One of my favourite Christmas presents this year was a box of miniature perfume that my lovely friend Rachael bought me from L’Occitane. Not only do I love the brand, but almost nobody ever buys me perfume. Maybe they labour under the misapprehension that I already have “enough”? You and I know there’s no such thing when it comes to perfume.
L’Occitane Roses et Reines is a radiant fruity floral. It just about zings off my skin like rosy sunbeams and wafts pleasantly about in my wake.
Now although I’ve called it a fruity floral, make no mistake. This is first and foremost a big, gorgeous, girly rose, but it is supported by a bijoux fruit bowl that brings out the different facets.
There’s raspberry: one of the more delicate of the red fruits. It’s not bold or overly sweet like strawberries or pink pepper. Out of all red fruits and berry notes, raspberry is just about the only one I really enjoy. It complements the rose particularly well.
Secondly, there’s a touch of apricot. Apricot has the fruity heart of peach without the overly sweet aspect, nor the frequent synthetic territory that peach often wanders into. There’s bergamot too, but I only noticed this when the perfume first bloomed on my skin. It’s a tart accompaniment that sets the tone. This rose may be as feminine as a ballerina, but it’s never sickly or cloying.
Roses et Reines has a wonderful vintage feel to it. The beautiful bottle itself runs with the heritage motif and would look at home on any dressing table, especially mine. This is a wonderful, classic rose. The fruit adds a playfulness, and the base gives me a whisper of good old fashioned powdery notes. There’s nothing about L’Occitane Roses et Reines that I don’t love.
Now that my blog is four, I thought I’d better do some housekeeping. One of my most popular articles is “Perfume for Paupers”, written two years ago. It was my guide to how you can smell good without blowing the budget. It was written from the heart (and from past experience ), since I believe that you don’t have to be rich to smell good.
However, as you know, the industry changes faces like a kaleidoscope in even a short space of time. For example, many celeb scents that I reviewed then, have been discontinued, and many new affordable options have appeared on the market in just two years. However, much of what I wrote in my earlier article still stands: shop around, be selective, use eBay, look past the label. I reckon it’s time for an update. Here’s my guide on how to smell good without feeling bad.
Leave your snobbery at the door
I used to be in an exclusive long term relationship with Chanel Cristalle and would only rarely have flings with other scent on the side. During a frugal period in my life, I decided to shop around, and my love affair with scent truly blossomed. I hold allbeauty.com and Home Bargains responsible for this. I bought the cheapest scent I could afford and ended up finding some firm favourites. High price tags do not always mean high quality., and vice versa. Don’t overlook celebrity fragrances either. They are all made by professional Noses and are usually cheaper than other brands. Some of my favourite celeb scents are under £10.
Ok, I’m starting to sound obsessed with Avon now, but when you an find a decent perfume for under seven quid, well, then it’s very hard to stay away. In fact my SOTD is Avon Rare Platinum and those tuberose wafts are very pleasing to my nose today. Avon Perceive Oasis was my summer scent more than any other in 2016. I even bought a back up bottle.I give Avon a further thumbs up for selling purse sprays at just £3 and for currently selling Scent Essence Lime Verbena for just £2.50 for 30ml. All prices correct at time of posting.
I have bought a lot of perfume from eBay and have never been let down. EBay is pretty strict on counterfeit and it’s not worth most people’s trouble to try and sell the odd fake. Having said that, there’s no guarantee it’ll never happen to you, but in seven years I’ve not been conned. EBay is also great for perfume samples which helps avoid costly blind buys. I’ve also scored some blinders from a local car boot sale. Never underestimate how much somebody else can dislike a perfectly good bottle of perfume and be desperate to get rid of it. That, my friends, is when you circle and swoop.
Success stories: 100ml of Cabotine for £3.99 on eBay, bottle of LouLou and assorted samples for £7 on eBay, bottle of half used 100ml of Rive Gauche for £4 at car boot sale. Full 50ml bottle of Chanel Coco EDP for £26 on eBay.
