Friday, February 29, 2008

Kelly Calèche by Hermès : Perfume Review

*This post is dedicated to the wonderful, warmhearted, generous friend who recently gifted me with a bottle of Kelly Calèche. She always impresses me with her great manners and thoughtful character. May her generosity find its way back to her tenfold.*

Last summer, Hermès’ newest launch, caused quite a stir among perfume aficionados: Everyone wanted to have a whiff of the newest member of the Calèche family and even though most conceded the juice was not quite what they had expected it to be, most found it a very likeable, wearable scent. And while the perfume world was buzzing, Fragrance Bouquet kept quiet... I just couldn’t bring myself to love it – in fact I hated it. My own excitement about this fragrance had quickly fizzled out when one bright summer morning I spritzed this fragrance on a paper strip for the first time. Disaster. I couldn’t even bring myself to procure a little sample vial to review it – the only words that I could come up to describe this scent were ‘vile bug spray’ and my brain refused to elaborate further. And so I pushed Kelly Calèche out of my mind, unwisely remaining with that first impression I got from that paper strip for more than six months now. It never crossed my mind to try it on myself: the thought of having to live with the bug spray trail emitting from my own skin was too horrible to even contemplate. The months went by. And then it found its way to my doorstep... And I am besotted.

What a difference a spray on the skin makes... The scent of the jus sprayed on the skin bares absolutely no resemblance to the scent on a blotting strip. Where did the harshness go? This is soft, delicate, restrained even. Most have complained that the leather in this composition is almost undetectable, a mere hint rather than an accentuated accord, but Kelly Calèche’s first bloom on my skin is actually full-on leather. It is neither animalic, nor heavy as most leathers tend to be, but it is, to my nose at least, unmistakably leather. It is the whiff of leather you get that first moment when you open the door of an extremely expensive car decked with leather interior, the whiff of leather you can smell on your skin after having worn a supple, black kidskin glove for the first time. Slowly, the leathery scent subsides and gives way to a heart of cool iris, buttery and deep, colored by my mind’s eye in pastel shades of grey and pink – like a sunset that breaks through the clouds of a summer storm. It is surrounded by garlands of tiny flowers I can’t quite identify: their scent is neither reminiscent of the officially listed notes of narcotic tuberose, nor of the honeyed, magical smell of mimosas that has stopped me dead in my tracks so many times when taking an evening stroll in the summertime. The drydown is powdery and soft, with leather brought back to the fore in a subtle manner, which enhances the wearer’s own skin scent.

The overall feel of Kelly Calèche is slightly musty and very dry: those who like me, love bitter scents, are sure to fall for this one. Its finish is soft and subtle – a cultivated and refined skin scent whose sensibilities object to anything remotely vulgar. This coolly sophisticated fragrance is suited for every season, but in my opinion performs –as well as blooms- best in warmer weather, especially during springtime. It's one of those scents that reek of good breeding, quiet confidence and expensive taste. In the daytime, it begs for jodhpurs, boots and silk scarves or jeans worn with crisp white shirts and leather accessories. Those who have not considered this as a nighttime scent though, will be surprised when pairing it with a strapless cocktail dress cinched at the waist with a wide leather belt. Kelly Calèche simply puurrrs on bare shoulders...


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dior Addict Extravaganza : Perfume Reviews (Part Two)

Welcome back for the second part of “Dior Addict Extravaganza”. Today, reviews of Addict Shine and Addict 2:

Dior Addict Shine:

Dior Addict Shine starts out with an intense and rather generic, rather synthetic smelling hit of tangerine and grapefruit. Upon first try, I completely dismiss this as a disappointing failure. I forget about it and start going about my day, when about half an hour to an hour later, I suddenly find myself surrounded by a wonderful smell. Sure enough, the source is my wrist. I am astonished to find that the fruity-floral mess that was, has magically transformed to the most gorgeous, floral musk. The result is ultra-sheer and sensual, combining girly innocence with come-hither sultriness. This is most definitely a spring scent, shimmering, joyous and feminine. Although I do perceive hints of white florals, this undeniably synthetic mélange, does not allow me to pick out any individual notes aside from musk. I shouldn’t like this, but I really, really do. While it is extremely far removed from the type of scent I normally go for, there is something about it that has me hooked, like (uh-huh) an addict. I feel slightly sheepish liking this so much, because it is so unabashedly youthful: wearing it feels like I am going through a reversion to adolescence. I can see this becoming a favorite of younger girls and it will make a perfect gift that’s sure to please. Its musky eroticism however, makes it appropriate for any woman - young or old. I am not sure I would spend my own money on a full bottle of the stuff, but I would be absolutely delighted to receive this as gift. It’d become a spring favorite. Lastly, if you are to try this for the first time, spray once, and use a light hand. You’ll want to get to the gorgeous drydown quickly. Trust me.

