Friday, October 31, 2008

Chandler Burr Lecture

On Monday, December the 8th, Chandler Burr will be giving one of the New York Times' TimesTalks in the new 400-seat presentation/performance space in the Times building. The subject will be “A Brief History of Perfume” - a critical interactive tour of perfume masterpieces and The Art History of Perfume from 1889 to 2008.

Perfumes are classic holiday gifts. But perfume is also one the world’s great art forms. Discover both aspects of scent in this fascinating interactive guided tour of some of the world’s fragrance masterpieces, led by Chandler Burr, fragrance critic for The New York Times Style Magazine and author of “The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris & New York.” You will smell jasmine from Grasse, pink peppercorn absolutes and tuberose from Peru and India, and masterpieces of scent art both classic and new for men and women. Discussion followed by book sale and signing.

The event will comence at 6.30 and is expected to last until 8.30. The Times Center Stage can be reached via the West 41st Street entry of the new Times tower (620 8th Avenue) and general admission costs $30. It is at times like this that I wish I lived in New York city, because this is one event I would love to attend! For all you lucky NY city residents and visitors who are thinking of attending, my advice is to make a decision soon, because tickets are already half sold and the event is expected to sell out. For ticket purchase and details, you may take a look here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Perfume for the Occasion: Halloween

Are you ready for some fun? This month, Perfume for the Occasion puts the focus on Halloween! Still unsure about the look you’re going to choose and the perfect perfume to go with it? No problem! Total Beauty has teamed up with the director of makeup artistry for MAC Cosmetics, the fabulous Gregory Artl, to give you step by step instructions on how to create several Halloween perfect looks, and Fragrance Bouquet is ready to dispense some cool ideas about the right perfume to go with each and every one of them! Each look is accompanied by close-up shots, but even more comprehensive are the videos. These might be slightly over the top Halloween looks, but as beauty savvy readers will know, looking at a master artist at work with his brushes and tools means we can pick up a lot of tips and tricks we can later apply in simpler, every day looks.

· Dita von Teese: A friend of mine recently had the opportunity to go to New York to interview Dita von Teese and she came back with a girl-crush, positively mesmerized. “She is just as fabulous and gorgeous in real life as she is in the pictures!” she related breathlessly. This wonderful classic pin-up look shows you how to recreate Dita’s signature make-up faultlessly! Add a bustier and high heels and you’re ready to go. But what about perfume? Voluptuous, intriguing and mouthwateringly curvaceous, the classic pin-up girl needs a grand oriental to complete her look. Guerlain’s Shalimar, Moschino de Moschino as well as the more gourmand Lolita by Lolita Lempicka are all excellent, sultry choices. You can view the video here.

· Sexy Kitten: I might disagree with the choice of lipstick (I would go with a dusty pink for light skin-tones and a brick or slightly brownish orange for black beauties), but the kitty-cat look is a classic for Halloween, considering how easy and cost-effective it is to put together: Ears, tail and a body-con bodysuit and you’re ready! (I’m guilty of using the same eyeliner technique when I go out clubbing some times, paired with gold eyeshadow to do an Egyptian-inspired makeup, by the way...) Perfume lovers who like a bit of skank in their juice will have no trouble finding appropriate scents for this look! Guerlain’s Pamplelune is famously (or should I say infamously?) controversial, with fans finding it sexy and intimate, while haters at the opposite camp find it pissy. For my part, there are only two perfumes I know of that growl and hiss and purr enough to remind me so much of cats that I had to mention them in the review: Both Parfumerie Generale’s Intrigant Patchouli and Montale’s Oud Ambre are feral felines for the brave. Watch the video here.

· Retro 60’s Girl: This Go Go Girl 60’s makeup is inspired directly by Twiggy’s inimitable look, and is my absolute favorite. I think it is so well done and successful! Not to mention that a slightly pared down version of this white & black eyeliner combo has constantly been cropping up in fashion shows and fashion magazine shoots since last year. Combine it with some retro clothes, or even some brand new Biba clothes – Twiggy’s favorite brand of that period which has recently been revived. If you are lucky enough to own some vintage Pucci Vivara, go ahead and use it with this look, since it is probably the most look appropriate. Alternatively, scents based around musk will do the trick just fine as well. Dig out your cheap thrills, like Alyssa Ashley’s Musk or Kiel’s Original Musk. For a chicer appeal, try Yves Saint Laurent’s Y or Lancome’s Climat. Watch the video here.

· Vampirella: Another look that’s incredibly easy to put together, since the make-up is the main focus. Add a beautiful cape and dress and you’re ready to go! The sexiest of the sexy vampire ladies wear Neil Morris’ Gotham, which is demanding, alluring and knock ‘em down sexy, but the truly dark, mysterious vampires wear Black Widow! Watch the video here.