Some of my favourite cheap and cheerfuls are the kind of scent young folk today might label as “Nan perfume”. I prefer the term “classic. ” Nobody will put me off Coty L’Aimant or Chique and I could buy both bottles with ten quid and still have change for a Daim Bar.
If you’re saving for a bottle of the good stuff and in between bottles,, why not just buy a few samples and use your favourites on high days and holidays? It’s cheaper than a full bottle and you can always smell expensive without having a shelf full of posh bottles and no money in the bank.
You’d be amazed how many of your friends have been given perfume they don’t like and don’t wear. Nobody seems to throw it away though, so get asking. You might find they have one of your favourites and that dusty bottle you can’t get rid of might be just their cup of tea. I dare you to ask four friends if they have a bottle of perfume they don’t really wear. It also works on forums such as Fragrantica, Mumsnet and Fragcomm.
Many men’s fragrances are cheaper than women’s ( though not all). There’s no rule that says you can’t wear his stuff or that he can’t wear yours. Having said that, although I reguarly raid my husband’s scent collection (I chose most of it- ergo it’s mine.) I can’t see my husband borrowing my SJP Lovely to wear for work anytime soon. Shame. Florals can smell good on men.
Here’s what I mean by cheap and cheerful for chaps: Old Spce (cheap as chips) doesn’t smell a million miles away from Yves Saint Laurent Opium. (Thanks for the tip Portia of APJ), and Avon men’s fragrances are truly excellent. I wore Wilderness for Men for the whole of August one year, with a pretty sun dress. I say Pah! to labels. If it smells good wear it.
These mini rollerballs are available from Amazon and eBay. Containing no alcohol, and usually in rollerball format, these are an unbeatably cheap way to layer notes or wear the scent alone. The jasmine and the rose single note fragrances are pretty good too. They make good presents and a 10ml rollerball is perfect for even the smallest of handbags.
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.
It’s been a long time coming, but we meet at last. Mossy green chypres are my favourite scent, so I had been longing to try Carven Ma Griffe for a good while.
Originally created in 1946, there is a lovely story around its launch. Samples of Ma Griffe were actually parachuted over Paris. Can you imagine a lovelier image? It would never happen today, but the idea of being in Paris and having samples of Ma Griffe raining down makes me so happy I could pop.
I can’t comment on previous formulations because I haven’t smelled them, but I can say that although my sample is a modern formula, it has that wonderfully vintage tang that makes think the juice should be dark amber, rather than the pale shade of hay it is in the phial I am using.
It opens with aldehydes and big white florals. There’s gardenia, lily of the valley. orange blossom and big bunches of jasmine. There is a powderiness about it straight away, which usually happens as fragrances of this type fade down into the base notes. It always brings to mind a fine layer of talc on a dressing table.
The iris sobers it up a bit, and there is definite citrus to pique that cloud of powder and florals. This reminds me of my late grandmother, although I don’t recall her wearing it.
The base is a classic chypre bases: heavy with oakmoss and labdanum, and greener than most. The sandalwood comes out nicely, as does the musk. Those white flowers never quit, making this a powdery white cloud of a scent with a good bit of oomph in the finish. It makes think it needs to be worn with Dior’s New Look and white gloves. But it will have to settle for the school run in comfy jeans on a brisk walk.
I have a soft spot for perfumes that were popular in the 70s when I was growing up. The scent of 70s perfume was my blueprint for the glamorous appealing world I would one day inhabit as a grown up.
Estee by Estee Lauder was created in 1968 so by the time I was born in 1970, it was pretty much all the rage. A textbook 70s aldehyde, my first impression on smelling the bottle in my possession was that it smelled like Panache. Panache incidentally is one of my favourite present day perfumes. It’s cheap as chips, and one spray lasts round 14 hours. It unfurls beautifully on skin as the day goes on and is still there when you go to bed.
