Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Estee Lauder Sensuous: fragrance review

The scent of Sensuous is rather clever, even if not particularly ground-breaking, balancing all the ingredients and chords in an effect that would make you feel, like one reviewer said, "the victim of your own fragrance snobbery." We tend to bypass mainstream releases in favor of niche, and yet there are some mainstream releases which make us wonder what we have been neglecting, or viewing with unwarranted contempt, and Sensuous is one of those scents.

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Sensuous in 2008 was moving the boundaries from already well known Estee Lauder floral notes towards an opulent oriental woodsy-amber concept, to praise the beauty and sensuality of women all ages. The fragrance was created in cooperation with the nose Annie Buzantian of Firmenich, who composed it of sensual lily notes, magnolia and jasmine petals in the top. The heart brings aromas of molten wood and amber, while the base introduces sandalwood, black pepper, juicy mandarin pulp and honey.

Lightly spicy and quite creamy, the original Sensuous gives me a warm, soft, just right impression of lightly scented skin, in a way paying homage to the creations of Lutens (though less spicy-sweet), but also winking in the direction of Tom Ford's personal favorite Santal Blush, which is also a very creamy and smooth skin scent if you let it dry down. The sandalwood is what is most prominent on my skin, totally a creative attempt at giving that old mainstay of perfumery a valiant effort, but quite effective and very indulgent; it's skin-like at the same time as it's clean and polished, perhaps with a distant whiff of smokiness in the background.

The advertising campaign for the original Sensuous was actually talking about "molten woods", which is as good a term as any fantasy line, I guess, to capture that titillating balance between straight-faced earnestness and blurted out seductiveness. People still pick perfume in order to appear more alluring, there's no use in denying it. So Lauder embraced it, but in a quite classy and clever way, which should teach the market a lesson or two.

The way to do that was to employ several different spokes models (actually two well-known actresses, the pleasantly mature and established Liz Hurley and the not-so-ridiculed-on-U.S-soil Gwyneth Paltrow; and two supermodels, Carolyn Murphy and Hilary Rhoda), dressed in an identical white man's shirt in various stages of decency. The move is clever in a double whammy way: men's shirts, as worn by women, not only offer a morning-after visual code that the public has been conditioned to interpret in exactly this way thanks to endless movies utilizing the trope, but also an androgynous way to borrow the "better" qualities of the masculine gender in the public perception and stereotyping, i.e. self-confidence, assertive disposition, a devil-may-care regard for others' responses. So in one single decision, Lauder and their creative directors managed to appeal to a woman who is both strong enough to not care about men's weighing of her value, but also attractive enough to have men in her life in a sexual way.

The next installment in the Sensuous line came in September 2010, more fittingly season-wise, in the countdown to Christmas. Sensuous Noir is indeed a rather dark fragrance and my personal favorite in the triptych.


Please visit Estee Lauder fragrance reviews and news on the PerfumeShrine.com using this link.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Guerlain Mon Guerlain Eau de Parfum: fragrance review

Mon Guerlain does not dare veer into the animalic, like its forerunners  Guerlain Jicky and Guerlain Shalimar do; this is the first thing one needs to watch for. The propensities of today do not allow hints of bodily odor emerging, nor would they allow the weird opening of Jicky which sometimes comes across as vaporized petrol. Instead, Mon Guerlain veers into the caramelic, with a rum & hay ambience, a "toffee" accord, which embraces the Carla lavender flower from Provence and renders it soft and pliable. After all, the starting point for perfumer Thierry Wasser was the vanillic accord, not the other way around. Was it a genius idea prompted by him? In a way. But not entirely.
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There are several nuances lavender can take. A decade back, when I was describing the main odor constituents of Fragrantica's vast notes database one by one, I came up with the short form of "an aromatic clean note, medicinal on one end and licorice-like on the other end", and I stand by my description to this day. Hermès was the first to exploit this duality fully, thanks to Jean Claude Ellena's idea of a quintessential blend of exquisite lavender wrapped in licorice in Brin de Reglisse (in the boutique exclusives line), therefore the mischievous reconstruction of an olfactory symbol of the South of France reinvented by the gourmet touch of a ribbon of licorice. “Dressed in mat black, a magnified lavender, memory and landscape…”  
Nowadays, it is the vanillic and licorice nuanced lavenders which are featured in any product that aims to appeal to women or women buying for babies and children. To wit, most children's products for the bath and body which claim "relaxing lavender" are mostly featuring a blend of musk with vanilla and abstract notes of extraterrestrial flowers grown on the moon; lily of the valley, jasmine and delicate, unreal roses. And this explains the divide that lavender produces; some people love the medicinal properties they have come to know from real lavender, some people abhor them, confused by the artificial construct that is advertised as "lavender" but really isn't. 
If we insist in our path with Guerlain's Mon Guerlain, and in direct juxtaposition with their classic lavender-laced Jicky, one can certainly see how over a century of fragrance production has seismically shifted the notion of lavender in general. From an animal-laced beast into a vanillic comforting cocoon for women who love their desserts, but don't want to be seen stuffing their mouths with it. 
There's something sexy about making one's self feel good about themselves, giving them the confidence to be themselves, to inhabit their skin, and maybe that's the root of the concept of comfy notes producing claims to sexiness and attraction. Mon Guerlain is in that direction, although to my more daring tastes, close but no cigar...

