Tag Archives: fragrance

Guerlain Vol de Nuit: The Maestro

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Vol de Nuit (Night Flight), was created in 1933 by Jacques Guerlain himself. It’s a very hard fragrance to review because it does not fall nicely into a specific genre.  It is however, utterly classic and vintage and beautiful. If I had to explain perfume to an alien visiting our planet, I would just let them smell Vol de Nuit. It kind of explains what perfume is and should be.

The opening is spicy and aldehydic, with a nod to bergamot and a passing wisp of citrus lemon. You can tell that Vol de Nuit is related to Jicky. They are first cousins, at least during Act One. Then old fashioned powdery notes sidle in, followed by sandalwood and spicy carnation. Finally this marvellous radiant symphony calms down into iris, sandalwood, violets and musk, but still hangs on to the carnation spice and slightly bitter orris root, so earthy and pungent.

This lasts and changes and evolves. It has been on my wrist all day and never left me. It is, quite frankly, a classic of the fragrance world and to leave this out of the Greats would be like leaving Mozart out of a classical music Hall of Fame.

You can tell that Vol de Nuit comes from the same family as the other Heritage Guerlains, Jicky (1889) and Mitsouko (1919). I sometimes have problems with both since I haven’t yet trained my modern, sanitised nostrils to adjust themselves as necessary. Both need to be smelled within the context of their time in order for their greatness to be appreciated. However the slightly later Vol de Nuit (1933), is instantly accessible today and by far my favourite Guerlain.

You could call it Oriental as it certainly has spice. You could call it an Aldehyde: after all, it’s green and soapy. You could call it a Floral: replete with Narcissus,  iris, carnation and violet. Or you could call it one of the most beautiful and versatile fragrances of all time, if you are me.

There are a lot of perfume houses around today that could learn a thing or two at the knee of Grande Dame Vol de Nuit. When I wear it, I want to don fox fur and red lipstick and smoke cigarettes, but being a kind non smoker, I will just have to settle for the red lipstick. Wearing this transports me from stressy normal life and makes me want to be enigmatic and silent at the the bar of the Hotel Meurice until handsome men buy me drinks.

Vol de Nuit. Night Flight. The scent of your dreams.

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You can buy Vol de Nuit from  Fragrancenet.com and  John Lewis

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Givenchy Organza: Falling In Love Again, Never Wanted To…

 

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What am I to do? I can’t help it. The perfume quest bears similarities to life itself. It has chapters and passionate phases which burn bright and fade to ash. It is often littered with disappointments and dashed hopes, but contains bursts of joy and contentment and if you’re very lucky, an occasional thunderbolt of deep love that leads to a lifelong companionship.

Just yesterday, I was struck by a thunderbolt. I fell in love. I didn’t mean to. It wasn’t convenient, and I can assure you with some vehemence, that I sure as hell wasn’t dressed for the occasion.

It happened in Boots the Chemist. I was rain spattered and cold and you really don’t want to know what I was wearing. Let’s just say I was built for comfort and not for speed that day. I sighed as I looked at all the new fruity florals promising the same old same old. Then I saw a familiar bottle that looked like it had come out of retirement. With the strange Greek looking bottle, created in 1992, it wasn’t one I see regularly on the glass tester shelf. I had a vague memory of trying it around the time of it’s launch and thinking well of it, but not pursuing it further. I was younger back then. I’ve changed now.

Fast forward to my local Boots yesterday: I sprayed once and fell in love with it. I sprayed again, on both wrists, and on my coat sleeves as well. It was love all right. I’d been shot with cupid’s arrow.  Givenchy Organza is a perfect balance between White Flowers, namely Peony, Gardenia, and its non identical twin Tuberose, coupled with White Woods, dark Guaic woods, Amber and Nuts. I’ll say it again: “nuts”. This is not too Woodsy, as the Flowers calm it down. It’s not too Flowery as the Woods and Amber spice it up. The Walnut and Nutmeg add an oiliness with a hint of woody bitterness. The bitterness is taken on by the soft Florals, and so it comes full circle…Somehow the perfect balance has been achieved. This adorable and wearable Oriental Floral has had me sniffing my coat sleeve and afraid to wash my arm for two days. (Note- I have washed my arm, you may have no fears on that score. Your blogger is both spotless and fragrant, dear reader).