In fact, it’s more likely that Panache was walking in Estee’s footsteps, having been launched in 1976 (though some sources cite it as late as 1979). Classics have always been “homaged” by cheaper drugstore version of the same trend, and it still happens today.
Estee opens with aldehydes and mossy greens straight away. The opening is brisk and prickly and there’s no time for frills. However, as the chilly ( and wonderful) exterior melts away the floral middle notes drift in. Here you have everything a good florist could throw at you: prickly carnation, sombre Orris root, pretty roses and lily of the valley and a tiny smidgeon of sweet honey. The blending is seamless and the scent a classic: perfect as it is. The base notes are all serious and rich: Oakmoss and styrax make for a deep, lasting mossy finish.
If you like your day scents classic, powdery, floral and aldehydic, this could have been made just for you. Or me, actually. I love it.
One of the things I love about Estee Lauder is that when trends come and go, EL stands its ground and keeps producing the classics. They might not be for the Britney crowd or the vanilla cup cake fan, but they are the excellent coat and the simple shift dress that you will always need, no matter what.
Guerlain Chamade is like a trip back into the early seventies. I don’t mean the flares and the joss sticks but a time when ladies wore suits and court shoes just to go to town. Created in 1969, this green spiky aldehyde is a beautiful tribute to all that is ladylike and harks back to a time when everyone said “Good Morning” and “How do you do?”
Opening with the green and musky notes of the dominant Galbanum, as if to say “Don’t mess with me”, it then beds down and shows its feminine side with Lilac and Hyacinth showing a flash of finely turned ankle.
The aldehydes provide a clean, soapy background against which the prickly notes of Vetiver, Balsam and medicinal Benzoin shine through boldly as the longlasting basenotes make their presence felt.
Chamade was named after the drumbeat of retreat during Napoleonic times and is meant to represent the beating of a heart in love. Even the bottle looks like a teardrop. It is out of step with today’s brash modernity, but this to me, is all the more reason to wear it. I feel sure that the existence of Chamade went on to influence many 70s drugstore classics: all those greeny, raspy chypres that smell so classic now but were everywhere way back when.
It’s a grown up perfume that I would love to smell on more people today. It reminds me of an elegant women with a green, tweed suit, a brooch, and a smart leather handbag, off to town to run errands on a pleasant day when the sun didn’t go down without asking permission first.
I wore Rochas Tocade back in my twenties and cannot remember now why I only bought one bottle, since I am very fond of it. I have been wearing a sample today and have been enveloped in a warm, comforting aura.
Rochas Tocade is a cosy, daytime perfume full of vanilla, but it nicely sidesteps being a gourmand with its roses and amber taking the foodie edge off it. Whilst being warm, I wouldn’t call it spicy. Whilst being rich, I wouldn’t call it an evening scent, though it would work well as one.
We can deconstruct Tocade and it’s beautiful playful bottle, but it’s one of those perfumes that is so memorable that when you know it and smell it you just say “Oh Tocade!” rather than “Oh an interesting vanilla/rose daytime perfume”
The following notes are in it: rose, sandalwood, magnolia, lily of the valley, freesia, iris and jasmine. However, this never seems to be a floral on me. The flowers just provide a backdrop in the distance. This is vanilla all the way, with an undercurrent of amber and silky aromatic sandalwood as it settles on your skin.
Longevity is great: about nine hours. The price is excellent too. Less than 40GBP for 100ml. I don’t normally like too much vanilla, but for this I make an exception. Even Luca Turin likes it. Rochas Tocade is a modern, quietly classic marvel.
Before starting this blog six months ago I would often turn my nose up at any scent with powder in and call it “old lady”. Then one day, I smelled both Balmain Jolie Madame and Balmain de Balmain. Result? One total conversion to Chypres with all their aromatic powderiness and beauty.
The best definition of Chypres I have ever read is by ThePerfumeShrine. It blows the old lady powder nonsense out of the water. Chypres originated from Cyprus, hence the origins of the name, and were derived from aromatic powders and spices, hence the powdery note.
