Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Apple & Cinnamon and Enchanted Night by Brise : Scented Candle Reviews

In this blog I’ve reviewed perfumes cheap and expensive, rare as well as common, never hesitated between the revered and the reviled and took pleasure in declaring my love even for those that were once well loved but now mocked by many (hello Joop!). But I have to tell you, I’ve been feeling quuuuuite sheepish about reviewing the cheapies I’m about to put under the spotlight today. In fact, I’ve debated with myself about it for more than a week already, often contemplating the eternal “But what will my readers think!?”. Silly huh? So anyway, as you see, I got over my inhibitions, cause I remembered you all love good scents as much as I do. I knew this couldn’t go wrong!

So, the subject matter today is cheap-thrill candles and I’ve chosen my two favorites: Brise Apple & Cinnamon and Brise Enchanting Night. If you’ve had bad run-ins with Johnson’s Glade/Brise products in the past, trust me, I completely understand. Not all of the line’s candles are created equal. In fact I’ve had my share of gag-worthy moments (I’m looking at you I Love You candle) with some of them. I think the line fails miserably when it comes to exuberant, fresh, fruity and fruity-floral smells altogether in fact. But the real surprise is how good it does gourmand, oriental and woody scents: real good. Exceptionally so, trust me. Two of my absolute favorites are Apple & Cinnamon (sold as Pomme & Cannelle in most European countries) and Enchanting Night.

Apple & Cinnamon is the candle I always, always have at home and my trusty standby for all those occasions when I invite people over for coffee or tea. I light it about an hour before my guests arrive and by the time they come in the whole house smells as though I’ve been diligently slaving over the oven to produce the perfect apple pie. It creates the warmest atmosphere and feels absolutely cozy and inviting. Importantly, it always manages to extract spontaneous compliments on how good the house smells. The scent is not only gourmand but beautifully spicy as well - aside from the obvious cinnamon it features a rich clove note that brings to mind festive winter treats.

Enchanting Night on the other hand is more of a private pleasure for me - I light it just for myself when I want to indulge in a quiet evening at home. The scent is probably my favorite in the line for it smells exactly how I wish my house would always smell: private, familiar, sexy. Enchanting Night indeed has an incredibly sensual scent, but the genius of it is that even though it has potent throw and as such adequately perfumes the area, it does so thoughtfully, quietly. It might sound like a contradiction, but yes, the scent it produces is both potent and subdued. How to explain this better? I guess what I mean to say is that it’s never in your face: you can pay attention to it if you like, or you can just ignore it and go about your business, only to notice it again later when it suddenly dawns on you how good the house smells. The actual smell is like an overdose of coumarin (think of newly mown hay and tonka bean sweetness) with beautiful, subtle accents of violet. Oh yes, you see now why this is totally me! Even more attractive is its heavy musky base which smells very much like the musks used in Gaultier’s Fleur du Male.

These candles burn beautifully and cleanly to the very end. They never smoke and I’ve never had to tediously trim their wicks. They just do their own thing and they do it well, and they do it for the cost of no more than four euro, no less. My only complaint is that since a few years ago SC Johnson decided to change the appearance of the pots and partnered up with Sleever International to produce the new designs, which change seasonally (well, at least here in Europe - I believe the U.S. candle holders look different). I am not impressed. I might be burning a cheap candle, but I sure don’t want it to look like I’m burning a cheap candle and these designs are… well. Let’s just say they don’t do it for me. I much preferred the old, clean, simple candle-holders. But alright, I’ll forgive you, Johnson, if only you bring the Pumpkin Pie and the Vanilla scent here in little Holland too! Will you? Please?

Do you have any favorite cheap candles? Most importantly, do they have a good throw? Before I discovered these I always considered cheap candles as worthless, cause nothing seemed to have the power to scent a room and only smelled good in the pot before lighting it… If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

Images: and

Friday, February 12, 2010

Royal Water by Creed : Perfume Review

It’s normally hit or miss with me and Creed, but to be honest, I didn’t know what to make of this one at first. I doubt I would have given this the time of day had I just sniffed on a blotter; Royal Water takes its sweet time to unfold to its full splendor and the skin’s warmth makes the perfect catalyst. Still, I’ll tell you it is not an easy perfume to love: Royal Water can’t decide on its gender, daydreams endlessly (not pointlessly however!) before it reaches its destination, can’t make up its mind on whether it is cool or warm and generally teases the wearer endlessly. And yet, instead of finding it insufferable, I find myself inexplicably charmed. Do you know… the feeling is not unlike being manipulated by a talented lover with a sinister touch that knows exactly how to stroke a body while refusing to let it climb over the edge. You understand then, this is a perfume that gets better and better with time. The question is, do you have the patience?

