Monday, November 30, 2009

Perfumed Quotes : Miller Harris

"Hair colour, skin type, personality, dress sense and lifestyle all have an influence on our fragrance style. For redheads, I often recommend an oriental; I've noticed extroverts gravitate towards chypre. But, ultimately, trying a scent on your skin is the best way to find out what suits you."

- Perfumer Miller Harris, quoted in the British publication of Elle magazine, December, 2009.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Back to Black by By Kilian : Perfume Review

Well, I might be a little late to the party, but the little sample that has been sitting on my desk for the past couple of weeks is finally getting its day today. Pure Oud has to be ordered by phone and I’ve no idea whether it will eventually make its way to any brick-and-mortar stores, but Back to Black has been in for a while and I eagerly procured a sample recently, together with some skincare purchases. While it certainly doesn’t trump my beloved A Taste of Heaven as the absolute favorite of the line, it probably ranks in second at this point and we’ll just have to wait and see whether Pure Oud changes that.

Having taken a look at the official note listing on the By Kilian website, I fully expect Back to Black to have a fresh-herbal opening, but instead we plunge into dark sweetness from the first moment. The opening is soft and subdued - a hint of subtle leather and rising myrrh, bittersweet and perfectly discernible, despite the fact that it makes no appearance in the official note listing. The tiny herbal-floral voice of chamomile gasps and fades into nothingness as the dark, soothingly wintry scent intensifies, blossoming into an extravagance of outrageously beautiful opoponax (again, not listed, but oh-so-definitely-there) laced with gourmand notes of cherry and hints of tart raspberry bliss. Unexpectedly, the volume drops lower again as the central note of tobacco emerges through the fruity nuances. Its entrance is diffuse yet full-bodied, as though someone pried open a prize cherry wood humidor housing preciously sweet pipe tobacco within. At this point it’s all I can do to stop nuzzling my arm and to keep writing this review - I just want to keep my nose buried in the crook of my elbow, inhaling this sweet, deep scent that evokes images of grand fireplaces and sipping cognac curled up in luxurious leather armchairs. Gradually, a honey note emerges - subtle at first, forming perfect continuity with the fruity notes of the fragrance, but eventually gaining in intensity and becoming as strong as the tobacco. The two however do not antagonize, but rather complement each other. In fact their union is so perfect that even though I do not normally like honey in perfume unless it is subtle and very round (and this one is very mildly sharp) I find myself not being able to imagine Back to Black without it. It is perfect as it is - honey and all. The drydown is darker, with the honey having died down and the cherry now freely wafting in and out of the sweet tobacco veil that has settled on the skin. Milky almond and soft, powdery notes enhance the feeling of comforting calm, while a beautiful balsamic base simmers gently in the background.

If I had to describe Back to Black by way of comparison, I’d say it smells like the love child of Serge Lutens’ Rahat Loukoum, Fumerie Turque and The People of the Labyrinths’ Luctor et Emergo (wow, what a love triangle!). It almost feels like the best elements of these perfumes were combined to create a separate, brand new entity whose sole purpose is to comfort and delight. While I wouldn’t wear Back to Black outside (it doesn’t really fit my personality nor my image) it would be a dream to own a bottle just to wear this absolutely delightful concoction to bed. Because what Back to Black does, is make you want to close your eyes and keep smelling this perfume that evokes the most beautiful images, grab a book, curl up under a comforter and purr, delight in the warmth of the house even as it thunders, pours down with rain or snows outside. Or at least, that’s what it does to me. It is the ultimate complex comfort perfume. What a luxury.

Images: Antique pipe via National Museums Scotland ( Swivel cognac glasses by Bodie and Fou available for purchase via (Editor’s note: Fragrance Bouquet is not affiliated with this webshop)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blv II Eau de Parfum by Bvlgari : Perfume Review

Bvlgari’s lineup follows (with only few exceptions) a very specific, discernible house style that clearly defines the perfume division of this great brand. Namely, the house satisfies a specific niche in the prestige department store sector, producing one skinscent after the other. There are two ways to define the term skinscent: A scent that has a low projection, staying close to the skin, or alternatively, a scent which mimics or enhances the skin’s own scent, blurring the lines between where the scent of one’s skin ends and where the perfume begins, resulting in a beautiful, “your skin but better” effect. Bvlgari clearly specializes in the latter form of skinscents, producing perfumes that each play with different accents (green, powdery, floral, fruity, musky etc.) but all end up producing a more beautiful, velvety version of skin that seems to be emitting a light, perfumed veil.

