Friday, November 19, 2021

Eau d'Ivoire by Balmain: fragrance review

One often sees young girls looking for a perfume for everyday -clean, that will be well liked by their entourage, that will make them feel feminine, and in full possession of the coolness of their youth. They're offered a pile of branded products in big department stores, and one tends to feel a little bit sorry for the embarrassment; too much choice, but too little distinction. Yet small gems await in the wings. Eau d'Ivoire is a cooler and more modern style variant of the re-launched Ivoire by Pierre Balmain (which gave us legendary fragrances like Vent Vert, Miss Balmain and Jolie Madame) a year later, in 2013. 


The relaunched contemporary Ivoire by Balmain is also beautiful, with an aldehyde arrangement of cleanliness and soap, less retro-"mommy" compared to perfumer Francis Camail's 1979 original Ivoire (for some funny reason, the perfumer's name always reminds me of Camay soap ...). 

In Eau d'Ivoire we're dealing with a bright, shiny, dominant magnolia that comes to the fore like a young girl at an event, who radiates natural beauty: fresh flawless skin,  sculpted features, loose lush hair, light-footed dance moves, a gaze with no hidden. You look at her and your mood lifts. 

The fragrance of Eau d'Ivoire has that deliriously attractive acidic feeling that men like so much, the freshness of initial spraying that is combined with the feeling of sophisticated musky skin-like haze underneath, which, although it speaks of cleanliness, does not scratch the nose with the sweetish acrid smell of fabric softener. The aldehydidic profile is weakened compared to the original Ivoire, but it is accompanying in a primo secondo fashion. A hint of soap, of the bath ritual, a feeling of well-being and softness remains on the skin when it dries, with a soupcon of clean fractalized patchouli. 

Eau d'Ivoire lasts a rather long time especially on fabric, but noses almost "destroyed" by a diet too indulgent in synthetic vanilla, patchouli and harsh oudh accords might find it undetectable. Solution? After a bout of gluttony, it takes a little fasting to re-evaluate the subtler nuances of good cooking. A break of sweet and acrid powdery smells will convince you of the truth of my claim. 

Parting shot: Eau d'Ivoire reminds me of the also optimistic beautiful Joie Eclat by Valeur Absolue. 



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Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Eau d'Italie Magnolia Romana: fragrance review

 The beauty of the gigantic blossoms of magnolia is their happy citrusy freshness: I always find myself surprised that the sheer awe the blossom creates, in terms of visual volume (their size is quite something!) is transliterated into a scent that is airy, crystalline, and quite delicate. Spare a thought for the contrast of the heavy and trickily intoxication that jasmine absolute stands for in relation to the minuscule flower itself. In Eau d'Italie's Magnolia Romana the airiness of the blossom is highlighted through a very appropriate watery and ozonic accord that embraces the waxy flower, and makes it seem even fresher, as if it's still attached on the tree where it blossomed. 

beach pin by pinterest pinned by vera

The addition of a piquant green note (a hint of spice) and the clear orange blossom (which is treated to turn very soapy) are further additions which reinforce that impression of rejuvenation. This effect not only faithfully recreates the necessary natural ambience around the magnolia tree, it also corresponds well to the ambience implied by the brand's name: Italy. The company was founded on the premises of the Hotel La Sinenuse at Positano, a beautiful little town off the coast of Amalfi in the south of Italy.

It's true that magnolias don't grow in soils and climes that are not warm, being almost sub-tropical in categorization, and the environment of temperate Italy is adequately conductive, especially now with global warming (there's the lone nice side-effect of it...) So if you're living somewhere where the climate zone prohibits enjoying the elation and optimism that such a sunny, open blossom as the magnolia evokes, Magnolia Romana might do the trick, all year round, to bring Italian spring into your life.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Chanel No.5 L'Eau: fragrance review & marketing insights

 Chanel No.5 L'Eau, endorsed by the debutantes of the Chinese press, has been hailed as an innovation, but it's really "new old school". And I'm stating this in a positive light. It's a very likeable fragrance by Chanel which retains the spirit of the classic with a very contemporary sensibility of new beginnings and a freshness that differs from the exigencies of the 1920s, a century later. But its composition is not innovative, rather it makes abstract and elegant (in the mathematical sense) what has been passed down from tradition, in order to appear new. 

To wit, the use of aldehyde C8 is an addition that is not particularly modernist, nor is Australian sandalwood or the fractional-distillation ylang ylang that Polge père (Jacques) and Polge fils (Olivier) have been surely contemplating using for a couple of years now. The balancing act of the fragrance lies in judging how the citrusy freshness extends and rejuvenates the rose in the heart. And how an aldehydic fragrance appears non stuffed, nor "old lady perfume" (explained).

The core of No.5 L'Eau is shifted from the densely ylang and perceptible musk chord that dominates the modern varietals of No.5 to the delicate, wisp-like chord of citrus and rose. Almost a skin scent. By definition the concentration is light, ethereal, reflected in the choice of Lily-Rose Depp as the face of the ads. But why an ethereal version with a youth as the face?

