Friday, May 23, 2008

A Little Tip for Shoppers in Den Haag

Good afternoon lovelies,
I have already started studying hard for my upcoming last exams of the academic year, which are ten days away. I do not expect to be able to post much in the next ten days, but I will do my best to bring you at least a couple of smaller posts. Today just a little tip for those of you living in Den Haag and those of you that live close enough to shop there: Douglas Den Haag is currently having a half-price offer on a small number of fragrances. Underneath a heap of the usual trashy suspects I first uncovered Moschino’s Friends, a simple yet beautiful masculine of which unfortunately only the deodorants are left, but even more exciting was the discovery of several Ferre by Ferre eau de parfum bottles, going for just 31 euros each. Although Ferre by Gianfranco Ferre has not been officially discontinued, it is a hard to find fragrance. The price is great and the juice is just marvelous. It is a softly sweet floral-woody/musky scent that smells rather decadent, like a tribute to all the Italian scents which smelled like liquid gold in the very early nineties. It lasts forever and it is sexy and comforting at once, begging the nose to come closer whenever it catches a whiff of it. Fans of the discontinued, absolutely fabulous By Woman by Dolce & Gabbana are going to love this one – the two are very close. Snap it up! I am feeling rather regretful myself for not grabbing one last night...

Official Notes:

Top: Bergamot, Pineapple, Iris Leaf
Middle: Rose, Lily-of-the-Valley, Ylang-Ylang, Jasmine, Freesia, Magnolia
Base: Iris Root, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Amber, Vanilla, Musk, Basmati Rice


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Would you Like this on Your Dresser? Greek Gems

Perfume containers in ancient Greece were most often earthenware, spun ceramics, whose shape reflected the type of perfume held within. Lekuthos, slim elegant vials, were often made of glass and were mostly used for liquid perfume. Aryballes were used for perfumed oils, balms and ointments. Alabastron bottles were very collectible perfume containers, often branded by the craftsmen who made them, rendering them even more collectible, especially amongst women. Tourists that visit Greece nowadays will be hard-pressed to find any original Greek perfumes today, despite the fact that this little, beautiful Mediterranean country has had a strong relationship with perfumes and cosmetics since ancient times. In addition to flower essences such as iris, rose, lily and violet, the Greeks also favored spices and herbs, such as marjoram, sage and cumin for their scents. Incense and myrrh were originally seen as only fit for the gods and were reserved for religious rituals, up until the 4th century B.C., when a shift in tastes and ideology occurred. Certain regions and islands still produce scents made with local plants and resins, but even these are hard to find even for natives. The island of Zakynthos (also known as Zante) for example, still has a small family operated perfumery business which makes six different scents, four marketed towards women and two that are considered rather more masculine. These are all made with local ingredients, the most beautiful of which is made by a local flower that resembles jasmine. However interesting, these modern Greek perfumes likely bear no resemblance to the Greek perfumes of ancient times. Still, we can admire the containers of these precious oils and essences while imagining a world in which perfume was once so popular it was feared that it would bring on an economic crisis...

· Aryballos shaped like a warrior’s head, wearing a helmet. Two-tone ceramic, 6th century B.C., found in Rhodes.

· Alabastron bottles, ovoid-shaped. Particularly attractive image of woman looking in the mirror (far left). 4th century B.C., Egnatia.

· This magnificent Aryballos stands only about 6.8 cm (2.7 inches) tall, yet manages to display no fewer than seventeen fully armed warriors. According to the text accompanying the picture on the British Museum’s website the warriors
“are locked in combat, thrusting their spears, jostling for position, or falling to the ground. Each warrior is armed with plumed helmet, spear and blazoned shield. Some are realistically streaked with blood. Two further figure scenes below show a horse-race and a hare-hunt. The upper part of the vase takes the form of a lion's head, its mouth open to display rows of fearsome teeth and a red tongue.”
This fabulous flacon dates from about 640 BC, was made in Corinth and is said to be from Thebes, Greece.

· This funny looking terracotta scent bottle in the shape of a rotund, squatting little man stands about 15 cm (5.9 inches) tall and according to the British Museum’s wonderful website, he is more of a “caricature, made for comic effect”. It was found in Kameiros, on the island of Rhodes, where reportedly, hundreds of other perfume bottles have been found. It dates from about 520 BC.

