Friday, August 31, 2007

Elixir de Parfum Comme une Evidence by Yves Rocher : Perfume Review

I discovered Comme une Evidence back in June and instantly fell in love with it, specifically with the Elixir version of it. I do not have a bottle, or even a sample of the EdP version here with me in order to do a side-by-side comparison, but from what I remember, the two are as far apart as night and day. Comme une Evidence EdP is lighter and while the two are clearly siblings, the EdP seemed to me rather forgettable and unremarkable, while the Elixir is rich, voluptuous and unique. Smelling it for the first time, I had this unmistakable sense of recognition hit me. Not because Comme une Evidence smells like anything I have smelled before, but because one whiff of it is enough to transport me to a whole different era of perfumes – an era ranging from the mid 70’s to the end of the 80’s, an era during which so many of the classics I love where created. It came as a bit of a shock, to be honest, to find out it was launched in 2003. This lovely floral chypre has all the elegance, character and yes, integrity of a classic.

The opening is very green and dry, with just a hint of crispness. For the first five minutes or so, a delicious, fruity sourness seems to run through it, smelling not unlike the thin trickle left by the juice of a green, unripe crabapple. Then it subsides and slowly, the greenness unfolds like a large bud, allowing glimpses of the flowers within. Slowly, the lily of the valley and rose are produced, tantalizingly waved under the nose, with the muguet claiming center stage at first, young and fearless. It dances around on the skin like a lithe Fay creature come springtime, so happy it seems to be out and about. The rose at this point seems watery, shy and subtle. And I say seems, for before long the warmth of the skin does its magic and it too emerges, its petals opening up in defiance to the muguet. The two vie for attention for a while and then settle down apparently happy to co-exist for a while inside the arms of the ever-waning freshness. Their green bed is changing character, becoming all the more mature and haughty: A bed of moss permeated by prickly spiciness which seduces the nose with its stylish elegance. Beautiful thorns run through it, like shards of black diamonds and rubies. The defiant rose awakens and reveals it was just biding its time, crushing the lily of the valley under its manicured, clawed fist, helped by the amorous patchouli and moss that embrace it. The patchouli is sheer but potent, matching every bet made by the thorny tentacles of the rose. The scene is savage but entrancing. There’s no mistake: Spring has given way to a furious winter. Indeed, I cannot imagine this perfume being worn in anything but cold weather. So evocative is this scent, my mind has no trouble conjuring countless images when I wear it. But there is one constant image that strikes me each time I smell it. A beautiful tweed suit, the skirt grazing the knees, worn over a magnificent pair of Charles Jourdan pumps - Jourdan from the 70’s or 80’s of course, long before the house became completely unrecognizable in terms of quality and design. If there is one last thing I should add about this fragrance is that it is pure woman. This is a distinction not pertaining to sex, but indeed a distinction separating the women from the girls. This is a perfume for the former.

Images courtesy of:, and

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

212 Sexy by Carolina Herrera : Perfume Review

Today I felt like challenging myself a little bit. You see, it’s so much more exciting to write about fragrances that I love or at least admire -whether these are niche or mainstream releases. And it’s so much easier to write about fragrances that move me, either in a positive or negative way, than about fragrances that leave me completely cold. But as I said, today was all about the challenge, so instead of carefully picking out my subject for the day as I usually do, I decided to surprise myself instead. I dipped my hand in a bag of haphazardly stashed samples and came up with Carolina Herrera’s 212 Sexy. Ignoring the little voice inside my head moaning with dread –for there is no Herrera fragrance I’ve come to appreciate- I set about testing it and keeping notes.

