buy it from Boots, allbeauty.com and Fragrance Direct.
Avon has been a favourite among several generations of women in my family. My late Nanna used to like Soft Musk and Timeless, as does my Mum today. Avon launches new scents all the time, and prices are so reasonable that even a blind buy won’t break the bank. Here’s my guide to my Avon Top Ten. You can buy online from AvonShop UK.
Marks and Spencer Rosie for Autograph
This is an excellent rose scent, that smells far more expensive than it’s low price. Containing centifolia roses, this is a beautiful perfume and the one I chose for myself for Mother’s Day last year. Here’s my review. It’s currently only £11.20.
Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass
Blue Grass was another of my late grandmother’s favourites. It is widely available for under a tenner and is especially good sprayed fridge cold in hot weather. I reviewed it here. You can buy Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass from Half Price Perfumes , Fragrance Direct or Superdrug.
That’s my round up for Mums everywhere, including me! So what scent reminds you of your Mum? Do feel free to comment below. I always love to hear from you.
Intrigue used to be Yardley Intrigue but is now made by Taylor of London. It’s a traditional floral chypre that I should imagine a younger palate may describe as “old lady.”
I feel very strongly about such a term when used regarding perfume. Whenever I hear somebody use that term I replace it with “retro” or “Grand Dame” or “classic”, because so many powdery chypres were exactly that. These mythical “old ladies” knew a thing or two about perfume.
Secondly, the more mature women round these parts, always smell fabulous. On them I smell wafts of Cinnabar, Aromatics Elixir and White Linen. My Mum smells incredible in classic fragrances such as Panache and Tweed. Whereas a much younger perfume wearer recently floored me ( in a bad way) with a thirty foot trail of Diesel Loverdose in all its sickly sweet glory. Thirty foot away! I kid you not.
Glad I’ve got that off my chest, now let’s look at Intrigue.
Described as a floral chypre, this has top notes of citrus, violet and petitgrain, middle notes of rose and jasmine and a base note of cedarwood, musk and moss.
It’s a powdery floral that reminded me a little of Worth Courtesan without the knickery finale.
Despite opening with citrus and petitgrain, this is not an astringent eau de cologne intro, it’s a musky, soft floral with a mossy and woody base. In fact all the notes seem to come out at once and stay put, making a floral woody accord with a wake of soft feathery musk.
On Amazon, reviews are favourable, apart from a few fans of the original who state that it is not as it was. This is their right, and I cannot correct them as I haven’t smelled the original. However, as a very cheap and very cheerful floral chypre, this is a great little treat.
You can buy Taylor of London Intrigue on Amazon UK or on Perfume Click (they are awaiting stock at the time of posting this). Prices are upwards of six or seven quid. I had mine for Christmas.
I noticed recently that a small selection of YSL past favourites have been re released into a carefully curated Heritage range. I have always wanted to try Y by YSL, having read of its legendary green notes and its mossy finish- which is usually enough to get me hooked. I was not disappointed and upon finding a bottle in my local House of Fraser, I duly drenched myself in it.
When first applied, it reminded me of a bottle of perfume that has been sealed for a long time before being opened. There is a slightly “off” tang about it, like an old vintage perfume that has yellowed with age. I realise that doesn’t sound like praise, but it is, I can assure you. After a few moments there is a touch of green bitterness, not unlike Clinique Aromatics Elixir, and the aldehydes- sharp and uncompromising, dominate throughout the opening number. Y then dies down quietly in a powdery green chypre that fans of Chanel No 19 and Guerlain Chamade will enjoy.
Every flower is here: all the heady, blousey ones- tuberose, rose, honeysukle, hyacinth, jasmine. There is Orris root to, which calms any stray sweetness into submission.
The basenote is where this really gets my loyalty for life (actually, it had me when I took its lid off). With classic, textbook chypre characteristics, Y has a slightly bitter, slightly powdery finish heady with thick oakmoss, amber and patchouli. There’s benzoin, styrax and a touch of civet too, just to drive the point home.
I should point out that I cannot make any comparisons between this and previous formulations as I haven’t smelled them. Suffice to say, I was overjoyed to find a bitter, mossy green chypre on a modern day beauty counter.
YSL Y is fabulously retro and I fear that a youthful modern nose, attuned to sweetness and berries may wrinkle in disdain, which may explain why it’s not on the bestseller lists. Yves Saint Laurent Y is a classic-a green bitter chypre that you don’t have to seek out on eBay. It already smells vintage and it makes this nostalgic chypre fan very happy.
There are rose perfumes and then there are rose perfumes. In the former category comes the good Yardleys and the not bad at all Marks and Spencer EDT. In the latter category comes the Andy Tauer roses and the Serge Lutens/Miller Harris roses. And now to that category you can add Papillon Tobacco Rose. Tobacco Rose, by Nose Liz Moore for Papillon, opens with an abundance of good things straight away. From the first sniff I had tender dried tobacco leaves- not the Golden Virgina sort, but the not quite dried, still curling damp leaves: imagine a pot pourri made of leather rose petals. There’s a hint of powder, a whiff of fresh violets and the beautiful star of the show: the rose itself. The opening is radiant.
