Friday, July 31, 2009

Les Garçonnes Collection by Crazylibellule and the Poppies : Perfume Reviews

When was the last time you had fun with perfume? No, I mean real fun, the kind that makes you giggle, the kind that brings a flush of color to your face due to pure giddiness and glee. We perfume lovers tend to take perfume seriously; we consider it art. Smelling a fabulous new elixir will bring enormous excitement, snapping up that last discontinued bottle will make our heart quiver, following a wonderful presentation will mesmerize us, and spraying our favorite will always make us sigh with pleasure. But when really was the last time we had fun with perfume? Thoughts like these flooded my mind as I opened my box containing the latest Crazylibellule and the Poppies collection, for finally, after I don’t even know how many years, I truly felt again what it’s like to have fun with perfume! The so-called Crazysticks opened up a whole new world in perfume for me. Holding the tiny, ultra-cute boxes in my hands instantly made me feel like a little girl again, when shiny pebbles were as good as diamonds, ballerina shoes were magic, sparkly hair-clips were tiaras and little fripperies made my kiddy heart beat faster with excitement. Yes, my skin flushed with the gorgeous pink blush of joy, yes I giggled, yes I took all my little boxes to bed with me so that I could play! I had fun! And I thought to myself: I’ve got to share this feeling, this profound joy of actually having fun with perfume! I’ve got to buy Crazysticks for all my girlfriends, give them some girly joy as well, help them remember what it was like back when every little tiny thing of beauty was magic. Cause these are magic! And then the practical, adult side of me awakened, and it liked what it saw as well: All those occasions, when you want to treat each of the girls in your group of friends with something small and beautiful that won’t break the bank - these will be perfect! Down with little pink underwear and tiny lipglosses! Next time I’m gifting my friends with something different: Crazysticks. And every time they need to bring a smile to their face, they can just open their purse to find an ultra-light, uber-cute, beautiful little object to scent their skin with, the gorgeous perfume brightening their day.

But enough gushing from me, let’s do some reviewing. The newest Crazystick collection is titled Les Garçonnes (The Boys), a beautiful series that celebrates, pays homage and is directly inspired by women of the past that dared break the societal boundaries of their time. These were women that travelled, created, painted, smoked in public, cropped their hair, believed in themselves and lived life to the fullest.

Hommage à Gabrielle: “Mademoiselle, how I have longed to dedicate this perfume stick to you. O to dare such freedom, to glimpse you in the heavens of the Ritz. I will freely accept your word, and dream of you wearing it.” Hommage à Gabrielle is a gorgeous and very daring blend of peony and leather with light accents of tobacco and vanilla on a bed of woods and light incense. Deep and sensual, it further grabs the interest by presenting a strange feminine fresh note that cuts through the composition taking one by surprise. Smoky and mysterious, this is perfect for the sophisticate with a dark edge.

Pompon Gardénia: “She wears a most peculiar dress, covered with pompoms. Something quite insolent, and resolutely daring. Her singularity electrifies the bar, our glasses stand forgotten. So elusive! And we sit, captivated, by this vision. She leaves, unsullied, floating, down the grand staircase... the Bugatti takes her away leaving just her perfume, which tortures us already.” A bouquet of white blossoms (lily of the valley, jasmine, light yet creamy gardenia) forms the core of Pompon Gardénia, with a subtle tobacco notes caressing the petals. The composition is very smoothly rounded with sweet heliotrope and amber. Unfortunately (for me at least), I find the combination of fresh lime and aqueous watermelon too dissonant and distracting. I do not generally like aquatic notes in perfume (with very few exceptions) and as expected, they bother me here as well. I have to say however that this girly blend will serve those that do not mind aquatic notes well in the heat of summer: it smells very refreshing and clean.

Joséphine Jonquille: “Sounds falling in a frenzy, and her barely clad skin as it shimmies. Life, as an ode to joy, against all odds. Jonquil-Jasmine, Hot perfume, perfect skin. Fascinating and impetuous.” This is absolutely wonderful, possibly my favorite in the Garçonnes collection! While it features notes of jasmine-jonquil and tiare, my nose does not really pick them up, except as a vague feminine, silky touch that caresses the otherwise relatively masculine composition. I smell sensual spices and deep woody notes (light, clean patchouli, touch of vetiver, sandalwood) simply delightfully combined with gourmand notes of ginger (cookie-like) and pure dark chocolate. This is blissful!

Jeanne Voyage: “Travel the world, getting drunk on art. A passion for exception. Adorned with a stole indecent to the touch. The suave odor of unfastened chests crammed with wonders, the smell of somewhere else, a few flowers laid... a sumptuous Italian blue, and sketches torn from a travel diary...” This one is absolutely perfect to replicate the scent of baby soft, velvety, clean skin. It smells delightful: Sweet and musky, clean and soft, tenderly powdery. I smell a lovely warm, sweet musk with clean but subtle soapy accents infused with the gorgeously powdery scent of iris. Spicy nutmeg amps the comfort-feel of this warm fragrance. The tenderness of this perfume is perfectly underscored by the subtle touch of heliotrope. Yum.

Chère Louise: “In the silence of the studios, Louise turns. Impenetrable, mythical. I can imagine her voice. A pure, sophisticated, enigmatic caress, both mysterious and youthful.” Perfectly unisex, as it precariously balances on the verge of masculinity with its notes of sharp aoudh, vetiver and pepper while at the same time utilizing a curiously abstract and undoubtedly feminine floral cord with gentle rose at its core, Chère Louise is enigmatic and strange, in the manner of perfumes that get you obsessively sniffing your wrist all day long. The resinous character of storax and the bitter-sweet touch of saffron render this a beautiful, soft oriental.

Tamara Charleston: “Breathe in the air on the steps of the villa and feel your body quiver once more. Dizzy, a glass of gin on the rocks, drawing on a cigarette before her portrait. Listening to the garden, naked... and the Charleston electrifying the night” Tamara Charleston is this collection’s gem, together with Joséphine Jonquille. While the latter wins my heart due to its comforting, gourmand nature, Tamara Charleston comes very close by virtue of its thoughtful, unique composition. I’ve been enamored with notes of peach and apricot in perfume for years, but good ones are extremely hard to come by - most smelling rather synthetic, simple and juvenile. In Tamara Charleston the peach note is utterly youthful, fresh and natural, yet blissfully refrains from taking over the composition or overshadowing the other notes. In other words it’s perfect, lending a feeling of that youthful, first sexual awakening to the blend, while allowing the other notes to weave their magic around it. Sweet hay, with a dirty, erotic tinge, milky grass and a few precious droplets of mandarin nectar infused with a gentle floralcy are summoned around this glorious fruit note to create the image of an enchanted sunny clearing, where anything can happen.

Rose à Saïgon: “Her name was Rose, and she dreamed of other worlds, of the effervescence of the roaring twenties... The moist air of Indochina, a crackly melody on the gramophone, and the spellbinding odor of dreams on her skin.” A fruity composition that according to the official notes is meant to focus on the passion fruit, but what I predominately smell is raspberry. In fact this smells very much like Framboise eau de vie, sweet and tart at the same time. The passion fruit is there alright, but playing a secondary role, subtly infusing the raspberry with a hint of the exotic. This is very young, very girly, and much less complex than the rest of the fragrances in the collection.

The glide on the skin smoothly, leaving no residue. You know I love solids, both as a concept as well as for practical reasons (travel, carrying in the purse etc) and these pleasantly go a step further since you do not actually have to dip your fingers in them in order to perfume your skin (kind of annoying if you have long nails). The lasting power is great for me, but sillage is minimal. The scent has perfect intensity, but does not project - only those that come close enough for a hug will be able to detect your perfume.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eau Divine by Divine : Perfume Review & Sample Draw

There are only a handful of perfume lines that manage to inspire not only admiration but also deep love and devotion resulting in a fan base that is left longingly waiting for their next offering. Divine certainly is the personification of such a niche line, inspiring well-deserved adoration and dithyrambic tributes to their perfumes by perfume writers and critics. I have begun slowly acquiring everything that the brand has ever produced, having fallen deeply in love with each and every one of the perfumes upon first sniff. Even the homonymous Divine by Divine, which I originally shied away from (its strong nature left me with an inexplicable feeling of disquiet and sadness) eventually won me over and is by now one of my favorite evening perfumes. When I was offered the chance to sample their newest fragrance well ahead of its release for a possible review, I jumped at the chance.