Imagine my surprise, when despite all my prejudice and preconceived notions, I found myself quietly impressed with the opening of this 2004 flanker. The opening was full of sophisticated, lovely bitterness and the bite of pepper stung my nose pleasantly. I decided to let my guard down as my interest was getting piqued and found myself, if not seduced, then certainly interested by the freshness of a not-quite-ripe tangerine rind. Just as I was musing about how the bitter freshness and the pepper smelled like a recipe for success to me, I was rudely awakened to the fact that the fragrance had drastically changed in the blink of an eyelid. Underneath the freshness, a deep, masculine scent was rising to the top, not quite unpleasant, but not what I expected either. There was an undeniable roughness and fullness there that did not befit the elegantly crisp opening. Slightly panicky, I checked the sample for fear I’d made a mistake and was sampling 212 Sexy Men instead, but no, no mistake there. I settled down, following the progress with slight bewilderment. The masculine edge got fainter and fainter as time went by, but unfortunately, so did the bitterness. Twenty minutes later, it had completely given way to a peculiar caramelly sweetness, which in turn quickly evolved to a very realistic rendition of cotton candy.
So realistic in fact, I almost felt like I was standing in front of a street vendor, the scent of burnt sugar surrounding me. As if that was not horrifying enough, there was a certain undertone of slightly sick vanilla there, tinged with something not quite right, something cheap, smelling faintly of wet cardboard. A boozy gardenia that might have otherwise been quite pleasant (at least in the face of adversity posed by the evil cotton candy) made an appearance at some point there, or at least gave it its best shot, weighed down as it was by the monstrous goop of sweetness. Finally, thankfully, I reached the end of this Kafkasian metamorphosis: Sour vanilla, a dose of wood, musk and last but not least, wet cardboard. Perhaps even worse than the wet cardboard note though, is the unmistakable, unforgivable flatness of the end result. It’s just too bad for the interesting opening. It’s worth a spritz, just for the sake of experiencing that beautiful bitterness. Spray and sniff quickly, blink and you missed it. Be prepared to scrub it off too, afterwards. You deserve to smell better than this.

Images courtesy of: and

Monday, August 27, 2007

Skin² by Ava Luxe : Perfume Review

Give me something that blurs the lines between the point where my own skin’s scent ends and the point where the fragrance itself begins and chances are I’ll love it. I passionately seek these fragrances out and it always gives me such a feeling of satisfaction when I find a new one to add to my collection. It comes as no surprise then, that when I found Ava Luxe a year or so earlier, the first fragrance I wished to sample was Skin². The blurb, which read “A wonderful classic skin musk scent. This is a clean and slightly powdery musk that blends with your natural skin scent and creates your own unique fragrance.” was simply irresistible. My expectations were so high, I was almost disappointed when my sample arrived. I was expecting the Holy Grail of skin-emulating scents; the skin scent that would end the search for any other once and for all. Of course, as any perfumista will confess, this is a futile aspiration: There is always something else to sniff. Hope springs eternal in the true perfume addict – there is always something else to sniff and who knows, it might be extraordinary, more extraordinary than last time. It is the search for the ultimate high, if not its darker twin, the search for the original high... But, as I was saying, the sample arrived and before I had the chance to be fully disappointed by the fact that it was not perhaps the One, I fell deeply in love. I placed an order for a full bottle the next day, without ever feeling the need for a second thought, for Skin² is, as it turned out, perfect.

There are so many things I find hard to pinpoint about this scent. One of them is why it feels so familiar, so comfortable. The first time I smelled it, I had this feeling of instant recognition, like meeting someone for the first time and having the feeling you’d met them before. The mind becomes confused, offering ridiculous explanations ranging from childhood occurrences to the even more unlikely memories belonging to the world of dreams. A year later, that peculiar feeling of deja vous is still there, but I can let go. Skin² and I have made our own memories together and they’ve slowly replaced the aimless search for something that is not really there. They are all beautiful memories – perhaps because it feels like nothing can go wrong when I wear this scent. Even though it is not what you’d call a “sunshine” scent, it is in my eyes wellbeing encapsulated. Its sense of comfort and balance is unparalleled, almost as though it works on a hormonal level. Or perhaps as though it contains positive energy. Describing how it smells without using the word musk over and over again is hard. I feel obliged to make it clear though –because the comparison has cropped up here and there in the past- that it does not smell anything like White Musk from The Body Shop nor like Alyssa Ashley’s Musk. Not by a longshot. I personally would say that it is in a way, clean and beautiful skin, but better. To fully appreciate it, one has to wait a while for it to warm up on the skin. It starts with a mind of its own, muskier, stronger than it will soon turn out to be. Then, sooner than you’d expect perhaps, it melds with the skin, becoming strictly personal, warmer, sensual. It is indeed slightly powdery, especially in the beginning, but at the same time very, very sexy. And then, there is this fascinating feeling of sweetness that never becomes full, just remains sheer, like an overall impression. Another thing that makes me fall in love with Skin² is the soft trace of what I interpret as the smell of a smooth spirit, like a very good, well-aged brandy. Which brings me to yet another thing I find hard to pinpoint about it... The peculiar sense of something vaguely woody in there, so minute that it can only be likened to a footprint in the sand, in the process of being erased by a gentle wave. I entertain the thought of the brandy again, aging for years in dark, wooden casks. These merest hints of something I cannot quite touch or explain still drive me crazy, like familiar words that have been jumbled beyond recognition. They are in all likelihood simpler than I make them out to be, I think to myself. But whatever they might be, I love them. As to whether this is my current holder of the Holy Grail of skin-emulating scents? No... But that’s a story for another day, isn’t it?

