Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fragrance Bouquet on Summer Vacation

My dears,

I am writing from Greece! I really wanted to post before I actually left, but things got so crazy on Friday... As I have said before, I somehow manage to not get almost any sleep before I leave on a trip. Friday was no exception. I was planning to write a nice post, but actually ended up packing until midnight and slept an hour later. I guess one in the morning does not sound too bad unless you know that...I had to wake up at four to go to the airport! Yes, I once again travelled with three hours of sleep. At least I've managed to rest since then. Now that I have access to the internet I can finally post that I am on vacarion. I was so worried that I was not going to be able to post for a while, seemingly disappeared without a word, but I guess my worries were unfounded. I am in the city now but leaving for the mountain on Friday and after that I am going to an island. With this in mind, I know it will be difficult to make a post here. So, in case it actually proves impossible, I am letting you know I will be back on the 20th of August. In case I do not get to post at all until then, I will miss you all. I am looking forward to seeing you again in a couple of weeks with more fragrant surprises!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Park Avenue by Bond No. 9 : Perfume Review

There is a garden that no longer exists anywhere but in my own heart, but its colors are still as vivid as they were when I could freely run and play in it as a child. It was my grandmother’s garden, where I spent a great deal of my childhood. The smells and colors throughout the year were truly a sight to behold... From the spectacular extravaganza of flowers to the generous fruit-bearing trees, I consider myself to have been a very lucky child indeed, to have been given the opportunity to make this magical place my playground. I’d tirelessly watch the snails feasting on clovers under the fig tree in summer, I’d see the pomegranate tree flower its gorgeous, fiery colored blooms in summer and autumn, until finally it would bear its huge, ultra sweet fruit in winter. I’d marvel at the wonders of the sun, for the apples would blush on the side that the light hit them, while their other half would remain pale. I’d gorge myself on freshly picked apricots while running through the rose bushes. In the morning I’d naughtily steal a sip of grandma’s coffee under the honeysuckle, while at night I’d be lulled to sleep with the narcotic smell of jasmine that would waft through the open window. But what I remember most fondly, was the chamomile lawn on the western side of the garden. Come spring, a dense carpet of intense yellow and blinding white would cover that patch of earth and every day I’d roll around in it, giggling, imagining god knows what anymore. By the end of the day, I’d be covered with its fruity, slightly sour scent. Sometimes grandma would make a chamomile circlet and she would fasten it in my at the time still naturally golden locks and I’d laugh and laugh, pretending to be the spirit of May. But the best part always came in the summer. We’d bring large metal oven dishes in the garden and would fill them with the fragrant heads of the flowers. Then we’d let them dry in the sun for days so we’d have enough chamomile to last us throughout winter for my favorite, fragrant soothing drink: chamomile tea.

With such lively memories, it is no wonder that I have long been looking for a scent that makes good use of chamomile. When I came across a sample of Park Avenue by Bond No. 9 I was naturally, very excited. This humble, yet noble plant is so close to my heart that my expectations were certainly high. I am glad to say, I was not disappointed. Chamomile deserves a composition that is uncluttered enough to allow its beauty to shine through, and indeed, Park Avenue’s refined floral melange seems to be the perfect context for this cheerful flower. This time, it grows among roses, irises and paperwhite narcissi. Unlike true chamomile growing in nature though, this one is well mannered and behaved, never wildly overwhelming the rest of its more cultivated companions. Each one gets to showcase its wondrous beauty in the best manner. Even the rose refuses to be a diva, admitting that the rest of the flowers in this beautiful bouquet will allow it to shine best. In Park Avenue, it is a feminine mist of early spring, chic and demure, dressed in pastel pink. The paperwhite narcissus in turn, makes everything joyfully vibrant with that juicy, fresh smell only bulb flowers can have, effortlessly imparting that essence of morning dew. The coolness of the iris on the other hand, ensures that both the sweet femininity of the rose and the cheerfulness of the paperwhite are kept in check, lending the fragrance an air of aloofness. But for me, if there was ever any question about it, the star of the fragrance is my beloved chamomile. It manifests itself not with the crisp, herbaceous scent of the blossoms, but instead, with the unmistakable, sweeter, earthier smell of the tea. It is constantly there, exuding a sense of tranquility, ease and comfort and it actually seems to caress the rest of the floral notes, enhancing their beauty. In a way, I feel like it is the chamomile in the blend, which makes them truly sparkle. Perhaps it will sound silly, but I am thankful for getting to see this oft looked over charming flower given place in such a beautiful creation, like a semi-precious stone finally gaining status in the hands of an expert jeweler. And perhaps my reminiscing of blossom picking was quaint... Perhaps chamomile itself is humble. But one would be fooled to think Park Avenue is either. This soft floral bouquet is both sophisticated and elegant, the perfect scent for the worldly woman whose multifaceted charm encompasses all the qualities the notes so eloquently describe.

