Tag Archives: Worth Courtesan

Musc Ravageur: Maurice Roucel for Editions Frederic Malle 2000

musc   Musc Ravageur was created by prolific nose Maurice Roucel in 2000 and I think it’s safe to say that it has enjoyed cult success among perfumistas. Today and yesterday I have been wearing a roll on sample (thank you Lisa Wordbird) and here’s what I think:

Top notes: Lavender, mandarin and bergamot:  you would think this would make for a cologne-y opening number   à la Jo Malone Lime, Basil  & Mandarin, but it doesn’t.  In fact, it is warm and soft like blankets. I often find lavender quite a cold scent but I barely detect it here.

Middle notes:  Cinnamon and clove:  the faintest hint of cinnamon and no cloves.

Base notes: Sandalwood, tonka bean, vanilla, Guaiac wood, amber, cedar and of course, musk:  It’s the base note that seems to last longest with me.  In fact, the whole thing merges seamlessly  into one long base note right from the get go.

When reviewing Miller Harris L’Air de Rien, Lisa Wordbird, who is a die hard fan of it, says it reminded her of flannelette sheets- you know those warm brushed cotton affairs that fall somewhere between fluffy and towel-y?  Well that’s what Musc Raveguer makes me think of.  There is a slept-in staleness about it that is not unpleasant.  There are flowers peeking out (is that the lavender emerging finally?) and the musk has a muffled sharpness like skin after soap.

Sillage is close to skin.  You could spray this liberally and only those who hug you would probably comment on your incredible smell. It’s the smell of someone up close, or the smell of someone who has got out of bed after retiring following a scented bath the night before.  It is the smell of intimacy and closeness. It doesn’t smell of sex the way Worth Courtesan does, and although it has some faint, vague similarities to L’Air de Rien, Musc Ravageur stands alone as the comforting, intimate smell of longing and romance.

You can imagine a misty eyed lover sniffing his girlfriend’s coat and saying “ahh, it smells of HER”.  And that, my dear friends, is Musc Ravageur.

Have you experienced Musc Ravageur? What did you think?  Do let me know.   I always love to hear from you.

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Jean Desprez: Bal a Versailles: The Smell of Scandal

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 My dear chum Lisa Wordbird dropped round to IScent HQ yesterday with samples that made my eyes pop out.  As you know, it’s my blog-aversary in two days and what better way to round off the year than with this notorious and coveted legend?

Bal a Versailles is talked about in the way scandalous scarlet women are discussed.  Part of you is outraged whilst another secretly wishes that you looked that good in fishnets before noon.

Burlesque Artiste Pretty S'Vere courtesy of World of Oddy photography
Burlesque Artiste Pretty S’Vere courtesy of World of Oddy photography

 Bal a Versailles is too much of everything all at once, but somehow it really works. The opening is so brash and bright it borders on the medicinal for a few moments, before plunging like a slutty neckline into spice, resin, balsam and all things nice.

The notes are too numerous to list here, but here are the highlights: Leather, Amber, Benzoin, Vetiver and Balsam. The flowers are present and correct but they get a bit lost in the smokiness of the background, like Can Can dancers in a Cigar room: Jasmine, Roses, Violet Leaf, Lilac.

The whole cacophony results in a smoky, slightly metallic, spicy, leathery, woody fug, which to my mind has a lot in common with Caron Tabac Blond (see my earlier review on this blog).

I do have to marvel at the fact that I found no civet or animalic notes here, when so many Fragrantica users rate it as one of the most prominent notes.  This is unusual for me, as I found animalic notes in Worth Courtesan and Ivoire de Balmain (original, not the recent one) both of which you can find on my blog. In fact, the animal notes were so strong in both that they bordered on the smell of poor hygiene, yet Bal a Versailles?  Not a whisper of it.

That doesn’t stop it being what Lisa called “Definite Date Night” perfume. And by Date Night, we are not talking about a night at the cinema, but the kind that makes you sneak home the next day with your shoes in your hand.

A Trio of Worth Fragrances

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The House of Worth was founded in Paris in 1858 by Charles Frederick Worth, who married his muse and  passed the business on to his sons when he passed away in 1895. The first fragrance from Worth was the now discontinued Dans La Nuit,  in 1924 (relaunched in 1985).  Despite the fame and prestige of the House of Worth, they still only have seven fragrances in their range. The most recent is Worth Courtesan: although I disliked it on me, I admired it for its cleverness (Pierre Bourdon is clearly my nemesis when it comes to scent!)