The brand’s newest, Blv II, does not diverge from this tradition, but what is astounding is that this time around they’ve managed to bottle the gourmand-oriental genie in a Bvlgari skinscent vessel. What am I talking about? Think Angel and (especially) Lolita Lempicka and then imagine them in the guise of a soft-as-clouds skinscent. Impossible? Well, perfumer Jacques Cavallier has achieved just that. This marriage of potency and graceful, sheer lightness is anything but accidental: Bvlgari describes this newest fragrance as “Intense accords and glowing lightness, the perfect synthesis of intensity and transparency”, while the perfumer, Jacques Cavallier expands thus on the creation:

“I was thinking of The Little Prince, who always runs after the simplest things, but things that are in fact very real and essential. (…) So this creation is based on essential things, on the foundation stones of perfumery: amber, iris, musks, wood, patchouli flowers, violets. All major elements of perfumery, which, for the occasion, have been processed differently thanks to new forms of technology, and thanks also to the heritage of the past 20 years, in terms of transparency, the lightning inspiration of each new debut and the work done also on naturalness.”
- via press release

The first note to become apparent after application is a marvelously soft violet, soon to become dressed and emboldened with the sweet gourmand accents of star anise and liquorice. Soon, the fresh scent of mandarin joins in, at first a green nuance like the scent of its stems and leaves but thereafter ever more full-bodied and fruity. Suddenly its freshness becomes all the more brisk and invigorating, adding a definite sense of masculinity to the mix, which if I’m honest, I could do without. This masculinity is further explored in the heartnotes as it becomes enhanced at first by vetiver but thankfully, it soon subsides. We enter a stage of glorious fullness as the perception of rich iris becomes enhanced and the slightly harsh masculinity of the scent changes to mysterious femininity as the deep scent of patchouli joins the iris in full. Most beguilingly, underneath both I sense a burgeoning, slightly buttery and balsamic woody base, enriched with subtle hints of malt-infused tobacco. The base presents a triumvirate of ruling ambers (ambergris, benzoin & labdanum) on a bed of burning musk. The aniseedic, patchouli-infused violet-iris combo persists however softly to the end, enhancing the impression of the aforementioned skinscent version of a gourmand-oriental in the spirit of Lolita Lempicka. Blv II covers the skin with a soft gourmand-oriental veil that projects lightly, becoming drier and more powdery as time goes on and turning surprisingly transparent, allowing one’s own skin scent to glow beautifully from within. In short this to me seems like the perfect scent for someone looking for a quiet, daytime oriental that will offer sensuality and mystery while remaining subtle enough to leave others wondering whether you are wearing perfume or if indeed, the beautiful warmth perceived is produced by your own skin.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jabu by Mona di Orio : Perfume Review

Well, what do you know. After all my bemoaning and lamenting not being able to find a Mona di Orio perfume I can appreciate, I finally got the chance to smell her newest creation, Jabu, and I am more than a little pleasantly surprised. I am even more pleased for being in the position of finally writing a positive review about this solid, full of integrity brand.

Skins, one of my favorite stores here in the Netherlands recently held a beautiful launch for Jabu and Mona herself was present. Unfortunately, due to an incredibly busy schedule I was unable to attend, but as soon as I found some free time last week I popped by the store and together with my purchases I also received a sample of this fabulous new perfume.

Jabu means “Joy” in Zulu, and the perfume itself is dedicated to Orange Babies, the target group of the homonymous charitable foundation that helps HIV infected pregnant women in Africa and their babies as well as supporting HIV infected or otherwise affected by the disease children of Africa. Consciously thinking about this target group might bring somberness to our heart, but the perfume’s message is one of spirited optimism: the joy and the laughter of these children finally getting help.

As with all of Mona di Orio’s perfumes, a spritz on the blotter only tells half of the picture: the fragrance needs to be applied on the skin in order to show its true colors. A discreet sniff of the bottle’s stopper was enough for me to know that I’d like it, but didn’t prepare me for the fact that I’d love it. Smelling the stopper I got the impression that this would be a summery perfume, as all I could smell was a gorgeously frothy orange blossom scent. On the skin however, this develops into a supremely warm scent, absolutely fitting for winter and for special occasion summer evening-wear. But I’ve held you in suspense for far too long; let’s get right down to it and explore this beauty.