There are other Oriental Florals, sure, but this one stopped me in my tracks. It’s strong, yet pretty, and has resonance and depth. It’s perfume-y in the way I remember my mother and her friends smelling when I was growing up: exotic and heady. However, it is sweetened up by the flowers, and not merely an Oriental Spice like say, Opium or the wonderful Cinnabar. 

I love it so much that my immediate fear is that it may be discontinued and I will need to shoplift great crates of the stuff. (Another Note: I do not advocate crime and speak of shoplifting only to describe an impulse. Other methods of procurement are available). However, this is a healthily non-cheap price: just under £30 for 30ml, and seems to be widely available. At the moment.  My fragrance abandonment issues may come from a total inability to forgive Gucci for discontinuing the unique and beautiful Gucci Envy. A moment of silence please for a lost and perfect jewel. (Well, sometimes it’s on eBay, but even those are dying out).

I have had lots of perfume flings. I’ve bought bottles that I have liked, used, and then parted with on good terms. I have perfumes I am friends with, and will always have in my life, but am not in love with. However, only four times have I ever truly fallen in love and entered into a long term relationship with a fragrance. I’m not a total slut- I know all of their names: Chanel Cristalle, Gucci Envy, Eau de Cartier and now, Givenchy Organza. I need it in my life. I think it’s serious. All I have is my coat sleeve, like half a phone number on the back of a soggy bus ticket.

Organza will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.

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Eau de Cartier Essence D’Orange: Refreshing or Refresher?

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From Leathery Tobaccos to a citrussy hesperide: you have my permission to call me capricious. I must confess, I have  an ulterior motive writing about  Eau de Cartier Essence d’Orange since it provides me with yet another excuse, as if one were needed, to wear my beloved Eau de Cartier again today ( see my earlier review). Just as a comparison you understand.

Eau de Cartier Essence D’Orange was created in 2010 as a follow up to the divine Eau de Cartier: an angelically light hesperide full of Bergamot and Lavender and still, in my opinion the best and only fragrance to wear when hungover.  It’s like having an aromatherapist helping you out when all is spent.  Despite reviewing fragrance daily (or as near as I can),  there are not many full sized bottle on my dressing table. Eau de Cartier is one of them. After smelling a spray sample I simply had to have it.  Luckily, it was just before Christmas and Santa got my letter in time.

When I saw there was an Essence D’Orange, I was keen to try it.  At first spray it smells very like Eau de Cartier, but very quickly the soft oranges quietly enter the room.  This is not, as you might expect, a sharp citrussy orange, but more of a fuzzy powdery orange.  In fact after around ten minuets I couldn’t escape persistent thoughts of Orange Refreshers. Opening with a burst of bergamot like its sister Eau de Cartier, the orange does sort of take over, along with a bunch of violets to calm it down and stop it being too dominant.  I also would have said lavender was a noticeable note, despite not being listed. Never mind, you can take my word it, I can definitely smell a hint of lavender.

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This is beautifully unisex and may even smell better on a man. I still prefer my Eau de Cartier, but I have ordered a stash of samples of Essence D’Orange so I always have access to it without investing in the 100ml or 200ml bottle.

This is fresh, airy, light and beautiful. The smell of Orange Refreshers is, admittedly, inescapable, but I rather like it. This, along with Eau de Cartier is the antidote to too many Leathers and Orientals. It is delicious, edible and thirst quenching.

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The Mighty Cinnabar

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Estee Lauder launched Cinnabar within weeks of YSL Opium coming out. The gauntlet was well and truly thrown down. That they are competitors cannot be coincidence with such a close time lapse between them and such unmistakable  similarities.

Cinnabar was created in 1978 and has become somewhat of a standby classic.  I don’t smell this very often on under 50s, which is a great shame .  I would love to see younger people seek out  fragrances like this and escape from the fog of modern fruity florals.

 Cinnabar has a lot to offer.  It is an Oriental Spice perfume, with other notes that make it chameleon-like in its adaptability.  On first spray it is loud, fresh and spicy before drying down into a talcum powder masculine scent .  But bear with it, as it soon changes again and becomes a delightful Incense fragrance with a hint of powdery orange and peach, and a definite loud-ish note of clove standing in the background.  This is serious perfume: it’s not playful.   I can’t help thinking of rather sombre females in dark suits, or elegant dames with pearls and no laughter lines.

