Monday, March 30, 2009

Fragrance Bouquet’s Patchouli Top 10 & Sample Raffle

The patchouli reviews behind us, what better way to round off the series with a top 10 of the Fragrance Bouquet favorites! There are still several patchouli scents I haven’t gotten to smell, such as Keiko Mecheri’s Patchoulissime, Villoresi’s Patchouli and Bois 1920’s Real Patchouli just to name a few, but my extensive explorations in the world of patchouli have managed to show me that it can be any number of things: soft, harsh, herbal, leafy, woody, hippie, sensual... Without further ado, here are my own personal patchouli heroes, my favorite 10.

1. L’Inspiratrice by Divine: The one that started it all still retains its place as number one in my heart, even after so many others tried to dethrone it. This is the most voluptuous, round rendition of patchouli I’ve ever encountered. Ultra-feminine, its raison d'ĂȘtre is to seduce and to make the wearer feel beautiful. Marvelous and absolutely recommended.

2. Intrigant Patchouli by Parfumerie Generale: Patchouli Masterpiece. This ultra-animalic potion is sexy, savage and utterly devastating. This is patchouli like you’ve never smelled before: it simply has no twin. Dare to brave its pungency at least once.

3. Harem by LR: This copycat managed to creep up to third place on my list, due its marvelous sex-appeal and its beautiful development which takes it from poisonously sweet gourmand to purring powdery comfort.

4. Lolita Lempicka by Lolita Lempicka: Another gourmand orchestration around the perfect patchouli note, this Angel inspired gem smells like heaven. A compliment magnet if there ever was one!

5. A Taste of Heaven by By Killian: A beautiful combination of lavender, vanilla sweetness and patchouli with an almost barbaric, animalic twist. Its second-skin drydown is to die for.

6. 1826 by Histoires de Parfums: One of the quietest patchouli scents I’ve ever had the pleasure to smell, 1826 stays close to the skin throughout, but gets progressively warmer to reveal a gently animalic, human scent. Its sweet elements give it a delicious undertone which has me compulsively sniffing my wrist whenever I wear it.

7. Fumerie Turque: Dates and sundried plums, leather, the most glorious sweet tobacco note and slightly urinous honey, all enhanced and infused by gorgeous, gorgeous patchouli. Far more intimidating than its better loved cousin Borneo. I didn’t manage to buy this when it was exported and now I’ll have to trek to Paris for it. Full Bottle Worthy for patch and tobacco lovers. (If you test this, give it a fair chance.. the urinous note can be scary, but it smoothes out down the line.)

8. Patchouly by Etro: A lighter interpretation of true patchouli with a marvelous dusty/powdery aspect. Smells best sprayed on fabric and I especially love it on scarves. Unlike many patch-heavy scents, this will actually perform well in warmer weather.

9. Borneo 1834 by Serge Lutens: Probably the most talked-about patchouli scent among fragrance lovers, Borneo 1834 demonstrates the beauty of the patchouli/cacao combination. It is laced with the same sweet tobacco notes that Fumerie Turque uses in abundance.

10. Neonatura Cocoon by Yves Rocher: This recession-friendly gem is utterly comforting and delicious. It combines patchouli with pure chocolate and infuses both with the dark scent of coffee. Yummy!

Which are your own patchouli heroes? Or is patchouli still a villain for you? When commenting you will be automatically entered in a raffle to win a little patchouli sample-pack from me, containing Borneo, Neonatura Cocoon, A Taste of Heaven & Harem.

Images: Superman & Superwoman Flickr by Boss Tweed

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Borneo 1834 by Serge Lutens : Perfume Review

There are many perfumes which put the focus on patchouli currently on the market, but few have inspired as much devotion or as many ravings among perfume aficionados as Serge Lutens’ Borneo 1834. While it might not be my favorite rendition of patchouli within the Lutens Line – Fumerie Turque has that honor, actually a far more complex scent than Borneo, but still centering around a most gorgeous patchouli scent and adorning it with leather, prominent, fabulous tobacco and accents of fruit and honey, for that extra pissy hiss that drives me absolutely mad- a patchouli series on any self-respecting perfume blog would be incomplete without a review of Serge’s patch hero. As Marina of Perfume-Smellin’ Things mentions, Borneo 1834 gets its name from the year patchouli was introduced to Europe wrapped in the luxurious imported silks in order to act as an insect repellant. The fabrics retained the beautiful aroma and the European high society is said to have subsequently developed a taste for the scent which was associated with luxury.