· I love the graceful lines of this perfume bottle, in the shape of a heron. This particular aryballos is clay earthenware and stands about 13 cm (5.1 inches) tall. It dates from about 580 BC. The piece belongs to the Cleveland Museum of Art, it is, however, not on display at the moment.

· This beautiful alabastron also comes from Kameiros, Rhodes, and is made of clay. Standing 21 cm (8.3 inches) tall, it is in the shape of a woman wearing a veil on her head and a pendant around her neck. She is tenderly holding a dove against her breast. According the British Museum’s website alabastra were mostly used by women:
“Scenes on figured vases suggest that women were the main users of alabastra: they are shown being given to women as presents or being bought by women in the market.”
This particular one dates from 550 BC.


Monday, May 19, 2008

The Beat by Burberry : Perfume Review

The dry, wonderful skin-scent Burberry Classic, the lightly sweet, summery, honeyed Weekend, the exuberant, succulent Brit and the lovely, warm and comforting Brit Red, are all favorites, quality mainstream scents, that have made Burberry a brand that is well loved among perfume lovers. Even though neither the fragrances, nor the packaging and advertisements can be described as groundbreaking, Burberry has built a solid and rightly faithful relationship with consumers, largely due to the consistent quality of their scents. I count myself among the many that have come to expect good things from this brand, so I was eager to sniff their newest offering, The Beat.

Now, as I mentioned a couple of months ago in an unrelated post, my first impressions of The Beat were not entirely favorable. In fact, I found myself quietly disappointed by both the juice and the packaging. Yes, the juice was indeed nowhere near groundbreaking once again, but on top of that, smelling it on the blotting paper it seemed downright generic. Since then I have had the opportunity to test the scent more leisurely at home, both on my own skin and on the skin of a couple of friends and my impressions have changed to its favor. The opening is strangely incongruent, featuring a mildly citrusy, slightly soapy and intensely clean breeze over something very obviously warm. The effect can be likened to a clean smelling mantle of ice draped over a burning heart. As you might imagine, this feeble construction disintegrates almost instantly, the cool, clean top quickly melting away to reveal what it never quite managed to conceal anyway: a warm, gooey center of interesting, spicy sweetness. Unfortunately, like a miniature dragon that was bred to be someone’s pet, The Beat will never really blow fire or snort clouds of brimstone. The farthest it will venture into misbehaving is blowing a bubble or two when it hiccups. The spices never really scintillate the senses and the warmth never manages to spread like wildfire. In fact, the longer it stays on the skin the more it fizzles out, becoming milder and softer. Half an hour later we are left with the attractive sourness of a green apple dusted with black pepper and an aromatic tea blend, still dry. Nice enough and strangely familiar, like the face of an old friend whose name you can’t quite remember. Interestingly, what’s surprisingly more pleasurable than smelling The Beat on oneself, is smelling it on someone else. No, really. In fact, smelling it on someone else comes almost as a revelation. A single spray is enough to have this little baby lazily bouncing from wall to wall like an echo. It radiates from afar with quiet allure, never being obtrusive, but rather slowly coming in and out of consciousness, always as a pleasant surprise. It feels like a shining kind of warmth when it comes from another, spicy, pleasant, kind.

The Beat comes across as rather unisex, not particularly feminine and certainly not traditionally masculine, comfortably falling somewhere in the middle. The warm, slightly sweet and spicy scent is rather comforting, definitely better suited to the colder months of the year. The bottle itself echoes the unisex appeal of the fragrance, shaped like a spirit flask adorned with the brand’s signature plaid pattern. Definitely not the type of bottle I personally crave to display on my dresser, but I have no doubt this well designed, attractive object will appeal to many, as indeed, will the juice within.


Monday, May 12, 2008

What's Fragrance Bouquet Up to?