Images courtesy of: www.caryn.com, www.anjelicasboudoir.com and www.scillyflowers.co.uk

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Oud Ambre by Montale : Perfume Review

One whiff and all I can think of is “I must have it. Right now, this instant, I must have it.” Smelling Oud Ambre for the first time at the Montale Boutique in Paris was like a revelation. It was the perfume I’d been looking for, an ideal I’d been chasing like a Chimaera I’d almost given up on. Being presented with this fragrance was like being deeply understood, a feeling that shook me to the core of my being. Smelling it for the first time on my skin, a liberated smile was etched on my face, like the unstoppable grin I’d get as a child when dolphins would race our speedboat across the Mediterranean. There is only one way I can think to describe that feeling: rapturous enthrallment.

Everything I’d hoped for when looking for a truly lethal evening fragrance is here... A seductive trail of spices, animal magnetism, dark mystique, beast-like dominance, luxury, diva-esque glamour and surprisingly perhaps, considering all this, plenty of sophistication. The jus is sharp and assailing, stinging the nose a way I am completely addicted to. Spices, pine needles and beautiful resin flourish on a backdrop of oudh, Yet, the oudh does not constantly creep up, nor is it as pronounced and dryly medicinal as in some other Montale creations. It is very well blended, and the end result is warm, rich and wonderfully piquant. Closing my eyes and inhaling deeply, I feel like I am sitting cross-legged on the paved grounds of a mystical garden. The sun is high, the day hot, and I am beating lashings of honey drizzled over strikingly fragrant oregano, geranium and labdanum in an ancient mortar and pestle, until there is nothing left in my mind but their smell. I feel no tiredness in my arms, not until the sun finally starts to fall and I open my eyes, finally coming-to from my trance-like state. A male caracal cat is defiling the rose garden with its sticky spray, hot with desire. I swoon. Tired, I succumb. I can be a cat too, wearing this...Rose petals in a sticky mess - loudly proclaiming my fertile days, clawing and biting. ...Dare I? Glowing hearts of amber wrapped in fur stoles make their appearance. The garden finally ready, night is truly upon us.

Considering my zealous fascination for devastating, offensive fragrances, Oud Ambre feels intimately personal, as thought it was created on request, only for me. It feels almost magical to have found it, as though I did not really buy it, but instead ventured on a quest, battled countless Nightmares and Nightshades until I got to brave the thorny path leading to the spindly tower of the last living sorceress to ask for one thing: the most potent philter of hellish desire she could concoct. The result is indeed a fiendish potion: a mixture of the putrid with the divinely sweet that leads my heart to experience inexplicable rapture. And as is true of every fairytale involving witchcraft, there is always a catch... only the bravest will be caught in the net spun by this philtre d’amour extrême... But then again, only the bravest would ever do for the ones that are able to employ it successfully.

The very fitting and gorgeous mandala design is courtesy of www.designsbywillow.com

Monday, July 23, 2007

Quick Note

Hi guys! Just a quick note to say that
1 - Jenavira13 won the sample (please send me your contact details) and
2 - there will be a new review tomorrow.