It all started in the 80s when then in-house perfumer, the erstwhile Jacques Polge, created the first real "tampering" of the authentic formula to bring it up to par with the powerhouses of the decade of excess. When you have to keep your footing in the market that saw the original typhoon of Dior's Poison and the lead density of detonator of amber waves that was the original Obsession by Calvin Klein, you have to have a classy and elegant formula boosted to its logical limit. Ergo No.5 received a generous helping dose of the sandalwood synthetic Polysantol which effectuated that smooth, lactic boost that was missing from the earlier versions. No.5 Eau de Parfum is possibly not the "truest" No.5 but it is a satisfying edition that is made with great care.

Chanel continued to keep a very tight, and careful, modus operandi on any and all subsequent editions of No.5. I distinctly and fondly recall the No.5 Elixir Sensuelle which boosted the soapier smelling and muskier elements to render a less faithful but still sexy-as-hell body gel. It encapsulated what Coco Chanel herself had meant for No.5 to symbolize: a clean woman that wasn't at odds with her natural scent. The idea that women could be both sexy and not dirty. After all, her inspiration was a famous cocotte friend who smelled "clean", contrary to society women of the times "who smelled dirty" according to the French designer herself. 

The logical extension could only be manifested in something like Chanel No.5 Eau Première. Indeed praised by almost everyone in the industry for adhering to the original concept, without deviating too much, and at the same time bringing forth a new sensibility, Eau Première was critically praised by critics and bloggers, as well as connoisseur wearers only to be daunted at the fragrance counter by a relative indifference in its modern message. Eau Première, fabulous though it was, couldn't address the needs and wants of a youthful audience who knew No.5 from its legendary course and urban fashion clout, but did not feel confident in pulling it off in real time.

Unlike many, maybe even most, flankers by Chanel, such as Coco Mademoiselle and Coco Noir (extending and renewing the fragrance concept of Coco Eau de Parfum), which had little relation to their predecessor, No.5  l'Eau inherited enough of the original's nucleus to serve as a valid reimagining on the original idea.

Related reading on PerfumeShrine:

Coco by Chanel: fragrance review

Chanel No.19 & Heure Exquise: Twin Peaks

On Classifying Chanel No.19 & perfume review 

What's the True Story of Chanel No.5?

Cultural history: Exposition Chanel

Chanel No.5 Through the Years

Chanel No.46: fragrance review & history

I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire: Imaginative Fantasies

Chanel Les Exclusifs Misia: fragrance review [And a collective Chanel Les Exclusifs link.]

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Dolce & Gabbana Femme (Red Cap): fragrance review & history research

Allegedly when Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were in the search for their first foray into perfumes, they took mods developed for them and smashed them against their atelier wall to see what effect they'd produce. When a couple of them matched, elated, they exclaimed in unison "Eureka!" proclaiming Dolce & Gabbana for women their brain child. 

These Eureka moments are one too many in perfumery for them to be taken seriously. From the "accidental" drop of lots of vanillin into a bottle of Jicky (supposedly producing Shalimar) and the overdosage of aldehydes in the formula of Chanel No.5, the industry wants the public to believe that divine apocalypse is the medium in which true masterpieces are presented to the world, just like religion. Research nevertheless suggests otherwise.

The 1992 fragrance by the two Italian designers who celebrated the south of Italy and Sicily like no other before them is attributed to two perfumers from IFF: Jean-Pierre Mary and Martine Pallix. Between them, the olfactory duo have less than a dozen fragrances listed under their names, mostly from lesser olfactory prestige projects, such as Adidas.

Which begs the question: How could they have managed to strike gold so early, so surely and so lastingly? For many, nay, legions of people, Dolce & Gabbana from 1992 is still among the top aldehydic florals ever produced. I concur, and not because I lived through it. No. I knew it was good, even great, from smelling it on other women throughout the years, but Dolce & Gabbana "red cap", as it's affectionately known throughout the blogosphere and fora  (another term is Dolce & Gabbana Original), is one of those fragrances you need to own and wear frequently to truly understand just how great it is. And I only did this with 15 years in hindsight. Oh well...

Dolce & Gabbana pour femme ("red cap") feels sensuous and smooth, caressing, bold but not too attention-seeking; Its shade is elegant, not vulgar. It beckons you, like a strappy dress from the Italian fashion duo themselves.larger than life, massive almost in its plain confidence, in an Anna Magnani sort of way (an actress which the designer duo seem to love). It's bold, proud, full of oomph, of volume, and of emphasis, with lots of powerhouse florals (of which carnation is the most discernible), and a musky soapiness which makes the ginormous aldehydic introduction feel more decadent than it should be. It's soapy, but oh boy, if soapy was merely as intimate and erotic as this! It is not a fragrance for the timid, which makes it doubly bold, considering it circulated and succeeded in the 1990s, the decade of limp-wrist "waters" with lotus hints and sea algae undercurrents. A hint of apple-like marigold can't hide its exuberant nature, and both the tenacity and sillage of the original are impressive. The drydown is languorous, somnambulist, with the creamy softness of sandalwood and musks that lasts and lasts...It's round, effusive, contained, and yes, very sexy, indeed.

Case in point, its sexiness was encapsulated for eternity in a short film by Giussepe Tornatore, starring Monica Belluci and scored by Ennio Morricone. Talk about nailing it!


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