Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pissing off the yogis: Guerlain Samsara

Last night I had to go directly from a yoga class at my local YMCA to a dinner with my thesis adviser and my husband, so I dabbed on a few drops of my favorite dinner perfume, Samsara, that love-it-or-hate it child of the eighties.

It was only when I was sweating my way through my seventh sun salutation that I realized that the samsara was radiating off my body in waves because my body temperature had gone up. I was a little embarrassed. Although I love Samsara, many don’t, and the peace-loving essential oils or bust crowd assembled in that room probably was not appreciating my parfum de choix. I was perfectly happy, of course. The sandalwood and vanilla was going nuts, and I was enjoying my little fantasy journey beyond the confines of the utilitarian gym space filled with grumpy yuppies.

Then the irony of the whole thing struck me; here we were, a bunch of overworked white professionals, trying to snag a moment in our days to seek enlightenment, and here I was, bringing everyone down with my inescapable cycle of death and rebirth, my samsara, the very thing from which real yogis are trying to liberate themselves. The sheer ridiculousness of the whole affair struck me, and I almost cracked up, but I saved the moment. I’m sure that would have made me even more popular with this crowd. I mean, two people in the room were actually wearing t-shirts that identified themselves somewhat self-righteously as vegan.

My final moment of near-humiliation came when the yoga instructor, after having walked by my mat, suddenly announced: “I encourage everyone to check out the sign when they leave the room” and my mind reeled in horror. That sign had just been put up, and it asked everyone to bring their own mats, refrain from wearing heavy jewelry or wearing strong perfume, and to come on time. Oh shit. But thanksfully, she continued: “Everyone should start bringing their own mats, and if you need help finding one, just come talk to me after class…” Thankfully, she must not have caught the little greenhouse of jasmine, vanilla bean, tonka, and sandalwood screaming out of my every pore in my corner of the room. Phew. But next time, I’ll wear something a bit more sedate, that won’t prevent nirvana in its very name. LOL!

Bvlgari Thé Blanc

I have to sit in a graduate seminar on Chaucer and Gower today, and it’s a tight space; I’ll need to wear something that is super close to the skin and unoffensive; most of my colleagues are of the modern perfume-haters school. I guess I will choose one of the least offensive—and least interesting—frags on my shelf. Bvlgari’s Thé Blanc will fit the bill. It is pleasant yet not far-reaching, wears well, and doesn’t smell anything like white tea (LOL). At times I enjoy its nondescript, expensive soapiness—it smells less like perfume and more like a good shower. And it certainly won’t distract me from my profound cogitations on Middle English poetry ; ).

There; I put it on. I will report back later to let you know whether I am still pleased with my nondescript self when I get back from the university today.

Back now: no one noticed. ; )

Tea and Fragrance, Part One

I have been thinking about two of my favorite teas, and wondering if an analysis of their properties might not get me closer to understanding my own fragrance preferences. They are as different as night and day, but equally wonderful in my mind. The first, Russian Caravan, is a deep, extremely smoky, black tea. It smells like tea and smoke in the most fabulously romantic way in the pot, and has a deep blackish brown color. There is, in my opinion, no other tea that goes as well with as many savory foods. Its smokiness makes it perfect for brunches with meat and eggs—it tastes absolutely lovely with sausage, bacon, and all that, for its depth of flavor matches or even exceeds the foodstuffs, and it complements the meaty, creamy flavors of breakfast so well. I love it with a bit of milk with some fat content, for it rounds out and enhances the smokiness of the tea and eliminates any potential bitterness.

The other tea is very different from Russian Caravan, but no less exotic. China Rose is a lovely black tea with rose petals in it like Jasmine tea. The rose petals are magnificent with the black tea, which is itself quite delicate, and the whole thing, when steeped, has such a rich yet delicate, romantic smell that I wish I could bottle it. I love this tea alone, or with fruit, or, perhaps especially, with cardamom flavored deserts.

OK, so this tells me I love intriguingly nostalgic, classic romantic florals with a hint of greenness and bitterness, and deep, exotic, smoky things that take me somewhere else in my head—but still go well with food. Um, that sounds exactly like my tastes in fragrance. I will have to give this more thought; what other teas do I love, and will they help me understand myself even more? This will be a project in self-discovery….
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My favorite Fragrances right now (note to self)

-Guerlain Vetiver
-Chanel Bois des Iles
-Estee Lauder sensuous
-Tea Rose
-Burt's Bees Bay rum
-L'occitan Pour Homme
-Zents Earth
-Guerlain Samsara
-Pacifica Waikiki Pikake
(March 31, 2010)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Caron Parfum Sacre

Today is another grey day. It’s cold and brisk, and I sense rain looming. Might as well continue my run of woods and incenses. Today I am wearing Caron’s Parfum Sacre, a fragrance I find extremely linear and straightforward; it’s candied incense in a bottle. Not my favorite—I love incense, but I don’t like the way perfumers tend to smear a bunch of flowery sugar over the top of what should be a deep, dry, haunting smell.