Saturday, July 21, 2007

Palisander by Ava Luxe : Perfume Review

Ina, over at Aromascope made a post some time ago which sparked a discussion on straightforward perfumes. As I stated at the time, I believe that straightforward, linear perfumes can sometimes be a blessing, because you do not have to think too much. Too, sometimes what you are looking for can only be satisfied by a simpler creation, without too much fuss around it. I know I personally have a number of such little loves at least. Although not all of Ava Serena Franco’s fragrances are linear (some are far more complex than I had imagined before trying them), a lot of them satisfy those cravings for a clean, straightforward blend. Her line is fun, the service is amazing and I often find myself visiting her website to order samples as a pick-me-up gift to myself that will invariably bring me a lot of pleasure when it arrives.

I woke up today planning to write a review of Incense Musk, in order to continue the theme of incense I started with Miyako, but when I visited the website I found that it has been discontinued. Not wanting to write another “you can’t have me” teaser, I first considered writing about Passage d’Enfer, but then I realized that in the process I had actually become more interested in writing about an Ava Luxe scent, than about an incense fragrance in general. After perusing my sample collection for a while I decided to settle on Palisander, a delightful autumnal scent, perfect for when the leaves turn copper and the wind starts baring wintry fangs.

Palisander, conversely one of the more complex Ava Luxe fragrances I have sampled, has a strange earthiness when it is first applied on the skin. An earthiness so strong in fact, that it manages to instantly evoke images of subterranean growth, roots of trees and fibers of plants growing deep in dark, rich soil. There are leaves there too, dropped on the forest floor. They have seen countless rains and are now laying there lifeless, wet, decomposing...Becoming one with the earth that bore them. As the oil warms on the skin, the earthy scent disappears, leaving almost no trace behind. It is replaced by a heavy, woody sweetness. When I originally sampled Palisander, six months or so ago, I found the first whiff of its sweetness frightening - I thought I might have to scrub it off immediately. I do sometimes experience an extreme sense of sweetness from some woody fragrances and essential oils and it is something I honestly can’t stomach. Thankfully, I decided to be brave and let it sit on my skin for a while and this was rewarded: I found that this time the sweetness is anything but nauseating. Yes, the initial entrance is rather grand and dramatic, but it quickly becomes obvious that it is not going to be overpowering: despite its headiness, this is a rather sheer sweetness, one that graciously agrees to dance instead of a solo, together with all the other elements of the blend, one after the other. It becomes a constant, which is at first partnered up with a strange, slightly medicinal freshness, a remnant of the erstwhile earthiness. Then later on, with sensuous amber which eradicates any sense of freshness there was still to be found and allows a beautiful, enveloping warmth to bloom on the skin...until finally, it becomes smoky; dark, intense and almost incense like. There is also something else there: after some hours of wear I find Palisander to take on a peculiar animalic quality; the smell of desire heating up a cold room in winter, like a glowing ember.

Images courtesy of: www.galeriabali.pl, www.csun.edu,

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Miyako by Annayake: Perfume Review

Back in May, I decided to write a week long feature here on Fragrance Bouquet, reviewing the female fragrances of the Annayake line. Those of you that followed it, might remember that I was at the time unable to get my hands on either Miyako, or Matsuri. I hate to leave things incomplete, so I set out to try and find both, so that I would have a complete picture of the fragrance line. Matsuri, I must admit, was easy to come across after all. I just had not looked hard –or well enough. I decided to not write about it because I was bitterly disappointed by it. As I have mentioned before, I do not always manage to get along with patchouli, especially when it claims center stage, muting everything else for my senses. Matsuri is unfortunately one such perfume: all I could smell and all I could think of was “Patchouli” and a rather flat one at that. L’Inspiratrice, it ain’t.

Miyako, a limited edition perfume, was much harder to find. A couple of months later though, I am happy to say I finally own a bottle. From the wonderful fragrance itself, to the beautiful sliding-doors box that houses it, my latest purchase has already given me much joy already. The very first time I wore it, a friend commented, “Mmm, what is this? Is it something Asian?” The remark obviously made me chuckle, for indeed, even if it wasn’t exactly a description of “...the fragrant air of the court of the Golden Pavilion, mythical temple in the Land of the Rising Sun...” (quote, Miyako box), Miyako had nevertheless managed to be instantaneously recognizable as a fragrance inspired by the Far East.