Jabu opens with the bittersweet, herbaceous, woody accent of petitgrain. Slowly, the woody-citrus freshness of petitgrain dissolves into the mounting sweetness of full, creamy orange blossom. The meeting of the two is incredibly uplifting, having an almost ‘sunshine’ effect on the senses with their jubilant character. The ylang ylang employed here is almost disturbingly oily at first, but soon calms, adding the most gorgeous exotic accent. This exuberant, fervently exotic side is further explored with the addition of monoi-tiare, which underscores the creamy lusciousness. The subtle coconut hint of monoi adds to the ‘texture’ of the fragrance, lending it an almost 'chewy' appeal. After this sumptuous extravagance, Jabu takes a surprising turn; slowly, the scent begins to quiet down, enfolding the wearer with a honeyed, serene sweetness. The buttery softness of sandalwood begins to emerge, mingling with a soft rose scent and the overall sweetness of the scent is cut slightly at the edges as the bitter-sweet scent of myrrh blooms. Together with another resin (the balsamic-vanillic Benzoin Siam - already very effusive almost from the beginning) and sweet tonka bean, these heavier base notes now firmly ground Jabu in the realm of the orientals. The impression is rounded off with gorgeous ambergris (as with Chamarre, the ambergris here is excellent and beautifully prominent) and deep, dark (albeit not dirty) musk.

Jabu is a chunky and powerful floral-oriental, a perfume you can truly sink your teeth in. Its femininity is all grown up and mindful of 80’s power-dressing. In fact, there is one perfume that Jabu clearly reminds me of, a perfume released at the end of the decade, but still thoroughly impregnated with the effusive, baroque style of 80’s florals and orientals. That perfume is Lacroix’s C’est la Vie. It’s been many, many years since I last saw C’est la Vie on a shelf, but the moment I smelled Jabu on my skin, the thought of it popped into my mind. A check for C’est la Vie’s notes revealed that my olfactory memory was very accurate indeed: featuring orange blossom, ylang-ylang, rose, amber, Benzoin Siam, musk and vanilla, C’est la Vie reads like Jabu's predecessor. Having said that, Jabu does bear Mona di Orio’s signature and once you smell it, you will definitely have no trouble recognizing it as one of her creations. Still the two are strikingly close in feel and scent and I hope that this comparison helps you get a clearer picture of what Jabu smells like - especially important since many will have to purchase online due to the lack of brick-and-mortar distributors. If you like Lacroix’s powerhouse gem, you’ll be sure to love this one, which appeals with modernized sophistication and updated, soft voluptuousness and projection.

Importantly, I have to mention that Jabu is not only dedicated to Orange Babies, but also supports the foundation with donating proceeds. I am not sure what percentage of the profits goes to the charity when you buy Jabu in other parts of the world, but currently, if you buy Jabu at Skins, a whopping 100% of the proceeds go to the foundation! For those of you not living here in the Netherlands, you can also purchase from Skin’s webshop by clicking here. The language can be switched to English by clicking on “selecteer taal” and Skins will ship internationally. (Editor’s Note: Fragrance Bouquet is NOT affiliated with Skins, but loves the shop and wishes to support the charity.) If you wish to know more about the Orange Babies foundation, you can reach their website by clicking here.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Perfumed Quotes: Alexander Pope

"Praise is like ambergris; a little whiff of it, by snatches, is very agreeable; but when a man holds a whole lump of it to his nose; it is a stink and strikes you down."

- Alexander Pope

Monday, November 16, 2009

Eau Mega by Viktor & Rolf : Perfume Review

Goodness knows I’d love to support the daring darling Dutchy duo Viktor & Rolf, but readers, not only can I not do that in this case, I in fact loathe having to put this on my skin ever again! But alright, just one more time then, just for the sake of this review (the things I do for you!)… Eau Mega has a name I feel instant affinity to, it being a play on words on the last letter of the Greek alphabet, Omega. I wish I could say the same about the slogan (“Megafy yourself!” a kitschy pronouncement which alludes to the heroine portrayed in the ads, who “Megafies the world”), to which I just say… “Ugh…” The bottle in turn is as darling as can be, combining the boudoir luxury of a modern interpretation of the bulb atomizer and the brash boldness of a huge gold brand seal resting on a perfect, smooth cylinder. Try to spray with it though and you’ll immediately understand why I hate it! In order to apply you have to press the oversize logo-embossed seal between your fingers, and while this is indeed innovative, it can only be achieved by using both hands. As a result spraying your wrists or arms is out of the question. Conversely, an effort to spray a blotter or your wrist for the purpose of testing while at a store can be precarious. Will the bottle tumble and fall if you only use one hand while the bottle rests on the narrow shelf? Possibly. Will you look ridiculous if you instead try to juggle it in your hands while attempting to spray your wrist? Almost surely.