This is a roundabout way of telling you that I bought three fragrances from Worth this week and  will be reviewing them all. It is a combination of surprise, disappointment and intrigue.

Are you ready? Here we go.

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Miller Harris L’Air de Rien: Dirty and Wonderful

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I have longed to try this, and made no secret of it. Yesterday, whilst I was at the beach, a good fairy left a 5ml phial on my doorstep. She looked suspiciously like our friend Lisa Wordbird, so once again, dear Wordbird, I thank you.

In previous reviews I have unexpectedly found the scent of unwashed underwear in Feminite Du Bois, Worth Courtesan (filthy!) and Balmain Ivoire de Balmain (vintage not modern). I fully expected a similar grimace from L’Air de Rien. Even Luca Turin in Perfumes the Guide says it smells of soiled underwear.  I couldn’t wait.

To my surprise, I loved L’Air de Rien.  I’m not sure I want to smell like it, but I love it the way I love a masterpiece in a gallery that I wouldn’t hang at home.

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It smells like the inside of a house or flat. You know how your friend’s homes have a particular smell that nobody else’s has? It’s not a bad thing, in fact it’s rather comforting.  Well L’Air de Rien smells of the inside of a flat where the hostess hasn’t yet showered after last night’s party and has burnt lots of  joss sticks to kill the worst of the spilled wine/crashed out guests smell.  It doesn’t smell of a person, it smells of a scene.

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It taps into the most basic of attractants: an unwashed body and  a musty Musk.

L’Air de Rien was created for Jane Birkin (also the inspiration behind the Birkin bag), an Englishwoman abroad, who despite her life in Paris, has lost none of her coarse accent  if Luca Turin is to be believed.  Created in 2006, it could easily have passed muster decades earlier.  It’s very Bohemian: hedonism, a bath once a week (whether you need it or not), cheap red wine and no money for food.

I suppose I should give a cursory mention to the notes listed on Fragrantica, but to do so seems to over analyse what amounts to a vivid scenario of a scent, where analysis could prick the bubble and make it disappear.

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Here we go: Neroli, Musk, Amber, Oakmoss, Vanilla,  and Patchouli.

But ignore that and just go with what you feel.

I think Miller Harris  L’Air de Rien is a work of genius and brings back memories of my London days in my mid twenties when parties were frequent and long term responsibility was far, far away.  Miller Harris scents are so evocative: often conjuring entire random scenes and memories in my head, and L’Air de Rien is the Queen of them all.

Tableau de Parfums Miriam: I Think I Know Your Cousin

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I have a hotch potch of similar looking sample tubes and tried a new one yesterday without looking too closely at the label. What I ended up smelling was, I initially thought, Noontide Petals by Andy Tauer, but in fact turned out to be Miriam by Tableau de Parfums.

A few minuets of googling explained why I had been thinking of Noontide Petals. Miriam was Imagecreated by non other than our old friend Andy Tauer and his trademarks are all over it.

Tableau de Parfums is a collaboration between  a filmmaker, (Brian Pera), and a perfumer, (Andy Tauer). With each of the three perfumes in the range comes a DVD and a novella.

Personally, I’m not sure I like the idea, since to me, the fun of perfume is where it takes you in your mind and memory, and this should never be prescriptive. I like to smell a scent, and see where I go. It’s often a different journey and can jog long forgotten memories more effectively than any photograph.  However, in this case, the perfume itself is fabulous and has many hallmarks of a Tauer, a brand I regard very highly.

With more Chypre qualities than Noontide Petals, and more Violets, Roses and Ylang,  Miriam is indeed closely related to Noontide Petals but holds her own. Miriam has a wonderful vintage feel,  as does the bottle, and this was, unsurprisingly Tauer’s plan. In fact there are old fashioned notes in Miriam that make me think of a well used, beautifully polished antique dressing table with a fine layer of face powder and talc and some rosewater spilled onto the wood. There’s a hint of nail varnish, and a general impression of a messy boudoir, with shoes in the floor, and earrings by the side of the bed. However , this is very ladylike, and no messy Worth Courtesan.  Miriam keeps her cool with Citrus notes and Lavender, making this wonderful for summer, yet sophisticated enough for dinner at dusk. You can smell the individual ingredients, as if it was made with basic old fashioned methods, rather than today’s overprocessed factory synthetics.