The sweetness of Miyako is rather curious, reminding me of the subtly sweet and oh-so-comforting warm air one finds in a house, after a full day of baking spiced goods made of lovingly kneaded dough. Its opening briefly tickles my nose with an ephemeral pepperiness that quickly subsides, giving way to the pungency of a prominent cardamom rubbed on cinnamon bark. There is something about the early stages of Miyako that I find intensely familiar, yet putting my finger on the fleeting memory that it rouses proved quite difficult – perhaps because I expected all my associations with the fragrance to be of an Oriental nature. Finally, it came to me, a couple of days ago: it is the mingling of frankincense and myrrh, combined with the smell of polished, waxed wood one encounters when finding refuge in the cool, lonely interior of a Greek Orthodox church during summertime. The smell of pine I get at this stage, also conspires to bring this memory forward, since it is not unusual for a church to be surrounded by pine (or other coniferous trees), and the resinous, fresh smell wafts generously inside through the open windows. I was perplexed to smell pine in Miyako – not only is it not listed as a note, but it seemed to me incongruous with a fragrance meant to allude to Japanese temples and Kodo, the Japanese incense ceremony. But after researching Kodo a bit further, I found that pine incense is indeed commonly used for the ceremony, so my nose must not have been playing tricks on me after all. While on the subject of listed notes, I must admit that despite the fact that several floral notes are listed as part of the composition, they remain virtually undetected by my nose. Rose is a possible exception: it suddenly blooms when the scent warms well on the skin. Even so, I doubt I would have identified it had I not been looking for it. But I do not lament the lack of a prominent floral bouquet, quite the contrary. Instead, I much prefer what I do find in the blend: there is the refined, dry, coniferous smell of cedar, the patchouli, which in this instance manages to be sparkling, the voluptuous, powdery sandalwood. And all of this is gently enveloped in the golden embrace of musk and amber, whose warmth and sense of comfort I cannot possibly begin to describe. This positively glowing coziness, my perception of a certain milky accord (which I love) and the somewhat powdery drydown, make me identify Miyako as one of most tender, restorative and comforting fragrances I own. I know it can be quite annoying to read a review of something that is hard to find and sniff for yourself, and since this limited edition fragrance is a little difficult to find (unless you wish to order a full bottle off ebay, of course), I wish to share some with you. If you post a comment on this review, I will automatically enter you in a drawing for a sample of Miyako, unless you explicitly state that you do not want to be entered, but just wished to comment. I will announce the winner on Monday evening.

Print: www.eso-garden.com
Senso Temple: incense burner. [Photograph]. Retrieved July 18, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/ebc/art-642
Kodo Set: www.japan-zone.com

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pierre Cardin: Musings and a small Perfume Review (Enigme)

I love Pierre Cardin, whom I consider to be a visionary innovator in the design world, daring and capable. As such, it pains me to write anything less than glowing for one of the creations of this genius who dabbles in everything when it comes to design, and leads the way, opening doors and opportunities for the rest, which will undoubtedly follow in his pioneering steps. Yet, despite my admiration, I must remain impartial and admit that I am not a big fan of Enigme. Nor am I, as a matter of fact, a fan of all the fragrant offerings of the house, even though I wish I were. It would be wonderful to be able to claim that I am seduced by each and every one of them, proving that romantic ideal right – that one can follow a house with devotion, like a proselytized apostle.