Dior Addict 2:

Light, airy and intensely fruity, the opening of Dior Addict 2 does not do much to impress me. The predominant note is pink grapefruit, while freesias add subtle, watery hints. Giving Dior Addict 2 time to develop does not seem to do much to increase its appeal. Even though this is most certainly not a heavy scent, it somehow manages to be completely overpowering. There is absolutely no way to ignore it: like a shrill voice that never tires, it keeps demanding attention: it will enter your conscience and lodge itself there, refusing to leave until you finally succumb and scrub it off. No such luck for me: I had to give this one a fair chance, so I patiently waited through hours of its incessant whine to see its development to the end. What starts out bittersweet and, in comparison to what is to follow, almost pleasant, turns out sour and bracing, with an undercurrent of acerbic sweat. This is the smell of a house-cleaning product, not a perfume. Stay well away.

So, what are your feelings about these four, rather ubiquitous fragrances? Something I really appreciate about them, is that they are actually connected by an invisible thread, just as flankers should be in my opinion. Addict has produced some real flankers, not just connected by name but also by the juice itself. It is very gratifying when you realize that pink grapefruit is recurring in each and every one of these fragrances, as was realizing that lavender makes its return in Eau Fraîche. The vanilla is stronger (to my nose at least) in Eau Fraîche than in the original and the cinnamic spices more easily perceptible too: it feels that in Eau Fraîche they are allowed to occupy their own space somehow. The white florals remain a constant theme in every one of the four fragrances. While I feel reserved and doubtful about the quality of the juice (I can’t get the synthetic, chemical scent of Addict 2 out of my head), I now understand why the Addict line is so very popular. Does it deserve it? With the exception of Addict 2, I’d have to say yes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dior Addict Extravaganza : Perfume Reviews (Part One)

After recently being pleasantly surprised by Dior Addict Shine, I decided to explore the whole Dior Addict line, which I must confess, I never paid much attention to. So, today and Wednesday Fragrance Bouquet takes a look at the whole Addict fragrance lineup. Let's start with part 1, exploring Dior Addict and Dior Addict Eau Fraîche.

Dior Addict:

The original Dior Addict is, in my opinion, a well-put together, if linear scent. I don’t know why, but what my nose perceives is completely different from the listed notes, although admittedly, I have never smelled some of the official notes, such as Silk Tree Flower and Queen of the Night. I can however tell you what it smells like to me: a beautiful blend of lavender and deep, warm gardenia. If you like your gardenia creamy and spiced, you’re going to like this. Mellow and sweet, but also demanding, this is a fragrance with excellent longevity and sillage. It is not very involved, and as indicated earlier, it doesn’t really develop much on the skin – rather, it remains quite stable and unchanging. I feel neutral about it as a female scent: it doesn’t bother me, nor does it drive me wild. It’s okay. What I’d really be interested in, would be to smell it on a man at the end of a working day. Mmhmm...

Dior Addict Eau Fraîche:

As sometimes happens, the EdP concentrations can be very different from the EdT, and this is indeed the case with Addict (EdP) and Addict Eau Fraîche (EdT): The two are similar, but they are certainly not just the same scent in different strenght. The opening of Eau Fraîche is very mellow, smelling slightly of lavender and wild flowers but in a matter of seconds, as it warms up on the skin, the scent deepens and becomes sweeter and heavier. Too sweet and certainly too heavy for my tastes, I have to say. Still, I can see why this bears the Addict name: the deep scent beckons you closer to the skin. Even though every part of me resists it, there is a certain fascination there: I keep wanting to sniff this, so I find myself constantly bringing my wrist to my nose for yet another little fix, like a crazed bee that returns to the same, already harvested flower in hopes of finding a little bit more of that sweet smelling dust. No, I don’t like it, I decide, yet the process begins again a few minutes later with my nose stuck against my skin in order to explore the cinnamon-vanilla theme a little further. Flower petals swirl around this heavy, gourmand heart, while citrusy sparks fly off now and again, tingling the nose. Behind it all, there is a dissonant accord of BO, the distinctive smell of a body that hasn’t been washed for a couple of days - a smidge of armpit here, a mane of slightly oily hair there. And yet, through it all, Dior Addict Eau Fraîche remains strangely attractive. I wouldn’t wear it myself, but I would like to smell it on others. And even though there is nothing remotely “Fraîche” about it, I can see how this could be a successful scent for spring and cooler summer evenings. With every part of my conscious in protest, I’ll go ahead and grudgingly admit that Dior Addict Eau Fraîche is Sexy with a capital S. And may the perfume gods forgive me.

Come back on Wednesday to read part 2 of the Dior Addict Extravaganza, with reviews of the remaining two Dior Addict scents, Dior Addict Shine and Dior Addict 2!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fragrance Bouquet Loves... MAC

