Monday, April 30, 2007

Le Parfum de Thérèse by Frédéric Malle : Perfume Review

What strikes me as magic with the Malle perfume line is how the fragrances constantly change after application, yet somehow, they also stay the same throughout the day. I know this sounds like an oxymoron, but this is indeed the way I experience them. Therese is an explosion on the skin upon application. If Lanvin’s Arpege is a rain of notes, played one by one upon the skin, this one is a firework. It starts compact and bright and fiery, enters the sinuses and then it explodes, in a myriad of notes and colors, amazing the senses with its ever-changing form with a quickness that is almost too fast to absorb. Then it settles and comfortably engulfs the skin like a precious cashmere sweater. Only then can one come to see the true character of Therese coming through.

Even though I have now welcomed Therese into my life, getting to know her was a contradictory experience. Our relationship started with intense dislike – the only thing I could think after Le Parfum de Thérèse settled on my skin was that I hated it. The only aspect of the perfume I was initially able to discern was an overwhelming leather note, infused with balmy, sweet wood. I walked out of the store where I was sampling it with the clear conviction that I hate it, yet at the same time I was trying to fight the fact that I was deeply intrigued. Every few paces I would find myself with my wrist glued to my nose. “It’s hateful, isn’t it?” I kept asking the friend who was accompanying me, yet I’d become slightly irritated every time he agreed. I found myself more and more enamored with it as the day progressed, yet I kept resisting its charm. I finally sat down to dinner with friends on that same evening and offered my wrist expectantly to yet another victim. “It really is you, it sits so well on your skin”, she said. “It is so very warm and sensual, isn’t it?”, I gushed with relief, finally accepting my true thoughts, liberated to verbalize them. And that is exactly what Le Parfum de Thérèse is, warm and sensual. The drydown is really, truly magical. After several hours of wear, Therese had calmed down to the most exquisite blend of buttery leather, honeyed tobacco leaves and shavings of cedar mixed with aromatic lilac flowers. It is not fruity to me; the watermelon and the plum never make an appearance, nor does the tangerine. It is as if my nose is rendered insensitive to those notes due to how overwhelming I find the initial burst of leather. Leather notes and I are not known to get along very well, and the fact that I ended up loving the leather in this blend is a glorious feat in and out of itself. Therese is sweet and at the same time self-assured. Gentle and forceful. She is a professional, with a sexy, dark side.

Picture of lilac blossoms courtesy of
Picture of cigars in leather case courtesy of

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Magie by Lancome : Perfume Review

I am a great fan of the older Lancome perfumes. I simply adore Magie Noire and am lucky enough to have smelled vintage Climat. Perhaps it is due to my intense love of Magie Noir that I’d always wanted to try Magie. The opportunity finally came with its re-release as part of “La Collection” de Lancome. Earlier this year this collection of re-issued perfumes was finally made available close to where I live, so you might imagine my excitement as I boarded a train to get to a city where I could sample it. As a chypre lover one might think I’d be more drawn towards Sikkim, but I’d always entertained the thought that Magie would be very close to my beloved Magie Noire. (Speaking of which, do drop me a line if you have some information about any possible connection between the two: was Magie Noire a flanker?) I must have appeared quite theatrical when I approached the Lancome counter, so full of suppressed excitement and considering the build-up of anticipation, I am surprised myself I was not met with disappointment. The flacon itself, designed by George Delhomme in 1950 is simple and lovely and that was what first grabbed me, I just wanted to hold it. I bypassed the ritual of smelling it on a card first and just applied it on my skin, on the inside of my elbow, my favorite place to apply perfume when sampling. Magie started off quite tart with bergamot, and even though it is only listed as a top note, I could still smell it hours later. This is not a prickly note though, along with the dry-down comes a beautiful roundness of amber, sandalwood and musk combined with the most intense of the fragrance’s middle notes, violet. The whole effect is somewhat powdery and slightly soapy and makes me think of the creamy neck of an older woman, adorned with a single string of pearls. The official Lancome website associates Magie with an actress on her première night, a femme fatale, surrounded by the floral bouquets contained in the creation. She is young and mysterious. I do not find myself in her dressing room when I smell this perfume though. Instead I find myself years later, peeking inside the spacious garden of her neoclassical villa. It’s a summer night and she has exchanged the haute couture dress she would have been wearing years ago for a light caftan, although her jewelry still remains exquisite. Time has been kind and she looks every bit as beautiful as she did back then. But now she is also comfortable, there is no longer any pressure, she is calm and self-assured. She is having friends over, not entertaining, because these are friends so close that they consider her house their own as well. In the dim light of night she sparkles with her inner beauty and this feminine, elegant fragrance befits her. It blends as one with her skin and becomes part of her. It will never speak for her, for its character does not make such affordances – it is a perfume without a loud voice or fiery temper, and I mean this in the best possible sense. It just does not happen to fit me and my temperament; it fits hers though. It haunts me from time to time and I do dab a bit of my sample now and then, still on my favorite spot. I’d never wear it around others though; I’d only appear fake by doing so I believe, so contradicting is it to my character. Magie is absolutely lovely but even if I wait another 30 years it will still appear fake on me. I’ll still be reaching for Magie Noire.