Eau Divine is the line’s 9th offering, is name inspired by the fact that it marries freshness with sensuality. Being Divine’s first unisex scent, the contradicting elements do not stop there. This is a perfume that is envisioned to resemble both man and woman, their unique facets brought together in perfect harmony: “…luminous and intriguing, tender and sharp, delicate and provocative, a play of opposites to enhance the union of man with woman.”

This new unisex scent timely plays on the summery cologne theme, but elaborates, venturing further than then norm by adding spicy, sensual, almost oriental aspects, resulting in a beautiful spicy-hesperidic cocktail. Applied on pulse points, Eau Divine quickly fills my imagination with the sun-drenched vistas of the Mediterranean I so long for: Orange groves in the blinding noon light, soft aromatic breezes and a coast like lacework. Aah…! Sweet, juicy citrus with bracing, fresh accents and the citrus-tinged floral character of rosehip are buoyed by the frothiness of aldehydes. Perfectly complimentary, a ginger note - partly citrusy, partly spicy and earthy - helps marry the freshness of the opening with the sensual spicy notes of nutmeg and green cardamom that follow. These spicy notes quietly change the sensory perception of the opening which smoothly transitions from sharp and bracing to a rounder, more sensual heart. The freshness is still there, lively lending cheeriness and joyfulness to the scent, but the undercurrent is beautifully round, bearing the erotic signature of all Divine perfumes. My favorite flower for the warmest season of the year is orange blossom and this perfect summer scent incorporates neroli note in its heart. To help you get a feel for the scent, I’ll say that the neroli here is far more neutral than the effeminate orange blossom note in Fleur du Male as well as being magnificently light and airy, rendering it absolutely perfect for hot weather. The characteristic scent of violet subtly wafts in and out, never taking center stage or ever turning powdery but functioning as a mellower counterpoint to the dry character of the composition. The perfect dryness relents in the drydown, allowing gently sweet, absolutely gorgeous balsamic accents to show through. At this point it feels as though the wearer is no longer wearing any perfume, but as though the skin itself is magically lightly perfumed and exuding the most fabulously erotic musky, ambery scent.

The perfumes of the Divine line have captured my heart with their old-world glamour, with their elegance, their uncompromising femininity but most of all, with their incredibly erotic nature which is present in each and every one. This new unisex entry diverges from the house’s set norm, by presenting a perfume devoid of gender specifications and subsequently missing a great deal of the incredible, red-hot sex-appeal I’ve come to expect from the brand. This is completely understandable, considering Eau Divine is in the classic cologne style. However, those of you that like me love Divine’s perfumes for their animalic, musky bases can rest assured that despite being quieter and far more well behaved, Eau Divine has been infused with a beautiful musk that although perfectly suited to hot summer weather, nevertheless bears Divine’s signature without the shadow of a doubt. This is a true Divine: respectful and true to the classic style of French perfumery, elegant and yes, very much erotic in its own way. With the addition of a summer cologne, the house’s lineup comes ever closer to becoming a complete, high quality perfume wardrobe. Wonderful!

I am giving away three samples of this beautiful, perfect for summer scent that will not be available until the end of July. Simply commenting will automatically enter you in the draw. Due to vacation, I will only be able to post your samples after I return from Greece, however winners will be announced in the coming weekend.

The bottle is offered in both feminine (50 ml, 100 ml & 200 ml) and masculine (50 ml, 100 ml & 150ml) bottles, both styles pictured in this article.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sniffapalooza in London : Visiting Roja Dove

Ask any Sniffapalooza London traveler what their highlight of the trip was and chances are the answer you’re going to get is Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. I lost count of the times I heard a fellow traveler wistfully saying “I could spend days there!”. If you are a perfume lover, Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie can be likened to Mecca: It has to be visited at least once in your lifetime!

After a delightful presentation and hand & arm massages at Jo Malone’s, we walked the short distance to Harrods and took the elevator all the way to the top. Labyrinthine as Harrods might be, I’ll give credit to our collective perfume antennae and say we found Dove’s treasure trove instantly. Once inside, it was hard not to get giddy: the small space positively glistens with the most magnificent extrait de parfum presentations - little extraordinary works of art both in terms of content and appearance that shine like precious diamonds under the light of the chandeliers. Dark lacquered walls, mirrors, a niche with colorful pillows and a most sumptuously plum-colored carpet make one feel as though they are in the privacy of a boudoir with the extravagance of a harem. Familiar shapes, like Caron’s glorious fountains, Nina Ricci’s complete collection of extraits and MDCI’S precious bust stoppers share the space equally with never-seen-before wonders, exotic flacons often bearing no name, exciting the fantasy with their shape and waiting, waiting to be discovered and loved. The abundance of scents that are there to freely play with and explore could keep one busy for days, however most of the Haute Parfumerie’s treasures are behind lock and key, some tantalizingly behind glass, while others securely hidden away.

Just as we were warming up exploring, Roja Dove appeared: Tanned, deliciously dressed in a swirl of brightly colored silk and studded with shining jewels, he looked like he’d just returned from a month’s luxuriant yachting in Greece or alternatively (and anachronistically) partying it up in Miami at the Versace villa with Gianni. A minute in his speech however, it was obvious that the impressive looking man is quintessentially British and proud of it too. I was unglamorously tired (fourth day in London after an exhausting week in Paris) and felt like I was about to collapse, yet it was impossible to think about pain and tiredness as Roja regaled us with extraordinary tales from his life in the perfume business, the house of Guerlain and how it used to operate, Caron and its mistress and the magic of scent. Although I wouldn’t dare to attempt repeat his beautiful stories for they would no doubt lose their charm without the man’s humor and personal memory as their driving force, I would like to share a few interesting facts here. Mr. Dove’s first love in perfumery was Guerlain – an infatuation which turned into a decades-long love affair when he was hired by the venerable house. He shared with us a feeling we all agree upon: that Guerlain has changed radically ever since it left the hands of the family. This is not news. What however did move me, as I am sure will move you, is the fact that Guerlain barely made money when it was still family owned. The concern for quality, the sourcing for only the very best of ingredients and the extraordinarily beautiful, unique presentations, meant that Guerlain was a labor of love – a family affair that continued operating without really making profits in order to honor its tradition and the name. (I could not help but draw a parallel between this story and the words of Linda Pilkington the previous day, who also admitted to pressing on, doing what she loves for the love of it, despite little or no profits) Secondly, I would like to share that the Haute Parfumerie’s policy of keeping most of their stock locked behind glass is not done in a pretentious, elitist fashion, but stems from Roja’s own memory of what love for perfume once was. Roja effortlessly transported us to the past with eloquent tales of his youth, when to love perfume meant braving the threshold of an ultra-chic perfumery and asking to be presented with that which you craved. Being granted the precious flacon by an immaculate sales associate was part of the experience and finally holding it in your hands sent an extra shiver of appreciation through your body. The perfume ‘wall’ of most modern perfumeries makes perfume itself lose all its charm in his eyes. Although I’ll have to admit to much preferring being able to explore and play at will when in a perfume store (preferably without someone hovering over me!) I do understand what he means about the charm of living out the whole experience when out to buy a luxury good like perfume. And even though I’ll always enjoy exploring by myself when buying perfume, I do admire the fact that he dared re-created the perfume experience as it had been in his formative years.