So, I’ve come down with the flu... The nose still works fine, but I can’t even bear the thought of wearing/sniffing perfume. Still, I didn’t want to let the day pass without a post, so I thought I’d inject some fun in my day, and if you’ll indulge me, I’ll tell you about my latest non-scented discoveries. What am I loving lately? Well, I’ve fallen hard for the MAC Fafi collection! Have you tried any of the Fafi products yet? I was a little dubious at first, seeing as the press releases showcased really intense looks with more than a few ‘80s hints – I wasn’t sure I could pull any of those looks off. Trying on the products themselves though, was a revelation! Everything is unbelievably wearable and versatile. I am especially impressed with the lipsticks, which are all very lightweight and go on rather sheer while still having amazing longevity. (I love sheer lipsticks by the way, I simply can’t have too many of them – they are my favorite type of lipstick and I am still lamenting the loss of the now discontinued Versace wet lipstick line...) So if you too love a sheer sheen of color on your pucker, go ahead and try the new Fafi lipsticks – they are simply amazing! My personal favorite? Ooh, that’s a hard one, cause if I could, I’d have ordered all of them, but in the end I settled for "High Top", a lovely mauve that glides on the lips to give a dusky finish that is still sheer enough to be worn every day. The new lipglosses, the Fafi Lipglass collection is just as fabulous, with wonderful, long-lasting shine that gives lips a three-dimensional, bee-stung look. Mmm! My favorite is "Cult Fave", which is THE best lipgloss to use when doing a strong-eyes/natural-lip look. Seeing as this is one of my favorite make-up looks, combining sexy sultriness with innocence, I simply never want to have to do without this! As for Fafi products I don’t yet own but am lusting after? I’ll simply have to buy the new Fafi powder blush in “Hipness” – a beautiful blush that gives that marvelous, young and dewy, apricot-y glow I love best with my skin coloring. I’ve been using Dior Flight “Peachy Adventure” up until now, but seeing as it was limited edition and my palette is now almost finished, I am very happy to have found a great product to replace it with. It seems to be very hard to find a good apricot-peachy blush and this came into my attention just in time. Lastly, one of the new Fafi paintpots will also have to be mine come March: “Rollickin’”. I’ve been in love with Kate Hudson’s bold eye-look (click here for a picture) ever since I saw it featured on one of my favorite blogs, Gaia’s Non-Blonde beauty and perfume page. The vibrant aqua color of “Rollickin’” will help me recreate this eye-look to perfection. Fragrance Bouquet is completely in love with MAC this spring!

So, what do you think about the new MAC Fafi products? And what are you loving right now?

*Special thanks to my friend, Piarella, for letting me try the whole collection!
Love you girl!*

Images from

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Isfarkand & Tolu by Ormonde Jayne : Perfume Reviews

The last couple of weeks have been an olfactory delight – I finally got acquainted with the Ormonde Jayne line of fragrances via their sample program (definitely worth it, by the way, if you can’t get to the boutique: the price to sample the whole range is 28 pounds, or about 37 euro, postage is complimentary and the presentation is simply delightful!) and even though I have not ended up loving all of them, I have certainly been intrigued by each and every one of them. Finally, after extensive testing, two clear victors emerged: Tolu and Isfarkand have won my heart and there is no going back.


Smelling Isfarkand for the first time gave me one of those “oh-my-god!” moments in perfume discoveries, when you know, already from the first sniff, that this is an exceptional fragrance indeed. I quickly sprayed it on the wrist of my partner too and we both spent the rest of the evening with our noses glued to our wrists. My immediate reaction was “Wood!”, his was “Citrus!”... We are both right in a way of course, although we do seem to home in on different aspects of the fragrance when we first smell it. For me, Isfarkand begins with smoke, not tobacco smoke, but rather the smoke of burning aromatic grasses. Behind these hypnotizing, gray tendrils of smoke, there is the most addictive resin to be discovered. And then suddenly, a blast of citrus finally hits me - lime and mandarin, slightly sweet as well as fresh and green all at the same time. This freshness is atypical of most male scents out there: there is no synthetic undertone. This smells so beautiful and natural, that I feel like I am momentarily transported to the side of a pool on a bright sunny day, coctail in hand (Cabana boys optional). At this stage, there is something almost edible about Isfarkand’s peppery freshness. As the scent develops on the skin, the citrus oils become sheer and light, revealing a heart of pure darkness within. It is almost impossible to describe how intriguing this change is. This heart of darkness is made of resin and wood, laced with the darkest vetiver I’ve smelled. I also smell juniper berry and pine resin. I find myself reminded of Encre Noir’s own dark heart, only this is far more summery. Now, I realize using the word dark repeatedly might seem incongruent with saying that this is a sunny, summer scent, but believe me, it is this amazing contradiction that makes Isfarkand such an exceptional, deeply intriguing scent. It is extremely attractive and addictive: I simply can’t inhale this scent deep enough.