That said, wearing Parfum Sacre is a joy, because it never goes away, and I get to smell it throughout the day because my nose never becomes immune to it. It certainly kept my spirits up when I had to give up the dreamy freedom of spring break and go back to teaching again today. Somehow, seeing the blanks faces of the rows of tired young college kids wasn’t as disheartening as usual, since something was with me.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Full Moon Fever part two

Well, I've come through one long, rainy day on a night of a full moon with no major attitude problems; there's no way to prove it, but it could very well be the calming, misty, divine influence of the Bois Des Iles. My husband also seemed quite attracted to me today, although he claimed not to smell anything special on my skin. Perhaps it was just me knowing how special I smelled to myself.... Now all I have to do is get to sleep--I wonder if a spritz or two of L'Occitane's discontinued Lavande would send me off to The Land of Nod.

Hermes L'eau d'Orange verte

orange blossom I love true citrus fragrances, and this Hermes always hits the spot for me. It has a very classic profile, and is extremely well-mannered. It opens with a lovely, extremely true, sour citrus, then quickly dries down to a lovely, gentlemanly bergamot/oakmoss. Although I love my large sample of this, I will never invest in a bottle simply because I have found it to have almost no staying power. If it were a 30 dollar bottle, this wouldn't be a problem, but at this price point, its better just to keep a little sample around to sniff from time to time.


That is the problem with citrus in general. Like Guerlain's Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat with its evanescent lemons, or Pacifica's Tuscan Blood Orange, it doesn't seem to hang around too long. It took me a long time to figure this out in my journey towards loving fragrance. I used to find--and still do most of the time-- the synthetic-smelling citrus topnotes in mass-marketed perfumes completely repulsive, probably mostly due to a traumatic encounter with an orange-scented colostomy bag in my formative years (the less said about that the better), and would run away from all citrus top-heavy fragrances kicking and screaming, not realizing that that was the most ephemeral of all the notes composing the fragrance, and if I only stayed around a little longer, a wholly new animal would emerge.


orange blossom pic courtesy of wikimedia commons

High Hopes for the new Burberry Sport Fragrances

My friend Jane, a born business executive (it's only a matter of time before she scales to the highest ranks of the company that is lucky enough to retain her for good) LOVES all things Burberry. She is singlemindedly dedicated to its aesthetic, and longs for the day she has the resources available to obtain all the Burberry goods she can possibly imagine. I hope she likes the new fragrance release, Sport, available in formulations for men and women.

I got a whiff of the masculine version, and was intrigued, although I have been burned by Burberry in the past; they nearly always seem to almost get there with their fragrances, but then take a wrong turn and end up with something unpalatable or banal. This one seems to explore the idea of ginger in intriguing ways. It reminds me--appropriately--of a bottle of liqueur that Jane and her husband Zach prefer, the niche-y, gingery Canton, produced by the same folks who brought us my favorite, St. Germain: . They both spent three years in Japan and they are drawn to all things Japanese or southeast asian/fusion.

So this seems to blend the Brit with the Emipre, if you know what I mean, in a cool sort of way. I have yet to wear this and see how it really works on skin--then I might change my mind and be disappointed by Burberry's fragrance line as usual. But for now, I hold out the hope that this 'spport' fragrance will prove more gourmand than Adidas,a welcome break form the typical 'sport' atrocities.

New York Times Article on the Hype Surrounding Sensuous

Sometimes I wonder if the incredibly high-profile ad campaign (4 A-lister Spokeswomen!!!) might have killed the positive critical reception of what I think is one of the best mid-market fragrances released in a long while.

Rainy day, Bois des Îles

Rainman 2 Well, it's a rainy, moist, somewhat gloomy day here in my town--typical spring, I guess. Luckily, I have just the remedy for the sluggish malaise that can creep up on me on days like these. Chanel's Bois des Îles interacts with the wet, muddy, rainy smell in the most miraculous way, making even the most mundane walk to the library seem like a mystical event of deep significance. The reainy smell makes the sandalwood go nuts, and it becomes like a prayer to divinity, offered up on my skin. I feel cloaked in an aura of otherworldliness, an untouchable magical splendor. (I must wear this to my job interviews next year). The bitter nutty notes add just the slightest edge to the warmth of the gingerbread. This is a masterwork, and every time I don it I feel like I am wearing a work of art of the highest order.

And that is the best thing about perfume. It offers a forum for the individual to interact with art in a deeply personal way, beyond even music, at least when heard passively. Aside from the experience of playing great music, which allows one to interact with and interpret a great master's art, no other medium allows the individual to encounter, interact with, and change the meaning of a master's work.