Borneo 1834 begins with a tantalizing, subtle gourmand opening, presenting accents of anise, licorice and beautiful, sweet and herbal tarragon to the nose. This beautiful lightly sweet trio renders the top notes clearly aniseedic and very reminiscent of Histoires de Parfums’ 1826. But while 1826 continues to focus on the aniseedic elements and to supplement the beauty of patchouli with the sweetness of oriental notes such as vanilla and sweet ambers, Borneo 1834 slowly lets go of the aniseedic elements completely and gets darker and dryer with time. The aroma of roasted coffee that has been shyly wafting in and out since the opening now manages to find a secure foothold and blooms on the skin deliciously, spreading its inky darkness over an extremely delicate undercurrent of golden, caramelized floralcy. The scent of patchouli itself, so far seemingly sleepy and subdued seems to suddenly surge forward, its dominant nature finally revealed for all to see. Its rendering is so grand it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to claim that it inspires awe, almost demanding a moment of silence from the wearer. The famous Borneo 1834 chocolate aspect enters fashionably late, just when the ballroom is coming to life. Swathed in a cloak of shimmering bronze, it is actually cacao, not chocolate, and an excellent pure, dark Dutch cacao at that. There are intimations of the same smoky, deep and round tobacco found in Fumerie Turque accenting the luscious blend as well, lending a purely exotic richness to the fragrance. In the drydown the dryness further relents to reveal resins both smoky and round, balsam to the woody, leafy character of the beautiful patchouli.

Testing Borneo 1834 in the past few months has been rather revelatory, for the notes listed were few and as such I was expecting a rather linear, even monotonous scent. What I found however, was far from it: this beautiful woody oriental has a gorgeous structure and is anything but linear. Its changes are both fascinating and enticing and each stage is well worth individual attention. One thing that surprised me, is that I did not get a camphorous note from this at all (something that most online reviewers report). As such I find myself wondering whether different batches of Borneo 1834 have different qualities, or whether the export Borneo differs from the juice offered at the Salons du Palais Royal (I have been testing the export version for the year 2008). If you have any information on this, please do share.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Harem by LR : Perfume Review

It feels a bit like skating on thin ice, choosing this perfume for review: in some ways it can be seen as a (*gasp*!) dupe, it is neither mainstream nor niche, it has limited distribution and it is offered by a brand most people likely have never heard of. I’ve never been one to conform however, and I truly love this perfume, so here we go!

LR is a direct marketing company – meaning you cannot buy their products from brick-and-mortar stores but only from registered LR “consultants” (the LR equivalent I guess of the better known Avon Lady) as well as the internet as of late. The company started up in 1885 in Germany, but quickly started expanding all over the world. Currently their products are available in 30 countries world-wide, including Australia, New Zealand and The Philippines. I first discovered their perfumes at a beautician’s office, where a black box of samples was displayed. Naturally, if a little sheepishly, I started opening each tiny phial for a quick sniff and even though I was doing so rather hurriedly (I felt rather guilty going through them without supervision, but was completely unable to resist the siren-call of unknown perfume) I still managed to register that within the sea of ho-hum, so-so and downright-awful scents, there had been a little gem, completely different than the rest. I was soon ushered in for my appointment and promptly forgot all about the little gem and its uglier siblings. But it does seem like some things are meant to be. More than a year later, I smelled a fantastically erotic, patchouli laden perfume on my best friend, after she returned from a trip to England. When I asked her for more details begging her to get me a bottle next time she went to London, she told me that it was given to her by a friend and that the friend had gotten it from a direct seller. Even worse, the friend had not bought it in England, but in Cyprus. And then one of those strange things happened: the puzzle pieces came together out of nowhere, and quite unexpectedly the penny dropped. Bizarrely, my mind made the connection with extreme certainty and no proof whatsoever: What I was smelling on my friend was the very same little gem I’d found at the beautician’s office… My beautician must have been an LR consultant. Even more surprisingly perhaps, I was right. On a bright Saturday morning this past Christmas I bought a bottle and since then, I’ve managed to drench half of its contents. Quite a feat, considering how many bottles of perfume I own.