Tolu starts with a beautiful caramelized bitter note and then quickly sparkles and shines with orange-rind freshness. There is a lot going on there – it seems like the scent goes under dramatic changes in the space of a few minutes – but once it settles down it reveals incredible depth that feels like the olfactory equivalent of taking a languid dive into a pool of gold. It literally invites you to close your eyes and let yourself be carried into its exotic depths blindly, depths as tactile as crepe silk folds and acres of velvet. It is indeed after the scent has settled and the sparkling, citrusy nuances have subsided, that the true character of this glorious fragrance emerges. It is all about amber and balsamic resins, whose deep sweetness is at once atramentous and golden. The clary sage pops up now and then, its pungent, aromatic scent beautifully complimenting the tolu balsam. I am left admiring the insight of the perfumer for this composition, which allows both accords to enhance each other, fitting together as perfectly as puzzle pieces. Unorthodoxly perhaps, after being allowed to enjoy the full richness of the base notes, Tolu’s skies suddenly clear, to allow a lone ray of light to fall on the most gorgeous, contradictory rose, both musty and ancient and vibrantly intoxicating at the same time. The drydown is cozy and sexy, a return to Tolu’s balsamic base accord, with slight hints of clove and a sprinkling of powder which softens the composition and calms the spirit. Simply put, it is purr inducing. Absolutely unique and intriguing, this warm scent is meant for cold weather. Even though it is not as unisex as Ambre Précieux by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier or Artisan’s Ambre Extreme, I feel that men can make this scent work too, provided that they are prepared to venture into something sweeter than usual. The longevity of this rounded, ambery oriental is simply amazing, lasting through the night to the next morning... I need a bottle! Better yet, I’d love for this to come into one of Ormonde Jayne’s Parfum d’Or pots! I’d love to appy this already luxurious scent to my chest and my neck with my fingers, leaving a trail of golden flecks behind...


Monday, February 18, 2008

Forget me Not : Chloé (Original) by Chloé

It would be hard to imagine fashion in today’s world without prêt-a-porter. Up until the 50’s however, luxury ready-to-wear fashion was unheard of. When it comes to the question of who popularized high fashion as we know it, most remember Yves Saint Laurent who was indeed the first couturier to open a ready-to-wear boutique, Rive Gauche in 1966. Some will even remember that Givenchy and the visionary Pierre Cardin both launched their own pret-a-porter lines in the late 1950s - in a period when launching a ready-to-wear line as a couturier was considered such a taboo, that Cardin actually ended up being expelled from the Chambre Syndicale de Haute Couture for a short while before being reinstated. It was however, quite a few years earlier, in 1952 that the wind of change actually blew, when two true innovators, Jacques Lenoir and Gaby Aghion, launched the first luxury prêt-a-porter fashion house – Chloé. High fashion suddenly became more affordable, appealing to a larger audience, and it is beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was their footsteps that both Givenchy and Pierre Cardin were following shortly after.

Pastels and muted colors, eyelet and lace details, chiffon and musselin fabrics, gauzy and transparent styles have all been staples in Chloé’s fluid clothing ever since the house was first established. Throughout the years, two words define Chloé best: femininity and romance. To that extent, I simply can’t imagine a better candidate to carry the name of the house on its bottle than the original Chloé, launched in 1975. This beautiful spring fragrance is carefree and innocent, despite the indolic character of some of the notes. It is a scent built around a young, uncompromising beauty: a wonderful rendition of tuberose which manages to be at once green and at the same time creamy throughout the development. The top notes are sparkling and green with the barest, tiniest hint of coconut, which miraculously manages to not make its presence loudly known, but rather adds to the overall feel of the fragrance. By this I mean that even though the note is not instantly recognizable unless you purposely sniff close looking for it, it adds weight to the top notes and gives a slightly sticky sensation. It sounds bizarre, but I feel it even enhances the greenness of the scent. This opening is all girl, utterly youthful and slightly naive. The warmth of the skin slowly brings the heart notes to the fore though, and suddenly youthful naiveté is transformed into the joys of womanhood. The tuberose is unapologetic and strong – its scent deep and lifelike. Indolic notes of orange blossom and jasmine invite others to come closer, in the most seductive manner. Civet lances through the composition in a way that makes the heart skip a beat - an unmistakable invitation to explore one’s sexuality. The drydown is musky and deep, beguiling and ultra-feminine. The whole composition is indeed a sigh of pleasure, an open invitation to enjoy spring: sunny, erotic, flowery, green, feminine... It’s all Chloé.

...And yet, it is no more. The scent has been discontinued and this year the house of Chloé treated us to a new incarnation of the scent. Is it any good? I haven’t smelled it yet even though it recently hit the shelves here as well. Did the original smell dated? Perhaps. The brand does try to appeal to a youthful market – the “Chloé Girl” – and as we know the scent du jour for such a market has to be an inoffensive fruity floral. But herein lies the danger of introducing a fragrance that has a name homonymous to that of your company. The scent that carries the name becomes a signature of the house itself, an embodiment of its style and values. It is a statement that’s hard to revoke unless you axe the fragrance itself when it has served its purpose.

The Original Chloé is still easy to find at online perfume discounters.
Please check Tamara’s pick for this month’s Forget me Not by clicking here.