Picture of La Collection courtesy of

Friday, April 27, 2007

Cashmere Mist by Donna Karan : Perfume Review

It is not surprising to me that Cashmere Mist was released in 1994, the same year CK One was introduced. The market was ripe for perfumes that were clean, unobtrusive and almost asexual – perfect matches for the heroin-chic, boyish figures that were advertising clothes at the time. Although admittedly more feminine than CK One, and a good deal more interesting than L’Eau d’Issey, Cashmere Mist is very much a child of its time. Even so, I only discovered it recently and I have to admit it, it was love at first sniff. There is something incredibly comforting about this scent, so aptly named. It smells like clean, powdery skin, skin that is begging to be caressed. It is an abstract concoction that responds so sensitively to my chemistry that it manages to smell slightly different each time. It is a skin scent whose character is always dry; it never smells sweet, despite its soft jasmine and muguet blend. The musk and iris combine beautifully and feature prominently throughout the development, making it powdery and soft from the beginning. And what makes it most special is the gentle, well-worn suede note that is ever so soothing, as well as tame, which I appreciate, since most strong leathers overwhelm me. Cashmere Mist elicits strange memories in my mind, that play like a fast-forwarded flashback scene in a movie: the Noxema roll-on deodorant my mother used to use when I was a child, a visit at the doctor’s when I was a kid – the scent wafting from the clinically clean female doctor comforting me as she laid a hand on my head, clothes straight out of the dryer on a snowy winter’s morning, fast-forward, fast-forward to pictures constructed from the media, colorful Lacoste polo shirts above tiny, blindingly white tennis skirts on a sunny spring day. The smell that fits innocence before adrenarche... and yet, warm flesh wrapped in a fluffy bathrobe on Sunday morning, a scent worn for one’s lover just to say: “I want to have coffee in bed with you”. I did not mean to turn this review into an exercise of freestyle stream of consciousness method, but somehow I found myself compelled to record the strange associations this fragrance elicits in me. After discovering this perfume, I had to rush out and buy it, I find it so charming and well made. I do not regard it as simple, even though it can appear deceptively so. Some have described it as “mumsy” and “old”. If you agree with this statement but have somehow found yourself stuck with a bottle for one reason or the other, here’s a suggestion: Layer it with a tiny bit of Fracas. The end result is very cheerful.

Picture of Cashmere throw courtesy of The limited edition flacon of Cashmere Mist was sourced from where it is currently available for purchase, with the designer’s signature.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

L'Eau Trois by Diptyque : Perfume Review

Words could never describe how I feel about this perfume, but I will give it a try even though I’ll probably do my heart that beats to its rhythm injustice. L’Eau Trois must be one of the most unique fragrances I have ever had the joy of experiencing. I am a great lover of chypres and even though this is not traditionally identified as one, to my nose and heart it feels and behaves like one. But that does not even come into play in my mind when I think of all the reasons why I love it so. Diptyque aimed to capture the “scent of the mountainous coastline of Northern Greece” and having grown up just there I feel justified in saying that I know for a fact, they have done an outstanding job. The name too fits with Greece, even though that was most likely not the intention of the makers. Presumably they named it L’Eau Trois because it was their third perfume in the line, but orthodoxy being so tightly embedded in the way of life of the Greeks, I cannot help but think of the meaning of “three” and the role of the holy trinity in Greek daily life.