The little gem is called Harem and it is a copycat, clone, wannabe, dupe or whatever you wanna call it of the ever influential, already widely-copied Angel. Yes, yes, I can’t believe I fell for that either. But I did. Hard. Released in 1994, two years after Angel had turned all the tables, dethroned all the perfume beauty queens of old and secured its success on the market, Harem snaked itself into the newly-opened niche and has faithfully remained a best-seller for the company that cleverly capitalized on the Mugler money-train. Not sufficiently different from the original monster to be accredited the same respect as a unique scent (see for example Lolita Lempicka), Harem still deserves attention. Why? Because it is Angel for the ones who cannot wear Angel itself! If you like/admire Angel in theory, but can’t wear it due to its obnoxious, in-your-face character, you’re going to love this. If you wish you could wear Angel, but get a splitting headache from it, you’re going to love this. If you find yourself distracted by the always attention seeking Angel every time you wear it and need something that is just that little bit quieter, kinder to your psyche, you will be able to wear this. If you are looking for something that is just as erotic but rather less vulgar, this is it. (As a side note, I used to loathe Angel, but I actually love it ever since I’ve had my little patchouli revelation moment. Still, I do prefer Harem.)

Harem opens with juicy, sweet mandarin orange notes tampered with the bitterness of bergamot and will continue to hover above the border separating decadent sweetness and adult bitterness for most of its development. Its bittersweet character is incredibly seducing, bringing to mind all manner of delights meant to be enjoyed by adults, rather than children: pure bitter chocolate, amaretto liqueur, bittersweet almond paste and marzipan… In fact it is not hard at all to conjure these images, since they all manifest as aspects of the perfume itself as it evolves. The juiciness of the sweet citrus fruit runs dry as the top notes fly off, and we are left with the sparkling oils of the rind, smothered in bitter pure chocolate and its toothsome milk counterpart, wickedly flavored with caramel accents. The patchouli, already present and prevalent from the very moment Harem is applied, becomes absolutely central in the heart notes and is incredibly gifted to boot: never dirty, never mildew-y, never earthy, this is a gorgeous rendition of the note. The best way to describe Harem’s patchouli would be to liken it to a sensual embrace, so round, sweet and warm it is. Yes, it is still as loud as its roots predispose it to be, but somehow it holds back, as though having perfectly learned the game of first grabbing one’s attention and then playfully falling quiet until the victim is reeled in closer. Wonderfully, the scent becomes ever nuttier as time goes by: specifically its already sensual combination of flagrant eroticism and gourmand comfort is underscored by the many faces of almond that start caressing the skin. Bittersweet almond essence, raw almond, soft almond paste and a few sinful drops of amaretto all combine with the extravagance of vanilla-patchouli and chocolate, making the skin positively edible. Here and there, I get wafts of cherry as well, the perfect complement to the creamy, nutty almond. Hours later, Harem becomes magnificently powdery, a beautiful angel-dust whisper on the skin. In fact, the powdery drydown is so gorgeous, I wish it was a scent of its own just so I could enjoy it at will.
Despite its low price-point (23 euro for the EdP), Harem most definitely does not smell cheap. Too, I have to add that despite my own extensive comparison of it to Angel, I should not omit the ways it is different: Harem is all about the gourmand patchouli as is Angel, but its patchouli is far less aggressive and far more round and smooth. Another major plus point, is that it has a far more perceptible development, with clear stages that keep the interest alive. Lastly, even though the two fragrances run parallel at first, from the point the almond blend makes its appearance Harem begins to diverge and differentiate itself. The greatest difference is of course the beautiful powdery drydown, a direct consequence of which is that spraying on the clothes will lead to a much more subtle fragrance (instead of a hostile takeover) when the garments are returned to the closet.