The presentation continued with rounds of appreciative sniffing, as we were passed various different perfumes to smell on blotters, always accompanied with a delightful story. A highlight, surely, was Baccarat’s Les Larmes Sacrées de Thebes (The Sacred Tears of Thebes), a marvelous balsamic, woody, incense laden perfume in one of the most extraordinary Baccarat presentations. Having bought all (or nearly all) of the stock, this jewel of a perfume is now only available at the Haute Parfumerie. It is a must-sniff for all serious resin & incense lovers, however the price is rather prohibitive so be prepared to have your heart broken. We proceeded to smell Dove’s Trilogy of scents (Enslaved, Unspoken & Scandal) which were absolutely beautiful. Just as I was thinking ‘this is it, it cannot possibly get any better than this’ we were presented Dove’s semibespoke line of fragrances. Semibespoke is a term Roja and his team use for a line of very special fragrances that are available in very limited quantities – 50 bottles of each to be precise. The high price and exclusivity of the scents means that it is unlikely you shall ever come across someone wearing your scent, hence the term semibespoke. These fragrances bear no name but are simply identified by numbers. They are masterpieces. How can that be you ask, is there no dud in between? No, no dud, no mediocrity, not even one that’s simply just ‘good’ instead of perfection personified. They are truly amazing. A lover of musks, my heart was captured by three: Number Seven, Number Nine and Number Eleven. Of the three, Number Nine was my favorite – the most divine nectar of soft flowers and Tonkin musk, very much in the spirit of vintage Le Dix. The other two focused on two different animalic notes, one being unabashedly loaded with civet and smelling sinfully dangerous, while the other on castoreum, which forms the anchoring base of the leathery chypre structure, bringing to mind the great lady Cabochard. It was a day of rapture.

Images: Harrods department store, Roja Dove via and Baccarat’s Les Larmes Sacrées de Thebes

Friday, July 24, 2009

Havana Vanille by L'Artisan Parfumeur Sample Winners!

Goodmorning! I just ran the names through the list randomizer function of and the draw results for the two samples of Havana Vanille are in! The winners are Nina Z. and Violetnoir. Congratulations! Please send me your contact details and I will send you packets with your Havana Vanille samples and as always, a few more goodies thrown in :) Please don't delay sending me your details as I am leaving for a summer vacation on the 31st of July and I'd like to get your packets out before that.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Andy Warhol Success is a Job in New York by Bond No. 9 : Perfume Review

I know you’re all waiting to hear a little more about London since the response to Fragrance Bouquet’s perfume travelogues has been tremendous, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me for interrupting to bring you a fresh taste of New York in the form of a review of Bond No. 9’s newest, Andy Warhol Success is a Job in New York! I just received a sample of this and I am head over heels with it!

Andy Warhol Success is a Job in New York is the fourth fragrance in the Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol series, which has proved not only incredibly creative in concepts but also has produced some of the best scents in the Bond No. 9 lineup (Lexington Avenue & Silver Factory are both gems). This brand new addition changes the order of my top three in the brand, claiming a spot alongside Silver Factory and Chinatown. Yes, it’s that good.

The dollar sign on the bottle might well prove a cause for dissonance for some; we are after all raised to value money, to want and need it, and an abundance of it is irrevocably linked to success indeed. At the same time, we are also raised to regard it as vulgar and something better left unspoken when not in the company of immediate family. Flashing it is simply not done, while admitting to not having it, perhaps even more so. Money, almost any way you look at it, is taboo. But while perfume has never skirted the world of taboos, there are only few frontiers left unexplored and even fewer that might still be considered taboo in today’s world. Examples like Opium and My Sin come to mind as taboos (drugs & sex) already broken and shattered. But money? Here’s a new thing to take the niche perfume lover out of his or her comfort zone. And it cannot be argued that it is done in the most deliciously devious way: Yes, there is a huge dollar sign on both sides of the bottle, confronting our need, our greed each time we pick it up. But the valid merit of its concept too, its image being one of Warhol’s most iconic and thoroughly explored subjects, is undeniable! And if one thinks that the name is indeed a mouthful (albeit a catchy, playful one) all that needs to be said to appease, is that it too is thoroughly fitting and thought through conceptually by virtue of the fact that Warhol’s first assignment as an illustrator in the ‘50s was for an article titled “Success is a Job in New York”.

You might expect the scent of success and money to be aggressive, but Andy Warhol Success is a Job in New York (hitherto referred to as ‘Success’) explores the theme with subtlety. Success is a gourmand (!) of all things, and a rather cuddly one at that. Its power comes from its tremendous sillage: two drops of the small sample on my arm were actually detected across the room by friends only a few minutes later, my scent wafting all the way to them! Well, what a pleasant surprise, I guess this scent can already save us money from the moment we start wearing it, since we’ll be needing to apply less of it! A major plus in the present economic climate! It opens with a marvelously exotic citrus-fruit note, bringing to mind cumquats and sweet oranges (the notes list mandarin & bergamot instead). The exotic opening is further enhanced by spicy, alluring cardamom, green this time (as opposed to Lexington Avenue’s black) befitting the color of money. Another spice, nutmeg, warms the composition putting the first stamp of alluring comfort in this beautiful gourmand. Coriander leaves lend an aldehydic freshness, while its seeds ease us gently into the heart with their flowery component. The heart presents a simply gorgeous pimento pepper note, sweet and naughty, yet with a certain ‘savory’ bite which elevates the fragrance from pleasantly comforting to artisanal. In a composition far less strange than its predecessor (Lexington Avenue), it is the pimento that adds the surprise that takes Success from simply beautiful to extraordinary. The most dominant (to my nose) floral note in the heart is that of jasmine, bringing immense sensuality to the table with its balmy-summer-night feel. The May Rose in turn is expertly blended, serving almost like a pillow soft base upon which the jasmine blooms. When it does waft in stronger, it feels laced with sugar crystals, almost edible in fact. I also get a beautifully gentle neroli note, although this is not listed among the official notes. All the while, the gourmand base weaves itself through the composition with a scrumptious, deep vanilla in the lead anchored by balsamic amber and sensuous patchouli.

The end result is at once baffling and magnificent. Success is an absolutely delicious gourmand yet at the same time it manifests chypre tonalities like those of the marvelous modern chypre, Chinatown. Surprisingly, the two share a strikingly similar cord, a candied aspect common to both, over their modern chypre base. And still more surprising, even though we are still talking about a gourmand, the modern chypre accents find purchase in the past as well: It is as though Bond no. 9 has ingeniously explored the theme of money and success with a subtle reference to the early ‘80s era of power, money and charged trade, for this does at once smell like chypre new and chypre old. Smelling it, my mind races, trying to catch up with the scent’s reference to both modern chypre construction and the power-dressed chypres of the ‘80s: think predominantly American chypres, like those of Lauder in the decade. Confusing or exciting? Both! You really have to smell this. What’s left to wish for when it comes to this fragrance? Nothing, except perhaps Bond no. 9 releasing a limited edition bottle in black, where the dollar sign is encrusted with Swarofski crystals. Just so we can experience an extra frisson of dissonance every time we reach for the bottle due to the delicious vulgarity of the dollar sign we all crave. Oh yes.

Official Notes: Top: Bergamot, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Mandarin
Heart: Pimento, Tuberose, Rose de Mai, Jasmine, Plum, Iris
Base: Patchouli, Vanilla, Benzoin

Release Date: October 1st, 2009
Pricing: $220 for 100ml & $145 for 50ml EdP

Images: Image of Warhol dollar signs via, available to buy as a Premium Giclee print.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Visit with Linda Pilkington (Ormonde Jayne Perfumery)

After a weeklong heat wave, London weather invariably regressed to its charmingly unpredictable nature by the time of our visit. Early Tuesday morning treated us to glorious skies of blue and happy sunshine. By lunchtime, the heavy clouds told us the rain was not just a passing summery drizzle, but it was too late: The Sniffapalooza program was already in full swing and we were running on a tight schedule. No way to rectify the early morning mistake of open shoes and airy clothes. We moved from Miller Harris’ flagship store in Mayfair towards Old Bond street through the ever worsening weather with our small group, huddled under our umbrellas to protect hair and clothes, but with absolutely no way to protect our soaking wet, besandalled feet. Succumbing to laughter with every wrong turn we took through the blanket of rain and alternating between grumbles, quiet ‘eewws’ and giddy giggles as though we were on a school trip, we reached the protection of our next destination: Ormonde Jayne Perfumery.