I moved away from my home country at the age of 18 and even though it is a decision I do not regret, I can’t help but feel a deep longing for it from time to time. Sensory input, in the form of sights, sounds and smells often creates the unsettling feeling of pained longing and nostalgia in my heart. I know this scent so very well... It is the scent that wafts from the hillsides and valleys in the summer as the sun bakes the herbal vegetation and shrubbery mercilessly. This is not the scent of spring or winter. This scent does not come through in shade or moisture. This is the marriage of the burning sun and the blessed herbs that withstand it. Oregano is the most prominent of those herbs, its herbal and somewhat sour character perfectly blended with thyme, myrtle, rosemary and pine. And this is all it is; I just don’t know how they captured the sun. The lasting power is excellent on my skin and I get moderate sillage out of it. I become irrationally possessive at times with this perfume, as though noone else could discover its meaning. It makes me bite my lip with shame. And then I smile, because I know I am wrong: there is a reason why it is still in production in spite (or perhaps because) of its difficult and unique character: Others have walked the same paths. Perhaps they even drove in a car with the window open just as I have, on the same roads. In the same sweltering heat, squinting their eyes because of the same glaring sun. Engulfed by the same aromatic and herbal smells. Unable to keep the smile off their face because of the prospect of the beach and crystal clear azure water that awaits them. I am not alone.

Both pictures are from Chalkidiki in Northern Greece. (alt. sp.: Halkidiki) Sources: and

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Joop! pour Homme by Joop : Perfume Review

I went through a period when I used to wear male perfumes quite often. I never saw this as a strange thing to do, inspired by a bold mother who introduced me to several of those fragrances. The ones I have worn most and still crave from time to time are the original Kenzo pour Homme by Kenzo (sadly reformulated), Joop! pour Homme and Nightflight, both by Joop. The last two had always been competing for my affection and I never did manage to decide which one I like best – the brave oriental or the more traditional fougere. Nightflight, with its beautifully evocative name and its pretty bottle will have to admit defeat, if only temporarily, for today I will be reviewing the original, Joop! pour Homme.

This perfume has currently fallen out of favor, considered by many as cheap and common. Launched in 1989, Joop! reached the pinnacle of its popularity in the early 90s. At the time it was almost impossible to walk down the street without smelling it every few paces it seemed. I believe its popularity to have been its downfall, comparable to fads that fall from grace. Sometimes we get to witness the resurgence of these modes past that had been forgotten and ostracized for a time, a quiet return that firmly places them in the hearts and minds of enthusiasts with newfound appreciation. I am not trying to claim that Joop! deserves to attain cult status, but I do believe praise is due to its bold character. In a sea of citrusy, marine and ozonic male fragrances, this one remains original to this day. It can also be considered as a predecessor to many of the bolder, nontraditionally male perfumes that succeeded it, such as Le Mâle by Jean Paul Gaultier – another flowery nonconformist. Yes, Joop! is unmistakably flowery. Its top citrus notes are played upon a very emphatic orange blossom theme and its heart is shockingly feminine, with notes of iris, muguet, jasmine, cinnamon and heliotrope. A very prominent note is opoponax, present and very strong throughout the development of this fragrance, joined by amber, cedar, vanilla, patchouli and sandalwood in the base. Even though it is a youthful fragrance, its boozy mix of flowers lends decadence to it, a sense of sickly decomposition that keeps attracting me to it perversely. It is what makes it instinctually sexy to me. This characteristic is interestingly antagonistic with its childlike quality; it is made for a man-child who’s well groomed and ready for a date. Comforting and intoxicating at the same time, his bright smile smells of bubblegum.