· Twinkling Fairy: If you have the time and dedication to put together the elaborate, fancy outfit expected of a fairy, this is a great look to go with it. It might look garish in strong light, but when you arrive at the appropriately dimly lit party, you’ll be sure to sparkle. There is only one perfume that is ethereal and magnificent enough to be good enough for a fairy and that is Neil Morris’ Spectral Violet, which even managed to make me think of fairies when I first reviewed it, before I even had an inkling of adding it to this post. Another wonderful choice is Laura Biagiotti’s Laura, which is light, airy, abstractedly floral and wonderful in its own right. Watch the video here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

L’Instant Magic by Guerlain : Perfume Review

Our body is very clever in telling us what we need to eat to keep healthy: craving a particular food is often our body's way of nudging us to eat that particular something that has been missing from our diet. But what about cravings for a particular perfume? Do you ever get those? Why do they happen? As strange (or indeed as ridiculous a notion) as it may sound, I do often feel that my body lets me know what it 'wants' or needs to smell. My daily perfume choices are not always guided by logic, but often by little pangs of scent-specific hunger: "I need something with patchouli today" or "I need to smell vanilla". Aside from notes and accords, I also find myself craving a certain family (a gourmand, a chypre...) or even a particular perfume, sending me to rummage in my sample bags for the matching little phial.

During these past 3 weeks of intense exam preparation and endless studying I found myself once again experiencing perfume cravings of unprecedented intensity. It all started out with a generalized craving for a gourmand scent with a hefty dose of vanilla, but nothing I had handy seemed like it would do. Serendipitously, I decided to do a side by side comparison of the original L’Instant which I already knew I hated, with the newer L’Instant Magic, a sample of which I had I recently received with a purchase. Ten minutes later, the original absolutely had to be scrubbed off as usual, but the flanker was pleasant enough to stay, if not immediately interesting enough to grab my attention and hold me in its thrall. Quietly and unassumingly however, it worked its...magic, hitting all the right spots. It was exactly what I needed, what I was craving for and didn’t yet know. I got so hooked on this little beauty, I felt I had to have some on my skin every day while studying. That first sample didn’t make it through the week, and I had to nicely ask the dbf to “Please, please go get me a sample” twice, as if it was laced with crack.

So what’s L’Instant Magic like? Delicious, seductive, comforting and exactly the type of thing I normally wouldn’t give the time of day to, especially since it is most definitely not what I expect from a Guerlain. Even though it is supposed to be a completely different fragrance from the original L’Instant, its lineage is surprisingly easy to discern. It is as if there is this very obvious red thread running through it, unequivocally connecting it to its sister: That powdery floral character that is L’Instant’s signature, threads itself like a precious vein through L’Instant Magic making it instantly recognizable as a member of the family once it is discerned. But whereas it is this very same characteristic I find oppressing and deeply uncomfortable in the original, I find myself being seduced by it in Magic. This time it is rendered lightly, with an air of improbable femininity and has the softness of a caress. The fact that it is only part of the supporting cast and not the star makes a huge difference as well. Finally, I can appreciate it. But truly, the best thing about L’Instant Magic is its incredible almond-vanilla combo that has brought me to the brink of addiction. It manages to do something that very few gourmands can: through its amazing warmth and sweetness, L’Instant Magic still manages to somehow sparkle with bright effervescence. The result is that while it retains all the seductive, mysterious characteristics of an oriental and all the bubblegum-vixen traits of a gourmand, it is also cheery and carefree. Most importantly, even though it is very clearly a comforting, linear scent, its genius lies in the fact that it retains an abstracted quality that makes it veer far away from ever becoming foody. Instead, it remains both feminine and sophisticated in character.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fragrance Bouquet Has Been Tagged!

Okay, so I don’t really do tagging games, or I thought I didn’t. But how could I refuse to play when I’ve been tagged by not one but four (!) of my favorite bloggers? It’s an honor, girls, and thank you for thinking of me! And the timing is perfect too: I am studying with such zeal for my exams, I probably won’t have a time for another post this week. So I hope all of you lovely readers out there will be content with some random info about me this week, and I’ll be back next week with more goodies I’ve been exploring all these days. (Yes, olfactory goodies have kept me going through these rough past two weeks)