Images: Pret-a-Porter french movie poster,
Chloé bottle and box from
The original, controversial, Lilly-stopper flacon of Chloé in miniature format,

Friday, February 15, 2008

Eau de Dung

After a bitingly cold winter, this week has seen the advent of spring here in tiny, beautiful Holland. I smelled spring coming, just like I smell the first day of winter. It is no big feat to smell spring coming here, if you are a foreigner. There are telltale signs if you are not born Dutch: even though I live in a city, the air carries with it a certain scent only detectable by us, non-natives. The Dutch seem to be accustomed to it – or at least the ones I have asked are – they do not smell it at all. That scent is perhaps not the most romantic, but to me, it has become beautiful through association: It is the smell of newly fertilized fields. Yes, you read that right; I am indeed talking about the smell of dung, the smell of manure. A smell I normally cower away from, furiously rolling up the window when passing from a field with the car. Yet, in such small concentrations, a mere hint of it carried by the wind all the way to our lovely city, the scent becomes almost swoon-worthy. I haven’t always been this positive about it: when I first moved here the smell of spring shocked me – I could hardly believe people went calmly about their way, apparently not noticing anything. I’d tug the sleeve of my partner: “Don’t you smell the poo?”, I’d ask anxiously. The answer was always no. Noone seemed to smell the poo. Finally, relief came when I discovered that there was a group that indeed did smell it – the international students. We learned to anticipate spring by this first smell, we learned to recognize the end of the long hard winters by it. After living here for many years, I finally discover I’ve learned to love it, as funny as that might sound. To me, it has become the equivalent of a drop of civet in a beautiful fragrance. Yes, the scent of the newly fertilized fields is the civet in the wonderful mélange of smells the gorgeous city I live in has to offer come spring. It mingles with the scent of the narcissi and daffodils along the banks of the Rhine, it mingles with the smell of freshly cut grass. Most importantly, it mingles with the smell of awakening that comes with bright blue skies and sunny afternoons. It makes my heart beat faster, like I’ve just fallen in love.

In love with life, my heart has been beating madly all week.

Are there any strange smells you enjoy?
Enjoy the coming of spring, my dears! She’s finally here.

Image from

A Little Extra Reading

In the comments section of the last Smelly facts post, the lovely Anya from Anya's Garden and Z, from The Pinstriped Zebra were kind enough to provide some valuable extra information on the issue of Coumarin. Please take a look at this extra reading (links below) - the better informed we are, the better we can resist as well as inform others. Also, allow me to draw your attention to Cropwatch, the site which keeps a watchful eye on all related developments. Consider joining their mailing list - Be the change you want to see and participate!

Links, kindly provided by Z and Anya:

- Press release from the German industry association representing the cosmetics industry (IKW)
- Fragrance Industry Position Statement regarding Coumarin in cosmetic products (IFRA)
- Tony Burfield's January Cropwatch Newsletter

* Recommended Reading: Scroll down on Tony Burfield's January Cropwatch Newsletter and download the last .pdf file, titled "Coumarin - The Real Story Update

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Smelly Facts: Wrongfully Accused - Does Coumarin Deserve its Bad Rep?

Are our favorite fragrances getting reformulated for no good reason? Ingredients like coumarin and oakmoss are increasingly getting a lot of bad publicity and gaining in notoriety. But are the claims against them substantiated? Some researchers tend to think that it might not all be as black and white as so far presented. Perhaps judgment has been passed too quickly - at least in the case of coumarin.

The main problem with coumarin is that it is suspected to cause skin allergies, namely contact dermatitis. The most commonly accepted way to test for contact dermatitis, is by doing a patch test. But can we actually accept a positive patch test as clear indication of contact allergy to the tested chemical itself? According to some researchers, some confounding variables might be at play. Specifically, as Vocanson M, Goujon C, Chabeau G, et al, state in a 2006 article, "contaminants and derivatives rather than the suspected chemical itself could be responsible for the allergic skin reactions”. They chose coumarin for their experiments, since it had already produced conflicting results in previous research exploring its allergenic potential (for example Frosch et al. observed positive patch tests to coumarin in less than 0.3% of the 1,855 Allergic Contact Dermatitis patients tested). After testing both mice and humans with three different coumarin preparations, Vocanson et al found that Pure coumarin did not exhibit irritant or sensitizing properties in the local lymph node assay. In contrast, two other commercially available coumarins and three contaminants that were detected in these coumarin preparations were identified as weak and moderate sensitizers, respectively. In humans, pure coumarin was extremely well tolerated since only 1 out of 512 patients exhibited a positive patch test to the chemical.” The researchers concluded “that the coumarin chemical is extremely well tolerated. In contrast, derivatives contaminating some coumarin preparations are responsible for both the irritant and sensitizing properties previously attributed to coumarin.” and further emphasized that “purity of chemicals is mandatory for the assessment of their allergenicity.”