I am off to work on my dissertation soon, armed against the elements with this sublime fragrance. I hope to report back to you this evening to let you know whether the Bois des Îles has managed to insulate me against all mishap, emotional and physical, as a talisman against the darkness.....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Party Notes

I chatted with my friend José last night about scent; His seven year old daughter, he says, spends hours and hours in the bathroom, ‘making perfume’. I told him the next time they came over for dinner we could smell perfume together and talk about their compostion. He says she is very interested in chemistry; the parents are both extremely talented scientists—maybe she could become a parfumier ; )

Then Jose and I got to talking about his memories with cologne. He says Shalimar and Tribú remind him of old lovers. Chanel no. 5 is his mother. His father, a wealthy and powerful Mexican artist and politician, is YSL. He himself wears Lacoste. His wife wears nothing.

My dear friend Julie, 7 ½ months pregnant, wandered around the party smelling amazingly exotic, yet intensely familiar; It took me awhile to figure out that she was wearing Sensuous, one of my very favorites. It smelled fabulous on her, and it was a very cool experience to smell it on someone else besides me—I’ve almost gotten to the point where I am not even aware of that scent on myself, it has become such a part of my makeup.

Baby Shower Blossoms

Well. I ended up wearing Creed Spring Flowers to the baby shower, and I’m glad I chose that because the shower was full of baby talk and baby paraphernalia, but it was a gorgeous, powerfully bright early spring day. If I had worn something more powdery, I might have risked feeling overwhelmed by the atmosphere of almost suffocating maternal energy and babyish juvenilia. The Spring flowers kept me centered, reminding me that it was finally Spring and that this was all part of a vast phase of rebirth that all the people in the Northern Hemisphere were sharing right now. Spring Flowers isn’t my favorite white floral, but its elegant simplicity was a perfect choice for the luncheon, and its joyous and unapologetically feminine bouquet made me feel just as feminine as the other guests, but just in a different way.

Adventures in Sinaesthesia: Girls movie night Bollywood binge

So, if you are a girl, and are anything like me, you have a passion for anything 19th c. novel-ly. Scott, Dickens, the Bronte Sisters, and of course the immortal Miss Austen have been your friends and playmates since you were but a wee slip of a girl. You long for an age of refinement and courtship--or at least enjoy fantasizing about it. You buy tickets in the first week for anything period, and keep up with the BBC's output of historical dramas and classics.
But you have tired of the clichéd girls' movie night fare of Pride and Prejudice--even though you, like every other red-blooded female in the Western world, do enjoy mooning over Colin Firth from time to time, and have lapped up even the most silly riffs on the Georgian Romance Theme, like the BBC's ridiculous but pleasurable Lost in Austen.
Luckily, there exists a solution to this quandary of movie ennui: you can satisfy your desire to slip into another time, immerse yourself in the minutia of domestic life, and imagine epic romance by picking up a good Bollywood film. I recommend anything with Aishwarya Rai in it for beginners. Try Taal, on of my favorites, or the Indian version of Sense and Sensibility, Kandukonden Kandukonden (See a music video from this movie here). On Netflix instant watch right now are some other pleasurable light Bollywood films, like What's your Rashee?, and the gorgeous, though more heavy, Delhi 6.

Now, call over your like-minded girlfriends, sample some of the more spicy fragrances, like Vivienne Westwood’s Anglophilia, anything sandalwoody, or, if you can get your hands on them, Indian Attars,  make some chai in a big pot and prepare some kheer, order Indian, and plop yourselves in front of the tv, preferably with food all spread out in front of you and with a lot of cushions so you can experiment with seating Indian style. You are in for a long haul--Indian movies tend to last about three hours--but it will so totally be worth it! You'll get romance, adventure, awesome songs, lovely dancing, and beautiful people galore, and never have to leave your house. It's like a mini vacation from your normal life. And take a nice intermission and have drinks to discuss the events of the movie. then sit down again and let it all wash over you. I truly think Bollywood offers some of the mot pleasurable movie-watching ever, and its campiness and bad English translation often only adds to a charm. Try it, and see what I mean. 


Friday, March 26, 2010

CB I Hate Perfume m2 Black March

IMG_4164 The smell of black earth being turned over in a moist spring, complete with earthworms and rotten leaves. An incredibly evocative fragrance, and perfect for me today; I have been dying to garden, to get my hands in the dark earth, but alas, we live in a condo now, and gone are the glorious days of gardening for hours and hours while avoiding my teaching responsibilities and my dissertation.

I wonder what my mother would think of this perfume. I must save up and buy her a bottle. She grew up on a wheat farm, and she tells me that one of her favorite things to do as a little girl was to fill up an empty glass Coke bottle with dirt and then drink it. She laughs about it now, joking that she must have had some sort of vitamin deficiency that was righted by consuming that rich farm dirt, but I know it is because she just deeply and truly loves dirt. SHe loves its smell, appearance, and even its taste. I am glad I have inherited my mother's palate. I too love the bitter, earthy, dark flavors and smells, and I am grateful to have been given this innate appreciation for the complex.