Pierre Cardin fragrances are notoriously hard to come across, a fact that has led me to keep six backup bottles of Rose in my closet, just to ease my mind of the fear that I might one day have to do without. (A most unpleasant experience that has occurred in the past, leaving me craving it for years, like an addict) So, it will probably come as no surprise, that when I found myself in Paris, I wanted to visit one of the Pierre Cardin Boutiques on my first day already. Finally, I’d be able to smell all of the fragrances I’d been curious about for years – since the only ones I’d been familiar with thus far were Choc and Rose. The boutique itself was different than other houses I’d visited - darker, quieter, old-fashioned. It was immediately obvious that it is not geared towards a younger, modern clientele like the rest of the houses I have visited, but to a different type of customer: A more mature lady that will make an appointment for a fitting beforehand, or one that will pop in to add one more of the fabulous hats to her collection. If I didn’t know better, I might even think that this was a sign of stale decline – but the house is doing well. I decided to instead be charmed by the more traditional attitude and savor it, like gaining admittance to witness a piece of the past. (A little funny tidbit too: Once I’d made my request inside, that is, to be led to the collection of Cardin perfumes, I was immediately asked: “You want Rose, non?” I still ask myself whether it is immediately obvious that I am a Rose girl, or just that it is expected that the customer will ask for Rose, since even in their minds, it is the best of the lineup. Or perhaps I am being a romantic once again, and the plain fact is that Rose is the most well known female fragrance of the house. Regardless, seeing as I’ll never know, I like to flatter myself by thinking that I am strikingly, obviously, a Rose wearer.) Once before the rotating, peculiar stand that holds the fragrances I found myself excited by some - like the latest additions to the family, Tristan et Yseult- and disappointed by others, like poor Ophelia. I left the boutique quite happy with a bottle of Choc and a sample of Enigme.

Today, while remembering that beautiful sunny day, I am sampling Enigme for the second time. Enigme, released in 1992, debuted as the second male fragrance by the house, exactly 20 years after the release of Pierre Cardin pour Monsieur in 1972. I do not know exactly what the thought process behind the flacon was, but I find it slightly disturbing, as I do –albeit to a lesser extent- the flacon for Centaure. Even though Enigme is not unrefined, by today’s standards it does smell raw and savage. It is a bit as though its release was off the mark by some years, as in many ways it is reminiscent of a typical ‘80s fragrance: Big sillage, big statement, big ego, big everything. Even the fresh top notes seem to be announcing, nay, loudly declaring, the potent virility of the wearer. From the beginning already, this freshness finds itself struggling in a battle it is obviously going to lose from the imminent leather that is going to follow. For a while it manages to conceal its other great opponent, a cloying, yet somehow soft sweetness that is trying to emerge. Then it dies, perhaps for the better too, as I find that freshness is the last thing this fragrance was ever about. It seems to me as though it was always an after-thought, a well-known gimmick for male grooming products the world over. “Good riddance!”, the stronger elements of Enigme proclaim, and as though appeased due to the fact they no longer have to assert their presence over the briskness of their competitors, they too calm down, leaving behind part of their obnoxious character. I find the emerging clove alluring, but by that time I have already given up on this fragrance. ...Then an hour or two later, I lift my wrist to my nose instinctively, as one does when wearing a perfume they are not used to, and find, to my great surprise, something entirely different. Spicy, flowery, woody, softly sweet...it reminds me of an old friend. I don’t really have to think much about it, I know which favorite it has brought to mind almost immediately: Jacomo de Jacomo. I find new respect for Enigme. No, it is not as subtly nuanced as Jacomo, nor as unique. It is not as daring as Jacomo either, for where Jacomo dared to be vergining towards femininity, Enigme is still very much a man’s perfume without the shadow of a doubt. But its transformation is so shocking, I find myself delighted. If it was not so unabashedly retro-macho, I might even begin to like it. And on the right man I probably would. A graying, utterly confident dandy you can’t help but love. A raging heterosexual dandy, that is.