Dear Readers,

The next post here on Fragrance Bouquet is due this Wednesday - I have to skip today's post due to a rather hectic schedulle. The reason? This week I am devoting most of my energy to a big project I have been working on for the past few months: I am directing a play I translated earlier this year and this will be staged for one night only this Saturday evening. We have gone from rehearsing two to three times a week to rehearsing every day now, and after that meeting with the stage crew, effects team, designers and everyone else until late in the evening, losing sleep over details. So, just a few more days now until the big day and I am bursting with enthusiasm, excitement and ...trepidation. Now, I know Fragrance Bouquet has many readers in this area, so I will go for a shameless plug: If you are thinking about joining us on Saturday, you can order tickets as well as find a little more information on the play itself on LAK Theater's website. Thank you for your patience.

See you all Wednesday!

Divina .~*

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lolita Lempicka : I Love You Just the Way You Are (Or How I Hate Flankers, and Fleur Defendue in Particular)

Long before it became en vogue to take vintage clothes and redesign, modernize and/or embellish them, Josiane Pividal did just that, soon becoming a success, and after designing for Cacharel for a while, she went on to create her own label in 1983. The label was christened Lolita Lempicka (correctly pronounced Lem-PI-tska by the way, even though the intro on the official website would have you think otherwise), a composite name paying homage to both Vladimir Nabokov’s novel and to Tamara Lempicka, Polish art nouveau painter. In 1997, the house of Lolita Lempicka launched its first fragrance, the homonymous Lolita Lempicka, in eau de parfum. Some fragrances are the same, with very little variation when comparing different concentrations (take Allure Sensuelle for example: the edt is slightly more citrusy up top and slightly less intense overall, but is indeed the same fragrance as the edp), while others vary extensively. When the eau de toilette version of Lolita Lempicka hit the market, it was immediately obvious that it belonged to the second category – it was almost like smelling a different fragrance. Releasing an edt that is so distinctly different was a clever move, for undoubtedly, there is indeed a market for the skinny version of the calorific, opulent vanillic gourmand-oriental. It wasn’t for me however, so I never really paid it too much attention: I remain now just as devoted to the marvelous original as I was then. A sophisticated, updated version of the bombshell gourmand Angel, Lolita Lempicka is playful, feminine, sexy, edible, incredibly long-lasting and immediately noticeable. It also happens to be the one fragrance in my wardrobe that consistently garners the most compliments – both by men and women. The fact that this self-proclaimed fairytale fragrance happens to come in a bottle straight out of a fairytale itself, means I have one more reason to never want to be without it.

What I don’t like about Lolita Lempicka, is that it has produced a sea of flankers so vast, it is enough to confuse the most savvy of sales assistants. Is LL under constant threat of assassination? With more -as exquisitely dressed and fabulously made-up to be just as fair as she- decoys than intergalactic royalty Queen Padme Amidala herself, one would rightly think so! We have Fleur de Minuit (Midnight Flower), a successor to 2004’s L’Eau de Minuit, amplifying the darkness and muskiness of the original, but curbing the ivy freshness and slightly sour cherry note that made it so special. (Worth a sniff though, since the powdery note of the drydown is particularly sexy) We have Les Caprices de Lolita (Lolita’s Whims) which comprise of three different versions of the original, playing up different notes: Caprice Amarena, playing up the Amarena Cherry theme, Caprice Violette, playing up the violet theme and Caprice Reglisse, playing up the licorice theme. We have Eau de Parfum Concentre, in its very own darling vial, a more concentrated version of the original, the exact same promise made by Fleur de Minuit... We have plain Midnight AND Star Dust Midnight Fragrance. We have Eau d’Ete Parfumee, an alcohol-free version. We have Transcendant Sin, the only one so far that rightly deserves its place in the range (and one I hope will become permanent), a limited edition in crystal, which is the pure extrait concentration of the original, with a magnifying glass poised over patchouli leaves and licorice. And finally, we now also have Fleur Defendue (Forbidden Flower), which I’ll have to admit I was quite excited about before actually smelling it. Fleur Defendue looked different, with its slightly anemic, mildly poisonous looking, yellow-green, ripe avocado colored juice. The similarly colored bottle further enhanced this mental association with poisonous, forbidden fruit, hanging in enchanted orchards. I was really hoping this would be a sufficiently different scent to the original, playing with the pure green of meadows and the stinging, yellow-green of bewitched marshes. Well, let me cut to the chase: Fleur Defendue has the fruity-green overtone of Fructis shampoo and just as much sex-appeal. The juice indeed plays with the idea of freshly cut grass, but the result is harsh and badly executed. With anis, licorice and vanilla waaaay back in the background and cherry nowhere to be found, this flanker manages to shed all of the warm, playful aspects that made the original so appealing. It is not quite generic, but it definitely does not deserve to be a shareholder of the fabulous bottle: it cheapens the whole image. It is not stellar. It is not even good. But it is passable and pleasant, clearly aiming at an even younger demographic which I suspect will actually be made really happy with this release during the warmer months.