Alas, the full impact of the glorious dirt smell fades in the first 2 minutes of wear, but what remains is decidedly pleasant in its own right. it is certainly a thin, watery 'rainy' smell, nothing special, but nothing I want to scrub off either. It is an intriguingly unidentifiable accord of watery floral notes, with just a tiny lingering hint of that fabulous dirt smell. Ok, now I have been wearing it for over an hour, and the dirt smell is back, but changed and blended with the green floral. SO INTERESTING. I would happily wear this all the time.

Guerlain Shalimar

Shalimar Shalimar Charms EditionVanillic, incredible enveloping warmth, powdery softness, heady danger, just the faintest hint of smoke...but take care. Too much may kill you and those around you--only the smallest amount of this EDP on the skin can tantalize, draw others in like a faintly shimmering tiny diamond on a necklace at the throat's hollow, but too much can be scary and gaudy.

I don't get the bergamot note at all here. All I smell is vanilla, powder and smoke--and the sweet myrrh note, which gives it the slightest twinge of herbiness. The other thing to say is that this fragrance is supremely artfully balanced, a composition that weighs the elements agains one another playfully yet creatively.

Later on in the drydown, you get almost the sense of a shimmering, milky veil of stars floating around you that is quite heavenly. It is dry yet creamy, and certainly dreamy. Like being haunted by a vision of a past lover. And I guess that's the point, since this perfume--as the story goes--was composed to give a scent to Shah Jahan's grief at the loss of his princess. Here's what the Guerlain website says:

"C’était au Nord de l’Inde, il y a quatre siècles. Il s’appelait Shah Jahan. Elle avait pour nom Mumtaz Mahal. Il était si éperdu d’amour qu’il voulut faire, de sa vie, un perpétuel jardin de délices. Ainsi jaillirent de terre les Jardins de Shalimar. Le récit de cet amour fou a enflammé l’imagination de Jacques Guerlain qui, en 1925, créa Shalimar, le premier parfum oriental de l’histoire. Subtil mélange de fleurs et de sensuels accents ambrés boisés, Shalimar est devenu à jamais l’essence de l’amour et de la féminité rayonnante."

So, Like the Taj Mahal, this is a valedictory scent, the smell of fantasy and longing mixed with grief. More the smell of the memory of love than the smell of love itself. Fascinating. And a monument monumentalizing a monument.

Delacroix Nude

Yes, This is the kind of voluptuousness we are all looking for in a nice musky floral oriental. Something that smells like that silk looks, that would cling to the gauzy whitness of her stockings and dress. That would blend with the smooth warmth and softness of her skin. That would smell feminine, yet masculine, Eastern, yet Western too. That is the essence of Orientalism, in its most exotic, aesthetic form. That feels familiar and maternal, yet dangerous too. That feels rich and creamy and woody and floral all at once.
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Chaucer's Daisy

I have just been rereading Chaucer’s obscure work The Legend of Good Women, and I discovered this delightful ode to a daisy in it. Chaucer’s devotion to the daisy seems earnest and intense:

Now have I than swich a condicioun,

That, of alle the floures in the mede,

Than love I most these floures whyte and rede,

Swiche as men callen daysies in our toun.

To hem have I so great affeccioun,

As I seyde erst, whan comen is the May,

That in my bed ther daweth me no day

That I nam up, and walking in the mede

To seen this flour agein the sonne sprede,

Whan hit upryseth erly by the morwe;

50 That blisful sighte softneth al my sorwe,

So glad am I whan that I have presence

Of hit, to doon al maner reverence,

As she, that is of alle floures flour,

Fulfilled of al vertu and honour,

And ever y-lyke fair, and fresh of hewe;

And I love hit, and ever y-lyke newe,

And ever shal, til that myn herte dye;

Al swete I nat, of this I wol nat lye,

Ther loved no wight hotter in his lyve. (40-59)

It starts to sound less like a daisy and more like a lady the further into the poem you get, and sure enough, a daisy lady does appear to him in a dream vision to command him to write a poem about good women for a change. This could be an actual queen, Queen Anne, and thus an autobiographical allusion to the process of being commissioned to write poems. Whatever the case,Chaucer continues to rhapsodize about the actual daisy flower and his love for it throughout the prologue to this work:

That in my herte I fele yit the fyr,
      That made me to ryse er hit wer day --
      And this was now the firste morwe of May --
      With dredful herte and glad devocioun,
110   For to ben at the resureccioun
      Of this flour, whan that it shuld unclose
      Agayn the sonne, that roos as rede as rose,
      That in the brest was of the beste that day,
      That Agenores doghter ladde away.
      And doun on knees anon-right I me sette,
      And, as I coude, this fresshe flour I grette;
      Kneling alwey, til hit unclosed was,
      Upon the smale softe swote gras,
      That was with floures swote enbrouded al,
120   Of swich swetnesse and swich odour over-al,
      That, for to speke of gomme, or herbe, or tree,
      Comparisoun may noon y-maked be;
      For hit surmounteth pleynly alle odoures,
      And eek of riche beautee alle floures.