Since smelling the dreamy Balmain de Balmain, I have learned a new appreciation of the Chypre genre, and it is because of this that I now own a bottle of Gres Cabochard, a bottle of Avon Timeless and a bottle of Balmain Jolie Madame. I have borrowed my review bottle of Balmain de Balmain, but will be buying a big one soon from Amazon, because, did I mention? Yes, this has been discontinued. Never fear though, it’s still around, but if you discover you like it, make like Tania Sanchez and buy at least two bottles.
Balmain de Balmain opens with an astringent and masculine burst of fresh Bergamot and Green Notes. The drydown turns more feminine, with a hint of Violets, Roses and Sandalwood. The Oakmoss emerges then: all manly, and Violet and her friend Rose both swoon and go demure in his rather butch presence. This has an overall aura of Mossy Greenery, with enough floral background to make it strong but pretty. It has presence, and strength: this is no wishy washy floral dew. I adore this.
This turned me into a fan of Chypres the way a David Bowie album could convert a Country fan to Glam Rock. It converted me the way a glass of Fitou once converted me from White Wine to Red. It was like the day I knew that fresh ground coffee from my coffee machine meant I could never enjoy Nescafe again.
Old ladies and powder? that’s a myth. Open the doors to Chypres and let Balmain de Balmain into your life.
And do it quickly before they run out! (although the Perfumed Dandy reliably informs me that plans may be afoot to reissue it, if enough of us clamour and buy).
So big and mighty and famous is Joy that I feel almost unqualified to review it. However, as you may know by now, IScentYouADay is all about my response to a scent, and therefore, like the Gallery Visitor swooning at their first Titian, I am merely reporting as a member of Josephine Public. Although slightly more scent obsessive, it must be said.
Joy was created in the middle of the Great Depression and was the most expensive perfume in the world. Jean Patou was quite unapologetic about this fact. You can imagine how it must have gone down in PR terms during post war austerity. That being said, he had the talent to back up his chutzpah.
Joy was indeed costly, not just financially, but environmentally. One bottle of Joy would use up 336 Roses and 10,600 jasmine flowers. As you can imagine, IFRA have since changed all that. Lucky old moi, I have in my hands a vintage EDP sample (thank you LW yet again). On smelling Joy, it’s easy to remember that it was created for a woman in the 1930s since this is not a modern smell, and yet, at the same time, it is a timeless classic.
First impressions count. I had a burst of Aldehyde, the blatancy of which I hadn’t smelled since Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass. It’s Aldehydes loudly before Peaches and Jasmine barge in. A little Tuberose makes things creamy, and I could have sworn some Lemon was in there, but it seems I am wrong. As the sharpness dies down, the Roses begin to dominate, but with subtlety. They are so perfectly blended with the other ingredients that you couldn’t quite call this a Rose perfume. Or a straight forward floral. Civet is listed, though I found no trace, and the base notes settle down into something that I prefer far and away above the opening notes.
Jasmine is loud, Roses are strong to the point of medicinal, and sandalwood makes it cosy. A little musk softens all edges into a baby soft floral with the now milder Aldehydes in the background to give it a prickle. It’s easy to see why this has stood the test of time whilst others have fallen. I found Joy hard to break down into pieces and notes. What Henri Almeras has created is a mood, or a tone. Unabashedly feminine, perfume makers could learn a lot at the knee of Madame Joy. It’s complicated and changeable, but the end result and the final basenotes are simple.
I like Joy, and so do millions of others, making this the second best selling perfume of all time after the ubiquitous Chanel no 5. (which I suppose I’ll have to get round to reviewing at some point. Reluctantly). Incidentally, I have discovered that I love to say “Jean Patou” aloud. It almost sounds like an exclamation: “Jean Patou! That was delicious” or “Jean Patou, look at the rain!” Jean Patou! That’s some good perfume.
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.