Harem can be bought online from the LR webshop or directly from LR Consultants in your area (you can request for a representative close to you by visiting your country’s page from the official website, provided of course that LR is doing business where you live…)



LR, the company that makes Harem has changed this perfume beyond recognition. Please do not rush to order it based on this review which was written about the original version of this once beautiful perfume. You can find out more about this by clicking here.

Images: Harem ad and bottle,, gold panning,, diamond in kimberlite, and dew on clover, titled “diamond in the rough”, flickr by diongillard

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ashram & Ancient Air by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz (DSH Perfumes) : Perfume Reviews

Another week into the patchouli series here on Fragrance Bouquet and it is now time to look at some oil based perfumes. Perfume oils often get bad rep due to the fact that they do not ‘project’ as much as alcohol based perfumes, meaning they do not have adequate or comparable sillage. I cannot speak for all of Dawn’s fragrances since her library of scents is extensive to say the least, but I can tell you that when it comes to the ones I’ve personally tried, sillage has never been a problem. It is true, I tend to go for the heavy-weights in her collection: the incenses, the animalics, and her lovely (oh, SO lovely) gourmands. Leaving a fragrant trail has never been a problem!

Given a wonderfully exotic name referring to peace, tranquility and enlightenment, as well as the comforting protection and safety offered within a spiritual group, Ashram draws its inspiration from Hindu traditions and manages to translate its intended message with clarity. The intense, dark amber color of the juice might serve as a warning that what is to follow is far too intense to serve its intended purpose as a meditation aid, but in reality Ashram is not only surprisingly soft, but also calming and soothing in character. Its power is subtle: despite its mellow aroma, Ashram manages to shoot an arrow straight to the heart and soul of the wearer, constantly engaging the spirit with a low, rhythmic hum instead of a loud, attention seeking song. According to the official notes, what I should be smelling first is the nag champa incense, but instead, the opening is all about the precious champaca absolute for me. The gorgeously sweet bloom awakens my senses with its beautiful floral eroticism and I would be lying if I said I haven’t wished its scent didn’t linger there alone a while longer each and every time I’ve worn my sample. Soon, it is joined by soft, round amber notes that enfold it, blending with it to create an impression that is most saliently balsamic. The champaca now wafts in and out, a higher pitched note that comes and goes, leaving an ephemeral floral message with every passing. Adding texture and character to the light, dreamy sweetness of this scent is a powdery overtone. While powder might be interpreted in many different ways in different perfumes, in this instance it adds an element of intimacy to the blend, like catching sight of a patch of naked skin. Our star note in this series, the patchouli, might not be the star of this perfume (the wondrous blend of ambers is), however, it is what gives Ashram substance. Beautifully earthy, blurring the borders between coolness and warmth, the patchouli used here is moist and sweet. It centers the composition with its gravitational pull and shines through with a wink and a smile. As time goes by, it comes more into focus, becoming ever earthier and if possible, more charming.

Who should definitely try this: Lovers of Nanadebary Pink and Fifi Chachnil wishing for that extra kick that only patchouli can offer.

Ancient Air:
I am not certain whether Dawn intended this to be worn as a perfume by itself, since the official website lists it as an “accord”, even though it does have its own name. Whatever the intention, I have to say that this would be a very difficult scent to wear on its own. I’ve had a warning given to me by the boutique owner that gave me the Inoubliable Elixir Patchouli that it was for “serious patchouli lovers only”, now it is time for me to issue the same ridiculous warning myself to you dear readers! If there is anything meant to be for serious patchouli lovers only, this is it. That is, if you are planning to wear this as is and not use it for blending purposes. Ancient Air is in a word, pungent. It is easy to think that this is a straight up patchouli scent upon first application, because initially there is such an extreme blast of patch, smelling like pure, heavy essential oil. Give it a few minutes on the skin however and you will start detecting all its complicated nuances. Ancient Air quickly becomes intensely animalic with pronounced accents of civet and ambergris. There are overtones of rose geranium as well as something sappy and green hidden in its core. Now and then it manifests a happier, exotic side, as if it has a hint of coconut hiding in its depth, but for the most part it remains dark and restless. If you hate the headshop smell, steer clear from this one! Pleasantly, I have to report that if you have the patience for it, the drydown reveals a beautiful blend of licorice and aniseed. Personally I can’t wear this on its own at all, but I do love to keep a small decant and use in my own blends, where it is not only excellent, but also economical, since just a tiny amount will definitely suffice. I love to combine it with Egyptian Musk, sandalwood and minute amounts of civet. The blend I make is absolutely animalic and yummy. Going back to the subject of sillage, a drop or two of this as is on my wrist will take over the whole house. You have been warned!