I love the excited tenderness of Chaucer’s devotion to the daisy! He rises early and runs to the meadow just to watch her petals open and to smell her perfume. And that's what gets me: why would Chaucer want to smell a daisy? Daisies don't smell great. They have sort of an overpowering, bitter, polleny smell, kind of like a dandelion, but not as nice. The daisy, at least as I know it does not 'completely surmount all other odors.'

Does this mean that chaucer wasn't really obseving the daisy at all, and that he doesn't really care about its fragrance--that this poem is just a pretext to suck up to royalty?

The Medieval Garden

According to this fabulous book The Medieval Garden, by Sylvia Landsberg, the large oxeye daisy was probably the one to which Chaucer was referring, since it was the most popular, and, as I have already mentioned, that flower is not particularly pleasant in fragrance. This is a mystery indeed, although I want to believe that Chaucer's love for this flower is real, not feigned.

Miss Dior Chérie l'Eau

Well it is certainly much better than Miss Dior Chérie, which was a truly atrocious fruit and caramel explosion, girly in all the wrong ways. This has an almost herbaceous nature, a sort of accord between florals, citrus, and woods, and is certainly greener and more natural smelling than its predecessor, which are all plusses in my book. The problem is, as with most modern perfumes, it takes absolutely no chances. I doubt I would recognize this scent again if I smelled it on someone, It smells generic, and too watery. A safe bet, but nothing special.

Eating Lavender

Generally I like eating flowers. I love violet pastilles, rose-flavored baklava and rice pudding, and jasmine tea. I love the idea of consuming fragrance. But I hate eating lavender. Maybe it is the deep association with soap--even on the level of semantics, lavender means washing-- or just the sharp herbal edge, but eating or drinking lavender has always repelled me somehow. I love the smell of lavender; it has to be in the top ten of my favorite fragrances, but I can't bear the idea of eating it. For example, once, years ago, a dear friend of mine made some tea cookies for a party I was throwing. So far, so good--I love the powdery, nutty crunchiness of tea cookies. But unfortunately, she spiked them with lavender, which may seem like a good idea to some, but resulted in a cookie which--to my palate at least-- was reminiscent of lavender talcum powder. I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but there it is.

Purple Haze Goat Cheese - Cypress Grove - 5 oz
The one exception I have found is something beyond tolerable. It is the incredible chevre made by Cypress Grove called "Purple Haze" and it is truly special. It does not taste or smell medicinal. The lavender is there, but the soapiness is not, perhaps in part because the goat cheese itself is too tangy to be bothered with trace amounts of soapiness, but also because the lavender is balanced with fennel pollen, whose sharp and herbaceous flavor rounds out the herbal profile of this cheese perfectly. It is an artful balance of semi-wild flavors, all bound together in a little heavenly disc of soft cheese. Amazing.

I will continue to try to consume lavender, and I imagine I will continue to dislike most of the results, but at least I know I can always return to this lovely little cheese.

Yardley English Lavender

I bought a bottle of this for my husband, who loves the smell of lavender, the sweet dear! It has quite a nice almost medicinal-smelling herbal punch in the first few minutes after spraying, then dries down to a very sedate, yes, English-smelling lavender, rounded out with a bit of powder and sage. The problem with all lavenders, as far as I can tell, is that they have almost no staying powder, making lavender one of those essential yet ephemeral elements in perfumery.

I would like someday to find a true lavender scent which lasts and lasts, although to my knowledge, such a creature is an impossibility. Yardley does the trick for that fleeting hour or so of lavender joy, then fades away.

Baby Shower Fragrances

SO everyone talks about scents to wear to weddings--generally big flower scents with a vanilla base--but as far as I know there's no scent for baby showers. I am wondering about this because one of my best friends is having a baby shower tomorrow, and I'm wondering what to wear to get myself in the mood to talk about babies. I am almost never in the mood to talk about babies, and the older I get, the more cantankerous I get about it.

Something powdery and vanilla-y, of course, but it will be hard to find something in my wardrobe that fits that description, since I shy away from such scents instinctively. They remind me too much of babies. Maybe something that smells a little milky. Maybe that Harajuku lovers frag called Baby- I remember sampling that and it did sort of smell baby-powdery, in a good way. Basenotes says love's Baby Soft--maybe I'll pop over to the pharmacy and give that a try. Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Guerlain Vetiver

This gorgeous cologne has to be the holy grail of men's woody fragrances. I cannot get enough of it. It smells like cedar, but a cedar in heaven, surrounded by ferns and fragrant oriental spices. I really don't think it could be improved. Perfect balance, seemingly simple, yet so evocative and handsome. I imagine green forest, fresh and moist, with moss growing on craggy rocks. It is twilight, it has just finished raining, and all the leaves of the woodland plants have been bruised ever so slightly, and they all give off an incredible scent.