The Ormonde Jayne boutique is located in one of the most favorable locations in London: Not only is it right off Bond Street – one of the most prestigious shopping streets one can find in the bustling metropolis, with boutiques like Hermès and Chanel gracefully lining its length- it is also housed in the gorgeous Royal Arcade, which is small yet packed with exclusive shops. Its offerings range from the most fabulous chocolatier (Charbonnel et Walker), to high quality antiques, silverware and bespoke shoes. The Ormonde Jayne boutique itself can be found on number 12 of the Royal Arcade. Sleek, modern and sophisticated, the interior somehow manages to be cozy too – possibly due to its mignon size. Inside, Linda Pilkington was waiting for us, the huge smile on her face as inviting as though we were old friends. How can one not feel comfortable? We were served champagne and truffles from the aforementioned Charbonnel et Walker (let me tell you, I’ve never had a better truffle in my whole life, this was deliciousness itself) as introductions were made and our group settled in.

Linda Pilkington is an exuberant, petite, youthful blonde with excitingly intelligent eyes. She can be likened to a flame: she’s tiny, but boy can she start a blazing fire! Her excitement about perfumery is incredibly contagious – just a few minutes into our conversation we had forgotten all about the beastly weather and we were all gaily spraying perfume while she passionately talked to us about each of them. Movingly (very much so might I add) her demeanor created an extraordinarily comfortable environment: it was obvious that this wonder woman derived pleasure from our excited play. There was no uncomfortable feeling of having to be extra careful with the hefty bottles – they were being passed around excitedly and sprayed with abandon, all the while encouraged by Linda herself. The term ‘wonder woman’ is not just thrown out there thoughtlessly either. Listening to her impassioned presentation, it was easy to understand that this now world-known luxury perfume brand is not actually a machine that rakes in the cash. Quite the opposite in fact: it is a labor of love, riddled with difficulties and struggle. But the woman behind it does it all with a smile, because she loves it and is devoted to it.

Time seemed to fly as Linda spoke to us about her inspirations, greatly influenced by her travels which she touched upon with great passion: exotic locales like Morocco, Laos, Thailand and Japan all serve as inspiration behind her marvelous creations. The basmati rice accent in her Champaca (my favorite of the line) is her comfort note, the smell she wants to return to after a long, hard day. The beautiful (handmade) packaging of all her products in turn, is directly inspired by the Japanese Bento box (a lunch box which can range from those that are very simple to the extremely intricate, elevating it to a status symbol). I’d always loved the line’s packaging, but never made the connection. Suddenly, the moment it was explained, I saw it, clear as day. When the time came to smell Iris Noir, she went on to explain that most iris perfumes smell powdery because orris is purchased as powder and has to be made into butter by the perfumer with the result that it very much retains its powdery scent. However, Linda herself does not like powdery scents (!) so Iris Noir had to be an iris scent like no other. To this end she employed a lot of musk, vanilla and patchouli to ‘mask’ the powdery nature of iris. The result is a glorious, feminine oriental which (I got the impression) is one of her favorites. We were introduced to the line’s newest perfume - Zizan- last and I have to tell you that it made a huge impression on our group, creating much excitement all around. Employing three types of vetiver, Zizan smells sharp and bracing on the blotter but smells entirely different on skin. To this extent, it can most certainly serve as an extremely convincing argument against those who believe that the relation between skin chemistry and perfume is a myth! Five people in our group tried it on their skin and I can attest to the fact that it smelled extremely different on each and every one of them!

Finally as our visit was coming to an end, I took the chance to ask Linda a question to present here on Fragrance Bouquet. The burning question in my mind was how a professional nose deals with the current environment in perfumery, difficult and restrictive as it has come to be:

Fragrance Bouquet: “What is your stand on the current situation with the restrictions in perfumery?”

The answer came swift and as always with this amazing woman, incredibly passionate:

Linda Pilkington: “Oh I don’t CARE!!! I do what I want with my perfumes. If you don’t like it, or if it makes you sneeze, don’t buy it!”

To which Fragrance Bouquet can only add: “YOU GO GIRL!”

I’m sure you’ll join me in my wish that more professional noses would take a similar stand and join arms in an effort to prevent the loss of gorgeous ingredients that enrich our perfumes. What we consumers can do it turn, is support brands like Ormonde Jayne, who keep using what they (and we!) please. I already loved this amazing line of perfumes before my trip to London – but now I am an even bigger fan, having met the amazing woman behind it. Leaving her shop I felt compelled to give her a hug for being who she is and doing what she does. She graciously returned it – hopefully without thinking I was mad! I hope you too feel a little bit like having come to know her after this piece.

Images: Figures huddled under the umbrella – Flickr by PetitPoulailler, The Royal Arcade London –, images of Ormonde Jayne packaging and Linda Pilkington via the Ormonde Jayne website.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Havana Vanille by L’Artisan Parfumeur: Perfume Review & Giveaway

A beautiful room paneled with gorgeous dark wood and a round tiered table in the middle covered with niche, exclusive and rare perfumes. All L’Artisan bottles are created equal and look almost the same, yet this one glowed. Who knows what it was that subconsciously triggered me to home in on it. The undoubtedly plastic memory has translated the excitement I felt upon seeing the bottle as a rude swoop for it. Yes, I made a grab for it, not quite knowing why. I bet my subconscious knew exactly what I was doing. And yet I was still surprised when I had it in my hands; not only was it something I’d never seen before, but it was a brand new vanilla as well. Addicts have rituals which they engage when they indulge in their chosen sins. So do perfume lovers, addicts themselves in a way, slaves to their sense of smell. My own ritual: Uncap the bottle with the minimum amount of (at least obvious) greed as I can afford to… Bring the cap close to the nose and inhale, first gently, to discover the nuances, then deeply to get lost in the scent’s world. Imagine how it will unfold on skin, before I ever spray.

And it was magic from that first sniff of the cap – the kind of perfume magic that forces you to close your eyes unwittingly, almost swooning with pleasure. Havana Vanille is an ode to the precious vanilla pod: when you smell it, you have no trouble imagining it in all its glory. Its thick, dark as stained ebony, slightly oily skin. The way its soft yet resilient texture succumbs to the knife with ease. The way its seeds smell when scraped out: spicy, fragrant, teasing the nose, exciting the taste buds. Oh yes, it’s all there, recreated in the most beauteous manner. A quick excited whiff coupled with heart palpitations for having found the perfect vanilla might have led me to think this is just like vanilla absolute, but somehow better the first minute or two. But focus… Calm down… There’s more to it than that. So much more.

It opens with the most evocative note of rum, gently, sweetly alcoholic. Ingeniously, it smells like a devious recipe for the most delicious drink: Rum combined with vanilla pods, sealed and put out of direct sunlight, left to infuse for a week before the big party. The result? Erotic. You can almost hear the faint rhythm of the party, feel the heat of the night, and see the slightly dilapidated facade of the colonial residence hosting the do. Drinking the elixir is ill-advised, but it is without a doubt that you’ll wish to do so upon smelling it. Mandarin, the sweetest, most well behaved of citrus notes has been employed here to add sparkle and joyousness to the mix. Just one more thing to get you drunk, under its spell.

L’Artisan wants to take us on a journey unlike all others this time around. A journey where old meets new: Old travel, filled with adventure and luxury, meeting at the crossing point with modern Havana. The imagery employed is a luxurious leather travelling case and the mode of transport a wooden cargo ship of old. The deep, soft woody facet of the perfume represents the wooden hull of the boat, filled as it is with all that’s glorious about Havana Vanille: barrels of rum, vanilla, spices. But there are sweeter accents too; a smidgen of dried apricot, like those in the crates. Their fruity nature intermingles beautifully with the scent of tobacco leaves, bound together in thick fans. Their deep, sensuous nature laces the fruit and vanilla with a sense of exotic mystery which curbs the edible nature of the other ingredients before they ever manage to send this fragrance into the familiar territory of common gourmands. The base is a chalice filled with dark, viscous balsams: Benzoin, Tolu and a good dose of Tonka bean, whose slightly chocolaty overtones compliment the vanilla and tobacco to perfection. The two types of vanilla used in turn, ever present throughout the development further enhance all the other notes with their different characteristics: the woody, spicy aspects of the Mexican vanilla absolute enhance the deep luxurious character of the tobacco leaf and clove, while the Bourbon-Madagascar adds to the composition with its hay-like undertones and lifts up the dried fruit with its own fruitiness. A gorgeous, slightly dirty skin musk embraces it all with incredible warmth and erotic sensuality, while a touch of powder lends elegance to the end result. All I ever wanted my perfect vanilla to be, and more… Incredibly versatile, this is at once delicious and sophisticated, erotic and comforting. Like any good vanilla should be (but as we know most aren’t), this one’s delicious but somehow manages to imbue the wearer with a feeling of worldly luxury and sophistication.