What is my point? I guess my point is to raise a question on whether all those flankers were really needed and whether they do a good thing (or indeed the opposite) for the brand’s image. Catherine Dauphin, Pacific Creation’s CEO, was quoted in Emballage Digest saying:
“With Lolita Lempicka, we spent a lot of time building the foundations. The different versions and limited editions were designed to gain a strong foothold on the market and the figures would indicate that this approach was the right one: women find Lolita Lempicka very attractive and a genuine relationship has developed between the product and its users.”
Is this actually true, I wonder? How do all these flankers actually help in building a trusting relationship between the average consumer and the brand? Personally all these releases leave me confused and disappointed: Lolita Lempicka is a fragrance I absolutely adore, so when a flanker is released it does, of course, grab my attention. However, when the line becomes so prolific, I can’t help but feel lost and disenchanted. I cannot possibly afford to invest in every different version of the scent, especially when 99% of them are so very close to the original. Many lovers of the scent will be forced to buy these unsniffed, since most department stores only offer testers of the edt and edp. The only thing that comes out of this in my eyes, is disappointment for the true devotees of the scent, who end up feeling they do not have the means to explore each stunningly bottled version of their favorite. What this extraordinarily confusing line of flankers really is, is a bottle collector’s wet dream.

Images: Parfums Lolita Lempicka

Monday, May 5, 2008

Perfume for the Occasion : Spring and Summer Weddings (part 2, Bride & Groom)

For last month’s Perfume for the Occasion Feature, For the Love of Perfume and Fragrance Bouquet devoted a post on perfumed suggestions for the guests –both male and female- of spring and summer weddings. Now it’s time for the second installment of wedding suggestions: this time we focus on fragrances for the bride and groom.

I’ll be honest with you: when Tamara and I came up with the wedding theme for PFTO, I never anticipated how difficult of a task this would turn out to be: Nothing seems perfect enough for that special day. Indeed, how special a scent is for this particular occasion cannot be judged by the price (no, no Clive Christians or JARs on this list), nor by the rarity (you have enough on your mind already what with organizing the event, there is absolutely NO need to trawl auctions and thrift shops for that amazing vintage). Ideally that special scent would be special by association: A scent that actually means something for the couple. Too, I’d find it rather presumptuous of me to claim that I can pick out the perfect scent for anyone’s wedding day. Still, despite the aforementioned difficulties and dilemmas, I do want to rise to the challenge and provide a good number of suggestions, which will hopefully provide some direction to those truly needing it.

Some general guidelines and personal thoughts first: Since we are dealing with spring and summer weddings, your fragrance of choice should be one that performs well under warm weather. If you have your heart set on something spicy or heavy, by all means, go for it, but do make sure beforehand it is not something that will turn sour, unpleasant or distinctively reminiscent of BO in the event that you start perspiring. A gorgeous floral is an ideal –if obvious- choice for a spring bride, combining femininity with grace and sensuality all at once. The summer months lend themselves to fragrances with fig and tea notes - the former being utterly seasonal, exuberant and mouthwateringly delightful, while the latter keep one fresh, proper and delightfully scented all day. Considering you will already be a sight to behold (which bride isn’t stunning, after all), you might want to rule out fragrances with a very powerful trail in order to avoid becoming a parody of sensory overload personified. Don’t surprise your partner with a fragrance he or she has never smelled on you before, unless you are very sure of their tastes. Needless to say, if there is a fragrance that is special to the two of you, either because you wore it often while dating or because your partner tends to associate the particular scent with you, wear it fearlessly. If you are still uncertain (and if you are willing to relinquish control), how about agreeing to choose a perfume for each other? If you are planning to wear your mother’s wedding dress and especially if you are very close to her, how about wearing the same fragrance she wore on her wedding day? Lastly, don’t go for a discontinued or hard to find scent for your wedding... you want to have the ability to smell and wear this again and again.