Pictures: Courtesy of and respectively.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wrappings by Clinique : Perfume Review

Clinique launched Wrappings in 1990 as their second fragrance for women in the line. Visiting beauty counters as a very young girl at the time, I remember thinking that Clinique was the epitome of good taste and elegance when seeing Aromatics Elixir and Wrappings lined together under the rows upon rows of pastel, tastefully simple-packaged cosmetics. It was the time before all the “Happies”. Clinique was clean, austere, a step above the rest. The magazine ads for Clinique fragrances presented the two as twin sisters in their almost identical bottles and logo designs, but even then, I knew which one I preferred: Wrappings, the difficult sister, the one most people would shy away from due to her tenaciously challenging character. It was certainly not marketed towards pre-adolescent young girls, but I was in love. Wrappings has the same dry and sour character as L’eau Trois by Diptyque, but whereas L’Eau Trois can be seen as almost rural and evocative of bucolic, pastoral scenes, Wrappings reeks of good breeding. In that sense, it is a refined, elegant choice with the same air as Private Collection, smelling of privilege and money. It is a green, aldehydic chypre, with many flowery, marine and herbal notes. Most notably one can revel in its pine-like green accord, held together masterfully by nutmeg and lavender oils. Roses, cyclamens, jasmine and of course carnations form the flowery heart of the perfume, with beautiful moss and cedar acting as the base. But the notes say almost nothing of the creation itself; It is so expertly blended, none of them pop out sharply. One would be hard-pressed to define Wrappings as an explicitly sexy perfume – it is not. It is a scent a woman chooses for herself and not for others. But if she chooses it for the right reasons, Wrappings can become inexplicably alluring on her, a true signature scent. Chic sophistication and self-assuredness in a bottle. Unfortunately, it has been discontinued here in Europe, but thankfully it can still be purchased online. For how long, I wonder?

Pictures courtesy of and respectively.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Putain des Palaces by Etat Libre d’Orange : Pefume Review

I have often mused whether this perfume is not named with the intent to scandalize, but instead, with the far more intelligent purport to satirize the banality of every other flower-bomb out there in the market. Creations with the sole aim to target all the lolita-esque creatures that go perfume shopping with the subconscious (or perhaps conscious) wish to amp their wet-dream potential. Nowhere near common is this masterfully blended putain by Etat Libre d’Orange. It opens up with a furious blend of flowers, so heady and strong and sweet that almost made me dismiss it. Violets and roses, sugared and dark, leave the wearer breathless. Then as the perfume sets, my mind’s eye catches glimmers of a woman, the alabaster-skinned beauty I immediately identify as Putain des Palaces. She is dipping her toe in a claw-foot tub. Red rose petals are floating in the water and serve to scent her skin exquisitely. This mixture of fresh water and rose petals has me ensnared and I can only wish this innocent intermezzo would last longer. But she has other plans, already planning the evening ahead. As Putain des Palaces continues to develop, I can clearly smell the juices of Clementine mandarins. The experience becomes even more decidedly gourmand with the addition of bittersweet almond essence and anise. I imagine the woman getting ready in her candlelit boudoir again, picking up her corset and silk robe from her canopied bed. Her languid bath over, her expression is unreadable - covered by the thick mask of her powder, applied with a heavy hand. The faintest whiff of leather rises from the leather lacing of her new corset. Her erotic musk will only be discerned by the one that leans to bite her neck.

Image courtesy of

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Perfume Blog Launched!

Well, the title sounds a bit pompous... But I am excited! I have optimized the template to a level that I am content with to start trying to get my blog ‘out there’ so to speak. I will of course continue tweaking it to reach my vision of how it should be, but this is basically how it will look like from now on. For now my main concern is to start getting some visitors so that I am not only talking to myself! My virtual pen is fueled by my true passion for the form of art that is perfume. So look forward to many perfume reviews, musings about perfume notes and comparisons between different fragrances.

My warmest thanks to P., without whom this would not have been possible.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A La Nuit by Serge Lutens & Gardenia Rain by Ava Luxe : Perfume Reviews

I keep returning to Greece every summer. I begin my trip by going to the mountains and I end my vacation by going to an island, a different one each year. I revisit countless tastes and smells each time, tastes and smells that mean so much to me, intertwined as they are with colorful memories. I plan to visit many of those memories as I write this blog and I wish to start this journey with the white florals of summer, so abundantly found on the Greek terrain.