When I lived in Missoula, I used to go with my friends to this natural hot spring out in a cedar forest. We would have to hike in a mile or so, often through wet snow, to get to a miraculous place, where hot water bubbled out of the side of a mountain and cascaded into a green/blue river. You could sit in this river an remain warm in a little pool of water from the hot spring. It was truly heaven, and it smelled humid and musky and herbaceous and cedary just like Vetiver.

Guerlain is right on the money, as usual here. This does not strike me as formal or old fashioned, although it does have a certain classical structure. It is too good to be described as even a woody scent, since it is also a dirt fragrance and a spice fragrance. If Merlin wore cologne, this is what he would wear. It is mysterious, dark, and intensely natural. Amazing!

Dolce & Gabbana The One

Ok, the one for whom? This is nice, a well-blended fragrance. The peachy top notes are round and warm-smelling, and the musk blends in nicely. It is not cloyingly fruity or floral, which is certainly a virtue, and it is hard to figure out what scents are at play here, which I think is actually pretty cool. The ultimate result is a creamy, peachy, super-feminine effect, with not great sillage. I don't get the bergamot or the other citrus topnotes at all here. I appreciate that D & G is not catering to the masses too much here. It is not that overly sugary, fruity, lollipop profile which has plagued the industry for years.

That said, this perfume is not 'the one' in much the same way as Scarlett Johansson, the poster girl for this fragrance, is not 'the one' in any sense of the word. It is an unexciting, unadventurous scent which relies on a media juggernaut and mass-market unimaginativeness to launch it into some faux 'legendary' category. Just as Scarlett is an extremely pale imitation of real, womanly movie stars, whose image she is emulating in this campaign. The One can wait for someone else with lower standards to make the commitment. I'll leave him on the shelf.

Women's deodorant woes

While I am on the subject of sweat, I have to rant a little. Why is it so hard to find a nice-smelling drugstore deodorant for women? I mean, at least the men have their classics--Brut, Old Spice, Jovan Musk, you know the drill--we will ignore all the sporty newfangled abominations. Women have what? Secret? Carribean Cool? Bah humbug. All of them smell sickly sweet and carcinogenic to my nose. The natural ones, alas, do not work.

For many years I relied on Dove Fresh, which had an understated but natural-smelling jasmine perfume, but on my last trip to the drugstore, to my dismay, I discovered that they have reformulated that as well and it has become way too sweet smelling now. What to do?

L'Eau de Sweaty Man

I am sure it's not just me; one of my favorite smells in the world is the smell of a sweaty man. To me it is a rich, fragrant experience, which means happiness and safety. I got this way when I was very little. Two of my most important male figures in my family--my uncle and my best friend's dad--were both very fragrant men, and I loved being near them because I loved them. My own father didn't smell sweaty in this way--his was more subtle, a scent that would linger on his pillowcases and bathrobes, but you couldn't smell on his person. I associated the comfort of his presence with the smell of whiskey and Borkum Riff pipe tobacco. As I write this, I think, no wonder I like all those woody, darker scents. It's all regression, at the end of the day, or at least Herr Doktor Freud would say so!

As I got older, I--strangely enough--tended to date men who had little personal fragrance at all. My first serious longtime boyfriend did not smell unless he had been working out, but then he smelled sort of metallic, and it wasn't the same as that rich, herbaceous, clean smelling sweat I associated with the idols of my childhood. I do think I honed my nose on that boyfriend, though. I learned to smell where he had been, what kind of exercise he had been doing, and who he had been with on his skin. Don't ask.
My husband also has no discernible body odor. He can go for days without washing and still smell as clean as a soapdish. I have encouraged him off and on to quit using deodorant altogether, but he is a fastidious animal and can't seem to bear that thought. So I keep searching for the holy grail of perfumes for him, something that can simulate that supremely comforting and sublime smell of sweaty man. Perhaps YSL Pour Homme or l'Eau d'Hermes in its old formulation. Who knows. Sometimes Grey Flannel does the trick on him, especially when it is layered with other smells, like the rummy Burt's Bees aftershave, but he is reluctant to wear that one because he finds it overpowering.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Miss Dior Chérie Eau de Parfum

This is girly, sugary, and not unpleasant, but nothing I would buy for myself or anyone else. The sugary fruitiness does pull away fairly quickly, leaving a decent patchouli base lingering on its lonesome. But there's the rub; who needs another fruity, sugary, patchouli scent? Nobody. But because it's Dior, it is bought by hordes of young things, or people who want to smell like sugar-coated young things, although for the life of me I can't imagine why. One of the delights of growing older is being able to grow into more interesting perfumes than concoctions such as these. Too expensive to be worth it. I'd prefer D & G La Lune any day.