I know you’ve all been waiting for this, so I am giving away two samples of this fabulous scent for you to experience months before its release! Simply commenting will automatically enter you in the draw. Winners to be announced in a week’s time, next Friday. The draw will be open until then.

Official Notes: Top: Rum, Mandarin, Orange, Clove
Heart: Dry Fruits, Narcissus Absolute, Rose, Tobacco Leaf
Base: Vanilla Absolute, Tonka Bean, Benzoin, Tolu, Vetiver, Musky Notes

Pricing for the different sizes: Eau de Parfum 100 ml : 100€ /£78 / $155 - Eau de Parfum 50 ml : 75€ / £60 /$115

Images: Image of vanilla pod and seeds Flicr by Galant

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Finding the Perfect Vanilla & Interview with L'Artisan’s Mohammed Jamal

It would be grossly unfair, clueless even, to claim that a city as great as London – with its stupendous galleries, museums and theaters that are there to quench the thirst for knowledge and to appease any possible need for beauty and art, would be defined by a shop of all things, but considering my week spent in the grand metropolis only afforded time for touring the various perfume locations and minimal sightseeing (Sniffapalooza keeps one busy!) I can’t help but make the very claim. Liberty of London defined the city for me: Quintessentially British in spirit and rich in history, its beautiful exterior is done in Tudor style and its interior almost entirely made of wood – the wood of two grand ships of old, the length and height of one of them being equal to the current length and height of the gorgeous building itself. Inside, one could happily spend an entire day, finding just about anything one could ask for: Fabrics and furnishings, rugs and carpets, gifts, teas and chocolates of the highest quality, designer shoes, bags and clothes, ultra-niche beauty brands at the beauty department and rare, hard-to-find gems at the astounding perfume department. But combining the ultra modern with the cozily traditional is Liberty’s specialty: one can climb all the way to the top, to find the most cozy haberdashery department, filled with intricate buttons, ribbons, colorful threads and tapestry kits and if the day of the visit is a Saturday (oh, how I wish I could spend every Saturday morning there) one can even follow the weekly sewing course conducted in the most beautiful environment any prospective clothes-customizer could ask for.

We visited Liberty of London on our second day in London and were welcomed by a team of Liberty staff that surprised us with their gracious hospitality and enthusiasm. After a tour of the building and the most delightful of presentations on its history (every word of which I followed with incredible enthusiasm) we were escorted to a private room for champagne cocktails and pastries. Liberty’s head beauty buyer, a young, fiercely intelligent, beautiful and passionate woman took the floor and introduced us to a host of perfumes all brought up there just for us, many of which exclusive to the shop – such as Miller Harris’ Rose en Noir. Amongst these, the perfect vanilla, a brand new creation by L’Artisan christened Havana Vanille and not to be released till October. Before I even knew of the late release date, I found myself cradling the bottle, knowing that my quest for the one vanilla was well and truly over. Those of you who have been following my Paris travelogue will know of the great disappointment I experienced in Paris, visiting and re-visiting every possible vanilla candidate and coming back empty-handed. Who would have thought I’d find it in London? More importantly, how could I possibly suffer the heartache of leaving it again for months once I’d finally found it? You can imagine my distress. But what followed bears testament to the service and attention Liberty’s gives to clients: As calmly as I could, I related my story to the head beauty buyer, explaining to her how hard I’d looked for this perfect scent, how much I wanted to have it. Even though it seemed impossible, I asked if they could possibly try to get it for me. Unbelievably, she replied that they would. Liberty’s only had a tester, so she would have to come in contact with L’Artisan and see if together they would be able to do something for me. Having already fallen in love with the shop, I reached a deeper understanding of why the Britons in our group of fragrance lovers expressed such devotion to Liberty’s from the moment we walked in: Liberty’s inspires this devotion not only with its quality, but also with its incredible service to customers like me. I left my details and just a few short hours later, I received a call from L’Artisan’s Flagship, informing me that they had a bottle for me.

Our schedule with the Sniffapalooza group was tight, so my only chance to pick up the bottle was on my last day in London, while the rest of the group was visiting a lavender field and distillation facility in Norfolk. The extra time in my hands meant this was the perfect opportunity to also conduct an interview while at the Flagship L’Artisan, on the line’s brand new vanilla, on the hot topic of discontinuation policies, on London’s perfume preferences and of course on the store itself, one of best fragrance destinations for visitors of the city! Mohammed Jamal, himself a professionally trained nose and fragrance evaluator graciously received me in the spacious, beautifully tasteful shop and agreed to be interviewed for Fragrance Bouquet:

Fragrance Bouquet: This is a line which covers all families of scents. One of your most popular scents for example is Premier Figuier. Amongst fragrance aficionados on the other hand, this brand is adored for its more esoteric scents, such as Dzing! and Passage d’Enfer. But today I want to focus on this store in particular, which serves the aware, avant-garde clientele of London. Which scent moves London? In other words, which is your best-seller?

Mohammed Jamal: A few scents actually: Timbuktu, La Chasse aux Papillons and Ambre (both the regular and the Extrême version). When it comes to these scents, we simply cannot stock them fast enough. We double the quantities in our orders and yet we still run out! And let me tell you something interesting about Timbuktu: Not only is it favored equally by men and women who buy it for themselves, but it also works both ways – Both sexes also buy it for each other as a gift!

FB: Why would you say that is? Is there a special connection between this scent and the spirit of London in your opinion?

MJ: It all comes down to understanding the customer and breaking all barriers down. It doesn’t have to do with the culture itself, but with truly understanding the customer… Finding the key ingredients that each customer likes and meeting their needs. We identify these needs before introducing them to any of our fragrances.

FB: So you would say this is one of the special services that clients can receive when visiting L’Artisan’s Flagship here in London?

MJ: Absolutely. Clients come to us for the perfect wardrobe scent and we offer a Perfume Profiling service as well, where a client chooses scents from every family and together we slowly start eliminating until the perfect scent is found. Another service we perform for our customers is to keep their preferences in our database. That way we can call them personally when one of their fragrances is being discontinued, to see if they would like to either purchase some of their remaining stock or to advise them on alternatives. We want to follow up with our customers so that they are always satisfied. We try our best to not discontinue fragrances, but if a change is required that would destroy the fragrance as we and our customers know and love it, we prefer to withdraw it from the market, instead of producing an inferior product. A recent example of this would be the case of Jour de Fete… Last but not least of course, another service we offer here are the complimentary hand and arm massages in the comfort of our lounge. These are performed using products from our organic range – either L’Eau de Jatamansi or the brand new Cote d’Amour.

FB: Speaking of brand new, I would like to turn my attention to the newest fragrance in the line, Havana Vanille. Artisan already has a vanilla scent, one that is in fact considered by many a “Gold Standard” due to its perfect nature: not too sweet, never cloying, gentle and well-behaved. Why another vanilla?

MJ: It is all being unveiled slowly, but it was to add a twist, a deeper character, an edge. We wanted to bring vanilla into a different context. For example, we will be using an image of a luxurious travelling case and cigars. We are travelling into elegance and offering something that either a lady or a gentleman would happily wear. We want to intrigue our customers with a new vanilla that is unlike any other! Further, we want to reinforce the faith in true perfumery; like all our fragrances this too is inspired by memory, travel and experience.

FB: Who was the nose behind Havana Vanille?

MJ: Bertrand Douchaufour (Dzongkha, Timbuktu, Poivre Piquant etc.), our key perfumer.

FB: What kinds of vanilla have been used for this perfume?

MJ: We used two types of absolutes: Madagascar and Mexican.

FB: And finally, what was the inspiration behind this new scent?

MJ: Havana and everything that’s magical about it: The spirit of Salsa coursing through the streets, aromatic cigars, its streets with their old American cars from the 50s, flowing Cuban run… Even the architecture of extraordinary buildings, like the Santa Clara Convent.