The basenotes go a bit spicy and woody with Amber and Sandalwood  providing a softer background for the bright, chic opening. It ends dry and dusty, but still pretty with plenty of femininity left in the faded flowers.

Frankly, it’s gorgeous and I would be more than happy with a full of bottle of  ladylike, Miriam and her face powder and her nail polish. This is where it took me.  I wonder where it will take you? No two journeys are the same.

PS Does anyone else think Miriam looks like a cross between Anjelica Huston and Carla Bruni?

Vivienne Westwood Anglomania: Ladylike and Slutty.

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This is an interesting one. Like all my favourite fragrances, this is one of those scents that changes as you wear it, rather than staying static. When I first applied this, I thought little of it, then glibly dismissed it as a smell-a-like of Gres Caberet i.e another Rose Musk. Pretty but nothing to email home about. How wrong I was. Well not totally, as it IS a sort of Rose Musk.

Vivienne Westwood Anglomania has a trick up its perfumed Kimono sleeve. I sprayed some on my skin and some got on my clothes as I did so. As the day wore on, the musk emerged, as did a hint of pretty and old fashioned flora: rose and peony. How very ladylike, I thought to myself. However, as it wore off on my skin and warmed up on my clothes, I realised that this begins to smell intimate and a bit…well…private. This is not in the knicker gusset league of Worth’s Courtesan, it’s more an impression of being too physically close to someone you don’t know very well. There’s a slight bit of discomfort, with a shiver of the forbidden.

The musk smells like you accidentally stuck your nose in someone’s cleavage and although you feel terribly awkward and British about it, a dark and secret part of you enjoyed it. The musk suggests closeness to skin, intimacy, as if the wearer is gently breathing down your neck or leaning over you. And this is the secret that Anglomania has up its camisole. It’s pretty and ladylike with a rather rude side, like a piano teacher with no knickers on.

The musk reminds me of Frederic Malle’s Iris Poudre, the closeness of which I find nothing less than claustrophobic. However, Anglomania has a nice aftertaste of incense smoke, like the faint dust left behind by a spent joss stick on a cold windowsill, with a tiny pot of wilting violets next to it.

Many people get leather notes from this, but I was not one of them. To me, this is a Floral Musk with a hint of Violets and Powder, delicate and intimate, with a dirty wink.

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Shiseido Feminite du Bois: Le Jardin du Lady

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It’s that Pierre Bourdon again. Every time he makes a perfume I end up disliking it intensely. It’s not personal; he just creates smells that I don’t want to smell like.

Shiseido Feminite du Bois is highly regarded and coveted by many as a warm Oriental. Which is quite right and proper and it is indeed how it begins on me. In fact it is a perfectly crafted woody spicy fragrance, full of depth and heat. It has an almost sour note in the heart, which is beautifully earthy, like freshly turned soil, and then it warms up even more to smell like ancient wood in a church pew, infused with a hint of musky incense.

However, and I’m not quite sure how to put this delicately (although I did try a Franglais euphemism-see title): this smells like a gusset. A non clean one. It smells like knickers smell on the walk of shame with party shoes in hand as the sun comes up.  There. I’ve said it.

Funnily enough, I had exactly the same response to Worth Courtesan. I thought “Mm that smells very feminine”, and then after about half an hour, “What’s that smell? I have to wash NOW!” Guess who was responsible for that little gem? Yes, Pierre Bourdon. Similarly, Iris Poudre. Within minutes I was washing it off. Pierre’s handiwork again. That rascal!

Now it goes without saying that “Gusset” will never be a note listed on the Mighty Fragrantica, but I at least looked for Civet notes or an Animalic accord. Nothing. Zip. Nada.  So either this only happens to me and me alone, OR it happens to lots of other people who can’t quite pin down the exact suspect note in question.  OR lots of people get this but like it and shut up about it.

Personally, I don’t want the smell of a musky knicker gusset on my arm, so after using a little bit of this kindly loaned bottle, I will be returning it with enormous thanks that the list of very tempting notes didn’t lead me to buy it blind.

This is a textbook example of a perfume I love that doesn’t love me back. I long for that first magical half hour again, but it’s not returning my calls.