First, the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you (Hey, that’s you Jenavira, Anya, Carol and Abigail!)
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Write six random things about yourself
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Six Random Divina things:
1) I collect shoes. Some years ago my db who is wonderfully crafty made a floor-to-ceiling display area for me, but the situation since then has gotten so out of hand the shoes no longer fit there and now there are shoes everywhere in the house: On top of closets in boxes, under sideboards and cabinets, under my dressing table and under the coat rack, just to give you an idea. (Yeah, he puts up with me, and I love him.)
2) My number one traveling destination is Japan, which happens to be my favorite country in the world after my own.
3) I have too much energy, which means that if I don’t exhaust myself on a daily basis I get bored and blue. The gym is what keeps me sane: doing high impact classes every day keeps me happy.
4) Photography is one of my hobbies, one I share with my dearest dad. I love taking shots of things that are considered ugly and showing their beautiful side: peeling paint, dilapidation and rust are favorite subjects. I also love playing with colors, geometry and shadows.
5) The scariest thing in this world for me is time. To me, it feels like time slips by so fast. Thoughts like this feel like a cold hand clutching my heart. I love life so much; I wish I could hang on forever...
6) Even though I know I’m really a city girl and I never really could live away from the excitement of urban life and all its conveniences, I can’t help but often daydream of having a house with the perfect huge garden that would have all my favorite fruiting trees. The trees of my heart would all be there: the generous, kind pomegranate I grew up with, the lemon and orange tree whose scents drove me wild each year when I was a child, the perfect fig tree that is no more, an enormous chestnut tree with its majestic shade in spring and delicious nuts come winter. And there’d be peacocks and ducks...

Now the people I will tag are: Tamara over at For the Love of Perfume, Sali at Pink Manhattan, Tom, who doesn’t only write about perfume on Perfume Smellin' Things but has his own blog as well, Pansy’s Rants, Chris over at Rosa Negra, Aimée at Mossyloomings and Max, a fellow perfume blogger from the Netherlands whose blog I was delighted to discover only just recently!

Image: Flickr, originally uploaded by ul Marga

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Taste of Heaven by Kilian : Perfume Review

Do you remember Hotwheels, the little toy cars with the thermochromic paint that would instantly change color when bathed in cold or hot water? Not the most poetic of comparisons I admit, but A Taste of Heaven really is like a Hotwheel: It changes in such a fast-paced, and more importantly, fascinating manner, the mind races bewildered, trying to catch up in wonderment.

It all starts out with such a huge blast of lavender, it seems not only unthinkable but also impossible that this predominant note can be escaped. A bracing, light citrus freshness accompanies the herbaceous scent at first, and there are also hints of dewy yet deep greenery. Blink and there’s a change: the lavender note seems to get ever more animated and lively. The relaxing, well-rounded, aromatic scent of Lavender Barreme blends beautifully with the strong, camphorous notes of Lavandin Abrialis, creating an almost dizzying display of the humble looking flower in the mind’s eye. In terms of smell, this lavender is so extreme it can only be described as operatic. I don’t generally like my lavender served straight up, so I only truly start loving A Taste of Heaven when finally it turns from bracing and aromatic to smooth and sweetly vanillic. For a while the scent appears to be comforting and almost gourmand, edible in nature. Then the unbelievable happens: the fragrance undergoes a change so extreme, I can only describe it as awesome in the original sense of the word. It becomes warmer and warmer and the olfactory sensation it produces is so surprisingly effusive, it almost feels as if one is witnessing a chemical reaction taking place on the skin. It seems like all this heat, all this wonderful warmth comes out of nowhere, a sinister smile full of sexual innuendos suddenly coming to knock you off your feet. Because yes, this is not the comforting warmth of a hearth, but the heat of sexual energy unhinged. Sexy, animalic, barbaric and ravaging, the heat is almost volcanic. As you might remember the first time I experienced this scent I was in public... My first reaction to the change was a simple “It’s getting warmer now”, quickly followed by “Oh my God” and then I was finally left speechless and blushing. Having jolted us to attention with this explosive, shocking, ultra-sensual stage, A Taste of Heaven calms down again and slowly eases itself into its final, comfortable incarnation, which will last for hours (and into the next day if applied in the evening). All its animalic elements now come down from a boil to a simmer and can be appreciated individually. The slightly vanillic lavender is musky and warm, there are hints of tender, subtle leather, the patchouli is soft and dry as powder and the utterly beautiful, erotic ambergris note ties it all together... The whole in this case too tends to be more than the sum of its parts: the end result smells incredibly human and warm, like the scent of your own skin, sensual and very, very personal. To clarify this, I will give an example: I have tested this with a number of friends during the drydown stage, and most of them struggle to separate the smell of the perfume from the smell of my own skin when they do not have previous experiences with A Taste of Heaven. It feels like the borders between the skin’s own scent and the scent of the fragrance are blurred, hazy. However, once they have experienced the fragrance on their own skin from start to finish, they can always clearly detect it thereafter. It will come as no surprise thus, when I say that the drydown of A Taste of Heaven is very similar to the drydown of Miller Harris’ L’air de Rien, which has also been extensively compared with the scent and familiarity of the human skin.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fragrance Bouquet’s Thoughts on the By Kilian Controversy

I have been studying really hard for my upcoming exams lately so the reviews of the By Kilian line have been simmering in the background for a while. Hopefully the first review will be ready for Friday’s post, but before we start delving in the individual scents, I would like to first share some thoughts with you on the line. The intention is not to defend the line – I am after all not nearly as enamored with it as I am with other favorites like my beloved Montales, and God knows a lot is said about them as well. I have just found the extensive online discussion on fora and blogs very interesting and thought provoking, so I would simply like to share my thoughts on the matter.