Perfumes for the Bride:

· The Traditional: Carnations are the traditional symbols of marriage, pure love and bonding, which makes a carnation soliflore a most eloquent, thoughtful and quite obvious choice for a bride. If you decide to go the traditional carnation path, I wholeheartedly suggest Santa Maria Novella’s Garofano, a most realistic rendition of the gorgeous smelling flower. Don’t let the cologne splash bottle deceive you – this wonderful fragrance lasts all day long. For those of you looking for a sexier twist on the carnation theme, look no further than Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier’s Soie Rouge: The whole plant comes to the fore, but with enough supportive elements to make this not just an adoring tribute to the flower itself, but truly a story that the wearer gets to live out. Avoid at all costs: Etro’s Dianthus. A soapy, chemical smelling mess with a strange, oily aftertaste. The fragrance that almost ruined carnation for me.

· The Romantic: With all the stories built around it, Chamade can only be described as a mythical perfume, as closely approximating the perfect wedding fragrance as possible. Jean-Paul Guerlain allegedly worked on this beauty for seven long years, dismissing 1300 different attempts (a nice round number there...) before settling on the formula he was finally happy with. “Chamade” was the rhythm army drums beat to signal their surrender during times of war, and the perfume itself is named after this beat to symbolize the surrender of the heart in love’s battlefield. The incredibly beautiful bottle is in the shape of an upside-down heart, while the stopper is in the shape of an arrow that has successfully pierced it. A heart of narcissus surrounded by beautiful greens and soft, ethereal notes of lilac, seductive notes of jasmine and light, juicy tropical accents make this scent not only sensual, but also extremely memorable. The soft powdery overtones and the aldehydic fizz give this perfume the character of a timeless masterpiece.

· The Innocent: For the bride that will wear the traditional white gown, symbolizing her innocence and purity, for the bride that will be traditionally given away by the father, for the woman who still feels a little bit like a child, but first and foremost, for the ones who blissfully prove cynics wrong time and time again, Anais Anais is the perfect fragrance. The key-word here is innocence, and if wide-eyed, gladsome naïveté didn’t have such negative connotations in our day, it would have been a perfect descriptor as well. Girly and pure, I can’t imagine a more perfect scent for a young bride.

· The One: My number one choice for the occasion, the most perfect scent for a spring or summer wedding is none other than Carnal Flower from Frederic Malle’s Editions de Parfums line. What more could a bride ask for, than the most perfect white floral? This is a bright, lively, fresh rendition of tuberose that refuses to be decadent, is thoroughly modern yet at the same time manages to have the feel of a classic. The slightly minty, camphoraceous even, top notes of Carnal Flower are wonderfully disturbing while the development bizarrely leads the wearer down an ever more sensual path. The ending result is improbable femininity. Carnal Flower manages to last all day, giving the wearer something interesting to experience throughout, without ever getting exhausted. Perfection.

Perfumes for the Groom:

· The Devil-May-Care, aka It’s My Day: Andy Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain will perhaps seem like a surprising entry for the warmer months. Despite its oriental nature and its sweet character however, I find L’air du Desert Marocain not only extremely wearable in hot weather, but also extremely intriguing. Perhaps it’s just the name, but I swear I can feel the warm air on my cheeks when wearing it now, a sensation I did not have when I first tried this sometime ago, when the weather was still chilly. This one feels like dark, sweet smelling smoke that is ravishing and ruggedly handsome in the opening, while the drydown is the sweetness of tamed, happy comfort.

· The Confident: In my opinion one of the best and most surprising recent male releases, Fahrenheit 32 is a difficult fragrance to pull off. It requires not only confidence, but for the wearer to actually feel comfortable with who he is. Its sweet, malleable core, is surrounded by a cooling, shining shell, which feels and tastes metallic. Marvelous and bizarre, this is made for the man-child whose smile is absolutely heart melting. Absolutely Special. A favorite.