The opening is old fashioned and rather severe, a true eau full of citrus. Along with lemon, the official notes list green mandarins and clementines which would have you expect something altogether juicier and perhaps sweet, however this is an exceptionally dry perfume. After this entirely neutral, unisex blast of clean freshness Royal Water takes a rather unexpected turn, slowly manifesting itself as a beautiful classic fougère, gentlemanly and proper. Undeniably green (yet never aggressively so), the fern theme is interpreted with astute perfection. The perfume’s cool, indifferent character is underscored by a peppermint note which adds superbly to its blasé attitude. I know peppermint is a make-or-break note for many but I will vouch for the fact that here it is rendered very carefully and only serves to add a frosty undercurrent, never once screaming for individual attention. I get not a single whiff of the resinous green warmth from the purported juniper berries in the heart notes: Royal Water continues to be aloof and cool as a cucumber even as it progressively has the completely opposite effect on me - cool and aloof it might be, but it keeps on intensifying, slowly changing and I find myself slightly breathless, awaiting the outcome… Which is mysterious in and of itself, for this is not my type of perfume at all! What is this perfume laced with, anyway?! Again, this strange scent takes me by surprise by suddenly gender-bending its way to femininity as it quiets down to a mysterious softness. From ferny green coolness, Royal Water has transformed to gentle ambers, spices and sexy musks, touched by a whisper of something that smells indistinctly floral and improbably feminine. Despite these warm notes the perfume still somehow manages to retain its exceptionally dry character - how, I don’t know. Regardless, it refuses to show even the slightest sign of sweetness or fullness. This in essence is the theme that ties all the changes Royal Water undergoes together: Despite how different it smells now, its beautiful, haughty dryness disallows it from succumbing to throwing away the mask of cool detachment, despite its obvious climactic arousal. In this respect I can imagine this perfume would be worn beautifully by a woman to compliment a provocative outfit or lustful curves, for it denotes an air of unavailability, thus making it a perfect balancing factor. Having said that, it can just as easily (and beautifully) be worn by a man. One word of warning however: don’t let this one be sprayed on clothes: the cumin note which remains rather quiet (and only apparent in the drydown) on the skin manifests itself fiercely on fabric and lingers, smelling rather sweaty and unpleasant as cumin often tends to do.

Note: I was sent this sample by Essenza Nobile, where it is sold for 125 E (75ml). To visit the Essenza Nobile webshop click here.

Images: Royal Water bottle via and fern via Flickr by Nick Coombe

Thursday, February 11, 2010

R.I.P Alexander McQueen

May Alexander McQueen's soul rest in peace. His really was a star that burnt brightly.. There are many talented designers out there, but only a few have that strange IT, that supreme genius that sets them appart like a Dior, like a Laurent... Alexander McQueen had that IT. I can't believe I won't get to see his house become what I expected it to become in years to come, a brand as established as Dior! Fashion has lost a prince today.

May you rest in peace, Lee McQueen.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Miyabi Sample Winner

Heeeeeeylo everyone! It's been a bit slow this week cause I have to turn in the first draft of my thesis intro to my supervisor, but there is definitely another review coming this week, probably on Friday. Anyhoo, the winner of the Miyabi sample is Chris G! Please send me an email with your details and I'll send the sample along with some other goodies!



*Results attained through's list randomizer function

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Miyabi Woman by Annayake : Perfume Review & Draw

I’ve got something special for you today, something I’m quite excited about - the first review of Annayake’s newest fragrance, Miyabi! There’s a history of paying attention to this brand here on Fragrance Bouquet and I’m glad to have been able to have access to the perfumes in order to provide you with what I hope is a rather comprehensive picture of the entire line. So, the moment this became available here I procured a small quantity for review.