A lot has been said about the By Kilian line’s ad copy and even more has been said about its pricing. The general consensus on both issues can be summarized with the word “Outrageous!”. The names of each individual perfume have also come under fire for being incongruent to the juice. While I respect the above opinions and indeed both understand where the critics are coming from and can share a little conspiratory giggle with them since some of their points are valid (in the instance of the ad copy for example), I have to say that for my part I am left feeling absolutely no resentment about any of this. In fact, I feel nothing at all. I’ve had the same approach towards the indeed outrageous namesakes of the Etat Libre d’Orange scents. Provocative? Yes. Funny? Yes. Offensive? No. I simply don’t feel anything. We perfume lovers keep banging on about perfume being art. Well art is not just the beautiful classics, but also the usually misunderstood for their time modern pieces, pieces with “offensive” context, subjects and yes, “offensive” names.

The names of the By Kilian fragrances might be seen by some as incongruent to the juice, but is this really something new or even something that we should really be getting our knickers in a twist about? Have we forgotten about Youth Dew? Not, youthful and certainly not dewy. And how about L’Interdit? No, it doesn’t really smell forbidden. And who knew that an Angel could smell quite so... demonic? No, perfume names that seem counterintuitive to their respective scents are nothing new. And neither are over the top ad copies for that matter. Being personally inclined towards a certain amount of lyricism in my writing, perhaps I am more forgiving than most in this respect. However, perfume should be evocative and poetic. It serves after all, no other purpose than to please the senses and to guide the imagination to the realm of fantasy. If the only reason we used scent were to mask unpleasant odors, we’d all be happy just using deodorant and be done with it. But no. We do crave luxury, we do want to be seduced and feel seducing. Why then do we expect the ad copy that accompanies such frivolous luxury goods to be no-nonsense and down to the point? I am as resistant as any of you when it comes to ridiculously named fantasy accords that boggle the mind, but this is not quite the same as using a few more adjectives or references in order to try to convey the feel of a perfume, or the inspiration behind its creation.

As for the prices, it all comes down to whether you like something enough to pay the amount that is asked for the item in question. What is an outrageous price for a perfume? That is a question that depends not only on the ingredients used but also on the bottle and the buyer in question. A bottle collector would be willing to pay a different price than a scent collector. Similarly, someone that is truly a slave to his or her sense of smell would be willing to pay a different price than someone that just loves having an extensive perfume wardrobe, just as someone who considers themselves a gourmet would be willing to pay more for a dinner than a simple bon vivant. For example, I personally find it strange that some people actually save up to eat a restaurant that has Michelin stars. Needless to say, I don’t have a particular desire to make a reservation at El Bulli; I just don’t love food that much, which is not to say that I don’t love food enough to be willing to pay something more reasonable to eat at an amazing Japanese restaurant once in a while. Conversely, the people that do, probably think I am insane for spending as much money as I do on perfume, shoes and bags. Lastly, as I recently mentioned on Robin’s wonderful blog, my own personal reaction (or lack thereof) in regards to the prices of the By Kilian line, is also directly related to what I have been prepared to pay for a perfume in the past. One of my absolute can’t-live-without perfumes is Narciso Rodriguez’ Musc Oil for Her, a gorgeous, unbelievably sexy fragrance that happens to be both synthetic and not terribly original smelling. (It is basically just a great version of classic Egyptian musc) The stuff costs 150 euro per 50ml and its ingredients are not that expensive. Was I willing to pay for it? Yes, I fell in love and never regretted it. In fact I will keep buying it every time I run out. I need to smell it! Having paid what I paid for this oil, the By Kilian line priced at 175 euro per 50ml with its expensive, luxurious ingredients (especially the case for some of the line’s fragrances like Beyond Love) did not seem that expensive by comparison. I am not trying to say that it is not expensive; I am just trying to explain that our expectations and perceptions are subject to previous experiences and change accordingly.

Images: Thought Bubble sourced from Flickr, originally uploaded by cherbonsy and adapted by author, “Fountaine” by Marcel Duchamp from wikipedia, and money pile from

Monday, October 13, 2008

Silver Rain & Midnight Rain by La Prairie : Perfume Reviews

I have always had extremely bad experiences with La Prairie’s Silver Rain fragrance. However, the fact that at the same time I’ve always found their cosmetics wonderful, did lead to some sort of dissonance and discomfort. Quite persistently thus, I have tested Silver Rain a number of times through the years, in an effort to re-appraise it. I regret to say that every time, I have literally had to dash to the nearest sink for a scrub-off. Knowing all this, I still couldn’t resist retesting it this weekend when I received a complimentary sample of its flanker, Midnight Rain with the purchase of a cream. I couldn’t quite resist the opportunity to do a comparison test you see, even as I suspected that nausea would be imminent.