Image courtesy of

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sacrebleu by Parfums de Nicolai : Perfume Review

I wouldn’t buy a full bottle of Sacrebleu. I don’t really like it, you see. I wouldn’t want to wear it outside. I wouldn’t want to actually smell of it. But all the same, I can’t help admiring it, or craving to sniff it on my skin from time to time. It is every couple of months or so, when I will have forgotten exactly what it smells like, that my mind will prompt me to spray a little bit on my wrist to smell it again. Undoubtedly, something draws me to it. Unfailingly, this little something will tell me it smells like candied violet petals and it will insist that it wants to smell it again. Unfailingly that little something will be disappointed again, because Sacrebleu does not in fact smell like violet petals, candied or not. But for a while it will be satiated anyhow, for if Sacrebleu can be visualized as a color, it is indeed a deep dark violet – a viscous abyss I am more than content to swim in, if only for a while.

This is a fragrance full of richness and warmth. It makes me in a way think of an 80’s classic, and a reference to Cacharel’s Loulou will not be lost on those that know and love it. It is sweet and dense: Apply too much and you’ll be left tangled in a sticky mess, hot under the cover of a heavy velvet cape. Apply with caution though, and you’ll be able to appreciate all the little gems and flecks of gold that have been carefully worked in the very same deep purple velvet, now taking the form of gorgeous bustier. The mandarin in the opening is only a hint: You can smell it here and there, as though someone nearby is peeling the fruit with gusto and droplets of the potent oil are flying, threatening to get in your eye. The carnation and tuberose blend seamlessly as they simmer together in the folds of a fruity pulp. A sprinkling of cinnamon and cloves and the result is almost –almost- edible. What makes the sweetness bearable –and indeed beautiful- is a sword of sappy greens lancing through the mixture. And maybe, just maybe, it’s not just my imagination and the hilt is really made of green violet leaves.

Despite the impenetrable feel of a heavy veil this perfume creates, it somehow manages to also evoke the feel of washed, clean hair on a bright, sunny autumn day. The shiny, never dyed hair of a childlike woman: An overgrown little girl, really, getting her way through life, unaware of struggle. She is only barely aware of her real age, as witnessed by the short but at the same time sensible skirt worn over her Prada ballerinas. That’s Sacrebleu, inherently optimistic, if only because it doesn’t know any better.

Images Courtesy of:, (Fractal Art by Vicky Brago-Mitchell) and

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Edwardian Bouquet by Floris : Perfume Review