· The Dandy: It might be marketed as a feminine fragrance, but you shouldn’t let that stop you: Eau de Merveille by Hermes is an excellent choice for a summer wedding. It might be a little too aloof for a bride, but on male skin this fragrance assumes a deep warmth that makes it radiate sensuousness. Its wonderful salty overtones work beautifully in warmer weather. Do be adventurous and give this a try.

· The Gentleman: Geoffrey Beene’s Gray Flannel is a beautiful fragrance that acts like a male chypre. The top notes of lemon, galbanum and citrus-leaf oils will give an initial air of freshness, while later this effect is prolonged by clary sage, geranium and oakmoss. The flowery heart adds mystery and seductiveness, while the rest of the composition ensures that the effect remains charming, but proper. Gorgeous smelling and sophisticated.

What are your thoughts on the perfect fragrance for the occasion? Would you allow your prospective husband or wife to pick out a fragrance for you? Would you ever go for a vintage or hard to find scent, or would you shy away from them for the reasons mentioned in the beginning of this post? Would you even consider a bespoke fragrance? Why?

Images: and

Friday, May 2, 2008

Perfumed Thoughts : Natural Perfumery

Today I want to touch on a subject that is slightly difficult for me to broach, not only because of its slightly controversial nature, but also because, admittedly, I am not as well informed as I would like to be. Still, it is something that has been on my mind for over a week now and I would rather take the chance to share my thoughts with you while they are fresh, rather than wait. Today’s little piece is not a mandate, but indeed just my own personal thoughts on the matter, hoping to raise consciousness, provoke thought, consideration and hopefully discussion.

I was recently reading an article titled “The Scent of the Nile”, originally published in the New Yorker by Chandler Burr. The following excerpt (referring to Jean-Claude Ellena) quotes part of that article:

“(...)Even though Ellena’s perfumes often evoke the smells of nature, he believes that scents containing only natural materials are not, fundamentally, perfumes. The art of perfumery, Ellena believes, is the art of gracefully combining different chemicals, some natural, some synthetic. The first perfume synthetics were created in the nineteenth century.(...).”

I couldn’t help but find myself having an immediately negative reaction to this statement. Surely this can’t be right? What are the implications of this statement? That natural perfumery is not perfumery at all? That someone who composes all natural scents is not actually a perfumer? That whether creative expression can or cannot be considered as art depends on the medium used? I just couldn’t accept this... I just couldn’t validate this statement. Burr mentions that the first perfume synthetics were created in the nineteenth century; I would like to draw a parallel to express my feelings about this issue. Before the 15th century, painters worked mostly with egg paints, otherwise known as tempera. However, in the 15th century there was a revolution: European painters suddenly started using oil paints, popularizing the medium and changing the face of art as we know it. Suddenly hues that were never seen on a painting before materialized. Textures became so realistic you could immediately tell whether you were looking at velvet or silk. Candlelight reflected differently on silver than it did on crystal. Pearls shone softly. The eye saw in the painting, what it saw in real life. A whole new world was opened up for painters worldwide. You see, egg paints pose numerous limitations: it is hard, or nigh impossible to play with the elements of darkness and light when painting with tempera. There is no way to render light of different intensities. Painting different hues takes not only incredible skill, but these almost never appear realistic. Same with water – there is no way to paint water that appears natural with egg, and it is incredibly difficult to show objects submerged under water or behind a gossamer veil, because egg does not lend itself to see-through expression. Still, despite these limitations, wonderful works of art were created with just egg paints: simply being confronted with the skill of master visual hagiographers who managed to paint the legs of John the Baptist submerged in the river despite the aforementioned difficulties, is enough to bring tears of awe to one’s eyes. And despite the fact that painters can indeed do so many more different things with oil, egg painting is not a lost art. Just like natural perfumery, it is a craft that is not as conspicuous as oil painting, however, it is still very much alive. It takes many painstaking years of studious, extremely disciplined apprenticeship to become a master visual hagiographer today. Even though these artists are limited not only by their medium of choice, but also by the techniques that identify this art form, they still manage to tell their own story, express their own creativity and impregnate each individual piece with their signature. It is a mysterious form of art: the more you know about it, the more you can appreciate it.

I guess what I am trying to say is this: You cannot judge art by the medium used: Whether the medium is marble, steel, or scrapheap salvage, the result is still art, and the creator a sculptor.