Who should try this: Hardcore patch lovers and those who are looking for an animalic patchouli cord to use in their own blends.

Images:, Flickr by Scott Robinson

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Patchouli & Inoubliable Elixir Patchouli by Reminiscence : Perfume Reviews

Affectionately known as the “soul of Reminiscence, Patchouli is the brand’s “flagship fragrance”. As I have mentioned in a previous review, to me, the particular brand has a lovely neo-hippie essence, and this feeling is both confirmed and underscored by their choice to place Patchouli as their central perfume. Offered in a clear bottle adorned with a girly smattering of stars, the cinnamon-colored juice too is closer to the hippie potions of the ‘70s than most modern interpretations of the note. Itself created in the ‘70s, Reminiscence’s Patchouli still manages to smell rather airy and playfully French, despite its retro feel. According to the official website, it completely lacks top-notes, but I find this rather hard to believe: spray Patchouli on your skin and you will find a boozy top accord of beautifully fermented grapes (akin to the scent of grappa) and light citrus notes that lend the fragrance a lovely vintage feel. As the top notes flutter away, the patchouli note takes over, but not once does it come on too strong. Its presentation throughout the development is always in tandem with the supporting notes, creating a soothingly soft blend. Cinnamon has the honor of the first dance, and together with the camphorous character of the patch, their twirling motions become slightly dizzying. This is not a metaphor! Two analgesic-related scents at once and I can’t help but get the impression I am being under the influence of something. Soon, the spiciness is toned down in favor of sweetness: the ambery base notes start showing through beautifully, lending the fragrance a soft yet very clearly discernible balsamic profile. Most salient is the sweet, round scent of tolu, only marginally tamed by the bitter resinous character of labdanum. In the drydown, the patchouli turns into a hushed whisper, leaving the very addictive sandalwood-vanilla blend to take over. The drydown is probably my favorite stage of Reminiscence’s Patchouli, due to the creamy, musky sweetness it imparts on the skin. What I absolutely need to mention before moving on to the Elixir, is that if you hate patchouli because of its headshop/indian-jewelry-cum-bead & fabric-store associations, this is probably not the right patch scent for you. It might be a soft scent, especially if you apply with a light hand, but it smells exactly like the sweet blend of amber-patchouli incense burnt in headshops. The sharpness is missing, but you can liken its scent to what you’d find if you buried your nose in one of the colorful fabrics sold there, just to find layers and layers of burnt incense smoke which has drenched the fibers. Although I can appreciate the particular scent for its playfulness, its balance and the way it showcases each note, I have to say that it is definitely not for me.

Inoubliable Elixir Patchouli:

“…and this one is for serious patchouli lovers only the owner of the little jewelry boutique informed me as she handed me a sample of the Elixir, looking at me critically, no doubt trying to size up my patch love meter. I remained unblinking, open smile frozen in the grinning grimace of a terrified chimp. Regaining my composure, I decided to distract her equally unblinking avian stare by pointing to the bottle. “It is a beautiful bottle!” “Yes it is, it is a bit more expensive than the original, but well worth it to serious patchouli lovers.” …Seriously, the woman will NOT let go, she knows all about me, she knows I only recently started liking patchouli, she knows I am still exploring, she is soon going to kill me! (pause) …How will I come back here? I love her shop! I love the jewelry. (pause) Run now, consider later, I thought to myself as I made my exit as graciously as possible under the circumstances. Back in the comfort of my home, I eagerly ripped the gold-foil packet to reach the promised contents within. Surprisingly, the juice of the elixir is lighter colored than the original, the hue of light flower honey. Originally launched in 1970, the same year as its sibling, Inoubliable Elixir Patchouli was reissued in 2007. My first instinct upon spraying it is to go “Mmmmmmmm”: A full on pure, high quality dark chocolate cloud rises from the skin upon first contact. This stuff is rich and magnificent! Soon, the sumptuous oriental opening reveals glimmering facets as its soft core is cut through by a bright metallic tinge which lends it an air of luxury. The patchouli core at the center of this perfume is earthy and moist, while at the same time prickly, teasing the senses like long, playful fingers. In many ways, it feels like this is a heavily amped version of the original: I smell the very same notes that I did before – cinnamon, sandalwood, the beautiful amber blend of tolu and labdanum… Yet still, despite the obvious recognition, despite having found the match in the patterns, my senses still insist this is a very different perfume. Where Patchouli wore sandals and a colorful woven vest, Inoubliable Elixir wears YSL flats and a crisp tailored jacket. Where the original wore a playful smile, the elixir wears a naughty grin. Absolutely yummy and potent, this deep smelling, slightly medicinal dark blend keeps inviting me to re-sniff my wrist every few minutes. While it isn’t my favorite patchouli by far, this luxurious composition has something mysterious that keeps attracting me back for a little more. Until my sample finishes at least! Definitely sniff worthy - this will probably hit all the right spots for certain patch lovers.

Both perfumes come with their own ancillary products. Patchouli has its own deodorant, shower gel, body lotion, candle and “satinee” body oil, while Inoubliable Elixir Patchouli has a matching, ultra-luxurious body cream, dressed in the same gold-foil outfit of the bottle.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Patchouly by Etro : Perfume Review

Perfumes revolving around the note of patchouli are rightly reserved for the colder months of the year, considering their compelling potency can quickly become too much in warm weather. But if you had to choose one patchouli perfume that would possibly be wearable in the warmer months, which one would it be? For me, it would definitely have to be Etro’s Patchouly, a fragrance that takes nothing away from the glory of the dynamic patchouli, yet presents it in a way that is diaphanous and soft, lending it improbable fragility and grace.

Glowing, warm and alluring, this has all the goodness and flavor of a good patch scent, but only half of the calories. The opening fizzles with bergamot and playful orange-rind-oil sparkles, both acting as a filter, allowing only hints of the dark patchouli to seep through. But this gem won’t be testing the patience of patchouli lovers for too long: Gratification might be suspended for the first few minutes, but suddenly the dams break and a glorious, dark patchouli rushes in like a wave, frothing with shining rose geranium up top. Eagerly, the great patchouli chalice is filled with lashings of pure, dark chocolate and smoky tobacco leaf accents that offer themselves to the skin with impatient, heated urgency. The blend is so magically decadent at this point, and yet so easy on the senses, that it is unbelievably easy to get lost in its depth, forgetting all that’s taking place outside the space of the olfactory world. But is this really the same perfume that I suggested would be a perfect patchouli option for summer? Indeed. Fifteen to twenty minutes after application the (still relatively gentle) beast subsides, rests its head on its front paws and quite unexpectedly rolls over for a belly tickle. From roar to whisper, Patchouly now hugs the skin like the softest of silk Etro Shawls, with powdery accents so gorgeous they might as well have been pearly fairy-dust from the feathers of the brand’s signature Pegasus. Soon, the whole experience becomes a diaphanous veil: The patchouli becomes ever more addictive as it becomes sheer, calling the wearer to nuzzle the skin in order to get closer to its heart. As contradicting as it might sound, the nose will find accents of leather, as light as chiffon. The softest pellucid amber blends together with the most comforting, clean, pearlescent powder notes to create a protective aura around the milky sandalwood that has joined the chorus to round everything off in the most beautiful manner. The effect is gauzy, incredibly dry and gentle, without a hint of a sharp edge in sight. Beautiful!