On each and every one of the islands I visit, jasmine is a constant nightly companion. Taking a walk in the night, whether that would be in the daedal, labyrinthine streets of a Cycladian island, or on the wider, more spacious streets of say, Lesbos or Syros, I’ve always ended up being unwittingly led by my nose at some point, following the magical redolence of its flowering vines. I usually don’t even manage to realize that it is the jasmine’s trail of scent that I am following, I just know that I have to reach the source. And I am left ensnared, peering in the darkness, until my eyes find it, in all its glory. Whether it’s hanging from an unassuming whitewashed wall, a broken down fence, or a majestically intricate old iron gate of a mansion, I’ll always stop and stare and hide my nose in its growth. I’ll twine my fingers in its vines and shake gently, to make the scent waft in a yet more heady cloud and stain my fingers with its essence. I’ll always cut a sprig and put it in my hair, then put it on my nightstand before I go to bed, so that I fall asleep with its scent next to my nose. In the morning, the magic will be gone, but that is not regretful. That is part of the jasmine’s thrill, she is the blooming queen of the night. With such a characteristic smell, one would think that someone would have captured the essence of the jasmine’s blooms earlier. But every perfume that proclaimed to bottle its scent has been failing miserably. The oils would be too strong, too pungent, too mellow; the sprays too fresh, acidic or soapy. But Serge Luten’s A la Nuit is just perfect. It’s jasmine in its truest form: seductive but soft, sweet but never overwhelming. It engulfs the wearer with the flower’s auspicious character. It makes one feel as though something beautifully romantic is bound to happen any minute now. It makes one feel young and feminine. I keep reminding myself I am not a florals-sort-of-person. I keep reminding myself I like my fragrances either strong, sexy and decisive or musky and comforting. I keep asking myself what in the world draws me to this creation. I guess the only adequate answer I can give is that A la Nuit is a true masterpiece. It has the power to turn the heathen into a believer. It is the only substitute there could ever be for the real thing.

Even though I’ll thoughtlessly and unrepentantly cut sprigs of jasmine for my hair, I reserve only the lightest touch for gardenias. I cannot resist lightly caressing the creamy-colored blooms in order to feel their leathery texture and it never fails to amaze me, how such a dense and fleshy flower can emanate such heady and rich aroma. I’d never so much think of cutting or mistreating one of those treasures. And treasures they are, as they are so hard to care for, and even healthy plants often fail to bloom. Gardenias won’t bloom in very hot environments and like moisture. The places that I find them in Greece thus are the mountainous villages I visit in the summer. It is common to see this amazingly beautiful flower planted in rusty, square iron boxes, which have been cut in half for this purpose. But this should not be mistaken for a Greek lack of appreciation for this flower. According to my grandmother, gardenias love rust. They ‘feed’ on it, she used to tell me when I was a child. You could please the gardenia even more by putting a rusty nail in the soil with it. Is this true? I don’t know, but if I ever tried to grow a gardenia I’d certainly be diligent in feeding it this treat, seeing how successful they are in Greece! Ava Serena Franco’s Gardenia Rain is a very successful rendition of the flower that always manages to take me back to a village, high up in the Greek mountains. It makes me feel I am in the shade of a plane tree, drinking a cool glass of water, enjoying the scent of the gardenia flowers around me, planted in their wonky iron pots. If you are looking for the smell of gardenias, don’t try Chanel’s version which smells nothing like it... Don’t even go for Gardenia Musk, a more soapy version by Ava-Luxe. Instead, try Gardenia Rain from the same line.

Pictures: Jasmine courtesy of, gardenias courtesy of and rusty nail courtesy of

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Imperial Opoponax by Les Nereides : Perfume Review

One has to give Imperial Opoponax some time to settle on the skin, because when first applied it really does not show its true colors. It starts off quite zingy and sharp, with a herbal, medicinal quality that I, personally, found unpleasant. Yes, the beautifully resinous Opoponax is there, present in the opening, but it is not well behaved. The top notes of citrus oils cover its sweetness and lend a very masculine quality to it. In fact, this perfume never becomes quite feminine. I would say that it can be worn equally comfortably by men and women alike, a genuine unisex perfume. After a while its medicinal tendencies abide and one can begin to appreciate the blend of vanilla and opoponax, gently tinged by chamomile flowers. Some have described it as a winter, comfort scent, but to me, Imperial Opoponax is unequivocally a spring perfume. No other season suits it better in my eyes. It craves for the sun, but also for the sweet cool breeze of spring, lest the rays of the sun warm it too much. While wearing it, I keep getting gentle wafts of baby talcum powder and lightly perfumed skin. It is a pleasant little scent, not particularly complex and not particularly well blended either. But I guess it never tried to be those things either. What you see, is what you get as they say. If it was slightly animalic, we might well become lovers. As it is though, it has none of the qualities I look for in a perfume worthy of full-bottle purchase. But I will savor my little sample and find the opportunity to wear it sometime on a picnic, lying in the shadow of a big tree, next to a river. We’ll make a little memory together and then part our ways without shedding any tears.