On to the perfume itself, which a clever Douglas assistant somehow managed to decant in a sample vial for me (dexterous!). I find the opening of Eau Mega rather affable, if not very creative: soft, musky freshness, dominated by the juicy green appeal of a luscious grass note. However, what follows is positively nauseating. This innocuous green shortly transforms into a watery, fruity mess. The reviews I’ve seen so far list pear as the dominant note, but I find it is watermelon that takes center stage. With intense clarity, the aquatic note of watermelon reaches its crescendo, supported by the more honeyed yet complimentary scent of sweet cantaloupe melon and traces of starchy banana peel. Yech! As if the watery freshness derived from these fruits was not quite enough, violet leaf adds its sonorous cucumber-y feel and basil screams “MORE”! The jasmine at the heart does its best to add warmth to the composition, but the efforts are in vain, while peony (not my favorite note under any circumstances anyway) adds an extra tinge of dislike for me. I find the drydown strangely divorced from the overall juicy feel of the perfume as it is surprisingly dry and betrays a subtle powdery tendency as well. The predominant base note is cedar. Any sweetness is left behind; in fact I daresay that the overall feel tends to become rather sour with the passage of time, something that even the emergence of subtle sandalwood and soft musk in the base fail to alleviate.

Images: via

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tiare by Ormonde Jayne : Perfume Review

Well, readers I promised to return with a review of a brand new, fabulous perfume and here it is: Ormonde Jayne’s newest, Tiare. Upon reading the news that the Ormonde Jayne Perfumery had produced a new fragrance with tiare absolute as its starring feature, I tried to imagine what the scent would be like and fully expected to be greeted with a voluptuous, summery exotic fragrance when my sample arrived. I couldn’t have been more wrong: Tiare is the pinnacle of modern sophistication and classic elegance: a true chypre that has taken my breath away!

It opens with sparkling notes of hesperidic fruit (juicy mandarin and bracing, refreshing lime) whose tartness is masterfully cut by a magnificently refined neroli note. Orange blossom can be very heady, but here its presence is airy and soft, adding a beautiful touch of femininity to the fresh opening. As the fresh notes subside, the biggest surprise this perfume has to offer emerges: a gloriously animalic floral note blooms, like a sumptuous flower which unfurls its petals to reveal a shockingly naughty core. There is a distinctive lily scent, melded with the fuzzy feel of pollen and infused with this fabulous, honeyed animalic note that takes me by surprise and makes me swoon with pleasure. The jasmine note is green and beautifully complimented by a barely-there, subtle earthiness which is in turn drenched with the scent of ylang ylang. For once, I do not find the ylang ylang oily or heavy - instead it lifts the scent to the threshold of the exotic, ‘coloring’, as it were, the fragrance with sunshine. And I use the word ‘threshold' consciously, for it is never actually crossed: the unconditionally sophisticated base exerts such influence, that this perfume never actually crosses over to the exotic - even when the gardenia-like fullness of the incredibly precious tiare absolute fully emerges. And this is not a small feat: it is hard not to admire Linda Pilkington’s mastership and finesse as one becomes aware of the skill required to tame all these rhapsodic, lustful, voluptuous florals and to compel them to behave as the most comely, sophisticated bouquet. This beautiful tension between wild abandon and perfectly groomed restrain is achieved through the strong woody-mossy base that manages to arrest the promiscuous heart and to harness and guide its potency into a polite yet powerfully meaningful, masterful arrangement. In other words, Linda Pilkington has gifted us with a return to the glories of chypres past. As we enter the drydown stage we encounter Linda’s familiar players: the soft creaminess of orris (never powdery in her hands) and her beloved vetiver. The lasting power is amazing - this is one of the fragrances you wake up with the next morning. In my case, the traces left on my skin just make me want to re-apply. This amazing composition is refined, sophisticated (yes, I’ll say it again) and most importantly perhaps, unabashedly womanly. In every sense of the word. I see a full bottle in my future.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Exam Week

Morning everyone!

Things have been a little silent the past few days here on Fragrance Bouquet because I have been studying for the first exam period of the year. This week is riddled with exams and final papers so I won't be able to post. But next week Fragrance Bouquet will be back with a review of a brand new and supremely sophisticated perfume! See you then :)