Images courtesy of: www.luggageonline.com and www.1stperfume.com

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Coconut Lover’s Summer

I have been on a coconut bender for a while now. Even though I adore coconut, I never get the urge to actually smell of it during the colder months of the year. My love for it remains dormant all through winter, forgetting all about it. Come summertime though, my desire for its summery scent is instantly rekindled and I once again begin craving it, finding myself looking for the perfect coconut fragrance with which to scent my body with. I must admit, I have not found The One yet. Embarrassingly, my ideal coconut scent would smell like.... Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil. There, I said it. I can’t help it; I have been lusting after its concentrated pungency for years! No, it would not be a refined smell, nor one I associate with elegance. But then again I simply cannot associate coconut with high perfumery anyway. To be frank, I am even loath to use the word ‘fragrance’ or ‘perfume’ in the same sentence as coconut. But there you have it: It is summertime again and as I am getting ready for my vacation in August, I am stocking up on all those favorite blends with which I can make myself smell coconut-fabulous once more. All to the chagrin of my boyfriend I might add, Coconut-Hater Extraordinaire. So far, I have settled on three very different renditions of this tropical seed to take with me on holiday, making my suitcase completely summer-ready.

Azurée Soleil by Estée Lauder: This is undoubtedly my favorite of the three suitcase essentials I am taking with me this summer. A true coconut-lover’s dream, Azurée Soleil is much more complex than any other coconut scent I have tried. It is, a tropical fantasy bottled. It starts out quite fruity, with what I perceive as ripe peach. The ripeness of fruit blends beautifully with heady white florals, but while the overall impression is sweet, it manages to abstain from being syrupy or overwhelming. Instead, once again despite the sweetness, one gets the sense of a salty breeze, carrying with it the aromas of a tropical coast. Needless to say, coconut is an ever-present, prominent figure in Azurée Soleil, but not one full of supercilious, impertinent conceit that would overshadow everything else with its presence. No, despite its strong character and the central position it has been awarded in this blend, it still gallantly allows the rest of the notes to shine and charm the wearer with their own distinctiveness. Perhaps most importantly for me, there is the merest hint of something slightly animalic hidden in the depths of this blend. It is this quality that truly seduces me. Lastly, before I get carried away with what I intended to be a tiny review, I have to say that I prefer the Body Oil Spray to the atomizer. I find that is has more tenacity as well as being more sensual.

Vanille Coco by Comtoir Sud Pacifique: Vanille Coco was an impulse buy, but not one I regret. I really surprised myself with this one I have to admit, because I usually have to smell something over and over again (if I have the luxury to of course) before I buy it. One sniff was enough though, to make me rush over to the register with a big smile on my face. I wanted it. I had to have it. Why? Because it is the closest thing I have ever smelled to that elusive Hawaiian Tropic smell. Vanille Coco positively screams “Sun, Sun, Sun!” and hot, island-air on the skin. It makes me feel like I am lying on a beach, completely covered in suntan oil. (which is a good thing, because I unfortunately no longer partake in the actual, extremely pleasurable activity of sun-tanning with oil or without...It is now SPF 50+ for me and always under a huge umbrella. Who wants wrinkles?) The intense suntan-oil scent lasts for hours, I am very happy to report. But even after some hours of wear, after what initially drew me to Vanille Coco fades, I am still a happy customer. What is left, is a foody, scrumptuous smell that makes me feel positively edible. Like Amour Cacao, I find the drydown of Vanille Coco to be very reminiscent of delicious baked goods. This time around it is a crunchy vanilla cookie with chewy, grated coconut. Or perhaps a yummy coconut macaroon. Mmmmm...

Coconut Dry Oil Mist by The Body Shop: Not truly a fragrance, Coconut Dry Oil Mist from The Body Shop is still an old favorite that I simply can’t leave out. The texture itself is wonderful: It glides on the skin with slippery silkiness and leaves it soft, moisturized and shining with a beautiful soft sheen to boot. The coconut scent is not as concentrated and strong as I would have liked it to be, but subtler and perhaps a little murky. It does lightly scent the whole body though and the staying power is great, unlike other body-mists that become imperceptible ten minutes after application. Also, the fact that it is subtle, allows me to wear it all over the body – something I could never do with Azurée Soleil which would be too strong for this purpose. To this extent, it covers the body with its soft coconut scented film and makes every inch of my skin appear polished and well groomed. I also love layering it with tiny sprays of other Body Shop scents. For this purpose I use the ones specifically created as a palette to mix and match together and use up to two, over the body oil. The ones I prefer are: Citrella, Aztique, Amorito, Minteva and Beleaf. Unfortunately, from those mentioned, only Aztique and Amorito are still in production. The other three have been discontinued.