Very pretty (classic) bottle nevertheless!

Further Reading on the PerfumeShrine:
Guerlain news & fragrance reviews
Perfumer Thierry Wasser

Hermes Elixir des Merveilles: Revisiting my Fragrance Review

Elixir de Merveilles came out ages ago and we have all -I hope- tried it out in the shop. But are we still grasping its genius? It's the rare fragrance which possesses that odd twist: the woody structure is given a steeping into sweeter materials, yet the resulting effect isn't really sweet at all. The chypre-reminiscent earthy note of patchouli gives a grounding to the orangeade of the original Eau de Merveilles, with its more summery facets; in fact the perfumer coerces Elixir into recalling more of the rind of the fruit than the juice.

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The rind of the hesperides fruit is by its very nature resinous, thus colliding with the other resinous materials in the background, providing that much needed liaison. But because orange rind is lightly bitterish and refreshing, akin to the scent of fresh sweat, Elixir de Merveilles becomes perfect for intimate wearing when one's body stills retains a little sweat, mingling with the humidity of the environment, the overripeness and the loaded pong of the vegetal matter, but retaining its lived-in chic.


Elixir des Merveilles by Hermès is a Oriental Fougere fragrance for women which was launched in 2006. The nose behind this fragrance is Jean-Claude Ellena. The fragrance features scent notes of Peru balsam, vanilla sugar, amber, sandalwood, tonka bean, patchouli, Siam resin, caramel, oak, incense, orange peel and cedarwood.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Everything Old is New Again: the Bell Jar

In recent years we have seen an endless recycling of design, ideas, DIY tricks and products that reference the past, in a spin of retromania, which started after the millennium. But even back in the 1990s it seems the adage held firm, with an otherwise iconoclastic artistic director getting inspired by the past. Not that he hadn't already been inspired in other ways, but it's striking to see the very design that he established as "his" being offered by a very mainstream brand 50 years before.

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And so my research led me to the discovery of the Shulton company bell jars, presented as a redesign of their fragrant offerings in 1944. And for none other than Old Spice, the classic reference for men, which started its illustrious history as a ...women's fragrance. Almost 50 years before the Salons de Palais Royal fragrances which were presented in bell jars by none other than Serge Lutens.
And sometimes, a few times, those bear references to an even further distant past...such as medieval manuscripts' art.

Limited edition of Serge Lutens Rousse


Further Reading on the PerfumeShrine:

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Men's Fragrances to Capture (This) Woman's Heart

Evaluating a masculine fragrance is always harder than evaluating a fragrance that is divested of its loaded semiotics of gender, or which appeals to my own femininity heads on. At least I can asses femininity first hand and dismiss the hyperbolic claims of modern advertising with a wave of a well-manicured hand. But what happens when the claims to "assured masculinity" (surely that has a genetic component, so it's not much of a choice most of the time) and "assertive fragility" (or any such oxymoron) are brandished in advertorials? Do they make sense, do they reflect themselves into the scents in question, do they influence my own response on them? The fact is that masculine fragrances, especially in the designer segmentation, are getting sweeter and sweeter by the minute, no doubt following modern ladies' launches which have familiarized modern women with an excessive amount of sugar. 
This, in and of itself, clashes violently with the butch, macho images that sometimes accompany these fragrant launches and confuse me. Other times they're tongue in cheek, and when sprinkled with a good dosage of spices, I get intrigued and in rapt attention despite the sweetness. They're literally tens of fragrances aimed at the more assertive (so the stereotype goes...) sex which I love and would jump the bones of...from Santos de Cartier Cartier (vintage), L'Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Guerlain, Habit Rouge Eau de Toilette Guerlain, and the classic freshness of Vetiver Guerlain, to the subtlety and finesse of Eau de Monsieur Annick Goutal, Equipage Geranium Hermès, all the way to Encre Noire Lalique and the powdery orientalist of Noir eau de parfum (for men) by Tom Ford.
But in general I find myself revering to more retro fragrances when opting to embrace a masculine side. Oddly enough, these are also the ones which make me want to wear them on myself too, with few exceptions. 