I cannot resist spending a lot of time shopping when visiting Thessaloniki. Well alright, I'll admit, I cannot resist shopping - period, but the habit tends to become exacerbated while traveling. You see, much as I adore our beloved capital, Amsterdam, it can at times be characterized as fashion starved. Thessaloniki thus, can be awarded the distinction of being fashion forward, if only by comparison. (har-har...) No, truly, you’d feel the same way too, if you lived in a country where once you walked into one of the few places carrying designer goods you’d be lucky to find a Marc Jacobs shoe from a two-year-old collection. NOT on the sales rack mind, full price. That’s right, the trash on the sales rack is pure comedy gold. But still not as funny as the old stuff being passed off as new at full price in the rest of the shop. Aherm... As I was saying, Thessaloniki is a good place to shop, let’s leave it at that for now. While browsing a magazine on one of the first days of my vacation I happened upon pictures of a Julien Macdonald fashion show that took place in one of the city’s hotels recently. In one of them, Julien was smiling bright together with Anna Kapsali, the wonderfully eccentric, hat-addicted and very, very talented stylist who as it turns out, also owns Style Fax, a relatively new shop in town. Fast-forward to the next day and I am the proud owner of a whimsical new skirt, which Anna, with her sensual, raspy voice, is giving me tips on what to wear it with. But that’s not all. It was not just clothes, beautiful bags and strange hats that I found at Style Fax. A collection of Floris perfumes was on display in an alcove near the register. I requested a sample of the one that impressed me most and left with it along with my new skirt. I am now of course mentally kicking myself for not buying a full bottle, but I am already planning a weekend getaway sometime in October, so I’ll just have to look forward to it.

The sample was, of course, Edwardian Bouquet. Originally launched in 1901 and re-orchestrated in 1984, this is a creation by Floris, a house that boasts being the oldest family owned perfumer. Feeling slightly guilty and at the same time perturbed, for what I am about to utter is indeed truthful but at the same time misleading, I have to start by saying that this is something of a little treasure you’d expect to find in the back of your grandmother’s closet. It smells like the conceptualized version of a grandmother’s vintage perfume – no, make that the conceptualized version of countless grandmothers’ vintage perfumes. It is in essence what the collective belief of a group of people’s notion of an old fragrance would smell like, if said belief could be distilled over and over again into the perfect sample. Granted, this is not your average, garden-variety grandma. She is glamorous. She used to take her fur stole with a side order of tasteful costume jewelry. She wore gloves.

Being powdery is something that has come to be expected of perfumes characterized as vintage or old smelling. Edwardian Bouquet is NOT powdery though, just old fashioned. And even that doesn’t manage to stop a dab of it from being beguilingly sexy on the right bare shoulders... It certainly makes an impact. It is however, ever so slightly soapy, making me think of that old practice of hiding a good, expensive bar of soap in a chest of drawers in order to keep the linen smelling fresh. It is a bitter-floral bouquet; satisfying, elegant. The bergamot springs instant and immediate recognition, but I find my nose slightly more troubled when looking for the jasmine and hyacinth. They lack the transparency, the reality if you will, they would have in a modern melange. They are intense, but highly perfumey... Not plastic, believe me, that is not what I mean at all, but conceptualized in perfume language in a way that makes them quite far removed from their natural setting. As it settles and warms on the skin, some of its original bitterness is lost. The galbanum, moss and amber combination give it a seductive depth that begs the nose to be buried deeper into the skin so as it might better discover the slight nuances of the hidden layers. When all is said and done, I have to say that the best part for me is that behind the subtly floral yet strong bouquet, there is the undoubted marking of something not quite right... Something almost dirty, something almost unwashed. And yes, this is what draws me to it, perversely.

Images courtesy of:, and

The Fragrance Bouquet is Back from Summer Vacation!

Three whole weeks of sun and sea, three weeks of marvelous sights and smells ... Do I feel rested? No, not quite. It’s not in my character to lounge much, preferring instead to wake up as early as possible in order to turn every single day into a whirlwind of activity, ensuring that not a moment of precious vacation time goes wasted. Trying to fit as much in a day as humanly possible can be quite exhausting, as a matter of fact. But what sweet exhaustion this is and how awkward it seems to be back, enrolled once more in the hustle of real life responsibilities. It took a three-hour flight to go from searing heat to chilling cold and I am still pretending I never returned, stubbornly wearing summer clothes and refusing to turn the heating on. Phonecalls, emails, appointments, books, friends and colleagues are all jostling for my attention but I can still take refuge for a day behind the excuse of having to unpack the inordinate amount of things I have brought back with me. But what I’ll do instead right now, is write for Fragrance Bouquet – because I’ve sorely missed it, as I have missed you all. There are lots of surprises waiting around the corner. Lots of trips we are going to take together, into the wonderful world of fragrance. Trips exciting enough to console me, now that summer is quickly coming to an end. Are you ready? Let’s go!