Tag Archives: perfume

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.

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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L’Eau D’Hiver by Jean Claude Ellena for Frederic Malle- Winter Wonderland

Picture 308 L’Eau D’Hiver was created by the legendary Jean Claude Ellena for Frederic Malle. It’s kind of a response to Après L’Ondée. Imagine Jean-Claude and Guerlain having some kind of sniff off in a dark car park after hours. Who wins? Well, I’d say Jean Claude struts off with the trophy in this battle of the heliotropes, but leaves Guerlain with only a slight graze to its pride.

Luca Turin rates Après L’Ondée as one of the twenty best perfumes ever made. That’s quite a compliment when you think there are over 17,000 perfumes listed on Fragrantica alone, and the site by no means covers every scent ever made. It seems only appropriate to review the two scents consecutively since they are both heavyweight heliotropes, and this ingredient is getting harder to find and use today. Somehow, Jean-Claude Ellena managed it, but then Jean-Claude has clout.

So what’s the verdict on Eau d’Hiver? Well it’s primarily heliotrope, but where it differs from the cold shouldered Après L’Ondée is that JCE added a touch of musk, and am I imagining it? MINT.  It’s an unusual mixture that makes me think of frost and snow and silvery frozen raindrops on a cobweb. The mint keeps it sharp, but the musk softens it at the same time.

It wasn’t love at first sniff though, it was more “Mmm, that’s interesting” followed by  “rather nice, but I wouldn’t buy a large bottle” and after a while, I kind of needed to open a window. It’s like longing for a cosy log fire on an icy day, but then getting too cosy and wanting a blast of fresh air again.

The jury’s out, but it’s much friendlier than Après L’Ondée and her haughty froideur.

Champs Elysees: Guerlain, how could you?

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Luca Turin hates Guerlain Champs Elysees. HATES IT. However, I don’t always agree with him so I went ahead anyway. I mean it’s Guerlain so it can’t be bad , right? (apart from La Petite Robe Noire, which smells of cherries and Caramac, but that’s for another day). It can’t be awful if it’s Guerlain, can it?

Well it is. If you told me some famous popsy invented this on the back of an album tour on a limited budget for maximum publicity, I’d believe you. In a blind test, if you asked me which is the Guerlain, I would dismiss this with an instant snort and say “well it’s definitely not THAT one, no way is that a Guerlain”. And I’d be sadly mistaken.

It almost goes without saying that Guerlain has made some true greats that have stood the test of time and succeeded through generations, passing the torch of good taste from woman to woman down the decades. Take Jicky for example, rumoured to be a favourite of Jackie Onassis and created in 1889, or the perennial L’Heure Bleu, created in 1920 and still going strong, or the heavenly Apres L’Ondee, still beautiful after 106 years.

And then there’s Champs Elysees. Created in 1996 and a melting pot, it would seem, of every note they could manage outside the oriental bracket. Can I just ask: why  the melon note? Why? Why have they put melon in there with lilac and peaches and lily of the valley and almonds and anything else they could find lying round the house or garden that day?

This is not to be mistaken for the original Champs Elysees created by Jacques Guerlain in 1904. The only similarity is the name. The modern version was created by Olivier Cresp, who has a lot to answer for , since he is also guilty of creating Angel. (Don’t get me started on Angel, that Marmite of perfumes that divides so vigorously).

If you want Guerlain at its best, get the early ones. A hundred years of women can’t be wrong.

Champs Elysees? turn left and avoid. Much too busy.

LouLou? c’est moi.

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When it launched in 1987, Cacharel LouLou was a sellout. Its glamorously dark advertising campaign full of classy Louise Brooks images and its whisper of Bohemia  have made it a steady success for nearly 25 years. I recall buying it by the armful and wearing it by the bucketload as a goth-ish student in the late 80s and even now, whenever I wear it, it takes me back to those heady early years after leaving home and finding my way in the world.

LouLou seems to be loved and hated in equal measure, a bit like the ubiquitous Thierry Mugler Angel, yet it is highly rated by perfumistas, if not by early morning commuters.

So what does it smell like? It’s different for everyone but on me, the highest note at first spray is anise, followed by dark plum, blackcurrant, incense and tuberose. On paper, this may sound like a list, but it always makes me visualise some kind of Parisian nightclub in the 1920s. To me it’s a musky licorice, on others it’s vanilla and incense. It changes constantly throughout the day, although I still maintain it’s an evening scent, Oh, and do spare those early morning commuters, it’s way too much before cocktail hour.

The bottle is deliberately retro: it recalls Art Nouveau cinemas with their chunky and elegant towers and entrances. This is not surprising considering its muse was silent movie star Louise Brooks, star of Pandora’s Box, whose glossy chic bob started a phenomenon  Either way, it’s distinctive, and the thrill of buying the cellophaned box with its dark and naif flower motif has never left me.

I often find with LouLou that wearing it influences what I wear. Once I put it on, I have to wear black, with pillar box red lipstick. And I have to have adventures….

Cabotine cuts through the cold

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After yesterday’s grown up lady perfume, I decided I wanted something lighter and more playful as a contrast today.  Cabotine, from Parfums Gres, Paris, is an affordable classic if you like green notes. Created on a budget and with quiet publicity, it’s been a steady seller since it’s creation in 1990.

Despite its “Broccoli” lid, Gres Cabotine is fresh and almost bitter on first spray, but the drydown happens quickly. Its USP is the use of ginger lily. Unfortunately, this rare flower only  blooms for a few weeks each year so continuous production would have been a problem.  However, once a satisfactory synthetic substitute had been found, Cabotine was away and running.

The gingery note is barely perceptible  but enough to stop this from being  a plain common or garden “green” scent. What I get is carnation with the faintest of floral spice, but softened into something wearable and clean scented. A hint of soap, a big bunch of carnations, a pinch of ginger lily and a lasting, floral, green fragrance…that’s Cabotine.

Luca Turin might hate it, but I don’t.

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Cabotine is available from our friends at allbeauty.com right here and is jolly good value!

 

It’s Lanvin Arpege for a cold January day

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I have a small bottle of Lanvin Arpege, only 5ml. I have worn this and no other today. It is formal, cold even,  with a hint of talc and nail polish. Yet it makes me think of past glamour, of satin gloves, and a sipped glass with no lipstick marks. It smells like it’s been  archived on my late grandmother’s dressing table and brought to life again on my warm skin.

If I had to categorise it, I would say a rose musk,  an aldehyde with no sense of humour, but both sombre and beautiful at the same time. When you rank this against today’s raft of fussy and frilly fruity florals, it’s like pitching HEAT magazine against Charlotte Bronte. It’s Grace Kelly among the Kardashians.

I’d wear this to a funeral. But I’d also wear it to bed.