I couldn’t help but linger in the cozy yet at the same time spacious boutique after concluding our interview and –I must admit- experimenting with and exploring not only L’Artisan’s beautiful fragrances, but also the Flagship’s collection of absolutes in the lounge, there to help customers explore different ingredients while on the path to finding their true fragrance love (A favorite, unsurprisingly, was the marvelous hay absolute). But the Flagship store on number 36 of Marylebone Highstreet is not the only must-see L’Artisan boutique London has to offer. In fact, many would argue that the true perfume insider’s travels would be incomplete without a visit to the L’Artisan boutique in Chelsea, found on number 17 of Cale street. This was in fact the first boutique of L’Artisan in London and has been the meeting place of L’Artisan’s most loyal fan base for more than 20 years now. No London-based perfume pilgrimage would be complete without it!

Return to Fragrance Bouquet tomorrow for an exclusive review of the yet-to-be released Havana Vanille, and the first presentation of its official notes!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For the Love of Perfume, Fashion and All That is Fabulous: Paris (Part 6 – Last in Series)

Well, as you might remember we had left off excitedly at Montale, but let’s not forget that the particular day was also riddled with pain – foot pain! After some intensive research on the internet (deciphering posts on French forums) we discovered that there was an official Birkinstock boutique at the Marais so the first thing we did on the next day was to revisit the area. (I am convinced by the way that this is probably the only place where one can find German shoe of comfort in Paris!) The Birkinstock boutique can be reached by stepping out on the Saint-Paul metro station. From there, it is just a five minute walk to the actual street, 16 Rue de Sévigné. But why am I giving you directions to the Birkinstock boutique? Because to my surprise, right next to it, on number 10, Rue de Sévigné, I found the most darling apothecary/perfume boutique – Senteurs de Fée! Once I had slipped my feet into the comfort of the Birkies (well, what can I say, some things take precedence over perfume!), I traced my steps back to the Senteurs de Fée and stepped into the fragrant little shop. A beautiful chandelier covered in ivy cast a soft glow over precious oils, soaps, sumptuous creams, ambience scents and yes, personal fragrances. Senteurs de Fée (meaning “Fragrances from the Fairies”) offers about 10 simply packaged fragrances that are absolutely delightful. Lovers of rose will delight in the pure Rose Nectar, a natural Bulgarian rose extract that is deep and fascinating. Other floral offerings include a gorgeous iris (Chant d’Iris) and a beautiful violet scent (Coer de Violette). I was most impressed with Douceur de Musc – a blend of the softest orange blossom and musks that strikes the perfect balance between clean skin and soft animalic undertones, to create a warm soothing layer of fragrance that seems to caress the skin with silken affection. It is absolutely delightful. My second favorite was their amber scent (the name of which I have unfortunately forgotten) in which subdued resins succumb to the embrace of gentle, sweet powder and the glow of ambergris. The end result is very neo-bohemian: velvety and sensuously disheveled, like tousled hair the morning after. This beautiful, romantic small boutique is definitely worth a visit – one of Paris’ best kept fragrant secrets!

The weather was sunny and beautiful and the particular neighborhood of Marais so charming, we decided to forget about our schedule for a while and to take a little walk. A little further down the Birkinstock boutique, we took a right at rue des Francs Bourgeois where yet another surprise awaited me at number 10: a new Guerlain boutique is set to open its doors there soon. Further down the road, at the corner of rue des Francs Bourgeois and rue de Turenne, we found a Bobbi Brown boutique. Being a great fan of sheer lipsticks, I couldn’t resist going in to play for a while with the Lip Sheers and the lip-and-cheek stains.

Next up, we set out to visit Les Nereides. I had quickly visited Les Nereides on my previous trip to Paris two years ago and had immense trouble finding the boutique. This time it was on a new location, their new ‘concept store’ and believe you me, I had just as much trouble (if not more) finding this one as well. But nevermind, it was all worth it. I went inside to sniff perfume (I was not familiar at all with the line’s musk scents, just the Oppoponax, Oriental Lumpur and their Patchouli as of recently) but got completely distracted by the shinies on display! Being a huge fan of their jewelry (see also last summer's list of favorite frivolities, including the most gorgeous earrings and necklace by the brand) I completely ignored perfume for about an hour and tried on this and that on my neck and ears before settling for the most gorgeous fairytale necklace. Pictured above right, it is a gold chain with a freshwater pearl strand, colorful enamel charms (flower, heart and four-leaf clover) and a bird’s nest covered with freshwater pearls containing a light blue enamel envelope. The words “Chance” and “Bonheur” (Luck & Happiness) are on either side of the nest. I don’t think a single piece of jewelry has made me happier. Well, in the last year at least. Having paid a hefty amount for the necklace I felt completely entitled to utter a cluster of words I’d never thought I’d get the chance to while at the register: “I would also like samples of all your scents please”. There, now I can try them all in peace, without contemplating which deserves allocating skin-space to. A review of all the musks is forthcoming – but let me give you a teaser and say, all but one are dirty!

The next boutique was rather out of the way in the 6th arrondissement. I am talking about Aépure, possibly one of the best fragrant destinations in Paris if niche is what you’re after. Aépure specializes in niche products both in body care and fragrance, the latter being of course of primary interest to me. The boutique features a lot of exclusives, such as Viloresi and Profumum and a handful of small lines I’d never heard of before. The main reason I went there was to get the chance to sniff the whole Parfumerie Générale line at once, something I don’t get the chance to do here in the Netherlands, since most of the places that carry the brand only stock a fraction. Even more distressingly, even the ones that do carry the brand are starting to discontinue it. I do not quite understand this – is it a marketing problem? It is a huge shame that a line of such quality that offers such unique products would be removed from the selection so soon after it was introduced. I do not only admire but also feel quite attached to this line, so I hope things are not as bleak as they seem. For now, it seems that soon there will no longer be a PG stockist here in the Netherlands. I loved with Felanilla, but once again, this is not really a vanilla scent. Felanilla is a combination of balsamic notes over soft woods caressed by a bready accord and orris butter. It is beautiful but not as beautiful as the older Iris Taizo which is the only iris scent that can still take me by surprise. The two are by no stretch of the imagination the same scent, nor does Felanilla feel derivative, but somehow, for some reason, it does seem slightly superfluous. I could not shake this strange feeling when comparing both of them side by side and so I scratched another one of the ‘vanillas’ I wanted to explore while in Paris from my ever-dwindling list.

I turned my attention to the Lost’March line. Being a huge fan of milky scents, I homed in straight for Laan-Ael, a scent famous for being uber-milky. I think Tom said it all when he described this scent as milk-and-froot loops as this is a most accurate description! Laan-Ael smells of milk, green sweet-and-sour apples and cereals and is simply delightful. I would have bought it on the spot had I not already bought Matin Calin, and after spraying it on my skin I realized I had unknowingly made the right choice where a milk scent is concerned: Matin Calin lasts far, far longer. Still, despite not being willing to spend my own money on this, I have to say I’d be delighted were I to receive it as a gift. For lovers of milky scents, this one’s a winner. I was not impressed with the rest of the line’s offerings (at least on paper) and the only other I allocated skin-space to was Aod. Disturbingly aquatic, this actually moved me to try it on skin due to the way its sea-spray overtones where gorgeously infused with an addictive musk. Unfortunately the beautiful musky scent lasts about 15 minutes and then you are left suffering the generic aquatic accord we’ve all come to loathe. I left Aépure empty-handed for one simple reason: I do want to buy another Parfumerie Générale scent, but the only way to get access to the line’s private collection and experimental scents is to purchase from their own online store. So unfortunately, despite wanting to support this new, sophisticated and modern fragrance boutique I preferred to spend the sum online, in order to get a personal password for the private range. Just something you would also probably want to keep in mind when purchasing PG.