Donna Karan's Cashmere Mist: a crushing headache

Well, maybe it's me, and maybe it's jasmine, but all the supposedly successful white flower bomb, jasmine perfumes don't seem to do it for me. I have been wearing Cashmere Mist today, and in spite of the woody notes, the scent is simply to one-dimensional, too sickly sweet, to make me want to invest in a bottle, especially when I feel Avon can do as good of a job with a perfume this uninspiring for an eighth of the price. The musky bit of it is ok, and the hint of woods is intriguing, but in the end it just comes off as a generic perfume with nothing in particular to recommend it. Nothing interesting happens in its lifespan; you put it on, and wear it until it wears off.

I can see how this could be a comfort scent for some, perhaps the same crowd of people who are overly influenced by ad copy and think 'cashmere= comfy & luxurious, so this perfume must be both those things too." But I am pretty sure, as I sit here and sniff myself, that 'comfortable' would be about the last adjective I'd use to describe myself if I had to drive around in a closed car wearing this scent. I shudder to think about it. I wish perfumers would do a better job of keeping powder out of their so-called woody scents. I think I'd rather smell a cashmere goat.

Burton's Alice Sucked. Part one.

I thought that Tim Burton's Alice was a horrible, pointless waste of great talent and an even greater story. What an unfortunate, yet totally unsurprising, disappointment! it's so sad, though. My two favorite actors--Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry--given bit parts with absolutely nowhere to go with them. I have never seen a more bland Cheshire cat, and the caterpillar lacked all the requisite weirdness. I blame it on the screenplay, but I am still not happy about it. And don't even get me started on Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter. Puke. You can see I'm still mad about it two days later

Awesome Cellist/Composer

I have just been checking out this young musician's blog, and am totally impressed with the quality of his compositions. If I lived in Michigan, I would totally seek him out and beg him to start a band with me! He made his own electric cello and has recorded some really original stuff. I love the way a cello sounds. I feel that it is one of western instruments that comes closest to the human voice, and Dave Haughey really exploits this quality.

tea rose: cheap thrills

Don’t let the cheapness, the incredibly yellow juice, or the straightforwardness of the name put you off buying this perfume. I f you want a soliflore—and sometimes nothing else will do, Tea Rose is right on the mark. It smells exactly like a tea rose, and there’s not much more to say, beyond that it is lovely, big, and bloomy, and fabulous. My husband loves this perfume on me, because it reminds him, as he says, of pure happiness, of the feelings he felt when we first began dating (for the first time around). When pressed for more details, he says it reminds him of me naked under my red silk embroidered Chinese robe, pouring tea for him the morning after, and a particularly good shower with me in my old rickety garret apartment in Missoula….enough said. No wonder he gets so excited when I wear it.

But I won’t wear it all the time, nor am I eager to make it a ‘signature’ scent, as much as I know he would love that, because I find it to be, well, onedimensional. I mean this in the best of ways, of course. When rose and nothing else but rose will do, Tea Rose is your girl. But complex she is not. I find her fabulous as a layerer—I like to rub on some solid woody balm like Zents Earth or Pacifica’s Sandalwood and then spritz Tea Rose over the top. That is always a fun experiment, because the rose will float over the top of the deeper scents, and really shine.

I also kind of dig the packaging. It feels sort of art deco Seventies in the coolest of ways, and I love it for that. That’s what I was in my younger days. A hippie who loved old things and thought she hated perfume. Who would only wear something that smelled like ‘the real thing.’ I identified with Tea Rose, with its aesthetic, with its cheapness, with everything about it. I have changed, and my tastes have become more complex, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for this, the first perfume I fell in love with, and I will certainly always have a spot for it on my shelf.

Thierry Mugler Alien- a Freakish Fragrance

At first sniff this smells God-awful. Like some super heady synthetic sludge. Synthetic and overpowering, not nice at all. It has a sweet play-doh-y feeling and a slight woodiness--but the woodiness seems very synthetic and not very deep to me. I can say that it does smell very foreign, and very alien, and that's not just the ad copy influencing me. The question is, is it a good kind of foreignness, or is it just wrong? As those awful and scary topnotes dry down, the jasmine, the best aspect of this fragrance, comes to the front. The Jasmine and vanilla combine to create a sweet accord which to my nose lacks depth. I keep wanting the woods to come out more to play. The first two hours after the loss of that awful synthetic ugh are this lovely jasmine powder scent, which is very appealing. I begin to like it more the longer I wear it. It is like the smell of jasmine soap in the shower when it picks up the unwashed human body smell and becomes sort of tangy and vanilla-y. Alien at this point seems old-fashioned but still synthetic, and it retains hints of that same weirdness that are so disturbing at the beginning.