The middle phase goes a bit gourmand, and usually I’m not a fan of gourmand, but I do love a nuttiness in scent and that’s what we have here. There is a hint of almonds and richness that reminded me of Andy Tauer’s PHI Une Rose de Kandahar. The base notes are more tobacco and almond rich, but the rose is steadfast and you can wear this for eight hours and still know that it is a predominantly rose perfume.
I particularly like its lack of sweetness. I’m so over over-sugared scent, but this is pitched just right, with a clean greenness to it. The oakmoss gives it a chypre style base that smells so classic that it feels like its been around for years.
The quality of ingredients shines through: this is not cut and paste on the cheap like a lot of mass market High Street stuff these days. These bottles are investment bottles and perfumistas will want them. Of that I am certain. I recommend Tobacco Rose without any concern or doubt that you will love it. If you want some samples, try the Papillon website or our friends over at Les Senteurs.
Chanel No 19 is, judging by its lack of mainstream lovin’, one of the less fashionable Chanels. In my local Perfume Shop and just about every beauty counter I have visited, it’s rarely on display and you often have to ask for the under the counter tester. I am wearing the EDT today as my local Perfume Shop didn’t have an EDP tester. Meanwhile, its more popular sister, Coco Mademoiselle, will go home with many a stranger every day. Chanel No 19 is like the brainy girl at the sidelines, and nobody realises how beautiful she is until she takes her glasses off and lets down her hair. I always say give her a chance.
Chanel No 19 opens like a good old fashioned chypre. It could almost be used as a blueprint. It wasn’t until recently in fact that I realised how much the opening of Chanel no 19 has in common with my dear chum Balmain Jolie Madame. It must be the combination of Leather and Oakmoss and the way in which these two notes seem to make the spring like florals blend seamlessly into a woody powderiness rather than a high pitched shriek that floral scents can often end up as.
Chanel No 19 has two distinct phases to my nose. Firstly, you get a blast of not-quite aldehydes as all the ingredients seem to have a lively dance of Powder, Leather, Bergamot and Galbanum (which reminds me of my beloved Chanel Cristalle) before they all settle down for the day. The second phase is the unmistakable and long lasting phase of Galbanum (which never leaves), Powder, Leather and Vetiver with Rose and Hyacinth standing by the whole time like beautiful sentinels. The flowers seem to change shifts on an hourly basis, for an hour the Rose comes through, then next its the Hyacinth, they they change over again…
I could happily wear this for decades, in all seasons, at all times of day and never get bored of it. It’s a white soapy powder (like old fashioned cold cream soap)with a sweetness that only comes from a florist, and not from sugar. You know that smell you get as all the flower petals and stems give off that botanical tang in flower shops? That. Round it all off with Woody Moss and Vetiver, powder it’s nose- and you have Chanel No 19.
I could recognise Chanel No 19 on anyone instantly, but sadly I rarely experience this. My friend Catherine first got me interested in this in the mid 1990s as she said it was the only perfume she could wear that suited her. I tried it out of curiosity and liked it, but stuck by my Cristalle. Years later, my tastes have changed and my goodness, do I love No 19!
On one hand I want people to buy it so it never gets discontinued (very capricious, perfume houses), but on the other hand, I want it to remain the unfashionable sister so that I will smell unique when I get my mitts on a bottle. (It will be mine. Oh yes) Chanel No 19 may not be the popular girl, but I will be her friend forever.
I often cringe when a perfume is regarded as “Old Lady”. For one thing, the old ladies round my way smell better than the young ladies. It’s the older crowd that wear Estee Lauder Cinnabar and Aromatics Elixir, and the younger crowd that smell of Sweet Shops. Secondly, Old Lady is often used as a term for any perfume with powdery notes or a powdery drydown. My ears prick up when I hear someone describe a perfume as “Old Lady”. To my mind, it usually means a decent Chypre is up for grabs. It does amuse me however, when I hear my mother describe a perfume as “too Old Lady”. She is 67 this year, and very far from Old Lady herself.
However, “Old Lady” interpretations can vary wildly from nation to nation. I hear from a French friend of a friend that Cacharel LouLou is regarded as Old Lady over in France. Over here in the UK, Yves Rocher Clea would be regarded as Old Lady, with its powdery soapiness, but such is the demand for it in France, that Yves Rocher has kept it going since 1980. That’s no mean feat from Yves Rocher, who decimate ruthlessly.
Clea is an Oriental scent with powdery notes and a soapy drydown. It is spicy in a muted way, i.e Vetiver and Sandalwood, and has excellent longevity. The bottle is vintage in style, not quite out of fashion, but definitely early 80s: the version I have is clear glass with a gold lid. The strongest notes are Amber, Roses, Patchouli and Lily of The Valley. Clea smells of clean lotion and clean talc and has just enough of a Patchouli hit to be alluring. If it was a colour it would be a translucent Ambery glow.
This reminds me very much of the much mourned Avon Timeless, and would also go down well with fans of Lanvin Arpege. In fact, I prefer this to Arpege as it has all the oriental, powdery glory with none of the peaches.
Considering the timeless quality of Clea, going strong for 34 years now, the price is a steal. Yves Rocher prices vary a lot from week to week, but I bought this alongside a £15 bottle of Yves Rocher Yria and got it for free: otherwise it’s only around £15 for a 75ml bottle.