On me I’m afraid it reminds me of a Toilet in a rather well to do house I visited years ago.  I can’t help it.  I smell a fragrance and a long forgotten memory just pops up and won’t go away.  I think the hint of Jasmine, which is often indolic, has made this hard for me to love, but easy to admire.  It also reminds me of a soap called Shield, used by a former adversary, which has kind of spoilt it for me.   Strangely enough, I found this so similar to Estee Lauder Youth Dew, now in its 60th year, that I am not entirely clear why they made two fragrances so very similar.  Yesterday I wore Cinnabar on one arm and Youth Dew on the other.   At one point they were so alike I thought I was going to have to write “This one is Youth Dew” on my arm.

Cinnabar is not for me, but I hope it sticks around as we need more classics like this.  It would be a tragedy if a beautiful Oriental were to be discontinued through lack of sales.  With today’s trends for the lighter more modern fruits and vanillas, I sometimes fear for the good guys like Cinnabar.

YSL Paris: J’ai Deux Amours…

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 As an escape from heavy woods and intense incense, sometimes I want to take sanctuary in a  simple  pleasant floral. In the same way that wearing something floaty and cool on a hot day offers relief,  sometimes I want the simplicity of a floral like Yves Saint Laurent Paris.

Ignoring the faintly Turkish Delight overtones, to me , Paris has two notes: Violet and Rose. There’s other stuff too, like Soft Musk and a hint of Powder, but it is Violet and Rose, like two fragrant sisters, who sit firmly in the centre of this bouquet of a scent.

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There’s no Fruit. There’s no Vanilla, no foody Praline, no cheap basenotes. I mean, this is Sophia Grojsman here! It’s simply fresh flowers, it’s pleasant to  be around, and it’s light and airy.

Created in 1983, I have distinct memories of the Sixth Form Common Room in school in the late Eighties, and one co student in particular loved to marinate herself in this before 9am.  However, unlike other Eighties heavyweights around at the time (yes I’m old), too much Paris was never as bad as too much Poison or too much Giorgio Beverly Hills *shudder*., which were also popular at the time.

paris springNaturally, Paris the fragrance doesn’t smell like Paris the City. Paris the City actually smells of Body odour, cigarette smoke, wine, asphalt, traffic and wafts of expensive perfume and coffee.  A wonderful smell actually, but it would never sell if you bottled it. Although having said that, I bet someone somewhere would create it and someone somewhere would buy it.  Maybe Library of Fragrance  could make “Dirty City”.  I know they’d do a great job.

Paris the perfume is mainstream, easy to get hold of and frankly, adorable. The price stops it being totally ubiquitous and the fragrance  trends of the last two years have changed, making Paris not so common now, and frankly, a refreshing change.  There are flankers, but this is the original and best.  Don’t makie the mistake of seeking this kind of classic quality among the flankers. (*cough* Mon Paris *cough*)

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Chanel Cuir de Russie: Add It To Your Stable

Chanel Cuir de Russie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Celeb Scents 5: Madonna Truth or Dare

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Nipple flashing, crotch grabbing, rule breaking, trailblazing Madonna has surprised me in three ways with this fragrance.  Not only has she turned up late in the game after everyone else has had a go, but she has produced a fragrance that is both traditional and ladylike and dare I say it, safe.

Truth or Dare was launched globally in May 2012. A flanker scent, Truth or Dare Naked, was launched in December 2012. My theory about why she is late is that she is so inhumanly busy that the team from Coty probably took two years to get an appointment into her watertight schedule. But that, of course, is conjecture.

The fragrance itself is overwhelmingly Tuberose and White Flowers, but especially Tuberose. It has been said that her mother, whom she lost at a young age, wore Fracas by Robert Piguet: the last word in Tuberose fragrance after which all-comers were a mere imitation.

Although Truth or Dare has other notes in it, it is the creamy Tuberose that dominates and almost sees the rest of them off. It’s not bad though, not bad at all, and smells more expensive than it is.  It is worth buying if you like White Flowers and Tuberose and Gardenia all together in one place. Personally I don’t like it on me, but I enjoyed wearing the sample I purloined from a beauty counter. It’s rich and heady and feminine, and not at all what I was expecting from Madonna. The price was a surprise as well, since the woman has no qualms in charging fans around £200 a ticket to see her in a (short) concert. She is giving us a bargain here.