Reference: “The skin allergenic properties of chemicals may depend on contaminants - Evidence from studies on coumarin”, source: International archives of allergy and immunology [1018-2438] Vocanson yr:2006 vol:140 iss:3 pg:231 -238

Image: Chemical Structure of Coumarin,

Monday, February 11, 2008

Let it Rock by Vivienne Westwood : Perfume Review

What’s in a name? Admittedly, a name like “Let it Rock” does not sound half as seductive as Libertine or Boudoir, but nevertheless, it is possibly the best name for a fragrance bearing the signature of British designer Vivienne Westwood. In fact, knowing some of the history behind it, instantly allows one to connect the scent with the images the name doubtlessly was meant to evoke. Our story goes back in 1971, when Vivienne together with partner Malcolm McLaren (manager of the notorious Sex Pistols as well as father to Westwood’s second son, Joe Corre) opened a little shop called Let it Rock on London’s King’s Road selling records and Rockabilly/Teddy Boy clothing. It was in that little boutique that Westwood first started selling her very own, rock-inspired, nonconformist garments. Later on, McLaren and Westwood moved the store a little further down the road and renamed it SEX, at the same time changing the direction of the clothes sold as well, moving on to provocative, fetish and bondage garments, largely made of leather and rubber. SEX had a large celebrity following, including perhaps most famously, the Sex Pistols. Needless to say, the clothes were not only worn by the members of groups in the Punk/Rock scene, but also by the wannabes and groupies. I recall reading many years ago in a Sex Pistols biography book, that the atmosphere in the shop itself was so sexually charged and the ultra-tight garments so provocative for their time, that many just visited the little boutique just for the few, stolen dirty moments they would garner in the dressing room alone, with their private fantasies and excitement provided by the clothes themselves... In June 1977, the Sex Pistols celebrated the launch of their most famous album, “God Save the Queen” on a boat trip down the Thames organized by Malcolm McLaren, openly mocking Queen Elizabeth’s similar trip down the river in celebration of her Silver Jubilee. The celebration ended when the boat was raided by the police. Exactly 30 years later, in June 2007, Vivienne Westwood celebrates the launch of her new fragrance, “Let it Rock”, aboard a boat on the Thames. Vogue deems the boat an unconventional venue...
And how does Vivienne herself feel about the name? According to her, it was her third husband, Andreas Kronthaler, who prompted her to christen the fragrance “Let it Rock”, since it was the name of the shop where it all started. And even though she, by her own admission, no longer has any interest in ‘that scene’, for her it still remains a period in her life filled with glamour...

My first impressions of Let it Rock were extremely favorable, I do, however, have to admit that what I experienced that day, was more likely the effect of Let it Rock layered with something else I must have been wearing. At least that is the only logical explanation I can give, for the impression that I get from the scent now that I have my own sample vial, is radically different from the impression I got then. Most strikingly, that original sampling led me to think that Let it Rock has an incense accord, when clearly (and sadly), it doesn’t. Fortunately though, my subsequent experience with this fragrance was not entirely anticlimactic. Even though I can’t say I like this one as much as the previous Vivienne Westwood fragrances, it is a good scent. The opening is very intense and packs a quite masculine punch. The rather generic citrusy freshness, most commonly associated with department store male scents to my nose, is soon softened up by a sweet, candied note. At this point, I cannot claim I am much enamored by the combination - as a matter of fact, my stomach protests quite the opposite. Soon, however, the scent quietly unfolds, revealing a more specific, mellower sweetness, smelling of sugared mandarin orange rinds. Just like the real rind of the fruit, the scent combines the fruity sweetness with a tart bitterness that takes you by surprise. The floral scent of freesias adds to the citrusy freshness and the darker, sweeter scent of violets lends depth. A dry, woody accord that is present throughout the scent’s development, antagonizes the sweetness and successfully manages to keep it from getting cloying. Even though the almost Mediterranean spirit of Let it Rock’s opening does not manage to impress me as much as I had originally hoped it would, what is really lovely and definitely worth waiting for, is its drydown: a heart of shy, clean patchouli wrapped in darkness. A deep ambery accord surrounds the patchouli, dark and beautiful, like a supple cloak that allows glimpses of it every so often, while the sweet scent of vanilla wafts from its folds, mingled with soft musk and gentle animalic undertones. The result is not only comforting, but interesting as well.

Images: Vintage Westwood t-shirts from the original Let it Rock boutique,
The SEX Boutique storefront,
Chrissie Hynde, Vivienne Westwood and Jordan back in the day,
Vivienne Westwood shoes – image author's own, shot from the cover of “Shoes: A History From Sandals to Sneakers”.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

This weekend, the lovely Ayala Moriel will be making a fresh batch of her Blood Truffles – dark chocolate, rose-scented truffles with Turkish Rose Otto, Saffron and Chili Pepper, especially for Valentine’s Day. Other flavors are also available upon request. Click here for more details on those beautiful little balls of sweet goodness, including the different flavors, how to order and prices! But Ayala is not only getting ready to pamper our taste buds for Valentine’s day, she has also prepared other Valentine’s Gift Sets for special prices. More information on all the gift sets for the occasion can be found here.

Ormonde Jayne Perfumery also has a special deal for Valentine’s Day. A complimentary gift – that is, one of Ormonde Jayne’s hand poured scented candles will be included with every purchase up until (and including) the 14th of February. Considering this sweet deal, perhaps now is the perfect time to try the line’s newest fragrance product, a little pot of gold, aptly named “Parfum d'Or Naturel” (pictured right). This mixture, which not only perfumes but also gives a shimmer effect to skin where it is applied, is made of natural sugars, perfume and gold and contains no alcohol. Three of Ormonde Jayne’s scents come in this format, namely Ta’if, Sampaquita and Orris Noir. For more information, click here.