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Givenchy Gentleman (1974) by Givenchy 
One of the best examples of this is the vintage edition of  Gentleman (1974) Givenchy, a fragrance so seismically changed in the reformulation of the new edition, that it is an entirely different fragrance bearing the same name., i.e. Gentleman (2017) Givenchy. The former is patchouli heaven for those who appreciate that hippie note in their scented grooming, but it is the coalescence with the Cuir de Russie leathery, tarry aspects (bitter facets with sharp citric nuances, and a smattering of earthy civet) and with trickled honey that makes it truly irresistible. Gentleman by Givenchy blooms and blooms on my own skin, and it's even more ravishing and irresistible, if you can believe it, on masculine skin thanks to its generally higher surface temperature. It's one of those retro fragrances that makes me wonder "What were they thinking?" when the news of the change reached me. If you have a bottle of this vintage in your arsenal, consider yourselves lucky indeed. Just don't over-spray, it's a man of few words. 

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Antaeus by Chanel 
Everyone mentions Egoiste Chanel when women and masculine fragrances are uttered in the same breath, but I find that the under-rated Antaeus Chanel is the better example. Thankfully Antaeus is among the releases in current production, and although it's a bit thinned out compared with its glorious past, it's still very good, tremendously sexy, and assertively powerful. Its trail of animalic warmth, thanks to a generous helping of castoreum with a subtle vanillic undercurrent, which matches exceptionally well with the labdanum resin, almost makes it moan with pleasure. In fact in blind tests when fragrance consulting with women it never fails to raise that "oh my" reaction with the ladies fanning themselves...
There is an important component of aromatics in the mid-section which temper the animalic oomph and make it escape the modern hysteria for bodily odors. It might be this which makes me comfortable in wearing it myself, to high compliments, I might add. This 1981 creation by Jacques Polge is among the very best in the Chanel portfolio and that's saying something. 

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Dior Homme for men by Christian Dior
Never mind that Dior Homme is everywhere, that it is one of the most interesting masculine releases of the last decade, and its flanker fragrances are also excellent, because the formula brings a most unusual iris root note, halfway between face powder or retro lipstick and dusty dried flowers, into an otherwise masculine formula. It doesn't surprise me that many women love it and love wearing it themselves; it's the most approachable from the lot. The iris in Dior Homme alternatively takes on facets of soft skin powder, like the one used in hipster barbershops, of powdered cocoa, and of ambery starch. It's a soft, soft, sooooft fragrance but it retains a hint of freshness, which I consider a very enticing and key component in fragrance in general. You don't want to be totally smothered into a cotton cocoon, after all, when in a social rendez-vous, you want to be able to breathe and appreciate the (hopefully handsome) view. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours: fragrance review

Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours from 2017, with a seductive name that evokes caresses with the softest materials, is a lasting, worthwhile specimen in the family of Bottega Veneta fragrances. Maybe even more lasting than the first eponymous release, Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum!

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For this very plummy flanker fragrance, which was a limited edition to begin with, we have a presentation in – you guessed it – velvet ribbon caressing the neck of the bottle, substituting the subtle kink of the strip of leather which encircled the neck of the original Eau de Parfum in a bit of tasteful fetish wear.

Those of you who do not like the actual bitter facets of leather fragrances, but instead long for the plush and the decadent sense of luxury that leather suggests, will find this rosier and softer version, Eau de Velours, by perfumers Michel Almairac and Mylen Alran, more to your liking. The leathery core is here, too, but don't fool yourself that it's a defanged mass scent of musks and fruits sprinkled with sanitized patchouli and ready for its close up like so many others. It's definitely close to the original, but the softness, with an interlay of starched iris, makes it less sharp, less androgynous, more comely, and I'm afraid a little bit more "middle of the road," if such a term like that can be applied for the Bottega Veneta fragrance line at all (which i'm sure it can't, but you get what I'm saying).

Eau de Velours is a prime example of those fragrances fit to scent one's autumn scarf – very close to the body, but rising with the body temperature to mingle with one's skin chemistry and becoming one's own. Sensuous but in control, it's commanding attention where you don't need to raise your voice or your eyebrows to make your salient point. Good going, Bottega Veneta!

Related reading on the PerfumeShrine: 
Bottega Veneta fragrance reviews and news
Leather Fragrances Series: a Complete Guide on Leather in Perfumery
How to Seduce with your Perfume
Chypre Perfumes for Newbies

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