The third thing that surprised me was the bottle. It’s made of white plastic. It’s quite rare to have plastic perfume bottles these days. Even the cheapest brands manage to use glass bottles, but maybe the team at Coty blew the budget on the ingredients and ran out of steam. Like I said, it doesn’t smell cheap, but the packaging sure looks it.

So what I expected was Madonna being first off the block with an edgy unusual fragrance that nobody else had thought of, in some sort of dagger or crucifix shaped glass bottle that cost around £200 a pop.

What she has actually done is produced a classy and ladylike scent cheapened by a bobbly plastic bottle, that is both affordable and wearable.

I’ve seen her boobs and she’s flashed her crotch, but Madonna giving us a high quality, accessible fragrance that is even on the cheap side of affordable? Now that really was a surprise. Whatever next? Madonna Twinsets? Madonna pearls? You think you know someone…

Celeb Scents 3: Hilary Duff With Love

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With Love first came to my attention by having the dubious honour of being the cheapest fragrance in the window of my local bargain store. I thought it was probably awful if it was being flogged off so cheaply, but I went home and looked it up anyway.

The next day I was back and buying a bottle. Now that I’ve used that all up, I’ve just ordered another one. This stuff is pretty good.

I had no idea who Hilary Duff was, so I looked her up too. She was a Disney teen queen,aka Lizzie McGuire, and has sold over 13 million records worldwide. Still in her twenties, I was expecting some sugary sweet concoction aimed at the teen market. Well, it’s funny how the least likely people can end up really impressing you. Hilary Duff has created a wonderful woody, tropical scent that is nothing like anything else I can think of.  In fact its top note, Cocobolo, is only used in this perfume and no other. In case you were wondering, Cocobolo is very hard rosewood used decoratively in knife handles and polished wood ornaments.

With Love smells like aromatic pipe smoke with a hint of mango and spice. It’s almost masculine, but has a base of musk and amber that make it a little more feminine. When launched in 2006, it was in the top three best-selling fragrances in USA department stores. It’s rich and unique and has been critically acclaimed.  I think Ms Duff surprised everybody.

As for the bottle? It should definitely be a prize winner in itself. The chiselled glass bottle is based on an antique ring design that Duff found in an antique shop. The stopper is faux Citrine, and the overall effect is of something created in the 1920s. Unfortunately a common fault across the brand is that the atomiser lid comes off and you need to keep sticking it back on again, but apart from that, this a real hidden gem in every sense.

This has been discontinued  so buy it now before it disappears. This is the perfume that told me not to judge a book by its cover. Or a fragrance by its price tag.

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Halston Catalyst: Either You Go or I Go.

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I bought Halston Catalyst blind. Attracted by its amazing floral notes, many of which are favourites, and tempted by its attractive price, what could possibly go wrong?

The notes listed which are among my favourites are: Gardenia, Hyacinth, Bergamot, Carnation and Lily of the Valley. Base notes include Musk, Amber and Sandalwood.

What I actually got was this little scenario:

Imagine you had a curry in the 1970s, decided you didn’t like it, so hid it in the drawer of an antique wooden dresser, then poured cheap Men’s Eau de Cologne over it to hide the smell. Then imagine you opened the drawer in 1993, (the year Catalyst was created) and decided “Mmm, that’s nice, I’ll call it Catalyst and sell it to ladies for money”.

When I tried this, I was convinced there was cumin in it, or spice, although neither of these are listed. I did get sandalwood, in spades, but that is the only note listed that I picked up on. There was not a whiff of so much as a flower petal. My beloved Bergamot wasn’t even in the same time zone, let alone in this bottle. The notes don’t seem to match the accords, which are listed as “Woody, Warm Spicy, Floral, Powdery, White Floral”.  I got Woody and Spicy, but I have no idea where the others went.

This is what I refer to as a Howler. Not only could I not wash it off fast enough, but it was listed on eBay within 24 hours of receiving it. As if to back me up, there are currently 51 of these babies listed for sale on eBay. I am not alone. You will be if you wear this.

All reviews are of course, subjective and by no means a final word. This might smell great on you. Let me know your worst ever “Howler”, I’d be interested to know.