Having expressed my love for coconut I also have to add that personally, I do not really view coconut scents as appropriate for city-wear. (with the possible exception of extremely casual occasions in hot weather, but even then, I excercise caution.) They are not the height of chic, no matter which way you look at it. They are on the other hand, perfectly suited to an island getaway. My own island-getaway? I finally managed to find tickets for the island I chose to visit this year just yesterday, after a long wait. Now I am counting the days till August, discreetly smelling of coconut already. While in the house, natch.

Images courtesy of: www.deliciousorganics.com, http://fashiontribes.typepad.com and http://ile-tropicale.com

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

L’Autre – Diptyque : Perfume Review

In 1973, Diptyque launched their second fragrance, aptly named L’Autre (“The Other”). Fiercely unique, this brave scent has me constantly sniffing my wrist for the first half an hour after its application. Before it finally calms down, its character is extremely volatile, taking me through various “blink-and-you-missed-it” stages. I am aware L’Autre doesn’t have many fans out there, which does not come as a surprise to me, considering it's challenging, difficult composition. Yet, I decided to write about it today, not only because I find it intriguing, but also because perhaps, this small review will prompt more people to try it and experiment with it.

L’Autre’s opening is to me, stunningly evocative of an old apothecary. My first thoughts every single time I smell it, tend to invariably be something along the lines of “Oh My Goodness!” as I am hit in the face by the strong medicinal, herbal, blend which is intensified by alcohol. Unfailingly surprised each time by the punch it delivers, I can’t help but find my senses alert, watchful and almost wary of what is to come. As the initial alcohol burst dissipates, a provocative mix of near-eastern spices begins to emerge. Sun-drenched spice markets come into view, their bulging woven baskets baking in the sun which serves to make the contents ever more fragrant. The hot air is dry and there is sand in my ears, mouth and nose – the dusty qualities of cardamom. The draft carries with it the unprecedented fullness of cumin and caraway and I follow their scent as if called by an invisible piper – or perhaps it is just the convincing calls of the merchants ringing in my ears. Provocative and realistic, the smells of the market have seduced me. My mind is filled with colors: Ochre, brick red, taupe and blue accented with gold...and suddenly....bright green? The market disappears abruptly, rather than fading from view. Cool breeze on my skin, it is springtime and I am at my paternal home, paradoxically a child again. The kitchen door is open and I pick a couple of lemon leaves from the tree in our garden. Curious, I stub my little nails in the leaf and the most beautiful aroma rises. I scratch the leaves more intently now, filling the air with the stimulating, fresh fragrance of the lemon oil. I almost don’t hear my mother calling to me, completely carried away by this fabulous lemony goodness. Back inside, I find mother cooking, juicing lemons and chopping coriander, which has filled the kitchen with its slightly astringent smell. How beautiful is springtime, I think to myself, surrounded by the energizing, zingy aromas. As soon as I complete this thought the picture disappears, the spell broken. I shake my head in surprise, emerging from my dreamworld as if by a rude interruption. Stillness, as I struggle to come to terms with the fact that L'Autre's previously unabashed trail seems to be all but faded when compared to its original strength. Giving my senses some time to adjust I begin to become aware once more of its lingering qualities. The moderate sillage is now all but gone and my travels were fleeting. But when I smell close, I find the softest, kindest patchouli. I am extremely surprised to find it, I have to admit. I would normally detect its heady scent instantly, but with L'Autre, it only makes an appearance at the final stages. I find it to be mixed with the shyest of pine and traces of spice. There is an undeniable animalic appeal to this drydown stage, something that makes my heart quicken. I cannot decide whether I’d wish for it to have more strength or if I am indeed content that it has become a skin-scent one can only detect during intimate encounters. All I know is that I like it – it moves me. Despite it being officially a unisex fragrance, I see this as being more suited to men. To me L’Autre smells deeply masculine and I believe it has more to offer to men than women. For a woman, L’Autre will be an experience, a mood-scent. For a man it positively becomes a weapon in his arsenal when it comes to seduction: Unquestionably, yet almost inexplicably sexy.