After a short break for nourishment at Brasserie Lipp on Boulevard Saint-Germain, we decided to walk all the way down rue de Grenelle which would conveniently take us from Patricia de Nicolai to Maître Parfumeur et Gantier and all the way down to rue Cler and finally to the hotel. A long walk, but oh so worth it! At Patricia de Nicolai I was greeted by Rebecca, one of the most wonderful and knowledgeable sales associates. I went to the shop to buy a bottle of the beautiful Vie de Chateau which Ines, one of the regulars here at Fragrance Bouquet had graciously introduced me to a few months back. After paying I had one of the most pleasurable conversations with Rebecca, which proved not only knowledgeable but also passionate and delightful. I spoke to her of my vanilla quest and she proffered Vanille-Tonka. Upon smelling it, I just had to exclaim: “Mmmm, it’s beautiful, but I smell more Opoponax than vanilla! In fact this reminds me very much of Shalimar!” She looked at me with obvious surprise and asked me if I am working with perfume, at which point I explained that I write this blog. Rebecca herself expressed immense enthusiasm for the online perfume community and professed her love for niche perfumers and how much she had enjoyed meeting Andy Tauer. She went on to tell me that my nose was very accurate and that Vanille-Tonka was indeed more opoponax than vanilla and that they affectionately called it ‘their little Shalimar in the Nicolai house. We engaged into a long conversation about the wondrous Nicolai fragrances (and I have to say that Parfums Nicolai couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador than Rebecca who passionately loves the line) and slowly the conversation turned to the sad state perfumery has found itself with all the IFRA regulations. I can give you two little scoops here today: One is that if you love Odalisque you had better stock up on it NOW. We often speak of the old, fabulous chypres, but we tend to forget the great modern ones. Odalisque is just that: one of the great modern chypres which is currently under threat. Get it now because it is very highly likely that it will change very soon due to the regulations on oakmoss. I am wearing it today and it is quite simply, a masterpiece. I will stress this once more: time is more likely than not running out for this beauty. Get it now, or risk mourning its loss later... The other piece of insider bad news I have to deliver is that rumor has it that vanillin is next on IFRA’s chopping block. On which I simply have no comment. I am in shock and I struggle to imagine what perfumery will be like without it. I hope with all my heart it doesn’t come to that. It is simply too atrocious to contemplate.

After exiting PDN, I found myself going up and down the street, looking in vain for Maître Parfumeur et Gantier. I vividly remembered the MPG boutique being right next to the PDN from my previous visit and I simply couldn’t understand why I had trouble finding it. My eyes finally settled on what they’d been missing: the MPG boutique had closed down. The once lively, well-lit space was now dark and deserted. A sign on the door directed customers to their other boutique on rue des Capucines. Unfortunately, when we visited the other boutique on rue de Capucines on our last day, we found it deserted and closed down as well. We realized then that the new boutique on rue de Richelieu behind the Palais Royal gardens - the one that we had passed on our first day - was the only MPG boutique in Paris now. Unfortunately, by the time we came to that realization, it was too late to pay a visit, the shops were closing. I have to wonder now, what is happening to this beautiful brand? Why are all their boutiques closing down? At least the fact that they have opened a new one is heartening, but I can’t shake the feeling things aren’t going too well…

Exhausted we continued down rue de Grenelle, making our way to the hotel, but there was one more surprise waiting for us. Right across Barbara Bui on rue des Saints-Pères, we stumbled upon the perfume boutique of a brand I’d never even heard of before: MEMO. We walked in, forgetting the tiredness of the day due to the obvious excitement of a brand new discovery. MEMO is the brainchild of Clara Molloy a publicist whose many travels inspired the personal fragrances and ambience scents of the line, actualized by nose Aliénor Massenet. I have not yet had much experience with the personal fragrances (all of which are on my desk awaiting full review) but I was mightily impressed by the ambience scents! Kinky Kyoto combines the fresh green scent of bamboo with the warm scent of incense, Lost in Mykonos (the one closest to my heart and the one I simply can’t get enough of) combines the anis-heavy scent of Ouzo with spearmint to re-create my most delightful memories of a Greek patio decorated large pots filled with bushy, fragrant spearmint and glasses of ouzo on ice while everyone is happily talking and enjoying the lovely breeze of the evening (aaaaaaaaaaah, SOON) while St. Moritz Fizz fills the air with simply one of the most fabulous smoky scents I’ve ever smelled! It combines the dark scent of burning wood with accents of fresh fir and incense. I look forward to testing the personal scents on skin and reviewing them here soon, but so far, I am really, really impressed by the candles and room sprays.

The next two days in Paris were spent sightseeing, laughing with my boyfriend and enjoying the good food and the hospitality of the people, who once again broke down all known stereotypes and treated us with smiles, warmth and immeasurable friendliness and politeness. I couldn't have had a better time, in fact, despite having just come back from London, in my head I am still in Paris. Paris, je reviens!

Images: Senteurs de Fee shop front, new Guerlain boutique at the Marais, my Nereides necklace, Aepure, the very poignant “Slave Market” by Jean-Leon Gerome, Lost in Mykonos candle via MEMO's website.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fragrance Bouquet is Back from London!

Oh my goodness, I feel so guilty dropping off the face of the earth for a whole week but… I was in London! I was fully intending to write up a short post explaining that I was joining this year’s Sniffapalooza in London for the week, but dears, it’s been so crazy it was impossible! Thank you so much for your patience this past week. I am now ready to conclude the Paris perfume-logue with a last post which should be interesting as it includes a bunch of fragrance related news, both on Parisian boutiques closing down as well as new ones opening up and some IFRA-related disconcerting news. I've finished writing this last post but it still needs some work to put together (read: images!) so please come back tomorrow for the last part in the series. After that, well I have another HUGE surprise! I've found the perfect vanilla! It's a brand new Artisan (!) and I will be exclusively reviewing it this week. To top it off, there will be an interview regarding the inspiration behind this perfume, so this should be a very exciting week here on Fragrance Bouquet. I am glad to be back writing and can't wait to hear from you all.

Friday, July 3, 2009

For the Love of Perfume, Fashion and All That is Fabulous: Paris (Part 5)

After two days of non-stop activity, I found myself in a dip on the morning of the third day, and not just due to the accumulated tiredness caused by endless morning-to-evening walking. The weather had turned from marvelously sunny to grey and it looked like it was about to rain. Not a problem for a perfume lover in Paris: There are plenty of department stores with excellent perfume departments to keep one busy!

We visited Galleries Lafayette first so that I could explore one of the perfumes on my vanilla quest checklist: Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille. Tom Ford’s line is quite lovely (if irritatingly exclusive) and includes many fragrances I already knew I loved, such as the excellent chypre-themed Moss Breeches and the dark and mysterious Noir de Noir. I was expecting a seamless tobacco-vanilla blend, but once again I was disappointed. Tobacco Vanille starts out as a boozy, gorgeous vanilla, but 15 minutes later it ends up predominantly tobacco and ruthlessly continues on that theme unchanging. Don’t get me wrong – I love tobacco, but I was on a vanilla quest, not a tobacco quest. Further, and to be honest, most importantly, Vanille Tobacco was strikingly masculine – not the unisex, soft, voluptuous oriental I had dreamed it would be.

Despite wearing ‘comfy’ ballerinas, my feet were protesting like mad. I spend the next couple of hours looking at shoes upstairs, all the while wondering why I had never bought Birkenstocks while in Holland and why the hell had I thought they were such a bad idea. Galleries Lafayette had Ipanemas and Havaianas but no Birkenstocks. Suffering through the delirium of pain, I was convinced only the world famous orthopedic sandal could save my feet. When it became clear we were not going to find them there (and when I had finished looking at all the pretties!) we moved next door to the Beauté department of Printemps. All thoughts about pain were suspended as I glided through the fantastic selection of niche perfumes.

I stopped for quite a long time at the Comptoir sud Pacifique counter, a line whose sturdy, travel-friendly bottles are never missing from my suitcase in the summer. I love many of these summery scents – although I have to admit that some of them are too similar to others and thus superfluous, which makes sorting through them and sampling them a bit irritating. I went there with a goal this time however: to sniff Matin Calin (aka Sweet Milk), a scent that never made it to the Netherlands and which I’ve been meaning to sample forever since I love milky fragrances. Too, since I have been going through a huge gourmand period at the moment, it seemed like this opportunity was doubly fortuitous. I fell in love with Matin Calin the moment I smelled it. It is the milkiest of all milky scents I have ever encountered, diving in the creamiest, most soothing milk pool with unapologetic joy. Matin Calin smells like it combines fresh, full-fat milk with condensed cream and the gently caramelized aroma of dulce de leche, rounding it all off with a glorious soft vanilla. Can I just say YUM?! The SA informed me that unfortunately this beautiful scent is being discontinued and that I was snapping up their last bottle. If you want this, you should act soon. The line is priced in the friendliest manner and this is the reference milk scent.