The news of these new perfumes’ release (one for men and one for women) broke out a while ago, but perhaps a less known fact about them is that their release is a celebratory mark for the brand’s 10-year anniversary. The gorgeous identical bottles (black and silver for him and ivory and gold for her), so elegant and at the same time easy and restful on the eyes, are meant to be a modern interpretation of the inkpot and brush, thus paying homage to the brand’s Japanese identity by evoking the art of calligraphy. The boxes in turn, are meant to evoke fusuma, the sliding rectangular vertical panels that separate interior spaces in traditional Japanese houses. The name -Miyabi- on the other hand, is harder to decipher: often interpreted by westerners as “elegance” or “elegance in beauty”, miyabi is in fact a highly complex construct, heavily influenced by culture. As such, it is very difficult - if not impossible- to offer a satisfactory translation. Without diverging too much from the topic, I will attempt to offer a brief explanation. Miyabi refers most notably to perfection, as in perfection in color, beauty, form and balance. Inherent in this notion however, is always the concept of transience - the passage of time itself. When it comes to a person, miyabi refers to their refinement and specifically their refinement of taste, their ability to discern elegance in everyday objects and to subsequently derive pleasure from them.

Now on to the perfumes themselves. As with most of the masculine perfumes in the Annayake lineup, I have to report that Miyabi Man is, in my opinion subpar. With notes of sandalwood and tonka in the base and sumptuous spices in the heart I imagined this would be a beautiful oriental but unfortunately the experience was that of a generic fresh masculine. Perhaps it is the cucumber freshness of the violet leaves that so put me off in my brief test and perhaps I should give it another try, but reader, I had to scrub this one off fast. Hence my focus only on Miyabi Woman today in any case, which I’ve been testing for a week now and which I am quite enamored with.

In my impression, this is a rather strange perfume in the sense that it does not follow the classic pyramid structure. Top notes for example, seem to be entirely absent: Miyabi instantly plunges the senses in a deep, velvety cocoon of softness. But Miyabi does not fit the bill of a linear perfume either. Its changes, albeit incremental are certainly discernible. Let me diverge for a moment however in order to give you a really good picture of this perfume. When I last visited Paris and had my first encounter with Paris-Moscou, I felt like this was one of the most unique gourmand perfumes I’d ever smelt. I was completely taken (and taken aback) with this incredibly fluffy, soft-as-clouds note that instantly made me think of a marshmallow (click here for my original description). Yes, I am still desperately in love with Paris-Moscou, I still think it is one of the best soft gourmands out there. But… it is not quite as unique as I thought it was. I’d never smelled a Britney Spears perfume till this summer, but something possessed me this past July while waiting at an airport terminal somewhere and I gave her Fantasy a try. Lo and behold, the beautiful marshmallow note, fluffy and sweet. Not nearly as refined as the Guerlain, definitely the drugstore version, but the note was there. Apparently, Guerlain didn’t quite get there first. Fast forward to yet another airport where I smelled Kenzo’s airport exclusive, 5:40 PM In Madagascar. That note again! Please be aware that I am not claiming all these fragrances are twins, just that they all contain this extremely compelling, beautiful new note that suddenly seems to be proliferating and that they all seem to be focused in highlighting it significantly. You obviously see by now where I am going with this… Yes, Miyabi is built around this note. This beautiful, mysterious note that smells of gorgeous whipped vanilla and fluffy, soft marshmallows. For the first hour or so of the development, it is beautifully supported by fragrant peach and an indistinct flowery mélange which is in turn hardened (read: balanced) by smoky cedar. As time goes by, the fragrance mellows as the tonka and ambery base notes come through more distinctively. The volume of the fragrance also drops considerably, radiating more quietly from the skin. Slowly, it transforms to a sweet woody aura, hugging the skin with sandalwood and musk. When considered as part of the lineup, it has to be said that Miyabi diverges considerably from the house style. The rest of the fragrances seem to have a clarity and translucency (even when the type of perfume would not lead you to expect such, e.g. a lactonic gourmand) that this one lacks. However the fact that it incorporates one of my favorite new notes (almost certainly a new aromachemical which produces this mysterious fluffy, vanilla-marshmallow effect) and that it does so elegantly, makes me enamored with it. The end result is a comforting yet peculiar, in other words interesting and delightful at once, at least if you are a gourmand lover. Lovers of Kenzo’s Amour and 5:40 PM In Madagascar and fans of Guerlain’s Paris-Moscou should definitely give this one a try.

Annayake has a rather limited distribution and never even makes it to certain countries such as the US, so I am offering a sample draw. If you are interested, simply leave a comment and you’ll be automatically included. Winner to be announced in a week’s time, next Wednesday.

Images: Fusama screens via Wikipedia and marshmallows via Flickr by John-Morgan