Silver Rain: Feel free to completely ignore any and all official note listings for Silver Rain, including the ones found on the La Prairie website. The perfume known as Silver Rain has actually changed three times since its release in 2004, and to the extent that I can trust my nose, the notes listed online do not match its current profile. When I say that Silver Rain has changed three times I don’t mean that the company has slightly tweaked the formula over the years. No, I am talking about extreme, radical changes that have left it unrecognizable. Just in case I wasn’t clear enough yet: I am not talking about a facelift, I am talking about a head replacement! The first composition was a dire, toothsome fruity scent, while the second one was a blatant copy of Mugler’s Angel: A heavy, chocolaty gourmand revolving around a hideously predominant dirty patchouli note, whose floral accents were murky and wilting. Albeit very obviously trying to capitalize on Angel’s success, Silver Rain version 0.2 beta, missed the point completely. It lacked all of Angel’s addictive and seductive qualities and underscored everything that made it obnoxious and to an extent unbearable for a great portion of the population that suffered from its popularity. Imagine my surprise, when upon spraying from my fresh Silver Rain sample and mentally preparing myself to be once again accosted by the Angel parody I was familiar with, I found myself face to face with version 0.3 (hopefully final). Not nearly as unpleasant as version 0.2, but then again not really pleasant either, Silver Rain did manage to capture my interest, if only for a while. The opening is full of dark, fragrant tea notes enriched with a very herbal and brisk mint and eucalyptus combo that is fresh enough to clear the sinuses. (Not quite sure whether this is great for a perfume, it is however interesting) Underneath it all, we can already get a very clear impression of the signature dirty patchouli note found in version 0.2. As the top minty notes fly off however, the mask suddenly falls and the true nature of Silver Rain is exposed: a copy, once again. This time its hapless victim is Tom Ford’s Black Orchid, right down to the aquatic waterfruit notes that in combination with the dirty patchouli make it so distinctive. Unfortunately, our impostor somehow manages to miss the point once again and simply excludes everything that makes Black Orchid smell rich, sexy and quite out of the ordinary. The result is cheap-smelling (in every meaningful way possible), and lacking any sensuality. In fact it is rather cold; quite a feat, considering the patchouli overdose.

Midnight Rain: The flacon might not quite inspire the same feeling of simple luxury consistent with the brand’s name that Silver Rain’s bottle does, but thankfully, this time the juice is not a disappointment. The opening is a pleasant surprise: Midnight Rain manages to give off an air of sensuality while at the same time managing to remain quite androgynous in nature and thus potentially appealing to both sexes. It is dark and rich, with a markedly fruity character that manages to be at once reminiscent of something tropical and Mediterranean, while not letting a single ray of light penetrate its thick fruiting canopy. Those that love the dusty, slightly bitter, pomegranate accord found in Calvin Klein’s Euphoria (I personally don’t...) will be glad to rediscover it here, albeit used much more subtly and carefully. At first it seems like this will be a far too oppressing, sweet perfume for me to enjoy – a sillage monster that obliterates anything that enters its expansive radius – however, I am glad to report that with careful application and given a little time, Midnight Rain can be quite an alluring scent. About ten minutes after application, the scent calms down and becomes not only mellower but merrier as well. The fruity top notes persist but start showing off their individual nuances; The mandarin winks for it knows it is not only juicy, but sticky as well, and the pomegranate lends the composition a forbidden quality, like fire-engine red lipstick worn on an otherwise bare face. Slowly, the floral middle notes start showing through, but instead of popping up individually they combine, to give a velvety, slightly citrusy magnolia impression. At the same time, this light floral heart is surrounded by a deep, vanillic, utterly comforting scent, which lends the perfume a more oriental character. I thoroughly enjoy the slightly lemony, warm vanilla scent, but there’s a catch; Somewhere in the background there is some disturbance that I am unable to tune out. The signature dirty patchouli of La Prairie is struggling to come to the surface and to make matters worse, there are tiny (but unfortunately significant) hints of something aquatic desperately drawing attention to itself. Luckily both of these elements are kept in check enough for me to manage to appreciate the scent, but ultimately they do ruin it for me. The drydown is sweet and woody and the surprisingly everlasting pomegranate note adds powdery sophistication with its subtle dustiness. While far better than anything I ever expected from La Prairie in the scent department, this is not a scent I would ever purchase. I do appreciate it for its warmth and sensuality, but the dissonant patchouli and aquatic notes unfortunately take away from its beauty. However, I don’t have to run to scrub it off and its heart notes are really rather pleasant. Unlike Silver Rain, I’ll happily tolerate this on someone else.