Unfortunately, just as I was about to add this intriguing scent to my bottle wishlist--I need a nice jasmine-the jasmine pulled away, and I was left with a cheap smelling synthetic on my arm with way too much longevity. I mean, all of a sudden, it started smelling like the more egregiously synthetic abominations of Bath and Body works. Just bad.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nanette Lepore Shanghai Butterfly, or, a fling with a flowery fruit basket

Shanghai Butterfly By Nanette Lepore For Women Eau De Parfum Spray 1.7 OzOk, first of all, this has to be one of the worst bottles I have ever seen. SO CHEESEY. So. Late. 90’s. In the worst way. That sort of retro-girly-cosmo cartoon aesthetic that looks oh so dated now. But I sniffed, and liked. I don’t love it, but I feel the reviews I found when I was browsing the internets for other people’s opinions about this scent and in the perfume bibles were a little harsh. Ok, it smells a bit like D & G Light Blue. So what—is that a crime?If emulation is so bad, most perfumers should be locked up by now. Luca Turin was especially hard on it—one star? Come on, it’s not that bad.
It’s nothing special, but it is certainly wearable. It is a straightforward fruity floral scent, good for a girly spring mood. It’s like carrying around a fruitbowl filled with apples, oranges, and lemons, which some fairy magicked so that the boughs of fruit blossoms were still on it. The sillage is not great, but, again, not terrible either. It’s something I imagine donning for a casual spring dinner al fresco with friends. If you want to smell like you just chopped up a fruit salad in a flower-filled kitchen, or maybe a bit like a gin and St. Germain cocktail, this will do the trick. It doesn’t strike my nose as particularly synthetic smelling, a comment I saw pop up fairly regularly in other reviews. It smells clean, naïve, and girly. No complexity or intrigue. You could give it to a 13 year old girl and it would suit her just fine, I am sure. A good spring/Summer scent.

Jack Frost

This has to be one of the very best MST3K of all! Or maybe I just like it because I'm a freak for folktales, and the comedy team lampoons their conventions so well in this show. Especially delightful are the wicked stepsister--who really does look like Tom Petty--the priggish main character, who is transformed into a bear for his misbehavior, and, of course, the somewhat creepy character Jack Frost, whose giant wand freezes anything it touches (foreshadowing, anyone?). Anyway, check it out.

I'll never forget how hard I laughed (i think I might actually have peed my pants) the first time Isaw this episode. My good undergrad friend and I were at her family's wheat farm in the middle of nowhere in North Central Montana, and they happened to have recorded this on a videotape. We laughed and laughed. A very good memory. Here's a link to the episode on Youtube . Enjoy!

Estee Lauder Sensuous

First of all, the bottle is gorgeous, and it's hard to describe the attachment I have formed to it. Something about the way the little glass ridges feel in my hand--it makes the bottle feel almost oily, but in a good way, like I'm caressing some smooth, well-oiled alien skin. The color is perfect too; it is not pink nor copper nor yellow, but somewhere in between all of them, with a sort of mid-century blocky rose gold cap. Mine stays right on my bedside table, and I find myself admiring its form from time to time. Granted, it's no exotic bottle, but something about this perfume just does it for me.

We first fell in love two summers ago, as I wandered the Bloomingdale's on Sixth Ave. in search of a gift to present some Brazilian hosts I had never met, who were putting us up for my brother's wedding to one of their nieces. Well, we didn't fall in love at Bloomingdales; we had to get to know each other better. But despite my better judgement--I was getting on a plane to Brazil later that day, and usually don't like to wear unfamiliar fragrances in case they should make me ill-- I allowed a shopgirl to spritz me. The scent struck me immediately as unpleasantly sweet, and I became concerned that I had made a major error in judgement.But the perfume on my skin stayed, and it miraculously morphed into something rich and strange, as I flew on that yucky overnight to Brazil. Gone was the initial, cloying sweetness, replaced with something deep and incensy and peppery that simply wouldn't go away, and I loved it. No Loooooved it. I mean, this juice sent up a gorgeous olfactory swan song when I stepped into my shower in Rio, -- a day and a half and a whole continent and a nasty sweaty plane ride followed by airport shenanigans followed by long taxi ride later! Serious sillage. I couldn't wait to get back to the states and buy my very own bottle to have and to hold.
According to the fabulous perfume website Basenotes, the topnotes in the Sensuous formula are Ghost Lily Accord, Magnolia, and Jasmine, the middle notes are Molten Woods and Amber, and the basenotes are Black Pepper, Mandarin Pulp, and Honey. The topnotes must be the culprits for that slightly too-sweet opening, but luckily, they fade back and just sweeten the dark core of this frag ever so subtly. Somedays, maybe when my own PH has taken a turn for the sweet side, I feel like it stays too sweet, but most days, it becomes a sort of enveloping comfort shawl; I feel sexier and more grounded when I can sense Sensuous' blanket of peppery, woody incense surrounding me.
One final note. This perfume smells INCREDIBLE on wool, or around wool. Don't ask me why, but its qualities are enhanced by that wooly smell. I know this because I live in a wet, cold climate that requires wool wearing, well, all the time, practically. And Sensuous comes into its own with wool. It becomes just a little more complex, getting an almost burnt quality, or a almost like a roasting coffee-ness that I absolutely adore.


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