Images courtesy of www.mekuno.net, http://chowtimes.com and www.exodus.co.uk

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Zen by Shiseido : Perfume Review

Sometimes it is more difficult to write about perfumes I’ve lived with and loved for a long time, than about those I’ve just discovered. I’ve been longing to write about Zen for about as long as I’ve been writing Fragrance Bouquet, but something inside me has been making me hold back, always deciding to postpone a review for a later date. Perhaps it is fear of not being able to express my love for it; maybe it’s fear of being unable to describe it. Or perhaps it is the peculiar feeling I have of being unable to touch it, because I have never been able to truly own Zen anyway. It sits there on my dresser, wallowing in my love and admiration, not waiting to be picked – content in only rarely demanding to. And I, I have to wait till it calls me. The rest of my fragrances are mine, loved possessions I feel I can pick up almost thoughtlessly at any given time, because they are both mine and part of myself. With Zen, I have to be summoned.

But now, I feel cannot postpone the review any longer. I guess I have not been following fragrance news very closely, because it was only during my recent trip to Paris that I found that Zen has been discontinued. “Discontinued?” I asked at Shiseido, crestfallen. “Yes, it is gone, a new one is coming in September!” the answer came. Sure enough, when I came back home I confirmed it is nowhere to be found. A cursory look through the international WebPages of Shiseido just confused me, with some listing it as part of the fragrance line while others do not. For now, all I can do to comfort myself is write a little tribute to this difficult love of mine, this love that refuses to be tamed, shunning my affections with haughtiness. That, and wait for the tidings September will bring, of course.

In 1964, Shiseido released the original Zen, Zen Classic. In 2000, almost four decades later, they decided to completely reformulate it. It was meant to be a fragrance for the new millennium. In a time when the stressors of society seemed to be at an ultimate height and with technology making unprecedented leaps into a future that at the time seemed rather frantic, Zen came with a very ambitious vision: to center the wearer, to make them look deep in their hearts. To find inner strength and beauty, enabling them thus to be at peace with the world around them. To vivify the heart, prompting it to reach to others with kindness and purity. With never before used notes such as Space Rose, special ingredients such as Kyara wood and Modified Valerian Oil (both meant to decrease stress and induce feelings of calm and focus) as well as a flacon modeled after two hands gently clasped together in white to encompass all colors, it is obvious that a lot of thought and care went into every stage of creating this perfume. What happened in seven years? Why take away something that clearly required so much effort to create? Excuse me while I lament the loss of a favorite...

And yes, despite its difficult character, Zen has been a favorite of mine. Lacking the richness and complexity of a masterpiece, yes, but still a favorite. Deconstructing it is not an option: Zen is an amalgam of sights, sounds and smells. The heavy rustle of a kimono, austere, reserved. Then the playful, happy song of the melting snow forming a quick stream over rounded stones come springtime. Bamboo whispering in the breeze, while sappy greens are being cut with a machete, the watery scent of their fresh juices mingling with that of its metallic edge. Spiciness with a complete lack of warmth - a spirit burning incense. Solitude. There are no tools of seduction here.

Unlike anything I’d ever smelled before, Zen smells to me today as unique as it did the first time I ever sprayed it on my skin. Out of this world. In one word, futuristic: as shocking and beautiful as a Hussein Chalayan dress. Mossy, spicy and woody at the same time, Zen has all the right ingredients to make me feel as though I am in a Japanese garden. Yet, I do not feel self-contemplating when I wear it. Instead, Zen makes me assume all the qualities it has itself: Aloofness, detachment and quiet forcefulness.

Image courtesy of www.bestcompanyamsterdam.com