Images: flickr, originally uploaded by L.A. Woman,,

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Neil Morris for Takashimaya New York : Perfume Review

Regular Fragrance Bouquet readers probably know of my deep admiration and love of Neil Morris’ creations. A whole week of reviews was devoted to a number of Neil Morris’ vault scents back in March, and his sparkling Aegean fragrance was featured in June’s Father’s Day special, soon after its launch at Takashimaya New York. Takashimaya, tasteful, tantalizing, transformative, transcendent, has a heart that beats a rhythm most unique: artisanal creativity and all that’s special, unique and exclusive, makes this the place to be for the sophisticated shopper with a taste for the unusual. What better place then, to bring Neil’s creations a bit closer to the public? And now, Neil has been commissioned to create an exclusive scent just for Takashimaya, a scent that captures the serenity of a Japanese Garden. I am absolutely delighted that Neil’s talent is being recognized and that he has been entrusted to capture the essence of Takashimaya. Having experienced the beauty of his creations, I have to say I am not surprised he was the brand’s choice. Neil is not just talented; he wields a magic brush that makes fantasies and scenes come to life in full color. Every one of his scents is a beautiful story, evocative, three dimensional, alive. Yes, if anyone can capture a scene, a feeling or a memory, it’s him.

Neil’s vision for Takashimaya New York was to showcase the coming together of two utterly different cultures; a seemingly unlikely pairing that turns out fitting together as perfectly as a lovers’ embrace:

“I wanted the fragrance to incorporate the beauty and serenity of the Japanese culture along with the stylish sophistication of Fifth Avenue. It’s my artistic twist on East meets West.”

The top notes of Neil Morris for Takashimaya New York, are incredibly bright and sparkling, an innocent, childlike take on the joys of summer, filled with fizzy drinks, juicy fruit and overflowing, carefree feelings of happiness. Exhilarating mandarin and bergamot are fizzing, utterly effervescent with the kick of aldehydes. They readily bind to the smooth texture of rich cream to create the most vibrant images of long, twister ice cream lollies. Juicy blackcurrant is thrown in the mix, coloring everything brightly with its yummy, tangy flavor. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but I also smell a tiny hint of coconut behind the fruity extravagance, adding smoothness and depth to the fragrance. Hot New York summers and the relief of cooling ice cream... This is the perfect summery opening, bright enough to make any old gray day come to life. The development is wonderfully slow-paced, allowing the wearer to experience every little aspect of this beautiful fragrance in a most leisurely manner. As we enter the heart notes, the trajectory of the scent becomes all the more eclectic, slowly introducing us to more exotic accents and flavors. It is a heady path, quite unexpected for a scent that evokes Japanese sensibilities, but somehow Neil Morris makes it work. The blend is almost dichotomous in nature; at once smooth and acanthoid, like teasing, tickling fingers dressed in velvet. The canvas is rich jasmine tea and from there a myriad of colorful blossoms seem to sprout, awake, dewy, juicy. The scent of narcissi is almost dizzyingly narcotic and yet it is beautifully anchored by the grassy, almost woody smell of bamboo... Once again, the perfume takes me by surprise in its drydown stage. After hours (yes, hours, this is a marvelously tenacious perfume that requires patience to reveal all its secrets...) of lively, jubilant and rather innocent sensory pleasures, this happy, exuberant scent manages to excite my interest yet again as it takes a turn that is decidedly darker and definitively sensual... Earthy, exotic and incredibly sexy, the drydown stage finds me with my nose firmly glued to my arm. I won’t lie: I can’t make head or tail of the notes, especially since what I see in the official press release nowhere near matches my impression of the perfume! All I know is that I get the most marvelously mossy-musky-ambery sense from this perfume, and it roars! There is the most mysterious heart of darkness hidden there, with so much animalic warmth, one can’t believe it is quite the same scent. Consequently, Neil Morris for Takashimaya NY, completely defies classification: It starts as the happiest, joyful innocent fruity fragrance, proceeds into a narcotic floral composition and ends up a smooth black panther.

A two ounce (60ml) spray bottle of Parfum retails for 125$ and is exclusive to Takashimaya on New York's 5th Avenue, as well as their online store.


Monday, October 6, 2008

She Wood by Dsquared2 : Perfume Review

Last week I reviewed Dsquared2’s first scented offering, the masculine He Wood in quite glowing terms. Being a fan of the design duo, I wish I could be as positive about their second, newest fragrance She Wood – this time a feminine scent – but quite honestly I can’t. Especially true at the time of its European launch, back in 2007, He Wood was a quite unique entrance. Quite the opposite holds for She Wood, which seems uninspired and derivative, albeit truth be told, nowhere near offensive.