Top picture: Opoponax resin, courtesy of
The second picture is from the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, my favorite place to go for a picnic. Courtesy of

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Under Construction

I am still working on getting this blog set up. My two posts so far have been an exercise in talking to myself, since the blog has not yet been made public. The reason for this is that it is not quite ready yet. I did not want to publish it while it is still looking so unfinished. I wanted to have the perfect version ready! Even though I am not very web/tech-savvy, I still want to make the best of it. So, I have been in the process of giving the ready-made template I chose from blogger a much needed facelift. I started with the color scheme and have now graduated to working with the top banner and the icons. I have chosen Carnations to be the main theme of the blog, since it is a flower whose scent I love but mainly because I discovered that it is a note included in all of my favorite fragrances. That makes it very special to me and it will certainly be a great 'mascot'! On a side note, I have yet to find the perfect Carnation soliflore. Bellodgia by Caron is lovely, but it is not peppery, spicy enough for me. I should definitely start asking around. Tomorrow I am going to review Imperial Opoponax by Les Nereides. It will be nice to have a number of reviews already posted, so when this blog gets out there it is not completely empty. Don’t you agree, imaginary reader? :)

Under construction image by

Monday, April 16, 2007

Aimez Moi (Love me), by Caron : Perfume Review

Aimez Moi is the siren song of a nyad. As captivating as it is deceptive, this floral creation is a force to be reckoned with. If Aimez Moi was a woman she would appear gentle and romantic. She would appear as the stereotype of purity and gentle, effortless beauty. The unsuspecting victims would let their guard down around her and even though none would be able to deny her obvious charm, they’d only acknowledge it and try to turn their attention elsewhere. But wherever the hapless victims would turn, her seemingly naive and innocent wide blue eyes would follow. “Aimaiz moi?” she’d whisper inquisitively. “Aimaiz moi” the same whisper would confirm, almost to itself, with a strange conviction this time. “Aimaiz moi!” it’d call out a little louder next, with a hint of a giggle. And it’d go on, repeating the same holophrastic sentence, the siren call, over and over again.

And there is truly no escape anymore, the target is caught in the netting of the shyest violet enveloped in the powder of iris, held together by dew of clean sweet musc and peppered with a little dust. A violet perfume so subtle, it makes all violets in nature wilt with shame for their brashness.

The first image is courtesy of The second image is “Siren” by John William Waterhouse.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

In The Beginning

This is a little about me and the reasons why I started this blog:
My love affair with perfume started when I was a child. I would always beg the SAs of the stores my mother visited for samples, which I collected with a passion. On one of those trips, when I was around eight years old, I finally asked my mother for my very own full bottle. She could not comprehend what a child would do with one, yet she eventually agreed. I picked Anais Anais by Cacharel. My sample collection kept growing and it even graduated to a collection of miniatures which I love to this day. Again as a child, there was a time when I could always name the perfume of anyone that came near me, I guess that was in the 80s, when there were only about 800 perfumes in the world, instead of thousands of new releases per year... When thinking of what I wanted to do when I grew up, all I wanted was to create perfumes. Disappointment hit me though as I became more and more convinced that this would be an impossible path for me. Because of this I found different interests and chose a different path..but my passion for perfume never waned. I am not an expert and there are so many other blogs out there that do a most excellent job. But I really wanted my own little space to share my love for fragrances and my thoughts with other perfume-lovers. Olfaction is of utmost importance to me.. I consider it my strongest sense. A scent can bring to the surface memories not just as pictures, but as complete emotions, that cradle the heart and lift it with joy, or drown it in sorrow. They can evoke the light touch of a lover past, or the caress of the summer sun. Everything and anything can be contained in smells. For me, the stimulus does not even need be there. It is enough to imagine a smell I have experienced to actually smell it once again as if it was truly there.