My vanilla quest was appeased to a large degree with Vanille Abricot, a most wonderful vanilla-apricot combination that makes me happy whenever I smell it. It places the yummiest, firm, supple skinned apricot over Comptoir sud Pacifique’s signature vanilla to create one of the most sensuous simple vanilla scents I’ve tried. It is also the brand’s best seller. Official notes list jackfruit and papaya as well, but I smell neither - just velvety, lovely apricot over vanilla. This is wonderful. I also fell for Musc Alize (a soft, clean musk that enhances the wearer’s own skin scent and radiates a warm, sweet scent) but did not buy a bottle, stupidly thinking I could come by it easily enough. Unfortunately after a little research since my return it seems I was wrong: I am starting to suspect Musc Alize has also been discontinued. I left with my two bottles and load of samples thrown in by the gracious SA.

With purchases in my hand and my nose satiated for a while, I had time to think about my poor feet again. I somehow found myself under the wing of an absolutely stunning, elf-like French girl with short brown hair, almond eyes and boundless energy, who made it her mission to help me find the Birkenstocks. We trekked all over Printemps chatting in half-English half-French and giggling merrily but found no sign of the elusive shoe. We were directed to a large sporting-goods store across the street (Le Stadium?) where another gorgeous example of French breeding (this time male) did his best to find them for me. They were not being sold there either. He informed me that he thought they were ugly, but that he completely understood since I was in pain! LOL!

By that time it was almost six in the afternoon and I came to the realization that since there were apparently no Birkenstocks to be found in the center of Paris and the shops would be closing in an hour, I might as well get some more perfume mileage squeezed in! We walked (me bravely, the boyfriend as slow and sympathetic as possible) to the breathtaking Place Vendôme. I walked into my favorite perfume boutique of all, ready to be amazed once again, ready for another rendezvous with perfume-fate, a rendezvous I’d been looking forward to for the past two years.

Ah, Montale… Where to begin? Two years ago I went in seeking an animalic feminine perfume and found perfection in Oud Ambre. This time I requested a special gourmand. My favorite perfume match-maker, Pierre, was not there, but the girls were kind, lovely and patient beyond expectation. I wanted almonds, vanilla, saffron… Anything they could show me to make these cravings subside. The magic started immediately with Sweet Oriental Dream. Everyone and their granny have done a Loukhoum (Turkish delight) scent by now, from Serge Lutens' Rahat Loukhoum to By Killian’s Love and from Keiko Mecheri’s to Ava Luxe’s Loukhoum. Sweet Oriental Dream differs by being the softest, roundest interpretation, missing the sharp notes that tend to put me off the rest. Vanille Absolute is beautiful but unnecessary if you already own one or more of the vanilla-heavy Comptoir sud Pacifique’s creations – it is almost the same signature vanilla, which is unsurprising, considering CsP is a line that was originally created by Pierre Montale. There now seems to be some 'bad blood' between the lines, since Pierre Montale is (understandably) upset to see his formulas changed and degraded. Having come into the CsP line only after Pierre had already departed and never having known the ‘good stuff’ I still love CsP for what I know it to be right now. I was next shown Amandes Orientals and Chocolate Greedy. I knew that my search for the perfect new Montale to add to my collection had ended the moment I smelled Amandes Orientales – whatever came next would be a treat, a lovely extra. This was it! This gem deserves its very own extensive review, so look forward to it once the travelogues are finished. For now, suffice to say it is absolutely unique, wonderful and all I could have asked for from my visit to Montale. Chocolate Greedy in turn, is a wonderful-wonderful gourmand. It starts out as soft chocolate-orange truffle studded with nutty, roasted almonds and dusted with the most fabulous pure dry cacao. The passage of time reveals a smooooooth toasted tonka bean base, laced with very light, whipped vanilla. I bought Amandes Orientals and got Chocolate Greedy as a gift.

The girls delighted me by figuring out my tastes with expert confidence: “This one is for you”. Red Oud. Oh yes. Seriously, I will have to buy this very soon! It starts out tickling the nose with spicy notes of pepper, but quickly calms down to present one of the smoothest, softest Montales I’ve sniffed. It is a round, soft oriental that lingers close to the skin, producing a creamy and at once powdery effect that lifts a few inches from the skin, magically surrounding the wearer. Gorgeous saffron over softly sweet amber, a mysterious dry cacao warmth, a hint of rose and powder… The oud here is very soft, extremely smooth and in contrast to several other Montale ouds, not medicinal. (I also love medicinal ouds by the way – I am just saying this is different).

I almost fainted when I first sniffed Oud Cuir d’Arabie, that’s how strong, pungent and strange it is. After a moment’s swooning, feelings ranging from surprise, love, disgust and then straight back to love, I realized I was holding a gem. This starts out with the strongest, deepest oud note combined with a huge animalic leather. The leather smells as though it has been weathered inside a souk whose smells it’s picked up. It also smells intensely like goat leather. No really, the goat leather smell is very strong and realistic. Amazingly, this pungent beauty calms down to reveal a tobacco heart that is extremely richly nuanced, producing dazzling floral accents and colorful mysteries. This one’s only for the brave.

At some point, one of the SA’s produced a tiny phial filled with a dark oil. She told me it was pure oud and asked whether I wanted to try it. Did I! She applied a tiny drop to my wrist. Dear readers, that one tiny drop kept developing for the next 24 hours! It started out extremely pungent and beyond this world animalic. It smelled literally, like it came out the back end of some animal. Slowly it changed, becoming leathery and then smoother and smoother, producing a myriad other facets, from woody, to musky to vaguely floral. This one single oil is so complex, it takes you through at least a dozen different perfume worlds throughout its development.

Montale also sells a number of other pure oil absolutes in the Confidential Collection among which is Santal de Mysore. This pure Mysore sandalwood can only be described as bliss in a bottle. It is amazingly long lasting (a single drop lasted through to the next day even after showering) and smells… well, like the best sandalwood I’ve ever smelled in my whole life. The absolute I have here at home does not compare. Sweet, creamy, nuanced, sensual, sexy, voluptuous… This should bring tears of joy to the eyes of any sandalwood lover. Compared side by side with Samsara extrait de parfum (a comparison which I did two days later), Samsara seems like a joke both in terms of scent and in terms of longevity. The prices are extravagant (500 euro for 100ml, 300 for 50ml and 150 for 20ml) but – I can’t believe I’m saying this, this sandalwood is worth it. It has been haunting me ever since I put it on my skin. At the time, I thought it was too expensive but I have made up my mind: I’m gonna spring for a 20ml bottle this fall. It is SO worth it!

I want to finish this ultra-long post with a question that has been on my mind ever since: Bar the expensive Confidential Collection which only has a few absolutes, buying anything from Montale in the largest size (100ml) costs between 75 or 95 euro depending on the line (EdP versus Aouds & Attars). On top of that, you get a bottle of your choice as a gift. On top of that, all of the scents last FOREVER on the skin. In fact I’ve yet to meet the Montale that won’t be there, still faithfully on the skin the day after. Ordering over the phone is possible, and shipping is free worldwide. Ordering over the phone gets you the same service as in the boutique itself, including gifts. The line is so extensive, it has something for everyone, from gourmands, to chypres, to leathers to exotic summery scents. Now remind me again, WHY do we pay more and put up with the snobby eliticism and games of “exclusive” this “exclusive” that of other lines when both their product and service is clearly inferior? Yes, I am talking about Guerlain.

Images: The dome of Galleries Lafayette, Sniffing the exclusives at the Tom Ford counter, Milk splash via Flickr by AMagill, Apricots via, The Montale boutique front, Sniffing my wrist at Montale, I seem to like whatever’s on that blotter (once again at Montale), Happy with purchases in front of Montale