The bottle seems to be a dumbed down version of the masculine flacon, which I happen to love, once again a perfect square, but this time only utilizing wood on the top part instead of having it luxuriously encasing the tactile material. For She Wood the choice has been for a piece of North American walnut, which sits rather smug (and decidedly brown) on top of the pink juice, not really adding anything to the design, but actually making it look cheaper. I would have really preferred the old design, and most definitely a softer shade of wood as well – perhaps a bleached wood dyed soft grey? No matter, what’s the use of crying over the bottle if the juice inside is hardly worth speaking of? As with the masculine version, the top, middle and base notes are conceptualized as different accords, this time as Light, Sap and Wood respectively. The opening is punchy and energizing, utilizing a rather pretty bitter neroli note, but quite unfortunately not allowing it to reach its full, rather sensuous potential due to the distracting dry zesty notes that keep dancing around it. As the top notes fade, the fragrance becomes all the more compellingly familiar, creating this unsettling sense of déjà vu. It finally hit me today as I was testing this again, and a side by side comparison confirmed my suspicions: She Wood smells like a more intense version of Feerie, minus the dark berries, which as you might remember smells quite a bit like Love in Black (No wonder I am bored). Looking at the official notes, this comes as no surprise after all. They all have similar notes, but most importantly they are all heavy on violet and cedar. She Wood is not as dusty, even though it is still an intensely dry fragrance and it is far greener than the other two. Still even though it is more tenacious and intense, it somehow manages to feel both thinner and cheaper. The woody, musky drydown is insipid and far less smoky than its sisters and makes use of a quite prominent and slightly metallic vetiver note. The middle stage of the development is probably the most interesting with its smooth violet notes, but everything seems to slowly fall apart after that, as if the perfumer lost interest halfway. Not interesting enough to be declared awful, She Wood won’t send me to the sink for a scrub-off. However tolerable though, it can hardly be called a great scent either. It hangs somewhere in the middle: Inoffensive and indifferently likeable is more like it.


Friday, October 3, 2008

An Evening With Kilian Henessy

I just have to suspend today’s scheduled review of She Wood until Monday, in favor of recounting the events of last night while they are still so fresh in my mind. When it comes to skincare and perfume shopping, there are three stores I would name as favorites here in the Netherlands: My local Douglas, which might not offer too much in the way of niche products but remains the place I feel most at home in due to the absolutely wonderful staff who I have become friends with over the years, Lianne Tio’s beautiful boutique in Rotterdam which sells the entire Goutal line and many, many more goodies you simply can’t find anywhere else in the Netherlands and Skins in Amsterdam which is my absolutely favorite place to be. While I might not be able to find everything I want under one roof, at Skins I can look for hours without being bothered unless I solicit advice (oh, how important this is! How tiresome to be chased around by “friendly” sales associates) and the stuff are extremely knowledgeable, helpful, polite and most importantly, extremely generous. Their wonderful attitude inspires loyalty in customers and fills every customer with a sense of well-being while in the shop. I am very happy to report that after having flirted with the By Kilian line for some months already, Skins has managed to seal the deal and the exclusive perfume collection finally launched yesterday.

To celebrate the launch, Skins organized a VIP evening which I have been eagerly looking forward to ever since I received the invitation. After being stuck in an atrocious traffic jam for about 45 minutes yesterday, I managed to arrive at the shop feeling harassed and completely stressed out thinking I had probably missed Kilian Henessy’s entrance. A quick glanced assured me however that I was on time and I managed to relax in the beautiful atmosphere. The weather outside was wet and cold, but the atmosphere in the shop was as serene and warm as always, and further enhanced by the exuberance of the guests: the beautifully displayed fragrances were being well received to say the least. The drink of the evening was Absinthe, flowing and constantly refilled, but I decided to favor a glass of fizzy Prosecco to avoid getting completely smashed: I hadn’t yet eaten and I almost never drink alcohol so I figured it’d be safer (No such luck, I was rather merry and tipsy by the end of the evening).

We were all busy exploring the perfumes when the gorgeous Mr. Henessy arrived with his lovely wife but their presence was instantly felt. I wish I could be blasé about it, but I simply can’t help myself: this is one of the most charming men I have ever met! The staff of Skins introduced the man of the evening and explained to my surprise that Mr. Henessy is quite shy and prefers to not give speeches, but that he would love to talk to us all in person. His amazingly gracious, beautiful wife blended in the background making conversation with the guests while Kilian himself engaged every willing party in conversation answering questions in detail and with such a warm, friendly and passionate manner that I found absolutely winning. Most importantly, it is the man’s extreme graciousness and openness that will stay with me: he made himself available and approachable in the most warmly polite manner and he seemed genuinely interested in everyone he met. There simply was no barrier, no distance. It was like getting introduced to a potential new friend at a cocktail party. Meeting him personally was extremely pleasurable: he is a man with a disarming smile and a strong handshake. He spoke to us about his perfumes, going into detailed descriptions about the ingredients and his inspiration behind each scent. I found it rather humorous when he started openly talking about certain perfumers whose style he did not appreciate(these will of course remain unnamed) so I had to ask him with a laugh to tell me who he loved instead. His answer was of course Calice Becker which resulted in an inward “D’oh!” moment for me, since she is the nose behind five of the seven scents of the line. I was also interested in whether he is the only one briefing the noses working for him, something I consider quite important. The more marketing execs behind a brief, the more faceless the perfume, in my opinion. Yes, not only is he the only person behind each brief, but this question in fact provided a most passionate response: Kilian views the process much as the making of a movie, and sees himself not only as the storyteller but most importantly as the director. Often, he told me, it all starts out with a name, it being the story. My last question was whether he gives complete freedom to the noses working on his scents or whether they are limited by a budget. The answer, most reassuringly, was that there is no budget limit behind any of the By Kilian perfumes.

