Tag Archives: perfume

Balmain Jolie Madame: A Scent for All Seasons

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Jolie Madame by Pierre Balmain was created in 1953 by Germaine Cellier and has an immediate old fashioned glamour. Cellier knew what she was doing. Her other fragrances, Bandit  and Fracas (both for Robert Piguet) are still standing today as revered classics. When you think how many fragrances have been and gone over the years, that’s a pretty big achievement.

The more I have delved into Aldehydes and Woody Chypres on my colourful perfume journey, the more I have appreciated them. Jolie Madame seems to be the very pinnacle of a perfect Woody Chypre, almost prickling and crackling with its rough and beautiful Oakmoss and Galbanum.

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I am a huge fan of both Green Notes and Hesperides, and yet I have been venturing a lot into Leather recently (but enough about my marriage *ahem*). To find a fragrance that encapsulates all my favourites in one scent has thrilled me. Firstly, Jolie Madame opens with Green Notes, including the stems and leaves. Petitgrain and Oakmoss, give it a woody, leafy opening. Then the Bergamot makes it presence felt, giving the woodiness some airy freshness at the same time, like a walk in a forest after a downpour. It smells like mossy, wet earth under damp bracken. There is a slight powderiness, in the form of chalk, or maybe it’s the Gardenia making me think of the colour white. This fades into a Green and Smoky Leather finish that lingers, delighting with whiffs of Violet and a whisper of White Musk throughout the day.

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It is perfectly put together and utterly delightful. It’s my one stop shop when I can’t choose between a Green Note scent, a Woody Chypre, a Hesperide or a Leather. Jolie Madame gives me everything I want..

It is the antithesis of modern High Street scents and its price tag is surprisingly reasonable. This may have to be one of my rare full bottles. . It has great lasting power- on me, this lasts around six or seven hours.  I can’t get my nose off my wrist. It’s outrageously good.

If I was forced to narrow my treasured perfume collection into only two bottles, it would be Vol de Nuit and Jolie Madame. That kind of covers all bases for me. A joy!

Yesterday I discovered Balmain. And it was a good, good day.

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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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Hermès Ambre Narguilé: Beguiled by Narguilé

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I love Amber. I’ll even buy cheap Amber scents. I love that slightly gingery incense note it has. Less Chypre than an Oriental, a good Amber can add spice to a Winter scent and warm it up whilst not being overpowering.

The Amber to end all Ambers is Hermès Ambre Narguilé.  Once this was created in 2004 by our old friend Jean-Claude Ellena, I don’t know why other perfume houses didn’t just give up and say “what’s the point? They’ve won”.  However if we are talking fiscally, I’m rather glad other Amber scents are available as the price tag is currently £150 for 100ml. Let me know if you can find it more cheaply.  However, it must be said that scent of this calibre goes a long way and one squirt of Ambre Narguilé lasted around six hours on me, and you don’t need much. In case you are wondering, I borrowed my sample and I am aware of how fortunate I am to have a generous  friend with a perfume collection that makes me want to steal and rob, even though I am a nice girl really.

It’s worth quoting the creator of Ambre Narguilé himself here, from the Hermès website:

Amber, the Western expression of Eastern fragrances, has a warm, enveloping, almost carnal smell. I wanted to imbue this idea of amber with the memory of the East I love where tobacco – blended with the smells of fruit, honey and spices – is smoked in narguilés, or water pipes, and where swirls of smoke diffuse a sweet sense of intoxication. 

Jean-Claude Ellena

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JCE says it better than I can, but here is my personal interpretation: The amount of vanilla used today in just about every scent that has emerged in the last twelve months has almost put me off ever liking it in a fragrance. In addition, I don’t like gourmands, or anything that smells remotely edible on my skin. Famous last words.

 However Ambre Narguilé is like smelling Christmas Cake and Cinnabuns from the next room with a dot of Cognac under each nostril. The vanilla is heady and thick, like liquor, and not cheap and sweet as it so often can be. There is honey in here, but only enough to soften it and not to overpower. It is a dark, raisin like smell that has enough Amber to stop you smelling too cakey.  It’s rich, enveloping, warm, aromatic and wonderful.

It’s not widely available, it’s not cheap, but frankly my dear, I think it’s worth a fight.

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.