Images: and

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Intrigant Patchouli by Parfumerie Generale : Musings and a Perfume Review

How do you feel about strongly animalic scents? Undeniably, there is a sense of danger in wearing one in public. The message these fragrances broadcast is by far not subtle – it is instead, a proclamation of pure sexual energy, an advertisement of one’s lusty nature and perhaps best of all, they are an admittance of the fact that at least part of us, longs for and misses the ability to smell the earthy, warm human scent of one another, a scent long suppressed by the norms of excessive and sometimes sterile cleanliness enforced by modern society. Don’t get me wrong – I am neither ready to give up my daily shower, nor throw away my deodorant just yet. As a student of Psychology however, I can’t help but appreciate the fact that masking our natural scent, is in fact quite unnatural. But I digress. Animalic scents then – my first question was how do you feel about them? Moreover, would you wear them in public? Many feel that wearing these scents outside one’s home is too daring, inappropriate, unsuitable even. The scents in question are often well loved, but feel so private in nature, that their owner reserves wearing them only in the privacy of their own abode. Personally, I have no reservations when it comes to raising a little olfactory controversy with my scent of choice. In fact, I must admit to taking perverse delight in wearing something that is bound to raise a few eyebrows and bother a few noses. The little child in me giggles naughtily when I find myself in the mood to take one of my little sex-bombs out for a ride. No, I do not think this is due to some sociopathic trait of a deranged perfumista mind! When I sit to think about this strange behavior, I realize that perhaps the reason behind it is my deep love for perfume – perhaps subconsciously, I am trying to make others not only aware, but actually part of this wonderful world of scent and its ability to awaken powerful emotions. Controversial scents cannot be ignored or taken lightly, like cologne applied thoughtlessly after shaving or a light floral spritzed on the run, already late for an early morning meeting. Thus, when I step out of the house wearing something with undeniable oomph, I am not motivated by a wish to make my friends faint, but rather, by a wish to involve them in my world of perfume – all with the help of a game, instead of prose. But of course I would be lying if I said that when I apply Paloma Picasso on the small of my back as the finishing touch for backless dress appearance I am motivated by playfulness. No, the only motive then is the enhancement of sex appeal, one more overt expression of the way I feel in the particular outfit. I do believe strongly in underscoring one’s mood with one’s choice of perfume. And in the world of perfume, there is no better way to underscore one’s sensuality – an animalic fragrance will always do it best.

By now it must be clear that I adore carnal scents; it will come as no surprise then, that I haven’t been able to get Intrigant Patchouli out of my head ever since I first smelled it last week. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that it positively haunts my thoughts, popping in and out of my consciousness unexpectedly throughout the day. At the gym, while doing push-ups to the sound of Bodyrockers Dirty (“There’s a reason why you’re in my head... There’s a good reason why you’re in my bed! There’s a reason why you rock my world... Cause you’re DIRTY! D-d-d-dirrrty!!!” – Oh dear, are you laughing? Please be aware I am not responsible for the choice of music – it is a group class! But let me tell you, it is impossible to NOT think about Intrigant Patchouli while listening to those lyrics! ) and before going to sleep at night, thinking how wonderful it will be when I can wear it again the next day. Intrigant Patchouli starts with a strange alcoholic blast that manages to delay the advent of the pure animalic lustiness that is to follow for about... two seconds. Wait for it, wait for it... then Boom, it all becomes a hot breath of eroticism that blows longingly over every single expanse of naked skin. Its heart is patchouli perfect, so well blended that there is not a single hint of headshop oil left to speak of. It is lovingly surrounded – and in my mind, loved, courted, hugged and fondled as well- by a heart-soaringly wonderful, dirty animalic accord, the heart stopping trio of civet, castoreum and ambergris. And right underneath those tantalizingly inquisitive fingertips, velvety soft sandalwood and the lovely, resinous sweetness of benzoin. As time passes, the scent becomes mellower, with a sweet, musky overtone. Finally, far into the drydown, a lovely, milky-powdery scent rises from the skin in the most seductive manner. In order to get a better idea of how intriguingly sensual this scent is, imagine Muscs Koublai Khan and then amplify (yes!) its animalic tendencies, then add Musc Ravageur’s earthy, dirty sweetness to this imaginary mix and place it around a heart of beautiful patchouli. This is not a perfect comparison by far, but I’ve been curiously testing all three scents this week to see how alike and different they are, so I thought it'd be useful to share. (in fact I am currently wearing Intrigant Patchouli on one arm and MKK on the other, and let me tell you, this is a potent mix!) Surprisingly, even though Intrigant Patchouli is indeed very powerful, it is not a trail fragrance – this is an intimate skin-scent. Full bottle worthy? Oh, yes! I’ll be rushing out to buy this, once my decant is finished!


Monday, February 4, 2008

Perfume for the Occasion : Valentine's Day

It’s February, and what better subject for this month’s Perfume for the Occasion than Valentine’s Day? Today, Fragrance Bouquet and For the Love of Perfume share their thoughts on making the perfect choice for the day.