I would have really liked to stay and chat a little longer, but mindful of the fact that there were many more people there craving to have a moment with Mr. Henessy I decided to try and be as gracious as he and not monopolize him. Once again, I approached the beautiful display of perfumes to try and make a choice. The staff of Skins have all been very obviously well trained to assist in getting to know the line better and their enthusiasm is nothing if not contagious. They all took an interest in what my final choice would be with very genuine excitement, each sharing their favorites and wondering what mine would be. It was a hard choice between Love and A Taste of Heaven, but I ended up with a bottle of the latter, a fragrance that is officially marketed as a masculine but whose animalic warmth I simply could not resist, even as I was perversely attracted to the toothsome, childlike, yet bizarrely sexy qualities of the former. Kilian was kind enough to sign my bottle and to personalize it with a message written in silver on the back. I almost sprung for Love as well while at the register, but the previous customer’s bill (a whopping 600-something euro slip) brought me back to reality faster than anything else possibly could. I was handed my bottle and complimentary goodie bag of the evening in a cute By Kilian bag that promptly lost its shape in the pouring rain outside, but I was too happy to care. I still am. Buzzing, in love with the line. Look forward to reviews of all the By Kilian perfumes in the next couple of weeks!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

He Wood by Dsquared2 : Perfume Review

I was fairly impressed with Dsquared2’s first fragrance, a 2007 masculine release titled He Wood. Despite my good impressions of the scent I never got down to actually reviewing it, but with the brand’s newest release She Wood now out in the shops, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. Today we take a look at He Wood, and come Friday we’ll explore its counterpart, the feminine She Wood.

Dean and Dan’s first fragrance, He Wood, reflects their love of their native Canada and draws inspiration from the country’s gorgeous nature, making wood the focal point. I love the bottle, which I find elegant in its unique simplicity and intriguing with its eye-catching asymmetry (the stopper is placed off-center). The square glass container is completely framed by Canadian Red Alder wood, which makes it wonderfully tactile as well as renders every bottle unique due to differences in grain and hue. Now, on to the juice itself: The top, middle and base notes are conceptualized as air, water and wood accords respectively, and each is meant to represent different characteristics. The Air accord is purity and sensuality, the Water accord is freshness and fluid energy, while the Wood accord is seen as pivot, the fragrance’s true personality. Reading this might lead you to think that He Wood goes through very distinct phases, with each of the accords unfolding almost independently over time. This however is not true. The woody base notes, namely light, sweet vetiver and smoky, distinctive cedar run through the composition from start to finish, like the skeleton around which the rest of the fragrance is fleshed out. Around these woody notes we find the presence of velvety, smooth sweetness in the opening. The official notes list Silver Fir, Vegetal Amber and Musk, but I struggle to pick out any of them individually. What I get the beautiful, aforementioned gentle sweetness, a light musky presence like a naked body under an overcast sky ready to pour down. The ambery note is intensified for just a brief moment in time, giving us a taste of resin before subsiding in the moisture that quickly makes its arrival. The watery notes found at the heart of He Wood are subtle and careful. There is enough freshness there to appease the average male shopper, but not quite enough of it to make the more discerning niche-lover turn up his or her nose, so to speak. Most interesting is the way the light watery accord blends so perfectly with the intense powdery scent of violets, effectively translating the relationship between water and air that always seems to be playing around the core of wood. Bizarrely, the smoky, dense character of cedar is silenced in the drydown in favor of an ever-intensifying steely cold vetiver note that smells and feels metallic. This is a very evocative perfume, which is extremely successful in its attempt to match the scent with the ad copy. The wearer will have no trouble ‘seeing’ the images painted by the perfumer, and even finding themselves starring in the fantasy of the Canadian woodland, as lone figures unafraid of the dark and pregnant with rain clouds overhead. The whipping of the hard rain on naked skin, the rich smell of the woods, all have a macho appeal - however the genius of He Wood is that this is always set against the sensitivity of musky sweetness and the clean, feminine comfort of powdery violet.