Images: Patchouly bottle & box via, Etro logo,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Neonatura Cocoon by Yves Rocher : Perfume Review

The first days of March seem to be harsher, darker and colder than the last half of February, which hardly comes as a surprise, because as we all know, March has a reputation to uphold... So what better scent to kick off the patchouli themed series of reviews, than Yves Rocher’s Neonatura Cocoon? In case the name wasn’t suggestive enough already, this is a supremely comforting perfume. Cleverly, the comfort experienced by using this scent already begins at the bottle: smooth and pebble shaped, it fits perfectly into one hand. It is even rather fun to use – its spray mechanism neatly hidden under a soft silicone cover that feels soft to the touch. (Side Note: Leaving it on your desk might lead to confusion… I keep mistaking it for my ergonomic cordless mouse while writing this!!)

First brought to my attention by readers of Fragrance Bouquet, I sought this out at the Yves Rocher boutique and fell in love. That is, I fell in love when I actually managed to identify it! It is rather problematic, but Neonatura Cocoon comes in exactly the same bottle as Neonatura Souffle, with only color differences to set them apart! Both bottles have the name Neonatura clearly marked, but neither is marked as “Cocoon” or “Souffle”! Taking a look at the website, one can eventually find that the lighter colored bottled (sand-beige tones) is Souffle and the dark, coffee-bean brown bottle is Cocoon. Phew!

Now, on to the scent itself: Like most delicious comforts in life, simplicity does it. Yes, Neonatura Cocoon is rather simple. Not only is it rather linear with little to no development over time, it is also a scent which focuses on few notes only, as though entirely made of warm, enveloping base notes. Extremely yummy, it gently hugs the skin with the scent of vanilla, cacao, patchouli and coffee. The central aspect is of course patchouli, which is in this case extremely earthy, moist and slightly chocolate-nuanced, mirroring the scent of my preferred patchouli essential oil that I use for perfuming my nourishing home-made body oils. As time goes by, I find that the patchouli becomes stronger and attains a slightly dirty character which I enjoy. The vanilla is sweet and delicious, adding definite sensuality and “glossiness” to the scent, if that makes any sense. Even though the vanilla itself is sweet and rather edible, it is used so considerately among the other notes, its sweetness only serves to give the fragrance roundness and voluptuousness, rather than rendering it a sweet gourmand. The cacao note in turn, is minutely powdery and beautifully dark, pure and round, perfectly complementing as well as intensifying the chocolaty nuances of the patchouli. As for the coffee, well, the official website doesn’t officially list it, but it is definitely there to my nose. Exuding the tantalizing fragrance of a mild, slightly caramel nuanced roast, the scent of coffee underscores the rising dirtiness of the patchouli and adds a masculine edge to Neonatura Cocoon. In fact, I think that this comforting and sensual warm fragrance will suit both men and women equally beautifully.

Neonatura Cocoon comes with a host of ancillary products, including a cute, rose colored solid, marketed as “Neonatura Cocoon Cream Perfume”. I would most definitely hesitate to try the deodorant (that’s a little friendly hint for the readers who do not have Yves Rocher boutiques nearby and are ordering from catalogues!) since I can’t quite imagine the slightly dirty aspects of patchouli and coffee being ideal for the armpit area…. However, I have tried the bath/shower gel, and it is definitely worth looking into if you love the fragrance. While its scent is neither as long-lasting nor strong enough to perfume my clothes (as do other ancillary products I have tried from brands such as Prada, Mugler and YSL), it is simply a pleasure to shower with it in winter time. It really feels luxurious to have the bathroom filled with this warm, sensuous fragrance. It does leave a lovely whisper of the signature scent on the skin and I find that immediately applying the perfume afterwards creates stronger sillage and improves the longevity.