I have to admit, researching this month’s PFTO Feature was a lot of fun, but at the same time it was also quite overwhelming. Where does one begin in choosing a fragrance for this holiday? Should the focus be on luxury and sophistication, knowing that many will be going out for a special dinner? Or should the focus perhaps be on seduction, knowing that just as many will be making the evening special a deux, very privately at home? Or would it have been more fun to playfully take a look at the best of fragrances touting the subject of love in their name, such as Anick Goutal’s Quelle Amour and Grand Amour? The possibilities seemed limitless. In the end I decided to follow my instinct – what clearly seemed more interesting for the occasion were the essential do’s and don’ts, so that was my starting point.

Don’ts: Despite the fact that Chypre is one of my favorite fragrance families, in my opinion Valentine’s Day is one of those few occasions when they are not appropriate. Most Chypres carry, along with an air of beautiful, distinguished sophistication, an air of unattainability and often, superiority. Many green Chypres in fact, have the remarkable ability of making the wearer appear distanced from mortal passions. Even the sexually charged, animalic Chypres like Paloma Picasso seem inappropriate: Despite the fact that they have the ability to ignite fiery lust, they still have an air of forceful competence that can be very forbidding. The message they convey is often “You can look (and squirm with desire), but you can’t touch till I say so”. Marine – Aquatic and Ozonic fragrances are best left for another day as well. Their cool nature does not make them good candidates for the occasion, which calls for warmer scents. Too, they can be frivolous, nonchalant and sometimes too casual – all these qualities will render them out of sync with the character of the evening and your body language.

Do’s: It should be a night that’s all about sharing love and passion so the key word is warmth. Orientals like the recently reviewed Moschino are wonderful choices, as are animalic and musky scents, which are the most obvious perhaps, but also the most capable of conveying a passionate message. Those that favor Gourmand scents will be glad to know that this day is indeed the most perfect occasion to wear them with abandon, since their edible nature will speak louder than words. Choose a nuanced, rich gourmand fragrance instead of a simple linear vanilla or chocolate comfort scent, for the situation surely deserves it. If you have a signature scent or one that you wear very often, consider wearing something different for the day – just another way to make your significant other aware that you made a special effort for the evening!

Finally, in short, three choices for the day:

For the Ladies: When I reviewed Soie Rouge by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, I wrote that this is definitely a scent for a very special occasion and noted that its ideal setting is silk sheets, champagne and caviar. In fact, the last paragraph of that review read “The intimacy it proclaims requires it be worn for whom you love most. I hope their heart swells with desire and appreciation, just as mine does when I smell this enchanting creation”. That’s what I call perfect for the occasion! You can read the full review here.

For the Gents: I always notice when a man wears Gucci’s Envy for Men. This wonderful Woody-Oriental smells at once sophisticated and beautifully seductive without being obvious. In fact, it is a slow, thoughtful, patient lover that first attracts one’s interest and then slowly proceeds to ignite a long-lasting flame. The patchouli in the base notes is quite clean and rests on a bed of creamy sandalwood that makes it deep, soft and tender. A great escape from the usual fresh-marine fare, this is sure to make an impression.

Unisex: This is not for the shy, bashful or timid: Parfumerie Generale’s Intrigant Patchouli is all animal, pure sex and primal instincts. Warm, sensual, but also very clear about its intentions, Intrigant Patchouli is an incredibly daring composition that will either make you fall in love or send you running. I intend to fully review this gem soon, so look forward to it. Not for the faint of heart!

Images: Flickr (originally uploaded by Sister72), Flickr (originally uploaded by Way Opening) and

Friday, February 1, 2008

Smelly Facts: Perfumed Lovin’

A couple of weeks ago, in a different Smelly Facts post, we saw how bees gather and use perfume in order to communicate with each other. Today we turn our attention to a very different animal and they way it uses fragrant chemicals. Alloanointing is the transfer of chemicals among members of the same species – an activity that has long been documented in mammals. According to Hector Douglas, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Alaska, his research is the first to document this behavior in birds. According to Douglas “The crested auklet (Aethia cristatella), a colonial seabird of Alaskan and Siberian waters, alloanoints during courtship with fragrant aldehydes that are released from specialized wick-like feathers located in the interscapular region. Crested auklets solicit anointment at the colony, and prospective mates rub bill, breast, head, and neck over wick feathers of their partners. This distributes aldehydes over the head, neck, and face where the birds cannot self-preen.” You are probably curious what the aldehydic perfume of choice for this magnificently billed bird smells like. As it turns out, it smells intensely of citrus, and more specifically, of orange! Apparently, unlike us humans, crested auklets do not shy away from strong sillage either; according to Douglas, “a stronger chemical signal (is) more attractive”. But this perfumed courting behavior is not just good for flirting, apparently. It also serves a practical purpose: the aldehydic scent is a great insect repellent, which protects these birds against tick infestations!

Reference: “Prenuptial perfume: Alloanointing in the social rituals of the crested auklet (Aethia cristatella) and the transfer of arthropod deterrents”, Die Naturwissenschaften [0028-1042] Douglas yr:2008 vol:95 iss:1 pg:45 -53