Images: and Flickr by Dave_Boyer

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Change of Heart

How have your tastes in perfume changed over the years? I promised a couple of weeks ago that there was a series coming up here on Fragrance Bouquet, focusing on a particular note. The series is starting this Wednesday and is to comprise of a number of reviews focusing on patchouli-themed perfumes and is to culminate to a list of favorites. As many of you long-time readers already know, patchouli has been a defining, revelatory note for me. Making a 180 degree turn from hatred to love after a lifetime of avoiding patchouli frags like witches would a roaring pyre, I’ve gone through feelings of surprise, dissonance and acceptance for what still seems like a newly-found love. The time has come to celebrate this multi-facetted, full of nuances plant so important to perfumery.

But this post is not only about introducing the patchouli series. It is about change of heart in our perfume choices in general. I opened this post by asking you, how your tastes in perfume have changed over the years. I want to expand on this question and further ask: How do you feel about these changes? For me, accepting certain changes has not been easy. I grew up with a very clear instinct to passionately love green perfumes. Chypres, whether warm and animalic or strict, cold and austere were my primary love at an age when I could never have been able to say what a chypre was. Paloma Picasso’s Mon Parfum, Jean-Louis Scherrer 1, the original Nina, Rose Cardin de Pierre Cardin, Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir might have been completely age inappropriate, but I didn’t know and didn’t care. Chypres were my primary love. Related to the family in more ways than one, I also adored green, bitter and herbal perfumes: Clinique’s Wrappings with its sour herbal character held inexplicable, instinctive attraction, Cerutti 1881 with its chokingly bitter taste made me feel poisonously adult and Estee’s Private Collection was to me the brightest, most shining example of what a good perfume should be like: worth its money to the last penny, even though I could only afford the smallest size with my pocket money.

And through it all, I realize now, that I felt a certain kind of superiority, a certain snobbery towards those that in my eyes didn’t know any better. Not only could I not understand why people would choose anything remotely sweet smelling, but to my shame, I also felt a kind of pity. Furthermore, anything heavy on vanilla or even worse, a vanilla-patchouli combo was instantly translated as trashy in my mind. The women and girls that wore these perfumes instantly earned a desperate label in my mind. Do I forgive myself for the snobbery? Well, yes in a way… I was a teenager and youth comes brandished with such entitled superiority, such sheer conviction that one knows all and what’s more, one knows best. There is a certain hilarity in that. That doesn’t mean I am not ashamed of the way I thought then. Unfortunately however, there’s more to this… I have changed a great deal in the last five to six or so years when it comes to perfume choices. Suddenly I started appraising perfumes not in terms of whether I like them or not for personal use, but in terms of whether the scent in question was a well constructed, good perfume. Was it perhaps a fantastic perfume, even though I wouldn’t consider wearing it? The journey can be described as a great hobby that started off as completely egocentric (please my senses, my instincts), to something far more academic: perfume for itself. Then came this blog. And as I started wearing a different perfume almost every day, so I slowly found myself actually buying things I never expected I would buy. Suddenly I found that there no longer was a difference between what I appreciated and what I would actually crave to wear. For the past few years I find myself craving different things depending on my mood, the weather, my style of dress, the season, you name it. Choice seems completely arbitrary, no longer connected to a favorite family. The only limiting factor now, is whether I love something, and to my surprise still, even after so many years, I can love things from every fragrance family. And yes, it still surprises me. There is still a cognitive dissonance sometimes when I crave vanilla, patchouli, sugar, comfort, softness. My erstwhile self comes back to mock me sometimes. “You used to be chicer. You used to be sophisticated!” she says with her stupidly superior 15 year old voice as I pick up a comforting gourmand. I’ve yet to find a good answer to retort to her, even though I know that truthfully, I am far more sophisticated now than I was at 15. I can’t completely dissociate the label chic from the term Chypre or the characterization “green”. I can however feel secure in my judgment on what is good and tasteful and liberate myself from any worry with the confidence that my choice does the image I want to project justice.

Images: Heart via, grass and dewdrop via Flickr (originally uploaded by Scott Robinson). Last is the artwork depicting a girl trying to resist Eros. Unfortunately I no longer remember the artist or the title of the painting. If you know, then please drop me a line in the comments so I can attribute it.